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Posts tagged “Image Comics

Issues With Digital Comics Issues

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Publisher’s Weekly recently put out an article regarding Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s excellent comic series Sex Criminals and the trouble that has been kicked up around Apple banning the book from being available for purchase within the Comixology app. The first issue made it through with no real issue but the second and third issues were blocked followed by the first issue being retroactively pulled. According to the article over 50 issues have been rejected by Apple this year. In the same year where digital comic sales on Comixology topped 200 million for the first time, more and more books are hitting stumbling blocks due to Apple’s terms and conditions for acceptability. As many are pointing out, this is a major reason why Android has started to take over a significant portion of the market share for portable devices. Personally I much prefer my Nexus 7 tablet over my old iPad. But this article isn’t about what electronics I prefer, it’s about the very serious debate regarding digital versus physical media.

I understand the drawbacks of owning actual issues all too well. I have forty longboxes filled with comic books that I will simply be unable to store much longer. But the drawbacks of digital collecting right now are so wide and varied that I have issues giving up my issues. First and foremost, there is the big issue that with Comixology you don’t really own your issues. Think about it. They’re somewhere on Comixology’s server. You sync them to your device but you don’t have the files backed up on a hard-drive somewhere because companies are afraid you’ll just distribute the books on torrent networks and drive them out of business. Image seems to eschew this by offering DRM free copies of their books on their website. But Comixology has created a sort of popularized monopoly on digital comics and having a single app to read ALL your favorite comics is so simple and convenient that they have become the online equivalent of Diamond Comics Distributors, for all intents and purposes. This may not be a major issue for some folks. Some people just want to read the books and forget about them afterward. But I enjoy re-reading books, it’s why I have so many boxes filled with issues and so many shelves lined with trade paperbacks. One day there may come a time when Comixology finds itself in financial trouble and you may no longer be able to access your comics. Is it a remote possibility? Yes, but it is a possibility.

Digital comics should not be this hard to make work. Image Comics direct model seems to be the best way to go about it. Download the issues at a fair price, DRM free in the format of your choosing. Marvel seems to be making a move to do something in-house with their digital comics that could be a step away from Comixology but, again, it seems to be based on a proprietary model where you do not actually own your comics. Until a system comes a long where I can safely feel as if i have ownership of my digital issues, I will not be able to switch completely. The convenience just isn’t as convenient as a regular pull list for me.


Comic Review – Sex Criminals # 3

SexCriminals3BannerI gushed like hell over issue 1 and issue 2 of Sex Criminals. I thought they were some of the best comic book work to come out this year. The book is different and unique without being a book that insists upon its own cleverness. No, the book is unique by virtue of how honest it is. Sex Criminals is a book about two people who can stop time with their orgasms but at the same time it is a book about people. People discovering what it means to be vulnerable and learning what it means to discover each other slowly throughout the course of a relationship. There is a palpable sense of energy to our lead characters as well as a transcendent level of honesty in the storytelling. These characters feel like people and the story feels stronger for it. The moment in issue three where Jon watches as Suzie belts out “Fat Bottomed Girls” by Queen (in one of the most unintentionally funny bits of licensing snafus I’ve ever seen) is as honest a moment as I have ever seen on a page. I know I can point to the exact moment where I looked at my girl and knew that she was special and unique in a way nobody else could be and I felt that for Jon with Suzie here in issue three. Chip Zdarsky’s artwork makes the scene explode with dynamic intensity and every element of the moment is perfectly captured on panel.

Speaking of Zdarsky’s art, he can draw the hell out of a dude getting nailed in the face with a dildo.

And that boys and girls is why this book is so good. The back and forth of real human emotion and character worked mixed with the absurdity of a man getting a green rubber wiener thrown in his face. This is a book where these two people use their powers to rob a bank and yet it is that element of the story that takes a back seat to the character work. We want to know why they’re choosing to use their powers in this way. All of it feels believable and you invest yourself in their story this way. Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky have done something wonderful here. I really cannot wait until this comes out in trade so I can buy ten copies and distribute it to people who ask me what comics they should be reading.

Rating: 5/5


Comic Review – Velvet # 1

VelvetEd Brubaker and Steve Epting are a powerhouse team. Their work on Captain America is the best the character is likely ever going to see for the foreseeable future. You can thank Ed Brubaker personally for revitalizing the character to the point where he wasn’t a joke to the majority of the comic buying public. It is also a testament to his work that the next film will be drawing largely from his lore. The reason his Marvel work resonated so much is because Ed Brubaker knows how to play with convention and genre tropes, respectfully, while turning them on their ear and defying expectations.

Brubaker’s work with Velvet is more of what we have come to expect from him. Character work and atmosphere. Plot and mood. Much like his other creator-owned work, such as Fatale, Incognito, or Criminal, the world that we are dropped into feels fully realized and developed. Like stories have been being told about these characters for years and the blood and sweat has been spilled over them before we ever crack the page. It doesn’t come off as inaccessible, because we fill in gaps in our knowledge fairly quickly with pertinent details of the who and general back-story, but the book feels very much like the middle of a longer story with fully realized characters and that works very much to its advantage.

Velvet is a period piece, set in the 1970s with flashbacks to the sixties and all of it feels like a James Bond novel filtered through the lens of a grungy late-seventies film renaissance aesthetic. Like if Coppola directed You Only Live Twice. Steve Epting’s art is vibrant while being simultaneously moody and portrays the eras of the narrative with equal distinction and clarity.

Personally, I think this is his best work since he launched Criminal a few years ago. It is a well plotted, tightly-paced, impeccably drawn espionage genre yarn that resembles nothing else on the rack. Brubaker knows how to write a spy thriller, he did it quite well on his Captain America run, but freed from the reigns of Marvel’s editorial hands, he can truly let loose and keep us guessing from month to month. The only guess we can be confident in making is that each issue will be better than the last.

Rating : 4/5


Comic Review – Pretty Deadly # 1

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I grew up watching westerns. Not by choice, really. My dad was obsessed with John Wayne. He named me after a John Wayne movie, for crying out loud. I never did get into The Duke myself, although The Searchers is now one of my all time favorites and I absolutely love a few others, like Rio Bravo, True Grit, and The Shootist. My real love of westerns came almost by accident. My dad being a John Wayne fan meant inevitably that I would skew against his tastes and end up a bigger fan of  folks like Clint Eastwood. The spaghetti western spoke to me in ways that the usual “cowboys and indians” stuff my dad enjoyed simply couldn’t. It was the moral ambiguity, the dirt and the grime and the absurdity of those films that really got me searching out other westerns. I took in all the Leone westerns, my favorite being a tossup between Once Upon a Time In The West or The Good The Bad and The Ugly. I found the Django movies and Lee Van Cleef’s Sabata series. Latter day westerns like Unforgiven, Tombstone, and Open Range also made their way into my DVD collection.

I also happen to enjoy western comics. I have a complete run of Palmiotti and Gray’s Jonah Hex series from the pre-New 52 days in issue format. I think I was the only person in the store who had it on their pull-list at the time. I’m also still digging the hell out of All-Star Western, though that is so cross genre I’m not sure if it counts. I’ll say it does and beg you to read the trades if you haven’t already, as it’s an overlooked gem at DC. Remember Brian Azzarello’s Loveless? I Do, and I loved it enough to get it signed when I met him a few years back. I don’t know if all this has something to do with me being from Texas, but I’ll wager it is a factor. The genre simply speaks to me on a certain level, so when I heard that Kelly Sue DeConnick would be teaming with Emma Rios to write a western book for Image I got real excited real quick. Kelly Sue is one of the finest writers working right now. She’s getting a lot of respect for her work on Captain Marvel which is more than deserved as that book is just aces. DeConnick previously worked with Rios on their Osborne mini-series for Marvel, which was well written and filled with dark, emotive artwork. That team working together on a creator-owned western book was bound to pique my interest.

