Sunday, April 26, 2015

Indie Corner - 04/22/2015

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

My comic shop has a rack by the counter they put new trades on each week.  Every week, I circle around this rack looking for anything interesting.  Henshin leapt out because I instantly thought, "Man, that looks like I Kill Giants..."  For good reason!  It's drawn by the same guy - Ken Niimura.  As a fan of the man's work, I snapped it up instantly.

Inside are 13 vignettes, of about 20 pages each, running the entire emotional spectrum.  It's a bit like a one-man anthology.  Most are slice of life, though some have a twist ending.  If that sounds interesting to you, or if you're a fan of Niimura's work, I recommend it.  I loved it.

The Life After 9
Recently, I've been watching Dragon Ball Kai.  So when a large demon throws a little girl into a rock face that shatters when she hits it, I'm thinking, "That's awesome!" and at the same time, "Dude, that's not cool!"

Last issue, we followed Jude and Hemingway on their misadventures in hell.  This issue, we follow the rest of our cast while that was going on.  The Kids get their new-found demon pal to take them to hell in pursuit of Jude and Hemingway, only, as predicted, she's not so friendly once they arrive.  Things quickly devolve into DBZ-style, people hurtling into rock faces that shatter on impact.  Then there's a snuggle huddle.  Wait, what?  Trust me, it all makes perfect sense.

Next: War!  And: Return of the Space Potato!  Apparently.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Indie Corner - 04/15/2015

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

I didn't do a review of issue three, but it was great.  The weird goings on of the first two issues gets explained in a major way, but in a way that doesn't feel heavy on exposition.  The humor is ever-present, pulling us out of flashbacks and to the situation at hand.  That continues here.  While issue four has dramatically fewer flashbacks, the explanations haven't stopped.

The story, the art, the action, the humor, it's all fantastic... and you're probably not reading it.  But it's probably my new favorite series and I want everyone to give it a read.

Deadly Class v2
Like Zero, this is another book I waited to read until I could dedicate myself to it.  I loved the first volume, and listening to the guys at the comic shop talk about it as the issues came out, volume two was going to be even better.  Exactly how much better, I couldn't have imagined.

I read this in bed last night until I could physically no longer stay awake.  Then, when I woke up, I finished reading it before I even rolled out of bed.  This is easily the best thing Remender is currently writing.  I'd have to double-check, but it may actually be the best thing he's EVER written.  The writing is phenomenal, but the art, the lettering, the colors... everything comes together perfectly to produce a story that's fantastic yet populated with entirely realistic characters.  It's absolutely brilliant and I can't recommend it highly enough.

There's literally no part of this that I can talk about without spoiling something.  I just want to make that clear before you read onward.  Spoilers.

Well that escalated quickly!  Page 1, Panel 1, I'm having flashbacks to Joe the Barbarian.  The insanity escalates from there as all of human, and pre-human, history now lay open for a couple of jerks to do as they please.  The results are predictable, yet somehow still jaw-dropping.

It's a great read, beautiful to look at, and I can't hardly imagine what new havok will be unleashed on the time-stream next issue.

BPRD v10
In a surprising break from the norm, this book contains three separate tales.  The first is a modern-day haunting in BPRD headquarters, related to and mingled with Hellboy's first field mission.  I thought the Hellboy flashback was more interesting than the situation in the present.

The second, happening at the same time as the haunting, though half a world away, features Johann and a small team in Japan.  They spend some time running away from giant monsters, and the story concludes with a rather spectacular giant monster fight.

The third centers on a small town trying to find a way to carry on in the new world.    It's the shortest of the three, but packs quite a punch.  This volume may not have become my new favorite, but the series continues to be excellent and will forever remain on my recommended list.

I reached the end of this issue and thought, "This is a miniseries, right?"  I can handle it if it's a miniseries, because that means things will start making sense soon.  If this were an ongoing, things could stay weird and vague pretty much indefinitely, and I'm not sure I could handle that.  But I've just verified, with Dark Horse's June solicits, that this is a five issue series.  That's a relief.  By that logic, a lot of things should start making sense next issue, and hopefully wrap up nicely the month after.  I can stick with it until then.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Indie Corner - 04/08/2015

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

I kept this at the bottom of my to-read pile until I had sufficient time and to read it in one sitting and the proper mind-set to give it the attention it deserved.  So I was surprised to discover the linear nature of the stories within.  Unlike previous volumes that jumped through time to various points in Zero's life, this is a straightforward read.

Some things of note: 1) The art is as spectacular as always.  For a different art to tackle each issue, the art is consistently good.  2) Ales Kot writes fight scenes like no one else.  I've read plenty of American, European, and Asian comics, but no one writes fights that are this intense, brutal, and heart-pounding.  3) I desperately want to know what happens next.

The Legacy of Luther Strode 1
Just yesterday I wrote about how, in Zero, Ales Kot writes fight scenes like no one else.  Today, I read this and it's... beautiful.  While I stand by that statement, the fights in Zero are intimate.  Close, personal.  The fights here are basically comic equivalent of The Wachowskis or Michael Bay.  Tradd Moore has seriously outdone himself here.  At one point, Luther hits the street so hard it ripples!  And that's, honestly, the least of the visual insanity contained within this issue.  Justin Jordan, Tradd Moore, and Felipe Sobreiro are putting everything they have into this, and I'm loving every glorious panel of it.

The first issue of Descender was amazing, and I completely failed to write anything about it.  Time to make up for that.  The second issue?  Also quite good.

The series starts with a futuristic world.  Things are humming along well enough, until BOOM widescreen craziness.  A lot of people talking about or attempt "widescreen" in comics.  This book pulls it off gloriously.  Cut to 10 years later when a robot boy wakes up.  Any sense of surprise related to this boy being a robot was destroyed by the preview pages released prior to the book going on sale.  Movie trailers are bad enough, I don't want my comics spoiled as well, thanks.  Cut back to that futuristic city to see how things have changed in the intervening years.  Spoiler: it's not good.

