Pretty Sketchy: One Brave (and Bold) Wildcat

A Batman: The Brave and the Bold-style Wildcat drawn for my son Liam by Andrew Charipar and picked up at New York Comic Con '09.

Yeah, I know, I have a lot of Andrew Charipar sketches. But I love his art style, he does great work at great prices, and he's a hell of a nice guy, so I try and get work from him whenever possible!

If you're not related to me, feel free to ignore this post.

My wife and a couple other family members asked me to post my birthday want list on the blog for easier access. Erin also had the idea of posting my list as Amazon links so maybe I can get a little associate credit, too. So that's what this is. Sorry for the crass commercialism here. Feel free to ignore the post altogether.

Morrissey's Noncore

So Erin and I went to see Morrissey in concert on Saturday night at MGM Grand at Foxwoods in Mashantucket, CT (and if you've never been to MGM or to Foxwoods proper, they're literally out in the sticks... you drive through pleasantly ruralish Connecticut and then suddenly GIANT CASINOS AS IF FROM NOWHERE!!!). Now, I wouldn't consider myself a big Morrissey fan, though I do like several Smiths songs and some of his solo tracks, not that I remember the names of more than 3 or 4 of these. But I bought the tickets for Erin back on Valentine's Day, so I gladly went in the name of Awesome Husbandhood, and also because, come on, it's Morrissey. Given how flamboyantly, well, Morrssenian he is, I figure the dude had to put on a good show.

And he did. But Erin's better suited to describe the show itself, so I'm trying to coax her to write about it so I can post it here like I did with her Watchmen review (though I do want to say I was surprised and happy to actually hear him drop a few Smiths tunes into the set - This Charming Man, How Soon Is Now?, and Ask Me). I am, however, going to tell you about The Encore That Wasn't.

So the show ends, Moz and his band take their bows, and wander off the stage. The crowd's cheering, and the instrument techs come out to prep the gear for the inevitable return to stage. Sure enough, they come back, get all ready to play... and the Morrissey mumbles something about the poetry having ended, the electricity having gone out of the room, thank you and good night. He wanders off, the band lagging a bit behind (as if they weren't quite sure what just happened), and then house lights and music come up.

And we the audience... just kinda sat there. Eventually a few scattered boos were shouted, but generally the reaction was more along the lines of "Yeahbutwha... ?"

Erin nosed around a few message boards Sunday morning, and three theories seemed most prevalent:

1. Someone in the front row said something to Morrissey which pissed him off and caused him to leave. Given that he handed the mic to the audience several times so that they could shower him with praise, this seems unlikely.

2. The power literally did leave the room just before the encore, making it impossible to play. Possible, maybe even probable, but it would've been limited solely to the stage equipment, then, because everything else was fine.

3. It was just Moz being Moz.

I tend to lean toward 3, if only because it supports my own beliefs about the man. Several times made fun of the fact that he was playing a casino in the middle of hunting country, so I think it's entirely conceivable that he had just had enough. And this is Morrissey we're talking about here... he's all about the showmanship, and leaving the crowd wanting more - literally, and maybe a bit angrily in places here - is what showmanship is all about. Either way, I admired that he had the balls to do this without explanation or apology. Encore or Noncore, we got exactly the Morrissey we were expecting, and therefore it was money well-spent.

In which I discover that such a thing as "a good Ghost Rider comic book" can exist.

So I know all sorts of people online have been raving about how good Jason Aaron's Ghost Rider has been. But even when it came from people whose opinions I generally respect, well, come on... it's Ghost Rider. I always kind of figured "best Ghost Rider run ever" was akin to be named "world's shortest giant." But I was promised The Awesome with issue #33 from just the cameos alone, and I have to admit that I was wrong. The Awesome was indeed delivered, and if Aaron's work on the book is always like this, I may need to reconsider my stance on the very idea of Ghost Rider. And possibly giants. What made it so good? Well, let's bullet point this.

