Sunday, December 26, 2010

Battlefields: The Night Witches #2

By Garth Ennis (writer) and Russ Braun (artist)

Chapter 2 (of 3)

The Night Witches, the Russian female bomber pilots, are the heroes. The Germans are not. The Russians, both female and male, are portrayed as honorable. The Germans, with one exception, are not. It is very likely that before the end of chapter three the one honorable German will cross that line.

The more interesting story is the grimmer one: the story of the one honorable German soldier, Graf. Even though he is not one of the titular characters his journey involves more inner conflict and moments of character development. He is in the thick of the war in a way that Anna and the other Night Witches are not. He sees it and lives it much more vividly than they ever will until or unless they get shot down in enemy territory.

Cover: Battlefields: The Night Witches #2

Preview: Garth Ennis' Battlefields: The Night Witches #2

Friday, December 24, 2010

X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga

X-Men #129-137
By Chris Claremont (writer), John Byrne (penciler), Terry Austin (inker)

I didn't expect to be moved by the death of Jean Grey as much as I was. I've read this story before but it felt different this time, I don't recall shedding tears the previous time I read it. Not all of the visual storytelling was spot-on great but the significance and importance of the sacrifice that Jean makes come through loud and clear.

The final chapter is tragic on two levels. First it is the story of the young woman who wields god-like power and comes to realize that the power comes with a price. When she uses the power it transforms her into a being with extreme appetites that has no compassion for life and thinks nothing of killing billions to sate her hunger. Jean decides that sacrificing her own life is nothin compared to the safety of the universe. Her decision is heroic but it is also tragic because she did not choose to become the Phoenix.

Second it is the story of a young man, Scott Summers aka Cyclops, who has only recently been reunited with the woman he loves, Jean Grey. For a long time their story was one of unrequited love. Even after they finally opened their hearts fully to one another, being superheroes, their time together was constantly interrupted. Still reeling from Mastermind's attempt to cut Scott out of the picture and make Jean his lover, the two X-Men had yet to find the time to catch their breaths before Jean was faced with a horrific decision. While all of her teammates loved her and miss her it is Scott who is hit hardest by her decision to end her own life. It is tragic because he loses the love of his life, because she withheld her choice until the last moment, and because she killed herself in his presence.

Previously when I read this story I felt as though I was missing something, primarily because of the editor's notes which made references back to older issues that I had not read. Over the past couple years I have read all the prior issues of the X-Men (94-128, Giant Size #1) leading up to this storyline (129-137) and some even earlier issues (1-31) issues of the series. I had read some but not all of those issues before. It isn't essential to have read those issues prior to reading the Dark Phoenix Saga but it helps. Chris Claremont tends to foreshadow and return to characters and situations previously seen. Reading all the prior issues helped to enrich the experience of rereading this story. Even the first issues of the series made a difference as they depict the budding of Scott and Jean's relationship.

Finally, when I first started collected comics seriously in the early 1980s, roughly 30 years ago, this story was the story that everyone I knew was talking about. When I started buying back issues of the X-Men this story was bit beyond my budget. In the early 1980s Marvel had yet to start printing collected editions of hot stories like this one. It would be several years before I read it in its entirety and, really, not until now that I felt like I got the full picture.

For more in depth analysis and discussion of the Dark Phoenix Saga I recommend:

The Legion of Dudes: The Dark Phoenix Saga

Comic Geek Speak: The Dark Phoenix Saga

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Human Target #14,15,16

The Second Coming
By Peter Milligan and Cliff Chiang

Part One: In the Name of the Father

Due to the complex way in which the story unfolds it helps to read this issue more than once. It unfolds at a choppy pace and is fairly character heavy.

Part Two: The Temptation of Christopher Chance

As much as I am enjoying some of the twists in this tale of the Human Target they are also tough to accept at times. It is tough to believe that none of the people he is dealing with can see through his disguise, including the father of the man (Paul James) he is pretending to be. Are there no faults in his disguise? The mask he's wearing can't be that good, can it? Even if he looks just like Paul James how is it possible that he also sounds just like him? In some ways it would be even easier to accept all this if he was a superhero.

Part Three: Pieces of Lead

This 3-parter is a bit of a hot mess. The pieces are all there but in the end they don't fit together. The characters don't seem real. It just all seems very trite, as if Milligan hasn't put enough time or effort into the story.

Cover Images: Human Target #14, 15, 16

Human Target was published by Vertigo, an imprint of DC Comics.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Battlefields: The Night Witches #1

By Garth Ennis (writer) and Russ Braun (artist)

Chapter 1 (of 3)

Make no mistake this is war, bloody war. This book doesn't pull any punches. Round one ends with what in another series might be a knockout. From all accounts the fighting between the Russians and Germans in World War 2 was some of the most deadly and dehumanizing. This book makes no attempt to disguise that fact. It puts faces and names to soldiers on both sides of the conflict as they kill and either get killed or survive only to see their compatriots killed before their eyes.

The Night Witches: the 599th Night Bomber Regiment was an all-female unit. They flew outdated biplanes which could only carry two bombs at a time. Their nickname was given to them by the Germans. This story is based on a real unit of the same name.

For more information on the real Night Witches wikipedia is as good a place as any to begin searching.

For more information on the fighting between Russia and Germany during World War II listen to the 4-part series produced by Hardcore History:

Ghosts of the Ostfront
Part 1 - An introduction to the subject and discussion of the causes and opening moves of Operation Barbarossa.
Part 2 - Looks at the attempt to take Moscow and the many compelling stories surrounding the momentous 1941 German offensive.
Part 3 - Looks at the situation in the U.S.S.R. during 1942 and early 1943, including the dreadful Battle of Stalingrad.
Part 4 - The horror story that is the Eastern Front descends into unimaginable darkness as vengeance is called down on Germany.

Cover: Battlefields: The Night Witches #1

Preview: Garth Ennis' Battlefields: The Night Witches #1

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Human Target #13

Crossing the Border
Part Two: Hey, Jude
By Peter Milligan and Javier Pulido

What's most moving about the way in which the second (and final) part of Crossing the Border opens is not what I thought it would be. I didn't imagine that Mary's devotion to her cause (helping poor Mexicans enter the United States illegally) would make my throat feel tight. That's probably because she kept her thoughts to herself for the most part in the previous issue. It wasn't clear then how much she was willing to give of herself.

The unfortunate thing about arcs like this one is how short they are. The creative team takes short cuts in order to tell the story. Quite often things aren't fully explained and, in the case of this story, are left unresolved. It really needed another issue or so of pictures and text to make the ending work better and seem less choppy. That's another way of saying I think this story falls short of being great. Worth my time and I love the way the words and pictured meshed, but just too short to convey the full emotional intensity of what is implied.

Cover Image: Human Target #13

Human Target was published by Vertigo, an imprint of DC Comics.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

House of Mystery v2: #10

Love Stories for Dead People: Chapter Five: La Belle et le Bête Noir by Matthew Sturges (writer), Luca Rossi (pencils), José Marzán Jr. (inks), and Lee Loughridge (colors) - There were a few interesting developments in this chapter but it did not feel like a concluding chapter. An episode ended, namely the exploration of the lower levels of the House, but this was a rather unsatifying end to Love Stories for Dead People. The only character it does seem to provide closure for is Miranda, who was also introduced in this volume. The larger story goes on and possibly it is unreasonable to expect this chapter to provide closure.

The upside to the way this volume ends is that the story still goes on. A little more was revealed about the lives of Harry, Ann, Cress, and Fig before they arrived at the House of Mystery, but only just enough to invite more questions. What's going to happen to Fig's father? Did Cress do more than wipe Simon's memory of their night together?

Fig's Adventure in Stuffytown by Bethany and Peter Keele (writers) and Kyle Baker (artist) - The most appealing part of this story is what it hints at, not what it delivers. Kyle Baker's art is not as appealing here as it has been in other books he has drawn. He is probably very capable of drawing great horror tales, but this isn't one. It doesn't grab the reader or contain deeper levels of meaning that can only be found by revisiting and re-examining the pages of this story.

House of Mystery is published by Vertigo, an imprint of DC Comics

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Human Target #12

Crossing the Border
Part One: Suffer the Children
By Peter Milligan and Javier Pulido

Past lives seems to be a recurring theme in the Human Target. Episodes often open with flashbacks to 10 or more years before the present. This episode opens with a flashback, which introduces one of the two threads in this arc. How it relates to the other thread is not difficult to figure out and is made clear at the end of the issue.

Even though this story was published over six years ago in 2004 the topic of people crossing the border separating the US from Mexico is still very relevant in 2010. It's an issue which has not gone away.

The most poignant image in the story occurs halfway though the issue just after the second coyote hands young Maria Centeno over to the third coyote, who is supposed to get her to her mother. The coyotes do nothing to discourage her or make her doubt that she will soon be reunited with her mother. The fate of the first coyote, on the other hand, makes it fairly clear that her guides have other things in mind for her.

The last image of Maria could be of any young girl or boy. All that is visible is her hand pressed up against the window of the third coyote's truck. The fingers are spread. Although it is probably meant to be a wave goodbye to the second coyote, it (coupled with the reassurance by the third coyote that she will soon see her mother) made me sad.

