Tuesday, November 11, 2008

YOU'VE BEEN WARNED Archives

- July 28, 2008 -

- The CBLDF Presents: Liberty Comics, Image Comics
- If you really loved this wonderful artform you would have already bought this book, because even now, despite the boom the industry is enjoying from the seemingly never-ending parade of comic movies, somewhere out there a group of inbred, bible-thumping, backwoods idjits (most of them in the South) are brainstorming new and unfathomably retarded ways of going after retailers, thus preventing their innocent and equally inbred offspring from becoming perverted from the latest issue of whatever. Plus, there are a lot of fun stories in here from Garth Ennis, Darwyn Cooke, and Ed Brubaker, to name a few. So buy one less fucking X-Men book this week and help support the cause by picking this book up.

- War Heroes, by Mark Millar and Tony Harris, Image Comics - When you're hot, you're hot. Another awesome debut issue from Millar. This one revolves around the US Army boosting its recruitment numbers by giving its soldiers super-powers. Millar is on a bloody roll that's seemingly endless. I'm sure it's only a matter of time before he craps out another "Civil War," but for now let's just work with what we have and enjoy the ride. This book, like everything else he's currently writing, is recommended highly.

- Nocturnals: Carnival of Beasts, by Dan Brereton, Image Comics - Yeesh, it's been a looooong time since a new issue of this series has been released. I was genuinely excited when I saw this book advertised, as I have fond memories of it as a youth. But now that I've held this newest "Nocturnals" installment in my hot little hands, I'm pretty damn dissapointed. Time has robbed me of any recollection of previous plots or character arcs in the series, making the meat of the book rather incoherient. Even the stand alone back-up stories are less than stellar, sapping any desire of mine to dig through my archives for the back issues to refresh my memory. Brereton promises he's working on the next installment of this cult classic, but frankly I could give a fuck. I doubt it'll be released this decade, and even if it is, I'm beginning to suspect the only reason I enjoyed this title in my youth was due to the copious amonts of half-naked monster women coupled with the fact that I was an exceptionally horny teenager.

- The Exterminators, by Simon Oliver and Tony Moore (to name a few), Vertigo Comics - Two years ago at the San Diego Comic Con, while sitting at the Image booth, Tony Moore not only refused to sign my copy of Battle Pope #1 (and I'm talking Funk-O-Tron edition here, making me a rather OG fan), but he actually sneered at me before allowing his slightly rotund girlfriend to shoo me away. What I'm about to say has nothing to do with that.

I was going to do a full-blown review of this series, but upon reflection I don't feel it deserves that much consideration. "The Exterminators" was an interesting concept that spiraled into a quagmire of embarrisingly tedious storylines the most insipid of comic publishers would have scoffed at: bug Gods manifesting in reanimated hillbillies, cliche CEOs/sex-fiends, ultra-intelligent Mexican cochroaches, a cast of flat, boring trogledites (with the exception of Stretch), inane dialogue, unfulfilling story arcs ... the list of ridiculous, gimicky, and uniteresting elements in the narrative go on and on, but all lead to one conclusion: another potentially enjoyable series beaten into the ground by the hands which molded it. And if the writing wasn't terrible enough, the lengthy parade of fill-in artists for Tony Moore sealed this series' untimely fate (pehaps he was too busy signing autographs).

Another mercy killing from Vertigo comics, and not a moment too soon.

Too Cool to Be Forgotten
by Alex Robinson
Top Shelf Productions


Alex Robinson has been on my shitlist for a few years now. It all started innocently enough with "Box Office Poison" which I lovingly devoured during a week long Mexican vacation (much to the annoyance of my companion). I was quite smitten with Robinson's slice of life style, his ability to flesh out everyday people and let the reader vouyeristically wallow in their menial triumphs and defeats. Unfortuantely it was downhill from there. "More Box Office Poison" was a blatent attempt to continue bleeding the vein which had put the author on the sequential map. After that came "Tricked," which attempted to be to comics what "Magnolia" was to film, only with flatter characters and a less than rewarding conclusion. And then, for reasons unbeknown to me to this very day, Robinson released "Lower Regions," a brief, worldless barbarian story that not only took two minutes (if that) to read, but was undersized and ridiculously overpriced.

That was enough for me. I figured Robinson was obviously a one-hit wonder, and had wasted enough of my time. But for some unfathonable reason, perhaps inebriation, perhaps senility, perhaps my inherient forgiving nature, I opted to give the author one last chance and purchased his latest offering, "Too Cool to be Forgotten." This book chronicles the journey of a middle-aged man undergoing hypnotherapy in order to quit smoking, who unexpectedly awakes to find himself regressed to high school, around the time when he tried his first cigarette. With the body of an adolescent boy and the mind of an over-the-hill man, he relives his formative years, all the while correcting mistakes and fulfilling ancient desires, for better or for worse.

This book loses points right off the bat because of the title. It's a fucking pun. "Cool," like "Kool" cigarettes. The cover of the book looks like a fucking pack of those same fucking smokes. Fucking gag me. Puns are never funny. Fortunately the interior of the book is much more enjoyable. Robinson has managed to recapture the magic he had in "BOP." The actualization of the "if I knew then what I know now..." premise is irresistable, and watching it enacted with gentleness and sleuth is equally enjoyable. The characters in this book are genious in their simplicity and humanity, as lovable and enjoyable as long lost friends.

There are little things off with this book. I often wondered why none of the protagonist's friends didn't question his overnight skyrocketting maturity level. The story's climatic payoff revolves around the surprise interjection of a family member, but the surprise isn't what it may have been since the character's abscense in the book was painfully obvious (lamentably that last sentence might only make sense to people who have read the book). And occasionally the author relies on the "showing versus telling" crutch, like having the narrative voice declare that a certain friend was a "cutup," and then having said friend say something that's not even close to being funny. But in the face of these small blemishes, this book still manages to deliver an odessey that's warm and satisfying.

So Alex Robinson has redeemed himself a bit in my eyes. With any luck he's back on the right track, and hopefully can keep this pace up without releasing anymore crap. We'll just have to wait and see, I suppose. Until then, smoke 'em if you got 'em.

August 4, 2008

- Opening Remarks -

1. Omega the Unknown, by Jonathan Lethem & Farel Dalrymple, Marvel Comics
: With the year barely halfway over, I shouldn't say that this was the most enjoyable Marvel book I've read this year, but this was the most enjoyable Marvel book I've read this year. "Omega" is definitely not for the average run-of-the-mill superhero fanatic, but for those like myself, who crave a more convention-breaking tale, ask and ye shall receive. This is an unpredictable narrative coupled with uniquely out of place artwork (considering the publisher), painting a unendingly surreal journey of an alien scout, a celebrity superhero, a boy genius, and all the people who get caught up in their shenanigans. If Marvel put out more books like this I'd be lost, as I wouldn't have a publisher to bitch about on a regular basis. Highly recommended.

2. Sky Doll, by Alessandro Barbucci & Barbara Canepa, Marvel Comics: As I'm sure most of you have realized by now, I'm not one to pick up a book solely for the artwork. Above all else I value the rewarding, thought provoking elements of a story. The visual aspects are sometimes inconsequential. With "Sky Doll" however, I've made an exception. If it weren't for the gorgeous artwork, I would have dropped this book after issue #2, as I became completely uninterested in the story. But the art in this book ... the vibrant art ... a Manga influenced style combined with a meticulous attention to detail and vibrant colors, becoming almost painful in its visual crispness ... oh sweet Georgia Brown I just couldn't stop. I've never been so enamored by an artist. If you're a fan of Japanese-influenced artistry which hit your eyes harder than a swift kick, pick up this book. If not, y'know, you'll be bored as fuck, because the story's a little flat. But the art ... the art ...

3. Northlander: Sven the Returned, by Brian Wood & Davide Gianfelice, Vertigo Comics: I don't know what to make of this book right now. With the first arc finally finished after eight issues, apparently thus far we've gotten nothing but prologue. To have barely started on the meat of the narrative after nearly a year is a ballsy thing to do, and ultimately the reader must trust the authors of a story enough to give them the benefit of the doubt. As I'm a fan of Brian Wood, I know I'm capable of granting him a little wiggle room to get the fire going, but will you? I hope so. I'd like to see this series go somewhere, rather than wind up on the chopping block like so many of its Vertigo brethren.

Scud the Disposable Assassin: The Whole Shebang!
by Rob Schrab (among others)
Image Comics

Rob Schrab is a son of a bitch.

If memory serves me correctly, issue #20 of this series came out in 1998, when I was sixteen years old. Ten years of adolescent binge drinking and public television have stunted my memory slightly, so I can't remember the exact date the issue was released. What I do recall, however, was finding myself on the last page of the issue, staring down at one of the most intense cliffhangers I've ever stumbled across, thinking to myself "Holy shit holy shit holy shit ..." while desperately trying not to cream in my pants. Unfortunately, that was that. Rob Schrab closed up shop and fucked off to Hollywood with the rest of the assholes, leaving a rather large demographic of the comic reading population in a painful state of groin-clenching, unending suspense. And then, some ten years later, as quickly as he'd disappeared, Schrab suddenly popped up at Image Comics to finish what he started. And loyal fanboys across the world let out a simultaneous squeal of delight, foaming at their fat jowls for much desired closure they'd been denied for so long.

I, believe it or not, was not one of those fanboys. In between issues of "Scud" I'd graduated high school, then college, held three different jobs for two different companies, broken up with seven girlfriends, bought a condo, and voted for Ralph Nader for president twice. Although I'd never forgotten that dramatic moment in one of my personal favorite comic titles, I wasn't about to allow this wicked writer, who'd riled my blood and bile to a boiling point and then left me to stew in my own juices for a decade, to just saunter back into my literary life. Quite frankly, fuck that shit.

And yet ... the temptation began to wear on me. While I knew for certain I would never, ever pick up the final Image issues of this series (on my own strange principles alone), I found the idea of overhearing some jabbering fanboy blabbing the conclusion of this series unendingly horrifying. In the end, I caved and picked up "...The Whole Shebang!," which collected the entirety of the Scud saga, priced thriftily at $29.99, which simultaneously filled in sparce gaps within my own collection and provided me with longly denied conclusion.

This book is a goddamn masterpiece. Fast-paced and quick-witted, "Scud" is a genre unto itself, unique in this or any other medium. Chronicling the plight of a self-actualized robotic assassin whose primary goal is to keep from self-destructing, this story almost literally grabs the reader by the hair and drags him or her from small town America to outer space to heaven and hell in that order. Artistically slick, stylistically delicious, this story balances the perfect amout of humor and drama to make a reader salivate in suspense, with pop-culture banter that puts Tarintino to shame and enough blood-drenched violence to make your psychiatrist raise the dosage of your mood enhancers.

While it's plain to see that Schrab was struggling to find his artistic stride in the opening issues of the book, and the transition between issues #20 (i.e. 1998) and #21 (i.e. 2008) is a little jarring, these problems are bug splats on the windshield of the big picture. Like I've already said, this story is a goddamn masterpiece, and I legitimately feel sorry for anyone who has yet to read it yet.

