View Full Version : Current Comics Worth A Look
4th November 2002, 02:43 AM
There are several comics-related threads I'd like to start over time, so before beginning this one I'd like to list some others and describe what each is (and isn't) intended to cover.
1. Comics for Skeptics.
2. Comics of Possible Interest to Skeptics.
3. Great Moments In Great Literature.
The first, Comics for Skeptics, would be intended as a place to mention, describe, and discuss comics people think skeptics would enjoy and might want to buy for themselves, or give as gifts, or see about placing in libraries. This would include comics that present skeptics in a positive light, that deal skeptically with paranormal issues such as faith-healing or speaking with the dead, etc.
Since many, many comics take super-science (people who come from other planets with higher gravity than earth will be able to fly; swallowing a pill can make a person shrink down to microscopic size, and swallowing another can restore the person to full-size; etc.) or the supernatural (ghosts, curses, and gods are real), it could be a valuable educational resource for skeptics to know which comics, especially which ones currently available, do not pander to these beliefs.
Examples of comics that might be mentioned in this thread are Jim Ottaviani's Two-Fisted Science and Dignifying Science (trade paperbacks that present stories about real-life scientists), Sandwalk Adventures (which satirizes religion and presents an enjoyable and understandable explanation of the theory of evolution), and individual issues of comics in which questions about the paranormal or supernatural are raised and then dealt with in a praise-worthy manner. (I already put up a post about Sandwalk Adventures, since I didn't want to wait until I had time to start this larger thread, but there are numerous other comics deserving mention.)
Largely this thread would be a heads-up to alert people to such comics; a typical post would supply information such as title, publisher, price, how to find or order copies, and a little description of what the comic is about and why it's worth knowing about. Sometimes another poster might care to add additional information about a title (such as to second a recommendation, give some background on the comic or its publisher, point out short-comings to a recommended title, discuss some of the contents, whatever.)
The second, Comics of Possible Interest to Skeptics, would be more concerned with currently-availble comics and would be for discussing bad as well as good examples. One reason for a thread like this is that it would enable skeptics to write letters to the editor (or, as comic book letter columns increasingly are phased out, to web-sites and bulletin boards) commenting on these issues and suggesting resources comics writers (and readers) might enjoy looking up.
For instance, there was a Daredevil story many years ago in which Uri Geller guest-starred, using psychic powers to bend steel bars and help defeat super-criminals. Some readers wrote in to explain how Geller worked many of his tricks and to recommend Randi's book, The Magic of Uri Geller.
This would be more of a discussion thread than the previous one. A typical post might be someone writing in to give thoughts about the religious views presented in the current incarnation of Spectre, or to ask for people's thoughts about 21 Down (imagine John Edwards as a young punk tattoo artist, except as an unconventional super-hero rather than a TV scam artist), or about God's guest-starring role (as a baseball-bat-carrying young boy) in Supergirl.
The third, Great Moments in Great Literature, might need to be retitled a little, just in case there are people who don't automatically think comics when great literature is mentioned. The idea with this would be for people not simply to say things like"Action Girl is my favorite comic!" or "Castle Waiting rocks!" but to describe some particular bit from the comic that the poster especially liked. A typical post might include a brief summary of some plot twist [marked with spoiler warning, so as not to spoil it for people who don't want it given away], or quote some favorite passage, or describe a favorite character and what makes her or him so memorable.
Besides giving people reading the posts a bit more to go on in deciding whether to check something out, this could also be a lot of fun, both in getting to tell favorite moments one recalls and getting to read other people's favorite bits.
So that leaves # 4, Current Comics Worth A Look, the thread I'm actually starting. This is more general than Comics For Skeptics, since the comic doesn't need to relate to skeptical issues. It just needs to be a comic book, current, and something that the poster thinks is good enough to be worth other people's attention. Discussion might come up about older comics (such as previous comics the creators worked on, or comics one is reminded of) or about the stories in the comics mentioned, or about thing in the real world that relate to the comics mentioned, but the main focus would be good current comics.
I get a box or so of comics each month. I'm just now going through the one that arrived in early October while I was away picking apples, so some of the comics I'm about to recommend have already been out more than a month. A new box should arrive in a few days, so if I'm eager to post about a few of these while they can still be called current.
Since I tend to write at length once I get started, my intention is to cover only one title per post. (This has nothing to do with trying to rack up a higher post count; I've already passed the 200 mark and so am qualified to have an an avatar and to receive the secret information packet that we're not supposed to tell newbies about.)
4th November 2002, 02:52 AM
Judd Winick, writer; Dale Eaglesham and Rodney Ramos, artists.
monthly; $2.25 cover price.
The current story-line in Green Lantern received some national attention, so you may already have heard about this. For those who haven't, it's about gay-bashing.
The story begins in 154, but 153 is a lead-in and worth picking up on it's own.
Green Lantern is Kyle Rayner, a cartoonist for a magazine similar to the New Yorker. His assistant is a teenage boy, Terry, who recently came out as gay. Kyle's girlfriend is Jenny, who has green skin, is the daughter of the golder-age Green Lantern, and used to be a superhero herself.
There are no fights with super-villains in # 153, just the story of Kyle and Jenny flying out to visit his mother and attend his high school class reunion. There are a number of amusing and funny sequences. At the end of the story, there's an unexpected phone call which stuns Jenny and Kyle...
# 154 opens with a 5-page sequence of Terry's friend David narrating what has happened:
I might have been holding Terry's arm, y'know, walking arm in arm... I'm not sure. I shouldn't have done it outside the club. Not on the street. Maybe I wasn't... It's all real hard to remember.
We couldn't have walked more than a block. Then I... Then I kissed him. Out on the street... I wasn't thinking. I just wanted to kiss my boyfriend.
Somebody started whistling at us.
We started walking back down the street. But we were pretty sure they were following us... And we're both looking around, and there was nobody -- nobody but us and them.
We got scared.
Terry's cell phone couldn't get a signal.
Then one of them yelled, "Hey, faggots!"
We weren't doing anything. We weren't bothering anybody. We were just walking home. Home. We were going home.
We heard them coming up behind us. We ran. We ran as hard as we could. We didn't even look back.
I thought if we split up they might... I don't know, I guess I thought if they couldn't catch both of us then... then they'd... stop. I didn't think that they would... I never would have had us split up if I thought they would just keep going... keep going after...
Terry kept going -- kept running forward. They went after him.
It was, like, five minutes -- Five minutes before I could work up the nerve to go find him...
A lesser comic would show the beating in graphic detail, or show Terry's battered body. This opening sequence is powerful because it doesn't show that. We see the street scene. We see David and Terry in panicked flight. We see David in tears as he relives the awful moments. We see the two separated. We see David hiding, the street become quiet, and David emerge from hiding to find Terry. But we don't see Terry until the next scene, at the hospital.
This is not a comic about colorful fights with super-villains (although some issues have those too). Writer Judd Winick focuses primarily on the interactions among his characters.
Which is not to say the issue is without action. After a frustrating encounter with a police officer who seems mainly interested in pinning the blame for getting beaten on Terry, Kyle goes out and tortures one person, savagely beats two others; he considers killing one of the two, but doesn't. I assume there will be repercussions to this in the next issues.
Winick is a good writer, even when writing mainstream superheroes as he is here. He's even better when he's writing for independent publishers such as ONI.
Perhaps his best work is a graphic novel Pedro & Me, about his friendship with a fellow actor on MTV's The Real World who had AIDS, went on to become an AIDS activist, and died. This book has been widely praised, can be found in some libraries, and is well worth seeking out.
Also noteworthy is Winick's Adventures of Barry Ween. These are the stories of a foul-mouthed pre-pubescent boy genius. These are told in mini-series form, then collected into trade paperback. I'd be tempted to quote some of the funny bits if I had an issue at hand, but most of what I quoted would have to be bleeped. This book is ROTFHMCDLMGLA funny!
4th November 2002, 03:10 AM
Marvel. Peter David, writer; ChrisCross, artist.
Monthly; $2.25 cover price
This series has just started over with a new # 1. The story which appears there is the same one that would have appeared in # 36, but it also marks a major change in the character and a good place to start picking up this series.
Human-looking alien super-hero Genis, son of (Marvel Comic's) first Captain Marvel (who died of cancer), shares body-space with Rick Jones, former companion to The Hulk, Captain America, and other Marvel super-heroes. Only one of them exists in our reality at a time; when the metal bands on Rick's/CM's wrists are slammed together, they trade places, with one coming to earth and the other going to an other-dimensional realm. They are able to keep in mental contact, the one in limbo able to see through the other's eyes (which leads to some problems with privacy.)
Rick is not fully happy about this situation, and sometimes isn't very nice to Genis, who is still new to being an adult and unfamiliar with Earth. For instance, Rick taught Genis to shout the traditional super-hero battle-cry: "Owa Tagoo Siam". [I'm spelling that out from memory. lGenis stopped shouting it out after the first few times. Try saying it out loud yourself before going into battle.]
Genis comes equipped with standard super-hero powers such as flying, strength, etc., plus cosmic awareness.
As the new # 1 begins, there has been a major development: being cosmically aware has driven Captain Marvel insane.
You've had the experience in dreams. You must have.
In the dream, something bad's happening. Really bad. And naturally, you wanna stop it.
So the first thing you do is try and scream. Maybe as a warning to someone else in the dream. Or maybe 'cause you know, on some level, that you're dreaming, and figure the scream will wake you up.
But you can't make a noise. Your throat's all closed up. You can't get so much as a squeak out.
And then... this is the worst part... the bad stuff happens, and it all unfolds in, like, slow motion. You see it all happening, and you can't do a damned thing about it.
That's kind of what happened the night Captain Marvel went nuts.
Being cosmically aware, Genis is aware of everything at once. He knows about the drug deal going down on the corner. He knows about the Palestinian teenager about to blow up a busload of people in Israel. He knows about the alien invasion about to happen countless light years away in space.
The resolution to the suicide bomber situation in Israel is particularly unsettling and worth reading. So is the alien invasion in space. So is all of it.
"My fault. All my fault." That's what he keeps saying. The whole journey back to earth.
I try to tell him it's not. I try to tell him he can't be everywhere. Over and over again, I tell him he can't be responsible for everything that might or might not happen throughout the galaxy. And then he says...
"Yes. Yes I am.
"There's... There's an earthquake hitting in Tokyo... and... and on Alpha Gamma II... a traffic accident is about to claim the life of an innocent boy who... who... who if he doesn't die... becomes a mass murderer... And the Badoon are regrouping and... and the Emperor of Tau Kento is about to have an affair that... that will cause his wife to commit suicide... but... but avert a war that... that..."
I scream his name. He doesn't hear me. Or anything.
I know one phrase of Latin. Exactly one.
I don't know why I remeber it. The nuns in the orphanage where I grew up taught it to us as part of a class on ancient history.
It goes, "Quiem deus perdere, dementat prius." Whom the Gods wish to ruin, they first drive mad.
And as I shout at Marv in impotent desperation, I keep thinking that Marv got "cosmic awareness exactly wrong. It's not that you see the entirety of all creation. It's that the entirety of creation ... sees you. And if for some reason it doesn't like what it sees...
...then God help you.
Unless, of course, He's busy driving you mad. In which case...
... you're on your own.
4th November 2002, 03:13 AM
Birds of Prey # 47
DC Comics; this issue by Terry Moore, writer; Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti, artists.
Monthly. $2.50 cover price.
If you watch the WB's new series Birds of Prey, this is the comic it's based on.
The comic book differs in some details from the tv show, but the spirit is the same. This is the story of the friendship between 2 women: Barbara Gordon (Batgirl before the Joker shot and crippled her, now Oracle, a computer genius who gathers information for the super-hero community); and Dinah Lance (the Black Canary). Barbara and Dinah work together: Barbara gathers information, and provides guidance to Dinah through an ear-piece Dinah wears, while Dinah goes out as the active field agent.
This issue and the next may be of special interest to skeptics because there is a faith healer involved prominently in the story. Unfortunately she looks to be genuine.
Good characterization; strong, sensible women characters who are friends as well as partners in crime-fighting; positive portrayal of a disabled character. What's not to like?
4th November 2002, 03:20 AM
Vertigo. Bill Willingham, writer; Lan Medina and Steve Leialoha, artists.
Monthly. $2.50 cover price.
Despite what you see on tv, the typical cop's life can best be described as unending hours of mind-numbing drudgery.
Gunfights and car chases are few and far between. They generate so much extra paperwork -- and second-guessing by everyone not involved -- that no sane cop welcomes such breaks in the general tedium of police work.
And no honest cop ever gets rich.
At least a Mundy cop gets to retire after twenty to forty years. I've been on the job for more than two hundred years -- ever since the first days of the Fables In Exile Compact and General Amnesty.
I've never been in a gunfight -- or fired a gun for that matter. I've never been in a car chase, much less learned to drive. And even the number of times I've had to chase a suspect on foot can be counted on one hand.
All in all, I can't say I've had what could be described as an exciting career -- or even a very interesting one. But once in a great while, small rewards do come along.
Anyone who's ever fancied himself a detective, openly or secretly, longs for the day he can do the famous parlor room scene.
What the Hell is that?
It's the moment I get to reveal who did what, how they did it -- and most important -- how I figured it all out.
So begins Fables # 5, "The Famous Parlor Room Scene -- Sans Parlor", in which detective Bigby Wolf (the big bad wolf of 3 little pigs fame) reveals the answers to the Rose Red murder case which he has been investigating the past 4 issues.
The premise of this series is that the characters of fairy tales -- Snow White, Rose Red, Jack (who climbed the beanstalk), Prince Charming, etc. -- are real and living among us. There are some surprising characterizations and delightful twists.
There are no fight scenes in this issue (nor in the previous four, as I recall), though Snow and Bigby do put coercive pressure on quite a few of the other characters in order to get them to go along with the plan Snow has come up with to resolve the problem facing them. The language may make this unsuitable for some younger readers; several times Snow White uses variants of an expression that starts with f, ends with uck, and isn't fire truck. It's not excessive or gratuitous, but it is there.
Quite apart from being a lot of fun, this is actually a pretty good comic for skeptics. There has been a mystery as the background for these first 5 issues, and Bigby solves it through careful observation and deduction. Half of this issue is devoted to Bigby explaining the things that were right in front of our eyes the past 4 issues; the other half is devoted to Bigby and Snow figuring out what to do about the crime, since they can't go to the Mundy (i.e., mundane, non-fairy-tale) authorities.
5th November 2002, 10:19 AM
I don't want to give too much attention to Marvel, since I'd rather call attention to good stuff from less-well-known companies that people might be less likely to discover. But Marvel has been hiring some interesting creators, and many series are more than just mindless action. Here are quick listings for a few:
1. I already did a long entry for Captain Marvel.
2. Amazing Spider-Man is currently being written by J. Michael Straczynski, creator of tv show Babylon 5 and a pretty decent comics writer. (He has also done some indy titles: Midnight Nation, 12 issue series, already complete, and Rising Stars, still continuing (but also of finite length).
(Marvel's other Spider-Man titles include Peter Parker, Spider-Man, currently written by Paul Jenkins, and Tangled Webs, which rotates the creative team; both titles are generally quite readable.)
3. Black Panther, by Christopher Priest, features unusual story-telling (very non-linear!) and an intriguing collision of politics with the world of super-heroes. This is not a super-hero book, but features a character who had previously been seen as a super-hero. It's hard to follow the stories without reading a bunch of issues together, and it zips along fast, but if you can catch up and hold on it's a great-amusement park ride. Witty and thought-provoking -- usually good signs that cancellation or a price-hike is imminent.
4. X-Statix, by Peter Milligan (yes, that Peter Milligan) and Mike Allred (yes, that Mike Allred). Originally titled X-Force, and continued from that mainstream Marvel mutant title, this does not look or read like a Marvel comic. The premise is that, rather than try to take over the world, or use their powers to defend humanity in hopes non-mutants will come to accept them, this group of mutants has decided to win acceptance by becoming pop celebrities. Any mission they go on is likely to be crafted in advance to garner maximum good publicity and increase the sales on their t-shirts, coffee mugs, etc. People compete to join the team in order to rake in the big bucks, and quit the team if they get offered their own tv show or some other better-paying gig. In theory this ties in with the rest of the Marvel universe, and there are occasional cameos and guest appearances, but really this is a world of its own. (I wish I were doing a longer write-up on this one, because there are lots of great bits I'd love to quote!)
5. Elektra. Greg Rucka, a novelist and screen-writer, is writing this series about woman who formerly worked as an assassin-for-hire. Most Marvel's now carry a PG rating on the cover; this has the stronger "Mature / Violent Content" label. The funny thing is, it actually is mature. This is not a glorification of mercenaries. Those who enjoy the theme of redemption often featured in television's Angel series might also enjoy where this is going.
(If you check out Elektra and enjoy it, you might also look for his two Whiteout mini-series from ONI (both have been collected into TPBs) and his current on-going series there, Queen and Country.)
6. Marvel is also doing a line called Marvel MAX, their counterpart to DC's Vertigo line, except that Vertigo leans more to fantasy and science fiction (with graphic violence, profanity, and sex) while MAX leans more to elseworlds of Marvel-Universe-type characters (with graphic violence, profanity, and sex). Most of these are minis; the only continuing series at present is Alias. Some of these are worth a look, but I'll save that for a different post.
5th November 2002, 10:24 AM
I don't have a copy of this, but just saw an ad and it looks worth mentioning. Here's a review snippet from the ad:
The Harvard Gay and Lesbian Review:
"Birdbun Theater is to other syndicated gay comic strips what Gilbert and Sullivan is to Soupy Sales."
The sample strip printed in the ad looks funny, and there's a web site, www.birdbun.com, that folks can go to and read more strips to see if it's something they'd enjoy. According to the site, the strip has been appearing in alternative newspapers since early 2000.
Tales From Birdbun Theater # 1
written and drawn by Dennis Tucker
"48 pages of naughty fun"; cover price is $4.95
7th November 2002, 08:31 AM
story and art by Linda Medley
OLIO, Box 1953, Portland OR 97207
24 pages, b & w, $2.95 cover price
published sporadically, currently seems like about 4 times a year
Fables, from DC's Vertigo line, is about fairy characters living among real-world folks. Castle Waiting has the same basic premise, but the two books are nothing alike. (Except they are both worth a look.)
