Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Best of the Year: 2011

Every year the Best Shots team over at Newsarama put their heads together and individually list their thoughts on the best books/creators/titles/publishers/etc of the year. I had a difficult time narrowing my choices to a solid three, but I'm satisfied with my selections here. It's a mix of the best of what 2011 had to offer in the comic book medium.

Bronze — Artifacts (Published by Top Cow): A maxi-series like this doesn't happen every day. While you do have your Blackest Nights and your Sieges and your crossovers and your tie-ins, things can get convoluted and scattered fairly quickly. Here, you have Ron Marz being the architect of one fine story that spans throughout the Top Cow universe. There's Cyber Force, Hunter-Killer, Witchblade, Darkness, Angelus... the whole schmear! What started as Sara getting her daughter back has turned into an emotional and dangerous roller coaster for all involved. While Marz has been the voice of the story, he's had great assistance from artists on the visuals, starting with Michael Broussard, who continues to be a powerhouse, to Whilce Portacio and Jeremy Haun. It was announced that Artifacts would be now an ongoing with Marz still at the helm, it gave me hope that people that have been missing out on the series will eventually pick it up and realize they have indeed been missing out.


Silver — Jim Henson's The Storyteller (Published by Archaia): Simply put, if you have not had a chance to read Archaia's adaptation of Jim Henson's The Storyteller, I dare say that is a crime. Showcasing a vast array of fresh faces and seasoned vets, this assortment of stories is sure to be the delight of any reader, of any age. When you have talents such as Evan Shaner, Tom Fowler, Katie Cook, Nate Cosby, Ron Marz and many more, what is there not to like? It's an eclectic group of creators and individuals that I'd love to see more work from, especially if it involves a project like this. Archaia has been on a roll with the Henson licenses and Storyteller exceeded all my expectations and gave me a reading experience I haven't had in a long while. A book like this shows the world what non-superhero comics are really capable of: a true work of art, and one of the best books of the year.


Gold — Daredevil (Published by Marvel Comics): Yes, True Believers! The Man Without Fear has made quite the comeback this past year with a classic take on the fan favorite and Marvel staple. Brought back from the deepest depths that the character has been in since Frank Miller's run by the incredible Mark Waid and a dynamic rotating art team of Paola Rivera and Marcos Martin. After the events of Shadowland left Matt Murdock in the most depressing state I think I've ever read, the road to redemption began here. And it's just plain, old-fashioned cool. Bringing Ol' Hornhead back to his swashbuckling roots, Waid has crafted a hero that doesn't do anything radical to the character, but builds on what has been established and it's actually fun! Rivera and Martin are dynamite and creative with the visuals and it's how a hero like Daredevil should look. When you have the first issue having DD go up against classic E-lister, the Spot, and a few issues later having him outsmart his way out of a shootout, you realize this isn't the Daredevil from last year. This is what superhero comics should achieve to be like, and hands-down the best book Marvel is producing at this time.


 Item To Watch In 2012 — Justin Jordan: Image's The Strange Talent of Luther Strode has been making strides and gathering tons of buzz over the past couple of months, putting creative team Justin Jordan and Tradd Moore on everybody's radar. Recently though, USA Today named Jordan the Best New Writer, and I have to agree. While Luther is still gaining momentum, one can be sure to keep your eyes peeled on what this bright newcomer has in store.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

It's been a couple of moons since last time.

Yeah, it's been a while. Everybody have a good Halloween? Ready for Thanksgiving tomorrow? Yeah, me neither.

So I guess a quick update is what would be the best thing right now.

I interview Polly and the Pirates team, Ted Naifeh and Robbi Rodriguez.


My Top 10 Favorite episodes of Batman: The Brave and the Bold.

Here's some "new" art. I say that because they're all from September on.

Hope everybody has a Happy Thanksgiving and a killer holiday season!

Friday, October 7, 2011

250th mega post! DCnU and other goodies!

Swamp Thing #2 (Published by DC; Review by Lan Pitts; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): It's only understandable that since the DC universe is in the middle of a quasi de-Alan Mooreification, that Swamp Thing would receive a new origin. What Scott Snyder has done here is explain the origin of ole Swampy and how one actually becomes a Swamp Thing. It's again, mystical in nature, as is the antithesis of the Swamp Thing, and the threat of the story: Sethe. The best way I can describe Sethe is decay incarnate. It looks like a force of pestilence and rot, in the shape of a dead bird. It warps the minds of the inhabitants of the town where Alec Holland is presently residing and it quickly turns into a horror movie. Holland is saved by a mysterious biker, though the identity of who it is is not really a shocker, but I'm okay with that and ends on a proper cliffhanger. Snyder definitely has a niche for horror comics and even does a nod to Bernie Wrightson. His take on the character is really inspiring, and I can't wait to see how this all unfolds. Yanick Paquette does some incredible work here. How he uses vine-like constructs to do panel breakdowns and the way he handles the sheer macabre of it all is a break from the norm. I do fear this title won't be given the proper chance, but in the waves of Lanterns, Bats, and Super titles, give this one a read.


Stormwatch #2 (Published by DC; Review by Lan Pitts; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): The second issue of Stormwatch is a little tricky. Paul Cornell introduces Apollo and Midnighter's first meet up as well as their invitation to Stormwatch. The book continues to push sci-fi boundaries in comics these days, even with just two issues in. The imaginative feel and imagery here almost feels like Morrison's JLA. I mean, you have our moon becoming self-aware and on the offensive. The art takes a leap of improvement in this issue with Al Barrionuevo taking on most of the pencils, with Miguel Sepulveda strictly on the moon scenes. Barrioneuvo does a great job giving the roster a more refined shape with his line work and Sepulveda carrying on a more tenuous look. I just wish it didn't feel like Cornell had put aside most of the first issue's plot developmnt and this one feels overcrowded. I'm sure he'll remedy that in future installments, but this book continues to impress me, I just don't want to get a little loss along the way.


I, Vampire #1
Written by Joshua Hale Fiaklov
Art by Andrea Sorrentino and Marcelo Maiolo
Lettering by Pat Brosseau
Published by DC
Review by Lan Pitts
'Rama Rating: 9/10

Vampires have always been a staple of horror and fiction. No surprise then, that when DC relaunched their universe, there was this book in the mix. Originally published as backup feature in House of Mystery in the early 80's, Andrew Bennett is back once again fighting his former lover, Mary Seward, who is assembling an army to kill all of humanity. While the concept in I, Vampire is the same as it was almost thirty years ago, the look here is completely different and easily the most distinguished book of the new 52.

Let's start off by looking at the creative here. Josh Fiaklov became an indie sensation this year with the release of Echoes, published by Top Cow. His no-nonsense approach to the macabre is still in place here. His writing prowess is more or less the most engaging out of the newly relaunched books. He gives you a sense of the characters and their relationship in such few pages, the rest of the story sinks its teeth you and doesn't let up. Andrew is afraid of becoming a monster, while Mary has embraced the feral nature of the vampire, yet he still loves her.The narration between the two goes in and out of the timeline of the book, presenting it in a way that makes the readers think and caught me off guard. You get a hint of the big reveal in the beginning, but might not really understand it at first. Above all, it is accessible to new readers.

Andrea Sorrentino's art is unlike anything out there right now, especially at DC where it's practically against the grain with their house style. It's moody, stunning, and reminds me of early Mignola with the heavy use of shadows. Or the likes of Jae Lee, but with a more minimalist edge. There's not a real concentration on facial expressions or anything like that, but you still get the idea of what is going on and nothing is lost.

The superb colors by Marcelo Maiolo truly soar here. They're presented in a bold way that captures the feel of the book. The shades of red and blue indicating present time and flashbacks are a little helpful, but it's the way the colors reflect the eeriness of this world. Though a minor setback, the coloring on the caption boxes that has the dialogue between Andrew and Mary is so similar, it's difficult at times to understand who is saying what. I think red on black would have been suited better for one of the characters just for the sake of distinguishing the captions. Again, a minor setback as the the art team on here is an extreme breath of fresh air.

