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.

Monday, February 28, 2005

Kerry Reads Manga!
Only the Ring Finger Knows Vol. 1

By Satoru Kannagi and Hotaru Odagiri
Digital Manga Publishing, $12.95

It’s no secret that I’m new to manga. In fact every manga title I’ve read has been reviewed here. I’m not yet familiar with the different genres of manga. I know they exist, I just don’t know what they are. Until I picked up Only the Ring Finger Knows, I was unfamiliar with the Yaoi or “Boy’s Love” genre. The back cover of the book explains that this genre is rising in popularity here in North America, especially among females. Although it doesn’t mention this, I imagine it is also popular among young gay males.

Only the Ring Finger Knows is the story of high school students Wataru Fujii and Yuichi Kazuki. At Wataru and Kazuki’s school, it is popular to wear matching rings with your girlfriend or boyfriend. The boys soon find that their rings match, when the rings accidentally get switched in the washroom. Soon Wataru and Kazuki are in a constant battle of love and hate as they sort out the stories of their rings and their feelings for each other.

The story contained in volume one is quite a roller-coaster. Wataru and Kazuki spend most of the book trying to find out how they really feel for each other by alternating between fighting and complimenting each other. Their dialog is really the star of the book as they engage in lots of funny repartee and frustrating misunderstandings. The quick progression between the two emotions keeps the reader right in the middle of the story. I found myself pulling for the boys early on and when one of them would do something to mess up the momentary peace between them I’d quickly read on hoping they would soon make up.

The character of Wataru is especially well written. The story is told from his point of view, so the reader quickly becomes attached to him. Even though he is very hot-headed, I didn’t want anything bad to happen to him or for him to be hurt. The best part about him though is his childlike reaction to Kazuki and the way it is portrayed. After he speaks to someone, Wataru often questions what he has just said. This question is written in smaller print just outside the frame, so the reader always knows what he is thinking. Also, when he has done something particularly immature, Wataru is portrayed as an angry child in the next frame over. This really brings the reader right into the thick of the arguments and is a well-portrayed character trait.

The only thing I disliked about the book was the artist’s rendering of Kazuki. He wasn’t drawn with much consistency. In some frames he looked like an alien and in others he looked like David Bowie. Sometimes it was hard to tell the two boys apart even though one is blond and the other has dark hair.

I’m certainly glad to find out about this Yaoi genre of manga. Only the Ring Finger Knows is a refreshingly unique story to this American comic reader. Besides the occasional gay character in comics like Runaways or a few comics with a gay main character such as Jane’s World, I’m largely unfamiliar with gay-themed American comics. It’s nice to see that Digital Manga Publishing is bringing this and other similar stories to the States.

Speaking as a self-proclaimed Comic Queen, I whole-heartedly recommend Only the Ring Finger Knows to both fans of romance-themed comics and “Queens” of all sorts.

Bottom Line: B+

Ebay Comic Watch 02/27/05

Here’s the latest installment of Ebay Comic Watch. You can find these particular auctions by pasting the item number in ebay’s search box. Note that the ending times are in PST, so calculate accordingly.

The Sketchbook Diaries Vols. 1-4 from James Kochalka
Bidding starts at $1, shipping’s $4.50
Item number: 6515039445
Ends Mar-02-05 22:01:03 PST

Geisha GN by Andi Watson
Bidding starts at $1, shipping is free
Item number: 6515191196
Ends Mar-05-05 18:00:15 PST

Wonder Woman #1-17 (1987 series)
Bidding starts at $6, shipping is $5.50
Item number: 6515334674
Ends Mar-06-05 11:24:06 PST

Ministry of Space #1-3 (full run)
Bidding starts at $2, shipping’s $4
Item number: 6515348035
Ends Mar-06-05 12:08:08 PST

Pounded #1-3 (full run)
Bidding starts at $.99, shipping is $3
Item number: 6515410559
Ends Mar-06-05 16:37:14 PST

Friday, February 25, 2005

Single-Panel Reviews 02/25/05

Solo #3
DC $4.95
Writer & Artist: Paul Pope; Colorists: Jose Villarrubia, Dave Stewart, James Jean
I’m really digging this series. Each issue has been entertaining, creative, and unexpected. This wasn’t my favorite issue, but there was certainly plenty to enjoy. Pope ranges from a Greek tale to a Jack-Kirby-tribute OMAC origin story, to two slice-of-life stories, to a Batman and Robin tale. I enjoyed the down-to-earth, slice-of-life ones the most. These being “Life-Sized Monster Ghost,” a four-page story about a boy’s travails with send-away “treasures” he finds in a comic; and En Esta Esquina (On This Corner), a six-pager following the occurrences of a particular street corner over a night’s time. Pope’s art varies a bit from story to story, but his signature seems to be cartoon realism with a chunky line – kind of superhero old school. He’s very skilled both with his art and story, and there’s a real sense of fun throughout the book.
Bottom line: B+

