Saturday, August 30, 2008


Written by Michael Green
Art and cover by Denys Cowan and John Floyd

I am such a sucker for Batman. Really. I was intrigued by this book. I like the show Heroes quite a bit and figured that a writer from there could do some interesting things with the Batman/Joker Dynamic.

Holy hell was I wrong. This quite possibly is the worst Batman story I have ever read. At least it is the worst I remember reading, as I am sure I have blocked out many others through the years. I loathe the implications of this story.

The set up is the first meeting of Batman and Joker. I am in no way opposed to seeing this retold if done competently and with a fresh angle. This though is just ridiculous. And as I do not advise anyone go near this atrocity I will spoil away without regard. Within this book a man named Jack sits at a bar flirting with a bartender named Leeny. And it is one of the most blatant attempts to make me slit my wrists that I have ever come across. See, Jack is actually Joker before the makeup and madness and Leeny is a pre Harley Quinn college student toiling away trying to make a buck. And the kicker is that Leeny convinces Jack to do the job where he is transformed into the Joker!!111!!!!

Yes, that really happens. I can almost see the moment of self imposed genius that brought this about: "Wait, Joker's craziness infected Harley Quinn and made her into her zany self, right? But what if, without knowing, she pushed him to become the Joker. Wouldn't that just be amazing!" And here you have a small snap shot of just what is wrong with the comic book industry today. It is far too interested in shoring up the past in retelling stories rather than creating new mythologies. Why bother to do that when they can pander to a diminishing audience?

The art here is about the only thing that redeems this book at all. But this is not Cowan's best Batman work. It is just leaps and bounds better than the high concept story that lacks any redeeming substance. I take that back. The very start of htis book has Batman almost believing that he can lay down his tights, that he is capable of winning his war. It is a nice character moment. One that as a reader you know will only end badly. But never in my wildest dreams did I think it could end this badly.

Avoid this book at all costs, as it is dreadful and discounts the intelligence of the reader.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Quick Review Round Up

Okay, so I am pretty much a slacker. No other way of looking at it. I had far too many other things on my plate to really dedicate much time to reviewing my comic book reading of late. So here are some quick recaps, in which I make every effort to hold back my verbosity, to some of the TPB and graphic novels I have read of late. I hope to avoid doing this in the future, but as life can over take all of us quite quickly, no promises made. (Edit: this was sort of fun, so there will likely be some short bursts here and there).

There are some more in depth reviews coming as well, but here are a few quick ones.

What It Is
By: Lynda Barry
Drawn And Quarterly

Have you ever needed jumper cables to revive your creative process? This book is essentially just that.
I have long been a Lynda Barry fan, but this will be an essential reference book for any creative type. It bores down into just what makes one want to create and suggests exercises and steps to get whatever festers inside you out.

To say that it has prompted me to fine tune my and understand my writing in much more depth would be an understatement. It also has gotten my to pick up my pencil and draw/sketch for the 1st time in over 15 years.
I am pretty sure i will be constantly reading and rereading this as i further hone the creation craft.
If you crave creation in any form, this book is a must.

Buy This Now: Easily the one book that I can recommend to anyone and everyone. Just a Fantastic book. It disappoints me that you have not left to get his book yet....

Janes in Love
Writer: Cecil Castellucci
Artist: Jim Rugg

I had no business really liking the the 1st book, The Plain Janes, in this series in any other than it being a good story with believable characters, but I enjoyed it a lot. I read it twice in fact.

This one seemed rushed in a way The Plain Janes was not. Maybe there was just too much going on for the limits of a short Minx book. From hearing her talk, I know Cecil Castellucci wants this to be a 4 book series, but maybe 5 books would have been better.

Main Jane is still the most developed character and really the most realistic. I loved her continued development. But the other three Janes seemed to develop as if they were in a popcorn popper and just burst and exploded with new facts/responses/wtfever with not enough adequate build up.

The overall story was quite good and had a great conclusion.

If this series continues I hope that the other characters develop better and that those that are mere plot devices (um... the cop father) can move beyond stereotype.

