Monday, December 03, 2012

COMIC BOOK REVIEW: All Star Western #14

All Star Western # 14 (DC)
Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti (writers); Moritat ( art, main feature); Phil Winslade (art, back-up feature)

One of the most consistently excellent reads of the New 52 has been Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, and Moritat's All Star Western. Jonah Hex is an enduring and fun western anti-hero and his time in 1880s Gotham has mined great depths of his character. Here we have Hex and Dr. Arkham hired to find Dr. Jekyll, which is an inclusion that works, even if this veers the story further away from what part of its title promises. Taking place in an industrial eastern city and including characters from Victorian fiction isn't exactly "western" but it does pass muster on the "all star" part. I'm particularly keen on the inclusion of the Barbary Ghost in the main story and enjoyed the banter between Ghost, Jonah, and Tallulah Black during their fight in Gotham's Chinatown.

Tomahawk gets the back-up again this month in part 2 of his tale, a methodical, historical-based story in the years after the Revolutionary War, that hasn't really drawn me in outside of Phil Winslade's gorgeous art. How this guy isn't drawing a monthly somewhere is beyond.  Always a treat to see his lithe, lively, classical renderings. These back-ups have been a great showcase for him, but I wish DC would give him his own book. In the meantime, I can only hope that
Winslade is on board to draw what I predict is a Barbary Ghost/Tallulah Black back-up feature in coming months.

COMIC BOOK REVIEW: Captain America and Black Widow #639

Captain America and Black Widow #639 (Marvel)
Cullen Bunn (writer); Francesco Francavilla (art and colors)

I've enjoyed the long game Cullen Bunn has employed through his tenure on this Cap team-up book. The overall plot through the Hawkeye arc, the Iron Man arc, and now the Black Widow arc has been well developed and flows very nicely throughout the three team-ups. But, yes, unfortunately there is a "but" here, each arc started with a bang and then petered out. I considered dropping this title after the humdrum finale of the Hawkeye arc, but stayed for Batroc's participation in the Iron Man arc. Then when Iron Man team-up story also ran out of steam, I returned for the Black Widow arc since it was announced that the series would end after that arc, and why not just stick it out to see where Bunn was taking this Vennema Multiversal story, but mostly I stayed because Francesco Francavilla was on art duties.

So, just as with the previous arcs, the Black Widow segment started out with ambition and great fun and has now also settled into the same pattern as the previous installments. Issue #639, being the penultimate issue seems to be so much padding for next issues conclusion. Yes, the table-setting has a pay-off as the cliff-hanger is well done and somewhat unexpected, and Cap makes a promise that seems almost impossible for the noble warrior to keep, but most of #639 is just so much padding. Now, the real draw of this issue is Fracavilla's lush art and colors. He's on a must buy list for anything he draws and each and every page payout, indeed, each panel compels a long linger. Simply wonderful stuff. Of course, one of the drawbacks of single issue reviewing is that some installments of a longer story may not be up to be par. Hopefully, as this concludes, the sum of its parts will be well worth it. Good.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

COMIC BOOK REVIEW: Captain America #1

Captain America #1 (Marvel)
Rick Remender (writer); John Romita, Jr. (pencils); Klaus Janson (inks); Dean White (colors); Joe Caramagna (letters)

I missed most of the entirety of Ed Brubaker's 8 or 9 year run on Captain America. I wasn't really reading monthlies regularly during the first 2/3s of his run. I jumped in good old Cap with volume 6, number 1, which started around the same time as the Captain America movie and ran 19 issues ending just last month, right before Rick Remender's and John Romita, Jr.'s volume 7, number 1. So, where Brubaker apparently grounded his Cap stories in espionage and mystery, Remender's take is to bring some pulpy, sci-fi fun back to Cap. Now, I can't comment on Brubaker's entire run, but his Captain America volume 6 begins with quite a pulpy opening arc concerning Codename: Bravo's origin and then later the machinations of the Hydra Queen. (Of course, that series got bogged down in mad bomb silliness that went on and on, but the opening arc was great comic book fun: pulpy, hints of sci-fi, and things only probable in a comic book along with a spy and mystery angle).

This is all a long way of saying that, unlike other reviews I've been reading about this new incarnation of Cap, Remender’s take doesn't seem so unlike the Captain America of volume 6. There is a different tone, of course, as there should be with new creative teams. Remender provides Cap with a staccato, terse narration that's at once to the point, colorful, and full of the right amount of bravado, especially during the opening encounter with the environmental villain, Green Skull. The story moves along to see Cap fall – too easily – into a trap set in another dimension ("Dimension Z") and a frenetic action sequence setting the plot for future issues.

