Friday Night Fights: Womf!

Friday, November 30, 2007

We are not a --


That's a sucker-kick if I ever saw one. The kicker, by the way, is Stephanie Brown, aka Spoiler. I started out looking for an image of Geo-Force punching someone and couldn't find one; some nights it's all about the randomness. And then I started thinking, can a person really be a "force"? I mean, that's awful full of oneself, even for a king. Anyway ...

(Image, by the way, from nadshot. And for a force to be reckoned with, don't forget to bet on Bahlactus!)

Review: Transformers - Beast Wars: The Gathering trade paperback (IDW)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

[This review comes from Doug Glassman:]

Though I’ll always have a fondness for the original Transformers cartoon, I grew up watching what remains the best piece of animated Transformers fiction: Beast Wars. For the uninitiated, it’s the epic battle between the Maximals and the Predacons, the descendants of the Autobots and Decepticons. It takes place 300 years after Generation One… but 70,000 years in our past. If the time travel headache is kicking in, get the aspirin ready, because the subject of this review keeps the time travel going. See, aside from some convention-exclusive comic books, the Beast Wars had never made the jump to comics. Simon Furman and Don Figueroa intended to do a Beast Wars series for Dreamwave. With that company’s demise, the same team took the idea (and possibly the same story) to IDW, launching the Beast Wars’ full comic book debut.

Beast Wars: The Gathering follows the Beast Wars toys that didn’t make it onto the show. Because Beast Wars was computer-generated, it was quite expensive and could only animate few characters at a time. (And that was without shadows.) So the majority of toys released in the line never made it to the screen . . . in America. Japan’s Transformers fiction in the form of Beast Wars II and Beast Wars Neo had traditional cel animation, meaning many more characters could appear there affordably. Many of Japanese characters appear in The Gathering, along with many who have only been toys. Of the actual show characters, only two have substantial roles. I won’t spoil who they are, however.

To understand the main plot, I’ll have to recap an important element of Beast Wars. The way new characters were introduced (for the most part) was through stasis pods containing bare-bones protoforms that had no personalities. They were all Maximal initially, but some were turned evil through a computer program. Most of these pods were never used and were thought to be destroyed at the start of season 2. But The Gathering retcons this and introduces the Predacon general Magmatron, who harvests these stasis pods to create new henchmen. It’s a plan similar to John Varley’s story “Air Raid” (later known as Millennium), in which people that were never supposed to exist are recruited into a time travel scheme. Of course, Magmatron’s plan is faulty thanks to a traitor in his ranks, and the result is a second round of Beast Wars taking place at the same time at the first, but removed in the time stream.

(For those new to the franchise, Transformers and time travel are inseparable.)

Like Stormbringer, The Gathering is not for Transformers newbies. The story relies a lot on cameos, including one from Grimlock, and on its interactions with the original series. But there’s still lots of fun fighting, all of which is drawn by the George Perez of Transformers, Don Figueroa. The Gathering was probably a challenge for him, as he is better known for drawing vehicles, not animals. He does a pretty good job, especially since the anatomy for these animals does not have to be exact. For instance, a character that turns into a mosquito is larger than one that turns into a frog. (They did it with Waspinator, amongst others, on the show.) He does get a few scenes on Cybertron, including being able to draw a Lio Convoy that turns into Liger Zero.

Don’s faces are very expressive, even with the characters that don’t have normal mouths or face shapes. It’s all in the eyes, even in the beast modes. When a character is scared, you’ll know. A few great expressions to look for are Ramulus when he gets attacked, Optimus Minor at pretty much any scene he’s in and just about everyone the big final battle in which feathers and teeth go flying. There’s also some great detailing, such as the blotchy skin on Torca, including his Maximal insignias. As well, the storytelling is pretty solid, which was one of the complaints I had with Stormbringer.

The Gathering is more accessible than Stormbringer. Since the vast majority of characters have their debuts here, the only real back story one needs to research is the original Beast Wars television series. There’s some nifty time travel involved and some good action all around. A warning: this is one of the harder trades to find, as it was one of the very first Transformers trades released by IDW. I had to hit six book stores and three comic book stores before I found one. However, IDW is pretty good about getting their material out, and The Gathering will probably be reshipped or reissued soon, probably along with its currently ongoing sequel, The Ascending, or the Beast Wars Sourcebook.

[Contains introduction by Simon Furman, sketch pages, cover gallery. $17.99.]

13 on 52: Week Twenty-Four

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

(Inspired by 52 on 52, 52 Pickup, and others, Collected Editions offers a weekly thirteen words on each of the thirteen issues collected in 52 Vol. 2.)

Thirteen words for Week Twenty-Four: Brutal issue; dark side of "Imagine." Ambush's humor versus J'onn's memories. Yazz lives!

Got your own thirteen words on 52: Week Twenty-Four? Post them here!

