Thursday, March 11, 2004

The Comics INactivist proudly presents:

By Christopher Butcher and Patrick Neighly [and the Comics Inactivist]

Christopher: Yet another ‘out of date’ Previews Review we’re doing, only in so far as the pre-order deadline for the titles being recommended below has passed. Usually, this doesn’t mean a whole hell-of-a-lot as most of the books recommended are available for order for quite some time past the ‘on sale date’. Still, for several of the titles below chances are you just aren’t going to see them at your average comic book shop. So if a book below doesn’t look like something you’d normally see at your store, make sure to mention it to your retailer A.S.A.P. so that s/he can get it in for you. Sorry, but no item codes or page numbers this month. If you really need to look anything up, head over to Diamond's website:

PATRICK: For those of you following along at home, the main text of the Review is written as above. Follow-up commentary (for this month alone) will follow in this format. Now, on with the review!

Christopher: It’s HELLBOY month at Dark Horse (and for most of the comics industry),

[Tokyopop has chosen not to observe Hellboy month, while AiT/PlanetLar has given employees a floating holiday they can either take next Friday or reserve for later]

as mostly-everyone rushes to hop on board for the newest comic book title to receive Hollywood’s blessing. The reaction to the whole endeavour has been interesting, primarily because HELLBOY has clear roots inside the Superhero sub-genre, but it’s sort of weird and alternative and it isn’t published by DC or Marvel. What are the strange new stirrings in fanboy loins, when they see a trailer that looks like X-MEN and sounds like X-MEN but is from one of those dumb publishers that bogs down the Previews catalogue with books that aren’t X-MEN? Are they cheating? Is fandom’s collective hard on leading them away from their one true love (corporate superhero comics)? Don’t worry baby, HELLBOY will make it alright. And when it’s all over, Marvel and DC will take you back because, honestly, they’re quite desperate and more than a little slutty themselves…

[in other words, I really, really hate Marvel and DC and will find any way to criticize them, even when talking about some other publisher’s book. DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL? Marvel and DC sure wouldn’t publish that, would they? HA! PERSEPOLIS? Not a chance, with those slutty fuckers! Hee-hee!]

So what marks HELLBOY month? A number of new titles. First and foremost is the 25 cent special edition HELLBOY: THE CORPSE. A short story that inspired a sequence in the upcoming film, this 25 cent introduction to the HELLBOY comic should be a perfect way to introduce the masses to the waiting library of graphic novels.

[All those masses have to do is find a comics shop, just like they’ve done for Free Comic Book Day the past couple years, leading to that massive surge in revenue the industry has been enjoying.]

The nice thing about HELLBOY (versus most of the big-screen superhero attempts) is that the library of available work all hits a decent standard of quality. The same artist on every book (or similarly talented artists in the spin-offs), stand-alone books, sort of a dream really. It looks like Dark Horse is putting themselves in a good position to take advantage of all of the hype surrounding the film, good stuff.
As for the book itself? I think HELLBOY is alright, really nice art. I just don’t really click with the stories at all. It’s just a bit… blah I guess. I dunno. Not for me.

[But, you know, a decent standard of blah, unlike the Marvel/DC corporate blah. This is CREATOR-OWNED, SAME ARTIST BLAH!]

But I’m happy for Mignola and Dark Horse, more quality creator-owned books getting attention (and the money that comes with it).

[I think Harvey Pekar was able to buy a couple pairs of pants with all that AMERICAN SPLENDOR do-re-mi]

PATRICK: HELLBOY is one of those books that suffers from the comics curse for me – i.e. “Comics cost too much and I can’t buy them all.”

[it’s my curse and I’m sticking to it. And he’s right, that HELLBOY is sure hard on the wallet, costing as much as $20 a year sometimes]

It’s just never had that one cover that shouts out BUY ME! when I’m browsing, but always just seems to be more of the same. I’m a terrible person, I know. Having said that, I think you’re spot on with your fanboy analysis here. There’s more crossover with the comics mainstream, especially for readers wondering when Mignola is going to return to Marvel or whatever

[Because that’s when he was really a fan-favorite, what with the runaway successes of ROCKET RACCOON and FAFHRD AND THE GREY MOUSER]

but some of the puzzlement brings to mind the impact of Ghost World and American Splendor on retailers like my local shop, for which HELLBOY represents the cutting edge of indie comics not to be gambled on.


