Thursday, March 29, 2012

Riding the Gravy Train 00 (Avengers vs. X-Men #0)

Next week, Marvel's biggest publishing event ever will kick off with the release of Avengers vs. X-Men #1. This week, they released a prologue zero issue featuring two stories, both focused around powerful women that inspire fear. In putting them beside one another, the conceptual idea of what's at stake in Avengers vs. X-Men is revealed: Hope is, possibly, the next Scarlet Witch and, once again, that will bring the Avengers into conflict with the X-Men.

The title of this event recalls Civil War, but, really, we're getting a replay of "Avengers Disassembled" and House of M under the pretense of Civil War. (Actually, with the Phoenix Force coming from space, there's also a hint of Secret Invasion. This is Marvel's biggest event because it's a mash-up of previous events and big stories.) In "Avengers Disassembled," the Scarlet Witch seemingly went insane and used her powers to destroy the Avengers after discovering that she had once had two children that didn't really exist (except they do, I believe). She attempts to create a fake world where she can be a mom and exacts revenge on her friends that she thinks betrayed her. In the process, she killed some Avengers (notably Hawkeye and her ex-husband Vision) and was taken away by her father Magneto to be treated by him and Charles Xavier. She is, after all, a mutant and that makes her a mutant problem despite her long history as an Avenger.

That conflict was brought to the forefront in House of M where the two groups debated what to do with her. Some wanted her dead, fearing that she can't be controlled or helped, while others simply wanted to help her and hope for the best. Before they can do anything, she uses her powers to recreate reality, transforming the world into one where mutants are dominant over humans. Wolverine is the sole hero to remember the 'real' world and, over the course of the series, more and more heroes remember, eventually gathering their forces to stop Magneto (ruler of the House of M, the most prestigious monarchy on the planet) and his daughter. In the end, the heroes win, not before the Scarlet Witch uses her powers to decimate the mutant population. Her desire of "No more mutants" isn't seen through altogether with 200 mutants remaining alive.

Since then, Cyclops has grown more and more militant in his protection of mutants. He's obsessed with the survival of his species and has driven away most of his friends and teammates. The shift from House of M to its aftermath pretty much destroyed the character he was, for better or worse. In a sense, the world of House of M is a vision of what Cyclops, now, would want most -- what he possibly hopes Hope can bring about. She, the first mutant birth since the Scarlet Witch's words, is seen as the mutant messiah, a role she doesn't quite want. Yet, she's obviously set up as the Scarlet Witch's opposite number. Where Wanda destroyed the mutant population, Hope will bring it back, supposedly with the Phoenix Force.

This issue doesn't make many of these ideas explicit. We're given some fallout of Wanda's return with the Vision basically reminding her of what she did and, while some may be ready to forgive and forget, not everyone is. Besides that, I'm not sure what the point of that story is besides completing the story Brian Michael Bendis began in this week's Avengers #24.1 and juxtaposing the Scarlet Witch with Hope in a fairly obvious way. Wanda is still on her descent after seemingly dying, living in obscurity, and returning recently. She's a reminder of what's really at stake in the upcoming story.

The Hope portion of the issue is much more important, outlining Cyclops's desire to both nurture and control her -- she's mutantkind's only hope for survival and he will damn well make sure that she lives up to the role. The problem is that she doesn't necessarily want (or understand) that role -- and she was raised on the run in a string of future timelines with an old crazy soldider. She's fairly fucked up and is possibly heading for a breakdown much like Wanda's. She revels in her powers -- going so far as to say she wants the Phoenix Force. She wants that power. To what end? When that question is raised, Cyclops shrugs it off with a fairly lame response about how special she is.

The first story is a reminder of what happened with the Scarlet Witch and that the Avengers haven't forgotten. They are not prepared to let that happen again, while mutants still feel the effect of their failure and see what's coming as something different. It's a way to make right the wrongs that came from the Avengers' failure with the Scarlet Witch and are willing to risk another catastrophe like "Avengers Disassembled" and House of M if it means the chance of mutants no longer being an endangered species. In a sense, Cyclops is just as twisted because of a jarring loss as Wanda was...

Next week: the event begins officially with Avengers vs. X-Men #1.

