Month: January 2010

100 Days, 100 Comics #71: ‘Batman and Robin’ #7

Posted by – January 30, 2010

There was a distinct up-shift in story density and quality going from Batman and Robin #6 to issue #7. Watching the creative team from Seaguy reunite was a pleasure in and of itself, but the book as a whole just feels like a much better all-around product and closer to what I originally expected from this series.

The new “Blackest Knight” arc cuts to the chase about Dick Grayson’s plans to resurrect Bruce Wayne and brings a truly Morrisonian scale Batman cast into the action. The number of characters Grant Morrison can keep spinning and use assertively during large stories almost always impresses me. Looking at this issue, though, that strength spotlights my lingering problem with Batman and Robin right now, which is that the bigger tale playing out hasn’t had all that much continuity or epic of a tone as I hoped to see. Though Talia has popped up from time to time and Damian is in critical condition, the other villains and events haven’t found their places in the greater arc going on as seemed to happen during every other issue of New X-Men. And I feel bad constantly comparing Batman and Robin to New X-Men, but it’s the standard he’s proven himself capable of reaching in regards to leveraging continuity in new and interesting ways while forming a definitive new era in a series’ canon. My expectations have modulated a bit since he began writing Batman, and right now I’m anticipating a scattershot set of concepts like Damian and the Black Glove to be his legacy when all is said and done.

Without spoiling anything this time around, the ending is a great way to get things underway for “Blackest Knight.” The combination of Cameron Stewart’s artwork and Morrison’s plot implying more meaningful consequences ahead thanks to Dick’s actions made #7 feel like the book has found much steadier footing. My hope is that it can turn that success into a stride with #8.

My Apple Tablet, iPad or iSlate Questions For Tomorrow

Posted by – January 26, 2010

Whatever Apple decides to call its tablet computer that will presumably be announced by this time tomorrow, I’m going to be all ears. As someone who writes, reports on, and manages content for a living, I am all for any invention that invigorates media and provides money-oriented systems by which more work and a healthier industry develop for journalism and reading. Apple has some big questions to answer when they get up on stage, though, this is going to be my personal checklist when I read and watch the recaps from those who are there on the ground:

What will it do that my iPhone doesn’t? I love my Kindle app, news apps, and Stanza app for the iPhone. What will a bigger, less portable and presumably more fragile piece of hardware do for me beyond putting it all on a bigger screen that I don’t feel a nagging need for in the first place?

Will its size mean that it is more fragile than an iPhone?

Is it going to cost $1,000? A considerably higher price tag than whatever the next iPhone is likely to come with makes the above questions more pressing.

If it costs close to $1,000, how will that expand and add value to the content market? Most Internet users are already unwilling to pay for online content. If the price turns out to be in the $800-$1,000 range, will consumers be willing to pay more to pay more for content? The only way I can see this working out is if the device comes with free subscriptions to a lot of news sources that would charge otherwise.

I love games, but beyond board games, is the format suited for gameplay? EA and other companies are developing games for the Apple tablet. The iPhone and iPod touch work well because while holding the device with one hand you can use that same thumb and your other hand at the same time. That made that control schemes weren’t much more complicated to figure out than those of the Nintendo DS. The size and shape of this tablet look to be a different story.

What’s the battery life going to be? A full-color screen is going to need a big power source, and I want something that will last for the length of a typical novel-reading session (at least 2-4 hours) without recharging and still leave me a few 5-10 minutes periods of news reading on top of that before returning to an outlet.

What will the comics look like? The full color feature may mean the most for the comics industry. I doubt this question will be answered in the next year, but if paper-and-staples go away, what will this device mean for self-publishers, will it force more attractive payment models for writers and artists at established publishing companies, and how difficult will point of entry be to get through for a couple of guys with a new comic to publish?

Link Sausage: 1/26/2010

Posted by – January 26, 2010

Bluewater Productions is headlining a new round of controversy that they’ve since responded to with many words regarding how their talent is and isn’t paid. Comics Worth Reading has responded with a pledge to no longer cover their books, and my friend Chris Ward entered the conversation in the comment thread there. (His Obama comic where he eats a horseshoe with Abraham Lincoln is hilarious and informative, by the way, and I would think so even if I didn’t know Chris.) That said, people, particularly creatives in all industries need to be aware of the contracts they sign and what terms they agree to. Until writers and artists quit agreeing to those contracts, companies are going to continue to base their business models around them. The comics industry is full of contracts that do not prioritize cashflow commensurate with the work hours required of writers and artists. It would be nice to see this standard change, but I don’t have high expectations.

• “There are now around 200 kung fu centres in [Pakistan] and many are located in areas where the army is fighting the Taliban,” according to BBC News.

