Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The End is Nine, er, Nigh for 09 #7

How freaking awesome Detective Comics has been.

I mean SERIOUSLY. I know that I really loved Detective Comics last year, but Greg Rucka and J. H. Williams III have just been great here. Taking out Batman in place of Batwoman as the lead character, with a Question b-story by Rucka and Cully Hamner, is just a one-two punch. It's engaging, interesting, beautiful and easily one of my favorite runs of comics ever.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Top Cow talks about what lies ahead in 2010

At the beginning of this month, Ron Marz talked to Newsarama about the new mini-series coming out this week, Angelus, which showcases Dani Baptiste and the new direction her life is headed. However, Angelus is merely the start of a larger epic. Shipping in February, Broken Trinity: Pandora's Box tells the next chapter, centering around some familiar faces. Then comes the big event in April: Artifacts, which will take the Top Cow universe to a place it's never been before.

Newsarama talked to Top Cow scribe Ron Marz and publisher Filip Sablik to give us some insight on things to come with the upcoming events, starting with a quick sum up of Angelus:

"The story is definitely balanced between Dani's personal lilfe and her role as the Angelus. There's a lot going on in Dani's life during the series," said Marz. "She moves back to New Orleans, she has to sort out whether she's going to be in a relationship with another woman. And all of that is going on while she adjusts to her role as the Angelus, which includes a coup attempt by those who serve her, as well as a conflict with the Darkness, in the person of Jackie Estacado."

"One of the things Ron and I talked about when we were working on "War of the Witchblades" is that in a way, that story was the birth of a new hero in Dani becoming the Angelus," publisher Filip Salbik replied. "It was the origin story, if you will. In my mind, the Angelus limited series is Dani's 'Year One', the events that will define her as a hero and a character."

So, with that series in the works, Top Cow is about to unleash a new chapter in the "Broken Trinity" saga. Marz and Sablik explain it as something more than a standard Witchblade adventure.

"Broken Trinity: Pandora's Box is being written by Rob Levin and Bryan Edward Hill, who I like to think of as the "I Spy" team of the 21st century, except without the tennis pro cover," Marz joked. "It's very much set in the real world, like a globe-hopping big-budget action movie. It continues the stories of Finn and Glori, the characters we introduced in the "Broken Trinity" event I wrote last year. So Finn, who can become a frost giant, and Glori, who can transform into a dragon, are the fantasy elements, but they're placed in the real world. I think that's a really intriguing contrast."

Sablik went on to saying, "Yeah, I would describe Broken Trinity: Pandora's Box as more of a globe-hopping big-budget action movie. In tone and spirit, it takes inspiration from things like "Alias", "Indiana Jones", "James Bond", and "Tomb Raider". There are certainly supernatural, mystical elements to the series but it fills a very different space than Witchblade and The Darkness.

Marz explains that Artifacts was first talked about two years ago, and has been on the horizon for a while, but they're getting down to the nitty-gritty. "Issue #1 will be out in July, which sounds like it's far away, but it's really right around the corner in terms of publishing."

One of the big questions was about readers being able to understand the full story of Artifacts if they decide not to read Angelus or Pandora's Box. Marz has stated that Artifacts won't be like most crossovers where there are 3 dozen threads or anything like that, so Artifacts will be self-contained.

"Yeah, Artifacts will be a ground-floor read. Noobs will get everything they need to know within the story. So if someone is not reading Angelus or Broken Trinity, or heaven forbid even Witchblade and The Darkness, the story in Artifacts will still be completely accessible," said Marz. "The story is going to very literally redefine the Top Cow Universe, so part of my job early on is to establish who's who and what's what in the Top Cow Universe. You have to show the readers what's at stake in order for them to care."