Sketch Reviews (March 29 2012)

Avengers #24.1: Between this and Avengers vs. X-Men #0, we get a little closure on the Vision's resurrection. But, is anything of value said? I'm not sure. There's obviously value in his struggle to figure out what he should do -- and how he should react to what happened to him. It's like he feels like he should be upset or sad or... something. There's almost a sense in the She-Hulk scene of the Vision feeling let down that she immediately apologises and is ready to be attacked, saying she won't fight back. He wants to be angry, to blame someone... and there isn't anyone. He can't find the Scarlet Witch, so he's left... with nothing. Thankfully, Avengers vs. X-Men #0 provides him with the chance to tell off his ex-wife in a story that easily could have begun an event titled "Men vs. Women." This issue, though, is unsatisfying, because it's meant to be. There's no satisfaction to be gained when you come back from the dead, discover that your teammate tore you in two because your ex-wife went nuts and made you both do fucked up shit. All you can do is make strange faces and wander around aimlessly... and maybe actually kill the terrorist... stoopid android. [***1/4]

Daredevil #10: That final page is strange... The rest of the issue is good. The Mole Man actually has an odd paradoxical depth here and Paolo Rivera draws the hell out of this issue. Next month: another crossover! [***3/4]

Deadpool MAX II #6: David Lapham writes and draws this issue and that's a little strange. He previous provided art for the Christmas special and, aside from Shawn Crystal doing a couple of issues, this has been a Kyle Baker joint. As much as I like Lapham's art, it feels wrong to end this way. The tone is different... Maybe the vision is purer, more like what Lapham intended, but that wasn't the comic I was buying. I don't know... [***1/2]

The Mighty Thor #12: And, so it ends, with a completely rushed reveal that, hey, yeah, the bad guys were kind of shit here, weren't they? Yeah, they were. You can see it clearly when the two big fights end within two panels and the good guys not even breaking a sweat. I particularly enjoyed how Iron Man did nothing. Literally nothing. He just sort of stood there and went "Um... maybe we should go inside and wait this out, ladies?" As much as I enjoyed the art of Giuseppe Camuncoli and Klaus Janson (they make for an interesting pair), it's a pretty big shift from the art on this story to date. It's messy and blocky and awesome... though stuck living under the shiny D'Armata colouring that kind of makes me hate the art. Very little about this issue works -- everything that does is undercut somehow. Except for those final two pages. I dug those. I really did. [**1/2]

Moon Knight #11: Someone please tell Alex Maleev to stop using low angle shots where it looks like he's cramming the figures into the panel awkwardly. In fact, much of this issue looked akward. Madame Masque seems to lend herself to weird, stiff-looking movements... [***]

New Avengers #23: We already know how this ends. But, it's nice to see how utterly useless this group of Dark Avengers are. I still don't know who half of those people are, too. And I don't care. [**]

Scalped #57: This issue swings wildly in the other direction from last issue. It was hard to tell exactly what the conflict in these final issues would be. Red Crow v. Dash isn't dead yet, son. [****]

Secret Avengers #24: A gorgeous comic that doesn't quite click for me. I like it. I do. But something is off. The ending of this issue seemed obvious for one thing. For another... I'm not quite sure the plot matters to me. Nor am I necessarily impressed by the conceit of a magical robot city featuring entire species of robots that... wait, why are there so many Visions or Machine Men besides it being 'cool?' Still, enjoyable in its moments. [***]

Spaceman #5: Hmm... [****]

The Ultimates #8: Interesting game being played here. Reed Richards neutralises the Hulk with ease, the People look ready to attack the City, and the United States seem ready to commit suicide... Of course, that last bit won't happen, because of the effects it would have on the other two Ultimate titles. This is an issue of broad movements hidden by nice character scenes. Reed Richards doesn't say it, but there's almost a suggestion that he at least respects the Hulk for his evolutionary responses -- his ability to constantly change and adapt to situations. He fits in with the Children in a way... And Esad Ribic and Dean White continue to be one of my favourite art teams. [****]

The Unwritten #35.5: I guess this issue provides a hint at the future of the title. It spans the course of the series (more than the course of the series, actually) and introduces Pullman's replacement possibly. Good stuff. [***1/2]


Thursday, March 22, 2012

And Did We Tell You the Name of the Game, Boy? (Avengers: X-Sanction #1-4)

