Posts Tagged ‘Locusmortis’

This is the 7th Previews column I’ve written which means I’ve been doing it for 6 months. Jose and Elliot’s latest last rants column inspired me to reiterate why Previews (and the whole advance solicits through CBR, Newsarama et al) is so important to me. If you don’t know by now I live in Ireland, the nearest comic shop to me is about 100 miles away and I’m not going to do a several hour trip to get comics even if the price was reasonable (which it isn‘t).

Just to give you an illustration of the costs involved if I were to buy in the 2 or 3 shops in this country, a comic that retails at $2.99 in the United States is sold for €3.75 here, which equates to $4.37 in American money. The conversions are proportional so $3.99 equates to $5.82 and so on so you can see how a comics habit can get very expensive very quickly here.

I know from contact with other foreign comic fans that in parts of mainland Europe and Australia that it’s even more expensive. I get my comics from a well known American mail order company and including shipping, $2.99 books actually cost me about $2.79. So if you were to have the choice between paying $2.79 and $4.37 which would you pick?

It’s for those reasons that I’ve never got the “Wednesday comics” phenomenon because for me comics come when they come, it depends on the mail order service, the USPS, the Irish Postal service, Icelandic volcanoes, American public holidays and the list goes on and on but you can bet your arse that there is a certain point in a month where I can be heard muttering “where is that fucking postman with my comics”, the classic signs of addiction come to the fore but perhaps worse because I can’t just go down the road to another shop, you’d think I’d have developed a more sang froid attitude by now!

The ironic thing is, sort of like the guys hinted in their video, I usually open Previews first and devour it, all the while making notes and earmarking pages of stuff that I want to add and what I want to talk about in this column. Its become almost a ritual now to pore through it because even though online solicits are good for Marvel and DC they are usually shit for other companies and for some reason its more “real” once I see it in print. Previews just collates and gives it to you all in one phone book sized tome for only a few dollars.

So, with that said, on with this months Previews starting with Marvel comics.

MARVEL

Avengers vs. Pet Avengers #1 (of 4)
40 pages
$3.99
Page 30 of Marvel Previews

This will probably be the best Avengers series of the year. Fact. In my opinion Chris Eliopoulos and Ig Guara can do no wrong, the two Pet Avengers mini’s and the one shots they’ve done have been excellent. These comics have a joy and a heart to them that I just don’t feel from comics by the likes of Bendis and Loeb. This is how comics used to be, all ages but still with drama and tension but without the raping and baby-killing that passes for storytelling in certain comics lately. These comics are enjoyable and accessible on many levels and to readers both young and old, buy this, you won’t regret it.

Klaws of the Panther #1 and #2 (of 4)
32 pages
$3.99
Page 51 of Marvel Previews

Talking about comics with heart…and intelligence and compact plotting we have the latest from Jonathan Maberry. If he wasn’t writing it then I might not buy a series about Shuri, the new Black Panther as the character wouldn’t normally interest me that much but with Doomwar and Punisher Vs Marvel U being excellent then I’ll give it a go. I wasn’t too familiar with the penciller Gianluca Gugliotta but he’s got a site of his own and his pencils look pretty decent although I wish pencillers would use 6 or 9 panel grids sometimes instead of thin horizontal or vertical panels…just a pet peeve of mine.

Thor #616
32 pages
$3.99
Page 59 of Previews

Finally! Fraction on Thor, about bloody time! I’m sure the delay was for Pasqual Ferry to get ahead on the artwork so it better be good! Also lets hope we see the genius Iron Man Matt Fraction here and not the so-so Uncanny X-Men Matt Fraction. At least he is on familiar territory here as he has to pick up the pieces from another crappy Bendis “event”.

Atlantis Attacks Omnibus HC (Bob Layton cover)
544 pages
$75.00
Page 86 of Previews

Two omnibus in 2 months, my wallet is saying Ouch! This is a pure nostalgia trip for me, these were the first Marvel annuals I ever bought and apart from the appallingly awful Uncanny X-Men annual they were bloody good. it’s a series of linked annuals where various Atlantean factions attack the surface world in order to put together the Serpent Crown. This was pretty much the last hurrah of good Marvel comics before the 90’s kicked in and made the next 7 or 8 years forgettable.

Conclusion:
As usual, you have to ignore what Marvel is pimping and look a bit further for the good mini-series that you’ll actually appreciate for years and years. Ignore Bendis and Loeb and support good writers like Maberry, Hickman, Parker and Fraction, the comics world will be better for it.

DC

Action Comics #894
40 Pages
$3.99
Page 85 of Previews

Paul Cornell has been doing a good job so far with Lex Luthor in Action Comics and this issue becomes even more notable because it has the first appearance of Death (aka Sandman’s sister) in a mainstream DCU comic. This has been done with the approval of Neil Gaiman so the story must be pretty decent and what could be more fascinating than the devious mastermind Luthor meeting the entity that is normally the last one that a person sees after they die.

Bruce Wayne – The Road Home: Batman and Robin #1
32 pages
$2.99
Page 75 of Previews

Ok, first the good news, half dozen or so regular bat titles go on hiatus for the month but the bad news is that they are replaced by 9 Bruce Wayne – The Road Home one shots. Most of these are done by seemingly random writing and art teams and none of the covers are revealed in Previews, they all have a black “Top Secret” cover displayed, thanks DC. I can guarantee that at least 7 of these will be completely needless and superfluous to the main storyline, its simply DC trying to grab as much money from Bat-fans as possible.

Why these stories couldn’t have been done in the main bat-titles by the main bat-teams is beyond me. Both Marvel and DC have been doing this crap with their crossovers in the last few years, even the character-centric ones have mushroomed beyond anything that is reasonable. Just buy the (56 page $4.99) Grant Morrison title as that’s pretty much all you’ll need.

Sgt Rock: The Lost Battalion TP
160 pages
$17.99
Page 104 of Previews

This is written and drawn by Billy Tucci and is a great little miniseries. Unfortunately the original issues seemed to slip between the cracks during the Blackest Night hype and sales weren’t too good. This is a chance for people to catch up on this well written and drawn Sgt Rock mini. Other DC war characters like Johnny Cloud and the Haunted Tank appear during Rocks journey from D-Day to the forests of Germany and Tucci uses a variety of art styles that match the characters and action displayed.

Vertigo Resurrected #1
96 pages
$7.99
Page 98 of Previews

It seems that since Paul Levitz resigned things have been happening with DC that wouldn’t have under his watch, most of them not good. The excuse for this compilation is a never published Hellblazer story by Warren Ellis which depicts a school shooting spree sort of like Columbine, which given the hysteria over that tragedy, was never published 10 years or so ago. This book is filled out by a bunch of reprints which may or may not fit in with the main story.

Conclusion:
Some good stuff from DC this month but as has happened before some of their moves to catch up with Marvel seem to be quite ham-fisted. The Bruce Wayne one shots are an example of that, the DC Presents $7.99 titles are another example of that. It looks like the DC editors have been told by their superiors to use up any stories that they have been sitting on or have been in the filing cabinet for years and clear out any old art, I just can’t see these titles selling that well.

One title that I might have bought was Knight and Squire #1 written by Paul Cornell but if ever a cover put me off a title it was this one, really that’s just not good. One thing I may buy though is Green Lantern Omnibus #1 by Gardner Fox et al but I will wait for reviews of it as I’ve had bad experience with DC omnibuses before regarding paper quality and smell.

INDEPENDENTS

Beasts of Burden/Hellboy One-shot
Publisher: Dark Horse
32 pages
$3.50
Page 38 of Previews

The Beasts of Burden mini-series from 2009 was one of my favourite series from the last few years. The deft writing and exceptional art, the dark plots and emotional characterisation were light years ahead of most books on the shelf. This one shot co-starts the Beasts with Hellboy and is co-written by Mike Mignola and Evan Dorkin with art by Jill Thompson. The Beasts need help to deal with the huge increase of magical activity in their area and who better to assist than the worlds greatest paranormal detective?

Metalocalypse/Dethklok #1 (of 3)
Publisher: Dark Horse
40 pages
$3.99
Page 41 of Previews

In case you didn’t know, Dethklok are the worlds biggest black metal band and the worlds 7th largest economy. At least in the world created by Brendan Small that is anyway. Metalocalypse is a hilarious cartoon from Adult Swim which shows the depredations of the sleaziest, stupidest band in the world who for some reason are insanely popular. They’ve already had a one-shot crossover with the Goon and this is their first mini-series for Dark Horse comics. Its written by creator Brendan Small and series designer Jon Schnepp and drawn by some guys I’ve never heard of….actually now that I check him out Lucas Marangon drew Hellcyon which looked pretty damned good I have to say.

Xenozoic: The Complete Collection TP
Publisher: Flesk Publications
352 pages
$39.95
Page 284 of Previews

This trade paperback contains the complete Xenozoic tales by multi Eisner award winner Mark Schultz. Originally published in the late 80’s and early 90’s by Kitchen Sink Press they have been restored and compiled for this collection. Mark Schultz is a brilliant artist in the style of Frank Frazetta, Wally Wood and Hal Foster. In the future the world is struck by environmental disasters so bad that underground cities are built where humanity exists for half a millennia only to emerge into a world where dinosaurs have come back to rule the earth.

Stan Lee’s Soldier Zero #1
Publisher: Boom Studios
32 pages
$3.99
Page 247 of Previews

Stan Lee has teamed up with Boom Studios to put his name to 3 titles which (allegedly) have been conceived by him and been handed over to 3 hot writers to bring to fruition. This one is actually the most interesting in my opinion. Writer Paul Cornell has yet to put a foot wrong in the comics world and Javier Pina is a reliable artist and a step up from the usual Boom stable of artists.

The plot is that an alien parasite falls to earth and infects a wheelchair bound student transforming him into a superhero tasked with defending the earth, it should be a lot of fun.

Conclusion:
The great thing about Independents is that there is always a wide range of stories and formats to choose from. My usual go-to publishers like Radical, Archaia and Image didn’t really have anything new this month but Dark Horse stepped up with 2 titles I’m really looking forward to. Another book that almost made it was Tron: The Betrayal TP from Disney (page 270).

Welcome to a run through of what I think could be interesting in the solicits for September. Actually in terms of new stuff there’s not a great deal which is handy because my comics deliveries were so late this month I have sod all time to write this. Anyway, lets start with the Independents this month, that’s where the best stuff is at.

INDEPENDENTS

Cross Game Volume 1
Publisher: Viz Media
576 pages
$19.99
Page 338 of Previews

Cross Game has been mentioned already on one of the board’s open threads. The cover caught my eye when I was going through the Viz section of previews, there was something about it that triggered a memory. I knew I’d seen the artist before but I couldn’t place it, I checked up on him and he did a series of stories called Short Program in the late lamented magazine Animerica Extra which were poignant, moving, funny, sad slice of life stories and Cross Game is in similar mode although the cast of characters is younger. It follows a boy named Ko is the pitcher for his schools junior baseball team and his interaction with the four sisters in the family down the road from him, one of whom is also an aspiring baseball pitcher.

