Monthly Archives: January 2012

Frequent Flyer Smiles

Little Nothings Vol. 4: My Shadow in the Distance graphic novel
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Lewis Trondheim
Translation: Joe Johnson
Publisher: NBM Publishing
Price: $14.99 US

As someone who loves the medium of comics and has been writing about them for years, I’m obviously familiar with Lewis Trondheim’s name, but I have to confess, this is the first time I’ve sat down and read his work. I honestly didn’t know what to expect from him, but now that I have, I know what to expect next: I expect I’ll be reading more of his comics. This collection of one-page, slice-of-life cartoons are eminently relatable, and the universality of Trondheim’s ‘toons becomes even more apparent when one considers this book is a translation of work originally crafted and presented in French. Loosely linked by a theme of the creator’s international travels, the book definitely reads better in shorter spurts. There’s not much in the way of an overarching plotline to provide a stronger connection and flow. Nevertheless, Trondheim’s honesty about the fleeting, neurotic thoughts that pass through his mind at any given moment is as touching as his ability to poke fun at his little foibles. As for his approach to the character designs, his intent is clear. The book is about exposing common human experience, and the simple designs reinforce the relatability of the work, allowing the reader to insert himself or herself into each situation.

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I Wonder If Norman Osborn’s Middle Initial Is Dubya

Ever since Norman Osborn, AKA the villainous Green Goblin, emerged as an American “hero” in the climax of Secret Invasion in 2008, some comics fans and pundits have considered what or Osborn was meant to represent. Many speculated he and a darker tone in the Marvel Universe represented George W. Bush’s U.S. presidency. Marvel writer Matt Fraction confirmed the analogy outright in an interview about his work on Invincible Iron Man (in which Osborn figured prominently for a time), but the last word really ought to be with writer Brian Michael Bendis, who seems to have used Osborn as a corrupt political and law-enforcement official in his various Avengers comics and events more than anyone else.

Bendis is at it again with his latest storylines in Avengers and New Avengers, bringing back Osborn and his “Dark Avengers” to oust the legitimate heroes. And in New Avengers v.2 #20 earlier this month, he and artist Mike Deodato seem to take a step closer to confirming the analogy.

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Turning a Prophet

Prophet #21
Writer: Brandon Graham
Artist: Simon Roy
Colors: Richard Ballermann
Letters: Ed Brisson
Cover artists: Marian Churchland (regular)/Rob Liefeld & Andy Troy (variant)
Editor: Eric Stephenson
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $2.99 US

I never even thumbed through a single issue of the previous volumes of this Rob Liefeld-created comic title in the 1990s. His work and that of other artists who worked on the book, including Stephen Platt, just didn’t boast styles that appealed to me at the time. Furthermore, nothing about the concept made me want to take note of it either. When it was announced Liefeld was resurrecting the property more than a decade into the 21st century, one wouldn’t have thought I’d have any interest either, but it’s clear this isn’t the same comic it was 15-20 years ago. Tapping King City writer/artist Brandon Graham to helm this new take on the title character got me excited. I’ll read anything Graham touches, it’s a policy that’s never steered me wrong. I’m also thrilled to see Simon Roy illustrating Graham’s story. Roy made a real impression on me with his graphic novella Jan’s Atomic Heart, and it was fun to see him back in action. His and Graham’s styles definitely complement each other, and the two Canadian creators have brought a distinctly European sensibility to this once bombastic and wholly American property.

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2011 Glass Eye Awards – Creators

As the Glass Eye winners for the best comics and graphic novel of 2011 get their pictures taken backstage and get scrummed by the Hollywood media, we ought to soldier on and continue to dole out these imaginary and meaningless awards. The time has come for Eye on Comics to turn its attention to the creators who crafted great comics, whose work was always at the top of our reading piles and who had a great year in 2011.

Obviously, readers should be cognizant of the fact these are just personal preferences based on the material I read through the year and what I recall. Furthermore, my choices are also based in part on how creators fared on multiple issues and/or projects in 2011. Your mileage not only may vary, it definitely will vary. As was the case with the first part of the Glass Eye Awards, I offer several “nominees” in each category with one singled out as the “best” of the short list.

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2011 Glass Eye Awards – Comics

We’re halfway through January already, so Eye on Comics is long overdue in presenting its picks for the best comics of 2011 and the creators who had the best year last year. Regular readers might note it’s been some time since the Glass Eye Awards were presented; there was no such feature on the site for 2010 comics and creators — just didn’t get around to it. But the Glass Eye Awards are back, starting here with the best comics of the year.

