Monday, January 30, 2012

CBR Review: The Mighty Thor #10

I recently reviewed The Mighty Thor #10 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "In the wake of Fear Itself, Asgard has become Asgardia, Tanarus has replaced Thor as God of Thunder both in actuality and the memory of everyone save Loki, and Thor finds himself about to be eaten by the god-eater Demogorge. Each of these stories could be dragged out and advanced in small increments; instead, Matt Fraction speeds ahead, establishing the true identity of Tanarus right away, transforming the political landscape of Asgardia, and returning Thor to his prime. It’s a story where what’s coming is a little obvious and that feeds into the pacing. There’s pleasure in watching a fake Thunder god stomp around alienating the Asgardians while Thor slowly regains his memory and his power. The way that Fraction is building this story, only three parts in, is one where the inevitable confrontation is something that readers will relish."

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: Batman: The Dark Knight #5

I recently reviewed Batman: The Dark Knight #5 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "The dissonance between concept and execution is one of the most frustrating things to witness. Fantastic ideas rife with possibilities explored in the most mundane and unoriginal fashions are more disappointing than tripe that never aspires to anything more. Batman: The Dark Knight #5 has some genuinely intriguing variations on the Scarecrow’s usual fear toxin and conceptions of fear, but does nothing with them. This is a comic more interested in reliving the same dull fight that we’ve seen far too many times before: Batman vs. Superman, round 713. If anything, this comic is one held back, seemingly, by two heroes fighting for the sake of it. And that’s a shame."

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: Justice League Dark #5

I recently reviewed Justice League Dark #5 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "The conclusion to 'In the Dark,' the opening story of Justice League Dark, is surprising in the way that it subverts the usual concepts of heroism and team-building. By this point in the ‘origin story’ of a superhero team, the members will have united to fight their common threat and, once defeating it, realize that this little team they’ve formed is pretty great and should continue. That doesn’t happen here. Instead, what we get is the singular triumph of one man despite the best efforts of his supposed teammates and a splintered group of individuals who want nothing to do with one another. It is both an impressive feat to pull off and the logical endpoint (or, jumping off point perhaps?) of this series."

You can read the rest HERE!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

29: I Work Best with a Deadline

In 366 days, I'm shutting GraphiContent down as an active blog.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

28: Singing, Dancing to the Morning Song

Well, that didn't go at all like planned, did it? The rtf file titled '28' for your viewing pleasure:
  • January -- Marvel Boy

  • February -- The Annotated Mantooth

  • March -- Messner-Loebs Thor

  • April -- Marshal Law

  • May -- Channel Zero

  • June -- Holy Terror

  • July

  • August

  • September

  • October

  • November

  • December

List of books that could be done:
  • Automatic Kafka

  • The Authority

  • Punisher: Welcome Back, Frank

  • From Hell

  • Rucka Detective Comics

  • Busiek/Perez Avengers

  • Spider-Clone

  • X-Man/Counter X-Man

  • The Incal
Six posts were all I could muster. Plus, this seventh half-assed, self-pitying piece of shit. A year well-spent, no?

I was tempted to call this series of posts an ambitious failure, but that would be wrong. There wasn't much ambition here, was there? A vague structure that never quite worked and didn't really go anywhere except for late-night 'rants' that weren't as entertaining as I hoped. I liked some of what I wrote and that's something. Sometimes, though, I feel like one of those people I hate. One of those creators who talks up a new project, who has a lot of good ideas, and, yet, months go by and you don't see any new issues. Everyone wonders what happens. How can they not deliver? I don't understand still, because I'm not them. I do know it's easy to waste a day. Or two. Or three hundred, sixty-five.

Part of the problem is the idea: explore my comic reading past and see what it says about me now. You know what it says? That I reread some comics that I read when I was younger. Bravo, Chad, you're a genius. What began as a decent post where I had something to say turned into a series of failures as I struggled to say something once a month and couldn't even do that. 28 was the year where I struggled to have anything to say. I talked a lot of shit. How much of it was worth paying attention to? And, yet, I stand by all of it. I stand by the mean things and the stupid things and the thoughtless things and the tossed off things and the half-assed things... I meant them all, after all. I also meant the things I worked at like the Blogathon, of course. But, I really meant that bad stuff, because that's where my head was at most of the year. It's still there. And it will be there tomorrow, most likely, when I'm 29. That shit doesn't change over night.

I didn't enjoy writing about comics this past year. That's a generalisation, obviously. Sometimes, I enjoyed it more than anything. As a rule, though, it was pulling teeth. And it showed most likely.

'28' will always be unfinished. Rushing to finish it would be a lie. I tried to do something and didn't actually try. I failed.