I'm sure a lot of readers are sick of vampires, but the presentation here is just jaw-dropping that it's hard to ignore. Nearly flawless in its execution and in company of supermen and masked vigilantes, I, Vampire has a look of its own and should not be overlooked.


Artifacts #10
Written by Ron Marz
Art by Jeremy Haun, Sunny Gho, Ryan Sook, and Tom Feister
Lettering by Troy Peteri
Published by Top Cow
Review by Lan Pitts
'Rama Rating 10/10

Wow. Just wow.

Just when you think you can breathe again when Ron Marz lets up, Jeremy Haun puts the peddle to the metal and goes full blast here. Taking a look back at the nine previous issues, Marz just doesn't let up. Here, we have a more relaxed pace as we're Ji Xi's origin and a brief family reunion. It plays as more as the aftermath of the big Aphrodite IX/Cyberforce throw down, and Haun gets to really shine here, right as Marz revs the engine for the next installment.

Since Artifacts was originally planned for thirteen issues, Marz has allowed the story to take its time. Yes, it was a matter of time before Sara and Jackie saved Hope, and every new character had their chance to get a little of the lime light. Though now almost a year into it, we get some pay off, which is just a thrill for longtime readers I'm sure. What Marz has done here is nothing short of good ole classic storytelling. The pacing has been solid and comprehensive, and all the while actually leading up to something that doesn't feel it was thrown together at the 11th hour.

I've found Jeremy Haun to be hit or miss in the series, but here, he's the star of the show. I can't put my finger on it, but everything just comes across as more polished and a cleaner look than before. The layouts are more dynamic than what he's done previously and it just looks great. I do think that Sara and Jackie's reunion with Hope felt a little flat and almost cavalier, but the action and Ji's origin just nailed it. Props to Sunny Gho as he proves again that he is Top Cow's go-to king of colors and can adapt to anyone's style.

Without a doubt, Artifacts has shaped up to be everything I had hoped for and then some. It's the event in comics now and still remains strong without relying on tie-ins and I'll be there to see how this all plays out. You should pick this up and join me.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Gatling gun series of reviews

Voodoo #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Lan Pitts; 'Rama Rating: 9/10): This book, much like many of other DCnU titles was covered in controversy before it was even released. The notion that a "stripper" could have her own book and when a single splash page was released, it caused quite a storm of frustration from certain bloggers and raised a few eyebrows. Well, I guess it's much easier to have an opinion BEFORE reading something. Truth be told, I liked Voodoo. A lot. Ron Marz makes a splash here as he re-enters the DC universe once again. Yes, the main character is an exotic dancer, as she was in her previous incarnation. Though, Marz doesn't pander here, he sets up a solid story. The girls backstage talk about their dreams and hopes and how stripping is just another job. It's playing dress up and pretend, that's all. There's an aura of empowerment and how women own their sensuality here. Marz has made a career of writing kick-ass female leads for quite some time, and he doesn't stray from that pattern in Voodoo. Priscilla Kitaen, aka Voodoo, herself is a brutal force to be reckoned with and definitely not what she appears to be. To top it off, you have Sami Basri and Jessica Kholinne on art. Basri's line work is quite fine and simplistic. It reminds me of Joe Eisma, with a hint of Cliff Chiang. I found it not too over-rendered and gets the point across. Panel layouts are neat and clean and easy to comprehend. Kholinne's colors do the book justice and fits Basri's style. Marz rarely lets me down, and his book is no different. I wouldn't let a few naysayers get in the way of a good read, and you shouldn't either.


Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time #13
Written by Robert Jordan and Chuck Dixon
Art by Marcio Fiorito and Nicolas Chapuis
Lettering by Bill Tortolini
Published by Dynamite Entertainment
Review by Lan Pitts

Without going into a tirade or a gushing love letter to the Wheel of Time novel series, I have to say I am quite disappointed here. Dynamite's adaptation to the beloved fantasy series has been hit or miss, and mainly misses during the run. The rotating art team is inconsistent and here we have art that comes across as a really well put together high school project rather than work for a published comic.

Chuck Dixon does his best to adapt Jordan's style and pacing, and it shows. The book's dialogue comes out strong and in your face. You get the characters and their voices and the situation they are up against. I guess my big complaint here is that since he's straight adapting from the source material, there is a lot of telling and not showing. But that's a minor complaint in comparison to the art here. I can't exactly pinpoint the exact problem, so it might be a mixture here that rubbed me the wrong way.

Artist Marcio Fiorito has a moment or two of solid layouts and properly conveys the suspense of a high-action fight scene. The rest of the time, the line work is inconsistent going from broad to thin every other panel. On top of that, it just seems like pages of talking heads. Now, coming from a WoT fan I understand Jordan can get a bit wordy to say the least, but the artist's job is to break up the monotony of it and present some dynamic visuals. As I mentioned, there are some moments where he does let Moiraine the Aes Sedai ("wizard" for you non-WoT readers) shine and display her power accordingly. However, the next page begins a series of shoulder and headshots. It's just unfortunate. Even more so when you add the flat colors and awkward shading. It ages the characters tremendously as Mat goes from seventeen to forty-five in a single panel, and overall doesn't do the book any favors.

I had been hoping that once the action picked up, the comic would improve as well and this has not been the case. Dixon's script sums up the action pretty well, but the art side of things are still lacking. And with a series with such rich imagery, you'd think they'd turn it up a notch.


Justice League: Dark #1 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Lan Pitts; 'Rama Rating: 8/10): This is the book I've anticipated the most since its announcement. I'm a huge fan of the supernatural cast of the DC universe and a book that spotlights the supernatural superstars is just the thing I'm looking for. What we have here is Madame Xanadu, Enchantress, Shade, Zatanna, Deadman, and John Constantine in a magical alliance that acts as the last line of defense when one of their own goes out of control. Peter Milligan has scripted some eerie imagery and Mikel Janin brings that to the page. I was big fan of both Madame Xanadu and Zatanna's solo series, so it's good to see these staples of DC's more arcane side do their thing. It's good to see Milligan acknowledge that the JLA isn't the only solution to a threat by having Superman, Wonder Woman, and Cyborg get taken down by a swarm cloud of teeth. Yes, you read that right. I have to admit, I was a bit thrown off at first when their costumes had been revealed. I still believe that Zatanna's new outfit is too "Criss Angel" for my tastes, but I've been assured she still has her classic attire when performing. It's a great first issue and doesn't give you all the answers, making you want to come back next month.


Magdalena #8 (Published by Top Cow; Review by Lan Pitts; 'Rama Rating: 7/10 ): It's Magdalena on Magdalena violence in this latest issue. Not having the church on your side and thinking you've gone rogue isn't the best way to start your week. Patience goes up against another Magdalena, and the impostor even manages to steal the Spear of Destiny. The issue is mainly a fast-paced fight scene between the two with church politics sprinkled in. But if you're going to come back after a slight delay, come out swinging. Keu Cha's art is pretty solid, but really could have used an inker here. The background assists by Jacob Grippen add that extra bit of detail, but I think Bill Farmer is the real artistic hero here. He does his best to paint over Cha's pencils and make everything come to life, but the pencil shading is still visible and is very distracting in some places. Ron Marz continues giving Patience a voice unlike any other character out there, I just wish the art was more put together.


Chopper #1
Written by Martin Shapiro
Art by Juan Ferreyra and Chandran Ponnusamy
Lettering by Troy Peteri
Cover by Chris Ortega
Published by Asylum Press
Review by Lan Pitts

The best way I can describe this is as "urban horror".

