Monthly Archives: October 2009

Gemini’s Horrorscope

Variant coverDetective Comics #858
“Go, 1”
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: J.H. Williams III
Colors: Dave Stewart
Letters: Todd Klein
“The Question: Pipeline – Chapter One, Part Five”
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Cully Hamner
Colors: Dave McCaig
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher

Cover artists: J.H. Williams III/Adam Hughes (variant)
Editor: Michael Siglain
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US

Given the level of the talent that’s contributed to this latest stint on Detective, it’s been a memorable run on the title thus far, but this latest issue stands out as the best yet, at least as far as the main Batwoman feature is concerned. The plot of the first Batwoman story arc was surprising conventional in tone, featuring what turned out to be a standard hero-versus-crazed villain story. And when one reads a comic book illustrated by J.H. Williams II, you don’t expect to find that art paired with something conventional. Rucka’s latest script is far superior to those that came before, and Williams demonstrates once again the skills that have made him one of the great modern masters of the medium. This issue is also noteworthy in that it features the conclusion of the first arc of the Question backup feature. With that piece, Rucka offers up a predictable though satisfying ending. Like the main feature, it’s the art that steals the show.

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Quick Critiques – Oct. 31, 2009

Hunter’s Fortune #1 (Boom! Studios)
by Andrew Cosby, Caleb Munroe & Matt Cossin

I had no idea what this comic book was about before I sat down to read it, but I was surprised to find a fun premise for adventure that’s full of personality. Hunter’s Fortune is something like Brewster’s Millions crossed with Raiders of the Lost Ark, featuring a down-on-his-luck slacker who will inherit millions from a long lost uncle as long as he fulfills a quest as set out in the will. Writers Cosby and Munroe aren’t exactly reinventing the wheel here, but they offer up some solid entertainment. Like many other Boom! mini-series, this reads a bit like a movie pitch, which is OK, because it works as comics storytelling as well. Of course, the fact that cover artist Rebecca Wrigley’s depiction of the series protagonist looks just like actor John (The Office) Krasinski reinforces that big-screen impression.

Matt Cossin’s art is a perfect match to the main characters and the script. He brings such energy to the visuals that one can’t help but get caught up in the fun and goofiness of the story. Admittedly, he’s got a tendency to vamp up almost every female character, but that’s sort of expected with this kind of wish-fulfillment story. I mean, since all of Hunter’s dreams are coming true, it only makes sense that he’d end up surrounded by hot women. Mind you, it’s easier to accept since the smartest, most confident character in the story, Jessica Lockhart, is among them, and she doesn’t get naked or anything. 8/10

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A Day of Night

This was a pretty big week for DC’s Blackest Night, with not only a new issue of the event series itself shipping, but a tie-in issue of Green Lantern and the conclusion of the spinoff Blackest Night: Titans series. Now, two of the three are definitely integral to the larger plot, but the Titans tie-in may also prove to be of importance to the event as a whole.

What I found most interesting about these comics was how the core plot of the series is unfolding in only one of them, and it’s not the core Blackest Night eight-part series. Now, the story itself seems to have shifted from the main title over into Green Lantern, which is appropriate, since the crossover story is, at its heart, a GL tale. Meanwhile, the larger-than-life action seems to be relegated to the event title. Overall, these Blackest Night comics are proving to be fun diversions, though like many event-driven comics, they suffer from accessibility problems.

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Times with Orange

Blood Orange mini-comic
Writer: Justin Giampaoli
Artist: Grant Lee
Publisher: June Lake Press
No price listed

Reviewing comics affords me the opportunity to sample material (a) of which I might have been unaware, (b) in which I may not have had an initial interest or (c) to which I might not have had access. Blood Orange falls under the latter category, as mini-comics tend not to see wide distribution. This one (out of California, I think) is a slice-of-life story based on a poignant premise. That being said, writer Justin Giampaoli and artist Grant Lee offer up some awkward storytelling. It’s an interesting foray into amateur comics craft, and when one looks at Giampaoli’s previous dabblings in the medium, one can see that his writing has evolved over time.