Issue one drops today and it is a stunning book. I’ve sung the praises of the creator-owned comic renaissance we seem to be in the middle of before when talking about Sex Criminals and Rocket Girl, this book certainly gives credence to my claims. Pretty Deadly is a book that defies genre expectations and utilizes every aspect of the graphic medium to tell a story that is intriguing, beautiful and unlike anything else on the stands. While it is most certainly a western book, elements of more whimsical and introspective genres creep into the text as well. The traveling “blind man” and the young girl evoke Eastern manga and film imagery from “Zatoichi” and “Lone Wolf and Cub.” Considering the history of Japanese and American culture borrowing from each other, with Seven Samurai becoming The Magnificent Seven and Unforgiven being turned into a samurai film called Yurusarezaru mono, this blending of genres feels organic and not at all like a forced mash-up. This also creates a very somber tone that puts it more in line with the modern cinematic western aesthetic of say, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, but with the added twist of a supernatural element.

The closest model that I can reference for the tone of this book is Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. That melding of genres seems similar to what DeConnick and Rios are presenting here, although Pretty Deadly steers mostly clear of absurdity and stays more in line with a feeling of dark fantasy within a western setting. When I say there is nothing like it on the stands, I am not exaggerating. Pretty Deadly is an inventive, original title that deserves all the acclaim that it can handle. I had exceedingly high hopes for this book and they were met on every level. The narrative structure is well crafted and tells an inventive story that plays with genre tropes and conventions without getting trapped in them while the artwork is gorgeous, dark, and evocative of the exact mood this book requires. The creative team really hit the nail on the head.

All things considered, this is the definite pick of the week if not the pick of the month. Do yourself a favor and get your copy today.

Rating: 5/5 


Walking Dead 115 Getting 2nd Print

walking-dead115-second-printingHere’s the deal fellas, comic book sales are tricky. When the report from USA today comes out that says that Walking Dead 115 has sold 352,000 copies and is going back into second printings, I cock an eyebrow and wonder who is being served by this. The book came out on Wednesday and I can tell you with certainty that NOBODY is having trouble finding a copy. My shop ordered 40 copies of every cover. That’s 40×15. 600 copies of a single issue. How many of those 352,000 issues have actually sold at the retailer level? I can’t imagine that this is a scarce issue in any town in America yet. Going to a second print already is simply flooding the market.

On the other side of the spectrum, Amy Reeder and Brandon Montclare’s Rocket Girl also sold out at Diamond and is getting a second print. I don’t have a problem with this, because I don’t think many stores ordered as heavily on that title. Folks might be finding the amazing word of mouth that’s spreading regarding the title online (like our review here, which Amy retweeted because she’s a goddamn sweetheart and an amazing person) or the little segment on the Pop and Schlock Podcast episode 2 where it made the “This Week In Pop Culture” segment.

I’m not going to say that the Walking Dead’s sales aren’t impressive, it is after all the best selling comic of the year now. But that is really only because it has fifteen different covers that retailers ordered in bulk. I’m sure many stores will be sitting on copies a year from now. Before issue 115 came along, the best selling comic of the year was Justice League of America # 1 which sold around 308,000 copies with their “One Variant For Every State” gimmick.

All I’m saying is, look at the smaller books that sell out at diamond. Stuff like Rocket Girl and Rat Queens, because those aren’t sitting on shelves. They’re getting reprints because they need them. I find myself confused by Walking Dead 115 going to a new printing this quickly. Sometimes I just don’t understand the comics business.


Comic Review – Rocket Girl # 1

rocketgirl1I guess we can just say with certainty that we have entered the age of the crowd-funded comic book boom. Kickstarter has really changed the way we look at creator owned books nowadays. The guage for whether the audience is there is built into the concept. If you trust the talent involved and are willing to invest in them, they will repay you with a title that you can then judge with the benefit of knowing what you were getting from the inception.

I think the process has helped the industry in many ways. I think that Kickstarter is going to be the thing that gives creators the opportunity to do everything they deserve to do in the medium. You hear horror stories of books being shot down by editors years ago and you wonder what life they might have had in today’s climate. I’m sure more than a few rejected scripts are finding their way to Kickstarter projects.

Amy Reeder and Brandon Montclare’s Rocket Girl # 1 is definitely a shining example of how Kickstarter can work and work well. Amy and Brandon bring us a book that is unlike anything else on the stands at the moment, a considerable feat if you consider the amazing spread of new books we get each and every week. I have been pumping out review after review for new creator owned books and I have gone on record as saying we’re in the middle of an Image renaissance where in a few years time people will look back and stutter in amazement at how many wildly inventive titles the company released.

The story revolves around an officer in 2013’s New York Teen Police Department who goes back in time to investigate an organization who has allegedly been altering history to grow their influence in the market. The book is the sort of high-concept science fiction that is sorely lacking in today’s comic book market. What is simply amazing is how the scriptwork is vibrant and stylized in a way that matches Reeder’s dazzling art. While Montclare gives us dialog that does a great deal of worldbuilding and allows the characters to become realized to the reader in ways that are both subtle and organic, Amy Reeder does the same thing with the art; it is expressive and stylized in such a manner that it forces the book to stand out and grab the reader’s attention. Much like Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s Sex Criminals, which I applauded a few weeks back, Rocket Girl is a perfect blend of script and art that many other comics simply wish they could attain. The elements that make this book meld into something truly special and leaves us entertained and fulfilled in the way that a monthly comic should.

If you’re looking for a new debut issue to hop onto, I strongly suggest you toss this onto your pull list. I’ve already grabbed a few extra copies to hand out to some friends because I truly do think this is an amazing book that can truly be a cross-genre hit.

Rating: 5/5


Special Edition Review – Sex Criminals # 1

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I spent a good part of my time as a comic book fanatic turning Image Comics into a punchline. We all remember the nineties. Now it has the nostalgic place in our memories the way that previous decades did. You can use the nineties as a period piece now. We’re far enough removed from it to work. The way Scorsese made us look at the seventies and eighties when he made Goodfellas, I can imagine someone doing for the nineties; distilling the time period down to its elements and showing us what we were all too caught up to see. I look at the Image comics output of that era and, generally speaking, it was nonsensical man-child crap that was disposable then and outright embarrassing in hindsight.  So of course as a know-it-all nerd I would joke about how Image was a garbage imprint and that they could never put out anything worth reading. I feel like the last ten years have been a veritable challenge to every notion anyone ever had of Image. Kirkman’s Walking Dead and Invincible were revolutionary. Bendis cut his teeth on Powers there. It has become the creator-owned slice of heaven that the founders of the company intended it to be. Books like Morning Glories, Saga, Lazurus, and Thief of Thieves are the sort of thing that prove creator owned comics can be done to perfection and reinvent ideas associated around a single company. The last ten years have been a controlled burn in making me eat my words about Image as a company.

Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s Sex Criminals is going to be another one of those books from Image that makes everyone sit up and take notice. While DC comics relies on gimmick covers to sell books with characters that nobody recognizes and Marvel works harder on mining their character catalog out for TV and Film adaptations, real visual storytelling is taking comics in the direction it needs to go and the one company publishing those books right now is Image. Fraction and Zdarsky give us a book that is unlike anything else on the stands. Visually or narratively, I dare you to find something that compares. The voice of our lead character recounts the story of her oddball sexual education in comedic and dramatic flashbacks that give us a good sense of who she is as a fully realized concept before ever getting to the crux of the book’s premise. We learn that she finds herself stuck in time, a swirling mass of colors and euphoria enveloping her as she reaches sexual climax. This is obviously a frightening and unnerving experience for her, one for which there is no context or assistance readily available. Suzanne is mysterious, and a mystery herself, but she is also fully fleshed out and her quirks and tics seem like logical and organic reactions to stimulus from the character’s background. The dialog that spews forth from her may seem hyper-realistic in the style of a Diablo Cody screenplay at times, but while Juno was just some quirky teenager, Suzanne’s sensibilities and personality traits can be traced back to her childhood trauma. What we see of her is a mix of the shield she puts up to cover her pain and frustration as well as the resigned true self that she tries not to let slip. This is a well written, character-driven book. Matt Fraction has really outdone himself here.

Chip Zdarsky’s artwork makes the book sing though. His artwork is unlike anything you will see at DC or Marvel. His line-work is crisp and doesn’t fall into the overly realistic post-Hitch style that we see so much of nowadays but instead presents us with clean artwork that flows from panel to panel effortlessly. He has a mastery of body language and facial expression that this book requires to truly work. Suzanne emotes more than a little bit with her body and a look in her eyes or the sloop of her shoulders holds as much meaning as any of her dialog. This is a book about sex, after all, and how important are the little details like the positioning of a hand or the angle of someone’s face when trying to convey a sense of intimacy? Zdarsky seems to understand this and peppers the book with expressive, emotive artwork that may not be everybody’s cup of tea but serves this book better than any artist out there right now.

In all seriousness, this is a compelling book. If you like truly well written characters and intriguing stories I suggest you buy this issue. My shop ordered a metric ton of them. Because myself and the store manager believe that the market for good, outside-the-box comics is only growing and we want people to have the opportunity to read something like this at its debut. Don’t kick yourself like you do for not getting in on Walking Dead, Invincible, or Saga at the ground floor. Pick this one up and remember just how engaging comic books can be.

Rating: 10/10


Trade Review – The Manhattan Projects vol. 1

Jonathan Hickman is one of those writers who seemingly exploded onto the scene a few years back from out of nowhere. His work for image with The Nightly News and Transhuman marked him as a fresh new talent with a different sort of perspective. He had a unique style that garnered the attention of just about everyone and now a few years later he is considered one of Marvel’s brightest writers, handling major projects and a-list characters. Despite the fact that he is writing multiple titles for one of the big two, Hickman seemingly has an unquenchable desire to write his own original stories and his Marvel workload doesn’t seem to slow him down a bit.

With The Manhattan Projects, Hickman teams with Nick Pitarra to give us an alternative reality version of the development of the atomic bomb. Honestly, the story feels like something that Warren Ellis would put out. Hickman’s voice still rings clear but there is something different in the plotting from his previous work that is easily noticed. The chapter breaks and title cards are straight out of his wheelhouse but the dialog seems to be divergent from his usual style. It’s more highly articulated and animated. It doesn’t have the poetic sense of reality that I tend to absorb from Hickman’s usual fare.

Personally I found the story to be somewhat derivative. I had the unavoidable feeling that I had read all of this before. While the story is supposed to be a new take on old history, the style in which it was performed made it feel like every other alternate history story you’ve ever seen before. There is not much new here. Nothing that surprises. Which is the only thing that sets it apart from everything else that Hickman has written in recent memory.

It is not a bad book, by any means. It just isn’t the sort of A-grade material that I expect from Hickman. There is a lot to like here, if you know what you’re getting into ahead of time.


Comic Review Double-Shot

I Do Not Actually Look Like Jesse Custer

I haven’t done day-and-date reviews for individual comics in a while. I get my books mail-0rder nowadays for financial and convenience reasons and I only rarely will pick up a book off of the rack. Usually it’s when I have some spare cash laying around and want to give something different a chance. Today I got some issues that I initially passed on because I didn’t have the cash for them in my budget at the time.

AVENGING SPIDER-MAN # 9
STORY BY Kelly Sue DeConnick
ART BY Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson
COLORS BY Edgar Delgado
LETTERS BY VC – Joe Caramagna
COVER BY Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson
PUBLISHER Marvel Comics
COVER PRICE:$3.99

Next week sees the first issue of Carol Danvers’ turn as Captain Marvel. This week gives us a sort of primer as she teams up with Spider-Man in a fun little issue written by Kelly Sue DeConnick, who will be handling the ongoing series as well. I have said that while I don’t consider myself one of those “shipper” fans, I would totally support Peter Parker and Carol Danvers as a couple. Their banter and flirtations are often a delight to read, especially if they’re written by someone who gets the voice of those characters individually.  Kelly Sue does. She’s one of the writers at Marvel who can seemingly write any character with ease and put them into a story that is fun and breezy in a more classic tradition that eschews the post Bendis style that seems to find its way into every book no matter who is actually penning it.

Avenging Spider-Man # 9 feels like a classic issue of Marvel Team-Up in all the right ways. The story centers around Peter and Carol going for a flight in Carol’s new junker of a plane when they find themselves caught in a dispute between a young lady who has had a brush with the law and a private security firm trying to bring her in. It is a fun read and a welcome change from what I’ve been reading from Marvel at the moment. I’m hoping that trend continues with the ongoing series. Kelly Sue has set the stage for something that could easily be just as good or better than the last volume of Ms. Marvel which I enjoyed from end-to-end.

REVIVAL # 1
STORY BY Tim Seeley
ART BY Mike Norton
COVER BY Jenny Frison, Craig Thompson
PUBLISHER Image Comics
COVER PRICE:$2.99
SYNOPSIS: For one day in rural central Wisconsin, the dead came back to life. Now it’s up to Officer Dana Cypress to deal with the media scrutiny, religious zealots, and government quarantine that has come with them. In a town where the living have to learn to deal with those who are supposed to be dead, Officer Cypress must solve a brutal murder, and everyone, alive or undead, is a suspect. A beautiful “farm noir” that puts a new twist on the zombie genre, created by NYT Bestselling author TIM SEELEY and acclaimed artist MIKE NORTON. 

Tim Seeley has made a name for himself on Hack/Slash and I bought this based off of that reputation alone. I haven’t been following his run on Witchblade, but this seemed more up my alley. Revival seems like it fits more into the mold of Image comics like The Walking Dead in that there is definitely a lot of world building being done but the core of the series is going to be centered around the interactions of our main characters. The danger with something like that is that you have to give people something to like. I wouldn’t say that Seeley’s character work is the best thing about Hack/Slash. The characters there are somewhat thin but the reader is still able to connect. In this series, Seeley has severely stepped up his game. Right off the bat we are given small looks at Dana and her personal life that make her immediately relate-able. She has family issues aplenty as well as personal issues relating to her own personal successes. This is one of the best first issues of a new comic I have read since Chew with regards to getting a sense of character.

