Kurt Christenson ** Timothy Mucci ** Johnny Gatts ** Brian Bannen ** Rick Lacy ** YOU!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Cowboys at the Taco Party: the CBLDF BEA Welcome Party



Last Tuesday night, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund held a party/fundraiser to welcome the BEA (book expo of America) to the CBLDF's home, the wondrous isle of Manhattan. Using several incriminating photographs involving lightsabers and a microwave, I managed to blackmail Rick Lacy into attending the party with me. To keep some sense of structure with this lil' "in the field" report, first we'll go with the good, followed by the bad, and then we'll round it out with the completely inane.


The GOOD: First off, when they said it's a party sponsored by Image and DC, and that there's a gift bag involved, I expected to get some sort of free promotional material that would end up at the bottom of my "to-read" pile, where it would stay for several years. I was wrong. First, there was the $1 reprint of Walking Dead #1; alright, pretty cool, but nothing to pitch a tent over. The second gift in the bag? The recently released hardcover collection of Morrison's Batman & Robin #1-6. Shit, really? I had to double check to make sure I wasn't being duped. Like most fans, I have them all in single issue format, but damn, this HC collection goes for about 25 bucks retail. So yeah. The gift bag was a spoonful of sweet gravy.

As you can tell by the picture above, the Hudson Terrace is pretty fancy, which was both good and bad (more on the bad in a second). We saw some notables (Paul Levitz for about a minute, Ivan Brandon modeling the latest in cargo shorts), talked to some WC friendlies (Hi Nikki Cook!), saw another WC friendly (Hey Amy from Bergen St!) and ate some delicious mini-burgers (screw you Lacy, them shits was tasty). Plus, we were supporting CBLDF, and that just feels right, like arm-wrestling Communism (and winning).


The BAD:

Like I said before, the Hudson Terrace is a pretty fancy place. And if you live in NY, you know that a pretty fancy place = overpriced drinks. $9 for a gin & tonic? Lady bartender, you're lucky I just got a free Batman & Robin hardcover. I wouldn't have a problem if there was any chance that part of the bar tab went to the CBLDF, but I'm almost 100% sure that was not the case. I guess I'd have to say that in general, I'm more inclined to say that comic book fundraisers are better suited for low-rent dive bars or comic book stores. That way I can spend my extra cash on buying books instead of booze cause we all know books > booze, right? Right...


The WHATEVER:

As my cowboy compatriot and I were about to find out, having a CBLDF shindig in such lavish surroundings meant that we'd be occasionally joined by confused club-bunnies from the party outside, a gathering Lacy lovingly referred to as the "pretty lady" party. Now, as you can see from that picture above, there were quite a few comic book ladies around (such as the lovely Ms. Cook and Bergen Street's own amazing Amy Adams), but every few minutes, a rail-thin waif in a cocktail dress and cringe-worthy heels would aimlessly wander into the CBLDF party, no doubt surpassing the donation table. These lost lilies were greeted by a bevy of drunken 1st amendment fighters, which was at times amusing, and at other times downright awkward, like having the high school cheerleader walk in on your Halo party (if only that happened).

After an extended period of Bogarting the bar, me and my comic book cowboy started talking to other people, namely people we did not know. We met some fun people, and one or two straight up dickheads. Here's a tip: if somebody at an industry party ever asks you, "is there anybody here worth knowing?," you are required to stop talking to that person. Why? By asking that question, they have proved that:

A. he/she is an asshole, and therefore

B. he/she is not worth knowing.

Sure, I get it: this is an industry party, so you want to make contacts, but it's also a party, so you should just shut your yap and get to know anybody who will talk to you at all. Nobody likes that kind of bare-faced networking, especially when the party is also a fundraiser. One good thing did come of this conversation though: while I desperately tried to get away from this guy, Lacy overheard somebody mention a "Taco Party" that was happening upstairs. As you can imagine, there's not much in this world that sounds better than a Taco Party, so we quickly absconded up a flight of stairs only to find this:

That is not a Taco Party. That is a Vodka Party. Nice hair-flower though.

Somewhere along the line, we were duped. Lacy's reaction looked a bit like this.

Cowboys don't drink Vodka. Never promise a cowboy Tacos and then not deliver. This makes a cowboy sad.

Faced with an existensial meltdown brought on by a lack of tortilla shells, we did the only thing that made sense: fled the Hudson Terrace, highjacked the Intrepid, and took our personal brand of lawless stank to the high waters of the Hudson River.

