Category: Oni

Graphic Spotlight: Atomic Blonde

Blondes do have more fun…guns help, too.

Oni Press re-releases a gem of an espionage thriller, Atomic Blonde, that you need to stop and gawk at for a few minutes this week. Yeah, that’s Charlize Theron on the cover, there’s a new movie coming out that’s got a badass trailer for it. But that’s all window dressing to get your eyes to stop on this title and appreciate what’s before you. If you’re a crime and spy genre enthusiast like me then you need to pay bloody attention.

It’s November 1989. The Berlin Wall is getting ready to fall. MI6 spy Lorraine Broughton has been sent to Berlin to investigate the death of another agent and track down a list that would reveal the names of every operative working there. Lorraine’s returned from the formerly titled coldest city of the Cold War to tell her tale and what she has to say is shocking.

Double crosses, assassinations gone wrong, bodies popping up where they shouldn’t be and enough twists to knot you into a pretzel layer this spy thriller. If you’re looking for a straight up adrenaline rush that’ll make James Bond blush and Jason Bourne want to forget everything all over again, congrats because this is the read you’ve been wanting. It’s not about reinventing the wheel of what makes a great spy thriller, sometimes it’s a treat to experience an excellent execution of the basics, with some twists of course. Why are you still reading this? Don’t you see Charlize Theron’s on the cover? Pick it up or face the wrath of Furiosa!

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What I dug in 2014 finale: Creator Owned Comics

This is me saving the best for last. While both Marvel and DC had solid years creatively (and sales wise I imagine, but I don’t have those numbers at my hands), the number of quality creator owned comics that dropped this past year was astonishing. Today will be the day I focus on those quality books, which is why I’ve titled this article as such.

comics-the-wicked-and-the-divine-2-coverImage Comics had arguably it’s bet year to date in 2014. Aside from “older” on-goings like The Walking Dead, Saga, Invincible, Umbral, Rat Queens, and Sex Criminals (as well as the end of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips Fatale), we saw the debut of  a number of excellent new comics. Such books like the often discussed The Wicked + The Divine by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie and Matthew Wilson, Fuse ( Antony Johnston, Justin Greenwood) Shutter ( Joe Keatinge, Leila Del Duca, Owen Gieni, Ed Brisson), Bitch Planet ( Kelly Sue Deconnick, Valentine Del Landro) among a dozen others all debuted within the last 12 months, which is impressive to say the least. Image continues to be the premiere comics company for creator owned books, luring some of the top creators from Marvel and DC (see Scott Snyder, Mark Millar, Rick Remender) to put out some of their best work of their careers without having to use corporate owned IPs. Image put out some of my favorite comics of the past year, all without having to resort to crossovers and $5 gimmick books.

boombox_lumberjanes_002_aBut Image wasn’t the only comic company to have a good year with creator owned comics. BOOM Studios produced some top notched horror comics with James Tylion IV with The Woods and Memetic. Their BOOM BOX! imprint also had the debut of the excellent Lumberjanes comics, arguably one of the best all ages comics on the stands The book by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Brooke Allen and Maarta Laiho was originally announced as a 8 issue mini series, but it’s well deserved popularity got it bumped up to an on-going and is constantly delightful and visually stunning. Oni Press published Charles Soule & Alberto Jimenez Alburquerque’s sci-fi drama Letter 44, a book that deserves more hype and discussion, and the books Charles Bunn’s put out through the company has been nothing short of great.  And while not exactly creator owned, Valiant Comics continues to impress, with some best under the radar super hero/action books being put out on a monthly basis.

51kMcl9F-rL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_And finally, two of 2014’s biggest releases, creator owned or otherwise, weren’t even from traditional comics publishers. Seconds, by Scott Pilgrim‘s Bryan Lee O Malley, Through the Woods by Emily Carroll saw print this year, and both are must reads in my opinion. While Seconds may  not be made into a movie by Edgar Wright any time soon, it’s a phenomenal comic that feels like a Miyazaki movie meant for the Scott Pilgrim crowd. Through the Woods is by far the creepiest comic I’ve read in years, as Emily Carroll delivers some genuine terror with her work, which blends horror with folk tales. I can’t recommend either enough.

2014 was a terrific year for comic. There may have been some dumb stuff that went down with some professionals and publishers, but the amount of good that came from the industry easily triumphs the bad. I’m eager to see what 2015 offers, what with us being a few short days from Image Expo, the release of Squirrel Girl, and whatever DC has up their sleeves once the company is united in California.

 

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Oni Press Double Review Feature: Megagogo & Down! Set! Fight!

I’ve been reading a LOT of Marvel and Image books as of late, which comes to the surprise of no one who reads this column on the reg. For good reasons mind you, as both publishers have been doing a great job of putting out books that appeal to me. But even I need a little change of pace every now and then, and Oni Press is usually the publisher that scratches that itch .

I’m going to focus on a pair of recently released graphic novels by some relatively new creators, both published by the fine folks over at Oni. Oni Press has released a number of titles I’ve really enjoyed over the years, such as Scott Pilgrim, Wasteland, Super Pro KO! and the Sixth Gun, just to name a few. I really dug both these books, and hopefully you will too. If not, no worries, I’ll be talking about like 5 new Marvel books come the weekend.

MegaGoGo-V1-1Megagogo by Wook Jin Clark

Recently, I found myself interested in seeing what was up with the Power Rangers, mostly due to various Twitter babble. It’s probably been close to 15 years, if not longer, since I’ve cared about the franchise in an non-Figuarts context. And since most of the various series is available on Netflix, I thought I’d give one of the newer seasons a shot.

SPOILER: I did not like it.

So I gave up on MMPR. Several days later Comics Alliance ran a preview for Megagogo, which was Super-Sentai-esque, only a little more mature, for a lack of a better word. There’s shades of Voltron, Kamen Rider and Pacific Rim in there as well, not nothing that could be considered homage or parody. It was very much WHAT I was looking for out of my Power Rangers-fueled nostalgia journey, so I gladly dropped the $20 it retailed for.

