Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Pull List (7-1-09): The rise of Steve Rogers

Yes, I realize this is the latest step in some big marketing plan over at Marvel, and yes, I'm tired of the Big Two cynically killing off popular characters only with the plan to even more cynically bring them back to life eventually and, assumedly, with a bump in profits.


But in the case of Captain America: Reborn #1 it all comes down to one simple thing: Ed Brubaker. Brubaker is a capital-W writer, and he's been laying the groundwork for this story — which should already be considered a milestone in the character's history — for years. YEARS. And, with very few bumpy issues here and there, it has been exceptionally solid. Wait, rewind, let's edit that: It's been exceptional. Period.

With Captain America, Brubaker brings his noir sensibility to what could easily be tossed off as just another superhero comic. But in a way he's brought Captain America back to its espionage roots, rounding up and tightening a supporting cast that spans decades and myriad storylines and making it mean something. It's a complex (but not complicated) plot, and no easy feat, but Brubaker makes it seem like a slice of warm pie.

How good has Brubaker's run been with Captain America? Good enough that the Captain America character has been "dead" for more than two years and the series is as strong as ever. I'm sure there has been plenty of direction from the Marvel editorial honchos, but I'm pretty confident that the story is Brubaker's. It makes a difference.

So yes, I'm looking forward to seeing the return of Steve Rogers, because I'm looking forward to seeing where the story itself goes next. Want to get a jump on it yourself? Here's a handy prelude!

What else is on the list

Agents of Atlas #7

Batman and Robin #2

Greek Street #1

Muppet Robin Hood #2

The Muppet Show #4

And maybe ...

Justice League: Cry for Justice #1

Star Wars: Invasion #1

Waiting for the trade

El Diablo: The Haunted Horseman (trade paperback)

Secret Six #11

Waiting for the library

Chew #2

Daredevil: Noir #4


Tales Designed to Thrizzle Vol. 1 (hardcover)

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Monday Fly: 'I found myself once again in a hospital bed, from where I am writing this letter."

If you've been following along (and if you haven't, what's the matter with you?), you may remember some mention of the Human Fly's failed attempt to jump 26 buses in Montreal using a rocket-powered motorcycle, and you might have even caught the subtle hint that the Fly might have been considering a musical career.

But "subtle" was never the Human Fly's bag, so even though Marvel had helpfully announced his rock 'n' roll plans and dramatized the fallout from the bus jump, the Canadian stuntman thought the fans should hear it straight from the Fly himself. After all, he was the wildest superhero ever — "because he was real!"

It's an interesting bit of cross-promotion, further blurring the lines between the real-life Human Fly and his comic book counterpart. Marvel would do it again in a later issue when it turned the Fly's visit to the company offices into a two-page photo spread (complete with added word balloons and running commentary). First, though, came this letter, purportedly written by the daredevil after he found himself back in the hospital after the disastrous Montreal stunt.

Sorry about the scan quality; this comic's more than 30 years old, y'know! But click the image for a bigger version, and then tell me — does anyone else find the Fly's writing style oddly formal? Who knew he was such a man of letters?

Letter from The Human Fly #13

Friday, June 26, 2009

Oh ... hello.

You may have noticed, but things have been a little quiet around these parts. Let's chalk it up to a suddenly busy day job and a vague sense of exasperation, and wrap it up with some Perry White mind-bending:

I suspected as much!

Aaaanyway, things will be back on schedule from here on — thanks for hanging in there!

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Monday Fly: ... Only chance is a DIRECT ASSAULT!


Panel from The Human Fly #7
Bill Mantlo, writer; Lee Elias, artist; Mike Esposito, inker

(That's right, it's a call-back, bitches!)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Friday Night Fights: Dimebag has a posse

If I had to suddenly get some men together to go round up those no-good Bolling boys, I think my first choice might be the members of Pantera — they seem to have the right attitude for the job.

Here we come, reach for your gun
And you better listen well my friend,

You see, its been slow down below,
Aimed at you, we're the cowboys from hell!