Read: I honestly can not see myself coming back to this book, but am glad I read it.

Can't Get No
By: Rick Veitch

I had long wanted to read this book, but never got around to it till recently. I think I danced around it with trepidation due to the lack of words. The whole 9-11 thing was also a bit of a turn off.

Man I held out for no reason. This book was extremely challenging and more than worth while. Veitch continues where he has tread before, the boundaries of what comics can do. My concern about the lack of words melted away on about the 3rd or 4th page.

Veitch's protagonist, Chad Roe, is a man whose business is brought down at the exact same time the towers collapse, (ok, a day apart, but you get the idea). His product is a permanent marker whose writing can never be removed. A fascinating idea and one that plays quite well opposite the idea assumed permanence of the World Trade Center.

As his business crumbles he escapes his office and winds up with two mysterious women who draw on his body with the maker that can not be erased. He becomes a marked man. Just as he starts to be subjugated and ridiculed for this, the towers fall. He freaks out and journeys into the madness of America.

The reader is left to wonder if the events of 9-11 are the cause of the madness showcased or is it just the perfect window to see it through. I am fairly certain it does not matter which is more true. Over the course of finding his strange America he finds that the only true permanence is the vast wonder and amazement within our country. As soon as he realizes this, sort of a possible over probable moment of clarity, the same women who marked him shower him with a solution - they erase his markings. He follows this up with saving his business with the same solution. Yet the take away from this seems to suggest that America is far more than just business interests and can not crumble from such an attack.

The art is amazing and the story equally so.

Buy: This is just a visceral read that needs to be savored and likely reread. go get it now.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The First Comic I Ever Bought

My Comic Autobiography Part I

Weird War Tales 78

I got this somewhere in Oregon, when I was out camping with my grandparents. I have very little memory of it other than the cover. This is no surprise as I would have been four when I got it. It was not the first comic I ever read, that likely goes to Star Wars number one, which I believe I just looked at more than read at the time, what with me being three when I got it. While I still have the Star Wars comic (it quite possibly was the first thing I ever stole, as it was my older brother's, but quickly made it's home in my room), the Weird War book was left at my grandparents house and I reread it many times in the years to come (just not enough to remember about the stories inside). But, it eventually it disappeared from the upstairs room that my brother and I shared while visiting.

I only remember two other things about that year's visit (we spent time every summer that I can remember In Oregon till I was at least 11). I really remember losing my first tooth (on the plane ride out there) and was given this book. Like the comic, that book is just a faint pleasurable memory now. My other grandfather taking me and my brother to see Star Trek: The Motion Picture is the only other thing I can recall about that year. And lets be honest, it was a bit above my 4 year old mind, too 2001 and not enough Star Wars. But I claimed I loved it nonetheless. It had to do with space and I was beyond fascinated with flying through the cosmos at that point.

I seem to think there might have been another comic or two that I bought that day, but nothing was as striking as the image of Native Americans skeletons flying through space. I know it had not launched yet, but the build up of the space shuttle program and my love for Star Wars made me want to be nothing other than an astronaut. DC Comics likely knew others were in love with space as much as I and thus the cover.

I was so enthralled by space that year, and really many years to follow that I drove my brother crazy as we fell asleep in the same room. See, the room had that kind of white flocked ceiling, the kind that looked like a well burred sweater, but it also had silver glitter flecked throughout that would shimmer like stars and galaxies far away when hit by the street lights out the window. I of course pretended that once the lights went out I was flying through space, making all kinds of laser noises (thewwww, theww) and hungering for warp drive (Verrrggggggggssshhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!). I am pretty sure I was told to shut up quite often and even had to start going to bed an hour before my brother so I would not bother him. I was a bit obsessed. And this comic really spoke to that obsession.

