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The Stack-4/19/17

In new books, rants, reviews on April 20, 2017 at 11:16 am

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This week in comics: Event season approaches (so that we can all complain about fatigue instead of just, I don’t know, NOT BUYING THOSE BOOKS), Warren Ellis hits us with his writing stick twice in one week, and Image launches some dark number ones (that Garth Ennis kind of dark). But first, I need to clear something up in the new Cave Carson, since it’s all pixelated out:

wang

Really? You’re going to censor some wang? In a MATURE READERS book? Can we please get past this Puritanical fear of nudity, particularly the double standard of male nudity?

This was a monster Wednesday, not just in terms of quantity, but also quality. I cannot remember the last time I tore through a stack with such ecstatic abandon AND felt so satisfied at the conclusion. This is the week that you should take your family member or friend who is on the fence about comics to your local shop, give them the grand tour, put a floppy in their hands that aligns with their interests, and expand our ranks with fresh blood gently coax them into a lifelong love affair with the medium.

Injection #12 (Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey, Jordie Bellaire, Fonografiks-Image): The mighty Warren Ellis has a unique skill set in the world of comics, and this is one of those titles where he employs every last razor-sharp tool in his kit. There’s a big, mad idea, wrapped in a teased-out mystery, populated with haggard reimagined archetypes who do not suffer fools gladly, demanding sandwiches and spitting cruel, dry humor as they get down to the business of crafting the future. Brigid Roth is investigating a bizarre stone ring out on a Cornish moor, and its link to the faery world. In this issue there is a genuinely creepy exchange between her and a local professor, as well as a jar containing what could be the sorcerous penis of Rasputin. Enjoy.

The Wild Storm #3 (Warren Ellis, Jon Davis-Hunt, Steve Buccellato, Simon Bowland-DC): There’s a wonderful synergy that can be achieved between the typically dichotomous. You can go on about theoretical science and corporate espionage, and still get in action sequences that blow your damn doors off, and Ellis has been able to achieve this when paired with artists up to the challenge, giants like John Cassaday, Bryan Hitch, and now Jon Davis-Hunt (fresh off of the sadly cancelled Clean Room). Things go boom and ratatattat, but we also get a brilliant four page sequence (featuring a much beloved character from Authority) showing a curious young woman apparently traveling from place to place via electronic screens on devices like phones and billboards. I love the way Ellis is weaving together his version of the Wildstorm universe, and these twenty four issues will go by way too fast.

Letter 44 #32 (Charles Soule, Langdon Foss, Dan Jackson, Crank!-Oni Press): Telling a story about alien life is an enormously difficult task, which I suppose is why so many stories just make them essentially humans that are a different color or part insect or something. Charles Soule is up to the challenge of making his visitors something beyond that in Letter 44: tentacled, featureless beings responsible for entire galaxies of techno-organic creation, with behavior, drives, and hubris that is immediately recognizable, so that we may see just enough of ourselves in them to empathize with their plight. We finally see the event that led to everything in this series, crafted with such mind-melting detail and color that I truly believe that this issue needs some awards heaped upon it.

God Country #4 (Donny Cates, Geoff Shaw, Jason Wordie, John J. Hill-Image): Emmett has taken his huge talking sword and charged into an aspect of Hell in order to rescue his granddaughter from Balegrim, a powerful being who wants the sword returned to his father. Meanwhile, his son and his daughter-in-law, besieged by the undead, have the kind of argument about faith you can only have when confronted with the impossible. This book is raw emotion and southern swagger, and it is going to not only put Donny Cates on the map, it is going to add a new country to it, adjacent to Jason Aaron’s, I would think.

Redneck #1 (Donny Cates, Lisandro Estherren, Dee Cunniffe, Joe Sabrino-Image): It’s a Donny Cates double feature! What we have here is a family of restless vampires, laying low on the outskirts of an east Texas town, doing a poor job of avoiding getting hunted by the local god-fearing populace. What really made this stand out, apart from Lisandro Estherren’s gritty, brooding artwork, is the turn it takes at the end, communicating the panic one experiences when they get blind drunk and wake to discover that they have torn their life down, and have no recollection of it whatsoever. This one is going to be quite a ride.

Black Hammer #8 (Jeff Lemire, Dean Ormston, Dave Stewart, Todd Klein-Dark Horse): This issue is just jam-packed with tragedy. There are lots of folks out there who are fond of the whole ‘comics will break your heart’ quote, and this right here is a prime example of a story doing just that (though that old chestnut is more about things like creators getting shit on, and how stigmatized the medium is, even to this day). Gail continues to reflect and break down, Lucy investigates the mystery around the town of Rockwood, Mark continues his flirtations, and the ending . . . HOLY SHIT the ending.

Plastic #1 (Doug Wagner, Daniel Hillyard, Laura Martin, Ed Dukeshire-Image): Sometimes a comic comes along and immediately achieves a certain infamy. You will lend it to your friends as a dare, something to test their limits and talk about later. This is one of those comics. It is SO fucked up. If you too are attracted to things of that sort, I highly recommend getting a copy.

Invincible Iron Man #6 (Brian Michael Bendis, Stefano Caselli, Marte Gracia, VC’s Clayton Cowles-Marvel): Perhaps up to this point you’re still not sure if you are interested in Riri Williams, the super-genius teen who is stepping into Tony Stark’s rocket-powered shoes. I’ll tell you right now, after this issue, you will adore her. You know, unless you’re some hateful, stuck-in-the-past grognard. The way she views Tony’s collection of armor with total fangirl reverence, her banter with everyone around her, her desire to genuinely do good in the world . . . if you don’t connect with that, why the hell are you reading superhero comics in the first place? Also in this issue: The Bendis finally addresses what is to become of Latveria now that Doom has abandoned it, and the Champions make an offer.

Royal City #2 (Jeff Lemire, Steve Wands-Image): Apparently it’s the Warren Ellis, Donny Cates, AND Jeff Lemire double feature this week! Getting back to recommending books to people you know-If someone in your life is addicted to TV dramas, THIS is the book you give them. There’s tons of family tension, a crumbling marriage, debt to local criminals that gets someone roughed up, dealing with middle age and burnout, and just a hint of metaphysical mystery to chew on and speculate about. AND a mixtape list, for all us aging hipsters, as well as the fact that it’s only on issue two, and thus easy to catch up on.

Fighting the ol’ OCD beast can be a challenge for most comic book readers, but it’s a fight worth participating in, and I’ll gladly tell you why, free of charge.

In this blog I have a tendency to dump all over collectors, and collectibles. My point of view is simple: Comic books are an interactive storytelling experience, so to merely regard them as art objects or sources of revenue is crass and hurtful. To attain things merely to attain them, to just engage in an empty Capitalist ritual, is no way to live one’s life. Don’t just give in to being a completionist. Don’t fill in a run of books just to have a complete run. If you don’t like where a story is going, or what is happening to the characters, or you feel that the current roster of creators are a bunch of hacks, then just STOP BUYING THAT BOOK. Fight the urge. Send a clearer impression to your local retailers and the publishers. You vote with your dollar. There’s a giant pool of talent and ideas out there, and our comics should be good ones, so support those that are, and help give the axe to those that are lacking.