Cover Image: Human Target #12

Human Target was published by Vertigo, an imprint of DC Comics.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

What I Bought - Nov 27, 2010

I was hoping to find cheaply priced ($1 or less) issues of various series from DC Comics from the mid-to-late 1970s at the Shoff Comic Show (Crowne Plaza, Tysons Corner, VA). I came home with several the last time I attended a Shoff Show, over the summer.

This time around there were some dealers there with dollar bins and I spent some time digging through them without finding anything from the era that I was hoping to find. What comics I was able to find from that era cost $3 or more. Being stingy and not desperately in need of reading material I didn't buy any of those comic books. Instead I came home with a trade.

I wouldn't have bought anything if I hadn't won a $10 door prize. I spent a considerable amount of time mulling over what to spend it on. I didn't want to buy a trade. I've got plenty of them sitting on my bookshelf, waiting to be read but in the end that's what I bought, specifically The Spirit: Femmes Fatales by Will Eisner. It seemed like my best bet appropriate purchase given what I had to choose from.

Monday, November 29, 2010

What I Read: Human Target #11

Games of Chance
By Peter Milligan and Javier Pulido

First issue I've read of Human Target in a few years. I wasn't sure what to expect. I knew this was a one-shot, not part of a multi-issue story. I didn't expect Christopher's relationship with Mary to get the spotlight.

My memory maybe sketchy but from what I recall about this series the usual balance between Chistopher's work and personal life seems to be flipped in this issue. Normally his personal life takes a back seat to his profession. Peeks are provided at what he is thinking, feeling but that's all, usually.

This time around his work plays second fiddle. There's plenty of it but it comes and goes in short bursts as Chrisopher spends time with Mary and wonders what she is hiding from him.

Cover Image: Human Target #11

Human Target was published by Vertigo, an imprint of DC Comics.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

What I Read: House of Mystery v2 - #9

Love Stories for Dead People: Chapter Four: What You Don't See by Matthew Sturges (writer), Luca Rossi (pencils), José Marzán Jr. (inks), and Lee Loughridge (colors) - The plot thickens, both within and below the House of Mystery. Its hard to analyze a story that doesn't seem to follow a conventional model and is still unfolding. I don't know what's reality and what isn't.

Based on her relationship, her past history with the house it seems that Fig is the centerpiece, the main character. Her acquaintances (Harry, Ann, Cress, Poet) get scream -er- screen time but they all seem to be relegated to supporting roles.

Gothic Romance by Bill Willingham (writer), Bernie Wrightson (artist), and Lee Loughridge (colors) - Without a doubt,with presumably one more yet to come, this is my favorite of the side stories in Love Stories for Dead People. Rather than try to forge something completely original it uses characters from a number of well known monster movies: Dracula, the Wolfman, the Mummy, etc.

What makes the story shine is the combination of Bernie Wrightson's art with the manner in which it is told, through a series of vignettes. Despite the fact that each of them is no longer than a single page each of these episodes is a story in its own right.

House of Mystery is published by Vertigo, an imprint of DC Comics

Sunday, November 21, 2010

What I Read: House of Mystery v2 - #8

Love Stories for Dead People: Chapter Three: Reveal Yourself by Matthew Sturges (writer), Luca Rossi (pencils), José Marzán Jr. (inks), and Lee Loughridge (colors) - I love how this story unfolding slowly, litle by little, bit by bit. It's tortuous but I love it. The answers provided rarely seem definite and only seem to suggest more questions.

The manner in which multiple narratives are layered together can be very poetic at times. One persons thoughts bleed into another, often without a clear beginning or ending to either of them. It could be maddening or frustrating but the skill and artistry of the words and images with which it is achieved make it quite tasty, hard to resist and makes this reader hope for more of the same.

The Caretakers by Matthew Sturges (writer), Henry Flint (artist), and Lee Loughridge (colors) - As Harry the bartender struggles in the main story with Fig's demand for information, he reflects on his first days in the House of Mystery.

The artwork is serviceable but doesn't measure up to the high standard set by Luca Rossi's work in the central story. These interludes can be poetic but this one is more of a data dump.

House of Mystery is published by Vertigo, an imprint of DC Comics.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What I Read: Ōoku v3

This volume continues the story of the first female shogun, Chie; her advisor, Kasuga, whom she inherited from her father, the last male shogun; and her lover, Arikoto, the former monk. The previous volume ended with Chie and Arikoto learning to accept and then love being pushed together by Kasuga, despite the barriers that they erected prior to entering and consumating the relationship.

The central theme of this volume seems to be the issues of succession and continuance of the family name. In particular the story deals with the difficulty that Lady Chie and Arikoto experience when he is unable to get her pregnant. The Kasuga has a solution but it is one that neither of the lovers likes. Accepting the gravity of the situation they learn to accept Kasuga's solution and eventually grow more closely together despite the wedge that Kasuga has places between them.

The larger context that the story takes place in is the destruction caused by the red pox plague, which not only kills people, mostly men, but also, more slowly, causes Japanese society to unravel. Chie is not unaware of the trouble the country is in. She knows something needs to be done but this is an unprecedented situation.

Paramount in Japan is the continuation of families and family names. With the loss of 80% of the male population, including the early deaths of most boys, this patriachal society begins to change. Women take over many roles previously reserved solely for men. Even the members of the nobility not struck down by the plague, all men, mostly older, are grudgingly forced to make their daughters their heirs.

Eventually the government headed by Chie and Kasuga accepts the need for change. Although this doesn't happen until one of her male advisors puts forth a proposal which eventually becomes law. The significance of the gender of the character who finally puts voice to what many others must have been thinking can be interpreted in a number of ways but what is most striking about it is that it shows that succession and preservation of the family takes precendence over other traditions, such as patriarchy. Thus, the law is changed and women begin to be legally recognized as heirs to titles previously held by male relatives and thus preserving their family lines.

This is not a comprehensive review. For a more in depth look at the series read Slightly Biased Manga's reviews of v1, v2, v3.

Monday, November 15, 2010

What I Read: House of Mystery v2 - #7

Love Stories for Dead People: Chapter Two: Beneath the Skin by Matthew Sturges (writer), Luca Rossi (pencils), José Marzán Jr. (inks), and Lee Loughridge (colors) - Harry, Ann and Fig begin to explore the lower, subterranean levels of the house. Poet and Cressida remain behind to tend the bar. Its not so much what happens in this chapter that entrances me as how it happens and how it is depicted visually.

I love the way Luca Rossi draws the interiors of the House: the pasageways, the spiral staircases, the carvings and statues. Equally beautiful and more disturbing are some of the creatures he draws: the rat with a human head, the pear with a face that screams just before Cress bites into it, and the disemboweled critter that Fig cradles in her arms as the chapter ends. Lee Loughridge, the colorist, is no slouch either. His soft touch with the colors helps to set the mood.

The War by Bill Willingham (writer) and David Petersen (artist) - a story told by Poet at a party that he and Cress throw, while the others are exploring the basement. It is about a war between cats and birds. It doesn't really have a plot, its more of a description of the war.

If the story was a little better formed or had some interesting characters then I might have enjoyed it more. I get the impression, based on a comment made after the story is told, that it is intentionally devoid of the elements of plot and characters. The real draw here is David Petersen's art.

House of Mystery is published by Vertigo, an imprint of DC Comics

Friday, November 12, 2010

What I Read - The Mice Templar Vol. 1: The Prophecy #7

#7 The Symbol - I'm not satisfied with the way in which Pilot seems to have been swept under the carpet. Given the important role he played in the last few chapters I hope that he (at least in flashback) will return and his origin be revealed.

I get the sense that certain things in this story are supposed to be accepted at face value. Pilot's role thus far may be one such thing. I am not dismissing him as dead just yet. He was carried off by a bat, presumably to his death, but having not actually seen his death I'm open to the possibilty that he may return.

I'm eager to read book 2.

The Mice Templar by Brian J.L. Glass, Michael Avon Oeming, and Will Quintana

Monday, November 8, 2010

What I Read: House of Mystery v2 - #6

Love Stories for Dead People: Prologue: Cave of the Gilded Virgins by Matthew Sturges (writer), Tony Akins (artist), Andrew Pepoy (inker), and Alex Wald (colorist)- a tale from Ann Preston's past; a tale of her first human lover; a tale that ends in a rather rather grim and cynical manner, as do most in the House of Mystery; nothing too special here but this is the first look back at Ann's past.

Love Stories for Dead People: Chapter One: Cabin Fever by Matthew Sturges (writer), Luca Rossi (artist), and Lee Loughridge (colors) - Harry and Ann begin to plot an escape from the House. They pull Fig, Cress, and Poet into their scheme. The planned escape route begins with a door in the basement that Harry previously warned them against opening. Seems that Harry 's changed his mind about opening the door.

I love Luca Rossi's art. Love how he draws the five main characters and his visual story-telling techniques. I often find my eyes miss secondary and tertiary objects in his panels, on the first read through. I love how he isn't afraid to draw things rough or soft or indistinct. Its a style that really works well for a horror comic like HoM.

House of Mystery is published by Vertigo, an imprint of DC Comics.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

What I Read - The Mice Templar Vol. 1: The Prophecy #6

#6 Truth Behind Lies - Karic's life seemed to be stabilizing since the second chapter. That all changed in the previous chapter, with the formal introduction of Cassius. Karic is trying piece it all together, make sense of it all and is receiving conflicting messages from different sources, all of whom claim to spreak the truth. His age and inexperience don't work in his favor.

