Friday, December 31, 2010

Comics I Read: End of 2010 Lightning Round

Generally, even though I don't consider what I do here proper "reviews", I do go back through the issues to remind myself of details and to pull out a scene or a quote to reference. But I'll never get through all the books I haven't had time to write about if I do that, so I'm just going to go through the pile and give whatever impressions I remember. If there's anything you'd like me to go into in more depth, let me know in the comments and I'll try to go back to it.

Action Comics 890-896: Paul Cornell's doing a great job with Luthor, and Pete Woods' art is great as usual. The slight tweak to Lex's character after "Blackest Night" makes him a little vulnerable, and therefore more interesting, and I like the hints that higher powers are interested in what he's up to. The Death appearance in #894 was great, and if Cornell didn't get dialog help from Gail Simone for the Secret Six crossover in #896 then he managed to get those characters voices spot on.

Adventure Comics 516-521: I didn't love the "early years" story in #516-520, but I may change my mind after I go back to my Legion Archives HC and reread the original stories it's based on. I thought the choice of new Green Lantern in #521 was inspired, even though it's going to cause Levitz story problems down the road in Legion. Looking forward to the Phil Jimenez "Legion Academy" feature taking over this book soon.

Amazing Spider-Man 642-650: Mark Waid does a great job tying up the Osborn baby plotlines in "Origin of the Species", and the whole "Brand New Day" team does a great job bringing that era to a close (including a couple of surprising twists from supporting characters) in #647. I like Dan Slott's "Big Time" and the different things he's trying (new job for Peter, multiple costumes, etc.) so far. I have two quibbles: (1) There seem to have been no consequences to how badly The Chameleon disguised as Peter treated Flash Thompson ("Who's the puny one now?"). As far as I know, nobody knows that Peter wasn't responsible for what happened during that time so why isn't Flash pissed? (2) I hope we get some more backstory on the new Hobgoblin because his change of heart just seems arbitrary at this point.

Ant-Man & Wasp 1-2: I've heard of Tim Seeley, but I'm not that familiar with his work -- I'm aware of "Hack/Slash" but it doesn't sound like something that would interest me -- so I was pleasantly surprised to see that he seems to have the same affection for these characters that I do. I also love that he's a writer/artist, something you don't see that much at Marvel & DC anymore. Highlights include the summary of Hank's history at the beginning of #1 and the recap page in #2. As well as getting Hank right, he also makes Eric O'Grady enough of a jerk but not too much, reflecting the growth he's had since the Kirkman series. I'd love to see more of this partnership after next issue, but Hank's back to being Giant-Man in "Avengers Academy" so it wouldn't have quite the same ring to it. Anyway, if you liked Hank in "Mighty Avengers" you'll like this too. (The plot is also somewhat tied to "Civil War", which may interest some of you.)

Avengers 1-8: To borrow a phrase from Dan Slott, this is Bendis' "Avenger-y" Avengers book, with the big guns and the huge storylines. Surprisingly, I wasn't in love with the first six-issue arc. It has it's moments, but the future Avengers kids seem tangential to the story at best, and there seemed to be a lot of pointless running around and shouting. Not that it's not worth reading -- it most definitely is -- I just wasn't as into it as some of his other stories. John Romita Jr., however, does some stunning work in these issues. (Though you can picture him shaking his fist at the drawing board and saying, "What da hell is this Bendis guy thinkin’?") #7-8 are more like it, with some great Red Hulk scenes, and Bendis starting to pay off some long term storylines like the Illuminati and the Infinity Gems.

Avengers Academy 1-7: This is by far my favorite of the current Avengers books, and in my top 5 Marvel books overall. Seriously. Without giving away the twist at the end of #1 (even though it's probably spoiled all over the net already), I'll just say that the kids that Christos Gage has created are complex and interesting, and they each get spotlighted in the first six issues. Mike McKone's art handles the "acting" necessary to pull off these scenes perfectly. The adult cast is a mix of characters from "Mighty Avengers" and "Avengers: The Initiative" and they're great too. There's a scene with Jessica Jones and one of the kids in #6 that not only shows how much Jessica's evolved as a character, but also brought a tear to my eye. I liked Hank's taking the Wasp codename as a tribute to Jan, but Gage makes a convincing case for that to come to an end in #7. (And I do have to admit it's fun to have Giant-Man back, especially since I'm enjoying him in the cartoon.) Trust me on this one. Buy the first collection next month and you won't be disappointed.

Avengers Prime 1-4: It's Brian Bendis and Alan Davis. Just buy it, already.

Avengers: The Children's Crusade 1-3: I wish this was coming out faster, but it's awesome to have Allan Heinberg and Jimmy Cheung back on the "Young Avengers" characters. It's still too early in the plot to have much of an opinion about it, but I worry that no resolution of the Scarlet Witch situation could equal the buildup.

Batgirl 15-16: Really starting to come into its own with Dustin Nguyen as regular penciller. His coming aboard seems to have engergized Brian Q. Miller too, because the dialogue (especially in #16) is really starting to crackle Joss Whedon style.

Batman: Streets of Gotham 14-17: Wrapping up the "Hush as Bruce Wayne" storyline, which kind of seems pointless with Bruce back and the impersonation barely acknowledged in the other books. If I had to pick between Dini writing this book and "Gotham City Sirens", I'd pick "Sirens", but Dini has apparently chosen this one. I assume he'll still be writing about Dick and Damien, so that should be good.

Batman: The Return (one-shot): I had to cheat and flip back through this, because there were so many "Return"-related books that I can't remember what happened where. Some nice art from David Finch, but other than a great retelling of the night the bat flew through Bruce Wayne's window this is a pretty forgettable chapter.

Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne 1-6: Great, great stuff. Yeah, you can make some superficial parallels to "Cap Reborn", but this is very much its own thing. Cast adrift in time, Bruce Wayne has to rebuild Batman from the ground up and escape Darkseid's final revenge at the same time. I also love that this, and Morrison's last arc in "Batman & Robin", put together all the pieces from "Final Crisis", "RIP" and even going back to JLA. I know that bothers some people, but I've loved piecing the crazy mosaic together in my head, and I also love that it's done now so that Morrison can go on and do something completely different in "Batman, Inc." This book deserves more discussion space, and I may come back to it when the collection comes out, but for now I'll just say I think it's well worth your time and energy.

Batman Inc. 1-2: As I said above, I'm thrilled that this is its own thing not tied up with references to the rest of Morrison's body of work. That makes it a great jumping on point. The best way I can describe it, though it will seem like a dig, is that he's doing a modern version of the Batman TV show. I mean, it's not camp at all (well maybe a little), but for some reason I can't put my finger on yet that's what it makes me think of. Recommended.

