Top 5(ish) Books of June

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Here’s a little secret: we, the mighty gate-keepers here at I&N, don’t always agree on who makes the cut on our monthly purview of comics excellence. But, through a complex process of behind-the-scenes negotiation, diplomacy, arm-twisting and, if need be, feats of manliness, we have always been able to whittle down the monthly title wave to our hallowed Top 5. That is, until now. And so, recklessly abandoning all sense of tradition and decorum, we present for the first time: our Top 6 Books of the Month.

#5 (tie). Mind MGMT #23 (Dark Horse): Matt Kindt–winner of the 2014 Innie for Best Artist–delivers a real punch to the gut with this well composed hit-single issue, which sees the Dusty-deadicated side notes harmonizing heroically with the cacophony of the nihilistic narrative–with the darkness he so deeply despised and hoped to one day change with his music.  With the in memoriam to Dusty as the lead vocal of the book, Kindt further develops the memory motif by making the Eraser play “memory games” with an incredulous Meru, using blacked out panels to indicate the missing moments; and by putting petal to the metal in a series of flowering flashbacks featuring Bill and Meru that fan out to form a stunning centerpiece for this death-marred installment and ultimately fall from the stem, foreshadowing poor Bill’s demise and Meru’s heartbreak.  In the end, Kindt cleverly ties the margin matter to the story proper by having Meru’s falling tears look just like the music rising from the headphones that are taken from Dusty’s dead body.  That alone would’ve been enough to tattoo this issue on our Top 5!   But as a final note–or a last grain of hourglass sand–Kindt calls upon the aforementioned memory motif one last time and offers up an intimate Mad Magazine fold-in that’ll rattle around in your skull well after reading. (SC)

Mind MGMT #23

#5 (tie). The Massive #24 (Dark Horse): As Brian Wood’s near-future socioeconomic/environmental dystopia comes to a head, the enigmatic Mary stands revealed as the lynchpin. Some kind of goddess-figure, Mary’s been witness to centuries of manmade degradation of every kind: against nature, against each other, against our own history (part of the brilliance of Wood’s argument is that, throughout the series, he’s presented these as one and the same). Well now she sits in judgement, speaking in biblical terms that portend even greater disaster (or, perhaps, wrath). Even more damning, she stares out directly at the reader as she does so (indelibly rendered, as is the entire arc, by Danijel Zezelj and Jordie Bellaire). If this seems a bit heavy-handed, this particular sequence, all of two pages, stands in stark relief to twenty-three previous issues of breathtaking, world-spanning incident remarkable for the sheer depth of knowledge displayed, as well as their understated, plot-driven delivery. It also thrusts us headlong into the mysteries to be revealed in the final arc, and adds one more: could Mary have played a role in The Crash, the event that laid the world low to begin with? And, having found mankind wanting, is the worst yet to come? (DM)

The Massive #24

The Massive #24

#4. The Last Broadcast #2 (Archaia): Great magicians never reveal their secrets; and those secrets, for the compulsively curious, inevitably become the seeds of great mysteries.  Writer André Sirangelo and artist Gabriel Iumazark plant plenty of seductive seeds here in the second installment of The Last Broadcast, which puts our main man Ivan–himself a magician–on a crooked path of discovery.  His frantic search for his pal Dmitri is an off-kilter crusade–one amplified by Iumazark’s irregular panel pattern that keeps us likewise off balance as we move from page to page–that finds him courting odd characters, including an enigmatic bookshop owner and an eye-biting barfly who pleasingly smack of Polanski stock, and that leads him to a couple of urban explorers–the Backbone of the story–who themselves are missing a mate.  (I, too, am compulsively curious, and I wonder: Could Dmitri and Damon be one in the same?)  Making the story–and the story to come–even more exciting is the prospect of a very-much-alive Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s having a hand in scripting the outcome.  Believe your eyes, folks: this magic–The Last Broadcast–is for real. (SC)

The Last Broadcast #2

The Last Broadcast #2

#3. Ordinary #2 (Titan): A determined father intrepidly braves a gauntlet of nefarious characters and death-defying situations with only one thought on his mind: to find his son! This may sound like the latest Liam Neeson revenge flick, until you realize that a) the determined father is Michael, a balding, bespectacled schlub with a dead-end job; b) the nefarious characters are everyone else on the planet, who have suddenly and inexplicably been granted ridiculous super powers; and c) the death-defying situations include show-stopping Broadway musical numbers (especially frightening that). Rob Williams and D’Israeli serve up thrill-ride absurdity that at once takes the gas out of the sort of adolescent power fantasies that so many comics fans (many of whom bear more than a passing resemblance to Michael) still faithfully devour, while also slyly celebrating them. After all, if the biggest loser in the world can overcome odds like this, there’s hope for everyone. (DM)

