10.18.2014

10.22.14 [#PicksOfTheWeek]

#PicksOfTheWeek is brought to you with generous support from my retail sponsor Yesteryear Comics. Make Yesteryear Comics your choice in San Diego for great customer service and the best discounts possible on a wide selection of mainstream and independent titles. Customers receive an attractive 20% discount on new titles during their first week of release. Yesteryear Comics is located at 9353 Clairemont Mesa Boulevard.

It’s another strong week, especially on the Creator Owned Comics front, so let’s get right to this week’s picks! I’m most looking forward to Lazarus #12 by Greg Rucka & Michael Lark. If you pushed me to answer, I’d probably say that this was the single best book coming out from Image Comics at the moment. It’s certainly high praise, but when you look at the gravitas of the aesthetics and the thematic extrapolations about collective social fears surrounding class distinction, resource allocation, and the wealth divide in this country that Rucka is systematically examining, then you’ll start to understand my position. It’s a phenomenal near-future world-build, full of intensity, and absolutely relevant. This arc in particular has been grand, introducing the Lazarus of yet another family, and building toward the titular “Conclave” sit-down meeting that’s equal parts organized crime commission and G8 style summit.

Image Comics also has Sheltered #12 out from Ed Brisson, Johnnie Christmas, and Shari Chankhamma, marking just three issues left. For my money, this is an all-star creative team, with Brisson totally grasping the inherent drama of closed-room interpersonal dynamics, Christmas’ lightning crisp art crackling with sharp angles and forced perspective, and Chankhamma’s sensual colors always delivering the right emotional content. She’s definitely part of the “New Wave” of colorists that I love, with folks like Dean White, Jordie Bellaire, and Owen Gieni. The final issue of Mark Millar’s mini-series is out, with Starlight #6 hitting the stands. I’m generally not a Millar fan, but the pure adrenaline rush and memorable characters really delivered, while Goran Parlov’s art is a thing of deceptively simple beauty.  I’ll also check out The Wicked + The Divine #5 from Phonogram alum Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie. The series is a bit like Saga or Sex Criminals for me, in that I think it gets slightly more praise than it actually deserves, but I still can’t resist the confectionary treat of McKelvie’s art style.

Not to be outdone, Oni Press is offering Letter 44 #11 by Charles Soule and Alberto Alburquerque, along with Stumptown Vol. 3 #2 with the team of Greg Rucka and Justin Greenwood. The former being the compelling premise of The West Wing meets Independence Day, rife with Obama and W analogues that shed new light on what’s really going on behind the scenes, while the latter is Rucka’s ongoing series of mini-series surrounding Portland based Private Investigator Dex Parios. Stumptown is as much about her personal struggles, social life, and psychological motivations as it is centered on any type of procedural thriller, and for that it’s a win. It seems like the boys caught a little flak for the slow burn re-immersion of the first issue, but at this point I’m basically a Rucka loyalist since he wrote my beloved Queen & Country, and while Greenwood’s style is markedly different from what preceded it, he’s definitely an emerging talent whose career arc continues to be noteworthy.

On the collected edition front, I have two great picks for you. First up is Wasteland: The Apocalyptic Edition Volume 04. This oversized velvety hardcover collects issues 40-52 of the Oni Press series from Antony Johnston, Chris Mitten, Justin Greenwood, Russel Roehling, et al. I believe this is the penultimate edition, with just one left to collect the final issues of the series, which is planned to wrap up soon at #60. It’s the definitive format you’ll want to own this grand epic in. Marvel Comics also has a new printing of the Alias Omnibus Hardcover by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos. For me, this is a seminal work, a contender for Bendis’ best ever, one that heavily favored the personality fugue and character deconstruction of Jessica Jones over silly ol’ straight-up superheroics, and was a forerunner to the modern street-level slice-of-life solo projects like Hawkeye, Iron Fist, Black Widow, Winter Soldier, Moon Knight, etc. that Marvel is now so fond of. It collects all 28 issues of the regular series, plus a peripheral What If…? installment. I also want to go on record as saying that Jessica Chastain is the only choice for playing Jessica Jones in any sort of TV or film adaptation. Your Argument Is Invalid. 

