My wife bought this one a) because she loves me and b) because she needed to spend a few more bucks in order to qualify for free shipping.
Who are you wearing?
Afterlife With Archie, Al Ewing, Archer & Armstrong, Archie, Austin Harrison, Avatar, Brian Michael Bendis, Chris Bachalo, Clone, Cullen Bunn, Dark Horse, David Schulner, Day Men, Declan Shalvey, Dynamite Entertainment, Ed Brubaker, Evil Empire, Francesco Francavilla, Frank Quitely, Fred Van Lente, Garth Ennis, Greg Rucka, IDW, Image, J. Michael Straczynski, James Asmus, Jeff Lemire, Jordie Bellaire, Juan Jose Ryp, Jupiter's Legacy, Lee Garbett, Loki: Agent of Asgard, Magneto, Mark Millar, Marvel, Max Bemis, Michael DiPascale, Mike Raicht, Moon Knight, Nelson Daniel, Oni Press, Quantum and Woody, Ransom Getty, Roberto Aguirre Sacasa, Rover Red Charlie, Starlight, Steve Epting, The Auteur, The Twilight Zone, Tom Fowler, Trillium, Uncanny X-Men, Valiant, Veil, Velvet, Vertigo, Warren Ellis, Wild Blue Yonder, Zach Howard
Huge week. And, yes, this counts as narrowing it down.
What are you looking forward to tomorrow?
Alan Moore, Brian Wood, Cary Nord, Dark Horse, David Aja, DC Comics, Dead Boy Detectives, Deadly Class, Doc Savage, Dynamite Entertainment, Ed Brisson, Fantastic Four, Garry Brown, Hawkeye, Howard Chaykin, IDW, Image, James Robinson, Johnnie Christmas, Jonathan Hickman, Jordie Bellaire, Kevin Eastman, Kieron Gillen, Kurtis J. Wiebe, Leonard Kirk, Marvel, Matt Fraction, Matt Kindt, Mind MGMT, Miracleman, Nick Pitarra, Pariah, Rat Queens, Rick Remender, Robert Venditti, Roc Upchurch, Ross Campbell, Satellite Sam, Scott Snyder, Sean Murphy, Sheltered, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Manhattan Projects, The Massive, The Wake, Three, Valiant, Vertigo, Wes Craig, X-O Manowar
A nice list of books to round out the month.
What are you looking forward to this week?
Adventure Time, Afterlife With Archie, Archie Comics, BOOM!, Braden Lamb, Brian K. Vaughan, Damon Lindelof, Dark Horse, Dinosaur Comics, EC Comics, Ed Brubaker, Fatale, Fiona Staples, Francesco Francavilla, Good Housekeeping, Henri Rousseau, Image, Lost, Matt Kindt, Mind MGMT, Roberto Aguirre Sacasa, Ryan North, Saga, Sean Phillips, Shelli Paroline, The Midas Flesh
Our first Top 5 of the year! If the titles below are any indication, 2014 is already shaping up to be a great one for our beloved medium. To wit:
5. Afterlife With Archie #3 (Archie): Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla serve up another clinic on the art of the mash-up. Opening with a nightmare scene worthy of EC Comics, this issue also treats us to tragic teen romance (is there any other kind?), a new wrinkle on a classic rivalry, and a climactic set piece featuring teens in bathing suits engaging in the kind of logic that only makes sense in horror movies. Oh, and two more beloved characters acquire the taste for human flesh. Forget that other zombie book; this is the best undead comic on the stands, and a lot more fun besides. (DM)