Maybe 29 will be different.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Sketch Reviews (January 26 2012)

Smaller week, but that's a nice change of pace.

Captain America & Bucky #626: I really liked last issue, the first done by James Asmus and Francesco Francavilla, but this one left me cold. The best parts of the first issue were when it focused on the replacement Captain America and Bucky. This issue seemed to languish, focusing on the modern day stuff where everything is very typical superhero comic. They finally found an area of Marvel history ripe for exploration and it's glossed over? Francavilla's art is nice, of course. Not sure how long I'm sticking with this, especially with the change of focus coming up. [***]

Secret Avengers #21.1: I love how the membership of the team of 'classified' when every ad for the new creative team shows the members of the team. I get it, that's not the team yet, but still... All in all, a good issue. Remender has a nice take on Hawkeye that reminds me of the old Cap/Hawkeye dynamic. I'll want to see a 'regular' issue before I make any final judgments on sticking with this comic. Right now, it stays. [***1/2]

The Ultimates #6: Another quiet issue. And that's good. A lot happens in quiet issues like this. The opening scene where Fury is trying to get Steve Rogers to come back is great -- it isn't to be part of the Ultimates, it's just to convince the president that attacking the Children of Tomorrow is suicide, that they need to accept that the Children are a superior force to such a degree that the only way to move forward is to ignore them and try to go on. It's such an unusual 'status quo' for a superhero comic. Throw in some great scenes with Tony Stark, the new Captain Britain, Reed Richards and the Falcon, and Hawkeye trying to rewrite the rules of the game and this continues to be one of my favourite comics. It pushes my personal buttons. Brandon Peterson does some decent work, but I can't wait for the full return of Esad Ribic (though, where was Dean White?). [****]

The Unwritten #33.5: The 'origin' of Madame Rausch and it's... pretty fucked up. Vincent Locke returns to help out on the art. This was an issue that I wasn't really into at first, but it won me over by the end. Not many comics can pull off these half issues that fill in gaps... but The Unwritten can. I'll miss them when they're gone, I think. This world is so rich that there's always room to explore the mixture of fact and fiction. [***3/4]

Astonishing Spider-Man & Wolverine: The trade came out yesterday and reading it was something I did this morning. I had heard a lot of good things and they were all right. Jason Aaron is quite good at delivering weird, 'awesome' stuff without it being empty and there just to be there. Granted, the villain of this story lends himself to random awesome like this, but... hey, who am I to complain? I didn't really buy how much the two dislike one another at first. That fed into the story and lent itself to something of an emotional arc. Once again, Spider-Man finds some measure of happiness and it's taken away from him. Probably the best 'astonishing' comic I've read from Marvel -- the first that seemed to really grasp the point (or, the point Marvel has been trying to make in the press) about the line. There may have been a lot of references to things that longtime readers would understand, but this was a very basic story that mostly presented the two heroes in a way that matches up with the movie versions. If you haven't given it a read, it's worth tracking down. [****]


Monday, January 23, 2012

CBR Review: Daredevil #8

I recently reviewed Daredevil #8 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "The conclusion to 'Devil and the Details,' the two-part crossover with Amazing Spider-Man that began last week, lives up to the promise of its first chapter. Mark Waid writing the entire story helps avoid the problems of many crossovers where a shift in tone and storytelling break up the flow and cohesion of the narrative. Instead, the only shift is from Spider-Man’s narrative perspective to Daredevil’s, which is also story-driven since it begins a Spider-Man story and ends a Daredevil story. And, like the first part, Daredevil #8 has some pretty great-looking art, swapping Emma Rios for Kano with colorist Javier Rodriguez sticking around to help provide some visual coherence between the issues."

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: Uncanny X-Men #5

I recently reviewed Uncanny X-Men #5 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Last issue’s focus on the Phalanx shunted the Extinction Team to the side. Gillen spends a lot of this issue focusing on the members of the team. The early explorations of Tabula Rosa allow for quiet moments of conversation, be it some flirting between Namor and Hope, Storm reminding Cyclops of the break in the mutant community, or Psylocke struggling with being on similar moral ground to Magneto. The team isn’t quite the blank slate that Tabula Rosa is, but it does require some fleshing out since it is so new and the dynamics of it haven’t been entirely established yet. The opening story arc of the relaunched Uncanny X-Men provided hints of that, and this breather/intro issue lets Gillen show off one of his best assets as a writer: the way he writes individual characters."