Mangaka Mitsuru Adachi is phenomenally prolific…and popular in Japan but this is only the second of his many series to be published in English, lets hope it’s the start of a lot more. This edition actually has the first 3 volumes of the series, which at $19.99 is great value for money, you should be able to get it at a higher discount at your favourite stores.

Charley’s War: The Great Mutiny HC
Publisher: Titan Publishing
112 Pages
$19.99
Page 326 of Previews

Simply put Charley’s War is the finest story to ever be published in British comics. it’s the story of a young man (Charley is 17 in this story) on the Western Front in the first world war. This volume has Charley caught up in the great mutiny of early 1917 at Etaples where the men who had suffered so much had had enough and the punishments that the high command reigned down on them. The research by writer Pat Mills is impeccable and the story is suitably grim and moving with the humour that is extant in some of the situations being of the black variety. Pat Mills talks about some of his British work here with some comments about Charley’s War:

The art by the late Joe Colquhoun is phenomenally detailed and as well researched as the writing. You can feel the dirt and stink of the trenches and the emotions of the soldiers are wonderfully portrayed in a realistic way. Just look at the detail in this….and that’s just one panel! And this is the page that it’s from.

Vampirella Archives Volume 1 HC
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
380 pages
$49.99
Page 262 of Previews

I have to admit, I’ve long had a soft spot for Vampirella. In some ways it started off as being the triumph of style over substance where the genius design of the Vampi costume was the catalyst behind the early phenomenal sales of the magazine. There was substance there though, the writing chops of Archie Goodwin, Don Glut and Bill Dubay married to the art of Tom Sutton, Mike Royer, Barry Smith, Wally Wood, Reed Crandall, Esteban Maroto and the great Jose Gonzalez made you have a real affection for the character and the world she inhabited. Not all the stories in the Vampi mag were about the eponymous title character, there were a lot of horror one-off stories in the Creepy vein and eventually other characters like Pantha would be launched. This series is one I intend to collect, I know I’m going to love it.

Mouse Guard: The Black Axe #1 (of 6)
Publisher: Archaia Entertainment
Pages 24
$3.50
Page 230 of Previews

Finally, David Petersen is back with the third series of Mouse Guard (Legends is really a side project to the main series) which itself is actually a prequel to the Fall 1152 series. Got that?. No need to worry, its an easy series for noobies to pick up and I’m sure will be satisfying for those that are already fans of the series and well if you haven’t read this before then go out and buy the trades now. Right now. This is one of the series that will go down as an all time great comic book series, a moving tale brought to life by sumptuous art, this particular series focuses on the legend of the Black Axe, its origin and its wielders.

Conclusion:
A lot of “trade” picks this time around. There simply aren’t many new comics being launched in September, there was nothing really new that caught my attention from any of my usual “Go-to” publishers like Boom, IDW, Radical, Image and Dark Horse, so I figure it’s a perfect time to pick up some trades and hard covers. Another pick which almost made the list was the two G-Man trades from Image drawn by the excellent Chris Giarruso of mini-Marvels fame.

MARVEL

Taskmaster #1 (of 4)
Pages 40
$3.99
Page 59 of Marvel Previews

One of the first Marvel comics I ever got was an issue of Marvel Team-Up which was given to me by an uncle who had emigrated to the USA and had come back home on holiday. It starred Spider-Man teamed up with the Nomad against Taskmaster and a bunch of hired goons and who did you think I started rooting for? The Taskmaster of course, not those stupid heroes! He had a back-story that made sense and a cool power that worked well in the hands of a good writer and of course he had a brilliant costume which had nods to various other heroes and villains.

I’ve always had that sneaking regard for TM in his appearances since and I’m looking forward to this series by the usually reliable Fred Van Lente and Jefte Paolo, this series puts him in the anti-hero role where he’s a bit of a bastard yet he’s fighting hordes of evil thugs from AIM and the like.

Hulk #25
40 pages
$3.99
Page 55 of Marvel Previews

Unfortunately Atlas is gone but at least we can console ourselves with the thought that Hulk will be readable at last now that bloody Jeph Loeb is gone and a good writer like Jeff Parker has taken over the title with Gabriel Hardman. There’s not a whole lot of information about this issue yet but its got Iron Man, The Leader and Modok along with the Hulk so its going to be good.

I would have liked to get Greg Pak’s Incredible Hulk title also as I liked his Planet Hulk series and this looks to be quite similar but its gone up to 2 $3.99 issues a month and I just can’t afford to drop $12 a month on Hulk titles. One for the hardcover trades perhaps.

Acts of Vengeance Omnibus HC
744 pages
$99.99
Page 92 of Marvel Previews

Acts of Vengeance was a crossover series that wasn’t a crossover…that needs some explanation, right? What happened was that over the course of 3 months in 1989-90 a whole coterie of super villains are forced to team up and they go up against heroes that they haven’t fought before thus gaining an advantage over the heroes. Unlike the crossovers of today it was short and you didn’t need to get all the books if you didn’t want to, the only core book really was Avengers and there was no over-arching mini-series and definitely no crap like “Embedded”. I remember these books with great affection, there was a lot of fun stuff plus some mind bending wackiness with the Scarlet Witch in Avengers West Coast. This was the last gasp of good Marvel comics for about 10 years, not long after this the speculators took over and books became about how many pouches you could get on a character and how grim and gritty they could get.

Franklin Richards: Son of a Genius Ultimate Collection Book 1
208 pages
$19.99
Page 109 of Marvel Previews

Chris Eliopoulos is such a great cartoonist and such a clever writer that you’d be mad to pass up this book. This is all-ages fun that doesn’t talk down to or patronise kids, it’s intelligent and irreverent, you can give it as a Christmas present to a child or you can enjoy it yourself.

Conclusion:
A pretty quiet month from Marvel, more of the same shit mostly with the odd good title like Secret Warriors, Fantastic Four, Marvel Universe vs. the Punisher. Marvel is pushing a lot of trades this month but can anyone explain to me why Captain America: Reborn is $19.99 for 232 pages whereas Wolverine: Old Man Logan is $29.99 for 224 pages? So OML is $10 more for 8 less pages? So what exactly is the $10 premium for eh?

Still, it’s a better month than the last couple for Marvel.

DC

Freedom Fighters #1
32 pages
$2.99
Page 88 of Previews

I’ve never been a big fan of Uncle Sam when he’s appeared in other comics but this is by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray and that immediately puts it on the radar as being something of interest. Given the pure genius of their Power Girl series I think we can at least give this a go.

Our Army at War #1
32 pages
$3.99
Page 76 of Previews

Given the fact that I like war comics this would seem like a bit of a gimme but since DC have deigned that this and the other 4 war themed one shots be $3.99 I’m going to pass on this.

Conclusion:
A really quite disappointing month from DC comics. The only other new thing I might have bought was the Wolfman/Perez Teen Titans graphic novel. I really enjoyed Paul Levitz’s start on Adventure Comics too so I can recommend that as well. Otherwise DC continues to cancel Vertigo titles and dip their toe in the $3.99 waters…and 2009 was such a good year for DC but the rose is definitely falling from the vine at the moment.

Welcome to my look at what delights …or horrors….the Diamond catalogue has to offer us for comics due to ship in August. This column up till now has echoed a more positive view of the industry but its time to take the gloves off I think. And we’ll start with Marvel.

MARVEL COMICS

Shadowland: Moon Knight #1 (of 3)
$3.99
32 Pages
Page 43 of Marvel Previews

Last month I quit buying Brightest Day in despair at DC screwing up just after making their comics readable again last year. So I’m looking around to add a couple of titles and I’d been interested in jumping on board Andy Diggle’s Daredevil and Shadowland sounded quite interesting. So I’m checking through Previews and what do I see? Only Marvel doing what they did with Dark Reign and Siege and launching a whole heap of unnecessary one-shots and mini-series alongside the main Shadowland mini in yet another attempt to squeeze money out of comic fans. I’ve known loan sharks that were more subtle in their money gathering methods than Marvel.

If Shadowland had been a lean and mean mini-series running along with the Daredevil title then I would have given it a go but the minute I saw 4 mini-series and a one-shot all in one month the part of my mind that considered ordering Shadowland completely shut down and started blaring “fuck you Marvel” like a psychopathic air-raid siren. I know good writers like Diggle, Layman and Van Lente are involved but this ham-fisted method of trying to grow a Daredevil “Universe” just turned me off, especially with every comic at 3-fucking-99.

And to anyone that says “well the 40 pages includes a back up story”, I don’t fucking care, I want comics that are 32 pages for $2.99, every back-up I’ve read recently comics (except for the Question) has been shit and just went to prove that modern American comic book writers can’t write 6-10 page stories so don‘t even start with that justification.

Marvel Universe Vs The Punisher #1 & 2 (of 4)
$3.99
32 Pages
Page 57 of Marvel Previews

Well you know me, I like to balance out a crap comic and follow up with what should be a great one. Fresh from the surprise hit of Doomwar, Jonathan Maberry is back with a Marvel Knights book with the Punisher standing up for humanity after all the super-heroes have been turned into “sadistic cannibal predators” (is there any other type of cannibal predator?). Goran Parlov joins him on the book as artist, Parlov does great fight scenes and I like his work on Punisher Max even if Jason Aaron’s writing was a bit dumb. The only concern I have is that it’s 2 x $3.99 issues this month and next, which is a bit much. I may wait for the trade on this one .

New Mutants Forever #1
$3.99
40 Pages
Page 79 of Marvel Previews

This is the latest in what seems to be a regular “what if the fucking 1990’s never happened” series of comics that started with the so-so X-Men Forever and then the rather bloody good X-Factor Forever. So here we have the New Mutants pretty much where Claremont left off around 1990 or so. It’s got all the old favourite characters like Dani, Magma, Illyana, Warlock etc, …btw did any one else hate Whiny?…sorry I mean Rahne, damn I just couldn’t stand her character, she was such a whingebag.

Al Rio is on art on this 5 issue mini-series and he’s pretty decent, he’s well known for his good-girl art, he’s kind of like Frank Cho but without that special zing that Cho has. I’ll probably end up chickening out of ordering this one and wait for the trade as Chris Claremont hasn’t written a good comic book in about 15 years so I’ll probably wait for others to review this one first. Still if it is good I’ll be really happy as New Mutants was one of the first American comics I ever bought.

