Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Excuses, excuses ...

You might've heard, but there's a holiday coming up here in these United States during which we celebrate the right to eat our weight in turkey and then doze while watching parades and football games.

I'm no different than my fellow citizens and will be traveling for the rest of this week, so posting is probably going to be spotty to non-existent (but I'm going to try not to let that happen). In the meantime, why not cruise around the archives, or click on some tabs that catch your interest? Maybe there's something you missed, and I'm always interested in other people's opinions if you'd like to leave a comment.

Thanks for your patience, guys — gobble-gobble!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Cover Up: The All-Star Squadron #3

Looking at the cover to my copy of All-Star Squadron #3, it's easy to see something right off — I have read the hell out of this thing.

Part of the reason is the fantastic story inside (it reads like one giant team-up brimming over with both moxie and gumption), but a big part of it is the cover itself. For some reason, even though it's not a particularly original or artistically unique effort, it just grabs me every time. I have read this comic over and over again because the cover by Rich Buckler (and a mostly uncredited Dick Giordano) always lures me in as if it were a promising new adventure.

And make no mistake — this cover has plenty of promise. The image is filled with colorful heroes racing toward the center, given some extra pop thanks to a solid black background that is really a great use of negative space. The scene almost feels claustrophobic and certainly dangerous because of the implication of what you can't see. It's also a neat call-out to Dr. Mid-Nite, who is throwing a blackout bomb into the already inky scene.

And Dr. Mid-Nite isn't the only one on the move. There is absolutely nothing static about this image; maybe one of the things I find so compelling about this cover is the fact that it's just packed with action. Every character is doing something, and more importantly, interacting with each other. All of the heroes are converging on Solomon Grundy (amplifying the menace of one of my favorite bad guys) and you get the idea that it's because they have to; this isn't going to be a walk for the heroes, and you can see it in the expressions — this fight is a struggle. They're not winning!

A neat trick is how the artists put every character's attention on Solomon Grundy, which helps draw the reader in even more since you're then sharing the same perspective as the characters; the heroes are focused on Grundy, and so are you. I also like the over-the-shoulder point of view with Per Degaton; it's another piece of the whole that re-emphasizes the focus on the center and the closed-in feeling of the image. Plus, he's totally pulling a little Doctor Doom-style bombast, and how awesome is that?

All in all, just a solid and excitingly conceived cover that has some subtle design strength behind it. What do you think?


Just to share a little more of my love for All-Star Squadron #3, here's a page showing Plastic Man being a total bad-ass:

Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday Night Fights: El Gorgo will handle the introductions, lizard-face!

When I was prepping for the latest round of Spacebooger-sponsored mayhem, I had to ask myself a serious question: Is the time right to unleash a largely unproven but totally awesome young fighter? Is the rough-and-tumble underworld of Friday Night Fights the place to help introduce a mysteriously multi-talented brawler with, shall we say, mad skillz?

Can the crowd handle the sheer mind-blowing spectacle of a gorilla luchador delivering crippling blows and smack-talk to an airborne Servant of Dagon?!?

¡Fantastico! Why don't you tell the folks a little bit about yourself, big guy?

Couldn't have said it better myself!

If you'd like to get to know El Gorgo better (and really, why wouldn't you?), you can catch up with the full first issue at the Web site, and then check out the eight-page preview of issue #2. If you decide you like the idea of a Mexican wrestler ape fighting Lovecraftian horrors on the moon of Titan wrapped up in a definite Kirby aesthetic, show your support of independent publishers and buy your own copy of the first issue.

¡Que padre!

Following a link? Read more Great Caesar's Post here!

Panels from El Gorgo #2
Mike McGee, writer; Tamas Jakab, artist

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Review: Learning to love The Age of the Sentry

I'm a big enough man to admit when I'm wrong.

I don't like it, but I can do it. And in the case of The Age of the Sentry — in particular issue #3, which was released this week — I have to admit that my long-standing disdain for the character has been broken. The Age of the Sentry is just ... well, really good.

With writing by personal favorite Jeff Parker, a second story by Paul Tobin, and art from both Nick Dragotta and Colleen Coover, Age of the Sentry is, in a word, charming. And it's the best kind of charm, managing to avoid being cloying or precious and instead treating readers to light-hearted adventure that isn't dumbed down. It's nice to see some writers and artists know you can be silly without being stupid, and that keeping things straightforward doesn't mean sacrificing story.