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: Avengers #21

I recently reviewed Avengers #21 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Superheroes don’t seem to deal with surprises too well. It’s not uncommon for the heroes, early in the story, to be ambushed by the villains and react poorly, unable to cope with the shock of the bad guy jumping out and yelling 'Gotcha!' Only when the heroes have been beaten down and given time to think and to plan, that they manage to defeat the villain. The Avengers vs. Norman Osborn (the rematch!) isn’t much different. For the premier superhero team on the planet, they’re taken off the board fairly easily. It may be predictable in the structure of the story, but Brian Michael Bendis and Renato Guedes still entertain as the heroes fall one by one in this issue."

You can read the rest HERE!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Sketch Reviews (January 19 2012)

Man, did Haunt #21 actually come out this week? Because my shop didn't get it. Another shortage perhaps? Ah well, I should get it in the next two weeks. But, let's discuss the comics I did get (and am not reviewing for CBR)...

Batman Odyssey #4: Either I'm not following along carefully enough or, sometimes, Neal Adams just makes leaps in storytelling logic that you just have to roll with. Batman suddenly ranting at the scientists was funny -- and he blew up Robin! In some places, Adams's crazy lack of logic works and, in others, it's just baffling. Thankfully, the former beats out the latter. Only three more issues left. [***]

Deadpool MAX II #4: Agent X (the X-Man!) is such a delightful twisting on the concept in some mirror version of Deadpool. The end of the issue was hilarious. Kyle Baker was missed last issue and returns with gusto. Only two more issues left. [****]

Moon Knight #9: I love how the only logical explanation for Buck as to why Moon Knight would want Captain America's shield, Spider-Man's webshooters, and Wolverine's claws is that those are the voices in his head. Now, that's the truth -- but who the fuck WOULDN'T have their support guy build those for him? Those seem like excellent crimefighting tools to have. Why aren't the Avengers arming all of their members with electronic Cap shields for times where a shield like that would be useful? I kind of want to see Moon Knight begin to hear Thor's voice so he demands a hammer, too. I'm really liking this series. An issue-long fight where you genuinely feel like the hero is in danger is a rare thing. The 1-2-3 narration shift was too cute for me -- why bring out the weapons one at a time like that? Seems like a pretty dumb strategy... Can't wait to see what happens next. [***3/4]

Prophet #21: Good issue. That it's different and confident in its storytelling seems to make people think that it's the greatest thing since forever (if I can be condescending and presumptive). I liked it. I liked the confidence and the sense that this was going somewhere right away. I liked the narration and the art. I like that John Prophet is a bit of a blank slate -- almost like a machine. The different alien stuff was quite good, too. Nothing that pushed this into 'great' territory for me... but, fuck, how many first issues do that? [***3/4]

Wonder Woman #5: Surprising design for Hades. Tony Akins does a good job of not changing the visual tone of the book radically. The picture of what's happening seems more complete -- and, if I read the end of the issue right, Diana is showing some sly intelligence. [***1/2]


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Best of 2011: Ten Pre-2011 Comics that I Read in 2011

Something that always gets lost in the end of the year round-ups of the best comics published that year is the influence of past works upon the year. No one just reads brand new work the entire year and ignoring the comics from prior to the year in question gives an incomplete view of the year. When I used to run down my favourite albums of the year, I'd always do a section for the albums from prior years that I'd only just gotten that year. I figured I'd do the same for comics this year. Presented in alphabetical order are my ten favourite comics (or groups of comics) that I read in 2011 that were published prior to 2011.

Astonishing X-Men: Ghost Box, Astonishing X-Men: Exogenetic, and Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis by Warren Ellis, Simone Bianchi, Phil Jimenez, Kaare Andrews, and others. I honestly can't remember if I got Ghost Box this year or in late 2010. Let's just assume it was this past year to make things easier. These three trades comprise Warren Ellis's three stories on Astonishing X-Men and, if you're a fan of Ellis's writing, they're entertaining little stories where he treats the X-Men like the frontline response of an endangered species struggling to stay alive, protect the future, and fuck up anyone who crosses them. Not a take that everyone likes, but I really like it. Ellis's approach to the characters is very much in line with where Cyclops is right now and that's an interpretation of the character that I enjoy. Hell, it may be my favourite version of the character. Ellis also focuses heavily on genetics, alternate realities, and variations on the idea of a 'mutant.' He's paired with some good artists and is obviously just having some fun with the tools available.