  • For one thing, even though it's just the first issue of a new story arc in the midst of Aaron's run, it reads very much like the first issue of the book itself. You get a glimpse of what's gone on before, a newish sense of purpose, status quo, and potential destiny for the story's main character (who isn't even a Ghost Rider), and events that set the rest of the arc into motion.

  • But it doesn't read like a complete reboot that'll annoy the people who've been reading the book from the beginning, either, since everything clearly builds on the events of the past few issues, and for as much expository review is slipped into the dialogue and narration, there's also plenty of forward momentum, too.

  • Once again, an enterprising Marvel writer makes a hero into a full-fledged Legacy Character, turning a regular character into the latest inheritor of a particular mantle. This has always been DC's wheelhouse, what with all their Flashes and Green Lanterns and Atoms and Blue Beetles and such, but Marvel has been quietly retrofitting certain characters with meaningful legacies for the last 10 years or so (arguably beginning with Christopher Priest's Black Panther run). We know there's almost always been a Black Panther or an Iron Fist, or that there's always been a Captain America since WW2, so it makes sense to explore that. And if there have been two Official Ghost Riders since Johnny Blaze first appeared, wouldn't it make sense that maybe there have been other similar Spirits of Vengeance for just about as long as there's been a concept of Vengeance?

  • And the glimpses we get of some of these past Ghost Riders? Worth the price of admission alone. Some are set in times and places that make sense vis-à-vis the concept of revenge - the Salem Witch Trials, your major wars, etc. Others are just cool ideas, like the gangland-era Chicago Ghost Rider (and his pal). And then there's the sublimely bizarre... if you've read it, you know exactly the pair I'm talking about. If you haven't, let's just say these Ghost Riders are demonically Eastbound and Down.

  • With all this talk about the story, I need to tip the hat to the artist, Tony Moore, who draws the hell out of this book (um, sorry.). He handles the action and the horror elements well (only natural given that his resume includes The Walking Dead and Fear Agent), and his designs for the different eras' Ghost Riders were fantastic. I've never paid a lot of attention to Moore in the past, but I plan to change that behavior ASAP.

  • That cover by Arthur Suydam is very eye-catching... there certainly wasn't anything else like it on the stands where I bought this issue. Never gave his artwork much thought before, but as it turns out, I quite like it when he's not just drawing "Character so-and-so as a zombie."

  • There's a great homage to a famous DC cover from the 80s in here... works brilliantly in the story, and some of the characters included made me laugh out loud. So, you know, points for that.
Long story short (WAY too late) there's a lot to like about this issue, and maybe even this iteration of the Ghost Rider book as a whole. Not the sort of thing I'm going to collect monthly, but I do think I'll give the first trade a shot and see where things go from there.

Ghost Rider. Huh. Who knew?

Johnny Hiro collection due from AdHouse in June

So yeah, you're gonna need this:

Johnny Hiro Vol. 1 by Fred Chao.
Published by AdHouse Books

Indy favorite Fred Chao collects his Adventure-SciFi-Love story Johnny Hiro for the first time! The book collects issues 1-3, and adds two additional issues! See why he and the series was nominated for FOUR Eisner Awards in 2007!

4C cover
192 1C pages
7″ x 10 ” SC
$14.95 US funds
ISBN 978-1-9352330-2-2
Shipping June 2009
Diamond Order Code: APR090627

Download a PDF Preview

Johnny Hiro is easily one of the best comics of the past few years, just the right mix of humor, adventure, and sweet charm, and I'd probably end up buying this collection just to have a nice edition on the shelf for easy access. The fact that we get two more issues' worth of new content besides makes it a definite buy. Besides, you have to love any comic book that can feature Godzilla, homicidal ninja sushi chefs, ronin businessmen, and Jeffrey Steingarten.

No, really. You have to. It's a law now.

(And maybe kick a little Amazon credit my way? Hmm?)

