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 or (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 – and for $4.99 it is a definite bargain.