Archive for July, 2006

find out what all the fuss is about

This is for those of you who hear me talk about comics all the time, and don’t really know what I’m talking about or where to start.

These are some of the comics I care about, in convenient internet samplers that are free for you to read. (the PDF files will need a PDF reader, which you almost certainly have, although it may be annoyingly slow).

If you like them, please let me know and I can help you find cheap and easy ways to buy them — and recommend other things that you will like.

Comics are not scary. They are fun, easy, and worthwhile. See?

FABLES #1 (PDF)
Fables is the #1 most popular comic at Reed that’s still ongoing. The premise is that every character from every folktale and legend is alive, and they all live together in a secret part of New York City called Fabletown. The series begins with a murder mystery, but it expands to cover all sorts of genres. I personally believe that the series doesn’t really take off until issue #7, when regular artist Mark Buckingham arrives, but the charm and character interaction is there from the beginning, and you can already see how big and open-ended the universe is that writer Bill Willingham has created. It only gets better.

PREACHER #1 (PDF)
My opinion of this series has changed over time, but this is the book that hits closest to home for me. Reading SCOTT PILGRIM is like reading the fantasy version of my own life, but reading PREACHER is like having a favorite old uncle sit you down and teach you about life and loss and love and what it means to be a man. The funny thing is that the story’s got all kinds of supernatural elements in it — the story begins when the main character is possessed by an angel/demon, gains the power to control people’s minds, and sets out to force God to answer for his crimes — and it often veers into farce or black comedy, where no topic is too sacred or too disgusting to bring up. But behind all the blasphemy and “mature content” is a nakedly honest story about three people who need each other and keep screwing it up. And it’s written across a huge story that can honestly be called an American epic. They say the sky is bigger in Texas. PREACHER shows it to us.

I should probably talk less.

Y: THE LAST MAN #1 (PDF)
Plague strikes. All males of all species die simultaneously. Except one man and his monkey. A brilliantly-paced post-apocalypse thriller. Addictive.

SANDMAN #1 (PDF)
The first issue of the realistic-fantasy epic that changed comics. I have my quibbles with it, but it’s still the birthplace of characters and ideas that are very dear to a lot of comic fans’ hearts. And that Neil Gaiman, he can write a short story.

TRANSMETROPOLITAN #8: “Another Cold Morning”
First of three Warren Ellis comics. This is a short story from his futuristic-gonzo-journalism epic, TRANSMETROPOLITAN, which is just a masterpiece of smart writing. I’m not sure I’ve ever met a Reed student that didn’t like TRANSMET.

JOHN CONSTANTINE, HELLBLAZER: “Shoot”
A Warren Ellis short story that was never published due to its subject matter (school shootings) and timing (right when the Columbine massacre happened).

FELL #1
One of Warren Ellis’ latest efforts, this is like the pilot episode of a TV drama — about a homicide detective who just transferred in to a city that hates him.

EX MACHINA #1
Young maverick mayor of NYC deals with occupational hazards and the aftermath of his younger days, when he used to fly a jetpack and fight crime. Worth reading the whole issue just to get to the last page.

BLANKETS (excerpt)
Cover and 6 pages of this lushly-illustrated, heartfelt memoir of family, religion, and especially first love.

THE WALKING DEAD #1
Zombie fiction as sociological case study. This is a thriller that’s genuinely thrilling, and it’s a perverse pleasure to watch all the characters sloooowly go insane.

FEAR AGENT #1
Texas spaceman flies through the universe kicking alien ass. With ray guns. Sheer action fun.

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more on American Virgin

I had the highest of hopes for AMERICAN VIRGIN. IT’S A BIRD showed Seagle was a thoughtful guy, Becky Cloonan‘s name speaks for itself, and covers by Quitely were icing on the cake.

