Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Why do I keep buying this stuff?

I bought a copy of DC's re-launch of the Vigilante title last week.
I know why I bought it. Walt Simonson is doing the covers and Rick Leonardi is doing the interior art. Two artists whose work I greatly enjoyed through the late 80s and 90s (and even some this decade, though their output has certainly diminished to some degree). And the Vigilante is a character I quite enjoyed in the late 80s as well. In fact, it was the first DC title I actually read on a regular basis.
I knew absolutely nothing going into the re-launch here about this most recent incarnation of the character. And frankly, the character has tough shoes to fill. Because Adrian Chase was THE Vigilante as far as I'm concerned. And Adrian Chase is dead. Long dead. And really, that is where the Vigilante should be. There doesn't need to be another one. The comics universe doesn't need yet another person running around wearing the same color scheme and calling themself the Vigilante.
But I bought the first issue anyway. And the shoes didn't get filled. Nowhere near filled. I expected as much. I did enjoy Leonardi's interiors though. I wish he was working on a title that I do read on a regular basis because I would like to see more of his work. Unfortunately I'm not going to be able to see it on this one because there just isn't any place for it on my reading list. As I said, the Vigilante should remain dead and buried. This particular incarnation is adding nothing to the mythos that I consider worthwhile.

I don't want to leave on a negative note however. While I've found that I've been disappointed in recent months with comics as a whole, there have definitely been some bright spots in my reading list. Not as many as I would like, there are definitely books such as Wildcats which make me continually question a) why I continue to buy it, b) why it is being published because there seems to be no clear cut direction, and c) how can a title be relaunched so many times and still be at a point where I feel as a reader that no one knows what the hell to do with it other than sling stuff against the wall and hope something sticks. But see, there I go again with the negative.
As I started to say, there have been some definite bright spots. Titles that I pick up and read, and when I put them down I feel like I got something out it. I was entertained. It was time and money well spent on my part. So I just want to hit on a few of those. I'm not going to go into detail, I'm just going to list them. In no particular order. Wonder Woman. Terra (put Amanda Conner on something and I'm gonna buy it --- I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to the new Power Girl series). Trinity (it has been a little more hit and miss of late, but overall I've thoroughly enjoyed what Kurt Busiek - with Fabian Nicieza's assist on the secondary stories - has been doing here). Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Fables (definitely one of my favorite titles month in and month out). House of Mystery. Terry Moore's Echo (this one has been a very pleasant surprise). Madame Xanadu. Ted Naifeh's Courtney Crumrin one-shots. Dead Ahead.
I'd like to be able to say Green Lantern makes the cut on this list, but I've been just a little disappointed with the past few issues. Admittedly, it is tough to maintain at such a high level after a great epic like the Sinestro Corps War. I am very much looking forward to the Blackest Night arc this coming year. I think it will elevate the title back up so that it will deserve inclusion on this list.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Not Like This!

So were those intended jabs at Bendis by Grant Morrison (Batman no. 681) and Paul Dini (Detective Comics no. 850) in the final issues of their R.I.P. arcs?
I found the inclusion of the line quite humorous.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Piss and Hades

Title = favorite saying of mine. That's the way it goes. Typically doesn't mean a good thing.
So this is my DC rant.
Initially I was ticked with the Robin/Nightwing/Birds of Prey cancellations until I stopped and thought about it. And then it all (almost) made sense. Batman R.I.P. It has been close to the vest at this point and they are attempting to position readers to believe someone else will be wearing the cowl. The obvious choices are of course Dick and TIm. So what better way to build the likelihood of one of those individuals taking over than to cancel their own titles. Makes perfect sense. Birds of Prey doesn't exactly factor into it, but since they are cancelling those other major Batman titles, why not drop that one in as well since sales have fallen to possibly unacceptable levels (due to DC not knowing how to properly market and sell titles).
So while I wanted to be angry about those cancellations, there was really no reason to be. It is all part of the game.
That doesn't stop me from being angry at DC's overall ineptitude.
Let me count the ways.
First, DC has the best Wonder Woman writer they have had in YEARS (outside of Greg Rucka --- who had a great understanding of the character) in Gail Simone. And yet somehow sales are less than what they had with Allan Heinberg. And that makes NO sense to me. His credits as writer for The O.C., Grey's Anatomy, Gilmore Girls, Party of Five, and Sex in the City (and Yong Avengers) shouldn't have that much of a factor over Gail Simone's resume. I say that because if one is a comic reader, then one is a COMIC reader. And a fan of Wonder Woman should most likely have checked out Birds of Prey at some point. And if someone checked out Birds of Prey when Gail was at the helm, then they continued to check it out and discovered what a great writer she is. So when she was named as the writer of Wonder Woman, they should have immediatetly checked that title out as well.
I can't imagine that Heinberg's name brought in that many readers. I honestly don't. Maybe it brought in more retailers' orders. But I don't think it necessairly brought in more readers. At least not regular readers.
I can't understand why Wonder Woman took such a major sales drop between Heinberg and Simone. Yes, I realize Jodi Picoult followed Allan Heinberg and then there were a couple of fill-in issues after that--- but for those who were actually following all the goings-on, it should have been clear that everything was going to be stabilized once Gail came onboard. All those numbers tell me is that retailers are still foolish speculators. They bank that a supposedly 'known' TV writer is going to uplift a title moreso than a quality established comic writer (and in this case a writer who even has a littel better gender association as well).
I think the ball was actually dropped when DC's 'brain-trust' pulled Jodi Picoult into the mix. Not because she couldn't do a good job, but because they brought her in right in the middle of a major event where Wonder Woman's activities were already defined and Jodi had to build her stories around those events (meaning she couldn't really bring an original take on the character). Hence, it really wasn't so much Jodie writing Wonder Woman as much as it was editorial telling her what the story was going to be and Jodi having to spin it as best she could.
So when Gail came onboard, she didn't have the full marketing push that Allan had, and she was following an 'event' that had been lackluster in terms of fan reception and sales. And though DC had a fantastic opportunity as far as one of the most appreciated female comic writers taking the reins of one of the most recognized female comic characters, they didn't press it the way they should have. They should have been beating us all over the head so much so that I would be complained about it. But they didn't get anywhere near that. And so the audience that should have been there from day one didn't develop.
But that is just item one of their failings.
DC right now has one of the best imprints in comics. Vertigo. No other publisher has anything approaching what they have with Vertigo. DC's biggest competitor, Marvel, doesn't have anything like Vertigo at all. DC should be kicking Marvel's ass up and down the street strictly with Vertigo alone. Their Vertigo line is something that should appeal to audiences outside the regular comic reader. DC (Warner Brothers) should be pushing the hell out of these titles (in trade form) as they can. They should be dragging Marvel's carcass through the streets in terms of sales on those trades. DC should be pulling non-comics readers into the comic world via Vertigo. There is no excuse for DC's failings in this area. It is INEPT management. Pure and simple. I can't believe that someone in Warner Brothers upper line doesn't recognize this. It is inexcuseable that DC hasn't created new sales lines through those books and left Marvel in their dust. UNBELIEVABLE to me.
I have so much more to say in regards to this. But frankly I'm so disgusted with DC right now in regards to their handling of Family Dynamic (I'm just so angry with the overall oversight/management of this title yhat I literally want to smack someone in the head) and the Vertigo line over all that I just don't want to get myself started. I'm just going to say three things. Room full of monkeys. DC management/marketing. Same f'n results.
Major thumbs down to you, Dan Didio. How have you been in charge for so long and not be driving Marvel into the ground with Vertigo alone. How can you not see how much of an advantage you have with this line of titles. Superheroes are so limited in terms of overall audience versus everything you can do (and have done) in Vertigo. I am just astounded by the lack of recognition and sales focus in this area.
Seriously. What the hell are you people doing? How are you missing on this???

Monday, November 10, 2008

Who says chix can't do comix?