Bizy, Backson.

Didn't mean to slip into Low Content Mode, but sometimes life's like that. Be back soon!

Lazy Saturday YouTube Blogging - The Daleks! And some guy...

The trailer for the second theatrical Doctor Who film starring Peter Cushing, Daleks - Invasion Earth 2150 A.D.:

Two things:

1. I'm thinking this is the trailer intended for American audiences, since Peter Cushing's role of "Dr. Who" (as this version of character, a human inventor instead of Gallifreyan Time Lord, was actually called on screen) never even gets mentioned. Nor do the Daleks themselves, come to think of it.

2. I'm sorry, Mr. Announcer, sir, what year does this take place in again?

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Uncle O'Grimacey must be Catholic, because he'd likely be orange if he were Protestant.

Whether you're actually of Irish descent or just looking for an excuse to drink some Guinness, enjoy the day. But just do it safely, okay?

The List: 3/15/09: Library books, cheap bin finds, and yes, still more NYCC swag

Say it with me, class: brief thoughts about recently read comics. Possible spoilers, so read with caution, will ya?

Green Lantern: The Sinestro Corps War Vol. 1 - Once you take out the "HOLY SHIT!" character reveals - and let's face it, by now, they've all been spoiled - what we're left with here is a fairly by-the-numbers Big Ol' Space War, which would seem like old hat to me even if I hadn't just read Annihilation (which does a better job at Big Ol' Space War, anyway). And, of course, knowing that Blackest Night and the battle between the Rainbow Coalition of Various Lanterns is on the way, it's hard to miss the rather hamfisted foreshadowing in the dialogue of just about every character. Even if I had read this when it was coming out, I don't think I'd have enjoyed it, because I don't like the way Geoff Johns confuses manufactured shocks and Big Happenings for sory.

Adventure Comics #0 - I have that first Legion story reprinted several times over, but the DC solicits promised Really Important Things would happen in the back half of the book (and besides, DCBS had it for only 50 cents). More the fool me for believing that, I suppose. Luthor takes control of Brainiac, but Brainiac is really controlling Luthor... yeah, I saw those episodes of Superman and Justice League Unlimited, too. And the reveal at the end that's supposed to excite me for Blackest Night... it doesn't. That'll teach me not to waste 50 cents like that again.

Content #2 - This is written and drawn by Xeric-winner G.B. Tran, and let me tell you, this is some fantastic comics right here. Several story threads - a Vietnamese woman making a life for her family here in America, the search for romance, a trip abroad, and the true story of what happens to lost cell phones, among others - play out and intermingle in a variety of interesting, almost stream-of-consciousness ways, with the art often going off in equally unique directions, surreal but never distracting. There's a scene on a crowded subway car where a man is trying to get closer to the girl of his dreams, and he pushes through not just a crowd of people, but their conversations, literally shoving aside word balloons... my jaw was on the floor there. Simple but wonderful idea, brilliantly executed. Go to his site and buy this. You won't be sorry.

New Mutants Special Edition - I do love striking gold in the cheap bins, and that's just what this was. Not that I've ever been a big New Mutants fan, but come on... it's the first part of that "Loki kidnaps Storm to make her Asgard's new Goddess of Thunder" storyline. There's lots of swordfights. Various characters look like Popeye, Fred Flintstone, Ed Grimley, Optimus Prime, Gumby, and even Remington Steele & Laura Holt. All accompanied by the breathless purple prose of Chris Claremont (and his assuredly-perpetually-hand-cramped letterer Tom Orzechowski) and the pencils of Art Adams. This has to be one of the 3 or 4 Most 80s-ish comic books ever, and it was an amazingly fun read. Maybe not your bag, but only if you don't enjoy things that are good. What's your problem, anyway?

Lazy Thursday YouTube Blogging - Aquaman in "Menace of the Black Manta"

Seriously, in his own element, Aquaman kicks ass.