But I don’t think I’ve ever been so disappointed by a comic. I hate every character. They don’t talk like any human I’ve ever met (and I grew up in the South). Their actions make no logical sense. The plot barrels along from one non sequitur setpiece to another, leaving no time for the characters to reflect or talk about their feelings, or even to have consistent personalities. The sole purpose of the dialogue is to lay out the plot or set up one of Seagle’s terrible jokes. Pithy lines are spit out at the end of scenes, smacking us in the face with the force of how clever and insightful they must be, when in fact they’re as weirdly illogical and out-of-place as everything else in this damn book. It’s like Brian K. Vaughan without the heart, or the logic.

Issue 4, pp 1-4:
[backstory: Adam is a young, hyper-Christian, motivational speaker for abstinence. African terrorists have captured and killed his fiancee. Previously he found her body, but it had been beheaded. Adam, his sister Cyndi, and their hired mercenary Mel are driving a Jeep through the desert to get her head back.]
ADAM: Hurry the fuck up! [page turn]
CYNDI: Language, Adam. You’re Christian, remember? And could you also remember that you were goin’ to Mozambique, claiming your fiancee’s body, and taking it back to Florida? ‘Cause that’s all I agreed to! Not off-roading to Swahili for–
MEL: Swaziland.
CYNDI: Are we payin’ you to drive, Mel? Or to correct me?
ADAM: It’s not her whole body. Part of it is missing. Do you understand, Cyndi? Do you get that?
CYNDI: Sure, I get it. Like all guys, you’re looking for a little head–

Yeah.

[the jeep hits a rock and flips onto its side. The characters emerge from the car and yell at each other for a while. Adam screams at Mel that they’ll never catch the terrorists now.]
MEL: Swazi’s smaller than Rhode Island, mate– Help me drop the Jeep and we’ll be in Mbane before you can say– [page turn]
ADAM: Jesus save me!
CYNDI: Drop the Jeep with what? A crane? Want me to call AAA– the African Automobile Association?
MEL: Like anything, ya just need the strength to make it happen. [he starts pushing the Jeep]
ADAM: I have faith. [he joins Mel in pushing the Jeep]
MEL: Didn’t say “faith.” I said strength.
ADAM: They’re the >NHH< same– thing!
MEL: Are they?
[the Jeep flips back onto its wheels.]
ADAM: Yeah. They are. Let’s go.

Sounds nice, if you don’t think about it too hard. But no, it’s one of the clunkiest bits of dialogue I’ve read in months.

Even Cloonan’s work seems crippled on this book — characters are often awkwardly posed, looking like their heads are about to snap off or their eyeballs to erupt from their sockets. I absolutely love her work, so a) I think she deserves better than this book, but also b) I think she’s miscast, and this would be a stronger book with a different artist.

AMERICAN VIRGIN is starting to remind me of a Ross Campbell comic. I don’t enjoy him either, but at least that’s a matter of taste, not of competence.

I’ve only read through #4 — maybe once Adam resolves the girlfriend thing he’ll stop being such an inconsistent psychotic douchebag — but my hopes are no longer high. It’s gotta slow down the pacing, polish the dialogue, give us more time with the characters, and take the time to make the logic of each step in the story more coherent. Show us a character actually learning something. Show me a character I can like.

I want to keep getting this book for historical reasons, and because I hope it will improve, but our shelves are filled with overpretentious underexecuted shortlived Vertigo series from the 90s. I won’t hold out forever.

dc cover solicit commentary go!

Apparently this is the sort of thing that comic bloggers do. I haven’t posted in this journal in quite a while, and I keep putting it off because I want my entries to be good and worthwhile, but I think I need to get over the hump and just do something. So here goes.


DC SOLICITS – AUGUST FOR OCTOBER 2006

DETECTIVE COMICS #824
Written by Paul Dini
Art by Don Kramer & Wayne Faucher

I like how JH Williams quit DESOLATION JONES in order to…. NOT draw DETECTIVE COMICS. Oh well…

DESOLATION JONES #7
Written by Warren Ellis
Art and cover by Danijel Zezelj

Bring on the Zezelj!

