Julie’s Top 10 Comics of 2011!

It’s that time of year again! Where, as the end of the year approaches, we cling on desperately to the memories of the last 12 months, already nostalgic for the most possible recent past! Hooray!
And with that in mind, here I am again to count down the top 10 best comics of the last year, putting them up on the mantle, and silently nodding in admiration.

As always, I’ll note that as a rule, I don’t put anything that made this list last year in the top 10. I note this largely as an apology to “Amazing Spider-man”, which was so awesome this year, mostly due to the big“Spider-Island” story, which was probably the best “event” comic I’ve ever read. Bravo.

But beyond that, let’s get to the list!

#10 – Batgirl Volume 3 – DC Comics
Writer: Bryan Q. Miller
Artists: Dustin Nguyen, Pere Pérez, Ramon Bachs

When it came to superhero comics this past year, the overarching theme for me was books that were willing to let themselves just be fun, all-ages friendly, big silly comic books. Batgirlis one of the best examples of the trend. It also meets another popular trend, being an awesome book I was late to the game on, and only started reading mere months before it’s inevitable cancellation! So that’s great.

Starring Stephanie Brown, formally the Spoiler, as the new Batgirl in town, this series was a non-stop good time. Mostly made up of smaller, 1-3 issue stories, the book sling-shot between Batgirl’s fights with original villains working for an evil campus-based cult, the wackiest team-ups possible with dudes like Klarion the Witch Boy, and her attempts at normal college life.

With much conversation this year about…. less then stellar female leads in some comics, it’s important to shine focus on the good ones. As the brighter, happier black sheep of the Batman family, Stephanie isn’t the most pathos-laden protagonist, but she’s a great, relatable character that’s always fun to read about. Fun is the secret word of the day you guys.

#9 – Osborn Marvel Comics
Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Artist: Emma Rios

I didn’t catch this mini until it was released in trade, but I’m glad I did. After his incarceration at the end of the last big event book, big bad and “former” Green Goblin Norman Osborn finds himself locked up in the most secret, high-security prison in America. What follows is several issues of twisted psychos, political machinations, and one hell of a prison break.

Despite the title, “Osborn” has a few different central characters. Along with Norman getting to know his various cellmates, which include an ancient spider-god and a sociopathic genetics doctor, we also follow Spider-man supporting character Nora Winters, as she tries to dig up the dirt on what the government did with Osborn, and Senator Sondra Muffoletto, who must deal with the guilt and repercussions of locking Osborn up in a politically shady secret prison.

It’s the clashing character viewpoints that really sell this story. Marvel’s has been pushing Norman Osborn into a much bigger role in the Marvel U, and trying to make him into a more grey area antagonist at the same time. This is maybe the best effort at the latter, taking what we normally think of as a hand-wringing evil character, and making his train of thought a little clearer. The unexpected political angle of the story also does a great job keeping it from being a black and white conflict, as Osborn has a very valid point that he’s being detained illegally.

Emma Rios was one of my biggest surprises of the year, both on this book, and Spider-Island: Cloak and Dagger later on in the calender. He style took a little while to grow on me, but she’s quickly become one of my new favorite’s, with loose pencils and strange-yet-organic layouts. Can’t wait to see more from her!

Osborn

#8 – CASANOVA AVARITIA Icon Comics
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Gabriel Bà

CASANOVA is more than a little bit insane. This isn’t a shocking revelation to anyone who’s read the previous volumes, but even still,AVARITA still does it’s beat to break new ground in the crazy department. But beyond the cross-dimensional car chases and panda slaughters, beyond the surface level madness it throws at you, there’s something underneath. I don’t know if I can explain what it is, but it’s there.

Casanova Quinn, former alternate universe double agent (long story), now finds himself saddled with the task of erasing every possible alternate version of his arch-enemy, Newman Xeno to try and prevent his crimes in the future. But without knowing Xeno’s true identity, Quinn is forced to basically destroy entire possible time-lines. That is until hefinds out Xeno’s identity, and is then cursed with the somehow even more grim fate of murdering the same man over and over again.

The story becomes all kinds of trippy, but when you get down into it, it’s a fascinating story with a character arc unlike most you’ve ever seen, as it has to take place in such insane story parameters. It’s not going to be for everyone, but the people it is for are going to find some incredibly unique characters and moments that will stay with them.

#7 – Comic Book Comics Evil Twin Comics
Writer: Fred Van Lente
Artist: Ryan Dunlavey

When I read Van Lente and Dunlavey’s previous series Action Philosophers, I was riveted, despite not knowing much of anything about philosophy as a subject. The pair’s distinct talents for using the medium of comics as an educational tool, laying out the history and basics of the major tent-poles of the subject in a form understandable to the lay-est of laymen, is impressive.

So when they next tackled the history of comic books themselves, a subject I am already highly invested in, it was a pretty easy sell. But again, they’re use of the comic book form applies fantastically here, as they explain everything from the legal woes of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, to the reasons behind the “grim and gritty” takeover of the late 80’s, to current issues of internet piracy.

Things that are normally the less interesting aspects of an educational topic, like long quotes or diagrams suddenly come to life when Dunlavey melds them into the artwork, in many cases literally bringing the subjects to life to explain themselves. Again, I’m already heavily biased in being interested in the history being told here, but it’s done so well I have no doubt that anyone with a bit of curiosity can pick up this series and learn a ton of stuff they never knew they wanted to learn.

#6 – Wolverine and the X-men Marvel Comics
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Chris Bachalo

“Wolverine and the X-men” is the X-men book I’ve always been looking for, even when I didn’t know it. Back when the movies started, during Grant Morrison’s run, they toyed with the idea of turning Xavier’s into a more fully functioning school, with a whole body of teenaged students, as opposed to the usual dozen or so X-men just hanging around, not getting much of any “schooling”. This lasted a while, with New X-men taking on the concept of a team of students dealing more with their classmates and curriculum then with supervillains.

Unfortunately, the whole school concept was abandoned for years. I continually found it strange that with series like Harry Potter or Narutoseeing huge success with concepts entirely based around this “crazy sci-fi/fantasy school” concept, that the X-men had shied away from the formula.

Luckily, Jason Aaron comes out of nowhere with Wolverine and the X-men. Logan, the least likely of anyone, reopens the school, and the results are amazing. The new Jean Grey School for Higher Learning is completely nuts. Beast programed the Danger Room to work anywhere in the building. There’s floating classrooms. It’s built on a living patch of dirt. It’s infested with inter-dimensional imps! The X-men’s school is finally on the level of Hogwarts when it comes to just being an excellent fantasy for kids. You WANT to go to school there, despite the fact it might kill you.

The ramshackle cast of X-men that staff and attends the school work great. A collection of classics, fan favorites and newbies that all gel together and create a great dynamic. Plus, being drawn by Chris Bachalo makes pretty much everything better. Like I said with Batgirl, the biggest strength here is simply that it’s a FUN comic book. The most fun I’ve had with merry mutants in…. forever, maybe.

#5 – Ultimate Spider-man Marvel Comics
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Sara Pichelli, Mark Bagley

Brian Michael Bendis had been writing his updated, modern take on Spider-man for about a decade. The main draw of Ultimate Spider-man was the sense that, not having to adhere to continuity or tradition, anything could happen. So, just when you think you have it figured out, they say, “Hey, what if we just KILL PETER PARKER?”

If that seems like it’d never work, you wouldn’t be the only one that thought so. Even being a separate entity from the “main” Spider-man, Ultimate Peter was still pretty entrenched in readers minds. He’s Spider-man, and it’s not the sort of character you normally imagine being shuffled off and having their mask picked up by someone else. It just didn’t make sense.

But then… then he dies. Just like they said. The story of his death, drawn by original series artist Mark Bagley, was gut-wrenching. I got teary eyed a couple times. They gave him a death worthy of the name Peter Parker, that was for sure. So they pulled off that part. But still, how do you replace Peter Parker?

