Monday, June 29, 2009

glamourpuss #1-3 (almost) for free!

You've all heard me talk on and on about how great Dave Sim's examination of the history of the photorealism art style in comics is in glamourpuss, and now there's a chance for you to check it out for yourself. Sim has put up a .pdf of the first three issues' worth of the historical material one for free and you can download it here! Give it a look.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

CBR Review: The Muppet Show #4

I recently reviewed The Muppet Show #4 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "After three issues spotlighting Kermit the Frog, Fozzie Bear, and Gonzo the... uh, what is Gonzo again? Anyway, Roger Langridge turns his attention in this issue to the natural fit for this group of four, Miss Piggy. Having each issue of this series revolve around these four characters has been a great way to structure it and to give each issue a singular focus to base that episode of The Muppet Show around."

You can read the rest HERE!

Friday, June 26, 2009

I Bought Comics: Dark Reign: Zodiac #1 Review plus Two Quick Ones

[Trying something different: doing proper reviews for some books I buy. Not quite proper, but done in the CBR format. If I feel like it. Other books get the quick treatment, I suppose. Only because I don't feel like reviewing them properly. Or at all. That's the way it goes. Yay. Enjoy.

Title: Dark Reign: Zodiac #1
Story by: Joe Casey
Art by: Nathan Fox
Colours by: Jose Villarrubia
Letters by: Albert Deschesne
Cover by: Nathan Fox
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover price: $3.99 (USD)
Release Date: June 24th, 2009
Rating: 4
Blurb: Guess who’s back. Back again. Casey’s back. Back again.

Along with Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance, I think it’s safe to say that Joe Casey’s back. Okay, he wasn’t really gone, but, aside from Gødland, he hadn’t really been writing anything that great for a while now. Charlatan Ball, Youngblood, and The Death-Defying ‘Devil were all... well, they invented words like ‘mediocre’ and ‘lacklustre’ for works like those. But not Dark Reign: Zodiac #1 where Casey places the work clearly within his own little private Marvel continuity that includes his runs on Cable, The Incredible Hulk, Deathlok, and even his Heroes Reborn: Masters of Evil one-shot despite this being a different Whirlwind technically.

Joe Casey does free-wheeling, off-the-wall dialogue better than almost anyone and his Zodiac talks circles around people. There’s an obvious hint of Ledger’s Joker here, but also Nickelhead from Gødland... in a recent interview regarding that supervillain series he’s doing for Dynamite relating to that Project Superpowers thing, Casey discusses how he likes his villains to have a nihilistic feel about them — that they embrace their villainous lifestyle and that’s what this book is about. People like to say that no one sees himself as a villain, but Casey calls that bullshit... because it is. Some people would, but in that glorious rebellious way where it’s less of a genuine evil motivation and more of a cultural identity one. Zodiac declares himself a villain, partly because he’s a bad guy, but more because he likes the idea of being a bad guy, the way that someone likes being a punk or a goth... being a villain is just an identity that this guy has embraced.

He’s joined by various ancillary characters from the Marvel universe to make up his little group, Casey once again showing that he knows his stuff. Remember, Wizard once called Casey the next Kurt Busiek because of his use of old characters no one remembers. I find this third appearance of the Clown in a Casey book an interesting one since he resembles the Clown that appeared in Casey’s Hulk run instead of the one from Deathlok. It’s the same character, but, visually, the two are distinct and I’m kind of surprised that Nathan Fox (perhaps at Casey’s urging, perhaps not) went with this one. This version is small, fat, comedic... whereas the thinner, more punk-ish Clown from Deathlok seems more appropriate for this tone of this book. It’s an interesting choice.

Nathan Fox fits this book perfectly. His frantic energy matches Casey’s so damn well. I love the way Fox draws Johnny Storm — almost the way that Zodiac views the character. The colouring is a bit too dark and muddled for my taste at times, but it’s also appropriate. I dunno. Otherwise, he really brings life to these characters, even Zodiac, who could fall flat given his mask. I love his inclusion of sound effects throughout the issue, too.

The revelation of Zodiac’s real face at the end... is that supposed to be someone we know? He looks familiar, but he’s not ringing any bells. But, yeah, this is a pretty good book and I’m looking forward to the next two issues. Along with The Last Defenders, Casey shows again that he can take the overlying plot of the Marvel universe and give a different perspective on it. In that case, it was a different view of Stark’s Initiative program, here’s it’s Osborn’s ‘Dark Reign.’

Detective Comics #854

What can I say that Jog hasn't already? Gorgeous fucking comic. I got this issue to see if I'd bother with future ones and I think I will. Rucka's writing is in top form here, coupled with Williams's art... AND the bonus of Cully Hamner? Well, how can you say no?

New Avengers #54

Billy Tan is done! Stuart Immonen is coming! Keep on rockin' in the free world!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

CBR Review: Secret Warriors #5

I recently reviewed Secret Warriors #5 and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Since this issue is mostly action, artist Stefano Caselli is leaned on heavier than any issue in the past to carry things and he does so well, for the most part. While he shines during the fighting, having no problems depicting humans or machines in battle, there are also panels that call for more subtle looks or body language that he doesn’t always pull off. That’s a slight criticism, though, as he does improve with each issue and you can still understand what he’s getting at."

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: Berserker #1

I recently reviewed Berserker #1 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "That said, with a zero issue and a first issue, you would assume that things would be beyond the most basic of stages in characterization and concept, but they’re not. Both Farris and Aaron are barely sketched out with only the barest of hints about what lays behind their abilities available. One scene tries to give some perspective with agents from Midgard and Asgaard fighting, tying into the Norse aspect of the berserker, but not much is actually revealed in that scene."

