Reading: Comic Book Reviews

Chew Vol 1 Taster’s Choice (2009): This is one of the weirdest premises for a comic I’ve read yet.  The US is in a post bird-flu world that left 23 million dead. Well, maybe. As a result, the most important and powerful law enforcement branch is the Food and Drug Administration. Tony Chu is an agent of the FDA and more he is a Cibopathic.  This means he gets psychic impressions of what he eats. This first issue introduces us to the main characters and explains how Chu got into the FDA. It’s not a comic for the squeamish especially since Chu gets impressions from whatever he eats, not just food. The story, by John Layman (who also does the lettering), is completely engrossing. By having Chu thrust into the world of food related crimes, the audience is right there with him.  Moreso, Layman does a great job of making the more immediate stories interesting why setting up the long story.  The artwork, by Louisiana native Rob Guillory  (who will also be at Louisiana Comic Con Lafayette), is gritty and fits the noir tone of the writing. The story is often bloody, and Guillory, who also does the coloring, does a great job of showing us the gore without ever going into just pure goriness.

Wonder Woman Vol 2: I read Greg Rucka’s Wonder Woman Volume 1 a while back.  That book collected the odd numbers from 1-13 and dealt with who exactly Wonder Woman is/was.  This is a character that has gone through numerous reboots. This story which collects the even issues from 2-14 and here Rucka provides his own origin story. It’s a great story to get people who loved the movie interested in comics. We discover Diana’s powers at the same time we do. We get introduced to her greatest villain as well.  Rucka is a great writer and makes you interested in every character by giving each a chance to develop even if they are not given plenty of time. The art work, by Nicola Scott (and in the interlude Bilquis Evely) is gorgeous.  This is at its heart is a story of hope and the coloring, done by Romulo Fajardo Jr, matches the tone.  At the beginning of this story, Diana doesn’t speak English. Jodi Wynne’s lettering does a great job of informing us of when she is having trouble with communicating.  Again, if you liked the movie, this is a great book to read. In fact, I would read this one first and then Volume 1.

Reading: Thanos Rising

I really wanted to like this comic.  A story, written by one of my favorite writers, Jason Aaron, about one of the top villains in all of the Marvel universe.  It’s not a bad comic.  It’s well written and expertly drawn.  It’s just a story that probably didn’t need to be told.

Some villains are enriched by their back story.  Harvey Dent comes to mind.  Others work better with a lack of a back story.  The Joker is the main one in this category.

This story provides a back story for Thanos and why death follows him everywhere.  It might be too literal of back story.  It provides an explanation by not really providing one.  I know this is vague, but I don’t believe in spilling the contents of books I review because that would give you no reason to read it for yourself.  It does provide plenty of action, and it, smartly, shows that Thanos is not just a thug but that he also has a brilliant, scientific and strategic mind. But besides that, I didn’t feel that I knew Thanos any better than I did before, which for an origin story, means it didn’t really do its job.

Mr. Aaron does write some great dialog and does create some moments of true horror and suspense.  Simone Bianchi does some great pencil work, especially for full-grown Thanos.  There are a few questionable panels, one in particular in which Thanos’s mother is weirdly underdressed considering her part in the story and what is happening to her at that particular moment. The strongest work of the creative team comes from Simone Peruzzi who’s coloring does an outstanding job in helping catch the mood and the mind of Thanos.

On Goodreads, I gave the book three stars.  It’s not a bad comic at all. After reading it, I feel that maybe Thanos, like the Joker, works better when he is just absolute evil.  He works better when we have no idea why he is doing what he does.

Reading: Free Comic Book Day!

Every year, your local participating comic shop hosts Free Comic Book Day!  That’s right, you can go to your local comic book shop and get free comics.

The New Orleans area has some great comic book stores three which we frequent often.  Our comic shop is BSI Comics in Metairie.  However, we highly recommend More Fun Comics and Crescent City Comics as we often shop there when we are in that area.  Heroes Corner in Metairie is also fantastic.  Kenner also has a great shop across from Wal-Mart whose name escapes me at the moment.

Each comic book store has their own little party.  BSI will have author Blake Petit and actor Jason Carter from Babylon 5.  Crescent City will be having a sidewalk party including a lemonade stand since it’s also lemonade stand day.  The 501st usually appears at more than one shop. A quick facebook or google search will let you know what your local store is planning.

