"Smoke and Mirrors: The Short Stories of Neil Gaiman," directed and adapted by my ridiculously talented college friend, Andy Hicks, is running for two more nights tonight (Thursday, March 29th) and tomorrow night (Friday, March 30th) at the Cambridge Family YMCA Theatre in Central Square. Ticket info here, and MySpace page here.
I can't go, unfortunately, because I am a terrible friend (also, hard to wrangle what would probably end up needing to be overnight childcare), so you should go and tell me all about it so I can experience it vicariously.
Great sketch, and a hell of a nice guy. Check out his website (and the CBR article linked above) for info on his upcoming book, Tales from the Cornerstone.
A.L.I.E.E.E.N. by Lewis Trondheim - I said before that even if I don't necessarily like everything First Second Books publishes, at least it's all interesting. Well, "interesting" is one of the only two positive things I can say about this book. The other is that the little alien characters are very well-designed and cute. At least until the butt of one of 'em (whose eyes had already been gouged out, mind you) starts spewing forth a river of poo. The stories all interconnect with each other in clever ways (There, that's three positive things! Go me!), but honestly, this is little more than Happy Tree Friends for the Euro comics crowd. So if terrible things happening to adorable creatures is your thing, this is probably the book for you. Otherwise, just go read The Professor's Daughter or American Born Chinese again. You'll be glad you did.
Smoke and Mirror - Generational super-hero story from writer Chuck Satterlee and a couple of different artists, none of whom I can remember right now because I don't have the book in front of me. The title characters are the inheritors of the legacies of a 1940s crimefighting duo, Mr. Smoke (a mystic) and Miss Mirror (a speedster). The new Smoke is a lawyer who only recently developed any sort of conscience, and Mirror is a brash Hot Topic worshipper, and of course, they're alternately repulsed by and attracted to one another. Nothing terribly new storywise, the romance feels a little forced, and the ending recalls a famous Star Trek episode (I won't say which one, because that would give it all away), but it's a fun story that's a nice little Valentine to both Golden and Silver Age comics, and I think we could use a little more of that these days, so I'm looking forward to what comes next.
The Lexian Chronicles: Full Circle Volume 1 - Beginning of an adaptation of a fantasy novel of the same name. Haven't read it, so I don't know how good or accurate an adaptation it is, but this held my interest. I'm not a big fantasy fan, so I figure that's something in its favor right there. It's the story of Reena, 13 year old daughter of a tribal chieftain who's a bit of an outcast among the other children, seeing as she's smarter, tougher, and more resourceful than just about everyone. She discovers an ancient cave containing long-lost runes telling the history of her people and gets dragged into her father's dealings with a just-returned enemy tribe... and that's it for this volume, really. There isn't a definitive end to a story arc so much as a stopping point. I realize this is the beginning of a larger story, but still, I want to feel like I'm reading an entire story even within that framework, too, if it's being collected. The artwork by Inaki Miranda is the real star here, though, reminding me of Mike Wieringo or Chris Sprouse artwork, with a bit of manga influence thrown in for good measure. It's vaguely cartoony, but never distractingly so. And refreshingly, the main character actually looks like a 13 year old girl instead of a Victoria's Secret model trying and failing to pass as 13, so that's a welcome change from the norm. He's a real find, and I'll definitely search out his work in the future.
Newsarama is reporting that Marshall Rogers died.
Rogers was a phenomenal artist with a lot of great work attached to his name, but he's best known for his work on Detective Comics #s 471-476 with writer Steve Englehart and inker Terry Austin. Though it lasted just 6 issues, for most folks (myself included), this is the Batman run. It's collected in the book Batman: Strange Apparitions, and it's well worth checking out.
There's some other stories collected in the book, at least one drawn by Walter Simonson, as I recall. but it's the Rogers work that'll stand out. Like a lot of the great artists to come up in the 70s - your Simonsons, your Goldens, your Chaykins, your Kalutas, and so on - his style manages to be "traditional" and unique at the same time. It's hard to explain, but if you check it out, you'll see what I mean. He was a true talent, and he'll be missed.