And I swear to you, one of my roommates in college was the spitting image of the animated Aqualad, no word of a lie. Had we only known at the time!

Why yes, he is OUTRAGEOUS!

The kiddo and I have both been loving the new Batman: The Brave and the Bold show on Cartoon Network. I love how fun and anything-goes the stories can be (Batman's in the old West to save Jonah Hex... how'd he get there? Who cares?!?), and that it's easily accessible for people unfamiliar with DC history, but with lots of Easter eggs tossed in for longtime fans, too (and not just comics fans, either; for instance, didja catch the Doctor Who joke in the Deadman episode?). And the characterization has just been top notch, from the pared-down-to-basics (but perhaps more capable than ever) Batman himself all the way down to folks with the briefest cameos.

But let's be honest here. The breakout character of the show is this guy right here:

And I say, about damn time!

Obviously, it's hip to bash Aquaman. Look no further than stand-up comedy... "Aquaman can only talk to fish" jokes are possibly only second in most comics' repertoires to complaints about airline food. But clearly the guy had more than that going for him, since of all of DC's superhero characters created in the 40s, he was only one of 4 or 5 to be continuously published in that gap between the Golden and Silver Ages when the supers were out of vogue. So that's him, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and maybe Green Arrow (not sure on him... can someone back me up?). Pretty good company for such a lame-o, huh?

And when Filmation did their DC cartoons in the 60s, which 3 guys headlined their own series? Superman, Batman, and Aquaman. Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, Atom, the Teen Titans, and even the Justice League? They were just the back-up acts. And though they're dated now, those Aquaman cartoons were cool. Aquaman, Aqualad, and Mera fending off some sort of new invasion every episode, riding seahorses, throwing projectiles of solid water (no, not ice), all while being narrated by Ted Knight... what's not to love there?

When Dorian asked "What makes people think Aquaman is lame?" a little while back, most people (myself included) commented that the problem really started with the Super Friends, who, let's face it, didn't do a whole hell of a lot underwater. Mostly, Aquaman was the guy who rode shotgun in Wonder Woman's plane and asked "What should we do now, Superman?" (I suppose Black Manta was just as poorly used over in the Legion of Doom, but at least he had that cool voice going for him, and their headquarters was actually under water some of the time, so maybe he doubled as the LoD maintenance guy?). Obviously, spending 10 years playing second fiddle to yahoos like Samurai or El Dorado would take its toll on anyone's credibility. And since far more people watch the cartoons than read the comics*, that credibility suffered across the board, and everyone started to get it into their heads that Aquaman = teh suck.

And as we all know, they tried to fight this image in the comics for years. New costumes, darker attitudes, bad-ass hook hand, mystical reimaginings, and even recasting the dude altogether, but none of it really seemed to work. But I think if anyone can actually succeed in turning this around, it's the B: B&tB folks. Like the other guest stars featured, they've stripped down the character to the essentials that people are going to recognize (orange shirt, green pants, lives underwater, rides a big ol' seahorse) and brought in a popular element from a previous cartoon (he can create solid water objects - still not ice - to use as weapons). But they've taken things a step further by actively attempting to counteract his Super Friends persona... whereas Aquaman had very little personality on that show, on this one he is nothing but personality. Brash, boastful, overconfident, and always spoiling for a fight, but still the sort of guy you're gonna want at your back when the chips are down, and probably the first to buy a round for everyone (maybe even his opponents) after the brawl.

It's much different than any other take on the character before, probably closer to Marvel's take on Hercules than what we tend to think of as Aquaman. And at first, with his personality coming on so strongly, I couldn't help but wonder if they were overcompensating. But by the end of that first episode he appeared in, I was won over, and the later appearance where he teams up with the Atom to fight viral invaders in Batman's body Fantastic Voyage-style is easily my favorite of the series thus far (plus, bonus points to the producers for using the Ryan Choi version of the Atom; and lest we forget, noble Platelet!).

