J. Caleb Mozzocco, Author at Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources - Page 2 of 10
Avengers: Endless Wartime (Marvel Entertainment): Marvel’s new line of original graphic novels — note the “Marvel OGN” logo on the spine — is off to a pretty strong start with this continuity-light Warren Ellis-written, Mike McKone-drawn story of an Avengers squad facing a new form of semi-sentient weapon evolved from a generation-old attempt to marry Nazi science with Norse magic.
That’s a good conflict for an Avengers comic, as the team includes a Nazi-fighting hero and a Norse god, and, better still, both Captain America and Thor were tied to the this new weapon’s origin.
Ellis does his usual fine job of mixing current science, speculative next-level science, elements of our zeitgeist and corporate superheroes with something that feels appropriate, cool and like the writer has something to say. Additionally, he has a pretty decent handle on the characters, and does a relatively good job of singling out particular voices (this is the first time in a long time that I’ve read an Avengers comic where everyone didn’t talk like Brian Michael Bendis).
Cap, Thor, Iron Man, Wolverine, Captain Marvel, Black Widow and Hawkeye, who reflects Matt Fraction’s version, are a bit of a rag-tag group, but they seem to be assembled primarily for their military backgrounds. “Do you know, I just realized I’m the only non-soldier in the room,” Tony Stark says at one point, and Captain Marvel sneers back, “That’s right, Tony. You’re just an ex-arms manufacturer in a metal death suit.”
I think it’s hard to overestimate the value of The Sandman, the 75-issue Neil Gaiman-written series that began its life as a revival of the late-’70s Joe Simon/Jack Kirby character, and ended up as 1,600-plus page epic that was one of the all-time best gateway comics — not to mention a powerful factor in the mainstreaming of adult comics content and a then still-emerging graphic novel market.
So Gaiman returning to Dream of the Endless (and the first Dream, rather than Daniel), for the first time since 2003′s The Sandman: Endless Nights? That should be a pretty big deal, right?
For The Sandman: Overture, which debuted this week, Gaiman is paired with Promethea artist J.H. Williams III (better known these days for his run on Batwoman), colorist Dave Stewart and letterer Todd Klein, who lettered all the previous Sandman comics.
As exciting as the project is, it also feels rather dangerous for writer, reader, character and publisher. You know what they say about going home again, after all, or catching lightning in a bottle.
The artwork in Elaine M. Will‘s Look Straight Ahead, a webcomic now available in print, is uniformly excellent. Striking the perfect balance between cartooning and representational art, she’s built a comic book world that’s recognizable as our own, but as drawn by her, and then she’s filled it with realistic characters delineated in a personal style.
As accomplished as the artwork is and as well as it succeeds in all the various categories comics art can be judged by — design, storytelling, character acting — some of it seems truer than other parts, and it’s these elements that make Look Straight Ahead a truly exceptional work.
The story is a fairly straightforward one. Quiet social outcast Jeremy Knowles is having a pretty rough time at his private school: He has a few friends, and is a talented artist, but he’s regularly bullied; he’s so shy he can’t even speak to the girl of his dreams (who’s dating one of his friends), he feels alienated from his well-meaning but clueless parents and, compounding everything, he can’t sleep.
One day at school he seemingly snaps, smashing glass beakers in the lab and storming out. Then he has a vision in which he thinks God, in the form of an Eastern dragon, is communicating with him. That night, his father finds him furiously digging in the backyard, convinced that one of the bullies from school has secretly planted a bomb there to kill him.
DC Comics’ Vertigo imprint has been the subject of a lot of speculation over the past year or so, due to a variety of portents: the departure of founder and longtime executive editor Karen Berger; the end of the imprint’s longest-running title Hellblazer, with the character reclaimed by the DC Universe in Justice League Dark and Constantine; the debut at Image Comics of several comics that, not long ago, likely would’ve been pitched to Vertigo; and the launch of the offbeat Dial H, by none other than acclaimed author China Mieville, in the New 52.
There was the perception that the imprint’s branding had become confused, with books that used to fall under to the dissolved WildStorm imprint (and seem like better fits for the DC brand) appearing under the Vertigo banner (superhero comics Astro City and Tom Strong, movie adaptation Django Unchained). And then there were the low sales and cancellations.