Castle Waiting is a charming and graceful fantasy, told with a pleasant art style and gentle good humor. These are everyday-life stories set against a fantasy backdrop. In my latest copy, # 15 ("Interiors, part one"), a young couple with a baby is moving into a new room in the castle, and Rackham is showing them around so they can choose which one they'd like.
Rackham: There's a spiral stair to the upper storeys just down that passage to your right... but let's go up through the tower. You have got to see the "amenities" on this floor.
(Rackham opens a door for them. Jain looks in, amazed; her husband is behind her, gently cradling the baby and totally absorbed with that. Throughout the remainder of the scene you can see him in the background, playing with the baby, oblivious to Jain and Rackham and the fixtures they are discussing.)
What do you think of this, eh?
Jain: My stars! Is it a bathing room?
This was the original kitchen. The tower has its own well and drainage system, so the king had it remodeled when they built the new kitchen. It was quite the modern extravagance...!
Of course, nowadays we just make do with a weekly tub in front of the fire.
Uhhh... these tubs are all two-seaters...!
Hedonists, my dear.
Jain, smiling and curtseying: Clean ones!
The tour through the castle to look at rooms is the main plot, but sub-plots include a horse-like character getting new shoes, two nuns sneaking caramels out of a candy jar, and a father talking with his daughter about playing with another child in the castle.
If you're looking for monsters and wizards and fight scenes, look elsewhere; but if you enjoy quiet stories with lots of playful details going on in the background, this is great stuff.
Note: this is suitable for all ages, but younger people would probably enjoy it more if it is read to them, as the book is written for adults and includes words such as maneuver, extravagance, farrier, mnemonic, predecessor, etc. (All spelled correctly! This book is lettered by Todd Klein, one of the finest letterers in comics, and the quality of the lettering makes this book a pleasure to read.)
7th November 2002, 08:37 AM
The new comics box arrived!
On the one hand, of course: Yay!
On the other hand, I've barely had time to dip into the box that was waiting for me when I got home a couple weeks ago, and had hoped to get notices of more items from that box written up before this one came. Oh well.
Likewise # 1
story and art by Ariel Schrag
Slave Labor Graphics, Box 26427, San Jose CA 95159-6427
magazine size (8 x 11), 40 pages, b & w, $4.95 cover price
I'm quite fond of auto-biographical comics when they are done well.
Some people are especially good at opening up their lives on the drawn page. It takes special skill to be able to look back at one's own life and expose it to strangers, to be able reveal one's inner feelings and thoughts, the embarrassing side as well as the image one would prefer to project. Ariel Schrag is brilliant at this.
I was a little groggy when I opened this one, and at first I was a little confused.
The inside front cover says "Likewise is a true account of my senior year at high school. The entire book, which is 378 pages, was written and drawn during the year that I took off between graduating from high school and starting college. It will be released in an eight-issue sereis as I continue to ink it." Fine so far.
Page 1: classroom scene, Ariel's sitting at his desk, drawing comics pages writing notes to a classmate rather than paying attention to the teacher, meanwhile carrying on an interior monologue: We've only been in school a week and 3 kids have died. Two were in car accidents and one was stabbed. I didn't know any of them at all. I awkwardly prayed for one who was in critical condition, last night in the bathroom.
am I gonna put the kids dying in my next comic book? seems kind of rude and horrible. but I mean the comic's important to me, it's the most important thing. what would Sally think?
no, I will not think what will Sally think, it's my book. I can't do this, what's she doing right now? I wonder if she's going to the bathroom.
how the f*ck am I supposed to know if you're going to get into Pomona, probably not. where the hell am I going to college! maybe I should go to Reed. Sally would think I was crazy and following her. oh yeah, I wanna go to New York
I'm now a senior in high school. I like my classes, I dropped math. I have some girlfriend or something I think her name's Mabel...
On picking up the book I'd assumed from the name that Ariel was female, but I guess boys can be named Ariel too.
So I'm reading along, here's this kid with over-active hormones thinking about which girl he has the best chance of having sex with. It seems well-done, but I'm not quite following some of the scenes; something seems to be off.
Then it gets stranger. Ariel is in the hall, needs to use the bathroom, there are some girls in the way giggling and having a good time and Ariel is thinking, move out the way, who do you think you are, I'm a senior and I gotta piss. whip out my dick and spray the walls with my name. did I just discharge all over myself? Ariel enters the bathroom. There's a girl standing there in her underwear, applying make-up. Ariel wants to use a particular stall, and so just stands there waiting; the girl looks uncomfortable, but doesn't say anything. And I'm thinking, this is strange. Co-ed bathrooms? In high school?
Okay, you're probably way ahead of me and thinking what an idiot I am. Ariel is, indeed, a girl.
The next 3 pages, with Ariel using a teacher's office to work on her comic, are beautifully done and clarify things nicely. If you are leafing through this comic in a store deciding whether to buy it or not, I recommend checking out these pages (5 to 7); that should give you a sense of what the comic is about, and whether it's right for you.
(If you like those but are still undecided, try pages 16 to 17, which are easy to follow without seeing the rest of the book, and provide a good showcase of Schrag's skill in a painful but touching scene.)
(One of the best, and funniest, sequences is on pages 13 to 14, Ariel's experience with safe sex -- but save that for if you buy the book. If you don't enjoy the other pages mentioned, you probably won't like this.)
This is very well-written. The art may take some getting used to, but if you get into it there is brilliant stuff here. Schrag often conveys more expression by leaving details (such as mouths or eyes) out than some artists can convey in fully-rendered drawings.
This is an appealing book with a very likeable central character. If you are not offended by the language used (and brief nudity), I recommend this highly.
[edited to insert an asterisk into an inappropriate-for-this-forum word.] Apologies. I included the word originally because I felt it would help people reading this review could get a sense of what the comic was like. I think the comic is well worth reading, but did not want someone with different sensibilities to go looking for it only to discover it wasn't suitable for them. I'll find alternative ways of conveying this in future posts.
7th November 2002, 08:45 AM
True Story, Swear To God # 3
written and drawn by Tom Beland
Clib's Boy, Box 9020278, Old San Juan Station, San Juan, Puerto Rico 00902
48 pages, b & w, $2.95 cover price
I don't think I can do better at summarizing the series than Beland himself can, so here's his inside front cover summary.
So I met this great woman at a bus stop on my final night at the Magical Kingdom (yeah, I'm still calling it that!!!)... a night I'd never forget. Unfortunately, it was for ONLY one night. Bummer! She lived in Puerto Rico, me in California.
After weeks of getting to know each other over the phone and through e-mails... we hoped to meet again some day.
Then one day, Lily received an assignment to fly to Mexico and interview a rock band for her newspaper.
She then decided to book an additional flight to my hometown of Napa Valley and join me for my brother's wedding. We'd have three glorious days together.
Finally... at long last... we were reunited!
Oh, and her mother thought I could be an ax murderer.
Directly above the summary is a reprint of a page from the previous issue, showing a phone conversation between Tom and Lily. It's an excellent sample of Beland's work. Much of the humor to it lies in how the facial expressions complement the words, so I won't quote it; but if you are debating whether to buy this book (and can find a copy), a look at the inside front cover should be helpful.
The cover, a scene from the back of Tom and Lily strolling down a path together, with trellises of grapes on either side and rolling green California hills in front, conveys the tone of the comic well.
Not only is this a charming and sweet tale of True Romance, it is also told well in a way that gives humor to everyday moments.
Beland has a simple cartoony style, giving few background details except when they are absolutely necessary. This works out well, since what is left is simple drawings of the characters, spotlighting Beland's skill with body language and facial expressions.
One of the scenes in this issue is a discussion Tom and Lily are having of whether Tom snores, which continues all through their drive over to see Tom's family. We join the discussion already in progress as they stroll up the walkway to the door:
Do so! Do not! Do so! Do not! Do so!
Do not... INFINITY!!! Tom gleams in triumph HA!!
"Infinity?!" Cono... Now THAT'S MATURE!! (Her expression indicates she feels otherwise.)
Never underestimate the power of a well-timed "infinity".
That still doesn't change--
Ah-Ah-AHHH... "Infinity", my dear means "forever". Soooo... Case closed. Tom opens the door, and gestures gallantly After you.
10th November 2002, 02:38 PM
Halo And Sprocket # 3
written and drawn by Kerry Callen
Amaze Ink (Slave Labor Graphics): Box 26427, San Jose CA 95159-6427
24 pages, b & w, $2.95 cover price
There are not many creators working in comics today who tell good short stories.
Kerry Callen can and does. There are 3 tales in this issue: an 8-pager, a 12-pager, and a 4-pager. The 8-pager brought me a smile, the 12-pager had me laughing, and the 4-pager had me laughing hysterically.
The comic is about a young woman, Katie, and her two friends who live with her: Halo (who's an angel) and Sprocket (who's a robot). Probably it was explained back in the first issue, or somewhere, how Halo and Sprocket came to live with Katie, but if so I've forgotten, and it really doesn't matter. They're there, and everyone takes it for granted; no big deal.
what makes these stories funny is the innocently incongruous take on the world around them that this odd pair have.
The first story, "About Face", is about Halo teaching Sprocket how to express anger. See, Katie went to the store, bought groceries, but didn't buy Sprocket the lubricating oil she had promised to get. Sprocket knows he should be angry; it's just that looking and acting upset doesn't come naturally to a robot. So Sprocket tries to teach him. That's what angels are for: to be helpful... It's a pleasant tale with some cute bits and a warm-fuzzy ending.
In "The Little Things": Katie, having found a cute teensy-tinesy box of detergent, stops off (with Halo and Sprocket along) to give it to her sister Gina. The four of them sit around a table talking about, literally, little things, with Sprocket needing an explanation why tiny detergent boxes are cute but tiny "mouse feces" aren't. Gina: Do you guys always have conversations like this?
Katie (face down on table): >sigh< Yes.
Gina's young son Sam comes out for a spoonful of sugar (to cure some hiccups he doesn't have), Halo and Sprocket go to tuck Sam in, he mentions having received a dollar from the tooth fairy, and Halo and Sprocket (not realizing there are no such things as tooth fairies) take it seriously. Sprocket's advice to Sam, while logical and well-intended, has Sam lying awake in the dark, eyes wide, arms rigidly at his side, as the story closes.
The issue closes with "The Telemarketer", about an unfortunate young man trying to sell credit cards who manages to call Katie's place when only Halo and Sprocket are home. The first panel sets the scene with the man at his phone table (not even a cubicle) preparing to make the call; most of the rest of the story consists fo shots of the man, phone in hand, talking to Halo and Sprocket and getting passed back and forth between the two of them and getting more and more frustrated. The last page, especially the last panel, is hilarious. (Unless you're a telemarketer. In that case, find a different comic to read this month.)
Amaze Ink is Slave Labor Graphics' "All Ages" imprint. The stories are told in a simple cartoony style that is straightforward, easy to follow, and quite delightful.
10th November 2002, 05:31 PM
X-Men Unlimited #38
writer this issue: Greg Rucka; artist this issue: Darick Robertson
Marvel; bi-monthly; standard (32 pages, color) size; $2.25 cover price
I don't usually buy this title, but Greg Rucka was listed as the writer and I like his work enough to buy almost any that's reasonably priced, even if it's for Marvel. I was quite please with the decision.
It is a year (Marvel time) since Pyotr Rasputin, aka Colossus of the X-Men, died. His friend Kitty Pryde, still in mourning, lights a candle and spends the day thinking of him. Then she happens to see a person who looks just like Pyotr. She knows it can't be him, but spends the issue searching for the person she has seen (and wondering if it could be Pyotr, or some enemy playing tricks, or...)
This is a quiet tale of friendships, memories, religious rituals and going on with life. There are no villains and no fights, no conspiracies and no returns of dead characters.
Maybe the answer to all grief lies in a good cry
Religion and ritual, there's always a reason.
Grief in Judaism is broken into phases, and the Yartzelt is really the last one.
There are rules, what you're supposed to do the first day after a loved one dies...
... then the first week...
... then the first month...
... all the way to the first year, the first Yartzelt.
The idea, I guess, is that it's supposed to take that whole year to come to terms with the loss.
So the Yartzelt, it's closure, but it's more.
Because when someone you love dies, it never goes away.
The words, taken without the pictures, don't convey the beauty of this passage, as Kitty discards the Yartzelt candle that has burned away, leaves a note for her friend Kurt who is sleeping on her couch, and goes out for coffee and to resume her life.
If you know who these characters are the story probably has additional layers, but even without reading a single other Marvel comic you can enjoy this one.
11th November 2002, 01:13 PM
Getting The Sex Out of the Way
written by Matthew Manning
drawn by Stephen Stardog, Raina Telgemeier, and Matthew Loux
Meat Haus press, 184 Kent Ave.# 322; Brooklyn NY 11211
24 pages, b & w; one-shot; $2.50 cover price
Despite what the title may sound like, this is not an x-rated comic. There's skinny-dipping (but no private areas of the body shown) and a suicide, so it's about a PG rating.
[I do have an x-rated comic on order; it's got Roberta Gregory work in it, and she's usually excellent even when doing adults-only work. But that hasn't arrived yet.]
The story has a framing device, about a facial tissue company secretly monitoring people's lives in order to figure out how better to market their product, which provides an excuse for following the lives of several friends as they come together for a weekend reunion.
The art is done by 3 different people, each doing a few pages at a time. This creates a small problem, as the styles do not match as well as they should (for me, at least). One main sub-plot concerns Erik (who is gay) and his friend Joel (who Erik thinks is gay). Joel's story is pivotal to the story's ending; but Joel looks very different on different pages, which distracts from the story.
Of the art styles, I enjoyed the pages by Telgemeier best. She gives the characters a fluid, slightly cartoony look, with exaggerated expressions that communicate people's feelings well. Stardog has a scratchier style, and Loux (who does all the pages about the corporate monitors) has a more realistic style. All three do good work here, but I would have preferred to have only one style for the scenes of the people who are being monitored.
The story is strong enough for me to recommend this book despite my (small) problem with the art. The 22-page story explores the difficulties people often face in trying to make relationships work. There is a powerful ending and a beautifully-written last page.
I would quote the final 6 word balloons, but to appreciate them you need to read the story leading up to them.
11th November 2002, 01:20 PM
One Plus One # 1 (of 5)
written by Neal Shaffer; drawn by Daniel Krall
Oni Press, 6336 SE Milwaukee Ave PMB 30, Portland OR 97202
32 pages, b & w, probably bi-monthly, $2.95 cover price
Oni publishes a lot of interesting mini-series, such as the Whiteout, Barry Ween, and Blue Monday stories. Here's a new one, just starting out, that is well told and looks intriguing. It has paranormal aspects that might make it of special interest to some JREFers.
One Plus One is (so far) the story of two men meeting at a bar and having a conversation.
One, Leonard, is a regular, who goes to Dante's most nights, leaving when the place starts getting full. That's because, when he looks at people for any length of time, he sees how they're going to look after they die. The other, David, is a new person in town, on a job (nature not specified yet) and familiarizing himself with the territory.
Leonard usually tries to avoid people -- too painful seeing what the future is going to bring, since it always brings decomposition -- but he introduces himself to David because David is the only person he has ever seen who looks the same after Leonard has looked at him for a while as he did when Leonard first looked at him.
David explains that this is because he's already gone -- died and moved on a long time ago.
The two men enjoy their conversation together, and Leonard leaves the bar feeling better than he has in a long time, looking forward to future conversations.
Those are the paranormal elements so far. I don't know what direction this book is going; a lot will depend on what the mysterious job that brings David to town is. So far there's no violence, though there is a sense of foreboding (due especially to people in the background looking like decomposing corpses). The story is being told with intelligence and restraint. For those interested in stories about ghosts, people who can see other people's futures written on their faces, and what life might be like if such things were real, this looks like an entertaining story.
11th November 2002, 01:36 PM
...:) ........... ............. .................................................. .......:)
Strangers in Paradise # 53
written and drawn by Terry Moore
Abstract Studios, Box 271487, Houston TX 77277
24 pages; b & w; published about every 6 weeks; $2.95 cover price
SIP is a love story and comedy/drama; sometimes it breaks your funny-bone and sometimes it breaks your heart.
The best thing to do is to pick up the current issue and pick up the trade paperbacks, especially the TPB of the original mini-series. The more stories in the series you read, the more enjoyable each succeeding one is.
The original mini-series tells the story of Katchoo, Francine, and Freddy. Katchoo and Francine have been best friends since high school. Katchoo (Katerina Choovanski) is hopeless in love with Francine, but hasn't told her that for fear of losing her friendship. Francine, who suffers from low self-esteem, went through a period where she had sex with a lot of people; but once they had sex with her, they tended to leave her. Realizing that was not a good way to wind up in a happy relationship, Francine refuses to have sex with Freddy, even though the two of them have been living together close to a year. However, Freddy's main motivation in life is to have sex with women, so this complicates life. Also complicating life is that, since they don't have a place of their own to stay, Francine and Freddy are staying in a spare room in Katchoo's house. When Freddy decides he's not going to get any sex this way and breaks up with Francine, Francine is devastated. Katchoo misunderstands what has happened, and goes to wreak a fitting vengeance on the person who has wronged her best friend. From there, things get even more complicated -- and very funny.
When SIP began as a continuing series, a sub-plot was developed involving Katchoo's past and explaining how she came to be the kind of person she is in the mini-series ( a person who shoots her alarm clock when it goes off in the morning, and takes off after Freddy with an arsenal the average person wouldn't have a clue how to use). Freddy became less integral, and an artist named David became a key player. Francine has learned that Katchoo loves her, and the two have split apart and almost come back together numerous times.
There are many great episodes and scenes to discover (if you aren't already familiar with this wonderful series). In the current issue there's: Katchoo's long bar conversation with a woman she has met; Katchoo's phone call to her sister to confirm this person is who she says she is (hilarious sequence!), Francine's visit to her therapist; Katchoo going to see Casey (a beautifully touching sequence); and a worried Francine dropping by Casey's place (embarrasingly funny, with an Oh My God cliff-hanger ending.)
You won't understand who Casey is if you start with this issue, which would be a shame because knowing that makes this issue even better. It's still a great comic even if you have no clue about a lot of what's going on, though, so if you don't want to invest in TPBs or back issues it's still worth checking the current issue out.