And this week, we get to see him again as he teams up with Batman and Adam Strange... there's no way that can't be awesome, people.

So it's taken a long time, but I'm hopeful that his appearances on Brave and the Bold will finally turn things around for good ol' Aquaman. If nothing else, the fact that the writers keep bringing him back show that at least they like the guy. And every now and then, good ideas and enthusiasm from the animation side of Warner Brothers do make their way into the DC Comics end of the pool; maybe this will be one of those rare occasions. And while I'm not the megafan that, say, Laura is, I did spend several months around the age of 4 actually introducing myself to new people as Aquaman, so I've always had something invested in the guy. You want to see a namesake succeed, you know?

* Too bad more people weren't reading the comics, too, since at the time I was watching Super Friends, I was also buying Adventure Comics when I'd find issues at the corner store specifically for the Aquaman stories, 'roundabout the time he was protecting the city of New Venice. Great stuff. Throw in Plastic Man and the Ditko Starman stuff, and that was a great book! But I digress.)

Pretty Sketchy: Girl? Check. Slingshot? Um, around here somewhere...

Jamie McJack from Danielle Corsetto's always funny (though not always work-safe) web-strip Girls With Slingshots, drawn on the title page of the strip's first book collection by the excellent and charming Ms. Corsetto at New York Comic Con '09. Turns out Danielle is kinda-sorta from Maine (by way of her mom), so she's good people.

My Very Patient Wife Reviews Watchmen

Like I said yesterday, I figured Erin's thoughts on Watchmen would make for more interesting reading than mine, so she was kind enough to write the following, which I have not edited in any way (so please be kind when she refers to Nite Owl as "Owlman"):

“So that’s why they call them graphic novels…”

I went into this movie with less than zero interest. I’ll put that out there right now. But I went… To support my husband, to spend some time with him, and yes, because he went to see Twilight with me!

The trailers before the movie were fairly atrocious. Terminator Redux – seriously?? I mean, it made me throw up in my mouth a little bit. Where was my Harry Potter trailer? And yeah – Star Trek is okay, but it’s no Harry Potter.

So yeah – the movie starts… Okay – and fanboys – I’m not holding anything back, so if you haven’t seen the movie – SPOILER ALERT! You have received fair warning.

I appreciated that the opening scene was of Denny dying – hopefully for good this time. I hate Grey’s Anatomy and bringing Denny back is just another in a series of moves that totally jump the shark. Boo Grey’sAnatomy.

I thought that the fight scene between Denny and his “killer” was nicely staged. Just enough slow motion stuff to get some of the effect, but at the same time – just basically, a savage beating. And that was sort of where my attention picked up – what I liked MOST about the movie is also what I liked LEAST about the movie – just how friggin graphic the entire damned movie is. I appreciate that there were no punches pulled, no blood lightly lost, no intimate details left out. However, the fact that this movie only got an “R” rating is ridiculous. It should have been NC-17 AT LEAST. And I’m not one of those crazy conservative people – I
would be just fine with boobies in shampoo commercials, but the fight scenes were so painfully graphic, I think that you need to be AT LEAST 17 to watch this movie. If not 53.

So yeah – some of the other highlights and lowlights…

1. Owlman was an interesting character. Without the suit, he was fairly fugly. With the suit, a little something to look at. And I liked that he got together with the lil hoochie, though she had
zero redeeming characteristics. I just hope she was a good lay. He looked like he was enjoying himself. I’m just saying…

2. Nazi War Lord (aka the guy in the purple outfit) was nicely layered. I didn’t really pick up that he was the bad guy until close to the end, though I’m really not the kind of person to try
and figure the movie/tv show/book out before I’m supposed to. Call me slow, but I like letting the story be told.

3. Rorschach ROCKED the party that ROCKED the partay! He was by far my favorite character. He was nicely severed, mentally, probably physically. His backstory of how he truly became Rorschach was really the only part of the movie that I think went SERIOUSLY too
far. That little girl’s leg and the dogs… Jesus. Alan whateverhislastnameis is a total nutter and should be committed for just thinking of that.