I had the good fortune of picking up a couple of projects this week from two of my favorite female comic creators.
The first was Magic Trixie Sleeps Over from Jill Thompson. The back cover gives an age range for the story of 8-12. I am decidely out of that particular range (by a good couple of decades plus), but I very much enjoyed it nonetheless.
First I have to say that I love the watercolor artwork. Dare I say it was magical? Jill Thompson is a phenomenal artist who probably doesn't get near the attention and recognition she deserves. Second, it was a great story. Yes, it is definitely aimed at a younger crowd (it is your basic 'be careful what you wish for because you just might get it' type of story) but I found it entertaining and thoroughly enjoyed it. I recommend this VERY MUCH for people who have children in or around that age (and even those who don't let age 'boundaries' stop them from enjoying high quality work).
The second was Terra no. 1 (DC) with art from Amanda Conner. I really can't put my finger on it, but I really like Amanda's art. Pretty much any comic I see with her name on it is a must buy. I don't really care who or what the characters are, if she illustrates it, then I want to read it. Fortunately in this particular case, it is a title written by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti, a team whose other collective works I've enjoyed in many other instances (I'm still hoping at some point 21 Down will be resurrected). Terra is just the latest incarnation of the DC earth-moving character. We don't get a whole lot here about just where this new Terra came from and who exactly she is, but we do get to see that she is clearly the definition of a hero. She works tirelessly without regard for accolades to do the right thing. And of course Amanda's art is fantastic.
I highly recommend both of these projects. If you've never sampled work from either of these outstanding creators, then now is definitely a good time to give them a look.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

I have to call that a FAIL

I check comics news sites just about every single day. Comicbookresources.com, Heidi McDonald's The Beat, and Newsarama.com on occassion (I used to hit Newsarama all the time, but I really don't care for the redesign of the site so now I hardly visit).
Quite often there is a column, interview, or news item related to Amazing Spider-Man. And to be honest, I have yet to click on a single one.
Because I just don't care anymore. The Spider-Man that Joe Quesada is publishing right now through Marvel Comics is not a Spider-Man I recognize as a valid character. I don't really know who that is under the mask anymore, but it certainly isn't the Peter Parker I had been reading the previous three decades.
I'm certainly not alone in this. I know a lot of people have abandoned the title/character. We're just not buying into it. Sales figures were certainly reflecting this. I know it did have a big spike recently due to a new storyline. But I wonder how many of those additional issues actually sold through? Or did retailers over-order and now they're stuck with a bunch of issues they can't move. I guess there is no way to know for certain.
What I do know is that my interest (or lack thereof) in the character will not change until the real Peter Parker (and his true history) returns and this current abomination of a misguided 'vision' is wished into the cornfield.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

(not so) Amazing Spider-Man

I just found out the biggest Spider-Man fan that I know stopped reading Amazing Spider-Man 3 months ago.
This is a guy who used to buy Marvel titles that he didn't regularly read simply because they had a Spidey cameo in them (and that included even the smallest of appearances --- such as Spidey showing up in the background of some big group fight on a cover --- even if he didn't actually appear inside the issue in question --- or just having a very minor one panel appearance inside an issue). He previously bought variant covers of Amazing Spider-Man (along with the regular covers) just because he wanted to be as much of a completist as possible in terms of Spider-Man appearances.
But after DECADES of reading Spider-Man (and buying all of those extra appearance issues), he dropped Amazing Spider-Man like the bad habit it was because it just isn't worth reading anymore. There is no enjoyment to be derived from the current direction of the title.
NICE JOB Joe Quesada and crew.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Comics and Ike

Made two trips to the LCS this week (I wasn't able to stop in last week due to other time commitments). Picked up lots of good comics, many of which I haven't yet read.
And that is because hurricane Ike decided to blow through town very early Saturday morning. I was fortunate in that my home took minimal damage. A tree broke in half (luckily it did not land on the house), part of my gutters were torn away (so I had to take those down Saturday afternoon) and half of my fence blew down. I lost power Friday night about 10:00pm and didn't have power restored until Sunday at 1:00pm. The power came on in time for me to watch NFL games Sunday afternoon and evening (so that was a welcome diversion). I believe over 3 million + lost power in the Houston area and at this point I think there are still just under 2 million who still have not had their power restored (I'm quite lucky to live on the west side of the city where we didn't get hit quite as hard as other areas). My parents live south of Houston (about halfway between Houston and Galveston) and they are still without power.
So while I was waiting for power to return earlier today, I read part of the stack of comics I picked up earlier in the week. Titans no. 4 was nothing special, much like the rest of the series has been thus far. Honestly, if this is what they are going to be delivering with a relaunch, there is no reason to have started it again. I wasn't planning on picking up the Adam Strange Special, but since I get the Rann-Thanagar Holy War mini-series, the guys at the shop dropped it in my box. I'm glad they did. I'm a little ticked off at DC because on the cover of the comic it says Jim Starlin and Al Milgrom. Yet, when you open it up inside you have Jim Starlin (writer), Rick Leonardi (penciller), and Dan Green (inker). I'm a big fan of Rick Leonardi's work, so I absolutely would have planned to buy this had I known he was handling the art. Yet, one wouldn't know that just looking at the cover. How could they screw that up so badly??? Al Milgrom isn't even credited anywhere inside, and as best I can tell, he didn't do the cover either. So how did his name end up on the cover under Jim Starlin's?? Aces job there by the editor.
Trinity no. 14 and 15 were great. I've really been enjoying this series. In fact, if you're a fan of Superman and/or Batman and/or Wonder Woman, you should ABSOLUTELY be reading this title. Jeph Loeb is really doing a great job on this title. I reallly like the way they structure each issue as well, with a 12 page main story by Loeb and Bagley and then a secondary story by Loeb and Nicieza and a rotating cast of artists that adds additional support to the main story. Just a well written and well planned title all around. Batman Confidential no. 21 featured the final part of the Batgirl/Catwoman story. This arc has been a lot of fun to read. I would absolutely buy a monthly (Tales of) Batgirl title by Nicieza and Maguire. Green Lantern no. 34 was part 6 of the Secret Origin arc. I thought it was supposed to be the final part, but apparently the conclusion is actually in the next issue, even though Hal and Sinestro finished their battle against Atrocitus in this one (that wasn't a spoiler --- I didn't mention who, if anyone, won). Wonder Woman no. 24 was an enjoyable issue. Diana takes Tom to meet her mother. And Tom is now apparently an Amazon (I wasn't aware males could become part of the Amazon lineage). Hippolyta's parting words were a bit surprising however. I'm not familiar with the villain who shows up at the end of the story though. Is she perhaps the Queen of Fables the JLA faced in the story arc written by Mark Waid several years back (collected in LA Vol. 8: Divided We Fall)?
Anyway, I've still got several comics left to read (finished the DC stack, now I have DC's Vertigo imprint, Dark Horse, Image, and a few other independents remaining), plus a couple of manga trades that have been sitting on my table for a few weeks.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Off the Shelf

Been almost a month since I last posted, so I'll try to make some brief mention of what I've read recently and what I thought of it.
The first issue of Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds (DC) was really quite good. Written by Geoff Johns with art by George Perez and Scott Koblish, it was definitely one of the more impressive titles I picked up that particular week. It is obviously a Final Crisis tie-in (hence the words Final Crisis in the title) but not required reading. But if you're a Legion fan, or you enjoy Geoff Johns and/or George Perez's work, then you should definitely pick it up. Geoff has expressed previous interested in writing the Legion of Superheroes, so this is his chance to fulfill that desire. It looks like it is going to be another excellent project from him.
Trinity (DC) has been a very enjoyable series thus far. I really didn't NEED another weekly series, but this is definitely a solid project. Jeph Loeb and Mark Bagley have done a bang-up job thus far. I really like what Loeb has done in establishing the connection between the characters and the different ways they represent a special trinity. Some very interesting stuff in this one so far. Definitely worth a look.
The concluding issue of the most recent Wonder Woman (DC) story arc finally made its way in front of me and it was a pretty good pay-off. I thought perhaps Diana defeated her foe a little too easily once it was all said and done, but there are only so many pages to fit it all into so I can understand why that part of it might have been more rushed. Anyway, this title continues to get better and better under Gail Simone's hand.
The fourth issue of the current Batgirl/Catwoman story arc in Batman Confidential (DC) showed up in the comic shop unexpectedly (at least for me ... I didn't remember seeing it on the shipping list for that week). I've really been enjoying this one. Fabian Nicieza should write a monthly (Tales of) Batgirl title.
I decided to pick up the first issue of Joe Kelly's I Kill Giants (Image). It wasn't quite what I was expecting, but it is only a five issue mini-series so I can stick around for the duration. Hopefully it will be a little more entertaining within the next couple of issues.
I ordered Red Mass For Mars (Image) even before I started hearing good things about it, and once some of the reviews started to filter in, I was even more excited to read it. The first issue did not disappoint at all. This is definitely a worthwhile read.
It was a slow week at the LCS, so I decided to pick up the first issue of the third volume of Fathom (Aspen). I had picked up a Fathom one-shot the previous month and it was decent enough to make me check out more. There has obviously been a lot that has happened in the previous two volumes, but J.T. Krul (the writer) did a good enough job establishing the principle aspects of the story that I didn't feel lost. And it certainly doesn't hurt that Ale' Garza is handling the pencils on this title. I'll definitely pick up the next couple of issues and kind of see where it goes from there.
Terry Moore's Echo (Abstract Studios) has been nothing short of fantastic. I definitely recommend this one. The story is very entertaining, the characters likeable, and the art is great. The trade collecting the first story arc will be in stores soon. You should definitely pick up a copy.
And the final book I'll talk about is The Bond of Saint Marcel (Archaia Studios Press). Archaia Studios Press really puts out some high quality material. I've been impressed with almost every single one of their publications that I have picked up. This particular mini-series is a vampire tale. It reminds me a little of Hellsing just in some of the set-up. It is written by Jennifer Quintenz and features some really fantastic art from Christian Gossett. I rate this one as definitely worth a look (if even just for the art alone --- but the story looks pretty interesting too).