4. Saga #18 (Image): Our #4 book of 2013 kicks off the year in feline fashion!
Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples head into their well-deserved–and freakin’ fan-frustrating!–”Vacationanza” with another extraordinary chapter rife with expertly orchestrated peril and commensurate–in one case, winged–crescendos. The issue bares its teeth–along with poor Lying Cat–on page one and from there hits the high notes that our hearts–which are wrenched and warmed by design–long to hear, that they recognize and react to, like a favorite song or a lover’s voice. The final note, struck on the final splash, resounds, envelops us in pure joy. “That a girl,” indeed. OK, sure, the “TIME JUMP!” is a bit of a leap; but isn’t that what we love about these creators–these characters, even? When they go, they go boldly. And the result? I mean, by now, “Isn’t it obvious?” (SC)
3. The Midas Flesh #2 (BOOM!): Ryan North made his name on the wise-assery of his clip art cult favorite Dinosaur Comics and his innovative, medium-bending work on the Eisner Award-winning Adventure Time comic book. Here he tries something a little different: a more or less straight up narrative. Forgoing the conceptual bells and whistles of his earlier work, North trusts instead in the fantastic nature of the story he’s telling. And so far it’s a doozy: a band of space explorers have discovered a planet shrouded in legend and frozen in time; encrusted in solid gold and instant death to any who descend upon it. The planet of course, is earth. Mixing science fiction, ancient mythology and talking dinosaurs (naturally) North is able to balance his trademark philosophical/slacker humor with high adventure and some genuine pathos. And then there is the ethereal beauty, recalling the ruins of Pompeii, and rendered lovingly by series artists Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb, of the transitory everyday moments, gilded for all eternity, commemorated in catastrophe. (DM)
2. Fatale #19 (Image): I have to admit, this long-time favorite had fallen a bit on the old depth chart recently. The noir/horror (noirror) tone established, if not invented, by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips seemed to spring naturally from the early stories taking place in the 1950s and worked surprisingly well in such far-flung eras as the Middle Ages, the Wild West and the 1970s. But somehow, the Seattle grunge scene of the early ’90′s seemed a poor fit. All the shaggy hair and Doc Martens seemed to dull the edge of the knife Brubaker’s been wielding (or maybe it just brought back too many memories). But with this issue, they’ve once again reached Nirvana. Our unfortunate band of would-be rockers, the latest to fall under the spell of the title character, are dispatched in a pool of blood and flannel in an issue as cold and sleek as any in the series. And by the end, Brubaker has masterfully set up his players for the present-day finale. The femme fatale has found herself. Her enemies have found her. And you’ll find the sweet, foreboding sense of despair that has become this title’s stock in trade, especially in those last few unrelenting pages. And in the knowledge that the end of this book is nigh. Savor it while you can. (DM)
1. Mind MGMT #18 (Dark Horse): The following confession is being made under extreme coercion. Not physical or emotional, but artistic. You see, everything that’s appeared on this site about Matt Kindt’s superlative Mind MGMT has been written by our man Scott. That’s because until recently, I was not reading it. This is no fault of Scott’s; he’s been pushing it on me ever since I gave him my copy of issue one (gave it to him! like some philistine! some rube! some unmitigated yokel!). I rationalized that I wasn’t a fan of conspiracy fiction; after all, early on the book was garnering comparisons to Lost (with praise from Damon Lindelof yet) and I’ve generally found such fare queasily claustrophobic. So despite its quality, which was readily apparent from the get-go, I figured it simply wasn’t my cup of tea. The change came with issue 13, the first of a series of one-shots each focusing on a different character. But the selling point was really the cover:
Amidst all the slick sci-fi and sexy superheroes was a comic that looked like a 1950′s issue of Good Housekeeping? Talk about audacity! But that was only the beginning. Inside I found that Kindt was playing all sorts of games, unearthing his sordid, multi-layered drama from beneath a veneer of suburban bliss. As the one-shots continued, each gaining momentum from the last, so did Kindt’s lay-outs and design choices become ever more daring, until story and art finally exploded in a beautifully orchestrated climax of form and content in the epic #17 (which, not coincidentally, we named the top single issue of 2013). Claustrophobic? Anything but! Such wild experimentation happily continues in #18, from its Rousseau-inspired cover, to the subtextual juxtaposition of text and images, quite unlike anything I’ve seen (*impressed*). And so I’ve finally succumbed to Kindt’s persuasion: I’ve bought the trades (sadly, not printed on newsprint like the single issues), absorbed the stories and have surrendered my will to Mind MGMT. Because this is what comics can do. Book of the Month. (DM)
The Biggest Dis(appointment): All-New Invaders #1 (Marvel):
I know that you thought the same thing I thought when I first saw this advertised: James Robinson and Steve Pugh? Yes, please. Well, didn’t take very long for that to turn into No, thanks. Perhaps I should’ve paid more attention to the “All-New” designation, which, from recent experience, is wielded not unlike “delicious” on a box of gluten-free anything. Once you get into it–once you take a bite–you find yourself thinking What was I thinking? For Gods and Soldiers’ sakes, I’m still picking the clichés out of my teeth! And if Robinson were shooting for hokey–as a bit of an homage, I suppose–with his dialogue, well, then he hit the mark. Oh, he Imperius Wrecks the mark, all right! Yeah, someone should’ve invaded the dialogue writing process to liberate the language from the atrocities of The Word Reich–to prevent the Hokeycaust! I guess I should’ve seen it coming. I guess I was blinded by my faith in Robinson. I guess I was remembering fondly some of my early experiences with The Invaders. (In fact, I have a few early copies, including #2 (1975), which I bought in 1983 around the same time I got into Wolfman’s Vigilante. How’s that for a memory, eh?) I guess, too, I was hoping that I’d finally get a version of Captain America–post-Brubaker–that I could be proud of. In the end, guess what: it doesn’t take supreme intelligence to realize that the All-New Invaders is, disappointingly, old news. So, when’s Fantastic Four #1 coming out, again? (SC)
Derek and Scott
A Voice in the Dark, Alex + Ada, Alex Maleev, Avatar, Avengers World, Batman and Two-Face, BOOM!, Braden Lamb, Brian Azzarello, Brian Michael Bendis, Brian Wood, Chris Bachalo, Chris Samnee, Cliff Chiang, Colin Lorimer, Curse, Daredevil, Dark Horse, DC Comics, Doug Braithwaite, Extinction Parade, Frank Barbiere, Image, James Asmus, Jonathan Hickman, Jonathan Luna, Joshua Hale Fialkov, Kris Anka, Larime Taylor, Mark Waid, Marvel, Matt Kindt, Max Brooks, Michael Moreci, Ming Doyle, Minotaur, Nick Spencer, Patrick Gleason, Peter J. Tomasi, Quantum and Woody, Raulo Caceres, Riley Rossmo, Ryan North, Sarah Vaughn, Shelli Paroline, Skyman, The Bunker, The Midas Flesh, The White Suits, Tim Daniel, Uncanny X-Men, Unity, Wonder Woman, X-Men
The only forecast worth a damn:
My daughter now expects a “present” every time I come home from the comic store. Instead of just grabbing something off the shelf willy-nilly, I’m going in with a plan. I’m calling it…
Avery’s Pick of the Week:
What are you looking forward to this week?