Remember, though, that the old adage of nothing is actually for free.  Your comic book shop  has to pay for those comics.  The point of Free Comic Book Day is to get bodies in the stores.  If people enter the store, then they might be inspired to buy something. So PLEASE buy something if you go.  Comic book stores often have great trade paperbacks (I highly recommend Vision or Darth Vader), toys, and other collectibles.  Pick a comic and start a pull folder in which the shop pulls comics for you and stores them for when you can make it.  The only thing about a pull folder is that the store is placing their trust in you that you will pick up your comics on a very regular basis. If not, they are losing money.

Free Comic Book Day is for readers.  Not for just comic readers.  There is some great literature being produced in the medium, so don’t let the medium stop you.  As a teacher, I can not recommend comics enough for young kids and for children who don’t like reading.  Also, don’t be discouraged by the Simpsons comic book shop persona.  We visit comic book stores in every town we visit, and we are always welcomed and given recommendations.  The stores I’ve listed above all are run by wonderful people who love talking to comics with expert collectors and novices alike.  In most cases, I think they like the novices more because (a) they are potential new customers and (b) they are possible new people to talk comics with!

So go get some free comics and pay for some as well!

See you at the comic shop!

 

 

 

Reading: Comics Roundup

Some comics I’ve been reading as of late:

Silver Surfer (2016, 1-4): Silver Surfer travels the universe on his board having adventures with his human companion, Dawn Greenwood.  Dan Slott writes the Surfer as a Doctor Who type of character who saves the day on this planet and others. Dawn Greenwood is his Rose and makes sure that he “remembers” his humanity.  While it might seem like a knockoff, the story serves as both a tribute to Doctor who and yet remains original enough to be interesting. As good as Slott’s writing is here, its the artwork that is the show.  Mike Allred, who also contributes to the story, perfectly pencils the comic.  Even better is the work of his wife, colorist Laura Allred, who makes this one of the more vibrant comics I’ve read. It matches the stories perfectly in tone. No matter how gripping the plot can be, this is one comic that I just enjoy looking at the artwork and make sure I have the time to take it all in.

Archer & Armstrong: I’m only on issue 6 of this ongoing series by Fred Van Lente and Emanuela Lupacchino and I’m amazed by how hooked I am.  One of the reasons, I’m shocked is that I hate anything that smells conspiracy theory. This takes conspiracy theories and runs with it.  Everywhere is a secret group plotting.  Lente truly makes these groups menacing. It also helps that we have two likable leads who are very flawed characters. I can’t wait to read more.

Citizen Jack: A man who has no business being in charge of small business, much less the country, makes a deal with a demon to run for President.  His campaign makes him an everyman that people can identify with even though he hasn’t said much of substance.  I’m only one comic in and Sam Humphries has me hooked in that it would be funny if it weren’t so terrifying sort of way.  The artwork, by Tommy Patterson is both crude and detailed, again reflecting the tone of the writing.

What are you reading?

 

Reading: The Long Halloween

I admit it.  I’m a newbie to the DC universe.  Most of the books that I will review here are some of the most popular books in the DC world and have been for some time.  I just figure some of our readers are long time nerds who can call me out on disagreements. I also figured that other readers are new to comics and these reviews might encourage them to try.

Batman: the Long Halloween is a collection of 13 comics in a limited series format written by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale. It was orignally published in 1996-97.

This story is set early into Batman’s career when Harvey Dent is only Harvey Dent. A murderer kills on a Halloween…and then Thanksgiving…Christmas…so forth. The killer gets the nickname Holiday since they are killing on Holidays. Most of the Batman cast is here from Alfred and Jim Gordon to most of the A list villains.

The focus of Holiday’s actions is Carmine “The Roman” Falcone”.  The killer is killing people close the mob boss.  Loeb peppers the dialogue in the mob scenes with plenty of references to The Godfather and a few to Goodfellas. The plot, on first reading, does not telegraph who Holiday is (though a reread will have you smiling a lot at how something so complex can look so simple once the mystery has been unlocked). I literally was guessing until the last page, and actually went back and read the four last pages twice the first time I read it.  Loeb crafts a master crime drama here.  He has fully developed Batman, Jim Gordon and Harvey Dent. I am still amazed how well the plot comes together.

Tim Sale’s artwork can be a offputting in that a lot of the characters are just ugly.  However, they are often mirroring what is on the inside.  He creates a great sense of atmosphere here. Classic film-noir and even classic horror help inform his art choices.  While the style at first put me off, I realized how important it was to the story Loeb was telling.