Runaways #1
Marvel $2.99
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan; Penciller: Adrian Alphona; Inker: Craig Yeung; Colorist: Udon’s Christina Strain
I’m glad to see this title back. This is just an enjoyable series about a group of kids with powers, plain and simple. The runaways Karolina, Molly, Nico, Gert, and Chase are out on their own trying to clean up the mess that’s been created since their parents bit the dust. The Pride might have been evil, but they did keep LA in working order keeping the number of evil guys in tights running around to a minimum. So, the Runaways are trying to reign things in as best they can. “Trying” being the operative word. We’re also introduced to a small group being formed to help young people who have been superheroes reenter normal life; and Vaughan sets up the possibility of a supervillain to come. Whew, that’s quite a bit of things happening in this first issue. The story gets off to a good start, but I’m a little less impressed by the art. For the most part I thought Alphona did a great job. He draws a pretty angular version of most characters and Strain adds a nice soft coloring to the book. However, Alphona seems to have real trouble drawing Chase. His character is drawn so inconsistently that at one point I wasn’t sure who the characters was. Also, I’d say it would help to have read the previous Runaways series, but not required.
Bottom line: A-

Batman: The Man Who Laughs
DC $6.95
Writer: Ed Brubaker; Artist: Doug Mahnke; Colorist: David Baron
I found this to just be a really average Batman and the Joker story. The writing was good, the art was good (loved the creepy joker faces), but the plot itself was not impressive at all. I expected a little more from Brubaker – in fact that’s the biggest reason I picked this up. Like I said, the writing was good, it just lacked any kind of twist to make it stand out from the legions of Batman stories out there.
Bottom line: B

ABC's from ABC's of Superpowers
Little Gnome Books $8.95
By Jason Lethcoe
This is the best ABCs board book of all time. If you have a toddler or know anyone who has a toddler, please buy this board book for them. Hell, buy one for yourself while you’re at it. Each page features a kid with superpowers that match up with a letter of the alphabet: from Greta’s Grin to Ozzy’s Ogle, this book is a classic. It appears to be done in colored pencil in very cartoon stylings. I can’t explain it better, you just have to see it. I don’t give out A+s very often, but this earns The Comic Queen Seal of Approval with no hesitation.
Bottom line: A+

Thursday, February 24, 2005

I Missed the Boat: Artbabe

Often, I feel like I live in a pop culture cocoon. Sometimes, more often than I’d like to admit actually, cool stuff just passes me by. Eventually, when I do discover it and realize its greatness I wonder, “What was I doing in (insert year here) that caused me to miss (insert awesome discovery here)?” Was I too busy with Uncanny X-Men and oodles of Spiderman titles to notice all the sweet little indie gems floating by? Looks like I missed another one.

I’ve wanted to check out Jessica Abel’s work for some time now. I haven’t even read La Perdida yet. Finally, I purchased five Artbabe books on eBay, volume one, issue five and volume two, issues one-four. Now that I’ve read two if them, it’s safe to say that I missed the boat on Artbabe and Jessica Abel’s work.

Released in the mid-1990s, Artbabe is the quintessential indie-comic. The slice-of-life books are filled with stories of young urban-dwelling women. They go to work, go out on dates, and live normal lives. Originally, the book was self-published. The first four issues, now hard to find, were Xeroxed mini-comics. That all changed with Volume one, number five, when Abel won a Xeric grant and published the book in a regular comic format. Fantagraphics picked up the series from there and published the four issues from volume two.

What makes the stories so great is how easy and relatable they are. It’s easy to imagine that I am an Artbabe living the great single life in the city. The characters are smart, witty, and beautiful. They might have craptacular jobs and fight with their roommates, but they still get by just fine. The book is filled with, and I hate to use this phrase, urban hipster sensibility. Really, though, that’s the only way I can think to describe them.

I’m very impressed with volume two, number one. This issue contains just one story as opposed to the other issues that hold a few shorter ones. The story is of a guy and a girl who really like each other. They can’t seem to act normal around each other though and any time they spend together is very awkward. The book starts with a conversation from the guy’s point of view and then switches a few pages in to show you the same conversation from the guy’s point of view. It’s like being in both the characters’ heads. The story is perfect for those of you who’ve ever wondered what your crush is thinking after you just said something ridiculously dumb. I could relate to this story especially.

I expect we’ll be seeing a lot more of Abel in the future if Artbabe and the success of La Perdida is any indication. She has a great voice in her comics and writes with humor and a dash of sarcasm. She does a great job drawing realistic women, something very rare in the comics’ world.

Yet again, I missed the boat on another great series and another great artist. Luckily, I’ve discovered Ms. Abel before the release of La Perdida number five. Thankfully, I’ve got some time to play catch up.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

B.P.R.D.: Plague of Frogs TPB Review

Story by Mike Mignola; Art by Guy Davis; Colors by Dave Stewart; Letters by Clem Robbins
Dark Horse Comics, $17.95

This is my first exposure to B.P.R.D. Over the last few months, I’ve been slowly immersing myself in Hellboy’s world. Abe Sapien is my favorite character, so this story, which highlights his origin, was a good jumping on point for me.

In this storyline, the gang investigates a doctor who is infected with a spore and turns into a large fungus beast. Later, frog monsters run amok as the group explores a revival meeting gone wrong.