Meant as a look at the hero's early adventures, the stories in Age of the Sentry are love letters to the Golden and Silver ages of comics, with unapologetic nods to the past of both Marvel and DC. By keeping things playful, the creative teams touch on these elements without being weighed down by them; a deep knowledge of continuity is definitely not needed to enjoy the book. The scripts — covering everything from a hillbilly powerhouse, a shotgun wedding for the Sentry, wonderfully ridiculous use of superpowers, and a lovelorn Manoo getting dating advice from Millie the Model — are a pleasure to read, and reminded me of how much I love the pure fun that's unique to comics.

It's easy to tell that the creators are having fun, too. Dialogue is a perfect echo of the period in comics it's trying to evoke, but with a subtle wink at the hyperbole that was typical of the time. Scenarios are wacky in the best sense of the word, and it all just shows a lot of heart.

The styles of artists Dragotta and Coover are very different, but they share a quality of being simple without being simplistic, and both are well-suited to the stories they're telling. Coover's art, in particular, is just freakin' adorable, and both artists helped draw me in. Add to all this the little in-jokes and asides like the recurring "E.E." initials, the "Design submitted by ..." caption boxes in the Millie story, and too many others to do justice to here, and you've got a comic that will appeal to anyone with a soul.

Considering my history with the Sentry, I can't believe I'm saying this — wholeheartedly, at that — but The Age of the Sentry is a comic you shouldn't miss. Get it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Pull List (11-19-08): Eisner's Spirit and Miller's Sins

It looks as if it's going to be a light week for me, but it also looks like there's going to be some solid stuff in this Wednesday's pile.

A happy surprise is The Spirit Special #1. This is supposed to be DC's way of whipping up interest in the Frank Miller-directed movie, but it seems like a dicey gamble to me. The special is a reprint of four Will Eisner stories — "Sign of the Octopus," "Black Alley," "Sand Seref" and "Bring in Sand Seref" — and from I've seen of the previews, you couldn't find anything less like the upcoming movie. This is a good thing if you're a fan of comics since Eisner's stories are acknowledged as groundbreaking classics, and the early word on Miller's film boils down to a stylish but shallow Sin City rehash. The difference is hardly a surprise to regular comic book readers, but I think if someone picks up the comic to see what the fuss is about, and then goes to see the movie in December ... well, it's going to be a lot different than what they might be expecting.

But at least they'll have picked up a good comic. I'm glad DC went with reprints of stories that made the Spirit such an iconic character rather than releasing some Millerized movie adaptation. A sample issue like The Spirit Special #1 is a good way to introduce the curious to comics, and who knows, maybe it will even spark some new interest in the old Eisner stories. You can never have too much Spirit in your collection, and this is a good way to start.

Also getting ...

Atomic Robo: Dogs of War #4

The Brave and The Bold #19

Supergirl #35 (yeeeah ... they got me with their shiny "New Krypton.")

Maybe ...

The Age of the Sentry #3: In spite of my all-consuming hatred for the Sentry, I have heard good things about this comic. A fun, Silver Age version of Marvel's Superman analogue is probably what they should have done with this character in the first place, and seriously, there's a good chance that someday I'll end up buying everything with Jeff Parker's name on it anyway. Plus, this issue features a hillbilly bad guy called Mountain Man, Manoo and Millie the Model! Sigh ... I am weak.

Crogan's Vengeance: The loose, cartoony art is strangely fitting and impressively expressive, and the promise of future chapters chronicling different branches of the Crogan family tree sounds like an interesting premise. Besides, it's hard to go wrong when you start out with pirates. Oni has a 29-page (!) preview online, so go check it out and see what you think.

Trading up ...
(Titles I either am, or will be, picking up in trade)

Ambush Bug: Year None #4

Ex Machina #39

Fables Vol. 11: War and Pieces (trade paperback)

So what are you picking up this week? Let me know in the comments!

Monday, November 17, 2008

We are experiencing technical difficulties ... please stand by ...

As you might have guessed, I wasn't able to get around to posting anything resembling real content (such as it is) today, but hopefully things will go a little more smoothly tomorrow and there'll be a shiny new Pull List released into the wild.

In the meantime, why not check out Andrew's sweet new digs? Or pitch in to help comic blog stalwarts Carla and Lance Hoffman, who are in the hospital recovering from serious burns they suffered after they were caught in one of the California fires.