It's a fast moving issue and Romita's art is excellent during the action sequences, capturing action in a hurried, urgent, yet balanced way. However, the art falters during the civilian scenes. Sharon Carter looks 13 years old in one panel then looks like her Agent 13 self in the next. This is a small quibble as action carries the day throughout the issue, so Romita is well served by Remender’s script.

Remender sets up an interesting storyline using a flashback to Steve Rogers as a boy, Sharon’s long-term plans for her and Steve in the present, and Cap’s current situation in Dimension Z. This new Captain America is simmering with potential. Let’s hope when the story reaches its boil, it’s worth the wait. Recommended.

Monday, November 26, 2012

COMIC BOOK REVIEW: Journey Into Mystery #646

Journey Into Mystery #646 (Marvel)
Kathryn Immonen (writer); Valerio Schiti (artist);  Jordie Bellaire (colorist)

I read good things about Kieran Gillen's run on Journey Into Mystery, which just ended. I never found a good jumping on point for it, but do plan to catch up digitally or via trades one day. However, with the focus switching from Loki to Sif, I figured it would be fine jumping on point to begin reading this. I like the idea that a comic like Journey Into Mystery is being published, exploring lesser-known characters from Aasgard. I've always been a fan of how god and myths are used, borrowed, contorted, and appropriated in the comics.

As for JiM 646, this is a fun issue. Kathryn Immonen begins an interesting quest for Sif, and though I'm not entirely clear on all facets of it as part of the impetus for the action is based on past events, I was able to gamely follow along and enjoy it all. The opening page is quite fun and irreverent and there's a great scene within the story with a dragon. The  conclusion is effectively creepy.

Throughout, Valerio Schiti's art depicts the action quite deftly, concisely flowing from panel to panel. Very thorough and efficient storytelling with the proper amount of urgency, danger and dread thrown in. His Sif is strong and memorable. Though their styles are considerably different, his Sif reminds me of Cliff Chiang's Wonder Woman in that both woman are depicted as strong and capable warriors. Dressed for battle Schiti's Sif is fierce and to be admired as a warrior and not as a pin-up. As always, Jordie Bellaire's colors are stunning. The orange and green hues throughout enhance each panel of Schiti's art and the murky browns of the final page accent Immonen's script all the more.

A strong start to this story arc. I look forward to see how this all unfolds. Recommended.

Friday, August 03, 2012

COMIC BOOK REVIEW: Planet of the Apes Annual #1

Planet of the Apes Annual #1 (Boom Studios), coming quickly on the heels of the last issue of the Exile on the Planet of Apes mini-series and the last issue of the current Planet of the Apes monthly series, which ended with #16 a few weeks back, helps fill a void of ape-less comic withdrawal, but also, it seems, plays midwife to the new Apes series that are in the works. This annual acts as anthology of the ape world we've encountered thus far in the ongoing monthly, and Exile's precursor, Betrayal of the Planet of the Apes. Within these four stories are great achievements: rewarding current readers with excellent stories about known characters, while standing as a great entry point for new readers waiting to be enticed by this world.
First up, Daryl Gregory and Carlos Magno flashback to when Sully and Nerissa were young girls and Sully is about to be integrated into an ape school. The focus of the story, in the broad sense is on the political ramification of such desegregation and how it affects both apes and humans. Specifically, the focus is on Nix, the white ape, who became so central to the ongoing PotA story. Gregory fills in on some important, only previously hinted upon information about Nix that, for me, at least, invites a closer reading of PotA 1-16 in which to put Nix's action in new light. Magno's clear, detailed apes continue to be a joy. I hope there's more Apes stories from these two in the near future.

Next comes,Corinna Bechko and John Lucas' tale of an ape boy who meets a young human girl during an ape crackdown on humans. It's a simple yet powerful tale about awareness, empathy, and compassion. The ending adds a sparkle of mischievous hope. My hope is that Bechko has plans for this ape lad in the Planet of the Apes: Cataclysm

The third story is Gabriel Hardman's "The Scroll," which, like the opening story, delves into the past of a known character. Here we see General Aleron from Betrayal and Exile as a Gorilla Private First Class (OK, I may have made up that military title, he was referred to simply as "private") on a mission to liberate some scrolls from and orangutan in hiding. What Aleron finds is eye-opening (and, ironically, eye-closing, as we also find out the reason Aleron wears an eye patch) and again, gives us more perspective on what truly drives Aleron in Betrayal and Exile. Hardman is quickly becoming one of my favorite artists. His action scenes are dynamite: Aleron running to escape an avalanche pops from the page, for example.