Well, that’s where Miles Morales comes in. A completely new character, we spend the first few issues learning about this kid (younger than Peter even, only 13!) and his motivations. First off, the surprisingly simple conceit behind his powers works just fine, and I was actually pretty pumped to see that he has some different powers than Peter did, which I hadn’t thought about beforehand. He’s likable, he’s relatable, he’s a Peter Parker-esque protagonist in his way. But there’s a moment. When he’s dealing with these powers, and he’s comes across a building on fire. And he runs toward it. He runs in and saves a girl without thinking about it. And then you know, he’s got it.

Miles isn’t Peter. His drive, his influences, his family, are all structured differently. He’s got his own thing going. But he’s got that spark. He’s got that I-don’t know what. He’s not Peter, but he is Spider-man. I never would have thought I could be convinced of that, but here we are.

#4 – Criminal: The Last of the Innocent Icon Comics
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Sean Phillips

The surface level pitch for the newest story from the library of “Criminal” limited series,“The Last of the Innocent”, is enough to hook a good most people. But that’s the easy sell. Let me try and work around it.

“The Last of the Innocent” is the story ofRiley Richards, a man who by all rights should be over the moon happy, having achieved everything he ever wanted. A gorgeous wife, a high-paying job, and the big city life he always dreamed of as a kid in his tiny hometown of Brookview. But after the death of his father, a trip back home starts to make him see all the cracks in his perfect world. He then starts down a violent road of crime and murder in hopes of getting back to the life he gave up.

It’s as great a crime thriller as any Brubaker and Phillips have given us before, but the added layers of the glossy-eyed flashbacks to Riley’s childhood, as his memories creep into his psyche, clouding his judgment and leading him down his dark path. It’s a chilling story of the dangers of nostalgia.

Still not sold? Alright, fine, here’s the easy pitch. It’s basically a story about a grown-up Archie going nuts and murdering his cheating wife Veronica? Are you morbidly curious enough now? Good.

#3 – Locke and Key IDW
Writer: Joe Hill
Artist: Gabriel Rodriguez

I’ve been feverishly devouring the four released collections of Locke and Key over the last year. It’s not the sort of thing that I would usually consider to be in my wheelhouse, but then, I’m not even sure what sort of wheelhouse it belongs in anyway.

Equal parts family drama, horror, and magical fantasy, L&K stands pretty alone in it’s own niche. The story of the Locke family who, after the brutal murder of their father, go back to Maine to live in his childhood home, nicknamed “Keyhouse”. Once there, they begin to discover a series of magic keys, each one having a different fantastical powers, like turning you into a ghost, or activating a mind controlling music box. Anything at all really.

The most interesting thing about L&K for me is how wildly it can swing back and forth in tone. The characters are all dealing with some seriously dark and violent trauma, but the series can still weave it’s whimsical aspects in and out of that story, somehow never feeling out of place. It’s a tightrope act that’s amazing to watch.

This year’s Volume 4, “Keys to the Kingdom” is an especially emotional roller coaster. It starts off with what equates to montage over a number of different keys and adventures, luring readers into a certain status quo after the last few volumes. We think we know what to expect now. Then some stuff happens. I’m not gonna get specific with spoilers here, but suffice to say they know just when to stick the knife in, and turn your expectations upside down. Well played sirs.

#2 – Daredevil Marvel Comics
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Paolo Rivera, Marcos Martin

This is sort of the final point to the whole “fun, lighthearted superhero comics” theme. Being steeped in pretty bleak overtones since, well, Frank Millar back in the 80’s, returningDaredevil to his more swashbuckling adventure roots was a long time coming.

But writer Mark Waid’s biggest success here isn’t just spearheading the tonal shift, it’s the fact he really earns it. Daredevil has gone through some really dark stuff the past decade, and just having him flip on a dime to happy-go-lucky Matt would be a pit of a cheat. And while that’s exactly what happens, it’s the reaction of Matt’s partner Foggy Nelson that saves the whole thing.

He knows that Matt’s new, upbeat attitude on life is really just a mask. Matt is in denial, and that knowledge gives the whole series a real interesting undertone. It’s still a fun comic, but it’s not just flippant of the series history.

While I don’t seem to talk about art in these things much for some reason (most of these entries have amazing art, by the way), it really requires mention here. Tag-teaming artists Paolo Rivera and Marcos Martin both blows the doors off this book. They have a similar vibe, but with their own distinct styles of panel layouts and really cool depictions of DD’s radar sense. While I was looking forward to seeing Martin on the book after his amazing work with Batgirl and Spider-man, and he absolutely kills, I was surprised to find myself really blown away by Rivera. I guess just not expecting anything caught me off guard, because Rivera ups his game astonishingly, and goes toe to toe with Martin at every turn.

Every other comic is probably mad at this one for taking twoamazing artists and not sharing.

#1 – Detective Comics DC Comics
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Jock, Francesco Francavilla

Not only is there two (TWO) Bat-family books on my list this year, one of them is number one!? I thought I didn’t even like Batmanthat much! I’m having an identity crisis here.

Of DC’s “New 52″, one of the standouts to me was “Batman”, written by Scott Snyder. A big win with a self-professed Batman hater. I knew that Snyder had also written Detective Comics for most of the year pre-relaunch, and I’d heard great things about that story. So I went and checked that out. And… well…

It’s maybe my favorite Batman story of all time. And Batman kind of isn’t in it. Taking place when Dick Grayson was operating as Batman, this is probably going to be the defining story of his short tenure as the bat. A series of cases that give Dick a crash-course in Gotham City, and the true horrors it houses. There’s mystery, action, intrigue, and everything you’d want from a Batman story.

But what really pushes it over the top is the secondary story, starring Commissioner Gordon that runs though the run. Dark secrets from Gordon’s past are suddenly drug up from the sewer, threatening to destroy not only him, but Batman and Barbara Gordon as well. In a series of books where the Joker is trotted out every two months to diminishing returns, this story creates a new foe who may be the most terrifying villian in Batman’s recent history. It’s rare that I find of comic book truly thrilling, but reading this book honestly kept me on the edge of my seat the whole way through.

And finally, it’s worth noting this is the only book not jelous of Daredevil, as it has it’s own all-star art team of Jock and Francesco Francavilla tackling the Batman and Gordon stories, respectively. It’s a wealth of art riches that most books can only dream of.


Filed under Comic Books


Hal-Con 2011!


This weekend! I will be a guest at this year’s Hal-Con sci-fi convention! Saturday, Nov 12, and Sunday Nov 13!

I’ll be at my own little table most of the weekend, selling books and art and swag and such. Doing commisions, talking to people, arguing about Transformers, all kinds of fun stuff.

I’ll also be participating in a few panels over the weekend, as listed below!:

Saturday –

Comic Panel
– 11:00 AM, Main Stage

All of Hal-Con’s featured comic authors and artists will participate in this Q&A/discussion/round-table event.

Sunday –

Comic Book Launch – “Where the Wild Things Read”
– 10:00 Am, Workshop 1

The all-ages charity book, What the Wild Things Read, (of which I’m a part of!) officially launches at Hal-Con and we invite you to join us for this exciting event.
Sales from the book benifit Free The Children.

Making Comics On The Web
– 4:00 PM, Workshop 3

Talking about making webcomics along with Dave HowlettKate Leth,Mike HolmesFaith Erin HicksTim Larade, and meeeeeeeee!

Be there or be a rombus! Math jokes!


Filed under Conventions & Events


Andrew Reviews the DCnU!

Detective Comics Comics     I have a history of being a Marvel guy. I’ve never taken some hard stance in the imaginary war, but DC comics has never quite been my bag, other than the occasional exception.
But with DC’s recent decision to hit the big red “reset” button and relaunch EVERY series at #1, they’re clearly making a big push to try and get more people on board. So I might as well give it a shot, right?
I probably won’t read every one of the 52 first issues, but I’ll try and get as many as I can, and share my impressions in this blog. Just a quick impressions of the introductory issues. I’ll designate each issue as either:
HOT – A great book that I’ll definitely be continuing, represented by Fire’s positive attitude.
LUKEWARM – A little iffy, but I’ll give it a few issues to find it’s footing. Pro level apathy from Raven.
COLD – Not thank you sir. Captain Cold disapproves.
Let’s get started!

