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.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

X-Men: First Class trailer

I am sure you've seen this by now.

It is the first bit of a teaser trailer of the upcoming X-Men: First Class, which comes out this June. Fanboy rage and concern could be heard around the world when an unauthorized image was leaked, which pissed director Matthew Vaughn to no end. I have to admit, I'm still a bit skeptical to say the least. If there's one thing that Fox knows how to do, it is cut a trailer to make the most blandest and outright worst thing look like gold dipped in mithril. Perfect example of this is X3.

Of course, that is what a trailer is supposed to do. It's supposed to lock you in and make you WANT to see the movie. Does it work here? Absolutely. However, I don't simply ignore the following facts:

- Why are we now seeing Beast transform here into his blue fur? Yes, it was hinted he was an X-Men earlier on in X3, but in X2, he is still Hank McCoy. Human, but a guy with a stocky build.

- There are two Emma Frosts? January Jones is playing the White Queen, Emma Frost, who also makes an appearance in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. I didn't think it was the same character, but imdb confirmed that so it's not just simply a girl with the same name and the same powers. Nope. Same character. Different timeline.

- While I do like the blue and gold costumes (though they were originally black and gold, much like how Spider-Man is red and black), it still looks a bit too modern for having taken place in the 1960's. Vaughn has stated on more than once occurrence that this film will have homages and have a certain "early James bond vibe". I'm just not feeling it or seeing it here. I do like the fact that there is a missile crisis, similar to X-Men #1.

- I only wished they had just rebooted the franchise and given us an original 5 X-Men first class movie. Jean Grey in an a-line dress? Yes please. Instead we get lesser-known characters I really could care less about? Darwin? Possibly Pixie? Azazel? I guess that's okay. I just think there are going to be a lot of leftover figures from this lot on toy shelves.

I mean, nitpicking aside, it does look great and as an X-fan, I am genuinely curious, but I'm going in with a cautious mind. I love the music they chose for it, it's not in your face and over the top dramatic, but still caries a subtle dramatic tone.

Thoughts on the first trailer?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Written and art by Sarah Oleksyk
Published by Oni Press
Review by Lan Pitts

Click here for preview

"I just imagined all the best parts of you...wish I could do that for myself."

Nobody ever said adolescence was easy.

Highschool student Ivy Stenova lives in a small town in Maine and dreams big of becoming a famous artist. She excels at painting and would be considered "alternative". There's no real time setting to this, but I would assume sometime in the early to mid-90's. There are no cell phones, and people still used cassettes. Though the time period is insignificant to the story, as this is really a timeless story. Rebellion, troubled relationships with one's parents, the longing to just run away and never return...all of those things I'm sure most people deal with sooner or later.

Ivy isn't popular, but has a couple of friends: Brad and Marisa. whose friendship goes through an evolution throughout the story and tested. On a visit to Boston to check out local art colleges, Ivy meets a young man named Josh, who appears to be a kindred spirit. Like most teens, she falls head-over-heels in love with him and they become pen pals (another indicator this is a time before email). It is also here that the strands of friendship begin to wear with Marisa. It's also where Ivy get a taste in reality as art school after art school rejects her portfolio and offers advice. She's finally given an application into an art school and could not be happier about that. One problem: her mother isn't too keen on her going to an art school. That's putting it lightly.

Ivy's mother does not approve of her daughter enrolling into an art school and supposedly wasting her life. Of course, Ivy responds with shutting her mother out of her life even more and vents her frustration into her art. While her infatuation and relationship with Josh becomes more intimate, other aspects of her life begin to crumble, namely her friendships with Marisa and Brad (whose father is an abusive drunk).

The interesting part for me was seeing Ivy lose herself after meeting Josh. He is, what could be defined as, the catalyst for her transformation. She starts using drugs and her friends start to leave her behind. When she is accepted into her school, which her mother finds out about. Both frustrated, a fist fight ensues with Ivy running away to Josh. Of course this is where her life takes a turn for the adventurous, and somewhat dangerous. With hardly any money the two runaway together and hitchhike to Georgia, but being turned away by Josh's brother, since Josh isn't exactly a saint and had stolen some money to get as far as they did. Desperate, the two hide out in an abandoned house.

Around Chapter 5 is when Ivy realizes her mistake. She can runaway from her friends and family, but she can only blame so much of her anger and outlook on life on them. The rest lies within her. We see what Josh is really made of, or should I say what is lacking as companion and partner for Ivy. He cheats on her, doesn't care about her, he seems just to have this cavalier attitude about everything. All the while reading this, you want the best for Ivy, for her to find peace. Josh is certainly not the answer to that.

Ivy finally does find her way back home and mother and daughter are reunited. It's endearing as you can see the emotion through the characters, even with Oleksyk's simplistic style. The thing that I loved about Ivy was the fact I saw a lot of myself in her. That might sound a bit odd, but I had similar experiences that almost mirrored Ivy's story. The art and panel construction are sincerely incredible. From the way Ivy's imagination takes flight, to the last few pages with Ivy saying goodbye to a part of her life, it's all handled in a form of grace and sincerity that doesn't come along often.

While the central character is shy of 18, there are a few moments that are more mature. I'd easily recommend this from anybody who enjoyed such young adult stories as Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson or even Juno. Ivy Stenova and her world might be a work of fiction, but in actuality, come across as very real and possibly real for those who have "been there".