In stories like this it is often difficult to determine what or whom to believe before the story has run its course. Sometimes the author intentionally muddies the water, sometimes steers the reader in one direction for dramatic purposes, and sometimes it just it seems complicated when it is actually very clear.

The Mice Templar by Brian J.L. Glass, Michael Avon Oeming, and Will Quintana

Sunday, October 31, 2010

What I Read - Sleeper: Season Two #12

#12 Heroes and Villains - In the end I am not disappointed. Brubaker didn't take the easy way out. It isn't a happy Hollywood-style ending. Carver gets what he wants at a price, or does he? He's out of the game but in a "permanent vegetative state". I think he would have preferred death but that wasn't his number one priority so maybe he is or he would be okay with how things turned out for him.

It's tough for me to argue with Carver's logic. He saw everything he knew and loved destroyed. What was left for him? What way out was there for him, other than removing the alien artifact from his body? The day he accepted the mission from Lynch he found himself on a path that couldn't lead anywhere good. As he got deeper and deeper into Tao's organization he found increasingly less that he liked about himself or his life.

His love for a sociopathic killer, Miss Misery, is an expression of how he felt. Embracing her was akin to embracing the life he was forced to lead as a sleeper agent. He learned to let his inner sociopath be his outward self but ultimately that was extremely damaging. Unable to be the person he wanted and needed to be he became suicidal.

Lynch is a manipulator. There's no question in my mind about that fact, but what was he thinking (or was he) when he sent Carver to infiltrate Tao's organization?

I love this series. Worth the read for most people but some patience is needed because the early chapters of both seasons can be a bit frustrating. Hopefully, one day I will find the time and read it again.

Sleeper: Season Two by Ed Brubaker and Sean Philips

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What I Read - The Mice Templar Vol. 1: The Prophecy #5

#5 Readers of the Wheat - A couple things are becoming clear to me about this series. First, I think I was wrong when I said that the story moves very fast it. It doesn't. It is told in short bursts.

My mistake was to assume that each chapter was a single unit. I no longer believe that to be the case. Each chapter can be divided into three or more segments. In this way each chapter moves the story ahead by leaps and bounds but should be read not as a single unit but as a collection of them.

Second, I'm able to appreciate the artwork, in particular the facial expressions much more at this point in the story. I'm not sure exactly why. My first thought was that it took me time to get used to the faces of the mice. It also occurs to me that it might just be that Mike Oeming's artwork has evolved, become more subtle. I'm leaning towards the former explanation but the latter may have also contributed to my ability to appreciate the visual nuances of the storytelling.

The Mice Templar by Brian J.L. Glass, Michael Avon Oeming, and Will Quintana

Saturday, October 23, 2010

What I Read - Sleeper: Season Two #11

# 11 In the Crossfire - That's some heavy shit. The ending to this chapter just blew my mind. I wanted to keep reading but past experience tells me that it is best to let it wait until next week. Better to enjoy the mind-blowing experience than to be satisfied with nothing to look forward to.

Some of my guesses were correct, about how to interpret what I read in the past couple chapters. Things weren't as cut and dried as they appeared. Miss Misery has a little too much ego to be satisified to be Tao's stool pigeon. The cover to this issue did kind of give away or at least hint at this reveal.

Now I'm left wondering about what happened at the very end of the chapter. Tao seemed very pleased, Cole did not. Its hard to say if either of the women is still breathing. Obviously, hopefully, this won't get wrapped up nice and neat with a bow on top but there needs to be some resolution, some more answers in the final chapter.

Even though I was right about who was deceiving whom I didn't forsee the ultimate events in this chapter. Brubaker kept my mind occupied with other shit such that I wasn't as concerned with how things would turn out as much as I was with guessing whether and how Brubaker was misleading his audience. That impresses me.

There was a point in each of the two seasons that I felt as if I had wasted my money. Regardless of how things turn out I feel as if I have got my money's worth. Might I change my mind after reading the final chapter? Yes, but I doubt that will happen; primarily because of how he wound up Season One.

Sleeper: Season Two by Ed Brubaker and Sean Philips

Friday, October 22, 2010

What I Read - The Mice Templar Vol. 1: The Prophecy #4

#4: Black Anaius - Its weird how the story is unfolding. It seems both fast and slow. Karic and Pilot's journey progresses slowly, but there is a lot of back story. That information, knowledge is being dispensed in little pieces. It doesn't feel like it is coming at me too quickly but there is a lot of it and for the most part it is background material. It does not relate directly to the unfolding story for the most part, so it is somewhat disjointed and doesn't seem as vital.

Of course the artwork is gorgeous.

I'm not sure why I wasn't as moved by the battle with the giant, red ants as I was by the sacking of Cricket's Glen, in the second chapter. Maybe because the ants didn't talk. Maybe because I never felt like Karic and Pilot were in any real danger. I'm not sure.

The Mice Templar by Brian J.L. Glass, Michael Avon Oeming, and Will Quintana

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

What I Bought: Oct 16, 2010

Even though I've got a ton of trades to read at the moment I still took the time to made a trip to Barbarian for the first time since before the Baltimore Comic Con.

House of Mystery v3 - I'm finishing off v2, just one more chapter to go, and I am eager for more.

20th Century Boys v10 - I'm a little behind in this series but I'm enjoying it enough that I picked up the latest even though I've only read through v7.

What I Read: The Uncanny X-Men and the New Teen Titans

The Uncanny X-Men and the New Teen Titans by Chris Claremont (writer), Walt Simonson (penciler), Terry Austin (inker), and Tom Orzechowski

This DC/Marvel single-issue crossover event is not classic, more of a rarity: the one and only time that these two teams crossed paths. The story is pretty standard fare for the era it was created in.

Visually it is still very appealing. One striking thing about the art is how Terry Austin's inks wax and wane. At times it is very apparent he is inking and the panels look much more like something out of the pages of his run with John Byrne on Uncanny X-Men; in other places Walt Simonson's distinctive style comes through much more clearly.

Walt Simonson spoke about this book on Comic Geek Speak Episode 814: Meet the Simonsons. An audience member asked him about the crossover event around the 40:45 mark and Walt's response lasted about 8 minutes.

For a plot summary and more information visit the Wikipedia page devoted to The Uncanny X-Men and New Teen Titans.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

What I Read - The Mice Templar Vol. 1: The Prophecy #3

#3 In the Beginning... - Karic and Pilot flee Karic's hometown. Pilot aims to train Karic. Meanwhile another Templar is on their trail.

The story continues to unfold. Karic has dreams that help to explain some more of the world he lives in and its past. Pilot starts to teach him how to be a Templar.

This is a slowly evolving story, with a lot of exposition. The first chapter focused on the present and gave the story a point of departure from which it launched in the second chapter. The third chapter focused on the past, started painting the bigger, broader picture.

I get the impression that not everything is at it seems or has been presented. Karic and Pilot are being pusued by an unnamed mouse, presumably another Templar. The text implies that this is a rogue Templar, at least at first it does, but later there is a hint that maybe it isn't. I'm starting to wonder if Pilot isn't the one that Karic should be wary of.

The Mice Templar by Brian J.L. Glass, Michael Avon Oeming, and Will Quintana

Sunday, October 17, 2010

What I Read - Sleeper: Season Two #10

#10 Good Offenses - This chapter was much more plot heavy than most in this series. Usually things happen with out much in the way of clear connection to the overarching story. This time around I can see the plot getting moved forward by more than just inches

Not only has Miss Misery betrayed Cole to Tao but he knows it too. I wonder if this isn't a bit of misdirection on Brubaker's part. Could it be part of a scheme that Cole and Misery planned out in advance? It doesn't feel like it but there may be some twist that I just can't forsee.

I am nonplussed by how Cole's relationship with Lynch seems to have improved. As with Miss Misery's betrayal I am hoping that there is more to this development than what I am seeing. I can't think of anything more boring than the story ending with Cole coming in from the cold and back to the fold. I want to believe that Brubaker has a more interesting and/or twisted end in mind than that.

The artwork is cartoony but not knocking my socks off. I may have commented on this before but it feels as if there is a lack of consistency in Philips work, from chapter to chapter. Even the way he draws characters like Cole and Misery seems to shift. There could be a method, a story-related reason behind the shifts in style but I can't see it.

Sleeper: Season Two by Ed Brubaker and Sean Philips

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

What I Read - The Mice Templar Vol. 1: The Prophecy #2

#2: The Calling - This chapter flowed quickly, like the first one, but unlike the previous one it wasn't weighed down with exposition. It was all action. Michael Avon Oeming's art was gorgeous. Will Quintana's colors were stunning. I dunno if they were holding back last chapter or if there was a conscious reason for taking things and slowly as they did.

The story seems to be shaping up to be a standard quest type story with Karic as the hero in training.

The Mice Templar by Brian J.L. Glass, Michael Avon Oeming, and Will Quintana

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What I Read - Sleeper: Season Two #9

#9 Deja Vu All Over Again - Call me skeptical but until I've finished this book I'm unwilling to take what I just read at face value. Even though it looks as though Miss Misery just betrayed Carver, I'm not buying it. Her actions in the previous chapter say more to me than her words. I can accept that she may have betrayed him for her own reasons, but at the moment it is being painted as if she did it out of a sense of duty to Tao. Ed Brubaker is too good a writer and Miss Misery is too egotistical for it to be that cut and dried.