The Annual ends with Jeff Parker and Benjamin Dewey's story about Ape City envoys visiting Simian Port, an Ape trading outpost, that's run by a Kurtz-like ape, who defies the creeds from the Ape City tribunalThis story seems equally inspired by Conrad and jungle comics from the 50’s. The revelation of the unknown cargo on a docked ship is smiling-inducing in its cleverness.

Planet of the Apes Annual #1 is remarkable in how, across four stories, it builds upon the known the Apes universe in two of these, and introduces new characters that are ripe for further exploration in the other two. A great read. Highly Recommended

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

New Wednesday, New Comics

Yes, reviews will be coming soon. Lots and lots. In the meantime, here's what I picked up today, this fine new comics day with some notes about my anticipation level and expectations:

All-Star Western #10 (DC)
The new 52 adventures of Jonah Hex continues. Last issue he met a Talon from Gotham (same dudes Batman is fighting over in the bat-books). Let's see what happens here. Also, the back-ups have been consistently terrific throughout this series. Bat-Lash in this issue!

Captain America and Iron Man #633 (Marvel)
I planned on dropping this after the Hawkeye arc, but this issue has Batroc the Leaper. So, here I am.

Fatale #6 (Image)
I just caught up on Fatale 1-5 last week. Outstanding melding of horror, crime, and supernatural elements. Book 1 really cemented the world this all takes place in. Really looking forward to where Book 2 goes.

Flash #10 (DC)
Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato have done an excellent job of adding, teasing and juggling various story lines the last few issues. Hopefully, they begin to converge here.

Justice League #10 (DC)
After the misstep following the sort of ho-hum opening arc, last issue promised some great things. Hopefully, going forward Justice League will consistently deliver. Though the villian's name is "Graves" (real name and villain name) so I'm a bit ambivalent on how things will turn out. Graves, really?

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen - Century: 2009 (Top Shelf)
Part three of the Century trilogy. Century: 1969 is still in my to-read pile. How lame is that? This is a good excuse to give the entire LoEG catalog a re-read leading up to Century: 2009.

Prophet #26 (Image)
I'm on record as a fan of Prophet. Each issue contains it's own little revelation and surprise. Amazing ideas executed flawlessly so far. Plus, I saw a preview of Emma Rios' back-up feature and it looks amazing. On the top of the to-read pile.

Spider-Men #2 (Marvel)
Peter and Miles met at the end of #1. Looking forward to how Peter reacts in the Ultimate universe.

Usagi Yojimbo: Traitors of the Earth (Dark Horse)
Usagi Yojimbo has always been a title that intrigues me. A samurai rabbit and what looks like nice clean cartooning. It's been around forever. Heck, I may even have a few issues here or there laying about that I've forgotten about (a samurai rabbit comic is something I could see myself buying in the heyday of the black and white explosion after-all). Anyway, I've been looking for an in with Usagi Yojimbo, so I figured I'd take a flier on this newly released trade that collects some recent stuff.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Today's New Comics

Despite the lack of posting, Wednesday remains new comics day for me. This week is a good haul:

Batwoman #10 (DC)
The varied timelines seem to be converging. I've lost a bit of patience with the middle chapters of this arc, but I'm optimistic as we head to the climax.

Daredevil #14 (Marvel)

A solid release each issue. This should be no different.

Godzilla #2 (IDW)
Great first issue of the new series. I never tire of Godzilla destroying things.

Planet of the Apes #15 (Boom)
A few issues into this new story and it's even more dynamite than the previous one which was fantastic. I wish this series had more of a buzz. It certainly deserves it. Incredible writing and art month after month.

Ragemoor #4 (Dark Horse)
The final chapter of this amazingly fun and inventive series. Will the secrets of Ragemoor be revealed? I'm on tenterhooks just thinking about it.

Saga #4 (Image)
The best new series I'm reading. Hitting on all cylniders after 3 issues. I expect no less from this fourth offering.

Wonder Woman #10 (DC)
And the off-beat mythic new adventures of Diana continue. 

Reviews from the past month coming soon.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Wednesday Is New Comics Day!

Are you ready for some new comics? This week’s haul with my preview commentary:

Animal Man #9 (DC)
Swamp Thing #9 (DC)
Two of the best from DC’s New 52 are on a collision course with each other and the ninth issue of each, I believe, is the intro to that crossover. These have been top-of-the-pile reads since they began and this week is no different.

Action Comics #9 (DC)
Action has been a solid good read since the re-launch, but I’ve been waiting for Action to “wow” me. Hopefully, soon. Hopefully, this issue.

