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, November 30, 2004

December Previews Highlights: Erin’s Picks

Whoohoo, it’s Previews time again! Here are some highlights as I see’em. Kerry will follow up on Wednesday with her picks.

Pick of the Month:

It’s a tie folks! That’s right I’ve got two, equally great, picks o’ the month for December.
Or Else #2 by Kevin Huizenga (page 260; Drawn & Quarterly $3.95)
and
Lackluster World #2 by Eric Adams (page 286; Gen: Eric Publishing $3.95)
Both of these titles I’ve previewed on The Comic Queen blog very positively here and here. As soon as I finished Or Else #1 and Lackluster World #1 I was ready for more. And here they both are ready for me to order. Huizenga’s Or Else #1 showcased his quiet style through a deceptively simple and beautiful art. Adams’s Lackluster World contains a more complexly written script. The two are very different books, but both are beautiful, each in their own style, and both are highly recommended.

Featured Comics:

Strange Day
Page 213; $3.95
By Damon Hurd and Tatiana Gill
Miles and Anna meet for the first time as they both skip classes to buy the newest Cure album. The description of this one-shot says it’s a story of “alienation, kindred spirits, two Cure-heads’ serendipitous friendship and the lessons they learn from each other.” I thought Damon Hurd’s “White Elephant” graphic novel was amazing, so I’m very excited about this new offering from him. My advice is to order this one shot and in the meantime find a copy of “White Elephant” to read.

Runaways #1
Marvel – page 66 (in the Marvel supplement); $2.99
Written by Brian K. Vaughan, with pencils by Adrian Alphona
Relaunch! Need I say more?
This and “Strange Day” were both very close runners up to my Pick(s) of the Month. Also most definitely worth noting is that the third Runaways TPB: “The Good Die Young” is now available, collecting issues 13 through 18 for $7.99. That wraps up the first series just in time for the new one to begin.

Damn Nation #1 (of 3)
Dark Horse – page 34; $2.99
Written by Andrew Cosby and art by J. Alexander
I’m not a big reader of the horror genre, but this title caught my eye. The United States shuts down its borders to keep a Vampire plague from escaping and infecting the rest of the world. Government plots ensue. I think I’ll give this one a shot.

Batman: The Man Who Laughs
DC – page 60; $6.95
Written by Ed Brubaker with art by Doug Mahnke
This prestige-format one shot tells of Batman’s first battle against The Joker. I’m curious to see what Brubaker does with this story – should be good.

The Expatriate #1
Image – page 142; $2.95
Written by B. Clay Moore and art by Jason Latour
This looks to be part mystery, part intrigue, and part action. Premise is that Jack Dexter is on the run from the CIA -- but he doesn’t know why.

Comics Prose: Short Stories by Comics Writers Vol. 1
About Comics – page 198; $9.95
This compilation contains prose short stories from the likes of Dennis O’Neil, Max Allen Collins, Peter David, and Kurt Busiek. That’s quite a lineup of great writers.

Project: Superior SC
Adhouse Books – page 200; $19.95
An anthology of alternative favorites such as Tim Biskup, Jeffrey Brown, Farel Dalrymple, Dean Haspiel, Scott Morse, and more, take on the subject “superheroes.” With this group of creators, there should be some very fun results.

La Perdida #5
Fantagraphics – page 276; $5.95; 64 pgs.
This issue concludes the series about Carla, an expatriate living in Mexico. Also being offered, for those who want to catch up with the series, is a four-pack containing the first four issues for $17.95.

Quick Picks:
Other books worth mentioning are the following:
“It’s a Bird” is now available in softcover from DC for $17.95 (page 113). The Rosen Publishing Group on page 310 have a slew of biographies on individuals in comics publishing for $23.95 each: this month’s offerings feature Neil Gaiman, Art Spiegelman, Colleen Doran, Bryan Talbot, Joe Sacco, and Will Eisner. Blake Project Ltd. (page 236, $19.95) showcases “Climate” by David Trumble, a 17-year-old English man (boy? lad?). They describe it as “part film noir, part ghost story, part gangster film” – looks intriguing. On page 286, “Teenagers from Mars” a GN from Rick Spears and Rob G. also looks very intriguing. The premise is that a comic book artist fights back against being censored, although I really doubt that sums up much of what looks like a very promising graphic novel. And the second Scott Pilgrim GN “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World” is being offered by Oni Press on page 306. Damn, I’ve still got to read the first one!

Trade Treatment:
Here are a group of titles worth noting getting the “trade treatment.”

Conan Volume 1: The Frost Giant’s Daughter and Other Stories
Dark Horse – page 23; $15.95
Collects issues 1-6 and the first 14 pages of issue 7 of the current ongoing series.

Batman: War Games Act One TP
DC – page 59; $14.95
Collects all eight comics comprising Act One of the War Games saga.

The Books of Magick: Life During Wartime Book One TP
Vertigo – page 111; $9.95
Collects issues 1 through 5.

Skizz TP
DC 2000 A.D. – page 92; $14.95
One of Alan Moore’s earliest works.

Scurvy Dogs Volume 1: Rags to Riches TP
Ait/Planet Lar – page 213; $12.95
Collects the first five issues of the series.

Jane’s World Volume 3 TP
Girl Twirl Comics – page 286; $15.95
Issues 13, 14, and 15 are collected in this trade.

Black Panther by Jack Kirby Volume 1 TPB
Marvel – page 68 of the Marvel supplement; $19.99
Collects issues 1-7 of the Jack Kirby comic and is set to coincide with the new Black Panther series.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Scandalous Joint Review

Scandalous from http://www.onipress.com Scandalous
Written by J. Torres; Illustrated by Scott Chantler; Afterword by Ande Parks
Oni Press $9.95

KERRY: Scandalous is a graphic novel that got great reviews when it was released back in August. I was interested in the book, but neither comic book shop in town had it. Then the book just fell out of my mind. There were so many other books to read. Luckily for me, though, Erin won the book in an ICAA contest, giving us both the chance to read and review it.

