Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Easy like Wednesday Morning.

So Civil War ended. I passed on it. Can someone let me know if this is the longest timeline for a six issue summer crossover? I'm sure it has records other than sales under its belt.

I give the following odds for World War Hulk events:

3:1 - Thor is the big reveal to take down Hulk in the last issue
3:1 - Thor appears on the last page of the second last issue
7:5 - Cpt. America suits up
4:1 - Nick Fury returns
10:1 - Nick Fury returns masquerading as Cpt. America
12:1 - Dr. Doom was behind everything for the last few years
2:1 - Magic or Mind Control was the cause of Civil War
Even - it will be a simple concept mishandled

I'm not sure these are Las Vegas worthy or anything but I'll gladly take your payments via paypal or cash in unmarked brown envelopes left behind Brown's cleaner's on 3rd Ave between noon and 3 p.m. - receipts will be provided.

It should work, and it should be awesome but they'll just have Banner ripping heroes a'twain instead of just smashing the buildings around them and letting Green Cross pick up the pieces. Then Iron Man will shed a single tear before sacrificing himself and hopefully Nick Fury will show up and do something crazy awesome while smoking a cigar - oh wait he's probably got to be on the patch or that nicotine gum now because Marvel has a policy, right?

Blame Sims:

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Black Thursday/Tuesday

I went into the comic shop last week and got a supscription. I have a feeling this will become a bad idea at some point but I do think my current selection of titles is fairly decent. If, let's say, I had room for one more that had nothing to do with super heroes what would you suggest?

Current list:
52 (until it's done)
Manhunter (until it's, oh wait it's not cancelled? It is? Well I'm getting it regardless so I don't need to keep track)
The Spirit
Detective Comics (for as long as Dini is on it - it's pretty dang good)
Batman (As long as Morrison isn't writing any more drug fueled essays)
Shazam: Monster Society of Evil
DC Countdown (Hey, I like 52 and weekly Dini seems just too good to pass up right now - this is on sight unseen and if I don't like it - gonzo!)
All Star Superman
The Ultimates (so I don't need to worry about that schedule anymore. I mean really, this'll cost me three bucks every year or so but it's the one title I won't drop for being late for some undefinable yet extremely hypocritical reason)
Marvel Adventures: Avengers (Still need to get the All-M.O.D.O.C. issue but Jeff Parker's Agent's of Atlas and Chris Sim's gushing have me signed up for a few issues at least)
Marvel Adventures: Iron Man (This is likely to get dropped before the book even comes out but for some reason I felt I needed an Iron Man book that had nothing to do with the Ultimate or 616 universe)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Shut the hell up, I'm a late comer to the series, I like it and will give this a chance. And by latecomer to the series I mean rented some DVDs for my sick wife after it was off the air for a few years then proceeded to rent the whole damned thing.)

Possible additions:
Hellblazer when Iain Rankin takes over as writer.
Any additional Mouse Guard, Northwest Passage or Agents of Atlas comics.
Checkmate (do I really need more DC though?)

Totally forgot about until right now and will need to add:
Action Philosophers

Will be now relegated to, or already collected as, trades for various reasons:
The Walking Dead
Y: The Last Man (It's been a while but I'll be back - no rush)
Fables (Still need to start this sometime)
Wasteland (couldn't find the first few issues but if the trade catches me up - onto the monthly list)
Fear Agent (this just disappeared too fast from the local shops for me to keep up with and I was really enjoying it)
Hellboy and BPRD (when I'm done with the HB trades)

Any glaring errors you may see there. I have a list of comics I'm not interested in if you, dear reader, give a crap about my reading and buying habits.

The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck - Don Rossa

The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck is precisely the kind of comic book triumph everyone needs to own and read to forget about the state of everything else. It makes you remember what is good and wonderful in the medium. It reminds you of the amazing adventures characters are capable of having. It let’s you laugh and cry and ever so gently reminds you that America is capable of more than super-hero melodrama and violent crap to rock your comic book world. All the while appearing simply beautiful and utterly enjoyable to get lost in while looking at the pretty pictures in every single panel.

