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C’mon, just revive Hex already.

§ September 1st, 2014 § Filed under this week's comics § 1 Comment

SPOILERS ahead, but mostly just for All Star Western:

I don’t read the regular monthly Simpsons titles, for ultimately no good reason whatsoever except perhaps “I already get too many comics and I have to draw the line somewhere.” It’s clearly good work, very representative of the show and an all-around professional package…I just never got into the habit of following the ongoing series.

On the other hand, I do pick up the minis and specials, particularly the character-focused one-shots they release every few months. That’s generally enough Simpsons funnybookin’ to keep me going…they probably appeal to my childhood enjoyment of the treasury editions, the extra-sized anniversary issues, and what have you. Basically, I’m a cheap bastard who wants more bang for his buck, though if you’re going to be one of those people that does a page count and “number of cents per page” breakdown to tell me I’m better off buying the regular-sized $2.99 issues if I’m that concerned about pinching a penny…well, off with you, then.

Besides, these specials usually come with some kind of fancypants novelty insert, like the “Don’t Blame Me, I votes for Kang”/”…Kodos” bumper stickers that accompanied the special pictured above. Okay, I’m still too anal-retentive a fanboy to want to remove those stickers, but it’s nice to know that they’re there and I can enjoy ‘em every time I open this comic. Well, until that glue dries out and the stickers come loose, but that’s a problem for whatever creditors come digging through my house after I’m gone. So, you know, in a week or two.

This isn’t a specific review about Red Lanterns, though of the Lantern Bunch (“Here’s the story of some lovely Guardians / Who were bringing up 3600 very lovely GLs”) it probably is my favorite series, which is not something I’d expected to say way back when DC was originally threatening to publish such a thing. But there it is: the characters and situations are more exciting and compelling than those in the other Green Lantern books. Not that the other GL books are bad…I still like them, but Red Lanterns kind of brings it in a way the others don’t.

Anyway, not what I wanted to mention. It’s just that the DC Universe books (at least, most of the ones I read) are sort of wrapping up storylines in order to make way for the “Futures End” one-shots with the 3D covers an’ all that are debuting this Wednesday and hopefully not bankrupting all of us retailers by contributing to insane distributor bills. I talked about trying to order these things before, and at the time it didn’t occur to me that the weekly series event-thingie the one-shots are tying into might turn out to…well, underperform, thus cutting off that entry avenue. With not a lot of interest in the event, there is the danger of ending storylines giving readers jumping-off points on titles they were sort of iffy on, or maybe just to cut reading costs and spend that money on, I don’t know, feeding the kids or something. Hopefully the novelty of the 3D covers will still entice people to continue, but that sort of thing does make me worry.

I am getting requests from customers to pull all the fancy covers for them, so the interest in there. Still wondering if we’re going to get anything like the rush from last time.

When DC, and then everybody, cut page counts down to 20 pages from 22 in their standard books, it felt like the story content were slighter. I mean, technically, it was; comics were two pages shorter. Maybe it was just psychological, but it felt like there was some kind of event horizon crossed, that the two pages significantly affected the amount of content present, far in excess of the actual storytelling loss caused by the truncation of the page count. The feeling’s lessened a bit, as creators have adjusted to the page loss and I’ve just sort of become used to it, but I occasionally read a comic, come to the end and think “what, already?”

That’s a long intro to say I didn’t have that feeling with Flash Gordon #5. In fact, this is the first standard-sized comic book I’ve read in quite a while where it seemed like things just kept going, where I kept expecting to come to the end of the comic, but nope, there was still more comic coming! After I finished reading it, I even went back and counted the actual number of story pages in the comic, convinced this was some kind of unannounced extra-sized issue.

20 pages. Including a two-page spread. Amazing.

A clever twist on what has been one of the more…macabre and great “ultimate fates” for any of DC’s characters. We all know how Hex is supposed to go out (I cover his death and adventures afterward here) and it’s nice that the last issue of All Star Western pays homage to that famous death while finding a new spin on it, one that also doesn’t necessarily reset Jonah’s life to the pre-time travel adventures status quo.

And it’s all drawn by Darwyn Cooke, so it’s very pretty looking, which is not a descriptor one usually uses for Jonah Hex, but, well, there you go. I do wonder what they’ll do with Hex after this, but now that time travel adventures for the character are once again on the table, look for his future Justice League membership. …Actually, he’d fit right into Justice League Dark, wouldn’t he?

I’m just going to remind you that a new issue of this has come out whenever it does come out. It’s pretty great.

Let’s write about comics and such for another 15 minutes.

§ July 31st, 2014 § Filed under green lantern, swamp thing, this week's comics, video games § 1 Comment

A bunch of you told me this was coming, and here it is, now in my possession, the 1:10 ratio variant cover for Super Secret Crisis Wars #2, which was inspired by the cover for House of Secrets #92 (the first appearance of Swamp Thing, of course).

