AUDIO BOOK REVIEW: THOSE WHO WALK IN DARKNESS by John Ridley

AUDIO BOOK REVIEW: THOSE WHO WALK IN DARKNESS by John Ridley, Read by Patricia R. Floyd

This is the first book in John Ridley’s SOLEDAD series. Set in an alternate world where superheroes aren’t just real, but have fallen from grace like pop stars or athletes, and are now considered terrorists and are hunted and killed if found in America.

Our protagonist, Soledad, is a member of the special LA unit that hunts and kills super powered beings. It’s capably read by Patricia R. Floyd, who gives the characters distinct voices. The issue isn’t the reading.

The problem is trying to do a super-hero pastiche/deconstruction is a bit of an uphill battle in any format, just because it has been done so well, by so many in comic-book/graphic novel form. From WATCHMEN to KINGDOM COME to MARVELS it’s this huge history of mankind dealing with beings they do not trust. And it has been done, exceptionally well, in the medium that is tailor-made for these types of stories… comics.

Now John Ridley brings this tale of a mutant hating cop into novel form, and it’s not badly told, even exciting in places, it’s just from scene one it feels dreadfully familiar and by the numbers. Bigoted cop and this tale of redemption, either because she sees the good some ‘mutants’ can do, or perhaps learns she’s part mutant. And if there’s no redemption, that’s even worse. That’s spending time with an unlikeable character that stays unlikeable, ie a David Ayer movie (Not a fan, hated his TRAINING DAY, didn’t like his HARSH TIMES any better).

I don’t know, point is by the third cassette, I just don’t care. I’m just not interested. It just feels like a chore to slog through. Cop shoots Angel, and tries to justify it. Yada, Yada, Yada. It’s just hundreds of words in and I don’t feel any fresh ideas.

Possibly someone who brings no superhero experience to the novel will get more out of it, though I find it hard to believe if you have no interest in previous superhero items you’ll for some reason find this of interest. And those who do bring a history with the concept, will just find it, like myself, marking time till it gets out of first gear.

I couldn’t tell you, because I just could not be bothered to go any further. Only the excellent reading by Patricia Floyd kept me going this far, reading the paperback I would have become severely disinterested quite a bit before.

My recommendation… stick to John Ridley’s earlier pure mystery/pulp fiction novels. He’s a good writer I just don’t think he brought enough engaging or captivating to this story. FINAL GRADE: Rent something else.

COMIC BOOK COVERS OF THE DAY

COMIC BOOK COVERS OF THE DAY


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spiderdynamite1


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You can buy all these comics either from your local comic store, or online. I’ll post various online sellers you can get these from or just drop me an email.

BEST COMIC BOOK COVERS OF 2011! The Remaining Parts!

“These people are like family to me. It has not been easy for anybody. Let me put it that way: It was like a death in the family. Only I was the dead guy. I felt like William Holden, face down in the swimming pool, narrating this thing.”– Frank Darabont on his departure from WALKING DEAD

Okay we’re wrapping this puppy up of the best Comic book covers of 2011. This covers the rest of the year not covered in the first part of this Article.

Okay onto the fun!

John Tyler Christopher for Annihilators: Earthfall #1

Steve McNiven for Captain America #1,3- Steven McNiven in addition to interior work, did several covers. These two were head and shoulders above all the rest of his covers for 2011. They differentiate themselves, particularly #1 by being very memorable. A great cover notable by distilling an entire issue into one image. A great cover is something iconic. CAPTAIN AMERICA #1 is a poster waiting to happen.

Sean Phillips for all four of the CRIMINAL LAST OF THE INNOCENT and select INCOGNITO covers. I didn’t care for some of his INCOGNITO covers in 2011, I think both as concept and covers INCOGNITO never quite gelled into having an identity. Whereas with CRIMINAL LAST OF THE INNOCENTS (as well as the other story-lines) the covers just scream creativity and read me. Great stuff.

JH Williams III knocks it out with his cover for BATWOMAN #1.

Kalman Andrasofszky for X-23 #14. I have no interest in this character or this book, but that is just a fun cover.

Esad Ribic did a lot of covers for 2011, but his covers tend to be too static for my liking. They fail to make me interested. Two exceptions, that made this list being X-FORCE #4 and #13.

Gabriele Dell’Otto gives a very intriguing cover to VENGEANCE #1. And Joe Casey seems to have an intriguing story to tell, but I couldn’t get past the very bland interior art by, to me, an unknown. But Dell’Otto’s cover did the job, it had me interested in buying the book. However the interior art quickly unsold me.

Sean Murphy for American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest #1.


Jae Lee offers a great cover for Wolverine #9. Compare this image to another image below and see what you think. You’ll know the image when you see it.

Gorgeous Terry & Rachel Dodson covers highlight UNCANNY X-MEN 537 & 535. For some reason they knock it out of the park when drawing Kitty Pride. however the other characters they do in other covers… Emma, Colossus, Wolverine… not so much. But with their Kitty Pride covers it’s like that’s when they get interested and inspired. I think they just love drawing brunettes. 🙂

David Yardin worked his way on this list with two covers that are very visceral, bordering on a rough, muscular moment of ugliness captured, frozen in that moment before the point of no-return. Namely:
Spider-Island: Heroes for Hire #1- A silly cover for a silly storyline, but Yardin’s cover (based on a Romita cover) makes it more compelling than it should be and X-Factor #219. The covers depict ugly moments, which are disturbing, but it’s drawn with sexiness and sensuality beneath the savagery so it makes for something of an uneasy and unsettling image that gets you to stop and take notice. And that’s what covers strive to do.


Sam Basri was fantastic on POWER GIRL, and his cover for #26 is Hilarious and great!

I like wrap around covers so thumbs up to New Mutants #25, looks a bit computer generated, but nice enough.

Jock for Daredevil Reborn #4


Paul Chadwick’s art highlights the exceptionally well laid out DHP #1. Fantastic Typography!