"That's definitely one of the key things Ron and I talked about very early on when we began discussing the structure of Artifacts. We really want to make this the kind of event that if you've never read a Top Cow title, but you've been curious, you can walk into our biggest storyline to date and immediately be immersed," Sablik added. "It will hopefully make you want to go back and read the issues of Witchblade or The Darkness or other series that led into it, but it won't be necessary to understand what's going on in the series. My favorite part of the story Ron has come up with is that it has a very human element at its core. Even if you care nothing about the large Universe ramifications with the Artifacts, I think you'll be able to enjoy the journey the main characters go on."

Now, Top Cow has been around for a while now, but never has done this sort of "ultimate crossover event" and marketing this event is no easy task. "I've been amassing blackmail photos of all of the top one thousand direct market retailers for the last 3 years and it's finally time to make use of them. I'm kidding, of course," Sablik jokes. "We are going to be putting the full weight of our marketing behind this event series. You can actually already see teaser ads our monthly comics in the last month or two. The main thing will be building the excitement over the course of the next six months, releasing little bits of information a little bit at a time without spoiling the story. One of the other things we'll be doing is building towards the series in titles like Witchblade and The Darkness as well as limited series like Angelus and Broken Trinity: Pandora's Box. All of this hopefully will crescendo into a fever pitch around Comic-Con next year.

He goes on to say, "It is the must read title for 2010 in Top Cow. And I think I can say it's a must read for us because we've never done something like this before. And of course, there are difficulties in trying to pull something like this off."

Though, Sablik is confident in his team. "Fortunately, we have Ron Marz at the helm. Not only does he have experience in world building and writing sweeping epics like this, but he's also been the driving writing force in the Top Cow Universe for the last five years or so. We have other writers like Phil Hester, Rob Levin, and Bryan Edward Hill essentially acting as support for Ron and these are guys that Ron knows and already has relationships with. Marc Silvestri is providing his insight as well and adding to the big ideas at play here."

Sablik feels comfortable moving foward with this project for numerous reasons, but one stands out, "This isn't something we're doing because we need to fix continuity problems or capitalize on a trend. This story is a natural outgrowth of where the story of the Top Cow Universe has been going. It has evolved from the stories that Ron and Phil and others have been telling."

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The End is Nine, er, Nigh for 09 #8

Heath Ledger wins Best Supporting Actor Oscar for "The Dark Knight

Talk about heart-wrenching. Now it would seem as much of a fan of this movie I am, this would be placed higher on this list. The truth of the matter, is that we all saw it coming. I mean, from the his introductory scene, we knew Ledger would make this movie, and his role is now legendary. In addition to being the second person to win an acting Oscar posthumously, it is also the first acting Oscar for a "genre" movie.

And the fact of the matter is, it was his award to lose. I felt almost bad for the rest of the nominees, they knew they weren't walking away with their gold naked man that night. I remember where I was that night and will never forget his father's speech.

RIP Heath. You were a man of your word.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Unwritten #8 review and DC Holiday Special!

The Unwritten #8
Written by Mike Carey
Art by Peter Gross
Colors by Chris Chuckry and Jeanne McGee
Letters byt Todd Lkein
Cover by Yuko Shimizu
Published by Vertigo Comics
Review by Lan Pitts

"Find your torch, and your wantd. It's up to us, Peter Price. If you're brave enough....we're going to rescue him."

While this issue doesn't resolve the cliffhanger from the last one, it does add a bit of depth to the story and shed some light on Governor Claude Chadron and his family. The action and fantasy level is grounded a bit, but Carey once again provides excellent story-telling that adds a little something extra to this already amazing cast of characters. Even though I was a bit agitated thatwe don't find out what happens to Tommy and Savoy or Chadron himself, the issue plays out like a prelude and has some fantastic character work here.

Tom himself only appears in a few panels since it retells events in the past issue when he arrives at the prison and explains why the Governor was so cold to him. He's not a bad guy or the cliche corrupted politician, it's just the Tommy Taylor books have affected his children (his daughter especially) in a negative way and Carey gives us a taste of the bad side of things in which otherwise had been pleasant family bonding with those stories. I really have to hand it to Carey for making me actually care about an otherwise background character. It expands to the suspense and does so without having to add anything supernatural.