What are we to do with prologue books that hint at the soon-to-be-here conflict and done by a creative team that has little to do with what's coming? Avengers vs. X-Men 'begins' with Avengers: X-Sanction, a four-issue mini-series where Cable tries to kill a group of Avengers chosen seemingly at random, thinking that, in doing so, he will save the world -- and, more importantly, save his adopted daughter, Hope. He's been to the future and seen a dead world because the Avengers apparently killed Hope, most likely because she's host to the Phoenix Force. Basically, it seems to be Avengers vs. X-Men in miniature where, from what we can tell, the story is about the Avengers trying to kill Hope because she's going to be the host of the Phoenix Force. It's almost like the overture for the event -- the entire thing played out briefly with Cable standing in for the X-Men and the six Avengers we see standing in for that entire organisation. And, yet, I'm not entirely sure I understand the point of it, especially when, at the end, Hope seemingly uses the Phoenix Force to cure Cable of the techno-organic virus that he was infected with as an infant.

Then again, this is Marvel in the 21st century. This comic may have no real connection to Avengers vs. X-Men. This is the same company that delivered a Prelude to Schism series that had, quite literally, nothing to do with Schism. What we read in this series could have nothing to do with Avengers vs. X-Men aside from the broad concept and some shared characters. Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if, when next we saw Cable, he was still sporting his regular metal arm.

Assuming that this does lead into Avengers vs. X-Men, what purpose does it serve? It tells us that the conflict is coming. Cable has seen it -- and, in the process of trying to stop it, he's armed his enemies. Jeph Loeb, not known for being particularly subtle, does something that could prove integral to the event in a rather quiet way. Cable attacks the Avengers using anti-mutant technology that he found in Avengers Mansion in the future and, at the end of the series, Captain America strikes a deal with Cyclops to allow him to take Cable if they keep all of Cable's weaponry and technology. Cable arms the Avengers with means to assault the X-Men. (There's also the possibility that the Avengers never used any of those machines and simply stored them in the mansion and Cable discovered them unused and misinterpretted what happened. It also raises the question of who actually made the tech if it's stuck in an endless cycle of the Avengers taking it from Cable and Cable taking it from the Avengers...)

In essence, all that's accomplished is that the possible conflict is introduced, a point of division between the Avengers and X-Men raised, the Avengers receiving anti-mutant tech, and Hope is revealed to have the Phoenix Force (even though it's apparently coming from space?). And, honestly, only one of those things could be deemed 'necessary' given that the event will, presumably, introduce the story and conflict itself.

But, Avengers vs. X-Men is also a giant fight. And these four issues are centred around physical violence. One of the things that particularly interests me about the event is seeing how violence is used to tell the story, to advance things. Here, the violence isn't exactly thrilling in a traditional sense. Cable, weakened by the techno-organic virus, is half dead when the story begins and manages to take down the Falcon, Captain America, Iron Man, and the Red Hulk mostly through cheap shots, traps, and being lucky. He's the sad old veteran trying to have his last hurrah on a 'noble quest' to save his daughter and that shows in his fights. He's desperate and pathetic usually, relying on metaphoric ball shots and thumbs to the eyes. In the end, he's pretty much put down.

Yet, it's not satisfying because of the heavyhanded narration. The point of the violence, the story that's being told, is shoved into our faces so much, with such force, that the fights come off as muted and parodic to a degree. Loeb's first-person narration is so over-the-top that it's bad commentary that continually points out the obvious instead of elevating the drama. I like the ideas behind what's happening; the storytelling undercuts it as much as possible. Not as much visually since Ed McGuinness is impressive with fluid storytelling. The fight with Captain America is a basic, textbook fight. It's a three-star match. If you stick to the pictures, the fights all come off more clearly. Basically, mute the TV during the match and you're better off as those who put up with Michael Cole know...

I'm not sure how much this story will have to do with Avengers vs. X-Men directly with regards to plot. As an overture, it's sloppy and ham-fisted, mostly saying nothing.

Next week, we begin the event proper with... another prologue comic: Avengers vs. X-Men #0.

Sketch Reviews (March 21 2012)

Smaller week, so I picked up a couple of recent issues based on some good buzz from some people...