Birds of Prey #11 by Stanley Lau. Jae Lee’s cover looks more than a little like this one. I’ll leave that for others to ponder. Getting back to Lau, I dislike all of Lau’s covers for CAPTAIN ATOM, his earlier work on BIRDS OF PREY is much better. It’s like the work of two completely different artists.


I have yet to read Morning Glories, but Rodin Esquejo offers a titillating cover for #8 that is both sexy, and creepy (nurses putting on gloves is never a good thing).

Dan Brereton for Spider #1


Jason Pearson for Astonishing X-men 36. Did I mention I love wrap around covers?! 🙂

That’s it kids. Let’s call it a wrap on the best Comic Book Covers of 2011!!!

Hope you enjoyed, and here’s hoping for even more great covers in 2012!!!

BEST COMIC BOOK COVERS OF 2011 PT 1 of 4!!!!

Well here in the 3rd week of 2012, thought it was an appropriate time to put out my best and worst of 2011 Comic List.

I personally love looking over best of and end of year lists, and my own lists, tends to touch on a lot of things that may be bypassed or overlooked or just not tried, in other lists and on other sites.

True to the eclectic nature of this blog, my lists are always… never less than unique. 🙂

So let’s get into it, and enjoy!

We’ll start with the best covers of 2011! We’ll start with the 4th quarter of 2011 in this post and work our way backward to highlight the other 3 quarters as well.

Without further ado:


So the best covers of the 4th quarter of 2011 are as the pics show:

The number one cover artist for 2011 Qrt 4 (From Oct1-Dec31) is JH Williams the 3rd, with his gorgeous, stained glass worthy BATWOMAN covers. How he manages to write, do the amazing interiors he concocts AND do the covers is beyond me. It’s award winning work (at least art-wise, I trade wait for most DC comics, so will be a while before I read it. But if it’s half as good as BATWOMAN:ELEGY HC, one of the most gorgeous books of 2011, it will be a treasured buy).

But right on JH Williams III’s heels as my favorite cover artist of Qtr 4, is John Tyler Christopher. A brand new name as far as I can find, his covers on DC’s VOODOO are just stellar! And he also produced a couple issues for Marvel’s Annihilators: Earthfall. I have no interest in buying Marvel Monthly comics (too expensive, too many ads, too few pages) but they did produce a few decent covers in 2011, and the artists deserve recognition. DC’s VOODOO however, I think I will be picking up in issues. The interior artist is Sam Basri, a fantastic cover artist in his own right, with a stellar run on POWER GIRL in 2011, so combine him with John Tyler Christopher’s covers and it’s win/win.

Viktor Kalvachev is next up with his fantastic covers for the soon to be short lived MEN OF WAR. His covers are gorgeous set pieces, seemingly run through with Russian Constructivism aesthetics. Objective and often geometric forms carrying universal meanings, and striking use of color, primarily red. Definitely a cover artist to watch.

Next up is Francesco Francavilla covers on BLACK PANTHER along with DARK SHADOWS and CAP & BUCKY. Being a fan of most things pulp I quite like the mood Francavilla’s covers strive for. I’m a detail guy, so that’s the only reservation I have against the slightly cartoony covers, but overall they work for me. His pulp-tinged composition and layout skills winning me over.

Now for the rest:

Chris Bachalo for WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN #1- just wonderfully laid out cover. I hear good things about this book, but I don’t pay $4 for a comic, period. I’ll wait for the trade, an affordable trade. Meaning I don’t pay $4 per issue in trade format either (another crazy business decision Marvel has been cutting their throat with). If the trade breaks down to an outrageous amount per issue, I wait till the price drops, or I don’t get it. One less X-MEN book for me to buy, is not a bad thing. There’s more than enough great books out there that are priced right.

Ben Oliver for BATWING #3. Hearing nothing but great things about this series. At $2.99 I’ll be picking it up monthly.

Patrick Zircher for VILLAINS FOR HIRE #1- I enjoy this artist’s layouts, his shot composition, but his lack of backgrounds tends to weaken them a bit. In this one he has Andry Troy assisting, and it is Zircher’s best cover of 2011.

Rico Renzi for LOOSE ENDS #3. I hate the logo on this book, but ignoring that, I like Rico Renzi’s actual art.

Marko Djurdjevic for Avengers Origins: Ant-Man & the Wasp #1

CASANOVA #2 (from Marvel’s ICON imprint) gets Gabriel Ba on the list.

Daniel Acuna for AVENGERS #19. It’s easily the best of the covers he did this quarter. Meaning it, like all the ones I give praise to here, I would buy as a poster.

Alex Ross only did 2 covers for this quarter, one was for ULTRON and it was one of the rare Alex Ross covers that I didn’t like. However the 2nd one was FLASH GORDON ZEITGEIST. and that as you can see for yourself is masterful. When Alex Ross is on his A game, there is none better. Easily one of the best ones of the quarter.

Nathan Fox gets on the list with his only cover of the quarter, HAUNT #19. Wonderful composition, the typography really sells it.

Eric Larsen for SAVAGE DRAGON #177.

And Finally Steve McNiven for CAPTAIN AMERICA #5.

That’s it kids! The best covers for 2011 quarter #4! Come back as we complete the list for the remainder of the year!

Recent Reads: FLETCHER HANKS- I SHALL DESTROY ALL THE CIVILIZED PLANETS

Book Review

FLETCHER HANKS- I SHALL DESTROY ALL THE CIVILIZED PLANETS edited by Paul Karasik

As a collector I’m always glad when things get preserved, or rediscovered. So Paul Karasik doing his part to bring us a forgotten artist and his work…namely the strips of Fletcher Hanks… I can appreciate that.

That said where Paul Karasik sees something brilliant, I see something, that while of its time, even for its time is very poor in terms of both art and story. Basically the same story retold in variation after variation. I’ve seen him referred to as the ‘Ed Wood’ of comics, and I think that moniker is apt.

A little bit of Fletcher Hanks’ cartoon strips goes a long way.