4. The music in the movie was awesome. I described it to Bill as being like the Forrest Gump soundtrack for cool people. I totally disagreed with the Entertainment Weekly review of the soundtrack, which requested more young bands redoing the songs. DURRRRR – the
movie takes place in 1985, you morons. If we had Kid Rock singing “All Along The Watchtower” it would certainly DETRACT from the movie. D-bags.

5. The ending in the movie is certainly MUCH better than how Bill described the book. Again, Alan – nutter – should be committed. I did think that the Fortress of Solitude in Antarctica was a bit much though. And all of those millions of people died, right? There didn’t seem to be quite as much sympathy as I would have expected. But it is potentially a little prophetic for my liking…

So yes – that’s my review. I hope I made my husband proud or at least gleeful that I actually took the time to write about (GASP) a comic book thing.

BTW – you thought that I’d leave out the blue penis. It was sort of distracting, but not nearly the focus of my movie experience. There – ya happy?? Pervs… :)

My super-short, spoiler-free, illness-addled Watchmen review

I got exactly what I wanted out of it: I was entertained. It's not perfect, it's not a Truly Great Film, but I enjoyed it, it was an entertaining few hours at the movie theater, so there's that.

Aaaaaaand... that's all I've got right now. I have at least 2 or 3 different ailments (at least one of which sounds like some sort of livestock disease) taking turns kicking my ass right now, so I'm thankful to be even this lucid. Besides, I'm trying to convince Erin to write up her take on the movie, and that will likely be a lot more interesting.

And now, for your viewing pleasure, a picture of a platypus.

The List: 3/3/09 - The Library, DCBS, and still more NYCC

Brief thoughts about recently read comics. Not terribly spoilery, but read ahead with caution just in case. Word.

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The Universe - Darker (well, darker by Scott Pilgrim standards, anyway) than the previous volumes, but for my money the best of the series thus far, and the perfect thematic sequel to the last volume. In Vol. 4, Scott Pilgrim did indeed "get it together" and actually grow up a bit, so it makes sense that this would be the book where aspects of this "precious little life" (okay, I'll stop) fall apart. And most importantly, Bryan Lee-O'Malley's characters finally start asking the questions that have been hanging in the air since Vol. 1 but that no one, probably not even most readers, have thought to ask. What's really in it for Scott if and when he defeats all of Ramona's evil exes? By whose definition are these people really "evil," anyway, since most of the main characters have been pretty mean or dishonest at one point or another in the series? What sort of effects has Scott's pursuit of Ramona had on his band, or Knives, or Young Neil, or Scott himself? But it's not all angst... there's still fighting, video game references, and even some robots, so it's still the same old Scott Pilgrim, but maybe with a little more to ponder until the release of the final book. Plus, lots of Kim Pine in this one. Kim Pine is awesome.

Scott Pilgrim Full Colour Odds and Ends 2008
- This is reprints of one-off Scott stories from some past years' Free Comic Book Day, as well as a story that ran in some magazine or newspaper (I forget precisely where, but I remember it was online, too), and some pin-ups and promo art. So it's all stuff you've probably read before, and for free at that, as opposed to the 5 clams this cost. But this is in Colour. Which is fancier than plain old color. And you have everything in one place. So there's that. If you missed any of the FCBD stuff in the past, or just, you know, want one, it's totally worth tracking down.

Essex County Volume 3: The Country Nurse
- I thought the first volume of Jeff Lemire's Essex County trilogy was good, but didn't initially see what the big deal was. The second volume helped the first click a little more for me, and this final book brought it all together in such a way as to make me look at the entire series in an entirely new light. We see a few days in the life of the title character, how those days parallel important events in the life of her grandmother, and how both of these women affect the lives of characters from the previous two books and Essex County as a whole. Now that I can see the whole rather than just the parts, I definitely think this is both a wonderfully complex and beautifully simple work.