This cover is by Andy Suriano, who notes next to his signature that the image is “After (Bernie) Wrightson” and that it’s “For Weezie!!” — AKA Louise Simonson, the writer of Super Secret Crisis Wars, and, oh, by the way, was also the model for the woman on the cover of that original House of Secrets #92.

Suriano might as well have added “Buy This, Mike Sterling” next to his signature as well. This also makes the second Powerpuff Girls-related Swamp Thing parody that I own (the first being the first issue of their IDW series).

In other ridiculous comic news…well, I wasn’t going to buy Injustice: Gods Among Us for the Xbox 360 at $59.99 or whatever the price point was, but I noticed that it recently was available in the Xbox store as a $7.99 download, so, you know, what the heck, I can probably get eight bucks of entertainment out of it. And to be frank, I liked it a lot more playing the full game than I did when I played the demo way back when. Getting the actual “story,” such as it is, and the cut scenes setting up the battles actually does help quite a bit in fleshing this game out into more than just a punch-em-up. Not much more, granted, but I’m having some fun with it. Plus, I’m trying to actually use the special fighting moves each character has, rather than my usual “push every button on the controller in a panic” strategy in dealing with games like these. I’m mostly successful.

This last Wednesday was the rare Mike-less Wednesday at the shop, as I ended up being stuck at home all day waiting for a locksmith to come and repair the lock on my front door…well, not all day, but by the time everything was done, there wasn’t any point in making the drive to work. Hopefully I won’t return on Thursday to find smoking ruins and “MIKE MUST DIE” painted in blood on one of the remaining walls, because I wasn’t thrilled the last time that happened. Alas, the lock problems were a special morning surprise, and not anything I planned for, so I had precious little work to do at home whilst I waited for the Friendly Neighborhood Locksmith to make his way to me. A little eBaying, a little store website maintenance (i.e. getting the store website back up because someone screwed up somewhere…not saying it was me, but…um, it was me)…

…and a little catching up on reading this week’s new comics over lunch. My fifteen minutes are almost up here, so let me just throw out the fact that I really enjoyed the Red Lanterns Annual. In fact, the Red Lanterns title in general is a lot of fun. I was skeptical as anyone on the Tumbling-Twitter-Journals about this when it was announced, that the world surely didn’t need a comic about the Red Lanterns, of all things, and who are, well, kinda gross when you get right down to it. But there’s always something interesting going on in the title, and this recent annual was stuffed with all kinds of crazy events and twists and turns, and personality conflicts mixed with the occasional grudging friendships are entertaining to read. I certainly like this comic more than the Green Lantern titles, which aren’t bad as such…just seem a bit staid compared to their more crimson-hued cousin.

Sinestro is good, too. Must be something about Green Lantern villains/antagonists that make for compelling reading. …Where’s my Myrwhydden series?

I guess “GLUB” counts as a sound effect.

§ May 28th, 2014 § Filed under this week's comics § 8 Comments

Jim Starlin, the creator of Thanos, returns with artist Ron Lim to fill in a gap or two in the character’s past while setting up yet another Infinity Something-or-other series, which is fine with me, actually, so long as Starlin will be involved. The annual comes with three variant covers, and of course there’s only one choice as to which I’d get.

Collecting Jason Yungbluth’s longform post-apocalyptic Peanuts (and other comic strips!) parody, both from previous print appearances and the online strips, plus other goodies new to this collection. I’ve been a fan of Weapon Brown since first encountering it in Yungbluth’s Deep Fried comics, though I sort of fell behind keeping up with the webcomic and am glad to have it all here in one giant lump.

This is supposed to be the “Batman ’66” variant, though that mostly has translated to “‘characters drawn by Mike Allred in the usual Mike Allred style’ variant,” which is perfectly fine, don’t get me wrong. But everyone’s costumes need to be, I don’t know, a little baggier, maybe? At least one giant “KA-POW!” sound effect, somewhere? Swamp Thing (looking more like the Dick Durock portrayal from the first film) dancing the Swamptusi with an Abby Arcane who looks suspiciously like Eartha Kitt in a white wig with black stripes?

Been digging Matt Kindt’s covers on this series. The story’s interesting as well, giving us outsiders’ views of the Original Trilogy’s core characters. I suspect this and the other ongoing Star Wars monthly may be the last hurrahs for these characters in this form for a while, as the franchise switches over to Marvel and the ramp-up to Episode VII begins.

This issue goes a long way to establishing that the Fantastic Four are dangerous and possibly crazy people, which is something that probably should have been obvious from the get-go but James Robinson has a lawyer really go after the team on this and it’s hard to argue that the lawyer is wrong. It’ll all wrap up with our heroes coming out of it just fine, surely, or at the very least forgotten when the next writer comes along or the new first issue comes out, or both, but it makes for a compelling story in the meantime.

Was actually sort of surprised this wrapped up as quickly as it did, in only six issues, but there probably isn’t much more to say on the topic, really. A lot got squeezed into these comics, and the tone of the last issue swings from touching to appalling and back again, in true Garth Ennis fashion.