Ever since then we've been living a life of Top Gun shenanigans, complete with singalongs and nearly constant high-fives.

See you next time CBLDF...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Indie Club Dance Party



More Write Club Funnies...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Comic Reviews -- Week of May 19

DC:



Brightest Day #2: I love the mystery surrounding this series -- there's a hell of a lot going on, and I have no idea what it is. It intrigues me. What I like: Johns and Tomasi giving face time to some of the more tertiary characters of the DCU. When Johns took over as creative director of DC, I thought that we would see a return of some of the older, golden age heroes (namely Aquaman, Flash, Hawkman, and the Brave and Bold characters). He seems to be taking this exact route with Brightest Day. I also like the mystery surrounding Deadman's apparent return to the land of the living, and the fact that he seems like the only true white lantern. What I'm worried about? DC tried this weekly (or in this case bi-weekly) series before. 52 was a success, both commercially and in its story telling. But, as the writers stated later, the story took a creative turn of its own. And in order to close some plot threads, they wrote WWIII, a four part series that tied up all the loose ends. I'm worried the same will happen with Brightest Day. What I hope is that Johns and Tomasi already have the entire story planned out and they're just doling out the pieces one issue at a time. And we have to wait and see what happens. My only hope is that they continue with the current pace they've set. It would be a shame to see this series take a nose-dive.

Marvel:



Ultimate Avengers 2 #2: Maybe I'm still hung over from the last issue of Ultimate Avengers 2, but I hated the hell out of this. Story wise, it's inconsistent. There's two flashbacks that return sixteen years into the past, and a third flashback that jumps three days into the past. It seems like very lazy writing. With all the garbage tossed into the first issue, Millar could have easily taken out one page of Punisher murders and thrown in this quick exchange between Nick Fury and Jason Rhodes. As with the inconsistency with the characters in the first issue, that same problem pops up again here. The first Hulk -- and idea which was originally very cool -- has become the stereotype for a rich gangster. He wears heavy gold chains, sports a face tattoo, and crawls out of bed with three women. But the one thing that can make him follow Nick Fury's lead is a quick mention of a previous family. For a guy who is initially presented as soulless and shallow, we're force-fed a quick explanation of his deeper character. But it was too little too late because Millar had spent the previous fifteen pages proving to us that the first Hulk doesn't care, and then when Rhodes throws a little mist in his eyes, he's suddenly a dog on a chain. The only reason to keep reading this series is to see how absurd it gets. This is like watching a train loaded with nuclear explosives careen off a bridge onto a freeway packed with bus loads of school children who are headed home after celebrating Earth Day by attending a peace rally. Seriously. It's that bad.

Bannen's Book of the Week:


American Vampire #3: Scott Snyder and Stephen King's vampire epic takes my top spot this week. This happens to be the second time I've lauded this book as a pick of the week, but if you read it, you'll see why. We're moving a little further into the story here, but the pacing hasn't faltered -- for either Snyder or King. Rafael Albuquerque's illustrations of the vampires, especially Pearl and Skinner Sweet, are incredible. It's a new take on the vampire transformation, and I love it. And while the comic is VERY violent, it's not over-the-top violence (::coughMarkMillarcough::). It fits well with the story, and only makes the read more enjoyable. With Snyder's story, we're reminded of the depth of the characters. There's a great exchange between Pearl and Henry, one that reminds us that while Pearl is a vampire, she's not heartless. And as for King's story, it's, well, classic King: a multi-layered, multi-character story that builds upon its plot to the point where an imminent climax means explosions, carnage, and death. I look forward to seeing it play out. King only signed on for five issues, so his arc runs out in two months. I can only hope Scott Snyder stays on to finish his story, and perhaps tell more because I look forward to this comic coming out every month. It's definitely worth the $3.99.

Comic Reviews -- Week of May 19

DC


Streets of Gotham #12: I'm not sure what is going on with Streets of Gotham, but this issue felt pretty disjointed to me. There were moments of pure awesome, like the Carpenter's reaction to Batman breaking into the bar, as well as her disdain for the super-criminally inclined...and then there was the new villain "the Director," who read like he was written in about ten minutes and never looked at again. Some of this might have to do with what appears to be a shake-up between Paul Dini and the book, as he's only credited for the story, with script credits going to artists Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs. Anyway, it's an alright read for two-part story, and there's a small plot aside dealing with Damian taking on a secret side project of his own. Once again it's Damian to the rescue, as his short scene is one of the better parts of the issue. That, and it's got a beautiful cover, even though it has nothing to do with the story. "Batman with Bats" is a pretty used image, but when done right it can still wow.