Ordinary #2

Ordinary #2

#2. Archer & Armstrong #21 (Valiant): Our fascination with celebrities in many ways defines us as a culture.  Funny enough, our fascination with dead celebrities even more so.  Fred Van Lente knows that, and he’s clearly having a blast bringing back some long–and some freshly–dead famous folks for his satirical tour de farce “American Wasteland.”  Artist Pere Pérez brings the late lot to life around Archer and Armstrong, kicking off a game of “How many dead celebs can you name?”; and it’s a game where we’re all winners for playing along.  I was slayed by the inclusion of Jeff Hanneman and then was all “Already?” upon seeing Philip Seymour Hoffman.  The next three page turns may very well be as unforgettable as the featured figures themselves: first, it’s a father and child reunion as Bruce and Brandon Lee attack our heroes in a sole-touching moment!  (Do they win?  Of course they jeet kune don’t–thanks to Archer’s, umm, stun ram.)  And, after meeting a distraught Jackie Kennedy, who isn’t long for even this world (I was like, “No he di’int!”), A & A come across more Oswalds than you can shake a Zapruder film at!  Throw in some East and West disorderly action with phat boys Biggie and Tupac, and you’ve got yourself a book where a clever contrivance becomes more the thing than the story itself–well, initially, anyway.  Because after the excitement of recognition and the well-earned laughter fall to necessary contemplation, there’s Van Lente himself laughing, “Gotcha.” (SC)

Archer & Armstrong #21

Archer & Armstrong #21

#1. Silver Surfer #3 (Marvel): There was a recent internet controversy which involved, among other things, the notion that certain aspects of super heroes were just too “goofy” and needed to be jettisoned in order for today’s audiences to take the characters seriously. The thinking behind this seems to be that the colorful, larger-than-life paragons of heroism that have populated comics since their inception need to be brought back down to earth, their vibrancy toned down to reflect our own muddled reality. One could make the case  that this view, in its cynicism, utterly misses the point of what super heroes are supposed to be. But why do that when you could just read Silver Surfer by Dan Slott and Michael and Laura Allred instead? It makes the case better than any argument ever could.

The current issue is particularly apt, as it deals with a cosmic struggle not so much of good versus evil, but of reality versus possibility. In it, a double-talking alien named the Incredulous Zed seeks to strike down an entity known as the Never Queen to ensure that the future will only ever have one possible outcome. Standing against him are the Silver Surfer and his new partner Dawn Greenwood, an especially winning creation, who runs a nice bed-and-breakfast in Anchor Bay, Mass. Slott’s wild, expansive approach to story is matched by Allred’s art, which, as always, is teeming with fantastic weirdness. There are monkey toys and stolen hearts. Space freaks and childhood memories. True love and The Three Stooges. And in Slott’s and Allred’s vision these live comfortably side-by-side. They suggest, in the sheer vitality of their storytelling, that one need not discard absurdity in the pursuit of profundity. Rather, whatever it is that is profound in these types of stories, whatever is truly wonderful, is inextricably tied to the fact that they’re so damn much FUN. (DM)

Silver Surfer #3

Silver Surfer #3

The Biggest Dis(appointment): Trees #2 (Image) – It has been a storytelling trope the last twenty years or so to juggle multiple, seemingly disparate narratives within an overall framework, and then slowly draw the separate strands together so that they all collide by the end, revealing a larger picture. It is perhaps perfectly legitimate in today’s hyper-connected world to seek meaning in the seemingly infinite byways that cyberspace allows, especially as it has simultaneously caused the world to get ever smaller. This narrative approach, depending on how it’s handled, can be insightful and profound or obtuse and annoying (Terence Malick’s The Tree of Life [no relation] for example, falls into either one or the other categories depending on your point of view). But it works best when the individual stories are compelling (as in say, Pulp Fiction). Unfortunately Trees manages to be both obtuse and uninteresting. Warren Ellis’ story, involving a bunch of giant alien trees that suddenly appear on earth (nicely rendered by Jason Howard), apparently indifferent to human activity, unwittingly provides an apt metaphor for the experience of reading it. When the various narratives are as soporific as those presented, one can’t blame the title characters for ignoring them. The back inside cover, presumably reinforcing the trees ambivalence, ends the issue with the sentence  “It doesn’t care.

Neither do I. (DM)

Trees #2

Trees #2

 

Turning pages,

Derek & Scott

What’s I&N Store (7/30)

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A big week, top-heavy with top books.

Also, lots of lasts.  Some creeping ever closer.

  • The Massive #25 (Dark Horse): Since February, The Massive has been an I&N monthly Top 5 Book.  That’s a record five months in a row!  On the strength of that, I think it’s safe to say that Brian Wood’s book is headed for the Top Ten of 2014.  For the most part, “Sahara” delivered its powerful feminist message in the understated manner–Women! Water!  Life!–we’ve come to expect from Wood.  (If I’m being fair, Part Three felt a bit preachy at times, but not to the detriment of the issue or of the arc.)  The final arc–with its promise of Massive answers–begins here.
The Massive #25

The Massive #25

Mind MGMT #24

Mind MGMT #24

  • Star Wars: Rebel Heist #4 (Dark Horse): The series has been fun and feels plenty authentic.  Now, it’s Luke’s turn!
  • Veil #4 (Dark Horse): Has been somewhat disappointing–the last issue, in particular.  I’m not caring too much about the femme ratale.  There’s something all too familiar about her.  Fejzula’s art’s been good, though.  I’m riding it out because it’s a fiver.
  • Bodies #1 (DC/Vertigo): Seems super ambitious: Writer Si Spencer employs four artists (Dean Ormston, Phil Winslade, Meghan Hetrick, and Tula Lotay) as he ties together four time-spanning storylines–in each issue!  I’m definitely going to try it out.
  • Sandman: Overture #3 (DC/Vertigo): Going to have to pull #2 to get reacclimated.  (I bet you’re going to do the same.)  Have missed me some J.H. Williams.
Sandman: Overture #3