Age of Apocalypse #1: It was pointed out to me that I might dig this and it was alright. The rough-around-the-edges elements worked quite well -- and the art matched the writing's tone. Based on feeling alone, this comic had me. Based on plot... well, I couldn't care less. There doesn't seem to be much of one besides a bunch of sad, deluded people thinking they can make a difference. I automatically want to root against them for some reason... I think I'll check out the next issue or two, though... [***1/4]

Batman #7: If ever there were a series that pulled me in two directions at once... I'm not, in general, a fan of plots that hinge on unknown threats from a character's past or that have always been there but not mentioned. This is no exception. The Court of Owls does nothing to engage me. They exist for no reason that we can see... besides something supposedly big and scary that can 'reveal the truth about Gotham' to Batman (whatever the fuck that means). Except by having them appear out of nowhere, apparently always there, is a cheap way to build them up without having to do the work. I had the same issue with Fear Itself. Except... all they've managed to do is be idiots in dumb masks that seem obsessed with... something? Dick's reaction to the new that his great-grandfather was a Talon ("Who cares?" basically) is mine most of the time. There's almost a sense where I keep waiting for Bruce to just sort of shrug and laugh about the idiots hiding and pretending like they're big and scary while the world goes on without them... But, ignoring all of that, this is an entertaining comic at times. Decent little scenes or moments. This issue not as much, but the issues leading here. In many ways, it's a better comic once you stop paying attention and ignore the specific details, just taking in the atmosphere and broad strokes. Because it's got good atmosphere. [***]

Batman: Odyssey vol. 2 #6: Jesus... what is this comic even about? It's like Neal Adams doesn't even know and is just throwing out whatever he wants... Clark asking about stuff that Bruce skipped over seems less a character moment than Adams smacking his head and going "I can't believe I forgot..." Weird cuts rule this issue. Though, I do like how Alfred seems to side with Ra's al Ghul. That's amusing. My main question: why does Clark have a band-aid on? [***]

Green Arrow #7: This comic has great forward momentum. Every scene just hums along, driving forward, very energetic. Another comic where the plot doesn't matter to me at all, because simply going along for the ride was pretty fun. [***3/4]

Prophet #23: Last issue seemed almost relaxed compared to this. Not quite a 'chase' comic, it comes close. John Prophet just scrambling and driving himself forward no matter the cost or the danger... and then he accomplishes his mission... and none of it feels like a victory. Remarkable. [****]

Uncanny X-Men #9: Along with Avengers: X-Sanction #4 (which I'll hopefully discuss tomorrow in the start of something), the tease for Avengers vs. X-Men pick up before next week's zero issue. Whereas X-Sanction introduces a point of conflict, this is like the last hurrah of everyone being cool and having fun in a good ol' fashioned superhero team-up. I'm glad that Kieron Gillen did this -- and in a way that called back to SWORD logically. Though, minor quibble... those aren't exactly the Avengers. Or are the two teams basically one big team? [***1/2]

Wonder Woman #7: A case of expanding upon the backstory of characters in a manner that feels organic and not necessarily the crux of the story, but a means for the real story to occur. Or maybe I just think Azzarello does it so well that I don't care? It's not a hard and fast rule, it's a preference. I don't like vampires or zombies usually, but that doesn't mean I'm not up for some top notch stuff involving either. Also, I'm a hypocrite. [****]


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Sketch Reviews (March 14, 2012)

"Hope I'm a fast healer, fast as hell..."

Skipping last week entirely. If you must know, the ratings were as follows: [**3/4]. [***1/2], [***3/4], [***1/2], [***3/4], [***1/2], [dropped], [***1/2], and [***1/2].

Avengers #24: Those three panels where Norman Osborn goes from Hulked out and insanely powerful with a dominant grin to beginning to fall apart and thinking "Oh, no," to falling apart... that's this entire story. And it's not over yet (New Avengers #24 is two weeks away!). There is something refreshing about Bendis and Marvel not even pretending like the good guys weren't going to win. It's not really a spoiler if you know it's coming. Also, the Avengers beat Osborn by bad touching him. REMEMBER THAT ALWAYS. [***1/2]

Avengers Assemble #1: Did you know that Bryan Hitch gets a credit for designing Hawkeye's costume? I'm not kidding. Olivier Coipel is most likely wishing he'd done a better job with his contract when redesigning Thor... I genuinely want to see every Luke Cage comic from now on feature a "Luke Cage's personality created by Brian Michael Bendis." Soon, credits pages will become long lists of acknowleding everyone's contribution to everything. Isn't that what we all want? Just a little recognition. Of course it is. I did enjoy Hawkeye trying to get Black Widow to make him look good at his funeral. That seems like something Clint Barton would think about. [**3/4]

