Friday, 14 November 2008


To avoid banging on about how great Morrison is, how inappropriate Tony Daniel is and how much everybody should be reading Criminal, Scalped and Jonah Hex, I'm gonna take the opportunity to review one of the books I was very much looking forward to and mentioned in my last post.
Azzarello and Lee Bermejo are undoubtedly a good fit for one and other. Azzarello's dark, jerky script goes great with Bermejo's dark, jerky art. They're obviously coming to the material from the same place.
Their first collaboration on Batman/Deathblow way back in 2002 was excellent. He was inked by Tim Bradstreet (who's also obviously coming from the same place) for most of the book and various inkers stepped in for the last part. The story was a great mystery/spy story jumping backwards and forwards in time (as Deathblow's dead) and coming together to a satisfying conclusion. Recommended!
Their second series/book was Lex Luthor, Man Of Steel. This series was announced at the same time as Azzarello's odd Superman run with Jim Lee and the great Question mini series by Rick Vietch and Tommy Lee Edwards. Lex Luthor actually appeared quite a bit later, coloured by the always impressive Dave Stewart. The series featured a couple of great Lex/Batman/Bruce Wayne moments and was a good look at Lex Luthor from his own point of view, with Superman very much a supporting role. This series debuted Lee Bermejo's new trick of some panels being shot from very finished pencils and the rest inked. More on this in a minute. A good book but a little disappointing after Batman/Deathblow.Around the same time we got Azzarello's run on Batman, with 100 Bullets buddy, Eduardo Risso. This book when serialised, was disjointed and Azzarello's generally lauded, jive talking, noir dialogue was weird stuck on a Gotham City backdrop. When collected, the whole thing reads better but it was definitely a very different Batman to any previous version of the character. Azzarello definitely had a very strong take on Batman, his connection with the city and the tragedy and obsession that drives him. It serves as the best reference point to the Joker HC released a couple of weeks back, more so than the previous work done by the Azzarello and Bermejo.
The Joker, similar to Batman Broken City, stands completely apart from any continuity which is a good thing. Azzarello gets to write his own version of everything, based on core concepts, from Killer Croc being a hard man with a funny diet and bad skin to the Joker being a unpredictable psychotic. We get a gimpy, tatooed Riddler, a genuinely jarring take on Harley Quinn that would likely come as a surprise to Paul Dini and a great Penguin (though inexplicably called Abner. An aside; I looked around thinking I might be missing some hip slang, political reference or old DC continuity but no-one online seems any the wiser...answers on a postcard).
The whole story is told from the point of view of a Joker goon who's trying to make a name for himself but very quickly realises he's out of his depth with no concept of where the Joker will lead him next.
Far and away the strongest point of the book is the depiction of the Joker (fair enough, condidering...). His mood swings, he breaks into tears, he's confident in everything, ambitious and at moments appears suicidal. As such we never no where the story will takes us either, apart from a sense of impending doom for our narrator.
Bermejo's contribution to the book can't be understated and I struggle to imagine the thing drawn by anyone else. His take on the Joker is excellent (also fair enough...) and bears such a striking resemblance to Heath Ledger's vituoso performance in Dark Knight that its difficult to believe no crossover behind the scenes. I think a lot of it comes from the sliced up cheeks that Joker's had in Morrison's Batman, the movie and here. No way that there wasn't some corporate involvement on that element at least. There are also elements of Cesar Romero, sans moustache, but Jack Nicholson is nowhere to be found.
Bermejo's Gotham City is as strong here as it's been in the past, feeling like a real place and not a mish mash of photo ref of New York and Chicago. The downfall for the book, artwise, is the choice to switch, a lot more awkwardly than on the Lex Luthor book, between digitally painted pencils and subtle, borderline flat colours over inked art by the very capable Mick Gray, long time art partner of JH Williams III. The change in style appears to happen with no rhyme or reason, with some whole sequences in digital wash and otherwise random money shot panels in the middle of the inked work. I'd be curious to know the motivation behind the changes, if anyone out there has any insight.
Its a strongly written piece with everything you expect from Azzarello, both good and bad, and solid artwork, despite the above mentioned changes in finish. Definitely a keeper, largely because of a really great Joker, and a really good Gotham. Once again an Azzarello book that underwhelms at first but grows on you as it sits in your head.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

State of the Nation

Time just keeps flying by. I was recently asked what comics I'm enjoying and was stuck for an answer. Then as I began to think, the names started to come like pregant rain drops, slowly but surely. The problem I have living in Barcelona is that I kind of forget that the books which I buy in collections do still come out as comics and the comics I buy monthly I wouldn't buy as books, for the most part.
On a monthly basis I'm picking up Morrison comics, Action Comics, The Spirit, more often than not Jonah Hex, depending who's drawing it and less frequently, Amazing Spider-Man, depending who it's by.