REMINDER: Swamp Thing appearance in Aquaman this week, about seventeen years since the last time that’s happened, so, you know, we were about due. Also, I have just dropped dead from old age, in case you were wondering.

I’d probably hate that title less if there actually were three “Trinity of Sin” comics on the stands.

§ April 4th, 2014 § Filed under this week's comics § 6 Comments

Normally, on the rare occasion I buy Avatar comics and am forced to choose among the various cover options, the “regular” cover or the “terror” cover or the “propaganda” cover or the “lava leopard” cover or what have you, I usually go for the wraparound cover. Maybe it’s the mindset of “I’m want as much for my buck as possible, so I want twice as much cover as normal,” I don’t know. But this time, for Caliban, I went for the above “regular” cover, which just seemed more creepy and evocative than the perhaps more on-the-nose wraparound cover (which you can see on the publisher’s site). It certainly looks more like an old sci-fi paperback cover, at least to my eye.

The comic itself is off to an interesting start (an Earth ship unexpectedly merges with a mysterious, and much larger, alien craft, unpleasantness ensues) placing it solidly in the horror sci-fi genre along with Alien, Event Horizon and even Disney’s The Black Hole. …C’mon, you know that movie’s terrifying.

Some short notes about other comics this week:

Action Comics #30 – drawn, in part, by local artist and friend of the shop Jed Dougherty! Features the beginning (more or less) of the return of Doomsday storyline, or at least has that big ol’ “Prelude to SUPERMAN DOOMED” banner inset on the cover, and it doesn’t look like lightning is striking twice on this yet, but who knows. Maybe demand will pick up on these when the Doomsday story really gets moving along. And maybe all those copies of Adventure of Superman #500 will start selling again. And Superman #75 will finally break that $1000 barrier! I’LL BE RICH, I TELL YOU

Swamp Thing #30 – unexpected DC Universe guest-star in this issue, assisting Mr. A. Holland and friends with their particular dilemma. This installment ends with just about as disturbing a sequence as I’ve seen in Swamp Thing in quite some time, without having to resort to gore or corpses or really violence of any sort.

Starlight #2 – continues to be very by-the-numbers plotwise, but competently so, and thus is at least readable while you enjoy the true star of the book, the beautiful artwork by Goran Parlov.

She-Hulk #3 – everyone is telling you this is a great comic, and everyone is correct. This issue, She-Hulk tries to secure asylum for the “son” of Dr. Doom, and it’s exciting, it’s funny, and Doom’s son is both trying and a bit tragic. One thing I need to remember is that every two-page spread needs to be read across both pages, rather than down page one then back up to the top of the facing page. I’m so trained to do one page at a time that I kept having to remind myself “read all the way across before going down to the next tier of panels.” Not that I said that out loud to myself as I was flipping through the book, why would you even think that.

Phantom Stranger #18 – the Stranger helps Superman struggle against the ghosts of those he’s failed, or something like that. I’m pretty sure I need to read this again, because I’m not sure I quite caught it all the first time. The plot centers around that recent development over in the Justice League books, where a mind-controlled Superman straight up flash-fried Doctor Light, which is, mind control or not, kind of an upsetting thing to have as part of Superman’s history. Even the New 52 history, such as that is. I was kind of happy ignoring that, but nope, here it is in a book I read. Ah, well. Also, I’m totally shelving this comic in the Ps, not under T for “Trinity of Sin: Phantom Stranger” which is the official title, because that official title is dumb and I hate it.

“The Adventures of Myrwhydden” – coming to DC’s New 52!

§ March 7th, 2014 § Filed under this week's comics § 10 Comments

$5.99 is an awful lot to charge for a new comic book (see also), given that not too long ago six bucks got you a squarebound “prestige format” funnybook that was 48 pages, no ads, and this here annual is 48 pages with ads and a staplebound spine and why, I can remember when comics only cost a dime and you could buy a car with a five dollar bill and have change left over for a down payment on a house, ah yes.

This Batman/Superman annual, written by Greg Pak, is very good, however, with some interestingly appealing art from Jae Lee, Kenneth Rocafort and Philip Tan…in particular, I was discussing with a customer of mine the other day about how Lee seems to be leaps and bounds beyond what he was doing back in the ’90s, when it was all jagged edges and silhouettes.

And for a six buck comic, you do get a fairly dense reading experience…plenty of dialogue and action and several panels per page, but never feeling cramped for space. Batman/Superman is one of the better Superman-related books, at a time when the Superman books across the board seem to be improving, and this annual is a solid, if pricy, example of the “New 52″ Superman revamp actually working.