Marv Wolfman, Dan Jurgens, & Norm Rapmund on NIGHTWING? Interesting combination…

Cute. Totally makes up for the lame first issue cover.

I have never read an Adam Strange story in my life but for some reason I love the concept so much. Must be the costume. There’s something about a man with a fin on his head. Blame THE ROCKETEER.

Dave Gibbons draws comics again! I’m not going to get this or anything, I’m just glad he’s drawing. If only he’d draw something interesting… There’s gotta be a Vertigo or Wildstorm book they could put him on (that’s not a puzzling resurrection of obscure British heroes). Make him a part of the “Wildstorm Revolution” or whatever they’re calling this superstar new wave.

JUSTICE #8
Written by Jim Krueger & Alex Ross
Art by Doug Braithwaite & Ross
Cover by Ross
The worst fears of the Justice League are realized, as the villains strike through those closest to the heroes!

I hope this series makes sense when it’s finished, but I’m not holding my breath. Also: Alex Ross! Just make a SUPER FRIENDS comic and be done with it! You can even use the scripts to old episodes, and just replace all the Toth-designed animation with scowling paintings of your neighbors dressed as Marvin and Wendy.

This is a fantastic cover, even if it is by Michael Turner.

No hatching in space! There is no hatching in space! James Owen possibly excluded. And Tony Moore. But this is trying to be WILDC.A.T.S In Space, which is crap. FEAR AGENT, on the other hand, is fantastic. Go out and buy it everybody.

THE OMEGA MEN #1
Written by Andersen Gabrych
Art and cover by Henry Flint
A classic team makes an unexpected return to comics in a 6-issue miniseries written by Andersen Gabrych (DETECTIVE COMICS) with art by Henry Flint (2000 A.D.)! Convinced that all of creation is on the brink of cosmic apocalypse, the last remaining Omega Men begin a universe-spanning rampage of murder and destruction. Pursued by every known league of interstellar justice, they are on the run and taking no prisoners! What is the mystery in space that One Year Later transforms these former freedom fighters into brutal terrorists? Climb on board for the controversial and head-spinning science-fiction odyssey that synthesizes intolerant zealotry, quantum mechanics, and all-out action!
On sale October 18 • 1 of 6 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

Disclaimer: I know nothing about the “Omega Men.” But why does the solicitation copy sound like a crappy Sci-Fi Channel Thursday-afternoon thriller? The cover features a guy on fire (okay), a dude throwing an asteroid (nice), a guy with a pair of Pontiac headlights instead of a head (!) and an orange catfish-headed dude smoking a cigar(!!!!)! If you cannot sell me on a comic featuring a CIGAR-SMOKING ORANGE CATFISH MAN IN SPACE, you have utterly failed in your job as a marketer and you must be fired. Yet another casualty of the Taking Oneself Too Seriously Syndrome plaguing corporate comics today.

Oh, so that’s what Williams has been up to. Well, that’s okay then.

SHADOWPACT #6
Written by Bill Willingham
Art and cover by Cory Walker

Bill Willingham and Cory Walker!? I’m almost persuaded to BUY this comic! I can’t imagine how they thought BW would be able to keep drawing this book every month, but if this is the kind of replacement they’ve got then hallelujah. Nice Dave-Stewart-Mike-Mignola touch with the coloring, too. It’s only appropriate if they’re going to Hell, I guess.

TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED #1
Written by David Lapham and Brian Azzarello
Art by Eric Battle & Prentis Rollins and Cliff Chiang
Cover by Mike Mignola Variant cover by Neal Adams

Speak of the devil… Great cover, and I welcome DC’s attempt to get back to its pulpy roots, but I bet their accountants are giving them hell for not putting THE SPECTRE in the title of the book. I’d love to see a monthly DC book that could be a prestigious showcase for tales of the weird. Unfortunately, this book seems to signal the same thing holding Marvel down: a corporate conviction that their characters are the most important asset the company has. Who gives a damn about “the very fabric of the DCU’s past, present, and future”? Give me creepy motherfuckers doing weird shit, lavishly illustrated. End of story. Also, I’m not sure how well David Lapham will handle cosmic horror, though I confess I’m kind of interested to find out.