Revival is definitely worth a look. It isn’t just another zombie book. To even use that term in association with it is somewhat misleading. This is a horror book, to be sure. I’ll even admit that parts gave me goosebumps. It’s been a while since I’ve read something that did that. Aside from the character work, Seeley has done a great job setting the mood here. Mike Norton’s illustration of the gore really hammers it home as well. I think this one could very well be one of the best things to come out of Image in a good long while.

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So there you are. Go buy those things. You won’t regret it.


Trade Review – Morning Glories vol. 3 : P.E.

Morning Glories Vol. 3: P.E. TP

Story by:Nick Spencer
Art By:Joe Eisma
Cover By:Rodin Esquejo
Price: $14.99

Synopsis: The critically acclaimed smash hit series rolls on with this collection of the blockbuster third arc, “P.E.!” The first days were just the beginning – when the faculty cancel classes and send the students on an outing in the nearby woods, all hell breaks loose – sending the Glories on a mysterious journey through time and space. Nothing is what it seems to be as Academy’s hold on the kids collapses and new threats emerge! Collects MORNING GLORIES #13-19

I hopped onto Morning Glories with issue one and found myself immediately hooked. While many people seem to call this the Lost of the comic world, I get a more clear and present feeling that much of the book is an homage to The Prisoner. The themes of isolation from the outside world and the mystery of the protagonists’ prison seems to fall more in line with that show than J.J. Abrams’ big hit. Though with this volume more than any other, the presence of time travel as a plot element seems to push it closer into that territory. The only thing is that the manner which it is conducted leaves us feeling less frustrated because we are told from the outset that it will be an omnipresent theme.

Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma have created a book that is damned hard to put down. This volume could have been called the book of revelations, as we get a deeper look at many of the characters origins. While the book likes to play in a mysterious sandbox, it never withholds information in a way that frustrates the reader. The pacing is truly out of this world. Now, I say that with the full disclosure that I stopped reading the monthlies around issue twelve because of budget constraints as well as my own feeling that the story reads far better as a collected edition. That isn’t a slam. None of this feels decompressed or drawn out. The pacing and the suspense would work just as well in individual issues, and now would be a great time to jump on board as things are really starting to heat up.

I think what anybody can appreciate about the series is the way the stakes are continually raised and conventions find themselves getting flipped from issue to issue. Totally unlikable characters get moments of humility and sympathy and you may find yourself questioning whether or not someone you liked was really so likable at all. Nick Spencer truly does know how to plot out a narrative and fill it with amazing character work. It’s no wonder he’s established himself as such a major talent so rapidly. I don’t think I’ve read anything he’s penned that I didn’t enjoy. His voice is a perfect fit for this medium and this is one of the best examples of his top tier writing. His pairing with Joe Eisma is a master stroke of genius as well. Eisma’s style is a perfect match for the tone of the book. His style reminds me of the Luna Brothers but fair more detailed. I adore small flourishes he will add to panels, such as the random insert of Kat Dennings’ 2 Broke Girls character into a diner scene. His art has personality and it serves the book well.

I recommend people pick up all three of these trades and give the series a go if they haven’t already. It lives up to the hype it has garnered and I think that in a few years time we’ll all be talking about what an amazing run it really was. I don’t know when the endpoint for the series is but I’ll keep reading as long as they keep putting it out.


Review – Queen Crab

I try to support Jimmy Palmiotti when I can. The guy is a class act all around and I very rarely dislike his output. This particular endeavor was a Kickstarter funded project that I went into completely blind based off of the faith I have in Jimmy’s creative potential. The guy has a sharp mind and a narrative style that I can really get behind. This particular book feels like something unlike what you normally get with a standalone graphic novel in that while it tells a complete story it leaves you with more questions than you may be willing to tolerate.

It’s a brisk read, not at all what you would call dense but featuring a lot of Palmiotti’s trademarks. The dialogue is raw and rugged, the characters are all flawed human beings that don’t fit into any easily identifiable category, and the crux of the narrative is centered around something far outside the realm of normalcy. The twisted sci-fi element of the book comes out of nowhere and is played completely straight, with little effort made to construct it as a mystery that needs to be unraveled. Instead it seems like a setup for that mystery to be handled later after the business at hand is taken care of. This doesn’t have the finality of something like Palmiotti’s “Random Acts of Violence” for example. It seems like an extended first issue of a comic book series that will run for a few issues before reaching a point of closure. I don’t know if there is any plan for further installments with the character because, as I said earlier, I went in completely blind. It’s not a book that everyone will love. It’s a book that will challenge even folks who are big fans of Palmiotti’s regular work.

But, the price tag is extremely reasonable and it’s a nice enough change of pace from the norm that I feel comfortable recommending it. Just know that your expectations are probably going to be subverted in some way because the book simply isn’t conventional in most respects and for that I have to give it a thumbs up.


Walking Dead Season Two, Part One – An Analysis

Sunday saw the mid-season finale of season two of AMC’s The Walking Dead. I am going to state outright that this little analysis is going to have HUGE SPOILERS peppered throughout so if you have no watched the whole of season two up to the mid-season finale I would advise against reading this entry until you have gotten yourself caught up. Or perhaps you realized half-way through that you couldn’t stand the show and just want to read this to see if the rest of the season is worth watching and you don’t care about spoilers. I don’t know you, but I want to warn everyone before I get into everything.

So we’re clear on the spoilers then?

Good.

Can I just say that, from a structural standpoint, Walking Dead season two was an unmitigated mess? Here’s what I want to get out of the way. I don’t have a problem with soap-opera level drama. If the acting is up to snuff and the events unfolding are handled in a way that follows the basic tenets of narrative structure, I don’t really have a problem with heightened or manufactured drama. The central conflicts of this season; Shane’s feelings of rejection and his decent into pure id driven savagery, the theme of secrets and their destructive effect on society as presented by Lori’s pregnancy as well as the “walkers in the barn” scenario, the anguish over a missing child and the decision on how much time to spend searching, all of these things are fine concepts to mine in a television show.

So why did these episodes leave such a foul taste in my mouth?

I feel that I should point out that I read the hardcover collections of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead before the season started. That series, for the most part, moves at a breakneck pace that essentially forces the reader to turn the page because things are happening so fast that you don’t have an opportunity to be bored by what is unfolding. The story beats are handled well and the pacing never feels off, with a few exceptions. If there is one thing that they did not translate from page to screen, it is the idea of acceptable pacing.

Walking Dead season two is essentially hobbled by the fact that the drama, as engrossing as it may have been, is stretched so thin in an attempt to pad out the series to fit its episode run that it borders on the edge of making the series a tedious bore. In just about every episode there are perhaps five to ten minutes of simply amazing television. But the rest of the episode is filled with instances of drama being repeated in different scenarios in an effort to fill time. I don’t know how many times Shane and Lori had the same conversation. This goes for Herschel and Rick as well. They keep repeating the same beats on the same element of the story so many times that, I’ll be honest, the episodes tend to run together in terms of identity. There is nothing in any of the episodes that makes them stand out. Usually you can isolate a turning point, or a moment where the story takes a dramatic shift. This season has had those moments, but they become overshadowed by the poor handling of the fallout. Carl’s shooting at the end of the first episode loses its impact when for the next two or three episodes we’re treated to multiple scenes of Herschel explaining how dire the situation is and Rick and Lori obsessing about it. Later in the season we’re subjected to multiple repeats of the same conversation between Rick and Herschel about whether the group will be allowed to stay at the farm. The same reasons presented by both parties seem to be repeated incessantly. It dilutes the effect of the drama as a result.