Birds of Prey 3-7: This has quickly become the second best book DC publishes. (Hint: Gail Simone also writes the best one.) The amount of genuine emotion coming off these pages is both staggering and hard to describe. It just needs to be experienced. (This is another book I'll probably spend more time on when it's collected.) Gail's taking some heat online for the whiteness of the cast, which she partially agrees with, but her work is generally so diverse compared to the rest of the industry that I wish people would back off a little bit.

Black Panther: Man Without Fear 513: Doesn't sync up with the end of "Shadowland" as cleanly as I would like (T'Challa's had contact with Matt? And Foggy knows about it?), but it's an interesting start and Francesco Francavilla's noir-style art is really great.

Brightest Day 5-16: I liked it better when we got a little of each character in every issue, but I'm still interested in all the storylines and the art is great.

Bruce Wayne: The Road Home specials: I liked the Vicki Vale plot in the issues that Fabian Nicieza wrote, although my prediction about her having a role in "Batman, Inc." seems to have been wrong. Otherwise, I'd say the "Batgirl" issue is essential reading if you're following that series. It was also a joy to have "Outsiders" creator Mike W. Barr write their issue. He doesn't quite have room to undo all the damage their current writer has done, but he makes the attempt and it was great to even briefly see those characters in good hands again.

Daredevil 510-512: The last page of #512 made "Shadowland" for me, addressing all my objections. Well done.

Hawkeye & Mockingbird 6: Just a quick mention of this book again, because at the time of my last writing I mistakenly thought #5 was the last issue before "Widowmaker". The followup from the end of last issue is great, and those of you who are Steve Rogers fans will really enjoy the scenes between him and Clint.

Justice League of America 46-50: I'll be honest, and I think I've partially expressed this before, I've liked the idea of Robinson's JLA more than I've liked the actual stories. (But Mark Bagley's art has been consistently amazing.) However, it's coming together for me in #50, which serves as a reintroduction to the characters and their motivations for being on the team. It's fun to see the Crime Syndicate fight a different JLA for a change, and for those of you who (like me) find the various versions of the Syndicate confusing that's at least acknowledged in-story if not explained (yet). I'll discuss the JSA crossover under the "Justice Society" title.

Justice Society of America 40-44: Bill Willingham's run ends rushed to make room for James Robinson's JLA crossover. There's a joke in Willingham's last issue that I laughed out loud at, mainly because of the facial expressions in the art, and then felt guilty about. (You'll know it when you see it.) There's no bigger fan of JLA/JSA crossovers than me, but I have to admit that without flipping through the books again I can't describe the plot of Robinson's story very well. Something about the Starheart going nuts, and Alan Scott having to contain all it's energy, and now he's more powerful than ever and his kids can't be in the same room for some reason. Great to see Bagley draw the JSA characters, though. I've only read the first issue of Marc Guggenheim's run so far. It has potential, and I'm a big fan of his, but it suffers from the kind of editorial coordination failure I'm always complaining about where Alan Scott is a huge badass at the end of Robinson's run and then he's beaten bad enough to require hospitalization in Guggenheim's first issue.

Heroes for Hire 1: Starts out as a "Birds of Prey" clone with Misty Knight as Oracle, but the patented DnA surprise on the last page turns the whole concept on its head. Can't wait to see where it goes next.

Justice League: Generation Lost 5-15: Judd Winick is doing a great job telling a gripping story with the JLI characters, redefining some of them (especially Ice) in the process. It's the kind of thing that will be made or broken by the ending, but so far so good. I could get bent out of shape by the misunderstanding of Captain Atom's powers -- he's supposed to get thrown into the future when he absorbs too much energy, not go forward and snap back -- but it works for the story.

Outsiders 32-33: Mercifully, I remember nothing about these issues.

Marineman 1: I liked this enough to read #2, but boy there are a lot of words in this book. Needs to move the plot along a little quicker, IMO.

Red Robin 17: If you're a Cassandra Cain fan with a computer, I'm sure you already know that she's featured in this issue. There's also a really great Tim and Bruce reunion scene.

Supergirl 58-59: A really great ending from Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle, tying up their run and even a plotline that goes back to the Dan Jurgens days. I really loved what this book became once freed of "New Krypton", and with the Nick Spencer run having fallen through I wish these guys had stayed on. (Though I guess Igle had already decided to move on, and that's why Gates quit, so their run would have ended no matter what.)

Supergirl Annual 2: Supposed to fix all the continuity confusion about Supergirl and the Legion, but I found it more confusing than helpful.

X-Men 1-4: Yeah. Not feeling the vampire thing, sorry.

Wow, this has taken much longer than I expected even at "lightning" speed, so I have to stop for now. More over the weekend. Happy New Year, everyone!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Next Avengers: Friday 12/31 on Disney XD

I'm working on a couple of entries for later in the week: A "lightning round" post to clear out all the comics I haven't written about yet this year, and a compare-and-contrast of "Superman: Earth One", "Superman: Secret Origin", "Superman: Birthright" and "Absolute All-Star Superman". In the meantime, since it's relevant to the first six issues of Brian Bendis' "Avengers", I wanted to mention that Disney XD is running the animated "Next Avengers" movie this Friday (12/31) at 4pm. It's the best of the Marvel DVDs so far (not counting "Hulk vs.", which I haven't seen) and I'm told that kids especially enjoy it. (That's how the characters wound up in "Avengers" actually, Bendis' daughter loved the movie.)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Indie Comics Autobiography = Simon Says

THE 120 DAYS OF SIMON  (Top Shelf, April 2010 graphic novel)  subtitled: A Graphic Odyssey Through Sweden.  Written and illustrated by Simon Gardenfors.  Black and White.  Paperback edition, 416 pages.  $14.95  FOR MATURE READERS.

Consider the lifestyle of Simon Gardenfors first before you draw any conclusions about the lifestyles of modern Sweden.   Gardenfors  is a “self-advertised, couch-surfing freeloader”as described by Peter Bagge on the back-cover testimonials.  Can the values of young adults and Swedish society be that free-wheeling?  I’m a little amazed, and maybe a little jealous.  (If I was a lot younger I’d be very jealous – and considering a move to an art community in Sweden).

Casual sex comes very easily to Simon, and he doesn’t mind sharing his bedroom experiences right out in the open in THE 120 DAYS OF SIMON.  But the sharing doesn’t stop there.  Gardenfors seems to have no qualms about sharing everything that occurred on his 4 month adventure, even if it is embarrassing or even reflects negatively on his character and actions.


Gardenfors is a cartoonist as well as a rapper in several acts.  (He began performing with Las Palmas at the time 120 DAYS is written, but now records and performs with Far & Son).   On a lengthy tour of Sweden with Las Palmas, he decided to write about his experiences in an auto-biographical comic.  This happened in 2006, when he was 28 years old. To make it interesting and to provide material for his work, he laid down several ground rules:  1) During four months on the road, he cannot return home to his apartment,  2) He would try to stay as a guest at someone else’s home (friends, fans, casual acquaintances, and internet contacts), and 3) he cannot stay more than two nights in the same place.  During his journey he crossed back and forth between 53 different cities/locations in the country of Sweden.