• Dr. Phil tells a mother what he thinks of her addiction to the game FarmVille.

• I’m not really into musicals, but this film Bran Nue Dae looks pretty amazing.

• T.J. Dietsch made the Zoidberg/Ood connection that I can’t believe I never noticed noticed.

100 Days, 100 Comics #70: ‘Solomon Kane: Death’s Black Riders’ #1

Posted by – January 25, 2010

I’m sure this will sound foreign to a lot of readers, but Solomon Kane: Death’s Black Riders #1 read like the opening half hour of a GURPS quest, which is to say the story style will be readily digestible and recognizable to the seasoned fantasy reader. It’s a dark and violent first issue for this four-issue miniseries by Scott Allie and Mario Guevara, but it’s a serviceable opening curtain for its tale.

There’s a lot of non-English dialog spoken in this book, and I couldn’t help but notice that it gets delivered in three different formats. On the opening page you have bracketed real-time translation. On another occasion you get straight French for the exclamation “Mon dieu!” Then, on another page it gets set up as parallel Italian and narrative box commentary that translates what’s just been said. Meanwhile, there’s some German thrown in, and perhaps another language I’m missing. Anyhow, all of these tongues get tossed around and tangled in the commotion, and while they don’t necessarily obstruct the reading experience, an editorial note would have preempted some page flip-backs toward the middle and end.

Juan Ferreyra’s coloring on the opening spread is the perfect punctuation mark to open up the action with, and there are a couple of pages later on that lose something to the muted purple and scarlet choices without anything to really pop out, but those emphasize the ebbing and flowing of the fighting and gashing page to page. Design-wise, there’s nothing incredibly powerful or memorable that jumps out of issue #1 — the demons have your standard unholy amalgamated forms (sort of Cloverfield-ish with ominously placed mouths).

It’s a solid first step into the story, though. As an infrequent Solomon Kane follower who picked this up on a whim at Dark Tower Comics last week, I didn’t feel baffled by the world of the series, and I’ll likely pick up issue #2.

100 Days, 100 Comics #69: ‘Rasl’ #6

Posted by – January 24, 2010

The way Jeff Smith puts a book together makes the process feel so effortless from the reader’s seat. Rasl #6 stars off on an odd note. You almost get the sensation that you accidentally bought Smith’s condensed biography of Nikola Tesla with Rasl #6. Literally, the historical narrative he offers at first feels slightly disjointed from the main story, but thematically they sync up, and I can’t remember the last time I learned so much history trivia in the process of gaining perspective on a fictional character in a comic.

The flipside of devoting nearly half the book to Tesla leaves about as many pages available for advancing the Rasl plot, but if you want a quick primer on the world’s most famous mad scientist and his relationships with Thomas Edison and J.P Morgan, you’ll get a fulfilling deal out of this purchase.

What’s in here of the main plot is great, though. Considering the decompressed storytelling of a lot of Marvel and DC comics floating around right now, I’d say you probably still get more meat for $3.50 from Jeff Smith that you would from most of Rasl #6’s shelf neighbors. The illustration at work is as lively as ever, and the juxtaposition of Telsa with Rasl makes its point. In fact, issue #6 is probably the best single issue to pick up since #1 if you haven’t been following the series just because of how well it works as a standalone read leaning so heavily on the side narrative.

100 Days, 100 Comics #68: ‘Neonomicon Hornbook’

Posted by – January 23, 2010

At nine pages of story with a some script pages from Alan Moore’s August 2010-launching series from Avatar, the Neonomicon Hornbook did make me crunch my forehead for a few seconds before laying down the $1.99 in the same stack of bills that bought Joe the Barbarian #1 for a buck, but I really do want to see how this series turns out, and Jacen Burrows’ artwork pushed it up to the cash register.

I’ve been following Burrows’ projects for most of the last decade now, and he inhabits a place between the hard facial articulations of Steve Dillon and the surreal hair-trigger transitions that Frank Quitely can pull off in a way that gives every book he touches a unique tension. That’s something not just any artist can pull off, even when they’re teamed with Alan Moore or Garth Ennis — and it’s a good reason for Avatar to keep him within arms’ reach.

This hornbook preview of Neonomicon doesn’t have any truly spectacular moments, but in as much as the first chapter of a novel can succinctly introduce you to the full product, these nine pages were entirely successful. The series looks like it will be something in the neighborhood of an extended X-Files episode with Lovecraftian undertones and some hardcore grit tossed in as seasoning. It’s hard to get a sense of much beyond that, but I’ll buy a copy of issue #1, guaranteed.