It's part bad girl comics, mixed with Sleepy Hollow lore set in modern day Daytona Beach. Asylum Press is hardly a stranger to these type of horror books and have made a name for themselves in the genre. We're not quite sure what is going on here, as this issues sets up the character, Christina and her bad girl ways. There's also a hint that she could be tied to Satan himself.

The panel construction is pretty basic here, but the actual panels themselves are quite elaborate. You get a sense of environment and it's never a case of talking heads. There's always something going on and it isn't stale. Juan Ferreyra has a good eye for action and lays it out well. Chandran Ponnusamy's coloring compliments Ferreyra style using a very textured pallet. You can see the added detail that Ponnusamy brought to the table. A lesser colorist could have really mishandled the linework.

The script itself isn't bad, per se, but comes across as somewhat dated. Yes, it leans toward the more mature reader as there are a couple of decapitations by a headless biker and a grizzly scene involving a disembowelment, but it's the dialogue itself that carried that impression. You can obviously see Shapiro's influences in the script, ranging from 70's horror to contemporary classics. Christina, the main character, is the typical "bad girl cheerleader" and almost cliche in her actions, but nothing too out there that I haven't seen on The Shield or Weeds.

Halloween is right around the corner and I can definitely say there is an audience for this type of work. I'm sort of interested in why she's connected to the Satantic figure and what this has to do with a headless biker. Chopped has set the ground work for a serious horror series.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Velma by Robbi Rodriguez

Haven't done an art post in a while. Then again, I haven't gotten any serious pieces since my birthday so there hasn't really been a point here. So, I thought I'd update this blog, as well as do a bit of art talk here. I'm sure you won't mind.

Velma by Robbi Rodriguez. Robbi's been in the indie scene for years and you'll see him this December in Uncanny X-Force and recently in New Mutants. Marvel has been picking up the indie guys as of late. I mean CB definitely knows talent and this recent pick up is no surprise.

I already have a geek girl and a Zatanna from him so I thought I'd go with a Velma this time around. I've mentioned I like the minimalist approach here. He nailed her hair and freckles and gave her a sort of serious tone. I dig it and he's happy I did so since he's happy with the piece as well.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Anne Hathaway on Conan

That sounded dirty. Last night, Oscar nominated actress Anne Hathaway was a guest on Conan and discussed various projects, but of course the big discussion was her upcoming role as Selina Kyle/Catwoman.

She also raps.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

It Has Ended: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

A movie franchise that has spanned 10 years and that has kept primarily the same casting which consisted of 8 movies is quite a rarity. The Harry Potter series is genuinely one of a kind and have defined a generation. It has had an impact on pop culture and quite simply, something we may never see again in our lifetimes. The final installment of the movie series, one that was split into two parts, was released in theaters this past weekend and it certainly conveyed the emotion from the novel with epic battles and some heartbreak.

David Yates starts the movie without a recap or a "previously on..." deal here. Just a reminder that Voldemort has robbed Dumbledore's tomb and is now possession of the Elder Wand. That works best here and doesn't bog the pacing down and we can just jump right in. One thing I noticed off the bat was the lack of music. Yes, there is still music in the film and John Williams' unforgettable tune that is now forever associated with Harry and Hogwarts is there, but it's mostly faint and unassuming. It's not drowning in music like the Star Wars prequels, but I felt at times like I was at a funeral, it seemed that quiet and a bit awkward. It does pick up, of course, during the battle for Hogwarts and damn is it good.

It's interesting to see Daniel Radcliffe with the heroic stubble that is almost cliche now, but here he stands a man ready to face his mortal enemy, so I think it's fair that he looks the part. I've been on a bit of a re-watching spree as of late, and to have seen Daniel, Emma and Rupert grow up before our eyes. Their characters no longer have that glimmer of wonder and magic in their eyes, but the sunken visage of despair and fatigue. When the series started, it was filled with new magical worlds full of whimsy and discovery, now the once shiny pillars of Hogwards lay in ash and ruin and even I shed a tear as the Quiddich field burned and crumbled.

There is a lot going in this film, mainly because the second half of the book is where the action was while the first part set everything up accordingly and pulled no punches. Part Two continues that trend and allows proper time to give the battle for Hogwarts to play out and not be rushed and leave ample time to see pivotal parts of the book played out. I shudder to think what would have happened should this have been crammed into a single film. This really did get the treatment it deserved.

While it's certainly Harry Potter/Daniel Radcliffe's story, the minor characters really take the center stage, especially during the last half of the film. Maggie Smith who has played Prof. McGonagall throughout the series is a domineering force inside the body of an elderly woman. The fact that she was going through chemo treatments for cancer and still managed to work through this rigorous shoot displays what courage really is and does her character justice as she has in the past decade. Matthew Lewis who started out as awkward and clumsy Neville Longbottom, has become something of what embodies a Gryffindor. Neville shows bravery and even has a moment in defiance towards the Dark Lord himself. He's come along way from being bullied by Draco while practicing broom riding.

The scene-stealer here is Alan Rickman. Rickman, the legendary British star, was Rowling's first choice to play Prof. Severus Snape and does so here again as he has in the previous installments, gives Snape a voice and a performance that truly shows how complex the character is. I won't give away spoilers for those have yet to seen the movie or read the book, but it goes to show you in the world of Harry Potter, nothing is what it seems.

The final showdown between Harry and Voldemort actually comes across as anti-climactic. It's a bit of a breather since the Hogwarts battle just took your breath away with the special effects and tension you're feeling, especially for the fans of the series who knew what was coming. Ralph Fiennes once again dons the sans nose make up of Lord Voldemort and truly captures what a great villain can be. The scene with Snape in particular demonstrates his capacity for evil and his ruthless aggression.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 wraps everything up as Rowling intended, but should she continue on the legacy of the Potter stories, there is room to do so for another generation. The epilogue from the book is there as well, but I feel it would have been better with actual older actors instead of the current cast with just make up. I fear it doesn't translate well and we still get the impression they are early twenty-somethings instead of people almost forty. That is a small knit-pick out of a flawless adventure that concludes a story that will be enjoyed for generations to come.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Shinku #1

Shinku #1
Written by Ron Marz
Art by Lee Moder, Matthew Waite, and Michael Attyeh
Lettering by Troy Peteri
Published by Image Comics
Review by Lan Pitts


They've been a staple of folklore for centuries, and in pop culture for almost a hundred years. They've been perceived anywhere from noble monsters, to inhuman abominations, to even teen heartthrobs. Ron Marz, Lee Moder and company strive to bring vampires out of their sparkling image and back into the consensus that vampires are demonic creatures that will maim and kill you with Shinku.

The story follows young Davis Quinn as he wanders into the world of an ancient blood feud between the last of a Samurai clan, the titular Shinku, and the vampire warlord Asano. Shinku saved Davis' life when a local vamp takes a certain, shall we say, liking to Davis and took her head before she could get to third base. Davis is a witness to the existence of the vampires and the ongoing struggle Shinku's ancestors have had with them. His purpose is still unknown, but here's hoping he can survive because the glimpse we get of Lord Asano is disturbing enough.

Marz has been hyping this book for a while now. I have one of the ashcan sketchbooks when he was first promoting it, and that was at least a year ago. It is good to see this finally come into fruition. While Marz handles more mature themes in Witchblade, it's interesting to see him able to really cut loose and let the blood flow. He's also no stranger to the supernatural and Samurai stories, so this almost like a "duh" for him to write.

I haven't been too familiar with Lee Moder's work outside Wonder Woman and Dragon Prince (another creator-owned book which he teamed with Marz), but boy, this stuff is just excellent. The layouts are key here, as they feel natural and not cramped at all. Even when you have a lot thrown at you, it is still cohesive. Great use of colors here, too, by Michael Attyeh. His pallet meshes well with Moder's style, especially with Shinku's origin story. It just comes across very well put together.

