Sean Maher's Quality Control

Monday, October 31, 2005

Steve Niles: Don't call it a comeback?

I've spoken disparagingly of Steve Niles in the past, based entirely on my disappointment in his Dark Horse series Freaks of the Heartland, which I thought was meandering and dull despite the fantastic artwork of Greg Ruth.

Nonetheless, I picked up Marvel Comics' Monsters on the Prowl #1 last week, mostly on the strength of Sean Phillips' having admonished me on Millarworld that Duncan Fegredo is a genius and to skip a chance to see his work would be a mistake.

So I picked up the issue, and while it's no great surprise that Mr. Fegredo turned in some spectacular artwork (see below), I have to admit surprise at how much I enjoyed the writing.

There's been a discussion somewhere on the aforementioned Millarworld in recent months circulating around the question: How should The Hulk be written? He seems to be a problematic character, with writers not sure just how seriously to take him. Bruce Jones' long run was intriguing at first but quickly descended into a horrible, horrible mess that had nothing to do with green jeans whatsoever. Peter David's much-anticipated return to the character (having written pretty much the definitive run of the series throughout much of the 80's) kinda fizzled this year.

So, then: Is the Hulk a Jekyll/Hyde-style psychological pastiche, with pieces of the Phantom of the Opera in there? Is he a poor wayfaring stranger, wondering this world in search of peace? Is he strongest one there is, and the madder he gets the stronger he gets?

Personally, I think all three are workable, but lately the damn book just hasn't been any fucking fun.

Enter Steve Niles, who remembers how good all those Hulk/Thing team-ups were. In particular, this one reminds me of Jim Starlin's classic The Big Change one-shot with Berni Wrightson. This is all about The Thing and The Hulk hooking up to fight some big goddamn monsters and eat some sandwiches. Ben Grimm's personality is a great foil for the jolly green giant, complaining, "Quit callin' me Rock Man!"

So, this is "Hulk Smash!" Hulk, and if it was this entertaining every time, I swear it right now, I'd buy an ongoing series run by Niles. You gotta read this contextually, but lines like "Hulk have good idea. Good monster smash bad monster," just crack me up all to shit. This is writing from somebody who remembers why The Hulk is entertaining.

So, I'm pretty damn pleased with this. I laughed out loud, I loved watching the monster fights (including Giant Man having a great time with no degredation or "he's secretly not such a great guy at all" subtext, thank the fuck Christ), and I've got more to look forward to - Giant Monster #1 (with art by Nat Jones, published by BOOM! Studios) was a lot of fun, too, and I'll look at that tomorrow.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Deschutes Brewery: Making life better

Ah, the Deschutes Brewery. Those brilliant sonsabitches have been making some of my very favorite beers for years. So it was a moment of joy last night, at my local Bev' Mo', to realize it's that time of year again:

Seasonal ales are one of my very favorite things. I'll be sad to see Twilight Ale go (until next year), 'cause that's one of my very favorites, but change is a good thing, no?

Anyway, go read a comic. Try Fear Agent #1, that was really good. Brilliant Tony Moore artwork...

...and writer Rick Remender's got some more smokin' pages posted at this Millarworld thread.

Ballsy, action-packed sci fi. I didn't know they made that anymore.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Top Shelf Week: The Winner!

Well, really, the winner here was me. Had a great time reading all those books.

But the winner of my AEIOU Giveaway contest is... drum roll please...

Adam Mason!

Adam Mason!!


Adam - who should drop me an e-mail with a mailing address - won the coin toss when the Kansas Buffalo came up. Have you seen this shit? There's a a buffalo QUARTER now? Like, the same exact year that they bring back the buffalo nickel? Fucking weak, Kansas.

Although, honestly, this is the coolest quarter since Tennessee did the music-themed thing.

All right. So. Looking forward, Rob Osborne's new graphic novel, Sunset City: For Active Senior Living, came out yesterday. I'm fucking psyched. Haven't read it yet - I'm on my way in just a moment. But you may remember my interview with Rob back around the time this was solicited, so count on my talking about this puppy when I'm finished with it.

Also, from what I have read so far from this week's haul? Far and away, the best single one has been Noble Causes #14. Just truly stellar work. I'll be trying out Jay Faerber's foray into Marvel comics next week when Captain Universe / Hulk comes out.