'Breed: The Book of Genesis and 'Breed: The Book of Ecclesiastes by Jim Starlin. With Image publishing 'Breed III this year, they also put out trades of the first two 'Breed mini-series. The three volumes function together as a whole to tell one big story: Ray Stoner discovers, while serving as a soldier in Vietnam, that he's not human -- he's half human, half demon. Demons have been softening the world up for decades to make it right for them to come here and consume it. So, he must go against the demons and other 'breeds to try and destroy the leader of the demons, his own father. I didn't know much about 'Breed before reading 'Breed III and these trades made that a lot clearer. Jim Starlin has said that this is his favourite series and it's one that allows for a wide range of concepts and stories. He may have stuck to a fairly strict straight line, but, in there, is magic, sci-fi, war, romance, noir... basically, it's a series that accomodates everything. Hell, in 'Breed III, he brought in all of his other major creator-owned characters to help Stoner out! This was a major gap in my Starlin knowledge, now filled.

Elektra Lives Again by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley. I got one of the reprints that's regular comic size, something that Retailer Tim informed me was a mistake. Me, I'm just happy to have gotten a chance to read this story. Frank Miller applying some his later style to Matt Murdock and telling a story where Murdock wanders around not knowing what's really going on. It's a story about a superhero out of his depth and utterly ineffective. So much happens that we don't know about because we're so tied to Murdock. It's original and rather astonishing. And utterly gorgeous.

The Flash: The Trial of the Flash by Cary Bates, Carmine Infantino, and others. I got this because of Graeme and Jeff talking it up so much. One of those rare instances of DC using their 'Showcase Presents...' books to collect a big story rather than just X number of issues of a title. The story itself is a rather loose one throughout with a lot of the usual superhero bullshit popping up. What made the biggest impression upon me was how this changed my opinion of Barry Allen. Before this, I thought he was a boring, one-dimensional character. Now, I understand that he's a selfish asshole like every other Silver Age DC hero. One of the main subplots of the story revolves around Barry's fiancee going crazy because he stood her up on their wedding day -- where the Flash apparently killed the Reverse-Flash to save her life. Instead of just telling her that he's the Flash and he was late because he was fighting his arch-nemesis, he lets her get put in a mental hospital and, then, fakes his own death. Now, if this Barry Allen was the one currently in the DCU, I think I'd be much on board with the character. This was also my first extended exposure to Carmine Infantino's art. I know it's later in his career, but he made a lot of strange choices. Lots of slanted panels mixed with extreme close-ups that left you wonder what you were looking at. Very different from most superhero art.

Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus Vol. 1 by Jack Kirby. DC has finally begun releasing these omnibi in softcover for those of us who missed the hardcovers. This first volume is mostly introductions and Jimmy Olsen comics. I rather like the way that Kirby was establishing his own little corner of the DCU with four comics, each offering a different perspective. He just hits the ground running and doesn't look back. The common thread through all four titles is Darkseid as he schemes to find the human who can comprehend the Anti-Life Equation. You can already see the connection to The Eternals, which was more focused and shied even further away from the superhero stuff. There isn't a lot of straight up superhero content in these comics aside from Superman. The New Gods all wear their costumes and have powers, but don't seem like 'superheroes.' I'm curious how those ideas will further develop over the next three volumes -- all of which I'd love to see released in 2012.

Various Hellblazer comics by Jamie Delano, Si Spencer, Peter Milligan, Ian Rankin, and a whole host of artists. I continue to own more Hellblazer comics than any other series. I added, what, nine trades, two original graphic novels, and a "Vertigo Resurrected" reprint to my collection this year? The bulk of that was comprised of comics written by the first Hellblazer writer and the current one, Jamie Delano and Peter Milligan. I don't buy single issues of Hellblazer much and, usually, wind up reading big chunks of issues. It's strange to read the beginning of the series and where it is now in the same year. John Constantine has changed quite a bit -- although not as much as you'd think. Jamie Delano's Constantine is a bit of fuck up and neophyte when it comes to magic. He knows some stuff and is a player, but he's got a lot to learn and is definitely not the biggest man on the block. By the time we get to Milligan, Constantine is the fucking man. Guys like Warren Ellis and Brian Azzarello wrote him in a way where magic wasn't a problem at all. He could almost do anything. His main problem is that he's a selfish bastard. Milligan amps that personality defect up to the point where it gets in the way of magic. Everything is so easy for him that he has to struggle with his true nature to not abuse his power -- and there are always types of magic out there that he still knows shitall about. Milligan's version of the character is one that definitely goes back to its roots. Before 2011, I'd read more Hellblazer comics than any other series (probably) and, yet, I was missing a big chunk of what makes the character who he is. And I'm still missing stuff. Bring on 2012.