Image


Walking Dead #72: Is Kirkman turning Rick and his survivor posse into the bad guys of this arc? With this issue, it certainly seems that way. Beyond this shift, I actually really enjoyed this issue if only for what might be the earliest glimpses of Michonne's past, something we've been getting more and more of since the survivors left the prison. She's been a major character since her first appearance, and it's rewarding to finally get even just one or two panels of her life before the zombie-jamboree went nationwide. (Side note: we still don't know if there are zombies outside of the US, right?) Also, we see that Rick is once again busy on a contingency plan that might put him out of favor with the locals, and the creepy leader of the village makes a sleazy pass at Andrea (but with that sexy scar, who wouldn't). If there was any part of the issue that made me think "let down," it was that we don't get any more hints as to what the Safe-Zone survivors did under their initial founder, the mysterious Davidson. My guess? Desperation orgy. Call me crazy, but Douglas Monroe seems like the type of guy who'd be down with that.

Marvel


Avengers #1: The Heroic Age Begins Here! (or was it in Age of Heroes? Or is it in Secret Avengers? Or was it in Siege? Or is it in Avengers Prime...you get the point). After this first issue, I'm still 100% torn on this series. Do I want to care about these Avengers? I've been promising myself (and writing here for some time) that I'm "done with Bendis." Yet somehow, Marvel just won't let me quit the guy. If you want to follow what is going on with the Marvel U, he's pretty much inescapable. Anyway, Avengers #1 is alright. It's not groundbreaking, and really the best part is seeing John Romita Jr. work with Klaus Janson (although that cover is criminally boring). The set-up for this new team's first adventure is fitting in a big picture "Avengers" way, and the reveal at the end gave me genuine nerd-goosebumps. So, I won't write the series off yet, but I'm going to reserve my right to drop it if the familiar curse of New Avengers rears it's ugly head in any way.

GATTS BOOK OF THE WEEK


Joe the Barbarian #5 (VERTIGO--Grant Morrison, Sean Murphy): This is a series that I had my doubts about at first, but as the story has progressed, it's become more and more clear that Joe the Barbarian is an incredibly enjoyable fantasy romp. It might also be Morrison's most emotionally touching work to date. Reading this makes me feel much the same way I did when I saw Labyrinth or The Dark Crystal as a child. It's a wonderfully imaginative story with genuine heart. Even more than that, this book firmly establishes Sean Murphy as one of the best artists working today. I've read it elsewhere, and I have to agree: this is career-defining material for Murphy. Take a look at that splash page of the dog/monster attack and you'll know what I mean. Shit, I probably spent more time looking at that page than any other in the series so far, and I even went back after I finished the issue just to soak it in one more time. If there's one problem with this issue, it's that Morrison falls victim to the "must explain why a cell phone won't solve the problem" narrative trap. Oh wait...that's going to a question that has to be answered in all fiction from now on, isn't it? Crap. Anyway, go read Joe the Barbarian. Yes, it's a familiar story, but just turn off that little cynical voice in your head and let yourself enjoy it. Go on, you know you want to.

Monday, May 24, 2010

"Crazy Horses" V. 3, Ep. 1

Tim, Kurt and Rick Lacy start off an all new volume with an original ramble-cast about everything from Iron Man 2 to Frank Frazetta's recent death and everything in-between!

Catch up with the boys of Write Club!







Intro: "Crazy Horses" The Osmonds

Outro: "Write Club Theme" Scott St. Pierre


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Comic Reviews -- Week of May 12

MARVEL:

Siege #4: Siege's powerful climax may have been ruined by the Marvel solicits for the Heroic Age because while I was pleased with the series, I knew the ending and needed to get through 22 pages of comic to get there. In the end, Olivier Coipel is the real hero of Siege. He creates some amazing art in the issue, and even gets a splash page or two to show off his chops. Marvel did such a good job of keeping Captain America's death a secret, I don't see why they couldn't have done the same thing here. I understand they want to generate interest in their comics and have comic stores line up to buy, but Bendis really gets the shaft here because this issue has everything a final issue is supposed to have: explosive action, horrific deaths, story closure, and a happy ending. I like the role Steve Rogers is getting in the new, post Norman universe, because it makes him more important than Captain America. There's a lot to like about Siege; I just hope the follow through is as interesting.


Amazing Spider-Man #631: Zeb Wells and Chris Bachalo deliver a phenomenally written story that will have serious after affects in the Spider-Man universe. They've definitely upped the ante in part two, and if you liked The Dark Knight, you should pick this up -- Spidey is going down some very dark roads.