And my Bob Dylan thing? I'm up to Bringing It All Back Home. I don't know what everyone was so pissed about, the whole "going electric" thing. This is easily the best one since Freewheelin'. I'm loving it. Subterranean Homesick Blues, She Belongs To Me, Maggie's Farm, Mr. Tambourine Man, It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding), It's All Over Now Baby Blue... sweet Christ, this thing is packed with good songs. 'Course you know what this means... next step in the journey is Highway 61 Revisited. Think I may head on over to Amoeba today and see if they've got it cheap...

So, yeah - I'm loving all this shit lately.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Top Shelf Week: Tricked

Here it is, the last day of Top Shelf Week - the last day to enter the AEIOU giveaway, which should be ridiculously easy since y'all are surely comic-shop-bound this afternoon - and I hope everyone's been diggin' it a tiny little fraction as much as I've enjoyed discovering these books. For a long time I had kind of a "Top Shelf issue" that kept me from reading their stuff. Today's book is a perfect example.

I've heard about Alex Robinson's work. How could I avoid hearing about it? Everyone and their mother was flipping out over Box Office Poison a while back. I even picked that book up and flipped through it... but I just didn't want to read it. The damn thing was too long and, to be honest, it seemed a little too "indie" to me. Does that make any sense? Some books just give me that snotty vibe at first, that too-cool-for-school, "I don't need to be actually entertaining because this is the true stuff, the real dirt, and if you're not into it you should just stick with your Britney Spears and your bubble-gum" kind of impression. The last time I fell for that, I literally passed out from boredom watching Fellini's 8 ½ at a friend's house. It was her favorite movie and it was totally awkward and I didn't want to get into that kind of scene again.

Well, as loyal readers will have no doubt concluded already, I'm a jackass. I'm wrong almost all the time. I was dead wrong about Robinson, and Tricked is the book that proved it to me.

The book is really well outlined in a feature Robinson put together at Comicon, so you might wanna take a look there and check out the summaries of all the characters and catch some great interior pages like this one:

Everyone who's seen Magnolia or Short Cuts will get the format - Tricked is the story of six totally different people all connected through various events and relationships in their lives, though many of them remain unaware of the connections. Each story is woven together with the others very gradually, and five of these stories are immensely satisfying. I especially enjoyed the darker passages, the stories of the counterfeiter getting in over his head and the hardcore music fan giving up his medication and beginning his own downward spiral... in the vein of novelist Hubert Selby Jr., Robinson writes the darker elements, the more unforgivable and ugly elements of his characters, with compassion and thoughtfulness, but this is tempered with a sober tone, an acknowledgement that while these characters are to be understood, they aren't necessarily right. Refreshing, layered work here.

I don't really care for the Demure Poor Latina Girl Overwhelmed By The White Guy Who Loves Her For Being So Real storyline. It wasn't bad, really, but after that godawful movie, Spanglish, I've had more than enough of that particular character.

Aside from that, this is a spectacular success, I think. All five of the other characters are written with a sympathetic ear, but the voice of the book itself remains strong. It's an epic book that reads smoothly and easily, and my worries of indie-arrogance were 100% unfounded (at least, if this book is any indication).

So, yeah. I'll be going back and picking up Box Office Poison again.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Top Shelf Week: The Surrogates #1 and #2

The Surrogates is a five-issue miniseries by writer Robert Venditti and artist Brett Weldele. So far, I think both men are showing potential and a flaw or two in their work, but I've got like five minutes to make this post so I'll cut to the chase.

The series is essentially a sci-fi cop procedural, following the case of someone "murdering" surrogates. See, in the world of the future, people do a virtual reality kind of thing with robotic bodies, hanging out in their rooms all day and sending out their stronger, sexier, better robot selves to do the actual living while they (the real folk) watch.

The procedural elements are really fun, and I think Venditti's a sharp scripter. The dialogue, the pacing, the world-building (surrogates, of course, being the greatest social upset since The Pill) are all very nice. But I can't help but feel like it needs more at stake - so someone kills all the surrogates. Uh, so? That's basically mass vandalism. Hard to get all tense about it.

The art is pretty neat; sketchy style, nicely kinetic, expressive. I don't really like how the coloring is done, though - no single object on the page is colored, so much as the whole page is given a "wash" with emphases in certain portions of the page. Seems a little too Photoshoppy, to me. It's not everywhere, but when the page takes a brownish tint it just really stands out.

Still, this is promising work, and I'll be on the lookout for issue #3. Even if nothing huge is at stake (yet), there's some solid entertainment in the rest of it, and who knows?--there might just be something coming I don't expect.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Top Shelf Week: SuperF*ckers #1 (aka #271)

SuperF*ckers, to my surprise, seems to be a new ongoing series from James Kochalka, on one level an irreverent piss-take on modern super-heroes, and on another level simply a new set of characters and disgusting jokes and scenarios for Kochalka to have fun with. It's a full-color book based on a sixteen-panel grid, and issue #2 (a.k.a. issue #273) seems to be coming out this Wednesday.

