Saturday, December 30, 2006


I’m back to close out the year, and the big finish is actually a pretty big finish! Seven new books from the good folks at Dynamite Entertainment! But before I dive in: thanks to every single one of you that takes the time to come here and read, as well as those who make their way to the main site from here. I appreciate your time and attention, and I do my best not to waste it.

The ARMY OF DARKNESS MOVIE ADAPTATION is adapted and drawn by the great John Bolton, straight from Sam and Ivan Raimi’s original script. This is easily the best AOD product on the market; the movie itself holds up quite well, and Bolton does an amazing job of adapting it to the page and making it flow. Plus: it’s John Bolton for fuck’s sake! He’s one of the true giants remaining in the medium, and puts the majority of his peers to shame. Ash’s journey to the past looks so pretty here that it almost puts the actual celluloid stock to shame. Film adaptations are a dying art, and few are ever any good (the Goodwin/Simonson ALIEN being the major exception), but this ranks right up there with the best ever produced.

James Kuhoric writes ARMY OF DARKNESS VS. RE-ANIMATOR, with art by Sanford Greene and Nick Bradshaw. This trade paperback collects the first four issues of the AOD ongoing series, and features the first of Ash’s crossovers with other horror franchises. Kuhoric does a decent job of bringing the two together, and the story gets off to a decent enough start, but as it moves forward, the RE-ANIMATOR elements get pushed aside for too long. There are also a couple of narrative jumps (such as Sheila’s fate being handled mostly off-screen) that don’t quite play right to the reader. My major quibble is that the EVIL DEAD films were solid “R”s, and the gore factor in the book is very high, but the language gets “bleeped”. I don’t quite understand why blood and severed heads are okay, but the word “shit” isn’t/

ARMY OF DARKNESS: OLD SCHOOL is also written by Kuhoric and drawn by Kevin Sharpe. The next three issues of the ongoing, plus the TALES OF AOD one-shot are collected here, and it is a marked step-forward over the previous book. Ash and his new comely comrade Sugar head back to the cabin where his troubles all began, and he must confront the animated body of his dead friends and girlfriend in an effort to find a way to save Sheila’s soul. By returning to the heart of the AOD saga, Kuhoric delivers a perfect gift to the fans of the character. Throughout the book you’ll find one easter egg after another designed for the serious franchise fanboy. But the book also works as a solid story for the reader who isn’t a fan of the franchise as well; what you have here is a solid “haunted house in the woods” story. The addition of Sharpe to the art chores makes a huge impact as well; his style is more realistic and adds to the horrific nature of what happens to Ash and Sugar.

Top Cow Productions co-produced MONSTER WAR with
Dynamite, lending Witchblade, Darkness, Magdalena, and Lara Croft for a face-off against the classic monsters Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, Wolfmen, and Dr. Hyde. Written by Christopher Golden and Tom Sniegowski and drawn by Joyce Chen and Victor Ishimura, the story finds Mr. Hyde plotting to use Dracula to split the world’s population into vicious vampires who spread a disease and weak victims, and to use the Frankenstein Monster as a gate to allow ancient evil to roam the Earth. Oh, and Dracula uses the Magdalena’s virgin blood to power himself. If you couldn’t tell from all that, this is a pretty incoherent mess, and the story is very difficult to pick apart. The writers are solid veterans of the horror genre, but this is a swing and a miss for them. The artists do their best to make it work and look nice, but in the end, nothing captivates here beyond the collection of covers. AOD tie-in: from here, Dracula arrives on the final pages of issue seven and headlines the next few issues of the ongoing.

ARMY OF DARNKESS #12-13 are written by Kuhoric and drawn by Fernando Blanco
(with the final page of issue thirteen drawn by Sean Phillips). This two-part conclusion to the ongoing series wraps up the proceedings tightly; all the threads put into place by the Raimi films and the previous issues come together with a reasonable explanation for why Ash’s life has sucked shit at every turn. Bringing together virtually every character of importance to the AOD saga, this feels like an earned ending, not a cheap one, and it brings the goods for fans of the saga. But the real kick in the pants is that final page, where we see Ash’s arrival at his next destination: the Marvel Zombies universe. I’ve never been a huge fan of AOD, but this crossover promises to be one of the more entertaining books to hit the shelves in 2007.

Kurt Busiek and Roger Stern deliver DARKMAN VS. ARMY OF DARKNESS #2, aided and abetted by James Fry on the art, and it brings the goods. The Necronomicon has possessed the love of Darkman’s life, Julie, and Ash has been magically summoned to battle her Deadites. Seamlessly blending to the two franchises, the two heroes first fight against one another and then team up to try and rescue the woman’s soul. Issue one was heavily focused on Darkman, but issue two shoves a bit more of the focus towards Ash, giving each character a more balanced amount of “screen time.” While not a big AOD fan, I am a huge DARKMAN fan, so this series is playing right into my soft spots, particularly the cliffhanger reveal. When you bring together two veteran talents like Stern and Busiek, you expect something really good; and fortunately, with this mini, you’re getting it.

See you all in 2007!


Wednesday, December 27, 2006


Welcome to the first (of what I think will be two) holiday review blog. Today’s entry covers three items from our friends at Image Comics.

OUTLAW NATION is written by Jamie Delano and drawn by Goran Sudzuka and Goran Parlov. DC/Vertigo originally published OUTLAW NATION, but after sales figures came in for issue fifteen, it was given a death warrant and ended four issues later. This collection unites all nineteen issues under one cover, a mega-sized 450 page+ book. NATION follows the adventures of Story Johnson, a semi-immortal writer who returns from 25 years MIA in Vietnam to find his extended Johnson family in radical disarray. His father is controlling governmental agencies, his evil half-brother is a murderous freak, and he discovers that he has a son… and that son is about have to have a child of his own. Add a single mother and her mentally unstable son to the mix, and you get a sprawling Americana epic. The story is rich and complex- I really haven’t scratched the surface in explaining it- and the art, presented here in black and white, is terrific. The only place where the book suffers is in those final issues, where Delano had to artificially crank up an ending. But even then, he turns in a perfectly respectable effort. This is a keeper of a book.

Jae Lee writes and draws the collected HELSHOCK, co-published by Dynamic Forces. HELLSHOCK has been one of those “long, lost” projects, a book that achieved high praise and acclaim, but disappeared before it was ever completed. Now, Lee has put together his final chapter (and more) and brought the series together under one cover. The story concerns a young psychiatric intern named Christina who finds her own sense of reality and appropriateness eroding as she gets deeply involved with her patients. Unquestionably, the strength of the series was Lee’s beautiful artwork, and what makes this paperback even more interesting is that you can watch it develop over time. By the time you get to the now completed final chapter and see what he can do now… all you can do is say “Wow.” The series’ fatal flaw was that the story itself was never all that compelling, and Christina doesn’t garner much of your sympathy as a reader. The collected edition goes a bit further in highlighting the storytelling deficiencies, but the art makes the book more than worth buying.

ELEPHANTMEN #5 is written by Richard Starkings and drawn by Moritat. One of the problems with the earlier issues of this series was the anthological format; the creative team was delivering two stories that were generally unrelated and doing nothing but marking time in this world. But with issue five, the book takes a sharp turn into telling a larger, longer story, and the results make for a distinctly better comic. By returning to a couple of plot points introduced in the zero issue, we start to see the tapestry of a genuine plan behind Starkings’ stories, and it gives you a lot more confidence that ELEPHANTMEN isn’t existing solely as an artistic exercise. Of course, if it did, this would still be a fairly successful comic; Moritat keeps improving with each issue he turns out. But in the end, it’s better to produce something interesting and readable, and this could turn out to be something special in the long run.


Friday, December 22, 2006

Sorry about the lack of an update yesterday- severe net problems are limiting my access. But there was an update: the wonderful GEORGE PEREZ: STORYTELLER, an artistic biography of the living legend.

Today: the final main site update of 2006, as the Waiting Room will be on holiday hiatus. But today's update is a huge one: 10 ESSENTIAL BOOKS FOR 2006! Not your traditional top ten list by any means.

Go see what the fuss is all about.

And check back here through next week as I may just sneak in a few extra reviews just for the fun of it, and they'll appear only right here!


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

One of my all-time favorite mangas draws to a close this week. REMOTE takes its final bow, today over at the main site.

A moment of silence, por favor.


Monday, December 18, 2006

Since we'll be taking a holiday break at the Main Site after this Friday, this marks the final week of new reviews for 2006. Getting us started: SCARLETT DECLASSIFIED, which might just be the best G.I.JOE book ever produced.

Love the redheads.


Sunday, December 17, 2006


Welcome to the latest edition of the Blog Extra. Today, we have two self-published indy books on tap for your enjoyment.

ACTION FIGURE #1 is written and drawn by Richard Marcej. Marcej was an artist and designer for both Hasbro and Hallmark early in his career, and this series was set to be a semi-autobiographical take on his experiences working for those companies and what came afterwards. Unfortunately, ACTION FIGURE didn’t make the Diamond minimum for orders, so the author is now selling the book direct through his Baboon Books website. It’s sort of a shame that the book didn’t get wide distribution; this opening tale of his stand-in “Richard Marzelak” is an accomplished piece of work, even with its flaws. Marcej certainly has plenty of artistic talent, and he shows a decent grasp of layout for someone putting together his first comic. The story of an everyman trying to figure out his dreams and escaping a soul-sucking job rings true as well. The one place where he does go off the rails a bit is in his depiction of Marzelak’s character. He comes across as very whiny more than once, making it a bit difficult to sympathize with him. Still, this is a book with real merit, and worth your attention.

