Monthly Archives: January 2011

Sublime and Demand

The Monolith was a short-lived series from DC Comics, set in its shared super-hero universe, about a troubled young woman who ends up befriending a golem that was created in the 1930s to serve as a defender of the Brooklyn neighbourhood by those who conjured it. Published in 2004-2005, it only lasted 12 issues. It was written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray (who continue to work regularly for DC, penning such titles as Jonah Hex and Freedom Fighters), and the regular artist was Phil Winslade.

Six years after the title’s demise, someone has launched a campaign to bring it back — at least in reprinted form. Dana Moreshead, a fan and friend to Winslade, has established a Facebook group called “Monolith needs a trade (please)!” In the past week, it’s grown from about a dozen members to more than four times that number. It’s still a small group, but it’s attracted the attention (and participation) of several comics professionals — including those involved in the creation of The Monolith.

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Death Is Only the Beginning

This week marks the release of Fantastic Four #587, the supposedly second-to-last issue of the series that purportedly features the death of one member of Marvel’s famous first family. I’m not going to spoil the issue here; it really doesn’t matter which member of the Fantastic Four dies in this heavily promoted issue.

Marvel Comics offers a clear reminder why the death in question doesn’t matter with another one of its new releases this week. The reason is right there on on the cover of Secret Avengers #9.

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Quick Critiques – Jan. 16, 2011

Dracula: The Company of Monsters #5 (Boom! Studios)
by Kurt Busiek, Daryl Gregory & Scott Godlewski

I’ve been way behind on my reading, comics and otherwise, so it’s only been now that I’ve gotten around to checking out this new take on Dracula by Boom! Studios. With a concept and plot from celebrated comics writer Kurt Busiek, scripter Daryl Gregory delivers a compelling drama about the darkness of men’s souls. On the surface, this is about Dracula’s resurrection in the 21st century, but in reality, it’s about the human characters and the nasty things they’re willing to do in the name of ambition and self-preservation. Evan makes for an unlikely hero. He’s far from the most ethical man, but his shades of grey are swallowed whole by the blackness of those in his life, even his fiancee, who initially and deceptively comes off as the loyal partner. The corporate elements help to ground the piece while also serving to allow for a couple of moments of satire. I love that “the company of monsters” referred to in the series title aren’t literal monsters but ones in terms of morality.

Godlewski’s style is a relatively simple but effective one. His character designs tend to be angular, and those sharp edges are in keeping with the harsh qualities of the players in the drama. His elongated figures are also perfect for a story featuring lean, gaunt predators such as vampires. His style reminded me a little of that of Norm (Batman, Archie) Breyfogle. It’s also comparable to the work of Giancarlo (The Last Resort, Gorilla-Man) Caracuzzo. Most of the characters — and there are quite a few of them — are ordinary people, and the artist does a solid job of providing designs that distinguish among them clearly. 8/10

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Flashpoint Flashback

DC Comics has begun to bombard its core audience with teasers and other promotional hyperbole for its next big summer event book, Flashpoint. Taking its cues from the success of the Green Lantern-centered Blackest Night event book, this time around, the story is going to be built around the publisher’s Flash family of characters. Judging from the teasers, the story will feature alternate-reality versions of DC’s super-hero icons. Sounds like it could be fun. We’ll have to wait and see what writer Geoff Johns and artist Andy Kubert have in store.

What some readers may not realize is that this isn’t the first time DC has published a limited series entitled Flashpoint. And that previous series also featured alternate-reality versions of familiar super-hero characters. Flashpoint was a three-part series released in late 1999. Published under DC’s then-active Elseworlds imprint, it was written by Pat McGreal and illustrated by Norm Breyfogle. I had a vague memory of not only reading the series, but reviewing it as well. A quick web search revealed that I did write about the comic (or at least the first issue) during my days as a staff writer for the now-defunct comics website Psycomic.

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Cape-able Hands

The Cape television series premiere
Director: Simon West
Writer: Tom Wheeler
Actors: David Lyons, Keith David, Summer Glau, James Frain, Jennifer Ferrin, Ryan Wynott, Martin Klebba, Dorian Missick & Vinnie Jones
Network: NBC

When it comes to original TV shows that embrace the super-hero genre and its roots in the medium of comics, network TV doesn’t have the best of track records in my household. Heroes grabbed my attention with its first season but quickly disappointed with what followed. I was into ABC’s No Ordinary Family last fall, but the ham-fisted characterization of peripheral characters ultimately made me lose interest in the wholesome family that served as the main characters. My wife and I were relaxing in the front of the tube Sunday night when a commercial alerted us to the imminent airing of The Cape, the latest attempt by network TV to offer an original super-hero concept. We decided to give it a shot. I was mainly interested thanks to Keith David’s appearance; he’s got a deep haunting voice that always holds my attention.

