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.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

April Previews Highlights: Kerry’s Picks

Pick of the Month: Cute Manifesto TPB
Alternative Comics; page 242; $19.95; 168 pgs.

James Kochalka releases his version of “Dianetics” this month. It sounds a bit like a self-help book, but Kochalka’s sense of humor practically ensures it will be on a whole new plane of enjoyability that has never been experienced by the common (wo)man. Page 241 is a great full page add for the book and just like Kochalka says there, I’m “ready to unfurl into full glory.”

Featured Comics:

Zed #6
Gagne International Press, page 310, $2.95; 24 pages

All hail Zed! The return of the cutest, most misunderstood alien in all the universe is finally here. I can’t wait to get my hands on this book. Issue five ended with quite a cliff hanger and it’s been killing me ever since. Gagne’s art is incredible and your heart will melt at the sight of little Zed.

Mome Volume 1 GN
Fantagraphics; page 306; $14.95; 136 pgs.

This book, a first in a quarterly comic anthology looks like serious comic reading at its finest. The text compares it to McSweeney’s, the best literary anthology available. This book looks like it could become a great crossover, attracting literary hipster types as well as fans of independent comics. Contributors to issue one include Jeffrey Brown and Anders Nilsen. Those two names really speak to the book’s quality and I’ll be giving it a shot.

Hellboy: The Island #1 (of 2)
Dark Horse Comics; page 22; $2.99; 32 pgs.

This is Hellboy’s first trip back to an original comic story after last year’s blockbuster movie. Creator Mike Mignola has been working on other projects. This particular two-parter is a follow up to The Third Wish, which came out in 2001. I haven’t read that story yet, but I’ll certainly be checking out these books. The art preview on page 23 is just as spectacular as it is in all Hellboy yarns.

Street Angel Volume 1 TP
Amaze Ink/Slave Labor Graphics; page 245; $14.95; 124 pgs.

This trade collects the first five issues of Street Angel and a slew of extras include the Free Comic Book story, a sketchbook section, and pinup gallery. The book, about a homeless 13-year-old girl who kicks major butt was not a book that was originally on my radar. Erin has great taste and foresight though and picked it up. I read her copies and adored it and now I need a copy of my very own.

Concrete Volume 1: Depths TPB
Dark Horse Comics; page 32; $12.95; 208 pgs.

I’ve wanted to check out Paul Chadwick’s Concrete for a few months now. I wasn’t aware that this trade was solicited, so I was quite happy to see this advertised. The book will have many extras besides the early material including some of Chadwick’s short stories. This trade is going to be the perfect way to become acquainted with Concrete.

Sandman Mystery Theatre Volume 3: The Vamp TP
Vertigo; page 122; $12.99; 104 pgs.

The third volume of the classic Vertigo book gets its fair treatment this month. The first two volumes were on my want list, but I didn’t end up getting them. I’m also constantly combing Ebay for a large lot of back issues. Maybe it is time for me to just buy the trades and get on with enjoying this series. My knowledge of the Sandman is extremely limited, so partaking in this retelling would be enjoyable at the very least.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

April Previews Highlights: Erin’s Picks

Pick of the Month
Age of Bronze: Sacrifice TP and Age of Bronze #20

Image – pg. 145 and 148; $19.95 and $3.50; 225 pgs. and 24 pgs.
By Eric Shanower
This is a two-in-one pick of the month with both the next issue in the Age of Bronze beginning a new story arc and the second trade collecting issues 10-19. Age of Bronze chronicles the events leading to the Trojan War, and now in the second trade the war itself, in a meticulously researched version of the epic history and myth. Whether you enjoy history or just a well-told story, this is a great series to try.

Featured Comics

AEIOU GN (An Easy Intimacy)
Top Shelf – pg. 372; $12; 224 pgs.
By Jeffrey Brown
I’m lucky this month since some of my favorite creators have books solicited, including this reprint by Jeffrey Brown. It was originally published as a special limited edition that I wasn’t able to get my hands on before it went out of print. Needless to say I’m very glad it’s back in print, and I can now complete Brown’s “Girlfriend Triology.”

Cute Manifesto
Alternative Comics – pg. 242; $19.95; 168 pgs.
By James Kochalka
In several essays, with partial color throughout, “Kochalka plots a theoretical path to happiness addressing issues such as comics and art, birth and death, technology and joy, and everything in between.” The ad/comic on page 241 of Previews was what really made me decide to order this comic, though. Good quirky, funny stuff.

Black Diamond On Ramp
AiT/Planet Lar – pg. 227; $2.95; 32 pgs.
By Larry Young and Jon Proctor
For a 32-page comic, this has quite the plot description. Suffice it to say Young and Proctor look ready to deliver a fully charged action adventure … and, for the first time for the publisher, in full color.

Ice Haven GN
Pantheon Books – pg. 339; $18.95; 88 pgs., FC, HC
By Daniel Clowes
Pantheon Books has a great reputation, and seems to be going to help that even more with this full-color hardcover book by Daniel Clowes. The story follows Random Wilder, a poet and guide to the town of Ice Haven. The solicit says, “The lives of men and women of Ice Haven are woven into a multi-layered tale inspired by the infamous Leopold and Loeb.”

Quick Picks

Hellboy is back in a two-part series “The Island” (pg. 22; $2.99; 32 pgs.) from Dark Horse.

Reading the first sentence in the description was enough to get me to purchase this four-issue series titled Scarlet Traces: The Great Game (Dark Horse pg. 24; $2.99; 32 pgs.). It reads “After almost four decades of conflict, the British invasion of Mars has ground to a bloody stalemate in the dust of the red planet.” Nice.

Astro City: The Dark Age #1 is resolicited. I’m really looking forward to this one, so I hope it does indeed come out on June 22 this time (Wildstorm; pg. 107; $2.99; 32 pgs.).