As much of a bookworm as I am, I hate that period of time when I’m in between books. I’m really picky about what I read… I figure I’m not in school anymore, so I shouldn’t have to deal with reading anything I don’t find completely interesting. If it’s boring, it’s out the door and back to the library, or off to Amazon Marketplace or eBay or the Salvation Army without a moment’s hesitation. The upshot is that any book I get through is almost certainly enjoyable, but finding a book that I actually want to finish can be a real chore sometimes.
After finishing Asimov’s Foundation (quick review: decent, but got tiring with all the politics, so I only skimmed the last 50 pages; also, I found that I hate hate HATE “futuristic” character names), I’ve been having an especially hard time trying to find what to read next. I generally enjoy Vonnegut, so I gave Player Piano a shot, but was bored by page 5 (I don’t really enjoy his earlier, more over SF stuff, anyway, but thought I’d give it a shot since it was on my shelf). I got a free copy of Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughn at the New York Comic Con, and was willing to give that a try - the idea of a werewolf DJ hosting an Art Bell-like show that was actually legit sounded cool - but it seemed to be a horror novel of the modern, "Anita Blake "variety (read: softcore for monster fans), so I vowed to duck out if there was werewolf sex before page 50. Needless to say, I didn't make it. I was disappointed, but at the same time, I kind of admired Vaughn's restraint... I was impressed she could hold off on the supernatural bootknocking for 26 whole pages.
As you can see by the sidebar, I'm currently giving The Areas of My Expertise by Daily Show correspondent and beleaguered anthropomorphic PC representation John Hodgman a try. It's just as funny as you'd expect, but since it's just a collection of short articles, lists, and charts, it's not the sort of thing you necessarily want to sit down and read for long periods of time, so it's not as satisfying as I'd prefer. It'd be perfect bathroom reading if not for the fact that the current bathroom book, Showcase Presents Green Lantern Vol. 1, is also perfect bathroom reading (say what you will about Silver Age DC, those folks knew how to pace a story just right for the rest room readers out there). So although I'm enjoying it, I can see it being shunted in the very near future, set aside for the time when I'm finally finished reading story after story where Hal Jordan gets knocked out cold by yellow lamps.
While writer's block is a very frustrating thing indeed, I almost think I mind reader's block even more. So I put it to you, blog-reading public: what's good?
You know what else is excellent? Free comics. You can read the first issue of Ape Entertainment's The Black Coat: A Call to Arms for free over on ComicSpace. There are preview pages available for the rest of the series, as well as the upcoming sequel, "...Or Give Me Death." I'll be checking this out myself later today, since the concept sounds very cool: a Revolutionary War-era Batman/Shadow type fighting British troops and monsters. I hear good things (of course, all you have to say is "monsters" and I'm there, but still).
In even cooler news, Rich Johnson is saying 2008 will pretty much be the year of Captain Marvel, with a cartoon, toys, a big push for the collected Jeff Smith book, and the whole works. He's giving it a green light, and he tends to be pretty accurate at that level, so this is cool news indeed. Fanboy glee happy dancing line forms to the right.
1. Name a movie that you have seen more than 10 times.
Well, I’ve probably seen The Muppet Movie more than 10 times in the last month, but that’s because Liam is sort of obsessed with it. But beyond that, I’d guess the original Star Wars trilogy (and probably Empire the most of those), maybe Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Wizard of Oz, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Office Space, The Princess Bride, Run Lola Run… you know, there’s probably quite a few.
2. Name a movie that you've seen multiple times in the theater.
Run Lola Run, X-Men 2, the original Star Wars trilogy if you count the Special Editions, Batman Returns for some reason, Shakespeare in Love because
3. Name an actor that would make you more inclined to see a movie.
Rachel Weisz and Kate Winslet, but that’s more because I’m actually inclined to be staring at them the whole time (they’s right pretty). Honestly, though, I don’t know if there’s an actor or actress whose name will guarantee I’ll see the movie.
4. Name an actor that would make you less likely to see a movie.
There are plenty of folks I’ll stay away from, though! Larry the Cable Guy, Dane Cook, Sasha Baron Cohen (all painfully unfunny, though for different reasons), Sean Penn (too full of himself), Vin Diesel (except for The Iron Giant, but that’s a cartoon so that’s different), almost any pop star who suddenly fancies him-or-herself an actor (your Spearses, your Timberlakes, your Simpsons, etc.)
