Sunny Days Indoors 11/06/08

Wow. Long time no see. One of thing about living in Barcelona is that, occasionally, people like to come visit. Sometimes, they all come back to back and everything else goes out of the window. The long and short of it is I’ve got loads to review (on the day when even more stuff comes out). Into the deep end, which would be the Grant Morrison end…

Final Crisis #1 finally hit, after months of full-page ads and a good couple of years of build up and could it possibly justify the wait? Well for a start, the great JG Jones/Chip Kidd cover with Green Lantern on it, used in all the hype, seems to be in the minority! Thankfully I managed to get one, but now it won’t necessarily match the rest (a bit retentive I know but it does bug me).

There’s a lot of set up in this issue, which is fine with me as I haven’t followed two years of weekly comics and spin-offs, I’ve never read the Flash, Green Lantern or Wonder Woman with any regularity and I’ve also no idea why Martian Manhunter has a rubbish costume. It starts hundreds of thousands of years in the past with Anthro the first boy and finishes with Kamandi the Last Boy on Earth so there’s nothing if not scope here. There’ve been some criticisms of continuity issues surrounding the New Gods, following all those weekly comics I mentioned earlier. Having not read them, I basically really enjoyed the first issue and am looking forward to seeing where it’s going. To read Morrison’s take on the first issue you can go to Newsarama here.

Art-wise, I don’t think there’s anyone at DC who could have done this any better. JG Jones has quite a static quality, from the photo reference, but it’s all well drawn and Alex Sinclair’s colours suit it really well, just as when he colours Jim Lee. One thing that worries me is whether, even with the skipped month between issues 3 and 4, we’ll not get DC’s version of the Crusty Bunkers jumping in to help him finish. I was mildly traumatised by the ONE page in Marvel Boy he didn’t draw, so forgive me if I’m edgy. We’ll see.

Batman R.I.P. is two parts in already and as with anything Morrison, it’s not clear where it’s going but there’s build up and stuff going on that you KNOW will be meaningful on a re-read. The Black Glove from the JH Williams arc is revealed to be a group rather than one person, the Joker knows everything but is being obtuse, Hannibal Lector-style, and we’re not sure whether the first love interest Jezebel, is in on it. The panel above gives us a Batman sounding indecisive and also shows the bewildering art of Tony Daniel. We see the inside of the Batmobile and are still left with no idea what it looks like. Wow! Mysterious, edgy…

Lastly from the Morrison file is All Star Supes. What to stay. Understated in the extreme in both the dialogue and the art and yet so huge that one feels obliged to go back and read it again to take it all in. Superman’s getting sicker and sicker, ‘dead’ at the end of it. Lex Luthor is the great, camp, genius à la Gene Hackman in the movies. Morrison also touches on DC One Million again with Solaris introduced, established and magnificently dispatched before you even have time to absorb the concept and chew over the questions posed as to how Superman knows that Solaris will be benevolent in the future. It’s all so fertile and I can’t imagine how anyone will be able to follow it. One more issue to go!

Dave Lapham’s Wolverine: The Amazing Immortal Man and Other Bloody Tales is… weird. I’m a big fan of Lapham and this comic has him illustrating one story, with two guys touted as up-and-comers on the other two. The title story has nice cartooning by a guy called Johnny Timmons that could get him on Gotham Central or Daredevil. The story’s solid and features a silent Wolverine, clearly a bit down and out as a sidehow freak, and in Lapham style there’s no innocents and plenty of revenge! The second story, illustrated by Lapham with Daredevil’s inker Stefano Gaudiano, features one of Lapham’s other themes; the influence of one powerful force, be it Spanish Scott, Batman or the Punisher, on the weak people it comes into contact with.

A brief appearance by Wolverine inspires a bus driver to copycat and try to clean up his bit of the Bronx. The third story in the book, drawn by a fella called Kelly Goodine, did nothing for me on any level. The art’s a bit Leinil Yu (who also does nothing for me), the colours are dreadful and the story’s a bit of a nonsense about a parasitic baby mutant?! Probably worth the money for the first two stories and the nice Simone Bianchi cover. It will also sit nicely next to the great Giant Size Wolverine Lapham did with Iron Fist’s David Aja a year or so back.