Sandman: Overture #3

  • The Wake #10 (DC/Vertigo): Inexplicably, The Wake was nominated for and, yes, won the 2014 Eisner Award for Best Limited Series.  (Check out the 2014 Innie noms for Best Limited Series and the big winner to see where we’re coming from.)  It ends here.
  • East of West #14 (Image): Has been North of Excellent.  Hickman and Dragotta certainly took their time building a big world–which is Hickman’s bag, ain’t it?; oh, but they’ve been hitting big–no, really big notes of late.  (#12, in particular, was ridiculously good.)  A dark robot horse for my personal pick for the Top Ten of 2014.
  • Fatale #24 (Image): Lots of love for the poetic penultimate issue.  I thought it was spectacular, really–visually (different for Phillips on Fatale that’s for sure) and in terms of revelations.  Brubaker went Big Bang, man.  As I’m remembering, I’m still kinda affected by the whole thing with Josephine’s son.  Creepy as hell, but, in the end, necessary, no?  Speaking of the end: this is the femme finale–and I have no doubt: “It’s going to hurt.”  Yeah, it’s going to be tough to say goodbye to one of our favorite books.
Fatale #24

Fatale #24

  • Low #1 (Image): I couldn’t be any lower on a creator than I am on Remender.  Why would I do this to myself??
  • The Manhattan Projects #22 (Image): Re: #21: Space Dog ain’t no Pizza Dog–the Eisner-winning Pizza Dog, mind you; but Laika’s adventure nevertheless exceeded expectations.  Doggonit!  I always look forward to TMP.
  • Outcast #2 (Image): “Demons are the new zombies,” eh?  The first issue was a decent set up.  It’s no Thomas Alsop, that’s for sure; but I’ll give it a few, you know, to see where it goes.  (If you’re not reading Thomas Alsop from BOOM! yet, get on that.  You won’t be disappointed.)
  • Hawkeye #19 (Marvel): Listen up!  Apparently, it’s taken Aja a long time to master the art of sign language for this issue.  That’s right: try to remember–or I’ll remind: Clint’s gone deaf.  So…
Hawkeye #19

Hawkeye #19

  • Uncanny X-Men #24 (Marvel): I missed the last issue.  As a result, I have no idea what secrets Xavier’s will revealed.  Now that’s a sin!
  • Armor Hunters: Harbinger #1 (Valiant): Harbinger is dead.  Short live Armor Hunters: Harbinger!  Don’t you just love crossovers?
  • Brass Sun #3 (2000 AD): I have the first two.  Haven’t read ‘em yet.
  • Caliban #5 (Avatar): Ennis is delivering dread at a measured pace that’s perfectly sci-fine.  Never before has an apology been so terrifying.
Caliban #5

Caliban #5

  • Day Men #4 (BOOM!): Hmm.  I’m pretty sure I told myself that #3 wasn’t worth the wait and that I should just let it go.  But that was so long ago.  Maybe I’m misremembering.  We’ll see.
  • Doc Savage #8 (Dynamite): Another final issue.  Kinda glad, if I’m being honest.
  • Evil Empire #3 (BOOM!): Another book that’s been a long time coming.  I vaguely remember that I liked #2 enough to continue.  No doubt about this, however: another great cover from Jay Shaw:
Evil Empire #3

Evil Empire #3

  • X-O Manowar #27 (Valiant): More with the Armor Hunters.  I’m diggin’ ‘em, so that’s good news.
  • Snowpiercer GN (Titan): Watched the movie two weeks back.  Good stuff.  If I see it, I’ll definitely flip through it.

What are you looking forward to this week?

Turning pages,

Scott

What’s I&N Store (7/23)

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Another big week of big books, highlighted by four titles from our Top Ten of 2013 (Wild Blue Yonder, Saga, Zero, and Archer & Armstrong) and an Archie two-fer!

  • Batman and Robin #33 (DC): Robin Rises: Omega #1–a nonsensical, never-ending fight scene–was a huge disappointment.  You know what?  I’m going to pretend it never happened.  Will be tough, though: I’m not too excited about the inevitable change of scenery; Lord Darkseid knows I’ve never been a fan of Apokolips.
  • Dead Boy Detectives #7 (DC/Vertigo): DBD has been very good–especially the previous Through the Looking Glass-inspired two-parter.  New story starts here.
  • Superman #33 (DC): Re: #32: The new Men of Today: Geoff Johns and John Romita, Jr. have started their reign well with Men of Tomorrow.  Liked how the former twisted Supes’ origin and came up with the well-named Ulysses.  The latter proved that his style suits Superman just fine.
  • Wonder Woman #33 (DC): Azzarello and Chiang are on their way out.  It’s been a helluva run–and gods know I will loyally follow them to the finish line.