You can read the rest HERE!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

CBR Review: Dark Avengers #6

I recently reviewed Dark Avengers #6 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Ever see a sequel to a really great movie that’s basically the same as the first, but just on a bigger scale? Instead of saving the city from doom, the hero now saves the country or the world? It’s really not any different and, while pleasant, it’s nowhere near as good as the first one. Most of the lines are the same, the characters haven’t really changed, and it’s missing the magic that made the first so wonderful. That’s what Dark Avengers is beginning to feel like."

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: Dark Avengers/Uncanny X-Men: Utopia #1

I recently reviewed Dark Avengers/Uncanny X-Men: Utopia #1 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "There are two main problems with this issue. The first is that the length of story seems drawn out to accommodate the increased page count that a special of this nature demands. Fraction does try to fill the pages with different aspects of the riot, but even that doesn’t hide the fact that this could have been a regular-sized issue without anything getting lost. Some scenes work nicely, like Cyclops confronting Toad, or when the Avengers arrive on the scene. The way that Spider-Man/Venom sizes up Colossus and leaps in battle with joy is wonderful."

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: Thor #602

I recently reviewed Thor #602 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "J. Michael Straczynski has been fearless in his Thor run, unafraid to take the characters in new directions and alter the status quo, which he continues in this issue as Thor solves one problem while creating another with a little help from Dr. Strange. Which raises another consistent element to Straczynski’s run: not knowing where it fits in with the rest of the Marvel universe."

You can read the rest HERE!

Monday, June 22, 2009

CBR Review: Young Liars #16

I recently reviewed Young Liars #16 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "The construction of the issue as a two-part song is reflected in the way that Lapham tells the story. The first half of the issue is told all in the same page layout: three stacked panels. There is no variation, aside from the first page where the usual placement of the title precludes using that layout (although the title almost acts as a middle panel). Not only that, but there is no dialogue in these panels, just Ronald’s narration combined with various images that Lapham chooses carefully, often coming back to images of duality."

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: The Boys: Herogasm #2

I recently reviewed The Boys: Herogasm #2 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "This issue is an improvement over the first which, while good, never really progressed beyond the one or two jokes Ennis could tell about superheroes doing drugs and having lots of sex. In this issue, Ennis builds on some of the ideas hinted at towards the end of last issue, like Vic the Veep’s arrival at the Herogasm, and the Boys’ presence."

You can read the rest HERE!

Friday, June 19, 2009

I Bought Comics: The Middle Weeks of June 2009

[I wrote five reviews on Wednesday, so I'm reviewed out until after this weekend where I'm getting out of town with my girlfriend. It's her birthday and she wants to visit her parents, so off we go. The point: as always, these aren't reviews, they're just whatever thoughts pop into my head.]

The Unwritten #2

I really enjoyed the first issue of this book and the second issue continues in the same vein. Not sure if this will get a spot on my pull list since I usually give books 4-6 issues before making that determination, but this has a very good shot.

Captain America #600

As I pointed out over at Comics Should be Good, this is actually the second Marvel comic to centre around the one-year anniversary of Steve Rogers's death. And, as others have said, this is a another good chapter in Ed Brubaker's run, but it's not exactly the sort of comic you base a big media push around. It's based very much on context and a solid knowledge of what came before. It's rather good, but I really am curious how much it would grab a guy off the street. I really loved the inclusion of a Golden Age Cap comic with some art that is weird and wild and just fantastic.

Captain Britain and MI:13 #14

Paul Cornell writes the hell out of this comic, pulling back from the end of last issue with a major twist that makes perfect sense and doesn't feel like a cheat. Everyone else, take notes, and learn. Only one more issue left. Dammit.

Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance #2

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaand ChrisCross is gone already? The comic suffers as a result, because the pair of artists that step in can't quite match him. Comparisons to The Intimates continue as the horrible art that plagued the end of that series happens here in the second issue. Compare this issue to the first and you can see with crystal clear accuracy just how much bad art can hurt an issue. And I don't meant to dump on the artists here, but their work is ugly, cluttered, and pretty bad, and the issue reads bad as a result. Joe Casey's writing is butchered here. We'll see how it reads in the future, but this issue was a disappointment despite Casey hitting all of the right moments, expanding on his character building, and, again, giving us action that dovetails with the vapid nature of the group. But, goddamn.

CBR Review: Madman Atomic Comics #16

I recently reviewed Madman Atomic Comics #16 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "It’s weird, but this issue of Madman Atomic Comics begins with a 12-page story by Jamie S. Rich and Joëlle Jones that is actually stronger than the Mike Allred story that follows it. 'Last Night the Atomics Saved My Life!' follows a teenage girl as she details her obsession with the band the Atomics and, most importantly, its front man, Adam Balm."

You can read the rest HERE!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

CBR Review: Thor: The Trial of Thor #1

I recently reviewed Thor: The Trial of Thor #1 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Where it gets interesting, or rather dumb, is the means in which the Warriors Three prove Thor’s guilt: magical forensics. Yes, this comic could have been called 'CSI: Asgard' without being misleading at all. All that’s missing is a short teaser at the beginning that ends with Fandral removing sunglasses in a dramatic fashion. Even the ultimate solution to the mystery doesn’t ring true with odd scientific-esque reasoning."

You can read the rest HERE!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

CBR Review: Incognito #4

I recently reviewed Incognito #4 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Zack Overkill is in it deep. His old employer, the Black Death, wants him dead for turning state against him. His old adversaries, the S.O.S. have captured him, rendered him once again powerless, and want to use him as bait to catch whoever the Black Death sends after him. And his only friend from his cover life is dead. Yeah, he’s in it deep."

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: The Comic Book Podcast Companion

I recently reviewed The Comic Book Podcast Companion for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "For the record, my editor, Augie De Blieck, Jr. is featured in this book because his Pipeline Podcast was the first comic book podcast ever. I had no idea, but, then again, I didn’t know a lot about podcasts before reading this book. I listen to a few, but had no idea how widespread and varied they are, which is one of the reasons why Eric Houston’s book is such a joy to read. The book is accessible to those with little knowledge about podcasts and, also, certainly full of information for rabid fans of the shows discussed."

