*Finest place to waste away the time today: AniPages' lengthy, info-packed page on Karisuma Animators, the 'auteurs' of Japanese animation. And I do mean animation - unlike many pages you'd see on the topic, this one passes up the adulation of the creator or the director or the designer to focus strictly on nuts 'n bolts making shit move. Oh, there's 'name' directors covered, but the likes of Hayao Miyazaki and Hideaki Anno are evaluated only on the basis of their individual visual chops. Indeed, the page as a whole sometimes seems like a scattered counter-history of anime, one viewed through the lens of only the stuff of animation itself - and let's face it, an awful lot of anime discussion strongly downplays that whole 'animation' thing (as, frankly, a lot of anime itself does). Good reading, though you'll want more when you're done.

*Missed Out Dept: This has apparently been up since Marvel’s August solicitations were released, but I just found out at Suicide Girls that Howard Chaykin is the artist for The Punisher MAX #50. I thought that was going to be Goran Parlov, though I'm not complaining. Oddly, Chaykin seems to indicate in the linked interview that he’s only doing one issue, despite #50 kicking off a new storyline, so maybe Parlov’s on for the rest.

Black Summer #0 (of 7)

Ah, comic book culture. Only the crossroads of pamphlet serialization and the collector mentality could bring us things like this numbering scheme - I sympathize with Matt Brady's confusion. I personally just always presume that the 'of X' is following a numbering continuum rather than a production continuum, which means that when #7 is reached, there'll actually be eight items, not counting variant covers, even though it says '7' right there in front of you. Not all that intuitive, yet it takes comments like Matt's to remind me of how unintuitive it is, because I am long ago drowned in comic book culture.

Anyway, the most interesting thing about the comic itself is artist Juan Jose Ryp (colored by Mark Sweeney), who seems to be dialing down the extraneous lines and details that have earned him some attention. Whether a wholly aesthetic choice or a necessity of keeping things coming out quickly (Avatar is acting so intent on getting the book out monthly once issue #1 ships in August, they actually put it in the fucking press release), it does a nice job of teasing out his strength with faces and costuming - primary superhero character Horus has a smooth, faultless baby face peeking out of his kitschy-yet-menacing silver and chrome Sgt. Pepper's outfit, which sums up his character quite nicely.

That's not the best image, though - of the eight pages of extras Avatar throws into this 99 cent debut (the story itself is eight pages, for a total of sixteen), there's also a wraparound cover for issue #2 depicting a woman wearing a candied red tiger helmet, like an action figure come to life, zooming though a veritable ocean of explosions on a motocycle while firing a single small gun, nevertheless somehow blasting an entire horde of police officers to bits. Just the sort of straight-out-of-study-hall, taste-be-damned energy needed for an overamped superhero project like this one.

Warren Ellis' script makes less of an instant impression, although it gets the basic points across in its eight pages. In case you missed it: Horus, beloved superhero and upstanding fighter for right that he is, has gotten so sick of his nation's shitty war in Iraq that he kills the President in the name of justice, setting off all sorts of trouble for the lost members of his former superhero team, all presumed guilty by association, and at least one of them very much disabled from action. I do agree with Graeme that the book seems inert in its politics thus far. Then again, I usually feel the political aspects of Ellis' work register as little more than dressing for tough-talking thrills, so it's not much of a disappointment for me.

If anything, Ellis is shooting for superhero politics, as in the contours of vigilante morality, with the volume set as high as it'll go and the blood set to pour. What'll maybe prove interesting is the tone - while inclined toward sensational 'shocks' and probably ready to dive into outright nonsense (see: kickin' rad tiger helmet), the execution occurs in a largely on-the-level, interested manner, with those glossy, colorful accoutrements and promises of frentic action more primed toward emphasizing the surreal nature of godly science heroes than making a simple mockery of things. More of a happy soak in superhero excess while throwing around some ideas about genre.

Or hell, maybe it'll just be a loud action thing with all the predicted character beats hit. It's only been eight pages. At least we know we've got the artist we need to appreciate the honest joys of men in costumes at the goriest and trashiest.