Saturday, September 28, 2013

Goodbye to the Guardians of the Galaxy

I just read my last issue of this comic. I love Rocket Raccoon, Groot and all the rest of the crew. I was not thrilled with Iron Man being in the group but managed to over look his part in the book. Then Marvel decided that adding Angela to the book was a great idea. I know it is some sort of thing they are giving to Neil Gaiman to curry favor with him or something of that ilk, but now she is the central focus of the book. I think it was funny that Gaiman won in court over McFarlane who at times appears to be a colossal ass, but that does not make me care about a character that I never followed. Now she is the big bad ass of the book and it is all the scary crap because Earth heroes have broken time and blah, blah, blah. For $4 this book will have to sit on the shelves. This is a little disappointing because crazy adventures with a flying squirrel and moose is something I miss ( I mean Raccoon and a tree)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

DC Villains Month – Fail

Granted I did not get every single book from DC’s villain’s month but I got around 20 of the books, so I think that is a fair sample size even without reading this weeks books yet.

The reasons I think it was a fail is due to the content of the books. It felt like almost every book was a fill in issue. They were not origin stories for the most part, they were not character defining moments and most had limited tie-in to the over all theme of what is going on with Forever Evil. They were often just a stand alone story about the character. Clayface is a good example, he is in the middle of a job with a crew, goes nuts and kills the crew. Next he finds out the world is taken over by bad guys. He tries to impress the new leaders and fails. What was the point?

For me, that was the problem, the point was the covers. Heck I find the covers to actually be garish. On one level they are neat and maybe I should hold onto one or two to give my grandsons when they get older as a novelty item. But that is all they are, a novelty item.

Worse then that it has caused an extra month lag in the story lines that I’m still following with DC and therefore loosing even more of my interest in the entire line. I hope that Green Arrow will be back on track and I’m guessing Green Lantern is not impacted as they are all off world. Batman has cleverly side stepped the whole thing being set in the past for an over long arc. I’m not sure if Swamp Thing or Animal Man are impacted by all of this stuff.

Heck even with writers that I love it felt like many of these stories were phoned in, Of course I’m blaming that on the direction that was given out. I have to assume given how DC appears to be run that the list of villains was chosen and direction was given as to what was to be done and often it was to tell a Clayface story or something of that ilk.

As I sit here typing this and thinking about October for the regular DCU nothing jumps to mind as something I’m dying to read anymore. That one month gap lets me know I can drop even more books as time goes on. I tried Superman/Batman, but that has to go after the first arc is over. Maybe I will check out Matt Kindt on Suicide Squad as I’m a fan of his work. Even with Soule on Superman/Wonder Woman I can’t say I’m looking forward to that title. Soule has Letter 44 coming out from Oni (and I forget to mention it last post) and that is what I’m truly looking forward to reading from him.

The final part of what made this marketing gimmick so bad is that it proves how empty the new DCU is and how little they know of how they want to fill it. It could have been a chance to give a ton of writers the chance to write origins for 52 Villains and let them strut their stuff; instead I read a lot of the stories and got nothing. Correction I got that these are no longer the villains I remembered and I got the feeling many writers were not sure who these villains were supposed to be either.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

What Looks Cool For October

Okay as before I’m ignoring anything from DC proper (meaning I will add Vertigo if appropriate) and Marvel proper, which allows Marvel Knights and if Icon ever has another book to be included.  

Very few post lately as I have been super busy with going to Balto-Con and then a stay-cation when my brother and his wife visited (lots of fun) that I have over 80 books yet to be read. I have stayed current on some stuff. I tried to hit what I wrote up on the September version of this post.

First off some commentary on the current state of what the Big Two are doing. The DC Villains month is a disaster. Oh sure I have managed to sell almost all of them on Ebay and have made a buck or two, but man did these books reek of fill in material. Not origins, not setting up anything per say, just place markers featuring the villains. Plus the bloom will be off the speculator rose on the prices of those books quick. The Infinity saga by Hickman is ambitious and overdone. He has too many plates spinning with way too many characters, so far I would call this an expensive fail. I could be eating my words when it is done but right now it is too much. The Battle of the Atom is fun and exciting. I love Bendis on the X-Men and have three different groups of X-Men from three times is an amazing amount of fun. Now it is onto the main attraction.