Sunday, August 3, 2008

One More Day - The AfterMath

Back in January of this year, I commented (in my zine for the MZS APA) on how Joe Quesada's move to cancel the lower selling Spider-Man titles in order to consolidate everything under the Amazing Spider-Man banner (with 3 issues published per month) would allow him to hide the decline in the actual number of readers of the main title even while the overall monthly sales would be higher. I even tossed out some numbers, citing an expected attrition in existing ASM readers who couldn't or didn't want to fork out for 3 issues a month as well as defections by fans unhappy with the new direction. In the original example, I noted how Spider-Man sales at the time sat around 190K per month (with 100K from ASM and the other 90K split between Spectacular Spider-Man and Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man). I estimated a 15% attrition rate (readers who didn't want to buy the extra two copies of ASM per month) and another 20% decline (from the original 100K number) due to unhappy readers leaving the title. I also noted I thought the 15% attrition rate was probably a conservative number and the 20% decline was far less conservative (in fact, I mentioned I thought that number might actually come in closer to 10-12%). So the final breakdown was 100K - 15K (15% attribition) - 20K (20% decline) which left the title with a cool 65K of sales PER ISSUE. With the title now being published three times per month, that would make the total monthly number 195K, which just comes in ahead of the 190K the were doing with three different titles. Taking the more conservative view, it seemed likely the per issue number would be a little closer to 72K, resulting in nearly 216K per month, which is a clearly a more notable increase over the 190K number.
Well, we're six months past the end of One More Day so we've got 18 issues of sales numbers to examine. Thus far the numbers have not quite settled. There has been a continual decline in sales from issue to issue. I will note that these numbers are only estimates as Marvel and Diamond do not release actual sales numbers. However, the estimates should be consistent between pre-OMD numbers and post-OMD numbers (in other words, regardless if the actual numbers are incorrect, they were calculated using the same methodology, so whatever the pre-OMD numbers are wrong by is what the post-OMD numbers would be wrong by --- long story short, that means they can be compared against each other and any resulting difference should have some reasonable validity).
I'm using the numbers as estimated by the guys over at ICv2.com - you can find their analysis here if you're curious: http://www.icv2.com/articles/home/1850.html
So let's break it all down. We're going to start all the way back in January 2007 to show what sales were pre-OMD and then finish with the numbers up through June 2008.

January 07
ASM (537) - 114,800
SSM (34) - 47,000
FNSM (16) - 41,800

February 07
ASM - 142,900
SSM - 59,400
FNSM - 52,800

March 07
ASM - 137,700
SSM - 56,100
FNSM - 50,700

April 07
ASM - (no issue)
SSM - 57,500
FNSM - 50,300

May 07
ASM - 119,628
SSM - 48,460 (annual)
FNSM - 49,891

June 07
ASM - 108,220
SSM - 57,057
FNSM - 47,886

July 07
ASM - 105,671
SSM - 55,323
FNSM - 46,446

August 07
ASM - 106,485
SSM - 52,180
FNSM - 44,661

So we can see that pre-OMD, the Spider-Man family of monthly titles was actually averaging about 220,729 copies per month (I threw out the April figures since ASM wasn't published that month and there is no way to properly gauge how many issues one more issue of ASM would have sold given the fluctuations in the monthly sales numbers of that title over the 8 month period)

One More Day

September 07
ASM - 150,788

October 07
FNS - 110,295

November 07
SSN - 105,050

December 07
ASM - 129,085

These numbers held fairly steady with what ASM was doing before the big change (complete with major fluctuations)


January 08
ASM 546 - 127,958
ASM 547 - 101,213
ASM 548 - 97,959

February 08
ASM 549 - 101,112
ASM 550 - 90,874
ASM 551 - 88,084

March 08
ASM 552 – 89,835
ASM 553 – 82,648
ASM 554 – 81,072

April 08
ASM 555 - 86,902
ASM 556 - 78,458
ASM 557 - 77,057

May 08
ASM 558 - 76,966
ASM 559 - 74,206
ASM 560 - 74,012

June 08
ASM 561 - 72,372
ASM 562 - 71,409
ASM 563 - 70,792

We can see post-OMD a significant decline in sales. Up to this point, the title has averaged about 257,154 copies a month (which is obviously 37K more than the Spidey books were doing pre-OMD), though obviously the trend has it only selling 214,573 in June while showing only minimal signs of stopping the decline.
The numbers speak for themselves. As of June, ASM isn't selling anywhere near close to what it was averaging per issue before Joe imposed his vision on the Spidey universe. It was averaging well over 100K per issue and is currently sitting at about 70K. In my own opinion, even with the move to a three times per month publishing schedule, ASM is a title that should still be able to do 80-85K per issue. There should be a strong enough core fan-base for the character to achieve those numbers. Right now, they obviously are not doing that.
Let's look at reality versus expectation. The reality is the book is currently selling 70K per issue (and still falling). The expectation is that a title like ASM should be sitting between 80-85K. That is a difference of 15K per issue at the moment (and if the book does fall to 65K, that would make it a 20K difference). 15K per issue times three issues a month is 45K issues. 45K issues that ARE NOT selling each month.
Go look at the June charts - http://www.icv2.com/articles/news/12929.html
According to those numbers, a title that sells 45K for the month would be in the top 50 list. In other words, Marvel has the equivalent of a top 50 title that isn't hitting their bottom line. Now let's take it even further. 45K times 12 months is 540K. That is over half a million copies PER YEAR that isn't hitting Marvel's bottom line as it should be.
Clearly Joe's vision isn't working. He should be answering questions before Marvel's board of directors and their stockholders as to why the publishing division is leaving so much money on the table with this particular flagship title.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Comi-Con 2008

Is it just me or has Comic-Con 2008 been rather ... ho-hum thus far?
I know there have been several announcements of some notable degree (new Vertigo Crime imprint from DC, Disney/Pixar projects at BOOM! Studios, and Devil's Due teaming with TriggerStreet.com among them), but two days into the Con there hasn't really been any big announcements the likes of what we've seen in previous years. Even the panel reports I've read have seemed less promotion-based than usual as they appear to be a lot more Q&A oriented. Q&A is certainly good and it allows the audience to interact more with the publishers, but there just seems to be a lot less excitement overall. Is this a case of publishers no longer holding back announcments for Comic-Con or is there really just not that much stuff to announce this year? In recent years there seemed to be a lot more things at the forefront of the panels along the lines of - 'we signed this guy to an exclusive' or 'this guy is doing a project for us' or 'here is the next major story-arc for this group of titles or line' - and there just seemed to be a heck of a lot more promotion for these projects and 'events'. Where is all the hoopla this year? Have publishers decided to dial it back because they believe they are approaching event overload or is this a case of the economic downturn forcing publishers to trim the lines a bit and not try to throw so many things at the wall at once to see what sticks? Whatever the reason, if the result is that publishers will have a stronger focus on a narrower range of books, I think it will result in better comics.
I do like the idea of the Veritgo Crime imprint, just because it means DC is putting even more resources into the Vertigo family.  When I look at the stack of comics I buy each month, invariably the Veritgo books are the ones I end up enjoying the most.  Superhero titles are here to stay and will certainly continue to drive the direct market, but the real future of the medium is in the type of material you'll find under the Vertigo banner (and with some other small publishers as well).  Those are the projects that are going to continue to open doors and expand to more mainstream audiences.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Rogue Angel: Teller of Tall Tales