As an added bonus, there is a 4-page preview of Jane's World by Paige Braddock, which apparently has been available as a strip on the web for some time and will soon be available in its own comic book. In the preview, Jane gets talked into attending therapy with her ex-girlfriend (whom she has no interest in getting back together with). Jane is less than thrilled with the idea of attending these sessions, until the therapist starts doing "past life regressions" with her. The treatment of past lives is very non-reverential, and skeptics may get a special kick out of these sequences. I enjoyed all the strips printed here, am looking forward to the comic when it comes out, and am planning to drop by www.JanesWorldComics.com to look for more, when I have time.
...........:) .................................................. .......................:)
15th November 2002, 12:34 AM
written and drawn by Jason Shiga
Spark Plug Comics, www.SparkPlugComicBooks.com
one-shot; 44 pages; $5.00 cover price
Fleep costs more than many comics, but it gives good value for the money.
Here's the basic set-up. A man goes into a phone booth to make a call. The last thing I remembered, I was going to give Jenny a call and tell her I was running late. Next thing I know, it's pitch black, I'm laying sic crumpled on the ground and it feels like my head's being squeezed in a clamp.
After several minutes of blind gropings (of myself and my surroundings) my hands eventually stumbled across the familiar curve of a telephone receiver.
I wonder how long Jenny's been waiting.
Eventually he thinks to pull the booth door closed, and a light goes on. There are slabs of concrete surrounding the booth on all sides. The booth is labeled "Fleep" rather than phone. The operator answers the phone in a language the man does not recognize, and the phone book in the booth is similarly incomprehensible.
"There must be a rational explanation for all this," he thinks to himself, and for the remainder of the book he proceeds rationally to try to understand what his situation is, how he got into it, and how to get out of it.
Nothing paranormal is involved.
I don't know how satisfying others will find the solution; it isn't something I would have imagined without reading the book, but in the context of this story it worked for me. And there is a twist to it which packs a solid emotional wallop.
Enjoyment of the story does not rest solely on the solution, though; simply seeing how the person proceeds rationally through a totally bewildering experience was satisfying in itself for me. And there is a moral dilemma presented at the end of the book, after the man has discovered the truth of the situation, which I thought was nicely resolved and provides a poetic ending.
The art is simple and clear -- big eyes, exaggerated large mouth, definitely not photo-realism, but easy to follow exactly what is going on and easy to feel what the trapped man is feeling.
This won't be to everyone's taste, but I was glad to have spent my money on it.
15th November 2002, 12:48 AM
Y: The Last Man
written by Brian Vaughan; drawn by Pia Guerra and Jose Marzan
Vertigo (an imprint of DC, the Superman/Batman/Wonder Woman folks)
monthly, ongoing, 32 pages, $2.95 cover price
In the near future, an unexplained plague kills off all the men (and boys) -- all except one, Yorick, an amateur stage magician. Along with his monkey, Yorick sets out for Australia to be re-united with his girlfriend. By the end of issue 3 he has agreed to wait on that until he can be examined at a lab to see why he survived. An interesting and competent young black woman is accompanying him to keep him from being killed until he can be examined.
What makes this series enjoyable and worth looking at is that the writer seems more interested in exploring the political and social aspects of an all-woman world than in doing the Mad Max type action that these after-the-disaster stories often turn into.
The current issue is # 4, but this scene from # 3 catches a lot of what's fun about the series: [Yorick and his mother are cowering in the White House near a window that has just been shot out. His mother, a member of Congress at the time the plague wiped out men, has temporarily assumed the presidency.]
[mom]: Get away from the window, Yorick!
[Yorick]: But who the hell is shooting at us, mom? Terrorists?
You're sure you're not jumping to conclusions, Representative? I mean, not every person who owns a gun is a Republican.
I recognize these women, Yorick. They're all wives of Congressmen
[One of the women with guns]: Listen up! Those were just warning shots! We don't want to hurt anyone... but we can no longer toldrate your coup of our government.
Coup? You mean... they weren't shooting at me?
There are only thirteen females in the senate and sixty in the house... and almost three-fourths of us are Democrats. A few of the wives of dead Republicans think we're trying to eliminate the two-party system just because we're not giving them their husbands' seats.
Are you serious? After all the men died, I thought you guys would be holding hands down at the United Nations or something.
When the Hell did women get so petty and... and power-hungry?
Didn't you vote for Hillary?
Republicans need not fear; by the end of the issue, a female Republican (the Secretary of Agriculture) has turned up and assumed the presidency.
15th November 2002, 12:56 AM
Catwoman # 12
written by Ed Brubaker; drawn by Cameron Stewart
DC; monthly, ongoing; 32 pages, $2.50 cover price
There are currently 3 in-continuity Batman titles: Batman; Detective; and Batman: Gotham Knight. There are 5 titles that spin directly out of the Batman continuity, and which Batman often appears in: Nightwing; Robin; Batgirl; Birds of Prey; and Catwoman. In addition, there is a comic based on the animated cartoon Batman (Batman: the Gotham Adventures) and a comic featuring Batman stories about his past or future adventures (Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight). There is also Harley Quinn, about the Joker's girlfriend; Batman played a role in early issues but is now largely absent.
I'm fond of all these series; but I'm an addict. The two I think non-addicts might find most worth looking at on a regular basis are Birds of Prey (already mentioned in a previous post) andCatwoman.
Selina Kyle (Catwoman) has had a checkered career -- both as a character and as a comic book. She started as a jewel thief, became a whip-carrying, slit-skirted crime boss, reformed, returned to crime, reformed, returned to crime, reformed, married Batman and had a daughter, had that reality wiped out, now is generally recognized to have started her career as a prostitute, and is currently retired from cat-burglary, living in Gotham, enjoying a truce with Batman, skating the thin edge of the law, and working to fight corruption in the run-down areas of Gotham where she grew up.
Catwoman has had a variety of costumes over the years, many of them extremely impractical but sexually revealing. In recent years her breasts apparently developed an infection (common to many comic-book women) which caused them to swell up grotesquely. In her newest incarnation, her costume is much more pleasingly practical and the infection seems under control.
The book is now a fairly down-to-earth crime thriller, with a strong cast that includes Slam Bradley (an aging private eye -- one of DC's first heroes, pre-dating Superman), Holly (one of Selina's friends from her runaway and prostitute days), and Leslie Thompkins (a long-time volunteer doctor at a free clinic).
I especially like that Selina has a very different take on what she does than most costumed characters. She's interested in helping out the down-trodden, and bringing down the people who prey on them, but she's not a crime-fighter. Some of the injustices she's fighting are legal; some of the things she's willing to overlook are illegal. In this issue she encounters an old friend, Sylvia, who is currently running a shelter for homeless thieves, a sort of benevolent Fagan in that she treats them well and only takes 25% of what they steal as her cut. "You're not going to shut me down, are you?" Sylvia asks. "Or tell Batman" "Uh... no," Catwoman replies, "Just be careful. I'd hate to see any of these kids get hurt."
There is nothing paranormal in this issue. Future issues may feature appearances by characters with paranormal abilities, but on the whole the book seems to be trying to avoid that and to stay rooted mainly in reality.
I'm very fond of the art on this: lots of small panels, so that they can fit a lot of story onto each page. But even at small size, the art is clear, easy to follow, and captures facial expressions and body language very nicely. And the multitude of small panels makes the handful of larger panels that much more striking. You won't find pin-ups or large action poses here, so if that's what you like look elsewhere.
A new storyline, "Relentless", begins with this issue, so this is a very good starting point for new readers.
15th November 2002, 01:05 AM
In Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight a rotating cast of writers and artists tell stories of the Batman from different times in his career, which may or may not be part of continuity. Some of these are quite good, and recently Legends has been on a roll.
The current story, "Loyalties", is a down-to-earth crime story set in Batman's past about Batman going to Chicago to help his friend (and future police commissioner) Jim Gordon with a case of corruption that Gordon had been involved with before coming to Gotham which has come back to haunt him.
The corruption and casual racism of the time are well-portrayed.
[cop who is guarding a bound, captive Jim Gordon]: Like Hatchett always says, a man's first loyalty is to himself and his family! After that, it's the team! And Alderman Maseryk is a great man!
I grew up in his neighborhood! He kept the streets in our ward safe, clean, and he keeps the Canadians in their place.
[Gordon]: "Canadians"? Oh, I get it. "Colored" as in African-American. That way you can talk about the "problem" in public. I'd forgotten how much work being racist took.
Barbara Gordon (who will one day become Batgirl, be crippled, and go on to become Oracle) plays a key role in this story.
The art (by David Lopez and Dan Green) is crisp and clear; the story (by John Ostrander, writer of many excellent comics stories) is compelling and well-told; there is absolutely nothing paranormal; and there's a heck of a cliff-hanger at the end of # 160. (Issue # 161, with the conclusion, should be out soon.)
15th November 2002, 01:09 AM
Harley Quinn # 25
written by Karl Kesel; drawn by Craig Rousseau and Dan Davis
DC; monthly, ongoing; 32 pages, color, $2.50 cover price.
Harley Quinn is an odd comic, featuring a lunatic (Harleen Quinzel, the Joker's former therapist and former abused girlfriend) as the leader of a gang of criminals. It is often quite funny (in a warped way), but for the last dozen or so issues has been connected to a lot of minor points of DC comics continuity that a casual reader might not understand or enjoy. She recently died, went to Hell, and had various paranormal experiences before finally being restored to life in her own body again.
However the current issue, # 25, features an interesting and intelligent take on the war between costumed characters (such as Batman) and their archenemies (such as the Joker). There is a 1-page prologue to this story at the end of the previous issue, but # 25 is quite understandable and quite enjoyable as a stand-alone story.
And even though it is clear from the start that Batman, Harley, and Joker are all playing games, even though the reader is looking for the double-crosses and scams, Harley's explanation of what has really been going on, at the end, is still a delight.
15th November 2002, 01:20 AM
The Marvel Max line is Marvel's hey-kids-these-comics-are-off-limits-unless-you're-18-or-older no-seriously-we-mean-it, please-put-your-money-away-and-don't-try-to-buy-these line of comics. They feature an attention-getting parental advisory on the cover. Some feature graphic violence; some, a little nudity; some, generous usage of 4-letter words.
The majority of Max titles are mini-series. Apache Sky and The Hood, a pair of minis, have just concluded, so it's too late to recommend those here.
Alias # 15
story by Brian Bendis; art by Michael Gaydos
Marvel Max; monthly, continuing; 32 pages, color, $2.95 cover price
The one ongoing series is Alias, the story of Jessica Jones. Jessica has super-powers (the nature of which are unspecified, and which she doesn't use in these stories) who tried a career as a super-hero, didn't like it, and gave it up to become a private investigator who runs her own agency.
The writer, Brian Bendis, writes more like a playwright than a comic book scripter. His stories consist largely of extended dialogues between the characters. The current issue, # 15, consists of 2 conversations: a 9-page talk with Luke Cage (who Jessica had drunken sex with in the first issue, and is upset with about that); and a 12-page conversation with Scott Lang as the 2 sit in a restaurant on their first date. (Luke Cage, as Marvel fans know, is a super-hero once called Power Man; Scott Lang is Ant-Man. Luke and Jessica are standing guard outside the office of Matt Murdoch, aka Daredevil. None of these characters appears in costume.)
The closest to super-hero action that occurs is when Doctor Octopus races by the restaurant Jessica and Scott are sitting in, with Spider-Man and the Human Torch in hot pursuit. That takes up two panels. Jessica turns to Scott and asks, "You, uh -- you want to go help?" Scott replies, "I didn't bring any of my Ant-Man stuff. Do you want to go?" "Mmmmmmmmmm -- nah. They got it. And I really -- I don't do that anymore." End of subject.
Initially the Max comics seemed to be set an in alternate version of the Marvel universe. Recently, however, the Alias and Daredevil continuities seem to be inter-connecting. Since Bendis writes both, if you pick up one you will likely enjoy picking up the other as well.
Alias looks at what life in a world with super-heroes might be like, but it is not about heroes fighting villains or other standard comic book staples. If you don't mind a comic in which the letters c, f, k and u appear together with sometimes surprising frequency, this is worth a look.
15th November 2002, 01:40 AM
Daredevil 37 - 39
story by Brian Bendis; art by Alex Maleev, Manuel Gutierrez
Marvel; monthly, continuing; 32 pages, color, $2.95 cover price
Surely, any comic book that has Robert Ingersoll as a guest star has to be of interest to JREFers!
I should note that this Robert Ingersoll is not the famous free-thinker from a century or so ago, it is one of his descendants, also a lawyer, who used to write a column entitled "The Law Is A Ass" analyzing the use (and mis-use) of the legal system in comic books. He has written a few comics stories, and now he is appearing in one as well.
Daredevil, as dedicated comics readers know, is really blind lawyer Matt Murdoch. Two years ago, a wealthy client came to Murdoch's law firm and asked Murdoch to represent him in a lawsuit against Daredevil. Believing one of his enemies had to be behind the lawsuit, and thinking that taking the case would let him control publicity plus get closer to the villain behind it, Murdoch took the case -- against the strong advice of his partner and friends.
Things went wrong, and Murdoch had to pull some shady shenanigans so that Daredevil could testify in the same courtroom where he (Murdoch) was present to cross-examine. But the case ended with Daredevil exonerated.
Earlier this year, however, a mobster looking for a deal leaked to the FBI that Murdoch is Daredevil, an FBI agent in need of money leaked the news to the tabloids, and the story made front-page headlines.
Faced with the choice of coming clean or lying, Murdoch chose to lie through his teeth. He has denied he is Daredevil and is suing the tabloid that broke the story for four hundred million dollars. Ingersoll makes a guest appearance in # 37 as a lawyer for the tabloid.
In # 38, a washed-up 1970s super-hero, the White Tiger, puts on his costume again, and stumbles on a robbery in progress after one of the robbers shoots a police officer. The robbers toss a stolen TV at the White Tiger, and flee; more cops arrive to find the White Tiger standing near the dead officer, and arrest him for the killing. Luke Cage, a friend of the Tiger, approaches Matt to ask him to take the case. Matt: There's a lot more to a case like this than "good lawyering". You have to have strategy. Legal strategy.
You have to consider the profile of the case. Is it a big, bloated circus in the making?
Let's see: a super hero cop killer? Oh, my god, yes. The D.A. is already writing his mayoral acceptance speech.
Not only is this case a colorful bit of media showbiz, but it's the kind of case entire political careers are built on.
The paper this morning. CNN. The Today Show. They are already trying him in the press.
So now you have to, strategically, consider the mood of the public.
That makes me the worst choice to represent him. I'm in the middle of the legal fight of my life with the tabloids that went public with my secret identity. Half the world thinks I really am Daredevil and my involvement in a case like this taints the jury... This taints my ability to handle this case. What you need is a lawyer that has no connection to anything that even remotely resembles a costume..."
To which Luke Cage replies:I understand your reluctance (and by reluctance, I mean this wienie behavior you're displaying) but what you need to do is keep your eye on the prize. You're a lawyer. Be a lawyer.
It isn't that simple, but Murdoch eventually (again, against his better judgment and the advice of his friends) agrees to take the case. Jury selection begins.
In # 39, the trial gets underway. The entire issue shows the case as it progresses: opening statements, prosecution witnesses, cross-examination, and the beginning of the defense case. Daredevil does not appear in costume at all in this issue. The only fighting is the courtroom verbal sparring between the prosecution and the defense.
This is an excellent courtroom drama that happens to be set in the world of the Marvel super-heroes. I hate to recommend Marvel comics when there are other companies more deserving of your money, but this has become a consistently good comics series.
26th November 2002, 01:51 AM
I'll be going away for about a week, and probably won't have much access to a computer during that time (or much time to play with one even if one is available). Soon after I get back, the new comics box should arrive, so this is about the last chance to mention any I've got on hand as "current".
Charm School # 6: Vampire Dragster Dean
written and drawn by Elizabeth Watasin
Slave Labor Graphics, Box 26427, San Jose CA
several times a year; 24 pages, black & white; $2.95 cover price
I meant to mention this in tandem with Strangers in Paradise, since the two are both romantic comedies involving true love and triangles. The flavors are different, but both are very fine comics, and readers who enjoy one have a good chance of appreciating the other.
There are 4 main characters to Charm School. Bunny is an attractive witch in training. ("Charm school" -- get it?) Dean is a vampire mechanic who loves hot rods and Bunny; she looks and acts like James Dean, hence the name. Fairer Than is a drop-dead-gorgeous Faerie who is interested in winning Bunny away from Dean (and unfortunately, while Bunny loves Dean she also has a secret weakness for Faeries, which she is trying to resist). And then there's Pippita, a rather cranky little love goblin who tends to lose boyfriends quickly.
The first 3 issues came out a a mini-series a year or two back, and dealt with the arrival on the scene of Fairer Than, and Bunny's struggle to resist her advances. The current issues are subtitled Vampire Dragster Dean, and deal with the rivalry between Fairer Than and Dean. (I assume this will also be a 3-issue series, so there is one more issue to go in this arc.) Dean was scheduled to have a drag race with a werewolf at Dead Man's Bluff at sunset on Sweetheart's Day, but now Fairer Than has challenged Dean to a duel for Bunny's hand (and other parts) that same night.
This is a pleasant and charming book, suitable for most ages and filled with fun touches (such as hidden characters to search for in the artwork, and games such as "If Bunny, Fairer Than, and Dean were candies, what would they be?". Recommended reading for people who love chocolate, romance, and other magical things.
26th November 2002, 02:11 AM
Shades of Blue #s 8 & 9
written by James Harris and Rachel Nacion, drawn by Cal Slayton
Amp Comics, 335 N. Seymour St, Mundelein IL 60060
sort of bi-monthly; 24 pages; black & white; $2.95 cover price.
This is another comic I intended to mention sooner.
There are people who enjoy superhero comics, and people who black-and-white slice-of-life comics. This is a nice cross between superheroes and slice-of-life.
Shades of Blue is about a young school-girl (Heidi Paige) who wakes up one day with blue hair and electric powers. One of her friends, Marcus, is a comics geek and talks her into dressing up in a costume.
It turns out she is not the only one to gain powers, and she has encountered several other powered characters in the issues so far. In the current storyline there is a classmate who is a very competitive ice-skater, whose father seems to be pushing her to win at any cost, and who appears to have ice powers that she can't control very well.