10.11.2014

10.15.14 [#PicksOfTheWeek]

#PicksOfTheWeek is brought to you with generous support from my retail sponsor Yesteryear Comics. Make Yesteryear Comics your choice in San Diego for great customer service and the best discounts possible on a wide selection of mainstream and independent titles. Customers receive an attractive 20% discount on new titles during their first week of release. Yesteryear Comics is located at 9353 Clairemont Mesa Boulevard.

Welcome back to our weekly look at what’s hitting the shelves, as I spotlight my favorite picks! This is a relatively small week, but it does contain some really choice material. Taking the lead is Manifest Destiny #11, which blends speculative historical fiction and monster mayhem. It’s a brilliant high concept: What if ol’ Tom Jefferson’s off-book spec ops mission for Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark was to investigate supernatural forces inhabiting the Louisiana Purchase (the real reason we got such a deal from the French!) as The Corps of Discovery charts a path to the Pacific Ocean? It’s rich with history, action, and imagination at the hands of writer Chris Dingess and artist Matthew Roberts, with lush colors by Owen Gieni.

Image Comics has other great material out this week too, everything from Rick Remender and Wes Craig’s Deadly Class #8 (another entry in Remender’s expanding oeuvre examining the parent-child dynamic, specifically lost kids in the vacuum of parentis absentia), to a duo from Warren Ellis that includes Supreme: Blue Rose #4 with artist Tula Lotay and Trees #6 with artist Jason Howard. These are both the kind of sci-fi that Ellis excels at, the former is a psychological mind-bender that plays fast and loose with non-linear time and the very nature of reality, while the latter is a more classic “what if?” concerned with the way man deals with the unknown, in the vein of an old Twilight Zone episode, but on a global sociological level.

Oni Press will also have a really good week, with The Life After #4 by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Gabo, a story that’s slightly comedic, but has bouts of poignancy, but isn’t afraid of sudden bursts of action amid the deeper mystery. It’s a real triple threat in that regard, and also unique for the “sidekick” (Ernest Hemingway!) sort of upstaging the ostensible protagonist of the series. I enjoy the book, and I think it’s still flying under the radar of many consumers. Also from Oni Press, Antony Johnston and Christopher Mitten are on the last leg of their grand post-apocalyptic opus with Wasteland #58, marking just two issues left until the series wraps. Johnston has taken the book in a completely unexpected direction with this last arc, with flashbacks to the present which predate The Big Wet and begin to explain the events we’ve seen taking place 100 years in the future.

Now, I don’t care much about Wolverine, or Marvel Comics, or a corporation’s intellectual property catalogue, and how they choose to manage event comics purporting a pseudo “death.” At this point, all signs seem to be pointing to the fact that it’ll be in name alone, ie: perhaps the character of “Wolverine” (as a masked adventurer) ceases to be for a time, but I’m sure Logan, nee: James Howlett, will live on. This gives Marvel the most storytelling mileage after all, they can bench him, effectively taking him off the board like Han Solo in carbonite, do all sorts of things on the periphery in the interim, and always tease him taking up the mantle again. But. All of that said, Charles Soule is a writer I respect, so I’m curious how he’ll snikt! the landing in Death of Wolverine #4 purely from a craft standpoint. I was sworn to secrecy, but at a recent event, he was generous enough to share with me what the final word of the final panel of the final page will be, so I want to see how he gets from point A to point B.

Lastly, on the TPB front, I’ll recommend Star Wars Volume 4: A Shattered Hope, the last entry in the Brian Wood run from Dark Horse Comics. This volume collects some fascinating material, including a two-part story that was very dark in tone about a black ops hit squad Vader puts together, all from the perspective of a young Imperial Ensign, who becomes disillusioned with her once bright-eyed military service. It also houses the somewhat rare FCBD 2012 issue, a short story involving an early team-up between Darth Vader and Boba Fett, explaining in part why this go-to guy is the Dark Lord’s Bounty Hunter of choice. With Marvel now effectively at the helm of forthcoming Star Wars titles, these 4 trades will likely go out of print, so snap them up while you can!

