Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Batwoman kicks ass!

Well actually it's really JH Williams III's art and Greg Rucka's writing that kick ass, but in Batwoman #1 (or as it's called on the cover, Detective Comics) Batwoman also does indeed kick ass. Not that I had any doubts, but in addition to some of the very finest art you'll see on a super hero comic, the story is really good also. Seriously, just look through this book at your favorite comic book store and it'll sell itself. The only people I can see not buying this book are people who don't like super hero comics or only buy Marvel titles (which I don't understand at all) - huge money back guarantee is what I'm saying here! The only two things wrong with Batwoman #1 is that it has ads and that it is standard comic book size (I wish it was a huge Life magazine sized comic)!
And remember JH Williams III and Greg Rucka will be here at my store and at Comic Oasis Saturday, July 11th!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

George Sprott 1894-1975

George Sprott 1894-1975 is the new graphic novel by Seth (this was serialized in The New Yorker in the last year or two). Seth, one of my very favorite alternative cartoonists, isn't very prolific, but when he does produce a comic work it ranks at the top of the top shelf and George Sprott 1894-1975 is right up there with his excellent It's A Good Life If You Don't Weaken. George Sprott 1894-1975 is an over-sized book, a format that beautifully showcases the excellent production values that comes with a Seth graphic novel.
George Sprott 1894-1975 , like It's A Good Life If You Don't Weaken and his sadly unfinished Clyde Fans, is a work of fiction about a life lived. Over the course of the book we see George Sprott's life as a television talk show figure unfold through his musings and reflections and through others that worked with him and knew him in his personal life. George isn't an exciting character in any way, nor is he very well liked by others, but this in no way makes George Sprott 1894-1975 anything less than a thoroughly entertaining, engaging book that leaves the reader reflecting on their own life to date and how others may perceive that life. Seth is a very unique artist and his books are definitely worth checking out for anyone who likes Chris Ware's graphic novels and George Sprott 1894-1975 WILL be on many best of year end lists this year.

World Of Tomorrow?

Whatever Happened To The World Of Tomorrow? is a new graphic novel by Brian Fies (his first graphic novel, Mom's Cancer, was the first Eisner winner in the best digital comic category in 2005). Whatever Happened To The World Of Tomorrow? (which I'm going to shorten to World Of Tomorrow? for the rest of this entry because I'm lazy) is an excellent autobiographical and historical examination covering the New York World's Fair of 1939 up through NASA's space shuttle program of our current age.

The title of World Of Tomorrow? refers, of course, to the age old question that people have always had about what they were led to believe the future would look like, be it from works of entertainment or scientific discoveries that looked like we would all have personal rocketpacks and that extraterristial encounters were right around the corner. Well a certain amount of disappointment has occurred for people when their perceived expectations of the future (our present) didn't live up to what they were seeing from earlier technological advances or what they hoped would materialize from the science fiction or fantasy books or movies they'd enjoyed.

Brian Fies, in World Of Tomorrow?, relates this disappointment through the central character, a little boy, who first get excited about the possibilities of the future after going to the World's Fair of 1939 and continues to feel this excitement up through the U.S. landing on the moon. After a few other U.S. moon landings during the 1970's, NASA changed to the current space shuttle model and sending unmanned ships to other planets so for the central character of World Of Tomorrow? and many people around the world, space travel and what it promised wasn't as exciting as it once was.

World Of Tomorrow? isn't a depressing book about the failure of what scientific discoveries have delivered, rather it is a celebration of these advances and really challenges the reader to examine their expectations and to appreciate what we do have that's made our lives significantly better than life had been for most people in the past. Sure it can be argued that some of our technological advances are just fancy toys that distract us from actually living life or interacting with others and or that these scientific advances haven't yet reached most of the under-developed world's peoples, but as World Of Tomorrow? suggests, disappointment with advances largely comes about when there is a disconnect with unrealistic expectations and not being able to see the big picture of these advances.

Whatever Happened To The World Of Tomorrow? is a full color 200 page graphic novel for only $24.95 and when a person looks through the beautiful production values this book has, they'll appreciate that this price is the deal of the day.

Friday, June 12, 2009

JH Williams III & Greg Rucka t-minus one month!

As the cool flyer here details (with art by Charles Holbert Jr.), the new creative team for Detective Comics featuring Batwoman, writer Greg Rucka and artist JH Williams III will be doing a joint signing at Alternate Reality Comics (my store of course) and Comic Oasis on Saturday, July 11th. The fun starts at Alternate Reality Comics from 11-2pm and continues over at Comic Oasis from 4-7pm! The first issue of their Batwoman arrives in two weeks, on Wednesday, June 24th.
This is JH's cover for the third issue of Batwoman (Detective Comics).

