One day, I will shout LOCK DOWN too.

*I have never been to a comics convention (keep in mind, now - until yesterday I’d also never been inside a Tower Records). I almost went to SPX last year, but I found out late in the game that I had other responsibilities elsewhere. I’m really not convinced that I’m missing any good vibes that won’t immediately be stomped into the dirt by a horde of mitigating factors, and lord oh lord has Chris Butcher’s coverage of the inaugural New York Comic-Con reinforced that viewpoint. Still, it makes for fine reading for you and me, covering everything from panel participation to venue considerations to journalistic behavior. Anyway - excellent, holistic work.

It seems to me from reading all the viewpoints I could find that the best part of the whole thing was 4Kids Entertainment CEO Al Kahn in the ‘heel’ role at the manga panel, apparently noting that he doesn’t care for printed matter at all since, by and large, US children just fucking hate to read. Hisses were audible in the crowd. I think the presentation could have been improved, however, if right after that we suddenly heard the triumphant VIZ Media theme music blaring over the loudspeakers and a VIZ representative (otherwise absent from the proceedings) jumped onto the stage and clobbered Kahn with a folding chair. Also, the con organizers and the fire marshal could then easily have settled their differences - IN A STEEL CAGE!!

Hmmm, maybe I do want to check one of these things out!

*Pre-release review dead ahead, cap’n!

Hatter M: The Looking Glass Wars #2 (of 4)

This miniseries is published by Image, under the Desperado banner, and this new issue will be out on March 8. Let me get out right up front that I’ve not read the first issue. Also, it’s worth mentioning that this isn’t an entirely isolated project of literary twisting - it’s actually something of a self-contained side-story within a universe created by writer Frank Beddor for his prose-format The Looking Glass Wars trilogy, one installment of which has been published thus far (its US release is forthcoming later this year). There are also two more Hatter M miniseries planned after this one, plus an entirely separate comic featuring the universe’s villainous Queen Red, so obviously there’s no lack of multimedia ambition here.

The basic premise of The Looking Glass Wars saga involves the ‘truth’ behind the goings-on of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland - basically, the fanciful cast of that vererable favorite is transported to a fantasy adventure universe, where Alyss Heart, rightful heir to the throne of Wonderland, narrowly escapes a violent coup by the aforementioned Queen and winds up wandering around the 19th century of our world, pursued by her royal protector, Hatter Madigan, who is really not at all insane and can transform his natty headwear into a deadly bladed weapon. The comics series follows Hatter M’s leg of the journey, searching for his lost charge.

Co-written by Liz Cavalier, the comic adopts a familiar action-fantasy posture, the title hero questing about and leaping into action when necessary, hooks springing out of his back and villainous blood flying. There’s an ongoing concern with the magic of Imagination (the capitalization is mine), here a literal, glowing force that many characters want to possess - this particular issue sees Hatter M apparently locating Alyss, who has taken on the role of a magnificent violinist in Budapest, and giving chase when she’s abducted by evil gypsies at the beck and call of even worse forces. It soon becomes clear that Alyss (if that is her) is using her Imagination for dazzling artistic purposes, though the various groups of villains either want to blithely devour it (they’re basically vampires, complete with sunlight-based weaknesses) or utilize it in creating weaponry. “It took some imagination but I found a way to kill you at any hour of the night,” remarks a sinister Baroness, all decked out in red goggles and toting a nasty sun gun. Thus, the comic toys with a few deeper concerns, though its heart really lies with Hatter M’s confrontation with circus freaks and an evil monkey in a fez.

It’s passable stuff from a writing standpoint, unspectacular but not really deficient, somewhat wry and in possession of a workable set of concerns. Fortunately, the art is provided by Ben Templesmith, who tellingly receives first billing on the cover. It’s deserved - while this material isn’t quite as visually strong as the work Templesmith is currently doing on Image’s Fell, it’s still good enough to handily raise the spirits of the whole affair. Surely the vampiric characters hearken back to the artist’s breakthrough work on 30 Days of Night, and his approach here is a little reminiscent of that, with a bit more sketchy looseness in his characters and a certain absence of backgrounds in favor of atmospheric blotches of color (as usual, Templesmith mans his own hues). But his use of light is pretty solid, neatly folding all the Imagination business into a quick, attractive visual signature, wavy musical notes drifting upwards from a violin like electric haze, later matched by the crackle of red rays of killing, bad thinking indeed.

Plenty of art samples here for both issues, so you can see for yourself. This issue is also accompanied by some supplimental prose materials, including stuff written by two of the book's characters, along with Victor Hugo and Jules Verne, further attempting to flesh out the saga's sweep and shore up the Imagination theme. It's nice, but it's Templesmith's efforts that really drag this one up from an unoffended shrug to a brief upward curve of the mouth.