Ok from September:

I missed mentioning God is Dead #1 from Avatar and Hickman, a great opening issue as the gods of old have returned to Earth and it is not a good time for Mankind.

Hit #1 from Boom was a great opening as a sanctioned Hit squad during LA in the 50’s is already in a lot of trouble.

Brain Boy #1 from Dark Horse is a must read. Van Lente gave us a highly enjoyable picture of a government super hero who is an arrogant prick, but just a damn good book.

Buzzkill #1 was also a lot of fun as the concept is crazy. Our hero needs to be high to have powers and he is trying to get straight and going to AA. All is not what it seems for our “hero?”. 

Codename Action #1 was another good book. Think James Bond from 1960 teaming up with James Bond from 2013 and a awesome plot to start a World War and you have the start of a good mini-series (I believe).

Kings Watch #1 which is a team up of The Phantom, Flash Gordon and Mandrake the Magician should be a disaster, but Jeff Parker made this opening chapter a lot of fun. All introduction type stuff and the story has yet to kick in, but I liked it.

Reality Check #1 was another winner. The concept is a comic book writer/artist is struggling to have a hit and his character comes to life. A lot more to it then that, but it works and it worth checking out.

Sadly I have not read any other of the new number ones as of this writing.

Ok for October the fun starts with Dark Horse, so let’s pull up those solicitations.

First up is Bloodhound Crowbar Medicine #1 (of 5) by Dan Jolly as writer and Leonard Kirk as artist.  This book has a strange pedigree as it was a DC book that Jolley managed to retain the rights too. Dark Horse republished it with a few succinct edits to eliminate any reference to the DCU. This is a follow up to that part of the story I believe. Jolley’s projects always show hard work and love for what he is doing and Kirk can have a superior art style. The copy for it saysTravis Clevenger may not have superpowers, but he can put a beatdown on anyone who does! Consulting with the FBI in exchange for release from prison, Clev is getting his life together when a rogue superhuman’s destructive rampage and a scientist’s response shock the nation, leading to Clev’s biggest case yet!”

Next up is Shaolin Cowboy #1 by Geof Darrow. One day someone needs to publish all of the Shaolin Cowboy stuff as a high end hard cover. I have missed this book and glad to see it finally getting back onto the stands. Just a crazy mash up of whatever Geof wants to do with the central character being a Shaolin Cowboy. The marketing hype goes like this “The Shaolin Cowboy returns, but nowhere in sight is there a dead Robin, any infinity gauntlets, or a single conquering Ultron—just flat-out action, intrigue, and plenty of roadkill. Geof Darrow’s slow-talkin’, kung-fu-gripping hero proves once again, in this brand-new new series, that the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a chainsaw!”

Alright this one for DH is something I’m just going to take a chance on, S.H.O.O.T. First #1 (of 4) by Justin Aclin writer and Nicholas Daniel Selma on art. The first two I’m buying based on having read both series before, so I know what I’m getting for the most part. This is one where artist and writer are unknown but the premise and hype is good “The Secular Humanist Occult Obliteration Taskforce—defending humanity from angels, demons, and a bunch of other crap S.H.O.O.T. doesn’t believe in. Justin Aclin (Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Twisted ToyFare Theatre) and Nicolás Daniel Selma (Tomb Raider: The Beginning) take aim at the supernatural in an all-new big-action, big-ideas sci-fi adventure! • Original, irreverent, and controversial!The sci-fi in the premise was the final selling point and Dark Horse produces quality material.

Not a bad start from Dark Horse, let’s check on IDW next. And after scanning the listing we get a zero. Damn, I love the quality of IDW work, but wish they had more new stuff coming out, maybe next month.

Let’s move onto Image, which is fast becoming the go to place for most creator owned material.

First up is a slam dunk for me, Velvet #1 by Ed (Fatale) Brubaker writer and Steve Epting as artist. The level of artist talent that is coming onto these projects now is amazing. A few years ago many of the bigger names were not coming onto creator owned projects. Not sure if part ownership is the incentive or if the writers have the wherewithal to pay the artist up front or what is going on, but the talent level is incredible. The premise is When the world's best secret agent is killed, Velvet Templeton, the Personal Assistant to the Director of the Agency, is drawn off her desk and back into the field for the first time in nearly 20 years... and is immediately caught in a web of mystery, murder and high-octane action. Sexy and provocative, with a dark twist on the spy genre, this EXTRA-LENGTH first issue by two of the industry's best-selling creators will knock you out!” Okay we are getting lot’s of spy type stuff, but well done is well done and the twist is a good one.