Review: Transformers: Stormbringer trade paperback (IDW)

Monday, November 26, 2007

[This review comes from Doug Glassman:]

IDW’s current Transformers series is broken up into a series of six-issue mini-series, making for easy collection into trades. Between “Infiltration” and “Escalation” came a four-issue arc called “Stormbringer” that took the story away from Earth and back to the Transformers’ home planet of Cybertron. Many fans were eagerly awaiting the story because of the promise of “No humans.” “Relatable human characters” are often inserted into Transformers stories. At times, they work, such as Sam Witwicky in the recent live action film. And sometimes, they don’t work, like the annoying kids in the Unicron Trilogy of shows (Armada, Energon and Cybertron). Humans were also prevalent in “Infiltration”, and some fans thought that they were incredibly intrusive. Can Transformers work without relatable human characters?

Absolutely.

I’ll admit up front that part of the reason Stormbringer appealed to me was one of its starring characters: Jetfire. This character made it to the original show only in the altered form of Skyfire because he was based on the Valkyrie toy from Macross/Robotech. Something about his inhuman face, his neat alternate mode and his pursuit of science appealed to me, and they all transferred across to his new form in Stormbringer. Though he’s a bit clueless here, the Jetfire action did not disappoint this Jetfire fanboy.

For those that are completely new to the Transformers franchise, Stormbringer might not be the best book to start with. Its countless cameos and somewhat convoluted plot rely on some old franchise stand-bys such as Pretenders and the Wreckers. Because Simon Furman, the long-time Transformers comics author, wrote this arc, Bludgeon and Thunderwing are featured characters. (I’m personally amazed that Grimlock didn’t worm his way in, though he does make an appearance in Beast Wars: The Gathering). All of the IDW Transformers stories connect to each other to form a weaving story that emulates the original Generation One but introduces a number of new concepts. Surprisingly, you don’t have to read the preceding arc, “Infiltration,” to understand what is going on. I read Stormbringer first and understood it perfectly. The only real interaction with the previous arc is the explanation of where Optimus Prime is arriving from at the end of “Infiltration."

Speaking of which, Optimus is the main character of Stormbringer despite its early focus on Jetfire. This is a compromise of sorts: Prime is here while Megatron is on Earth during “Infiltration.” The two interact in Stormbringer only through flashbacks. One might be surprised by the amount of armament Optimus packs in this arc. Other famous Transformers appear throughout, such as Springer, the Technobots, Thrust and the Predacons, along with Thunderwing himself for the Marvel UK faithful, though he has little to say.

All of these characters are illustrated by Don Figueroa, who in my opinion is the best artist IDW has on hand. My nickname for him is the “George Perez of Transformers.” He can draw massive crowd scenes and make every character stand out. More importantly, he has a gift for designing transformation schemes and Cybertronian alternate modes. (For the Transformers newbie, they are “Cybertronian” in the sense that they are the alternate modes that the Transformers had before they reached Earth). This is actually the second time he has done a great number of Cybertronian modes; he had to redesign some of his War Within creations to avoid trademark issues. His designs are “toyetic”—they can easily be turned into action figures, and some of them already have. In fact, his design for Jetfire made its way to retailer shelves as the Jetfire toy in the Classics line, and all of the figures in the sadly cancelled Titanium line were designed by Don.

Sometimes it takes clean artwork to see some of the design genius. Stormbringer, like a majority of the IDW trades, has a sketch section in the back showing off Figueroa’s handiwork. There are also the covers, which feature the majority of G1 characters, many of whom never show up in the book. He even explains the hard-to-see final transformation of Thunderwing. Yes, all this great design work comes at a price: Figueroa sometimes has difficulty conveying the action. But that’s mostly because of the awkward panel layout later on in the book. You can work it out after a few reads.

Is Stormbringer for the brand-new fan coming off of the film? No. It’s a fun “fight the monster” story made entertaining by the high number of obscure Transformers cameos. A newbie would be better off starting with the “Spotlight” issues, which take closer looks at individual facets of the IDW continuity. Or you could start with the weaker “Infiltration,” which, while a decent introduction, suffers a bit from the humans involved. Still, Stormbringer is at least worth flipping through for the design work alone.

[Contains sketch pages, cover gallery, sketch pages. $17.99.]

Friday Night Fights: Any Room Left?

Friday, November 23, 2007

Turkey, stuffing, and ...


Twinkies!

(Need I even mention, there's always room for Bahlactus!)

Review: JSA: The Liberty Files trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

[The following review comes from Collected Editions reader Simon Finger:]

The volumes in DC's Elseworlds line relocate familiar superheroes into a dizzying variety of genres, but they still tend to fall into two categories: those that show how the changed circumstances would result in changed characters, and those that show how the heroes would end up basically the same, no matter what the time or place.

JSA: The Liberty Files assuredly belongs to the later set. Perhaps that is not surprising, as writers Dan Jolley and Tony Harris, place their team, consisting of "The Bat" (Batman), "The Clock" (Hourman), and "The Owl" (Dr. Mid-Nite), into the context of World War II. At first blush, this may not seem like much of a departure, given the WW II origins of the Justice Society. But this is a world of spies and smugglers more reminiscent of Casablanca, The Third Man or even Indiana Jones, than of the four-color world of the original JSA.