Daredevil #12 (Marvel)
Wow, Marvel is spitting out the Daredevils lately. 11 was last week and now 12. I didn’t write a review of DD #11, the conclusion of the Omega Effect crossover, but I’ll say that it was a let-down after the first 2parts and seems like the story is just spinning its wheel. Hopefully, this issue will be back in top-natch form.

Ultimate Spiderman #10 (Marvel)
Every month I grab Ultimate Spidey reluctantly from the shelf and wonder if I should still be buying it. Then I read it and am thoroughly impressed and keep it on the “to buy” list and then the next month comes and I reluctantly reach for the new issue. So, it’s been a well executed comic with wonderful quiet moments and fun big moments, but easily digested and forgotten. I’m back for this month, let’s see how it goes.

Dial H #1 (DC)
Earth 2 #1 (DC)
DC’s “second wave” of the New 52 begins this week with four new offerings. I picked up two. Dial H is a “eh, why not?” pick. Earth 2 is “why is this needed?” pick-up. Meaning, DC re-launched their entire universe and now they have a comic dedicated to an alternate reality for that universe? OK, I’ll bite. The other “second wave” books I didn’t pick-up was G.I. Combat and World's Finest. G.I. Combat even has dinosaurs on the cover. And I passed it up. World's Finest is another "Earth 2" series. One is enough for me right now.

Heavy Metal
This caught my eye while I was waiting to be checked out. I haven’t read Heavy Metal since the 80’s and I’m always on the lookout for anthology titles, so there you go. However, I’ll have to keep this from a certain 5 year old who likes to flip through my weekly pile. That much hasn’t changed about Heavy Metal over the years.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012


It's easy to fall behind on monthlies. Or, to miss them completely. Luckily, with the rise of digital comics, not jumping on the bandwagon early doesn't mean needing to hunt through back-issue bins to catch-up. As a result, I've recently been playing catch-up on some excellent series. I'm about a month or so behind on these series.

Prophet #21-23 (Image) begins a new story from the ashes of Rob Leifield's old Prophet series back in the 90's. I know nothing of the original and that knowledge, so far, is completely irrelevant to this fantastic continuation by Brandon Graham and Simon Roy. John Prophet wakes up in a distant future and prepares for his "mission." The terrain is unfamiliar as are the various life-forms he encounters.

As I wasn't a huge fan of many of the Image founder's books back when it first began (I read Spawn and Savage Dragon regularly and that was it) this title didn't pop-out at first. But I've been bird-dogging Graham's King City collection (which will now be my next trade purchase) so I was curious about this title, and, after reading some positive reviews, I decided to jump on. Glad I did. Graham and Roy accomplish some amazing moments over these three issues. The use of third person narration boxes to propel the story and provide insight into the world is astonishing in it's brevity and detail. As Prophet uncovers supplies, each item is identified quickly, precisely and succinctly without interrupting the narrative, while, in fact, adding layers to this unknown mission. Prophet encounters a caravan and joins it as a transient worker, which leads to my favorite moment from the three issues, that plays like a homage to Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation as Prophet overhears, via his translator device, some dire goings-on that he feels compelled to act on. Simon Roy's art has a simplistic feel, but, under scrutiny, the details of this alien world are richly observed and well-detailed. Roy's art reminds me of Geoff Darrow, but blockier and a bit cleaner. The broad stature of Prophet also gives me a hint of John Buscema's Conan. This means it looks fantastic. Prophet is a must read. Highly Recommended

Supergirl #1-7 (DC) contains fighting, fighting, and more fighting. Kara lands on Earth, fights some unknown group who find her rocketship, then she fights her cousin Superman, then she goes to the moon and fights some more, then she encounters some laboratory-bred "world-killers" from her home planet Krypton and fights them in New York City. I probably missed some fighting. But this series works. It's been riveting and engaging thanks to the inner dialogue Kara has with herself throughout. Writer Michael Green & Mike Johnson perfectly capture Kara's struggle to understand what happened to her. We're also teased along by hints and reveals of life on Krypton before it's destruction as Kara struggles to understand how she ended up on Earth. The set-up with Superman is especially smart - the flashback to Kara babysitting  for Kal El to Supes confronting her in his poorly accented Kryptonian is well executed. I was most impressed by the set-up of The Brain in the middle issues and hope this is a recurring villain. The final arc finds Kara fighting the World-Killers, a group of super creatures bred to destroy, where Kara finally understands and accepts who she is and how to deal with the enormous powers bestowed upon her thanks to Earth's yellow sun. The art by Mahmud Asrar is clean, with a slight cartoony feel, that captures not only Kara's vulnerable state exquisitely, but her transformation into a hero as the story moves forward. The many fight scenes are a tour-de-force of super hero battle scenes. Kudos all around on this one. Highly Recommended

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Comic Book Reviews: Ragemoor & Frankenstein

So, lots to catch up on from the last few weeks and into this week. I would love to be able to review all the comics I read. But, as I mentioned in a different post, I'll continue to focus solely on what I like and not spend time writing on what falls flat. I would like to think that I'm only buying stuff that blows me away month after month and, so, should have plenty to write about.

