Monthly Archives: August 2009

The Sanctum Sanctorum Meets the Magic Kingdom

Disney’s move to acquire Marvel Entertainment is a major development in the worlds of intellectual property, merchandising and entertainment. It promises to alter the landscape of pop culture, both in terms of business and its impact on Western society. I was busy at work all day Monday, so I knew nothing of the development until I finally shrugged off my 9-to-5 identity and relaxed in front of the computer for some web time at the end of the day. the news was surprising and intriguing to me, but ultimately, I really didn’t feel like it had much of an impact on me personally, given the fact that I don’t believe I’m a stockholder in either entertainment company (though I suppose I should examine my RRSP statements more closely to ensure that’s actually the case).

I would imagine, though, that a number of comics readers — and voracious Marvel Comics fans specifically — are wondering what this high-finance maneuvering will mean for the printed exploits of beloved super-hero characters. If emotionally driven and blinded Superman fans can attack the Siegel family for its effort to fight for its rights, it stands to reason that there are going to be hundreds of Marvel zombies out there fretting what the House of Mouse might do to change the House of Ideas.

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You Don’t Flow, ‘Jack

Razorjack: Collection Edition softcover trade paperback
Writer/Artist: John Higgins
Colors: John Higgins, Sam Hart, Rod Reis & Sally Hurst
Letters: Eddie Deighton
Editors: Craig Johnson, Eddie Deighton & Benjamin Shahrabani
Publisher: Com.X
Price: $12.99 US/8.99 UK

I’d never heard tell of Razorjack when this review copy turned up in my mailbox, but I am familiar with the work of writer/artist John Higgins. His name has been popping up a lot in the industry as of late, as this year’s release of the Watchmen film have sparked many to recall that Higgins was the original colorist on the classic Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons comic-book series. But no one should make the mistake of thinking of him only in that context. While I’m not familiar with much of his UK work, Higgins was one of the cornerstone creators involved in various Vertigo titles from DC earlier in the imprint’s history. With that in mind, I approached this work with some anticipation. While I admired the mad intensity of the story and art, Razorjack is a confusing mish-mash of genres and plotlines jammed into too-few chapters.

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Return of the King

King City Vol. 1 was a major buzz book of 2007 in the comics industry. The graphic novel, published by Tokyopop, wasn’t all that widely seen, but those who read it raved about it. It definitely boosted writer/artist Brandon Graham’s profile in the industry, earning him kudos aplenty and drawing attention to other projects, such as the first issue of his Multiple Warheads, published by Oni Press. Perhaps one of the most widely heard and respected of those voices singing his praises was the late Mike Wieringo, who paid tribute to King City and recommended it on his sketch blog (that’s what got me to take notice of the book).

Unfortunately, King City was one of several original, English-language works that Tokyopop put on the backburner permanently, and creators couldn’t take the properties to other publishers because Tokyopop still held the rights despite the fact it didn’t plan on publishing subsequent volumes or even keeping the existing ones in print. Among other affected books and creators were East Coast Rising and Becky Cloonan, The Abandoned and Ross Campbell, and My Dead Girlfriend and Eric Wight. These are significant creators in the comics industry in the 21st century who all have built-in audiences eager to snap up new works from these artists.

Of course, Tokyopop has changed its tune somewhat, at least when it comes to King City, as a deal was struck to publish Graham’s work through Image Comics. Eye on Comics spoke with Graham, a Tokyopop executive and some of the affected artists to delve into the King City deal and what it might mean for other cancelled Tokyopop books.

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Quick Critiques – Aug. 19, 2009

Archie #600 (Archie Comic Publications)
by Michael Uslan, Stan Goldberg & Bob Smith

This comic book — in which Archie Andrews proposed to one of his long-time objects of affection, Veronica Lodge — is definitely a success purely from a marketing perspective. The people at Archie Comics have done well to get this noticed in the mainstream media, but it comes as little surprise given what pop-culture icons these characters are. As for the storytelling within, it’s cute and diverting, but it’s not nearly as impressive as this issue’s promotional campaign. It reads a bit like one of those Silver Age Superman stories edited by Mort Weisinger, in that it’s a bit of an “imaginary” story. That makes sense, since these characters aren’t meant to change drastically. Furthermore, writer Michael Uslan also leaves the door open for Archie to explore what would happen if he’d proposed to Betty Cooper (with whom, I think you’ll agree, we all think he should end up). Despite the kitsch factor, I came away from the comic feeling as though it was entirely missable. I wasn’t disappointed I picked it up, but neither was I all that taken with it either.