I’ve been consistently impressed with Mike Mignola’s work. His stories are always clear and seem well thoughtout. No point is unexamined and the reader isn’t left wondering about anything. This characteristic is very much appreciated. This book is a prime example of Mignola’s thoroughness. All the characters have great parts large or small. Abe’s story occurs right near the end and flow seamlessly with the rest of the story.

Mignola is also skilled at crafting great and realistic characters despite their supernatural powers. They are likeable and seem like regular people even with their oddities. Abe, especially, is a great character with many complexities. He is very easy to relate to and has mostly human characteristics not amphibian or superhero ones. I’m not going to spoil anything here, but the origin story is really a perfect fit. It couldn’t have been better. Trust me.

As always, Davis is spectacular. Every character is perfectly portrayed and the panels are clear and clutter free. Hellboy is always one of the more unique books stylistically and B.P.R.D. sticks with that mold. The colors are different from most books in that they aren’t perfectly red or blue, but are off or diluted a bit. I really like this style and find that it adds to the atmosphere of the book.

Plague of Frogs is the perfect book for the new B.P.R.D. reader. Any background you need to know is explained either in the text or in brief footnotes. It is an interesting story that highlights a great character.

Bottom Line: A

Monday, February 21, 2005

The Comics Interpreter Review

The Comics Interpreter Vol. 2 No. 3
Abscess Press $4.95

Wanting to compare The Comics Interpreter (TCI) to The Comics Journal (TCJ) is like wanting to scratch a Minnesota mosquito bite. It’s only wanting in the sense that it’s an uncontrollable need that consumes every building block of your genetic code until you do something about it … say, scratch it. So, here ya’ go: TCI is a thinner, leaner TCJ. It’s similar in many ways: they both have reviews, interviews, and comics; however, TCJ is mostly meatier and also more expensive.

I enjoy TCJ, but I have to admit, it takes me so long to read each issue, it was refreshing to read TCI all the way through without a huge investment of time. This is not to say TCI is light on content or quality. Before I get too far ahead of myself, though, let’s get to some specifics of this issue.

The issue begins with five reviews of comics from various genres. There’s an article about the mystery from the early 1990s of Al Columbia and the fourth issue of Alan Moore’s Big Numbers; an interview with Tak Toyoshima; a critical look at James Jean’s covers and interview with the artist; an essay about Teddy Kristiansen and his work; and a 20-page homage to the worst of George W. Bush by various creators.

The highlight of the issue for me was the cover story on James Jean. The cover itself was gorgeous, and the article was the best written piece of the issue. The publisher and main voice of TCI is Robert Young, a very skilled writer and a joy to read, especially with this article. Young takes a critical look at Jean’s covers, specifically his various Fables covers, but he also touches on Jean’s Batgirl covers. Especially interesting was Young’s look at Jean’s many influences and how this shines through in his artwork.

The other interview was with Secret Asian Man’s creator, Tak Toyoshima. I’m not familiar with Toyoshima’s work, but by the end of the article vowed to remedy that situation. The original comics devoted to “W” were both amusing and disturbing … sort of how I feel about the man himself.

It’s a review I’m going to pick at a bit—Young’s look at Damon Hurd and Pedro Camello’s A Sort of Homecoming. I’ll admit I haven’t read this particular book, but my beef isn’t with the treatment of the book itself; it’s when it gets a little more personal about anyone who enjoys anything Hurd’s written that bugged me. I strongly believe everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, and certainly Young has a right to say whatever he’d like (especially since this is his publication), but I believe in maintaining some sort of line of tact. For example, the part that got me the most is: “While he’s a reasonably competent writer who is both young enough and motivated enough to get better, at this juncture Hurd’s hype machine makes far more noise than his talent. Granted a lot of that noise is the grinding tone of weak-kneed ‘critics’ already caught up in the machinery.” Yikes, that’s harsh. That and more than one bitter-sounding reference to TCJ later in the issue just kind of turns me off as a reader.

The other thing that could use a little work in TCI was some of the graphic elements aren’t quite high enough resolution for their size, thus causing some pixilation. This is really a minor complaint, however.

Overall, this is a solid publication that I will most definitely pick up in the future. The current issue is available from the TCI website along with back issues—I'm already looking forward to issue four.

Bottom Line: B+

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Ebay Comic Watch 2/20/05

Here’s a new type of post to The Comic Queen blog that I’m calling Ebay Comic Watch. I hope to post a handful of interesting comic auctions on ebay each Sunday. You can find these particular auctions by pasting the item number in ebay’s search box. Note that the ending times are in PST, so calculate accordingly.

