Sunday, January 24, 2010

Shhhh. It's a secret.

What could this mean?

What DOES it mean?

Ever wonder how many times the world is saved and you haven't the slightest idea what was going on?

Some people make good soldiers, others are born.

The Unwritten makes the NYT Best Seller's list

As of this week, Vertigo’s acclaimed series The Unwritten is number 8 on the Paperback Graphic Books Best-Sellers’ list. Now, you might not think that’s a big deal, but considering the list only has two freshman titles, I think this is an amazing feat since I’m shocked people aren’t picking up this incredible story. If you are unfamiliar with the title, it focuses around a young man by the name of Tommy Taylor, who may or may not be, the fictional boy wizard character of his missing father’s novels. However, Harry Potter, this ain’t.

Blog@ spoke with co-creator and writer of the series, Mike Carey about this announcement and what it means to him. “We’d heard this was coming last week, but we weren’t allowed to leak it! It’s fantastic that the book is getting such a great reception. It’s popping up in all kinds of lists of the best of 2009, Publishers’ Weekly gave it a really positive review, and now we turn up in the New York Times charts. The whole Unwritten team is very proud, and at the same time it puts us on our mettle. You really don’t want to blow it with so many people watching.”

Even though I have all the issues thus far in the series, I made sure to get a copy of the trade just so I could lend it out to readers who haven’t discovered this book yet.

The Unwritten Vol.1: “Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity” collects issues 1-5 and is available for $9.99.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Doctor Voodoo #4

Doctor Voodoo: Avenger of the Supernatural #4
Written by Rick Remender
Art by Jefte Palo & Alessandro Vitti
Colors by Jean-Francois Beaulieu
Letters by Dave Lanphear
Cover by Marko Djurdjevic
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Lan Pitts

But I am sure of one thing. To end this madness -- I must die at the hands of my brother. -- Daniel Drumm

Thank, God. It's been a slow burn, but this was the issue I've been waiting for in this series. Finally Doctor Voodoo relieves himself of the self-doubt and turmoil to accept his new role and I can't wait to see what transpires out of this. So, what we have here is the Doctor and other various magical Marvel characters such as Ghost Rider, Magick, and I'm sure I saw the Living Mummy, under the influence of Nightmare, hunting Daniel who has possessed the Son of Satan's body for the time being. There's a backstory on how Daniel actually died and the beginning to Jericho's pursuit in the supernatural, and of course a team up I didn't really see coming. What's the old saying? The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

Rick Remender has crafted this character for readers unfamiliar with him, and I loved how this issue turned out. He gave Drumm layers and it was about time he shed the layer of "uncertain of his position" next issue has potential to be one hell of an all-out supernatural slugfest. Just as previous issues, we have Jefte Palo on art, assisted by Alessandro Vitti, and outstanding color crafting by Beaulieu. My main disappointment is the confusion I had about this series. At one time, I read it was an ongoing. Then, a mini. Then again ongoing...but it does appear to be a mini that ends next issue. I guess I should have taken a hint when no other Marvel books were affected by Nightmare's Hell on Earth. Funny how that works.

Calling this a misstep is about right. I've had fun with this book and feel shafted now that I'm sure this was just something to get Voodoo over with the fans so he can be a member of a new Avengers team. That's my guess anyways. Visually, the book is one of my favorites on the market, Nightmare's hair aside. Palo and Vitti really shine not only with the superheroics, but with the flashbacks as well. I wished the character had been allowed a full series, but then again, when the former Sorcerer Supreme only got a four-issue mini, I guess I was expecting too much.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Bunch o' reviews here!

Lola: A Ghost Story
Written by J. Torres
Art by Elbert Or
Published by Oni Press
Review by George Marston and Lan Pitts

Lola: A Ghost Story is a simple story that shoots for a high emotional response, and though it often falls short of that goal, it is expressive and subtle in an easily relatable way. Its opening pages promise a story frought with the bittersweet trials of growing old enough to understand the true nature of death, and the honesty of life. The art immediately invokes a dreamlike quality that, coupled with the cathartic nature of the story, is reminiscent of the work of Hayao Miyazaki. Unfortunately, the book rarely reaches the heights set by its first impression again. The story concept often feels like more than the sum of its parts. While accessible, it is curtailed by moments that seem designed to widen its scope, but more often detract from the central narrative.

