Saturday, August 24, 2013

September New Series to Check Out

Since the Big Two suck let’s see what else is coming out.

Let’s start with Boom Studios. I don’t get a lot from them but they don’t publish a lot of books either. Still they now have George Perez as an exclusive artist, Mike Carey and Paul Cornell onboard as writers and they just purchased Archaia. They are a company that appears to be moving up.

In September that have Hit #1 coming out by Bryce Carlson (w) and Vanesa Del (a). I have no clue about either one of the creators, but it is just a four issue mini-series and the cover looks awesome so I will give issue #1 a shot. The premise Los Angeles. It’s 1955. It’s dark; it’s sexy. It’s dangerous. Everyone has an angle. And while infamous gangster Mickey Cohen rots in a prison cell, Los Angeles ignores the blackest parts of the city’s heart…where clandestine groups of LAPD detectives moonlight as sanctioned hitmen knows as “Hit Squads.” Sounds a little Red Team and is territory that has been done before, but I want to see if this team can make me interested in their version.

Next let’s look at Dark Horse. Dark Horse has been a solid publisher over many years and recently they have restarted the super hero books they once did. This time they are rolling stuff out slowly and doing limited series to start some books. Plus they have not abandoned other type of material.

For September they have Brain Boy #1 by Fred Van Lente (w) and RB Silva (P). This is a mini-series and is taking an old Dell comic character and updating him for today. This just sounds like crazy fun. The premise “When the United States Secret Service needs to stop an assassination before the killer’s even decided to buy a gun, they call the world’s most powerful telepath: Matt Price, a.k.a. Brain Boy. But when the secret agent that can read anyone’s mind finds that a powerful psychic network has been hidden from him, Brain Boy begins to wonder whether he knows everything or nothing at all!Van Lente will always hold a special place in my heart for his work on Action Philosophers and he has done good stuff for Marvel and Valiant comics.

Next up is Buzzkill #1, another mini-series by Donny Cates & Mark Reznicek (w) and Geoff Shaw (p). I’m unfamiliar with the writer and only have a vague recollection of the artists, but I need to try the first issue due to the premise Ruben is not your average alcoholic; he's an unstoppable superhero who derives his powers from imbibing MASSIVE amounts of alcohol. After all the disasters it's caused in his personal life, he's ready to get clean . . . and the city's supervillains couldn't be happier!” That type of over the top odd ball premise will at least get me to buy issue #1.

Also Dark Horse has new mini-series for Resident Alien and Baltimore (Mignola’s early 1900’s Vampire Hunter).

Dynamite is an interesting company. They almost have a house style and seem to try and exploit characters in the public domain or those with less cache or utility for licensing deals. Still they have made great strides and boost a talented writer line up. They are producing a lot of very good books with original material as well as licensed work.

The first book that has my interest is King’s Watch #1, a mini-series by Jeff Parker (w) and Marc Laming (a). I have no clue about Laming and Dynamite is usually weak on art. What has me most exciting is Jeff Parker. I have loved his work from Marvel (Agents of Atlas, especially), but he never became a name at Marvel. If it was not for his name on the credits I would have passed on this oddball team up of Flash Gordon, The Phantom and Mandrake the Magician. The premise “Panic spreads across the world. Strange phenomena fills the skies. Millions have nightmares of wild lands filled with horrible creatures... then wake to find the monsters are real. What are three men willing to sacrifice to save us all? “ If anyone can pull this bizzaro shit off it is Parker. Of course expect multiple covers as only Dynamite can deliver.

Next up is Codename Action #1, another mini-series. I appreciate that Dynamite does these books mainly as mini-series. Otherwise I would be less likely to try them out as unlimited series. This is by Chris Roberson (w) and Jonathan Lau (a), both are quality creators. Roberson has my admiration for willing to speak out about what was going on at DC and of course probably burned that bridge forever. Lau’s art is solid and sometimes excellent. The book is about the old Captain Action character that DC once published as a licensed deal and the character was a GI Joe like doll for boys back in the old days. The premise During the height of the Cold War, unknown forces scheme to heat up a global conflict. As key officials on both sides of the Iron Curtain are replaced with doppelgangers, the infiltration threatens to disrupt the precarious state of world affairs. The security of the Free World depends on a young secret agent, one assigned to shape the world's masked heroes into a force with singular purpose and unyielding resolve!” The mix of creators and premise make this a book that I want to check out. Again Dynamite does not skip on producing a host of variant covers.

Okay so now we need to check in on Image. Image seems to be the place for new projects from many people. Can’t believe the company founded by artists is more of a writers’ haven today.