The volume collects two separate, but related storylines, the eponymous "Liberty Files" and the post-war sequel "The Unholy Three." The first story follows a team of hard-boiled secret operatives across Europe and North Africa as they search out the truth about a rumored Nazi "Super-Man." In the process, they attempt to capture and interrogate an albino smuggler known as "Jack the Grin," a chilling Joker-analogue, and then to fight their way from Egypt to the heart of the Nazi war machine, and back again in time to prevent an Allied disaster.

"The Unholy Three" moves the action from the Second World War to the Cold War, with the embittered survivors of the first story reuniting to battle their Soviet adversaries for a nuclear macguffin called "The Trigger." Replacing the WWII atmosphere with a sensibility suggestive of early James Bond (especially "From Russia With Love"), the story follows the team, joined by a new recruit named Clark Kent, as they try to unravel a string of murders targeting American agents. The climax brings together still more DC icons, including excitingly re-imagined incarnations of Huntress, Red Tornado, Hawkman, Flash, and Sandman, as well as a familiar visitor from Krypton. These and others come together for a thrilling throwdown in the Siberian wastes.

In both stories, Tony Harris (Ex Machina, Starman) provides beautiful and expressive linework, conveying the subtle emotional beats of the story as effectively as he does the action sequences, which are frequent, exciting and sometimes surprisingly bloody. Though Harris ably handles the art in both storylines, the three years separating the publication of the two miniseries is evident in the coloring, which is significantly richer and more nuanced in "The Unholy Three."

The whole production never loses its forward momentum, breathlessly barreling from one set-piece to another. Jolley and Harris capably integrate the character development into the action, vividly establishing a "Bat" whose paranoia is not so far removed from the distrustful Batman of JLA: Tower of Babel and Infinite Crisis. Bruce Wayne is clearly the star of the show, though all the players get moments of nobility and heroism amidst the cynical world of espionage.

Still, while the story provides accessible narrative thrills even for the non-comics reader, it will probably prove a more rewarding read for those deeply versed in DCU lore, able to pick up on the subtle references and revisions that fill both stories. The torture of a young secret agent in an abandoned theater is all the more powerful when you realize that the spy is Sandy the Golden Boy, who faced a similar ordeal as Sand in the pages of Geoff Johns' JSA. Other cameos may likewise slip by anyone with a less-than-encyclopedic knowledge of the Justice Society, but they make fun little Easter eggs for anyone inclined to hunt for them.

As a package, JSA: The Liberty Files, provides a cracking suspense story, terrific art and rewards for both the casual and the dedicated reader. I recommend it without qualification.

Late 2008 DC Comics Trade Paperbacks - Deluxe JLA! Green Arrow/Black Canary

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Here's a little appetizer before our American friends dive into their turkey tomorrow ... DC is going to announce a series of deluxe JLA hardcovers, collecting the full Grant Morrison run!

Between JLA, Starman, and Ex Machina, I think "deluxe" is a word we're going to start hearing a lot more from DC ...

Some other tidbits:

* Green Arrow/Black Canary - the first collection of the new series will be hardcover
* Dr. Fate - by Steve Gerber, in paperback
* Countdown Presents: Lord Havok and the Extremists - paperback
* Supergirl - by Kelly Puckett, in paperback
* Robin: Year One - a new edition, on the heels of Chuck Dixon's new Robin run
* Metal Men - the Duncan Rouleau series, in hardcover
* Death of the New Gods - by Jim Starlin, in hardcover


The Collected Editions guest-blogging team has been doing a great job while I've been away doing NaNoWriMo (must. keep. writing.) and we've still got one more guest review coming tomorrow. Then tune in here again on Monday with new reviews from yours truly.

If you want to share this post, don't miss the permanent link just below. Enjoy (if applicable) your holiday!

13 on 52: Week Twenty-Three

(Inspired by 52 on 52, 52 Pickup, and others, Collected Editions offers a weekly thirteen words on each of the thirteen issues collected in 52 Vol. 2.)

Thirteen words for Week Twenty-Three: I like Osiris as Adam's Junior, but Marvels are creepy; all seem unstable.

Got your own thirteen words on 52: Week Twenty-Three? Post them here!

DC Comics Solicitations for February 2008 - Booster Gold, Superman

Monday, November 19, 2007

Not too much that we didn't already know in the solicitations today ... the Legends of the DC Universe issue in the Superman: 3-2-1 Action trade paperback is a Jimmy Olsen/Cadmus Project tribute story; Showcase Presents Booster Gold does indeed collect the entire twenty-five issue series, plus an Action Comics crossover issue (though I'm amazed these ComicBloc posters didn't know the book was coming ...).

What's on your pick list for this month?

Review: Green Arrow/Black Canary: For Better or For Worse trade paperback (DC Comics)

[This review comes from Bob Hodges of the To the Black Rose blog:]

Green Arrow/Black Canary: For Better or For Worse collects Justice League of America #75, backups from Action Comics #428 & 434, Joker #4, Green Lantern/Green Arrow #94-95, backup from Detective Comics #549-550, & excerpts from Green Arrow: Longbow Hunters #1, Green Arrow vol. 2 #75 & 101, & Green Arrow vol. 3 #4-5, 12, & 21. It does not contain full covers (though several of the stories being backup features wouldn't have covers anyway), but does have an introduction by Denny O'Neil who penned JL of A #75 and GL/GA #94-95.

