The Comic Queen

Zip ribbons and word balloons, Wednesday bliss and Previews dreams. If these phrases mean anything to you, then you're in the right place. But if they don't -- hey stick around anyway. You might just like what you see.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

2004 Harvey Awards & Persepolis

One of the biggest honors in the comics world, the Harvey Awards, have been announced for 2004. Check out the Harvey Awards site for a list of the winners.

Looks like a solid group this year. I'm a bit disappointed, though, that Brian K. Vaughn didn't win for Best Writer. Ah, for Vaughn there will always be next year.

One I was very pleased to see win a Harvey was Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi for Best American Edition of Foreign Material. I just recently read the original graphic novel and in honor of the win am including the following review of the book:

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood
Pantheon $11.95 SC 153 pgs.
Original Graphic Novel
Marjane Satrapi
Originally published in France; now available in this English translation

Everyone should read this book.

Comics readers and non-comics readers alike will be moved by this memoir from Marjane “Marji” Satrapi.

Satrapi accounts her childhood from the ages of 10 to 14 in Tehran, Iran. The observation of the Islamic Revolution and the Iran-Iraq war through these young eyes is amazing to say the least. I admit I know next to nothing about Iran’s history, and so I can’t comment on her historical perspective, but to examine specifics would be to miss the point of this work.

In 28 years I haven’t seen even the smallest percentage of the death and fear that Marji (and millions others) experienced in just the few years chronicled in Persepolis. Since we are seeing this terrible time from the perspective of a very young woman, the simplicity of the horror of war and oppression is more easily expressed. And considering that Satrapi appears to have come from an upper-middle class home (to borrow an American equivalent), times were even more dire for the lower classes.

While there are simple truths about war and power that transcend time in this book, Satrapi shares a perspective that is unique -- hitting her teens in the early 1980s. For instance, Marji tries to be cool and buck the system at the same time by wearing a jean jacket with the imposed veil and has contraband such as an Iron Maiden poster.

However, for as somber as social upheaval, political oppression, and loss of life are, the book is not at all heavy handed and in fact has many humorous moments. Coping with distress through humor is human nature after all.

I am looking forward to the sequel Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return due out from Pantheon this August. I encourage everyone to pick up both of these books.

Bottom Line: A+

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Single-Panel Reviews for 6/23/04 Comics

Kinetic #4
DC Focus line $2.50
Writer: Kelley Puckett; Artist: Warren Pleece; Colors: Brian Haberlin & Avalon Studios
What I like about Kinetic is that its minimalist action and dialogue, subtle art, and slow pace accomplishes and reveals so much emotion. So far in the series, Tom, a teenager with a multitude of physical ailments, suddenly finds he has incredible strength and is seemingly invincible. This issue takes a look at what his mother goes through as his caregiver and shows the first glimpses of Tom and his mother grasping this notion. This is the strongest issue so far. There is so much going on below the surface of this comic, and that’s very refreshing. Thank you to Puckett and Pleece for your confidence in the reader. We don’t need every little thing spelled out, and in fact, when it’s not, the work is that much more powerful.
Bottom line: A

Wonder Woman #205
DC $2.25
Writer: Greg Rucka; Pencils: Drew Johnson; Inks: Ray Snyder; Colors: Richard and Tanya Horie
While I think this issue is the weakest of Rucka’s current run, I have to say that in general the Wonder Woman Rucka writes is the Wonder Woman I’ve always wanted to read. His take on Wonder Woman centers on Diana the Themiscyran ambassador and political figure more than Wonder Woman the crimefighter or warrior princess, although he certainly weaves in those elements. The depth that this adds is nice for a change. This issue is part three of three that continues Wonder Woman’s search for answers to the murder in front of the embassy and the attempted capture of Dr. Psycho. The issue is also setting the stage for Medusa’s return. Not much really happens in this issue and although it’s the conclusion of a storyline, nothing is really wrapped up. Let’s hope the next storyline is better than this three parter, because I know Rucka can do much better with Wonder Woman. Bottom line: B-