Next up is Pretty Deadly #1 by Kelly Sue DeConnick as writer and art by Emma Rios. Why does the big two struggle to get female creators when the industry has this level of talent? I have been growing to like Kelly Sue’s work more and more and Emma’s work at Boom was very good. But neither is a slam dunk for me to try a new book, the premise is what made my decision an easy one. It is  “an all-new ongoing series that marries the magical realism of Sandman with the western brutality of Preacher.  Death's daughter rides the wind on a horse made of smoke and her face bears the skull marks of her father. Her tale of retribution is as beautifully lush as it is unflinchingly savage.” Sounds like it could be promising.

Next is Rocket Girl #1 by one of my favorite artists Amy Reeder with the writer being Brandon Montclare. They did a Halloween one shot and the premise sounds great “A teenage cop from a high-tech future is sent back in time to 1986 New York City.  Dayoung Johansson is investigating the Quintum Mechanics megacorporation for crimes against time. As she pieces together the clues, she discovers the “future” she calls home – an alternate reality version of 2013 – shouldn’t exist at all!Blast off with the new ongoing series by BRANDON MONTCLARE (Halloween Eve) and Eisner Award nominee AMY REEDER (Batwoman, Madame Xanadu).” Now I backed the Kickstarter for this book and will be getting the first issue that way, but I’m all in for this book.
The last new series from Image I want to try out is Three #1 by writer Kieron Gillen and art by Ryan Kelly. The premise is “When a member of the Spartan ruling class visits an isolated homestead of Helot workers, a brutal massacre is only the beginning. KIERON GILLEN (PHONOGRAM, Über, Iron Man), RYAN KELLY (Saucer County, Local) and JORDIE BELLAIRE (THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS, NOWHERE MEN) unite to tell the heroic story of three slaves and their desperate attempt to escape 300 of the finest warriors who've ever lived.” It feels like Kieron is perhaps wanting to show another side of the Spartan life which was glorified by the 300. Not sure that I thought anyone had a great life back in those days. Sometimes it is nice to believe the legend and stop showing everyone having clay feet, but the other side of the coin is that perhaps it also shows that we can all be heroic even with our faults.
Now onto check and see if Boom can offer any new October titles I want to try.
Imagine Agents #1 by Brian Joines writer and art by Bachan. The title says no to me, the creators are who and who to me, but the solicitation copy says Ever try to wrangle an illiterate, 30-foot tall rock monster away from his 5-year-old best friend? Or calm down a 400 pound muscle-man rag-doll during her daily temper-tantrum? For Dave and Terry, it's all in a day's work. As agents for I.M.A.G.I.N.E., they are responsible for keeping your imaginary friends in-line...Little do they know that six-year-old Elliot and his best bear-friend, Furdlgurr, are about to be entangled in a plan to change everything!” It sounds like it could be a lot of fun and maybe a neat book to pass onto a younger reader. So this book gets a one issue try out. I’m not sure if this is a KaBoom book or not.

So a one and done for BOOM, next up is Avatar. Avatar is a zero, not surprising as they are a smaller publisher and are not going to have new projects every month. Let’s look at Valiant for October. Again we get a big fat zero. Valiant is being very cautious about adding books so no new titles is a good thing. Onto Dynamite to see if they have anything new in October.

This is a new series but iffy as it is a continuation of Dynamite exploiting The Shadow as much as possible. The Shadow Now #1 by writer David Liss and artist Colton Worley. I dropped the Spider by these two as the art was too computerized for my taste. Still I like Liss’ writing and the concept is a good one, so I will give it a go. The premise Having spent decades in the east to rejuvenate himself, the greatest pulp hero of them all, The Shadow, returns to New York in modern times. Lamont Cranston seeks to resume his old life, and his heroic alter-ego is ready to stand once more as an enemy to evil. But while he was gone, his foes have remained vigilant, and the most dangerous man The Shadow has ever faced prepares to rise once more. It's the shocking beginning to a new era for The Shadow!” Of course The Shadow has been moved into the present before but always nice to see a different take. Also the last time was back in the eighties I believe.
This is it from Dynamite, now let’s turn to Vertigo. An imprint I thought was dead, yet is struggling to regain some life. A quick remark, I know Sandman: Overture #1 by Gaiman and Williams is coming out, but I’m skipping this as it will be a deluxe hard cover in no time and I see no need to spend $30 for the mini-series which is going to be bi-monthly. With all that I read it is too difficult to follow a story that comes out every other month.