MegaGoGo-V1-11For those not familiar with the book, Megagogo pits a bunch of Giant Robot piloting heroes against monsters and the KKK. Most of this first volume sets up the world (set in  Atlanta, GA), illustrated beautifully by Wook Jin Clark. Clark’s art reminds me a lot of Jeff Smith‘s post-Bone work (Shazam: The Monster Society of Evil, Rasl), with dash of manga flair, with the expert use of grey-scale and black and white. The characters faces are very expressive, which helps sell the dialogue a ton . I also took great delightful in Clark’s use of sound effect, because I’m the type of dude who appreciates a giant OH SNAP written in the background while a Giant Mecha Robot pummels as Kaiju.

Speaking of the ultra-violence, the fight scenes in Megagogo are super fun. Without spoiling things, the final battle in the book is a must-read, and is probably one of the most unique fight scenes to grace comics in some time.

While the narrative is nothing deep, Megagogo is a super fun read, and well worth your time if you’re into books with giant robots punching hella racists. And if you’re not, yo, what’s up with that?

oni-press-down-set-fight-soft-cover-1Down! Set! Fight! by Chad Bowers, Chris Sims Scott Kowalchuk and Josh Krach

As far as Comic Journalists go, I’m a fan of Chris Sims. He’s down a ton of fun stuff for Comics Alliance over the years (as well as Wired, Cracked, With Leather and a few other places), and I’ve had a fun timing chatting with him at Heroescon in the past. And I’m digging what he and Chad Bowers are doing with Erica Henderson are doing with Subatomic Party Girls  (Monkey Brain), so this book wasn’t the hardest sell for me. I mean, it’s not mecha vs racism, butttttt an disgraced ex-football player forced to do combat with a legion of sports mascots is pretty great as well.

 

What did end up taking me by surprise is how good Scott Kowalchuk’s art is. There’s a Chris Samnee vibe to it, with hints of Jazzy John Romita Sr. His colors are pretty great too, capturing the look and feel of the Southern setting perfectly.

2-682x1024In case you somehow skipped the 2nd paragraph, this book definitelu delivers. It feels like some sort of Black Dynamite/Batman ’66 mash-up, with some Looney Tunes level violence. There are a ton of action in this book, all well “choreographed”, and at times, hilarious. Going back to the Looney Tunes comparison, it’s more more pianos-falling-on-coyotes, then say Invincible. And much like Megagogo and Scott Pilgrim before them, there’s some extremely clever uses of sound effects.

Overall, neither of these books are reinventing the wheel, which they never claim to be doing to begin with. But what they are is good looking and fun reads. Which is fine, because I love fun, and you should too. At $20 a pop, both of these books deserve a spot on your book shelves. Big ups to the creators and Oni Press for continuing to fill the racks with something different.

 

-Chris Troy can be found screaming about True Detective on all sorts of social media thiniges @theanarchris

 

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Step your game up comic cons- Chris Troy vs. PAX East 2013

Chances are you’re going to be reading/hearing a lot about PAX East over the new few days. Not surprising, given the fact that the show has surpassed the original PAX (aka PAX Prime) in Seattle, and has become the biggest gaming event on the east coast (assuming we don’t count New York Comic Con, which I don’t). And there wasn’t any lack of news coming out of the show, which has been all over your Joystiqs, Kotakus, IGNs and what have you not. Ditto for PAX cosplayers photos. And honestly, you don’t want to hear about what I had for lunch each day. So instead, I’ll tell you what it was like to attend the show as an attendee, and where Comic Conventions need to improve.

The PAXes are slowly becoming like SDCC in terms of selling out. PAX Prime 2012 sold out in 24 hours, and East 2013 sold out of 3 days badges within 48. You’ll need to book a hotel within an hour of them going live, or you’re staying a mile away. Also not cheap. If y You want to play one of the triple A titles in the Expo floor , you’re spending at least 2-3 hours in line. Also expect to pay out of the ass for food in the BCEC (Boston Convention and Exhibition Center), although you can snag a under cooked meal for about $10. Speaking of being sick, “PAX Pox” is definitely an annual thing. I’m fighting a scratchy throat right now, and there’s all sorts of fun horror stories being told on the PAX forums. These are staples for most conventions though, as putting on a show this large costs a ton of money. And not every convention center has a Bojangles in it,  something I’ve only experienced at Heroesocon.

So what sets PAX apart from your typical trade,  comics and ::: shudders ::: anime conventions? Several things, but most importantly the duo of Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins (not to mention their manager of sorts Robert Khoo). Unlike the show runners of other convention, Mike and Jerry are highly sought out by attendees, almost achieving cult like status amongst the Penny Arcade faithful. Despite their fame and popularity, the duo can be seen walking around the show without any security, and if their not busy, are willing to have a quick conversation with you and sign something (or trade a pin with you, the new 2013 PAX hotness). As someone who’s met them several times over the years, Mike and Jerry are a delight.  Their various Q&A panels, not to mention the hilarious live “Draw a Strip” panel, usually have hundreds in attendance, and give their fans a candid look at how the duo operate. Expect profanity by the way, especially when each show has their own swear word of choice. It’s proof of the strength of the brand…well that and how quick the show exclusive merchandise sold out before mid-day Saturday.

Another thing that separates PAX from the rest is the vibe of the show is the type of people in charge. With 60,000+ attendees, things could get out of hand real quick with the wrong type of staff (see NYCC year 1), but PAX is full of Enforcers, the well-trained volunteers of the show. Armed with walkie-talkies and tablets, the Enforcers do various takes- count the number of people on lines, entertain attendees on said line, answer your questions, and perform your basic conventions volunteers tasks. There’s a reason these Enforcers are sought-after positions, and why they get praised all throughout the show. And if you’re a exhibitor, they’ll do their best to make sure you get some swag that you can leave the booth for to get, and there’s a free dinner with drinks one night during the show.