On a less than monthly basis I'm only picking up All Star Batman, Rasl and Acme Novelty Library, now that the outstanding All Star Superman has finished. That's it!
The latest issue of All Star Bats was the best to date, despite the mess around the swear words etc. Everything kind of comes together on story front and Jim Lee's art is the best of his career.
(On a related note, a LOT of fuss was made about the swearing, blacked out or otherwise, in the latest issue. While I don't particularly feel it's appropriate or necessary in a Batman comic, it rings slightly truer than Miller's bogus slang of the two Dark Knight books. Plus it would seem that Bastard is no longer a swearword at all, turning up all over the place in mainstream comics. Coming soon: C#nt)
Rasl has been really nice but it's only loyalty which has me getting the issues rather than waiting on no doubt one of the several formats it'll be collected in.
Back to the monthlies...
Morrison's Batman only began to speak to me after explaining to a friend what he's been missing. Can the villain of the piece really be Thomas Wayne? In a comics world where people talk about the death of Gwen Stacy and Bucky as sacrosanct, I don't think they'd ever considered that someone might try to bring back Batman's dad. Or is Alfred Batman's dad..? You've gotta keep coming back really.
I still don't know what the R.I.P in the current story holds for the future of Batman but I'm still very interested to find out; a testament to the strength of Morrison's writing in the face of unforgivably poor art and colours.
The main Final Crisis series has been a great, breakneck Morrison superhero story, full of, but not bogged down in, everyone and everything DC. It's hard to care about continuity when a company with Obsessive Continuity Disorder can publish the Death Of The New Gods eight part series before Final Crisis which hinges on a different death of the New Gods. So you have to take it on it's own terms, or certainly I do, as I couldn't care less about the rest of the 'Universe'.
Unfortunately, JG Jones who was described as the only person for the job has now bowed out. Initially he was going to share art duties, from half way through, with Carlos Pacheco but we now know Doug Mahnke will finish the book. This would be fine but he'll be inked by Cristian Alamy who he worked with on the dreadful Final Crisis: Requiem. I like Cristian Alamy a lot as an artist and an inker but he cleans up Mahnke which is quite unecessary. Morrison once more scuppered by the art of comics. An interesting note is that JG Jones has been quoted as saying Mahnke should have drawn it in the first place. I can't help but think that a reined in JH Willliams or Adam Kubert would have been better choices for the book from the get go.

Action Comics has been consistently great as mentioned in several previous posts. Geoff Johns is breathing so much life into the stories and characters and Gary Frank has nailed every design, page and deadline making it the best all round monthly. In a turn for the worse, DC have decided to tie it to James Robinson's Superman (which hasn't been great) and even Supergirl.
While the foundations which Johns has laid full of potential, with the whole of Kandor made full size (squashing who knows how many polar bears) in antartica , I'm simply not going to buy three Superman books of varying quality. A great jumping off point and really bloody irritating.
The Spirit has suffered from rotating artists but as the stories are done in one it's not too bad. New regular artist Mike Ploog did one issue. Paul Smith's done several but seems to have disappeared to be replaced by Chad Hardin and Aluir Amancio. The stories are still fun (and funny) thanks to Aragonés and Evanier though I really hope they'll still do the occasional special with good, big name artists. DC haven't released the sollicitation details correctly in months so you never know who'll turn up. We'll see.
Last up is Jonah Hex which is great fun. A labour of love, heavily researched, dense and pared down to fit most every story in one issue. I recently picked up a couple of stray back issues ,having started buying when Jordi Bernet began as frequent contributor. There was a great Pual Gulacy issue, though I'm not the biggest fan, and one by a guy, who's new to me, called Rafa Garres. His art is meaty and visceral, cartoony and realistic and coloured by himself to great effect. He's now done two issues (including the latest) and I believe is slated to be the artist on the series' first big six part story coming next year featuring Hex and pretty much every other DC western character.
While the above are the regular monthlies I keep an eye on/pick up I still scan Previews for fill-ins or minis by people who are worth following. This is how I know to look out for Vigilante by Marv Wolfman and Rick Leonardi (no word on the inker)in December. This'll be an ongoing though time will tell how long he'll keep it up for, we're looking at some good street level Leonardi for at least a few months.
While the above list doesn't look too positive as a representation of the thousands of comics published a month the list of regular and up coming collections just keeps getting bigger;Hellboy, BPRD, Umbrella Academy, Casanova (number one online here), Jason Aaron's Ghost Rider, 100 Bullets, Scalped, Fear Agent, Kyle Baker's Special Forces, Criminal, Dave Lapham's Young Liars, Joker by Azzarello and Lee Bermejo, Conan, Joe Kelly's I Kill Giants, Joe Casey's Godland (number one here)and Charlatan's Ball, new Top Ten (sans Alan Moore).
Collections bought over the last several months and enjoyed include Silver Surfer: In thy Name by Simon Spurrier and Tan Eng Huat, Metal Men by Duncan Rouleau (at left) , ClanDestine by Alan Davis, the Coraline adaptation by P Craig Russell, Local by Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly, Berlin by Jason Lutes, Superman: Kryptonite by Cooke and Sale (at bottom), Omega the Unknown by Jonathan Lethem and Farel Dalrymple and Fantastic Four: The End by Davis and Farmer.
I appreciate the the above is all a bit dense but I feel the need to justify why despite the fact that the Previews catalogue is a daunting and depressing monthly browse, I feel there're still enough good solid books being made to make it worthwhile coming back. We have the likes of Mignola, Pearson, Fegredo, Sean Phillips, RM Guera, Alan Davis, Jeff Smith, Grant Morrison (more Seaguy coming!!!!), John Romita JR, Gabriel Ba, Risso...the list goes on, of great comics creators who are still producing great comics with varying degrees of regularity. We just need to invest the effort in filtering through all the tat. We'll see if I still feel this way this time next year.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Walt Simonson