Now readers ought to bear in mind I’m a busy, busy man, and there’s no way for me to read all of the comics and graphic novels released over the course of a year. I haven’t even had a chance to read all of the comics and graphic novels I actually purchased. Furthermore, the “nominees” and “winners” as presented here are based on my best recollections, and my memory ain’t perfect. Now, with no further ado, the envelopes, please…

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Quick Critiques – Jan. 15, 2012

Captain America and Bucky #625 (Marvel Entertainment)
by James Asmus, Ed Brubaker & Francesco Francavilla

I was all set to leave this title behind when artist Chris Samnee left the series. His work was its greatest strength, but then I heard his replacement was to be Francesco Francavilla. I’ve enjoyed his recent work, and have been particularly impressed with his cover art on recent Hellboy comics and the classic-movie-poster-style pinups he’s done on Comic Twart. With that in mind, I was quite surprised at how his art on Cap and Bucky didn’t hook me. It looks rough, and the figures don’t seem as dynamic as what I expected based on his past efforts. The color scheme is off too; I don’t like the reds. And I wish Francavilla had included a better glimpse of the second Captain America’s previous identity, the Spirit of ’76.

I enjoyed the done-in-one stories that preceded this issue, but they were, for the most part, predictable. Unfortunately, the multi-issue arc getting underway here seems pretty transparent as well. The second Cap’s grandson’s appearance is all too convenient, and Asmus’ script all but tells us his true nature. The notion the title hero or the elderly former Bucky’s narration make no mention of suspicions seems pretty ridiculous. Still, I’m always interested when writers explore relatively obscure characters from decades past, and the narrator’s voice throughout the issue rings true. 5/10

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Second Verse, Same as the First

We all knew it was coming, we just didn’t know when — until now. DC Comics has announced its second wave of ongoing titles in its New 52 line of super-hero comics (or other genre books set in the same continuity). And it’s sticking to that “New 52” label and set number of continuing series. May’s debut of six new titles corresponds to April’s cancellation of six books.

Most of the comics on the chopping block come as little surprise.

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Warp Driven

Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis #s 1-5
Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist/Cover artist: Kaare Andrews
Colors: Frank D’Armata
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Editor: Daniel Ketchum
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

There’s nothing quite like a bargain. For comics readers and collectors such as myself, finding an old box of forgotten comics at a flea market, priced to sell, is always a bit of a thrill, but flea markets aren’t the only backdrop for such an experience. A lot of comic shops offer great deals on comics to clear out stock that’s been sitting around for a while. So when I saw all five issues of this limited series marked at $5 for the bundle at my local shop, I grabbed it up. Despite my appreciation of the creators’ past work, I wasn’t interested enough in these characters to pay four bucks a shot for each issue, but five for the lot? That’s a bargain at thrice the price. I’m pleased I got a chance to peruse these pages, but I’m also pleased I didn’t do so at full price back when they were initially published. The story reads incredibly quickly, and as its foundation are both recent and obscure elements from Marvel continuity that would likely leave many newer readers scratching their heads.

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Game Over

New Teen Titans: Games original hardcover graphic novel
Writers: Marv Wolfman & George Perez
Pencils/Cover artist: George Perez
Inks: Mike Perkins, Al Vey & Perez
Colors: Hi-Fi
Letters: Travis Lanham
Editor: Brian Cunningham
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $24.99 US/$27.99 CAN

Despite being more than 20 years in the making, New Teen Titans: Games was pretty much overlooked when it was released in September. In just about any other given month before that moment in comics publishing, I think, a fair bit of hullabaloo and commentary would have followed its publication, given it reunited a classic creative team to craft a story a long time in the making featuring characters they co-created and/or popularized. But in September, DC also launched its New 52 line of titles, revamping and revitalizing its monthly periodical output. But Games should have merited some attention as well, as the resonance of Wolfman and Perez’s work with the Teen Titans goes far beyond the comics industry; interpretations of their work penetrated the mass pop-culture psyche with the anime-style Teen Titans cartoon from a few years back. And today, Cyborg has graduated from the ranks of teen heroes to a full-fledged Justice Leaguer, and “Nightwing” is a name with which a couple of generations of comics readers (and cartoon watchers) have grown up. Given that legacy, it’s all the more disappointing to discover not only a generic super-hero yarn that fails to capture the original strengths of the work upon which it was founded, but a poorly executed one.

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