Also the lack of “Booth Babes” and  pro wrestlers/washed-up actors is nice.

The show floor itself is massive, but well spaced out, so while there’s some crowding, it’s never as bad as SDCC or NYCC. You have you’re big publishers in the front of the show floor, and the freeplay table top gaming areas in the back, with smaller publishers, small shops,  and PC gaming areas in the middle. Also a closed-off paintball firing range and bouncy joust castle, the later where I was hit in the crotch while jousting.And there is some comics love at the show. Udon AND Oni have booths at the show!

In terms of programming, there’s a lot of discussion of video games of course, but also stuff on nerd culture, gender and sex equality, and dealing with mental issues. It’s genuinely interesting stuff, and beats say DC trying to sell a planted mark on “Before Watchmen”.

Cosplay, while not as big as some large shows, is also given a lot more love at these shows. As someone who’s been attending comic conventions for over a decade, there’s usually a cosplay contest, and maybe Marvel will have a photo-op (and only Marvel. It’s 2013 DC get it together). At PAX, cosplaying can reap some interesting rewards -swag, the ability to jump lines for screenings and panels, invites to closed off parties, as well as said contests. Granted there’s usually some jerkass “journalist” who says something dumb to a costumers, there’s more love for the cosplayer than hate. Big ups to the likes of Riot, Bioware, Square Enix and 2K for given these crafty folks some love.

Finally, arguably the biggest difference between PAX and other conventions is the general attitude of the attendees. While there’s some jerks in the crowd, there’s also those who far more charitable, be it donating to the Child’s Play charity via buying cookies or attending a bar crawl (The Cookie Brigade and Pokemon Pub Crawl respectively).  And the general crowd is very laid back-I’ve talked to several people on the various lines I waited on and they were good people.

I’m not trying to say PAX is better than your comics convention of choice. But given how much drama  surrounds the big shows, and how much of a HYPE show E3 has become, PAX is definitely something ANYONE with an increase in gaming should try attending at least once.

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TRY SOMETHING NEW Chapter 13: To Destroy An Entire Planet!

I am in Seattle for Emerald City Comic Con as I write this. ECCC is the beginning of the 9 months the comics industry affectionately refers to as “Con Season.” 9 month seasons. Not so bright. Comics Industry- ok at making comics, less ok at everything else. Anyway, I flew in on the Forbidden Planet jet on Thursday night. Not the nicest private jet I have ever been on but that’s alright. I was just happy the doors closed all the way and the heat worked.

So after 4 days of intensive comics immersion in the form of announcements, chatting, gossip, snooping, and spying, what have I found out for you all? Comics people really like donuts and beer. I tried to find out other stuff but that’s all anyone really talks about. There was some cool stuff though. I saw a guy cosplay as Leeloo Multipass and that made me question my sexuality and vomit in my mouth at the same time. I saw a a bar fight where one man choked another man for 2 minutes and then both walked away like nothing happened. James Robinson called me Patrick for no discernible reason. I found out if you put Adventure Time on stuff you can probably take Scrooge McDuck style money baths. Someone who clearly doesn’t have parents or friends thought it was a good idea to cosplay as Geordi LaForge in blackface. I guess maybe some of the comic writers and artists are doing new books or redoing old books or something. I wasn’t paying attention to that. I am pretty sure there are comics planned through at least June of this year. After that, who knows?

But let’s talk about this week. Since I’ve been around a ton of comics all weekend and I’ve decided I really like ’em I am going to TRY SOMETHING NEW. In an attempt to trick you into buying more stuff and save me the effort of thinking up more jokes, we are going to do this rapid fire style. I am going to call out some books than usual that are good, write a sentence or two, and you are going to buy them. Simple and elegant. GO!

REPTILE MUSEUM #1 & #2. Only issue #2 of Reptile Museum just came out, but consulting my trusty comput-o-tron tells me that it is statistically impossible that you read issue #1 so I will review both right now. Published by Ray Ray Books which, for all I know, is either a dude in his parents basement or a division of Newscorp, Reptile Museum is what we call an indie, mini, or self-published comic. This is annoying because technically everything but Marvel and DC are “indie” so that word is meaningless. Sometimes minis are huge so that word is meaningless. And like I said before, I have no idea if Cody Pickrodt published this or Rupert Murdoch, so self-published is a difficult label to use. Either way, Reptile Museum is great. A clever post apocalyptic story that answers questions and creates them at an equal rate. Two issues in and I have no real grasp of the world at all and I love that. A unique dystopian tale, Reptile Museum spends much more time on it’s characters than it does explaining it’s world. We follow as a character reenters the folds of a mysterious organization and shows himself to be a true badass. That’s really it. But it’s great. This is a huge story scaled down and made small and personal. Mysterious and exciting, this book is well worth your support. Buy it now because you may not easily get another chance.

ALL-STAR WESTERN vol.2- WAR OF LORDS AND OWLS. DC’s most consistently great book is All-Star Western. Jonah Hex is a brilliant character, Palmiotti & Gray handle him in a way that makes it almost impossible not to love and loathe him. Someone at editorial decided to make a book that takes place in the 1880’s cross over with Batman and it isn’t horrible and stupid, it’s actually quite fun. The art is great. It’s one of 3 westerns on store shelves. Go buy it.

SLEEPER Omnibus. Ed Brubaker does superhero crime noir comics. A deep cover superhero begins to lose his identity. Do you like stuff like The Departed, Infernal Affairs, or Donnie Brasco? Well this is better. $75 gets you 2 volumes of Sleeper, the Point Blank prequel, and a ton of bonus stuff. There isn’t much more that I can say other than fans of crime, superhero, great writing, or beautiful art must own these books.

Grant Morrison writes 50% crazy nonsense that is almost impenetrable. Then he writes 50% next level brilliance that is untouchable, fun and smart. Sean Murphy is one of the best artists in comics today. They teemed up on JOE THE BARBARIAN to tell the story of a little boy getting lost in his own fantastical mind. It is the best thing either of them has done in many years. These are the best guys in the business doing their best work. Buy the paperback version out this week and lock yourself in a room so you can read though it a few times.

