Review: RASL Complete Coloured Edition

RASL, Jeff Smith's science fiction tale has more twists and turns than a Tesla generator. Plenty of action, not a small amount of intrigue, a healthy dose of science and of course Smith's beautiful and emotive art. The one volume, coloured edition brings it all together in a beautiful synergy.

Rasl is a scientist turned dimension-hopping art thief whose work revolves around that of the great inventor/engineer/physicist Nikola Tesla. After a devastating accident, Rasl decides his work is too dangerous and goes on the run.

One of the best parts about the book are the two main characters – Rasl himself, and the antagonist, Sal Crow. Rasl is one of those characters that you just can’t help liking. He’s got a roguish charm, and the fact that he got his education at the school of hard knocks makes him the loveable underdog. Crow, on the other hand, is sinister and mysterious. We don’t know what he wants or why, but we know he’s after Rasl and that’s enough to know this guy is up to no good.

Smith’s art is, as always, powerful and expressive. A veteran of visual storytelling, he can create so much power and emotion from a single panel. He varies his line thickness perfectly, and uses the simple black and white contrasts to create great tone and texture. He communicates Rasl’s pain, his determination and stubbornness, even his surprise and shock, with seeming ease. Bold lines juxtapose softer scratch-like texture, while the backgrounds ground the action firmly in it’s setting. Rasl is nothing like Bone, but it has a distinct Jeff Smith feel.

Smith is one of the rare artists who’s work doesn’t need colour to provide depth in tone or mood. Having said that the colours look great – they make rich, expressive art look even more rich and expressive. The book itself has that special balance between being easy to handle and read, but still looking mighty impressive on the bookshelf.


Nikola Tesla has always been a nerd icon, but over the past few years his popularity has increased to fanboy adoration levels. RASL celebrates that with beauty, mystery and intrigue. It is, of course, not perfect – while the ending is satisfying – excellent even – it frustratingly leaves us with a bunch of unanswered questions. I can deal with that, however, as RASL truly is a triumph of the medium.
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CBNAH Interview: Terry Moore

Terry Moore is a champion amongst self publishers. His long running series, Strangers in Paradise, won just about every comic award that matters, and his current book, Rachel Rising, is a critical success. Tim caught up with him to discuss Rachel Rising, next years' Strangers in Paradise anniversary and more!

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CBNAH: You’re one of the most hardworking guys in the industry, writing, drawing, inking and lettering your work while maintaining a five week turnaround. Can you share with us a little of your process and how you spend your time making a comic?

TM: I just work on the comic every day. I work at home so it is easy to keep drawing all the time and into the night. i usually write the comic or at least the first few scenes, then start drawing. I change the story if I get a better idea while drawing. 

CBNAH: Who were some of your influences as a young Cartoonist?

TM: Charles Schulz, Herge, Curt Swan, Frazetta, Manara. I can see their details in my art. 


CBNAH: Rachel Rising has far more horror elements to it than your previous work. How is writing horror different to writing sci-fi or drama?

TM: I would have to say it's more liberating. I am free to let the worst happen. In fact, I am expected to let the worst happen. Isn't that odd?


CBNAH: You’ve said Rachel Rising is going to be around the 24-30 issue mark, which means we’re past halfway. Can you tease us with any tasty morsels from upcoming issues? What can we expect?

TM: Nope. No spoilers!


CBNAH: Your talent for creating strong, interesting characters is well documented – currently I’m loving Aunt Johnny! Do you draw inspiration for your characters from your own life, or do they come from somewhere else?

TM: I think my characters are composites of people I've known or read about. I never make a character directly from one person, that would be dangerous!


CBNAH: I’ve noticed you tend to write women in pairs – Katchoo and Francine, Julie and Ivy, Rachel and Jet – Is that a conscious decision, or am I seeing something that’s not there?!

TM: I tend to work the yin yang of everything, including people and relationships. For every push there is a pull.



Francine and Katchoo, the main characters of SiP.
CBNAH: You spent the better part of 14 years working on SiP. What’s it like to have that hard work recognized, both through awards and sales?

TM: It's wonderful that Strangers In Paradise has not been forgotten and left behind by the world. I hoped it would outlive me. So far, so good.


CBNAH: Can you give us anything juicy on the new SiP story for next year?

TM: It is about the girls today, in the present. And they are every bit as cool now as they were then.


CBNAH: As someone who is somewhat detached from the mainstream comics industry, what do you make of the state the industry is in? Are comics a dying art form?

TM: I think comics are changing. But they won't die. They are will remain a valid art form, like classical music and oil painting. Those disciplines were once very high profile in society, but have fallen to quieter levels. So it may be with comics, but the art form will survive. Comics have been around since the the cave men, I don't think the computer will kill them.


CBNAH: You’ve expressed your take on digital comics elsewhere, but I’m curious to know what the results of making your work available digitally have been? Have you seen a decrease in print sales?

TM: I have seen a slow steady decrease in print sales but it is not because of digital... it is because that's the way comic retailers order books. They order less and less and less and less and less until a book dies. It's a nightmare for indy books, and the reason why mainstream stories are mostly short arcs that last no more than a year. No matter what people say, it's all about the new in the American direct market. Meanwhile, my digital sales have been good, helping me to survive the shrinking print market.

 
CBNAH: What comics have you been reading lately?

The last comics I read faithfully was Power Girl by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti. I tend to read novels and but art books. I read good titles like Chew and The Goon when I can find them.
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New Episode of School of Better Comics!

In a special episode, I show a time lapse video of my process when drawing with charcoal. watch it here.
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New Episode of CBNAH Podcast!

Dr.Peter and Tim Barklay talk about Joss Whedon on S.H.I.E.L.D., Liefeld vs Snyder and a whole lot of other comic related goodness. CLICK to listen, right click to download.
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New Episode of School of Bettter Comics!

Lesson 8 of school of Better Comics is here! I discuss what good comic artists do to create good characters. Hope you enjoy it!

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CBNAH Interview: Jeff Smith

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Jeff Smith, creator of the award winning epic fantasy comic Bone, released the last issue of his latest series this past week. RASL is a much smaller, but no less engaging, sci-fi epic, and I had the great pleasure to interview him about the series, his reflections on Bone and the current state of the industry. Check it out after the jump.





CBNAH: Jeff, Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions! I want to begin with RASL. It is in many ways a very different story to Bone – how was the transition into finishing a sweeping fantasy epic to starting an intellectual sci-fi?

Jeff Smith: It wasn’t too hard. I did need a break between the two, mostly because BONE was so all consuming for so long, but I don’t see them as all that different from each other. The art of comics is keeping the thing alive in every panel, and that takes the same sense of focus and control whether you are working on a fantasy or a science fiction piece.
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CBNAH: Why Nikola Tesla?

Smith:I needed two things to hold my story together; a basis to hang the science and technology on, and a fetish object that everyone in the story was after. Tesla’s career as a brilliant and famously mad scientist provided the science - - the very real H.A.A.R.P Antenna Array in Alaska, which is the basis for the St. George Array in RASL, is based on Tesla technology. And Tesla’s lost journals became my Maltese Falcon.
 
CBNAH: What level of research did you go through for RASL?

Smith:A fair amount. There was Tesla and the history around him, but also the great conspiracy theories, like the Philadelphia Experiment, and the Tunguska Event. I studied String Theory and M Theory, both of which point to the existence of parallel universe. Somehow I was able to find connections between Tesla and the newer ideas in physics. That was the moment I knew I had a story when I decided to have Rasl, an ex-military engineer, bridge the gap between Tesla and M Theory so he could discover parallel universes.
 
CBNAH: RASL is a much more compact story than Bone – did you have ‘epic fantasy burnout’?

Smith:Yes! I’m kidding. RASL is a different type of story. It’s a potboiler with a sci/fi twist, and 1400 pages aren’t necessary for that kind of tale. But it is over 500 pages long, so it will still look pretty robust on the shelf - - even next to BONE.
 
CBNAH: Did you have the ending mapped out?

Smith:The ending was always there. As with BONE, I made sure that the characters, story and ending were solid before ever drawing a single page.
 
CBNAH: Have you got anything lined up post-RASL?

Smith: I do, and it is in development now. But I’m keeping mum about it until there’s more to show.
 
CBNAH: Talk us through your process – do you write a few scripts and then draw?

Smith: I outline the entire project in my notebooks, then I approach each issue individually. I write the script as a little thumbnail comic, then I start working on 14”x17” 2 ply bristol boards. I always do the lettering first, then pencil the whole issue. Usually five or six pages at a crack. I ink the faces first, because it’s fun, and also that’s where the acting is, and it needs to be right. As soon as the issue is complete, I consult my notebooks, and start writing the script for the next one.
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CBNAH: You spent the better part of 14 years working on Bone. What’s it like to have that hard work recognized, both through awards and sales?

Smith: I am very grateful. The recognition and support of your peers is the most helpful thing in the world. Ultimately, what a cartoonist is trying to do, is to create a work that satisfies him or herself, and it was the support I received from readers and the industry that gave me the means and the opportunity to do it without compromise.
 
CBNAH: What inspired you to create Bone?

Smith: As a little kid, I was a big fan of Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, Pogo, and Snoopy, and I think I was trying to come up with a character of my own. The little guy called Fone Bone just popped onto the page one day and never left. Unfortunately, I didn’t think about what all those other characters had in common: they were animals! By the time I realized my guy should have had a tail or dog ears, it was too late...he was a bone!
 
CBNAH: Who were some of your influences as a young Cartoonist?

Smith: Carl Barks and his Duck comics, Walt Kelly and Pogo. Joe Kubert’s run on Tarzan was incredibly exciting to me. Shortly after that I discovered reprints of Gould’s Dick Tracy, and Segar’s Thimble Theater Starring Popeye.
 
CBNAH: As someone who is somewhat detached from the mainstream comics industry, what do you make of the state the industry is in? Are comics a dying art form?