Batwoman #7: Oh ye gods... who will defend the art in this comic? Because I'm done with you if you do. I wasn't really on board with Amy Reeder on this book the same way I wouldn't be on board with anyone taking over from JH Williams besides the NEXT best artist in comics, but... who thought Rob Hunter on inks would be a good idea? Who thought that his inking would help overcome the giant void of talent left behind by Williams? It's like everyone sat down, decided that following Williams was hopeless, so why not go in the exact opposite direction... you know, ugly shit. I've seen Reeder's art look leagues better than this. This comic was barely readable. I know, I know, one shouldn't just lay into an inker like this, especially when one is as ignorant about art as I am, but when every single thing I've seen his brush/pen/random twig touch has made genuinely talented artists look like rank amateurs... well, fuck, prove me wrong. [One big metaphor for the 'Nu52']

Captian America #9: This actually reminded me of comics I read as a kid. I don't know if that's good or not. [I turned ten in 1993, so take from that what you will...]

Frankenstein, Agent of SHADE #7: Another comic where the inker had a dramatic effect on the art -- and again in a way that was less than pleasing to me. I'm sure there are people who prefer the cleaner look of Walden Wong's inks on Alberto Ponticelli's pencils. Those people are wrong. Or friends of Wong's. Probably. (Even Wong couldn't hide the crazy Frankenstein on page three as he kicks in a door and proclaims that he hates technology.) What's kind of funny is how this issue is an exercise in every threat that was built up last issue being revealed as nothing worth sweating. I guess once you kill an entire monster planet in the first arc, creating credible threats is a tough job. Good luck, Matt Kindt. [***]

Haunt #22: Sorry all, but that cover is cooler than the entire comic. And I liked the comic. But, that cover... [***** cover, ***3/4 comic]

Journey into Mystery #635: Sometimes, you negotiate with terrorists, I guess. [***1/2]

The Unwritten #35: This issue delivered one thing that I hope for: I don't know where this comic goes now. It also did something surprising: it reminded me how much I dislike the protagonist. Or maybe it's Tommy Taylor I don't like... I don't know. Not quite the 'knock you on your ass and reveal all' issue I was hoping for. But, it shed some light on things and, like I said, has me wondering what happens next. [***3/4]

Wolverine and the X-Men #7: When did Iceman become such a ladies' man? Has Jason Aaron been secretly obsessed with Iceman all of these years and is finally getting the chance to make him seem awesome? If so... godspeed good sir. Wait -- did they say they were blowing up her uterus? There's a GOP joke in there somewhere... [***1/2]


Friday, March 09, 2012


On Wednesday night (or, Thursday morning to be accurate), I wrote my final review for Comic Book Resources and it felt good to be done. I thoroughly enjoyed my time working for the site and am proud of the work I did there. Someone asked me this week if I'd consider making a list of my favourite reviews I wrote and maybe I will someday when I'm missing the gig and want to bask in my 'glory days' as one of those few people who get read by tons of people and actually, amazingly, impact the choices they make in buying comics. Weird, I know.

I've answered it before, but the question that kept coming up since I announced I was leaving was why. Why would I leave? It wasn't fun anymore. It was actually something I began to dread doing a little. When my day job is more fun than writing comic reviews for money... well, that's when you run away. Fast.

And, so, I'm done and there are some people I want to thank (in whatever order seems right to me):

Jonah Weiland for hiring me and continuing to employ me. And to some the regular CBR editors I dealt with over the years: Andy Khouri, Kiel Phegley, and Stephen Gerding. These guys are all Professionals and quick to make sure things get done right.

Steve Sunu, my second reviews editor... for all of, what, three weeks? I didn't get to know Steve much before I left and I look forward to seeing what he does with the team. Make it your own, man.

My fellow reviewers. You guys made me try harder. And stole books I wanted to review every goddamn week in the draft. I'll never forgive any of you.

The comic creators who e-mailed me. You were an endless source of amusement and frustration.

The comic creators who never e-mailed me. You were my favourites.

All of the people who provided me with review copies of their comics. You made the job easier and knew that any review is better than no review. Er, most of the time.

The people who read the reviews. You paid the bills.

Augie De Blieck, Jr. If only because I could never tell when you agreed with me and when you were humouring me.

And, finally, Tim Callahan... you recommended me for the gig. So it's all your fault.

Now, that's done. I'll shut up about this now.

