8.19.2014

8.20.14 [#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.

Supreme: Blue Rose #2 (Image): There are several strong contenders this week. There’d be absolutely no shame in picking the flawless lush visuals and morality examination amid crumbling social structures in Manifest Destiny #9, the pop myth masterpiece of The Wicked + The Divine #3, Hemingway and his hemochromatosis upstaging the protagonist in The Life After #2, the overwhelming visual feast from Chris Mitten, Jordan Boyd, and Thomas Mauer in Umbral #8, or the perpetual outsider riff vis-à-vis pseudo-totalitarianism in Trees #4. Like I said, there’s a ton of great comics out this week. But, I’m inclined to give the nod to Warren Ellis and Tula Lotay’s Supreme: Blue Rose #2. The striking visuals are what first caught my attention (though I'll admit the sometimes inconsistent writing from Ellis has been far more "hit" than "miss" of late, just look at the 6-issue phenom that is Moon Knight), but honestly this is what Warren Ellis does best. It’s Warren Ellis channeling his inner Warren Ellis and ruminating on the act of the craft itself. Sure, the sci-fi message is about time as a non-linear construct, and with Lotay’s ethereal, slightly out of focus lines, the compelling premise is that if the loop has already occurred, we can message versions of ourselves from our current position. But, underneath the protagonist’s navigation of that structure is Ellis talking about process, the “protocolization” as one character puts it, similar to what Alan Moore starting doing toward the end of Promethea, a quasi-autobiographical infusion into the genre fiction. I’m feeling like this has the potential to be the best Warren Ellis creation since Planetary. That’s high praise considering I often tell people that Planetary is one of (if not “the”) best comic in the last 20 years. Grade A+. 

8.12.2014

8.13.14 [#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.

Star Wars #20 (Dark Horse): Well, it's the end of an era. For me, this is the last Dark Horse Star Wars book I'll ever pick up off the stands. Brian Wood, Carlos D'Anda, and Gabe Eltaeb deliver a satisfying conclusion to their run. By including Seren Song, a Rebel Alliance deep cover agent, and her stolen Imperial Geological Survey data, it offers readers the opportunity to read in between the lines and learn how the Rebels discovered the remote world of Hoth. The writing is totally solid, dialogue full of Star Wars-isms, fleshed out world-building, and clever new lines ("The Falcon grew talons." Wood seriously nails the slightly smart-ass voice of the ice-cold assassin droid IG-88.). But, one of the greatest treats is seeing Carlos D'Anda work his stout lines and Gabe Eltaeb fill them with a rustic sheen that's right at home in the Star Wars Universe. There are so many memorable moments here, from Seren's Y-Wing (always a design favorite of mine), to IG-88's menacing sniper shot from atop the IG-2000, to a forced perspective shot of the Falcon in full burn, to a close-up of Han Solo's swaggering charm, this was the Star Wars title that really had it all. I've said it before, but it bears repeating: This is the last great contribution to Dark Horse Star Wars comics. If you've gotta' go out, might as well go out on a high note. Grade A+.

8.05.2014

8.06.14 [#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.

Lazarus #10 (Image): There's a small handful of worthwhile books out this week, including Moon Knight #6, Spread #2, and The Bunker #5, but my pick is Lazarus for a few reasons. First, its dark aesthetic from Michael Lark is always the right vibe, and I loved little details in this issue like the damaged Statue of Liberty or the accuracy of the medical shears in a throwaway little moment. The brilliant world-building from Greg Rucka is just so right on, the fleshing out of families as Jonah Carlyle flees to Hock territory after a failed coup against his father and sister, the dystopian propaganda the serfs and waste live in, the juxtaposition of farmed fields with an urban backdrop, and the way Jonah's privilege comes crashing against reality outside the protection of his family's borders. There's an insistence on socially relevant economic fears and resource scarcity extrapolated to their natural extremes in this script, and it really shines with the incredible restraint shown in the dialogue department. Rucka, and David Brothers' editing I think, allow so much of Lark's imagery to carry the storytelling without any pesky dialogue. If The Godfather was crime families amid a twisted disillusionment with The American Dream of generations past, then Lazarus feels like crime families amid paranoid futurism about The American Nightmare in more current socioeconomic times. With the promising "Conclave" arc impending, which will witness a massive sit-down (maybe the biggest since The Macao Accords) between the heads of all the families, this has grown to become one of the best series of 2014. Grade A+.