Not sure what I can say about this book that old chum Kevin didn’t already say. Nothing in this issue should come as a surprise to anybody who’s ever read, well, anything, but it’s all competently written and very pretty to look at, and I have to admit, the idea of “what if Flash Gordon came back to Earth to tell of his adventures and everyone thought he was nuts” is an interesting one. I suspect the relative simplicity of this initial installment will go away as Mark Millar delves more deeply into the “here’s a modern perspective/twist on 1930s space opera!” themes in future issues, but hey, maybe I’m wrong. I’m willing to be surprised. I very much expect Goran Parlov’s art will continue to look nice, regardless.

I was finally called out by a customer on my racking this comic in the general area of the other Archie comics, which I kind of wondered about doing myself, but kept them there anyway because that’s where I thought people were probably going to look for them. Hadn’t had any trouble yet, and we’re not selling them to kids, and even this customer wasn’t like angry or upset or anything…just mostly bemused.

This issue especially I can’t sell to kids, given the remarkably upsetting circumstances Archie finds himself in, and that subtext I’d mentioned before basically becoming straight up “text.”

Still very well done, however, and especially affecting given the characters starring in it. And Harvey? The jalopy makes an appearance.

This comic from the fringes of Mike Mignola’s “Hellboyverse” remains pulpy good fun as always, but I’ve noticed an upward bump on sales on this title (and Baltimore as well). After always selling the same amount of copies month in and month out, we’re suddenly experiencing sellouts and requests for back issues. I think readers generally like Mignola’s storytelling but are gravitating toward these series that are more episodic and easier to follow, versus the B.P.R.D. books that have mostly plateaued.

Speaking of sales, not long ago I had a brief interchange with Richard Neal, co-owner of Zeus Comics way out there in the far-flung wilds of Texas, regarding post-Geoff Johns Green Lantern sales. My comment, that sales were “withering away,” may have been overstating things slightly, which is unusual given the Twitter platform’s capacity for nuance, I realize. It was Johns’s strong direction for the franchise that kept the four titles selling as well as they did for as long as they did, and with DC’s huge emphasis on his departure, that was a pretty strong cue for readers to depart as well. The main GL title still does…okay, but not nearly as well as it did before, and the other titles, rather than withering away, have already withered away to much lower numbers and are now basically staying there. There’s the odd bump or two with cross-title tie-ins like the “Lights Out” storyline, but that’s about it.

The real test will be the new Sinestro title debuting soon. Comic fans like Sinestro…heck, I like Sinestro, but we’ll see if they’ll like him as the star of yet another monthly Green Lantern franchise book instead of just appearing in already existing series.

But then again, it doesn’t claim to be “complete.”

§ February 12th, 2014 § Filed under this week's comics § 5 Comments

So this is Top Shelf’s new collection of all the Bojeffries stories by Alan Moore and Steve Parkhouse, including 24 new pages appearing here for the first time. The work is reproduced in its original black and white format, save for one short story printed in black and various shades of red. If you’ve never read these darkly-humored tales of this monstrously peculiar family, I would highly recommend picking up this book.

If you happen to own the previous Bojefferies collection, published by Tundra in 1992:

…take note that the new Top Shelf volume doesn’t entirely supplant it. The Tundra edition of course doesn’t have the 24 extra pages in the newer collection, but this older book is in full color, which is nice but, as noted above, not how the stories originally appeared. However, there are a handful of pages created for the Tundra collection that do not appear in the Top Shelf book. Mostly they are one (and in one case, two) page gags (a dress-up doll of Ginda, a cut-out model of the garden, a Festus mask), but it is new Bojeffries material and it’s a shame none of it made it to the new volume. And then there’s that illustration of Ginda putting the moves on Lenny Henry, who provides the introduction. But the Top Shelf book does contain all the narrative material, so if you can stand the knowledge that a couple of gags didn’t make the transition, here you go.

Plus, the original book is 22 years old and seems to sell for anywhere from $27 to $120 on Amazon, so you may want to do without it anyway.

The odd cognitive dissonance of reading about John Constantine stuck in the middle of a big ol’ superhero crossover continues in this oddball tie-in to the “Forever Evil” storyline currently running in the Justice League books. In a strange way it sort of mirrors what was going on the last time Constantine was so closely tied to a Big Event Series, with John running around in Swamp Thing dealing with the more mystical side of Crisis on Infinite Earths. In that instance, the stories were definitely in the “this superhero stuff sure is weird” mode, with Alan Moore, Steve Bissette, John Totleben and the rest of the gang doing their off-kilter, somewhat creepy takes on the DC Universe.

This time around, John and his magical pals are in full-on superhero mode, shooting eldritch energy beams from their hands instead of science-y energy, on a team that actually refers to itself, in-story, as “Justice League Dark,” a name that should have just remained a groaner of a comic book title. John is no longer really functioning as any kind of commentary on the DCU at large beyond his most basic “man, these guys” reactions. Despite that, Constantine and the other titles that are crossing over in their parallel “Forever Evil” event (like Pandora, Phantom Stranger, and the previously-cited Justice League Dark) have been a lot of fun, possibly more so that the parent Justice League series, even if the storyline has been dragging on maybe just a bit too long. Not “Rotworld” long, but I’m probably ready for this to wrap up Any Day Now.