First story is mildly interesting just for how absurd it is, by the fifth story whatever crude charm Fletcher Hanks’ STARDUST and various other strips have, definitely has worn out its welcome. It looks and reads like the work of a juvenile, similar to the popular web-comic AXE COP (written by a young child, and drawn impressively by his older brother. AXE COP exhibits that irrational juxtaposition of extremes. The funny thing is AXE COP is the far more interesting, and innovative, and yes… mature and imaginative work. AXE COP is actually good as opposed to STARDUST which quickly feels… redundant).

The main problem with Fletcher Hanks’ work is it doesn’t grow… at all. There is no progression to it. It very much is the same character, doing the same thing, in pretty much the same way, in each story. There is something… stunted in the work, reading it back to back like this. Even comparing it to its contemporaries such as Gardner Fox’s work on the golden age FLASH, Hanks’ work pales in comparison. Fox’s work even today holds up as fun and enjoyable, not so Hanks.

Indeed the most interesting thing about the book is the after-word, where Karasik recounts his meeting with Hank’s son… Fletcher Hanks Jr. It paints a singular picture of Fletcher Hanks as a drunk, wife and child beating monster, and his work as what it was… a paycheck, grabbing on and replicating, as best he could, the popular strip themes of the day.

So kudos for collecting this work, because it should exist out there for those interested. Eisner winning book I believe, so some considered it… worthy. However for me, I SHALL DESTROY ALL THE CIVILIZED PLANETS is something to read via your library, but not to keep or purchase. No re-readability value. So borrow if you’re interested in kooky early super-hero/comic strip art, and then decide if you think it’s worth buying. My vote is no.

Far more interesting is the story of Fletcher Hanks’ son, Fletcher Hanks Jr, recently deceased. You can go to his web-page, that is still up as of this writing, and at the bottom he mentions the book I SHALL DESTROY ALL THE CIVILIZED PLANETS.

Fletcher Hanks Jr webpage

I Shall Destroy All The Civilized Planets!

Now if you want an example of good golden age comics, click on the below:

The Golden Age Flash Archives, Vol. 1 (DC Archive Editions)

What I’m Reading: FABLES, Cornell Woolrich, GOON, JLA, ESSEX COUNTY, KRIGSTEIN

Well currently have a bunch of books either in rotation, either just finished, on their way to being finished or about to start.

Among them:

NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES by Cornell Woolrich. I’m coming in on the home stretch of this one. I own just about everything Woolrich has written. Made a big dent in his short story collections, and now working my way into his various novels.

A prolific writer, getting through all his novels will probably require more leisure time than I have, but I’m giving it the good old college try. He is easily one of my top ten writers, possibly the top 5, I consider him, along with Chester Himes, one of the most important and influential American writers of the 20th century. He is as Francis Nevins Jr coined him… “A Master of Bleak Poetic Vision”.

NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES is not his best novel, (FRIGHT, THE BLACK PATH OF FEAR and RENDEVOUS IN BLACK, the three of his novels I’ve completed so far, are all better) but Woolrich in neutral is more compelling, addictive and just plain mesmerizing than just about any other writer at full speed.

More for how he says things than what he says.

He constructs, paints a picture unlike any other writer that I know of, living or dead. There’s a sense of discovery in his writing, he builds the world in fragments around you, sets the scene, like a picture slowly developing itself, so when finally his description coalesces into something familiar, he has given you this rare gift of seeing something known, be for a while… magical and unknown.

“And so- every night he walked along the river, going home. Every night about one, a little after.

Anything you keep doing like that, if you keep doing it long enough, suddenly one time something happens. Something that counts, something that matters, something that changes the whole rest of your life. And you forget all the other times that went before it, and just remember that once.”

And that ability is in effect in NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES, about a man trying to save a woman, from the irresistable pull of stars. However, I recommend newbies to the world of Woolrich to start with the novels I previously named, or with his short stories. Go to my page on recommended Short Stories (in the column to your right)and you’ll see some recommendations.

****

B.KRIGSTEIN is an oversized, very hefty tome by Greg Sadowski on the artist Bernard Krigstein. Perhaps most well known by those reading this, for his work on EC comics in the 50s. But Krigstien went on to have a more commercial career, followed by a fine arts career. I just browsed this one and didn’t quite captivate me, no sleight against Krigstein I’m perhaps not the audience for his art. So worth a look if you’re a Krigstein fan, others may want to give it a pass.

****


THE COLLECTED ESSEX COUNTY- By Jeff Lemire, this was spoken of with quite a bit of acclaim, so picked it up from my local library. It’s a very thick and nicely designed trade by the publishers, TOP SHELF PRODUCTIONS. A wonderfully evocative graphic novel, collecting three distinct but intermingled stories. With an eye toward minimalism, Lemire with cartoony but deft lines, unfolds tales of a small Canadian town and the lives that grow up and out of it. I’ve read the first two stories, and it’s good, though it doesn’t for me live up to the hefty accolades. But it is impressive story telling, and a heartfelt tale of common lives, that are never really common. I think if you can get the collected edition for a good price, it’s something, in line with Matt Kindts’ THREE STORY, both forlorn memoirs, that you’re going to want on your bookshelf, to browse through from time to time. A recommended buy. Grade B.

DARK HORSE BOOK OF THE DEAD- Yet the latest in this Dark Horse series of Anthologies, each covering a specific topic in Horror. This zombie one being the weakest and least satisfying of the reads so far. None of the stories leaving much of an impression. Worth a look if its in front you, but not worth hunting down.

JLA AMERICAN DREAMS- Not enjoyable Howard Porter Art, and not interesting Grant Morrison stories.

FABLES # 1-5, This is my second time trying to give this heartily praised series by Bill Willingham a try. Like anyone will tell you the first trade, not particularly interesting. Trades 2 and 3 are better, I would call them good. Trade #4 is the first one that I would go so far as to say I really liked. mainly for the opening story, which was great. But Trade #5 descends back into just feeling like spinning wheels, I’m slogging my way just to get through it. So by the end of trade #5 you’re talking 33 issues, over 3 years of story. So clearly fables isn’t my cup of tea. 33 issues and I really find none of the extensive cast particularly interesting, likeable or compelling. I even have trades 6 thru 9 sitting here, but just can’t work up any interest in reading them). So I think I’ll call it a day on this series, as I have tons of other things to read. I’m just glad I got to read these trades for free at the library rather than purchasing them. Your mileage may vary, but for me and this series it’s game over.