GHOST ASSASSIN: PRELUDE is written by Adam Watson and drawn by Charles Carvalho, and is available via Darkslinger Comics. An assassin named David has a more unusual life that you might imagine; along with his lack of remorse about killing people for a living, he can also see ghosts. And as an added bonus, the ghosts of some he has killed are bonded to him, giving him the ability to have a running dialogue with someone who doesn’t exist… and little-to-no private time. It makes you wonder when he feels comfortable to take a dookie or rub one out. But I digress. The Prelude issue introduces David, sets up his latest murder-for-hire, and brings two ghosts into the picture who play a pivotal role, including one who was his friend and that now watches his back. The story is pretty solidly executed, showing us that David has his own twisted sense of honor, even when he knows that his life is immoral, but the art has a few letdowns that put a drag on the story; some pages are inked too heavy to work well with the colors and the book looks murky because of it.

That’s all for this week. Pop in for site updates throughout the week, and be back here next weekend for the final Blog Extra of 2006!


Friday, December 15, 2006

You think your job sucks? Try working as a janitor at a think-tank for evil scientists. MAINTENANCE, from Oni, reviewed today...

Personally, I'm about to go on vacation from my job.


Thursday, December 14, 2006

Heading into the homestretch... Frank Beddor's THE LOOKING GLASS WARS gets an accompanying soundtrack... and the Waiting Room has it.

Listen and learn.


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Reaching mid-week... TALENT brings its tale of conspiracy and survival to a close, while ENIGMA CIPHER gets its own underway...

Take a gander.


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Every year around this time, I try to spotlight a truly great piece of graphic literature, one that would make a suitable gift for a traditional or non-traditional comics reader alike. This year, that book is David B.'s EPILEPTIC, a modern classic in its own right. This summer, it finally moved from hardcover to trade, and I have all the details right here.


Monday, December 11, 2006

Monday... a young superhero's powers begin killing him from within in MELTDOWN, and Robert Kirkman's heavily populated INVINCIBLE UNIVERSE gets a HANDBOOK...

Two Image reviews, submitted for your approval.


Sunday, December 10, 2006


Welcome to the latest edition of the BLOG EXTRA. This week, two from our friends at Viper Comics, keeping it real down in Texas.

DEAD @ 17 #2 is written and drawn by Josh Howard, of course, and it kicks the plot into high gear. Against what I thought might happen, indeed young Asia does meet her maker after last issue’s car crash, and than makes her return as a cute, undead ass-kicker. Her first act: to make the man who caused the crash pay, for both her death and for beating up her mother. But bigger things are at work in the DEAD world, as a new series of demons is heading to Earth in the form of a meteor shower, and two sets of bad guys begin facing off for their respective masters. This incarnation of Howard’s universe feels a bit more wide-open, character-wise, and there’s a grander ambition to the story he seems to be telling. My one qualm with the book is that there are only eighteen story pages, the rest of the book filled with a page of letters, a page of picture of girls dressed as Asia and people with DEAD tattoos, and a lengthy preview of Howard’s other Viper series, THE BOOKS OF EVE. A bit more story content would go a long way towards enhancing your purchased value.

Jason Burns writes, and Ron Chan draws, A DUMMY’S GUIDE TO DANGER #3, the penultimate issue of the series. When last we left Alan and his dummy, Mr. Bloomberg, they were being arrested by LAPD for the serial murders taking place around the city. Now, their nemesis, Detective Boyd, has them right where he wants them: at his mercy. From beatings from one of the dead girl’s bodyguards to leaving the pair in the desert to die, it only gets worse for Sirois. But things really kick into gear when the killer invades their home and takes a horrific souvenir, leaving behind evidence that someone Alan cares for might just be involved in the crimes. Burns really ratchets up the pace and intensity here, bringing all his story elements together and putting the pieces in place for what promises to be a rousing conclusion. This has been a terrific series from page one, and might just be the best book Viper has produced in 2006. Definitely worth your time to seek out.

That’s it for this week. See you through the week for site updates, and back here next weekend for another edition of the BLOG EXTRA!


Friday, December 08, 2006

Closing the week: something for the political and social thinker: Keith Knight's ARE WE FEELING SAFER YET?

Enjoy your weekend.


Thursday, December 07, 2006

Thursday: something for someone who loves the classics. Fantagraphics is bringing the original, classic POPEYE strips back into print and they're great!

Go read about 'em.


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Continuing our week of books for everybody, we turn our attention to young female readership, as TOTALLY SPIES makes the jump from Cartoon Network to graphic novels.

Stocking stuffers, anyone?


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

My favorite manga: no doubt about it, it's NODAME CANTABILE.

Go see why.


Monday, December 04, 2006

A bit of a theme week starts today, as I take a look at books that are good for all audiences. First up: A BIT HAYWIRE, a cute look at a young boy who gains superpowers that he can't quite control.

Suitable for all ages.


Sunday, December 03, 2006


Welcome back to a new edition of the BLOG EXTRA. This week, two from Harris Publications, home to comics’ sexiest vampire, Vampirella!

VAMPIRELLA INTIMATE VISIONS: JOE JUSKO #1 is sort of the comics equivalent of a special edition DVD. The book reprints VAMPIRELLA: BLOOD LUST #1, which was written by James Robinson and drawn by Jusko, and along the bottom of the page, Jusko provides commentary about how he designed and painted the art. There’s also a lengthy interview and sketchbook at the back, as well as a step-by-step look at how Jusko goes from a sketch to digitally painting a cover. This is a nifty idea, for many reasons, and Jusko is an excellent artist to put through this process. As a side bit of fun for me, VAMPIRELLA: BLOOD LUST #1 was the first comic ever sent to me for review by a publisher, eons ago when I posted reviews on Usenet, so this was an unexpected blast of nostalgia. Back then, I was working from black and white photocopies, so it was a treat to finally see the book in color and on nice paper.

Multiple writers provide stories for artist Mark Texeira in VAMPIRELLA PRESENTS: TALES OF PANTHA, a trade paperback collecting the cat-woman’s best under one cover. Pantha was a product of one of comics’ darker eras: the rise of the “bad girl” character. The “bad girl” was known for wearing very little in the way of clothing, kicking a lot of ass, and twisting her body in poses only seen in the pages of HUSTLER. Real stories with plots and logic were hard to find in that era, and this trade gets off to a weak start because of that very phenomenon. Mark Millar pits Vampirella against Pantha, but there’s very little story to be had, just gore and cheesecake. However, the rest of the book is actually filled with sincere work. Writers David Conway and Steven Grant build a mythology around Pantha and give her adversaries that work within that mythology. Dan Jolley also contributes a terrific piece that uses Pantha for perfect effect and delivers a gut punch of an ending. These last bits are a perfect example for writers: a cheesecake book can work and be perfectly readable if you provide compelling character moments and plots worth the time to read. TALES OF PANTHA, minus Millar’s story, succeeds in doing so.

That’s it for this week. I’ll be here through the week for site updates, and back again next weekend with an all-new CWR WEEKEND BLOG EXTRA!


Friday, December 01, 2006

I dunno about you, but I'm grateful the week is finally over. Today: a look at MOUSE GUARD #5, the penultimate chapter of David Petersen's indy smash.

Plus: the trailer for PVP: the animated series. Go see.


Thursday, November 30, 2006

Pop on over today as we close out November with one more Aisle Seat! The STUDENTS OF THE UNUSUAL FILM FESTIVAL has hit DVD, and we have it. Come check it out!

As clever promos for a comic go, this is a good one.


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Make your hump day a little happier with the bwa-ha-ha antics of PLANETARY BRIGADE: ORIGINS...

Laugh til it hurts.


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Zombies vs. samurais and ninjas= killer idea. ZOMBEE= not quite as killer execution. Learn why a studio should pick it up anyway, today in an all-new "Should It Be A Movie?"

Let your mouse be your guide.


Monday, November 27, 2006

Back to work! Start your week off with two new mangas: the Mature Readers title BASILISK and the first of three incarnations of the pop culture phenomenon TRAIN MAN!

Clicketh hereth.


Saturday, November 25, 2006


Welcome back to the BLOG EXTRA. I hope you and yours had a safe, joyous holiday. Jumping right back to the comics, this weekend, four selections from Image Comics:

HATTER M #4 is written by Frank Beddor and Liz Cavalier and drawn by Ben Templesmith. The first part of Hatter Madigan’s search for the missing Princess Alyss concludes here, and while the book itself is actually the best of the four issues in the series, the conclusion is ultimately aggravating. On the plot side, we get a much better detailed idea of what Wonderland is truly about, and why there are forces that want its power neutralized. After all, creativity and imagination aren’t prized by a large chunk of the population of this planet. We also get a wealth of Hatter in action, using his knife-laden hat to kick lots of Victorian ass. But what we don’t get is a real and resolute ending, which wasn’t what the reader was necessarily expecting when buying issue one. Should there be more graphic adventures feature Hatter, I am open to them, but I’d have preferred a more earned conclusion to this series.

