Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Splash Page: Final Crisis Aftermath First Issues (Part I)

[The Splash Page is back! And we're discussing DC's Final Crisis Aftermath titles! Read on, people! Read on!]

Chad Nevett: We have returned. Yes, faithful and patient readers, after a short hiatus, Tim and I are back to deliver our unique brand of comic commentary. You have missed us and we're sorry for being gone so long. But, enough of that, let's get to the comics! We thought long and hard about when to return exactly and what to discuss, and, then, it dawned on us that May has seen the release of the first issues to the four Final Crisis Aftermath titles. Four books, all building on ideas introduced by Grant Morrison in Final Crisis? Seems right up our alleys, don't you think? There are four books to discuss, so on with it! Why not kick things off by sharing which of these books you liked and which ones you didn't, Tim? I have a suspicion that our views will be pretty similar, but I may be wrong.

Tim Callahan: I would rank them from best to worst in this order -- based purely on the first issue of each: 1. Dance, 2. Escape, 3. Run! 4. Ink. I liked the concept of Escape the most, but there wasn't quite enough in the first issue -- as far as actual content -- to top Dance, and though I thought the opening to Ink was fine -- and I like the art quite a bit -- Ink not only seemed to take a complete swerve from what we've come to expect from the Tattooed Man based on Final Crisis, but it was like a parody of bad gangsta movies. Because of its cliched dialogue and plot "twists," it has to be the worst, even though I don't really need to see the Human Flame's hairy ass ever again in Run!.

I didn't plan it this way, but I notice that my ranking matches the way I'd rank the writers based on their overall output too. Joe Casey is the best of the bunch, with highlights like Automatic Kafka and Gødland, followed by Ivan Brandon, who has done some nice work here and there and has a pretty good series brewing with Vikings, then Matt Sturges limps along behind, based on his decent-to-mediocre Blue Beetle and House of Mystery work, and then Eric Wallace comes in last purely because I've never read anything by him before so I can't fairly rank him until he proves what he can do.

So it's certainly no surprise that I'd rank the comics the way I did. Better writers write better comics, as obvious as that might sound.

What do you say?

CN: That's pretty much the order in which I'd rank them, too. I may put Run! below Ink, but maybe not... it's more like I'd leave the third spot vacant and have them share the fourth spot. Dance being very good was no surprise, although I sometimes worry about which Joe Casey will show up to a project since he's had his fair share of rather bad comics. I'm glad to see that it's the Casey I fell in love with. Escape really surprised me with how off-beat and compelling it is. Going into these books, I knew I would be buying Dance, had no interest in Run! or Ink and was on the fence with Escape. The preview pages and references to The Prisoner in interviews made me give it a look and I'm glad I did.

When these books were announced, the common opinion seemed to be "Oh, god, why?" (with an exception made for Dance since the team of Joe Casey and ChrisCross is a great one) and do these books really disprove that prejudgment? Run! and Ink certainly don't, but do Dance and Escape offer enough to justify their publishing? There's a certain segment of fandom that seem to think that certain characters don't deserve to star in books, because they're just not 'important' enough. I do think that Dance and Escape deserve publishing by whatever standards I have -- particularly since I don't care what character are in the book so long as the book is good. Is the idea that these characters are too marginal to warrant books a deserved one? Hell, is it smart to launch four mini-series like this at the same time?

TC: It's strange that there's been such a gap between Final Crisis proper and the Aftermath books, but I guess that's because they had to see what Morrison's final script for issue #7 looked like before they started work on what might follow it. I do like the trade dress for the Final Crisis Aftermath comics -- I pulled all four out of my stacks to review them for this column, and they look pretty cool next to each other. And it makes sense to release them now when 2-3 issues of each series will hit before Blackest Night launches. It's a filler mini-event.

With that said, it's far more "filler" than mini-event and there really isn't a need for any of the books. The Super Young Team certainly seemed the most likely to warrant a spin-off, and the Casey/ChrisCross team is a strong one, but why does Nemesis make sense as a Final Crisis Aftermath character? And unless something really unorthodox is done with the Human Flame and the Tattooed Man, we just get these characters who served a narrative purpose in the event book getting center stage when there's really nothing to them. Their comics lend themselves to mediocrity precisely because they are about the Human Flame and the Tattooed Man.