Deed is done, again we've won
Ain't talking no tall tales friend,

Cause high noon, your doom,
Comin' for you, we're the cowboys from hell!

Second choice: Willie Nelson and the Ghost of Johnny Cash.

Panels from "Luke Short's Bounty Guns"
Adapted from "Bounty Guns" by Luke Short; comic writer and artist uncredited

Lyrics from "Cowboys from Hell" by Pantera

Ass-kicking hosted by Spacebooger!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Some random thoughts about comics, and the greatest thing you'll see this week

Over on its blog The Source, DC just announced writer James Robinson and artist Mark Bagley will be taking over as the creative team for Justice League of America in October. I think that's good news; I've been enjoying Robinson's work on Superman, and of course he's the author of an amazing run on Starman, so I've got my fingers crossed that he'll be doing something interesting with the JLA.

I do feel a little bad for current JLA writer Dwayne McDuffie, though. He just found out he was getting the boot a few weeks ago, and even though he's apparently been less than happy during his tenure it still seems he had some ideas he wanted to explore. That said, I haven't read a JLA book in a long time, including McDuffie's. Maybe a change will do the title some good.

Personally, it'd be great to read Justice League again. I miss the chemistry of a team book, and I was always more a JLA man than an Avenger's guy. As a matter of fact, let's make that a poll! And let's keep it simple: JLA or Avengers, who ya got? Vote for your favorite in the sidebar, and be sure to stump for your team in the comments.


As long as you're answering questions, let me ask another: Have your buying habits changed?

This week, between the special issues and newly higher-priced titles, I definitely had to be more choosy about what I picked up. As a matter of fact, I had to leave a couple of books behind because it didn't fit into my weekly budget (keep in mind it's fairly modest compared to some). I'll still be picking them up sometime in the future, but that's when — and if — it fits into the expense account. Is anyone else feeling the effects of higher cover prices?


Speaking of this week's comics — was the wrap-up for Mysterius The Unfathomable awesome or what? Sure, it was slightly unfathomable itself thanks to a lot of threads that had to be stitched together all at once, but it's nothing a quick re-read of past issues won't fix. And in any case, this is a series worth re-reading anyway. If you weren't getting this in single issues (shame on you), be sure to get it when it comes out in trade — it's great work from Jeff Parker and Tom Fowler, whose artwork I want to make sweet, sweet love to.


And now, as promised, the greatest thing you'll see this week:

Panel from Captain America #600 (originally published in Captain America Comics #16)
Stan Lee, writer; Al Alvison, artist

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

From deep space ...

I'm still recovering from a long weekend (wah, wah, waaaahh!) so it seems like a good time to share this ad for Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

One of the interesting things about reading back issues is poring over the cultural baggage that older comics carry with them. There are the usual half-page advertisements crammed with tiny images of X-ray specs and stink bombs, but every now and then you might come across something like this. Isn't that a gorgeously designed movie poster? It's about 30 years later and that image still makes me want to see that movie.

And what the hell, Leonard Nimoy?!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Review: Blue Beetle lifts leaden Booster Gold

So have you ever gotten something you know you don't like just because there's one small part of it that you really, really want? Like a crappy burger that comes with awesome fries, or an action figure multipack that has three Luke Skywalkers and one pimpin' Lando?

Well, that's what buying Booster Gold #21 was like for me.

This week's Booster Gold was the first of a handful of DC titles that will begin featuring a back-up story (and an extra buck added to the cover price), which in this case means the return of the recently canceled Blue Beetle. Like other comics I enjoyed and then watched get the ax, Blue Beetle will get new life piggybacking onto another title with a smaller page count but an ongoing story. In that regard, I can't complain too much since it means I sort of get to keep reading a title I didn't think should have been canceled in the first place.

But here's the problem: I stopped reading Booster Gold somewhere around issue #15. The writing (from Chuck Dixon to Rick Remender to current writer/artist — and original Booster Gold creator — Dan Jurgens) became stiff, shifting in tone from fun and creative to surly and convoluted. Story points (Booster still pines for recognition! Booster chafes under Rip Hunter's rules! Rip Hunter has a secret!) were beaten again and again until it was a soft, tasteless mush.