10.05.2014

10.08.14 [#PicksOfTheWeek]

#PicksOfTheWeek is brought to you with generous support from my retail sponsor Yesteryear Comics. Make Yesteryear Comics your choice in San Diego for great customer service and the best discounts possible on a wide selection of mainstream and independent titles. Customers receive an attractive 20% discount on new titles during their first week of release. Yesteryear Comics is located at 9353 Clairemont Mesa Boulevard.

This is a huge week for me. I’m probably most enamored of Punks #1 by Kody Chamberlain (Sweets) and Joshua Hale Fialkov (The Bunker, The Life After). This is a deadly team, as both writers are great at taking familiar genre tropes and spinning them in fascinating ways, often clanging them up against other genres, whether it’s NOLA-based crime noir, post-apocalyptic mystery, or purgatory cum buddy team-up. Punks is a decade-old web-comic come to print with new stories featuring the enigmatic Dog, Skull, Fist, and that scamp Abe Lincoln. Chamberlain’s art in Punks has a crafty way of capturing the throwback analog process and a crackling ransom note aesthetic in the digital age. I’ve read an advance of the issue and it felt like what would happen if Beavis & Butthead penned The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I don’t mean that as a pejorative either. Amid the sight gags and irreverence, I found it quirky, raucous, and laced with some cutting social observations. It’s nice to see Image Comics having a sort of Comedy Renaissance with Tom Neely’s The Humans, Ryan Browne’s God Hates Astronauts, and Punks.

Astro City #16 also hits the shelves, an always enjoyable series at the hands of industry veterans Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson, which has a way of exploring the peripheral edges of a shared universe concept and making those elements the core focus. There’s the inimitable Transformers vs. G.I. Joe #3 from Tom Scioli and John Barber, which is basically taking a nostalgic view of my Gen X childhood and refracting it through an indie comics lens. I’m also into Tales of Honor #5, which wraps the first arc, and is a surprisingly rich sci-fi series adapted by Matt Hawkins and Sang Il-Jeong, from the Honor Harrington novels written by David Weber. It sort of fills the hole left in the wake of things like BSG and the short-lived comic book series The Red Star.

If you want to lean harder into sci-fi, you’ve got a trio of great books in Black Science #9 by Rick Remender, Matteo Scalera, and (my favorite colorist working today) Dean White. Black Science has always read like a rejected FF pitch that was reworked into a more intense adventure of consequence, with cerebral elements examining the relationship between parents and children, a recurring theme in all of Remender’s work. I recommend Winterworld #3 by Chuck Dixon and artist Butch Guice, stepping in for the late great Jorge Zaffino. It’s sci-fi survival featuring post-apocalyptic drifters, in the vein of Whiteout meets Mad Max. I was very impressed by the first issue, so I’m also excited to see where Coppherhead #2 goes, a dirty, lived-in, sci-fi Western from Jay Faerber and Scott Godlewski, which strikes a nice balance between action and gravitas. I’ve basically told customers down at the LCS, “take your favorite Western and set it on Tatooine with heaps of social tension.”

There’s also Sex Criminals #8, a book which I can’t really pimp, you’re either already on board or you’re not interested. I’m curious to see if Wytches #1 by Scott Snyder and Jock can live up to the hype. Snyder is responsible for one of DC’s only real tentpole books in Batman, but I’ve always enjoyed his creator-owned work, whether it’s the Americana pervading American Vampire or the cinematic spectacle of The Wake, so I’ll give it a go. On the GN front, we have Battling Boy: The Rise of Aurora West, the next installment of Paul Pope’s project, this time co-written by J.T. Petty, with art by David Rubin (which feels a little old hat now since I picked up an Advance Reader’s Edition back at SDCC in July), but nevertheless Rubin does his best Pope impersonation and Aurora herself was one of the most promising elements of the first volume. Lastly, we have the CBLDF Liberty Annual 2014, an organization truly worth supporting, this time featuring shorts by Jonathan Hickman, Declan Shalvey, Jordie Bellaire, and Brian Wood, among others in the 48-page anthology. 

9.28.2014

10.01.14 [#PicksOfTheWeek]

#PicksOfTheWeek is brought to you with generous support from my retail sponsor Yesteryear Comics. Make Yesteryear Comics your choice in San Diego for great customer service and the best discounts possible on a wide selection of mainstream and independent titles. Customers receive an attractive 20% discount on new titles during their first week of release. Yesteryear Comics is located at 9353 Clairemont Mesa Boulevard.

