Monthly Archives: March 2011

Mars Needs Better Moms

The Martian Confederacy Volume 2: From Mars With Love original graphic novel
Writer: Jason McNamara
Artist/Cover artist: Paige Braddock
Tones: Braddock & Brian Miller
Publisher: Girl Twirl Comics
Price: $15 US

Three years ago, I was entertained and amused by a science-fiction graphic novel that was unlike other sci-fi books. Low on visual detail but packed with fun and intelligent ideas, The Martian Confederacy proved to be a great read. I was thrilled when the creators touched base recently and gave me a sneak peek of their followup effort. The same characters are back in this sequel, but the premise shifts considerably when the plot takes them off Mars and into new socio-political circumstances. But what really drives the story forward is the relationship between the two main protagonists, which serves as an amusing, saucy conflict, given Boone’s playboy attitude. Also charming is the artwork, which is far simpler in tone that one usually finds in a science-fiction comic book or graphic novel.

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Corporate Intrigue

Variant coverBatman Incorporated #4
“The Kane Affair”
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Chris Burnham
Colors: Nathan Fairbairn
Letters: Pat Brosseau
Cover artists: J.H. Williams III/Yanick Paquette (variant)
Editor: Mike Marts
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

I have to be honest — I found the previous issue of this series to be completely confusing. Colorful, yes, and entertaining, but confusing. Furthermore, I found Morrison’s approach to this new series (and premise) was turning formulaic in a hurry. Fortunately, this fourth issue shatters that perception, as Morrison explores much more than the notion of crimefighting as a corporate concern. He also explores the rich and weird history and continuity that this character and publisher has to offer. It’s not at all clear where Morrison is headed with this bizarre story of conspiracy and heroism, but with this issue, I discovered I was enjoying the challenge, just as I did during Morrison’s greatest Batman story, “The Black Glove.” And if that weren’t enough of a treat for readers, DC introduces a wider readership to an impressive, new talent in comic art, one who will no doubt become one of the most lauded and sought-after illustrators in the industry in short order.

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A Solid Foundation

FF #1
“The Club”
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Pencils: Steve Epting
Inks: Epting & Rick Magyar
Colors: Paul Mounts
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Cover artists: Epting, Daniel Acuna, Marko Djurdjevic, Gerald Parel, Stan Goldberg & Joe Sinnott
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99 US

While I had some qualms about the noted issue of Fantastic Four featuring the “death” of the Human Torch, writer Jonathan Hickman’s script also piqued my interest. As details about this replacement series, focusing on the former Fantastic Four’s “Future Foundation,” were released, I grew more interested. Now that the first issue has arrived, I’m pleased to find that the potential I saw in those final issues of Fantastic Four has been realized. I still wish the writer had provided a little more information about the FF’s “science kids” program, but some strong but quiet moments of characterization really grabbed me. Given the melancholy tone that dominates several scenes in this issue, Steve Epting’s darker style seems like a good fit, and the new costume designs that are such a big part of this inaugural issue are visually engaging as well.

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Art Gallery Openings

I’ve been focused on original comic art over the past few days. I’ve been thumbing through my small collection of pages, scanning through websites that sell original comic art and searching through eBay listings. I’m always keeping an eye out for affordable pages (stuff less than $100 US) from comics that I love, especially comics from my childhood years of which I have fond memories and connections.

I try to limit my original comic art purchases only to comics I own and have enjoyed, and most of my art shopping has been done at the few comics conventions I’ve attended. It’s been several years since I made it a con, and therefore, it’s been quite a while since I’ve added to my collection. Today, much more important and enjoyable priorities — namely, my wife and infant son — make it so I keep my comic-art budget at a manageable level, nil (can’t get much more manageable than that).

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Quick Critiques – March 17, 2011

Avengers: The Children’s Crusade – Young Avengers #1 (Marvel Comics)
by Allan Heinberg, Alan Davis & Mark Farmer

What the–? I’ve been reading and enjoying Avengers: The Children’s Crusade (which is essentially writer Allan Heinberg and artist Jim Cheung’s followup to their fun Young Avengers series from a few years ago), but I had no idea there was going to be a one-shot tying into that limited series. and honestly, there’s no good reason that this comic book shouldn’t just have been the latest issue in that series. It serves as a solid introduction to the Young Avengers (which seems several months late, doesn’t it, given that The Children’s Crusade has been underway for a while now?). It’s not a vital chapter in that story, which might be why it was published separately. Still, this felt a little like an attempt to milk another few bucks out of Marvel’s marketplace. My local comics retailer had put this comic in my account because I was down for the main series, but I was also set to put it back on the shelf.