ERIN: Yea for the ICAA! I was ecstatic to win this book because it was a title I had been wanting to read but just didn’t have the funds to purchase it.

KERRY: Scandalous tells the story of Hollywood and its tabloid papers and gossip columns in the 1950s during the red scare. Hollywood has a reigning gossip queen, the icy Paige Turner, but new guy on the scene Harry Richards soon threatens her turf. The battle of will and words between Turner and Richards ends up being the most talked about scandal in town.

ERIN: Another important point of the book was the impact the McCarthy era had, and the nearly uninhibited power certain individuals wielded about -- namely Walter Winchell, the real-life Paige Turner. In many ways, Scandalous is a history lesson wrapped in a fictional tale.

KERRY: The first thing you notice about Scandalous is its stunning art. Chantler outdoes himself here by capturing not only the setting of the 1950s, but the style of the 1950s as well. The panels have a retro feel. Many are laid out in interesting ways. Sometimes there is an extreme close up on a yelling mouth to give it extra emphasis. Many panels also have an interesting point of view and are drawn from the perspective of crouching behind a table or standing around a corner. This style especially makes it feel like you are spying on the characters, like you are a voyeur partaking in the gossip yourself.

ERIN: Chantler’s strong lines and bold inking create a simple feel to the artwork, but there is an amazing amount of detail, especially in the backgrounds. From the opening spread showcasing key Hollywood landmarks to cars in a traffic scene, to the many backdrops of bars and homes, Chantler transports the reader to the 1950s. In fact, I enjoyed his work on this book so much, I plan to pick up any project in the future that has Chantler’s name on it.

KERRY: The only part of the art that disappointed me was the cover. It is very plain and doesn’t capture either theme of the book, the 1950s or tabloids. The cover just doesn’t draw attention to the book like it should. The book is exciting and that should be conveyed on the cover.

The story is fast-paced and the words and pages fly by. I have to admit that although I liked the story very much and thought the ending was appropriate, I still felt like it was missing something. It was almost as if a few pages were left out near the end.


ERIN: Now, this is where I disagree. I thought Torres and Chantler did a great job of bringing the story back around. We figuratively and literally end up back where we started. The circle has come around once again. This point is highlighted in the afterword, by Ande Parks, as well. Parks points out that “If we don’t remember the likes of McCarthy and Winchell, we will have no chance to recognize them the next time they roll around.” I thought the book illustrated this nicely.

KERRY: The inclusion of the afterword was a smart idea as it added value and interest to the book. Parks’s writing is very strong, and it was great to read about the actual events of the McCarthy era. The afterword was a great way to wrap-up the story and give a few final facts to the reader.

Scandalous is an excellently drawn book with grand style. It’s an interesting story to boot making it a recommend read.


Kerry’s Bottom Line: B+
Erin’s Bottom Line: A-

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Comics in the News Week of 11/21/04

Here’s a roundup of comics news covered this week in mainstream outlets across the world.

Book of Mormon Retold: LDS Comic Book Shows Some Character
November 26, 2004
Salt Lake City, Utah
The Salt Lake Tribune takes a look at the new comic “The Golden Plates” and talks to publisher Mimi Cruz and creator Mike Allred.
Read the full story from The Salt Lake Tribune.

‘Titanic’ Director to Create Movie Based on Graphic Novels
November 25, 2004
New York, New York
James Cameron, director of “Titanic,” is in preproduction now on “Battle Angel,” a 3-D movie set in the 26th century and based on a series of graphic novels by Japanese artist Kishiro.
Read the full story from ABC News.

Bishops Evangelize Cuba with Comic Books on the Saints
November 24, 2004
Havana, Cuba
Catholic bishops in Cuba are evangelizing using comic books based on the lives of Cuban saints.
Read the full story from Catholic World News.

British Superheroes Return with DC Comics and IPC Deal
November 22, 2004
London, United Kingdom
British comic book characters from the 50s and 60s will be back in action soon after a deal between IPC Media and DC Comics. The deal gives DC the rights to produce and publish new comics based on IPC’s library of characters.
Read the full story from Media Bulletin.

Comic Books of the West Head East
November 22, 2004
New York, New York
The New York Times reports on Gotham Studios Asia, publisher of the Indian Spider-Man adaptation, and talks about the company’s upcoming projects and general challenges.
Read the full story from The New York Times.

Eugene Couple Make Living Dreaming Up Plots, Characters, for Comic Books
November 21, 2004
Eugene, Oregon
Husband and wife team Michael and Janet Gilbert are profiled in this article. Both work for Egmont Comic Creations out of Denmark on Disney characters and Michael works on other projects as well, such as drawing for Radioactive Man of The Simpsons fame. This is a nice look into the Gilberts’ lives.
Read the full story from The Register-Guard.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Single-Panel Reviews 11/24/04

Ocean #2
Vertigo $2.95
Writer: Warren Ellis; Penciller: Chris Sprouse; Inker: Karl Story
Ocean has gone from a promising scifi story in issue #1 to an excellent, not-to-miss, series for anyone who enjoys a good science fiction story. This issue UN Weapons inspector Nathan Kane meets the small crew of the station investigating the phenomena on Europa. Kane learns more about the billion-year-old sarcophagi and why he, as a weapons inspector, is there. There’s quite a bit more to the story, but I don’t want to make this too spoilertastic. Ellis writes much more dialog and tells quite a bit of story in issue #2, Sprouse and Story still get plenty of room for beautiful large panels though. This title is very high on my books-to-recommend list.
Bottom line: A