I'm trying to figure out where the buzz is for this title. I'm trying to figure out why there doesn't really seem to be much of anyone talking about this title. I'm really trying to figure out why some of the people who I would expect to be making mention of this title are not doing so.
Is it simply that no one knows about it???
I realize is it published by IDW and they don't have the presence of a DC, Dark Horse, Image, or Marvel. But they are certainly not Little Tiny Hole In The Ground Publishing Inc.
Is it that no one is buying it because of the cover price? I admit $3.99 is steep. It is the reason I don't buy any of IDW's offerings. The only reason I picked up Rogue Angel in the first place is that I was looking for something to buy at Zeus Comics (when I was up in Dallas for CAPE). I grabbed the first two issues of Rogue Angel (and a couple of other random comics that I don't recall) because there wasn't a whole lot else I was interested in that I didn't already have waiting for me at home. And since I purchased those first two issues, that sort of committed me to buying the rest of the series.
Even if people are not buying it because of the price, that still doesn't explain why it isn't at least being discussed for things outside of the story. For what it is.
So what is it?
First, Rogue Angel is a book series published by Harlequin Publishing. According to Wikipedia, the series first saw publication in July of 2006 and is written under the house name of Alex Archer. The series is about a young woman named Annja Creed. Creed is an archaelogist and host of a sydnicated television show called Chasing History's Monsters. She also happens to be the possessor of Joan of Arc's mystic sword -- key word being mystic. If you want to know more, go read the Wikipedia entry.
Rogue Angel: Teller of Tall Tales is comic mini-series based on the character from the book series. I've never read the books, so I don't know if Teller of Tall Tales is a direct adaptation of any of the novels in specific or if it is something entirely original.
Rogue Angel: Teller of Tall Tales is written by Barbara Randall Kesel and illustrated by Renae De Liz.
Ok. Now let's have a look at what we've got with this title.
Tough, independent, successful, and confident female protagonist. Check.
Written by a long-time comics veteran who also happens to be female. Check.
Illustrated by an up-and-coming artist who, as it just so happens, is also female. Check.
Is this picture coming into focus yet?
WHERE is the buzz? Where is the support?
Why don't I see anyone talking about this title?
I did a search using Google focused on blog entries (which is a pretty nice option I didn't even know was available until tonight) and only came up with a couple of (brief) reviews from people who actually read an issue. I checked out the archives of When Fangirls Attack from February through the end of June to see if there were any headlines containing the word Rogue - but there was nothing relating to the Rogue Angel series. I checked out the archives of Sequential Tart from February through June and didn't see any noticeable mention of the Rogue Angel series. I did a forum search on Girl-Wonder.org and it came up with nothing (though that doesn't mean there absolutely wasn't any mention of the series in the forum -- it just means the search didn't bring me any results to prove otherwise). I did a search on the P.O.W.E.R. in Comics forum without any successful results.
So I ask again. Where is the buzz? Where is the support?
Isn't this the kind of thing a fair number of female comic readers have been asking for? A smart and very capable female protagonist who isn't the typical balloon-chested superheroine trading punches in high heels. No porn faces. No crotch shots. No elastic spines. And then you have the bonus of a female creative team (which I imagine is a big part of the reason why there are no porn faces, crotch shots, elastic spines, etc.).
So there it is.
A five issue mini-series that would appear to hit all the right notes has come and gone and no one seems to have noticed.
I don't know if it will be collected in trade form (sales on the individual issues were likely not very strong) so chances are an opportunity has been lost.

[07-14-08 Edit]
Reading through the July Previews today I saw the trade collection for Rogue Angel: Teller of Tall Tales solicited there. So it is indeed being collected and will be available in September.
Thus, there is a still a chance to make good on it.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Madame Xanadu

Madame Xanadu No. 1 (DC-Vertigo) - $2.99
Matt Wagner - Writer; Amy Reader Hadley - Artist
Synopsis: Centuries long and around the globe her tale winds before the ageless fortuneteller arrives in modern era New York. Her powers of sight can change the course of human events, but how does the seer see herself? The first issue opens into a medieval kingdom beset by intrigue and foul sorcery. A fair sylph with magic of her own is thrown into the world of war and men — where she encounters a dark stranger who knows not only her past, but her most intimate future as well.
I must admit to having absolutely no familiarity at all with the character Madame Xanadu. And after reading this debut issue of this new series, I still don’t. That isn’t a bad thing though. This issue focuses on a young forest sylph named Nimue Inwudu. She is the sister of the Vivienne (the Mistress of the Lake) and Morganna. Druids have asked for her assistance as the kingdom of Camelot has come under dark times, and they believe Morganna is to blame. Nimue also finds herself visited by a powerful stranger who tells her the fates have already been cast and there is nothing she can do to stem the tide of the coming war. 
I believe this title is supposed to be rooted in the present day (or close enough to it), so I think what Matt Wagner is doing here with this first issue is establishing the history of the character Madame Xanadu (who would appear to be Nimue). I really like the approach and I’m very interested in seeing where Matt takes it when he does jump forward. The art by Amy Reader Hadley is excellent. Her style reminds me quite a bit of Charles Vess, so if you’re a fan of his work, then you should definitely like this. 
I think this is a very fine debut issue and it certainly succeeds in making me want to come back for more. 
4 ½ zombies (out of five)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Batman R.I.P.

Currently DC is running a story in the Batman family of titles known as Batman R.I.P.
Though it hasn't been revealed exactly what the acronym R.I.P. details in terms of repercussions for the Dark Knight come the finale of this tale, there have been statements to the effect that Batman will not be dying.
In truth, this is just a smoke screen. Because Batman does indeed die. But Batman R.I.P. is merely a misdirection for the real point of occurrence.
You see, Batman is, in all truth, literally resting in pieces.
You just missed it because you were looking in the wrong place. Just about everyone did.
DC pointed one way and then did the deed someplace else entirely. You see, it happened in the pages of a low selling mini-series produced under the DC/Wildstorm banner. A mini-series hardly anyone is reading if projected sales numbers are any indication.
See for yourself.
Pick up the latest issue of DC/Wildstorm: Dreamwar.
You'll see.
The Batman is dead.
Long live the Kherubim.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

In Stores Now

The Vinyl Underground is a comic that has encountered the same fate as many others that have come before it. It opened with little fan-fare and promotion and subsequently has seen the small sales one would expect from a title that hasn't been properly marketed by the publisher.The Vinyl Underground is a Vertigo title and like most other books published under that imprint, it is a damn good series. Written by Si Spencer and illustrated by Simon Gane and Cameron Stewart, The Vinyl Underground follows the adventures of an unlikely quartet of occult investigators. The primary players are Morrison Shepherd - a former drug addict D-list celebrity party-boy, Perv - an ex-con who has psychic visions, Leah King - a morgue worker with a degree in forensic science who has a side gig as Juicy Lou - the only internet porn star who never goes all the way, and Kim (Abi) Abiola - an African tribual princess in exile and Morrison's former girlfriend. Morrison, Leah, and Perv have worked several cases in the past. Abi enters the mix when a young boy is found dead and her father is accused of the murder. The initial story arc in the first collected volume follows the group as they run up against racial tensions, neo-nazis, and drug traffickers in an attempt to clear Abi's father. A secondary plot that runs into the second story arc has Morrison trying to discover what happened to his mother (who disappeared several years previous).
One of the more interesting aspects of this title is the role reversal of the characters. Most of your standard titles feature the male characters as the main muscle of series. In The Vinyl Underground, the muscle of the team is the blond, lissome Leah. She doesn't strike a very imposing figure at first glance, but she can handle herself in a fight. In fact, she comes to Morrison's aid early in the story and saves him from a beating at the hands of a couple of skinheads (and hands them a beating they won't forget). She gives a good accounting of herself later in the story as well when the group runs afoul of the drug traffickers. Morrison functions more as a manager than anything else by assigning tasks and pointing teh group in the right direction where necessary. Perv is the research specialist. He digs up info using the internet and sometimes via drug-induced visions as well. Abi is still kind of feeling her way with the group (being the newest member). She's seems to have established a little bit of a rapport with Perv, which is a good thing for him as he's a little bit gun-shy in regards to personal contact with other people.
I really like this series. I like all of the characters, including some of the supporting cast (such as Detective Caufield, who is most often the beneficiary of the group's investigative endevours). They are interesting and have their own little quirks that differentiate them. Of course, my liking it is essentially the kiss of death. It is another underpromoted imprint title from the vast publishing house that is DC comics that could easily be doing respectable sales numbers if they actually put some time and effort into marketing it. Unfortunately, it seems like DC all too often takes a 'if we build it, they will come' approach to their imprint titles. They have a lot of quality books they put out under the Vertigo imprint, but it sure seems like a lot of people don't know about them because the sales numbers are not there for far too many of these titles.
What is really bothersome about this particular title is the first trade (collecting the first five issues) just hit stores this past week (and at a VERY reasonable price point of $9.99). But they are soliciting for the 12th issue in next month's Previews (titles due to ship in September) and they've already dropped the axe on it. They didn't even really give it a chance to get into people's hands in collected form and see if perhaps some buzz might start generating. I just don't understand the gameplan at all. I know the numbers are abysmal --- but what do you expect when there is essentially zero promotion? And then you don't even give people a chance to read the first collected edition before you pull the rug out from under the whole thing. Perhaps they would be better served if they turned their trade collections around a few months earlier. Certainly they would generate more interest if they actually promoted some of these titles outside of your typical comic avenues. Maybe consider trying some print ads in magazines (or seeing they can 'plant' some articles about some of these books)? Or do some sort of viral marketing on the web? Can they try product placement in some WBs produced television series? Obviously what they are doing now isn't working because few of these titles are making it long terms. The current strategy (whatever it actually might be) is broken. It is time to try something different.
So I know the book is cancelled and all, but that doesn't make it any less good. And you have to admit, $9.99 for a collection containing five issues is a relative bargain (the individual issues would have run you $14.95). There are a lot worse ways you could spend 10 bucks. Why not pick it and give it a shot? Your local comic shop might not have it, but you can always get it via Amazon.com or Instocktrades.com (and actually you can get it for under 7 bucks -- before shipping -- from Instock Trades). Read something good that you probably didn't know about because DC didn't get the word out. And if you enjoy it (which I think is likely), you can help get the word out to a few more people, and maybe they can do the same, and perhaps enough of those trades will get moved and DC might realize what they've really got here.
4 1/2 zombies (out of 5)