If there was one complaint is I feel that Marz showed his hand too soon. I would have been more intrigued had I known less about Shinku, and more about Davis, besides him being a fish out of water guy in Japan looking to get laid. Marz can build a mystery, he's done it for decades, but I don't really feel anything for Davis, but I'm still interested in why he's so important to Shinku's quest, so Marz succeeded on that front.

Summer is here and with the big two flexing their event muscles, this was a nice break from that. I just wanted a bit more, so I'll be sticking around to see if I get my fill.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Mid-May update. Reviews and interview, ahoy

Last Mortal #1 (Published by Top Cow; Review by Lan Pitts): When an opening scene for a comic is a man committing suicide, it really sets the stage for the rest of the issue. The story is told through the point of view of Alec King, a good for nothing hoodlum that takes a job with his friend, Brian, to assassinate a mayoral candidate, Robert Callahan. However, when the job gets botched, Brian is killed and Alec is on the run. Faced with the guilt of Brian's death, Alec tried to kill himself, only finding out he can't die. Written by John Mahoney and Top Cow publisher Filip Sablik, Last Mortal comes across as one part noir, and one part mystery. The black and white art by Thomas Nachlik, gives off an Alex Maleev vibe that seems fitting for the story. I liked the gritty, etchy look to it. The story itself has me intrigued, but sometimes the dialog felt a bit flat, but provided a proper set up that left me wanting to be around for the second helping.


The past year and a half has not been kind to Daredevil, having been possessed by a demon and manipulated by the Hand in the Shadowland event, and turning away from his friends. Leaving Hell's Kitchen in the hands of the Black Panther and recovered, he is trying to find himself again, as a man and as a hero. Back in March, it was announced that Daredevil was slated for a relaunch in the summer. Little has been announced with what direction the title will take, besides having Matt Murdock getting back to his roots.

Along with contemporary legend Mark Waid, it was revealed that Paolo Rivera he would be part of the creative team with the relaunched title. Paolo Rivera has built quite the name for himself in the past few years. Having worked on numerous Marvel projects in the past (Mythos, Amazing Spider-Man, Fear Itself, The Twelve). Newsarama sat down with Rivera to talk about what lies ahead for Matt Murdock and what's like working on such a classic character.

Newsarama: You've worked on Spider-Man, produced some Daredevil covers, an original story Mythos that was published by Marvel, so who made the call to put you on Daredevil?

Paolo Rivera: That would be Steve Wacker. He was my editor since about 2007, we started working together on Mythos, and Amazing Spider-Man and he mentioned Daredevil to me about last year, but we weren't sure when everything was going to fall into place with everyone's schedules. As soon as he told, I said I was in. Just say when and where and I'll be there.

Nrama: On Andy Diggle's recent run on Daredevil, you did most of the covers. In this new volume, will you deviate from what you've done before?

Rivera: Well at least for the first three issues, the covers will be fully-painted as I usually do. As for the interiors, I will just be penciling while my dad will be inking, and I believe Javier Rodriguez on colors. As for the actual art work, I don't have a particular goal, except do what I normally do and try to make the best comic book I can. I've done some character sketches of Daredevil that I'm going to redesign, like his billy club, I also have a extra surprises in store that I was talking to Mark Waid about the other day and he seemed to like them...so I'll leave it at that.

Nrama: The other individual on the art team is Marcos Martin, what is it like collaborating with him?

Rivera: I've been a fan of his work since the first time I came across his stuff for The Oath. The second time I came across his stuff was on Amazing Spider-Man just before I started working on it myself. His issue with, what I think is, the Paperdoll, I saw that on the stands, thought that was a beautiful cover and he quickly became one of my favorite artists. So when Steve came to us and said it's going to be you two doing three issues on, three issues off it was perfect. I mean I couldn't ask for anything better. I love his work and it's a bit of some friendly competition [laughs].

Nrama: Were you always a big Daredevil fan growing up?

Rivera: I wasn't a huge Daredevil fan, but I slowly came around to him. I was a big fan of Joe Quesada and when I came across his "Guardian Devil" story with Kevin Smith, that is when I think that was the first book I ever read with Daredevil in the starring role. Other than that I haven't read that much, but I have read the big ones so to speak. "Man Without Fear" and "Born Again", with "Born Again" being the main thing when I think of Daredevil.

Nrama: Mark Waid has mentioned that Daredevil has gotten a little too dark and he wants to try and bring Matt out of the darkness a bit to have some old-fashioned Daredevil adventures. Do you think this direction will effect how you present your story artistically?

Rivera: I think automatically between me and Marcos we already sort of have a, I don't want to say "cartoony" feel-

Nrama: [laughs] I think "cartoony" is completely okay to say.

Rivera: [laughs] Good! We love cartoons and our styles are more conducive to the type of story we're going for. Steve knew that and knew what Mark's take on Daredevil was going to be. I mean, it's still going to have crime with a noir edge with him fighting the mob and drug dealers, in addition to that, we're going to have him fight supervillians, and major ones at that. You know what? Superheroes, too. In issue 2, he'll fight a major superhero as well. A famous one.

One of Mark's things is with Matt coming back to New York is that he needs to get past [Shadowland] and so he's just going through his life he needs to and whatever is necessary. However, not all of his friends and colleagues in New York are ready to let him do that. He did some pretty bad stuff and not everybody is ready to forgive him.

Nrama: Shadowland took Matt to a dark place, some say as far as he has ever been, which reflected in Billy Tan's style with the heavy inks and lots of shadows. How will your story differ from that?

Rivera: We're not going to do full left rudder here, just slightly in a different direction from where he is now, but still having the classic stuff in there as well. We're bringing Matt back to basics. You know, when talking to Mark and we want to make it our own book and at the same time, we don't want to completely change Daredevil. We just want make a solid book month after month. It's going to be the Daredevil you know and love, but it's also going to be our book.


Starborn #6
Written by Chris Roberson
Art by Khary Randolph, Matteo Scalera, and Mitch Gerads
Lettering by Ed Dukeshire
Published by BOOM! Studios
Review by Lan Pitts

I never thought I would see the words "Space Hitler" in a comic, yet here we are.

I've been feeling that Starborn has needed a little something plot-wise to really detour what has been almost the same thing in each issue, though I have been praising the pace that Roberson has had. I was more than just surprised as the story takes a slight dark turn here with the ambiguity of the Benjamin's quest. The issue primarily consists of Benjamin fighting off aliens and learning more about the oversuit's abilities, and what the symbol behind what he actually possess.

While Roberson may have hinted something isn't exactly benevolent about Benjamin's suit and gauntlet, Benjamin himself obviously has been fighting the good fight, at least in his mind. It adds another level of characterization to him as to see that even not knowing the full story, he wants to be the good guy. I guess the real challenge here is how the rest of the series will play out, now that Benjamin knows his family history and what his proclaimed destiny is all about.

Roberson sticks to his use of narrative that has been used since the beginning, but it's lessened since and I feel that's a good thing as we finally have a sense of who Benjamin is. Roberson has also set in motion another subplot with, what looks to be, an invasion angle on Earth. Khary Randolph and Matteo Scalera really dive into their full potential here and just all around solid. Randolph's angular style really heightens the fight scenes and goes perfectly with the alien technology. The panel layouts are strong and intense that really use different points of perspective, and he's really hit his stride. Mitch Gerads is another part of the equation here as he adds great depth to the background that adds so much to the environment. I love the use of warm colors and how he puts a little something extra here and there that makes the alien technology feel real.

Starborn started off reminding me of The Last Starfighter that is turning out more than what I think anybody thought it would be. Benjamin Warner and company have been a great cast thus far, and as I mentioned I'm curious on where this where lead next. For those who have been thinking it's been lacking action, give this issue a peep.


