Sean Maher's Quality Control

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The New Year

A hearty Happy New Year to you all. I've got a number of changes planned for myself and my life, but there's one thing in particular that's been running through my mind when I think about 2006.

Tim was a great buddy of mine back when I was living in Washington. Had lukemia when he was a kid, nearly died, but got over it with pure fucking guts and heart (and a lot of luck) and grew up into one of the biggest motherfuckers I ever met - like 6' 5", and brawny. Looked like a lumberjack.

I met Tim at a party on campus. Big, crowded party, no room anywhere, and I see a spot open on the couch. Part of my brain asked, "Why is THAT exact seat empty at this crowded-as-fuck party?", but the question didn't register before I sat my tired, drunk ass down. I look over and there's this big fuckin' dude, shaved bald with a big red beard and heavy earings tugging his earlobes down.

"Hey, what's up man, I'm Sean."

"I'm Tim, nice to meet ya. Hey, have you ever seen a Prince Albert?"

Tim's sitting on the couch with his pants unzipped and his dick hanging out. He's showing the piercing to everybody. THAT'S why the seat was open. I got up and left it for the next patsy.

So Tim and I ended up being really good brothers-in-arms after that, and he'd always come by our apartment with his eyes wide and say, "Hey! I found out about a party! Let's go!"

We'd all ask him, Hey, whose party is this? Is anybody we know gonna be there?

"No, I just heard some people talking about it, and I think we should all go."

"But, dude, why don't we just have our own party?"

"That's what I'm saying, Sean! Let's just go over there and MAKE IT OUR PARTY!"

And that's what I want to do with 2006. It's already all set up - they've got the keg, they've got the music playing. Let's just go and make it our party.


So, Elk's Run #4 was splendid. The story's really taking shape perfectly - the issues are incredibly well paced, and the epic structure is beginning to be clear.

But what struck me most about issue #4 in particular was the coloring. Scott A. Keating has been doing great work on the series already, but I thought he shined especially bright in this issue, with the colors really bringing out story elements and just plain making the pages feel good to look at. Take a look at the palatte he builds in the first three pages here:

Just excellent. I can't wait for more.


I was also really happy with The Thing #2, after being slightly let down by issue #1. Slott picks up the pace with the second issue and blasts into the adventure at full tilt. This is old-school as fuck, but with the "sophistication" (please forgive the arrogance) of modern storytelling techniques. Andrea DiVito is making everything rich and kinetic and fun to read (though I'm getting tired of comics artist digitally blurring their art to imply motion). This might be my new favorite Marvel book, if it keeps up the pace this issue sets.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

War of the Worlds: Second Wave

In the comments for yesterday's Fused! Tales review, publisher Ross Richie draws my attention to a new series coming out with art by Chee, the fellow who so impressed me in the Steve Niles section of the book. The new project is called War of the Worlds: Second Wave. Here's what writer Michael Alan Nelson said at CBR:

I mean, what if, when the aliens died, humanity didn't unite in victory over their common enemy? What if we all tried to take advantage of the chaos and tear each other apart? What if the red weed survived and started growing out of control? But most importantly, what if the aliens tried again? I kept asking these questions until Ross finally suggested I answer some of them in the form of a proposal. I did and he liked what he read. So here we are.

See, that sounds like a fine comic to me. Then there's this--

--and we're off and running.

Oh, plus, out of curiosity, I took a look at my old Zombie Tales review to see what I'd thought of Nelson's writing. It turns out I thought this:

"Severance" by Mike Nelson and Joe Abraham is a fun piece that really shows off what you can do with story density. We’re brought into the story halfway through an action scene, as things have gone wrong in the lab where a desperate scientist is researching a cure to the zombie disease so he can bring back his son. The tale jumps from plot point to plot point at a sprint, but because these are all familiar characters and scenarios it’s easy to follow – really, this kind of thing would blow me away if it took a longer format but maintained the density. It’s the sort of thing I hear Grant Morrison getting credit for all the time but this is much clearer, more direct storytelling. Again, there’s an undercurrent of smirking, cruel humor to the tale that doesn’t quite bubble to the surface but keeps things brisk and fun.

Which is a pretty good sign, wouldn't you say?

