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One of the most memorable and well-done stories in recent history over at the DC of comics is Greg Rucka’s Detective Comics featuring Batwoman and his creation of the antagonist, Alice. When J.H. Williams was chosen to relaunch Batwoman on her own title, he made it clear that Alice would only be revisited with the utmost of care because he had so much respect for what he and Rucka had done previously. While he was on the book, Alice was revisited in his final arc, and I think he did a fine job. Continue reading

Comic Judgment: Triple Play

Here’s the lowdown on the three best comics I read last week:

Punk Rock Jesus #4
I half expected Jesus to drop the mic and walk off the stage after that scalding final panel in Sean Murphy’s Punk Rock Jesus #4, which took the pull list prize last week. Batman #13 may have been the big draw, but PRJ is the one that really leaves a mark. Now a teen, Chris — the so-called clone of Jesus Christ — can only stand by and watch as the horrible J2 reality show franchise delivers his poor mother a final, crushing blow. Afterward, you can see in him the same dead-eyed grief that haunted his security guard, Thomas, an ex-IRA terrorist who witnessed horrible violence as a boy. Chris takes refuge in punk rock albums and extreme cardio, and he then fully rejects the dogma that has defined his existence. It’s goodbye, Bible; hello, Sex Pistols and Richard Dawkins. Let’s just say that Chris goes way off script and makes his feelings about religion and his followers scathingly clear in the most memorable scene of the week. Jesus has left the building. Grade: A+

Batman #13
The Joker has one of the scariest faces in comics, but he’s even more terrifying when you can’t really see him. In the first chapter of “Death of the Family,” we catch only glimpses of Batman’s nemesis as he makes a methodical, chilling comeback. A shoe here. A blood-splattered glove there. A cackle in the dark as victim after victim suffers off-camera. I doubt poor Jim Gordon will ever have a sound night’s sleep again after hearing the Joker’s startling commentary about where the commissioner stashes his cigarettes. This is a horror show in the making, and Snyder-Capullo deliver a perfectly paced, chilling first act. The “Tease” backup story, in which Mr. J. tests the depths of Harley Quinn’s loyalty, made my skin crawl right up until the last second. Grade: A

Halloween Eve (one-shot)
Image one-shot Halloween Eve is like candy. Its pleasures are brief, colorful and ultimately quite sweet. Brandon Montclare’s story focuses on the cranky Eve, a costume shop employee who loathes Halloween. When Eve falls asleep in the shop the night before Halloween, she plunges into a topsy-turvy fantasy world where every day is the one she hates most. Montclare’s story is charming, but it’s Amy Reeder’s art that dazzles. Reeder illustrated and colored the comic, and each panel is luminous and lovingly detailed. Her rendering of each character, especially the expressive Eve, is perfect. Plus, the magical aspects of the story give her a lot of room to play. Halloween Eve is a treat, one that’s appropriate and appealing for tween readers and up. Grade: B+

Stream of Comicsness – Week of 02.01.2012

This week’s haul …
Action Comics #6, Sweet Tooth #30, Uncanny X-Force #21

So Sweet
If you get your comics from your LCS every week, you know it isn’t cheap. Prices ranging from $2.99 and sometimes up to $4.99, multiplied by four or five books a week. Well, you do the math. Some books are more than worth it, others are not. The titles that are worth it hit hard and make you anticipate the hell out of the next issue. Titles that do that for me are Batwoman, Chew, Uncanny X-Force … and now Sweet Tooth.

Rewind a couple of months.

One of my besties lent me the first trade of Sweet Tooth, a title that was on the long list of things I want to read. I devoured it. Next trade, please. I also read that voraciously. On to the third, Sweet Tooth: Animal Armies. It is probably one of the most intense stories I have ever come across in a comic. It ranks up there with moments in Y: The Last Man and something else really awesome that I can’t think of right now. But then I had to wait for the fourth trade. That was more than I could handle. Continue reading

2011 Memorable Moment: Olive Branch

If you have not had the pleasure of reading Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly’s New York Four and New York Five, I would highly recommend them both. It is not quite a coming of age story, but more like a snapshot into the lives of four girls attending college in Manhattan. NYU is about the only thing they have in common. Each of the ladies; Ren, Riley, Lona and Merissa are complex, interesting characters completely consumed with the ups and downs of their respective lives. Aren’t we all?

In New York Five, we meet Olive. Continue reading

Comic Judgment: The New York Five

Last week was a big one for comics, what with the end of Brightest Day, Justice League: Generation Lost, and the release of Action Comics #900. I love a good blockbuster, and even though I wasn’t reading BD or JLGL, I’ve heard very good things from those who have. Those books don’t exactly need any more publicity.