 

Wonder Woman #33

Wonder Woman #33

  • Wild Blue Yonder #5 (IDW): Prepare to be jealous: I’ve already read it.  Liked it a lot.  (Shouldn’t come as much of a surprise: we’ve celebrated this series from the guys at Noble Transmission since take off.)  It lives up to the standard set by issues before: it’s summer-blockbuster big with some massive art moments from Zach Howard and Nelson Daniel.  (Nobody does double-page spreads like these guys.)  I particularly like how in a relativist sense the Judge is pretty much a good guy, as he is trying to do right by his people.  Just so happens other folks–those who call The Dawn home–would have to suffer in order for his people to survive.  If I’m finding myself rooting for the Judge, it’s because Mike Raicht is selling him well–kind of like how Patricia Highsmith convinces you root for the immoral Thomas Ripley; that’s high praise, indeed!  Also sold well is the big “final” moment, which is drawn out just long enough to sell one character’s sacrifice and another’s loss.  Can’t wait to see how everything plays out.  If you can’t wait to find out more about this issue, check out Derek’s review here.
Wild Blue Yonder #5

Wild Blue Yonder #5

 

  • Saga #21 (Image): This arc hasn’t really lived up to the Saga standard.  That being said, it’s still better than most.  #20 ended on a robot strong note–even if it were a bit too robotic, too thick with politic.
  • Trees #3 (Image): Hasn’t grown on me.  In fact, Derek and I agree: there’s been too much junk in the trunk; and, as a result, Trees #2 is our Biggest Dis(appointment) of June.  May have to chop this one down.  Might have trouble seeing the forest for the cover, though.
Tress #3

Tress #3

  • Velvet #6 (Image): New arc time.  The first one rubbed me the right way.  Something very modest about it.
  • Zero #9 (Image): The series started with so much promise.  That promise, however, has been broken.  Into pieces.  Tiny, tiny pieces.  We denounced #8 as our Biggest Dis(appointment) of May.  It’ll take an act of God or my typical lack of willpower to get this one into my bag,
  • Supreme: Blue Rose #1 (Image): Ellis is lighting it up on Moon Knight yet is growing Trees at an pine’s pace.  Wonder what we’ll get here.
Supreme: Blue Rose #1

Supreme: Blue Rose #1

  • Daredevil #6 (Marvel): #5 offered up my favorite line of the year: “Kudos to cancer.”  Man, I laughed; and then I was like “Ugh”; and then I laughed some more.  It’s quite clear: Mark ain’t afraid to Waid into some daring dialogue–especially if it’s meant to develop Matt further as the very best of friends and as the perfect Daredevil.
  • Afterlife With Archie #6 (Archie): Roberto Aguirre Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla’s first arc was as close to perfect as can be.  Expectations are very high for the next.
  • Archer & Armstrong #22 (Valiant): “American Wasteland” has been a blast!  Re: #21: I mean, ho-Lee crap: Fred Van Lente is fearless–he’s the Lone Funman!  It was so much fun, in fact, that we’ll be celebrating it as one of our Top 5 Books of June.  You know, when we get around to it.
Archer & Armstrong #22

Archer & Armstrong #22

  • Life With Archie #37 (Archie): Honesty: #36 was my first issue of LWA.  (I know I’m not alone in that one.)  It won’t be my last.  It was really, really good.  Love the choices Paul Kupperberg–who wrote one of my far- from-Archie faves: Vigilante–made while walking his way through Archie’s life.  Just took one issue to make me care a whole lot about the aftermath.
  • The Midas Flesh #8 (BOOM!): Mercifully comes the end.  After a strong #2, the series quickly went south and has unfortunately stayed that course–not plot-wise, per se; it’s been an execution issue, including too much in the way of leaden redundancies.  Maybe–just maybe–the end’ll be the true North we’ve been searching for.
  • Ordinary #3 (Titan): Mercilessly comes to an end.  An end?  Already?  Noooooooooooooooo!  Damn, man, the first two issues have been so very good.  We celebrated #1 as one of our Top 5 Books of May, and #2 will be recognized as one of our Top Books of June, you know, eventually.  Have every expectation that this’ll be just as good–if not better!  A strong finale will bump Rob Williams from a laudable Must Try to a rare Must Buy.
Ordinary #3

Ordinary #3

  • The Twilight Zone #7 (Dynamite): This second arc hasn’t been as nearly as compelling as the first.  That being said, #6 was definitely a step up from #5.  I’ll probably ride this one out, return to my home dimension and leave the key to imagination under the mat for the next guy.

Paige’s Pick of the Week

  • Popeye #24 (IDW): Big Sister’s still working on her pile from last week, so Baby Sister gets her second book in three weeks–of life!  I’ve keyed in on Popeye for her because she looks like the spinach-chompin’ sailor man when she eats.  And the cover’s an appropriate hoot, too, ’cause toot toot, my baby girl is goshdarn gassy!
Popeye #24

Popeye #24

What are you looking forward to this week?