Bizarro Comics
Bidding starts at $5, shipping varies
Item number: 6511969016
Ends Feb-20-05 19:09:30 PST

Shockrockets 1-6 (full series)
Bidding starts at $1.99, shipping is as low as $2
Item number: 6512530908
Ends Feb-21-05 22:52:59 PST

A Lot of 17 GNs and Trades including the “It’s a Bird,” “Bizarro World,” “Jar of Fools,” and a variety of Stormwatch trades
Bidding starts at $40, shipping’s $10
Item number: 6512607120
Ends Feb-22-05 09:52:42 PST

Lone Wolf and Cub -- all 28 Dark Horse volumes
Bidding was at $41 just a bit ago, shipping’s $15
Item number: 6512640530
Ends Feb-22-05 12:18:20 PST

Ren & Stimpy 1-20 plus a bunch of extras
Bidding starts at $5, shipping varies
Item number: 6512867929
Ends Feb-23-05 17:30:23 PST

Friday, February 18, 2005

Single-Panel Reviews 02/18/05

Damn Nation #1 (of 3)
Dark Horse $2.99
Writer: Andrew Cosby; Artist: J. Alexander
Honestly, if I hadn’t remembered the solicit in Previews, I would have no idea what was going on in this issue. It starts out well enough—a ship that disappeared from Murmansk, Russia, 16 years earlier is found in the Port of Miami, and with corpses that appear to come back to life. The story and characters soon become confusing. Suddenly it’s five years later and it appears to be set in Britain; there’s a covert mission to Buffalo, New York, for some reason; and more characters back in some government office we don’t know. Maybe it’s just that there’s too much setup for a part one of three story. I felt like there could have been a few better clues in the writing about what was perhaps happening. In addition, the style of the art is really beautiful in an edgy, dark way. However, at some points the tone itself is just too dark; it’s not clear at all times what character is which. But for all the complaints I have of the book, I’m still looking forward to the second issue. This has promise, and the look of the art alone is enough to keep me interested.
Bottom line: B-

Queen & Country Declassified Vol. 2, #1 (of 3)
Oni Press $2.95
Writer: Greg Rucka; Artist: Rick Burchett
The declassified miniseries illuminate the backstory of individuals in the Queen & Country greater storyline. This volume tells how Tom Wallace joined the SIS in the mid 1990s. There were a couple unclear points in the story (for instance at the beginning when the first dateline says September 23, 1995 and the subsequent scene says April 29, 1995, yet I’m led to believe we don’t actually go back in time but forward), but other than those little quibbles, this is a solid first issue. Burchett really does nice B&W work; his illustrations remind me of some of Alex Toth’s artwork. If you haven’t read any Queen & Country before, then I suggest you start elsewhere, but for fans of the series, this is important reading.
Bottom line: B+

A Strange Day GN
Alternative Comics $3.95
Writer: Damon Hurd; Artist: Tatiana Gill
On one hand I really enjoyed this slice-of-life story about two Cure-heads meeting for the first time while waiting for the release of the newest Cure album. It was a sweet story of how letting go and finding joy in the moment can change you in ways you never thought possible. On the other hand, it seemed to rely on a few too many conventions and clichés to really make it great. Both teenagers have dealt with death – one of schoolmates, one of a father – but they each deal with it in different ways and benefit from seeing each other’s perspective. This and some other individual scenes have just been dealt with in a similar way so often that Hurd didn’t bring enough of a unique voice to this story as he could have. I think this graphic novella is best thought of as an extended minicomic and really for the price, you could do a lot worse. Oh, I’m being too hard on this comic – it’s definitely worth reading, just go into it knowing it’s not going to be groundbreaking but rather a good light read.
Bottom line: B

Ex Machina #8
Wildstorm $2.95
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan; Penciller: Tony Harris; Inker: Tom Feister; Colorist: J.D. Mettler
This issue, part three of the “Tag” storyline, just really treads water from the last issue. We learn a little more about Mayor Hundred’s “origin story,” he gets about a day closer to marrying his aide’s brother and his partner, the FBI give him a heads up on what we discovered in the last issue along with another unfortunate related event, and he goes on a date. That’s about it. For all the talking, not much progressed in this issue. Here’s looking forward to issue #9.
Bottom line: C+

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Single-Panel Reviews 2/16/05

Welcome to the ECCC edition of Single-Panel Reviews. Here is a quick look at some of the books and previews that I either purchased or picked up at the comicon two weeks ago.

Random Pirate presents Promo This
Story and concept by Jonah Gregory; Art and lettering by Jeremy Gregory
Free from the booth

This quick little xeroxed promo packs a punch and shows a lot of promise. The premise is that a crew of alien pirates has somehow fallen through a wormhole to Earth. Now I love pirates and I love aliens, so this is really a match made in heaven for me. The book is funny and the art is good. The promo drew my interest just like a promo should and I'm looking forward to more of this wacky story.

Bottom Line: A-

TokyoPop sample of @Large and Tokyo Tribes
@Large by Ahmed Hoke
Tokyo Tribes by Santa Inoue
Free on the literature table

@Large was the first story I read. It's actually an American manga and takes place in Los Angeles. Now correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought the whole point of manga was that it was from Japan. Anyway, @Large seemed really slow going. No characters are introduced and no story got rolling. It was a snooze fest. Tokyo Tribes was somewhat better. The ending is pretty surprising, but it didn't make up for the slow and boring beginning. Maybe hip-hop and manga are better as separate entities?

Bottom Line: C-

Jade: Hide and Seek
By Edward Pun
$3 from the creator's booth

Jade is a great little mini-comic that is packed with lots of action and story. Jade is a waitress looking for betting things. When a mysterious stranger comes to town with a cute baby, she gets an adventure and fight all her own. The art is crisp and looks to be inspired by manga. Jade has large eyes, spiky hair, and a cute outfit, just like so many manga characters. The book is entertaining and hopefully the characters will be around for more adventures in later books.

