Monthly Archives: July 2011

Book of the week 30: Chew 9 (and 10)

Yeah, my pick this week is old… Screw all that day-and-date shit, good comics are forever. They are all I need to please me, They can stimulate and tease me, They won’t leave in the night, I’ve no fear that they might desert me. Good comics are forever, Hold one up and then caress it, Touch it, stroke it and undress it, I can see every part, Nothing hides in the heart to hurt me…

Aaaaaaanyway, I resumed reading Chew this week and it blew me away:

Book of the week 30: Chew 9 (and 10) (Image comics)

Dear misters Layman and Guillory,

Thank you for the joy that is Chew. That was the most important thing I wanted to tell you. I got the first Chew trade for Christmas last year and really enjoyed it. While I moved on to single issues after that, I somehow never got past issue 8, despite the fact that I was loving the crap out of your series. After your winning of the Eisner for best continuing series last week (congratulations!), I decided to resume the reading of your series. Since there were a lot of other good comics I wanted to read this week (for reviews of which you have but to look below) I only read issue 9 and 10, finishing the second story arc ‘International Flavor’. These two issues though where the cream of my crop.

What I have wondered since the first issue of your series is whether or not your protagonist Tony Chew’s affliction of being a cibopathic is real? In the first issue you introduced the notion of someone gaining the experiences of whatever he or she eats. You have introduced this concept so convincingly that I started to look into it. While I think cibophatogy (or is it cibophathy?) is a fantastic gimmick to use in a story about police work, I have not been able to find any information on these cibophats. Strangely every google hit refers to sites about your series. This drives me banana’s!

I thought the mere use of cibopathics in your series was unique enough, but during the reading of the first trade I already realized you did not have all your eggs in one basket, and that virtually anything can happen in this book. This sets your title apart from many other currently published books, you really don’t know what twists and turns the story will take next. A good example of your unique characters is the mute chef, who can only communicate through cooking. You describe him as following: “A scholar and classicist, he has translated the complete works of Shakespeare into cuisine.” I understand that explaining the genial, surreal madness of this will not make it funnier, so let’s just leave it at that.

Praise however should not be exclusively reserved for the story itself, the way the story is told is also exquisite. You seem to refine the rules of the medium by such inventions as a page with three subsequent (and through caption boxes thusly addressed) cliffhangers.

Rob Guillory art from Chew 9 (Image comics).

Rob Guillory art from Chew 9 (Image comics).

And what about the art? While at first it may be estimated as ‘merely’ cartoony, upon further investigation it proves to be top notch cartooning in a most expressive way. Mister Guillory gets across emotions in his pencils as well as humor, drama and kick ass action scenes. From the last category I would like to point out the spread of Chew kicking in a door, gun ready, screaming: “Sheathe the fangs, motherfucker.

Rob Guillory art from Chew 10 (Image comics).

Rob Guillory art from Chew 10 (Image comics).

Issue 9 and 10 close out the arc where Tony investigates a small island nation that seems to have found the way around the worldwide chicken prohibition. His research however leads him to a conspiracy revolving around international chefs, chicken substitutes, a fighting cock and vampires. All the while he falls in love and his partner seems to be giving up his ass to cover for Chew? I hope we get to read some more about that…

To make a long story short: Thanks for the great comicbooking and congratulations on the Eisner. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of your series and hope it keeps selling like hot cakes.

With kind regards,

Gerard van der Waal
1. Chew #9
Art: 9     Writing: 9,5         Overall: 9.3
2. Chew #10
Art: 9     Writing: 8,5         Overall: 8.8 


Runners up for week 30: Red Skull: Incarnate 1, Sweet tooth 23, Gladstone’s 3.