Turning pages,

Scott

 

I&N Review: WILD BLUE YONDER #5

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From the beginning, Wild Blue Yonder (published by IDW) has been the comic book equivalent of a Summer Blockbuster: non-stop, high-octane (literally!) action, larger than life characters and, thanks to the stunning visuals of Zach Howard and Nelson Daniel, special effects like you wouldn’t believe. The story involves the ragtag crew of The Dawn, a giant airship permanently flying over the earth, which (for reasons barely touched upon) is a scorched ruin. On their heels is the relentless Judge, who is after both their ship and their seemingly endless fuel supply. It’s like Firefly meets The Rocketeer meets The Road Warrior.

Previous issues, have–in between all the dogfights–explored life on The Dawn, and the interpersonal relationships of the cast including: Cola (the headstrong, daredevil pilot), Tug (the newbie and love interest of Cola), The Commander (tough, seemingly unfeeling and, oh yeah, Cola’s mom) and sure-to-be-fan-favorite Scram (a combustible, gregarious combination of Woody Harrelson and Hulk Hogan; easily the stand-out). The writers–Mike Raicht, Austin Harrison, and the aforementioned Mr. Howard–have done a nice job sketching in just enough telling dialogue and spare, quiet moments to make these characters compelling. Particularly well-handled is the mother/daughter dynamic between The Commander and Cola, as the former has to balance the needs of The Dawn with her daughter’s struggle to become her own woman. It’s great to see women take a primary role in a story like this, while leaving plenty of butt-kicking for the men, as well.

Speaking of butt-kicking: issue 5. It’s pretty much cover-to-cover action, as the Judge’s forces engage the woefully outnumbered inhabitants of The Dawn. Extended battle sequences like this can be difficult to orchestrate in a comprehensible manner (just ask Michael Bay). This can be even more challenging in comics, where the images are necessarily static; but Howard and Daniel handle it with aplomb. Through clean layout and bold composition, they expertly control the pacing so that the fast moments whizz by, while the big moments are allowed to be, well, big (though the biggest, involving a fateful decision by Tug, you could see a mile coming). In the midst of all of this they still manage some human moments, most affectingly with the Judge himself, transforming what had been a heavy, Darth Vader-type into a relatable, almost sympathetic human being.

In fact, my biggest complaint is that I’d like to spend more time with these characters, exploring their backgrounds, motivations and interactions in this harrowing, fantastic world. Ah well, if this is a Summer Blockbuster, I can only hope for the Inevitable Sequel.

Wild Blue Yonder #5 hits the shelves on 7/23.

Turning pages,

Derek Mainhart

–Wild Blue Yonder #5

The 2014 Innies: The Winners!

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Here they are!  The kickoff to the 2014 comic awards season!  We proudly present the WINNERS of the 75 Annual Innie AwardsDark Horse had a big year, represented in no fewer than four out of the five categories.  Matt Kindt also cleaned up, winning twice (Best Ongoing & Best Artist).  Congratulations to all the winners!  See you in 2015!
  • Best Limited Series: Mister X: Eviction (Dark Horse) by Dean Motter
  • Best Ongoing Series: Mind MGMT (Dark Horse) by Matt Kindt
  • Best Writer: Si Spurrier–for Six-Gun Gorilla (BOOM!) & Numbercruncher (Titan)
  • Best Artist: Matt Kindt–for Mind MGMT (Dark Horse)
  • Best Colorist: Jordie Bellaire–for The Massive (Dark Horse), The Manhattan Projects (Image), Mara (Image), Zero (Image), Numbercruncher (Titan), and other stuff!

little-logo.png

Turning pages,

Derek & Scott

Image

Superhero Friday!

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The 2014 Harvey Awards final ballot has been set!

Congrats to nominees Mark Waid (Best Writer) and Chris Samnee (Best Artist & Best Cover Artist), the daring duo behind Marvel’s Daredevil (Best Continuing or Limited Series)!

I've been Double Dogged!

I’ve been Double Dogged!

Who are you wearing today?

Turning pages,

Scott

What’s I&N Store (7/16)

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A big week with some stand-out books and a few make-or-breakers, too.  Toss in a bunch of #1’s and you’ve got yourself a pretty full bag.

Oh, and a picture of a wrestler.

  • Robin Rises: Omega #1 (DC): It’s all led to this.  By it, I mean: early on, Tomasi did a terrific job of toeing the Bat-line that Morrison drew in Batman Inc.; but for the most part the post-Two Face team-ups were terribly tedious.  Stitching Batman to Frankenstein worked well, however, because of its acting as a natural segue into Robin’s resurrection–or whatever’s going to go down.  Who knows?  Maybe Robin’ll come back less human than human; maybe he’ll forevermore be known as–wait for it–Robzombie.
Robin Rises: Omega #1

Robin Rises: Omega #1

  • The Squidder #1 (IDW): Trying out some new Ben Templesmith, who’s trying out some words along with his usually stunning images.
  • The Last Fall #1 (IDW): Writer Tom Waltz has had a hand in making TMNT a must buy.  I’m willing to give him a shot here.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #36 (IDW): That’s right: TMNT is a must buy.  The story’s been solid, and Mateus Santolouco’s art has been instrumental in redefining the Turtles.
TMNT #36

