Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Black History Month? Valentine's Day? Why choose only one?

While perusing the web in search of something to write about for Valentine's Day, I came across this pair of series that possessed the same title:

The first image is of a 1955 comic from Charlton, the publisher who gave us Blue Beetle and Captain Atom; it's actually a reprint from the a series from 1950 Fawcett -- original publisher of the Billy Batson Captain Marvel, of course -- depicted in the second image (albeit a different issue.) And while it may cause us to cringe in our self-consciously open-minded era, it does raise questions about the state of race and culture in the current mainstream comics industry.

You can read more (but only a little, because these comics are expensive and obscure) here at the blog Black Superheroines! Check it out.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Not My Content

Classic Comics Covers, Animated. The first and third are my favourite.

Movies From An Alternate Universe. Some of these might have turned out better than the ones in our world did.

Real DBB update on the horizon.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Box Man

The Box Man
Drawn and Quarterly

I'll be honest with you guys. I've read a lot of strange things in my time, and I think I have a better handle on some of the oddities of Japanese manga than most, but...

this book is fucking weird.

A man drives a scooter while carrying a box on his back. He is accompanied by some sort of cat/turtle thing (it looks kind of like a cat, but has a shell... the back cover compares it to a mollusk, but it looked more like a turtle to me.) He is chased by monsters and the police. At one point a monster decapitates one policeman, then castrates another. At the end, the man arrives at the Sea of Decadence, where he leaves his father -- who has been acting strangely ever since his lower body became that of a crustacean, and who the man was carrying in the aforementioned box. The end.

Seriously? What. The. Fuck?

Don't get me wrong. I really liked this. The art is solid, especially the background and landscapes, and manga-ka Imiri Sakabashira does a good job of keeping the story going despite the odd happenings and the almost total lack of dialogue.

But still. I mean... really. Click on the cover above and you can find a 16-page PDF preview to see what I'm talking about. Be warned that it is probably Not Safe For Work. I think.

People bandy about the word 'surreal' a lot these days, and sometimes it leaves me feeling like Inigo Montoya. But The Box Man -- The Box Man is the real deal. It was like reading one of Rick Veitch's Rare Bit Fiends comics, without the narration, and focused through a completely different cultural lens.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Quick New Reads: Swamp Thing #4, X-Club #1

Swamp Thing #1 (Feb 2012)
Ongoing Series
DC Comics

The reintroduction of Alec Holland into the mainstream DC Universe continues on apace. I felt this issue wasn't as strong as the previous one, going by a little too quickly, but it's still an engaging story, and a series I recommend.

#1 (Feb 2012)
Limited Series
Marvel Comics

The Previews blurb for this series caught my eye, with its emphasis on SCIENCE and the like, so I decided to pick it up, even though I haven't been a big X-people reader in a long, long time. Like the Swamp Thing issue, I think this went by too quickly; there were some nice touches to it, but overall I think the characters are a shade too abrasive and the plot a titch too undefined at present. A good plot hook could draw me in even though I wasn't too keen on the characters, while compelling characters could make me come back next issue to see the actual plot develop. Unfortunately, neither really took hold, and I don't think I'll be back, at least not at cover price.

I wonder if I would've been more satisfied if I'd picked up the new Defenders series instead.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Night Force (1982) #1

Night Force #1 (August 1982)
Single Issue
DC Comics

Supernatural teams have been a recurring element of DC over the years, from the unofficial Trenchcoat Brigade to the Shadowpact to the new Justice League: Dark. The first one to get their own series, to the best of my knowledge, was the Night Force, in the early 1980s.

Unfortunately, despite a creative team with a fair bit of cachet (Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan), this first issue was rather disappointing. Wolfman and Colan never really seem to gel, and my gut is that the blame for this lies largely with Woflman's script: the transitions between scenes are awkward, made worse by the fact that they often take place in the middle of a page with no indication, requiring you to puzzle it out.

There's also not enough going on in the story -- it's a proto-example of what would come to be known (and, in some corners, derided) as decompression. You get introduced to the people who will make up the Night Force, the Baron (the fellow looking over the others on the cover) says something cryptic, unseen bad guys say something cryptic... The End.

Not really worth it unless you're a big fan of Colan or Wolfman.

Edited to Add: I neglected to mention when I first wrote this up, but I find it odd that on the second page of this code-approved comic, two of the characters are discussing open marriages. I guess I hadn't realized how progressive times were back in the early 80s.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Sir Edward Grey, Witchfinder: In The Service of Angels

Sir Edward Grey, Witchfinder: In the Service of Angels (2009)
Trade Paperback
Dark Horse

What better way to kick off the month of October than with a Mike Mignola limited series? Especially one that's as good as In the Service of Angels, the first mini-series about Victorian supernatural detective Sir Edward Grey?

In short, the story follows Sir Edward as he tries to solve the mystery of several inexplicable deaths in London in the late 19th century. The murders are connected not just to one another, but also, it turns out, to a privately funded expedition to the East, and to the remarkable find the members of the expedition brought back with them. By the end of the tale, he's dealt with a medium, two cults, a Victorian deep sea diver, and even a disfigured prostitute or two -- everything you need in a good penny dreadful adventure. Add on a couple of additional shorter comics and a few annotated pages of sketches from the creation of the series, and you get a pretty satisfying read.

I wouldn't hesitate to call Mike Mignola one of the greatest creators currently active in the comics field; he's carved out quite a niche for himself with his pulpy action/horror hybrid tales, starting with Hellboy and growing to include the BPRD and the rest of the expanded Hellboy universe -- of which Sir Edward Grey is a part.

Beyond his own creative abilities, Mignola's got a good eye for talent, and he proves it again with his selection of Ben Steinbeck to handle pencils and inks on this series. Steinbeck is no stranger to the world of Hellboy, having contributed to BPRD and Hellboy Animated prior to his work here, and his art is as well-suited to a Mike Mignola story as Mignola's own.

I borrowed this trade paperback from the library this afternoon and devoured it, finishing it before I even got home. Highly recommended.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Haunt #1

Haunt #1
Ongoing Series
Image Comics

This is one of the "Image Firsts" line of first issues for a dollar, and it's a dollar well spent. It avoids most of the first-issue pitfalls displayed by Sleepwalker #1 (looked at in the last post) -- the lead characters are actually interesting, for one, as the issue follows a pair of brothers, one involved in covert military ops in the Middle East, the other a priest who hears his brother' confessions and has personal demons of his own to deal with. The titular figure doesn't even appear until the final couple of pages, but the issue never feels lacking, slow-moving, or decompressed because of it.

The art is a three-man job, with pencils by Ryan Ottley over layouts by Greg Capullo, finished off by co-creator Todd McFarlane on inks, and it's about what you'd expect from that combination of names -- although the fact that the bulk of the issue focuses on normal humans keeps the Spider-Man/Spawn-style posing and webbing/cape-accoutrements to a minimum. The real strength of the issue, though, is Robert Kirkman's script; while not perfect, it does a good job of involving the reader and overriding the occasional weakness in the art.

I'm not sure how many places are like this, but my local shop still had this comic on the current issue racks rather than in the back issue bins, so you should be able to track it down without much fuss. I won't be looking for more issues at cover price on the basis of this one, but I'll definitely be open to following the series if I can find it at similar prices.