I don’t care about the Rocketeer. Jennifer Connelly isn’t in the comics so 12 year old me doesn’t make adult me buy them. But then Mark Waid goes and does his thing of taking old things, getting rid of the excess, and making them fun again. Then Chris Samnee comes in and does his thing of making comics that are so pretty they make everything else seem like ugly, busy, squiggles. Both men make ROCKETEER: CARGO OF DOOM a must own book for fans of pulp stuff or inventive ways to make action heroes feel fresh and familiar at the same time.

I just want to run the copy for LOST VEGAS #1 because either they have my sense of humor exactly and the notes to the editor are brilliantly funny OR someone really didn’t do their job. Either way Jim McCann and Janet Lee made RETURN OF THE DAPPER MEN which is probably the most brilliant kids book in recent memory. Lost Vegas isn’t a kids book but it looks like it might be as brilliant. So, without further ado, the weird solicitation text for LOST VEGAS #1- The EISNER AWARD-WINNING team of JIM McCANN?& JANET LEE reunite to create a universe filled with intrigue as one gambler-turned-slave has 24 hours to go all in and pull off the greatest heist the universe has seen. (in this next section, can it be like a brochure, like a different font? If not, italics is cool) WELCOME TO LOST VEGAS! Aboard this luxurious casino-filled traveling space-station you will find the highest stakes games from every corner of every planet, unheard-of winnings, and the greatest attractions anywhere!* (Can the below section be a smaller font size?)*the fine print- those who bet it all and lose must work it off as indentured servants to the casino. Escape is not possible. No one is exempt from these rules.

Joe Casey is a great writer. He can do almost anything with style, heart, and humor. None of that matters because his new Image series is called SEX. He wins. SEX #1 is on shelves now. Buying any other comic instead of SEX makes you look stupid.

Cullen Bunn may be getting famous for his work over at Marvel but if there were any justice in the world he would already have been famous for his brilliant western series SIXTH GUN. He returns with a new series called HELHEIM launching this week. Vikings, the undead, gods, and monsters come together in what may be the most fun book of the year. I was lucky enough to see Joëlle Jones art for HELHEIM #1 this weekend and it is quite clear that Ms. Jones has just launched herself into the top tier of comic artists working today. With an art style that falls somewhere between Luther Strode‘s Tradd Moore and B.P.R.D.’s Tyler Crook but feels completely fresh at the same time, this book is painfully beautiful, which is what you want when you are dealing with swordsfights and beheadings.

I seem to do it every week so here I go to do it again. ARCHER & ARMSTRONG Vol 1 MICHAELANGELO CODE is out now. The Valiant relaunch books are great. Archer & Armstrong is buddy cop stuff done pitch perfect. A “struggling with his faith” teenager and a perpetual screw-up immortal are forced to work together to save the world from a problem that is both somewhat their doing. This isn’t life changing stuff, but it is the kind of comic you might fall in love with. This is super hero stuff that feels fresh. This trade is $9.99. If you read superhero books and someone as smart as me tells you that some of the best new ones are only $9.99 for volume #1 you really should buy it. Valiant are leaving cash on the table in order to offer books like this at “TRY ME!” prices. They believe in their books that much, and that should be enough for you.

OK, I wrote the last 2 paragraphs while snoring. I am going to go to sleep and regret not cosplaying as Spoonman or Niles Crane.

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TRY SOMETHING NEW Chapter 10: To The Empire’s Ultimate Weapon!

Sometimes people in positions of power royally #@$% things up. I’ve never had the amazing opportunity to do this before, but this new year has been all about new experiences for me. After 9 brutal weeks of spending 20 minutes a week writing semi-nonsense about new comics in this column I think we can all agree I now wield a remarkably frightening amount of power in this world. And what did I do with my power? With great power comes human trafficking. I offered up Forbidden Planet’s poor basement dweller/demerit collector Ben to you all like he was some sort of man-shaped cookie… Which he sort of is. Poor, sweet Ben. 9 “lucky” contest winners got to take Ben on a date this past week. Poor, sweet, gentle Ben. And what did you, the loyal readers of TRY SOMETHING NEW, do? I legally can’t go into all the details but suffice it to say that Ben will never be the same. Good job readers. My power and your depravity royally #@$% this up. No more contests for at least 2 weeks. Poor, sweet, gentle, exsanguinated Ben needs to rest and regenerate around 4 pints of blood… and an eye. How long does that take?

These double digit columns are rough. Now I’m onto my second apology/retraction of the week. Last week I suggested you pick up Mr. Diggle & Mr. Jock‘s Snapshot #1 from Image. I just wrote “Mr. Jock.” Huh. Anyway, I pointed out that is was a newly colored update of the UK version. Well if you bought the book you might have noticed that the colors they used are both the color black and the color white. There aren’t even ink washes. And if you didn’t buy the book, what the hell? Buy the stuff I recommend. C’mon. I went back and edited that part out of last weeks blog post because this is the 21st century and information is supposed to be fluid and temporary. But for those of you who read the newsletter, you Guttenberg-ites, you are all stuck with what we used to refer to as “mistakes” but what we now refer to as “artifacts of non verified information.” I would feel bad for lying to all of you print readers but in a way I feel like it’s social Darwinism. You get bad information, it slows you down, and a lion eats you. The comic reading herd begins to move faster and make better choices. Malthus smiles from his grave. Sucks to be you. So anyway, yeah I sort of $#!% the bed on that one. You see I don’t get sent many preview versions of books (You hear that marketing/pr folks? Sort your stuff out.) so I go off what I can. What I saw was the black & white stuff and I was told the great colorist Lee Loughridge was going to be adding more colors beyond black & white. Mr. Loughridge is a great colorist and I met him at a party once and we talked about hardcore bands for 5 minutes so he’s basically the coolest guy working in comics right now. Either way, he didn’t color the book. Don’t know what happened. Like most reputable news outlets I get my news from various disreputable news outlets. They said it would be colored. It wasn’t. So there you have it. Either way the book is really good and worth your time. Stop being such a prude and read black & white comics. It’s better for your eyes. (No. It probably isn’t.)

