SUPERMAN/SHAZAM

SUPERMAN/SHAZAM: THE RETURN OF BLACK ADAM
Written, Directed, and Voiced by Various
Available from Warner Home Video

Reviewed by Marc Mason

The story of modern comics is almost always the battle between Marvel and DC, and that battle spilled over into other media in a huge way over the past decade. Unquestionably, Marvel has done better on the whole with live-action film (Chris Nolan’s Batman movies not withstanding). But on the animated side, DC has absolutely pummeled Marvel, and the series of direct-to-DVD films that DC/Warner has produced over the past five years has been almost staggering in its consistent excellence. This DVD is no exception.

Instead of one film this time, we get four short ones. The one new piece is the lead- SUPERMAN/SHAZAM, and oddly enough it’s the weakest part of the deal. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, mind you. The story finds Clark Kent interviewing a young homeless boy named Billy Batson prior to his meeting the wizard Shazam. But that meeting’s importance is elevated once Black Adam shows up and tries to kill the boy before he can ever gain the power of Captain Marvel. The story works as a solid punch ‘em up, but there isn’t a lot of excitement to it beyond that. However, for many viewers, that will be plenty.

The other three shorts, which have appeared elsewhere, held the real appeal for me, though. The SPECTRE one is written by comics scribe par excellence Steve Niles and finds the spirit of vengeance working the Hollywood beat and delivering death and terror to the bad guys in wonderfully awful ways. It’s clever, gruesome, and loads of fun. The GREEN ARROW short may be the best thing on the disc- the emerald archer heads to the airport to pick up Dinah (a/k/a Black Canary) and ask her to marry him. Unfortunately, trouble arises when the League of Assassins shows up to kidnap and kill a yen-year old girl who is also the princess of a small nation. Wounded and outgunned, our hero has only his skill and his wits to rely on, and the excitement is palpable. Great, great stuff. And closing it out is a terrific JONAH HEX short based on an issue of the comic and penned by the amazing Joe Lansdale. Voices, story, and animation all work together perfectly here, and it’s almost a shame. If the makers of the live-action film had stuck to this version of the character, they would have made something worth actually watching.

Even the bonus materials here are terrific. Producer Bruce Timm picks his top episodes from the earlier DC animated series (BATMAN, BATMAN: BRAVE AND THE BOLD, JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED) that focus on the characters presented in the shorts, doubling the amount of strong material on this disc.

Taken together, this package is a really, really good one, and I recommend it without qualifications.


NEW ARCHAIA

NEW ARCHAIA
Written and Drawn by Various
Published by Archaia

Reviewed by Marc Mason

Some new floppies from the folks at Archaia…

DAYS MISSING: KESTUS #2 finds the Steward attempting to save the library at Alexandra, but as he attempts to convince the Council of Scholars to grab the scrolls and run, he runs into a massive surprise: the woman he thought he had left for dead hundreds of years earlier, Kestus. She’s now the local Oracle, and it is up to the Steward to convince this woman who was once his enemy that she should heed his words and encourage the Council to flee. Writer Phil Hester delivers another outstanding story here, focusing not only on a fascinating period of history, but also in complicating the Steward’s life in ways we haven’t seen before. He gets more deeply involved with the locals on an emotional level than we are used to, and his relationship with Kestus continues to grown in fascinating ways. David Marquez’ art looks terrific and does a solid job of imparting the character-driven core of the book. Top of the stack stuff for me.

The creative team behind THE KILLER, writer Matz and artist Luc Jacamon, deliver something completely different with CYCLOPS #1. This new miniseries, set in 2054, finds unemployed Doug Pistoia desperate for a job and willing to take a little bit of risk if need be in order to support himself and his new bride. That’s how he finds himself working for a private security company (think Blackwater) that has a twist to their mercenary ways. Not only do they handle military skirmishes, they broadcast them. Each employee wears a camera on their uniform, making each one the director of their own television show. Seeing a potential breakout star in Doug, he gets the job and the best training possible and is sent off to a war zone, all to the chagrin of his wife. Now he must use his training and his wits in order to stay alive, all in the hopes that when it’s over he still has a home to return to. This book looks amazing, which is no surprise- Jacamon is a huge talent, and the story is captivating. Really, anything combing Matz and Jacamon was likely to be a winner, and CYCLOPS certainly seems as though it will be.