During his escapades he gets introduced to psychedelic drugs and other stimulants, drinks and goes clubbing a lot, eats exotic foods, gets beaten up by a gang and almost loses his diary/journal, gets threatened by the older brother of a much younger girl he slept with, gets paranoid with worry about it and contacts a violent motorcycle gang he befriended for protection,  wets a bed and tries to hide it from his hosts, gets so stimulated playing footsies with a hot 15-year old that he retreats to the bathroom to relieve himself via masturbation - -- and reveals it all in the pages of 120 DAYS OF SIMON, sometimes even including the names and cities.  (Even when he covers that up or uses a false name because his host objects to being included in the book - - it doesn’t matter because it seems that anyone in Sweden with a little detective work could figure out when and where he was.)   The promotional copy refers to many people being angry at him - - but no mention of lawsuits, altercations, etc. 

One of the funniest parts of this book occurs when a local television station asks permission to film some of his journey.  Simon agrees, and then contacts a good friend who he asks to act as if he never met Simon before.  The friend elaborates on the prank, and sets up a fake satanic worship ceremony during which Simon sacrifices his underwear to the gods.  The film crew takes it serious and gets it all on video.  When the book was published and they found out it was a hoax, did they take him to court?  I couldn’t find out the answer to that.

There is also a bit of a love story in this novel.  Just before Simon leaves on his months-long trip he begins to get serious about one of his girlfriends and thinks about confessing his love on his return.  However, that doesn’t stop him from capitalizing on every sexual advance and opportunity that crosses his path.  He stays in touch with his love interest by phone, and later realizes that he has lost both her and his opportunity for happiness.  In a way, I sense that the story may really be about his search for identity and more purpose in his life.  (He even shares some of his personal thoughts and fears regarding a permanent relationship).

All this makes for fascinating reading and you’ll find yourself finishing this book rather quickly. The format is black and white, two panels per page in a vertical arrangement.  The art style is very blocky and minimalist - - sometimes just two characters and dialogue balloons.  I later learned that his style is influenced and inspired by the art on candy boxes, packaging and 1930’s cartoons and 1980’s computer games.  (He’s a hobbyist and sometimes speaker on “junk culture.”)  In an interview he said that the two-panels-per-page style was intentional.


I wanted to find out more about Simon Gardenfors and starting searching the internet.  Unfortunately, many of the websites I found were printed in Swedish so I couldn’t get any updated information on him.  Just prior to the 2010 U.S. publication/translation  by Top Shelf, he gave a telephone interview on the podcast website (Vancouver, BC Canada) which was very illuminating. 

To hear him tell it, he did everything “for art”.  He was interested in doing an auto-biographical comic and “wanted more of a twist” to differentiate it from other works.  At first he was conflicted about what to leave out of the book, but later overcame his self-consciousness. He deliberately decided to leave in the book “things that I felt ashamed of because it’s a funny read.”

The auto-biography also served as a catharsis for Gardenfors.  In the interview, he calls the book “a little bit confessional” and goes on to explain that revealing yourself in a bad side is a way of seeking forgiveness and “when people find it funny, it also makes it okay.”  So, in this way, he obtains absolution at the same time.  I suspect he is also a bit of a prankster as he admits during the interview that “sometimes I annoy people”. He sounds just a little proud of that.

The interview also revealed that the name of the book is a purposeful link to the Marquis de Sade and is a pun on the title of his work - - 120 DAYS OF SODOM.  After reading 120 DAYS OF SIMON you may end up not liking the author - - but that won’t stop you from enjoying his work.  

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

DECEMBER TITLES: More BOOM! for your buck?

THE TRAVELER #2  (Boom! Studios, December 22, 2010 release)  Concepts by Stan Lee. Written by Mark Waid. Drawn by Chad Hardin. Colors by Blond. Letters by Ed Dukeshire. Covers by Scott Clark and Chad Hardin.

By necessity, TRAVELER Issue #1 was fast and furious.  Now that the set-up details have been taken care of - - just give Mark Waid a little breathing room and watch him go!   He starts to flesh out the characters more, give some more detail but also hold some back in order to build  the mystery, all while never forgetting the action that keeps everything moving.  Also, now that artist Chad Hardin has had one issues’ worth of experience to get familiar with drawing the primary characters - - he also stretches and expands his style, especially in the awesome action scenes .


     It’s a nice change of pace to have some super-hero titles that aren’t based in major metropolitan areas (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, etc).  TRAVELER occurs in Richmond, Virginia - - although as depicted it’s hard to tell what city it is.  (Of course, I wouldn’t recognize  a Richmond landmark if I saw it - - as I’m not sure what makes it topographically different.)   NOTE: SPOILERS FOLLOW, EVEN SOME SPECULATIVE SPOILING.  . . . . . .

The opening pages are a nice showcase of some of the Traveler’s  (a.k.a. Kronos) powers.  He’s not a time traveler by nature  but is able to slow down or speed up time within a small area.  As Federal Agent Julia Martin attempts to arrest him he glimpses three possible visions of her future.  Two of the three result in death, so he prevents this by speeding up time and pulling her out of danger’s path.   He still has to stop Splinter of the Split Second Men - - so he moves space time just enough to allow him to levitate a cruising car and then accelerate time enabling him to hurl  the car at Splinter with supersonic force.  The perplexed driver of the car looks uncannily like Stan Lee.

      Kronos/Traveler’s body language reveals a little jealousy when Julia’s fiancĂ©e Ron shows up to comfort her after the rescue.   Why?   Well, one of the future visions that Kronos glimpsed showed he and Julia romantically together.  He also expresses concern that if he holds or touches her, she might figure out who he is - - and also regrets speaking the word “graviton” to her.

Julia’s father is  Doctor Martin, one of the partners of Martin-Colding Labs.  Julia and Ron (who works there) visit her father at the lab, which makes partner Colding a little irritated (based on his bothersome facial expressions when they arrive together).  Is this person the Traveler?  ( I suspect so. But how are the villains  connected to him? )  As Julia asks her father if the powers of the Split Second Men might be somehow connected to the “unified field research” Martin-Colding Labs is working on, Colding flips out that this info has been shared with her.  His facial expressions show even more concern when Julia mentions that the Traveler spoke of “gravitons” when explaining his powers to her.  That seems to be another concept or project at the lab.