There's really not that much to say about this. It's just funny as hell. It's a team of super-heroes sitting around the house, treating each other like shit, getting high on whatever they can find. They remind me of my old roommates, back when I was going to college in Washingston state. Everyone thinks they're the important one, and the one who's truly the most important is just the one who acts like the biggest asshole. In my old apartment, it was Rob's bitchwhore girlfriend, Amy. In the Super Fuckers, it's Jack Krak.

Discerning readers will remember Daniel Merlin Goodbrey's mini-comic, Mr. Nile: The Illustrated Bastard (those who don't will want to go to Goodbrey's website,, and correct this); in that comic, there's a tale called "The Bad King Fu" in which a stubborn would-be student convinces the teacher that he is can handle the Bad Kung Fu because "I am Double-Diamond-Balls Hard Bastard!" Jack Krak takes a page from that book, pushing his roommates around and getting away with it because "Nobody controls Jack Krak! Jack Krak is the motherfucker!"

Cracks me up, anyway.

If that's not enough for you, Krak also pisses himself to prove what a wuss his teammate is, and a weird mushy goblin thing sends his tumor up the drainage pipe to deliver a love-poem to the most beautiful SuperFucker (with sexy results!), and a would-be SuperFucker takes too many performance drugs before the team's tryouts and havok ensues.

This is a jam-packed comic, with a lot of laughs per page. I'll be picking up issue #2 (uh, that is, #273) this Wednesday for sure. I have a feeling it'll be a fine jumping on point for new readers, as well.

See you tomorrow, folks.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Top Shelf Week: The King

"Life is more than drawing breath." So is Elvis quoted as a chapter break in Rich Koslowski’s second Top Shelf book, The King. It’s the story of Paul Erfurt, a depressed, hack reporter who finds himself suddenly employed by Time Magazine to investigate an Elvis impersonator so powerfully convincing that he’s built a fanatical fan base hundreds of thousands large in mere months. The man calls himself The King.

Is he really Elvis? Where does his power over these people come from? What does he want with our Pekaresque schlub anti-hero? These are only a few of the questions that arise in the opening pages of the book, and many more are presented as the tale goes on.

Lots of answers are presented, largely through the huge supporting cast. Everybody in the book has their own story, and in a story-about-stories sort of way (think Sandman in a sleazy Vegas mob sort of way) we learn them all. Paul feels certain that he can discover The King’s most important secrets by getting members of his religiously devoted retinue to slip up, give something away in the telling of their own tales. From character to character, Koslowski assembles a dozen or so parts that build a cohesive whole, and each story ads a piece to the puzzle.

The finished product, however, answers a central question Paul didn’t prepare himself to ask. Throughout the book, The King keeps telling him – “This isn’t my story. It’s yours.” This isn’t completely true; the book is about them both. The King is more a force than a person, an idea so passionate and vital it seems to have built itself a body and a voice, and this is the story of that idea. The crux is Paul Erfurt’s personal story, yes, but the book is just as much about the idea and Paul’s relationship to it as it is about Paul’s personal journey.

The questions that are not answered, that is, are the most important revelations. The questions themselves. We just don’t know enough to ask the right ones until we’ve done some research, some learning, you see.

Despite some subtle density in the script, this is a very smooth read. The individual experiences of the supporting cast are all really interesting, and in several cases they proceed on a predictable track until some minor detail throws a wrench into the gears (the stripper, for example, who started getting into some bad shit until she met The King, who turned her off drugs and prostitution... but has no problem with her still being a stripper). I particularly enjoyed Paul’s one-eyed private detective friend, and the mystery surrounding how he lost that eye.

There’s a bothersome element in here somewhere, something that kinda bugged me; Paul is confronting The King about the people who believe in him, and how unkind it may be to let them believe in what could be a lie. “If it makes [them] feel good to believe it,” The King says, “why shouldn’t [they]?” The book seems to endorse this idea, as a part of its endorsement of faith. But there’s no sense of consequence to this – what happens when believing something because it makes you feel good causes you to take action that hurts you or someone else? Koslowski doesn’t seem to want to address this question, and it made me feel like the book was a bit callow.

Until the end.

