Saturday, December 10, 2005


Gosh, but Colleen Coover comics make me happy. I read ‘em, and I swear I hear Tony The Tiger saying, “They’re grrrrrrrrrrrrrrreat!” in the background.

Written by Root Nibot and Drawn by Colleen Coover
Published by Oni Press

Poor Kirby. Such a sweet girl, but she has some unusual circumstances in her life. She’s the new girl in her school. The most popular girl has it out for her. She’s crushing hard on Martin, but their lives may be too crazy to ever get the two together. And oh, yeah, she’s brought with her to the new school three talking monkeys that are taking classes with her. That makes puberty just a tad more difficult, you know?

It’s always hard to go wrong with monkeys, no matter what you do, and when the three are as hilarious as the ones Kirby is saddled with, you’re definitely on the right track. Plus, and this is so important: I haven’t seen the first two issues of this series, and there’s no front cover recap, yet I was still able to follow what was going on with complete ease. Do you realize how rare that is these days? A comic that’s new-reader friendly without needing to read an essay before you start? Wow. That’s just one of the many things that charmed me immensely about BANANA SUNDAY.

Because, you know, there’s that art by the aforementioned Miss Coover. She’s swell. From the first time I cracked open her wonderful SMALL FAVORS, I was hooked on her amazing talent for simple storytelling, appealing characters, and cute girls. Turns out she can draw a man primate as well. If she can hand-make donuts, I might have to ask for her hand in marriage. Root Nibot’s script is whimsical and full of crisp, clever dialogue that adds zip to the tale. He also finds ways to keep the plot grounded in understandable themes, so that the monkeys don’t completely outshine Kirby and her travails.

I read this book with a huge smile on my face, which is really just about all you can ask for when you crack the cover on any new comic. So cheers to BANANA SUNDAY, and fingers crossed for a sequel to come soon.


Friday, December 09, 2005


This book has sort of vexed me from the start. The writer is a guy whose work has run hot and cold for me since I first saw his name in a credit box. The artist is someone whose work I have hated with a passion since I first cracked a cover that held it behind it. So to say that I’ve not been overly receptive to this title would be undercutting it a bit.

Written by Joe Casey and Drawn by Tom Scioli
Published by Image Comics

So, once again, I sat down with an issue of this title to see if I could get it to penetrate past my built-in prejudices, and for the first time, there was real movement for me. Go figure. I think it started with the actual content of the story, at least as far as the characters go; yes, there is a huge dollop of the fantastic here, with wacky villains, aliens, castles and such, but at heart, GODLAND slowed down and became a story about something else: the feelings of loneliness and bitterness felt by Neela Archer at how her brother’s powers have destroyed what she had created as her life. That’s something I can get behind, an emotional truth that forces some introspection and movement in the character’s arc. I tend to believe that Casey can get bogged down, falling in love with his big ideas, but here he curbs that, and delivers a story that works.

That left my traditional struggle with Scioli’s art. Look, I understand that pretty much every artist working is in some way cribbing from the style of an artist who came before him or her. It seems like you can’t throw a pencil without poking out the eye of someone who’s aping Neal Adams. What bothers me is when there’s no attempt to deviate, such as Scioli’s pure homage to Jack Kirby. It knocks me out of the story, even if it’s well executed, because I’m constantly aware of it. But something interesting happens in this issue, and I’d like to believe it was purposely done: Scioli shifts in certain spots to aping the work of one of the best Kirby-esque artists who came down the pipe after The King: Herb Trimpe.

In fact, the huge confrontation scene between Adam and Neela is pure Trimpe, showing a direct link to Herb, and yet demonstrating a bit of what Trimpe took from Kirby as he came up through the ranks. It brought an actual smile to my face, which was definitely a first for Scioli’s work.

GODLAND isn’t reinventing the wheel. Not even close. But it is showing signs of gaining some needed character depth, and that’s important. Big ideas, no matter how large they might be, run out. But good characters can last forever. As long as the book keeps that in mind, things will keep looking up for Casey and Company.


Thursday, December 08, 2005


I loves me some pirates.