The Goon #7
Dark Horse $2.99
Writer & Artist: Eric Powell; Framing Sequence & Cover: Mike Mignola; Colors: Dave Stewart
This is the first issue of The Goon that I’ve picked up. I found it’s a fun comic with nice art, and you can’t go wrong with Dave Stewart colors, but I kind of felt like I was missing something. I have a feeling it would have helped to have read more of the series before jumping on with this issue. But that just makes it more likely that I’ll pick up the next issue and not less likely. This issue of The Goon featured Hellboy, the Goon, and his “side kick” of sorts, Franky, as they team up to fight monsters and zombies. The funniest moments are when Franky and Hellboy interact. I’m looking forward to reading more of this series.
Bottom line: B

The Losers #13
Vertigo $2.95
Writer: Andy Diggle; Layouts & Cover: Jock; Pencils & Inks: Nick Dragotta; Colors: Lee Loughridge
I have loved The Losers up until the last couple issues. The series contains lots of action and intrigue following a group of ex-CIA operatives as they try to solve the mystery behind the assassination attempt of their unit (by the CIA, who thinks they are dead). While Jock’s covers are phenomenal, his inside art became increasingly uneven and unstable the last few issues. I thought issue #12 was some of his worst work of the series –- actually both the writing and the art in #12 left me wondering what had happened to the series. Now with #13, we have a new artist –- Dragotta’s style is quite different than Jock’s, so it is an adjustment. The art is similar to that in Vertigo’s Human Target, but it doesn’t seem to work as well here. While I’m not wild about the new art, it is nice to see more consistency. Every series has its ups and downs, and knowing Diggle has it in him, I’m sure The Losers will back in full force soon.
Bottom line: B-

Friday, June 25, 2004

Astonishing X-Men #2 Review

Astonishing X-Men #2
Writer: Joss Whedon
Artist: John Cassaday
Colorist: Laura Martin

I had almost given up on the X-Men comics line. I’d tried a couple different titles and regularly read Uncanny X-Men for a time, but I was finding it more and more difficult to really get into the comics. There are so many titles with an almost unmanageable number of characters that I just kept finding myself asking “who cares?” after reading an issue. The sheer weight of the continuity and the number of characters trying to be jammed into each issue was just too much.

And then the “Reload” came along. I think Marvel believes this will grab new readers and rekindle interest, but I just found it overwhelming and a big turnoff. So, I told myself, except for an occasional TP purchase, I’m going to put aside the franchise for awhile.

Then one day, like most days, I was checking out the comic news at Comic Book Resources, and I ran across some sample pages from the upcoming Astonishing X-Men series. I was intrigued. This looked different -- this looked like more of what I was looking for. Now, would the writing hold up? I’ve heard different perspectives on Joss Whedon’s work, but hadn’t (to my knowledge) read anything by him before. Alright, I was game. I’d give the X-Men one more shot.

I am very glad I did. This series is like a nice, hot shower after a long day at work. Refreshing and invigorating, this title can easily be picked up by a newcomer to the X-Men. There’s real substance to the writing, and the storyline itself has a lot of promise. I’m anxious to see where it’s going.

This title is so far following Wolverine, Kitty Pryde, Cyclops, the Beast (Hank McCoy), and Emma Frost as they restart the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning. Currently Ord, an alien, is holding a charity function hostage; and a renowned geneticist, Dr. Kavita Rao, has just informed the world that she has a cure for the disease that makes a person a mutant.

While there is much history behind all of the characters, Whedon treats these characters as any new title should—as people with histories and feelings that are hinted at and eluded to, slowly revealing their stories and emotions (with a nod to the conventions long-time readers of the X-Men expect).

And the art -- good golly -- the art is fantastic. Cassaday does some beautiful things in Astonishing X-Men. The book is worth picking up for the Beast alone.

For once, I’m actually looking forward to picking up the next issue of an X series.