Between the two of us, we reviewed all four issues for CBR, so we probably don't need to get into specifics about each comic and why we liked it or didn't like it, but I do want to talk about Dance and Escape in a bit more detail, because those are worth talking about. And I do have a few big-picture questions, like this one: Do these comics have an obligation to follow the path seemingly outlined by Morrison in Final Crisis, or should the writers impart their own unique voice and direction? (Because Ink seems to mischaracterize the Tattooed Man's world, and Dance seems to portray a different kind of Super Young Team, with different speaking cadences and perhaps motivations. The former felt wrong, the latter felt fine.)

CN: I actually didn't find Casey's version to differ that much, but I also took into account that the team would be changed by Final Crisis. Okay, that's different from Morrison's version, but almost in the way you'd expect Morrison to portray them post-Final Crisis, as a group of characters that aren't satisfied with partying all night. They've gotten a taste of what being a real superhero is like and want more. I think Ink got the Tattooed Man himself right, for the most part, but everyone else wrong. His wife, for example, seemed to have little patience for his villainous ways in Submit, but is highly critical of him now that he's a superhero, while his son is joining a gang? It's like while the Tattooed Man was learning the value of being a hero, his family was somehow getting the opposite message.

[We've got plenty more to say as the column continues at Tim's blog!]

CBR Review: Ignition City #3

I recently reviewed Ignition City #3 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "One four-panel sequence over two pages showcasing Kharg the Killer is particularly well done, economically telling us everything we need to know about the character. Not just the scenes themselves, which show Kharg killing a child or walking across a landscape covered with dead, naked bodies, but in how Pagliarani depicts Kharg. The calm, collected facial expression that doesn’t change no matter the situation and the stiff-yet-casual body language tell us a lot about his character without a single line of dialogue."

You can read the rest HERE!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

CBR Review: Final Crisis Aftermath: Ink #1

I recently reviewed Final Crisis Aftermath: Ink #1 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "The fourth and last Final Crisis Aftermath series again builds on foundations that Grant Morrison laid in Final Crisis where Mark Richards, the Tattooed Man, showed his heroic side by fighting against Darkseid’s forces, and receiving an honorary membership in the Justice League for his efforts. Much like the Super Young Team, he played a role in saving the world, but now finds that the world either doesn’t know or simply doesn’t care."

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: New Avengers #53

I recently reviewed New Avengers #53 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "From there, things move to all-out action with Daimon Hellstrom and the Hood fighting, Madame Masque keeping the Avengers occupied, and the question of the next Sorcerer Supreme left hanging until a final page that will surprise some and please many. The interplay between the Avengers is highly entertaining as Bendis takes advantage of the new Captain America, demonstrating for readers not familiar with him, how he is different from Steve Rogers by using tactics that I’m not sure I’ve seen an Avenger use before. Ever."

You can read the rest HERE!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

CBR Review: Garth Ennis' Battlefields: The Tankies #2

I recently reviewed Garth Ennis' Battlefields: The Tankies #2 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Ennis seems to be exploring the full possibilities of how tanks are just as flawed and, sometimes, useless in war as planes or machine guns. When a new piece of technology is invented, it’s not long before it becomes obsolete thanks to advances, as displayed here by the Germans’ tanks, which outclass those of the British. However, the British have developed a more powerful tank that acts as a sniper, of sorts, giving them the upper hand in some cases."

You can read the rest HERE!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

CBR Review: Wolverine Origins #36

I recently reviewed Wolverine Origins #36 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Wolverine Origins is, ostensibly, a book for the continuity buffs, the hardcore fans who want to delve into Wolverine’s past to examine all of those small, forgotten moments and, then, tie it all together into one bigger unified picture. There’s nothing wrong with that, but what a book like that needs is a feeling of purpose, of forward drive, but issue 36 has little of that, preferring to simply go through the motions in an effort to arrive at a predetermined destination."