****

GOON- Now a series that is working for me, and is living up to the hype is Eric Powell’s loony and lunatic THE GOON. I’ve read three trades back to back, VOL 2 MY MURDEROUS CHILDHOOD, VOL 3 HEAPS OF RUINATION, and CHINATOWN AND THE MYSTERY MR. WICKER. I’ll avoid the play by play, except to say they are fantastic. Fun, frenetic, with every crazy assortment of monstrosity and menace, and at the heart of it, a life hardened palooka, who in the best YOUNG GUNS tradition, understands the meaning of pals. Best praise I can give this series is after reading these trades for free I’m going to buy a nice collected hardcover of them. Nuff said.

All for this installment. Check back later for more.

X-MEN:FIRST CLASS? uhhh… maybe Budget Class?

A 80 million dollar budget, and you can’t come up with costumes that don’t look like wet cardboard. And where’s Bishop? Evidentally they are throwing in any characters they want, so they could have tossed in Bishop. And the cast… man, Yeah, I really could not have less interest in this movie. It’s a DVD rental.

UPDATE:

Dammit! I just saw that Lenny Kravitz’s daughter Zoe Kravitz is in this movie. With her bringing the Storm vibe, I may have to see this movie, just to see her (that’s a big maybe, cause the trailer looks not just bad, but worse… boring. And seems all they have Zoe doing is… pretty sad. Did I see her sans clothes, flapping little butterfly wings in front of the actors playing Magneto, Professor X? Do actresses of color always have to be portrayed in the worst possible light? God I hate Hollywood. But I’ll try and think happy thoughts until I know more).

Because seriously, no one else in the cast has me remotely interested. So if her part is not good, color me uninterested. But what, you couldn’t toss Bishop in as well?! Keith Hamilton Cobb would have made a great Bishop!

THE REPORT CARD- Wednesday Comics Review:The first 6 weeks!

Mark Chiarello, DC’s Art Editor Supreme, once again proves himself one of the driving visionaries in comics today. Following on the heels of his SOLO series (A critical, if not commercial success, that I hope DC tries again) he masterminds what I consider another DC homerun, WEDNESDAY COMICS (Dedicated to the great Archie Goodwin). WEDNESDAY COMICS is getting me to go to the comic shop every week to pick it up, and I didn’t do that for any other weekly book. Heck I don’t do that for monthly books. Just the format, and the fact that it’s a complete self-contained reading experience (no tie-ins etc) makes it for me an attractive read.

So with the series half done, I thought now was a great time for an issue by issue overview:

kylebaker

    #1 WEDNESDAY COMICS 8 JUL 09-

BATMAN is a solid choice to launch this collection of strips. Nice art, nice story, keeps you on tap for next issue. B.

KAMANDI-A lot of praise has been heaped on Gibbon’s and Sook’s KAMANDI and rightly so. Completely captures the feel of classic Prince Valiant strips. And does a great job with the cliffhanger. B+.

The SUPERMAN strip has beautiful art, but doesn’t feel as successful as the others in being compelling in one page. B-.
DEADMAN- Nice art, layout, fun story, strong cliffhanger. Though, feels a little back-story heavy, B.
GREEN LANTERN- Love the art, but feel the story doesn’t really make itself work in the one page format. B-/C+.
METAMORPHO- Great art, Interesting story. B-/B.
TEEN TITANS- Uggh. Neither the art nor the story particularly worked. Very off-putting every time I try and read it. D.

STRANGE ADVENTURES- Pope’s STRANGE ADVENTURES gets a lot of praise, and while not my favorite of this issues’ strips, it’s a fun, relatively effective 1 pager. B/B+.

Palmiotti and Conner’s SUPERGIRL is cute, and fun, kid friendly stip. B.

METAL MEN- Dan Didio impressed me with this effective one pager, and the art by Jose Garcia-Lopez, and Kevin Nowlan (two of the greatest artists in the business) is stunning. Fantastic work by Didio to tell a compelling story in one page. A.

WONDER WOMAN- It’s a beautiful strip and like Pope and Baker, Ben Caldwell is doing everything himself. So just for the body of work he’s producing on a weekly basis, he deserves praise. That said the story/structure is largely impenetrable and definitely off-putting. To take an oversized format and still make it squinting, eye strain material, is at the best a misstep and at the worst a crime. All in all, even less reader friendly than the TEEN TITANS’ piece. D-.
SGT. ROCK- It’s hard to go wrong with the Kuberts, and this strip so far is no exception. Compelling. B/B+.

FLASH/IRIS WEST- Just a lot of fun, and a throwback to the romance comics of yesteryear. And the art is beautiful. B+.

DEMON & THE CAT – Great art, found the story not very intriguing or memorable. C+.

HAWKMAN- They have Kyle Baker bringing up the rear but for my money that was a good thing because he ended strong. For me this was my favorite strip of this issue, hands down. Just fantastic art, story, and composition, with an effective cliffhanger. It had weight, and gravity to it, no pun intended. “And we Flap”. A+.

    #2 WEDNESDAY COMICS 15 JUL 09-

BATMAN- Solid art. Though I’m not sold on the pacing of this yet. B-.

KAMANDI- Wow. It’s just gorgeously drawn and composed. And effectively told. It is beautiful. B+/A-.

SUPERMAN- Superman meets Batman. What’s not to love. While the characterizations seemed… off (“Super-Prozac” is that a comment that Batman would make?). Overall good. B.
DEADMAN- Good strip. Nice art, relatively compelling. B.
GREEN LANTERN- Improvement over last installment. Love the art, and ends on a good cliffhanger. B.
METAMORPHO- Not much storywise here but I really enjoy how Allred plays with the page layout. And the kid commentary at the bottom is nifty. B-/B.
TEEN TITANS- It’s better than last issue, though it still feels like they are not making use of the 1 page format.