You can read the rest HERE!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

CBR Review: Groom Lake #3

I recently reviewed Groom Lake #3 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Ryall’s writing matches the art wonderfully with some hilarious lines thrown in, most notably the laid back tone of Archie’s speech. He is the friendly alien pal, speaking in pleasant tones, but often about things like destroying aircraft or leaving the human race to die a horrible death. Karl’s panicked tones act as a good counterbalance with Anita somewhere in the middle, more aloof and sarcastic."

You can read the rest HERE!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Variant cover to Blackest Night: Superman #2--too graphic?

Steve here.

I just came across this image via IGN...

For those unwilling to click on the link, it's an image of the variant cover for Blackest Night: Superman #2, which shows Superman and Superboy being menaced by a zombified Psycho-Pirate in Black Lantern garb. DC fans may recall that Superboy-Prime punched a hole through this character's head during Infinite Crisis, which is why his resurrected corpse has been depicted in this image with its face missing, a gory hole where that face should be, and a lone eye dangling horrifically from where his skull once was.

Remember that this is the cover of a Superman comic. Admittedly it is a variant cover, so shop owners would have to specifically order this kind of thing and could only get one copy for every 25 of the regular cover they order. But still I can't help but feel that this choice of cover image is asking for a bit of trouble.

Personally, I think the image looks great, and it is in my mind a totally appropriate image to sell adults on a story of zombie superheroes and villains coming back for revenge. But as a cover image, even if it IS just a variant one, it runs the risk of being seen by people outside of the context of the story contained within it, and that can be a dangerous thing.

Keep in mind that around 55 years ago, comics got into pretty big trouble for using cover images such as this.

That's one of the most famous images in comics, an image which got hauled out during the Senate hearings in 1954, which Gaines famously defended as "in good taste... for a horror comic," which led to EC's demise and to the creation of the Comics Code Authority. And it is an image I would argue is much less gruesome than this Superman cover.

Can you imagine what kind of uproar might have resulted in 1954 if a parent had seen this comic? You could argue that public understanding of comics would be such today that people would realize that this is not a comic intended for children and that kind of outrage would never happen in these modern times. But I would point towards the Gordon Lee case, in which one comic with what was judged as a potentially graphic image in its interior art accidentally wound up in the hands of a child and a five year legal battle ensued because of it. And that's the INTERIOR art, which is much more difficult to see than a COVER image, which even for a variant cover could end up being seen by children during a visit to a local comic shop.

And the cover in question is to a book that is not an indie nor a mature readers book. It's a mainstream superhero book, which most people today still associate with children's fare.

Obviously parents should take on the role themselves to police the reading and viewing habits of their children as they wish, but if it's a cover image the children could accidentally come across, I could understand why in such a case the parents might feel that the publisher should bear some responsibility. I could definitely see a few parents, who might feel (justifiably so) that it's their right to determine for themselves which images of violence and sex their children are mature enough for, being upset that the decision has been taken out of their hands by such a cover image and might then pursue some sort of legal action.

Luckily this image IS a variant cover, and the likelihood of it being seen by children is next to nil. But I still can't help but feel it might have been a poor choice for DC to make. What say you? Too gruesome? Or not graphic enough? In keeping with the tone of the story? Is THAT in itself a problem? Is this choice of cover image ill-advised on DC's part or a shrewd marketing ploy? Please weigh in with your thoughts.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Some CBR Review Stats

I was a little curious about my CBR reviews to date: which titles I've reviewed the most; which publishers I've reviewed the most; the highest issues ranked; the lowest issues ranked; and the average star rating... So, I did the math for you.

For these stats, I went by when the reviews were published (and, as such, I'm not including June's stats).

Reviews by Month
October 2008: 3 reviews; 9 stars total; 3 stars average
November 2008: 18 reviews; 59.5 stars total; 3.3055-- stars average
December 2008: 17 reviews; 58.5 stars total; 3.44 stars average
January 2009: 21 reviews; 67 stars total; 3.19 stars average
February 2009: 18 reviews; 55 stars total; 3.0555-- stars average
March 2009: 20 reviews; 65.5 stars total: 3.275 stars average
April 2009: 21 reviews; 69 stars total; 3.2857 stars average
May 2009: 23 reviews; 71 stars; 3.0869565 stars average
Total: 141 reviews; 454.5 stars; 3.2234 stars average

Reviews by Title/creator
X-Files: 6 reviews; 18 stars; 3 stars average
Young Liars: 5 reviews; 22.5 stars; 4.5 stars average
Scalped: 4 reviews; 17.5 stars; 4.375 stars average
The Boys (including Herogasm): 4 reviews; 13.5 stars; 3.375 stars average
Captain Britain and MI:13: 4 reviews; 17 stars; 4.25 stars average
Invincible Iron Man: 3 reviews; 9 stars; 3 stars average
Ghost Rider: 3 reviews; 12 stars; 4 stars average
Dave Sim books: 4 reviews; 13.5 stars; 3.375 stars average
Bendis Avengers titles: 10 reviews; 33.5 stars; 3.35 stars average
Warren Ellis Avatar books: 11 reviews; 42.5 stars; 3.8636363-- stars average
Joe Casey bookss: 8 reviews; 24 stars; 3 stars average

Number of Reviews by Stars
5 stars: 4
4.5 stars: 15
4 stars: 28
3.5 stars: 32
3 stars: 26
2.5 stars: 12
2 stars: 8
1.5 stars: 8
1 star: 4
0.5 stars: 3
0 stars: 1

Reviews by Publisher
Marvel: 51 reviews; 165 stars; 3.23529 stars average
DC: 37 reviews; 123 stars; 3.324324324-- stars average
Image: 15 reviews; 48.5 stars; 3.23333-- stars average
Avatar: 11 reviews; 42.5 stars; 3.8636363-- stars average
Other: 11 reviews; 38.5 stars; 3.5 stars average
Dynamite: 10 reviews; 25 stars; 2.5 stars average
BOOM!: 6 reviews; 15.5; 2.583333-- stars average