In his creator-owned A Voice in the Dark (Image/Top Cow), the amazingly talented writer and artist Larime Taylor emphatically embraces darkness as both inspiration and instigator. He has exploited his relationship with the dark side to a great effect: A Voice in the Dark #1 received quite a bit of well-deserved attention and sold out at the distributor level before it even hit the stands; and through the first three issues, he’s used soul-eclipsing shadows as a grindstone for his own voice–to varying degrees of sharpness.
Sure, Taylor’s super-sized initial offering–delivered in a deliberately drawn out manner–laid an effective enough foundation and gave us something to enjoy–and, for many reasons, admire; but his voice reverberates most effectively in the tense second installment, in which Zoey–the morosely murderous protagonist, who happens to host a college radio call-in show–counsels a seemingly suicidal caller, who, shockingly, has planned to embrace an even darker -cide. Taylor does a bang-up job of selling the suspense with his patient pacing, which erupts in a parricidal twist that throws Zoey for quite a loop.
Lamentably, that loop lasts the entirety of issue #3, on its own a carousel of conversation that triples down on a singular revelation, leaving us wondering if Taylor’s voice is focused too fervently on setting up what’s to come; if he’s unwilling or unable to collapse conversations, to lean out scenes, or to give us the credit we deserve as willing and able participants in this game–partners who don’t mind if our minds end up, in the case of a well-crafted comic, in the gutter, where we may fill in the gaps, as necessary. Certainly, he–and #3–would’ve been better served had he followed his own killer advice: “Let’s leave a little to the imagination.”
It’s tough to imagine that Taylor would take a similar tack going forward. Unfortunately, he does. Issue #4–”Killing Game, Pt. 2,” in stores Wednesday (2/19)–is more of the same: while more effective than the previous part in the sense that the story isn’t stuck in the same cyclical set-up rut, the pacing problems persist as Taylor spells out every moment methodically, murdering any humor and any suspense–the pancake and butter of the series–with cruelly dull dialogue and a string of stereotypes that, like, read in mono. Taylor’s heavy-handedness is highlighted, however, as the ethical dilemma at the heart of the issue–and the series as a whole–is played out clumsily in a college classroom, leaving me wondering if Taylor himself would concede that, along the way, “too many mistakes [were] made.” If not mistakes, certainly questionable choices. Hey, now there’s a topic worthy of debate!
So, the biggest question becomes, then: what choice will I make when I see #5 on the shelf in a month’s time? If I’m being honest, I expected that Taylor’s voice after four issues would be scalpel sharp and that I would be celebrating his surgical precision with a splattering of bloodstained compliments, the happy result of my metaphorical exsanguination. Surprisingly, the series has been more of a slow bleed: Taylor has inexplicably shunned momentum and, as a result, has unexpectedly left me in a position where I have to hold out hope that he can return to the form that made me a fan in the first place. But it’s more than hope, really: I’m willing to stick around–probably for the remainder of the series–because I know Taylor has it in him; #2 is all the proof I need. I trust–and I don’t do so lightly–that his voice is still being held to some soul-eclipsing shadow deep there in the dark; and, once ready, he’ll scream.
I want to be there to hear it.
Stocking up before the next big storm.
What are you looking forward to tomorrow?