Finally, we have a new MOUSE GUARD book, with David Petersen diving into his creation with gusto. MOUSE GUARD: THE BLACK AXE #1 is a prequel to the first volume and is set in 1115. We follow the adventures of Celanawe as he meets up with a distant relative and gets set to begin an adventure that will take him to distant lands in search of the Black Axe. Unfortunately, there is plenty of danger to be found before any sort of journey may be undertaken, and the trip might be off before it ever gets started. BLACK AXE is really what you expect from Petersen at this point- beautiful pages that are a feast for the eyes, clever ideas for how nature works in a world of warrior mice, and the promise of an interesting story by the time the series is complete. I’ve loved this series from the beginning, and nothing here changes my mind.



ROGUE ELEMENT 69

Rogue Element #69: The Christmas Spirit

By Avril Brown

On December 17, 2010, the date of my sister’s thirty-first birthday, my only sibling, Chelsea Lela Brown, became a mother. She and her husband Scott, my minute, badass and dedicated brother-in-law, welcomed little baby Mia Siena Sophier into the world. A couple weeks early and weighing in at only five pounds, four ounces, Mia emerged to become the first baby born to the Brown/Sophier clan. My niece, aka the Sea Monkey, aka Widget (Dr. Saleh, who performed my sister’s cesarean section, bestowed her with this latest nickname) instantly became the coolest person on the planet and could claim sole responsibility for halting all cell phone and internet activity for the Midwest during that historic afternoon.

Shortly after my niece was born, certain feelings and emotions began to coalesce. Though my head had begun to process the monumental overload of information that was my sister’s entry into motherhood, I never fully grasped the enormity of the situation until I held Mia for the first time. Looking down upon her tiny, perfect face, an almost exact replica of Scott’s visage reproduced in miniature, female format, I finally understood. Honestly, you can prepare yourself as much as you wish, but no amount of preparation can fully brace your brain for the sheer incomprehensible nature of knowing you are responsible, in all the ways that matter, for a fledgling human.

I live alone and have no pets. My social life is largely unpredictable. Loosely translated, I have grown accustomed to, and enjoy, my freedom. Though my love of my largely commitment-free life has not diminished, it has altered somewhat because of Mia. The older I age the more thankful I am of my utterly amazing family, and I have always been appreciative of the fact that my sister and brother-in-law have settled only a few blocks from where we grew up in Evanston (where our parents still reside), ensuring easy access to my immediate family at all times. When I received the call the other week that my sister was going to have her baby, I was able to hop the El and arrive at Evanston Hospital with plenty of time to spare. While she was in surgery we were supposed to hear an update within an hour, and the entire family was ready to storm the gates when that information was ten minutes late, so I cannot imagine what I would have been like if she went through this in a different state where I couldn’t reach her.

I have been fortunate to always have a close knit family, and Mia’s arrival has intensified those bonds tenfold. Love and loyalty towards my family is second nature, but with Mia there are added dimensions to my attachment and sense of obligation. I want to teach her and help ease her into this world. I want to help keep her safe, and I will do anything to ensure she is protected. Being the younger sibling, this intensely protective attitude I am experiencing has never been this acute. Not that I don’t already feel protective towards my family, but they are formidable in their own right. My sister threatened to taser her doctor for Christ’s sake, and that was the nicest thing she offered to do to him (she later apologized and offered to bake him taser-shaped cookies). Mia is, at the moment, helpless and rapidly evolving, and I need to be there for her.