100 Days, 100 Comics #67: ‘Joe the Barbarian’ #1

Posted by – January 23, 2010

Well, one issue into Grant Morrison and Sean Murphy’s Joe the Barbarian #1 I neither thought it was as deeply constructed as David Brothers over at Comics Alliance concluded or as cataclysmically phoned in as MarkAndrew over at CBR articulated. Instead, I think I’m somewhere in the middle and of the mind that the story comes off inspired, if overly derivative for Morrison tale, but the artwork flows like a cool fall breeze for the most part, and I didn’t feel like Murphy held it back at all whatsoever.

The meat of this new series is fundamentally a contemporary Indian in the Cupboard meets The Chronicles of Narnia. And you know what? I think that’s a fine thing to aspire to and succeed at. Granted, I don’t know for sure that the story is going to wind up being about his adventures in a fantasy land ruled by the action figures he plays with in an escapist endeavor that ends up pulling him into an epic quest of adventure to contrast with his real-world problems and mundane day-to-day life at home where he is the victim of bullying rather than the champion of an endangered world of childhood imagination. That’s definitely the direction issue #1 has set off in, though, and I’m not sure I’ve got the wallet endurance to sit through this and take a chance on being wrong.

As I said, none of this is to take away from Murphy’s lavish environment detailing, but when it comes down to it all of the toys Joe plays with are DC heroes or copycat bootlegs of Halo, Voltron or Hasbro products. I mean, would it have been too much work to give him something original that had some personality and diverged from expectation a bit? Having those recognizable designs in the background are great for context, but I’d expect something more of a curve ball from Morrison. I may even glance through issue #2 when I see it in the store to find out if there are any surprises, but I’m just not feeling this book at a subscription-inducing level of intrigue right out of the gate.

100 Days, 100 Comics #66: ‘King City’ #4

Posted by – January 21, 2010

I actually had to sit on this one for a couple of days to digest as the final scene is easily the most disturbing sequence that King City has thrown at me thus far. From the beginning of Pete’s storyline it was implied that his neck-horned employers had nefarious plans for his sea monkey girlpal, but that comes to an extremely unsettling conclusion here.

It’s strongly suggested that there is some sort of prostitution ring being run, but what you get as an explanation is an abstract page of violence that would have been at home in Eraserhead if H.R. Giger had done the art direction. You know exactly what to feel watching the events unfold, but you don’t know precisely what you’re reacting to, which is a bold place to take the reader, and it’s pulled off quite well. You then get a Judas receiving his silver type of moment that follows, and the closing page is definitely the strongest yet.

Brandon Graham has a unique strategy going with King City, where page to page he keeps you visually interested in inventive designs while subtly establishing the plot devices that get foregrounded later on. It’s a great way to keep the reader invested, and it’s had me hooked for four engaging comics.

Link Sausage: 1/19/2010

Posted by – January 19, 2010

• Sad news this week as the Poe Toaster failed to show up at Edgar Allan Poe’s grave in Baltimore, breaking a 60-year tradition.

• I must have missed this when it was popular, but someone spliced together scenes from A Goofy Movie to make it look like David Lynch was the director.

• Firearms laws in the U.S. may need to start figuring out how they’ll apply to Star Trek phasers.

• The “Pants on the Ground” guy from American Idol is one of those prisms of cultural forces that benefits from a step back. Mike Le and Chris Ward did that over on Geek Week, and within a week of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, their thoughts are worth considering.

• I’m not a big Project Runway watcher, but Tim Gunn breaking down the differences between Batman and Spider-Man’s costumes was a video event that I’m glad Rick Marshall had the vision to instigate.

100 Days, 100 Comics #65: ‘King City’ #3

Posted by – January 19, 2010

There are so many artists in comics who have no idea how to use negative space and abuse the privilege without a second thought. Thankfully, Brandon Graham is not one of these artists, and King City #3 should be a lesson to any offenders out there on how to use places with no ink effectively.

Graham tends to overload rather than under-load his panels with objects and details, so it makes a statement when he veers in the other direction. In this issue, he uses that method as a way to enhance perspective, create sensation when a key slides across a bar, and augment distance.

By contrast, his packed panels and spreads in a single room can be as enjoyable as an eBoy scene, inviting the reader to jump around from character to character and information nugget to information nugget. The crowd scenes are as fun to read as a Wired magazine info-graphic and showcase the extra level of thought Graham has pumped into his book’s society. In the same way that Alan Moore and Gene Ha’s Top 10 created expansive group shots that constantly seeded the pages with new material ripe to be revisited later, King City keeps the reader guessing as it throws out clusters of miscellaneous story details, often without explicit backstory or context.