Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Great pride.

It always makes my night when an artist or author thanks me for such a great review. Ted enjoyed the Courtney review so much, I'm apparently in his debt. Though, I think I know how to make us even...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

3 times the fun: Incognito, Impaler, and Courtney Crumrin and the Prince of Nowhere

Incognito #1

Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Sean Phillips
Colors by Val Staples
Published by Marvel Comics

From the creative team that brought us Criminal and Sleeper, this is Incognito. An ultra-violent and raw mesh of mad science, superheroes, and classic noir given to us the only way Brubaker knows how. As I read the issue, it was difficult not to hear Ed Norton's voice from Fight Club. Full of malevolence and turmoil, there's a slight twist to this tale. Incognito is a story of a bad guy who begins doing good things and seeing how that would affect his life and his view of himself.

The art direction fits perfectly with the gritty script. There is blood, sex and violence, all looking very visceral, and the coloring scheme reminds me of Watchmen. The use of non-primary colors really stands out and compliments Phillips' style very well. It's not a common black and white story. The main character, Zack, is layered and complex -- a bad guy who knows something is wrong, but enjoys his line of "work" anyways.

This is something for fans that want that little extra dash of malice with their violence. There are no flashy costumes or Batman/Bond gadgets here, just a domino mask and a turtle neck. I really enjoyed the raw feel to the book. Zack is probably one of the roughest guys in comicdom, and probably one of the best things about Brubaker is that he sure knows how to write an all-American bad ass.

Incognito comes out next week, and if you like Sin City, Marvel Zombies or Powers, this books should be right up your alley.

Impaler #1
Written by William Harms
Art by Matt Timson
Published by Top Cow

Fans of the terrifying story that began in the IMPALER VOL. 1 trade paperback will have something bite into as it continues as a new ongoing series.

Millions of vampires have descended upon America. In a desperate bid to defeat them, the U.S. military nuked New York City but, unfortunately, it was too little, too late. The vampire horde had already advanced westward, but how far? A team of soldiers sent to rescue the Secretary of State's plane that crash-landed in New Jersey find out the hard way. Humanity's only chance may rest in the hands of vampire hunter Vlad the Impaler and his new companion, Homicide Detective Victor Dailey, who wishes he was dead.

The concept from start to finish is just plain old-fashioned cool. If it's one company that "gets" the super-natural market, it is Top Cow. From Witchblade, to Darkness, to even Dragon Prince, Top Cow scratches that itch when I'm bored with spandex and crises. The paneling structure that Timson puts down plays out like a movie. His figure construction is solid the art is gritty and bloody, just how a vampire book should be. The way Timson draws the creatures is purely horrific, almost as if they're straight out of a nightmare.

It is interesting to see such an historic icon like Vlad the Impaler be showcased as a true soldier and not just the blood-thirsty tyrant he actually was. To seem him take care of Dailey, like a comrade would to a fellow injured soldier is most unusual. Then again, Vlad is a vampire hunter in this series, given divine powers by angels of the Lord. A nice twist on the old tale, that's for sure.

If you're burned out by cross-overs and looking for something a little different, I recommend you pick up this first issue. Also, if you didn't discover Impaler the first time around, you might want to pick that up too. It's not needed for the story, but it would help with the overall experience of this first issue.

Courtney Crumrin and the Prince of Nowhere
Story and art by Ted Naifeh
Published by Oni Press

Wow. Just when I thought the world of Ms. Crumrin could not get any better, Ted Naifeh blew me away with this story. By the way, I guess I should mention, if you have no idea who or what Courtney Crumrin is, you are sadly missing out. To sum it up, take Harry Potter...now instead of an awkward, untidy-haired British boy, Courtney is an angsty young girl who is an outcast at school and ignored by her parents. She moves in with her Uncle, who is a great warlock himself, and she discovers she can do magic. It is simply beyond cool. While the premise seems simple and played out, there are many twists and turns along the way that is just great and intriguing tale.

I digress.