I bring this up again and again not only because I constantly see these bad habits, or because people tend to talk a good game about improving the comic book landscape but then let great works die from poor sales, but also because it’s event time again. This week saw the release of Marvel’s Secret Empire #0, and the Batman/Flash Watchmen button crossover with its (FACEPALM) lenticular variant cover, and there’s more stuff like this in the pipe. Now I’ve read these, and actually enjoyed them, but they aren’t essential. Fans love to whine and bitch about ‘event fatigue’, but no one is making you participate. We know the deal by now: There will be core books and spin-offs and crossovers, all built around some neat idea that cannot possibly be sustained throughout this many titles. If you’re not interested, or if you don’t want to move outside of your current list of weeklies, then don’t feel pressured to buy them. Simple. Writers have become quite adept at the unenviable and difficult task of writing a story that stays within its own borders while also massaging in the event material. You’ll be just fine, I assure you.

Well, that’s all for now. Feel free to share my ramblings with others, comment and share your picks, and as always, thank you for reading, and for reading this. Be good, support your local brick and mortar shops, and I’ll see you in seven.

The Stack-4/12/17

In new books, rants, reviews on April 13, 2017 at 1:45 pm

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This week in comics: Science Fiction front and center, Nick Spencer has the American milieu on speed dial, and the bizarre controversy around X-Men Gold #1. But first, one of many reasons I adore Valiant Comics:

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Not only does the comic sound cool, but you have to do two very important things to acquire it: ruin the book this coupon is in, and take it to your local shop. Thanks for driving business to brick and mortar, and for driving collectors insane.

The genre of Science Fiction is stronger than ever, especially in comics, which I largely attribute to a notable handful of visionaries like Warren Ellis, Rick Remender, and the folks at Image, and if that’s your bag then this week was a treat. Some kind of alien treat, served in a space ship. There was sports Sci-Fi (Motor Crush), Fantasy/Sci-Fi twist (Green Valley AND Seven to Eternity), Western/Sci-Fi (Copperhead), and also . . .

Redline #2 (Neal Holman, Clayton McCormack, Kelly Fitzpatrick, Crank!-Oni Press): Redline is probably most accurately described as MILITARY Sci-Fi. The point of view is from the troops on the ground on Mars, caught between corporate warmongers and a mysterious race of aliens. The humor is gloriously inappropriate, the kind of detached and lovingly insulting bonding that you tend to encounter in high-stress situations. Suicide bombers, wild hallucinations, shootouts in strip clubs, or brushes with alien life: It all gets treated with off-color zingers and dick jokes, which does a highly entertaining job of grounding the unbelievable in the unseemly. It’s so good.

Immortal Brothers: The Tale of the Green Knight #1 (Fred Van Lente, Cary Nord, Clayton Henry, Mark Morales, Brian Reber-Valiant): A one-shot about Gilad, Ivar, and Aram, and their version of the events of the Arthurian tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight? Oh HELL YES. Faith, of the Harbinger Renegades, is sick in bed, and Archer decides to tell her the story, as Armstrong told it to him, all Princess Bride-style. Heads get lopped, squires get acquired, and the truth about Morgan Le Fey and the Lady of the Lake is uncovered. It’s so well done that you can enjoy this book without any knowledge of the Valiant universe. If that’s the case, you might soon find yourself snapping up back issues of Archer & Armstrong, Faith, and Wrath of the Eternal Warrior, just FYI.

The Unbeatable Squirrel-Girl #19 (Ryan North, Erica Henderson, Rico Renzi, Travis Lanham-Marvel): Doreen is facing down her worst nightmare: A REALLY long villain monologue. It turns out that SPOILERS Melissa Morbeck, who was previously seen as a friend and benefactor, is a big-time baddie, and has been reverse engineering tech that will allow her to control nearly every animal that has come into human contact on Earth. To what end? To rule, and to blame it all on Doctor Doom, since that name carries more weight in the grand scheme of evil things. Can she, Koi Boi, Chipmunk Hunk, and Nancy save the day? Will her new suspicions ruin her friendship with Howard the Duck? Will things work out for Alfredo the Chicken? Read the issue, snort-laugh your butt off, and find out!

The Wicked + The Divine #28 (Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson, Clayton Cowles, Dee Cunniffe-Image): A Great Darkness approaches mankind, and the one force that can stop it, a pantheon of gods reborn into the bodies of various young people, is too busy being assholes to bother. Some are digging up dirt, some are getting their party and orgy on, some are enduring abuse, and some are busy murdering. In a flashback, the one who sought to manipulate these deities is literally weeping for the future. This issue, oddly enough, shares a common thread with the recent Marvel works of Jason Aaron: Gods are in fact not far removed from us, and thus are capable of sucking just as hard as we can.

Godshaper #1 (Simon Spurrier, Jonas Goonface, Colin Bell-Boom! Studios): Speaking of gods, there was a brilliant new entry from Boom this week, all about an alternate version of our world where physics misbehaved, and resulted in human beings getting personal gods do their bidding in exchange for worship. The wrinkle is that not everyone got a god, but instead the ability to manipulate these gods, changing their appearance and power sets. Ennay, a wandering musician, is one of these ‘Godshapers’, and is about to get involved in the shady dealings lurking beneath the latest midwestern shithole he’s journeyed into. There’s nothing out there quite like this comic, a sexy amalgam of Pokemon, Rockabilly, and hobo culture, illustrated with colorful abandon by Jonas Goonface. I highly recommend giving it a read.

Captain America: Sam Wilson #21 (Nick Spencer, Daniel Acuña, Rachelle Rosenberg, VC’s Joe Caramagna-Marvel): SPOILERS Here we are. After twenty issues, Sam has made a decision, informed by everything he’s been through, including the fact that Rage was recently put into a coma for daring to stand up to both the Americops and his criminal past. He’s moving on, returning to his life as Falcon, and passing the shield back to Steve Rogers. If all of this was planned in detail by Nick Spencer, then that cements him as one of the best writers in comics as far as I’m concerned. He’s done nothing less than tell one of the most timely and compelling stories about superhero legacy ever. He has taken the character on a journey that examined race, politics, fandom, and abuse of power, and for as sad as this ending is, and knowing just how bad it’s about to get in the big Secret Empire event, it feels like this is exactly how it needed to happen. Sam needed to feel the shadow of Cap and the disapproval of those fans, he needed to be true to himself and pay a huge price for it, and most importantly, he needed to decide to fight on despite the weight of the world crushing him and those closest to him. This is who he is, and he’s going to do what he thinks is right on his own terms again. No matter how hard he tried, he was never going to fill those boots, but it didn’t stop him from actually trying, and it didn’t stop him from inspiring people along the way. The tragically ironic thing is that those actions make him more worthy of being Captain America than the current version of Steve Rogers, but the extremely vocal opposition will not have it. That’s the world that we and these characters live in now, but if we refuse to give up, it CAN and WILL change.

