Monthly Archives: June 2008

International Slay Station

Station #1
Writer: Johanna Stokes
Artist/Cover artist: Leno Carvalho
Colors: Imaginary Friends Studios
Letters: Ed Dukeshire
Publisher: Boom! Studios
Price: $3.99 US

It seems to me that Station is one of those books that Boom! supports with a little more of a promotional push, as it did with North Wind and Talent long before that. I understand why. The premise is a solid one, bound to appeal to a broad spectrum of readers. There are space/science buffs out there just as there are sci-fi enthusiasts, and who doesn’t like a good whodunnit? Johanna Stokes, who’s done plenty of work for Boom! in the past but is still billed as a TV writer, has happened upon a natural concept: a murder mystery in space. While offering new ideas in terms of means of murder, it limits the number of suspects to a manageable, easy-to-consume level. Of course, the premise is limited as well. The art boasts some striking visuals at times, and the man responsible certainly has capture the close quarter of a space station along with the vast emptiness that lies outside of it. But the visuals are inconsistent from page to page, which makes for some distractions and interferes with the story.

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Stonewalled on Subscriptions

1987 Marvel subscription adRemember those old ads in Marvel and DC titles, right up into the 1990s, in which the publishers offered home-delivery subscriptions of their wares? Some promised bigger discounts the more titles you purchased, and while stock art was often used in designing the ads, sometimes new art was commissioned specifically to promote the subscription services.

I thought it would be interesting to revisit comics subscriptions in a feature examining how it used to work and how it works today. After all, DC Comics and Marvel Comics both still offer subscriptions (at least, that’s what it says in indicia in their periodicals).

Yes, it would have made for an interesting feature, tapping not only into nostalgia but examining how the business of comics publishing has changed in recent years.

Alas, such a story won’t be found on this site.

Jenna Pagliuca, who’s in charge of subscriptions at Marvel, declined to answer questions after a company PR official referred to me to her, and repeated requests for information from or an interview with a subscriptions manager at DC seem to have fallen on deaf ears.

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Quick Critiques – June 25, 2008

Final Crisis #2 (DC Comics)
by Grant Morrison & J.G. Jones

Wow… Morrison pulls out all the stops and begins to show just how complex, creative and compelling a story he has in mind for the icons of DC’s super-hero universe. His inventive notions and amalgams of science-fiction and spirituality challenge the reader, and he brings plenty of drama to the mix as well. Final Crisis is shaping up to be the smartest super-hero genre event ever put to paper, even rivalling the meticulous planning and structure of Alan Moore’s never-published Twilight event for DC. The opening scene is incredibly entertaining; Morrison’s vision of super-hero pop culture in Japan is amusing yet biting in its criticism. The scene also reminded me a great deal of the premise behind Alex Ross and Mark Waid’s Kingdom Come, with its criticism of a new generation of heroes and comics. Morrison’s story isn’t the most accessible of creatures, given its deep roots in the late Jack Kirby’s Fourth World. To DC’s credit, it’s not really marketed this as a gateway to its characters and universe, and I’m not sure if it’s feasible, given the maturity and complexity of the writer’s ideas. Still, newer readers won’t be completely lost and will find scenes that will capture the imagination (the Japanese club and Alpha Lantern investigation scenes come to mind). Jones’s art is meticulous and moody. This issue is replete with crowded scenes, featuring a lot of different colorful characters, but the artist handles them adeptly. Detail isn’t sacrificed; quite the opposite, actually. The art demands attention and a closer perusal after one’s initial reading of the issue. While I enjoyed the first issue of this series, I’m really excited about the title after reading the second episode. 9/10

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Old Dog, No New Tricks

Wolverine #66
“Old Man Logan, Part 1”
Writer: Mark Millar
Pencils: Steve McNiven
Inks: Dexter Vines
Colors: Morry Hollowell
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Cover artists: McNiven & Vines (regular cover)/Michael Turner & Mark Roslan (alternate cover)
Editor: John Barber
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $2.99 US/$3.05 CAN

For a longtime fan of American super-hero comics, I can’t deny that Millar’s story of a broken hero and a dystopian vision of the future of the Marvel Universe is entertaining. It’s designed for the devoted super-hero fan. The problem is that it’s hardly the most unique story, and I don’t just mean for Marvel Comics historically. It’s only been a few years since Wolverine: The End was released, and that’s just one of a litany of alternate-future stories that have been all too common as of late. There are a couple of moments and visuals in this comic that will tickle the fancy of fans of comics continuity and history, but ultimately, there’s nothing new or different here to set this story arc apart from others that came before it. On the other hand, I am pleased that Marvel is publishing these focused, special story arcs from top-name talent in its ongoing titles rather than milking its readership with yet another limited series (not that Marvel doesn’t milk its readership with additional Wolverine titles).

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I Can’t See the Forest for the Teens

Burnout original graphic novel
Writer: Rebecca Donner
Arist/Cover artist: Inaki Miranda
Gray tones: Eva de la Cruz
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
Editor: Shelly Bond
Publisher: DC Comics/Minx imprint
Price: $9.99 US/$11.99 CAN

Whenever a new Minx graphic novel hits the stand, I take a look. I’ve rarely been disappointed by the imprint’s books, and there’s no denying that one of its advantages is how it exposes new or lesser-known voices in comics to readers. I’ve read nothing of novelist Rebecca Donner’s work before, but I enjoyed the quiet tone, her sullen characters and slightly off-the-wall premise. On the surface, this seems to be a teenage love story set against the backdrop of an environmental message, but on closer inspection, Donner boils the socio-economic complexities of the issue down to a simpler, more balanced level. Perhaps my favorite aspect of her plot is that this is a coming-of-age story for more than just the teenage protagonist. Artist Inaki Miranda is the one who makes the most of this North American coming-out party, though. His soft lines and eye for detail really help this unusual story to come to life. His work boasts a nice mix of American, European and Asian influences, which should make for a broad appeal. Burnout definitely stands out as another creative success for the Minx line, but unfortunately, the question remains why such creative successes aren’t translating into stronger sales.