Yes it’s taken me a long time to get and read this book but it’s been on my priority list for a long time. My wife bought it for me this Christmas and I’ve been saving it until a time when I had enough time to read it in one sitting. When we booked tickets to Toronto via train I knew I should hold off until then. Boy am I glad. I was captivated from page one panel one.

I know the Disney Ducks mostly from growing up with Donald Duck cartoons then watching the Duck Tales cartoons – which I need to remember to pick up on DVD for some kids I know. I loved the adventures of Unca Scrooge and the three nephews because they filled my serial adventure appetite on a daily basis when I didn’t own any Indiana Jones on VHS. Heck they even had a Duck Tales Nintendo game that was probably the last time (before the first Spiderman movie) there was a truly great product tie-in. So I got to know Scrooge McDuck, not as the miserly caricature he was meant to be in passing, but as the wily, creative and brave upright character he is under the surface. When seen in passing glances he’s a very simple character but scratch the surface and spend time with him and you see a fascinating duck.

The comparisons to Charles Foster Cane are unavoidable, and Rossa actually starts the last tale in this book like Citizen Cane only we’re given a character that knows the meaning of his life and has actually earned each and every penny. We get to see the making of a character from humble and poor beginnings to seeking and losing multiple fortunes as well as meeting success with familial tragedy. We see the story of a life and how a life can be turned into the stuff of legend and stories. And under it all we’re given a sympathetic character that embodies the whole “lift yourself with your own bootstraps” mentality so his fall, however brief, from those ideals is more drastic and seemingly harsh to us as a reader.

What Rossa does is not just fill in blank space left by Carl Barks who never intended to fill in any details in the first place, but to simply add a layer to a great character by wedging those details into Barks’ own fabled run on the Duck comics. You know all this already since the book is well over a year old at this point. I knew this would be a tour de force of comic bookery but I was not ready to enjoy it as much as I did. This book has hit a note in me and reminds me of what the medium is capable of outside of big punch up cross-over events. This was a continuing story that is told in strong single issues that follow a pattern and are seeking an end. It tells many tales in telling one just how Scrooge’s character is simple yet full of individual tales that make him unbelievably complex – again reflected in his fortune as one object made of billions of memories.

In one sentence this comic can be summed up as every single type of adventure tale in one book.

It is quite simply some of the best comics you’ll ever read. Forget about the latest and greatest stuff that you want simply because it is new. Go for quality and pick this up. You will be overjoyed at having experienced this comic and saddened by the utter crap you’ve recently bought. I was, and I've got a limited pull list.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Thursday's Loot - 22 February 2007

52 Week 42
Okay then, looks like I'll have to re-read this entire series at some point to see if any of the reveals make any sense. That being said I liked this issue, if only for a stretchy dude beating the crap out of an evil sorcerer.
I rate this comic: Back into a bit of a good stretch. wukka wukka wukka.

The Spirit #3
This can't be right. A comic that's essentially "to be continued..." has a complete origin story. Someone didn't send Darwyn Cooke that memo about writing for the trade. Yes, it's familiar territory but we're still given different points of view that manage to establish each of the characters and their relationship to Denny Colt (even when they're not on panel). I feel like reading this series is like buying carbon credits for my wasteful spending on other titles. If you're wanting a unique perspective on this book just read it and make up your own mind, I'm sure it's been praised everywhere and I can't add too much to what's already out there.
I rate this comic: A breath of fresh air that is much needed.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Couriers #3 - The Ballad of Johnny Funwrecker

Like the previous two volumes of Couriers this one if full of manic energy and life you expect from urban living. Cool kids who you probably wouldn't want to meet unless you were their age.

This volume sets up the background for the other stories and shows the protagonists in a bit of a darker light. I find that interesting because in the other volumes they were still being portrayed as heroic but here we see them more as young criminals who are trying to set themselves up to be self-sufficient. Yes, they weren't exactly shining examples of purity and goodness in the other volumes but they were loyal, trusting and well, cool. Here we see how they meet and develop that trust.

What I like the most about these books is that they're like floppies of yore. Chalk full of a single story and overflowing with action but with a page count that lets the story take shape and conclude in one volume. It's basically a fast and energetic narrative that delivers bubblegum action and stylized violence with an art style that fits the story like a Hugo Boss suit.

