*Just for a little advance word - Solo #12 is really great, and if you didn’t buy it at your store today you should go back very soon and get it. More tomorrow.

All Star Superman #5

What a surprise to discover that this issue is 48 pages long! Granted, only 23 of those pages contain All Star Superman material, but boy did I feel like I was purchasing a supple thing as I walked to the store counter. And DC didn’t even jack up the price like Marvel did that one time - what a bunch! Did other DC books this week seem overstuffed?

I only ask because part of the extra bulk is an eight-page preview of the upcoming Wildstorm Universe revamp, heavily powered by writer Grant Morrison; his books are the first two showcased in the feature, and while it makes perfectly simple sense to hype new books in a popular current book, I kind of wonder if there isn’t a little selling of Grant Morrison too. As in, ‘hey, look at what the guy behind this popular book is going to write next - and look at all the other books that are sort of connected!’ Morrison is probably more popular now than he’s ever been, but his devout fanbase is vastly outstripped by folks who simply enjoy the way he writes popular superhero characters. Having this ad in All Star Superman strikes me as a canny way of targeting that larger audience, who might be interested in other, established, yet less sure-thing superhero properties. But again, I don’t know how many books DC put this stuff into. It was also really skimpy on the art, being mostly a letter from Jim Lee and a rollout of glorified solicitation texts, catchy quotes from the line’s various writers interspersed.

Another eight pages, by the way, are burnt up on an ad for some collectible figurine tactical battle game called Heroscape; there’s a comic (written by Ty Templeton of Bigg Time), a contest, and a fold-out poster. No Grant Morrison tie-ins in sight.

But let's not forget the Superman story that takes up just shy of half the pamphlet’s contents; it’s predictably a hoot. Devious Lex Luthor is sitting pretty in supervillain prison, and it’s Clark Kent’s job to interview the rotten bastard for an hour. Meek Clark appeals to Luthor, who sees the big oaf as everything in squishy humanity that Superman reigns over like an impossibly arrogant god, so the villain confides his darkest thoughts to the reporter. Morrison essentially gives Luthor the same opinion of Superman espoused by the titular David Carradine supervillain of Kill Bill (though I think Quentin Tarantino took the idea from a Jules Feiffer essay), albeit stripped of the knowledge that Clark Kent is Superman; I recall reading an interview with Morrison in which he expressed his dislike for that bit of superhero interpretation, and he misses no opportunity to make Luthor look like a vain, elitist, deluded, hypocritical fool, though a charismatic one with some real scientific talent. But the ultimate joke is that moral Superman would never allow a man to be killed in cold blood, so he must constantly rescue Luthor from the many assassination attempts that follow a man of his notoriety into... the general prison population (and yet, out of all this foolery, I was only really bugged with Luthor’s being sentenced to death at the same time he’s found guilty - oh Grant, I demand scrupulous research of US criminal justice trial procedure to be evident in all my funnies!).

Remember that bit at the end of issue #1 in which Clark saves a guy from getting killed by bumping into him? That’s this whole issue; since Clark needs to be with Luthor at all times, it’s his challenge to constantly save the day without ever breaking free of his mild-mannered persona, particularly tough when he’s being followed around by the Parasite, a villain that grows mighty by merely standing around powerful things. All of this gives penciller Frank Quitely a plethora of opportunities to shine, from the pure, broad comedy of facial expressions and marvelous character ‘acting,’ to the ceaseless slouching and grimacing and flailing of Cowardly Lion Clark, to the superbly measured shifts in poise that mark the use of Superman’s powers, to the occasional piece of We3-type creative paneling. There’s this one sight gag, which I can’t ruin, that goes on for four pages before someone finally points it out - and then it continues on in a different form for another two. You’ll be flipping back through the comic just to see what Quitely’s done with it, since it’s subtle enough that you might have simply missed it on your first read - that’s the kind of re-read value superhero comics could use more of. Quitely is absolutely irreplaceable.

Meanwhile, Morrison also continues the series’ running concern with Superman’s reaction to his own mortality. This time, he literally descends into the underworld with a devilish guide, a trickster who can burrow through solid rock with simple words, and can never be talked away from his crazed death wish. Truly, Luthor is Superman’s opposite: he’s a pompous blowhard while Superman/Clark can “write like a poet,” he has no concern for any life, least of all his own, while Superman strives to physically and philosophically save his worst enemy, and he faces his own onrushing doom with an makeup-enhanced sneer and total self-absorption, unlike our driven-to-evolve, true-hearted hero. How can this force be overcome, especially when it sees its mission as complete, the die already cast? Clark can’t say, riding down the Acheron with a boat captain dressed in black. Charon?

Well, actually Barbelith says it’s a ‘70s villain from the Supergirl rogues’ gallery. Which makes more sense for this book anyway.


Short-Form Film Festival YouTube

*Underground Cinema Dept:

Hey kids, it’s Kenneth Anger! Author, occultist, former Hollywood child actor, kitsch connoisseur, and inspiration to David Lynch, John Waters, Martin Scorcese, and many more. Hollywood Babylon was the greatest book ever when I was teenager, and even though I know today a bunch of it was bullshit I still flip through it sometimes. These films often have a miraculous ability to be astonishing and tedious at exactly the same time, but there’s a liveliness and humor to much of it that always resonates.

Fireworks (1947, two parts)

Puce Moment (1949, ‘60s revised version with added groove)

Rabbit’s Moon (1950, 1979 revised version with catchy tune)

Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (1954, excerpt)

Scorpio Rising (1964, in three parts)

Kustom Kar Kommandoes (1965, slightly kut)

Invocation of My Demon Brother (1969, Satan stole the first few seconds)

Lucifer Rising (1972, three big parts)

Anger Sees Red (2004, apparently just a DV test, but boy does it look like a lot of other stuff posted to YouTube)

With their short length and often covertly-procured soundtracks (all but assuring an uphill struggle in getting a R1 dvd release), it's like these much-respected, little-seen films were born for YouTube. Now you can make up your own mind.

*And now, another comic out tomorrow.

X Isle #2

This is the newest issue of a series from Boom! Studios, $2.99, in color.

It’s actually kind of mystifying to behold a comic this dense with mediocrity; it’s like you can’t even see into the story itself, so evident are the old ideas and derivative character motions, positioned with enough bland primacy that they almost defeat the reader’s basic comprehension of the work. Surely Jurassic Park is the key point of reference here - the film’s been mentioned by title in two out of three solicitation texts thus far - but there’s also plenty of slimy worm-like monsters, not to mention the occasional errant Evil Tree, lurking around the book’s mysterious island setting to attack a motley crew of driven scientists and trigger-happy roughs. It’s a world of extremely familiar enigmas out there, and the only way out is to shoot or run, or maybe engage in forced banter and wooden repartee until something else everyone has seen before happens. So much of this has happened before, it’s like nothing happens at all.

The book is co-written by Andrew Cosby, creator of the Sci-Fi Channel series Eureka, and Michael Alan Nelson, writer of Second Wave, Boom!’s similarly uninspired War of the Worlds-derived series. But while what I’ve read of Second Wave was overbaked in its drama and clanking in its social satire, at least it successfully operated on the level of an individually sub-par work. When I stare at the pages of X Isle and see the Intrepid Researcher interact with the Sinister Gunman and his Hulking Henchman, while the Humorous Stocky Fellow offers cheap quips and A Girl looks scared but also flirts with a Handsome Feller before getting kidnapped in addition to Another Female getting into trouble after sparring with a Black Researcher whose primary personality trait this issue is his talking about race, well, it’s hard for me to see much of anything. Which leads nicely to Greg Scott’s art and Sunder Raj’s colors, a murky combination that occasionally makes it difficult to even differentiate between characters. Those worm monsters look ok, but if we’re going to trudge through the old “You brought guns to the island? What kind of sinister secrets are you hiding?” and “I can’t believe that one character is dead. Can’t we have a burial, or have we no time to waste?” standards, we’re going to need some clearer visuals to carry the conversations as far as they can go.

Granted, I haven’t read issue #1 of this series, and I’m sure there a bit more of character/premise setup in there. But this issue is weak enough that I can’t picture it mattering all that much. From this vantage point it’s obviously positioned as a monsters ’n running suspense thriller, but it’s a very boring one. As a goofy, B-movie kinda romp it’s a total non-starter. Don’t buy this.


I work the late shift on the internets.

*Stuff happened in


Batman #656 (the second verse is, in fact, better than the first)

Justice League of America #1 (page after page of the solemn spilling of tears and chest-beating declarations of virtue over a robot in red pajamas who makes tornadoes appear from his hands - go go new Justice League!)

Elephantmen #2

American Born Chinese (new graphic novel from First Second, an ambitious, somewhat uncertain, but often absorbing fantasy exploration of race in the US)

But there's a lot to get to now.

*First, here's a pre-release review of something due on Wednesday.

The Trials of Shazam! #1 (of 12)

This is the last of the books to launch out of DC’s Brave New World promotion, and in several ways it's the most disconnected from its nominal source, which was intended as a launching pad for fresh revamps of superhero properties with varying degrees of history behind them. For one thing, we’ve already got Captain Marvel’s recurring guest bits in 52 as a grounding to the current DCU; an additional revamp springing out of a ‘spotlight on our new universe’ special seems somewhat overeager to get the character moving places while he’s already heading off in a separate direction, albeit without much destination in mind. Those bits in 52 don’t even do a sterling job of lining up with one another in terms of consistency, let alone suggest a clear direction for where the character is going as that series approaches the present. The big red cheese we spot in this new limited series already seems different, a more powerful, changed character, a revamp unwilling to wait for the current incarnation to run its course.