CBR Review: The Boys #64

I recently reviewed The Boys #64 and, in the process, wrote my final review for the site. I also wrote the following sentences: "My first review for CBR was of The Boys #24 back when the book was mostly concerned with making fun of superheroes. It spent so much time running the theme into the ground that most people wrote the series off as nothing more than juvenile mockery of superheroes. Three years and four months later, The Boys is a very different book, one with origins in earlier mockery and has grown into a disturbing meditation on power and corruption. Superheroes in The Boys aren't a joke anymore; they're deadly serious."

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: Uncanny X-Men #8

I recently reviewed Uncanny X-Men #8 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "It’s a testament to Gillen’s skill that so many of his clever ideas and nuanced character work come through Land’s glossy, stilted, vapid artwork. It’s like watching a cast of completely lifeless models trying to act out a smart, well written one act play. You sit there and daydream of what it would be like if the writing were given the proper presentation, instead of falling flat a third of the time through no fault of its own. At times, Land hits his marks, but even those bright spots have a hard time shining through the sea of awkward smirks, thousand yard stares, and copy and paste positioning of characters within the same panel. If anything, those rare moments where the writing and art ‘click’ sting, hinting at Land’s true potential."

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: Hell Yeah #1

I recently reviewed Hell Yeah #1 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "The great first issue is a bit of a lost art in comics. It used to be you'd get both a premise and a story. Now, we're thankful for the barest of introductions. Somewhere in Hell Yeah #1 is a story waiting to come out if it can push back the drawn out setup for this different world. 20 years ago, superhumans showed up and changed the world. I took one more word than the pages it takes Joe Keatinge and Andre Szymanowicz to establish the difference between our world and Hell Yeah. Throw in a 'cool' opening scene, a little bit of character development and a final cliffhanger hinting at what the story may actually be when it's allowed to begin next issue and it's the entire issue."

You can read the rest HERE!

Thursday, March 08, 2012

50 Things I Learned in My Three Years and Four Months as a Reviewer for Comic Book Resources

1. You are always wrong.

2. 80% of the time a comic creator e-mails you, it's to complain about a review you wrote. 15% of the time a comic creator e-mails you, it's to provide you with a PDF of some sort. The remaining 5% of the time is divided evenly between a creator pointing out a factual error in a review you wrote or a creator thanking you for a review you wrote.

3. You don't get bribes, but many people think you do.

4. 99% of the e-mails you receive from readers will be pure stupid bullshit that will make you hate comics readers.

5. You will always remember that first review where you were wrong. (Mine was Secret Invasion #8.)

6. You will learn to spell names like 'Straczynski,' 'Djurdjevic,' 'Sienkiewicz,' 'Caramagna,' and 'Eliopoulos' without having to look them up.

7. People think anything less than 3 stars is massively negative.

8. Reviewing groups of titles because of weird shipping schedules is always fun. I love theme weeks and would curse my fellow reviewers if any of them called one of the books I wanted to review as part of a theme week.

9. Calling an artist's work 'lazy' offends them. They prefer you say things like the work is 'loose' or 'not as tight as usual.'

10. Oh. Apparently saying that also offends them.

11. No matter how politely phrased, anything that basically means 'the art looks like shit' will offend artists.

12. And no matter how politely phrased, I meant your art looks like shit.

13. Most of the reviews you write will not be good. They will be average, formulaic things. But, those ones that come along where you have something to say, manage to say it how you want to, and even surprise yourself... well, those ones are magic.

14. If you get an advanced copy of a DC comic, it's only allowed to be posted ahead of its ship date if it's a 5-star review.

15. Ideally, your reviews should fall within the 3-3.5 star range on average. That's reasonable considering you're writing reviews for a site devoted mostly to mainstream superhero comics. (And no one told me this, I just figured it out on my own.)

16. Because you are buying your own comics to review, you will naturally review more comics you like than don't. You must make the effort to buy beyond your pull list sometimes.

17. People will assume you always have an agenda. They will never assume that your agenda is expressing your honest opinion of what you read.

18. Being called up by someone at a publisher because you didn't like a big comic they just released is awkward. Especially when the number they have for you is your parents' house where you don't live anymore.

19. No one is amused when you refer to yourself as a two-time Eisner winning reviewer except for your fellow two-time Eisner winning reviewers.

20. You can't like comics that sell well and you must love comics that don't sell well. Otherwise, you're killing comics.

21. People who don't read comics think it's really cool that you get paid to read and write about comics.

22. The only way you know you're doing a good job is that cheques keep coming in the mail every month. (Meaning: no one told me what to write. Ever. The only contact I had with Jonah, barring the rare occasion like asking for a couple of weeks off or something equally strange was me sending in my monthly invoice and him sending me payment.)