I am not sure when I left my space obsession behind, sometime after 1983, you know, after Return of the Jedi made space feel a bit too safe. The villains had been vanquished and even as a nine year old, I knew the world of melancholy too well to see a need to rush out and jump into a world filled with impossible optimism. The talk of me being an astronaut slowly disappeared. Though at the same time the world of comic books never escaped me. The villains, they always came back. The false optimism never completely took over. My love of Luke Skywalker soon eroded away and Peter Parker began to be emulated more and more.

To Be Continued....

Tuesday, July 29, 2008



Writer: Rebecca Donner
Art: Inaki Miranda & Eva de la Cruz

Flames play a key role in this new MINX book. And like the haphazardness of flames bursting forth from a campfire, Danni, the main character, moves through her life without much purpose. In fact, she is an amazingly unrealized character at the beginning, as she seems to be living for others and not herself. She smolders with desire for something... anything - and one really feels this from the amazing facial expressions Inaki Miranda provides. While at the end of the book she winds up in the exact same position, both physically and mentally, as she was seen on the first page, her unrealized character finds openings to branch out and live for herself throughout the book.

As is often the case, her father leaves Danni alone with her mom before the story begins. Rather, he disappears as he is more of a apparition than anything else in this story. So Danni's mom moves her from the city to timber country of the pacific northwest, which Danni calls "the middle of nowhere." In her new town she not only has to readjust to the culture and new friends, but her father leaving. While none of these make her an atypical teen, she obviously struggles with the tumult.

Within the first few pages Danni's life becomes more hectic as her mother decides to move in with her new boyfriend who, as one is opt to be in a struggling town with little prospects, drinks a bit too much and has more than a bit of a mean streak. His character is rather ill defined other than showcasing his flaws. In fact, all the adults in the book are less than properly fleshed out, though it is less distracting than one would think. I like to think that this was intentional, as it was meant to be told through a teenagers eyes, but I might be being a bit too nice. That said the teenage characters are far better realized. And from them the real Danni starts to emerge as she seems to feed off their energy.

Danni trails her mother like smoke throughout the book. Have ever tried to hear smoke, I feel her mom sort of viewed Danni as smoke too, neither really seeing or hearing her. When they first move into their new house, Danni is forced to share a room with her mom's boyfriend's son, Haskel. Danni's future room needs to be cleaned up and after seeing the mess Haskel's room is in Danni longs for her own space. Yet her mother forgets to help clear out the junk and much later in the novel says ""Shoot, I forgot about clearing out this room for you, honey." It is as if Danni is just an afterthought, a shallow responsibility for her mom. From this it is not hard to see that Danni struggles with asserting her needs.

And here I think Donner's script hits the high water mark. She really seems to understand that Danni lacks motivation. She easily takes on the habits or traits of others around her, from her mom's stoicism to her best friend's feigned rebelliousness and to Haskel's outright criminal rebelliousness. I would not call her a mimic exactly, but she definitely struggles with who she is. And, as stated, her living situation does not help matters.

As the book's back cover clearly makes known, Danni and Haskel become an item. He is what the press would deem an eco-terrorist. And Danni follows him out one night and begins to join in on his tree spiking activities. His personality is almost completely defined though his appearance and body language. Again Miranda does an amazing job capturing the emotion and turmoil of a troubled youth. His trademark look is sort of a flaming yin-yang symbol on a black shirt. In fact he only wears this shirt unless he is out saving the environment. And what I first saw as the burning, smoldering, passion he held underneath his rough exterior, I later understood there was quite a bit more to his avatar.

As Danni and Haskel's relationship grows so do their targets. Danni is conflicted as her best friend does not support her new extracurricular activities and her mother's boyfriend's economic struggles to keep his bar afloat tax the entire house. These all lead to the climax of the book. And while I am not going to give away the ending, lets just say the fires that were started throughout really take off and combust with much flair and gusto. I was quite happy with the ending, as I felt the journey Donner laid out for Danni to maneuver really took her from visitor in her own life to at least full fledged member. It does not end happy, and nor should it as many of the choices made by many of the characters were neither good nor healthy. This is a story of Danni trying to make do in the small spaces she is given. And while it feels purposely open ended for a sequel, it ends most satisfying.