Human Target #16
Vertigo $2.95
Writer: Peter Milligan; Artist: Cliff Chiang; Colorist: Lee Loughridge
This was the final part of the current storyline, and it ended much better than I thought it might. I wasn’t wild about the storyline involving a cult who believed Paul James was the second coming of Christ at the beginning. However, Milligan continues to impress me with his characterization of Christopher Chance – The Human Target for hire – who changes identities, filling in for people for a variety of reasons and motivations. Chance is so interesting to me because his psyche, his being, is simultaneously so strong and yet so fragile – a reflection of all of humanity. The next issue should be a good jumping on point for new readers as a new storyline will begin.
Bottom line: B+

One Step After Another, One Shot
AdHouse Books $5
By Fermin Solis
In One Step After Another, Solis, of Spain, shows us Olga as she leaves Our Lady of Mercy Juvenile Center, finds a job, a friend, and a bit of herself as well. Solis presents us with more of a character study than anything else – readers are flies on the wall for just a few days in Olga’s life. So, if you prefer stories that are wrapped up neatly by the end, you may not enjoy this book. However, I would strongly urge you to reconsider if you enjoy the artistic style of Andy Watson, as Solis’s style is similar. Now this will sound odd, but I thought Solis consistently wrote the best onomatopoeia I’ve ever read. From the takatakataka of the sewing machines to the drriiing, driiing of the doorbell, Solis sets the scene and further pulls in the reader with this simple device.
Bottom line: B

Kinetic #8
DC $2.50
Writer: Kelley Puckett; Penciller: Warren Pleece; Inker: Garry Leach
Well that’s that for this title. I have to say, I’m pretty disappointed it was cancelled. I’m also disappointed the writing didn’t pick up a bit about midway through the series, possibly snagging more interest instead of less. What I’m most disappointed in, though, is DC’s dismal creation and use of the DC Focus line. I’m not sure I understand how DC thought this was going to be a successful venture. Why not short series as part of the Vertigo line? I would have liked to see Kinetic as a 12-issue series – that way we may have had better storytelling or at least a more satisfying end.
Bottom line: C

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

The Couriers 03 Preview Pages Now Available

The Couriers 03 from http://brianwood.comThe Couriers 03: The Ballad of Johnny Funwrecker won't be in stores until January, but publisher AiT/Planet Lar has just made the first 10 pages of the book available as a free preview. You can download the pdf here.

This is the third book in The Couriers saga, and sheds some backstory light on the previous stories. The solicit for the 88-page book written by Brian Wood with art by Rob G reads:

Book three hits the rewind button on the lives of everybody's two favorite urban mercenary couriers back, way back, to 1993. Moustafa's a dirtbag grunge kid selling weed by the cube at Astor Place and Special's a riot grrl with a mean streak, looking to carve a place for herself in the criminal underworld. How do these two unlikely partners meet up and become the tight-knit team they are now? Meet Johnny Funwrecker, the hilarious larger-than-life Chinatown mob boss and role model for little street rat hooligans all over. Wood doesn't scrimp on the action and humor in this origin story, and artist Rob G kicks out his own hometown anthem, drawing New York City the way only a true local can.

Find out more about The Ballad of Johnny Funwrecker here.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Single-Panel Reviews 11/22/04

She-Hulk #9
Written by Dan Slott; Penciled by Paul Pelletier; Inked by Rick Magyar
Marvel $2.99

She-Hulk is back at the law firm after her stint on the Universal Court. She is getting reacquainted with her life on earth, getting used to trying cases, seeing friends, and living in her own apartment. She also has to get used to her new strength. While she was away, She-Hulk worked out as Jen Walters. Because she worked out as a human, her power as She-Hulk has increased exponentially. She isn’t used to her physical changes, including being buffer than book guest star Hercules. Reed Richards gives her a new suit that reigns in some of that power until she becomes accustomed to it. This issue of She-Hulk is just as good at the firs few issues in the series. There are three more issue until the book “first season” ends. Hopefully we will see it around again soon. Marvel doesn’t put out high quality series like this all the time and I’m already dreading its end.

Bottom Line: B

Fables #31
Written by Bill Willingham; Penciled by Mark Buckingham; Inked by Steve Leialoha
Vertigo $2.50

This issue of Fables acts as a bridge between the last storyline and the next. A lot of doors are closed and new ones are opened, but no real action occurs. King Cole’s administration is out and Prince Charming is in. Snow moves up to the Farm with her new litter. The link to the next storyline, Colin telling Snow the future of Fabletown, is dropped on the last page of the book. While the story is good here, but not that exciting, I recommend picking up the next issue. It’s the beginning of a new storyline, of a consistently excellent book.

Bottom Line: B

The Pulse #6
Written by Brian Michael Bendis; Art by Brent Anderson; Colors by Pete Pantazis
Marvel $2.99

This issue of the Pulse “Secret War: Part 1” ties directly in with Bendis’s Secret War series that is currently on issue three. I haven’t read those books and I think they would have helped me figure out what exactly was going on in this issue of the Pulse. Not to say the story is entirely confusing, it’s just set up here. Everything will be explained in the next parts, of course. As if her life wasn’t stressful enough, Jessica Jones life just gets worse at the beginning of this issue. I’m hoping after this story line, our girl will get some good news in her life.

Bottom Line: B

Friday, November 19, 2004

Single-Panel Reviews 11/19/04

Trilogy of Terror
By Kelly Everaert
Keltic Studios $2

I picked this self-published book up at the Vancouver Comicon last weekend. Like the title says the book contains three horror stories “Retribution from the Deep,” “Awaiting Rescue,” and “The Curse.” The stories are classic horror and monster fare each with their own style. Retribution is a tale of revenge, Rescue has a 1960s sci-fi vibe, and the Curse has a Victorian feel. I was most impressed with the Curse and its gypsies. The art and costumes captured the Victorian look nicely and the story was the most fleshed out of the three. These are fun short horror stories that are worth a look.