Hush, also by Loeb, was a great Batman story.  This is a great story that happens to have Batman in it.

Star Wars-ing: Vader Down

Vader Down picks up where Star Wars and Darth Vader 12 left off.  Both comics, Star Wars and Darth Vader, tell one story in a cross over event.

Luke has been guided to the planet Vrogas Vas by some information he received from reading Obi-Wan’s bio he discovered in Star Wars #7.  Doctor Alphra learns about Luke’s travels and informs Vader who quickly travels to Vrogas Vas to apprehend the boy. Of course, it’s all a setup and wonder if our heroes, and villain, will ever escape? (Not really since this takes place before Empire!).

The title comes from the fact that Vader is shot down, alone and defenseless, on Vagros Vas.  Well, we know, and the rebels should know, that a Dark Lord of the Sith is never defenseless.  Much of the action focuses on the rebels attempts to destroy Vader and Vader’s accomplises extracting Luke. We get to see Vader in all his Sith glory and he doesn’t disappoint.  We see Leia have to decide what is more important: ending Vader or saving her friends. Plus Triple Zero and Beetie get to murder lots of people on both sides.

Of course, Jason  Aaron writes the Star Wars titles ( #13 & #14) while Kieron Gillen steers Vaders #13 and #14 and the one off Vader Down that starts off the series.  You can tell they have fun setting each other up with plot points for the other one to continue.  They write some great action scenes.  Salvador Larroca draws Vader and the droids well, while sometimes he seems to have trouble with humans especially ones that are based on people we know (Leia especially). Mike Deodato handles the drawing on the Star Wars titles well especially with the fight scenes between Wookies.

Focusing on our main characters serves this plot well.  It makes for a great tale of adventure and may be the best book yet of the Star Wars collections.

Reading: Comic Collections Roundup

My reading as of late has fallen into two categories: comics and books about musicians.  While I can write well once a quarter, I can’t draw or play an instrument.  Yet, I find myself drawn to books that display those talents.  I will talk about my music books in my music podcast.  Today, I want to do a write up of a few comics that I have enjoyed lately.

Injustice: Gods Among Us: Years One to Three:  This book is the prequel to the hit video game Injustice: Gods Among Us.  In the game, Superman has forgotten about truth, justice, and the American way and instills his own justice.  In other words, he stops trying to be one of us and decides he knows what his best for us.  These books explain how we get to that state.  Written by Tom Taylor and with art by Mike S. Miller, Bruno Redondo, Tom Derenick, and Jheremy Raapack we get to see over 6 collections (two for each year) the rise of a fascist Superman.  Instead of just making him a bad guy, they give him very real, very human reasons for the actions he chooses.  Batman opposes him but instead of being just the good guy, he makes questionable choices.  It’s a civil war but one in which Tom Taylor goes full in and isn’t afraid to show the flaws of his two leads.  Year One was the best book so far, but Year Two and Three have some great moments.  I’m just afraid that year Four and Five will just hatch plots for Batman to come close but not topple Superman since this is a prequel to a game with defined sides . Avalilable on Hoopla and here (only linked volume 1).

Kingdom Come: Injustice downright uses some plot points of Kingdom Come written by Mark Waid and Alex Ross.  However, I don’t find Kingdom Come as successful.  Mainly, because unlike in Injustice, Waid never fully lets his characters go as dark as Taylor does.  The art work is interesting in that it is almost a Norman Rockwell setting.  Also, interesting is that in this book, all of the Superheros are older.  Interestingly, in both books, Wonder Woman is quick to go to the more rule by force side. Available on Hoopla and here.

Batman: The Complete Hush: Written by Jeph Loeb and illustrated by Jim Lee, this book is the one I would recommend to anyone who wants to get into comics.  Nearly every villain in the Batman universe makes an appearance.  Batman  is conflicted with all the relationships in his life.  It has great action pieces but it also shows how much tragedy informs the worlds of our superheroes. Avalilable on Hoopla and here.

Silver Surfer (starting in 2014 Issues 1-15) Dan Slott casts the Silver Surfer as a Doctor Who type of character with an earthling, Dawn Greenwood, as his companion who helps him stay rooted in his humanity.  The writing is fun and the characters are charming and funny.  Issue #11 in particular is a triumph in storytelling.  However, as good as Slott is here, and he is at his best, Michael Allread’s artwork is the true star here. Available on Marvel Unlimited and here (only linked volume 1).