This technique of repetition smacks of the high school student writing an essay and constantly repeating his points with slightly altered wording in order to pad his paper out to the teacher’s required length. It doesn’t make the paper better, it just makes it longer. That’s the nutshell problem of Walking Dead season two. The key elements of the show that actually worked could have cut the episode count from seven down to four. There are literally HOURS of runtime that amount to nothing more than unnecessary padding. I understand the need to build drama. That is not the issue here. The issue is the technique in which they attempted to foster tension that actually had the opposite effect.

Walking Dead is a good show that is smothered by bad elements. It is easy to understand the desire to stretch the material for television. The producers would have you believe it is because they want to exploit the ability of television to slowly build things over an extended period of time. I have no opposition to that idea. Other shows do it quite well. But you don’t get the sense of wasted dialog and padded narrative structure from shows like Breaking Bad. The mid-season finale ended on an excellent note, which is very smart because if they hadn’t hit a home run in the last few minutes of the episode it is doubtful that most of the audience would return next spring for the second half of the season.


Weekly Comic Reviews

Yesterday I bought a statue. Yeah. I didn’t have a whole lot of comics this week to put my money into so I bought that Bowen designed Kitty Pryde with Lockheed statue. It’s amazing. Okay, well, I didn’t BUY it as much as make a down payment because the thing is expensive as hell. But it’s a twelve inch statue so I should have expected the damned price to be up there in the multiple digits. I’m rambling again. This happens usually whenI know there’s not much in the way of substance to put into the review section. Check out the pull list and guess why.

ARRIVALS 12-08-2010
BATGIRL #16 2.99
HALCYON #2 2.99
LADY MECHANIKA #1  2.99
NEW AVENGERS #7 3.99
SHADOWLAND AFTER FALL #1 3.99
THOR #618 3.99
THOR MIGHTY AVENGER #7 2.99
WIDOWMAKER #1 (OF 4) 3.99

Yeah, a whopping eight books total. You can thank the light week for the reviews being on time at least, I suppose that counts for something.

HALCYON # 2

I’m really glad I picked this up. This book is a perfect example of the world that exists due to a series of books having been published over time. Specifically this is the child that Watchmen, Wildcats, The Authority, and The Ultimates spawned. As an Image title, we expect a certain tone and attitude from the book, and it’s there in place but at the same time it seems to be making a statement on the way modern comics work. The story of malice being erased and thus making the superheroes obsolete runs parallel to the current feeling that perhaps the overwhelming negativity and bleak cynicism of the modern comic reader is making them obsolete as well. The book seems to be working out in a way that champions the idea of things running their course in due time. It’s a thesis that warns that if things don’t change, nature will erase their usefulness.

It’s good to see Image is publishing so many great titles again. Image more than any company has re-invented itself in the last few years. With Invincible, Chew, The Walking Dead, as well as new titles like this one and Morning Glories, they’ve proved that there is an audience for books that don’t fit the mold that Marvel and DC seem to have poured by pushing writers like Bendis and Johns to the forefront. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with either of those writers, it can’t be argued that they don’t write for the masses in a way that makes the overall product seem diluted and repetitive.

Halcyon, along with the rest of the Image books I’m addicted to at the moment, do a great job of breaking from the norm and that is where their true value lies.

LADY MECHANIKA # 1

Aspen Comics have a certain tone in the same way that Image books do. There is a pattern that is followed in the style that tries to echo that of the late Michael Turner. The artists seem to subscribe to his school of thought in the way they design and push the product. Michael Turner was a nice guy who I was lucky enough to meet before his untimely passing and it pains me to speak ill of the departed but I was never a fan of his style when it came to interior artwork. I love his covers, and always will. It’s the same with Alex Ross in that regard. But the Turner style doesn’t do anything for me as far as interior storytelling. There’s shades of his work here in Lady Mechanika but at the same time it’s not a carbon copy. While I find that the style is all too familiar, as is the steampunk setting, the book itself is interesting and does a good job of giving us interesting characters that feel developed enough to care about, which is a problem a lot of books can’t seem to overcome.

I can say that steampunk fans will immediately love this book, as far as anybody else, that remains to be seen. I think fans of Warren Ellis would enjoy the backwards retro-science sensibilities of the story and I think fans of Turner would appreciate the style and tone. The uninitiated could go either way. It’s $2.99, so you could do worse for your dollar. That much is certain.

NEW AVENGERS # 7

This issue is nothing but talking but all of that is okay because Squirrel Girl is in this issue. So is D-Man. Seriously, for that alone you ought to pick this one up. I can’t really go into more detail than that because I’m still fanboy-ing out over the Squirrel Girl thing. Bendis basically implied that she and Wolverine did the horizontal mambo, so he’s my hero at the moment.

Blah Blah Blah, I have nothing to say that doesn’t include Squirrel Girl.Blah Blah Blah, I have nothing to say that doesn’t include Squirrel Girl.Blah Blah Blah, I have nothing to say that doesn’t include Squirrel Girl.Blah Blah Blah, I have nothing to say that doesn’t include Squirrel Girl.Blah Blah Blah, I have nothing to say that doesn’t include Squirrel Girl.Blah Blah Blah, I have nothing to say that doesn’t include Squirrel Girl.Blah Blah Blah, I have nothing to say that doesn’t include Squirrel Girl.Blah Blah Blah, I have nothing to say that doesn’t include Squirrel Girl.Blah Blah Blah, I have nothing to say that doesn’t include Squirrel Girl.Blah Blah Blah, I have nothing to say that doesn’t include Squirrel Girl.Blah Blah Blah, I have nothing to say that doesn’t include Squirrel Girl.Blah Blah Blah, I have nothing to say that doesn’t include Squirrel Girl.Blah Blah Blah, I have nothing to say that doesn’t include Squirrel Girl.Blah Blah Blah, I have nothing to say that doesn’t include Squirrel Girl.Blah Blah Blah, I have nothing to say that doesn’t include Squirrel Girl.Blah Blah Blah, I have nothing to say that doesn’t include Squirrel Girl.

WIDOWMAKER # 1

While I’m sad to see Hawkeye and Black Canary Mockingbird go, at least they’re getting a proper sendoff in what seems to be one of the more intriguing miniseries of the last few months. Someone is killing off spies in the Marvel universe and so Hawkeye, Mockingbird, her team of espionage masters and the Black Widow must team up to stop it all before it’s too late. The premise is simple but the manner that the action is handled makes it a step above what it might have been under lesser writers. The fact that they’re dealing with the Ronin identity that Hawkeye took up for a while makes me happy, as I was wondering what the hell they were going to be doing with that following Barton’s return to his original mantle.

New readers should be able to follow the action easily, it’s not so entrenched in any particular character’s lore to the point where you can’t pick up the plot threads. Everything seems to be handled organically within the story in a way that makes it seem like the first issue of a new ongoing series. They know they have to inform new readers but they don’t spend time bombarding you with unnecessary exposition. That sort of thing kills momentum and its better to just go with the flow in instances such as these.

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And that’s it for this week. I hope you enjoyed my words.


The Walking Dead Comes Alive

Group Shot!