Smith: Quite the opposite. We are in a golden age for comics and graphic novels with audiences spread far and wide. When I started, comics were only available in comics shops, and the customers were men in their 30s. I used to sit on panels at comic book shows and ask the people assembled, Guys, wouldn’t it be fun if there were some girls in here? If we had women and children buying comics, we could triple our audience! Now, twenty some years later, in addition to the comic shops, our books are being sold to libraries, schools, and sold in bookstores and on-line. Back in the mid-90’s, all of these options were off-limits to us - - it was unimaginable that Amazon.com would sell a comic, or that the New York Times would create a Graphic Novel bestsellers list! Comics are hip. Most major publishers have Graphic Novel imprints. Comics are routinely reviewed in literary circles, and attendance at comics shows seems to be on the rise, with visitors being made up of males and females, friends and families. Digital comics are finding brand new readers every day. This is a great time to be a graphic novelist.

Mainstream superhero comics? I have no idea how healthy or unhealthy they are.
 
CBNAH: You’ve collaborated with a few people in your career – who was your favourite, and what would be your dream collaboration as a writer and an artist?

Smith: I’ve only collaborated a couple of times, and both instances were with friends that I wanted to work with, on books that I published: Rose with Charles Vess, and Bone: Tall Tales with Tom Snigoski. Both were happy experiences! For me, most collaborations come in the form of events, such as signings and book tours.
 
CBNAH: What comics are you currently reading?

Smith: Currently I’m reading tons of small press comics and ‘zines. Recently enjoyed Goliath by Tom Gauld, Hark! A Vagrant b y Kate Beaton, Daytripper by the Bros. Ba & Moon, and Jerusalem by Guy Delisle.
 
CBNAH: Finish this sentence – Comic book nerds are hot because…

Smith: We guys aren’t that hot, but the chicks are SMOKIN’, because...well, look at them!
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Tim's Reviews: Saga, Rachel Rising, Night of 1000 Wolves plus More!

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Saga 5 - Marko gets hardcore this issue! Saga doesn’t just excite me because it’s one of the best comics out there. As a happily married parent myself, I totally get Marko and Alana. They bicker like a real couple, but their love is real, and would do anything for each other and for their child. Marko showed that this issue, and it was awesome to read. The will is also shaping up to be a deeply complex, and therefore interesting, character. Can’t wait to see where things go with him.



Alabaster Wolves #4 – This series is all kinds of awesome. I generally say that Steve Niles, Mike Mignola and Eric Powell are the masters of supernatural horror. I think we can safely add Caitlin Kiernan to the list. Dancy is such a unique character – equal parts Buffy, River Tam and Arya Stark. This issue provides a little background history and sets things up for the final issue of this first series next month. I can’t wait.

Dark Horse Presents 14 - This oversized issue of Dark Horse’s monthly anthology wasn’t as good as it has been, but had some great stories non the less. Carla Speed McNeil’s Finder continues to be intriguing while Kelly Sue DeConnick and Phil Noto are rocking Ghost. This issue seas the return of Tony Puryear’s Concrete Park, which was street level awesome. I’m interested to see where Bo Hampton and Robert Tinnel take the creepy Riven, which was a stand out for me. Equally interesting was Michael Avon Oeming’s Wild Rover, beautiful, but chilling. The one pagers, Mike Russel’s Hellboy vs Sabertooth Vampire and Kim W Andersson’s Love Hurts were charming and funny. Dark Horse presents is like a candy buffet – full of a huge range of different flavours, some you like more than others, but in the end, they’re all pretty sweet.

2000ad 1791 – This prog opens with an unusual Dredd tale, that get’s to the heart of the character – an uncompromising hard-ass. The first Ichabod Azrael story blew my mind, and this story is shaping up to be pretty sweet as well. 1947 part three and future shocks were good enough, but the real star of the book is the final instalment of the long running Nikolai Dante strip. It was exciting, poetic and a fitting end to Robbie Morrison’s long running strip. If you’re after a weekly sci-fi anthology book, 2000ad is what you’re after.

Rachel Rising 9 –Terry Moore offers a few answers in this issue – Not too many, but enough to perfectly pique the reader’s interest. That’s one of the reasons I love his books so much – he knows exactly how much to share with his audience at the exact right time. Plus, another 22 pages of Terry Moore art makes my nerdy little heart flutter. Brilliant issue by a true master of medium.

Fables 119 – I can’t say I’m really enjoying this arc much. It’s not bad, but It’s kind of… meh. Firstly, fables works partly because of the large cast of characters. In this arc, we only get 2 or 3, and they’re characters that weren’t that interesting to begin with. Secondly, It feels kinda slow. Normally I don’t mind decompression (and in some instances I love it), but here it’s just boring. I’m contemplating a drop.

Fatima- The Blood Spinners 2 – I really want to like this comic. I really do. Gilbert Hernandez is a champion of independent comics, but I just can’t seem to get into his work. No matter how critically acclaimed Love and Rockets is, I just don’t get it. Fatima is the same. I don’t hate it, per se (although I do hate the ridiculously huge breasts he draws), But It’s not blowing my mind.

Baltimore: Dr Leskovar’s Remedy 2 – Baltimore is probably my favourite property in the Mignolaverse and this mini series was supernatural horror at it’s best. Prepare for a Frankenstein type scientist who does some crazy things with vampires. And Giant crabs. There were an awful lot of giant crabs.

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth – The Devil’s Engine 3 – A double dose of Mignola makes me a happy nerd. The last issue in the latest ‘Hell on Earth’ story has everything you would expect – monsters, blood and cool heroes that do cool things to defeat said monsters. It’s not groundbreaking, but it is a whole lot of fun.

Mars Attacks 2 - This series could have gone either way – A fun, funny sci-fi book with a great period aesthetic, or a complete piece of trash, useful only for starting fires. Fortunately it was given to Chew’s John Layman and it absolutely falls into the first country. Fans of the movie, fans of the cards, or fans of good tongue-in-cheek alien schlock will love it.

Night of 1000 Wolves 3 - Pick of the week. This was such an amazing series. It was breathtakingly beautiful, jarringly visceral and this final issue did not disappoint in it’s ending. BUY IT NOW!

Star Trek 11 – as a huge fan of original series Star Trek, I can’t help but have a soft spot for this comic. The artist on this arc absolutely nails the character likenesses, plus, tribbles. A must read for any trekkie.
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CBNAH Interview: Kurtis Wiebe

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Kurtis J Wiebe has been ridiculously busy over the past few years. He's churned out a novel, video game concepts and 6 comic titles with a seventh, Debris, coming out at the end of next month.He took time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions for CBNAH.

I'm looking at the list of books you’ve written over the past 2 years – Snow Angel, The Intrepids, Green Wake, plus a novel, your Sky Pirates of Neo Terra stuff, and 3 comics on (or soon to be) the stands – I guess my question is how did you get to be so awesome?!


KW: It’s been a very nice combination of insanely hard work and bits of luck here and there that have all come together in a very short space of time. I’d been working on my craft for 5 years before I ever saw any success and had the honour of 30 rejections letters before that.
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CBNAH: Seriously, though, how do you go about balancing your time between multiple books?
KW: That’s been a difficult learning experience for me. I went into 2011 with this insane idea that I wanted to have 5 comics out within a year and thought it was a manageable goal. I suppose it has been, in a way, but it’s a constant struggle to stay ahead of the game and keep up with my various collaborative partners. I’ve decided to dial down things a little for 2013, but that in no way means I’m going to stop writing.

CBNAH: I’m loving Peter Panzerfaust at the moment. I imagine it would be trickier adapting a classic like Peter Pan compared to just writing something original. How do you discern what plot points to keep and how your story should relate to JM Barrie’s?
KW: The main focus for me is to retain that sense of adventure and wonder I experienced when first introduced to his amazing world. From there I also wanted fans to connect with the characters they’ve grown to love but in a completely new and original way. That for has always been the most important aspect of Peter Panzerfaust; characters. You can have all the action in the world, throw them into insanely entertaining situations, but if you don’t care about their plight, nothing matters and interest will be lost.
That’s why issue #4 and, even more so, issue #5, focuses on the characters and what the reality of loss means to them. I’ve had a few people comment on how #4 made them tear up and I feel that’s the payoff. People really care about these poor kids stuck in a horrible place.

CBNAH: Both you and Peter Panzerfaust artist Tyler Jenkins are into World War II. How much research did you guys do in preparing for the story?
KW: Lots. I mean, we’ve both been into WWII for longer than we’ve known each other, so we already had a basic knowledge just from our own interests. When sitting down to actually get this project going, I had to do some serious digging to make sure our series was framed in historical accuracy. I’ve established a time line of events that coincide with the movements of the characters and Tyler has his brothers, who are all WWII fanatics, to keep him in line with gear and machinery of the specific time period.

CBNAH: Shifting gears for a second, you mixed horror and romance in Green Wake and in Grim Leaper, you’re doing the same thing, albeit with a very different approach. Where does the fascination of these two seemingly opposite things come from?
KW: I’m divorced.
Oh, you want more?
I think love is something that can be terrifying. I’m not saying that in a joking way. If you really look at it, when you are in a long term relationship, there’s a level of vulnerability that is present nowhere else in life. You are an open book to that partner and anything… from death to betrayal, can be a catastrophic experience because you are entirely connected to that person. It’s one of the scariest things we can experience. For me, I’ve gone through some pretty painful and hilarious things the last few years with a failed marriage and dating again in my 30’s. It’s been a very bizarre path that has led to stories like Green Wake and Grim Leaper and I enjoy writing about them because so many people can empathize with those experiences.

CBNAH: Grim Leaper and your new series, Debris, are both 4 issue minis. Is that because it’s easier to pitch and sell a mini rather than an ongoing, or are the stories you want to tell better suited to that format?
KW: It’s more scheduling than anything. Currently, with Peter Panzerfaust an ongoing, I didn’t want to tackle more than one long form story at a time and I felt with Debris and Grim Leaper they were stories that fit succinctly into a short run. Grim Leaper was actually going to be five issues but I cut it back by one because I felt that going another issue might water down the theme and impact of the story. Yes, it’s about a dude who dies in hilarious, disgusting ways, but it really is about his arc as a lonely man trying to find something in the world that gives him purpose.
That said, I have a pretty awesome idea for a follow up for the series, but we’ll just have to see.
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CBNAH: You’re working with Riley Rossmo again on Debris – what can we look forward to when it comes out on July 25th?
KW: First of all, can I say how excited I am about this series? Seriously.
Riley Rossmo is one of my favourite artists and also a great friend who I’ve come to greatly admire over the last few years. To be able to work with him so closely since last year has been a dream come true, as I’d been trying to get him to draw one of my scripts since 2009.
Debris is a high action book set on future Earth where the spirits of the world have returned to exact revenge on us for the damage we’ve done. As they are spirits, they can only harm us in physical form, and to do so they take bodies from the garbage strewn across the world. It’s one part Hayao Miyazaki, one part Final Fantasy and a nice blend of Red Sonja and Shadow of the Colossus.