If you like the current Hawkeye series, then you should pick up this new She-Hulk comic. It’s very much in the same vein, with strong dialogue and good humor and crystal-clear art. I just read it again for a second time, between typing that last sentence and this one, and I haven’t done that with a brand new comic on the same day I picked it up in long time.

The hoops I had to jump through to get this posted to the site today.

§ December 31st, 2013 § Filed under this week's comics § 2 Comments

Oh, hey, don’t forget I’m still looking for your comic industry predictions for 2014…I don’t mind some gag predictions, but try to give me at least one serious one, too. Remember, limit three per person, please!

Anyway, this week’s comics, and SPOILERS AHEAD:

Here it is, the inevitable “main story partially drawn by another artist” issue of Superman Unchained, but at least it’s done in an effective way, having said guest artist (Dustin Nguyen) illustrating the flashback sequences to Clark’s youth. And there’s a particularly effective sequence later in the book, where Superman is asked to imagine his future as the world ages (and friends die) around him, and it’s quite sad, really. It’s a rare moment of genuine emotional connection to the character in this post-New 52 world.

In fact, and I’ve noted this before, the Superman line of books seem to be undergoing a mini-rebirth lately, more entertaining, more engaging. It’s like Superman comics are allowed to tell Superman stories again, instead of presenting a parade of creative teams trying to make top-down editorial mandates somehow work in a narrative. Even marketing ploys like Superman/Wonder Woman and Superman/Batman have turned out to be, surprise, pretty good reads.

I’m even beginning to learn to live without Superman’s trunks. But still, that collar is terrible, and has to go.

I was a defender of the New 52 Aquaman at first. Well, still am, I suppose. I didn’t mind that the book went with the “no one takes Aquaman seriously” angle, a bit of metatextual repurposing of the usual fannish criticisms of the character. I did mind when the book started dealing with some kind of super-team that Aquaman was involved with (no, not Justice League, some other one) and I don’t even remember the details now, but suddenly I wasn’t enjoying the book and away it went. And just in time, too, because then there was some crossover with Justice League, which I wasn’t reading, and, well, that was that.

Which was a shame, too, since I’ve generally been following most the Aquaman comics over the last thirty years, beginning with this series and lasting up until the beginning of the most recent pre-New 52 iteration, where I finally decided that, like Flash and Legion of Super-Heroes, I’d read pretty much all the Aquaman I ever needed to read.

With this new issue, Jeff Parker is on board as writer, and having enjoyed pretty much everything Mr. Parker has written before, that was enough incentive to dip into the Aquaman pool once again. There’s plenty of underwater monster-fightin’ action, and it’s fun, and thankfully continuity-light, so if you haven’t read the series prior to this point, no worries, you can jump right in. This is pretty close to the kind of Aquaman comic I’ve been wanting over the last few years, and I hope it’s rewarded with enough sales and readership to encourage DC to persue similar strategies with other properties of theirs.

So this two-issue series involves Lord Baltimore finally confronting the vampire who killed his family, the one he’d been chasing after in the previous, um, lemme look inside the front cover here…eighteen issues of previous mini-series. For some reason, I briefly thought maybe this would be the end of the line for the Baltimore comics, with one of the Mike Mignola-verse series actually reaching a conclusion. However, the letters page in this issue does confirm further Baltimore projects, so either that darn vampire scoots away, or Baltimore finds a new hobby after the end of this story.

It’s not that I want this series to end…I enjoy all of Mignola’s horror work, but I am curious as to how he sticks the landing on any of his long-term projects. I believe it’s been said that he has an ending forHellboy in mind, and though Hellboy in Hell is the Hellboy series for the time being, I don’t know that this is also the last series. B.P.R.D. is a series that could probably benefit from an ending, wrapping up some of these plotlines and supporting characters and such and starting afresh, since I don’t see too many new readers jumping into the storyline at this point. Abe Sapien just started, though I could see this becoming Abe Sapien and the B.P.R.D. at some point, which would nicely replace the ongoing continuity-heavy B.P.R.D. as long as I’m telling publishers who don’t care what I think what to do.

Anyway, Baltimore. It’s good, and it does look like we’re getting our final battle with this vampire. I’m sure whatever direction this series continues in after this climactic moment will be just as creepily entertaining, and I look forward to it.

Here’s a book I wanted to like more than I did. Not that it’s bad, by any means…it’s certainly intriguing, but it hasn’t quite grabbed me yet. There’s a bit of business with the ghost-boys worrying about Death eventually coming back for them and taking them to their final reward, so I suppose that’s going to be a thing hanging over them ’til the eventual “Sandman family characters guest-starring in this issue!” issue.

Most of the book is about introducing a new character to the mix, and it seems the next issue will have her at the same school the titular spectral Sherlocks were themselves murdered. Thus I expect, now that we’ve got the introductions out of the way, I’ll be fully on board once the plot is in motion.