On Sunday evening I, along with every-fucking-body in the world, watched the AMC premiere of The Walking Dead. The small screen adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s comic hit was everything you would expect out of a TV show helmed by Frank Darabont. It’s like Boardwalk Empire over at HBO. Did anyone expect a show masterminded by Martin mothereffing Scorcese to not knock it out of the park? The same principle applies to The Walking Dead, as it’s a masterful translation, with the finely tuned raw grit that made The Mist so gutwrenching back on display here. The man has a well developed sense of what makes horror scenarios so intense. The zombies themselves here, which are really some top of the line practical effects by the way, aren’t what’s scary. It’s the sense of overwhelming change. The sense of loss. The sense of distrust between the survivors. Darabont slathers on that sort of attention to detail and gives us an unrelenting drama.

The show itself is obviously amazing, but the turnout for the show is what is truly spectacular. It garnered the highest ratings for a cable premiere this year and it’s the best debut AMC has ever had. Don Draper can go suck a veiny zombie dong because The Walking Dead is a certified hit. In the weeks leading up to the event I figured that the comic nerds of the world would tune in, but I wasn’t sure it would find a mainstream audience, what with the fact that the previews that AMC was running for the show didn’t really show off much beyond it being a generic zombie apocalypse drama. But it looks like we’ll be getting a long healthy run for the series and I’m hoping that it will make it long enough to get to the prison arc. If the conclusion to that particular story doesn’t make for some of the best TV on record I’ll eat my hat.

And for those of you wondering, the reason I used the above image is because I wanted to see if anyone noticed the corgi in a lobster costume someone photoshopped in.


Weekly Comic Reviews

I Do Not Actually Look Like Jesse Custer

Man, this week has been intense. I’ve been working on some major renovations inside the store, trying to make room for all the cool new shipments of figures and statues and assorted awesomeness that’s set to be hitting the shelves within the next month or so, which has left my body sore and weak from the labor. I’m not sure if you know this, but comic books in bulk start to get heavy. Especially hardcover collections. I swear it felt like moving baby cows on my shoulder at some points. But it all was worth it for how great the new setups look and the fact that this week’s new books are pretty much the pinnacle of awesome.

ARRIVALS 6-9-2010
ASTONISHING X-MEN XENOGENESIS #2 (OF 5) 3.99
AVENGERS ACADEMY #1 HA 3.99
BATGIRL #11 2.99
BATMAN #700 (NOTE PRICE) 4.99
BOOSTER GOLD #33 2.99
CAPTAIN AMERICA #606 HA 3.99
CHRONICLES OF CONAN TP VOL 19 DEATHMARK  17.99
DAREDEVIL #507 2.99
DOOM PATROL WE WHO ARE ABOUT TO DIE TP 14.99
HACK SLASH MY FIRST MANIAC #1 (OF 4) CVR A (MR) 3.5
INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #27 HA 2.99
JUSTICE LEAGUE GENERATION LOST #3 (BRIGHTEST DAY) 2.99
NEMESIS #2 (OF 4) (MR) 2.99
PREDATORS #1 (OF 4) 2.99
PUNISHERMAX #8 (MR) 3.99
SECRET SIX #22 2.99
SHIELD #2 2.99
ULTIMATE COMICS AVENGERS 2 #3 3.99
ULTIMATE COMICS SPIDER-MAN #11 3.99
UNCANNY X-MEN #525 XSC 2.99
YOUNG ALLIES #1 HA 3.99

And as always, I will tell you why you should buy things.


AVENGERS ACADEMY # 1

Wasn’t initially going to get this one, but Christos Gage is one of those writers who has a tendency to churn out some amazing stuff out of concepts I initially hesitated on. He’s a solid writer who is well on his way to getting the name recognition he deserves. With Avengers Academy, he may have found that project.

If there is one flaw with the book it’s simply that, by nature, it’s sort of the black sheep of the Avengers family. The “heavy hitters” in the book as far as star power goes are Hank Pym, Justice and a newly reformed Speedball. Gage plays with this by saying that we’ll get some big names as “guest instructors” over the course of the book, to show that those characters care about the events transpiring in the book, so we should as well. LISTEN TO CAPTAIN AMERICA! HE’S ALWAYS RIGHT!

So yeah, the book has that hurdle to overcome in the mind of the financially conscious fanboy, who may not view the book as “essential reading.” But the book hits all the notes it aims for, and the new characters introduced in the book are all interesting and get a fair share of development in their debut. Reptil shows up, having gained some exposure through the Superhero Squad cartoon. Other members of the group seem to establish their niche right away, with Finesse and Hazmat being the darker foils to Reptil, Mettle and our primary protagonist Veil. Personally I think Mettle has the chance to grow into a really great character. He seems to echo the greatness that Rockslide projected back in New X-Men.

The reasoning behind using these characters, and why the program exists, parallels the Heroic Age’s overall theme of rectifying the wrongs of the Dark Reign era. It probably won’t be the theme for too long, as the status quo will likely shift again fairly soon, but it’s an excellent way to get the ball rolling and they’ve hooked me in for another one.

700 Issues
BATMAN # 700

Man, this one was epic. It’s not exactly a new-reader friendly jumping-on point as one would figure, as it hearkens back to Grant Morrison’s issue # 666 as well as the two-part Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader arc and we even get a segment (albeit a short one) that jumps into the Batman Beyond universe. It’s a veritable garbage-bag cocktail where every last drop of alcohol at the party gets mixed together in the hopes of making a concoction that will give you a kicking buzz without making you go blind.

The story has time travel, the Joker acting bat-shit insane, an appearance from the Mutants that harkens back to The Dark Knight Returns, Two-Face 2 who may be the greatest idea for a new villain that won’t be able to recur due to where he made his debut, and an amazing pin-up art gallery at the back end featuring drawings by some of the greatest artists ever to draw the Dark Knight.

I wish this review could be longer, but honestly the book is one that you have to read for yourselves. I don’t think it is an issue that everyone will enjoy, but I think that it’s definitely a ballsy choice for an anniversary issue this large. If nothing else, it’s definitely worth a read just for the sake of seeing if you understand what the hell was going on.

606
CAPTAIN AMERICA # 606

Captain America has been firing on all cylinders for around five years now. Brubaker knows that book like the back of his hand and refuses to let up. This issue deals with the fallout from the last arc where Bucky had to put an end to an evil Steve Rogers clone with a bullet to the dome. It doesn’t sit well with Bucky, as you can imagine the boy has some issues when it comes to Captain America dying, real or not.

While all this is happening, Baron Zemo seems to be working some machinations, which makes me happy as I friggin’ love Baron Zemo. I hope to god he at least gets name dropped in the Cap movie, because I think he’s just one of the most awesome characters Marvel has. Don’t believe me? Go read some Thunderbolts before Warren Ellis turned it into some sort of twisted abomination from the depths of hell. Zemo is a multi-faceted villain who simply does not get his due nowadays and I’m glad that between this and the new Thunderbolts, he seems to be making a comeback.

My only squabble with this issue is the fact that I’ve not yet determined where the hell it fits in with what’s going on over in Thunderbolts. I’m sure they’ll work that out sooner or later, but for the moment I’m trying to place it myself. With all the time line jumping in the Cap book, it’s a chore for sure. But continuity isn’t as important as everyone makes it out to be, especially when the book is this good.

As for the Nomad backup, I’m certainly enjoying it. I like the world they’ve established there, I’m just tired of Nomad ending up in peril so often due to her own naivety. It’s repetitive. Luckily, she seems to not have that shortcoming over in Young Allies, which I’ve reviewed further down the page.