I'll never trust Rob Schrab as a writer again. I'll never pick up any other comic he might venture to produce, I'll never watch "Monster House," and I'll throw my television out the goddamn window before I watch a single fucking second of "The Sarah Silverman Show." The greatest injustice a writer can commit is to begin telling a story and not finish it, and Rob Schrab was guilty of that crime for ten years, thus deserving my hot white scorn in my eyes, regardless of whatever excuses he or anyone else might make. Still, when I read the final pages of "Scud" and closed that book, the bittersweet taste of closure flowed through my body, and a ten year weight I had completely forgot I'd been carrying vanished from my shoulders. Any story that can produce such an effect is something special, even if it takes a long time to tell.

Now if those slack-ass motherfucks would finish "La Cosa Nostroid" already.

August 18, 2008

- Secret Invasion #5, by Brian Michael Bendis & Leinil Lu, Marvel Comics -
Y'know what I miss about Bendis as a writer? Linear storylines. Having a beginning, middle, and an end in that order isn't always a bad thing. That formula has worked for thousands of years, believe it or not. Don't get me wrong, mixing up a storyline's continuity can be suspenseful and intriguing, but it's not working in "Secret Invasion." I don't see why I need to wait another fucking month to see what was already implied at the end of issue #4 (i.e. that Thor and Captain America are going to kick the shit out of all the Skrulls in Time Square). Once again, get on with it, Bendis. Just fucking get on with it.

- Final Crisis #3, by Grant Morrison & J.G. Jones, DC Comics - Now this book, THIS BOOK, is the big summer event everyone should be reading. It does my heart good to see Morrison effectively utilizing the Kirby universe, particularly the anti-life equation (despite Paul Dini's best efforts to make the concept a complete joke in "Countdown"), as well as reinvigorating currently underappreciated characters like the Flash and Mary Marvel. Every issue of the series is better than the last. I bet if you hit the shop now you might still be able get on board with this book, as no one's really reading it. But like I said, everyone should be.

- Astonishing X-Men #26, by Warren Ellis & Simone Bianchi, Marvel Comics - Warren Ellis has three different voices he constantly uses with little variation: the intellectual, the tough guy, and the smart-ass. For the most part, all the characters he applies these voices to also tend to share the same rhythms of speech and dry sense of humor. This pattern has served him well over the years with his creator owned material, but it tends to fall a little flat when he forces it on preexisting characters. That being said, Ellis himself has admitted that X-fans are not really liking his "Astonishing" run thus far, and I can see why. Emma Frost has the demeanor of a drag queen rather than a quick-witted bombshell, Wolverine uncharacteristically tells people he's going to "gut" them rather than just doing it, and Cyclops acts like a hardened soldier instead of, y'know, a pussy.

That being said, I personally could give two shits about X-continuity. Bianchi's art is awesome, the plot has potential, and I personally found it funny when Armor did the fastball special with too much gusto. So I say we're only two issues into the series. Everyone should recognize the writer and the patterns he's always used, and give him a chance to tell his story. If the book sucks on hot ice at its conclusion, THEN we can all pelt him with blunt objects until he slinks off to the pub to lick his wounds and figure out how to not anger us again.

- Army @ Love: Season 2 #1, by Rick Veitch, Vertigo Comics - Rick Veitch is the motherfucking man. If you didn't read the first "season" of this book, there's no sense in starting on the second. It's you're loss too, 'cause this book is trippy as shit. Still, it's not like you can't get a trade of the first run and catch up. And why would you want to catch up? Because if our society can't enjoy satire revolving around an actual war that is killing American soldiers on a daily basis, then the terrorists have already won.

Plus, Veitch spoofing monumental works of art for each cover should be incentive enough to see what's going on beneath.

Go get this book already.

- The Apocalipstix, by Ray Fawkes and Cameron Stewart, Oni Press - I alluded to this book in last week's column, and wanted to take a brief moment to discuss how monumentally retarded it actually is. Revolving around the non-adventures of an all-girl rock group in a post-apocalyptic world, Mandy, Dot, and Megumi run around fighting things and rocking out. It's like Mad Max meets Josie and the Pussycats, with a healthy dose of stupid. I'll admit the art in this book, presumably done by Cameron Stewart, packs a healthy punch of respectably awesome, but the storyline is a shining example of how an audio medium (i.e. music) rarely translates well into a visual one (i.e. comics). Flat, unlikable characters, ridiculously trite adventures, unmoving rock montagues, and dystopian cliches (such as giant nuclear ants and biker gangs in Village People attire) make for a painfully dull and mercifully brief read. Plus, this book was, like, a bazilion years late. Unless you're a troubled adolescent girl who's too Emo and dense for Judy Bloom, I can't imagine why you'd want to read this. Don't make the same mistake I did. Stay far away from this book.

BFF (Brainfag Forever)
by Nate Beaty
Microcosm Publishing


Let me admit right off the bat: I ordered this book because it was only $9.00. I will buy any graphic novel if the page number to dollar ratio amount is in my favor. Rarely does this philosophy play out in my favor. More often than not I end up with some pretentious indie crap about how ten years ago some guy who broke up with some girl and boo hoo hoo. Still, I want to support the little guy or girl out there, trying to do his thing, but only if they'll cut me a deal while I do it. Thus how I came to purchase "BFF," a collection of Nate Beaty's autobiographical works from 1999-2007.

Often I've wondered why one should read autobiographical comics. Never have I stumbled across a book revolving around someone with a life more interesting than my own. So how does the genre flourish, and what criteria should one apply when reviewing such pieces? I've arrived at the modest conclusion that may not be scholarly, but I choose to apply regardless. On top of artistic execution, as perspective and pacing can reveal a great deal about a person's inner workings, finding meaning within autobiographical pieces becomes easier when one attempts to humanize the author. When reading books like "Brainfag," I constantly remind myself that the author, Nate Beaty, is an actual person, and the events he's depicting in his books actually happened to him. Quite easily this person could be an acquantance of mine, and I could be hearing the same stories in another form, like an email or a phone call. In the end, factors like what the authors experiences can teach about life, and even the simple matter of whether or not I can relate to the author, help give creadence to accounts that at a first glance can appear mundane at best.

I just wanted you to know where I'm coming from as I set up to praise and/or tear into this book.

I'm torn on "BFF." I'm not entirely sure what Nate Beaty can teach about life that I don't already know. He's a vegitarian hippy computer nerd who spends a great amount of time lamenting about lost love, and an equally great amount of time debating how to depict himself artistically in his works. Conversely, it's beyond argument that his greatest asset to this book, and the author, is his stylistic range. The man seemingly can shift gears from sloppily minimalistic to painstakingly realistic as effortlessly as the reader can turn the page. Beaty's range is quite possibly the largest I have ever seen in this or any medium. Regretably, this can occasionally be detrimental. Large sections of the book are obscured and hard to follow due to this constant stylistical experimentation, as the author goes through phases where he rejects the constricting use of traditional frames. Along with that, characters pop in and out of the author's narrative with little to no explanation of who they are or their importance. I found Beaty himself, who through his works appears to be high strung and introspective, to be quite interesting when his narrative voice wasn't overly lazy. The author has a tendancy to tell the reader about his adventures instead of showing in a sequential fashion. Towards the end of the book, I can see him growing into a style I could enjoy greatly, but knowing the pattern of experimentation the author has exhibited in the past, I'm sure things will morph into something completely different before long.

"BFF" has many highs and lows. In particular one section of the piece, revolving around the author's time living in relative seclusion on Orcas Island (apparently off the coast of Canada somewhere), was quite enjoyable in a humble, nostalgic fashion. One tedious part of the piece, where he first adandons the traditional frame format of comics and flits from topic to topic like a fly hitting a closed window, I longed to skip over. It's hit or miss, which one can really say about any author who choses to solely focus upon themselves. In a way, that's kind of the point; to see the author in all shades, good or bad.

If you're a fan of the autobiographical genre, you'd enjoy this offering. As I've previously stated, you'll never find such an unendingly varying style anywhere else. If you require a little more action in your books, this one's not for you.

As for myself, I may pick up further offerings from the author, provided the price is right. I'm sure Mr. Beaty understands.

Aya
by Marguerite Abouet & Clement Oubrerie
Drawn & Quarterly


Like so many other oblivious cretins like myself, sometimes it takes an Eisner Award nomination to make me pay attention. If "Aya" hadn't been nominated for "Best US Edition of International Material" this year, I may not have picked it up. Obviously I didn't get it the first time it was offered, as I'm just talking about it now. Thus is how it goes sometimes with these expensive indie books.

"Aya" takes place in the Ivory Coast, in Africa. This is initially why I avoided it. I thought the book was going to be a retelling of some horrifying African genocide or AIDS epidemic, depressing and preachy and thus mostly unpleasant from beginning to end. Obviously most of what I know about Africa I learned from the sound clips of concerned celebrities during the evening news. Instead, "Aya" is a light-hearted story revolving around a group of teenagers during a positively prosperous era in the Ivory Coast, in which business boomed and a blossoming middle class enjoyed all the thrills booming life could offer. Revolving around the romantic adventures of three teenage girls, Adjoua, Bintou, and Aya (obviously), this tale hits all the highlights concerning coming of age: rebellion, sexuality, and hard lessons learned.

This book is quite clever in its subject matter. It manages to tell universal tales pertinant and relatable to everyone who is or was ever young, and simultanously teaches about the history of a culture rich with tradition and proud of its identity. Abouet's often humerous, occasionally devistating story, genious in its simplicity, paired with Oubrerie's animated renditions, makes for a perfect match, rendering an all together wonderful product that leaves little to gripe about. But reservations there are. "Aya" it's a little too universal for its own good. While the setting and characters of the story make it unique, this is a story everyone has read in one form or another a dozen times at least. That, and a rather abrupt ending that leaves the reader slightly unfulfilled, are the only shortcomings of this piece.

"Aya" is a fun, light-hearted book, informative and simplistic in its everyday exoticness, perfect for just about any age. In the end, it deserves every bit of praise it received.

August 25, 2008

- OPENING REMARKS -

- Slave Labor Graphics quotes yours truly -
It's been brought to my attention that SLG has quoted my review of their recently released "Halo & Sprocket Vol. 2: Natural Creatures." While it's always flattering to have my insights and opinions utilized to push a noteworthy book, I'm finding they quoted me with a lack of respect for both myself and my generous sponsor, Atlantis Comics. Firstly, they chose not to plug Atlantis Comics (without whom none of this would be possible) by linking this site to their own, which shows an astounding absence of professional courtesy. On top of that, instead of saying something generous like "Atlantis Comics in Lakewood, Colorado," they chose to say, "... Atlantis Comics, (not to be confused with Atlantis Fantasyworld in Santa Cruz, California)." Well fucking thanks a lot, guys. Way to plug a store that has fucking nothing to do with the review or the reviewer. This brings me to my final exception, the more personal one, in which the author of the blog claims I said a particular cat pun page was "terrible." To quote myself, I believe what I said was the puns were "fucking awful." While I understand the desire to leave profanity out of things, I'm insulted to be paraphrased. There is a difference between "awful" and "terrible." Don't make me get the damn dictionary out. Finally, it's "Mister V," people. "Mister." Spell it out. "Mr. V" is a DJ. "Mister V" is a cranky comic book creator and reviewer. Believe it or not, there's a difference.

