Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Grab These Books

I've decided to do something a little bit different this week. Instead of reviewing specific issues from last week, I'm going to talk a bit about my favorite strips from Wednesday Comics. If you're not aware, Wednesday Comics is the brainchild of Mark Chiarello. It collects some of the most exciting talent in the comics industry and lets them run wild with a page the size of a traditional newspaper. The stories are all serialized tales from the DCU, twelve chapters, with a new issue coming out each week. So far it's been nothing if not fun. I'd like to take this week's Grab These Books as a chance to talk about some of my favorite strips from this ambitious project.

Strange Adventures by Paul Pope & Jose Villarrubia - Paul Pope doing Adam Strange? Epic! The pencils, the inks, the colors, the story, it all just explodes off the page. For the first three weeks of this project Strange Adventures has been the feature I've dug the most. Pope makes great use of the large format to create a full, sweeping and striking view of Adam Strange at war. This is big, weird and beautiful. We've come to expect nothing less from Paul Pope.

Green Lantern by Kurt Busiek and Joe Quinones - What could be seen as an otherwise generic (yet entertaining) early Hal Jordan/Green Lantern story is turned into a can't miss by relative newcomer Joe Quinones. Quinones, a regular contributor to Surfing the Bleed friends Project Rooftop may be the best artist working in comics today that you haven't heard of. His jutting chins, exaggerated jawlines and playful facial expressions create a 50s lounge pastiche that works perfectly for Hal "Highball" Jordan and his crew. Expect to see a lot more from Joe Quinones in the near future.

Metamorpho by Neil Gaiman and Mike Allred - With an all-star team like Neil Gaiman and Mike Allred, you'd expect a lot. Metamorpho does not disappoint. While the majority of the strips in Wednesday Comics are simply larger format comic pages, a few do everything they can to utilize the new format to do something truly unique. Metamorpho succeeds at this perhaps better than any other strip in the comic. A fun, old pulp adventure style comic, each page is exactly that; a page. Gaiman and Allred aren't just making a giant comic here, they're telling this Metamorpho story one page at a time. Allred will pencil one expanisve environment and then show Metamorpho and crew moving through various stages of it and Gaiman's conversational narrative works perfectly for this format. Seriously fun, seriously great work by two of the comic book world's heaviest hitters. Great colors too from longtime collaborator and wife, Laura Allred.

Deadman by Dave Bullock, Vinton Heuck and Dave Stewart - While this Deadman story is little more than a psychadelic whodunnit, it gets serious points for using the format to create some vastly interesting layouts. The combined force of Bullock, Heuck and Stewart has created something worth framing here. Like Metamorpho, the Deadman creative team has shucked the tradition of panels and gutters for a more free-flowing, full page narrative. While I don't think it succeeds as well as Metamorpho (few people write as good a story as Neil Gaiman), it does use this new format for innovation and fun. And Dave Stewart? Egads! The colors on this strip are the best part. They really should just name the Eisner for achievement in coloring after this guy.

Those are my four favorite strips from Wednesday Comics but that's certainly not all there is to see. If you haven't been following this new DC experiment I suggest you start. Back issues may be hard to find but they're still out there. I highly suggest you inquire at your local comic shop about this if you haven't already. And today is Wednesday, so don't forget to get out there and grab these books!

Pull List

Batman: The Brave and the Bold #7
Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps #3
Detective Comics #855
Superman #690
Wednesday Comics #4

...and Marvel comes up a big goose egg again this week. : (

That's it for this week!

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Green Arrow Workout

Frankly dear readers, it bothers me a bit that I can't really dress up like a superhero. Aside from the fact that most superheroes don't have creative facial hair, the fact that I'm not in the best of shape these days makes it hard for me to find a superhero that I can really dress up as. Oh sure, I could be any one of a hundred background figures from Conan or Northlanders, but I'm talking about a dyed in the wool, supercool, fighting for the forces of justice superhero.