The story focuses on a young Filipino boy named Jesse. He and his family travel from Canada to their ancestral home in the Philipines to mourn the passing of his "Lola," which is the Tagalog word for grandmother. Of interesting note is that author J. Torres is, himself, a Filipino born Canadian. Upon returning to the Philipines, Jesse finds that he is closer to his Lola than he ever knew, and through a series of twists that some may spot immediately, becomes embroiled in a ghost story of the most classic form. Throughout the story, we are treated to bits of Filipino culture, and blurbs explaining and translating the numerous Tagalog words and expressions used by Jesse and his family. Often, these bits bring us closer to the family and their heritage, but many times the scenes incorporating Filipino folklore simply feel as though they are included only to showcase the unique mythology of the Philipines, and not to serve the central narrative. One would not think that space would be at a premium for a simple story in a 98 page graphic novel, but many scenes feel as though they could easily be excised to provide more room for the sweeping emotional backdrop that lies at stake.

The art incorporates the best elements of the cartoon form, using the simplest lines to convey the basest emotions and characterization. It falls flat only when it ignores the scope of the story, and the surreal texture of the of the spiritual backdrop. Often times the sepia tones that serve as the only depth to the black and white form feel too ordinary. A full color treatment may have proved more suitable for matching the tone of the story, or, failing that, more full panels that strayed farther from the mundane. The stark ending, while a bit baffling, promises more to come in Jesse's story, and perhaps the further adventures of our main character will provide a glimpse at some of the vast world promised by this inaugural chapter.

All in all, Lola: A Ghost Story is a worthwhile read, and easily accessible to anyone who chooses to crack the cover. As a coming of age tale, it is relatable for anyone who grew up to realize that the life ahead of them was both more and less fantastic than they were lead to believe, and serves as a fine precursor to anyone for whom that revelation may yet be years in the making. Lola: A Ghost Story often struggles to make the most of its ambitions, but then, isn't that what the story is truly about?

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

"Tommy Taylor belongs in a children's story. It's hard for him to get his bearings in a three-act tragedy." -- the Inside Man

I have reviewed this book for quite some time now, and one would think I would have adjusted myself by to Mike Carey and Peter Gross' compelling style of storytelling, but I was somehow proven wrong and once again, as I turned to the last page I found myself saying "oh, crap". Though not the way you would after finding a parking ticket on your car, but more of the "oh my God, this is great. Please, sir, can I have some more?" sort of way.

I found myself a little agitated last issue when Tom's story wasn't continued and sidetracked for the subplot dealing with the Governor's children, but I understand now that story had to be told for the sake of the tragic events in this issue. With mercenaries on the loose and gunning for Tom and company, a Warden who wants them dead, and a pair of Governor's children trying to save the "real" Tommy Taylor, you have a tension-filled issue that has its moments of fun and excitement, but ultimately turns to horror.

I found it weird I felt loss after what transpires at the end of the issue, especially knowing these characters for such a small amount of time, but as I mentioned, I was caught off guard. That is the magic of Mike Carey. On the art side of things, Peter Gross truly captures the chaos of the situation quite well within the 22 pages provided without cluttering up pages and in turn making them an eye sore.

You may remember I gave this book my "Gold Medal" for 2009, and it really is a gem of a book. The trade of the first five issues is currently out now, so I encourage you to pick that up, get yourself caught up, and see what you've been missing out on.

Catwoman #83 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Lan Pitts): It's been a little over a year since we've seen Ms. Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman, in her own solo series. Tony Bedard takes a crack at her whip with this issue, but I'm a bit confused on some elements going on here. It felt more like a "Gotham City Sirens" issue rather than Catwoman, but Bedard excels at all the femme fatals characterization. For the follows of the book where #82 had left off, or for readers who had no idea what had happened, there is a quick summary of the past events and gets that out of the way for the rest of the story. I love the art style of the book, but why was there a need for a slew of them? I didn't notice any difference between who was who. Just seemed a bit weird to me. The ending was a bit of a twist, and hopefully they continue this on "Sirens", which I'm sure they will. Top notch all around.