Courtney Crumrin and the Prince of Nowhere replaced "Twilight Kingdom" as my favorite in the series. Naifeh has kicked the art and story up every notch possible. On a visit to a castle of her heritage, Courtney meets a young boy named Wolfgang, though something is quite unnatural about him. Courtney doesn't care though, she's been lonely recently and a friend outside of her uncle and cats is what she feels like she needs. She continues seeing Wolfgang, and actually takes the initiative to give him a peck on the cheek. While, Courtney has had "love" interests before, she's never taken the initiative to kiss them. Of course we learn that Wolfgang is in fact "unnatural", and being around him threatens Courtney's life, yet she still yearns to see him.

Just like in any "Courtney" story, things are not what they appear to be. Naifeh is an excellent story-teller and having met the man a hand full of times, you can see the immense pride he has in his work. While my girlfriend has the first three volumes for her kids to check out in her library, the buck kind of stops here for the eleven and younger crowd. There is a discussion between Courtney and a nurse about Christian magic and old magic, before the word of the Lord came to Europe. In this conversation, Courtney out right says she doesn't believe in Christ, which could ruffle some feathers. Though if you have read the series, that really shouldn't come as a surprise.

There are gorgeous castlescapes, wonderful panel constructs and Naifeh has a way of showing great expressions, even for his style, which is so simple and lovely. If you're a Courtney fan, you should not be without this book, and for those who haven't discovered her world yet, I suggest it's time you begun.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Wonderful Wizard of Oz #1 review

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz


By now you should be familiar with the story of Dorothy Gale, the young girl from Kansas that is whisked away to the magical land of Oz where she encounters Munchkins, Good Witches, Wicked Witches, a tin man, a scarecrow, lions and tigers and bears... Sorry. I got a little carried away there, but you get the gist. Unlike MGM's legendary film, this mini-series is a more faithful adaption of the actual "Oz" lore, created by L. Frank Baum.

The issue is written by "Oz" enthusiast Eric Showaner and calling him a fan of the world of Oz is an understatement. His first major published works were the OZ graphic novels, which were released by First Comics and Dark Horse between 1986-1992. He has also written [i]and[/i] illustrated a full-length "Oz" novel, "The Giant Garden of Oz," and a collection of short Oz stories, "The Salt Sorcerer of Oz". Like I mentioned, the man knows his stuff.

The art is done by Skott Young, and it's exactly what this book needs. It is kid-friendly, cute, cartoony and I am an adamant supporter for comics aimed for a younger audience. The time line of this first issue (the book is a nine issue mini-series) spans from right before the twister that takes Dorothy to Oz up to right after she meets the Scarecrow.

Those of you who are only familiar with the Judy Garland version, should really try to pick this up. If not for yourself, then perhaps for a young reader in the household. He or she won't be disappointed, but possibly a little confused since the movie has a lot of differences. It's nice to see the original novel getting the comic treatment.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Ron Marz, a tad bit of a convo

*note: The subject of an email I sent awhile back was wondering if he had a copy of Big Top Halloween by the Afghan Whigs, then it sort of snowballed from there.

Me: I have an extra copy. If you don't have it, I'd easily give it to you.

Ron Marz:
Hey, Lan, This must've slipped into my inbox without me noticing. Sorry it took so long. If you still have a copy of Big Top Halloween, I'd take you up on the offer. That's the only one I don't have.

Hope all is well with you.



Not a problem, I'll make sure to put it in my bag for New York and give it to you when I see you there. Loved the new Witchblade ish, btw.

Things are well, just nervous about NYCC. I've never been to a colossal con like that.


Ron Marz:
Most excellent. Thanks.

And thanks for the comment about the new WB. I enjoyed your Batman review the other week. Sometimes the emperor has no clothes, so it's good to see somebody willing to say that, rather than just excuse poor storytelling because of reputation.

