Thursday, April 28, 2011

Xombi #2 (2011 series)

Xombi #2 (2011 series)
DC Comics

I don't normally write about a comic the week it came out, but I have to share this with you. Because Xombi is probably the best monthly comic going today. It's even, based on these first two issues, better than the original series from Milestone. The first series was great, but the art at times was a little scratchy. Frazer Irving's art (and since there's no colourist credit, I'll assume he's responsible for that too) is absolutely gorgeous. The characters are expressive, lighting and shading is evocative - the colours are even used as a subtle storytelling element in a way few people can pull off.

On top of that, Rozum's script is bang-on and his ideas are, as always, excellent. There's a great supporting cast, intriguing mysteries, and of course a great plot-twist-cum-cliffhanger at the end. You get nuns with guns, haunted coins, and a bad-ass killer homunculus, all for only $2.99. Plus a special sneak-preview of a new Batman comic if you're into that sort of thing.

Sadly, in today's marketplace, this comic isn't selling well. People are too busy buying a dozen Flashpoint comics because it's the SUMMER EVENT, and passing this up because it's not connected to that or, even worse, "because it'll be canceled soon." I'll be honest: that pisses me off. Xombi is an excellent comic that deserves wide exposure and should be selling in the high five-digits at least.

Do yourself a favour: run down to the comic book shop, find issues #1 and #2, buy them, read them, and see that I know what I'm talking about. You'll be doing me a favour too, because the more people buy it, the longer the series will run.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The League of Super Groovy Crimefighters #1

The League of Super Groovy Crimefighters #1 (June 2000)
Ongoing series
Ancient Studios

This series, which ran for five issues (only the first one in colour), appears to be the only offering from Ancient Studios and the only comic written by Jan-Ives Campbell. I can sort of see why. It's not that it's bad, per se. It's certainly not the worst thing I've looked at here on the bin. It's just not very good.

Like the Heroes of Rock and Fire comic that I reviewed last year, reading this comic leads you to believe that the creator has much more of the world sketched out in his head than he's showing you, and it suffers for it. There's a bit of an origin/explanation of the League on the inside cover, but personally I found that more interesting than what actually took place on the pages of the comic. The story features a bunch of people in costumes going through some bland comedic bits, with little to no personality to differentiate them from one another. I'm not sure if this is because there are too many characters thrown in all at once, or because of the awfully generic c-grade humour. Probably both.

There's a back-up story about Sergeant America finding out funding for his superheroing has been cut (which will cost him his powers) and going on the run. This is much better, because you get to focus on a couple of character rather than a half-dozen, and also because the humour is a bit more original than "Superheroes cause so much property damage when they fight crime!" I actually felt kind of bad for Sgt. America when he discovered his girlfriend (whom he had admittedly left behind five years before when he became a hero) was sleeping with the supervillain the Sceptre.

I got this for 50 cents, and I guess it's hard to say I didn't get my money's worth because I did enjoy the back-up. Still, you're probably better off holding onto those quarters in case you need to make a phone call.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Fractured Fables (Free Comic Book Day Edition)

Fractured Fables (Free Comic Book Day Edition)
One Shot
Image Comics

With 2011's Free Comic Book Day fast approaching, I thought it behooved me to check out more of previous years' offerings. Boasting a Mike and Laura Allred cover (her colours are as important to the finished product as his pencils and inks, I think) and with a "Kid Friendly" logo in the bottom corner, the Fractured Fables sampler seemed a good place to start.

Unlike the Asylum Press free sampler I looked at previously, this serves as a preview for a single graphic novel. Like the Asylum Press offering, however, it's a bit hit or miss. Nothing is outright bad this time, but it's still a mixed bag.

There are five takes on fairy tales and nursery rhymes in this comic, with the best being probably "The Real Princess", written by Alexander Grecian and illustrated by Christian Ward. It takes the story of "The Princess and the Pea" as its base, ties it in cleverly to a couple of other fairy tales, and wraps it all up in a beautifully-coloured package. I don't know what else these two have worked on, but I'll try to check them out.

Ted McKeever, one of my favourite artists, turns in an almost-wordless take on "The Cat and the Fiddle". I'm not sure if he consciously toned down his rather distinctive style for this piece, but I didn't recognize his art at first. It's short and, as I said, wordless, and thus avoids the trouble that plagues the three stories I haven't yet mentioned. "Red Riding Hood", "Rumplestiltskin", and "Raponsel" all fall a bit flat in their attempts at comedy, particularly "Rumplestiltskin" with its emphasis on the stupidity of the princess. That being said, the art in "Red Riding Hood" is nice, and the revelation of the true nature of Grandma's house was enough to bring a smile to my face.

A pretty good free offering, and even worth some of your hard-earned cash if you find it for sale in the lair of some unscrupulous and shadowy comics dealer. Sadly, it wasn't enough to tempt me into buying the actual graphic novel.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Badger Saves the World #1-2

Badger Saves the World #1-2
Limited Series
IDW Publishing

Darn it, I wish I had the rest of this series.