The last couple chapters have on the surface been the least mind-fucky chapters so far in Season Two. I'm starting to wonder and (to a degree) hope that Brubaker is doing this on purpose; just to lull the reader into a false of security. That way, when the next twist in the tale surfaces, it will be that much more shocking. The only thing more shocking would be if there are no more twists in the tale.

The visuals are back to where I remember them being in Season One: cartoony. I'm not expert enough to tell how Philips' cartoony art in this season differs from the cartoony art in this season. My untrained eye says that they resemble one more that either one remembles the majority of the art in early chapters of this season. I'm glad the cartoony art is back but now I'm wondering why there was a temporary change in the look. Was Philips just experimenting or was there a method to the madness, a hidden message concealed in the shift?

Sleeper: Season Two by Ed Brubaker and Sean Philips

Friday, October 8, 2010

What I Read - The Mice Templar Vol. 1: The Prophecy #1

#1 The Dark Lands - So far I'm not wildly impressed. There's a lot of exposition in the first chapter; too much in my opinion. In general I think the story flows a little too quickly, I do like the way the chapter ends, with Karic becoming the more serious one and Leito the more playful one, which is a reversal of the roles they played through out the chapter up to that point.

I some had trouble keeping track of all the characters. There aren't that many of them but they are all mice and to my eyes they all looked fairly similar, at first. I got about halfway through the chapter before I had to go back and reread what I had just read (a couple times) before I was able to more easily identify all of the names, faces and personalities.

What drew me to this series is Michael Avon Oeming's artwork. I love the look of it. The coloring by Will Quintana only intensifies the job Oeming did penciling the story. So far no complaints here.

The Mice Templar by Brian J.L. Glass, Michael Avon Oeming, and Will Quintana

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

What I Read: Jack of Hearts #1-4

Jack of Hearts by Bill Mantlo (writer) and George Freeman (artist)

After rereading this 4-issue limited series for the first time in the past 20-25 years I can see why I liked it so much. The story has the kinds of characters and elements that I liked to see in sci-fi/fantasy stories back then. The hero is both reluctant and willing to sacrifice his life. He is taken from a world he knows but hates to one that is very different and to which he has a connection previously unknown to him. I can also see the story's flaws, now, but they weren't numerous or significant enough to interfere with my ability to enjoy the story for what it is.

Despite the poor shape my issues are in I think George Freeman's art is gorgeous. I'm a little surprised that I liked the look of the book back then. It is a little more expressive than what I remember liking at the time. Its a shame that this has never been reprinted in a collected format.

Links: covers

Sunday, October 3, 2010

What I Read - Sleeper: Season Two #8

#8 Misery Loves... - Whose side is Miss Misery on? Who means more to her? Carver or Tao? This chapter provides conflicting answers. I'm left thinking I know what the correct answer is but then second guessing my initial conclusion. Ultimately I come to the conclusion that this is just issue 7 of 12 and that it is more than likely that she may betray both of them before the story is finished.

If nothing else, this chapter is all about reinforcing how twisted and sick Miss Misery can be. She kills damn near everyone (a crack dealer, an old man in a wheelchair, a cab driver, and several I/O agents) she runs into while completing a mission for Tao. The only one she shows any mercy towards is Veronica St. James, Carver's ex, and she comes close to killing her too. The fact she doesn't kill Agent St. James is telling or at least I want to think so; I want to believe that it is an impotant piece of evidence but I also harbor doubts. How she feels today may not be an indicator of how she'll feel tomorrow.

Sleeper: Season Two by Ed Brubaker and Sean Philips

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What I Read: Sing Along Forever

Sing Along Forever by Liz Baillie

I really like the way Liz Baillie draws faces. I think that's what moved me to buy this comic. I stopped at her table after seeing her at a panel on "world building" at SPX. I was unfamiliar with her work so I flipped through the books on her table. Of them, this one spoke to me the most in the short time I spent looking.

Aside from the faces I also like the overall feel of the book. Her passion for the music of the Bouncing Souls and her sense of humor shine through her tale of going to see the band at a festival in 2008. It doesn't feel pretentious at all and can probably be enjoyed by most people even if they don't care for the band's music.

I was unfamiliar with the band or their music. I looked them up online, listened to some of their songs and bought a couple of them through iTunes. I would describe it as Punk with a Pop vibe.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

What I Read - Sleeper: Season Two #7

#7 Pawns and Kings - This chapter was a fast read and for the most part self-contained. Once again I feel as if Brubaker is messing with my head. He is leading me down a corridor without allowing me to verify what floor I'm on or even check a compass to verify which direction I'm headed in. Sure, I could take what I read at face value but based on past experience I'm certain that there are mechanisms at work below the surface which will only see the light of day in future chapters.

Philips art continues to be more cartoony, which for my money works better than what he produced for earlier chapters. The colors seem muddy which goes with the mood but also seems to lessen the impact of the lines as they are blurred by the homogeneous color palette.

Before I read this chapter I thought about the title of this series. Is Carver still a sleeper? Tao knows who and what he is, even if he isn't aware of everything going through his head. Carver is no longer a sleeper within Tao's organization? Is he now a sleeper within IO? Doubtful; he isn't really a part of IO anymore and is only tangentially connected to it, through Lynch. Is there another sleeper? Miss Misery? Peter Grimm? Those are the only logical possibilities, although this idea may just my imagination at work trying to find something where there is nothing. Does the title still contain a meaning which has yet to be revealed? That's the real question.

Sleeper: Season Two by Ed Brubaker and Sean Philips

Thursday, September 16, 2010

What I Read - Sleeper: Season Two #6

#6 Four Sided Triangle - I'm still trying to analyze the art. What is it about the art that works and doesn't work? For me?

I sense that the story is starting to go in a direction that will ultimately make it more appealing to me. Based on my memories of Season One I think it is safe to say that Brubaker wraps the twists and turns that this story takes so tightly that it is hard to appreciate them until you look back at them after the fact. That's my way of saying that Season One didn't go to the places that I expected it to go and that Season Two seems to be headed in the same direction.

Carver is quite the narrator/protagonist: he's caught between two men, two sides who want his loyalty but also know that he's working for the other one. So who's side is he on? Neither one seems to expect his complete loyalty which makes the story that much more twisted. They both know he has compromised his beliefs and done things he once would never have done. The worst part is that he doesn't have a side, he's like a ping pong ball batted back and forth between Tao and Lynch. In this issue he seems to be starting to make a move to regain his sanity and find some solid ground. But that may just be a head fake. Either he may not be revealing all that's going through Carver's head or circumstances may force Carver to change his plans.

Sleeper: Season Two by Ed Brubaker and Sean Philips

Friday, September 10, 2010

What I Read - Sleeper: Season Two #5

#5 Cat's Cradle - I didn't notice the art as much this time around. The story was crackin' great. It was a look back at the early years of Tao and Lynch, just after he escaped from custody. I read it fairly quickly and that's the way it is paced. Its a succinct little story within the much larger tapestry that is Sleeper: Season Two.

Sleeper: Season Two by Ed Brubaker and Sean Philips

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

What I Read - Heathentown

Heathentown by Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Sara Bechko

I didn't love Heathentown. It is visually stunning but the story left me wanting more; more character development and a plot that flows more slowly. That's not the kind of story it is.

At its heart it is an old school horror film, of the monster/zombie/action variety. It opens with a tragedy and a mystery. As the story develops pieces start to fall in place. Eventually there is a showdown between the cops and the monsters with Anna (the main character) trapped in the middle.

I read Heathentown in less than a day, which is fast for me, given how long it is. There are no chapter breaks and I could not find any good stopping points. The pace and nature of the story made it feel like a much shorter story than the page count (96) led me to believe it would be.

The fake newspaper clippings, postcards, and photographs found in the back of the book provide hints as to the origins of some of the phenomena that Anna encounters. Not everything is fully explained but enough is put on the table to stimulate the reader's imagination to try and fill in the rest. I would prefer to have had the book open with the newspaper clippings, postcards and photos and don't feel that they reveal too much.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

What I Read - Sleeper: Season Two #4

#4 Face/Two Face - The plot thickens. Honestly I'm not sure what else to write. I'm reading this slower than I did Season One, probably because the art ain't doing it for me. Brubaker continues to weave his web and only allow the reader to see some of the cards he's holding. I like story but I also feel like whining about the art and what it doesn't do for me.

Sleeper: Season Two by Ed Brubaker and Sean Philips

Thursday, August 26, 2010

What I Read - Sleeper: Season Two #3

#3 The Manipulations - the story continues to develop and continues to mess with my head. Its messing with my head because like Carver, the main character who doubles as narrator, I'm trying to make sense of it all. Does anyone really have Carver's best interests at heart? I doubt it, certainly not Tao or Lynch. They're both using him for their own purposes. What about Miss Misery or Veronica? Maybe, at this point I'm more likely to believe that one of them does than either Tao or Lynch but that's only because the latter two are such SOBs.

I don't mean to beat a dead horse but I'm still not crazy about the art. That said, there are a few panels and pages where it looks more cartoony, more like the art in Season One than what I got in the first two chapters of Season Two. Hopefully that's an indication that his style is shifting back to something more pleasing to my eyes and brain.