Bottom Line: B

PVP #6
Written and drawn by Scott Kurtz
Dorkstorm Press; free from Mr. Kurtz's table

I read PVP for free every day, so I wanted to show Mr. Kurtz at least a teensy bit of gratitude for all his hard work by buying one of his books. I purchased PVP at Large #1 and also picked up this freebie. This romance themed book couldn't have come at a better time, considering Monday's holiday. The issue is all about skull trying to get the totally wrong for each other couple Jade and Brent back together. Some of my favorite strips involve those two squaring off, so I was delighted with the book. I love all the PVP characters and this issue gives great background on Brent and Jade's relationship.

Bottom Line: A

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Ebay Comic Watch 02/15/05

Here’s a new type of post to The Comic Queen blog that I’m calling Ebay Comic Watch. I hope to post a handful of interesting comic auctions on ebay each Sunday. (Yeah, I know, it’s not Sunday, but I’m behind on my reading, so Tuesday it is.) You can find these particular auctions by pasting the item number in ebay’s search box. Note that the ending times are in PST, so calculate accordingly. This time the creek was a little dry (at least where I was looking). However, here are a few interesting auctions I ran across. Any of these series are worth reading, so check ‘em out!

Y: The Last Man 1-27
Bidding was at $22.50 just a bit ago, shipping’s $5
Item number: 6511079078
Ends Feb-16-05 20:00:37 PST

V for Vendetta all 10 issues
Bidding starts at $9.99, shipping is $6
Item number: 6511340665
Ends Feb-17-05 20:36:33 PST

300 By Frank Miller all 5 issues
Bidding starts at $5, shipping is $6.50
Item number: 6511650366
Ends Feb-19-05 12:16:40 PST

Runaways Issues 1-18 – Full Run
Bidding was at $10.51 just a bit ago, shipping’s $5
Item number: 6511719972
Ends Feb-19-05 19:16:32 PST

Fallen Angel Issues 1-16
Bidding starts at $6.95, shipping’s just 3.50
Item number: 6512684961
Ends Feb-22-05 17:08:35 PST

Monday, February 14, 2005

Single-Panel Reviews 2/14/05

Samurai Heaven and Earth #2
Script by Ron Marz; Art by Luke Ross
Dark Horse Comics $2.99

This book is just as stunning as issue number one. Ross really outdoes himself on every page. Our hero Asukai Shiro continues to search for his love Lady Yoshiko. He hasn't found her yet and his journey is taking him to Europe. Marz's writing is spectacular and it's the most beautiful book of the year.

Bottom Line: A

Beyond Avalon #1
Written by Joe Pruett; Art by Goran Sudzuka
Image Comics $2.95

Beyond Avalon is the story of young princess Megan growing up on Avalon, a utopian island society. One day Megan's dad leaves the island without so much as a reason why. Megan questions this decision and eventually sets out on a journey of her own. I wasn't impressed with the book. It's not that it is bad, but it just wasn't my style. The fantasy inspired story was slow moving and the dialog was a bit juvenile. It would be great for younger readers.

Bottom Line: C+

Pigtale #1
Story and art by Ovi Nedelcu
Image Comics $2.95

Boston Booth is a down on his luck college graduate struggling to find work as a private investigator. He goes on a date with his dream girl only to have it interrupted by an explosion at a lab that makes chips to allow animals to speak. The book gets off to a great start and has fantastic pacing. Booth is a great character that is very likeable. I'm interested in how the story will play out and number two should open up the story even more.

Bottom Line: B

Amazing Joy Buzzards #1
Story by Mark Anderson Smith; Art by Dan Hipp
Image Comics $2.95

This book is crazy amounts of fun. British rock band the Amazing Joy Buzzards fight a giant pink robot. If that's not enough to get you interested, there is no hope for you. The book is hilarious, fast-paced, and almost in need of ADD medication. Bottom Line: B+

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Single-Panel Reviews 2/12/05

Runaways: The Good Die Young TP Digest #3
Marvel $7.99
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan; Penciller: Adran Alphona; Inker: Craig Yeung
I was a latecomer to this series, so I’ve been taking in the digests to see what all the hubbub was about. As a recap, I thought the first trade collecting issues 1–6 was a good start and hooked me. We’re introduced to a group of teens (and one preteen) who find out their parents are members of an evil group named “The Pride” and thus decide to runaway in fear of their lives. The second trade collecting 7–12 fell a little flat for me; the story didn’t advance much, although we did get to know the characters a little better. This third trade is definitely the strongest.