Fist up from Vertigo is Coffin Hill #1 by Catlin Kittredge as the writer and art by Inaki Miranda. Neither name is one I recognize. The premise is “COFFIN HILL stars Eve Coffin, a rebellious, teenage lowlife from a high-society family with a curse that goes back to the Salem Witch trials. Following a night of sex, drugs and witchcraft in the woods, Eve wakes up naked, covered in blood and unable to remember how she got there. One friend is missing, one is in a mental ward—and one knows that Eve is responsible. After a stint as a Boston cop that ends in a bullet wound and unintended celebrity, Eve returns to Coffin Hill, only to discover the darkness that she unleashed ten years ago in the woods was never contained. It continues to seep through the town, cursing the soul of this sleepy Massachusetts hollow, spilling secrets and enacting its revenge.
Set against the haunted backdrop of New England, COFFIN HILL explores what people will do for power and retribution. Noted novelist Caitlin Kittredge, author of the Black London series, brings a smart, mesmerizing style to comics. Artist Inaki Miranda (FABLES) brings his dynamic storytelling to COFFIN HILL, following an acclaimed run on FAIREST.”
Well I’m not excited as it sounds like the Sleep Hollow TV series and/or a little like Rachael Rising, but I will try it out.

Next up is Hintertkind #1 by Ian Edington on words and art by Francesco Trifogli. I read Ian before but nothing that I can recall and the artist is a total blank to me. The premise is “Men go and come, but Earth abides.”— Ecclesiastes 1:4
Decades after “The Blight” all but wiped out the human race, Mother Nature is taking back what’s hers, and she’s not alone…The Hinterkind have returned.
From the last, lost corners of the world they come, a myriad menagerie of myth and magic...but these aren’t childhood fairytale creatures. They are flesh, blood and passion, and they have a long-simmering hatred for those who drove them into the shadows: The human race! 
After her grandfather disappears, Prosper Monday must leave the security and seclusion of their Central Park village to venture into the wilds to find him, unaware of how much the world has changed. Or how hungry it has become…”
  Sounds like the mix of post apocalypse with fairy tale creatures and humans fighting it out.

Both books are benefiting from my love of the Vertigo imprint and I’m willing to see if Shelly Bond can right the Vertigo ship that was almost sunk by Didio.

So that leave Marvel Knights and or Icon imprint to see if they have anything worth trying out in October.

Low and behold Marvel Knights Spider-Man #1 (of 5) by a favorite writer of mine Matt Kindt with art by Marco Rudy. The hype is “From the haunted heights of a mysterious castle to the dizzying depths of the deep seas, the Amazing Spider-Man has to take on not one, not six, not twelve – but ninety-nine of the Marvel Universe’s deadliest villains to save the lives of countless innocents! A defining hour in the life of the webbed wonder in a race against time and a battle against evil.” This would be a pass for me but for Matt Kindt. Of course Rudy is a solid artist. This should be fun and I believe it is Peter Parker as Spider-Man.

That wraps up October, but a ton of great stuff to look forward to. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Why Marvel and DC are Stale

Like bread left out too long Marvel and DC are stale and I’m starting to see some mold on the sides of the slices.

Okay I’m about to take some vacation time and part of the trip I will be in Baltimore and attending Balto-Con. I have decided that I NEED to stop getting all Marvel and DC books and will try and set a target date of six months from now. I will make up to ten monthly exceptions and Vertigo will not count.

My problem is that Marvel and DC refuse to modify their approaches with the characters and that the characters no longer work because you cannot continuously publish a character for 50 years and still maintain continuity.