23. Comic reviewing is different from other types of reviewing. With music, movies, and books, you're (usually) reviewing a self-contained work whose only connection to anything beyond itself is its place within the body of work of the people who made it. With TV, you're usually reviewing every episode of a show. Here, you're reviewing random parts of serialised stories. All of them are serialised (aside from the odd one-shot or graphic novel) and rarely will you be reviewing every part of a story. More than that, most individual comic issues aren't structured to function on their own like episodes of TV shows are. Most comics are lacking in a sense of completeness, so you're usually reviewing a portion of a larger story. I'm not sure I ever quite mastered how to do that, but it's more challenging than you'd think it would be.

24. The only thing that matters is the review they're reading now. Anything you wrote in the past is irrelevant and plays no part in blind accusations of bias and payola.

25. Having something you wrote used as a pull quote is fun until you see that it's attributed solely to the site you're writing for and your name is nowhere to be found.

26. It's never personal for you and it's always personal for the people whose work you're writing about.

27. Colourists don't like being ignored. (And rightfully so.)

28. Recap pages usually contain at least three factual errors. People will assume those errors are yours if you repeat them in your review.

29. You will come to hate comics that don't offer a complete set of credits (first name, last name, what they actually did, etc.).

30. Marvel used to provide advance PDFs for every comic until the ad revealing the Secret Avengers line-up leaked online. They then pulled them despite the leak clearly being a scan of a physical copy. Now, they provide the occasional PDF, usually two at most each week.

31. You will begin to realise how many comics letterers letter. It's a lot.

32. Augie De Blieck, Jr. is a good guy. Telling him you read Pipeline in high school makes him feel old and he's obsessed with Oxford commas.

33. You will work hard to come up with new ways to say things you've said dozens of times before.

34. The only comics you'll hate more than shitty comics are mediocre comics.

35. People don't want to read reviews of collections.

36. Advance PDFs seem cool at first, but, soon, they're just more comics you don't want to read. And in a format you don't particularly like.

37. You will sometimes get physical review copies. Usually, these will be pretty great. (Hey, I still love IDW for sending me The Art of Jim Starlin. And I'm still surprised that they did.)

38. The more positive a review is, the more play it gets no matter how poorly it is written.

39. Putting hidden messages in your reviews is a fun and challenging exercise to keep things lively.

40. Talking about what happens on the first panel of an issue is considered, by some, to be a spoiler.

41. People lose their shit if you spoil something in a comic.

42. You're not allowed to write joke reviews of joke comics. Well, you can and your editor may say it's funny, but they won't put it up on the site.

43. Your fellow reviewers will embarrass you sometimes. Odds are, you'll also embarrass them.

44. When cashing American cheques, even when the Canadian dollar is worth more than the American, you'll probably get a little less Canadian money than the cheque is worth, because banks are thieving bastards.

45. You will only receive a fraction of the complaints about your reviews that are actually given. Instead, your boss will shield you from the whining and bitching of so-called professionals who will demand that you never be allowed to review another one of their comics again.

46. Brian Michael Bendis writes a lot of comics. You thought you already knew that. You didn't.

47. Even four stars is too negative for some.

48. Normally, Diamond short-shipping your shop of a comic is a minor annoyance. On a week where you need to review that comic, it's the most unprofessional thing you've ever seen in your entire life. I mean, how dare they? Don't they know that some people depend on those comics to earn money? No one cares two weeks from now! GAH!

49. It's the best job you'll probably ever have.

50. You've got to know when to walk away.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

The Return of Random Thoughts!

Random Thoughts! has returned on Comics Should be Good with a new feature that will be part of every post: the Random Joe Casey Question! Each week, I will ask Joe Casey a question and he will answer it.

You can read the newest edition of Random Thoughts! HERE!

Monday, March 05, 2012

CBR Review: Spaceman #4

I recently reviewed Spaceman #7 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "You have to read Spaceman slowly. There's no other way to read it because of the way Brian Azzarello writes it. Taking place in the future, the characters speak a form of English that's a combination of simplification, dumbing down and slang. It's not too difficult to figure out, but it also slows you down quite a bit. Thank god. Spaceman is a joy because you have to read it slowly, you have to take your time and make an effort to engage with it, connecting the twisted English with Eduardo Risso and Patricia Mulvihill's dark, moody art. It's a more fulfilling read than most comics because it demands you meet it halfway rather than sitting back and letting it wash over you."