You can read the rest HERE!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

CBR Review: Rising Stars Compendium

I recently reviewed Rising Stars Compendium for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "However, the first act-and-a-half read as merely set-up for Straczynski’s real interest: examining the conflict between humanity advancing and the darker aspects of human nature. The real story here is about a group of people trying to make the world better, to make humanity better, and those who are too small-minded or fearful to allow it to happen. It’s not that the first dozen or so issues are bad, it’s just that you get the impression that Straczynski sees them as only necessary to get to the real meat of the story —- and he’d be right, because that’s when the series really gets going."

You can read the rest HERE!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

CBR Review: Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance #1

I recently reviewed Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance #1 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Peppered throughout the issue, Casey had Most Excellent Superbat narrate through Twitter posts, a means to ground the character in the contemporary world, and to allow him to also voice more random thoughts that don’t necessarily tie in directly to the plot. It’s a style reminiscent of the infoscrolls Casey used in The Intimates, and transfers to this book quite well."

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: The Boys: Herogasm #1

I recently reviewed The Boys: Herogasm #1 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Ennis and McCrea do manage to work in a few funny bits. A Zatanna-esque word balloon that references Odin Quincannon from Preacher nearly had me on the floor laughing. However, there is little development of that plot in this issue beyond stating and restating the premise a few times. If that’s all “Herogasm” was, it wouldn’t be worth picking up, but Ennis does begin setting things in motion for future issues by introducing Vic the Veep to the situation."

You can read the rest HERE!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

CBR Review: Star Trek: Alien Spotlight: Romulans

I recently reviewed Star Trek: Alien Spotlight: Romulans for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "For a comic featuring mostly unknown characters in a very event-specific story, it really does live up to its title of Star Trek: Alien Spotlight: Romulans in its ability to distill and communicate the basic concept of the Romulan people. Ian Edgington focuses on a few characters, managing to present various perspectives and hint at the broader culture of the Romulans. Readers not as familiar with the race may not fill in the gaps Edgington hints at, but they should still walk away with a general sense of what the Romulans are all about."

You can read the rest HERE!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

CBR Review: Fantastic Four #566

I recently reviewed Fantastic Four #566 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Bryan Hitch does a lot of the heavy lifting in this issue with larger panels and the unenviable task of portraying Doom’s master when he does arrive. After so much build up, Hitch does his best not to deliver a letdown with the Marquis’ design but I’m not sure anything could live up to these expectations. How does one depict a creature that Doom bows to and kills Watchers? Hitch’s design is fine, but lacking somehow."

You can read the rest HERE!

Friday, May 15, 2009

I Bought Comics: May 13, 2009

[Normal reviews may buy my comics these days, but they're kind of boring sometimes, you know? A little too 'you must write this way all of the time' for my tastes. Sometimes. I'm not complaining. It's just that there are a lot of rules and people get annoyed if you stray too far. Examine an issue solely on its own merits and they get pissed. Examine an issue within the context of the whole and they get pissed. Call a writer a "stupid motherfucking retard who obviously learned English thirdhand two hours before shitting out a turd that some inbred editor decided to call a script" and your editor makes you rewrite. Not here, my friends. Not here where I don't do proper reviews. Calling them reviews would be wrong, oh yes. They are simply whatever I feel like saying about a particular comic. Blessed freedom.]

Captain Britain and MI:13 #13

Um... what? This arc is only half over and it looks like the bad guys have won. I mean, the team's all dead. They're all dead! Where do you go from there? Paul Cornell knows and I trust him. I'm a cynical fella and don't buy that all of those characters are dead, but it's still shocking to see them all slaughtered with such ease.

