Saturday, October 30, 2010

Looking forward

I usually give you guys a rundown when I get my comic shipment, just so I can let you know what's come in and what I'm stoked about reading. I thought that this time around I would try something a little bit different. I'm going to share with you my recent order, which I won't see until January.

For those wondering, I order through a U.S. based site that Randy recommended to me:

Boom Studios (4) I ordered four books from Boom Studios this month guys. Ever since I discovered BOOM as a result of Mark Waid's work there (he's the Editor In Chief) I've been keeping an eye on this company. They have the license for publishing Disney's books right now (I have to assume that will change with Disney now owning Marvel) which no doubt keeps them with steady revenue streams and the opportunity to grow before that license expires.

So what am I reading from them? Well I'm still reading Irredeemable & Incorruptible, but recently they launched a series of books that were created in concert with Stan Lee. I was intrigued enough that I ordered the first issue as a sampling of each title. If I like them I'll read them in GN format. Most of them anyways. The one which is a collaborative effort between Waid and Lee is now a regular order. That book is entitled Stan Lee's Traveller. The new title this month is Stan Lee's Starborn.

So the official order is:
Incorruptibe #14
Irredeemable #20
Stan Lee's Traveller #2
Stan Lee's Starborn #1

Dark Horse Comics (3) I don't read a lot of Dark Horse, but the last couple of months I've been ordering a few books because they're revivals that are being done by the same man who once breathed new life into the characters when he built Valiant. I'm speaking of Jim Shooter's return to the old Gold Key characters Solar and Magnus. Last month that expanded when I ordered the new Turok book, and this month it grows once more.

Still, even as it grows, Magnus comes to an end. It was only a four book series. Turok isn't offered this month, which makes it an easy month from Dark Horse.

So the official order is:
Solar, Man of the Atom #5
Magnus, Robot Fighter #4
Mighty Samson #1

DC Comics (31) Of the big two, this is my BIG one. DC dominates my reading list for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that their characters have always been just a little bit more iconic in my mind. They're who I grew up with. I read all of the core books for Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Flash, Green Arrow, Justice League, Justice Society, Wonder Woman and The Titans. It's a lot of books, and it only gets worse each time some Batman editor green lights yet another Batman book. The truth is that I get annoyed when they stretch continuity over 4 or 5 books a month. The second it goes beyond that, I start thinking about dropping titles.

So the official order is:
Action Comics #896
Action Comics Annual #13
Adventure Comics #521
Batman #705
Batman Annual #28
Batman & Robin #18
Batman Inc #2
Batman The Dark Knight #2
Birds Of Prey #7
Brightest Day #15 & 16
Detective Comics #872
Detective Comics Annual #12
Flash #9
Green Arrow #7
Green Lantern #61
Green Lantern Corps #55
Green Lantern Emerald Warriors #5
JSA All Stars #13
Justice League Of America #52
Justice Society Of America #46
Legion of Super-Heroes #8
Legion of Super Heroes Annual #1
R.E.B.E.L.S. #23
Red Robin #18
Secret Six #28
Superman #706
Teen Titans #90
Time Masters: Vanishing Point #6
Titans #30
Wonder Woman #606 

Dynamite Entertainment (1)  No news here. I'm reading The Boys by Garth Ennis.

The Boys #49

IDW Publishing (1) Normally its not even on the list, but there was big news in this previews. John Byrne is returning ot his creator owned series that to me always felt like The X-Men done properly. As soon as I saw the listing I knew I would be ordering John Byrne's Next Men. The last time he did this book it was in the nineties (early nineties if my memory isn't failing) and the run was sensational. Full of everything you'd expect from John's work.

John Byrne's Next Men #1

Marvel Comics (17) It's funny to think about the stock I owned in marvel Comics and yet how utterly disappointed I was with the way they ran the company. Too many X-books. Mega events that climaxed early and never delivered on the promise of the story concept. Losing key writers. Plus there was always that pain in the ass habit they had of actually taking pride in Spider-Man. Damn that bothered me! But times are slowly changing. There's a new wave of talent that's been working at Marvel the last year or so, and these people can write. Two of the big tickets for me come in the form of Matt Fraction (who made his mark on Iron Man) and Jonathan Hickman (who is breathing new life into Fantastic Four every month!) I've always been a big fan of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, who seem to capture the right perspective on just about every book they get assigned, and yet somehow they keep getting assigned to second tier characters. Go figure.