I'm having a bit of a Walt Simonson moment after reading the great Modern Masters book about him and went and picked up bits I didn't have; all his Star Wars issues with Tom Palmer inks, Orion for DC, his Star Slammers series for Malibu (finished at Dark Horse) and an old DC trade called The Art of Walt Simonson. It's a funny mix of stuff and really interesting to watch his growth. It's important to note, he's always been great.
I believe that beyond the the visual power and the solid storytelling that there's a certain conviction behind everything he does that makes it real. You never feel like he's phoning it in or taking the piss. He managed to write and draw three issues of Thor with Thor turned into a frog and keep it real. The Frank Miller written Robocop Versus Terminator had no reason to be as entertaining as it was but they pulled it off and while a lot of it is due to Miller's straight faced telling of the absurd (ref Miller's out put of this century) Simonson's ability in telling a story carries it all through and makes it a good comic as opposed to a marketing man's wet dream.
I kick myself upon hindsight for not picking up Orion when it was coming out. I remember thinking, working in a comic shop, that I could read it anyway and was jaded enough to believe that it couldn't last and we'd get so-so fill-ins and what not. He put out 25 issues of inventive storytelling with every issue demonstrating some new trick or page design or lettering element to keep you hooked. To the point of it being very difficult to highlight one page as exceptional as they were pretty much all exceptional.
His next big project (skipping past Just Imagine Stan Lee creating Sandman...brrrr) was Elric The Making of a Sorcerer with Elric creator Michael Moorcock. Though I've never read the Moorcock novels, I enjoyed the Roy Thomas, P Craig Russell, Michael T Gibert and George Freeman adaptations of the past. The concepts are nuts but well constructed and Simonson was once again an ideal choice to bring it to life. Simonson had long been a fan of Moorcock's writing (evidenced in his nutty Fantastic Four run of the late 80's) and had collaborated with him previously on the Michael Moorcock's Multiverse series for DC in the mid to late 90's. I found that series a bit of a mixed bag but loved this four issue mini, now collected in trade paperback. As if Simonson's art wasn't already incredibly intricate, he worked on particularly huge art boards to get everything in. (nice latter-day Steve Oliff colour job too!).
While Simonson is often likened to Kirby, his style doen't really show Kirby as much it shows Phillipe Druillet, Bernie Krigstein, Sergio Toppi. I'm certain, however that his influences go on and on but the end product is something completely unique.
I did look for a definitive checklist to link to but all I got was Wookiepedia (for his Star Wars work). In brief, as well as all the books mentioned above, look out for his Lawnmower Man (the novel) adaptation in Bizarre Adventures #29, Temple of the Spider, a samurai story with Archie Goodwin from Thrilling Adventure Stories #2 (nice bit of Toth in there too!). Also with Goodwin, Manhunter (of course) and the Alien movie adaptation. X-Men/Teen Titans is a great looking book too, though a little of it's time (Chris Claremont!).
One final mention to letterer John Workman who always manages to compliment the power, intestity and insanity of Simonson's work with the perfect effects.
Check out the Batman below from the Art Of Simonson book. I thought "Flicking hell! It's Miller's Batman!" Simonson says "The only change I had to make on the job was to alter the Expression on Batman's face...I had originally given Bats a grin, feeling (as I still do) that a grin in the wrong place is more fightening than a snarl".
Sounds like Miller's Batman too!

I'm not gonna call swipe but look at the two images below.

Miller's Absolute Dark Knight cover

Simonson's Batman in action from Detective Comics #450
I'll finish by saying only that Simonson's influence is felt far and wide and is always worth revisiting.