Richard Starkings writes, and Moritat draws, ELEPHANTMEN #4. This is the finest issue to date of this title, and the first one that I really felt like I could get into from the start. A big reason for this is that the book sticks to telling one story, not two short ones, and that single tale is a strong one. Picking up from last issue, we discover the aftermath of the fight between Hip Flask and Ebony. The young cab driver, Miki, visits the two Elephantmen in the hospital and learns about their origins and the tragic fate that has befallen so many of their brethren. Miki also discovers what the Elephantmen believe will be their ultimate end. It’s solid stuff, finally adding definition to a world that really needed, and presenting ground rules the reader can grasp.

ELEPHANTMEN #0 fleshes out and delivers the full details of the origin Miki hears about in issue four. Writers Starkings and Joe Casey deliver a tragic, horrible story about the results of one man’s evil; a scientist named Nikken has created these magnificent creatures, but his arrogance works to break and destroy their minds and spirits from the moment they’re born. Artist Ladronn turns out one amazing looking page after another, and whether the setting is a lab or a battlefield, every panel is full of an astonishing level of detail. Alongside issue four, this finally puts the series into a context for the reader, and begins to bring shape and coherence to Starkings’ universe. This is a book I could see myself getting behind.

Dan Schaffer writes and draws the graphic novel THE SCRIBBLER, a rumination on multiple personality disorder and alternative therapies. Young Suki has agreed to use an experimental machine called the Siamese Burn in the hopes that it will eradicate her other personalities. But the true effects of the machine might not be so clear, as the other patients in her building begin committing suicide leaps on a regular basis, and her personality known as the Scribbler seems to be immune to its effects. But it is the effect that the Burn has on others that may lead to the greatest danger for Suki and her sole friend that exists outside of her head. Schaffer is really a gifted artist; his pages are absolutely wonderful to look at. But his grasp on coherent storytelling is a bit more tenuous; yes, this is a story about mentally unhealthy people, but the sane reader still needs for there to be some rationality behind what happens, and the climax falls short on that part. I’m just short of being able to recommend this one.

That’s it for this week. I’ll be here through the week for site updates, and back here next weekend for an all-new CWR WEEKEND BLOG EXTRA!


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

It's hump day, but for the Waiting Room, the week is over. Check out two more reviews before we shut down for the holiday; LET US BE PERFECTLY CLEAR from Fantagraphics, and SEVEN SONS from Ait/PlanetLar!

Digest these turkeys!


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

It's a two-for-Tuesday in this short holiday week. Now batting: ROTTING IN DIRTVILLE and HELLCITY, both from Gigantic Graphic Novels.

Peer into my thoughts.


Monday, November 20, 2006

There's always room for Jello... and always time for manga! Start your holiday week off with a look at four volumes of IRON WOK JAN!

Prithee, will thou notst maketh with the clickiness?


Saturday, November 18, 2006


Welcome to another edition of the BLOG EXTRA. This week, part two of our long look at recent releases from Dynamite Entertainment!

DARKMAN VS. ARMY OF DARKNESS #1 is written by the veteran combo of Kurt Busiek and Roger Stern and drawn by another vet, James Fry. This first issue is really mostly a Darkman tale, which is a pretty smart idea; the character isn’t currently being published in his own series, so by re-introducing his character and cast, the readers who have been buying the AOD series get necessary knowledge. And Darkman fans will be happy to see the “screen time” Dr. Westlake gets. But what makes this a worthy read for anyone who picks it up is the old school way that Busiek and Stern present the tale, and the sturdy art delivered by Fry. I’m on record as not really enjoying the ARMY OF DARKNESS book, but I was completely sucked in to what was going on here. This is precisely how to put together a crossover of this nature and looks like it should be a lot of fun over the course of the series.

Over at the main site, I made pretty good sport of SAVAGE RED SONJA: QUEEN OF THE FROZEN WASTES’s first and second issues. I found Frank Cho and Doug Murray’s story to be a little on the silly side, and the lesbian text (no subtext to be found) was extraneous. But issue #3 is a distinct improvement over the first two. Why? The writers step aside and let artist Homs cut loose with page after page of Sonja in action. Whether she’s battling yetis, or armored warriors, Sonja reads much more like the character we have come to know in her regular book, and the story gets streamlined into something that makes a bit more sense. The Ice Queen is still hot to put Sonja on her side and in her bed, but the focus comes on breaking the red headed warrior’s spirit and putting an end to her attempts to free herself and the Queen’s slaves. With one issue to go, I’m not sure whether or not the series as a whole will turn out to be a worthy effort, but I credit this issue for a fine go at turning it around.

Speaking of the main RED SONJA title, issue #16 continues the strong run by writer Mike Oeming and artists Mel Rubi and Stephen Sadowski. Part five of “The Return of Kulan Gath” sees Sonja and her allies drawn back together for a large-scale battle versus Gath’s agents on Hyboria. Gods, beasts, bards… all are in the fray, and Sonja finally faces her foe’s worldly agent, to boot. What continues to impress about SONJA is how well rounded a character she has become; Sonja isn’t just a fighter without purpose or drive here. She’s a woman on a quest, but that quest is just as much spiritual as it is physical. Oeming also shows some smarts in keeping the pace moving along quickly, as a story of length always runs the risk of becoming tedious and drawn out. There are still two chapters to go in this current saga, but it feels like we’ve gotten to them quite quickly. The art and production quality remain top-notch as well, and when you throw in the amazing covers, you understand why this is the company’s flagship title. Good stuff.
John Layman writes, and Fabiano Neves draws, XENA #4, the conclusion of the book’s opening story arc. When last we left off, Xena’s old foe Callisto had killed her and her ally Autolycus, leaving Gabrielle and Joxer alone with the villainess and stuck in the middle of a war between two pantheons. But as to whether or not even the clutches of death can hold Xena… well, she is the star of the book, after all. Snark aside, you could fairly guess at the end of issue three what was really going on, but that doesn’t mean that Layman doesn’t make the journey damned entertaining. As someone who didn’t watch the show or have any investment in the characters, I have been pleasantly surprised at how much I’ve enjoyed this book (editorial admission: Layman is a friend, but you couldn’t pay me to read, say, THUNDERCATS); Xena and the cast really come across as dynamic and intriguing personalities. I’d read a comic about these people stopping to drink a beer, let alone an action extravaganza like this one. Take into consideration Neves, who is one of the best finds of the year, and this one is simply a keeper.

That’s it for this week. Check back Monday through Wednesday for main site updates (we’ll be off for the long weekend), and be here next weekend for another CWR WEEKEND BLOG EXTRA!


Friday, November 17, 2006


Papercutz Books and
the Cartoon Networks....


KIDS COMPETE IN VIDEO CONTEST FOR TOTALLY SPIES! Send In Your Entry Before December 31st, 2006

New York, NY (October 26, 2006) – Calling all young film-makers! Now is your chance to show your movie making skill! If you can make a trailer for the Totally Spies, you may be the grand prize winner of a package of fun stuff!

This fall, to celebrate Totally Spies, Beverly Hills’ hottest teens mixing international intrigue, fashion and homework, coming to bookstores everywhere, Papercutz is providing a star appearance in an upcoming article to be published in every Papercutz series of graphic novels, from Totally Spies to the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew plus various free Papercutz graphic novels and Totally Spies merchandise, as available! To win, young film-makers between the ages of eight and fourteen will create a 90-second trailer for the new graphic novels, starring Sam, Alex and Clover, three Beverly Hills high school girls who fight crime on an international scale as undercover agents for the World Organization of Human Protection. The winning entry will be posted all over the internet from Youtube to you name it and for everyone to pass along to friends. The winning entry will also win many other fun prizes...such as a 2-week summer camp workshop, with the New York Film Academy!!!!...“Through working on these books, I’ve discovered just how much they mean to their fans,” said Editor-in-chief Jim Salicrup. “We want to reward the creativity and imagination they inspire. We need a cool, fun video that shows the energy and humor of this series and that it’s now in comics. A video everyone will love to death! In return, we’ll immortalize you in hundreds of thousands of books!”Entrants will make a movie-style trailer, using the artwork available to them in two new graphic novels, The O.P. and I Hate the 80s, and the Papercutz website ( by December 31st, 2006. The winner will be determined by judges including editor Salicrup. The best films will be shown on the website starting in January 2007.

Totally Spies Competition Prizes:

NYFA 2-Week Tween Workshop / Summer Camp

The New York Film Academy is pleased to offer a two-week day summer camp programs for youth (ages 10-13) to learn filmmaking.

The Two-Week Filmmaking Camp meets Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm with a one-hour lunch break for two consecutive weeks.

*Travel and accommodations are not included; the prize winner is responsible for the travel and accommodations.

Rabble :: RAZR Cell Phone
RAZR Cellular telephone [with built in camera] from Intercasting, loaded with Rabble [ ]. Waiting on model number and image of product
Winner Feature Story on
Winning video posting, webstream
See Contest information on the Win! (sweepstakes) page.