These next 30 days to wait for the next installment are going to be painful.

I also have to say I love what Peter Gross did with the art here. He could have taken the easy (read: lazy) way and just swiped what he did in earlier issues, but he doesn't He rearranged panels, added new angles which just build on the experience of reading this title. The art is strong and meshed with Chuckry and McGee's use of coloring to add the proper mood and tone, it's just all the more amazing.

I can't wait to return to the main story, but The Unwritten #8 continues to build more and more in what is becoming my favorite book of the year. If you haven't experienced this book by now, I could not recommend it enough. However, be warned you cannot just simply pick up this book now if you haven't read the previous seven issues. It would be sort of like reading "Deathly Hallows" without reading books 1-6, and you wouldn't want that sort of confusion.

DC Holiday Special '09
Written by Various
Art by Various
Published by DC Comics
Review by Amanda McDonald and Lan Pitts

In a household where the collection of Batgirl figures now includes a variety of Santas and pine-scented candles, and the Nativity scene has one of Joker's Henchman riding a camel, Lan and Amanda take some time to review the DC Holiday Special for 2009.

Batman in Silent Knight: This story is. . . silent! Jay Faerber provides a wordless script for this first story of the book. What better way to start a collection of comic book stories than with a true example of sequential art? Peter Nguyen's art and colors nail this one, and set a great tone for the book.

Superman in Man of Snow: On his way to pick up a couple tins of caramel corn for Ma Kent, Superman encounters a Golem made of snow in this heart-warming story. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or any other winter holiday-- this story exemplifies how this season lifts our spirits.

Flash in the Flash Before Christmas: Now is this a great story. The Flash, Wally West, has a lot on his Christmas to-do list, and things don't always go according to plan for the Fastest Man Alive. However, all's well that ends well for the West clan for "the best Christmas ever". Creative panel construction and just an all-around feel good tale in this one. For a chuckle, notice who Wally delivers mail to.

Beast Boy & Doom Patrol in The Christmas of Doom: Sterling Gates (writer), Jonboy Meyers (art), and Chuck Pires (colors) team up to tell the story of why Beast Boy hates Christmas, and how he ends up getting the ultimate Christmas gift. A bit of a tear-jerker, but in an "awwww, how sweet" sort of way that so many classic holiday tales end.

Superboy in Party Gift: At a mystery party where rogues celebrate the Christmas spirit, nobody knows who is the gracious host, until Bizarro Superboy appears and confesses to be the one who had the idea. One thing that annoys me in comics today is the Bizarro syntax, especially in large doses. While a clever story, I only sort of "get it". I love Rodney Buchemi's pencils and character design. I just wonder how Superboy knew where to send all those invites.

Martian Manhunter in Reason for the Season: As a member of the Middleton City Homicide Squad, Detective "Jones" uses his skills to impress his coworkers, but finds himself missing home. The red of the season reminds him of the dunes of Mars, the green reminds him of his Martian race, even though he explains why the holiday messages were unnecessary due to their mind set. While the reader finds themselves idealizing that life, Jones comes around to the human way and finds himself surrounded by new friends from the force celebrating the season.

Angel & the Ape: In this short 5-panel story by Andrew Pepoy and Paul Mounts starring Angel O'Day and Sam Simeon, I love how Pepoy captured the Bob Oksner style of the characters. When asked by Angel to make a donation, a snotty businessman rejects her offer, but is intimidated by Sam into making a generable donation. Now that's teamwork.

Sgt. Rock in A Peace on Earth: Billy Tucci. Sgt. Rock. Christmas. 'Nuff said. The admiration Tucci has for Rock has been showcased before, but in this Christmas tale, there's just a little something extra. I love the use of grayscale and that the story of two soldiers from opposite sides can share a Christmas and exchange cognac and cigarettes. Peace on Earth, indeed.