And as for more nitty-gritty concerns, I sure hope you weren’t that interested in what happened to Mary Marvel and Captain Marvel Junior following their Brave New World cliffhangers, since this debut issue totally ignores those dangling plot threads to afford Cap a little more setup attention. The ‘Next In…’ box at the end of the issue suggests that even partial closure will have to wait for issue #2 - hey, they’ve got a year’s worth of Captain Marvel comics to fill.

All things considered, though, this is a nice first issue. Writer Judd Winick sends Cap off on a trip to Norway, thrilled to use his enigmatically-yet-magnificently enhanced powers against the myriad villains and beasts plaguing the world due to the breakdown in magical order prompted by the wizard Shazam’s departure. Cap can make his transforming lightning tangible and blow crap up, he has a little white streak in his hair, and he seems to be impossibly powerful - he’s also installed a new plasma-screen lounge in the Rock of Eternity, and spends much of his time educating himself on occult matters, all the better for Hellboy-like romps against transforming demon worshippers and their lime-green doom vomit, plus a gargantuan frog beastie that explodes out of a castle (but be sure to swap out Hellboy’s wisecracks for Cap’s super-square earnestness for proper seasoning). Zatanna pops up in a flashback too, for no reason other than to show off additional monster designs and probably set up a tour of DC’s magical heroes for the creative team to fill space with later. But can even Captain Marvel anticipate the bizarre side-effects his new powers might have? (no.)

Howard Porter provides the art, in his enhanced ultra-rich painterly style; it’s a pretty big improvement over what I’ve seen of his work in the past, still recognizably his own (hulking behemoth super-characters and all), yet successful in obliterating most traces of grimacing jaggedness from his character art and toning down the busyness of his panels. Often the work adopts the look of lavish, painted animation concept art, yet never quite triggers the distancing effect that most ultra-rich superhero action act tends to have on me; it seems like a really nice balance, and it’s gratifying to see it work so well over the course of a full issue.

Ironically, this don’t-quite-belong Brave New World specimen is among the best of the lot. I recall thinking from that preview that the story could go in a number of directions, but it looks like it’s on a path to somewhere.



Lost Girls: This still isn’t on Diamond’s national list, but since it could arrive at any time I‘ll just keep on bringing it up every week. There’s not much time to spare - I’m almost to the end of Demon Beast Invasion and desperately need more comics-format pornography to occupy my time! Hurry Alan Moore & Melinda Gebbie! I don’t need to say much about this book, though it’s been quite a trip to see my very own local newspaper transformed into Lost Girls Headquarters through the redoubtable efforts of Chris Mautiner. A feature. A review. Plus an interview (actually half of one, so far), hosted at Chris’ site.

Solo #12: Final issue, but oh I do believe it’s gonna be a zinger. The artist is Brendan McCarthy, famed early collaborator with the likes of Peter Milligan and Grant Morrison, author of the already-legendary Swimini Purpose, artist behind Skin and Rogan Gosh, and a man who’s not done a proper comic in 13 years, but that just makes the occasion all the more special, doesn’t it? Fun interview here, with loads of art samples, that also highlights perhaps one of the core weaknesses of Solo itself - no creator was allowed ownership of anything they presented in the book, leading to an often pronounced reliance on existent DC properties, which no doubt only pleased DC themselves all the more. McCarthy’s spins on classic characters look to be fascinating, though, and his art has lost no punch whatsoever. This has the potential to close the series on its highest note.

Yoshitaka Amano’s Hero Vol. 1 (of 5): The long-delayed, publisher-hopping deluxe US edition of adored illustrator Amano’s archetype-stuffed heroic saga, told in this form (it was also a gallery show at one point) through full-page illustrations and text by Jessie Horsting. A 96-page hardcover for $19.99 from Boom! Studios. It’s about a hero named Hero searching for his beloved Lady across the globe while clashing with evil. Something tells me Amano’s art will be the main draw here. But what looks!

X Isle #2: Also from Boom!, the latest issue of this story about explorers in trouble in a mystery land. Review tomorrow.

Drawing Comics is Easy! (Except When It’s Hard): Apparently this thing, an instructional book devised by a seven-year old - apparently complete with lessons on word balloon placement, light sources, etc. - is targeted at pre-teens interested in picking up the basics of comics composition, though the pre-release hype (there was some big thing in the New York Times that’s in the archives now) seems to be positioning it more as some sort of novelty gift for comics connoisseurs in-the-know. Regardless, here we have a 176-page, $19.95 color hardcover book by Alexa Kitchen (who is now nine, and also recently contributed to Dark Horse’s Sexy Chix anthology), published by her father, underground legend Denis Kitchen. Introduction by Mark Schultz!

Scary Book Vol. 3: Faces: Man, the excellence of VIZ’s The Drifting Classroom (and if you haven’t bought it yet, please do so) makes me suddenly excited about anything writer/artist Kazuo Umezu has released in the US, even the odds ’n sods contained in this anthology from Dark Horse. Two new stories about little girls getting into the most awful trouble, like one who kidnaps her peers in order to her mad, disfigured older sister build a new face, or another who sends out an awful prank warning of danger to a random address, only to see everything come true. It’s 232 big pages of suddenly raised expectations!

All Star Superman #5: Starring Clark Kent, investigative reporter, as he strives to get the scoop on an imprisoned Lex Luthor. I’ve been waiting for a Clark-heavy issue since this thing began, so excellent has Frank Quitely’s visual handling of the character been. High hopes.

52 #17 (of 52): Lobo. He’s the focus of both the main story and the backup, the latter of which sees breakdown prince (and Lobo co-creator) Keith Giffen momentarily slip into primary artist mode.

Doc Frankenstein #5: Hey, this is still coming out. Gosh. Here’s a preview to prove it.

The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation: Quite possibly the most publicly visible comic of the moment in America, a 144-page adaptation of the famous results of the famous investigation. Created by Harvey Comics veterans Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón, published by Hill and Wang. The softcover is $16.95, the hardcover $30.00, though only the former is on Diamond’s list for the week. It’s also being serialized for free online at Slate. Dry, information-heavy, but in my mind a compelling attempt to really plug the American public into the possibilities of the comics form as an educational tool for the summarization and clarification of daunting topics. I await more of its ongoing reception.


Another one coming.

American Born Chinese


EDIT (8/28/06 6:01 PM): I've been informed that the price on the copy of the book I was given is incorrect - the below review has been updated with the true (lower!) price.


This will be out in a few weeks. It’s an original softcover graphic novel from writer/artist Gene Luen Yang, published by First Second, 240 color pages for $16.95.

The book is entirely about race in the United States. The topic permeates every single page of the book, it dictates the setting and development of every plot and subplot, it is to some literal or allegorical degree on the mind of every major character, and it is the soil from which the entirety of the book’s iconography grows. Moreover, Yang’s examination of the topic refuses to yield upon setting out the difficult situations faced by young men and women of minority races; rather, Yang posits that the cloud of racism, while obviously real and awful, can be magnified even more through the self-loathing and angry internal nature of the oppressed and insulted themselves. Not an easy, comforting topic, even as Yang’s plentiful humor and fantasy combat and teenage drama hi-jinx and candied art style strive to make it all go down as easy as possible.

Thus, the tone of the story is sometimes confrontational, but ultimately contemplative, concluding that the questions of race must first be answered in the individual’s own mind. The book’s use of familiar visual images of race is both fitting, in that it forces the individual reader to make up their own mind about what they’re seeing, as well as detrimental, in that it sometimes raises hugely complex questions one can only wish the book had directly addressed rather than leaving to the infinite tossing of unguided subjectivity. Of course, Yang has been the first to admit that the book traffics in simplifications - on his occasional blog over at First Second, the author admits to tackling a “much more complex” topic than the contours of the book can quite hold. But it’s more satisfying a work than not, the sort of complicated, sprawling thing one hopes to see from flawed original graphic novels more than floundering excursions into storied genre.

Look at the title. American Born Chinese. Well gosh, if you’re born in America, aren’t you simply American? That’s never been the only question for me though, a white guy. There’s “What nationality are you?” “Well, I’m American.” And then, “No no, what are you?” “Oh, Scots-Irish and Italian.” The nature of the melting pot. And to my personal experience, the son of, say, Chinese immigrant parents is labeled ‘Chinese’ as much as ‘American.’ Oh, I trust there’s cosmopolitan centers all over the country where such matters of origin are half-considered, at the most, but I have never lived in those places. I’ve lived in suburbs and the like, and I assure you that there are middle-class places all over this nation in 2006 where things like interracial dating are still scalding, scandalous material, as much as some would care to wish the climate off to backwaters and mountains. No. American Born Chinese acknowledges this state, its mostly suburban, well-enough-off setting a more than viable stage for two of its three stories.

Oh yes - it’s also a structurally ambitious piece, with a trio of distinct tales to tell.

There’s the young life of Jin Wang (do compare to the author’s name), one of three ‘Asian’ kids in grade school. I use that label since despite Jin’s being of Chinese descent, classmate Suzy’s being of Japanese decent, and best pal Wei-Chen’s being an immigrant from Taiwan, they’re all kind of looked at as the same by both fellow kids and good-intentioned adults. Jin initially can’t stand Wei-Chen’s inability to grasp English, or his dorkish nature, but the two soon bond over that famed Japanese-born, American-streamlined toy sensation, Transformers. And not only is that a potent enough symbol for cultures crossing, but the transforming nature of the toys reflects Jin’s deep-seated desire to become someone else, someone less a target of taunts and epithets. There’s a great moment where the three characters are engaging in teasing and joking, only to have passerby hurl unkind comments at them, stopping the conversation in its tracks and forcing the page to complete itself in awkward silence. But as the story moves on, and Jin attempts a romance with a pretty white girl, it is strongly implied that his own unease in his skin might be creating some of his problems.