    So far, the three persons being attacked by the Split Second Men appear to be randomly selected with no connection. Kronos flips out when he meets a fourth person who just crossed paths with two of the initial three targets.  It apparently violates some law of “time – space”.  There’s no time to worry as here comes Mortar, yet another Split Second Man.  Much more needs to be revealed/explained in coming issues.  It’s fun to guess while waiting for the next round.   The art and action are very entertaining.  Give some credit to the dynamic colors by Blond as well.  

DARKWING DUCK #7  (Boom! Studios, 12/15/2010 release date) Written by Ian Brill. Drawn by James Silvani. Colorist Andrew Dalhouse. Letterer Deron Bennett. Covers by James Silvani and Sabrina Alberghetti.

I grabbed this book because I wanted to see what type of work Boom! would be doing with some of the Disney properties.  It could have been any of a handful of titles that I started with - - I guess it was the cover with images revoking memories of Bob Kane’s Batman that made me pick up DARKWING DUCK.


I made an assumption that the Disney books would be more likely to have single issue stories and I could pick one up at random and easily assimilate into the landscape.  Wrong!  I never imagined this book to be as complicated as it is.  Issue #7 continues “Crisis On Infinite Duckwings”  and is Part 3 of a 4 issue storyline.   What kept me from putting it back was the amazing art inside.  I also never expected a book aimed at younger readers to have art this detailed.  It’s simply beautiful, and worthy of your investigation.  I love the use of shadows and shading, very detailed backgrounds and somewhat complicated action scenes and fights that will challenge some of the youngest readers to follow.  (Although, I’d imagine this is a book that a parent would want to read to their child  --  explaining and answering questions as they go - - with the fringe benefit of the adult enjoying it just as much!)

Ian Brill’s an experienced and skilled writer and knows his way around a congested storyline.  It seems that Negaduck, Darkwing Duck’’s most evil foe, is grabbing inter-dimensional versions of Darkwing Duck and transporting them to St. Canard to wreak havoc on the town.  These doppelgangers resemble Darkwing in facial and body structure only - - taking on the costumes and appearances of famous monsters (Dracula, Frankenstein, Wolfman, Mummy) as well as super-heroes (Hawkeye, Green Arrow, “Golden” Surfer, etc) and fantasy characters (the winged monkeys from Oz).   Megaduck and his accomplice Magica de Spell bear an uncanny resemblance to Daffy Duck and Daisy Duck.   The jokes are corny but funny and the book is fun to read.  You’ll want to check it out just for the amazing art alone.

CHIP  ‘N DALE RESCUE RANGERS #1  (Boom! Studios, December 01, 2010 release date) Written by Ian Brill. Drawn by Leonel Castellani. Colors by Jake Myler. Letters by Jason Arthur. Covers by Leonel Castellani, Magic Eye Studios, and Jake Myler.

This should be more like it  - - a #1 premiere issue.  No back story to catch up on.  Think again!   I think this book would also be challenging for the youngest readers - - who should also be the primary audience.  (Unless I need to reassess their reading skills.  Maybe I’m underestimating comprehension levels.  I’d be very happy if I was wrong and needed to correct my perceptions.)


RESCUE RANGERS is a team book with a bunch of funny animals geared to share adventures and led by the brothers chipmunk  of Chip ‘N Dale.  (Chip is the more adventurous and responsible. Dale loves a prank.)  They are joined by young female mouse Gadget Hackwrench (the inventor),  older mustachioed mouse Monterey Jack (the sailor) , and Zipper the feisty housefly not afraid of a scrap when his friends are endangered.

The central theme of the first story is that animals throughout this fantasy world are acting rebellious, destructive and out-of-character.  The Rescue Rangers set out to investigate and fall into the hands of Pi-Rats (complete with eye patches, bandanas and cutlasses) as Issue #1 ends (to be continued of course).  The storyline attempts to give a little back-story on some of the characters, but it does so abruptly without any notice that the timeframe is changing from page to page.  That’s got to be confusing for a lot of readers.  It seems simple enough to correct with a caption for each change of scene that simply states “Now”  or “Then”  or “Much Earlier” or even something like “Two Years Ago”, etc.  

And, just like DARKWING DUCK  I am drawn to the amazing art in RESCUE RANGERS.  This is comics art the way I remember it  - - from reading WALT DISNEY’S COMICS & STORIES back in my youth.  The art is just as detailed as the Disney cartoons used to be during their prime.  Fantastic.  You should check this out.

28 DAYS LATER #18  (Boom! Studios, December 22, 2010 release date).  Written by Michael Alan Nelson. Drawn by Alejandro Aragon.  Colorist Nolan Woodard.  Letterer Johnny Lowe. Cover by Sean Phillips.

I’ll begin by saying that another intriguing cover captured my curiosity and I picked up this book not knowing what to expect.  Yet, I jumped on after 17 issues and picked up on this storyline much quicker and far easier than I did with the two funny animal books I just finished reading.  No further comment.


Granted, I’ve seen the movie so I  know the basic storyline and I recognize Clint and Selena, the two characters featured here.  The book begins with them on the run, so I didn’t have to go over a bunch of exposition or caption boxes describing what went before.  It gets right into the story.

They are cautiously finding their way along the streets of a devastated and unidentified city in England, hoping to find a still-working car to get back to London, supposedly now a safe zone.  They see a car that may work but decide to keep an eye on it from afar, before moving in after nightfall.  They were right to suspect a trap.  They fool their hunter and make their getaway.

I love the opening of this book.  The combination of effective art and scripted pacing pulled me right into the story and made me want to follow it to its conclusion.  28 DAYS LATER appears to be a very stylish book in both story and art.  It seems to move at a careful methodical pace. Yet, the reader will be glad of that when rewarded with such cinematic drama when the car chase actually begins, like watching the best action movie in slow motion.  I’m impressed. 

It takes 11 pages for this opening act to play out.  The middle pages are free of dialogue and captions and let the visuals tell the story.  It’s a delight to behold. 

The alleged British officer, Captain Stiles, seems to be stalking Selena and wants to take her into his custody for unknown reasons.  She doesn’t recognize him or know his motives, yet she and Clint are fearfully running for their life from this relentless hunter.  Just when they feel safer after running into some American NATO forces, things get crazy. 

Some months ago, I finally began to explore THE WALKING DEAD and fell for it hook, line and sinker.  Now it looks like another zombie-themed book has me mesmerized.   I need more.

Monday, December 20, 2010

BAT - ‘er up! - - - - getting into Grant


I don’t read BATMAN titles on a regular basis.  I did come back for awhile right after BATMAN: R.I.P. (which I haven’t read yet) and sampled the new DETECTIVE COMICS, BATMAN AND ROBIN (Issue #1), BATGIRL, STREETS OF GOTHAM, RED ROBIN and BATMAN (Dick Grayson)  - - and even wrote about some of them here.  I liked all of them  - - just made a budget decision not to try and follow them all.  Eventually I weaned every one of those titles from my monthly buys.

