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X is for X-Factor

Posted by Comics On March - 2 - 2011

The Alpha Review

By Andrew Uys

I’ve heard that trade paperbacks — a run of comic issues collected into a graphic novel — are all the rage today. But which ones are worth your time? This column aims to put the spotlight on the spectacular trades — at least according to this writer. And just for fun, we will start with the letter “A,” and each subsequent review will follow with the next letter of the alphabet. While you might object to my taste or my opinion, I hope that this column will help save you time and money when you are next buying a trade paperback, as well as effort in alphabetizing.

X is for X-Factor Vol. 1: The Longest Night
Peter David (w), Ryan Sook and Dennis Calero (a). Marvel Comics, 2007.

The third”volume” of X-Factor, this series has a much darker, noir edge to both the storylines and the art style than the first two. Spinning directly out of the events of House of M and Decimation, the comic focuses on Jamie Madrox (Multiple Man) re-establishing the team as a private investigation agency. Returning members include Guido (Strong Man), and Rahne Sinclair (Wolfsbane). New additions to the roster are M (Monet), Siryn, a recently de-powered Rictor, and the enigmatic Layla Miller. And while the team’s primary focus is discovering the cause of the Decimation, the title’s more gritty, street-view perspective, makes this series a truly different read from other X-comics. Read the rest of this entry »

MONDOcomics #95: February 23, 2011

Posted by Comics On February - 25 - 2011

Amazing Spider-Man #655
Dan Slott (w), Marcos Martin (a), Muntsa Vicente (c), Marvel Comics.

I heard an interview with Dan Slott on World Balloon today in which he said that Amazing Spider-Man #655 was the best thing he had ever written. After reading it… fair enough, this is a phenomenal book. Starting out as a tribute to a recently-departed character the book evolves to become a monument to Peter’s guilt. It works very well and gives us a great sense of the weight that Peter is always carrying inside him. There are plenty of nods to the character’s long history, but not in a way that that I felt overwhelmed (despite only having read the book for the last couple of years). At the end, though, the character comes to a decision that makes the issue feel like it was building to something, rather than just wallowing.

What puts this issue over the top, though, and what makes it one of my favourite issues of Amazing Spider-Man EVER (I’m not exaggerating) is Marcos Martin’s artwork. It perfectly captures the melancholy feel of the story while at the same time feeling lush and beautiful. The opening sequence shows how even a place as familiar as one’s home can suddenly feel sad and lonely after the loss of a loved one. In fact, the sequence reminds me quite a lot of Chris Ware’s work, another artist that can bring out the sadness of everyday rooms. There’s one double-page spread that I expect is going to get most of the attention from this issue, and with good reason. You’ll know it when you see it, since it’s jaw-dropping. I keep turning back to look at it again and again. Read the rest of this entry »

Reader’s Advisory #4: Mirror Mind

Posted by Comics On November - 18 - 2010

By Denise Lui

Mirror Mind: Growing up Dyslexic
Tory Woollcott (w + a), self published/ Maybe Mumkin, 2009.

Read if you like: autobiography, local authors, childhood reminiscing, learning, Muppets, teen fiction

The “graphic novel memoir” is a flooded genre with works from some of the greatest cartoonists of all time like of R. Crumb, Julie Doucet, Chester Brown or Seth. The tradition is steeped in neurosis, some misogyny and often-brutal personal truths. Here, Tory Woollcott’s approach is just as honest, lovable and heart-breaking at times but, Mirror Mind is refreshingly far from a self-loathing story.

The Jist: Tory quite literally illustrates the challenges of growing up with dyslexia (in Toronto) as seen through her own eyes, from first noticing that she was a little different from the other kids, to being misunderstood by educators and taunted by peers, to finally being assessed and receiving an effective education on her own terms. The on-going narration by adult Tory is quite matter-of-fact in tone and never heavy-handed. Plentiful and nerdy late-80s pop culture references plus adorable kid personalities really make the story a delight to read (think Persepolis). The package is completed with an index of informational resources on dyslexia and other learning disabilities.1 Read the rest of this entry »

MONDOcomics #19: September 9, 2009

Posted by Comics On September - 11 - 2009

amazingspiderman604Amazing Spider-Man #604
Fred van Lente (w), Barry Kitson (p), Rick Ketcham and Barry Kitson (i), Jeromy Cox and Antonio Fabela (c). Marvel Comics.

Well, that turned out better for Spider-Man than I had predicted. The Parker luck bounces back and even though the evil Chameleon was rude to everyone in Peter’s life they all liked him for it. Why I like this: because Peter’s friends assumed the best in him. That the terrible things he said came from a place of love. It’s nice to see people get along every now and then, especially in this book. Also great — the villains. The Spider-Man writers have done a great job making the Spider-Man villains menacing and calculating and on-the-loose. His fight-to-imprisonment ratio is terrible, but the excitement-to-page ratio is astounding. Go Spidey, go. — Miles Baker

Miles’ rating: 4 out of 5
Isaac’s rating: 3.5 out of 5

AmuletKeepersCurseAmulet: The Stonekeeper’s Curse
Kazu Kibuishi (w + a). Graphix.

My overall reaction to the first Amulet volume was “Alright.” The art and characters were great, but the story wasn’t very deep and the world didn’t seem that interesting. I’m happy to say that everything that was not great about the first volume has been improved in this story, and the things that were good are now amazing. I thoroughly enjoyed The Stonekeeper’s Curse and the next volume can’t come fast enough. Fantasy stories live and die on the worlds that they create and Amulet starts to come through on this front. There’s an opening splash where the heroes arrive at the big city and it’s a moment of wonder — homes built into mountains, huge city walls, and many walking houses. I love that having a walking house is semi common in this universe. The characters come along well, and it’s great to see something for kids with a female lead. Girls get the short end of the stick on stories where they kick ass. There’s nothing particularly original about Amulet, it wears its influences on its sleeves, but it works well. It feels a lot like an RPG and when I was twelve I wanted stories that felt like RPGs. Recommended for the people out there with kids who are looking for something to enjoy as a family. — Miles Baker

Miles’ rating: 5 out of 5 Read the rest of this entry »

MONDOcomics #11: July 15, 2009

Posted by Comics On July - 17 - 2009

Amazing Spider-Man #599Amazing Spider-Man #599
Joe Kelly (w), Stephen Segovia, Marco Checchetto, Paulo Siqueira, Amilton Santos (a). Marvel Comics.