Since smaller books often get lost in the shuffle, I’d like to sing the praises of another comic that reached a milestone on Wednesday: The New York Five (Vertigo), by Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly, took its final, bittersweet bow this week with issue No. 4. It’s a story about friendship, but a certain kind: the intense but fragile connections you make in young adulthood, specifically the freshman year of college. Continue reading

2010 Memorable Moment: Frau Finds Love

If you have not read Fables, I judge you harshly. You should. But, I am kind enough to warn you that there are some serious Fables #100 *SPOILERS* here. Continue at your own risk.

For those of us who have experienced the wonder and greatness of Bill Willingham’s epic tale, we know and love Frau Totenkinder. She is also known as the Black Forest Witch of Hansel and Gretel fame, as well as nearly every other witch responsible for various curses in Fable history – Rapunzel, Beauty and the Beast, the Pied Piper of Hamelin, Flycatcher, and somehow, I’m sure, many others. She might very well be the baddest bitch alive … like ever. Especially considering she’s been around since the dawn of man, I’m talking Paleolithic era, people. Continue reading

Pull List Assessment – Part Two

E. inspired me to take a crack at my pull list …

I’ll miss you Nimue

GREATNESS
These are the books I absolutely cannot live without. If I were broke and had to choose between lunch on Wednesday or these comics … I’d be a hungry fangirl.

Madame Xanadu – Often times, the art on the book is nothing shy of perfect. Amy Reeder does an amazing job. I’d also like to give mega-kudos to Shelly Bond over at Vertigo for this most recent arc, Extra-Sensory. Six books, six different female artists, all of them relatively new to the game with the exception of Reeder. What a wonderful way to shine some light on female comic art talent. Marley Zarcone and Chrissie Zullo are new favorites of mine because of it. But it has been the story all along that stole my heart. Matt Wagner’s Nimue is one whom I will love forever. He’s developed Madame Xanadu into a beautiful character of substance. I am truly sad that this book will be over in two issues. Continue reading

Pull List Assessment Time

Every now and then, it’s a good idea to evaluate the old pull list instead of running on autopilot. Though my queue tends to be DC-heavy, there are several indie titles that I read either in trade or via review copy that are plenty good. Since V. and I are asked what we recommend or books that rock/suck, here’s assessment of what I’m reading and where it falls on the Great-to-Dropped scale. Those listed under “Promising” have not yet been added to the file, but they’re well on their way.

GREAT
Morning Glories: Image is firing on all cylinders with this book about a scary private school that traps and traumatizes its adolescent charges. Comic shops can’t keep it in stock, and that’s no surprise given the roller coaster of a plot, snappy dialogue and pretty art. Morning Glories is further proof that there’s some stellar work being done outside of the big publishing houses and the capes genre.

Morning Glories

Fables: Since I get this in trade form, I’m not current. The last volume, “The Great Fables Crossover,” was only so-so, but this book has been otherwise excellent. It also continues to evolve and expertly mixes fantasy and comedy with flat-out horror. I can’t wait for the next trade, “Witches,” to drop in December.

Batman and Robin: I’ve written before about how much I dig this book, so I won’t bore you with another love letter. Grant Morrison is handing the reigns to Peter Tomasi soon, but I’m a fan of Tomasi’s work and eagerly anticipate his work on Batman and Robin — especially since he did such a good job during his all-too-brief Nightwing run.

Madame Xanadu: After the most recent (and brilliant) issue about a deadened supermodel named Neon Blue at the height of late ’60s-fame, I was even more depressed that this comic is coming to an end. I have V. to thank for educating me about Madame X just in the nick of time. At least I’ll always have the back issues.

 

GOOD
G-Man: I initially started getting this Image comic for my children, but like Tiny Titans, it’s a smart, kid-skewing book that’s better than much of the fare for grownups. The most recent arc, “Cape Crisis” centers on young hero G-Man, who gets powers via a magic cape. The problem is that all of his peers (and his kid brother) want a piece of the action, and the results are darn funny. The news that Chris Giarrusso’s book is returning made me very happy, and the kids will have to pry it from my hands.

 

Red Robin: I didn’t like this comic at all when it debuted, but it has found a consistently good groove and done right by one of my favorite characters. Fabian Nicieza writes Tim Drake and the extended Bat-family well, and Marcus To sure can draw.

G-Man = good times

Birds of Prey: The Gail Simone incarnation of BoP was instrumental in getting me back into the comic book habit, and it’s been a fine reunion. While I’m not as mesmerized as I was the first time around, BoP is one of the books I look forward to most each month, along with …

Secret Six: This comic vacillates between “great” and “good,” so I have been spoiled. I love the characters and their bloody misadventures, and there is some real tenderness and heart underneath piles of bodies. My expectations for a Secret Six issue are probably unfairly high, but if it came down to cash flow, there are a whole lot of books I’d drop before this one.