Gotta give another shoutout to MillarWorld elite Franck Mars for writing me a pimpin' review for Paul Chadwick's Concrete. He suggested I look into the title a couple weeks ago when I asked for indie recommendations, and I think what he wrote today really sealed the deal.

New comics day, for me. Elk's Run #4 is out this week, so I'm pretty goddamn excited!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Fused! Tales - brings a full deck o' cards

So, it looks like the rumors are true! Small Gods is returning!

The cover and preview artwork is fuckin' smoking... I can't wait for this.

I was mostly interested in Fused! Tales because of Joshua Fialkov’s contribution. Most of you probably know how much I’m enjoying his writing on the Speakeasy book, Elk’s Run, but he also did some great work on another self-published endeavor, Western Tales of Terror.

Both books make great reads and I figured I’d check out Fused! Tales when I saw him attached. Also, Boom! Studios has been getting a pretty solid record in my book, pushing pretty hard with this 48-page, $6.99 anthology format. It's not a push I'd have expected to be very successful - anthologies are a tricky business, usually suffering from the ol' "one good story out of every four" syndrome and collecting meager talent to fill out the pages left by the one or two "name" talents involved. But from the start - which I believe was Zombie Tales, back in July, Boom! has brought a fucking A-game with every effort. They've had Mark Waid, Steve Niles, Kieth Giffen, Ron Lim... but the thing that really sets their books above the bar is that even the guys I've never heard of do great work.

Fused! Tales is a great example. Steve Niles writes the opening story (apparently this is his character - I'd gotten it confused with a Joe Casey property, probably because both books had Ashley Wood doing art at some point) and it's drawn by someone known only as Chee. I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for more books with this guy's art - there's a few pages in particular towards the end that just blew me away.

Oh, but then, I realized I didn't explain the setting for the art. Fused, we're caught up to very quickly, is about a scientist who got trapped in a giant mechanical body. He has conversations with his "CPU", the computer running the robot body, is alienated from his wife, and has to deal with constant malfunctions in the machinery of his new form. It makes sense, when you think about it - if a dude got stuck in the thing, it stands to reason there'd be other troubles with the prototype. So now he goes around helping The Government and bringing his regular-Joe perspective to the wild world of a giant mechanical weaponized robot. A lot of this makes me think of Mignola's Hellboy (Fialkov even writes in Hellboy's signature line, "Oh, crap"), and I think fans of that property would find a lot to enjoy here.

So, the sequence that Chee draws that really knocked my eyes out was when, keeping security tight in Iraq (Niles writes a touching solider story that parallels our hero's tale), the robot-guy has to tackle a van carrying a suicide bomber, flip over the top of it, and chuck it way the fuck into the sky so it'll blow up without hurting anyone. That part fucking rocks.

Fialkov's section is a fun, Mignola-esque mini-adventure with some intriguing artwork by Nick Stakal, and the real fun here is watching the dialogue within the robot body between man and computer. There's a sense of levity here that sets off the more serious tone in the other stories and makes the collection feel well-rounded and thorough.

The final story is the quietest, as our hero uses his giant robot body to help his wife move out of the house they'd bought together. Writer Christopher E. Long does a lot with very little space, bringing a real sense of history to the dialogue between the two characters. Neither one is unsympathetic - there's no bad guy, just two people struggling with the embers of their dying love. It's bittersweet and melancholy, and artist Andrew Ritchie responds to this by brining a unique design interpretation to the physicality of the robot body. It seems more frail and delicate than the versions by Chee and Stakal, somewhat more expressive and vulnerable.

All told, I'm left with a new interest in the character (who's had two previous mini-series, it seems) and curious to see what anthology Boom! will hit me with next. I'm surprised and impressed with their work so far, and look forward to more.

(Also, for you tradewaiters - I'm looking at you, Franck! - there's a spine on these things. Sit on the bookshelf just fine, which is a great idea.)

Listening today to my Shitkicker Mix, which includes Robert Earl Keen's "The Road Goes on Forever" and Tom Petty's "You Don't Know How It Feels (To Be Me)". And "Filipino Box Spring Hog" by Tom Waits. So, yeah, I'm having a great fuckin' time!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Tough Titty, said the kitty

So, between three jobs (all of which usually come on shift when my girlfriend is OFF work [making time together lately almost impossible]), the impending Christmas doom I feel lurking in the shadows behind me, a surprise visit from an old buddy who just dropped into town last week, and a general haggardness and hysteria on my part over the last few days, updates have been difficult and often short.