A new six-issue series from Wildstorm called Albion follows the return of Britain’s “collection of paragons, monsters, and clowns that vanished a quarter century ago” (pg. 107; $2.99; 32 pgs.).

Solstice TP from Active Images and creators Steven T. Seagle and Justin Norman looks very intriguing. The book involves a search for the Fountain of Youth and the revelation of why it has never yet been found (pg. 212; $12.95; 96 pgs.).

Adhouse Books and Joshua W. Cotter are releasing the second issue of Skyscrapers of the Midwest (pg. 213; $5; 60 pgs.). I found the first issue nothing short of amazing, and can’t wait for this second issue.

David, a three-issue series recounting the story of David from the First Book of Samuel caught my eye. There are so many great stories from the Bible, and paired with what looks to be beautiful art, this particular comic adaptation has a lot of promise (Alias; pg. 238; $2.99; 32 pgs.).

Fantagraphics begins a new monthly anthology with Mome Volume 1 (pg. 306; $14.95; 136 pgs.) featuring work by John Pham, Paul Hornschemeier, Anders Nilsen, Jeffrey Brown, and many more.

I enjoyed Teenagers from Mars quite a lot, so seeing Dead West solicited by the same creators, Rick Spears and Rob G., got me excited. This book follows the soul survivor of the demolition of a small Indian village as he seeks revenge (Gigantic Graphic Novels; pg. 312; $14.95; 144 pgs.).

I talked with Paul Guinan, the artist of Heartbreakers Meet Boilerplate, at the Emerald City Comicon, so the solicit caught my eye. The art is what stood out for me at the comicon and here as well. It is described as “’paintography,’ combining drawing, painting, and photography, and printed in rich brown ink.” Sample pages are available here. The story follows a long-lost 19th century robot named Boilerplate as he teams up with female action heroes the Heartbreakers (IDW Publishing; pg. 320; $9.99; 104 pgs.).

Trade Treatment
Several series worth noting are getting the trade treatment this month.

Concrete Volume 1: Depths TPB
Dark Horse – page 32; $12.95; 208 pgs.

Batman: War Games Act Two TP
DC – page 64; $14.99; 192 pgs.

Batman/Superman/Wonder Woman: Trinity TP
DC – page 75; $17.99; 208 pgs.

WE3 TP
Vertigo – page 123; $12.99; 104 pgs.
This was a great series and definitely worth picking up if you haven’t yet, however, I’m mystified by the price. There’s nothing to indicate extra material and to purchase the three issues separately would only set you back $8.85, so why are they charging more than $4 more for the trade? Huh.

Amazing Joy Buzzards Vol. 1 TP
Image – page 145; $11.95; 160 pgs.

Invincible: The Ultimate Collection, Vol. 1 HC
Image – page 146; $34.95; 400 pgs.
This is quite the tome, collecting issues 1-13 of Invincible in a hardcover format.

Street Angel Volume 1 TP
SLG – page 245; $14.95
Street Angel is a fun series and the trade collects issues 1-5 along with the 4-page strip from Free Comic Book Day and a sketchbook section, cover reprints, and a pinup gallery.

The Ballad of Sleeping Beauty TP
Beckett Comics – page 268; $21.95; 200 pgs.
Some more fuzzy math in the trade department. This collects the entire 8-issue series, which you can buy for a total of $15.92 or pay about $6 more for the trade. I’m wondering if this is a typo and should be $12.95?

Ultimate Fantastic Four Vol. 3: N-Zone TPB
Marvel; $12.99

Marvel 1602 TPB Softcover
Marvel; $19.99; 224 pgs.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Ebay Comic Watch 03/27/05

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.

Hate by Peter Bagge Complete Set 1-30 all first printings
Bidding starts at $49.99, shipping TBD
Item number: 6521111961
Ends Mar-30-05 20:12:32 PST

32 Masters of the Universe Image Comics Lot Complete
Bidding starts at $9.99, shipping is $12.50
Item number: 6521313518
Ends Mar-31-05 19:04:26 PST

Ultra 1-8 (full series)
Bidding starts at $9.99, shipping is $4
Item number: 6521804437
Ends Apr-01-05 11:06:40 PST

Bone 1-55 + Rose + Stupid Rat Creatures (full series)
Bidding was at $16.49 a bit ago, shipping is $4
Item number: 6521520162
Ends Apr-01-05 20:38:55 PST

Aquaman #1-25 + Bonus
Bidding was at $4 a bit ago, shipping is $9.50
Item number: 6521521665
Ends Apr-01-05 20:52:38 PST

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Single-Panel Reviews: 3/22/2005

Amazing Joy Buzzards 2 & 3
Story by Mark Andrew Smith; Art by Dan Hip
Image Comics; $2.95 each

Pure unadulterated rollicking good time is the best way to describe this story. The Amazing Joy Buzzards, a British pop band continue their Scooby Doo-esque adventure to save the world. Smith’s writing is great and it really picks up in this issue. The story is moving a little fast, but the characters themselves make up for it. Each band member has at least one laugh-out-loud line. While the story does suffer by being a little too over-the-top, it’s still loads of crazy fun.

Bottom Line: B

Love as a Foreign Language Vol. 2

Written by J. Torres; Art by Eric Kim
Oni Press; $6.95

In this issue main character Joel becomes even more funny and adorable. He still dislikes Korea and his job, but can’t stop thinking about Hana, the beautiful new school secretary. Unfortunately, he also hasn’t been able to muster up the guts to have a conversation with her. While he is still trying to decide if he should stay in Korea another year, Joel spends most of his time day-dreaming about Hana.