The book’s conclusion is one of the strongest in recent memory, and as the climax challenges each of its characters, so it challenges the reader and – just as The King leaves the final question to Paul to answer for himself – leaves us to decide for ourselves what the lesson is.

This is truly fantastic work, and I’ll be keeping a keen eye out for Koslowski’s next project. Give this one a look, friends.

Top Shelf Week: Announcement

I fell off the wagon a bit this week, due to some shitty health earlier on and having at last picked up that second job a bit later.

But Top Shelf Week deserves its due, so I'll be continuing it through the end of the AEIOU Giveaway. In moments, I'll upload my review of The King, and next week I'll be taking a look at some other great books you'll want to check out.

Onwards and upwards, my friends. Life is good.

(I miss Graeme, though.)

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Check In

Lots more Top Shelf stuff coming, with reviews of Superfuckers #1, Tricked, and The King all on their way. Short answer is, they're all really good.

I'll try to review at least one of 'em tonight, but I've only got half-an-hour of free time between shifts today (including bus time), and I'm just not enough of a pound-it-out writer yet.

Plus, I'm sick, and I'm tired 'cause I woke up at 6:00 today after closing the restaurant last night. Whew. I'm having a ball with this stuff, but it makes it tough to do that daily blogging thing, don't it?

For an example of somebody kicking ass with the short entry, take a look at Larry Young's AiT blog today. It's fuckin' great.

Oh, and also, New Comics Day yesterday was the best one in a month or two. Shaolin Cowboy, The Walking Dead, Mike Carey totally on fire this month with killer issues of both Lucifer and Hellblazer, and a real fun book from Ross Richie's Boom! Studios, Giant Monster. Amazing week.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Top Shelf Week: AEIOU Giveaway & Review

Since this is Top Shelf week, and today is New Comics Day, I'm gonna do my little part to help promote these books.

I've got one free copy of Jeffrey Brown's AEIOU (a.k.a. Any Easy Intimacy) to give to one Quality Control reader, and it's simple as pie to enter.

When you go to your local comics shop today, pick up one Top Shelf comic in your hands and flip through it. You don't have to read the whole thing, or even a set number of pages. Just pick it up and get an impression.

Then come comment here on Quality Control with a couple sentences about what your impression was.

I'll give you all this week to enter - everything up through midnight, next Wednesday (October 26th) will be put in a random drawing and the winner will be sent a free copy of AEIOU.

Simple as pie!

And if you're at all curious what to expect, you can read my review of the book at Bookshelf Comics here.

Top Shelf Week: Will You Still Love Me If I Wet The Bed?

Will You Still Love Me If I Wet The Bed? is another "first big project" from Top Shelf, this one by Liz Prince.

This 70-some page book takes a format that will be immediately familiar to fans of Jeffrey Brown's work, and this is copped-to in the only forward of the book - a single (hysterical) strip by Brown himself that points out the major difference between his stuff and this: there's no wallowing in self-pity. This is pretty much entirely a "cute" book, filled with those oddball moments that really only happen when couples are alone together.

A lot of the vibe here will strike a chord with readers who are in Happy Relationships, or who enjoy romantic comedies. It's optimistic, it's sweet, it's goddamn gleeful.

So, yeah, if you're alone and bitter, this is either going to piss you off all to hell or leave you a sobbing, Radiohead-listening wreck.

That's not to say this is unassailable work. It becomes noticeably one-note about two-thirds of the way through, and some of the cute moments become downright saccharine, prime targets for eye-rolling.

That said, if this is the kind of material that speaks to you, it's definitely worth checking out. Everyone will have a different series of "favorite" strips, because there's a wide range of moments here, that will reflect similar moments from our own lives.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Top Shelf Week: Spiral-Bound

Spiral-Bound is the first major project from Aaron Renier, an all-ages book that brings a sense of character and charm that should appeal to adults and tickle everyone somewhere cuddly (and embarrassing for us tough guys).

In a town inhabited entirely by animals, ranging in species from tiny wee birds to huge humpback whales, a whole hell of a lot is going on.

A young elephant named Turnip struggles with the artistic impulse and an unbearable, heart-breaking conflict of desires. Content to make faces out of the ingredients of his sandwich, he’s pushed into a “sculpture camp” by a friend, who suggests he use clay, and then forced to live up to his father’s hero, a marble sculptor. He’s horribly sensitive to criticism, and yet he desperately wants to do something new, something that’s his and only his. He’s a bit of a crybaby, but the subtle strokes in the character development are amazing considering the “kiddie” vibe to most of the book.

