Monthly Archives: April 2011

Brother Power, No Geek

Black Dynamite: Slave Island
Writer: Brian Ash
Artist/Cover artist: Jun Lofamia
Colors: J.M. Ringuet
Publisher: Ape Entertainment
Price: $5.95 US

I haven’t had a chance to see the Black Dynamite movie, but I’m quite interested in the Michael Jai White-starring vehicle; its satire of blaxploitation films of the 1970s looks like a lot of fun. One needn’t have seen the flick to appreciate and enjoy this comic book, which makes me want to see the movie even more. Like what the movie promises, this comic satirizes movies such as Shaft to great effect, but it also celebrates those films. With the title character’s exaggerated machismo, unparalleled skills in martial and carnal arts, and singular vision of black empowerment, Black Dynamite spotlights the ugliness of racism by mocking it relentlessly. This comic book also pays homage to comics storytelling of the 1970s, from the pencilling style, colors and even the lettering. And as Dynamite’s Luke Cage-like garb on the cover demonstrates, comics in the 1970s weren’t without their own spin on the blaxploitation genre.

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Swamp Thing, You Make My Heart Sing

Brightest Day #24
Writers: Geoff Johns & Peter J. Tomasi
Pencils: Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Patrick Gleason, Adrian Syaf & Scott Clark
Inks: Norm Rapmund, Vicente Cifuentes, Oclair Albert, Tom Nguyen, Mick Gray, Mark Irwin & David Beaty
Colors: Peter Steigerwald
Letters: Rob Clark Jr.
Cover artists: Gary Frank & Rod Reis (regular)/Ivan Reis, Joe Prado & Rod Reis (variant)
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $4.99 US

There’s no denying that from a sales and publishing perspective, Brightest Day has been a success from start to finish. It remained at the top of the direct-market sales charters despite the fact that it featured only B- and C-list super-hero characters. It’s a testament to how the publisher has developed its Green Lantern/Blackest Night-related brand, but also I think to the marketplace’s demand for a quicker publishing pace for a super-hero comic. The biweekly schedule clearly appealed to many, as 52‘s weekly schedule did a few years ago as well. Clearly, the readers demand some level of quality from the storytelling, though, as Countdown to Infinite Crisis failed to capitalize on that weekly schedule. So while DC has done well with this biweekly schedule, from a creative standpoint, Brightest Day has been something of a mixed bag, and that holds true with this final issue as well.

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Quick Critiques – April 26, 2011

Green Lantern #65 (DC Comics)
by Geoff Johns, Doug Mahnke, Keith Champagne, Christian Alamy, Mark Irwin, Mick Gray & Tom Ngyuen

The concept of the Lanterns of Many Colors is the gift that keeps on giving to DC Comics. Seeing four Green Lanterns wearing rings of different colors is a lot of fun for readers who are familiar with these characters. Johns offers up an accessible script here, which is really saying something. There’s a lot of DC history — both decades old and recent — that comes into play in this storyline, but Johns works the necessary exposition into the script nicely. Also pleasing was Doug Mahnke’s artwork. Despite the fact that five inkers are credited in this issue, the line art looks quite seamless in style, and I love the detail that Mahnke brings to the Oa scenes. His new design for Krona is wonderfully creepy as well; the notion that evil and his thirst for revenge have literally corrupted and degraded his body makes for a much more effective villain visual than the muscle-bound cosmic warrior form that’s represented the character in the past. I enjoyed his designs of the GLs as lanterns of different colors, save for that of John Stewart as an Indigo Lantern. Military fatigues don’t scream out “compassion” or Indigo Tribe to me.

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Molestation Situation

Among this week’s new releases from Marvel Comics was Thunderbolts #156. I’ve been enjoying the new direction for this series since writer Jeff Parker took it over last year, and regular artist Kev Walker’s gritty, harsh depiction of some of the unsavory and unusual characters who comprise the cast adds to the non-traditional take on the super-hero genre that’s been a part of this property from its inception in the 1990s. On its cover, this particular issue — and many of those that came before it — boasts a T+ rating. Marvel’s website defines its ratings as follows:

“Each Marvel comic gets a rating: A is appropriate for ages nine and up, T+ is appropriate for ages 12 and up and Parental Advisory is appropriate for ages 15 and up. Other ratings you may see are self-explanatory.”

Given that information, Marvel’s saying that the content in its T+ comics is appropriate for 12-year-old children and older. So you tell me… is the following image OK for a 12-year-old?

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‘It’s Not a Too-mah!’

Malignant Man #1
Writers: James Wan & Michael Alan Nelson
Artist: Piotr Kowalski
Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Letters: Steve Wands
Cover artists: Trevor Hairsine/Rael Lyra
Editor: Matt Gagnon
Publisher: Boom! Studios
Price: $3.99 US

I’ll say this about this comic book: the title does grab one’s attention.

This inaugural issue is made up of two very distinct parts: one is a human drama of a man’s despair in the face of an inevitable, painful death, and the other is an action-driven story of men in black, conspiracies and the paranormal. I found both stories to be compelling, but in completely different ways. The problem is that I found it difficult to resolve the two together. There’s obviously logic in the progression from one to the next, but in terms of atmosphere, of the reactions the two different modes evoke from the reader, they don’t work all that well together. Fortunately, I think this is a problem only with this first episode. The artwork is effective, but more importantly, the colors convey the mood and tension in the story incredibly well. Malignant Man proved to be a fun if flawed read with a rather unfortunate title.