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: The Ultimates #7

I recently reviewed The Ultimates #7 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "The Ultimates is unlike anything else currently in Marvel's publishing catalog. The heroes find themselves overmatched on all sides, stuck begging for help and generally without any options aside from praying that they don't die soon. Reed Richards and the Children of Tomorrow have decimated Europe with their City and have offered the Americans a deal: leave them alone or die. Since that's not seen as a viable option, they're left with only one hope: the People, the Southeast Asian Republic's replacement for mutants that turned against their masters, took over the country and now rule from twin floating capital cities. It all looks like something from Europe thanks to the amazing art team of Esad Ribic and Dean White."

You can read the rest HERE!

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Sketch Reviews (March 1 2012)

If you've read my Twitter or looked at the previous post, you'd know that, on Monday, I resigned from the CBR review team. I'll be reviewing comics for this week and next, but, after that, I'm done. I'll still be writing for Comics Should be Good (though I haven't been doing that lately...), which I didn't even think of as a concern since I've never thought of CBR and CSBG as being the same thing, but I know others do and tend to forget that. There's no hidden reason for my leaving CBR, no backstage drama, just the simple fact that I don't enjoy doing it as much anymore and think it's time to stop. I had been planning to leave sometime this year and, this weekend, it became clear that now was the time to go. It's nothing to do with Augie leaving or anything, aside from him leaving makes this a 'better' time to do something I was planning to do at some point in the coming months. I may say some words on the gig when I'm done. For now, I just want to say thanks for the well wishes and that it was a pretty awesome way to spend three years and four months. Onto the comics I bought, but am not reviewing for CBR this week...

Avengers #23 and New Avengers #22: I didn't get a chance to say this two weeks ago, because I reviewed both the previous issues of both of these titles, but, goddamn, Marvel fucked up this double-shipping schedule. The two titles are in a semi-crossover right now, both telling of Norman Osborn and HAMMER's attempt to bring down the Avengers and take their place, and it seems like Marvel would have been much better off scheduling the books to alternate weeks so we get a weekly story. That would have made more sense than shipping new issues of both titles on the same week. What's sad is that I'm enjoying this story and the way that it's been constructed. It's one big story, but each title tells a different part of the story -- you legitimately COULD read just one of these titles and not be lost, because Bendis gave each team its own specific focus. It's a clever way to structure a crossover like this. Putting the two issues out together highlights that a little more, I guess. Surprisingly, I've been enjoying the New Avengers plot a little more -- the attempt at a media attack, whatever is going on with Jessica, the fight in issue 21... and, then, here, a couple of surprise reveals that could work out well. Avengers suffered last issue from that 'heroes are captured and nothing happens' problem in stories like this, but this issue makes a nice recovery. Basically, Bendis reminds us why Quake is not to be messed with, and Norman Osborn gets to piss me off more. I may be a sucker, but I always get a little angry at stories where heroes are made to look like bad guys because everyone is too damn stupid to see through bullshit. [***3/4]

Batman: Odyssey vol. 2 #5: I didn't like the gnomes. [***]

Moon Knight #10: So... Echo is dead. And this issue is just crazy. I have no idea where this series is going as it heads to its conclusion, but I am going to miss it. It took a little bit to win me over... now, it's one of my favourite monthlies. It's made me like Moon Knight (or, enjoy reading about him)... weird. [***3/4]

Scalped #56: Red Crow is the one character I'll miss when this series ends. He's so complex and simple at the same time. I can never figure him out despite everything he does making perfect sense. The way he keeps flashing back to all of the horrible, criminal things Dash has done over the course of the series before refusing to use any of them against Dash during his murder trial... all because Dash is on the rez and helping to make it a better place. That's all Red Crow wants. He may have lost his way and confused his personal ambition with the needs of the community at times, but he's proven that he's more than willing to sacrifice himself if he thinks it will be good for the rez. And that end... wonderful. I don't know exactly what the next four issues will do, but I'm looking forward to them quite a bit. [****1/4]

The Unwritten #34.5: I like the concept of this issue, but found the execution never quite got where it needed to. Part of it is that Wilson never stood out visually, part of it is that I can't stand journal entry lettering like this, part of it is that there wasn't much to this story besides Wilson figuring out how stories can alter the world... it's like a four-page sequence spread out to an entire issue. [**3/4]