Final Crisis Aftermatch: Escape #1

I read this twice on Wednesday. I wasn't sure if I was going to pick this up or not, but the preview pages convinced me to give it a shot. Out of these four Final Crisis Aftermath titles, I knew I would be getting Dance for certain, while Ink and Run looked like shit -- Escape was the only one that had me debating. It was Dan DiDio's pet project with him editing it directly, which was a strike against it, honestly (I tend to take a dismal view of ANY project where an editor is heavily involved -- and the more power said editor has, the less I want it -- Mark Waid over at BOOM! is an exception, of course). But, promises of it being similar to The Prisoner had me intrigued. Marco Rudy on art was also a plus since I dug his Final Crisis stuff when it wasn't too rushed. I have no idea who Nemesis is, but this was one damn good comic. A real mindfuck that doesn't even attempt to explain anything. Number Six himself even shows up. Reminds me a bit of The Filth (the Mr. Green/Mr. Yellow issue in particular). Rudy pulls in all sorts of influences from Williams to Weston to Mandrake, and it's a visual joy. The writing isn't quite at that Morrison level, the narration a bit too heavyhanded at times, but there's promise -- and it's better than a lot of the other shit out there. Not the sort of comic you'd expect DC to publish, at least not in its regular Universe. Hard to believe that this is the same company that gave out Blackest Night #0 for free, permanently damaging lords knows how many minds. Good show, Ivan Brandon.

Gravel #11

If this story is going where it looks like it will be going, I am very pleased. That direction, for the record, is Gravel just killing off the Major Seven entirely. Why bother solving the mystery when you can carbetbomb the whole lot? Lateral thinking. Solider thinking. He's not a detective and he doesn't like trumped up idiots who sit around and do nothing except admire how brilliant they are. Wolfer fucking draws the shit out of those final pages. Some very good work.

Secret Warriors #4

Jonathan Hickman continues to improve with each issue, juggling all of these characters and situations. Nick Fury is a bastard, but that good kind. The Hydra stuff is interesting. I don't know what to say beyond this is a good fucking comic. Christ.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen -- Century: 1910

I read a black and white .pdf of this a while back. Enjoyed it then. Haven't reread it yet, but do like the colours. Thinking I may do a Reread Review of The Black Dossier if only to show how dumb I really am. But, yeah, a really nice read that takes a different form from previous League stories -- which Moore says is a result of not having to pander as much to DC and readers. It works.

How Good is My Unwritten #1 Review?

So good that it deserves two news notices on CBR's home page telling people about it!

I guess Jonah being in Europe has caused a few little mix-ups...

Thursday, May 14, 2009

CBR Review: Young Liars #15

I recently reviewed Young Liars #15 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Lapham is surprisingly self-critical in this issue, pointing out that the supposed plan of the Spiders from Mars is convoluted and ridiculous — though, Danny could have the specifics wrong — and, also, when Danny tells the others about their true selves, Rivera responds, 'So... in our real lives we’re horrible stereotypes?' That willingness to mock the book’s beginnings is rare only 15 issues in and also points to the improvisational method in which Lapham creates the book, allowing for growth in unexpected directions. If you look at where the book is now and where it was, the early issues do suffer from comparison."

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: The Unwritten #1

I recently reviewed The Unwritten #1 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "With previews in all of their books, a $1.00 cover price, 40 pages of story, and high-end glossy paper, Vertigo is doing everything in its power to get readers to give The Unwritten #1 a look. Their efforts are definitely worth it. The Unwritten #1 is an incredibly strong first issue that introduces a lot of ideas and characters with the utmost of skill."

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: Strange Adventures #3

I recently reviewed Strange Adventures #3 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "While the pacing is brisk and Stalin’s character work is engaging, the book still falters at times. A revelation of the relationship between Eye and Synnar comes off as Starlin ripping off his own story featuring the connection between Thanos and Gamorra. While in Thanos’ case, there was some logic, here it’s just shoved in with no explanation at all, not even from the characters."

You can read the rest HERE!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

CBR Review: The Man with No Name #10

I recently reviewed The Man with No Name #10 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Tuco’s dialogue is the best part of this comic as Lieberman and Wolpert nail his voice. You can almost hear Eli Wallach saying the lines, they’re so dead on, aside from one lame attempt to replicate Tuco’s 'There are two types of people' line from the film. But, sadly, beyond Tuco’s dialogue, there are only a couple of other positives to the writing. The pacing tries to mimic Leone’s, taking its time and not rushing through scenes, and the plot is very simple, which works well."