One problem I believe is with both companies is the lack of new characters. There is no real money in it for the creators to create any new characters. Why add a new villain into the DCU or Marvel or a new hero and watch them become the next Wolverine. Do you think Len Wein and John Romita Sr. (who designed him) are living off the riches this character has generated for Marvel and the movies? If you honestly believe that those two guys are now fats cats living off their millions from that creation I can sell you part of a bridge in Brooklyn, cheap. To the best of my knowledge neither Marvel nor DC is paying for new characters and I’m sure it is work for hire.  

Heck this problem could be solved with some creative thinking. Lease the character for five years with a fixed payment and then reopen negotiations or have options built in for both sides. Lots of stuff gets optioned and nothing every happens, but at least this way creators could maintain a financial interest in the success of the character and the company can exploit the character in agreed ways. Let’s say I create Kinetic Man and I lease the character to Marvel for five years for $50,000 with additional payments if they market him into cartoons, t-shirts whatever. Of course the problem is that neither Disney nor Warner Brothers want to exploit something then do not own lock stock and barrel. This means that creators are going to hold back new ideas and try to do something new with a creator owned project. It also means that consciously or unconsciously the creators are not putting their best effort into these books. They want to do a good job, because it is a good paying job for most of them, but it is a job. Ownership in a process creates a better product (usually).

Specific to Marvel comics is the problem that their characters are too much a product of their times. I think Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Spider-Man and other characters are truly tied to the sixties. If those characters were created today they would be radically different at least in their approach. The problem is that you have characters that have been continuously published for 50 years and they are still the same people. Instead of Val and Franklin running the FF, they are children forever. With too few new characters being added it is just an endless recycling of using the same characters over and over and over again. No matter how many events and gimmicks you try it is till Reed Richards, Sue Richards, Ben Grimm and Johnny Storm. Any growth is wiped out with the next writer. When you look at the origins of the characters they no longer make any sense which is why the movies desperately try to update the material. So we get Thanos and Sentinels as the villains for the current events – wow that is different.

Specific to DC comics is the issue of lost continuity. When they launched the new 52 they threw the baby out with the bath water. There is no legacy and the history of the characters is a blank slate that we have to guess at, but have no basis for our belief. Issues like how did Nightwing has a relationship with Starfire with out having a Teen Titans, if Hal never went crazy (which I’m convinced is the case now) why is Kyle a Green Lantern? You start to push on any continuity or history of the characters it all falls apart. I would have preferred a brand new start from the beginning instead of this squishy mess of continuity.

Another point is that now the actual stories have been devalued, not only from a collector or resale standpoint, but from the standpoint as a reader. On Ebay selling pre 52 stuff is giving away the books. The interest is very low in the more recent books. As a reader when I re-read the stories something is lost knowing that a favorite story no longer is “in continuity” for  a character.  I know many stories are that way and over time I’m sure I will just enjoy what I have.

Of course that is the point; I think it is time to just enjoy what has gone before. I can pick up stuff like Wonder Woman, Batman, Hawkeye and a few others. I can keep my finger on the pulse of good stuff from the big two via the websites. I can indulge myself with more and more of the indy titles and enjoy Todd the Ugliest Kid, East of West, Uber, Suicide Risk, Bloodshot, Red Team, Mind Mgmt, Wild Blue Yonder and other books. Time to leave the big two behind for the most part and to hope that maybe they can help maintain the fan base to keep the industry alive.

I think one solution for the big two is to so screw continuity and just tell the best stories then can or they can. Or they can continue their event driven marketing stunts to cover up the fact that both companies are stagnant. If they drop continuity at least the writers are free to tell their best story about a character. Look at Daredevil Knights by Lee Weeks and the old Batman black and white stuff, just iconic type stories. No worriers about what is in continuity or what is not.

My final thought is that I was talking with a friend about how long print comics will last as the next generation will not give a damn about print. The new generation will be happy to read their comics on a table style computer. I said that they will still be a niche market and then I realized that with a successful comic only needing to sell 50,000 issues in a country of 350 million, comics are already a niche market. It is the fact that they have been so integrated into the main stream via movies, cartoons and apparel that we tend to forget the actual product is a very small market. 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Marvel You Are Boring Me

So my last post was of a positive note and I had even forgotten a book like Overtaken #1 from Aspen comics, a promising science fiction book and the first issue was only $1. It came out last Wednesday.