Thanks for your patience; I mean, even the Human Bomb understands that sometimes you just can't get a post in, right HB?


Friday, November 14, 2008

Friday Night Fights: Superman reinvented 'power steering'

Things have been especially busy here at GCP-HQ today, but there was still time to squeeze in the first round of the new Friday Night Fights!

And even though this post is light on content, I think it's OK because the Supermobile pretty much speaks for itself.


(I wonder if our new ringmaster Space Booger has a ride like this?)

Following a link? Read more Great Caesar's Post right here!

Panel from Action Comics #481
Cary Bates, writer; Curt Swan, penciller; F. Chiaramonte, inker

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Another verse of the low-sales blues: DC cancels Blue Beetle

Thanks to Scott over at Hero Sandwich, I just heard the news that Blue Beetle — which labored for almost three years under the burden of consistently low sales — has been canceled.

As a fan of Blue Beetle I'm disappointed, and a bit frustrated. From the beginning the title has been a comic that was critically acclaimed, but for some reason just couldn't find a larger audience. It's a shame, because Blue Beetle could be counted as a successful reboot of a legacy character, bringing in completely different aspects while maintaining (and in some cases, even strengthening) ties to what came before.

Jaime Reyes was something new, but still comfortably familiar. A young Latino from El Paso, Texas, Jaime was thrust into the DCU community of superheroes, suddenly gifted with enormous power he didn't know what to do with. Watching him struggle, then learn, then begin growing into the hero he could be, was part of the fun. I saw Blue Beetle compared to early Spider-Man more than once, and that's not far off.

Blue Beetle was also rare in that it featured a nearly fully-formed supporting cast. Best friends, eventually a cool girlfriend, and most importantly family, were essential parts of what made Jaime Reyes an interesting character. You couldn't think of this Blue Beetle without thinking of the people around him, and you ended up caring about all of them because the book was about all of them. This Blue Beetle did not stand alone.

Obviously, I'm sorry to see this title go. Like Manhunter (and Robin, Nightwing and Birds of Prey), the pieces have been put in place so the characters can be folded into other books. I'd guess Blue Beetle will make more regular appearances with the Titans somehow, and will otherwise be popping up here and there in the DCU. But it won't be the same — Blue Beetle needed its own book in order to have its own voice.

It would be easy to point an indignant finger at the big, bad corporate overlords, but I really can't blame DC for the cancellation. And you certainly can't blame the various writers and artists who have worked on the book. I blame the readers.

As a community, we always complain there aren't enough quality books out there. But when a good title deserving of our support hits the stands, we're often nowhere to be found. Actually, there is a way to find us — just look for the latest poorly thought-out crossover event or one of a dozen books whose titles start with "X-." We get the books we deserve, and we lose the ones we neglect. We can't be surprised when a comic dies after we've starved it.

No, in the case of Blue Beetle (and unlike the on-again, off-again Manhunter), DC gave the title a fair chance. It's a shame more readers couldn't do the same.

Hey Austin, I'm talking to you

Like a lot of people who end up writing comic book blogs, I was lucky enough to work in a comic shop a few years ago. Even luckier, I worked with some great people who made the fact I was surrounded by comics all day the icing on the cake.

Two of those folks, Eric and Roy, have finally made their dream come true by opening their own shop here in Austin. Tribe Comics and Games has only been open a couple of weeks and, like most new businesses, could use your support. If you live in Austin, swing by the shop and give them a try — the guys know their comics (and RPGs and board games) and they truly appreciate their customers, so you know you'll be in good hands.

And hey, the holidays are coming up, so what better time to do a little comic book shopping? Because, y'know, some of us like getting comics for Christmas.

Just sayin'.

So if you find yourself in the Austin area, show Tribe Comics and Games some love. Tell them Max sent ya!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

WTF Wednesday: Zee Superman, he ees very French, no?

One of the things I always found amusing about Silver and Bronze age Superman stories was the incredibly goofy lengths Supes and Lex Luthor would go to in order to trick each other instead of just, y'know, bopping each other in the head or something.

A good example of this is Superman #416, which has Superman disguising himself not once, not twice, but THREE times during his pursuit of an especially slippery Lex (hellooo, Google search!). In all fairness, though, I should mention Luthor only breaks out the costume kit once. On the other hand, Superman disguises himself as a bum (Lex: "Get lost, vagrant!") and a soda jerk in quick succession.

