Monthly Archives: February 2011


All-Star Superman DVD
Writer: Dwayne McDuffie
Voice actors: James Denton, Anthony LaPaglia, Christina Hendricks, Matthew Gray Gubler, Ed Asner, Arnold Vosloo, Finola Hughes, Linda Cardellini, Alexis Denisof, John DiMaggio, Steven Jay Blum, Kevin Michael Richardson & Michael Gough Robin Atkin Downes
Director: Sam Liu
Producer: Warner Bros. Animation/Warner Premiere Home Video
Rating: PG

The death last week of comics and animation writer/producer Dwayne McDuffie was unexpected and shocking, and it reverberated through both industries and fan circles intensely. I was reminded of the passing of artist Mike Wieringo a few years ago. Both men were taken from their families, friends and fans at far too young an age, and the impact they had on their crafts was apparent from the impacts they had on those they worked with and those for whom they produced their art. The timing of McDuffie’s passing only served to add to the tragedy — the direct-to-video animated film of All-Star Superman, which McDuffie adapted from Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s comic-book series of the same name, was released the day after his death.

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Point One – What’s the Point?

Amazing Spider-Man #654.1
Writer: Dan Slott
Pencils: Humberto Ramos
Inks: Carlos Cuevas
Colors: Edgar Delgado
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Cover artist: Paolo Siqueira
Editor: Stephen Wacker
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $2.99 US

While I think the numbering scheme is unnecessary and possibly irritating to some collectors, Marvel’s new “Point One” initiative is a wise move on the publisher’s part. Offering new comics readers and existing ones an accessible introduction to an ongoing series — especially one with the kind of history that this one has — is a solid marketing move. There’s just one problem: Marvel needs to stick with its own plan. Amazing Spider-Man #654.1 isn’t an introduction to what’s going on in Peter Parker’s world. Instead, this is an introduction to the new, upcoming Venom, featuring longtime Amazing Spidey supporting character Flash Thompson. Dan Slott and Humberto Ramos offer up a fun comic, but Venom‘s not even their book. Editorially, this comic book was quite puzzling, which interfered with my appreciation of the craft that unfolded on its pages.

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Gareb Shameless

Gareb ShamusI received a curious e-mail from Wizard World Inc. this week, signed by former Wizard Magazine publisher turned web publisher and con organizer Gareb Shamus. Though my address alone was in the “To:” field, I don’t imagine I was the sole recipient of this message, as it was yet another promotional effort from a man known for his hucksterism. Getting such an e-mail isn’t unusual in and of itself, but the content this time took me aback.

First of all, Shamus’ supposed purpose in sending out this message wasn’t to promote his own business endeavors but rather to shill for a friend. It seems to be some kind of self-help/memoir book from a movie producer. The title of Peter Guber’s book — Tell to Win: Connect, Persuade and Triumph with the Hidden Power of Story — would seem to purport that personal and financial success can be found in professional storytelling.

While Shamus is pushing someone else’s product, he nevertheless finds the space in this short message to pat himself on the back.

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Quick Critiques – Feb. 15, 2011

Variant coverDCU: Legacies #9 (DC Comics)
by Len Wein, Jesus Saiz, Bill Sienkiewicz, Scott Kolins & Karl Story

When this series debuted last year, I was truly thrilled with the traditional approach to super-hero storytelling and the use of a grounded narrator, reminiscent of Kurt Busiek’s protagonist in Marvels. I’ve also enjoyed the use of different art teams for each issue. Unfortunately, the last couple of issues — which focused on the death of Superman and the “breaking of the Bat” storylines — stemmed from that event-driven, early ’90s kewl vibe that just doesn’t represent the best of what DC has had to offer over the years. Obviously, I knew it was coming, but I didn’t enjoy them. On the plus side, writer Len Wein does a good job of revisiting a couple of lesser-remembered events: Final Night and Day of Judgment. Connected by Hal Jordan’s quest for redemption, Wein’s recap here reminded me of the fun I had reading those comics more than a decade ago. Jesus Saiz’s art captures the doom-and-gloom atmosphere of Final Night nicely as well.

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The Secret Origin of Hosni Mubarak?

A short time after it was announced Friday that President Hosni Mubarak was stepping down after a 30-year reign of dictatorship over the people of Egypt, there I was, on the crapper (the two events were unrelated — I wasn’t celebrating the possible advent of democracy in the Middle Eastern country with a visit to the loo). I was thumbing through the pages of the latest issue of Ultimate Spider-Man (#153, to be precise), and I was struck by the incedible timing of a sequence in the opening prologue.

