Monthly Archives: January 2010

Crows’ Feat

Wonder Woman #40
“A Murder of Crows, Part One: Hit the Ground Running”
Writer: Gail Simone
Pencils/Cover artist: Aaron Lopresti
Inks: Matt Ryan
Colors: Brad Anderson
Letters: Travis Lanham
Editor: Brian Cunningham
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

I lost touch with this series a few issues ago, as I grew a bit bored with the Genocide/”Rise of the Olympian” storylines last year. However, I’m generally a big fan of Gail Simone’s writing, and when I saw that this issue (a) featured the beginning of a new story arc and (b) featured the creepy visual on the cover of a quintet of evil kids, I decided to revisit the adventures of the best-known super-heroine. The introduction of new antagonist (and the absence of the previous ones) has renewed my interest in the book. I really enjoyed the darker elements that contribute to the conflicts in this issue, but the strength of those elements comes as no surprise, as Simone has proven she handles the dark stuff adeptly over in Secret Six. But the writer balance the ugly side of human emotion with a heart-warming scene between two friends that really gets to the heart of the title characters dichotomous nature as being representative of both war and love.

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I Want To Be in Pictures (in Panels)

While comics fans, professionals and journalists were discussing and gushing extensively this week about the unveiling of Apple’s iPad, there were other announcements that had to do with comics that are actually being made rather than those that could be made or digitally distributed. Among the industry news items of the week was Boom! Studios’ announcement that it will publish a comic book in April in partnership with movie star Samuel L. Jackson.

Jackson is teaming with Eric Calderon (a writer/producer with whom he worked on the animated Afro Samurai TV series) to present Cold Space, which Boom! describes as “a hard-boiled sci-fi action-adventure” and suggests it’s “sure to be the most talked-about comic of the spring.”

In regards to the latter claim: no, I don’t think so.

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Quick Critiques – Jan. 27, 2010

The Atom & Hawkman #46 (DC Comics)
by Geoff Johns, Ryan Sook & Fernando Pasarin

Of the eight Blackest Night tie-ins in “resurrected” comic-book titles that DC published this month, this is the only one that’s actually integral to the larger plot of the event, but since this was penned by Blackest Night writer Geoff Johns, that doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Still, there should’ve been more of a cue to Blackest Night readers that they might not want to skip this tie-in. Despite the title, the focus is clearly on the Atom and his backstory. Johns shows some affection and respect for the character here, and judging from the prominent role he’s played in the event, it’s possible DC is trying to boost his profile in its stable of super-hero characters. Johns provides an accessible script (at least as far as the Atom’s background is concerned), and his take on Ray Palmer as someone who hides from the world is an interesting one. Still, I wasn’t all that interested in the larger role that the dead Jean Loring plays here. Hopefully, this will be the last we see of the character. Johns does advance the plot of the larger event somewhat by revealing a lot more about the Indigo Tribe and their powers. Of course, the revelation that the Indigo “Lanterns” can manifest the power and light of any other Lantern Corps left me wondering why they need the other Lanterns to help in this crisis.

As has been the case with a couple of the other “resurrected” comics DC issued this month, the publisher pulls a fast one on readers and retailers alike when it comes to the content. This was solicited as being illustrated by Ryan Sook, whose work on his last project (Wednesday Comics) was much celebrated. While Sook does provide some of the visuals in this issue, he’s joined fellow artist Fernando Pasarin, who provides linework for latter pages in the book in his competent but unremarkable style. Furthermore, Sook’s work here is far more conventional in tone than we’re accustomed to seeing from him. Still, I did like his take on Indigo 1 as well as multiple incarnations of the Black Lantern Hawks. 6/10

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Boys on the Outside

There’s no denying that the world of comic books — from the audience to the retail sector to those who create them and work in the industry — is dominated by men. For years, many of both genders have wondered how to attract more women to the medium, both as readers and creators. Canadian comics retailer Calum Johnston has considered the issue as well, and his Halifax, Nova Scotia, store is trying something this week to give girls and women a chance to comfortably explore its wares and ask about comics.

Strange Adventures in Halifax will host its first-ever Ladies Night on Thursday, Jan. 28. Owner Calum Johnston said it’s a chance for women who are interested in comics but might have felt intimidated or awkward about venturing into a comic-book shop, but it’s also an event for fangirls to gush about comics without guys. Johnston said there won’t even be any male staff members at the event.

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A Superman’s Soul Under Siege

Dark Avengers #13
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist/Cover artist: Mike Deodato
Colors: Rain Beredo
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99 US

This comic book is flawed in many ways. Its connection to Marvel’s latest event book isn’t entirely clear, as there’s no mention of the invasion of Asgard or events directly depicted in the single issue of Siege we’ve seen thus far. Furthermore, this plot — which focuses on the Sentry — doesn’t provide the reader with nearly enough information about the events building up to this superhuman nervous breakdown and the unique nature of the character in the Marvel Universe. Despite that lack of exposition and context, Bendis nevertheless offers up an interesting script in that the notions he explores here touch upon a connection to the divine, the inevitability of corruption and power going hand in hand, and the fragility of the human psyche. Conversely, Bendis might be offering a critique of Superman as an icon of the super-hero genre and how such an impossibly powerful and good figure would be damaged and dangerous.