Here's what I'm talking about:link

With all respect and much love to Kerry Callen and his endlessly enjoyable book, let that be a warning to the rest of you. Give credit where credit's due, show some professional courtesy, and quote me accurately or not at all, or I'll trash talk the shit out of you.

- The Killer, by Matz & Luc Jacamon, Archaia Studios Press - This book is awesome. Awesome art, full of gritty, bloody, fluid action, and (not to sound like a perv or anything) some of the most enticing depictions of the female form I've seen in years. Awesome story, unpredictable and engrossing, with a strong, hard-boiled narrative voice that drags the reader into the story by the short hairs. Awesome, awesome, awesome book. At the moment it's two issues away from its conclusion, but there's a collected edition of the first arc available. If you scrounge you could collect the entirety of it right now, and I would recommend you did, because it's worth it. Support this book and this publisher. It's awesome.

- Justice League of America #24, by Dwayne McDuffie & Allan Goldman, DC Comics - Don't you love it when the interior of the book has almost nothing to do with the cover? I don't either. The bulk of this issue concerns the conclusion of the JLA's battle with Amazo. Animal Man appears in the final two pages. This "Anansi" is nowhere to be seen. Someone at DC needs to pull their head out of their ever-lovin' ass.

- The Punisher #61, by Gregg Hurwitz and Laurence Campbell, Max (Marvel) Comics - The comic community knew it's going to be a long time before someone did justice to this character and title like Garth Ennis has, and so did I. With his departure at #60, I was verging on dropping this title sight unseen as to what Gregg Hurwitz could or couldn't do. Yet I stuck around, as I enjoy throwing my money down the proverbial Marvel Comics shitter, and somehow, against all odds, this time around my distrust was smothered. This is a competent introduction to a storyline pregnant with potential. The writing is contemplative, tense, and downright intriguing. I don't know who Gregg Hurwitz is, but he has my attention. Here's to hoping he makes the most of it.

- Bomb Queen: Woman of Mass Destruction, by Jimmie Robinson, Shadowline (Image) Comics - Everyone told me not to buy this book. "It's trash," they told me. "A throwback to the bad-girl era." "Completely braindead." "Void of any redeeming quality." And they were right, for the most part. This is not a scholarly effort from Mr. Robinson. What it is, however, is the answer to an unhealthy yearning. This is the comic book equivalent of the McDonald's bucket of fries: you know it's really bad for you, but sometimes you just don't give a crap. Sometimes you want to devour a pound of artery-clogging potato strips, and sometimes you want to read a superficial tale of a scantly clad woman who blows people up. You can't buy a bucket of fries at McDonald's anymore, but you can pick up this book in handy-dandy trade format. The jokes are bad enough to be funny, the plot ridiculous enough to be enjoyable, the characters flat enough to be appealing. "Bomb Queen" is a great read if you're in the right state of mind, provided you don't mind sacrificing a few IQ points in the process.

- Superspy, by Matt Kindt, Top Shelf Productions - Due to all the hype this book has received recently, I thought I'd better pick it up and see what the fuss was about (I initially avoided it due to its ridiculous title). It's not getting a full length review for two reasons: 1.) It's been about a year since its initial release, meaning I won't have any insight that hasn't been touched upon before, and 2.) I need to reread the thing. The plot of this book is told non-consecutively from the perspective of 12 or so different characters. This story is thick as day old pea soup, and as much as I enjoyed it, I don't think I have a tight enough grasp on it to do a competent review. When was the last time you heard me say that about a book? I'll tell you this though: "Superspy" is intruiging enough for me to want to read it again. That counts for something, right? Right? Dammit, I totally would have been able to review this book if "Bomb Queen" hadn't dropped my IQ down a few points.

Zot!: The Complete Black & White Collection
by Scott McCloud
HarperCollins


As proclaimed from the back cover of the collection: "Long before manga took the American comics market by storm, Scott McCloud (Understanding Comics, Making Comics), combined the best ideas from manga, alternative comics, and superheroes into Zot! - a frenetic and innovative exploration of comics' potential ..."

That's a pretty big claim from a book I've never heard of before, which I'll be the first to admit doesn't say much, as we all know I'm not a comic book scholar. Yet as I'm a fairly knowledgable fan, as well as a reader of a respectalble amount of all three mentioned disciplines, one would assume I'd have caught wind of this book in one form or another. Or could it be that HarperCollins is having a dick measuring contest with the rest of the industry, staking exclusive claim to a supposedly groundbreaking book? Could it also be that Scott McCloud has a bit of an ego about him? Questions, all seemingly pertinent to this reviewer, that will not be answered here, today or any other day.

"Zot!" chronicles two different Earths and their ever-mingling inhabitants; one world we all currently exist in, full of crime and suffering and sorrow. This is the world of Jenny, a typical teenage girl, and her outcast friends. The other world, the mirror opposite of ours, a fantastic utopia free from hunger, war, disease, and want. This is the world Zot, the carefree, optomistic superhero, and his band of zany sidekicks and support staff. Zot and Jenny, would-be young lovers, travel between worlds, using fantastic utopian technology from Zot's dimension, each character marveling or lamenting at the wonders and horrors of their polar opposite dimensions. Adventures are had, villains are vanquished, and bonds are forged over the course of a very, very thick volume of works.

It's hard not to look at this book from a historical persepctive, as that's how HarperCollins has decided to present it. With this assertion that McCloud's efforts combined the best elements of three different subgenres (superhero, manga, and alternative), one automatically seeks out these elements. The "superhero" aspect is easy to point out, as the narrative almost always revolves around a super-powered savior from another dimension, complete with a rogues gallery and a never-ending quest to do good and right wrongs. The "alternative" aspect is a little more difficult to point out, possibly due to the vagueness of such a claim. The dialogue's a little less stiff than the average superhero comic of the time (although I can't say that's too surprising, as a great number of immediate post-Watchmen/Dark Knight Returns/Maus comics can claim the same). McCloud utilizes line to effectively convey motion and emotion (as seen in issues 14 and 17-18) more than your average "super-hero" artist might be capable of. As for manga, with the exception of "speed lines" and round, buggy eyes, I'm not seeing a lot of influence there.

After one digs around through this tome, searching for similarities in styles, one comes to the realization that ultimately what really matters is how effective the story conveys a message from beginning to end. The potency and importance of the authors intended thematic material is almost always more important than the means with which it's delivered. If the only thing a series can offer is a brige between different artistic schools of thought, there's probably a reason it took twenty years to collect it.

Likewise, "Zot!" does offer a modern audience a few things besides supposed historical significance. The second half of the collection, "Earth Stories," which revolves around Zot becoming trapped with Jenny on our own miserable earth, is enjoyable in a Judy Bloom, after-school special sort of way, particularly issues issues #30 (focusing on the dissallusionment life and age can inflict on a person) and #33 (concerning the at-the-time extremely controversial subject of homosexuality) are enjoyable in their bold and sentimental approach at the human condition. And none of the other stories in the collection are terrible, per say. They're a product of their times, in which the medium was finally beginning to realize all its potential. That is to say, at the time of the original publication comics were in a juvenille state. These stories for the most part reflect that. They were hitting the ceiling of what the medium could do at the time. That's just the way it is, and it doesn't make them any better or worse for it now.

That being said, a lot could have been done to make this collection more enjoyable. Apparently these black and white issues of "Zot!" pick up where an initial color series left off. This collection would have benifited from a brief "story so far ..." synopsis, as a lot of continuity in this series (such as why Jenny's brother is a monkey in Zot's dimension) is left unexplained. One thing that's not left unexplained, however, is McCloud's meticulous explanation for everything he's ever done, did, or plans on doing in this or any other series ever. The author provides a unconfortably endless amount of running commentary between every single story arc that, while occasionally enlightening, more often than not rings of pretention, and takes up a lot of freakin' space. Most baffling of all, two issues of the series, originally penciled by Chuck Austen, are left out in favor of layout scetches by McCloud presented in thumbnail format. The reasoning behind this action is baffling, and left me feeling quite cheated.

Overall, this is an average book presented in an overly-important package. McCloud's running commentary and apologetic tone is annoying and distracting to the casual fan. While I'm certain there are old school followers out there who creamed their pants at the announcement of this collection (and are most likely gnashing their teeth in rage while reading this review), I'm finding myself asking, "What's all the fuss about?" And therein we find another question, like so many others that cannot be answered within this single column.

Septemper 2, 2008

-OPENING REMARKS-

- Runaways #1, by Terry Moore & Humberto Ramos, Marvel Comics -
There are few things more painful in this field than a writer, completely out of touch with today's youth, who attempts to pen a story populated with characters ranging from pre-pubescent to barely legal. This initial issue of "Runaways" is a prime example of that pain. Terry Moore seems to be under the impression that if he drops a few buzz words, sneaks in some product placements and plugs, utilizes some supposedly trendy settings, and injects a few celebrity appearances (or thinly veiled characters) into the narrative, his book will come off as cutting edge. What he won't be able to do is capture the rhythm and pacing of how kids talk, which is one of the reasons this title was so enjoyable in the first place. Brian K. Vaughan and Joss Wheadon realized the importance of this element, and utilized this knowledge appropriately and with seemingly little to no effort. Terry Moore is going to kill this franchise if he keeps writing like he did here, and nobody likes a child murderer.

Good to see Humberto Ramos back in action though (although I'd like to state for the record that Kevin Smith hasn't been that skinny in a decade).

- DC Universe Last Will & Testament, by Brad Meltzer, Adam Kubert, & Joe Kubert, DC Comics - One could probably infer that this book was going to be excellent by the creative talent behind it alone, but in case you were wary let me disperse your fears: it's good. Very good. If you pick up only one "Final Crisis" spin-off book, it should be this one.

- The Mighty Avengers #17, by Brian Michael Bendis & Khoi Pham, Marvel Comics - It's fairly common to find Bendis on nearly every fanboy's shitlist for the crap he's forced us to endure in his uninspired Marvel fiascos over the past years. So it's no surprise that when this recent "Mighty Avengers" issue found its way to the top of my "to read" pile this morning, I groaned and considered going back to sleep rather than reading it. But, to my unending astonishment, I was treated to a beautifully written tale of a Skrull agent gone AWOL. The fight scene of this book in particular is not only brutally exciting (which I haven't been able to say once throughout any of this Skrull horseshit), but exquisite in its understanding of pacing on the page. This is a prime example of how energizing a comic book can be, and why we all became so bonkers over Bendis in the first place. I wish all his books produced this kind of awe in me, instead of that awful nauseous feeling they normally do.