Christopher: Also of note from Dark Horse’s creator-owned superhero line, it looks like they picked up Steve Rude’s THE MOTH one-shot. After some pretty dubious bullshit from Marvel’s legal department, and Image unwilling to go to bat on that front for Rude,

[Damn you, corporate comics!]

he’s back at Dark Horse with a 56 page one shot and a four-issue limited series starting next month. Nice looking stuff from Rude too. It’s not NEXUS (which may end up being a mark against it for some people) but it’s certainly decent looking.

[Remember, superheroes are fine, so long as it’s not Marvel or DC doing them.]

PATRICK: For added comedy value in this whole Moth/Marvel thing, check out the new designs for Cyclops in Joss Whedon’s ASTONISHING X-MEN.
Christopher: At no point could I be surprised by a depth to which Marvel might sink… But yeah, I do see your point…

[That’s just Marvel’s way, isn’t it, to rip off an unpopular artist’s design of an unproven superhero. It’s just like when they forced Darick Robertson to draw Wolverine more like Reid Fleming, World’s Toughest Milkman.]

Christopher: Also of note from Dark Horse, Linda Medley’s CASTLE WAITING moves to it’s third publisher with the Dark Horse edition of the first trade paperback. I like CASTLE WAITING, but it has the strangest and most irregular schedule I’ve ever seen (narrowly eclipsing

[How do you “narrowly eclipse” something? That’s like just barely obliterating it]

STRAY BULLETS, and I’ve got my fingers crossed that Lapham just hurries up and sells out on that front so we can get the collections back in print…). There’s a new What’s Michael collection, WHAT’S MICHAEL VOLUME 9 too.

[Let’s pause for a moment and reflect on the short shrift given these indie books, to be followed by the lengthy endorsement of a SUPERMAN GRAPHIC NOVEL…]

Moving along to DC/Vertigo, we’ve got a fairly interesting little

[130 page hardcover]

book. IT’S A BIRD is an original graphic novel from Steven Seagle and Teddy Kristiansen about Seagle’s difficulties writing the character Superman.

[to be followed by IT’S A MUTANT, about his difficulty writing X-Men, and IT’S JUST ME, about his difficulties writing anything anyone wants to read]

Seagle and Kristiansen were the team responsible for Vertigo’s HOUSE OF SECRETS ongoing series from a few years back. It was a compelling character-driven story that lost it’s way

[from the start]

, meandered a little until it was finally put to death at issue 25. With only 130 pages to tell a story (and not 550 or so) I’m tempted to believe that it’ll be a little tighter,

[one would hope]

a little more to the point (while still having enough room to breathe). Certainly the preview pages in the Previews catalogue (and elsewhere) are very good; an examination of Superman’s costume; his impact on society; and a ‘comic’ story page featuring a young Clark Kent learning the weight of his responsibility; it’s all very good. I was surprised, I didn’t have high hopes for this project when it was announced (it has the air of self-congratulation about how important Superman is that still gets under my skin),

[which still can’t cover the air of self-congratulation coming from Seagle himself. But hey, he really is wowing them on the monthly book, isn’t he? Isn’t he?]

but reading more about it and seeing the story pages I’m at least a little more optimistic. I guess my only real hesitation is that, being that it’s a Time/Warner book, publisher by The Superman People, the outcome of Seagle’s struggle with the Superman mythology seems just a little pre-ordained, y’know? Still, it could surprise me. I’m hoping it surprises me.

PATRICK: Whether it does surprise you or not, the book is something of a paradox. If Superman was still vital and relevant, we wouldn’t need this book in the first place, would we?