3. Red Skull: Incarnate #1 (Marvel comics)
Great, human, emotional. This book offers a serious origin for the man who would become Captain America’s greatest foe. While it coincides smartly with the release of the recent Captain America movie, this is not one of those throw-away, money grabbing movie tie-ins. Au contraire, for those familiar with Greg Pak’s Magneto testament, it’s clear that this series is a well researched documentation of fictional characters in a sadly non-fictional history. While the title characters of both books originate from brightly colored superhero comics, Pak’s World War Two titles are anything but colorful and do not contain superheroes (or anything fantastical for that matter). It tells the story of the young Johan Schmitt, who grows up in an orphanage in Germany at the time that Hitler’s NSDAP is gaining power. The kid is the victim of a terrible and violent life and before long starts to commit his own acts of violence… The story seems to be terribly historically accurate and rife with truthfulness. The only reason the writing is not perfect is because of the lack of resolution. This issue shows the first and a very terrible step to becoming a monster, but it doesn’t resolve enough or go into what comes next.
Art: 8           Writing: 9         Overall: 8.5

4. Sweet tooth #23 (Vertigo)
What to say about Jeff Lemire’s art? Other than that it’s mighty fine, it’s dark, moody and expressive and quite distinctive. I’m guessing a lot of mainstream comic readers are turned off by his style… …they are wrong. As to the story: While Gus and co finally find themselves in a safe place, tensions between the different individuals are rising to a boiling point. This leads to the characters having to make choices. Gus and Jepperd want to keep moving to Alaska, while the girls want to stay sheltered in the Dam. Meanwhile the professor sows seeds of distrust that are presumably based on the bible scribbles of Gus his dad. Screw X-men schism, if you want to read about a group of characters that gets torn apart because of circumstances, read Sweet tooth… I really admire the way that Lemire has woven a tail of postapocalyptic animal children, intense human drama and a conspiracy that reminds me of the Dharma Initiative.
Art: 8           Writing: 8,5      Overall: 8.3

5. Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors #3 (Image comics) Great original story and interesting set up with a worldwide (?) truce between superheroes and super villains. However, darkness is looming on the horizon because certain villains are rebelling and trying to break the armistice. This issue explains that the villains leave their kids under the impression that there is no truce until they’re seventeen. Interestingly though, we learn of two students of the supervillain academy that are tasked by their imprisoned parents to bring an end to the peace between heroes and villains. Just as last issue I’m immensely impressed by the world-building by creators Mark Andrew Smith and Armand Villavert. In just three issues they have set up a rich and believable world that plays with the usual superhero formula’s, but turns them upside down in a way that’s wholly new to me. And as a central plot device they use a school for supervillains with which they can tell the story through the kids’ eyes. Last time I compared Villavert’s art with Darrow and Kirby, while I still agree with that I think it’s more fitting to put him in the school of art that gave us the Luna brothers and Jamie MCCalvie: Very clean, stylized, illustrating. Again, the only (minor) problem is the lack of backgrounds. Otherwise this title has all the ingredients to follow the success of a series like Invincible… This may be my favorite new book!

