Posts Tagged ‘comics’

Proof volume 1: Goatsucker

July 14, 2008

This book was so bad that I’m not sure where to begin.  So many things wrong with this book, so little space in which to complain.  Well, I guess I could complain a lot since this is my blog, but believe it or not I do try to keep these entries around 500 words. 

Nothing says "family fun" like a variation of "suck" on the cover

Nothing says "family fun" like a variation of "suck" on the cover

Perfunctory plot summary: Proof is about a government agency that investigates urban legends IN THE REAL WORLD!  Bigfoot works for this agency, and is kinda the main character but not really since the author isn’t sure who to focus on.  Anyway, Bigfoot (who goes by Proof, which is short for Prufrock) searches out cryptids (creatures (like yetis and such) who have been seen by for whom no hard evidence exists) and tries to figure out his past.

Things start to go wrong for this book in the author’s introduction, where Alexander Grecian sets such a somber tone that at first I thought there was no way he could be serious.  Right away we’re told that this isn’t really a comic book because there weren’t going to be any fanciful explanations for things.  Fairies exist, but they’re not magical so let’s all get over that rubbish.  But then Grecian tells us that there is magic in the world and oh look my brain just fell out.

From there the book continues to take itself entirely too seriously.  Page after page is cluttered with “Cryptoids,” little factoids about sasquatch or paintball guns or whatever the hell else Grecian decided we need to know about.  Naturally, this helps drain the book of any kind of fun and narrative flow because nothing drags you out of a story like reading useless trivia.

I’d like to say that there are some fun ideas in here, but I’m not sure I can do that with any confidence.  The government keeping fairy tale creatures locked up was done better in Shrek, but Grecian adds extinct animals (like the dodo bird) to the mix for a little spice.  He tells us that fairies aren’t nice and that they’ll try to eat people on sight, but then we see normal folks traipsing through their habitat without a care in the world.

This volume focuses on the chupacabra, but it isn’t any version of that beastie that I was familiar with.  This one is more like the Bug in the first Men in Black; it kills people and wears their skin for a while.  Sadly, the chupacabra is the most interesting character in the book and that’s mostly because of its “clothing” choices.  Interestingly, I don’t remember seeing any goats.  Not one.

But even here I think the creators dropped the ball.  Our villain starts off ambiguous and creepy and violent.  It stays that way for a good part of the book, even if the violence is off panel.  But then Proof basically talks it into giving itself up and our story is over.  Sure, the thing has a mysterious past and seems to know all about Bigfoot.  And sure it decides to wear the skin of a new recruit’s mother (At least I think the dude was recruited by the end of the story.  It’s a little vague.  You know, just what you want from a first volume.).  But by the end of the book I didn’t care, and that’s partly because I really wanted to stop looking at the pages.

The art just plain sucks.  It’s so muddy and ill defined that I almost think the book would’ve been better off without an artist.  Really.  Word balloons arranged on blank pages might’ve been better.  Everything is so sketchy and muddy that it’s often impossible to tell what’s happening and the characters are so ugly that you have to wonder if Riley Rossmo has an undiagnosed eye condition.  For example, something happens to one of the male fairies, but for the life of me I couldn’t tell what that something was.  The other characters certainly reacted to it and made a big fuss over whatever it was, but I’ll be damned if I knew what they were reacting to.

I wanted this book to be good, since there’s a lot of potential here, so maybe it’s a victim of my heightened expectations.  For what it’s worth, other reviewers seem to like it quite a bit.  Personally, I don’t see volume 2 finding its way to my bookshelf.

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Quick hits for 7/11

July 11, 2008

Amazing Spider-Man #565

More than 6 months in to the “3 time a month!” experiment, and this title is still humming along nicely.  I’m a little concerned about this arc, though.  Marc Guggenheim and Phil Jimenez only have 3 issues in which to tell their story about a new, probably supposed to be sexy but really isn’t, female version of Kraven and they spend the entirety of this chapter transferring Peter Parker’s famous luck to his new roommate.  It’s not that the issue is bad or predictable, it’s just that introducing a new villain who has taken on the mantle of one of Spidey’s deadliest old foes feels like it needs more room to breathe.

Of course, I could be worrying for nothing, because this issue was a lot of fun.  Kraven’s inner monologue could’ve been cheesy and grating, but it managed to provide some insight into the new character’s psyche while providing just enough exposition.  And the fight that opens the issue, guest-starring Daredevil, was a hoot.