Conclusion:

It’s a real mixed bag from Marvel, the usual good stuff like Atlas, Fantastic Four, Shield, Secret Avengers plus some promising New stuff like Marvel Universe vs. the Punisher, New Mutants Forever and Avengers & the Infinity Gauntlet (Brian Clevinger of Atomic Robo) along with a whole heap of meh (pretty much the whole X-Universe, The Ultimate Universe and anything with Wolverine in it fits into that category. Marvel’s pricing policies leave me confused as usual, tbh I think Stephen Hawking would struggle to figure out Marvel’s pricing structure but while they continue to mess about I’ll continue to be skeptical about how much they give a shit about the fans and the stories.

DC

Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors #1
32 pages
$3.99
Page 72 of Previews

32 pages for $3.99?
Fuck
You
DC

Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #5
40 pages
$3.99
Page 80 of Previews

I’ve read parts 1 and 2 of this and they were ok, not great, not terrible….which is more than you can say about a few DC books the last couple of months. The reason I’m picking this book out is Ryan Sook is on penciling duties and his artwork has improved so much in the last couple of years, he’s an outstanding talent.

Superman: Earth One HC
136 Pages
$19.99
Page 68 of Previews

For a while its been said that DC were going to launch a line of stand alone hardcover graphic novels for its Earth One continuity as a sort of Ultimate Universe or in effect what the All-Star books should have been until Frank Miller completely ruined that line with his “goddam” Batman. JMS and Shane Davis team up to re-tell the origin of Superman in a modern-day context rather than in the 1930’s. Shane Davis art does look pretty sweet and JMS writing for DC has so far been great on Brave and Bold so it might be worth a shot. $19.99 might seem daunting but you can get this at big discounts if you look hard enough.

DC Universe Legacies #4
40 pages
$3.99
Page 92 of Previews

I got issue #1 of Legacies this month and if I’m honest I’d actually forgotten that I’d ordered it. I had read maybe one Len Wein comic in my whole life so I didn’t have many expectations so that’s maybe why I was pleasantly surprised by it. The story is told in a slightly old fashioned way and by that I mean its unlike the decompressed shit that the likes of Millar and Loeb foist on the market and people proclaim them as the best comixz evar! Its also probably why only 3 people and a dog bought this comic but I think its one of the sleeper hits of the year so far. Issue #4 covers the 60’s and especially the Nick Cardy era Teen Titans which I love and even better…..the art is by JOSE LUIS GARCIA-LOPEZ and DAVE GIBBONS.

Conclusion:

An odd and confusing month for DC, one gets the feeling that DC editorial is pulling in several different directions at one. The grim n’gritty copy Marvel brigade has Brightest Day, Titans and $3.99 32 page books and the more sensible side has JMS, Len Wein and Garcia-Lopez. There’s some great stuff coming out from DC…with equal amounts of insultingly bad comics…interesting times.

INDEPENTENTS

Bokurano Ours Vol 2
Publisher: Viz Media
216 pages
$12.99
Page 329 of Previews

Since DC has delivered some awful atrocities masquerading as comics lately I’ve cut back on them and freed up some budget for manga and this is one I identified as being something interesting. It has a similar premise to Shadow Star (from Dark Horse) where a group of kids are being used by shadowy forces, in this case 15 kids are being used to control a huge mecha that battles gigantic alien monsters, it has some resonance with Evangelion as well. I’ve read the first chapter online and it was good stuff, roll on Vol 2.

Last Days of American Crime #3 (of 3)
Publisher: Radical Publishing
56 pages
$4.99
Page 313 of Previews

Issue 2 arrived this month after being horribly late so issue 3 may well be late too but it is very much worth it. The heist story to end all heist stories….literally… by Rick Remender is real edge of the seat stuff and the art by Greg Tocchini is beautiful and gritty at the same time. Either pick up the individual issues which are pretty much graphic novels for the same price that Marvel asks for its slipshod annuals or wait for the trade collection but make sure you get this book.

Also Radical puts out 24 page previews of upcoming series every month, this time around its Mata Hari by Roy Allan Martinez, you can’t lose at that price.

Guardians of the Globe #1 (of 6)
Publisher: Image Comics
32 Pages
$3.50
Page 168 of Previews

A super team from the pages of Invincible written by Robert Kirkman? Just order this comic already for gruds sake! Benito Cerino co-writes (I guess Kirkman does have to sleep) with art by Ransom Getty. Did I say order this already?

Dungeons and Dragons #0
Publisher: IDW
24 pages
$1.00

IDW has gotten the franchise for Dungeons and Dragons from DDP who didn’t do a great job with it and overpriced their trades, but I expect IDW will do a better job. I’m a bit of a sucker for D&D stuff after the classic 1980’s cartoon which I loved and I played AD&D briefly when I was a teenager so this will probably bring back pleasant memories and at $1.00 for a taster issue you can’t really go wrong. The art is by Andrea Di Vito who is pretty damn good

Conclusion:

For the second month running, the Indies are putting out the more interesting new (or newish) series while with Marvel and DC trying to find good new series is tough work at the moment. Magnus Robot Fighter from Dark Horse almost made my list but I’m not a huge fan of artist Bill Reinhold. IDW and Radical continue as two of my current favourite publishers although Boom and Archaia don’t really have anything new this month.

Welcome to my monthly voyage through the Previews catalogue which has finally winged its way through volcanic clouds of ash to my home in Latveria. For the first, and definitely not the last time, the Indies get first go:

INDEPENDENTS

Strange Science Fantasy #1
Publisher: IDW
$3.99
32 Pages
Page 151 of Previews

It’s IDW’s first time in the hallowed halls of front part of the Previews catalogue where they get more space to show their wares. Once you get past all the licensed stuff you get to the 3 or 4 original series and they usually are pretty decent. This month my eye was caught (and pummeled) by Strange Science Fantasy which promises to be “Six issues of retro-crazy pure comics storytelling”. Scott Morse writes and draws the stories, his art style is like Kirby/Ditko era art with an impressionist slant and is really appealing. The stories are done-in-ones and there’s a bonus Paul Pope backup strip page as well. I think this could turn out to be one of the most fun comics of the year.

Also on the same page of Previews is Richard Stark’s Parker: The Man with the Getaway Face which is a prelude to Darwyn Cooke’s next graphic novel which is the sequel to The Hunter which Cooke brought out to acclaim from IDW last year. This is basically an issue 0 for the new graphic novel and it has 24 pages of Darwyn Cooke, do I really need to say more?

Life With Archie: The Married Life #1
Publisher: Archie Comics
$3.99
56 pages
Page 228 of Previews

You probably think I’m joking or perhaps you think I’ve finally gone insane (finally?) but no, I’m picking an Archie comic as one of my picks from the catalogue this month. Actually when I say comic, this is actually a large format magazine size rather than a normal sized comic. The writing is by film producer Michael Uslan and the art team is….get this….Norm Breyfogle, Andrew Pepoy and Joe Rubenstein, now that’s a good team and no mistake. This magazine is a follow up to the successful Archie proposes series that Archie just brought out, this mag has two stories, one where Archie has married Veronica and the other where Archie has married Betty and shows what his life would be like with either. Finally a comic that not only shows one marriage but two! Take that and suck it up Joey Q!

Time Bomb #1 (of 3)
Publisher: Radical Publishing
56 Pages
$4.99
Page 324 of Previews

This is a time travel thriller written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray (Jonah Hex, Power Girl etc) with art by the great Paul Gulacy. A crack team of commandos has to go back in time to Nazi Germany to stop a bomb from going off underneath Berlin and destroying all of mankind. There are some samples of the art on Paul Gulacy’s site, it looks like being an intense adventure comic.

One of the reasons I like Radical Publishing is that they really try and sell you their books, the promotional material they have is streets ahead of any of the other non big-two companies. Driver for the Dead by John Heffernan with art by Leonardo Manco looks like being good too but I’m at the edge of my budget at the moment.

Bakuman Vol #1
Publisher: Viz Media
208 pages
$9.99
Page 350 of Previews

I’ve been wanting to pick up some new manga for ages but with the demise of the manga magazines a few years ago its harder to just try something out, $10 is a lot to take a hunch on something….plus there’s that fucking having to read the thing backwards. I wish they’d go back to flipping manga…but that’s another story. Bakuman is by the “Death Note” team of Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata so you know it has a quality pedigree. This is a different type of book (creators aren’t typecast so easily in Japan thankfully), this is about a pair of teenagers who set out to create their own manga and have it published professionally. This is the story of the scrapes that they get into and its reputed to be very funny. I’ve also started getting Biomega and Gantz and perhaps I’ll go into that further in my next Rants and Raves column.

Conclusions:
An interesting and varied month for the smaller companies, other books to watch out for are Invincible #75 and Walking Dead #75 by Kirkman et al from Image and the new volume of Scott Pilgrim is out from Oni Press which is the series finale. Books to avoid like the plague are Brigade #2 from Image and Doctor Solar from Dark Horse which bored the hell out of me in its FCBD issue.

DC COMICS

Batman Odyssey #1
40 pages
$3.99
Page 78 of Previews

A Batman series drawn by Neal Adams? You know this is going to be a beautiful book however its also written by Neal Adams and I’m not familiar with his writing so it could be great or it might not At least it’ll look good though!. This is the first part of a 6 issue mini-series and Adams can be kind of slow so this book might well end up being late, it might be better to trade wait this one.

Superman #701
32 pages
$2.99
Page 84 of Previews

J. Michael Strazechninaskizzzzi takes over the Superman book properly and hopefully he’ll get this book back on track. The New Krypton stuff started off well but really tailed off quite badly and had a pretty unsatisfactory ending so I’m hoping that JMS can do for this book what he did for the Thor series, start telling good honest no-bullshit enjoyable stories. I wish they’d get him a better artist than Eddy Barrows though, while he’s not horrible he’s just not inspiring in any way. Paul Cornell is taking over Action Comics in July as well, with Pete Woods on art. While I’ve liked Cornell’s Marvel stuff he’s starting out with Lex Luthor beginning an epic quest for power which made me sigh as Lex Luthor bores the living fuck out of me at this stage, can they not use someone that’s not been used a million times before?

Wonder Woman #601
32 Pages
$2.99
Page 97 of Previews

JMS takes over properly on Wonder Woman and again I’m hoping that JMS takes this book to the heights that it really deserves as befitting the most important female character in superhero comics (no offence to Gail Simone as she did a good job but JMS just has a bigger cachet at the moment). Unfortunately I’m not a big fan of Don Kramer’s art, I don’t know why DC aren’t pairing JMS with their top talent but who knows maybe Kramer can surprise me.

Conclusion:
As you can see, I wasn’t exactly inspired by DC this month. Really if it wasn’t for JMS they wouldn’t have any new offerings that really interest me. The stuff that they’ve been doing well (REBELS, GL, GLC, Flash, Doom Patrol) are still there but the rose is starting to fall from the vine as it were. I have a sinking feeling that DC are going to blow all the good will they built up from Blackest Night. The whole Ryan Choi thing just pisses me off so much and then there’s the disaster that is First Wave, The Spirit and Doc Savage are very disappointing. Verdict?: Must do better!