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Yes, I have been reading comics

I've been rather neglectful of this blog of late.  It hasn't been for a lack of reading material.  There has been plenty of that.  There was a time crunch for a couple of months, but that is no longer the case.  Really the issue has been a lack of desire in blogging.  I'll try to do better in the coming weeks.
Here are some quick hit thoughts on a few of the things I read recently.
Wonder Woman No. 20 – This is what I’ve been waiting for. This is the beginning of Gail Simone’s third arc on the title since she took the reins at the end of last year. The first arc left me a little indifferent and the second arc wasn’t a whole lot better (though the last issue of that story started to show some of what I was expecting). Perhaps Gail would not agree with me, (that it took this long) but I think she finally hit her stride (on this title) with this issue. We really get to see all the facets of Diana in this story. Her power and strength, her compassion, her determination, and her calm demeanor. Plus, she encounters the Grendel-seeking Beowolf in this story.  I was ecstatic when it was announced that Gail would be taking over this title and it is finally starting to pay dividends. Definitely a good time to be aboard this one.
Echo No. 3 – Never intended to read this particular title, but what with all the openings on my reading list since I kicked Marvel to the curb, I decided to give it a look when the first issue hit the stands. I never read Terry Moore’s Strangers in Paradise, but there have certainly been a lot of positive things written about it. If it was as good as what I’ve read in the first three issues of Echo, I can understand why. Start with a likeable protagonist who has her share of personal issues, toss in a secret government project (a suit of liquid metal that essentially makes its wearer a walking atom bomb) that only adds to her troubles, salt and pepper to taste, add garnish and serve.
Batman Confidential No. 17 – Fabian Nicieza and Kevin Maguire present Batgirl’s (the Barbara Gordon version) first encounter with Catwoman. A very green Batgirl is intent on recovering a notepad belonging to her father that has been stolen from right under her nose by Gotham’s top thief. Is there really anything else you need to know about this one? Kevin Maguire art. Batgirl. Catwoman. I smell winner.
Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein: Prodigal Son No. 1 – I don’t really know the entire premise of this particular series (never read the book series it is based on and I didn’t read any summary on said book series either), but it has Brett Booth art and it seems like it should be an entertaining story (I did see some preview pages and a description of the first issue before I bought it). A serial killer is taking body parts from his victims in New Orleans while the scarred title character has been called to the very same city via a message from an old friend. I’m definitely interested in seeing where this one goes.
Vertigo First Cut
I really like these collections of first issues from various Vertigo titles that DC puts together. They are priced at an amazingly consumer-friendly $4.99 for the collection and give readers a chance to experience the beginning of titles they otherwise might not check out. This particular collection featured the first issues of:
Jack of Fables
The Exterminators
Crossing Midnight
and a short preview of the upcoming series Air.
I’ve already been reading Army@Love so I’m familiar with that series, but I had not previously read any of the others. After checking out these first issues, I have to say that each have their own appeal. I read Fables (it is one of my favorite titles), but that never really translated into a desire to follow Jack of Fables. Reading the first issue certainly piqued my interest in the book however. I at least would like to see how the first story arc plays out. The DMZ was pretty good, although I thought the last page was a misstep (they obviously had to go that direction in order to advance the premise, but that didn’t make it any less nonsensical). You wouldn’t think a series revolving around bug exterminators would come off as entertaining, but you would be wrong. There isn’t quite enough there to convince me to become a regular reader of The Exterminators, but I can certainly see where it might actually be an interesting series. Scalped presented an interesting enough premise but I was a little bit turned off by the art (which wasn’t bad --- it just didn’t quite impress). Of all the series presented in the collection, Scalped is the one I would be least-likely to pick up even though it is probably a pretty good series. I remember reading the original solicitation for Crossing Midnight and having some interest. I think I might have thumbed through the first issue when it hit the stands, but I guess I didn’t see enough to take it home. Now that I’ve fully read the first issue, I think I would still pass on it even though, much like Scalped, it looks like it is probably a good series. I’ve never been a serious fan of the western genre, but I have to say that Loveless looks very promising. I could almost be convinced to actually start picking it up.
To sum up, pretty much all of these titles look good enough to merit becoming a regular reader of (or at least checking out the initial story arc). They all offer something a little different but seem to be quality projects all the same.
Anyway, I very strongly recommend everyone pick up a copy of Vertigo First Cut and check out the first issue of these titles yourselves. If your local comic shop doesn’t have copies, you purchase it via amazon.com – and for $4.99 it is a definite bargain.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Death Note live-action movie

Had quite a treat today.
I got to see the Death Note live-action movie.
It was a 2 night only engagement.  I'd read several weeks back that it was going to be coming around, but then I completely forgot about it.  Tonight was actually the second night, so I almost missed it.  Fortunately my comic shop had a flyer for it and I noticed it when I went in to pick up my books this week.  Still, once I realized it was happening tonight, I had to figure out where it was playing.  So I pulled up the browser on my phone and tried to locate a theatre playing it.  That took over 15 minutes (the event web-site had the info, but their buttons didn't work on my phone's browser, so I had to dig around a few other sites until I found a listing).  Once I got the theatre and time, I only had about 40 minutes to get there.  Fortunately I made it with time to spare ... and even more fortunately, the show was not sold out.
I've never read the Death Note manga and have only seen a handful of the anime episodes (less than 10 altogether). Still, I've found the anime to be quite good (though I came in somewhere around the middle --- haven't actually seen the beginning), so I was definitely intrigued by the prospect of a live action film.

And it was excellent.
Very well done.
The dubbing wasn't even a distraction.
Great film.
I thought they did a great job with their selection of actors.  When Light was first revealed on-screen, I didn't think he quite fit the part.  But my opinion changed rather quickly.  And L was really spot on.  From the first moment he was presented in physical form, it was clear that he absolutely was L.  Misa Misa (who doesn't have much screen time in this film) was also a fitting choice in casting.  She was the exuberant and energetic girl one would expect.

The only disappointing thing about the film is that it was only part one.  I should have realized they wouldn't be able to tell the entire story in a single film given how long the manga and anime series are.  I was still a little surprised however when the movie ended and the story was only partially told.
On the plus side, that means another Death Note movie.
Definitely looking forward to part 2.
I have no idea when it will be making a run through the U.S. but I will definitely have to keep my eye out for it.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

CAPE and Iron Man

I've been quite busy as of late (so much so that I have nearly three months worth of trade paperbacks sitting on my table waiting to be read -- and this after I was finally able to catch up on over 2 months worth of individual comics) and obviously haven't posted in a few weeks.
This isn't going to be a monolithic post though.
I drove up to Dallas to attend CAPE this past weekend (and also to catch the Sharks -v- Stars in the Stanley Cup play-offs ... unfortunately the Sharks lost a 4 overtime thriller that ended their season).  CAPE was quite a good show.  Plenty of great guests and lots of cool stuff to look at and buy.  This was my first time at CAPE so I wasn't sure exactly what to expect.  I was suprised to see the guys from Red 5 Comics there.  I didn't realize they were based out of Houston.
It seemed like the non-big name creators (by that, I mean those who haven't done any work for Marvel and DC) were not getting the level of fan attention and appreciation they should have.  There was certainly a lack of action at a number of the tables during the time I was there.  That was really too bad since there was a lot of great product available from those creators that fans could have discovered.  I'm hoping next year we'll be able to do a little more promotion for some of those creators through the MZS APA.
I was glad to see our Zombie Zone FCBD sampler was getting handed out to all of the attendees.  Hopefully we'll see a little activity on the web-site in the coming weeks.
After I finished my tour of CAPE, I headed off to catch a showing of the movie Iron Man.  I'm not going to give a review of it here (maybe I'll do that in a later post).  I'll just say it was a GREAT movie.  It is definitely the new torch-bearer for comic-based movies.  Everything is going to be measured against it.  I don't think that bodes well for The Spirit (based on what I saw from the trailer).  Anyway, it will be interesting to see what impact this movie might have on Time Warner's DC movie properites.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Amulet - Book One The Stonekeeper

Amulet – Book One The Stonekeeper (Scholastic) - $9.99
Written and illustrated by Kazu Kibuishi

