Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Scarlet #5, very disappointing...

As regular readers of Ich Liebe Comics! already know, I've been a big cheerleader of Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev's Scarlet since it started last year. Scarlet is a creator owned title by Bendis and Maleev in which the title character, Scarlet, witnesses something bad happening to a friend by crooked police officers, so she decides to be proactive and sets upon a course so that this doesn't continue to happen to other people. Scarlet is set in Portland, where Bendis lives and is based on things he's seen happen. What I liked about this title was that it took place in the world we live in, nothing fantastical happens (none of the characters have super powers) and Bendis employs one of my favorite story telling devices, breaking the fourth wall, in which the character (or characters) speak to the reader, in this case Scarlet is trying to engage us to participate in what she's doing, which is to start a revolution.

Up until the newest issue of Scarlet (#5, which came out today), I was totally engrossed with this series, which is unlike anything else being done in comics today. The set up of this series was done really well and we've gotten to know what makes Scarlet tick. Issues #3 and #4 really got turned things up and it looked like issue #5 was going to really advance this narrative, but then....

Issue #5 of Scarlet is basically just a rehash of what happens in issue #4, there's NO advancement of the storyline. Basically, I think that this issue could have been three or four pages tops added upon issue #4 and this issue definitely doesn't work as the end of the first arc (which I didn't know or remember that this issue was going to be the end of the first arc). So while I think that Scarlet is still a well done, different kind of comic book and that it could still become a book that people will talk about as being a pinnacle of this medium, right now we have a book (Scarlet) that is still very stillborn and in my opinion will not work as a first volume, rather it feels like the first half (at most) of a first collected volume.

I'd have to say that it's possible that my expectations for Scarlet were too high and that I wish Scarlet (Bendis) would have by now provided some answers for us, the readers, in how to change the world around us. This is of course an unrealistic expectation, but I really did buy into Bendis' text in the back of Scarlet #1 that this was going to be a really charged narrative that was going to push the boundaries of what is possible if people got involved. I'd also have to admit that my frustration with Scarlet #5 (and I guess Scarlet as a whole thus far) is also similar with my frustration with the current state of affairs in the U.S. and the world.

Call me naive, but I really thought that we would be entering a new world, with new ways of thinking about how to make the U.S. work better for more people with the election of Barack Obama as President of the U.S. While I am still an Obama supporter, and definitely think things would be worse for more people if he wasn't elected, right now I'm discouraged by how much he has to compromise to get anything done and how much shit he had on his plate from the previous administration that is impairing his ability to enact what he would like to do. There's also the discouraging presence of lobbying groups in the U.S. which seem to really drive what gets passed and what doesn't get passed here in the U.S. and the insane amounts it takes to fund political campaigns. I realize that we are living in a world in which change (especially in terms of technology and globalization) are ever increasing and that many countries are going through very volatile political times. I also realize that it's going to take some time before the U.S. and the world adjusts to these changes, but I'm seeing no evidence of new ways of thinking happening that will get us on the path to dealing with these changes. I voted, I take part in protests, I try to dialogue with others about my ideologies, but I'm increasingly feeling like I'm speaking to the wind and wish there was someone or someones who would point me in a direction in which I could better, more constructively contribute to making "things" better.

I thought Brian Michael Bendis with Scarlet was going to be one of these people. I still think he (and Scarlet) may become a guiding light, but with the "end" of book one of Scarlet, I'm beginning to think that Bendis may just be treading his liberal wheels like the rest of us hippies that want a better world, but don't know how to make it happen. On the Scarlet front, we're not going to see another issue until June at the earliest and with Bendis and Maleeve starting a new Moon Knight series in May, I'm going to guess that we'll see less and less issues of Scarlet (and even fear that it will be abandoned altogether). They've said that they're going to do Scarlet and Moon Knight on alternating months, but the cynic in me thinks that that's what they'd like to see happen, but I don't think will happen. As I was so disappointed by Scarlet #5 being a rerun of #4, I'm also thinking that what Bendis is trying to do with this book is too big for him, just as President Obama's tasks are too much for his idealism.

I don't know if others who have read Scarlet #5 feel the same as I do or if I'm just bringing in some crazy expectations of what I'd like Scarlet to be, so I hope others will share with me their take after reading this issue either here or on my personal facebook page (Ralph Mathieu) or my store facebook page (Alternate Reality Comics, Las Vegas).