Slightly altered Twilight Zone panel courtesy Evil Bully. …It’ll all make sense once you read that #1.

It’s stenciled backwards, so that drivers in front of me can read it in their rear-view mirrors.

§ December 2nd, 2013 § Filed under this week's comics § 5 Comments

(Again, despite the category I’ve filed this post under, these comics are actually from last week. Shhhh, don’t tell anybody!)

So a long time ago, back in the initial heyday of Image Comics, back when people were buying full sealed cases of The Pitt #1 and we could get a line down the block of folks just itching to purchase Rob Liefeld’s Youngblood, there was this oddball thing. It was nominally a superhero comic, I guess. There was certainly a dude in a costume, and there seemed to be a villain involved in the story. But it was all so weird and dark, and not “dark” in the “comics by people who learned the wrong lessons from Dark Knight Returns ‘dark,'” but as in creepy and moody and mysterious. It was right up my alley…

…but then I apparently went through one my periodic “purge the reading list” moods, and I dropped The Maxx after issue five or six. Not sure why, other than I needed to save money, but I kind of regretted it ever since. And somehow, despite the fact that, oh, I don’t know, manage a comic book store, I never did get around to going back and buying the back issues or trade paperback collections to complete the run.

Part of the problem was accessibility. Back issues of The Maxx have been hard to come by, at least around here, for years. Well, not the first six issues, which we’d ordered plenty of. After that, we scaled back the orders some, particularly since the Great Comics Market Crash was in full effect by that point and orders were cut on purt’near everything. As a result, issues 7 and up were in limited supply, only sporadically in stock. In addition, the Maxx TV show helped create a whole lot of fans for the series, it seemed, and to this day I think it is at least partially responsible for maintaining the back issue sales the series enjoys at our shop to this very day. At least, when we have those back issues available.

Yes, yes, I could have bought the trades. Never got around to it. Sorry!

But here we are, I’ve been given a second chance at buying the series, with improved reproduction and coloring and (ahem) a steeper price, but I intend on sticking with it this time. Here’s hoping sales allow them to finish the entire run.

Once again I jump into other people’s Twitter conversations, this time to opine upon Larfleeze, a comic about reprehensible beings acting awfully towards other deeply flawed characters, and what fun it is. It’s Giffen, DeMatteis and Kolins getting to have some entertaining space adventure that’s kinda sorta tied to the Green Lantern franchise, while staying mostly its own thing and not getting too involved in the other two dozen or so GL books DC’s currently publishing. We’re also getting yet another backstory for Stargrave, which should be amusing to the longtime Legion of Super-Heroes fan.

Speaking of backstory, this issue starts to look back at Larfleeze’s origins, which make him seem even more terrible, and his own reaction to this revelation are a few more steps toward rounding out the character a bit. Who knows if this supposed history is really true at all, of course, but seeing a crack or two in Larfleeze’s wall of greed and self-centeredness makes for interesting reading.

Full disclosure: I’m Twitter-pals with this comic’s writers, Adam P. Knave and D.J. Kirkbride, which is why I picked up this book in the first place (not to slight the swell work by artist Robert Love, of course). I enjoy the idea of a short-run superhero book exploring one specific problem (in this case, an immortal superhero looking to become not-immortal…i.e. end his life), you’re in, you’re out, no set-up for a Whole New Superhero Universe, no ongoing franchise…just “here’s our idea, here’s how it plays out, The End.”

Unless of course it is a set-up for a new universe/franchise. I guess I’ll find out in a couple of issues. But the first issue is fun, with the reader’s sympathy for the hero established very solidly early on, so that you want to know how this all turns out for him. It’s all a lot more light-hearted than the premise would imply. There are a couple of chuckles to be had, honest!

I was already buying Justice League Dark, so I didn’t have to go out of my way to pick up this Swamp Thing appearance. I’ve definitely received what I wished for, a Swamp Thing more directly tied to the DC Universe, what with him discussing the evil parallel dimension (or whatever) Crime Syndicate with John Constantine, which is probably not something the me of, oh, four years ago would ever have imagined as happening. In a Justice League book, no less. It’s all goofy adventure-drama, in the middle of a crossover event I’m otherwise not reading, but I get the gist. Swamp Thing also has these massively long word balloons which always seem wrong to me, despite the ol’ restriction on Swampy’s ability to speak having been done away with at the end of Alan Moore’s first storyline on the book.

Oh, and I also felt compelled to buy the 1:25 ratio black and white variant as well as the regular cover:

…because apparently I have the word “SUCKER” stenciled on my forehead.

Yes, I know the most recent iteration of the Scooby-Doo cartoon is supposed to be very good.

§ November 20th, 2013 § Filed under this week's comics § 13 Comments

(SPOILERS ahead, most likely.)