A number of other characters are really fun and diverse in personality – Turnip’s friend, a dog named Stucky, labors away at his secret project to build a submarine; a young rabbit named Ana infiltrates a high-security underground newspaper, hungry to do some real investigative reporting and uncover a huge scoop; a rhino named Pete works double shifts as another employee of the newspaper and as a DJ in the local band Kodiak & Calico.

Meanwhile a storm is brewing – Ms. Skrimshaw, the humpback whale who teaches the sculpting class from inside her giant mobile water tank, has incurred the torches-and-pitchforks wrath of the town’s parents by suggesting the children exhibit their sculptures in a show she wants located by the pond, where an Evil Terrible Monster dwells, waiting for its chance to eat all the children.

At every opportunity, Renier has chosen an animal species that reflects (or contrasts) an important personality trait in the given character; think Maus, but with a fair bit more subtlety than the simplistic cats-and-mice thing.

The various plot threads – all character driven, which is really satisfying – are all resolved in a kid-friendly, happy ending sort of way, but without making the book feel like junk food. There’s a relaxed, ambling mood to the storytelling here, but Renier uses that voice without sacrificing the import of the story being told.

I have a few stylistic quibbles– I’ve gotten sensitive, for example, to clarity in storytelling when it comes to panel arrangement. Two smaller panels should not be vertically stacked to the left of a larger panel, for example – after reading the small panel in the upper-left spot, it’s not instinctively clear whether to move to the right and read the big panel or to move down and read the smaller one. That particular layout is used a few times in this book, and while the pages tend to be simple enough that the eye naturally picks up on what the sequence of images should be, it can be off-putting to folks who haven’t trained themselves to read comics.

Really, though, that’s a minor thing that Renier can easily learn from and apply to his next project, which given the quality to be found here (at a pretty solid price point, too), I’ll be eagerly awaiting.

God laughs when we make plans

Had a staff meeting at my new job (!!!) this morning, and an interview for a third gig at 3 this afternoon way the fuck on the other side of town.

Plus, the library's internet access (where I'm at now) is kinda fucked - can't do anything with images. Can't even format text or make links. Don't know what the deal is.

I'll be reviewing the wonderful Spiral-Bound by Mr. Aaron Renier when I get home, and I won't get to bed until I've written a second review.

Rodriguez, don't you worry. The King will be among them.

Besides, everybody's all sad and weepy now that Graeme's thrown in the towel, aren't you?

Monday, October 17, 2005

Sick sick sick

Ah, Christ. Meant to write a review this afternoon, but I just feel like total crap. My brain is an impacted bowel. This cold has finally broken in.

And I've gotta go to work in an hour and a half. So I'm resting, because writing the review wouldn't be any fun and it'd show in the text of it.

Tomorrow's my day off, so I'll rest up and hit you bastards with two reviews, deal?

Top Shelf Week: Big-ass sale!

Well, you can imagine my pleasure to find this particular e-mail in the old inbox over the weekend, from the gentle Mr. Chris Staros over at Top Shelf Comix:

Hey Comics Fans,

For the next ten days -- from Saturday, October 15th thru Tuesday, October 25th -- Top Shelf is having a giant web sale. -- Not only to celebrate all the big summer releases you may or may not have picked up already (Tricked, Box Office Poison, The King, Spiral-Bound, AEIOU, The Surrogates, Super F*ckers, & World War 3 Illustrated #36: NeoCons), but also to (honestly) raise the money to finish paying off all the printing bills and get the royalty checks out to the cartoonists. -- When you visit the site, you'll find over 80 (mostly new) graphic novels and comics on sale, with many marked down to just $5, $3, and even $1! All we ask is that you hit a $30 minimum on sale and/or non-sale items (before shipping). It's a great opportunity to load up on all those graphic novels you've wanted to try, but just never got around to picking up. Get 'em while supplies last!

There are a few big surprises on the list, so click here to see all the sale items on a single web page:

Please note that this sale is GOOD for "direct market" retailers as well, and comic book shops will get their wholesale discount on these sale prices. Certain minimums apply, so retailers please email us for details.

What's particularly funny about this is I was just about to embarc on another "theme week" here at Quality Control - a week of reviews of Top Shelf books.

Stick around - I'm aiming to get the first review up later today. I've read some really killer stuff lately and I'm psyched to get this puppy started.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Daniel Craig: The new James Bond

Yeah, everyone's heard about this by now.

But, see, it was just a rumor before, and now it's fact.

And for the first time ever, I'm interested in the new James Bond movie. Because Daniel Craig is awesome, and because I think there might be something new happening here.

