Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Pete and Repeat are In a Boat...


I know I allready posted the new Scott Pilgrim cover today, but then I ran into this totally bad-ass Sharknife! Volume 2 cover.

Sharknife!, while it doesn't posses the same indie-rock heart as Scott Pilgrim, is groovy as all get-out, and Corey Lewis draws fighters so dynamic, you're likely to get punched in the face while reading it. What other comic gives you a list of the hero's special moves?

Check out Corey Lewis' Sharknife Website!

Also, the new cover references The Hieroglyphics, who are unbelievable.

God bless Oni Press.


Tuesday, September 27, 2005


This is the first time I've seen this, poached off of Amazon.

Check out Bryan Lee O'Malley's website if you think this cover is as awesome as it ACTUALLY IS. Radio Maru

The only way this could make me happier is if it were called "Scott Pilgrim 3: Now With More Kimberly Pine"!


Sunday, September 11, 2005

Pull List and Reviews for 09/08

We’re gonna try something a little different this week!
Since I ACTUALLY got down to the store, and ACTUALLY had money to buy books… ta-da! Reviews of what came out this week, plus a few other things in my box and what I actually thought of them…

At Least This Week, The Books Were Late!

Pull/Review List from 09/08:

- Serenity #3 – Wash Cover!

For a book that has Wash on the cover, there was sadly little Alan Tudyk action on the inside.

This is the finale of Serenity, an series that leads right into the movie of the same name that opens at the end of the month. Based on Joss Whedon's show Firefly, if you like the show, if you’re going to see the movie, then you’ll probably like this comic. Sadly, I didn't see much in this book to draw the average comic reader towards the box-office on the 30th, as something about the show’s characterizations and pace is lost when adapted to tiny boxes. Much of that can be attributed to the truly excellent acting on the show, but also the story inside is a bit rushed, probably to get all the issues out in time for the movie. Had they given it a little more time, we could have gotten more of the people, a better set up for the villains, and perhaps a little clearer depiction of the action, which gets a little confusing as to what’s actually happening in the end of the book.

If this was your first dip into the Firefly universe, go see the movie or Netflix the show anyway. And if you’re buying it because you love the show as much as I do, hell, this review is meaningless anyway.

- Ex Machina Vol 2. – Tag;


Even in trade format, how they haunt me.

This second arc about a superhero that becomes Mayor of New York delves further into the extra-terrestrial source of Mayor Hundred’s ability to talk to machinery, and how exposure to it hasn’t affected everyone else in such a positive way. It’s a good superhero story in of itself, but that’s not REALLY what this book is about.

Vaughn uses science fiction, like any good sci-fi writer, as a springboard to discuss social issues, from School Vouchers to Same-Sex Marriage. While I don’t agree with everything said in the book, and Mayor Hundred sounds a bit pompous occasionally, I fully buy that’s how the characters would express their beliefs.

On top of that, he tackles something that I haven’t seen tried anywhere else, and that’s an Elseworlds-esque take on the bombings in New York on September 11th. In the book, the main character is an engineer, a superhero who can talk to machines. So when one plane crashes into a skyscraper in his hometown, he rockets (literally), to the towers, and commands the second plane to land, saving thousands of lives. It’s respectfully executed, realistically done, and just really bold of someone to do.

While I do tend to be a bit writer-centric, again Vaughn has found a team of artists who manage to illustrate his story stunningly. Tony Harris’ pencils manage to give ludicrous things like The Great Machine’s costume a layer of humanity on top of the fantastic, while still creating a realistic New York and it’s populous. People have different body types and are expressive, something which I appreciate more and more. Tom Feister and JD Metter on respective inks and colors bring the book alive. Applause all around.

- Gotham Central #35;

This is the best book DC or Marvel is publishing.

Another great chapter of this story of dead Robins, a concept witch was inspired to begin with.

Buy it, add it to your sub-list, order the first two trades and feverishly hunt down all of the back issues.