5. Name a movie that you can and do quote from.
Unsurprisingly, The Muppet Movie, but also Star Wars, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the first Austin Powers, Ghostbusters, Strange Brew, The Princess Bride, Superman, probably Clerks and Mallrats, maybe Office Space, and probably lots more if the truth were to be known.
6. Name a movie musical that you know all of the lyrics to all of the songs
Not a one. I only like a few musicals, and I don’t really know many of the songs. I could probably squeak by on chunks of Jesus Christ Superstar, but that’s probably it. As much as I like Singin’ in the Rain, I think I know maybe all of 4 lines of the songs (and two of those are probably “Gotta dance!”).
7. Name a movie that you have been known to sing along with
Sort of a redundant question now, isn’t it?
8. Name a movie that you would recommend everyone see.
I liked Andy’s answer of Amelie, because that’s a fantastic film. And maybe Kiki’s Delivery Service, which is probably my favorite animated film ever. The story’s a little juvenile, even for me, but the animation is gorgeous. Actually, see any
9. Name a movie that you own.
Just one? Alright – Godzilla: Final Wars. This list needed a monster movie in there somewhere.
10. Name an actor that launched his/her entertainment career in another medium but who has surprised you with his/her acting chops.
Mark Wahlberg. If you had told me, say, 12 to 15 years ago that freakin’ Marky Mark would be an Oscar nominated actor, and deservedly so, I would’ve laughed right in your face.
11. Have you ever seen a movie in a drive-in? If so, what?
Not a one, and let me tell you, I feel like I’ve missed out.
13. Name a movie that you keep meaning to see but just haven't yet gotten around to it.
My parents were pretty strict with movie ratings as a kid, so if it was rated R, I didn’t see it, so even now, nearly 13 years past my 18th birthday (and maybe 15 years since they stopped caring at least as far as stuff on HBO went), there’s still a lot I need to catch up on. For now, let’s just say Godfather 2 as a representative, but there are so many others.
14. Ever walked out of a movie?
Erin and I walked out of Topsy-Turvy after less than a half-hour. We were not the sort of core audience for a movie about Gilbert and Sullivan. Because we hate hate HATE Gilbert and Sullivan. Hate.
15. Name a movie that made you cry in the theater.
I seem to remember that I got a little misty when that one kid died in The Cider House Rules.
When I can find someone to co-sign the loan required to purchase it, yes, because theater popcorn is the finest kind around.
17. How often do you go to the movies (as opposed to renting them or watching them at home)?
Between the ticket prices, obnoxious audience members, and issues securing childcare, we almost never go anymore. We have to really, really want to see something to deal with all that.
18. What's the last movie you saw in the theater?
I think it was Superman Returns, which wasn’t the best note to go out on. (I am the core audience for a Superman movie… if I find it boring, guess what? You failed, Bryan Singer.)
19. What's your favorite/preferred genre of movie?
I’m not really sure. I can sit through just about anything so long as I find it interesting. Except for most horror movies or period costume dramas.
20. What's the first movie you remember seeing in the theater?
The Empire Strikes Back, age 4.
21. What movie do you wish you had never seen?
Oh, there’s lots, I’m sure, but to pick a recent example,
22. What is the weirdest movie you enjoyed?
That movie the Monkees made, Head. It’s about as incoherent as anything could possibly be, but I found it to be pretty fun. Of course, I had insomnia and it was like 3 a.m., but still.
23. What is the scariest movie you've seen?
The Day After. It’s a TV movie, but I still say it counts. That movie will mess you up but good.
24. What is the funniest movie you've seen?
Honestly, it depends on my mood. Today I’ll say Ghostbusters, but tomorrow it could very well be Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Of course, this isn't an issue now. We live in an era when just about every TV show or movie you can imagine is available on DVD for sale or rental (with a notable exception here and there), and with eleventy-jillion cable networks and On Demand programming, the array of material we have near-perpetual access to is even wider still. And I love it, but still, there's something I sort of miss about how things used to be: none of these movies or shows seem particularly special anymore, or not as special as they used to be. I guess I just miss these things seeming like "events."