A mother and father struggle as they reach a dark turning point in their lives, and while they don’t know they’ll get through it, they are determined to do so. Weighing on their minds more than anything else, though, is how to broach the subject with their young son, who will no doubt be unable to understand the family’s plight. Instead, father and son go outside and pick oranges from the tree growing in the front yard. The boy spends the next week blissfully unaware of the problems with which his parents must contend as they shelter him from the storm in their lives.

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Howdy, Konnyeje wa, Goddag

Cowboy Ninja Viking #1
Writer: A.J. Lieberman
Artist/Tones/Cover artist: Riley Rossmo
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Editor: Kristen Simon
Publisher: Image Comics/Shadowline imprint
Price: $3.50 US

Image Comics has had a number of sleeper hits as of late, among them, Chew, Viking and the resurrected King City. All are unconventional comics that seem much more at home in under the Image banner than they’d be at Marvel or DC Comics. Cowboy Ninja Viking is another such comic book, and it has all the potential to be another surprise hit for the publisher. A.J. Lieberman’s plot, premise and script — all of which are reminiscent of Matt (Invincible Iron Man) Fraction’s creator-owned work such as Casanova and Rex Mantooth — demonstrate he’s got his tongue planted firmly in cheek as he merges three cool adventure genre archetypes into one bizarre character. Riley Rossmo’s sketchy, gritty art style tempers the weirder, ridiculous qualities of the book nicely, adding a certain intensity that keeps the storytelling from turning into a farce. All told, this is an entertaining and morbidly fun comic book with minor flaws that will hopefully fade as the series continues.

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Quick Critiques – Oct. 24, 2009

Variant coverAstonishing X-Men #31 (Marvel Comics)
by Warren Ellis, Phil Jimenez & Andy Lanning

I’ve been following this series from the start, but I think this is my last issue. While this is the beginning of a new story arc (apparently about an alien invasion that’s about to befall Earth), this chapter is really nothing more than an action-packed rescue mission full of so many coincidences and unbelievable delays that suspension of disbelief is pretty much impossible. I found it incredibly frustrating that the heroes seem to spend as much time talking about the rescue as actually executing it. Furthermore, previous arcs in this series featured new and unusual concepts for conflict, but this one seems to turn back to some familiar (though inhuman) X-Men antagonists. Basically, this issue of Astonishing didn’t have the special feel that sets this series apart from other X-titles.

Phil Jimenez’s artwork has evolved since his first hit the scene. No longer does his style seem like a pale imitation of George (Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds) Perez’s, though the influence is still apparent. Still, this issue full of gritted teeth and intense glares just didn’t hold my attention all that much. I found the design for the X-Men crash suits to be awkward, and the figures often seem stiff. Mind you, the look of the organic incarnation of a previously mechanical foe at the end of the book was appropriately creepy. 5/10

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Haunted and Unwanted

Ottley variant coverCapullo variant coverHaunt #1
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Layouts: Greg Capullo
Pencils: Ryan Ottley
Inks: Todd McFarlane
Colors: FCO Plascencia
Letters: Comicraft
Cover artists: Todd McFarlane/Greg Capullo/Ryan Ottley
Editors: Jen Cassidy & Tyler Jeffers
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $2.99 US/$3 CAN

I’d originally decided some time ago that when Haunt was finally released, I’d pass on it, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that my interest in Robert Kirkman’s and Ryan Ottley’s storytelling outweighed my disinterest in Todd McFarlane’s and Greg Capullo’s artwork and my disappointment in the uninspired nature of the title character’s design. I should’ve stuck with my original instinct. Haunt maybe a super-hero title, but it’s devoid of any sense of fun, even morbid, dark fun. It’s full of nasty characters — gratuitously nasty ones, to be honest. The plot and players are dark for the sake of being dark. The creators aren’t selling the audience a story. The creators themselves are the product, and a compelling read was clearly low on the list of priorities. The contributors clearly set out to create something intense and Kewl, and they succeeded, but only when it comes to those purely superficial goals.