The intro is standard paint by numbers fare, but does feature O'Neil confessing that he does not remember why he brought Dinah Drake Lance (later retconned to be Dinah Drake Lance's daughter Dinah Laurel Lance) to Earth 1 in JL of A #75 and involved her with Oliver Queen. O'Neil also claims to have written Black Canary in Hard Travelin' Heroes as his ideal woman.

A tremendous amount of talent is on display in this collection as it features most of the important Green Arrow scribes (O'Neil, Elliot S! Maggin, Alan Moore, Mike Grell, Chuck Dixon, Kevin Smith, and Brad Meltzer) and many fine artists (Dick Dillin, Dick Giordano, J. L. Garcia-Lopez, Grell and Lurine Haines, Rick Hoberg, Rodolfo Damaggio, and Phil Hester and Ande Parks).

But despite all of these pluses, the collection remains mediocre at best.

First, though billed as a Green Arrow/Black Canary collection, in reality it is a Green Arrow collection. The stories may have both Oliver Queen and Dinah Lance, but they all are Green Arrow features excepting JL of A #75 and Joker #4, and in the latter Dinah Lance only appears as a street clothed hostage. Black Canary to date has starred in a 4-issue miniseries, a 12-issue on-going series, and around 100 issues of Birds of Prey. Were none of these relevant enough to include in the trade even as more excerpts?

Second, the trade ostensibly documents the build-up to the wedding of Queen and Lance, hence the title and release in the same week as The Green Arrow/Black Canary Wedding Special. Nonetheless it does a poor job of laying the foundation for this marriage. The appeal of Green Arrow/Black Canary relationship is that it is an egalitarian relationship. Both dress up in costume and are excellent fighters, both are headstrong and stubborn individuals, both have had romantic interests other than the besides, and neither is dependent on the other to function as an interesting character. Yet apart from some of the latter excerpts, the trade presents no sense of equity in their partnership.

Almost all of the early stories (again excepting JL of A #75) feature Black Canary as a hostage or in some sort of danger with Green Arrow bolting in to either save Canary or avenge the harm done to her. Elliot S! Maggin has counterfeiters trying to blow up Canary's motorcycle in Action Comics #428 and a smitten Joker taking Dinah Lance hostage in Joker #4. O'Neil depicts Green Arrow not letting Canary accompany him on a dangerous mission in GL/GA #94 and Canary, upon following him anyway, is captured and used as a hostage to force GA to make an attempt on the president's life. Even Alan Moore has Canary shot by a random villian so a furious, avenging Arrow can chase the punk down to extract vengeance.

Not that all of these are bad stories, Joker #4 is entertaining and Alan Moore's "Night Olympics" plays with some interesting concepts in the dialogues between Arrow and Canary, and Arrow and the villain. Both stories have excellent Garcia-Lopez and Janson art as well. But none of these earlier stories (including the cutesy Action Comics #434 where Zatanna kisses Arrow in front of Canary) deal with the important quality of the Arrow/Canary relationship, unless you view Black Canary playing Maid Marion the hostage as the defining characteristic.

The later excerpts from Longbow Hunters and the various ongoing Green Arrow series are very good, but they undermine the need for the wedding as J. Caleb Mozzocco mentioned over at Every Day Is Like Wednesday. Highlights include Dinah explaining to Ollie why she doesn't want to marry him or have his kids after he proposes to her, Dinah breaking up with Ollie after she sees him kissing another woman (not Zatanna this time), Dinah's lingering bitterness about Ollie's philandering even when Connor Hawke brings the news of his death, and the finale of the trade where Ollie stops his second proposal plan when Dinah hints at what a bad idea it would be.

Finally, the trade feels mediocre, because its contents are such a cluster^@$%! (to imitate Judd Winick). The DC solicitation erroneously includes Birds of Prey #88 and does not mention that all of the later stories are appearing as excerpts. This is not such a big deal for Longbow Hunters #1 and the issues from Green Arrow vol. 3 since they are already collected in trades and only portions of these issues are relevant to this collection. But I was excited by the prospect of having full issues from Grell's and Dixon's runs on vol. 2, which have hardly been collected. The later stories are not the only ones duplicated from previous collections as JL of A #75 appeared in The JLA Hereby Elects... and "Night Olympics" appears in DC Universe: The Stories of Alan Moore.

I was excited by the prospect of this trade, since I really like both Ollie's and Dinah's characters and had hoped DC would see fit to trade more of their past material. But instead of this collection couldn't DC have put out both Green Arrow and Black Canary Greatest Stories Ever Told volumes to celebrate their wedding? Or if they really wanted to showcase more of Maggin and O'Neil's work on the characters DC could have put out a Green Arrow/Black Canary in the Seventies trade or continued Green Arrow's Showcase Presents line. Or DC could continue to trade important series for the characters like Grell's Green Arrow vol. 2 and Dixon's Birds of Prey.

The initial concept had me excited; the execution of the same dampens my enthusiasm so that . . .