Synopsis: After a family tragedy, Emily, Navin, and their mother move to an ancestral home to start a new life. On the family’s very first night in the mysterious new house, Emily and Navin’s mother is kidnapped by a tentacled creature. Now it’s up to Emily and Navin to figure out how to set things right and save their mother’s life.
The book opens with an eleven page prologue covering the tragic event that forever changes the lives of Emily, Navin, and their mother Karen. This nicely sets the stage for the rest of the book as it transitions from tragedy to the family beginning a new life. Emily isn’t happy about the move. She doesn’t like the fact they are moving to a small town in the middle of nowhere. Financial difficulties have forced Karen’s hand unfortunately. The house is in need of a lot of work as it hasn’t been lived in for a while. It previously belonged to Karen’s grandfather, Silas Charnon, but he disappeared after the death of his wife. He was a puzzle maker, though as Karen comments, his puzzles looked more like toys or machines. While cleaning upstairs, Emily stumbles across Silas’ library and uncovers a hidden amulet. That evening Emily is awakened by a voice speaking to her from the amulet. She and her mother notice strange noises coming from somewhere in the house. They look for the source and determine it is coming from the basement. Karen descends into the basement and is attacked by a strange creature. Emily and Navin rush down the stairs when they hear her scream, but she is nowhere to be found. Emily notices a door however and they find a huge subterranean cavern on the other side. They eventually catch up to the creature that swallowed their mother, but then end up having to flee from it. The amulet again speaks to Emily and tells her where she needs to go to find help. They manage to escape the creature but are unaware someone is stalking them. They reach the destination given by the amulet and find a huge house sitting on a island of rock in the middle of a small lake. Before they can determine how they want to cross, someone approaches in a boat. When the individual notices them, they decide to run away, but find their path blocked by the dark character that has been stalking them. They are saved by the boatman, Miskit, who turns out to be not a man at all. Miskit takes them to the house where they find their great-grandfather Silas. He reveals some of the secrets of the amulet to Emily and places it in her final charge. Emily has the choice to accept the power of the amulet and Silas’ legacy or to turn away. With time running short to rescue her mother, Emily has to decide on a course of action. Accept the power and responsibility or find another way to save her mother.
This is an outstanding book that is perfectly suited for both children and adults. The art is quite excellent and is in full color. The story is engaging and highly entertaining. There are many great touches along the way. I particular enjoyed when they arrive at the house and Karen determines they can’t sleep in the house given its current condition so they have to attack it. Brandishing brooms as though they are weapons of war, the three line up in the entryway and then charge forth in unison. Then there is the scene where they are camped out with sleeping bags in one of the rooms upstairs. Emily starts to complain about the move again and when she comments about how her father would have approached things, Karen starts to break down. Emily realizes the mistake she has made and quickly apologizes. It turns into a nice family moment and also demonstrates some small amount of growth on Emily’s part. I really like Kazu’s character designs, as well as the overall look of this project. The characters have a very simple animated feel similar to a Hayao Miyazaki project, although there is a sort of a Don Bluth vibe to the book that I really can’t explain. Miskit and the other denizens of Silas’ hidden home are the charming sort of characters one would expect from a book aimed at a younger reading audience. The character stalking the children is particularly menacing in appearance. One thing that really impressed me with Kazu’s storytelling throughout the book is his use of the characters’ eyes as the primary communicator of what is actually happening to them. In fact, it might be possible to read the story without actually seeing all of the specifics of the surrounding action and still have a reasonably fair idea of what is going on just based on the strength of the characters’ expressions. I’m not certain how many books this series is supposed to run but I am definitely looking forward to the remainder of the story.
4 1/2 zombies (out of 5)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Bride of the Water God

Bride of the Water God [vol. 1 & 2] (Dark Horse)
Written and illustrated by Mi-Kyung Yun
Synopsis: When Soah’s impoverished, desperate village decides to sacrifice her to the Water God Habaek to end a long drought, they believe that drowning one beautiful girl will save their entire community and bring much-needed rain. Not only is Soah surprised to be rescued by the Water God – instead of killed – she never imagined she’d be a welcomed guest in Habaek’s magical kingdom, where an exciting new life awaits her. Habaek, the mysterious Water God, is cursed to live in the form of a little boy during the day – while he turns back to his true adult self at night. His new human bride, Soah, thinks that she’s been married to a child and has no idea that the attractive ‘Mui’ is actually the indecisive adult Habaek. Surrounded by a cast of colorful elemental gods and their servants, Soah is tempted by flirtations from both ‘Mui’ and the rascal Huye. Things get even more complicated after Tae-eul-jin-in spills a surprising secret, and Soah audaciously plots to uncover the truth for herself.
Two volumes in, I can say without reservation this is an absolutely outstanding series thus far. Korean creator Mi-Kyung Yun is spinning a really engrossing tale and her art is remarkably beautiful. The first couple of pages of each volume have been in color with the remainder of the pages in black and white. The opening page (in color) of the second volume is nothing short of stunning (honestly, it should be framed and hanging on a wall as an oversized print).
Bride of the Water God features a very interesting mix of characters. Soah is the protagonist, a human who finds herself in the land of the gods, and the Water God Habaek is the one to whom she is sacrificed. The other principles are Murah – the Goddess of Cheongyo Mountain, Mu-san-shin-yeo (she goes by Yohee), the Fire God Judong, Huye, Tae-eul-jin-in, and Seowangmo, Habaek’s mother.
Soah is chosen by her village to be the sacrifice to the Water God Habaek in order to bring rain and end a great drought. In some respects this might seem a great honor as one would expect the villagers to seek to offer their most beautiful maiden. Sacrificing anything less than the most beautiful of the eligible candidates would certainly seem like an insult to the Water God, and it wouldn’t make sense for the villagers to risk his wrath when they so desperately need his favor. Soah does not see things from this particular view. She clearly feels betrayed and the value of her life unappreciated, but to her credit she does not try to escape the duty. Yet her thoughts indicate she doesn’t care what happens to the village once she has been set afloat the ocean to wait for the Water God to claim her.
When Soah is first introduced to the gods (after being discovered on the shore by Yuk-Oh, who is in charge of the palace where Habaek resides), she initially mistakes Huye for the Water God. Her thoughts upon glimpsing him from behind filter back to whispers she heard from some of the villagers – “They say once you see him, you never forget him.” “I heard he’s a terrifying monster.” “Yes, I also heard he eats people.” Yet when he turns and shows his face, her thoughts quickly change – “The god, this being, is beautiful … “ Yuk-Oh introduces Huye (Soah is disappointed he isn’t who she thought he was) and then presents Habaek, who turns out to be a young boy. Habaek is rather rude to her initially (he even insults her beauty in later conversation, saying he “told the humans to offer the most beautiful woman”, and that he “won’t let it rain for five hundred years”).
Soah encounters Tae-eul-jin-in when she becomes lost while wandering around the palace. He introduces himself as a doctor and inventor. Soah learns from him that it has not yet rained. She rushes back to Habaek and admonishes him for not fulfilling his end of the bargain. Habaek belittles humans for being selfish and thinking they can so easily sacrifice just one and they themselves can then be safe and live. Soah withdraws, upset that she allowed herself to be tricked by his childish looks and forgot he was an ill-tempered god.
Soah learns much later in conversation with Murah that Habaek has given rain. She also discovers Habaek had previous brides. In another encounter with Tae-eul-hin-in, Soah learns that Nakbin was Habaek’s first bride and he loved her very much, but she died.
While Soah is enjoying a walk in the forest along with Habaek and the other gods, she is attacked by a crocodile-like creature. Huye takes the bite intended for Soah and then slays the creature. Soah twists her ankle during the encounter so Huye decides to carry her. Habaek is clearly irritated that he was powerless to help Soah.
The Water God Habaek is an interesting case. While Habaek may seem to be hard and insensitive, he is something of a tortured soul. He is stuck in child’s form during the day (where he has no powers) and is free to regain his adult form (and powers) during the hours of the night (it hasn’t been revealed as yet how and why this came to be). When in his natural adult form, Habaek is known as Mui. Habaek doesn’t initially reveal his situation to Soah, and when he later meets her as Mui, he leads her to believe that he (Mui) is Habaek’s cousin.
When it is revealed Habaek’s mother, Seowangmo, is coming for a visit, Judong tells Soah Seowangmo is the Goddess of Punishment and Torture (but he tells her she shouldn’t worry because Seowangmo is also the Goddess of Love and Beauty – then again, she is also the Goddess of Disease so … ). Soah is very frightened when she is brought for an official audience with her. Habaek is not pleased with her interest in his bride and angrily orders Soah to go off with Yohee while he remains to speak with his mother.
Following her second meeting with Mui, Tae-eul-jin-in reveals to Soah that Habaek and Mui are one and the same. He tells her she can ask the others if she doesn’t believe him. When she does make such an inquiry, Murah tells Soah not to believe Tae-eul-jin-in.
Seowangmo wants Habaek to send Soah back, but decides it is her responsibility as a mother to help the couple when Habaek tells her that he is deeply in love with Soah. She gives her servant two potions, one for Habaek and one for Soah. Unfortunately, her servant mixes them up and Habaek receives the wrong one. Soah decides to ask Mui directly if he and Habaek are actually the same person, but she discovers him half-conscious on the floor. She kneels to help him and Mui, in a disoriented state, embraces her and calls her Nakbin. Soah is confused regarding his behavior since she knows Nakbin was Habaek’s bride.
Soah later asks Tae-eul-jin-in if he was being truthful about Mui. He guesses Murah told her not to believe him and tells her that Murah has feelings for Habaek and therefore has no reason to like or help Soah. When Soah relates the events of the prior evening to Judong and Murah, Judong accuses her of liking Mui. Murah says Judong is being ridiculous because if Soah really does like him, it would be a true betrayal of Habaek. Some time later, Soah has the realization that not only was she shocked to hear Mui calling out Nakbin’s name when he embraced her, but that she is also jealous of her.
While most of the other gods appear to each have their own hidden agenda (Murah, for instance, is in love with Habaek and certainly sees Soah as an obstacle, just as she did with Nakbin), Huye is the biggest mystery. He is very kind to Soah on several occasions, even going so far as to tell her that if she has a problem, she can tell him and he will help anytime. He appears to have some interest in Soah which may or may not be altogether honorable. It is alluded to in a brief flashback that he and one of Habaek’s brides (Nakbin in all likelihood) may have been more than just friends. Habaek is trusting of Huye (he tells him on one occasion that “he is the last one and if you betray me I’ll never forgive you”) and yet seems to have some apprehension in regards to Huye’s intentions with Soah. Huye presents Soah with a comb during a visit to the night market as a belated welcoming gift. Mui remarks to Soah that a man giving a lady a comb as a gift means he’s proposing for marriage. It isn’t clear if Mui is being truthful in this instance or simply gauging her reaction.
Soah is a very conflicted character. She is both strong and weak. She considers herself to be a phony bride (this harkens back in part to her not caring what happens to the village). When Mui tells her to go back, that he will help her to return home, Soah tells him that she is never going back because Habaek loves her deeply (this occurs the evening following her meeting Seowangmo – prior to Tae-eul-jin-in telling her that Mui and Habaek are one and the same). She twists a few of the comments Habaek made to her upon their initial meeting and tells Mui that Habaek said she “looked very nice”, implied that he called her “the most beautiful woman” and that he told her he would protect her for the rest of her life (it is after this meeting that Habaek tells his mother, in his second audience with her, that he deeply loves Soah). Soah wonders that had Huye been Habaek when she first encountered him whether she would have fallen in love with him. She finds herself attracted to Mui (even though she is uncertain about his being Habaek – and she is unsure whether she wants that to be the truth or not). When Mui asks on the night of their first meeting if she is afraid of Habaek and why she didn’t run away, Soah relates a tale told by her grandmother where Habaek grieved over a person who drowned and turned them into a water lily so such a thing wouldn’t happen again. She concludes by saying she wasn’t scared because she believes anyone who would grieve so much for a person’s death can’t be such a bad person. She is very frightened when she meets Habaek’s mother, but after seeing how coldly Habaek greets her, she realizes that Seowangmo perhaps seemed very lonely. When Soah finds Mui collapsed on the floor (and after he embraces her and calls her Nakbin), she rushes to Tae-eul-hin-in’s room and locates medication he administered days before to Habaek. She can’t get Mui to swallow it from the bottle in his now unconscious state so she puts it in her own mouth and administers it to him in that manner. It is moments such as these that help define her as a highly intriguing and empathetic character.
Overall, this is a very complex tale with two primary characters that seem reluctant to trust not only in themselves, but the other as well -- two characters who are searching for the sanctuary and contentment they may only find with each other. There are clearly many challenges that remain ahead, certainly in the form of the goddess Murah and likely from Huye as well when his intentions become known. I’m most definitely looking forward to future volumes to see how the story continues to play out. In conclusion, I have to say this is really an exceptional and entertaining manwha series. Honestly, I can’t recommend it strongly enough.
5 zombies (out of 5)