CBNAH: Riley is one of my favorite artists at the moment as well. Looking at preview pages, Riley’s work is very different to his stuff on Green Wake. What was your reaction when you first saw the pages?
KW: I have to make sure everyone knows that the final art you’re seeing is a smashing together of two amazing artists: Riley Rossmo and Owen Gieni. Riley is doing something very new with his art style for our project, he’s drawing lighter, cleaner lines and inks then handing it over to the stellar colour style that Owen has made a name doing.
Honestly, when I saw the preview pages, I was amazed. We’d talked about the look of the series long before we started it, we wanted to have a far departure from the dark, bleak world of Green Wake and really surprise people with a gorgeously rendered and coloured world. It was even more beautiful than I had expected.
If I could work with these two gents forever, I would.

CBNAH: You seem to work with artists that fit so perfectly with the story you’re telling – Riley, Tyler, Aluisio – Do you have much say in who you work with? Talk us through that process.
KW: Completely. I write a script, I find an artist I believe will best tell the story. I’ve been very fortunate to have friends who are very talented people and pretty much every single project I’m working is with people I consider close to me. And, interestingly enough, I met Aluisio through Riley, so there’s this community that I’ve somehow managed to become part of.

CBNAH: You seem fairly open about the fact that you’re writing is often very personal. What attracts you to writing stories that are an expression of yourself and where you are in life?
KW: There’s no other way. I can’t help but infuse my current emotional state into the stories I tell, and believe me, I’ve tried. Those stories always seem to lack heart or punch, they just sit there and do nothing for me. When I let my opinions or experiences paint the canvas of my scripts, it becomes entirely its own thing. There’s more on the line for me, personally. I have to make sure that everything is just right and it allows my characters to come to life because they are speaking about things I believe to be true.

CBNAH: You’ve talked a lot in other interviews about Green Wake’s premature cancelation. The industry is seems to be heading more towards a digital and trade paradigm, and I wonder if comics like Green Wake would be more or less successful under such a model. What are your thoughts on that shift?
KW: I still think we’re in a very interesting transition and have given it a lot of personal thought. I still don’t have any answers but I do know that single issues in print are a vital part of the equation. As indies we often suffer from a lack of readership and it’s a real battle to keep the numbers up to get that all important trade paperback, but it’s the singles that entice people to invest long term.
Some people at Image have had success with increased trade sales when releasing their series online for free a year later, but I can’t speak to that personally. I haven’t noticed a huge benefit.

CBNAH: What comics are you reading at the moment?
KW: Saga, Secret History of DB Cooper, Conan, DMZ, Batman, Animal Man and there’s a pile of local Canadian comics all sitting on a table by my bed. (Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks, The Terrible Death of Finnegan Strappe by Jordyn Bochon, etc)

CBNAH: Finish the sentence: Comic book nerds are hot because…
KW: they’re people, and we’re all hot in some fucked up way or another.
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Review: Reset #3

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OK, I’m hooked. The more Peter Bagge reveals (and keeps hidden) about the testing for a psychoanalytic app where they make one man relive his life however he wants in a virtual reality, the more I’m fascinated by it. I don’t have any clue as to where this story is going, and I love it.

The characters in this book are getting really interesting. When we were first introduced to Guy I wasn’t sure what to make of him. After this issue, it’s clear that he’s a lot more intelligent than anyone is giving him credit for, and I’m really excited to see how he develops.

His relationship with his high school crush, Gail, and it speaks to the inner nerd in all of us that thinks about the ‘what if…’ when it came to the chicks (or dudes) we dug in school. The dynamic between program operator Angie and manager Wesley has also been fascinating, and Wesley’s douche-ness endears the reader to the generally unlikeable Angie. And Ted’s just a hoot.
Bagge’s illustrations have a great quirkiness, and it serves to both emphasize the comedy in the book and soften the very serious themes Bagge addresses. It’s just cool.

The book can be wordy at times, but it doesn’t feel like you’re wading through dialogue, rather you know your getting a great amount of story for your money. It’s natural, well written and great to read. Peter Bagge has me sold.
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Review: Baltimore: Dr Leskovar’s Remedy #1

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This 2 issue miniseries follows straight on from Baltimore: The Curse Bells, continuing Lord Baltimore’s quest for Haigus, A vampire who killed his family. Mike Mignola writes supernatural horror like no one else in the business, with the possible exception of Steve Niles. Baltimore: Dr Leskovar’s Remedy #1 is no different. It’s classic, gothic vampire fiction at it’s non-sparkling best.

There is a lot about this book that’s formulaic. It begins in a quaint little fishing village.

There’s a deserted town, A mad scientist, and let’s face it, Baltimore is not exactly a new type of character. He fits perfectly with the Mignola formula of broody bad-ass beats up supernatural bad guys. Here’s the thing, though – who ever said following a formula has to be a bad thing? Not only are we familiar with the character types and story, it suits the world of the comic.
I love the fact that every book in the Mignolaverse, regardless of when and where it’s set, and what artist draws it, feels the same. You know straight away you’re reading a Mignola book. It just has that creepy, foreboding feel to it that makes his books, including this one, so good.
Speaking of art, It’s Ben Stenbeck who takes up the pencil and brush this issue. It has a sort of Eric Powell meets Tonci Zonjic look, with bold lines, heavy inks and a sort of expressive simplicity. I love the crab motif that works it’s way through the book – it’s kinda creepy in a way that I’m unsure of. Stewart’s colours assist, also providing part of that aesthetic continuity mentioned above.
If you’re a Mignola fan, or a fan of supernatural horror in general, you’ll want to check out this mini series, and then go back and buy the first two trades.
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Review: Saga #4

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Tim's Review:
Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples continue to bring awesomeness to the table with Saga – this issue in a disturbing way that is decidedly not for the faint of heart. In issue 4, Alana and Marco discuss ‘Gwendolyn’, the last page A-bomb from issue three. Meanwhile, The Will visits a place called ‘Sextillion’, which is just as graphic and disturbing as it sounds.


As always, the relationships that are so lovingly crafted by Vaughan are natural, open and honest. I’m enthralled by Alana and Marco – They’re Romeo and Juliet in the real world. They bicker and argue, but there’s no denying the deep connection between the two – each willing to lay their life down for the other. Their love fir their daughter Isabel is also evident, and written in a way only possible by someone with children. The relationship between the two parents and their new ghost ‘babysitter’ is also first class, punctuated by Vaughan’s excellent dialogue. Whether it’s his experience as a screenwriter or his natural ability, Brian K Vaughan writes some of the best dialogue in the business. Always sharp and well paced, it feels natural and often has a poetic wit about it.
The Will is shaping up to be a really interesting character. He’s the bad guy – his job is to hunt down the main protagonists - but he’s kinda really cool. He has a great moment in this issue that, in wrestling terms, won us over to him. I’m really looking forward to seeing what Vaughan has in store for him.
Fiona Staples is asked to draw some tough things in this issue, and she does it with grace and style. She has really captured the vibe of Vaughan’s universe – it’s messed up, but not in a harsh way. Her work is very soft and organic, and I think the lettering and design work from Fonographics plays a huge part in achieving the desired aesthetic.
The world needs more books like Saga and creators like Vaughan and Staples. They deserve your money.

Oliver's review:
My heart is torn. And I will tell you why. I have never been exposed to much of Brian K. Vaughan's work in the past. I think it was only Runaways that I've read, one of My more personal favorite fruits of labor in the Marvel U.

That being said, I approached saga with an open mind because of all the hype surrounding it. And so far, I have thoroughly enjoyed the book.....and this issue that I'm doing a review with in particular. 
But there's a downside too...

Perhaps there has never been a much bigger push for indie books than now, and the comic world is all the more richer for it as it lets creators expand their wings. We often associate creator owned books with quality as it is free from editorial propaganda and commercial dictates. But sadly, more often than not, as an outside observer (I have been weaned on traditional super hero comics and mostly, if ever, an indie newbie) what I've seen hasn't totally endeared me to it. Yes, granted the freedom that it brings is fresh but what exactly do we get out of that freedom? What do we consider quality?  Violence?  Extreme violence? Graphic nudity? Which is what this comic is full of. Forgive me, dear reader, if I had to elaborate a little bit going into the "indie vs mainstream" philosophical debate, but I feel I need to in order to express my thoughts and make it clear...also, it is in service to my review of the book.

I am a little bit disturbed because we associate creator freedom with quality and so far, in most popular indie books, you get a high level of sex, gore and violence. If you, dear reader, had been exposed all your life to the world of the graphic word, it won't affect you as much. But if this is what passes for quality these days, if we want people to notice our beloved industry and read comics, then i understand then, why we are where we are. Mostly, if you are from the outside looking in, all I really see is a bad translation of a Low budget Cinemax movie.....

Now, remember when I said at the start how I am torn? Well I guess you could consider this review as being done by two face because the first part of my review had me seeing this comic from the eyes of a casual reader. If I were to be from the street and just picked that book up, that is what I would feel.

Now personally, I rather liked this issue of Saga. The mood and the tone is rather heavy because "The Will" went to a sex planet to find escape. And the depravity of the situation was successfully given life by the talents of Vaughan and Staples. It moved the story forward and it gave us a glimpse into The mind of the enemy. So far, the pacing has slowed down, but I don't really mind it as it has allowed for some moments of character development. We get a little more info on the life of the male lead, knowing some of his secrets. I feel that it might be a foreshadowing of events to come, as they really wanted to stress to the reader this part of his life..
Art wise, I am, as ever, always humbled by the stellar art of Fiona Staples. The first page alone supports that statement.

You can see how creative she is with the designs that she has made for this book. BKV was right in his decision to invite her for this project. I couldn't imagine what it may have been under another artists pen. I truly support the idea that artists, subconsciously pluck their ideas and thoughts from a dimension a few levels above ours. If that were the case, then I would say that Staples holds the key to that place's door. Her work has been nothing but stunning and is the reason why I even took notice of this book anyways.