Stan Goldberg’s art for this milestone is rendered in a classic Archie style, though I found most panels and pages to be rather cramped. It was interesting to see how Goldberg tweaks the looks of the Archie gang as adults. They still look like the characters we’ve come to know and love over the years, but there definitely is a slightly more grown-up look at play. 6/10

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Future Perfect, Past Tense

Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow original hardcover graphic novel
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Brian Fies
Editor: Charlie Kochman
Publisher: Abrams ComicArts/Harry N. Abrams, Inc.
Price: $24.95 US/$27.50 CAN

I don’t know what it is about Brian Fies’s projects, but I always seem to find out about them well after their release. I was late getting on the Mom’s Cancer bandwagon but was thrilled with what I found after I finally got my hands on a copy of the hardcover collected edition of his touching webcomic. And for some reason, this second project flew under my radar for a couple of months as well. As soon as I saw it, though, I grabbed a copy off the shelf at my local comic shop, eager to delve into what I expected was more personal storytelling. I did find that to a certain degree, but Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow?, while exploring emotional reactions to a history of 20th-century American technology and innovation, lacks a more resonant, personal tone. Helping to maintain that barrier between the reader and the main character is Fies’s meticulous detailing of the history he clearly wants to share with and impart upon his audience. It’s a shame that the execution here falls a bit short, as Fies experiments with content and even production values to great effect. This is an interesting book, but perhaps its biggest problem is that it gives away the entire premise and the moods to be found within with its very title.

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The Cost of Crime-Fighting in San Diego

Earlier this month, Eye on Comics posted an article on how smoothly Comic-Con International San Diego 2009 ran, strictly from a security/safety/crime perspective. As was noted, the San Diego Police Department only recorded two arrests it connected to the premier comics and pop-culture event, and it also reported four lost children were quickly reunited with their families at the convention.

Monica Munoz, media services manager with the San Diego Police Department, had commented that Comic-Con had a contract with the city for policing and traffic-control services, but she was unable at the time to provide information on the value of that contract. She’s since contacted Eye on Comics with the relevant figures.

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Quick Critiques – Aug. 14, 2009

Variant coverBlackest Night #2 (DC Comics)
by Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis, Oclair Albert & Julio Ferreira

One of my favorite super-hero stories is Crisis on Infinite Earths, and when I read a genre event book, that’s generally the one by which I judge all others. While I enjoyed Grant Morrison’s Final Crisis and the challenging nature of the plotting, it tended to focus on a core group of characters. Blackest Night, while simpler in plot and scope than Final Crisis, is hitting similar chords as CoIE in that writer Geoff Johns is digging up (literally in most cases) an interesting array of obscure characters to play roles in his cosmic drama. Johns has incorporated a lot of continuity references into his script (events from CoIE being among them), but overall, he provides enough background (or suggests it) to maintain a fairly accessible tone. While he doesn’t advance his plot all that much in this issue, he does offer some deliciously creepy moments featuring undead heroes, not only when they explode into a scene but as they lurk in the shadows, waiting to spring a trap on former friends and loved ones. Johns begins to hint as some rules for the Black Lanterns, and I’m intrigued and eager to learn more about the premise.

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I Gotta Go to the Johns

Variant coverAdventure Comics #1/Adventure Comics #504
“Superboy, The Boy of Steel, Part One” and “Long Live the Legion”
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artists: Francis Manapul & Clayton Henry
Colors: Brian Buccellato & Brian Reber
Letters: Steve Wands & Sal Ciprinao
Cover artist: Francis Manapul
Editor: Elisabeth V. Gehrlein
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US

Ever since the character debuted in 1993, I’ve never been terribly enamored of the new Superboy. I always found him to be rather obnoxious, but some talent creators have told stories using him over the years as well. He’s been the center of some contrived plots in recent years, not the least of which was his recent anti-climactic resurrection in the pages of Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds. Here, writer Geoff Johns takes a two-pronged to the character. On the one hand, he’s crafting a coming-of-age story; he may be a super-hero, but Superboy’s also a teenager, and as such, he’s struggling like other teens to figure out who he is. Secondly, Johns is also clearly trying to tell a new story in an old tradition, as he mirrors Silver Age Superboy stories while also modernizing them. He’s also established a strong link between the main Superboy feature and the Legion of Super-Heroes backup story. While the Legion piece isn’t the most accessible of plots, Johns does hold out the promise of payoff of a super-hero mystery plot that’s been hinted at in DC titles for a couple of years.

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War Story

A frequent topic of discussion at the local comic shop and online among comics fans has been whether or not DC Comics plans to collect the strips from Wednesday Comics and what possible shape such a collection or collections might take, given the oversized, broadsheet format of the episodic incarnation of the title. That led Eye on Comics to snoop around the Internet for a possible clue. A good source for future collected editions of DC products is, which lists expected trade-paperback and hardcover releases from DC and other comics publishers months ahead of their appearances in the industry catalog, Previews.

I didn’t find any information about Wednesday Comics collections, but something else involving one of the Wednesday contributors caught my eye.

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Hal Loves Me, Hal Loves Me Not…

Quite a bit has been made of a scene that James Robinson wrote in Justice League: Cry for Justice #2 in which it’s suggested, nay revealed that Green Lantern Hal Jordan participated in a menage a trois with a couple of shapely super-heroines. I can understand others’ frustration with that snippet of dialogue, as it really adds nothing to the story or characters. But it another bit of dialogue on the next page that I found more distracting and frustrating.