Enemy Ace in Stille Nacht: I have limited knowledge and have had just as much exposure to Enemy Ace, but what I got out of this story, really stirred me. Howard Chaykin's art is astonishing and Edgar Delgado's coloring skills are superb. The best thing about this story is that it could have been anybody, and the message is the same.

B'wana Beast in The Hunt for Christmas: Nothing says Christmas like B'wana Beast. He stops a group of poachers and brings presents to a small village. He even wears a Santa hat. While the imagery is just utterly ridiculous, it strikes the right chord and is downright enjoyable.

Captain Marvel in Home for Christmas: In a one page short, Captain Marvel and Ibac face off, destroying a homeless shelter in the process. Agreeing to break from fighting, they rebuild the shelter and the relationship between them changes, right in line with the holiday spirit.

Deadman in Unbearable Loss: Suicidal over her son's actions, Scarecrow's mother encounters Deadman at precisely the right time in her life. Encouraging her to 'choose life,' not only does she embrace her own life, she changes the life of someone in great need.

Red Tornado in A Night Before Christmas Story: Picture this-- several last minute shoppers and a couple of apathetic store employees are trapped in a toy store with a Red Tornado in seek of the season's "it" toy for his daughter. Hrm. . . who do you think walks out of the store with a wrapped "Ecko Gecko"? The end of this story is a bit saccharine. But what the heck. . . that's par for the course this time of year.

Huntress in Naughty or Nice: J. Torres and Hubert Khan Michael turn out a great Huntress story that displays she can kick ass with the best of them. It's short, sweet, to the point and looks great.

Ragman in Seeing the Light: Wow, a Ragman story. You don't come across these much. I love how this goes back and forth between the story of the Maccabees and Ragman handing out some street justice. Rob Levin really delivered on the script and Brian Ching just nailed the art.

Adam Strange in Auld Lang Syne: Man, do I love me some Adam Strange. Shannon Eric Denton really knows how to tell a story and it is just solid. Now it's not really a Christmas story or anything like that, but since this is the last story in issue, I guess it's fitting it's sort of New Years related.

Yes, the Holiday Special is pricier than average books-- but it is the perfect stocking stuffer for the comic lover on your list. Errr. . . or for yourself. Or you know, there's nothing wrong with enjoying it before gifting it. Happy Holidays, 'Rama Readers!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The End is Nine, er, Nigh for 09 #9

Number 9 for 2009: Batman The Brave and the Bold.

Holy crap this show is good. Now, I know the series actually debuted late last year, but this year it has had some amazing episodes and a slew of DC's greatest to the most obscure (Bronze Tiger, anyone?), but has held it's own as what could be THE Batman show for this generation. I have reviewed it for Newsarama and have a regular weekly Post Game, so I might come off as a bit biased, but this educates new, and younger audiences about the huge roster of characters DC has besides the one that have been showcased over and over again, and even some new ones along the way.

I hope this show has time to grow and become the new standard on what DC animation could be. Yes, it is aimed at children, but if you lighten up a bit, you might have some fun along the way. I know I have.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The End is Nine, er, Nigh for 09 #10

I will be counting down the best of the year starting today.

These could be anything pop culture related: TV, comics, books, movies, video games. You name it. Also in addition things I experienced as well.

So let's start the list with Number 10 --

GI JOE: The Rise of Cobra.

Yes, you might remember my review a while back. I recently watched it again since Lew hadn't seen it. It did what it set out to do. Ninja on ninja fights. Laser fights. Destro looking like Destro. Origin story...all the while keeping the masturbation jokes (like another 80's cartoon turned big movie franchise) out of it and keeping it a pretty solid action movie. Eric, Paul, and I went to see this and just had tons of fun. The only problem is that the visual effects look like they were made using a PS2 engine and not something for a major motion picture.

