12.03.14 [#PicksOfTheWeek]

#PicksOfTheWeek is brought to you with generous support from my retail sponsor Yesteryear Comics. Make Yesteryear Comics your choice in San Diego for great customer service and the best discounts possible on a wide selection of mainstream and independent titles. Customers receive an attractive 20% discount on new titles during their first week of release. Yesteryear Comics is located at 9353 Clairemont Mesa Boulevard.

It seems like it’s either boom or bust, so after a huge Thanksgiving week, this week is relatively small in terms of the titles catching my eye. I’m excited for Kurt Busiek and Ben Dewey’s follow-up to their Game of Thrones meets Kamandi debut in Tooth & Claw #2. The first issue was dense and rich, with an ear for organic creativity and the type of easy-flowing dialogue that my favorite Busiek works (Arrowsmith, Astro City, Avengers) possess. Image Comics also has the raucous fun of The Humans #2 available from Tom Neely and Keenan Marshall Keller, as well as Rick Remender and Greg Tocchini’s Low #5, a book which fascinates me even more now that I’ve twigged onto the parent-child dynamic, a theme which recurs in most of the writer’s work. I thumbed through Spawn #248 when news broke that Brian Wood was going to be the new writer as of #250. I found it to be a disorienting experience a) after not reading it for, oh, 230 issues or so, and b) because a Twitter question I’d posed to Todd McFarlane was unexpectedly printed in the lettercol, but I’ll do the same requisite flip for Spawn #249 this week. One can only hope that Brian Wood and Jonboy Meyers will hit the reimage button and make this long-running creator owned work much more accessible.

On the collected edition front, there are a few gems worth your time. Burlyman Entertainment (the old Wachowski helmed publishing house I’d thought long defunct) is finally collecting the long out-of-print original seven issues of Geoff Darrow’s Eastern philosophized martial artist meets modernized version of the Old West drifter detail porn extravaganza (that is a mouthful!) in The Shaolin Cowboy. This series was terribly fun, particularly if you’re more concerned with what the craft can provide in terms of pure visual spectacle vs. any overt narrative expression. It’s an ethos which basically goes against my nature, but this series was so good, I didn’t mind. Oni Press also has the exquisite Wasteland Book 10: Last Exit For The Lost from Antony Johnston, Chris Mitten, Sandy Jarrell, et al., which is the penultimate trade collection of previously uncollected interlude issues that punctuated the space between formal arcs, all before the epic series wraps with #60, and assumedly an impending Book 11. Lastly, I’m curious to check out Cochlea & Eustachia, Hans Rickheit’s new 80 page graphic novel published by Fantagraphics, which looks to be equal parts mysterious body horror and Rickheit’s typically uneasy blending of the sinister and the comforting.


11.26.14 [#PicksOfTheWeek]

#PicksOfTheWeek is brought to you with generous support from my retail sponsor Yesteryear Comics. Make Yesteryear Comics your choice in San Diego for great customer service and the best discounts possible on a wide selection of mainstream and independent titles. Customers receive an attractive 20% discount on new titles during their first week of release. Yesteryear Comics is located at 9353 Clairemont Mesa Boulevard.

What a huge week! It feels like every book I’m into has stacked up and is arriving on the same day. I’ve read an advance of The Massive #29 and it’s great. Writer Brian Wood has promised “it’s all about the end,” and the big “thing” that occurs in the series to define itself, well it really starts to occur in this issue and coalesce in a way that the audience can begin to parse. It’s about altering our perspectives at times, literally, as we see in the opening sequence. With Garry Brown’s rugged lines, we see so many great points of transition or efforts to connect the dots and address the many theories that have been flung at the series, from Mag shedding his old life and reaching a turning point about his faith in someone like Mary, to the transition of audience POV to little Yeva, to the building of a new creation myth at the beginning of a mass exodus event. It really is Can’t Miss Comics.