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Justice League #1
Writer: Geoff Jones
Artist: Jim Lee

The DCnU starts off with the debut of the new Justice League, though we don’t actually get to see the League in the first issue. #1 is primarily just a team up between Batman andGreen Lantern. While I’m the last person to generally complain about modern decompression in comics, I feel a little gypped not getting to see most of the team. Considering this is out big re-introduction to these characters, it feels like these 2 guys are the only ones that are being presented to sell it to us.

Beyond that, this first arc is a flashback tale, showing us how the team was formed, so the characters may not be the best representation of their current selves. Batman’s the snotty jerk he’s been for a while now, and GL is kind of a rube. I didn’t really like either of them. Offering a bigger spread of characters might provide more chances to connect with at least one member. More so, they also don’t do much to set up the major event that will bring these guys together, beyond the name“Darkseid” coming up.

This isn’t an awful comic by any stretch. It’s a decent enough character piece (albeit with sort of unlikeable characters), and Lee’s art is good enough (but it can be fairly cluttered feeling at times). Ultimately, it just comes up short for a book by DC’s top creators, meant to try and propel this universe into a new generation. Being “alright” isn’t quite good enough. It needed to be great. Here’s hoping the seasoned team behind it can pull it upward from here.

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Batgirl #1
Writer: Gail Simone
Artist: Ardian Syaf

Of the revamped characters in DC’s new line, Batgirl was by far the most controversial. Original Batgirl Barbara Gordon, over 20 years since confined to a wheelchair after being shot in the spine by the Joker, could now walk once more, and was taking up her old mantle.

Surprisingly, the choice was not to undo her previous condition by way of continuity revamp, but her time without the use of her legs stands as cannon, and the story largely revolves around her readjusting to having her old life back. It’s an interesting story not often told.      The details of how she regained the ability to walk is so far unrevealed, but seeing Babs trying to start a new life for herself while never forgetting her previous one is very real angle.

As much as I respect the approach, the book doesn’t sell totally on it’s premise. The book’s voice is a little hard to place. The crime-fighting segments are fairly dark and a little brutal, not unlike other books in the Batman family, while sometimes coming directly after a more lighthearted moment (such as a motorcycle in an elevator) that’s more reminiscent of the previous series under this title. I not quite sure what the book wants to be yet.

The art doesn’t help much. It’s perfectly servicable, and in line with what seems to be the Batman standard, but doesn’t really grab me, or let me know how to feel about a lot of scenes. The title page is a big shot of Batgirl swinging along with a huge smile on her face, but the sky behind her paints a dark cloud full of foreboding lightning. What are you trying to tell me?

I’m willing to give Batgirl a chance, I just hope it figures out the mood it’s trying to convey, or at least plays with the dichotomy a bit better.

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Green Arrow #1
Writer: J.T. Krul
Artist: Dan Jurgens

Aww man. Green Arrow is one of the few DC properties that I’ve been a big fan of in the past, and having not read the book in a few years, I was hoping that this would grab me. Not… uh…. not so much.

Ollie Queen has been aged down significantly, cast as a young genius whose company is the world’s leader in fake DCU tech toys, like the “Q-phone” and the “Q-pad”. He’s basically a young Steve Jobs as a superhero. But beyond his quiver of high-tech arrows and a 2-man support team back at his headquarters, I’m not sure what he’s all about. Other than a vague line about some tragedy in his past, they don’t give us much motivation for this energized young hero.

The issue reads pretty bland. There’s nothing bad, I guess, but it just doesn’t give anything to latch on to. The characters are just there to deliver lines, with no personality to speak of, and the action is all by the numbers. It’s biggest crime is just being totally forgettable.

Wait, no. It’s greatest crime is getting rid of Ollie’s beard. You don’t loose a beard that amazing. CRIME.

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Justice League International #1
Writer: Dan Jurgens
Artist: Aaron Lopresti

Now that is getting a team together! In contrast to it’s sister book, Justice League International gets the ball rolling right away, and uses that momentum. By the fifth page, we’re introduced to the basics of all the main characters, and most of them are fleshed out, and likable, by the end of the issue.

This fresh start for the JLI re-imagines it as a secondary League formed by and for the U.N. Security Council, to have a super-hero team at their disposal.With a roster of heroes from different countries like Russia, China, and Norway, the team is placed in the hands of the attention craving Booster Gold. An always enjoyable fan-favorite, Booster quickly finds himself in over his head dealing with the dueling egos on the team, and his own weaknesses as a leader. The rest of the team is made up of big personalities, like the hot tempered Green Lantern Guy Guardner, self-absorbed Brit Godiva, or goofy stereotype Russian, Rocket Red.

With a simple and succinct introduction, an interesting hook, simple yet great artwork and storytelling, a diverse cast to latch onto, and a great sense of fun, this turned out to be the Justice League book I was looking for. Fire can recommend her own book:

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Static Shock #1
Writers: Scott McDaniel/John Rozum
Artist: Scott McDaniel

Another book I was really hoping to like, since I liked the cartoon and have been waiting for DC to really take advantage of the character. Despite being a prime candidate for the full reboot treatment, Static instead starts with a new status quo, moved out of his hometown of Dakota, and now living in New York, interning at S.T.A.R. Labs. How and why he got there is another matter.

The issue doesn’t provide much of any quick rundown on the character’s basics, which is surprising for lesser known character, especially if they aren’t starting from square one. I’m not super clear on how or why the Hawkins family moved to New York. There’s some strange mention made about Virgil’s sisters, but they seem fine, so it’s a little confusing what problem they’re implying. If they wanted to create a mystery, they don’t do a great job of letting us know it’s supposed to be one.

Ultimately, the issue is just a little long-winded and more than a little confusing. I understand wanting to jump strait into the action, but for a book with this much exposition, I’m not sure what’s really going on. It lacks in real story where it counts. Here’s hoping it can turn around, but going by this issue, I’m not sure I’ll stick around to find out.

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Legion Lost #1
Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Artist: Pete Woods

“Legion Lost” epitomizes a growing problem I’m having with these issues. Not that it isn’t good, but it feels like a good second issue.

First of all, I must say that this is some of my favorite art so far in the 52. Woods kills it. It’s a great style halfway between traditional action comic art and a Saturday morning flair. Nice and simple with loads of personality.

But back to my point. This is issue one, but at no point does the narrative give us an idea who or what the Legion of Super-HeroesARE, if you didn’t already know. Which is doubly weird as this was released before the main “Legion” title. And beyond that, we can figure out they’ve traveled back in time to catch a convict and prevent some manner of pathogen from being released, but I couldn’t tell you the origins of either.

Beyond these problems, I did really enjoy the book, and while I’m still not sure what the grander scheme of the series is, I feel like it’ll turn toward the better once it gets into it.

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Batwoman #1
Writers: J.H. Williams III/W. Haden Blackman
Artist: J.H. Williams III

Look, the minute this came out, it went from“The New 52!” to being called “Batwoman and 51 other books!” This book, a follow-up to the character’s exploits in Detective Comicsa while back, has been in production for a while. Originally planned to be released earlier in the year, it was held off on and pushed back to be part of the 52.

As a gigantic fan of the previous run, I’ve been waiting forever for this book. It was worth the wait. Even without original writer Greg Rucka, it feels just as enjoyable as it did before. Williams’ art is amazing as ever, and it seems like he’s as capable a writer, with help from Blackman.

The continuing story of Kate Kane, former solider turned crime fighter is highly engaging and a visual feast. It’s also a more character-driven affair then most Bat-books. I could sit here all day typing words of praise, but you get the idea. You want to be reading this.