MARVEL

X-Men #1
40 Pages
$3.99

Give.
Me.
A.
Fucking.
Break.

X-Women #1
64 Pages
$4.99

This comic has been in the works for a zillion years but finally its here. This is an (allegedly) Prestige Format tale of the X-Women saving the world. Its written by Chris Claremont and its drawn by Milo Manara. The fact its drawn by Manara should be enough to get you to buy this comic, he draws some of the most beautiful comic book women of all time.

Casanova #1
40 pages
$3.99

This is a book with Win written all over it, Matt Fraction plus Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon on Casanova, this should be epic. There really isn’t much more to say about this except to mention that if you don’t buy this book I will personally break your legs.

Gorilla Man #1
40 pages
$3.99

First Marvel canceled Agents of Atlas, now they seem to be really in love with Jeff Parker, it’s really bizarre but better to ride the roller coaster and support a good writer than just accept the usual bendis-loeb shite. This as the title would indicate is about Gorilla-Man, more precisely it’s his history and origin. He’s probably my favourite AOA member so this is an easy choice

Conclusion:
It’s the usual story with Marvel, some gems amongst all the dross. They do seem to be wising up a little bit regarding 40 pages for $3.99 although we still have to see what quality those extra pages are. I’d prefer 32 pages for $2.99, the extra pages just usually aren’t worth the money. Also, how in hell could someone start getting into the X-Universe these days? There is just so much being published and a lot of it is a confused mess. There should be a maximum of 5 X-Comics, no more, not even mini-series. If they concentrated on 4 or 5 X-titles and made them as good as possible it would do a lot for the industry because there’s a lot of residual love for the X-Men/X-Factor/New Mutants but the current X-titles are impenetrable.

Welcome back to my semi-regular column about the stuff that caught my interest in the last week or two.

RANTS

I’ve been known to rant a bit and today is no exception. There are a number of things that irk me about blogs and message boards and one of the things that bugs me to no end is when a new writer is announced for a book how people start fretting about what he (or she) is going to do the character(s) in that book.

And this is months and months before a book is even printed mind you. Reams and reams of idle speculation is launched with all kinds of irrational ideas that they heard from someone or that a so-called “inside source” has leaked or whatever. Now I do realise that this is something that happens all the time but it does not mean that it is right. When I want to speculate I prefer to do so with at least some concrete factual information.

Take for example the speculation over what JMS would do with the Wonder Woman and Superman books, people worrying and getting inflamed with very little basis.  A whole thread on Bleeding Cool wandered about like a spastic dinosaur until JMS had to come on and quash stupid ideas like Superman wandering across America like Jack Kerouac or Kaine in the series Kung Fu. I’m going to reprint what JMS said on that thread just in case anyone didn’t get it.

“I wish to make several points very very clear.

It is absolutely and unequivocally untrue that I have at any time had any conversations at all with DC about Marc Guggenheim.

It is absolutely and unequivocally untrue that I insisted “that Superman only appear in the Superman book he’s writing.”

I have made every indication to DC that as and when Superman is needed during the time I am writing him, he will definitely be made available. You simply can’t keep a character as major as Superman out of every title for the length of my initial run. It’s impossible, and the idea that we could or would try is absurd.

It is absolutely and unequivocally untrue that Superman is “going to drop his Superman identity.”

It is absolutely and unequivocally untrue that he “not use his powers.”

So to those who have reacted (properly) to say that these are stupid ideas, you are absolutely right.

They are stupid.

Which is why we are not, have not been, and will not be doing any of them.

The only stupidity greater than those lay in the suggestion that we ever would.”

So there you go, from the horses mouth as it were. Speculation is fun, but please, it is better to do it where its based on facts.

…Except of course when it comes to Bendis, Loeb and Millar where its better to think the worst. The worst will probably happen but at least you’ll be prepared for it!

JMS on the other hand is a writer with more hits than misses so I think he’s worth the benefit of the doubt.

The DC Implosion

Back in the late 70’s DC canceled a couple of dozen of their poorer selling titles due to the bad economy of the time and other factors. This became known as the DC Implosion as it drastically reduced the amount of content that they were publishing.

Just in the last month DC have canceled the Red Circle titles, The Web and The Shield, they’ve canceled one of my favourite titles, The Warlord, and they’ve canceled The Great Ten (as of issue 9, so they are canceling a 10 issue series with one issue to go, great planning eh?)

It seems like its no coincidence that a new management and editorial team have come in and not long after a bunch of titles get canceled. So who’s going to be next then?

Based on the sales charts, titles like Magog, Wildcats, Authority, REBELS (keep spreading the word on this title!), Doom Patrol and Batman Confidential have cause to be worried. Johnny DC titles will be ok as they mainly sell at supermarkets and newsstands and most Vertigo titles should be ok as they do big business in the Trade Paperback market.

The DC Explosion

Another story that came out recently was that DC were looking to expand their range of output in order to compete equally with Marvel on the comics racks and to take market share off of Marvel. Word was put out that it was a good time for freelancers to approach DC for work as a rapid growth was foreseen.

So, considering my previous rant about the current DC mini-implosion, what exactly are DC going to publish in order to ramp up their market share. It looks as if anything they publish that’s quirky (Warlord, Doom Patrol) or non DCU-centric (Red Circle characters, possibly the First Wave characters) have weak sales potential.

What are your bets on what DC is going to do, will it be extra Batman (and surely there’s more than enough already!), more Superman, more Flash and we know that there is at least 1 more Green Lantern title on the way. Just what franchises can DC mine to increase their production? Personally I can’t see where long term growth is going to come from.

The Amazing Spectacular Amazing Spider-Man Price Increase

You didn’t think I was gonna go a whole column without laying into Marvel over something right? One thing I noticed from last months Marvel Previews magazine is that Amazing Spider-Man comic has gone up in price to $3.99.  They are gone up to 40 pages though with a 2 page Spidey Sunday story and a Kraven back up story but still, if you want to follow the main Spidey comic now you need to shell out 12 clams a month whereas just a couple of years ago you only needed to buy 1 issue of Amazing for $2.99 a month. Marvel seems to be out to exploit every segment of their fan base these days.

It used to be great back when you could buy 1 Avengers Comic, 1 X-Men comic, 1 Spidey comic and you didn’t need to buy 4 or 5 of each a month. No wonder smaller titles can’t get an audience now…

How does your nose get so brown?

Well if you shove it this far up Jeph Loeb’s arse your nose would be brown too, just take a look at this video (oh and keep the sick bucket near by in case you upchuck).

COMICS CAPSULE REVIEWS

Milestone Forever #2

I’d love to say that this comic got better with the second issue but I just can’t. As with the first issue the cover is horrible and the packaging and design is terrible, I can’t believe that Rian Hughes designed this thing. I did figure out what made me uneasy about the first issue though and it was that these two books felt more like shout-outs to old Milestone fans rather than something that could bring new readers into the fold.

After 2 expensive prestige format issues, I still don’t really know who Icon, Hardware, Static and the rest are, what their powers are or anything about their personalities. That’s a pretty bad indictment for any book. Regarding the art, Jean Paul Leon doing the framing sequence was good again and Denys Cowan and ChrisCross both did decent jobs on their sequences.

Brave and the Bold #32

After sledging a comic I like to follow up with a book I like, it freshens the soul or something, I dunno. Anyhoo, B&B 32 features Aquaman and The Demon teaming up against some underwater demons from hell…or thereabouts. After a Joker/Atom team-up that rather misfired this comic was satisfying on a number of notes. JMS had a handle on both characters, so much so that I’d like to seem him do solo books for either character….or at least backup features in either of his new books. Aquaman does much of the work carrying this issue with the Demon mostly standing around spouting rhyming couplets until the ending where he KABLAMMO’S the invading demon.

Jesus Saiz does another beautiful job on this issue, he’s rapidly becoming one of my favourite artists, he has sort of a Ryan Sook mixed with John Buscema quality, there’s a lovely sequence of Aquaman fighting a shark/demon on page 9 that works so well in its power and movement. Also the splash page of Aquaman backed up by thousands of whales, sharks and every other type of sea creature took my breath away. One of the best books of the month easily.

JLA #43

This is the tie in to the Rise and Fall of Arsenal that documents the post Cry for Justice JLA continuity. It was ok, certainly an improvement on the direness of the Blackest Night issues. Mark Bagley’s art is certainly better, especially pages that seem to be inked by Norm Rapmund. The main problem with this is too-many-character-itis , I count at least 14 members which means that no-one gets any face time, except for Ollie who we learn likes curry, no not Arthur Curry, the Indian chicken tikka sort of curry.

One thing that does really annoy me about DC though… and this sounds like a contradiction of the last point I made….but DC editors obviously tell writers they can use characters and then 2 issues they take the fucking characters away because they’re in another book. This completely ruined McDuffie’s run and its affecting Robinsons already. This issue Starfire zoomed off to join the REBELS, why couldn’t she just be in the 2 books, who the fuck cares much about continuity that a character can‘t be in 2 fucking books?

ZVR Aventure #1 and #2

Another Zombie book? Well yes it is but it’s the continuation of Ashley Wood’s Zombies versus Robots world, this time in the form of a 4 issue anthology book.  Each issue has 3 eight page stories which continue from one issue to the next. Ashley Wood does the (amazing) covers and Chris Ryall writes all the stories.

The first adventure has Sgt Davis organising resistance to the zombie horde in a New York-esque city, the art is by Menton Matthews III and is a strange heavily photoshopped type of art. The second story is about a remote testing facility where the cook is the only person left alive and pilots an early Iron Man type costume/robot while trying to survive another horde, the art by Paul McCaffrey which is reminiscent of Juan Gimenez’s style. The last story has art by Gabriel Hernandez which shows voodoo Zombies fighting normal zombies in Haiti. This is a great book for horror/aventure fans and considering the card cover and heavy quality paper its probably worth the $3.99

Echo #20

I never hear this book mentioned anywhere but it’s a consistently enjoyable tale by Terry Moore. The main story is about a young woman called Julie who unexpectedly encounters a disastrous military test and gets part of her body covered by a strange living metal. She is forced to go on the run from the government and the company behind the making of the living metal who send various assassins and maniacs after her. The black and white art by Moore is detailed yet simple and elegant and the characterisation as one would expect is top notch. What I didn’t expect is the constant tension because you feel none of these characters is safe.