The Anchor #4 (Published by Boom! Studios; Review by Lan Pitts): Damn, this book is just plain cool. I could just stop right there, but what sort of review would that be? This issue ends the current arc, but seamlessly sets up the next one to come. I'm liking Brian Churilla's style, but this issue seemed sort of weaker in comparison to the previous installments. Phil Hester's knowledge on the supernatural really comes out and some of the imagery is horrific, but creative and unlike anything on the market right now. I know you may think the $3.99 is a bit weird for an indy title, but you get a solid story from beginning to end and it's ad free. It really doesn't get any better than that. Also, the Volume 1 trade is available which might come in handy when you want to catch up since these issues are selling out. And fast.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Batman Rogues a la Ted Naifeh

How awesome are these?

They have a slight slight deviation, but he's put your own spin on the characters, but still kept their collective vibe. Everybody wants to do a Joker story, but how would he put his imagery to that character? It's not about going outside the box to get noticed, because then he risks the backlash of the die hards. Personally, I'd love how he'd handle Mr. Freeze or Poison Ivy.

But Ivy is a bit tricky. What route do you go with? I personally hate how Jim Lee did her and how she's green. She looks like She-Hulk or she's seasick. Just, really hate that look and disagree on how that represents her. I do love how Alex Ross and Tim Sale have done with her.

Freeze though? He was a scientist, with a tragic story, not some body builder. I hate it when artists give him this hulking silhouette, but that's just me.

I'd love to see him take on the Batgirl book. It's fun, and there is a lot of interaction between the Bat family, so there's a chance to draw Batgirl, Babs, Robin, Batman, and maybe a Bat-villain (Scarecrow just popped up).

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

King Coco

The country is no longer divided between red or blue states. No more Team Edward or Jacob.

but no matter what side you stand, I want to make sure you know where I (and DC artist Dustin Nguyen stand)

Do it for Coco.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Spider-Man Noir: Eyes without a Face #2

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

"You'll notice my boys aren't using their cannons. I want you alive when I split you open and your guts spill out on the floor." -- the Crime Master

This series just became a bit more intense, while keeping the action to a minimal, but heavy on the set up and great climax. Spider-Man continues his hunt for the Crime Master, all the while keeping a close eye on Felicia Hardy, and eventually having to find his friend Robbie who has gone missing. Spider-Man also sweats out a minor player who was a Don Moretti associate and closes his shop. For good. Things don't look well for Robbie as he was kidnapped by the Dr. Octavius (who, in case you missed it last time, is a Nazi scientist in this universe), who is experimenting on the "inferior races".

There is a lot of plot going on here, but Hine and Sopolsky does a fine balancing act without taking any bumps. They've taken the noir idea, but I think the word "pulp" really defines this sort of story more accurately. This issue really concentrates on Octavius' origin and just briefly touches on a bit of the Crime Master's back story. Of course, Hine and Sopolsky are aided by a visually gifted talent like Giadomenico, and everything looks and feels solid. His kinetic style captures Spider-Man's movements and really knows how to panel a fight scene and even handles the subtle moments with an easy touch.

I've had fun with the "noir" series Marvel has put out thus far and, pardon the pun, but this team has really spun a creative web and sucked me in, even if it is weird to see Spider-Man holding a gun. Even if you haven't given this a try, I suggest you should. It's fun and exciting, even if it does take place during one of America's darkest times.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Best Books of 2009, what to watch for in 2010

It was difficult as a reader and a reviewer to narrow down three choices for my "best of..." list, but I really think these were the books that really shined this past year and hope to continue to in 2010

Bronze: Witchblade

Talk about a series that has seen some highs and lows in the past decade. Once thought of just something pre-pubescent boys can drool on, Ron Marz has really put a new stamp on this book as easily one of the best. Supernatural hero, meshed with elements of a cop drama, with a lead character who is the mother of an infant makes for a great read with solid stories. Now, in 2009, there was "War of the Witchblades", with both bearers of the fabled gauntlet try to kill one another, with one almost succeeding. While artist Stjepan Sejic really soared with the best of them on some of the more horror/mystical elements, he stumbled here and there more often than not with the more quiet moments. Even with that minor hiccup, Witchblade is excellent and events coming in 2010, makes this a book not to be missed.