To bring people up to speed on other books that JH Williams III's art has graced, he did the amazing Promethea (with Alan Moore), Desolation Jones (with Warren Ellis), Chase, Batman (with Grant Morrison), Justice Riders (a two issue JLA Elseworlds), and Son of Superman (a Superman Elseworlds graphic novel). For those of you unfamiliar with JH's art, this cover and the two page spread below from the first issue of Batwoman, should speak for themselves in respect to the level of quality and great eye candy you'll get when JH Williams III does his illustration magic. To check out upcoming JH art and news, check out
Batwoman writer Greg Rucka, first came to the attention of comic book fans through his excellent Whiteout series (with artist Steve Lieber, collected into two graphic novels) and Queen & Country (collected into four graphic novels) from Oni Press. To superhero fans, Rucka is most known for his run on Wonder Woman and being one of the four writers on the weekly 52 series for DC. Presently in addition to Batwoman, Rucka is writing Action Comics and co-writing (with James Robinson) Superman: World of New Krypton and continues to write acclaimed best selling crime fiction novels such as Walking Dead and Patriot Acts. For more Greg Rucka info, visit his site:

So post a note on your fridge or pick up one of the spanking 4 x 6 cards promoting the event at Alternate Reality Comics or Comic Oasis for what's sure to be a great time as JH Williams III and Greg Rucka share stories about their creative process (and more announcements about the signing will be forthcoming within the next few weeks so stay tuned)!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Color of Water

This week The Color of Water arrived and it is a great follow up to The Color of Earth. The Color of Water is the second volume in this trilogy, with the third, The Color of Heaven, to follow in a couple of months (I've got a blog entry on the first book, The Color of Earth, posted on Wednesday, April 8th).
>The Color of Water is written and drawn by Korean manhwa artist, Kim Dong Hwa, and continues the themes from The Color of Earth, coming of age, love, and a mother and daughter's relationship. Ehwa, the daughter, in this second volume, is now entering her early teenage years and her appreciation and understanding of what love and longing will do to a person intensifies. Ehwa's mother is in love with a traveling salesman and in The Color of Water, there's a progression on that front as well. Hwa writes and draws The Color of Water so beautifully that the subject matter doesn't succumb to the sappiness or cliches that often plagues the romance genre, making this trilogy a true ode to love.

Monday, June 8, 2009

I Kill Giants

I Kill Giants was a seven issue comic series by Joe Kelly and JM Ken Niimura from 2008 which was recently collected into the handy trade paperback format by Image for only $15.99.

"I kill giants" is the war cry / mantra of Barbara (she's about twelve years old and probably has played too many role playing games), the central character of I Kill Giants. The first impression a reader of I Kill Giants will get is that this book is funny (which it is) and that Barbara is odd. Humor isn't the only thing that writer Joe Kelly wants to leave the reader of I Kill Giants with and it's that other thing that's ultimately going on in this book that will stay with the reader long after they've read I Kill Giants and artist, KM Ken Niimura, is equally at home rendering the funny, the kinetic, and the other things going on here (as anyone who's a long time reader of my blog knows, I don't like to talk about specific story elements, thinking they're better upon self discovery for others thinking of reading the books I flag).

Friday, June 5, 2009

Darwyn Cooke getting his crime on

This July IDW is publishing Darwyn Cooke's hardcover graphic novel The Hunter, an adaptation of Richard Stark's 1962 crime fiction novel of the same name. Scott Dunbier, special projects editor at IDW, last week was facebooking that "it is done" and I somehow weaseled a preview copy from him that arrived yesterday! Following is my spoiler free review / impressions / shout out for The Hunter:

Richard Stark, who wrote The Hunter novel, is the pseudonym of Donald Westlake, who was a very acclaimed crime fiction / mystery novelist (he died at the end of 2008). The Hunter is the first of the Parker (the central character of said novel) series of which two movie adaptations were made, 1967's Point Blank with Lee Marvin and 1999's Payback with Mel Gibson. I haven't seen either movie or read the original novel, but if I still had time to read "real" novels, The Hunter would definitely have been right up my alley.