Therefore it is with a greater level of understanding that I read and appreciate stories which centrally involve a child. When Scott Summers of the X-Men had to travel to the future and eventually give up his son Nathan in order to save his life, he was a parent making the ultimate sacrifice by willingly relinquishing the care and responsibility of his own son. As a grown man, Nathan, also known as Cable, raised a baby who is not his biological daughter but quickly became his child in every other sense of the word. He raised her in a war torn future (several of them, in fact), taught her everything he knew about being a solider and surviving when your life is in constant jeopardy, and eventually gave up his own life to ensure she got to live hers. Rick Grimes, the main protagonist in the ongoing zombie comic book series ‘The Walking Dead,’ has done some seriously fucked up shit in order to protect his son from having to suffer from said shit, and I am not referring to a zombie attack. Like most stories set in apocalyptic world, author Robert Kirkman has explored the depths of insanity the human race is capable of when pushed to the brink, and nearly all of it has not been pretty.

Now armed with second hand insight into baby raising, it becomes apparent why there are so few couples in the superhero world who have children. Firstly, an infant is a sacred, almost revered entity which must be handled with respect and overwhelming gentleness, and when something bad happens to a baby it is very difficult to stomach. When Rick watched his wife and his newborn baby girl fall to shotgun fire, I felt sick inside. Baby death is dark and disturbing territory, not often traversed in comic books and with good reason. There is only so much one can take of such material, no matter how engaging the story. Secondly, babies are freakishly time consuming. My brother-in-law said it best when he told me nothing can prepare you for the arrival of a child. You can read the books, watch the videos, soak up every morsel of parenting advice, but you cannot grasp it until that little nugget comes to a crash landing in your life. “If you’re not tending to the baby, you’re checking up on the baby and worrying how she is doing. If you’re not changing a diaper, you’re cleaning them. You’re cleaning something. There’s always something to do.” Superheroes lead rather busy lives, and nannies are hard to come by when you are feared and hated by most of the world, or attempting to survive a zombie apocalypse.

Personally, I am seriously geeking out over the arrival of my niece. She is just too cool, and she’s not even two weeks old. When she is awake during the day (currently she is nocturnal; my sister is checking for fangs and seeing if she sparkles in the sunlight) she does these slow, deliberate blinks as if she really cannot believe she’s finally out of the womb and is intent upon memorizing every detail. She looks just like Scott, but when she scrunches up her face right before a good cry she looks like my sister when she’s pissed off, and it leaves me trying to prompt more faces to squeal over and analyze. I can tuck her into the crook of my arm like a warm, pink package, and seeing her sleep on her father’s chest while he napped on my parent’s couch almost made me cry. I am nearly overwhelmed by the myriad of emotions I feeling towards mini Mia: I adore her, I fear for her, I am impressed by her and I am excited at the prospect of helping her grow up. Plus, I really cannot wait until she starts reading. This kid is going to be a comic book fan even if I have to allow my beloved books to be exposed to baby gruel and spit up in order to make it happen. So here’s to Mia, the bestest Christmas surprise an auntie could ask for, and yet another reason why I am unreservedly gob smacked at my luck in having one astoundingly adorable family.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good life.

AISLE SEAT 2.0.60

AISLE SEAT 2.0.60: 10 FOR 2010

By Marc Mason

I wasn’t going to do a “best of” or “top ten” list this year. I really wasn’t. But my old pal Doc Beechler ran his own list, and when I saw it, I had to challenge it for what I felt was a very incomplete look at this year’s work. Then I realized that I could come up with ten great books (not necessarily the ten best published this year- I didn’t read everything, obviously) that I could easily point to and saw “people of Earth- READ THESE.”

So, people of Earth, if you’re looking for some awesome graphic novels to spend some time with: READ THESE.

The first thing that comes to mind is ALEC: THE YEARS HAVE PANTS from Top Shelf. This massive 600+ page omnibus collects almost every single bit of Eddie Campbell’s amazing autobiographical comics under one cover. I can’t think of a more consistently excellent autobiographical work ever produced in the medium- it’s deep and richly thought out without diving too far into its own navel and shows the growth of the man and the artist across a lengthy period of time. As usual, Top Shelf brings superior production values to the table, and that makes this book tough to beat.