Another story takes the approach of a fable, that of the legendary Monkey King, who lives in a mythic world of magic and creatures that’s nevertheless distinctly Christian in its makeup (as Yang notes at the above link, this is to tie the book even tighter down to the Asian-American experience, mixing and matching Eastern and Western elements). Specifically, I’d say it’s Catholic in its approach, with themes of holy deeds necessary to demonstrate one’s devotion to God, and the payment of hard penance for one’s sins. The Monkey King, you see, is livid that all the minor gods of the world refuse to respect him, due mainly to his simply being a monkey. He trains hard, and masters all the most potent martial arts, all for vengeance - would he have achieved so much had he not been insulted? This is a natural question, and one the book suggests yet doesn’t quite answer; rather, we largely see the nasty consequences of a shame-driven life of anger, and the peace that can only arrive through satisfaction with one’s self and the worship of God.

And, to keep things from getting too pious, we have the adventures of lily-white high school student Danny and his fantastical visiting cousin Chin-Kee, a walking, kung-fu kicking, English-mangling summary of every single Chinese stereotype that author Yang can conjure. His skin is bright yellow, his eyes a permanent squint! He wears his hair in a queue! He sings Western pop songs in the most amusing ways! When someone sets down their Coke, we know what kind of joke he’ll play! He eats cats! He excels in every school subject! He occasionally bears the demon eyes and sharp fingers of an early comic book Fu Manchu-modeled villain! But what he never does is listen to the insults of those around him; the only one embarrassed, mortified, is Danny. Is it really all a satire of white anxiety over the stereotypes they once cheerfully propagated? Well, no. Eventually the story changes, and moves away from that potentially fascinating direction, which is too bad - as funny as I found a lot of this material to be, it’s bumped up well past the point of queasiness, for good reason.

None of the three stories end as the same type of thing they began as, actually. Very late in the book, there’s some jarring upsets of tone and expectation, shifts so fierce that they can’t help but distract the reader, though upon a second review you'll see they are set up earlier in the book, and they absolutely serve to bring Yang’s themes to their logical conclusion, realism or narrative smoothness be damned. Yet, one can’t help but think this message didn’t quite need the last layer of formal play that Yang applied in the last 40 pages, that perhaps the stories could have spoken with greater eloquence when left alone upon the stage. Yang’s use of iconography is smart, mixing and matching nervous young kids and noble monkeys, vehemently racist images with the sensitive delineations between the individual faces of his international, all-Asian young characters - we see them as differently as they see one another, the author guiding us through the nature of comics to a deeper appreciation.

But the allegorical drive of his storytelling begins to jumble in the heat of his ending. By the time one character pops up near the end driving a tricked-out car and clad in hip-hop gear - to symbolize his rejection of traditional values of patience and a turn toward self-absorption, no less - well, that’s quite a large can of worms to open in such a symbol-rich space, and the book simply never addresses the implications. Hey, maybe the character is actually acting for himself for the first time, eager to rip down boundaries of how he’s expected to act. With questions as potent as those raised by this book, it often seems unsatisfying to not be given many answers. The fine line between leaving it up to the reader to ponder, and merely refusing to follow through on issues raised. I don’t think American Born Chinese errs too much toward the latter, but I do feel the book grows unwieldy as it goes on, eventually escaping the author’s control, just as escapes are made in the book itself.

As I’ve said before, however, the flaws of a book such as this have a way of reinforcing the ambition behind the whole. How could such a big topic not threaten to escape the author's grasp? It would have been nice if it had been more manageable, but I think the book is still worth checking out. It has a lot of good in it, a lot of needed challenge, and strong desire. And as a catalog of icons and symbols, filtered through an individual's able vision, it's often very fine. An appeal for everyone.


Up my sleeve.

*Well, I don’t have much time for posting anything else today, so I guess I ought to play the trump card:


Tastes great, and great for you.


I'm a little new.

*I have never before blogged at the same time as Dirk Deppey.

But that is what I do today.

Elephantmen #2

There’s a fair amount of jokes in this issue, but far and away the best one is right in the credits of the first story, Behemoth and Leviathan, which is co-written by creator Richard Starkings and God. Which isn’t by itself all that funny, it’s just that Starkings lists his own name first, which just slew me. I’m extrapolating the actual credits, by the way; Elephantmen is such an easygoing, just-us-folks-having-fun sort of affair that nobody in the credits are actually given titles. It’s enough to merely know who’s there, and enjoy yourself.

And it’s still good fun this issue, with the two stories retaining issue #1’s setup of a longer ‘direct’ story featuring a random character from the book’s universe of anthropomorphic beasties-in-a-human-world, and a shorter ‘experimental’ piece involving noir hippopotamus and franchise star Hip Flask (the protagonist of Hip Flask, the ‘main’ book, which is actually a miniseries, though really it’s a pair of one-shots and a smaller miniseries, though one of the one-shots is a prologue to the mini-miniseries, and the other is about to become the actual ‘first’ issue of Elephantmen via reprint, a #0, which kind of transubstantiates the ongoing Elephantmen into being the ‘main’ book, although Hip Flask himself is still the nominal star - everyone got that?). The Behemoth story falls into the latter category, an 8-page fight scene between Hip Flask and one Elijah Delaney, a crocodile fellow. Why are they fighting? Why is Hip Flask clutching a strange idol? It doesn’t matter, though it is all accompanied by selections from the Book of Job, some of it amusingly punchy (“Everything under heaven belongs to me” is accompanied by a filth-choked techno-dump), if rather simple. Also some nice art from series regular Moritat, aided by 2000 AD stalwart Henry Flint.

The 16-page main story, Shock Croc!, sees Starkings and Moritat on their own, as the same Mr. Delaney puts in a special guest appearance on a Howard Stern-based character’s satellite radio show, which is held on a real satellite, this being the future and all. Lots of corny jokes in that vein, though there is a point in there about off-color humor masking societal anxieties rather than alleviated them, or something. It’s probably not that much different than the kind of message you’d get from a superhero book, maybe a Marvel mutant thing, but there’s something extra, almost intangible about the added appeal of Starkings’ creation - perhaps the book’s single-minded desire to amble through snatches of city scenery and moments in the lives of walking, talking beasts, rather than sewing much of anything directly together, though the two stories do connect in certain ways (both plot-wise, and through a mutual jaundiced view of religion), and one of the stories this issue will connect to one next issue, and actually Mr. Delaney had a cameo in issue #1 as well, now that I think of it. He looked to be some sort of pimp. But for all its futurist grime and genetic atrocities, this is an unfailingly pleasant book, the sort of thing you can quite easily pick up every month to stare into the viewfinder at Hip Flask’s silly/violent/hopeless/parodic world.

And there’s the now-obligatory Image bonus materials, the most interesting of which is part 2 of an interview with cover artist (José) Ladrönn, on the topic of his father. Next month we're promised a similar chat with Dave Gibbons, who has absolutely nothing to do with the book. But hey, Starkings wants him in. And he's God in here.


It's those costumes again.

*You’ve seen this linked already at Tom Spurgeon’s, at the very least, but I need to point out for myself that there’s a simply lovely review of Lost Girls up at ImageTexT, the University of Florida’s comics-devoted academic journal, which just released its newest issue to the web. They had some nice Alan Moore stuff up last issue too. But don’t look too far backward - you’ll miss interesting, lengthy current pieces on the architectural grounding of Elektra: Assassin and identity & metamorphosis in Kabuki, among other academic doodads and thingies.

And also from Tom’s - new Dave Sim!!

Justice League of America #1


This is the big relaunch from writer Brad Meltzer and penciller Ed Benes, though there was actually an issue #0 last month with a slew of guest artists. This ‘first’ issue is extra-big (38 pages of story, plus an 8-page preview of Meltzer’s new prose novel The Book of Fate), extra-costly ($3.99), and has a Michael Turner variant cover. It is probably going to sell a few copies, even though issue #0 had to settle for second place last month, well over 100,000 copies behind Civil War #3. Still, it’ll do ok.

Two things struck me about the book’s content.

First was the sheer melodrama of it all. This is superhero soap opera to the nth degree. There are no action scenes in this comic. There’s violence, yes, and also a woman-and-child-in-possible-peril suspense set piece; actually, those two bits are even intermingled for added punch. But all it did was take me back to the silent era of film, with D.W. Griffith busting out his famed ‘cross-cuts’ to get the audience’s collective pulse racing at the climax of another cannonball-subtle saga of love and tragedy and sacrifice and big gestures, big collapses, big tears.

Oh, there’s tears in here too, as Red Tornado’s beloved significant other has flashbacks to old stories whilst weeping and wailing over the hero’s artificial husk and remembering the beautiful times where they did the crossword puzzle in bed. He’s been dead six times before, and she just knows he’ll be back once again, d… darn it! You’ll recall Red Tornado most recently playing a very small but pertinent role in 52, and that’s not where the connections end: all of this plays out in front of Doc Magnus and a female Metal Man who totally has a crush on her boss and engages in clumsy yet allegedly endearing ‘robots trying to be human’ shtick, but then her head gets sawed off by an evil version of Mister Miracle, along with that of a male Metal Man. Mrs. Red Tornado and her darling adopted child (“Mommy, I got the cake ready. You bringing Daddy home now?” “I’m sure he’ll be home soon, muffin.” CUE FLOODS OF WEEPING) don’t get beheaded, though the threat of such is evident from the ‘cross-cutting,’ and we’re assured that shadowy villains have something so unspeakably atrocious planned that the Justice League will want to rip their very hearts out in retaliation.