This is a nicely-done story with likeable characters and a very different take on what it would be like to have super-powers. I especially liked the part in # 9 where Heidi refuses to get into a fight with the "Ice Queen", and manages to make friends with her instead.
26th November 2002, 02:27 AM
The Successors # 2
written by Russ Kazmierczak, drawn by Brent Otey
KO Comics, Box 6418, Fullerton CA 92834
uncertain frequency; 32 pages b & w; $3.00 cover price
Like Shades of Blue, this is an alternative take on super-heroes, but somewhat more serious. Again we have a world with a number of people who have received super-powers (and some of them appear from the background information to engage in traditional comic-book super-hero activities) but this series is more about the people inside the costumes.
There are 2 issues out so far. Each has told the story of a different character. This issue is about "Psycho Chick". You could, if you received amazing powers, put on a costume and go out to fight villains and save the world; but this is a story of a once-shy girl who decides to use her powers against the greatest menace she knows: the high school boy who seduced her and broke her heart. It's a story about people rather than powers. There are humorous touches, but this is not a funny story, and the ending to this story is rather chilling.
Next issue will tell the story of Citizen Angst, "the self-proclaimed spokesman of the super-hero community," and how a "promotional appearance for his auto-biography turns into a public relations nightmare when an anti-superhero group protests outside the bookstore."
26th November 2002, 02:53 AM
Since previously recommending Fables and Green Lantern I have received and read the next issue of each.
Fables, having wrapped up the Rose Red mystery, is now beginning a new storyline, "Animal Farm," about Snow White and Rose Red visiting the upstate New York farm where the 3 little pigs and other animal members of the Fables community live. Their unexpected arrival interrupts a meeting at which the animals are considering rising up. Here is what the pig standing on a soap is saying as they walk in:And furthermore, my fellow gentlespecies, I say to you the great bard's admonition to "take arms against a sea of troulbes" is more than just a deft turn of phrase -- a tasty tidbit of artful speech from a master wordsmith. It shouldn't be treated lightly, as hollow metaphor, but as literal advice!
I think we should immediately resolve to...
Oh my.There continue to be many witty bits and interesting plot turns. (There also continue to be certain words young impressionable people are not supposed to know about.)This continues to be very entertaining and thought-provoking.
Also continuing to be entertaining and thought-provoking is Green Lantern # 155, which continues the story "Hate Crime" begun in the previous issue (in which Terry, Kyle's young assistant, was brutally beaten for being gay).
This issue consists of 5 conversations, all done well: one at the hospital, between Kyle, Jen, Terry's father and Terry's lover; one at the Justice League satellite, between Kyle and several other super-heroes, about what heroes should and should not do in dealing with hate crimes; one in space, between Kyle and the ghost of his predecessor as Green Lantern, Hal Jordan; one back at the hospital, where there has been a major development regarding Terry, and a closing conversation between Kyle and Jen in which they reach an important personal decision.
This is good story-telling as well as a good story -- highly recommended.
26th November 2002, 03:04 AM
Stray Bullets # 26
written and drawn by David Lapham
El Capitan Books, Box 351508, Los Angeles CA 90035
about quarterly, 32 pages, b & w, $3.50 cover price.
I don't have time to go into much detail about this, but do want to at least mention it briefly while this issue is still current, as it may be a couple months or so before the next opportunity.
This is an excellent hard-boiled noir title. The issues contain stand-alone stories, but characters re-appear, with the stories jumping around in time to follow one set of characters, touch in with others, go back to see how past events lead up to events we've seen, and show how the characters' paths intersect.
Issue # 25 had a rather horrifying conclusion. Issue # 26 will seem a little strange if it is the first issue you pick up, as it is an "Amy Racecar" story -- Amy is the fantasy character a young girl in the series has created and whose stories she lives when reality becomes overwhelming.
There is black humor to the stories, but many of the storiies are quite brutal. If you enjoyed "Pulp Fiction" you can probably handle this.
10th December 2002, 11:59 PM
The new comics box arrived yesterday. Lots of good stuff, including new issues of Noble Causes and Queen & Country, a Jingle Belle special, the first issue of Leave it to Chance in ages, plus titles previously mentioned in this thread. I took a nap early afternoon, got some other stuff done, then took out a stack in the evening to read while waiting to go on-line and promptly fell asleep again. (I hope this sleep thing isn't habit-forming. I mean, it seems to be a pleasant experience, as is eating, but can you imagine doing it every day?)
Today's a nice rainy day, ideal for staying indoors to read, so here are a few quick items.
Strangers In Paradise # 54
written and drawn by Terry Moore
Abstract Studio, Box 271487, Houston TX 77277
published about every 6 weeks; 24 pages; b & w; $2.95 cover price
This continues to be about the best comic being published. Since people browsing the JREF boards tend to be very intelligent people, I assume most of you are buying and reading this already.
This issue has a beautiful cover illustrating the song "Fields of Gold". (It's a Sting song, but the version to use as part of the soundtrack for the story is the Eva Cassidy one, according to Moore.)
Moore makes the reader wait 10 pages before going back to the ending of # 53 -- 10 beautiful pages, developing the suspense sub-plot which is lurking in the background and providing a lovely epilogue to the sub-plot about Tambi and David.
Pages 11 - 15 are, in turn, touching, heart-breaking, and hilarious. Anyone who can read this and not be in love with Katchoo is strange indeed.
The closing pages of Griffin, Nikki and Brad searching for Francine provide a welcome light interlude after the intensity of the main sequence -- until the final page, as Brad and Francine are re-united...
It's 6 long weeks until the next issue comes out.
This is an excellent comic. It is even more enjoyable if you know who the characters are and what's going on. Go out now and buy the back issues or the trade paperbacks -- if money is a problem, you can pretend you're buying them to give away as Hannukkah or Christmas gifts (which is also a good idea).
11th December 2002, 12:06 AM
Far From Saints # 1 / one-shot special
written Myatt Murphy, drawn by Scott Dalrymple
Second To Some Studios, Box 623, Bartonsville PA 18321
a one-shot (but if enough people are wise enough to buy this, it could continue)
32 pages; black & white; $1.50 cover price
This is an entertaining fantasy about a man who finds God (running a copy shop in the middle of nowhere). Actually, God is largely retired, but he has a committee of people, from various different time periods, assembled in the back room who are sort of watching over the world and trying to keep life-as-we-know-it from getting wiped out any time soon. The current problem facing them is, as one member of the committee explains it: A scientist will build a new type of sonar that identifies fish by their exact species.
Only problem is that it kills them when it finds them.
Smart bastard will have no clue water magnifies his new soundwaves around the globe. He'll discover over fifty distinctive fish patterns. The idiot will work through forty of them before smelling anything fishy.
Destroy the world's marine life and you take out everything with it.
Our job's to change his mind, anyway possible.
Here are a few of my favorite lines from the story:
Sociology is a useless degree on every possible level.
How was I to know it would inspire the jutz to fish?
Oh, man... I knew I shouldn't have thrown back St. John's Wort on a bellyful of Rolaids.
Safe herbal remedy, my *ss!
Hey! Are you telling me that your all-mighty messiah is actually some two-bit Jersey whore?
Greetings, all. Can I just say how cool it is to be worshiped?
Who wants to pet my deity?
(You need to see the art to appreciate that one fully. And for those of you with dirty minds, it isn't what you think. The speaker is a Hindu, and his elephant is standing beside him, just outside the door to the committee room.)
Why, this is heaven, kid.
See, a long time ago, God got tired of everyone complaining about how he was running the show. So he threw the reins of humanity in their hands instead.
In our hands. And starting today, in your hands.
Welcome to God, kid. You're it.
There are lots of good lines and exchanges in this story, and the resolution to the story's problem is clever and amusing. At $1.50 for a 30-page story, this is a good value as well as a good comic.
And while I'm on the subject of items from Second To Some that are worth buying...
11th December 2002, 12:13 AM
Fade From Blue # 4
written Myatt Murphy, drawn by Scott Dalrymple
Second To Some Studios, Box 623, Bartonsville PA 18321
about bi-monthly; 32 pages; black & white; [color=red]$1.50 cover price
This is a bit complicated to explain. There's an "If this is your first issue of Fade from Blue..." on the inside front cover, but that's too long to quote and would probably just confuse you more.
Let me cut to the chase. Figure out which sex or species you are, and read the appropriate section below.
(1) If you're female, you should enjoy this book. Not only is it a humorous story about 4 half-sisters, each of whom is an interesting character, but it also features several pages of text by Christa Shermot explaining the various games males play and how to beat them at these. Dating may be a game in itself, but when it comes to the confusing idiosyncracies of guys, you're not just dealing with one game, you're getting yourself an entire schoolyard full of childish tricks... The following rules to his favorite guy-games will either help you win every time or know when to ask for your toys back and send him home.
(2) If you're male, you need this book. Not only is it "the comic your girlfriend will enjoy as much as you" (as one testimonial in the ads for it says) but it features inside low-down on how males think which you need to be aware that females are now aware of.
(3) If you're feline, not only does this book feature a well-drawn cat to look at, but it makes an ideal comic for lying on when your person is trying to read it.
This book has detailed and realistic art, believable characters, and loads of great dialogue. The current issue has a very funny cover scene about Christa and Elisa at a sidewalk cafe, which in turn is based on a very funny sequence in the comic on pages 18 and 19.
11th December 2002, 12:20 AM
Ultimate Daredevil and Elektra # 1 (of 4)
written by Greg Rucka, drawn by Salvador Larocca and Danny Miki
Marvel; 4-issue mini-series; $2.25 cover price
Marvel's Ultimate comics are re-boots of familiar characters, which ignore previous continuity and tell a new version for today's readers. It's a little strange having Ultimate Spider-Man and Ultimate X-Men on sale right next to numerous comics continuing the adventures of the non-ultimate Spider-Man and X-Men, but many of these comics tell good stories in their own right. I don't buy most of the Ultimate comics, but this series is by Greg Rucka, who generally does superior comics work.
The introduction of Elektra into the Daredevil series by Frank Miller in the 1980s is fondly remembered by many fans; and Marvel currently has an ongoing Elektra series (by Greg Rucka) which is also quite well done.
This new mini-series, however, is better yet, and should appeal to a much larger readership.
This is the story of Elektra Natchios and Matt Murdock meeting during their college days. The first issue is devoted largely to Elektra becoming friends with her college roommate Phoebe McAllister, and the two of them befriending another young woman, Melissa Beckerman. Towards the end of the issue Elektra notices Matt exercising in the gym, becomes interested in him, and a romance blossoms.
Those familiar with the Elektra character know there is darkness ahead, and that this story is not going to end happily. This first issue, however, is a charming story of friendship and romance, and I expect the remaining issues to be just as good even if the story shifts more to melodrama and possible super-heroics.
This will likely be collected as a trade paperback eventually; but with something this good, why wait?
11th December 2002, 12:27 AM
Alias # 16
written Brian Michael Bendis, drawn by Michael Gaydos
Marvel MAX; monthly; $2.99 cover price
Page 1 is credits and a quick re-cap: "Jessica Jones, a former costumed super hero, is now the owner and sole employee of Alias Investigations, a small private investigative firm. After a string of bad relationships, Jessica is fixed up with Scott Lang, a.k.a. Ant-Man. They are early in a potential relationship."
Page 2, word 4, begins with f, as do words 14, 22 and 23. (I'd type the words out, but that would require asterisking out the letter u.) There's a damn and a dammit in there as well, and a word beginning with s.
On page 3, four of the first five words begin with s, and would need to have an i asterisked out for me to use it here. The word beginning with f appears 5 times -- once entirely in capitals, to help it stand out from the crowd.
The language, however, is not entirely gratuitous. It's an important part of Jessica's character, as well as being vital to the joke on page 20.
I recommended the previous issue of Alias as a stand-alone story. The current issue begins a 6-issue storyline, "The Underneath", about Jessica coming home and finding a woman dressed like Spider-Man waiting for her. The woman is upset Jessica is not who she expected, and flees. (I suspect she was actually looking for Jessica Drew, the other identity of a minor Marvel super-heroine.)Scott: And what did she look like?
Jessica: Like Spider-Man with little tits.
This is set in a universe very similar to the regular Marvel universe (except that people smoke, drink, swear and have sex, and what they do in this book may have no relation to what they do or remember doing in other Marvel books). It may add to one's enjoyment to know a little about the Marvel universe, but is not necessary.
I hate to recommend Marvels when there are better publishers to spend money on, but this is a d*mn good series.
12th December 2002, 09:50 AM
Wow, Novaland, you're really into this. I hope somebody bothers to read my little note that a new Garth Ennis War Story has just come out. Ihaven't read it yet, but I've really enjoyed that title,
13th December 2002, 02:48 AM
Originally posted by fhios
Wow, Novaland, you're really into this. I hope somebody bothers to read my little note that a new Garth Ennis War Story has just come out. I haven't read it yet, but I've really enjoyed that title.
Hi! It's nice to see someone else here recommending comics.
I haven't been buying the War Stories, but I heartily second your recommendation of them. (They have a $4.95 cover price, and I often decide against buying comics from Marvel or DC with high cover prices in the thought I may be able to find them later in a 4-for-a-dollar, 50-cent, or dollar bin.)
Garth Ennis writes powerful stories (often gut-wrenchingly so) and his War Stories series has been getting good reviews that have made me wish I had bought them.
For those who don't know what fhios and I are talking about, War Stories is a series of 64-page comics, from DC/Vertigo, each telling a stand-alone story. The writer on all of these is Garth Ennis; each is illustrated by a different artist.
"The Reivers" ("Dangerous tensions mount as an SAS unit fighting Germans in the North African desert during World War II endures the struggle for control between two very idfferent commanding officers", art by Cam Kennedy) was due out in November.
Due out in December (and one I most agonize over not having ordered) is "J for Jenny": "The story of one of Britain's tough-as-leather Lancaster bombers and her crew as they wreak havoc on cities all across Nazi Germany." The art is by David Lloyd. I'm generally more interested in writing than art, but even I can tell how good Lloyd's art is. (He did the art on V for Vendetta, another outstanding comic.)
There are several other War Stories issues that have been listed recently. I'm not sure which of these have come out yet, but they include:
War Story: Archangel: "When RAF Flight Officer Jamie McKenzie volunteered for training on the new CAMships, he didn’t realize he was signing up to be the British equivalent of a kamikaze pilot." Art by Gary Erskine.
War Story: D-Day Dodgers:John Higgins) "It's September 1944, roughly three months after the forces of Operation Overlord stormed the beaches of France on D-Day. While the Allied armies push their way eastward reclaiming France from the Germans and capturing headlines around the world, there are still thousands of war-weary, largely forgotten young men fighting in blood, dust, snow and mud on the Italian countryside. These now thinning regiments in Italy (the people are mostly English, Scottish and Irish soldiers) have been intensely fighting the enemy over the mountain terrain for months. But they fight another enemy as well - the insidious enemy of political pandering on the home front. Dubbed the "D-Day Dodgers" in England - for being in Italy and "missing" all the action on D-Day - these young men are asked to keep fighting, and dying, while being considered cowards back home." Art by John Higgins.
War Story: Condors "Outside Madrid in 1938, four men - each with his own world view and reasons for fighting - find themselves face-to-face with the enemy as they all take cover in the same foxhole. With little water or food and just one pistol among them, they must figure out how to survive the night… and each other." Art by Carlos Ezquerra.
War Story: Screaming Eagles: "In the waning days of the war in Europe, a battle-weary sergeant and the remnants of his decimated squad find a treasure trove of Nazi plunder and stolen luxuries the likes of which they could only dream of in the previous months of bloody fighting. But they quickly find that sometimes having it easy can test a soldier's resolve as much as the worst firefight." Art by Dave Gibbons.
15th December 2002, 08:59 PM
File under generally interesting, although I think people skeptical about religion, politics, media, etc, will appreciate this comic more.
Transmetropolitan is social and political satire featuring a gonzo journalist named Spider Jerusalem in The City, a future cyberpunk/genomepunk Babylon of police corruption, dirty politics, cults, criminals, mutants and whackos. Jerusalem is cynical, self-destructive and misanthropic, but is also fervently dedicated to telling the truth about The City, its unfortunate citizens, and the powers that got them that way.
The comic skewers politics, commerce, police, religion - name your favorite social institution.
It isn't for everyone. It's definitely a comic for mature readers: language, situations, chemistry, attitude, attire and behavior of all characters is NOT recommended for the impressionable.
There's an awful lot of wildly extrapolated technology in this comic, since its science fiction, but there is nothing "unexplained" or "mysterious" - just technology.
By Warren Ellis, Darick Roberton, and Rodney Ramos. Published by DC's Vertigo.
I'm not really a comics guy, there's only a few comics I read, and those when they're collected into trade paperback format. I don't really have the collector's mentality to follow a bunch of different comics from issue to individual issue. This is definitely one of my favorites, though, and I keep an eye out for new volumes.
16th December 2002, 05:55 PM
There are several other War Stories issues that have been listed recently. I'm not sure which of these have come out yet. [/QUOTE]
How could you forget Nightingale? It was by far the best issue in the title with the possible exception of condors. I hadn't heard of that one before your mention of it.
17th December 2002, 04:35 PM
Oh, by the way, specifically in terms of interest to skeptics, Marvel's recent run of Howard the Duck touched, rather sarcastically, on issues of religion, and it took to task nearly all of the man supernaturally-minded "goth" comics, popular of late.
23rd December 2002, 04:24 AM
Originally posted by Zombified
Transmetropolitan Transmetropolitan is social and political satire featuring a gonzo journalist named Spider Jerusalem in The City, a future cyberpunk/genomepunk Babylon of police corruption, dirty politics, cults, criminals, mutants and whackos. Jerusalem is cynical, self-destructive and misanthropic, but is also fervently dedicated to telling the truth about The City, its unfortunate citizens, and the powers that got them that way.
The comic skewers politics, commerce, police, religion - name your favorite social institution.
It isn't for everyone. It's definitely a comic for mature readers: language, situations, chemistry, attitude, attire and behavior of all characters is NOT recommended for the impressionable.
There's an awful lot of wildly extrapolated technology in this comic, since its science fiction, but there is nothing "unexplained" or "mysterious" - just technology.