Witchblade #144
Written by Ron Marz and Filip Sablik
Art by Stjepan Sejic and John Tyler Christopher
Lettering by Troy Peteri
Published by Top Cow
Review by Lan Pitts

This issue takes a step back from the current Artifacts event and goes back in time to take a peek inside what it was like working with Sara Pezzini, via her old partner, Jake McCarthy's point of view.

This is actually a layered issue, with the main story featuring Lieutenant Phipps, the troublesome IA officer who has been looking into Sara for a while now, finally has access to Jake's lock box, which contains a detailed note explaining what it is like working with Sara, and the Witchblade. Considering this is Witchblade's 15th year anniversary, it's nice to see a bit of a refreshing course in Witchblade 101.

Jake's memo is sweet and enduring. He gives the impression that before she took the possession of the mystical gauntlet, she was still a kick-ass cop, who did not take any garbage from thugs, to her captain at the time. Which, let's face it, she's still the same person. I've often compared Sara at times to Vic Mackey from the Shield, only less corrupt. This issue had me reminiscing about the show and I found it on par with the tense drama of Sara's secret being found out, and the cliffhanger at the end.

Stjepan Sejic really rolls out the memories here. Even taking on her infamous red dress. The layouts are impressive, if a bit subdued, since this feels more like a one-shot, but still gives us a glimpse of the bigger picture. Sejic never really draws Sara and Jake's early years, so this was fun to see him do something a bit different.

The best thing about this issue is that Marz has crafted a great jumping on point. Sara's background is explained and a brief history of the Witchblade itself is mentioned. One thing holding it back, I feel, is the back up feature by Filip Salbik and John Tyler Christopher. It's a short story involving Sara's current boyfriend and partner, Patrick Gleason. I guess it's only relevant since the book covers Sara's former partners and it seems fair to talk about where she's from to where she's at. It just wasn't clear it was Gleason until his name was mentioned.

Witchblade #144 opens the doors for new fans with a sense of understanding of the world of Sara Pezzini, and at the same time gives them a story to follow up on. Sounds like a good anniversary gift to us fans.


Courtney Crumrin Tales: The League of Ordinary Gentlemen
Written, illustrated and lettered by Ted Naifeh
Published by Oni Press
Review by Lan Pitts

It's been a while since we've seen a story from the world of Courtney Crumrin. Creator Ted Naifeh recently collaborated with Spiderwick Chronicles author Holly Black to create the young adult graphic novel series, Good Neighbors, he had a brief stint on the Teen Titans back up featuring the Black Alice, Traci 13, and Zach Zatara, as well as wrote another chapter to his series Polly and the Pirates. So needless to say, he's had a lot going on, and its good to see him return to this macabre world.

Like the previous installment of Courtney Crumrin Tales, this too, is a story involving a young Aloysius Crumrin's, Courtney's uncle, early years. This explores more of his relationship with Alice Crisp, as well a bit of the history of the town of Hillsborough. We see Aloysius, undercover for the Anti-Sorcery Society, working with Alice Crisp, who soon finds out his secret. We also see a bit more of Aloysius' heritage and how magic works in this world.

Naifeh's art is distinct and you can definitely see he his back to what he knows best. Scenes with elaborate gowns, and goth architecture. Characters who just seem and look out of this world. His use of facial expression is different from what I'm used to seeing from him in the past. Fans of the series, now almost a decade old, will enjoy a delightful cameo from a certain goblin.

I thoroughly enjoyed "League", as it added another chapter to a series, and explored a bit more of the world. Naifeh really hit his stride here, and was able to be a bit darker than earlier stories. Portrait of a Young Warlock, the previous issue to this story came out about six years ago, so new fans who are trying to jump on to this, might want to hold off. It's not necessary, but even the title comes from "Portrait," and they may want the whole story. I know I would.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Moriarty #1

Moriarty #1
Written by Daniel Corey
Art by Anthony Diecidue
Lettering by Dave Lanphear
Published by Image Comics
Review by Lan Pitts

I am sure almost everybody knows of Sherlock Holmes and James Moriarty: one of the greatest literary rivalries of all time. Yet, what is a villain without a hero? Moriarty takes a peek at what happened when the fateful death to both Homles and his arch-nemesis, turned out to just end Holmes and left Moriarty wandering for a purpose. In his travels and life without an adversary, the legendary professor has evolved into something that mirrors Holmes. The idea intrigued me and was immediately sucked in.

The book starts has an interesting timeline, and is set during pre-WWI, around the time of the assassination of Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand, and talks of his killing and the association with the Black Hand are the talk of the nation. We see Moriarty, now under the alias of Trumbold, working as a somewhat businessman that still carries some ties to the criminal underworld. Without Holmes, Moriarty has become complacent and a little bored.

It's not long before the government comes around and asks for his services to find Sherlock's brother, Mycroft. Who is he to refuse the chance to hunt down another Holmes? Better yet, they are aware of who he is and what he is capable of. This is where the story picks up its stride. We see inside the mind of Moriarty, we see his tactics, his self-imposed rules of getting things done. Doyle wrote Moriarty as the equivalent to Holmes and now we see why that is. The hung for Mycroft leads the reader and the old professor into a series of events that hint at a bigger picture, and the fact he soon as a shadowy figure of his own to conquer.

I do love the touch of knowledge Daniel Corey brings to the script, however, where I think the story falters, and this is me nitpicking here because I did rather enjoy it, is the actual narrative. To quote a line from Amadeus, "there are too many notes". While Dave Lanphear executes the lettering layout wonderfully, I think somethings just did not need to be said as they were specifically shown via Anthony Diecidue's art. While I do understand that this is Moriarty's story, but at the same time, I think most readers could deduce what is going on.

Speaking of Anthony Diecidue's art, this is a perfect example of a great collaboration of story and artist. Even in the slower parts of the issue, Diecidue elevates the bits with his mysterious tone with heavy sketch lines and rendering that give this early Guy Davis vibe. The layouts and scenery in old London town have an edge of macabre with lots of shadowy effects that perfectly set the stage for a mystery.

Moriarty is a great example of something that is for people who are not really into superheroics or mega-events. With the Big Two both with event-heavy series, this could be the one for people who want to try something a bit different from the norm. I can't wait to see where this goes.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Playing catch up

I've been on the road quite a lot so here are some reviews from THE PAST. (Insert dramatic music here).

Starborn #5
Written by Chris Roberson
Art by Khary Randolph and Mitch Gerads
Lettering by Ed Dukeshire
Published by BOOM! Studios
Review by Lan Pitts

Have you been missing out on this series? The same series that is turning into one of my new favorites? Perfect! This is a great jumping on point for new readers out there. The way how Chris Roberson writes the fish-out-of-water/accidental hero with Benjamin Warner has that classic 60's Marvel feel to it, then again, this does have Stan Lee's name attached so I shouldn't be that surprised by now.

When we left off from the last issue, Benjamin and his shape-shifting bodyguard, Tara fled Earth on the run from the alien collective, the Hive. They now are in the presence of General Cur Talon, a fierce war hero that reminds of Han Solo on steroids. The tension between Tara and Talon is apparent, as the two don't exactly trust one another. The trio soon are engaged in a dogfight and have to land on a nearby planet, where more of the mystery grows thicker.

The thing about Starborn is that it really is unlike anything that BOOM! puts out. I think Roberson's grasp for the more alien, and fantastical concepts are a good fit here. I've compared this to The Last Starfighter before , but here it branches off into almost Star Trek territory with even more alien worlds and characters. Khary Randolph choreographs a terrific dogfight sequence with his kinetic style and interesting use of perspective. Mitch Gerads' colors are not as dynamic as they have been in previous issues, but still does a great job with the space environments and alien textures.