All in all, a very good issue as it has successfully moved the story forward, giving us some insights into the thoughts and lives of the characters, superimposed with a layer of wit and humor and given life by awesome, awesome art. Pick it up, or wait for the trade, saga, is a worthy addition to your collection.
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The School of Better Comics Episode 2!

  • This lesson is about narrative structure and how comics can and don't fit into it. Read this week's assignment HERE

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Review: RASL #14

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With the end in site, Jeff Smith's science fiction tale has more twists and turns than a Tesla generator. This penultimate issue doesn't even come close to wrapping the story up, but it's completely clear that Smith has total control and knows exactly how things will pan out. second last issue or not, we get everything we've come to expect from an issue of RASL - plenty of action, not a small amount of intrigue, a healthy dose of science and of course Smith's beautiful and emotive art.


the issue begins with a tense showdown between RASL and nemesis Sal Crow, as RASL tries to sabotage the Tesla inspired technology responsible for inter-dimensional mayhem. Normally at this stage I'd bring out the old cliche that 'things don't go according to plan', but the beauty of this book is that you're not really sure what the plan is to begin with. In fact there is a very good chance that the events of the issue were part of RASL's plan all along. Everything is here: There's action, violence, warping dimensions, romance, good guys, bad guys and that always interesting shade of grey in between. Characters are a great strength of Smith's, and the past 14 issues have allowed the audience to build a real affinity with the increasingly complex title character, as well as a healthy dislike for the antagonist.

Smith's art is, of course, brilliant. A veteran of visual storytelling, he can create so much power and emotion from a single panel. He varies his line thickness perfectly, and uses the simple black and white contrasts to create great tone and texture. There's a scene in a blacked out bar between RASL, Sal and RASL's lover Uma that really shows Smith's skill with not only the pencil, but the ink brush as well.

If you've been following the series, I doubt you'd miss this issue anyway. If you've never picked up an issue, go out and grab the first trade. It's a twisting story of love, loss and Nikola Tesla.
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The School of Better Comics Episode 1!

  • In this first lesson, Tim Barklay discusses superheroes, what's wrong with mainstream superhero comics today and what superhero comics you should be reading.

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Review: Irredeemable #37

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I was actually a little taken aback when I heard that issue 37 was the final issue of Mark Waid's excellent superhero comic with a twist. I felt there was still a lot more story that needed telling, and I wasn't sure how Waid was going to tie it all up in one issue. Oh, me of little faith. I should know by now that one should always trust Mr. Waid. This issue ends the story perfectly. Character arcs are completed, Loose ends tied up and the final couple of pages will no doubt give readers a pay off we never expected, but makes complete sense. This series has been unique and exciting from beginning to end, and one of the finest examples of superhero comics on the market.



The relationship between Plutonian and Quibit comes full circle in this issue, and you really get a sense of the Plutonian's desire for redemption. It's not quite remorse, although there is a beautiful moment toward the end were I actually felt sorry for Tony. I think the mark of a good writer is when a character triggers an emotional response, and that's exactly what happens. it's hard given details without spoilers, so you're going to have to trust me on this one. Sufficed to say, waid delivers a unique and fitting end to his critically acclaimed epic.

Diego Barreta is at his absolute best. from the opening splash page depicting Plutonian fighting dinosaurs (superheroes vs dinosaurs is always a good thing), to the beautiful landscapes that grace the panels like pictures from a travel magazine, Baretta pours his heart and soul into each panel. Waid's strong character moments are made all the more powerful by the expressive art. And those last 2 pages! Wow. I really don't know what else to say about this book other than go buy it. The first trade can be picked up for under $10 - a worthy investment.
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Review: CLiNT #2.1

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Mark Millar has been doing great things for the comics industry, particularly in Britain. Having founded the Kapow! comic convention, Millar is passionate about bringing comics to the mainstream. One of the chief ways he's doing that is with his comics magazine CLiNT. Heh. I see what he did there. I don't know how well the magazine sells, or whether it has indeed brought in new readership, but i can tell you I found it sadly disappointing. There's nothing necessarily bad about CLiNT #2.1, with the possible exception of it being Millar's love letter to himself, and there are some things that are actually awesome.

unfortunately, unless you're a hardcore Millar fan, this publication belongs in the annals of mediocrity.

The magazine is made up of 4 comics and a bunch of filler. It begins with a bunch of pages explaining what Millar is doing (dude, we don't care), and then launches into Supercrooks #1. Before I go on with the review, let me make it clear that I don't hate Mark Millar's work. I loved Old Man Logan, Kick-Ass is great (although Luther Strode is better) and Civil War got me back into comics. Unfortunately, not all his stuff is good. Supercrooks takes it's place amongst those not good ones. There is nothing inherently bad about it, and Leinil Yu's art is pretty tidy, but it's just kind of boring. It's like going to the ballet - you know you should enjoy it but it's about as interesting as a Tom Hanks movie. Millar seems to be writing his comics for movies, rather than writing a comic to be a comic, and his stories seem to suffer as a result.

The next story, Rex Royd by Frankie Boyle and Mike Dowling, also lacked any real punch. it was a little hard to follow, the characters seemed kind of shallow and it just didn't grab me at all. When I first started reading it, I really wanted it to be good, so I could take a break from the disturbingly large dose of Millar that had been forcefully injected into me previously. Sadly, this felt exactly like a Millar story. I did finally get my reprieve on page 43, as a Roman Dirge Lenore story was reprinted to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the character. Fun, quirky and beautiful. Too little, too late.

Secret Service #1 followed, which started really strongly, with the 'rescue' and subsequent death of nerd icon Mark Hamill. funny and action packed. The rest of the story was interesting, even enough for me to read issue 2. It does seem like it's heading in a similar direction to Wanted, also by Millar though. In it, a secret service agent bails his ne'er do well nephew out of prison. There's an underlying mystery that seems to be playing out slowly, and it's not all that bad a read. Not brilliant, mind you, but it didn't suck.

After an interesting interview with Clint, a real life superhero, Death Sentence by Monty Nero and Mike Dowling graces the final pages of the magazine. A gritty distopian tale about seemingly unconnected young people who are given chemicals that manifest into superpowers, Death Sentence is a clear standout. Dowling's art is expressive and gritty, and the story is engaging. If it were published as a comic on it's own, it may even get a spot on my pull list. Unfortunately, to get to it, you have to wade through 80 pages of Millar touching himself. Yeah, I wen't there. Unless you're a hardcore Millar fan, you don't need to go there. Leave it alone.

Special Offer: Subscribe to CLiNT and Save 20%, plus get a FREE signed Dave Gibbons 'The Secret Service' Art Card! Act now, only 200 available! To find out more visit - http://titanmagazines.com/t/clint/local-subscribe/
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Review: Conan #4

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Anyone who's a fan of action/adventure and is not reading this comic is either ignorant of it's awesomeness or otherwise straight out insane. Brian Wood's retelling of the classic Robert E Howard novella 'Queen of the Black Coast' has been nothing but amazing. Conan and his new queen Belit set their mind on action, specifically looting and pillaging the port town of Messantia, Argos. Conan has earned the respect of his new crew, and the hatches a plan that requires complete faith in his lessers.


Wood is telling one hell of a compelling tale here. it's not a deep, emotionally reflective story, In fact character development is reduced to an effective minimum. what it is is a fun adventure, classily written. The relationship between Conan and Belit is believable without being realistic. The drama is tense, the dialogue is strong and the action is exciting. This issue takes Conan to a dark and lonely place that is so well written it's beautiful.

James Harren relieves Becky Cloonan as an artist, which is sad on paper, but in practice it makes little difference. Often when a book changes artists between arcs it can be jarring, but not so here. Harren's work is glorious. There's a double page spread as Conan and Belit sail the Tigress into the port that is breathtaking in it's beauty. Dave Stewart's colours complete the bridge between the two artists as the general aesthetic of the book is kept.

Seriously, buy this book. It's insanely good.
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Why I Buy: The Master List

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Over the past month and a half, I've been analysing my 48 issue pull list, justifying why I buy each comic and throwing in some interior art. This week I pull the entire list together, with a bunch of additions that bring the list up to 53. As you can tell, It's a constantly changing thing, so I might revisit it in 6 months, and see what's changed.