TMNT #36

  • Rat Queens #7 (Image): The Unreal Queens of Comedy are back to offend our sensibilities–and, as #6 proved, to make us like ‘em all a little bit more.  (Yeah, the four-panel first page snagged me but good.)  One thing that keeps me coming back for more: it reminds me of the late Drew Hayes’s Poison Elves.  (God, I loved Poison Elves!)
  • Stray Bullets: Killers #5 (Image): I agreed completely with Derek’s assessment–his very positive assessment–of SB:K #1.  Since then, however, Lapham hasn’t quite killed it.  Rooting hard for Amy Racecar.
Stray Bullets: Killers #5

Stray Bullets: Killers #5

  • The Wicked & The Divine #2 (Image): The title’s got me thinking less about the book itself and more about Kieron Gillen.  I love Uber and really liked Three (Divine!); his post-Schism Uncanny X-Men was unreadable, and Young Avengers was wildly over-hyped (Wicked!).  After #1, I’m leaning toward the latter.  One thing going for it: it read not unlike a Johnathan Hickman book–just with characters who are annoying as hell.
  • Magneto #7 (Marvel): While #5 fell a bit flat, #6 reestablished Magneto’s mojo–with a vengeance!  It’s all about vengeance, ain’t it?  Good for us.  Kudos to Cullen Bunn, who has gone a long way toward establishing himself as the master of the Master of Magnetism.
  • Ms. Marvel #6 (Marvel): #5 was the weakest issue thus far.  Not saying it wasn’t good; there was just something…inconsistent about it.  Wondering how the new artist–Jake Wyatt–will affect the book, especially considering how instrumental Adrian Alphona has been in making this book so magical from the get-go .  I’m still very high on Kamala, though.
Not this one...

Not this one…

This one.  Duh.

This one. Duh.

  • Silver Surfer #4 (Marvel): We’ve celebrated #1 and #2 as Top 5 books–of March and April, respectively.  And, not surprisingly, you’ll soon find that we liked #3 a whole lot, too.  No doubt: this last wave of Marvel books has been damn good; and of the bunch riding it–including the aforementioned Ms. Marvel and Magneto, plus the knockout Iron Fist–Slott and Allred’s Silver Surfer is the Big Kahuna.
Silver Surfer #4

Silver Surfer #4

  • Uncanny X-Men #23 (Marvel): I’ve admitted it already, but I’ll do so again; see, it needs to be emphasized–especially since I was such a tough customer: I like what Bendis is doing on both X-books.  That’s right: I’m a believer!  And not simply on the strength of one or two issues of each; no, I’d still be cautious–maybe even rude–with such a small sampling.  After several issues of each–of All-New and Uncanny–I haven’t had a single thing to complain about!  Well, it’s more than just not having something to complain about: Bendis has found the all-important balance between the serious and the silly that must be struck in order for the X-Men to work.  Works for me.
  • Black Market #1 (BOOM!): I haven’t really liked anything I’ve read from Frank Barbiere (Five Ghosts, White Suits); but, as I tried those, I’ll probably try this one.
  • Dicks: End of Time #2: I hope I score the offensive cover!  Honesty: I felt like a jerk buying it, more so while reading it, and totally after.  Yup, I’m Super Wanker!
  • Harbinger #25 (Valiant): Here comes Harada!  Doesn’t look like he’s gonna Toyo with Peter any longer.  Ouch.  Sorry for that.  Speaking of ouch: plenty of ouch potential here, right?  I mean, anniversary issues usually suck.  A gaggle of special guests usually results in an overpriced mess, doesn’t it?  Hoping for more.
  • The Last Broadcast #3 (Archaia): Thus far, The Last Broadcast has been a magical experience!  In fact, we’re going to be celebrating #2 as a top book of June, you know, when we finally get around to it.  Seriously, though, Andre Sirangelo and Gabriel Iumazark have pieced together an engrossing mystery that plays like a Polanski film (Frantic, The Ninth Gate).  (Hey, I might use that in my Top 5 review…)
The Last Broadcast #3

The Last Broadcast #3

  • The Devilers #1 (Dynamite): If I see Joshua Hale Fialkov’s name on a book, I’m going to buy the book.  Where he’s at now (The Bunker, The Life After), odds are good this’ll be hella good.

Avery’s Picks of the Week:

  • Scribblenauts Unmasked: A Crisis of Imagination #7 (DC): She’s got the first six, so there’s no stopping now–even if she has no idea what’s going on.  After all, we’re a family of completists.  Unless a book really sucks, of course.
Sribblenauts #7

Scribblenauts #7

  • Littlest Pet Shop #3 (IDW): The first two were cute enough.
  • Doodle Jump #2 (Dynamite): Oh, Avery’s going to totally jump for Doodle!  What is Doodle Jump, you ask?  It’s Q-bert on drugs.  Well, Q-bert on more drugs.
Doodle Jump #2

Doodle Jump #2

What are you looking forward to this week?

Turning pages,

Scott

I&Nterview: Guillermo Zubiaga

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There are a lot of ways for independent creators to get published these days. You could start a Kickstarter campaign. You could publish on the web. Or, if you’re Guillermo Zubiaga, you could have it financed by scholarly cultural institutions like the University of Nevada and The Center for Basque Studies. His comic Joanes, or the Basque Whaler, has garnered him considerable attention, much of it from sources you wouldn’t normally associate with comic books.