Speaking of being blown away, Ragemoor #2 (Dark Horse) simply blew me away. The first issue was sort of a closed, inclusive issue, so I was eager to see the direction this issue would take. It begins with a tortured Poe-esque love poem that Herbert writes to Anoria, who survived the castle attack. It then introduces a new, brilliantly conceived character, Tristano ("that poacher"), that lurks outside the castle, and pushes the plot for the rest of the issue, even if he appears only in two panels. The lovesick Herbert attempts to prove his manliness to Anoria, and in doing so more secrets about Ragemoor are revealed, and, of course, many, many more mysteries deepen. I'm not even sure we've even arrived at the heart of what the series is about yet. There's plenty of moving forward here and so does my anticipation. Jan Strnad's script crackles throughout and here are some choice quotes, sans context, to give a taste: "Servent venom is nothing to be taken lightly" and "Those wretched baboons - why does Ragemoor tolerate them?" Richard Corben's art continues to exude dread, terror, and the gothic ridiculousness of it all. I'm saddened that we're halfway through this tale. Highly Recommended

Jeff Lemire and Alberto Ponticelli's Frankenstein, Agent of SHADE continues its run as one of the highlights of the New 52. Issue 8 finds Frank and Lady Frank searching for their son, who escaped SHADE's prison. This son is the cause of strife between Frank and Lady Frank and Lemire deftly handles the charged emotions throughout the book between Frank and his ex-wife. Lemire deals with similar issues of familial loss and tragedy in his exceptional Sweet Tooth and mines the same potent material here. Lemire leaves his writing duties on Frankenstein with next issue, I believe. But I won't be leaving as the highlight of each issue has been Alberto Ponticelli's art (High praise indeed as Frankenstein is one of the tightest and intriguingly plotted books I read each month. Also one of the most fun). Ponticelli's scratchy-lined work works great within this monster-populated universe. Walden Wong came aboard with issue 7 to provide inks for Ponticelli's pencils and it threw me off as it was too clean and formed. Wong remains here on issue 8 and the pair seem to have found their groove together as the art is eye-popping an dynamic throughout. Highly Recommended

Today is new comics day. My predicted haul for later today:

All-Star Western #8 (DC)
Captain America #10 (Marvel)
Captain America & Hawkeye #629 (Marvel)
Daredevil #11
Exile on the Planet of the Apes #2 (Boom)
Flash #8 (DC)

Still looking for Saga #2!

Friday, April 20, 2012

A Two Week Haul

I was off the grid for a week and as a result missed a week at the old LCS. I returned in time for this Wednesday's offerings and was able to get last week's haul as well. Except for Saga #2 (Image), which I'm still hunting around for.* 

Here's the the two-week takeaway:
Avenging Spiderman #6 (Marvel)
Batwoman #8 (DC)
Fantastic Four #605 (Marvel)
Frankenstein, Agent of SHADE #8 (DC)
Justice League #8 (DC)
Lobster Johnson #4 (Dark Horse)
Planet of the Apes #13 (Boom)
Punisher #10 (Marvel)
Ragemoor #2 (Dark Horse)
Rocketeer Adventures 2 #2 (IDW)
Wonder Woman #8 (DC)

With plenty to read, there's plenty to talk about. Here's some thoughts on some Marvel comics. Reviews on others later this weekend, hopefully.

Fantastic Four #605 *Pick of the Week* 
Sensational issue. Perfect epilogue to the sprawling saga that ended with last issue. Rather then engage in a soapy, emotional, overview of the myriad of events that just concluded, Jonathan Hickman has Reed Richards unwind by time-traveling with his dad. During the trip, Reed takes in the enduring legacy of his and his teammates work over the millenniums. Simply amazing how something that seemed like filler or padding or convenient in the build-up to the "Death of Johnny Storm" storyline - Ben being able to turn human again - propels the emotional center of this story. Artist Ron Garney depicts The Thing throughout the ages as resigned yet stubborn, with cracked rocky features and stalactite beard. Each panel is emotionally centered up to the end, back in the present where Reed slows down and appreciates all that's around him that's not a science experiment. This issue just solidifies how great a creation Ben Grimm/The Thing is. And why the bond between the four is something that other team books will never match. Highly recommended

