Monday, December 29, 2014

Indie Corner - 12/24/2014

Each week I'll spotlight a couple independent books I've read and may have flown under people's radar.

This will be my last issue of Black Science.  I haven't hidden the fact that I'm generally dissatisfied with the book.  Last issue I said I'd give it until the end of the arc (this issue) to impress me.  While reading, I had the sense of watching The Walking Dead.  There's definitely parts I enjoy, but afterward, far too often, I asked myself, "What the hell just happened?"  This issue sets up a lot of things, both story and character elements, that I imagine will play out for quite some time.  While it'd be nice to see some of that unfold, I watched The Walking Dead for too long and have read this for too long.
They're Not Like Us 1

This is one that's going to take a few issues before I figure out where it's going and whether I like it or not.  I get a vague sense of resistance and rebellion, but can't tell much else.  There's the opening attention grabber, then a large chunk of the issue is taken up by an escape, meeting the rest of the cast, and a cliffhanger for a last line.  The art's good and it's well written but other than that..?  I'll stick around for a few issues to see where this is all heading.

I had to read this twice.  "Had" might be a little strong, but... you really have to see it.  I wanted to read it again.  It's gorgeous.  There's a whole thing with faeries and the ghost of his father that's following him around... like I said, you'd have to see it.  And honestly, that whole thing made more sense than the actions of the blond monk.  I don't know what that guy's up to, but this book is nuts and I love it.

Turtles with proton packs, Ghostbusters eating pizza, Casey gets some new threads, and even a reference to the turtle blimp.  I love it.  There's one issue left in this crossover mini-series, and it should surprise precisely zero people that the Turtles will be returned to their home dimension.  What I'm most curious about is the fate of Chi-You.  Those reading the series will know his siblings and that there's a bit of a rivalry between them.  Chi-You's undergone a transformation since arriving in the Ghostbuster's dimension and I wonder whether we'll see him again in future issues of Turtles or not.  Also, there's only one issue left of the Ghostbusters.  As a rather large fan of the recently concluded IDW series, I hope they receive a new series sooner rather than later.

I read a recent CBR article that said the book will be on hiatus until March and then undergoing some major changes.  After reading this, I can understand why: our cast has been scattered to the four winds.  The article states this allows them to tell any type of story they want, and that definitely seems possible now in a way that wasn't before.  I'll miss the interactions of so many personalities in close proximity but look forward to what's to come.  I find myself especially curious to see what the generals get up to next.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Indie Corner - 12/17/2014

Each week I'll spotlight a couple independent books I've read and may have flown under people's radar.

This book is so insane I don't know where to start.  Somehow, for some reason, I love it.  I really, truly hope it doesn't turn out to be some pretentious bullshit at the end, and that of all this makes sense.  It's probably meta.  Puzzle pieces are sliding into place and I just can't quite see the picture yet.  This would definitely be better to read in trade form, and I'll likely eventually buy it that way.  However, I can't at all talk about anything that happens in this issue.  Well, there's a new character.  But that's all I'll say.

Rumble 1
I vaguely recall reading some interviews in the lead-up to this launch about a "scarecrow god."  It very much seemed like two creators having a blast writing and drawing whatever the hell they wanted.  That's very much what shines through in this issue.  Things happen, most of it unexplained, and it's absolutely brilliant.  While reading, I kept thinking of Six-Gun Gorilla and Tradd Moore.  Moore's a bit easier to explain, so I'll start there.  It's in the way Harren draws people - natural, yet exaggerated.  It's also in the way Harren draws movement; people and things are practically alive.  As for the Six-Gun Gorilla sensation, I think it stems from the fact that Arcudi throws us into a very strange place, with a main character that's completely out of his depth.  Plus, it's really good.  I'll be adding this to my pull and I recommend you do the same.  Or at least pick up the first issue.

While describing Ragnarok below, I mention not minding the wait between issues.  The wait between issues of The Bunker, however, is excruciating.  Once Breaking Bad hit a point were I knew I'd like it and wanted to watch it, I waiting until the entire series was over and streaming on Netflix.  I don't think I could have handled the wait.  Well, I made the mistake of starting The Bunker too early, and now I have to wait between installments.

Thor is awake once again, moving around, and really angry about everything he sees.  Nothing is the way it should be, and he's going to figure out why.  Then probably hit it with a hammer.  It'll be glorious.  I keep thumbing through the book just to look at the art again.  There's a point near the beginning where we're shown the same panel three times.  Anyone else would have just copied and pasted that panel, but Simonson actually re-draws it each time.  Same thing on the next page where we see the same panel four times.  Subtle differences each time.  This book comes out once every two months, and I know a guy that has a hard time waiting for new issues.  I'm okay with the wait, though, because I want Simonson to have the time he needs to make it the way he wants rather than be rushed.