But wait, what's that you say? There is one such superhero in the DC Universe and he just so happens to be one of your all time favorite superheroes? Is it Superman? No, not Superman. He's too clean cut. Oh wait, I know, it's Batman! No, not Batman. Bruce Wayne rocks the stubble but I can't see him growing a Bat-stache. Starfire? ... ... Seriously? Look, just because she has red hair...Okay, forget it. Moving on. It's not Batman or Superman or...Starfire.

It's Oliver Queen, the Green Arrow!

Blondish hair? Check. Creative facial hair including but not limited to a handlebar moustache? Check. Acerbic wit? Check. Ego the size of the JLA Watchtower? Check. Holy boxing glove arrow, Batman! Me and Ollie Queen sure are a lot a like.

Alright, so I have a full beard, not a goatee, but that can be easily changed. The thing that cannot be so easily changed is the sad shape of my body right now. Most of you who know me probably think I'm crazy. I know I look pretty slender and in actuality I'm right around the weight that a healthy, well-proportioned man of my height should be at, but too much of it is junk and not enough of it is muscle. My natural build tends more toward the lean than the stocky and right now that's reversed. So before I go donning a tight green jumpsuit, tunic and cloak, I think I need to shave some of the fat and add back a lot of the muscle.

Frankly, I'm tired of not looking like a superhero.

So I've devised a plan to get in shape and stay that way. So far, this is the best site I've found for the sort of workout I think I'm looking for. Considering I don't know what I'm really doing here though, I'm open to suggestion. At least this workout has a superhero theme.

My goal is to slim down enough to at least look decent in the costume by Halloween and to be in good enough shape by NYCC to seriously fill it out. You guys have faith in me, right? After all, a real superhero never gives up.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

My favorite quote from AMC's Mad Men

I think this quote is quite applicable to most anything you strive for, but I find it especially appropriate for the approach I'm taking to the industry.

"This is America. Find the job you want and then become the person who does it."

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Grab These Books

Action Comics #879 - This issue really puts me back into this book that, honestly, I'd become fairly bored with over the last couple of months. Greg Rucka is one of my favorite writers working in the industry, but I usually feel that he works better in Gotham City than Metropolis. Of course, most of this issue takes place just outside Los Angeles, but you get the idea. Not that I don't look forward to Action each month, but of the four major Super-titles (World of New Krypton, Superman, Action Comics and Supergirl), Action Comics has been my least favorite for a while now. That all changed with this issue. The script just seemed a lot tighter this month and the story ran along at a great pace. Plus, Flamebird went all Phoenix-force, Lois played detective, Chris almost found his groove and they finally fixed those annoying Kryptonian to English subtitles so that you could actually read them. Add to all of that a beautifully-pencilled Captain Atom back-up full of adventure and this month's AC definitely had a lot of bang for the buck

Scalped #30
- There's no rest on the rez for Dashell Bad Horse and company as Scalped continues to be the best damn comic Vertigo has put out since the last issue of Preacher left the shelves. You know that moment in between thunder storms where everything seems to calm down for a bit and the world seems a little brighter, but there's something about the air, the color of the sky, that tells you this next storm is going to be even worse than the first? That's exactly what Scalped #30 feels like. Red Crow grows more suspicious of Dash and goes to war with Johnny Tongue, Dash gets an ominous visit from Catcher and Granny lays down a bit of prophecy. Whichever direction you look in, a storm is coming. You'd better batten down the hatches. By the way, if you're not reading this book then please, for the love of all that's good, start. While Aaron and Guera's crime epic is still doing pretty well, it doesn't hold a candle in sells each month to some far less worthy offerings from both major publishers. Get out there and grab the trades and give this book the support it deserves.

Blackest Night #1 - Terrifying. Terrifying is the best possible word to describe this issue. Seeing the undead herald of the Black Light carrying your hero's skull around with him like a trophy is, to say the least, unsettling. Despite it's bright and hopeful beginning, a serious sense of foreboding pulses through this entire issue. Like the reader, Hal Jordan can feel that something isn't right, that something dark is coming. Brilliantly written by Johns and brilliantly rendered by collaborator Ivan Reis, Blackest Night #1 is an impressive opening salvo. The most impressive thing to me about this issue, from a creative standpoint, is the fact that Johns makes this book feel like a book about heroes, not just a book about Green Lanterns. While Johns has certainly laid the foundation for this story in Green Lantern over the last year, you can also see threads from his work on JSA as well as things left over from Grant Morrison's Final Crisis showing up in this issue. While Hal Jordan may be the central focus of this title, it's obvious that it's a book about the DC Universe and that when all is said and done, that universe will be forever changed. If this is a sign of things to come, we're all in for a very exciting, very frightening Fall.