The art is solid all throughout, but it’s still weird having all these different artists on board for this. It’s also really cool to have Spider-Man’s mask look like Grifter’s from Wildcats, but this issue could have been called “The Amazing Harry Osborn” what with Harry doing all the fighting and all. It’s fair though, since the beginning of this arc Spider-Man has been pretty beat-up, so by this point he’s barely standing. Now that I think about it, that’s how most of Spider-Man’s big fights go, so really it’s more refreshing to see him not have to pull out a miraculous win, and just let the other guy save the day. — Isaac Mills

Isaac’s rating: 3.5 out of 5

Batman Streets of Gotham #2Batman: Streets of Gotham #2
Paul Dini, Co-Feature: Mark Andreyko (w), Dustin Nguyen, Co-Feature: Georges Jeanty (p), Derek Fridolfs, Co-Feature: Dexter Vines (i). DC Comics.

So I guess this is just another Batman book, right? I thought the idea was that it would tackle more street-level crime or focus more on the Gotham City Police Department or something, but I guess I was wrong. This issue focuses on supervillains and Batman and Robin beating them up. It was good enough, I suppose, but as far as I can tell, this same story could’ve been told in Batman. The Manhunter co-feature was great, but ten pages of great plus twenty-two pages of generic Batmanishness don’t justify my four dollars. Especially when Batman and Robin is coming out. – Owen Craig

Owen’s rating: 2 out of 5
Isaac’s rating: 3.5 out of 5

Blackest Night #1, Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps #1
For Owen’s review of Blackest Night #1 and Isaac’s review of Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps #1, check out our Crossover Corner at the bottom of the page. Read the rest of this entry »

X-Men Origins: Wolverine Reviewed

Posted by film On May - 15 - 2009

X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Directed by Gavin Hood
Twentieth Century Fox

By Brian Last

Jackman's 'chops had their own contract.

Jackman's 'chops had their own contract.

The much anticipated Wolverine origin story clawed its way into theaters on May 1st, and was up against a barrage of obstacles. The story of Wolverine is a complex one that spans across three centuries and could hardly be contained in the X men trilogy, so they gave the character his own movie with Hugh Jackman back as the gruff, hot tempered mutant from the great white north. Director Gavin Hood gave it the old college try to do the character justice, but where to start on a story like this? Well for starters, get the Canadian history right!

James Howlett (Wolverine) and his brother Victor Creed (Sabretooth) flee the Northwest Territories at a very young age after young James kills Thomas Logan, Victor’s father. It is there they make a promise to each other always to stick together. Together they fight in the American Civil War, WWI, WWII, and Vietnam. It is in Vietnam that they are kicked out of the army and put into a holding cell. Here they meet William Stryker who invites them to join Team X, a black ops team comprised of mutants. On a mission in Nigeria, they interrogate the locals for meteorite rocks and when they say there are none, Stryker orders Victor to kill the chief. Howlett is appalled and quits the group. Six years later, Victor is back in Canada and on the war path. Stryker comes in search of aid to take him down. It is here they do the test for adamantium and Howlett is given the skeletal form we all know today. With adamantium on his bones and revenge in his heart, he goes to track down Victor.

To properly evaluate a movie like this, you have to evaluate it on two fronts. The first is as an action movie, plain and simple. As an action movie it was very entertaining, with traditional over the top sequences punctuated by big explosions. The first half was fantastic and flowed really well, but by the time it got to the third act, it fell off somewhat. The movie was like a race car that ran out of gas before the end. While we were treated to a few good fights, you could feel them struggle for an ending that left the door open for a sequel.

Now, as a comic book movie, the ground is shakier. There are some similarities but quite a few liberties taken in terms of Wolverine and Deadpool’s origins. This is not pleasing to fanboys or general fans as we were under the impression they gave Wolverine this spin off to do justice to his dark, complicated history. But what is the point if you aren’t going to do it properly? That said, what the movie will do is spark viewer curiosity to go back and read the source material to see just where the similarities and differences lie. Apparently there is talk of a sequel where Howlett is stationed in Japan, which is actually true in his origin, but, given this picture, who knows what direction they would take it in.

One major pitfall that this film (as well as X3) fell victim to was getting bogged down with mutant cameos. We all know why they did it, because some fan favorites didn’t make the cut in the first trilogy, so they wanted to squeeze them in here. What they should have done is taken a step back and remembered whose origin story it was they were telling and focused down the story accordingly.

You Marvel boys drooling or spewing?

You Marvel boys drooling or spewing?

Still, it was a solid cast up and down. Ryan Reynolds stole the show for the brief time he was on screen and Liev Schreiber was thrilling as Sabertooth. But with Hugh Jackman, you got much of the same as you did with the first three films. As he’s now the central character, you’d expect a little more. The cast was rounded out with really good background support from Will I Am, Taylor Kitsch, Dominic Monaghan, Kevin Durand, and Danny Huston replacing Brian Cox as Stryker.

A decent start to the summer blockbuster season, Wolverine succeeded as light entertainment. Never did it rise above the confines of a fun diversion or work for me on the level that Dark Knight or Iron Man did. The X-Men franchise has been taken in a positive direction and fans can feel like a little bit of dignity has been restored after the widely panned X3. No matter where they take the next Origins film, one thing is for sure: they will have an ace up their sleeves if they’re willing to play a bigger gambit.