[Way to say in two lines the whole problem with this book]

Christopher: Well, not according to DC. You see, DC does it’s best to remind us all that Superman Is Vital And Relevant every couple of years. Last time around it was the SUPERMAN: DAY OF DOOM mini-series. In which Clark Kent wrote a piece on the death of Superman, and tons and tons of characters gave uncontested monologues about The Greatness Of Superman, and the only dissenting voice saw the light by the end. See? Even dissenters recognize His Majesty. Yeah, it’s disgusting. This time out rings just a little bit truer and a little bit more personal though, which is why I’m anticipating it a bit more.
Christopher: Also from DC, there’s the surprise hit FORMERLY KNOWN AS THE JUSTICE LEAGUE TPB. Featuring the very funny six-issue mini-series by Giffen, DeMatteis, and Maguire from last year. It sort of came out of left field with it’s success, and all-in-all it was a really surprisingly good book, and the collected edition is nice and inexpensive as well. Also keep a look out for THE MAXX BOOK TWO, the second in DC/Wildstorm’s complete reprinting of Sam Keith and William Messner-Loebs’ MAXX series. This issue collects issues 7-13 of The Maxx and the short-story from Darker Image #1. MAXX is a great series, and I’m glad to see the continuing collections.
LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN really opened up the industry to historical fiction (and historical science-fiction),

[FROM HELL was just a warm-up]

and while the results of this newfound creative and financial viability have been mixed at best, THE BLACK FOREST looks like a series expertly equipped to take advantage of the situation. Last year, Mike Oeming (Powers) and Neil Vokes put together a great little period piece last year, a graphic novella called PARLIAMENT OF JUSTICE. What I read of it (bad Chris) was good stuff, but the art was just bang-on excellent. THE BLACK FOREST is from the same artist, is similarly beautiful, and according to the five page preview I’ve read looks to be an exciting little romp. Nazis, Frankenstein, and a book that starts and ends in a go. Sounds excellent.

[And this is Nazis and Frankenstein from Alan Moore’s and Kevin O’Neil’s successor Neil Vokes, not that blah blah Nazi Frankenshit from Mike Mignola.]

Speaking of Oeming (who provides the cover to THE BLACK FOREST), Brian Bendis and Michael Oeming’s POWERS VOLUME 2 #1 drops in March. Following the unbelievable events of the end of volume one an entirely new status quo sets off the second series and ‘good jumping on point’ is about the meanest thing I can say about this new first issue. I can be a little bit hyperbolic, at times, but believe me when I say that POWERS is attempting things with comics that haven’t been attempted since… oh… MIRACLEMAN. It’s the clear difference between something cynical and derivative like WANTED and an outstanding, imaginative, take-no-prisoners comic. Seriously. If you’re on the fence about POWERS, if you (God Help You) liked WANTED and wanted to know what a similar comic that was actually successful looked like, hell, if you just want something good to read, take my word for it. Be there for POWERS V2 #1 in March.

[I am Christopher Butcher and I am unable to praise anything without criticizing something else. It’s what makes me great, your shittiness]

PATRICK: Is POWERS the best ongoing series published today? I think it just might be. It drives me nuts that Bendis can’t shift his Marvel numbers to this book.

Christopher: It used to drive me nuts, but since I’ve accepted that people suck, now I’m just happy that Bendis gets Any Readers At All for something that doesn’t have fucking SPIDER-MAN on the cover.


Whatever. I will say thought that with the… hubbub… surrounding Image right now, I think it’ll be interesting to see if the book comes out as scheduled…

[Because…Jim Valentino was the guy who stapled the comics? What’s the point here?]

Christopher: Also from Image, there’s a new original graphic novel about Heaven’s IPO called HEAVEN, LLC. It features are from Dave Crossland, who’s a little bit Mike Ploog and a little bit Jim Mahfood. It sounds sacrilicious. Robert Kirkman solicits the second trade paperback collection of his INVINCIBLE mini-series, INVINCIBLE: EIGHT IS ENOUGH. The eighth issue just shipped and it seems like a really weird place to break up the collection as the big cliffhanger-reveal came in issue #8…? Anyway, it’s a good (though Very Decompressed) superhero series with lovely art. Good twist in this one too. Finally, the first two issues of the long-delayed MINISTRY OF SPACE series are reprinted in the MINISTRY OF SPACE OMNIBUS in anticipation of the final issue next month. Far-and-away the most successful of Warren Ellis’ three-issue minis, I bet those people that were waiting for the trade are kicking themselves now huh? THREE YEARS, BUDDY. Note: I am mostly talking about myself here… :(