Atomic Robo TP VOL 07 Flying She-Devils of the Pacific

Onto the parade of new books. When Mike Mignola created Hellboy in 19XX (too lazy to google that) there was a weird byproduct that I don’t think anyone could have predicted. The “monster/freak as adventurer/government agent” genre is certainly weirdly specific and probably only exists in western comics. You got the Hellboy spinoff monster cops book B.P.R.D., and new series like Yeti cop book Proof, monster cop book Frankenstein: Agent Of S.H.A.D.E., other Yeti cop book Footprints, and robot adventurer (cop) book Atomic Robo. The weird thing is that all of these books are pretty good. It is a premise that lends itself well to big exciting stories. Personally I have a real soft spot for Atomic Robo and was really glad to see ATOMIC ROBO vol 7.: ATOMIC ROBO AND THE FLYING SHE-DEVILS OF THE SOUTH PACIFIC out this week. Atomic Robo manages to differentiate itself from the crowd by maintaining a serious amount of fun at all times. If Hollywood people were smarter Atomic Robo would be a successful film or cartoon franchise already. (Do they make cartoons in Hollywood?) Equal parts Hellboy and Indiana Jones, Atomic Robo is one of the few ongoing (pretty much) all ages books of any real worth and is a real treasure. Before you pass over the book because it is kid friendly let me remind you that you are reading the newsletter/blog of a comic shop. You are, by definition, at least 60% manchild or womanchild depending on your genitals. Stop being pretentious and read something fun.

You remember 2007? I don’t really. I looked online and it seems almost nothing really happened that year. Some Marvel character probably died. The Loch Ness monster was caught. George Clinton was president. That Battles record that came out was really good. I discovered basketball shorts. 7/11 perfected making “chicken” nuggets out of Loch Ness Monster meat. The U.S. became the first country to use giant robots in actual combat. I meant to see Michael Clayton. Forbidden Planet’s Executive Director of Web Development, Halal food, & Mini-Comics, Tyler, was born. I had my first milkshake with pieces of cake in it and I refused to believe it was as gross as it actually is. Crazy all the stuff you can find out on the internet, huh? All of that stuff was ok but the one really interesting thing the whole year was that Vasilis Lolos released his super weirdo comic Last Call. Did you miss it? Well it’s about… I don’t really know what it’s about. Some dudes get on a train that is magical or demonic or metaphorical. Not sure. Then lots of weird stuff happens. Well now it’s 2013. Cake shakes ARE gross, basketball shorts are out in favor of smart ties and v-neck sweaters, I probably still won’t watch Michael Clayton, and Tyler is 5 years old and makes more money than me. Also, Mr. Lolos has released LAST CALL vol. 2. There is a lot of killing, some playing with relativity, and lots of “train as metaphor for _____”. In short, the book is pretty awesome. Another of the up and comers making western comics with strong Manga influence, LAST CALL vol. 2 feels like the freaky offspring of Scott Pilgrim, Prophet, and Orc Stain. If you have been digging the work of people like Giannis Milogiannis (some folks just have dope names), James Harren, Brandon Graham, or James Stokoe, this book should be a no-brainer for you. Remember; if you just read vol. 2 and don’t bother to track down vol. 1 first you haven’t earned your sense of confusion.

Powers Bureau #1

Let’s talk about Powers for a minute. Michael Avon Oeming draws it. It looks like he puts more thought into each panel than most cartoonists put into their careers. That’s cool. Good look, Mike. But I am, in some shameful misuse of the word, a writer. I like words. Words are sexy to me. Words are the things I use to both mock and lie to the people around me, and that gives me most of the joy I get in this world. People who use words well are better than people who don’t in my world. Now let’s talk about Brian Michael Bendis. But let’s talk about him via me. I had a shameful period in my life where I didn’t care about comics more than I care about everything else. I was into other stuff and comics just weren’t doing it for me. The thrill had faded years ago, like the shine on so many foil covers. Artists turned writers had abused me and left me bitter and broken. If I did hard drugs this would be my opium years. I was aimless, vacant, distant bordering on ethereal, and almost always nodding off in the back of that cockfighting place on Mott Street. Then someone came to me and saved me. They handed me POWERS vol. 1: WHO KILLED RETRO GIRL? It was an epiphany. It was a chance to see a world I once loved through virgin eyes again. It would have been cool for the sake of this story if the person who handed me that book was Brian Michael Bendis himself, but it wasn’t. I don’t know him. He probably doesn’t hang out at cockfights (“probably” is a strong word.). It was a creepy Gollum-like man in a comic shop that shall not be named who gave me the book. Anyway, I read it and I felt something. Brian Michael Bendis writes dialogue not like the way people talk, he writes it better. It’s idealized dialogue. It’s conversation, perfected. I can’t explain how important his dialogue and the way it forms his characters is to me. In my love of writing I have stopped and obsessed on folks like David Mamet, Elmore Leonard, Quentin Tarantino, Aaron Sorkin, and Whit Stillman for periods of my life. But here is where I say the crazy thing that gets me hate mail. None of them do for me what Bendis does. Bendis made me realize that comics are supposed to be better than all the other mediums. It is the best of all the worlds.

The Powers premise, police procedural in a superhero world, is so simple yet so perfect. This is the chocolate and peanut butter of comics. And the things Bendis does within the book, they were a revelation at the time and can still give you a jolt if you let them; the talking head panels, the multiple interwoven arcs, the focus on the relationships of characters, and lets not forgot the monkey sex issue (google it). All of this was eye opening for me (and most of the comics industry it would seem). The man brought me out of my smoky backroom cockfighting ring and into the less smoky but equally sketchy comic shop once again. Powers is my moment of clarity. I knew I wanted to give myself wholly to comics after I read it and I knew I would follow Mr. Bendis until the day he writes his final panel description. Sadly, Powers has come to an end. And like Lazarus, frozen yogurt shops in New York, and noisy indie rock, Powers has returned from the dead better than ever. POWERS BUREAU #1 comes out on Wednesday. I would say buy it but I might buy all of them and give them out in Port Authority to lost souls and wayward Aaron Sorkin fans. They have nothing left anymore.