Summer Movie MegaCalendar: May

Posted by film On April - 24 - 2009

By: Sean Kelly, Caesar Martini, Brian Last and Rachel West

Summer may be months away, but in Hollywood it’s already hot, hot, hot! Join some of our regulars for some educated speculation as they weigh in on May’s big titles: Wolverine, Star Trek, Terminator, Angels and Demons, the return of Raimi, and more! What’s worth your while and what’s a waste? Enjoy the epicocity and start planning your May.

MAY 1st

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Man-crush you to death!

Man-crush you to death!

Sean:

First, I have to say it is a shame that some idiot leaked an unfinished cut of this film to the net since it already has the challenge of revitalizing the X-Men series after the poor reception of the third film (which was actually an OK film). That said, all the footage I have seen seems to prove that this solo-adventure isn’t just the cheap cash-in that it initially seemed to be (though, as for that planned Magneto film…).

Caesar:

As a comic book fan/geek/collector, and closeted Hugh Jackman man-crush victim, I’m pretty much obligated to see this film. It doesn’t help that the trailer is hella awesome. I do have a few worries about it, namely that it seems to have every mutant ever created in it (Wolverine, Gambit, Sabretooth, White Queen, Cyclops, Blob, Maverick, and John Wraith, to name a few). Also, Sabretooth is played by Liev Schrieber, who is a fine actor but will not necessarily be fine at being a seven-foot-tall mutant, feral killing machine. Perhaps most worrisome is the fact that Will.I.Am is acting in this movie. I swear to God, if I hear anything resembling the word “Fergalicious,” I’m going to walk out, go home, and poop on my Black Eyed Peas records.

Brian:

This fourth instalment of the X-Men Franchise tackles the complicated back story of Logan, A.K.A. James Howlett, A.K.A Wolverine – no easy task. The story also covers the Weapon X Project, and a slew of other characters that are being introduced in this origin story (Sabertooth, Deadpool, Cyclops, and Gambit). Too much on the plate?

Upon first viewing of the trailer, it looks like an interesting film with good action, and it looks like the director has a good handle on the character and the story. The X- Men franchise may just redeem itself for the sub par X3.

MAY 8th

Star Trek

C'mon, they're like, 17!

C'mon, they're like, 17!

Sean:
I’ve been a “Trekkie” since childhood, so it’s a no-brainer. In an interesting bit of trivia, this will be the first Trek film to receive a summer release since Star Trek V: The Final Frontier twenty years ago. Trailers have proven to me that Trek is in very capable hands. Who knows, maybe this film will spark a reverse of the Star Trek series’ “even/odd” rule (especially considering the lukewarm reception Star Trek: Nemesis received).

Caesar:

A reimagining of the classic sci-fi series with an all-new, young and sexy cast. Star Trek is decent, but I was never a full-blown fan. I rarely watched The Next Generation (though I did think Deep Space Nine was a fantastic series and that it was horribly underrated). I have seen almost every movie in the theater, because, shit, it’s got spaceships and lasers. How am I not gonna go see that? The real reason I’m psyched for this flick, though, is the trailers. Other movie companies should take note, THIS is how you put together an awesome trailer.

As long as Kirk punches out every man he has a problem with and has sex with at least three babes (one of them alien), and Spock uses the word “illogical” before nerve pinching the shit out of someone, I don’t see how this could fail.

Leo:

I’m deeply concerned here. I don’t consider myself a true Trekkie because I only enjoyed The Next Generation. And you know what the best episodes of TNG didn’t have? Laser fights, running around, and sex! TNG was about diplomacy. It was about testing our principles when we encounter cultures and customs that challenge our own. It was about negotiation and the triumph of tolerance.

I love me the Lost as much as the next man, but this movie here looks like a violent popcorn muncher, and much less than Star Trek could be. (Oh yeah, I’m totally still seeing it!)

MAY 15th:

Angels and Demons

Hanks minus mullet stands a chance!

Hanks minus mullet stands a chance!

Sean:

The general consensus among people that read Dan Brown novels is that Angels and Demons was the better read, even though The Da Vinci Code was the popular one. I believe this is a less controversial story than the last one (though the crew was banned from filming in pretty much every religious location). Also,  Tom Hanks has a more conventional haircut in this one.

Brian:

Dr. Robert Langdon is called back into duty to investigate a murder victim branded with a suspicious mark. It turns out to be the mark of an ancient secret society known as the Illuminati. Langdon discovers a plot to kill four cardinals from the Roman Catholic church.

As for Angels and Demons I can say with confidence it will be a commercial success. It will attract a wide array of audiences, and whether they hated it or loved it, they will leave how they left The Da Vinci Code – in discussion. The Da Vinci Code left people talking about religion, and this will leave people talking about secret societies. It’s a topic of unlimited interest, and I think Ron Howard will top The Da Vinci Code here.

Rachel:

I bought into the Da Vinci Code hype, and when the movie didn’t deliver, I was disappointed that an action-packed book couldn’t translate well onto the big screen. Maybe it was the miscast Tom Hanks and his inappropriate mullet or Ron Howard’s lacklustre direction. This time, I’m hoping that Hanks’ and Howard’s sophomore efforts do justice to the (arguably) better prequel, Angels & Demons. Gone are the mullet and the irritating Audrey Tatou. Instead, we have the powerhouse supporting team of Ewan McGregor and Stellan Skarsgard, who should breathe life into their characters and provide for some exciting on-screen chemistry. Sure to be a box office monster amid a blockbuster-filled May.

The Brothers Bloom
(Limited Release)

Blooms doomed?

Blooms doomed?

Sean:

It seems that forces beyond my control have been preventing me from seeing Rian Johnson’s follow-up to Brick ever since I tried to get a ticket for it at the Toronto Film Festival and it was sold out. The release date for this film has flopped around like a fish out of water, and I really hope I finally get the chance to see what looks like a fun caper film.