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 Derek Mainhart: So first a little background info: What’s your professional comics background?

Guillermo Zubiaga: I started my career working in an animation cartoon studio, while getting my degree at Syracuse University. After graduation I decided to move to New York City, to expand my professional possibilities. I got my first job in the comic book industry around 1997. I did a year or so work “ghosting” (uncredited work) and after a relatively short time I managed to get my work credited in Marvel’s X-Force. I also ghosted on Images Comics’ HellHole #1 and then on Witchblade INFINITY, for which I was given credit. 

Around the same time I also worked as a toy designer with Art Asylum, drawing designs for action-figures for ToyBIZ: X-Men, Spider-Man, Lord of the Rings and others. I also worked on the Image Comics title Nosferatu 1922 and some more ghosting for Vertigo (DC) on Big Daddy Danger, for which I was occasionally credited. I did some inking on an issue of B.P.R.D. for Dark Horse, and on an Image graphic novel, The Romp.

I have also drawn quite a few storyboards, mostly for TV-advertising, some music videos, but most notably for the short film Witchwise (2006) by Joe Harris and Night Messiah Films-Lointerscope.

DM: So you’ve been around. How did you feel about the “ghosting” process? Did it bother you to not get credited for some of your work?

GZ: I found ways around it. For example, perhaps semi-consciously, I began peppering a few subtle Basque “winks” and “tags”. Well, some not so subtle at all: there were iconic Basque symbols, letters, words, even phrases and names of Basque rock and rap bands, etc. Things I thought would not be recognized by anybody. I figured no other Basques were likely to be working as artists in the comic book industry. I never thought I was getting away with anything. If any of the camouflaged, incomprehensible Basque “winks” I drew in the background would have jumped out as any kind of red flag to an editor, the worst that could have happened was that I would’ve simply erased them and drew them over. But that never happened. On the contrary, I think that my when some of the books I worked on in America got published back in Europe, the “Basque winks” that I thought I had concealed so inconspicuously were eventually discovered. This led to some very considerable attention until finally the University of Nevada got news of my “affairs”.

DM: What was this “considerable attention”? When the University contacted you, were you already working on Joanes?

GZ: Yes. In 2007 I finished the flying whaleboat, showed it around to different editors in NYC and throughout the Comic Con circuit, trying to find a suitable venue.  I gave myself a self-imposed deadline of one year to find somebody to publish it. If not, I’d try self-publishing it.

During this time several articles were published about it in just about all the newspapers back in the Basque Country. I also was invited to participate in several interviews in a couple of Basque Radio shows and featured in a small piece on Basque News television.

A few months before my self-imposed deadline to find somebody to publish my book, I received a call from the University of Nevada, Reno. In 2009, courtesy of their Center of Basque Studies I published Episode 1 of my Joanes or the Basque Whaler saga: The Flying Whaleboat.

The second installment of the Basque whaling trilogy, Whale Island, premiered two years later at NY COMICON.

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DM: What part did the University and the Center for Basque Studies play in publishing/promoting the book?

GZ: The Center for Basque Studies of the University of Nevada, in Reno holds and publishes (for the last 50 or so years and counting) the largest Basque themed library in the world (outside of the Basque country). So it has been, along with its vast distribution network, pivotal in spearheading this project and making it a reality.

I want to think of it as having been the right fit, and in retrospective I think I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

DM: What can you tell us about the story?

GZ: I would describe it as a fictional epic scattered with Basque mythological references. Regarding the first volume, Joanes, the protagonist, tries to make his fortune as a whaler during an era when the whales in the Bay of Biscay were becoming scarce. He’s forced to look farther afield, but without the means to do so. Here is when the story begins to depart from historical fact and the narrative weaves in elements of Basque legend. With the help of witches, Joanes summons a sea-devil who assist him…But for a price!

The episode ends with danger hanging over the recent success of Joanes and his crew as he has to live up to his unhallowed pact.

As far as the second book goes, continuing with the idea of Joanes as an anti-hero, we see that his fame and fortune grow, but so does his notoriety as a blasphemous and impious drunk. This defect will ultimately become his downfall, something quite real, human and flawed, characteristically lacking in most heroes.

This volume represents a turning point in the narrative: it’s the point of highest tension, before the conclusion in #3.

DM: The story takes great pains to recreate 15th century whaling practices. What interested you about the subject?

GZ: I hold the entire framework to be genuinely a Basque Western genre, comparable to The Cowboy in America, The Samurai in Japan or The Viking in Scandinavia. A truly epic age for the Basque people, which to quote a friend of mine “was the time when Basques have shined the brightest in their history”.

We Basques have been sitting on a buried treasure. As luck would have it, in our lifetime we have had the opportunity to discover the oldest and best preserved wreckage from the exploration age in the world. Not to mention two of the oldest written documents in American history, acknowledging us with the verifiable truth to claim back such a historical and cultural wealth.

DM: In addition to the whaling stuff, the narrative teems with historical detail. How much research did you have to do? Can you tell us about the process?