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Veterans Affairs

Ultimate Captain America #1
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Ron Garney
Colors: Jason Keith
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Cover artists: Garney/Ed McGuinness & Dexter Vines (variant)
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99 us

I see from the indicia that Marvel seems to have dropped the word “Comics” from its Ultimate titles, an odd change they made a year ago that did little to reinvigorate the brand. The focus needs to be on the storytelling, of course, and with writer Jason Aaron and artist Ron Garney working on this comic book, that was enough to get me to pay attention (and to overcome my aversion to Marvel’s four-dollar, limited-series titles). I’m surprised that it’s taken a decade for Marvel to give the Ultimate incarnation of Cap his own book (even if it’s only for a four-issue run), given the more political and edgy tone that some corners of the Ultimate Universe has boasted over the years. This is an accessible story, apparently devoid of any firm link to continuity. This could be taking place at any point in the Ultimate Cap’s modern adventures, so new readers will be able to appreciate this book even if they’re unfamiliar with the character’s history in The Ultimates or other comics. It’s too early to tell if this will be a standout story or simple a standard super-hero yarn, but the opening scene really grabbed my attention.

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Take This Job and Retcon It

Hi there, come on into my office. I’m Ed, your 1970s DC Comics Career Counsellor. I know it’s a tough ol’ world out there and you’re anxious to land yourself a nice, cushy job. Well, I’m here to advise you on the opportunities that exists and the pitfalls you ought to avoid. I see you’ve filled out the questionnaire, and I understand you’re willing to relocate. Good, good, that kind of flexibility will no doubt be key to landing a new job in this economy.

Now, let me check my handy Catalog O’ Jobs. I know, I know… it looks like a copy of The Brave & the Bold #141, a comic book published in 1978 by DC Comics, but don’t worry, that’s not the case. I mean, hey, if it were, I’d have to be crazy… and I mean Arkham Asyklum crazy.

Now, speaking of Arkham Asylum, it’s good that you’re willing to relocate, because some job openings recently came up in Gotham City.

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Quick Critiques – Jan. 4, 2010

Abattoir #2 (Radical Comics)
by Rob Levin, Troy Peteri, Bing Cansino & Rodell Noora

I enjoyed the first issue of this horror/thriller limited series, and when the second issue turned up in my mailbox a few days ago, I was eager to see if the story about a macabre collector of locales of untimely demises would continue to hold my attention. I’m pleased to discover that it’s a fun story in the vein of a Stephen King horror novel. The horror takes on more of a psychological tone in this issue, as the old, creepy antagonist seems more human and manipulative than mysterious and monstrous. The plot has one major problem in that it features an unsuccessful real-estate agent who’s reluctant to sell a property. That’s a little hard to accept no matter how weird the client may be. Fortunately, the story moves at a brisk pace, making it easier for the reader to focus on other elements. I continue to be impressed with the writers’ portrayal of the stormy relationship the hero has with his wife; they clearly care for one another, but they also keep saying the wrong things. What’s most interesting about this issue is the notion that the conflict may exist inside the protagonist’s head. Developments give him and others cause to question his state of mind, and I find that to be just as interesting as the ghoul with a penchant for suburban death altars.

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Generally Speaking

Two Generals original hardcover graphic novel
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Scott Chantler
Publisher: McLelland & Stewart Ltd.
Price: $24.95 US/$27.95 CAN

My wife loves History Television (Canada’s answer to the History Channel in the United States), but I like my TV to be more amusing or escapist in nature. When she’s watching it, I sometimes tease her for watching “Nazi TV.” While I’m familiar with the broad strokes of the history of World War II, I’m not all that keenly interested in learning more. At least, I thought I wasn’t. While my interest in that period of history (and many others) is limited, I’m a big fan of the work of writer/artist Scott Chantler, so I didn’t hesitate t pick up Two Generals when it hit bookshelves in stores. Chantler’s quite comfortable with historical fare when it comes to his storytelling. Most of his work — Northwest Passage, Days Like This and Scandalous, for example — is constructed around history. But Two Generals stands apart because this is Chantler’s foray into real history, not historical fiction. It’s also an incredibly personal story — that of his late grandfather — but Chantler doesn’t seem to embellish or elevate the man. He just tells his story, opting to leave melodrama aside and let the facts speak for themselves.

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