Moving on, I suppose I should touch on the controversy of the week, involving X-Men Gold #1. The short version is that comics artist Ardian Syaf put references to the Indonesian interpretation of the Quran in the issue, and that these references allude to religious hatred and the current political climate in that area. It was a foolish, self-serving thing to do, and it cost him a career that many of us only dream about. For more in-depth information, I suggest checking out the Tumblr of G. Willow Wilson, writer of books like Ms. Marvel, which can be found here.

Then there’s the after-effects that this little fiasco has caused in the retail and collector’s worlds. I have had my shop’s phone ringing ever since, bombarded with would-be speculators looking to make a buck off of one idiot’s misguided attempts at a statement. The issue is going for upwards of $40 on places like Ebay as I write this, which is a fact that makes me physically ill. That anyone wants to make thirty bucks off of religious animosity is disgusting, and is exactly the kind of bullshit that we do not need. I talk a great deal about how comics are for everyone, and that all are welcome. Let me make an amendment to that. Insensitive scumbags treating it like the nerd stock market can just fuck right off. Speculators, online flippers, unscrupulous retailers and dealers, and anyone else who thinks this is acceptable:

road house

Allow me to show you the fucking door, amigo.

Thanks for fighting the good fight with me, and thank you for reading comic books. Feel free to share your thoughts and your pulls in the comments. Be good, support your local shops, and I’ll see you in seven.

The Stack-4/5/17

In new books, rants, reviews on April 7, 2017 at 9:41 am

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This week in comics: Wonderful number ones and twos, bracing for more cancellations, and The Bendis shows us just how poorly superheroics and family mix. But first, in the battle of band-inspired books, who wins?

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This?

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Or this?

(Here’s a hint: IT’S FUCKING SLAYER)

Eleanor & the Egret #1 (John Layman, Sam Keith, Ronda Pattison-Aftershock): What do you get when you put the creators of Chew and The Maxx on the same title? You get the quirky story of an art thief and her magical talking bird. You get the full Sam Keith experience, including unconventional page layouts, coloring that pops and swirls, figures clad in flowing fabrics and towering hats, and unnecessary yet charming reminder balloons. You get a book unlike any other on the shelves. Got it? Good.

Shade the Changing Girl #7 (Cecil Castellucci, Marguerite Sauvage, Becky Cloonan, Saida Temofonte-DC/Young Animal): Shade has been living up to its pedigree and potential each month, carving out its own unique path while maintaining a tether to the works of Peter Milligan and company that came before it. This story of an alien that traveled to our planet and found itself in the body of a high school bully has been an inferno of emotion, poetry, and psychedelia, and I really think it all starts to gel in the best possible way with this latest issue. Here we get some much-needed back story on the Avian formerly known as Loma, and where their wanderlust came from, as well as all sorts of parallels they share with the former Shade. After the flashbacks, the issue builds to a moment when those wronged by Megan, the girl Loma now inhabits, get their revenge, and the realization hits that it’s time to outrun the past and see what Earth has to offer. All of this is illustrated beautifully by Marguerite Sauvage, and it’s a feast for the eyes.

Black Cloud #1 (Jason Latour, Ivan Brandon, Greg Hinkle, Matt Wilson, Dee Cunniffe, Aditya Bidikar, Tom Muller-Image): This is my favorite kind of story, for two reasons. First, it’s the kind that is difficult to describe to other people. My recommendation to friends and customers ends up being, “Just read it!” ( I promise this speaks more about the creator’s wild imagination, and less about my laziness and habit of stumbling over my words). Second, it’s a story about the power of stories, so it’s a mysterious little imp of a meta-narrative. It revolves around a woman who is a homeless nobody in our world, staying alive by giving the disenchanted rich a tour through other realms. Beyond that, issue one is a sublimely rendered collection of questions, with answers looming in the distance. Dive right in, you won’t be disappointed.

Champions #7 (Mark Waid, Humberto Ramos, Victor Olazaba, Edgar Delgado, VC’s Clayton Cowles-Marvel): Champions is a book about youth, the good and the bad. Cyclops, Hulk, Ms. Marvel, Nova, Spider-Man, and Viv made a decision to form a team of their own, separate from those like The Avengers, with a mission statement full of wide-eyed optimism, social media connection, and solving problems without all the property damage and dead bodies. This particular issue is all about the naivete of that stance, as they deal with getting set up by The Freelancers, a team with a completely mercenary approach and no moral compass. In a final cruel twist, SPOILERS the heroes are confronted with their logo, now trademarked by their enemies and splashed across products that are completely antithetical to what they stand for. The lesson: Be ever vigilant, or evil will totally co-opt your shit.

Extremity #2 (Daniel Warren Johnson, Mike Spicer, Rus Wooton-Image): Let me start off by apologizing for not covering issue one of this series. It slipped past my radar, and I did not get to read it until just recently. But when I finally sat down and cracked open a copy, it absolutely rocked my damn world. It’s a Sci-Fi adventure drama, a tale of revenge and tribal warfare, and it lives in a fascinating and fully realized world of massive airships and deadly beasts and terrifying cruelty. I am now a total fanboy for creator Daniel Warren Johnson. His art is stunningly visceral, reminiscent of greats like Paul Pope and Geof Darrow, and it pulls me into each and every page. I can’t recommend this one enough.

Motor Girl #5 (Terry Moore-Abstract Studio): I absolutely adore Terry Moore’s work. From Strangers in Paradise to Rachel Rising and now Motor Girl, you will always find a very human center to whatever madness is happening in the narrative, driven by strong, compelling characters, and a joyfully independent spirit that permeates everything. Case in point: Sam, a former Marine Sergeant who was beaten and tortured by the enemy while deployed, has visions of a big friendly Gorilla who is her only close companion now that she works alone in a junkyard. Her and her employer, a fiery old lady named Libby, are caught in the middle of a bizarre alien visitation and the weapon developer who wants to intercept it. How can you NOT read that? And if you dare to complain that the comic is in black and white I will throw extra ripe durian fruit at you.

It’s time for the Bendis double-trouble feature!