STRANGE ADVENTURES- I think here is where Paul Pope for me begins to earn his accolades. Fun art, fun story, effective use of the format. B+.

SUPERGIRL- Not exactly my cup of tea. But great art, and kid friendly fun. B.

METAL MEN- Loving this series. Didio and Garcia/Nowlan are knocking this out the park and perfectly using the format. Who would think a VP could actually be a great writer? Wow I’m impressed. A/A+.

WONDER WOMAN- Still reader kryptonite. D-.
SGT. ROCK- Good if taking its time about actually progressing the story. B-/B.

FLASH/IRIS- is solidly fun and fantastic. B+.

DEMON CAT- Uhhh— beautiful art, story is not doing anything for me. C-.

HAWKMAN- Is still beautifully drawn, however reads perhaps a little awkwardly compared to that fantastic opening last week. B/B+.

    #3 WEDNESDAY COMICS 22 JUL 09-

Batman-Nice art, story progressing. Just not terribly interesting so far. C/C+.

KAMANDI- Continues to be one of the consistently best strips. B+/A-.

Superman- Art beautiful, but starting to feel like it’s treading water. B-/C.
Deadman- Nice page layout. Not particularly compelling. B.
Green Lantern- Great art. Still trying to get a hang on the story. B.
Metamorpho- I still appreciate Allred’s layout, though it’s getting a little repetitive. Same with Gaiman’s lack of actual story/story progression. It is starting to actually annoy me. C-.
Teen Titans- Art is not my cup of tea, but the story seems like its starting to shape up. C.

STRANGE ADVENTURES- I’m really enjoying this series. Paul Pope is consistently entertaining. B+/A-.

Supergirl- More of the same. Fun but not my cup of tea. B.

METAL MEN- Man!!! I keep having to sing the praise of these guys. Another brilliant mating of story and art and a cliffhanger! Wow! A/A+.

Wonder Woman- Reader Kryptonite still.
Sgt Rock- Okay, but still waiting for the story to progress itself. C+.

Flash/Iris- Continues to be a joy. B+.

Demon and Cat- Wonderful art, not sure what to make of the story. C+.

HAWKMAN- Well, that was an unexpected twist. Art is still good, and intriguing story, though I do miss the clean, grittiness of the opening. B.

    #4 WEDNESDAY COMICS 29 JUL 09-

BATMAN- If you’ve seen the Big Sleep, and the thick verbal foreplay Bogie and Bacall do over a meal, you’ll appreciate what Azzarello and Risso are doing here. First one I really loved of their installment. The best Batman I’ve read in a bit, and it had no Batman in it. Excellent. A+.

KAMANDI- Wow! Kamandi also ups there game with their best installment yet. Fantastic. A+.
Superman- Beautiful art, but Arcudi seems to be pacing his story for the book, rather than the page. B-/B.
DEADMAN- Picking up the slack from Superman manages to turn out their best installment to date. Fun. B/B+.

GREEN LANTERN- I’m finally getting into this series and its right stuff feel. B+.
METAMORPHO- Finally Neil Gaiman has decided to start actually writing a story and I’m intrigued. B/B+.

Teen Titans- I don’t know what it is about the number #4 but even the Titans turned in a compelling installment this time. B.

STRANGE ADVENTURES- Paul Pope continues to rock. A/A+.

SUPERGIRL- What the heck. Even this one was great! Made me laugh! B+.

METAL MEN- Brilliance. Pure Brilliance. A+.

Wonder Woman— nope
Sgt. Rock- Still feels like it’s treading water. C.
Flash/Iris- Is still very good, but perhaps a bit confusing. B.
Demon and Cat- Uhhh— beautiful art. Story is a nope.

HAWKMAN- Wow. I thought this was fantastic. From the invasion to the JLA to the last line. B+/A-.

    #5 WEDNESDAY COMICS 5 AUG 09-

Batman- Azzarello and Risso are hitting their stride. B/B+.

KAMANDI- Kamandi rocks! A.

Superman- Nice retelling of an oft told origin. B.

DEADMAN- Wow! Pretty intense. B+.

GREEN LANTERN- It’s rockingly good now. B+.

Metamorpho- not a fan of what Gaiman is doing here. C-/D.
Teen Titans- A little heavy-handed been there done that. But at least it’s solid storytelling now. C.
Strange Adventures- A nice lull. But still fun. B.
Supergirl- Fun. B.

METAL MEN- Beautiful art. Solid fun. B+.

Wonder Woman- unreadable
Sgt Rock- Good art, but it’s like Andy Kubert has no idea how to advance the plot.

FLASH IRIS- Good stuff. B+.

Demon Cat- Great art, a boring story. C-/D.

HAWKMAN- Here’s the best compliment I can give this HawkMan serial… I want to own every single page! Baker is amazing, particularly when you consider outside of Ben Caldwell he’s the only one doing the entire strip by himself (Paul Pope does everything except colors). But where Caldwell’s strip is not reader friendly, Baker’s has weekly been one of the serials I look forward to and enjoy the most. B+.

    #6 WEDNESDAY COMICS 12 AUG 09-

BATMAN- Some beautiful visual storytelling. B+.

KAMANDI- Beautiful as always. Fun/ great. B+.

Superman- Beautiful art. Not enough there to say anything about the story. C+.

Deadman- Intriguing. B/B+.

Green Lantern- I’m on board. Fun stuff. B/B+.

Metamorpho- uhhh— Gaiman’s work leans heavily toward filler/treading water. C-/D.
Teen Titans- I’m enjoying the story now. Intriguing. B.

STRANGE ADVENTURES- Lives up to its title. Pope consistently weaving an engaging and brilliant narrative. A-.

SUPERGIRL- Okay since issue #4 this has been consistently really fun! And this issue continues the streak. B+.

METAL MEN- I continue to toss accolades at this strip, but that’s because week in and week out it continues to earn them. Here the METAL MEN take on the mastermind of the bank robbery they’ve been foiling the past 5 weeks, only to realize that bank robbers are the least of their problems. B+/A-.

Wonder Woman- unreadable
Sgt Rock- Well story is finally moving. C.