Well, Vertigo’s still around. It launched The Wake, a limited series by American Vampire and Batman writer Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy, and the imprint has plans for a new Sandman miniseries and a Sandman spinoff. And in the last few months, it has launched enough new series to be considered a wave.
So what does that mean for the future of the imprint? I’ll be damned if I know. However, I do know it’s not the most important question in my mind. Of greatest import to me, as always, is whether the comics are any good. So let’s take a look at the the beginnings of Vertigo’s latest crop, excluding The Wake, which I think it’s safe to assume will find an audience.
What is the most basic, most fundamental function that a hero performs, one so integral it can be used as a way of defining the term hero? There are several ways to answer that question, of course, but one would be the act of saving others.
By that definition then, Batman is most certainly a hero, and not merely because of all the fictional women he’s saved from attempted muggings or all the times he’s pulled Robin out of death traps. Batman has saved real people, too, despite the fact that character isn’t himself real in one of the stricter senses of the word.
He saved Dean Trippe, and Trippe’s phenomenal autobiographical comic Something Terrible tells the story of how it happened.
At the risk of overstating things, I may have just read the single greatest book of all time, Capstone’s DC Super-Pets Character Encyclopedia, a compendium of more than 200 heroic and villainous pets, compiled mainly from the line of Art Baltazar-illustrated chapter books for young readers.
You see, here are four of my favorite things about comic books: 1) colorful characters of what has become known as the DC Universe, 2) pets and animal allies of superheroes, 3) Art Baltazar’s artwork, and 4) encyclopedias, profiles, atlases, maps and suchlike detailing the often-exhaustive trivia of a byzantine superhero universes.
In other words, this is a book that is pretty much perfect for me, despite that, at 36 years old, I’m well outside the target audience for the DC Super-Pets line of books.
I’ve read a few of those, but despite the copious amounts of Baltazar illustrations, they’re really hard to get into. They’re not comics and they’re not picture books, but illustrated prose; technically all-ages, but harder, I think, for grown-ups to get into than all-ages comics might be, as there’s no getting around the fact that an adult reader is going to feel like they’re being talked down to (and for good reason).
But this book is pretty much perfect for adult fans of Baltazar or those curious about the Super-Pets line who haven’t been able to get into those books, as it excises the worst part — the prose for kids — and boasts the best parts, the pictures and the often somewhat-insane characters starring in them (for example, there’s a book titled Swamp Thing vs. The Zombie Pets, in which Swampy and his animal neighbors in The Down Home Critter Gang come into conflict with Solomon Grundy and his gang of undead pets).
I devoured every page of the encyclopedia, and much of its contents were somewhat shocking.
Batwoman Vol. 3: World’s Finest (DC Comics): It’s difficult to talk about this comic without also discussing the announced departure of its creative team which, like several others that have worked on DC’s New 52, left amid quite public complaints of editorial interference.
As an auteur-driven book starring a relatively new character that’s barely been drawn by anyone other than artist and co-writer J.H. Williams III, the whole affair strikes me as strange, as Williams seems to be at least as big a factor in the book’s continued existence as the word “Bat” in its title. And it’s stranger still he and co-writer W. Haden Blackman are only now reaching the breaking point, as from a reader’s perspective, DC appeared to have pretty much left them alone to do their own thing; like Grant Morrison’s Batman Incorporated and the Geoff Johns-written portions of Green Lantern, this book seems set in its own universe and is sort of impossible to integrate into the New 52 if one thinks about it for too long (with “too long” being “about 45 seconds”).
Regularly cited as one of the best of DC’s current crop of comics, Batwoman is definitely the company’s best-looking, and most intricately, even baroquely designed and illustrated. As for the word half of the story equation, I found Batwoman — and this volume in particular — to be extremely strange, even weird, more than I found it to be good.
When the Crime Syndicate of Earth-3 invaded and seemingly conquered Earth-New 52 in Forever Evil #1, claiming to have killed the members of the Justice Leagues, the home-Earth villains took over DC comics, scrawling their names over the logos of their foes and initiating other evil acts like using decimal points in their issue numbers and putting the wrong stories in the wrong titles. (A Dial H epilogue and a Lobo one-shot in Justice League comics? A Batgirl story in a Batman comic?). But, most nefariously of all, the villains of DC Comics raised the price of each issue by a dollar and launched one of the biggest gimmick covers schemes in the modern history of direct market super-comics: heavy, plastic, 3D lenticular covers primed to be collected more so than read, and sparking insidious speculation, goosed my unpredictable shortages to many retailers. The monsters.