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Swamp Thing #1
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Yanick Paquette

The return of the Swamp Thing has been built up for a while, and it’s final payoff seems to be worth the wait. Bizarre environmental phenomena are occurring around the world, and even Superman is at a loss, turning to the only man he thinks can solve the mystery, Dr. Alec Holland, former biologist, sort-of-former plant monster, and current construction worker. But Alec doesn’t seem interested in helping.

Swamp Thing has a pretty rich history, but the new series does a pretty great job setting up things for newbies. We know that Alec used to be… something strange, and he doesn’t intend to go back. But the bizarre past is coming back at him full steam.

The intriguing setup, fantastic art, and some truely spooky horror scenes plant a fantastic seed of curiosity to keep you coming back.

… I’m very sorry for those plant puns. I’m writing a lot of reviews here.

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Action Comics #1
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Rags Morales

I was a little skeptical of the big Supermanreboot at first. Action Comics is specifically going back and telling stories of a younger Supes, just a few months settles in Metropolis, wearing not a full costume, but a jeans and t-shirt look. Early info painted the picture of, and I quote, “A more cynical Superman for a more cynical time,”which didn’t sound particularly enjoyable to someone that appreciates a more sincere outlook form characters like this.

But I have to admit, they sold me. The younger, somewhat naive Superman, attempting to use his powers and reputation to stop white collar crime as much as he saves lives directly, is pretty fascinating. He clearly thinks he’s pretty bad-ass and on his way to fixing the world, but the narrative seems to be asking questions about those concepts than it is telling us about them, so it feels like it’s prime to set up a bigger character arc.

Morrison has a reputation of writing some pretty great Superman, and he keeps it up here, even in this new context. Morales’ art isn’t my own preference, but it’s definitely solid, and evocative of a certain Americana feel that sets the the mood of the book nicely.

And look, there’s this one part when Superman smashes a tank with a wrecking ball. COME ON.

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Detective Comics #1
Writer: Tony S. Daniel
Artist: Tony S. Daniel

The sister book to Action Comics isn’t quite as impressive, unfortunately. Besides the fact that this and “Batman” have flip-flopped creative teams, there hasn’t been much of a shake up on this front. Writer/artist Tony Daniel continues his Batman run with a dark, violentBatman vs. Joker story.

Have you read a Batman story at any point in your life? Then you can skip this. Batman is brooding and monologue-y, and the Joker is crazy and murderous. That’s about it. Beyond a kind of grisly cliffhanger, it reads like every Batman story ever written. I sort of forgot the whole thing when it was over. It just seems unnecessary.

Despite Daniel being both writer and artist, there’s some odd storytelling issues. The fight scenes are oddly paced, seeming to skip steps, making it somewhat confusing. Also, there’s this scene that’s paced and worded so oddly, it made half the internet think that they made Alfred a hologram construct. I don’t know how you do that. (I’m pretty sure he isn’t a hologram. I THINK. It’s weird that I’m still not sure is what I’m saying.)

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Mister Terrific #1
Writer: Eric Wallace
Artist: Gianluca Gugliotta

I didn’t have much of an idea what to expect out of Mister Terrific. I was hoping to like it, but that didn’t seem to pan out.

As opposed to many of these books, Terrific at least has the sense to give you a nice simple description of the character’s origin and setup, but does so in such a matter-of-fact way that it simultaneously lets you know everything and nothing about the hero. I can tell you about his dead wife and the fact he’s angry about that, but I can’t tell you I felt much for him. Which is a shame, because I like the character’s whole concept and vibe.

Maybe it all could have been saved by a strong supporting cast. But that’s maybe the biggest failing. There’s 3 supporting characters. 2 of them show up in the last scene, and while they were referenced earlier in the issue, I have no idea who they are ot how the relate to Terrificat all, which seems crazy. The third is Karen Star, formerly (Still? Will-be-again-later?) Power Girl. She’s not, maybe, a superhero at the moment, but I guess she’s having casual sex with Terrific? So there’s that? I don’t know.

The point is the book was dull and a little confusing. Also, was it just me or did it have almost the exact same opening as Static Shock? Weird.

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Deathstroke #1
Writer: Kyle Higgins
Artist: Joe Bennett

Alright, so in spite of myself, I found myself kind of enjoying Deathstroke. It’s not the kind of thing I’m really down with, normally. The super bad-ass who does bad-ass things and everyone stands around and calls him a bad-ass.

But for what it is, it’s fun enough. Superstar mercenary Slade Wilson finds himself on an imposable mission that leads him to some mysterious people that seem to be screwing him around, which he intends to put a stop to. If you’re into the sort of dark, bloody action it’s selling, you should have a good time with it. The twist ending reveals the book has a dark sense of humor about itself I was afraid it might not have.

I’m giving it the middle of the road grade, but larely because I’m not into it personally. Again, if it sounds like your bag, give it a shot.

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Batman And Robin #1
Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Artist: Patrick Gleason

Though it is a returning title, Batman And Robin has a somewhat new feeling to it. It stars Bruce Wayne and his son Damian, the current Robin, as opposed to it’s previous volume, which stared Dick Grayson as Batman alongside Damian.

The Bat-Dad/Bat-Son angle is certainly a fresh take, and it’s a decent book all around, my personal love/hate relationship with Batman notwithstanding. (It’s a little bit melodramatic at times. Bruce’s broody monologue skills have not dulled over the years.) Beyond the interesting premise, it doesn’t do much to keep me around though. There’s a setup for a new villain, but it’s so far detached from the A-story.

I’m sounding a little negative, but it’s mostly just apathy. It takes a lot to get me into a Batman book, because I’m the opposite of everyone else in the world. It’s really a fine book, if you like Batman. Whatever. (I should stop writing these at 1:30 AM. Oh well.)

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Supergirl #1
Writer: Michael Green/Mike Johnson
Artist: Mahmud Asrar

A pleasant surprise! Supergirl starts right at the beginning, with Kara’s pod landing on earth, and her waking up to the strange vistas of Russia. Also robots. Those turn out to be alarming.

The issue is just a single scene of Kara’s immediate confrontation with earth forces upon waking up, and the decompression is kind of refreshing. So many of these books have been so concerned with getting off and running too fast, and have stumbled for it. Supergirl is a nice simple story that let’s us connect to the character enough to come back and see what the grander story will be.

The biggest draw is most likely the art. I don’t know that I’ve seen much, or any, of Asrar’s art before now, but the man draws comicswell. Quite well. Great expression and emotion. A joy to look at!

Now if we could just do something about the lower half of her costume…

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Blue Beetle #1
Writer: Tony Bedard
Artist: Ig Guara

As far as full-on reboots of characters go, I’m not quite sure why Jaime Reyes, the modern version of the Blue Beetle, was on the chop block. The character has only been around since 2006, and his previous (canceled) series only ran 36 issues, the collections of with are still in print.

THAT SAID, the revamped version of the character is off to a solid start. The creative team obviously doesn’t seem to want to fix what ain’t broken, as the character, as well as his supporting cast, villains, and basic concept are exactly the same.

While the original book was one of my favorite superhero books of the last decade, and making whiny comparisons would be easy, taking it on it’s own merits, the new Blue Beetle is a solid start. It’s fun superhero action with a great cast and plenty of potential. As long as they don’t spend too much retreading the ground of their predecessors and find some fun new ideas to play with, it seems like a good bet.

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Wonder Woman #1
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artist: Cliff Chiang

Well, alright then! I’ve attempted to get myself interested in Wonder Woman on and off for a while now, but it’s never quite stuck. I think we have a winner here though! Azzarello and Chiang deliver an amazing first impression, steeping itself in the Greek mythology aspect, which is a big draw for me.

Finding herself protecting a woman with a mysterious connection to the gods, Wonder Woman herself doesn’t feel like she says all that much, but her actions tell you all you need to know. Speak softly and carry a big stick. She’s written as pure regal confidence, and drawn as a massively imposing force. She’s pretty cool.