Issue two picks up right where the first left off - with bounty hunters going after the newly awakened robot boy.  The book alternates between current events as he runs and hides from the bounty hunters and with "flashbacks" of his early life.  It works better than you might expect.  Tension was high on each of the current pages, and I just barely resisted skipping ahead of the flashbacks.  For their part, the flashbacks were running high on emotion as the boy and his adopted family bond with one another.  It's touching and a little heartbreaking.

The first issue is 30 pages of story with some sketches at the back and is absolutely worth the $2.99 asking price.  Try it.  I think you'll come back for issue 2.

At first, I thought the character on the cover was Hazel, after going through another time jump.  But that wouldn't make much sense given how the last issue left off.  What does make sense is the issue being a deep look into Marko's past as he goes on a bad trip from the drugs he took last issue.  It's pretty dark stuff, tempered only by the hilarious comedy of Ghüs and Prince Robot.  I loved every second of it.

Baltimore always reminds me of Witchfinder in the "Oh hey, we haven't gotten a new one of those in a while" and obviously the "Cool, new stuff from the Hellboy guys!"  Baltimore, for those unclear, is the one not set in the Hellboy universe.  I actually thought the previous volume was the last, because my comic shop guy - whom knows more about these things than I do because he actually read The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire - indicated the comics had caught up with the original novel... and that should have been that.

Well, here we are with a volume 5, and a new mini series set to start next month. I'm not complaining because it's always great stuff. Baltimore is the typical badass, but gone is the single-minded mission to hunt down Haigus. Now, he and his friends are smiting in any and all forms. Here, two short mini series are collected: The Witch of Harju, a kind of zombie Frankenstein with a witch and some not-quite frogmen thrown in, and The Wolf and The Apostle, a werewolf tale. Both are far better than the brief summaries in the previous sentence indicate. I mean, we're still talking about Mignola, so there's drama, suspense, death, and new twists on classic stories. It's great, and I'm looking forward to more.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Indie Corner - 04/01/2015

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

For a book I wasn't planning to pick up, I'm quite enjoying it.

Our cast was stranded at the end of the first issue.  This isn't a spoiler, it's kinda the premise and in all the marketing material.  While the first issue pointed out why no search or rescue would be conducted, I don't think anyone in the audience actually believed it when the characters said it.  So a search gets underway this issue.  But that's not all.  Something else appears to be going on, but we'll have to wait until next issue to learn more.  I'll be picking it up to see where this title goes.

Lady Killer 4
After this issue, I really need this to continue as a series of mini series.  Josie's making moves all over this issue, barely standing still long enough to take a breath, and every second of it is brilliant.  I love the art, the writing's fantastic, and there's only one issue left.  If you've missed the series thus far, wait for the trade.  Trust me, it'll be worth it.

I've mentioned before how I tend to read comics in bed.  There's a whole stack I've been making my way through this week, including several trades.  I brought Lazarus to bed last night, thinking I'd read an issue or two before crashing.  I wound up reading the whole thing.

In this volume, we find out what happened to Jonah, since last we saw him way back in volume one.  A gathering of the families follows, with plenty of posturing, backroom negotiating, and general politicking.  The stand-out scenes for me here were seeing the various Lazari interacting and Forever's continuing quest for the truth.  It's all brilliant and I can't wait for the next installment.

This is the team building issue.  If you've ever seen a heist movie, you should be familiar.  The main character from issue one goes around collecting old friends and acquaintances for... well, no one actually says, "one last job" but since so many are dying or near death already, it's kind of implied.  If this really is a team book, that means at least one of the following will happen by the end of the first arc: a new member will join, a member will die, or one member will betray the others.

It may sound like I didn't enjoy the issue, but I actually did.  Thankfully, with this out of the way, the book can get back to what made the first issue great.

I bought a couple issues of this when it was originally printed, years back.  Loved the art, but didn't think too much about the story.  Reading it from the beginning with the recent Collected Editions was a real eye-opener - the story is actually good!  For years I've thought Lady Mechanika was just an excuse for drawing steampunk and attractive women.  In reality, it's a fun adventure book with a lead reminiscent of Tomb Raider.  She's smart, more than capable, and yes, attractive.  She also has a cast of villains and supporting characters, and a world with history that grows more defined with each issue.

The next series, The Tablet of Destinies, is out this month.  Benitez has help this time, which should lead to a more regular release schedule that plagued the original series.  The art, already detailed and gorgeous, is even more so in Tablet.  You can see a preview in issue five.  It's already on my pull list, and I recommend anyone into steampunk give it a look.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Indie Corner - 03/25/2015

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

I love this series, so I find it especially surprising that it's taken me this long to read the latest issue.  Goes to show just how into my other project I'd become.  That said, I can't actually talk about much that happens here.  It's all incremental progression of what's come before, so my summary would wind up being longer than if you just read the issue yourself.  Which you should, because it's quite good.  Not as great as some issues, but my heart didn't break this time... maybe just stepped on by that last page.

Also, this issue features the results of the latest Saga Reader Survey, which are also definitely worth the read.

Chrononauts 1
Have you read Remender and Scalera's Black Science?  This is like that, only as told by Millar and Murphy.  Science jerks dicking around with things better left alone and quickly being shown the error of their ways.  Scalera and Murphy are two of my favorite artists right now, so we'll all good there.  The main difference is in Millar's more straightforward storytelling.  I like a good deal of Remender's work, but Black Science never sat right with me.  Chrononauts, so far, has great character development for the two leads and being an excellent read on top of that.  I have very little to say except that I look forward to the rest of the series.

While reading the first issue, I kept flipping back to the table at the inside front cover depicting which color corresponds to which time period.  I didn't do that as much this issue.    While the book doesn't give us much more in the way of explaining what's going on, who all these characters are, or why they're doing what they do, it has managed to capture my attention enough that I'll give it a few more issues before considering whether to drop it from my pull.

This issue brings out dysfunctional family trip to town to an end.  There's blood, severed body parts, last second escapes, reversals, more blood, and a last page surprise that trumps anything this series has shown us to date.  I still love every time No opens says anything, Jack is hilarious, and Molly is amazing.  I hope this series runs for a long time.

Bonus: There's an 8-page Luther Strode short at the back that takes place between Legend and Legacy.