And Johnny Funwrecker is probably the best name ever.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Woo Hoo!

Today I just accepted a job as the Coordinating Editor for the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. I have been pre-occupied with waiting to hear about this hence the lack of posting.

For those of you who didn't figure it out yet, I was working for the Green Party of Canada. I am very happy to be leaving them behind me.

Heck, I'm announcing it on my blog before I've even officially resigned which shows you my priorities (and the executive director has been trapped in a web-team meeting since I got the call).

I am now waiting for my day to end so I can go to my favourite pub with my favourite people and drink copious amounts of liquor.

Then I'll be out of town until next Tuesday so I'll be totally radio silent until then.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Wednesday's Loot - 14 February 2007

The Valentine's Day edition! But Diamond has no love for Mr. Cormier as Godland doesn't seem to have been delivered to Ottawa.

52 Week 41
I didn’t know much about The Question but 52 got me to like him. Then he got cancer and died, only he kept showing up in stories until he died off panel and this is the first we hear of it. Or did he die in that snowstorm a few weeks ago. I have to say that’s a bit mishandled in my opinion. Otherwise this is a solid issue. Wonder Woman with the monks and Montoya going all Kung-fu were some great moments that I think serve her plot very well. The space heroes are back in action with some great action sequences with Mogo as the latest spheroid last page reveal. I think Egg-fu was the first. I’m glad to see Ralph and Fate’s Helmet show up and go all Booster and Skeets on an old dude with no legs then disappear. But honestly, the parts with Adam Strange were just handled perfectly for me. Finally, like Steele, we get a hero who faces his own demons and takes about a second to overcome them. It’s a brilliant contrast to Starfire who just never stopped acting like a hero from the start. Naturally it looks like she’s been killed off because having heroes without self-doubt seems to be the big no no one year later if that promotional image of the headless statue of liberty has anything to say about it.
I rate this comic: Really quite good after a few slower weeks.

Manhunter #28
Page one pokes fun at Justice League of America in classic Blue Beetle form but the love of the Bwa-ha-ha era of the character continues throughout. I sort of feel like this book should have been billed as 52 since it’s dealing with a lot of the continuity and story scraps in a very strong and convincing manner. The main character stays out of costume and lets the guest stars shine, and shine they do. The presentations of Blue Beetle, Wonder Woman and Batman are all top notch here but adding Kate Spencer’s voice over to the proceedings just gives these scenes an edge I can appreciate. I’m a bit lost on some of the side stories because I’m fuzzy on the whole Azreal era of Batman which may not be a bad thing but my plan to get the Manhunter trades should help me catch up on the supporting cast. I’ll be sorry to see this title go but I wasn’t buying it either until recently and I feel like an idiot because of it.
I rate this comic:
Making for a strong week so far, even if I can’t get a copy of Godland in Ottawa.

Batman #663

Well that was certainly different with enough twisted romance for any Valentine's Day curmudgeon.
I rate this comic: More of a text essay than a comic book and a subversive attempt to get superhero comic fans to read something trying to push the limits of the form.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Sidebar updates

I just updated my sidebar links because I realised I wasn't linking to Bully Says: Comics Oughta Be Fun! And, well, that's just not right.

There's a few more links in my Miscellany section as well.

So to make amends here's the Dead Robot's take on Black Hole Vs. Event Horizon.


Prject BD Book 10

Tintin au Tibet

Unfortunately this is the last of the BD I'll be reviewing for a while as I ran out of time from the library and can't renew any of the books I have out. Which means no Marshal Blueberry reviews because the rest of my life took more time from me than I thought. I simply didn't have time to read comics in my second language this weekend. From what little I did read, Blueberry is a pretty decent western comic with art provided by Jean (Moebius) Giraud who has everyone looking beat and mean rather than the clean and precise linework I'm used to in his sci-fi work.

Compared to the other two Tintin books I've read this is probably the least exciting. It's basically a mountaineering trip in the Himilayas for the entire book. The big star this time though is Captain Haddock who spends most of the book receiving massive head trauma from stones and the rest of the book either complaining and threatening to leave Tintin to die alone, drinking whisky or otherwise letting his emotions over-run his logic. He's probably the best curmudgeonly companion ever created for comics.