For example: The Wizard of Oz. Growing up, this was on once a year. Twice if you were lucky, but I don't recall that ever happening much. And as a result, Wizard of Oz Night was a capital-e Event, and you, me, and everyone we knew in our age bracket treated it as such. If I was out playing after dinner, I was on the couch at 8 p.m. sharp. If I was out somewhere with my parents - shopping, school function, dinner at the grandparents, whatever - I made sure they had you home in time to see the CBS Special Presentation logo spinning out at you from the center of the screen.* My mom would break out the old hot-air popper and make me a bowl of popcorn (complete with melted butter... drool), pour me the biggest glass of Kool-Aid you've ever seen, and I'd be set for the night, barring bathroom breaks, which I'd time perfectly with the commercial breaks. And the biggest deal of all, of course, is that I'd get to stay up late to see the whole thing. Bedtime was always pretty strictly set in my house, but Wizard of Oz night was always a special exception. Of course, I think I fell asleep before the end at least as many times as I actually saw the full movie (maybe even more often, come to think of it), but still, even the theory of extended bedtime was a huge deal.
And it was the same story with Mary Poppins, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Star Wars (so rarely shown on TV as a kid that every occurrence was met with near-religious ritual observance), and yes, The Muppet Movie (and maybe a few others I can't remember right now): these weren't just movies being shown on TV, they were happenings, the sort of thing you looked forward to all year long. And as much cool stuff as Liam is going to have to look forward to himself (and Erin and I along with him), I can't help but think that he'll really be missing out in this particular regard.
*Obviously, this applied for A Charlie Brown Christmas, too. That logo is almost a requirement to complete the viewing experience, and it's a crying shame that's not included on the DVD!
"Once in a Lifetime" by Talking Heads – Probably a clichéd choice, but it sort of sums up how I feel most days, so not entirely inappropriate.
“Rhubarb Pie (Hot Commodity)” by The Laurie Berkner Band – Seeing as Liam is my alarm clock, a song from his very favorite singer (possibly even very favorite person) is appropriate. Plus, this one is bouncy and fun.
First Day At School:“My Name is Jonas” by Weezer – Not sure how this would work, but it’s an awesome song, so it’ll do.
Falling In Love:
“Gigantor” by Helmet – My fight scene involves giant robots? Oh. Hell. Yes.
“Can’t Buy Me Love” by The Beatles – We had a lot of early 90s dance music at our prom. Some Beatles would’ve been appreciated.
“Election Day” by The Replacements – Not the ‘Mats song I would’ve chosen (that’d probably be the so-called Tim version of “Can’t Hardly Wait”), but I’ll take it, I guess.
“You’ve Got a Chance” by Bad Religion – Apparently I have a very socially conscious mental breakdown.
“That Thing You Do!” by the Wonders – Very upbeat drive, so I must not be going to work.
“Lone Wolf” by the Eels – I’d think “Saturday Morning” would be a better choice from the Eels, personally, but at least this is from the same album.
Getting Back Together:
“Elenore” by Boy Wonder – Excellent cover of my favorite Turtles song, and the sort of thing I’d probably say in such a situation: “You’re my pride and joy, et cetera!”
“My Problem (live)” by Dance Hall Crashers – Well, I got married on purpose, and the day went pretty well, so I wouldn’t call it particularly problematic. Also, little-to-no ska was involved.
Birth of Child:
“Cesspool” by Blake Babies – Oh, Juliana, that’s just mean! Just because my son doesn’t like your music yet doesn’t mean he won’t eventually be brainwashed into it!
“She Blinded Me With Science” by Thomas Dolby – Nerdiest Final
“Man on the Moon” by Sugar – Um, okay? I don’t know this song so well, and I don’t have my headphones at the moment, so I can’t really listen to it right now, so I’ll have to take the pod’s word for it.
“One Less Set of Footsteps” by Jim Croce – Well, that’s just kinda sad, isn’t it?
“Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash – Screen quick fades to black, and then in start the trumpets. Yeah, that’ll do.
Loose Marvel Legends MODOK Build-A-Figure control panel piece.
Hectic Planet Vol. 2: Checkered Past trade paperback.
Hectic Planet Vol. 3: The Young and the Reckless trade paperback.
Civil War Front Line #1 - Wizard World Chicago sketch cover.
X-Men #175 - Wizard World Boston sketch cover.
If you're so inclined, bid early, often, and honestly!