Image Comics is on fire this week, sending us their best series as far as I’m concerned, with Lazarus #13 arriving from Greg Rucka and Michael Lark, continuing the impressive fleshing out of the world that is the “Conclave” arc. Joe Casey and Piotr Kowalski have Sex #18 out, a title which I’m honestly starting to be on the fence with, but I’ll likely at least see this arc through. There’s the underrated C.O.W.L. #6 from Kyle Higgins, Alec Siegel, and Rod Reis, about unionized noir supes in 1960’s era Chicago. I’m very curious to see Sheltered #13, Ed Brisson and Johnnie Christmas’ baby, featuring explosive confrontations as things come to a head in anticipation of final issue #15. If you need your requisite Warren Ellis fix for the week, you’ll want Trees #7 with artist Jason Howard, a series that has gotten very introspective about its mass social observations in the wake of the mysterious “other” injected into the world. Umbral #11 by Antony Johnston and Chris Mitten is also hitting shelves, a series which refuses to be ignored, full of infectious world-building, high adventure that never forgets to have heart or pause for a laugh, with startlingly good visuals, from the pencils on down to the unique approach to coloring and lettering. I think quite a few people are amped for ODY-C #1 by Matt Fraction and Christian Ward. For me, I find that Fraction’s more “out there” high concepts (Casanova, The Five Fists of Science, Sex Criminals) tend to be the best, so this gender-bent Homer-ian sci-fi looks very promising.

Did you know there are other publishers besides Image Comics? Shocking, but true! Oni Press is giving us Letter 44 #12 (which still has one of the best pure-pitch high concepts I’ve seen in the last, oh, five years?) by Charles Soule and Alberto Alburquerque, as well as Stumptown Vol. 3 #3 by Greg Rucka and Justin Greenwood. This run of Stumptown has been a slower burn than previous, a deeper dive into subculture(s), but I always enjoy it because there’s an authenticity to the context that the strongly developed characters operate in. IDW has one of my favorite books currently being published, and although it’s a licensed gig, Tom Scioli and John Barber are just killing it on the series. It’s Transformers vs. G.I. Joe #4, which essentially functions like an indie comix invasion of my Gen X childhood. It’s equal parts self-aware send-up, earnest adaptation, and adventuresome action figure playsets come to life under Scioli’s detail obsessed line.

My last recommendation is a proverbial oldie, but a goodie. Dark Horse Comics is putting out a collected edition entitled Arkwright Integral Hardcover. This is it. This is Brian Talbot’s absolutely praises-of-which-are-undersung multiversal generational epic, intertwining destiny and fate and pulp adventure with ornate baroque visuals, a UK tour-de-force housing both The Adventures of Luther Arkwright and the dizzyingly impressive series Heart of Empire. If you’re unfamiliar with these works, this is a tome that deserves a place in the great pantheon of respected industry works. It’s something that every fan of the medium should immediately be immersed in. 


Thirteen Minutes Nominated For 2014 BEST WEBSITE

I’m humbled again to report that Thirteen Minutes was nominated for the 5th year running in the BEST WEBSITE category in the annual PCG Paradoscars 2014. There are some outstanding nominees in all categories, including personal favorites like Lazarus as Best Series, Callum Israel as Best Character, and Dean White as Best Colorist, so get out and vote! I'm up against those evil mega-corporations like Comic Book Resources, Bleeding Cool, and Comic Vine, so I need your vote!

Despite multiple nominations and a surprise win in this category back in 2011, I'm very much an underdog, so I'm shamelessly asking for your support. Please get out and vote (it really takes less than 30 seconds with their new Survey Monkey!) for all your favorites. If you’ve enjoyed any of my work, please vote, blog, tweet, and encourage your friends to do the same! CLICK HERE TO VOTE NOW!


Thirteen Minutes Turns 9

Today marks 9 years of comic book reviews and blogging at Thirteen Minutes. That means I only have one year left until I quit, wrapping up what I initially set out to do. The clock is ticking!


11.19.14 [#PicksOfTheWeek]

#PicksOfTheWeek is brought to you with generous support from my retail sponsor Yesteryear Comics. Make Yesteryear Comics your choice in San Diego for great customer service and the best discounts possible on a wide selection of mainstream and independent titles. Customers receive an attractive 20% discount on new titles during their first week of release. Yesteryear Comics is located at 9353 Clairemont Mesa Boulevard.