I haven’t been using images in these reviews, but this one panel pretty much sums up my feelings on the book:

It’s not even that she’s headbutting the centaur, it’s the fact she does it so precisely, you can tell she’s done it many times before. It’sold hat.

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Batman #1
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Greg Capullo

God, this is already the third Batman book I’ve reviewed? Yeesh. Luckily, it’s also the best one! Snyder (who used to write Detective Comics, now he writes the other one!), gives us easily the best setup issue of the bunch. In the opening scene, Batman has a gigantic brawl with nearly his entire rogues gallery. Then, throughout the issue, we get introduced to a supporting cast of 9 or 10 characters, while never feeling rushed or lost.

It pushes all the best Bat-buttons while never feeling cliched or trying to hard. It’s got all the dark, crazy, Batman fun you could want, and if you’re into the Dark Knight from the movies or cartoons, it seems like a great issue to ease you into the comic’s world.

I don’t know when the last time I read a Batman book was, but I think I’m gonna stay with this one for a while. That should say something!

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Animal Man #1
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Travel Foreman

(Note: This was a week one book, but it was sold out, so I’m just now getting to it.)

And as such! I’d heard all the hype around this book, and they were dead on! Animal Manhas a history of some pretty lofty material under it’s belt (notably, the Grant Morrison run of the late 80’s), so writer Jeff Lemire had quite a bit to live up to. He’s not trying to hit the same notes, but seem to be playing on the same album. I should not try metaphors.

The book starts off pretty lighthearted, with Buddy Baker dealing with his family and odd professional life, the character’s signature aspect, but as the book moves along, the darkness creeps in. Once you get into Buddy’s dream sequence at the end, you find that it’s, in fact,horrifying. The fact that this is largely a horror story hits you like a brick, and if you’re into that sort of thing, should hook you pretty hard.

I wasn’t quite sure about Foreman’s art at first, but his subtle change in style as the issue becomes darker and darker in tone is pretty impressive. By the end, he really feels like a great match for the subject matter.

Final note: Great book, but how has Animal Man’s kid not got a haircut since 1990? A mullet? Really?

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Legion of Super-Heroes #1
Writer: Paul Levitz
Artist: Francis Portela

The Legion has a maybe overblown reputation of being extremely confusing and cluttered with a staggering amount of characters. I’ve felt like that’s a bad rap it didn’t fully deserve. It’s fairly straightforward. A bunch of super-heroes in the far flung future. It’s Teen Titans meets Star Trek. Easy!

This issue, however, seems like they really wanted to make sure they validated all those rumors. It’s about as far as you can get from being a “number one” issue. Picking up pretty much where they left off before the reboot, they don’t do much of anything to offer an introduction. We get a lot of scenes featuring some new members, but even that viewpoint doesn’t ease you into anything. There’s 20+ members in the issue, and many of them don’t even get a name boxes.

And to offer a personal nitpick: They let the two new members act as bait specifically because the public doesn’t know they are members. But both of those members have HUGE legion belt buckles on. Nobody sees those? Nonsense!

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Men of War
Writer: Ivan Bradon/Jonathan Vankin
Artist: Tom Derenick/Phil Winslade

Hoo-rah! This is a book about soldiers and war and things I’m not usually interested in. So that’s not a strong start is it? Men of War is something of an anthology-esque book. The main feature follows soldier Joe Rock (grandson of legendary WWII character Sgt. Rock) and his squad as they find themselves as the normal soldiers in extra-normal situations. Army men in a world of superheroes has a neat hook, but I can’t bring myself to be interested. The characters are your normal stock army types, and the art fails to catch my eye.

The backup feature about a pair of Navy Seals doesn’t offer much either. If you’re into Call of Duty or such materials, maybe you’ll get a kick out of editor’s notes telling you what H.V.T. stands for, but not me! Maybe if it had been more weird-war, G.I. Robot or Haunted Tank type stuff.

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All-Star Western #1
Writer: Justin Grey/Jimmy Palmiotti
Artist: Moritat

The other themed anthology book, (or it will be as of issue 2, having backup tales of other DC western heroes) is All-Star Western. The main feature being the travels of DC’s signature wild west “hero”, Jonah Hex.

I’ve read enough of Grey and Palmiotti’s previous Hex title to know they’d keep up the quality regardless of name change, and I was right. Finding himself in 1880’s Gotham City. Hex is on the trail of a Jack the Ripper type killer, teaming up with eventual asylum founderAmadeus Arkham.

It’s a great start to the mystery, and the pairing of the two characters works great. The cerebral Arkham’s diary telling the story and presenting the doctor’s attempts at evaluating the scarred gunslinger he’s been thrust together with. A fabulous setup that promises to deliver a great, unique western/mystery story.

Moritat’s art is fantastic, but special note should also go to colourist Gabriel Bautista’s amazing work. The washed out palette speaks volume for the setting and mood, without making the art seem unwelcomely old-fashioned.

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Blackhawks #1
Writer: Mike Costa
Artist: Graham Nolan/Ken Lashley

Like “Men of War”, Blackhawks is another World War 2 based property reinterpreted in modern day. The modern Hawks are a super-secret, live-in-a-mountainside type black ops group of special agents, tasked with taking down the most dangerous threats to humanity.

I didn’t really know what to expect out of this one, but was surprised to find a crazy, G.I. Joe styled action romp. It’s simple, popcorn comic. Not amazing, but inoffensive, and fun for what it is.

By the issue’s end, we get two different twists that set up what we can assume will be the fist bits of story. And, while interesting bits of business, I fell like they both come at us a little soon in the series. Not that we don’t get introduced to everything decently, but it feels like they had enough to work with that we didn’t need to rush into mixing it up. Oh well.

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Batman: The Dark Knight #1
Writer: David Finch/Paul Jenkins
Artist: David Finch

Oh God guys, I’m reading another Batmanbook. My brain is shutting down. I really don’t want to be super negitive, but after 3 other Bat-books, the fourth, not surprisingly, doesn’t have much to offer. Batman spins overblown narration on top of stock plot points.

No, really. I’m not sure if it’s just me, but this feels like it’s just the same plot as “Batman” #1, but in reverse, and not as interesting. In “Batman”, Bats stops a riot at Arkham, and then goes to a fundraiser. In “Dark Knight”, he goes to a fundraiser and THEN stops a riot at Arkham. TOTALLY DIFFERENT.

But really, this might be okay. It’s just redugdant. Seems like it’s more of an editorial issue, allowing these books to coexist if they don’t have anything different to say.

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Aquaman #1
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Ivan Reis

If you’ve been around the internet, or…. I don’t know, life I guess, you may have heard some jokes about Aquman being kind of a sucky superhero. For the record, these accusations are unfounded. There’s really nothing wrong with Aquaman, other than that he isn’t Batman, which is really what I feel is people’s problem.

However unfounded, the constant jokes have clearly gotten to Aquaman, and his new creative team. As great a team of creators as Johns and Reis are, they spend almost the entire first issue trying to convince you that Aquaman is super cool in a somewhat backwards fashion. The whole issue is normal people rolling up on Aquaman and asking him why he sucks so bad, to which he replies with a glare.

I get the meta take they’re doing, addressing the reputation head on, but when you have the people of the DC Universe acting the way we do, it breaks the reality for me. I don’t care if the guy talks to fish or not, he’s basically a living god among men who’s helped saved the world numerous times, and people just walk up and tell him he’s lame? He’s carrying a huge trident for God’s sake!

While I feel like it’s a really weird and self-defeating angle to come at the first issue from, the creators have a solid track record, so it should get better from here. As long as they move on from telling us how he doesn’t suck, and prove it instead.

Or they just change it to the Aquaman from the “Batman: Brave and the Bold” cartoon. No argument there. Coolest guy ever.


Baller.