There’s also stuff about Arsenal bonding with Hal Jordan and Green Arrow manfully stepping aside to let the next generation take charge, and an undercover Black Lightening interrogating super-drug addicts, and Vixen looking for the Question, who’s apparently not yet home from his 52 sojourn (why let the teases be confined to 52 itself, after all?). Almost every subplot gets a little listing of which characters are in it, which is handy considering that Meltzer looks to be picking up on 52’s interest in minor DCU characters; Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman spend all their time bickering over who to select for the new League, though Clark also indulges in a little internal narration:

Sure, Bruce loves control, but in this case… Bruce won’t say it, but I can see the way he’s staring at the photo. He wants the Captain because he’s good. Not just a good fighter. Truly good. And on a dark knight, a little light always makes you feel better. Even if you won’t admit it.”

Oh tumbling wit, take me away!

But even Superman thinking up vaguely dirty puns at the Justice League conference table with a contented smile on his face can’t draw much attention away from Red Tornado. Maybe it’s because the other minor characters and their plots are set up in a wholly perfunctory way, just getting the cards on the table for later issues - I’ll confess that I didn’t even understand parts of Vixen’s sequence until I looked up her powers online (and judging from the way her spine contorts to stick her butt out at the reader, I presume her default attribute is ‘serpent’). But floating around in some astral purgatory, looking down at his weeping lover and saying “Look how she holds my hand,” Red Tornado practically dictates the tone of the issue from on high: moistened character interactions under a cloud of assumed gravitas, villains creeping beyond the horizon and violence momentarily crackling into sight. He doesn’t even get an explanatory logo introducing him; he’s so vital, we all should know him already, I guess.

Which leads me to the second thing I noticed: I did feel like I ought to know who Red Tornado is by the end of the issue. Because characters kept telling me I should. Over and over. And I guess writer Meltzer is presuming that if the characters keep on trying to convince me that Red Tornado is very big and important, eventually I’ll believe it myself. Red Tornado! He comes back from the dead a lot! He’s a wonderful lover and father and very sensitive! Cruel villains snarl at the mention of him: “You’re scared of him, aren’t you? Half a day in his company, and suddenly you’re terrified of Red Tornado?” Oh sure, the baddie being addressed shoots that observation down as a misinterpretation, but that doesn’t stop villainy from attempting to seize the magnificent Red Tornado robot body! And how about Batman, who late in the issue seriously delivers a short speech to Superman and Wonder Woman about how bloody awesome Red Tornado is?

But if you want to talk untapped potential…”

Make it explicit, eh? This same thing happened in issue #1 of Moon Knight over at Marvel, where half the title character’s narration seemed geared toward transparently urging the reader to reconsider their prior thoughts on the greatness of Moon Knight. But at least he kicked a few asses and delved into hallucination; all we actually see of Red Tornado is, well, people talking about him as he floats around and talks a lot himself, and then he gets a body and people are understandably delighted to see him. The whole thing seems awfully overstated to me, almost as if the book's team needs to convince itself of what it's saying through repetition; why not have Red Tornado do more stuff in the ‘first’ issue rather than just pumping him up through verbiage?

Ah well, so it goes in the mellerdrammer - lots of sizzle over the steak for now. But boy does Meltzer like pressing those emotional buttons ("What about cupcakes? We should have cupcakes for him -- especially if he's coming back soon."), even though he sometimes misses and jams his finger on the emotional control panel. I will say that from a purely structural standpoint Meltzer constructs things quite handsomely - there’s eight narrators (nine if you’re including the omniscient one) employed at different points in the book, and it never feels jumbled or confusing, even when one of them seems to be omniscient and then cleverly returns to Earth for a while. There’s not a lot to say about Ed Benes’ art, beyond that it makes everyone look like they’re guest starring in a miscellaneous Wildstorm book from the mid-to-late-’90s, and that his staging doesn’t get in the way of the dialogue.

That's what's really big here - character interaction. I found it to be as often soppy or dashed-off or unintentionally funny as it was interesting or sweet or thrilling. It clearly wants to be big, deep, emotionally drenched and therefore weighty. But then, it also wants me to go crazy over Red Tornado, and from what it's showing here I'm only willing to meet it around halfway for now.


Comics from DC and Grant.

*52 Dept: I guess the main problem with this issue is that it doesn’t make any sense when it needs to. From Montoya’s ‘rat poison, rat poison… oh my land, suicide bombings!’ line of deduction, to the utter lack of any sort of crowd, security, or Black Adam reaction following a kid getting shot to death at a major public function after she’s already been spotted brandishing a weapon that could annihilate hundreds of people, to the utterly jumbled temporal positioning of the wedding itself (so, did Isis just somehow not know of a pre-planned wedding until the night before despite visitors like Montoya knowing ahead of time, or did Montoya have a psychic premonition of an unplanned event, or were the first two pages of the story some haplessly mislabled attempt at a flashback, or is there just a lack of segment-to-segment communication between the 52 writers? the first and the last seem most likely to me), this issue is about on par with the Ralph epic from a few weeks back in feeling like it was hammered into script form without the time necessary to sweat the details.

And unlike the ballad of poor Ralph, there wasn’t even any tantalizing Crazy! to divert my attention. Hey, I don’t really mind that Captain Marvel has maybe gotten a handle on his overwhelming duties in the last month (or maybe he just feels better farther away from the cave), but there’s no doubt in my head that having Batshit Insane Captain Marvel officiate the blessed solemnization would have made the comic 300% more fun. And then Ralph could have burst in, dragging his scarecrow lover and demanding a double ceremony!

Instead, we have Montoya and the Question running around looking for a bomb, complete with a forehead-slapping last-second moral conflict for Our Heroine to overcome. Oh the horrors of conflict! It was all so intense that Renee and the bomber served up individual prayers at their mutual moment of action; the ties that bind! And that’s before the Kahndaq Public Beautification Committee gets to soak in the symbolism of washing the blood (of children!!) off the streets during Adam and Isis’ night of passion. The only way this could have gotten any riper is if there were cute children and a… garden… ah.

Some ok suspense pacing, though, and I liked the return of the big red sticks of explosive matter worn around bombers' bodies from way back in Week 1. Makes me think Elmer Fudd is going to wander in and get his arm ripped off at any moment. Also: two big pages of Escape From Planet TERROR! I hope they’re the ones who run into Lobo.

Batman #656

Well, this is a bit better.

At Newsarama today, writer Grant Morrison detailed his grand 15-issue scheme for Batman - a later extension of the run is already likely - and expounded on everything from Bruce Wayne’s sex drive to plans for reintroducing Ace the Bat-Hound. And he bashed Frank Miller too. There’s nothing quite like a Morrison interview to get you simultaneously excited over whatever he’s talking about and wary of whether or not the comic is really going to match the chat. Morrison chats are almost always entertaining, but the prior issue of this book had me lukewarm.

It gets more entertaining in chapter 2, essentially an issue-length fight scene with the Dark Knight fighting down a whole army of Man-Bats against the backdrop of a comics-themed art exhibition. Yes, if you happened to be wondering what in blazes those panel blow-ups were doing on the walls last issue, the answer seems to be: aesthetics. “All this comic book stuff is way too highbrow for me” remarks Bruce before the action begins, and Morrison is more than happy to oblige him with an extended sequence of giggly surface appeal - virtually every panel of the big fight features a background canvas goofing on the action, from an artificial city backdrop accompanying Batman as he swoops down, to dialogue bubbles and stylized faces offering commentary on the punches and crashes, to garish sound effects unwittingly providing a service they sometimes don't in actual superhero comics anymore. At least not with such aplomb.

The meaning's as clear in this one as that bit with the Joker going in the trash last issue (only less invasive to the 'reality' of Batman - I liked that Joker part, but it is kind of odd for Batman to just toss the guy's body around): we don’t need to keep the foolish and the antic tucked away under the veneer of gallery art - it wants to get free! Cutesy, but Morrison’s attempt to literally join the sealed-away past with the muscular present resonates well with his Newsarama comments on approaching the world in his work through symbol and metaphor, which don’t have to be solemn things for solemn comics any more than camp artifacts need to be slathered with detached ‘appreciation.’

The sequence also offers a series of guideposts for penciller Andy Kubert in keeping the action clear - there’s still a few jarring choices in perspective, but nothing that stops the action in its tracks like last issue. A few poses still look stiff and awkward, especially with some of the terrified women. But Kubert actually manages to sell some of the book’s humor fairly well: I loved the sight of his carved-from-marble Batman embracing Talia in the nude, save for the cowl, which apparently always remains on. It’s so seriously rendered yet so inherently ridiculous, why it’s almost like something Jim Lee would have cooked up with… Frank Miller.

Morrison’s a funnier writer though, tossing in little things like Batman’s mind drifting away to Thanksgiving dinner during the obligatory inner monologue that nonetheless seem utterly perfect in the context of a big fight scene. This Batman’s a born improviser as much as the preeminent planner seen in Morrison’s JLA, prone to using what’s around him with cunning logic and a not bottomless pool of luck to draw from. Character work like that makes massive fight issues worth more than they’d usually be. Maybe I'm just feeling generous after going through that interview - but then, there's also some fun dialogue, and a great little ending encounter with a new cast member. It seems meaty, even if it's a lean cut.

If there’s one thing I hate… it’s art with no content.”

Hey, even if you don't want too much content, this is a decent selection. Good stuff on several levels. A strong step up from last time.


The middle-of-week squeeze is on me.