Wednesday Comics #1 and #2 - What can I say about Wednesday Comics that hasn't already been said? Just the fact that DC was willing to take a gamble on this concept is impressive enough, nevermind that they've assembled one of the greatest collections of talent the comics industry has ever seen. Sure, some of the strips represent better than others, but they're each a great experiment in form. So far, the strips that are standing out to me are Deadman, Adam Strange, Batman, Green Lantern and Metamorpho. That's not to say that there isn't quality to be found on every page here. Go grab a copy (if you can find them. Some shops drastically under-ordered) and take a look for yourself. Wednesday Comics is such an ambitious project and I hope that all of you out there who are fans of the medium and the industry will do what you can to support it. Might I suggest, if you can, buying more than one copy and framing some of the pages for your walls at home or at the office. Yes, they're that good.

That concludes this segment of Grab These Books. Let me give you my pull list for this week.

Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps #2
Gotham City Sirens #2
Green Lantern #44
Power Girl #3
Supergirl #43
Wednesday Comics #3

That will do it for this week. Remember to head out to your local comic shops on Wednesday and grab these books! And for those of you going to the San Diego Comic Con, have a great time and best of luck!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Pull List

Here's my pull list for this week.

Incredibles: Family Matters #4
Action Comics #879
Streets of Gotham #2
Blackest Night #1
Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps #1
Scalped #30
Wednesday Comics #2
Creepy Comics #1
Captain America #601

Grab These Books up later today.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Grab These Books!

At last the wait is over. The best reviewer on the web has returned! Okay, so I'm not the best, but I'm not bad. And hey, you get what you pay for, and nobody's paying me anything for this. Um...yeah. Moving right along.

Since I've been away from serious blogging for a few weeks (hey, I got married, give me a break) I'm going to talk about the best stuff I've been reading during those few weeks. So without further ado, I give you Grab These Books!

Detective Comics #854 - The first issue of Detective Comics since the unfortunate death of Batman/Bruce Wayne had a lot of hype to live up to and it sure didn't disappoint. DC's decision to hold off on this much anticipated Batwoman series by the superstar combo of Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams, III in order to tie it in to the Batman: Reborn storyline seems to have been a great idea. Given the first issue, this series looks to be so stellar that it would have succeeded regardless of when it was published, but tying Kate Kane's war with the 13 Covens of crime to the current Bat-world gives the series a resonance with fans it may have lacked had it been left to stand on its own. It also serves to make Kate Kane an even more important part of the larger Bat-family than she already was. So, what makes this book so great? Everything. The art is superb and it's what everybody is talking about right now, but let me take a minute to brag on Rucka. While I'm a fan of GR, I've grown a little weary of his current run on Action Comics. Not that it's been bad, per se, it's just not gripping me the way the other three major Super titles currently are. Personally, I feel like Rucka is more comfortable with the grit and the grime of Gotham City than the shined and polished world of Metropolis. That comfort is evident in DC #854. The script is sharp, smart, warm, creepy and action-packed. In brief, it's everything a good Batman story should be. As for the art, what can be said other than, "WOW!" J.H. Williams, III may be the most talented artist working on superhero titles today, but the work on Detective is arguably the best work he's done yet. To put it in sports terms, he just graduated from all-star to MVP. I've been reading comics a long time, but I've never seen anything like the layouts in Detective #854. When you read this comic for the first time you can feel it; something new is happening here, something big. Batman & Robin, the current flagship Bat-title is so good that Detective Comics has to seriously deliver each month if it's going to stand alongside it. Judging from this first issue, Rucka and Williams, III are more than up to that challenge.