See, there's always been a subtext - somewhere in there, though I'm far from being a Bond expert so feel free to correct me - that James Bond is a big fat asshole. It gets kinda glossed over, because Bond has always been played by a dashing young star, a handsome man mostly there to be stylish and smooth and sexy.

Craig is a lot dirtier than anyone who's played Bond before, as far as I've seen. He's scarier. He's meaner. You've all seen Road to Perdition, right? I think the combination of stoicism, childish rage, and old fashioned presence he used to completely steal that movie is gonna make the Bond movies nice and dark.

Who gives a shit if he's a misogynist. Craig's Bond is gonna be downright scary.

And that's the only thing that could get me interested.

Happy days.

Oh, also: Cliff Chiang drew a one-issue guest spot on Nightwing #113, which came out this week. I picked it up just for the art; somehow he's teamed up with Deathstroke's daughter, which I know nothing about, and her boots look kinda silly, but damn - beautiful stuff.

Take care, everyone. I'll be back (and hopefully at cask strength) on Monday.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Cliff Chiang: Back in action

Ah, excellent. Shane McCarthy writes:

Thought I'd take the opportunity to let everyone know that I'm returning to Batman for a short DETECTIVE COMICS arc in Jan/Feb 2006 and am teaming up with the sensational Cliff Chiang.

I wouldn't have mentioned it this early except for the fact that I've been getting Cliff's pages over the last week or so and by GOD they're great! I seriously haven't been this excited about any of my previous work. Cliff's just doing some amazing stuff and if you think you've seen the best of his Batman you're in for a surprise.

As much as I'd love to just see some more Human Target, I'm just thrilled to have more Cliff Chiang comics, period. After all:

Oh, man. Can't wait for more.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Setbacks: What comes next?

Ran into several walls yesterday. The interview I was really excited about? The guy showed up 20 minutes late and, on account of being late, didn't really want to talk to me. Had other stuff to worry about, and kinda gave me the kiss-off. I think I could have had that one in my pocket if given the chance to do a real interview, but there's no use crying over spilt milk, right?

Gotta get back up on the horse. Plenty to do yet.

(For example, between my typing the above sentence and typing this one, I got a callback for an interview tomorrow. Will wonders never cease? Keep your guard up, your chin in tight, and dance, baby, dance!)

Oh, and I've got to do some kind of pop culture mention, right? The whole point of the blog being to promote comics (and other stuff) that get me excited?

Okay, well this morning, it's this:

I've been meaning to get Sailing the Seas of Cheese by Primus for years now, particularly because of the Tom Waits guest vocal, but I've just recently gotten into kind of a Les Claypool "thing" (not unlike my parallel Bob Dylan "thing", which is going swimmingly, thank you), and needed a quick Amoeba pick-me-up yesterday. This was just six bucks. It's great.

Wish me luck. I've gotta go dance some more.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Queen & Country: Rucka's best?

Just got finished last night reading the latest Queen & Country trade, "Operation: Saddlebag" (volume 7).

Can't write a lot - got an interview today I'm really excited about, and some phone calls and so on - but boy, this has been a cool series.

Sometimes Rucka pisses me off and confuses me with pages of dialogue in non-English languages and no translations - though, in these cases, it's usually reasonably clear what's happening anyway, thanks to his nimble artists - and sometimes the spyspeak leaves me in the dust with the ministry-of-x-y-z and the acronyms from hell, but this volume in particular was super-clear and fun. Tara Chase is a great character, but I also really dig Paul Crocker and look forward to the collections of the second and third Declassified series coming out.

Gail Simone's introduction here is one of the best I've ever read. Really incisive, thoughtful breakdown of what makes the series really shine.

There's a five-page preview on the Oni website here.

Been a little dry around here lately, I know, but I gots ta pay them bills, sister. Things should be pretty much back on track by the end of the week (fingers crossed) and I have an idea for next week I'm pretty excited about.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Still Looking Monday: Blazer. Hell Blazer.

No time to talk. Today should be the most work-looking-packed day yet.

To clarify: no, I'm not out of work. Just looking for a second job. Which puts everything else in a weird position as I try to keep my schedule free for any new jobs I might get, but my current job wants me in on the odd extra day and, frankly, I need to be working at least four or five nights a week.

Anyway. Picked up Azzarello's first Hellblazer arc, "Hard Time", with Richard Corben art. I'll keep it 'cause Corben's a genius (several pages here I'd kill for), but I don't think Az is writing "my" Constantine.