*Here is a blog about a comic called Criminal. I sometimes think the book is out in a week or two, given all the talk that's going around about it, but it's actully not out until early October. This site has links to all your Icon-released, creator-owned Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips needs until (and after) then. There's even a 'trailer' that seems to have been put together by the creators through breaking up completed pages and patching them together into original attention-catching displays, which is a nice touch.

*Amusements Dept: Yeah, I’m running late tonight. How about a game? And a burning question? What exactly happens to those flying bullet guys after they’re off the screen in Super Mario Brothers? Well, now you can find out in a little thing that’s not directly based on Mario levels, but very much captures the look and spirit. I'll be back with the new comics in 24, give or take.


This evening seemed longer than the rest.

*Today, parentheses rule over


The Boys #1 (aces! another helpful reminder from Garth Ennis that he doesn’t care much for those superheroes! I was getting worried…)

Forty Cartoon Books of Interest (let Seth take you by the hand to frolic through the orchards of very neat things)

Phonogram #1 (of 6) (music=magic)

Deadman #1 (CHILLS)

Kampung Boy (you should buy this when it's out in a few weeks, because it's really good)

None could hope to break their grip.

*It might cost you big,


Lost Girls: This isn’t on Diamond’s list or anything, but I keep hearing that some stores eastward in the US are getting a limited number of copies this week. It’s some porn thing, by the way. I guess all of you on the west coast will have to do without your porn comics. Or just re-read your copies of Silky Whip Extreme. Man, Alan Moore’s next collaboration should be with Oh! Great…

Phoenix Vol. 8 (of 12): Civil War Part 2 (of 2): It’s ok. We can all stop fighting. Chill out, folks. Relax, retailers. Don’t worry, Marvel. Osamu Tezuka’s got you covered. The God of Manga is back from the grave, folks, 'cause the Phoenix is all about immortality - and the drawing hand still works. A seven-issue miniseries? Ninety-one tie-ins and/or aftermaths? Yeah, back in the day that was called a pre-brunch warm-up. And Tezuka’s so fast, it’s already finished. Civil War ends here, and Spidey, Cap, Iron Man - nobody will be the same after they discover the mystic secrets of the human soul and the vastness of infinite lives across eternity. Dead never means dead now. We’re all on Tezuka’s side. So line up early for your copies of this 208-page, $15.99 climactic spectacular, which totally isn’t actually the rest of a story originally serialized in COM from 1978-80 and in all likelihood accompanied by Robe of Feathers from 1971. True believers.

Death Note Vol. 7 (of 12): Ha ha, oh how I wept when I accidentally had this installment’s big event ruined for me online. Mark my words - it’s a big one. There’ll be plenty more tears when the deed is exposed for all to see, unless everyone’s already cried their eyes out thanks to VIZ’s bookstore penetration - I haven’t gotten to a bookstore in a while.

Winsor McCay: Early Works Vol. 8: I’m fairly certain this is the last installment of Checker’s line of trade paperback format compilations of McCay miscellany. It’s certainly the last one Checker has listed on their site, which gives absolutely no clue as to what’s in the damned thing. I’m thinking lots of editorial cartoons. Which isn’t to say they’re done with old Silas - a more focused reprint project, Dream of the Rarebit Fiend: The Saturdays, is soon to launch, apparently in a more accommodatingly large format.

Walt & Skeezix: Book 2: But we all know this thing will be as accommodating as possible, the latest volume of Drawn & Quarterly’s Gasoline Alley dailies reprint project. The debut volume was the very model of how to package a vintage strip collection with an eye toward both education, display, and pure beauty, and this one looks to keep the ball rolling with 80 pages of extras (some material from which was excerpted in the latest issue of Comic Art) stuffed into the 400-page, $29.95 hardcover whole. Here's a few pages. If you like Frank King (and I sure do), you’re in hog heaven.

Elephantmen #2: Nice to see this book is doing well so far. It's a good slice of weird science fantasy. Between this, Gødland, Fell, Casanova, and Phonogram, I'm buying a lot of new or newish ongoing Image books these days.

Supermarket #4 (of 4): I read these comics!

Hawkgirl #55: These are the comics I read!

52 #16 (of 52): Cover artist J.G. Jones stretches himself into a Black Adam back-up, as plotlines collide in the main story. Will the Question catch a bouquet of cold-blooded murder at Black Adam’s wedding? Or will he stand around and deliver lines to Montoya like “Kind of like you and me… till death do us part” while the rest of us titter and wink at each other?

Eternals #3 (of 6): Still holding steady fairly nicely.

Action Philosophers #6 (of 9): The People’s Choice: So called because this issue’s line-up of profiled personalities were selected via email and internet polling. You apparently demanded Ludwig Wittgenstein, so you’re gonna get him, along with Soren Keirkegaard and St. Thomas Aquinas (whose entire story is now online for your edification). If you’re feeling left out right now, there’s still time to vote for the lineup of the big final issue, in which 20 philosophers will appear in 32 pages. Write-ins encouraged!

Absolute Dark Knight: Oh yeah. All Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder? Never going to finish. I mean, Frank Miller's directing a movie now, and we don't even know how long the Jim Lee run is supposed to be, let alone when Neal Adams was set to start with Miller still scripting, and now the next issue has been pushed to November and Lee's working on another book - so yeah. Going nowhere fast. Anyway, here's a $99.99 reminder of the last time Miller pissed everyone off with a Batman comic, plus some other book you might have read. Oversized, and all the better for letting those sweet DK2 colors seep into your brain during the Green Lantern bits.


Ear to the page.

*The Best Part of Waking Up Dept: Purchase delicious Wilkins coffee or young Muppets will end your life. Do check the sidebar at the link for many more adventures. (found by Brian Nicholson, from the other day’s comments section)

*Look for this.

Kampung Boy

This should be out in a few weeks, as part of the second wave of book releases from First Second. It’s $16.95 for 144 b&w pages.

It’s funny how things go with international cartooning. Every so often you get a superstar, a major commercial force in their homeland, an author of popular works that reached many scores of people, and often the only place you can hear any discussion of them is through the more ‘arty,’ ‘alternative’ channels of the English-speaking comics world. If you lean close toward the works of Osamu Tezuka, you can often hear the virile populist voice of the material resounding upward. And yet, his books are often published here with arms folded in the determination to put out good art for the sake of good art - they are rarely (if ever) hits, the particular environs of one comics culture transforming a sensation into a wizened nod of the head among the omnivorous. ‘Ah, Tezuka! Ah yes!’

But the voice of the work - lean in close.

You can hear Lat talking. You can hear him booming with popular force.

‘Lat’ (actual name: Mohammad Nor Khalid), is a hugely popular cartoonist in Southeast Asia, whose work has seen virtually no exposure in the US. He’s been written about in The Comics Journal, and he’s put in appearances in both volumes of the (very good) Alternative Comics anthology series Rosetta, but that’s about it. This is his first ‘solo’ book to appear on these shores. Are there cultural considerations at work? A barrier to entry that might make his material less accessible to those outside his native Malaysia? Surely that’s true for his acclaimed editorial cartoons. But a straightforward, unadorned autobiographical comic like Kampung Boy?

I say no. I declare that this work can shine anywhere. Oh sure, the 1950s setting might have struck a nostalgic chord with local readers in 1979, upon the book’s original release. That feeling is not going to spring up for you. But the power of Lat’s art, and his unassuming look at a youth gracefully remembered; that stuff is bound to work. As Seth wrote of this book’s 1981 sequel, Town Boy, in his recent Forty Cartoon Books of Interest: “It’s pure cartooning - entirely based on eccentric stylizations but grounded with an eye capable of wonderfully accurate observation of the real world.” Seth then notes that a particular sequence “rings true even a culture away.” He might as well have been talking about this earlier work.

Kampung Boy is a very fast read, and bears no evident desire to provide any sweeping statements on youth or society or A Time And A Place, or whatever. It simply tracks the author’s life from his birth to his departure from the Kampung (Malay for ‘village’), off to boarding school and his first taste of life away from home. It’s done with taste, good humor, a wry eye cast toward the little dramas of a child’s life, and some occasionally goddamned explosive cartooning. There’s a 10-page sequence in here, depicting the author running off for a swim with a trio of friends, that will make you sweat - the pacing, the directional drive, the use of space, and the virtuosity of Lat’s character art combine to form an outstanding sense of movement and joy, a boy’s view of an opening world ripped from the bloodiest depths of the heart and made golden and sentient on the page. I mean, gosh.

First Second has an extensive preview up, one that will give you a sense of Lat’s aesthetic. The book is presented in landscape format, absolutely necessary for the visual approach - Lat uses virtually no panels or captions, preferring to bounce from sprawling, full-page panoramas of local sights to multiple viewpoints of character action positioned in a sea of white, narration set out atop and around everything in a manner not entirely dissimilar to an early American newspaper comic. But Lat is working with a book in mind, and he skillfully doles out youthful adventures without ever bogging down the story’s fleet procession. We’re ‘helping’ Auntie with making rubber, and then we’re off to Koran class, and then we’re up for ritual circumcision, and then we’re shown the family plantation, and before you know it we’re away from home. A bit like real childhood - the novelty of a foreign culture’s mores will no doubt hold some attention, but the gilded-yet-heartfelt nature of Lat’s construction conveys a common feel for sweet, lost things.

There’s a bit of subtext. You can clearly glimpse the encroachment of industrialization on the village, and there’s some modest work done with connecting the status of the family plantation metaphorically to young Lat’s personal connection to his Kampung roots. It’s understated, quiet. One gets the feeling Lat won’t mind if you choose to ignore such things, and focus on the funny business of his expressive characters, reminiscent of the likes of E.C. Segar and Sergio Aragonés, but totally unique, and set against lively, lush backdrops of beauty and business. People live in these places, and you’ll understand how Lat’s gentle caricatures hit a chord with so many.