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Teen Titans #1
Writer: Scott Lobdell
Artist: Brett Booth

Of all the new books, I was dreading this the most. Teen Titans is my personal favorite DC title, and a combination of continuity rebooting and less than appealing art got me pretty worried. But it sort of turned out okay. It’s not a good book at all, but I had built it up in my head like it was going to give me cancer. So that’s… good?

Anyway, the book. A mysterious group called N.O.W.H.E.R.E. is hunting teenage superheroes, and Red Robin (Tim Drake) starts to gather together some of his peers to fight against them. So essentially, it’s the plot of Gen13 with the cast of Young Justice. Yay?

The plot, while not bad, has been done before, and with few of the characters that make me love the title, and art that feels like it feel out of the early nineties in the worst way. It’s not awful, but just unappealing in the ways that steer me far away.

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Justice League Dark #1
Writer: Peter Milligan
Artist: Mikel Janin

The third JL team is a pretty far departure from the other two. Justice League Darkseeks to gather together a team of DC’s more magical beings, many recently recovered from Vertigo. And we aren’t talking about whimsical, unicorns and sugar magic here. This is dark, sexy, drug magik. Magik with a hard k.

Following some freaky business seemingly caused by the mystical villain The Enchantress, several desperate magically inclined heroes make moves that will presumably bring them together as some loose sort of “team”. Among them, the magicianZatanna, who appears to be a member of the JL proper, who’s off on her own to handle the magical threat, and several loners like Deadman, Shade, and a PG-13 version of John Constantine. Clearly, a bunch of weirdos that’ll be fun to watch get together and probably hate each other.

If trippy magic nonsense and some seriously deranged individuals, it’s probably worth a look. And hey! Another JL books that introduces all the members in some fashion in the first issue. Madness!

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The Flash #1
Writer: Francis Manapul/Brian Buccellato
Artist: Francis Manapul/Brian Buccellato

Is The Flash the best book of the new 52? I won’t say, because I’m indecisive, but it’s sure as hell up there.

As one of many [/i]”artist now also writing the book as well”[/i] situations in the new DC, it was questionable if previous series artist Manapul could pull off the writing as well. But stepping up to the task, Manapul and his co-writer/colourist Buccellato step up to the plate and deliver an immensely satisfying superhero adventure title.

From the opening scene where Flash has a completely sweet transformation sequence (Side note: I don’t know what his suit is made out of now, but really, who cares?) followed by the beautiful 2-page, Eisner-esque title card/fight scene, and throughout the issue, it’s a sight to behold. Even if the scripting isn’t as tight as you might be used to, the storytelling is so solid it’s an amazing example of giving the artist free reign.

The panel layouts, the evocative colours, and the light, cheery line work are a joy. And the story is a fun, all-ages read that many other book from DC at the moment have failed to capitalize on. It’s simple comic book fun, and I mean that as the highest compliment. If you want a book to hand any kid, this is the one.

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Superman
Writer: George Pérez
Artist: George Pérez/Jesús Merino

Yet another artist-becomes-writer, industry art legend George Pérez now also writes the modern adventures of Superman. Despite being an artist writing for himself, Pérez seems strangely reluctant to let the art tell the story, with a truckload of narration making the issue feel somewhat congested. Maybe not all too suprising, as it read somewhat like an older style book like the ones Pérez drew for so many years.

With the Daily Planet sold to a major conglomerate, we find out normal cast split up, with Lois Lane (no longer married to Clark post-reboot) working as the EP on the TV news division, Jimmy seeming to work primarily on the web side, with only Clark left burning the torch at the paper. While the setup is interesting, Clark’s hollier-than-thou attitude about it is pretty contrived.

All in all, it’s an alright issue, bogged down by over-compression in the storytelling. But it’s greatest issue is perhaps the fact that Superman himself is something of a background element to the story. Despite all the narration, he’s somewhat out of character, and not terribly compelling. Nothing to write home about, but here’s hoping it can get better.


Filed under Comic Books


Podcast Appearance!

Hey everyone! I’m making my first podcast appearance this Wednesday, July 20th on“Moonhawk Studios Presents”. I’ll be talking about Aptitude Test and whatever else they feel like asking me about.

The show is recorded live over Talkshoe, so if you tune in at their site during the live broadcast, you can listen in and join the chat, ask questions, etc. A live chat! We live in the future!

So please join in and listen! Even if you don’t, check out the podcast the next day! IT will be forever cataloged on the web! Nothing can destroy information!

– Toug


Filed under Uncategorized


Animaritime!

Hey! It’s about time I remembered to remind you guys that I’ll be atAnimaritime 2011 on July 1-3. The convention is in Moncton, New Brunswick, at the Delta Beausejour hotel.

I’ll be there all weekend with mini-comics, prints (both new and old), and some other stuff, as well as doing commisions! Stop by and see me! I’ll totally talk to you like we’re 2 human beings!

See you there New Brunswick!


Filed under Conventions & Events


Free Comic Book Day!!!!

Hey there Iron Men and Phantom Ladies.
     Thought it was prudent to remind you guys that this weekend, Saturday, May 7th, is FREE COMIC BOOK DAY.That’s right! Screw Christmas, to hell with Halloween, no thanks Thanksgiving. FCBD is the REAL best day of the year. So get to your local comic shop, and get yourself some free comics!

And if you’re someone that doesn’t visit comic shops often, be sure to have a look around and see if there’s anything you might wanna buy while you’re there. Support your shop! At the very least, if you find something you like in the free swag, be sure to come back! They got sweet stuff like that every week! Just costs a few bucks.

Check out the links on the logos below for info on FCBD, and where to find your closest comic shop.


Filed under Conventions & Events


Julie’s Top 10 Comics of 2010


Hey everybody! We’re back to wrap up 2010! In making a list of my favorite comics of the last year, I had to make a few caveats. I didn’t want to include ongoing titles that had made the list last year (SorryPower Girl! Sorry Atlas! Sorry Ultimate Spider-man!).
Also, though it feels like I read a lot more books, when I looked, it turned out many of them were older books, or series I had just started, but hadn’t read any of the issues released in 2010 (Sorry Locke and Key!). So, given these restrictions, I went on from there.
Also, I didn’t actually rank the books last year, but Rina ranked her’s, and now she’s making do the same. It’s haaaaaaaaaaaard. :(
Oh well, let’s go!

#10 – Brain Camp
Writers: Sunsan Kim and Laurence Klavan
Artist:Faith Erin Hicks

When I got to the end of Brain Camp and read the author notes, I learned that one of the writers used to write for “Are You Afraid of The Dark?” After reading this, I said aloud:“Ohhhhhhhhhhh!” If you’re ever watched any old episodes of that show, or it’s ilk, this book makes instant sense. It’s that cool kind of young reader horror that is a lot of fun for any ages. It gets all weird and crazy and gross and isn’t terribly concerned with it all making a lot of sense, but that’s just fine. It’s a load of fun.
I’d like to say more about the craziness, but being one of those Goosebumps-y type stories, I don’t want say much more about the story, since it’s all mystery and full of crazy twists and such. I will say that the characters are a joy, and (Halifax local!) Faith Erin Hicks’ art looks great in full colour.
Also, I just realized now that all the owls on people’s shirts on the cover are also looking toward the center, and it’s creeping me out a little.

#9 – Teen Titans (Issue 88+)
Writer: J. T. Krul
Artist: Nicola Scott

Teen Titans is one of my favorite all-time comics, but in the last few years? Not so much. A series of increasingly depressing and/or gruesome plot twists and character deaths lead to me dropping the book for a while. Which was kind of a shame, because they added a bunch of characters I really liked during that time, like Blue Beetle, Static, and Miss Martian.
While they’re not in the book anymore, I went ahead and picked up the first issue by the new team of, and was pleasantly surprised. A good, balanced team with bunch of my all-time favorites like Raven and Kid Flash, great art, a fun, lighthearted tone, all that good stuff. And then they bring in the new Damian Wayne Robin, and he’s a jerk and everyone hates him and it’s hilarious. It’s a great flipped take on the team dynamic, and I can’t wait to see more next year.