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. To enter the Totally Spies Video Contest write your name, telephone number, and full mailing address in an e-mail along with your 90 second video to or by mail on a 3” x 5” card and CD/DVD sent to: Papercutz, 40 Exchange Place, Ste. 1308, New York, NY 10005. Limit one entry per person. Not responsible for: late, lost, stolen, damaged, undelivered, mutilated, illegible, or misdirected entries; postage due; or typographical errors in the rules. Entries void if they are in whole or in part illegible, incomplete, or damaged. Contest starts November 1st, 2006. Entries must be postmarked by December 31, 2006 and received by January 6th, 2007.
All entries become the property of Papercutz and will not be acknowledged or returned. Papercutz (Sponsor) will award one (1) Grand Prize to an eligible U.S. or Canadian entrant. Grand Prize includes providing a star appearance in an upcoming article to be published in one volume of every Papercutz series of graphic novels and various free Papercutz graphic novels and Totally Spies merchandise, as available.
Contest is open to legal residents of the continental U.S. (excluding Puerto Rico) and Canada (except Quebec) ages 8-14 as of September 20th, 2006. Proof of age is required to claim prize. Void wherever prohibited or restricted by law. All provincial, federal, state, and local laws apply. Employees and family of employees of Papercutz (Sponsor), and its respective suppliers, parent companies, subsidiaries, affiliates, agencies, and participating retailers, and persons connected with the use, marketing, or conducting of this contest are not eligible.
Additionally, as a condition to receiving the Grand Prize, the winner and the winner’s parent or legal guardian shall be required to execute an assignment transferring and assigning all of his or her rights,
title, and interest, including but not limited to any copyrights or trademarks, in winner’s image, persona, name, and/or likeness, as embodied in the forthcoming Papercutz books. Winner’s parents or legal
guardians on behalf of winners agree to allow use of winner’s name, image, photograph, persona, likenesses, and entries for any advertising, promotion, and publicity purposes without further compensation to or permission from the entrants except where prohibited by law.
By participating in the contest, entrants agree to be bound by these rules and the decisions of the judges and the Sponsor, which are final in all matters relating to this contest. Failure to comply with these Official Rules may result in disqualification of your entry and prohibition of any further participation in this contest.
By entering, entrants release Sponsor and its subsidiaries; affiliates; divisions; and advertising, production, and promotion agencies from any and all liability for any loss, harm, damages, costs, or expenses, including without limitation property damages, personal injury, and /or death, arising out of participation in this contest, the acceptance, possession, use, or misuse of any prize, claims based on publicity rights, rights of privacy, intellectual property rights, defamation, or merchandise delivery.

Copyright © 2006 Marathon-MYSTERY Animation INC. "Totally Spies" is a trademark of Marathon-MYSTERY Animation INC. All rights reserved. No video of the Totally Spies may be sent in e-mail to anyone or posted to any site without the express consent of the Sponsor.
For the name of the prize winners (available after January 15th, 2007) send a separate, stamped, self-addressed envelope to Winners’ List TS Video Contest, Papercutz, 40 Exchange Place, Ste. 1308, New York, NY 10005.Sponsor: Papercutz, 40 Exchange Place, Ste. 1308, New York, NY 10005.

ABOUT Papercutz:
Papercutz is a new graphic novel publishing company for tweens ages 8 to14. Launched in the Spring of 2005 with the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, the company also publishes the adventures of Totally Spies, and Zorro. In this short period of time, it has sold over 250,000 Nancy Drew and 200,000 Hardy Boys graphic novels. With writers that include Scott Lobdell and Stefan Petrucha, and artists such as Lulu Award winner Lea Hernandez and Sho Murase on board, Papercutz is uniquely positioned to bring exciting characters and inspiring stories to a new generation of readers.

For more information about Papercutz, you may visit

Media Contact:
Release: [publicity_pr]
Tracie Lynn Tucker

40 Exchange Pl., Ste. 1308New York, NY 10005

ABOUT New York Film Academy:
The Academy was founded in 1992 on a belief that a top quality education in filmmaking should be accessible to anyone with the drive and ambition to make films. The Academy opened its doors in 1992 in Robert DeNiro‘s Tribeca Film Center. Since that time NYFA has grown into their own facilities in Manhattan’s Union Square and Soho. They have also opened Film Academies at Universal Studios in Los Angeles and London UK, England. NYFA holds One-Year and short-term programs throughout the year in these locations. During the summer they offer their short-term programs at a number of additional locations, including Harvard University; Princeton University; Disney-MGM Studios-Florida; Paris, France; and Florence, Italy.

Each year hundreds of students of all occupations, races, ethnicities, and of a wide range of ages from around the world benefit from the extraordinary education offered at the New York Film Academy. Today, little more than a decade after the first students graduated, the New York Film Academy is considered one of the most prominent fixtures of film education in the world.

The New York Film Academy was designed for a new generation of filmmakers, screenwriters, actors, producers and animators who share a passion for motion pictures and want to learn by making their own projects in a hands-on, intensive program.

The New York Film Academy believes that the correct paths for filmmakers is to immediately start making their own films in a hands-on intensive working environment.

Towards this end, all students begin making their own films in the first week of all our workshops.

"Every film has a beginning, a middle, and an end... but not necessarily in that order." - Jean Luc Godard

For more information, visit .

Rabble is a fun and useful tool that connects you with other people and the world around you using text, camera phones and location. Part blogging, part location-based personal networking, Rabble helps you find and interact with other people and get information you won’t find in the yellow pages through bits of location-tagged media.

For more information, visit .


Kidzworld publishes contemporary, engaging, and original content for kids and tweens - ages six through 14 - on a daily basis. As a leading kid's knowledge and entertainment channel, Kidzworld is committed to providing an inclusive, age appropriate, online home for our users.

For more information, visit .
We're back! Absent due to the day job since Tuesday, the Waiting Room is here to close the week out with two questions: is SIDESCROLLERS the spiritual sequel to MALLRATS, and has Phil Hester written the best VAMPIRELLA story ever? The only way to get those answers?

Clicking here, of course.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Waiting Room is heading into a mid-week break for work-related matters, so there will be no updates Wednesday or Thursday.

For today: a double dose! New reviews of UNHOLY KINSHIP from NBM and the manga AIRGEAR from Del Rey! Go check them out!

See you Friday!


Monday, November 13, 2006

Three newbies for Monday: RENFIELD, DRAIN, and HAWAIIAN DICK VOL.2 from Image Comics!

Please, for the love of all that is holy, go read.


Sunday, November 12, 2006


Welcome to the latest CWR WEEKEND BLOG EXTRA! This week, part one of two, as I take an extended look at some of the latest books from Dynamite Entertainment. Let’s get to it!

THE LONE RANGER #2 is written by Brett Matthews and drawn by Sergio Cariello. I described issue one of this origin story of the Ranger as being “Batman meets Brisco County, Jr.”; it was a good book, not a great one, but there was obvious potential waiting to be tapped. Nicely, issue two makes me look pretty smart: this is a huge leap forward from issue one. Right out of the gate, we’re introduced to Tonto, and he’s a fascinating guy, a warrior who will obviously play sidekick to no one. We also get a look at the conspiracy that killed John Reid’s family, and what will drive his becoming the west’s greatest hero. Throw Cariello’s excellent art into the mix, and this reads as one of the best books Dynamite has produced this year. I was never a fan of this character, but I’ll be a permanent convert if the creative team can keep up this level of quality.

Brandon Jerwa and Mike Oeming write, and Lee Moder draws, HIGHLANDER #1, which follows in the footsteps of the original 1986 cult classic. Now, given the quality of every other piece of HIGHLANDER material that came after Christopher Lambert’s career highlight, Jerwa and Oeming had to do very little to produce something clever; however, given that opening, they wisely don’t choose to coast and phone it in. Instead, they offer up a genuinely fascinating idea: the Kurgan, one of the most evil men to ever walk the Earth, left disciples in his wake, and they are more than willing to continue doing the dead immortal’s work… no matter how dirty it might be. Their latest act was to cause the Chernobyl meltdown. Worse is that many of the disciples were recruited and created by a special Russian government project. That means long and scary odds for Connor MacLeod and the allies he has cultivated over the last few hundred years. The one weakness here is that, like in the film, MacLeod is not a very interesting fellow when compared against the rest of his cast and has yet to come to life in the comic. Still, this is solid reading, especially when factoring in Moder’s usual terrific art.

The ARMY OF DARKNESS comic won a “Scream Award” for Best Screen-to-Comic Adaptation this autumn, so hats off to the creative team for that achievement. Issues #10-11 are written by James Kuhoric and drawn by Kevin Sharpe, and continues Ash’s quest to stop Dracula from achieving true immortality and ultimate power. Throw Frankenstein’s monster into the mix, and you get an almost deliriously goofy tale of time travel, werewolves, and other assorted nonsense. The AOD comic has never really grabbed me, and I gave that some thought a while back, trying to figure out why. What I realized is that, plot and storytelling ultimately take a back seat in Ash’s world. It is the journey that counts most, and the sillier the journey, the more the book is true to its roots. Kuhoric really excels at delivering the goofy elements that make Bruce Campbell so appealing on film, and Sharpe turns in some good-looking pages. But even with the analysis, I still can’t quite find my way into the book. That’s just the way things go.

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA #2-3 are written by Greg Pak and drawn by Nigel Raynor. The first couple of issues saw Pak setting up a story that had more than a bit of uncertainty; the Galactica crew found a drifting ship that contained what appeared to be the dead loved ones of many of the fleet’s survivors somehow alive and well… including Zak Adama. Smelling a Cylon plot, Commander Adama and the rest have been more than a bit wary, but the story hadn’t given the reader much to work with. That changes here, as we finally see the true plot get into motion. And as a pleasant surprise, it isn’t all as cut and dried as you might have believed. Instead, Pak delivers a story that plays surprisingly fair with your emotions and gets much closer in feeling to the series itself. Not only do we get all that, we also get a pleasantly surprising nod to the original series. I had enjoyed the first two issues of this book, mostly because I love the series, and getting more of the characters during the hiatus between seasons was nice. But this was the first time I really enjoyed the comic on its own merits, which bodes well as the book continues forward.