Silver: "Elegy" arc in Detective Comics

I know, I know. I did a 'Tec arc last year for the Silver Medal, but this book has just had great teams, and this year it went from already amazing to just down right the best "Bat" book on the shelves. Greg Rucka is nothing short of a great story-teller, but add his words to J. H. Williams' avant-garde style that echoes something out of Steranko-land, you've got one hell of a book. While the story of a bat-themed hero going after a pale-skinned villain might seem familiar, but Rucka and Williams wove something unique and different and set the bar for other super-hero books. You have my sympathies if you've been missing out on this one.

Gold: The Unwritten

Please tell me you've at least heard of this book. Now, I know the common concern is that most Vertigo books are so heavy and dense that it makes it difficult to just pick up a random issue and follow along. I can understand that, and this book is no different. However, what Mike Carey and Peter Gross have done here is just incredible and my favorite book of the past year. Unwritten is just so...just by itself and creative, it's hard to fathom that a lot of people are ignoring this work of art. The story is deep and rich with literary allegories, and is just damn smart. Let's see, it's the story of Tom Taylor, whose father was a prolific and famous children's book author best known for his Tommy Taylor series (think Harry Potter). Tom's father goes missing and it turns out Tom may actually be the boy wizard from the book series. With a Harry Potter-like character, you might think this is kid-friendly, well that's not exactly the case, just so you don't go running out and buy this for a young reader. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Sandman of this generation and my pick for best book of 2009.

What to watch for in 2010: Moon Knight
Yeah, I know he's not the center of any universe or anything like that. There's not a ton of MK merchandise out there or no Saturday morning cartoon (do they still even make those?). However, I've been having a blast reading "Vengeance of the Moon Knight", and there's been a slow build on Spector's lunacy (pun intended) and it's only a matter of time before he does finally snap, but if that moment comes, can he be find redemption? The weird thing is that the title of the book has the word vengeance in it, yet he hasn't really taken revenge out on anything yet, it's mainly his rogue's gallery going after him. Also, I just love what Hurwitz and Opena are doing and I'm just captivated by each page. Sure, there are some heavy events for all major companies lined up for next year, but I think this character will catch you by surprise.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

double review! Moon Knight and Witchblade ahoy!

Vengeance of the Moon Knight #4
Written by Gregg Hurwitz
Art by Jerome Opena
Colors by Paul Mounts
Letters by VC's Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Lan Pitts

"In ancient times, the Pharoah slew his enemies and cut out their hearts. He burned them on the altar -- a sacrifice to me. The Pharoah. And you? A mere avatar and you won't grant me a single heartbreak?" -- Khonshu

This is slowly becoming my favorite Marvel book on the shelves these days. I understand that some people just shrug Moon Knight off as a C-lister at best, or a wannabe Batman or a half-ass Daredevil. His history is a bit, shall we say, convoluted. His powers seem to change on a whim. Also, is he Marc Spector, or going by another alias? It can be confusing at times, but man oh man, this book is just stellar. Gregg Hurwitz has spun himself something great, and an interesting note on this issue is that there's not a lot of dialog, but it is heavy on the fast-paced action.

MK is outnumbered after Ravencroft asylum inmates have been basically made into a small army, and are used to drive him out. Needless to say it works and MK does his best to take down as many of the inmates as possible, even going to lengths with him using Frenchie to pilot his jet as a sort of broom to sweep up a huge gathering. Of course, he goes hand-to-hand eventually, all the while not killing a single one much to the devil on his shoulder Khonshu's chagrin. Though with some creative plotting, the villains actually get the upper hand, leaving MK defenseless for Round Two.

That's one of the main reasons this book is as great as it is. Hurwitz wants you to keep coming back. It's a simple formula, but works all the time. Like I mentioned, there's not a lot of dialog, Opena's art does most of the "talking", and it speaks volumes. This is surely one of the characters, books, and creative teams to look out for in the coming year. Hurwitz and Opena have given us four great issues so far with a great set up, and there's no doubt the pay off will be worth the wait.