Uncanny X-Men #1 Now

Hey, did you read that last paragraph? Did you like it? Don’t care. This awkward obsessing train rolls on. So… Brian Michael Bendis. I don’t expect all people to like his work. I get that he can be polarizing. He occasionally sacrifices old characterization continuity to serve story and people like their weird old continuity baggage. He pushed the medium forward and there always have to be people who push back. Sometimes his female characters are treated like second class citizens… (I don’t have a funny quip for that one. It’s a bummer.) He is good and most people don’t like good things. I get all that. But for me this new Bendis era of X-Men is about as exciting as comics gets. The X-Men were my childhood obsession, and smart comics are my adult obsession. This week childhood me and adult me meet up for a very excited 22 pages as Brian Michael Bendis begins writing UNCANNY X-MEN #1. His All New X-Men is the standout book of the very excellent Marvel Now! relaunch. Now his “X-Men on the run” team gets their own book, harkening back to the mutants as outlaws origins of the characters. The recent evolution of Cyclops, from preppy milquetoast, to his “heavy is the head that wears the crown” version, to his current radicalization, is one of the best things either of the Big 2 has done with one of their characters ever. This is actual growth and development. This is art. It is sad, hard to read sometimes, and compelling as hell. My guess? When all is said and done Mr. Bendis does the best X-Men book of the last 25 years. Get it now and watch the X-Men take their place once again as the most exciting team in comics.

Well it’s time to go. You have new books to buy and it’s my turn to irrigate Ben’s eye socket and I have to find out if my attorney appealed Mr. Bendis’ restraining order yet. Wish us both luck.

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Somewhere Around The Number Ten Best Comics That Nobody Told You About

Part 1:

I love Chris Ware. Bit redundant to say so this holiday season with everyone and their sister buying Building Stories, but with so much comic awesomeness that happened in 2012; between Charles Burn’s second installment to his X’ed Out trilogy, The Hive, and Brian K. Vaughn’s SagaSAGA… It’s too easy for amazing comics to get lost in the stacks, so I’m here to give my somewhere around the number 10 best comics of 2012 that nobody told you about…

LOSE #4

Michael DeForge might be the most prolific cartoonist working right now. He pumps more work and at a higher quality that would make any other cartoonist want to quit, or work harder…..no quit thats the correct response. On top of Lose #4 this year you can also see his work in the pages of Adventure Time comics, where he does the backgrounds,variant covers, anthology stories in  Nobrow 7 (more on that in a bit) and the newest  KUS, not to mention his on going serial Ant Comics, oh and his porn comic that he designs that features work by Johnny Negron, Brandon Graham, and Jillian Tamaki….more on all of them latter too…Bottom line, DeForge has a hand in everything and you’re probably a fan of his already, so read Lose, or Ant comics, or KUS, or Nobrow, or one of the million other things he worked on this year. King of comics 2012 goes to DeForge, no contest.

The Underwater Welder

Did I mention that DeForge is Canadian? Canadians….must be a universal sigh when cartoonist’s who aren’t Canadian talk about them. Jeff Lemire is another cartoonist hailing from The Great White North. Lemire had a full year of releases with Sweet Tooth Volume 4 and 5, the reprinting of his Xeric grant book Lost Dogs and Underwater Welder. Underwater Welder is for lovers of well paced, clear story telling, and the Twilight Zone. Lemire has an economy to his comics, the art is quick yet purposeful in the same manner as the writing, which rewards the reader with a world that they can envelope themselves in. Lemire is an odd school of cartooning, he’s not so deep into independent styled comics as DeForge, but he isn’t mainstream either (though he does write the only two books at DC still worth reading Animal Man, & Frankenstein Agent of Shade ). He’s a cartoonist in love with genre but doesn’t mistake comics to be only that.

Nipper Volume 3

Nipper Volume 3 finally came out! WOOOOOOO! I might be the only American to love Nipper so go buy it and prove my gross presumption wrong. Keeping in theme with brilliant Canadian cartoonists, Nipper volume 3 is the Canadian version of Family Circus, if Family Circus was anything like a real family and not so adorable that even your grandmother finds it lame. Always silent, black and white line work with one beautiful saturation of red dropped into each panel, Doug Wright creates multi-layered story telling, in the most simple yet still incredible complicated drawing. Just go look already, and then come meet me for coffee to talk about it, I’ll be here till next year trying to describe why it’s so effffffing smart.

Diary Comics 4

Dustin Harbin is yet another broken hearted cartoonist, upset that his nationality isn’t Canadian. Diary Comics 4 starts with Dustin talking about how amazing it is to be in attendance at the Doug Wright rewards (the Canadian version of the Eisners), and how he wishes we as American could take comics as seriously as they do. Why can’t we folks? Dustin’s beautifully minimalist drawings deceive readers with their simplicity, when they are really just the right amount of information needed, each mark done with purpose in mind and simply decroative. Go read em’ they’re good. And if your not a fan of memoir, you just like the punching and kicking comics, he did letter Casanova sooo…..I don’t know Matt Fraction wrote Iron Man for like a century right? See the full picture of creators not just the characters you like….

Pope Hat #3

Pope Hat #3 by Ethan Rilly. Rilly is surprise surprise, another Canadian. Pope Hats is technically 3 issues deep but you really only need/want two and three. In Pope Hats Rilly tells the story of Franny, a young law clerk at a massive law firm, picture Wall Street with less Charlie Sheen….okay no Charlie Sheen, just that one part where he gets punched in the face by Michael Douglas… Rilly drawings show traces of his influences but they don’t unhinge the story. You can see traces of Doug Wright’s drapery in the clothing, and bits of Shultz popping up in the rendering of grass and clouds. It’s like a love letter to days past when cartooning was a profession and getting a weekly strip in a newspaper was the dream. Pope Hats narrative shares a similar tone of nostalgia with its drawing, that bitter sweet pain, from an old wound.