Pretty much the complete Marshal Law by Pat Mills and Kevin O'Neill. I already owned some of Marshal Law and read most of what I didn't own since my dad had them when I was growing up. But, this year, I bought everything I didn't have and read the entire run of mini-series and graphic novels, including the two novellas Mills and O'Neill did. It's funny how influential these comics were (something that's still not recognised really, even though everyone who writes about them mention how influential they were) and, yet, how, with each progressive series, they became more childish, more self-parodic, and less influential. That doesn't mean that they stop being 'good,' just that there isn't much new said after the initial six-issue series. There are small moments in the rest that add to the good Marshal's character or further explore the concepts of abuse of power, guilt, and sense of betrayal by the government and superheroes. That the character is continually pushed to the point where, in the novellas, he suffers a full psychotic break between his 'real life' as Joe and his 'night life' as Marshal Law. Towards the end, neither Mills nor O'Neill seem to care as much. And why would they? What is there to say in a crossover with the Mask except that no matter what, Marshal Law is the dominant personality? They even forego the usual parodies by the end. How long can you keep making the same jokes? The Boys found some more to make, but even those grew tired at times. It's funny that, by the end, Marshal Law returned, in a sense, to where it began: focusing on broader statements and the characters, not worrying about sticking it to specific superheroes.

100 Bullets by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso. I don't know what to say about this. I read this series for the first time in a week? Maybe less? It's all kind of a blur. A blur that I really enjoyed, which is why I read through it so quickly. A big series about violence and power that was every bit as good as everyone told me it would be. The way that it mixed in the larger story with the smaller contained elements, building on what came before was impressive. I'd read a few things that Risso had drawn before, but prolonged exposure to his art was something entirely different. Watching him build the world and characters with Azzarello, making the visuals matter as much as the writing (more in places). I think that's part of what makes these longterm Vertigo series work for me: a strong, consistent visual voice. It's part of what makes Preacher and Transmetropolitan so great -- and part of the reason why The Invisibles is always lacking to a degree for me. If there's one comic I want to reread in 2012, it's 100 Bullets. A slower read where I can take my time and really think about things as I go.

Ronin by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley. Another comic that my dad had and I'd flipped through a bit. I'd never read it proper. Bought the original issues cheap this year and... wow, this is Frank Miller throwing everything he can on the page. Every influence, every bit of craziness, all of it is just tossed out like this could be the last comic book he ever gets to make. And why not? It was his chance to do six issues of a comic where he wasn't stuck working with decades of continuity and expectations -- these were his characters, his world, and he didn't slow down or back off of anything. You can see the grotesque side of his art coming out in places here and that's the Miller I like best. I like the messy, ugly Miller. This isn't my favourite work of his yet... probably not top five. But, I've only read it once and moved on. It was a busy year of catching up after finally getting a full time job. Hopefully, I'll get the chance soon to go back and slow down, give it the look it deserves. Hell, I can say that for everything here, can't I?

Silver Surfer: Parable by Stan Lee and Moebius. I buy the issues and Marvel decides to put out a new collection a few months later. That's my sort of luck. I'm great at hunting down original issues only for a collection to be announced within the year. Anyway... The original issues didn't age well (which is why I'm getting the upcoming hardcover). Not the best way to read this series for the first time -- still, Moebius art on shitty paper is still better than no Moebius art at all, right? His Silver Surfer is just so casual on his board. It's not an intense riding the waves look. It's a guy who stands completely secure in who he is and what's going on. He looks like a guy standing on a street corner waiting for the bus, not someone flying an insane speeds hundreds of feet in the air. It's one of those odd approaches to a character that changes how you see them. I wound up looking at these two issues every day for a few weeks. Just flipping through them, checking out a panel here, a panel there. I did the same thing with that Incal hardcover that came out with the original colouring. Moebius is one of those artists whose work I can spend hours lingering over.

Monday, January 16, 2012

CBR Review: Scalped #55

I recently reviewed Scalped #55 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "The first half of Scalped #55 is devoted to Dash and Snuka trying their best to rip each other apart with their bare hands. The dialogue is minimal, leaving R.M. Guéra’s art to carry the fight. His art is rough and messy, like always, and that conveys the passion and pure blood lust of the fight. These are men that hate one another, both skilled fighters, and both willing to do anything to kill the other. Guéra’s layouts are stacks of panels that overlap and are chaotic to a degree. It’s a dark, ugly fight that’s always moving and hard to follow at times. And that’s a good thing. The lack of clarity in some panels reinforces the nature of the fight. If we could see everything clearly, it would lose the energy and chaos that drive it."

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: Amazing Spider-Man #677

I recently reviewed Amazing Spider-Man #677 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "It’s been 30 issues since Mark Waid last wrote Amazing Spider-Man and he’s returned to the title for a short crossover with Daredevil. Continued in next week’s Daredevil #8, 'Devil and the Details' has Spider-Man enlisting Daredevil’s help after the Black Cat is arrested for a robbery, assuming that Matt Murdock may be the lawyer she’ll need to clear her name. It’s a simple plot that can be done in two issues and allows Waid to focus on the characters, an area where he excels. That and Emma Rios on art makes Amazing Spider-Man #677 a great start to this two-issue crossover."

