Monthly Archives: December 2007

Grand Theft Pyro

Courtney Crumrin & the Fire Thief’s Tale original graphic novella
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Ted Naifeh
Editors: Joe Nozemack & James Lucas Jones
Publisher: Oni Press
Price: $5.95 US

Creator Ted Naifeh takes his readers back into the world of a young witch with attitude and her wise uncle/mentor, and once again, he offers up an entertaining, cute and fantastic story with just a touch of a dark edge to help set it apart from other, similar fare. What allowed this particular Courtney Crumrin story to stand out is the unusual structure of the plot and how it intertwines with a story within the story. Though the title character gets involved in the plot itself at a couple of points, she’s really more of a host for a well-crafted story of love, myth and horror. While the supernatural elements bring color and flair to the tale, Naifeh’s script is ultimately about how people are petty, irrational and frightened of the unknown. Naifeh’s dark designs are simple but thoroughly effective in bringing a gothic, eerie quality into play while also maintaining a hint of youthful energy and innocence, mirroring Courtney’s personality perfectly in ever panel of the book.

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Quick Critiques – Dec. 9, 2007

Countdown: Arena #1 (DC Comics)
By Keith Champagne, Scott McDaniel & Andy Owens

My better half was a big fan of the “reality show” Rockstar Supernova, so as a result, I watched much of the run of the series as well. After I read Countdown: Arena, I was reminded of a biting bit of criticism Tommy Lee offered up to a would-be rock star: “That was sautéed in wrong sauce.” Writer Keith Champagne faced an uphill battle when it came to crafting this DC Universe version of Mortal Kombat, that’s a given. But the premise here is ludicrous. Monarch forces heroes to fight alternate versions of themselves so he can amass the perfect army of superhuman soldiers. He’s able to force them to fight with the threat that he’ll destroy their homes, their entire worlds. But if Monarch has that kind of power, what he does he need a Batman for? A Nightshade? Or even a Superman for that matter? Another problem with the book is that its appeal relies heavily on the readers’ familiarity with these Elseworlds versions of DC icons. Champagne’s script offers little background on these characters or why we should care about them.

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Ultimately Disappointing

Ultimates 3 #1
“Sex, Lies, & DVD”
Writer: Jeph Loeb
Artist/Cover artist: Joe Madureira
Colors: Christian Lichtner
Letters: Richard Starkings
Editor: Ralph Macchio
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $2.99 US/$3.05 CAN

Earlier this week, I watched a climactic episode of Heroes on NBC. Clearly taking a lot of cues from super-hero comics, it was thoroughly entertaining, balancing darker, more modern cynicism with instances of heroism and idealism. The episode was credited as being written by Jeph Loeb, and while I haven’t been wild about his recent comics work, the Heroes episode renewed my faith in the genre writer. So it was with cautious optimism that I approached Ultimates 3 #1, despite my general disinterest in the artwork of Joe Madureira. It didn’t take many pages for that cautious optimism to turn to disappointment. This is only a five-issue limited series, as I understand it, and in the first issue, Loeb provides us with no actual plot. His script doesn’t jibe with Marvel’s Ultimate continuity, and all of the “heroes” are off-putting. Even if Loeb and Madureira didn’t face the daunting task of following in the footsteps of Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch, this comic book would have come up wanting.

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Truth For Dare

Dan Dare #1
“1: Under an English Heaven”
Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist: Gary Erskine
Colors: Parasuraman A.
Letters: Rakesh B. Mahadik
Cover artists: Bryan Talbot & Greg Horn
Editor: Charlie Beckerman
Publisher: Virgin Comics
Price: $2.99 US/$3.75 CAN

Dan Dare is a British sci-fi/adventure property dating back to the 1950s, and from what I can gather, it’s as beloved over in the UK as DC and Marvel’s super-heroes are in North America. I know Dark Horse offered up something of a revival a few years ago, but since I didn’t read it, this new Virgin Comics incarnation is my first foray into the world of the “Pilot of the Future.” What really drew me to the book, though, was Garth Ennis’s participation in the project. The Irish writer has been a standout in the comics industry for more than a decade now, and I’m a fan. His efforts here are as strong many others to have come before it, but nevertheless, it’s a much different sort of script than what one normally expects from Ennis. There’s a softer side to his writing here, less edgy and harsh, but just as engaging. The property and premise may be one revolving around science fiction and a war in outer space, but the real content is about idealism and tradition — and how those concepts have been lost or twisted in the 21st century.

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Sketchy Memories

50 Reasons to Stop Sketching at Conventions
Writer/Artist: Stuart Immonen
Publisher: One Horse Leadworks
Price: $5.95 US

As creator Stuart Immonen notes in the back of this book, 50 Reasons first saw life as a daily web comic in 2004, allowing the super-hero artist to flex a different set of artistic muscles. He later adapted and collected the toons to create this small, attractive volume, and it’s been for sale on Immonen’s website for some time. I’d noticed it and heard good things about the book, and I’d been meaning to order a copy. Recently, I spotted it on the shelf at my local comic shop, and I was thrilled to see this odd little product reach a wider set of readers by more conventional means.

I’ve been to a few comic conventions in my time, twice making it to the granddaddy of North American cons, Comic-Con International San Diego. I’m a fan of cons, and I’m very much a fan of con sketches. I’ve a small, themed sketchbook to which a wide variety of industry artists have contributed. Among them is Immonen himself (offering up a weird but fun caricature of Kurt Busiek, torturing the artist during their Gorilla Comics collaborative period). But there are awkward, annoying and even ugly sides to conventional culture, and Immonen does an excellent job of conveying those elements in a succinct manner.

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