Sleeper: Season Two by Ed Brubaker and Sean Philips

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Art Appreciation: Comic Twart - Lone Wolf & Cub

I've been following the Comic Twart blog for a few months now. I think its awesome. Each week one of the many artists who contributes to this blog posts picks a subject. For one week all the posts are sketches and drawings of that subject. Subjects are usually comicbook related, everything from superheroes to. Characters from pulp magazines.

This past week's subject, Lone Wolf & Cub, has by far been my favorite so far. The drawings posted have been truly inspired works of art. Usually there's one or two that stand out. I do my best to analyze them and leave comments indicating what I like about them. I left a lot more comments than usual this week.

Friday, August 20, 2010

What I Read - Sleeper: Season Two #2

#2: Faith, Hope & Charity - I'm still not wowed by the artwork. It seems uneven and unlike what I remember from Season One. Its probably unfair of me (on some level) to judge Philips art work by comparing it to the previous season (even though he drew that one too) but that's what I'm doing.

The story hasn't completely won me over yet but I am intrigued. Brubaker and Philps are slowly putting the pieces together. If it is anything like Season One then it won't be be until at least the halfway point before things start to make sense and seem less confusing.

All three of the primary male characters (Carver, Tao, Lynch) are fascinating in their own right. Its a real mindfuck trying to get into their heads and figure how and why they approach things the way they do. They are definitely complex characters, which probably is the reason that they are so hard to get a bead on. Brubaker has really done a great job with these three, both in creating them and in the way he slowly reveals them one layer at a time.

Sleeper: Season Two by Ed Brubaker and Sean Philips

Thursday, August 19, 2010

What I Bought - Aug 14 & 15, 2010

On Saturday I went to Barbarian. I browsed for a while. I also spent a little bit of time chatting with one of the owners about Scott Pilgrim and manga. In the end I only bought the latest volumes of the three manga series that I am currently reading:

- 20th Century Boys v9
- Ikigami v6
- Ōoku v4

I still have yet to read the previous volume of each of these series but I'm more or less committed to them. More importantly, I have yet to be seriously disappointed by them.

On Sunday I went to a comic book show near Tysons Corner. I wasn't looking to spend a lot of money. I was hoping to find some inexpensive DC comics from the mid to late 1970s. I came home with 9 comics, 8 of which fall into that category. I paid $3 admission and $10 for the comics.

70s DC Comics
- Aquaman # 57
- Brave and the Bold # 122, 133, 162
- Men of War # 19, 21
- Ragman # 3
- Unexpected # 180

- Uncanny X-Men and New Teen Titans #1

Thursday, August 12, 2010

What I Read - Sleeper: Season Two #1

#1: The Messenger - I dunno how long of a creative break there was between the two seasons of this story but there seems to be a subtle lack of consistency in the artwork. I haven't reread it recently but I remember Philips artwork as more cartoony in season one. It took me a while to get used to his style, which is a little odd since I tend to like more cartoony artwork, but toward the end I was really diggin' it. Now it seems as if he has gone and switched things up and seems to be trying a more realistic approach.

Storywise I think it is kind of tough to judge Season Two just yet. This is the opening chapter of a twelve part story, or part thirteen of a twenty-four parter. It took me a while to get a feel for Brubaker and Philips mode of storytelling in Season One. It kept me guessing right up until the very end. I can definitely see them setting things up but given that I don't know what is coming I'm not sure what to say about the story and characters just yet.

Sleeper: Season Two by Ed Brubaker and Sean Philips

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

What I Bought - Aug 1, 2010

I went to the Capicon comic book show at the Dunn Loring Volunteer Fire Department. I've got plenty to read at home so I didn't plan on spending very much. I spent $2 on admission, $9 on comics, and $28 on a 2-day pass to the Baltimore Comicon.

Sgt Rock #325, 338 - I bought these primarily for the Joe Kubert covers and the Daily Planet feature pages.

Marvel Team-Up # 134 - written by Bill Manto and drawn by Ron Frenz this issue co-stars Spiderman and Jack of Hearts and is the prologue to the Jack of Hearts 4-issue limited series from 1984.

Superman: Kryptonite - written by Darwyn Cooke and drawn by Tim Sale; I've been wanting to read this ever since I first saw the preview art a few years ago.

Friday, July 30, 2010

What I Read - Jul 29, 2010

Ikigami vol 4: episode 7 - Each collection of Ikigami tells two stories. They are told consecutively, not concurrently. The subject of the first story in this collection is a teacher who was put on administrative leave after being framed by one of his students. His life has fallen apart since the incident. Receiving notice that he is about to die doesn't improve his state of mind and leads to him taking some rather drastic measures in an attempt to set things right.

This series has a lot of potential which I feel that it doesn't always live up to. One of the pitfalls of telling each story in three acts is that there is a limited amount of space that can be devoted to developing the characters. Sometimes there is enough character development to satisfy me and other times there isn't. Episode 7 falls into the latter category. I wanted to like it more but it felt a bit too rushed; I had a hard time buying into how the two main characters, the teacher and the student changed over the course of the story.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

What I Read - Jul 27, 2010

Mister X vol 2 - I really like the art, the architecture and the overall look of this book. I'm not too wild about the stories. They fall short on my scale. I find them to be very hard to follow. I feel as if I am reading an abridged version of the story. Why? Because there is very little in the way of exposition and many of the conversations seem to be without a beginning or ending. Also people do crazy, violent things with, what seems to me, very little provocation. If there is a rhyme or reason to this story then it didn't speak loudly enough for me to hear it. Nice looking but ultimately I found this collection to be disappointing.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

What I Read - Jul 12, 2010

1. Mister X v2 by Dean Motter and Seth - I love this comic. I am also confused by it. Maybe confused isn't the right word. Mostly it is the art that grabs me and throws me for a loop. The overall look of the city reminds of mid-20th century travel and propaganda posters. The faces remind me of faces drawn by Hergé in Tintin. The colors are like nothing I've seen recently in a comic book; so dazzling and varied. This book is a real treat for me but probably won't satisfy everyone.

2. Persepolis v1 by Marjane Satrapi - Now that I'm reading it I'm truly disappointed that I waited so long before giving it a try. The artwork is deceptively simple but extremely effective. Satrapi is a masterful storyteller and does a great job mixing in serious and funny moments in the process of recounting her life story. Recommended reading for everyone.

3. Blazing Combat - Printed in beautiful black and white (as was the original) this is a collection of the short-lived series of the same name published by Warren in the mid-1960s. There were no ongoing stories; this is an anthology; most of the stories are 6-8 pages long. A variety of settings are used with most of the stories taking place sometime during the 20th century. Very few of the stories strike me as flag-waving propaganda. Must read for anyone who enjoys old war comics such as Sgt Rock or the ' Nam.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

What I Read - Jun 22, 2010

Last of the Independents - by Matt Fraction and Kiernon Dwyer. I enjoyed it. I like the characters and the plot. Not traditional but nor is it virgin territory. It bears a passing resemblance to some movies that I've seen, Charley Varrick starring Walter Matthau being the first one that comes to mind.

What's it about? A heist. As with most heists nothing ever goes according to plan. The heist itself goes more or less according to plan except that there is considerably more money in the bank than they expected there to be. The crew performing the heist is a trio: Cole, Justine, Billy. Cole is the leader, the brains behind the job. Justine is the muscle, the weapons expert. Billy is the driver, the mechanic, the demolitions expert.

They take the unexpextedly large amount of cash they find, which is, of course, dirty. The cops aren't much trouble to deal with. Its the men who who come after them (after they have dealt with the fuzz) who give them much trouble.

I like Dwyer's art. The book is not colored in the traditional way. It looks like it was penciled, inked, and then coated with a tan colored wash; or at least that's what it looks like to me. For this story that works. It gives it a gritty feel which seems very appropriate.

This isn't the most polished story I have ever read. It seems a bit rushed in places, as if there was more story than there were pages to tell it. That said I really enjoyed it and it was worth the $5 I paid for it at Super Show a few months ago. I wouldn't say that it is essential reading for fans of the genre but I do think that it is worth reading.

What I Read - Jun 17, 2010

House of Mystery v1 - I really like the opening collection of the new House of Mystery. I like the art and it isn't just one art team working on this book. Similar to the old House of Mystery series from the 1970's this is an anthology of tales of the supernatural, fantastic, and horrific. The basis for the series is the eponymous House of Mystery where the tellers of the tales reside. The House is located somwhere lost in space and time. The beings (some human, some not) that reside there spend their time drinking and telling stories. None of them know exactly how they got there, how to get back from where and when they came, or how to leave.

The main story of the House and the beings that dwell there begins with the story of its newest inhabitant, Fig. Running from a mysterious couple known as the Conception, the young woman known as Fig steps through a door and finds herself in the House. Like most of its inhabitants she wants but is unable to leave; unlike them she feels a kinship to the House. She claims to know it. All is not revealed in this collection but it certainly whetted my appetite.This back story makes the book more than just an anthology; its dual nature really appeals to me.

I'm not a big fan of horror movies but I do enjoy some horror comics. These are more than just horror stories. Some of the themes and images are grotesque but they are story elements and seem to have been woven into the stories for more than just shock value. There is also a fair bit of humor, although it sometimes (but not always) can be more specifically identified as either gallows or black humor.