Superman: Last Stand on New Krypton #1

The New Krypton arc that’s dominated the Superman books for over a year is coming to an end, but this is a bit of a confusing mess. Brainiac invades New Krypton in a stupid looking gigantic robot head, cue thousands of killer robots invading New Krypton and we get page after page of Kryptonians fighting robots….yada yada yada. The art from Pete Woods looks rushed, some of the writing just makes no sense like Zod arresting the Legion of Superheroes who are trying to help, perhaps this is a double bluff by Zod but it just seems like brain-numbingly stupid writing to me. This book isn’t terrible but I wouldn’t heartily recommend it either.

Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers Unleashed #1

Lets end the reviews on a high note,  the Pet Avengers was one of the best unexpected surprise hits of last year and I’m happy to say that this first issue of the new mini series carries on the charm of last years series. The Hairball/Ms. Lion duo is hilarious again and the art by Ig Guara and the colours by Sotomayor and Roberts is beautiful, really great work. This issue sets up the series when the rest of the Pet Avengers discover that Frog Thor is missing from Central Park.

BACK ISSUE BIN

Vlad the Impaler #1-3 (Topps comics, 1993)

This is a 3 issue mini-series from Topps short-lived foray into comics. Topps were more known for baseball cards but decided to get in on the act during the comics boom of the early 90’s. Unfortunately for them they got their strategy wrong, they decided to put out well written and drawn comics when what the market was looking for was badly written and appallingly drawn crap like Youngblood.  Vlad the Impaler was an excellent little 3 issue mini-series detailing the savage life of Prince Vlad Tepes of Transylvania and his eventual turning into Vlad Dracula.

Roy Thomas wrote it and did a great job worthy of his best Savage Sword of Conan work, and the art by Esteban Maroto is truly stunning. Even after 17 years this is a comic that I still cherish, it just reeks of quality.  The lettering by John Costanza adds greatly to the atmosphere and the colouring by Paul Mounts is sumptuous adding to the sense of baroque horror. I’ve checked online and these issues can be found for $2 each, an incredible bargain and certainly better than most comics out now.

BLOG RECOMMENDATIONS

Dark Roasted Blend
http://www.darkroastedblend.com/

This is a blog that I’ve been visiting for years, there is always something there to occupy the mind or the eyes whether it is hallucinatory architecture or sperm-racing. It also feeds my love for retro-futurism.

PostRock Xchange
http://www.postrockxchange.com/

This is another blog I visit heavily. Post Rock is a form of instrumental rock music that generally doesn’t conform to the normal rock music song structures. In general its more mellow but it can’t be incredibly intense also. This blog has LOTS of great music, some of my current favourites are Mooncake and 65daysofstatic.

TV

It was Christina Hendricks’ birthday this week so what better way to celebrate than with a video in honour of her!

Welcome back to my trawl through Previews Magazine, this time for comics shipping in June, your comic book service should be able to pre-order these comics for the next week or so. Normally considering that I’ve featured Marvel and then DC first in the last 2 columns I should feature the Independents first but its an important month for DC so they should come first this time.

DC

Superman #700
$4.99
40 pages
Page 64 of Previews

It really is a huge month for DC comics with 3 comics hitting huge milestones, Superman hits 700 issues and sees the torch passed from James Robinson’s so-so tenure to J. Michael Stranczynski (hereafter to be called JMS, damn that name is hard to spell!) with the hopes of great things to come. He completely revitalized Thor and his universe so he should be a shoe-in to revamp the original god-like character of the DC Universe. Dan Jurgens writes and draws a story, then Bernard Chang helps James Robinson bring Superman back to earth after 12 months on New Krypton after which JMS and Eddy Barrows “sets the stage for an explosive all new direction for the Man of Steel!”, that’s the claim of DC’s marketing department anyway. Eddy Barrows isn’t my favourite artist, I would have hoped they’d get someone bigger…or at least better but hopefully he can bring his A game.

Batman #700
$4.99
56 pages
Page 65 of Previews

Tony Daniel is not writing it, yay!. I guess I could end the preview right there but he does pop up as one of the artists with Andy Kubert (he probably had to start working on it 2 years ago he’s so slow) and Frank Quitely (who is quick by comparison) on art duties. This issue paves the way for the return of Bruce Wayne, funny I was quite liking Dick Grayson as Batman thanks very much. Other than that it doesn’t really feel like that spectacular an anniversary issue.

Wonder Woman #600
$4.99
56 pages
Page 66

This feels a bit more like it, anniversary issues should be a celebration and not too heavy really. This has JMS, Geoff Johns, Gail Simone and “others” writing pieces to celebrate the history of DC’s top female character with a legacy going back to the 1940’s. The solicit also promises we’ll see the “exciting all-new direction for the Wonder Woman universe”…but then solicits always say that, but with JMS it might actually be true…..as long as we don’t get “wonder-totems” or something like that.

The cover is by George Perez who to me is “the” Wonder Woman artist, he just seems to get her portrayal just right, strong but not over-muscly, sexy but not porny over the top sexy, confident and unstoppable. Also on art is Phil Jimenez, Joe Madureira and “others”, I hope they also do a sort of “secret files” entry for those picking this up who might be doing so for the first time. Hopefully JMS can make this into a top 20 comic for the first time in a long time.

Green Arrow #1
$3.99
40 pages
Page 70 of Previews

Ok, lets get this out of the way…Justice League: Cry for Justice was shit. Right, now we’ve got that said I have to mention that the Green Arrow regular title has actually been pretty decent (I started getting it because of Blackest Night). I think JT Krul, who also did an unexpectedly good job with Blackest Night: Titans, has a good handle on Ollies character and has impressed me with the issues he’s done so far. The art is by Diogenes Neves who is one of DC’s up and coming artists.

What’s going to happen to Ollie after what he did to Prometheus and how is he going to redeem himself? I didn’t expect to like this series but I do.

Conclusion – A historic month for DC, even though one comic should be as significant as the next there’s no getting away from the fact that an issue number like 6 or 700 is going to be important. If DC don’t get dominate the top 10 bestselling comics of the month I’ll be amazed, they should be promoting the crap out of these to get lapsed readers back into shops.

Other comics that almost made the list are the Tom Strong miniseries from Wildstorm by Hogan and Sprouse and Titans from the DC which is focusing on Deathstroke and Ravager, two characters I’ve always liked….don’t confuse this with the Teen Titans book which is horrible.

Independents

The Bulletproof Coffin #1 (of 6)
Publisher: Image Comics
$3.99
32 Pages
Page 168 of Previews

Bulletproof Coffin is co-written by David Hine and Shaky Kane with the art by Shaky, it’s their take on the stories of a fictitious comics company from the 1960’s. Hine of course is writer on Detective Comics and has done a lot of work in the states, he’s friends in real life with Shaky Kane, his collaborator on this book. Shaky mostly worked in the UK (except for some Doom Patrol covers) on the magazines 2000AD and Deadline. His art is quirky, superficially it looks like Jack Kirby’s but there are a lot of other influences in there from underground comics to Steve Dillon and Moebius. This is will a very nice looking and fun comic.

Dynamo 5: Sins of the Father #1 (of 5)
Publisher: Image Comics
$3.99
32 pages
Page 174 of Previews

With all the love for Invincible sometimes I feel that other Image series sometimes get overlooked. The first volume of Dynamo 5 lasted for 25 issues written by Jay Faerber and drawn by Mahmud Asrar (since hired by DC). The first series stopped after Asrar was poached by DC and was meant to restart with art by Yildiray Cinar…until he got poached by DC too. Now its back with a 6 issue miniseries by Julio Brilha, a young Brazilian artist who looks as good as either of those artists.

In case you haven’t bought it before, Dynamo 5 is a team of superheroes who all got their powers from their father Captain Dynamo but they all different mothers so it ends up with a multi-racial cast of characters from different backgrounds which makes for some great character interaction. In this series Dynamo 5 confronts an alien invasion linked to an old adventure of Captain Dynamo, Supreme and other Image Heroes.

Robert E. Howard’s Hawks of Outremer #1 (of 4)
Publisher: Boom Studios
$3.99
32 pages
Page 248 of Previews

Short description time – This is Conan by another name, he even looks like Conan, however I like the medieval sword and sorcery genre so I’m going to give Cormac FitzGeofffrey the main character of Hawks of Outremer a chance. This is written by Michael Alan Nelson who has done Dingo and 28 days Later for Boom amongst other things and the art is by Damian Couceiro who has drawn Nola for Boom so the team does have a history of good quality work. Couceiro’s blog can be found at here.

Classic Red Sonja “Re-mastered” #1
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
$3.99
32 pages
Page 272 of Previews

Written by Roy Thomas, Art by Esteban Maroto. That’s it, that should be enough to get you to buy this, one of the greatest comics writers of them all plus one of the greatest artists of all time, this is all win.

Conclusion - Image finally starts delivering the goods, what with Invincible, Turf and now Bulletproof Coffin and Dynamo 5 they’re finally getting back in the game. One disturbing trend though is it seems that $3.99 is now the default price for all new titles from Dynamite and some titles from Image. Although Images pricing policy is rather like Marvels in that it doesn’t make a lick of sense, I think ALL comics companies are going to have to get better at explaining their pricing policies.

Marvel

Avengers Prime #1 (of 5)
$3.99
40 pages
Page 34 of Marvel Previews

I’m only getting it for the Alan Davis artwork I swear. It’s Bendis writing so who the fuck knows if it will read well or not, I just can’t imagine Alan Davis’ artwork with Bendis’ stupid New Avengers type dialogue so maybe he’s writing this in a different style….one can only hope.

Darkstar and the Winter Guard #1 (of 3)
$3.99
40 pages
Page 40 of Marvel Previews

Well, it’s only given half a page in Marvel Previews which is never a good sign, they’re not exactly marketing the hell out of this book but I’ve always liked Darkstar, Crimson Dynamo and Red Guardian….Ursa Major not so much but they’ve always been around. I’m guessing with the Age of Heroes that Marvel needs to bring back some more classic characters. The Winter Guard have usually been villains or at best reluctant allies but in this book they take more of a heroic role. “Foreign” characters don’t usually sell that well in America but perhaps this can do well enough. Artist Steve Ellis’ blog can be found at right here, check it out there’s some nice stuff there.

Hercules: Twilight of a God #1 (of 4)
$3.99
32 pages
Page 49 of Marvel Previews

This is a miniseries starring the Prince of Power from Olympus purporting to tell his final adventure rather like “Fantastic Four: The End” etc. Its written by former Iron Man writer Bob Layton and steady as a rock penciller Ron Lim who’s done so much Marvel work its beyond belief. This is sure to be a quality book, sure its not in continuity but who gives a fuck about that anyway?

Dracula #1 and #2
$3.99 each
48 pages each
Page 63 of Marvel Previews

Dick Giordano never did much work for Marvel (being as he was mostly employed by DC comics) but he did do a serialized adaptation of the Dracula novel written by Roy Thomas in the early 1970’s magazine Dracula Lives!. Marvel are reprinting that tale in a 4 issue miniseries which is coloured for the first time and issued in comic book format. Giordano was a beautiful artist and Thomas was at the top of his game at the time so this is a don’t miss product although I could understand if you waited till the inevitable stunning looking hardback collection came out.

