The List: 5/31/09

Short reviewlettes of stuff I've read recently. Maybe slightly spoilery.

Naoki Urasawa'a 20th Century Boys Vol. 2 - The plot really starts to thicken here, with more focus on the sinister than the nostalgia. We learn more about Yukiji, Kenji's relationship with his sister (and why he's so determined to do right by her by raising her daughter), just how deep the Friend's group's roots go, and maybe even the identity of the Friend himself (though I wonder if it's really gonna be that straightforward). Unless some future volume really derails the story that's being set up here, I'm into this series for the long haul.

Batman Confidential #s 26 - 28 - Having Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez drawing this would've been enough to get me to check it out, but including my favorite Batman villain, the Riddler, and introducing a comic book version of my favorite TV Bat-villain, King Tut? I'm not made of stone here. Everything here worked so well... this new Tut certainly pays homage to the TV show (he's even named Victor Goodman, a nod to Victor Buono), but modernized enough to make him into a credible threat (but without making him a too over-the-top, wannabe bad-ass, thankfully), the Riddler gets a lot of good scenes, and it's just so refreshing to see Batman acting like, well, Batman. And Garcia-Lopez's artwork just sings... lots of action and a little bit of cheesecake, two of his specialties. This was four color comfort food, Batman comics like you remember. More, please!

The Discontinuity Guide by Paul Cornell, Martin Day, and Keith Topping - Very fun book pointing out the highs and lows (both technical and story-related) of each episode of the original series of Doctor Who, as well as an attempt to cobble together some sort of comprehensible continuity for the series, which has always been fairly notorious for contradicting itself. Not the best episode guide you'll ever read, since they skip plot summaries after wisely assuming the intended audience already knows such things, but a good read for the longtime fan. How this task didn't drive these men barking insane I'll never know. But of course, maybe it did... Cornell's writing since this originally came out has had some wonderfully mad concepts, after all. Hmmm...

Looks like the Doctor's companions are trending a bit younger, too

So the word out of Auntie Beeb is that Karen Gillan is going to be the Doctor's new companion once the Steven Moffat / Matt Smith era kicks off next year.

Don't know much about her other than she played one of the soothsayers in the fourth season episode "The Fires of Pompeii," and no one from the BBC has given any info about her character yet, not even a name, but I like to pass along Doctor Who news when I can.

It's also an excuse to post a picture of a cute Scottish redhead. As Chris Rock once said, nuthin' wrong with that.*

*Admittedly he was talking about cornbread, but still.

Pretty Sketchy: Kitty Runs on Dunkin'

Pencil sketch of Excalibur-era Kitty Pryde making a pre- (or maybe post-) fight donut run by Michelle Fariss, acquired at NYCC '09. My buddy Dan and I talked with Michelle for a while, and we thought she seemed pretty cool. Coming back to pick up the sketch and seeing what she had come up with - all I asked for was Shadowcat, she added the whole Dunkin Donuts thing herself, and given I live in Rhode Island, where there's a DD every 2 miles as per state law, it was brilliantly appropriate - well, that pretty much proved that she was. And her mini-comics are entertaining, too. I really wish I had picked up more. Check out her work here.

(Regular-ish blogging will hopefully pick up again soon. It's been a hectic few weeks here at TPS World HQ, but with two different work schedule changes and a vacation behind us now, things may revert to more or less normal. I hope.)

The patented British "Stiff Upper Lip" in Action: Paul Cornell talks the end of MI13

As has been reported by every other blog in comic book land by now I'm sure, Paul Cornell and Leonard Kirk's excellent Marvel book Captain Britain and MI13 is ending with issue #15. Paul broke the news on his blog, and while the whole thing is a terrifically bittersweet send-off, these two paragraphs sum things up best, I think:

Lastly, and this is really important, while we didn’t know this would be the last arc until comparatively recently, I had it in mind that it was possible it would be from the time I started plotting it. Indeed, the end of this arc marks the end of what I had planned for the book when I started. One of the images right at the finish is what I always felt I was heading towards, and I’m very pleased I got there. So: you will get a real, thorough, proper, ending, not just of ‘Vampire State’, but of the whole run. It hasn’t been rushed to fit the space, it hasn’t been compromised, it won’t just suddenly cut off: it’s what I intended. I think the Annual and the two remaining issues finish off one of my best stories in any media, and that story is actually the entirety of Captain Britain and MI-13. You’ll see what I mean a bit more next issue. This is a comic with a proper ending.