Rachel:

I caught this one at TIFF, and while the casting is bang-on and the story is original and entertaining, the movie lacks any punch to raise it above the position of an okay indie dramedy that you’ll probably forget about in a few months. The film suffers from a poor marketing campaign and a horrendous trailer that’s more likely to drive people away from the theatre than to it. The Brothers Bloom has counter-programming on its side as it competes at the box office with testosterone-filled action films, but this one’s really only worth a look at on DVD.

Rachel:

Management

Jennifer Aniston irritates me. Okay, I have a long-standing and unnatural hatred for her that’s probably only marginally deserved. Her acting choices certainly aren’t doing much to win me over from Team Jolie in recent years. Based on the trailer, Aniston appears stiff and wooden next to Steve Zahn, who has had moments of real comic inspiration over the years, while Woody Harrelson peppers the film with an off-beat, “weird boyfriend” type of role. All those involved seem uncomfortably old for their roles, much like the recycled plot and lame jokes.

MAY 22nd

Terminator: Salvation

Is it time for Bale to do more than wham bam parts?

Is it time for Bale to do more than wham bam parts?

Sean:

I still have yet to see the Terminator films (something that prevented me from seeing Terminator 3 a few years ago). However, this fourth film doesn’t look as reliant on the past history, since it now takes place during the war that the original films were all about preventing. Right now, this film is in the “maybe” department, but it does look exciting. Now, about that PG-13 rating the film is supposed to have…

Caesar:

Another film with a great trailer. I don’t see how anyone with a soul can watch giant Terminator robots kick the hell out of things and not want to see this film. Plus it’s got Christian Bale, who hasn’t turned in a bad performance yet, and Bryce Dallas Howard, who I may or may not be in love with (I am). Not to mention, with all the advancements we’re making with artificial intelligence and robotics these days, the threat of the robot apocalypse is looming ever closer, making Terminator: Salvation a relevant cautionary tale. You laugh, but we’ll see who’s laughing when the metal horde comes to process your brain-meat for lubricants.

Brian:

Hey Wolverine, here’s another fourth instalment of a flagging franchise. In T4: Salvation Christian Bale plays John Connor in the future (2018 to be exact). Surprise, he’s still the one who is destined to lead the Human resistance against Skynet.

While we have everything we should for a good popcorn flick – action, guns and director McG - nothing in the trailer really blew me away or made me want to see it. The franchise is getting steadily further from James Cameron’s vision. There’s been Judgement Day, Rise of the Machines, and now Salvation - between these films we should either be saved or all killed, but they should stop dragging it out. Have we learned nothing from Rocky V, Die Hard 4, and Indy 4?

MAY 29th

Drag Me to Hell

"Can we make the next Spidey also about a witch?"

"Can we make the next Spidey also about a witch?"

Sean:

Sam Raimi returns to horror! After spending most of the decade with the Spider-Man films, Sam Raimi decides to return to his roots before starting production on Spider-Man 4. While it is probably unlikely that the film will reach the cult status of The Evil Dead, it is at least nice that someone is making an original horror film in a world full of remakes (some of which Raimi produced).

Rachel:

Does it look good? No, not really, in your traditional definition of quality. But it is almost guaranteed to be skin-crawlingly frightening and bloody as director Sam Raimi leaves Spiderman behind to return to his roots as a horror auteur. Demons, curses, and, uh, Justin Long, come together in what seems to be your average young-girl-is-haunted-by-demonic-spirits movie. Certain to deliver chills and thrills, Drag Me to Hell (unfortunately only PG-13-rated scary) will be a devilishly good time.

Up

Caesar:

Well, this is simple. It’s a Pixar movie. Can anyone name a Pixar movie that hasn’t been great? If you can, please meet me in the alley out back for your complementary groin-punching. Even my least favourite Pixar flicks (e.g. Cars) are on par, if not completely superior, to other CGI movies. Plus, hello, it’s in 3D! And 3D is AWESOME. This new generation of 3D films (Bolt, Coraline, The Jonas Brothers, Monsters v.s. Aliens) has been astounding and ridiculously fun to watch.

Comics I’ll Buy in July

Posted by Comics On April - 24 - 2009

By Miles Baker

Marvel and DC have released their solicitations for July, so here’s a list of what I’ll be buying with commentary.

From Marvel

REBORN #1 (of 5) What’s all this then? Ed Brubaker and Bryan Hitch on some mysterious project with no description? I’m there. I wonder if this has to do with those all-black Captain America house ads that were floating around Marvel books this month?

ALL SELECT COMICS #1 70TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL So far I’ve bought two of these 70th Anniversary things and they haven’t been so amazing. Okay writing with really good art, and I have a feeling that this book will continue that trend. Javier Pulido is a great artist so I’ll probably pick this one up.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #601 Special guest artist Gene Colan?!? I’m sold.

DARK X-MEN: THE BEGINNING #1 & 2 (of 3) A pretty cover from Jae Lee almost assures a buy, however interior art by Humberto Ramos is disappointing. I do not see what people like about his art.

UNCANNY X-MEN #513 The cover of this is the teaser I posted over here. I was wrong. But I love what Fraction is doing on Uncanny, so I’ll buy.

DARK AVENGERS #7 It’s crossing over with Uncanny, so I’ll return to buying this title temporarily.

X-MEN: LEGACY #226 Mike Carey has made me like Gambit again. I thought that was impossible. I feel so young again.

NEW AVENGERS #55 I have not been a fan of Bendis’ Avengers. I want to like it because I like a lot of Bendis, but it’s really poorly done. Everyone sounds the same, the jokes are forced, and the pacing is all over the map. However, I like Stuart Immonen’s art, so maybe that’ll be enough to save the series?

SECRET WARRIORS #6 So far Secret Warriors is a lot better than I thought it was going to be, so I’m pumped for this issue.