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: Secret Avengers #21

I recently reviewed Secret Avengers #21 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "As the last episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation reminded us, all good things must come to an end. For the past six months, Warren Ellis’s issues of Secret Avengers have been action-packed mash-ups of mad science, superheroics and espionage with a new artist each issue. He’s worked with some of the best artists in comics over these six issues and what better way to end than to reunite with his Nextwave collaborator Stuart Immonen in the first issue to use the entire six-person team? Things go boom, of course. Who would have it any other way?"

You can read the rest HERE!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Sketch Reviews (January 12 2012)

Batwoman #5: Interesting turn of events -- the art still outpaces the writing to a large degree, which makes me a little worried about what happens come next issue. From what I've seen, Amy Reeder is a good artist, but she's following an amazing one that's been the sole reason to buy this comic. There always feels like there's something missing in each issue. Not like they've left out stuff you don't need or can figure out... like there's something essential missing. I don't know what it is, though. I'm useless, I guess. [****]

Captain America #7: Well, shit, Steve Rogers, if you didn't get on board with torture, maybe you wouldn't be doubting yourself so much. Also, stop hating mutants and just hire a telepath to shut those riots down. Tactical genius my ass. Ooooh, Alan Davis art! [***1/2]

Frankenstein, Agent of SHADE #5: The other side of OMAC #5 and it blends scenes we saw there with no information that fleshes them out. A really well done crossover between the two books. Really interesting to see someone other than Giffen draw OMAC as well. I liked Ponticelli's interpretation. [****]

Journey into Mystery #633: I love how those fear beings are a subtle wink at the Endless. Each one is described with one of the names of the Endless -- or is so obviously one of them. Funny little joke. Also, Loki ain't no snitch. [***3/4]

Justice League Dark #4: My shop finally got the copies they were shorted on a couple of weeks back... I'm not entirely sold on this series yet. The slow gathering of the characters isn't my ideal structure. However, this issue saw more progress in that department and actually ramped up the plot a bit. [***1/4]

New Avengers #20: The two-page splash where the New Avengers and New Dark Avengers rush at one another is a fun video game page. The concept is a little dumb, sure, but the execution is inventive enough, especially now that there are only a few one-to-one matches on the two teams. What's going on with Jessica, though? I can't see how she would be the mole in the group... who knows though. With two Avengers teams, it's nice to see that Bendis is having Osborn take two different approaches to each one. [***1/2]

Punishermax #21: Someone needs to do a comparison between this and Scalped #55, which also came out this week. Two big fight scenes, two brutal-as-fuck fight scenes, and both approached very differently by two different artists. Maybe I will if I find the time -- and, as much I would like to, CBR isn't set up with reviews to do a joint review like that (and that's totally understandable since why should they be ready to have someone review two comics from two different publishers at the same time because they both happen to have fights scenes written by the same writer?). The mixture of memories was masterful, especially when it got to the present in a quick succession. I have no idea what's coming in issue 22 and I can't wait. [****1/2]

The Unwritten #33: That is one hell of an ending -- and damn clever. I loved the different stories. Great storyarc. [****]

Wolverine and the X-Men #4: A really good 'breather' issue after the first story. Nice to take some time and get a sense of the school some more. Hell, I'd be happy if that's all this book did. But, I also miss The Intimates... [****]


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Best of 2011: CBR Top 100

The CBR top 100 of 2011 went up a few weeks back. I gave my picks and wrote some blurbs with an early draft of my top 10 comics of the year. That list has since changed and will see the light of day sometime before the month is over. The blurbs I wrote were done with an emphasis on brevity. Basically, a bunch of blurbs that could function as pull quotes. Hey, if you aren't delivering pull quotes on 'best of the year' lists, when are you?

#100-76, including my blurb for Prison Pit Book 3.

#75-51, including my blurb for Vengeance.

#50-26, including my blurbs for Punishermax and Deadpool MAX.

#25-11, which has no blurbs by me.

#10-1, including my blurbs for Scalped and Daredevil.

Other blurbs I wrote:

Butcher Baker, the Righteous Maker (Written by Joe Casey; Art by Mike Huddleston; Published by Image Comics)
Joe Casey and Mike Huddleston let loose to do as they please, combining superhero comics with trucking movies with crazy pop art extravaganzas. Every issue shows some new crazy wonderment -- hell, every page does! This comic is everything a superhero comic book should be.

