Saturday, July 21, 2007


Since there won’t be regular site updates while I’m gone at Comic-Con International (there will, however, be updates here), I’m taking this week to do a little bit of advance catch-up on the large pile of books awaiting my attention. This Weekend Blog Extra brings two efforts from the folks at Del Rey Manga.

Written and Drawn by Camilla d’Errico and Joshua Dysart

The concluding volume to Del Rey’s first OEL manga is a surprising one, as what you might have expected to be a pointless popstar driven lark turns out to be a shockingly dark ride to an unexpected finish.

When last we left young Hana, she had begun using the wishes provided by a nasty little demon and began to understand the concept of “be careful what you wish for.” But undaunted, she wished for everyone in the school to like her, and now that desire comes due. What she doesn’t expect, though, is how deadly her life will get in order for that to become true. Nor does she expect her home life to be destroyed when she wishes that her feuding parents would be happy again. Ultimately, Hana shows herself to be quite naive as she tries to outwit the demon; kids don’t quite know that you can’t beat the devil.

WISHES’ final chapter, though, is what it all boils down to, and where the debate about this series will crystallize. The ending is a punch to the gut; no way did I see it coming. That isn’t to say that it isn’t earned, because it certainly is, but at the same time, it’s troubling. I’d be… cautious… about putting the book into the hands of a teenager who wasn’t mature enough to understand and handle it.

If you’d told me that I’d wind up enjoying and respecting this book before it came out, I’d have laughed at you, but d’Errico and Dysart really executed their story better than you could have ever expected. I tip my cap to them.

Written by Tadashi Kawashima and Drawn by Adachitoka

Kano lives a traditional teen existence. He goes to school, struggles with classmates, and plays guardian to his friend Hirose. But his life, and the lives of everyone else on Earth, is changed drastically on one fateful day. A wave of suicides ripples across the Earth, leaving millions dead. The explanation? A virus. But what science doesn’t know is that the virus is alive… and it has plans.

ALIVE is a stunner, immediately getting you in its grip and not letting go. Conceptually, it stands out from most of the rest of the manga on the shelves, and no one ever went broke putting out a thrilling Armageddon story. As I read it, I felt something that I hadn’t felt in a while: like I was reading the next big thing. After all, while there’s a larger, planet-level problem at play, the basic story is human enough that it keeps you grounded in Kano’s world and maintains a perspective that allows for emotional investment.

This manga is also a rarity in that it features a writer/artist team at work. Kawashima had produced a solo manga before, but his lack of speed and need for artistic growth put him together with Adachitoka. Turns out that was a pretty good idea. Exhilarating, violent, and unpredictable, I can’t wait to see where ALIVE goes; it should be an amazing trip.

See you all in San Diego!


Friday, July 20, 2007


Since there won’t be regular site updates while I’m gone at Comic-Con International (there will, however, be updates here), I’m taking this week to do a little bit of advance catch-up on the large pile of books awaiting my attention.

Written and Drawn by Various
Published by Dark Horse

Dark Horse’s omnibus series delivers its first collection of stories about Joss Whedon’s pop culture masterpiece heroine, and it turns out to be a much better book than I genuine thought it could be. The first series go-around featuring the slayer and her friends was never really a standout, mostly reaching levels of “ok” during its publication. But a big part of that was due to two reasons: one, the book was a terrible monthly read, damned near incoherent at times; and two, it seemed to lack direction, bouncing from one threat to another with little regard for character flow. This book, at least, fixes one of those problems.

Volume one doesn’t begin by reprinting the first issue of the series; instead, the Omnibus begins by collecting the tales the series told that took place before Buffy landed in Sunnydale and met Willow and the gang. We get a Spike & Dru tale, then lead in to the adaptation of Joss Whedon’s original BUFFY film screenplay. And that gives the book an early jolt; Whedon’s original, un-tampered with script, is damned fine, and foreshadows exactly what the TV series would accomplish so well. After that, we get two flashback stories, one which follows Buffy and Pike (from the film) and functions as a sequel to the true origin tale and one which finds Buffy institutionalized before her parents divorced and Buffy wound up at the Hellmouth (an excellent callback to a classic episode of the TV show). We also get a subplot in that tale that shows how Rupert Giles drew the assignment to head to California and become our heroine’s new Watcher.

Like I mentioned above, the first monthly BUFFY book read horribly in floppy format. But the collections were always better, and this one was no exception. In fact, by bringing together an entire era of slayer stories, it becomes a far more compelling read. I’m not sure how the next couple of omnibuses will turn out, but this one is well worth your dollars, especially if you love the character and/or show.