- DMZ: Blood in the Game, by Brian Wood & Riccardo Burchielli, Vertigo (DC) Comics - This latest arc from Brian Wood's big break book has propelled this title down the fast lane. The political intrigue, the depressing, bloody twists, and the slight glimmer of hope have grabbed my attention like a drunken businessman grabbing a waitress' ass. I can't wait to see what happens next. If you aren't reading this book it's tough titty for you, 'cause it's one of the smartest, most pertinent comics on the rack.

- Ultimate Fantastic Four, by Mike Carey & Tyler Kirkham, Marvel Comics - There is little doubt in my mind that this is currently the worst book being published. Mike Carey has managed to take four of the most loveable characters in the Marvel Universe and reduce them to gray, superficial nothings. The stories are flat and foul as road kill, the art is stiff, the inking is shoddy, and the excessive use of pastels in the coloring produces in me a feeling not unlike carsickness. The only good thing I can say about this title is supposedly it's going to be cancelled soon. Until then, I don't recommend reading it without some sort of vomit receptacle nearby.

- Testament, by Douglas Rushkoff & Liam Sharp (among others), Vertigo (DC) Comics - Of all the Vertigo books to meet untimely ends as of late, this one's passing surprised me the most. When a big ol' approval from "Rolling Stone" magazine isn't enough to keep a title on a shelf, I don't know what fucking is.

That being said, I wanted to just mention that I recently finished the final collection of this series, "Exodus," and am happy to report that despite any sudden, last minute changes that needed to be made due to impending issue limitations, this title still managed to finish off in a profoundly satisfying nature. Adding that with joyfully dirty interpretations of biblical stories, an equally dystopian (and eerily realistic) battle for the fate of humanity, and some of the most effective uses of paneling I've ever seen in any comic, this title is still worth checking out. Next time you're staring at a TP wall looking for something different, give it a chance.

The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard
by Eddie Campbell & Dan Best
First Second


Around two years ago at the San Diego Comic Con, I bought a crapload of books from Eddie Campbell. He stood there and signed every single one of them, even though doing so made him late for one of his discussion panels. That act of generosity hasn't doctored this review in any way, shape, or form.

There's something haunting about Eddie Campbell's books. The poetic narratives, the sentimental characters and their impossible adventures, the placid, winding watercolors and clashing mixed-media combinations have always instilled an uneasy feeling in my guts, not unlike being in a dark, unfamiliar place and realizing someone's watching you. Thus, whenever the author releases something new, I'm always simultaneously elated and uneasy.

And that's how it was with "The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard," the wandering tale of a reluctant, untalented trapeze artist and his sideshow companions as they travel about the world during the late 19th/early 20th centuries. As only this creator can do, the book's format, complete with annotations, quotes, and excerpts initially had me questioning whether it was fiction or non-fiction, which is always the sign of a gifted writer (or writers, with respect to Dan Best). Campbell's art is, as always, uniquely enjoyable in its unpredictably humble and intensely confrontational styling. In particular I found the use of repetition the most enjoyable aspect of the piece, from the ever-changing yet always similar pre-performance preparation routines, to the continued appearances of the deceased, poetic, in-flight human cannonball, to the charmingly dirty encounters with the tattooed woman's "bearded pirate."

Unfortunately "... Monsieur Leotard" is not without its shortcomings. The continual placement of the characters within landmark events in history, such as the sinking of the Titanic, is a trite device seen too often in these sentimental times (don't believe me? Go rent "Forrest Gump"). One particular chapter of the piece, entitled "The Episode of Sleeping," jarringly and ineffectively throws the characters years into the future, killing the flow of the narrative and, in a bafflingly pretentious act, briefly introducing the authors of the story as the muse over what direction to take the action next. Once again, this is another trite device habitually overused (particularly in comics), and is rarely effective, comically or otherwise. Finally, the untimely demise of the protagonist seemed not only inevitable (i.e. predictable), but also smacked slightly of Chris Ware's infamous Superman scene in "Jimmy Corrigan" (although that just might be my fanboy showing).

Yes, there are a lot of overused devices throughout "... Monsieur Leotard," which is something I'm not used to saying about Eddie Campbell and his works. Please don't misunderstand, I'm not stating I didn't enjoy myself for the majority of the reading. I am, lamentably, a little underwhelmed. These things happen.

A lot of people seem to be enjoying this book to no end, but I personally hope Campbell and Best's next collaboration keeps things soaring more like a human cannonball, instead of anti-climaxing like an unskilled trapeze artist.

September 15, 2008

-OPENING REMARKS -

- Secret Invasion #6, by Brian Michael Bendis & Leinil Francis Yu, Marvel Comics –
So apparently the next issue is when things start happening (no, I don't consider Captain Marvel being revealed as a Skrull a "happening." I consider it a blessing). Next time Marvel spawns an all-encompassing horseshit crossover, I'll know to only pick up the final two issues. In this instance at least, it's not like I would have fucking missed anything.

- Secret Six #1, by Gail Simone & Nicola Scott, DC Comics – Now this is the kind of "Secret" I can get into. I'm not a big fan of Simone's previous books (i.e. her "Wonder Woman" run gave me such a headache that I had to drop it), but she's on her game with this book. There's nothing like drunken lesbians puking uncontrollably and hippy, would-be heroes disfiguring skinheads to start a book with a bang. I can't think of anything more I could ask from a "super-hero" series.

- Invincible #52, by Robert Kirkman & Ryan Ottley, Image Comics – Gross, dude. Just gross.

- Love & Rockets: New Stories #1, by the Hernandez Brothers, Fantagraphics Books – After reading all the recent collections of "Love & Rockets" books, which were all conveniently divided by author and chronologically organized, I was underwhelmed. Bored, even. But with this newest installment of the series, which happens to also be my first unfiltered dose of "L&R," I understand what led to my displeasure. "Love and Rockets" is a like a pie: you eat all the ingredients one at a time and it's pretty damn unsatisfying. Mix them up and serve them properly and it's delicious. This book needs all three brothers jamming together to be completely successful. I'm glad I found this out. It's a shame I won't be able to experience the original series like I experienced this newest book, because now I understand what all the fuss about Los Bros has been about. I take solace in knowing that in the future I won't make the same mistake again. I recommend you do likewise.

Slow Storm
By Danica Novgorodoff
First Second


I'll admit I was reluctant to review this book. The protagonists in "Slow Storm" are both members of an oppressed minority, and I initially feared if I delivered negative marks I may be accused of being sexist, or racist, or both. Flashes of offended, P.C. liberals feverishly composing angry emails bombarded my thoughts, and I briefly considered reviewing, I don't know, "Superman," or something easy. Fortunately I've come to my senses and realized that I'm always going to be accused of being sexist or racist no matter what I do, and therefore may keep on doing what I've been doing, which is running my big, fat mouth.

"Slow Storm" dually accounts the tribulations of Ursa, a habitually harassed woman firefighter, and Rafi, a chronically horrified illegal Mexican immigrant. The two cross paths following a barn fire caused by a bolt of lightning (said farm dually existed as Rafi's home). As the smoke clears, the young stable boy is accused of the attempted murder of Ursa's brother and coworker (although said crime was actually committed by Ursa herself). By coincidence Ursa finds Rafi and brings him home, where they discuss life and where it's led them.

I find myself struggling to find positive things to say about "Slow Storm." The author's use of watercolors is quite effective, but is counteracted by awkward line work and clunky attempts to depict quick movement, such as Rafi being thrown by a gust of wind, or an overzealous firefighter slapping Ursa's ass. Rafi's journey to America is extremely engrossing, and utilizes anamorphic stereotypes and religious iconography quite effectively, but melds awkwardly with an otherwise mostly realistic narrative. The protagonists, Rafi and Ursa, are a breath away from being stock characters, Ursa being the overlooked woman struggling to make it in a man's world, and Rafi being the unfortunately cliché running illegal immigrant. The theme, seemingly revolving around the clash between the hope of a protective spiritual world and the overbearing nature of the physical world, is lost in a thick, cold soup of sloppy, abstract metaphors and symbolism (i.e. storms, horses, and de-canonized saints).

Overall, I found this book to be a novice effort by an artist who was published by the same company she's worked as a graphic designer for since 2005. I may only be a young lad from the Midwest, unexposed to the fertile happenings of the east coast comic world, but the only benefit I can gleam from reading "Slow Storm" is to have an underground, overrated name to drop in order to impress a pretentious love interest who also happens to be a fan of all things sequential. If such a thing is of no interest, you have no reason to pick up this book.

October 13, 2008

- OPENING REMARKS -

- Supergirl #34, by Sterling Gates & Jamal Igle, DC Comics -
I unendingly loathe being forced to read more than one title to get the entirety of a storyline (i.e. New Krypton). I particularly loathe being forced to read a title approved by the Comics Code Authority. However, I will admit that this new creative team's debut issue of "Supergirl" wasn't too terrible. It wasn't great either, but it makes me think that perhaps I was hasty in calling for Sterling Gate's head to be stuffed and placed above my toilet. There's definitely the impending chance that this title will crash land and explode, annihilating all on board, but for now ... I've definitely been forced to read worse titles. Still, I'm watching you bastards. I'm watching.

- Tor, by Joe Kubert, DC Comics - This title was my introduction to "Tor," and I don't think I could be more impressed. Unlike so many of his peers, who are only capable of churning out hackish gibberish in their latter days, Kubert's story is uncompromisingly brutal and poetic, with art as sharp as if it were drawn thirty years ago. If you're a fan of Robert E. Howard, or any other fantasy tales of loner bad-asses, I highly recommend picking up a TP of this when it's available. Here's to hoping Joe keeps these minis coming.

- Punk Rock and Trailer Parks, by Derf, Slave Labor Graphics - Yes, we all know that yours truly had a bit of a scuffle with a certain editor at SLG, in which things were said and feelings were hurt and everyone got really pissed off and called everyone else childish names. Know that what I'm about to say has nothing to do with any events in the past, present, or future.

I don't laugh while reading. In fact, I can recount right now the three times I've laughed out loud while reading a comic. The first was during Peter Bagge's "Hate," when Buddy Bradley's nephew mumbled the theme from "Beauty and the Beast" in his front lawn while wearing his mother's slip. The second was during Bob Fingerman's "Beg the Question," in which a subway passenger beat up three goth kids on a subway, proclaiming with each blow he landed, "Bam! Got you, nigga!" The final (and most recent) time was during "Punk Rock and Trailer Parks," in which "The Baron" initiated his plan for timid Peter to make an impression on the girl of his dreams. That "Punk Rock..." was just recently able to get this reaction from me is testament alone to its greatness. If you're looking for a good chuckle, along with a healthy dose of old school punk insanity, this is the book for you.

- 100 Bullets: Dirty, by Brian Azzarello & Eduardo Risso, Vertigo (DC) Comics - I read this latest collection during my lunch break at work. It completely ruined the rest of my day with its depressing, brutal gloominess. Nothing adds a gleeful sparkle to the second half of a working day like the execution deaths of an entire family. Thanks, guys.