But it's his last bit of camouflage that won 'em over in Cannes, using nothing more than a beret and an accent so bad you can actually hear it. Oui! Il est Superman français!

Hey, nice nameplate, Lex!

Well, sorta.

Panels from Superman #416
Elliot S. Maggin, writer; Curt Swan and Al Williamson, artists

Monday, November 10, 2008

Work-shmork — let's wrestle!

Actually, I've got a pile of work on my desk that keeps glaring at me, so all I've got today is a picture post. Still, it's Santo pinning the Devil in a submission hold while a sexy vampire looks on, which may be the single greatest thing you see today!

Originally published as the cover to Alter Ego #43

Dave Stevens, artist

Friday, November 7, 2008

Review: Kull #1 might be the most metal thing I've ever read

OK, seriously? Kull #1 is just awesome.


Alright, now that I've gotten that out of my system, grab a flagon of your favorite beverage, put on some mood music and prepare to hold the hell on because Kull does not screw around.

Mining the Robert E. Howard library one more time, Dark Horse has now completed its sword-and-sorcery, hard-men-in-hard-worlds hat trick by adding barbarian king Kull alongside its Conan and Solomon Kane titles. And I think I can say with nearly full confidence that this new series is already shaping up to be the best of the lot.

This isn't to take away from either title — both are excellent books, and I'm especially enjoying Solomon Kane. But Kull ... holy crap! Arvid Nelson's story starts off in the middle of the siege of the Iron Fortress — where some anti-Kull holdouts have dug in — and quickly spins off into treachery, full-on battle, a demon you have to see for yourself, hints of dark secrets, and then more treachery!

This book is packed fat with action, and it all serves to move the story forward. It's not an empty plot, either, and it looks as if there will be plenty of court intrigue to go with the swordplay.

The art by Will Conrad fits in with what's been done in Solomon Kane and Conan, and helps tie in the whole Howardverse idea Dark Horse seems to be putting together. More importantly, it's just gorgeous to look at, giving as much weight to the characterization and tone as the dialogue. If there was any doubt that Kull is a bad-ass, just take a look at some of Conrad's work, especially the fantastic splash pages which include an impressively majestic two-page spread. When I went back through the issue to count the number of splash pages, I was surprised there were only two — the art (notably assisted by José Villarrubia's colors) makes that much of an impact.

Thanks to that art, and the pitch-perfect scripting, Kull #1 has already put the series high on my must-have list.

Well, I did spend all afternoon making knuckle sandwiches ...

Attention fighters:

With the blessing of Bahlactus, the battle resumes in one week in a new ring — will you be there?


Thursday, November 6, 2008

Review: El Diablo #3

DC has been giving new life to some of its older characters for a while now, and Western hero El Diablo is the latest to be resurrected from the four-color graveyard. These kinds of updates are notoriously hit-or-miss, but overall I've been digging the new series written by Jai Nitz (with pencils by Phil Hester and inks from Ande Parks), and this week's El Diablo #3 is no exception.

At the heart of the action is Chato, a recently cursed gang leader and the newest Diablo who is trying to get even with the former right-hand man who betrayed him. Aided by a ghostly Lazarus Lane (the original El Diablo), Chato essentially tramples and shoots his way through the L.A. underworld in search of revenge.

I think Chato has a lot of potential as a complex character, and in this issue Nitz has done a good job of laying out a lot of the groundwork for exploring that. It's worth remembering that Chato was a hardcore criminal before becoming El Diablo and he definitely is an anti-hero here, doing things mostly out of a need to satisfy his own desire for blood and killing anybody in his way. I'm curious to see what direction he's going to take after the new status quo established in this issue, especially in terms of what he plans to do with his power in the future.

As it stands, Chato is nearly a sociopath, killing without a second-thought, and that's featured pretty clearly in the opening pages of issue #3. That doesn't bother me, but I think Nitz has a choice to make here: Either Chato needs something to humanize him, or the creators should just go all the way with it and let El Diablo be an otherworldly spirit of vengeance.

Personally, I like that the creators are taking things in a thoroughly modern, non-stop and ruthless direction. And man, was there a lot of story for one issue! It almost bordered on crowded with everything that was going on, but the story moves along at a relentless clip and never feels bogged down or confused. Hester's artwork — angular and energetic — works well with the storyline and captures the intensity of the action. Add in the subplot, a nemesis and a newly introduced villain and I wonder: How the hell are they going to wrap it up in the three issues that are left?