Bottom line: A

Thursday, June 24, 2004

July Previews Highlights

I will never tire of going through a new edition of Previews. For the uninitiated, Previews is the monthly catalog published by Diamond Comic Distributors, by far the largest distributor in the biz. And cracking open the inch-thick volume every month roughly equates in kid-dom to ripping open that new G.I. Joe or Masters of the Universe package in the car because you just couldn’t wait a minute longer.

Here are my highlights of the July issue of Previews for items mostly released in the month of September.

Pick of the Month:
Ninety Candles by Neil Kleid (Rant Comics)
The solicit on page 314 reads, “An experimental and improvisational graphic novella, Ninety Candles documents the life of cartoonist Kevin Hall – one panel per year. Written with no script (each page only based on the previous one), the panels form the shape and breadth of our intrepid protagonist’s life – choices, decisions, and all.”

Kleid won a Xeric Foundation grant to publish and distribute this comic, and I’ve been looking forward to getting my grubby hands on this since I first heard of it. For just $5.95 for 48 black & white pages, you shouldn’t pass this one up.

Featured items:
Runaways Volume 2: Teenage Wasteland Digest
Marvel Age – page 48 in the Marvels insert
For just $7.99 collecting issues 7-12, I’ll be picking this one up. I had been hearing so much about Runaways that when the first digest came out, I snapped it up to check it out. And bam! I was hooked – what a great series. Oh, but wait Marvel decided to jerk my chain. I just can’t understand why a company would put out a trade volume, get readers introduced/hooked, and then cancel the book. Now I know Marvel is saying that it’s just “season one” (don’t even get me started on this) that’s ending, but come on – give me a break. Anyhoo, if you haven’t checked out Runaways, these digests are a great way to do so without spending much money (or time locating back issues).

Superman: True Brit HC
DC – page 71; $24.95
This hardcover original graphic novel looks like a lot of fun. This light-hearted GN rewrites the Superman legend as if he were raised in the UK.

Adam Strange #1 of 8
DC – page 76; $2.95
Adam Strange has been around the DC Universe for quite awhile, but I’ve never read any of his adventures before. With writer Andy Diggle (Losers) and artist Pascal Ferry, this limited series looks extremely promising.

Also in the realm of promising was the art for Hulk & Thing: Hard Knocks #1 of 4 (page 3, $3.50) and Black Widow #1 of 6 (page 2, $2.99) both by Marvel. The titles alone didn’t catch my eye for these two, but the sample pages really grabbed my attention.

The Art of Usagi Yojimbo: 20th Anniversary Edition HC
Dark Horse – page 25; $39.95
This is a must have for any Usagi Yojimbo fan. Even without any samples, I have a feeling this will be a beautiful book displayed prominently on many, many bookshelves.

Caper #12
DC – page 80; $2.95
This is the last of 12 issues for the limited series by Judd Winick. I’ve ordered the first several already published and will be reading them soon – I’ve heard lots of good things about the series and am waiting anxiously for my copies.

Batman Strikes #1
DC – page 96; $2.25
I’m more looking forward to the Cartoon Network series “The Batman” on which this comic is based, but I’ll at least pick up this first issue to check it out.

Star Trek: The Key Collection Volume 2 TP
Checker Book Publishing Group – page 240; $22.95
This second volume reprints issues 9-16 from the late 60s, early 70s Gold Key Star Trek series. The originals are out-of-print and hard-to-find, so this is a great opportunity to check out a classic series for a reasonable price.

The Originals HC
Vertigo – page 115; $24.95
Another higher-end book, but it looks quite intriguing. This original graphic novel by Dave Gibbons (of Watchmen fame) is somewhere between sci-fi and street. Sample pages are included in Previews.

Warman’s Pez Field Guide TP
Page 379; $12.99
I’m mostly including this to point it out to my friend Kerry, a BIG Pez fan. At 512 pages, this would be a riot to page through.