By Warren Ellis, Darick Roberton, and Rodney Ramos. Published by DC's Vertigo.
Well-said! Transmetropolitan was indeed an excellent comic.
Sadly, it is no longer a current comic. The final issue (#60, I think) came out this past autumn. Warren Ellis had a definite ending in mind, he reached that, and DC/Vertigo (to their credit) allowed the book to end there rather than attempting to continue it past its author's intended ending.
The final trade paperback collection should be coming out soon (or may be out already). And DC is good about keeping the TPBs of series like this in print, so those interested should be able to pick the books up for some time to come.
However: Warren Ellis has several other books going. The most notable one at the moment is Global Frequency, a 12-issue series from DC/Wildstorm. The artist on this is Jon J Muth, who does beautiful art.
The first 2 issues are out -- I've got them, but haven't had a chance to write up a post recommending them yet. (I have a bunch I've been meaning to write up, and am a couple weeks slow on doing that). So thanks for giving me this chance to sneak in a quick mention of Global Frequency.
23rd December 2002, 04:31 AM
Originally posted by fhios, concerning Garth Ennis' War Stories:
How could you forget Nightingale? It was by far the best issue in the title with the possible exception of Condors. I hadn't heard of that one before your mention of it.
Apologies for leaving out Nightingale! No slight was intended.
As I mentioned, I didn't buy these (although I'm hoping to pick them up some day). I'd love to hear some of your favorite scenes from these books, or other things you enjoyed about them.
(But on the other hand... If you make them sound too good, I may break down and buy them next chance, rather than waiting until I can pick them up cheaply. Do don't make them sound too great, okay? I can't afford to buy everything.)
23rd December 2002, 04:37 AM
I expect a new box in a week or two. There are a number of good comics from the previous box still waiting to be mentioned, so I'll try to post some new items later today or early tomorrow, while I can still sort of call them current.
(I'd hoped to mention more in time for holiday gift-giving, but have been a bit behind on things. But you all know that 8-issue mini-series (or 2 4-issue mini-series) are the ideal Hannukkah gifts, right?)
24th December 2002, 02:17 AM
Buffy The Vampire Slayer # 51
plot: Scott Lobdell; script: Fabian Nicieza; pencil: Cliff Richards; ink: Will Conrad.
Dark Horse Comics
monthly; 32 pages, color; $2.99 cover price
The WB television network's documentary series "Buffy", about a girl and her friends growing from teenagers into young adults, is, of course, the finest program on television. I am surprised it airs on a commercial network, rather than PBS, but programming decisions often baffle me.
For 5 years Dark Horse Comics has produced a comic book based on the series. Unfortunately, the comics have featured fictional stories about the characters. Some of these have been amusing stories, but they clearly were stories; and the fictional representations didn't have the same charm and sparkle the real-life characters do.
Fortunately, that has changed. "Viva Las Buffy", a 4-part series about incidents in Buffy Summers' life shortly before she moved to Sunnydale, begins in issue #51. The television documentary has not previously covered this period in Buffy's life, but it is clear these are genuine events from her life.
This allows new scripter Fabian Nicieza to record the actual dialogue of these people rather than attempt to make up stuff. The improvement is remarkable. Truth is not only stranger than fiction, but also more enjoyable.
There are many enjoyable scenes of Buffy's home life, as she and her family deal with her expulsion from high school. It's an interesting period in Buffy's life, and includes interesting details on what was going on in the lives of people who would become important in her life later after she moved to Sunnydale.
24th December 2002, 02:57 AM
Fantastic Four # 62 - 64
written by Mark Waid, art by Mike Wieringo and Karl Kesel
Marvel; monthly; $2.25 cover price.
I'm late recommending this. I already have issues 62 and 63, (parts 1 and 2 of the 3-part "Sentient" storyline) and the conclusion to the story is probably out already.
The menace in this story is a mathematical abstraction come to life. Throughout the issue, people describe it as a "walking equation". There is a delightful scene where Reed Richards, on finally encountering the creature himself, lectures the other members of the Fantastic Four to "learn some algebra", since the creature is clearly no such thing, and the incorrect description has nearly cost them their lives.
Mark Waid took over the writing of this book several issues ago. Waid is one of the best comic-book writers around, and he is in fine form on Fantastic Four. He has an excellent grasp of characters, and consistently manages to shed new light on old character without having to resort to cheap tricks.
Some comic-book writers try to expand characters by revealing hitherto unknown secrets which "change things forever". Waid, in contrast, puts characters in situations that illuminate aspects that we've always known about but haven't thought much about or inspected. Especially enjoyable in the current stories is a sub-plot about Sue putting her brother Johnny in charge of some of the Fantastic Four's business ventures to help teach him responsibility.
Johnny: Jian, remember how being stuck as an office suit used to make me a real hater?
Jian: I can remember back two minutes, yes.
I was insane. Take a letter: "Dear Sue: Good call on this office thing, I'm ready for more control."
"Dear... Sue: ... The... end... is... near."
24th December 2002, 03:37 AM
Automatic Kafka # 5: "Holiday in Cambodia"
written by Joe Casey, drawn by Ash Wood
DC/Wildstorm, monthly, color, $2.95 cover price
This is an interesting-looking series from interesting creators. I'd been postponing recommending this series until I could read it closely, since the story-telling is (deliberately) obscure and hard-to-follow. With stuff like that, it's hard to tell if it's brilliant or simply pretentious until one takes the time and to actually read it, and time and energy are often in short supply.
I still haven't read the first 4 issues closely. I've read # 5, but want to re-read it along with the first 4, before commenting too much.
The art style on this book is very scratchy. It does not invite a casual reading. There's color, but many pages are simply black and white (and many others are black and white plus one other color). Much of the talking in this issue is characters making speeches rather than engaging in conversations.
However, this issue is worth a look for its creative use of profanity (visual as well as verbal) alone. Casey doesn't use nearly as many f-words as, say, Garth Ennis or Brian Michael Bendis, but when he does it is often shockingly funny. The "Next:" blurb on the last page got a loud laugh from me.
One theme of this issue is the way the constitution gets, um, messed with. It's an angry message, well-delivered (at least what I could make out of it.)
26th December 2002, 11:36 PM
Jingle Belle Winter Wingding
stories by Paul Dini
art by Spike Brandt and Tony Cervone (1st story),
Stephen deStefano and Robbie Busch (second story),
and a really cool cover by Chynna Clugston-Major!
Oni Press, 32 pages, black and white, $2.95 cover price
Published once a year -- more often if you're good little girls and boys.
Okay, I'm a little late mentioning this for those of you who celebrate Christmas on December 25. Or you can consider this waaay early advance notice for next year.
Paul Dini was one of the people responsible for the Batman animated adventures of Fox and the WB, and the Superman cartoon series that followed. If you watched and enjoyed those, you know he is capable of writing material adults can love as much as the younger folk do. (He also has been producing annual tabloid comics for DC, the first of which, Superman: Peace on Earth, is the best of a fine series and well worth looking for if you haven't read and bought copies already.)
Each year at Christmas-time (and occasionally in between Christmases) Dini brings out a new comic about Jingle Belle.
You know how preachers' kids are supposed to be a bit less well-behaved than other kids? Well, imagine what Santa's teenage daughter must be like! That's what Dini did.
In the 21-page lead story, Jing refuses to help her mother write their annual family Christmas letter.
Jing: Moms! What are you doing here?
Mrs. Claus: It's that time again, honey. Time to send a message of cheer to all our friends.
Oh, joy. The annual Claus family form letter, awash in denial and gloss-overs, all wrapped around a little bag of your chocolate bourbon balls.
Hey what's the name of that big Texas city that Ida Red lives near?
Um, El Paso?
Exactly. El Pass-O!
You loved to help me write it when you were little.
I loved to eat paste when I was little, too.
Mrs. Claus goes off to write the letter alone, consuming chocolate bourbon balls as she writes. The more she consumes, the more reckless she becomes in writing about Jing's doings. There was the summer vacation the family took in England, and the time Jing and the cousin she can't stand entered a figure skating competition together, and the time Jing convinced the family to take part in a Christmas tv special she was making (a "reality" show, "The Clausbournes"), and the time Jing and some friends formed an all-girl band...
An 8-page back-up story has Jing trying to decide what to wear to accompany Santa on his annual toy-giving trip, while her cousin tries to suck up to Santa so he can go along for the ride instead.
The Jingle Belle books are an annual treat. My favorite line in this one is: "Oh, honey, you're fast asleep. In a second you'll wake up back in your dad's same old sucky workshop." It's the expression on Mrs. Claus' face as she says this that makes it so funny. (Ditto for the expression on Jing's face as she delivers the "El Pass-O" line quoted above.) The writing is good, but the art really brings it to life.
It's too late to give this as a Christmas gift this year, but it's not too late to pick up copies to enjoy.
27th December 2002, 12:14 AM
Queen & Country: Declassified # 1 (of 3)
Story by Greg Rucka, art by Brian Hurtt
Oni Press; monthly, 32 pages, black and white, $2.95 cover price.
Tara Chace, a British intelligence agent (or "minder"), is the central character of Queen & Country, a LeCarre-like spy series. I haven't had a chance to recommend that series yet since it has been in the middle of a story arc, but this spin-off mini-series about her boss Paul Crocker is a good opportunity.
There is nothing paranormal in these stories. They are down-to-earth stories about political intrigue and the people charged with gathering intelligence and carrying out those intrigues.
This series tells about a young, recently married British SIS agent and some of the events that will help shape him into the perpetually grouchy Director of Operations in the present-day stories. Set in 1986 in England, Berlin, and Kiev, this is gripping and suspenseful.
A new story arc should be starting in the regular Queen & Country book about now, and that should be even better (because Tara is more likeable than Paul, and because that book, being an ongoing series, can build more on past issues). But this is well worth picking up on its own.
27th December 2002, 12:59 AM
There are many good comic books which I haven't listed in this thread. (Fhios and Zombified mentioned several in their posts earlier in this thread.)
Since there are more good comics than time to write up posts, I've been trying to limit myself in several ways. (These are simply self-imposed restrictions to keep me from going crazier, not things anyone else needs to feel bound by.) For instance, I generally try to limit these recommendations to things which have recently come out, which I actually have in hand and have read, which I think others here might enjoy, and which are at a good starting point.
I also try to give preference to things which will continue to be published. Supergirl has just been cancelled (as of # 80, out in a few months) so I guess I should try to refrain from praising it, even though it is an enjoyable series (and of possible interest here since God was a key character for many stories, and Supergirl herself was an "earth angel". Oddly, God looked -- and often acted -- like a boy named Wally.)
Likewise, Young Justice has been cancelled, final issue out soon, so I won't refer you to that series either, even though it was fun, often thoughtful, often funny, and even though the cliff-hanger to the election issue a few months back was extremely wicked.
I haven't mentioned the second League of Extraordinary Gentlemen mini-series, even though that's currently coming out (a little past the halfway mark of it's 6-issue run) and, of course, is excellent. If this thread had begun a few months earlier I would of course have mentioned this story (about Mina Harker from Bram Stoker's Dracula leading Allan Quartermain, Henry Jekyll, Captain Nemo, and the invisible man in an investigation of and counter-effort to a Martian invasion later to be described by H. G. Wells in a fictional account of their adventure). But since it's by Alan Moore, I assume most of you who read comics already know it's top-notch material and worth the (slightly-higher) cover-price of $3.50 an issue.
I've mentioned some DC/Vertigo series (such as Y: the Last Man, but haven't said a word about American Century yet, even though it is a down-to-earth adventure series set in the 1950s with nothing paranormal about it (but generous dollops of sex, political intrigue, and cynical looks at US culture, nicely seasoned with humor and profanity.) That, again, is because the series is in the middle of a story arc and I've been waiting for it to reach a good jumping-on point.
I haven't mentioned Promethea yet because, again, it's by Alan Moore and it's been in the middle of a long storyline (sort of a guided tour of mystical realms, often with story taking second place to explaining mystical beliefs).
I haven't mentioned Bzzz Bee Cafe yet, even though it deals with the spiritual nature of coffee, because -- well, because I'm lazy and missed the opportunity. Number 2 will be out in a couple of months and there'll be another chance when that comes out and is current.
And there's -- but I said I wouldn't mention these titles now, so I guess I'll post this and spend some time actually reading a few.
3rd January 2003, 12:57 AM
I try not to recommend things I don't actually have in hand and haven't actually read yet, but the moment one says something like that an exception seems to pop up.
This may be of special interest to skeptics. Archie's Weird Mysteries, a comic book starring Archie (yes, the famous one) and his Riverdale High School friends (Jughead, Betty, Veronica, Reggie, Midge, Moose, Dilton, etc.) as X-Files type investigators, has just changed direction. It will drop the word Weird from the title and become, from the description, more like an Archie version of CSI.
In other words, it is going from being a comic that panders to paranormal belief to one that will be fairly rooted in reality.
Tony Isabella (a columnist for Comics Buyer's Guide, whose opinions I generally find to be on the mark) says of advance copies he has seen: "Writers Paul Castiglia and Barbara Jarvie have done a terrific job concocting clever tales that play fair with the readers, impart educational tidbits, and, most importantly, don't distort the Archie characters to make them fit this somewhat more serious treatment. Indeed, while not as prevalent as in traditional Archie titles, humor remains part of Archie's Mysteries."
I don't generally buy Archie titles, but plan to look for this one the next time I am able to make a trip to Knoxville, and may comment more on this after I've read a current issue of this series.
Cover price is $2.19. Even if this doesn't sound appealing to you personally, it might be a good comic to buy as a present for a child you know.
13th January 2003, 12:11 AM
A new box of comics arrived this past week, but I've been caught up in personal things and haven't had much time to read them yet.
League of Extraordinary Gentlemen # 4 is in the box, but (a) this is not a good jumping-on point for new readers, and (b) League already has its own thread going so doesn't really need much additional mention here.
Promethea # 24 is in the box, and Sophie is finally back on Earth after the long magical mystery tour of the last umpteen issues, so I was thinking I'd be able to give it a long-overdue recommendation. Somewhat surprisingly, this is not a good jumping-on issue either -- there is some brilliant story-telling, but someone who hasn't been following the story will likely be lost.
So I'm going to cheat somewhat, and mention a different Alan Moore series -- one which is not currently being published, but which is one of his best series in recent years. (Trade paperback collections have just been released, so it's sort of a current comic).
The series is Top Ten, a cross between Hill Street Blues and super-heroes. The original run of 12 issues featured a large cast of intriguing super-characters working out of the "Top Ten" precinct on cases that were funny, sad, touching, memorable. When it began the idea was to do a number of 12-issue runs, each one being like a season of a tv series, but so far the first season has been the only season.
It has been collected in a pair of TPBs, and if enough people buy these it might help get a "second season" produced. There are some great characters and great stories in this series. If you haven't read these stories yet, it's worth looking for the TPBs now.
13th January 2003, 12:46 AM
I'm a little late recommending this series, as it's already up to the second (of four) issues. But that means, if you enjoy it, it will take that much less time to collect the full story.
Vertigo Pop! London
written by Peter Milligan, drawn by Philip Bond
DC/Vertigo, monthly, 4-issue mini-series, $2.95 cover price.
Vertigo is doing a series of mini-series about different cities. the idea, as I understand it, is to try to tell stories that capture the spirit of different cities.
The first one, Tokyo, was extremely strange. Maybe that's what the spirit of Tokyo is like, I don't know. I'm more at home with this current one, about London.
The first issue tells the story of a rock star rising to fame in the 60s, doing drugs, doing the eastern meditation bit, getting married, trading the first wife in for a younger model, etc. It's a pretty good look at several decades of life in London, with a paranormal bit (the idea of trading one's aging body for a younger model) introduced at the end of the first issue.
The second issue continues the story, There's less focus on the city and the times, more on the characters and the plot. The characters aren't that nice, but they're interesting. (And they have nipples when they're naked -- the men as well as the women -- which is a step towards reality.)
It's a story about musicians and the music industry. It's also a story about being young and being old. Before it's finished it may shed some light on what it's like to live in London. Aging rocker, talentless but good-looking youngster, and two clever women pulling strings -- it may not be very socially redeeming, but it's going to be fun seeing who comes out on top.
13th January 2003, 12:59 AM
Sandwalk Adventures # 5
written and drawn by Jay Hosler
Active Synapse, 4258 N. High St, Columbus OH 43214-3048
24 pages, black and white, $2.95 cover price.
The fifth and final issue of this comic, in which Charles Darwin explains natural selection in a readable and entertaining way, is now out. The entire series will be collected in a trade paperback, out later this spring. Each issue of the comic has included several pages of notes, and I assume those will be included in the TPB as well -- the story reads fine without them, but they add additional depth to some of the scenes and it would be a shame to omit them.
For those who are tired of creationist assaults on Darwin and evolution, this comic is a great day-brightener. I strongly recommend looking for this comic; I would love to see people buy this comic to give to young people, and to buy the TPB to donate to school (and public) libraries.
16th April 2003, 08:35 AM
Fantastic Four #67
This issues was just a great comic which showed the motivation for the character, Doctor Victor Von Doom. I mean we don't get a fight about good versus evil, but just a beautiful love story with an unexpected ending. This issue truly redefined Doctor Doom in my eyes.
Oh and Victor Von Doom isn't a certified doctor... but would you tell him that...?
16th April 2003, 04:25 PM
Comics for skeptics? Well, I did make some comics about Franko in the flames forum, but they're not real comics.
This Modern World might appeal to the skeptical mind, but it's a comic strip, not a comic book or series.
15th June 2003, 05:15 AM
Catwoman # 19
"No Easy Way Down"
writer: Ed Brubaker; artist: Javier Pulido
DC comics, published monthly, $2.50 cover price
We're halfway to Karon's apartment before I realize this is the first time I've been out in daylight in over a month.
And when I see Holly, I can tell she's been living in those shadows with me the entire time.
My absence has been unforgivable. And the saddest part is, I know she'll forgive me anyway.
It's the best part, too. Because somehow, it gives me back a big part of what was missing inside. It helps me find myself again. Just like that.
All my problems start to fade, and the only thing I care about is this girl, who went through so much for my sake. Who lost a piece of herself that she can't get back again.
And as she apologizes for being so weak, for killing Sylvia, for letting Maggie get hurt, and for everything else in the world that isn't her fault, I hold her tight and whisper over and over again: "It's okay... It's okay..."
