ELEVEN QUICK COMIC REVIEWS, as of 6/28/09

28 06 2009

Just some quick soundbites this time as I try to ramp up towards a regular posting schedule.

What I’m loving this week:
-Narcopolis #2, by Jamie Delano, published by Avatar Press
Jamie Delano has been a thrilling rediscovery for me in recent months.

Narcopolis, by Jamie Delano

Narcopolis, by Jamie Delano

Narcopolis tells the story of a thought-police cadet, complete with compellingly real Newspeak dialogue. Not a mere aping of or sequel to Orwell, but certainly intentionally building on ideas from 1984, Delano’s comic brings a high, literary sensibility to the comic stands.

-Incognito #4, by Brubaker & Phillips, published by Marvel Comics
This fantastic comic just keeps getting better, with real twists and turns that I truly do NOT expect, and a story told from a truly unique perspective. Brubaker is fast cementing his place in my top five favorite comics writers.

-Olympus #2, by Nathan Edmonson & Christian Ward, published by Image Comics
A well written comic with a story similar to Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, and more of what seems to be the hot new trend in comic art: expressionism! Cool!

-Proof #20, by Grecian, Rossmo, & Casey, published by Image Comics
Speaking of expressionistic comic art, no one’s doing it better right now than Riley Rossmo on Proof. Truly mind-blowing stuff. The great story telling by Alex Grecian makes for a complete package.

See what I mean?

-The Unwritten #2, by Mike Carey & Peter Gross, published by DC Comics’ Vertigo imprint
Wow! ANOTHER literary comic! I’m not sure what I mean when I call a comic literary, (Alan Moore’s been doing it for years,) but I know one when I see it. Or read it, as it were. And this book is it! … leading me to believe we’re seeing a trend in comic writing these days as well, and that’s GREAT news! This book deals with the young man who’s the inspiration for a Harry Potter-esque series of books, but just may be a real life boy-wizard himself, all the while dwelling in the post-narrative world explored by Grant Morrison and Terry Pratchett among others.

What I’m reading this week:
-Ultimatum: Spider-Man Requiem #1, published by Marvel Comics
Meh. Mediocre book. As with many critics and fans, I’m pretty peeved at the pitiful ending of the Ultimate Universe comics. Ultimatum never made sense to me, and the main title book was a piece of crap. Ultimate Spider-Man always remains on my list, however, and managed to showcase possibly the best single issue of its entire run in this stupid crossover story. This requiem issue is supposed to help wrap things up, but really all it does is act as a placeholder while we wait to discover that Spider-Man’s not really dead after all! Eureka! And with really shoddily phoned-in art by Mark Bagley, who I had really been looking forward to seeing again since I never really warmed entirely to Immonen, the Requiem book was pretty lame, though requisite reading.

-The Walking Dead #62, published by Image Comics
As always, compelling, but plodding.

What I’m thinking of dropping:
-Savage Dragon #149, published by Image Comics
Hm. I check this book out every few years, and it always seems immediately interesting again, but then shortly loses that interest. I’ll take a look again in another few years. Here’s to Mr. Larsen for keeping at it though.

What I’m dropping:
-Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam! #5, published by DC Comics
Mike Kunkel left the book, other than the cover, (or at least he isn’t doing all the issues now,) and his replacement team of Art Balthazar and Franco don’t even come close to capturing the magic he made so exciting and fun.