Two more for Friday, as the main site prepares to hibernate while I'm in San Diego. Dion Floyd's IMMORTAL KISS effectively mixes cops and vampires, while the ALIENS VS PREDATOR OMNIBUS brings some classic stories back to print for a new generation.


Thursday, July 19, 2007


Since there won’t be regular site updates while I’m gone at Comic-Con International (there will, however, be updates here), I’m taking this week to do a little bit of advance catch-up on the large pile of books awaiting my attention.

Written by Marc Bernardin and Adam Freeman
Drawn by Nima Sorat
Published by AiT/PlanetLar

Nate Klinger has the coolest dangerous job in the world. He’s the leader of M.A.N., the organization responsible for protecting the island nation of Lapuatu. What do they need protection from? A variety of giant monsters (or, as the Japanese would say: kaiju) that like to stomp their way through the tiny nation and destroy everything in their paths. Sure, the island has mandatory safeguards in place; for instance, each building is constructed with escape tubes meant to evacuate citizens to safety, quickly. And Nate and his crew are also responsible for quickly rebuilding the mangled infrastructure, too. But Nate’s world is about to get a lot more complicated by three things: the company’s new hire, a nubile young woman named Lana who doesn’t follow orders to his liking; Terry Callow, an industrialist with plans to add more than a bit of new shopping to Lapuatu; and a sudden influx of monster attacks that are coming in groups, a trend which is unprecedented.

How much did I love this book? It’s damned near embarrassing, frankly. Those who know me well know that I would sell my mother for the chance to write any sort of GODZILLA title or series. I think the 90s GAMERA trilogy are the greatest kaiju films ever made. So a graphic novel about people whose job it is to battle giant monsters on a daily basis? God help me.

Of course, it helps that it’s actually pretty good. The script is lively and full of easter eggs for genre fans; in fact, they don’t even have to be giant monsters, as one of the local companies turns out to be Weyland/Yutani of ALIEN fame. The characters are stock roles, but written in such a way as to feel fresh and entertaining. The plot whips along at a very fast pace, keeping the reader active in the story. And Sorat’s Paul Pope-esque art, while confusing at times, does a strong job of depicting most of the large-scale action that matters.

Wisely, the boys leave themselves wide open for a sequel, and I hope to see it. This is AiT’s most entertaining effort of the past few years.


Thursday sees the pre-San Diego push continue, with two new reviews at the main site: VOODOO CHILD #1 (from the minds of Nic Cage and son) and the totally bizarre THE AVIARY.


Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Since there won’t be regular site updates while I’m gone at Comic-Con International (there will, however, be updates here), I’m taking this week to do a little bit of advance catch-up on the large pile of books awaiting my attention.

Written by John Layman, Tom Peyer, and Jim Massey
Drawn by Scott Chantler and Robbi Rodriguez
Published by Oni Press

America’s funniest humorist sees one of his long-running gags brought to four-color life in TEK JANSEN. Colbert has been cracking wise about his absurd sounding “science fiction” novel for quite a while now, so it isn’t too surprising to see that a comic publisher was smart enough to start negotiations to snap up the property. What does surprise is how well this does… and doesn’t… work on the page.

The main story, by Layman and Peyer, finds Colbert’s officious character completing a mission and returning home to find himself in the middle of intrigue. An alien race has arrived, offering use of their great technology in exchange for their donation of energy to a planet in need of assistance. But playing slyly off of Colbert’s ion-air persona, Jansen distrusts any race that practices anything resembling liberal politics. So when ordered to not interfere with the proceedings… of course he interferes, setting in motion the pieces for galactic war.

Much to my surprise, the story itself really comes out kind of flat. Layman and Peyer lace the tale with great ideas and concepts; for instance, Jansen’s captured enemy that he insists on keeping in a nearby cage in the hopes he’ll eventually grow to love him is an absolute hoot. And Scott Chantler’s art (a long way from NORTHWEST PASSAGE) delivers a Jansen who looks exactly like Colbert’s stick-in-the-rear persona. But ultimately (and mind you, I call John Layman friend and drinking companion) I was disappointed that the whole thing wasn’t crazier- the plot concept feels a bit stock at the moment. Perhaps it will pick up a bit as the series progresses.

On the other hand, Massey and Rodriguez’ (MAINTENANCE) back-up story is a home run of humor. Tek gets sent undercover, saves a waitress whom he expects to be far more grateful than she actually is, then causes horrific destruction on a whim. “Horn Like Me” captures Colbert’s voice perfectly, and I snickered all the way through this one.