Ultimates (Written by Jonathan Hickman; Art by Esad Ribic; Colors by Dean White; Published by Marvel Comics)
The relaunched Ultimates has pushed the boundaries of what we expect from superhero comics, free of continuity concerns and able to genuinely change the world it depicts. The biggest revelation has been the art team of Esad Ribic and Dean White, a duo that manage to bring epic scope, deep beauty, and fierce energy to every page.

Criminal: The Last of the Innocent (Written by Ed Brubaker; Art by Sean Phillips; Published by Icon)
Ed Brubaker explores nostalgia, both in the real world and the comics world, with depth and care, while Sean Phillips shows a bit of range to go with his expert storytelling. The Last of the Innocent is uncompromising right to the end and will make you want to go back and reread it right away.

Holy Terror (Everything by Frank Miller; Published by Legendary Comics)
No one draws cities better than Frank Miller. No one draws widescreen big pages than Frank Miller. No one draws rain better than Frank Miller. Holy Terror has all of that and more. It’s a gorgeous work that I’ve spent far too much time just looking at.

Expect some other Best of 2011 posts over the next while, including my usual post on Joe Casey's work from the year, some notable comics that I think are worth mentioning, the ten comics released prior to 2011 that I got this year that I think deserve notice, and the revised top ten list.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

CBR Review: Avengers Annual #1

I recently reviewed Avengers Annual #1 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Four months ago, New Avengers Annual #1 began the story that Avengers Annual #1 concludes this week. That’s a bit of a wait on the second half of a two-part story where the first half ended with Wonder Man and his Revengers setting their sights on Avengers Tower after taking down the New Avengers in Avengers Mansion. Brian Michael Bendis planted the seeds for Simon Williams’s turn on his former teammates in the early issues of Avengers and, despite Williams’s warnings, the Avengers are still taken off guard by his attack. While there are some big fights in this issue, it’s Williams’s argument that the Avengers should be disbanded that takes center stage and is, by far, the most interesting thing in this issue."

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: Avengers: X-Sanction #2

I recently reviewed Avengers: X-Sanction #2 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Loeb’s tenure on Cable lasted from just before 'The Age of Apocalypse' to just after 'Onslaught,' and, during that run, Cable’s techno-organic virus became one of the central ideas. His struggle to contain and control the virus played a large part, so it’s no surprise to see Loeb returning to that in this event. Cable only has three things on his mind (the Avengers, Hope, and the virus) and each plays into the other. That basic presentation of the character on display makes Cable easy to understand; the simple rhythm of his thought process and desires gives the issue a steady pace that Loeb and Ed McGuinness use to suck the reader in and surprise at key moments."

You can read the rest HERE!

Friday, January 06, 2012

The Joe Casey Vengeance Reading List

I got an e-mail earlier this week asking for what comics I'd recommend for anyone reading Vengeance and wanting to know the background on various characters and concepts Joe Casey is using in that series. I shared my 'essential' list with said e-mailer and he wanted more, so here's the essential stuff plus a few more suggestions if you're willing to do the extra work and maybe spend the extra cash...

The Essentials
* Cable #59-62 (introduction of Jack Truman)
* Deathlok #1-11 (more on Jack Truman and Larry Young)
* Uncanny X-Men #408-409 and annual 2001 (Stacy X first appeared in Casey's Uncanny X-Men run and these issues are the best and showcase her well)
* The Last Defenders #1-6 (how the Defenders you see in Vengeance came to be)
* Dark Reign: Zodiac #1-3 (the big Z himself)

Further Reading
* Uncanny X-Men #394-407 (the rest of Casey's run on the title, so more on Stacy X and the first issue has a young mutant that easily could have been the 'next generation Magneto' stand-in for Vengeance instead of the man himself)
* X-Men: Children of the Atom #1-6 (Casey writing teens and Magneto)
* Incredible Hulk #468-474 (Devlin Deangelo appears here)
* Heroes Reborn: Masters of Evil #1 (Casey writing villains being villains)
* Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes #1-8 and Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes II #1-8 (Casey writing the Avengers in a similar way to the Teen Brigade and using some of the villains that play a role in Vengeance... er, sort of)
* Avengers: The Origin #1-5 (the Rick Jones-era Teen Brigade in action)
* Iron Man: The Inevitable #1-6 (Casey writing about the balance between good/evil, order/chaos)
* Age of Heroes #4 (short, SHORT story by Casey and Nathan Fox featuring Zodiac)
* The Intimates #1-12 (from DC/Wildstorm and it's Casey writing about teens, more for the folks who love his take on the young folks in Vengeance)

Someone suggested proper annotations, but that's not my style.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Sketch Reviews (January 4 2012)

Every new year is the same as the old one at first. Except I reset the lists where I keep track of things for the year like what books I've read, what CDs and DVDs I've bought, and... well, that's it. That's what matters, right?