This month is no different as they launch a brand new Heroes For Hire series that will feature classic b-list Marvel characters like Luke Cage and Danny Rand. You know, Power Man & Iron Fist? In any event, I suspect the book will be under ordered and really, really good. That's just how books by Abnett & Lanning tend to be.

So the order this month for Marvel is:
Avengers #8
Captain America #613
Chaos War #4
Daken Dark Wolverine #4
Fantastic Four #586
Heroes For Hire #1
Hulk #28
Incredible Hulk #618 & 619
New Avengers #7
Secret Avengers #8
Secret Warriors #23
Shield #5
Thor #618
Ultimate Comics Avengers 3 #5
Ultimate Comics Thor #3
Wolverine #4

And that's it. That's the whole order for this month. I've dropped some things. I've added some things. I continue to be mainly a main stream book reader.

January's going to be so much fun!


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Why doesn't Stargate do better as a comic?

A little while back I made a comment in one of the blogs about how I think television is a better medium for comic books than the silver screen. Naturally, I was right.

So recently, I have taken a renewed interest in Stargate SG-1, the television series that was born from the feature film Stargate. Over the years I had always had a mild interest in it, but never had the time or inclination to sit down and watch it religiously. Then I was fortunate enough to come into possession of the entire series, so I decided that I would begin to watch it from the beginning. I'm wrapping up Season 6 (of 10) now.

What does any of this have to do with comic books?

Everything. While I was watching a particular episode last night, I actually caught myself thinking that their well developed mythology would translate exceptionally well to the comic book format. So when the episode ended I came down to my computer and fired it up (I lie, it's always running.) A quick Wiki search lead me here: I was disappointed to find out that there were only 18 comics, including convention specials, listed.

Which lead me to wonder why Stargate doesn't do better as a comic.

When I think about the series that I gravitate to, and that I typically recommend to others, I find many elements that I think already exist within  the Stargate Universe.

Mythology - More than once I have openly admired the brilliance of a writer's unique spin or interpretation of the DC Universe or the Marvel Universe. Elseworld books, Kingdom Come, Earth X & 1602 all fit that bill. The reason I'm so drawn to the major comic universes is that they have a deep seated mythology upon which every story's foundation is based. Stargate has achieved that, and they have done so by incorporating some truly creative and impressive explanations for the myriad of pantheons that exist across human cultures. Their inclusion of the lost continent of Atlantis is terrific, and the idea of a progenitor species called The Ancients is terrific.

Good versus Evil - Mankind, still in its infancy, stands in defiance of a race that has the technological knowledge to wipe them from the Earth. They draw clear lines in the series regarding good and evil, and then in a show of writing daring and skill, the writers muddy those lines at every turn. They introduce us to an evil race, and as soon as we're comfortable with them as the universal bad guys, they bring in the offshoot of the species as good guys. Mankind's own inherent struggle with virtue and sin is constantly on display in the series. On more than one occasion we are faced with a decision to consider; is the greater good served by an act of evil?

Characterization - The cast is a robust collection of characters, spanning numerous worlds. Many of them are easily dismissed as archetypes for any science fiction show, and I have seen more than one critic refer to their personas in derogatory terms. Yet the characters grow throughout the show, and more importantly, I think they grow on you. The writers show a progressive development not just of the characters, but of their working relationships.

Action  - All good comics have some form of action. Stargate has it in spades, without getting lost in it. In comic terms 'they know when to use a splash page.'

Serialized Continuity - One of my favorite aspects of a comic book is that I can pick it up and (aside from short limited series) after an issue be aware of the basic state of the book, its main character and the current driving plot. I don't have to have read the last one hundred issues to appreciate the individual story of that book......but it helps. Stargate likewise feels that way to me. There is a bigger continuity, that when referenced makes the growing story more interesting, but that can be ignored for the simple appreciation of the current episode.

I wonder if the series didn't do well because science fiction books, in general, haven't been nearly as successful as their heroic genre counterparts? And does that make any sense, since comic conventions are overrun with science fiction aficionados?

Why didn't this series make a more successful transition?

I just don't get it.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Does IGN have a point?

A little while ago IGN created their list of the top 25 comic book movies ever made.