Justice Society of America Vol. 1: The Next Age - I know a lot of people who hold this title up as the absolute pinnacle of the DC line right now, but at least as far as this arc goes, I don't really get that at all. It was a decent read, Johns' characterizations were interesting (particularly Cyclone, a.k.a. Maxine Hunkel, granddaughter of the Golden Age Red Tornado), and Dale Eaglesham sure draws himself a good-looking superhero book, but honestly, "let's put the team together while we fight some new threat that's actually an old threat with a new coat of paint" is nothing new or groundbreaking. Decent, and well-told, but not pinnaculous by any stretch. But a damn sight better than...

Justice League of America: The Lightning Saga - Brad Meltzer can write a quiet moment with the best of 'em, but the man can't write interesting full-on superhero action at all. Picked this up from the library because I wanted to see the beginning of the "Everything Old is New Again" Legion of Super-Heroes that Geoff Johns will be writing, but even at the low cost of Free Ninety-Free, I feel sort of ripped off. Well, partially. The JSA issues in this book were actually pretty good, mostly because of the character moments, like Superman sharing his reminiscences of the Legion with Stargirl and Cyclone, or Johns' metatextual dig at the way Meltzer has all the JLA members call each other by their real names in public. But honestly, there's nothing Saga about this story, which could have been handled in a single issue... stretching it to 3 issues would be "padding," but going all the way to 5 was just ridiculous. Skimmed the rest of the non-Lightning Saga issues that made up the back-half of the book, but saw nothing worth actually reading. Avoid, even for free.

Blue Beetle #36 - Matthew Sturges tried, he really did, but this book never really recovered from the departure of John Rogers. Not that it would have last any longer had Rogers stayed, based on sales numbers, but I would've liked it better right up until the end. As it happens, this ending left a bad taste in my mouth. A good chunk of Jaime's support system is dismantled, a character is killed in a needless and totally callous attempt at !ZOMG SHOCK VALUE!!1! (I won't spoil who, but make room in the refrigerator), and the series ends with plenty of opportunities for future writers to get their angst on with our boy Blue. In other words, it goes out like every other DC book it did its level best to stand apart from. Oh well, at least there's still Batman: The Brave and the Bold, right?

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Five reasons you'd do well to check out Captain Britain and MI13

I've been switching as much of my major company comics reading from singles/floppies/periodicals/whatever to collected editions as possible over the past year or two, but I still do like to get the occasional superhero title on a monthly basis. Part of it's nostalgia, sure, but if the book is written well enough, I truly enjoy the fun and anticipation that that 30 day (if only) window can bring about. The All New Atom was that book for me for a while, at least until Gail Simone left and Rick Remender, talented though he may be, killed my interest dead in the space of a single issue. Blue Beetle picked up the baton from there, and though some of the fun dropped off with the departure of writer John Rogers, it still remained a good read until it was finally canceled. I doubted anything would take it's place, but then came Captain Britain and MI13.

The concept sounded decent, and I certainly liked many of the lead characters, but the number of truly good stories I'd read featuring the likes of those characters wasn't all that high. It was spinning out of Secret Invasion, an event that I wasn't reading, nor had any interest in catching up on in the first place. And honestly, I was sort of already mentally holding the spot for Agents of Atlas (the first issue of which was a good read, but surprisingly, not the thing I needed an immediate monthly fix of). So even despite the presence of Paul Cornell and Leonard Kirk, two creators whose work I respect and enjoy, the book seemed an unlikely candidate, but once I gave it a shot, it quickly won me over for a number of reasons. And those would be, in no particular order...