Collecting issues 13–18 (the last issues of the limited series), the history and nature of The Pride is revealed; we find out who the mole is; a new leader emerges in the group; and most importantly, there are equal amounts of drama and action. I think one of my favorite elements were the Gibborim, the giants who set The Pride into motion 25 years ago. I’ve found this to be a fun, smartly written series – solid adventure with interesting characters. I’m looking forward to the new Runaways series beginning next week.
Bottom line: A-

Blood Orange #4
Fantagraphics $5.95
By Tobias Tak, Brian Ralph, Lark Pien, Ted May, Nicolas Mahler, Ben Jones, and Rebecca Dart
As with most anthologies, there are things I liked and things that didn’t trip my trigger so much in Blood Orange #4. I’ve only read issues one and four, but I have generally liked these minianthologies. My main gripe with this issue is on the production side of things. To me, when I read a collection of various creators’ work, I expect to find a table of contents and corresponding page numbers throughout the book. Not so with issue 4 of Blood Orange. In fact, without getting online, I wouldn’t even know which story belonged to which artist in a few cases. I’m not familiar with all of the artists in this issue, so to find out who created “Timshel,” for example, I had to go to The Comics Journal message boards. This is pretty poor editing as far as I’m concerned, and it’s too bad this affects the artists and the book as a whole. However, I am looking forward to the revamped version of Blood Orange, which will be a larger, more regular anthology called Bete Noire (shown in the latest issue of Previews).
Bottom line: B

Gotham Central #28
DC $2.50
Writer: Greg Rucka; Artist: Stefano Gaudiano; Colorist: Lee Loughridge
This issue starts a new storyline—Keystone Kops—and presents a nice jumping on point for new readers. A little backstory would be helpful, but definitely not mandatory as a new investigation (and mystery) begins in Renee Montoya’s old neighborhood. It seems “Doctor Alchemy” will be a player in this mystery, and another unlikely player seems to be Montoya’s father, a neighborhood store owner. Rucka does a nice job in Gotham Central balancing the detectives’ personal lives with their investigation work. It’s engaging reading with real feeling, which is what I find really appealing about Rucka’s writing and in any literature in general.
Bottom line: A-

Angeltown #4 (of 5)
Vertigo $2.95
Writer: Gary Phillips; Artist: Shawn Martinbrough; Colorist: Lee Loughridge
Not as engaging, but still a decent story, is Angeltown. Nate Hollis is still hot on Theophus Burnett’s trail, but, alas, the chase goes on. There is going to be a lot to wrap up in the last issue. I want to like this series, but it just isn’t quite as satisfying as it could be. The dialogue is good, and I like the art quite well, it’s just there are too many characters that we don’t get to know any of them that well, thus making it hard to feel invested in them. Thus, the fatal feeling of wanting to know what happens and yet not totally caring. If the plot was tightened and the cast shrunk, I think I might enjoy the story more. Like I said, I want to like this series, and I’m sure there are lots of people enjoying it. I like it, but I just can’t get excited about it.
Bottom line: B-

Friday, February 11, 2005

Martian Manhunter sketch

Martian Manhunter by Chris Giarrusso

Without further ado, I present you with the awesome Chris Giarrusso sketch I aquired at Emerald City Comicon. It is too fabulous for words. (Posted with permission of the artist.)

Royal Contest Winners

I'm pleased to announce the following winners of the very first Royal Contest. Entrants followed the directions on a flyer from the freebie table at the Emerald City ComiCon.

Richard A. Scott
Dogs and Water by Anders Nilsen

Carlos Hernandez
Proof of Concept by Larry Young, et al.

Jason Sacks
Or Else #1 and Pigtale #1 by Kevin Huizenga and Ovi Nedelcu (respectively)

Chad Torseth
Queen & Country: Operation Broken Ground by Greg Rucka and Steve Rolston

Congratulations to our winners -- I'll be sending out the comics tomorrow, and I hope you enjoy!

Stay sharp, readers, you never know when we may have another Royal Contest!

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Angel Stomp Future Review

Written by Warren Ellis; Art by Juan Jose Ryp
Apparat line from Avatar Press: $3.50

Here we are at the end of the Apparat Line. Angel Stomp Future is an exploration in science fiction. Dr. Angel Antimony, at the start of the story, is an old-fashioned doctor who doesn't believe in plastic surgery. The future has gotten out of control and people now get all sorts of animal implants in their body. Some people will add on anything from gorilla noses to octopus feet.

Story wise, this book replaces Simon Spector as my least favorite book of the Apparat line. While the future that Ellis presents in intriguing, the story itself was lacking. One could see how society could degenerate into how it is portrayed in the book. What was hard to believe, however, was the attitude of Angel herself. She definitely has a chip on her shoulder, but no one tells us why. The character and her outfits and piercings distracted me from the story and the setting. The setting, this future world, was what I was actually interested in.

My main complaint with the Apparat books is that the stories are too short. Although confining them to one issue was the point of the experiment, it made the books, especially Angel Stomp Future, suffer. This one needed at least six more pages to feel complete.

Ryp's art fits the story well. It is frenetic and crazy just like the world portrayed here. He fills every panel with garbage, smoke, or graffiti and makes the future seem sad and void of morality. His work is outstanding.

Angles Stomp Future was a disappointment to me, but the Apparat line was a great experiment. I wish more creators had the chance to do something like this.

Bottom Line: C+

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Kerry's ECCC Report

I attended ECCC with Erin on Saturday and had a great time as well. I just want to mention a few things that Erin didn't.

I went to the Marvel panel with Brian Michael Bendis and others. It was a lot of fun. The creators were hilarious and the questions ranged from more general writing and editing questions to specific questions about certain books and characters.

I don't have a sketchbook yet, but the coolest thing I did at the Con was get a sketch of Martian Manhunter from Chris Giarrusso. He's the creator of G-Man from Image and Mini-Marvels and Bullpen Bits from Marvel. He told me no one had ever asked for Martian Manhunter before. I couldn't have been more pleased with his sketch. It's awesome.