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Shades and Grey

Sir Edward Grey, Witchfinder: In the Service of Angels #4
Writer/Cover artist: Mike Mignola
Artist: Ben Stenbeck
Colors: Dave Stewart
Letters: Clem Robins
Editor: Scott Allie
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Price: $2.99 US

I don’t think Mike Mignola and his various collaborators have ever released a poor Hellboy or B.P.R.D. comic book, and I’m sure there are thousands of fans who never miss an issue. I can’t help but wonder if Sir Edward Grey, Witchfinder, a title that lurks on the periphery of the Mignola-verse, might slip by those fans. If so, they’d be well advised to check out this Victorian monster-hunting story. Mignola captures the same sort of gothic vibe and sense of dark adventure he does in his other titles, and it’s spiced up with an interesting dose of historical fiction. History has always played an important role in his Hellboy comics, so it’s fun to sample a similar story that’s actually immersed in that history. This penultimate issue of this limited series doesn’t read as such. Mignola keeps ramping the story up, introducing new characters that add to the intrigue and mystery. The writer also has a knack for partnering with artists who are skilled at incorporating the unique Mignola style into their work while still instilling their own unique styles into the storytelling, and Ben Stenbeck is no exception.

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Quick Critiques – Oct. 19, 2009

The Anchor #1 (Boom! Studios)
by Phil Hester & Brian Churilla

I’m of two minds when it comes to this story. As I read the opening scene, which is set on a battlefield in Hell, I was completely put off, not by the barbarism of the demons or the violence, but by the stilted tone of the dialogue and narration. I always find such scripting puts too much distance between the subjects and the audience, and this was no exception. Once the story shifts its setting to the earthly plane, though, it gets to be a lot more fun. Seeing him fight giant monsters in a European city is far more entertaining than battles in Hell peppered with purple prose. Emergency volunteer Hofi Eriksdotter serves as a vital component in the story, as she provides a grounded link. Furthermore, the premise of a warrior who exists in two realms — the human world in his physical form, and in Hell spiritually — is a novel one, as is the masochistic source of his power on Earth.

Churilla’s artwork is rather light in tone, which makes for an interesting contrast with the more gruesome aspects of the story. It’s quite effective, though. He conveys the raw power that the title character possesses, and colorist Matthew Wilson does an excellent job of reinforcing the depth of the wounds that the Anchor sustains, as well as how that pain is channelled into power. Churilla’s designs for the demons in hell are rather simple and uninteresting. 6/10

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How the Other Riffraff Lives

Filthy Rich original hardcover graphic novel
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artist: Victor Santos
Letters: Clem Robins
Cover artist: Lee Bermejo
Editor: Will Dennis
Publisher: DC Comics/Vertigo Crime imprint
Price: $19.99 US/$24.99 CAN

I picked this book up shortly after its release, and I was interested in DC/Vertigo’s new noir, crime-fiction imprint; furthermore, I’m a fan of Brian Azzarello’s writing. He’s quite comfortable in this genre, as he’s demonstrated time and time again with his work on 100 Bullets. The small hardcover format makes for an attractive package as well. Unfortunately, what’s inside that package isn’t nearly as strong as I’d hoped. The plotting seems a bit scattered, but the biggest problem with the storytelling is the inconsistent and occasionally confused artwork. Still, Azzarello’s examination of the culture of celebrity from America’s past demonstrates that tabloid journalism and paparazzi predators aren’t only a modern phenomenon.

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3 Geeks v. Geeks Galore

3 Geeks, copyright Rich KoslowskiWhen it comes to stories about comic-book copyright infringement, one usually imagines Marvel Entertainment or DC Comics cracking down on unauthorized use of iconic super-hero characters. But in a Toronto court recently, an independent comics creator and self-publisher took on another small businessman. The 3 Geeks creator Rich Koslowski has won a summary-judgment motion in Canadian federal court, upholding his 3 Geeks copyright. The case arises from an Ontario computer-consultation business and its use of a 3 Geeks image, created by Koslowski, promotional materials.