Rating: 2 out of 5 boxing glove arrows or pairs of fishnet stockings.

Wizard World Texas - Starman: The Complete Saga news

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Precious little coming out of the DC panel at Wizard World Texas, but we have heard that the first volume of Starman: The Complete Saga will include issues #0-16, which bridges the Sins of the Father and Night and Day trade paperbacks, stopping just before Wicked Inclination. This would also include the "Times Past" stories in issues #6 and #11.

Collecting the stories at this rate almost guarantees a four-volume set, and that's not taking into account all the extras--I'm none to keen on buying five or six Starman hardcovers, but I'll do it if I have to!

More news as it breaks ...

Wizard Magazine on DC Comics Violence

Just a quick post (I'm NaNoWriMoing, I swear!), but does anyone else find this list of DC Comics' 25 Grisliest Moments somewhat in poor taste? I mean, whether DC was right or wrong on some of these is debatable, but for Wizard to compile a list of them? Was this a Halloween thing, or does someone at Wizard just have a taste for the macabe?

Wizard's had plenty of controversy lately, and I can't imagine this really helps anything.

OK, back to novel-writing. Apparently there's going to be an announcement at Wizard World Texas today about the upcoming Starman: The Complete Saga; if anything notable comes out, look for commentary here.

Cheers!

Friday Night Fights - Punch and a Snack!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Nothing says sucker-punch ...

... like distracting the bad guy with a Twinkie before you hit 'em.

(And for the guy who always has more taste and less filling, the word is Bahlactus.)

Comic Book Holiday Gift Guide 2007

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Collected Editions here, dropping in with a different kind of essential trade paperback and graphic novel top ten list: a list of gifts your favorite comics fan may not have but would want, and also some comics that might appeal to a non-comics fan. 'Tis the season for gift giving, and the following ten titles should start you on your way:

* Absolute DC: The New Frontier
This is a beautiful, over-sized volume, and really a nice addition to every fan's collection. More than your usual super-hero slugfest, this is a re-creation of the origin of the Justice League set against actual events of the 1960s, adding a thinking-person's historic bent to the series. Not to mention, every aspect of the book is done up in art deco style by writer and artist Darwyn Cooke. This is a slightly pricier book, but also a surefire winner.

* Crisis On Multiple Earths, Vol. 1
If you're buying gifts for a DC Comics fan, especially one who may have just started reading comics or who really likes DC's crossovers, this is the first volume of a series that reprints DC's Justice League crossovers from the 1950s and '60s. For a fan who wants to learn about older comics, but doesn't like some of the style differences between the modern and Silver Age, this can be a good starting point.

* New Teen Titans Archives Vol. 1
Whereas most volumes of the deluxe hardcover DC Comics Archives series feature comics from the 1940s and '50s, this volume collects the well-regarded 1980s beginnings of the New Teen Titans, written by Marv Wolfman with art by George Perez. This series was one of the foundations of the DC Universe in the 1980s, and might appeal also to fans of older X-Men comics, as the two series had similar stylings.

* Vertigo: First Taste
This is a collection, along with Vertigo: First Offenses, of the first issues of a couple of different Vertigo series, the mature imprint from DC Comics. If you're not sure what to get the comics fan in your life, or if you're trying to interest a friend or relative in reading comics, these reasonably priced samplers might help you out.

* Super Friends!: Your Favorite Television Super-Team is Back!
A little nostalgia for you: this is a collection of 1970s comics based on the old Super Friends Saturday morning television cartoon. A great small gift for a lapsed comic book fan or your favorite child-at-heart.

* Kingdom Come
This is a paperback collection of the dynamic, fully-painted mini-series about the DC Comics heroes in an apocalyptic future. This series is hailed for its complexity, full of comic book and biblical symbolism, and has been published in a number of more ornate versions, but if you're looking for something to interest the non-comics fan in your life, a simple version of Kingdom Come is often a good choice.

* Batman: Black & White
This collection is something every Batman fan may not have, but should. Some of the industry's top writers and artists have collaborated on Batman short comics drawn completely in black and white, highlighting the shapes and shadows of the character. A nice unexpected gift.

* Wonder Woman: The Hiketeia
This hardcover Wonder Woman tale, with appearances by Batman, launched a lauded Wonder Woman series run by novelist Greg Rucka. Here, too, is a nicely-written, well-drawn graphic novel that isn't bogged down by continuity, and may appeal to the non-comics fan in your life.

* Death: The High Cost of Living
An instant classic, this Vertigo miniseries written by novelist Neil Gaiman tells the story of the one day a year that Death (who turns out to be a pale girl with an umbrella) walks the world as a mortal. Well-written and deeply moving, if you know a Vertigo fan who hasn't read this yet, or a non-comics fan you're trying to interest in Vertigo, this is a must-have.

* The Complete Maus: A Survivor's Tale
Another must-read, and something that might interest non-comics fan, is Maus, a black and white graphic novel memoir written and drawn by Art Spiegelman. The two volumes of Maus (collected here together) tell both the story of Spiegelman's parents ordeal through the Holocaust, and also about Spiegelman's present relationship with his ailing father. A classic, and one of the books that's considered to have brought the graphic novel into the mainstream.