[Why would they be kicking themselves? Why even get the issues now, when it’s finally almost over and ready to collect. Not to mention that it’s a piece of shit]

PATRICK: And did anything else by Ellis come out in the past three years? Yes. At least his smug sanctimoniousness is tempered here by Image’s ill-considered decision to release a bumper edition of the first two issues rather than just cutting to the chase and publishing a MINISTRY OF SPACE trade paperback. Between delays that rival Kevin Smith’s and the recent announcement of ULTIMATE FANTASTIC FOUR, does Ellis now categorize himself as Part of the Problem?

Christopher: Actually, funny thing. In his manifesto, he freely admits to being part of the problem. “Old Bastard’s Manifesto”. Who knows though, hm? I’m surprised someone didn’t drag that one out to hang him with when the ULTIMATE FANTASTIC FOUR news broke. Personally? Good on him. Comics Is Fucked. I hope he makes a lot of money with Ultimate Fantastic Four.

[Yeah, give those fucking Marvelheads some derivative Doctor Doom shit, take that money, and then pump out more vital creator-owned work like TOKYO STORM WARNING and STRANGER KILLINGS and MEK. That’s what comics needs.]

PATRICK: Well, yeah, I actually agree with this. I don’t have a problem with Ellis on Ultimate FF or whatever in itself. It’s just that maybe we don’t need to be lectured about principles by someone who can’t stick to his, you know?

Christopher: But anyway, I think the bumper-edition was the right way to go with this. The fucking LAST THING I needed to listen to was bitching from assholes about how they bought MINISTRY OF SPACE 1 and MINISTRY OF SPACE 2 and now had to buy A REALLY EXPENSIVE TRADE PAPERBACK TO GET THE END OF THE STORY. If they just released issue 3, orders would tank because it’s been two years since 2. They made the best decision available to them at the time, in my always-humble opinion.

[But the BUMPER EDITION has nothing to do with having to buy a TRADE PAPERBACK you CAPITALIZING IDIOT]

Christopher: Diamond is nice enough to remind us that March will see CEREBUS #300, the final issue of “The comic medium’s first-ever 6000-page graphic novel”. Maybe they mean exactly 6000 pages, cuz I could swear that the complete Dragonball saga runs over 7000 pages and was started later and finished earlier than Cerebus. Of course Dave Sim would likely write Dragonball off as “illiterate commuter trash” or some-such anyway. Which is why, say, Dave’s going away party is about %50 fond-farewell, and %50 sigh of relief. Not to take anything away from Sim or Gerhard

[No, not much, except “CEREBUS AIN’T DRAGONBALL, SHITHEAD!”]

, I doubt I’ll ever finish 6000 pages of anything.

PATRICK: Not even 6000 pages of CEREBUS?

Christopher: No, YOU’RE THE VOID. No, seriously, 6000 pages… It’s an impressive accomplishment. I had a friend who got me into Cerebus. He did mini-comics, and his art and stories had been heavily influenced by the book. I kind of wanted to see what all the fuss was, so one day (a Saturday between 10 in the morning and say, 8 in the evening) I read Cerebus. The first four volumes worth, anyway. I think that, honestly, HIGH SOCIETY, CHURCH & STATE VOLUME 1, and CHURCH & STATE VOLUME 2 are some of the best comics I’ve ever read. After that? I couldn’t get into JAKA’S STORY for some reason that I can’t put into words. I’m going to try again some day. And MELMOTH…? Anyway. Despite being put off by the post C&S stuff, I came back to the book with issue #200, the GUYS story arc. Cerebus/Dave Sim, Greg Hyland (creator of Lethargic Lad), Mick Jagger, Keef Richards, Bacchus, and a guy named “Bear” walk into a bar. And they don’t leave for 20+ issues. Was a funny read, good stuff. Then? Back to the grind… I flipped open the last trade paperback that came out, “Latter Days”, and it seemed to be about how Art Spiegelman’s wife ruined his life, somehow, so yeah… Fond farewell Dave, pardon me for letting out this sigh…

Christopher: Alternative Comics is printing a fascinating new travelogue of pre 9/11 Morocco by SHUCK UNMASKED cartoonist Rick Smith called BARAKA & BLACK MAGIC IN MORROCCO. I tend to find comics travelogues fascinating. I particularly liked last year’s travel-themed SPX anthology, and there was a 5 page sequence in the MONSIEUR JEAN story in DRAWN & QUARTERLY VOLUME 5 that was a brilliantly done depiction of arriving in New York for the first time, a chaotic whirlwind of sites


and sounds and experiences. The preview pages at the Alternative Comics website look decent, though the language seems oddly stilted in places. Definitely one to check out in store.