Issue two is even stronger than the first one. The story picks up speed and Torres does a great job keeping the book both humorous and heart-felt without an ounce of cheesiness. The script is funny and much of the comic relief comes from Joel’s fellow teachers as they gently rib him over his feelings for Hana.

The only problem so far is how my book was cut. The action and words on some pages go right to the edge and the top of some words were cut clean off.

Bottom Line: B+

Vimanarama #2
Written by Grant Morrison; Art by Philip Bond; Colors by Brian Miller
Vertigo; $2.99

This book continues to get crazier. Issue one left Ali and Sofia in danger at the hands of some giant alien robots called Ultraadeenan. Soon huge immortal Prince Ben Rama comes to save them. He mistakes Sofia for the reincarnation of his long lost love. Don’t think this is all a love-triangle though. The Ultrahadeen are still bet on destroying Earth and Ben Rama.

It’s unclear to me where Morrison is taking this story and I think it could go either way from this issue. Bond’s art is great and he puts a lot of detail into each character. Sofia is the best looking character here and Bond portrays her in a realistic manner. Finally, the use of color is interesting as well. Miller uses a lot of pink, which is rare in an action story. It’s a welcome change.

Bottom Line: B

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Single-Panel Reviews 3/20/2005

My picks today are all amazing. They all deserve the high marks they got. Maybe I should have called in Single-Panel Reviews: Superstar Edition.

Little Star #1
Written and illustrated by Andi Watson
Oni Press, Inc.; $2.99

Little Star is the touching story of a father and his burgeoning relationship with his young daughter. His daughter isn’t very interested in her daddy and he is feeling guilty about keeping her in daycare. One of my favorite things about the book is the tie-ins with stars and space in general. The story of the daughter and her dad really fit in with this motif. Watson’s style is clean and simple. It’s a beautiful book and I’m not surprised to find that Little Star is another great story. The man has never disappointed me.

Bottom Line: A

Mary Jane: Homecoming #1
Written by Sean McKeever; Art by Takeshi Miyazawa; Colors by Cristina Strain
Marvel Comics; $2.99

No one was sadder about Mary Jane’s cancellation than my roommate and I. Within one issue we fell in love with everything about the original. The story was fun, the art beautiful. We eagerly awaited this new limited series and I couldn’t be more pleased with the result. Although it isn’t billed this way, Mary Jane: Homecoming picks up pretty much where the last story left off. MJ is getting ready to go the big dance, but isn’t sure about her feelings for Harry or Spiderman. Her best friend Liz still thinks MJ is secretly seeing Flash behind her back. The story reads like the best kind of high-school drama. Miyazawa’s art is especially great and fits the story well. It is fresh and filled with bright pastels. Don’t let the subject matter put you off here. It’s a great book.

Bottom Line: A-

Catwoman: When in Rome #4
By Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale
DC Comics; $3.50

This book has reached the half-way point and it keeps getting more and more intriguing. For every answer the reader receives, more questions are asked. This time around (Chapter 4: Thursday) Selena finds herself thinking back to her time with Batman and, when not daydreaming, in a brawl with the Cheetah over the stolen ring from the Vatican. While the story is good, the art work continues to stand out here. The book is dripping with 1940’s style and every page is a joy to view. The most exciting pages however cover a flashback to happier times with Batman. These pages look amazing. Instead of white, the edges of the pages are yellow appearing aged. The color scheme of red, black and yellow ensure that the pages stick out from the rest of the book. This one is going to make an amazing hardcover if DC decides to go that way.

Bottom Line: A

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Love as a Foreign Language Vol. 1 Review

Written by J. Torres; Illustrated by Eric Kim
Oni Press; $5.95

Let’s get one thing out in the open right away. I’ve never traveled abroad. Part of me is scared to be in a place where I don’t know of a word of the language. I say and do embarrassing things every day here in the States. I don’t know if I could be trusted in a whole new culture. That fear of mine helps me understand main character Joel’s angst about Korea in the book.

In Love as a Foreign Language Joel has signed a year contract to teach English at a Korean elementary school. He has three months left on his contract and is completely fed up with every last thing about Korea. He hates his apartment, his job, the food, and the people. All Joel wants is home. He is about to quit his job and fly back to the States when new school secretary the beautiful Hana Song is hired. This intriguing young woman might be just who and what Joel is seeking.

The first thing I noticed about this book was Kim’s art. The book has a certain manga feel to it. The characters have abnormally pointy chins. Kim also uses many textures popular in manga. The book is gorgeous throughout.

The story is also off to a great start. I found myself looking forward to the second volume, before I was done with the first. Torres writes Joel so the reader is left wanting to know more about him. What makes him tick? Why is he so unhappy? Why did he come to Korea in the first place? I’m not sure if these questions will be answered later in the series, but I’m going to stick around to find out.

Torres introduces Hana as the book comes to an end. The reader isn’t given much information about her, besides the fact that she is attractive. The chemistry between Joel and Hana is there though and I can’t wait to find out more.

I picked this book up a few volumes into the series. It’s not too late to jump on and I recommend that you do. It’s the most heartfelt book on the market right now.

Bottom Line: A

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Teenagers From Mars Review

Teenagers From Mars from http://www.giganticgraphicnovels.com/Teenagers From Mars
Gigantic Graphic Novels; $19.95; 256 pgs.
Writer: Rick Spears; Artist: Rob G

I was recently stuck in a waiting room at which the doctor was running quite behind. Boy, was I glad to have this book with me. I read nearly the entire book while waiting, and I’ve definitely never had a better time in a doctor’s office. This comic was a total kick in the pants.

Originally published in 2002 and 2003 as eight individual comics, this collection of Teenagers From Mars reads seamlessly as a graphic novel.

The credits include main characters Macon, a Mall Mart employee and comic creator; Max, a neighborhood kid who sneaks comics by his disapproving mom; and Madison, Macon’s wild love interest.