And just saying that, feeling her tears fall onto me as I do, I know that it's going to be true sometime soon. I don't know exactly how, but we're going to be okay.
We have to be.
DC has put Selina Kyle through the wringer many times over the years. Every time things start looking up for her, sooner or later a writer comes along and blows everything in her life up again.
After making Selina an emotional wreck in her last comics series, DC started this new series a couple years ago with Selina doing well financially, re-connecting with friends and family, even finding romance. Which was just a set-up to put her through the worst hell yet, the past few issues.
Issue 19 may not be the best jumping-on point for new readers, but this is a beautiful story, as the various cast members try to put their lives back together. There's even an appearance by Batman, very nicely done, and different from any other confrontation he and she have ever had.
There are so many great sequences in this issue, I wish I could quote them all. A murder mystery is solved, Karon's love for Holly is beautifully portrayed, the relationship between Slam and Selina reaches a crucial turning point, Selina gets drunk and does some foolish things, and Selina sobers up and does some very wise things. This is a comic to read and re-read.
Ed Brubaker is noted for his hard-boiled crime comics. With the current run of Catwoman he has created a top-notch hard-boiled romance comic.
15th June 2003, 05:21 AM
Sammy: Tourist Trap # 1 - 4
created, written and drawn by Azad
Image, 4-issue mini-series, black & white, $2.95 cover price each
Pregnant women are, as those of you who read comics regularly have likely noticed, badly under-represented on comic book covers. That alone is a good reason to buy Sammy: Tourist Trap # 4. Even though the "woman" in question is Sammy, and the "pregnancy" consists of a cat and a kidney, it's still a great cover.
There's nothing paranormal in this story (though there is an urban legend come to life). This is the kind of crime caper story that Donald Westlake used to turn out regularly, where things go wrong in comic ways and a hard-working thief is lucky just to break even at the end. There are some extremely funny bits in this story (many involving familiar easy-to-pronounce 4-letter words).
This is very nicely written, very nicely drawn. It's got lots all the good stuff: thieves, con artists, humor, profanity, and a cat in a prominent role.
I had meant to recommend this series when it first began, but haven't been able to post to this thread for a while. Now all four issues of the series are out, so anyone interested can pick up and read the complete story.
15th June 2003, 05:28 AM
The Crew # 1
"Big Trouble in Little Mogadishu"
writer: Christopher Priest; artist: Joe Bennett
Marvel, published monthly, $2.50 cover price
For 5 years Christopher Priest has been writing Black Panther (one of the comics that keeps me giving money to Marvel in spite of myself).
The first 4 years were a wild ride mixing politics, intrigue, sharp humor, and interestingly non-linear story-telling, with occasional appearances of characters from the rest of the Marvel universe. Priest focused on the Panther as a head of state (and a highly-skilled one), with super-stuff taking a back seat.
As often happens with the really interesting comics, sales were not good enough to keep Marvel executives happy. At editorial request, Priest put a black cop, Kasper Coles, into the Panther suit, and began a new urban-grit storyline about crime and police corruption.
Black Panther is still a decent book, but it's not what headlines this post because it has been cancelled, last issue due out soon.
Priest's new book for Marvel, The Crew, continues the urban-grit, and looks like it will continue the story of Kasper Coles, but the first issue centers primarily on James Rhodes (former assistant to Tony Stark, former Iron Man, former War Machine, former CEO of a major corporation, currently bankrupt, angry, and not doing too well relating to people.
The main focus is on the murder of Rhodes' sister, and his reactions to it, which leads him to the bad part of the city (and sets up his meeting and future involvment with Coles, with black policewoman Marcy Howard, and with Josiah al hajj Saddiq who runs the Shabazz Mission, but one of the highlights of the issue is a sub-plot explaining why Rhodes tends to call all women "Marcy".
Here's an exchange between Rhodes and Saddiq which gives some of the flavor of this new series:
Josiah X: Sorry about Star. She had a lot of issues.
Jim Rhodes: You knew her?
As much as anyone else. Tried to get her off the street.
Never actually believed her -- until now
That her brother ran a billion-dollar company while she was turning tricks in the projects.
This a toll booth, son?
Guilt's not my trip, sir. (introducing himself) Josiah al hajj Saddiq. Josiah X. I run this mission here in the Mog.
If you're looking for a donation, my account's overdrawn.
Think I'm trying to hustle you, Mr. Rhodes?
Let's just say I'm not a fan of street corner preachers.
Makes two of us.
15th June 2003, 05:45 AM
written by Jim Ottaviani; drawn by various award-winning artists (see list below)
GT Labs; 240-page trade paperback; $19.95 cover price
I don't own this, but read a copy during my last trip to the big city and recommend it highly. As Tim Folger says in a review in the April 2002 issue of Discover (http://www.discover.com/apr_02/featreviews.html): "Fallout is a comic book for sophisticated adult readers. "
Ottaviani's company GT Labs produces outstanding comics about science and scientists. I own Two-Fisted Science, have been looking for Dignifying Science, and have put Fallout on my give-this-to-someone-for-Christmas list. These are enjoyable comics to give to science fans or enjoyable works on science to give to comics fans.
I'm lazy, so here's a description of Fallout directly from GT Labs (http://www.gt-labs.com/)
So, you've always wanted to learn how to build an atomic bomb? You're in luck: Jim Ottaviani is not only a comics writer...he also has a master's degree in nuclear engineering! But even though it's not a complete do-it-yourself manual (assembly required, and plutonium is definitely NOT included), Fallout will bring you up to speed on the science and politics of the first nuclear gadgets.
Like its companion volumes, the focus of Fallout is on the scientists themselves -- in particular J. Robert Oppenheimer and Leo Szilard, whose lives offer a cautionary tale about the uneasy alliance between the military, the government, and the beginnings of "big science."
Fallout features art by award-winning artists such as Janine Johnston (Poison Elves), Steve Lieber (Whiteout, Batman), Vince Locke (Deadworld, Sandman), Bernie Mireault (Mackenzie Queen, The Jam, Grendel Tales), Jeff Parker (Interman, Robin) with Chris Kemple, Eddy Newell, and a painted cover by noted Studio artist Jeffrey Jones.
19th June 2003, 11:29 PM
Human Defense Corps # 1 (of 6)
written by Ty Templeton; drawn by Clement Sauve Jr and Juan Vlasco
DC; color; 6-issue monthly series; $2.50 cover price
I've been a Ty Templeton fan ever since his delightful Stig's Inferno. Templeton is only writing, not writing and drawing, Human Defense Corps, which is a shame in a way, but Sauve's art is fine and is well-suited to the story.
This new series, set in the DC universe (reporter Lois Lane plays a prominent supporting role in this first issue) tells the stories of what regular humans do when alien invasions and the other earth-shaking events (which happen with surprising frequency in the DC and Marvel universes) are going on around them.
A few years ago, I was part of the National Guard unit that fought off the Khund landing party in Times Square -- before the Justice League showed up --
It really got bad that day -- And I noticed something that I'd tried not to notice before.
About one out of three men on the battlefield doesn't move. They don't discharge their weapons. They don't do anything. They panic and freeze.
One in three.
I don't know if I blame them. It doesn't make them bad people -- But it does make them bad soldiers. Because they're unreliable.
And you never know which ones they're going to be.
So, a couple months later, I was having a sandwich in a canteen in Fort Totten when I saw the dumbest-looking recruitment poster up on the wall. Cartoon soldiers, standing on a globe and shouting at the sky. I always hate the army ads -- thought up by empty-suit corporals somewhere.
Thank God the navy's are worse.
The poster was for this new branch of the service. The Human Defense Corps -- alien fighters.
About freakin' time, I thought. Good luck with that.
But what got my attention was a line at the bottom. "Decorated vets only." They're putting together a unit made up entirely of ones who don't panic or freeze.
The reliable soldiers.
That was the team I wanted to be on.
This is a pretty good science fiction war story. It's about the people who fight the wars, not simply an excuse for futuristic weapons, big explosions, and loud special effects.
There's a military mission in the middle of the book -- one that goes badly snafu -- but it's the pages leading up to the mission, and the 2-page aftermath of the mission, that pack the story's punch. Even if you see the ending coming from the beginning, the last page -- just a guy drinking a can of diet soda and then discarding the can -- hit's hard.
That's one of the great things about comics: they're not just words, and they're not just pictures, they're words and pictures working together. When it's done well -- as it is here -- it can produce some very powerful storytelling.
19th June 2003, 11:33 PM
Batman: Nevermore 1 & 2
written by Len Wein; drawn by Guy Davis
DC; color; monthly 5-issue Elseworlds mini-series; $2.50 cover price
In 19th century Baltimore, fledgling reporter Edgar Allen Poe (assigned to cover minor fluff stories about social bigshots such as Bruce Wayne) decides to investigate a series of brutal murders. In the course of his investigation he encounters black cats, hearts buried below floorboards, bodies hidden behind bricked-up walls, Roderick Usher, the fair Lenore, a mysterious raven, and a mysterious figure who dresses up like a bat.
Poe purists may hate this, as it deviates considerably from previously established continuity about Poe's life. For those are less obsessive about such details, this is a lot of fun.
19th June 2003, 11:42 PM
Thor, #s 63, 64, and thereabouts
Written by Dan Jurgens, drawn by the Lai brothers
Marvel, color, monthly, cover price $2.99
I've never been a big fan of Marvel's Thor, so haven't been paying much attention to it for quite some time. My mistake; the current storyline ("Spiral") is actually quite well-done, and might be of special interest to some JREFers.
Here's the setup. Odin died. Thor has taken over as the All-Father. Thor looks at the shape the world is in, realizes he's a god, and feels he has an obligation to do more than just punch out the occasional troll, frost giant, or super-villain that's threatening to conquer the globe.
So he orders the Norse pantheon of gods to become a more active presence in earthly affairs, and he encourages people to form churches worshipping them. Which brings him directly into conflict, not only with the government which is worried about a super-powerful being meddling in global politics, but with the established churches.
The idea of governments getting upset over super-heroes trying to end war and hunger has been done several times before (sometimes well, sometimes not so well). The idea of coming into conflict with churches this way is new, and is being handled surprisingly well in the issues I recently read. While Thor and the Asgardians are active in the background, the stories dealt mainly with a blue-collar Catholic wrestling with his feelings of loyalty to the church he'd attended for so many years and the realization that if he were willing to worship these strange new gods he'd be able to support his family.
There are many intriguing religious issues raised -- issues which Marvel, for years, skirted with their "yes, Thor is a Norse god, but he's a god in the mythological sense so there's no conflict for you Christian readers out there, why even Thor probably believes in the same god you do" type answers to reader inquiries.
I'm especially pleased they have Thor's church coming into conflict with a real church (Catholic) rather than some fictional one made up simply for this story. I don't have the issues at hand to quote, but there were several very good scenes with the Catholic arguing with his priest about whether and why he should remain a loyal church member. (And, those of you who are down on religion may be interested to know, established religion does not come off in a very positive light in these exchanges.)
(What's disappointing is a development in # 64 that opens the way for this to return to a battle between Thor and his more traditional opponents as the story heads for its conclusion. It's possible that, when the story is finished, it may read better if certain later pages are removed so that the earlier events can remain as they first appeared.)
There are quite a number of Marvel books that have been experimenting with stories where costumed heroes appear little or none of the time -- comics for grown-ups. Thor, which I generally think of as one of the more mindless of the Marvel books, appears to be one of the grown-up books now.
At $3 cover price, I won't be buying Thor. (Nor will I subscribe -- which takes the price down by close to half -- since the moment I do that I'm sure they will return Thor to a slug-fest book.) But I will be reading the next few issues. This series is (as the thread title says) worth a look.
19th June 2003, 11:51 PM
Runaways #s 1 & 2
Written by Brian Vaughan; drawn by Adrian Alphona and David Newbold
Marvel; color; monthly; $2.50 cover price
Speaking of Marvel and religion, here's one atheists among you might want to take note of.
Runaways is the story of 6 kids, teen and pre-teen, who discover that the annual get-together their families have, when their parents go off alone (ostensibly for some boring discussion of charity events they're planning) is actually the occasion of satanic rituals and their parents are evil child-sacrificing bad guys known as "The Pride".
In issue # 1 the four oldest kids, secretly spying on the parents meeting, learn all this. In # 2, the kids have to hide what they've learned from their parents. They also have to figure out how much of this to share with Molly, how to hide most of it from her, and how to fill the other teen in on it without freaking Molly out.
(Alex) Gert, take Molly to the bathroom or something.
So we can fill Karolina in on what happened, okay?
But this involves Molly's parents, too! She deserves to know the truth!
She's just a kid!
She's old enough to know her parents are evil!
(Molly) Um, helloooo. I know what you guys are whispering about.
You -- you do?
Duh. S...E...X. I'm not a baby.
[Alex and Gert exchange looks]
Fine. Come on, kid. Let's go powder our noses.
That's code for pee, right?
It's pretty funny, especially if you can see the pictures that go with the words.
Here's the scene that especially made me think some of you might want to check this series out:
scene: Griffith Observatory, 1 a.m. The kids have sneaked out to talk together and figure out what to do.
(Karolina) Is anyone else having a hard time processing this?
I mean, no matter what you guys saw down there, it sounds like our parents have been leading some kind of freaky double lives... for years, probably. How is that possible?
(Gert) What? How is it possible that our parents lied to us?
Let's see: Santa, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, um, God.
20th June 2003, 12:13 AM
Gotham Central #s 6 & 7: "Half A Life"
Written by Greg Rucka, drawn by Michael Lark
DC, monthly, color, $2.50 cover price
There used to be something of an unwritten rule that there should be no more than one woman on a comic book team. DC had a basic template (later copied by an obscure Marvel comic...): the leader, his brawny best friend, his girlfriend and her kid brother. There were Sea Devils, Rip Hunter: Time Master; Cave Carson: Adventures Inside Earth; and probably others I'm not geeky enough to admit remembering.
(The Blackhawks and the Challengers of the Unknown were too manly to officially have any women members, although both condescended to allow one woman to hang around unofficially -- June Robbins for the Challengers, Zinda (Lady Blackhawk) for the Blackhawks. Later, of course, it turned out that Andre, the French Blackhawk who was always boasting about his female conquests, was actually terrified by the thought of going out with a woman... But I guess I'm wandering from the point.)
The JLA was permitted one female member, which for years was Wonder Woman. (Hawkgirl was not permitted to join when Hawkman did, on a flimsy pretext.) Only when Wonder Woman lost her powers and resigned, in 1969, was the Black Canary allowed to come in and replace her.
Over at Marvel, the Avengers started with the Wasp as the sole woman; when she (and most of the other founding members) left a couple years later, the Scarlet Witch was brought in to be the new sole woman. (Likewise, Jean Grey was, for the entire initial run of the book, the sole X-Man who wasn't a man. And when the book was revived in the mid-1970s, the original cast was replaced by 5 new regulars, with Storm the sole not-a-man X-Man.)
It was a great day in human history when the wall keeping a second woman off a super-team finally came crashing down.
A similar wall comes down in the current issues of Gotham Central. For years police captain Maggie Sawyer has been one of a handful of lesbian characters at DC. And while DC is to be commended for including lesbians in positive roles (and giving Maggie, essentially, her own mini-series 10 years ago -- Metropolis: SCU, for those who missed it), still, most mainstream books that include a lesbian or a gay male seem to have an unwritten rule that one is enough.
Gotham Central is an based on an interesting concept: what is life like for the ordinary police officers in an extraordinary city such as Gotham City? Month after month the commissioner shines the light onto the night sky to summon the Batman to deal with the criminals that, the implicit message is, are too much for ordinary cops to handle. Can't be great for morale. Nor can living in a city where, with startling regularity, things go crazy.
Over the past couple of decades, DC has built up a good supporting cast of police officers. Now it begins putting them to good use, in this book that is set in the DC universe of costumed / super-powered characters, and yet which is also rooted in the mundane world of everyday police work. Gotham Central is set in the Batman's world, and he appears peripherally, but this is still a book a skeptic can read without being embarrassed by rampant paranormality.
One of the better-kept secrets among Batman fans is that most of us buy the books to follow the adventures of policewoman Renee Montoya. Oh, sure, at a certain immature age there's a certain interest in the Batman himself, since he is famous and does have star billing. But the reason discerning fans follow the Bat-books month after month is Renee. Trust me on this one, okay?
In the hands of accomplished crime novelist Greg Rucka (Smoker; Finder; Keeper; and Shooting at Midnight, among others) Renee is finally coming into her own -- as are the various other police officers making up the cast.
There are some great scenes in these issues. The lengthy conversation between the been-out-of-the-closet-for-years Maggie Sawyer and the involuntarily-outed-and-not-ready-to-be Renee Montoya is skillfully done. Here's a small part of it:
(Montoya) You've been where I am. Are you sure?
Because somehow I don't think you have. I just have a hard time picturing that.
I have a hard time picturing you as a Latina, for instance. I have a hard time picturing your parents as immigrants from the D.R. who go to Mass every Sunday. And I don't really see you having to explain every time you see them why they don't have grandchildren yet. Or why it is that you're going to Hell when you die.
This isn't Metropolis, Captain, and not just because our guy works at night. This isn't the City of Tomorrow, it's not San Francisco, and it's not New York. It's Gotham, and if you want to see what that means, just check out your squad room.
So you'll forgive me if I ask you to keep your advice to yourself.
Or if you prefer some black comedy mixed with your drama, there's that too:
(Officer Lowe, talking in the squad room to a bunch of the guys as Montoya enters the room):
...hear that Sawyer's collecting a whole set of them --
Speak of the devil, it's the latest addition. How you doing Detective Montoya? Have a good day up in the M.C.U.?
(Montoya, coldly) Lowe.
Oh, hey, I didn't mean to stop you or anything. You're probably in a hurry to get home to your little lady or whatever you call her, huh? The night time is the right time for love, and all that, right?
That's what your mother tells me.
As with most good comics, the words alone don't do the scenes justice. The subdued color sets a very noir atmosphere; and the art conveys the moods, expressions and nuances so perfectly you can feel each throbbing pulsebeat, each unspoken word, each cold shoulder.
Oh -- and there's a killer ending...
20th June 2003, 05:05 AM
by Alan Moore
They have issued it in book form.