This issue is wall-to-wall action as Krang defends Burnow Island from the invading Shredder, mutants fight rock soldiers, Baxter makes his move, Old Hob and his gang blast their way into Foot headquarters, Splinter fights Karai, the Turtles break into the Technodrome, and more that would be spoiling!  Despite the sheer number of things happening this issue, these are all long-running storylines, dovetailing in exciting ways.  None of it's confusing or disjointed; it all makes perfect sense.

The question that interests me most is what happens next?  There are so many moving pieces, so many storylines ending or changing direction, I have no idea what this series will look like once this arc is over.  It's an amazing feeling and I very much look forward to enjoying the ride.

A few days ago I couldn't imagine how this story arc was going to end.  Now, I don't want to believe it.  This is truly heart-breaking, much worse than that issue of Saga a few months back.

Everything wrapped up, though most of the storylines morphed in unexpected ways, giving us a new status quo that we won't fully understand until at least next issue.

Chew v9
I'd read about some major things happening in recent issues and am pleased to have avoided spoilers until I was able to read this for myself.  Indeed, major things happen here.  Things that would be much darker if not for the title's usual comedic flair.  I'm not going to talk about any of it, except to say that I loved every second of it.  Even when trying it's hardest to enrage or sadden me.

Once the series is closer to the finish, I'll likely start picking up the issues to avoid both spoilers and the excruciating wait.  I did the same with Locke & Key and that worked out well.

A surprisingly quick end to the Master of Time story, but it ended like I expected.  Unlike the Threads of Time story arc that started this series, The Master of Time was a pretty clear hoax from the outset... at least to the audience.  Still, from it, we get a fun adventure story.  An extra bit of Jack before the series concludes at issue 20.  I'll take it.  Next month: more familiar faces!

Conan and Red Sonja are together at the start of the issue, so they don't have the typical "meeting" scene like the previous issues.  However, the "fight each other" and "team-up" are still just as present as ever.  It might sound like I'm putting this issue down, but it's actually decidedly better than the second issue.  Sins of the past catch up to our heroes, and now they must pay the price.  I'll be glad when this series wraps up next issue.  Four issues seems like the right number to tell a story without artificially dragging things out.  That said, I would have enjoyed a longer run if it were better written.

I've been a bit behind on my reading, if you haven't noticed.  Being sick this week has helped me catch up on some of my reading, including these two issues.

Issue 7 fills in more of the backstory while advancing the middle-management plot and moving our two main leads to a different section of the afterlife.  Issue 8 is largely those same leads coming to terms with their new setting.  The title is as wild as ever, and I'm loving every second of it.  I will make absolutely certain to read issue 9 the week it comes out, instead of putting it in a pile at the edge of my desk for a month.

If you haven't listened to me so far, about how great the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series from IDW is, you're probably not going to care about one of its mini series.  Maybe you're still reading this because of the recent press related to Donatello.  In that case, let me just say that each mini series always winds up tying back into the main series.  Here, we've got a mutant cat (Old Hob) and his single-minded vendetta against businesses that experiment on mutants.  Simmering under that is the building clash between Hob and fifth mutant turtle Slash.  That will very likely come to a head in this series, and I expect some long-term ramifications from however it shakes out.

Bunker 10
We're thrown a couple curves this issue, as none of our usual cast are present, or series artist Joe Infurnari.  What we get is a day in the life of a couple in the future, drawn by Brahm Revel.  It's both well written and drawn, quickly making us care about the lives of these two characters we've never met and seemingly have no connection to the known cast.

With the next issue coming in two months, this may be a good time to switch reading the series over to trades.  There's a lot to keep track of as it is, and the gaps between issues don't help.

Well, I don't know what to make of that.

The weird, disjointed adventures of a young Rasputin apparently come to an end with this issue, as the back of the book seemingly sets up a future series.  I, for one, am calling it quits.  I want to like this series more than I actually do, and it time to came to terms with that.

Rossmo, whose work I've enjoyed since Rebel Blood, will be working with Ming Doyle on the upcoming Hellblazer relaunch.  So I'll be dropping this and picking that up instead.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Indie Corner - 03/11/2015

A great combination of action and story.  The Stone God fights while the Black Elf bloodies his sword and gets closer to finding out what happened to his wife.  The stage is set for the two main storylines to collide!  It's going to be awesome!  And possibly terrible for one of these characters.  I'm loving every second of this series.

I think I read that this issue was delayed, but since the book comes out every other month anyway, it's hard to tell.  Still, I was able to immediately get back into the issue, and even if I wasn't, there's a recap on the inside cover.

A Drifting Life
Another in my series of "bought this years ago and was immediately daunted by its huge size so I put off reading it until now."  Seriously, I have too many books that fall into that category.

I'm going to steal a couple lines from the back of the book now:
Over four decades ago, Yoshihiro Tatsumi expanded the horizons of comics storytelling by using the visual language of manga to tell gritty, literary stories about the private lives of everyday people.  Using his life-long obsession with comics as a framework, Tatsumi weaves a complex story that encompasses family dynamics, Japanese culture and history, first love, the intricacies of the manga industry, and most importantly, what it means to be an artist.

Don't make the same mistake I did, putting off reading this excellent book.  It's broken into chapters roughly 20 pages each, and I would read one to three of these each night, only ever putting it down because it was late or I was exhausted.

It's as insightful as it is interesting, giving a great view of both post-war Japan and the manga industry.  Recommended.

I haven't read Spawn since shortly after it hit issues numbering in the double digits.  In this way, I'm like Jenkins - not having kept up with the minutiae of the last 250 issues.  But I've always maintained a general interest in the character and have thought many times about catching up on everything I've missed.

When Brian Wood was announced as taking over, I was excited.  He had come off a great run of Ultimate X-Men and I was enjoying his Conan work.  I thought, "This is my chance to get back into Spawn!"  That didn't last long.  Jenkins is here, and Resurrection is pretty okay.  It wipes the slate and sets a new stage, which is what's needed for this type of thing.  Jonboy draws a great Al Simmons and Spawn... though I'm still getting used to the mouth.