[should be some fascinating stiltedness]

Slave Labor has a few very cool books out this month. The first is a trade paperback collection of FSc’s work, NIGHTMARES & FAIRYTALES VOL 1: ANNABELLE SPEAKS TP. In a series of short stories we get to see FSc’s gorgeous manga-meets-Vasquez artwork grace a number of ‘fractured fairytales’. NIGHTMARES is written by Gloom Cookie’s Serena Valentino and I gotta say, I don’t really care for what she brings to the book. I think the only story that I actually enjoyed from this run was their take on Snow White, and the rest were kind of… bleh. Still FSc’s art is a real treat on many of these stories, and the collected edition features a new 1-page comic from Jhonen Vasquez too.

[One-page?! That’s sure worth mentioning. If you like one page of Jhonen, matched with bleh stories and gorgeous art, this one’s for you.]

Their second notable release is the somehow-controversial STREET ANGEL #1 by Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca. I don’t quite get it, a hundred books ‘similar’ to STREET ANGEL come out every year, appearing and disappearing with nary a peep. Slave Labor even publishes like, 15 of them. Somehow, some fanboy decided that the sheer existence of this book was worth getting upset about and just went to town predicting failure. So, of course, he created a ton of controversy which pretty much ensured a higher profile and higher pre-orders. Which is devilishly clever, I’d almost accuse SLG or the creators of manufacturing the whole thing if I didn’t think so little of comics fandom as to believe that some superhero fanboy would be offended by an SLG book daring to knock another story about Jim Lee from the top spot at Newsarama. Ah well. The preview looks Really Good, the cover is just awesome, and I think this three issue mini-series might be able to find its feet. Check it out for yourself,

[where can I find the transcript of this whole controversy, or am I supposed to know what the fuck you’re talking about? At least you worked in some good anti-fanboy blather there]

…I fucking hate Previews, I just remembered. Fuck you Jim Balent, fuck you.

PATRICK: Just wait until the ad in next month’s issue…

Christopher: I can’t even tell who’s more cynical anymore…

[My guess is you]

Christopher: Meanwhile, It appears that Com.X’s CLASSWAR #4 is finally coming out after losing artist-after-artist on the title. I’ve heard really interesting things about their “Creator-Ownership Contracts” so I guess I’m not surprised that their artists keep fucking off. I’m just wondering if I should offer 2:1 odds that artist Travel Foreman will finish the series… ;)

[Probably has nothing to do with books needing to come out, so said artists can pay rent, and stuff like that. Must be the evil contracts]

My guilty pleasure for the month is clearly STREET FIGHTER VOLUME 1 TP, the collection of all of the Udon SF stuff to date. UDON is doing an amazing job on the STREET FIGHTER comics, the art is just spectacular, they really are the best at what they do. And for a comic based on a video game with no story beyond “Two characters fight!”, the book is surprisingly readable. A good action movie style plot that moves you briskly through the story, decent characterization and cleverly interweaving WHAT THEY WANT with something that very-clearly resembles a story. The most fully-realized nostalgia comic produced to date, STREET FIGHTER is a fantastic technical achievement and a wonderful pop confection. This collection includes the story from issue #0, as well as the main stories and back-ups from the first six issues.

[Jesus, get over yourself. No story, but clearly resembling a story? Certainly not a part of the reason Comics Is Fucked, I guess, since it’s manga.]

PATRICK: In related news, I have a complete run of X-TREME X-MEN.

Christopher: You fucker! You TOTAL FUCKER! You waited til the one time that I was incapable of properly responding to this to reveal it! You… clever… Will you marry me?