7.30.2014

7.30.14 [#BookOfTheWeek]

#BookOfTheWeek is a column brought to you with generous support from our 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.

The Massive #25 (Dark Horse): Man, I’m running short on time again this week between career, family, and SDCC. There are quite a few solid picks out, including the wrap of the first arc in The Fuse #6 by Antony Johnston and Justin Greenwood (something I’m pretty excited about), Black Science #7 (I read the SDCC Exclusive Edition and it was terrific – panicked action sequences with a big narrative heart), Low #1 (which I also read in an SDCC Exclusive Edition, and if you dig Black Science, you will surely dig Low), the always strong East of West #14, and Jason Aaron’s new creator owned jam Southern Bastards #3, among other offerings. But, if I only had $4 to spend this week, it would definitely go toward The Massive #25. Brian Wood and Garry Brown (returned for the final arc) reward faithful readers by finally addressing the three central conceits of the series (Mary’s true nature, the cause of The Crash, the whereabouts of The Massive) and how they’re all interconnected seems to intensify exponentially with each of these latter arcs. There’s global action, mysteries unraveled, and it paves the way for more of the same in forthcoming issues. If Wood and his collaborators (including Eisner Award Winner Jordie Bellaire!) can stick this landing with #30, The Massive could be structurally one of the most different, emotionally one of the most satisfying, and critically one of the biggest sleeper hits in recent memory. Grade A+.

7.28.2014

7.23.14 [#BookOfTheWeek]

#BookOfTheWeek is a column brought to you with generous support from our 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.

Transformers vs. G.I. Joe #1 (IDW): Man, I am absolutely exhausted from the onslaught that is SDCC. That said, #BookOfTheWeek is an abbreviated version of the Weekly Reviews posts that allows me to still get something up when I don’t have the time (or desire) to post full reviews. I read Trees #3 this week from Warren Ellis and Jason Howard and it felt a little off to me, straying perhaps a little too far from the sci-fi premise in favor of human interest stories. Saga #21 was predictably strong, but failed to prompt any additional response. Winterworld #2 was a solid post-apocalyptic romp, and Supreme: Blue Rose #1 offered promising Ellis psycho-futurism with intriguing art. Avengers 100th Anniversary Special #1 was a fun blend of indie and mainstream at the hands of James Stokoe, but if you’re looking for that vibe, then I’ll direct your attention to the brilliant Transformers vs. G.I. Joe #1 at the hands of Tom Scioli and John Barber. With heaps of period research and reference, it captures a perfect aesthetic nostalgia on the page, managing to be both a retro commercialization and somehow an avant-garde art comic all at once. Everyone who, like me, grew up in the 80’s should be reading this book. Grade A+.

7.16.2014

7.16.14 [Weekly Reviews]

"Weekly Reviews" is a column brought to you with generous support from our 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.