In the end, I'll check it out for a few more issues.  This didn't blow me away, but it's a nice start to something new.

Of course the week I start writing about comics again has a Casanova comic come out.  I couldn't not read this, as Casanova is and has been one of my favorite comics of recent years.

Last issue gave us a dramatically different Cass - both the title and the character - with plenty of mystery surrounding the titular character's shift.  Still, it managed to maintain the classic Casanova style and charm of previous series.  This issue gives us a couple more familiar faces and some of the old Casanova Quinn, while slowing picking at the scab of what's really going on.  I loved every second of it.

The back-up is once again done by Michael Chabon and Gabriel Ba.  Ba's art is as fantastic as every, but it feels like Chabon is trying to hard to emulate Fraction.  It's close, but not quite there.  I did, however, find it hilarious once it dawned on me just what the "fucking cute" Quinn was doing.

iZombie 1
I never read the series while it was being published, but have heard nothing but good things about it.  When I saw Vertigo were reprinting the first issue for only $1.00 before the premiere, I took the incredibly inexpensive chance of trying out the series.  In short: it's good.

It's easy to see how, with a few changes, this could make for a long-running television series.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Indie Corner - 02/11/2015

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

I was all set to complain about this book... until the end.  This marks the third volume of Abe wandering around the country and while reading I realized I really miss the old Abe.  Old Abe was a man of action.  New Abe is unsure of what he's doing, where he's going, and generally aimless.  But as I said, at the end of the book, Abe gets yelled at by a new character and I think (hope!) it's the push he needed.

The first few issues here are fairly stand-alone, well-written, and interesting on their own, but served as a reminder that Abe has spent far too many issues just walking.  Interesting characters and events come and go, but aren't satisfactorily explored.  Almost everyone Abe encounters is more interesting than he is here, and that's a serious problem.  I hope to see more of these characters and I really hope Abe busts out of this slump.

Wytches 4
Last week was such a huge haul of comics I wasn't able to write anything about this book before the column went up Monday morning.  Even now, I'm writing this Sunday afternoon because I'm not sure what I want to say or how I felt about it.

When I wrote about the last issue of Wytches, I mentioned how the step-by-step art process shown at the back of the book made me dislike the art.  I thought the art looked better at an earlier stage, before some of the final colors were placed.  Time has softened that somewhat, but the colors are something I remain aware of more than usual.

The story is definitely still creepy and weird, but between the scene at the coast and the other at the ferris wheel, it felt weird for the wrong reasons - disjointed.  The last page alone ensures I'll keep reading, but I don't hold this series in as high a regard as I once did.

I bought this years ago, based on the strength of Blankets, Thompson's previous work.  It's spent the intervening years on a shelf because the size of the book was a little daunting.  In reality, it's a much faster read than it appears, taking about a week of bedtime reading to finish.  On one of the first nights, I wife walks in and asks what I'm reading.  She sees the title and author's name while I'm trying to find the words to describe the strange combination of religion, language, and children forced to grow up too quickly.  She goes, "Sounds like a white guy."  I say, "He is!  And the book is definitely about the desert..."  That essentially sums up my issue with the book - it's good, but it doesn't feel like Thompson should be the one to tell it.  It's hard to recommend, but definitely worth checking out for the art.

Last time I joked that this pairing followed the traditional superhero crossover formula of meet, fight, and team-up.  Still, I enjoyed it enough to ask my comic shop to grab the rest of the series for me.  Well, the joke is wearing a little thin now.  An indeterminate amount of time has passed between the first issue and this one, but once again Conan and Red Sonja meet, fight, and team-up.  Other than that, I don't really have much to say... the characters are decently written, the art is well-suited to the characters, but the story is rather thread-bare.  I'll still pick up the rest of the series, but I can't recommend it any longer.  Hopefully the next two issues are better than this one.

I'm making this my last issue of Ghost Fleet.  Things got weird, and not in a, "This new wrinkle will be interesting to see play out." kind of way, but instead a, "WTF is even happening?" way.  Until now, I thought this series was a pretty standard heist/revenge story with a little Ronin or Pulp Fiction thrown in for not knowing what's in the stolen truck.  This issue we learn more about our two main characters Cohle and Trace, but the center of this issue appears to be a hallucination or metaphysical event that significantly alters things.  In a book that was hardly explaining itself to begin with, this new mystery is one too many.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Indie Corner - 02/04/15

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

Much like the first issue, this opens on action and gives us story in the back-half.  The story actually sets up the next issue, or perhaps, issues.  It's so well written and so wonderful to look at, I loved every second of it.  Even though, in retrospect, not that much happens.  It's two issues into a series of five and I'm already hoping this manages to run as a series of mini series.  I want more Joëlle art and I want more of our main character Josie.

The Bunker 09
This book is so good it drives me insane.  If I could, I'd binge-read the entire series so I wouldn't have to wrestle with the question of, "What's going to happen?!"  Instead of a letters page this issue, there's a piece from associate editor Robin Herrera.  In it, she gets right to the heart of this arc: 

Another question to ask, of course, is whether Daniel and Natasha really can save the world.  Or, more specifically, who we should believe in regards to how the future will play out.  Do we trust the older, possibly wiser Grady, who came from the future to make sure everything goes exactly as planned?  Who penned the letter to past Grady, telling him the events leading to the apocalyptic future must go as written, or else something worse awaits?  Or do we take the more idealistic approach, and believe that if precautions are taken, the future can be saved?

I don't like, nor do I trust, Future Grady.  Unfortunately, from the back of my brain keeps coming the whisper, "But what if he actually pulls it off?"

I'm going to stake a claim, based on very little actual evidence, that Brennan is the real hero of this series, not Mikey.  In part because he's on the cover to this issue, and in part because of the "birthright" that gets hinted at here.  Speaking of, how about that last page?  A lot of comics have great last pages in recent years.  I love turning that page and going, "Oh, snap!"  This comic delivered that moment.

I think I'm hooked.  I wasn't sure when issue two wasn't as good as issue one, but I kinda need to know A) what's going to happen and B) how did things get this way?