Secret Invasion #4

Sadly, we’re pretty much at the same place halfway into this mini series that we were 2 issues ago.  Iron Man is still all screwed up.  Jarvis is still on the Helicarrier demanding S.H.I.E.L.D. surrender.  No one knows who to trust.  The Uber-Skrulls are still laying waste to New York.  Fortunately, the plot starts to move a bit faster this time out as we get to see what Nick Fury’s new Howling Commandos can do and Iron Man finally pulls his head out and starts thinking. 

The art this time out looks better than it has before; less rushed and a bit more detailed.  It’s clear both Bendis and Yu are having some fun here, but I can’t shake the feeling that feet are being dragged and that this really should’ve been 6 issues and not 8.  Still, it’s a fun, if nerve-wracking, read that so far is still living up to its status as a big summer event.

Wormwoord Gentleman Corpse: Calamari Rising

July 10, 2008
There are way too many eyeballs and tentacles in this volume

There are way too many eyeballs and tentacles in this volume

Let’s get the basics out of the way first.  Wormwood is a sentient, indescribably powerful worm who inhabits rotting corpses (usually by hanging out in their right eye sockets).  His favorite meat suit is a dapper young man, but we’ve also seen him pilot a young, pig-tailed little girl.  He pals around with a android he built himself and a stripper he recruited from his favorite hang out; a gentlemen’s establishment whose employees guard Earth’s interdimensional gateway.

They all drink quite a bit, quip constantly, and battle evil.  You know, as millennia old, mystically powered invertebrates do.

In this, the series’ third collection, squid creatures invade Earth looking to assimilate the planet into it’s Borg-like collective.  Wormwood is their oldest foe, responsible for killing thousands of the squiddies and keeping them from conquering other worlds.  So yeah, they don’t like him much.

Apropos of nothing, but hilarious nonetheless

Apropos of nothing, but hilarious nonetheless

Templesmith earned his fame drawing 30 Days of Night, but I can’t say I was that impressed with his work then.  Everything was dark and way too sketchy and I couldn’t tell what was going on half the time.  Well that version of the artist is gone, replaced by a much steadier hand whose work I now found intriguing and even a little charming.  He’s still not the most detailed of artists and his action scenes can be a bit muddy, but all of his characters have such….uh….character that I can forgive the occasional vagary.

My one substantial nitpick has to do with the cost of this book.  $20 for 4 issues?  Really IDW?  If I bought the singles of this book it would’ve cost me $16, and the handful of covers and pin ups in the back don’t justify the extra $4.  Thank goodness for Amazon, in this case, because as I understand it all of IDW’s books are overpriced.

Here’s a small plot point that will let you know if you’ll like this comic or not:  Remember that really, really terrible Jet Li movie “The One?”  Where bad Jet Li travels to other dimensions to kill other versions of himself in a quest to become a god?  Well, Templesmith straight up stole that idea, only he’s replaced Jet Li with Elvis.  Yes, that Elvis.  And it’s hilarious. 

Also, Wormwood fights the squid creatures in a battle suit powered by the brainwaves of 6 clones of baby Einstein.  Let no one wonder ever more why it is I love comics so much.

House of M: Avengers

July 8, 2008

Over a year after House of M under whelmed comic readers, Christos Gage and Mike Perkins bring us this tale of that world before we joined the program already in progress.  This is an odd project, mostly because absolutely no one demanded it.  People hated House of M.  Loathed it.  Despised it.  Hoped it’d get it’s arms caught in the gears of a combine.  Wanted to force it to watch The View on a continuous loop for all eternity.

AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

So imagine my surprise when House of M: Avengers turned out to be actually decent.  This story of urban, street level vigilantes fighting against the entrenched superpowered government works on a lot of levels.  Even when it fails, it does so in such a way that I never held those failures against it.

In the House of M world, mutants outnumber normal humans (called sapiens) by a significant margin.  As a result, all of the hate heaped upon mutants in the regular Marvel Comics world has been turned back on the sapiens tenfold.  Luke Cage doesn’t much care for this, so he recruits a gang of heroes to keep the Hell’s Kitchen part of New York free from oppression.  It’s a story we’ve all seen before, but Gage adds enough twists and new spins that I was interested throughout.

More heroes need tiaras

More heroes need tiaras

Now those failures I mentioned early are pretty glaring in light of the overall quality of the series.  In this world, everyone hates sapiens.  The sympathizers are so few and far between that it’s a bit ridiculous how much hate our band of good guys is subjected to.  This extends to Thunderbird, the FBI agent in charge of catching/killing the group.  I don’t remember being given a reason for his hatred, but apparently it’s so all-encompassing that he’s willing to make a deal with the Kingpin (himself the leader of criminal organization full of Marvel bad guys) that essentially cedes control of New York’s underworld to the fat man.