In brief

A hectic summer has kept me away from the blog but hasn't stopped me visiting the local shops (Freaks and Gigamesh).
I'll post some reviews over the next few days but first up I thought I'd share an illustration that my mate Guera gave me.
Guera's the artist on the fantastic Scalped, written by Jason Aaron. If you're not reading it your missing out on one of the best monthly books being published at the moment. It's a brutal crime story set on a reservation and has the feel of all the best collaborations, that of one voice, one vision.
Enough. The drawing...:

Friday, 18 July 2008

Re:Views 18/07/08

Literally nothing for me this week but this isn't a problem as I didn't write anything last week!
Criminal book 3: Dead and the Dying came out. (n.b.the image shown is from what'll be in the next book, lifted from Sean Phillips' blog. Can't scan the inside of Trades) This series is just great. It's different to but fills an open wound I have where Stray Bullets used to be. So far we've got a load of meaty crime stories about grubby, real characters in a grubby, real underworld with occasionally overlapping names and references to characters we hope we'll see later. In fact the only constant character in the book is the bar, 'THE UNDERTOW(n)' which often serves as the catalyst for the unpleasant fates of the principles.
The third volume collects the first three oversized issues of the second series. Three standalone stories which overlap greatly telling one story from three perspectives, also gives us a chunk of the origin of Mr Hyde who rules the modern day Criminal world. A great book. Part of me wants the issues with the great back matter written by all sorts of great writers and directors about crime/thrillers in all mediums. Space is the limitation for me, after years as a comic fiend, but either way, if you're not reading this you're missing good comics; both Brubaker and Phillips at their best.

Welcome back to the monthly Action Comics is great section. Action Comics is great! Tee latest issue gives us great Daily Planet moments, great Clark and Pa moments, and great Superman moments. What I find most impressive in the writing is that we're getting all of this Superman continuity stuff but told in such a way as to be completely accesible to anyone who doesn't know these characters. I've always thoughs Superman had the worst villains gallery in comics but Geoff Johns has already given us a definitive Lex Luthor, Bizarro and is now in the process, along with great designs from Gary Frank, of a definitive Braniac. We're also getting The Bottled City of Kandor for the 'first' time. I've always fancied the idea of The Bottled City of Kandor.
Lastly, a comic I'd been looking forward to for months! One of those great gems that'll dusty and forgotten to all but a few with good memories. Every once in a while both DC and Marvel will publish weekly mini-series or fifth week events to fill in the publishing schedule gaps left by the fact that 52 doesn't divide by 12. There's generally a gem in every bunch. I've yet to see one which has all quality books. Here are some examples of previous winners.
In '97 DC published the Tangent universe. An idea of Dan Jurgens, this was all basically concepts created from scratch based only on existing DC names. It was alright. Forgotten until recently made canon in the current DCU and collected in trades(!?!?!?). Far and away the best of the buch was Green Lantern by James Robinson, JH Williams and Mick Gray. The interpretation of the name is a ghost narrator who carries a chinese green lantern and tells stories of the unjustly dead coming back for closure/revenge. Though reitively early in his comic career, JH Williams already shows off his chamaelionic abilities, giving each of the short tales a different style. ONe looks like JH Williams, one has a Kirby/Kurtzman mix and the third has a weird mix of what looks like Noel Sickles, Alex Raymond and George Evans. Robinson's writing is great, as it generally is.
In '98 DC came up with New Year's Evil. Not too much of a high concept here, just one-off stories about baddies, all with great covers by Jason Pearson.Grant Morrison introduced his anti-Batman, Prometheus, who'd become a running villain for the JLA but the rest of the books only really made an impact if you were reading the related books (Flash, Resurrection Man). There was also a lame Darkseid one and a so-so Gog from Kingdom Come. And the winner was, by a country mile, the Scarecrow by 'Milligan' and Fegredo, with great colours by Bjarne Hansen (Superman: For All Seasons. This story got me good. A great impromptu redesign of the character (which stuck), Fegredo's kinetic art really coming into it's own after comics like Enigma and Face. We see clear influences of Toth via Mignola as well as an obsession foe page design and detail when necessary and empty space when not. The story has Scarecrow getting the run around by a girl that he can't scare and deciding that he's in love. It's screwed up as all tales of Batman villains should be.

Perhaps the most successful overall of these weekly books was Marvel Monsters from...Marvel. All the books had a monster reprint at the back and nice Eric Powell painted covers. We got Monsters on the Prowl by Steve Niles and Fegredo which has Hulk, Thing, Giant Man and (pre blue) Beast from the X-Men. The collector nicks loads of the monsters from Monster Island, which the Mole Man's not too happy about and while trying to get them back, accidently sets them all loose on Manhattan. Who can save the city, with the Fantastic Four out of town, if not the aforementioned Good Monsters? A fun story with great art as well as a Kirby reprint at the back.
FIn Fang Four by Scott Gray and Roger Langridge has a where are they now team up of monsters reduced by Reed Richards and holding down a steady job in society. Fin Fang Foom as a chef in a Chinese restaurant, Elektro as a delivery boy, Googam, Son Of Goom working as valet parking and Gorgilla as his sidekick. It's a great, funny, loving homage to Kirby/Ditko monsters that we'll see more of. Lastly is Devil Dinosaur by Eric Powell which has Hulk zapped back in time to be misled into fighting Devil Dinosaur. Then there's the inevitable team up against their manipulators. Like all the rest of the Marvel Monster books, there's a real affection for the source material (Kirby) and it's difficult not to enjoy it. (Plus the Coming Of The Hulk; but not THAT Hulk).
All of which brings us to DC's current outing into seemingly random weekly one-offs. Joker's Asylum are all stories narrated by the Joker. Now, Penguin is the first I've read, awaiting the Scarecrow but skipping the ones that I've no 'in' to. With Jason Aaron and Jason Aaron, there was no way I was going to pass. We seem to get a comic per year out of Jason Pearson over the last few years. They're always worth waiting for artwise but this is the strongest collaborator he's had in a long time. Aaron writes grim, violent, psychosis/physchotics and a lookback over Pearson's career and his own Body Bags show that he likes drawing them. His style has always evolved including colouring his own work but here he's coloured by Dave McCaig who's never failed me. The story's a great tale of the Penguin's neuroses and violent, defensive, overeaction for being a fat midget with a big nose. The character came to life a bit during Batman: No Man's Land but Ed Brubaker's run set him up as a villain to contend with. Though Burgess Meredith was Cool! Wagh!
That's it!