Funky Comic of the Month:
Every month there is at least one odd item that jumps out at me from Previews. This time it’s the Wonder Woman chapter books on page 388. I think it’s the solicit rather than the concept that made me chuckle this time around: “Wonder Woman has been a classic icon and the perfect role model for girls for decades. Now young readers can experience a wonderfully fresh, new look for this amazing crime-fighter as they learn about her transformation from Amazon Princess to super-hero in these exciting chapter books.” Heehee, “perfect role model for girls for decades” – would that be the bondage part or the man-hating part? I’m just kidding, I love Wonder Woman – the comic is on my pull list after all -- but perfect role model is a stretch!

Unfeatured Item of the Month:
Marvel – page 36 in the Marvel insert
I just have to point out how craptacular the preview for Rogue #1 was in the Marvel insert. Oh, man, these preview pages usually highlight the best of an issue. If this was the best this title has to offer—yikes, it won’t be around long. Here’s a line that will sum it all up for you: “Why – she’s just a kid!” Groan.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Furious Review by a Drunken Monkey

Furious Fist of the Drunken Monkey #1
Imperium Comics
Writer/Artist: Rich Stahnke

Damn! That was fast. Today I received the comic I just won from the ICAA. So, I'll cut to the chase.

The action in Furious Fist follows a beer-drinking chimpanzee named Chip as he finds (or perhaps takes is a better word) a ring from an alien that has just crashed in front of him. The ring gives him his "furious," super-powered fist as well as greater strength and agility. Oh, and did I mention he has a sidekick talking frog named Al. The comic is a fun, tongue-in-cheek romp in the superhero genre.

While the comic could use some maturing and refining in both the storyline and the art, it did leave me chuckling several times along the way.

In addition, after the main story, Stahnke includes a bit of history behind the title character and then three one-page "strips." I thought this format forced him to better focus his writing and packed a little better punch.

What I'd like to see is Stahnke take this same set of characters and write two stories plus a couple of these one-page strips in the same number of pages as this issue #1. While a little rough, this comic shows a lot of promise. I'd be willing to give it another try for sure.

Bottom line: B-

Monday, June 21, 2004

Sometimes You Get More Than You Paid For

I'm a member of the newly formed International Comic Arts Association (ICAA), and they plan on running quite a few givaways. Below are the results of their very first givaway. Recognize any names? Whoohoo! I won! It feels good to get lucky ... uh, wait ... what'd I just say? Anyhoo, I'm looking forward to receiving something FREE.

And speaking of FREE -- everyone is a winner next Saturday JULY 3 on Free Comic Book Day. Drop by your local comic book store for a free comic! Don't know where your nearest comic shop is? Check out Diamond Distributor's Comic Shop Locator to find a store in your area.


The International Comic Arts Association (ICAA) is pleased to announce that TEN Fan Members of the ICAA have been randomly selected to receive a complimentary copy of issue #1 of "Furious Fists of the Drunken Monkey". This witty, new comic series by Rich Stahnke is published by Imperium Comics and Morpheus Forge Entertainment and has been receiving very favorable reviews.

The off-beat series tells the origin of Chip - a down on his luck chimpanzee who comes into possession of a mysterious Alien gauntlet which gives the wearer great powers - turning Chip's life upside down. The story follows Chip and his scientist friend Al (who has been transformed into a talking toad) as they unleash the power of the gauntlet to battle cheesy monsters, giant aliens, angry strippers and an ever growing bar tab.

Special thanks to creator Rich Stahnke for providing the comics to our members.

Members randomly selected to receive the comic are:

Steve Higgins -Florissant, MO
Corey Blake - Encino, CA
Mark Broy - Morton, IL
Brian Randolph - Seattle, WA
Larry McQuaide - Sylmar, CA
Erin Schadt - Bellingham, WA
Bryan Rosenberg - San Francisco, CA
Aaron Cahall - Bel Air, MD
Jason Richards - Camp Hill, PA
Michael Haines - Woodstock, GA

 Posted by Hello

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Single-Panel Reviews

Here are a few quick looks at recently published comics I call "single-panel reviews."

