Friday, June 20, 2008

Hellblazer #245

The last time a major American writer wrote Hellblazer, was the beginning of perhaps the worst time in this title's history. Having gone through a number of British writers, Hellblazer has a history of great stories. Writers like Jamie Delano, Garth Ennis, even Warren Ellis, in his short run, have left an indelible mark on the character of John Constantine. But Brian Azzarello isn't one of them.

Lately Hellblazer has been on the up and up. Andy Diggle is one of the best writers of this generation, even though, not many seem to realize it. The Losers was one of the best series from Vertigo in recent times. Hellblazer was a natural fit for Diggle's writing style. And he has proven beyond doubt in his short run, that he's here to have his name included on the list of great Hellblazer authors. And that takes us to this issue which is part 1 of a 2 part fill in. Now I have no idea why a fill in was required since I don't see Diggle writing any other series, neverthless a fill-in it is. If I had to select any author to do a fill-in for Hellblazer, I would instinctively think of all the British authors available. I really don't see how an American writer could get Constantine's voice right. And in steps Jason Aaron. Possibly the most exciting comic book writer right now, Aaron is doing some great work both at Vertigo as well as Marvel. But Hellblazer. That seemed like an odd fit. But I love it when I am proved wrong, because ultimately proving me wrong involves writing great comics, and for that, I am game.

Aaron decided to visit a part of Constantine lore, that is often obliquely mentioned but has never been explored. His days as part of a music band. The story involves a TV crew who document little known bands who have been forgotten and here their attention turns to Mucous Membrane, Constantine's band, with a very dark past. The story is set in the band's haunt, in Constantine's favorite place. Yes, Newcastle. Switching back and forth between the TV crew and the interviews involving views on the band and Constantine, we slowly realize that there's something sinister lurking beneath the Casanova Club. While thats a familiar story, it is the execution that sets this issue apart. The front half of the book is loaded with foreboding, yet, the atmosphere is pretty casual, with generic characters and relationships. But when the horrors start piling up, they do so with an alarming speed and gruesomeness that characterizes British horror.

And all this without even the presence of Constantine in the story, who only manages to enter the picture on the last two pages, as he prepares to return to Newcastle. But this has been done before, even recently by Diggle and it hasn't managed to get old, yet. Aaron knows about Constantine, what makes him tick and what has made his series last for 20 years. The specter of Constantine is present throughout the story, even though he's personally not present. He builds up the inevitable meeting between the horrors that reside under the Casanova Club and Constantine, using horror that Hellblazer fans are all too familiar with. Sean Murphy's scratchy pencils complement Aaron's story as we are served another solid Hellblazer issue. This has become a habit, and I couldn't be happier.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Middleman

If you are not watching this, you are helping Gorrila Grodd. How can you not watch a TV show that asks you "Barry Allen or Wally West"?

I liked the comic books a lot, and this seems to be a fun adaptation.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Charlatan Ball #1

Amazingly there were two solid #1's that came out from Image this week. And though I am writing about only Charlatan Ball, I liked Red Mass for Mars more than I did Charlatan Ball. A little baffling, but then again, this is not the first time I have been baffled by Hickman's writing. That he finds time to write multiple comics, draw one, and still color this, delays notwithstanding is still more baffling. But I digress, I still want to talk about Charlatan Ball, because even though I liked Red Mass more, Charlatan Ball had that vibe going for it that makes books grow on me with time. And any Casey comic I can think of does the same to me.

The highlight of Casey's writing in this issue is the narration. Its not very clear whether there's actually a narrator from the fictional world of Charlatan Ball, or its simply Casey narrating in "True Believers" style, but its done in an interesting manner. This first issue is obviously a setup issue but the setup is done more obliquely than is the norm these days. Its not filled with story heavy exposition, but it introduces the protagonist, as well as the big bad. And we get to see a few pages from each. But while the bad guy, Demon Empty(yeah, thats his name) seems pretty generic, our hero Chuck Amok, while also a little cliched, seems to have more personality than the typical loser. He's got a sense of humor, and whats more, he doesn't fail to use himself as the subject of humor. He's got a rabbit sidekick, who becomes, well, I don't have words for what he becomes. Maybe I can call it Super-rabbit. So we do get introduced to the main players, get an idea of the overarching plot, as well as get an idea of what sort of tone Casey is going to use.