- Crossed #1, by Garth Ennis & Jacen Burrows, Avatar Press - I've been reading Garth Ennis books since I was twelve. I've seen him kill God (more than once), alienate George Clooney from Marvel Comics, and create an unending supply of characters with strategic body parts replaced with reproductive/digestive organs, and I've never been more disturbed from his books than I have been with this one issue. Perhaps I'm getting soft in my old age. Perhaps Garth is just getting more and more fucked up. Either way, this is a fucked up, fucked up, fucked up book, and I fucking love and am horrified by it.

- The Man Who Loved Breast, by Robert Goodin, Top Shelf Productions - I was really excited to read this. How excited? This book, undersized and expensive, by an author I'd never heard of, ended up at the tippy-top of my weekly "to read" pile. Now, having read it, I feel like I've charmed my way into a really hot girl's bra, only to find myself grasping two soggy handfuls of tissue paper. If this book were a hooker I'd demand my money back. But it's not, dammit. It's not. So no refund for me. Don't follow in my footsteps.

The Alcoholic
by Jonathan Ames & Dean Haspiel
Vertigo (DC) Comics


In a strip entitled "Every Auto-Bio Comic Ever Written," Johnny Ryan mercilessly pokes fun at the ever-popular genre of autobiography, implying that the creators of said books are pretentious geeks, exposing embarrassing and even offensive facts about themselves in a vain attempt to horde attention. Crude as he is, for the most part Mr. Ryan is accurate in his observations. It's no secret that the quickest and most effective way to render a character relatable is to humiliate him or her. Auto-bio writers know this and utilize this technique repeatedly, proving themselves to be vulnerable and human, thus enabling the reader to empathize with them. It's true. Don't believe me? Get on your blog (or start one), and write about your most embarrassing sexual mishap. Then sit back and watch as all the people who read your ramblings express their horror and admiration of your honesty.

The comic industry is unfortunately saturated with people like this, those desperate for attention who will serialize all secrets about themselves for the merest hint of recognition. This is the main reason I tend to shy away from reviewing autobiographical books: I hate the notion that I'm justifying someone's sequential career by acknowledging their existence. Also, I hate reviewing books that already have celebrity quotes, singing proverbial praises and polluting covers like cheap graffiti on an alley wall. Like, if fucking Sarah Silverman thought it was awesome, how could I disagree?

So before I even cracked open "The Alcoholic," it already had two strikes against it. Yet here I am, slowly gearing up to review it. I do this because, in all fairness, Jonathan Ames isn't looking for an ego boost. Instead, he's a man of moderate success searching for meaning in a lonely life plagued by his own weakness. "Alcoholic" trails Ames' life from an adolescent taking his first drink to a balding adult snorting heroin with a gaggle of transvestites. Throughout the narrative, Ames seems to be searching for an answers to questions anyone rarely answers: Why do all my relationships self-destruct? Why am I controlled by mind-altering substances? When will I stop? Ultimately, like so many of us, the author doesn't find an answer to these questions, but along the way he reveals a gripping struggle with his weaknesses that is relatably heartbreaking.

This being his first graphic novel, Ames' has made a few boners. Upon occasion he addresses the reader directly, but does so in an inconsistent manner as to distract rather than enhance the narrative. The latter half of the story can be meandering and pointless, chocked full of name dropping and world events that, while obviously life changing, fail to enhance the theme of the story. At some points while reading I could feel Johnny Ryan's satirical strip creep into my head, when the author found himself running from angry natives on the island of Bequia or sleeping in a bed with five drunken co-eds. That last comment I'm thankfully able to justify away, however, as those events to some extent deal with Ames' unending ability to get himself into harmful situations while under the influence. And thankfully Dean Haspiel's characteristically competent hand helps steer the story over the rough spots. His art is, as always, an adrenaline shot where another less skilled creator would be a hindrance.

In the end, this is the tale of a man who knows that drugs and alcohol are unendingly hurtful to him, but is helpless to stop himself. It's often entertaining in its adventurousness, occasionally touching in its frankness, and much like the author himself, bearing more than a few blemishes. All in all, Ames's has decided to get to attempt to find the bottom of his disfuntionality, and has opted to allow us along on his journey. His journey might be breaking ground for himself, but I can't say it will have the same effect on anyone else. So if you were torn between buying this book now or waiting for a soft cover edition, I'd suggest the waiting. It's a respectable story, but much like an old drunk slouched on a stool at the back of the bar, it's not like it's going to go anywhere.

October 20, 2008

-OPENING REMARKS-

- Dungeon: Monsters Vol. 2: The Dark Lord, by Joann Sfar, Lewis Trondheim, Andreas, & Blanquet, NBM -
Goddammit why aren't you people buying this book? Do you know how awesome this book is? Of course you don't know, because you're not buying it! If you WERE buying it, NBM would publish it more frequently and we wouldn't have to wait months upon months for each installment. If you WERE buying it, we'd be flooded with freaky fun tales of anamorphic insanity, each story more resistant to any summary than the last. But you're not buying this book, are you? No, of course you're not. So those of us who do buy it suffer, watching the months slowly melt by as we wait, ever so patiently, while the rest of you are off killing your brains with X-Men books. GODDAMMIT GO BUY THIS BOOK! GO BUY ALL THE DUNGEON BOOKS! I NEED MORE OF THEM, DAMMIT! MORE! GO BUY BUY BUY NOW NOW NOW! NOW!!!

- Presidential Material: Barack Obama/John McCain, by Jeff Mariotte & Tom Morgan, Andy Helfer & Stephen Thompson, IDW - Just when I thought this election year couldn't get any more tedious...

I know these books made the news and brought a lot of fresh faces into comic shops throughout this great nation of ours, but sweet Christmas what a bunch of wordy, boring shit. I've never experienced the novelty of a comic evaporate so rapidly. I recommend these books only for people who plan on having children solely for the possibility of boring the holy hell out of them with the nostalgic wonderment of these books, simultaneously squashing any interest in both comics and politics from them for the rest of their little lives.

- The Flash #245, by Alan Burnett & Carlo Barberi, DC Comics - Is it just me, or is this the most unflattering cover in recent memory? What the hell is wrong with Black Lightning's arms? And why does Wally West have the eyes of a fifty year old suffering from Grave's Disease? And why is everyone floating in a formless sea of green? Questions, forever unanswered, for the ages.

I don't know, maybe it's just me. At this point I have to be the only person in Colorado still reading this crappy book.

- The Brave and the Bold #18, by Marv Wolfman & Phil Winslade, DC Comics - Is it just me, or did Marv Wolfman forget how to write competently? Because when Raven and Supergirl held hands and simultaneously destroyed the visages of their respective oppressive father figures, I projectile vomited. And then I had to clean up the vomit splatters with a toilet brush and a light mixture of generic dish soap and tap water, as those were the only instruments immediately available.

I didn't really puke. But I should have. Protest vomit is the only justifiable reaction to how insultingly bad this last storyline was. Thank god it was Wolfman's last issue, lest my desire to purge manifested itself in the form of an eating disorder.

- Final Crisis: Rogues' Revenge, by Geoff Johns & Scott Kolins, DC Comics - I never really got into Geoff Johns' portrayal of the Flash. I found his take to be too Americana, and thus too boring. His storylines made Wally West too white bread and suburban for my blood. But this, THIS is an enjoyable take on the Flash universe. I've never seen the Rogues so fleshed out and relatable before. I certainly can't recall the last time they were portrayed this gritty either (probably not since the last time Johns got his hands on them). Perhaps I didn't give the initial Johns' run the attention it deserved. Perhaps ...

If this is a hint of what "The Flash" holds in store with Johns' return to the character, consider me signed up.

- The Complete K Chronicles, by Keith Knight, Dark Horse Comics - I can't remember how long ago it was that I bought this book. Two months? Three? It's taken me that long to finish it up, and not because it's bad (although sometimes ...). It's just so goddamn thick! 500+ pages, and all for $25.00. Knight's strips might not always be funny, but for the thrifty nature of this book he doesn't have to be. Thrifty and occasionally funny, I say.

Labor Days
by Philip Gelatt & Rick Lacy
Oni Press


As I am a fan of the comic medium in all its wonderful forms, I take it upon myself to buy as many titles as possible from unknown or first time authors. If I could, I'd buy them all; every single title offered in the Diamond Previews Catalogue, from the lowliest pulp from a starving, self-published would-be, to the snootiest of high-end graphic novelist. I'm sure many out there would do the same, if it weren't for these crippling economic times and our meager slave wages. Still, despite my unending lack of funds, I do my part to the best of my fiscal abilities. Thus how I stumbled onto "Labor Days," created by two men I've never heard of before, hot off the presses from hit-or-miss Oni Press.

"Labor Days" follows the plight of Bags, an all around drunken loser who unwillingly comes into possession of a videotape containing footage information powerful enough to change the world. Factions crawl out of the woodwork in a mad grab to obtain it; washed-up Marxists, feminist coven's, supposed C.I.A. agents, but in the end it's up to Bags to keep the cassette from falling into the wrong hands.

When it comes to books by unknown authors, it's always a gamble: sometimes you hit the jackpot, sometimes you're off to the nearest blood bank to recoup a small percentage of your losses. Unfortunately in this case I'm rolling up my sleeve and applying a tourniquet, because this title has left me at a proverbial loss. "Labor Days" is a novice effort at best. The "unwilling hero vying for the fate of mankind against insurmountable odds from all directions" device has been done many, many times before, and this book adds no new twists to the gimmick. Gelatt's plot overuses coincidence to the point of frustrating insanity. His characters are mostly cliché, the protagonist, "Bags," unevenly or conveniently bumbling or unstoppable (thus overall unlikable), his love interest meek, his antagonists blinded by their own greed to the point of producing no sense of threat at all. Lacy's artwork, while mostly competent, often jumbles action to the point where one must study the page before deciphering the movements of the characters.

The greatest injustice, and perhaps the aspect that dooms this book in my eyes, is if fails to reveal what this much sought after videotape contained on it. True, sometimes the appeal of the unknown is more enjoyable than any other option, but this story was so unrewarding that any number of possible video footage would be perceived as a pay off. With this final failure, all hope of any enjoyment from this title evaporates.

Win some, lose some, both for the creators and the audience in this case. Out of a feeling similar to pity, I won't make any snide comments about "laboring" to read this book. I will say in the end, quite bluntly, that I can't really find anything good to say about this title. Better luck next time guys, although you've had your rookie buy from me. Your next book will be lacking my financial support.

October 27, 2008

-OPENING REMARKS-

- The ACME Novelty Library #19, by Chris Ware, Drawn & Quarterly -
Despite all the big-time titles to hit the shelves, I started my weekly comic reading with this book. My choice did not go unrewarded. This eerie, surreal space tale/romance gone wrong may be Ware's most isolating, hopeless story to date. Nothing creates the urge for powerful mood-altering medications like a man crushing a half-frozen dog's skull on an almost completely uninhabited planet. Highly recommended for anyone who can handle the horrifying solitude of the human soul personified by outer space and abusive relationships.