It's not on purpose or anything. I've just had a lot of juggling to do lately, and Quality Control has had to take some punches to the gut as a result.

But don't worry. She's a tough little bitch, ol' Quality Control.

For example, she's just read BOOM! Studios' Fused! Tales, and plans a review to go up tonight.

But for right now, with my only day off in a month and Christmas lurching after me like a B-movie mutated poop monster, and ZERO preparation done yet for the folks I care most about, I've gotta prioritize getting my ass out on the streets and doing a little dance.


Friday, December 16, 2005

Good News!

Richardson's back.

I'm sure there are those of you who read this and remember the glory days of Josh Richardson's In The Trenches, a sort of travelogue tale that took readers in at Josh's very entry point to professional comics work, detailing every grim and gritty detail as he put in the grunt work and tirelessly worked his way up. But there must be some of you to whom this will be new, and this looks like a great time to get on board and join him for the journey. See, Josh isn't done growing and maturing as a Comics Warrior - not by a long shot, not a man of such wild ambition and vision. And he seems to have gained a second (third? fourth? tenth?) wind.

Which means, yes, there's a new blog to pay attention to. There's nothing else like this on the internet, and if you find it half as exciting as I do, you'll be glad you took a look.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Giddy little girl

I had an unexpected, very fun conversation at Kimo's the other day. One of the younger (40ish), less physically disgusting patrons (shaved face, all teeth intact, healthy pink gums) turned out to be a big comic book nerd. In short order we'd established:

  • Michele Pfiefer is the best Catwoman ever.
  • Crispin Glover is kinda crazy already, making him a good choice for The Joker.
  • Kitty Pryde and Colossus were great characters back in The Day of great Claremont X-Men.
  • The Hulk is my favorite super-hero, combining as he does a premise ripe with potential (often paid-off) for Big Fat Fights and the whole misunderstood monster theme. I was a big sucker for this concept as a kid - cried at Phantom of the Opera, honestly - and I always just wished they'd leave Hulk alone.
  • Halle Berry is an idiot.
  • Daredevil is an awesome idea for a super-hero.
  • I'm really hot. (Dude, it's Kimo's. That's part of every conversation, unless someone thinks one of the other bartenders is hotter, although none of them are.)

Oh, and: hold the applause and drop your draws, 'cause Marvel's finally reprinting Thanos Quest! I'm giddy as a schoolgirl:

Penciled by RON LIM & MIKE ZECK
Cover by RON LIM
The quest that led to INFINITY GAUNTLET begins here! Back from the dead, Thanos is after the power to bring the rest of the universe with him on a return trip! Can the Silver Surfer, Drax the Destroyer and others stop the cosmic iconoclast before he uses reality as a token of his affection for Death? Special guest-appearance by the Impossible Man! Featuring a rare Thanos solo story not seen in almost thirty years! Collects SILVER SURFER #34-38, THANOS QUEST #1-2 and the Thanos backup from LOGAN’S RUN #6.
ISBN: 0-7851-2046-7

I mean, everybody knows that Infinity Gauntlet was the best crossover of all time, yeah? Fuck Crisis. Honestly, this leaves me kind of enthused about the Annihilation one-shot being discussed.

Is this a bit of a fanboyish post? I don't give a shit. There are some things I'm fanboyish about. Jim Starlin's brilliant cosmic comics is one of them.

That's what I'm excited about today. Marvel solicits.

Hey, I know it's mostly an indie blog. Eat me.

First, though, go read Nat Turner #2.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Nat Turner and Buddy Miller

Wow, Kyle Baker is good. Nat Turner #2 is a visceral, fascinating, horrifying and truly entertaining comic.

I've got to take some time and write about it at more length a bit later - I must be the only blogger around who doesn't have internet access at work, and Christ, it makes it hard to give this stuff as much time as it deserves sometimes - but in the meantime, really, just take a look at this. Just open it and look at the pictures. Really, that'll be enough to start.