The first one that I’m going to try out is Sex Criminals #1 by Matt Fraction (W) and Chip Zdarsky (A). Fraction I’m well aware of and Zdarsky I have no clue about his work. Fraction is a decent writer, but I worry that he often is trying too hard to be the cool kid and does not trust himself enough. I say that because of the Hawkeye series, where he often changes the order of the pages to make a story non-linear. The stories have been good enough and with most of the artists being strong the book has done well. So the writer is a yes, I do not judge the artist until I see the book. The premise Suzie's a normal girl with an extraordinary ability: when she has sex, she stops time. One night she meets John... who has the same gift. And so they do what any other sex-having, time-stopping, couple would do: they rob banks.”  It is being labeled as a comedy and I would guess a raunchy comedy. I’m buying number one, but no guarantee I will be buying another issue. This will be a hard premise to pull off.

Another book I want to try the first issue of is Reality Check #1 by Glen Brunswick (w) and Victor Bogdanovic. I know Glen from New Jersey Gods and have no clue about Victor. The premise is very convoluted “A struggling artist, Willard Penn, scores an unlikely hit with his new comic. The story centers on a hero more concerned with his libido than serving justice. After an unexpected sell out, Willard can't recall anything about his story. That night the book's hero shows up outside Willard's window refusing to return to the comic until he finds true love. Exasperated, Willard is forced to help the lovesick hero meet the perfect woman. But he'll need to hurry because the book's villain, a homicidal maniac, has entered his world as well.” This either works well or will be a total disaster. Let’s say this, that the first issue better be good or else this book crashes and burns. It may crash and burn anyway.

The last number one from Image for September I want to try out is Zero #1 by Ales Kot (w) and Michael Walsh and Jordie Bellaire (a). Again the writer I know from Suicide Squad and the art is unfamiliar. Ales had a good vibe on Suicide Squad. The premise “Edward Zero is the perfect execution machine – a spy who breaks the rules to get things done. When a stolen device appears in the center of a long-running conflict, Zero comes to retrieve it. The problem is, the device is inside a living, breathing, bio-modified terrorist and there's an entire army after it.” It sounds like a good premise and if the art is decent this could be a hit.

Also in September the former mini-series, Todd The Ugliest Kid #5 is due out. This was one of the funniest books I have read in years and the premise and characters are fantastic. Finally this month is almost light in what Image has planned to roll out in the coming months.

Next up is IDW. Let’s check in and see if they have any new series that are of interest.  And after scanning and scanning the answer is no, which is fine as IDW has many books that I get and enjoy and I do not need new series from every publisher every month.

Next up to check in on is Valiant. This restart has been hit after hit for me. A little hyperbole but every series has been readable and enjoyable and I have yet to drop a title.

The first and only new series is Eternal Warrior #1 by Greg Pak (w) and Trevor Hairsine (a). Greg is somewhat hit and miss for me with his work. So that is both a negative or a positive, Trevor’s art is usually above average and the preview pages have looked nice. The other big plus is Valiant’s EIC seems to have a good mix of building a cohesive Universe but letting the writers be the best they can be inside the structure. The premise “Across ten millennia and a thousand battlefields, Gilad Anni-Padda has traversed the darkest, most mysterious corners of history. But the horror and bloodshed of constant warfare has finally taken its toll on the man myth calls the Eternal Warrior…and he has abdicated his duties as the Fist and the Steel of Earth for a quiet life of seclusion. But when a blood vendetta from the distant past suddenly reappears in the modern day, he must decide if he will return to the ways of war…for the child who betrayed him thousands of years ago...The premise allows for stories to be told in modern day or the past, could be fun. I like the slow roll with how Valiant is adding titles.

Ok the final place to check is the Vertigo Imprint under DC. I hate the new DCU but always have hope that Shelly Bond can keep Vertigo alive. Checking, checking and no we have a miss for Vertigo this month.

So that is it for the new number ones I’m looking for in September, join in and try a few to avoid lenticular Villains at DC and event mania at Marvel.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Variant Covers / Specials Covers – Who Gives A Damn

Let’s hit variant covers first. I recently read an article by The Beat about variants being almost 50% of the market. This type of crap reporting is what I would expect from some other sites, but not The Beat. The near 50% is on items offered and has noting to do with actual numbers. So item one could be New Book #1 and item #2 would be the 1:100 variant. Meaning the actual items percentage for variants are 1% of the market, not 50%.

Anyway I had a store back in the mid-nineties and variants were all the rage at that time. It did hurt the market and almost turned comic books in baseball cards with a market dominated by collectors and re-sellers and not by actual readers. Today the variant stuff is stupid and amusing, but it is not as bad as ruining the market place.