Like James Bond. Everyone's got their favorite. Connery, Brosnan, that other guy. All of 'em did something a little different and the character's survived.

So, if you told me to pick my favorite, definitive John Constantine, I'm pretty sure I'd go with Ennis. I think the most recent story arc makes a pretty good argument for Mike Carey, but nobody's quite nailed what a moral quagmire ol' John is like that angry, drunken Irishman. I always loved how vicious the punishments were in that run for simply being John's friend, and John's various responses to that danger. He's a real bastard, here, but one you can understand.

Who's YOUR Constantine, and why?

Friday, October 07, 2005

Looking-for-work Friday: Bits and pieces

The job search continues today, so I've just got some odds and ends for you today.

ITEM: Y'all know by now how much I love Elk's Run. So if you haven't gotten on board yet, take advantage of the cheap "bumper edition" that's out this week, with the Darwyn Cooke cover.

ITEM: This may be where the few remaining readers who don't think I'm gay switch sides, but the first track from the new Fiona Apple album is pretty good. It kinda sounds like she's been listening to a lot of Tom Waits and funny British showtunes. I flipped through a few more tracks at the Amoeba listening station and wasn't too impressed, but that first song - "Extraordinary Machine" - is clever and kinda funny and really pretty weird.

ITEM: I'm completely immature.

ITEM: Holy crap! "Every year sees a crop of newly found jazz gems, but rarely are listeners treated to anything as special as this 1957 concert recording of Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane, which was accidentally discovered in an unmarked box by a Library of Congress engineer early in 2005." Who the fuck LOST those tapes?! Jesus, I just found out about this a second ago. Must resist the urge to buy and listen to this all day instead of looking for work... must be strong...

(Wow, it's #1 at Amazon... who'd a-thought jazz could still do that?)

Enjoy the weekend, everybody. Get into some trouble.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Swamp Thing: The (one issue) return of Richard Corben

Don't have much time for a post today - apologies, folks, but I've got a job search to attend to (a second gig, Aziza's goin' great) - but I do want to draw it to everyone's attention that the inimitable Richard Corben is the artist on this week's issue of Swamp Thing (#20), and it's fantastic. Nice little done-in-one story, with subject matter that vibes with Corben's style on multiple levels (creepy monsters AND psychedelia?) and it's fairly continuity-free for those of us who've only read Moore's run.

What else was good this week?

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Hard Boiled: You don't even have to THINK!

Everyone knows about Geof Darrow's jawdropping Shaolin Cowboy series, right?


So, then everyone also knows about his Dark Horse collaborations with Frank Miller, too, right? Big Guy and Rusty The Boy Robot and Hard Boiled?

On a lazy afternoon, there are few better comics for a sick bastard like me.

Just sit back, relax, look at the pretty pictures and wonder things like, "What does drawing stuff like this do to someone?"

Really, this is pure candy.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Juan Ferreyra's new digs and Archie Moore says it straight

I didn't make explicit mention of it - simply posted an unnamed link - but boy, was I bummed out when I found out last week that Small Gods is ending with issue #12.

So you can imagine my immense pleasure in finding out that Small Gods' artist, Juan Ferreyra, is taking over art duties for Rex Mundi, another great Image book.

The mailing Mo Rhyo quotes at Millarworld is as follows:

From Arvid Nelson's Rex Mundi newsletter:


Juan is the artist for Image’s own Small Gods, which is sadly ending after Issue 12. Small Gods is a great comic, and I’m so sad to see it end. But it’s giving me the opportunity to work with Juan, who might just be the perfect match for Rex Mundi. Not only that, but it’s been such a pleasure getting to know him. I wish I had some more of his art to show, but for now all I can direct you towards is his front cover for Rex Mundi #16.

How spectacular is that, Dear Reader? Of all the artists I’ve worked with, Juan’s come closest to drawing the characters of Rex Mundi the way I see them in my mind’s eye. Juan’s draftsmanship is impeccable, and he has a real knack for picking up on the subtleties of character. He’s going to take this book to a whole new level.

Thanks to Jim for suggesting Juan, and for helping me enlist him. Jim, you are the best, your unique, quirky style is beyond compare. I am so glad to have had the chance to work with you, and I’m just as glad to have become your friend.

(Thanks, Mo!)

So, this is pretty damn great news. Rex Mundi has been a really fun series, and while I loved Eric J's work on the title (see my pimpin' of his work back in August), I think Juan Ferreyra's one of those up-and-comers whose work is not only really great now but also has shown consistent development and improvement over the short Small Gods run.