Avenging Spiderman #6 / The Punisher #10 (The Omega Effect Three-Part Crossover)
One of my ground rules I made for myself when coming back to regular comic reading was not to fall for crossovers and nonsense of the like. So, now an excellent storyline from Daredevil has spilled over into Avenging Spiderman and Punisher and I find myself purchasing copies of Avenging Spiderman #6 and Punisher #10 (two series I don't normally buy) as I await Daredevil 11, which concludes the story. The story: Daredevil has a drive containing information on 5 megacrime organizations and each outift wants it. Punisher wants to kill everyone and Spidey makes a lot of quips (I probably only noticed the over-quipping Spidey, especially in Punisher issue scripted by Greg Rucka, as Rucka has said that he finds Spiderman "imtimidating to write" due to the wit factor). Rucka and Mark Waid (co-writer on Avenging Spierman and writer on the forthcoming Daredevil issue) create a powerful tension to Daredevil and Spiderman's uneasy alliance with Punisher as they plot to bring the crime groups together and, of course, make sure none of those groups acquire the disc. The Omega Effect story is solid so far.The art by Marco Checchetto in both Avenging Spidey and Punisher has been stellar, easily dispatching information from panel to panel cleanly and efficiently. I eagerly await the conclusion. These smallish crossover things are something I can get behind. Recommended

*I'm not sure why I'm so resistant to having a pull-list subscription at my shop, which would avoid problems like this especially now that creator-owned comics are rising steadily and, the ones I'm reading at least, are knocking it out of the park, but the demand may not be as high as weekly offerings from The Big Two, and so shops order for pre-orders, which leave someone like me, with out a pre-order, scrambling for titles that get a buzz, but may not have been ordered to satisfy demand.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

2 Snapshot Reviews and This Week's Haul

Last week's purchases were a solid bunch. Here's two of the standouts:

All-Star Western #7 (DC) *pick of the week*
Jonah Hex leaves Gotham for Nawlins and meets up with Nighthawk and Cinnamon in a fun tale that further blurs the line between Hex's anti-hero tendencies and the fact that he is pretty darn heroic. The Nighthawk and Cinnamon back-up hits all the right marks as well. The back-ups thus far have been excellent additions the All-Star Western roster. This book remains in the top 5 of the New 52. Recommended

Captain America & Bucky #628 (Marvel)
The closing chapter of the 2nd Bucky and Adam III story as well as the final Cap & Bucky tale as the title shifts to Cap & Hawkeye next issue. This arc was pretty great. The story had depth, action, whimsy, and sorrow. Well done, Ed Brubaker and James Asmus. But, the real accolades go to Francesco Francavilla, who just killed it over the 4 issues. Just amazing art and coloring. I was planning on dropping this book after this arc, but since Cullen Bunn of the fantastic Sixth Gun is hopping on board for the Cap/Hawkeye series, and he promises dinosaurs, I'll keep it in the "to buy" pile. Recommended

Later today I fully expect to have these in my possession:

Action Comics #8 (DC)*
Animal Man #8 (DC)
Creepy #8 (Dark Horse)
Daredevil #10.1 (Marvel)**
OMAC #8 (DC)
Swamp Thing #8 (DC)
Ultimate Spiderman #9 (Marvel)

*DC has Action #8 listed with 4/4 as the release date, but my LCS doesn't have it listed as an arrival for today. I'll see what happens.

**Not sure I get this ".1" business for comics. I'll flip through and see if it's worth my while.

In other news, IDW announced a new Godzilla series for the summer in addition to the new ongoing Godzilla beginning in May. It'll be nice to get my Godzilla fix again after a succesful run of three series overthe past year (h/t Comics Reporter)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

This Week's Haul & Thoughts On Print v. Digital

New comic book day yesterday! Here's what I picked up from the Ye Olde Local Comic Book Shoppe (LCS):

All-Star Western #7 (DC)
Captain America & Bucky #628 (Marvel)
Daredevil 10 (Marvel)
Flash #7 (DC)

Light week for the floppies. However, I buy other titles that came out this week but I deferred these to my digital purchases via Comixology. As the digital comics drop in price after a month, I wait for the price change, so I'm about a month behind on many of my titles.

I've slowly become a digital enthusiast for a number of reasons:

-Storage. What do I do with these 30 plus issues per month. They take up space. A part of me wishes I would treat these like the Sunday paper, read it and into the recycling bin it goes. But, that's not going to happen. So, transferring to digital allows me to purchase issue by issue and doesn't clog up my house. (Related, I have around 20 longboxes in my brother's basement and he's moving soon, so I need to find space for those in my place. Sigh.) Also makes reading comics during travel easy. Load up the iPad with comics to read, saves space on carrying around trades. (The trick is to get the iPad away from the kids during airplane rides.)