#8 – The Guild
Writer: Felicia Day
Artist: Jim Rugg

Nerd niches are weird, because I guess from what I hear this comic based off Felicia Day’s web series is really doing well bringing new readers to comics. I say it’s weird because it hadn’t occurred to me that anyone besides me watched the show, and I thought the comic would introduce people to that, not visa verse. Shows what I know.
Regardless, the comic is great, and if your a fan of the show, gives you a great origin story for the Knights of Good. And if you are new to the series, it paints a pretty great picture about this girl who’s life is spinning out of control, and how retreating into a fantasy life might actually be the healthiest thing for her. The Guild can be pretty biting in it’s depictions of these messed up nerds, but the comic is a great reminder that there are some really honest and lovable human beings past the jokes.

#7 – Prince of Power
Writers: Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente
Artist: Reilly Brown and more

Alright. I’m cheating. This is totally cheating. While “Prince of Power” is a stand-alone mini-series, it’s really just a continuation of the on-hiatus “Incredible Hercules”, following Herc’s “death” (heavy quotes on “death”), and leading into the current “Chaos War” mini (I’m sick of saying “event”).
But while it’s really more of the same, it’s kind of all new at the same time. It gives us an honest-to-god(s) solo book staring Amadeus Cho, who’s one of my favorite new characters in recent memory. Recasting him as CEO of the Olympus Group (and giving him a nice suit) grows the character up a little, despite him remaining intentionally and staunchly juvenile. And if you’re a fan of mythology, it’s always fun to see Cho (and his sidekick, Thor) run ramshackle through a variety of pantheons and, as the title“Blasphemy Can Be Fun” suggests, completely ruin them. Just ask Sekhmet…

#6 – Darkwing Duck
Writer: Ian Brill
Artist: James Silvani

Boom! Studios continues it’s onslaught of Disney comics with a return to the Disney Afternoon. Darkwing was one of the best super-hero parody shows back in the day, largely because it sticks to the golden rule of satire by actually loving and celebrating that which it makes fun of.
And the new comic does a fantastic job sticking to that as well. The comic ages a little bit with it’s audience, taking itself the teeniest bit more seriously, reintroducing Darkwing and friends with “The Duck Knight Returns”, taking it’s title and some story clues from the famous Batman story, with a retired Darkwing pulling himself back into crime-fighting to free St. Canard from an evil corporation.
And while the story plays itself somewhat strait, with some great character developments from both DW and his classic bunch of villains, it’s also committed to celebrating how totally insane the show got, with a whole page in the first issue dedicated to Darkwing with a snake for an arm. Yeah.

#5 – The Flash
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artists: Francis Manapul and Scott Kolins

I don’t tend to read a lot of DC books, but not for lack of trying. I’m not sure why I decided to try out the new re-Barry Allen-ed “Flash”, though it was likely a combination of amazing art and having listened all the way through “Tom Vs. The Flash”.
As someone who wasn’t even born yet when Barry died way back, I wasn’t super interested in the character over Wally West, the standard of the last 25 years, but Jones makes a great case for Barry, playing up the “superhero CSI” angle, and constantly batting around one of the best rogue’s gallery in comics.
Also, there’s this one part where he RUNS ACROSS A HELICOPTER BLADE.


So cool.
#4 – Scarlet
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Alex Maleev

I am an unashamed Bendis fan. I love fast paced dialogue from interesting people, and I’m okay reading a whole issue of the Avengers having breakfast. I’m cool with that. I completely get some people’s opinion that his best work is in his more crime-focused work though. I haven’t actually had a chance to go back and read some of his older work, so when his first new creator owned book popped up, I decided to jump on it.
I’m still not quite sure what Scarlet is about, but I’m quite interested to learn. At first, it seems to just be about the sudden shattering of one girl’s life, and how she decides to pick up the pieces and put them right. The real hook in the whole thing is really the story’s 4th wall relationship. Scarlet does some things that, from another perspective, could easily be construed as the actions of a villain, or even a crazy person. But then she stops and talks directly to the audience, explaining her actions as she sees them. This sudden shift can really catch you off guard, as you’re suddenly not sure how to feel about the events unfolding, as you really start to emphasize with even the most extreme of actions. It’s a unique style of characterization not really seen in comics that I really want to see develop further as the series continues.

#3 – Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour
Writer/Artist: Bryan Lee O’Malley

Might as well take this last chance to say that Scott Pilgrim is awesome. Not really news at this point, but hey, we’re here right?
A lot of people I know that read the finale when it came out had mixed reactions on it. I though it was a very satisfying ending at the time, and the more I’ve thought about it since, the more I find myself loving it. Many aspects of the resolutions are kept a little bit vague, but I think that it works where it is. All the major characters really do come full circle, and they’re arcs a put in the spotlight, where for most of the series they were all kind of lost in their own befuddled internal conflicts.
This summery got a little headier than I intended. Do you guys like video games? I do. So does this book. I like this book for liking video games. Again, this isn’t news, but I’m always happy to highlight the awesome use of gaming tropes and storytelling devices. Just getting that in at the last opportunity.
Also, enough time for one more classic Wallace moment:


OKAY. THANK YOU WALLACE.
#2 – Amazing Spider-man
Writers: Dan Slott, Joe Kelly, Mark Waid, more
Artist: Marcos Martin, Max Fiumara, Humberto Ramos, more 

Can’t put Ultimate on the list again, but Amazing sure was also, um… am…amazing this year. Yeah.
Anyway, the year started off with a series of great stories meant to redefine a number of Spidey’s most classic foes. These stories did a hell of a lot to remind everyone why Spider-man has arguably the best rogue’s gallery in comics.
Mysterio, Kraven, and more all get some great reintroductions. The pick of the litter though is without a doubt the amazing 2-part Rino story, that pretty much destroys any of the jokey, lame-brained versions of the character from here on out. One of my single favorite stories this year (and Spider-man stories EVER).
The latter half of the year also kicked butt, ending the “Brand New Day” era with a bang, with the “Origin of Species” story, a wacked-out muti-issue chase/fight featuring every villain they could fit in, and the start of Slott’s “Big Time” era, proving right away that he’s writing one the most enjoyably fan-servicey Spider-man’s I’ve seen.

#1 – Pluto
Writer/Artist: Naoki Urasawa

I’m admittedly late to the “Naoki Urasawa is mind-blowing” party, but it’s a good one to be at for any amount of time. Pluto is an astonishingly deep and affecting retelling of a classic Astro Boy story, centering this version of the murder mystery on robotic detective Gesicht.
Urasawa is one of the best storytellers I’ve seen in comics, especially in his proven field of mystery/thriller. His other works, such as Monster and 20th Century Boys (which may have been my choice, but I haven’t gotten to the more recent volumes yet) are just as astonishing, but Pluto’s added sense of skewing these well known characters and archetypes in it’s dark, psychological tropes make it seems like Japan’s answer to Watchmen.
I think my favorite part of Urasawa’s work is his ability to vignette. At points in his books, the story throws the breaks on, and then we’re suddenly reading about a completely different character, oftentimes one we haven’t even met yet. It can feel like a whole different story all of a sudden. Again, not unlike an issue of Watchmen would shift focus to Dr. Manhattan for an issue. Though as jarring as this is, it always feels like a part of the whole, and it’s always fascinating to wait and find out how this piece fits into the larger puzzle.


Filed under Comic Books


Rina’s Top 10 Games of 2010

Okay everybody. I am here to rock you’re worlds… by way of making a list of video games. ARE YOU PREPARED?
Keep in mind, these are personal choices. If you disagree… well, I don’t really care. Get yer own list! Quit makin’ waves man. Let’s do it!

#10 – Just Cause 2 (Avalanche Studios)

This one might be a bit of a cheat, as I never actually played this game, really. The disc never entered my X-box. But the demo,MY GOD THE DEMO. I played that demo SO MANY times. It’s silly really. I spent more time with that demo than some of the other games on this list.
But that demo. So much fun to be had in little half hour chunks. I’ll probably play the full game at some point, but my memory of the little bit I saw cemented this as one hell of a crazy-ass, mind rocking experience.