Will the same happen here? I don’t know. Kampung Boy has no catchy connection to current news, and no irresistible struggle against repression or danger behind it. It’s hardly shallow, but not ‘weighty.’ It’s just a nice book about sweetly observed days in a faraway (to us) place, and who knows how that’ll play? But I know this: the art of Lat has a strength that transcends any bounty. Time, place, culture, the page. The relativity of popularity. Its speech is still evident, upon a listen.


Dead Once Again

Deadman #1

Conception and death… cause and effect… are they really one and the same? No beginning…no ending… no actual living… no real dying…? If the living can forget… can the dead remember?

That’s from the first captions (save for the introductory quotes-by-famous-folk) of this new Vertigo ongoing series. There’s more ellipses in there than my average message board post, and it gives the whole thing sort of a ‘50s C-movie vibe. Can’t you just hear Criswell flawlessly landing every dramatic pause as the camera slowly pans across gorgeous Bronson Canyon? It’s got that special nonsense texture - the weight of portentous authority behind every drifting question. You half expect to see a man shamble around in a junk shop monster suit at any moment, though this particular instance of narration is actually accompanied on the comics page by an airplane smashing into a building. Can’t escape that old spookshow vibe, though.

Writer Bruce Jones is no stranger to such pursuits. He did script a fair amount of horror comics back in the day (one of which was recently adapted by director Dario Argento into his initial Masters of Horror episode Jenifer, now out on dvd), but even as modern a pursuit as Deadman bears a certain anxious concern with the weird unknown. Oh, it tries hard to roll out concerns of family rivalry and things like that, but really the thrust of this first issue is evident from that opening narration, a somewhat stogy dive into glimpsing the Other Side and suddenly waking up in cool skin, scaring the shit out of poor hospital orderlies underwear-clad women alike. There’s even a little talk of “heavy gravity theory” and infinite parallel universes, just the sort of thing this kind of plot needs to really give it that special edge of tomfoolery.

Speaking of the plot, it concerns Brandon and Scott Cayce, two brothers in the cockpit of the aforementioned airliner. Brandon seems to be slipping in and out of dreams, while Scott pilots the plane. Although sometimes Brandon is piloting the plane too, though that might just be part of his reverie, which also includes childhood adventures, his father’s death, and the time Scott cheated with and subsequently married Brandon’s scientific genius girlfriend. Brandon and Scott have a nice conversation throughout the whole thing about the nature of life and death, except for the parts where Scott is trying to kill Brandon back in the cockpit. Needless to say, Brandon eventually winds up leaping back into his own pale, dead skin, since otherwise we wouldn’t have a Deadman comic. Future issues promise sex, string theory, parapsychology, and political conspiracy.

It’s pretty solid, given that we’re still in the setup stage. Of the other Bruce Jones comics that I’ve read, I’d say this sort of book is a vastly better fit for his brand of sometimes stilted dialogue than any of his superhero works; here, the more pronouncedly unreal atmosphere is more conductive to such things. And no, Deadman is certainly not a superhero book in this incarnation (not yet, at least), though the discovery of any connection to prior incarnations will have to come from folks more familiar than I with the old version, since all I know of that is the twee spin granted it by Neil Gaiman in Teddy Kristianson’s issue of Solo (#8). John Watkiss handles the art here, with a fittingly broody touch and lots of thick, dark lines, though Jeromy Cox’s colors sometimes give the character designs an oddly computer-rendered feel.

Still, it’s not bad, talking about both individual elements and the book as a whole. It’s all precisely the same as the sum of its parts, which I guess makes perfect sense, huh?


Saturdays are about cartoons and this post is filthy with them.

*None of this stuff is licensed for release in the US, unless we're talking trailers. But it all should be, even though most of them don't have a prayer, being short-form works and old things.

*Oh heavens. Your anime god is Koji Morimoto, and now you can watch his 16-minute 1997 short film Noiseman Sound Insect in two parts. Fansubbed, even! Buckle up for some truly swell animation (courtesy of animation director Masaaki Yuasa, who’d later helm Mind Game), a Yoko Kanno soundtrack that’s inextricably bound to the action onscreen, and a fevered, jumpy script concerning a beat-crazy CGI villain named Noiseman who loves the Crystal, and the bold traditionally-animated youths who break free of his grip thanks to the Juice, and bring back all the sweet melodies to their 2D/3D hybrid world. THERE ARE NO DRUG REFERENCES IN THIS FILM. And definitely not any culture clash comment, nor even a speck of satire regarding the looming shadow of computer graphics over the animation world. Just good clean fun for the whole family, folks.

*And speaking of Yuasa, fans of Mind Game will certainly be interested in his latest project as a director: Kemonozume, a brand-new (and NOT SAFE FOR WORK) 13-episode anime television series that just started airing the other week. Episode 1 is already up at YouTube (it’s more than just English-language television on there, you know), though it’s not translated or anything. Pure Japanese, and boy is there a lot of talking. The plot involves forbidden love, and a super-squad of monster hunters romping through what seems like several different time periods at once. No real bowl-you-over set pieces, and a lot of it seems kind of rote from my admittedly limited English-only perspective, but there’s a refreshing visual approach at work, and I’m certain things will liven up as the program continues on.

*But if it’s anime classics you’re in the mood for, well - how about a little part of me? In two installments, Yasuomi Umetsu’s 1987 short film Presence, from the long-lost (at least to the US, though I don't think it's been released on dvd anywhere) theatrical anthology feature Robot Carnival. Note the crummy video quality. I’ll be honest: it’s really turgid, some of the symbolism is just awful, and the English dub is kind of dodgy. But staring at this thing at two in the morning on TNT when I was a kid - it was the first piece of animation that really grabbed me by the throat and throttled into me an appreciation for the lyrical qualities of cartoons. There’s still some really strong, rhapsodic scenes in this. And sweet fucking shit does Umetsu know how to design. To this day he’s still one of my favorite designers, though the flawed-yet-ambitious nature of this film (his directorial debut) never gave way to much acceptance as a filmmaker - he remains something of an outsider auteur as a director, whether in porno or television, but god do they not make ‘em like Presence anymore.

*Ok, back to Koji Morimoto. He did other things in 1997, and some of them have also been fansubbed. Like Eternal Family, a set of 53 micro-episodes of television that add up to a single serialized story. Very antic and goofy, but there's something about it... must be the furry outfits.

*Iou Kuroda. If you haven't thrown your lot in with terrorism and Satan, you probably own a copy of Sexy Voice and Robo, brought to you in lavish done-in-one phonebook format by VIZ. You also fast and pray every night for the licensing of his other works, like his longest complete story, Japan Tengu Party Illustrated, or his one-man anthology showcase, Nasu. Well, one of the more memorable stories from the latter was adapted in 2003 into a 45-minute anime short film by Studio Ghibli stalwart Kitaro Kousaka, working with a different studio (Madhouse). It's called Nasu: Summer in Andalusia, and a good job was done. Not a lot of folks seemed to know it even existed until the fansub came out earlier this year, and that's what you see here. Kind of strange seeing Kuroda's scratchy style translated to the smooth lines of the Ghibli house look, but it works.

*Well hell, we've touched on most of the 'big' anime studios by now, so why not good ol' Production I.G? They have teamed up again with Mamoru Oshii (best known from the Ghost in the Shell films) for the upcoming feature Tachigui: The Amazing Lives of the Fast-Food Grifters. Here is the trailer, in which you can savor the truly awesome look of 'superlivemation,' as the director calls it. More traditional is Gedo Senki, an anime adaptation of material from The Earthsea Cycle, directed by Goro Miyazaki (Hayao's son, making his directorial debut) which has already inspired some mixed feelings from creator Ursula K. Le Guin. Oh, and Saitoshi Kon has a new feature coming soon too, Paprika.

*All right, enough of this. Play us out, Koji!


Handle With Care

*Apparently, Jacen Burrows is the artist for the upcoming original Alan Moore project at Avatar, which now appears to be a miniseries rather than a graphic novel. Unless Moore is now doing multiple original projects with the publisher. Read the whole interview, by the way - Burrows is one of the strongest among Avatar's house artists, and he has a unique perspective on the industry, as well as detailed advice for up-and-comers.

*52 Dept: In which the fifteenth week of the 52 project brings us a fifteenth week of 52. Standing in stark contrast to some other ambitious Events conjured by DC and Marvel in the past few years - I have this weird feeling that something happened recently with Civil War, though I just can’t put my finger on it. Is something about it on the internet? Did Spider-Man take off another article of clothing in front of everyone (particularly retailers)?

Actually, the situation provides an interesting peek at how DC, through 52’s very structure, seeks to insulate itself from the possibility of the series flying off the rails. One Year Later isn’t just an attention-grabbing storytelling device; it’s a guarantee that all of DC’s other books will be able to sweat out the possibility of the ambitious megaproject getting lost for a while. In many ways, 52 is as insulated from the most active universal goings-on as Seven Soldiers, another large DCU project, and one that actually did encounter significant lateness problems - if anything, the scrapes and scraps of the Seven Soldiers follow-up that we’ve managed to glimpse in subsequent DC comics have only made the still-absent ending to the damned thing even more tantalizing, since anything related to the project can be carefully danced around due to the whole affair taking place in the past, among the most minor of characters. 52 covers a wider area, and a ‘bigger’ (in terms of visibility) cast, but its temporal positioning still sets it safely off to one side, so that everything can continue in lieu of its uninterrupted momentum.