Here is their list:

1. Batman: The Dark Knight
2. Spider-Man 2
3. Superman: The Movie
4. Road To Perdition
5. Batman Begins
6. Iron Man
7. X-Men 2: X-Men United
8. Spider-Man
9. Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm
10. A History Of Violence
11. 300
12. Kick-Ass
13. Watchmen
14. American Splendor
15. Sin City
16. Dick Tracy
17. Ghost World
18. Superman II
19. Men In Black
20. Batman Returns
21. Blade
22. Hellboy
23. The Crow
24. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
25. The Rocketeer

From my perspective: The list is tragically flawed, with way too much credit being given to camp & childhood entertainment (Dick Tracy is in, but The Incredible Hulk isn't?!?) , and not nearly enough credit being given to the achievement of staying true to the source material and reflecting on the silver screen the very things that made the character(s) popular enough to merit being 'green lit'.

Notable Absences: The Incredible Hulk. Blade II. Mystery Men. Akira. 30 Days Of Night. Wanted. All the Alan Moore story-based movies aside from Watchmen. Plus, do we count books or toys that became comics that became movies? In that case we have to look at Transformers or Tomb Raider or Mortal Combat.

My biggest issues: First of all I don't understand the love that so many people have for Spider-Man 2. I don't really care all that much about running it down for featuring Spider-Man (surprised?) but I do find it confusing that it's widely regarded as better than the original. I thought Spider-Men presented a strong case for the superior of the two movies because it did an exceptional job of laying down the groundwork for any Spider-Man that wanted to follow it. As introduction movies went, it was actually solid with few glaring errors, and only a few notable but acceptable liberties being taken. I was equally unimpressed with X-Men 2, and find it's position (and these two positions are reflected on other blogs and lists all over the web) ahead of X-Men to be tenuous at best. X-Men 2 butchered two sensational X-Men stories by trying to cram them into the same book and giving us a bastardized and unsatisfying version of Logan's origin, while setting up the equally abysmal interpretation of the Dark Phoenix Saga. Neither would make my top 10.

300 and Watchmen both deserve more love than they got on this list, and the fact that other fans don't admire them (and Sin City) for their efforts to better convey the medium of comic books in a visual form is surprising to me. All three are terrific movies, but even more notably they work hard to reflect the core material effectively and without too much compromise (although Alan Moore might disagree with me strongly!) Would I consider bumping Superman II a little bit higher? Surprisingly, I would. Maybe just for the fan-boy enjoyment of 'Come, son of Jor-El....kneel before Zod.' It amuses a lot of people that I think so highly of the 20+ year old Superman & Superman II and so lowly of Singer's effort to recreate them with Superman Returns - which was terrible.

So what would my list look like in comparison? Admittedly a little more slanted towards modern action, and a lot more titled towards reverence for the source material. I'll share my Top 15:

15. V For Vendetta
14. The Crow
13. X-Men
12. Blade
11. A History Of Violence
10. Watchmen

9. Superman: The Movie
8. Batman Begins
7. Sin City
6. Spider-Man
5. The Road To Perdition
4. Iron Man
3. 300
2. The Incredible Hulk
1. Batman: The Dark Knight

I have issues with Moore's other adapted stories as well, but certainly some, if not most of them would have made an appearance in my Top 25. While they fail in most cases to properly convey the source material, movies like From Hell, V For Vendetta and even The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (with a nod to his role in creating Constantine as well) certainly surpass the entertainment value of Dick Tracy of Ghost World (which is a great drama, but slow time that I'll never get back!) If it qualified, Transformers would have shaken my list up some, and given the recent releases like Red and The Losers, there may be more adjustments coming.

Hell, I'll bet some of you can make a case for movies I've forgotten about.

So who wants to try?

Monday, October 18, 2010

How awesome is this?

I finally took some time and pulled stats from the website on who's been clicking in and taking a read at the mindless ramblings I throw up here from time to time (none quite so entertaining as the deconstruction of the myth that Spider-Man is in any way a hero.)

Last month we had visitors come by from:

Belarus, Canada, China, Germany, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, South Korea, Spain,  The United Kingdom, The United States.

Now if only I could draw the interest of the ruling monarch of Wakanda!

Seriously people, I don't write enough and what I do write serves only my own amusement......but thanks for stopping by all the same!


One word can change everything.

Seven years ago I read Issue #1 of a Warren Ellis limited series named 'RED' and was introduced to retired CIA killer Paul Moses, who lived a menial retirement highlighted by the weekly conversation he had on the phone with his case worker and the odd letter he got from a niece in England. Then somebody new came to power in the CIA and ordered Moses eliminated in order to bury his dirty, sordid past once and for all. Paul Moses discovered this and phoned in his status to 'The Company' as he had done week in and week out for years. But this time he didn't say 'GREEN.'