Here’s a mean little experiment I do with people down at the LCS. I’ll be chatting with a customer and they’ll say “I really like book x!” I’ll retort, “Cool! Who’s writing that now?” or “That’s great! Who’s doing the art on that?” even though 90% of the time I already know the answer. Now, an alarming percentage of the time, the person will say “I dunno, I just really like character x.” This makes me crazy. I was having this basic philosophical conversation with someone just last week, and said as an example: “I really don’t give a crap about Moon Knight as a character, but I’ve liked Brian Wood’s writing for years, and I was an instant fan of Greg Smallwood’s art since Dream Thief.” The point being, I follow creators and not characters, properties, or companies, and how that was actually quite liberating, not to be beholden to a book. It’s surprising that there are still Marvel Zombies and New 52 Loyalists who will just buy Spider-Man, or Aquaman, or whatever, out of sheer inertia, regardless of the talent. I’m always trying to shift the paradigm one customer at a time, toward creator loyalty, toward publishers like Image Comics, but cultural shifts traditionally happen slowly.

With that anecdote out of the way, it’s Moon Knight #9 this week, by Brian Wood, Greg Smallwood, and Jordie Bellaire, with covers by Declan Shalvey. This issue features an encounter with his psychiatrist, and I’m a sucker for this type of framing device. I’ll date myself with this reference, but I still consider Peter David and Joe Quesada’s X-Factor #87 a masterpiece, an issue in which Doc Samson came in to evaluate the team after a particularly traumatic mission, and the resulting personality profiles on display were just spot-on in terms of character archetype deconstruction. I’ve been dismayed by fans who enjoyed the introductory arc from Warren Ellis and promptly dropped the title on auto-pilot as soon as he left, thinking creative team change is an automatic signal of failure. It’s been a seamless transition in terms of structure, aesthetic, and voice. Moon Knight #8 also deserves an Eisner Award Nomination for Best Single Issue, so I’d urge you to stick with the series.

There’s creator owned comics inbound! There’s Astro City #17 by Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson, continuing their exploration of the peripheral stories lurking in the hidden corners of a shared superhero universe concept. There’s Deadly Class #9 by Rick Remender and Wes Craig, which has steadily increased the intensity with every issue, and continued Remender’s thematic fascination with examining the parent-child dynamic from different angles in every creator owned book he’s writing. There’s Intersect #1 by Ray Fawkes, a writer/artist who has turned in some really thoughtful and experimental original graphic novels in the last couple of years. There’s also Winterworld #4, Chuck Dixon and Butch Guice’s return to the post-apocalyptic world that Dixon created with the late Jorge Zaffino. Dixon has taken some flak for his conservative political views (which I don’t agree with), even claiming that it lost him work at DC Comics via some form of professional retribution, but I’ve never really seen those politics seep into his work. As far as I’m concerned, he may not be the flashiest writer, but he’s one of the most reliable and consistent out there, notable for extended runs on several titles, and his Nightwing run with Scott McDaniel remains a nostalgic favorite.

As far as singles go, I’ll also recommend Multiversity: Pax Romana #1. I’m basically out on DC Comics, I’m out on The New 52, and I’m out on meaningless crossover event hype, but any project that reunites the Flex Mentallo and All-Star Superman team of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely is basically an automatic purchase.

It seems clear that the Christmas Season is upon us, judging solely by the spendy hardcovers that are coming out this week. They’d all make swell presents. There’s the Lazarus Hardcover Vol. 1 (the best Image book currently being produced, and something I’m eyeing as a gift for dad), the Saga Deluxe Edition Hardcover Vol. 1 (sort of an instant evergreen series, they’ll seriously be selling collected editions of this book for years), the Casanova Complete Edition Hardcover Vol. 1: Luxuria (a mouthful of a title, for a series which was an avant-garde work that was years ahead of the current creator owned renaissance at Image Comics, originally published in the experimental, lower-price point “Slimline” format along with Warren Ellis and Ben Templesmith’s excellent Fell), the new IDW printing of The Red Star Deluxe Edition Hardcover Vol. 1 (Christian Gossett’s once-hot series, at heart a sentimental time-spanning love story in a future sci-fi world that saw Russian Federation capital ships dueling in the skies, in the vein of Battlestar Galactica or the Honor Harrington novels), and the Mind MGMT Hardcover Vol. 4 (collecting Matt Kindt’s Dark Horse opus surrounding deep clandestine conspiracy, which will be wrapping up in just a few more issues). 


11.12.14 [#PicksOfTheWeek]

#PicksOfTheWeek is brought to you with generous support from my retail sponsor Yesteryear Comics. Make Yesteryear Comics your choice in San Diego for great customer service and the best discounts possible on a wide selection of mainstream and independent titles. Customers receive an attractive 20% discount on new titles during their first week of release. Yesteryear Comics is located at 9353 Clairemont Mesa Boulevard.