Thursday, 10 July 2008


Just when I think I'm immune to Mike Mignola's magical powers, getting used to the various covers for the Hellboy Universe that are never less than great, we get a cover like the one above for October's HELLBOY: IN THE CHAPEL OF MOLOCH one off.
Heavens to Betsy that fella can draw.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Reviews June/July

Ahem...This is like the early nineties Image comics of review columns. TO be fair (to me) there were a couple of weeks here with no comics. However I won't bite the bullet and go monthly...I'll make like Travis Charest and his bi-monthly run on Wildcats...optimistic all the way!
Where to Begin?

Let's do random!

'What if THIS was the Fantastic Four'. I loved the original Walt Simonson/Art Adams story from back when American comics come onto my radar but seeing this team supreme gave me more of a feeling of relief at having grown up than it did of nostalgia. THere's something TRULY sad about reading a great artists last comic, let alone the odd pages of Wieringo at the start of this book. Jeff Parker's story's great as it always is in my limited experience and the line up of artists involved is mostly top notch. Given the nature of this tribute book it would seem a little crass to pick faves among the artists though I will say with a lot of talent in there, I'd have happily just seen Skottie Young or Stuart Immonen. That said, there's something for everyone.
Action Comics 866. Don't know what 'Sighting' means, but that's what it says on the banner of another great Action by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank (et al). I saw somewhere that someone thinks it means that it's important to big DCU continuity. I've NO idea what that's upposed to mean. It looks great, the pacings excellent, the 'no spoilers please' splash is seriously dramatic and I'm about a day away from the next one by now! yay!
James Robinson's first Superman was good. I think the artist has gotten worse since I saw his work last but maybe I'm being unkind. To be fair, he tells the story well enough, but he's no Tony Daniel (!). Robinson's distinctive writing style is on here, though I feel I've seen his 'tell us about the troops bit' before, years ago on his first Wildcats two parter. Has promise...
Walden Wong did a good job over Paul Smith on the latest Spirit. It looked a little flatter than if he'd inked it himself (or had the great George Freeman over the top). Evanier and Aragones are still telling fun, perhaps overly light, stories of the Frank Miller creation ("I am the city") but I enjoy it every month even without Darwyn Cooke. This is especially good as PMS gets to draw mummies and make me feel fuzzy about Leave it To Chance : (
I've heard that we'll be getting some Jordi Bernet issues shortly, which can only be good for the Spirit but a loss for Jonah Hex. Maybe Paul Smith can draw some Jonah Hex!!!!

More monsters in the SUPERB Hellboy Crooked Man. The level of collaborator Mignola has at the moment doesn't even have me wishing he'd drawn it anymore. I always wish he'd draw something but I can't argue with Corben. Mignola's particular vision permeates every bit of the crooked man and while one can still tell that he's tailoring it for his artist(s) it's just more Hellboy. Exactly what Weird Tales wasn't. Buy it!
Back to Batman. Same as always. Weird complex, Morrison story with dreadful trainwreck Tony Daniel art that makes me feel more foolish every 3€s. Still happy to see where it's going based on the assumption that Morrison's not let me down recently but I never knew I could miss Andy Kubert so.