All-New Invaders, Archer & Armstrong, Avatar, Brian Wood, Fred Van Lente, Garth Ennis, Greg Rucka, Image, J. Michael Straczynski, James Robinson, Jeff Lemire, Lazarus, Marvel, Michael DiPascale, Michael Lark, Pere Perez, Peter Milligan, Roberto De La Torre, Rover Red Charlie, Shadowman, Sidekick, Trillium, Twilight Zone, Valiant, Vertigo, X-Men
My clever introduction has been postponed indefinitely due to snow.
What are you looking forward to tomorrow?
Avatar, Brian K. Vaughan, Bryan J. L. Glass, Clone, Dark Horse, David Schulner, DC Comics, Dead Boy Detectives, East of West, Fiona Staples, Furious, Gary Erskine, IDW, Image, Inhumanity, J. Bone, James Robinson, Jonathan Hickman, Juan Jose Ryp, Kevin Eastman, Kieron Gillen, Mark Buckingham, Marvel, Matt Fraction, Nick Bradshaw, Nick Dragotta, Saga, Savior, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Toby Litt, Uber, Vertigo, Victor Santos
A light week to round out the month.
What are you looking forward to this week?
Welcome to our newest feature: I&N the Gutter with Scott and Derek, where we go all Siskel and Ebert on some poor, unsuspecting comic book. What you’ll find here are brief snippets of (mostly) unedited transcripts from our never-ending conversations about comics; the raw, unfiltered stuff from which the rest of our writing on the site springs. What it may lack in eloquence we hope it makes up for in spontaneity. Please let us know your thoughts and feel free to chime in!
Our first victim, I mean, entry is:
Sheltered #6. Writer: Ed Brisson. Artist: Johnnie Christmas. Colorist: Shari Chankhamma. Editor: Paul Allor. Publisher: Image Comics
Backstory: Safe Haven is a survivalist camp, stockpiling supplies for what they believe is the imminent apocalypse. It’s a mentality the children of the camp absorbed all too well: convinced that the greatest threat to their survival are their own parents, they slaughter them. Lucas, their leader, tries to hold them all together, but tensions are growing, secrets leaking, and further blood has been shed. All very Lord of the Flies. We join events after issue 5, when the outside world has come a-knockin’.
Discussed: patricide, letters pages, narcolepsy
Derek Mainhart: So, I have to disgree with you about Sheltered.
Scott Carney: Really?
DM: I quite enjoyed it. I thought it was the strongest issue they’ve had since the first one. I really liked it cause its the beginning, the creators set something up and then they blow it up, which is what they did in the first issue. In this case they’re bringing in this guy from the outside world. And I liked his backstory. I enjoyed getting to know him and his loser friends. And then, you know, the sort of expected happens, and now he’s on the run.
SC: I found myself not caring. I fall asleep when I read comics.
DM: Never a good sign.
SC: It doesnt always mean something. Sometimes I’m just reading and I recline and I just pass out. I did fall asleep a couple of times here though, and I do think it was because I wasn’t so terribly engaged. I don’t really care about any of the characters at this point. I understand why he brought in the new characters. I mean after having gone through five issues of developing this little kid-run society after slaughtering the adults and whatnot, and all the conflicts that are extant there, and now to step out of that for a moment and bring in the adult world a little bit more – a very innocent adult world too if you compare it to where the kids are -
DM: - Right. the guys basically an idiot. -
SC: – yeah – “hey I could use some help over here!” kinda thing. But I think if we look at it in terms of the innocence/experience thing then it starts to take on a role. But do I care about it? And if I’m measuring it that way, I didnt really care about it.
DM: Well if you don’t care about it then you don’t care about it. It’s time to drop it.
SC: Well I dont know about that.
DM: One of the things I liked about the most recent Manifest Destiny, in the letters column – it’s great, funny – but they also talk about their comic reading habits; how they stack their books and what they read first and what the read last; y’know the crap we talk about all the time. And one of them says something like “as soon as it becomes a chore, I’m done”. And I completely agree.
SC: I’ve been saying that with All-New X-Men for 21 issues.
DM: But I liked the switch. The way it ended last issue with the adults coming in shining lights on the camp, they seemed like a threat. But Brisson did a nice job this issue showing that they’re really not a threat at all. And now he’s going to be tracked down by, yknow, kids.
DM: I hope it doesnt become a five issue arc of them tracking this guy, going all Shaolin Cowboy on us yknow, five issues of them just running around in the woods.
SC: That would be awful.
DM: That would be enough to turn me off. I can deal with one issue of that. What I’m hoping happens is that somehow this will complicate things. Like, does this whole series have to be these kids in a bunker? Where does it go? If it ends up, they shoot the guy, status quo, yeah thats not good. Then theyre just spinning their wheels.
SC: Yeah, what’s the point?
DM: Like Revival
SC: Top Ten book!
DM: So, the big question: Will you pick up the next issue? I’m def still in.
SC: Sure. After that, who knows?
Scott & Derek