Art: 8           Writing: 8         Overall: 8

Quick Shots for week 30: a league of mystery men and dinosaurs

6. Mystery men #3                                                                                     8
The cast is expanded with two more original pulp heroes, the Surgeon and Achilles. I especially enjoyed the origin of the Surgeon which was lean and short (just like golden age origins should be), maybe a bit contrived but told trough the tropes of pulp/noir genres it worked excellent. The artwork was a feast for the eyes once more. The creative team of Zircher andLiss keeps delivering masterful products.
7. Detective Comics #880                                                                         8
This one has the ultimate cliffhanger, plus a great setup of bait and switch… Good art, though I’m not very keen on Jocks Joker (except on the cover). Story: The Joker has escaped from Arkham, taking the spotlight off from James Gordon jr. who uses the opportunity to settle some old family business.
8. Super Dinosaur #3                                                                             7.9
A Tyrannosaurus Rex in mech gear on ski’s, in a basketball outfit and a jet plane outfit, what’s not to like? But this all ages book delivers more than cool gimmicks. Great art by Jason Howard, especially the full-page spreads were exquisite this time. The writing was fine but it’s the crazy big ideas (villain hq on top of a giant amphibious dinosaur, for instance) that are Kirkman’s biggest asset to this title.
9. League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century. 1969                 7.8
This is written upon my first reading, I will probably enjoy it more after a second reading, which normally isn’t a problem, but it felt like a chore getting through this one. And admittedly I haven’t even started on the back matter yet.  It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t hat exceptionally good as the first issue in my opinion.  There wasn’t a ton of action or anything to move the story along, a lot of character moments though…  I liked the thinly veiled reference to the Stones and their sixties flirt with Satanism (the Mick Jagger  analogue is a vessel  for the transference of a black magician’s soul), I also like the way it portrayed the 60’s with drugs and naked chicks and even more naked guys around every corner. (Seriously if you object to seeing male genitalia stay away from this one.) I appreciated the art from a technical standpoint, I personally just don’t really like Kevin O’Neill’s style and in this issue the ’60’s art style didn’t work for me at al. I liked the dark, sketchy style in the 1977 epilogue much better. All in all, a bit of a letdown, beforehand I had expected that this would be my book of the week and maybe score a 10, at least in writing… It’s easy to keep in mind that this is but the middle act of a thee acter and that I’ve never disliked any of Allan Moore’s works.
10. FF #5                                                                                                    7.5
Good art by Barry Kitson, but it feels a little like a poor man’s version of Dale Eaglesham (the artist on the first couple of issues). Kitson is a great artist, don’t get me wrong. I’ve seen him in action at a con. But certain panels just look a little ‘off’ . My favorite panel from this issue was the Thing holding a tiny tea-cup. Kitson get’s across a sense of proportion, which makes you wonder how Ben is holding the cup. The writing by Hickman is great. I especially enjoyed Susan being mad at Reed, something I can never get enough of. The best part of this book was the heart wrenching confession of Ben to his girl Alicia, that he feels guilty for taking the wonder serum which resulted in a great night with Alicia but also in Johnny’s Death…
11. Kirby Genesis #2                                                                                7.5
Solid art on by Jack Herbert and a little Alex Ross. However, almost straight out of the gates the story comes to a halt for a horrible and sudden breaking of the fourth wall. Ugh… Otherwise this book is utterly entertaining. It combines great visuals with a story that might be a bit cliché, yet both writing and art harkens back to the days of Kirby and comics that were fun, fun, fun! This issue contains a great spread of Kirby’s Sasquatch and a lot of Kirby’s character design’s that work remarkably well in the modern-day and age…
12. FF #6                                                                                                    7.5
I love this story for the big mythology that Hickman has built around the Inhumans and the Kree. The art was a total 360 from all the previous issues but it worked really well. This story explains why there are ‘alternative Inhuman’ or Kree strains and it does so very well and entertaining, the only problem is that it doesn’t really get to the point of how this plays into last issue where we see the return of king Blackbolt. Yes, we see Blackbolt awakening somewhere in ‘the rift’, but it doesn’t explain how he returns to the Inhumans. That’s a part of the story that should have been included in this issue.
13. Rocketeer Adventures #2                                                                7.3
I’m getting a bit tired of creator rights being referenced everywhere, I understand that a lot of the deals with big companies are unfair, and it’s a good cause for action, but stop filling our stories with them! It’s not like Kirby or Ditko are actually going to get richer over it… Otherwise fun stories and great art…
14. Flashpoint: Abin Sur #2                                                                  6.8
A great artist (which one?) begins and ends the book, the middle though is not very good. The story is not particularly strong, though sequentially it works fine. While not very special (or surprising) it tells the story of Abin Sur crash landing on earth and surviving, where after he joins Cyborg’s group of heroes. It ends with someone close to him attacking him to fulfill the flashpoint prophecy and change reality in his own way.
15. Flashpoint: Frankenstein and the Creatures of the Unknown #2 6.5
Started out strong with art by Ibrahim Robertson, but halfway through we get rushed looking art by Alex Massaci which was really jarring. The story is an entertaining one of the monsters on a road trip, while they’re being followed by general Lane’s monster hunters. Nothing really special about this, but good storytelling and dialogues.

When a book by Allan Moore ends up nr. 9 on your list, it means you’ve read a lot of great books!

Overview of this week and real life Super Dinosaur!