And as I mentioned in a previous blog post, I like this New West thing going on in the DCU. Between El Diablo, Blue Beetle and Manhunter (still can't believe that was canceled), some new avenues for stories with a different spin have been opened up. I like the idea that El Diablo — a tortured, Latino, paraplegic hero from L.A. — could be a part of that.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Get to know 'The Phantom Stranger'

In other breaking news, Rob over at The Aquaman Shrine has revealed himself to be a tireless cyborg or something, because he recently launched a new blog called I Am The Phantom Stranger.

As you might've guessed, it's dedicated to one of the most well-known unknown guys in the DC Universe (I wonder if he ever hangs out with the Unknown Soldier?), and it's already shaping up to be a lot of fun. Go check it out, why don'cha?

There's a new sheriff in town ...

... and his name is President Barack Obama.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Pull List (11-04-08): Robert E. Howard keeps taking my money

I am mightily distracted today, so this week's pull list is going to be short and sweet. "Yeah, yeah," you say. "So what's new?"

Er ... look, comics!

Kull #1: The folks at Dark Horse seem determined to sack and pillage my wallet by reviving almost everything Robert E. Howard ever wrote. It's a strategy I can't find fault with, honestly, and I salute their shrewdness. I'm looking forward to reading a comic based on the exile from Atlantis and self-made king, and it doesn't hurt that it's written by Arvid Nelson — the person behind Rex Mundi. It's even got artwork that seems to fit with what I can't help but think of as Dark Horse's "Conan-style." I haven't decided whether that feeling of sameness (even though this, Conan and Solomon Kane are all done by different artists) bugs me or not, but I guess it helps pull all the Howard-based books together visually. Either way, the preview hooked me, and the title character isn't even featured; that's a good sign, so check it out for yourself and see what you think.

Also getting ...

Army @ Love: The Art of War #4

El Diablo #3

Maybe ...

Adam: Legend of the Blue Marvel #1: This could be interesting, or it could be more of what we first got with the Sentry. And nobody wants that.

Adventure Comics Special Featuring Guardian #1: I'm going to get suckered into all of these "New Krypton" books, aren't I? Dammit.

Sgt. Rock: The Lost Battalion #1 (of 6):
I'm a sucker for the sarge, and this one manages to be based on actual events and features both Johnny Cloud and the Haunted Tank. And there's no denying writer and artist Billy Tucci is a talented creator — I just don't know if I can wrap my mind around a good-lookin' Sgt. Rock. I'm sure I'll get over it, though — Joe Kubert can't draw the character all the time, right?

Trading up ...
(Titles I either am, or will be, picking up in trade)

Booster Gold Vol. 2: Blue and Gold (hardcover): Worth getting if you're a hardcore Booster or Ted Kord/Blue Beetle fan, especially since this has been good ol' fashioned superhero fun — but don't feel bad if you want to wait for the softcover.

Recommended ...

E.C. Segar's Popeye Vol. 3: Let's You and Him Fight (hardcover): This is the third in a series of six, and I dream of having the complete set on my bookshelf someday. Beautifully designed over-sized books give you page after page of daily and Sunday Popeye newspaper strips from when it was still Thimble Theater, and it's great stuff. If you think you know Popeye from the cartoons, you deserve to get these books; if you consider yourself a fan of the brawling sailor-man, you need to get these books. As a bonus, this volume also has two weeks worth of extra-large strips from Popeye and Wimpy's 1933 trip to the Chicago World's Fair. Funny, odd and somehow timeless, these collections are a rediscovery of an iconic character. To get a better look at the book itself, check out the preview video.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Cover up: Prez #1

Just 'cause, y'know, there's something going on tomorrow that you might want to be involved in.

Besides, I'm not sure there's anything in an issue of Prez — which chronicles the administration of the DCU's 18-year-old U.S. president — that's any crazier than what we've seen in the last two years of campaigning. (Or the last eight years with our very own Boss Smiley, for that matter.) Hell, take a look at this cover for Prez #1 by Jerry Grandenetti! Just glancing at it I see a Native American dude, a hippy troubadour, a monkey and ... who's driving, a Visigoth?! I'd swear one of the candidates had the same lineup of speakers during the primaries.

Anyway, if you're unhappy with the way your government has been handling things, head to your polling place on Tuesday and clobber them where it hurts most — in the ballot box! Do it for Prez Rickard!