PATRICK: There’s nothing wrong with enjoying STREET FIGHTER for what it is. Books like this and the X-MEN have different goals to something like FROM HELL and don’t really need to be held up to it. They’re the comics equivalent of a Kylie Minogue record, and there’s a place for that. Nobody’s going to claim they’re great literature, but if the story keeps you occupied on the john and the art is pleasant to look at … hell, isn’t that the whole point of pop art?

Christopher: Fans of UZUMAKI and GYO creator Junji Ito, keep a look out for DH Publishing’s new line, “Hino Horror”. It’s a series of reprint volumes of 70’s and 80’s horror manga artist Hideshi Hino. Ito, whose creepy tales of Spirals and Fish With Legs have defined contemporary horror comics (with a nod to Steve Niles’ contributions)

[Well, when you’re one of the few people doing them, I guess you help define them. Mike “Blah” Mignola may have had a tiny hand in defining horror comics over the past DECADE as well.]

lists Hino as one of his major influences, and with over 400 volumes of manga in print it’s no wonder he’s been so influential. The first two releases from this line are THE RED SNAKE GN and THE BUG BOY, but they aren’t Hino’s first work to appear in English language editions. Hino’s HELL BABY and PANORAMA OF HELL, a set of disturbing graphic novels published by Blast Books have already offered those with iron resolve and iron constitutions a glimpse into Hino’s horrific stories. Those books can be a little tough to track down in most comic stores (though Amazon lists them both in stock…), so if you want an easy-to-acquire, cheap look at one of the masters of Japanese horror manga, grab either (or both!) of the $10 volumes when they hit the streets this month. The current plans are for two new Hino books to hit store shelves every month through at least June, so if you like these then there’s lots more coming down the line. Unlike the stingy release pace of Junji Ito’s work here in North America… :(

PATRICK: This is fantastic news for those of us into good horror books. My obsession with Junji Ito boarders on something that might be the subject of one of his stories, so I’ll definitely be checking these out.

Christopher: Here’s a fun thing I wrote about PEANUTS:

Christopher: A friend of mine and I were talking about the new PEANUTS HC design the other day. It wasn't such an odd conversation to have, we were at the comic book store and reading the news release. We both really like the cover a great deal actually. Somehow, the subject of 'new' Peanuts strips came up. Before you call blasphemy, it was a 'shooting the shit' sort of conversation and we all accept than anyone other than Schultz doing Peanuts is sacrilege yadda yadda yadda.
That said, I put forward Seth, because I think that if you stripped the 'morality' out of pissing on Schultz’s

[I can’t even fucking spell SCHULZ, so please take that in consideration of my learned opinion]

grave, I think it he'd have a blast doing it, and it would show on the page. My friend argued against it, he said that Seth would make it 'too serious'. Which I was a little surprised at, but then he put forward his own suggestion, James Kolchalka, and I immediately saw what he was getting at. I think Kolchalka's got that child-like quality to his work, while still having really come into his own as a creator over the past few years. His daily comics are even paced a little like PEANUTS episodes, and he draws a mean Snoopy.

[Grrr! Take that, Red Baron, you fucker! RATATATATATAT!]

The Fantagraphics PEANUTS cover design, by Seth, is a serious design. It has Seth's aesthetic and ideology


written all over it, and as Fantagraphics is marketing THE COMPLETE PEANUTS as a work of historical relevance, that makes a bunch of sense to me. I think it's a good choice, but certainly not the only one.

[or it wouldn’t be a “choice”, huh?]

Christopher: …so anyway, April (the book is advance-solicited) will see the publication of the first volume of THE COMPLETE PEANUTS: 1950-1952 HC. Which is pretty amazing, if you think about it. A genuine piece of comics history and even Americana (which I usually find distasteful),

[Give me some Greenlandiana or Botswanaiana any day!]

and this book will mark the first time that many of these strips have ever been reprinted. For all of the shit Fantagraphics gets for being a bunch of snobs and elitists, they have a commitment to comics history that’s pretty remarkable. Perhaps even unmatched. The PEANUTS collection is going to combine the remarkable production quality, design, and attention to detail of their gorgeous KRAZY KAT volumes with possibly the most commercial comic strip ever into an amazing and important series of books that are going to bring a lot of positive attention to the medium of comics.