Which means, to me, that he'll only be getting even better throughout his run on Rex Mundi.

Which, fortunately, is a series I already liked. Rex Mundi has been a great mish-mash of genres, an alternate history period piece with some heavy, heavy film noir influence and a big conspiracy/mystery tale, including religious mythology and horror. Densely packed reading with some really fun characters. I'll have to play a little bit of catch-up, because I've been reading the book in trades. But I'm nonetheless really excited to see that this phoenix is rising from the ashes.


Last night I was reading through George Plimpton's boxing book, Shadow Box, which is partially about the time Sports Illustrated (for whom he was writing) sponsored a three-round exhibition match between Plimpton and the great Archie Moore.

Archie Moore, you'll no doubt remember, was the light heavyweight champion of the world and among the very greatest boxers in professional history. He holds the record for most career knockouts - 141, or 143, depending on your sources - and was the only fighter to box both Rocky Marciano and Muhammad Ali. He could easily have been the heavyweight champion of the world, having been a top-ranked contender for years, but was passed over for a shot until he was 42 years old. When he got that shot, against a decade-younger Marciano, he certainly made the most of it, becoming one of only two or three men to ever knock down the Brockton Blockbuster and the last man to fight him in the ring.

Moore was also known as a very exciting public personality, a flowery and enthusiastic speaker. Something of a precursor to Ali, in that way. And there's a bit from this Shadow Box book I liked a lot:

I once asked Moore how long it would have taken him to dispose of me had he been required to do so in jig-time. He looked at me speculatively. "'Bout the time it would take a tree to fall on you," he said. "Or for you to feel the nip of the guillotine."
"Very descriptive," I said.
"And very accurate," he said. "You must remember that I am the most of champions."

Monday, October 03, 2005

Legion of Super-Heroes: Caught it on the rebound

First thing's first: that was one of the best weekends of my life. I've gone on and on about the list of performers, so I'll just say this one thing: I got to see an 82-year old Doc Watson playing blues in the foggy cold. Just incredible.

So. At the Isotope on Friday, Larry Young pointed out with his usual genteel sophistication that I haven't been writing too much about comics lately. "You're dead to me," I believe, were his exact words.

Of course, I've been dead to Larry before. Every time I wear my black fedora, I'm dead to Larry. One time I died to Larry because he was drunk on margaritas and I walked in the door (tequila, I am told, makes a man mean).

Still, he's got a point, and while I don't mind straying from comics now and then - especially when it's something else that's got me enthused, as music's been doing lately - this is a comics blog. So today I'm gonna tromp back in with some praise for my favorite comic from last week, Legion of Super-Heroes #10.

First of all, that cover is brilliant. Bits of Invisible Kid's face made invisible so you can see what's going on behind him? I'm sure something like that has been done before, but it works amazingly here. Very clever.

I'm really loving, as this series progresses, all the different character relationships and how everyone responds to everyone else. The cast here is huge and I think part of the reason that the plot proper hasn't moved forward as quickly as some reviewers would like is that there would be no value in going through the motions - "first something scary happens, then disaster strikes, then the heroes pull together, blah blah blah" - unless we had a reason to care about the impact of that plot on the characters, and with a cast this sprawling and ambitious, I'm personally really impressed with the clip at which Waid's taken us through the story.

Barry Kitson's work here is the best I've ever seen from him. I mean this issue particularly. The tenderly drawn scene between Dream Girl and Brainiac, the seething facial expressions for Karate Kid's barely controlled anger with Invisible Kid, the crowded sequence leading up to disaster when everything's becoming confusing and chaotic for the characters but remains clear enough for the reader to follow easily, up to the spectacular two-page spread when disaster does indeed strike... there's a versatility and consistency of quality here that you don't often see in one comic or from one artist. Amazing to see such a veteran coninuing to grow and impress.

The fight sequence on the sun planet is really well drawn, too, but it was the coloring that really knocked me out. The overexposed palette, made "soft" by the excess of light within the world of the story, retains a vivid sharpness that really impressed me. I'd be embarassed to turn in professional work under the name Sno Cone, personally, but the quality of the work itself is fantastic. Colorists are really grabbing my attention these days. Are there new tools available or something? It seems like we're crossing some kind of threshold, hitting a new plateau of quality and complexity. Maybe folks're just stepping up their game. At any rate, I'm glad to see work like this.

Oh, plus, like every other issue of this series, it's 40 pages instead of 32, and for the same $2.99 price. That kicks ass.
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