Ultimate Spider-Man #10: Bendis writes an impassioned speech by the Principal of Peter's high school. As a teacher, I was enthralled. I only wish we could say some of these things to people, but, alas, this is the fantasy world. It turns out that this is only one of several incredible moments in this comic. David LaFuente really makes his art work here. I've complained that his art is the weakest part of USM, but I take that back. In this issue especially, it seems like LaFuente has found a style that suits the story and the characters. And when I got to the end of the issue, I had only one questions: Where does Bendis go from here? There are several story possibilities that present themselves at the end of the issue, and these ideas are not about Spider-Man, but more about Peter and Peter's family. Bendis has perfectly scripted an emotional drama. I dare you to read this and not feel something for Kitty Pride. This is one of the best USM comics ever written.


DC:


Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #1
: I love a good mystery, and there's no greater mystery than where Bruce Wayne went when he was swallowed up by the omega beams in Final Crisis. We see the first part of that journey here, but there's enough going on to keep me hooked. I have more questions than answers, and I'm still completely unsure of the ending, and while I'm not excited for Bruce's return (as it might mean the end of Dick and Damian), I'm excited to see where the journey takes Bruce. Grant Morrison is a writer all writers should strive to be -- clever, insightful, and mysterious.


Bannen's Book of the Week:

Amazing Spider-Man #631: If I could give an award for book of the year, it would go to Amazing Spider-Man. Zeb Wells' story changes things in the ASM universe. It adds a darkness to an otherwise light character, but this also makes the Lizard more than a regular character in Spider-Man's rogues's gallery. Curt Conners has become something more sinister, and as with Bendis' USM story, where does Zeb Wells go from here? One thing "The Gauntlet" has done is update the characters for a new generation. All of the characters have been more threatening, and more violent. This is echoed with Bachalo's take on the Lizard. He's gargantuan, misshapen, and much more reptile than human. At times, he looked like a lumbering dinosaur more than a half-man, half-lizard creature. Of all the storylines so far, "Shred" is possibly the best one. I wish more writers took chances with mainstay characters (although I have to credit DC and Grant Morrison with their Batman work). The work they put out is phenomenal.

MOONLIGHTING by Emily Wernet




A few weeks ago I met up with Emily Wernet at Oslo and we discussed her artwork over a coffee on one of the first nice days of the year.

"My main comic influences are The Hernandez Brothers, Johann Sfar, Gipi, Esther Pearl Watson, Tezuka, Jamie Hewlett. For more mainstream influences I've always been an X-Men fan and a fan of David Mack, and anything by Grant Morrison. As for influences outside of comics; for writing I'm into Margaret Atwood; movies I like Tarkovsky, and Kurosawa; and more traditional influences I'm into Klimt and Munch."

I first met Emily at King Con held in Brooklyn this past November. As the con was wrapping up, this punky, blonde-mohawked girl came by the table to drop off her flyer for the new comic she was going start serializing on her livejournal site.


True to her word, she has posted up 22 pages of her comic MOONLIGHTING over the last few months and it looks gorgeous. But we'll come back to the comic and do a proper review in a minute. For now, a bit more about Emily Wernet.

She's just graduated from the School of Visual Arts, she's from Cinncinati, Ohio and currently resides in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Her favorite comics before Moonlighting were a series of anthropomorphic/autobiographical stories, occasionally starring her Grandma, some of which you can see on her site. She's worked at Cosmic Comics on 23rd Street, interned for Teshkeel Comics (the 99), and would love to have her work published by First Second. Oh, and she's an old school Trekkie.


So, after getting to know Emily a bit more, and seeing more of her artwork, I knew this was a cartoonist to watch out for. She's crazy talented, and just has a depth to her work that some artists twice her age will never achieve. It's fun, cartoony, well-designed, and her personality really shines through the work. I don't know about you, but when I saw her art I wanted to get to know her better, which I think is the draw of indie comic artists, you get a sense of connection with them, usually through the autobiographical comics they produce.

But Moonlighting isn't autobiographical (though I could picture Emily fighting monsters in suburbia), it's a straight up superhero comic, with an indie comic twist.

First, I just love the stark orange cover. The Lady Comics company logo with the sketchy dude, issue number, and price, all markings of a comic book in the grand tradition of the big two. And I love that logo, the design to the lettering of Moonlighting with the mask floating above it. It just really works. And as far as action on the cover, we've got a caped crusader hurling a brick at the main character's head. From the awkward pose of the heroine to the near cut off of the main girl, this is definitely going to be a bizarre take on the superhero idea. Toss in some street signs, a few houses, and a radio tower and you've got the setting for this delicious little tale. Let's begin.