#9 – Comic Jumper (Twisted Pixel Games)

Comic Jumper makes the list for somewhat nebulous reasons. It’s not the strongest game-play wise. As dual-stick shooters or beat-em-ups go, it’s lacking in both. A jack of all trades, master of none sort of deal.
But you know how the Oscars suck because they never honor comedies even though their just as valid and possibly take more skill than drama? You know how that sucks? Yeah. If I’m grading games based on pure enjoyment, regardless of where that enjoyment stems from, Comic Jumper has to make the list. Because Comic Jumper is funny as hell.

Bonus! Good luck gettin’ this out of your head:

#8 – Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game (Ubisoft Montreal Studios)

I think I’m a minority on this, but I recently went back to this game, and I still love it. Beyond just loving the comic and digging the fan service this game dishes out, I think it’s really solid as a modern day brawler.
Plus, it’s at least top 5 for both graphics and soundtrack as well.

#7 – Halo: Reach (Bungie Studios)

Look, I could bullsh** you guys and say Halo Reach is on this list because of all the usual Halo-related goodness. A decent campaign (“but not as good as ODST!” she says with no one listening), expanded firefight, level editors. It’s even more packed with great content than Halo 3 was.
But I’ll be honest. Getting to make my own Spartan and play pretty-princess-and/or-death machine dress-me-up with them is a big part of it. I am a sucker for character creators. This game would’ve made the list regardless, but this is the new hotness as far as me and Halo are concerned.

#6 – Golden Sun: Dark Dawn
(Camelot Software Planning)

So to be honest, I just got this for Christmas, and haven’t got that far in it,buuuuuuut it’s a new Golden Sun, and that’s amazing. I love these games pretty hard. I’m often turned off when it comes to swords and sorcery type fantasy, but these games mix in enough mythology, steam-punk, and anime tropes to get my perfect blend, similar to how Avatar works so well for me.
So while I can’t speak to the entire game yet, the odds are pretty good it’d be on here regardless of how it shakes out, so I’m including it.

#5 – Costume Quest
(Double Fine Productions, Inc.)

This game does work much better for younger players, but damned if my inner 8 year old didn’t think this game was cool as sh**. I’m for anything Double Fine does, really. I’m not sure who they think they are, never releasing 2 games that are even remotely similar looking, but I’m all for it.
It’s a simple game, but bite-sized enough so that it doesn’t overstay it’s welcome with the somewhat repetitive combat. The premise is just so damn cool you overlook anything like that.

I think the Statue of Liberty special attack sums it up pretty well:

A-MUR-AH-CAH!
#4 – Rock Band 3
(Harmonix Music Systems, Inc.)

There’s not really much to say about Rock Band that hasn’t been said before, but…. here we are. Rock Band 3 is really great, and reshapes a lot of the interface and campaign stuff about Rock Band that bothered me before. I’m not about to invest in the pro instruments, but it’s super-cool for the people interested in it. And the party mode style no-fail and jump-in options round out the other side of the fan base.
Rock Band Network also launched this year, and within a few minutes browsing it, I found “The Touch” by Stan Bush, so that validates that right there. In fact, I’m checking it again as I write this and IS THAT THE SOUNDTRACK TO ‘SPLOSION MAN!!? *swoon*

#3 – Pac-Man Championship Edition DX(Namco Bandai Games Inc.)

Oh god. Even thinking about this game puts in into what amount to some sort of drug-induced coma. The first Championship Edition did a great job of updating the classic Pac-Man, but DX actually succeeds in creating a brand new game around the basic mechanics of Pac-Man, which frankly I’m not sure anyone ever even thought to do before.
The out of body experience you get can only be achieved by DX’s combined might of eating twenty billion ghosts while listening to the trance inducing music at a minimum volume of “as loud as your TV can get”.

#2 – Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Nintendo EAD)

When aliens comes down to earth and, at gunpoint, demand we explain the bizarre facets of our culture, they will get to gaming and demand to know “What are these VIDEO GAMES you speak of?” We will then sit them down in front of Mario Galaxy 2, and after playing for a few minutes, they will say “OH!VIDEO GAMES. We get it now.”
That’s the best I can give you. Galaxy 2 is amazing for all the reasons Mario games are usually amazing, and a few new ones as well, but it’s ultimately the purest distillation of what it is to be a video game. Plus, “Face-ship”.

FACE-SHIP.
#1 – Mass Effect 2 (BioWare)

And I have already forgot the other 9 games I talked about. To hell with those games. This was maybe the first 2010 game I actually played, and nothing released in the rest of the year managed to live up, which is almost kind of depressing.
Mass Effect is a complete slayer that kills on every level. While the game-play downplays the RPG elements a smidge to much, the improvements made to the action half of the game’s equation more than make up for it.
The story also skews itself to one side of it’s own spectrum, focusing less on giant epic plots, and making the bulk of it’s screen time on smaller vignettes centered around the various mentally unstable bad-asses you’ve taken under your roof. Which is great, as I’m always more invested in character stories, and the ones they present to you are great. Oh, how I love each of those crazy muthers.
In short, Mass Effect 2 isn’t just my game of the year, but also one of my favorite games of all time.

I’m Commander Shepard,
and this is my favorite game on (or off) the Citadel.
Be sure to come back Wednesday for Julie’s Top 10 Comics of 2010! We be listing stuff like mad over here!


Filed under Video Games


HAL-CON Hulabaloo!

Ah buddy!

All this weekend (Oct 29-31), I can be found at the inaugural “HAL-CON”, Halifax’s very own Sci-Fi and Fantasy convention! You’ll be able to find me in the artist ally/vendor room, selling mini-comics, prints, and sketches. Depending on where I can get set up in proximity to the Strange Adventures section, my table may very well be consumed by the might and majesty of“Cal-Con”. It’s like the Borg.

And I won’t be alone! Sharing the table for most of the weekend will be Ben Jeddrie, international man of mystery. I saw him at the copy shop, and I can tell you he has zombie-related comics for you to check out. And on Sunday, we’ll also be playing host to Mr. Dave Howlett, of Tuco Comics. Dave will have copies of his awesome comics like “Slam-A-Rama” and“Scenester” for you to check out.

The aforementioned “Cal-Con” will also be playing host to some awesome guests, like Darwyn Cooke, Faith Erin Hicks, Mark Oakley, and Caanan Grall. Also, you should also seek out Josh Rodgers of “Captain Mushface” “fame”. He’ll be around. Hopefully close enough that I can flick rubber bands at him.

Information overload! I’ll see you there! My most awaited con guests are mistersMurphy and Corbett, so I leave you with this:

Tusk!


Filed under Conventions & Events


Aptitude Test – October Shows

Hey there! Are you a person situated in and/or around Halifax, Nova Scotia? Do you enjoy conventions and shows of various sizes? Would you enjoy the sight of me sitting behind a little table attempting to hawk my wares? WELL YOU’RE IN LUCK.

Later this month, I will be at 2 shows in Halifax. And here is the information for them! Strap in!


First up! I’ll be at the Halifax Zine Fair, which is all full of local indie publishers showin’ off their cool zines and comics and music and various chatski. I’ll be one of them.

Saturday October 23rd 2010, noon-5pm
St. David’s Church Hall, 1537 Brunswick Street, Halifax
Admission is FREE!

And on Friday, October 29 through October 31 I’ll be at the inauguralHal-Con, Halifax’s own personal sci-fi and fantasy con. It’s me and Chekhov. What more do you need to know? Besides the details:

October 29 – 31
The Lord Nelson Hotel
1515 South Park St., Halifax

I’ll be at both with mini-comics, prints, and maybe a few other surprises. Come see me! See other people there! It’ll be fun! Right? WON’T IT!?

Yes.


Filed under Conventions & Events