Finally got my Hellboy FCBD comic. Just great! It’s no secret that the Mignolaverse makes up the most consistent group of titles being regularly published today. To get three new eight-page stories by Mignola/Fegredo, Mignola/Arcudi/Davis and Mignola/Dysart/Azaceta couldn’t be better. The Hellboy story takes place before Darkness Calls and is a surreal story that’s all ‘a dream’ while we know that nothing that goes on in Hellboy’s head is never just that. Fegredo’s art is excellent, consistent with Mignola’s storytelling without aping his style (as previous artists Matt Smith and even Ryan Sook had done).

The BPRD story follows on from Killing Ground, where Johann Kraus acted kinda weird after getting a body that allowed him senses, having been ectoplasm stuck in a bag for the longest time. This story has him going beyond weird, to suspicious… to be continued! The last story is by the team of BPRD 1946, which I’ve not read yet. However, the story stands alone and bodes well for the series. The art is moody and consistent and the writing’s good. A rare solo Professor ‘Broom’ story. As always, I’m left wanting more.

I picked up the collection of Lobster Johnson this week which I knew I was gonna like. I’d read the first issue in England and knew it was something to look forward to. It’s good and pulpy, nuts, and the art is great. Jason Armstrong provides top-rate cartooning, fitting nicely with the spot blacks and the excellent Dave Stewart colours one expects from the Mignolaverse. I was left a little underwhelmed because I was expecting so much and it was no doubt damaged by the anticipation factor. The Hellboy books are always great with the developmental art at the back, and Lobster Johnson was no exception, showing the artist’s take as well as Mignola’s and in this case we get a bit of Guy Davis’ too. There’s so much care and attention in it that it’s difficult not to go back in and scrutinise it all over again to feel the love!

Palmiotti, Gray and Bernet deliver yet another great one-shot Jonah Hex story. This series is obviously a labour of love and is a western, which, in 2008, is not just good but great! Take the hint, people. Pick it up. The perfect balance of humour, horror and action is only seldom found. I’m sure the Darwyn Cooke issue next month will spur you into action!

Loveless made it to 24 and the last issue is by Daniel Zezelj so it goes out on a high note. While it does feel like there’s history here you need to be aware of the issue also stands alone well enough. It would be worth the $3 for the art alone but the story’s sound too. Azzarello was kind of frank about it all: “I failed you guys with ‘Loveless,'” Azzarello said. “It had a birth defect, and it just didn’t survive. If we can come back to it, we will.” My curiosity is where Zezelj will turn up next.

Neither Paul Smith or Mike Ploog turned up for Spirit 17 and we get art by Aluir Amancio who I’d never heard of and inked by Terry Austin who seemed to disappear some years back from comics. I wouldn’t have bought it if I hadn’t pre ordered it and felt obliged. A good fun read with great looking girls and nice storytelling. The colours are nice the whole thing holds up well. Could have been a lot worse, art-wise, to the degree that I’ll order it in future if they actually tell me he’s going to be drawing it!

To wrap up, I picked up American Spendor 3 because it has Darwyn Cooke in it as well as on the cover. Harvey Pekar comics are always solid and rarely surprise, being as they usually are anecdotal shorts or monologues that give us a working stiff’s view of the world. Still, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it and I found that 22 pages really wasn’t enough so I’ll probably be picking up some collections soon. The real surprise for me was the art of John Cebollero, whose work I knew from inking over Marshall Rogers on several funny looking comics. This was great caricature and nice storytelling. I’ll keep an eye on him!

That’s it! If anyone’s still out there, I’ll be back weekly, give or take holidays, and I’ll see you soon.

– Will Shyne

Sunny Days Indoors 12/05/08

Well, no reviews last week because my motivation ebbs when I’ve nothing new to tell the world. Last week I picked up the excellent B.P.R.D Killing Ground collection which has no surprise in the sense that it’s excellent. However, it does contain plenty of twists with the characters, the whole story taking place at ‘home’ in Colorado. If you’re reading it already, there’s nothing to tell as you know it’s great, and if you’re not picking it up, you’re missing one of the best monthly books currently published. Guy Davis’ art just gets creepier and creepier and the freaky monsters just get freakier. On a side note I picked up his own series the Marquis a little while back which he wrote and drew: black, white and lots of great zipper tone… and cracked-out monsters too. It’s collected by Oni in two books but tricky to find.