Some interesting stats there. Honestly, I'm a little surprised that the average star rating is that high. I was expecting something between 2.5 and 3... I don't know why, but I was. I am happy to see that my month-to-month average doesn't vary too much. Kind of surprising that I've given out more 3.5 stars than any other rating. The breakdown of publishers doesn't surprise me much. The average stars by publisher is interesting only in that I usually don't pay attention to the publisher when writing my review. Avatar has the highest average mostly because, in this period, every book I reviewed of theirs is a Warren Ellis title. I didn't expect such a low average for Dynamite, but that was before I remember The Death-Defying 'Devil was one of theirs. And, simply because people care about these things, I may review more Marvel books, but DC books are, apparently, a bit higher in quality.

Some questions: Does the average rating seem too high/too low? Am I too nice/too mean? Am I diverse enough (by whatever standard you wish to use)? Any other general comments regarding my reviews?

I may do another post in a few months. Maybe at the end of October at the one-year mark.

Friday, June 12, 2009

CBR Review: Final Crisis Aftermath: Escape #2

I recently reviewed Final Crisis Aftermath: Escape #2 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "If ever there was a comic that will surely split opinions, it’s Final Crisis Aftermath: Escape with its trippy atmosphere, stream of conscious storytelling, and utter lack of explanation for anything that happens. It’s the sort of book where one person will rhyme off a bunch of reasons why it’s the best comic they read that week and someone else will respond with the same list as reason why it’s awful."

You can read the rest HERE!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

CBR Review: Anna Mercury 2 #1

I recently reviewed Anna Mercury 2 #1 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Ellis doesn’t develop this world much in this issue, preferring to give a couple of small details, while going through the concept of the series and what exactly Anna Mercury does to travel to these constellation worlds, making this new-reader friendly for those who haven’t had a chance to pick up the first series yet."

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: Wolverine #74

I recently reviewed Wolverine #74 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "In this final issue before Wolverine becomes Dark Wolverine, the two stories from issue 73 conclude solidly. The tactic of doing two 11-page stories split over two issues instead of two self-contained issues featuring complete stories is an interesting one, but it highlights that writers have been so trained in doing 22-page stories that changing it up leads to problems in at least one of these stories."

You can read the rest HERE!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

CBR Review: Absolution #0

I recently reviewed Absolution #0 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Avatar continues its trend of beginning mini-series with short zero issues that both begin the story and provide readers with a cheaper entry point with Absolution #0, and this method seems very effective. For all of the concerns over first issues being too expensive and not providing anything more than the set-up, a smaller, cheaper zero issue is a great solution since all of the set-up is accomplished for half the price."

You can read the rest HERE!

Monday, June 08, 2009

CBR Review: Sherlock Holmes #2

I recently reviewed Sherlock Holmes #2 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "It’s difficult at this time to judge what scenes are unnecessary since future issues will reveal what was important and what wasn’t, but there’s far too much effort put into mimicking the cinematic effect of following a minor character from one location to another in order to bridge scenes. These transitions add nothing to the story, except filler that allows Moore and Reppion to drag events out. And, in one case, the transition leads to a scene that seems entirely unrelated to the plot."

You can read the rest HERE!

Sunday, June 07, 2009

The Best and Worst of Joe Casey

It began with Tim Callahan, of course. In one of his "When Worlds Collide" columns, he did best and worst of Grant Morrison lists. The ten best and five worst. So, I thought to myself, "Hey, I should do that, but with Joe Casey!" And here that post is. As with Tim, I'm doing the ten best and five worst as determined by me. The comics chosen are ones that I've read and ones where Casey is the only writer, which both helps and hurts him. In the helps area, it eliminates a lot of early Marvel work where he just scripted or co-plotted (and it also eliminated The Death-Defying 'Devil from the worst list). In the hurts area, it also means no Mr. Majestic on the best list. Just warning you now.

The Ten Best Joe Casey Comics

1. Wildcats volume two #8-28, "Devil's Night" annual
This is Joe Casey's creative breakthrough work where he took his writing to that next level by taking a bullshit Image concept and writing it in a mature and sophisticated manner. People tend to cite Wildcats Version 3.0 as the better work, but it all began here with Sean Phillips (and Steve Dillon). Casey examined what it would be like for these people to live without a war to fight any more, struggling to break free of their old ties but always bound by them. It's a book about family and what happens when everything you've dedicated your life to goes away.

2. Automatic Kafka #1-9
The metafictional comic about comics about a former superhero android who is being hunted by the government to work for them, so he becomes a celebrity instead. With Ashley Wood, this book was improvisational, followed its own sense of logic, and, much like Wildcats, asked what happens next. This time, what happens after the superhero comic ends... the $tranger$ were the big team in the '80s and they ended, so what happens next? Do you become a junkie? What happens to fictional characters after their authors stop writing them? The Charlie Brown issue is a stand-out in this regard, as is the finale. Gone before its time, but that almost seems fitting.

3. Adventures of Superman #613-624
In his final year on Adventures of Superman, Joe Casey did something that I still consider one of the boldest and most forward-thinking creative decisions in modern superhero comics: he made Superman a pacifist. The embodiment of good guys punching out bad guys doesn't throw a single punch and if Casey didn't have Superman say it explicitly, I bet no one would have noticed. I still have no idea how DC let him... unless they just weren't paying attention. The move is completely in character and is the logical progression of the character. At some point, Superman should turn his back on violence in the hopes of finding better ways to solve his problems. Beyond that, these final 12 issues of his run are highly creative and feature some fantastic stories as Superman deals with fictional characters come to life, a secret government town populated entirely by superhumans, the Mxy Twins, and, in the final issue, a bunch of crazy-ass threats.