My only beef with the Con was the ridiculous amount of books some fans brought to get signed. The line for Bendis wasn't that long when I got in it, but some people had him sign stacks of 50-70 books. Bendis happily signed them all. I only brought one (The Pulse #1) and it would have been nice if I could have passed by the greedy people. Bendis needed a one-comic-or-less express lane for his table.

Finally, the coolest freebie at the Con was a Plastic Man Heroclix. He's only my second DC clix, so it was a welcome addition to my small collection.

ECCC 2006 can't come soon enough.

Monday, February 07, 2005

ECCC Report

Now that I’m back from the Third Annual Emerald City ComiCon, I thought I’d fill everyone in on the occasion.

Personally, I had a blast. I began a sketch book (finally), and got four sketches: Scratch Fury from Scott Kurtz, Batman from Steve Lieber, Rex the Fox from Michel Gagné, and my personal favorite – Tara Chace having a drink by Steve Rolston.

This last sketch turned out amazing – if you have a chance to have Rolston sketch for you, please take the opportunity. When he asked what I’d like him to sketch and I said Tara Chace drinking, his eyes lit up. Apparently, everyone wants to see Tara with a gun, but I was the first to want her drinking. Rolston had me show it to Greg Rucka, who looked lovingly at it and said, “Ah, that’s our little alky.”

Speaking of Rucka, I got a chance to thank him for the storyline “Half a Life” (issues 6–10) from Gotham Central. He was very proud of the work he and Michael Lark did on this storyline, in fact he said he’s never been prouder. Renee Montoya is a character he’s especially attached to and plans to weave her and her home life into more issues.

Tony Harris was also a very nice guy, he thanked me and shook my hand for buying the single issues of Ex Machina. How could I not – those cliffhangers are great!

Others creators I had a chance to meet were Peter Bagge, Ed Brubaker, Lark, Kurt Busiek, and Tim Sale.

The question that was most asked of me this con: “Are you here for someone else, or do you read comics?” My response: “Yep, I read comics. In fact here’s my card.” They always asked this nicely, so I can’t say I was insulted at all, just a little surprised. I guess I’m just too boring looking to like comics. Ah, well, to quote Popeye: “I am what I am, and that’s all that I am.”

One of my favorite activities at a con, though, is looking for new creators, ones independently publishing and looking for some exposure. I picked up several minicomics from some very talented people. You can expect a review of these later in the week.

I also filled in a few holes in my comics collection. Nothing of much collector’s worth, just ones that mean a lot to me. That’s the best way to buy comics, as far as I can tell.

I caught a couple of the panels, as well, which were pretty entertaining and informative. The “Breaking into Comics” panel with Bob Schreck, John Layman, and C.B. Cebulski was of particular interest to me. The most interesting aspect was hearing the editors talk about what their jobs entail and the character of their duties, as well as the personal anecdotes they shared.

I also caught the “DC Comics Writers” panel with Gail Simone, Busiek, Rucka, and Brubaker. This was a pretty rollicking panel. I thought the questions asked overall weren’t that great, so that contributed to the mood (and I realize by not asking any questions, I am partially to blame). Rucka and Brubaker were happy antagonists, while Busiek did a nice job as a sort of informal moderator, and Simone chimed in at times. It was certainly entertaining. In the way of previews, Brubaker let it slip that he’d signed an exclusive deal with Marvel, and Rucka revealed that Sasha Bordeaux will return in his new limited series The OMAC Project.

As for the general atmosphere, Saturday was definitely busier though there were good crowds both days, but never insane, and people were mostly polite and laid back. This made for a relaxing, yet exciting, weekend.

If you are anywhere in the vicinity of the Pacific Northwest, I highly recommend coming to the Emerald City Comicon next year. As I understand it, the event has practically doubled in size every year, and certainly has attracted bigger names each time. Judging from this year, then, I won’t want to miss ECCC 2006.

Bottom Line: A-

Friday, February 04, 2005

Emerald City Comicon Contest

Erin and I will be attending the Emerald City Comicon this weekend. Pick up a Comic Queen Flyer on the literature table to participate in the contest. See the flyer for further instructions.

Prizes are:
1. Dogs and Water
2. Or Else #1
3. Queen & Country: Operation Broken Ground TPB
4. Proof of Concept
5. Pigtale #1
6. The Question #1-3

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Emerald City Comicon Preview

Alright, this is last call for The Third Annual Emerald City Comicon going on this weekend. This is the first year the con will span both Saturday and Sunday. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

The guest list is pretty darn extensive. Personally, the guests I'm looking forward to the most are (in no particular order): Tim Sale, Eric Powell, Tony Harris, Kurt Busiek, Ed Brubaker, Michael Lark, Greg Rucka, Peter Bagge, Scott Kurtz, Steve Lieber, Steve Rolston, and Dave Stewart. Other "big names" appearing include Adam Kubert, Brian Michael Bendis, Mark Waid, Robert Kirkman, Gail Simone, Alex Maleev, and a crapload more. Seriously, check out the list for yourself.