Jessica Jones #7 (Brian Michael Bendis, Michael Gaydos, Matt Hollingsworth, VC’s Cory Petit, David Mack-Marvel) & Spider-Man #15 (Brian Michael Bendis, Szymon Kudranski, Justin Ponsor, VC’s Cory Petit, Patrick Brown-Marvel): I personally enjoy that old chestnut, you may have heard of it somewhere, about great power coming with great responsibility. Superheroing ain’t easy, and that goes double if you still have family and friends in your life that you are putting in harm’s way merely by association. As a family man, I imagine this aspect is often at the forefront of the mind of The Bendis, and why it appears in his work so much. SPOILERS Jessica Jones has lost the trust of her husband by going undercover for S.H.I.E.L.D. and hiding their child from him, and her old habits are creeping in as she tries to cope. Over in Spider-Man, Miles and his father are confronted by Rio, who has finally pieced together that they have been lying to her face about their lives away from home. These resolutions go as you would expect, with forced explanations doing very little to soothe hurt feelings and uncertainty about the future. It’s in these personal and emotional stakes that we most see ourselves, and it’s how we get invested in a story. A long form genre comic that deals only in the escapism aspect will always be the lesser for ignoring that fact. Thanks, Bendis and your amazing art teams, for putting some truth about the human experience up on Front Street.

I covered a bit more than usual this week, and got delayed by storms knocking out my internet, so I’ll just briefly touch on the upcoming end of some of my favorite books, whether due to cancellation, the end of a run, or just the fact that they are only a mini-series. In the next few months we are losing Unfollow, Clean Room, Patsy Walker aka Hellcat, Letter 44, Invincible, God Country, and more. They will be missed, and I look forward to whatever these creators are up to next.

Having said that, remember that you vote with your dollar. Buy the books that mean something to you, especially if they are taking big chances and/or at a publisher that quickly drops the axe once sales hit a certain low. And DO NOT be one of those asshats that drops a title simply because it’s a mini-series. Not every story needs to go for a decade or more. We can all be better about getting the word out, so that great work is recognized and those behind it can make a living. It’s precisely why I own a comic shop, and why I make this blog. Be a one-nerd comics street team. Tell your friends and family. Share on social media. Go to conventions FOR THE ACTUAL COMICS. It’s a small community, in the greater scheme of things, but it cannot be a clubhouse. You’re all welcome, and there’s always room for more.

Be good, support your local shops, and I’ll see you in seven.

 

The Stack-3/29/17

In new books, rants, reviews on March 30, 2017 at 9:48 pm

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This week in comics: A tear-filled goodbye, the current Zeitgeist Level is ‘Shitstorm Brown’, and somehow Snagglepuss sparks a fierce debate about art styles. Before we begin, I have a burning question:

 

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Can we knock it off with this ‘director’s cut’ horseshit already? Using the terminology of another medium, particularly when it is a total misnomer, doesn’t become us, darlings.

Spider-Woman #17 (Dennis Hopeless, Veronica Fish, Rachelle Rosenberg, Andy Fish, VC’s Travis Lanham, Javier Rodriguez-Marvel): After going through trials and tribulations both deeply personal and extra punchy, Jessica Drew is ready to take a break and settle down with baby Gerry and her new beau Roger, the man formerly known as Porcupine. What writer Dennis Hopeless brought to this title that truly set it apart from nearly everything else on the shelves was heart. He chronicled the highs and lows of a burgeoning super-family, and did it without being saccharine or disingenuous. I enjoyed issue after issue of baby mama drama, and I am not a fan of babies whatsoever. What the various artists involved brought to this title was no less important: Inventive page layouts, expressive character work, and an overall aesthetic that was a refreshingly bright nod to the classics. This book was its own unique corner of the Marvel universe, and its presence will be missed. Enjoy the downtime, Arachnid Lady. You have certainly earned it.

Unfollow #17 (Rob Williams, Mike Dowling, Quinton Winter, Clem Robins, Matt Taylor-DC/Vertigo): Up to this point, Unfollow has sunk its hook into us with a very juicy directive: Imagine that a single genius introduced the world to social media, and that he is dying from cancer, and wants to play a game with us to see what we’re made of. That game involved giving away his fortune to random users of his platform, provided they could survive each other long enough to enjoy it. Recently, the game has changed. SPOILERS Our genius billionaire, Larry Ferrell, has sent his cancer into remission and had an epiphany: People have misused his tech, they are lost without it, and this money is HIS. He plans to simply kill off the remaining 140 chosen ones himself, and get back to being an ‘alpha’. It’s a twist that makes a frightening amount of sense. Rob Williams and his crew have crafted a top notch wake-up call, and I suspect there are even more surprises in store.

Clean Room #17 (Gail Simone, Walter Geovani, Quinton Winter, Todd Klein, Jenny Frison-DC/Vertigo): Next, we sidestep over to another fantastic Vertigo book, where oddly enough, the Internet has also gone dark. Oh shit–SPOILERS Whoops. The difference is, it is the terrifyingly silent opening salvo in the war between demonic entities and humans. They’re hiding among us, and they are now savoring every last bit of chaos, confusion, and suspicion that the panicked masses are experiencing. Meanwhile, in the Clean Room, Astrid is schooling the murderous stalker who has penetrated her inner circle, and is preparing for a showdown with the entity child who wants her broken and destroyed. Gail Simone is talented, funny, and prolific. She also has a dark side, and she is expressing it in a fascinating way. I want more, provided it does not manifest in horrifying ways, like it did with Grant Morrison (look up the story behind his comic, The Invisibles).

Cinema Purgatorio #9 (Alan Moore, Kevin O’Neill, Garth Ennis, Raulo Caceres, Digikore Studios, Max Brooks, Gabriel Andrade, Kieron Gillen, Nahuel Lopez, Christos Gage, Kurt Hathaway-Avatar Press): I have been meaning to discuss this excellent anthology book for months now, so let’s dive in. The main story is really just a chance for the always enchanting and cantankerous Alan Moore to dissect the dark underbelly of film and animation, in a way that only someone fucked over by that same machine can. Garth Ennis’ Code Pru is about the way we make the horror of life banal in order to contain it. A More Perfect Union is a historical fiction gorefest about armies of giant ants emerging during the time of the Civil War. Modded is quite simply Pokemon in a post apocalyptic wasteland, changing out cute monsters for actual demons. And The Vast is a kaiju story focusing on the arms race between nations trying to train giant monsters by getting them to imprint on humans when they’re babies. If you are a fan of horror and gorgeous black and white artwork that stands up on its own, you need to be reading this.

Infamous Iron Man #6 (Brian Michael Bendis, Alex Maleev, Matt Hollingsworth, VC’s Clayton Cowles-Marvel): Would you care to know where the most exciting things are happening over at Marvel? They’re happening over in the ‘silly’ wing, with books like The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. They’re happening in Jason Aaron’s Thor books. They’re happening in books that address mental health issues, like Moon Knight and Hulk. And they are happening wherever The Bendis is. Spider-Man, Jessica Jones, and the Iron Man world are amazing. Go ahead, call me an ass-kissing fanboy. It’s true and you know it. What can I say? Marvel is in rare form, and their best bald boy is leading the charge, despite whatever shit screamy right wing trolls have to say. But anyway, let’s talk Iron People, written by The Bendis. I love the idea of a repentant Victor Von Doom, a VVD that has been in the egomaniacal supervillain game so long that he truly doesn’t know how best to be a hero, even while being an unstoppable combination of technology and magic. It’s captivating, especially when SPOILERS his mother shows up, apparently in cahoots with a man who has been mysteriously absent in the current Marvel world: None other than Reed Richards. Sign. Me. Up.