The plot seems phoned in this time with Tintin getting a dream vision that his friend Tchang, from Tintin and the Blue Lotus is lost and hungry but still alive in the mountains after a plane crash. Turns out he is and the Yeti was taking care of him. That's about it. Oh yeah, and the dog gets drunk and falls off a mountain pass.

Friday, February 09, 2007

So tired, so sleepy

Last night me and my wife were at a friend's house to take care of their five year old son and twin soon-to-be 3 year old girls. On top of that their bedroom doubles as two home offices and I believe a server farm.

I am too tired to write anything and had no time to read any comics whatsoever, nevermind anything in a second language.

I'm in the right frame of mind to be at my job though, so that's a plus.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Generic and Possibly Clever Title

I think I wanted more from the Action Comics Annual than just a bunch of set ups for the next few story arcs. Although the multi-flavoured kryptonite Metallo was pretty cool and I like the villain wanted posters and the Fortress of Solitude tour. But I wanted a bit more. Too much of it felt truncated to me - kind of like this rather uniformative review.

So here's some working titles for some of my current writing projects I'm, uh, working on:

The Great Upheaval
Tick Tock
Life of the Party
Deadlocked (or Jon of the Dead, or From Dusk till Jon, or Crack of Jon - ew, not that last one).
The Many Lives of Mr. X

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Wednesday's Loot - 07 February 2007

52 Week 40
A smack down drag out fight between Steel and Super Luthor. I liked it for being so darn simple. And while I like coming of age stories that involve traveling, like On The Road, I’m not sure I can take another meandering travelogue in the pages of 52 with Osiris off to the Rock of Eternity, although if Batshit insane Billy is still there it could be fun.
I rate this comic: A good distraction with punching.

Detective Comics #828
Bruce Wayne, Shark Detective. Again, I’m finding it hard to compliment this book again under Dini’s pen. It’s quite frankly, exactly what I want from my Batman stories. Self contained mysteries with a few random facts thrown in and some banter amongst the supporting cast. Including Bruce summing up the difference between friends, allies and families with a mention of Aquaman chucked in for good measure.
I rate this comic: Still really good.

Jeff Smith’s Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil
Remember when comics were these amazing four colour creations that let you escape the world by telling amazing adventures that looked so pretty you wanted to go live in that world even if they were a bit scary but at least there were superheroes and stuff. Yeah, me too. It happened about ten minutes ago when I read this book.
I rate this comic: GLGZOOB ZDVHLNV!

Action Comics Annual #10

Still haven’t read it but it looks like old-school Annual brilliance. Can’t wait to get home, pour a glass of Alt-a-bhain whiskey (preview copy before the distillery opens - one of the benefits of marrying a lass with a few Scottish roots) and enjoy this.

Project BD Book 9

Tintin: L’ile Noir
Story and Art by Herge

Tintin goes to Scotland in this one and the story has a lot more humour in it than the previous volume I read. Okay, Tintin does get shot on page one but trust me there’s some humour later on when his dog develops a taste for whiskey and Tintin wears a kilt.

This volume felt a lot less dense than The Blue Lotus simply because there was more visual action rather than dialogue. What that translates to on the page is a lot more beautiful artwork showing Herge’s ability to recreate landscapes and nature in a believable fashion while populating this world with simplified characters.

Let’s see how the action goes in this volume. Hmmm. Tintin is shot on page one, then knocked unconscious, knocked over by a goat, knocked out by chloroform, pulls down a tree branch with a flood light attached onto his head, runs full on into a rake, tries to jump onto a moving car and misses, is in a trailer that detaches and crashes into a tree shooting him out into a pond, bumps into numerous people on numerous trains, gets hauled around by Dupont and Dupond with a cane around his throat, is in a plane crash, fights a gorilla repeatedly, tries to scare the gorilla by shooting into the air only to knock a brick out of a castle tower that lands on his head, then finally trips down the tower stairs of the same castle into the police. I’m telling you, he’s Jimmy Olsen without the brain damage. He’s a cub reporter who holds his own in adventures around the world, uses disguises, cunning and brute force to escape thugs and has probably stopped more counterfeiting rings than the FBI.