..actually, forget all that. Guys, if Mignola needs money, just pay him to do HELLBOY BEATS THE SH*T OUT OF THE DC UNIVERSE. I’d buy ten.

THE EMPTY EMPIRE Vol. 2
Written and illustrated by Naoe Kita
CMX. Rose — a clone of the great Emperor Idea — is reluctant to assume his position as the emperor’s replacement. But when Idea’s body is stolen and all hell is about to break loose, the Imperial Authorities have no choice but to force Rose to become the inspiring figurehead he was bred to be. A challenge from Migime, the man in possession of Idea’s body, motivates Rose to rise to the occasion, though it means putting himself at great risk. Also, more is revealed about Ririka — the imperial guard who has befriended Rose — and her relationship with the departed Emperor.

For a moment I read that as “the emperor Great Idea,” and was almost interested. It’d be some kind of Miyazaki/McCay/Gaiman allegorical fantasy. But no.

HOMG GENE HA
THE AUTHORITY #1
Written by Grant Morrison
Art and cover by Gene Ha
The WorldStorm rollout continues with the return of the most dangerous super-group on the planet! Grant Morrison, the universally acclaimed writer of All Star Superman, Seven Soldiers and Wildcats brings his talents to the new bimonthly series THE AUTHORITY, featuring art by Eisner Award-winner Gene Ha (TOP 10)! Morrison & Ha deliver an unparalleled sense of drama and dynamic storytelling to The Authority that will leave readers gasping for breath. The first issue starts with a bang and goes up from there, reintroducing the team with intriguing new twists and revelations!

The Engineer looks a little static on that cover – the whole design wouldn’t be my first choice for the debut issue of this book – but you don’t really go to Gene Ha for motion. Give him huge expansive drama to architect, as it seems Morrison is planning to do (and hearkening back to the roots of THE AUTHORITY), and he’ll build you a bloody Taj Majal. Here’s hoping that complete creative freedom will keep this one from becoming as incomprehensible as NEW X-MEN.

Nice image, I guess (intended to recall Abu Ghraib, presumably, though not too obviously), but it doesn’t tell me anything or make me want to buy the book. “This comic is about people getting beat up.” Well, that’s a breath of fresh air. The solicit text isn’t much better. I’ve yet to read an Azzarello book I liked.

Gen13 could be fun (I haven’t read any of Simone’s recent work but I still love her for DEADPOOL), but the cover makes me think the last ten years never happened, and the solicit (“what’s the secret to these wonderful and scary powers, and what role do the nefarious Tabula Rasa and International Operations play?”) fails to inspire confidence.

I wish he’d clean it up a little, but in any case this is by far the most interesting thing I’ve seen from Alex Ross in ages. Bravo!

THE BOYS #4
Written by Garth Ennis
Art and cover by Darick Robertson

Man, am I looking forward to this series. Ennis seems to emit scripts the way some of us shed dead skin cells, but I read some interviews and he really seems fired up about this one. Plus with Robertson, how can you lose?

Tony Harris should draw every cover to every comic ever. I love EX MACHINA, but he’s wasted drawing talking heads. The way he combines a killer layout (I’m a sucker for symmetry) with innovative representation of all the major thematic elements of the story… I’d shell out major cash for a TONY HARRIS DRAWS POSTERS OF YOUR FAVORITE MOVIES oversize art book.

I hope Warren continues to pour himself into DESOLATION JONES. Maybe I’ve just been (electronically) hanging around him too much, but this really does seem like an important book and it kills me that there hasn’t been more critical attention. Come on, Warren. Make this your LUTHER ARKWRIGHT.

John Cassaday is astonishingly hit-or-miss with me. This one, sadly, is a bit of a miss. Here’s hoping he pulls out the stops for the final issue.