(as a bonus, here is the first page of the second volume that should be a framed print -- minus the text of course)

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Who is the perfect paramour?

There has been much opinion and discussion of late in regards to the developing relationship between Diana of Themyscira and Tom Tresser (AKA Nemesis). Amy Reads (she of the exceptionally written blog Arrogant Self-Reliance) has expressed her own, perhaps undefinable, dislike of Tresser. I also have not found the romance to be particularly agreeable. While I've been reading comics for nigh on three decades (let's not think on that now, shall we?), I don’t have quite the same DC ‘credentials’ as many others may. I cut my comic teeth on Spider-Man and Marvel, but I wasn't all that far behind on DC titles. It wasn't long after my exposure to the X-Men (the next real comic book I knew outside of Spider-Man) that I became a reader of DC's Vigilante (the Adrian Chase version), which grew out of a cross-over between the Teen Titans and the X-Men. From there I became a reader of the Teen Titans, then the Justice League (the Giffen/DeMatteis version), the Flash, Green Lantern, Legion of Super-Heroes, L.E.G.I.O.N., Hawkman, and a few others. Vigilante was mid-80s, the others followed in the late 80s and early 90s. So you might say I have a decent foundation in DC titles (though not quite as strong as what I have in Marvel titles, much to my disappointment these days --- but that is a topic all its own). Even so, I wasn't reading Wonder Woman or Suicide Squad at the time, so I had no knowledge of Tom Tressor. In fact, my first exposure to the character (to the best of my knowledge) has been in recent issues of Wonder Woman (a title I started reading during Greg Rucka's excellent run). If you're familiar with the issues in question (written by Allan Heinberg and Jodi Picoult --- with very definite input from editorial), then you're quite familiar with the portayal of the character. I don't know what he may have been like before those issues, but I do know what he was like in them. He was rather dismissive of Diana (in her guise as Diana Prince) and possibly even a little chauvinistic. In fact, the only woman he seemed to give any respect (and I use that term somewhat loosely) is Wonder Woman.
Now, that doesn’t necessarily have to make him an ass. It could simply be a case of, what with his years of experience in covert operations and the like, Tresser finding Diana Prince to be sorely lacking as a suitable partner and thereby being somewhat annoyed that he has been ‘stuck’ with her. He also claimed he works alone and if that is indeed the case, one could certainly understand his not wanting to break in someone as inexperienced as she in their line of work (according to her resumé) -- though Diana did point out he worked with the Suicide Squad and other individuals in the past, so it seems a rather ineffectual argument on his part.
Then there was the time (in a Jodi Picoult scripted issue) when a somewhat groggy Tresser was disappointed that he had missed seeing Wonder Woman and commented that he ‘bet she looked hawt’. Now, should we put that down to the head injury causing him to think and say something out of usual character or is it a case of said injury temporarily removing the filter that would otherwise keep him from speaking what is actually on his mind. Personally, I’m going to have to go with the latter on that one.
So I’m not sure what to make of it entirely.
I have a hard time putting my finger on what exactly it is that I think I don’t like about him. Maybe it is simply a case of my believing he isn’t good enough for Diana, and that is that. But if that is really all it is, then it seems a rather anemic argument. Because when you get right down to it, who really is ‘good enough’ for Diana? If you want to try and measure someone up against everything that Diana is … well, you’re going to find the line of those who can even be considered to be in the same ‘sentence’ a rather short one --- as in, maybe zero individuals. Outside of possibly Superman (and frankly, he bores me as a character), I’m finding it difficult to come up with anyone who possesses even to some minor degree the number of intangibles that make Wonder Woman such a unique and wonderful character. Sure there are characters who have this part, and that piece, as well as their own distinguishing attributes, but none that really come close to encompassing the collection of traits that define Diana.
It seems an impossible task. Or perhaps improbable would be more appropriate a term. So if it is indeed improbable to find someone very clearly ‘deserving’ of Diana’s favor, then why not just anyone? Why not Tom Tresser?
I must admit, having the luxury of going back to re-examine those story arcs written by Allan Heinberg and Jodi Picoult after having read Gail Simone’s four issues has changed my opinion somewhat. I’m finding myself a little less dubious of Tresser as a potential love interest for Diana. Seeing those issues again now, he doesn’t seem as much the stereotypical male jerk I thought at first encounter. But hey, end of the day, he is still a guy. And much like the rest of us guys, he’ll still end up being a jerk on occasion. Diana has been around long enough that it shouldn’t come as a surprise to her. She’s had enough dealings with Wally (more so in his early days), Bruce, Hal, Oliver (he teaches a university-level class on the subject), and Carter, among numerous others, that she really should have a decent handle on the male creature. So you know, if she is ok with Tom - warts and all as they say - after all that, then I guess there really isn’t much more for the rest of us to say.