When I used to read commics I thought this 12 issue series was the best ever. Moore does take a lot of ideas from Kurt Vonnegut, but it is kind of neat they way Moore creates an almost believable comics universe.
Anyone familiar with this one?
20th June 2003, 06:20 AM
Novaland--Hurray, more reviews! Thanks, and keep it up, I really enjoy reading 'em!
Mike B--I've got a couple of issues of Watchmen, but as distribution so was bad round my neck of the woods I was really pleased when the trade paperback version was released. I've got to say I've never been a big fan of Dave Gibbons' artwork (interesting fact, he actually looks like the people he draws!), but his story telling is second-to-none and makes a great vehicle for Alan Moore's writing. I love the semi-noir feel of the whole thing, which is in both the tone of the writing and the artwork. The themes that Moore introduces are brilliant, the history of the superhero, how superheroes would fit into the "real world", the whole nostalgia for times passed (which weren't quite how people remembered them), and the sly parodies of DC's main characters.
22nd June 2003, 07:13 AM
Hello Billy TK,
I agree with you on Moore and Gibbons.
I especially like the extras at the end of each issue of the Watchmen like supposed excerpts from books, etc.
The Watchmen was very layered with story upon story.
You had the Pirate comic going on as the same time you had all the background information about the Minutemen and other events in the past. Moore was able to fit so much in just 12 issues.
He did an interesting take on Batman and the Joker. I belive it was called, "Killing Joke."
23rd June 2003, 04:51 AM
If you like multi;ayered stories it might be worth tracking down "The New Statesmen" by John Smith and various artists (I think Fleetway are the publishers). It's set a few decades intot he future, and is about a group of genetically enhanced superheroes, and is as much about the effect they have on society as about their do-gooding; it's got background features on their creation, interviews with various characters, discussions about morality of super-beings, and the main story touches similar political bases as Watchmen.
I became a fan of Moore's work after following V for Vendetta in a defunct and sorely missed comic called Warrior. V was about a terrorist who fought against a fascist UK government in the near future (albeit a near future that had more than a passing resemblance to Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four). About the same time he was writing Captain Britain for Marvel UK. CB was a Captain America clone introduced in the 70's, and Moore injected with his usual humour and invention, expanding on the back story and taking sneaky swipes at other superhero characters. When Moore moved onto DC's Swamp thing, I was in comic-book geekboy heaven! Let's see now; he re-invented Swamp Thing's origins with a surreal dream sequence, revised numerous characters--there's one story arc in which the women who becomes his lover is arrested by Gotham PD on suspicion of chlorophilia; he expanded the background mythology and re-invigorated a number of staid characters in the DC line,as well as contributing to DC's renaissance in the early 90s with the Vertigo line and writing some memorable and genuinely horrific stroylines along the way. What a top bloke!
23rd June 2003, 10:53 AM
Hey Billy TK,
Don't forget Alan Moore's "Miracle Man."
He again took the comic hero theme and gave it a little twist.
23rd June 2003, 11:35 PM
Originally posted by BillyTK
--Hurray, more reviews! Thanks, and keep it up, I really enjoy reading 'em!
Thank you. I'm glad you're enjoying them. A fresh batch follows.
If you enjoyed Watchmen, something else you might enjoy that will be coming out in a couple months is Smax, a 5-issue mini-series.
A few years ago, Moore started several series for America's Best Comics, an imprint of Wildstorm (which is in turn an imprint of DC). Two of those series, Promethea and Tom Strong, are still published regularly. Tomorrow Stories, an anthology book of short, mainly humorous stories, fell by the wayside, as did Top 10.
Of the books, Top 10 was my favorite. (Promethea was in close competition, but lagged behind when it got side-tracked into a lengthy exploration of various mystical beliefs at the expense of plot and characterization.) Top 10 was the story of the 10th precinct police station in the city of Neopolis, a city filled with various super-powered beings (and thus requiring a super-human police force). It had an ensemble cast of intriguing and engaging characters, clever plotting, and a good mix of stand-alone stories and continuing plot-lines. It was originally intended to be a series of maxi-series, but so far the original 12-issue run is the only one.
Smax is a spin-off that was promised at the time the first run of Top 10 concluded. Officer Jeff Smax needed to travel back to his home dimension to attend a funeral, and he asked his partner Robyn Slinger to accompany him. This will be the story of that trip. It won't be set in Neopolis, so may not have quite the same charm as its parent series, but if this mini does well it might lead to another run of Top 10 itself.
And, for anyone interested in reading the original run of Top 10 but not able to locate all the back issues, the complete run has been collected in a pair of trade paperbacks.
Two of the stories might be of special interest to some JREFers because of religious issues raised. One centers on a teleportation accident -- 2 ships materialize in the same space, two survivors are partly merged and will die shortly, and officers on the scene try to provide what comfort they can to the doomed victims while other officers try to track down the cause of the accident. The other deals with a barroom death that may be an accident or may be murder. These Norse gods were having a party, and someone thought it would be fun for them to throw darts at this god who's supposed to be safe from harm...
23rd June 2003, 11:37 PM
And while I'm recommending things I don't have in hand...
Empire # 0
written by Mark Waid; drawn by Barry Kitson and James Pascoe
DC; color, 64 pages, $3.95 cover price -- prelude to a 6-issue monthly mini-series
I don't have a copy of this (since it hasn't been published yet), but I already know this is excellent. That's because it's a reprint of the 2 issues of Empire previously released by the (sadly defunct) Gorilla Comics. DC has picked up this title for a 6-issue run, and is reprinting those previous 2 issues in this convenient and affordable package for the benefit of people who missed out before.
This is the story of a future world in which a former super-hero, Golgotha, has taken over the US (for its own good, of course) and is in the process of taking over much of the rest of the world. It is a story of politics and of people -- the various members of Golgotha's entourage, his family, the people who fawn on him and the people who would like to see him removed. While Golgotha appears to be in a Doctor-Doom class as far as powers go, I don't recall it every being specified in the original 2 issues just what his powers are, and it really doesn't matter much, because this is not a story about super-powered battles.
The idea of a super-character deciding to take over the world has been explored before, but never in such detail and never quite so well. The 2 issues published so far were stand-alone stories, each of which packed a powerful emotional punch. This is a very different kind of comic book series, one I am very glad to see getting a second chance and that I hope will continue beyond the 6 issues scheduled.
23rd June 2003, 11:43 PM
Sleeper # 5
written by Ed Brubaker, drawn by Sean Phillips[/size]
WildStorm, color, monthly, $2.95 cover price
Speaking of Alan Moore, those who remember his Tao character from his run on WildCATS a decade ago might like to give Sleeper a look.
The basic premise is this: Holden Carver, whose power is to feel no pain (because he passes it on to other people when he touches them), is pretending to have gone bad in order to infiltrate Tao's crime syndicate. One misstep and he's dead -- and with Tao around, missteps are easy to make.
This is super-hero noir. No colorful costumes, no grandeur, no nobility, no wacky plots to take over the world. Look instead for drab colors, guys hanging out in bars, lots of drinking, lots of swearing, naked people in bed together, betrayals, and pointless inglorious death.
23rd June 2003, 11:57 PM
written by Greg Rucka, drawn by Darick Robertson
Marvel, color, monthly, $2.25 cover price
Once upon a time, long long ago, Wolverine in the comics was actually an original and interesting character. Oh, he wasn't terribly interesting when he first appeared in the Hulk, but when re-introduced a few years later in the all-new, all-different X-Men there was indeed something new and different about him: he was a borderline psychopath.
Most X-Men were well-scrubbed preppies, training at Xavier's to gain better control of their powers. For instance, Jean Grey went there in order to learn how to peel apples telekinetically. Logan was training in order to control a tendency to lose his temper and go berserk.
In the early days of the Fantastic Four, The Thing was always threatening to pound The Human Torch into the dirt. Very quickly, though, it became clear that while the Ben Grimm liked to play-act being tough, he would never really cripple Johhny, no matter how obnoxious Johnny was. That became the template for comic book tough guys: rough exterior, soft center. They talked tough, but you knew it was all in fun and no one was really going to get hurt.
Logan changed that. For a year or two, it made for some interesting conversations with the other X-Men, particularly Storm.
Soon, however, Marvel found that readers liked the idea of a guy who went around beating people up mercilessly. Increasingly, stories were geared to show that people who talked tough and acted tougher were the real heroes. The Punisher (originally introduced as a villain, a satire on the paperback heroes who went around executing criminals) and Wolverine became Marvel's hot heroes. They were given their own books, mini-series, graphic novels, and guest-shots galore. And the stories became less and less interesting, more and more simply excuses for the hero to cut loose on bad people.
I'm as fond of a good (fictional) tough guy as the next pacifist. Two of my favorite paperback series are Donald Hamilton's Matt Helm and Donald Westlake's Parker. Now those guys are tough! They don't go around posturing, the way comic book "tough guys" do. Nor do they need to appear suave, or engage in constant one-upmanship, as certain movie heroes do. (Helm, in fact, goes out of his way to appear less competent than he is.) They don't try to come up with witty one-liners or smart repartee. They just go out and get the job done, crippling or killing friend and foe alike in the process if that's what's needed.
The Punisher and Wolverine, in contrast, were plagued by a certain schizophrenic outlook, due to their comic book existence -- they were constantly talking about how they had no qualms about killing folks who crossed them, but constantly coming up with excuses for non-lethal fist-fights when it came time for action.
The Punisher has recently evolved into an interesting black comedy the last few years, as written by Garth Ennis of Preacher notoriety. I'm not sure I'd characterize the new version of the Punisher as genuinely tough, but he is genuinely nasty.
But this post isn't about that book, so let me get back to the point: Wolverine. Marvel recently cancelled the old Wolverine book and started a new series, with Greg Rucka as writer and Darick Robertson as artist.
If you enjoy hard-boiled mystery novels, this is good stuff. Even though this is a Marvel book (and, presumably, set in the main Marvel universe), there isn't a costume in sight. Nicely detailed, expressive artwork complements a troubled waitress's narrative about the "mean man" who comes to her diner regularly, reads a different book every day, rarely says a word, let alone a friendly one, and on whom she is pinning her hopes.
from Lucy Braddock's private journal
I'm counting on you to make it right. And I'm sorry, I should just say that now. I'm sorry to put this on you.
You didn't ask for this. Hell, you've already got burdens of your own. You don't need mine.
But what else was I supposed to do, huh? Nobody ever believed me when I told them the truth.
What else was I supposed to do? I tried and tried. They didn't listen. They didn't care.
Everyone always wants proof. When it comes to it, though, the only proof they'll take away is my body in a bag. And then it's too late, isn't it?
That's the way it goes. Just another runaway murdered, that's all they'll see. They'll blame it on drugs, or sex, or both, or maybe neither.
They'll make what happened to me mundane, Mean Man. They'll make it forgettable.
That's what scares me the most. Even if you do nothing more, please, do this for me. My name is Lucy Braddock. Don't forget me.
24th June 2003, 12:07 AM
Sweatshop # 1 & 2
written by Peter Bagge, drawn by Bagge, and Stephen DeStefano, and Bill Wray
DC, color, monthly, $2.95 cover price
What's worse than selling out? Selling out and failing!
Sweatshop is a comic book about a comic strip -- "Freddy Ferrett", a stale, worn-out daily strip which is owned by Mel Bowling (who makes a good living off the strip and its merchandising) but is actually produced by a cast of underpaid (and uncredited) assistants.
In the first issue, Mel (as right-wing as they come) hires a new gag writer, Elliot (as left-wing as they come). Elliot would like to do his own strip but can't interest any syndicates because his politics are "a little too liberal for them." (The samples of his strip look a lot like "The Boondocks", except not so conservative-friendly.)
In another story that issue, Mel is in competition with a rival cartoonist for a prestigious cartooning award. Neither of these men actually produces his own strip. Mel's rival is thought to have a better shot at the award because of the recent controversial, but critically-acclaimed, development of having one of the hamsters in his strip come out as gay -- a development his assistants had come up with and he'd fought every step of the way until he discovered it was being applauded.
In the second issue, Nick Calimari (another of the assistants) creates wicked parodies of Mel's strip which accidentally fall into Mel's hands. Mel assumes the strips must have been done by Elliot, and calls in Nick to give him advice on how to handle the "left-wing, two-faced" traitor.
In a second story, Carrie, ("Mel Bowling's least ambitious assistant"), is approached by the new Women's Time cable network about using her self-published mini-comic "Carrie's Diary" as the basis for an animated series. Mel, on hearing this, insists on coming along to help with the negotiations...
Unless you are already familiar with Bagge's work (on Hate or The Bradleys, for instance), it's hard for me to describe the charm of Bagge's distinctive art style. I think this is very funny stuff, but tastes may differ.
This is, however, a 100% paranormal-free comic, so even for the humor-challenged among you I commend this to your attention.
24th June 2003, 12:12 AM
Batman: Gotham Knights # 41
DC, color, 40 pages, monthly, $2.75 cover price
The lead feature in this issue, "Rubber Soul" by Scott Beatty and Toby Cypress, stars Batman, with guest stars Sue Dibney and her husband Ralph (the Elongated Man). It's a pleasant lightweight entertainment.
The Batman: Black & White back-up feature, "I'll Be Watching" by Ed Brubaker and Ryan Sook, is what makes this issue well worth buying and owning. It's about a man Batman catches who begs for mercy.
No, oh God, no. I'm not like that. I never fired a gun in my life.
I mean, I done some bad stuff, stealing, fighting, stuff like that. But I was just comin' along tonight for the show. I didn't think --
(Batman): No, you didn't.
Gimme another chance, please...?
I'm not a bad guy, I swear. I can turn my life around. Just gimme another chance.
Don't put me back behind bars.
This is a beautifully-told 8-pager, the kind of story you can feel good about spending money on.
24th June 2003, 12:20 AM
Nightwing # 81
written by Devin Grayson, drawn by Rick Leonardi and Jesse Delperdang
DC, color, monthly, $2.25 cover price.
Speaking of Batman (or Batman-related) books worth buying: how can any rational person pass up a comic with a story entitled "Venn Diagram"? (Doesn't that make you want to go out and buy a complete set?)
The title's not the only good thing in this book about the adventures of Dick Grayson as chronicled by Devin Grayson. Of course, Devin is a woman, and Dick is a man, but she's been doing a great job of bringing him to life.
In this issue -- part 2 of a 3-part story pitting Nightwing against the assassin Deathstroke -- Dick spends much of the issue in a hospital bed being interviewed by a rather aggressive reporter, while his friend Cassandra (the new Batgirl) keeps Deathstroke out of mischief. Dick manages to get out of the hospital and figure out who Deathstroke's target is just in time for a great gotta-see-what-happens-next ending.
I especially enjoy the friendship between Grayson and his police captain, Amy Rohrback.
Amy Rohrbach: Is everything all right, Grayson? How's your arm?
Dick Grayson: I'm fine.
Is that "I'm fine," as in the hospital said you were fit to resume work? Or "I'm fine," as in I'll be damned if I'll ever admit to physical vulnerability in any way, shape, or form?
24th June 2003, 06:27 AM
Nova Land Great reviews! Thanks! And speaking of the idea of a super-character deciding to take over the world...
Hi Mike B, how could I forget Miracle Man (or Marvel Man as he was originally known in the UK before Marvel Comics started waving a huge law suit at the publishers). I really loved the way Moore took a 50's era superhero, revised him for the 80's and still managed to incorporate the original 50's stories into the new mythos. It had a rich supporting cast, lots of the kind of intrique that Moore does so well, and Marvel Dog as well! When Miracle Man got picked up by US publishers, I lost track because of poor distribution, and the issues I was able to pick up were kind of disappointing because the new artist's style (Rick Veitch, if memory serves) was more cartoony than previous artists gary Leach and Alan Davis, and the series lost out because of it. Then I picked up issue 17, when Gaiman picked up the book after Moore had Miracleman do the obvious thing and take over the world... wow!
13th July 2003, 02:45 AM
Batman: Gotham Adventures # 59, April 2003
written by Scott Peterson, drawn by ?
DC; standard color comic
This title has been cancelled; the issue referred to came out several months ago. I don't usually buy this comic, but I read and took notes on this particular issue a few months ago, originally intending to quote from it to post in a thread in R & P about the difference between legality and morality.
Alas, I wasn't able to post while that thread was active. Rather than revive that thread so long afterwards, I thought I'd mention this as a (sort-of) current comic, as it is very definitely worth a look.
In the story, an executive at WayneTech (Bruce Wayne's company) is being menaced by masked thugs. After fighting with them, Batman suspects that some of them are men working as WayneTech security guards. He sets a trap for them as Bruce Wayne, and apprehends them.
Dirk (the executive): Call the police! I want these men put away for life.
Bruce Wayne: The police are waiting downstairs. Amends will be made.
These men broke the law. They'll have to answer for that. I don't think they'll be going to prison, however.
Because I've retained the best law firm in the city to represent them.
You see, this is largely my fault. I trusted you, Dirk. When you said profits were down and we had to trim personnel, I went along with it. And I didn't even pay attention when you cut retirement benefits, or made unpaid overtime mandatory.
Meanwhile, the company was paying for your apartment, your car, your driver, your plane, your boat and even your phone. You were making 30 million dollars a year and you can't even pay for your own phone?
Yes. You're fired, Dirk.
You can't do that! I have a contract!
I know. You're fired anyway.
(one of the unmasked thugs): Mister Wayne... Why?
Because I'm the owner of the company. I have responsibilities. It's my job to provide a good product to the consumer, to make sure it's done legally, and to take care of my employees.
I clearly wasn't doing the last one.
Charley's going to sue you. Any chance you'll win that lawsuit?
You never know with juries. But -- no, probably not.
Then why'd you do it?
Because you don't choose your fights by whether you're going to win or not. You choose according to whether it's right or not.
What Dirk did may have been legal, but it wasn't right. What I did just now may not have been legal, but it was right.
NOTE: DC has replaced Batman: Gotham Adventures with Batman Adventures, which is similar in style and tone. The new book is enjoyable, though the stories are not generally as noteworthy as the one quoted above.
Batman Adventures is, like its predecessor Batman: Gotham Adventures, a nice comic for all ages -- light, enjoyable, with strong humanistic values, as well as being largely non-paranormal. (Scientifically dubious a lot of the time, but what's a little physics among friends?)