You can read the rest HERE!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

CBR Review: Unknown #1

I recently reviewed Unknown #1 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Hearing Mark Waid talk about Unknown is more interesting and entertaining that the first issue reads. Don’t you just hate it when that happens? Granted, Waid is an entertaining guy and listening to him speak about anything he’s passionate about is going to keep you interested, but Unknown #1 doesn’t really reach the potential that Waid has talked about."

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: Unthinkable #1

I recently reviewed Unthinkable #1 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Mark Sable tries to cram a lot into this first issue as it covers a decade, moving in and out of events in an effort to catch us up to speed. While the ideas thrown out are interesting and engaging -- like the first meeting of the Think Tank where they discuss how terrorists would stop oil production if they wanted -- the issue breezes by very quickly to reach that final page cliffhanger. It may be a very good cliffhanger, but the page limitations really hurt the pacing of this issue."

You can read the rest HERE!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

CBR Review: Bang! Tango #4

I recently reviewed Bang! Tango #4 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "I consider myself a reasonably intelligent, well educated, well read person. Ever since I was a small boy, I’ve been able to pick up any comic and follow along. Oh, I may not get every little detail, but I’m very rarely completely lost. It just doesn’t happen. Or, so I thought, until I read Bang! Tango #4. It is an utter mess of a comic with no redeemable quality that I can find."

You can read the rest HERE!

Friday, May 08, 2009

I Bought Comics: I Only Bought SOME Comics, Actually

[Not proper reviews. Not fair. Who cares. This is about some Free Comic Book Day books plus two comics I bought this week, but didn't review for CBR.]

Blackest Night #0

Shouldn't Barry think Jason Todd is Robin, not Dick? Jason had been Robin for, like, three years in the real world before Barry died, so wouldn't he still think Jason is Robin, having also known that Dick adopted the Nightwing identity? And since when are "willpower" and "death" emotions? I don't give a fuck.

Bongo Comics Free-for-All!

Tim Callahan's son liked this book quite a bit, so I'm reluctant to bash it for its utter lack of humour.

Resurrection #0

Didn't read the Tek Jansen back-up since it was originally in the first issue of that comic, which I bought and didn't enjoy at all. I'm not reading that shit again. The main story is interesting and has me wanting more.

Savage Dragon #148

I knew who the mystery woman was before the reveal! And I don't even read this comic! Who da man? WHO DA MAN? This comic was all kinds of printed on paper in colour with words and pictures and yeah not my thing.

The Boys #30

Not a free comic, but I enjoyed this more than pretty much ever free comic despite paying $3.75 for this. Yeah, that's what I paid in Canadian dollars. The fake-out at the beginning made me laugh. Some smaller moments that were nice. A breather issue. And that back cover teaser has me excited for the next issue.

Seaguy: Slaves of Mickey Eye #2

I paid $4.95 for this comic. Next time you whine about $3.99 comics, remember that. And that people in other foreign countries pay even larger sums for their books. And that we all think it's worth it. And the economy is rough here, too. Yeah. And this comic was very fucking good. I also enjoyed it more than any free comic I got on Wednesday. And that's why I usually don't give a fuck about Free Comic Book Day.

CBR Review: Cerebus Archive #1

I recently reviewed Cerebus Archive #1 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "You see that two-and-a-half star rating I’ve given this comic? Yeah, ignore it, because it’s totally irrelevant. I gave it two-and-a-half stars, because that’s the midpoint on this rating system and I’m not sure there’s a way to properly gauge Cerebus Archive #1 under that system. If this is your sort of book, you’ll enjoy it; if you have no interest in Dave Sim collecting together bits and pieces of art, letters, and other relics from his early days in comics, you won’t enjoy it. The concept of ‘quality’ doesn’t really enter into it too much."

You can read the rest HERE!

Thursday, May 07, 2009

CBR Review: Amazing Spider-Man #593

I recently reviewed Amazing Spider-Man #593 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Well, things could be better for Peter Parker. His arch-enemy is America’s top cop, his longtime nemesis is mayor of New York, a new Vulture is killing people, and he just walked in on his aunt during a... er... ‘personal moment’ with J. Jonah Jameson’s father. Thankfully, Mark Waid has the deft skills to play up the sheer comedy of Peter’s life, beginning this issue with Peter in the shower, declaring 'Must wash brain...!' A sentiment shared by many readers, no doubt."