I’ve enjoyed writing a monthly comic more than almost anything else I’ve done as a writer. I’ve enjoyed collaborating with all these talented people. I’ve particularly enjoyed becoming one of the gang at Marvel. Please don’t desert us as we approach our ending. I see it as the last three episodes of our last season. So tell your friends, see if they want to catch up, and please join us for an ending where, as I think you saw last issue, literally anything can happen.
Very sad to see such a fantastic book end, but I'm anxious to see how everything comes to a close, and if Paul Cornell's work (outside of his Doctor Who stuff, anyway) was off my radar before, I'll never make that mistake again. Thank you for an excellent run, Paul, Leonard, and everyone else. I'll be sure to raise a pint in your honor.

How to Lose Fans and Alienate People

Joseph Larkin teaches a Master Class in "How Not to Respond to a Negative Review of Your Work."

Sometimes I lament the fact that this blog doesn't get a whole lot of readers. But then I'll read the comments folks like Kevin and Sims sometimes receive and realize that I'm actually much better off toiling away in relative obscurity.

Lazy Tuesday YouTube Blogging: Yes, Always

Animaniacs was known for mining the obscure for a joke, but this definitely went over the head of every kid in the audience, and probably most of the adults, too - an entire cartoon based around the infamous Orson Welles frozen pea commercial outtakes.

And here's the Welles original for comparison sake:

The List: 5/10/09: FCBD

Short reactions to recently read comics. And since this particular list consists of Free Comic Book Day books, it's almost timely for a change.

Free Comic Book Day Stuff:

Blackest Night #0
- I keep checking out these free (or cheaply priced) DC promo comics in the desperate hope that they're finally over their "sullen, angry, violent, and continuity-heavy reworking of Silver & Bronze Age stories" phase, and once again, I'm disappointed. I now think DC is solely targeting longtime fans who resent actually enjoying comics in their youth with this sort of stuff. I want my no dollars and no cents back.

Avengers - I know the basic premise behind Marvel's Dark Reign, but I'm not following it at all. Even so, this issue was pretty easy to follow. The good Avengers fight the bad Avengers for a minute, and then have to team up to fight an Asgardian Frost Giant. The (quite literal) deus ex machina ending comes a little too quickly, but Brian Michael Bendis wrote an Avengers comic with action as well as dialogue, which is a vast improvement of the last thing I read from him with these characters. So there's that. And Jim Cheung draws the hell out of this thing. I had low expectations, but I enjoyed this.

Wolverine - They more or less take the Marvel Adventures, all ages-friendly route with this, but it still reads like a good Wolverine story rather than a watered down one. Great tie-in for the movie, too, as the story by Fred Van Lente hits all the basic beats of Wolvie's origin, powers, and personality, without it feeling like just another recap. The art by Gurihuri might be too cartoony for some, but I liked it. I picked this book up as an afterthought, but enjoyed it the most of any of the Big 2 FCBD offerings. Go figure.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars - The Star Wars story was pretty slight, exactly the sort of "Jedi and/or Clone Troopers learn a lesson about overcoming great obstacles" story that's in just about EVERY Clone Wars short story Dark Horse has published. As for the back end stuff, the Beanworld primer was nice if a bit brief, the Usagi Yojimbo story kinda didn't make sense even for a ghost story, and the Emily the Strange story was completely unreadable. Mostly disappointing.

Shonen Jump Presents Ultimo - Seriously shockingly horribly bad. The less said the better.

Nancy & Melvin the Monster - Probably way too dated to appeal to most modern kids, but I enjoyed it. The eye-catching design cover design (by Seth, yes?), the faux-yellowed paper, the typical John Stanley formula with a few new wrinkles applied... it definitely has me excited for The John Stanley Library collections (not that I can afford to order the Nancy book this month, but still).

DC Kids Mega Sampler - Kinda wish they had included Billy Batson pages that didn't need to be translated (as it was hard to read with the kiddo), as well as Tiny Titans pages that included jokes with actual punchlines (as opposed to just sort of stopping), but my son enjoyed reading the Batman: Brave and the Bold section with me, so there's that.

Sonic the Hedgehog: Evolution of a Hero - Sonic has as convoluted a history as any Marvel or DC character. Who knew?

Transformers Animated/G.I. Joe - Really, IDW? You paired the presumably-aimed-at-kids new version of Transformers with the new "No, really, you have to take us seriously now" version of G.I. Joe in the same book? Yeah, that didn't work so well.

Cars - While my son enjoys the one actual Lightning McQueen toy he owns (you shake it and it rumbles, then you put it down and it screams across the floor... awesome toy; he has a similar one of the Batmobile, too, and we often race them), he finds the movie boring (it is), and he didn't enjoy reading the comic with me, either. So there's that.

