31 August 2005

Try Something Different: 8/31/05

Support GOOD Comics!

A look at select comic books being released today, 8/31/05. Full shipping list available at ComicList. (Not all of these titles will actually arrive in all stores. If your LCBS offers a pre-ordering service, be sure to take advantage of it. If not, find another one, or try Khepri.com or MidtownComics.com)

Smoke & Guns GN, $12.95

The preview in Black Diamond On-Ramp did nothing for me, and Tim O'Neil confirms that feeling.

Revelations #1 (Of 6), $2.99

Paul Jenkins and Humberto Ramos are one of my favorite creative duos from their run on Spectacular Spider-Man, so this mini-series is intriguing, despite its The Da Vinci Code-ish plot.

Astro City The Dark Age #3 (Of 16), $2.99
Batman Gotham Knights #68, $2.50
Catwoman #46, $2.50
Ex Machina #14, $2.99
Losers #27, $2.99
Silent Dragon #2 (Of 6), $2.99

I'm glad DC has its imprints since I am so not interested in the lead-up to Infinite Crisis that has infected almost all of their core titles. Killed whatever interest I had in the new Catwoman team, and Gotham Knights has gone from its entertaining spin on Hush to a complete muddleheaded mess, seemingly driven by the rumor that Dick Grayson will replace Bruce Wayne as Batman. Bleh.


No idea what these guys publish, but that's one of the more interesting company names I've seen in comics.

Forgotten Realms Dark Elf Homeland Cvr A #3 (Of 3), $4.95
GI Joe Americas Elite #3, $2.95

They may both be licenses, but these have been two of the better titles I've been reading recently.

Death Jr #3 (Of 3), $4.99
Expatriate #3, $2.99
NYC Mech Beta Love #3, $2.99
Shadowhawk #4, $2.99

I think I might actually be buying as many Image titles these days as I am Marvel or mainstream DC.

Johnny Raygun Quarterly #6, $2.95

This was one of the many surprises I discovered via Free Comic Book Day 2005.

Astonishing X-Men #12, $2.99
Captain America #9, $2.99
New Avengers #9, $2.50
Powers Bendis Cover #12, $3.95
Runaways #7, $2.99
Young Avengers #6, $2.99

Finally picked up and read the first Astonishing X-Men trade and thought it was pretty good. Not nearly the "best thing ever" some have proclaimed it to be, and definitely a bit too self-aware for my tastes, but a lot better than I expected it to be. Cassaday's artwork left me a bit cold, though. Meanwhile, Runaways gets the axe as Vaughan's schtick there just wasn't working for me. Young Avengers, on the other hand, ranks as one of my biggest surprises of the year, as I fully expected to hate it, but actually enjoyed the hell out of the first 5 issues.

Khan #1, $2.95

What ever happened to Arcana's Khan?

Persepolis 2 Story Of A Return SC, $11.95

Still have the first one on my Amazon Wish List. Someone want to buy it for me? Or click on some of these Amazon ads on the blog so I can buy it myself?

Amelia Rules #14 (resolicited), $2.95

Another Free Comic Book Day 2005 discovery.

Grimoire #5, $2.99

A genuinely fun fantasy comic.

Girl Got Game Vol 1 (Of 10) GN, $9.99

I have no idea what this is about, but the odd juxtaposition of Spike Lee and manga has me curious. UPDATE: Looked for this, thanks to the comment below, but surprisingly, Midtown didn't have it in stock.

Wizard Comics Magazine Greatest Cartoons Cvr #168, $5.99

God help me, but I'm breaking my rule this month, purely for the Moon Knight preview! And I'm purposefully buying the non-fanboy cover. UPDATE: What a ripoff! One picture, albeit a pretty good one, and a brief interview that covers stuff that's been covered already in the various online interviews. (Like, say, mine, which Huston singled out as his favorite!)

Official Xbox Magazine With CD Oct 2005, $9.99

I preferred Xbox Nation to this, but alas, it's no more, and I've got a serious Xbox itch after picking up The Bard's Tale and Demon Stone last week. UPDATE: After seeing the cover and a bunch of games highlighted that I had no interest in, I decided to save some money and click over to IGN.com instead.

What are YOU looking forward to?

30 August 2005

CBC Quickees: 8/24/05

Quick reviews of comics I read last week, rated 0 to 5 stars.

