Saturday, January 31, 2009

another conversation with Ron Marz

Ever get that bit of advice or just a little nudge to help your brain? I got it right before I had the best shower I've taken all year. Yeah so it's only almost a month into the was awesome.

So, as some of you know, I write for a comic news site called Newsarama. Now of course working there you get to talk to creators and artists and etc. Some are awesome, some are good...some are...reclusive. Since I've been working there (almost a year now), I've made several rapports with people who I've admired since I could buy my own comics. One of them in particular is Ron Marz.

I'm reviewing one of his projects, Dragon Prince and as our convos usually do, they trail off and he ends up being the Obi-Wan to my Luke.

ME: So I'm caught up and working on the review right now. That Hunter must have been tough to have survived with a whole fucking building crashing on him. Is this the end to these characters or do you plan on bringing them back whenever? Also, in your Top Cow exclusive contract, this was one of the creator-owned projects you were there another one?

RON: We have plenty more stories to tell, but it's a matter of whether there's an audience. Or at least whether there's an audience in this market climate. So, we'll see. I'm hoping to do a new short story for the TPB collection which will likely be printed at the size of the Bone color volumes.

There are more creator-owned projects in the pipeline, but again, we're planning to take a step back and see what the market is like before we nail down release dates. At the moment, ANY kind of new material on the market is just tanking, no matter which publisher.

ME: That's not very encouraging news for a guy who wants to take a chance and put balls to the wall and try to get published, but I have to know: at the end of the day, is it worth it? Like I've said you're one of the guys who do what I want to do with my life. I try and do reviews on lesser-known books just to get their name out. It just seems like the right thing to do.

RON: It's a bad market right now, and publishers are starting to feel it. The news of layoffs at Top Cow, and DC and Mad today, are just more evidence of it. So I think publishers will circle the wagons and try to ride out the downturn. Less experimentation, less "new," just more of the same comfort food that sells to the every Wednesday crowd. It's happened before in comics, it will happen again.

That said ... is what I do worth it? Absolutely. I make a very good living doing something I'd do for free. However, you have to be realistic about the odds faced by everyone who wants to do this. It's a bit like being a pro baseball or football player. Everyone wants to do that job, but just a small percentage actually get to do it. That doesn't mean it's not worth trying ... far from it ... but these days it's a long, hard hill to climb, with a lot of people trying to do the same. You have to outlast them and be better than them.

Go in with your eyes open, but be determined.

(I had a bit of a cry after I read that. I guess from being sick and all the thoughts in my head's just something I needed to hear.)

Friday, January 30, 2009

Last week's reviews.

Black Lightning: Year One #2
Written by Jen Van Meter
Art by Cully Hamner
Colors by Laura Martin
Published DC Comics

Continuing on this dynamite bi-weekly series, the collaboration of Van Meter and Hamner is stellar. In this issue, we see the goodness of Jefferson Pierce through the eyes of another: Clark Kent. Kent is visiting Garfield High to do a report about it, while also trying to figure out if Pierce is the lightning vigilante. Kent doesn't think he is, but admires Pierce for what he does for the students and community, as well as what he stands for. There's a quote from Kent about how Pierce battles his students' demons as if they were his own.

Pierce has made an impact as a vigilante. The local gang, The 100, is coming after him, but are constantly thwarted by Pierce's powers and integrity. There is, however, an incident where he doesn't come back unscathed; he's shot in the arm. During Thanksgiving dinner, Pierce wants to confess to his family about his nightly escapades, but the thing is. . . they've already figured it out. They even have a new costume for him, a mix of Kevlar and neoprene, provided by the family's friend Peter.

I like how Van Meter really makes this a true Black Lightning story and I mean that by not having Superman "save the day". Van Meter has Kent mention his powers are somewhat lessened in the Slums, therefore explaining why Superman can't really assist with the crime in that location. Pretty simple, yet clever and effective. The artwork from Cully Hamner, whose expressive nature brings vibrant life to this story. If you have ever been interested in the Black Lightning character, be sure to pick this up. You won't regret it.

Dragon Prince #4 - Finale!
Written by Ron Marz
Art by Lee Moder
Colors by Blond
Edited by Rob Levin
Published by Top Cow

A few months back, I did a review for the first issue of Top Cow's Dragon Prince, and I'm back again for the conclusion in issue number four. Let's bring you up to speed. Aaron Chiang and his mother, April, are on the lam from a Dragon Hunter and are finally caught. They are brought to a secret mountain in the Himalayas, and are held prisoner.

In this issue, Aaron learns his grandfather is a sort of archmagi who is the leader of the society that is to kill the dragons. His grandfather is angry at April for what he thinks is betraying humankind and they have a bit of a skirmish. Aaron escapes and finds his father at the bottom of the dungeon. There's an confrontation between Aaron's father and grandfather and an ending with a slight twist.