The major complaint I've had of the series is the pacing, but here it really starts gaining momentum. Part of me wishes the narrative wasn't so heavy, but the other part enjoys learning about these far off civilizations as Benjamin learns as well. As I mentioned, this is a perfect jumping on point for new readers as it begins a new arc. There is a small paragraph in the beginning of the book that briefly catches you up. If you're looking for a sci-fi kick in your longbox, look no further than Starborn.


Axe Cop: Bad Guy Earth #1 (Published by Dark Horse; Review by Lan Pitts): I am still not quite sure what I read here. I just know it was pretty damn fun. Then again, what does one really expect from the imagination of a 6 year old? I've heard ramblings of this comic for a while but never really investigated it on my own. After finding it online and going through the archive all I can say is God bless comics. In a transition from the web to actual mini-series, we get more of the same randomness and weirdness that fans of the series have come to love. We have Axe Cop and Dinosaur Soldier out on a mission to save the Earth from a Bad Guy planet that is about to collide with the planet. Along the way we encounter brainless chickens, gun fights, rocket cars, Good Guy Machines, a professor with a unicorn, and so, so much more. The fact that the artist and letterer are in on the absurdness just heightens the overall experience. There were some pages where I laughed so hard I had to move away from the book for a minute just so I could recompose myself. Malachi Nicolle is, to my knowledge, the youngest comic writer out there and I hope his imagination never gets too old for him. I feel the best way to describe this book is that it just shouldn't be read, but it should be enjoyed. And not just by fans of the series, just by about anybody that can pick up a book and read.


Zatanna #10
Written by Paul Dini
Art by Cliff Chiang and John Kalisz
Lettering by Pat Brosseau
Cover by Stephane Roux and Karine Boccanfuso
Published by DC Comics
Review by Lan Pitts

Oh, Zatanna, you are a bit too trusting at times.

In the previous issue, a possessed puppet had you tied up while threatening you with a knife. Now you're giving him a tour in your ancient family home in Shadowcrest? Oh my. This will not end in your favor.

Paul Dini continues the story of troubled puppeteer Oscar Hampel, who swore up and down that Zatanna's father, the famed magician Zatara, transformed him into a puppet all because of a misunderstanding. Zatanna is down for finding the truth and reversing the curse, until she finds out a lot more than she bargained for. Hampel's origin from a renegade youth, to a murderous vagabond is unveiled, which has led him to this current predicament. However, what do you get when a vengeful puppet dabbles with a ton of magical artifacts? You get Zatanna getting played for a dummy.

Paul Dini is finally hitting his stride again with this issue. The thing I love about Dini is that when he does an arc he takes his time, and the payoff is worth it. The arc's past two issues were good, but when things come around we finally find the good reason why Zatanna should have her own book; because you certainly won't find a story like this elsewhere in DC. It's enchanting fun, but still with an edge to it.

Truth be told about this issue, while Dini gave a slightly predictable, if still interesting cliffhanger here, Cliff Chiang is this story's show-stealer. The way he handles Zatanna, with a definite style and grace, is just stunning. This isn't Chiang's first time with the character and each time he draws her she becomes more and more dynamic. He gives Zatanna a sort of personality that some artists seem to leave at the wayside while they favor her other physical characteristics. Chiang's imagery seems to fully match the image that Dini has in mind. The page presents no confusion or conflict, but rather a vision from a team working in flawless cohesion. The splash page of John Zatara's private sanctum, as a prime example, simply exudes wonder and charm.

Readers that might have dropped the book in the early going should give this issue a returning try. Readers that have never picked up the book before could find this arc , which began with issue #9, to be a book hitting its stride. You get a sense, not only of who Zatanna is, but also what it was like to grow up in the Zatara household and the magic that this book inhabits.


Charismagic #1 (Published by Aspen; Review by Lan Pitts): I am a fan of magic shows and the whole shebang. Charismagic is written by Vince Hernandez and illustrated wonderfully by Khary Randolph, who shows off a completely different style here than seen in his Starborn work. It tells the story of an actual magician that may have stumbled onto something bigger than Harry Blackstone magic kit could offer. Nothing is what it appears to be is the strong message this work conveys, and its good cliffhanger will keep you interested for the next issue. As a former magician's assistant myself, I can appreciate a book like this, and I hope you manage to find it and give it a try.

The Stuff of Legend Volume 2: Part 4 (Published by Th3rd World Studios; Review by Lan Pitts): What started off as pretty simple idea has evolved into a world that I hope to pass along to my children. In the final part of "The Jungle" arc, we see an explanation of Max's betrayal, an unexpected return, and the story take a somewhat darker path with a murder that at least I didn't see coming. Mike Raicht and Brian Smith's story has taken a life of its own, becoming something more than I ever imagined it to be. You combine that with illustrations by Charles Paul Wilson III, who keeps setting his own bar higher and higher, you get more than a read, you get an experience. Is it too soon to ask for Volume 3 already?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Let's get dangerous with Darkwing Duck Annual #1

Darkwing Duck Annual #1
Written by Ian Brill and Tad Stones
Art by Sabrina Alberghetti, James Silvani, Lisa Moore, and Andrew Dalhouse
Lettering by Deron Bennet
Published by BOOM! Studios
Review by Lan Pitts

Not every villain starts off as a villain. There comes a time when a man, or duck, must make his own path and either walk down the road of virtue and heroism or the more sinister and villainous path. In the first Darkwing Duck Annual, we dive into the origins and psyche of Darkwing's comical criminal, Quackerjack.

As most kids who grew up in the early 80's to early-to-mid 90's, I watched some of the best cartoons. Disney was putting out some of their best work in a while ranging fromTalespin, Ducktales, the more "grown up" Gargoyles, and of course, Darkwing Duck. Being the only direct Ducktales spin-off, it was different from the other shows as it was a completely different character. Other shows at time had characters that had been around for a while, but Darkwing was new, cool, and just fun. The Darkwing Duck comic that BOOM! has been putting out is exactly everything a DW fan would ever want and then some.

There are two stories inside this annual. Unconnected, of course, but nonetheless fun, smart, and almost a bit heavy for the characters. The ending of the first story, "Toy With Me," which deals with Quackerjack's origin, is kind of sad, and I found very unexpected, but still very smart for what is considered a "kids' book." Again, the same with the second story, "The Untimely Terror of the Time Turtle," — it is smart, inventive, and just plain fun. The fact that Drake Mallard (DW's alter ego) is just as befuddled with the physics of time travel as the next guy, shows that it still doesn't take itself too seriously. Also, the fact that Tad Stones, the creator of Darkwing Duck penned the second story is just a real treat all by itself.

While both Sabrina Alberghetti and James Silvani deliver classic Darkwing imagery, I found that Andrew Dalhouse's colors popped just a bit more on the page, in comparison to Lisa Moore's. Nothing too drastic, but just something with an added oomph, as it were. Both put down creative panel layouts that were never boring and were actually quite dramatic in some instances. Great use of angles, especially on Alberghetti's half.

Darkwing Duck Annual #1 reminds me what it was like being that kid again who rushed home to make sure he didn't miss an episode of the TV show. It's good to see that the adventure lives on.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Three times the interviews

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed but there’s this little event going over at Top Cow now called “Artifacts”. Ring any bells?

Sarcasm aside, one of the great selling points on Artifacts isn’t just the fantastic story (so far) that’s being architectured by Ron Marz, but he’s working on a rotating team of artists. Recently it was announced that Jeremy Haun (Detective Comics, Berserker) will join the rotation, picking up where Whilce Portacio leaves off.

Blog@ spoke briefly with Marz about the artists he’s been working with and the great chemistry between story and art, as well as working with Jeremy Haun.

Blog: Okay, so, first it was Michael Broussard, then Whilce Portacio, and now Jeremy Haun — who approached who about working on Artifacts? You or Jeremy?