It’s not a terribly big week for me, but I’m excited to check out The Kitchen #1, Vertigo’s new 8-issue series by Ollie Masters and Ming Doyle, with covers by Becky Cloonan. The introductory issue is 32 pages for just $2.99, featuring mob wives in 1970’s Hell’s Kitchen (affectionately rebranded as “Clinton” in today’s NYC). With an area historically full of Italians and Irish comprising the Westies (sometimes erroneously referred to as the “West Side Boys” in pop culture), a gender-bending slant on organized crime, and the creative talent aboard, this is ripe with potential.

I’ve been quite impressed with the blend of genres, action, and heart in this sci-fi western, so I’ll definitely be picking up Copperhead #3 by Jay Faerber and Scott Godlewski, published by Image Comics. Oni Press is offering The Life After #5 by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Gabo, and I always look forward to the sardonic nature of their rendition of Ernest Hemingway.

Those are the only definite pulls for me, but I’ll take a flip through Deep State #1 (Justin Jordan’s new book at Boom! with artist Ariela Kristantina, featuring some tantalizing pop culture conspiracies), Wytches #2 (Scott Snyder’s new creator owned joint with Jock), Outcast #5 (the character-driven horror drama from Robert Kirkman and Paul Azaceta), Drifter #1 from Ivan Brandon and Nic Klein (mostly for the art!), and Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman’s Thor #2, to see if they pass muster.

I’m curious to check out Hawd Tales #1 from Devin Flynn, published by Revival House Press, and distributed by Alternative Comics in Cupertino, CA, which is near my old stomping grounds in the SF Bay Area. I’m not familiar with Flynn’s work, but Revival House is a magnet for small press talent, having featured such notable creators/publishers as Dave Nuss, Drew Beckmeyer, Mike Bertino, and Malachi Ward.

On the collected edition front, I’ll recommend Tales of Honor Vol. 1: On Basilisk Station, which collects issues 1-5 of this Image/Top Cow series adapting David Weber’s Honor Harrington novels. It’s a very rich world-build with interesting military procedural elements, and stars a compelling female lead. This next book probably doesn’t need a push from me because it already has rabid fans hitting the cosplay circuit in support of creators Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie. It’s The Wicked + The Divine Vol. 1: The Faust Act. WicDiv is a fun book, pairing McKelvie’s lean confectionary aesthetic with a pop myth quasi-religious examination of the fickle nature of fame. 


Gabriel Hardman @ Yesteryear Comics [Signing]

I’m happy to announce that my retail sponsor Yesteryear Comics has their next in-store signing scheduled for this Wednesday, November 5th, 2014. This signing will feature Los Angeles based writer/artist Gabriel Hardman (Hulk, Agents of Atlas, Star Wars: Legacy). He’ll be in the store from 9am to 1pm celebrating the release of the collected edition of his Monkeybrain Comics series Kinski.

I’ll be working this event, so if you’re in San Diego, please stop by to say hi, support the creators you love, and support my friend Michael, owner of Yesteryear Comics. Additionally, I'll be acting as a CGC Witness and verifying signatures for those of you interested in submitting books for professional grading. For more information, check out Facebook.com/YesteryearComics.


11.05.14 [#PicksOfTheWeek]

#PicksOfTheWeek is brought to you with generous support from my retail sponsor Yesteryear Comics. Make Yesteryear Comics your choice in San Diego for great customer service and the best discounts possible on a wide selection of mainstream and independent titles. Customers receive an attractive 20% discount on new titles during their first week of release. Yesteryear Comics is located at 9353 Clairemont Mesa Boulevard.

It’s not often you’ll catch me recommending a mainstream comic from the DCU (or whatever the shared universe of The New 52 calls itself these days), but Detective Comics #36 should be on everyone’s radar and flying off the shelves in shops across the country. This is the second of a two-part story entitled “Terminal” by Benjamin Percy and John Paul Leon. If this is any indication of Percy’s sequential storytelling talent, I’d love to see him make the jump from novels to additional work in comics. With John Paul Leon’s rich and moody aesthetic (a rare treat to see interior work from him, I mean just look at the way he works the title into the cover like he’s Will God Damn Eisner), the duo manages to weave in topical concerns like epidemiology (Ebola, anyone?), the frailty of airline infrastructure (Chicago, anyone?), and post-9/11 paranoia (quick, which would you rather have, national security or civil liberties?), all framed in a closed-room Batman story with a true investigative slant worthy of the “detective” name. This is the type of book you hand aspiring creators to prove that one of the most explored properties and the most well-tread genre can still be relevant with the right talent. More like this, please. I’ll take these two issues over all of the Gotham TV show any day.