No need to be nervous about NYC con. It's big and hectic and all that, but it's still a comic con. In the long run, they're all the same, just in a different building. Leave yourself extra time to get where you're going, and make sure you've got money with ya. NYC ain't cheap. And I don't know if you've been to NYC before, but the Javits Center is all the way on the west side, so it's not very near the restaurants or hotels. Depending on where you're staying, it'll be a good, cold walk -- moreso if you're carrying stuff -- or a short cab ride. And bring a warm jacket and hat. NYC, especially near the water, is colder than a witch's tit in February.



Haha. Will do. I figured a day in February in New York isn't exactly like a spring day in Texas. Or even Atlanta for that matter. I put a lot of winter wear on my Christmas list. I'm just hoping I have enough time for everything. Artists alley is starting to look hella impressive.

Be sure to tell me your booth number when you know. I seriously have to meet you.

Also, thanks for the comment about Batman #681. Yeah...I was disappointed. To say the least. Morrison is one of those hit or miss guys. When he's good, he is a grandslam (Animal Man, JLA) though when he's shit, damn, does it smell bad. His run on X-Men made me drop it years ago and I can't touch an issue of All Star Superman. I get a lot of smack about insulting that book, but A) it's too wordy for my taste and B) everybody looks like they're made of pudding. Poorly-made pudding.

At 'Rama we can talk about little things like that, though I've been edited once or twice talking shit about Didio. I'm not saying Quesada is better, and while I loved Marvels: Eye of the Camera, I have to wonder if he had any assist with it since Sheldon now has lung cancer. Though it just maybe a coincidence and I MAY be too much of a conspiracy theorist.

I have 2 questions for you, if you don't mind answering.

1. What's in your pull box?
2. Is Kyle Rayner named after anybody?

Ron Marz:
I'll be at the Top Cow booth. If I hear the number, I'll let you know.

"Kyle" came from Kyle Reese in "The Terminator," and because I thought it sounded cool. I picked "Rayner" out of a list of Irish sir names.

And I don't have a pull box. I only get into the local store infrequently, so most of what I read, I read in trades. I get the DC bundle every month, which has all the DC/Vertigo/Wildstorm output, but I truthfully read very little of it. At the moment, I read Jonah Hex, Action, Northlanders, both All-Star books when the come out, and assorted odds and ends. In trades, I read Captain America, Daredevil, Thor, all the Hellboy/BPRD stuff, Walking Dead, Invincible, Perhapanauts. I don't follow characters, just good stories, which I find are in short supply in monthly superhero books.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Ender in Exile review

At the close of Ender's Game, Andrew Wiggin, also called Ender, is told that he can no longer live on Earth. The 12 year-old chooses to leave his home world and begins the long relativistic journey out to the colonies. Ender in Exile is an "interquel" and occurs in between Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead. Though Ender is just 17 by the end of "Exile", so there is a question whether or not there could be more books to follow this one.

The story of "Exile" takes place one year after the Formics were defeated and the Battle School children, except Ender, started to return to Earth. It was agreed that Ender could not go back to Earth because there could be world dilemmas and more than likely wars over who got to keep him to use for their own uses. Since Ender had no way to go back to Earth, he was offered the job of becoming the Governor of the first colony of the Formics' former worlds. A world soon to be called "Shakespeare". His sister Val decided to accompany Ender on his journey because she was sick of being controlled by her older brother Peter. Also due to the fact she wanted to rekindle the relationship she had lost with her little brother.

Ender resides as Governor for a few years in Shakespeare. Near the end of his time as Governor, Ender, and Abra (a young boy from the colony) go to find a site for a new shipment of colonists. Ender wants it to be far enough away from the other settlements so that there will not be any sort of competition between them right away and so they can develop by themselves. In the process of finding a new settlement, Ender stumbles upon what appears to be a note from the Formics. It is a structure made to look like a game he used to play in battle school. When Ender goes to investigate the structure, he finds the pupa of a living Formic Hive Queen that is fertilized and prepared to make hundreds of thousands of babies upon its own maturation. Which in turn, leads Ender to write his first book as Speaker of the Dead, appropriately titled The Hive Queen.