A great week of comics reading this week, to give it a tease here’s the listing of what I’ve read and the order in which I liked it:

1. Chew #9                                                                                                                                         9.3
2. Chew #10                                                                                                                                      8.8
3. Red Skull Incarnate #1                                                                                                           8.5
4. Sweet tooth #23                                                                                                                        8.3
5. Gladstone’s school for World Conquerors #3                                                                  8
6. Mystery Men #3                                                                                                                            8
7. Detective Comics #880                                                                                                              8
8. Super Dinosaur #3                                                                                                                    7.9
9. League of Gentleman. Century: 1969                                                                               7.8
10. FF #5                                                                                                                                            7.5
11. Kirby Genesis #2                                                                                                                     7.5
12. FF #6                                                                                                                                            7.5
13.Rocketeer Adventures #3                                                                                                    7.3
14. Flashpoint: Abin Sur #2                                                                                                       6.8
15. Flashpoint: Frankenstein and the creatures of the unknown #2                        6.5

Not a lot of this week’s releases, but I enjoyed myself greatly with the comics I read, on average I rated my books 7.8. Review will be up tomorrow, but for now let me share with you the greatest picture I have seen all week. Despite the great art on many books I’ve read, I extremely liked this photo of Robert Kirkman and a real life Super Dinosaur holding hands from super Dinosaur 3. It’s not everyday we see a fictional character and his creator walking down the street. Enjoy:

Robert Kirkman and Super Dinosaur holding hands, from Super Dinosaur #3

Robert Kirkman and Super Dinosaur holding hands, from Super Dinosaur #3

Book of the week 29: Locke and Key. Clockworks 1

Wow. For those that have been reading this blog from the start it’s already obvious what a big fan of IDW’s Locke and Key series I am. For all the others, let me try to explain the genius of this wholly original series by writer Joe Hill and artist Gabriel Rodriguez (warning this part contains mild SPOILERS concerning the plot of the first 24 issues): Over the span of four six-issue miniseries the reader learns to know the Locke family, consisting of teenagers Tyler and Kinsey, their inquisitive little brother Bode and their mother. In the first issue of the initial mini-series (Welcome to Lovecraft) the father gets murdered, after which the kids and their mom relocate to the town of Lovecraft, Massachusetts, to inhibit the family estate Keyhouse. In this first series we get to know the characters a bit, for example we learn about brooding teenager Tyler’s guilt about his father’s death. This introduction to the characters however, forms the backdrop of young Bode finding a dark spirit-like ‘echo’ in the well house and ends with him being forced to release this being. Throughout the series we learn about the existence of strange and mysterious keys with magical properties that are hidden throughout Keyhouse. Bode keeps finding these keys and experiments with them. Throughout the course of the series, his older siblings learn about the existence of the keys and use them to their own advantage, as well as to fight the dark force that has been released from the well house. This being is looking for one key in particular, namely the ‘black key’ and does not shy away from killing anyone that gets in his way. While this alone would be enough to produce one hell of a story, the book is elevated even more by the way Joe Hill portrays the characters through believable dialogues and realistic interactions, that make the characters get under your skin. Like the greatest works of fiction, this is not only a book about horror and magic, but more so about emotional interactions.

This issue takes place around Keyhouse in the year 1775. All the characters are new and this initially leads to some confusion about what is going on. We get introduced to some forefathers of the twentieth century Lockes, some familiar locations are visited and a whole lot of explaining gets done. For starters we learn the significance of the drowning cave and the hydraulic pumps, but most importantly we learn the origin of the magical keys.

On the writing side, this issue is pretty wordy and I found the first half a bit hard to get trough. The second half however kept me turning page after page, while an unsettling feeling settled in my gut and my heartbeat steadily rose. Not only do major plot points get some background, also the link to the works of H.P Lovecraft gets made very explicit. Not only do we get a reference to the fabled icy desert plateau of Leng, we even get some chanting of Lovecraft’s language of the Old Ones: ‘Ia! Ia shubniggarauth!’. While this issue left the cliffhanger of the previous volume dangling, it delivered a whole new dimension of terror to the story.

Three random )parts' of panels from Locke and Key. Clockworks 1, with art by Gabriel Rodriguez. Do you see the Dillon (upper), Allred (middle) and Corben (lower)? Or is it just me?

Three random (parts of) panels from Locke and Key. Clockworks 1, with art by Gabriel Rodriguez. Do you see the Dillon (upper), Allred (middle) and Corben (lower)? Or is it just me?