Written by Dwight MacPherson and Drawn by Mike Fiorentino
Published by Arcana Studio

I had some enthusiasm for issue one of this pirate/horror tale, as I thought it had done solid work in melding the two genres in a fashion that was well thought out and explained with some clarity. Plus, it had the added bonus of reading as very dense; no decompressed storytelling here. So it was with some curiosity to see how MacPherson would handle the second part, as the focus was headed to a different set of characters. Happily, the book passes with flying colors.

In fact, issue two is much stronger that its predecessor. Now, we follow a pirate ship sailing the high seas and in possession of the map to God’s very own treasure, and to the distress of the crew, the captain has been driven quite loopy by possessing the map. Therefore, he finds new sport in murdering his own crew, either by bullet or keelhauling. And you thought your boss was a dick.

What the captain doesn’t realize, though, is that he has a mole in his midst that has plans of his own, and the guy whose brains he splattered to take possession of the map in issue one? Well, he’s been rejected by the afterlife and resurrected as a very pissed member of the walking dead. Whoops.

Amidst this intrigue, we also get some ship-to-ship battling, a flashback to how the relics got buried to begin with, and more. Again, not a decompressed book we’re dealing with here. There’s real value for your yanqui dollar when you put DEAD MEN in your buy pile. Plus, this is one of the nicer looking small press efforts being produced in color; Fiorentino’s art serves the story well, and the paper stock keeps the tones sharp. Can’t wait to see if MacPherson can top himself again next time around.


Wednesday, December 07, 2005

this is an audio post - click to play

Click on the AUDIO post above for a spoken-word (and slightly different) take on this review!

Written by Warren Ellis and Drawn by Ben Templesmith
Published by Image Comics

The third issue of FELL is miles ahead of the first two in quality, and considering I was already pretty convinved the book was going to make my top ten of 2005 list over at The Shoot, that's saying something. This time out, detective Richard Fell takes a day off to go buy a suit or two. Good idea considering the damage his clothing has taken in the first two issues.

However, nothing is ever that simple for our hero, and as he walks around Snowtown looking for a place to shop, he discovers just how much the economic downturn has devolved the city into a place where crime and lawlessness have taken root at a level that shocks him. Because no one expects a suicide bomber to show up at a thrift store...

Ellis does an excellent job of continuing to develop Fell's character here. Not only do we learn about him in the way he talks to the other citizens of Snowtown, we also learn about him by the way he doesn't talk to some people. It's sharply executed stuff, ably abetted by the incredible art of Templesmith. The story is driving Snowtown itself as a character, but it's Templesmith who breathes life into it, like a Frankenstein gone mad on cheap wine. It hasn't taken long for FELL to become one of the best comics being published today, but you know what?

You shouldn't be surprised.


Tuesday, December 06, 2005


A few months ago, Devil’s Due re-launched its flagship title, trimming the core cast and paring away some of the excess baggage that had built up over time. Now, we’re five issues into that experiment. So what’s the verdict?

G.I. JOE #4-5
Written by Joe Casey and Drawn by Stefano Caselli and Nelson Blake

By the end of the last volume of the book, it appeared that the JOE universe was perhaps so overpopulated and over plotted that anyone coming into the book for the first time was hopelessly screwed. Now, that isn’t to say that the book wasn’t readable; it was very readable, but much more so if you had been with it for a while, so the appearance of unfriendliness to new readers was dead on target. The solution was an obvious one: whittle the book down to the characters fans responded best to, and those who could serve other plot purposes, and work from there. Plus, add some new elements besides COBRA to the mix, so that JOE took on a bit more relevance to the real world. Writer Joe Casey was brought on board to do the job, and voila, experiment underway.

The first storyline utilizes one of those new villainous elements: a former militia bad guy buys some nasty tech from a classic JOE baddie and commits a number of horrifying terrorist acts. Perfect. The team must be brought back together, introduced to the new readers, face a worthy foe… exactly what you’d want to do right out of the gate. And early on, it was handled beautifully. There was a reality to the violence and to the plot that really worked. And as issue four rolls around, the Joes are off on a mission to stop the antagonist from putting in motion even more nasty acts of a similar nature. But oddly enough, Casey’s climax falters.

Action-wise, this stuff is good. The ex-Cobra fellow sends the militia guy some assistance, leading to an all-out bullet fest in the skies over the southwest. Cool. But the primary job of stopping the evil plan in motion bogs down, because it’s a technobabble solution, worthy of a mid-level STAR TREK episode. The action for that portion of the story is nonexistent, and worse, extremely difficult to get across from an artistic standpoint. I felt for Caselli as I read it, wondering if he struggled with drawing it.