Bottom Line: B

2004 A United Front Anthology
With stories and art by Steve Rolston, Scott Morse, Jim Mahfood, and others
Cartoon Militia $3

Like all anthologies there are both hits and misses in this Cartoon Militia collection. Most of the stories in this book fall somewhere in between, however. They are good, but not great. The best stories were S. Steven Struble’s “the Li’l Depressed Boy” and “Jack Spade and Tony Two-Fist” by Rolston. One thing this book is great for is introducing the reader to a lot of different artists and writers for a very reasonable price. For that alone, fans should consider picking it up.

Bottom Line: B

Spider-Man India #1
Script and Art by Jeevan J. Kang, Suresh Setharaman, and Sharad Devarajain
Marvel $2.99

Oh boy, I think I let the hype get to me on this one. I like the idea of Spider-Man in different countries, but I was expecting a re-imagining of the character and story rather than a rehashing of the tale. While the story is bent a bit to fit into Indian culture, Marvel didn’t go far enough with the idea. It is exactly like the story we already know. The names have hardly been changed. Mary Jane is now Meera Jain and Uncle Ben is Uncle Bhim. Although the art is great, I was expecting so much more.
Bottom Line: C +

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Lackluster World #1 Review

Lackluster World #1
Gen: Eric Publishing $3.95
By Eric Adams

I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed Lackluster World #1. Hmm, well, I’d better try, I suppose, since I’m writing a review.

Lackluster World is the story of Fahrenheit Monahan, an albino journalist for a city newspaper and his brother and sister, Kelvin and Celsius, respectively. Fahrenheit’s siblings are Christians, but not your typical Christians (at least like none I’ve ever known). These brainwashed duo are most definitely odd.

Fahrenheit has toiled long enough in his job, a cog in the machine, and he’s reached a breaking point. We see Fahrenheit as just as he’s breaking and as he’s about to be reborn or “reanimated” as he says.

This is Eric Adams’s first comic, and that this is anyone’s first comic is really amazing. The art and design is in a beautifully fully rendered black and white. No minimalism for Adams. The writing, especially Fahrenheit’s inner dialog, is some of the best in comics today.

The only criticism I have is that Adams spent a little too long on Celsius and Kelvin. I thought they dominated more of the story than they could have. They’re so over-the-top simplistic that too much time with their characters can get grating.

By contrast, Fahrenheit is a much more complicated and full a character, and his dialogue is much more interesting. I hope Lackluster World #2 explores Fahrenheit and his “true potential” for more of the book. Adams states in his preface page that this is the first of seven or eight comics intended to be released quarterly.

Also worth mentioning is the Lackluster website. In most instances, Flash sites annoy the hell out of me, but the Lackluster site is gorgeous (make sure to turn on your speakers, too). This is by far the best Flash site I’ve seen. Like the comic, Adams displays his talent at graphic design. He has an amazing eye for design both on the site and in his comic.

You can read the first 16 pages of Lackluster World #1 on the site, and he reports that around December 1, there will be news and preview pages of issue #2.

Enjoy.

Bottom line: A-

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Zed 1 & 2 Review

By Michel Gagne
Gagne International Press $2.95 each

Something about a cute and desperate alien on the cover of a comic book really draws a girl in. No alien is more adorable and more desperate than Zed is on the cover of Zed #1. Something about the little guy makes the reader want to scoop him up, give him a big hug and solve all his problems.

The reader spends much of Zed #1 and #2 feeling this way. In these issues Gagne introduces us to Zed from the planet Gallos, an unlucky inventor. Zed’s invention, the Energizer, a device that turns rocks into battery cells, malfunctions and blows up the planet Xandria. The explosion kills everyone on the planet except for Zed, of course. Zed races back to Gallos to speak to the Emperor about the horrible accident. Meanwhile, other races on rival planets begin plotting retaliations for Zed’s grave mistake.

The story of Zed isn’t a new one, but it is how Gagne portrays emotion in Zed that makes the book shine. While the words describing Zed’s emotions might be simple, the look on Zed’s face is more complex. He lets us now exactly how he feels. He isn’t just sad, but is anguished and consumed with guilt. The depth of facial expressions is very impressive.

Gagne’s art is definitely the star of the show here. Previously he worked on the animated feature Osmosis Jones and the same style is employed here. Many of the aliens are long and lanky and look a lot like Osmosis. Some of the aliens are gnarlier too and have multiple eyeballs or gangly teeth. There is a lot of variety in the creatures and environments giving the book lasting impact.

The first two issues of Zed lend promise to the series. Issues 6 and 7 are scheduled for 2005 release and more will probably be planned. The story and especially Zed’s universe still has many avenues to explore. There is just so much more for Gagne to examine and this is a great start.

Bottom Line: A

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Ken Boesem’s 1918 and War Story: An American Parable

As Kerry reported, the Vancouver Comicon was a successful day for us. Not only did we get to meet and talk with Greg Rucka, Steve Rolston, Michel Gagne, and James Lloyd, but we also picked up a few comics treasures.

Two comics of special note are both by Ken Boesem. At the last con in Vancouver, I bought Boesem’s “On the Rocks” and after reading it knew I wanted to read more by Boesem. This time I picked up “1918” and “War Story: An American Parable.”

First off, I have to say I appreciate the time and, I’m sure, cost Boesem puts into the production of his comics. While “War Story” is in a more typical mini-comic format (4.25 x 5.5 in.), “1918” was produced, like “On the Rocks,” in a larger size (5.5 x 8.5 in.) on substantial paper with a heavier card stock cover. The print job itself is high quality as well. In other words, Boesem takes care with his product and this is just a reflection of the care he takes with his stories.

“1918” ($4) was published last August and included in the 2003 SPX Anthology. This wordless story follows the inception and spread of the influenza pandemic of 1918. The Spanish Flu, as it is also called, infected a fifth of the world’s population and killed somewhere between 20 to 70 million people in just one year.

In addition to the 10-page story, Boesem writes a four-page historical essay about the pandemic and includes a page list of non-fiction, fiction, children’s books, film/TV, and plays dealing with the influenza pandemic of 1918. The most striking page of the comic is the cover illustration showing a skeleton wielding a scythe and representing the flu, striking down a mass of very small human representatives who all together appear as grass.