Manifest Eternity is a gorgeous book that I’m afraid to try — it would be all too easy to turn this into standard back-of-the-catalog fantasy schlock, and I haven’t read anything by Scott Lobdell since the 90s. I want so badly to like this book…

THE ABSOLUTE SANDMAN VOL. 1 HARDCOVER
Nuff said.
Actually, with this being by far the most important book Vertigo ever published and one of the most important DC books of all time, i was surprised to hear from Danny Vozzo that they kept shortening his deadlines on this project. I guess they’re rushing it out for Xmas (shipping November 1)?
Also: $62.37 (37% off) at Amazon. I love comic shops too, but I’m only human. Who’s going to pay full price on this? What can be done?

THE SANDMAN #1 SPECIAL EDITION
Written by Neil Gaiman
Art by Sam Kieth & Mike Dringenberg
Cover by Dave McKean
In celebration of THE ABSOLUTE SANDMAN VOL. 1 HC, Vertigo proudly re-presents the classic debut issue of THE SANDMAN, completely recolored and priced at just $.50 U.S. This Special Edition presents the brilliantly recolored version of the issue, as seen in THE ABSOLUTE SANDMAN VOL. 1, along with ads spotlighting THE ABSOLUTE SANDMAN and more. This promotionally priced issue is an ideal way for retailers to show off the new look of these groundbreaking stories and promote sales for the slipcased hardcovers.

YAAAY for smart marketing. Why didn’t they do this for ABSOLUTE WATCHMEN, or for that matter every large hardcover release? Hopefully they will in the future.

AMERICAN VIRGIN: Great work from Joshua Middleton, and Becky Cloonan is a pleasure as always. Seagle, I’m looking at you. I want to like this book so badly, but reading it every month is like being kicked in the nuts. Does everyone else find this as painfully nonsensical as I do, or am I just extremely disappointed because the story is so vastly different from what I was expecting?

THE OTHER SIDE #1
Written by Jason Aaron
Art and cover by Cameron Stewart
1968. The height of the Vietnam War. Two young men from opposite ends of the earth must drag themselves through Hell for the opportunity to kill one another. Written by rookie sensation Jason Aaron with astoundingly visceral art by Cameron Stewart (SEAGUY, SEVEN SOLDIERS: GUARDIAN), THE OTHER SIDE is a 5-issue miniseries following Bill Everette, a 19-year-old Alabama farm boy drafted into the Marine Corps whose only goal is to come home alive, and Vo Binh Dai, a 19-year-old Vietnamese farm boy who enlists in the People’s Army of Vietnam, terrified only of failing in his duty to die bravely for his country. Along the way, Private Everette encounters demonically vicious Parris Island drill instructors, talking maggots, voiceless ghosts, jaded grunts, man-eating pigs, maniacal rats, leeches that quote William Blake, a rifle that begs him to shoot himself and occasionally even the enemy. Vo Dai must undertake the long march south down the Strategic Trail, through black forests and bloody swamps, over pockmarked earth and fields of fire, past tigers and dragons and mounds of the dead, past exhaustion, beyond endurance. At turns, wholly fantastic yet always heartbreakingly realistic. THE OTHER SIDE is an epic tragedy about America’s most haunting war. A surreal exploration of the Vietnam war from opposing viewpoints. A horror story about the horrors of war.

I’m in.

TESTAMENT #11
See above, re: AMERICAN VIRGIN, but only about half as much because this one almost makes sense, and I was expecting it to be weird anyway.

Is there really demand for post-Moore SWAMP THING? Hey, why not…

Nice. I think this book (like SiP) is going to end almost exactly when I’m scheduled to graduate. I’ve recently swallowed much of my qualms about Brian K. Vaughan, and now I love the guy again. Show me a better-paced comic. I dare you.


Leigh Walton talks comics and maybe other arts. (RSS)
He also works for the very excellent publisher Top Shelf Productions (which does not necessarily endorse the views and opinions, etc, herein).

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Header by me. Contains an interpolation of the final panel from All-Star Superman #1 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. Speaking of which.