Issue five is a traditional “clear the character decks after the big mission” piece, and is much more successful, wrapping a nice bow on the initial storyline, and setting in motion Casey’s second arc. Blake steps in for Caselli and sadly suffers in comparison, but that’s no reflection on the quality of his own work. That’s just the business of doing a fill-in job. In all, G.I. JOE remains a well-executed soap opera with a lot of shit blowing up, and if you don’t expect any more than that, you’re in good shape.


Monday, December 05, 2005


One of the best superhero comics being published today has hit a rough patch…

Written by Robert Kirkman and Drawn by Ryan Ottley
Published by Image Comics

I love this book. Have from the very start, as a matter of fact. Kirkman’s characters and stories are good, clean fun, and his homage to the great superhero comics of the past has proven time and again to be a terrific antidote to the doom and gloom that Marvel and DC have been offering over the last couple of years. But now, the book is hitting its first real tough spot, and it’ll be interesting to see how Kirkman handles it.

At the core, the problem is really, really simple: there’s not been much in the way of forward movement in this book, nor has there been anything in the way of action. Now, you can get away with a lack of action in a more cerebral book (which this is not), and you can get away with a lack of forward movement in a book with no driving premise. INVINCIBLE is a book that has one of those: a second-generation superhero not only fights for what’s right, but to atone for his father’s turn to villainy. But over the last three issues, the plot has moved exactly this far: Invincible has flown into space to help an alien world facing a horrible death, discovered that his father is still alive, and learns he has a new brother facing death on said world. It isn’t until the end of this issue that the threat finally shows up. And mind you, issue twenty-five was double-sized.

The only action we’ve actually seen over those issues has pretty much come from the supporting cast fighting battles back on Earth. Now, I’m no fanboy, and I like character stuff as much as anyone, but this book succeeds when there’s a balance involved, and right now, exposition is eating INVINCIBLE’S lunch. Making matters stranger, thanks to the crossover with MARVEL TEAM-UP, we have a glimpse of the plot for this book five issues ahead. So you’re left begging Kirkman to step on the gas and get to it a bit, you know?

Don’t get me wrong; as I said above, I dig this book. I’m still completely onboard. And it looks like next issue will begin restoring the balance to the title, and certainly, the cliffhanger is a dandy. But I can’t say for certain how someone picking up the comic for the first time would react, and I’ve really never felt like that was a worry before. So, go get ‘em Robert; the fans are waiting. I have faith that you won’t let us down.


Sunday, December 04, 2005


…Joins Harris O’Malley, writer, on BENEATH THE CRACKS: THE BRIDE, and writer Jens Altmann on BERSERKER: THE WILD HUNT #1-3, both available from Studio Underhill.

BERSERKER is a five-issue mini-series in progress. The story centers on the old Celtic myth of a huntsman who seeks human prey, and Altmann throws a new twist into the mix by setting the tale in modern day. The Huntsman’s targets are those who have lost the will or desire to live, but when the being’s ancient enemy is able to save the life of one of the near-dead, a new sort of modern Viking is created.

I’m a sucker for bringing legend into a modern milieu, so I found myself buying into the story with relative ease, particularly with the Huntsman’s work being investigated as the work of a serial killer. But O’Malley’s work tends to be a little inconsistent, and backgrounds are sometimes non-existent. He does well with character scenes, but the inconsistency is most apparent during action sequences, leaving them lacking in fluidity.

His sparse and spare panel work is much more successful in THE BRIDE, another neo-modern take on an old story. This time, however, it’s the “Bride Of Frankenstein.” O’Malley’s take follows the Bride, set free during a raid in which her Dr. Frankenstein is arrested as a serial killer, on an odyssey through the city as she deals with the remnants of memory belonging to the souls who make up her body. It’s a cold, harsh take that gives us a Bride at the mercy of chickenhawks and pimps in the big city. THE BRIDE is an effectively rendered tragedy of a soul who never wanted to die, and who never wanted to live.

Looking at THE BRIDE in particular, there is definite evidence that O’Malley is slowly grasping the basics of storytelling, and I think with experience, he’ll grow and become more effective at page layout, backgrounds, and portraying motion and action.