The other comic I picked up was “War Story” ($2). The illustrations in this comic show pictures of typical American life in the present day: families watching the President on TV, displays of patriotism, pro- and anti-war groups clashing, etc.

However, the words coming from the illustrations are from a quote by Nazi leader Hermann Goring as recorded by psychologist Gustave Gilbert in the mid 1940s. Perhaps some may feel Boesem’s execution of his point was heavy handed, but I thought it was disturbingly on point.

I recommend both of these comics from Boesem. You can find out more about the comics and ordering information here.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Vancouver Comicon Review

My only Con experience is limited to the Penny Arcade Expo back in August, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from my first actual comicon. Erin, Karrin, and I set out at noon to drive up to Vancouver. We had no trouble at the boarder and didn’t even get lost along the way. We stopped to exchange our money and to eat some grub. Arriving at Heritage Hall at about two, we paid the astoundingly cheap $3 admission fee and entered.

Although the con was a lot smaller than I expected, it was still extremely fun. Tables were made up of about 50% retailers and 50% artists and writers. This mix suited the room well. We could peruse back issues, both more expensive books and those from the loony ($1) bins and also pop over and buy independent and self-published books right from their creators. Another great thing about the con was that it had hourly door prizes. Karrin was the lucky winner of the Art of Marvel hardcover.

The stars of the show were writer Greg Rucka and artist Steve Rolston. They were both very approachable and happy to sign or draw for fans. I had my Queen and Country Operation Broken Ground signed by both of them. Erin had Queen and Country #1 signed and Karrin had Rucka sign Wonder Woman: Hiketeia for Erin.

We also bought books by both Michel Gagne and Ken Boesem, which they graciously signed for us. We were surprised to found out that Gagne, with his impressive resume, lives in our sleepy hamlet, Bellingham, Washington. I had always seen his Zed in our local comic shop, but never bought it. This time, I bought issues one and two. The character Zed is just too cute to resist, plus I think it is important to “buy local.”

Even though I was on a budget of $20, I came away with some good books. In addition to what I listed above, I also bought Cartoon Militia’s anthology “A United Front” at Rolston’s table and a snowman Christmas card and the “Trilogy of Terror” from Kelley Everaert. Finally, I picked up an issue of “Demon Gun” from a loony bin. Look for reviews of all my books here in the coming weeks.

The Vancouver Comicon was a great first con experience. It was small and laid back. It was nice that there were no lines and you could talk to everyone if you wished. The con felt like a warm up for the Emerald City Comicon in February and I can’t wait to go to another one.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Single-Panel Reviews 11/13/04

Angeltown #1
Vertigo $2.95
Writer: Gary Phillips; Artist: Shawn Martinbrough; Colorist: Lee Loughridge
My first thought after finishing this issue was: man, this comic is crowded! There is a large cast of characters introduced for a first issue, actually for a five-issue mini-series this is still quite a few, but we end up knowing very little about any of these characters.
Nate Hollis: main character, a private investigator charged with finding …
Theophus “The Magician” Burnett: a basketball player wanted for questioning in the murder of …
Allison Dillon: Burnett’s ex-wife who just published a tell-all book then was found dead.
Monica Orozco: Burnett’s lawyer, the person who sent Hollis after him.
Morris & Nameless thug: hired thugs by …
Paul Tedajikian, aka Paul Teddy: assumedly a mob player
Irma Ducet, aka Irma Deuce: Bounty hunter
Gina: Irma’s lover
Duddly: Burnett’s teammate
Toasty: aspiring actress who’s been a guest at Burnett’s private parties
Maynard Regus: Detective on the LAPD covering the murder case, also introduced is his father who is in an extended care facility
Obadiah “Clutch” Hollis: Nate’s grandfather, also worth noting is Earl, the deceased son of Clutch, supposedly a crooked cop.
Kristy: Nate Hollis’s lover
Whew! That’s 16 characters in 32 pages, about 10 of which have the potential to be regular characters. The premise is of a typical cop-drama sort, so some of the players are stock characters, but Nate Hollis and others do have the potential to be very interesting characters. Too bad Phillips didn’t trim down the cast a bit. The issue kept me interested but didn’t suck me in. I’m interested in where this will go, though, so I’ll keep reading.
Bottom line: B

Jane’s World #16
Girl Twirl Comics $5.95
By Paige Braddock
In this issue, Jane plays a smaller role, especially to Chelle but also to Ethan. The road trip wraps up, leaving Chelle facing some tough memories, but by the end of the issue, Chelle and Jill seem on their way to working some of their history out. Not seeming to work out, on the other hand, is Ethan and Dixie’s relationship. This issue marks the first all comics format for Jane’s World and completes the transition from strip to full-page format. The feeling exuded from this new format is that of stretching out on a couch after a long day’s work. Braddock seems to be enjoying all her space, and so am I. This series just keeps getting better.
Bottom line: B+

The Ballad of Sleeping Beauty #5
Beckett $1.99
Writer: Gabriel Benson; Penciller & Inker: Mike Hawthorne; Colorist: Mike Atiyeh
What I enjoy the most about this issue is the use of both the panels and the page, and, in general, the inks throughout the series. Really the art and the high production value have been what’s keeping me coming back each issue. I like the series in general, but the writing is lacking something—I can’t quite put my finger on it. I can understand slowly revealing the characters’ history, but perhaps enough hasn’t been revealed to keep me really intrigued. Or maybe it’s the underlying plot that I’m struggling with. Cole and Will have been friends for years – Cole’s wife was murdered years ago, and misled by the real killer – Drake. Cole has been seeking revenge ever since. Now knowing that Drake is the real murderer, Cole has to live with the guilt of killing many innocents. Recently (at the start of the series) Will and Cole have become involved with a new character, Red, a young man with an unbelievable tale of a town fast asleep and his love, a sleeping beauty, who awaits him. Trouble is, since the beginning of the series, the three have chased and been chased, gotten nowhere in between glimpses of backstory and shoot ‘em up scenes, and really that’s about it. Like I said, I’m coming back for Hawthorne’s art, but after a while, I’ll need more to hook me.
Bottom line: B