But I do think that the best thing about this issue is the art. As I said before, its groovy. And although there's an obvious Kirby influence, the art has a very distinct style. And the coloring adds a lot to it. I look forward to what crazy panels Andy gets to draw in future issues. Because all those covers look out of this world.

As I said before, this was a good issue, but not as good as I had expected it to be. I can't help but think how different it would have been if it was a regular sized issue. All complaints aside I look forward to future issues.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Ambush Bug: You know you want to get this

Its still a month before Earth's wackiest(yeah I know it sounds corny) returns but DC has already released a one page preview featuring Ambush Bug and his favorite companion. Yes, the mighty Darkseid. Take a look if you don't believe me. With JH Williams III doing cover duty for the first issue, Jim Starlin for the second issue, I can't wait to find out who gets to do the others.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Final Crisis

There was this small comic that came out a couple of weeks ago, that furiously divided people into two warring camps. On the one side there were people who flat out loved it, and on the other those who flat out loathed it. Then there were other camps who commented on and on about how impenetrable it was for the new reader, or those who bemoaned how much this comic didn't fit with Countdown or Death of the New Gods. And now we get an interview from Grant Morrison.

There are a number of points to note in the interview, not least among them being the clarifications that Grant provides for the various discrepancies.

1. It seems that Grant seems to regard Countdown and Death of the New Gods on two different levels. While he consciously tries to be inclusive of Jim Starlin's series, his attitude towards Countdown is more "I don't care". And quite rightly. But even Starlin's series required no consideration. Maybe Grant has a lot of respect for Starlin. The way I see it, both series have DC Editorial written all over it, and frankly I don't care for either. And unlike his interview with The Comic Foundry, he sounds more resigned to the fact that DC Editorial was going to mess with all of his plans and they did.

2. Morrison mentions that JG Jones was on #3 atleast 2 months ago, which heavily discounts Rich Johnston's theory. I am now pretty sure that all of Final Crisis will come out on time.

3. Morrison cites online commentators in general terms. I didn't think he actually read what online commentators ever said, because most of the time, online commentators have no idea what is going on in a Morrison comic unless its spoon fed to them, but not only does he cite what they are trying to say, but he even tries to annotate some things, and confirm plot points, like the last page.

4. Even though he originally said Final Crisis would be self contained, I begin to get the feeling that to get the full impact of the story, I'll have to read Revelations and Superman Beyond. Not that I wasn't going to, but it just seems a departure from his previous stance.

5. Furthermore, Grant announced the relaunch of his site with new content. His site has been defunct now for probably 4-5 years now, and it seems like a welcome move.

All in all, interesting interview. He didn't sound his typical enthused self, and was obviously more than pissed at what DC has done to his plans. But knowing Morrison, I know that I am in for an epic ride. Personally, for Countdown, I blame Mike Carlin. Maybe someday I'll make an exhaustive post about what projects Mike Carlin has been on, and how I can make a direct relationship between the degree of suckitude of a project and Mike Carlin.

Sunday, June 8, 2008


Army@Love returns in August in the form of a new mini. This was one of the strongest series from Vertigo in recent years, but sales killed it. Thankfully Vertigo persisted with it, and this is now back, with chances of more in the future. Rick Veitch has a preview up as well as a link to a great article on possible background sources for the book. It makes for interesting reading, and hopefully creates more interest for this must read book.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Charlatan Ball

This is a new comic from Joe Casey that looks and feels groovy. I have never heard of Andy Suriano but the art has a Kirby flavor with the added incentive of modern coloring. Everything about this book feels over the top fun, and it sure as hell has me hooked already, without even reading an issue. But thats what previews are for.

Here's how Image describes it

Story by Joe Casey
Art by Andy Suriano

Meet Chuck Amok, a down-and-out stage magician pumping the sleaze 'n' peanut circuit. When he and his trusty rabbit, Caesar, are transported to a reality where magic actually works, Chuck’s showbiz compulsions take on a whole new meaning. But why was this wayward chucker picked? Only the vile Demon Empty knows for sure! Take your comic book rulebook and tear it up, y'all! This is graphic fiction on shrooms, True Believer!