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

"21" The Story of Roberto Clemente

A few months ago I was one of the lucky chosen few who had got to read an advance copy of "21" The Story of Roberto Clemente, a graphic novel about this legendary baseball figure. I'm really not someone who watches sports, so I didn't know who Roberto Clemente was, but as Ich Liebe Comics! blogspot readers know, I love a good graphic novel biography. Well as those of you who are familiar with the great baseball player and humanitarian that Roberto Clemente was already know, it would be hard to tell his story in any media and for that story not to be powerful. Cartoonist Wilfred Santiago's "21" is a great companion graphic novel to another great baseball graphic novel that came out a few years ago, James Sturm and Rich Tommosa's Satchel Paige: Srtiking Out Jim Crow.

Today, the color, hardcover edition of "21" arrived at Alternate Reality Comics and it's a handsome production. The only things I disliked about "21" is that it's one of "those" hardcovers that has a dust jacket and has no page numbers. I don't like dust jackets because they're rarely that attractive and they're hard to keep in good shape. I prefer when the art is placed directly upon the book (like IDW's hardcover Reid Fleming and even Fantagraphics' It Was The War Of The Trenches). Actually, though the cover art is great on the dust jacket, the image under the accursed dust jacket would have also been a good cover image to have gone with. On the subject of "21" not having page numbers, this sadly isn't the only graphic novel that doesn't have page numbers and the lack of page numbers makes referring to a scene or scenes difficult.

Anyway, sorry to have gone on at length with my two pet peeves above, but they did detract from what is an otherwise EXCELLENT graphic novel. To cleanse my rantings from your frontal lobes, please check out this link for a great trailer for Wilfred Santiago's "21":

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Sky Over The Louvre

The Sky Over The Louvre is a new over-sized hardcover graphic novel written by Jean-Claud Carriere and BEAUTIFULLY illustrated by Bernar Yslaire.

This graphic novel is actually done in conjunction with the Louvre museum and takes place when the Louvre museum was in its infancy, during the French revolution. The Sky Over The Louvre is also the story of David, the painter who was ordered to do a painting of the Supreme Being (not "God", they were trying to create a new opiate figurehead for the masses) and another painting he was working on at the same time. Although "only" 66 pages in length, The Sky Over The Louvre isn't just a history lesson, as it also contains within its lushly drawn pages, discussions on the nature of art, beauty, and the role of religion in people's lives.

Friday, March 25, 2011

FF #1 & Hellraiser #1 - 2 great new debuts!

This week FF #1 by Jonathan Hickman and Steve Epting arrived, being the next phase of the Fantastic Four post the death of the Torch. FF stands for First Family and or Future Foundation, which is explained in the first issue as is the costume changes and Spider-Man's addition to the team. A person doesn't have to have read Hickman's Fantastic Four to get into FF, but there are some nice trade paperback collections available and if you've already been reading Hickman's Fantastic Four and S.H.I.E.L.D., you know that Hickman is a writer who has got some big ideas.

The only thing I don't like about this new FF is the title, I wish they would have called it Future Foundation or even First Family. It also is more than a little annoying that they retitled this book when it could have just been the next issue of Fantastic Four and we all know that Marvel isn't going to go much more than a year not having a comic titled Fantastic Four (as this was the title that launched the Marvel Age back in 1961), but it is true that they need to mix things up as they've done here because Fantastic Four has for the longest time not been one of their keystone sales titles. FF is a money back guarantee title from Alternate Reality Comics!

The first issue of Boom! Studios Hellraiser also came out this past Wednesday and if you've ever like anything Clive Barker has written and or the first Hellraiser movie, then you'll totally dig Hellraiser! Plus it has great art by Leonaro Manco (if I was going to quibble about something on this book though, the colors by Charlie Kirchoff are a little to bright, but not enough to take me out of the book). As Matt Gagnon (Boom! Studios' Editor-In-Chief) mentions in his editorial at the end of Hellraiser #1, this is only the third time that Clive Barker has been directly involved in the Hellraiser world he created (he is the co-writer of this comic) so if that's not enough of an endorsement for this comic, I don't know what is!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Drinking At The Movies; Julia Wertz

I finally got around to reading Julia Wertz's graphic novel Drinking At The Movies, which came out last September. Drinking At The Movies, is an autobiographical graphic novel by Julia Wertz (who has also done a comic called Fart Party, collected in two trades that I haven't read yet) about living in Brooklyn, New York after impulsively deciding to move there from her previous home of San Francisco.