It’s a relatively small week for me, but there are still some strong picks to be found. Leading the pack is Moon Knight #8 by Brian Wood, Greg Smallwood, and Jordie Bellaire, with cover at by Declan Shalvey. This issue features a bold structural approach right at home in the world of the ubiquitous iPhone, an installment of this crisp series that’s sure to delight with its willingness to experiment with the medium, examine our perceptions of public figures, and provide commentary on social interaction in The Digital Age. I’m calling it early; it could be a contender for this year’s Eisner Award for Best Single Issue.

If you ask me, Jason Aaron is responsible for (along with artist R. M. Guera, a guy who should seriously be working more) one of the greatest modern comics with Scalped, so I’m always up for more of his creator-owned work. If Southern Bastards wasn’t enough to stick in your craw, this week it’s Men of Wrath #1 with Ron Garney. Aaron’s work is so strong that I also read his work-for-hire projects, so I’ll give Thor #1 a look too, with art by Russell Dauterman, a much-ballyhooed female protagonist, and a lovely Fiona Staples cover.

So far, I found the first volume of the series a little more raucous funny, but God Hates Astronauts #2 will surely be good for a laugh at the hands of Ryan Browne, and I’ll also be checking out Gotham Academy #1 by Brenden Fletcher, Becky Cloonan, and Karl Kerschl. There’s a lot of expectation and hype already built up around this title, so I hope it delivers. I’m also curious about the Blackhand Comics Hardcover by the co-creator of Deadly Class, Wes Craig. I’ve been very impressed with Craig’s work lately, like some delicious blend of David Aja and Dark Knight Returns-era Frank Miller.

I’m definitely picking up Detective Comics #35. Now, I don’t think I have ever recommended an issue of Detective Comics, and I’ve been largely out on all things New 52, but this is special. For two issues, writer Ben Percy teams up with artist John Paul Leon (The Winter Men, Earth X), who is hands down one of the best artists working today. I’ve interviewed JPL and you’d be hard-pressed to find a more thoughtful craftsman. He’s been primarily applying his moody ink-drenched aesthetic to cover art in recent years (DMZ, The Massive), so it’s a real treat to see interior work. It’s an opportunity you shouldn’t miss. 

9.23.2014

Charles Soule @ Yesteryear Comics [Signing]


I’m happy to announce that my retail sponsor Yesteryear Comics has their next in-store signing scheduled for this Saturday September 27th, 2014. This signing will feature Brooklyn, New York based writer, musician, and attorney Charles Soule (Strange Attractors, Letter 44, Death of Wolverine, Superman/Wonder Woman, Swamp Thing, She-Hulk). He’ll be in the store from 10am to 1pm.

I’ll be working this event, so if you’re in San Diego, please stop by to say hi, support the creators you love, and support my friend Michael, owner of Yesteryear Comics. Additionally, I'll be acting as a CGC Witness and verifying signatures for those of you interested in submitting books for professional grading. For more information, check out Facebook.com/YesteryearComics.

9.22.2014

9.24.14 [#PicksOfTheWeek]

#PicksOfTheWeek is brought to you with generous support from my retail sponsor Yesteryear Comics. Make Yesteryear Comics your choice in San Diego for great customer service and the best discounts possible on a wide selection of mainstream and independent titles. Customers receive an attractive 20% discount on new titles during their first week of release. Yesteryear Comics is located at 9353 Clairemont Mesa Boulevard.

There’s something for everyone this week, with a slew of hot creator owned titles hitting the stands. There’s the drama of BKV & Fiona Staples’ sales juggernaut Saga #23 continuing its Shakespearean sprawl in the stars, the slow conceptual burn of Joe Casey & Piotr Kowalski’s post-shared superhero universe affair in Sex #16, and the unmistakable magic of Antony Johnston & Christopher Mitten’s dark fantasy series in Umbral #9. If you want to see some of the most inventive lettering, check out Thomas Mauer’s work on this title.