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Double Downer

In brightest day, in blackest night, why, in the same week, are double Green Lantern comics within my sight?

As I perused this week’s list of new releases to comic shops, I was struck by certain items set for release from publishers DC and Marvel Comics. Today marks the release of both Green Lantern #65 and Green Lantern Corps #59 from DC, while among Marvel’s new comics are Invincible Iron Man #503 and Iron Man 2.0 #4. While there are other titles related to those characters offered by both publishers (GL: Emerald Warriors is the third and final member of the Green Lantern family, and there are other Iron Man books available from Marvel as well). Still, it’s safe to say that for those two brands, this week’s releases are their more prominent titles. Furthermore, this isn’t the first time GL and GL Corps hit the stands on the same day or the first time for Iron Man and Iron Man 2.0 as well. Dynamite Entertainment even got in on the act this week with the release of two Green Hornet comics.

It begs the question: why are these publishers making these scheduling decisions in the first place?

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Eye on the Eisners: Salvatore

The nominees for the 2011 Eisner Awards were announced recently, and as I made my way through the list of comics and creators in the running, I realized there were a number of books included that were in my sights for reviews. I don’t plan on reviewing every Eisner-nominated comic — and couldn’t, given time and financial constraints — but I thought it would be nice to publish the occasional Eisner-related review leading up to the presentation of the awards at this year’s Comic-Con International San Diego in late July. First up for my “Eye on the Eisners” series of reviews is an English translation of a French work — Salvatore Vol. 1: Transports of Love — nominated in the Best U.S. Edition of International Material category.

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Macho Macho Man

Butcher Baker, the Righteous Maker #s 1 & 2
Writer: Joe Casey
Artist/Colors: Mike Huddleston
Letters: Rus Wooton
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $2.99 US

So I was at the local comic shop a couple of weeks ago, and I asked a couple of friends if they’d read Butcher Baker. The manager said he hadn’t and asked what it was like. “I dunno,” I said. “It’s either trash or sheer genius.” Another friend who was helping the manager organize some comics piped up, “It’s trashy genius.” I think he hit the mark… at least when it comes to the first issue. That opening chapter of Butcher Baker was without a doubt misogynist, gratuitous and crude. Nevertheless, I can’t help but admit that it’s entertaining, biting in its commentary and bombastic in its approach to satire. Joe Casey’s plot, premise and script are bound to polarize comics readers, but there’s no denying the power of the personality that he’s poured into them. Fortunately, the second issue doesn’t revel so much in the gratuitous elements and instead offers a more intelligent script, fun character concepts and more hilarity.

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With its upcoming DC Retro-Active line of nostalgic comics, DC is bringing back creative teams from the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s and having them craft new stories featuring the characters that they’re not for having played with in the past. That DC isn’t looking further back than the ’70s is indicative of who the comics publisher’s core audience is: readers — mainly men — who first discovered comics in one of the three decades the imprint will explore.

From a sales and marketing perspective, I don’t know that DC Retro-Active will prove to be a boon to DC. It could create the impression that the home of the most recognized super-hero icons on the planet has run out of ideas. And when it comes to super-hero comics, who’s creating them — namely, the more popular, hot talent of today — is pretty important when it comes to moving product. After all, the most popular Batman comics of the past few years have been those crafted by writer Grant Morrison, not Batman: Odyssey, written and illustrated by Neal Adams.

That being said, I think it’s a great idea, and I’m looking forward to these comics, slated for release over the summer. To be fair, I’m among that afore-mentioned target demographic.

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Quick Critiques – April 7, 2011

VariantVariantFear Itself #1 (Marvel Comics)
by Matt Fraction, Stuart Immonen & Wade von Grawbadger

I have to admit… this comic book started off on quite a strong note. While avoiding overt references to the Ground Zero Mosque issue (and 9/11, Islam and other controversial real-world topics), Matt Fraction opens this event book with a compelling scene about the state of America at the moment, the division, the anger and the fragility of it all. He also builds upon the economic, corporate and social themes of he’s already explored in The Invincible Iron Man. But that stuff quickly takes a back seat to a story of cosmic revenge and a squabble between a father and son that lacks any kind of context for the non-Thor reader. Hey, I like the notion of more magic Asgardian hammers coming to Earth and a race among superhumans to either possess the power or keep it out of the hands of others. But as I made my way through this comic book, I kept asking myself a few questions: “What’s the point? Why should I care? Why is Marvel building another event book around Asgard?” (see Siege).

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Making the Scene with Some Magazines

A lot of longtime comics readers and especially Conan fans remember The Savage Sword of Conan from the 1970s and ’80s, and some might even remember seeing Epic Illustrated on regular newsstands. Both were published by Marvel Comics, but that should come as no surprise. The publisher published a number of magazine-format comics, some featuring familiar characters (such as Rampaging Hulk) and others not so familiar.

Wouldn’t it be cool if Marvel tried its hand at that format again? Well, guess what? It did, and quite recently. But (a) Marvel didn’t tell anybody, (b) no one noticed or (c) all of the above.

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