- Final Crisis #4, by Grant Morrison & JG Jones, DC Comics - It pains me that this series is turning into a big, smelly flop in all the ways that matter, because really, the mere concept of the storyline alone is enough to make it interesting. Earth is being taken over by the Dark Gods, people, and they're kicking the shit out of the DC Universe. This Morrison/Jones collaboration has succeeded in making the reader actively dread that the end really is near and things are never going to be the same in the DCU again. The only thing more depressing than Oliver Queen succumbing to anti-life and Mister Miracle catching a bullet in the chest is the fact that only a fraction of the overall sequential readership was there to view it. It's not too late to pick this book up. Lord knows copies aren't flying off the shelf. I just want it known that, in my humble opinion, this book unendingly kicks the shit out of "Secret Invasion."

- Secret Invasion #7, by Brian Michael Bendis & Leinil Francis Yu, Marvel Comics - Speak of the devil ...

Nothing's happening in this title, and it's almost finished. Fucking nothing. What, you call the Skrull Queen getting capped "something?" I say it doesn't fucking matter because she wasn't developed thoroughly as a legitimate antagonist. That's right, this entire Skrull bullshit was developed too quickly and too sloppily for any reader with half a brain to buy into it. As the old saying goes, "If you can't blind them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit." Well folks, I'm baffled. Here's to hoping the conclusion of this book reveals Bendis himself to be a Skrull and this has all been some horrible hoax. And the last page of the book will be a check reimbursing us for all the money we blew on this crap.

- Superman: New Krypton Special, by Geoff Johns, James Robinson, Sterling Gates, Pete Woods, Gary Frank, & Renato Guedes (yeesh), DC Comics - As some of us may remember, I was pissed as all holy hell when I was introduced to this multi-book storyline (as I didn't want to buy "Supergirl"). So pissed, in fact, that I was seriously considering dropping all my Superman titles. Well, in the heat of the moment, sometimes we all do rash and inexplicably stupid things, and in this particular instance I'm quite relieved I stuck around. This storyline promises to be quite, well, quite good. Kandor has been returned to normal size and suddenly there's an entire population of super-Kryptonians flying around the world, offing whales and whatnot. I would be kicking my own pasty ass right now if I hadn't stuck with this book, so thank goodness for my giving it an uncharacteristic benefit of the doubt.

Ultimate Origin
by Brian Michael Bendis & Butch Guice
Marvel Comics


Apparently it's "Bash on Bendis" time around here this week.

Although now a distant memory, many of us can recall a time when seeing Bendis' name on a book actually meant something. I certainly do. I remember quite vividly a period when I would have trampled the twitching faces of elderly stroke victims to get my mitts on the latest issue of "Powers," "Ultimate Spider-Man," or any of his gritty noir books from Image or his candid humor pieces from Oni. I was addicted to the machine gun dialogue and double-take plot twists his books were habitually oozing with, all capable of making me bust a nut faster than a pervert in the panty aisle. I couldn't get enough. But look at him now, people. Just look at him. He's penning a prequel, keeping the seat warm, opening for the headliner, fluffing the male porn star before his big scene. How the fucking mighty have fallen.

Like I just said, "Ultimate Origins" was doomed from the beginning because it's merely a prequel to "Ultimatum," the latest doomed shart in the Ultimate Universe, which as I type this is spewing from the crusty pen of Jeph Loeb. Of course it wasn't initially marketed as such, as Marvel has acquired a fascination with not revealing the general principles of a book until it's too late to avoid it (if they had shown as much courtesy I probably wouldn't picked up the series, and thus would have been unable to write this article). And lamentably, as seems to be his prerogative in this day and age, Bendis has taken a storyline best befitting an oversized one-shot and stretched it like too little Silly Putty across a five issue mini-series. These two inherent principles already render this book below average in all pertinent areas.

Equally despicable (if not more so) to the previously mentioned faults are the series' payoffs. We're privy to learn that Nick Fury was the result of the initial Super Soldier experiments. Well whoop-de-do. Implementing the government in racist experimentation didn't have a gargantuan effect when Robert Morales and Kyle Baker originally utilized the concept in "Truth: Red, White, and Black," and lo and behold it didn't become any more exciting here. Second we discover that Rick Jones is the herald of the impending universal crisis (what that crisis is we of course don't get to know yet, as once again Marvel can't reveal something too soon). Why am I the only person who realizes that Rick Jones is the Jon Bon Jovi of the Marvel Universe, and deserves a bullet in the head more than any other character? Seriously, fuck Rick Jones. And finally, the biggest reveal of the series, where we learn that mutants are in fact not an anomaly, but the result of human genetic experimentation. Not only is this reveal irrelevant (because regardless or origin, mutants are still technically the next step in human evolution), but Benids' decision to paint Magneto as a blithering religious zealot as opposed to a righteous bad-ass is slightly (or should I say mostly) nauseating, weak, and idiotic. Thus, these three sensational (I use the term ever so loosely) sink the overall readability of this series lower still.

If these points haven't done enough to dissuade you from this series, I can say with regrettable confidence that every other aspect of the book, which you weren't supposed to be noticing thanks to all the sensational, controversial reveals happening all over the place, are mediocre at best. The overall plot is slow and dry, the dialogue lack luster, and the Ultimate Universe's incarnation of The Watcher borders on blasphemous. The only nice thing I can think to say is Butch Guice's artwork is average, excluding when he's drawing the Invisible Woman with a fat neck.

This series freakin' sucked. Shame on Marvel Comics for producing it, shame on the creators for conceiving it, and shame on us for supporting it. Unfortunately Bendis as an intriguing writer must remain in the past, along with the Charlemagne and the Cold War. If this is the lead up to "Ultimatum," count me out. I'd rather shove my bucks down some intoxicated stripper's g-string than patronize another Ultimate sack of shit.

Novermber 3, 2008

- 1985, by Mark Millar & Tommy Lee Edwards, Marvel Comics -
I'm not going to review this book in depth. You know why I'm not going to review this book in depth? I'll tell you why: this book is hands down, without a doubt awesome, and nobody wants to read three or four paragraphs of me rambling about how awesome it was. But let me just say: "freakin' awesome." If you didn't get this book, get the trade. If all of Marvel's books were this awesome my blood pressure would be lower, my hairline would be fuller, and all my reviews would be this cheerful and brief (and boring). Freakin' awesome.

- The Sword #12, by the Luna Brothers, Image Comics - If I had to sum up this initial storyline in one word it would be "epic." I wouldn't be exaggerating either. Seriously, there was a fight between the timid protagonist and one of her evil antagonists that lasted, like, three fucking issues. If that shit's, like, not epic, then I don't fucking know what is. Once again, if you havent' been reading the issues get the trade, 'cause it's epic. Epic, says I.

- The Unknown Soldier #1, by Joshua Dysart & Alberto Ponticelli, Vertigo (DC) Comics - I was initially skeptical when I saw this comic advertised, as it sent visions of stale relaunched Vertigo boners (such as Brian K. Vaughan's "Swamp Thing") popping through my memory like rusty Wack-a-Moles. But for some reason, as if I were guided by a firm, all-knowing hand that never wants me to have enough money to buy food ever again, I ignored my skeptical nature and picked up this first issue. I'm glad I did. I can't make promises for the future, but I will say this initial offering is smart, uncompromising, and unique in the field. I don't know if this title will meet an untimely fate like so many of its brethren before it, but consider this humble reviewer signed up until then.

- The Night Witches #1, by Garth Ennis & Russ Braun, Dynamite Entertainment - Times like this make me not only glad that I read comics, but glad that I'm alive. I didn't read a single bad comic this week, but for my money this title was the pick of the litter. Ennis' frantically blends his fanaticism of WWII and his bloody, realistic scripting style to create a story that's immediately engrossing and unforgettable. I freakin' swear to God, I seriously don't believe this man can write a bad comic anymore. Once again, highly recommended. Don't wait for the trade. Go get it now.

French Milk
by Lucy Knisley
Touchstone


The few people I do know on a personal lever often inquire as to how I don't go completely insane from being a total shut in. Often I reply that I just plain don't like people. While that's mostly true, even I, in my infinite wisdom, recognize how certain aspects of the human personality need to be explored to some extent, less insanity set in. Thus, I've learned to quell the nagging need to explore and experience to some extent through partaking in travel writing now and then. By living vicariously through the quests and experiences of others, I'm free to continue squatting in my dark, quiet apartment. Thus in my quest to stave off insanity, I stumbled upon "French Milk," a sequential journal documenting one Lucy Knisley's simultaneous exploration of a foreign country (i.e. France) and her transition into adulthood.

My primary reaction to a piece involving an unemployed student spending a five glorious weeks in a foreign country, eating decadent meals, examining prestigious artwork, and shopping was to find it simultaneously bourgeois and envious. But my preconceived notions were gradually washed away as I found myself delving into the author's shaky, often bumbling transition from adolescent to adult. "French Milk" documents a young artist discovering who she is and what she's made of in a foreign land, playing on the "no matter where you go, there you are" sentiment in an honest and enjoyable manner. While I can't say the book expands on that or any other thematic subject matter, the uniquely carefree and honest narrative voice, accompanied by the meticulous attention to detail, makes for a rich and heartwarming reading experience.

This is Lucy Knisley's first published book (to my knowledge). I'm slightly baffled by this, as despite her innocent depiction of herself, she's stylistically seasoned beyond her years. While her general depiction of the human form isn't overly unique, there's just enough of a flirtation between realism and cartoonish quirks to make her renderings engrossing. Her application of the English language is impressive as well, with a voice light-hearted yet to the point. Overall, I feel this particular author has quite a bit of potential, and I look forward to more works from her in the future.

My one major qualm with this piece (I only had one), was that the unrelenting documentation of everything the author consumed in France became a tad tedious towards the end of the book. This, as always, is just my opinion.

I know I'll never go to Paris. I'm fine with that. After reading "French Milk," I really don't need to. Knisley has already done and documented it for me, and for that I thank her. The less I need to leave my dank little dwelling, the better.

December 15, 2008

- OPENING REMARKS -

- Secret Invasion #8, by Brian Michael Bendis & Leinil Francis Yu, Marvel Comics -
Can you believe it? "Secret Invasion" was just a lead-in to another universe-altering event, which will no doubt lead to another universe-altering event, which will no doubt be just another stepping stone in the seemingly infinite parade of universe-altering events destined to happen until the Chinese overthrow western civilization and comics are deemed contraband. Who would have thought? I'm fucking stunned. Way to blow my socks off, Marvel.

Seriously though, fuck this shit. Like I said last week, I'm fucking done. Done done done. The Wasp is dead, Mockingbird is alive, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage's kid is missing, nobody likes Tony Stark, everyone loves Norman Osborne, thousands upon thousands of fanboys are out 300+ dollars, and I don't give a fuck. This series has completely sapped my enthusiasm for comic book crossovers, and more importantly, Brian Bendis. A thin, three (maybe four) issue plot, doubled and stretched even thinner, featuring unresolved issues concluding in different titles and razzle-dazzle demises concealing hollow, pointless attempts to be shocking, all leading to the promise of more of the same in the future; it somehow just doesn't seem worth it to me. While "Secret Invasion" was no doubt a smash for the bean counters at Marvel, it was a depressingly expensive and unenjoyable waste of time for the readers. So that's it; I'm done with these crossovers. In the future I'll be doing my damndest to steer clear of any horseshit that's not self-contained from two big companies (specifically Marvel). Life is just too damn short to continue wasting money, time, and precious calories filling my brain with this hack crap.