Birds of Prey #68
DC $2.50
Simone, Bennett, & Jose

I’ve heard a lot of good things about this series, so I’ve been wanting to catch a one-shot or new storyline to give this title a try. Sure enough, I flipped through #68 at the comic shop and it appeared to be a one-shot. Hmmm, I am very disappointed. Yep, women have boobs – get over it Bennett. Celebrating the beauty of the human figure is one thing, drawing breasts so large and unrealistic they detract from the story is another. The women were ridiculously posed throughout the book, and the story relied on so much backstory that I was a bit lost (or maybe just disinterested). I guess I was looking for a good jumping-on point or a hook and didn’t find it. I’m willing to give this book another try sometime, but for right now I’m saving my money for other titles. Bottom line: C-

Seaguy #2 of 3
Vertigo $2.95
Grant Morrison, Cameron Stewart

You know, I’m not sure what to think about this title. The quirky, tongue-in-cheek superhero tale that purposely doesn’t have much in the way of substance is fun to look at, elicits a few laughs, and the characters are a kick, so maybe that should be enough—but something just seems to be missing. We’ll see what happens in #3. For now, bottom line: B

Ultimate Fantastic Four #7
Marvel $2.25
Warren Ellis, Stuart Immonen

I’ve been reading less and less superhero/super power books lately, but Fantastic Four is one I do pick up. With this issue of Ultimate Fantastic Four, I’m beginning to like this take on the FF even more than the original title. The Ultimate title gives a new spin on the origin story of the Fantastic Four and follows the FF as teens dealing with this new change. The first six issues were a nice setup, but nothing spectacular. This issue marks a new storyline—a great jumping on point for new readers—and looks like a very promising turn for the young series. I’d recommend picking this one up for sure. Bottom line: A

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Ex Machina #1 Review

Here's just one review for this week -- expect a few more "short takes" in the next few days.

Ex Machina #1
Wildstorm Signature/DC Comics
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Pencils: Tony Harris
Inks: Tom Feister
Colorist: JD Mettler

Understatement of the day: Brian K. Vaughan is a great writer. Statement of the day: Ex Machina is going to be a great comic.

To be honest, this book wasn’t on my radar at all. The title didn’t grab me, the cover wouldn’t have grabbed me on a stand, and in fact I haven’t been really drawn to any Wildstorm comic.

But early reviews from The Fourth Rail and Broken Frontier convinced me to give this a try. That and hearing Vaughan was the writer. I’ve really enjoyed the other work I’ve read by him: Y: The Last Man and Runaways being what I’ve read so far. His style is very accessible – he’s got a wonderful sense of pacing, and his dialogue is some of the truest out there.

So, I managed to snag the last copy my comic book store had of Ex Machina #1 (if you’re in Bellingham, check out Cosmic Comics – nice place to get comics) and read it last night.

The story revolves around Mitchell Hundred, who through an accident has the ability to communicate with machines. Sounds like a set up for a superhero book, huh? Nope – far, far from it. Hundred says on the second page as part of the "introduction" if you will: "Everyone was scared back then, and when folks are scared, they want to be surrounded by heroes. But real heroes are just a fiction we create. They don’t exist outside of comic books. … Anyway, this is the story of my four years in office, from the beginning of 2002 through godforsaken 2005. It may look like a comic, but it’s really a tragedy."

The story is well told and illustrated, jumping through points in Hundred’s life to give the reader some backstory. Vaughan sets the bar high for first issues in all of his work, and this book is no exception. I imagine there will be few people who picked up issue #1 that won’t be grabbing #2 next month.

Bottom line: A

Monday, June 14, 2004

Commenting on this Blog

O.k. about commenting on this blog -- I'm not sure what's up. I enabled posting for anyone (not just Blogger users), but there aren't any options other than anonymous or blogger users. So for now you can post as anonymous and sign your name at the end of your comments. Thanks for reading!!