The mini starts one place, with Luke Cage settling old scores, and then takes off into grander vistas.  It’s a bit off-putting, really, to start with a revenge tale and end with a David vs. Goliath battle.  It feels like Gage knew where he wanted to go with the story, but wasn’t sure where to start.  This extends to the title, because I’m not sure how this books is really an Avengers story.  Sure, Hawkeye,  Moon Knight, and Tigra have been Avengers in the past and Luke Cage and Iron Fist are Avengers now, but other than that there’s no connection.  The Avengers’ tagline reads “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes,” and that doesn’t apply here.

On the positive side, Mike Perkins is a competent artist who never gets in his own way.  Everything is clear and easy to follow, and his somewhat subdued style fits the tone of the book.  These Avengers aren’t hugely powerful and not overly colorful, and Perkins makes sure we’re always aware of that.  He’s a bit of a cross between Steve Epting and Mike McKone, two artist whose work I’ve enjoyed over the years.

Like I said, I enjoyed this series despite its flaws.  I’m not sure I would recommend it to anyone but diehard comics fans, though.  You’d need to know your recent Marvel history and probably have a healthy affection for the characters featured in the story to get any enjoyment out of the book.  Were this published two years ago, I can see it being a pretty big hit.  Today, however, it’s a nice diversion that is ultimately fleeting.

Green Arrow: Year One

July 7, 2008
He\'s green and shoots arrows. Get it?

He's green and he shoots arrows. Get it?

Re-telling stories from a popular character’s early years can be brilliant (Batman: Year One) or disatrous (Spider-Man: Chapter One).  Thankfully, Green Arrow: Year One narrowly misses that first category while completely avoiding even the hint of the second.  Andy Diggle and Jock created The Losers, one of my favorite titles of the past few years, so it didn’t surprise me that I enjoyed this book as much as I did.  They succeed in updating Green Arrow’s origin, without shoehorning in plot devices or modern contrivances just because they can.  And really, how modren do you need to be when writing a character whose weaponary hasn’t progressed past the Middle Ages?

In this update, Oliver Queen is a wealthy, thrill-seeking playboy who spends his fortune chasing adrenaline (and on the occasional impractical splurge item).  He is betrayed by the man he’s hired to lead his various expeditions and left for dead on what he thinks is an deserted island.  Hijinx ensue and Ollie has to fight well armed drug dealers with a improvised bows and arrows.

Andy Diggle is no stranger to gritty, street level heroes (or anti-heroes as it were).  His run on Hellblazer met with positive reviews, and the aformentioned The Losers was the definition of awesome (the premise asks the following question: What if the A-Team was awesome and actually killed the bad guys?).  It’s no surprise, then, that he gets Green Arrow’s appeal.  I mean, the man fights supervillains with a wood and string for crying out loud.  How can a writer who has specialized in non-powered heroes not get it?

Jock’s art is a little rough and sketchy, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad by any stretch of the imagination.  Nothing in this book is too pretty, and that fits the hero’s coming of age tale.  You can see he’s capable of smooth, clean lines in the way he draws China White, the female villain of the piece, so it’s a conscious decision on his part to dirty up the book.  Jock’s storytelling is second to none sonothing is ever ambiguous or hard to follow.  I really wish Jock would be assigned to a high profile book that would showcase his talents.  As I write this, it comes to me that Batman would be the perfect book for him, and I only wish he were onit now for Grant Morrison’s run.

My only real complaint anbout this book is that it’s a little slight.  I bought the $25 hardcover (OK, $16.49 on Amazon) and read the whole thing in a little more 30 minutes.  It all felt a bit insubstantial, and that’s not what I was looking for from this book.  Much more time needed to be spent on Ollie’s opium detox, and the villain of the piece is off page a bit too much.  This is especially true given that she’s visually arresting and a rich character.

In all, I’d recommend readers wait for the paperback version of this tale and save a little bit of money.  Green Arrow: Year One is a fun story that treats the source material with respect while adding worthwhile material to a beloved character’s backstory.  Even if you don’t like Green Arrow as a character, you’ll probably like this story.  Especially since Diggle comes up with a plausible reason Oliver Queen to adopt a ridiculous superhero name.

Quick hits for 7/3

July 3, 2008

Buffy the Vampire Slayer #16

I really wish I hadn’t read this interview with Joss Whedon before reading this issue, because what happens to Dawn would’ve had me rolling on the floor had I not expected it (and that picture of Joss might be one of the worst picture taken of any human being, ever).  In any case, this book suffers from first chapter syndrome where what you really want to see doesn’t even begin until the last two pages.  Still, it’s written by Whedon himself and I’ve got a soft/blind spot when it comes to the man so of course I enjoyed every page of it.  Karl Moline’s art is a step up from what we normally see in this book (not that regular artist Georges Jeanty is bad, of course) as his characters are more expressive and his setting feel a bit more lush.  So far I’ve loved every issue of this title and I’m not apologizing for it, Whedon-haters.