Love and Capes: This book about a superhero married to a non-superpowered bookstore owner is light, bright and utterly adorable. I’m also reading this in trade, and there’s a longer overview here.

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man: As with Red Robin, I’ve already heaped lots of praise on the latest incarnation of Brian Michael Bendis’ long-running, consistently winning comic. The love-triangle drama between Peter, Mary Jane and Gwen is heating up again, and if enjoying juicy teen drama is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

Hawkeye and Mockingbird: When I started reading this title after the “Read This, Too!” challenge, I immediately thought that this is the book Green Arrow & Black Canary should have been. The vibe between the title characters — formerly married, now dating — is sexy and fun, and the book is full of action.

 

 

 

Welcome to Tranquility: Another Gail Simone gem about retired superheroes and supervillains, and a whole lot of secrets and lies. See a recent review here.

Mystery Society: I was late to the party on this five-issue series about a wealthy, urbane husband and wife who uncover government conspiracies and recruit odball characters along the way to join their adventures. The story is a kick, but it’s worth reading for Fiona Staples’ artwork alone.

 

PROMISING

 

 

 

 

 

Haweye and Mockingbird

 

Thunderbolts: I read my first issue a few weeks ago and thoroughly dug it. Luke Cage is leading a group of formerly bad guys trying to go legit, and Jeff Parker spins a good narrative (with ninjas!). Declan Shalvey’s art is impressive, and as a Thunderbolts newbie, I found issue #148 easy to jump into. And no, I’m not reading Shadowland.

Freedom Fighters: I bought this comic based on Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray’s Power Girl work, and I liked the first two issues quite a bit. It’s always a joy to see Nazis getting beaten up, and chances are good that this will be a dynamic team comic. Stay tuned.

Lady Mechanika: I’ve never been a Steampunk gal, but the artwork in this Aspen Comics title by Joe Benitez blew me away. The story focuses on a rifle-toting character named Mechanika, who is part human, part machine. It’s set in late 1800s London, and based on issue #0, it’s going to be a wild ride. My Newsarama review is here, but suffice to say that it’s worth checking out. If my stomach were sufficiently flat, this would SO be my con costume.

MEH
Wonder Woman: I think I got all the Haterade out of my system in this post, but I’m buying this book purely out of loyalty. I don’t want to give DC another reason to treat Diana like a stepchild, so I can’t bring myself to drop it.

First Wave

First Wave: At this point, only Rags Morales’ awesome illustrations are keeping this in my LCS file. This pulpy, character-heavy comic involving The Spirit, young Batman, Doc Savage and an alternative Black Canary got off to a nice start, but the long stretches between issues killed some of its momentum for me. There are only two issues to go, so I’m not sure it can deliver on its early promise or do justice to all the players.

DROPPED
Brightest Day: Pretty, but too draggy, convoluted and crowded. I might read it in deeply discounted trade form.

Power Girl: Judd Winick’s first few issues were better than I expected, but they just weren’t good enough to justify my $2.99. Part of the problem is that the previous creative team was so good that any successors would have a challenge on their hands. I don’t care enough about PG to read her adventures if the comic is just middling, so I cut it loose with no regrets.

 

Justice Society of America: I stuck with this book after Bill Willingham finished his “Fatherland” arc, but James Robinson’s follow-up just didn’t do it for me. I almost kept buying it just for Jesus Merino’s illustrations, even though story quality fell off in a major. The book is getting a new creative team, so I might give it another shot. Maybe.

 

In Comics, Only the Good Die Young

Nimue does not take kindly to impending doom.

As with so many other things that are artistically awesome, they come to an end long before they should. Over at Bleeding Cool, rumor has it that Madame Xanadu will soon meet her demise at Vertigo. Whether because of corporate rearranging of characters, low sales, or the creators having other projects they deem priority, this falls under the category of tragic.

I only recently discovered Madame Xanadu. The first trade, “Disenchanted,” was exceptional. When I finished reading it, I immediately re-read it. Amy Reeder’s art is out of this world. She draws Madame Xanadu so beautifully, with ethereal hints of Manga that make her work bright and unique. Matt Wagner’s story is nothing short of brilliant. Continue reading

Friday Favorite: Agent 355

There are plenty of reasons to be evangelical about Brian K. Vaughan’s Y: The Last Man — a haunting storyline in which almost every male on Earth drops dead, pages of nail-biting drama, sharp humor … and a monkey. It’s like a groundbreaking HBO show in print, with great illustrations (Pia Guerra). But of all the reasons I love this story, it’s the character of secret Agent 355 who tops the list. (Spoilers are ahead.) Continue reading