These adventures are pure gold and I enjoy totally at face value, rather than finding enjoyment on some ironic level. It’s totally refreshing and reminds me of what good comics can be – exciting, simple and beautiful to look at.

Read more Tintin if you’re ever feeling out of sorts and angry at the medium. You’ll get pretty much everything you’re missing from superheroes.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Project BD Book 8

Tintin: Le Lotus Bleu
Story and Art by Herge

Reading Tintin is always a pleasure. It’s this great combination of classic adventure storytelling with amazing artwork. Streamlined is the best way I can describe it. A simplified lead character in a rather detailed world. It shouldn’t work but it does, and I’m fairly certain it works because the detailed world is still brightly coloured to an almost surreal level.

If you’ve never read Tintin before he’s basically Jimmy Olsen without the mind numbing stupidity. Okay, sometimes those whacky Jimmy Olsen stories are insanely funny but mostly in an openly ironic poking fun at a story aimed at kid’s type of way instead of a wow that scene was hilariously written way. Tintin is basically Indiana Jones without the sex. I mean this kid is meant to be a reporter but I’ve never seen him write much in pretty much the same way Indiana Jones is meant to be an Archeologist but we’ve never seen him mark off some dirt and start digging for fossils and pottery shards.

This episode has Tintin going to China in the lead up to (or cool down from) the Second World War. At least I’m pretty sure that’s meant to be the time frame because there is a lot of politics involving the English and the Japanese. There are faked terrorist acts, armed force invasions, corrupt cops, at least three time Tintin beats the crap out of grown men (sometimes three at a time) and two visits to an opium den. Because I’ve read this as a kid I always think these books are aimed squarely at the kid demographic but it’s got a lot of content that isn’t totally kid friendly. It’s basically for the new readers who think Disney is fluffy crap and want something with a bit more edge.

It certainly delivers. There are imaginative traps and double crosses to keep younger readers captivated as well as enough beautiful artwork to keep us older fuddy duddies happy with the medium. It’s a reminder that even when comics were aimed at a younger demographic they weren’t the total pabulum we imagine them being. Perhaps it’s because this book was created before parent interest groups but having a bit of darkness and danger in the story is what makes it feel classic. And for me, as well as a lot of readers, it was probably some of the first times we’ve read comics that seemed serious while still maintaining a sense of adventure.

What the heck fits that description today, with a similar expressive approach?

This is a story exploring a Eurocentric approach to the Far East that is problematic while it does make obvious attempts to avoid criticism by having a conversation between Tintin and Tchang proving both cultures are equally racist. Yeah. Underneath all that is a bit of a mystery involving crossed wires, incomplete messages and a quest to find an antidote to a poison that makes you insane. It's all a bit of a macguffin to have Tintin go to China really as well as avoid corrupt powers that be.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Project BD books 6 and 7

W.E.S.T. – Century Club
Script: Xavier Dorison and Fabien Nury
Art: Christian Rossi
Published by Dargaud 2005

This book is the conclusion to the story started in La Chute de Babylone. Plot wise, everything seems to wrap up nicely albeit in a more or less run of the mill good guys have a plan that outsmarts the bad guys’ plan. And yet it is pulled of in a manner, location and style that although you’ve seen it before you enjoy nonetheless for the original aspects presented here. The Buffalo World’s Fair is the location to kill the president and vice president to install the antagonist Senator in the presidency.

We learn more about the power behind the power, so to speak. The shadowy figure who has been controlling America’s elite from behind the scenes with his unstoppable cloaked killers and mystic tattoo that is seen only in reflections as a mark of that person’s bond to the true enemy. Basically, people were offered a deal with the devil that when it was paid up was never what the person intended to pay. One guy is actually given the heart of the woman he wanted to love him, while most tend to lose their first born son. It’s also explained the connections between the current story and Hammurabi’s Babylon.

There was an ancient magician who helped install Hammurabi as king but when the sorcerer came for payment he demanded the first born son of everyone who asked him for a favour. Hence, the fall of Babylon, which would makes the first volume’s title make a lot more sense. We finally get to see the parallels between Babylon and present day America (in the story). That’s really my only complaint, the titles seem mismatched. The last volume was more about the Century Club and this one more about the fall of Babylon but honestly, that’s it. Which is rare with me and comics these days. Usually I have a plethora of underhanded jabs at works I enjoyed.