I wasn't planning on getting this.  I'd read the couple page preview that was online and liked it well enough, but it didn't really get me excited enough to plunk down money for it.  Except, some me from the past added the first issue to my pull, so when I stopped into the comic shop a few days ago, it was waiting in my stack.  I figured, "screw it" and bought it.

Thankfully, the book is good.  One of the reasons I was avoiding this is was because of the excellent Six-Gun Gorilla, mentally linking the two series where no link should exist.  Cluster has more in common with Bitch Planet, but really only the basis prison-on-another-planet premise.  In truth, it stands well on it's own with a good combination of writing and art.  I may not have been planning to pick up the first issue, but I'm now thinking about checking out the next few to see where things lead.

I've said this before, and feel it's even more true now - this series will read much better collected.  Maybe this time it will sink in so that when Morrison does a new mini series I'll just wait instead of trying to read it monthly.  Maybe.

The reason I say it will read better collected is because everything is coming together now.  All those disparate elements are starting to coalesce, which is good because the series wraps up next issue and there's still a lot to cover.  I expect death at the very least.  Possibly life, maybe some redemption, and definitely a big showdown.

It's still good and I'm still enjoying it, but I think it would make a bit more sense if I weren't reading each installment one month apart.  I've been filing comics the last few days, so if I come across the previous issues maybe I'll re-read the whole thing in preparation for the finale.

I read this just after Annihilator, the other Grant Morrison book out this week.  Annihilator, though weird and a bit confusing, makes infinitely more sense than Nameless.

In my reviews, I frequently write, "not much happens this issue."  Meaning, of course things HAPPEN, but the story doesn't really move forward in any meaningful way.  Here, a whole lot of things happen, but there's no real story to speak of tying the events together.  There's a guy on the run... and an asteroid.  That ellipses was me running through: "there's a woman, whom doesn't really do anything", "there's another woman and some dudes in masks", "there's an Inception-style dream theft", and "there's a rich dude that makes the main guy an offer."

A first issue needs to grab readers to ensure they pick up the next issue.  This random collection of events is all mystery with no substance.  I'll keep an eye out for reviews of subsequent issues in the event things get better or make more sense later.  But as of now, I don't plan to pick up issue two.

DAWUUUGGGHH, THIS BOOK!  I just read a line of narration that makes me want to throw this book across the room.

In my review of issue 24 I wrote how I should drop Saga from my reviews of "under the radar" books because practically everyone know about it by now.  In my Best Comics of 2014 list I wrote how I pay Saga to break my heart each month.  Well, it turns out I can't stop talking about Saga because it's not only breaking my heart, but now infuriating too.  I haven't even finished the issue yet, and I'm not sure I want to... but I need to know...

The artist signature on the cover is dated "2012."  Ditto for the cover to issue seven shown at the back of the book.  I read Danger Club back then.  Loved it, great series.  Clearly, there were some problems between then and now.  Issue six is now out, picking up exactly where things left off, but I have to wonder... should it?

Two plus years is a long wait between issues.  I'm not saying it should have come back with a new number one, but a re-printing of the trade would have helped.    Anything, really.  This issue doesn't really recap anything that's come before and next issue promises "a new beginning."  I'm left to wonder whether things should have been re-written to accommodate new readers, or at least not make it so hard to get back into the series for returning readers.  For anyone interested, I recommend picking up the Danger Club trade.  Start there, not here.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Indie Corner - 01/28/15

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

A couple weeks back, I'm chatting with the manager of my local comic shop and he offhandedly mentions Lady Killer, believing I'd purchased it that week.  I hadn't, but it he successfully put it on my radar in that moment.  I've since checked it out and love it.  It's totally my kind of thing.  I'm going to do something rare for me and copy and paste the official description from Dark Horse because it's perfect:
Josie Schuller is a picture-perfect homemaker, wife, and mother—but she’s also a ruthless, efficient killer for hire! A brand-new original comedy series that combines the wholesome imagery of early 1960s domestic bliss with a tightening web of murder, paranoia, and cold-blooded survival.

I'm not sure I'd go with "comedy" but otherwise it's dead-on.  Written by Joëlle Jones and Jamie S. Rich with art from Jones as well.  Her work is fantastic and it's only a matter of time before someone notices and she's placed on something more high profile.  Lady Killer is a five issue mini series with issue 2 out Feb 4th.  I'm in for all of it.  Thanks Rick!

Casanova: Acedia 1
Before reading either of the stories inside, I went looking for the back matter.  To my great sadness, there were only ads.  Fraction's letter column in previous volumes was one of the only letter columns I consistently read.  They were informative, amusing, and intensely open and personal.  It's one of the reasons I continued to buy the single issues instead of switching to trades like I do on much titles.  Here's hoping it will return.

As I said, this issue has two stories - the first by Fraction and Fabio Moon with the second from Michael Chabon and Gabriel Ba.  I loved Fraction's; it had all the insanity of the old Casanova I've been craving.  Chabon's was good as well, but didn't really feel like Casanova.  Maybe once it's fleshed out some more.  If I haven't mentioned it recently, I absolutely adore both Ba and Moon.  The next issue can't come fast enough in my opinion.

I've long praised both the Ghostbusters and Ninja Turtles series from IDW and have continued that trend for this crossover mini series.  There's not a lot I can say that I haven't already - the teams, both creators and the title characters, work really well together and the resulting book is a blast.  I mean, Mikey's in a jumpsuit on Page 1 here.  That's awesome and just the beginning of the humorous moments that book provides while bringing the final showdown with Chi-You.  That fight takes up the bulk of the issue, making it feel suitably epic.  While not required reading for fans of the Turtles book, I'd recommend it for anyone reading Turtles and curious about the Ghostbusters IDW series.  Ghostbusters recently concluded and this looks to be the final hoorah for the franchise for now.  A sad end, but they went out on on top.

It's hard for me to figure out how I feel about this series.  On the one hand, it's pretty cool... but little things keep creeping into my head and I'm not sure how long I'll be able to keep them from spoiling an otherwise good read.