My Marvel Team:
Ms. Marvel is field commander, since she's got the military background and Something To Prove To Herself & The World. Iron Fist is sort of the silent co-commander; he's bankrolling the whole deal, so that gives him clout and say in how things are run, but he mostly just wants to play Kung-Fu Billionaire (nickname courtesy of Matt Fraction on his Comic Geek Speak interview) and kick people in the head. Spider-Man is in there for tech wizardry, street sense, and humor value (and I'm getting to actually prefer the black costume in my old age). The Thing is the obvious power house, and besides, he's everyone's buddy, anyway, and if Wolverine can moonlight on other teams, why can't he? Kitty Pryde is your espionage go-to, as well as another tech-head; and naturally, Lockheed's along for the ride. Howard the Duck is there because, well, he can be, and we need the comedy relief character. And last but not least, Nocturne; as the alternate-universe daughter of Nightcrawler and Scarlet Witch, she has a nice mix of both their powers, which could prove useful in all kinds of situations.
My DC Team:
Mr. Terrific is your leader; he's the world's third smartest man (By the way, who are the top two?), you're gonna argue with that? Green Lantern Soranik Natu is the requisite GL Corps representative. The android Hourman has space & time at his command, so that's all kinds of useful. Zatanna fills the dual roles of powerful mage and fishnet stocking wearer, which are always needed on DC teams. The new Atom, Ryan Choi, is your resident scientist and spy. Thunder (CeCe Binderbeck), the Marvel Family member from the far future and one-time Legionaire, is here because I enjoy the idea that the energetic teen girl hero is also the powerhouse. Robin combines the detective and head-kicking skills of a Bat-family member with about 1/3 less angst. Oracle (Barbara Gordon) is your source of information and tactical planning. And Bat-Mite just thinks he's being helpful.
I think my DC team would be a real force to be reckoned with, with a really great mix of powers and experience. The Marvel team is good, but still seems to be missing something... maybe another flyer, someone with stronger magic skills, or a more official scientist type. I don't know... I'm open to suggestions.
No real reason for doing this other than to pass the time. It was kinda fun, though, but a chilling reminder of what happens when you give a nerd too much spare time. Always keep the dorks in your life mentally engaged, folks!
Sardine in Outer Space Vol. 1 - Fun kids stuff from Emmanuel Guibert and Joann Sfar, creators of (among other things) the very-much-beloved-by-me The Professor's Daughter (though here they've flip-flopped on writer and artist duties). Not as good as The Professor's Daughter (but so little is), but that's probably an unfair comparison since this is an entirely different animal altogether. The title character is a young girl who's sort of a space pirate in training, zooming around the cosmos with her buccaneer uncle and troublemaker cousin, and making life miserable for supervillain dictator Supermuscleman at every turn. High art it ain't - unless you consider vomit and fart jokes high art (and who among us doesn't at times?) - but it's a quick, breezy, and fun read, and perfect fare for the kids. I think this one may end up migrating to Liam's shelf.
Amelia Rules Vol. 3: Superheroes - I've been a fan of this book since issue 1, though the erratic release schedule made me eventually drop the floppies for the trades (though this is actually the first trade I've picked up... my good intentions are rarely matched by the contents of my wallet, sadly), so this is the first time I've actually read this story. Unsurprisingly, it's pretty great. I was afraid the idea of a continuing story wouldn't work so well with this book, but thankfully I was wrong. Each story still manages to maintain the episodic, stand-alone nature of the early issues, but the ongoing storythread still weaves through quite nicely, though without being so intrusive as to confuse anyone who might be picking it up midway, even if you don't quite understand the charmingly incongruous Miracleman riff. Still the best book about growing up that's (sporadically) on the stands, filled with people that invoke the
best kid characters of the past and yet still seem original. Also, I firmly believe that if you don't laugh at loud at least once an issue, you have no soul.
Modern Masters Vol. 9: Mike Wieringo - I've been curious about this series from TwoMorrows for awhile now, and when I saw they did a volume on Wieringo, who has been one of my favorite artists for a while now, I figured this would be the perfect entry point. And it's a good little package they've put together here: a long interview with Mike conducted by his friend and frequent collaborator, Todd Dezago, and a whole bunch of really great artwork - pencil pages, rough sketches, character designs, pin-ups, some of the more finished sketchwork from his blog... oh, there's lots here. Like most TwoMorrows products, it's probably not the sort of thing you're going to want if you're not already a fan, but if you are, it's definitely worth checking out. And I think I'll be moving on to the Walter Simonson and Arthur Adams volumes when time and money allow (and I still say they should put together a Mike Parobeck volume in the future).
Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane: Super Crush - Let's hear it once again for the Target Marvel collections! Great size, format, and price point... and once they're labeled for markdown, that price point gets even better. I picked this up for $1.25... when was the last time you got 4 comic books for so little? Anyway, I was hesitant to pick this up at first, because, being a Peter Parker type myself (only without the aptitude for science, the powers, or the supermodel-caliber women fighting over me), let's just say I had a pretty deep bias against a book that basically focused on the popular kids. But, again, $1.25. I'm not made of stone here. I'm glad I caved, because I did end up liking this. I like the more traditional feel going on in the Marvel Adventures Spider-Man book better, but I did appreciate the unique take on the Spider-Man world that this book had to offer. I think it helps that Sean McKeever has a knack for writing teen angst that doesn't sound so... angsty, I guess. And he does write a pretty fab MJ - sure of herself (mostly), but not the over-the-top attention hound Stan first wrote her as. It's a big improvement. The artwork didn't wow me, but it was kinda fun to see a manga-styled Rocket Racer. I think I just may be inclined to check out the later issues now, so I'd have to call this book a success.
Comics Should Be Good pays tribute to the late, great Mike Parobeck, naming him Reason #66 of the 365 Reasons to Love Comics. Parobeck remains one of my favorite comics artists ever, so I'm hard-pressed to disagree. A book celebrating his art is long overdue... hey TwoMorrows, how about a Modern Masters volume?
You might want to think twice about plunking down $150 for a character head sketch from Brian Bolland. I'm just saying.
So Discount Comic Book Service has this banner up on its site to promote DC's upcoming weekly series, Countdown (which is the sequel to their current weekly book, 52):
"Yes, folks, you've plunked down $2.50 a week for an entire year, but if you want to see how the story actually ends, get ready to shell out every week for another whole year. And this time it costs more! Come and get it, sheep!" And people wonder why I've been so cynical about the Big 2 these last few months.
The Comic Sketch Gallery web site has switched servers and should hopefully be free of the inconsistent availability that plagued it throughout its first few months of existence. There's a lot of really amazing sketch work from all manner of artists available for your viewing pleasure, so check it out if you get the chance.
Yet another tragedy has befallen a superhero that regular people might have actually heard of, and Mike Sterling has the story!
Hey, look, some yahoo bid $200 for both the regular and variant editions of yesterday's Captain America #25. Hmmm... who do I hit first: the guy who sold 'em, or the guy who bought 'em?
Also, please note that the winning bidder has a feedback number of "0." Good luck getting your cash, Speculator Pandering eBay Seller Man!
Finally I present you with this:
Blue Beetle sketch he drew for me at NYCC).
bought for me as a 22nd birthday gift).
Separated at birth? And maybe with a time machine? Mom, is there something you're not telling me?
Roger Ailes is the real life J. Jonah Jameson, isn't he? (Spoilery, so watch out if you care about that sort of thing.)
"...the former World War II soldier is gunned down on the steps of a courthouse by a sniper's bullet, a victim of a war on terror."
Now, admittedly, I haven't been reading Civil War or any of the related garbage, but even I know that any connection between this and a war on terror of any kind is tenuous at best, no matter what sort of allegorical spin Marvel tries to put on this in its press releases. This leads me to believe that either Fox employees get some sort of bonus every time they're able to make some sort of vague link to terrorism ("Fox News - always looking for boogeymen, and inventing them when necessary!"), or else Fox News chairman Roger Ailes is the real world equivalent of J. Jonah Jameson, forever banging on his desk and yelling at his reporters to bring him incriminating news about his own personal Spider-Man.
If I was a betting man, I'd lay money down on the former, but the geek in me desperately hopes it's the latter.
The Professor's Daughter by Joann Sfar and Emmanuel Guibert - I could say that I liked this, or even that I loved it, but I don't think that goes far enough. This book is, simply put, one of the best pieces of graphic fiction / sequential art / comics goodness / your-term-of-preference-here I've read in a long time, maybe even ever. The story by Sfar mixes both romance and absurd farce and succeeds brilliantly (no simple feat), and Guibert's artwork is just beautiful, capturing both the grandest action and the most subtle facial expressions with equal skill and grace. My only complaint is that this wasn't about 200 pages longer. I truly feel sorry for anything else I read for the rest of the year, because no matter how much I like it, I'm going to be forced to ask "Yes, but was it better than The Professor's Daughter?" And in most cases, the answer will be a firm "no." This is Fun Comics of the highest degree, and expect to see this on a lot of "best of" lists come December.