The story begins with each character’s separate story, but soon their paths meet up to form the meat of the story. Max and his two best friends rob graves and sell their treasures to the local pawn shop to save up for a valuable comic. Macon and Madison, part in frustration and part to impress each other, do some damage to the Mall Mart, and thus the Comic Book Liberation Army is inadvertently born.

My favorite quote is said when Max decides he wants to join the cause. So Macon swears him in saying, “Do you, Maximilian, swear to buy comic books monthly, let them corrupt you fully and defend them fearlessly? Do you promise to never let anyone tell you that you’re too young, too old, or that you can’t?” This may just be my new mission statement.

The town of Mars (yep that’s the town’s name) completely overreacts to the teens’ vandalism and sets out to burn all the comics they can find and shut down the local comic shop. One of my very favorite parts was the honest-to-God pitch-fork-wielding mob … complete with signs that read “God Doesn’t Read Comics.” That absurdity gave me the giggles.

Rob G’s art did more than justice to the story. He had some great splash pages, his cars, of course, were amazing, and his attention to details make the book one you want to read again and again.

I enjoyed The Couriers (also illustrated by Rob G), and while this straddles the same line of credulous characters and incredulous action, I thought Teenagers From Mars was both a bit better told story and, personally, more enjoyable. Not to take anything away from Couriers -- I offer this as more of an example that if you liked that GN, you’ll probably like this one; and if you thought Couriers was a little over the top or extreme, you may enjoy this GN even more.

I sure did, anyway.

Bottom Line: A-

Monday, March 14, 2005

Single Panel Reviews: 3/14/2005

Fables 34 and 35
Written by BillWillingham; Pencils and Inks by David Hahn
Vertigo; $2.50 each

The Jack Be Nimble storyline is compromised of both issues 24 and 35. Willingham takes a step back from Fabletown and explains where Jack has gone with the Fabletown fortune. He ends up in Hollywood trying to capitalize off his life adventures. These two issues are a great side story. Issues like these keep me coming back for every issue of Fables. It’s always consistent, stylish, and strong and these two issues are no exception.

Bottom Line: A-

Ultra #7
By the Joshua and Jonathan Luna
Image Comics; $2.95

A letter in the back of this month’s Ultra has a reader lamenting that Ultra isn’t an ongoing series. With only one issue left, I’m feeling that reader’s pain. Ultra, the story of super heroine Pearl “Ultra” Penalosa and her superhero girlfriends has been a great ride so far. I get a little misty-eyed thinking of next month’s finale.

One of my favorite things about Ultra is its mock-magazine cover. This month, the Luna Brothers pay homage to People magazine just in time to cover the 77th annual Superhero Awards. Ultra isn’t too popular with the press right now, due a highly publicized one night stand, but she still goes to the awards despite jeers from the crowd. I just don’t want it to end.

Bottom Line: A

Catwoman #38
Written by Scott Morse; Pencilled by Paul Gulacy; Inked by Jimmy Palmiotti

Although Catwoman: When in Rome is one of my favorite books right now, this is the first issue of regular Catwoman I’ve picked up. I admit it was the interesting cover that drew me in, but it was the great thug Wooden Nickel that convinced me to pick up the next issue in this three-part “Three Piece Suit” storyline. The book starts with Catwoman going out on a dinner date, only to be accosted at the ATM by one Wooden Nickel. They fight with both fists and words and good punches are landed by both parties. The book is light on dialog, but it looks great and the story of how the Three Piece Suit Insurance Agency wants to take down Catwoman, is intrigue filled.

Bottom Line: B

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Ebay Comic Watch 03/13/05

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.

Love & Rockets Signed Poster
Bidding starts at $5, shipping varies
Item number: 6517389583
Ends Mar-15-05 10:26:00 PST

Sleeper #1-12 Season 1
Bidding starts at $2, shipping varies
Item number: 6518393168
Ends Mar-17-05 21:04:31 PST

Star Trek TNG #1-80 and Lots Extra
Bidding starts at $9.99, shipping’s $6
Item number: 6518140160
Ends Mar-18-05 15:48:47 PST

Flaming Carrot #1-24 plus the 1981 Signed #1 Magazine (full run)
Bidding was at $9.95, shipping is $8
Item number: 6518550143
Ends Mar-20-05 12:26:22 PST

Bite Club #1-6 (full series)
Bidding starts at $3, shipping is $4
Item number: 6518605566
Ends Mar-20-05 16:10:06 PST

Don’t forget Top Shelf’s big sale, which runs through March 15. There is a long list of titles that are only $3 each, and some that are only $1. Not only that but there are other titles at general sale prices as well. The only catch is that you need to spend at least $30 (this can be on a combination of sale and nonsale items) – but that is (too) easily accomplished.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Everyman Vol. 1: Be The People Review

Everyman Vol. 1 Be The People GN
FWD Books; $6
Writers: Dan and Steven Goldman; Artist: Joe Bucco

This graphic novel begins on January 20, 2005, inauguration day, where President Henry Birch’s reelection is taken over by the group OneLove to expose election rigging engineered by Birch. The book then jumps back in time to February 2004 and reveals the beginnings of OneLove and how the beginning (and end) of the story played out.

The heart of the story follows an insider to the president, Manolo Perez, who is morally torn by what he sees working for the current administration. Perez joins up with the recently formed OneLove, “a political movement dedicated to restoring common decency to the government, along with respect for its citizens.”

The movement’s founders are the successful writer, Thomas Womack, and Perdita Orozco, a social engineer. The group leads a non-violent guerilla-type movement to expose the current administration, and in general what the presidency has become, to force a change. They don’t expect what happens, though; the rising up of the people in massive protests is just one example.