If you’re looking for artistic ambition, go no further than RETURN OF THE DAPPER MEN from Archaia. Janet Lee’s stunning art illustrates Jim McCann’s modern fable in a way never really seen before in comics. The success of this book demonstrates the strength of the graphic novel to challenge and amaze and succeed in the marketplace, even when it isn’t from Marvel or DC. Produce something that exudes greatness and the people will find you. If you haven’t found this on your shelf yet, get cracking.

Speaking of high sales, Oni Press’ SCOTT PILGRIM VOL. 6 (and the entire series, really) dominated the charts this year, and with good reason. Bryan O’Malley’s series had been growing in popularity with each new release, and having the last part arrive to coincide with the film adaptation was exquisite timing. Of course, it helped that the resolution we got was immensely satisfying. Scott finally pulled himself together, gained some self-awareness, and became a person worthy of love- not just worthy of Ramona. Readers’ patience was rewarded, and that’s a rare thing, indeed.

John Layman and Rob Guillory’s CHEW (Image Comics) is definitely a book that pays off for readers that stick with it and pay close attention. From Layman’s twisting and turning plot mechanics to Guillory’s gift for planting Easter eggs in the backgrounds of his wonderfully detailed pages, CHEW delights with wit both verbal and visual. It walked off with awards at both the Eisners and the Harveys this year, and they were well-deserved. No one else in “mainstream” comics is doing anything as challenging or unfettered. One of the few comics that comes out monthly that is legitimately worth your money.

That said, if I was going to steer you toward another book that came out monthly and was worth your time and effort, it would be the second volume of BATTLEFIELDS from Dynamite Entertainment. This year we got another nine issues of Garth Ennis’ incredible World War II comics, and while they weren’t the equal of volume one, they were still absolutely amazing. No one in the past twenty years has even come close to matching Ennis’ prowess at depicting aspects of that conflict and in finding stories with a rich emotional core that fit within its parameters. One of the gutsiest things an author must do is provide the ending that works and is deserved, not the one the reader wants. This book gives you the endings that are earned.

On the subject of war comics, Frank Miller and Dave Gibbons’ LIFE AND TIMES OF MARTHA WASHINGTON (Dark Horse) is full of terrible conflict indeed. This massive omnibus edition includes every story featuring Martha, including some stuff not previously collected. This book initially came out as a hundred dollar hardcover, making it way out of my budget, but we finally got a paperback version this year, a happy occasion indeed. MARTHA was a book that Miller wrote when he was still taking comics seriously, and Gibbons puts just the right amount of softness on the satirical edges. Violent, profane, sexy, and smart, this character’s adventures were always something to appreciate and treasure. I’ll miss her, but having this book around makes that much easier to bear.

Dialing back to material before Martha (who debuted in 1991), IDW delivered the best archival project of the year- of the past few years, really- with THE BLOOM COUNTY LIBRARY. These beautiful hardcover editions of Berke Breathed’s classic cartoon strip send me spiraling back to my teen years, smiling all the way. Using restored versions of the strips, the series lets us see the characters (Opus, Milo, Steve Dallas, Bill the Cat, and friends) in ways we haven’t seen since some of the strips actually appeared in newspapers. Material is uncensored and/or restored from edits made for previous print collections. Breathed pipes in with observations and to explain some story moments and jokes. Background work is reproduced. This series is essential for any serious fan of great strip work.

Few anthology series could ever be considered essential, because they’re usually way too hit-or-miss to merit serious consideration. Not so for FLIGHT VOL.7 (Villard) which continues to be the single best anthology on shelves today. Editor Kazu Kibuishi has a gift for bringing together talent and getting the best from it- and that includes his own work as well. FLIGHT offers amazing storytelling, stunning art, superior production value… no mean feat for a book on its seventh try. But a scan across the series shows that virtually nothing has changed since book one. They’ve all been this good.

Another series that has been good from the start and never wavered in quality is Joann Sfar and Lewis Trondheim’s DUNGEON (NBM) which saw a couple of volumes translated for North American audiences. The standout was DUNGEON: MONSTRES VOL. 3; the series turned its eye upon the female characters of the Dungeon world, and the results were powerful and moving. The pair put in the spotlight found challenges that were emotionally unsettling as well as violent and gut-wrenching, showing a darker side of the world that reminded us that it is not a world of light and happiness. These books have their amusements, but they are also full of war and death. I have repeatedly stated that I believe Trondheim is the world’s greatest living comics creator. Check out these books to find out why.