Umbral #7 (Image): Chris Mitten’s opening shot instantly brought to mind the work of Guillermo Del Toro, and that ominous organic vibe continues through the dark depths, the vistas of light, and the crimsons of blood magic rituals. I think it’s Eisner Nomination time for Thomas Mauer. I’ve been astounded by the magic symbolettering in previous issues, and here it’s the subtlety of the letters fading out, and then back in as Rascal is transported to the Umbral. Shayim continues to be a favorite character, the tension vs. the Yuilangans, although now there’s doubt being cast her way as a secret plot shifts external attention from Dalone to Rascal, the suggestion of a traitor in their midst, though it could be an early red herring. It’s a great writing move, letting the audience in on information that some of the cast isn’t yet aware of. I also really enjoy the gender politics embodied by her and Rascal, the way Rascal feels she needs to bite her tongue out of character in order to protect her party. It’s probably no surprise that I need to comment on Antony Johnston’s writing, specifically some of his word choices. “Shit on your mother’s arse!” is a particularly choice goat-fucking phrase (hello, Wasteland readers!) that shows how an invented colloquialism effectively convinces us of a different time, place, and culture. There’s also a playful nature to the script, taking words we think we know, but then subverting them toward a different meaning, like what a “whispering” truly is. That’s a simple flick of writing, but is fairly brilliant. There’s another map in this issue, to orient us as Rascal journeys through different parts of Fendin to assumedly destroy the Oculus, and it made me draw the obvious comparisons to seminal high fantasy inspiration like Tolkien or Martin, and then consider structure. The first arc of Umbral was something of a “gathering” story, it’s the dinner party at Bilbo’s house, it’s Gandalf coming to The Shire for Frodo, it’s Robert Baratheon travelling to Winterfell to kick the plot into motion. I’m not accusing Johnston of swiping by any means, I’m merely fascinated by the universality of the structure, I wonder if in his plot outline it’s broken down like this, arc 1 is the gathering, arc 2 is the journey, arc 3 (or 4 or 5 or whatever) is casting the Oculus into Mount Doom or whatever the Umbral equivalent is. Anyway. The first Rascal cosplay wins a piece of original art! That’s huge! Get on it! #KeepYourTitsOn Grade A.

Manifest Destiny #8 (Image): Manifest Destiny seems to be getting stronger and stronger with each successive issue. There’s a killer cover team-up on this issue, which hints at the frenetic nature of the Corps of Discovery’s escape from the river creature they last encountered, as well as the increased attention to Sacagawea’s characterization. It’s great that she’s a bad-ass, but it’s not played in an overstated way that feels like audience pandering or gender tokenism, she’s smart, she has home turf advantage, and her lines are typically delivered in such a straightforward fashion that it almost plays like deadpan humor: “Two times. Two times I have saved you.” The work of Chris Dingess, Matthew Roberts, and Owen Gieni is one of those rare examples of composed parts working in perfect harmony to create something greater than themselves. It's what happens when all of the cylinders are firing in perfect sync. It’s the ring of accuracy to the historical fiction writing, the way the impressive art and some of the best coloring happening in the industry right now creates stark contrast between the metals and bold colors of the soldiers in relief against the greens and browns of the natural world, the hook of the high concept hook, the invention of the zipline(!), and how one big fucking mosquito create one of the best series of 2014. Grade A.

The Wicked + The Divine #2 (Image): It’s quickly becoming obvious that The Wicked + The Divine is poised to be something special. It'll no doubt be one of those books that has crossover appeal and the mainstream media outlets will be ranking in their best of the year lists. You get the sense that this is really the story that Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie were waiting to tell for years, even back when they first conjured Phonogram out of thin air in a way that seemed to innovative, at a time when not a lot of flash was really coming out of the "old" Image Comics. Phonogram was merely prologue to The Wicked + The Divine, a test-run for the story of cyclically reemerging gods, their witness, and a type of pop mythology that also examines social commentary vis-à-vis the homogeneity of the spiritual and the corporeal. McKelvie also seems to be stretching his already glorious abilities, infusing the clean austerity of his lines with more static and chatter in scenes like the delightful descent to the underground, and the very nature of The Morrigan. There’s also one of the best renditions of Lucifer this side of him abdicating the throne, tossing Morpheus the key to the gates of hell, and just... leaving in Sandman (which will forever be one of my Lucifer Portrayal Gold Standards). #IntangibleCunnilingus Grade A.

7.11.2014

Mini Kus! #22, #23, #24, #25 @ Comics Bulletin [Small Press]


I reviewed the new wave of mini comics from Latvia's Kus! Comics over at Comics Bulletin.