GZ: Research indeed!! I believe that the success of anything you do in this life depends 90% on research. It wasn’t easy, especially since not all investigating, in terms of archeological study, was done when I began this project. I realized that there wasn’t a whole lot to be found, although I am quite a library mouse and as much as I like to research, I had to talk to quite a lot of people. It wasn’t easy. I remember I went to different academic and cultural museums in the Basque Country as well as in Canada and Iceland, requesting any kind of visual aid, but like I said there wasn’t much. Luckily today I would say the field itself seems to be experimenting a bit of a revival.

DM: The story has the feel of folklore about it. How much derives from Basque tradition and how much is purely invention?

GZ: As far as the narrative is concerned, with the exception of personifying the natural occurrence of the Traganarroo (“watersprout” in Basque) into an anthropomorphic killer whale, I have painstakingly gathered every single element from the vast Basque mythological tradition; the witches and their relationship with the sea as well as the night whaleboat air rides, etc. I also drew from a very rich (though often little known) maritime history. The way I see it, all the elements were already there I just had to find them and weave them in a cohesive way that made them all fit.

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the Traganarroo

DM: You incorporate text and symbols into some of your page design. Considering your penchant for hidden “winks”, are these meant to provide added layers of meaning?

GZ: Well of course! One would only hope those “added layers of meaning” are deciphered. However, unlike my days of ghosting, where my Basque winks were somewhat unpremeditated, every element in JOANES is fully planned.

DM: The overall storytelling approach, episodic in nature, with an omniscient narrator, reads less like a traditional comic and more like a heavily illustrated narrative. In fact, the combination of this approach with your exhaustive attention to detail and realistic rendering style put me in the mind of nothing so much as Hal Foster’s work on Price Valiant. Was this approach dictated by the type of story you’re telling? Why did you choose this method?

GZ: Right off the bat, thanks for that reference to “the Prince of Illustrators”! I am not sure if I could explain my method or how I choose it; however I knew from the very beginning that I wanted to do something “different”, with a clear conscious effort along the way that I wanted to avoid most (if not all) cliches, narrative as well as visual. Yet I also knew I wanted something done with a traditional feel, especially if we consider the atavistic nature of the subject matter. I even considered doing it in sepia tone as opposed to B&W to give it a weathered look, although I do think the current print works fine.

DM: There is some interesting conjecture in the story concerning the Basque’s discovery of the New World (you even provide some historical footnotes to this effect). What evidence you find supporting this? And was this part of the impetus for the story?

GZ: Impetus for the story? You bet!! There is a whole lot of undisputed evidence on the early presence of Basques in the New world. The tale itself is inspired by two of the oldest known texts to be produced in North America, the last will and testaments of Juanes de Larrume and Joanes de Echaniz, Basque whalers who respectively died in Canada in the years 1577 and 1584. ( A recent discovery by Michael Barkham places Domingo de Luça, also a Basque Seaman, who died in 1563, as the oldest written document in North America). Along with these written documents, the oldest shipwreck found north of Florida is the Basque Galleon, San Juan.

Furthermore a recent discovery (it happened while I was wrapping #3) at a Huron village site near Toronto, places one of the oldest pieces of iron (an axe fragment) in North America. The item was radio carboned to be from around 1500 A.D. and it has yielded very suggestive results because not only does it turn out it is Basque in origin but forensic archeologists were even able to locate the actual forge where it was manufactured back in the old B.C. (Basque Country).

In 1497 A.D. when Giovanni Caboto sailed for the King Herny VIII of England and “discovered” Newfoundland, on his arrival to the New World he encountered several Basque ships already fishing its coast.

Later in 1534 A.D. as Jacques Cartier explored the east coast of Canada on his “discovery” expedition for France, he also reported seeing Basque whalers off its shores. Moreover, some of the French-Basque crew that Cartier brought with him were the only ones who could understand a few trade words that the natives were using. An Algonquin-Basque pidgin had developed over years of trade between the two groups. Modern Micmacs today claim that when both Cartier and Cabot were first encountered they were greeted in Basque. The Basque language was without a doubt one of the earliest European languages that the natives learned, before, English, French or Spanish.

You see the whole subject of Basque whaling shrouded in a halo of mystery. Besides working so far from their home ports, they were exempt from many taxes that the crown or the church would otherwise claim, so naturally the occupation itself was quite secretive, in the nature of the fisherman who keeps quiet about the source of its catch to protect him from his competitors.

At any rate, all these elements were like a jewel for at least the backdrop of the centerpiece for a narrative work.

DM: The second issue ended on a note of almost biblical proportions. What can you tell us about Joanes #3?

GZ: The whole narrative of Joanes could be described as a journey of self discovery where the protagonist begins as a clear cut anti-hero but events transpire which transform him into a more traditional hero. Self sacrifice comes into play in this last issue, but even though the character appears more benign, the inner scoundrel never fully disappears.

The only two things that I can reveal is that our character has himself ordained and in addition to that becomes a pirate!!! (hence the title, Priest of Pirates)!

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Look for Joanes or the Basque Whaler on Guillermo Zubiaga’s Blog:

http://guillermozubiaga.blogspot.com/

 

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