-Ease of Use. I mean this in both the reading experience and the ability to buy. It's really easy all around. Plus, I have an iPad 3 on the way and Comixology has upgraded the comics to be compatible with the retinal view or HD or whatever the iPad 3 is bragging about. Should be great! (I'm not a fan of the "guided view." I have it set-up to see the full page then tap to view each panel then again see the full page before moving to the next page. I need to keep the experience of turning the page somewhat intact.)

-Taking Chances. Buying digital issues makes it easier to take a chance on a series, writer, or artist that pique my interest. It's a cheaper gateway than buying a trade. Buy the first issue then if I'm hooked, buy more. That's how I discovered the amazing Sixth Gun (Oni Press). I bought the first issue on a lark for sale ($0.99) and soon after the entire back catalog and it's now in my monthly rotation. Conversely, switching to digital for some titles allow me to cull my list. Since I wait a month to get the cheaper digital price, I can see if, when the discount takes effect, I'm still interested in the title. I haven't officially dropped titles yet with this method, but I do have a few that I'm a few issues behind in purchasing. Plus, no back issue hunting if I let a month pass without buying. It's always available for downloading.

Now, slowly becoming a digital enthusiast doesn't mean that I'm wavering in my enthusiasm for the print monthlies. There's still a jolt of excitement in going to the LCS on Wednesday and scanning the shelves for the new arrivals or wandering around the aisles looking for a new title, writer, artist to discover among the trades and graphic novels. Though I don't really socialize or linger in the shop, I still feel a sense of community with the other patrons and employees. I suppose a bit of nostalgia comes into play as well when I eavesdrop on a conversation between two teens discussing the events of new Spiderman or Avengers or Batman. That was me over 25 years ago when my brother, a friend, and I would go comic shopping together and excitedly discuss what we were purchasing, why we were purchasing, and probably joshing each other about the lame stuff in our piles too.

Also, I'm a flipper. Nothing better than sitting down with a pile of comics and flipping through each to get a taste of what's going to happen. Can't really flip through the digital pages. An added bonus to getting the floppies each month is that my soon-to-be 5 year old at home also loves flipping through my weekly haul. It brightens my day to watch him happily sit on the couch with a pile of comics studying each page. (He likes anything with Captain America, Flash and monster books like Godzilla.)

So, for me, it's not a case of print versus digital. Rather, it's print and digital. I'm happy to be an advocate for both.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

COMIC BOOK REVIEWS: Pick of the (Last) Week and Other Noteworthy Mentions

So, I'll be implementing a grading system for my weekly comic reviews as follows:

Highly Recommended

I suppose it's the equivalent of a grading system using stars and, perhaps, at some point, I may switch to something with wiggle room for half-stars and what-not, but for now the above standards will be used.I'll also be focusing on the stuff I'm digging and not spend too much time on the pedestrian or downright disappointing fare. I have a quick trigger finger these days with dropping books that bore me, so there's little use writing about it if I'm not sticking with it. So, this week we have some thoughts on my "pick of the week" from last week's haul as well as some thoughts on other purchases.

Planet of the Apes by Daryl Gregory and Carlos Magno and published by Boom Studios has been a standout comic over the course of its first year. It takes place around 80 years before the original Planet of the Apes movie at a time of uneasy tension in ape/human co-existence.

Planet of the Apes is a great example of serial monthly comic writing. Gregory’s plotting during this inaugural storyline has been tight and focused. Wonderfull compact, increasingly complex, and always full of surprises it’s been a humdinger of a ride so far. It begins with the assassination of the great leader and the apes response focusing on the relationship between Alaya, the great leader’s niece and Sullivan, the human mayor of Skintown, who were raised together during a more peaceful time. #12 is the culmination of that storyline. It's a taut, brisk read without a standout fight sequence by Magno between Bako, a leader of the human resistance and Nix, a gorilla commander. As the epilogue demonstrates the events of the past 12 issues will continue to resonate in the next storyline. Since it's start a year ago PotA has been one to look forward each month. (I'm working on a larger piece covering the full run of PotA to date, which will hopefully be completed soon.) Highly Recommended