(Also of note is the binding, which is a little string tied in a knot looped through the pages, and this has held up better than some staples and glue has in my carting back and forth of comics and books to and from work.)




After a simple and lovely title page, we jump into the story. Nighttime, orange, white & black playing across the page in staggered panels, our heroine is introduced as a non-speaking (except in pictograms) do-gooder who helps little old ladies across the street and enjoys corn dogs.

The art goes through the gamut here, from typical indy book look, to design heavy, break the panel borders sound effects, to fun sequential art gags. Everything seems very well planned out and each moment really leads you to the next in a very natural, organic way.

She's got a great minimalist design, a classic superheroine with a realistic female build, and between her visual exclamations and her amazingly awkward flying poses, she can't help but charm you right from the get-go. Just look how cute...

You can also check out Arcanalogue's interpretation of the heroine as the Princess of Cups.

After those first two pages we swap over to the real main character of the book, Billy. Just an average High Schooler who likes Johnny Cash and hates her classmates, gets pestered by her mom to pick her up some booze, with a boyfriend who wants to either break up with her or get her into a threesome. She's bored with the monotony of suburban life.

We switch to a blue coloring scheme to place us in reality, and the shade of blue (and orange) is brilliant. It's soothing, calming, and used in just the right places so as to accent and punctuate certain storytelling elements. The coloring is something she has said she got critiqued about, but that most people who read it love it, and I am one of those who love it. It's almost a character in itself. Wait, monsters? Yep, mixing in Emily's love of Cryptozoological creatures, this little comic takes it up a notch. The Montauk Monster (yeah Long Island) begins to plague the town and our heroine is just the gal to take him down. I love that there's a brief little caption at the end of the book that explains the monster of the issue.

Unlike most comics, well superhero ones, the action isn't the real draw though. The interactions of Billy & Neil (her 'stupid band' boyfriend), Billy's alcoholic mother, Aaron her new gay friend, these are the moments which really work to develop her as a character. And the art and design in the scenes where she faces the conflict in herself are truly inspired.


The story works flawlessly as a metaphor for teenage angst blossoming into self-empowerment. It feels familiar without being at all cliche. More like it breathes new life into a stale format. There's a few moments here and there that are original and quirky and wonderfully fun. The characters don't act like cookie cutter stereotypes, sometimes they act like jerks and it feels honest.

This is a comic to track down and get, or check out on her site. I have #12 of the limited run of 25, but she promises a second printing is in the works (I cut her a break since she did create this bad boy while graduating college), so you'll be able to pick it up at your local mini-comic friendly comic store or from her directly. If you love indy books, get it. If you love superhero comics, get it. You'll like it no matter what. And you'll be seeing more of Ms. Emily Wernet, I guarantee. And when she's big and famous I'll just have one thing to say...


K

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Comic Reviews--Week of May 5th

MARVEL:

Amazing Spider-Man #630: Zeb Wells takes over the writing duties for this arc, and he brings the Lizard to "The Gauntlet." Chris Bachalo's art is phenomenal in this issue -- it's cartoonish, but fun to look at, and his take on the Lizard will make your skin crawl. The back and forth between Spider-Man and Black Cat makes the issue, and I found myself laughing out loud a few times. It captures the traditional Spider-Man wit, but it doesn't feel forced. There's a nice balance of comedy and action, and after the disappointing Juggernaut run, Wells doesn't waste any time on the action. We're thrown into a pretty incredible gunfight on the second page, and while the following pages are mostly dialogue and plot development, I feel they still do a nice job of building the tension for Curt Conners' big reveal at the end of the issue. Some of the bigger mysteries of the series are starting to be revealed, but only in minor glimpses. I'm glad they're doled out at by Wells' competent hands, because the man knows how to write Spider-Man, and, while that's important, Wells doesn't neglect the rest of the players in the issue. I especially enjoyed the lizard "voice" Conners hears in his head. "Shred" is shaping up to a be an intense arc.