RM: Top Cow publisher Filip Sablik was the matchmaker here. When he knew Jeremy was signing an exclusive with Top Cow, Filip called me up and asked what I thought of Jeremy taking the last on the third arc of Artifacts. Took me all of two seconds to say yes, as Jeremy is somebody I’ve been wanting to work with for a while. We actually talked about working together last year, but I don’t think either of us expected it to fall into place this quickly.

Blog@: Some say Whilce Portacio is doing some of his best work in a long time working on Artifacts, what is it about this story you think that elevates these artists to a whole other level?

RM: I certainly agree, I think this is some of Whilce’s strongest stuff ever, but I’m a bit biased obviously. Whoever I’m working with, whatever project I’m working on, a big part of my job is to play to the artists’ strengths and give them something they’re excited about drawing. Comics are a visual medium, so the scripts need to be as visual as possible. Otherwise, what’s the point? I also think you have to mention Joe Weems on inks and Sunny Gho on colors. They’re both bringing their best as well, so they make a great team with Whilce.

Blog@: Who’s on your shortlist of the artists you’d love to have on the final installment of Artifacts? Or do you already have somebody in mind?

RM: My shortlist has one name on it for who should draw issue #13, and that’s who’s drawing it.

Artifacts: Volume 1 is on sale now.


It’s been a while since Ted Naifeh has dabbled in the world of his series Courtney Crumrin.

Over at Naifeh’s site, he presents a few preview pages for the upcoming for the upcoming Courtney Tales 2. Newsarama has got the exclusive interview with Naifeh, as well as the first look to the cover, as well as the official name: Courtney Crumrin Tales: The League of Ordinary Gentlemen.

Blog@: You’ve written another Aloysius story before, what made you want to write another about Courtney’s mysterious uncle?

Ted Naifeh: The first one was really part one of a two parter. I wanted to resolve that story, and this book does exactly that.

Blog@: Without giving too much away, where does this story take Aloysius?

Naifeh: The story explores the roots of my little magical world, where it came from, why it’s there, and what Aloysius’s role is in it. Aloysius is a pretty mysterious character in the main series, and I wanted to reveal some of his secrets. I’d like to think this story addresses why he’s such a lonely old man.

Blog@: Does this tie into any of Courtney’s adventures?

Naifeh: It will in the next Courtney adventure. I start digging more deeply into the back story of Courtney’s world, the community of witches and warlocks in the town of Hillsborough. Some of what comes up will have direct bearing on Courtney’s life.

Blog@: Who are some of the new characters we’ll get introduced in this tale? Any old favorites coming back this round?

One of the characters I had fun with in the last story was the pulp hero Goose Daniels. But since he was transformed into a goose at the end, I needed a replacement. So he has a confederate that comes looking for him, and ends up getting press-ganged by the Anti-Sorcery Society to take his place. Another character that shows up is Aloysius’s grandmother, who was briefly mentioned in Courtney vol 3 as the first witch in Hillsborough. It’s through her that some of the world’s back-story is revealed.

Blog@: Do you feel your style has evolved since last dabbling with Aloysius?

Naifeh: I tried to make it as similar as possible, but I’ve acquired new influences, and I can’t help it if they shine through a bit. It’s not a jarring difference, at least. Just a bit better.

Blog@: Tell us about some of those new influences.

Naifeh: In my promotional trips to Europe, I had had the honor of being exposed to some truly amazing artists. Sergio Toppi is a real artist’s artist. He’s been around forever, and you can see his influence on Bill Sienkiewicz as well as french artist Phillipe Druillet, who I used to adore back in the early Heavy Metal Magazine days. The new one is named Roger (which sounds much more romantic with a French accent), artist of Jazz Maynard (ditto). His lines are so incredible, so elastic yet under precise control.

Blog@: You took a break for a while doing Good Neighbors with Holly Black, how does it feel coming back to the world of Crumrin?

Naifeh: Like returning home, really. Courtney’s world is as comfortable to me as my own bedroom. I’m looking forward to adding some new flourishes. But I really had a ball working on Good Neighbors, trying out some Toppi-style line work (which was ill-advised, but I eventually got some really nice results out of it), and getting to do real fingers instead of Courtney’s spikes or Polly’s nubs.

Blog@: Do you foresee an end to Courtney and Alyosuis’ tales?

Naifeh: I foresee a stopping point. But that doesn’t mean I’m done with them forever. In this new volume, I added a single story element that completely changes their world, and that makes me want to explore the world a bit more. I have a definite conclusion for the Courtney Crumrin series, which is pretty final. But it’s not like Courtney’s going to die or anything. So we’ll see. As for Uncle Aloysius, this second volume concludes the Anti-Sorcerer Society storyline. I’d love to continue his adventures if I have time. But I want to explore new worlds as well. Princess Ugg is calling to me, demanding that her story be told. And there are others.



Recently over at Jill Thompson’s twitter, the famed cartoonist and comic artist posted this painting of Wonder Woman that she had done. But what does it mean? Blog@ had the chance to speak with the acclaimed creator on her thoughts about the design and could this be the beginning of something?

What some people might not realize is that Thompson’s first gig into mainstream comics was actually on Wonder Woman in the early 90’s. “Well, getting to work on an iconic character right off the bat, with a comics legend like George Perez writing the story is a pretty great memory,” Thompson stated. “I remember tackling a page that had something like 19 panels on it. I doubt if I’d be able to do that now!”

I love Thompson put a little Greek homage into her design here. I think it’s a good balance of armor and a bit of the flair from the original design. “I think Wonder Woman is a strong, sexy warrior,” she said. “A hero. But also very regal. I was doing a character design to go along with a pitch I’ve had in for a OGN at DC for a while, so it’s not a redesign because I was trying to say something current costume – it was one of the ways I’d approach it in the story I want to tell.”

In addition to Thompson not deviating from the famous color scheme, she adds a bit of practicality to the costume. “If you’ve ever worn a bustier [author's note: I have not, but I can imagine what it is like] and moved your torso in it, you’re not going to be able to do much practical fighting if there aren’t any straps. I love to design clothing. I’d give her lots of variations on a theme. Nothing drastic, but focus on her as the costume and not just the costume as the costume.”

Another thing I really dig is how she incorporated a bit of might and magic into this design. She then states what and who Wonder Woman is to her. “I think she’s someone who is sure of herself. She’s a warrior who operates on her own set of rules. She’s been raised by warriors, and she’s royalty, so I think that gives her an air of superiority that maybe hasn’t been addressed. She’s commanding. I’d love to do that.” She continues with “I showed her having slain the creature because I love mythos, magic and adventure, and my story has a good deal of that in it.”

I can’t be the only one out there that thinks this would be a great idea. Jill Thompson is hardly a stranger to magic and myth. Add an Amazonian super heroine in the mix, and you’ve got gold. What do you think, readers?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Two helpings of Flash Gordon plus some Marvel-ous books

Hawkeye: Blindspot#1 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Lan Pitts): In many Avengers fans, Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye has always been "the man". He's brash, cocky, has one of the best costumes in comics, and in a world of high-tech machinery and sorcery, he's still manages to take bad guys down using a bow and arrow. Though what happens when the world's greatest marksman learns he is losing his sight? That's what we dive into in this mini-series. Jim McCann has been striking gold with these Hawkeye minis as of late. He captures the glory days of the Hawkeye series back in the 80's with bold adventures that remind somebody like me why I still love comics. McCann backtracks a little with some of Barton's circus days as we see the Swordsman and Trickshot and Barton learning the ropes, so to speak. We see his reformation and joining the Avengers, which leads to another encounter with an old ghost from the past. Pico Diaz is just marvelous here. I'm not too familiar with any previous work of his, but I'm officially a fan. He has that 70's vibe in the vein of Neal Adams and Gil Kane, with a slice of George Perez in his rendering. I just wish Tomeu Morey's colors wouldn't have dampened the art. IT's not bad per se, but everything seems to have an extra bit of orange to everything and just looks not as sharp as it could be. Hawkeye: Blindspot hearkens back to a simpler age of storytelling, but is hardly "simple". If you're itching for something that the current Avengers books might not be scratching, look no further than this.