And one to grow on:
* Superheroes and Philosophy: Truth, Justice, and the Socratic Way
This is not a comic, but instead a collection of essays looking at DC and Marvel comics and how they relate to the major philosophers. Detailed and yet readable, look for mentions of Watchmen, Dark Knight Returns, Kingdom Come, Batman: The Killing Joke, JSA, Crisis on Infinite Earths, and more. A great stocking stuffer or something to go along with all the other comics on your list.

You'll be a hit this holiday season!

(Lots of bloggers, by the way, have Amazon links like the ones above, and when you buy anything after clicking on these links, that blogger gets a few cents. This holiday season, if you're buying gifts through Amazon, consider clicking on someone's link before you buy; I know I will. There are lots of hard-working bloggers out there, and this is a great, easy way to support them.)

Any other great gift suggestions? Post 'em here!

13 on 52: Week Twenty-Two

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

(Inspired by 52 on 52, 52 Pickup, and others, Collected Editions offers a weekly thirteen words on each of the thirteen issues collected in 52 Vol. 2.)

Thirteen words for Week Twenty-Two: Luthor metagene-immune? Kryptonite based? Strange deadly Manitou introduction. Magnus has a brother?

Got your own thirteen words on 52: Week Twenty-Two? Post them here!

Review: Dr. Strange: The Oath trade paperback (Marvel Comics)

Monday, November 12, 2007

[The following review comes from Collected Editions reader Simon Finger:]

The magical world and the material world usually run in parallel, professes Doctor Strange, "but every so often, the two intersect." Such a declaration could just about serve as the character's statement of purpose: exploring those bizarre intersections of the mundane and the otherworldly. Indeed, one of the great hooks for the concept has always been the eye-meltingly weird psychedelic realms that are the source of the Sorceror Supreme's power, as well as the home of his deadliest foes.

How strange indeed, then, that Doctor Strange: The Oath is a story largely unconcerned with supernatural threats and other-dimensional oddities. Writer Brian K. Vaughan (Runaways) and artist Marcos Martin (Captain America) are interested in bodies. From start to finish, The Oath is about flesh, bone, and blood. But the dangers are no less fearsome for being earthbound. The opening scene plays out in a clinic operated by the long-neglected Marvel property Night Nurse (as a caregiver to injured superheores, and who now has a recurring role in New Avengers ), only to flash back to a setup involving Strange searching, in avenues both magical and mundane, for a cure for the brain tumors afflicting his servant, Wong. When the mystical potion he finds turns out to be more potent than he ever imagined, it sets in motion a battle for control of the panacea, and a long-simmering revenge plot from Strange's past.

The art, by Marcos Martin, conveys an appropriate sense of physicality to the story. Avoiding the vivid psychedelia that Steve Ditko made into the trademark style of the character, he emphasizes instead Stephen Strange's essential frailty, and by extension, the mortality that everyone must eventually face. While Night Nurse ventures forth still in the abstracted bloom of youth, the hero's wizened visage and the disgraced surgeon's crippled hands are rendered in loving, expressive detail. Even the villain of the piece is depicted with sympathy in this regard, because he, like Strange, is ultimately mortal. It is no surprise that their climactic battle must ultimately be resolved by fists rather than wizardry.

Vaughan brings his usual wit and clever plotting to the story, using each issue to explain how Strange moves between the eldritch and the everyday. While elements of the central mystery occassionally come off as contrived, the author keeps most everything under control and moving forward at a steady clip. He is more successful integrating his sly humor into the piece, from the Ditko-homage potion "Otkid's Elixir," to an amusingly awkward encounter between Arana and Iron Fist in Night Nurse's waiting room, to a fist-pumping turnabout in the final battle, in which Doctor Strange reveals his lesser-known talents.

The trade collects the five issues of the limited series, as well as a short "teaser" story, some promotional material, and few character design sketches. All of it makes for a nice package of bonuses, but probably not enough to make it a worthy purchase if you already have the issues. The main attraction here is the story, and if you have any interest in Doctor Strange, it's pretty hard not to recommend it.

Friday Night Fights - He is King!

Friday, November 09, 2007

He is B'Wana Beast!

He is King!

(And for all your two thousand parts, always bet on Bahlactus!)

(PS - Do you know your Dark Stars?)

Starman: The Complete Saga speculations

Thursday, November 08, 2007

There's been a lot of discussion on the DC Comics message boards and elsewhere as to what we might expect to find in the new Starman hardcover volume, Starman: The Complete Saga Vol. 1. Here's Collected Editions' list of the Do's and Don'ts of collecting Starman:

Don't: Print the collection on thin paper like the Kirby omnibuses.

Do: Collect the entire series in publication order--no skipping around the Times Past stories.

Don't: Put the Shade's journal all in one section--intersperse it with the comics (but do include it!).

Do: Include the Batman/Starman/Hellboy miniseries, the Shade miniseries, the Girlfrenzy Mist special, the Starman annuals (and James Robinson's Batman annual), the 1,000,000 issue, the Secret Files stories, the 80-page giant, and the Archie Goodwin tributes.