4. Gødland #1-present
Insane, fun, and always a joy to read. With Tom Scioli, Casey is doing some of his best work on Gødland. By the time it's finished, I could easily see it rising another spot or two. This comic seems an exercise, at times, in cramming in as many ideas and concepts as possible, and the pair make it work every single time. Describing it is often tough, because it is unique -- but the word I've used in CBR reviews, cosmitastic, always seems to do the job best. Not only that, but it will be Casey's longest sustained creator-owned work, which gives it a singular distinction. It has less than a year left and, honestly, I don't know how it will end. Not in a plot way, but in a "There's so much more you could do with this concept!" sort of way. This may be a book that exemplifies the "leave on a high note" approach to comics.

5. Wildcats Version 3.0 #1-24, Coup D'Etat: Wildcats
This comic is not quite as good as everyone likes to remember it being. There were a few truly brilliant issues where Casey examined the idea of corporation as superhero fully, but, a lot of the time, it was a compromised book full of action in an effort to please longtime WildC.A.T.S. readers. That said, it was still audacious, ambitious, and a damn fine read most of the time. It ended on a particularly sour note, cancelled before its time, so it doesn't read as well as a whole as it might have otherwise. It had some fantastic covers, though, initially designed by Rian Hughes, and looked quite unlike anything else on the shelves.

6. The Intimates #1-12
Another ambitious failure. The Intimates was an attempt to satisfy two itches at once: pander to the masses and experiment with what you can do with a comic book. The audiences for those two goals are quite different and neither seemed to like the aspects of the book geared towards the other group. The mainstream didn't like the experimental storytelling techniques, including the wonderful infoscroll at the bottom of pages; the rest didn't like the more mundane plots and stupid teen drama. Me, I dug both. This book suffered a lot towards the end thanks to subpar art, but Casey continued to show that he's a fearless writer, willing to take any chance in the hopes of pushing the boundaries of his talent. Say what you will, but the man is rarely boring.

7. Codeflesh
Shorter stories, split, first in Double Image with a Larry Young-written story and, then, in Double Take with Matt Fraction's "Mantooth," Codeflesh was recently rereleased in a definitive hardcover with a new story (which I haven't read yet because I haven't gotten the hardcover... dammit!). The story of a bail bondsman who hunts down the superpowered criminals that skip bail while wearing a mask to conceal his identity because a judge ordered he couldn't do it anymore. It's a moody comic that evokes Will Eisner and also Spider-Man's relationship problems. What makes it stand out so much, though, is the final part of the story where Casey and Charlie Adlard deliver one of the most compelling and inventive stories I've read by having a letter written by Cameron take over the story: it fills the word balloons and sound effects, almost like a music video. It could have failed, but the two pull it off spectacularly. The book was good
until that final chapter, but that chapter makes it great.

8. "Autopilot" (in Reveal #1
An autobiographical short story with art by Sean Phillips, "Autopilot" often slips under the radar, but is a must read for... well, everyone who reads mainstream superhero comics. Casey reflects on the difficulties in working on franchise characters as you're pulled in so many directions: pleasing the fans, creating lasting art, pleasing the editors, just being able to pay your bills that month. It's the sort of story that changes the way you look at comics and the people who make them. It also provides some insight into what was going through his head while he worked on Uncanny X-Men, Adventures of Superman, and Wildcats.

9. Cable #51-70
His first big break and you can see a lot of where Casey went later in this book. His love of superhero comics comes out and his ability to both meet and subvert expectations is evident. On the one hand, he brings Cable's Askani past to the forefront and sets up a confrontation with Apocalypse that's been a long time coming; on the other, he moved Cable away from the X-Men and their little world, pushing him into the Marvel universe by moving him to Hell's Kitchen and having him team up with the Black Panther and Avengres, while facing non-X enemies. Most of the run also had some fan-fucking-tastic art by Ladronn. The story where Cable is hunted by SHIELD, "The Nemesis Contract" is one of the high points with both creators busting their asses and delivering some great comics.

10. Uncanny X-Men annual 2001, #408-409
Yes, the rest of the run was very quite awful (see below), but the widescreen annual with Ashley Wood and final two issues with Sean Phillips provided some hope that Casey could have pulled this run off. Focusing on the Vanisher as a drug lord, trafficking in a drug that temporarily gives people mutant powers, the team deals with him, first, like any other villain, but, then, they approach the situation from a more intelligent point of view. Since he sees himself as a businessman, Warren Worthington, another businessman, hits him that way: he buys off everyone that works for the Vanisher. An unofficial prelude to Wildcats Version 3.0 and a test run for Automatic Kafka, these issues are some of the best X-Men comics I've read and actually make me wish Casey had been allowed to stay on the book.

The Five Worst Joe Casey Comics

5. Gen13: Wildtimes
Part of the "Wildtimes" fifth-week 'event' from Wildstorm where creators took Wildstorm concepts and placed them within another time period. Casey takes Gen13 and sticks them in the late '60s/early '70s, using them to explore the Vietnam war and other elements of that time. It really just doesn't work at all with a lacklustre plot about Burnout trying to avoid the draft, and a bunch of lame cultural references, both real and fictitious. On the surface, this seems like a prototypical Joe Casey comic, but it lacks his usual wit and experimentation. It's not entertaining or enlightening... a very superficial book where the only redeeming factor is the use of the Teen Titans as instruments of the status quo.

4. Wolverine: Black Rio
A pointless Wolverine story in the worst cookie cutter sort of way. Wolverine goes to Rio de Janeiro for Carnival and we learn that he has a past in that city and it's coming back to haunt him! OOOOOH! Original! To be fair, Casey does at least avoid the usual "send Wolverine to somewhere in Asia" part of the plot, and has the friend from his past really just be a drinking buddy. But, there are zombies and lame shit like that. The door is left open for a follow-up story that's, thankfully, never come about. Oscar Jimenez provides the art and does a decent enough job. This was an early work in Casey's career and it shows. Sadly, Marvel keeps pumping out the Wolverine books -- I'm surprised they haven't asked Casey to do the follow-up yet. Probably because no one remembers this... or, at least, tries to pretend not to.