DARK REIGN: MISTER NEGATIVE #2 (of 3) This is a good cover, and I’m curious about Mr. Negative. He’s a cool new Spider-man villain and it looks like they’ll be picking up a large, dangling plot line from Amazing Spider-Man.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #599 and #600 Number 600 has art with Marcos Martin. I love Marcos Martin.

IMMORTAL WEAPONS #1 (of 5) Fraction and Brubaker’s Iron Fist series was great, and the Immortal Weapons were a great contribution to the character’s mythology. This issue apparently focuses on Fat Cobra, the combatant who defeated Iron Fist in the Mortal Kombat-y tournament, and I’m looking forward to learning more about him.

MARVEL DIVAS #1 (of 4) I’m kidding. This sounds horrible. NO BUY.

RUNAWAYS #12 Please be good. Please be good. Please be good.

X-FORCE #17 Mike Choi on art is what tips this over from “not buy” to “buy.”

X-FACTOR #46 Peter David has really stepped up his game on this title recently. Every issue has tears and laughter.

INCOGNITO #6 Last week’s issue of this was stellar. I’m sure this conclusion will floor me.

POWERS: THE DEFINITIVE COLLECTION VOL. 3 HC This is the Bendis that I love: foul-mouthed and character-driven. This book is where stuff starts to get epic.

From DC Comics

WEDNESDAY COMICS #1-4 I’ve sat out on the last three weekly series from DC. I heard 52 was good, but everything I read of Countdown and Trinity were terrible. Just a mess. But the promise of Niel Gaiman re-teaming with Mike Allred on anything is enough to make me buy it. But then you add Brian Azzarello, Eduardo Risso, Ryan Sook, and Paul Pope (and a whole lot of others) and I really want to get it. Also, the format sounds neat: folded twice to 7” x 10”. So, yeah. Looks good.

BATMAN AND ROBIN #2 I’ll give the first arc of this a shot.

DETECTIVE COMICS #855 I’ve talked about my excitement here.

ABSOLUTE NEW FRONTIER HC NEW PRINTING Actually, I won’t buy this because I already have it. But you should rush out to buy it if you haven’t got it.

GOTHAM CENTRAL VOL. 2: JOKERS AND MADMEN HC It’s been said before, but this series is Homicide: Life on the Streets meets Batman and the result is beautiful fiction babies. Seriously, if you like crime fiction you should 100% buy this and the first hardcover. Amazing writing, amazing art, and Batman cameos. What else do you need?

THE UNWRITTEN #3 It hasn’t started yet, but the preview pages I’ve seen are compelling.

UNKNOWN SOLDIER VOL. 1: HAUNTED HOUSE TP I’m making good on the boasts I made by buying this the day it comes out.

Let me know what else I should buy in a comment!

image-for-best-of-feb-09Owen’s Book of the Month

The Starman Omnibus: Volume 2 (of course)
Written by James Robinson
Pencilled by Tony Harris (and others)
Inks by Wade Von Grawbadger
DC Comics, 2009

Once again it is time for me to sing the praises of Starman. The second hardcover has been released, and as I was standing outside of Paradise Comics, waiting for them to open so that I could purchase and devour this tome of Jack Knight-awesomeness, I couldn’t help but reflect on what makes Starman so great. From Tony Harris’ gorgeous shadowy pencils to the quiet character moments James Robinson infuses into the stories, from the fully fleshed-out cast to the wide variety of tales found within this title — truly, there is no greater superhero comic to be found.

This new volume contains the Eisner award-winning story in which Jack Knight teams up with the golden-age Sandman (not Dream, of Gaiman’s Sandman); a fantastic tale in which Jack, The Shade and one of the O’Dares go to Hell and back; one of my favourite Christmas comics, and a plethora of other, smaller stories spanning the entire timeline of the Starman legacy. Not to mention some superb commentary by Tony Harris and James Robinson and some pictures of Starman merchandise that has come out over the years.

If you already own Volume 1, I can’t imagine that this is anything less than a must-have. If you don’t already own Volume 1, then start saving those pennies. I assure you, it’ll be worth it.

Then, buy Volume 2.

11108_400x600Miles’ Book of the Month

Batman #686
Written by Neil Gaiman
Pencilled by Andy Kubert
Inks by Scott Williams
Colours by Alex Sinclair
DC Comics, 2009

Soak it up, readers, this will probably be the only time you’ll see me honour a DC book as a book of the month.

Since December, I’ve been filling a large gap in my comic book reading:  Gaiman’s The Sandman. I haven’t really read much Gaiman at all, but I’ve been working chronologically through Sandman and it’s as good as everyone says it is. So when I found out that he’d be doing a sort of “last Batman story ever” — along the lines of Alan Moore’s Superman story “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow” — I made a rare exception and bought a DC book.

What I love most about Gaiman is his characters. Everyone has a unique voice, purpose, history, all of it. There’s something about his character writing that never seems forced or unnatural. Gaiman captures everyone’s voice — particularly the Joker and Two-Face.

In Final Crisis, Batman apparently died or something (I don’t really know because I didn’t read it, and apparently no one who did read it understood, either) and this story is some sort of metaphysical wake for Batman, as a disembodied Bruce watches on. And as such, some messed up things happen that don’t actually connect with continuity or even within the story. Like how Selena Kyle randomly changes her dress, age, and hair between entering the wake and going up to make her speech about “how Batman actually died”. It’s an odd choice that I didn’t pick up on the first time, but I’m really interested in why that happened. This is a case where, honestly, you don’t really know what’s happening, but it doesn’t matter: you’re having a good time just letting it happen.