Jesus H Christmas, it's Darwyn Cooke with Palmiotti and Gray on fantastic Jonah Hex 33. Ol' Jonah comes off looking a lot worse in this story in the sense that he's really pretty unlikable but he's also seldom looked better as rendered by Cooke and given pish and vinegar by DAVE STEWART. If you're reading this and you've read it before than you've probably read the comic and there's nothing more to say or you've seen the names attached to the book and have already left to go and buy it! Coming up we get a JH Williams issue too! What I'm really looking forward to, though, are the Batman RIP Final Crisis tie-in issues.
Rasl 2 came out. Guest staring the Grinch on the cover and nothing but good comics on the inside. THis story has real tension building and the principal character's a very likeable anti hero. I think this boook succeeds and for me kind of needed to after the Shazam book which I liked but didn't love. Following Bone was never going to be easy and, again, while Shazam was good, I think I just want my Jeff smith in black and white.
Finally Crisis 2 hit with the cliff hanger we all knew we were waiting for. The return of Barry Allen. Have I mentioned that I've never read the original Crisis, or Flash for that matter. None of this mega continuity means anything to me and I'm really enjoying this book so far. It's building, building...J G Jones' art is very good, the colours are loud and the Japanes Super Hero team is just wicked. It reminds me of the Ultramarines storyline in the JLA with Ed McGuiness which is just pure flash but on every rereading shows more and more substance. The inevitable, but unwelcome, new of shared art chores from issue 4-7 is only slightly softened by the fact he'll share the gig with Pacheco. A few years back this would have been great news but he's either changed or is relinquishing more of his art to his inker Merino, and this isn't good. As always, we'll see. It'll all be over by Christmas...

Into the library for the book group and I get four trades I've been looking forward to for a while.
The longest wait is the Conan Born on the Battlefield trade. I'd picked up the first chapter in number 8 a few years ago and when I realised that they were 'ongoing stories' I'd wait for the trade. I'm really not a fan of the genre at all but what Dark Horse have managed to do with Conan is really incredible. Obviously, the talent involved helps. I picked up the first Conan trade on a whim...Kurt Busiek, solid enough looking art, good word of mouth and Dave Stewart colours. I learnt to love Cary Nord and Dave Stewart's collaborration. After Shock Rockets, Untold Tales Of Spider-Man, Superman:Secret Identity, Arrowsmith, Kurt Busiek is obviously the 'coming of age' man, and with such success on every project, it's worth following onto the next(anyone know if the Aquaman trade's worth picking up????). Greg Ruth's art is also something else. Muddy, moody, graceful, brutal, exagerated, realistic and basically perfect for the story of Conan's two births on the Battlefield.
I got shot of my Hellboy Darkness calls issues once I'd read the thing complete awaiting the trade and epilogue(s) it would bring (for a third reading : ). I got my Gosh bookplated edition to make it better still and found new details from the rereading as always with Hellboy. Fegredo's art is as perfect for this story as Corben's is for his and it's really interesting to see the supplemental material, showing Fegredo getting a handle on Mignola's world. There's also the mention that Fegreo was leaning towards a clean line/no solid blacks style prior to the series so viva Hellboy!
Vaya, vaya, vaya. I try not to buy 'comics' anymore. The nominal difference in cost is meaningless in real terms, though from publisher to publisher, my rationale for this decision varies.
With Image, I've always the worry that the series will stop dead in the middle, and I'm left with 1 and 2 of 6. With DC it's that they don't collect books unless they sell and all the books I like get cancelled. Hence the issues. With Marvel, there's a bit of the DC theory about it but also, I'm often excited by a series with all the hype and I don't care by the time the book comes out. It's grass roots money saving. With Dark Horse, the collections are just lovely. What's the Hurry? It looks better in the book.
This brings me to Umbrella Academy. I knew I liked Gabriel Ba. If you've read Casanova, you like him too! 50% Mignola, 50% Risso and 90% Gabriel Ba. Plus ol' Dave Stewart. Plus Factor X...the writer. I don't know his band so I didn't have any opinion or bias going in. The series is eccentric but consistent, an obvious labour of love by all concerned and meshes superhero/sci-fi and family drama seamlessly. Strongly recommended for fans of good fun, Grant Morrison and the new.
Lastly, but no means leastly, Kirby's Omac. A HC collection of the eight issues of stuff I'd read bits and bobs of. I bought this as a sampler for the Fourth World collection which are pricey, gorgeous, but can I justify $200 on Kirby writing. I was really pleasantly surprised that the nutty writing suits the nutty art. The semi prophetic inventions of Kirby are great even without trying to force context on the material in the reading. I not only recommend it but look forward to the Demon coming in a couple of months followed by the Fourth World when the money permits.
That's it. Sooner rather than later people!