3. Infantry #1-4
Part of Devil's Due's "Aftermath" line of books that began in late 2004 and folded in early 2005. This book kind of goes around my rules about no co-writes since Josh Blaylock came up with the concepts for all of the "Aftermath" books, but since Casey is credited as the sole writer, I'm allowing it... if only to bring attention to it and recommend that you all avoid it. I haven't actually read the fourth issue, but I will someday because, hey, if you're going to look at someone's complete body of work, you've got to look at it all. I haven't read these comics in years and that's purposeful. Very generic, very lame plots with an awful lead character. Casey does his best to add interesting elements, but nothing he does works at all. It's all smoke and mirrors, and he uses similar concepts involving the government in other books much more effectively.

2. Uncanny X-Men #394-407
Oh, where to begin? When Grant Morrison and Joe Casey were announced as the new writers of the X-books, it was a cause for celebration. The X-books had long been in the hands of mediocre writers more obsessed with continuity than producing good comics -- mostly because editorial was more obsessed with continuity than producing good comics. But, now, we had two hot, creative, inventive writers on the books and things would never be the same again. Now, Grant Morrison went on to have a very good run that people remember and still talk about in glowing terms. Casey... well, I think his run on the book may be the most damaging thing to his career. If he is ever held back from an assignment or seen as "not ready to play with the big boys," it will be because of his run on Uncanny X-Men. From the get-go, it was sabotaged with Ian Churchill on art as his style just did not match Casey's. But, even with lacklustre art, Casey could have overcome, but he
was seemingly obsessed with the idea that pop eats itself and, so, did variations on old stories without actually saying anything meaningful. It seemed like an exercise in giving the audience what it wants, but in a way that makes them hate what they want... except not quite on purpose. Morrison did a similar thing on New X-Men, but with much more success. The second big storyarc of Casey's run involved a genuinely interesting concept with Banshee's X-Corps possibly acting as a rival organisation in Europe to the X-Men, run in a very different way, but even that devolved into typical bullshit. In many ways, what really makes this run so bad and so frustrating is that it always seemed like it was on the verge of becoming something worthwhile. A few different creative choices and it might well have been a classic run. Instead, it's one of three or four things that everyone remembers about Joe Casey.

1. Wolverine/Cable: Guts 'n' Glory
I can never say it better than I did in my original look at this book:
Holy shit is this a bad comic. I'm just going to skip right to Should this book remain forgotten and say, yes, OH MY GOD YES! It's a Wolverine/Cable team-up book with art by Stephen Platt. I don't think this book is forgotten, I think it's been blocked out by the collective memory of comic fandom, particularly Joe Casey fans. If you took this book to Casey at a convention, I wouldn't be surprised if he set it on fire, said "What comic?" and then beat you right there on the convention floor with the help of his fellow Mans of Action.

...okay, I'm going a little overboard, but this really is a seriously bad comic. It attempts to tell a story about Cable's early days in New York, and involves Canadian-government-employee Wolverine... and it's bad. On the first page, we have long-haired Cable walking the streets of New York in some weird fucking outfit that has shoulder pads. He's also apparently eight feet tall.

But, I shouldn't harp on the art... it's Stephen Platt. What does anyone expect?

I'll focus on the writing: Casey tries to give us some interesting bits, but they all fall flat. Cable gets taken in by a veteran who recognises that Cable has also fought in some wars; one of Cable's enemies travels back in time to kill him (and lands in Canada, which is how Wolverine gets involved); and Cable fights the Vulture (again, Casey placing him within the Marvel universe, not the X-verse). These plot elements could make for a good story, but they don't here. There's little characterisation--except for horrible cliches--and the story is difficult to read because of the art.

I can't believe I spent money on this book and that, because of my weird completist obsession, it will remain in my collection.

And there you have it, the ten best and five worst comics of Joe Casey's career. For more information on many of these books, check out my archive of Joe Casey posts where I've examined a large majority of these books on an issue-by-issue basis.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

The Splash Page: Batman and Robin #1 and Seaguy #3 (Part II)

[Tim and I continue our discussion of Batman and Robin #1 and Seaguy #3. You can read the first part on Tim's blog!]

Tim Callahan: Since I said "there's very little in the way of subtext" I guess I'd be missing it too, if there were any. But I don't see this comic being about layers of meaning. I see it as a straightforward exploration of a new Batman/Robin dynamic, built on the inversion of the normal roles. It's a chance to tell fresh Batman stories because this Batman is fresh. Dick Grayson has no idea how to be Batman, even with all of his experience as a costumed crimefighter. He's not the crazed vigilante type. Damian is crazed, but not in the way Bruce was. It's as simple as putting those two characters through the wringer by giving them some baddies to fight. Now it's only the first issue, so clearly the stakes will get higher as the series progresses (and the "coming attractions" page at the end was one of the best parts of the issue), but I see this as a more external counterpart to Morrison's internal Batman run.

Seaguy is a mix of both internal and external, but the greatness of that series (besides Cameron Stewart's art, which I might actually enjoy more than Frank Quitely's Batman and Robin art, as I reflect on both issues at this moment) is that the internal stuff is represented through the external. I have a "When Words Collide" column planned that will address Seaguy in more depth, but what Morrison does in that series is to take the subconsciousness and represent it through surface interactions. The Seaguy stuff is the stuff of dreams, the characters and actions the embodiments of hopes and fears, which is basically the core of the superhero genre anyway. Batman and Robin loses that sense because it's too specific. It's too much about these particular characters who live in this particular fictional world, as much as Morrison says he intends to do some kind of David Lynch thing with them. Maybe he will -- maybe the series will ultimately be about these very specific characters regaining their dreamlike roles in the collective unconscious -- but issue #1 doesn't point that way, and I think that's why this comic is slightly disappointing (or as disappointing as a four-and-a-half star comic can be, which is the score I would have given it, too).