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Local #12
“The House That Megan Built”
Writer: Brian Wood
Artist/Cover artist: Ryan Kelly
Letters: Douglas E. Sherwood
Editor: James Lucas Jones
Publisher: Oni Press
Price: $2.99 US

It’s been almost three years since this 12-part limited series got underway, and such a sporadic publishing schedule can be frustrating. I suspect that if other Local readers are like me, though, they’ll easily forgive the slow pace given the strength of the storytelling and characterization in each and every issue. The series as a whole has been primarily about Megan McKeenan’s travels all over North America, as she runs from her past and present, desperately looking for a future and for herself. Appropriately, the series ends with a homecoming. This is a fitting, perfect conclusion. The philosophy behind this ending and Megan’s story as a whole is one I agree with wholeheartedly, so Wood’s plot resonates. And Ryan Kelly’s art conveys the universal qualities of Megan’s life and the details that help to convince the reader of the reality of this fiction. It’s disappointing to see this series come to a close, but we fans can rest easy. Wood and Kelly’s new graphic novel — The New York Four from DC’s Minx imprint — is due out next month.

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A Valiant Effort

X-O Manowar: Birth hardcover
Writers: Jim Shooter, Steve Englehart, Bob Layton & Jorge Gonzalez
Artists: Barry Windsor-Smith, Sal Velluto, Mike Manley, Mike Leeke, Steve Ditko, Joe Quesada, Bob Layton, John Holdredge, Mark Moretti, Tom Ryder, Kathryn Bolinger, Ted Halsted, Ralph Reese & Jimmy Palmiotti
Colorists: Chrysoula Artemis, Rob Ruffolo, Anthony Castrillo, Jorge Gonzalez, Paul Autio & John Cebollero
Letters: Jade, Ken Lopez & Sorah Suhng
Cover artists: Sean Chen & Bob Layton
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Price: $24.95 US/$26.95 CAN

Flashback 15 years, and Valiant Comics was riding high in the comic-book industry. It was a boom time for the business, and Valiant threw its hat into the ring at just the right time (but ultimately, at just the wrong time). Valiant is back, and to mark its return, it’s published this collection of X-O Manowar comics from 1992 and 1993. I’m not sure why Valiant Entertainment opted to turn to X-O as its coming-out party, though I suspect it might have something to do with the fact that one of the issues collected here featured early work from artist and now-Marvel editor-in-chief Joe Quesada. (Correction: I’m told this volume was preceded by a Harbinger hardcover.) I’d never read an issue of X-O before, and I was surprised to find a truly novel and fascinating premise at the core of the storytelling. Unfortunately, the execution leaves a lot to be desired, which comes as a surprise, given some of the stalwart creative names involved in the crafting of the story. The plotting lumbers forward, often without bothering to provide key background information or logic, and the art is inconsistent at best.

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Ottley’s Grubby Hands

Death Grub #1
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Ryan Ottley
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $2.99 US

When I first glanced at this cover, the title did little to grab my attention. Mind you, there’s no cue that the hero depicted on the cover isn’t a “death grub;” rather, the title is derived from the cosmic threat that drives the plot forward. Still, the cover element that did pique my interest was the blurb on the bottom, proclaiming this to be a 24-hour comic crafted by Invincible artist Ryan Ottley. For those who don’t know, a 24-hour comic is one consisting of 20 or so pages that are written, illustrated and lettered in one period of 24 hours or less. They’re interesting experiments in the medium, and special 24-Hour Comic Days have been held on an annual basis at various comic shops the world over. Ottley’s crafted an entertaining, frenetic and even goofy sci-fi story during his 24 hours last fall. Viewed in comparison with other professional comics projects, one might think of Death Grub as being somewhat weak. However, when one considers the context of how this comic book was created, it’s a resounding success. The artist crafts a great sci-fi satire without relying much on words at all, conveying most of the information the reader needs with illustration and expression.

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Quick Critiques – June 1, 2008

Batman #677 (DC Comics)
by Grant Morrison, Tony Daniel & Sandu Florea

Morrison is slowly winning me over with this story arc, which is a sales event/stunt first and a character study second. The writer is clearly trying to humanize Bruce Wayne/Batman, primarily through his relationship with Jezebel Jet. Unfortunately, I still find the new supporting character to be somewhat irksome, and Morrison hasn’t sold me on why Bruce is so drawn to her. There are elements of traditional super-hero plotting that are both a bit charming and hard to swallow at the same time. The main conflict in this story seems to be Bruce’s internal struggle over the notion that dressing up as a bat to beat up bad people is a rather crazy one. Morrison approaches the idea of the vigilante super-hero from a realistic perspective, and I’m intrigued by the psychological examination. It’s unfortunately that last year’s three-part story arc with J.H. Williams III plays such an important role in this new storyline, as it creates an accessibility problem (and I read that earlier arc). Tony Daniel’s art remains a poor fit for this story. Morrison’s script is clearly aiming for a more refined tone, but Daniel’s work here never really seems more than simply adequate and ordinary. It’s not that he’s performing poorly on this title; it’s just that his style and Morrison’s strike me as a bad match. 6/10

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