FLASH/GRODD- I was getting confused, timetravel does this to me, but I read all six issues back to back again, and confusion is cleared up. Remarkably inventive and fun. Wacky stuff and fun Grodd strip this time. B+.
The Demon and the Cat- I hate a non-rhyming Demon. D.

HAWKMAN- I’m really loving the heck out of Hawkman. After a couple odd steps, it’s feeling back on solid ground. And I’m loving Bakers art. B+.

WOLVERINE Dissected : What you should know before seeing the movie! or “Favorite and Best Wolverine Comic Book reads!”

wolvfire

Marvel is a company I don’t do on a Monthly basis anymore (DC as well for that matter), primarily because it makes no real sense to buy individual comics compared to picking up the collected trades. The ads are way too obtrusive, the price per story-page ratio… is too high, and the third thing missing is something called… feedback.

The letters page in comics.

The letterspage, true to its name, was a place in comics where letters to the editor was asked or answered. Some books’ pages were just okay, some were great, but all were appreciated. The effort and time the publishers put into producing these one or two pages, now sacrificed to ads, were appreciated, and I think helped build an audience.

And it’s not comparable to online message boards, because this dialog between audience and creator was informed dialog. And that does come from it being written and moderated and chosen, with an eye to self promotion on the companies part surely, but I also got the sense they were balanced pages that presented well thought out opinions of various shades.

Go read some of the old MASTER OF KUNG FU letters pages, or the old DEFENDERS letters pages, they are signposts of the times as much as discussion of any particular issues, and as such are great pop-culture time capsules.

And editorial at the big two comic book companies, Marvel and DC, have done away with those time-capsules, and to their detriment I believe.

When done right, that slim, floppy thing people inaccurately call a comic book, can give you an entertainment value, that you’re not going to get from the trade.

It, when done right, will give you an experience unique to the serial format. That differentiates it, from the trade paperback, or the movie, or the anime.

When done right a slim, forget the term comic book… it’s a misnomer, we’ll for this article call it a slim. 🙂 . Please send all royalties to me. 🙂 .

Anyhow, when done right the Slim… works. It’s a dose, a quick fix, as Ellis likes to say. When done right, they are worth seeking out.

Examples?

FELL by the Aforementioned Warren Ellis, bringing it back to Marvel CRIMINAL… they in scant pages not only give you an ad free story, but give you a dialog, this behind the scenes material, into the creator and the creative process.

And that’s something you don’t currently get from mainstream Marvel and DC comics.

I grew up in the 70s, so that letters page, I think for me and a generation of readers, and a generation before them; was this dialog about and into the creative process, the backmatter if you will of the stories.

And yes, I know now we have the internet, yada, yada, yada (I really hate that show 🙂 ) but that’s no replacement for a well moderated, and well edited Letterspage. But companies, want to cut costs and give you the lowest common denominator product for the highest cost.

And so today you who don’t know anything better, get the typical DC or Marvel monthly book. A book that is not worth picking up new (for me. For the rest of you buy 12 copies if you like, but for me… no).

My process typically is… if the book is getting really strong feedback, to wait a few months for the trade, avoid the ads, or pick up the back issues later for a fraction of cover price.

That said the only two Marvel Trades I’ve bought in the last year is Brubaker’s first DAREDEVIL trade, and Peter David’s first X-FACTOR trade. I’ve read quite a few at the library, and am just as glad I didn’t buy them. Now I do buy comics, I’ve spent over $1000 on books and trades last year, I just haven’t been buying Marvel.

That’s not to say they don’t have great stuff, and great creators.

They do.

But a great creator in service of soap opera drivel, is for me…a waste of a great creator.

Though I heard some of the books are really good. CAPTAIN AMERICA, WOLVERINE, GHOST RIDER, all with great creators… but I’m not piqued enough to deal with the Ads, the price, the crossovers, the lack of respect for the readers (you know what really sold Marvel Comics over DC in the 60s and 70s, it was the personality of Stan Lee. This concept of talking to, rather than at, your audience. This talk seen in his Soap Box articles (just collected), and in every letterspage. And there was something special about that particular odd brand of forum and dialog as practiced by the comics of yesterday. This arcane idea… of community.

You bring up the internet and I’m going to break your knees.)

The monthly books I do pick up, have either Letterspages (most Indies)or what Warren Ellis has coined “BackMatter”(CRIMINAL). It just shows the book isn’t just some assembly line piece of drivel, that editors are flooding the market with to try and bury books that are worth your time.

So yeah lacking all that can’t be bothered with new books from the big 2.

But as stated, I will pick up especially well reviewed book, that I find in the back issue bin for a $1 or less (the price all Marvel Comics should be 🙂 ).

And here are three old reviews I’m finally getting around to posting:

Trilogy of acclaimed Wolverine stories. They are:

Wolverine 32

Mark Millar spent a year on Wolverine, doing a story arc about Wolverine being turned by Hydra and killing heroes. While well received by fans and critics alike, I was rather underwhelmed. Finding it very much a one-trick pony of an idea, that stretched over 12 issues… felt very thin.

Millar’s last issue on the book however, in one self contained story, has more power and is plain better than his previous 12 issues combined.

And much of this issues success is owed to the dark, brooding, yet at the same time clean, crisp art of Kaare Andrews. Very much a David Mazzucheilli (sp) vibe.

WOLVERINE 32: PRISONER NUMBER ZERO is a very minimalist tale, of the dark days of the war, a concentration camp, a new commandant, and a little man… who will not die. Compelling and dangerous from first page to last. It’s the kind of issue that you can hand to people who don’t know comic-books and they will be… smitten. B+/A-.

Wolverine 56- It would be exactly two years after Millar’s story, before anyone did anything as good with the character. In this issue newcomer Jason Aaron pens his own one-shot…. about the man who cannot die.

This story THE MAN IN THE PIT much like the earlier PRISONER NUMBER ZERO finds our protagonist trapped and at the mercy of merciless men. MAN IN THE PIT is a good story. Jason Aaron clearly showing those writing chops that impressed me so much in THE OTHER SIDE. The art however is… is bad. Which it gives me pause to say, because I’m a Chaykin fan, like anyone else. Chaykin being an artist I liked very much in the late 80s, into the 90s with his BLACK KISS, AMERICAN FLAG, and POWER AND GLORY work.