I like all the artwork. I really like the radical changes in style and color pallette when the scene shifts from the House to a tale being told by one of its denizens. All in all this is a great book, although probably not everyone's cuppa. If you like stories like Grimm's Fairy Tales or even the old EC horror comics then I recommend you give this collection a try.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

What I Read - Jun 5, 2010

The Other Side - written by Jason Aaron with art by Cameron Stewart. This is a 5-issue mini-series set in Vietnam in1968. The two main characters are both young men, Bill Everette and Bo Vinh Dai, who have enlisted in the military but on opposite sides of the conflict.

The story jumps back and forth between Bill and Vo, with no more than than probably four pages at a time being devoted to either man. The first chapter focuses on their induction into the military. Bill's part of the story follows him through boot camp up until he leaves for Vietnam. Vo's story follows him as he leaves his village and joins the army. From very early on Bill's story has a horrific element to it. He sees has visions of the bloody corpses of Americans who were killed fighting in Vietnam. His rifle starts talking to him, urging him to kill himself or kill someone else.

The horrific elements of Vo's story don't begin to surface until the second chapter. In general he seems like a much more grounded individual than Bill. The gold watch his father gives him, a trophy from Dien Bien Phu, provides him with somethings that Bill lacks, a memento of home and a personal reason for the path he has chosen. In the second chapter as Vo and his compatriots march south toward the front the reality of what he is about to take part in as he meets horribly scarred veterans and sees some of the men in his unit mercilessly left to die when they can no longer go on.

I find this to be a very intense read. The story is about two men on either side of the Vetnam War but it is also, more genrally about how horrific war can be and feel. I started reading The Other Side on the bus ride home one night. That didn't last long. My response to the story and the journey that Vo and Bill embark on was too emotional. I put it down and instead chose to read it on Saturday mornings while I wash my clothes. Its no less public a space to engage the book in, my response is just as emotional but I have more time to read the pictures and words than I did on the commute to/from the office.

Cameron Stewart's art work is cartoony. It gets the job done and then some. I really like it. The coloring work of Dave McCaig also deseves praise. It compliments Stewarts art beautifully.

One thing that impresses me about Jason Aaron's story is that Vo and Bill's stories do not mirror one another. Their journeys both take place in the same environment, at the same time, and eventually their stories intersect but they are not two sides of the same coin except in the most basic of ways: they are both young men forced by law or societal pressures to go to war. At the end of the story one survives the war, the other doesn't. One is left trying to make sense of what happened and search for meaning in it, the other isn't.

The story lacks closure but I think that's intentional. The writer dedicates it to his deceased uncle, who served in Vietnam, on the American side.

The team that created this book is American. There is a serious effort made to tell the story of the other side, the story of a soldier in the North Vietnamese Army. It's tough for me to say how accurate it is. I have no prior first, second, or even third hand knowledge of what that life was like. This is it. My feeling is that ultimately this story is written from the American perspective, even though it also presents a (North) Vietnamese one as well.

Needless to say this is a war story but it isn't a traditional war comic book. It bears no resemblance to the war comics that I used to read at the barber shop when I was a kid. In essensce and presentation this more closely resembles a horror story. I was very moved by it and strongly recommend it to anyone who is intrigued enough to try it. It wasn't an easy read for me but it was well worth my time and money.

This review isn't as cohesive as I would like it to be. It is a collection of thoughts, feelings, and reactions. I need to move on and write about something else, so I'm posting what I've written up to this point. Maybe on some future date I'll write edit, compile, and assemble a more cohesive analysis of this book.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

1 Town,1 Weekend, 2 Shows

Weird and bizarre. Those are the first words that come to mind when I try to describe the fact that there are going to be 2 comic book conventions in Montgomery County, MD in the same weekend. That would be the weekend of September 10-12, 2010. The cons I am referring to are...
Intervention is new. SPX has been around for 15 years. Both claim to be focused on small, independent creators.

What's the deal with the scheduling? There's nothing about this issue on the SPX web site but the Intervention folks have addressed it in a FAQ on their website. Basically it sounds like at the time they paid for the convention space they didn't know when SPX was going to held and assumed that it would be later in the month since it was for the last couple years.

One of the tag lines on the Intervention website is "Your Life Online, In Person". Their website also makes the case that their focus is on web comics, where SPX mostly is focused on print media. There are already a number of webcartoonists who are scheduled to be exhibiting at SPX. This doesn't invalidate Intervention's description of itself but the waters do seem to be a bit muddy. That's not a good or a bad thing. The two shows are close enough to each other that attendees and exhibitors could easily take part in both shows on the same day.

I'm sure that some people will do just that. Will a significant number of people attend both shows? I dunno. One draw back to having two independent shows on the same day is that you will have to pay seperaqte admission fees to both shows. At the moment Intervention is open for pre-registration although the only option is to purchase a weekend pass for $40, is planning to let people purchase a weekend pass on the day of the show for $45, and has plans to let people purchase single day passes but have yet to announce pricing for that option.

In contrast, SPX traditionally does not allow attendees to preregister. The rates on their web site are $10 for a 1-day pass or $15 for a weekend pass, both of which can only be purchased at the show.

Another difference between the two shows is that Intervention has a message board; SPX has a blog. For the most parts the posts on the message board seem upbeat and hopeful about the show. There is one post from a creator who has already paid to attend SPX asking the Intervention folks to move their show so that she can attend both shows. For the most part there isn't a lot of activity on the boards but the show is still months away.

Based on pricing and past experience alone my perspective as a potential attendee of these two shows is more favorable towards the more established show, SPX. I've attended SPX three times in the past 7 years, most recently last year. I want to attend again. I admit that I'm curious about Intervention but the price seems kind of steep.

Intervention does have some entertainment scheduled but a dance party doesn't sound like my sort of thing. I'm more interested in finding new things to read and attending some panels. I'll keep checking back so see what Intervention has to offer that I can't get at SPX and I might change my mind before the 2nd weekend of September rolls around but for now just planning to attend SPX.

Monday, May 3, 2010

What I Read - May 3, 2010

Over the weekend I finished reading Daredevil: Return of the King.

What's it about? The Kingpin returns to the Big Apple and teams up with Daredevil to take down the Hand. Of course the Kingpin isn't revealing all that he has in mind to Murdock, but in time it becomes clear that he isn't quite as honorable as he wants to appear.

The first chapter was awesome. It was all Kingpin. Both Brubaker and Lark really did a superb job on that chapter. The dialogue and the images were spot on brilliant. With the exception of the the Hand there are no supernatural or superheroic elements in this chapter. It read and felt more like a chapter from a good noir story.

The rest of the book fails to live up to the promise of the first chapter. It felt rushed in places. I tend to think that it might have benefited from being stretched over a few more issues. There were a lot of loose plotlines that came together and were either resolved or at least moved forward all in the very small space of the last four chapters. Some of it felt a little off kilter and out of whack with Brubaker and Lark's story up to this point and obviously was done to set things up for the creative team that followed them. I'll admit that I'm curious to see what comes next but not curious enough to give the book a try. After almost 40 issues I'm ready to move on and read something else.

Looking back on the Brubaker/Lark run on Daredevil. I think that it started strong and had its high points but wasn't consistently great. I'm not sure what sort of reader I would recommend it to. It has some superheroic elements but often felt like a dark, gritty story about man who seems too emotionally supressed to confront his feelings and make some sense out of his life. This makes it frustrating at times but also makes it an interesting character study.

Good? Yes. Great? Not on the whole. Overall it was worth my time and money but I dunno if/when I'll reread it.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Free Comic Book Day 2010/DC Comic Convention 2010

I didn't do anything special for Free Comic Book Day, which was yesterday. My local comic book shop isn't too exciting. There are others that do a better job, I'm sure. Honestly though, who cares. I don't. Its really an event to get non-comic book readers into the store. I don't even try to stay current with comic books. I just read whatever I feel like reading. Sometimes (rarely) it will be something new or fairly recent; more often it is something years if not decades old.

Today I went to the DC Comic Convention which, of course, wasn't in DC; it was at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA. I managed to escape without spending too much money, just $20 including the admission fee. I still have a ton of stuff to read from my trip to Reading, PA at the end of March. I didn't think too much of the convention. Will I go the next time it happens? Probably. There were no panels, but there were several creators and quite a few dealers. It would have been nice if there been some panels.

I bought three trades at the convention from a dealer who had about twenty boxes of $5 trades. The only problem with his assortment was that going through it was kind of like listening to a broken record. I kept seeing the same books over and over again, I saw 20 or 30 copies of some books. I looked through another dealer's boxes of 1/2 off trades but didn't end up buying any from him.

The three trades I bought are all things that I've wanted to read.

The Dark Phoenix Saga - written by Chris Claremont, penciled by John Byrne, inked by Terry Austin; collects Uncanny X-Men # 129-137. This was a classic when I starting to read X-Men comic books. I like to think of it as the crown jewel of the Claremont/Byrne/Austin run on the X-Men; although some might argue that Days of Future Past deserves that distinction. I've read it before but it has been a long time. I have the first three issues in the Uncanny X-Men Omnibus that I bought in 2008.