Art wise, things were beautiful as always. I find it hard to describe Rodriguez’ style, but this issue I thought I recognized a bit of Steve Dillon in the earlier pages, a hint of Mike Allred in one of the splash pages and further on a dash of Richard Corbin. I’m not saying Rodriguez is aping these artists! These are just little bits of resemblances I see here and there. All in all a great start to this fifth volume of Locke and Key. Seriously go and buy it!
Art:9      Writing:8.7         Overall:8.9

Runners up of week 29: Walking Dead 87, Daredevil 1, Screamland 2

2. the Walking Dead #87
I’m betting this book will continue to appear as either book of the week or as a runner-up in the feature because it is just so darned good and has been for 87 issues in a row. This issue didn’t have a ton of action and didn’t particularly move the story along, yet it was still very good. I would have given it a solid 8 if it hadn’t been for the great action scenes of Michone chopping up some zombies. This particular series of panels in the middle of the book impressed me once again with how vibrant and dynamic a story-teller Charlie Adlard is in this bleak black and white tale of survival. The way he frames the sequence, the postures of the characters… I don’t know, he just gets across all the excitement of an action scene without the use of colours and that just amazes me. On the writing side, this issue also scores bonus points for the way it depicts the weird space of mind protagonist Rick currently finds himself in. He seems to have come up with a solution on how to keep his little community safe and this has him brightly optimistic for the future, however this issue also shows the guilt that he carries with him for what has happened to his family and what he has done to others…
Art:8.5  Writing:8.5         Overall:8.5  

3. Daredevil #1
This was a fine issue. Great art and decent writing, yet it just didn’t grab me. This new Daredevil series written by Mark Waid and drawn by Paolo Rivera turns Daredevil’s status quo around and shows him as a fun, swashbuckling superhero instead of the over the edge and menacing protector of Hell’s Kitchen, that we have known for the last decade. His sudden change of character is explained well enough: he just can’t deal with all the crap he’s been though, so he puts up the façade of a jovial jokester as a way of escaping. While there is nothing wrong with this new course and I understand the need to do something different with this character, this is just not working for me. This issue was executed flawlessly and had a beautiful backup by Marcos Martin, but I guess I just like my Daredevil gloomy and skulking though alleyways at night, more akin to the Punisher then Spider-man… The only thing I really did like about this issue was the fact that it turned the superhero trope of secret identities on its head: Everybody knows Matt Murdock is Daredevil and confronts him with it, while he politely keeps denying the accusations.
Art:9      Writing:7             Overall:8.3

4. Screamland #2
The series about classic Hollywood horror monsters, slashers, robots, and Starship engineers turned (washed up) actors continues strong.  In this issue the Wolfman and his friend the engineer commence investigations into the murder of the Invisible Man. They have to, because the cops won’t take a phone call about an invisible corpse seriously… And more importantly they want to intercept a sex tape, which the Invisible Man had wanted to screen during a fan convention. The sex tape is a relic from the sixties in which they and other monsters/actors appear prominently… Both the Wolfman and the engineer have their own prime suspects based on their personal experiences in their Hollywood monster community. The sheer bizarreness and quirky humor of this book set it apart from virtually every other title currently being published. The art comes across as an effective blend of Sergio Aragones channeled through a thick layer of Sean Philips. If you like classic horror movies and to poke fun at geek culture, this title might be something to look into.
Art:7.8  Writing:7             Overall:7.4    

Quick shots for week 29: Cosmic Odyssee and Stephen King

Since I only have two books in the Quick shots section this week, I will go into a little bit more detail than normally about the first one (Cosmic Odyssee)…

5. Cosmic Odyssee (trade paperback)

Cosmic Odyssee TPB

Cosmic Odyssee TPB

This is a trade paperback I bought recently, it collects the four 48 page prestige format issues of a major DC cross-over event originally published in 1988. I have always been a big fan of Marvel’s Infinity Gauntlet, written by Jim Starlin. Last year I found out that he had done another cross-over event for the Distinguished Competition that was described as the Infinity Gauntlet for the DC Universe. This piqued my interest and so I was very excited to crack the spine of this beautiful Mignola drawn 200 pager.