1. The covers. While you can't judge a book by them, they can certainly help pique your curiosity about the contents beneath them, so standing out is important. And the series' uniform trade dress, for my money, is very eye-catching:

The top band of color and logo immediately sets the book apart from others by not only uniquely branding the book (which any logo does by nature), but by drawing in your eye with it's uncluttered design. Sometimes a book's title can get lost in the cover action, but the color always removes it from the scene, so you always see it. And if you have a shop that racks books in such a way so that you only see that top 3rd (or less) of the cover, the noticability increases even more. I also love the way that each issue's logo makes use of colors from the cover image, and that most of the cover images actually describe some of the action within, rather than going the "random pin up" route. And yes, I realize that this particular cover is a bad example of that, but it's my favorite this far, so I'm using it anyway. This gallery proves my point better.

2. Continuity: K.I.S.S. Many of the book's main characters have some of the most convoluted backstories in all of Marvel history. Go and read up on, say, Captain Britain or the Black Knight online or old issues of the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe sometime... they'll make your head spin. Worse still, a huge number of said stories have rarely, if ever, been reprinted in the U.S., so there's a lot of stuff you're walking in the door that you won't or even can't know. The solution? Ignore all that. Or at least don't pay much mind to it. One of Cornell's biggest strengths as a writer on this series is being able to acknowledge that these characters do have pasts, but that you don't need to know all of that past to understand what's going on now. No overly expository infodumps, just as much backstory as we need to get the gist, and then he moves on. If you want to learn more about Spitfire's vampirism, Captain Britain's time in Otherworld, the Black Knight's many, many curses, you can do that on your own time. Just know for now that they happened.

3. (or maybe 2a.) Events: tangential at best. Yeah, the book starts off as a Secret Invasion tie-in, but all that you really need to know is that shape-changing Skrulls are invading the Earth and throwing Super Skrulls (Skrull warriors with the composite powers and appearances of several super-heroes) at Earth's defenses. Lots of stuff is going down in America, but we're only going to be concerned with the U.K. here, where the Skrulls are hoping to gain the power of all Earthly magic (England being particularly magicky, you see). So while it does tie into the larger Secret Invasion framework, the story is compartmentalized enough that you can read it without having to know or even care about the rest of what's going on, especially since actions taken by MI13 head Pete Wisdom to turn the Skrulls away from England really set the tone for the rest of the series.

4. Characters Old and New. As I said, the book's cast is largely made up of disused and/or misused characters, all of whom have a lot of excess baggage coming in the door. Most of the baggage is chucked, or at least pared down to manageable, only-as-story-requires levels, and they're all given a fresh coat of paint... a new costume here, a fresh outlook there, and it all works out for the best. Captain Britain, Black Knight, and old Warren Ellis stand-in Pete Wisdom have never been more interesting, and Spitfire, vampire speedster from WW2, is interesting for probably the first time ever, especially given her unique, fiery relationship with new team member Blade, who hunts vampires for a living. And then there's the brand new character, Dr. Faiza Hussain, who not only serves as our audience identification character, but may also be the first positive character of a Muslim background created for mainstream superhero comics since 2001. And not just that, but she's proud of her heritage, has strong family ties, is a capable member of the team despite any feelings she may be in over her head, and is now the chosen possessor of the most powerful artifact in all of English lore. She's a fantastic creation, and I love to see her character growth from issue to issue.

5. Mad Ideas. A Super Skrull with the powers and appearances of some of the biggest and baddest wizards in the Marvel Universe (like a brilliant and terrifying patchwork Ditko creation). A punk fairy. A Duke of Hell using the dreams and desires of housing complex residents to create an army of Mindless Ones to overrun the Earth (again with the Ditko). Dracula and Dr. Doom having a tête-à-tête on the moon:

And better still... Dracula, still on the moon, mind you, SHOOTING PROJECTILE VAMPIRES AT THE FREAKIN' EARTH.

I mean, come on, people. If an idea that crazy doesn't win you over, nothing will. Give this book a shot. It's a fun read, and it's gorgeously illustrated. If you're going to pay way too much for a comic book, anyway, it might as well be something fun.