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Quick Critiques – Aug. 10, 2009

Destroyer #5 (Marvel Comics/MAX Comics imprint)
by Robert Kirkman & Cory Walker

Robert Kirkman brings this limited series to a close on a strong note. Given the overall violent tone of the story and the building plot about the title character’s health, it’s safe to say that most readers expected a particular ending. The writer throws his audience a curve ball, though, opting to take a completely different tack while staying true to the main character. Keene is a fighter, and he’s a man who never gives up. Those elements play a significant role in the “death scene” that makes up most of this issue. It’s a thoroughly entertaining scene, and while it’s as brutal as any other action scene that came before it, it lacks the gruesome gore, allowing it to come off as more comedic in tone. The notion of the reaper or reapers being afraid of a trained killer works quite well.

The nature of the plot for this final issue allows the reader to view Cory Walker’s artwork in a different light… a white light, actually. The main part of the story in this issue takes place in a void, so we’re faced with the figures and action out of any real context. There are no backgrounds, which in previous issues were just as well rendered as the super-heroes and villains. The blank backdrop allows Walker’s style to really come to the forefront; it’s interesting to see how he mixes a simpler look with the convincing detail of the effects of violence. Ultimately, my favorite aspect of the art here is what I’ve enjoyed the most from the start, and that’s Walker’s ability to balance the title character’s raw power with the aged, paunchy man behind the mask. Keene seems like a real guy, and that contrast with his unreal job and actions has really defined this series. 7/10

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Spidey Sense Isn’t the Only Thing Tingling

Variant coverAmazing Spider-Man #601
“Red-Headed Stranger: No Place Like Home”
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Mario Alberti
Colors: Andres Mossa
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
“The Best Version of Myself”
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Joe Quesada
Colors: Morry Hollowell
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos
Cover artists: J. Scott Campbell/John Romita Sr. (variant cover)
Editor: Stephen Wacker
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $2.99 US

The good news is that this comic (still priced at $2.99, whew!) is a good value, featuring two decent Spidey stories by two writers who clearly understand the character. The bad news…

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From the Small Press (Really Small)

Silber Media mini-comics
Writer: Brian John Michell
Artists: Andrew White, Brian John Michell, Kimberlee Traub & Melissa Spence Gardner
Publisher: Silber Media
Price: $1 US each ($2 international)

I get a few comics in the mail for review purposes, but I found something in my mail a couple of weeks ago that was unlike the typical review package. It was a standard business-sized envelope, not the usual big envelope I often find. Inside I found a folded 8.5×11 information sheet and five tiny packets. Five little plastic sleeves (the kind I imagine is normally used to distribute personal amounts of cocaine) each contained a single a mini-comic — much more mini than the typical mini-comic. We’re talking about comics no bigger than large postage stamps. Writer Brian John Michell offers a diverse array of material — a western, a surreal story of murder of conspiracy, a Dexter-esque crime comic and an autobiographical, journal-like title — that make for surprisingly engaging reads. It’s surprising in part because the artwork for all of these projects is amateurish in tone, but Michell’s scripts are solid. Thumbing through these tiny comics with my meaty mitts was a bit of a pain in the ass, but it was an inconvenience that was ultimately worthwhile.

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Law & Order: SDU (San Diego Unit)

By most accounts, Comic-Con International San Diego 2009 was a successful show. The con itself posted a record sellout, and reports from some dealers at the con indicates sales were decent to strong on some days (though perhaps not as strong as past shows) despite the recession. In the face of ridiculously long lines and crowded aisles on the floor, Comic-Con organizers, by all accounts, ran a smooth show. One can’t imagine anyone was surprised by the lines, especially for the Hollywood panels and big-name guests.

Still, attendance is reported to have been in the range of 120,000. When you get that many people together in a limited space at the same time, something’s bound to go wrong and people are bound to misbehave… or not. Eye on Comics contacted the San Diego Police Department about the impact Comic-Con has on the city and any associated police activity.

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In the Time of Nick

Incarnate #1
“Chapter 1: Little Boy Death”
Writer: Nick Simmons
Pencils: Nick Simmons
Inks: Matt Dalton
Assistant artists: Nam Kim, Ben Harvey & Shi Hua Wang
Colors: Brian Buccellato
Letters: Rob Steen
Cover artist: Jo Chen
Editor: Tim Beedle
Publisher: Radical Publishing
Price: $4.99 US

After reading this comic book, one thing became abundantly clear to me: while many have been watching Nick Simmons on his father’s reality-TV show on A&E, he’s been watching anime. And a lot of it, given the influence of Japanese animation that’s painfully apparent in his writing and artwork for this new comic book. Simmons boasts an angular style that grants the various characters an otherworldly intensity that’s definitely in keeping with an anime approach to storytelling, and other fans of anime and manga horror will likely enjoy what they’ll find in this comic.

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