Action Comics #5: Well done, Grant Morrison. You turned Brainiac into a more boring version of Plex. And Superman into a more boring version of Noh-Varr. Hey, I wanted more Marvel Boy, didn't I? It's a shame it's been repurposed as a Superman comic. Now, if he starts writing swear words into Metropolis... [**3/4]

Animal Man #5: Steve Pugh returns for no reason other than he drew Animal Man once upon a time and... uh... nonetheless, I do enjoy the art on this book. Unlike anything else in superhero comics right now -- and Lemire is hitting the right beats and tone. [***3/4]

The Defenders #2: I miss The Intimates. The bottom of those comic pages had ambition, son. An interesting issue, not quite cohesive or entertaining enough yet. Not crazy enough. [***1/2]

Fatale #1: I love the way Phillips draws Jo's face. It's different from his usual women. Not a knock you on your ass first issue, but intriguing. I'll stick with Brubaker and Phillips forever most likely. [***2/3]

OMAC #5: I don't know which I liked more: Frankenstein kicking the shit out of OMAC or Father Time trash-talking Maxwell Lord. [****]

Stormwatch #5: Goddamn, that last page has me getting off this particular train. I gave it five issues and it was almost there a couple of times... but, fuck it, I don't care. I'll just reread the Ellis stuff. [dropped]

Uncanny X-Men #4: The ending was a bit obvious from the getgo with the middle not inherently compelling enough to keep my interest. The tie-in to Sinister had me hoping that this would be something more than a one-off where we're supposed to care that Hugh dies at the end. [*3/4]

Wolverine and the X-Men: Alpha & Omega #1: I like Brian Wood's Quentin Quire. Not sure if it's my Quentine Quire, but he's entertaining -- more so than the one we've seen Jason Aaron write so far. Then again, hitting the right tone for that character is tough. Not many people could do it. I think Fraction could if he tried. Joe Casey could without trying. Wood is making a go of it. Not sold on the premise entirely yet and a little disappointed with how restrained the Boschi/Brown art is. Between this and Huat's work on Annihilators, I'm wondering where my Ghost Rider boys are at these days... [***]


Tuesday, January 03, 2012

CBR Review: Vengeance #6

I recently reviewed Vengeance #6 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "It’s the event comic you didn’t read this year. The one that spanned dimensions and time, pulling in various heroes and villains, all for a big showdown in Latveria with the Teen Brigade, Kristoff and the Last Defenders on one side, the Young Masters of Evil on the other and the In-Betweener in the middle. Vengeance has acted as a culmination of sorts for Joe Casey’s Marvel work and nowhere is that more apparent than in this issue where characters and ideas from almost everything he’s done for the company collide. There’s even a visual callback to the first issue by Nick Dragotta that shows that this comic is pulling in details from itself."

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: Haunt #20

I recently reviewed Haunt #20 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "The relationship between Daniel and Kurt is broken down for reasons that aren’t entirely clear yet. Kurt seems to relish in the pain his brother is receiving, making jokes and quoting song lyrics. The set up of two people coming together to form a superpowered being isn’t new, nor is the two not getting along, but never has it been taken to such an extreme, particularly with brothers. Even a rescue by a strange short-wearing, katana-carrying, bearded man by the name of Still Harvey Tubman doesn’t entirely make things better when he has to berate Kurt (who he can see and hear somehow) into getting off his ghostly butt and merge with his brother to bring Haunt out."

You can rest the rest HERE!

CBR Review: Gødland #35

I recently reviewed Gødland #35 and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "The end is nigh for Gødland. It may be crawling its way towards the end, but the end is coming and this issue points in that direction strongly. Gødland #35 is a mix of finishing up old business, the title’s usual cosmic tripiness and setting things in motion for the end of the series with what looks to be a Gød-level event. After a string of issues that hovered around the 20-page mark, this one increases to 26, but you’d believe it was 36 with the amount of content Joe Casey and Tom Scioli pack in."

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: Annihilators: Earthfall #4

I recently reviewed Annihilators: Earthfall #4 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "The end of Annihilators: Earthfall is filled with little moments of potential and hints of a story that could have easily been the basis for a big multi-book event story for Marvel, but none of it pays off enough. The story is too big for the comic. Instead of creating an impression of so much content, scale and story that every page is a crazed mess of trying to fit it all in, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning rush through and use the same storytelling that they would use if there was enough room. The limitations and execution of this series undercut the story potential, no more so than in this final issue where the end just sort of happens."

You can read the rest HERE!