It needs to be said that Alex Maleev’s artwork is a perfect pairing for the subject matter of Infamous Iron Man, and that brings me to my rant for the week, inspired by this of all goddamn things:

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Yep. THIS came out this week. Why? I have no fucking clue. This isn’t “You put chocolate in my peanut butter”, this is “You stuck a banana in my Faygo Jello mold”. It’s a nostalgia trip cash-grab, end of story. BUT, then we get to the backup story, The Snagglepuss Chronicles. Things get sort of uncanny valley in this part of the comic.

See, the art, while beautifully rendered by folks who are clearly quite talented, kinda ruins Snagglepuss and his friends. This is a cartoon character, doing cartoon things in a cartoon setting. If you make him look more photo-realistic, it gets creepy in a BIG hurry.

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Now that is some Five Nights at Freddy’s shit right there. I know furries who are actively turned OFF by this.

And this got me thinking. Are publishers and editors making enough of an effort to match artists with writing that suits their strengths, and vice versa? It matters. Shhhhhhhh. YES. IT MATTERS. Let me be clear. I am not saying this art is bad. Far from it. But is it a good look for Snagglepuss? Not so much. Now this gets me thinking about a bunch of titles that are on the chopping block, because I am irked by this creative dissonance. For example, Mother Panic. I love this book. But it’s a dark story, and it needs to look like this:

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And not THIS:

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Again, I’m not saying the latter is bad. But it’s cartoony, with big anime eyes and blocky figures. This is a comic about an emotionally scarred vigilante, who often declares, “Fuck Batman”. You don’t want some clueless parent picking it up for their six year old.

I have this issue with some other books, like my beloved Letter 44, but I try my best to power through. You may not care. But I think creative teams need to take this into consideration, in order to deliver a final product that is tonally in sync and therefore that much more appealing. This inevitably sidetracks me with questions about style, and why more artists aren’t more flexible, but that’s a whole other can of worms for another day.

EDIT: Some updates are in order. First, after reading the Snagglepuss back-up story, I discovered that it has a great message, though I’m still not sure why this character is saying it, drawn in that style, and in this book. Second, it would appear that in a couple issues Mother Panic will be bringing John Paul Leon on board, and his artwork is a much better fit than Shawn Crystal’s is. So, hooray for not dropping a book before doing a little research, and here’s hoping that Shawn gets some gigs that mesh more with his style.

That’s enough from my big mouth for this week. Be sure to check out my nonsense every Thursday, and if you get your friends to stop by as well you’ll make me squee with unbridled joy. And feel free to comment, share what’s in YOUR stack, and debate me on my irritating pet peeves. Be good, and I’ll see you all in seven.

The Stack-3/8/17

In new books on March 9, 2017 at 8:31 pm

. . . Aaaaaaaaaaand I’m back!

Sorry to all three of my regular readers, but i sorely needed a vacation. Not from comics, mind you, but from day-to-day life in general. Sometimes you lose perspective, and get in a rut so deep that your wheels just spin without purpose, and you angrily kick up mud at everything around you, losing any interest in forward momentum. Yep, according to my lazy-ass metaphor, sometimes you turn into a jeep.

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And you watch helplessly as your leader heroically drives off to his doom.

But now it’s time to get back to the things I love, hopefully with some renewed purpose and enthusiasm. First I’d like to quickly touch on a few of the more noteworthy books I missed in the last two weeks. I feel kind of guilty, taking my already brief one-paragraph nonsense and chopping it into rapid-fire nuggets (I’m capable of long form reviews, I swear), but since I’m not getting paid for this and you’re all probably just skimming it anyway, we’ll zip right past my insecurities and get the hell on with it.

Letter 44 #30 (Charles Soule, Alberto Jiménez Alburquerque, Dan Jackson, Crank!-Oni Press): The human race tries to put on a brave face and go out with some dignity, and we witness the inevitable heroic sacrifice. NO, I’m not crying. There’s something in my eye. Shut up.

Clean Room #16 (Gail Simone, Walter Geovani, Quinton Winter, Todd Klein, Jenny Frison-DC/Vertigo): It’s on like Donkey Kong. Demonic forces have infiltrated our world, and are ready to push humanity over the edge. Astrid and her organization are mobilizing, ready to kick said demonic forces in the taint.

The Old Guard #1 (Greg Rucka, Leandro Fernández, Daniela Miwa, Jodi Wynne-Image): Four weary immortals offer their services as mercenaries and get tricked into revealing their nature. This one’s off to a very promising start.

Savage Things #1 (Justin Jordan, Ibrahim Moustafa, Jordan Boyd, Josh Reed, John Paul Leon-DC/Vertigo): Children with sociopathic traits are recruited by an organization within the United States to be remorseless killers that will be unleashed on the nation’s enemies. What could possibly go wrong?

Royal City #1 (Jeff Lemire, Steve Wands-Image): The story of a dysfunctional family, the city they grew up in, and the loss that has manifested itself in different ways. I love the feel of this comic, and the way Lemire tells its story. I hope it sticks around for the long haul.

DC Rebirth update: I have read a few more titles in this new lineup recently, and I find I’m still not connecting with any of this stuff. At this point I’m honestly not sure if I’m just bringing in weird preconceived notion baggage, or if these books are really just mostly stale and bland throwbacks, but either way it’s not for me. I never want to be one of those people who dismisses a whole publisher’s worth of books for no reason (I still won’t touch Zenescope, who proudly just slap big ol’ titties on public domain fairy tales and call it a day, but I consider that sort of lazy exploitation a good reason), so I’ll still give one a read here and there, but in my opinion the really worthwhile comics in their arsenal are over at Vertigo and Young Animal.

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Redline #1 (Neal Holman, Clayton McCormack, Kelly Fitzpatrick, Crank!-Oni Press): I have no doubt only become MORE persnickety over the years about the execution of narrative, feeling that the HOW of storytelling makes all the difference when it seems like that old chestnut about there only being three (or maybe seven) basic stories is mostly true. So it was exciting to see this Science Fiction story approach its subject matter almost entirely from the point of view of a few US military agents stationed on Mars (ostensibly as a peacekeeping force). The exposition is as much in the repartee and shit-talking between Coyle and his team as it is in the art team’s gritty visuals. It comes across, speaking in the inevitable TV and movie comparisons, like Generation Kill meets Aliens, keeping us as entertained as we are intrigued.