Amusement can be found, though, in massive amounts by looking in the right place. That place would be AFRODISIAC (AdHouse) by Brian Maruca and Jim Rugg. This book is a glorious tribute to many things- the history of comics, blaxploitation filmmaking… but mostly it’s just hilarious. The character, Afrodisiac, is shown in various incarnations, each drawn in the style of different eras in comics production, with multiple changes in name and origin, just as characters have been treated by their publishers across the decades. The results are stunning- few books this funny are this intelligent in their execution. The creative duo were the gents behind STREET ANGEL a few years ago, and this book demonstrates, once again, that together, they make material that is worth its weight in gold.

And there you go. Ten great comics and graphic novels for 2010. Click a link below and go buy a couple. Trust me- you’ll be glad you did! See you in 2011!












IMAGE X 5

IMAGE x 5
Written and Drawn by Various
Published by Image Comics

Reviewed by Marc Mason

Closing out the year in Image with five new graphic novels…

First up is SCI-SPY by writer Doug Moench and artist Paul Gulacy. Hooray for rights reversion! This series, originally published by DC, finds its way back into print, for which I am very grateful. SCI-SPY follows the adventures of super-agent Sebastian Starchild as he works to avoid an alien invasion from the far side of a wormhole. Weird creatures, funky science, femme fatale agents… Moench and Gulacy have always worked well together, and this book is no exception. The science stuff can be a little thick at times, but nothing you can’t get through, and Gulacy’s art is absolutely fantastic. I like my science fiction with high stakes and a sense of real fun at its core, both of which this book delivers. Hope to see more of their work back in print soon.

Speaking of science fiction, Michel Gagne has collected all of the REX pieces from the FLIGHT anthologies together under one cover as THE SAGA OF REX, and it is a must-own book. Rex is an adorable little fox from planet Earth who finds himself in the middle of a grand galactic experiment that sees him transported across the universe, evolving into a new creature, and completing an amazing version of the hero’s journey. Oh, and it is all done wordlessly- there is no dialogue here, but that isn’t a concern. Gagne is such an amazing storyteller that there is no confusion about what is happening. You can follow the tale easily. REX is a beautiful book; these stories were always one of the huge highlights of the FLIGHT volumes, in no small part because they look incredible. Gagne is almost ludicrously gifted as a writer and artist- he makes something so complex look amazingly simple. This is a keeper for me, no question.

Still in the science fiction realm, we get an earthbound version with PERHAPANAUTS VOL. 0 by Todd Dezago and Craig Rousseau. This massive trade brings together the material originally published by Dark Horse before the book wound up at Image. This is a good thing. PERHAPANAUTS follows the adventures of a chupacabra, a ghost, a bigfoot, a psychic, and a teleporter as they track down other strange (and possibly mythological) creatures that may pose a threat to the planet. They do so with a lot of humor, excitement, adventure, and wit, which makes this book lots of fun. In the hands of other creators, PERHAPANAUTS might come across as grim and unpleasant, but in particular, Rousseau’s art infuses it with light. Even in the darkest moments, the book’s balance never tilts the wrong way. The book also comes with some backup stories and pinups as extras. Very nice.

LIQUID CITY VOL. 2 is the second in this anthology series edited by Sonny Liew. It focuses on bringing to the West comics by some of the finest talents in Southeast Asia. In particular, American readers tend to think of Asian comics as being completely like manga, but that is hardly the case. These artists, from the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam display an incredible range of artistic styles and storytelling gifts, making LIQUID CITY quite the visual feast. The actual stories themselves are kind of hit-or-miss; there are a few too many duds on the execution end of things. But even those tend to have something intriguing to catch the eye. There are also some interesting text pieces giving historical and current information about comics in Cambodia, Indonesia, and the Philippines, adding some educational value to the mix as well.