Comic: 2000ad
Publisher: Rebellion
Writer: Various, including John Wagner and Pat Mills
Artist: Various
Why I buy: I love anthologies, and the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic allows me to get my anthology fix every single week. It often baffles me, the amount of quality stories they can cram into each issue (or prog, as they’re known in 2000ad). 2000ad has an amazing catalogue of characters at their disposal, as well. From Judge Dredd to the ABC warriors to Johnny Alpha to Nikolai Dante, there is truly something for everyone, provided everyone enjoys sci-fi action. 5 stories in 32 pages on a weekly basis? Heck yes.
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Comic: Rachel Rising
Publisher: Abstract
Writer: Terry Moore
Artist: Terry Moore
Why I Buy: Two words – Terry. Moore. I’m such a huge fan of his work. He is an intelligent artist and gifted storyteller. Every little detail in each panel is carefully thought out – how a person fills their clothing, the way characters carry themselves, how a set is dressed. In Rachel Rising, Moore plays around with stronger horror elements than he ever did with SiP or Echo, and it makes for a crazy, exciting read.
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Comic: Fathom vol 4
Publisher: Aspen
Writer: Scott Lobdell
Artist: Alex Konat
Why I buy: I bought the first volume for Michael Turner’s art, and ended up loving the premise. The story is about Aspen Matthews, a young marine biologist who discovers she is actually a child of two non-human races - the Blue, who live in n underwater environment that would make Namor jealous, and the Black, who are their mortal enemies. This latest series has taken an even deeper supernatural tone, as Aspen lays the smack down on some awesome monsters. It’s a beautiful book, and – does a great job at channelling the late great Michael Turner.
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Comic: Irredeemable
Publisher: BOOM!
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Diego Barreto
Why I buy: Imagine if Superman heard one too many internet trolls badmouthing him and snapped, turning into an evil sociopath. Thus is essentially the premise behind one of Mark Waid’s two superhero properties at BOOM!. Plus, it’s Mark Waid, so you know it’s going to be well written.
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Comic: Incorruptible
Publisher: BOOM!
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Marcio Takara
Why I buy: Mark Waid’s other superhero property at BOOM!, Incorruptible is about a reformed super villain trying to do good in the world. It goes hand in hand with Incorruptible, and it’s a damn fine read. The exploration of the human spirit is central to the plot, and while there’s plenty of no-holds-barred action, it is the characterisation that is the champion.
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Comic: Valen the Outcast
Publisher: BOOM!
Writer: Michael Alan Nelson
Artist: Matteo Scalera
Why I buy: Dark fantasy at it’s finest. I’ve been a big fan of Michael Alan Nelson for a long time. He writes action comics as well as anyone, and Valen is no exception. Fast paced, visually exciting and a great example of how following an established formula doesn’t have to be predictable or clichéd. The story follows King Valen’s quest to retrieve his soul, stolen from him by an evil necromancer.
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Comic: RASL
Publisher: Cartoon Books
Writer: Jeff Smith
Artist: Jeff Smith
Why I buy: Asides the fact that it’s a Jeff Smith comic, RASL is an energetic romp through alternate universes. RASL is an art dimension hopping art thief and former scientist working on forms of energy theorised by Nikolai Tesla. Smith’s art is powerful and expressive, and his story melds both real and fictional science together in a twisting, turning adventure.
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Alabaster Wolves
Publisher: Dark Horse
Writer: Caitlin R Kiernan
Artist: Steve Lieber
Why I buy: I’ve only read the first issue, but I loved it. The story opens with a girl sitting at a bus stop, but that’s the only normal thing that happens. We’re talking a 4 faced angel, a talking crow and a werewolf disguised as a hot chick. Leiber’s art is, as always, fantastic, and the first issue has me hanging out for more.
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Comic: Angel and Faith
Publisher: Dark Horse
Writer: Christos Gage
Artist: Rebekah Isaacs
Why I buy: I’m a fan of the Buffy franchise, and while Angel is my least favourite character of the series, this book has been phenomenal. It feel’s more like a Buffy TV show than the Buffy Comic does. Gage is weaving one heck of a tale, and I can’t wait for each issue. Isaacs nails the character likenesses, and keeps the action coherent and readable.
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Comic: B.P.R.D.
Publisher: Dark Horse
Writer: Mike Mignola, John Arcudi
Artist: James Harren
Why I buy: There aren’t too many that do paranormal horror like Mike Mignola. With Hellboy coming to an end, BPRD is where I get my Mignola fix. This year heralds a whole bunch of BPRD series, including Long Death and the new mini out this Wednesday, Pickens County Horror. Mignola’s world is so rich and full, It’s a pleasure to read.
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Comic: Buffy Season 9
Publisher: Dark Horse
Writer: Andrew Chambliss
Artist: Georges Jeanty
Why I buy: Because it’s Buffy. Season 8 was this massive epic, a grandiose tale. Season 9 takes a step back, assuming a pace more like the TV show. Chambliss finds the voices of the characters perfectly, and Jeanty’s been drawing Buffy for so long he knows exactly what he’s doing.
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Comic: Conan the Barbarian
Publisher: Dark Horse
Writer: Brian Wood
Artist: Becky Cloonan
Why I buy: There are a handful of creators whose work I will almost always buy. Brian Wood is one of them. I’ve loved almost everything he’s done, and Conan is no exception. Along with Becky Cloonan, Wood has fashioned an edgy, bold version of the classic character. The pair are re-imagining the classic Robert E Howard tale ‘Queen of the Black Coast’ and it is awesome sauce.
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Comic: Dark Horse presents
Publisher: Dark Horse
Writer: Various
Artist: Various
Why I buy:
It is the grab bag of style, both art and story, that makes anthologies like Dark Horse Presents so good. It’s like going to a candy store and trying a little bit of everything – there’s some flavours you like more than others, but they’re all good. The sheer diversity in storytelling excites my so much. If you’re not reading Dark Horse Presents, you should be.
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Comic: The Goon
Publisher: Dark Horse
Writer: Eric Powell
Artist: Eric Powell
Why I buy:

Do you want to read about a depression era thug who fights zombies, hobos, sea monsters, monsters made out of wicker, monsters made out of babies and insane burlesque performers? Then why the hell aren’t you reading The Goon? A delightfully fun period comic, this series manages to blend ridiculous lowbrow humour with surprising dramatic weight. Oh, and there’s also a heck of a lot of punching.

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Comic: Lobster Johnson
Publisher: Dark Horse
Writer: Mike Mignola
Artist: Tony Zonjic
Why I buy: Lobster Johnson allows a second monthly hit of Mignola. It’s great period superhero noir, as well. Set in the early ‘30s, Lobster Johnson is a pulpy, fun crime story about a leather clad vigilante who takes justice into his own hands. A thoroughly entertaining comic.
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Ragemoor
Publisher: Dark Horse
Writer: Jan Strnad
Artist: Richard Corben
Why I buy: This weird story is about an old castle that has a life of it’s own. The inhabitants of castle Ragemoor are as enigmatic as the dwelling itself, and classic horror elements dominate, like a lost episode of Tales From the Crypt. It’s creepy and weird, Like if House of Mystery was written by Mike Mignola. Richard Corben’s art is amazing. I love his fuzzy lines, and he just draws horror so naturally. A truly wonderful book.
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Comic: Usagi Yojimbo
Publisher: Dark Horse
Writer: Stan Sakai
Artist: Stan Sakai
Why I buy: Usagi Yojimbo is a charming tale of an anthropomorphic rabbit ronin who roams around looking for adventure and noble causes to lend his rather extensive samurai skills to. Usagi is a morally upright warrior who lives by a strong code of conduct. You have to love the guy. Sakai has been writing and drawing these books for 25 years, but the great thing about them is you can pick up an issue without having read anything before it, and follow and enjoy it.
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All Star Western
Publisher: DC
Writer: Justin Grey and Jimmy Palmiotti
Artist: Moritat
Why I buy: I loved Grey and Palmiotti's work on 'Jonah Hex', and was hoping for more of it in All-Star Western. Unfortunately, it feels like they've 'sold out' and are trying to target a more mainstream audience with conventional storytelling and Batman mythos. All Star Western is still good, and Moritat's art is fantastic, but I'm just waiting for Jonah Hex to get the hell out of Gotham and go back to doing what he does best - being a wandering bad-ass bounty hunter.
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Animal Man
Publisher: DC
Writer: Jeff LeMire
Artist: Travel Foreman, Steve Pugh
Why I buy: Animal Man and Swamp thing are my hands down favourite things DC is publishing right now. Asides the insane horror,
I love the family dynamic in Animal Man. As a happily married man, one of my pet peeves is the lack of solid, committed families in comics. I love that Buddy is totally and unequivocally committed to his family. The stuff with his daughter, Maxine is really cool as well. I love the idea that a little girl knows more about her Father’s powers than he does. Maxine is like a cross between Layla Miller and Valeria Richards.
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Batwoman
Publisher: DC
Writer: JH Williams III, W. Hayden Blackman
Artist: JH Williams III, Amy Reeder
Why I buy: JH Williams III. In fact I'm thinking of dropping the title and picking the trades of the JH Williams arcs. Williams is truly one of the best in the business, always providing breathtaking art and innovative visual storytelling. While Amy Reeder's work is not bad, it's not strong enough to carry the story, which is kind of strange and difficult to follow. I miss Greg Rucka.
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The Flash
Publisher: DC
Writer: Francis Manipul, Brian Buccellato
Artist: Francis Manipul
Why I buy: Francis Manapul has been killing it with the flash. It's visually spectacular, as Manipul Once again shows the current trend at DC of innovative layouts. His story is surprisingly good as well. Manipul humanizes Barry Allen very well, hitting some great emotional beats while maintaining the sense of fun that comes with superhero comics. A beautiful comic telling a strong story.
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Swamp Thing
Publisher: DC
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Yannick Paquette
Why I buy: Swamp thing goes hand in hand with Animal Man – just insane horror.
I continue to adore the fluid panel layouts in Swamp Thing. JH Williams III showed with no uncertainty that you can play around with panel layout to not only make the page look good, but better tell his story. Paquette does it masterfully here. Little things like using vine as panel borders for a jungle scene really make each page stand out, and it’s a treat to look at. If you want superhero-but-not horror comics then you should be reading both Animal Man and Swamp Thing.
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Bionic Man
Publisher: Dynamite
Writer: Kevin Smith, Phil Hestor
Artist: Jonathan Lau
Why I buy: I'm not a fan of Kevin Smith. There. I said it. Don't kill me. I don't find his movies funny, and Comic Book Men was atrocious. Having said that, Bionic man as been great. He is co writing with Phil Hester, who I love. The story of Steve Austin becoming the bionic man, and the missions he goes on, is fast paced when it needs to be, as well as being personal and often emotional. Top notch storytelling.
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Game of Thrones
Publisher: Dynamite
Writer: George R. R. Martin, Daniel Abraham
Artist: Tommy Patterson
Why I buy: George R Martin’s series of fantasy novels, collectively known as A Song of Ice and Fire, is hot property right now. Thanks to HBO, who have been adapting the series as an award winning television show, everyone is talking about it. Dynamite are adapting the books into a comic, an so far it’s been pretty spot on. Tommy Patterson, who provides the art on the series, does a wonderful job in capturing the look and feel of the novels.
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Locke & key
Publisher: IDW
Writer: Joe Hill
Artist: Gabriel Rodruigez
Why I buy:
Locke and Key is a difficult beast to describe. It’s fantasy, with elements like magic and creepy mansions, but set in the modern world, with 'real' people. It’s horror, with murderous students and sinister villains, but it’s not like a Hack/Slash or 30 Days of Night-type horror. In fact, it's a perfect blend of both genres. It’s The Chronicles of Narnia meets H.P. Lovecraft. It’s Dark Fantasy done right.
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Memorial
Publisher: IDW
Writer: Chris Roberson
Artist: Rich Ellis
Why I buy: When I picked up the first issue of Memorial, I wasn’t completely sure if I loved it or not. By issue 3, I’m convinced I do. It’s a fun twisting tale in the vain of Carey and Gross’ Unwritten, although not quite as deep. There’s something very Gaimanesque about Memorial – world-hopping fantasy with abstract concepts in the form of characters that guide or hinder the main protagonist in her sweeping quest.
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Road Rage
Publisher: IDW
Writer: Richard Matheson, Steven King, Joe Hill, Chris Ryall
Artist: Nelson Daniel, Rafa Garres
Why I buy:
The names on the top of the comic read: Hill. Matheson. King. Those three words alone should be enough to convince people to pick up this comic. It is IDW boss Chris Ryall that actually writes the comic, however. He is adapting two short stories – Duel, By Richard Matheson and ‘Throttle’, an homage to Matheson’s piece by father son duo Joe Hill and Steven King. The basic elements to this comic are bad-ass bikies and full tilt action, both provided in bucketfuls.
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Smoke and Mirrors
Publisher: IDW
Writer: Mike Costa
Artist: Ryan Browne
Why I buy: In a world where everything is run on magic – household appliances, Cars, utilities – an illusionist somehow crossed over from our world finds himself pedalling a brand of magic no one has seen before. A young boy is taken by these tricks and insists on being taught. The premise of this series is fresh and the execution solid. It’s these kinds of stories that make me love comics. Small, interesting ideas can be played out in an economic way, something that is very difficult with prose. Well worth a look.
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Star Trek
Publisher: IDW
Writer: Mike Johnson
Artist: Stephen Molnar and others
Why I buy: I’ve always been a fan of the original series star trek, from when I was 12 and was crushing on the cute trekkie girl who lived up the road. So when IDW announced a new Star Trek ongoing telling Original Series stories but set in the JJ Abrams Star Trek universe, I was pretty stoked. The series hasn’t disappointed. It’s exciting, fun, and feels fresh while maintaining a sense of nostalgia.
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Chew
Publisher: Image
Writer: John Layman
Artist: Rob Guillaroy
Why I buy:
My Goodness, I love this book. If you want a perfect blend of action, violence and humour, you need look no further than Chew. John Layman's script can get quite brutal at times, but Rob Guillroy's quirky and fun art softens the blow a little. It's kinda like being hit by Thor's hammer if it was wrapped in a pillow. It's heavily stylised, quirky, fun and a pleasure to look at. Chew is one of those books that just get's better and better as it goes along.
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Fatale
Publisher: Image
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Sean Phillips
Why I buy:
Any one who has any interest in pulp or lovecraft or crime noir or just a good, sold story should check it out. The characters are the main focus here, and the world Brubaker and Phillips has made for them is unusual in a way that I can't quit put my finger on - just how I like it. Sean Phillips is the cheese to Bru's crackers. The Spock to his Kirk. They work so well together, and Phillip's style suits the pulp noir or Brubaker's stories perfectly. The engaging mystery of Fatale is one that grabs you and sucks you in - a vortex to the imagination. Comics at it's finest.
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Hack/Slash
Publisher: Image
Writer: Tim Seeley
Artist: Various
Why I buy:
‘A little bit of sexy and a whole lot of bloody’ reads the solicitation to Hack/Slash 10 by Tim Seeley and Daniel Leister. It’s a perfect description of not just this issue but the whole series. I can’t say I’ve been overly impressed with Hack/Slash of late, but this arc is shaping up to be pretty good. I still long for the days when it was just Cassie and Vlad driving around killing stuff, but in the mean time, I’m enjoying where the current arc, which features genetically enhanced dinosaurs.
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Infinite Vacation
Publisher: Image
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Christian Ward
Why I buy: Nick Spencer weaves a universe-hopping tale reminiscent of a horror infused Dr Who. The premise is that in a future that has access to infinite universes people can holiday in them. If you want to be a rock star, there’s a universe where you are. Christian Ward’s art is unique and beautiful, with unorthodox lines and soft colours, that really add to the dream-like quality of the story. It’s a shame it’s so long between issues.
iv_1_legion_cps_020