Dark Horse Comics has the distinction of having the two runners up to the coveted Colbinski Chronicle's "pick of the week." Ragemoor, a new 4 issue series by writer Jan Strnad and artist Richard Corben, spins an exceptional tale of a castle with its own sentience. And it seems evil to boot. I'm a sucker for haunted house stories and Ragemoor takes a haunted concept and runs with it. Corben's cartoony art adds to the gothic atmosphere and he does some incredible things in protraying the castle as alive and malevolent. Look at that cover. Ragemoor wasn't on my "to buy" list and then that cover just screamed at me from the shelf (as if it too had its own [hopefully, not malevolent] sentience) The first issue concerns a relative's return to Castle Ragemoor with plans to swindle it from the current occupants, who assure the newly arrived guests that he doesn't remain in the castle by choice and, why would you come back, you're just causing trouble for yourself. And that's enough for me. I'm hooked. Recommended

I'm still working my way through Eerie Presents: Hunter, a new hardcover collection of the Hunter stories from Warren's Eerie magazine in the 1970's. I've read the first 6 stories and it's pretty mind-blowing stuff. Hunter is a "demon hunter" tracking demon mutants in a post-apopalyptic world. There's some interesting world-building in each 8-page story (each of which can also stand on their own) culminating with an intense 2-parter that completes the "Hunter" portion of the collection. Next, on to Hunter II stories! The purple-prose, standard for the 70s comics of this type I've read, can be a bit much, but I forgive that indulgence as Paul Neary's art compliments the overwrought narration perfectly. The heavy ink lines Neary implements brings out the dread and chaos of Hunter's world. The writing is definitely the product of the anxiety of the times, like much doom-inspired sci-fi of the period showing humans on a collision course with terror of their own making. However, the dark shadows of the demons, the innovative panel arrangements, and the iconic attire of Hunter (spacesuit with helmet, staff in hand, fur shorts around the waist) make this a timeless tale. The opening tale has Hunter seek sanctuary in an old monastery only to come face to face with his prey. Information flows on a need to know basis, which only adds to the suspense, and the art reeks of desperation, isolation and misery. I would love to see a new Hunter series that takes the various germs and kernels of these stories to re-create this character and his world with modern sensibilities. Paul Neary may even be available to draw too. Highly Recommended

Other Thoughts
Wonder Woman #7 revealed some interesting things about Paradise Island and Amazonian history, but definitely felt like a bit of a placeholder issue as Wonder Woman's quest to rescue Zola from Hades has yet to begin. Lennox seems to have way too much influence over Diana's decisions the last few issues. Interested to see where this goes. Good

Justice League #7 was almost dreadful and I'm not sure where this book is going or what it's trying to do. I get it, Batman is serious, Hal Jordan/Green Lantern isn't. And that pretty much summed up the heroes interaction with each other. Disappointing

Thursday, March 22, 2012

I’m Back. Maybe. Sorta. We’ll See.

Yikes. It’s sure been a while since I last posted anything here. Plenty has happened, no time to write it down. Or something like that. Anyway, one interesting thing – in the context of this here blog, at least – is that I now read comic books on a regular monthly basis again. It started slowly. Check out a series here, pick up a series there. Oh, hey, that graphic novel looks good. Let’s give it a shot. Then it became a small, but steady stream of monthlies. I also discovered digital comics and that allowed me to check out some writers and artists that I was unfamiliar with since my last serious regular buying, which was probably sometime in 1993.

So, it was slow and steady and very fun to begin weekly treks to the local comic shop (LCS). During this time I wasn’t buying many superhero comics as I avoided most monthlies from DC and Marvel as everything seemed to be tied to some big “event” with universe-defining crossovers. I tired of “events” back in 1992; I wasn’t going to use my newly found comic reading time on such nonsense again. So I avoided the Big 2 and stuck to the little guys and comic genres like horror, crime, and monsters. Good stuff really. But I missed the capes and tights.

Then, in September 2011, DC Comics re-launched their entire line of superhero comics, starting each at number 1. Sure, this was just another gimmicky event in many ways, but it also provided me an opportunity to jump right into the action.

Now, 7 months after DC’s “New 52” re-launch, I am completely ensconced in around 40 (!) monthly titles from a half dozen publishers. My plan is to use this blog now as a comic book review/thoughts/essays forum. I’ll, at least, update it weekly with a list of the week’s haul and try to provide timely reviews and thoughts as well. We’ll see how it goes.

Last week's recommendations:
Exile on the Planet of the Apes #1 (Boom)
Fantastic Four #604 (Marvel)
Frankenstein: Agent of SHADE #7 (DC)
Saga #1 (Image) *Pick of the week*

This week’s haul:
Eerie Presents: Hunter HC (Dark Horse)
Justice League #7 (DC)
Planet of the Apes #12 (Boom)
Ragemoor #1 (Dark Horse)
Rocketeer Adventures 2 #1 (IDW)
Wonder Woman #7 (DC)