You probably couldn’t do a really big, tentpole Event that way. It’d sap the appeal, frankly. One of the attractions of those things (financially as well as story-wise) is that a billion other books need to respond immediately to its sheer damned bigness. You risk complaints of nothing important happening otherwise, charges of empty hype. It’s what Direct Market fandom at large has come to demand with its dollars (as Tom Spurgeon said of the whole affair, “Marvel disappointed their fans but screwed their retailers; the fans will get over it, the retailers have to.”), and really it’s a bit surprising that this sort of situation hasn’t cropped up sooner. The main unique factor seems to be Marvel willing to trade off a harsh present financial result for a certain presumed quality of the future, as odd as it might initially seem to be hearing artistic coherency arguments surrounding a sprawling comics megaproject with 70 tie-ins or something. 52, by precautionary design, will never have that much of a potential domino effect about it, but it’s clear that a weekly series can still go very wrong very quickly, so additional safeguards are nonetheless in place. Lord knows it's been plain from nearly the start that the visuals are going to change issue-by-issue, making quick substitutions feel smoother than they otherwise would, and certainly those new back-up features can fairly easily be switched in and out if need be, without much of an aesthetic sacrifice (as this and last issue have demonstrated). No need to walk that tightrope without a net, even if it wasn’t clear that a net was truly necessary until now.

The project hasn’t needed it yet, and this issue is another decent one. It’s a nearly all-Booster installment, a big fight with Supernova (whom I really hope is not some sort of Superman robot double, if those still exist, since that would ruin those neat Clark Kent sequences that keep turning up) and a miscellaneous giant monster, and one that fittingly has a bit of fun with the nature of time as experienced through the series. We blow through four days of the week in a page and a quarter, kind of winking at the fact that Booster hasn’t done much in the past few time-tethered issues (sadly, the ‘no more money’ aspect of the plot still doesn’t ring true). There’s a great little irony at work, with Booster’s actions throughout the issue causing all the disasters predicted at its beginning. We even get a nice feeling of having come full circle, in which Booster once again encounters unexpected problems in front of that big Superman statue, the kink in his armor as seen in issue #1 recalled in the context of mistakes with a bit more finality.

Only a bit, mind you - everything from the directness of the cover to the semi-off-page nature of Booster’s fate to the spoooooky materials recovered from that concluding blast scream that there’s still some gold left in our world. Same goes for the increasingly farcical foreshadowing of what’s going to happen to the Question (“I’m… ngk… with you to the end, Renee…” - Christ, why not have this be his last mission before retirement too while you’re at it?), as glimpsed in his and "she-wolf" Montoya’s 4-page interlude. But there is a real sense of Booster's themes being wrapped up for now, his smiling face blithely anticipating the next level of popularity he'll no doubt receive, though not in the way he'd like (unless it's all planned out, which is possible). Next issue promises some big Black Adam/Isis moments; coupled with the Magnus bits from last issue and Ralph focus of two issues ago, there's a real sense that the writing team is trying to press the subplots into their new forms for the project's second quarter, as the big machine trundles ahead, not yet slowed.


New comics day is for the new.

Phonogram #1 (of 6)

This book wants to impress you. Very badly. Oh, it flails - you’ll half expect droplets of sweat to abruptly bead upon the surface of any one of these 32 b&w pages and drift upward into your eyes via some queer gravitational inversion, perhaps somehow prompted by the time travel inherent to writing creative works and having them published, perspiration privately paused and only later resumed for public pooling. Phonogram screams for attention. In a way, this is fitting - the book does involve a surface-aware lead character who loves to show off, a character claimed as an iconic extension of the fellow providing most of the book’s supplementary/explanatory material, writer Kieron Gillen. But the relative fitting-in of such wet marks needn’t excuse their presence entirely.

I kind of liked the book, almost in spite of everything . There’s a variety of ways to look at this debut issue, published by Image for $3.50, but the initial whole looks a bit tepid from whatever direction. Gillen, eager to aid the curious reader in their apparent quest for explanation, presents a Statement of Intent in the obligatory bonus section toward the back, a terribly lofty-sounding thing detailing the book’s three-layered approach.

We first have the body, the book’s fantastical setting and concept: David Kohl, painfully hip Phonomancer (one who grasps and wields the magic of music), finds himself facing the wrath of ‘The Goddess,’ a powerful being that temporarily manifests herself inside the corporeal form of singer/songwriter Scout Niblett and demands Kohl take on some sort of important mission in penance for his wicked ways with the ladies. Perfunctory, but a skeleton something interesting might eventually hang on. Then we have the brain, the story’s immersion in authentic music journalism and criticism, which manifests primarily in Kohl’s caption-based narration:

In those vacuum post-Britpop days that marked the end of the great British indie experiment (birth: “Spiral Scratch EP”, the Buzzcocks. Death: “K”, Kula Shaker), there was space for all manner of leftist ideas to flourish. One of the infecting poppies - or weeds - among the rubble was this distinct brand of pop-feminism. It’s a woman-enhancing positive-role-modelling hair-clip dyke-friendly yes-I-like-dance-music-I’ve-got-a-Le-Tigre album melange. It’s got precisely nothing to do with me.”

So really it’s ‘John Constantine, music correspondent.’ And it doesn’t extend much beyond that in this issue, though I certainly presume that Gillen has some sort of deeper purpose in mind, given the concept and all, for what’s effective right now as simple environment dressing. Part three is the soul, the adorned autobiographical element of the book, something Gillen dubs “Automythology… reaching for the iconic in our lives - both good and bad - and transubstantiating it into the immortal.” Thus, we’re assured that Kohl is (and is not) Gillen in the way that Ziggy Stardust and Slim Shady are (and are not) David Bowie and Marshall Mathers. The character of Kohl can hardly be accused of idealization - he’s dismissive, grindingly pretentious, prone to empty posturing, and willing to walk around as the mystic protagonist of a comic book with a Superman t-shirt on (oh how droll). Lord knows I like a good ‘somewhat unsavory alter ego of the author walks around a reality-based world of heightened affect’ yarn - that was roughly every third column I wrote back when I did the weekly thing, after all - but as of now it’s not accomplishing much beyond providing a more authentic than average backdrop for some eminently familiar plot and character beats.

All of this is meant to “express the entirety of how pop music works. Music is Magic, yes - but to really explain that has to be an act of magic in and of itself. It’s true and it’s not true. It’s so fake that it’s hyperreal. It has to be too much, or else it’s not nearly enough.” At least originality is sworn off - Grant Morrison is cited as an influence, specifically his work with The Invisibles, though I found Flex Mentallo to spring more readily to mind, seeing as how it operates on essentially the same three levels, with the history of superhero comics replacing the pop scene on floor two. If only this book had more of Morrison’s storytelling spark; setting aside all intent, Phonogram reads an awful lot like a typical ‘antihero laid low and set on the path to quasi-redemption’ thing, albeit with plenty of pop music references, a handy glossary even provided among the bonuses.

Still, I kind of liked the book. There’s a few good bits, like Kohl ignoring a girl to play a record over and over again, and some decent narrative framing at work. The dialogue gets a bit cute (at times a lot cute), but the secret inner quavering of the lead character is handled soundly. I think I mostly responded well to how good this story can theoretically get; there’s an awful lot of places to go with Music is Magic, a great multitude of things to say about art and culture and subjectivity - especially when your main character is literally drawing power from tunes. Speaking of drawing, there’s also some decent art from Jamie McKelvie, at times slightly stiff but really coming to life when it needs to, like when Kohl is swung around by his shin in a suddenly all-white room by singer/songwriter Scout Niblett. Not much more to say about it, though, save for that the lettering was nice and I liked the dot tones.

Other bonuses include letters, track listings for tunes listened to during the writing, and other miscellaneous comments. Strange how those back-of-the-book comments work. I strongly doubt my impressions regarding the actual story content of this issue would be much different had Gillen simply remained silent, but the whole deal makes me feel a bit more confident in the series delivering something a little more interesting as it moves along. Maybe I’m just susceptible to magic words. But talk this serious creates a sense of urgency in the reader, a gnawing hope that some of that stuff will spill out into the story, and seep into its cracks. I could use some more kinetic kicks out of this potential energy, and I hope they can be yet converted.


A new roadmap to the future's past.

Forty Cartoon Books of Interest

Appropriately, this thing cannot be bought on its own, nor does it bear any individual price; it’s “A Supplement To Comic Art No. 8,” and can only be found bagged in with that latest issue of the newly revamped comics magazine (oooh, just like the ashcans and trading cards in Wizard!). Which itself apparently can’t be purchased right now; if you didn’t take advantage of the pre-release sale I pointed you to a few weeks back, you’re going to have to wait a few more weeks now for the proper Direct Market release, as the early bird copies are all sold out.

And that’s rather perfect for a small, elegant, gold-stamped 96-page ode to glorious collecting, a singular work totally deserving its own mention, dedicated to lengthy hauntings of all the used book places you can find, and discovering new things wherever you wind up. The book is by Seth, creator of the collecting-focused Wimbledon Green, and truly a master finder in his own right. The book radiates with his desire to share his findings with everyone; there’s a real drive toward education here, a pleasure inherent to setting the record straight and letting all of us in on what’s really been going on in over a century of comics, though there’s naturally also an element of pure collector’s boasting. There always is, and Seth isn’t shy about pointing out which lovely items he scored for a mere fifty bucks online, the details of the purchase always a bit obscured to give the cowed observer their very own taste for the hunt. And Seth’s words are not empty - there will be things in here you’ve never heard of, many things, and you will become interested in some of it.