Invincible
Publisher: Image
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Artist: Ryan Ottley
Why I buy: One of the best, if not the best, superhero comics on the market. Kirkman’s ability to write long running series and keep them fresh and interesting is first class. I think his success lies in his skill in writing characters that are real and relatable, and have real and relatable relationships. Ottley illustrates the book perfectly. It’s fun and whimsical at times, but powerfully emotional when it needs to be.
inv-05-2

Memoir
Publisher: Image
Writer: Ben McCool
Artist: Nikki Cook
Why I buy:
Memoir has been hands down my favourite miniseries of the past year. It’s creepy, unpredictable and compelling. As each issue unfolds, we’re taken further and further into the mystery of Lowesville, a small community that suffered town-wide memory loss. I feel slightly paranoid throughout each issue, knowing that something bad was going to happen but not knowing what or when. Even when things slow down a little, there’s this real sense of lingering menace, a feeling kind of like thinking you’re being watched. As we get closer and closer to finding out the dark secrets of Lowesville and its residents, that sense of looming menace gets closer, like storm clouds about to burst. Nikki Cook provides clean lines and deep grey tones, with composition that enhances the menacing tone provided by McCool. McCool describes the series as Twin Peaks meets the Twilight Zone. I describe it as pure awesome sauce. If you’re into creepy horror, then you should be reading Memoir.
mem_05_013

Morning Glories
Publisher: Image
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Joe Eisma
Why I buy: Spencer has the ability to tell a story with more twists and turns than an amusement park. Morning Glories is like the good seasons of LOST set in a prep school. The plot thickens each and every issue, but not in a frustrating, we-don’t-get-any-answers kind of way. Eisma’s art is tight. His lines are clean, his characters unique and his composition dynamic. An exciting book.
mg_04_014

Peter Panzerfaust
Publisher: Image
Writer: Kurtis Weibe
Artist: Tyler Jenkins
Why I buy: Weibe’s vague retelling of Peter Pan is set in World War II, beginning in France. An enigmatic British soldier saves a group of fellows, captured by the French, and instigates an escape. The references to JM Barrie’s masterpiece are subtle, but recognisable enough to make for a really interesting read. It’s a fresh take on a classic, and a great read. Tyler Jenkins’ art is stylised perfectly to blend the reality of the war time setting with the fantasy elements of the source material.
009

Pigs
Publisher: Image
Writer:
Nate Cosby, Ben McCool
Artist:
Breno Tamura
Why I buy:
This series about a KGB sleeper cell in Cuba continues to be all kinds of awesome. While there’s not a whole lot of action in the book (although there’s a great deal of violence), the pacing is superb. Suspense is built up when it needs to be, deep character moments are powerful and even the ‘stand around discussing our plans’ scenes move along at a steady pace. The dialogue and character development play a major part in keeping the book interesting and a joy to read. Tamura’s art is rough grimy, which compliments the story well. It won’t be to everyone’s taste, but it serves the story well.
pigs_2_thegroup_004

Prophet
Publisher: Image
Writer: Brandon Graham
Artist: Simon Roy
Why I buy: Brandon Graham’s name was enough to make me buy the ‘first’ issue of the re-imagined series, but it was the unusual sci-fi beats that made me stay. Half the time I have no idea what’s going on, as the plot lakes detail and I’ve never read any of the previous leifeld stuff. Having said that, I don’t really care, because there are enough aliens and gadgets and spaceships and weird planets to make up for the confusing and spartan plot.
p-21-09

Rebel Blood
Publisher: Image
Writer:
Artist: Riley Rossmo
Why I buy: Zombies done by Riley Rossmo. That’s really all there is too it. I love Riley Rossmo’s art. His lines are gloriously untidy, and the tone and texture in his work never fail to give me a nerdgasm. Love it.
03

Saga
Publisher: Image
Writer: Brian K Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples
Why I buy:
You only need one reason to by this comic. I’ll give you bunch, but you only need one. Brian K. Vaughan. BKV is one of the greatest storytellers in the business, and Saga is an epic sc-fi fantasy, one part Star Wars, one part Willow and all parts amazing. Vaughan hits a really emotional rhythm in the book, and the relationship between the main characters is powerful and strong right from the beginning. Fiona Staples provides yet another reason for you to pick this up. Her art is beautiful. It’s perfectly expressive, and really captures the deep emotional beats set forth by BKV.
044

Savage Dragon
Publisher: Image
Writer: Erik Larson
Artist: Erik Larson
Why I buy: I’m only a recent convert to Savage Dragon, having always bundled it into that early Image basket that was all about the art but not so much the stories. Savage Dragon is superhero comics done right. Damn impressive if you consider Larson writes, draws, inks and colours the book himself. Dragon follows a cop/superhero who just happens to be an alien with green skin, a fin and a disproportionately large upper body. His family, adopted daughter and crime fighter Angel, and son Malcolm, feature heavily, and it is their struggle to fit into everyday life that makes this book so rich.
savage-dragon-176-13

Thief of Thieves
Publisher: Image
Writer: Robert Kirkman, Nick Spencer
Artist: Shawn Martinbrough
Why I buy: Plotted by Robert Kirkman with a script from Nick Spencer, Thief of Thieves #1 was a solid introductory issue. The book channels oceans 11 as the protagonist, Redmond, and his literal partner in crime plan a major heist. The book jumps back and forward in time a little, but it remains coherent, as each chapter plays it’s part in the overall story. Martinbrough’s art, while nothing mind-blowing, compliments the story well with it’s gritty simplicity.
tot009

Li’l Depressed Boy
Publisher: Image
Writer: S. Steven Struble
Artist: Sina Grace
Why I buy:
From the sparse dialogue to the hip characters, Little Depressed Boy (LDB) just oozes coffee culture cool. Let’s be honest, LDB is not for everyone. It’s slow, minimalistic and completely lacking in capes and tights. But in an industry dominated by superpowers, it’s always nice to take a breath and read a story with real dramatic weight. This is not a fast comic. The series is about a depressed young man trying to come out of his shell, but totally clueless as to how to do it. It’s fresh, it’s hip and it shows that if we live life with a negative attitude, it’s hard to see the positive in anything.
ldb_09_006

Walking dead
Publisher: Image
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Artist: Charlie Adlard
Why I buy:
The past year on the Walking Dead has been, with the exception of half of Carl’s face being blown off, pretty stagnant. It’s all been about getting the community zombie-proof, and dealing with issues inside the fence. At the moment, this long running book heralds a change that will hopefully shake things up in a big way. Adlard has been drawing Kirkman’s scripts for so long it’s almost as if his pencils are an extension of Kirkman’s imagination. From the simple action of a sword slicing open a zombie to the way each figure graces the panel the art perfectly serves the story.
twd_84_legion_cps_005