You can read the rest HERE!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

CBR Review: Free Comic Book Day 2009 Avengers #1

I recently reviewed Free Comic Book Day 2009 Avengers #1 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "It may a little smaller in dimensions and it may not kick off a big Marvel summer event, but the Free Comic Book Day Avengers comic is a great read and a strong introduction to the current Marvel Universe. With the New and Dark Avengers squads forced to confront one another and work together, Brian Michael Bendis touches upon a lot of what’s going on right now, but in a very new reader friendly way back by some career best art from Jim Cheung."

You can read the rest HERE!

Monday, May 04, 2009

CBR Review: Irredeemable #2

I recently reviewed Irredeemable #2 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "While billed as a Serious Work by Mark Waid, Irredeemable strikes me more of Waid having a little bit of fun with his favorite hero, Superman. Sure, there’s a little bit of the old ultra-violence thrown in, but there’s a lot in the second issue of this series that points to Waid having a laugh by playing with certain aspects of Superman’s world and twisting them around in ways that many fans have wanted for years."

You can read the rest HERE!

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Free Comic Book Day 2009

9:16 am--I leave my house, listening to the beginning of a playlist on my iPod entitled "best of 2008." It starts with Vampire Weekend's "Mansford Roof." After a stop at McDonalds for a bacon, egg and cheese bagel and a gas station to fill up, I was on my way to my first destination for Free Comic Book Day 2009.

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10:01-10:23 am--I arrived at Heroic Adventures in Edwardsville, IL and had a look around. It's a bit small and the store is primarily a gaming store, not a comic shop. But it was decent enough. I bought volumes two and three of the oversized Leave it to Chance hardcovers for a buck a piece off of the clearance table, quite a score. They were also having a drawing for an oversized Mystique statue, which was quite a nice item even if I don't go in for statues and the like. I got my free comics, spent $6.41 on other books (including those aforementioned Leave it to Chance HCs and a few from their 3 for $1 boxes), and left to the tune of Glen Hansard singing "Brokenhearted Hoover Fixer Sucker Guy."

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10:32-10:46 am--At Hometown Comics in Edwardsville I had to wait outside briefly because there were too many people in the shop at first. But I only waited a moment before I went in, and I was quite pleased with what I found inside. I've been to Hometown two or three times, and to be honest each time it was an utter mess. But this time it was clean and well-organized. They also were giving away the most books out of all the places I visited (6 to a person!), and early arrivals were allowed to take a free GN off of their wall. I grabbed Essential Godzilla for myself, and I tried to talk the woman in front of me out of grabbing an X-Statix trade for her two year old to no avail. I bought $5.36 worth of other books and left to the song "Gold," also from the soundtrack to Once.

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11:21-11:45 am--A long drive brought me to Fantasy Books in Fairview Heights, IL, which used to be another branch of The Fantasy Shop, a chain in the STL area (which I visited several other versions of that day). Instead they were bought out by a shop in Belleville, and this shop is all the better for it. They had 50-cent back issues, so I bought a bunch of back issues I needed to fill out my runs of Lucifer, Gail Simone's Birds of Prey, and Ed Brubaker's Catwoman. They served cookies too, which was nice. Spent $12.50 and left while listening to Girl in a Coma's "Road to Home."

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11:56 am-12:27 pm--A brief jaunt down the road and I arrived at Twilight Comics in Shiloh, IL. I have been to this shop, but since the last time I visited they had moved to a larger location and I think the store has benefited from this new shopfront, which is in a much more convenient place to reach and is better situated by other shopping destinations. I got there just in time to fill out the entry form for an attendance prize... and win.

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Got a copy of Batman: Gotham Knight on DVD and a statue of Christian Bale as Batman from Batman Begins. I bought a few books too to the tune of $23.03 total and headed out to my next stop. Driving music: more Girl in a Coma, this time "I'll Ask Him."