While unquestionably imperfect, I have faith in the creative crew to pick up the pace, so they get another issue to convince me that TEK JANSEN will live up to its inspiration.


LEFT ON MISSION isn't your traditional spy thriller... but that isn't a bad thing.

You only live twice, dear reader.


Tuesday, July 17, 2007


Since there won’t be regular site updates while I’m gone at Comic-Con International (there will, however, be updates here), I’m taking this week to do a little bit of advance catch-up on the large pile of books awaiting my attention.

Written and Drawn by Jack Kirby
Published by Image Comics

The King’s final substantive work gets the deluxe hardcover treatment from Image, as Morgan Miller (a/k/a Homo Geneticus) discovers his own power and tracks down others with similar gifts, all the while working to prevent the ascendance and domination of humankind by the first of their kind, Darius Drumm.

SILVER STAR was created late in Kirby’s career, during the period where he finally worked with publishers that allowed him to maintain ownership and control of his characters and art. It finds him in fine artistic form, no question; these pages are packed full of ideas, some genius, some so absurd that you wonder if Jack wasn’t smoking a bit of weed while hunched over the drawing board. But uniformly, the books are terrific examples of the man’s creativity.

The one flaw here is one that cropped up even in his work for Marvel and DC. Jack is working without an editor here, and therefore no one tells him that his dialogue is flat-out awful in many spots. Silver Star meets a stuntwoman with similar powers as his, and he immediately starts calling her baby. In fact, he’s so leaden in the way he speaks, you wouldn’t have been surprised if he had called her “sugar tits.” His urban dialogue suffers in much the same way in a later chapter. Reading some of this stuff, you kind of question whether or not Jack ever actually listened to other people speak.

Still, not one bit of that detracts from how enjoyable this volume is. The book looks fantastic, and Image’s restoration and presentation are immaculate. The hardcover is the perfect way to treat it, too. The King’s work belongs on the bookshelf, always accessible for an afternoon of letting your imagination run wild. A bargain at any price.


1200 pages. 53 issues. That's what makes up the first two volumes of the SAVAGE DRAGON ARCHIVES.

Erik Larsen really has done something to appreciate, hasn't he?


Monday, July 16, 2007


Since there won’t be regular site updates while I’m gone at Comic-Con International (there will, however, be updates here), I’m taking this week to do a little bit of advance catch-up on the large pile of books awaiting my attention.

Written and Drawn by Various
Edited by Jason Rodriguez
Published by Villard

On a trip for his girlfriend’s birthday,
Jason Rodriguez found himself in a spot that so many of us have: stuck shopping in an establishment he couldn’t care less about. In his case, she had dragged him out antiquing, a fate that can rank right up there with colorectal surgery performed with rusty implements. But this woman was smart; knowing he had a taste for making up stories from other peoples’ lives, she stopped by the boxes of postcards available for sale. And much to his surprise, many of them had been used and sent, offering a brief and mysterious glimpse into someone else’s world. Thus was born the concept behind POSTCARDS; Rodriguez has taken many of the postcards he’s collected, given them to a plethora of fine comic creators, and set them free to create the stories behind the missives.

While this doesn’t spring to mind as the most obvious genesis for an anthology, it does prove to be one of the most fruitful. What an amazing piece of work POSTCARDS turns out to be- like with FLIGHT, there isn’t a true whiff in the entire bunch. Each of these tales (sixteen in all) had something to recommend about it, whether it’s a clever concept or gorgeous art, or both. The talent here is a who’s who of gifted folks: Tom Beland, Rick Spears and Rob G, Josh Fialkov, Neil Kleid, Phil Hester, Danielle Corsetto (are you reading GIRLS WITH SLINGSHOTS? If you aren’t, why not?), Harvey Pekar… and not one of them disappoints. It’s Hester who delivers the book’s star turn, “A Joyous Eastertide;” it’s a heart-breaking tale about love, family, and death that I won’t soon forget.

If there’s one criticism to be made about POSTCARDS, it’s tonal. As Rodriguez himself admits, there’s a hint of death to the entire enterprise, considering that those who sent the cards are gone. And many of the stories are damned dark and depressing, with plenty of death in the air. Still, that shouldn’t take away from the craft of the book, and the emotional satisfaction it delivers to the reader. This is an excellent book for a sophisticated and intelligent audience.


Manga Monday! KURO GANE comes to a very nice conclusion...

The countdown to San Diego is underway, which means this week will be packed full of extra reviews. Not only at the main site, but here, too!