But while most attention has been focused on the covers, there are, in fact, stories beneath them, and so for the past three weeks we’ve been not judging the books by their covers, but by their contents. (Here’s Week One, Week Two and Week Three, if you missed ‘em.) As in the previous months, I’ve been ranking the books on their overall quality, on a scale of one to 10: Not Very Good, Somewhat Disobedient, Naughty, Morally Deficient, Without Scruples, Iniquitous, Wicked, Maleficent, Evil and Absolute Evil (although, as none received a perfect 10, you might want to adjust your reception of my ratings up by one).
Also, and perhaps more importantly, I’ve been noting how connected each is to the Forever Evil event that ostensibly led to this state of affairs at DC, so, if you’re only interested in these things for their narrative import rather than their creators or characters, you’ll know which are worth your attention. So let’s take one last wallow in the evil of (almost) every issue of this week’s Villains Month, and hope for the swift and triumphant return of our heroes starting next month.
I read all 13 of the Villains Month issues released this week by DC Comics, and in so doing I saw 89 people killed (Kryptonians and Thanagarians included) in all manner of ways. I saw people shot to death with laser guns, with regular old bullet guns, with eye-beams, with an arrow and even with an umbrella. I saw people stabbed, bludgeoned, impaled, decapitated, blown up, pushed off buildings, flash-frozen and shattered. I saw someone’s neck snapped, someone’s life-force magically drained, people sliced in half with psionic energy, and others torn to pieces by claws.
I saw a bestial woman eat the still-beating hearts of her victims.
But man, the rabbit that Arcane tore in half? That’s the image that sticks with me from this week’s Villains Week offerings. Thank God they didn’t put that on the cover; imagine that arc of rabbit innards being flung your way in lenticular 3D!
DC Comics kicked off its Villains Month last week, as the evil opposites of the Justice League invaded the DC Universe, seemingly disposing of all the heroes and taking over the world.
Likewise, the villains have been taking over DC’s New 52 line of comic books, with the MIA heroes finding the covers of their books occupied by bad guys. Those are, of course, the collectible and somewhat-controversial (among retailers) 3D lenticular covers.
But as the case with books, we shouldn’t judge a comic by its cover, so let’s continue reviewing our way through the contents of the Villains Month issues. As with last week’s batch, I’m rating each book on a 10-point scale of how evil it is, with “Not Very Good” being the worst and “Absolute Evil” the best, and noting its connectivity to the Forever Evil crossover event that sparked the promotion in the first place.
If you’ve been keeping up with the events in the DC Universe, then you know things are looking particularly grim for the good guys.
At the conclusion of “Trinity War,” the Justice Leagues faced an invasion from the Crime Syndicate of Earth-3 — “The birthplace of all evil,” as one character called it — evil counterparts of the Justice League. In the first issue of Forever Evil, these villains claimed to have killed all of the Justice Leaguers, they freed all the supervillains from all the super-prisons and organized them into an army called The Secret Society, they did some awful things to Nightwing and then even moved the moon to permanently block out the sun.
To mark the occasion of evil temporarily winning (again), DC declared September Villains Month, and is interrupting the ongoing adventures of its heroes with special “.1″ issues starring various villains. Each of these was to bear a fancy plastic 3D cover that jacked the price up a buck and ultimately created shortages, an artificial collectors/speculators market and irritated a whole bunch of retailers, many of whom were already pretty irritated by having to figure out how to order something like, say, Justice League #23.3: Dial E, which fused one of the publisher’s best selling comics with one of its worst.
We — and by that I mean you and I, for the course of this post — aren’t going to concern ourselves with that aspect of the books, however. Instead, let’s look under those covers, whether they’re the fancy plastic 3D ones or the regular, cheaper “standard edition” ones and concern ourselves with the quality of the comics concealed behind the covers.
Happy Marriage?! Vol. 1 (Viz Media): Maki Enjoji’s Josei rom-com dispenses with the suspense of the typical will-they, won’t-they business, marrying off her heroine and the handsome, mysterious, prickly bachelor in the first chapter. Here, the couple starts off married, and then must get to know one another and fall in love.