I’ve never been much for SPAWN, but I’ve always had a soft spot for Sam and Twitch, the pair of cops that found their way into the character’s orbit and developed a following of their own. Good crime comics are hard to find, so I’m particularly pleased with SAM AND TWITCH: THE WRITER by writer Luca Blengino and artist Luca Erbetta. This book finds the duo on the trail of a serial killer who has gone from writing a novel as part of graffiti to writing on the slaughtered bodies of his victims. Also into the mix comes a graphologist- a cop with skill in profiling a perp via their handwriting- and a nasty blizzard that’s killing communication and travel, making it that much harder for our heroic duo to catch the bad guy. The script here is terrific, and the book looks great, and when you combine that with a solid mystery, this book is a winner. It flew under the radar when it came out as singles, but hopefully folks will find it now that it’s collected.







HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE: NICK SPENCER

NICK SPENCER X 3
Drawn by W. Scott Forbes, Jorge Coehlo and Marley Zarcone
Drawn by Ron Salas and Joe Eisma
Drawn by Adam Green
Published by Image Comics

Reviewed by Marc Mason

One of the more interesting new voices to hit the comics scene in the past couple of years has been Nick Spencer. His current Image series, MORNING GLORIES, has been selling out every issue, and recently his first three series have each been collected. Taking a look…

FORGETLESS qualifies as farce, I think, but that isn’t a bad thing. Forgetless itself is an underground club that moves from location to location, but it is finally about to reach its end, making it the hottest ticket in town. Among the attendees: two wannabe supermodels working as paid assassins, a late night talk show host about to be exposed as a sexual deviant, and a gonzo filmmaker who is trying to make his name by having sex with inanimate objects. He also turns out to be the girls’ target, putting a crimp in his plans for a big night. What makes FORGETLESS fun is the way that Spencer uses social media to comment on the action- the two girls’ Twitter streams are presented on the page as a supplemental storytelling tool (and as a way to add extra humor to the mix). Youtube and Flickr also play a role in the plot as well. Spencer also shows an aptitude for playing with story structure as well. Nothing real deep here, but it is a pretty good time. Kind of like going out to a club.

Spencer’s first book was EXISTENCE 2.0/3.0 and it still works best for me both as a reviewer and a reader. The premise is tasty: an unethical scientist creates a process to transfer a person’s consciousness from body to body… just in time, because in through his door walks an assassin. Taking over the killer’s body, the scientist starts his new life by using the hitman’s muscle memory to wipe out the people that had him murdered and that are still threatening his family. Simple premise, A-B-C plotting, but you know what? It’s just damned good. Spencer executes from start to finish here, you get a firm understanding of the characters, and everything he puts into the mix pays off. The sequel picks up the remaining threads and then carries them to the finish line. Fast, furious, and full of caustic wit, EXISTENCE is what I want from comics.

On the flip side, though, SHUDDERTOWN doesn’t really work, which is surprising and disappointing. Once again we start with a fantastic premise (Spencer is a terrific high-concept guy): a homicide cop investigates a number of murders where the evidence leads back to perps that are already dead. Thus either massive malfeasance is going on somewhere in the evidence chain, or ghosts are walking the streets of the city’s worst slum and murdering the citizenry. Throw in a damaged marriage and some addiction problems and SHUDDERTOWN is just flowing with classic noir tropes. So why doesn’t it fly? The fault lies in both Spencer and artist Green. Green’s photo-referenced work is damned near obnoxious; I don’t want to see James Gandolfini and Julianne Moore, I want to see the characters. It repeatedly throws you out of the story. That said, the story itself doesn’t make a great deal of sense, and after multiple reads, I’m still not sure if I truly understand the end of the book. That, friends, is a problem.




HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE: DOLLHOUSE SEASON 2

DOLLHOUSE: SEASON TWO (Blu-Ray)
Starring Eiiza Dushku
Available from Fox Home Entertainment

Reviewed by Jessica Blackshear

Oh, Dollhouse. It seemed like such a perfect plan, giving fan-favorite creator Joss Whedon a new Fox sci-fi series commitment after the much-lamented, clearly-misguided demise of Firefly. Joss gets what he wants, Fox makes nice with the fans, and genre icons Eliza Dushku and Tahmoh Penikett topline the gig. What could go wrong?