The only floppy comic I picked up was Action Comics 864, which I must have ordered based on how much I was enjoying the previous run with Gary Frank. While I’m now much more up to speed on the Legion Of Superheroes, this issue left me lost with a big reveal of a villain who I don’t know but suspect I’m supposed to. Also leads into the Legion of Superheroes Crisis thingy which I won’t be reading. Art-wise, nothing to show, and I’m feeling that if I’ve nothing nice to scan then don’t scan anything at all. I feel used…

This week, however, I had comics to buy! First up, to show no hard feelings, Action Comics Annual 11 which I believe we’ve waited a year for. Though I don’t know what happened to Adam Kubert to make him run SO late on this, I don’t overly care. There’ve been plenty of good Action Comics and Busiek Superman(s) in the meantime and some iffy fill-ins which I just skipped :) Although Dave Stewart’s not on the colours, Edgar Delgado fills in fine, mostly matching the style and maintaining the unique finish. Also fun is that Richard Donner and Geoff Johns manage to surprise with the story, but I don’t do spoilers. A great read that, if you’ve not been keeping up, will stand alone happily as a trade paperback.

The softcover of New Avengers Illuminati came out, which I’d been waiting a while for. I really like Jimmy Cheung, and have done since Iron Man and Maverick, back before he was a “Marvel Young Gun”. There’s something straight but fun about his art that I can’t put my finger on. I sometimes feel he makes everyone look like a teenager, but that’s not really true (see the collection’s cover). It did make him the perfect choice for Young Avengers where, with great inker John Dell and perfectly suited colourist Justin Posner, I decided to keep my eye on what he was up to in the future. I wouldn’t pick up everything he does…but this series fits.

It’s a retrofitted Marvel history telling of how a few key Marvel players have manipulated things from behind the scenes. Secret Wars and the Kree Skrull War are good, but my personal fave was that they put a punctuation mark at the end of Morrison’s Marvel Boy run, which was a great cosmic trilogy cut short by Bill Jemas worrying that he couldn’t make a movie of it. The book also coincided with an all-Skrull, Secret Invasion tie-in that follows on from Illuminati.

The third part of Risso and Vaughan’s Logan mini came out and while overall the series was a little light, it was good fun that didn’t stray from the character, though perhaps featuring a slightly dated version of him. Risso’s art is superb as always and the last page almost justifies the series alone. I imagine there’s a hardcover coming of it but for three issues, I’d be careful…

Following my last post I found out that the Hellboy Golden Army preview comic I got for free was perhaps not very liberally distributed so I’ve taken the liberty of scanning the thing. My logic, and I hope it’d stand up in court, is that 1) the comic was free and 2) it was meant to be read by the masses to promote the movie and comic. It’s at the end of this post at its original location here. Low-res so you can’t print it but complete so you can enjoy it. So: enjoy it!

– Billy

Sunny Days Indoors 04/05/08

reviews by Will Shyne

A slow week last week. I’m starting to come to terms with the idea that I’m in an abusive relationship with Morrison’s Batman. No matter how bad the art gets, I keep coming back.

I could handle Andy Kubert – to my mind the lesser of the two Kubert brothers – as inked by Jesse Delperdang, who has done nice things for Kubert’s art since Ka-Zar. The text story was heavy going but still had promise. JH Williams is a personal favourite so I was very happy for those three issues. But for about a year now, it’s been relentless bad art. On Batman 675, which years back would have been one of those special issues, Ryan Benjamin takes that ball and runs with it. Even Tony Daniel will have to work hard to achieve the level of thoughtless, amateurish rubbish that Grant Morrison gets to work with here. I don’t know what kind of editor gets to see this stuff in black and white before the colourist comes in and has to try to save it.

Ryan Benjamin came onto the scene shortly after Tony Daniel in about ’94 as a part of one of Jim Lee’s talent searches, along with Travis Charest, J Scott Campbell and Aaron Weisenfeld, all of whom have gone on to better things. I can only hope for his sake, as I’m not malicious, that he had about an hour to draw these 22 pages. Storywise Morrison moves Batman more and more towards the breakdown he keeps referring to in interviews and we get to see that it’s not Talia who’s behind these various future Batmen or the murder attempts on Bruce Wayne. Someone else is out to get him and knows his identity. Shoulda been good!