Conclusion – A quieter month for Marvel but there are a few gems amongst the usual dross. I was going to recommend New Avengers…..actually I lie, why would I recommend more of the same? This will be Bendis’ monthly $3.99 justification for how great New Avengers was and how genius a writer he is. No thanks. And if Avengers is shit I’ll be dropping that like a stone too. Avengers Academy looks kinda ok but the art by Mike Mckone is kind of like Barry Kitson but not nearly as good….why didn’t they just hire Kitson instead? Bah. Rawhide Kid is another to steer clear of but do check out Iron Man Legacy written by Fred Van Lente, I read the first issue yesterday and it was pretty enjoyable.

Hi folks, it’s me again with another shellacking of my opinions from the last couple of weeks or so and of the comics I’ve read and other things. This has ended up being way later than it should have been, I came down with the flu last week and its taken longer than I thought to recover.

RANTS

1. Last week started with the news of the death of John Hicklenton, a ground breaking artist mainly published in 2000ad and Judge Dredd: the Megazine. I guess he wouldn’t be that well known in the USA which is a real pity. He broke through into comics at the age of 19 by drawing a Neil Gaiman “future-shock” story for 2000ad which garnered him the notice of writer Pat Mills who immediately commissioned him to write 2 books for his long running character Nemesis: The Warlock. This was one of the most popular 2000ad characters which had artists of the calibre of Kev O’Neill and Bryan Talbot work on it before Hicklenton which I think shows how stunning his art was for a 19 year old to take over from those masters.

Its hard to understate how much of an impact Hicklenton’s art had, readers either loved or hated it but over the course of a couple of years many more loved than hated the organic sinister subversiveness of his creativity. Imagine if HR Giger (designer of Alien) had drawn comics then you might get a handle on where Hicklenton’s imagination lived, he could draw disturbing characters and visceral action. He passed away 2 weeks ago at the age of 42 from multiple sclerosis. There are some clips of him from the award winning 2008 documentary about him

2. Then as if the week couldn’t get any cheerier I heard of the death of Dick Giordano. He was a lot older than JH but still its disturbing to hear that death of one of the greats. Dick Giordano is most famous I suppose for the innumerable inking jobs he did, especially on Neal Adams work and for many Batman titles over the years. He was also a great pencilled with a beautiful delicate line, I recall only a few years ago he did some fantastic work on Devin Graysons Gotham Knights title.

He was also hugely significant as editor in chief and an executive for DC during a very successful time during the 80’s and early 90’s including encouraging the “British Invasion” of new artists and writers, regenerating the Teen Titans franchise, the Crisis on Infinite Earths, Watchmen, Dark Knight, the beginnings of Vertigo. The only failing you could say perhaps was letting Alan Moore get disenchanted with DC but then Alan Moore always seems to fall out with everyone eventually.

I’ve seen on Marvels June solicits that the Dracula story he did with Roy Thomas is being reissued, I’d recommend that anyone who enjoys a great story and beautiful art pick it up.

3. In comparison to the first two sections the other stuff like who’s artist on what pales into insignificance in the order of things but still we should talk about the normal stuff in our hobby as well as the heavy stuff, its all part of the tapestry of life and the world keeps moving on and its ok to talk about the stuff that’s important to us at the time…speaking of which…

4. No more Batwoman – Three words even more devastating that Wanda’s “No more Mutants”, the news that Greg Rucka has quit all DC’s projects and will be concentrating on his creator owned stuff. This is fine, I’m sure I’ll be checking out Queen and Country and whatever else he has planned but it is somewhat sickening that the single best mainstream comic of the last year is no more. The Rucka/J.H.Williams III Batwoman stories in Detective Comics were pretty damn amazing, great writing, outstanding art, fine colouring, just a complete package.

The proposed Batwoman title which was forecast for this summer could have been great but now we’ll never know as I don’t think a replacement writer would have as sympathetic take on Kate Kane, they’d probably get some hack like Winick to do it. Rucka has been very nice to DC in his announcement about it but I can’t help a nagging feeling that someone in management at DC poured some cold water on a “lesbian title”, I hope that’s not the case. (Editor’s note: It was announced today that J.H. Williams III will be co-writing and drawing the new Batwoman series beginning later this year)

5. No more PhonogramThis interview from Comics Alliance puts some things in a fairly poor perspective in my point of view. The fact that a great series like Phonogram couldn’t sell as much as C list Marvel and DC comics shows how fucked up the comics business is now. The writing was smart, the art was appealing yet it couldn’t sell much more than 4000 copies, that’s just a disgrace, some fucking piece of shit like Rulk can sell 60000 copies yet Phonogram can’t even sell enough to pay the artist electricity bill??? That just shows how fucked up the comics market is now. Maybe if the characters had all worn costumes and punched and stabbed each other to death, maybe that would have made it more appealing to the masses?

The comic had the reputation of being “elitist”, but for me it was one of the most joyous books of the last year and the comics world is all the poorer if it loses books like this. Hands up who needs more Deadpool books?

6. Youtube – For fucks sake, why in hell did they have to change it? Now the comments section is all fucked up and its lost all sense of narrative. And the info section is all over the place, none of the links or options are in as handy places as they used to be, youtube you fucked up, you bastards!

COMICS MINI-REVIEWS

Battlefields #4
I love this comic, Garth Ennis is such a good writer when he’s doing war stories, he can treat the subject seriously yet still leavens it all with the black humour of the ordinary tommies, yanks and fritzies. In it Sergeant Stiles commands a Sherman Firefly and leads his men in search of fearsome King Tiger tank. Its full of set piece action, good characterisation (even for the Germans who are far from the evil cardboard cut out characters as usually portrayed in TV and movie) and excellent art from Carlos Ezquerra. I’d love to see Jose and Elliot review this one actually.

Air Fighters #1 (Moonstone)
From the sublime to the ridiculous as it were. This was half price on dcbs and since I love war books, especially aviation books I figured it would be worth a chance….boy was I wrong. The cover by Tom Grindberg is very nice but after that it goes all kinds of wrong.

It’s a 72 page anthology based on characters from the Golden age of comics and most of the stories are hokey and just plain stupid. I prefer my war stories with a good realistic base and these are fantastical and make little sense. And as for the artwork….I’m not going to name any names because the art is so awful, its embarrassingly bad, some of it looks like a monkey doodled on the page or something. Some of them didn’t even bother to do some simple reference work, one story portrays a kette of Ju87 Stukas doing a combat air patrol complete with twin 37mm cannons when anyone who would have an interest in this book would know that’s ludicrous beyond belief and just shows how little the writer and artist cared about the whole charade.

Solomon Kane: Deaths Black Riders 2 & 3 (Dark Horse)
Ahhhhh back to something good, 2 issues of Robert E Howard’s puritan antihero and his encounter with some evil demons (are there any other kind?) in the black forest of southern Germany. It reads like a modern version of a classic Hammer Horror film or EC comic, I had to switch off the computer and read this in silence so as to give it my full concentration, so I could absorb every eerie word of Scott Allie’s script and drink in every line of Mario Guevara’s atmospheric artwork which draws you completely into the story so much as that you feel that you are in that dank forest surrounded by bloodthirsty demons with just a pistol and a trusty sword to protect you.

Power Girl 9 (DC)
This comic is such a joy to read, Gray and Palmiotti subvert the normal superhero clichés on almost every page and deliver a quality story every time. This issue sees PG up against Satanna and her “gun-toting Animal men and PG gets thwacked around with a big hammer for most of the issue until that other Amanda Conner favourite Terra turns up to save the day. It’s a real pity that Amanda Conner is quitting as this is a title she was born to draw, can’t wait to see what she works on next.

King City #5 (Image)
Another comic I fell in love with instantly, you can’t help but like Brandon Grahams Ameri-manga art style which has hints of Adam Warren but a more looser, expressive style. The story is about Joe and his Cat who steal things to order and the dramas that they get into. The humour in this title is definitely of the black cynical variety but that makes it no less funny. Its also black and white which shows the linework to its best advantage and its bigger than the normal comic book size so it fits more in, it’s a winner on both counts.

JLA #41 (DC)
Jose asked if anyone is reading JLA at the moment, I don’t remember if anyone answered and I couldn’t blame them. I started reading the book at #38 and the Blackest Night issues were horrible, just really awful writing and art, especially the Dr Light vs. Dr Light battle which got into misogynistic areas. I actually enjoyed #41 though, it felt like those old Avengers issues where Cap or Iron Man would put a new team together, of course this is JLA so it was Donna Troy putting the team together. Perhaps I took a liking to it because I loved the New Teen Titans so seeing Dick, Donna, Cyborg and Starfire on the same team again brought back good memories. Even Mark Bagley’s art seemed tighter and less rushed in this issue.

BACK ISSUE BIN

DC Action 1-6 (London Editions Magazines)
This is a title which came out in 1990 from LEM who specialized in DC reprints for the British and Irish market. I had already been reading their Batman and Superman/JLI reprints when they came out with this oversized 68 page magazine with a cardstock cover featuring the classic Wolfman/Perez New Teen Titans, the Grant Morrison Animal Man title and a third strip which changed every 2 issues. In 1-2 was the Creeper, in 3-4 was the history of Paul Kirk and the Manhunters and in 5-6 was the start of the Perez History of the DC Universe.

This book introduced me to the wider DC Universe back when Marvel Comics were by far and away my favourite company. Unfortunately it only lasted 6 issues, the book had production values that have still not been equalled by any American or British comic in my opinion but that was its downfall as at £1.75 ($3.50) an issue in 1990 it was by far the most expensive comic on the newsstands but still it has fond memories for me. If you are ever in the UK you might be able to track it down in some second hand shops or at car boot sales.

BLOG RECOMMENDATIONS

Monster Blog
http://monsterblog.oneroom.org/
This is an old favourite which has loads of scanned Monster comics from the Lee/Kirby pre-Marvel superheroes era including “I was face to face with the Creature from Planet X!” and “Invasion from Outer Space!”, its full of those fun goofy stories from the King!

Here in Duckberg
http://texcap.wordpress.com/
This is a cool little blog focusing on comics mostly but some game stuff as well and it seems to mostly feature stuff I like which is great lol. Its straightforward and informative without being confrontational and controversial like the CCW blog. Blogger Texcap has a friendly open style and a good eye for his layout which is easy on the eye.

Paleofuture
http://www.paleofuture.com/
This blog takes a look at the sci-fi and comics genres predictions of the future, in its own words it’s “a look into the future that never was”. I just love all the retro-future stuff, especially from the 50’s and 60’s when the world was going to be so bright and modern complete with Domed Cities and flying cars…..I want my flying car now dammit!