In passing, I'd like to make a quick observation about the demise of Janet Van Dyne, aka The Wasp, aka the only female founding-member of The Avengers: the seeds of her doom were planted when her supposed ex-husband, Hank Pym, offered her a "serum" to be injected into her body by use of a "needle." Later, when Janet was going all nuclear, Thor waved his "hammer" at her and dispersed her. In one of the most misogynistic demises in comic history, The Wasp was felled by not one, but two phalluses. No wonder girls don't read comics.

In conclusion, ya'll have a blast with "Dark Reign." Let me know how that works out for you. I'll be around, y'know, reading something good.

- Young Liars #10, by David Lapham, Vertigo (DC) Comics - When I read a mature readers book, I expect at the very least to be assaulted by images of fucked up shit. This expectation is why I have come to love "Young Liars." Fucked up is a lady caring the tiny arm of a miscarried fetus in her purse. I know this series isn't long for this world, but things like that make me wish it could go on forever. If you enjoy disturbing crap in your comics and aren't reading this series, you're doing yourself a huge injustice.

- The Punisher X-Mas, by Jason Aaron & Roland Boschi, Max (Marvel Comics) - Speaking of fucked-up shit ... nothing says "Sweet Christmas" like unabridged carnage coupled with allusions to the birth of our Lord and savior. Jason Aaron is a clever asshole for writing this one. Don't let your church group know you're reading this book or they'll have you saying "Hail Marys" until your blasphemous tongue falls out.

- Mouse Guard: Winter 1152 #4, by David Petersen, Archaia Studios Press - Despite the depressing irony of seeing issue five being solicited on the inside cover for release in "October 2008," this book's epic in its clever framing of conflict. I know not to get my hopes up about seeing a conclusion to this series anytime soon, as Archaia hasn't offered a book for sale in at least two months, but I just can't help it. It's "Lord of the Rings" meets "Secret of Nihm" over here, and I want to see Celanawe and Lieam fuck up an owl. Here's to hoping Archaia pulls through, or David Petersen brings this title to another publisher. I needs me my "Mouse Guard," dammit.

- I Hate Gallant Girl #2, by Jim Valentino, Kat Cahill, & Seth Damoose, Image Comics - The first issue of this series was so bad that I didn't bother reading the second. I'm sure you want details of why this series is bad. It just is, okay? Mediocre art, bland plot, and horrible freakin' dialogue make for a comic that feels like it's been created by bored, unimaginative teenagers during study hall. If worse comes to worse and I'm left with no other choice but to start a trash can fire for warmth in my living room, this comics is the first to go.

PICK OF THE WEEK
Punisher: War Zone #1
by Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon
Marvel Comics


Castration, decapitation, and ... um ... lesbianation, all from the guys who made the Punisher cool again. Feels like old times, my friends. Sure, the price is jacked way the fuck up, like all Marvel mini-series are in this day and age, but I'd pay four bucks to see a monkey rip a guys dick off any day of the week. I just roll that way.

Of course, if you didn't like Ennis' initial, lengthy run on The Punisher you're not going to like this stuff now, particularly since this storyline is going to rely heavily on his established continuity. But likewise, if you didn't like his stuff before, a monkey probably tore your balls off, in which case, go read an Archie comic already.

PAN OF THE WEEK
Astonishing X-Men: Ghost Boxes #2
by Warren Ellis, Clayton Crain, & Kaare Andrews
Marvel Comics


Second verse, same as the first: 16 pages of comic, 11 pages of sketches/script, 32 pages of crap shoved in a four dollar bag. Everyone involved in this project can kiss the whitest part of my ass. I want my damn money back, you freakin' con-artists.

December 23, 2008
MISTER V'S BEST OF 2008


- BEST WRITER - GARTH ENNIS - From his satirical and disturbing "The Boys," to his grandiose exit on "Punisher," to his bitingly uncompromising "Streets of Glory" and "Battlefields: The Night Witches," to his just plain disturbing "Crossed," Ennis has brought more pound for pound spectacular stories to the table than any other author working in the genre today. He's not showing any signs of slowing down either. Thanks for a banner year, Garth.

- BEST ARTIST - NATE POWELL - I don't have to wonder what it feels like to be schizophrenic anymore thanks to this author. In his graphic novel "Swallow Me Whole," Powell visually articulated the perspectives of two mentally-ill teenagers with more clarity than could be hoped for or expected in any medium, like, ever. That this author could so effectively relate such raw and frantic emotion with such clarity is unendingly amazing to me, and deserves as much recognition as possible.

- BEST CONTINUING SERIES - SCALPED, BY JASON AARON & R.M. GUERA, VERTIGO (DC) COMICS - Very few comics in the market today are able to sucker punch the reader directly in the throat, or gut, or groin, or any other fleshy, vulnerable body part in a six issue story arch, let alone in a solitary installment. "Scalped" bites, claws, and clobbers in every single issue, sometimes on every single page, and I've got the bruises to prove it. The only thing better than this series is my faith that the future holds more of the same from it.

- BEST LIMITED SERIES - 1985, BY MARK MILLAR & TOMMY LEE EDWARDS, MARVEL COMICS - This series, by far the best to come form Marvel this year, brilliantly merged relatable nostalgia and innocence with the inescapable horror of impossible evil to create a story enjoyable on every single level. Relatable to all comic fans of all ages and ranges, from the oblivious bystanders to the dateless fanboys, this is one of Millar's most timeless achievements, and one that managed to put a little magic back into this habitually wounded industry.

- BEST PUBLISHER - IMAGE COMICS - This year Image has facilitated the ascendance of Robert Kirkman and soon-to-be huge Jonathan Hickman. They've been a home for the Luna Brothers and Michael Allred, as well as a home away from home for Mark Millar, Garth Ennis, Steve Niles, Michael Avon Oeming, Jason Pearson, and Kyle Baker (to name a few). No other publishing company can boast a higher quality product than this one. Hold your head high, Image. It's been a damn good year.

- BEST ANTHOLOGY OR REISSUE - BLACK JACK, BY OSAMU TEZUKA, VERTICAL, INC. - Beating out "Herbie" for the title by a hair, "Black Jack" combines the playful, Disney-esque stylings and the rarely seen "adults only" content that's made Osamu Tezuka one of the most widely respected names in comic history. These versions, which include stories excluded from other editions due to "excessive morbidity," are not only important to the history of comic books, but are timeless and unique in their thematic elements. I can barely believe these stories are older than I am.

- BEST GRAPHIC NOVEL - PUNK ROCK AND TRAILER PARKS, BY DERF, SLG - Anyone can or has written a heart-warming coming-of-age story, but only Derf has written one full of death, failure, and anarchy. Bloated with pointless violence, full-frontal nudity, and bittersweet hilarity, this flawless graphic novel puts just about every other book on the 2008 shelf to shame. To shame, I say.

- BEST SINGLE ISSUE - INVINCIBLE #52, BY ROBERT KIRKMAN & RYAN OTTLEY, IMAGE COMICS - In one issue, Robert Kirkman takes a rather archetypal super-hero (teenager with super-powers), and redefines the "with great power ..." sentiment, taking his book, and the genre itself, into uncharted territory. Ryan Ottley helps this unexpected junction by illustrating some of the most crips and graphically violent action sequences in recent memory. This one issue completely changed the direction of this groundbreaking series, and raised the bar higher than ever before in the superhero genre.

- BEST NEW SERIES - RASL, BY JEFF SMITH, CARTOON BOOKS - My only complaint of Jeff Smith's new, gritty, all-ages-unfriendly sci-fi creep fest is it doesn't come out as regularly as I'd like it to. Provided nothing unforeseen happens, it's fairly safe to say this author is once again poised to make sequential history with this series, and one day we'll be able to look back on 2008 and remember how it all started.

- BEST SUPER-HERO - HERCULES - Nothing makes a more enjoyable hero than a God who habitually fucks everything up. Whether fighting alien deities, horny amazons, or fellow super-heroes, this bumbling, womanizing bastard kept my faith in the super-hero genre alive this year (in no small part to the efforts from Greg Pak). In a rather Herculean way I hope the Hulk never comes back.

- BEST SUPER-VILLAIN - DARKSEID - Where many people see a flop of a mini-series in "Final Crisis," I see the fruition of a decades long quest to usurp Earth, as well as the coming of the fifth world. This year Darkseid has been more formidable, omnipotent, and credible than any villain. If defeating the entire DCU doesn't get a guy a nod for best villain, I don't know what will.

- MOMENT OF THE YEAR - EVERYBODY DIES, WALKING DEAD #48, BY ROBERT KIRMAN & CHARLIE ADLARD, IMAGE COMICS - As familiar as I am with Kirkman's writing style, nothing could have prepared me for the deaths of so many people, or the reactions of those who survived them. I habitually had to remind myself while reading this storyline (and this issue in particular) that it was only fiction. Judging by pure emotional reaction alone, nothing comes within miles in comparison to this moment.

- BREAKTHROUGH OF THE YEAR - JULIA WERTZ - I'd never heard of Julie Wertz or her comic "The Fart Party" until Atomic Books put out a collection of her strips this year. Now I can't get enough of her. In the jam-packed field of autobiographical comics, Wertz stands out with her quick wit and sour attitude. 2008 witnessed the birth of a cranky, drunken goliath into the field of indie comix, and God help us all for it.

- HONORABLE MENTION - THE CONCLUSION OF SCUD THE DISPOSABLE ASSASSIN, RON SCHRAB, IMAGE COMICS - Good things don't necessarily come to those who wait. More often than not, good things are all taken up really fast by people with their heads in the game, and those who wait are left to pick through the bones of what's left and wonder why they didn't get the fucking lead out. Fortunately, everyone who did wait ten fucking years for the conclusion of "Scud" was rewarded with satisfying, unexpectedly upbeat closure. Way to eventually cross the finish line, Mr. Schrab.

December 29, 2008

MISTER V'S WORST OF 2008

- WORST WRITER - BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS -
I've been a Bendis booster for more than a decade, and have stood by him through many of his darkest, most unadvised moments. But this year has been too much, even for one as loyal as myself. Aside from masterminding "Secret Invasion," Bendis "Avengers" titles (both of them) have been passionless and, quite frankly, dull as a nun's underwear drawer. Even his mainstay titles, "Powers" and "Ultimate Spider-Man," have become bland and nearly unreadable. An entire year has gone by, and the only thing this man seems to have accomplished is pissing off and alienating a great number of his readership (myself included). It's tough to watch the once mighty plummet so very, very low. If 2009 holds more of the same, hopefully somebody puts this poor guy out of his misery.

- WORST ARTIST - ED BENES - If Rob Liefeld's broke or severed his fingers and then drew "Justice League of America," he would visually create something very much like Ed Benes does every month. Sweet Christmas, where's a time machine when we need one? Someone send this man back to the 90's, where he freakin' belongs.