That’s it for Dynamite part one! I’ll be back with main site updates this week, and back next weekend with part two!


Friday, November 10, 2006

It's a holiday, but the Waiting Room is open! For a burst of pure sci-fi, check out THE SURROGATES from Top Shelf!

You don't even have to be a veteran to enjoy it.


Thursday, November 09, 2006

Thursday's child is full of Dynamite... Entertainment, that is. Check out new reviews of CLASSIC BATTLESTAR GALACTICA and RED SONJA: MONSTER ISLE today, only at the main site.


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

To get you over the hump... ANGEL: MASKS from IDW and PASSIONELLA from Fantagraphics!

New reviews are just a click away.


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

After a long wait... a new edition of Should It Be A Movie?! Plopping down in the spotlight is Joe Casey and Charlie Adlard's fascinating new graphic novel ROCK BOTTOM.

Go check it out.


Monday, November 06, 2006

It's another new Aisle Seat! Today, a look at season two of THE BATMAN, the latest animated incarnation of the caped crusader!



Sunday, November 05, 2006


Welcome to the latest BLOG EXTRA. This week: two from Devil’s Due Publishing, celebrating its 5th birthday!

G.I. JOE #15 is written by Joe Casey and drawn by Josh Medors. When last we left the Joes, we discovered that one of the President’s advisors, a man with tremendous influence, was actually Cobra Commander in disguise. And if that wasn’t bad enough, he was working to convince the President to deactivate the Joes and fund a new anti-terrorist group he had created: the Phoenix Guard. With this issue, we see the Commander make his move, and if you can’t figure out what the Phoenix Guard’s first target will be, you probably flunked second grade. Casey keeps the military soap opera aspects moving along, though the pacing here is extremely clunky. This issue has a little too much standing around talking and not enough forward plot movement on the Joes’ end. Still, this remains decent, readable stuff, and Medors finally looks comfortable on the art.

The middle chapter of FAMILY GUY, subtitled “Peter Griffin’s Guide to Parenting” is written by Matt Fleckenstein and drawn by 17! different credited artists. That’s never a good sign. Of course, with as much as I hate the TV show, I tend to believe its existence is a bad sign. However, this story’s cracks at the issue of illegal immigration actually produce a couple of clever and amusing jokes here and there. When the immigrants flock to town to build a pipeline to send Quahog’s water to Scottsdale, Arizona, a local news anchor remarks about his co-anchor, “I think I speak for Diane when I say no one lays pipe better than desperate illegal immigrants,” there’s a hint that Fleckenstein has the ability to raise the bar for low-end humor. I still wasn’t enthralled with the book as a whole, but that glimmer of sharpness, and a couple of others along the way, made me appreciate this second issue much more than the first.

That’s all for this week. Be here through the week for site updates, and come back next weekend for an all-new CWR WEEKEND BLOG EXTRA!


Friday, November 03, 2006

Friday's here... none too soon. Close out your week with a look at the latest issue of Jason Martin's SUPER REAL!



Thursday, November 02, 2006

Two more for Thursday! The new DEAD @ 17 ongoing series and the second issue of A DUMMY'S GUIDE TO DANGER, both from Viper Comics!

Read up!


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Keep on humpin'! It's Wednesday, and today brings a review of Joann Sfar and Lewis Trondheim's latest DUNGEON: TWILIGHT collection!

Read here, por favor.


Tuesday, October 31, 2006

It's another two-fer! Reviews of TAG #2 and PIRATE TALES from Boom Studios!

Go check 'em out.


Monday, October 30, 2006

Back to work after a long weekend! Start the week off with the SUICIDE GIRLS: ITALIAN VILLA dvd! It's another new Aisle Seat!

Read all about it!


Sunday, October 29, 2006


Welcome back to an all-new BLOG EXTRA. This weekend, we dance into manga-land, with three books from DrMaster Books!

First up is KING OF FIGHTERS 2003, VOL.1, written and drawn by Wing Yan and King Tung, with translation by Ken Li and Stephen Ip. Like many videogame adaptations to comics, KING OF FIGHTERS has a number of hurdles to overcome. The game characters are never defined much beyond their screen abilities, so finding a way to make them compelling on the page and giving them a decent story to get involved in can be very difficult. The only thing you can truly count on is that the action sequences will be elaborate and energetic. Unfortunately, this book struggles to make the characters come to life, and spends most of its 128 pages setting up the story, meaning the plot doesn’t really get started, either. The book looks fantastic, and it’s quite possible that the second volume goes further in presenting a more rounded story and character arc, but this is just a little too slow. With manga, 128 story pages don’t always go far, and that’s what happens here.

SNK VS. CAPCOM: SVC CHAOS VOL.3 &5 is written and drawn by Chi Wan Shum and is translated by Yun Zhao and adapted by Ken Li. Another videogame-based book, SVC CHAOS plays as a much stronger book. You could consider this something like an inter-company crossover, as the casts of two games come together to fight it out here; like a traditional superhero match-up, the players are brought to an alternate world and forced to go into battle both together and separately. The characters get the setup they need, the action is handled well, and most importantly, there’s enough story built in to why the characters have been brought to the parallel world that your attention is solidly held. It isn’t rocket science, and these types of stories never are, but it does deliver precisely what it should deliver, and that makes all the difference. I’d take this over another meeting of G.I. JOE and the TRANSFORMERS any day.

That’s it for this week. I’ll be back during the week with site updates, and back next weekend with another CWR WEEKEND BLOG EXTRA!


Thursday, October 26, 2006

It's Thursday... and the last of our two-a-days! Our week concludes early with looks at the HERO HAPPY HOUR LOST EPISODE from IDW and Steve Alten's novel THE LOCH!

Go check 'em out!

Remember: no updates tomorrow, as the CWR will be at a conference...


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Two-a-days roll on, with today bringing two books from Image/Beckett: THE COBBLER'S MONSTER and RED WARRIOR.

Take a look!


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Two-a-days continue with a two for Tuesday deal! Landing today: reviews of PROJECT: ROMANTIC and 12 REASONS WHY I LOVE HER!

Go read.


Monday, October 23, 2006

It's a week of two-a-days! Like high school footballers, we're getting in top-notch reviewing shape by...

...aww, Hell. You got me. I'll be gone Friday, so I'm making up for it by doubling up on the other four days this week. Can't fool you guys.

A warm welcome to new CWR staffer Ericka Stricklett, please. Ericka will be handling the occasional prose book reviews for us. She starts today with a look at NICOLE KIDMAN, which looks at the actress' career in film.

I then take a look at an excellent new manga, STRAY LITTLE DEVIL.

Do you need any more reasons to click here today? I don't think so!


Saturday, October 21, 2006


Welcome to the latest BLOG EXTRA! This week: seven new comics from Dynamite Entertainment.

Johh Layman writes, and Fabiano Neves draws, XENA #1-3. I probably come to a XENA comic in much different fashion than most; I saw a total of one episode of the television show. And as it turned out, the episode I saw was one that featured Xena being trapped in the body of her enemy Callisto, so I didn’t even get much of Lucy Lawless. That means the comic had to stand on its own for me, as I had no prior reference to build off of.

Fortunately, Layman’s script takes nothing for granted and gives the new reader an easy opening towards enjoying this series. The setup is simple; the Greek and Egyptian pantheons find themselves in dispute, and they decide to solve their conflict by picking a champion to represent them in battle. The Greeks, thanks to a lucky moment, wind up choosing Xena’s sidekick Gabrielle. Hilarity, and the entrance of the rest of the show’s cast, follows. The dialogue is crisp and witty, and when exposition is required, it never feels heavy. But the bigger delight is Neves; I’ve never seen his work before, but it’s a revelation. He’s a star in the making. And that makes XENA a lot of fun to read.

RED SONJA #12-15, written by Mike Oeming and drawn by Mel Rubi and Stephen Sadowski, brings arch-villain sorcerer Kulan Gath into the Dynamite version of Sonja’s universe. Gath originally appeared in the Marvel universe, battling Sonja, Conan, Spider-Man, and others, and it was well established that he is one of the worst of the worst… a complete evil. And changing universes hasn’t improved his disposition the tiniest bit.

First, though, he must gain a toehold in the real world, and he does so in one of the most gruesome sequences in recent comics memory (in issue #13). While he’s getting his act together, Sonja herself is meeting new allies and looking for ways to stop the encroaching evil. We learn more about how Sonja met the goddess she worships, and that she is not the only one who does. And the redheaded warrior also shows her more rounded side, not only displaying her mighty skills, but also genuinely caring for others and actually engaging in an intimate moment. This Sonja is human, longing for and remembering where she came from and who she was. And Oeming also rewrites the somewhat odious “a man has to beat her in battle in order to have sex with her” deal in a way that makes a bit more sense and makes Sonja into a little less of a character who deals with her world solely as a victim. This continues to be a surprising and solid series.

That’s it for this week! Be here through the week for site updates, and come back next weekend for an all-new CWR WEEKEND BLOG EXTRA!


Friday, October 20, 2006

Start the weekend with a little action and adventure, as the G.I. JOE crew goes on a SPECIAL MISSION to TOKYO!