TV
One of my favourite recent TV shows is Newswipe with Charlie Brooker which was broadcast on BBC2 in February/March. It is a topical news show presented by comedian Charlie Brooker who dissects news organisations and politicians with savage satire, sort of like Stephen Colbert but with less joshing and more vicious wit. There’s also a philosophical side amongst the funny asides, don’t trust the news media, there’s always an agenda, make up your own mind.

This is the first of what will hopefully be a weekly column about my thoughts on the week in comics and related stuff. It will be made up of mini op-ed pieces (don’t worry I will still be doing in depth op-ed pieces every so often), plus some mini-reviews of comics read during the week, some blog recommendations, maybe a book review here and there too.

*RANTS!

1. Last week the Kirby family filed suit against Marvel for termination of copyrights and compensation for lack of credit in films for characters co-created by Jack Kirby. I did an op-ed piece on this a couple of months ago, you can read it here. My views since then haven’t changed one iota, Jack Kirby was Marvel comics dynamo and it’s time that his pride and joy, his family, get the rewards that he was due but never received.

My admiration for the King is not secret so I will unashamedly cheer on the Kirby family to their victory. So what will it mean for the characters in question? Well, Marvel will have to stop publishing the current versions and the family will be able to sell them to DC…..Actually the only people who think that might happen are retarded fanboys who have no clue about copyright law. What will happen is that Marvel will give a big settlement to the Kirby’s and pay royalties for future use.

Hopefully that will open the door for other writers/artists or their families to get their dues also, lets not forget other creators like Bill Everett, Don Heck, Steve Ditko and the rest.

2. Remember my other Op-ed piece about Captain America: Reborn? Well in case anyone thought there was no substance about my accusations against Hitch, just take a look at his art agent’s page. Big splash pages are going for $2000+ whereas “crappy” story pages only go for about $250, a pretty big incentive for him to throw the writer under the bus, eh?

3. Palmiotti and Gray aren’t writing Power Girl anymore and they replace them with Judd Winick??? Sorry but I fucking hate that guy’s writing, expect this book to turn into a train wreck. They should have given the book to Keith Giffen, then it might have continued to be Bwa-ha-ha funny, bad choice DC!

4. Dark Avengers #15, oh you better believe I fucking hate this book with a vengeance. I agree with Jose’s Op-ed piece 1000%, I’ll be doing an Op-ed piece of my own on related matters in the upcoming future but something did strike me when I was reading about the descriptions of Ultimate Comics Avengers #5 and Justice League: Cry for Justice #7…it’s a quote from the description of part of the Battle for Warsaw in 1944 between the SS and the polish resistance (I’m a bit of a history buff btw) which went as follows : “Favoured tactics during the siege reportedly included playing “bayonet catch” with live babies, and torturing captives to death by hacking off their arms, dousing them with gasoline, and setting them alight to run armless and flaming down the streets of Warsaw.” I guess now we get to read about this stuff happening to our favourite heroes now, what’s the world coming to?

5. Goddamn Kick-Ass trailers are on the tv here all the fucking time, there are even posters up on billboards for it, there is no way in hell that I will be going to see that piece of shit and if you have any taste at all you won’t be giving money to that ginger hack Millar.

6. IDW have been promoted by Diamond Comic Distributors to be one of their Premier Publishers which means that they will be out of the back section of Previews magazine and moved up to the front with Dark Horse, DC and Image (Marvel have their own separate Previews comic-sized magazine). They will have much more room to display their products, instead of being squeezed into the current 12 or so pages they will have up to 40 pages to display their wares and be able to promote their comics much better.

I recently previewed one of their comics, Mystery Society, and they normally have a knack of producing interesting comics along with their normal licensed stuff like GI Joe and Transformers. How long till Boom Studios make the transition to Premier Publisher status?

BTW anyone ever notice how much Robert Kirkman looks like Hacksaw Jim Duggan?

*COMIC MINI-REVIEWS

These are some reviews on comics I’ve read so far this week. I get my comics via mail order in one or two packages a month so these won’t be “new” comics per se but they are recent. I’ll be trying to mention ones that Jose, Elliot and Ironmuskrat don’t get around to doing full reviews on.

Justice Society of America #34 and #35
If you want a comic that tells good superhero stories without babies being thrown out of windows or rapes then this should be a comic for you. Swipes at Millar and Bendis aside, I really enjoyed these comics. The newly split JSA fought against Mordru, he sent them all into pocket dimensions where they faced their greatest fears then teamed back up to kick ass. This served to reintroduce the characters and bind them together, I think these issues would be a great jumping on point for new readers. The only minor niggle would be with fill in artist Travis Moore who can be a little weak with getting faces right but otherwise did a good job while Jesus Merino catches up.

Fantastic Four #576
This is the second issue of the Prime Elements arc and this story is just sumptuous. From Dale Eaglesham’s art which is reminiscent of Big John Buscema’s classic art to Paul Mounts gorgeous colours, this is just a feast for the eyes. As for Jonathan Hickman’s writing, well only half a dozen issues in and its already got the makings of a classic run up there with John Byrnes mid-80’s stuff, Walt Simonson’s underrated early 90’s run and Waid and Ringo’s epic run of the early noughties (nothing will ever beat Lee/Kirby of course). This episode the team goes under the Antarctic Ice cap to meet an unknown aquatic civilization, Hickman just throwing new ideas out on every few pages.

Outsiders #26 and #27
From the sublime to the ridiculous, Dan Didio takes over from Pete Tomasi and makes a complete dogs dinner of this comic. I really enjoyed Tomasi’s take on the team, which actually made sense but Didio has thrown out all the set up from that run and shipped the team off to Markovia where Brion has made peace with the Kryptonians who send the freakin Eradicator to be their peace envoy….can’t see any trouble with that can you?

I’m not criticising this book because I hate Dan Didio, I actually think he’s done a good job with DC editorial in the last year but unfortunately he’s just a terrible writer, these are only worth getting to laugh at how out of character everyone is and how ham fistedly every situation is handled, case in point being the cringe worthy advances of Owl Man towards Katana. Its not offensive in the same way as a Bendis or Millar comic is, just really poorly written and drawn.

Milestone Forever #1
This I guess is the formal reintroduction of the Milestone characters after the JLA arc of just over a year ago. The first thing that strikes me is the hideous cover on this, apparently DC editorial changed the cover and put this purple wash over the art, there’s no way that I would pick this off the shelf if I didn’t know what it was first, it looks so horrible. The first 8 pages of art by Jean Paul Leon though were very enjoyable, they reminded me of the Kirbyesque art of Shaky Kane.

The rest of the (expensive prestige format) issue was by MD Bright and Romeo Tanghal and sorry to say it but the art was so nineties that it hurt. And so to be honest so was the writing, considering they had 48 pages to work with I couldn’t tell you much more about the characters now than before I read it and that wasn’t much to start with.

Tails of the Pet Avengers #1
This is an anthology of Pet Avengers stories leading up to next months second Pet Avengers mini-series. Each of the pets gets a 5/6 page story which adds up to 30 pages of story/art for $3.99, not a bad deal. The stories range from the cute (Lockjaw) to the poignant (Lockheed) but as always Ms Lion and Frog Thor stole the show, Ms Lion doing some detective work on a cruise ship and the great Frog Thor leading his frogs in a fight against some alligators who were trying to invade their pond in Central Park. Nice writing and art by Chris Eliopoulous, Colleen Coover, Ig Guara, Gurihiro and more, this is truly a comic for all ages and a great break from all the angst-ridden ultra violence that seems to be popular amongst the fanboys now.

*BACK ISSUE BIN

DC Holiday Special ‘09
This came out back in November/December of last year, 80 pages for $5.99 with a Christmas/holiday theme. I don’t think this sold huge numbers, certainly not in the direct market anyway, which is a pity because its actually really good, it will probably be dirt cheap as a back issue.

Its worth tracking this down in the back issue bins of your LCS or Cons for the Sgt Rock story by Billy Tucci alone. Added to that are great short stories of Enemy Ace, Red Tornado, Flash, Batman and Martian Manhunter plus there’s an Angel and the Ape story so you can’t say no to that!

*BLOG RECOMMENDATIONS

Perhaps like me you visit blogs other than the CCW one (I know, it’s a shock isn’t it?) Perhaps you too have idle time to fill at work, I know I do! So every column I’d like to recommend one or two I like, if you’ve got favourites then by all means let us know!

Grantbrigde Street and Other Adventures
http://grantbridgestreet.blogspot.com/
I just love this blog, its got loads of stuff I’m interested in from the 60’s to the 90’s, obscure comic strips from the greats like Romita, Kirby, Toth, Charest, Ditko, Buscema, art gallery’s of favourite characters like Doctor Doom, Catwoman, Superman etc. Its got Superhero’s, bizarre sci-fi, horror comics, freaked out shit and lost comic strips like the great Brendan McCarthy’s Sooner or Later, a beautiful Daniel Torres’ story , some great Phillip Druillet art and what about this amazing crazy piece by The King!

Pats Fantasy Hotlist
http://fantasyhotlist.blogspot.com/
This is another blog that I go to practically everyday as in addition to comics I’ve loved reading fantasy and sci-fi books for years and have really gotten back into reading novels in the last couple of years (Amazon is just so dirt cheap lol). Pats Fantasy Hotlist is easily the most popular F&SF literary blog out there because its accessible, down to earth (you know what I mean), and pretty easy going, somewhat like the CCW except not quite as community led as the CCW.

The content is consistently solid with writer interviews, excerpts from newly released and upcoming books (important if you’re undecided on what to read next), new Cover art and contests where you can win free books. If you like to read then this blog is worth checking.

*TV

I’m not going to comment too much on TV as I’m way behind on what is being currently shown in America, I just can’t be bothered downloading tv stuff now. One series I’ve enjoyed for years though is Mad Men, the story of advertising executives in 1960’s Manhattan, the scripts are witty, the styling is spot on and they’ve got Christina Hendricks, hubba hubba! This is my favourite scene from the current series, Season 3.

Ok, that’s it for this week, I hope you enjoyed it, let me know your opinions. See you next week for more!

Welcome to my take on the comics scheduled for sale in May. This is my trawl through Previews Magazine in the hunt for new and interesting series to order or old favourites to look at again. May is the start of the summer (allegedly) and traditionally the time where the big two set out their stall for the coming year.

A little added extra is a paragraph giving my overall conclusion in each companies section on Marvel, DC and the Indies overall solicits for the month. So first up this month is DC Comics.