Koslowski filed a legal action against Hogan Scott Courrier, the owner and operator of Geeks Galore Computer Center in Marmora, Ont., in September 2008, alleging that Courrier “displayed the Infringing Image as depicted at para. 9 of the Plaintiff’s affidavit on the Defendant’s internet homepage, other websites, invoices, business cards, and shirts worn by sales staff” at least since 2006, federal court Judge Michael Kelen wrote in his Sept. 9 decision on the motion.

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Sicks, Dregs and Rock ‘n’ Roll

Angora Napkin original hardcover graphic novel
Writer/Artist: Troy Little
Editor: Carol Little
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Price: $19.99 US

I always make a point of checking out creator Troy Little’s latest comic-book endeavors, not only because he hails from the same home province as your friendly neighborhood reviewer but because his storytelling on Chiaroscuro (originally self-published and later collected by IDW) was so compelling. Little offers up something quite different, both in concept and visually, with this latest project, and his experiences in the world of animation really show through in this oddball comedy about a raunchy girl band and its adventures in the realms of the supernatural.

Angora Napkin is really a study in contrasts. The main characters are in many ways charming innocents, but they’re also crude and depraved in their own way. The cartoony look of the character designs and the action initially suggests that the property was developed with younger readers in mind, but the humor and some of the dialogue demonstrate clearly that’s not the case. You never really know what to expect from Little and Angora Napkin and therein lies its strength and appeal.

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Pomp and Circumstances

Astro City: Astra Special #1
“Graduation Day”
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Brent E. Anderson
Colors: Wendy Broome
Letters: Comicraft
Cover artist: Alex Ross
Editor: Scott Peterson
Publisher: DC Comics/Wildstorm Productions

One of the more down-to-earth and sweet stories in the history of Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson’s Astro City comics was a two-part arc featuring Astra, the youngest member of the First Family, Astro City’s answer to the Fantastic Four. At the time, she was a school-aged kid, and all she wanted was to be normal, to fit in with other kids, instead of the fantasy and wonder that her life as a pre-teen super-hero brought with it. Well, Astra’s all grown up now, having graduated from college, and we get to see just how those early wishes and some more maturity have shaped the young adult. This two-part limited series is shaping up to be an interesting companion piece to that earlier Astra story, so much so that I hope that when the time comes to collect this new story, that earlier, mid-1990s two-parter (already included in the Local Heroes: Family Album trade paperback) is included along with it. Now, this isn’t the strongest or most resonant Astro City story these creators have crafted over the years, but it’s certainly solid.

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An Origin Without Originality

Variant coverSuperman: Secret Origin #1
“Secret Origin, Book One: The Boy of Steel”
Writer: Geoff Johns
Pencils/Cover artist: Gary Frank
Inks: Jon Sibal
Colors: Brad Anderson
Letters: Steve Wands
Editor: Matt Idelson
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US

It seems like every time I happen upon a DC Universe comic book I feel like saying something about in a review, Geoff Johns’s name is on the cover. He’s certainly had a good few months lately. His Blackest Night event has enabled DC to take on its closest competitor in a way we haven’t seen in, well, a few years really. He left the regular writing duties on Justice Society of America behind, which was a smart move, given that it’s stagnated in the past couple of years (and continues to stagnate, unfortunately). Johns’s scripts on Adventure Comics have proven to be a delightful surprise, as he embraces a much more traditional tone, a departure from the dark, “mature” tone for which he’s known. Now while I’m not interested in the current state of the various ongoing titles in DC’s Superman family, I didn’t hesitate to pick up the first issue of this limited series; with the names “Johns” and “Frank” on the cover, why would I? Unfortunately, while the writing here is competent and entertaining, Secret Origin doesn’t represent the same kind of creative success that Johns has enjoyed as of late.

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