Green Valley #6 (Max Landis, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Cliff Rathburn, Jean-Francois Beaulieu, Pat Brosseau-Image): The issue where Max Landis essentially points out how dumb the plot to Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits is.

The Wicked + The Divine #27 (Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson, Clayton Cowles, Dee Cunniffe-Image): This issue contains a very interesting experiment using eight-panel pages and color coding on those panels to differentiate scene breaks. I want to see more of this, please. Also, Dionysus tries to battle The Great Darkness with a series of experimental raves, because OF COURSE he does.

Copperhead #11 (Jay Faerber, Drew Moss, Ron Riley, Thomas Mauer, Scott Godlewski-Image): It has returned! Co-creator Scott Godlewski has passed the art torch to Drew Moss for now, who does a great job filling those big, Budroxifinicus-sized shoes. Speaking of everyone’s favorite wiseass, he drops a significant bomb on everyone at the conclusion of this issue.

Jessica Jones #6 (Brian Michael Bendis, Michael Gaydos, Matt Hollingsworth, VC’s Cory Petit, David Mack-Marvel): Man is this issue good! I really don’t know why people give Bendis so much shit–He keeps proving how adept he is at superhero storytelling, whether it’s dialogue, action, or drama, and the end to this first arc showcases that perfectly. AND it starts off with a flashback where Jessica (then known as Jewel) beats down Doctor Octopus and tells him that he has no dick, so there’s that. One of Marvel’s best right now.

I think that about wraps things up for this week. Join me next time, when there will be a new Bitch Planet, Kill or Be Killed, Manifest Destiny, God Country, Head Lopper, Injection, Spider-Man, The Mighty Thor, Ether, Batwoman (Oh yeah, I DID like that one), The Wild Storm, and more! In addition, I feel it’s time to drop a piece about working the retailer side of things, too, so keep an eye out for that.

Thanks for reading, and comment below so I don’t feel so alone in this world!

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And Happy Birthday, Freddie Prinze, Jr.!

The Art of the Pull List

In new books, rants on February 17, 2017 at 7:32 am

Like any true Wednesday Warrior, my comic book pull list is in a constant state of flux. There ARE those people who blindly buy every book a company puts out, I suppose in some pointless display of brand loyalty, but I’ve never been one of those (Though, to be honest, I came close when Vertigo was at its peak). Recently there has been a bit of a purge, and that got me thinking about the entire process, both from a consumer and a retailer perspective. I’ve assembled here a bunch of random observations that could possibly be of some use to anyone who loves comics so much that they must have them each and every week. Enjoy.

1. The Chopping Block: Should it stay, or should it go?

There’s the obvious primary factor in choosing titles for a comic shop pull list–limits on disposable income. Sure, we’d all like to add whatever we want, and give more books a chance. But there’s that pesky rent/food/bills/depression medication thing getting in the way. So you’ve got to be kinda picky, and prioritize based on what you value most in a floppy. Maybe it’s art, maybe it’s story, or maybe it’s variant covers. Actually, if it’s variants, and you don’t just nab one here and there because it features art by someone you adore, you should probably take some time to evaluate your life. You filthy collector.

Beyond that, there’s a personal threshold that develops for everyone, and it involves a few factors. Most important is how long you intend to give a series to develop. First issues are designed to hook you, but when that wears off, the development of the plot and characters are what will keep you buying. So how long do you allow for that? Most of us will go to the conclusion of the first storyline, which is usually five or six issues. Sometimes you’re just not feeling it, in which case you should by all means drop it and move on with your life. There will be this completionist part of you that will nag at the back of your mind, trying to convince you that enduring mediocrity for the sake of a complete run is wise. Ignore that shit. Trust me. You filthy collector.

2. The Previews catalog: Your greatest friend, your greatest enemy

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Every single month, Diamond puts out the Previews catalog. This monstrous tree-killer lets you know about every single comic, collection, and graphic novel headed your way in about two months. Each shop gets a free copy, and any that desires staying open will at the very least let you peruse one. DO THIS. I realize that I don’t really need to emphasize this, since the thrill of the new is all the motivation you’ll need. Your wallet will hate you, and loved ones may disapprove, but you knew the risks going in. What is even more important is that you inform your shop owner as soon as you’re done looking at it, letting them know what you want to add or remove. Their initial orders each month are based primarily on pull list numbers, and the interest suggested by those numbers. You’ll get exactly what you want, and they will not be wasting time and money. It’s a wonderful bit of symbiosis, when everyone is on board with it.

3. The Social Contract: It takes two to make this thing go right

Speaking of your relationship with your local shop, let’s talk about responsibilities. YES, you have them when you start a pull list. It’s not a legally binding contract, but by ordering comics that a shop has agreed to hold for you, you have agreed to actually pick them up and pay for them. Regularly. Not put most of them back on the shelf. Not disappear for months and expect that you can just cherry-pick some when you deign to show up again. Nope. You take and pay for them all. Your shop is providing you with a service, and many of them are even giving you a discount on top of that. Be an adult and uphold your part of this deal. Let them know in a timely fashion if you have changes. If you have to or want to cancel, just say that. You might be making them less money, but you will have earned their respect. I speak from experience on this one.

I think that pretty much covers it. Don’t be scared to commit to the list. The hours of reading enjoyment are totally worth it. Just make sure you honor that commitment. It’s like having a puppy. A puppy made of paper. But there’s a new one each week. A bunch of them each week.

Okay, it’s nothing like having a puppy. Just read comic books. Please. And thank you.

You filthy collector.

 

The Stack-2/15/17

In new books on February 16, 2017 at 8:06 pm

I’ll keep the opening banter to a minimum this week, since I’ll be making another post right after this one that will tie into what I want to discuss, and it will hopefully make up for the lack of anything on Sunday.

Wednesday was a deluge of goodness. If you didn’t visit your local shop yet, get off yer rump and fix that situation posthaste. Behold, nerdy mortals:

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God Country #2 (Donny Cates, Geoff Shaw, Jason Wordie, John J. Hill, Gerardo Zaffino-Image): Emmett was an old man suffering through Alzheimer’s, and then for some reason a magic god-forged sword from beyond Earth chose him to wield it so that he might slice up demons. Its former owner and his father aren’t too pleased about this, so it’s time to parley while Emmett comes to terms with the fact that this weapon has returned his memories and life to him. This book is a spiritual successor of sorts to the amazing 2008 Luna Brothers series The Sword. Unintentionally, I’m sure, but the similarities are there. Regardless, this cosmic-mysteries-by-way-of-real-world-Texas-grit yarn is one of the best new books out there.