Angel: After the Fall #10

Even though the artist hasn’t changed, the art itself is much better this time around.  Nick Runge seems to be settling into Angel’s world in a way that Franco Urru never did, and thank God for that.  Everything else is still a bit of a mess, though.  There’s a lot going on in this issue and that crowds out what should’ve been a huge, game-changing revelation.  We readers knew about Angel’s secret all along, of course, but we only get a few pages of his gang’s reaction to the news.  Thinking in TV terms, this scene would’ve lasted at least 10 minutes (with the reveal coming right before a commercial break), but here the emotional resonance is stripped away because it’s all over so fast.  I can’t believe I’m complaining about too much happening in a single issue, but since I still don’t have a great handle on what happened in issue 9 I feel like the whole series is moving too fast after marking time for too long.

Terror, Inc.

July 3, 2008

Crowbar or machine gun...Gordon Freeman\'s dilemnaWell that was violent.  And gory.  And profane.  And awesome.

I know very little about David Lapham.  I’ve read that his work on Stray Bullets is incredible, but I’ve never taken the time or spent the money to see for myself.  I read his lackluster Daredevil vs. Punisher miniseries from a few years back, but as you can tell by my word choice I wasn’t too impressed.   know this, though: dude was born to write Terror, Inc.

Terror is a 1,550 year old corpse, cursed to rot for all eternity but never die.  He can replace his decaying limbs with fresh ones and absorb the abilities and memories of the appendages’ former owners.  If that’s not a great comic book premise, I don’t know what is.  This absorption thing extends to superheroes, but Lapham never taps that gold mine.  With any luck, that’ll be in the sequel I’m hoping Marvel is smart enough to let Lapham write.

This volume revolves around him being set up for the murder of a government official and working to clear his name blah, blah, blah, U. S. Marshalls.  That’s beside the point.  The point is this is a book about a 1,500 year old corpse that can slap new limbs on his body.  I’m glossing over the plot because it’s something we’ve all seen before and isn’t terribly interesting for the first 3 of the 5 issues.  The twist at the end of the third act isn’t one I saw coming (but really should have).  From there it’s a resurrection/revenge tale that only serves to let characters shoot and hack away at each other.

Patrick Zircher renders all of this with gleeful mania, so much so that I’m certain he watched 10 hours of old kung fu movies before sitting down to the drafting table.  You know the ones I’m talking about; lots of limbs get sworded off and the resulting blood spurts look like geysers (a la O-Ren decapitating a mob boss in Kill Bill vol. 1). 

Zircher hasn’t had a lot of notable comics experiences, so his excellent work here is a revelation.  I vaguely remember being impressed by his style when he drew some truly awful Devin Grayson written Nightwing stories, but as I’ve said before story matters much more to me than art so I pretty much blocked that crap from my memory.  There are times when the art is a little muddied and it can be hard to see what’s going on through the sheets of blood flying across the panels.  Aside from that, though, he’s got a detailed style that conveys action well.  Simply put, Zircher drew the hell out of this book.

Terror, Inc. is a fun book that touches on themes of loss and betrayal but doesn’t spend too much time exploring them.  While it’s not for the squeamish, I’d recommend it to anyone tired of the cape and tights set or simply looking for an enjoyable way to kill an hour.

I’m killing comics update

July 2, 2008

The creators apparently agree with me.  Well, 2 of them anyway.  From the same book.  Paul Maybury, artist on Aqua Leung (a book that I only kind of liked, in the interest of full disclosure) wrote the following in an interview with the internet’s own Dick Hyacinth:

“You can draw out a battle scene that would normally short change a monthly book buyer due to lack of story within the 22 or so pages. But in a graphic novel you can do all kinds of crazy stuff. As soon as we knew we were doing Aqua as a series of graphic novels, and not a monthly I immediately wrote in a 5 page splash. I love stuff like that.”

In in interview with Comic Book Resources, he reiterates this point, saying:

“OGN (original graphic novel) is just smart business,” Maybury said. “Especially with an unknown property and a pretty much unknown artist. There’s a lot more creative freedom story telling wise in this format. You can take your time and not worry about the cliffhanger on page #21!”

Writer Mark Andrew Smith agreed with the first quote, but isn’t cited in the CBR article in regards to the latter.