PATRICK: Playing devil’s advocate for a moment … why is it okay for the PEANUTS to stick to a formula for decades and focus on costumed characters who never truly change or evolve, when we criticize superhero books for PRECISELY THE SAME REASON? Naked emperor or am I missing a crucial point? U decide.

Christopher: Assuming you aren’t being facetious? I’d personally put it down for Peanuts being a conveyance for ideas. I can’t really remember any Peanuts strips ABOUT Peanuts strips, but every Peanuts strip I’ve read seems to be about ‘the human condition’. Meaning, essentially, they aren’t up their own ass. Even Fantagraphics admits that superhero comics USED to be good, and even occasionally ARE good. They just generally aren’t… I don’t see an Emporer’s New Clothes situation here, simply that some works are worth of celebration and others… aren’t…

[Or in other words, if it’s still funny and real, it doesn’t have to grow.
Superheroes don’t have to grow if they continue to be just as fun and entertaining as they once were, and for the most part, they aren’t.]

Christopher: Speaking of Fantagraphics’ strip collections, they’re doing a new volume of Tony Millionaire’s always-enjoyable MAAKIES series in March, WHEN WE WERE VERY MAAKIES. The last collection was another really well-produced book, and the design of this book is pretty outstanding. MAAKIES is the mythical adventures of an alcoholic crow and an alcoholic monkey. Usually, they’re on a pirate ship… Um, to be honest, if you like that sort of thing it’s exactly what you’ll like.
The Xeric-Award nominated series LUMAKICK returns with LUMAKICK #2. LUMAKICK is the geometric dreams of mathematicians, delicate yet deliberate, patterns in stories that resonate outwards from a solid human core to create a work you don’t really see in comics very often.

[Marvel is going to sue Butcher for infringing on “dubious bullshit”]

Something about emotion and loneliness and wry humour and maybe even whimsy. Chester Brown called Lumakick #1 ‘impressive’, and I mean, that’s a pretty good pedigree. Check out series creator Richard Hahn’s excellent website at

PATRICK: The first Lumakick was great, but not for everyone. If your taste lies in the art comix direction, this is worth a pre-order.

Christopher: I don’t know if a book can be considered a “Guilty Pleasure” is it’s quantifiably excellent in a number of different ways. Guilty or not, I’m really, really looking forward to the long-awaited fourth volume in P. Craig Russell’s adaptation of THE FAIRY TALES OF OSCAR WILDE series. The third volume of this series came out years ago, and was a little skimpier than previous volumes as well. This one looks to be excellent though, with Russell’s brilliant skills at adaptation applied to Wilde’s The Devoted Friend and The Nightingale and the Rose. I’m… well, I’m completely in love with Russell’s work. I don’t think there is anyone better at adapting prose (or, you know, opera) into comics than he is. I hate to say this, but he’s so good at what he does that I’m kind of only glad he’s adapting artistic masterworks. It’d fucking kill me to see him wasting his time on X-MEN. Let him work exclusively with Neil Gaiman, with Oscar Wilde, with Wagner. Better than Chuck Austen…

[Never mind his inking Wonder Woman last year. No, no, I don’t want to hear about it! Never happened! Away with you!]

PATRICK: Bah. Russell’s just servicing trademarks. (For the humor-impaired, I don’t actually believe this.)

Christopher: Ingrate. (Also: Oscar Wilde’s work is public domain.)