In a way this book reminded me of Ex Machina without the powers – down to the art itself – a political comic with progressive leanings.

Unlike most comics, this GN has another criteria that must be more closely met, which is plausibility. Or rather, is this story told in a believable manner – can I swallow the idea as it relates to real life off the page? Most comics require an incredible suspension of belief, but with a story that is based on current events, a more realistic treatment of plot has to be considered.

There are certainly parts of the book that are more than plausible than others, that stem right from real-world fact. For instance, the issue of electronic voting machine tampering; without a paper record, there are already a multitude of problems surfacing. People like to just blow off this possibility of tampering like it’s a wild conspiracy theory. If a computer says it’s so, then it must be so, according to the general public. Like a computer is some kind of fortress; well, if that’s so, then why am I downloading security patches practically weekly.

When I first came to the part where the One Love “campaign” begins their activities, however, I thought this wasn’t very believable. The commercials they ran and the message they gave, while beautifully optimistic, weren’t very realistic to believe that this would sway many people.

But then I remembered that this book was written last year, pre-election. There was a general feeling then of optimism and activity. That people were fed up and ready for positive change. This book really reflects the feeling of most of 2004. Not to say those not in the Bush camp have given up all hope with their causes, but there’s certainly a more somber feeling in the air now. Therefore, the book doesn’t read as much as wish fulfillment as I thought it did at first glance.

Personally, I like the One Love “platform.” Womack says at one point, “I want an inexperienced but principled leader, someone with solid judgment who’s curious about the world around him .. not a calculating, cynical career politician who’s just there to hawk his agenda, and go through the motions the rest of the time.” Yep, it’s been awhile since we’ve had anyone close to this in the Oval Office. The idea of a strong bipartisan leader more schooled in philosophy and humanities as president, and not a partisan politician worried about fulfilling owed favors is personally extremely appealing. But when you have thoughts like that, you’re dismissed as a starry-eyed optimist with no opinions of worth.

That’s why I like this comic, that although today it might seem almost hopelessly optimistic, it is grounded in a philosophy of leadership that is plausible, and the book takes a chance to not only get this opinion out there but wrapped in a well-told story.

Bottom Line: B+

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Single-Panel Reviews: Catch-up Edition

Styx Taxi 1 & 2
FWD Books; $2.50 and $3, respectively
Issue #1 Writer: Steven Goldman; Issue #1 Artist: Jeremy Arambulo; Issue #2 Writers: Steven Goldman; Issue #2 Artists: Dan Goldman, Leland Purvis, and Rami Efal
Set in New York City, the premise of Styx Taxi is that those who die on the streets of the city have two hours before they pass on to the next life (level of existence, heaven, or whatever you’d like to call it). During this time, the Styx Taxi drivers pick up their fares and for two hours the riders get to finish whatever business they’d like. Each taxi driver has his or her own personality and story, which the reader gets a glimpse of, and issue #1 tells several fares’ stories. As you can imagine, the dead people’s emotions and wishes vary radically. There’s the angry rabbi, the devoted husband, a clueless child – everyone has something different they need to wrap-up, and everyone has very different motives. Arambulo’s work on issue #1 reminded me of Brian Hurtt’s art with simple yet realistic people and detailed backgrounds. Both comics are very heartfelt and often moving. In issue two, the premise is the same, but this time it’s an anthology of three stories by three sets of creators. I enjoyed it too, but not as much as the first issue. I didn’t feel that the stories were as well formed and being an anthology, some of the art was uneven. Overall, though, I enjoyed these first two issues and hope more will follow.
Bottom line: B+ for issue #1 and B- for issue #2

Apocalypse Nerd #1 (of 6)
Dark Horse $2.99
By Peter Bagge
Bagge sets up a promising story – Perry and Gordo, a software engineer and his drug-dealing friend, are heading back to Seattle from a weekend trip in the North Cascades when they discover that North Korea nuked Seattle. The two head back up to the cabin they were staying at and begin to try their hand at survival. And survival is just not easy nor pretty. Perry’s nervous insecurity got on my nerves a bit, but otherwise I enjoyed the comic. Also a treat were the two “Founding Fathers Funnies” short comics (one a three-page story and the other on the back cover of the comic). You’ve got to read those to truly appreciate them – what a riot.
Bottom line: B+

Batman Legends of the Dark Knight #185-189
DC $2.50 each
Writer: Shane McCarthy; Penciller: Tommy Castillo; Inker: Rodney Ramos; Colorist: Tony Avina
Issue #189 came out this week wrapping up the five-part “Riddle Me That” storyline featuring a new (and improved?) Riddler. The art was kind of realistic expressionism – impossibly long stylized Bat-cape, psychedelic Riddler frames, and all. This along with the romantic – lighting in the background when Batman’s angry, etc.; you know, the classic human emotion reflected in nature thing. I dig this style, so it worked for me here. What I liked about this incarnation of the Riddler was that he wasn’t just psycho out-of-control crazy; instead he was calculated and suave, and, for a change, an actual challenge for Batman. Batman, though, was in fine form as the “world’s greatest detective.” The story had it’s twists and turns, but there were definitely plot points that were either strained or didn’t seem to come together like they could have. Overall, though, I thought this was a solid bat tale.
Bottom line: B

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Missed the Boat: True Story Swear To God

Chances Are from http://www.ait-planetlar.com/True Story Swear to God
Clib’s Boy Comics and AiT/Planet Lar

I had heard good things about this ongoing series, now through issue 11, so I kept an eye out for a possible deal on ebay. Sure enough I managed to get issues 5–11 for a pretty reasonable deal, and I bought the collected issues 1-4 as a trade from AiT/Planet Lar. I had the entire series before me to read.