At times, the book seems even more enamored with sparking in the reader an understanding of the joy of simply finding things than it is with telling them about neat books and cartoonists. Seth opens the book with a 10-page comics-format introduction detailing his feelings on searching for old cartoon books; a lot of it will seem familiar to anyone who’s heard from those enamored with finding things, what with the tribute paid to favorite places, hand-wringing over deals not accepted due to lack of interest at the time, and reflection on the differing flavors of bookstores, thrift shops, and university sales. There’s the obligatory sense of technological melancholy too: “Back then, I had a top-ten list of elusive books. I carried that list for almost a decade. I acquired them all instantly when a computer entered the house. I’ve yet to decide if that’s good or bad.” Anyone who’s willfully held back in ordering missing comics online for the sake of having something to rummage through bins after will find that one hitting close to home. I carry a list of things to find too.

But Seth isn’t talking about pamphlet-format comics; he means books. Cartoon books. As soon as you get to the meat of this tome, with each featured book given two pages (a cover shot and brief commentary on the left, an art sample on the right), you’ll probably notice the date “Circa 1901” on the first selection, and you’ll grasp the mad scope Seth means to harness. That’s far from the oldest thing he talks about either - that aforementioned $50 find happened to be a handsome edition of The Foreign Tour of Messrs. Brown, Jones and Robinson, an original Richard Doyle (uncle of Sir Arthur Conan) production from 1854 (huh - given the foreign travel, I wonder if it’s a Civil War tie-in?). “Does no one else want these books? A 1940s issue of Green Lantern would probably require my life savings!” So laments Seth, but that too is the simulations sadness and rapture of the seeker - those gems are rarely appreciated, which is precisely how they fall into our clutches.

Seth appreciates old gag cartoonists the most, so it goes without saying his personal passion is prominent in this book. But there’s other stuff, even newer stuff. One selection is something I’ve actually reviewed, the 2005 softcover Wally Wood’s Lunar Tunes (which is indeed excellent). There’s a nice running gag about the origins of the graphic novel, as Seth lists a goodly number of books that might qualify for such a label in the interests of educating those working off of limited information: “It seems that about every ten years in the early 20th century somebody invented the graphic novel.” You can feel the rapture as Seth presents a literal graphic novel - as in a comic designed in exactly the same format as a contemporaneous 200-page paperback original - all the way back from 1950, Joseph Millard’s Mansion of Evil, published by Fawcett.

And there’s more - how about The Crime Busters, a 1988 comic produced by the World of Dreams Foundation of Canada to fulfill the wish of its dying 16-year old author? Or the fortuitous presence of Town Boy, the 1981 sequel to Malaysian cartoonist Lat’s Kampung Boy, soon to be released in the US by First Second? Lord knows I’m suddenly very interested in the works of Martin Vaughn-James, an English-born artist who produced a fascinating-looking quartet of graphic novels in Canada in the ‘70s - Seth tackles 1971’s The Projector, and you can find an analysis of his 1975 opus The Cage here. Hell, Seth even talks up a 1968 hardcover collection of original strips from Hardware Retailer magazine (Forty Years with Mr. Oswald, by Russell Johnson), and makes it seem like something you need to get, right now.

"I really like this book. I like that it's published by a Hardware Association. I like that it's bound like an old yearbook. And I like the work inside it."

Simple statements of interest, but wholly effective. This is a fine and useful book, and it's possibly worth buying the new Comic Art just for it, though there's lots of other neat stuff inside the magazine proper as well. I just wanted to emphasize the beguiling utility of the thing, and the simple beauty too. Consider this a pre-release review at this point, if you want, but mark down Comic Art #8 as something to buy whenever you can.


All over the features.

*They're everywhere.


52 #14 (of 52)

The Punisher MAX #36

MOME Spring/Summer 2006 (Vol. 4) (DAVID B., YOU'VE DONE IT AGAIN)

Even when least expected.

*Fun Home is proving a tougher nut to crack than expected. I need to find a better approach, so maybe tomorrow, or maybe later in the week. I have to get my head together on it.

So in its place, how about a little pre-release review of something that'll be in stores on Wednesday?

The Boys #1

Clearly Wildstorm is excited about this new ongoing creator-owned title; not only is the expected preview up, but there's even a video trailer, loaded with concept art and finished material. You certainly can’t miss that catchy boast from writer Garth Ennis, his vow that the book will “out-Preacher Preacher.” But there’s other messages perhaps encoded in a creator speaking of a spanking-new work exclusively in terms of old standards: a grasping toward the past, a desire to surpass it, but only on its own terms. This isn’t a shared-universe superhero book - hell, it’s one of those Garth Ennis superhero pisstake books - so it’s all the more curious that older works should preside so mightily over everything. This is comfort zone comics the Ennis way, which might not prove to be a negative to the more devout, but those of us who skip Mass every other Sunday will have to spend our prayer time in the hope that this thing will develop an individual identity at some point in the near future. It doesn’t here.

Oh sure, a tone is set for this setup issue: a grinning, sinister, black-clad badass called Butcher and his toothy dog Terror saunter around a number of environments, reducing men to tears and women to quivering heaps of desire with the former’s slang-laden directness and macho, chauvinistic swagger. This is the kind of bloke who strolls unannounced into a high-ranking government official’s office, huffs “Wait’ll you see where I wipe my dick, luv--” whilst mounting her on her office desk, then smirks as he waves a photo of her husband and kids in her face after zipping up his trousers. This is all contrasted with the affair of Wee Hughie, a sensitive Scottish lad whose beloved girlfriend of one blissful month gets smooshed to hamburger as collateral damage in a superhero brawl. And those awful superheroes don’t even care! But as luck would have it, the US has been trying to find a way to keep the metahuman population in line, and it just might be up to Butcher to recruit a crack team of four associates to deal with the problem.

That about wraps it up for the issue; only two of those characters on the cover even show up on the inside. Honestly, you could get a remarkably similar overall effect by simply reading the preview and filling in the blanks yourself, because there are no surprises. It’s also scandalously skimpy on the shocks, something you’d think would be front-loaded to buoy up the transgression appeal, but all we get are a pair of gore moments (one and a half of which are in the preview), the aforementioned sex scene, and a sight gag involving a fellow masturbating to the Wheelchair Olympics. Even set apart from the Ennis oeuvre, this all seems weirdly schematic, as if there's some hidden blueprint to dirty work team action comics squirreled away somewere in the collective unconcious. Maybe I’ve read too many of these comics?

I know I’ve read a few Garth Ennis comics involving shadowy secret ops men of danger, meek v. wild / naïf v. hardened character dynamics, Those Awful Superheroes, and gross-out humor before - all we need is the inevitable peek into the blackened hearts of soldiers and we’re all set. Don’t get me wrong, Ennis might have all sorts of subversive tricks up his sleeve for later on - but right now, it just seems like an awful lot of Ennis tropes stuffed into one book. And not in a 'bigger and badder than ever before!' way, but more of an 'oh, I know where I read this one…'

But still, if you either haven’t read enough of Ennis to feel so weary, or if this sort of Ennis thing just doesn’t make you as weary as it does me, you might have some fun with it, the occasional neat sequence (the disconnected bubbles floating over Wee Hughie's head, the police officer having to point a speedster superhero in the direction of America) maybe standing out a little bit more. Artist Darick Robertson does a fair enough job cooking up some grimy realist visuals, and I expect he'll have a bit more time to shine when the book develops a bit past its utterly standard premise. Maybe Ennis will shine brighter too. But first issues must be cleared first, and this impression isn't the best.

*Other treats lay in wait to tempt your tongue in a somewhat abbreviated


The Drifting Classroom Vol. 1 (of 11): The first installment of the 1972-74 classic from Kazuo Umezu, the first of his books in English to really make you understand why he’s loved so much in Japan. Here’s my review. Some great cartooning in this one.

Golgo 13 Vol. 4 (of 13): Oh heavens, I’ve still not bought this latest collection of Duke Togo’s adventures. It’s probably going to be good? Man, you know things are a little tight when I’m even skimping on Golgo 13.

Naoki Urasawa’s Monster Vol. 4 (of 18): Meanwhile, I’ve not even bought Vol. 3 of this yet. I get the feeling such situations might continue to occur if VIZ keeps insisting on releasing new editions of all of the launch titles of their VIZ Signature line on the same day. People fall behind!

Adventures In Oz: From IDW, a 258-page, $39.99 softcover collection of all five of the Oz graphic novels Eric Shanower did for First and Dark Horse over the years, all of them freshly cleaned up, corrected, and made to shine. Note that the signed, limited edition $75 hardcover also sports a 70-page (!) bonus section, with all kinds of stuff in it. None of it’s cheap, but I bet it’ll be unfailingly lovely.

Iron Man: The Inevitable: I enjoyed this miniseries from writer Joe Casey and artist Frazer Irving, a smart little revisiting of a number of old villains from Tony Stark's past, all to illustrate the possible folly of a superhero hoping to evolve into something more than a two-fisted avenger with all the world's technology at his disposal. Sleek and thoughtful, and especially good in that it actually tries to answer some of the questions raised by Warren Ellis' now thoroughly Civil War-devoured revamp.

Casanova #3: More thrills from Matt Fraction and Gabriel Bá. I don’t at all expect this series to let me down, and if you’re not reading it I’d recommend you catch up - only $4 or so for all the back issues!

Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. #7: Warren Ellis presents the comedy.

52 #15 (of 52): I guess someone dies or something this issue? Hell, I don’t even know what the back-up will be, though I do know things will be getting jumbled up if they don’t get that Jon Bogdanove-illustrated Steel origin out of the way, since the next two weeks worth of origins are clearly keyed to tie in their main stories. Ah, the rigors of weekly production!