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Back On track

Wow. Long time no see. One of the things about living in Barcelona is that, occasionally people like to come visit. Sometimes they all come back to back and everything else goes out of the window. The long and short of it is I've got loads to review (on the day when even more stuff comes out).
Into the deep end, which would be the Grant Morrison end...
Final Crisis #1 finally hit, after months of full page ads and a good couple of years of build up and could it possibly justify the wait? Well for a start, the great JG Jones/Chip Kidd cover with Green Lantern on it, used in all the hype, seems to be in the minority, though I managed to get one, but now it won't necessarily match the rest (a bit retentive I know but it does bug me!).
There's a lot of set up in this issue, which is fine with me as I haven't followed two years of weekly comics and spin offs, I've never read the Flash, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman with any regularity and I've also no idea why Martian Manhunter has a rubbish costume. Story wise it starts hundreds of thousands of years in the past with Anthro the first boy in the past and finishes with Kamandi, last boy on Earth so there's nothing if not scope here. There've been some criticisms of continuity issues surrounding the New Gods, following all those weekly comics. Having not read them, I basically really enjoyed the first issue and am looking forward to where its going. To read Morrison's take on the first issue you can go to Newsarama here.
Artwise, I don't think there's anyone at DC who could have done this any better. JG Jones has quite a static quality, from the photo reference, but its all well drawn and Alex Sinclair's suit it really well, same as when he colours Jim Lee. One thing that worries me is whether, even with the skip month between issues 3 and 4, we'll not get DCs version of the Crusty Bunkers jumping in to help him finish. I was mildly traumatised by the ONE page in Marvel Boy he didn't draw, so forgive me if I'm edgy. We'll see.
Batman R.I.P. is two parts in already and as with anything Morrison, its not clear where its going but there's build up and stuff going on that you KNOW will be meaningful on a re-reading. The Black Glove from the JH Williams arc is revealed to be a group rather than one person, the Joker knows everything Hannibal Lector style but is being obtuse and we're not sure whether the first love interest Jezebel, is in on it.The panel above gives us a Batman sounding indecisive and also shows the bewildering art of Tony Daniel. We see the inside of the Batmobile and are still left with no idea what it looks like. Wow! Mysterious, edgy...

Lastly from the Morrison file is All Star Supes. What to stay. Understated in the extreme in both the dialogue and the art and yet so Huge that one feels obligated to go back and read it again to take it all in. Superman's getting sicker and sicker, 'dead' at the end of it. Lex Luthor is great, camp, genius al la Gene Hackman in the movies. Morrison also touches on DC One Million again with Solaris introduced, established and magnificently dispatched before you even have time to absorb the concept and chew over the questions posed as to how Superman knows that Solaris will be benevolent in the future. It's all so fertile and I can't imagine how anyone will be able to follow it. One more issue to go!
Dave Lapham's Wolverine: The Amazing Immortal Man and Other Bloody Tales is...weird. I'm a big fan of Lapham and this comic has Lapham illustrating one story with two guys touted as new comers on the other two. The title story has nice cartooning by a guy called Johnny Timmons that could get him on Gotham Central or Daredevil. The story's solid and features a silent Wolverine, clearly a bit down and out as a sidehow freak and in Lapham style has no innocents and plenty of revenge! The Second story, illustrated by Lapham with Daredevil's inker Stefano Gaudiano, features one of Lapham's other themes; the influence of one powerful force, be it Spanish Scott, Batman or the Punisher, on the weak people it comes into contact with.
A brief appearence by Wolverine inspires a bus driver to copycat and try to clean up his bit of the bronx. The thrid story in the book drawn by a fella called Kelly Goodine, did nothing for me on any level. The art's a bit Lenil Yu (who also does nothing for me), the colours are dreadful and the story's a bit of a nonsense about a parasitic baby mutant?!?! Probably worth the money for the first two stories and the nice Simone cover. WIll also sit nicely next to the great Giant Size Wolverine Lapham did with Iron Fist's David Aja a year or so back.
Finally got my Hellboy FCBD comic. Just great! It's no secret that the Mignolaverse is the most consistent group of titles being regularly published today. To get three new eight page stories by Mignola/Fegredo, Mignola/Arcudi/Davis and Mignola/Dysart/Azaceta couldn't be better. The Hellboy story takes place before Darkness calls and is a surreal story that's all 'a dream' while we know that nothing that goes on in Hellboy'shead is just a dream. Fegredo's art is excellent, consistent with Mignola's storytelling without aping as previous artists Matt Smith and even Ryan Sook had done.
The BPRD story follows on from the Killing Ground story where Johann Kraus acted kinda weird after getting a body that had senses, having been ectoplasm stuck in a bag for the longest time. This story has him go beyond weird, to be continued! The last story is by the team of BPRD 1946 which I've not read yet. This story stands alone and bodes well for the series. The art is moody and consistent and the writings good. A solo Professor 'Broom' story. As always, I'm left wanting more.
I picked up the collection of Lobster Johnson this week which I knew I was gonna like. I'd read the first issue in England and knew it was something to look forward to. It's good and pulpy, nuts and the art is great. Jason Armstrong's art is great cartooning, fitting nicely with the blacks all over and great Dave Stewart's colours you expect from the Mignolaverse. I was left a little underwhelmed because I was expecting so much and it was no doubt damaged by the anticipation factor. The Hellboy books are always great with the developmental art at the back showing the artist's take as well as Mignola's and in this case we get a bit of Guy Davis' too. It's all such a labour of lve that its difficult not to go back in and scrutinise it all to feel the love!
Palmiotti, Gray and Jordi Bernet deliver yet another great done-in-one Jonah Hex story. This series is obviously a labour of love and is a western, in 2008, which is not just good but great! Take the hint people. Pick it up. The balance of humour, horror and action is seldom found better. I'm sure the Darwyn Cooke issue next month will shake some life into to you!!!!
Loveless made it to 24 and the last issue is by Daniel Zezelj so it goes out on a high note. While it does feel like there's history here you need to be aware of the issue also stands alone well enough. It would be worth the $3 for the art alone but the story's sound too.Axxarello was kind of frank about it all: "I failed you guys with 'Loveless,'" Azzarello said. "It had a birth defect, and it just didn't survive. If we can come back to it, we will." My curiousity is where Zezelj will turn up next.
Neither Paul Smith or Mike Ploog turned up for Spirit 17 and we get art by Aluir Armancio who I'd never heard of and inked by Terry Austin who seemed to disappear some years back from comics. I wouldn't have bought it if I hadn't pre ordered it and felt obligated. A good fun read with great looking girls and nice storytelling. The colours are nice the whole thing holds up well. Could have been a lot worse, artwise, to the degree I'll order it in future if they actually tell me he's going to be drawing it!
To wrap up, I picked up American Spendor 3 because it has Darwyn Cooke in it as well as on the cover. Harvey Pekar comics are always solid and rarely surprise. Annecdotal shorts or monologues that give us a 'working stiff's view of the world. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it and I found that 22 pages really wasn't enough so I'll problably be picking up some collections soon. The real surprise for me was the art of John Cebollero, who's work I knew from inking over Marshall Rogers on several funny looking comics. This was great caricature and nice storytelling. I'll keep an eye on him..!
That's it! If anyone's still out there, I'll be back weekly give or take holidays and I'll see you soon.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Reviews 12/05/08