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12:45-1:19 pm--I stopped next at the original Fantasy Books in, IL, a good shop that I haven't been too in quite a while because it's quite hard to get to from my house. But generally if there's a series from the past year that you want to check out but were behind the curve hearing about, this is the place to go to find the book. They have a huge wall of shelf copies of all kinds of things, from mainstream to indie, and they're available for cover price (unlike other shops who move books more than a month old to their bins where they get marked up several dollars). They were having great sales that day, and I ended up getting quite a bit of stuff, including three Marvel Essentials for $4 a piece. I spent a total of $41.44 there, grabbed another cookie, and then settled in for a long drive back across the river, starting out by listening to the end of the Girl in a Coma CD and then the beginning of She and Him.

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2:04-2:17 pm--Got to Mo's Comics in St. Louis eventually... but it took some doing. Major road work on St. Louis highways, traffic, and a complete and utter lack of parking around the shop make this one of the most inconvenient shops to go to in the STL area, I'm sorry to say, and it's not a destination I usually visit. They seem to deal more in silver age back issues, so they do have a niche, but it's just not one that coincides with my interests. I did buy a set of old back issues and the one Sandman issue (#2) I needed to finish my collection for $15.14 and drove away to "Black Hole" by She and Him.

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????-2:41 pm--I forgot to write down what time I reached The Fantasy Shop in Maplewood, MO but it couldn't have taken more than 10 minutes to drive from Mo's to here. I hadn't planned on hitting this shop, but I did for a couple of reasons: 1) It was on my way to the next shop; 2) I'd never been there before; and 3) both a reader here (Hi, Kyle!) and a friend (Hi, Jason!) suggested it. I kind of figured that, this store being one of a chain of gaming shops that also happen to carry comics in the area (which is fine if you like gaming, but I don't. I like comics and want comic shops to specialize), you've been to one and you've been to them all. And honestly I was pretty much right. There wasn't a lot to set it apart from the other Fantasy Shops in St. Louis, so I doubt I make it back to this one anytime soon, due to its inconvenient location compared to where I am. By this point in the day the pickings for the free books were slim, but this shop was having a $1 back issues sale (which is nice because the USUAL practice of this particular shop is to put everything more than a month old in bags and backboards and mark up the price). I spent $16.17 on back issues there and left to the tune of She and Him's version of "Sweet Darlin'."

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2:52-3:26 pm--Another short drive brought me to MY comic shop, Star Clipper Comics on the Delmar Loop. I unabashedly love Star Clipper because they do comics what I consider to be the RIGHT way: tons of shelf copies, tons of trades, a few ancillary materials that don't get in the way of the comics, a gallery space for exhibits... They had ordered TONS of books and still had a LOT left when I arrived late in the day, when things had slowed down considerably. AJ, one of the co-owners, told me that there was a line down the street when the store opened in the morning. I took time to look around, because they were having a sale of 40% off on hardcovers. In the end I settled on The Education of Hopey Glass, which I got along with another book for $16.48, and then I left while listening to The Weepies' song "Wish I Could Forget."

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3:51-4:15 pm--A lot of highway driving took me to The Fantasy Shop in St. Charles, MO, a shop I hadn't been to in ages. It deals with gaming primarily, as do all the other Fantasy Shops in the area, but every so often they have a HUGE 25-cent back issue sale here, as they were on this day. At this point their free comic selection was next to nil, however, and the 25-cent sale was much too crowded (probably a hundred people crammed in) and much too monstrous (at least a hundred long boxes) for me to sort through at this late hour. (That's right; I was worn out from too much comic shopping.) I did dig through their regular back issues, which again were a buck a piece, so I grabbed about 30 back issues of Lucifer, Catwoman, and Birds of Prey for $32.22 and moved on quickly, listening to more of the Weepies ("Just Blue" specifically) as I went.