Owly & Friends - Admittedly we've only read the Johnny Boo stories in this so far, but they were a hit. Mostly because my son, like children everywhere, loves to shout "BOO!" from time to time.

Still waiting on getting copies of Love & Rockets, Atomic Robo, Comics Festival, and FCHS, as I'm getting them from DCBS.

Kitty! Art! Doc!

If you're in the Portland, OR, area, you should head over to Floating World Comics and check out their Full of Pryde exhibit, a Kitty Pryde tribute show they're holding as a fundraiser for the Oregon Hemophilia Treatment Center. The Kitty-centric work of over 70 artists will be on display, including Bryan Lee O’Malley, Farel Dalrymple, Jeffrey Brown, Tom Neely, and Corey Lewis among others.

If you're not in the Portland, OR, area, well, you can check out the art on the blog and even make a Paypal donation you're so inclined.

This one from Tom Neely is probably my favorite:

Looking for some cheap original art? Tony Fleecs (In My Lifetime, Tell Them Johnny Wadd Was Here, Postcards, etc.) is gonna hook you up.

$3 (+ 42 cents for shipping per piece) gets you a 3 x 5 sketch card of any character you want rendered in at least pen & ink (and "probably also ink washed or colored pencil or markered over top"). You can order as many as you like, one character per card (though he has done a few so far that are linked cards of related characters). More info and samples can be found at his blog.

I'm sure everyone who cares has already heard, but the other day the DC blog posted a teaser image of a bronze-skinned adventurer type that could only be Doc Savage. And then an expanded version image hit Newsarama:

Now, I haven't read a Doc Savage novel or comic book in years, but Doc meeting the Spirit, with Blackhawk and Rima the Jungle Girl along for the ride? Sold. I'm not made of stone here, people. Wonder if this will lead into a new Doc Savage series the way the Spirit's team-up with Batman led into his?

Quick thoughts about "Hulk Vs."

Finally had a chance to see the Hulk Vs. animated thing the other day, and I have to say that I really enjoyed how wonderfully, well, unsubtle it was. It certainly delivers what the title promises: the Hulk fighting people. There's a little bit of story in each of the segments, but it mostly that just exists to set up the hittin'. What was Bruce Banner doing before Loki whisks him off to Asgard, or before he has to fend off the attacks of Weapon X folks up in Canada? Who the hell cares? Hulk smash! And while I usually don't like it when they substitute action sequences for actual plot, that was never an issue here because of, again, that title. You stick "Vs." in a title, I want to see some fights. Like in, say, Godzilla Vs. Megalon... we don't want to see that annoying kid or Rex Dart, Eskimo Spy. We want to see Godzilla Vs. Megalon, so make with the throwdown, already!

One thing struck me as weird, though... the Hulk isn't really the main character in either segment. The real stars of the individual episodes are Thor and Wolverine. Hulk's mostly just the thing that sets the plot in motion... more MacGuffin than man or monster. I guess I can see why he gets top billing, seeing as he's arguably more famous than either of the others (though that's debatable given Wolverine's recognition factor these days), but it's just a little odd.

But that quibble aside, this was pretty decent. Good voice acting, lots of fun guest appearances (when does Volstagg get his own cartoon?), and probably the best animation of any of these Marvel direct-to-DVD things to date. Worth a watch, says I.

Pretty Sketchy: Allons-y!

A downright fantastic - to borrow a previous Doctor's exclamation of choice - depiction of the 10th Doctor (as portrayed on the tee-vee by David Tennant) by a dude calling himself 3!LL, who I kinda-sorta know via the Comic Geek Speak forums. You can find out more about the man's work at his site, Bohemian Zen.

At long last, the worm (re)turns

Stumbled across this on Amazon yesterday:

Oh hells yes. The last time someone collected the complete original Mr. Mind/Monster Society saga, it was in an oversized, black & white, and extremely pricey edition that 13 year old Bill could never hope to actually own (though my local comic shop did have a copy on the shelf for a while, and it was a thing of beauty to behold in person). And it's long out of print and naturally even more expensive now. So this right here? Even though I generally don't think DC needs yet another line of premium hardcovers, this is something I'm going to need to own.

And, of course, it's always a good thing to get more Fawcett era Captain Marvel material back in print, seeing as the Archives have long since petered out, and there's shockingly little Fawcett work in the Shazam: Greatest Stories Ever Told volume (which flies in the face of all logic and common sense, if you ask me, but of course no one ever does!).

December's a long way off, but this will be worth the wait.