Rick Remender & Greg Tocchini’s series clicked for me with the last issue, so I’m anxious to check out Low #3, Matt Kindt’s opus is always an easy recommendation for reality-altering intellectual espionage, so check out Mind MGMT #26, and Robert Kirkman & Paul Azaceta’s new joint sees its next issue with Outcast #4, which has been an exceptionally easy sell down at the LCS (“Do you like The Exorcist? Ok, read this!”). G.I. Joe #1 offers an impressive new take on the property at the hands of Karen Traviss & Steve Kurth that is modernized, mature, and concerned with relevant realpolitik.

Letter 44 #10 is out from Charles Soule & Alberto Alburquerque, and I’m still loving the high concept of this series (military adventurism justified via ramping up R&D and creating battle-hardened troops to address an impending alien invasion) juxtaposed with contemporary real-world politics in the W and Obama analogues. (SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT: Charles Soule will be signing at my LCS Yesteryear Comics in San Diego this Saturday starting at 10am, so I’ll see you there!)

I’ll also be picking up C.O.W.L. #5, a real sleeper which has been delighting with its retro noir street-level take on unionized supes operating in Chicago, creating all kinds of social upheaval. There’s some great world-building happening in this series and it’s been flying under the radar, so get on board now. I’ll take a peek at Roche Limit #1 by Michael Moreci & Vic Malhotra because of a) their use of a cool scientific term I had to look up, and b) the fact that Malhotra is an artist I’ve had my eye on since his work on Thumbprint at IDW with Joe Hill. I think Malhotra’s going to be a big deal.

I’ve read an advance of the issue, courtesy of creator Larime Taylor, and I’m excited to see the return of A Voice In The Dark: Get Your Gun #1, a subversively dark thriller about college serial killings, which just nails the behavioral science of precipitating incidents acting as catalysts for damaged psyches. This once black and white series uses color well, by positioning foreground objects that really pop against the muted backgrounds to differentiate contextual elements and the main focus for our eyes. This issue sees Zoey rattled and off her game, for once getting a taste of what it’s like to be the one stalked and hunted.

But, my book of the week will be The Massive #27 by Brian Wood & Garry Brown. As the series builds to its crescendo at #30, the escalation of reveals to mysteries put in place dozens of issues ago has dazzled recently with babies, boats, and brave new worlds. John Paul Leon’s cover is eerily beautiful, with a painterly Hudson River School effect that would be at home hanging on the wall in a Fine Art institution. I’ve read an advance of this too, and with the startling moments surrounding the state of Cal’s health, additional hints at the true nature of The Crash, and Mary’s covert Ninth Wave ark, there’s the sense the creators are about to stick the landing in the most unexpected way. 

9.15.2014

9.17.14 [#BookOfTheWeek]

#BookOfTheWeek is brought to you with generous support from my retail sponsor Yesteryear Comics. Make Yesteryear Comics your first and only destination in San Diego for great customer service and the best discounts possible on a wide selection of mainstream and independent titles. Customers receive an attractive 20% discount on new titles during their first week of release. Yesteryear Comics is located at 9353 Clairemont Mesa Boulevard.

It’s another very solid week (especially if you’re a Warren Ellis fan) with Supreme: Blue Rose #3 and Trees #5 both arriving in stores. I’m also really looking forward to The Wicked + The Divine #4 with its pop myth quasi-religious treatment regarding the fickle nature of fame. There’s also Hemingway stealing the show in The Life After #3 by Gabo and Joshua Hale Fialkov (a writer I’m paying more attention to lately), in addition to Rick Remender and Wes Craig’s Deadly Class #7. I’m curious to see George Perez’s Sirens #1. I grew up on Perez art in New Teen Titans and it really informed my adult likes, so I’m hoping it rises above the slightly pandering and gratuitous vibe I get from the teaser images. For my money, the book of the week will be Manifest Destiny #10. Chris Dingess and Matthew Roberts have created a perfect blend of historical speculative fiction surrounding Lewis & Clark’s expedition being a classified mission to address mysterious forces, and art rendered in a style rustic and believable, with intense action and some of the best coloring happening in the industry today at the hands of Owen Gieni. It’s still a few months off, but I’m fairly certain this title will stand as one of my picks for best of the year.