The issue of B:GA quoted above is an especially good issue, worth looking for if you want to buy someone a comic book as a gift, and likely still available cheaply as a back issue.
19th July 2003, 01:16 AM
Amazing Spider-Man # 55
Written by Fiona Avery and J Michael Straczynski
Drawn by John Romita Jr and Scott Hanna
Marvel; monthly; color; $2.25 cover price
This is a great story about Peter Parker, a high-school biology teacher. Almost every page is filled with well-told incidents, and much of the dialogue is good enough that it would not be out of place in one of the better Buffy episodes.
The basic story is about Parker befriending and helping out a girl who is having trouble with her school-work. It later turns out that one reason she is having troubles is that her older brother is a youthful carjacker whom Peter helped put in jail.
In a late-night conversation with a friend, Parker sums up the what's eating at him: "... you can't foresee all the possible consequences. You do "A" because it's a good thing. But "A" has consequence "B" which is a bad thing for someone else. Sometimes I focus so much on what I'm doing right now to fix something, that I forget even bad guys have families."
There are a lot of good scenes and fun bits in this story. I enjoyed a scene where Parker is walking Melissa home and they encounter several hooligans. Parker responds by whipping out his cell phone: "I'll have you know I have a cell phone, and I'm not afraid to use it." (Melissa is not impressed, and they argue briefly about whether Parker is a geek or a nerd.)
This is a nice humane story that leaves the reader feeling good even though it raises questions that don't have easy answers.
At the end of the story, there are several pages in which Parker dresses up in a funny red-and-blue costume and gets into a fight. I assume this is intended to make the book more attractive to young readers, who may expect this kind of thing in their comics. It's a bit silly to see a grown man doing this, but the rest of the story is so good that this doesn't really detract much from it.
19th July 2003, 01:34 AM
Daredevil # 49: "Hardcore", part 4 of 5
written by Brian Michael Bendis, drawn by Alex Maleev
Wolverine # 2: "Brotherhood", part 2
written by Greg Rucka, drawn by Darick Robertson and Tom Palmer
The Crew # 2: "Big Trouble In Little Mogadishu", part 2
written by Christopher Priest, drawn by Joe Bennett
Fantastic Four # 500: "Unthinkable, part 4 of 4
written by Mark Waid, drawn by Mike Wieringo and Karl Kesel
Alias # 23: "The Secret Origin of Jessica Jones", part 2
written by Brian Bendis, drawn by Michael Gaydos
I've mentioned these titles previously as being worth a look. They still are.
The "Hardcore" storyline in Daredevil is just that. This issue features a 10-page fight that is brutal, not so much for the physical confrontation between Daredevil and Bullseye as for the things Daredevil says to Bullseye.
Wolverine. In chapter 2 of this crime novel, Wolverine begins to track down the killers from chapter 1. Instead of the stupidity often displayed in action movies (and previous incarnations of the Wolverine character), Logan as written by Rucka demonstrates intelligence and competence in his methods of extracting information from the gun dealers who supplied the killers with their weapons.
The first issue of The Crew focused on James Rhodes; this second one focuses on Kevin ("Kasper") Cole. While there are some paranormal elements in the background (Cole takes special herbs that give him enhanced senses and abilities), this tale of a black Jewish cop with a pregnant white Catholic fiancee is a mostly-down-to-earth cross between a noir crime thriller and a black comedy. Ma's been cooking again. I can tell by the cats running circles in the alley.
Insert key. Leave genitals at the doorThe ending gives a good example of the flavor. Cole is pinned down in a wrecked subway station by dozens of heavily-armed gangsters. There are too many for him to shoot them all, and they're starting to advance on the rubble he's crouched behind, with their guns firing steadily to keep him pinned. Just then his cell phone rings...Kevin -- it's your mother.
Listen, dear, about the laundry... you know how she overreacts. Besides, I have lots of clothes I don't wear anymore. Plenty in her size, dear.
When will you be home? I've got some nice A Gahntze Tzimmes in the oven...
In Fantastic Four, Dr. Doom has abandoned his scientific schemes and turned to magic. While Reed Richards has shown himself time and again to be Doom's superior at science, Richards now needs to be better than Doom at magic -- and Richards' inability to believe in magic is making it extremely difficult for him to learn and master it.
The well-established presence of magic and the supernatural in the Marvel Universe makes the question of what super-scientists such as Richards think when they team up with Doctor Strange or fight against villains such as Mephisto a logical one to deal with. It's surprising no one thought to do this story before, but that's one of the things that makes Waid such an enjoyable comics writer, his ability to come up with the questions you then realize someone should have asked years ago.
There are some funny scenes with Doc Strange trying to teach magic to Richards, a satisfying solution to the problem of how to defeat Doom, and a chilling ending that sets up the next storyline.
It's a shame that Marvel has fired Waid. Enjoy the next 8 issues (which will finish off Waid's run on this book) while they last.
In Alias, Bendis continues to display dazzling skill at telling a story largely through the use of 4-letter words.
Apart from the sound effect PLUUNK and the exclamation "Aaaaggghhiieee!!!!" there are 9 words of dialogue on page 10 and the only one I would be permitted to quote fully in this post is "oh".
Page 14 recounts Jessica's historic first encounter with Thor, who is flying by and saves Jessica from drowning. He puts her down on a pier, at which point Jessica vomits over Thor's boots.
Jessica: > Huag < !! (Sorry.)
Thor: Young maiden of Midgard, thy language leaves something to be desired.
Jessica's meeting with Peter Parker (who was a student at the same high school as Jessica, and was bullied by some of the same people who pick on Jessica) is also a classic.
Peter: "I just saw what happened. That Flash is a real class-A jerk."
Jessica: [comments on the shape of Flash Thompson's head, his intellectual capacity, and his attitude toward sex]
Peter: "I, uh -- okay. I wouldn't put it in those words exactly, but --"
19th July 2003, 10:39 AM
Strangers In Paradise # 58
"A Flower To Flame"
written and drawn by Terry Moore
Abstract Studio; 24 pages, b & w; about 8 issues yearly; $2.95 cover price"Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends." -- 1 Corinthians 13:7-8
"Love Sucks" -- KatchooThis is back to being one of the top 2 comics currently published. Comedy and tragedy, true love and true lust, art, poetry and music -- this series has all the good stuff, beautifully done and brilliantly balanced.
And there are no paranormal elements.
This is not only an outstanding issue of an outstanding series, it is also a good jumping-on point for new readers. While there are major -- MAJOR! -- developments in the ongoing story this issue, all the scenes are understandable and enjoyable without even knowing any of the back-story. You don't need to know who Katchoo is to enjoy her truck-buying episode. You don't need to know who Francine is to be heart-broken by her visit to the doctor. You don't need to know who Casey is to enjoy her singing as she makes a salad. And you don't need to know who Sara is, because this is her introduction to the series.The first time I saw Sara she was a tall silhouette in the door to summer... She was so bright I needed sun-glasses just to look at her.
She leaned into the room and the sun pulled off her like a sheet, revealing the most drop-dead gorgeous woman I've ever seen.
>Knock, Knock< "Hello? I'm looking for Katina Choovanski?"
"You've found her."
"Omigod... It's really you! Hi! I'm Sara Fitz-" >KRASH !<
And just like that Sara Fitz became somebody I had to know better.
I wondered if she was an Elvis fan...
19th July 2003, 11:34 AM
Fade From Blue # 7
written by Myatt Murphy, drawn by Scott Dalrymple
Second To Some; 32 pages, b & w; bi-monthly?; $1.50 cover price!
From the inside front cover: "If this is your first issue of Fade From Blue... oh man, do YOU have some catching up to do!" That's followed by almost 50 lines, about 25 words per line, introducing the four half-sisters who are the heart of this book and explaining what's going on with them.
The recap concludes: "Got all that? I know -- that's a lot of story to absorb in one shot, right? Hey, did you know we have a trade paperback coming out in July that has issues 1 through 5 in it... Besides, if you want comics that are nothing but big pictures and no words, you can find stacks of them in the 'four for a buck' boxes. (Just ask any over-weight, under-washed 40-year-old virgin and he'll point the way!) You get your money's worth here, people!"
Indeed you do.
I've mentioned this book before, and this issue continues to feature the same good things as then, in the same generous quantities. But why I had to mention this issue in particular is the sequence (pp 7 - 8) of Sheila and Christa watching what looks like John Edward's "Crossing Over" show on television.
Sheila: OOH! Shut up for a second! I love this show!
Christa: Oh, please! Don't keep this crap on! Please tell me you don't watch this.
What are you talking about? I love this guy!
He's a fraud!
Fine, smart ass! Tell me how he does it then!
Does what? Imitate a walking fish? Look at those buggy eyes! It's like staring at a six-foot carp in a crew neck.
You know, talk to dead people?
Easy. He doesn't. He's a freakin' mentalist.
A mentalist. It's all psychological mumbo-jumbo.
Listen to him! All he's doing is blurting out a vague scenario that can pertain to anyone and waits until someone is desperate enough to find themselves in his description.
It's no different than writing a horoscope. Say it in the right way and every loser finds themselves somewhere between the lines because they want to.
How can you deny this stuff ?!? Look at that! He just told this woman that her dead sister wants to recognize the time they ate chocolate and gabbed all night about being hot for the same bagboy.
Yeah, like that's not a scenario anyone with ovaries hasn't experienced in their lifetime!
> psst! I see stupid people. <
You're such a killjoy, you know that.
I'm just a realist. No different than Corot or Millet.
Yeah, well, they're both dead.
I know. Maybe they can channel this bug-eyed loser and tell him to wear better sweaters...
Hey! How do you know so much about mentalists, ansyway? Did you do an article about them or something?
My dad used to be one.
Get out of town!
Would I lie to you?
True. But would I lie to you if I couldn't derive any amusement from it?
Hmm. Got me there.As with any good comic, there's a lot more going on in the panels than you can pick up simply from reading the dialogue. I strongly recommend this for anyone who appreciates great comics. The pro-skepticism propaganda is just a delightful bonus in an already delightful package.
21st July 2003, 04:00 AM
I'm surprised the Spawn comics by Todd McFarlane haven't come up. Whilst hardly very 'skeptical' in base, the creator is a self-confessed atheist who kind of reworks the whole 'Holy Battle' story of Heaven vs. Hell.
5th November 2003, 12:11 AM
Captain Marvel # 13
written by Peter David; drawn by Michael Ryan and Chris Sotomayor
Marvel; monthly; $2.99 cover price
(Okay, this isn't current. What can I say? At the moment I <s>am confined to kittynh's basement and limited to the comics she is able to confiscate from students</s> do not have access to the most recent comics. But this one is recent enough that you can probably still find it without too much difficulty.)
Those of you who have been following this series (or my previous reviews of it) are probably aware that the title character, Captain Marvel, (a) has near-godlike powers, (b) thinks he is god, and (c) is insane.
In the current issue, the Illerans (not to be confused with the US) have invaded Kahafan (not to be confused with Iraq) in order to free the inhabitants from the brutal yoke of oppression they were living under.Unfortunately, the Illerans have had to remain on the planet in order to maintain order, and the Kahfans do not seem properly grateful for this...
Enter Captain Marvel, who arrives just in time to save the Illeran occupiers from a menace that crops up. The Illerans are grateful.
But then Captain Marvel stays on. And just as the Illerans have attempted to impose their values on the Kahfans, CM attempts to impose his values on the Illerans. Captain Marvel: So I'm afraid your system of religion simply won't do.
You see, once you had amultiple deity pantheon, and that was coherent. Different gods, different personalitieis, different activities.
You could blame various different gods for misfortune and thank others for blessings.
But this monotheistic tripe you spout now... It just won't do. It leaves you with just one god with a severe multiple personality disorder.
An obvious madman. A malignant thug.
... if you're intent on worshipping a madman, then you need look no further than me...For those with a dark and warped sense of humor, Captain Marvel is an entertaining and provocative comic. This particular issue is a good one for those unfamiliar with the series to sample, since it features a complete-in-one-issue story.
last edited by kittynh on 11-05-2003 at 4:15 AM
5th November 2003, 12:35 AM
Wonder Woman # 195: "The Mission"
written by Greg Rucka, drawn by Drew Johnson and Ray Snyder
DC; monthly; $2.25 cover price
(Okay, this isn't a current comic, but it's not more than a couple months old.) I'm hoping Kitty can confiscate the next issue or two for me soon, so I can see what happens next.)
Wonder Woman has gone back and forth over the years between being portrayed as a fierce warrior and as an ambassador of peace. With this issue, Greg Rucka takes over as writer and the emphasis is once more solidly on the latter aspect. While in the past she has often been referred to figuratively as an ambassador of peace, here she is a literal ambassador (of Themyscira, the island she comes from).
Warrior women are in plentiful supply (in comics, at least), but peacemakers are rarer, so it is good to see Diana once again embracing positive ideals. (Especially nice is the revelation that Diana is a vegetarian.)
Diana has only a small role in this issue, with the focus on introducing the new supporting cast (the people working in the embassy). There are a number of good bits and pieces, such as a cameo appearance by Superman. Also nice are references to real-world groups such as Amnesty International, the Souther Poverty Law Center, and the ACLU.
One of the best sequences in the issue concerns a meeting between Diana's legal staff and representatives of a publishing house about a book of essays Diana has written. The publishing company pitches the cover design they would like to do -- book title, cover picture, cover copy -- and Diana's people then show the cover design Diana wants. I wish I had a scanner, because you need to see this to appreciate it fully, but the essential point is that Diana's version is simple, straightforward, non-manipulative and non-exploitative (and elegant to boot).
To me, that puts Diana in the rationalist camp. Irrationalists rely on sensationalism to sell their material. (Look at the covers of supermarket tabloids, or of paperbacks that promote paranormal beliefs, for examples.) It is sometimes tempting to try to fight fire with fire -- to use irrational sensationalism to try to sell people on rationality. But the means one uses shape the ends one attains. Irrational methods promote irrationality even when used for rational causes.
Diana, in this sequence, comes down on the side of using means one can feel good about -- means that appeal to the best in people rather than the worst. She has enough faith in the truth of what she is saying that she doesn't need to dress it up with sex appeal or other glitter. I like that, and think that's a pretty heroic stand for a comic book character to take.
5th November 2003, 12:42 AM
Iron Man # 73 (or # 418)
written by John Miller; drawn by Jorge Lucas
Marvel; monthly; $2.99 cover price
This is chapter one of "The Best Defense," the start of a new direction for the character.
From time to time, comics writers have asked -- what if the hero were faced with a problem that couldn't be solved by punching people out and blowing things up? -- and some interesting stories have resulted. The current Iron Man storyline raises and explores just such a problem.
Basically, the problem is this. Years ago Tony Stark was a right-wing munitions manufacturer who made a fortune selling weapons systems to the US government. Over time he matured, moved leftward, and refused to build any more weapons or to allow any of his technology to be used for military purposes. The US government is not happy about this, and has for many years been trying to do something about it. An error Tony Stark made recently has allowed the US government to legally appropriate a great deal of technology that Stark thought he had protected.
Other writers have dealt with variations of this problem in the past, but Miller has come up with a brilliant new idea for how Stark intends to deal with it. I don't want to give away Stark's solution (although I've posted a link with information about it below), but I will say that it is intriguing enough that I recently subscribed to Iron Man (a title I had not been buying) based solely on advance news about this development.
The highlight of the issue is a nicely-done 5-page conversation between Iron Man and Captain America. That leads into a climactic fight (strictly verbal) between Iron Man and an Under-Secretary in the Defense Department, and that in turn leads into the startling last-page development.
Spoiler warning: For those who don't already know what that development is, and would like to know more before looking up (or buying) the comic itself, here is a news story that discusses this storyline in greater detail. (http://www.strange-haven.com/news/070603/news2.html)
6th November 2003, 07:16 AM
When did Marvel get so left-wing? Last time I looked (the mid-90s) DC had the leftfield stuff covered with their Vertigo imprint and Marvel was doing all these reactionary "Ultimate..." books and endless variations on The Punisher. I'm not complaining btw, just making an observation :D
12th November 2003, 10:46 AM
Rather sad, someone else that reads as many comics as I.
I've scanned through it so far, but have one more title to add.
Scars - the entire mini not a specific issue.
Written by Warren Ellis
12th November 2003, 10:54 AM
I've just discovered Y: The Last Man (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1563899809/102-8726558-2344957). Very cool, and with one of the best lines I've read all year:
"Who are they? Terrorists?
14th November 2003, 01:19 PM
Reading your reviews and compiling a list of books to look for next time I visit the shop. Thanks.
Here's a deal:
CONAN: THE LEGEND #0
words by Kurt Busiek; art by Cary Nord.
Dark Horse; $0.25 cover price.
Twenty pages of story plus a three-page sketchbook. I assume the price is an industry ploy to lure readers who would be unwilling to fork over $3.00 for a character who hasn't (as far as I know) been used for quite a few years. It worked with me.
The story is obviously an introductory piece, with Conan established as the mighty king who, like Arthur, will return in a time of need. Busiek's done some nice work in the past (Astro City, Avengers), so I hope he can create a compelling Conan yarn.
Definitely worth a look at the price. Nice artwork by Nord, who I believe is a newcomer to professional comics.
16th November 2003, 10:02 PM
Queen and Country, written by Greg Rucka ( and earlier mentioned by Nova) just finished a mission storyline and will begin a new one next issue (#21). This latest one, "Stormfront," was a doozy. Greg Rucka (and artist Carla Speed McNeil with the cover of issue #20) did a great job of building a certain expectation, only to have things take a different, more satisfying route. This is espionage without all the "Alias" (tv show, not comic) gimmickry, and a shootout isn't the only way to get out of every situation.
My only gripe with the series is that a new artist comes on board for each mission storyline. It seems that just as I've adjusted to seeing the characters drawn a new way, a new artist comes along. It can be somewhat disconcerting.
7th March 2004, 12:44 PM
I was at the store yesterday buying a gift for my niece, and I happened to pick up The Book of Bunny Suicides (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0452285186/qid=1078692309//ref=sr_8_xs_ap_i1_xgl14/104-5458346-4847913?v=glance&s=books&n=507846) , it was the funniest comic that I've read in a while. I couldn't find any on the web to link to, but the next time you are in a book store, it's definitely worth checking out.
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