Batman & Robin #2 - Speaking of Batman & Robin, I couldn't very well write this column without mentioning the latest issue from Morrison and Quitely. This issue is heavy on the action but don't be fooled, there is some serious rumination from Dick Grayson about just how hard it is being Batman which leads to a very touching moment between he and his longtime friend, Alfred. Grant Morrison may be a polarizing figure capable of inspiring great confidence or great ire in comics fans, I feel that he understands the character of Batman better than anyone who has ever written him. It's that deep understanding of the Caped Crusader that makes this such a compelling series. This isn't just new territory for Dick Grayson, it's new territory for Morrison as well. So when Dick Grayson is struggling to come to terms with what it means to be Dick Grayson: Batman, so is Grant Morrison figuring out what it means to write Dick Grayson: Batman. It makes for a very organic, very fluid experience that I for one feel is off to a terrific start. Coupled with Quitely, arguably his greatest collaborator (Cameron Stewart being a close second), Morrison is able to create a wildly colorful and creepy world for his new Dynamic Duo to fight crime (and butt heads) in. And fight they do. Issue #2 of B & R is full of more Le Cirque D'etrange fisticuffs as Dick and Damian fight off an invasion of the Gotham police station. Teamwork is not the order of the day unfortunately and it appears that the relationship between this Batman and Robin may be more tumultuous even than the one between Bruce Wayne and Jason Todd. Of course that's the point, isn't it? Dick's seen firsthand what a failure as mentor can do, not only to Robin but also to the Dark Knight. I have faith though. Damian does come from good stock, after all.

Irredeemable #4 - Irredeemable is the best thing coming out of BOOM! Studios these days. That being said, it's not always easy to read. At this point in my life I'm coming to terms with my love of Superman and with how much the character means to me. Superman is the ultimate embodiment of hope, compassion and perserverance, so to see him (represented in Irredeemable by the Plutonian) laid so low is understandably difficult. The world that Mark Waid has created with his Superman Gone Wrong is bleak, broken and desperate. There is very little hope or compassion left. There isn't much I can say specifically about this book without giving away a lot, so I'll just tell you that, if you haven't been reading Irredeemable, it's time to start. It gets better with each issue.

The Incredibles #1 - 3 - I waited a few months to pick this series up, but I'm glad I finally did. BOOM! has very wisely taken the cream of the Disney crop (Muppets, Pixar) and made some great looking kids titles out of it. The Incredibles, written by Mark Waid, may be the one of those titles most appealing to traditional comics fans. Fans of the movie will be pleased with Marcio Takara's artwork and Waid's fun, quickly paced scripts. Takara's pencils are fantastic on this book. Often times, an artist working on a licensed property like this will sacrifice his own voice in an attempt to make everything look as much like the original property as possible. His art recalls the wonderful animation from the film while remaining totally original. I predict a very bright future for this guy. Oh yeah, that Mark Waid guy's not bad either. Waid has created a fun kids comic here that has a ton of appeal for adult comics fans as well. You can tell that he's a fan of the Incredibles and he must be having a lot of fun writing this book. Waid adds a lot to the world of the Incredibles in these first three issues without ever straying from the original voices of the characters. This isn't just a throwaway book of monthly one-shots, but a well designed storyline wrapped up in a lot of fun action and humour. While I'm a huge fan of what's going on with the DC Kids line right now, I dare say that what Waid and Takara have created with the Incredibles is the best kids superhero book on the shelves right now.

I've read a lot of other great books over these last few weeks, but the ones I mentioned above were definitely my favorites. What have you been reading and enjoying lately?

To round everything out, here's my pull list for this week.

BPRD 1947 #1
Green Lantern #43
Red Robin #2 (out of respect for Tim Drake, nothing more)
World of New Krypton #5
Wednesday Comics #1

That's it for this week. Don't forget to get down to your local comic shop and Grab These Books!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

This week's pull list.

I promise I'm going to get around to a Grab These Books set of reviews this week. I just wanted to toss up my pull list for this week before I head out for the morning.

Irredeemable #4
Buffy Season 8 #26
Witchfinder #1
Batman & Robin #2
Green Lantern Corps #38
Justice League: Cry for Justice #1
Angel #23
Captain America: Reborn #1
Uncanny X-Men #513