Of course in order to continue to explore new series I need to chop away some dead wood and Marvel has grown a little too bloated in the buy category. I always need to be aware of the creep factor with Marvel. Marvel comics are usually the fastest reads of any book so I often forget to critically evaluate kicking some books to the curb.

This week the first kick to the curb is Captain America. I love Rick (Fear Agent) Remender as a creator but he often gets lost in trying to bring his story to a conclusion. This “epic” was 10 issues long and the retail price (I get a decent discount from my store that saves my ass) is $40 and often plus tax in many states. For this we got a story that (SPOILER ALERT)
kills off Cap’s girl friend Sharon Carter for no apparent reason. In Remender’s back matter, I think the time shift is the bigger deal with Captain America. Rick apparently felt that the time lost warrior theme was missing with Captain America. The fact that ten years or more passed for him in Dimenson “Z” while no significant time passed for the “real Marvel universe” brings back that time lost factor. This is too subtle of a change and will be ignored by every other writer and does not have the same impact of being out the real world for decades to only come back into a brave new world. Plus with Marvel’s sliding scale of time Captain America apparently was unfrozen in 2004, which means he missed almost 60 years. That idea or element is never brought up much at Marvel because it creates way too many problems with character that are all 50 years old. We are pretending they are not. Just think if the USA every gets out of being at war in ten years Iron Man will have to be injured in a mining accident or something and create his armor there or something as stupid. This of course is the problem with comics that want to be continuity based but are being continuously published forever.

The bottom line is that the story was not that great and while I’m happy Romita is off the book I have no interest in paying $4 for another epic. Captain America is boring. Heck I see him in Avengers all the time anyway. Finally Remender never invested us in the relationship with Sharon and relied on past history to make her death seem like anything. Then he added a cornball Nomad thing in Dimension Z.  Add to that Romita’s work turns into crap after a few issues and by the end of this he apparently is barely sketching an outline and it was an easy drop.

Next up on the drop parade is Thor. After an 11 issue epic story that was enjoyable and had terrific art we get a $4 fill in issue that focuses on an old character now having brain cancer. Ugh. Heck even the epic had a one shot of Gorr’s origin as a middle fill in book. Thor is by Jason Aaron, who I like and the art by Esad Ribic was great, but it was not worth $40 retail price. Heck most states are at 6% so it is $42.40 in reality. Would I pay $40 for this story as a graphic novel ($44 with the bad guy origin). The answer is no. Plus the design of floppy ear Gorr was something I never liked. So I save $4 a month and can spend it on Jason Aaron’s new Image series coming out called Southern Bastards. This is a win/win in my book.

Next up on the elimination parade is FF. With issue #11 Matt Fraction continues doing a little bit of homage to the original FF run on many issues. If you go back to the Lee/Kirby stuff issue #11 had the Impossible Man as does this issue. The problem is again the forever story. This group who is filling in for the FF has been fun in some aspects and with Allred’s art guaranteed to be quirky but nothing is moving forward. The old Torch story line has languished, the Doom story is going nowhere, characterization is being spread among a ridiculous large cast. You only have 20 some pages a month and therefore with a large cast you either ignore some people or move every character a tiny step each issue. I would rather read Fraction’s mini-series from Image. Another book I have to leave is Fantastic Four, but let’s face it 11 issues in and we are getting nowhere. Plus Fraction feels Inhumans series is more important and is leaving the script writing to others to finish out his story. Why should I invest if Fraction is not investing?

So that is four books off my list.

This week Marvel bored me even more with their mini-event, Battle of the Atom. At least is almost self contained as it includes the two Bendis books, the two part book end pieces and 2 issues of Wolverine and the X-Men as the entirety of the event. But the prelude is in Uncanny X-Men and who is attacking them Sentinels. Oh boy that is something different. We haven’t seen Sentinels as the big bads in X-books only all the fucking time. Oh wait a mysterious person is behind it – yawn. These books may have to go soon.

We also got another chapter in Infinity along with the last issue of Thanos Rising. My god this is really boring, I can eliminate three series in one fell swoop. I will probably follow the whole thing because I thing complete arcs sell better on Ebay.


Make Mine IDW, no Image, no Valiant, no Dark Horse, no Dynamite, no Boom, if only we had some alternatives to check out.