This is the fifth MINX book I have read and although I am well outside the target market, I keep liking what I read. They are just good stories. Is this a comic classic that one will come back to year after year? No. But the story has much to showcase and is a compelling read. Also, why are not more TPBs released in digest form? I love the way they fit in my hands far more than the traditional comic sized TPB.

Grade: Read

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Top Ten Comic Runs

Awhile back, the folks over at Comics Should Be Good asked for visitors to give their top 10 favorite runs on monthly comics. So to give you an idea of the books I like and what you may see here this is the list I sent, as well as a brief summation of what made these series great to me.

1. Milligan's Shade the Changing Man

I first bought this book with either issue 11 or 14 strictly for the amazing McCarthy cover. That same week I went on a weekend high school Latin trip to a state contest. By the hotel we stayed at there was a comic book store and I bought all the preceding issues and generally ignored my classmates on the ride home.

Comics have always spoken to me, but this one bored into my brain and soul in ways nothing else has before or since. It was everything I ever wanted in a comic, well, except it ending and all. And granted the first 50 issues are better than that which followed, but it is hard to best near perfection.

I have bought the full run off ebay at least 4 times to give to others. And still, getting people to talk to me about this series is damned near impossible - I think it is mainly due to the fact that I mainly know bastards and such.

And still to this day I am fairly certain that nothing has helped shaped who I am today more than this book. I have not read it in a few years, and I no longer know what happened in what issue, but I still have such a firm grasp on the themes and characters. Seriously, this book happened at the exact time I needed it to happen in my life, and I will always be indebted to Peter Milligan for this series.

2. Morrison's Doom Patrol
I still remember that one panel in this book with those two military officials riding giant bouncy balls in the tunnels beneath the Pentagon like it was my own reflection. This is Morrison at his surrealist best. Danny the Street, a sentient transvestite street that can teleport, and Crazy Jane, a woman with 64 distinct personalities each with a separate superpower, were two of the most amazing characters ever created. This is no mere comic book, but a portal into the mindscape of a mad Scotsman. His twisted vision here is essentially a realization of his storyline, The Painting that Ate Paris.

3. Brubaker & Rucka's Gotham Central

I admit when I first heard about this book I rolled my eyes. A view of Gotham City from the cops that patrol it. Hey, I liked NYPD Blue and such, but never enough to really care if I watched it or not. This book made me care about police work, or really the lives of cops. Renee Montoya, an implant from Batman: The Animated series, and Crispus Allen were just two amazingly compelling characters in a wonderful milieu of other great cops. And while I wish there was more Harvey Bullock in this series, that is about the only complaint I can give it. Just an overall excellent series.

4. Miller's Daredevil

I have never really cared about the life and many failures of a blind attorney named Matt Murdock. The basic premise behind the character is what else can man endure. But Miller's version made me care. I only read 2 or 3 issues when he was actually writing it, and they never did anything for me. But as a whole Miller took a near joke of a character and propelled him though trials that developed him far beyond his debilitating conditions. And while others have mimicked his approach, none have come even close. I now own this entire run in TPB - of a character I do not even life. That is quite telling, no?

5. O'Neil's The Question

I remember combing through the quarter bins at comic book stores and conventions in 8th and 9th grade trying to pick up every issue of this run. How did I not know of its greatness when it first came out? I think I first bought Question Quarterly #1 and realized what a mistake I had made not following this series all along. And that it was relegated to quarter bin status, WTF was/is wrong with comic book readers - this book is genius.

O'Neil re-crafted Ditko's faceless hero into a Zen based hero in the drying dregs of gritty urban Hub City. The book is about rebirth, as The Question dies on the last page of the first issue. And the rest of the far too brief series is about him trying to usher in a rebirth of Hub City. What more compelling reasons does there need to be to get you to read this?