What variants are doing for the companies is a way to try and inflate the sale numbers on books. The idea being that the retailer, who is ordering 75, may get daring and order 100 to get the variant hoping he can sell the variant on the secondary (EBAY) market and make his money back. Since direct market books are non-returnable the retailers who are gambling like this will not be around for long anyway. They will lose their shirts when the book only sells 25 copies and the variant only went for 5 times cover price. Still the companies continue to offer them since it does jack up the sales on certain books.

To be fair some companies, like Dynamite offer 4 different covers on each comic but fill them with the regular order.  They are true variants and not chase variants. They still have the limited variants, phantom variants (stupidest thing ever) and some now have subscriber variants. The only person this really preys upon is the collector who feels the need to own every cover of a particular issue. I feel bad for that collector who continues to but all four covers of the Shadow series every month. That person is paying $16 for a decent story by Roberson with some so-so art work. I could care less about what I get whatever cover my store shoves in the box for mail order is fine by me.

So are variant covers a problem? I don’t think so. My store gets variants just based on their normal orders. Eventually what they can’t sell week one for $10 they try and sell the long box worth of variants for cover price or less as a special on occasion. (Short aside: I always wonder if the variant cover is better, shouldn’t the company being using that as the cover?). The stores that order too many books to get a variant will not be in business for long. As the demand decreases the companies will slow it down. The only inherent problem I can see for variants are companies maybe basing their business plan on jacked up sales as opposed to trying and make the best book possible. The market has both readers and collectors. In order to cater to both I believe as long as print is here we will still have the occasional variant to garner attention and maybe boost the sale of a certain book.

The bigger problem is the special cover and DC I believe may have solved that problem with the 3D books coming out in September. They have pissed off readers and retailers alike so that while it will be a sales success, it will cause a nasty backlash against publishers doing this type of stunt again. Of course I’m kidding as long as the fans lap it up and the sales are thru the roof they will come back and f**k the fanbase again – because they liked it. Hell I’m hoping to Ebay any of that 3D stuff I get and make my money back and maybe a little more.

The special covers have their place, when DC wrapped extra cardboard around the Death in the Family books; I thought that was a great way to give the tie in books a trade dress. As a retailer I wanted that type of help, especially when the cover price is not raised. But jacking up prices by a dollar on every book to just get a special cover is not what I would want as a retailer. Shorting the orders is ever worse. Now the retailer disappoints the customers who want it and they end up trying to save face with their base of customers.

Are special covers a problem? Yes, because it is a gimmick and a device so over used by publishers that it no longer provides any merit. Will they go away? Nope, as long as something sells it will continue. The big two are corporate comics. We will see great stories at times from great creators and often get some very cool moments, but do not mistake the fact that this is not about trying to tell the best stories, this is about selling the most books. The only way it becomes about telling the best stories or when the best stories are the biggest sellers. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Epic Stories – Please Stop

It is almost funny that with the advent of so many epic stories coming out from the big two that I find I almost miss the decompressed stories of just six issues. It was all about writing for the six issue trade. That epidemic just occurred a few years back. Heck I’m now longing for the days of the Jonah Hex series that was actually set in the West when most stories were one and done. Alas that is not to be at this time.

Instead we get the 11 Part Zero Year from Scott Snyder on Batman. We are only two years into his run and this is after the epic length Court of Owls and Death in the Family story lines. Worse Scott is going over the same territory that has been trudged on by many many others. I know he is bringing in new elements and that we have great art work by Capullo, but it still is not as exciting as going forward. Worse DC is constantly trying to piggy back off the success of this series by adding tie in books to the nth degree. After the horrendous Death in the Family added books deluded what was a decent story I will only buy the books I normally get this time around. The problem is that a story that takes a year to unfold loses any immediacy. Take the Joker’s Five Way Revenge story by Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams as an example of what can be delivered in a single issue story.

Hickman I have beaten up for the epic story telling before. I will try to not belabor the point on Hickman too much except to say that it appears that all the preliminary work he has laid in over 24 issues of the Avengers and New Avengers is almost treading water as he built up to Infinity.

Worse, with Marvel all the build up is almost more about a lead up to launching new series. The jaw dropping, nothing will every be the same consequences fade into memory after just a few months. Civil War, Secret Invasion and other events had “impacts”  that are already long gone. Infinity, which remember has been building with 24 Hickman books and will encompass a few other series, seems to now just be a prelude to the Inhumans series, which of course threatens to change everything we have ever known.