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Vertigo’s Other House of Mystery

Joe the Barbarian #1
“Chapter 1: Hypo”
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist/Cover artist: Sean Murphy
Colors: Dave Stewart
Letters: Todd Klein
Editor: Karen Berger
Publisher: DC Comics/Vertigo imprint
Price: $1 US

DC once again debuts a new Vertigo first issue at the rock-bottom price of a buck. But let’s be honest… given the talents of the creators involved, you know you’d pay three or four times that to sample their latest project. Grant Morrison’s been better known as of late for his intellectual approach to and celebration of the traditions and icons of the super-hero genre, but he really built his reputation and audience with fare set outside that genre (or at least on the sheer periphery of it). With this project, Morrison once again demonstrates the diversity of his storytelling, but this isn’t something as surreal and experimental in tone as The Invisibles or The Filth. This is a more straightforward project that examines the importance of fantasy in our mundane or dreary lives, and it’s beautifully and meticulously illustrated as well.

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Quick Critiques – Jan. 20, 2010

Variant coverAvengers Vs. Atlas #1 (Marvel Comics)
by Jeff Parker, Gabriel Hardman & Takeshi Miyazawa

Marvel’s apparent confusion over what to do with Jeff Parker’s Agents of Atlas is frustrating for those of us who enjoy the property, and fortunately, it doesn’t seem to have dulled the writer’s enthusiasm for the characters. Once again, he offers up a fun adventure with some colorful, retro enemies for the heroes to combat. Parker’s script links this latest meeting with the Avengers with a previous one in the cancelled-too-soon Agents of Atlas ongoing series and the recent X-Men Vs. Agents of Atlas limited series, but at the same time, the storytelling isn’t mired in continuity and previous events. In other words, it’s accessible; Parker even incorporates a succinct explanation of the Atlas Foundation into the dialogue. The time-travel element at the centre of plot promises a lot of cool Silver Age elements in this series. However, the premise also strikes me as a bit too reminiscent of the Avengers/Invaders limited series of 2008, which also saw super-heroes from the past being drawn into the present to fight/team up with heroes of today.

I was pleased to find that this four-dollar comic also features a back-up story, a solo adventure starring Namora. It’s a fairly typical sea hero-versus-the-nasty-whalers plot; we’ve seen this fare before. But it’s diverting and enjoyable in its traditional approach. More importantly, it’s nice to see that Parker and his editors have ensured that the reader gets more value for the extra buck with these extra eight pages.

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Red Circle Squared

Not long ago on the DC Comics Source blog, it was announced that the creators behind The Shield and The Web — super-hero titles unfolding in a relatively untouched corner of the DC Universe, featuring new incarnations of classic characters owned by Archie Comics — would begin introducing some more of those new interpretations of the Archie heroes. Among them are the Jaguar, the Comet, the Black Hood, Mr. Justice and the Fox. On the blog, Red Circle editor Rachel Gluckstern indicates the reason for bringing in more characters is so the creators can build up to the revelation of a new (sorta) super-hero team. She wrote: “2009 was the year of the Red Circle; 2010 is the year of the Mighty Crusaders!”

That begs an interesting question: what the hell for?

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Light a Candle, Curse the Darkness

So it seems DC Comics is endeavoring to revert its core super-hero line back to a lighter, brighter tone, and to be honest, I welcome the shift in atmosphere. I have no problem with darker, more mature takes on super-heroes; they can be entertaining and even thought-provoking. But the genre was originally crafted as fun escapism, with plot elements full of wish fulfillment and adventure. DC’s uber-successful Blackest Night event is leading into Brightest Day and a new bi-weekly Justice League series that appears to embrace the goofiness of the humor-era Justice League comics of the late 1980s.

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Crazy Like a Fox

Human Target TV series pilot
Starring: Mark Valley, Chi McBride & Jackie Earle Haley
Director: Simon West
Broadcaster: Fox

DC’s Human Target property is adapted for the small screen for the second time, and judging from the pilot, it’s probably not going to last much longer than the 1992 TV series of the same name that starred rocker/actor Rick Springfield. This new take on TV’s Human Target looks promising on paper, given the strength of a couple of key cast members, but the end result is a generic action-adventure show. It’s so formulaic that the viewer is taken right out of the story. The dangers are often contrived, and low production values hinder the cool factor that the makers are clearly hoping to attain. Movie director Simon West is clearly unable to achieve the big-screen flavor the producers are looking for, no doubt due to budget limitations.

Human Target is entirely miss-able, but given Fox’s track record of dumping genre shows quickly, I wonder if viewers are even going to bother investing their time in this latest foray.