I’m honestly not sure if I can point to the exact moment when the show went off the rails. There were signs pretty early on, the most significant of these being the scrapped pilot episode that was later chopped up and used for parts throughout Season One. Personally, I found myself quite concerned by the fetching-but-ultimately-lifeless Dushku’s inability to play one role convincingly, much less deliver on the roulette wheel of personality that served as the show’s central storytelling device.

Still, a less-than-stellar lead actress can be overlooked if everything else is running smoothly; unfortunately, the ship was already taking on water by the beginning of the second (and final) season.

The series finale (“Epitaph Two: Return”) is the best of the offerings here, but even that’s not saying much. “Return” attempted to deliver on the promise of a big, over-arcing ‘future-shock’ story first glimpsed in the “Epitaph One” episode that Whedon cobbled together as a pyrrhic victory after successfully disputing the show’s original season order. There may have been a long-term plan for DOLLHOUSE, but it seems clear to this reviewer that the show’s creative brain trust should have concentrated far more on a creative and cohesive short-term plan.

From an aesthetic standpoint, the show is gorgeous and ably served by the Blu-Ray format. The set itself is short on extras, but that’s no surprise; this DOLLHOUSE is empty, and no amount of added gimmickry can change that.


NEW DYNAMITE

NEW DYNAMITE
Written by Mike Raicht and Drawn by Guiu Vilanova
Written by Phil Hester and Drawn by Jonathan Lau
Published by Dynamite Entertainment

Reviewed by Marc Mason

Couple of recent issues from DE…

RAISE THE DEAD 2 #1 is sort of an odd duck, at least from a comics perspective. Most sequels in comics see the return of the creative team in full force, but with RTD, Leah Moore and John Reppion merely plot and turn the scripting over to Mike Raicht. In this new go-around, we find ourselves in a seaside town dealing with the zombie apocalypse in a quieter way, as things usually go in such small areas. But the addition of safety via living on a boat isn’t as great as you think. To be blunt, I wasn’t exactly a fan of the first series- it was okay, but zombie burnout was proving to be an issue. However, I liked this, which was a nice surprise. This is a more interesting aspect of the zombie takeover than we got before and I like the more open feeling we get with the water as, really, a character in the mix. Vilanova’s work isn’t spectacular, but it serves the story well. I’ll keep paying attention to this one.

Kevin Smith is gone, but GREEN HORNET lives on, as issue eleven hits with the man previously adapting Smith’s work taking the full reins. Phil Hester, comics’ most versatile player dives right in, treating it like it’s really a new number one issue and setting the status quo for new readers. He introduces the characters, sets up the background of the world they inhabit, offers up motivations, and starts a new story rolling in the process. The exposition never feels clunky, the action is handled well, and it feels like Hester is doing what needs to be done, which is build on the groundwork laid by Smith in the first ten issues. Keeping Lau onboard was also a crucial step, as the book still looks and feels like it did before. With LONE RANGER heading off into the sunset, it seems to me that the main GREEN HORNET book should be the rightful standard bearer for Dynamite. This is the right step in heading that direction.



G-MAN

G-MAN
Written and Drawn by Chris Giarrusso
Published by Image Comics

Reviewed by Marc Mason

G-Man, in a moment combining generosity with blunt stupidity, shares the leftover pieces of his magic cape with a bunch of schoolmates, launching the “Cape Crisis” that is the foundation of G-MAN VOL.2, a wonderful sequel to one of the more entertaining all-ages comics of the past couple of years. Unfortunately, not everyone that winds up with one of the scraps means to use the powers in imbues with good intentions, and that includes his brother, Great Man. Now with the magic threatening to disappear forever, G-Man must undertake a number of quests to save his cape and his super powers before it’s too late.