However, reading them prompted me to check out the back history and a noted Bat-scholar (name of Bill) told me I needed to start with the BATMAN AND SON trade paperback.  So, I’ve been buying some of those trades and stock-piling them for that rainy day.

Recently, I picked up BATMAN, INCORPORATED  #1 out of the blue (should that be out of the black?) and BATMAN: THE RETURN one-shot and read them without benefit of having gone through all that back-story first  (including THE RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE, which I was also stock-piling).  I thoroughly enjoyed them and feel the new direction is very fresh.


So, that then prompted me to read those six THE RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE issues.  Yes, I’m confused  (as you might expect) but I sense that Grant Morrison didn’t just “throw something together”  (as some critics of him suspect) but actually had a game plan in mind and sought to tell a lengthy tale that would introduce some new elements into Batman mythology.   I also see that he didn’t intend to make it easy for the reader (including Batman loyalists) but wrote a challenging script that reminds me of author James Joyce’s classic ULYSSES.  (Very hard to follow but ground-breaking for modern literature  - - and very rewarding if you have the patience to work through it.)

So, the question is = did Morrison indeed compose an epic worthy of discussion and review for decades to come? - - or is it a monumental flop, a noble experiment that fell apart?  - - or just genial Grant having a joke on us?   I intend to answer that question  (at least for myself)  and will update you (if you care)  on this website.  Look for several more articles.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Getting an ear full: comic book podcasts (part two)

Continuing a series featuring select comics-themed podcasts, I return to another one of rather local origin:  COMIC BOOK DINER.

Subtitled “The Art And Business Of Comics”  this podcast is different from the others I’ve been listening to.  Rather than focus on reviews or analysis of current books, writers and/or artists COMIC BOOK DINER concerns itself with matters related to independent creators, and is geared towards providing assistance, guidance and tips.


You don’t need to be actively involved as a writer, artist or creator to appreciate the content, as COMIC BOOK DINER is mostly informal and remains interesting to anyone who wants a little glimpse “behind the scenes.”  All the presenters are likeable and “down to earth” rather than aloof or preachy.  They have all collaborated on various works or participated in workshops and convention appearances together, so there is a familiarity and friendship that comes across in their discussions.

The COMIC BOOK DINER podcast started up in 2010 and is now 19 episodes old.  The most recent, from December 15, featured a discussion and opinions on comic book digital piracy / file-sharing / illegal downloads as well as kids comics on the web and different methods of bringing works to the targeted audience, including finding an agent and/or self-publishing.   Other episodes have spotlighted creator interviews, convention reports and information episodes related to “Having A Plan”, “Hollywood & Comics”, “Prepping For Print”, “Web Comics” and “Getting Paid”  etc.   Most episodes run a little over one hour, with the most recent two approaching two hours in length.  My only concern is that sometimes they can get carried away with the inside jokes and banter and stray too far off-topic - - which runs the risk of extending the episode longer than necessary as well as losing some audience.   This seems to be true of every podcast I’ve encountered so far as well.  It’s a pretty normal occurrence, and if you’re going to invest some time in following podcasts be prepared to waste a little time on non-essential moments.  (I’m just as guilty, as this blog outlet doesn’t restrict my word count - -  I’m sure there are some readers who think I ramble too much.)

There are three creators who frequent the COMIC BOOK DINER and they seem to alternate as unofficial moderators from episode to episode.  They are:


John, Rich and Jamar at the 2010 Baltimore Comic Convention. (Photo by Steve Parke)


JOHN GALLAGHER, who runs Sky Dog Comics And Design  in the Washington DC metro area and is a writer/cartoonist, self-publisher who also runs a graphic design and interactive media company. He is the creator of BUZZBOY COMICS and co-creator of ROBOY RED with Rich Faber.

RICH FABER resides near Philadelphia and has 15 years experience as an artist and inker.  He formerly was a featured artist on STEEL for DC Comics and currently devotes his time to independent work. He is co-creator of ROBOY RED with John Gallagher and has also worked with him on some BUZZBOY titles.                    

JAMAR NICHOLAS is the creator of web comic DETECTIVE BOOGALOO among others, and recently completed illustrating a new graphic novel edition of Geoffrey Canada’s FIST STICK  KNIFE GUN : A Personal History Of Violence.  The story, based on growing up in the Bronx in a climate of children fighting and carrying weapons, has won critical acclaim and is a featured title on

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

THE RANDOMISER 3 - - - December 15, 2010

Just random ramblings, that’s all . . . . . but a little author-focused this time

One of the joys of this  comic book hobby is the “fresh find” - - - picking up a new title or first reading/viewing of a writer or artist that impresses or delights you.   In a time of penny-pinching and monthly comics budgets, it’s especially comforting when the discovery rewards your investment of time and money. 

Many of us, after discovering a writer or artist that we enjoy want to explore more of their work. There’s always a risk and a reluctance to do so - - “if I pick up this other title will I be able to easily comprehend the continuity and back-story?  . . . . Or will I understand it, but then get involved in a complex (but interesting) storyline that requires me to keep buying more issues?”

One of those “fresh” discoveries for me was a new title, SOLDIER ZERO from Boom!, and writer Paul Cornell.  When I learned that he was scripting ACTION COMICS at DC my interest grew.  After hearing that the direction of that book has changed (it’s now about Lex Luthor) I really wanted to explore further.  Again, the two cautionary concerns mentioned above entered into my decision-making.

Then, opportunity appeared in the guise of ACTION COMICS ANNUAL #13, an over-sized one-shot with two complete stories by Paul Cornell.  I was tipped off to this remarkable good fortune after hearing about the book while listening to a comics podcast (which I’ll thank by featuring it in a future article).

ACTION COMICS ANNUAL #13  (DC, February 2011 - - December 02, 2010 release date)  - - - and  the art is outstanding in both of these stories!!!

1) Young Lex Luthor in:  “Father Box” - - - Paul Cornell writer. Marco Rudy artist. Val Staples colorist. John J. Hill letterer.


I am very impressed with these stories.  Prior to this, I can only recall the occasional glimpse into the psyche of Lex Luthor depending on who was writing the story.  Some writers would give you a little glimpse inside Lex. But in the majority of occasional stories I’ve read  = Luthor seemed to serve mainly as the perfect foil to Superman - - the mentally superior antagonist versus the physically superior hero.  (I have to confess here that I’ve never been a regular Superman reader - - ever.) 

Cornell has given me the best understanding of the mental make-up and resolve of Lex Luthor that I’ve ever encountered - - he goes deep, deep,  deep into his motivations and shows how Lex developed his personal value system at an early age.  Two prominent DC characters had a major influence on that  - - you can’t think of them as “mentors” because (as Cornell reveals) Luthor considers himself to be above everyone else and would only “allow” someone to think he might be of assistance or guidance.