There are some really great moments in this series and I've really enjoyed it. Lee Moder's style really fits Ron Marz's script very well. It's not gritty or edgy. There's no tits and ass. It's just an enjoyable story that readers of almost any age can pick up. I know it's just the beginning of the year, but I'm sure this will make my top picks. It'll be released in trade sometime this year, so if you missed it the first time, be sure to scoop it up.

The Wind Raider #1
Written by Richard Finney and Dean Loftis
Art by Gabriel Hardman
Colors by Micah Farritor
Lettering by David Hedgecock
Published by Ape Entertainment

Wow. Simply put, I really liked this book. It's sort of Star Wars in a "desertpunk" (an off branch of "steampunk") environment. There are car-like machines with sails and almost everyone is wearing goggles and scarfs and just, man...I really liked the imagery in this book. The story is about a young teen named Joshua who spends a lot of his time scouring the wastelands for "skyrock" (meteorites that have valuable mineral deposits). As fate would have it, one day he finds a rather large one and takes it to the market to have it analyzed. It turns out that his sample is worth a ton and the shop keeper buys it as is and Joshua runs as fast as he can to his father and his sister.

Unbeknownst to Joshua, him and his family were followed by a man named Barfog and his team of marauders (think the cliche pirate look). They are after Joshua since he knows where more deposits of the skyrock are, though the Marauders end killing Joshua's father, Gannes, and kidnapping his sister, Lore and killing Joshua as well. Out of nowhere comes Tristain, a Ki Warrior. A Wind Raider.

Tristan fights and kills off the remaining Marauders. He uses a special Ki ability and revitalizes Joshua back from the dead. The story isn't original by any means. Like I said, it's Star Wars: typical farmboy learns the way of an ancient powerful society, etc...but the thing is, it left me entertained. It actually left me wondering what will happen next.The art by Gabriel Hardman (who has done storyboarding for the X-Men and Spider-Man movie franchises) is nothing short of stunning and at times I thought I was looking at a Joe Kubert book. The panel layout is beyond superb and the coloring scheme really adds a certain feel to the story.

This is the first issue of a three-part series. Quite honestly, 52 pages for $3.50 is a damn good deal. If you want to take a chance on an unknown book, I suggest pick this up. The best part about this issue is that sometimes you have fantasy novels that don't include a glossary or anything like that and as fans, we have to piece together certain bits of information. Well fear not, the issues comes with character bios and facts and the creed of the Ki Warriors. So nothing will be lost in translation.

Green Lantern #37: Serving as the prelude to the upcoming "Blackest Night" saga, this issue proves why this book is the best super-hero book on the market today. The art is stunning and Geoff Johns continues his streak of genius. I haven't seen Hal act this angry in ages and it's downright scary what the man is capable of. It has a sort of interesting ending, and I have my theories of how Blackest Night will end, but I'll save those for later. There are battles, some deaths (including a somewhat major player), and just awesome all-around.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz #2: With the way things are coming along, this could easily wind up on my "Best of..." list next year. Eric Shanower and Skottie Young make a dynamite team that can't be beat. The book is kid-friendly and easy to read. In this issue, we meet the rest of Dorothy's entourage: the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion. There are some cute jokes and like I mentioned earlier in my review last month for the first issue, this is a proper adaptation to the BOOKS, and not the movie. Which I think is long over due for a remake. So, if you have a young reader in your family or friends, pick this series up.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

I was up early this morning...

...just to be sure I didn't over sleep to see the Oscar noms, and I have to say I am fairly disappointed with the Academy right now. Let's be honest. People are going to remember 'The Dark Knight' twenty years down the road, while those other movies up for the Best Picture will be lucky to be late night re-runs on TBS.

Oh, well. Oscar will take the digger for this in the form of ratings. whatever.

So here's the breakdown, to keep it official:

Best Supporting Actor (Heath Ledger)
Art Direction
Film Editing
Sound Editing
Sound Mixing
Visual Effects

"Nominated for 8 Academy Awards" still has a nice ring to it, but...

Wall-E got a best Screenplay nom? REALLY?!? I fell asleep through that movie. Twice.

I mean Nolan and TDK gets nominated by the DGA and PGA and STILL gets shut out? They're practically the same voters. Congrats to Downey, jr. though. First nomination is almost two decades.

The supporting actress category was damn predictable. I could have called that in my sleep, but I didn't have to since I was right on all of them. The surprise is that The Reader - which got some awful reviews, even for Winslet's acting - was the fifth nominee. But these are all, with the exception of Slumdog Millionaire, standard Oscar films: two biopics, a Holocaust-related films and the sort of star-studded socially aware film Hollywood loves to thank itself for making (if also a fantasy).