What's it about? Lots. Kitty Pride is introduced in the first chapter, as is Emma Frost and the Hellfire Club. The X-men tussle with the Hellfire Club. Jason Wynegarde's (a member of the Hellfire Club) manipulation of Jean Grey (Phoenix) leads her to go insane, which leads to her being put on trial by the Shi'ar Empire, and then there's the battle for her life, with Cyclops by her side, against the Shi'ar Imperial Guard. Its a great read, as I remember it. Hopefully it will live up to my memories of the story.

Spider-Man: Kraven's Last Hunt - written by J.M. DeMatteis, art by Mike Zeck; collects Web of Spider-Man # 31-32, Amazing Spider-Man # 293-294, Spectacular Spider-Man # 131-132. This is one of those classics from the late 1980s that I've never read. I've never been a big Spider-Man fan. I've wanted to read this partly based on reputation and partly because I really enjoyed penciler Mike Zeck's run on Captain America in the early 1980s. What's it about? I'm not entirely sure, although the title seems to imply that it involves the death of Kraven, one of Spider-Man's foes who goes back to the 1960s when Steve Ditko was drawing the book.

Agents of Atlas - written by Jeff Parker, art by Leonard Kirk; collects the Agents of Atlas mini-series #1-6, plus some of the early appearances of the main characters from the 1940s and 50s, plus What If? #9 from 1978 which inspired this 2006 mini-series. I've heard such good things about this series and it sounds so cool that I finally picked it up, since they were practically giving it away. What's it about? An oddball team of crime-fighters. Honestly that's all I know. That and the fact that they all first appeared in the 1940s or 1950s but were seldom used after then and only once appeared as a team prior to this mini-series.

Monday, April 19, 2010

What I Read - Apr 19, 2010

Agnes Quill: An Anthology of Mystery - written by Dave Roman with art by Jason Ho, Xave Roman, Raina Telgemeier, Jeff Zornow, and Jen Wang. This is a collection of stories about Agnes Quill, an orphaned teenager who can communicate with ghosts. She lives in the city of Legerdemain where she follows in her grandfather's footsteps by solving mysteries for ghosts and the undead. This collection is printed in black and white.

There four distinct stories in this collection, each drawn by a different artist with a distinct style. I like all four artists styles, even though Agnes is not drawn consistently from story to story. I get the impression that the the printing process did a disservice to the art in the first and third stories. There is little other than black and white in those stories, very little in the way of gray. That's too bad.

There are a few extras in the back: excerpts from Agnes' journal, a field guide to the world of Agnes Quill, and a gallery of sketches and drawings of Agnes by various artists. Both the field guide and the journal delve into background material that is not covered or only mentikoned briefly in the stories. The gallery includes pages by the artists who drew the stories and a few others.

Ooku: The Inner Chambers v2 - written and drawn by Fumi Yoshinaga. For my description of the premise of this series see my posts about volume 1.

This story takes place a few decades before the one in the first volume. It is the story of the newly appointed abbot of Keiko-in who pays a visit to the Shogun in Edo. His plan was to pay his respects and then return to the monastery but the Shogun's wetnurse, who has a considerable amount of power in the court of the Shogun, thinks otherwise, after seeing how handsome the abbot is. This story is set at a point when the red face pox had not decimated the male population of Japan as much as it eventually would. The Shogun is still a man when the book opens, but succumbs to the mysterious disease in the first pages of the book. This isn't a spoiler. The description on the back of the book indicates that this volume contains the story of the first female Shogun.

At this point I've read the first two (of five) chapters. I like the tension. Its very different from the first volume. There is a lot of dialogue, which surprised me a bit. The notes in the back of the book explain the cultural references which would otherwise be uncomprehensible to many unfamiliar with Japanese history and culture of this era.

One thing that I do find interesting about this series is that the main character in the two big stories so far have been men. There are women that play important roles but given the fact that the author is a woman and the sort of world it is set in I expexted otherwise. This has not negatively impacted the pleasure I get from reading this series. It is just something that occurred to me since starting v2.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Stuff I Wanna Read - Apr 7, 2010

Reading Blazing Combat has me thinking about reading two other classic war comics that I have only heard about and never read. I am of course referring to Two-Fisted Tales and Frontline Combat. Both were published by EC back in the early 1950s. The collections retail for $50 a piece and only contain 6 issue per collection but I really want to get these. I can probably find them for 40% off somewhere online...

What I Read - Apr 7, 2010

Blazing Combat - link - I am currently working my way through the Fantagraphics collection of this old comic book series, and loving it. I can't think of a single negative thing to say about the artwork or visual storytelling. It is a gorgeous thing to look at. Not all the stories connect with me but for the most part I find them to be very honest and moving. The stories are fairly short, most of them being either six or seven pages long. I think that most comic book readers/fans should buy or at least read this collection.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

CGS Super Show 2010

I finally published by account of the Comics Geek Speak Super Show, which happened last weekend. I wrote about the trip, the show, and the things I bought. You can find a link of the right side of this screen, beneath my picture. As of right now I still need to upload some pictures and video that I took while at the show. Once I do I will add links in the account to those items.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

What I Read - Apr 1, 2010

Fables v1 - written by Bill Willingham with art by Lan Medina. A good but not a great read. The opening arc of this series revolves around the investigation into the disappearance and possible murder of Rose Red, Snow White's sister. All the main charcters come from other fiction: Snow White, Bigby Wolf, Blue Beard, Jack, Prince Charming, Little Boy Blue, Old King Cole, etc. Bigby leads the investigation, Snow White is the deputy mayor and city administrator of Fabletown, Old King Cole is the mayor. Its a little unclear where they are located but I'm guessing that it is supposed to be somewhere in New York City.

The art gets the job done but I wouldn't call it solid. The most interesting or appealing part of the story was the characterization of the main characters, and how they seem to embody characteristics from the stories they originally appeared and traits that seem somewhat contradictory to their original nature: rather than being a damsel in distress Snow White runs the town and on occasion curses up a storm, Prince Charming is best known (in this series at least) for sleeping around,etc.

The Moth - written by Gary Martin with art by Steve Rude. Despite high expectations I wasn't too wild about this book after reading the first 10 pages. I think it was the plot and characters. Despite the weird mix it seemed somewhat formulaic in places

I've now finished the first chapter. Although I'm still not wild about it, I've taken off my blinders, opened my eyes and can now see that the book has strengths, namely the artwork and the humor. Hopefully the story and characters will get more interesting.

20th Century Boys v5 - story and art by Naoki Urasawa. Halfway through this volume the story veered in a direction that I didn't see it going, it flashed forward 14 years into the future (to the year 2014) and one of the supporting characters took the lead. There was some indication in v1 that this would or might happen but I was taken in by the rest of the story and assumed that it would end in the year 2000, as I thought was hinted in v1.

Of course, I don't know what comes next. It's possible that the story will return to the late 20th century before its over. I hope it will since there are a number of questions that have yet to get answered. Regardless of where the story goes from here its been a fun ride so far. I hope it continues to be entertaining to the end.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

What I Bought - Mar 20, 2010

Yesterday I returned to Barbarian. I was looking for a couple things (Sleeper: Season Two; Daredevil : Return of the King) that they didn't have in stock but that they said they would order for me. Both were written by Ed Brubaker. I'm much more interested in the second installment of Sleeper.

I want the Daredevil because it is the final installment of Brubaker's run on the book. The first couple arcs were good and had me wanting more. Not so much with the later ones, in particular Lady Bullseye. Wasn't godawful, just not as complete as the previous ones. Also it feels like Brubaker is bound to leave things hanging at the end of his run. I know a little bit about where the story winds up, from the podcasts I listen to, but not exactly how the story is going to get there.

I bought 20th Century Boys v7 and The Moth. The latter book is a collection that I've had my eye on since I first saw the individual issues when they first came out, probably 5 years ago, at what was then Closet of Comics. Yesterday, I was looking for something more or less self-contained. This seemed to fit the bill and was reasonably priced. I love the look of the artwork and the premise seems kind of wacky in a way that appeals to me. Hopefully it will up to my modest expectations.

What I Read - Mar 21, 2010

Sleeper: Season One - Well that didn't end how I thought it would. Then again, Brubaker kept me guessing the whole way as to which direction the story was headed in. The final chapter was a bit anti-climactic but it also set things up for a sequel: Season Two.

20th Century Boys v5 - I've only read the first couple chapters but so far I like. It's been too long since I read v4, three months too long; I read it in December. The big reveal in what I've read so far is the re-appearance of a couple more characters from Kenji's past: Yanbo and Mabo.

Monday, March 15, 2010

What I Read - Mar 15, 2010

Oishinbo: Ramen & Gyoza - While reading the final chapter in this series I finally gave up and dropped it without even finishing the book. In theory (at least to me) this sounds like a great series but aside from the recipes I find very little to like in this volume. The stories are predictable, the characters are uninteresting, and the artwork is nothing special. They all seem to be there to serve the purpose of telling the reader about whatever dish it is that is featured. I had higher hopes for this series. I won't be searching for any more volumes in this series.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

What I Read - Mar 13, 2010

Sleeper: Season One - The book is fucking solid. That's what I mumbled to myself after reading #11. I've still got one to go. I hope Brubaker didn't fuck it up there. The follow through and intensity in this series is amazing. Lots of stories begin with an interesting premise but usually, at some point or another the ball gets dropped, something significant gets overlooked, and the reader is faced with a choice: accept,ignore, or call "bullshit". If anywhere this usually happens closer to the end than the beginning.