Later, Ender's brother, Peter, near death at this point, asks him to write one for him for when he dies. This book becomes known as The Hegemon. Afterward, Ender resigns as Governor of Shakespeare and leaves the colony for another called "Ganges". The leader of Ganges is Virlomi, who happened to be in battle school with Ender. Here he encounters Randall Firth who believes he is the son of Achilles de Flandres, and even refers to himself by the name Achilles. Randal starts the propaganda of Ender and the Xenocide in an attempt to discredit Virlomi and get revenge against Peter because he believes he was responsible for his father's defeat. Randall tries twice to meet with Ender and discredit him somehow. On the second visit his plan is to cleverly provoke Ender into killing him so that people will see how violent and dangerous he is, but Ender does not attack. Instead Ender tries to convince Randall that he is not Achilles' son, but that he is in fact the son of Bean and Petra; hence where he gets his giantism from. In the end, Randall believes him, though Ender took a beating before it concluded. Randall ends up changing his name to Arkanian Delphiki. After Ender heals a bit, he, Val, and the pupa get on a star ship to go to travel more to far and distant systems.

Orson Scott Card is a solid story teller. I compare his characterizations, not necessarily the way he tells a story, but how he constructs these characters to the late Robert Jordan, author of the famed "Wheel of Time" series. The novel also serves to transition Ender from the end of “Game” to the character we see in “Speaker.” Card is able to do this superbly and the chapters that look at Ender’s character are compelling and solid. I have to nitpick here though. This was billed as a direct sequel, though as I previously mentioned it's more of an interquel, but more than that, More than half the novel is taken from several short stories previously published in Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show.

Ender in Exile ties up a number of loose ends that were left dangling in "Speaker" and "Xenocide". If you enjoyed Ender's Game. but felt lost as the series progressed, then "Exile" is a satisfying missing-link to the overall story that will ease your troubles. I couldn't recommend it unless you are familiar with that initial story and its science, characters, etc.

I enjoyed this book with it's snappy dialogue and suspenseful moments as well as the tear-jerking ones. It's a plain good read what a wonderful author. If you haven't by now taken a look at the Ender universe, I think it's about time you check it out.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Marvels: Eye of the Camera #1

Marvels: Eye of the Camera
Written by Kurt Busiek
Art by Jay Anacleto
Colors by Brian Haberlin
Lettering by Richard Starkings and ComicCraft
Published by Marvel

Fourteen years ago, Marvel Comic published Marvels, the four-issue mini series that launched the careers of both Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross. It retold important stories from the Marvel mythos, but not through the eyes of the heroes, but through the everyman: photographer, Phil Sheldon. From the unveiling of the original Human Torch to the debut of the X-Men, Avengers and Fantastic Four and sadly the death of Gwen Stacy. It was groundbreaking at the time, and after 4 years of being announced, Marvels: Eye of the Camera finally hits the shelves this week.

This is not really a direct sequel, more like an in between story. It shows the birth of the Marvel Age, beginning with the origin of the Fantastic Four, but in more detail. The first issue of "Eye" takes place in between issues #1 and #2 of Marvels, but the series will end sometime around the "Fall of the Mutants". Though, this first issue is not just about super powers or classic Marvel characters, the story is still about Sheldon.

He has become complacent in his work and tires of the freelance work, so he turns to a tabloid paper and feels as if he's lowering his standards. Sheldon photographed some incredible moments in history, and here he is, selling himself short for a few extra bucks. Then, he receives a call that would change his life. He gets a call from J. Jonah Jameson to photograph to debut of the (then un-named) Fantastic Four. Soon everything changes. Thor, the Avengers, Spider-Man make themselves known to the world, all the while Sheldon capturing each uncanny moment.

Though, like I previously mentioned, it's not just Sheldon photographing heroes and battles between good and evil, it's a more personal story. It's the story of his adaptation to the changes of the world, with these marvelous debuts and creatures surfacing, as well as little things such as discovering one of his daughters needs glasses. Though the end of the issue is something Sheldon doesn't see coming and it's just as deadly as anything Loki or Galactus could do.