Friday, November 12, 2004

Single-Panel Reviews 11/12/04

Y: the Last Man #28
Written by Brian K. Vaughan; Pencils by Pia Guerra; Inked by Jose Marzan, Jr.
Vertigo $2.95

After a sub par issue last month Vaughan and the gang return to form and their usual amazing stories. From the cover with the 1960s sci-fi feel down to the meeting between Hero and 355 that we’ve been waiting months for, this issue has got it. Why isn’t everyone (and I mean comic fans and non-readers alike) picking up this book? I just don’t understand it.

Bottom Line: A

Green Arrow #43
Script by Judd Winick; Pencils by Phil Hester; Inked by Ande Parks
DC $2.50

I haven’t read Green Arrow since the first few issues of the relaunch in 2001, but when comic book blogs and websites started pumping this landmark issue, I decided to jump on board. When a company decides to launch something as potentially controversial as an HIV positive character, I have to wonder about their motives. Are they doing it to enhance the storyline or is it just for publicity and sales? It really is too early to tell how the storyline will go, as the shocker was only revealed on the very last panel of the very last page, but I remain positive (no pun intended) about the coming issues. The writing in this issue is superb and Winick should get a lot of credit for his work here. The story is hardly about what it will become forever known for, but what we get is outstanding. The hype and publicity machine surely worked on this issue and many readers, including me, will be around for a bit to see how the storyline plays out. No matter DC’s intention with this character, the result here is worth a look.

Bottom Line: B+

Spider-Girl #80
Script, plot and art by Tom DeFalco and Pat Olliffe
Marvel $2.99

I mentioned last month that this issue of Spider-Girl would be a great jumping on point. It definitely is, giving new readers a clear look at May’s world. We see her at home, at school, and as Spider-Girl. I thought this issue was a little cheesier than most, but I still enjoyed it. Also it is nice to see the return of May’s best friend Davida Kirby. Feel free to start reading the book any time now.

Bottom Line: B

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Or Else #1 Review

Or Else from http://www.usscatastrophe.com/kh/Or Else #1
By Kevin Huizenga
Drawn and Quarterly; $3.50

Or Else #1 contains five short stories all very different from each other -- one a short day-in-the-life, the next a longer first-person narrative, a one-page Fight or Run story (think Spy vs. Spy), another a gorgeous meditative segment using an Asian landscape, and the last a telling of a Midwestern folk belief.

It’s Huizenga’s sure ink lines that tell his skill, exuding confidence and drawing the reader in. This coupled with Drawn & Quarterly’s high production value make Or Else a thing of beauty visually. Like many indie creators, Huizenga’s narrative is that of straightforward simplicity.

For example the one-page Glenn Ganges strip is simply six panels, each showing Glenn working on different chores around the house with the final two panels showing Glenn reading a book and then sitting with coffee on the front steps of his house. There’s a quietness to this that can’t be easily explained only immensely enjoyed.

In “NST ’04,” the longer first-person narrative, Huizenga shows Glenn and the way he spends his hours and finds community in a small town when his insomnia flares up.

The most beautiful “story” in my eyes was the 15-page “Chan Woo Kim” that placed sparse text segments from a boy’s adoption papers over haunting landscape scenes. I keep flipping back over these pages, they are so beautiful.

The last story is “Jeezoh” an explanation of a Midwestern folk belief about Jeezoh statues. These small dolls or statues dot graveyards and are thought to save souls stuck in Hell, especially children who don’t survive full-term pregnancies.

I truly hope Or Else #1 is a sign more great things will be coming from Huizenga, because one of the strongest feelings I’m left with at the end of the book is that I want to see more.

See sample pages from Or Else #1.

Bottom Line: A

Monday, November 08, 2004

Single-Panel Reviews 11/08/04

Catwoman: When in Rome #2
By Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale
DC Comics $3.50

I continue to be impressed with the Loeb and Sale team. This Catwoman book really packs a punch. The story is entertaining and interesting and continues with the film noir feel as laid out in the first issue. The art is spectacular as well, capturing the mystery of the storyline in dark and cloudy tones. My favorite thing about the book though, is Loeb and Sale’s portrayal of the Riddler. He is even squirrellier than I imagined. If the story continues on its way, I think it will be one of the best of the year. It will certainly make a great trade or hard cover at some point.

Bottom Line: A

Stoker’s Dracula #1
Adapted by Roy Thomas and Dick Giordano
Marvel $3.99

This project, originally started in the 1970s, will finally be finished with this four-issue run. The first issue, released right before Halloween, came out just when I was looking for a creepy monster tale. The adaptation of Stoker’s story is perfectly suited for comics as it is rich with visual details and descriptions. The black and white book seems like such a departure for Marvel. I know they’ve done Dracula books before, but this book is different. The art is classic and stands the test of time even after its 30-years on the shelf. It also has a lot more text than the average Marvel title. This book is a real treat from the grayed out antique feel of the art down to the easy to understand adaptation of the original novel. It’s truly delightful.

Bottom Line: A

The Question #1
Written by Rick Veitch; Art and Color by Tommy Lee Edwards; Lettered by John Workman
DC $2.95

The cover of the Question with its streaky, blocky and well-lit look is what drew me into this book. The writing is about as half successful as the cover unfortunately, but still I’m not totally dissapointed in the issue. The problem is that the story is broken into two parts: “today” and “yesterday”. “Today” is a great story and where the action really begins with the Question Vic Sage traveling to Metropolis. The “yesterday” story where the Question fights a thug is not so good. It is a very formulaic backstory that instead of just giving information completely distracts from the “today” story. Half the book is great though, even though it is dragged down. I’m hoping that issue 2 continues the way “today” was going. That would make the six-issue run very promising.