Where volume one contained a number of smaller stories and more gag-centric humor from Giarrusso, this second go around tells one lengthy and cohesive tale. Originally a five-issue miniseries, it’s interesting to see the author stretch his legs a bit here. CAPE CRISIS has a very open feeling to it- the storytelling is a bit more expansive, the imagination behind the smaller bits and pieces is broader, and the characters have a lot more room to grow. There’s a genuine arc here between the two brothers, and Giarrusso handles it with humor and charm.

There’s always a lot of (well-deserved) discussion about the paucity of good comics for younger readers in today’s market, but a scarcity doesn’t necessarily indicate a complete absence. G-MAN is smart stuff and it’s great for kids and adults alike. And at ten bucks, it’s also a great value. If you’re looking for a stocking stuffer, this would be a good candidate.

Also noted: G-MAN volume one (which I reviewed back when it came out) is now back in print, and at a larger size this time around. It was originally printed in digest format, but with the publication of volume two, it has been bumped up to 6×9. This was an excellent call by Giarrusso, and with consistent spines, they look nice together on the shelf.


ARCHAIA X 4

ARCHAIA X 4
Written and Drawn by Various
Published by Archaia

Reviewed by Marc Mason

Four new ones from the folks at Archaia…

Topping the list is the hardcover collection of MOUSE GUARD: LEGENDS OF THE GUARD, an anthology set in David Petersen’s amazing world. It’s always a risk when a creator allows others to come and play in his sandbox, but Petersen handles it perfectly: the idea revolves around a storytelling contest taking place in a pub. The rules are to tell a story that is not either completely true or completely false. Thus no worries about continuity arise. Instead it frees the guest artists and writers to just have fun and tell good stories, which they do with great joy. The roster is impressive, including names like Gene Ha and Guy Davis, but it doesn’t really matter. Everyone here delivers. Very enjoyable and something any fan of the MOUSE GUARD books should have on their shelves.

Also treading in the anthology waters is MOON LAKE, a collection of amusing “horror” tales set on the border of the U.S. and Canada. Conceptualized by actor and writer Dan Fogler (BALLS OF FURY), the mix here is wildly uneven. Some of the stories don’t achieve lift off (or coherency) and the narrator comes across as a silly Cryptkeeper wannabe. Yet the stuff that works really works. Tim Seeley, Robbie Rodriguez and Mark Englert’s “Camp Sasquatch” is an absolute riot, one of the best satires of the summer camp serial killer genre I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately that story comes first in the volume and nothing else ever comes quite close to matching it. MOON LAKE isn’t a bad book; it just isn’t a good one, either.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is FEEDING GROUND #1 by writer Swifty Lang and artist Michael Lapinsky. The Busqueda family is living a life of quiet desperation near the U.S. border, their father working as a coyote guiding illegal immigrants across the desert to the land of freedom and dreams. But back home, trouble is stirring, both in the person of a local sleazebag who won’t leave the mother alone and in the nearby factory fields. Something out there is prowling. Something not quite right. And that something has its eyes on the Busqueda’s daughter. FEEDING GROUND looks very pretty, and Lang’s story is filled with dread, but it is also very slow. Very, very slow. Still, it’s also one I’m glad to see on stands. It addresses a contemporary issue in ways few comics ever attempt, and it is printed as a flip book, the other side in Spanish. Smart move.

And finally we have AWAKENING VOL.2 from writer Nick Tapalansky and artist Alex Eckman-Lawn, concluding their modern zombie horror tale. As the city of Park Falls continues to deal with the series of gruesome murders that began a few months ago, the insane words of the town crank, Cynthia, continue to haunt a few. She swore that it was zombies; zombies created by her former employer. Now the town is essentially under siege, the population is either running away or dying, and the options are few. I had mixed feelings about the conclusion to this book, to be honest. I had really enjoyed volume one, as the characters were very interesting and the story had a smaller scale that really appealed to me. But as volume two progresses and we head toward a conclusion, some of those aspects fall by the wayside, especially the character stuff, as the plot takes a bit more prominence. Still, the script is very good and the art is very pretty. Nothing to stop me from recommending it.