And then I saw that Alan Davis was responsible for the artwork.

Despite my qualms about the necessity for the script or yet another No. 1 issue/one-shot separate from the main limited series, there can be no doubt that the artwork is fantastic. Davis’ designs for some of the adult versions of the Young Avengers are striking, tweaking classic designs in a way that brings a fresh quality to them while honoring the work of Marvel’s Silver and Bronze Age legends. The revival of some forgotten character designs (such as the Byrne-era Vision and the M2 Stinger) was a treat as well. Davis’ portrayal of the classic Sinister Six was a blast as well. The only respect in which he came up a little short is that the youthful characters in the flashback scene don’t look nearly as youthful as they should. 6/10

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The Best Years of Your Strife

Vertigo Resurrected: Finals #1
Writer: Will Pfeifer
Artist/Cover artist: Jill Thompson
Colors: Rick Taylor
Letters: Rick Parker
Editor: Joan Hilty
Publisher: DC Comics/Vertigo imprint
Price: $7.99 US

I have to admit that my overachieving days came to an end when I finished high school. The sort of unabashed ambition and academic aggression that are such integral parts of the story in finals certainly wasn’t reflective of my post-secondary experience, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate the comedy, satire and symbolism that make up this noteworthy project. Originally released 12 years ago, Finals was something of a mid-range Vertigo limited series that got a lot of praise, and I’m kicking myself now for missing out on it the first time around. A few years after the original release of this book, Will Pfeifer carved out a career as a go-to writer for DC’s super-hero line, the high point of which was the underrated H.E.R.O. and the low point of which was the much-maligned Amazons Attack event book. If that’s all one knew of Pfeifer’s work, he wouldn’t make much of an impression. Now that I’ve read Finals, though, I’ve had a glimpse of the inventiveness and extremism of which he’s capable. I hope the revival of this obscure, avant-garde book offers the writer a chance to bring us something just as zany and challenging in the near future.

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The No. 1 Graphic Novel for Little Lambs

Ivy original hardcover graphic novel
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Sarah Oleksyk
Editor: Charlie Chu
Publisher: Oni Press
Price: $19.99 US

My local comics retailer brought this book to my attention, noting that he thought it was the sort of thing I’d enjoy, based on past purchases I’d made and discussions we’d had. The book design was certainly appealing, as was its pedigree — Oni Press releases are always of interest to me. When I got the book home and started to make me way through it, though, I thought at first maybe this wasn’t the book for me. With my 40th birthday not that far behind me, I suppose I’m officially middle aged, and I couldn’t imagine how I’d be able to relate to a teenaged, female protagonist with an attitude problem and a passion for art. I set the book aside after reading a few pages and only recently came back it. To my surprise and pleasure, I soon discovered that I could relate to the title character. I didn’t see my own teenage years reflected in her, though, but rather moments from my 20s and 30s, oddly enough. Judging from comments in the introduction, Sarah Oleksyk is an accomplished comics creator, but this served as my introduction to her work. It’s strong, honest and at times visceral. The glimpse she provides into one girl’s dysfunction and process of maturation isn’t at all predictable, which makes it all the more interesting.

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Quick Critiques – March 8, 2011

Action Comics #898 (DC Comics)
by Paul Cornell & Pete Woods

I stopped following writer Paul Cornell’s Luthor story a while ago, but he and his editors’ plan to lure readers in by featuring certain other characters worked on me. I thoroughly enjoy the “Rainbow Corps” concept from DC’s Green Lantern comics, and Larfleeze is a fun character when handled properly. Cornell plays it straight with the greedy little alien, but it works in this context and allows him to say a lot about Luthor in the process. Unfortunately, I really don’t get what’s going on in this story — not just this issue, but this story as a whole. I get that Luthor is on the trail of spheres of black energy that are supposedly connected to the Black Lanterns, but what the energy goes, why it changes when it finds them, why Larfleeze is interested and why other DC Universe villains have access to these spheres isn’t at all clear. Cornell offers up some strong instances of characterization, but I’m absolutely lost when it comes to the plot, and I’ve read at least half of the chapters of this “Black Ring” storyline. Luthor as the protagonist doesn’t quite work, but then again, I see the real heroine and focus of the story to be the Lois Lane robot that serves as Lex’s gal Friday. She’s much more interesting and seems far more human than her master, and I suppose that’s the point.

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