At home, I have notebooks filled with drawings of me trying to emulate Adam Kubert’s style from X-Men. And when he left the X-Men, so did I. I loved his art back then so much that I couldn’t go on without him (also Onslaught was really disappointing). But as I’ve gotten older, I find that I’m less interested in his art. That said, Kubert really stepped up his game for this one; he handles three or four different styles of Batman and does it seamlessly. I also prefer his slimmer Batman to the hulking one that is drawn by some others. There are, however, some pages or panels where it seems like he didn’t decide on what he was drawing or he’s really uninterested in drawing it. There’s one panel in particular where it looks like he’s trying to draw Catwoman’s face from three angles at once. The effect is a fucked up face.

However, these are exceptionally minor quibbles to a really solid read.

724252-usm_131_page_001_superIsaac’s Book of the Month

Ultimate Spider-Man #131
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Stuart Immonen
Marvel Comics, 2009

Ultimate Spider-Man has always been touted as a contemporary take on everyone’s favourite web-slinger, but being a product of our times has also led him to be a very realistic Spider-Man. Peter Parker is smart, but he uses his dad’s notes to create his webshooters, the symbiote is a far more terran creation in keeping with the tone of a Spider-Man mythos, and — love it or hate it — the stuttering “just-shy-of-a-nervous-breakdown” Peter Parker is how a fifteen-year old would react to all the absurdities of a superhero’s world.

In this issue of Ultimate Spider-Man, J. Jonah Jameson has an epiphany about Spider-Man. Namely, that Spidey’s an awesome guy.

Everyone is in shock due to the recent devastation of New York City, and Jonah tries to convey how ashamed he is of his personal campaign against Spider-Man, but all we the reader have to do is turn the page and see the two-page spread of Jameson inside the Daily Bugle, watching Spider-Man dive down through the water to save a man from drowning.

It helps to know that a giant tidal wave wiped out New York, in case you were wondering about the water, but it doesn’t really matter. It’s just a grandiose picture of a man doing whatever he can, even if it’s very little, to help in the face of tragedy, unaware of any spectator who could chronicle such activities.

There have been instances of Jameson coming to appreciate Spider-Man in the regular continuity, like in Amazing Spider-Man #50 (Spider-Man No More!), and Jameson has said in the past that he wants to tear down Spider-Man because self-doubt and cowardice.  These are powerful moments of self awareness and honesty.

But then he’ll go off in the next issue and create a Scorpion or a Spider-Slayer, and it ruins him, as he reverts to a crazy old man. Very often this is the nature of the serial publication of comics, going back and maintaining the status quo. That’s why I’m so glad that this classic Jameson moment has gotten the “ultimate” treatment: at least here I know that if Jameson reverts to type, it’s not going to be because the writer forgot this moment, it will make sense and be due to the natural progression of Jameson’s character arc, and will be something we can track.

Putting all that aside, the issue is once again drawn by Stuart Immonen, who imbues incredible energy into Spidey. And yes, the Hulk is here, and he smashes, and it’s great. The way Spider-Man zips away from the giant Hulk at one point, it just feels fast. Unlike in the 60s Spider-Man show; THAT Spider-Man would have gotten fully smashed to a jazzy soundtrack.

Random Comics of the Week: Uncanny X-Men and The Great Unknown

Posted by Comics On February - 20 - 2009

uncx506_dc11-1Miles’ Book

Uncanny X-Men #506
Written by Matt Fraction
Art by Terry and Rachel Dodson
Coloured by Justin Ponsor
Marvel Comics, 2009

This review might not be fair as a “Random Review” because I’m following this book and the X-Men line in general. However, random.org commanded I review it. So, here we are.

As a one-off issue, this would not be a great place for a new reader to start. Even as a follower of the series I’m not sure I’d recommend it.

Uncanny follows the main events that happen to the X-Men in their new hometown/base in San Francisco. Which is good; it’s nice there’s a sort of “main” book, but there are so many characters and not enough issues that it feels like nothing is happening.

In this issue, we follow Cyclops and Emma as they deal with their mutant embassy (though I’m not sure why they feel unequipped to deal with this crisis: they just had 200 mutant refugees living on their lawn); Colossus taking down a Russian mutant prostitution syndicate (just because. And to help him get over Kitty’s “death”); and Beast and Angel’s continuing mission to recruit the smartest, craziest scientists in the Marvel universe (who have all set dangerous traps for them (so you might think that they would have sent some more powerful mutants on this job (I know that they are both original X-Men but all Hank can do is scratch them while Warren moults on them (unless he has the metal wings he’s sporting in X-Force under the organic ones (also, what’s up with that? When do these stories take place relative to each other? (That’s the problem with having so many X-Books.))))). However, with only 22 pages of story, each part moves in baby steps.

uncx506_int-4I go back and forth on the Dodsons’ art. It’s well put-together and clean, which I love, but it’s embarrassingly cheesecake at times. I think Emma might have brought up a little more of the sheets when she bolted out of bed (also, what girl wears a bra to bed?). That said, they draw some awesome B movie-style giant crustaceans that are worth the cover price alone.

The biggest problem with this series, so far, has been that every issue is all build-up and little-to-no pay off. When the omnibus comes out and collects all this in a tidy package, these stories will probably all read fine, even gripping, but month-to-month it can be a little hard to love this title (with the exception of last month’s annual — which was an absolute pleasure to read. So there is hope, I guess).

Isaac’s Book

unknownThe Great Unknown #1 of 5
Words and Art by Duncan Rouleau
Lettered by Francis Takenaga
Image Comics, 2009

Your first impression of Zach, the hero of this story, is one of extreme defiance in the face of doom. Beaten, lying on the floor of an alley, Zach mocks his attackers, and sounds pretty cool in the process. His narration then explains that he has gotten ahead of himself and needs to tell the beginning of the story, okay, some humility in the face of cliché. Not a bad-sounding hero so far.

But then you turn the page and find Zach on the floor of a bar two months earlier in exactly the same position, and it becomes clear that this kid has a bad habit of getting on everybody’s bad side.