The first thing that struck me was Mike Mignola’s art style. I’m not particularly well read in Mignola’s work, but I’m familiar enough with his great work on covers the last years and this was something entirely else. While it definitely has some of Mignola’s stylistics trademarks, it conveys both the trademarks of a gem in the rough as well as a product of its time. The art in this can be seen as a mixture of Mignola with art styles that were popular at the time, most notably that of Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld. While it wasn’t bad, let’s just call it ‘interesting’.

This looks strikingly like Jim Lee art right? Wrong! This is early Mike Mignola.

This looks strikingly like Jim Lee art right? Wrong! This is early Mike Mignola.

The second thing that hit me was crappy lettering. It took me a while to figure out that I have been spoiled by digital lettering. Maybe it was because of a pressing deadline, or maybe it was just the lettering of the times, but words and sentences were broken down clumsily very often.

The writing is from another time too and I kept that in mind, but still it had me cracking up at different times in the story. For instance, after Batman tracks down a stranded giant from Apokolips who keeps some mangled bodies in a meat locker, his caption boxes say: ‘Now I know who I face… …a cannibalistic alien.’ This had my mind reeling: Cannibalistic is when you eat you own species, right? And aliens and humans are definitely different species right? Right?

This sequence with Batman and the giant takes place in the sewers and the colouring of the sewers had me laughing out loud. While sewers are a destination often frequented by many a superhero, it’s seldom that you see ‘realistic’ colouring of the sewers’ content. Not in Cosmic Odyssee however: The colours leave little room for imagination as to what is flowing into Batman’s neck:

Here's to hoping the cowl's water proof....

Here's to hoping the cowl's water proof....

The plot of Cosmic Odyssee revolves around the Antilife Equation, Darkseid’s ultimate object of desire. While originally the Antilife Equation was an abstract threat to all life in the universe, in the pages of this book it somehow becomes a creature of its own. Darkseid is the first to discover this transformation and tricks the New Gods to team up with Batman, Superman, Green Lantern (John Stewart), Martian the Manhunter, Starfire and Etrigen the Demon to stop the embodiment of the Antilife Equation.

Although I prefer Grant Morrison over Jim Starlin, I have to hand it to Starlin on this one. He explained the concept of the Antilife Equation better than Morrison ever did in Final Crisis.

In my opinion this book does not hold up well against the Infinity Gauntlet, but it seems like Starlin set out to do something different here altogether. The whole universe-saving-big-action story feels very contrived and has many problems, but at the end of this book is where the writing shines. Here’s where many emotional beats are executed perfectly. I think that these emotional arcs are what Starlin wanted to write the most, it just took him really long to get there. When he does however, it’s gold. The most important arc is that of John Stewart who fails in his mission and because of this a solar system is destroyed killing billions upon billions of its inhabitants. At the end of the book he tries to commit suicide because of this. Martian the Manhunter talks him out of this however. This sequences is a marvel both to look at and to read. You can see the desperation in John’s eyes, the fear as he puts a space gun to his head, and his resolve when he puts the gun down.

John Stewart tries to commit suicide, as rendered by Mike Mignola.

John Stewart tries to commit suicide, as rendered by Mike Mignola.

Also, the book goes out with a bang when Batman, out of nothing bitch slaps Orion!

Batman slapping a god.

Batman slapping a god.

Considering it doesn’t hold up particularly well through the years and it wasn’t anything like the Infinity Gauntlet I still enjoyed it pretty much. For fans of Mignola, the New Gods, John Stewart or Darkseid I really recommend this trade.
Art:7.5  Writing:6.5         Overall:7

6. Stephen King (one shot)
To round this week off I read another biography comic by Blue Water Comics, this one about Stephen King. I liked it quite a bit. I think it found a good balance between being informative and entertaining. The last Blue Water biography comic I read, about Vincent Price was neither entertaining or informative… The edgy, thick lined art took a little getting used to. Strangely it felt a bit reminiscent of Gabriel Rodriguez the partner in crime of King’s son Joe Hill on Locke and Key. The storytelling was a bit confusing at times because it consisted of three different narratives: caption boxes by a third person story-teller, caption boxes with first person King quotes and the story that unfolded in the world balloons. This not withstanding I learned something new about Stephen King (his 1999 accident its consequences as well as some family stuff). For anybody interested in the author but not enough to plow though a prose biography this may be a good read. I bet it’s also good for high schoolers writing a report on King.
Art:6.3  Writing:6.9         Overall:6.6