Marvel make sure their A-list writers get the appropriate level of artist, or at least the artist they want. Mark Millar seems to get whatever he wants. Bendis too. Yet one of DC’s, hands down, best writers on their flagship title gets…this. I think all of the above is what’s gettng me really interested in Final Crisis. I’ve never read any of the other Crisis books and I’m sure it won’t matter but at least I’ll be able to pore over the art.

Moving on…

Spirit #16 came out and I loved it. I really enjoyed the breezy story – Spirit wandering around a film set – the Spirit splash was great and Paul Smith’s art was excellent and less ‘on model’ than his previous issue. Lee Loughridge’s colours are good and it’s all wrapped up in a Bruce Timm cover. If the last two issues were a little shakey and made you feel Darwyn Cooke took all the good stuff with him, I recommend checking out this issue.

My local comic shop here in BCN gave me some free comics for Free Comic Book Day which was a nice thought. One nice surprise in there was Hellboy and the Golden Army. An annoying film still cover, which I won’t bother scanning, but a really nice story which is a comic ad-ap-ta-tion of the prologue to the second movie. Guillermo Del Toro says in the introduction that this is in the movie but told with puppets. Cool! The art is by Francisco Ruiz Velasco who drew Lone Wolf 2100 and apparently also works on designs for the second Hellboy movie. There’s not really any Hellboy in it but Mignola scripts Professor ‘Broom’ telling the story to Hellboy Jr. All good.

I finished reading Michael “Heroes” Green’s Batman:Lovers and Madmen HC, collecting the story with Denys Cowan art from Batman Classified. Telling a story from Batman’s early years with a new origin for the Joker, it has to be read with some suspension of disbelief; we all know the origin of the Joker, i.e. our established favourite or mixture of various. Jack Napier kills Tom and Martha Wayne and sets his ironic destiny at the hands of Batman. Desperate, unnamed, unfunny comic gets knocked into chemicals and comes out nuts and gorgeously drawn by Bolland. Those are my two. One’s a film, one’s a comic.

This book reads like a film in a comic and the Joker looks like the pending Heath Ledger version. Like any sensible writer, he keeps Year One in play and the story shows bored/suicidal criminal who gets a a new lease of life after meeting Batman (like a reversal of JM DeMatteis’ Going Sane story). Taken on it’s own terms, out of DContinuity etc, the pacing’s great, the characterisation of Alfred, Bruce, Batman, the Joker is all spot on. Denys Cowan and John Floyd’s art is great, nutty looking cartooning far from any previous published work by them and ILL’s colouring is the best I’ve seen from them. Recommended!

Sunny Days Indoors 23/04/08

It’s with great pleasure we here at Gosh introduce our first regular guest columnist! Long time Gosh folks may recognise him as an old staff member: a hirsute pusher of quality graphic fiction. He’s never afraid to speak his opinion, and he’s generally got something interesting to say, so it’s with great pleasure we present the occasional musings of the man they call (in a professional capacity) Mr Will Shyne!

(All opinions expressed are those of Mr Shyne, etc, etc…)

Now where to begin…?

All Star Superman is great. It’s not controversial to say so. However, it’s getting better. Frank Quitely made the choice towards the end of his X-Men issues to ditch inkers as he felt no-one managed to make it look how he wanted. It’s taken a while (i.e. all of WE3 and the previous nine issues of All Star Supes) but this is the first issue I didn’t read wincing at bits that I wish he’d inked or had someone else ink.

The storytelling, grace, detail and sense of scale that he’s always had hasn’t gone anywhere and Morrison is stripping the sory back to the absolute minimum of text, making the book so rewarding on a reread. Highlights of this issue are a great Lex Luthor moment, the innovative illustration of Superman’s X-Ray vision (above) and Superman creating a mini universe to see what would have happened if he’d never ‘come’ to Earth (below).

Continuing with Superman, Action Comics #863 finished up the Superman and the Legion of Superheroes arc. Difficult to to remove any image to show without damaging the resolution of the story. No beat is wasted by Geoff Johns, and Gary Frank’s art – as repeatedly mentioned before – is great. I was left wanting more and I’ll get more. In the future though, when James Robinson starts on Superman, Action and Superman will run closely together, often crossing over. This pisses me off a little as I like James Robinson but I’m really not sure about the regular artist on the book (Renato Guedes). It’s really souless and I’d already stopped getting the Busiek Superman because of it. We’ll see.