-The Muppet Show Comic Book #3
-Muppet Robin Hood #1, both published by Disney’s BOOM! KIDS
I reaaaaaaally wanted to like these Muppet comics. I’m a HUGE Muppet fan. But they just aren’t very good. Disney seemed to think it had a Muppet artist, so why bother looking for someone else when they wanted to launch a new book. But while Roger Langridge’s heart is in the right place, I just don’t think he’s a terribly skilled cartoonist, nor does he quite get the Muppets. Likewise with Beedle and Villavert on the Muppet Robin Hood book.  Making this all the more tragic are the ads in the backs of the books for apparently alternate covers by other artists who TOTALLY ROCK! I would LOVE to see some of these artists doing these Muppet books, but that does not seem to be the plan. Sigh…

Just imagine what it could be like…

The Muppet Show Comic #1  alternate cover by Dave Alvarez

The Muppet Show Comic #1 with the AWESOME alternate cover by Dave Alvarez

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$H!#!, @$%*, & Other Such Exclamations

6 01 2009

If I say “Oh $H!#!” out loud while reading a comic, generally that is a good sign that this is a good comic. Almost certainly good writing is going on, and very likely good art as well. I was lucky enough to do this twice today.

The first was while reading Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark’s fine Daredevil comic, issue #114. I’ll try not to give away the spoiler, but halfway through the book, in a scene with nothing but a bunch of lawyers sitting around a table together, one lawyer, (not Nelson or Murdock!) pulls out a bunch of photos and I, exclaiming loudly to the cats who only stared at me, about dropped my comic in my lap. Very nice job, Mr. Brubaker. You got off to a fine start picking up the reins from Bendis, and have really made the book your own. In fact, as much as I loved Bendis, I’d gotten so used to him on Daredevil and the many other books I read of his, that he was ceasing to surprise me very much any more, though I do still find his work immensely entertaining and of high quality. Do I worry that Brubaker may become similarly stale over time? Well, perhaps, but I’d say that the issue with Bendis was not so much about stale toast, as a very familiar friend. So even if Brubaker goes down that same road, it’s not a bad place to be. I should probably point out that through the rest of the book I found myself also yelling “No, Carlos! It’s a trap!” and “Matt, you idiot! Don’t go IN!!” High praise, indeed.

The second comic of the day to evoke a hungry gaze from the cats was also Mr. Brubaker’s, (along with Sean Phillips,): Incognito #1. Now, to be honest, it wasn’t the Incognito story itself which made me yelp, though it was very fine. I’ve been hesitant to explore more of Brubaker’s work like Criminal, maybe nervous of one-trick-ponitis, or more likely of my above-mentioned worry that I’d start to feel oversaturated with Brubakerly goodness. But when I saw a new issue one with his name on the cover and some classy interior and cover art by Phillips, I decided to give it a shot. As much as I liked Incognito, I have a feeling I’ll be picking up the first Criminal trade soon. Quickly, Incognito is the story of an ex-super-powered criminal who lets the reader into an exploration of the allure and adrenalin-rush of wearing a mask and acting outside of oneself. Well-crafted and paced by Brubaker, with a nice, modern take on traditional panel art by Phillips, the first single issue feels like five issues worth of story and I can’t wait for the next. But the moment in the book that made me stop in my tracks was after the post-story article and advertisement when I turned the page to a STUNNING double-page painted spread of The Shadow! Unfortunately, I can’t find a clear artist credit for the image, but I assume it is Phillips, and it really is spectacular. Guns blazing, eyes slit like daggers, red cloak bleeding all over the place and GOSH! Just staring at it now is intensely awesome. It’s a lead-in for Jess Nevins’ encyclopedic article on the pulp hero, which is a tie-in to Nevins’ forthcoming Encyclopedia of Pulp Heroes (MonkeyBrain Books, 2009.) Really, truly, a wonderful moment in the world of comic art. Thanks guys.

Both Daredevil and Incognito are published by Marvel Comics.

What I’m loving this week:
Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam! #3
Daredevil, vol.2 #114
Echo #8
Thor, one-shots, by Fraction: Man of War
What I’m reading this week:
Amazing Spider-Man #581
Incognito #1
Invincible Iron Man #7&8
Proof #15
Rasl #3
Samurai #3&4
Ultimate Spider-Man #129
Universal War One #3
The Walking Dead #56
Wolverine #70 “Old Man Logan”
X-Men: Magneto: Testament #4
What I’m thinking of dropping next week:
Invincible #57
What I’m dropping this week:
Ultimatum #1&2