Reading few comic books, loving the new Spider-man actor

I’m sorry to say that I didn’t get a lot of comic reading done this week. Here’s the problem: On a regular week, I stay at home to care for my four months old daughter at least two days. On these days I find myself frequently stuck on the couch while bottle feeding her. That’s when I get most of my reading done nowadays. However, the last week and a half my wife stayed at home because she was sick, all the while breast-feeding the baby and letting me get to my work…. So while I got a lot of things done last week, reading comics was put on the back burner…

Keeping that in mind I’m still very glad to have found the time to have read DC’s cosmic crossover from the late ’80’s Cosmic Odyssee, the Walking Dead 87, Daredevil 1, a biography comic about Stephen King, Screamland 2 from Image and the first issue of the most recent arc of Locke and Key: Clockworks… Reviews will be up shortly.

To make up for my straggling comic reading I offer a video of my favourite news coming out of Sandiego Comic Con this weekend. While I was excited by lots of stuff like the Eisners, Brian K. Vaugh’s return to comics, DC preview art from the upcoming reboot and the trailer of the second season of the Walking Dead television series. The following video of an apparent lifelong comic fan rushing the stage just before the panel of the new Spider-man movie left me with a warm feeling and got me pumped for the new film like nothing else I had seen up till now. Enjoy and see you shortly:

Book of week 28: Batman. Gates of Gotham #2

A light week (at least for reading comics) this week. In between my work, school, internship and some family business I managed to read 12 comics this week. Most of them recentish and three of them from this week. I tried a kid friendly book which amazed me, a biographical comic which disappointed me to no end and a major event epilogue which I didn’t give a toss about.

Book of the Week 28: Batman. Gates of Gotham #2

Gates of Gotham 2

The beautifull cover of Gates of Gotham #2 by Kyle Higgins

In this five issue mini-series by Scott Snyder and Kyle Higgens, Gotham is faced with a threat from the past. Which is great for readers interested in both the history, geography and architecture of comic books oldest fictional city. In the first issue three bombs went off at the three most important bridges of Gotham. Consequently the whole Gotham-based Bat family works together to find out who is targeting Gotham and why. After a little research Tim Drake aka Red Robin finds out the connection between the bridges: in the eighteenth century they were all built by the same engineers in commission of three men, the ancestors of Bruce Wayne, Oswald Cobblepot and Thomas Elliot. For those in the know of course, these are the civilian identities of Batman and his enemies the Penguin and Hush. This issue continues the Bat team’s investigation as Damian and Cassandra Cain stake out the Penguin’s hideout and Dick Greyson (the local Batman when Bruce isn’t around) goes after Hush. But as it turns out their mysterious adversaries are one step ahead of them and weren’t nearly done blowing stuff up.

Just like the first issue, the story keeps switching between the current story of the Bat family trying to find the bridge bomber and flashbacks to the eighteenth century. Last issue’s flashbacks showed the commissioning and building of the bridges, while this one goes into the origin of the new adversary who turns out to be not one but two bad guys, namely The Gates of Gotham. This has to be one of the most inventive origins I have read in a long while and the way it’s told through the flashbacks also shows signs of true craftsmanship.

One of the strengths of this book is the way Snyder handles the relationships between the various heroes and heroines that revolve around Bruce Wayne. While relationships are a vital part of the current storyline he is writing in Detective Comics, Gates of Gotham provides the author with a vehicle to work with a bigger ensemble of very diverse characters. And he really pulls it off well. Each of the characters has a unique personality and Snyder leaves enough room in the story for dialogues that showcase some of the characters’ emotions. Especially the intense banter between Damian and Cassandra is effective and shows Damian’s insecurities when faced with someone who (just as he) could have one day led the league of assassins, but now finds herself working for the other side.