Thursday, October 19, 2006

It's a return to the greats of yesteryear, with a lovely new archive: TOPHATS AND FLAPPERS: THE ART OF RUSSELL PATTERSON. Go see.


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

For the second week in a row... an all-new AISLE SEAT! This week, a look at TEEN TITANS SEASON 2 on DVD! Give it a read!


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Strolling back onto the scene after a four-year hiatus... DORK! Evan Dorkin's back, and he's brought over 200 gags with him! Check it out!


Monday, October 16, 2006

At long last... new commentary. Why can't direct market stores do a better job of selling manga? Because many of them are apathetic or afraid to ask the right questions...

Go check it out.


Sunday, October 15, 2006


Welcome back to a new CWR WEEKEND BLOG EXTRA. This week: a selection of new titles from Ross Richie’s Boom Studios!

First out of the gate we have SECOND WAVE #6, written by Michael Alan Nelson and drawn by Chee. The last couple of issues had shown a steep decline from the first few, leaving me wondering if Nelson had run out of gas with his story. But just when I was ready to write the book off: recovery! This is more like it; Miles and his rag-tag band escape the hick town they were stranded in and the Martians come back into play as a threat to their lives. While the last two issues were out of balance, this measures out trouble from both the human and the alien sides in equal amounts, which is what makes this book special and unique. I’m now back on board with it.

On the flip side, X ISLE #3 (written by Andrew Cosby and Michael Alan Nelson and drawn by Greg Scott) still isn’t setting my world on fire. The castaways have yet another gun-pointing standoff with one another as agendas conflict, and a couple of minor tweaks about the island’s nature appear (one, sadly, spoiled by the cover). In the previous two issues, I had sort of felt like the real problem was that all of the characters were so annoying that you wanted them to die, and soon. But in reading issue three, I’ve begun to believe that perhaps the real difficulty is in pacing. There’s really very little forward movement here as far as the underlying plot goes, and it makes me wonder if the final two issues are going to feel extremely cramped in order to offer some sort of resolution.

Andrew Cosby, writing with Johanna Stokes and aided by the art of Rafael Albuquerque, has a far better time of it with THE SAVAGE BROTHERS #2. When last we left the redneck zombie hunters, they had decided to rescue a virgin stripper from a head floating in a glass jar. Taking that lunacy to another level, their next feat must be to actually escape from the head’s zombie tracking dogs and other assorted creepy creatures. SAVAGE BROTHER has very little going for it in the way of plot or character development, and that’s perfectly fine. It has more than enough going for it in the humor department and the ludicrous fun department. There’s more than one laugh-out-loud moment here, and if you listen close enough, you can here Cosby and Stokes laughing as they wrote it. Great stuff. Oh: and congratulations to Cosby (co-creator) and Stokes (staff writer) on the renewal of EUREKA, a victory not only for them, but for fans of quality television as well.

Closing out the weekend is WHAT WERE THEY THINKING: MONSTER MASH-UP, written by Joe Casey, Keith Giffen, Johanna Stokes, and Kevin Church and drawn by various. This series, which features public domain comics re-scripted for humorous effect, can be a bit hit or miss. However, this issue is fairly strong. It gets off to a poor start with Casey’s overly long gay-joke story (homoerotic humor has been a staple for each issue and has begun to feel like a crutch), but my buddy Church, aided by Giffen, swoops in to pick up the pace with a funny story involving a man who likes hairy women. This is Church’s first published work, and while it has dead spots, he does a decent job of getting his voice onto the page and getting some snickers, which is something to take pride in. But stealing the spotlight from everybody else is Stokes’ tale, “Hats Off”, which is almost impossible to describe. It involves two men who are rivals for one woman and racing to find a lizard creature, but that barely really covers it. I’ll just say that this is the first time in the series that I was naked with jealousy over how good one of these stories was. Genius stuff.

That’s it for this weekend. I’ll be here through the week with site updates, and back here next weekend for another weekend blog extra!


Friday, October 13, 2006

Thankfully, it's Friday. Tired. But one review to go: 110 PERCENT, from the good folks at Top Shelf...

Go read.


Thursday, October 12, 2006

Three modern fables from Jenny Allen and Jules Feiffer... THE LONG CHALKBOARD... today at the main site!


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Chainmail heat... frozen! SAVAGE RED SONJA heads north, but still dresses for Miami... today at the main site!


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Today..... GOJIRA! The classic, uncut Japanese version of the original film is finally on DVD in North America. Check it out!


Monday, October 09, 2006

It's Manga Monday! Head on over to the main site and check out our review of ES (Eternal Sabbath)...


Sunday, October 08, 2006


Welcome back to the Blog Extra! This week: a new wave of books from Fantagraphics’ Ignatz series. For those unfamiliar with the Ignatz books, a primer: they are 32-page “floppies” with a twist. They’re printed on heavy paper, have heavy-paper dust-jackets, and present the works of acclaimed artists from all over the world.

REFLECTIONS #1, written and drawn by Marco Corona, presents the story of a little girl and her strange family. Her mother is mentally ill, her brother has a disease that keeps him in the hospital full-time, her grandfather teachers her how to smoke, and her grandmother… well she’s odd, but she at least takes decent care of her. The young woman’s imagination takes her on a vivid ride, including her strange ideas about what her brother’s sickness truly is, but the book’s strange opening sequence and attempted framing sequence take away from the compelling material already contained within.

Igort, the Ignatz line’s editor, delivers his second book in the series, BAOBAB #2. BAOBAB is an artistically accomplished book, Igort having a tremendous eye for detail, and the story is also strong. Two cartoonists in the early 20th century attempt to get their careers moving, and a love affair never to be begun sputters its way towards doom. But he core of the book is the friendship between the two men, and Igort makes you care about their lives and get aggravated about the love that never sprouts and grows. There’s some artistically brave and complex work here, and Igort shows that he possesses the soul of a true innovator.

Our final book of the week is NIGER #1, written and drawn by Leila Marzocchi. NIGER follows the path of a strange creature that floats out of a river and lands in an old tree house. The creatures of the forest must then decide what to do with the strange being now in their midst. The spiders want to eat her; the birds want to offer protection. NIGER is, for lack of a better term, OWLY aimed straight at the adult reader. Marzocchi’s art is dark and charming, and the characters are sweet. This is a cute book, and one of the best efforts to come out of the Ignatz line to date. Give it a look.

That’s it for this week. Check in this week for main site updates, and be back here next weekend for another CWR WEEKEND BLOG EXTRA!


Friday, October 06, 2006

Friday is here, which means drinking! Oh- and it also means a new review, too. Specifically, Nat Gertler's latest issue of LICENSABLE BEAR.


And drink.


Thursday, October 05, 2006

I've been disappointed in VILLAINS so far... will the concluding chapter redeem the book? Go here to find out.


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

One of my favorite painters returns with a new collection of work. Walk into the DARK LABYRINTH with Luis Royo, today at the main site!


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

If it's Tuesday (and it is), it must be time for something with an overly long title. (Why? I have no idea. Work with me.) So: STAR WARS X-WING ROGUE SQUADRON OMNIBUS gets reviewed today.

Now if you'll excuse me, I think I'm out of consonants.


Monday, October 02, 2006

For once, Mondays don't have to suck. Why? because there's a new volume of THE COMPLETE PEANUTS on the way!

Read all about it!


Saturday, September 30, 2006


It’s the return of the review version of the Blog Extra, and to celebrate, I have looks at five new books from Image Comics!

Tom Beland’s TRUE STORY SWEAR TO GOD moves to the “I” and gets a new number one issue, and that’s excellent news. Beland’s memoir of how he met the love of his life, Lily Garcia, and the path their relationship has taken isn’t just the best thing to hit the “romance comic” in the past twenty years; it’s also one of the best comics being produced, period. With Beland moving away from self-publishing and getting the support of Image and its placement in PREVIEWS, hopefully the sales will get to the point where they should be. I’ve used TRUE STORY to hook more than one non-comics reader in the past, and you can, too. Go give it a look.

I gave the first two issues of ELEPHANTMEN a lukewarm review, but issue #3 shows signs of improvement. Once again, there are two stories, both written by Richard Starkings (drawn respectively by Tom Scioli and Moritat), but rather than one feeling pretentious and dragging down the other, these two provide a solid balance of entertainment. Scioli’s reliance on aping Jack Kirby is far less intrusive when illustrating the Elephantmen’s reality, and Moritat delivers a spectacular job on the back-up story. If this keeps up, the book could really grow on me.

Kieron Gillen writes, and Jamie McKelvie draws, the second issue of their PHONOGRAM miniseries. Issue one presented us with an interesting character, David Kohl, who was as big a bastard that’s graced comics in a while. The plot, revolving around Kohl’s abuse of music-based magic coming back to haunt him, was sort of wonky and undefined, however. Part two still leaves chunks of the plot making no sense whatsoever, but there’s some solid forward movement in Kohl’s request to save his own ass. I suppose there’s something to the idea that I enjoy reading the book, and about Kohl, even though very little of what’s going on makes sense to me. Plus, the book is undeniably lovely, McKelvie turning out one amazing page after another. Not thrilled, but I’m still solidly onboard.