A long time ago, a particular image fixed in my mind. It was inspired by the various reimaginings of older, innocent comics in the light of deconstructive reconsideration, like The Dark Knight Returns or Miracleman, with a bit of Alan Moore and Don Simpson’s “In Pictopia” thrown in. It was an image from a comic story that will never happen, not within our lifetimes, at least not officially, unless with some changing of names or just straight-up Air Pirates-ing it.

The basic set-up is that Goofy is visiting Mickey Mouse at his home. At some point, Mickey leaves the room, and Goofy follows. The panel I picture in my head is of Goofy glancing down at Pluto, who is dozing near the fireplace. There is some nearly-unreadable expression in Goofy’s face as he gazes upon his fellow dog. Is it pity for a distant cousin, separated by evolution, like a Homo sapiens sapiens looking at a chimpanzee in a cage? Is it disgust at another canine, one who settles for a life of sloth and pampering, not struggling to better himself as Goofy did? Is it sadness for a dog whose options in life have brought him to this low position, unable to escape? Guilt that he, Goofy, was able to advance while Pluto remained simply what he was?

At any rate, it’s basically picturing a “serious” version of the old question of “if Goofy is a dog, and Pluto is a dog, then why…?” by making Goofy himself seemingly aware of the discrepancy between his own dogness and Pluto’s dogness. Yes, “dogness.” I tried “caninity,” which is actually a word, but I liked “dogness” better.

Broader still, it’s a layering of depth and meaning far heavier than the subject can realistically support. Does anyone really need a serious in-universe examination of what exactly the difference is between Goofy and Pluto, and what that difference means to both of them, personally? I can see gags based around Goofy and Pluto deciding to trade places, and the difficulties that arise there, and in fact I wouldn’t be surprised if there was such a cartoon at some point.

So anyway, Afterlife with Archie #2. Taking the Archie universe, throwing it into a horror/zombie genre story, and just plain ol’ going for it. It’s a mostly serious take on a group of characters designed specifically to generate gags based on their personality differences, so there is that small measure of reexamination of the Archie gang and how they relate to each other. Sure, there’s the darkly ironic gag of Jughead, the character defined primarily by his love of eating, becoming the first zombie in the story. But the other happy, upbeat stories that usually abound in the their world are replaced with darker and / or more complicated issues: Betty and Veronica’s usually friendly adversarial relationship is suddenly a lot less friendly. Moose thinks maybe the zombified Jughead is “juicing.” There’s the reimagining of Sabrina’s aunts…what if they were scary witches? There’s the oddly incestuous subtext between Cheryl and her brother Jason. There’s the closeted lesbian couple who aren’t nearly as comfortable about coming out as prominent gay Archie character Kevin Keller.

And, unlike my Goofy ‘n’ Pluto thing, and against all odds, this works. If you told me a year ago, “hey, what if they the Archie characters and put ‘em in a zombie story,” I would have thought that was a terrible idea. Even when this series was solicited a few months ago, I thought…well, the creative team of Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla inspired some confidence, but even still I thought this was some chance to take. But going all out as they did, making the zombie genre a framework on which to build an alternate Archie universe where not everything works out in the end, not every relationship problem is solved with a pratfall, a laugh, or a humorous comeuppance, and where tragedy is not just a mild plot bump in the middle of an eight-page story…that’s what makes the project work as well as it does.

I probably really shouldn’t be racking this on the kids’ shelf.

Almost the exact opposite of Afterlife with Archie is this comic, reviving the Batman/Scooby-Doo team from those decades-old episodes (and, okay, a relatively more recent Batman: Brave and the Bold installment). No darkness, no grittiness, no ironic reconsiderations of milieu or character, no snark, no winking at how silly this all is (aside from a knowing gag or two kicking at the fourth wall a bit). You just get delivery on the promise of the cover, with Batman and Robin teaming up with Scooby and the gang to solve some crimes and catch some bad guys. It’s all light and fun and certainly a much-missed version of Batman. “Dark Avenger of the Night” is fine an’ all, but sometimes it’s okay to turn on the lights and let Batman see what he’s doing for once.

Also, for not having seen an episode of Scooby-Doo in years (aside from the aforementioned Brave and the Bold cartoon), it’s so ingrained in my head that I could easily hear all the gang’s voices as I read this comic. Nice nostalgic flashback for an old coot like me, and probably fun for the young folk, too.

This series is over, with a follow-up mini-series coming early next year, and, well…it was okay, I suppose. Felt like it was maybe an issue too long, the art felt a little uneven at times, but overall, I enjoyed it. It fills its function as side stories to the books, and specifically the books, as the comics are written by Dexter’s creator, novelist Jeff Lindsay. That’s the primary selling point; it’s that these are written by Lindsay is the reason I’m reading them.

I will note that this cover, while still obscuring the face of the title character to avoid confusion with the television show version, comes the closest thus far to making Dexter look like his portrayal by actor Michael C. Hall. Not complaining or criticizing, just acknowledging the difficulty involved in managing this particular license, where the literary version of the character is at a disadvantage when translated to a visual medium, when another, slightly altered but much more in the public awareness, version preexists.