The Wild Storm #1 (Warren Ellis, Jon Davis-Hunt, Ivan Plascencia, Simon Bowland, Tula Lotay, Jim Lee, Scott Williams, Alex Sinclair-DC): Jim Lee’s Wildstorm universe was a thoroughly 90s superhero concept that made its way from the early Image days to DC Comics. Full of black ops teams, conspiracy theories, and genre action, it really didn’t pop until a Red Bull-swilling, cane-swinging Brit by the name of Warren Ellis got to make his mark on it. With StormWatch, and later The Authority, these ideas soared to glorious new places, with a swagger all their own and page-consuming fight scenes. This latest iteration goes a bit more street-level on the surface, but even darker and more devious below that. It’s going to be one hell of a twenty-four issue ride.

The Mighty Thor #16 (Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman, Matthew Wilson, VC’s Joe Sabino, Joe Jusko-Marvel): Thor, right in the middle of Malekith’s war, has been whisked away beyond the edges of space to the place where the Shi’ar gods reside, and they have decided to challenge her to determine who is mightier. To these vicious celestials it’s all a game where mortal lives mean nothing, and Thor does not approve. In fact, she’s going to show these tyrants up by simply being her awesome, benevolent (at least as benevolent as a hammer-wielding superhuman can be) self. Meanwhile, in the Congress of Worlds, Volstagg filibusters by talking about his favorite foods.

Animosity #5 (Marguerite Bennett, Rafael De Latorre, Rob Schwager, Marshall Dillon, Marcelo Maiolo, Mike Rooth-Aftershock): Another fantastic comic that puts the thesis statement of the whole series in one beautifully-executed page! The whole conflict is right there on page one of this issue, as two shrimps who have been sent as emissaries for their kind head to the surface world to speak with the rest of the animals who have been suddenly given human-level consciousness and the power of speech. They wonder what other forms of life have been given these gifts, and if they are just too far down the chain to be taken seriously by larger forms of life. And then a whale eats them. Yep. There’s also goat drama, a big human event, and possibly a dragon attack…?

Unfollow #16 (Rob Williams, Mike Dowling, Quinton Winter, Clem Robins, Matt Taylor-DC/Vertigo): It’s time for the big showdown. Ferrell has revealed that he’s still alive, and he’s given the survivors of his experiment his coordinates in Venezuela. So they’ve hopped on a few helicopters to confront–Oh, he has shot them out of the sky with missiles. I know. Spoilers. But it seems like many of them are still alive. So there’s that. Back in the States, the FBI is trying to shut down the Global Church of Akira, which is more than up to the challenge, what with all the tax-free money they’ve accumulated and the MANY social media followers they’ve amassed. And then, the most thoroughly modern of disasters occurs, which put a big grin on my face. This one I won’t spoil.

There were so many other great books this week, including (brace yourselves) a Rebirth title–Batwoman! What made top of the pile for YOU? Feel free to comment. Seriously. You can. Just try it. It’ll be fun. Comments SHOULD be enabled. I think.

The Stack-2/8/17

In new books on February 9, 2017 at 11:16 am

It’s weird out there, folks. Not in a good way. Not in the way that Austin, Texas is known for. Not in the way that club kids or Burners enjoy. No, more like when there’s a black storm on the periphery of your town, and you feel dread in your guts. You know that fucker wants to come for you, and throw tornadoes at the ground, making unidentifiable detritus of everything you know and love. Weird like THAT.

I know, I know. I’m here for comic book reviews, and I just pooped darkness onto this post before it even had a chance to begin. But stay with me. In times like these, you need some solace or you’ll go mad. Here’s where the comics come in. Reading them voraciously, drinking in every beautiful panel–it’s a weekly ritual that helps to keep me from getting too close to the precipice. I don’t COMPLETELY have my head up my ass; obviously the support and love I get from those close to me is the what means the most. But my books, along with the myriad other hobbies I engage in, come in a close second. They connect me to all of these people outside of my immediate sphere, people who have big ideas, and stories to share, and images in their heads that they needed to get onto paper.

Having unburdened myself of that, let’s get to the weekly highlights.

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Green Valley #5 (Max Landis, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Cliff Rathburn, Jean-Francois Beaulieu, Pat Brosseau-Image): This is a comic I’ve been raving about since its first issue, and the primary reason for that is how well it doles out its mysteries. It always messes with your expectations, even the ones it worked to establish in previous installments. There’s plenty more of that this month, along with an amazing dinosaur battle (the tension and excitement created is wonderful; Max is not at all afraid to truly jeopardize his characters), and the musical stylings of 80s sensation and singer-songwriter Eddie Money.

Alters #4 (Paul Jenkins, Leila Leiz, Tamra Bonvillain, Ryane Hill, Brian Stelfreeze-Aftershock): This issue feels like a true crystallized mission statement. Charlie, newly transitioned from male to female and from human to superhuman, is starting to connect with a community that understands and supports those changes, and it has given her the courage to come out to the world as Chalice in a television broadcast. She assuages fears, takes down the haters, and offers up her powers in the service of anyone out there who needs a hero. Then, of course, the baddies show up and threaten to undo it all.

The Wicked + The Divine #26 (Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson, Clayton Cowles, Dee Cunniffe-Image): The gods have made themselves known to the world again, and now the Great Darkness follows, threatening to destroy everything. It’s time to unleash the superpowers… for SOME of the Pantheon. This isn’t The Avengers, and things just aren’t that simple. What we’re seeing is a collection of capricious deities in the bodies of very flawed, very conflicted mortals. Some want to fight, some want to study the enemy further before taking action, and some just want anarchy. Despite what prophecies might say, sometimes your champions just do not give a shit.

Jessica Jones #5 (Brian Michael Bendis, Michael Gaydos, Matt Hollingsworth, VC’s Cory Petit, David Mack, Jay Fosgitt-Marvel): And now we get to the jaw-dropper of the week. One thing I adore about the genre of Detective Fiction is the escalation factor. It always begins with a case, and quickly swells into conflicts and conspiracy WAY beyond the protagonist’s wheelhouse. That’s precisely what we have here, and it involves a recent, massive crossover event in the Marvel universe. It also threatens to turn Jessica against her superhero friends. A big nod to this art team is in order, too; they convey noir atmosphere on each and every page.

Okay, I started dark, so let’s head to the light. Let’s spread the word about all the good things we still enjoy, whether they’re comic books or not. Let’s encourage the creative people who make it possible, and put some money in their pockets for all of their hard work (I’m looking at YOU, pirates). And as always, let’s get it from local shops unless we have no other option. Thanks for reading.

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FUCK the bozos!

Image Comics, Past and Present

In history on February 6, 2017 at 2:26 am

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Today, while most folks are enjoying the Super Bowl, I’m drunk as shit, reminiscing about my misguided youth, most of which was spent sampling the delights at the buffet table of early 90s comic books. Not as exciting as, say, coming back to win after your opponents have a twenty-one point lead on you, but this wacky world of funny books has always been less about visceral, outward excitement and more about intellectual power trips. No one was better at that than Image Comics was when it was founded by a gaggle of renegade artists back in ’92.