People with special abilities exist and they like to keep it secret.  Okay, I'm with you there.  That a dozen or so live in the same house starts me tingling, because I've seen enough random episodes of The Real World to know this generally causes some problems.  However, we really haven't seen interactions with the cast yet, so I'll let that slide for now.  Where the book really starts to lose me is how our cast treat the normal humans around them.  The book opens with a small group from the house mugging a human.  This is explained to the newest member of the household and our current POV character as the way of things and everyone seems okay with it.  We've seen a bunch of characters, but none of them really stand apart from any of the others and this sameness all living under one roof is kinda driving me nuts.  I'm going to stick with it through at least issue four to see where things lead, but I don't know.

This book is completely nuts, and I am entirely okay with this.  Issue six came out this week, as did a collection of the first five issues.  Convenient!

The series is about the afterlife.  Spoiler!  It's kind of in the title.  Thus far, it's been a loose Judeo-Christian type of afterlife, with an emphasis on "loose."  Granted, I've never actually read a bible, but I don't recall anyone ever mentioning a giant rabbit.

This issues gives us a one page micro-origin for one of our cast members while an antagonist gets radically transformed.  The rest of the cast are simply trying to figure out what to do next.  By the end of issue six, they've all got some new information to consider.

While I don't recommend anyone jump into the series at issue six - I guarantee you'll be confused - anyone curious about the series should definitely pick up the trade.  (This is why I'm reviewing the two together.)  It's been a wild, but highly enjoyable ride that shows no sign of slowing down.  The collection is only $9.99, which is less than the cover price of the individual issues.

The Dying and the Dead 1
A few days ago I read the preview pages for this issue on CBR.  It's always been my belief that preview pages are supposed to give potential customers a sense for the issue or series.  Or, if not that, provide an enticing hook to get readers interested enough to buy the issue.  In either case, those preview pages were terrible at their job.

The first issue is 60 pages (there's two ads at the back, everything else is story) and costs $4.50.  If you like Hickman's East of West, you should definitely check this out.  I'm just going to say to buy it, because I'm not sure any preview pages, high concept tag line, or description is going to properly convey what's going on here. 

The book is very good.  The word "cinematic" springs to mind, and I don't just mean the whole "widescreen" thing it has going on.  It's in every aspect of how this story is told.  I wish I possessed the means to communicate what's actually happening in this book, but to boil it down to a couple sentences would be a mistake.  It's good, and I recommend it.

Wow.  So, I still kinda live in... not fear of this book, but I put off reading it each month.  It always winds up near the bottom of my read pile.  The top of the read pile is always whatever quick, easily forgettable super hero books I'm reading.  This week the indie titles outnumbered the superhero stuff by some ridiculous amount like 6:1.  So I get the hero stuff out of the way, then start making my way through the indies while writing these things whenever inspiration hits.  I think mostly about the cops, trying to remember the storyline that was going on in the last issue.  But the story is entirely irrelevant in this series.  The brilliance is entirely with the character interactions - the tiny moments, the humor, the honesty, the quiet suffering, and eternal for a connection.  And the real reason I avoid the book for so long is because I know all of this in the back of my mind, know that I need to be in the right frame of mind to read it, and am just waiting for the right moment.  Because it's going to be some Heavy Shit when I do.

I had no idea what this book was about when I bought it.  Usually, I go through this whole thing where I read the solicits for books coming out months from now, forget most of it, then every Thursday I get an email from my comic shop with everything coming out next Wednesday.  That's when I read up on new series I haven't heard of or don't remember and figure out if I want to buy it or not.  In this case, I knew Effigy was drawn by a friend of mine and didn't care what it was about.  Tim Seeley as the writer is just icing.

Thankfully, the book is awesome, and I'm not just saying that.  It's got a Coffin Hill vibe, with the female lead returning to her hometown and mystery right from the outset.  The main differences being the inclusion of a sentai children's show the lead was part of, and that this story has set it's hooks in me better than Coffin Hill did.  I hope this series gets a long run, because Marley's perfect for it.

Twice today I've seen DeConnick say Bitch Planet should run roughly 30 issues.  Once in a Tumblr Q and A and again in the back of this issue.  Knowing this somehow makes me feel better about the series.  The creative team aren't going to try and run this forever - from the sound of it, they've got a pretty tight story in mind.  I also learned every third issue will spotlight a different character.  That's slightly weird in that it sounds like any momentum the storyline builds up will be regularly paused, but I'll see how it turns out in practice and roll with it.

The issue itself is quite good, moving things along very nicely while giving the barest hint of the 30-issue storyline.

This was one of the first books I read this week and one of the last reviews I write.  I'm really struggling my thoughts into words this time.  On the one hand, each issue is a great read and I love the art.  On the other, the connective tissue that should be binding one issue to the next into an overarching story appears to be missing.  I get that there's stories happening at two different points in time, I mean that's pretty obvious and not the problem.  First Rasputin's at home, then a monastery, now the palace... and he picked up some huge blond guy along the way... and they still haven't addressed that guy and his "hammer time" from a couples issues back... like, what is happening?  We do get some confirmation of what we were told last issue, even if it does seem to be disproportionate to what we've seen Rasputin do thus far.  Maybe it'll read better as a trade, I don't know.  If I can find some time in the next month, maybe I'll try to re-read from the beginning and see if that helps.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Indie Corner - 01/21/2015

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

Krang!  Shredder!  The Turtles!  Hob!  Stockman!  Fugitoid!  This issue features nearly every member of the cast, as everyone's plans come into figurative, if not literal, conflict.  Judging by the events of this issue and the cover to the next issue, there should be at least three major slugfests next issue... but there are a few notable absences.  Hun is on the cover but not in the issue.  Casey is similarly absent.  Could Alopex and Nobody be aces up someone's sleeve?  I hope so, because neither is on the scene yet and I'm sure they'll be needed somewhere soon.  Rat King puts in an appearance for one flashback panel, just long enough to remind me we haven't seen Kitsune in a while.  Everything we know is happening or about to happen is explosive enough, but factoring in the remaining characters means the scales could tip in anyone's favor.  There's a reason I can't stop talking about this series, and it's because this title is consistently great.