It turns out that Zach is a certified genius that wants to find his fortune through his inventions, except every time he’s got a good one made he sees an infomercial or a billboard that advertises the very thing he’d just created. I’d be pretty bitter too if that kept happening to me, but instead of filling a garage with plans for devices that keep getting made elsewhere, maybe I’d give up and become a lawyer or doctor like Zach’s brother suggests.

But here’s the thing: this is always happening to Zach. He even relates to us the story of Elisha Gray, ostensibly the true inventor of the telephone who gets shafted out of fame and fortune, yet Zach never suspects his ideas are being stolen too. He just goes on being angry, stealing food stuffs, and newspapers off of people’s lawns, and mocking others’ attempts to work and be happy.

Zach is so infuriating that when this one moustachioed-guy who is in on the whole conspiracy wants to help Zach out, he almost decides not to go through with it because ultimately Zach doesn’t deserve the help.

The narrative framework of starting the story a little later was a good idea, because otherwise I’d have nothing to do with this guy. But if you have to trick us into getting invested in the main character, then there’s a problem.

The art is really well done, with excellent composition of shots, backgrounds, and Zach’s design. But other people look a little sloppy. It’s like every third person has something way off about his proportions. It’s a weird thing to do.

Ghost World was done all in blue colours, right? I think so, and that’s how this book is coloured as well, with some beige-yellow thrown in as well. As ever, the effect is of a dystopic suburban wasteland, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Well, I wouldn’t want to live there, but it’s a good setting for the story, is what I’m saying.

If there was even a moment of softness for the character, like helping a kid cross the street or something, then I would happily recommend this book. As it stands though, Zach is too self-involved to be a hero, and too dumb to be a villain.

Random Comics of the Week: Beanworld and X-Men: Legacy

Posted by Comics On December - 19 - 2008

Miles’ Book

Beanworld
By Larry Marder
Dark Horse, 2008

In all the weeks I’ve been writing “Random Comics of the Week” this is the first time I stopped reading a comic before writing the review. I didn’t want to finish it. I didn’t need to finish it. Nothing in the last four pages of this book could change my opinion of it.

The cover’s tagline is “A most peculiar comic book experience” and that isn’t false advertising. This book is comprised non-sequitors, non-characters, non-plot, and characters that look like margin doodles. They are not shitting you when they say “peculiar.”

Odd looking things with no discernible character say fucked up gibberish to each other, then the story cuts to more gibberish. There’s little flow, and I didn’t find anything about this very funny except the cover.

The cover is awesome. It’s the reason I bought this book when I couldn’t find the book I was supposed to review. Fuck, I really wish they had had that comic.

Maybe Larry Marder is famous and I just don’t know about him. Maybe he’s so brilliant he gets to publish comics that don’t make any sense. Maybe he’s got serious dementia, it would explain with this comic reads like a one-man comic jam. Either way, I don’t know why anyone thought that other people would enjoy reading this.

Isaac’s Book

X-Men: Legacy #219
Written by Mike Carey
Penciled by Phil Briones
Marvel Comics, 2008

This issue follows Professor X as he goes to meet up with his brother, the unstoppable Juggernaut, to see about keeping him a good guy. Sadly, smashing is just too much fun for the Juggernaut.

I don’t like the cover art, because I’m biased against Mike McKone, whose faces all look alike and creepily antiseptic. His old stuff is good though, that’s what I always say anyways. The interior art is really good, with the exception of the Juggernaut, who comes across looking like he’s got an apes’ face, and I have no idea how they blew that. I know every other part of him is huge, but he’s always had a fairly normal looking head, so did the artist feel Juggernaut needed to emote more? That’s a mistake. Juggernaut runs forward, smashes, and yells “Nothing can stop the Juggernaut!” or “My powers are magical!” (a personal favourite line).

A lot of people have a problem with Professor X. Over the years, he’s been a pretty big jerk: his eternal arrogance has always grated on those around him, and so some people won’t give this series a chance. I like it; it’s all about Professor X acknowledging his mistakes and trying to learn and grow from them to “find his place in the new mutant landscape.”

People are allowed to fumble, it’s why keyboards have backspace keys, but all too often our comic heroes don’t make any mistakes. They always learn their lesson and do the right thing (that’s why I love them), but it is refreshing to read about this highly fallible Professor X. It’s like if Frasier Crane had telepathic powers. And was in a comic book.

So Juggernaut goes on a rampage after killing Professor X, has a ball stealing and living it up, then he opens this little box that the Professor had given him. Inside, Juggernaut sees himself lying asleep on a bed. Then we see that this Juggernaut is actually in a box of his own that a giant Professor X is holding. The look on Juggie’s face when he realizes there’s a giant Professor X behind him is priceless: it’s like a really constipated guy sucking on a lemon.

Juggernaut starts crying foul about getting his mind messed with in his sleep, and asks why the Professor doesn’t face him man to man. Professor X, who is cool as a cucumber, replies “because-as we’ve established-you’d kill me.”

Having taken the measure of Juggernaut, Professor X sets him straight “I know you’ve chosen the path you walk. For your own sake-don’t stray onto mine.” Then the real Juggernaut wakes up screaming.

Professor X is one incredibly bad dude.

MONDOcomics’ Book of the Month: Batman and Amazing Spider-man

Posted by Comics On December - 2 - 2008

Isaac’s Book of the Month

Batman #681
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Tony Daniel
DC Comics, 2008

The conclusion of Batman R.I.P. has come and gone. So, was it the great Batman tale we’d been led to believe it would be? Yes and no.

We were all expecting to be surprised with some incredible twist that would have permanently altered our view of the Dark Knight and his origins, while simultaneously introducing us to a memorable new villain. This is what we were expecting, and what we wanted, and in those respects the story didn’t deliver. However, despite these pitfalls, this was an amazing delivery of the Batman story we really needed.