However it is not just the writing that made this book my pick of the week, that Kyle Higgins sure can draw. I’m not sure if I have seen his work before, but he really is pulling it all out on this series. His artistry is most easily evident at the breaks between the flashbacks and the current story where sepia toned scenes of a brightly optimistic Gotham make way for the harsh, dark grit of a modern day Gotham crime scene. Both in the present and in the flashbacks Higgens uses a lot of dots for a cool retro yet edgy effect, while both on the covers and in the flashbacks he gently shows some Art Deco inspirations. It really is gorgeous to look at.

This book left me with one minor irk: On the third story page the second panel seems to be missing a name. It is just blanked out. The caption box in the same panel explains which name it is, but I was wondering if this blanking out was done accidently or on purpose. In the last case I really don’t understand why they’d do that. But you know what? We’ve got Twitter, why not ask the creator himself?
Art: 8,5 Writing: 8            Overall: 8,3

08/29/11 Update: Last week I learned about DM’s in twitter. I was pleasantly surprised to find a reply from Scott Snyder, stating that it was indeed a typo. I understand that we’re all human and prone to make mistakes. However, I’d say that big publishers like Marvel and DC have enough editorial staff looking at these things that such errors should be caught before publication… Here’s to hoping it will be corrected in the collected edition.

Runners up week 28: Xombie 4, Mystery Men 2, X-men Schism 1

2. Xombie #4

Frasier Irving's cover to DC's Xombie #4

Frasier Irving's cover to DC's Xombie #4

The current volume of this DC series is the only one I have ever read. Beyond these four issues I have no inkling about this character. But I am loving the hell out of this. This fourth issue has a very striking cover with an image of a giant skull with a fortress on top of it, flying through the clouds. I thought the image was somehow symbolic for what happens in the issue, but as it turns out, the skull fortress is actually a mayor plot point. That’s one of the great things about this series, big and high concepts visualized through gorgeous art and told through near flawless storytelling. While the first three issues had many great action scenes and a high whacky-ideas-per-page-ratio, this one dials down the action to make place for exposition. While the number of big idea takes a drop, the size of them are still pretty fugging huge. Still, that’s one of the reasons this issue was slightly less good (yet still great) compared to the three issues before. The art however is so great I’d eat it up even if it was an issue long conversation between two characters in the same room…
Art: 9     Writing: 7            Overall: 8

3. Mystery Men #2
While I have never really been into the pulp heroes of the early twentieth century, this book  keeps me really enthralled. The story revolves around two masked heroes, the Operative and the Revenant that seem to be placed into Marvels history during the nineteen thirties. Both men are researching the murder of a Broadway actress, to at least one of them the investigation is very personal, for the victim was his lover and the culprit, as is revealed in this issue, has a personal connection too. I have not read any other works by writer David Liss but I would easily believe that this is not his first work in the pulp hero genre. The pulpy noir atmosphere complemented with rich historic details really gives this book a unique feel. The series artist Patrick Zircher adds to this with his moody art style that I can best describe as a blending of Gabriel Hardman and John Cassaday. This guy really has a knack for intense and dynamic action scenes, both though page layout as well as his spectacular panel compositions.
Art: 8.5  Writing: 7            Overall: 7.8

4. X-men Schism #1
At the core of my comic book reading habit I admittedly am a X-fan. After my first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle comics it was the X-men that got me hooked on comics. And while my tastes since then have more and more deviated to other heroes, other genres and even other publishers I will always be curious as to the status quo of the X-men. After having left the books for some time, I have been fully onboard again for some time now. And the idea of a good old fashioned brawl between different factions of the X-men has me giddy, just like the good old days! So at least to me, this mini-series provides a very interesting concept. While all the hype is focusing on Wolverine versus Cyclops, near the end of this issue it seems that the classic friction between Storm and Cyclops will be the catalyst for the upcoming schism. I had expected more of the art and liked Pacheco’s .1 issue from a couple of weeks ago much better. Though I can see that this version of his style is more compatible with his followers on this series Frank Cho and Daniel Acuna. The story? One mutant pisses of all of the world’s leaders and does so in the name of all mutants. In reaction anti mutant hostility rises to an all-time high, which is why Cyclops gets ready for war, while Storm argues for a more peaceful approach. It’s told quite effectively and really plays on the emotions on the various characters and their relationships to one another.
Art: 7.8 Writing: 7.8        Overall: 7.8