Under the capable hands of Cornell, young Lex Luthor carries himself with a personal charisma or magnetism that attracts an audience and makes others pay attention to him.  He charms and ingratiates his way into the favors of the most casual acquaintances and exploits them for his own gain/development - - - a younger Perry White (an investigative reporter in this story), a prominent club owner and powerful Intergang figure, and the huge imposing Darkseid as well.

Luthor finds his way into the other side courtesy of a boom tube disguised as a doorway and in the words of Darkseid –“I allow such as you to see the door, to unlock it - - only so you may fulfill your ‘potential’ !  To serve Darkseid !!  You will start in the laboratory - - my new scientwister!”

Of course, Luthor explores beyond his boundaries, makes a number of discoveries of his own, manages to piss off Darkseid yet escape with something of powerful value he’ll use much later, all the while leaving his personal arrogant message at his departure.  Darkseid, as you might expect, allowed much of this to happen  - - all for his own future purposes.  Who’s playing who?  One lesson for all, as reminded frequently by young Lex  is  - - “never turn your back on me.”  I am blown away by this story.  If you are a Superman follower, you must read this! 

2)  Young Lex Luthor in:  “A Father’s Box” - - - Paul Cornell writer. Ed Benes artist. Jason Wright colorist. John J Hill letterer.

This tale is told in a storybook fable style, with just pictures and captions - - that help give it a sense of legend and history.  “A Father’s Box” gives further insight into another classic DC character, Ras Al Ghul.  It reveals how he tutored young Lex Luther for a period of time, and trusted him as an apprentice - - sharing his wisdom and actually considering him  a potential heir of his fortune and empire.  Boy, that Lex can make anybody love him!  

Naturally, Lex goes where he shouldn’t go.  A “box” or “the Box” is important in both of these stories.  Luthor manages to piss off Ras, who kills him in a rage.  Luthor gets revived courtesy of the Lazarus Pit.  The captions tell the rest of the tale best - - what Luthor hoped would happen, and what he lost as a consequence of his actions - - - “for the old man knew for Luthor life would punish worse than death.  And all those flaws that might have saved him, had he know them, shown them, seen  - - were locked up in that moment’s secrets.  Blamed on others  - - save for dreams.”   Now I need to read some back-issues of ACTION COMICS.  Hope I can find a friend to loan them to me.  I simply can’t afford all this goodness.

SOLDIER ZERO #3  (Boom! Studios, 12/15/2010 release date)  Stan Lee, grand poobah.  Paul Cornell, writer.  Sergio Arino, art.  Archie Van Buren, colors. Ed Dukeshire, letters.  Covers by Trevor Hairsine and Kalman Andrasofszky.

The third issue of the comic that started all this Cornell curiosity for me - - SOLIDER ZERO - - comes out today and I remain delighted and very happy with this new book.

Some time ago I was asked to mention some of my favorite comics and I stumped myself.  I just couldn’t pin it down - - so I decided to talk about all the different genres of comics that I enjoy to  read and what common element attracts me to them - - good characterization.  I guess I’m just too jaded after decades of reading comics (especially super-hero titles)  and a good plot or mystery sometimes just isn’t enough for me anymore.  The only exception for me are the short stores in horror titles where the plots rule. But, if it’s a continuing series I need more than that.  Good character-driven stories will do it for me and keep me engaged.  Action and plot alone aren’t sufficient enough to hold my interest.  What attracts me to SOLIDER ZERO the most is the way these characters are being developed and more insights revealed as the story progresses.  (Whew! - - and I still need to write about Cornell’s quirky KNIGHT & SQUIRE series at some future date.  - - No rest for the relentless reader/writer.) 


So I’m going to spend more space here talking about where the characterization of SOLIDER ZERO is going rather than summarize the plot/storyline or reveal too much of it.  That will leave you some surprises to discover for yourself if you choose to check out this title.  (And I recommend it!) 

Paraplegic war veteran Stewart Trautman finds himself able to communicate telepathically  with the alien parasite he shares the power suit with.  Later, even his brother James is allowed to enter into the exchange of talk

The story finds him back in human form in the middle of the street outside the mini-mart where the robbery is foiled. Police officers can’t understand why he seemingly misplaced his wheelchair and take him to the precinct station for questioning.  We learn that the suit does not have infinite power duration and over-utilization will drain it, reverting Stewart back to wheelchair-dependent status.

The alien “hybrid” is learning to adapt to these changes even quicker than Stewart. The alien quickly picks up on English, local slang and expressions and relates better to Stewart as a result. At the same time these changes, particularly the alien presence inside, seem to be driving a wedge between Stewart and his brother James.   Stewart’s initial made-up story to police investigators makes them suspicious of James’ treatment of Stewart, and that infuriates James.  (Or perhaps they suspect that James is the mysterious super-hero shown foiling the robbery in the security camera video and that Stewart is covering up for his brother with a phony story.)

Stewart is now gaining enough control of the suit that he can sometimes over-rule the alien parasite’s intentions and power-up on his own. This parasite “friend” is also not your typical alien soldier - - he’s kinder and “nicer'”.  Most hybrids kill their host body and maintain full possession.  One limitation of that is that as the body starts to fall apart, the alien must continually seek new hosts - - which means more killings, etc.

Sergio Arino handles the art chores in issue #3, and does a fantastic job with everything, especially the facial expressions and body language (so essential to this story).   And that brings us to yet another strong recommendation from me for for this Stan Lee-influenced title.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Bad Time Stories for Horror Hunters

BEDTIME STORIES FOR IMPRESSIONABLE CHILDREN  #1  (Moonstone Books, November 2010 – black and white)  Created by J.C.  Vaughn. Various writers and artists. Covers by Mark Wheatley and Jacob Jordan.

The horror anthology comic seems to be making a comeback.  First the revived CREEPY debuts at Dark Horse Comics.  Then Monsterverse  releases BELA LUGOSI’S TALES FROM THE GRAVE.  The latest, BEDTIME STORIES FOR IMPRESSIONABLE CHILDREN, is the new  entry from Moonstone Books.  Add to this the five-issue EDGE OF DOOM min-series of stand-alone horror tales from IDW and you have a quirky quartet of tales to chill and thrill.  Hopefully, these books will make enough of a sales impact to merit their continued publication.  I’d like to see that, as they are all worthwhile.


BEDTIME STORIES FOR IMPRESSIONABLE CHILDREN is the brainchild of J. C. Vaughn, who also created the narrator/host and writes the transitional segments between the stories.   This book has a humorous bent to it, albeit dark humor.  The host is certainly unconventional, and different from the usual trail guide. 