With one word he changed everything.

 So with Bruce Willis playing Paul Moses, and a story adapted and expanded in order to facilitate it being licensed into a movie, I've dug back into my archives and done some advanced reading. Reviews of the movie suggest that it isn't the gritty, dark film that the book presented, but rather is laced with comedy that lifts its mood and offers a more entertaining, upbeat action flick.

So the script that Ellis reportedly submitted to D.C. years before they actually published it generated an intriguing enough concept to be converted into a movie. I remember listening to Ellis speak in Toronto a few years ago (around the time the book was getting set to publish I think) and he seemed to be speaking with a certain amount of contempt for D.C.'s editors who sat on the script (and another one, which he didn't name but I suspect was Tokyo Storm Warning) until Ellis was actually a hot commodity in the industry, before deciding to publish it.

At the time I didn't give it a lot of though, but now as I reflect on it and the obvious success of the concept (as it crashes into theaters) I can certainly understand what I perceived to be his frustration. If I created something for you and you paid me, but didn't think enough of it to put it on display, I'm not sure I would be happy when you later sought to capitalize on my growing fame by pulling it out of mothballs and parading it around for the world to see. If you didn't think it was up to your standards before, I would have to wonder what had changed. Certainly not the script. So did the audience change, or did your standards change?

Or were you maybe, just maybe, wrong to begin with?

Not that I expect that Warren is in any way disappointed by the current turn of events, which would have put some extra money in his pocket. But there is certainly a sequence of events there that would have had me seeing 'RED.'

Thank god I'm not Paul Moses.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

What a strange and interesting new direction...

Wonde Woman is 600.

In recent months many of comicdom's greatest heroes have had milestone birthdays, and with Issue #600, Wonder Woman joined exclusive company. True, the numbering process hasn't been linear, being rebooted and restarted on more than one occasion means that the title doesn't have the continuity of an Action Comics or Detective Comics, but it doesn't make the milestone any less impressive. 600 issues of Wonder Woman, and there can't be any doubt that she is the comic world's most successful and recognizable female. I think that her success is the one thing that Marvel was never able to capture. Something about this female just struck a chord with the public.

Now, following a run that I've heard panned in numerous comic shops (I thought it was solid and I like Gail Simone as a writer) DC has brought in super-scribe J. Michael Straczynski to take over the franchise and while we get a tease of his plan in issue 600, it is revealed in it's full and slightly confusing glory in issue 601.

As near as I can tell it feels like an Elseworlds story - which is DC's version of 'What If?' In it, we open to a Diana who is being hunted by what appear to be black ops teams from some sort of government agency. As we read through the book we find out that Diana is in hiding, in a world that does not know or remember Wonder Woman. The Amazon's secret island was uncovered when their gods abandoned them, and many of them fled to hide amongst the earth's population, including a young Diana. Her mother, the incomparable Hippolyta, has hidden Diana away where she can be trained and prepared to one day gather and save the Amazons.

I read the book and scratched my head.

It is such an enormous detour from the current story arcs in the rest of the DCU that I was, at first, miffed by the decision to effectively remove the book from continuity in order to allow J. M. S. his own private playground. How do you take a cornerstone of your universe and separate it from everything else?  Upon reflection though, I'm equally intrigued by the story he's starting to assemble, and therefor willing to overlook her absence from what is going on in the bigger picture of the DCU. JMS has crafted some of my favorite tales, although one pattern I have found that I am not a fan of is that he starts out like a house on fire (white hot and burning it up) and then flames out as we start to approach the apex of the story. Sometimes he even vanishes from a book before the apex really happens, or just after.

I have to hope that, as I have heard, that is a result of what editors he was working with, and not the result of somebody who cannot remain focused and on task through the completion of his goals. In any event, his unique, and original twist on the Amazon might make it an interesting pick-up for those of you who have never read her before.

After all, this is the guy who created Midnight Nation, amongst other exceptional comic tales.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

2 Weeks On The Road...

Work took me to Las Vegas and then on to Albuquerque over the last two weeks, and when I spend that much time traveling I inevitably do some reading and get caught up on things I wouldn't otherwise have time to read. I thought I'd share a little bit of what I read with you guys, because in all honesty I read some really, really good stuff!

