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.