This title didn't make my list of Best Comics of 2014 but it should have.  I was thinking about the broadstrokes of how the cast had expanded but we were still no closer to solving the mystery of the first issue.  But that thinking misses the point.  The brilliant way Laura narrates the book, often in contrast to the things she actually says.  As seen in this issue, opposite an equally brilliant diagram of Laura's room.  The rest of the issue is great as well, and I'll be sure to include the title on my Best Comics of 2015 list.

The final pages of this issue features a single panel as it goes step-by-step through the coloring process.  I really wish I hadn't seen it.  I've seen Hollingsworth's coloring elsewhere, notably on the recent The Wake collection.  He's good; I like his work.  This guide, however, shows how good he is, right up until it's taken too far and intentionally made to look like garbage.  As for the rest of the issue: less creepy than issue two, but still pretty creepy.

I picked up some trades last week as well but I'm saving those for a future post since not much is coming out in the next two weeks.  So look for those then.

This week, I write about six comics while saying very little about what happens in them.  This little blog is fun.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Best Comics of 2014

Similar to my Best Audiobooks list, this is a collection of some of the best comics I've read this year, not necessarily ones that were released in the last year.  I've tried to note that where appropriate.

In no particular order:

This is making the list based on the strength of the second issue.  Only two issues have come out.  The first issue set up a family trying to start over.  The second unleashed the horror.

Sex Criminals
I read the solicts and thought, "That sounds idiotic."  But the Internet kept talking about how great the first issue was, so I bought a copy the next week.  Far from idiotic, it is deeply personal and honest in a way I've rarely, if ever, seen in comics.

I'm paying Vaughan and Staples to break my heart a little bit each month.  I just hope they can put it back together again next year.

By Chance Or Providence
By Chance or Providence
Three mini comics written and drawn by Becky Cloonan, collected into a hardcover.  If you're familiar with Becky's work, the preceeding sentence should sell the book alone.  If you're not, get this and discover her.

Southern Bastards
Much like Sex Criminals, this book feels so authentic it could be autobiographical.  Except you really don't want that because terrible terrible things happen.

People (frequently me) say very little happens in this book.  Yet it's on my list because the characters are all so brilliant and the art is fantastic.  Oh, and things happened in a big way in the most recent issue.

Does Lone Wolf and Cub meets Walking Dead sound like something you'd be interested in?  A total badass that barely speaks protects a baby from horrifying monsters and humans alike.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
This series takes the best bits from every incarnation of Turtles and throws them all together in a way that makes them more than the sum of their parts.  Any fan of the Turtles should be reading this.

There's a quote on the back of the book from Geeks of Doom! calling this series the third Ghostbusters movie everyone wanted.  I find myself hard pressed to think of a better description.

Predator vs Judge Dredd vs Aliens
Predator vs Judge Dredd vs Aliens
The title should tell you everything you need to know.  It is as awesome as you expect it to be.

The Abominable Charles Christopher
I just discovered this, so it's on the list!  Page one has the titular Charles getting caught in the rain.  Six panels and I fell in love.  Everything after is equally amazing.

I just talked about this a couple weeks ago.  Bryan Lee O'Malley, you know that guy, right?  This is his new book, and it's really good.  One story, one book, no waiting.

Deadly Class
Deadly Class
Saying what this book is about doesn't convey its essence.  Like so many other titles on this list, Deadly Class combines great art and writing with humor and drama to tell a fictional story about characters that could very well be real.

Six Gun Gorilla
The trade came out in June; I'm including it!  I don't recall how or why I picked up the first issue, but I feel like I owe someone thanks.  It could have very easily concluded without me noticing, so I praise it every chance I get in the hope someone else takes notice.

Another series that came out at the tail-end of last year, but the trade came out a few weeks ago, so it's on the list!  1950s, LA, crime fiction.  It was everything I wanted and more.

What if Miss Moneypenny was a better spy than James Bond?  I read issue one and knew I'd been waiting my whole life for this book.

Reign of the Black Flame was off-the-charts awesome.  So far beyond what I expected and thought I wanted.  The series has always been great but this was a new high-water mark.

Moon Knight
I have never cared about Moon Knight.  With Warren Ellis writing, I was interested enough to pick up the first issue.  I'm so glad I did, because this is one of the best superhero books going.

Gotham Academy
Gotham Acadamy
This series has only put out three issues and it's already my new favorite DC book.  Which isn't meant to be a slight on Batman (Capullo and Synder are great), but Zero Year isn't making the list.

Jason Aaron writing the new female Thor is amazing.  She's only had three issues so far, and as of this writing I've only read two of them, and she STILL makes the list.  It's that good.