Like I said, I had heard good things. I was not in any way prepared, however, for how great this series truly is. Tom Beland has got to be one of the most overlooked and underappreciated artists around. His cartooning is superb, his use of the page is amazing, and his storytelling is addictive. What a wonderful series.

True Story Swear to God, is indeed a true story. Beland tells about how he met the love of his life, Lily, by complete chance in Disney World on a “work trip” by himself.

This relationship isn’t all roses and chocolates, though. It is a true story after all. Both Tom and Lily have their histories, their baggage if you will, and there’s the little matter of Tom living in Napa Valley, CA, and Lily living in Puerto Rico. I’ve understated that—not just living in their respective parts of their world, but having deep lifelong roots in those places. Yeah, you know, just a teensy weensy challenge there.

What really speaks to me in this series is the honestly with which Beland tells his story. It’s all out there for the reader (or at least seems so). Nearly every reader is going to have something to identify with--whether it’s the “am I worthy?” anxiety, the utter high of true love, the insecurity of performance, or leaving all that matters for the person that matters most.

I found myself sucked into the comics. I laughed out loud, I did the “you’ve got to read from here to here” to my partner, I shed more than a few tears. Sure, I’ll admit it, I’m a sucker for a romantic comedy or a touching story. I instantly get sucked into “Sleepless in Seattle” every time I happen to surf across it on the boob tube.

Beland, though, escapes the conventions and formula of the romantic comedy, not only because is this a true story, but also because of the skill with which he illustrates. He uses the entire page to showcase the emotions he wants to portray instead of boxing in the story to a pre-designed graphic formula. He uses a bold cartoonist’s line, but shows a versatility with his cartooning just as he does with his page design. He can make a scene very simple with a lack of even facial details or complicated with cross hatching and oodles of detail.

I really hate to label this series as a “romance comic,” because that phrase instantly turns off most people--me included. More like, this is what romance comics should be; and, in many ways, this is what more comics should be in general.

I’m at a loss to find a flaw with this series, and I can pick at and be critical of most anything, so that’s truly saying something. I’m giving this series my highest recommendation.

Bottom Line: A+

Although this is a “Missed the Boat” review, I luckily haven’t completely missed this boat, and neither should you. Issues 1-4 are available right now in the trade “Chances Are” and issues 5–11 were just solicited as the trade “This One Goes to 11” available to order in the most recent Previews catalog from AiT/Planet Lar.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Kerry Reads Manga! Worst Vol. 1

By Hiroshi Takahashi
Digital Manga Publishing; $12.95

My latest foray into the manga world, Worst, is again brought to us by Digital Manga Publishing. They are the same company that produced Only the Ring Finger Knows, which was reviewed here last week. From what I understand the company’s main goal is to bring the most popular titles in Japan to eager readers in the States. They want to provide manga fans with accurate translation while keeping with the writer’s original intentions. The translation is really a strong point in both DMP books I’ve read so far. The language used is clear and translates well. American slang is used correctly. When a word can’t be translated, a footnote defines it and the story moves along. This is a huge asset to Worst, as it does contain some culture differences that this uncultured American would have not understand without the invaluable footnotes.

In Worst, student Hana Tsukishima has just moved to the city for high-school. Raised in the country, Hana knows little of city life or the Suzaran High School that he is about to attend. The school is well-known for ruffians and gangs and its Freshman Challenge. This contest is an all out battle to find out who is the toughest boy in the new class. Hana and a few of his roommates are interested in the fight and Hana vows to become top dog at school.

The best thing about Worst is Hana himself. He is funny and charming in his naiveté. He is happy when he finally sees what a cell phone looks like and is excited to learn more about his new city and new school. So far his sense of humor has kept him out of trouble, but with the Freshman Challenge looming, that won’t last for long.

Hana and his roommates are drawn with great style and intensity. It is easy to tell the boys apart as each has his own look. Their personalities really shine through in their clothing and haircuts and Hiroshi makes it easy for the reader to know if one should be wary of or trust in each character. The expressions he draws are great and range from intense anger to pure goofiness.

Although the book was slow to get going, I think the next volume will run a lot faster. With all the set-up in volume one, volume two is bound for a flurry of plot advances. This book could have definitely benefited from a little more action and a little less character introduction. There is a ton of people to get to know here and saving a few for the next book would have made this volume a lot more fun.

Worst is, however, a fun and enjoyable read. It does go by quickly and ends with a cliff-hanger that will lead the reader to more adventure in volume 2.

Bottom Line: B

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Ebay Comic Watch 03/6/05

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.

Hard Time #1-12
Bidding starts at $11.99, shipping is $5
Item number: 6515456004
Ends Mar-09-05 19:34:01 PST

Stormwatch #1-50, Vol. 2 #1-11
Bidding starts at $9.99, shipping’s $6.50
Item number: 6516543227
Ends Mar-11-05 13:17:13 PST

Spider-Girl #1-76 and Annual #0
Bidding was at $9.99 a bit ago, shipping is $7
Item number: 6516555390
Ends Mar-11-05 14:23:23 PST

Invincible #1-20 by Robert Kirkman
Bidding was at $3 a bit ago, shipping is $5
Item number: 6517065795
Mar-11-05 19:07:41 PST

Too Much Coffee Man #1-5, Color Special #1-2
Bidding starts at $.99, shipping varies
Item number: 6515631782
Ends Mar-13-05 19:30:00 PST

In addition, a deal not on ebay, but most definitely worth mentioning, is that Top Shelf is running a big sale through March 15. There is a long list of titles that are only $3 each, and some that are only $1. Not only that but there are other titles at general sale prices as well. The only catch is that you need to spend at least $30 (this can be on a combination of sale and nonsale items) – but that is (too) easily accomplished.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

This Just In ...

Here are a couple things worth sharing ...