Oh, and if you check out Baker's website, you'll be able to find a bunch of free comics like this one:

Also, yesterday I heard some really amazing music. I first heard Buddy Miller at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass this year when he played with Emmylou Harris (and a couple other acts, if I remember right...) and so I picked up his latest album, Universal United House of Prayer, for a mere five bucks at my favorite record store.

Anyway, he does an absolutely incredible cover of Dylan's "With God On Our Side". Slows it way down, builds it with this absolutely huge arrangement... the whole thing ends up having this really profound impact... and a haunting present-day relevance. There's a lot of anti-war liberal spouting-off that gets on my nerves, but this really got me (as did Tom Waits' song, "The Day After Tomorrow").

Good tidings to you all. A fine holiday greeting I gleaned from Larry yesterday, just before he told me his idea about digging up JFK and having his corpse sworn in as the new president.

Ah, bless.

Monday, December 12, 2005


Hey, I still haven't gotten my comics from last week! What the fuck am I doing writing a blog entry instead of just going down to the store and picking up my shit?

Well, I just don't know. So I'll tell y'all a couple things and then split, 'cause lord knows when my next chance to pick up my comics is gonna come.

Re-read Ennis and Robertson's Fury last night as I was going to sleep. Man, fuck George Clooney, that humorless shitpile: this was a fun goddamn book! I'll be looking forward to the team's reuniting on an earlier Fury tale later this year... (though I still just want my goddamn City Lights, Garth! What's the deal?!?)

DC's solicits for March are up now, and it's nice to see Becky Cloonan's finally back, with American Virgin #1 - I've been missing her since Demo concluded. Not sure how I feel about Steven T. Seagle; I haven't actually finished it's a bird... yet, somehow it didn't grab me. But between Cloonan and the Frank Quitely cover I'm sure to at least try this series out.

Finally: it occurs to me I'm really going to need to re-read Scott Morse's Soulwind sometime soon and give it a little talking-up here at Quality Control. I picked it up last year after reading Randy's review, and while ol' Randy and I have kinda diverged in our tastes since then I'm just glad as hell he gave this one such a convincing sell.

I've got a shower to take and comics to buy. I'll see y'all tomorrow!

Friday, December 09, 2005

I sucked this week, yes.

But this sucks too:

Busiek is leaving Conan.

New writer Tim Truman sounds really excited about the project, and Busiek seems to've hand-picked him, more or less, but there's still a half-mast flag waving at Quality Control today.

(Wait, Eric Powell's drawing issue #28? Hoist that flag back up - that's gonna look incredible!)

I promise to do better next week. It's been a rough few days, trust me.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

I feel like complete shit, Ferris.

Called in sick to Quality Control yesterday... or, wait, did I just not show up AND forget to call? I'm still feeling like the shit scraped out of someone's boot heels.

On the plus side, three comics are coming out today that I'm totally psyched about.

First is Nat Turner #2, by the inimitable Kyle Baker. This pantomime tale of a slave revolt in the American south is already a captivating read, and we haven't even really gotten into the titular character's life yet! Can't wait to get to this one.

And then there's the return of Hard Time, which I wrote about back when it was solicited... still excited to see this excellent series return.

And finally, Rock 'n' Roll, a one-shot by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba, the brilliant Brazilian artistic team I discovered mostly through Moon's work on Smoke And Guns.

Hooray! Let's hope I survive to read them.

Monday, December 05, 2005

I am Legion!

Well, I'm sick as a dog today and barely concious. And everyone else is forgetting that, as Larry often seems to see it, encouragement requires some abuse. So they're all up in arms because he told some folks to do a better job.

Me? I know what he's getting at and am struggling too hard, just to breathe, to argue over how he said it.

(My thanks, though, to everyone who's mentioned Quality Control in response; the support means a lot.)

I really loved Legion of Super-Heroes this week. I mean, I fuckin' loved it. The title has come under fire of late for what folks are calling "pacing issues" or an overall slowness of the central plot. I really can't agree with you folks at all.

You know those Big Epic Stories where there are a bunch of different plot threads weaving around with different characters, and things move along at a nice clip up to the climax, whereupon that little thread at the beginning that we haven't seen for the last half of the story all of a sudden rushes in to Save The Day and while it might be kind of exciting and unexpected, and you get that chance to re-read the whole thing and look for the clues, it still feels like kind of a gimmicky cheat?