Alonzo Del Vecchio is a newly unemployed construction worker in the Pittsburgh, PA area who decides to open a day care center.  He tells the tales to keep his young charges in control and occupy their time.  He’s a quirky, Joe Pesci type of character who intersperses his conversation with Pittsburgh slang  (“yinz”,  nebby”, etc), which makes it even more entertaining for me since that town is where I spent my youth.   I also recognize many of the area locales that are referenced in the stories.

     Issue #1 opens with “One Of Those Mother-Daughter Things” where the daughter continually complains about her “monster” of a mother to her boyfriend, until one day she decides to put an end to their constant disputes - - and the boyfriend finds out just how literal that description was.  Despite most readers guessing at the eventual outcome, it’s the art and story-telling style that entertain and hold your interest.   A  good opening act. It's written by J. C. Vaughn and illustrated by Gene Gonzales & Mark Wheatley.

“Life Stinks” is told in a newspaper comic-strip style that helps lend it a light-hearted tone.  Just before a flaming meteor strikes and acts as catalyst for a zombie/undead revival, a sewage treatment plant worker has an accident and discovers a way to achieve immunity from zombies.  It will remind of the equally disgusting method used in THE WALKING DEAD to camouflage the living amongst the dead.  As told by writer James A. Kuhoric and illustrated by Joe Keatinge this is very funny.


“Mad Man / Dead Man” by writer Robert Tinnell and artist/letterer Rich Woodall is the creepiest and best of the three tales in this issue.  It’s a Victorian era story about a medium committed to a mental hospital for insanity after being charged with practicing witchcraft.  The warden’s wife sees it as an opportunity to contact her deceased brother, killed in wartime.  From there, the story takes two unusual twists before coming to a bad end for most of the characters/plotters.

After the first tale, many children at Del Vecchio’s Day Care react with shock or shut their eyes and clamp their hands over their ears to avoid being frightened by the story.  A wise-beyond-his-years youngster lectures “Uncle Alonzo” on the inappropriateness of the story “to tell a bunch of little kids”.  While Alonzo feels the story has a “great moral”, he tries to adjust and temper the following tales, only to succeed in sending more children into shock and creating more trauma by issue’s end.  It sounds cruel, but it’s told in such an endearing and amusing way that it brings chuckles and smiles.   With BEDTIME STORIES FOR IMPRESSIONABLE CHILDREN you can get your horror and also be happy about it.  Recommended.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

THE RANDOMIZER 2: December 11. 2010

Random rants and raves on various books seeming chosen at random.

WARLORD OF MARS #2  (Dynamite, December 2010)  “A Tale Of Two Planets, Part 2” written by Arvid Nelson; illustrated by Stephen Sadowski; colored by Adriano Lucas; lettered by Troy Peteri.  Based on the stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

The fine work begun in Issue #1 of adapting the classic John Carter Of Mars series continues here, following the pattern in the debut issue of  splitting the book in half and featuring background on the two main characters  (who have yet to meet – and is anticipated to happen in Issue #3). The art and coloring are very nicely done, and reason enough to pick this book up.


The incidents that befell John Carter in the Arizona hills prior to his arrival on Mars are detailed. He narrowly escapes slaughter by angry Apache Indians and flees to the mysterious cave that acts as his transport to Mars.  In the telling we learn of  his courage and loyalty.  He emerges through the cave exit onto the red planet like a newborn, naked and apprehensive.

In the back of the book we learn how the Martian Tars Tarkas achieved the last part of his name, in a display of skilled and calculated battle versus his rival.  In overcoming his detractors and benefiting from the crude enforcement of justice on Mars, he shows his compassion and his lenience, attributes not favored by most Martian warriors.

I like the way this book is being handled and plan on sticking around. Even though I’m familiar with this story, it still remains fresh and interesting.

SUPERBOY #2  (DC, February 2011)  “Smallville Attacks! Part Two” written by Jeff Lemire; art by Pier Gallo; colorist Jamie Grant;  letterer Sal Cipriano

The simple yet evocative cover catches your attention immediately, and reminds of the upside-down kisses featured in the SPIDER-MAN movies.  Numerous vines of thick and creeping tree tendrils overwhelm Smallville and give artist Gallo a chance to showcase an  outstanding attention to detail.  The art in this book is perfect - - I’m really enjoying it.


While Issue #1 was mostly character-driven by identifying the players and setting the stage - - Issue #2 deepens the mystery of “old Smallville” with new developments, including the introduction of some manipulators best described as “dark farmers”, perhaps part of some ancient Masonic-like cult of agriculture worship.  We'll have to keep reading to find out.  Lemire’s not giving away anything too revealing just yet - -  just putting the worm on the hook and baiting us.

Superboy reluctantly teams-up briefly with the (as drawn by Gallo) extremely seductive Poison Ivy.  Best friend and high school chum Simon Valentine shows what he’s capable of --  and that’s helping Superboy by utilizing his own investigation and scientific exploration skills.  He’s a lot more than just another Jimmy Olsen foil, despite having red hair (but no freckles).

Nicely done by Lemire and Gallo - - I want to keep going with this book to see what happens. I haven’t been this interested in a Superman title since the John Byrne re-boot back in the 1980’s.

WARRIORS THREE #2 OF 4  (Marvel, February 2011)  Bill Willingham, writer. Neil Edwards, penciler.  Scott Hanna, inker. Fabio D’Auria, colorist.


Writer Willingham really has remarkable skill at scripting mythic storylines.  He seamlessly introduces his own ideas into Thor lore and it fits right in. 

Issue #2 continues the quest of the Warriors Three to Niflhel, the secluded and dark lands where the savage Fenris Wolf recently was freed from confinement by A.I.M. agents.  It seems the  Warriors Three have a previous connection to the Fenris Wolf, one that was both traumatic and formative in their earlier days as budding warriors and had a mighty influence on their current behavior patterns.  There’s another reason besides honor and justice that the Warriors Three set out on their own after the Fenris Wolf, and that’s a thread that will be woven throughout the remaining chapters of this limited series.

I like the way that Willingham ties it all together. To tell more would only spoil it.  This is worth your time.  Before the current trail ends the Warriors enlist the aid of Reed Richards and find a thread leading to one of the A.I.M. agents involved in the Wolf’s release.

The Hotel Fred: Buy Early, Buy Often

The Hotel Fred: Buy Early, Buy Often: "First item: Thor the Mighty Avenger Volume 1: The God Who Fell to Earth is out this week, collecting the first four issues of the comic wri..."

Friday, December 10, 2010

Getting an ear full: comic book podcasts (part one)

I love reading comics for pure enjoyment, as do many of us.  I also like to read critiques of books and occasionally to participate in group discussion (the semi-regular BC Refugees gatherings)  - - or at least hear what others are thinking about one of my favorite hobbies.   The wonder of the internet makes doing all this so accessible, with a variety of sources to choose from.  Beginning with this article, I plan to share my internet discoveries here on an irregular basis.  After listening to several comics-related podcasts for the past several months, the newest and latest has prompted me to finally write about them - - especially due to the local nature and origin of this one  --  my favorite comic store haunt in Delaware.