- Villains United #5 of 6;

People seem to be going bat-shit over this series, but to me, it’s lost some steam since the first issue. Gail Simone pulled a great slight-of-hand when the book came out, changing the focus from what people assumed was going to be the Secret Society of Super Villains and instead giving us principles like Ragdoll, Cheshire, Deadshot and Cat-Man of all people. But as of a few issues ago, we’re getting a bit too much “behind the closed doors of the society” nonsense, where instead of spending more time with the mismatched characters that make the book interesting, we get to see Lex Luthor in a meeting with Vandal Savage. While it provides for a few humorous quips, it lacks substance. Cat-Man and the rest suffer a bit, sort of just re-saying and re-doing everything they’ve been saying and doing for three issues now. Even the big, two-page “LOOKIE ALL THE VILLIANS” spread seems a bit stale five issues in.

Also of note, two characters who haven’t appeared since the first Crisis show up, something that is explained and speculated on with far more detail and expertise here, as my pre-Crisis DC lore is rusty, at best.

- Y: The Last Man #37;

I need to change my background image to one of Greg Rucka and Brian K. Vaughn skipping hand-in-hand, happy that they’re bringing good comics to me near weekly. It seems every Pull List now, I’m writing up 3 or 4 books I’m sort of lukewarm on, and then doing back flips over something put out by one of these two gentlemen. Coincidence? Fanboy over-hype? Simply good writing? I choose the later.

Yorick Brown’s story continues as he finally reaches the place he set out for in issue one – Australia. GOD, TAKE FOREVER, YORICK. So what, there were no trains to the coast! So what you couldn’t take a plane! So what you had to contend with Lesbian Pirates! Beth’s not going to wait around forever, there are other fish in the sea… oh yeah, “last man on earth.”

This ish is told from the point of view of a reporter hunting down rumors of that aforementioned last man, and it affords Vaughn the opportunity for lots of winking and nodding at the reader regarding our hero’s previous adventures, and boy does he take them! It’s still a damn good read, and with only twenty-some issues to go in the series, I hold each issue even dearer than the one before.

Also in this issue: COCK!

- Ultimate Spider-Man #82;

I don’t know what it is about the way Bagley draws Black Cat, but she reminds me of a girl i knew from high school. It’s not so much the way she looks, but it’s the black, latex cat suit.

Wait. Reverse that.

Anyway, damn. For all the nonsense Spider-Man puts up with in the Ultimate Universe, he forever out-pimps both his regular Marvel U counterpart and Luke Cage combined. He gets a new girlfriend in the Annual, and now the Black Cat comes back and all but jumps his barely post-pubescent bones. We also get a little taste of Moon-Knight who is, not suprisingly, less interesting than either Spidey, Black Cat or Elektra, also in this book. I know Marvel’s trying to re-vamp him a bit, but don’t we have team-up books or crappy, regular Marvel Universe Spider-Man books you can toss Moon Knight in? Put him in New Avengers or something, there’s enough going on in this title.

So that’s it, kind of a slow week. Tomorrow or Tuesday I’m back with some reviews of books released weeeeeks ago that I finally bought (The Sacrifice arc and it’s aftermath, mostly), as well as an article on that pesky game Animal Crossing, which has sapped most of my time for writing into it’s vortex of pretend fishing and pretend paleontology.


- One last time; For Lily.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Bookshelf: A Trio of Trade Reviews

I picked up three trades this week, so I'm going to jump right into it

- Runaways Vol. 3;

Brian K. Vaughn’s Runaways is the little book that can, and does.

In this case, it’s a literal little book as they’ve reprinted the first 18 issues in three digest-sized volumes. I used to look over at the bookshelves at the store, eye-balling digests with confusion and disgust. Sin City is where it began for me. When they canceled the good, old fashioned, 8 by 11 trades and began only publishing Miller’s fantastic looking noir in tiny pages, I was annoyed and frustrated. But when I found out that Runaways was only being published two ways, in three travel-friendly digests and a hardcover. I’m damned picky about my hardcover comics. I like to keep them nice, the slip-covers damage so easily and they’re typically big, in this case 18 issues. So I sucked it up and dropped the 7.99 on the first trade.