Anyway, there’s some cool old-west gunfights in the middle of New York, Alistair Crowley is revealed to be the evil sorcerer supreme, the leader of the good-guys is basically Batman with a white handlebar mustache, there’s a bad ass fight with a stone-cold killer who had all his nerves severed (or something along those lines) so the pip-squeak sharp shooter of the group takes him out Doom style with a shotgun, President McKinley gets killed, there’s a fun twist on a daring prison rescue, and some poetic justice is handed out to the antagonist senator in the form of his wife, who has been driven to drink, with a clever.

All in all, this book needs an English translation or someone to point one out to me. And I think once and for all, the series is actually French from what I can tell online. I should be more discerning in my claims and maybe research them quickly once in a while.

Here's Christian Rossi's blurb on

Asterix chez les Breton
Words: Rene Goscinny
Art: Albert Uderzo
Published: Hachette 1999 reprint

I picked up this volume purely on the promise of Asterix and Obelix playing rugby. I wasn’t disappointed. Being a bit of an Anglophile it was fun to see how the French, and the rest of continental Europe for that matter, view the English Isle.

As with previous volumes you don’t really need to know much of the history of the characters because it gets explained at the beginning like old school Marvel books. By that I mean, concisely and outside of the story itself. Also, just like the other volumes the more you learn about the history of the time the more you realize how intelligent the stories are. In this one, Britain is occupied by the Celts, the Breton, the Gauls, the Danes and pretty much any sea-faring northern nation when the Romans arrived. But we’re not too worried about historic accuracy, even though it’s there.

What we’re concerned with here is whether or not Asterix and Obelix get to beat up some Romans. They do.

Along the way they poke fun at Asterix’s tweed wearing cousin, warm beer and boiled meat with mint jelly. Throughout the book there’s countless jokes about the Romans and our Gaullish heroes looking for Gaulish wine, which as you would know is French Wine. And Obelix is constantly disgusted with the boiled meat and how the Brits drink hot water at 5 p.m. every day, and pretty much any other time they can.

It’s pointed out how Jolitorax, Asterix’s cousin, is from the Cambridge tribe, so he’s an accomplished rower. This, of course, making reference to the annual Cambridge Oxford 3-mile boat race on the Thames which Cambridge dominated from about the twenties to about the mid-seventies (which should accomodate the printing of this volume). I used to live by Hammersmith Bridge so could watch the end of the race during my last year in London. There’s also the fierce gardener who manicures his lawn and won’t let anyone onto it, the Tower of Londinium, a fun spoof of the sculpture of the goddess Diana mounting(here crushing) her deer, umbrellas, double decker buses, The Beatles, fog and rain, and the rugby game which gets all the locals riled up. The only thing that was less obvious to me in this volume were the puns in the names. Not being able to find my French-English dictionary didn’t help here and I’m not about to do some retroactive searching online, I’ll just accept they went over my head and move on with my life.

Now, plok pointed this out in the comments for the last Project BD post. These books are beautiful to look at. It’s not just the expressive characters, it’s the colours used and the dynamic layouts of the images themselves. During the rugby game, one team is literally twice the size of the other. Whenever someone asks to shake Obelix’s hand, and he happily obliges, the picture of them being bashed about makes you feel dizzy. This is something that feels lost outside of the Disney Duck Comics and Hellboy. Brightly coloured characters that don’t have to be real can better express a situation and make that situation pleasing to the eye of the reader.

It’s strange, there are a lot of more adult situations here that wouldn’t go by well to the conservative North American market. No sex, but there’s a lot of drunken fights, more drunkenness and just plain old regular fights. But because these characters are cartoony looking they look to be in more pain and more hung-over than they would otherwise. Feeling and emotion isn’t just presented in the posing of the character but also in how they are coloured. Bruised eyes, red noses, green or red faces. It all helps make the information readily available and fun to look at.

Do yourself a favour and pick up some translations of this French Superman when you’re looking for something along the lines of Scrooge McDuck or just something that will make you simply happy.