In September, DC is trying to recapture some of the sales and marketing success it had with the launch of its New 52 initiative a year before with a slate of zero issues for all of its core, New 52 titles (which is a slightly different lineup than it was a year ago). A zero-issue month is far from a new phenomenon for DC. It had one in 1994, coinciding with its Zero Hour crossover event. Zero issues have become, perhaps unfortunately, a much more common gimmick in the world of mainstream comics, especially in the super-hero genre. Still, there are times when I see the use of the odd numbering shtick.
Within the past couple of weeks, a pair of new publications hit the stands primarily (and perhaps exclusively) in comic-book shops. Both were the same size as comic books, but they’re purposes was something other than that. Bleeding Cool Magazine #0 and Creator-Owned Heroes #1 debuted this month, and they can really be described as magazines more than comics (even though the latter features two comics stories). In an age when online media seems to dominate material about the world of comics, it was interesting to delve into print publications trying to do the same. Both carry with them a lot of promise, but the execution is a bit off to varying degrees.
Batman Annual #1 (DC Comics)
by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV & Jason Fabok
Writers Scott Snyder and James Tynion retcon the origin of Mr. Freeze in this annual, and some fans of the villain concept (perhaps best fleshed out in Batman: The Animated Series) haven’t reacted well to it. But by the end of the opening prologue scene, the writers had me; I was in. They’ve presented a vision of Victor Fries as a much more damaged and unstable figure, but I think he remains just as tragic. The anguish that drives him, rather than stemming from a personal loss, arises from mental illness. These revisions add to the character, in my view, and I also appreciated the more direct connection to Bruce Wayne. The script strives a little too hard to connect the story to the “Night of the Owls” storyline from the Batman line of books, and it’s really not necessary. Snyder and Tynion are clearly trying to suck in a few more readers with the tenuous connection and justify that “Night of the Owls” logo on the cover. Since no Talons or Owls or whatever turn up in this story, though, they’re more likely to annoy readers who picked the comic up specifically for the Owl connection.
Jason Fabok’s art is effective and sharp. It reminds me a great deal of the style of Gary (“Shazam!” feature in Justice League) Frank, and its level of detail and realism really brings out the drama — notably in the opening and closing flashback scenes. Those scenes are particularly striking due to the sparse background detail. The rural setting isolates Victor physically, reflecting the isolation he’ll experience socially and psychologically later in life. The almost blank background in those flashbacks also works as a symbol of young Victor as a blank slate who’s about to be defined by an extreme circumstance. The muted blues and greys in those scenes also convey the cold — both literally and thematically — quite effectively. 7/10
The Spider #2
Writer: David Liss
Artist: Colton Worley
Letters: Simon Bowland
Cover artists: John Cassaday (regular)/Francesco Francavilla and Ron Lesser (variants)
Editor: Joe Rybandt
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US
I learned of the release of the first issue of The Spider just before it hit the stands at comics shops, and I missed out on getting a copy until a second printing was made available a couple of weeks later. I wanted to read it for a couple of reasons. First of all, it was penned by David Liss, whose Mystery Men for Marvel was an overlooked gem. And the other draw was the overall look of the series. The title character’s design was striking, and the noir leanings reminded me of what Liss and artist Patrick Zircher accomplished in Mystery Men. I loved the first issue and had the manager at my local comic shop add it to my pull list. But after reading the second issue, I’ve rethought that decision. The Spider boasts a protagonist that exhibits strong influences. He’s part Batman, part Shadow, with a hint of Superman thrown in for good measure. While I found the property to be dynamic and entertaining in the first issue, I found the second to be rather generic in tone. It’s solid, capable super-hero genre material, but suddenly, it seemed rather… ordinary.
Crogan’s Loyalty original hardcover graphic novel
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Chris Schweizer
Editors: James Lucas Jones & Jill Beaton
Publisher: Oni Press
Price: $14.99 US
This is the third in what’s planned as a long series of graphic novels, and it stands out as the very best in the run thus far. It’s a testament to writer/artist Chris Schweizer’s storytelling ability that he’s able to grab my attention and never let go with these pieces of historical fiction, as history’s never been one of my greatest areas of interest. But he does an excellent job of conveying history — a small corner of the American Revolution in this case — and what impressed me more was how well balanced his approach to the subject matter is. The historical plot isn’t a matter of the good guys versus the bad guys. There are multiple sides, all with their own moral justifications for their actions. Mind you, the open-minded approach to the history wouldn’t be nearly as compelling if the whole story wasn’t built on a strong foundation of a relationship between siblings that’s thoroughly relatable. Ultimately, the “loyalty” referred to in the book’s title flows from the two central protagonists’ loyalty to their cause, to their moral centres and, most importantly, their loyalty to one another despite their differences. This is a pitch perfect graphic novel, combining adventure, drama, a sense of irreverence and a familial dynamic that allows readers to connect to the extreme circumstances of war.
Before Watchmen: Minutemen #1
“The Minute of Truth, Chapter One: Eight Minutes”
Writer/Artist: Darwyn Cooke
Colors: Phil Noto
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
“The Curse of the Crimson Corsair: The Devil in the Deep, Part One”
Writer: Len Wein
Artist: John Higgins
Letters: Sal Cipriano
Cover artists: Cooke (regular)/Michael Golden (variant)/Jim Lee & Scott Williams (variant)
Editor: Mark Chiarello
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US (print only)/$4.99 US (digital combo pack)
Truth to be told, I wasn’t among comics readers who are interested in new Watchmen-related comics. I am, however, keenly interested in new comics crafted by Darwyn Cooke, so picking up this controversial curiosity of comics was a no-brainer for me. I knew I’d love the artwork, and given Cooke’s affinity for moody, 20th-century period pieces (The New Frontier, Parker), I was interested in what he had to offer.
Josue Rivera, 40, better known to the comics industry and readers as the artist Justiniano, has failed in his effort to have evidence in the child-pornography prosecution against him tossed out.
The Connecticut resident was arrested May 10, 2011, and charged with illegal possession of child pornography in the second degree. The charge arose as a result of a discovery on a thumb drive the artist allegedly provided to the staff of a funeral home that was handling his father’s funeral arrangements.
A search of court documents revealed Rivera’s defence filed a motion with a court to suppress the thumb drive evidence, arguing it was obtained by police by way of an illegal, warrantless search. Hearings on the motion were held Feb. 23 and March 8, and Superior Court of Connecticut Judge Robert Devlin denied the motion in a decision issued March 19. Devlin’s written decision sets out the facts of the case, revealing how the images of child pornography were discovered.
The 2012 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards are set to be presented in about a month and a half. Earlier this month, I posted a review of one of the nominated works, having just picked it up a short while before. Of course, I’ve written about a lot of comics released in 2011, and I figured this would be a good time to reproduce some relevant comments and link back to the original reviews of what would turn out to be Eisner-nominated work.