To almost no surprise I flipped over it. It’s Vaughn, so the writing is razor sharp, but I feel that with Runaways he’s stretching the reference rubber band a might bit thin, a reference to The West Wing in volume three being the most strained of the bunch. It’s a tiny problem, but one I felt needed mentioning.

Runaways immediately garners some respect from me by being a team book full of original characters, a concept that can seriously miss. And oddly, through 18 issues, Wolverine doesn't show up. Marvel Editorial must have been asleep at the wheel on that one. Thankfully, Vaughn decides instead of linking them together by a similar super-power or ability, he links them by a more common theme: our parents are evil. The Runaways are a group of teens (and a pre-teen), that find out one day that their parents are super-villains, and not the “ground you on the weekend of the big party” super-villains, they’re a group of super-villains with capes and costumes and human sacrifices. So, keeping with the title, they band together and run away.

The most immediate benefit to the book, and the reader, is that instead of forcing characters into the personality to match powers in the theme of animals or elements or types of candy or whatever, Vaughn gets to use characters that seem like real kids. My favorite is Molly, the junior high-schooler who could kick the Hulk’s ass. One of the other Runaways gives her the nickname “Bruiser”, but she demands to be called “Power Princess.” She says that while punching her way through solid rock walls. Just awesome.

Vaughn gets a lot of attention as he's one of the popular new kids in the comics class, but Adrian Alphona’s art is extremely pretty. Like almost everything else, it’s heavily influenced by manga, but it works for this book. The characters all look… different. I know that sounds silly, but when you browse through a book like New Avengers, or even something less mainstream like Blue Monday and you can’t tell the characters apart from page to page, well… you learn to appreciate characters without their costumes looking like different people. Unfortunately, the book's art suffers the most from the format, as it's not only shrunken down, but also has it's colors washed out from the cheaper paper-stock. I assume the hardcover will shine in this respect.

In this volume, we learn the truth about the traitor, find out what’s in The Pride’s codec, and see which direction the teen’s hormones ping-pong off in. It’s some good, good stuff, pick it up, either in hardcover, or these adorable little digests.

- Superman/Batman Vol 3, Absolute Power

Superman/Batman is a fine book for punchings. Sometimes the punchings are good, as in volume one when Superman and Batman hand out said punches to the somewhat sanctimonius Hawkman and Captain Marvel. Sometimes it’s not, as in volume two, when Batman punches Darkseid. Yes. Darkseid. Yes. Batman. Boo.
After reading volume three, I found it to be excellent, both for punchings and for some more crazy things, like time-travel and dimension hoppings.

Carlos Pacheco takes up art duties and does his usual bang-up job. But, oh, the things Jeff Loeb gives him to draw! My golly! This story starts when Lightning Lord, Saturn Queen, and Cosmic King go back in time and scoop up the wee versions of Superman and Batman to raise them as their own. Now, what would having the most powerful brawn and the most powerful brain on Earth loyal to you get? Well, for one, the Statue of Liberty is now the Statue of Batman and Superman, it’s new inscription reading “OBEY OR DIE!”

I love this stuff. The whole alternate time-lines and possible future stuff tickles me pink. I get all tingly in my nethers whenever I read a good Elseworlds or What If...? story. It frees up writers to explore the characters further, boil them down to their essence and then send that essence in a new, sometimes crazy direction. It’s what makes the Elseworlds line so popular and effective in it’s storytelling, but those are typcially "imaginary stories*". When you find a way to throw these stories into continuity like in this, and the time-traveling Teen Titans story-arc a few arcs back, the writers get to do a little more, and add some foreshadowing on the upcoming arcs.

This story has a Wonder Woman/Freedom Fighters team up, Uncle Sam with a Power Ring, JLA Zombies, Ra’s Al Ghul, Jonah Hex, Kryptonite bullets, and some New Gods. Most importantly, I had no idea what was going to happen from page to page, something that’s rare in a comic nowadays. Good stuff.