Comic Foundry
I recently received an email about a new comics-related site called the Comic Foundry. I checked it out and am happy to recommend this very nice-looking site. The aim of the site is to foster community by helping educate comic artists and writers who want to break into the comics biz. Their tagline is “showcase. network. learn. breakout.”

Comic Foundry is free and includes the standards of comic websites: interviews with artists and writers, message boards, etc. The site also includes a section for creators to post writing and art in an online portfolio for review from other readers and a “matchups” section where creators can put out a call for collaborators.

What I particularly like is that the articles focus on the craft of comic creation. For example the interview with Greg Land focuses on his creation process for covers in general and specifically discusses several covers he’s done.

This site, founded by Tim Leong and Amber Mitchell, has a lot of promise and is definitely worth bookmarking. If you’re an aspiring writer or artist, or if you just have an interest in the creative process, check out the site.


Vancouver Comicon
It’s time again for another Vancouver Comicon. The next installment of this minicon will be held from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday, March 20, at Heritage Hall (3102 Main Street) in Vancouver, BC.

The gathering will feature special guests Howard Chaykin, of American Flagg!, Challengers of the Unknown, Mighty Love, etc., and Pia Guerra, of Y: The Last Man.

Other guests include Ian Boothby and James Lloyd (Simpsons Comics, Futurama Comics), Ken Boesem (Barking Raven Press), Andy Mori (Flopnik), and several others.

There will also be free comics and hourly door prizes along with a handful of dealers. If you’re in the area, the $3 admission is a steal (kids under 14 are free).

The con is a cozy affair and very laid back, which makes for a great opportunity to chat with creators. Of course Chaykin and Guerra are big draws, but I highly encourage checking out Boesem’s work as well.

If you need more info, email organizer Leonard Wong at lswong@uniserve.com.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

March Previews Highlights: Kerry’s Picks

Pick of the Month
Mr. T #1
APComics; page 238; $3.50; 28 pgs.

When I saw this book, my heart skipped a beat. Mr. T back in print!!! I’ve got the Mr. T children’s books, the Mr. T rubber stamp, and the A-Team comics. Now I’ll have the Mr. T comic books to add to my ever burgeoning T collection. I just can’t fathom that this book will be bad in any way; not with T himself signed on as Creative Supervisor.

Pale Pink Volume 1 GN
CPM Manga, page 264, $9.99, 344 pgs.

Diamond dubbed May “Manga Month” and this volume is my top Manga pick. The book is advertised as a “documentary” about women living in Tokyo. Issues such as eating disorders, love, work, and other life issues will be covered.

Girls #1

Image Comics; page 135; $2.95; 32 pgs.

The Luna Brothers, creators of the great miniseries Ultra, have a new book for May. The promotional text doesn’t offer much insight, but says that bachelor Ethan Daniels has his share of problems with woman. One night he meets a strange woman and his life is changed forever. I love Ultra, so I’ll definitely be picking up this title. The Luna Brothers put a lot of style into that title and I’m sure it will be continued here.

Felt: True Tales of Underground Hip Hop
Image Comics; page 141; $2.95; 32 pgs.

Jim Mahfood, cartoonist and hip-hop fan drops a new book this May. The book coincides with and has the same name as the upcoming album by rappers Slug and Murs. Stories in the book are inspired by the songs on the album. Now, Previews says you don’t need the album to appreciate the book, but I bet it wouldn’t hurt. Pick up both for an actual multimedia experience. This is the kind of cross-over I can get into.

Hero Camp #1 (of 4)
Image Comics; page 142; $2.95; 32 pgs.

We’ve got schools for super heroes, psychiatrists for super heroes, and now summer camp for super heroes. In this book, regular kid Eric Quinlan is sent to summer camp by his super hero parents. He’s the only camper without powers and soon finds out he is being stalked by some super-villains in a case of mistaken identity. There is a page preview of the book in Previews and it looks very funny.

Zig Zag #1
Adhouse Books; page 204; $5.95; 32 pgs.

The cover of this book, a robot missing his heart, first caught my eye. Scheduled to be an ongoing anthology of short funny stories, the book looks cute and fun. I’m not familiar with J. Chris Campbell or his work, but the book sounds quirky.

Johnny Caronte, Zombie Detective & the Revolver Volume 1 GN
Alias Enterprises LLC; page 226; $5.99; 64 pgs.

The stunning cover art is what first attracted me to this book. It is the noir thriller filled with mobsters and hitmen, but the art looks darker and scarier than a plain old noir book. This book contains two stories and looks strangely gorgeous.

Bombaby TP
Amaze Ink/Slave Labor Graphics; page 228; $13.95; 104 pgs.

I keep seeing Bombaby in my local shop and have been interested, but I just never pick it up. Now that it is coming out in trade, I’ll have to give it a second chance. The book is about Sangeeta, the reincarnation of an Indian goddess and while I haven’t heard much about the story, the cover art is eye-catching.

Blazin’ Barrels Vol. 1
TokyoPop; page 337; $9.99; 192 pgs.

Another cool looking manga volume this month is Blazin’ Barrels. I love how TokyoPop always advertises their books as a cross between two great things. This one is “in the vein of Shanghai Noon and Back to the Future.” Well, I don’t think one could really go wrong with that combination. The story set in a futuristic wild west looks enticing.

Machine Teen #1 (of 5)
Marvel Comics; page 8; $2.99; 32 pgs.

The Marvel Next line continues to push on and new miniseries seem to be released every month. This month’s offering is Machine Teen the story of the All-American boy who turns out to be not so human after all. It looks like a fun story and the cover of issue one by James Jean looks promising.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

March Previews Highlights: Erin’s Picks

I’m so happy it’s Previews time again. There weren’t a plethora of things I saw of note, but what did catch my eye got me excited.