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4:28-4:46 pm--I drove around a few back streets to get from there to Comic Relief, also in St. Charles. I had never been to this shop before a few weeks ago when I saw it advertised on... it was either Adult Swim or Sci-fi Network. Either way the ad led me to check their website, to discover this shop was only a few miles from my house and having a sale, so I went and liked the store very much. Going back, again on this day, I was quite happy with what I found. An entire wall of comics as freebies from this year and previous ones and a deal in which you got two comics free and another one for each $5 you spent there. I bought $37.86 of back issues there, just so I could get nine free comics (9 copies of Stray Bullets 2 for my comic class). On the way then to my final destination I got up to the beginning of Phantom Planet's newest CD, the title track "Raise the Dead."

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4:58--5:08 pm--And after all that, I ended the day by hitting the shop closest to my house, The Fantasy Shop in Florissant, MO. Like all the other Fantasy Shops, a gaming shop that marks up back issues, but it's a useful place to hit when I'm missing something. They too had very few freebies left, so I grabbed the first issue of the new Warlord series and some other stuff to the tune of $5.36.

And I got home at around 5:20, having listened to more of the Phantom Planet CD on the way and ending on "Do the Panic."

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In the end I got 193 comics, 4 trade paperbacks (Essential Godzilla, Silver Surfer 1, Hulk 2, and Avengers 3), 3 hardcovers (Education of Hopey Glass and Leave it to Chance vols. 2 and 3), a statue and a DVD (and a bottle of water and two cookies) for a total of $211.97. The entire list of comics was as follows:

Birds of Prey 56-59, 96, 98-112
Catwoman 8-22, 24-37
Lucifer 13, 19-20, 23, 27-29, 32, 35-39, 41, 44, 47-51, 53-57, 60-61, 63-75
Black Lightning Year One 1-6
Lex Luthor Man of Steel 1-5
Superman/Shazam First Thunder 1-4
Metamorpho Year One 2-6
Daredevil 172
Flash 300
Sandman 2
Crisis 4, 6, 11, 12
Sherlock Holmes 1
Warlord 1
Marvels Eye of the Camera 5
DMZ 26-28
Dream Police

10 copies of Identity Crisis 1
9 copies of Stray Bullets 2
7 copies of Savage Dragon FCBD
5 copies of Blackest Night FCBD and Transmet 1
4 copies of Preacher 1
3 copies of Resurrection FCBD and Planetary 1
2 copies of Owly 2009 FCBD, Superman 10-cent Adventure, Umbrella Academy 1, and House of Mystery 1
1 copy of the FCBD editions of Bongo Free for All, TMNT, Melvin Monster, FCHS, Love and Rockets, Wolverine, Avengers, DC Kids, Archie, Aliens, last year's Gyro Gearloose book, the Mickey Mouse book from two years ago, the 25-cent Goon issue, the 50-cent DC Universe book, and both the 2007 and 2009 versions of Comics Festival

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Here's the route I took too, with all the shops marked in order. I drove a total of 133.7 miles (supposedly on a quarter tank--I love my Yaris) and listened to 71 songs of my "best of 2008" playlist (which was about half the list).

A fun day, but oddly tiring. In the end I spent quite a bit more than I meant to as well, but I got a ton of great stuff, including a lot of books I'll pass on to my students. And I can now say I have a rather comprehensive knowledge of nearly all the comic shops in my area, which is always a good thing for a comic fan to have.

CBR Review: Rasl #4

I recently reviewed Rasl #4 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "With an odd man named Sal who looks like an animal having killed someone close to him before jumping worlds, Rasl heads after him, but is soon at the disadvantage. Their interaction provides clues of who Sal is working for and what they’re looking for, while also tying into the story that Rasl gives to begin the issue about the US Navy encountering an odd phenomenon. What exactly is going on remains to be seen, but Smith drops a lot of clues in this issue."

You can read the rest HERE!

CBR Review: Madman Atomic Comics #15

I recently reviewed Madman Atomic Comics #15 for CBR and, in the process, wrote the following sentences: "Not much actually happens in this comic, but it’s the way in which not much happens that’s remarkable. Madman wakes up to find himself in a seemingly snow-filled environment, so what does he do first? Makes snow angels! His examination of the world yields surprising results, like discovering that the ‘snow’ is not snow, and that breathing is difficult. He encounters odd blobby monsters and dispatches one with his yo-yo. It’s all very straight forward and, almost, innocent."

You can read the rest HERE!