And like I said, next year, “Dexter Down Under.” “You call that a knife? This is a knife!” (Dexter unfurls carrying case of terrifying blades in all sizes.)

It takes a lot to get me to buy any of the comics review/interview/history magazines nowadays. I used to buy a lot of them, back when I had more time to read them, and before I started writing a comics weblog, which I’m sure is only a coincidence. Today, I’ll pick one up if the overall subject matter interests me (like Back Issue‘s special treasury edition), or, like this week, if the mag covers all those extra-sized anniversary issues I so enjoyed when I was a kid. I’ve written about anniversary issues here way back when, not long after I started this site; Flash #300 and Detective Comics #500 are two favorites that are in fact discussed in this very magazine, and it’s nice to get a little behind-the-scenes information on them after all these years.

She’s not on the cover, but this issue features my favorite Catwoman, along with a cute musical in-joke, in a story drawn by Colleen Coover. …Remember when people thought Adam West Batman was something to be ashamed of? How wrong they were.

Now’s probably the time to put those Robin III comics back on the shelves.

§ September 6th, 2013 § Filed under this week's comics § 6 Comments

Well, here they are, the DC Comics with the 3D covers, in quantities sometimes approximating the orders retailers placed months ago. And to be fair, the covers are pretty neat, adding to the tragedy that there’s not nearly enough around to meet demand. Saw several new faces over the last day or two, folks driving from out of town trying to track down the covers their local stores ran out of so quickly. Not that we were much better, with the increased demand meaning faster departures off the shelves, and once people have seen what the 3D covers looked like, the 2D covers DC offered to supplement the allocated orders were, for some, unsatisfactory replacements.

Not for everyone, though! I actually had some people with in-store pull lists request they not get the 3D covers, and believe you me, I thanked them for that, given the allocations have left me with barely enough to cover the regulars, much less the extra demand. And employee Timmy was a step head of me, looking up the 3D covers on the eBay and, sure enough, the panic buying has set in, resulting in relatively crazy prices for books that have barely been out for 48 hours. That makes the one-per-customer signs I put on some of the 3D books seem like an even better idea now, though Timmy reported to me that some folks were buying one 3D cover and the 2D version. (I can’t really say anything, since I plan on doing the same for the Swamp Thing issue that’s coming later this month. Sad when it happens to someone you know, isn’t it?)

As for the comics themselves, I did like the ones I bought well enough, though that’s bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy in that I restricted myself to buying the Villains Month issues from the series I was already reading. The Green Lantern one, Relic, was probably my favorite, giving us the backstory for this new villain, as well as finally providing full context for the story being presented on the 1:25 ratio black-and-white sketch variant covers being offered for the GL family of books over the last couple of months.

“Based on George Lucas’s original rough-draft screenplay” says the blurb on the cover, both a warning and an enticement to the remaining Star Wars fans still devoted to the minutia of the property despite it all. That would include me, apparently, since I bought this comic, more out of a deep-seated need of the Young Mikester still within me to draw a narrative thread through all the memories of the preproduction images I absorbed back in my Starlog-and-such days. I’m not the only one, it seems, since I saw more than a few new customers around my age showing up just for this comic, thanks likely to its presence in the real-world news media.

The comic itself is, well, what it is. It certainly gives the impression, whether or not this is what actually happened, that there was once a time someone could tell Lucas “no,” resulting in his beating this rough draft into the lean, mean fighting machine that is the original Star Wars movie from 1977. The emphasis in The Star Wars #1 on political intrigue, the lack of a central sympathetic “point of view” character (at least one as strong as Luke Skywalker)…you can see where the prequels came from. That said, it’s still an interesting comic, with familiar names and concepts not quite in their final form. We’ll see if that novelty carries us through eight issues.

A combination of the writing of Jonathan Hickman with the premise of the book (the return of the gods of assorted pantheons to Earth) is what got me to pick this up. That title is certainly something else, though I haven’t really noticed anyone at the shop giving it the stinkeye, so the no-such-thing-as-bad-publicity strategy hasn’t really come into play here yet. Nor is there too much of the usual bit of the old ultraviolence that you usually get in your typical serving of Avatar comics. I mean, there’s some, and I bet there’ll be more in the future, so hang in there, guys!

Seriously, though, I like the set-up here, and am hoping it pays off and isn’t just an excuse for over-the-top gore. But, you know, c’mon. I mean, I might still read it, but I’ll cast a socially-responsible upturned eyebrow upon the proceedings, see if I won’t.

The first issue of this series came out in the first week of January of this year. It is now the first week of September. There have been seventeen issues of this comic in eight months, and that’s not counting the recently launched companion series, or the Age of Ultron one-shot tie-in. But that’s okay, since you’re all rich, right?

A little context for the post’s subject line.

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