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Quick Critiques – Jan. 8, 2010

Variant coverBlackest Night #6 (DC Comics)
by Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis, Oclair Albert & Joe Prado

This stands out as the strongest issue of the series thus far, and the reason is that it’s the most fun issue of the series to date. The assembly of the leaders of the various color corps is fun enough as it is, but by the end of the issue, Johns introduces us to new members of each of the various corps. It’s the sort of concept we’ve been waiting for ever since Johns first dabbled in the notion of Lanterns of Many Colors. I was also pleased that while this event is, at its core, a Green Lantern story, Johns still makes plenty of room for the diverse array of colorful characters of the DC Universe. The only problem with his script is the Atom/Mera/Jean Loring scene. That scene first got underway in a Blackest Night tie-in comic (Adventure Comics #5), and picking up on that thread here is bound to confuse those who didn’t peruse that tangential comic. Furthermore, I really don’t see how that subatomic trip into a Black Lantern ring added much to the story in the first place.

Ivan Reis offers up some strong designs throughout this issue. The Black Lantern looks for some of the more iconic DC heroes are quite striking, especially those for Wonder Woman and Green Arrow, as are those for the new lanterns that arise at the end of the issue. I also enjoyed how Reis shifts the Atom from his classic, Silver Age look to something more akin to his barbarian mode from the 1980s. The action also unfolds nicely; the art conveys the hectic and urgent quality of the plot but it’s never confusing either. Colorist Alex Sinclair also maintains a nice balance between the dark tone inherent in the undead antagonists and the colorful energy of the various lanterns. 8/10

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Planting a Siege of Doubt

Dell'Otto variantCoipel coverSiege #1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Olivier Coipel
Inks: Mark Morales
Colors: Laura Martin
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos
Cover artists: Coipel & Morales/Gabriele Dell’Otto/Joe Quesada & Danny Miki
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99 US

Though Marvel Comics has been the target of criticism over the past year when it comes to pricing and the value of its products, I think it’ll be this comic book that serves as the point when many readers realize that the publisher is out to pad its bottom line at the expense of its customers’ good will. The first issue of Marvel’s latest event certainly does constitute a siege, but the siege isn’t on Asgard. Instead, it’s a siege on the readers’ wallets. This four-dollar periodical offers little content of substance, and it offers even less value for one’s money. Yes, the artwork is attractive, but that’s all this comic book is: pretty. The events of this are completely miss-able, and that weren’t annoying enough, the plot doesn’t even make all that much sense.

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More 2009 Glass Eye Awards – Creators

OK, we’ve doled out the Glass Eyes for the best comics and original graphic novel of 2009 (click here to see those awards), so now it’s time to turn our attention to the people who craft those works. We only have another four more Glass Eyes to award, to the best writer, artist, colorist and cover artist of the year.

Caveat time: Readers should bear in mind these picks are just personal preferences. There’s no way for one person to read all the industry has to offer in a given year, even if writing about comics is one’s job (which it ain’t in this case). Furthermore, these choices are based in part on what I remember as the strongest work of the past year, and my memory isn’t perfect. Finally, some may notice a bit of disconnect between the picks for the best creators and the works mentioned in the first part of the 2009 Glass Eye Awards. That’s because the picks for the top creators are based somewhat on creators who offered consistently good work through the year.

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2009 Glass Eye Awards – Comics

Welcome to our coverage of the Glass Eye Awards, celebrating the best in comics from 2009 (or, at least the best ones I’d read and enjoyed over the course of the year, as far as my limited memory serves, so your mileage may vary). Oh, look who’s coming down the red carpet to attend the award ceremony! It’s Mickey Mouse, proud new owner of Marvel Comics. Mickey, who are you wearing? North Face? Makes sense… the sky’s dumping a couple of feet of snow on us at the moment.

Oh, it seems the awards are about to begin, so we’d best take our seats. In this first part of the 2009 Glass Eye Awards, we’ll look at the best comics and original graphic novels of the year. The second part, which is forthcoming, will look at the comics professionals who had the best year, from the standpoint of consistent creative success as opposed to sales success.

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End of Time for Crime

Maleev coverTocchini coverThe Last Days of American Crime #1
Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: Greg Tocchini
Letters: Rus Wooton
Cover artists: Alex Maleev & Greg Tocchini
Editor: Luis Reyes
Publisher: Radical Comics
Price: $4.99 US

I didn’t know exactly what to expect from this new title, but the preliminary artwork I saw piqued my interest, as did writer Rick Remender’s involvement. He’s been quietly carving out a reputation as one of the industry’s most solid writers, and he’s demonstrated some skill at exploring unconventional subject matter. That’s certainly the case here, as he combines a dystopian tone, a convincing crime-drama feel and the makings of a fun heist story to arrive at something compelling and unique. There can be no doubt, though, that a good deal of this limited series’s appeal will stem from its visuals. Artist Greg Tocchini establishes a bizarre atmosphere with some almost psychedelic colors, and he drenches one of the key players in sexuality so effectively that one can’t help but understand the poor choices the protagonist makes based the powerfully alluring and dangerous presence of the femme fatale. Furthermore, Radical continues its experimentation here with a longer format for its episodic comics, and it makes for a satisfying, dense read and a solid value for the reader’s money.

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