Black Panther #7 (Marvel; $2.99)
Um...damn, Hudlin is really making it hard to keep up my defense of his work here. On the heels of the his first arc's hasty and inconclusive wrapup - he never really did get to the heart of "Who is the Black Panther?" - comes an awkward House of M tie-in which, despite the pagelong intro, will likely leave any brand new readers he brought in sitting in the dark. About the only good thing I can say is that it comes the closest to a done-in-one you'll find from Marvel these days. Hairsine's artwork is nice enough, but I definitely missed Romita, Jr.'s pencils. **

Daredevil #76 (Marvel; $2.99)
Maybe I'm just coming late to the party but Bendis' work here didn't really impress me all that much. I mean, it's solid, but not particularly noteworthy. Did comics really get that bad in the mid-late 90s, or has he slipped from his glory days? Or am I a minority amongst comics fans in that I actually read something other than comics? And while I like Alex Maleev, I'll take Michael Lark's work over his any day. **1/2

Machine Teen #4 (of 5) (Marvel; $2.99)
I can totally see this story working much better collected in digest form, as it's been feeling a bit stretched out up to now, but there's some good action in this issue as the story lurches forward. Wrapping everything up in the next issue is going to be tough for Sumerak to pull off without it feeling a bit rushed, though. I love Hawthorne's art - though I can see it being an acquired taste - and he was a smart choice for the manga/bookstore audience Marvel's really targeting with these titles. **1/2

Conan #19 (Dark Horse; $2.99)
Conan is one of those consistently good comics that deliver a good bit of pleasure each month without ever resorting to attention-getting gimmicks. Kind of like my paycheck, but better. Cary Nord returns on art and Kurt Busiek offers up a one-shot morality tale that balances Conan the thief and Conan the skeptic, with a bit of subdued horror thrown in for good measure. Fun stuff. ***

Grounded #2 (Image; $2.95)
There's a lot of potential in Mark Sable's story of superheroes in the real world, but there's something a bit off that I can't quite put my finger on. I found myself flipping back a couple of pages every now and then, thinking I'd missed something but never able to figure out what exactly. While this was a solid issue, nothing ever really reached the same level of the first issue's laugh-out-loud scenes of Jonathan trying to gain/activate his seemingly non-existent superpowers. Paul Azaceta's artwork looks like what I imagine Michael Lark's might have when he was first starting out, which is both a compliment and a bit of a criticism. I'll give it another issue, but it's sitting precariously on the bubble and that's really disappointing since I can't quite pinpoint why. **1/2

The Black Heart Irregulars #1 (Blue King Studios; $3.00)
A completely random pickup last week, it's a low-budget, black-and-white production that's kind of like The Losers' less-sophisticated, but well-intentioned, younger brother. It has intrigue, double- and possibly triple-crossing, an enigmatic cast of familiar genre stereotypes, a murky plot, and a novel setting: a 50s-style diner in the green zone of a near-future Baghdad, Iraq. Writer Neil Hendrick spins an engaging tale and his too-honest page-by-page notes ("Whenever you see Arabic in the comic, like in panel 1, it's not real words, just an Arabic font. Actually, the word I typed here is 'Fuck'.") reveal someone who's likely in way over his head, but there's something oddly endearing about the whole thing. Of course, I'm a sucker for D-I-Y, so take that with a grain of salt. I also liked Ulises Carpintero's artwork, with distinctive character designs, nicely varied panels, and a strong understanding of how to make black-and-white look like an artistic choice vs. an economic one. With an editor and a better production budget, this could have a lot of potential. **1/2

Comics still on the read pile (and the relative order I plan to read them in): Winter Men #1; Rocketo: Journey to the Hidden Sea #1; Batman: Jekyll & Hyde #5; Forgotten Realms: Homeland #2; Queen & Country: Declassified (Vol. 3) #2 & #3; Alan Moore's Hypothetical Lizard #3; Mora #3 (not quite sure why it's taking me so long to get to this one...); Action Philosophers #2; XIII #1; Banana Sunday #1; Sonambulo #1; The Tick: Days of Drama #1; Solo: Howard Chaykin. Plus, a ton of graphic novels and trades...

29 August 2005

Buzzscope Reviews: 8/24/05

Here's what I covered for Buzzscope this week. Tomorrow, I'll have quickee reviews of everything else I read.

Ant, Vol. 2 #1
Ant is a sufficiently entertaining superhero comic book, admirably featuring a heroine of color without going out its way to hype that fact, and Mario Gully seems to have wisely discarded some of his first volume’s ill-conceived pretensions in favor of simply telling a fun story.

Batman #644
What exactly do you say about a comic book like this? One so aggressively bad, and so obviously constructed according to an editorially mandated outline, that it defies critique.