New Avengers #9 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Lan Pitts): These days I tend to lean towards more Vertigo and independent titles, but I found it hard to turn down a chance to read something with Howard Chaykin's name attached to it. Especially when his art pertains to Nick Fury hunting Nazis in the 1950's. Going back and forth between Nick's backstory and present day with the Avengers surveying a small remainder of HAMMER are looking to make more trouble. As usual, Bendis gives a solid read with bits of humorous dialog that he's known for that always gives the impression that these people aren't just team mates, but actual friends. It's an interesting contrast to see Chaykin and Mike Deodato work together because of their contrasting styles, but nothing distracting that takes one out of the story. Since this is the beginning of a new arc, it's not quite clear on what to expect, but I am sure Bendis and company will deliver


The Wheel of Time #8
Written by Robert Jordan and Chuck Dixon
Art by Andie Tong and Nicolas Chapuis
Lettering by Bill Tortolini
Published by Dynamite
Review by Lan Pitts

"Whatever the Dark One wants I oppose , so hear this, and know it's true -- before I let the Dark One have you, I will destroy you myself." -- Moiraine Sedai

Nothing spoils an adventure more than pesky Draghkar following you.

Leaving their home of Emond's Field, after it was destroyed by a Trolloc invasion, Rand al'Thor and his friends Mat Cauthon, Perrin Aybara and his somewhat unofficial girlfriend Egwene head towards the to mystical nation of Tar Valon, guided by Moiraine, and her Warder, Lan. Along the way, the boys learn how to use a bow as Lan trains them to fight Trollocs and other shadowspawn. Rand finds himself in a sort of adventure he has only read about in stories or told as tall tales. The realization really hits home is when Egwene decides she wants to become an Aes Sedai.

I think it would be helpful for anybody unfamiliar with the franchise, for Dynamite to include a glossary. Then again, these books are made for the fans, and I feel at times, would be hard to get into, especially if you look at the sheer volume of the actual books themselves. Then on the other hand, I'm sure that is how it is with most comics these days. I digress.

Dynamite was fortunate enough to nab this title from the Dabel Bros line, and from what I've read, have done a good job with it. Chuck Dixon's years of experience guides the story well and doesn't throw too much of you at once. I love how he includes excerpts from the books themselves, giving that feeling of the books and you can see how true to the source material he's making it.

As long as the book has been around, I've been a critic to Chase Conley's style and how he handles the characters. Here, we have artist Andie Tong (Tangent: Superman's Reign, The Batman Strikes!) and I find his style more suiting and appealing on how the "Rand Band" look. You can definitely see an almost-anime influence with how the characters stand and talk, but Tong reels it back just when you think he's gone too far. I guess the odd fact of the matter is that, when I think "Wheel of Time", I think high-concept fantasy, not just comic art. The thing is though, Tong can be really good. I don't think he's there yet with these characters.

I guess my biggest complaint are the colors. Half the time, Nicolas Chapuis soaks you up in this realm with it's lovely shades of green and other miscellaneous earth tones, but when he works on the purples and darker colors, it looks muddy and rushed. I'm not saying you need a Laura Martin-like coloring job on the book, but the separations towards the end come across as incomplete and flat.

The Wheel of Time series means a heck of lot to this reviewer, and while I am grateful that there is a comic adaptation, the art department needs to kick it up a notch.


Flash Gordon: The Mercy Wars
Written by Brendan Deneen
Art by Paul Green
Lettering by Richard Emms
Published by Ardden Entertainment
Review by Lan Pitts

"Please...enough. I've had enough. There's only one person who can find Zarkhov...a professor at Yale...Gordon..."

Now before I continue, I need to make something clear: I know very little about Flash Gordon. I know there was a movie made in the 80's about him, he was in a cartoon with the Phantom and Mandrake (Defenders of the Earth), and that he was once a comic strip. That being said, I can honestly say I am open to any interpretation of the character since I have seen him handled in a few ways. Ardden's take is something more up my alley, playing up the sci-fi/fantasy angle and making Flash not so muscle-bound and unintelligent, though Flash still appears as athletic as ever.

Other characters appear from Flash mythos, including sometimes love interest Dale Arden and Dr. Zarkhov, the latter having gone missing and is being looked for by the former as he is suspected to be building a WMD. The story goes back and forth between Flash and the rebellion on Planet Mongo against Ming the Merciful (yes, there was a time he called himself that). Eventually, Flash, Dale, and Zarkhov become separated. Dale is seduced by Ming's wiles, Flash lands in the jungle and befriends Eldun, a jungle warrior who is not who she appears to be, while Zarkhov is taken prisoner by Ming. The three stories culminate to a fierce battle with all allied forces standing together for Mongo.

At first, Paul Green's style seems like J. Scott Campbell, but a bit more rounder and not as sharp. You can see the influence definitely, especially in the way Green constructs women's eyes and heads. While the art is easy on the eyes, some conversations seemed boxed in and restrained. Panels are made to where it feels as though it's constantly made of close up shots of eyes and mouths and soon becomes pages of "talking heads". It doesn't start off this way, in the beginning there is a sense of being open, but later while more characters are introduced, it just feels claustrophobic.

Green's use of colors and designs are something great as well. The colors have that perfect level of saturation that gives everything a smoother and polished look. Ming reminds me of Mr. Sinister from the X-Men, but with a more gothic flair (if that's possible). Though, going back to the Campbell influence, I kept doing a double take for Dale as Sydney Savage from Danger Girl.

Brendan Deneen has taken a classic character and relaunched it for a new generation. Some of the dialog comes across as bit cliche at times, but isn't too far out there to not warrant a read. He handles Flash like I've always seen him, and put a nice twist on Ming. For some reason I heard Jason Isaacs when I read Ming's dialog in my head. This is my first real foray into the world of Flash Gordon, and I can easily say I'd check out more. This mini-series is a few years old, but finally collected into one trade, and for Flash fans, a new way to experience and old favorite.


Flash Gordon: Invasion of the Red Sword #1
Written by Brendan Deneen
Art by Eduardo Garcia and Jok
Lettering by Richard Emms
Published by Ardden Entertainment
Review by Lan Pitts

Flash Gordon is not having the best of days.

When a planet Mongo's Universal Translator goes out, it's up to Flash Gordon and Professor Zarkhov to repair it. Too bad Dale Arden's former commandos have the idea to strike a rebellion against the kingdom. And just when you think Flash and CO. have figured it out, Ming comes along to spoil it.

With Flash Gordon and the Mercy Wars fresh on my mind, I didn't mind a second helping of what Brendan Deenan brought to the table. Now while, Deenan does mention past adventures and occurences, I feel as though a "Previously On..." page would have been helpful. I can see where a new reader might feel lost or confused on things. Especially character relationships. While it's obvious of Flash and Dale's connection, other relationships might not be so understanding.

Eduardo Garcia brings the best of what Paul Green did in Mercy Wars. There's definitely still a J. Scott Campbell vibe, but not as much here. The panels aren't so concentrated on close ups and allows the page to breathe. Garcia still has a cartoonish look to the world, yet definitely has a strong grasp of action shots and motion.

Deenan still the same problems that he had in Mercy Wars which is concept of pacing. The pages come across as very busy at times and I feel it would have been slightly better if there wasn't something happening everywhere. While the dialog is still strong and interesting, I found myself just rushed the entire time. The last few pages of the book is where it finally got to a better speed and not crammed. Flash Gordon: Invasion of the Red Sword
was a strong crash course in the world of Flash Gordon and company, and it is a good read. Though some parts of the story, I feel, could have been executed better.