Well no reviews last week because my motivation ebbs when I've nothing new to tell the world. Last week I picked up the excellent B.P.R.D Killing Ground collection which has no surprise in the sense that it's excellent but plenty of twists with the characters, the whole story taking place at 'home' in Colorado. If your're reading it already, there's nothing to tell as you know it's great and if you're not picking it up, you're missing one of the best monthly books currently published. Guy Davis' art just gets creepier and creepier and the freaky monsters just get weirder. On a side note I picked up his own series the Marquis a little while back which he wrote and drew, black, white and lots of great zipper tone...and cracked out monsters too. It's collected by Oni in two books but tricky to find.
The only floppy comic I picked up was Action Comics 864, which I must have ordered based on how much I was enjoying the previous run with Gary Frank. While I'm now much more up to speed on the Legion Of Superheroes, this issue left me lost with a big reveal of a villain who I don't know but suspect I'm supposed to. Also leads into the Legion of Superheroes Crisis thingy which I won't be reading. Artwise, nothing to show, feeling if I've nothing nice to scan then don't scan anything at all. I feel used...
This week, however, I had comics to buy! First up to show no hard feelings, Action Comics Annual 11 which I believe we've waited a year for. Though I don't know what happened to Adam Kubert to make him run SO late on this, I don't overly care. There've been plenty of good Action Comics and Busiek Superman(s) in the meantime and some iffy fill-ins which I just skipped : ) Check out upset people's feelings here. They are funny! Artwise, though Dave Stewart's not on the colours, Edgar Delgado fills in fine, mostly matching the style and finishing Kubert's art and maintaining the unique finish. Also fun is is that Richard Donner and Geoff Johns manage to surprise on the story, but I don't do spoilers. A great read that if you've not followed, will stand alone happily as a trade paperback.
The softcover of New Avengers Illuminati came out, which I'd been waiting a while for. I really like Jimmy Cheung, and have done since Iron Man and Maverick, back before he was a "Marvel Young Gun". There's something straight but fun about his art that I can't put my finger on. I feel he makes everyone look like a teenager, but its not really true (see the collection's cover). It did make him the perfect choice for Young Avengers where, with great inker John Dell and perfectly suited colourist Justin Posner, I decided to keep my eye on what he was up to in the future. I wouldn't pick up everything he does...but this series fits. A retrofitted marvel history telling of how a few key Marvel Players have manipulated things from behind the scenes. Secret Wars, the Kree Skrull War are good my personal fave was putting a punctuation mark at the end of Morrison's Marvel Boy which was a great cosmic trilogy cut short by shortsighted Bill Jemas worrying about how he couldn't make a movie of it.The book also coincided with an all Skrull, Secret Invasion tie-in that follows on from Illuminati but otherwise just left me Jimmy Cheung non Skrull stuff.
The third part of Risso and B K Vaughn's Logan mini came out and while overall the series was a little light, it was good fun that didn't stray from the character, though perhaps a slightly dated version of him. Risso's art is superb as always and the last page almost justifies the series alone. I imagine there's a Hard Cover coming of it but for three issues, I'd be careful...
Following my last post I found out the Hellboy Golden Army preview I got free was maybe not very liberally distributed so I've taken the liberty of scanning the thing. My logic, and I hope it'd stand up in court is that 1)the comic was free and 2)it was meant to be READ for free and used to promote the movie and comic. Well here it is. Low res so you can't print it but complete so you can enjoy it. Enjoy it!