I mean, we've all read at least one of those. They're great when you're, like, ten.

Waid's not letting himself get away with it. See, what this reads like to me is a history. And my favorite histories aren't the ones where Giant Force One collides with Giant Force Two and we find out what happens in the second paragraph; the really good ones are those that follow Rosencrantz and Guildenstern through their own personal stories, while history happens around them (and, God willing, they make some minor contribution to it at least).

Waid's using a cast of at least eighteen living protagonists, of whom at least ten get Starring Moments in this issue. That's hard to do, and the Big Plot might not move as fast when we're looking at every heroic (or at least interesting) moment our heroes undertake. I particularly enjoyed the elements of teamwork we saw in this issue, especially since they were parallel to each other: Brainiac, Invisible Kid and their suprise third partner made a great impact (and, it must be pointed out, brought the plot forward pretty significantly in traditional terms), while Chameleon finally got to help out by teaming with Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl, providing a storytelling payoff to the "Cham is worthless" setup we've had since the beginning - again, something bringing the story forward in a fairly significant way. It's imaginitive storytelling and frankly, I'm only getting more invested in the series as it goes on.

Listening, now, to one of my Desert Island albums: Mule Variations by Tom Waits.

Slept all night in the Cedar grove
I was born to ramble, born to rove
Some men are searchin for the Holy Grail
But there ain't nothin sweeter than ridin the rails...

Friday, December 02, 2005

jobnik! and more

ITEM: Wow, this is a hell of a press release. I was excited about the Isotope party tonight anyway, but now I'm totally hyped up. Can't wait! If you're not in San Francisco and think the party can't do anything for you, check out the link anyway. Seriously, take a minute.

ITEM: Just like Joe, I usually hate those internet jokes that get passed around in intra-office e-mails and however else... but this is just funny as hell. I gotta track down my old Texan buddy's e-mail and send it to him, he was a big Chuck Norris fan. Seriously, take a look at this one.

ITEM: My attempt to stir up thoughtful controversy is met with some rolled eyes over at Millarworld, perhaps because it's been said before. Still, I think creators need every bit of encouragement they can get to focus on their own, personal projects, and I don't mind repeating that once in a while.

ITEM: Here I am, getting tired from all the work I've had lately and worrying that maybe the blog is losing steam, when all of a sudden some hugely kind words (prefacing one of the best stories ever) from blogging favorite Jason Rodriguez give me a good kick in the ass, especially doubled up with some more kind words from Millarworld scholar and gentleman Franck Mars, who's been spearheading the Indie Solicitations thread with verve and doing some incredible work spreading the gospel to those hungry masses, finding previews and bringing the true indie comics love. Both fellows whose opinion I really respect, giving me that encouragement just when I needed it. Cheers, gents.

ITEM: I've had the pleasure of meeting Miriam Libicki a couple of times - once at APE last year and again when she came back to the city and visited the Isotope. I remember her stopping me as I strolled down the aisles at APE with a smile and a "hello" and throwing me the most bitchin' comics pitch I'd heard in a long time, for her book, jobnik!:

"It's about when I volunteered in the Israeli army. I had an office job, mostly just filing and stuff."

What a combination of concepts! My mind began to race with speculation and questions. Was she trained to properly defend herself if The Worst should happen? Did she know people who died or lost friends or family in combat? How did it feel to be on the sidelines while other folks were put at "real" risk? What kind of real risk did she face herself? After all, I've heard all kinds of horror stories about suicide bombers and such attacking Israel - you don't have to be a combat soldier to deal with danger in Israel, right? What was it like to be an American in Israel? What inspired her to volunteer in the first place, when living in America is so much safer?

All kinds of complications. And, as befits the material, the book is sometimes ambiguous and versatile; parts of it are funny, parts of it are about conflicting feelings of acceptance (stranger in a strange land, getting in touch with her roots?), parts of it are about being afraid... there are some slippery relationships and a subtext of self-doubt and unease.

In short, it's autobiographical comics and many of the things that suggests, with such a unique spin that I can't wait for more... and to see how everything turns out.

Visit to check out several preview pages and some of Libicki's other work. Sista's in the comics army, now.

Enjoy the weekend, everyone.
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