Issue three of HATTER M, written by Frank Beddor and Liz Cavalier and drawn by Ben Templesmith, starts putting the character into the homestretch of his adventure. We learn what exactly happened to send Hatter and Princess Alyss out of Wonderland, and just why Hatter is willing to go to the ends of the Earth to save the girl and bring her back to their world in one piece. The shipping of this issue coincides with Beddor’s THE LOOKING GLASS WARS novel finally shipping in an American edition and delivers plenty of intrigue for fans of either the prose work or the comic to sample the other. Plus, Templesmith continues to do consistently lovely work. It should be interesting to see how the story plays out.

And to finish out the weekend… OCCULT CRIMES TASKFORCE #2. When I opened the new Comics Waiting Room in July, the first book to grace my “Should It Be A Movie?” column was issue one of this title. Actress Rosario Dawson had worked with writer David Atchison and artist Tony Shasteen to create a perfect “proof of concept” book, and I was sure it would make it to the screen. And last week, word came down that it was going to happen. So I congratulate the creative team on a job well done. And I’ll certainly buy a ticket. But the movie is going to have to improve on what we get out of issue two. While it looks gorgeous, the story here is so choppy that entire scenes make no sense. There are places where caption boxes or other aids to help transitions were needed and left out completely. There’s no excuse for not being able to follow what’s happening, especially in the equivalent of a “summer blockbuster” entertainment.

That’s it for this week. I’ll be back here next weekend with another CWR WEEKEND BLOG EXTRA, and here through the week with site updates!


Friday, September 29, 2006

Closing out the week... THE UNTOUCHABLES meets J-horror in THE DAMNED #1! Go take a look...

Plus: yummy baked goods from a friend of mine. Try some.


Thursday, September 28, 2006

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Boy, oh boy... when it all goes wrong, it all goes really really wrong. The site has been updated every day this week, though this is the first time I've been able to tell you about it.


Please click over for reviews of LONE RANGER #1, BONEYARD VOL.5, and FAMOUS FIGHTERS. And pray that the internet starts treating me nicer.


Saturday, September 23, 2006


I’ve missed the last one or two Phoenix cons, so I was rather curious about the show going into this one. The con has previously been a one-day event, though the organizers have hoped for years to stretch it into a larger and more ambitious effort. Now, local fans were about to see the results of that ambition… and to discover that the show organizers are even more ambitious than many of us realized.

This year’s show displayed its ambition not only in becoming a two-day con, but also in its guest list. The previous one-offs had a small, but solid, list of pros on the bill, but 2006 promised far grander things. Arizona fans weren’t just getting one or two out of town guys and all the locals (like Mike Bullock and Raven Gregory); instead, folks like Mike Mayhew, Billy Tan, Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Conner, and Josh Blaylock were going to show. That not only enhanced the con as a destination for future guests, but should also serve to draw a solid attendance number when badges are counted after Sunday closes

That isn’t to say, however, that all things were pulled off smoothly.

Mind you, there were plenty of things about the show today that were done very, very well. The dealer room was a highlight: it contained the guests and their tables; it was planned out with some solid thought (putting the guests towards the back so that con-goers had to walk past retailers to get to them was smart); and the dealers who focused primarily on manga were close together, giving those fans a dream row where they could spend their money. Also on that row were some manga artists, including the wonderfully talented Jennifer Quick, who was selling original art pages for $5! (I bought two, thanks for asking.)

And on that subject… the single best thing about the show: the incredibly high percentage of manga and anime fans. My friend Mimmo was astonished at the near perfect 50/50 ratio of male to female attendees and at the huge number engaged in cosplay. Unlike San Diego, the number of superhero costumes was almost pathetically small; 95% of those who showed up in uniform did so as their favorite manga or anime character, and they did so with fervor. It was amazing, and joyful, to see. In fact, the con was so dedicated to those fans’ experience that there was even a room where they could engage in anime theme-song karaoke.

Yes, it was a little frightening. But I digress…

So, for the large percentage of fans, the con management delivered a very solid experience. Mimmo was there for three hours and had a terrific time. I tip my cap to the planners. But…

There are things that need fixing. And quicker than I had imagined. Why? Because the 2007 con has moved up the calendar to January. That’s less than four full months before the machine gets fired up again, and special guests Mike Mignola and George Perez roll into town.

Now, on the one hand, this is brilliant planning. More folks from colder climes will be inclined to visit the Phoenix area in January and explore the show. But it gives little time to alter the internal planning. Or to fix the biggest problem the show has this year: Artists’ Alley.

Artists’ Alley was literally just about that. When you walked into the convention center and turned right, you were immediately in the dealer room. If you went left… well, you went down a long, winding hallway that had tables shoved off to the side and out of the way. That was the Alley. Now, if you went past them, you found the programming rooms, but those who weren’t interested in panels never knew those folks were over there. I did a quick survey in the dealer room at one point, and less than half the attendees I polled knew there was more to the con. Not a good way to treat those folks who paid their money to take their chances with the crowds.

The show might have been able to get away with that to a lesser extent, though, if they’d provided a map of the layout of the con. Even though I had explored the Alley-side of things, I still had no idea how to find the panel room I wanted to get a seat in. Plus, the con program was misprinted, with the first page describing programming the last one printed in the booklet. Assuming this was a late printing job that they couldn’t get fixed, I hope the organizers got their money back or a deep discount.

The sad thing is, even with the small size, Artists’ Alley had some solid talent sitting there. Paul Horn came over from San Diego to sell Cool Jerk goodies. Local boy Ryan Cody had the fourth and final issue of VILLAINS from Viper Comics on hand to sell, even though it isn’t in stores yet. It was worth your time to get there.

With some adjustments, this has the potential to be a top-notch show. Honestly, the Phoenix area deserves one. This is the 5th largest city in the U.S., and has a thriving local comics shop scene. It’s almost inexcusable that it took until the 2000s to finally put on an actual con here. However, the 2006 version, in summary, is all about the growing pains. It’ll be interesting to keep an eye on how things turn out in January.


I caught a panel and a half, owing to my inability to locate the room, beginning with one on licensing and intellectual property rights. Participants included Brian Pulido, Josh Blaylock, Shannon Denton, and a local IP lawyer. The discussion was interesting and lively, as the audience seemed to be filled with people who are terrified of being ripped off by others. So much of the focus was on how to protect your property, and more so, protect yourself. Incorporation was discussed, as well as forming an LLC. What I found intriguing was how differently each person on the stage approached matters. Blaylock seems to be a man who has exercised some caution in building Devil’s Due, keeping himself nearly walled-off from corporate liability in any form while growing his farm. He also discussed why DDP doesn’t really do creator-owned material at this point, and while I philosophically might disagree with his decision, I completely understood it from his POV.

Pulido was almost amusingly crusty, having gone through hitting it big with books like LADY DEATH to the dissolution of Chaos, the loss of his intellectual property. He also offered the most practical advice: generate ideas constantly, because even though most of them may be crap, there’s always the right one waiting to be tapped. Agreed, sir.

The full panel I was able to make was Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti’s panel on “team writing”. Having interviewed Jimmy twice previously, he’s become one of my favorite people in comics, an honest-to-God “no bullshit answer” guy. Happily, along with the surprisingly witty and sharp Gray, there was no letdown in the session. Highlights:

- Palmiotti on why write with a partner: “It’s always more fun to do something with someone else… masturbation included.”
- Jimmy on his former partners Joe Quesada and Dan Didio becoming Editors-in-Chief: “It was a rough period, because neither of them wanted to look like they were being preferential to me. I had to re ‘break in’ in some ways.”
- Gray on pitching and getting rejected and how to improve your chances: “Ask why it sucks.”
- The duo discussed why team writers aren’t as prevalent in comics. One reason: they’re difficult to market.
- When taking over a title, they use peoples’ research about characters that they find on the internet, as long as it’s solidly and smartly done.
- Jimmy on not finding sales success every time: “It doesn’t matter if you fail; it’s still better than nothing happening. Do not be afraid to fail.”
- How does the duo resolve creative differences? “Talk it out- like a courtroom drama.” Palmiotti added, “Ego is not good,” and described previous battles about the location of names in the credit box.
- The pair works far in advance, as not to leave artists begging for scripts. They are currently scripting HEROES FOR HIRE #8, and only issue one has shipped.
- Start your guesses: responding to a question about their exclusive contract with DC, Palmiotti noted that DC knew that some artists who liked the duo would likely follow them in order to work with them again. The name Khary Evans wasn’t spoken, but ya gotta figure…

There were plenty of laughs, a terrific story about Palmiotti busting on Kevin Smith, and some insightful tales from Gray about his days as an intern for Marvel Knights along the way, and the 90 minutes passed by very quickly.


The only mega-negative aspect to the day was that the bleah feeling I’ve had over the past few days got worse as the hours passed, and it looks like I’ll be skipping day two of the con for bed rest.

That’s it for the CWR WEEKEND BLOG EXTRA. Tune in this week for site updates, and I’ll be back in this space next weekend for the regular reviews. And if you hit day two of the show, make sure you stroll through Artists’ Alley.


Friday, September 22, 2006

Over at the main site, the week closes with some new manga reviews- check 'em out. Plus: this weekend is Phoenix Comicon, and we'll have con reports here as weekend blog extras!


Thursday, September 21, 2006

Robots... I love 'em. But what if the world was nothing but robots? The answer can be found in 24SEVEN, a tasty anthology with a beautiful Adam Hughes cover. Go take a look...