Pick of the Month:
True Story, Swear to God Vol. 2: This One Goes to 11 TP
AiT/Planet Lar – pg. 226; $12.95; 136 pgs.
There were a few top comics in the running for “Pick of the Month” for March, but between the “This is Spinal Tap” reference and the excellent nature of the comic itself, I was forced to pick this trade. I recently folded under “peer blog pressure” (yeah, that’d be Laura’s constant recommendations) and purchased the first trade. What a wonderful series – it’s the most refreshing comic I’ve read in quite some time. Look for a review of the series on this blog soon. In the meantime, order this second trade. Trust me.

Featured Comics:
Super F**kers #1
Top Shelf – pg. 356; $7; 32 pgs.
James Kochalka strikes again with this full-color comic about the “badest teenage superhero team around.” The kids hang out in their clubhouse, play video games, etc., and now they’re holding tryouts for new members. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve ever read of Kochalka’s, so, needless to say, I’m looking forward to his take on teenage superheroes. It’s bound to be entertaining.

Why Are You Doing This? GN
Fantagraphics – pg. 294; $12.95; 48 pgs.
Another full-color comic, this time from Jason and Fantagraphics. (Actually Fantagraphics has a few books in this Previews that looked good.) It’s touted as resembling a Hitchcock screenplay (which is a sure way to get me to buy a comic). The protagonist breaks up with his girlfriend and then is blamed for his best friend’s murder – he must prove his innocence despite the entrance of the real killer.

I Was Someone Dead
Oni Press – pg. 322; $9.95; 104 pgs.
In this prose novella, Hieronymous Zoo lives on a serene island but is only able to escape his tortuous nightmares on the island’s beach. Sounds nice, but when a sea monster emerges from the water, Hieronymous has to find a way to battle this monster – or is it an inner demon? Andi Watson illustrates this novella by Jamie S. Rich.

Embroideries
Pantheon – pg. 323; $16.95; HC
Marjane Satrapi writes more about her family and history, but this time focuses on the female members of her life. Her grandmother, mother, aunt, and friends talk over tea about love, sex, and men. I’m looking forward to another of Satrapi’s look into Iranian life.

Strange Eggs #1
SLG – pg. 231; $3.95; 48 pgs.
A brother and sister get a strange egg delivered to them each week, and the eggs hatch into problems they need to solve, like aliens, dinosaurs, crazed ventriloquist dummies, and hobos – you know, the classics. This is an anthology by approximately 18 different SLG creators, and has officially intrigued me.

Felt: True Tales of Underground Hip Hop
Image – pg. 141; $2.95; 32 pgs.
Jim Mahfood has created this one-shot visual interpretation of the rappers Slug and Murs collaborative album. Mahfood is a heck of creative mind, so this should be a treat.

Machine Teen #1 (of 5)
Marvel – pg. 8 (of the Marvel insert); $2.99; 32 pgs.
The James Jean cover caught my eye, but the description kept me interested. This limited series will tell the story of the seemingly perfect teen who finds out he’s not actually human – rather, a machine.

Quick Picks:
A unique project from Dark Horse , The Jackson 500 Vol. 1, contains the first 100 of 500 business-card sized paintings by Tim Biskup. The solicit says “Birds, beasts, shriners, and showgirls are among the frolicking inhabitants of Biskup’s bizarre, colorful world.” (pg. 25; $14.95; 112 pgs. 5”x5”)

Too Much Coffee Man: How to be Happy trade will be released by Dark Horse. The strip by Shannon Wheeler will be nice and hefty at 144 pgs for $12.95 (pg. 32).

DC’s releasing the Batman Begins Movie Adaptation by Scott Beatty, Kilian Plunkett, and Serge LaPointe (pg. 62; $6.99; 64 pgs.).

Another Year One–themed title will be coming out from DC. This time it’s Batman/Scarecrow Year One. Written by Bruce Jones and illustrated by Sean Murphy, this book will for some reason be released in two parts (pg. 65; $5.99; 48 pgs.).

The second trade of Gotham Central is finally coming out. This trade – Gotham Central: Half a Life – collects the Eisner Award winning issues 6-10 of the series (pg. 68; $14.99; 168 pgs.)

A graphic novel by Marc Males is being released by Humanoids. Different Ugliness, Different Madness is set during the golden age of radio and explores two people’s relationship with each other and within themselves (pg. 107; $14.99; 128 pgs.).

Warren Ellis has a new series debuting. Desolation Jones #1 from Wildstorm follows a survivor of an experiment in which he “lived through a full year of constant sleepless agony.” Former British intelligence, Desolation Jones is now a detective for hire in LA (pg. 111; $2.99; 32 pgs.).

Been wanting to check out PVP in print? Check out the 16-pg. “sample” issue, PVP #0, from Image for just 50 cents (pg. 146).

Zig Zag #1 looks interesting from Adhouse Books. J. Chris Campbell presents this one-man anthology of “kooky” and fun stories (pg. 204; $5.95; 32 pgs).

Alternative Comics had a few titles that looked promising, but the one that grabbed my attention was Hickee Vol. 3 #1 and the Hickee Anthology TP. This is an “underground” comic anthology begun by Graham Annable with his friends. The trade is $12.95 and 128 pgs.

Dark Mists #1 from AP Comics is set in Koyoto, Japan, in 1936 and follows a group of geisha ladies who are recruited to inform on conversations they observe (pg. 238; $3.50; 28 pgs.).

And last, but not least, is a new Queen & Country Declassified series. This Volume 3 reveals Nicholas Poole’s background while an SAS officer in Ireland. Of note is that Greg Rucka will not be writing this three-issue series; instead, he will serve as creative supervisor while Antony Johnston will take the writing reigns with Christopher Mitten on art (pg. 323; $2.99; 32 pgs.).