HACK/SLASH : MY FIRST MANIAC # 1

I’ve been looking forward to this one for a long time. Tim Seeley’s Hack/Slash is one of the more consistantly fun and entertaining books on the rack and when I heard it was moving over to Image, I thought “Oh thank the Lord, something good to read by that company that’s NOT written by Kirkman!” (All praise, be to the Kirkman)

With this mini-series, you get a fresh jumping on point if you’ve ever been interested in reading about Cassie’s exploits bashing the brains of creepy stalkery torture-killers with the aid of her hulking sidekick Vlad, who may currently be my favorite recurring comic character. He’s all kinds of awesome and unfortunately he doesn’t make an appearance in this first issue. He’s probably off in a corner reading Chippy Chipmunk at the moment.

The issue gives us a quick origin storry for Cassie that, while familiar to long-time readers, does not feel repetitive or dull. That was my main concern when the book was announced; that the mini-series would mostly be rehashed from prior events that we had already seen and therefore be of no consequence to those of us who have been onboard since the start.

And while I am certainly familiar with Cassie’s origin, the events presented here seem fresh and new even if parts of it do seem familiar. I like that Seeley is simply moving forward with the series rather than using this label-hop as an excuse to do a reboot. Because as we all know, reboots are all the rage in the horror genre right now. Because everybody wanted a remake of Nightmare on Elm Street, right? Whatever.

Get the book, hop on board now so that you can be like me and stand around telling everybody that they should have been reading this years ago. It’s a fun feeling. A nice boost to the ego. I love it.


YOUNG ALLIES # 1

I picked this one up out of my love for Nomad. I loved her mini-series, I love the backups over in Captain America, and I think that it’s amazing that a character who was borne out of such a horibble event (Heroes Reborn. *shudder*) could end up being such a great addition to the mainstream Marvel landscape. Teaming her up with Araña was a stroke of genius, because that girl, while an interesting concept, needs a foil to work to her fullest potential, as evidenced by her appearances in Ms. Marvel.

The book starts off somewhat dark, giving us the origin of a couple of kids who are ripped from their families and trained to be death soliders for some South American Generalisimo. If it were drawn by someone like Mike Deodato it’d be downright frightening and hard to bear, but artist David Baldeon has a light tone that doesn’t strive to be hyper-detailed or stylized, and so while the impact is effective, it does not make you want to rip out your own soul. This is a comic book after all.

The issue plays out much like New Avengers # 1 did a few years back, with the team being brought together by a single circumstance and a whole lot of coincidence. The formula works well this time around, because even the villains remark before they pul their caper that they’re looking for heroes to be in the area and expect them to show up. It’s a little touch that makes the book run a lot smoother.

Between this and Avengers Academy, Marvel seems to be doing all they can to get their readership invested in the next generation of Marvel heroes. Meanwhile, DC is probably trying to find a way to kill off Jaime Reyes. The butchers.

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So there you have it. Go out and buy those things. From my store if possible. That’d make me happy. I’ll give you a hug. (*hugs not available on days ending in “y”)

What Would You Write?

Me...Most of the time...

Yesterday while working in the shop, a discussion formulated about this blog and my attitudes toward certain writers or characters. The conversation inevitably led to the question, if I were writing for DC or Marvel, what character would I most like to write and who says I could do any better than the people writing that title at this very moment.

The real truth is that while I absolutely adore the characters of DC and Marvel, I don’t have any true aspiration outside of perhaps a childhood fantasy wish fulfillment scenario to write those characters. I don’t think I’m particularly well suited to writing in that particular field. Not because I dislike serialization or don’t think that I have stories that fit the characters, because I do, but moreso because I would rather self-publish a book entirely of my own design in the mold of fellow Houston writer/artist Terry Moore, or have an original creation published through Image or some other publisher.

I am in fact working on the script for such a series, though I don’t know how I plan to publish it. Either through the same company that I used to print my first novel or to shop it around to publishers like Image. I suppose I need to get an artist on board first, as that would be a major part of getting the thing published in the first place.

But back to that original question, if tomorrow I got a call from the people at Marvel or DC and they said they wanted me to pitch them a story for a character of my choosing, who would I choose to write? Everyone here should know how much I absolutely love Batman. I mean, the first film I can remember seeing was the 1989 Batman movie with Jack Nicholson and Michael Keaton. I’m currently wearing my “lucky” bat-symbol boxers as I type this. But I don’t think that I would be able to take the reins of Batman either in his main book or even in an ancilliary mini-series due to the fact that there’s too much hovering over my head in terms of expectations, and I fear that immediately following my run some big name writer would erase my work with the stroke of a pen and all my writing would have been for naught. And were I to do a mini-series it would likely be regarded as insignificant and passed over.

The same goes for characters like Captain America or Spider-Man over at Marvel. I’d be so intimidated by the legacy of those characters that putting my name on the book would render me into a quivering neurological mess.

So who would I like to write?

Over at DC, there’s only one choice:

Comics Con Power Girl

That’s right damnit, Power Girl.

Why? Because I love fun characters, and PG is one of the most fun DC has to offer. I feel like she has been written extremely well by some really talented people, especially the current creative team, whom I will be sad to see depart with this week’s issue # 12.  That having been said, there is plenty of room for expansion on the character. I think that there are many writers who are two quick to see what’s been done with her and reduce the book to a one note joke or they don’t know what to do with the character at all.

I would like to take hold of Power Girl and expand on the great work that Jimmy and Justin have done, and bring her to prominence in a way that makes it hard for her to be ingnored in the grander scheme of the DCU. Essentially do for her what Marvel has done for Ms. Marvel lately. Her book may not have been a mega-seller but it did raise her level of recognition and ingrain her into the rest of the shared universe, making her a central character. PG may be a member of the JSA but she’s not popping up in other books simply because she’s such a public figure in the whole of the DC universe.

In the grand scheme of things I suppose most of the characters I would most enjoy to write would be the ones who have been written well in the past but aren’t really very prominent when you look at the progression of the shared universe as a whole. Over at Marvel I’d love to write She-Hulk, Wonder Man, and I’d really like to try my hand at The Runaways even though I know that the internet would condemn my writing before a page ever hit the stands.

Will any of this ever come to fruition? Probably not. I think my teeth gnashing towards Geoff Johns has essentially black-listed me there at DC, and I’ve been fairly vocal about my displeasure with Marvel from time to time. I’ll have to publish my own horse-crap from here until the end of time.

Such is life.


HTML Comics and Online Comics Piracy

Yarr. Pirates.

Before it got shut down by the FBI earlier this week, HTMLComics.com was a website that specialized in putting online, for free, older comics from just about every major publisher and other more obscure ones as well. The site reportedly saw traffic in the numbers of over 1 million hits per day.

Per. Day.

To put that in perspective, this site never hits that amount of traffic per month.  Granted, we’re a newer site and we are growing exponentially each month, but that’s PennyArcade traffic there. I think that is a fundamental statement on the comic book reading community. Let’s not kid ourselves, comics are popular right now. The geek chic thing hasn’t crashed and burned yet and Iron Man 2 opened to $52 million dollars on opening day.  The market is there for the material, the culture however is diverging from the traditional business model due to a shift in the mindset of the modern consumer. You see, it seems like the majority of the populace thinks that piracy is a victimless crime. The majority of people who pirate content, any content, is that if they never intended to buy the product in the first place and only obtain it because it was free, you’re only depriving a creator of money they never would have handed over in the first place. It’s roundabout logic, and in some twisted way I think it makes a little sense. There is a part of me that wants people to be able to experience art, whether it’s music or film or comic books, no matter how they get it. The only problem with that is that people work very hard to produce that art and they deserve to be compensated. That includes retailers. People who work in comic stores like I do need to see people come in and pick up the books. I want to see the medium proliferate, but at the same time I want to see it expand through my doors. I harbor a bit of animosity toward Barnes and Noble and the like for being able to undercut our prices for trades and graphic novels. Casual readers tend to gravitate to them rather than us because they don’t need the things we offer, like back issues and snarky commentary.