Good to see I’m not full of crap.

I’m killing comics (part 2 in a series)

June 30, 2008

Last time out I had reason number 1 but my bloviating kept me from listing any others.  Here’s numero dos:

From the readers standpoint, TPBs are an exponentially more satisfying experience.

What’s better, a story told in 6 parts spread out over 6 months, or a story told in 6 parts that you can read in one sitting?  What are you going to remember better, the one that took you 6 months to finish, or the one that took you 45 minutes to read?

The answer is obvious, especially when you factor in the “What the hell is going on?” factor.  Given that parts 1 and 2 are aat least 30 days apart, I often lose track of details, and sometimes major plot points, as I wait for the next chapter to be published.  Marvel’s “Previously…” page helps quite a bit, but that’s a summary page and by definition is only going to recap in broad strokes.

Don’t get me wrong, I love going to the comic shop on Wednesdays and buying new books, but I love getting a package from Amazon nearly as much.

The devastating Cosmis Watermelon Slice!The best example from my experience I can think of is the GØdland Celestial Edition I purchased last year.  It’s a gorgeous presentation (and I’ll talk about that in another post), but beyond that it’s a massive book.  For $23 (down from $35.  Thanks Amazon!) I got 12 issues of story, plus a boatload of back matter.  It helps that I enjoyed the book quite a bit, but aside from that I read a year’s worth of stories, the first act of the book if you will, over the course of 3 days.  When I put it down, I felt like I had read a weighty novel, and not a slight comic pamphlet.

This is an extreme example, obviously, because most TPBs are usually 5-6 issues long, but the point is still well made.

I don’t know much about the economics of publishing comics and whether or not the market will support a shift away from monthly comics, but I know that TPBs lead to a more satisfying experience on every level.

  • I retain the story better.
  • I enjoy my time spent reading since it doesn’t feel like an investment toward a future payoff.
  • I pick up on smaller details and therefore get more out of the story.
  • I appreciate the bigger picture the author is going for.
  • The narrative flows better.
  • I can read at my own pace.

I’m sure there’s more I’m missing, but that’s all I got for now.  The simple fact is I’ve come to enjoy my time spent reading comics more since my shifting to a TPB heavy reading rotation.  While I don’t think I’ll ever stop reading the monthlies, I can’t say the thought hasn’t crossed my mind.

Quick hits for 6/27

June 27, 2008

Superman #677

I’ll cop to some increased expectations with this issue since it’s the first by new writer James Robinson.  While not a big name amongst fans, he’s produced some good, solid, sometimes great work.  I’m not sure if those expectations played a role, but I was let down by this issue.  I like seeing Superman and Green Lantern play fetch in space with Krypto the super dog as much as the next guy, but page after page of setting up Metropolis’ Science Crime Unit isn’t something I really needed.  When Atlas, this story’s villain, shows up, I didn’t care all that much, especially when his motivation for wanting to pummel Superman can be boiled down to “People like you better than they like me.”  Weak sauce, Mr. Robinson.  Renato Guedes is perfectly suited to this title, even if he does err on the sketchy side of line work.

New and Mighty Avengers

Two more stories about how the Skrulls replaced two of the Marvel U’s heroes, and I think I’ve had my fill of that crap.  Sure, it’s neat to see how they pulled it off and writer Brian Michael Bendis weaves Hank Pym and Jessica Drew into pre-existing storylines (like House of M) in a neat way, but I’ve almost stopped caring.  I’m actually more interested in how the Skrulls are able to hide themselves amongst other heroes and emulate the powers of the people they kidnap.  Somehow, throwing a pain-causing washcloth over someone’s face doesn’t seem like it’d do the trick.  I am a big fan of artists John Romita, Jr. and Jimmy Cheung and these issues did nothing to alter that.  I just wish they had something better to draw.  I also wish I hadn’t spent $6 on these inconsequential books.

Thunderbolts #121

My favorite Marvel title loses it’s creative team with this issue, so I’m more than a little bummed.  The one-liners flow freely and are often good for at least a smile.  After a big dustup pits team members against each other, the status quo is maintained in a way that felt a little cheap simply because it came out of nowhere.  Not the resolution I wanted or expected, but these are company owned characters so I’m not sure how much leeway Warren Ellis had.  I will say this about the man, he knows how to write a suitable crazy Norman Osborn.  Mike Deodato leans way too heavily on the photo-referencing crutch, as Robbie Baldwin transforms in this issue from regular looking guy to Edward Norton doppelganger.  In all, a somewhat underperforming ending to what was a satisfying, at times thrilling, yearlong run.