- WORST CONTINUING SERIES - ULTIMATE FANTASTIC FOUR, BY JOE POKASKI & TYLER KIRKHAM, MARVEL COMICS - A title so painfully superficial, so blindingly cliche, that it made me fondly long for the days when The Thing wore a helmet and Invisible Woman sported cleavage. I have never been subjected to such unadulterated hackery in my sequential life. The only positive remark I can make about this title is next year will see its ultimate cancelation, and not a fucking moment too soon.

- WORST LIMITED SERIES - CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE CHOSEN, BY DAVID MORRELL & MITCH BREITWEISER, MARVEL COMICS - Captain America historically never appears in any post-WW2 skirmishes. This is primarily because blind patriotism in the face of vague motivations often times appears to be naive and embarrassing. This title is a prime example of that sentiment: a near-death Cap transporting his aura (or whatever) to help a soldier in Afghanistan. This comic is only meant to be read if your gag reflex isn't triggered by propaganda tackier than car antenna American flags. Fun fact: it's also printed in Canada. God bless the U.S.A.

- WORST PUBLISHER - MARVEL COMICS - Leading the way in the $1.00 per issue price increase, responsible for the most all-around expensive crossover event of the year, and releasing per capita the largest amount of all-around poor quality series (both continuing and limited), Marvel by far takes the title of biggest bastard publisher of the year. To think; there was a time when this company actually garnered respect and represented quality in the industry. What the fucking hell happened?

- WORST ANTHOLOGY OR REISSUE - GHOST OMNIBUS, DARK HORSE COMICS - My girlfriend took one quick glance through the pages of this book when I brought it home and announced, "This looks stupid." In this particular instance, the woman is a prophet. Who in their right mind would want to read the meanderings of a dead man-hating feminist who doesn't have enough respect for herself to put on something that will keep her boobs from flopping all over the place? Horny teenagers and desperate old fanboys. The rest of us are out 25 hard earned dollars. This one should'a stayed in the vaults.

- WORST GRAPHIC NOVEL - AMERICA WIDOW, BY ALISSA TORRES & SUNGYOON CHOI, VILLARD - At the risk of sounding like an unsympathetic prick, when I picked up this book the last thing I expected to read was the story of a woman bickering with charity organizations about money after the husband she wasn't very fond of to begin with died in the 9-11 attacks. Jesus H. Christ I'm glad I didn't live this woman's life, and I'm even more glad I didn't write this book. Life is hard enough as it is without revealing such things to the literary world with such vanilla passion.

- WORST SINGLE ISSUE - SECRET INVASION #8, BY BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS & LEINIL YU, MARVEL COMICS - You know what's worse than a five year storyline with no conclusion? Fuck, neither do I. Eisenhower said the American people need to be wary of the perpetual military industrial complex. Likewise, I say we fanboys must be wary of the perpetual hackish storyline, for that way leads to ruin. Way to perpetuate, Marvel.

- WORST NEW SERIES - TRINITY, DC COMICS - I swore never to enable DC Comics and their shitty weekly books again, but when Kurt Busiek and Mark Bagley became attached to the title I couldn't refuse. Well, Bagley's art is, as expected, beyond reproach, but the only thing more painful than Busiek's meandering narrative, with its laughable antagonists and awkward interpretations of archetypal characters, is the shamefully unreadable backup stories scripted by Fabian Nicieza. It's fool me once, fool me twice all over again. Fortunately I knew well enough to hop off this book before I got past the point of no return, and I know I'm not alone in that sentiment, 'cause this book stinks on proverbial hot ice.

- WORST SUPER-HERO - MOON KNIGHT - Moon Knight is to Batman as Britney Spears is to Christina Aguilera. This year has made it more apparent than ever that this character is nothing but a watered-down version of the Dark Knight, the only difference being that Batman isn't accountable to the whims of some goofy Egyptian God, and his butler isn't gay. If there's any justice in the universe, this contemptible knock-off will once again find himself in comic limbo before next year is done.

- WORST SUPER-VILLAIN - THE SKRULLS - If I ever see another fucking Skrull in my life it'll be too soon. 'Nuff said, true believer!

- BLUNDER OF THE YEAR - THE PIPER BLOWS UP APOKOLIPS WITH HIS FLUTE, COUNTDOWN TO FINAL CRISIS #9, DC COMICS - I don't presume to speak for Jack Kirby, but if a group of cocksuckers took one of my ideas for the most apocalyptic weapon ever and revealed it was a fucking jingle that could be played by a third string supporting character, I'd be fucking pissed beyond consolation. Thankfully Jack isn't here to see what those bastards did to his works, and thankfully Grant Morrison has taken steps to give the majority of his creations some glimmer of their former dignity. Still, of all the bastardizations inflicted in comics this year, I felt this was the most unredeemable. Shame on everyone involved.

- BREAKDOWN OF THE YEAR - BATMAN R.I.P. - "Batman R.I.P." is over! Batman's dead! He done got blown up! No, wait! Now he's somehow in a laboratory! No wait, it's not the end yet! To find out what really happens you need to get the next issue of "Final Crisis!" At this point who the fuck cares anymore?! DC had a huge event on their hands, whose possibilities sent jittery rumors spiraling through the underbelly of comic fandom. Then they fucked it up by spreading it out like too little sweet, sweet jam over too much bitter, bitter bread. Way to go, guys.

- HONRABLE MENTION - ALL-STAR BATMAN AND ROBIN #10 RECALL - Oh no! Swears! I always knew that Batgirl whore had a mouth on her! Quick, children! Cover your eyes!

Happy New Year, fanboys and fangirls. See you on the flipside.

January 4th, 2009

- OPENING REMARKS -

- WOLVERINE #70, by Mark Millar & Morry Hollowell, Marvel Comics -
Before this, I'd never read a Wolverine storyline above par. Even as a child I hated and was bored by this character. I'd say sarcastically, "Oooh look, he has claws and is angry. Ooooh look, he smokes and drinks (at least he did when I was a kid), and is really stand-offish about intimacy, but in the end he does something selfless so we know that deep down inside he really cares. Ooooh hooray I'm in love," and all the other kids would throw rocks and other various projectiles at me for being different. Even Millar's Last "Wolverine" run bored me to freakin' unending crocodile tears. But this storyline, THIS storyline is something else. This is the best Wolverine story I've ever read. Knowing my history that might not be saying much, but trust me: if I'm enjoying "Old Man Logan," imagine how much someone who actually likes the character might feel about it. Once again, kudos to Millar for bringin' it.

- VEEPS: PROFILES IN INSIGNIFICANCE, by Bill Kelter & Wayne Shellabarger, Top Shelf Productions - Being a self-styled history enthusiast, I've been enjoying this book primarily while on the can, as the brief chapters and trivial subject matter make for ideal bathroom material. Overall it's been a pleasurable experience. The book (and do not that this is an actual book), briefly highlighting the life and times of every Vice President of the U.S.A. from past to present, is well researched and greatly enjoyable in its informative (and often embarrassing) nature. Lamentably it's also been billed as a "humor" book, which apparently gives the author, Bill Kelter, the license to interject his own sly and snide remarks into passages ( such as "... what Vice President wouldn't choose cold beverages, hot parties, and sweet, sweet lovin' to the tedium of Washington?") and headings (such as "Critical Ass") that in context often come across as condescending, stale, and unnecessary. Most of the time the actions of the people in question are hysterical enough on their own. Still, I'm learning and enjoying quite a bit, and Lord knows I wasn't previously reading anything better while carrying out my bodily functions. If this historically amusing anecdotes get your proverbial goat, you can't go wrong here.

- JUSTICE LEAGUE #28, by Dwayne McDuffie & Jose Luis, DC Comics - I'm sorry, I can't fucking read this shit. It's like McDuffie threw up in a script twenty years ago, lost it between his couch cushions, found it recently, dusted off it's cracking, crusted interior, and sold it to Dan Didio, who was high on something and purchased it sight unseen. I am here and now officially announcing that I'll be dropping this title as soon as humanly fucking possible.

- AVENGERS/INVADERS #7, by Alex Ross, Jim Krueger, Steve Sadowski, & Patrick Berkenkotter, Marvel Comics - Another casualty of "Secret Invasion." "Avengers/Invaders" is a post-Civil War storyline, taking place in and revolving heavily on post-Civil War continuity, now being published in the Secret Invasion new world order. Goddammit. Reading this book now has suddenly become more clunky and awkward than two senior citizens trying to fuck in the back of a Studebaker. Once again, thanks a lot, Bendis.

PICK OF THE WEEK
WHY I KILLED PETER
by Oliver Ka & Alfred
NBM Comics

When I ordered this book I knew it was going to be good. Not "good" good, but "that was disturbing I need to take a shower" good. For months on end I anticipated and dreaded the arrival of this title, knowing I was going to be enthralled and disturbed by it. And (un)fortunately I was right. "Why I Killed Peter" is the autobiographical tale of perverted trust and redemptive confrontation between a young boy and a liberal priest (that's all the detail you're going to get from me, as revealing more would forever sully your reading experience of this piece). Beautifully drawn, uniquely rendered, wrenchingly honest, this tale of damnation and reconciliation is one I took a gamble on when purchasing (as it's expensive as fuck). Fortunately I was greatly rewarded, which simultaneously translates to lovingly punished. For all you comix readers out there, this ones got your name on it.


PAN OF THE WEEK
NOCTURNAL CONSPIRACIES
by David B.
NBM Comics


I'm enjoying how the "pic" and "pan" of the week are both from the same little publisher. As we know though, little publishers mean big prices, so in the end I'm enjoying it out the other side of my stupid face.

For the most part, nobody likes hearing about other people's dreams, be they loved ones or strangers. Dreams tend to mean something solely to the dreamer, and to everyone else they're boring as crap. David B.'s "Nocturnal Conspiracies" is a prime example of this sentiment. Sure, the author has morbid, violent dreams. Guess what? We all do. I very recently dreamt of my ex-girlfriend drowning in a fish tank. My girlfriend dreams of shooting or stabbing people on nearly a nightly basis. The difference between us (and everyone else) and David B. is we don't sequentially render our nightly musings in painstakingly choppy snippets and publish them just because we can. Some things are best kept in the freakin' dream journal, and this effort is one of them.

I'm enjoying how the "pic" and "pan" of the week are both from the same little publisher. As we know though, little publishers mean big prices, so in the end I'm enjoying it out the other side of my stupid face.

For the most part, nobody likes hearing about other people's dreams, be they loved ones or strangers. Dreams tend to mean something solely to the dreamer, and to everyone else they're boring as crap. David B.'s "Nocturnal Conspiracies" is a prime example of this sentiment. Sure, the author has morbid, violent dreams. Guess what? We all do. I very recently dreamt of my ex-girlfriend drowning in a fish tank. My girlfriend dreams of shooting or stabbing people on nearly a nightly basis. The difference between us (and everyone else) and David B. is we don't sequentially render our nightly musings in painstakingly choppy snippets and publish them just because we can. Some things are best kept in the freakin' dream journal, and this effort is one of them.

You've been warned.

V

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