Monthly Archives: March 2013

Digital Discounts

The era of the $3.99 standard-sized comic book is upon us, and there’s no sign of it going anywhere. In some cases, it’s an understandable development. When smaller publishers — such as Oni Press or IDW Publishing — ask a higher price for its wares, I can see why it’s needed. They don’t post the numbers larger publishers such as DC and Marvel do, and to ensure the viability of a project and remuneration for the creative talent, it’s easy to get behind such a scenario.

But when it’s Marvel and DC, it’s a bitter pill to swallow. Actually, sometimes, it can feel more like a suppository than a pill. However, when it comes to Marvel’s more expensive, 20-page titles, there’s a way to eliminate the discomfort and even bring your out-of-pocket expense down below the typical $2.99 price many comics customers would prefer.

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Don’t Look a Gift Horseman in the Mouth

Ghost variantEast of West #1
“One: Out of the Wasteland”
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist/Cover artist: Nick Dragotta
Colors: Frank Martin
Letters: Rus Wooton
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.50 US

At my local comic shop, there’s a slightly unusual entry on my pull list: “Anything by Jonathan Hickman from Image.” I don’t need to know what a new Hickman creator-owned title is about; I don’t need to know who the artist is — I know it’s going to be something I want to read, and East of West continues that track record. It’s certainly an ambitious storytelling experiment. Hickman is no stranger to developing alternate histories in which to set his stories, but this transformation of America into seven separate nations seems particularly ambitious. But the story’s not really about an America moulded by prophecy, the Civil War and spiritualism. What this is really about is the apocalypse — or to be more precise, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. I really don’t think the hero of the story has even presented himself yet, but I’m definitely captivated by the intensity of the plotting and characterization. Hickman plays around with genre to great effect, but it does make for a complex and challenging read at times. Fortunately, it’s a challenge well worth taking on.

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For Better or Norse

Variant coverVariant coverHelheim #1
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Joelle Jones
Colors: Nick Filardi
Letters: Ed Brisson
Cover artists: Joëlle Jones (regular)/Jones & Chuck BB (variants)
Editor: Charlie Chu
Publisher: Oni Press
Price: $3.99 US

I couldn’t get into Brian Wood’s Northlanders. My wife watched the first couple of episodes of Vikings on the History Channel recently, and I was bored. Stories of Norse warriors have rarely held my attention in the past, but when Helheim was announced, I couldn’t help but take note of it. Sure, the genre may not have been my thing in the past, but I’m a fan of writer Cullen Bunn’s work on The Sixth Gun, and Joëlle Jones has never disappointed with her artwork. So I took the plunge into blood-soaked snows from centuries ago once again, and the result was… exactly the same. I just can’t connect with this subject matter, with these characters. I don’t know what it is, but it’s just not something that appeals to me, at least not in terms of plot. The art here, on the other hand, was thoroughly impressive, and not only in terms of design and mood. Helheim represents a significant departure for Jones. The style here is different, the detail more meticulous. She shows us something new, and that’s always interesting to see.

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Nifty Shades of Grey

Grey Area #1 – While the City Sleeps
“Nightshift,” “Nightwalker” & “Nightlife”
Writer/Artist: Tim Bird
Publisher: Avery Hill Publishing
Price: £3

It’s always fun and interesting to delve into a well-crafted, earnest small-press comics publication. Sometimes, you find a powerful, emerging talent in the world of comics, and sometimes, you find a glimmer of promise in someone who clearly loves the medium to the point that he or she has to be involved with it. With Grey Area, I found someone, Tim Bird, who falls somewhere in the middle of that part of the comics-creation spectrum. He’s told three short stories here in the same setting, on the same night, and he offers three different perspectives, exploring three different aspects of the human condition and experience. It’s an interesting experiment that he ultimately pulls off, but some of the choices in his storytelling, while offering some clarity in the subject matter, keep the reader from completely immersing himself or herself in the atmosphere and mood of the pieces. There’s a great deal of potential here, and some of the storytelling is quite compelling. Overall, I have to say this was a pleasant surprise, especially since this themed collected of short stories ends on a stronger and more positive note.

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Pass This Buck

Variant coverVariant coverBefore Watchmen: Dollar Bill #1 one-shot
“I Want To Be In Pictures”
Writer: Len Wein
Artist/Letters: Steve Rude
Colors: Glen Whitmore
Cover artists: Rude (regular) – Darwyn Cooke/Jim Lee & Scott Williams (variants)
Editor: Mark Chiarello
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US

Despite the controversy stemming from the publication of Watchmen prequel/spinoff comics against the wishes of writer Alan Moore, the Before Watchmen line has performed pretty well for DC, not only in terms of sales. Creatively, while there were some weak spots, the storytelling overall has been strong — not surprisingly, given the talent of the top-tier list of talent recruited to participate. Unfortunately, Dollar Bill can’t be counted among the storytelling successes of the line. Writer Len Wein and artist Steve Rude have taken a character meant to represent corporate manipulation of America and tried to use him to tell a straightforward super-hero origin story. This was an ill-advised course of action, and the fact this one-shot was announced after the initial success of the BW line, I’m left with the distinct impression this was little more than a rushed effort to cash in further on the publishing initiative. Dollar Bill serves as the strongest argument for critics opposed to Before Watchmen.

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