Ultimate New Ultimates #2: I was hoping Loeb would redeem Millar's Ultimate Avengers 2 with his New Ultimates. Sadly, this issue suffers from the same malady as Millar's: it's not believeable. What we're shown is that Danvers, Valkyrie, and Zarda are all convinced, by Amora, that they are destined for greater things. So, they rebel and kick the shit out of Captain America, Iron Man, and Bullseye. The problem is that I just don't buy it. Even if these gals are being brain-washed, it seems like a lazy way to introduce a conflict. This story isn't anything we haven't seen before, and maybe that's my real issue with New Ultimates. The Ultimate universe was meant to introduce a new generation of readers, free from the constraints of the regular 616 universe. But it seems as if Loeb is trying out some old material with new characters. But if we're to swallow this, it would have been better if Loeb took more time to develop the conflict rather than shoving it down readers' throats. I hope that Thor's return is spectacular because that feels like the only thing that will save this series.


DC:

Batman and Robin #12: The final page of this issue, the reveal of Detective Sexton, made me laugh out loud. Why? Because it was completely unexpected. As usual, Grant Morrison hurls the dirtiest of curve balls at the readers, and I don't know one person that could have guessed Sexton's actual identity. In this issue, Damien confronts his mother regarding his surgery, more mysteries about Bruce Wayne's return are revealed, Dick gets some payback against Slade for what he did to Bludhaven, and we also learn that Talia Al Ghul has a back up plan in case Damien decides to join Bruce. And I love it. I think we're just seeing the hints of what is to come eventually. The series looks to pick up steam now that The Return of Bruce Wayne is coming out, and Morrison will probably merge the two stories together in the end. So how will he solve the problem of Damien and Dick? We'll just have to wait, patiently, and see what develops.


Misc:

iZombie #1 (Vertigo -- Roberson & Allred): In this comic, a zombie grave digger eats the brains of the recently deceased, once a month, and then inherits their thoughts. The problem is that her latest cadaver had some seriouly screwy shit occur before he died, so now she has to go and solve his murder. First, what I didn't like about iZombie is that it seems like a copy of Image's Chew in which a man can get the final images of whatever he eats. iZombie's redeeming factor is in its supporting cast. Gwen, our main character (and brain eater) is friends with Ellie, a ghost, and Scott, a Were-Terrier. Mike Allred's art is well suited for the idea because of its cartoonish nature. If they recruited a more intense artist, iZombie might not work because of its grusomeness. For a first issue, it's okay. Vertigo brilliantly made it $1, so its chances of selling are pretty good. As an introductory issue, there's not much to keep me here save for Gwen's buddies, but I'll give iZombie another go when the next issue comes out. Maybe the more apparent purpose of the comic will be revealed by then.

Sweet Tooth #9 (Vertigo -- Jeff Lemire): Jeff Lemire does a nice job of bouncing between Tommy's current situation, his past, and Sweet Tooth's incarceration. These later issues are nowhere near as fun as the earlier issues, but at the least the story is moving right along. The pacing for the issue works well as the story skips along. What bothers me, still, is that Tommy's backstory isn't all that interesting. I'm sure it's important in some capacity, but Jeff Lemire can't compete with his own creation. Sweet Tooth is the true root of the mystery, and when the writer doesn't focus on him, the comic falls flat.

Stealth #1 (Top Cow -- Kirkman & Silvestri): I wanted to hate this comic because it looked like, to quote Kurt, "Pure fanboy crap." But what works best in Stealth is its characters. We're introduced to Todd, an older man who's moving back in with his father. His father happens to be an aging superhero (named Stealth), but he's starting to go senile. This is the comic's most interesting aspect. The problem is that it's a novelty that will soon lose it's sheen. And then,we have to wonder when Todd will don his father's costume and fight crime, where the book will become just another superhero book. I'm hoping Kirkman paces this story well enough to keep the characters the focus of the book, and not to fall into the trap of making this about the superhero (who is more like a Spawn/Darkhawk conglomeration). I'm intrigued by Stealth, and interested to see where it goes from here.

Irredeemable #13 (Boom! -- Waid & Barreto): Mark Waid takes a step in the right direction with this issue. The flabby second arc almost lost me. The comic was losing its urgency and interest after the intial introduction to the issue at hand. In this issue, however, the characters start coming to life. My only worry is that we'll fall back into the previous rut, and while I did it once, I don't think I could stick with Irredeemable again. My only hope is that Mark Waid keeps moving the comic forward, introducing interesting plot threads and developing these characters into something more than just cardboard representation of different facets of humanity.