Batman: Death and the Maidens Review

Death and the Maidens Series Review
DC Comics
Nine issue-limited series (issue 9 came out last week)
$2.95 each
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Klaus Janson
Colorist: Steve Buccellato

I’ll admit it, I’m a big Batman fan. I picked up this series because Batman + Greg Rucka = Good Comic. But, this nine-issue series just didn’t completely float my boat. The story revolves around Ra’s al Ghul, one of Batman’s old foes, and his daughters Nyssa and Talia.

Batman has some history with Talia (i.e., fell in love, etc.) but Nyssa is, I believe, new to the continuity. (Please correct me if I’m wrong here.) Since it would take me a while to get into the general plot and, since the story is better told by Rucka (surprise!), I won’t go into it here. Suffice it to say that the story involves themes such as Man vs. Man, Man vs. Nature, and Man vs Himself (internal conflict) – whew!

The nice points are Rucka’s storytelling (although I’m not sure this is his best effort), the flashbacks throughout history telling Nyssa and Ra’s part of the story, and Batman’s internal struggling in his part of the tale.

The weak points are the art (in my opinion too uneven – one panel will be great, conveying deep emotion or action – the next disproportionate and amateurish), the need for history going into the book (someone unfamiliar with Ra’s will be a bit lost), and the serialized nature of individual comics (I think this one needed to be a graphic novel – I waited until the series was over to read them all at once and with good cause).

I would say that if you are a big Batman and Ra’s al Ghul fan, buy the individual comics. If you are just a big Batman fan, buy the trade coming out in August. If you are a casual Batman reader, save your money for the graphic novel Wonder Woman: The Hiketeia (featuring Batman). But that’s a review for a different time.

Bottom line: B-

Friday, June 11, 2004

My cat, Patches, with my comics. Much like him, I didn't know what I was getting into when I started with comics either. Posted by Hello

Identity Crisis #1 Review

Identity Crisis #1
DC Comics
1 of 7
Writer: Brad Meltzer
Pencils: Rags Morales
Inks: Michael Bair
Colorist: Alex Sinclair

All right, enough hype already. There’s been a lot of talk about this 7-issue limited series. DC’s been building up the suspense for this comic for a while now – saying it will rock the foundation of the DC Universe and other such phrases designed to whip up the masses into a frenzy and drive them screaming to the nearest comic shop. So, I thought I’d give the series a shot – I’m sure as hell not going to be left out of “The Comics Event of the Year” dammit.

Going into the book, we all know someone is going to die. The mystery is – whom will it be? I won’t give it away, but I have to say, I wasn’t at all familiar with the character. That said, Brad Meltzer’s writing got me sufficiently invested in the characters and story to want to keep reading. And with a proper cliffhanger, it appears the mystery is just beginning.

Rags Morales did a nice job as penciller, especially at the times when the Elongated Man, Ralph Dibny, literally couldn’t keep himself together. The book is very text heavy, so this is an extra challenge for any artist, but Morales does a good job.

And when I say text heavy, I don’t mean this as a criticism to the writer (this time). Meltzer chose his words carefully – I’ve definitely read comics with a fewer number of words that feel much more wordy than this book. I have to say the cover by Michael Turner looked more like a Wizard cover than a comic cover, though, with teasers like “Deadly Secrets! Private Hells! The Comics Event of the Year Begins HERE! So, so many exclamation points.

Now, I’ve read a few reviews that criticize specific points of the plot, and I can’t say that I completely disagree with these criticisms. The character who died isn’t very well known, and so this feels like a cheat to the big “rock the universe” premise. The whole super-hero death to shake things up is getting pretty contrived, etc. But let’s not forget that there are six more issues left to this series folks. I just keep getting a picture of the writer reading these columns, leaning back in his chair with his arms folded behind his head and chuckling because he knows, oh yes, he knows what happens next, and boy will the joke be on the doubters. So, I’m game. Bring on issue #2.

Bottom line: B+

Welcome to the Blog

Hey there reader -- welcome to my brand-spanking new blog! I'm not going to make any promises about frequency, but I'll try to update as often as I can. Many of my posts will involve comics, reviews, recommended reads, random information, etc. Stay tuned!