However it is now 2008, and the rigors of a monthly schedule with few exceptions is a young man’s domain. Chaykin’s work here looking very phoned in. That last page is horrendously bad.

However while the look of the art itself is rushed and unfinished, you cannot fault Chaykin’s layouts. He still knows how to move your eye, and tell a story.

So even notching it for art. A strong issue: B.

However it does point out an issue, about making Wolverine a masochistic foil. The story points out the problem of Writers, not really knowing what to do with the character of Wolverine, falling back on just testing out their latest torture or “death of the day” on him.

Because a man is capable of receiving great punishment or to an extent rising from the dead, does not mean that every story trope has to revolve around this extreme. Or that he’s going to want to be put in a position every day to test that trope.

Because of tetnus shots, I can step on a rusty nail every day and not die. But just because I can doesn’t mean I’m going to. It’s unpleasant.

Wolverine/Logan is a world class spy and fighter and survivor. Yet nearly every issue, some writer has him getting shot in the head by a two bit punk, trapped in a pit, or otherwise the male equivalent of the bondage girls of the 40s and 50s.

I give Millar’s story a pass, because it’s a fable, in its own way a ghost story. However Aaron’s story while a good read, kinda asks you to believe that a character that can survive the Hulk: A/ is going to get trapped in a pit by losers and B/ having found himself trapped couldn’t just jump out the frigging pit.

Stories like this tend to dumb down and power down the character to put him in these inane situations where writers can go for the lowest common denominator. “Look I blew his jaw off”.

Wolverine/Logan is a hero and a dangerous fucking man not because he can heal from any wound, but because he doesn’t have to.

Read that last sentence again Marvel.

Unless you are Spiderman you’re not faster than Wolverine, and you’re not going to sneak up on him. You are not going to catch him by surprise. This dude is James Bond (albeit an uncouth James Bond) with Claws. And James Bond doesn’t stand around to get shot in the fing head.

Wolverine getting hurt, needing to use his healing factor, should be the exception not the rule.

It should happen so rarely villains don’t even know about it, and then when he does get shot, and rise from the dead so to speak, it’s this moment that has weight. Because in the previous year no one has even scratched this killing machine.

Claremount and Bryne, more than creators Dave Cockrum and Len Wein, defined this character. And arguably his finest hours were with Claremont and Miller in his first mini-series (still holds up), and with Claremont and Paul Smith in their 80s run in the UNCANNY X-MEN.

That said there are some new writers on the block who are doing some amazing work.

Possibly my favorite recent Wolverine story, even topping Millar’s PRISONER ZERO is Mike Carey’s one-shot FIREBREAK. It’s a wonderful story that uses a disintegrating marriage as the framework for this tale of an out of control wildfire and a blinded hero.

I was not a fan of mike Carey’s LUCIFER but I found this one-shot completely riveting. And the art by Scott Kollins is as frenetic and beautiful as ever (though you miss the tightness of an inker. The colorist probably doing inks and colors in photoshop, and you miss the strength of a real inker, finishing and interpreting the work). We accept the blindness aspect as one of the rare times the Hero gets hurt, but beyond that he gets mauled by a bear, shot down by Hydra goons. Hydra goons?! Comeon, blind or no, there’s no way they were going to shoot Peter Parker or James Bond point blank. So how are they going to take by surprise a man who can smell their adrenalin.

But that artistic license aside, a great issue. A-.

Well That’s all for this installment. Hope you’ve enjoyed me breaking up your favorite unbreakable mutant. Just in time for the movie no less. 🙂 .

The NY COMICCON 2007 Coverage Pt. 1: The Black (you talking about shaft? Hush your mouth!) Panel

I had a great time at the NY comiccon. I thought with the exception of the rat like maze, laughingly referred to as a line, that it was a well conducted event.

Being my first con, I was definitely a little overwhelmed. The sales floor really was too much for me. Navigating it on Saturday (and I tried), was a herculean task, and I couldn’t find anything.

So I mossied (I couldn’t find it in the dictionary, but you know mosying , that thing cowboys do when they can’t find a horse. It’s kinda like walking 🙂 ) my way down to the panels.

The panels I had researched and knew what I wanted to hit. With one exception I hit pretty much every panel I was interested in, and on Sunday got to touch base with creators and personalities I’m a fan of.

Here’s a pic from the great Marvel Bullpen panel. Lot’s of fun, packed house. Sorry for the blurry pic, but I think you can pretty easily make it out. From left to right it’s Stan (The Man) Lee, Jolting Joe Sinnot, and Gracious Gene Colan!.

Stan was a riot! Panel also included Ralph Macchio and a lady they only referred to as Flo. Fun panel, full of reminisces of Marvel’s glory days. My 2nd favorite panel!

But in this installment wanted to talk about the panel that surprisingly was my favorite of the con. Michael Davis’ The Black Panel NYC.

Now, now… don’t give me that look, it was actually really good. :).

The unfortunate truth is you can’t say Black in this country without some idiot saying, “why it gotta be a Black thing” and the answer is always the same. For the same reason there is an Asian thing, or a Jewish thing, or an Italian thing, and let’s be honest America is a defacto white thing.

And for the absence of a strong sense of identity amidst that defacto standard, prisons are filled, and drugs go into veins. So it is very, very important to have a china town, or a little Italy, to have a language, and a country, and a history, and a culture, and idioms to call your own.

And a lot of that infrastructure is in need of building.

Not just for the good of the minority mind you, but for the good of the majority. It benefits the majority, for the pieces that make up the whole, to be able to bring their own identity, and strength to the table.

So trust me, a Black Panel, A China Town, a Little Italy…. these are good things.