I hope Slumdog wins, just because it's from outside the system. But I haven't seen any of these, and odds are I won't for a long time, if ever. It makes me wish there was some good TV shows out there.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

First reviews of the year: Broken Trinity - Angelus and Black Lightining Year One #1

Broken Trinity: Angelus
Written by Ron Marz
Art by Brian Stelfreeze
Colors by Dave McCaig
Letters by Troy Peteri
Published by Top Cow

In FIRST BORN, The Angelus power chooses the troubled young woman Celestine as its host. Now in this issue Celestine's split personality struggles with The Angelus force for ultimate control, even as a rogue contingent of Angelus warriors plot their leader's overthrow. This is one of three, stand-alone tie-in issues to BROKEN TRINITY, featuring the heavenly art of Brian Stelfreeze (Batman: Shadow of the Bat, X-Men: Unlimited, Gun Candy) and written by modern master, Ron Marz.

As an Atlanta native, I'm always happy to see other Atlanta artists and writers take on projects like this. Brian Stelfreeze's (one of my Atlanta guys) art is just some of the best in the business and even if he is a seasoned pro, he still catches me by surprise with some pretty stellar stuff. His attention to detail is uncanny, but never over the top where it hinders the characters' construction. The panel layout is solid and not over-burdening. The colors by McCaig are pretty good, too. Marz's writing takes good care of these characters and really fleshes them out.

I have to admit, it's been several years since I gave a damn about Top Cow characters. Witchblade, while pretty to look at, never really held much substance for me. Marz has brought it back to more of a detective story and less t and a. I've had to change my opinion on the company and their some of their titles. They've done so much in the recent past, it's hard not to take notice. It's also going to take me a while to catch up properly. I'm a huge fan of the supernatural genre, and I think if you're into that as well, you should check out what's going on in the Broken Trinity saga.


Black Lightning Year One #1
Written by Jen Van Meter
Art by Cully Hamner
Colors by Laura Martin
Letters by Travis Lanham
Published by DC

I am personally a fan of these sort of ideas. Take a b/c-lister and give them a great writer and an uber-talented artist and sometimes you get something as awesome as this. At first I was sort of surprised of why one would pick Black Lightning to star in his own mini-series, then at DragonCon this past year Cully Hamner had some pages at his booth and I browsed through them, but you never can tell with just the inked pages.

Well, it finally came out this past week. Color me impressed. I can see where Van Meter took a splash of Walking Tall with the story. It was interesting to see his wife's point of view and voice on Jefferson's situation. She feels neglected and torn, but trust Jefferson with the move back to Southside, aka Suicide Slums. This issue explores different definitions of "hero".

The story is backed by dynamic visuals. Laura Martin (Secret Invasion, Thor) on colors aids Hamner's style beautifully. Oddly enough, the outfit Black Lightning is wearing in the first few pages resembles the outfit they gave him on the most recent episode of Batman: Brave and the Bold. Which marked the FIRST appearance of the character on any animated show.

Fans of comic books as a medium should consider picking this up. Not just superhero comic fans, not just Black Lightning fans, but anyone and everyone who likes to read comics.

My Picks for Best of 2008

BRONZE: Marvel: 1985
In third place, I suggest 1985. Written by Mark Millar and art by Tommy Lee Edwards, 1985 tells the tale of a young boy named Toby, who one day starts seeing Marvel Comic characters, from the "Secret Wars" era. He uncovers a plot devised by Dr. Doom and Red Skull to take over his world, the real world, our universe. It's a thrilling story with a fairy tale-like ending. I thought the story was pretty cool and kid-friendly, the art though may not be for everybody.

SILVER: “Heart of Hush” arc of Detective Comics
In second place, the "Heart of Hush" arc in Detective Comics. Wow. Paul Dini and Dustin Nguyen make a dynamite team on one of DC's flagship titles. Batman has never been more dynamic and a woman's revenge has never tasted sweeter. The sad thing is that this title was overshadowed by Batman's main "RIP" arc. Hush has always been a sort of bland villain, but Dini showed us what he is truly capable of and an origin story that seems it would have come out of Hitchcock.

Gold: Green Lantern
The best book of 2008, hands down, is Green Lantern. True, the title mainly consisted of telling Hal's New Earth origin in the "Secret Origin" arc, but it was needed to support the Blackest Night story coming out next year. As well, it was needed since Hal has not received one since Infinite Crisis. Geoff Johns talent is beyond superb. Not only did he show us how heroic Hal is, but how imperfect he is as well. He showed how Sinestro, one of comics' classic villains, was once the greatest of the Green Lanterns. Johns' words were aided amazingly by Ivan Reis, Oclar Albert and some of the best coloring in the business by the Major Brothers. Green Lantern is THE best super-hero book DC puts out right now and, in my opinion, the best ongoing series on the market. It's never late and always there for you to pick up and enjoy.