Thats the end of Part 1. Part 2 on Sunday 12/23/12.

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New Comics December 19th 2012

Two days before humanity faces the Rapture or enters The Supercontext or, most likely, just plain wakes up to  another Friday morning (EST, Greenwich Mean Time +2:00 if you’re in Botswana… your results may vary) we face another New Comic Wednesday!!!

Saga #8 8 Fiona Staples Brian K Vaughan

Here’s the full list of what Forbidden Planet NYC will be offering.  Highlights include Saga #8, All New X-Men #4, Avengers #2, Captain America #2, Django Unchained #1, FF #2, Happy #3, and a whole slew of other worthy works.

While I’m at it, why not link to my Graphic Novel pick of the week… The new Archaia printing of Jeremy Bastain’s suh-weeeeeet Cursed Pirate Girl.

This could be your last New Comic Day on this plane of existence.  Or not.  Either way, enjoy the hell out of it!

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TRY SOMETHING NEW Chapter 1: A New Hope

Galactus
I have been asked a few times in the past if I wanted to write something for the Weekly Planet or the Forbidden Planet blog. I always politely or at least semi-politely declined. But now here I am with my first installment of TRY SOMETHING NEW! What changed? Hard to say. I didn’t have anything to say before? I was too busy before? I didn’t want to bother fixing my weird grammar and punctuation before (that hasn’t changed, I just stopped caring)? All of that is partially true, but moreover I found a purpose. Every week comic publishers, editors, artists, writers, and the whole industry pump out a bunch of brilliant new comics. And then the tiny community that is comic readership passes these books over in favor of what is familiar and safe. That is the antithesis of art, the opposite of the human nature we should all strive for, and it’s boring. You wouldn’t watch the same movie over and over again. You wouldn’t eat the same meal every single day. Stop feeding your brain the same food week after week. There are an awful lot of people out there doing their part to make great comics for you to enjoy. I decided to chip in and yell at you to go try them. This is my small contribution. You don’t have to take my advice, but do yourself a favor and pick up something you haven’t tried before this week. Your brain and the comics industry will thank you.
On to my suggestions.
FEAR AGENT Library Vol. 1. Before he was Marvel’s rising star and writer on their flagship book UNCANNY AVENGERS, young Rick Remender was toiling away in the trenches of small work for hire and creator owned comics as both a penciler, inker, and writer. FEAR AGENT is really the book that put him on the map as a writer for a lot of people though. A wild sci-fi story about one of the last humans in the universe, this book showcases Remender’s amazing ability to go from insane humor to wild action to brutal heartbreak at the drop of a hat. Fear Agent readers will also notice Remender’s ability to find and work with some of the best in the business before they are household names. This volume alone contains art from Tony Moore, Francesco Francavilla, and Jerome Opena among others. Collecting the first half of FEAR AGENT in one nice hardcover, this volume is long overdue. Personally I loved the individual trade paperbacks which were all named after classic hardcore albums, but since those are mostly out of print you should just go ahead and buy this version. RIYL: UNCANNY X-FORCE, PROPHET, GALAXY QUEST.Image

CHANGE #1. Earlier this year Ales Kot debuted as a comic writer worth noticing with his bizarre tale of drugs and school shootings, Wild Children. Change is his follow up title and has created a lot curiosity of what he is capable of. Following a struggling screenwriter, a millionaire rapper, and maybe an alien, Change seems to be both a love letter and a condemnation of the city of Los Angeles. Morgan Jeske’s art is beautiful and fits in with this new breed of rising indie comic stars like Brandon Graham, James Stokoe, and Giannis Milogiannis.A lot of people have been comparing Kot’s work to early Grant Morrison. It is way too early to make that comparison in some ways, but Kot is definitely following a path Morrison laid out. It should be fun to see where he takes it. RIYL: THE INVISIBLES, The work of Alejandro Jodorowsky, the films of Greg Araki.Tim Seeley

REVIVAL Vol.1 You’re Among Friends. The have been calling Revival a horror-noir for a while. It isn’t . I don’t know why they were doing that. I guess it sounds cool. Regardless, this book is a great small town murder mystery that involves the dead coming back to life. Anything else I will tell you will probably ruin the book for you. Tim Seeley makes a book called HACK SLASH that you may have heard of. Mike Norton has drawn awesome stuff like THE RUNAWAYS, QUEEN & COUNTRY, BATTLEPUG, and IT GIRL & THE ATOMICS. It’s full of weird twists and nasty moments. If that’s your thing buy this now and see why comic shops can’t keep the book on shelves. RIYL: CRIMINAL MACABRE, FARGO, FATALE. ValientAlso worth noting this month is the incredibly good X-O MANOWAR series from Valiant Comics that was just published in a $10 paperback, and almost all of the MARVEL NOW titles. Marvel’s editors have done an amazing job of lining up great creative teams with fresh stories and characters who fit them well. It is the best stuff Marvel has done in years almost across the board. Show them some love.
That’s it for my suggestions. Thanks for taking the time and I hope you enjoyed reading them. I feel like I should tell you to get in touch with feedback but that isn’t actually something I want. I recommend good books and you take them or leave them. This isn’t a two way street. If you are cool with that I will be here next week trying to get you entertained again. If not, I am sure Unkie Dev would love for you to call him up at all hours and chat about comics.

— Matthew R

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ADVENTURE!

There’s just too much comics news to keep up with. I’m still trying to unravel threads from the NYCC, and the next thing I learn is I missed out on news from the SDCC! Did you know that Oni Comics is going to collect Scott C.’s AMAZING webcomic Double Fine Action Comics, starting in April of 2013? And they’re also going to be printing R. Stevens’ Diesel Sweeties? YOU KNEW? Why doesn’t anybody tell me?!