Chad Nevett: Actually, four-and-a-half stars is my "objective reviewer" rating. In my more subjective view, I would have gone down to a mere four stars... which is still pretty damn good. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the issue quite a bit and my complaint that there isn't as much subtext is a minor one -- but it's also what separates the very good from the great, you know? Batman and Robin #1 was very good, while Seaguy #3 was great. Really just nitpicking.

You mention the "coming attractions" page and that was the only time I actually felt that chill of excitement run through me (okay, the double punch-out of the Toad got me excited). I'm not always a fan of that technique since I've seen it used in the past as an excuse of sorts. "Okay, so this issue wasn't the best, but look at what we've got coming up once we get past all this lame exposition and scene setting!" I didn't get the sense that that's what is happening here, because those four images are very purposeful and work within the context of Morrison's run to this point. The references to his previous work on the book were my favorite parts of the issue... god, have I become some lame continuity nut in micro form, dedicated to Morrison? Damn.

TC: Maybe we're just too entrenched in looking for the layers that it's difficult to appreciate something that's a visceral thrill without much depth. Nah, that's not it -- we both love "Ghost Rider" when its at the level of pure, raunchy fun. We just expect something different from Morrison, I suppose. But then again, you're the one guy left on the internet who's not a big All-Star Superman fanboy, so who knows what you're thinking.

CN: I'm currently thinking about making hot dogs for supper and drinking my coke slushy. And how awesome Queens of the Stone Age are. That's what I'm thinking.

Steve also occasionally reads the comics he buys (3 June 2009)

(Some of these might be books I bought last week, not this week. I tend to get really behind on my comic reading during the school year, which is why I'm using the summer to catch up. And then share my thoughts here.

I also buy a shit-ton of books as you shall soon see. Thank you for your willingness to slog through it all.)

Air 9

I really love this book. It reads a lot like old-school Vertigo series, a bit of fantasy, a bit of real-world character drama. Good stuff.

Astro City Dark Age Book 3 #2

decent enough, but damn if this story isn't taking forever to get somewhere. I mean Book one Issue one came out in August of 2005! We're only on the tenth issue of a sixteen issue story.

Back to Brooklyn #5

A decent conclusion to a good little crime story by Ennis. I'd recommend picking it up in TPB.

Buffy: Tales of the Vampires one-shot

was ok overall but very inconsequential. And is it just me or did Becky Cloonan perhaps give uncredited assists on the art to her boyfriend Vasilis Lolos on a few pages?

Captain Britain Annual

I'm sorry Chad but I am just not loving this book near as much as you are, and when it wraps up I'm going to be happy to sell my issues to someone else. I just don't care about it overall. The cricket bit was nice though.

Chew #1

Nice to see Layman come back to comics, and really great art on the book too.

Dr. Who Classics series 2 #7

eh. I love Who but have never been that into the ancillary materials. The Stockbridge story was interesting to me only because the "companion" in that story has just reappeared in DWM's current comics.

Ex Machina #42

This book is getting really interesting... I just wish it came out more often. I swear I don't complain about this kind of thing usually. I mean my favorite creators include Seth, Jason Lutes, and Adrian Tomine. It's just for serialized stories like this one, which are action-driven, a quicker pace is needed.

Hellblazer 255

This two-part story was quite clearly a fill-in and utterly pointless in the worst kind of way: it wasn't even that interesting. Basically Constantine stands around and listens to a ghost tell his life story in this issue. There's no sense of mood (as in "Hold Me" by Gaiman) and nothing is gained from the ghost telling his story at all, for the people in the ghost's story, for the ghost himself, for John and his supporting cast or for the reader. Why does the ghost do what it does at the end of its story? No real reason. Why is John listening to the story? Nope, just 'cause.

House of Mystery 14

didn't see that character twist coming. A lot of rules were being broken in this issue. food for thought in a story that has only been getting attention for the shorts it contains when the mythos of the frame story is much more interesting.

Impaler #3

Actually a rather moody and scary post-apocalyptic vampire story shaping up here. The bit with the religious zealot in the diner was actually really creepy.

Invincible 62

An extended fight sequence that will read better when the story is completed and read as a whole. Sorry, Kirkman, I know you said in your lettercol that it insults the artist and gets your goat when someone says "I read this book in 5 minutes!" but that's when you get when your whole issue is full-page or double-page spreads. I don't deny that the fight sequence is important... but it's still a quick read.

Jonah Hex #44

One of the things that I love about this book is that it tells complete stories in a single issue. This issue, however, is part one of a six-part story. Make of that what you will.

Madame Xanadu #11

I love how this book is blurring the line between DC and Vertigo, and I really like that this current storyline seems to be involving the Wesley Dodds Sandman, one of my favorite characters in comics.

Northlanders #17

Now here's a fight scene that took me a good fifteen to twenty minutes to read and was enormously satisfying because it was actually ABOUT something. And it's a perfect single issue story as well.

Secret Six 10

Gail and Nicola deliver another great issue. Very interesting new storyline starting here. Love this book.

Scalped 29

Like Chad, all I can do to review this book is swear: holy hell this comic is intense. I need to go back and reread this storyline pronto.

Amazing Spiderman: The Short Halloween

Hilarious story and one of the few books I've ever read by Hollywood types that shows a true understanding for how to tell stories through the medium of comics. All the extras in this book though have nothing to do with the story and are totally filler.

Trinity #47-52

I think I was one of the only people in the world buying this book, and I actually enjoyed it, a lot more than Countdown at the very least. But I'm glad it's over and Busiek will have more time to concentrate on other things. Like Astro City perhaps?