Still, easily one of the more fun experiences going to the movies this year.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Spider-Man Noir: Eyes without a Face #1

Spider-Man Noir: Eyes Without a Face #1
Written by David Hine and Fabrice Sapolsky
Art by Carmine Di Giadomenico
Letters by David Lanphear
Cover by Patrick Zircher
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Lan Pitts

"There's an odor. The last time I smelled it was the night Uncle Ben died. I know what it is...the stench of a slaughterhouse." -- Peter Parker, the Spider-Man

Three months after the events in first Spider-Man Noir and the death of the Goblin left a void of a crime boss and there is a new kingpin on the rise trying to ascend that throne. No, not the Kingpin, actually the writers took a different approach and went with a much lesser-known Spider-villain. The book takes place in a pivotal point in history as FDR was just elected, and the New Deal is slowly, but surely working to help people recover from the Great Depression.

When the "Noir" titles hit, I devoured them and this issue is no exception which sets up a multitude of things to come. As a history buff, I really appreciate certain things and love the look of it all. The use of coloring is superb and Carmine Di Domenico's style is somewhere between Tim Sale and Eric Canete, both of which I am huge fans of. The first issue introduces some old-school Spider-villains to the "Noir-world" including Doctor Octopus and the Sandman. The tone is a bit darker than the previous installment, but you can't help but dig these sort of stories that take familiar characters and put them in this kind of pulp-styled universe.

The dialog is smart and characterization can't be beat. I especially love what Hine and Sapolsky have done with Robbie Robertson here and it really works without deviating too much. Felicia Hardy returns, with her and Peter drawing the lines of their relationship. And what they did to Doctor Octopus? Genius, though I'm pretty sure I know where this is headed.

With the darker concepts and more violent elements, it might stir some Spider-Man fans away, however, I don't possibly think I could recommend something like this enough. If you're a fan of the Sandman Mystery Theatre stories or if you read any of the "Noir" books before, check this one out.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Green Lantern #48 review

Green Lantern #48
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Doug Mahnke
Inks by Christian Alamy, Doug Mahnke and Tom Nguyen
Colors by Randy Mayor with Gabe Eltaeb
Letters by Rob Leigh
Published by DC Comics
Review by Lan Pitts

"We will find it, Green Lantern. And we will give everything we have to destroy it." -- Ganthet

Note: The events in this issue, occur before Blackest Night #6 and acts as sort of the beginning to Blackest Night #5. Savvy?

Since most of the action has been diverted to the plot in "Blackest Night", this issue is more of a set up and character establishing if anything else. Not to say it's boring or anything near that, just sort of takes a breather. Green Lantern #48 focuses on the poster boys/girls of each Corps: Hal Jordan (Green), Carol Ferris (Star Sapphire), Saint-Walker (Blue), Sinestro (Yellow), Larfleeze (Orange), Indigo-1 (Indigo...duh), and Atrocitus (Red). I love how each of these characters have their own distinct voice and really get a chance to be showcased. There is a hint of Atrocitus' background, and we realize just how of a tortured soul he is.

Also, I'm finding myself liking Larfleeze more and more. He blurs the line between amusing and horrifying quite well. You have to admit, it's just perfect for him to ask for his Corps' own Guardian. Like I mentioned, there is really great character development going on here.

Of course the inevitable happened and the Corps leaders forge an uneasy alliance for the time being to destroy the Black Lanterns and their source. Johns has really given us a fantastic story thus far regarding anything Green Lantern, and I'm sure the finale of this crossover will not disappoint. Doug Mahnke's art is a perfect match for this sort of story. It's dynamic and an excellent mix of superhero imagery to the subtle things like Sinesto's smug face. He's accompanied by two other inkers, and of course himself on inking duties as well, and you can see minor details to each character and how they differentiate.

You have to admire Johns for basically doing a balancing act between to huge stories. One, being the dead rising all over in the DC Universe and becoming Black Lanterns, and the other is the beginning to the War of Light. If you've been reading just "Blackest Night", I think you might want to pick this one for a better understanding as it provides a level of background going into Blackest Night #5 that I'm sure would help you enjoy the full scope of things.