More Superman (what the f*ck’s going on). Well, Darwyn Cooke and the Justice League New Frontier Special anyway, which came out about a month ago. Cooke’s written the whole thing and drew half of it, a missing scene from his mega mini New Frontier. A conflict aluded to only briefly in the series is elaborated on, Batman Versus Superman. The whole thing is told on three panels per page and feels a little like storyboards. Everything is set up perfectly. Batman stages the fight in a junk yard so the lead will screw up Superman’s x-ray vision and then doesn’t stop hammering at him. Interesting, too, are mentions of Batman stuff that retroactively foreshadow the Dark Knight Returns; interesting because Cooke was very outspoken about Miller’s Dark Knight Strikes Again. However as much as New Frontier was very settled in time because of Cooke’s research and structuring of the series within the “real” events of the DC silver age, these nods to Dark Knight, for me, secure it as part of DCs future.

The back ups in the book are good too. The director of the DC:NF cartoon, Dave Bullock does a great Robin and Kid Flash story and Darwyn Cooke’s frequent collaborator Jay Bone does a fun Wonder Woman/Black Canary strip. Oh and DAVE STEWART colors it all.

Which reminds me…the Eisner nominees were announced last week, reminding me how out of touch I am for the for the most part, but Richard Isanove nominated for best colourist!? Awards are always controversial, but bloody hell…my finger’s really not on the pulse.

Moving on, Loveless is one of the series I pick up just for the art when it’s drawn by Daniel Zezelj. The latest one, a stand alone story, makes me question my judgement. While the art is superb and the colours a perfect fit, the story is incredible. Really great. X amount of years after the main story takes place, a couple of gangsters turn up to hide at a farm house and lie low. They’re pretty callous to the old man who lives there, who tells ’em a story of when he was a kid, racing horses in a touring racing team. The reveal at the end isn’t necessary (though I still shan’t spoil it) but if you’ve read 100 Bullets, this is similar to the Kennedy issue. Pick it up, if only when Zezelj is drawing it. Great stuff!

Along with Loveless, from Gosh I received issue one of Suitcase Nuke. The comic’s funny, very well drawn with creative layouts and story telling. I don’t, however, know what Wang Chung is. Regardless the comic was a really pleasant surprise (I’ve met him) and I recommend checking out his stuff at The book also inspired me to flex my Polish movie poster muscle for the first time in ages, the result of which you can see at the bottom of this post.

Also funny: Zeb Wells and Bachalo finished their three part Spidey story this week in Amazing #557. This is very much the kind of story which once would’ve been given a mini or have been relegated to Tangled Web (a place for good solid Spidey stories which didn’t fit into the convoluted continuity).

However, thanks to a load of convoluted continuity, there’s now a new unconvoluted continuity so that while some stuff might go over your head, you can enjoy what you’re reading. As my mate Anthony pointed out: if Spidey was this good every month, we wouldn’t miss it. Chris Bachalo’s seemingly involved in the colouring of the book, from what I understand, directing the colourist so that it looks like he coloured it himself. It looks great, though yet again Tim Townsend ducks out just before the end of the three issues and while Bachalo’s pretty hard to overpower/ruin, the art suffers a little for it.

Couple of last mentions of things I can’t scan cause it’ll f*ck the books up.

The new recoloured Killing Joke has a healthy price tag but is really gorgeous. I had the book in black and white, which I love, but would never have imagined anyone else colouring it other than the very lively John Higgins. I had a happy moment at Alan Moore’s signing at Gosh! when he agreed that the Batman Annual story he did with George Freeman (love letter coming soon) was a better Batman story than Killing Joke. It’s questionable of course whether its supposed to be a Batman story at all.

Picked up the Mad Archives Volume 2 a few weeks back and though I’m dipping in and out (as I feel I have to with really old comics), it’s plain gorgeous. Not much to add really, just don’t assume it’s the weakest link in the EC stable until you’ve looked at what Wally Wood’s capable of with Kurtzman.

Lastly, a friend bought me a book (in the form of giving me the money for me to pick it up). I chose the collection of Michael (Heroes) Green and Denis Cowan’s Batman Confidential arc. I’ll give it the full review next time but so far, really liking it.

– Will Shyne.