Scalped: Dead Mothers - Mixed into the great $1 graphic novels I bought while at the con in August was a Vertigo title I had heard literally nothing about. I can't help but wonder if that's a reflection of the circles I run in, or a general apathy by the public to books that center around native reservations. In either case, I freely admit that I've been missing out. On the cover of the Dead Mothers (the third Scalped collection) is a quote from Garth Ennis giving it solid reviews and suggesting that we "Spread the word. Tell your friends. Talk about it. Blog about it."  Well Garth.....mission accomplished.

The story is an exciting mix of corruption, law enforcement and the difficult and disgusting politics of an Indian Reservation, and centers around an alienated man being played on all sides, and trying to decide which side he's really on. It's described as a 'Saga of Native American noir' and I doubt I could give it a more appropriate description. It is a refreshing, if depressing, change from the ordinary diet of books I read, and I'll be actively searching out collections #1 & #2 to add to my catalog of books.

The Death-Defying Devil, Black Terror & Project Superpowers: Chapter Two - Alex Ross works with Jim Krueger and Joe Casey on these Dynamite Entertainment titles, all of which are part of the universe resurrected from the land of the forgotten in recent years by Ross and Krueger. After having enjoyed the stage that was set in Project Superpowers: Chapter One, I jumped into these three books with great anticipation, and I wasn't disappointed. I read them in the order outlined above, and got some interesting glimpses into storylines that went beyond the simple expectations I had.

Going in I thought the series focusing on the individual characters from the core book would be typical character introductions in which we would rehash the histories of these golden age characters with a fresh coat of paint designed to make them edgier and more interesting to the modern reader. I cannot deny that some of that was going on, but more importantly I found the books to be supplemental and full of plot devices that expanded my interest in both the characters and the universe in general. I can't complain either, since I got all three for the grand total of $10.

When I finally got around to reading Chapter Two (Book 1) I had little difficulty following the twists and turns of the story and trying to get my head around this complex, globe-spanning super-hero revolution. The book could still use a little more subtlety in terms of the global political reaction to the White House coming under the control of the Superpowers (I find the reactions very overt and large, showing little of the cunning and subtlety that would have been required to create a shadow cabinet to rule the world.)

All in all, I eagerly anticipate reading more from this universe. I think the thing I like most is not having the burden of history to sort through that I deal with in most DC or Marvel stories. It makes the read entertaining when I don't have to wonder if they did a retcon to make this story possible.

DMZ: Collections 3 - 5 - We've talked about this. If you're not reading DMZ you're making a mistake. Life inside the demilitarized zone of the second American civil war is difficult at the best of times, but for Matt Roth it can be absolute hell. Still, as the only reporter alive inside the ZONE, he has access to stories that can and will change the way the world at large understands what's going on.


Universe X - I finally finished this massive tale, and while I'm not sure I loved it as much as Earth X, it was still a sensationally deep read, with an incredible number of plot twists and story arcs all taking place at the same time. It is a thinking book that requires you not only to be reading, but to be paying attention to every detail as the story unwinds. Mar-Vell returns to the Marvel Universe to launch an unprecedented war on DEATH, and when the dust settles he makes a spectacular announcement that sets the stage for the third book in this opus; Paradise X. When I find a copy of that I'll give you a rundown on how this epic finishes.

If you have time to invest, this is a place you can invest it, and be paid back with interest.

Astonishing X-Men: Gifted - The first story arc written by Joss Whedon upon his assumption of duties on the X-Men, this book opens with news that rocks the mutant world; somebody has found a cure. The implication that the mutant strain is a virus and not an evolutionary transition shatters some mutants, and elates others. But is there a sinister goal behind the news?

The premise is solid, and sticks to the core concepts that all of the best X-Men books are built on. Better still, it brings back one of the most likable X-Men of them all; Colossus. How? Read it to find out. It's been years since I was a big follower of the X-Men and the 72 books they put out every month in an effort to steal every cent from my pocket, but after reading this book I'm sorely tempted to buy the rest of Whedon's run on the series and at least spend a little bit of time with Cyclops and the team.

It's a terrific read, and it doesn't demand to much mental energies.

X-Men good. Everyone else bad. What else do you need to know?

That's it for my GN reading while I traveled. When I get some time tomorrow I'll tell you about some of the monthly issues I read, and maybe we can talk about whether or not Brightest Day is working for DC.