Drinking At The Movies has all of the staples of what people think of when they think of autobio comics, such as starving artists, crappy jobs, crappy relationships, crappy apartments, and the basic just strolling through life seemingly without any real concern about what will happen. But Julia Wertz, in Drinking At The Movies, doesn't allow the tone of her book to be one of pathos, because she realizes that she has made her life choices, so Drinking At The Movies isn't a deep life examination, rather it's an often funny look at the slacker lifestyle. I enjoyed Drinking At The Movies a lot more than I thought I would and I'll have to admit that the only thing that kept me from reading this earlier is the art, which while not horrible, is a little crude, but while reading this graphic novel, found that this style actually moves the narrative along quite nicely.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Xombi #1; John Rozum & Fraser Irving

Of the comics I've read so far this week, my favorite by a long shot was Xombi by John Rozum and Fraser Irving. Xombi was a DC Milestone comic from years ago that John Rozum also wrote and it was a favorite of mine at the time.

One doesn't have to have read the previous Xombi series to pick up on the new series, basically if you like Fraser Irving's art, wild concepts like a person who has nanomachines within him that allow him to create things that weren't there (my not very good explanation of Xombi's powers), and characters with names like Catholic Girl, Nun Of The Above, and Nun The Less, well you'll enjoy Xombi! I'm a little concerned about Fraser Irving's ability to do more than four issues in a timely manner (but I like to think he really cares about this title and is further ahead then he usually is) and this is such a niche title that will probably be under most people's radar, but I think that if the crazy ideas of issue one can be maintained with the next few issues, Xombi will get a great word of mouth buzz.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Today sees the release of a new graphic novel from Dark Horse called Supersized Strange Tales from a Fast-Food Culture, which is an extension of Morgan Spurlock's documentary Super Size Me, in which he ate nothing but fast food for a whole month.
Besides revisiting what eating nothing but fast food for a month does to your body, the Supersized graphic novel has many horror stories of what goes on behind the scenes at fast food restaurants and asks:

"We've all become so used to the convenience of fast food that we've lost connection to where our meats come from. How much is that convenience worth though? Is the time and energy you save by idling in the drive-thru worth your health and well-being?"

Yes, Supersize, the graphic novel and documentary tell us things we'd rather just remain ignorant about, but hopefully the more these messages get out there, the more people will make changes in their lives to dial back what these industries are doing to the health of people in the U.S. and around the world.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Takio; Bendis & Oeming

Last week, the creative team of Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Oeming (Powers) released a new all ages hardcover graphic novel called Takio. Takio is co-written by Bendis' daughter, Olivia, which is fitting as its central characters are two sisters who get super powers in an explosion at their friends house (their friends father is a failed inventor).

I was a little apprehensive about reading Takio because I'd read some snippets of reviews that it was a little too cutesy and that it is really just targeted for young girl readers. Well I thought it had just the right amount of cute and although young girls will get the most enjoyment from Takio, I think that Takio will appeal to a good cross audience as long as you like exciting stories, good characters, and the great dialogue that Brian Michael Bendis is known for. My only criticism of Takio is its title, which is the name that the girls decide to calls their superhero selves (it's a combination of both of their names) as I don't think it rings as a good title or superhero name (if I found out that Bendis' daughter, Olivia, thought up the title, then I would retract my "problem" with the title).

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Term Life; AJ Lieberman & Nick Thornborrow

Term Life is a new crime fiction graphic novel written by AJ Lieberman (Batman Gotham Knight & Cowboy Ninja Viking), drawn by Nick Thornborrow, and published by Image Comics. The central character of Term Life, Nick (yes it's the same first name of the artist, but I think that's the only thing they have in common), is a con man who is suspected of killing a mob bosses' son and stealing his money. Nick has a thirteen year old daughter who he has kept his distance from her whole life so as not to involve him in his chosen "career", but now as he worries that he's not long for the world (as said mob boss is looking to end his life), he takes out a life insurance policy on himself to take care of his daughter upon his life's end. The insurance policy doesn't take effect until a three week background check on Nick's health is completed so Nick has to stay alive for 21 days and then his daughter will be taken care of.

Term Life is a very charged crime fiction graphic novel, with great characters and a great premise from writer, AJ Lieberman, and artist, Nick Thornborrow, will definitely be getting many offers for gigs from his work here in Term Life.