Whispers
Publisher: Image
Writer: Joshua Luna
Artist: Joshua Luna
Why I Buy: W
hispers is the first solo outing for Joshua Luna of the Luna Bros. The story follows Sam, a young obsessive compulsive germophobe who discovers he has the ability to ‘ghost’ people he knows simply by thinking of them. One of the strengths of the Luna Brothers’ work is there ability to rock a last page ‘Holy crap!’ reveal, and while we don’t get that here, the series is set up nicely, with enough of a dangling thread to desire the next part of the story.
whispers_0016-copy

X-Factor
Publisher: Marvel
Writer: Peter David
Artist: Leonard Kirk
Why I buy: Peter Alan David. Mainstream superhero comics tend to recycle old storylines and ideas, and there is a general lack of forward motion. Not so with X-Factor. PAD lovingly crafts his narratives to progress, using his characters as a vehicle for momentum. He knows how to rock a final page reveal, as well – “Holy Crap!” moments are a regular occurrence. With X-Factor, he maintains a great balance between superhero fun and hardboiled noir. Perfection.
008

Wasteland
Publisher: Oni
Writer: Antony Johnston
Artist: Christopher Mitten
Why I buy: Set in a post apocalyptic world where water is a rarity and settlements are few and far between, Wasteland is sweeping epic of political and religious intrigue. The book can get a little slow and wordy at times, but the story is so interesting it doesn’t matter. Think Game of Thrones meets Mad Max. The art, most often provided by Mitten, has a glorious hard fantasy aesthetic, expressive and powerful. If you’re into post-apocalyptic fantasy, Wasteland is a must read.
wasteland-00238-pg03

Fables
Publisher: Vertigo
Writer: Bill Willignham
Artist: Mark Buckingham
Why I buy: The premise is simple – Fairytale characters and creatures have been exiled from their respective worlds and all live together in our ‘mundy’ world. The plot, however, is not as straight forward. Fables is a twisting, turning, sweeping fantasy story full of war, romance, loyalty, treachery, and a hundred other devices that fit under the good vs evil motif. The characters, despite their history in fairy tales, the characters are often down to earth and relatable, and when they’re not, they are still comfortingly familiar. Buckingham’s art has a beautiful fantasy charm, suiting the book perfectly.
fables_37_14

Hellblazer
Publisher: Vertigo
Writer: Various, Currently Peter Milligan
Artist: Various
Why I buy: Hellblazer is British supernatural horror at it’s finest. Think about some of the names that have worked on the book: Ennis, Ellis, Azzarello, Carey, Diggle and currently Milligan. That’s one hell of a roll call. What’s more, John Constantine is one of those characters that no matter what scummy things he does, you can’t help but like him. Another British character springs to mind – Joe Dredd demands the same reaction. The supernatural elements are often dark and twisted, which is awesome.
hb_289_002

Saucer Country
Publisher: Vertigo
Writer: Paul Cornell
Artist: Ryan Kelly
Why I buy: If I were to sum up Saucer Country I’d say it was West Wing meets the X-Files. Paul Cornell is a tremendously talented writer, and with this first issue you get the sense that he’s just getting warmed up. The story follows a young latino woman who is just about to run for the office of the president of the USA. There’s some creepy moments here, alluding to the aliens that we know are coming, but not giving away too much. It reminds of the M Knight Shaymalin movie Signs – the setup is just as important and scary as the reveal. Ryan Kelly’s art is great, although I much prefer his stuff on Brian Wood’s local, and may be the colours squash some of the nuances in his work.
012

Sweet Tooth
Publisher: Vertigo
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Jeff Lemire
Why I buy: Described by Blair Butler as The Road meets Bambi, Sweet Tooth is beautiful, character driven post-apocalyptic story. Lemire’s greatest strength is writing relationships between characters, and Sweet Tooth is no exception. The chief protagonists, a old, grizzled Hockey player and a 10 year old mutant with antlers, have a deep and complex relationship that’s a pleasure to read. His art isn’t for everyone, but I love it. Messy lines make way for strong expression, bringing each character to life in unique and individual ways.
sweet_02_06

The Unwritten
Publisher: Vertigo
Writer: Mike Carey
Artist: Peter Gross
Why I buy: If you’re a literature buff, Unwritten is a must read. It’s a rich narrative about a young man. Tom Taylor, whose father is a reclusive celebrity author. As the story progresses, it becomes more and more obvious that everything is not as it seems, as Tom is dragged on a rollercoaster ride through classic literature.
uw13-017
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Why I Buy: One Nerd's Pull List Part 5

why-i-buy
Every Monday I share my 48 issue pull list, justifying why I buy each comic and throwing in some interior art. This week is the final instalment, as i look at X-Factor, Wasteland, Fables, Hellblazer, Saucer County, Sweet Tooth, The Unwritten, and three books I've recently added to my list - Alabaster Wolves, Ragemoor and Smoke and Mirrors.




X-Factor
Publisher: Marvel
Writer: Peter David
Artist: Leonard Kirk
Why I buy: Peter Alan David. Mainstream superhero comics tend to recycle old storylines and ideas, and there is a general lack of forward motion. Not so with X-Factor. PAD lovingly crafts his narratives to progress, using his characters as a vehicle for momentum. He knows how to rock a final page reveal, as well – “Holy Crap!” moments are a regular occurrence. With X-Factor, he maintains a great balance between superhero fun and hardboiled noir. Perfection.
008

Wasteland
Publisher: Oni
Writer: Antony Johnston
Artist: Christopher Mitten
Why I buy: Set in a post apocalyptic world where water is a rarity and settlements are few and far between, Wasteland is sweeping epic of political and religious intrigue. The book can get a little slow and wordy at times, but the story is so interesting it doesn’t matter. Think Game of Thrones meets Mad Max. The art, most often provided by Mitten, has a glorious hard fantasy aesthetic, expressive and powerful. If you’re into post-apocalyptic fantasy, Wasteland is a must read.
Wasteland #8 pg03

Fables
Publisher: Vertigo
Writer: Bill Willignham
Artist: Mark Buckingham
Why I buy: The premise is simple – Fairytale characters and creatures have been exiled from their respective worlds and all live together in our ‘mundy’ world. The plot, however, is not as straight forward. Fables is a twisting, turning, sweeping fantasy story full of war, romance, loyalty, treachery, and a hundred other devices that fit under the good vs evil motif. The characters, despite their history in fairy tales, the characters are often down to earth and relatable, and when they’re not, they are still comfortingly familiar. Buckingham’s art has a beautiful fantasy charm, suiting the book perfectly.
Fables_37_14

Hellblazer
Publisher: Vertigo
Writer: Various, Currently Peter Milligan
Artist: Various
Why I buy: Hellblazer is British supernatural horror at it’s finest. Think about some of the names that have worked on the book: Ennis, Ellis, Azzarello, Carey, Diggle and currently Milligan. That’s one hell of a roll call. What’s more, John Constantine is one of those characters that no matter what scummy things he does, you can’t help but like him. Another British character springs to mind – Joe Dredd demands the same reaction. The supernatural elements are often dark and twisted, which is awesome.
hb_289_002

Saucer Country
Publisher: Vertigo
Writer: Paul Cornell
Artist: Ryan Kelly
Why I buy: If I were to sum up Saucer Country I’d say it was West Wing meets the X-Files. Paul Cornell is a tremendously talented writer, and with this first issue you get the sense that he’s just getting warmed up. The story follows a young latino woman who is just about to run for the office of the president of the USA. There’s some creepy moments here, alluding to the aliens that we know are coming, but not giving away too much. It reminds of the M Knight Shaymalin movie Signs – the setup is just as important and scary as the reveal. Ryan Kelly’s art is great, although I much prefer his stuff on Brian Wood’s local, and may be the colours squash some of the nuances in his work.
012

Sweet Tooth
Publisher: Vertigo
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Jeff Lemire
Why I buy: Described by Blair Butler as The Road meets Bambi, Sweet Tooth is beautiful, character driven post-apocalyptic story. Lemire’s greatest strength is writing relationships between characters, and Sweet Tooth is no exception. The chief protagonists, a old, grizzled Hockey player and a 10 year old mutant with antlers, have a deep and complex relationship that’s a pleasure to read. His art isn’t for everyone, but I love it. Messy lines make way for strong expression, bringing each character to life in unique and individual ways.
sweet_02_06

The Unwritten
Publisher: Vertigo
Writer: Mike Carey
Artist: Peter Gross
Why I buy: If you’re a literature buff, Unwritten is a must read. It’s a rich narrative about a young man. Tom Taylor, whose father is a reclusive celebrity author. As the story progresses, it becomes more and more obvious that everything is not as it seems, as Tom is dragged on a rollercoaster ride through classic literature.
UW13-017

Alabaster Wolves
Publisher: Dark Horse
Writer: Caitlin R Kiernan
Artist: Steve Lieber
Why I buy: I’ve only read the first issue, but I loved it. The story opens with a girl sitting at a bus stop, but that’s the only normal thing that happens. We’re talking a 4 faced angel, a talking crow and a werewolf disguised as a hot chick. Leiber’s art is, as always, fantastic, and the first issue has me hanging out for more.
011

Ragemoor
Publisher: Dark Horse
Writer: Jan Strnad
Artist: Richard Corben
Why I buy: This weird story is about an old castle that has a life of it’s own. The inhabitants of castle Ragemoor are as enigmatic as the dwelling itself, and classic horror elements dominate, like a lost episode of Tales From the Crypt. It’s creepy and weird, Like if House of Mystery was written by Mike Mignola. Richard Corben’s art is amazing. I love his fuzzy lines, and he just draws horror so naturally. A truly wonderful book.
Ragemoor_Lez_Zeppelin_01_024

Smoke and Mirrors
Publisher: IDW
Writer: Mike Costa
Artist: Ryan Browne
Why I buy: In a world where everything is run on magic – household appliances, Cars, utilities – an illusionist somehow crossed over from our world finds himself pedalling a brand of magic no one has seen before. A young boy is taken by these tricks and insists on being taught. The premise of this series is fresh and the execution solid. It’s these kinds of stories that make me love comics. Small, interesting ideas can be played out in an economic way, something that is very difficult with prose. Well worth a look.
SaM-01-21
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Why I Buy: One Nerd's Pull List Part 4

why-i-buy
Every Monday I share my 48 issue pull list, justifying why I buy each comic and throwing in some interior art. This week I cover my Image stack, which is quite hefty: Chew, Fatale, Hack/Slash, Infinite Vacation, Invincible, Memoir, Morning Glories, Peter Panzerfaust, Pigs, Prophet, Rebel Blood, Saga, Savage Dragon, Thief of Thieves, Li’l Depressed Boy, Walking dead and Whispers.