The writer of said series Matt Fraction was winning me over to be a pure fan of his work with Hawkeye. Although I thought he gimmicked the time jumps too often and did not trust that his story was good enough without tricks. Yet Matt also succumbed to the siren call of the epic story with both FF and Fantastic Four. We are a year in with no resolution in sight. Worse, as his writing assignments grew past his ability to be able to handle all of them he has had to let FF and Fantastic Four go to other writers to conclude his story.

Jeff Lemire, whose work I normally love, is used to telling a story with a beginning middle and an end. This means that stuff like Essex County, Sweet Tooth and Underwater Welder were great stories, but Green Arrow has that epic scale to it and I’m not a fan of the 50 issue super hero story. Longbow Hunters was not as long as the story Jeff has mapped out with the various different mystical branches and houses involved in this current story. Plus Jeff’s GA does not line up with the JLA version of the character at all. Not a bad thing, just a general trend that is starting to take shape.

This is not to say that an Epic story line can’t be a good thing. Matt Kindt’s Mind Mgmt. is telling us a long form story; Saga is advertised to be a long form story. Of course with independents that story can be long form as we get to watch the characters grow and change. In the spandex set it is not the same. The change is artificial and due to be re-written the next time sales need to be goosed.

Variety is the spice of life and comics need to understand that. We need more Hawkeye comics and less of the Odyssey. It is not that some of the epics are not well done, but even the recent Thor 11 part sage could have benefit from a quicker pace and a tighter plot. I enjoyed it, but Gorr was a poorly designed bad guy (the floppy ears made him seem like a humanoid bunny) and the pacing was very slow. It reminds me of many movies I have seen over the last few years, you think we have reached the climax of the movie and then it continues and you think this is the climax and then it is the next scene instead. By the time you get to the end of the story you forget why you ever cared. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Why DC Needed A Black Female Flash – Or The New 52 Sucks Part 14

So it just occurred to me as I'm reading the Flash Annual (I’m behind on my reading) on the way DC really screwed everything up. When they did the Flashpoint reboot they tried to have their cake and eat it too. That was a huge mistake. Making Barry Allen and Hal Jordan the Flash and Green Lantern again is not real change. They just made them younger and destroyed any legacy they had. Instead they should have restarted it in a bolder way and one that makes more sense in today’s market.  

It would've been cool if perhaps the Flash was a black female character to give us a little diversity and have the character have a different perspective. Heck make Hawkman a Hispanic man instead of what now feels almost vaguely racist in today’s world with Vibe being the Hispanic hero. Also why not have a Japanese America as Green Arrow or a Native American. Instead DC got wrapped into making everything the same yet strangely different. They have alienated old time fans like me and lost a chance to make the DC Universe more reflective of today’s society. Hell we shouldn’t have to limit ourselves to just a few characters or any race or gender either. Instead of trying to force fit Cyborg into the JL as a black character get bold and have this Earth’s only Green Lantern be black.

DC and Marvel have to learn (and Marvel is learning with Potto Parker) that the super hero name is important. Secret identities are almost passé in today’s super hero books so why not go the whole nine yards and be bold. Fans would reward boldness but having Carter Hall as the Hawkman was just boring. Oliver Queen as Green Arrow is only marginally better since Lemire took over and got rid of the Bruce Wayne type Green Arrow.

It makes no sense to destroy the legacy if you're if you're not going to build something new. Instead DC is building the same thing but the twist is that instead of Flash having Iris Allen as his girlfriend it is now Patty. Man what a shocker, Barry switched one white girl for another white girl.

While the Silver Age was started Flash was not Jay Garrick, Green Lantern was not Alan Scott and the list goes on and on. Outside of Superman and Batman, everyone else can be a different person and have a different background. In some ways James Robinson was doing his best to reinvent the Golden Age characters in Earth 2 and was willing to vary the cast with Alan Scott being gay and Dr. Fate and Hawkwoman are not white characters. The new 52 left everyone being essentially the exact same. Of course since it is a new “universe” DC gets to play fast and loose with their continuity so no one know what is the background of any character.

It reminds me of the illusion of change that Marvel always produces where they shake things up but nothing really changes. Peter Parker is still Spiderman Reed Richards, Susan Richards Johnny Storm and Ben Grimm are the Fantastic Four and Steve Rogers is still Captain America,  Clinton Barton is still Hawkeye and on and on. These characters are 60+ years old. The stories have been done over and over and over again.

Listen just because I put on a green t-shirt and shave my head, it does nothing to change whom I am. That is what DC has done with the new 52. I read that Marv Wolman wanted to change things up with Crisis on Infinite Earths and DC said no at that time. That was 1985 in 2011 you thing that using a bold stroke to make changes would have been a smart choice. Why not open up comics to being more in tune with America as it exists today and not the one I was born into in 1955.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Why I Continue to Hate DC

Another rant, it has been a little while since I have slammed DC, but thought that it was time again to crucify my ex-favorite comic book company.