Zombies vs Robots 01
So here's a surprise: the usual comic backmatter actually shows up on page 13.  Page 12 ends with "to be continued...", Page 13 is the backmatter, and I hadn't even hit the staples at the center of the book yet.  In a move that certainly surprised this reader, this issue is actually three short comics set in the Zombies vs Robots world.  Two writers, three artists.  I dig it.  The "backmatter" I mentioned earlier explains what came before and how this series came about.  It was rather informative since I haven't read any of the previous series.  The actual back of the book lists those previous series, including ISBNs, for easy ordering.  Which I think I'll do.  To sum up: humanity is dead, robots fight zombies for control of the Earth.  This is what happens next.

I read this yesterday and have been struggling to figure out what to say about this issue.  I enjoyed it, so there's that.  It's mostly a picking-up-the-pieces issue for our cast.  A city fell out of the sky in the first issue and everyone's still recovering from that, trying to figure out what to do next.  It feels a tiny bit like Walking Dead since everyone is trying to find shelter, food, supplies, and generally survive to see tomorrow.  The Champion decides he'll play along, even if he does think all these animals are a dream.  It's good, and I think I might be in it for the long haul.

The only Conan I've read is the Brian Wood series, which I generally enjoyed.  The only Red Sonja I've read was the free first issue I got from Comixology last December that I haven't talked about yet.  When this series was first announced, I thought, "Great!  People love Gail Simone writing Red Sonja and I enjoy Brian Wood writing Conan!"  Then Brian wasn't working on it anymore, and I really didn't hear anything else until the book was out.  I use all of that as preface because I don't actually have much to say about the book itself.  It's well written and looks gorgeous.  The title characters meet, team-up, and fight as per the standard rules of engagement of any crossover.  I'll be picking up the rest of the series and would recommend you do the same if you're a fan of either character.

This is a pretty quiet issue, checking in with various characters and the new status quo of Earth given the events of the previous arc.  I found the conversation with The Immortal particularly interesting, and am glad to see Mark knows himself well enough to come to the decision he does at the end of the issue.

I had this whole other paragraph planned and partially written, speculating about upcoming events.  But I decided to scrap it.  When it comes to Kirkman, my speculation is never accurate.  He always manages to surprise me and come up with something even better than I expected.  I await whatever new amazing, and likely horrific, story elements will follow.

P.S. It's a little weird seeing Bulletproof still wearing Invincible's costume.  What's up with that?

I can't tell you what happens in this issue.  A few of my reviews this week include the line "not much happens."  That's not the case here.  The story gets moved forward, but there's so much vagueness and weirdness that I can barely tell you what happened.  Ordinarily, that might be seen as a negative.  In this case, I love it.  The script is full of humor, and the art is amazing.  I could look at this all day.  I'm primarily familiar with Arcudi and Harren from their work on B.P.R.D., a series which is consistently great, and Harren drew two of my favorite stories.  He conveys a sense of movement and speed exceptionally well, but everything looks awesome.  Anyone even remotely interested should pick up the first issue to check it out.

Samurai Jack is definitely written for the trade, with a trade equating to one or two TV episodes.  This is the beginning of a new arc, so the stage is set.. but otherwise, not much happens.  Still, this issue features the return of a favorite character of mine (probably a genuine fan favorite, but I don't have confirmation on that).  It should be a really fun arc, though I think the end is pretty obvious from the outset.  Still enjoying it, still recommending it for anyone that was a fan of the show.

This issue is a turning point in the series, and all the characters know it even while it's happening.  As if things were bad enough before, they'll be worse once this present situation is resolved.  That situation?  The big multi-faction everyone-versus-everyone that started last issue is still going here and will continue into at least into next issue.  It is, in just about every way, worse now than it was at the end of last issue.  Which is to say, this issue was fantastic, and I can't hardly wait until the next one.

Not much happens this issue, but just as it was with Trees, it's the WAY not much happens that counts.  While I love the way Gillen and McKelvie tell this story, the story itself is getting a little tired.  I sincerely hope this whole Luci thing doesn't stretch out for the next two years of comic-time, because it frankly doesn't have the legs to support it.  That said, Laura continues to be amazing and the gods continue to be fairly uninteresting assholes.  Luci was great but she's gone now.  I'm really going to need someone or something else to care about, and quickly.

It all ends here.  Most of the issue is a giant firefight between various types of aircraft and airborne people, with bullets flying and things exploding on just about every page.  There is a brief origin story, or sorts, and a brief epilogue, but again, most of the issue is taken up by the fight that's been brewing since the first issue.  It's intense mayhem, and I loved every second of it.  While the series was slow to come out as single issues, a collection is scheduled to come out real soon.  Anyone wanting to get into the series should try that route since it will likely be easier.  Meanwhile, I'll be looking forward to whatever these creators come up with next.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Indie Corner - 01/14/2015

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

There's a new printing of North 40 out this week, a series from 2010 with art by Fiona Staples.  So people might be interested in picking this up.  Also: It's good.

When two two high school students unwittingly read from a spell book, they release something that changes Conover County, NC overnight.  Suddenly there's zombies, a hulking brute, giant robot, tentacle monster, and loads more this small town is trying to contend with.  It's a shame the series didn't run longer, because the end of the book seems to imply the writer had more he wanted to do.  It's a bit like a Hellboy or BPRD trade, with more humor, and art by Staples.  So if that sounds like something you're interested in, I recommend checking it out.

Trees 8
Firstly, that's a powerful cover for anyone that's been reading the issue.  Next, one of the major events of last issue isn't followed up on at all in this one.  We touch base with everything else, however, with some major character deaths and location destruction.  The characters are still fantastic, and I hope this supplies enough "stuff happening" for the people that complained about that earlier on.  I, for one, am very much looking forward to the next arc.

Now this is what I'm talking about.  The drama is back as well as the fantasy - this issue hits the high points of the first issue that the last two issues had been missing.  While not much happens in the other world, in the "real" world, characters are hitting emotional and plot beats on just about every page.  I had been wavering on this series, but I'm glad I stuck around, because this issue paid off that patience in a huge way.  Really looking forward to next issue.