Ghost Rider
Felipe Smith writes, Tradd Moore draws.  And it was good.  Sales were never great on this title, but seemingly everyone that read it loved it.  I hope Smith is able to roll that into more work because, Robbie Reyes IS Ghost Rider.

Honorable mentions:

The first half of Batgirl 35
Loved it... right up until she put the suit on.  Then I was like, "Oh yeah, this is still fucking heroes."  To get the same feeling for an entire issue, read Gotham Acadmey.

I love it, but am struggling to explain why.  One might think that should disqualify it from the list, but it's my list, so it remains.  See previous posts for details.

Ghost Fleet
Another book with only two issues out.  But they're a strong two issues.

Men of Wrath
Issues one and two were insane, both in terms of content and quality.  Issue three was okay, but didn't meet the same high standard set by the first two.

I read issue one and thought, "Oh, so THIS is how you write a comic!"  Issue two was one long fight, but if it had had more story, this book would have made the Best Of list and not the Honorable Mentions.

Society of Super Heroes surprised the hell out of me, and then Pax Americana blew it out of the water.  The other two issues are okay, which is why this title is down here.

Forever Evil
Black Adam and Sinestro.  Lex and Bizarro.  I will overlook the dumber moments of this miniseries to focus on the ridiculously fun ones.  There, I said it, and I don't care who knows.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Indie Corner - 12/10/2014

Each week I'll spotlight a couple independent books I've read and may have flown under people's radar.

The investigation is slowly going... somewhere, but that doesn't even matter.  This issue has some truly fantastic character moments and a chase scene that's vastly superior to the one from last issue.  After reading the first issue, I mentally gave this series until issue four to prove itself to me.  Things are trending up.  It could move things along a little faster, but I'm sticking around.

Bitch Planet 01
I had no idea what to expect from this book.  I kept hearing, "women's prison... in space!"  Or comparisons to Orange is the New Black, which I haven't seen, so that wasn't helpful.  Most recently, I saw a comment about "Stepford" which now makes a heckuva lot more sense.  You've likely heard things too, and they were probably just as meaningless.  So lemme just say this: It's a good book.  If you like good books, you should check this out.  I know I'll be reading more.

Near the end of Locke & Key, it was announced that Gabriel Rodriguez had been signed as the first and only artist exclusive to IDW.  For those unfamiliar with his work, this issue proves why signing him was such a smart move.  I can't imagine what the script for this issue was like, but it's a feast for the eyes from start to finish.  An outstanding issue in a series I'd been unsure about.

This arc ended the only way it possibly could.  Knowing that the entire time, I still found myself concerned both at the end of last issue and at the beginning of this one.  When the tide does finally turn - as it inevitably would - it was awesome.  I have no idea what's in store for the next arc, but I eagerly await it.

The title to this arc is "Attack on Technodrome."  It's been building to this for literally years.  By the end of this issue, every piece is in place.  We're about to witness the clash of at least three agendas, possibly more (Hob!).  There's no way to tell what's going to happen, but I suspect things will get worse before they get better.

GHOSTBUSTERS v9: Mass Hysteria Part 2
This marks the end of the series, and I will definitely miss it.  I keep flipping through the trade instead of writing about it.  What can I say?  That whenever I would read this comic, I would hear the actor's voices in my head?  That whatever happens to the franchise, if Burnham is writing, I'll be buying?  That, much like Ninja Turtles, any fan should check it out?  It's all true.  The end is rather surprising, and that's literally all I'm going to say about what happens.  Do yourself a favor.  Buy the whole series.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Indie Corner - 12/03/2014

Each week I'll spotlight a couple independent books I've read and may have flown under people's radar.

Ugh, now this book is really pissing me off.  If you recall from last time: it's really good.  That's still true.  You might also recall I said this was close to a comic I've been writing.  That's even more true after the second issue.  Personal gripes aside, this comic is great.  If you're into fantasy stories, I recommend giving this a read no matter what they name is.

The Borgias
Jodorowsky.  Manara.  I'd be interested in any book by either of these creators, but together?  Doing historical fiction?  It was too much to resist.

This is one seriously twisted tale.  Encompassing the rise of Rodrigo Borgia to pope, through to his family's eventual downfall.  This book is filled with corruption, murder, treachery, debauchery, and countless instances of hypocrisy.

The book is good, and I really enjoyed it, but knowing how touchy Americans can be about sex makes it a bit difficult to recommend.  So, if you're into historical fiction, either or both of the creators, and can handle some sex and violence, I say give The Borgias a shot.