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

It's been far too long, but it's back: a new installment of "Should It Be A Movie?"! The latest edition discusses POLLY AND THE PIRATES, an excellent adventure story for young girls. Go check it out!


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Every child of divorce wishes they had powers and could fly away... but for EMILY EDISON, those wishes are true! Today, only at the main site...


Monday, September 18, 2006

Leading off and batting with a DVD included: STUDENTS OF THE UNUSUAL!



Saturday, September 16, 2006


Ahh… a new blog extra, and a day early to boot. This weekend, a look at two books from Dark Horse Comics, and then next weekend, something a little different.

Next weekend is the Phoenix Comic-Con, and I’ll be doing blog reports of the show instead of the usual review column. Please tune in. But for now: comics.

ARCHENEMIES #3-4, written by Drew Melbourne and drawn by Yvel Guichet, concludes this humor-based miniseries. The set-up: Vincent and Ethan are roommates who struggle to get along but somehow find a way to co-exist. But the real secret is that Vincent is a super-villain and Ethan is a superhero… and their alter egos are mortal enemies. Somehow, forgetting to pick the hair off the soap or put a new roll of toilet paper on the spindle seems a little less important at that point.

While blessed with a cute premise, however, the execution and results are a bit of a mixed bag. The characters are interesting, and the dialogue crackles in spots, but the storytelling is disjointed and lacking in cohesiveness. Some plot points require a bit more explanation than what we’re given here, and the jumpy in media res material that starts issue three makes no sense without visual cues and clues. This is Melbourne’s first published work, and these are things that can be fixed as he grows more comfortable with the medium.

Mike Mignola and John Arcudi write, and Guy Davis draws, B.P.R.D: THE UNIVERSAL MACHINE #2-4, the latest mini featuring the Hellboy spin-off characters. The story follows two plots: in one, the members of the crew begin discussing their various connections with death or even how they died to begin with; in the other, their consultant Dr. Corrigan takes a meeting with a being who offers her a horrifying choice- her life for the remains of the deceased Roger the homunculus or the body of the living fish-being Abe Sapien.

Even if this weren’t connected with the Hellboy universe and the mind of Mignola, it’d still be something to highly recommend to readers. One, it’s drawn by the amazing Guy Davis, and he remains one of the finest illustrators working today. His gifts for character and detail are second to none, and there seems to literally be nothing he cannot draw well. The presence of Arcudi enhances the project, too. His amazing work on his HOMICIDE series many years ago (pre- the show) still holds up and is a favorite of mine. This is great stuff and a must-read.

That’s it for this week. Again, please stop in next weekend for Phoenix Con updates, and be here throughout the week for site updates!


Friday, September 15, 2006

Putting a period on the end of the week... reviews of Archaia's MOUSE GUARD and ARTESIA BESIEGED.

Only at the main site, of course.


Thursday, September 14, 2006

The week heads into the home stretch, as we take a look at the gloriously vile PAINKILLER JANE and dive into the first full issue of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA! Go read.


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

It's hump day, and what better way to celebrate it than with large animals with humps? ELEPHANTMEN... today at the main site!


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

She has a pair of 38s... and two huge guns! Who is the GRENADIER? What makes her type of violence so much fun to read? Check out this new manga today at the main site!


Monday, September 11, 2006

There's no avoiding Mondays... but you can make them better with a good book. Or, you can make them better with a great book. Like FLIGHT VOL.3, for instance. Over at the main site...


Sunday, September 10, 2006


Ahh… mini-comics. Comics in their purest, rawest form. Good or bad, minis are always interesting, even if just for the spirit or energy put into making them. And when I go to a con, one of the first things I look for are interesting mini-comics to buy and bring home.

ATOMIC MONSTER TEA PARTY #1 is written and by Corwin Gibson and published through Luchadork Studios. This mini has two stories; one wherein those giant monsters do have a lovely sit-down and a spot of tea, and one that features the U.S. military using dinosaurs as weaponry in World War 2. Both stories have decent conceptual starts, though the Monster piece devolves into a sad punchline at the end. I’d have liked to see Gibson actually expand and really use the idea of the dino story, rather than using the idea as a two-page trailer. The art is, politely, rough, but there’s enough there to suggest that Gibson could find an artist and maybe produce something with a bit more substance and length.

Next we have three books from Welsh El Dorado Press. The first, SYMPATHIZERS (written by Justin Robinson and drawn by Aneurin Wright), serves as a prelude to an upcoming series to appear this fall in a series called SPACE DOUBLES. This sci-fi piece focuses on humanity taking in the victims of an alien civil war and then turning on them when the winning side shows up to try and finish the job. With internment camps and other odious reminders of poor human behavior, much of SYMPATHIZERS rings resonant with our modern times. Robinson’s script is solid, and Wright adapts his style to the material nicely. Worth keeping an eye on when it goes to series.

Chip Mosher writes, and Wright draws, LEFT ON MISSION AND REVENGE, a spy thriller. Again, this is a clever use of the mini-comic format; Mosher and Wright are looking for a publisher for the full 170-page graphic novel, so they’ve put together a trailer to try and entice some interest. I had some qualms about the pace of the storytelling; if this is 170 pages overall, and we’re seeing only 20 pages in this mini… well, this material feels way too decompressed. I could see they were aiming for a cinematic look and feel, but it put a grind into the story’s forward movement. Still, Wright again impresses, as MISSION looks zero like SYMPATHIZERS, and it’s nice to see an artist genuinely spread their wings and do something different.

We close with CARNET D’UN SAUVAGE, Wright’s homage to Craig Thompson’s CARNET DE VOYAGE. Wright took a lengthy trip to Europe and chronicled it in his sketchbook, reproducing some of the material in this quiet little mini. As I mentioned above, Wright is a very fine artist, so the material looks terrific. There’s some disjointedness in the way Wright skips ahead at some points, and you find yourself wishing he’d have included more of the material about the people he was with versus the stuff more focused on the environment, but that’s a minor quibble. I can always appreciate an intriguing travelogue, and this one qualifies.

That’s it for this weekend. See you here during the week for site updates, and back here next weekend for a new Weekend Blog Extra!


Friday, September 08, 2006

12 hours... 8 pages... one story. What was COMICS JAM WAR 2006? Head over to the main site to find out!


Thursday, September 07, 2006


Updated the main site yesterday, but forgot to update the feed. Gah!

Yesterday saw a review of THE LEFT BANK GANG, Jason's alt-history take on Hemingway and Fitzgerald as cartoonists who decide to become felons. Today, a look at the end of the manga series GACHA GACHA. What more can you ask for?



Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Back to the grind! Start your post-holiday weekend with reviews of TALENT, HERO SQUARED, and X ISLE! Only at the main site...


Sunday, September 03, 2006


Summer has come and gone, but the new Comics Waiting Room is still running strong. Now it’s time to put away your white shoes and read some comics. This weekend, a selection from Dork Storm Press!

DR. BLINK SUPERHERO SHRINK #3, written by John Kovalic and drawn by Christopher Jones, continues a string of excellent issues for this title. The premise stays true to its simple self: Dr Blink makes room on his couch for pastiches of famous characters (such as this issue’s “Spank”, a take on Spawn) and delves into the neuroses that make them tick. The best effort this time out deals with Blink listening to a Spidey-take who’s duplicate life is so crazy that it sends Blink himself into the office of his own therapist. The only problem this time out is the lack of Blink’s supporting cast, which grounds the book and gives it a human anchor. Still, funny stuff, terrific art. Worth your money every time.

Kovalic’s main work, DORK TOWER, reaches its 34th issue, and this is the first one I can honestly say that I wasn’t into. Kovalic takes an issue to step away from his storyline and characters to start an illustrated history of gaming itself (using the TOWER characters as his “guides”). What’s here is somewhat interesting, but as a non-gamer, I struggled to stay with it or maintain interest. Were I a gamer, I suspect I’d have dug it. Kovalic mentions in a text piece that he hopes to continue the series here and there, and I suspect he’ll be able to make a high-selling trade paperback out of it. I’m just not the audience for it.

SNAPDRAGONS VOL.1 sees Kovalic’s other series get its first trade, and I highly recommend it. Along with artist Liz Rathke, he presents a younger take on TOWER, following a precocious group of young kids who are finding their love of games and exercising their imagination. Just about anyone who picks up the book will see a little of themselves in the children, and the book is packed full of whimsical and joyous odes to better days gone by. Rathke nails the look of the book, from the fantasies of the kids to the mundane real world, and the appearances by the DORK TOWER cast only serve to enhance the bits and provide a glimpse into who they might have been when they were twenty years younger as well. Charming stuff.

Rounding out the set is KOBOLDS ATE MY BABY!, a role-playing game written by Chris O’Neill and Dan Landis, with illustrations by Kovalic. It’s a bit hard to review this, as I haven’t played the game, but what I can tell you is that the set-up is clearly detailed, the game seems nearly stupidly simple to play, and it comes across as pretty amusing. You create a Kobold; your group of Kobolds gets sent off to steal a baby to bring back for your superior to eat. Gruesomely silly, the game is described as “The Beer and Pretzels Roleplaying Game” on the cover, because its more fun to play while drinking and getting silly. Hard to find fault with that. Who knows, maybe someday I’ll create a Kobold and try my luck?

No new update on Labor Day, but I’ll be back Tuesday with new stuff at the main site and back here next weekend with a new CWR WEEKEND BLOG EXTRA!