Criminal Vol. 2 #3

This week saw the release of the third issue of this series. There was a long gap between issues two and three which Brubaker explains was because of Philips' who lay sick on a hospital bed and still drew this issue. And it still looks sexy as hell. Maybe he used all that pain to good use.

This is third in a series of one-shots that focus on a particular character, and this time we have Danica's story. Danica has been a player in the last two issues as well, and now that I look back it seems natural that this was an inevitable story. Brubaker non-linearly brings us to this point, with the first issue telling us about Danica at the very beginning, but also at the end, while the second issue told us what inevitably lead to that end. This issue tells us of the events leading up to the story in the second issue. And that is where my sole problem with this book lies. It is very obvious that Brubaker wants us to read the singles, but these issues are much more satisfying when read together, as the dots Brubaker puts in there, are so much more satisfying when connected.

That aside, I believe this issue would still have been very satisfying for anyone who decided to pick it up, without having read anything before. Even I didn't remember most of what had happened in the past issues, and had to go back and read the past issues to discover the connections. And yet it was beautifully written as a stand alone story. It opens with Danica in a car going somewhere with a man, who is the everyday average man, with non average fantasies. The story is mostly a flash back as we go through her past and her many tragedies. And Brubaker excels when dealing with shades of gray.

The main character is by no means, an angel. She's, as cliches go, molded by circumstances. And yet there are parts of her that aren't black. She still has some kindness in her, the realisation of which leads to the inevitable conclusion of this chapter, as revenge becomes everything for her. And we wait with baited breath for tragedy speeding towards her. The last one. And when it comes to tragedies and noir, count on Brubaker and Philips to deliver.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

How long will these be around

These are all titles skirting the line of cancellation in terms of sales. They haven't been canceled yet, but may do so anytime soon.

Blue Beetle: Under John Rogers this was one of the best superhero comics coming out. Now, not so much. Its decent, but there are a lot of decent titles out there. And neither Will Pfeifer or Matt Sturges have shown any ability to drive sales up.

Checkmate: Its now got Bruce Jones on writing duties. Yeah, that shows a lot of confidence in the title, DC.

Simon Dark: This is pretty solidly written by Steve Niles, and Scott Hampton's pencils add so much to it. Maybe DC's hoping that Niles' horror fans will buy the trades. Or maybe they are just going to cancel it.

Manhunter: Yeah, its just returned. And yeah, its as good as ever. But two cancellations in the past don't exactly inspire confidence.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


DC's new weekly, Trinity starts today. Considering their past record, this could go either way. I am hoping it goes the way of 52 and considering that Busiek is involved I am cautiously optimistic. But then again, Countdown had Dini. Atleast the art will be consistent.

This is how DC describes it

Written by Kurt Busiek and Fabian Nicieza; Art by Mark Bagley and Art Thibert, Scott McDaniel and Andy Owens, Tom Derenick and Wayne Faucher and Mike Norton and Jerry Ordway; Covers by Carlos Pacheco

DC's new weekly series TRINITY explodes in an extra-sized debut issue featuring art by fan-favorite Mark Bagley (Ultimate Spider-Man) and Art Thibert with lead stories and dialogue by Kurt Busiek (SUPERMAN, ASTRO CITY)!

The lead feature explores the unusual bond — and importance — of DC's top three characters, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, as a mysterious dream links them together and may prophesy important changes in their trinity!

Plus, a co-feature in issue #1 explores the mysterious connection between several villains who are watching the Trinity —as well as the near future for these characters and their surrounding world! Co-features in issues #2-4 fill in back-story on some of the other important players in this major storyline. These stories are written by Busiek and Fabian Nicieza with art by Scott McDaniel and Andy Owens (NIGHTWING, GREEN ARROW), Tom Derenick and Wayne Faucher and Mike Norton and Jerry Ordway (ALL-NEW ATOM, INFINITE CRISIS).

And Newsarama has a preview

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Sin Titulo - A Webcomic by Cameron Stewart

I haven't updated this in a long time, hopefully that'll change.

Anyway, I have been reading this webcomic, Sin Titulo by Cameron Stewart who some of you may know from Seaguy and The Other Side if not the many other projects he has done. And even though he hasn't scripted any comics before he feels right at home writing this, and as always his strong pencils make the comic a looker.

Go check it out.