Our heroine is Chiwa Takanashi, who works in an office by day and a hostess in a club by night, in an ultimately hopeless attempt to earn enough to get her ridiculous-with-money father out of his astronomical debt. She finds an unlikely way out of that situation when company president Hokuto Mamiya suddenly proposes marriage. It turns out the chairman of the board (and Hokuto’s grandfather) owes a debt of kindness to Chiwa’s family, and would only agree to let Hokuto have full control of the company if he marries Chiwa.
And that’s the set-up. The middle-class Chiwa suddenly finds herself married to one of the most eligible bachelors in Japan, and in the difficult situation of having to keep the marriage secret from almost everyone (something about the business advantage of a bachelor image, I think), and trying to make the most of a loveless relationship — although each chapter makes it more and more clear it won’t be loveless for too long.
When DC Comics published the final issue of Geoff Johns’ eight-year, 150-ish issue run on the Green Lantern character in May, it came in a massive package: An 80-page, $7.99 comic book with a spine, its 66-page story by Johns and his many artistic collaborators complemented by eight pages or so of “Congratulations, Geoff Johns!” from his bosses, his colleagues, his collaborators, his admirers, his family members, a few celebrities and a few “celebrities.”
When DC published the final issue of Grant Morrison’s seven-year run on the Batman character this July, it was simply a regular, $2.99, 24-page issue of Batman Incorporated, the second ongoing monthly created specifically for Morrison to tell his Batman story.
The actual celebration and send-off of Morrison’s tenure on the character— or at least the last few years of it – came out this week, and, in a move that seems appropriately off-beat, Morrison himself had next to nothing to do with Batman Incorporated Special #1, a series of short stories featuring Morrison creations and resurrections of long-retired characters by various creators, only one of whom actually worked with the writer during any of those seven years’ worth of comics.
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Usually when we use the term “comic book science” around, it’s to refer to the close-enough-for-fantasy hand-waving that goes into kinda-sorta explaining things like yellow sun radiation allowing a man to fly, or alternate dimensions created by a mad doctor’s time-travel machine in our favorite superhero comics.
There is, of course, the other kind of comic book science, too — real science that appears in comic books about science. Comics like these two very different, new-ish releases that tackle some of the most difficult subjects ever put in panels: Margreet de Heer’s Science: A Discovery in Comics and Darryl Cunnningham’s How To Fake a Moon Landing: Exposing The Myths of Science Denial.
Of the two, De Heer’s is perhaps the more ambitious, attempting as it does to tell the entire history of science, from the murky dawn of mankind up until where quantum theory stood at the point of publication. All in just 180 pages!
And she manages to get it all in!
How? Well, mainly through abbreviation. While various major scientists (Sir Isaac Newton, Leonardo Da Vinci, Charles Darwin, etc) get little, multi-page stories, many more simply get an image, a label naming them and a dialogue bubble saying, “I was the founder of Optometry!” or whatever.
Since 2011, Drawn and Quarterly has published three major Shigeru Mizuki books. The first was Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths, a semi-autobiographical comic about Japanese soldiers in a bizarre, existential crisis at the end of World War II, when it was pretty clear they were defeated: continue to fight to the death anyway, or be put to death by their own leaders. The second was NonNonBa, a childhood memoir about the artist’s relationship with his grandmother, and the interest in the yokai of Japanese folklore that became central to the artist’s long life of work.
The third and latest is Kitaro, a 400-page collection of 1967-1969 stories from Mizuki’s Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro manga. Of the three, it’s the book that is definitely the least interesting to talk about, and perhaps has the least literary value, being a more straightforward genre work focused more on entertainment than wrestling with the big issues of national identity that the two previous releases.
It;s also the most fun and easy to read, however, and it bears an important, even foundational, place in the story of Mizuki’s life’s work: This is his signature work, the reason Mizuki is so famous, so beloved and so influential.
And he is influential. Like Osamu Tezuka in manga and Jack Kirby in American superhero comics, even newer or younger readers who might never have heard of those men or never read a single one of their works nevertheless unknowingly enjoy works by artists they influenced. In his introduction to the collection, Matt Alt not only situates Mizuki with a place of honor in the centuries-long history of yokai study and celebration, he also partially credits Mizuki’s comics with paving the way for Pokemon.