Anyone who's already familiar with the artistic wonder that is Darwyn Cooke already will pick up anything he does. Cooke's first big comic book production was Batman Ego, a 2000 graphic novel which was an excellent year one Batman story. His next big project was the Catwoman Selina's Big Score graphic novel, but it was his silver age Justice League series The New Frontier (collected in two graphic novels) that put Darwyn Cooke on the map for most comic fans (Cooke was also heavily involved in the animated adaptation). Cooke went on to do some Spirit comics for DC, which was the perfect lead in title for The Hunter, the culmination of Cooke's obvious love of the crime fiction and noir genres.

Not having read The Hunter novel, I can't say how Cooke's adaptation compares, but from reading Scott Dunbier's introduction (which I'm not sure will be in the on sale version), Darwyn Cooke has nothing but the highest regard for Richard Stark's work (and conversed with him several times before his death) and now, upon finishing Cooke's The Hunter, I'm sure that anyone who likes crime fiction / noir, Cooke's art, and or the Stark / Westlake novels, will thoroughly eat this book up. Even if the story wasn't great (which it is as it is also written by Cooke who writes most of the books he draws), The Hunter is another dose of gorgeous eye candy that only Darwyn Cooke can deliver with a rich blue duotone color scheme perfectly suited to the noir sensibilities of The Hunter.

Parker (he just goes by the one name like Cher), the central character of The Hunter, is a tough as nails, no nonsense character, and to say he's not one of the good guys is an understatement. Parker is a very volatile character, which makes The Hunter a rapid fire reading experience. Reading The Hunter reminded me of Eugene Izzi (Booster, King Of The Hustlers, Invasions) crime fiction novels (back when I read crime fiction novels fairly regularly) that were populated with hard characters with their own codes. Anyone who has read Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips' great crime comic Criminal, after reading The Hunter, will appreciate that Stark /Westlake was a huge inspiration (if I remember correctly, they've even stated this within the back pages of Criminal).

Darwyn Cooke's The Hunter will be debuting at the San Diego Comic Convention July, 22nd (where it's sure to be one of THE must have books) and at finer comic stores everywhere around the same time.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Grant Morrison's Animal Man

A couple of weeks ago I decided to revisit Grant Morrison's Vertigo series Animal Man, of which he wrote twenty-six issues (collected into three trades) and today I finished the third volume. I hadn't read these books since they first came out back in 1989-1990, but as I suspected they age very well. Actually the art by Chas Troug and Doug Hazlewood (with a couple of fill in issues by other similar artists) is solid, good C list superhero comic book art, but while re-reading this series I just kept thinking that if there was an artist on this series like Frank Quitely (All Star Superman, WE3) or Chris Bachalo circa his Shade The Changing Man art style, Morrison's Animal Man would be more of a defining / seminal book than it is. It can be argued that this art style was chosen specifically to emphasis what Grant Morrison was saying with the entirety of his run on Animal Man. All of the covers were done by Brian Bolland including the three featured here.

Animal Man is Buddy Baker, who after an encounter with some aliens, gets the power to absorb the abilities of animals he's near, basically a C level superhero with no real stories of distinction before Morrison got his hands on the character. Grant Morrison introduced a new Vertigo audience to the character as a happy married man with two kids who didn't have a secret identity. Morrison also wrote a new version of Doom Patrol (six collected volumes), which along with Shade The Changing Man were the second wave of Vertigo's British invasion post Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman.

Just as Alan Moore had done with the Swamp Thing character, Grant Morrison developed Animal Man, with his throwaway powers and origin, into a character through which to voice how he (Morrison) felt about animal rights, family, and the world around him, while at the same time taking what was established about the character from earlier stories but actually giving his origin and powers a framework that showed that Morrison was a writer who thought outside of the box. While Morrison (and Neil Gaiman on Sandman) was apeing what Moore had done on Swamp Thing, it was a really good ape job (although Morrison's writing has never been as artful as Moore's - but whose writing is?) and Morrison developed the characters within Animal Man in such a way that readers were totally invested in them.

The real power of Morrison's Animal Man was that it was / is one of comic books' great examples of breaking the fourth wall (a form of story-telling in which the characters know that they're just fictional characters and or the creator or characters in the story communicate directly with the reader). There are hints that Morrison is building to this in the first volume, but it's really not until volume two where he steps it up, and then the entire third volume brings all the foreshadowing elements together as Animal Man, Psycho Pirate, and Grant Morrison talk to each other and the readers. Breaking the fourth wall can be an annoying as many feel it takes them out of the story, but when it's done well, as it is in Morrison's Animal Man, this kind of story can be a great vehicle to ask existential questions and or a way to look under the hood of the creative mind.