Witchblade #133
Written by Ron Marz
Art by Stjepan Sejic
Letters by Troy Peteri
Covers by Stjepan Sejic and Jeffrey Spokes
Published by Top Cow
Review by Lan Pitts

"My name's Sara. I'm a detective with the NYPD. But that doesn't really matter...I want to talk." -- Sara Pezzini

There's actually two stories going on in this issue. One being the resolution to the missing children from the previous issue, as well as a sort of "welcome back" for Aphrodite IV. As usual, Marz nails the dialog and brings subtle mystical elements to the story with an addition to a real-world problem. There's no intergalactic threat or demonic hellgate that will unleash an unholy terror...this time anyways, and the villain is not who you think at first. Much like the story of the "Three Billy Goats Gruff" there is a troll under the bridge, but Marz didn't take the usual route and the real monster is in plain sight.

Sara and her boyfriend/partner Patrick find the missing kids, and after a bit of a brawl with the troll, Sara learns his true purpose: to protect innocents. Sara is informed of a nearby child molester and things don't go too well for him. The conflict from the "War of the Witchblades" isn't mentioned, but I wonder how long Sara will walk this darker path, that almost has her taking on a more of a Vic Mackey persona. Of course, after that ordeal, we see a set up for events to come with a couple pages of Aphrodite IV.

Now, I've discussed before that Sejic has trouble handling quieter moments of the book, but grand slams things like trolls and the imagery of Hell. In this issue, you can see improvements in how he does with figure construction and facial expressions. I love what he did with the countryside scenery, and it's a nice break from the hustle and bustle of the New York cityscape he's done for a while.

This has been one of my consistently favorite books since I was reintroduced to the series earlier this year. With recaps at the beginning of each issue, it makes it easy to pick up and dive in. I say, take the plunge.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The End is Nine, er, Nigh for 09 #6-1

Man, I've been shirking this countdown. You figure that would have time for a measly thing like a simple things of what I thought highlighted my 2009 in the world of pop culture, but nope. So, to make up for that since we're already in Day 2 of 2010, I'm doing a quick rundown of my 6 spots.

#6: Watchmen the movie You know, this movie was deemed unfilmable for decades, but finally came into reality this past year. Not with an all-star cast, but with a GREAT cast and superb special effects and great direction, even though Snyder is a bit niche and can't seem to make a movie without "visionary film maker" attached to his name, but oh well. Yes, they changed the ending a tad, but it still had the same results. You have to give WB props for making this movie with no big name stars, a source material that is mainly known to comic fans, and having an R-rating so you can't really market it to kids. It's a shame though that this movies doesn't get the respect it deserves at times.

#5: Smallville Seasons 8 and 9 Now this is the show I've been waiting for it to become. Yes, it's almost constant fan service, but still. With Clark and Lois working at the Planet, it's almost a tease now when he'll wear the suit. Also, with guest appearances by Zatanna, Doomsday, and the death of Jimmy, who wasn't really Jimmy Olsen after all, but the REAL Jimmy Olsen's older brother. Just little things like that keep me wanting more and with the 2 hour JSA/JLA movie airing in a few weeks, I cannot be more stoked about this.

#4: The multi-tasker, Geoff Johns So, we have here, Mr. Johns, who has written about 6 projects this year (big ones, too) and doesn't seem to show any sign of slowing down. 'nuff said.

#3: Arkham Asylum There has never been an experience like this one where you become Batman. Sure, Bats has had a slew of games, but nothing gave you the feeling like you were the one behind the cape and cowl, solving mysteries, getting clues and beating the crap out of inmates of the Gotham's most notorious crazyhouse. Of course, bring along Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill for the voice-acting and you've got a dynamite game.

#2: the Pushing Daisies finale This show will be missed. When Chuck finally reveals herself to her aunts after all that time and the ending with Jim Dale's me, I had a few tears. Something so beautiful will hopefully continue in comic form, as DC has promised, but we'll see how that turns out.

#1: The trailers for movies of 2010 Where to even start -- Clash of the Titans, Inception, Hot Tub Time Machine, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Iron Man 2...just so much good stuff is on the horizon, it's hard to ignore.

Here's to a new year and a new decade!