Don't: Include crossovers with Stars and STRIPE, JSA, and Sandman Mystery Theatre; that's just too much shoe-horning in of material (but do include the relevant Power of Shazam cross-over issues!).

Do: Include extras like sketch pages, full covers, and an introduction by James Robinson.

Don't: Make the whole thing so big you can't sit comfortably on the couch and read it.

Do: Include news of new Starman work by James Robinson and Tony Harris!

Given all the potential contents above, I've no doubt this is going to be a four-volume series (or two very, very large books).

So, what are your Do's and Don't for Starman: The Complete Saga?

Review: Scurvy Dogs: Rags to Riches trade paperback (AIT/PlanetLar)

[This review comes from Doug Glassman:]

Tales from the Bully Pulpit is one of the two funniest comics I’ve ever read. This next trade collects the other. After reading Andrew Boyd and Ryan Yount’s Scurvy Dogs: Rags to Riches from AIT/PlanetLar, you’ll probably never view Pirates of the Caribbean in the same way ever again.

Essentialy, Scurvy Dogs is about a small group of pirates who do what pirates do: pillage, drink, fight monkeys, fight hobos and get roped into show business. The pirates are led by Blackbeard -- yes, the actual Blackbeard, whose death is recounted by the crayon drawings of elementary school student Shirley Johansen. Under his command are the deranged Pappy (who has many different stories on how he lost his hand), Jefe (who has a vulture on his shoulder), McDougal (the boxer) and Shanghai Pete (the mute). McDougal and Pete get the short stack, though McDougal has one of the best sight gags early on in the book. It involves lightboxing and retracing a panel, and I’m not spoiling it here.

It’s absurdist and simply drawn, but sometimes, humor only needs simple artwork. It’s all in black-and-white; color really wouldn’t add anything. Yount likes to exaggerate his figures and use shadows to his advantage. The art and writing work in tandem, as Boyd often uses silent panels to allow the reader to figure jokes out.

One might notice that the trade is a little thick for a five-issue series. That’s because Boyd and Yount include a ton of extras. There are design sketches, guest sketches, a back-up story from Vampirella and an interview with the authors. But most important is a huge section of commentary. In tiny text, Boyd and Yount go through the stories and recount the inspiration for the characters and situations. They also point out inside jokes and make fun of their work. This is something I would love to see in other books, but then I’m a big sucker for commentary tracks on DVDs.

All of the above only costs $12.95, making this book a steal. Everyone who loves pirates should give this book a shot. And who doesn’t love pirates? (Well, maybe ninjas.) Obviously, this is a required book for Pastafarians, who could perhaps use it as a recruiting tool a la Chick tracts.

RAmen.

[Contains full covers, commentary sections, introduction from Adam Beechen, sketches, back-up story, fake interview. $12.95]

13 on 52: Week Twenty-One

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

(Inspired by 52 on 52, 52 Pickup, and others, Collected Editions offers a weekly thirteen words on each of the thirteen issues collected in 52 Vol. 2.)

Thirteen words for Week Twenty-One: Much better issue. Infinity, Inc. makes Steel plot more interesting. Great Titans cameo.

Got your own thirteen words on 52: Week Twenty-One? Post them here!

Review: Incredible Change-Bots graphic novel (Top Shelf Comics)

Monday, November 05, 2007

[This review comes from Doug Glassman:]

More than DC, Star Wars and even Power Rangers, my favorite franchise of all time, bar none, is the Transformers. Part of it is the mythos that these robots in disguise have developed, which spread out far beyond the animated series and into comics from three separate companies. Part of it is the adaptability of the franchise. They've been able to go through multiple incarnations without losing most of their appeal. (Though I will admit that the Armada/Energon years were a bit trying) Most of all though, the concept of gigantic robots is thrilling--the Tripods of The War of the Worlds are some of sci-fi's most memorable villains. Add to that the idea of transforming and blending into humanity and you've got one of the most marketable concepts of all time. Capping that, you have memorable characters such as the superheroic Optimus Prime and the opportunistic Starscream. The sheer box office numbers of the recent film (including the highest selling DVD of the year) bear this out.

But I'm not actually reviewing a Transformers book in this review. I'll save that for later when I review Stormbringer, amongst other books. No, this is a review for Incredible Change-Bots, an OGN by Jeffrey Brown published through Top Shelf Comics. Brown is mostly known for his autobiographical comics, so this is a bit of a departure for him, albeit a welcome one. Simply drawn and hilariously worded, Incredible Change-Bots is the first truly great Transformers parody. It takes all the story beats of a Transformers series and mocks all of them wonderfully. Battle at a dam? Done. Epic duel between leaders? Done. Useless human help? Done. Even the transforming sound effect is spoofed as the Incredible Changing sound effect. Only a true Transformers fan would be able to do a parody like this, and Brown shines at hitting all the right notes.