DC

Brightest Day #1 and #2
#1 $3.99, #2 $2.99
#1 40 pages, #2 32 pages
Page 65 of Previews

This is the official start for DC’s big project for 2010/11 and this is the book that will set the tone for the next year’s worth of DC’s books so if you want to keep up with DC then you’ll probably want to get this. Its written by GL and GLC writers Geoff Johns and Pete Tomasi so the story will at least be decent and the art is by Ivan Reis, Fernando Pasarin, Ardian Syaf, Scott Clark and Joe Prado although DC haven’t said yet how exactly the art chores are going to be split up. Still, the artists listed are some of DC’s best that can actually hit a deadline. Here’s some of Ardian Syaf’s (yeah I kept calling him Adrian too) deviant art stuff, in case you didn’t check his art on Blackest Night: Batman. This is a biweekly book (two a month) so it is a commitment but the regular books are only $2.99 each, something Marvel can’t always say…more of which later.

Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #1 and #2
$3.99 (both issues)
#1 48 pages, #2 40 pages
Page 74 of Previews

I’m starting with the blindingly obvious picks here aren’t I? Still, after the controversial Final Crisis, Grant Morrison has hit a home run with the Batman and Robin series so hopes are high for this series. As with all Morrison work this could either be pure genius or incomprehensible, you just have to take a chance with him. Chris Sprouse is doing the art on #1 (each issue of the 6 issue series will have a different artist) and issue #2 is drawn by one of my favourite ex-2000ad artists Frazer Irving who will be doing a sort of “Batman as Solomon Kane” issue.

The Legion of Super-Heroes #1
$3.99
48 pages
Page 83 of Previews

I’ve never really read too many Legion comics and I’ve never read a Paul Levitz scripted comic and this issue has a bloody awful cover….so why am I interested in this? It’s because the concept behind the Legion is so good that someone has to get it right eventually. Jumping straight into an unfamiliar series doesn’t bother me in the slightest, the more characters the better. Pure sci-fi added to superheroes should be a winner plus Yildiray Cinar is an up and coming artist, here’s his blog at http://www.yildiraycinar.net/ and an actal pencilled page . Let’s just hope that Levitz does a better job at writing than Dan Didio did on Outsiders #26 though, yikes.

I, Zombie
$1.00
32 pages
Page 113 of Previews

So this is another Zombie comic, how bloody boring eh? Not bloody likely mate, this is a zombie comic drawn by Mike Allred so it’s going to look absolutely beautiful, just take a look at the first 7 pages . I kind of lost touch with Allred when he started doing those Mormon comics but previous to that I loved Madman and The Atomics so it’s nice to get in on something new with a favourite artist. This is being written by Chris Roberson who I’m not familiar with but the plot sounds fun and interesting and at $1.00 for this first issue its a can’t miss and even the gorgeous variant cover by Darwyn Cooke is only $2.00 on dcbs. If you don’t buy this then you don’t love comics.

Conclusion: A very good slate of comics from DC this month that I’m really looking forward too. One major fault I have with DC’s presentation this month though is about 2/3rds of their DC Universe books have terrible covers, either poor angles, weird points-of-view or just plain ugly art. When DC are trying to chase Marvels market share they need to do much better on covers. A case in point is Eddy Barrows covers for the War of the Supermen event which are murky and hideous looking. Others are the cover for Justice League Generation Lost #1 cover by Tony Harris where the characters faces are just plain wrong and everyone has weirdly pointy noses, the Birds of Prey cover by Ed Benes where every character has huge collagen lips, and even Nicola Scott’s cover for Wonder Woman #44 is so incredibly dull…..you have to do better DC!

Independents

Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard #1 (of 4)
Publisher: Archaia Entertainment
$3.50
24 pages

Mouse Guard is simply one of the best comics of the last 10 years in my opinion. It’s a true all ages title in that everyone can get something out of it. It’s not watered down “for the kiddies” like some all ages books and its deep enough for adults to enjoy. This volume is a spin-off anthology from the main series, the stories within are written and drawn by guest artists that creator Dave Peterson has chosen, one of whom is Jeremy Bastian whose art is amazingly detailed:

The theme of this miniseries is that there is a gathering of mice in an Inn in Barkstone where stories are told of the legends of the Mouse Guard. The rules are that each story must contain one truth, one lie and have never been told in the tavern before. This promises to be another great series in the Mouse Guard tradition.

7 Psychopaths #1
Publisher: Boom Studios
$3.99
32 Pages
Page 212 of Previews

Boom Studios presents another exciting looking action series, something which they have become adept at. This is actually a reprint of a French graphic novel issue from 2007, obviously translated into English and reformatted to be a 3 issue miniseries. The main draw here is the art is by Sean Phillips, one of the masters of gritty action artwork. The story is about 7 men sent to kill Adolf Hitler, the very definition of madness one would think.

The plot shares some similarities with a story called Day of the Eagle drawn by the great British artist Pat Wright, originally published in UK comic Battle back in 1975 (I first read it in the Battle 1980 annual) although I’m sure the content of 7 Psychopaths is very different, it’s just a fun similarity that came to my mind. I’m sure that 7 Psychopaths would make for a great collected edition as well.

Mystery Society #1
Publisher: IDW
32 Pages
$3.99
Page 268 of Previews

It’s always a challenge to find an original title amongst the hordes of licensed stuff on IDW’s slate but when they do one its usually good. The concept is by Steve Niles and Ashley Wood and the writing is by Steve Niles so already this has me intrigued. The story is that the “heroes”, Nick Hammond and Anastasia Collins, are the Mystery Society, sort of like Steed and Emma Peel meets Scooby-Doo meets Dogwitch*. It looks like it’s going to be a fun blast of a series.

The art is by Fiona Staples who has done some work for Wildstorm like North 40 and who seems to be ever improving as an artist, the sample pages I’ve seen for Mystery Society show some dynamic atmospheric work, check her blog at http://fstaples.blogspot.com/.

* Dogwitch was an old favourite Goth horror series from Sirius entertainment, go seek out the trades!

Shrapnel: Hubris #1 of 3
Publisher: Radical Publishing
64 pages
$4.99
Page 288-289 of Previews

The first Shrapnel series was a well written 5 issue mini with great art that delivered a balls to the wall sci-fi story somewhat reminiscent of some of the Warhammer 40k or Battletech stories but more nuanced and sophisticated. There’s a good dose of politics backing up the mental robot suit planetary war action. This 3 issue series is written by Nick Sagan (co-creator) with Clinnette Minnis and the art is by “Concept Art House” which is a group of artists who create computer generated art for games companies and now for comics. The art is very stylized and is a lot like the old Red Star series from Image (loved that series) and is very atmospheric, their blog is at http://www.conceptarthouse.com/.

With Radical you get bang for your buck, Shrapnel is 64 pages for $4.99, it’s the equivalent of getting a full graphic novel for the price.  Also on page 286-287 of Previews is Earp #0, 32 pages for $1.00, how can you turn down that?

Conclusions: I think that’s a really exciting foursome of comics, Archaia, Boom and Radical are recently coming up as some of my favourite smaller publishers. Radical in particular really know how to make you want to buy their books and their presentation in Previews is excellent, a lot of other publishers could learn from them. On the minus side for the independents there’s nothing really new from Image or Dark Horse. The old favourites like Godland, Dead@17, Invincible, Chew, Sword, King City, Conan, and Solomon Kane are all there but there’s nothing new that I think looks exciting. Perhaps Image and Dark Horse are waiting for the big 2 to get their summer #1’s out of the way before releasing new product.

Marvel Comics

Avengers #1
32 pages
$3.99
Page 33 of Marvel Previews

Well this is the big one for Marvel this month and, indeed for the whole summer, with the launch of the Avengers new flagship title and the Age of Heroes “event”. I should be super-excited for this, the Avengers is my favourite Marvel comics title of all time and it’s got art by JRJr who is one of my favourite artists of all time, so all is gut ja? Well, not exactly. It’s written by Bendis who lately has proven himself adept at writing scene after scene of TV watching and pizza eating but usually fails to have his umpteen characters speak in anything but the one voice (which is his “annoying banter” voice) and act totally out of character. So I’m on the fence about this one, I’m giving it 2 issues to prove itself, that might not seem like many but I am done with waiting for writers to tell an origin story in 6 issues or pad a book out for the trade, I want value for my money.

Atlas #1
40 pages
$3.99
Page 35 of Marvel Previews

This is something heartening from Marvel. Agents of Atlas is being relaunched, this time it’s just plain Atlas (no, not the DC strongman from the Superman title) with the “agents you love” as part of a new ongoing series. It’s part of the Heroic Age banner so hopefully it will see some upswing from the Avengers fans, Jeff Parker is still writing with art from the very capable Gabriel Hardman. This should be another enjoyable book, hopefully it will revert to $2.99 with the #2 issue, just like Black Widow #2 did this month. Gabriel Hardmans’ deviant art page is here http://heathencomics.deviantart.com/.

Age of Heroes #1(of 4)
40 pages
$3.99
Page 40 of Marvel Previews

Kurt Busiek is back in his rightful place at Marvel Comics so at least the “House of Ideas” has one writer who can actually write heroes who act like heroes for the Heroic Age. This is a 40 page anthology book written by Kurt Busiek, Rick Remender, Paul Cornell and Dan Slott so it’s a very strong writing line-up ably assisted by Marko Djurdjevic, Chris Samnee, Leonard Kirk et al on art duties. I know some people are skeptical about anthology titles but I think that when done well they can great but the stories have to be compressed. I’m looking forward to this one, hell the cover alone pretty much sold it to me. It looks like the Avengers gathering (heroically) at 34th and 6th looking heroic (of course). There is a tease about the MI13 becoming part of the Avengers so that would be very interesting if it panned out.

Thunderbolts #144
32 pages
$2.99
Page 60 of Marvel Previews

Holy crap!….a $2.99 book! This is a good jumping on point for the Thunderbolts; it’s an “all new, all different!” team as it were. Luke Cage will be leading (although doing double duty on New Avengers apparently) with the team being fleshed out by Juggernaut, Crossbones, Ghost, Moonstone and Man-Thing(?) which is a pretty good mix in my opinion. Jeff Parker is still on writing duties and the new regular artist is one of my favourite former 2000ad art-robots Kev Walker who’s work is really nice . This is being touted as a full revamp of the title so hopefully Parker will get to do what he wants.

Conclusion: This is the start of the Heroic Age and Marvel is certainly going to flood the market judging by Previews, which is something I hoped they wouldn’t do. Not at first anyway. Sometimes less is more, you know? Speaking of which how many pages do you get for $3.99….40 pages right?….no its 48 pages right? Noooo its 32 pages right? Hell if I know! Marvel has ZERO consistency regarding page count and content. With DC you know its 40 pages for $3.99 and 32 pages for $2.99. In this month’s Marvel Previews you’ve got Dazzler #1 one-shot with 48 pages but on the very same page you’ve got Rescue #1 one-shot (Pepper Potts) with 32 pages for $2.99. Get a consistent policy Marvel and you’ll make me a hell of a lot less skeptical about your offers.