Christopher: Meanwhile, Antony Johnston continues to innovate with his modernization of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, JULIUS. An original graphic novel featuring some top-notch art from Brett Weldele (SHOT CALLERZ), Johnston attempts to create an accurate and measured adaptation of the famous Shakespeare play (“Et tu, Brutus?”) setting it in the world of East-End London Gangsters. Relentlessly contemporary but still an accurate adaptation of the bard, JULIUS is already the ‘hottest’ property Oni has published with Hollywood sniffing around it in a major way weeks before its release. I don’t know what else to say, other than that this is going to be fucking huge. Check out the Preview in this interesting CBR interview at

[It could be as huge as O, or the Gwyneth Paltrow GREAT EXPECTATIONS, even! Soon, Johnston will “innovate” THE GREAT GATSBY; MOBY-DICK; and GOODNIGHT MOON! ]

Also from Oni Press this month is the fifth collection of QUEEN & COUNTRY, QUEEN & COUNTRY VOLUME 5: OPERATION STORMFRONT ( ). Though Q&C is pretty-much always enjoyable, this collection is particularly notable for the outstanding artwork of Finder’s Carla Speed McNeil and for turning the series on its head. McNeil’s work takes a few huge steps forward with this volume and her recent Finder issues show the benefits of having done 5 issues of intensive and slightly labourious work for hire. The book looks great, reads great, the whole book just sings. I wouldn’t recommend starting to read QUEEN & COUNTRY with this volume, but I would certainly say that when you finally do get to volume 5, you’ll have something to look forward to.
It’s kind of a light month for Tokyopop, with a number of popular new series that just don’t grab me at all. I mean, DNANGEL VOLUME 1 has nice art and a passable story, and it’ll be FUCKING HUGE. It has a massive cult following amongst teenage girls who’ve been salivating for its release here. It’s also very well-placed to do well here, it’s a much more attractively drawn YUGIOH type of story, with a stronger romantic subplot do draw the girls in. Massive. It’s just, you know, not to my taste.
The one that does grab me a little? ONE VOLUME ONE. Heh. It’s a new Korean romance graphic novel, along the lines of SNOW DROP VOLUME 1 (which I really enjoyed). This time out? A love triangle between a quiet music prodigy, a ‘nice girl’, and a popular singer, ostensibly about true identity. Really just a romance story with really nice-looking art, and hey, what’s wrong with that. Shame that the cover is so unforgivably ugly, but them’s the breaks. Anyway, it looks like another good ‘older teen’ romance graphic novel, in a sea of weird/bad stuff.
Viz fares a little better in the Hot! Manga! Sweepstakes! this month. In the HOT category, they’ve got the long-awaited ANGEL SANCTUARY manga, and the ULTIMATE MUSCLE manga tying into the popular Saturday morning cartoon show (plus it’s got wrestling, for the wrestling fans). ANGEL SANCTUARY is about generational relationships and pretty boys who are angels and shocking violence, it produced an immensely popular animated feature here in the states. The manga has the ‘complete’ story that the movie didn’t, and yeah, great built-in audience. Same with ULTIMATE MUSCLE, really, and it has the added bonus of being a SHONEN JUMP related title too.
Again, enh? I’m not really that interested. For me, it’s all about the new format re-releases of BANANA FISH VOLUME 1, and NEON GENESIS EVANGELION VOLUME 1, and the long-awaited (lot of ‘long-awaited’ books this month eh?) NEON GENESIS VOLUME 8. BANANA FISH originally started serialization in PULP magazine, it’s a mature-readers shoujo (girls’ romance) title about… New York City Gangsters. I’m serious. It’s a little incongruent at times, but it’s oddly captivating in a soap-opera sort of way. I’ll admit to owning the first six volumes anyway (and I’m quite happy that future volumes will be released in the cheap format). I wouldn’t call it ‘great stuff’, but like I said, compelling. EVANGELION on the other hand is the ‘reinterpretation’ of the same story that spawned the most popular anime of the past 10 years. It’s either right up there with GHOST IN THE SHELL and AKIRA or right behind them… The manga is different from the anime in a number of ways. For one thing, the art is better. Far, far better. Seriously. For another, the manga leaves far fewer gaps than the anime does in the story, and it’s much more character oriented than the ‘battle of the week’ style fights that were a necessity for much of the television show. It’s not Shakespeare or anything,

[so don’t expect to find Antony Johnston sniffing around it]

but it’s still some good stuff and holds up to the anime. Worth owning for anyone even remotely interested in the series, particularly in the new more-affordable format.

PATRICK: I’ll second the Evangelion recommendation. A good mix of character, action and thought there, and easily accessible for superhero fans interested in manga but unsure of where to start.


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- Christopher & Patrick

[Love, the Comics INactivist]