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Failing Grade

Adventure Comics #523
“First Night”
Writer: Paul Levitz
Pencils/Cover artist: Phil Jimenez
Inks: Andy Lanning
Colors: Hi-Fi
Letters: Swands
Editor: Brian Cunningham
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 U.S.

I absolutely love the fact that DC has turned its revived Adventure Comics title into a Legion of Super-Heroes vehicle again. While I wasn’t around when the Legion first graced the title’s pages in the 1960s, I did read a lot of reprints of those stories in various DC digests in the 1980s — many of them the Adventure digests, in fact. Longtime Legion writer Paul Levitz didn’t really draw me in with his efforts on this book last year, but again, I liked that he focused on the Silver Age incarnations of the Legion characters. This new direction — featuring the students at the “Legion Academy” — is a nice fresh start; I’m guessing DC hoped the combination of a new Legion-related feature and the arrival of a popular artist on the book would drive up sales. Unfortunately, the cast of new characters to which the audience is introduced isn’t all that enjoyable, and while the meticulous detail that Phil Jimenez brings to his work is usually quite impressive, here, it overwhelms the eye.

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Fearful Symmetry

Marvel Comics announced a couple of months ago its next big crossover event would be Fear Itself, a brand-wide storyline/theme about which the publisher and its representatives have been rather tight-lipped. It’s been ramping up an in-house and online marketing campaign that’s all about fostering (a) a sense that even the most powerful of the Marvel heroes will be facing a deadly threat, and (b) that the threat in question is a dark, mysterious one.

Personally, I’m not all that enticed by the air of mystery. I find the vague qualities of Marvel’s promotional efforts to be off-putting rather than intriguing. Of course, the involvement of writer Matt Fraction and artist Stuart Immonen in the creation of the core crossover series might be enough to draw me in; time will tell.

As for those comics readers who are chomping at the bit to delve into Fear Itself, I’m here to tell them they needn’t wait until April, when the limited series is scheduled to get underway. There’s a Fear Itself comic book being released this very week.

Mind you, it’s not a comic book published by Marvel.

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Quick Critiques – Feb. 6, 2011

Fantastic Four #587 (Marvel Comics)
by Jonathan Hickman, Steve Epting, Rick Magyar & Mike Perkins

I’m a fan of writer Jonathan Hickman’s work, and his and his editors’ development for a new direction for the Fantastic Four seemed like an opportunity to revisit his work with Marvel’s first family of super-heroes. As I waded into this highly promoted issue of death (dah-dah-duhhhnnn), I was intrigued by a number of the elements I found in the story, but I was more surprised at how inaccessible this comic book is. Now, there’s always going to be a learning curve when a new reader comes into a story arc in the middle or the end, but with episodic fiction such as this, I’ve always felt that creators and editors need to acknowledge the potential that every issue is someone’s first. And with this issue in particular, those involved knew ahead of time that there would be thousands of new readers checking it out for the heavily marketed character death. I was quite interested in the school for the gifted that the FF seemed to be operating, but I didn’t know who several of the characters were. And the script provides little information about Ben Grimm’s reversion to human form or why that status changes later in the issue. Furthermore, I wasn’t terribly interested in the Nu-World plotline or the undersea politics of war, and I’ve always found the Namor/Invisible Woman dynamic to be forced and boring.

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The Land That Forgot Time

Memoir #1
“Memoir: Part One – … Long, Long Road”
Writer: Ben McCool
Artist: Nikki Cook
Letters: Tom B. Long
Cover artist: John Cassaday
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.50 US

It’s been more than two weeks since I posted any kind of review to the site, but it’s not because I haven’t had anything to write about. Other commitments — including (but not limited to) night shifts at work and middle-of-the-night baby-soothing sessions — have either kept me from my keyboard or sapped me of the energy I need to jot down some thoughts. But after a nice nap a few hours ago and a few spare minutes on my hands, I’m ready to sound off. One of the comics I’ve been meaning to write about is yet another interesting new release from Image Comics. My interest in its non-super-hero output has risen significantly as of late, and after seeing a short film online about Memoir, I dashed an email off to the manager of my local comic shop, asking that it be added to my pull list. While the book isn’t without its flaws, I’m looking forward to future issues. Writer Ben McCool has come up with a fascinating and chilling premise, and his creative partner-in-crime for this venture impressed with her black-and-white artwork. There’s been a lot of talk lately about a lack of diversity in the material available in the medium of comics, but I find the argument harder to swallow after I read an interesting and novel project such as Memoir.

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