Utopiates 1 & 2 - Dystopian future stories aren't usually my thing; I chalk this up to seeing part of The Day Afteras a little kid and getting messed up but good by it. I've never really warmed up to cyberpunk, either. But this book was interesting enough to get my attention. The core concept is interesting: Utopiates are the street name for a type of injectable designer RNA strands that temporarily re-write your memory, allowing you to experience any number of potential life situations. You want to be a rock star, an ultimate killing machine, or just know the love of a good family? All these experiences and more can be yours if you're willing to pay the price. It's a great hook that sets up equally well for an individual vignettes (like issue 1) or a multi-part story (which kicks off in issue 2), but recurring characters give the feel of a unified world. Very unique art, too, which looks to be a mix of traditional, digital, and photographic styles - almost digitized fumetti, if you can picture it. Josh Finney and Kat Rocha have created something worth checking out (and, in the interest of full disclosure, are very nice people to meet in person and sit across from at dinner... but honestly, even if I hadn't met them, I'd still dig the book). I'm glad I wandered out of my usual comfort zone for this.
Action Comics Annual 10 - More retro-Silver Age goodness with a modern twist, this time in form as well as content. Like reworking the original Mon-El story, bringing back the different varieties of Kryptonite, and including an old school map of the Fortress of Solitude weren't enough to make me want to pick this up, they format the cover like the 80 Page Giants of old and even throw in some go-go checks across the top. Ah, geek love. And surprisingly, I found I didn't mind the addition of the continuity inserts inspired by the Richard Donner movies; they could've been very heavily plot-hammered in, but they were handled pretty subtly, I thought. And amazingly, Geoff Johns was able to again restrain the sort of ultraviolent story tendencies that have made him the Ed Gein of superhero comics these past few years. All the more impressive considering there was a huge opportunity for him to let loose in that scene with the Bizarros and the Thanagarian ship. Is it the calming influence of a co-writer (Donner here, Kurt Busiek on the "Up, Up, and Away" arc), or did DC make it known that that sort of material doesn't fly (ugh. sorry) in the Superman books? I'd love to find that out.
The Key Preview Issue - Sketches and preview pages for the upcoming series from Erica Hesse and Christopher Holt. It looks to be about Hell, a girl with some sort of unknown demonic legacy, a love affair that somehow may be able to survive the death of one of the participants, and probably inevitably, zombies. I like Hesse's artwork, but even if I have proven myself capable of wandering beyond my comfort zone, I don't think that I'm going to be the target audience for this book. It just sounds too much like a Chaos or Avatar book for my liking. With zombies. And I'm ready for the zombie thing to just be over already. Let's move on to the next big soon-to-be-overused comics concept, shall we? How about robots this time? I don't think robots have really gotten a fair shake yet. Or maybe platypi. Who doesn't love platypi?
Story TODD DEZAGO, art & cover MIKE WIERINGO HC, 288pgs, FC $39.99 S&N/HC, 288pgs, FC $75.00 MAY 30.
Now for the first time in one stunning, oversized hardcover edition-TODD DEZAGO and MIKE WIERINGO's award-winning epic fantasy, TELLOS! Journey with young Jarek and tiger-warrior Koj as they team up with a pirate princess called Serra, to confront the terrible Malsur who is set on devouring the denizens of this magical patchwork world! TELLOS is an all-ages rollercoaster of action and adventure, mystery and magic, and good versus evil! The perfect format for the perfect bedtime story-for children of ALL ages! RETAILER WARNING: MAY NOT BE SUITABLE FOR ALL AGES(Emphasis mine.)
Seriously, Diamond, you already have the industry and its fans by the short hairs. At least do us all the favor of making sure that solicitation copy doesn't contradict itself, most especially in the space of a mere two sentences!