I was telling Kerry today that you know you're a real comic nerd when you're totally psyched to meet one of the best colorists ever. Uh, yeah, that'd be me ... looking forward to meeting Dave Stewart. In fact, he might be the person I'm looking forward to meeting the most. His stuff is AMAZING, people. Chances are, though, if you're reading this, you know what I'm talking about.

But that's not all. There are 46 exhibitors by my count, the biggest comics names of which are Marvel, SLG, Top Cow, Dark Horse, Image, Oni Press, Top Shelf, and Fantagraphics.

Another highlight of the con are the six panel events. Comic Book Self-Publishing, Marvel Comics Writers Q&A, and a fan vs. pro trivia contest will take place on Saturday, and Sunday will feature Breaking into Comics, DC Comics Writers Q&A, and Comics History. I think I'll be checking out all the Sunday panels.

In addition, Marvel's C.B. Cebulski, DC's Bob Schreck, and Oni's James Lucas Jones will review portfolios throughout the weekend.

Don't forget hunting for bargains at the about 70 dealers, either.

If this hasn't whet your appetite enough, then check out The Seattle Times ran an article previewing the upcoming con, a short one offering tips to con-goers, and a pdf comic strip about the occasion.

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Simon Spector Review

Written by Warren Ellis; Art by Jacen Burrows
Apparat line from Avatar Press $3.50

Simon Spector, the third book in Warren Ellis' experimental comic book line is a one-man affair. Written in the vein of "The Shadow" in which the story is extremely central to one character, the book profiles the life and missions of tough guy Simon Spector. He is in almost every frame and when he isn't, the characters there are talking about him. Like The Shadow, Simon is powerful and in control. He wants to help those that need it most and will hurt anyone who gets in his way.

While his methods are questionable, Spector uses an unnamed drug that heightens his thought process to super speed to allow him to figure out a crime or motive; his heart is in the right place. This issue finds Spector coming to the aid of a woman whose husband, a weapons engineer, has been kidnapped.

This is definitely the lesser book in Apparat line so far. The plot seems a little sparse and wraps up far too quickly. The drug works too fast for Mr. Spector and the reader is left wondering how he came to his conclusions. It would have served the book well to have a page or so history of the drug and a little background on Spector himself.

All that being said, the story is still interesting. Spector is a character that begs for deeper exploration. It's easy to see that he is an extremely intense man with many complexities. He relies on this mystery drug even though with every use it takes weeks off his life. Still he endeavors to use the drug to help those that need him. He has both a strong fist and strong mind, but a soft heart.

Burrows portrays Spector superbly. His face is crippled with intensity and each muscle is well defined and filled with ripples. Most impressively though, is Burrows depiction of a body exploding from a gunshot. It is alarmingly clear. In the text at the end of the book, Ellis writes, "there is nothing Burrows can't draw." The book, but more specifically the gunshot frames, prove this statement completely. They are grotesquely beautiful.

Simon Spector is an excellent example of a one-man show/hyper-main character book. It isn't as good as the previous two Apparat books, but it is a nice showing nonetheless. There is one Apparat book left to read. Look for it reviewed here next week. Overall the Apparat experiment has been a success.

Bottom Line: B-

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

The Couriers 03: The Ballad of Johnny Funwrecker

The Couriers from Couriers 03: The Ballad of Johnny Funwrecker
For sample pages, see the AiT/Planet Lar site.
AiT/Planet Lar $12.95
Writer: Brian Wood; Artist: Rob G

This installment of The Couriers reveals the origin of Special and Moustafa, a couple of foul-mouthed bad ass kids, 15 and 12 respectively, as they begin their journey as mercenary couriers in 1993.

Special, a girl, gets her start as part of Johnny Funwrecker’s crew in a chance encounter where she saves Funwrecker from an assassination attempt. Soon Moustafa, a dude, eager to join up with Funwrecker’s crew and ditch his less than perfect home life, starts training with Special.

They’re young and talented, and when they see an opportunity to double cross Funwrecker and start out on their own, they grab it.

The book itself is about as close as you can get to a wild action movie on paper. Wood and Rob G do a great job of borrowing movie conventions and using them to their fullest. The way “scenes” cut back and forth, the pace, and some of the visual effects are examples.

You know me, though, I’ve always got to pick at something. This time I’m picking at the art a bit. Overall, I thought the art worked great, but I have to say the personal characterization was pretty inconsistent, especially with Funwrecker. It wasn’t completely distracting, but it could have used some refinement. Yes, I know, the Couriers aren’t refined, but the lines for the inanimate objects in the book are quite nice, and it would have been good to feel like the human elements matched this skill.

There were also a couple parts that I felt could have either been cut out or fleshed out. For example on the page that “explains” why Moustafa would want to leave a seemingly nice home to join up with Funwrecker, his mom suddenly appears, spits on Special, smacks Moustafa, then takes off. It just felt a little weak.

Despite a few little things like this, it’s a good action comic, and really there aren’t a lot of these out there. It’s bloody, even the good guys are bad, and there’s no lesson to be learned; and that’s oddly refreshing. If you like Jim Mahfood’s Grrl Scouts or just enjoy a good action flick, then this is a comic to check out for yourself.

Bottom Line: B+