     FROM THE BOOTH is very new, just three podcasts old.  It was started by three regular customers of Captain Blue Hen Comics in Newark, Delaware  - - and actually originates from the former Woolworth’s in-store restaurant booth  now located and utilized at Captain Blue Hen for in-store signing events and general hanging out.

The commentators don’t know very much about each other, which makes it interesting as the listener learns about their various likes and dislikes for the first time along with them.  The trio include “Super Dan” (an avowed Superman disciple), “Doktor Andy”, and “(only) Randall”, who serves as unofficial moderator.  They range in age from 26-30, which makes me feel ancient since my firstborn son is older than that.   They do appear to have a good knowledge of the comics field and history, particularly as it pertains to mainstream Marvel and DC  characters.

So far, their conversations and commentaries have been both interesting and topical. If there is any criticism/minor gripe about “From The Booth” it’s that at times it goes on for several minutes longer than my interest level - - and that’s a comment that you’re going to hear me make about almost every podcast I review.  There’s something about getting comics fans together and giving them an open mike that makes them forget the time elapsed.  (I’m also guilty of that).

Hopefully, I have posted this link properly and you can access their podcasts by clicking on this:   (In any case, that’s the web address you need).   What follows is a short summary of each episode so far:

EPISODE ONE - - NOVEMBER 24, 2010 =  Commentary on the recent announcement from DC and MARVEL regarding dropping prices of single issues to $2.99 in 2011.  Doktor Andy is especially annoyed at Marvel’s ostentation in claiming that the success of digital comics sales made the price drop possible, while DC is more confessional in admitting that sales had dipped and not enough newer titles were getting a fair trial (as just one result of higher prices).   Discussion also covers buyers’ comic book monthly budgets (something all serious fans have to deal with) and the relationship between good/bad art and whether it will drive/curb sales of otherwise good story-telling.

EPISODDE TWO  - - DECEMBER 01, 2010 = Commentary on the official GREEN LANTERN movie trailer.  (Dislike of Ryan Reynolds, dislike of his computer-generated costume, dislike of Warner Brothers, etc).  Thirty-one minutes of GREEN LANTERN movie anguish.  The “Captain” himself (Joe Murray, co-owner of Captain Blue Hen comics) enters the conversation and puts a humorous spin on the Green Lantern milieu.  Everyone’s fingers are crossed that things will get fixed in final editing/re-write before the movie premiere in 2011.

EPISODE THREE - -  DECEMBER 09, 2011 = A mixed bag of comments and a little rambling that begins with opinions on the Superman/Twilight connection made public by Katie Couric on network television ( I totally missed that), as well as the SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE hardcover by JMS.  Likes and dislikes on the SMALLVILLE  t.v. show. (My two cents = the dialogue is very awful this season – reason enough to avoid).  Books they are reading, including HAWKEYE AND MOCKINGBIRD and CAPTAIN AMERICA, etc.

FROM THE BOOTH is worth your investigation.  I believe they are still feeling their way into this podcast and just beginning to get comfortable. It will be interesting to see what occurs in future episodes.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

New title review: STARBORN Issue # 1

So far, the debut issues of Stan Lee and POW! Entertainment’s new super-hero titles at BOOM! Studios are batting three for three.  I like them all and want to keep following the first story arc in every one.  The latest, STARBORN, debuts this Wednesday . . . . . . . . .

STARBORN #1  (BOOM! Studios, 12/08/2010) . . . Grand Poobah Stan Lee. Written by Chris Roberson. Art by Khary Randolph.  Colors by Mitch Gerads.  Letters by Ed Dukeshire. Covers by Gene Ha, Humberto Ramos, Khary Randolph.

The characterization is what I liked best about SOLDIER ZERO in its’ first two issues.  The story line and premise intrigued me more with THE TRAVELER.  And, with STARBORN , it appears to be a combination of the two.  STARBORN is a title that in it’s first issue travels along the fine line between fiction and reality, weaving in and out enough that they seem to cross over into each other.


It’s not hard to identify and understand the main character, Benjamin Warner.  He’s a young,  likeable office worker who dreams of bigger aspirations as a science-fiction / fantasy writer.  He anxiously awaits word from a publisher on his first novel submittal.  He’s been creating his future world, set in “the human civilization” of another star system, since his early school years when his adoptive parents worried that he was obsessed with creative writing.

During the process of final editing, he hires an experienced consultant to review his book and learns that his novel seems to be heavily influenced by the works of a vintage science fiction writer before his time.  After exploring those works, Warner finds many similarities as both writers set their futuristic tales in “the human civilization.”

As incidents and situations from his work-in-progress seem to intrude into his real-world life and begin to blur the lines between them, Lee and Roberson’s STARBORN reminds me of the great work being done by author Mike Carey on a Vertigo title, THE UNWRITTEN.

However, that’s where the similarities between STARBORN and THE UNWRITTEN end.  While they both deal with reality/fantasy, each title handles that in a different way.  STARBORN feels light-hearted compared to the deeper THE UNWRITTEN.  In fact, main character Ben Warner explains it better as he tackles the difference between his work and that of the writer he seems to be influenced by:  “ . . . And they are less about the action and more about the politics of the world. More introspective. Somber.”

And STARBORN is really about the action.  Before Ben can deal with the unsettling reality that his manuscript has been rejected - - - aliens from his own work confront him and ask if he is “Bin Yaamin.”  (Say it real fast and it sounds like Ben Warner.)   In steps a shape-shifting member of the Crimson Hand, who in reality (whose reality?) is his childhood friend and object of desire Tara Takamoto, and we’re underway.


Based on the title of this comic, it’s not hard to imagine that Ben Warner is a displaced alien, sent to another planet early in his life to keep him safe until his revival.  Apparently, the wrong side got to him first and it may be that Warner’s creative world is nothing more than suppressed memories.   Writer Chris Roberson does a nice job of planting these seeds/clues without slamming the reader over the head with them.  He’s an upcoming talented writer, who bears watching based on this title plus his work on IZOMBIE and the DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP?: DUST TO DUST mini-series.

The only put-off for me with STARBORN is the art by Khary Randolph.  I don’t mean that it isn’t good  - - it’s just not a style that I am fond of.  Randolph illustrates the story in a manga-influenced style that seems to be popular with many youth-oriented titles and reminds me of Humberto Ramos.  To his credit Randolph is not a mere copy-cat, and also seems to pay a little more attention to shading and shadows than others who draw this way.  It’s just a little too “cartoon / cel animation” looking for me.

I’ll be back next month for SOLDIER ZERO, THE TRAVELER, and STARBORN and will probably have more to say here if they maintain the high quality of these debut issues.