For some reason, I bought issues one and two when they came out, but didn't buy the rest -- maybe because I hadn't gotten around to reading them when #3 came out, or maybe because it sold out, or maybe because I fell and hit my head. It doesn't matter. Now I've got to add the series to my watch list for when I hit the comics shows, because these two issues are a pretty fun read.

I knew only the bare bones about Badger before picking this up today, but you learn everything you need to know as the first issue progresses: Badger is a veteran and martial artist who has multiple personalities, one of which thinks he's a superhero, and he works for a modern-day druid with real magical powers. The two of them appear to live together in an estate/castle, along with Badger's therapist. The book has a bit of a right-wing slant to it, but in the vein of The Naked Gun rather than the Tea Party.

The series involves Badger's druidic friend enlisting his help in fighting the Russian terrorist Pavlov, who is using trained dogs as suicide bombers on behalf of the Nihilist Anti-Civilization Hate Organization (N.A.C.H.O.) The druid wants to stop this because he's dedicated to world peace; Badger wants to stop this because it's mean to the dogs.

These issues aren't perfect: the art is a little wonky in places, and I almost think it would be better suited to being presented in black and white; the humour misses its mark sometimes; and transitions between scenes aren't always delineated clearly. But it made me chuckle out loud more than once, and the plot -- at least what we've seen so far -- is rather clever (in the way of the aforementioned Naked Gun.) Probably worth a looksee if you're interested in action-comedy comic books or superheroes outside of the mainstream. As I said before, I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for the other issues next time I'm cruising the bins.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Arsenic Lullaby #16

Arsenic Lullaby #16
Ongoing series
AAA Milwaukee Publishing

If Cyanide & Happiness is just too uplifting for you, Arsenic Lullaby may be the comic for you.

From the editorial comments at the back, it appears that the short comics that make up this issue were originally exclusives to the trade paperbacks that collected earlier issues in the series. They're all black humour -- the blackest of humours -- but unlike many other comics that ply that particular genre, they're also well written and drawn. The art has a decidedly cartoonish feel to it, but you can tell that a good deal of care and effort is put into every panel.

To give you an idea about the contents, the last (and longest) story in the comic starts off as a seemingly pat tale about children finding out a donut company's donut-shaped mascot doesn't really exist. Only you quickly learn that he does exist, and was avoiding the children because he's suffering from terrible depression as the result of being a victim of a Nazi concentration camp. It walks the line between horror, humour, and absurdity, and does so with remarkable skill.

I got my copy for free, with a big sticker pasted to the front saying it was to be handed out to fans of "the Flamming (sic) Carrot, Lenore, Squee, and Johnny the Homicidal Maniac." I love the Carrot, and I can certainly see the similarities, although this is much more disturbing than most of FC's adventures.

Go check out their website if you think this sounds like something you might like.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Marvel Adventures Super Heroes #4

Marvel Adventures Super Heroes #4 (2008)
Ongoing Series
Marvel Comics

I'm in need of some extra space and extra money these days, and as I was going through my collection in search of comics to part with I stumbled across this one. I've had nothing but positive experiences reading the Marvel Adventures line of all-ages comics, and since the cover didn't ring any bells I thought maybe this one had slipped through the cracks unread.

After the first couple of pages, I realized I'd read it before, and in fact remembered it almost perfectly, but that didn't stop me from reading on to the end. Like every other Marvel Adventures comic I've read, this one is great fun and features the sort of oddball premise you're unlikely to find in a mainstream title: while standing outside a bank waiting for Iron Man to finish his banking, Spider-Man and the Hulk notice a poster advertising a country-and-western performance by super-villain Klaw. Convinced that evil is afoot, the heroic trio takes in the show, waiting for Klaw to tip his villainous hand. But he seems to have honestly turned over a new leaf, and Iron Man's over-reaction to an innocent act on Klaw's part makes the heroes look like jerks.

Is Klaw really reformed? What does the Hulk think of country music? You'll have to read the story to find out, but trust me, it's worth it. And it's not leaving my collection after all.

Highly recommended fun for the whole family.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Sunday Funnies: Yotsuba&!

I love Yotsuba&!. From manga-ka Kiyohiko Azuma, creator of Azumanga Daioh, Yotsuba&! follows wide-eyed innocent Yotsuba as she finds joy in the simplest of things, from getting ice cream to going to the beach. It's fun, sweet, and at times laugh-out-loud hilarious. This one-page excerpt gives only a hint of what's in store for you if you pick up a volume. I highly recommend it to anyone, regardless of whether or not they're a fan of manga.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Don't Be A Fool

Although I've never, to my recollection, read a comic with the original Foolkiller in it, I must admit that I found his story as related in the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe rather intriguing; the psychologically unbalanced moralist seems like a natural for the vigilante schtick, and it's interesting to see which vigilantes get the implicit approval of the publisher (Punisher, for instance) and which do not. Also, maybe it's just my age showing, but I think he had a pretty striking costume:

It's certainly better than the outfits of the two who followed in his footsteps:

Foolkiller also got re-envisioned for the 2099 world, and the concept was revived for a Marvel MAX series. I don't know what the character concept's status is in the 616 universe.