Unknown Soldier #8

I think there's only one or two books Vertigo puts out that I'm not buying, and I love them all. Unknown Solider is the one tied most closely to the "real" world, very different from books like Air or House of Mystery, but I love it just as much.

Young Liars #15

This book doesn't make a lick of sense... but I still love it. I look forward to it finishing so I can go back and reread it all to try to follow it more closely. And I have to admit that I'm kind of glad it will end soon, because it might mean Lapham would go back to Stray Bullets.

Friday, June 05, 2009

I Bought Comics: May becomes June

[Random thoughts, impressions, feelings... maybe I should spend this entire time discussing how these comics make me feel. Nah, just whatever I feel like saying. These aren't reviews, so please don't think of them as such.]

Final Crisis Aftermath: Run! #1

I read somewhere the idea that the Human Flame here is a stand-in for Dan DiDio and even that idea doesn't make this comic read any better. It's pretty fucking bad and pointless. I bought it for the Splash Page. Not sure it was worth it.

Captain America #50

I know this a big round number that's easily divisible by ten, is half of 100 and so on, but it didn't require the bigger price tag. The lead story is the normal 22 pages and the bonus material easily could have been shifted to this month's 600th issue. Other than that, a fairly mundane story about Bucky not having a birthday cake until the Avengers make him a birthday cake. Wow.

Ghost Rider #35

Once upon a time, I loved Ghost Rider. It was a mean, energetic grindhouse horror comic. It was messy and played loose, unafraid to be a bit crazy. Then, it became a very, very, very mediocre story about angels and a war in Heaven and the International Club of Ghost Riders and I was this close to dropping the book. Then, that story ended and Tony Moore came on board to do the art and, for the past three glorious issues, the book has returned to when it was one of the goddamn best books on the shelf. This was the last issue. Soon, there will be a mini-series that finishes up that heaven/angels/International Club of Ghost Riders plot. No justice in the world.

glamourpuss #7

I'm torn on what to think about this issue. The discussion of art isn't nearly as prominent as usual, but the fashion mag parody has been replaced with superheroine parodies. Ms. A? Both an homage to Ditko's Mr. A and a purposeful misinterpretation through 21st-century fashion celebrity. The other superheroines are rather entertaining, including Girl Flash (created apparently because the trademark on a female version of the Flash has lapsed) and Leather Cleavage.

Gødland #28

Holy shit is this issue jam-packed with content! EVERY PAGE BLEW MY MIND AND THEN SWALLOWED THE SWEET, SWEET BRAIN JUICES!

The Boys #31

Holy fuck. Holy fuck.

Dark Avengers #5

Why do I do it to myself? I'm buying this book, partly because Noh-Varr is in it -- and I can't fucking stand the way Bendis writes the character. Fuck. Otherwise, this issue was weak in a lot of spots. The Osborn TV interview was so fucking cliched and obvious. The Sentry stuff continues to be interesting, though, and Ares... Ares is the best thing about this comic.

Scalped #29

Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ.

Seaguy: Slaves of Mickey Eye #2

The best Morrison book of the week. Of course.

Strange Adventures #4

This book has hit its stride, which isn't amazing or anything, but it's pretty solid in quality. I never thought I'd say this, but Jim Starlin not doing any of the art helps. Maybe if Al Milgrom were inking him, but it seems that Ian Hunter gets that assignment most of the time these days and the art suffers considerably. The plot here reveals a larger pattern -- and there's a nice friendly jab at DC editorial here over the handling of the whole Hawkman dead/alive debacle.

CBR Review: Skaar: Son of Hulk #11

I recently reviewed Skaar: Son of Hulk #11 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Following a well-worn path is both a positive and negative here as it allows Pak to play with expectations and demonstrate how Skaar is different from his father. The confidence that Skaar exhibits in his human form is striking when you think back to the number of times Bruce Banner has cowered and sulked. That this child is so willing to sacrifice his own life to save others shows that there’s a lot of potential in this character to be another type of Hulk character rather than a simple copy."

You can read the rest HERE!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

CBR Review: Batman and Robin #1

I recently reviewed Batman and Robin #1 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Nothing seems more fitting for this first issue than for Frank Quitely to join his longtime collaborator Grant Morrison on art. While Morrison is no stranger to Batman, Quitely has only drawn the character a few times in the past, mostly on covers, and he brings a fresh energy to the book. Morrison's work on the Batbooks to this point has been plagued by less-than-stellar art, so seeing him get a chance to work not just with one of the top artists in the industry, but an artist who so completely understands Morrison’s writing is a joy."

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: Captain Britain and MI:13 Annual #1

I recently reviewed Captain Britain and MI:13 Annual #1 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "However, even in the back-up story, with better art from Adrian Alphona, the writing never really gets going. The back-up story gives Braddock’s impressions of his relationship with Meggan while he plays cricket with the team. The idea of this British team playing cricket is a nice twist on the usual baseball game that American superhero teams love to engage in, and it’s great to see the team at ease, relaxing together."

You can read the rest HERE!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

CBR Review: Dead Run #1

I recently reviewed Dead Run #1 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Oh, look, another obvious concept meant for another medium that Eureka creator Andrew Cosby has brought to comics for another writer to write. Yes, it’s that obvious. And, yes, no one doing these books has yet to figure out that comics are different than movies or TV and what works there (or, in this case, didn’t even work there) won’t necessarily work here."

You can read the rest HERE!

Monday, June 01, 2009

CBR Review: Punisher MAX: Naked Kill #1

I recently reviewed Punisher MAX: Naked Kill #1 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Novelist Jonathan Maberry seems to be the latest writer from another medium to be Marvel’s 'go to' guy. He has a Wolverine story in Wolverine Anniversary and a new gig on Black Panther, but Punisher MAX: Naked Kill is nothing but cheap violence that reads like a third-rate copy of Garth Ennis’s 'The Slavers.'"

You can read the rest HERE!