I love the charge I get putting a book down at a crucial point like the one at the end of #11. I have just made a choice, faced a question with just two possible answers: yes or no; should I continue to read? I answer negatively because I want to save something for this time next week. Granted, there's just the final chapter left to read it would be easy and satisfying to finish the book off now but I've got a feeling that it will be satisfying no matter when I finish it off. So, why not wait, delay gratification and fulfillment. It isn't a piece of fruit; it won't mold or decay before this time week. Moreover it gives me something to look forward to. Even if the end doesn't live up to my hopes for it, I'll still be riding an emotional high everytime I think about what I have waiting for me next Saturday morning.

Friday, March 5, 2010

What I Read - Mar 6, 2010

Oishinbo: Ramen & Gyoza - I was hoping for more than what this book has to offer. The recipes sound tasty and have me wanting to try my hand at making ramen but the stories are fairly bland. The artwork gets the job done but it too is not impressive. I suppose that some people might like these kinds of stories but I'm not one of them.

Sleeper: Season One - This is a good collection. I'm starting to gain an appreciation for Sean Phillips artwork. I'm not there completely, but I'm gettin' there. The story is great; everytime I think it is going to zig it zags. Just two chapters to go. I think I know how it is going to end but I've been fooled before.

One thing that I do like about how the story is told is the use of flashbacks. I especially like how the origin stories have been mixed in.

One more thing, and this is of course without knowing whether this character survives or not, I'm entranced by the complexity of Miss Misery. What would love do to her? How does she deal with that? How would anyone deal with that sort of condition? Of course, then there's Holden, whose hands are just dripping with blood at this point. Sure, he's cut a couple people some slack but still. How could he return to a semi-normal life after all that he has done and said. It just doesn't seem possible. I'm very eager to see where it all winds up and where Season Two picks up.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

What I Bought - Feb 27, 2010

Last weekend I went to a small comic book show near Tyson's Corner, VA. I spent close to three hours going through a dozen or so long boxes of books that were completely disorganized. I was looking for a few things and found some of them. The comic books were $1 a piece. If I was more patient I might be able to find them for less at another show, but it was fun looking.

I bought 13 books for $13:

Superman Annual #11 (1985) - which contains the classic story For the Man Who Has Everything by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, the same team that created the Watchmen. I saw the cartoon version before reading the original. I've got to say that my memories of the cartoon are better than what I read in the comic book. Of course, there would have been no cartoon without the comic book. Also, I think I had lofty expectations because of (a) my memories of the cartoon and (b) my memories of Moore and Gibbons most famous creation.

Falcon #1, 4 - I picked these up after recently learning that Christopher Priest (who was recently interviewed by the Dollar Bin and who working as Jim Owlsley) was the writer of this series. I've owned #2 of this four-issue limited series from Marvel Comics for years. I bought it when it first came out because it had a Sentinel on the cover. Need I say more? Ok, I will. I never bought or read the rest of the series but listening to Priest made me want to seek out some of his work. I didn't find #3 in the boxes I was looking through.

Batman and the Outsiders #9-12, 16-21 - I bought #1-8 when they first came out, back in 1983-84. I can't remember why I stopped buying this series. Maybe it will come back to me when I re-read the series, maybe not. It may have been a matter of money, or it may have been that I lost interest in comics around then. I honestly don't know. I was looking to complete my run of the portion of the series that was drawn by Jim Aparo. Unfortunately I didn't find # 13, 14, 15.

On the eBay front I've managed to triple the size of my collection of Golden Age comic books in the past week. I've owned an issue of one of the EC Science Fiction Series for a number of years. I believe I bought it when I was in my last apartment, which means I got it between mid 2002 and late 2004. Last weekend I won an auction for a coverless copy of Star-Spangled Comics # 66. I paid $30 for it, plus another $5 for S&H. I probably paid too much for it. I wanted it for two of the featured characters in the book: Robotman and Liberty Belle.

Then today I won an auction for a coverless copy of Detective Comics #152. This time I'll only be paying $11.49, plus $3 for S&H, a much better deal. Once again I wanted it for the Robotman feature. It would be nice to have a copy with a cover but that would also probably cost me considerably more.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

What I Read - Feb 18, 2010

I was really surprised by the last couple issues of X-Men that I read, I'm talking about #10 & 11, not of the current series but the original series, surprised in a good way. I really liked them.

X-Men #10 - In this issue the X-Men travel to the Savage Land and meet Ka-Zar, and Zabu. It is the first Silver Age appearance of Ka-Zar. I think part of what made this story so much fun is how it contrasts to the previous 9 issues. For the first time the X-Men are not fighting a superhuman opponent. Instead, they are on an adventure.

X-Men #11 - X-men are back in the civilized world in this story. Cerebro, Professor Xavier's mutant detecting machine, has located a new mutant who maybe the most powerful mutant of all. The individual turns out to be The Stranger, who isn't a mutant but an alien. Professor X and the X-men unsuccessfully try to get to the Stranger before Magneto does, but it turns out that there is a price for Magneto to pay. The twist at the end (which I won't give away here) was a nice touch.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Big Books

I own two Marvel Omnibuses: The Uncanny X-Men Omnibus (collects Uncanny X-Men #94-131, Annual #3, Giant-Size X-Men #1) and The X-Men Omnibus (collects X-Men # 1-31). Prior to buying them I thought they were a great idea. I was fixated on three advantages that I perceived when comparing Omnibuses to Marvel Masterworks:
  1. The cost per page, each Omnibus contains the equivalent of 3 or 4 Marvel Masterworks, for the cost of 2 or less.
  2. The page size is a little bigger so the images are a little bigger than they are in a Masterworks.
  3. The Omnibuses include the letters pages and other other bonus materials that the Masterworks do not.
I love the content (both regular and bonus: I never realized there were so many female X-Men fans back in the day) but I have a little trouble with the size. They aren't as portable as I would like them to be. They are too bulky and too heavy for me to read while I'm standing up on the Metro. In order to read them I need to be sitting with the book on a flat surface or my lap. Of course this didn't really sink in until after I bought a couple of them.

There are a couple other classic Marvel series that I want to read that have been released as part of the Masterworks series: Amazing Spider-Man and Thor. There is a Spider-Man Omnibus (possibly two) and I've been toying with the idea of getting it but now I'm leaning much more heavily (no pun intended) toward buying the Masterworks instead, one volume at a time. There is no Thor Omnibus, as of yet, and I was holding out for one but now I don't think that I will bother; I'll get the Masterworks instead.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

What I Read - Feb 13, 2010

Powers v12 - Well, I'm finally all caught up on Powers, more or less. I've now read all the stories that have ben collected. All that remains are the few issues of the current series that will presumably be collected some time in the near future. It might be a good idea to give it a rest and read something else instead. That said, I still say that this is an awesome series. This, the final chapter of season/series #2 was no exception and it certainly leaves me wanting for more stories about Walker and Pilgrim.

Sleeper: Season One - I've now read 4 of 12 chapters in this collection. I can't deny that I like it but I'm not ready to call it a classic just yet. Maybe that's because I had extremely high expectations going, possibly due to all the praise this series gets. Maybe that's because when I compare it to other so-called classics that I've read in the past year it doesn't measure up to the best of them (Watchmen, Batman: The Dark Knights Returns) even though it does surpass at least one of them (Kingdom Come). Maybe that's because I'm not as enamored by Sean Phillips artwork as some are. It works but I'm just not crazy about it and I'm still getting used to it. Maybe I'll grow to appreciate it like how I eventually grew to appreciate Michael Lark's artwork on Daredevil during Ed Brubaker's stint writing that book. But maybe not, after all my recollection is that I appreciated Lark's artwork from the get go and just developed a deeper appreciation for it as the series progressed. By comparison, Phillips's artwork on Sleeper seems muddy but that maybe the colorist's doing. Then again maybe my head is so into following the story that I haven't the time or desire to focus on the artwork or give it the attention it deserves. I am enjoying the story. It's keeping me guessing and isn't predictable in the least bit, or at least not so far. I like the way Ed Brubaker is layering in back stories, a little here and a little there.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Library Binding: Wants and Needs

I'm trying to put together some runs to send to Library Binding. I've got a number that are more or less ready to go. I think the first two will be Dreadstar 1-12 and Spectre 1-12 or maybe Breach 1-11.

Lately I got it in my head to get Batman and the Outsiders (1983) bound. I've got the first 8 issues but I'm missing a couple of crucial extras:
There's a small con next week. I'll look there. I want those issues and won't get the collection bound without them, but I also don't want to spend more than a couple bucks a piece for them, preferably less.

Monday, January 18, 2010

What I Read - Jan 18, 2010

Ooku: The Inner Chambers v1 - I'm not sure exactly how that title is supposed to be pronounced. I know what I like and I liked this story. The series looks like it will be a series of stories from different points in history.

What's it about? In the world this story takes place, at the beginning of the 17 century, most (75%) of the men of Japan have been killed by a plague that only affects men. Introduced halfway through the book, the Shogun, Yoshimune, is a woman. The first three of four chapters in this volume are about Mizuno, a young man who joins the Shogun's Ooku, which is essentially a harem. The last chapter seems to set a framing convention for telling more stories.

For more about this volume I recommend reading this review.