But at least it’s legal and nobody is getting fucked over. It’s competition between retailers, that’s about it. They may offer good intro deals on new trades and graphics, but they don’t stock bulk like my store does. They don’t have out of print first editions like we do. But what good comes of a guy who scans old issues and uploads them for free? Erik Larsen of Image comics called HTML Comics “the greatest comic book website on the face of the earth!” on the Image Comics message boards. His Savage Dragon issue were hosted on that server. He didn’t seem to mind too terribly much. He considered the site a great resource, both for fans and creators. Image, coincidentally enough, was not part of the coalition of publishers who lawyered up to shut the site down. DC, Marvel, Dark Hourse, etc., all put their differences aside to combat a site that flaunted it’s illegal activity claiming legal loopholes prevented it from technically being an act of copyright infringement. The FBI raid obviously proved their claims wrong.

So what can we take away from all this? Prices are restrictive to the readership, both new and old. If product could be made available, in a manner that was cheaper than what the average is now, you would see an uptick of purchasing. A dollar an issue versus four? That’s a no brainer. It’s like when the Marvel Omnibi went on sale at Amazon for 10 bucks a pop, people turned out in droves to buy them. That glitch proved that value can attract mass sales. Perhaps an inventive approach to the digital distribution model is worth looking into.

I can’t tell anyone what to do; in regards to their illegal activities or their buying habits. I just want to point out that there is room for new ideas. Someone just has to put them to work.


CCQ picks the Top 5 stories of 2009

CCQ Top 5 of 2009:

Alright, the year has ended and thus it’s time for me to round up the year and present my top 5 picks for the best stories of the year. Now, this being comics we’re talking about, some things get a little tricky when it comes to if  a particular story should be eligible. For example, I will not include BLACKEST NIGHT on this list, no matter how many people claim it as the best of the year, because it hasn’t ended yet. (That and I don’t go ga-ga over it the way some people do. It’s an okay enough story, but it hasn’t given me the unending nerdgasm everyone has told me I should be experiencing over it.)
So here we go!

5. “Invincible Iron Man : World’s Most Wanted” (Marvel)
Iron Man, Iron Man, Does Whatever An Iron Can!
[Buy It At Amazon]

Matt Fraction has done something that I didn’t think was possible in the comic medium; he wrote an Iron Man story that people will actually remember. Do you know how many of those actually exist? To my knowlege the only two story arcs anybody can name as being of any lasting quality are “Demon in a Bottle” and “Armor Wars.” Perhaps the stuff with Doom, but I really only love that one because I love me some Doom. Seriously, that guy does not get the treatment he deserves. How many GREAT Doom stories can you count? He and Tony should totally hook up and make little underappreciated babies.

When it comes to “World’s Most Wanted,” (hereafter refered to as WMW because I think that acronym looks cool) Matt Fraction gives us a breakneck paced thriller that would work as a James Bond or Jason Bourne film. The protagonist being up against the wall makes for some great character moments, showing just how Tony Stark deals with such things, as well as forcing the narrative forward in ways that wouldn’t work with the hero on level ground.

I cannot recommend this one enough. Even if you don’t normally read Iron Man, this one is definately worth checking out. It’s as good as it gets in modern Marvel comics. No joke.

4. Filthy Rich (Vertigo Crime)
She Got Some Purty Lips...
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The Vertigo Crime line kicked off with a bang with Brian Azzarello’s “FILTHY RICH,” the story of an ex football star turned car-salesman who gets suckered into a job as a bodyguard that quickly devolves into some of the girttiest noir this side of a Raymond Chandler novel.

Azzarello cranks up the noir to eleven and artist Victor Santos utilizes the stark black and white pallatte to create a world that positivly drips with dirt and grime. It’s a harsh reality filled with harsh people and as a reader you can’t help but be drawn in by the intricacies of the story, and believe me when I tell you that this is not a simple book. Don’t judge the book by it’s size, the scope and content contained within this graphic novel is mindblowing and it’s something you’ll want to go back and read again just to pick up on new details.

3. INCOGNITO (Icon)

You've Got Red On YOu
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I want to punch Ed Brubaker in the trachea. Or maybe in the kidneys. I dunno, somewhere painful. As a writer who labors to write even the most trite of a narrative, I hate Ed Brubaker for being able to consistantly and constantly put out such great material, and the fact that he does so mutliple times a month is enough to drive me into a seething rage not seen outside of a Tea-Party protest. Seriously, Bru, you suck.

“Incognito” re-teams Brubaker with Sean Philips, his collaborator from the equally amazing “Sleeper” and “Criminal” series. The art is perfectly suited to the world that Ed creates, it’s a sort of murky realm where people like this seem natural and organic, like they were born out of the scenery to play out the story that their God, Ed Brubaker hath destined them to partake in.

As a sort of flipside to the world of superheroics, much in the way “Sleeper” was, “Incognito” delivers familiar ideas viewed through a different lens. It’s basically the logical grandchild of the Watchmen era. And just as readable.

2. CHEW (Image)
NOM NOM NOM!
[Buy It At Amazon]

If you were one of the lucky few who picked up CHEW # 1 when it first hit stands, congratulations not only were you in on the ground floor of one of the best new comics in years, you also struck gold because that first edition is going for mucho money right about now. It went back to press another three times and now if you haven’t read it, you’re just doing it out of spite because this book is what finally allowed me to say I read Image Comics out loud with no shame. Yeah, “Walking Dead” is amazing and so is “Invincible” but those are both written by Kirkman, so I was previously just saying “I read Kirkman comics” because I’m still not too keen on much else being published by Image but this is certainly helping.

Would you like me to tell you what the book is about, just in case you’re completely in the dark regarding what I’ve been rambling about for the last paragraph? Lemme just give you the official synopsis:

Tony Chu is a detective with a secret. A weird secret. Tony Chu is Cibopathic, which means he gets psychic impressions from whatever he eats. It also means he’s a hell of a detective, as long as he doesn’t mind nibbling on the corpse of a murder victim to figure out whodunit, and why. He’s been brought on by the Special Crimes Division of the FDA, the most powerful law enforcement agency on the planet, to investigate their strangest, sickest, and most bizarre cases.

Chicken is also illegal in the book.

Yeah, go read it.

1. Scott Pilgrim vs. The Universe (Oni Press)
You Can't Tell Here, But That Cover Is SHINY!!!
[Buy It At Amazon]

I cannot put into words how much I love Scott Pilgrim. Seriously, it’s awesome. So awesome that it had to be imported from Canada. Who knew, right? Anyhow, the series has been balls-to-the-wall cool since it’s inception but the lastest volume (being 5) seriously nails the emotional notes that it aims for and really provides us with solid development for the characters that has been slowly building since the first page of the first volume.

I can’t really do it justice, so here’s an actual page.

OMFG CAKE!

Nom Nom Nom, indeed.