Bottom Line: B-

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Comics in the News: Week of 10/31/04

Worldwide Attention Over ‘Funny Pages’
November 5, 2004
Seattle, Washington
A short article with companion audio file on Fantagraphics Books and their Peanuts compilations.
Read the full story from KOMO 4 News.

‘Vespers’ is NOW Comics’ Comeback
November 5, 2004
Chicago, Illinois
Article looking at NOW Comics comeback with the recently released graphic novel “Vespers.” The story features Tony C. Caputo talking about the past and future of NOW Comics.
Read the full story from The Indianapolis Star.

Sacramento Artist Jay Howell Releases Comic Book
November 4, 2004
Sacramento, California
A look at creator Jay Howell and his new indie comic “Negatron.” The book is described as “filled with eccentric observations, free-riding character adventures, and tiny autobiographical anecdotes that reveal little about the author, except for the fact that he has a great sense of humor.”
Read the full story from the California Aggie.

Uncanny Ability
October 31, 2004
Terre Haute, Indiana
Tim Jessell speaks about his lifetime love of drawing and his recent collaboration with Stan Lee on the upcoming children’s book “SuperHero Christmas.”
Read the full story from the Tribune Star.

Gospel as Graphic Novel
October 31, 2004
Fort Worth, Texas
Robert Luedke is interviewed about his Christian graphic novel “Eye Witness: A Fictional Tale of Absolute Truth.” The GN focuses on spiritual awakening and Jesus’ trial and crucifixion. Luedke talks about the challenges of getting his GN distributed and accepted.
Read the full story from the East Valley Tribune.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Vancouver Comicon November 14

Mark your calendars for the Vancouver Comicon, which will take place from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday, November 14, at Heritage Hall (3102 Main St.) in Vancouver, B.C.

If you live anywhere near Vancouver, you'll want to stop by to see these special guests:

Greg Rucka
Writer of Queen & Country, Gotham Central, Wolverine, Wonder Woman, Adventures of Superman, Detective Comics, Ultimate Daredevil, and many more comics and novels.

Jeff Parker
Creator of The Interman; Artist of Vampirella, Batgirl #38, Wonder Woman #86, 87, Robin #95, 96, Tales of the Vampires #3.

Michel Gagné
Creator of Insanely Twisted Rabbits, Frenzied Fauna: From A-Z, A Search for Meaning, Zed.

Steve Rolston
Creator of One Bad Day; Artist of Queen and Country, Pounded, Mek

James Lloyd
Penciller of Futurama Comics and Simpsons Comics

Also appearing at the comicon are: Ken Boesem, creator of Barking Raven Press; Kelly Everaert, creator of Trilogy of Terror; Robin Thompson, creator of Champions of Hell; Andy Mori, creator of Flopnik; Darren Davis, creator of 10th Muse; Verne Andru, creator of Captain Canuck, Phantacea; Trevor Frick; and Rusty Beach, creator of Ghettotoons.

Admission is only $3 to see these excellent guests! Kids under 14 are admitted free. If you are interested in Dealers' Tables, they are $50 for a center table and $55 for a table near the wall.

For more information, you can see the website (you'll need to scroll down a bit), or call 604-322-6412.

I attended the Comix & Stories Comicon back in August, and it was a riot, so I highly recommend coming by this comicon if you're able. Read my account of the last event here.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Phase 7 #5 Review

Created by Alec Longstreth

Our local comic book shop doesn’t have much in the way of self-published comics. Every time I get a chance, I pop down to Seattle and pick up books that just aren’t available in our small northwest Washington hamlet.

This time around, I grabbed Alec Longstreth’s Phase 7 #5. The 32-page 8.5 x 11 black and white book was published in September. The inside-cover notes that this is the only issue of Phase 7 to come out this year.

I’m not familiar with Longstreth’s work, but I jumped on at a good time. This issue marks that first chapter in a five-part storyline dubbed “Basewood.” The story is interesting right from the get go. The main character wakes up beaten and lost in the middle of the woods. As one would expect from a first issue, a lot of set up occurs on its pages. The rest of the book details the adventure the main character goes through in trying to figure out what exactly is going on and how he got to be lost.

If I can find one fault in the writing of this book, it’s that Longstreth doesn’t give the reader any answers. Many questions are left at the end and we don’t know when the next issue will come out. I would have liked at least some sort of answer to tide me over. That is just a minor complaint though and I need to just deal with the suspense. The book has many strong points.

The art is the coolest thing about Phase 7. Longstreth is great at drawing both emotion and physical characteristics. When the main character is worried and hurt, he really looks worried and hurt. When he is cold, you can see him shivering. I was very impressed by this.

Phase 7 is a very neat book. Longstreth is a great artist and a good storyteller. The Basewood storyline has some great potential and I hope #6 comes out soon.

Bottom Line: B

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Single-Panel Reviews 11/02/04

Some quick looks at recent comics.