The art by newcomer Jay Anacleto is indeed stunning. His city scapes and panel structure is very reminiscent of Alex Ross and Brian Haberlin's colors are incredible. I am a huge fan of Kurt Busiek and everything he touches. I've been waiting for this book for quite sometime now, and it was more than worth the wait.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

X-Men Noir #1

X-Men Noir #1
Written by Fred van Lente
Art by Dennis Calero
Lettering by Blambot's Nate Piekos
Published by Marvel Comics

Think Chinatown elements mixed with Marvel's premier mutant group. X-Men Noir displaces versions of Marvel's premier group of mutants into a 1930's world ripe with corruption and distrust, much like any great noir story. As powerless vigilantes, the X-Men of this world serve more as realistic analogs of their usual selves, such as the sharp-shooting Cyclops, the diamond thief Iceman or the "Creole Club" owner Gambit.

The issue opens with the mysterious murder of Jean Grey, where we see she has "slash marks along the lower and upper torso...in groups of three." Sound like anybody we know? Apparently, Jean is a member of what the cops call "X-Men", which is their term for students who go to Charles Xavier's reform school. In this universe, Professor Xavier is an exiled psychiatrist who supposedly teaches his pupils how to be better criminals instead of reforming them. In turn, he makes them fugitives of the law and sort of marked men.

Dennis Carelo's art is superb. His use of dark colors and shadows really set the tone and suit the title well. Fred van Lente's reconfiguring these characters is very clever and, dare I say, cool? The two creators mesh amazingly and the story flows easily from panel to panel. The interesting thing is that similar to Marvel's masterpiece Marvels, the point of view isn't told through the heros or villains, but the everyday man; a detective, Thomas Halloway.

I'm trying not to give too much away since there are little winks and nudges to fans that make the book quite enjoyable. I am a fan of this genre and have anticipated this release for quite sometime. My main question for Marvel is whether they will do more "Elseworld"-esque stories in a similar vein as this one. They had massive success with 1602, and this has potential to be the next big thing. Along with X-Men Noir, there will be Spider-Man and Daredevil titles to come later next year.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Batman #681: RIP Conclusion

Batman #681: RIP Conclusion
Writer: Grant Morrison
Art: Tony Daniel and Sandu Florea
Color: Guy Major
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher

This is the the conclusion of the much-hyped "Batman RIP" arc. It's interesting to note that the media got a hold of this and is actually reporting it on their sites and stations. They got it wrong however, but still...it's quite the event. I just wish I could say it was worth the wait. When Grant Morrison is good, he's one of the best. Though, when he's off target...we get something like this issue.

It was interesting to see that in the end even the enemy with unlimited resources could not beat Batman, who has been training all his life to prepare for every eventuality. Still, it struck me as a bit of 'deus ex machina' that Batman knew from the beginning of the Black Glove conspiracy and that he knew of Jezebel's involvement with the conspiracy. I mean, I understand he's supposed to be the "World's Greatest Detective," but that just seems like a cop out.

Similar to what Troy stated in his review, the art of Tony Daniel and Sandu Florea really shines, although I found the paneling structure to be a bit off for my tastes. I did like the little things here and there, mainly how the Joker's lettering looked and Guy Major deserves serious kudos for a job well-done. As a person who was genuinely excited about this arc, my excitement eventually waned and then I just became indifferent, especially after the supposed "death" of Batman. While we are treated to a "6 months later..." scenario, one question comes to mind: If Final Crisis really seals the fate of Bruce Wayne, what was the point of "RIP"?

So in, uh, conclusion, this conclusion didn't pay off for me. With all the hype surrounding this event, one would think Grant Morrison could do better than the cliche "no body and an explosion in the background". This was not his best work, or even his best "Batman" story. I suggest reading his work on JLA in the late 90's. Those were what I would call definitive Batman stories.