Monkey in a Wagon vs. Lemur on a Big Wheel #1
Unabashedly reminiscent of MAD Magazine’s "Spy vs. Spy" series (not to mention other classic duos like Tom & Jerry, Bugs & Daffy, and Dubya & Kerry), Monkey in a Wagon vs. Lemur on a Big Wheel isn’t high art, and it’s, thankfully, not trying to be. Instead, it’s fun. Pure and simple fun, and I sincerely hope there’s more of it coming.

Be sure to check out all of this week's reviews from Buzzscope's crack staff of reviewers - some of the best out there, if I may say so myself. Plus, Greg Burgas' latest "Comics You Should Own" column takes a look at Avengers Forever #1-12. While you're there, sign up and leave some feedback in the recently upgraded forums. It's one of the more level-headed boards out there and while the usual suspects get the most attention, there's plenty of room to talk about good comics, too.


26 August 2005

INFO: CBC Update

The jury's still out on CBC v2.0, but some recent developments have added a couple of unexpected twists to the plot, so this is sort of an update/brain-dump for future reference when real life isn't quite so hectic.

Development #1: Out of the blue, about a month ago, Erech Overaker asked me to contribute a script to a comic anthology he's putting together, and after some initial hesitation, I figured what the hell. "Those who can, do..." sort of thing that I decided to approach as a challenge; a preemptive strike on thin-skinned creators who respond to negative reviews with variations of "have you ever created a comic?" And a challenge it was, but a fun one, and I like what I came up with. It's not [insert preferred comics benchmark here], but it's not something I'd be embarassed to have thrown back at me in response to a negative review, either.

Development #2: The recent crystallization of something I've always known: that, at best, what I and so many others are doing (online and in print) has nothing to do with "Pushing Comix Forward." Writing about comics, no matter how good and underacknowledged they may be, is the rough equivalent of talking about revolution. (Can I get an amen from the slam poetry crowd?) Aside from Wizard, which chooses to use its powers for evilto preserve the status quo, there's really no comics publication (print or online) that's in a position to push comix forward or make comics better. (Entertainment Weekly's periodic "Comics 101" column reaches more mainstream eyeballs than Wizard + NEWSarama + every single other comics-centric outlet combined.) Creators doing interesting work they truly believe in, whether as pure entertainment or high art, is what pushes comics forward. In conjunction with that, there's the savvy retailers who know how to balance the bread-and-butter output from the Big Two with the potentially audience-exanding work from independent publishers.

Development #3: In his latest [Bad Signal] missive, Warren Ellis talks about Apparat 2, the follow-up to last year's intriguing experiment where he published four (or was it 5?) separate one-shots based in settings that fell by the wayside when superheroes fully took over the comics industry so many years ago. For his not-a-sequel Apparat 2, he posits a more ambitious, and more intriguing, approach: "Done in one -- one 48pp unit, designed for permanent shelf-life in comics stores... Four Apparat novellas a year, each one different from the last, each one self-contained, but all under the same mark."

Development #4: My interview with Charlie Huston, whose unabashed passion for comics was absolutely infectious.

The combination of these four things, along with some interesting behind-the-scenes developments at Buzzscope, has me completely rethinking not just CBC, but what exactly I'm doing with my own writing, particularly w/r/t comics. CBC started as a total lark, a place to write about comics that was separate from my personal blog, and I even asked a few friends to write stuff - with wildly varied results! - the main intention being that I might glean some interesting recommendations from whatever they were reading. Things quickly steamrolled, though, as I got obsessive about posting regularly, and in order to avoid writing about the same comics over and over, I started expanding my pull list exponentially, sampling as many different comics as I could afford - and then some! When my review of Ezra was unexpectedly used in a Previews ad back in February, I started taking CBC more seriously.

Fast forward to today, and I can no longer honestly say, as I have been able to in the past, that I'm a completely objective fan with no interest in "breaking in." I've been bitten, hooked, roped in... I want to write a comic book!

More than one, actually. And not necessarily aiming for the Big Two, either. (Though I sure wouldn't turn them down for the right project!)

As much as I've been tempted recently to return to the poetry scene, I honestly think that well is dry. I said everything I wanted to say in that milieu and returning now would be like John Starks trying to suit up for the Knicks again. He's probably still got some gas left in the tank, but he'd be a shadow of his former self. But comics? That's a completely untapped vein for me that's lately been throbbing like crazy. And with the aforementioned anthology contribution giving me quite a rush, I'm already craving another hit.

So, what does all of this mean for CBC? I'm still not sure, actually. I'm pretty sure it means I won't go the ezine route that I was considering, though. Not a group version, at least. I'll likely find some middle ground, though, linking my Buzzscope stuff and doing the kind of random commentary I'd originally created the blog for.

Stay tuned.