Hard Time TPB
DC $9.95
Writer: Steve Gerber; Atist: Brian Hurtt; Colorist: Brian Haberlin Avalon Studios
Hard Time is about high school student Ethan Harrow, who is given a jail sentence of 50 to life for perpetrating a Columbine-type situation with a friend. Other than being a minor sent to jail, the catch is that Ethan has powers he slowly awakens to in jail. The trade collects the first six issues of the comic. Generally I liked the book. I’m a fan of Hurtt’s art and the concept is intriguing. However, I had some problems with some of Gerber’s characterizations. First of all, it is hard to buy Ethan’s character for at least the first four issues. Ethan’s method of coping is being a total smart ass, which I could buy for a teenager, except Ethan is supposed to be the bullied kid in high school, and I just can’t believe that on the bus to jail he’d be shooting off his mouth at another soon-to-be inmate. Frankly, I’d think he’d be peeing his pants. By the end of the six issues, though, Ethan’s character has been fleshed out a bit more, and he actually becomes a little less tough in some ways. Another character who I felt got pretty old by the end of the trade was “Preacher Gantry” who is an off-the-wall Christian. Maybe reading the issues one a month instead of in one sitting, his character wouldn’t have grated on me so much. But saying things like “Vengance is not yours, but only the Lord’s” and “You dare speak thus to the hand of God?!” so often became pretty tiresome. Really, I think Gerber just overused this character. This book has a lot of potential, but what it really needs is some more interesting characterization. I’d be likely to pick up the next trade, but not very likely to make a point to find the back issues and grab it each month.
Bottom line: B

The Goon #9
Dark Horse $2.99
By Eric Powell
This issue of The Goon tells the tale, or maybe that’s legend, of “The History of the Dockside Fighting Fish-Canners and the End of the Black Hand.” The story recounts the formation of the town’s football team “The Fighting Fish-Canners” as The Goon calls in his favors with other ruffians in town to form the team. Also intertwined with the team’s formation and early success is the rise and fall of certain gangs and mob families in town. Powell’s art and colors are always outstanding, but some of the most fun pages in the book are photorealistic pages that frame the story. These pages look as if you are reading the hand-typed files and paperclipped photos right on top of your desk with an ashtray nearby and bottle caps strewn around to boot.
Bottom line: A-

WE3 #2
Vertigo $2.95
Writer: Grant Morrison; Artist: Frank Quitely; Colorist and Digital Inker: Jamie Grant
I was trying to describe WE3 #2 to a friend the other day, and the best I could come up with was “vomitously gorgeous.” It is so gruesome and yet so beautifully rendered at the same time, that no matter how much my brain didn’t want to process the gore, my eyes just had to focus in on the details. The art – inking, coloring, and all -- is really beautiful, but I have mixed feelings about the book as a whole. In fact I felt this way about the last series I read by Morrison – Seaguy. I liked the art, but I just didn’t dig the story nearly as much. With one more issue to go, I’m curious how this one will end up.
Bottom line: B

Solo #1: Tim Sale
DC $4.95
Writers: Darwyn Cooke, Tim Sale, Diana Schutz, Jeph Loeb, Brian Azzarello; Artist: Tim Sale, with coloring on two stories by Dave Stewart and one by Jose Villarrubia
Now, this is just plain beautiful. Six short stories, five different writers, one artist. That’s Solo’s theme: take one artist and mix with different writers, give them free range, and see what happens. From playful, to noir, to Robert Browning-like, the stories in this book comprised a surprisingly wide range in terms of both art and subject. I highly recommend this book; it’s best seen for yourself.
Bottom line: A

Monday, November 01, 2004

November Previews Highlights: Kerry's Picks

Last month I picked a lot of Dark Horse books, this month Image has the most interesting titles and that is definitely reflected in all my picks. I found a lot this month actually and I’ll have to weed some out before I preorder.

Pick of the Month: Four-Letter Worlds
Image – page 139; $12.95; 144 pgs.

I’ve echoed Erin’s pick of the month, because it’s just so flipping sweet. Erin is also right when she says that it doesn’t matter what the book is about because there are so many talented people involved. I perked up right away when I saw Jim Mahfood, Steve Rolston and Andi Watson’s names. Those three would be enough for me to buy it, but when you throw in Robert Kirman, Scott Morse, and the rest you can’t go wrong.

The Amazing Joy Buzzards #2

Image – page 129; $2.85; 32 pgs.

This book revolves around fictional rock band the Amazing Joy Buzzards and their Scooby Doo meets X-Files adventures. I didn’t notice the preview for the first issue last month, but issue two looks like an adventure.

Beyond Avalon #1
Image – page 131; $2.95; 32 pgs.

When superheroes die, they are whisked off to the Island of Avalon, a utopian society. Only one person has ever been born on the island, Megan the daughter of King Arthur. Problem is Megan wants off the island and is ready to explore the dimensions and worlds that aren’t as perfect as her home. This is all ages title will be released quarterly.

Lions, Tigers, & Bears #1
Image – page 142; $2.95; 32 pgs.

It was the cover art that drew me into this title. It is just so dang cute. Then I read what it was about and it got even cuter. The book stars Joey and his stuffed animals. It turns out that just like Toy Story, stuffed animals do come alive while we sleep. Joey’s group The Night Pride protects him from the evil Beasties.

Pigtale #1
Image – page 146; $2.95; 32 pgs.

Wannabe PI Boston Booth is down on his luck until he meets Clyde, a talking pig. The unlikely partnership leads to many adventures in this book based in Portland, Oregon.

Shaolin Cowboy #2
Burlyman Entertainment - page 246; $3.50; 32 pgs.

The text called this book an “all-you-can-eat fisticuffs buffet” That’s some great imagery and I’m looking forward to this series with excitement. Also, there’s a baddie named King Crab, whose claws appear on the cover. There will be a variant cover released for this book, if you’re in to that sort of thing.

Breach #1
DC - page 74; $2.95; 40 pgs.

They’re dubbing Breach “The next great hero of the DCU . . . or perhaps its greatest threat.” I like a story that can go either way. Ambiguity is my kind of plot device. There is a three page preview that was definitely ambiguous and visually stunning.

Apocalypse Nerd #1
Dark Horse – page 20; $2.99; 32 pgs.

Ever wonder what would happen if a middle manager of a software company was stuck in a post-apocalyptic world? Me neither, but this new six-part series will be sure to tell us. It looks to be a hilarious ride.

Jenny Finn #1 & #2
Atomeka – page 234; $6.99 each; 56 pgs.

Mike Mignola and Troy Nixey offer up their Jenny Finn mini-graphic novels. It was originally made for Oni, but will be published here with additional material. I’m on the Mignola bandwagon now, so I’ll be picking these up.