Comic Reviews--Week of May 5th

DC:

Jonah Hex #55: Where to begin? This was yet another quality issue of Jonah Hex from start to finish. Thought it didn't carry quite the same thematic weight as the last two issues, The Brief Life of Billy Dynamite is a memorable enough story of misguided violence and Jonah Hex's response to second-hand guilt. Kind of a "Aw shucks, Jonah Hex kills some guys, so he really did care" story. Though I can say, I wish there was more Billy Dynamite stories out there to be read. He's sort of like the Dennis the Menace of the Old West...except he puts firecrackers in mouths, not mailboxes. This issue was also a real treat for long time Jonah Hex fans, as veteran Hex artist Vicente Alcazar returned to his 70s stomping grounds. The rotating artists on Jonah Hex are always top-notch, but even in this talented company, Alcazar's art stands out. It's very much of the iconic 1970s DC style, without feeling stale, derivative, or boring.


IMAGE:

Orc Stain #3: Though I love the plot of Orc Stain just as much as the art, it's really hard to talk about this book without focusing on James Stokoe's incredibly dense, incredibly imaginative style. Really, nobody draws like this. I could go on and on about it, but let's just shorten this a bit and call it Heavy Metal on mushrooms. Another thing I love about Orc Stain is the value of this book. Excuse me will I digress into finances for a minute. Orc Stain is a three dollar comic, which sucks, but at least with this book those three bucks gets you about 30 pages of uninterrupted action and storytelling. No ads, no filler. Not to sound too much like a salesman, but you just can't mess with those numbers. There's even an original drawing on the back cover of every issue. I can't stress it enough: if you like your fantasy stories gory, funny, and highly stylized, you need to be reading Orc Stain.


MARVEL:

Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine #1: If Whedon's Astonishing X-Men was any indication of the quality of Marvel's new "Astonishing" line of comics, then we've had reason to be excited for Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine for sometime. Now that the first issue is out, I feel like Marvel might have found their very own Brave and the Bold. Now, that's not to say that the big two are just mirroring each other (no, who would ever accuse them of that), but it's pretty damn close. The major difference is that Marvel's "Astonishing," or at least Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine, is a mini-series instead of a series of single issue stories. Though I've praised the one-and-done quite a bit in my reviews, I have to say that this time around I'm happy to have six issues of ASMW, because it's exactly what you want out of a Spider-Man/Wolverine team-up. Jason Aaron has perfectly bottled the dynamic between the two characters, and Adam Kubert's art is nothing short of...well...astounding. There's no doubt that this book is better than it should be; after all, Spider-Man and Wolverine are two of the most marketed (and marketable) comic book characters of all time, characters that we should logically be sick of by now. However, Aaron and Kubert might have accomplished something truly remarkable with Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine: a story that reminds us why these two characters are so damn popular in the first place.

Philip K. Dick's Electric Ant #2: After reading the second issue of Electric Ant, I fear that my initial reservations about the book are going to prove valid. It's not a horrible comic, but it is pretty mundane. To anybody who is familiar with Philip K. Dick's work, this effort just comes off as watered down Dick. Which is to say, it feels like exactly what it is: a Philip K. Dick story without Philip K. Dick. Though it's not nearly as bad as say, Spielberg's A.I., which was Kubrick without Kubrick, the comparison did come to mind. Two issues in, and Marvel's interpretation of Electric Ant remains woefully underwhelming.

Spider-Man: Fever #2: What a good, weird week for Spider-Man fans. After reading the second issue of Spider-Man: Fever (and Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine), I realized that non-continuity books are really books are really the best superhero offerings on the market right now. When you're operating outside of a set continuity, good creators get to actually use their talents to tell a different kind of story. There's no three-year plot to worry about, no fan backlash or long-term sales to consider. Familiar characters, sure, but at least the writers and artists are allowed to paint outside the lines. And man, if there's one thing Fever does well, it's paint way, way outside the lines. The story, which is about Dr. Strange's race to save a poisoned Spider-Man from his spider-demon hallucinations is great, so good in fact that just typing it out made me want to go back and re-read this issue (I'm a sucker for Dr. Strange stories). This was like the mainstream Orc Stain of last week; great, fantastically bizarre story with incredible art. Though McCarthy's style is decidedly looser than Stokoe's, it is just as dense and imaginative. Like a shot of prog-rock acid to the arm, Spider-Man: Fever is pure, psychedelic joy.