Still, this makes perfect sense. Sometimes trends can only be identified in hindsight, and sometimes we are walking in the middle of a trend and cannot see the forest for the trees. Double Fine Action Comics falls right into the very modern trend of Adventure!

SUPER ADVENTURE

In the Adventure genre, archetypal characters have never-ending, fantastic adventures across genre lines. These characters often become blasé about the mind-blowing nature of their deeds and accomplishments.

Obviously, the clearest example is the cartoon show Adventure Time, which also has a spectacular comic book out this week. Adventure Time #9 captures this spirit well, and is almost as awesome as the show… I say almost because it is a pretty awesome show to have to try and out-awesome.

Another book on the shelves this week that does a fine job with this concept is Shaolin Cowboy Adventure Magazine, a pulp mag printing stirring prose with illustrations from today’s top talents all centered around heart-stomping ADVENTURE!

After their success with The Matrix movies, the Wachowskis a.k.a. Andy and Lana Wachowski funded a small comic book label which printed some dang fine comics. One of these was Shaolin Cowboy, written and drawn (as only he can) by Matrix concept designer Geof Darrow.

Darrow is a master, plain and simple, layering ultra-violence with ridiculous minute detail. In his robot smash-‘em-up epic, The Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot, he will depict the nastiest, snarling monster-punching in a building and find a way to render every re-bar, every eviscerated victim and every pigeon flying off of the collapsing roof of said condemned structure.

Shaolin Cowboy was nuts, one of the most bizarre and intense action comics of all time. In Shaolin Cowboy, a silent Asian in flannel shirt and sandals wields twin katanas as he slices his way through countless thugs. These slay-rides are usually narrated by his talking mule.

What makes these books particularly mind-blowing is the characters. In Shaolin Cowboy, the cowboy might easily kill 50-100 flunky thugs in one issue, yet each and every single one of them will be uniquely rendered with their own peculiar dress code, grooming habits and quirks.

“UNKIEDEV, have you been sniffing white-out out of a corpse’s navel? ADVENTURE as a genre?” you may ask. “How is this different from this week’s Avengers #32, Amazing Spider-Man #696 or Superman #13?”

The biggest difference is setting. These stories almost always take place in alternate worlds, post-apocalyptic futures or featureless landscapes unrecognizable as our own.

NEXT WEEK: We’ll learn more about the new VS genre. Until then, go buy Superman #13… someone dies in it!

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More musings from Unkiedev, Earth’s own sidekick, can be read at unkiedev.blogspot.com

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Comics And Pop Music Panel at C2E2 This Friday

Going to this weekend’s Chicago Con, C2E2?  Dig comics?  Dig music?  Then you’ll want to hit up the Comics and Pop Music Panel, moderated by our buddy Patrick Reed, this Friday night.  Aside from being super knowledgeable and enthusiastic (an understatement) about both subjects, Patrick’s put together quite an eclectic and interesting group of speakers to rap about it.  Here’s the deets:

Speakers: Charles Soule (author, Twenty-Seven, Image Comics), Chris Powell (executive director of business development, Diamond Comics distributors), Dan Parent (artist, Archie Meets Kiss, Archie Comics), Jen VanMeter (author, Image Comics, Oni Press)

Description:
Comic Books and pop music started out as disposable forms delivered in small doses.  Both forms became emblematic of youth culture and rebellion in the mid 20th century, faced endless censorship attempts, and have suffered critical reception from dismissive to derisive.  Here, Patrick Reed (editor of Depth Of Field magazine) brings together and moderates a panel of artists and publishers to discuss the ties between music and graphic storytelling, their common inspirations, the creative and commercial potential in combining the two media, and the history of pop comics– from the Beatlemania tie-ins of the 60s to today’s fan-favorite titles.

Time/Location: Friday, April 13, 6:30 PM – 7:30 PM, room N426b

Continue reading

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It’s Like Some Wonderful Dream

A few books that were, cosmically speaking, never supposed to see print will be released in the next couple of weeks, giving everybody a chance to get lucky with some amazing reads. While we’re at it, NOW would be a good time to buy a lottery ticket, apply for a job you aren’t, strictly, qualified for and confess your love to a distant crush.

If these comics are finally being released then GOD must have decided to cut all of us a break. Time to push our luck!

SHARKNIFE VOL 1 & Vol 2, Corey “Rey” Lewis, Oni Press

The 2005 first edition of Oni Press’s head turning manga, Sharknife, has an ad in the back promising that Sharknife Vol. 2 would be out in the fall of that year.

It is finally being released this week, as well as a reprint of the first volume. What is this book, why was it so delayed and why should you care?

Corey Lewis is an annoyingly cute cartoonist with a fantastic, frantic style amped up to 11 on energy drinks and pixie sticks. His work is so hip it has to wear a MuuMuu to be comfortable. He’s done some work here and there, most noticeably in UDON’s Street Fighter and Rival Schools titles. He had a fun graphic novel out many moons ago called Peng, about (and remember I did warn you about the hipsterness) a winner-take-all kung-fu ninja Kick-ball tournament.

He lives in Seattle and freely admits that he dropped the ball.

Sharknife was an impressive debut book for the then 22 year old Lewis. Followers of Scott Pilgrim would find the tone and material familiar…Lewis and Pilgrim’s creator Bryan Lee O’Malley were good buddies and positively influenced each other’s work. Lewis stated that, after his debut, he let down his productivity because he thought he had his foot in the door…only to realize that the job was about sustaining momentum, NOT breaking in.

The book focuses on a busboy at a funky Chinese food restaurant constantly under attack from video game monsters. The protagonist can transform into Sharknife, the spikey elbowed brawler who beats these beasties back to win the love of the Owner’s daughter.

It is LESS romantic than Scott Pilgrim, with FAR less angst. It does come off as more fun and genuine. If you like romance, video games, fighting, noodles, monsters slick cartooning than Sharknife is a must read. Continue reading

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