Essentially, Incredible Change-Bots is the story of Big Rig and his Awesomebots, as well as their enemies, Shootertron and the Fantasticons. If you can't follow the characters--and a lot of them blend into each other--don't worry: there's a handy character guide at the front. They fight over the fate of Electronocybercircuitron, with an initial debate stemming from (of all things) evolution vs. intelligent design. It's more of a running gag than a true political argument; honestly, it's the most absurd thing for a bunch of giant robots to fight over. But it gets them to Earth, where Shootertron seeks out human allies in order to get more energy. The ending is reminiscent of the recent Transformers film, and I'm not entirely sure if it's a coincidence or if he added it because of the movie.

At the surface, it's funny on its own. Cliches such as the inability for evil troops to hit their targets are spoofed. (I won't ruin the capper of this gag, though.) But the most fun comes from identifying all of the Transformers jokes within. Shootertron is Megatron taken to a level of sinister that the animated character never reached. Big Rig, his counterpart, is wonderfully inept and makes mistakes that Prime would never make. Microwave as the Soundwave parody (complete with his minions Soupy and Popper) is classic. Wheeeee, the Starscream stand-in, is a great suck-up; his "Shootertron has fallen!" bit is hysterical, especially if you've seen a few episodes of the old series and know how often Starscream tried the same thing. Monkeywrench and Jimmy Jr. point out all of the ridiculous situations Spike and Sparkplug were put in. And, of course, Incredible Change-Bots brings up the question first thought up when Elita-One was introduced: robot sex.

. . . Let's move on, shall we?

The artwork is rather unique. It's certainly not the shiny, well-proportioned artwork you'd find in an IDW trade. Instead, the artwork of Incredible Change-Bots is clearly hand-drawn and hand-colored. That's not to say it's poorly done or amateurish; everything is professional, but simple in nature. The transfor--sorry, Incredible Change sequences for the characters create oddly shaped robot modes that are very distinct from anything in Transformers. Heads and arms pop out in odd places, such as the centers of windshields. The super-detailed pin-up of Big Rig in the back points out how ridiculous some of the bots look.

It's a bit hard to recommend Incredible Change-Bots to a non-Transformers fan. If you've seen the film, you probably have enough knowledge of the franchise to get most of the jokes. However, try to catch a few animated series episodes in order to really get it. In any case, Incredible Change-Bots is hilarious to a fan like me. Pick up a copy and support a sequel . . . after all, one is promised at the end.

[OGN. Contains pin-up drawings, catalogue of Jeffrey Brown's work, membership offer to the Official Incredible Change-Bots Fan Club. $15.00]

Friday Night Fights: The Pint-Sized Pugilist!

Friday, November 02, 2007

The Atom says, "Don't just stand there!"


Did anybody actually call him the Pint-Sized Pugilist? Because it's kinda catchy.

(And for a cat who's always catchy, don't forget to bet on Bahlactus.)

Review: Tales from the Bully Pulpit graphic novel (Image Comics)

Thursday, November 01, 2007

[This review comes from Doug Glassman:]

I thought it might be entertaining to do some non-superhero reviews while covering for Collected Editions. So in the next few reviews, you’ll see giant robots, pirates and ducks. Yes, ducks. But first, time travel, and one of the funniest OGNs I’ve ever read. It’s Tales from the Bully Pulpit from Image Comics by Benito Cereno, Graeme MacDonald and Ron Riley.

Visitors to scans_daily have seen scans of this book, but if you haven’t seen it… well, it’s the definition of high-concept. Essentially, Teddy Roosevelt and the ghost of Thomas Edison team up to fight Nazis on a future Mars. That seems like a lot for a 64-page OGN, but it works surprisingly well. Teddy Roosevelt is surprisingly realistic—he was very athletic and quick in real life, and putting him in a Captain Marvel Jr. outfit doesn’t seem entirely out of place. His companion, Edison, is a little anachronistic, but it’s a comedy, so I’ll let it pass. He’s certainly the sane one in the equation, and the love-hate relationship between Roosevelt and Edison drives the book when the plot gets too crazy.

The writer is certainly fond of puns, working in the term “Arean” to denote Martian allies of the Nazis and even throwing in a reference to “It’s Not Easy Being Green.” At times, the writing gets a little too silly, especially where the villain, Jorge Hitler, is concerned. He speaks in a mangled SpanGerGlish that eventually gets the point across.

MacDonald joins in the fun with some great sight gags. (Look for a mouse from Maus in one scene.) His art is surprisingly accurate when it comes to depicting real people; Teddy Roosevelt is pretty spot-on, although his figure has been increased to superhero portions. This comes to light during the battle between the army of fascism and the army of democracy. I won’t spoil this too much because it’s definitely the funniest segment of the book, but Lincoln is now one of my favorite superheroes. (And if you’ve read Invincible, you’ll know that he actually is a superhero.)

Tales is over-the-top, but it’s intentional. If you’re a fan of Action Philosophers or Five Fists of Science, you’ll love this book. Mainstream superhero fans might be a harder sell, but look at it this way. For only $7, you get a fun little book that is a throwback to dime novels and pop adventures. That is, if you can find it. Tales sold quite well and they’re working on a sequel, but I’m not sure how big the print run was. Pick it up if you get the chance, you won’t regret it. [OGN. $6.95]