MISC:

The Boys #42 (DYNAMITE): Recently, I saw Tom DeFalco give a lecture about writing for comics. At one point during the talk, he said one of the most important things to do in comics is treat your characters with cruelty. Man, I don't know if DeFalco has read the Boys, but holy sh*t does Garth Ennis know how to treat his characters with the utmost cruelty. Now, nothing physically brutal happens in this issue, but there's one scene involving Starlight that is rough in a totally different way, yet still as distressing as any on-panel stomping. At that point, I realized something: for all the gory ridiculousness, for all the extreme sex (and sexual violence), the thing that unsettles me the most when reading the Boys is how this is all going to impact Hughie. Call me a softy, but he is our point of reference, our anchor, and I'm seriously starting to worry about his fate. Don't get me wrong; Ennis proved with Preacher that he's a fan of happy endings, so most likely things will be a-OK. In the meantime, I'll continue to worry, and continue to look at the Boys as one of the most daring, offensive, and enjoyable books on the shelves.

Hellboy En Mexico (DARK HORSE): Hellboy fights vampires in 1950s Mexico with a team of masked wrestlers. One of them gets turned into a vampire demon. He challenges Hellboy to a wrestling match inside Tenochtitlan. Why aren't you out buying this right now?

The Killer: Modus Vivendi #1 (ARCHAIA): For the uninitiated, the Killer is a French comic originally published by Franco-Belgian publisher Casterman from 1998-2007. Archaia Studios Press started to reissue the Killer in English for the first time back in '07. Written by Matz (a.k.a. Alexis Nolent) and drawn by Luc Jacamon, the Killer follows a nameless hit man as he navigates the seedy channels of the murder-for-hire business. Sounds like a pretty standard set-up, no? Well, the Killer is so much more than it's premise. This reads more like a comic about French existentialism with some blood, bullets, and nudity thrown in for good measure. There's a lot to love about this book, so in the sake of keeping it short, I'll focus on what really sticks out to me about the Killer which is the pace. Reading the Killer, one feels as if time is moving at the same speed as the Killer's gun-cold logic. Matz and Jacamon are masters at creating tension and mood, two traits severely lacking in many mainstream books. If you like Criminal, 100 Bullets, or noir/crime stories in general, you owe it to yourself to start reading the Killer.

Muppet King Arthur #4 (BOOM KIDS!): Every time a new issue of Muppet King Arthur comes out, I'm forced to repeat myself, because Davide Peterson's Muppet King Arthur covers are always the best thing about the series. I mean, just look at it! This series has been worth picking up for the Peterson covers alone. Moving onto the actual story, inside we get a pun-filed conclusion to Kermit and Robin's power struggle, as well as a bit of foreshadowing for Sam the Eagle. Now that the series is over, we can pretty much say that Muppet King Arthur wasn't the best comic around, but it was entertaining enough so I'm not going to hate on it. It's hard to say mean things about any kids book, especially a Muppet book geared toward winning over a generation that never saw the original Muppet Show on television. For that reason alone, it deserves credit.

The Muppet Show #5 (BOOM KIDS!): As I just finished saying, it's hard to rate the quality of a Muppet comic for kids without coming off as a crusty crumb-bum, a right bastard of the "wasn't-it-better-back-when" club. So, instead of doing that, I'll just say thank you once again to Roger Langridge for his epic revitalization of the original Muppet Show skits and characters. Amy Mebberson's art is good, but I have to say that I do tend to like the comic more when Langridge does both the art and the writing. The main reason for this is that it seems to work better when you've got one person telling the joke, rather than somebody writing said joke and another person interpreting it. Other than that, I say keep supporting Muppet Show Comics, as one day some executive is bound to turn them into CGI ghouls.

GATTS BOOK OF THE WEEK:

Hellboy En Mexico (DARK HORSE, Mike Mignolia, Richard Corben, Dave Stewart): With two awesome Spider-Man books and a new issue of the Killer out this week, it was pretty hard to choose this round's book of the week, but I'm going to have to give it Hellboy En Mexico for a couple of reasons. First off, Hellboy wrestles a Mexican wrestler-turned-vampire, and that alone is worth your $3.50. Second, the Mike Mignolia alternate cover kicks-ass in a classic Hellboy fashion. Third, it was Cinco De Mayo, so Hellboy en Mexico was destined to win; but more than that, (and this is my final reason for picking it) Hellboy en Mexico was a perfect example of how non-continuity stories are the best for well-known superheroes. See a theme developing here? We had two examples for Spider-Man this week, but neither of them was really as purely enjoyable as Hellboy en Mexico. This is a comic you could pick up and read without knowing much of anything about the character (or his world) and you'd still enjoy it. Which brings us to my main criteria when it comes to book of the week, being, "could I find this comic on a bench and still enjoy it?" In the case of Hellboy en Mexico, the answer here is a resounding si Señor.