My love for this book is beginning to waver.  The first had an emotional family story with a fantasy twist thrown in.  The second issue largely continued that while diving deeper into the fantasy world.  Here, in a weird flip, the family moments just didn't resonate with me and the story of child Mikey in the fantasy world was more interesting.  Previously, I couldn't stand the whiny child story and wanted to get back to the real world.  Now, I want to see more of the war criminals and Kallista.  I'll have to see if the next few issues can recapture the fire.

DOC UNKNOWN v1 and v2
I backed the second volume of Doc Unknown when it was on Kickstarter, after reading some of Doc's adventures in the back pages of Five Ghosts (a fantastic series).  It's classic pulp, with Lobster Johnson being the closest similarity.

Volume one tells a complete story, including a flashback of Doc's backstory.  Volume Two is mostly a collection of stand-alone stories that occasionally reference earlier events or characters while building out Doc's world and overall story.

I was actually reminded of the early issues of Invincible while reading this.  In the way that the issues were good, but the team was still getting their feet under them.  Given a bit more experience, this team could go from good to great.  Both volumes are currently available from Comixology.

I became a fan of Remender's through Fear Agent and X-Force.  Strange Girl was brought to my attention a few years back via a Twitter dust-up over "creator owned" vs "writer owned."  That's definitely a conversation worth having, but not here.  As a fan of the man's work, I went to Amazon, found a good deal on the box set, and quickly purchased.

Strange Girl begins with the Rapture before jumping ahead a decade to an Earth controlled by demons, lording over the few remaining humans.  Bethany, the titular strange girl, learns of a portal to heaven, and she wants in.  With a couple humans and a few demons, the band trek across the US and Europe to reach the portal all while trying to avoid getting killed by just about everyone.  That sounds pretty heavy when summarized like that, but the series has a lot of humor.  It also has a fair bit of religious rhetoric, as Bethany is not at all pleased with how things have shaken out.

There are a half dozen artists credited on the slipcase, over the course of 18 issues.  To say the art is inconsistent is a bit of an understatement.  While certainly an interesting read, I have a difficult time recommending it.  If the above sounds like your kind of thing, go for it.  The slipcase seems to have rocketed in price, though there's an omnibus that's more reasonable.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Indie Corner - 11/26/2014

Each week I'll spotlight a couple independent books I've read and may have flown under people's radar.

To people that have complained not enough happens in this book - this is the issue where things happen.  Pieces have been slowly moving for a while, and here several take action.  I can't even say, because unless you've been reading, none of it would mean anything.  I'll simply say this: there's one more issue and then a collection coming in February.  If the gods are good, another series will follow.

I don't think there's a word for this comic other than "ambitious."  The opening gatefold is, perhaps, the craziest thing I've seen in a comic, even topping the foldout/poster in Superman Unchained #1.

I've been making my way through a lot of The Classics over the last couple years, but The Odyssey remains on my "to read" list.  Someone said this issue is easier to understand if you've read the classic, but I didn't find it particularly difficult to follow.  The actual writing seems to be adapting The Odyssey to the form, while obviously changing the setting to space and many character's gender has been flipped.  The art is simultaneously gorgeous and weird.  It's a hard thing to explain, but the only book even close to it would be Brandon Graham and Simon Roy's Prophet.

After finishing the book, I immediately thought I wouldn't be picking up the second issue.  But the more I think about it, the more compelled I am to read more.  I really want to see how this mad experiment plays out.

This series continues to impress.  In trying to write this review though, I struggled to summarize the issue beyond that first sentence.  Basically, Rasputin meets some new friends, gets in a fight (or two), and leaves home.  Doesn't sound like much, but the dialogue is great and the art is exceptional.  I may wind up switching this to trades so I can get more story in a single chunk.

That's not at all how I expected this issue to end.  If you recall - and I hope you do - Jack's sword has been broken.  Last issue presented an opportunity to correct that, and in this issue, Jack is tested to see if he's worthy.  It's a quick read, classic Jack, and as I said, things don't go as expected.  The cover to next issue is Jack unsheathing his sword, so... we'll see.  For the moment, they're a bit bleak.

Two issues of Ninja Turtles in the same week.  It's not even my birthday.  Contrasting with the Ghostbusters issue below, this issue is almost entirely a fight scene with virtually everyone against Bebop and Rocksteady.  It feels like these two have grown stronger since the last time the turtles faced them.  That, and the turtles are working less well as a team.  With all that, Splinter earns his title of "master," Raph and Alopex share a quiet moment, Casey gets a job, and one of the craziest last pages of the entire series.  A lot of great stuff is packed into this issue.

I'm just going to say this up front: this issue ends with a turtle wearing a proton pack.  Does that interest you?  If so, check out the series.  This issue is almost entirely interaction between the two  groups, with several awesome scenes, and me loving every second of it.  Standout among them was Winston with Leo.  Perfect.