As far as I can tell, nothing new has happened in the last six issues.

Booster Gold #15 reads like a jumping-on story, full of characters filling the readers in on the highlights and putting little sticky tags on everything so we know what a Time Sphere looks like. And honestly, that's fine. Since it's an issue launching a new back-up feature, it makes sense DC would want to ease potential new readers into a story with built-in complications (time travel, y'know). But that doesn't mean it has to be ... well, dull.

In 20 pages of story, nothing really happens. Rip Hunter scowls a lot (who decided he needed to be a grumpy bad-ass, anyway?). And there's the requisite hero-on-hero fight over a misunderstanding. Then the bad guy shows up, promptly disappears and that's pretty much it. I ended up feeling burned because this is exactly the reason I stopped picking up this book in the first place.

But here's the worst part. That Blue Beetle back-up story? It was freakin' great. I'll admit, I was already excited about it (I even read it first, before reading the Booster Gold story), and it didn't disappoint. With a script by Matthew Sturges and art by Mike Norton, Blue Beetle hummed along with the fun, engaging, character-driven vibe that made it a personal favorite when it was a stand-alone title.

I hesitate to say it, but scenes showing the kids posing as reporters, the strain between newly minted couple Paco and Brenda, and a giant robot called THINKO! was nearly worth the $3.99 price tag alone. Which is the sort of thing I'm sure DC would like to hear, since I'm assuming part of the idea behind the back-up stories is finding an outlet for popular characters (who can't seem to carry their own book) while goosing other titles that could probably use the lift.

And it could work, because I'm one of those readers looking forward to following the ongoing adventures of Blue Beetle and his well-rounded cast on a monthly basis — even though it means I'll be buying a comic I otherwise don't enjoy.

In that sense, I guess the joke's on me: I've got my Lando, but I'm also being stuck with all that Luke.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Rack: Year One (Mostly) — bought and paid for

Won't you do the same?

OK, let me tell you a little bit about The Rack — it is undoubtedly one of the best, and certainly one of my favorite, Web comics out there. Yes, for better or worse, I'm placing the strip by writer Kevin Church and artist Benjamin Birdie on the same shelf I put The Order of the Stick and The Adventures of Dr. McNinja.

You may know Church from his popular blog, and the wit and sense of barely restrained aggression will be familiar to regular readers. But The Rack is much more than you might expect. When it wants to be, the strip can be heart-warming. It's often brutally honest. Sometimes it's bittersweet. And it's always, always funny.

Church has a great ear for dialogue, and it's easy to tell storylines are planned out and character growth has been built in. You quickly learn to care about these people who work at your local comic shop (forgetting, for a second, that the shop and its employees don't really exist).

Birdie's art is equally important to how well the strip works. There have been guest artists over the course of The Rack's run, but it says a lot about the regular artist that — no matter how good the fill-ins are — his work is what the characters are "supposed" to look like. When I think about the strip, it's Birdie's work I see.

It doesn't hurt that he continues to refine his work with each new strip, and the assurance he has with this world he's chronicling is evident. I also like that Birdie's drawings encourage the reader to pay attention — half the jokes are in the background, and the expressions on any given character's face help nail down the rest.

So yeah, basically I'm a fan. And to put it simply, if you like stuff that's good, pick up a copy of The Rack Year One (Mostly).

Disclosure: Kevin Church is what I consider an "Internet buddy," meaning we sometimes exchange e-mails and curse good-naturedly at each other. But that doesn't mean I would buy the book — or encourage someone else to buy it — if I didn't like it. We good? Awesome!

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Monday Fly: No good! Chute's slowing me down!


Panel from The Human Fly #13
Bill Mantlo, writer; Frank Robbins, penciller; F. Springer, inker

Psst!: (I usually let the Fly speak for himself, put in this case I thought it was worth noting the parachute is meant to slow him down as he slaloms down "America's tallest mountain" — on rocket skis.)