- The Cute Manifesto by James Kochalka

A mild way to describe the James Kochalka catalog would be “diverse”. The man can put out a huge book of stories about a cat who thinks she works in an office and wears various hats, or a semi-erotic story about a frog in his sexy forrest. And he puts it all out consistently and constantly. In the last month alone, he released both SuperF*ckers!, a sort-of super-team book, and The Cute Manifesto, a collection of graphic essays on everything from the state of comics to his decision to have a child. The one I intrested in was The Cute Manifesto, and after reading it, I was unforunately dissapointed. As it's a collection of essays, I'm going to tackle each one individually.

Craft is the Enemy & Craft is Not a Friend;
Ok, well, maybe not INDIVIDUALLY individually, but these two are so similar in tone and content that they have to be talked about together. These essays are less than a page of text each, and yet they were probably the most interesting things Kochalka had to say on the matter of art for hire and the comics industry in general. Talking about art versus honing your ability to make art, what defines quality, and if quality in art is even something that matters, as long as you've communicated what you, the artist, wants. Actually quite powerfull articles.

This was... less powerful. Sunburn is the kind of thing people who read exclusively superhero comics envision when you try to get them to read a non-capes title. Entirely captioned first-person voice-overs with nothing to say, lots of observations about things that don't warrant as much attention as they're given, and overdrawn, black-and-white close ups on things that don't seem relevent to whatever the narative is. Maybe it just went over my head, but it's somewhat more likely that it's just cliche.

Reinventing Everything, Part 1;
A huge step up from Sunburn, this essay espouses Kochalka's view of the world, diessected into pixels and grains of sand. He loses himself halfway through (something he makes a nod to in the second to last page of the essay) and begins to cross over into Scott McCloud territory. Fortunately, Kochalka slowly ties his point back to the first two essays of the book, and how to best serve your art. Because of this, his sincerity seeps through the vauge message and manages to give an interesting, if not completely successful, telling of his world view.

Reinventing Everything, Part 2;
Part 2 of Reinventing Everything is Kochalka's best chapter of the book. It's a mixture of what he believes in, how the plane crashes on September 11th affected him, and how much his child means to him. In fact, it's the story that explains how he and his wife came to the descion to have a lil' elf, and it comes of just as emotional and personal as it sounds. It's full of humanity, and beauty and honesty and a tiny bit of that naval gazing of the earlier essays, but in this huge, life-changing context, it more than makes sense, it's sympathetic. A great, great short.

The Cute Manifesto;
Only a few pages in length, this is Kochalka's "There's beauty in everything" bit, but it doesn't really come across as such. It starts pointing out the cuteness inherent in everything, even ugly things, and spirals down to "we must choose cuteness." Unfortunately, it fails to explain why cuteness is "good" and why ugly is this story's "evil". Whatever happened to beauty being in the eye of the beholder? Just felt it was dashed off and underthought.

The Horrible Truth About Comics;
In this chapter, Kochalka talks about why he doesn't sleep - he can't stop thinking about comics. It streches out into everything he sees is wrong with the comics medium, and the artists working in it. It's the longest essay in the book, and it feels much like the insomnia he talks about... it goes on forever, and you're just sort of waiting for it to end. I've read it and re-read it, trying to figure out what he's saying, but sadly alot of it is said allready in the excellent, first two essays, and everything else seems somewhat insubstantial. He deserves credit for practicing what he preaches, however - he's expressing what he wants to with the tools he has now. The question is, I suppose, if the problem with the essay is the message or the tools? Ah well.

In the end, I was pretty let down with this one. Art-wise, the drawings were quite good from Sunburn on (though Kochalka gets credit for trying a new style), but the writing was just sort of unimpressive and over-worded. This is also sort of an arguable point, but it's a tiny book, about 4x4 inches, and it's fairly thin and the price point is 19.99. I know that since he's not going to move as many copies of this as he might say, Peanut Butter and Jeremy or Tiny Bubbles, then he needs to charge a bit more, but when I plunk down a full twenty, I just expect more. I'll still pick up anything he puts out, since this is the first thing in a large, varied, and excellent catalog that's dissapointed me at all.

So that's what I've picked up more recently in the trade department, later tonight or tomorrow I'll have my pull list for this week up, and then I'll talk about what's been consuming too much of my time, a GameCube game called Animal Crossing.
Till then,