Now quick thoughts on the panel:

Above is a nifty pic of the panel. From left to right you have:
Denys Cowan (You can just make out the tip of his hat, and his shoulder, but have a better pic below), Chuck Creekmur, Cheryl Lynn, Prodigal Sunn, Michael Davis, Reginald Hudlin, and Mark and Mike Davis of Blokhedz. I’ll get into who everyone is, and what they work on)

“I would love to work with (Christopher) Priest. Along with Denys (Cowan) he’s one of the creators I’ve reached out to.”
…Reginald Hudlin, Writer, Filmaker, Comics Pro, President of BET, and Renaissance Man, an excerpt from the absolutely was not to be missed Black Panel that took place at this years NY Comiccon. A panel decisively and brilliantly moderated by Michael Davis.

Because many times even when the panel is great, the questions are idiotic and insipid. As in the Stephen King panel, “well I haven’t read the book Mr. King, but a friend of mine told me….”

So it was great to not see that happen, and that Michael Davis steered the panel with a deft and strong hand. The panel was great, the questions were great, the vibe was stunning. You had a great Asian-Latin-Black lovefest and mutual admiration society going on, which is great and fitting, because Black really does encompass all those people, the mass media’s attempt to fractionalize that truth, aside.

Above is a pic of Prodical Sun, Michael Davis, Reginald Hudlin.

And I want to get further off topic here, Mr. Davis took flak from someone regarding using the term Black for his panel. Isn’t that amazing? You can have a Jewish Anti-Defamation League, or an Asian that, or a Korean this, or an Italian that, but noooooo… you can’t have a Black so and so.

But Luckily he told the guy go jump in the lake. Because honestly I frigging despise the term African American.

“OHHHHH!!” And the crowd gasps!

“No he didn’t just say that!”

“That Negro has lost his mind!”

Well actually I did say it, and I have as firm a grasp on my sanity as I ever had, which of course isn’t saying much.

But for you in the cheap seats, let me say it again so you catch every word: I frigging despise the term, African American.

Why?

Because it’s a very marginalizing, mass media term; that doesn’t encompass the rich vein of people and culture that word is tacked over, but segments them based on national/geo-political boundaries.

An idiotic way to define a people, painting them with a nationalistic brand or brush. And an inaccurate way.

60% (a low #) of what we consider Latin nations, Brazil/Cuba/Venezuela are heavily of African ancestry. So as a person whose blood line runs from Senegal to the islands to the Americas… Black works really well for me, hey I’ll even answer to Pan-African, Nubian, on an especially jovial day perhaps even colored(smile when you say that boy!) but you can take your African American and choke on it.

Because AA is a marginalizing divisive term taken out of the context it was first used in.


“Man that Negro is crazy!” “Pan-African please. 🙂 ”

So getting back on topic, the fact that it was called the Black Panel, worked for me. And I think it worked for the people who were there.

Because unlike my tirades 🙂 it was all about the creative process, and new projects, new visions, upcoming work, and generally just moving forward.

With Animation projects, comic projects, book projects, publishing ventures it was a really informative panel, bursting with networking goodness.

I should have recorded the panel, and hope someone did, because it was that good.

Here’s a better pic showing Denys Cowan and Chuck Creekmur.

Panelists were:

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Denys Cowan-Writer, Artist, Martial Artist. Very long, very brilliant comic career. Highlights for me being his work on the Question, Black Panther, Batman Blind Justice and his Milestone work, such as Hardware. Now VP of BETs new Animation Studio.

I’ve been a loud detractor of BET, since their sale to Viacom, my issue being how you can honestly call it Black Entertainment when it’s owned by a white company, you may be able to call it blackface, or propagation and fulfillment of black stereotypes but not necessarily Black entertainment.

But with names like Hudlin and Cowan at the helm I’m inclined to actually give the channel another look, and hope it becomes more than a station that panders to stereotypes.

Though I would love to see these men working on their own company rather than a subset of a larger company. Because end of the day as Michael Jackson, and Magic Johnson, and Prince have found working their projects under Sony, end of the day you are generating income for interests outside your community, making Sony’s name at the expense of your own, and end of the day when you stop generating income you will be discarded. As will your work.

That’s always the fear when talented creators of color invest their time, in properties they do not own. But again with Hudlin and Cowan in the game I’m inclined to be positive.

Check out Newsarama’s interview with him here:

http://www.newsarama.com/general/Cowan/DenysInt.html

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Chuck “Jigsaw” Creekmur- President of WWW.ALLHIPHOP.COM. I admit to being out of the hiphop loop, but the site looks like a fun, easily navigated, and thankfully Flash free site. I’d love to see him partner with creators such as Aaron Mcgruder and Keith Knight, to bring their respective funny endearing, and satire filled cartoons, BOONDOCKS and THE K CHRONICLES, to a hiphop audience.

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Ms. Cheryl Lynn- Unfortunately the only beautiful panelist (no offense guys) was not captured in any closeups. I consider myself pretty schooled on Comic/Cartoon history, but I was mistaken. As Ms. Lynn eloquently informed the audience about a wonderful female cartoonist who worked in the golden age of the medium, of whom I was totally ignorant… Jackie Ormes. She has a great site, and I urge you to do what I did, go to her site and get informed. And also it’s a great resource for cartoonists of color to join, or for finding great cartoonists to work with. http://theormessociety.com/.

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Prodigal Sunn of Wu Tang Clan– Wu Tang Clan is among the most effective musicians to use the comic medium as an expression and extension of the story their music told. And Prodigal with a solo CD about to launch, television work, animation, and film projects on the burner remains one of the busiest and most steadfast supporters of the medium of comics.

I’d love to see Prodigal’s website become Flash Free. 😉 [Black people, can’t we stop using Flash. :)]

But seriously, what I would like to see is Prodigal’s Wu Tang Clan comics syndicated/reprinted on ALL HIPHOP. Also what would be great is if ALL HIPHOP offered a store where you could purchase the books, of WU TANG CLAN, BOONDOCKS, K-CHRONICLES direct from their site. A win-win situation for everyone.

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Okay all the time I have for this installment. Next installment we’ll cover the last 4 members of NY Comiccon’s THE BLACK PANEL! ([ feel like that should be in big lights, and the name echoing :)]

All in all a fun, fun panel.

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