No week seems to be complete without a full spread of Image Comics to delight our senses. If you’re in the mood for a smart sci-fi police procedural, then look no further than The Fuse #7 by Antony Johnston and Justin Greenwood, which I’ve basically sold to people as “CSI: Galactica.” This also marks the start of a new story arc with the intrigue of illegal zero-G “street” racing, literally on a space station. I've read an advance of this and I dare say it's the best issue yet, so you might as well jump on board. Kurt Busiek, from his seminal Avengers runs to Astro City and Arrowsmith, is a modern master whose work is always worth a look, so I’ll be checking out Tooth & Claw #1 with artist Ben Dewey. It’s getting tired and trite to play the “it’s x meets y!” elevator pitch game, but if you call something Game of Thrones meets Kamandi, then I’m all in. With a creative pedigree that includes colors by Jordie Bellaire, ongoing status, and a double-sized first issue still at the $2.99 price point, this is a no-brainer.

If you’re in the mood for humor, Image Comics brings the thunder this week with not one, not two, but three very strong offerings. God Hates Astronauts #3 continues Ryan Browne’s self-aware opus that breaks every genre trope associated with the ostensible “super-team.” The visuals are unforgettable, with the right balance of familiarity to entice, and a heaping dose of indie irreverence to do the job at hand. Punks #2 by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Kody Chamberlain is also out, so when you find yourself hankering for a Garden Gnome Hate Crime at the hands of Dog, Skull, Fist, and good ol’ Abe Lincoln, you know where to look. I’ll let you in on a little secret: Noah Van Sciver, Julia Gfrorer, and Tom Neely are my three favorite indie creators working today, so you’ll be damn sure I’m recommending The Humans #1 by Tom Neely and Keenan Marshall Keller. I’ve been following Tom’s work for years in titles like The Blot and The Wolf, where he takes a dark painterly Fine Art aesthetic and clangs it up against the anachronistic effervescence of Floyd Gottfredson and E. C. Segar. I picked up the advance edition of this at SDCC and found it to be a riotous road trip of simian proportions.

It’s a great time to be Jason Aaron. I consider Scalped one of the great modern books, up there with instant classics like Planetary and Queen & Country, so I’ve followed Aaron to his various Marvel work, the new female Thor, the delightfully gritty Southern Bastards, will likely check out his upcoming Star Wars run (despite some principled reservations), and will certainly pick up Men of Wrath #2 this week, with artist Ron Garney. The first issue was upsettingly violent, in a way that was more brutal and seemingly less poetic than something like Scalped, so I’m curious to see why that is and where he’s going with this.

Now, hold on… I’m sensing… I’m sensing that you need some books that give good shelf in your life. Fear not, I come bearing recommendations. Art Schooled by Jamie Coe and published by Nobrow Press looks phenomenal. The advance pages of this hardcover have that thick and syrupy slathering of ink that always catches my eye. I’d be remiss in not pointing out the Kinski trade paperback by Gabriel Hardman, published by Image Comics and collecting issues 1-6 of this series, previously published via Monkeybrain Comics. Hardman will also be doing a signing at my LCS, Yesteryear Comics in San Diego, this Wednesday from 9am to 1pm, celebrating the release of Kinski, so come on out and say hey! Lastly, Dark Horse Comics has a new printing of Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly’s The New York Four, an exceptional project from these New York Times best-selling collaborators. NY4 chronicles the lives of four young women in NYC during their college years. Don’t let the odd publication history fool you (from the cancelled YA imprint Minx at DC, to a follow up Vertigo series, to this collection at Dark Horse), it’s some of Ryan Kelly’s best work. He’s able to show off his ability to visually capture the diverse personalities of the women and spoils us with detail porn illustrations of NYC, while Brian Wood’s oft-explored theme of evolving identity during precarious times of change is front and center. This is a definitive edition, collecting the entire series along with plenty of bonus material.