I emailed my comic shop to hold a copy of this for me while I was out of town.  That decisions was based mostly on the strength of the art because I couldn't actually read the preview pages on the slow Internet connection I had.  The beginning of the issue reminds me of a Fable game, with child and vague talk of paths not yet choosen before jumping ahead a decade.  There's a rich city, and a poor city that surrounds it.  A boy, a girl, and a budding friendship.  In all, there's a lot of common pieces here, and they didn't combine into a compelling story for me.

Oh American Vampire, how I've missed you.  Skinner, Pearl, and Calvin are back, now in 1965.  They've been keeping a low profile, more or less, for the last few years, and that's about to end for all of them.  Something is coming.  Something old and powerful, destroying everything in its wake.  Batman and Wytches are both very good books, but I think American Vampire remains my favorite Scott Synder title.  The writing remains excellent, and I absolutely love Albuquerque's art.

This issue is great and I can't stop thinking about the last page.  Of everything I've read this week, that's the standout page among all of it.  Nothing that happens in this issue is what I expected.  It's all brilliant and makes total sense, but absolutely none of it went how I thought they'd go.  There's a quote I can only half remember from an introduction in one of the Scalped trades about how in a noir story the audience expects the characters to redeem themselves, but instead they continue to self-sabotage.  "Self-sabotage" sums up this series pretty well, and I don't expect any of these characters to eventually redeem themselves.  Recommended.

I haven't talked about this series yet, but I have read the first two issues as well.  Quick summary: There's a couple shadowy groups, one of which, the titular Ghost Fleet, drives trucks across America.  A member of the Ghost Fleet gets betrayed and left for dead only to return really pissed off and looking for revenge.  What should be a pretty straight forward revenge tale is somewhat bogged down by keeping details of the parties in play especially vague.  The dialogue is good, and the art is great, but the story is kept a bit close to the chest and I think it's starting to hamper things.  I'll stick around for a little while longer to see where this is going.

I haven't been sure about this series for a few issues, but I decided to pick up issue five to see if/how the arc ends.  It does end, and it ends well.  The investigation gets wrapped up, resolution is attained for a couple plot threads, all characters get a nice spotlight, and at least one story seed gets planted.  I'll stick around for a few more issues to see where it goes.  If it's anything like this issue, it'll be somewhere good.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Indie Corner - 01/07/2015

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

I picked up the first issue when it first came out.  Then, just as I do with webcomics, immediately forgot about it.  Some months later, the first collection came out.  I was excited, purchased it, and immediately forgot about it once again.  In preparing for a recent trip, I loaded up my tablet with some comics, happy for the chance (read: excuse) to read them.  This was among them.

I could explain what's happening, but would rather new readers discover them as the story unfolds. It's written by Brian K Vaughan, and I shouldn't have to tell you what else he's done.  I'm not going to say, "It's like Saga!" because it's not.  But if you like his work, I recommend checking this out.  The series can be purchased "for any price you think is fair" from  Issue 9 came out in early December and the upcoming issue 10 will be the series finale.  I imagine there will then be a second collection, which I will purchase, and read in a more timely fashion.

Afterlife with Archie
Warning: this collects only the first five issues of the series. There are more, and you will want to read them.

I'd never read an issue of Archie before. Growing up, if it didn't have Spider-Man, I wasn't interested.  By the time I grew out of that phase, I was much to cool for Archie, or anything that didn't have a bunch of pouches and big shoulder pads.  By the time my tastes had matured further, Archie has among the farthest from my mind.  Then the last couple of years happened.  Suddenly, I'm reading about Archie on a regular basis, both the comic company and the various series themselves.  Seemingly everyone says they're good.  I'm surprised and generally confused, but still don't bite.  Then Comixology's 12 Days of Free Comics happens in December, and I get the first issue of the series for free.  I think, "Cool.  I'll check this out someday to see what all the hype is about."  Fast forward to last week when I'm on vacation and load up the first issue during a moment of downtime.  I bought the collection before I'd finished reading that first issue.  The series is good.  Really good.  Trust me.

I genuinely meant to talk about the writing and art, but I'd honestly rather you just experience it yourself while reading.  And I hope you do.

My origin story for Lumberjanes is much the same as Afterlife With Archie: kept hearing good things, picked up the first issue free, and was instantly impressed.  The story centers on five members of the Lumberjanes, a rough Girl Scouts equivalent.  They quickly get into some shenanigans and spend the rest of the issue dealing with the fallout from that.  There's very little I can say here to convey the fun and highly enjoyable nature of the first issue.  I recommend anyone remotely interested pick up the first issue or even just glance at some preview pages.  

The first trade is out in April, which I eagerly await.  You can expect to hear from me again about this series at that time.

I can't recall which I read first, 30 Days of Night or the Savage Membrane, the first Cal MacDonald novel.  Either way, I was an instant fan of Steve Niles' work.  I really enjoyed the Cal MacDonald novels but was slow to follow Cal when he transitioned comics.  By the time I had, there was a confusing number of collection and no clear reading order (for some reason, I didn't bother consulting Wikipedia for the answer).

A short while back I picked up a code from Steve Niles on Facebook for a Criminal Macabre digital bundle.  In the lead-up to this trip, I downloaded a bunch of issues (checking Wikipedia this time!) and was happy to find Cal still the drug-addled monster hunter he always has been.

The book doe an excellent job of introducing Cal, his supporting cast, and the greater world, so this is a great jumping on point.  Recommended for anyone missing the old-school Constantine from Hellblazer.

The collection that came out in December is the earlier series - with the horse and the baby - and not the more recent series with zombies.  Those descriptions should be vague enough to avoid spoilers but enough information for anyone that's read one or both series to know which I'm talking about.  I didn't pre-order because I couldn't tell from the solicitation which story was in this book.  It's my understanding, I was not alone in my confusion.  I hope this clears things up.

It's weird that I could write a paragraph to describe which series this collects, yet struggle to describe the book itself.  Those familiar with the work might sympathize.  Darrow's work really needs to be seen - it's incredible and incredibly detailed.  Working as his own writer as well, he's unleashed to draw anything he wants.  What he manages to produce is simply one of the craziest comics I've ever seen or read.  While I can't recommend it for everyone, I will recommend it for anyone looking to trying something new.