Throughout the whole of Batman R.I.P., we were made to underestimate Batman, while a seemingly all-powerful and shadowy opponent pulled the strings, in effect leaving us with the same mindset as those villains tormenting our hero. We had become Batman’s rogue’s gallery, snickering at the 60s camp of throwing together random facts into the Bat-computer, the death traps, and, the worst of all, the power of a utility belt.

The darkest of reflections of the classic Batman-style is the story here, beginning with Batman trapped in a coffin, locked and buried alive, wearing a straight jacket. Meanwhile the members of the villainous cabal known as the Black Glove turn their backs, waiting for the imminent asphyxiation to forever end the caped crusader.

At the same time, above ground the Joker explains why this society will ultimately lose to Batman. The page is divided into nine clearly defined, red-bordered boxes, and the Joker is drawn overlapping the top two rightmost panels, saying how no matter how hard he tries to “think outside his toy box he builds a new box around me.” The illustration is literally Joker trying to escape Batman’s box, or a Batman comic panel, but the two panels he’s now in simply form a bigger box. He’s still trapped. Even if the Joker were to fill up the whole comic page, he’d still be trapped in Batman’s box. From this perspective, as long as it’s a Batman comic, Batman will win — Batman is in control.

In the centre panel, when the Joker is looking straight ahead, saying, “you can never prepare for the unexpected, the well-timed punchline, the wild card,” I think this is another reference to the unavoidable victory for Batman: the villain can never prepare for whatever trick Batman will have up his sleeve. (How can you defeat a man who, if you attack with sharks, will whip out the Bat-shark repellent?) There’s the corny “all’s-well-that-ends-well” punchline completing every adventure.

All that said, what should you walk away from the Joker having learned? He uses the word “apophenia,” which means seeing patterns or connections in meaningless data. Everything I’ve just laid out to you about the panel layout, red colour scheme, subtext and fourth wall interpretations of the Joker’s dialogue, and anything else we could pick apart in this issue — it’s pretty much useless. The very existence of the readers’ apophenia has placed us in the position of trying to figure everything out like Batman. Though we’re doomed to somehow or other be wrong, we’re on the good guy’s team again. We readers have become a whole legion of Robins, supporting and trying to keep up with our hero. Bill Finger would be pretty happy with all this, especially if everyone learns a new word out of it.

What actually happens through the comic is action-packed awesome. It’s undignified to say Batman clawed out of that grave, and inaccurate. Would you believe Batman bench-pressed his way out? The ridiculous Bat-radia device Batman had been carrying around while he was the slightly crazed Batman of Zur-En-Arrh? Not so ridiculous. Making like he never cared for the evil Jezebel Jet, he totally riled her up. Let’s see, am I forgetting something? Oh yeah, punching a helicopter to death!

One big question on everyone’s mind is whether Dr. Hurt, the main villain of this story arc, was actually the devil or not. Batman will always cling to his logical explanations of who this villain was as a mortal man, a natural enough inclination for a man inhabiting his Detective Comics landscape. I prefer, however, to take him as a comic-book devil. He is a perfect distillation of villain that could come from anywhere, with no real clue as to his origins and goals, becoming an obstacle for Batman to overcome again and again. He is the reiteration of the Mad Monk, of the nebulous origins of Joe Chill’s life of crime, the impetus for every comic character turned bad, and the reason we read Batman in the first place — he is the challenge to be met and vanquished.

A twisted version of the “well-timed punchline” corny ending happens here. We revisit the Wayne family exiting from “The Mask of Zorro,” all smiles talking about the movie, Bruce imagining what it would be like for Zorro to come riding down the streets of Gotham. Thomas Wayne laughs and replies, “I’m not so sure Gotham City would welcome a masked man taking the law into his own hands, Bruce! The sad thing is they’d probably throw someone like Zorro in Arkham.” The smiles continue, and about here is when the fade to credits would happen, with the laugh-track finishing its sympathetic jocularity. We get one more panel where Bruce thinks about what his father has said, a panel of shadow and red with the spectre of the Wayne’s murderer in the foreground, and Bruce just says, “What?”

Grant Morrison has taken a classic blueprint for a Batman adventure, added all the misleading trappings of modernity, and in truth revealed the apotheosis of what makes a Batman story.

Miles’ Book(s) of the Month

The Amazing Spider-Man #576-8
Written by Joe Kelly (576), Zeb Wells (577), and Mark Waid (578)
Art by Chris Bachalo (576), Paolo Rivera (577), and Marcos Martin (578)
Marvel Comics, 2008

This month something amazing happened — Amazing Spider-man became the series I most look forward to reading every week. The three issues that came out this month were hot, hot, and fucking so hot.

Issue 575 saw Joe Kelly finishing off an excellent two-parter where Spidey took on a new and improved, and extremely menacing, Hammerhead. This issue demonstrated why a single Spidey is a more interesting character because you can introduce new love interests out of left field that you as a reader just wanna yell, “Holy shit, Parker, you better tap that!” Peter’s new reporter friend had a disarming wit that made me fall in love with her instantly. I haven’t read a lot of Joe Kelly’s work, but he wrote a funny Spidey, and I’m excited to see him handle the character more. And Bachalo continued to show that he’s much better drawing Spider-man than he is drawing the X-Men.

Next, Zeb Wells turned in an excellent done-in-one issue guest-starring the Punisher. The real highlight of this issue was Paolo Rivera’s excellent rendition of Spider-man. His take on the character is classy, and I hope they bring him back for more.

Lastly, Mark Waid and Marcos Martin (easily my pick for artist of the year when we do our awards next month) knocked out a fantastic issue that saw Spider-man leading a group of commuters out of the crumbing New York subway system. Besides the perfect art, Waid writes a fantastic Peter Parker/Spider-man with several lines that made me laugh out loud.

If you like Spider-man you really should be reading him now. What Joe Quesada did to the Peter Parker/Mary Jane Watson marriage is unforgivable — until you read what they’re coming out with now. This book is starting to beat out Captain America as the best book Marvel is publishing.

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