Friday, June 5, 2009

Friday Night Fights: I mean, have you seen how those guys play hockey?!

Not for nothin', but y'know who kicks ass?

That's right — Canadians.

O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.

With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!

From far and wide,
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee!

With a national anthem like that, Ranark the Ravager didn't have a chance against Sasquatch, our orange-furred boy from the Great White North. True, Ranark might technically be Canadian too, but seriously — that guy's just a dick.

Following a link? Read more Great Caesar's Post here! (And if you're not, be sure to check out more musical mayhem over at the Spacebooger arena.)

Pages from Marvel Two-in-One #84
Tom DeFalco, writer; Ron Wilson, penciler; Chic Stone, inker

Lyrics from "O! Canada," composed by Calixa Lavallée; original French lyrics by Sir Adolphe-Basile Routhier.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Marvel's license to shill

Flipping through an old comic earlier, I came across this:

It's weird, but along with Marvel's Rom, Micronauts and (arguably) GI Joe, the Shogun Warriors is an example of comic characters that lasted as long — or longer — than the toy lines that inspired them.

I never owned any of the toys or comics myself, but those 5-inch die-cast versions sound pretty sweet. Unfortunately, I must have ignored this ads' urging because I actually did end up missing it.

Anybody remember this comic or the toys they were hawking? If you do, share your Shogun memories in the comments!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Pull List (6-3-09): To the Batmobile!

I know it probably seems as if I just squee and drop my pants in excitement every time Grant Morrison has a new book coming out, but I can't help but be really excited about Batman and Robin #1.

Pairing up again with artist Frank Quitely, the team is hopefully going to do for the Dynamic Duo what they did for the Man of Steel with All Star Superman — which was SUPERB. Morrison and Quitely's AS Superman was some of the best recent work from two talented creators, and I don't see any reason they wouldn't be able to carry that same momentum over into this new title.

On top of that (correct me if I'm wrong, Internets!), I think this is the first full appearance of Dick Grayson in the cowl with Damian as the Boy Wonder. Normally this transition would have me hoping for the best while expecting the worst, but I'm genuinely looking forward to seeing how Morrison handles it. And I know I say it whenever it comes up, but Quitely's art just gets better and better, and what I've seen of this title looks fantastic (you can see some preview pages right here).

I haven't bought a Batman title regularly in years; Batman and Robin #1 is changing that.

What else is on the list

Agents of Atlas #6

Atomic Robo and the Shadow From Beyond Time #2

Captain Britain and MI-13 Annual #1

The Muppet Show #3

Seaguy: The Slaves of Mickey Eye #3

Superman: World of New Krypton #4

And maybe ...

Captain Blood: Odyssey #1: Damn my weakness for pirate stories! Actually, I'm tempted by the idea that it's supposedly faithful to the original novel, and the interior art looks appropriately lush (though, what's up with that cover? Blech.).

Final Crisis Aftermath: Run #2: This might have to wait until trade, but I like that it's unapologetically meant to be a mini-series "full of trashy humor and unneccessary violence." A preview is available from the DC site, in case you're still trying to make up your mind, too.

Timestorm 2009-2099: Spider-Man: Ha ha ha!! Just kidding — I couldn't resist pointing out that incredibly lame-o name. Timestorm ... hee!

Waiting for the trade

Secret Six #10

Jersey Gods #5

Waiting for the library

Mighty #5

Chew #1


Daredevil Omnibus Vol. 1 (Brubaker and Lark): I normally try to avoid recommending hard covers or collections that are just, y'know, FREAKIN' EXPENSIVE. But if you're a fan of well-written noir that just happens to be about a blind superhero — and you've got an extra $74.99 laying around — this collection by Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark is well worth it (it's also available from Amazon for a very reasonable $47). The creative team just consistently put Daredevil through the wringer, and makes you care about Matt Murdock and the people around him every inch of the way. It's great storytelling, and will likely go down as a definitive time in the character's development. If you can, you should pick it up.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Monday Fly: The sharks circled warily ...



Panel from The Human Fly #3
Bill Mantlo, writer; Lee Elias, artist