6. Chaykin's American Flagg!

This is another series that I did not read when it was released. But am utterly enthused that I searched many back issue shops and quarter bins to find the whole series. Chaykin was so ahead of his time with this book, and the seriousness that he took to critiquing the world with his fantastic vision of the future. I have not read it in a long time, but now that it is finally starting to be collected this will have to change. Expect to see some words in the future about this one.

7. Vaughn's Y - The Last Man

I laughed to myself when I first heard the premise of this book. I expected easily dismissible sexual politics. But what I got was just one of the most excellent stories I have ever read. Yorrik's quest was a compelling read that never got old. I also sort of fell in love with 355. And seriously wanted an ampersand of my own. Vaughn never fell to the wrong side of convention and made every character shine with personality. Sure the premise was outlandish, but he never made me think so when i was reading it.

8. Ostrander's Suicide Squad (1st series)

A spotlight for DC Comic's villains to shine, well shine or die really. Sure it has been done before and since, but never better than this poorly received series. Amanda Waller simply is one the best characters ever put to page. Her willingness to take things as far as needed, makes her beyond bad ass. Her, Deadshot and Captain Boomerang's dealings and counter dealing made for such an amazing read. Add in the interplay of Rick Flagg and Bronze Tiger with the underhandedness of the villains and one pretty much winds up with a wow sandwich.

9. Andreyko's Manhunter

I never cared for a Manhunter in my life before Andreyko created Kate Spenser. She is an amazingly strong female character who has flaws that one could dance the waltz through. And they only make her a better character. Plus you get Chase, Mr. Bones, and an array of wonderful D-list DC characters. This is such a great gritty book.

10. Mantlo's Cloak and Dagger

I am not sure if this is here because I really liked this series or because I really liked this series as a kid. But I read comics regularly before reading the Cloak and Dagger mini series that I plucked up for a buck for all four issues at some comic book shop way back when. After though, I was beyond obsessed by comics. I read them with such gusto and the characters populated my dreams both when i was sleeping and not.
I have not read these early issues in ages, but I know that Bill Mantlo stories sculpted me into a lifetime comics fan.

So expect to see stuff similar to these books reviewed with far more depth here.

A Hearty Welcome

"Oh, it's a new comic blog. Run away. Run away."

Yeah, I know the world really is not clamoring for yet another blog dedicated to the wonderful art form of comics. But, guess what? That is exactly what the world is going to get.

So why should you care? Well really, and granted PR is nowhere near my strong suit, I am not sure you should. At least not right now, as there is nothing other than this post to entice you. But let me tell you how I envision this place working out and why I feel this will be a sort of different type of comic blog.

First, as the name suggests, this blog will be focused on Trade Paperbacks and Graphic Novels rather than floppies, as that is how I like to read them. And while, I assume I am not the first to decide this is a great way to discuss comics, I have yet to find a blog that focuses on the "waiting for trade" section of the market. If you know of others please let me know.

The focus will be on whatever I read, and while I love superheroes, do not count on strictly seeing those here. Indie comics are an equal love of mine and will be focused on in the same degree. I also plan to look at older books as well as recent releases. My plan is to review at least one older and one newer book (released within the past 3 or so months) a week. For instance, I just dug out my old Swamp Thing Volumes and plan to look at them again in the near future and I have a backlog of about 6 current books that I will be looking at that includes some indies, at least one MINX, and two DC books that I have not read yet.

And just to put it out there, I am far more of a DC superhero fan than Marvel. I am not opposed to Marvel on principal (at least not anymore, please see early 90s Marvel to see why this was once the case - they really burned me back then), but I have far more fondness towards DC heroes. Just letting my biases be known.

I also plan to discuss and highlight other comic topics that I find as time allows. And finally, I want to do a series of post that I am going to call my comic autobiography, really showing where my love of comics came from and why still after 25+ years I still follow them, even if I no longer can ride my bike to the local Stop & Go to spend 60 cents or less for them.

I also am open to any suggestions, for what to read and what to talk about.

So, is this blog necessary? I highly doubt it, but I expect it to be fun, er, well at least interesting, and a bit different than the normal comic blog.

So again welcome, and I hope you enjoy the show.