I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t say more though. Actually I’m shifting the topic a bit however. Amy Reads mentions in the same blog post that she finds the idea of a Batman-Wonder Woman pairing appealing to some degree. I also find the idea intriguing. It is not a combination that I had given any real thought to previous to reading a JLA arc several years ago that I believe was written by Joe Kelly. In that particular arc, there was sexual tension that seemed to be developing between Batman and Wonder Woman. I don’t know the timing of this particular arc in relation to the Justice League Unlimited cartoon, where I understand something similar was in place (sorry --- I wasn’t watching it regularly at the time --- yes, yes, shame on me). Perhaps Joe Kelly was inspired by the cartoon, perhaps the cartoon took something from Kelly’s work, or perhaps they all independently came up with their own angles on it. I don’t know and frankly it really doesn’t matter. What matters is that it put the characters in a new light for me. I saw possibilities that previously were not a consideration. And I wanted to see those possibilities played out. Even though I’m not so sure it is really a good pairing. There are aspects of it that make sense. Batman is the true persona. Bruce Wayne is a beneficial identity that allows him the resources to continue his mission. By the same token, Wonder Woman doesn’t really have much in the way of a civilian life herself. So in effect, his ‘lifestyle’ wouldn’t necessarily be an inconvenience for Wonder Woman (though if she were again to become an emissary for Themyscira, there could be some potential conflict in their ability to effectively match schedules). I’m just not so certain Batman would be willing to make enough room in his life for Diana. I don’t know that he would give her the necessary time and attention to make a relationship work. I’d like to think that maybe Diana could loosen him up a bit and pull him back from the edge of that chasm of compulsion he likes to hover over, but I don’t believe he would allow himself that comfort. I think his obsessive nature when he is working on a case would eventually wear on her. I’m not saying Diana would be needy (I’m saying the opposite really – she would allow him much more leeway than just about anyone else), but there is give and take in a relationship and I think Batman would be lacking in the give aspect.
I like the idea of the relationship in theory, but I’m not so certain such a relationship would actually work in practice. But who knows, maybe Clark (and Dick and Tim and Carter and hell, maybe even Oliver) could knock some sense in him at some point.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Do we get to win this time?

I'm not reading Secret Invasion (wasn't even planning on reading it prior to my complete boycott of Marvel comics post OMD) so I probably shouldn't even bother commenting on it. But I will [grin]. Not really the event itself, but some of the ramifications.
If you really think about the situation going into the series, you have to ask yourself a question. What is the result of the replacement in regards to the individual who has been replaced? In order for a Skrull to successfully replace an individual (long-term), the individual has to be removed from the playing board. It wouldn't do much good to have the original still active on the board while the replacement is trying to influence things because the duplication would be uncovered in somewhat short order. So clearly, when a replacement is enacted, the Skrulls are taking the original out of circulation. I would have to imagine there is a good deal of surveillance and investigation made prior to a replacement so the Skrull can get the large details and enough of the small details correct in order to successfully pass as the individual in the short-term. Once the Skrulls have a replaced individual in their custody, I would also imagine they have methods for extracting the rest of the information they need in order to make the replacement successful in the long-term (in other words, the rest of the small details the Skrull agent needs to continue fooling the people who are most familiar with the individual who has been replaced).
With that established, we go back to the question at hand. What happens to the individual who has been replaced once the Skrull is firmly entrenched and they have all the information they need? Does the individual have any more use to the Skrulls? My contention is no. Once the Skrulls have successful replaced John Smith or Jane Doe and they've got all the details necessary to make that replacement a 'permanent' substitution, the original no longer serves any purpose. As such, I would expect the original to be disposed of. In other words, killed.
Now, one might be able to put forth the argument that exceptional individuals (read - super-powered individuals) may not be so readily disposed. The Skrulls might want to take some time to study them to see what scientific knowledge could be gained from such an analysis. However, being intelligent beings I would imagine they've read the Evil Overlord List or another document of that nature. Thus, they would be aware of the dangers of keeping their enemies (especially of the super-powered variety) alive. So first, they wouldn't keep them together. They would most certainly house them at separate locations (and since we know these replacement have been taking place over the course of months --- and perhaps years, we know they've had plenty of time to get these individuals not only to different outposts, but outposts on different planets and perhaps in different galaxies). Second, as the Skrulls are capable of interstellar-travel, we know they have advanced technology at their disposal (we've seen it over the years in Skrulls appearances in various comics), so they could certainly do very detailed (down to the cellular level) scans of their subjects and take plenty of DNA samples for testing and whatnot. Which means they wouldn't need to keep the actual subjects for very long. I'm sure there might be some they would decide to keep alive for more in-depth analysis, but I would imagine those would be of the less dangerous variety (in other words, they wouldn't keep someone of the power level of a Magneto, just as an example, alive and thereby still a threat to disrupt their plans if he did somehow manage to escape).
So, getting to the main of my point. Were I reading an event series such as Secret Invasion, in order for it to have any real impact and be considered a well conceived and executed story, I would expect that upon emergence from said event, there would be a lot of permanently dead (well, as permanently dead as one can be in the Marvel Universe, which is to say that they're merely taking an extended nap and will eventually be 'resurrected') characters (both of the human and super-powered variety). In terms of the humans, I would expect that, at minimum, eight-five percent of those replaced would have been disposed of. That percentage would be smaller for the super-powered individuals, but it should most definitely be greater than fifty percent (and I'd say that it should actually be much closer to sixty-five percent).
As an uninterested outside observer (at this point Marvel can do whatever stupid things they want to the entirety of their catalog because they've completely lost me as a reader), the measure of success for this event (strictly as a story in and of itself --- sales figures don't apply) should be measured on whether they have the brass to go through with what would seem to be the natural and logical direction of this plot. If they come out of this event with most of the replaced super-powered individuals still being alive and kicking, those who supported, bought, and read the tale in question should feel cheated and insulted. Of course, insulted is something fans of Marvel comics should be familiar with, especially those who were told to swallow the results of OMD (especially in regards to the 'effects' on the TWENTY years of stories they bought and read prior to Quesada's wet-dream event).

Saturday, March 22, 2008


Neozoic No. 1 (Red 5 Comics) - $2.95
Paul Ens - Writer; J. Korim - Artist

Synopsis: Eighty million years into the Earth’s Cretaceous period, a comet destined to strike the northern continent was redirected by less than a single degree. The huge rock instead collided with the moon, saving the oblivious dinosaur kingdom from their extinction and dooming the emerging mammals to a harsh co-existence with the huge reptiles. Some sixty-five million years later, humans live alongside the dinosaurs, trying to stay one step ahead of the larger carnivores while carving out their own civilization.
It didn't take many pages into the first issue of this series before I was quickly able to determine that I very much like what I see. It is your typical debut issue where most of the intergral characters are introduced to the reader and the key plot elements for the first story arc are put in place. What I am expecially pleased with is the art by J. Korim. It has a Disney feel to it, and in fact, the composition of the panels are such that you can almost feel like you’re watching an animated feature. I don’t know if Korim has actually done any work with Disney or if his style is just heavily influenced by their productions, but regardless, it is very appealing. The only negative I’ve found with Korim’s work here is that his female facial features tend to look the same (making it a little difficult to recognize who is who in certain instances). That is a very minor qualm however. I’m quite thrilled with this title and am very much looking forward to future issues.
4 1/2 zombies (out of 5)

The Vinyl Underground

The Vinyl Underground No. 1 (DC/Vertigo) - $2.99
Si Spencer - Writer; Simon Gane - Pencils; Cameron Stewart - Inks
Synopsis: In this fast-paced, ultra-cool ongoing crime-noir series, an unlikely quartet of occult detectives secretly solve crimes — from DJ crack bars in Camden to the elegant, high-society ballrooms that make up modern London. The Vinyl Underground is led by Morrison Shepherd, a D-list celebrity darling, soul DJ, and son of an ex-footballer. Fresh out of prison and off a nasty coke habit, Morrison is joined by a fellow ex-con named Perv, whose seizures give him clues to crimes long before the cops, and Leah, a gorgeous morgue assistant who leads a double life online and represents the brawn of the team.
I picked up this comic on a whim. I recall reading the solicitation for the first issue and not being impressed enough by the ‘pitch’ to add it to my pull list at my local comic shop. Subsequent solicitations enticed me a bit more however, and when I saw the first issue on the shelf several weeks back, I decided to give it a quick flip through and like enough of what I saw to make the purchase. Upon reading it a few days later, I was moved to add the series to my pull list. The series has a sort of quirky feel to it, in some small respects similar to another favorite title of mine - Casanova. The main characters are quite an odd lot, but they are also a very intriguing bunch. Morrison has a quiet kind of cool about him. Spencer only barely scratches the surface here with Perv, but he seems like a character with a good deal of promise. Leah is just an interesting case altogether - spoiled bitch forensic scientist porn icon (that about covers all the bases). We’ve really only seen the tip of the iceburg with these characters (but what more do you expect from a single issue), but it has certainly whetted my appetite such that I want to get to know more about them.

4 zombies (out of 5)