I was inspired by the November solicitations.

It starts with the Batman Zero stuff. When this 11 issue arc started I thought, at last a Batman arc that is not going to be cheapened by endless add on books. What the fuck was I thinking? Snyder and Capullo are sales gods for DC and since DC can’t get their act together anywhere else let’s make it market driven. So we get Action Comics, Batgirl (not written by Gail Simone), Batwing, Birds of Prey, Catwoman, Nightwing, Detective, Flash, Green Lantern Corps, Green Arrow and Red Hood and the Outlaws are all Zero year tie-in books. As an extra special fuck you they are all also $4. My answer is fuck you DC I will buy only the titles I normally get anyway.

After that we get the Forever Evil series part 3 of 7, which essentially is linked to all three JL books and 3 Forever Evil ancillary mini-series as well as Suicide Squad and Teen Titans. At least a few of those books are just $3.

This month also brings us Tom Taylor taking over Earth 2, which felt like a very personal vision of James Robinson. I’m not sure how this book will fare in my eyes going forward. The rest of the solicitations contain so many lackluster series that I hardly feel they are worth mentioning. I like that Soule is writing a bunch of books, but I know often it is not his vision, as much as he is just writing the screen play for the editorially mandated story. Specifically I’m speaking of the Superman / Wonder Woman book which is unappealing to me at this point. I will give it a try out based on Soule being the writer. We do have Wonder Woman still off in her own world and I have modest hopes for the Harley series but otherwise it is a bunch of pabulum. 

The solicitations are also notable for the lack of a solicitation for Justice League 3000. How many times is DC going to push the new creative team or book and have it fall apart before we even get an issue? The Kevin Maguire debacle, preceded by the Joshua Fialkov mess, the Andy Diggle Action Comics, the Jim Zub Birds of Prey, the etc, etc, etc. This is inexcusable in my mind. As a publishing company you do not need to make an announcement until you have everything well in hand. You have not only looked the fool, but you have unnecessarily dragged creators’ names in the mud or somehow perhaps tarnished them. Of course a DC snub may now be considered a seal of greatness.  

Also of late I have read Jon Layman espousing that he writes Detective Comics like a jazz piece, ready to move and groove to what ever has to be done. Keith Giffen was spouting off crap about how great it is to get Howard Porter on JL 3000 as he (hopefully) unintentionally pissed on Maguire. I know people need to eat and I know you have to swallow some pride to get along in a corporate environment but this stuff reeks of DC telling people to go out and talk up the great stuff about being here or else. Hell Didio and Lee interviews are a fucking joke, what do you expect the captains of the ship to say but double speak. It is a shame because a little honest and an occasion admission of screwing up can go a long way to generating some good will with the fan base.
I like it when Didio says it is just the internet crowd, look at the sales numbers guys, we are the bulk of your audience.

So many things make DC seem like a ship of fools. The 3D cover fuck up, which hopefully will allow me to sell some DC books for decent money, the renaming of Collider, the canceling of some Archives and no communication about when, if ever, it will be re-solicited.  Even inside the comics there are flaws all the time in the new continuity. I was reading Detective and this guy is dealing with Bruce Wayne and he wants to buy the tech that Wayne Industries makes for Batman. Bruce says why would you think I have anything to do with that? How about because of the whole Grant Morrison Batman Inc. storyline?  It is just incredible that Grant had to reshape his story to fit the new 52 and now it appears that it is already being wiped from continuity. Of course DC has no real continuity anymore.

A company that was built on legacy no longer has one. When you tear down the foundation you need to rebuild from the ground up. DC started on the third floor with nothing underneath of it. At this point they have become an easy target and a sad testimony to marketing versus quality. Hey it has saved me money as the three DC books I’m getting for August 14 are Batman, JLA and Astro City. In hindsight I believe this is what Didio has always wanted. He wanted comics driven by events, marketing and if a good story gets made now and again, great. It may work sometimes but DC is a house of cards that could collapse any day. Johns has no pizzazz anymore and is living off reputation and the power he wields being CCO. Snyder is their one star. I think DC has some great talent, but I think a lot of that talent is making bank while they can. I think Layman, Lemire, Kindt, Venditti and Soule would all be doing fantastic work if they were allowed to tell the stories they want to tell, but I do not begrudge they taking DC’s money.

It will not change until Didio, Lee, Harras and maybe even Johns are kicked to the curb. Hell I’m not even sure how you fix this piece of crap.