In the interest of fairness, though, I feel the need to point out that despite the horribly written and blatantly contradictory Diamond solicitation copy you see above, if you have the means, you should do yourself a favor and acquire this book, or at least the earlier trades or back issues, as it's truly one of the best fantasy/adventure comics of the last decade or so.
Between shopping at the New York Comic Con, shopping closer to home, and winning a stack of Markosia books from the folks at Comic Geek Speak, I’ve been reading a lot of stuff lately. Here’s one longish thought and some shorter ones:
The Plain Janes – A lot of people seemed to have it in for DC’s Minx line right out of the starting gate. Not enough female creators, said some. Stupid name, said others. And maybe these are valid points, but please don’t throw Minx under the bus without at least sampling their wares first, because if the rest of the line is as good as this one, you’ll be missing out on some very good, very fun comics. Written by YA novelist Cecil Castellucci and drawn by Street Angel’s Jim Rugg, it’s the story of teenage girl named Jane who is forced to move with her family from the city to a small, quiet town after she survives a terrorist attack. Convinced of the power of art to change lives and make a difference in the world, she befriends three girls from “the loser table” (who coincidentally all have names that are some form of “Jane”) and ropes them into her new initiative – a guerrilla art gang that sets up installations around town in the dead of night, much to the fear, confusion, and occasional amusement of others.
The story rises above typical high school story fare, and a lot of that falls firmly on the shoulders of Ms. Castellucci. She has a great ear for dialogue and quickly establishes unique voices for not only the Janes, but the entire cast. You might not have known anyone who started an art gang, but trust me, you know these people, you went to high school with them, and you may even be one of them. Rugg’s artwork is amazing, too, and it’s led me to the conclusion that I’ve been skipping Street Angel for far too long. I’ll correct that problem soon. His designs are all very realistic, but they also maintain a sense of the fantastic that I haven’t seen too often before. One page in particular - what is technically a splash page that is actually broken into 4 smaller panels – really stands out in a spectacular way. You really need to see it for yourself to truly appreciate it.
The Plain Janes isn’t a perfect book – I was bothered by one subplot that doesn’t so much get resolved as just sort of stop – but it is a very, very good one, and well worth your comic dollars. I know that the stated purpose of the Minx line is to attract more teenage girls as comic readers, and I’m hoping they succeed there, but if this book is any indication of the line as a whole, crossing age and gender lines won’t be any problem, either.
(Note: this book was advance solicited for May in the February Previews, but they handed out promo copies at the New York Comic Con. So if you weren’t lucky enough to score a copy there, you’ll have to wait, sadly, but it’s totally worth it.)
Mutation Vol. 1 – I talked about reading the first issue of the second mini-series a while back, and I think I mentioned that I was hoping that reading the original mini would help flesh the characters out more and maybe explain what was going on a little better. Well, it doesn’t. It’s all brightly colored, well-drawn superhero punch-ups, but honestly not much more than that. Little depth here, and no real sense of who these people are or what motivates them. I’m not looking for Proust here, but a little Stan Lee wouldn’t hurt, you know? It also bothers me that all the women look almost exactly the same – cute, but with the most evil-looking eyes and grins you’ve ever seen. It took me almost the entire first issue to realize that Mutation’s girlfriend wasn’t also the super-villain he was fighting. Entertaining enough, I suppose, but in a cotton candy sort of way. Don’t expect it to stick with you for long.
Superman: Up, Up, and Away – Yet another rebooting/retooling of the status quo for Superman and company, but this one actually works pretty well. Everything is more or less put back in the same places we remember, but there are still elements that seem fresh somehow, particularly Lex Luthor. I wouldn’t have thought you could combine elements of Elliot S! Maggin and John Byrne’s respective versions of the character and end up with something good, but I’m glad to see that I would’ve lost that bet. And the reintroduction of some of the Silver Age concepts, particularly Superman’s super-powerful intellect and a subtle nod to the one-time team of Luthor, Toyman, and Prankster? Yeah, I’m pretty much the target audience for that sort of thing. As the kids say, I’ve been pwned by Busiek and Johns, but at least they were nice about it. Plus, as an added bonus, everyone’s internal organs managed to stay inside their own bodies. That’s gotta be Busiek’s doing (I know, “Johns as evisceration fetishist” is an overused joke, but some stereotypes become stereotypes for a reason, you know? I’m this close to not letting that Johns boy into my house anymore. He has issues.).