They are names that you know if you’re a mainstream aficionado: Erik Larsen, Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld, Todd McFarlane, Whilce Portacio, Marc Silvestri, and Jim Valentino. They were superstars in a very small world, highly stylized hotshots who were selling a SHITLOAD of issues for Marvel Comics. But they weren’t happy with how they were being treated, and how much they were being paid. So they conspired, and made a grand exit so they could found a new publishing company, one that would change the rules of the game and give creators control of their work. Image was born, from rebellion and scratched up Bristol board, screaming into a world which wanted more comics. Even when they were released insanely behind schedule.

The same year that this fledgling organization enthusiastically squirted out its glossy new books onto store shelves, I was an impressionable and curious young asshole of fifteen years. I wrote terrible poetry, I listened to Metallica, and I spent an obscene amount of time playing Sega Genesis games. I knew very little, but I knew that I loved comic books. I couldn’t get enough of them. So when something arrived at my local shop and it stood out on the shelves, I blew all of my dishwashing or grocery bagging money on it. Image books were custom made for marks like me.

The original Image lineup had certain key things in common, and these are qualities that are still loved today, despite my feeling that once you’ve graduated from college you should have outgrown them and moved on to things with a bit more to offer. Sure, you can tell the styles apart, but they’re the ones that made comics big business, and they did that for very specific reasons. These are comics about angry vigilantes and government-sponsored hit teams, splash page after splash page of angular musculature and three thousand hatch lines. It speaks to the angry young nerd, and gets their heart racing. It did for me, I’ll admit it. I wanted Spawn to stab serial killers with popsicle sticks, and I wanted the WildC.A.T.s to chop up the evil Daemonites that possessed Dan Quayle.

There’s a lot more to the Image story, but I’m going to get divisive and blow right past it, to the point I refer to as ‘The Kirkman Era’. Lots of other creators were brought into the fold in those early years, with varying degrees of success, but then the collector craze that they were largely responsible for formed a speculator bubble, which quickly burst and nearly killed the whole industry by the end of the century. There was a period of wonderful experimentation when comics were attempting to rally in the aftermath, and it’s in this environment that Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead appeared. Five years later this hot new creator has done so well that he’s a partner in the company, and the flood gates are open for fresh talent.

Suddenly I’m wondering what dear old Image is up to. Oh, not much. They just introduced the world to Jonathan Hickman through books like The Nightly News, and Kieron Gillen via Phonogram, and The Luna Brothers. They provided a new home to greats like Brian K. Vaughan and Colleen Doran and Rick Remender and Warren Ellis. Suddenly there are books about everything under the sun. There’s a huge resurgence in Science Fiction. More and more women are making comics, and people from every social, racial, and sexual strata, too. Is this entirely the work of Image? No, that just isn’t true. BUT, they’ve been a big part of it. Their business model and their team of editors have allowed diversity to thrive, and as a result we have the landscape that exists today.

So here we are, in 2017, and my pull list is majority Image. The books I most look forward to each week are often theirs. I rant and rave to my customers about the big ideas and bold approaches to the medium found in comics like Bitch Planet, Manifest Destiny, Lazarus, and Chew. It’s easy to dismiss those halcyon days of giant guns and foil variant covers as a mistake, but they paved the way for a new golden age, so that gets them a big pass. You like what you like, so by all means go read your old copies of Youngblood and Pitt, but I’m still going to make snarky jokes. Sorry. I’m only human. A kinda petty, snooty human.

The Stack-2/1/17

In new books on February 2, 2017 at 5:06 pm

When you’re working the retail side of this business, every penny counts, so you sometimes come up with bizarre ways to get attention. This week I unleashed my new stick puppet, Ant Morrison, into the world (see the store link in my ‘Meet the Author’ section). If you are familiar with GRANT Morrison it should be a hoot. However, most folks have told me that I just sound like Mrs. Doubtfire. The word is still out on how well this has translated into sales or chuckles. Stay tuned.

For now, let’s take a look at what hit shelves this week.

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Blood Blister #1 (Phil Hester, Tony Harris, Eric Layton, Guy Major, Dave Sharpe-Aftershock): Brand Hull is a truly despicable human being. He lives to deceive, and to screw people over, and relishes every minute of it. So when he finds himself in a haunted house that seems to lead to Hell, it’s not all that surprising when its terrifying denizens tell him that he’s home. This one’s got tons of potential, and seems to be headed for an examination of the forms that evil can take. I’m still a big fan of Tony Harris’s art, but in recent years it has moved more towards a simpler, stylized form, and I just think that the more photo realistic Starman-era work would better suit the story here.

Paper Girls #11 (Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang, Matt Wilson, Jared K. Fletcher, Dee Cunniffe-Image): After a small hiatus, the best damn comic about timeline-wandering girls who deliver newspapers is back, and it is chock full of floating grandmas, Cathy (from the syndicated comic strip, of course) jokes, MORE giant monsters, and futuristic technology that’s all apparently made by Apple. Vaughan and Chiang are killing it on this book, which is a must read, especially if you’re a fan of stuff like Stranger Things.

Karnak #6 (Warren Ellis, Roland Boschi, Dan Brown, VC’s Clayton Cowles-Marvel): Holy shit, what a great ending to this series. This is one of the many reasons I adore Warren Ellis. He has taken a character in a superhero comic that could easily be boring (He has the ability to see the flaw in anything and then destroy it based on that information. Let’s just have him karate fight robots!), and given him some philosophical opposition to contend with–a character who essentially represents the Terrigen Mist that he was denied at birth. It needs to be pointed out as well that Roland Boschi’s moody, drybrush art makes an excellent pairing for this story. This one was well worth the wait.

Champions #5 (Mark Waid, Humberto Ramos, Victor Olazaba, Edgar Delgado, VC’s Clayton Cowles-Marvel): I have many thoughts about this issue. So many. I’ll state up front that I really enjoy this comic. It’s full of inspiring young heroes who want to help without always punching and destroying everything. That’s admirable. Where we run into trouble this month is when the plot is revealed to be essentially a heavy-handed parable about Trump’s America. It’s distractingly on the nose, and maybe right now we need that, but it felt kinda lazy and didactic. Then there’s (groan) Gwenpool. I am not a fan. Making a silly variant cover that then gets made into a popular cosplay is probably not a good enough reason to add a character to the continuity. Let’s be honest here: She’s Harley Quinn. Marvel just wants a Harley. And I can see that she is meant to be the reckless idiot here that the Champions have to school, to show people that throwing bombs at cops is not such a great idea (yeah, that actually happens), but I just get the feeling that nothing is going to change, and if she stays with the team they’re just going to have to babysit her and her nutty, eccentric murder impulses.

That’s all I’ve got time to cover for now. What say YOU, gentle reader? Comment below. Until we meet again, make your enthusiasm for comics infectious, and support your local shop!