Monday, January 16, 2006

Written and Drawn by Josh Howard
Published by Devil’s Due

Howard’s new mini finds a pretty decent second gear with this issue. His DEAD @17 efforts had a tendency to start off really slow and pick up tons of steam at the end, but this shows more early plot movement than I was expecting.

When last we saw UFO writer Daniel Webster (and his name should tell you a bit about the kind of story this is going to be), he had picked up a girl from the edge of the highway named Zaya Vahn. It turned out that she had been missing for three years, and rather than being shown some gratitude, the local heat decided to make him a suspect. (Which frankly didn’t work as a plot point, because it assumes that the local law is so stupid and corrupt that they couldn’t find their asses with both hands and a flashlight.) Set free, he headed back to his hotel to begin to prepare for the reason he’s in Jericho, Texas to begin with: the mysterious and unexplained lights that periodically appear over the town. But what he doesn’t know is that Zaya has returned with vengeance in her heart and some strange powers…

Which makes it all the more interesting for us when she turns up at his motel and wants to make nice for his rescue.

BLACK HARVEST is traveling down a path that would have fit quite comfortably in an X-FILES episode, but so far, Howard is managing to maintain an interesting balance between the looming mystery, Daniel’s personal quests, and Zaya’s re-assimilation into the community and her apparent gift for brutal murder. It’s all very solidly accomplished.

One of the things about BLACK HARVEST is how you can look at it and see that Howard has found an identity for himself as an artist at this point. While others work in similar artistic styles, Howard has carved out a niche in that style and meshed himself with particular stories and storytelling devices to the point where he’s set himself apart. BLACK HARVEST looks to be exactly the correct step for him to have taken at this point in his career.


Sunday, January 15, 2006


I’ve been on a huge ESSENTIALS kick both here and at The Shoot over the last few weeks, but that will be curtailing now that I’ve reached the end of my huge pile of the things for now. Guess I’ll be back to floppies, etc, eh?

Written and Drawn by Various
Published by Marvel Comics

THE OFFICIAL HANDBOOK OF THE MARVEL UNIVERSE was no less than a revelation from the comics gods when presented to a twelve-year old when it hit the scene in 1982. As an avid Marvel kid, to have all these characters, all this information in one place… it was mind-boggling. My friends and I devoured each and every issue like they were made of chocolate-covered crack.

Blueprints of the Baxter Building? Check. Schematic of the Avengers’ Quinjet? Check. An explanation for how Colossus’ metal body worked? You betcha. An explanation of where Wolverine really came from?

Well, the book didn’t have quite everything. But it was enough.

Reading this material sent me back in time, and seeing the classic portraits and poses that so many great artists put together… what a priceless experience for me. John Byrne doing the entries for all the Fantastic Four and Alpha Flight characters. Mike Zeck doing the pieces related to Captain America. Walt Simonson tackling Thor and the rest of the Asgardians. Gorgeous. A reminder of my favorite era for comics, the one that sticks out the most in my mind.

I think most of us identify our love of the medium as stemming from the books that captivated us most, and it was here, this time, when the much-missed Mark Gruenwald was putting together this book and guiding a significant chunk of the Marvel universe that will always define how I feel comics should be. Whether that’s right or wrong is irrelevant; it’s mine, and nothing can take it from me. I know we can never really return to a simpler time, but thanks to series like the ESSENTIALS, I don’t have to.

Eventually those times return to me.