Grant Morrison at one point expresses to Buddy (Animal Man) that he worried that his writing on the book about issues such as animal rights and vegetarianism became preachy, and while that has to be a concern when incorporating your worldview / politics into your fictional writing, I thought Morrison, in Animal Man, said things he felt passionately about in an entertaining fashion. It may be that I feel so strongly about Morrison's Animal Man because I'm on the same page in respect to what he's saying (preaching to the already converted), but I like to think that people who read or have read Morrison's Animal Man that hadn't already considered some of the issues presented, will, due to the power of the writing on display, be left with ideas that stay with them long after they've read this series.

Following are some dialogue examples of what Grant Morrison was doing in Animal Man: "The real super-villains don't want to rule the world, they already do." "What if God's reality...Heaven, if you like... what if it's so bad that he had to imagine us to help make his life bearable?" "As for you... I can still see you. Don't think you're going to get away with just watching for very much longer." "Life needs you to go on fighting and not to sit back while they build more bombs and bulldoze more trees. Either you're on the side of life or you're on the side of death." "Life doesn't have plots and subplots and denouements. It's just a big collection of loose ends and dangling threads that never get explained."

Batman & Robin: Morrison & Quitely

If you're a fan of superhero comics, how can you look at the cover to Batman and Robin #1 and not want to pick it up!?

When I'd first heard months ago that Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely were going to do a new Batman and Robin comic, the superhero geek side of me got very excited. I like a lot of Morrison's writing, although he can also go into the wonky too many ideas territory (and not in the good way - see Final Crisis and Batman RIP), but when he works with Quitely that combination is gold. My excitement got knocked down a few notches though when I found out that Quitely was only going to do three issues in a row (with another three issues planned for the fourth arc). So while I was faily certain that the first three issues of Batman and Robin were going to be good, I was concerned with the shortness of the first arc and the rotating art teams (this happened when Morrison did New X-Men and Quitely only did a couple three issue arcs here and there and most of the other artists weren't on the same page as Morrison). The artist for the second art is supposed to be Philip Tan, who's done some Green Lantern, but while he's good, he's not an artist I get terribly excited about. I am encouraged by who I've heard is the artist for the third arc - Frazer Irving (Klarion The Witchboy, written by Morrison and he did the art for the recent Azrael mini series. Irving is a hugely under-rated artist so I like to think his run on this title will up his profile (except the negative side of me suspects that he's not able to do many more issues then Quitely is in a year).

My expectations were pretty high going into my reading of the first issue of Batman and Robin so I was a little underwhelmed, because as my friend Rob commented, it felt short and knowing that Quitely is only going to be doing three issues just feels like he'll be gone before the story really gets a chance to get cooking. The ad placement in the first issue of Batman and Robin is really annoying and breaks up the flow of the story so that didn't help my initial "is that all there is" impressions. I also felt that this first issue wasn't as strong out of the gate as their first issue of All Star Superman was, but part of that is that there's fewer really good Superman stories, so when Morrison and Quitely did All Star Superman, they really made that character more exciting than he'd been in years.

Have you (yup, you, the discriminating readers of my blog - thank you) ever listened to a cd or watched a movie and didn't really like it, but upon listening or watching it again, you really enjoyed said cd or movie? Maybe it was because you were in a grumpy mood, tired, or just had crazy high expectations. Well I think that was the case with me and my first read of Batman and Robin. Having just gotten done re-reading Batman and Robin, I'd definitely say that my first reading of this book falls under the above-mentioned description.

Things to love about the first issue of Batman and Robin (mild spoilers, just think of the following as teasers): The flying batmobile, the dynamic between Dick and Daimen, Damien calling Alfred "Pennyworth", the great cinematic story-telling artistic prowess of Frank Quitely, and great odd story quirks "crime is doomed" provided by Grant Morrison (without being the huge "what the ..." that Final Crisis and RIP were). Also while re-reading Batman and Robin, I was thinking that it's going to be fun reading about two different characters wearing the Batman and Robin suits and even though we all know that eventually Bruce Wayne will be back as Batman, this plot / story device should make for an interesting addition to the Batman mythos. And although I'm going to continue to lament that Quitely is only doing three issues, I like to think that there are some other good artists on tap for this title and they'll be able to maintain the momentum this issue does have (once you put crazy expectations aside and just accept that it'll be a loooong time before Quitely does more than three issues of anything because it really does make you want to read the next issue right now!).