Chew
Publisher: Image
Writer: John Layman
Artist: Rob Guillaroy
Why I buy: My Goodness, I love this book. If you want a perfect blend of action, violence and humour, you need look no further than Chew. John Layman's script can get quite brutal at times, but Rob Guillroy's quirky and fun art softens the blow a little. It's kinda like being hit by Thor's hammer if it was wrapped in a pillow. It's heavily stylised, quirky, fun and a pleasure to look at. Chew is one of those books that just get's better and better as it goes along.
Chew_008_017

Fatale
Publisher: Image
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Sean Phillips
Why I buy: Any one who has any interest in pulp or lovecraft or crime noir or just a good, sold story should check it out. The characters are the main focus here, and the world Brubaker and Phillips has made for them is unusual in a way that I can't quit put my finger on - just how I like it. Sean Phillips is the cheese to Bru's crackers. The Spock to his Kirk. They work so well together, and Phillip's style suits the pulp noir or Brubaker's stories perfectly. The engaging mystery of Fatale is one that grabs you and sucks you in - a vortex to the imagination. Comics at it's finest.
007

Hack/Slash
Publisher: Image
Writer: Tim Seeley
Artist: Various
Why I buy: ‘A little bit of sexy and a whole lot of bloody’ reads the solicitation to Hack/Slash 10 by Tim Seeley and Daniel Leister. It’s a perfect description of not just this issue but the whole series. I can’t say I’ve been overly impressed with Hack/Slash of late, but this arc is shaping up to be pretty good. I still long for the days when it was just Cassie and Vlad driving around killing stuff, but in the mean time, I’m enjoying where the current arc, which features genetically enhanced dinosaurs.
hs_04_008

Infinite Vacation
Publisher: Image
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Christian Ward
Why I buy: Nick Spencer weaves a universe-hopping tale reminiscent of a horror infused Dr Who. The premise is that in a future that has access to infinite universes people can holiday in them. If you want to be a rock star, there’s a universe where you are. Christian Ward’s art is unique and beautiful, with unorthodox lines and soft colours, that really add to the dream-like quality of the story. It’s a shame it’s so long between issues.
IV_1_Legion_CPS_020

Invincible
Publisher: Image
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Artist: Ryan Ottley
Why I buy: One of the best, if not the best, superhero comics on the market. Kirkman’s ability to write long running series and keep them fresh and interesting is first class. I think his success lies in his skill in writing characters that are real and relatable, and have real and relatable relationships. Ottley illustrates the book perfectly. It’s fun and whimsical at times, but powerfully emotional when it needs to be.
inv-05

Memoir
Publisher: Image
Writer: Ben McCool
Artist: Nikki Cook
Why I buy: Memoir has been hands down my favourite miniseries of the past year. It’s creepy, unpredictable and compelling. As each issue unfolds, we’re taken further and further into the mystery of Lowesville, a small community that suffered town-wide memory loss. I feel slightly paranoid throughout each issue, knowing that something bad was going to happen but not knowing what or when. Even when things slow down a little, there’s this real sense of lingering menace, a feeling kind of like thinking you’re being watched. As we get closer and closer to finding out the dark secrets of Lowesville and its residents, that sense of looming menace gets closer, like storm clouds about to burst. Nikki Cook provides clean lines and deep grey tones, with composition that enhances the menacing tone provided by McCool. McCool describes the series as Twin Peaks meets the Twilight Zone. I describe it as pure awesome sauce. If you’re into creepy horror, then you should be reading Memoir.
mem_05_013

Morning Glories
Publisher: Image
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Joe Eisma
Why I buy: Spencer has the ability to tell a story with more twists and turns than an amusement park. Morning Glories is like the good seasons of LOST set in a prep school. The plot thickens each and every issue, but not in a frustrating, we-don’t-get-any-answers kind of way. Eisma’s art is tight. His lines are clean, his characters unique and his composition dynamic. An exciting book.
mg_04_014

Peter Panzerfaust
Publisher: Image
Writer: Kurtis Weibe
Artist: Tyler Jenkins
Why I buy: Weibe’s vague retelling of Peter Pan is set in World War II, beginning in France. An enigmatic British soldier saves a group of fellows, captured by the French, and instigates an escape. The references to JM Barrie’s masterpiece are subtle, but recognisable enough to make for a really interesting read. It’s a fresh take on a classic, and a great read. Tyler Jenkins’ art is stylised perfectly to blend the reality of the war time setting with the fantasy elements of the source material.
009

Pigs
Publisher: Image
Writer:
Nate Cosby, Ben McCool
Artist:
Breno Tamura
Why I buy: This series about a KGB sleeper cell in Cuba continues to be all kinds of awesome. While there’s not a whole lot of action in the book (although there’s a great deal of violence), the pacing is superb. Suspense is built up when it needs to be, deep character moments are powerful and even the ‘stand around discussing our plans’ scenes move along at a steady pace. The dialogue and character development play a major part in keeping the book interesting and a joy to read. Tamura’s art is rough grimy, which compliments the story well. It won’t be to everyone’s taste, but it serves the story well.
Pigs_2_TheGroup_004

Prophet
Publisher: Image
Writer: Brandon Graham
Artist: Simon Roy
Why I buy: Brandon Graham’s name was enough to make me buy the ‘first’ issue of the re-imagined series, but it was the unusual sci-fi beats that made me stay. Half the time I have no idea what’s going on, as the plot lakes detail and I’ve never read any of the previous leifeld stuff. Having said that, I don’t really care, because there are enough aliens and gadgets and spaceships and weird planets to make up for the confusing and spartan plot.
P-21-09

Rebel Blood
Publisher: Image
Writer:
Artist: Riley Rossmo
Why I buy: Zombies done by Riley Rossmo. That’s really all there is too it. I love Riley Rossmo’s art. His lines are gloriously untidy, and the tone and texture in his work never fail to give me a nerdgasm. Love it.
03

Saga
Publisher: Image
Writer: Brian K Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples
Why I buy: You only need one reason to by this comic. I’ll give you bunch, but you only need one. Brian K. Vaughan. BKV is one of the greatest storytellers in the business, and Saga is an epic sc-fi fantasy, one part Star Wars, one part Willow and all parts amazing. Vaughan hits a really emotional rhythm in the book, and the relationship between the main characters is powerful and strong right from the beginning. Fiona Staples provides yet another reason for you to pick this up. Her art is beautiful. It’s perfectly expressive, and really captures the deep emotional beats set forth by BKV.
044

Savage Dragon
Publisher: Image
Writer: Erik Larson
Artist: Erik Larson
Why I buy: I’m only a recent convert to Savage Dragon, having always bundled it into that early Image basket that was all about the art but not so much the stories. Savage Dragon is superhero comics done right. Damn impressive if you consider Larson writes, draws, inks and colours the book himself. Dragon follows a cop/superhero who just happens to be an alien with green skin, a fin and a disproportionately large upper body. His family, adopted daughter and crime fighter Angel, and son Malcolm, feature heavily, and it is their struggle to fit into everyday life that makes this book so rich.
Savage Dragon 176 13

Thief of Thieves
Publisher: Image
Writer: Robert Kirkman, Nick Spencer
Artist: Shawn Martinbrough
Why I buy: Plotted by Robert Kirkman with a script from Nick Spencer, Thief of Thieves #1 was a solid introductory issue. The book channels oceans 11 as the protagonist, Redmond, and his literal partner in crime plan a major heist. The book jumps back and forward in time a little, but it remains coherent, as each chapter plays it’s part in the overall story. Martinbrough’s art, while nothing mind-blowing, compliments the story well with it’s gritty simplicity.
tot009

Li’l Depressed Boy
Publisher: Image
Writer: S. Steven Struble
Artist: Sina Grace
Why I buy: From the sparse dialogue to the hip characters, Little Depressed Boy (LDB) just oozes coffee culture cool. Let’s be honest, LDB is not for everyone. It’s slow, minimalistic and completely lacking in capes and tights. But in an industry dominated by superpowers, it’s always nice to take a breath and read a story with real dramatic weight. This is not a fast comic. The series is about a depressed young man trying to come out of his shell, but totally clueless as to how to do it. It’s fresh, it’s hip and it shows that if we live life with a negative attitude, it’s hard to see the positive in anything.
ldb_09_006

Walking dead
Publisher: Image
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Artist: Charlie Adlard
Why I buy: The past year on the Walking Dead has been, with the exception of half of Carl’s face being blown off, pretty stagnant. It’s all been about getting the community zombie-proof, and dealing with issues inside the fence. At the moment, this long running book heralds a change that will hopefully shake things up in a big way. Adlard has been drawing Kirkman’s scripts for so long it’s almost as if his pencils are an extension of Kirkman’s imagination. From the simple action of a sword slicing open a zombie to the way each figure graces the panel the art perfectly serves the story.
TWD_84_Legion_CPS_005

Whispers
Publisher: Image
Writer: Joshua Luna
Artist: Joshua Luna
Why I Buy: Whispers is the first solo outing for Joshua Luna of the Luna Bros. The story follows Sam, a young obsessive compulsive germophobe who discovers he has the ability to ‘ghost’ people he knows simply by thinking of them. One of the strengths of the Luna Brothers’ work is there ability to rock a last page ‘Holy crap!’ reveal, and while we don’t get that here, the series is set up nicely, with enough of a dangling thread to desire the next part of the story.
Whispers_0016 copy
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Review: 3 Story One-Shot

images-1
Matt Kindt's graphic novel '3 Story: The Secret Files of the Giant Man is a charming an emotional tale about Craig Pressgang, a man who suffered from such a bad case of giantism he grew 3 stories tall. It is an amazing piece of visual storytelling, and I encourage everyone to check it out. This One shot issue is a series of short stories, originally published in MySpace Dark Horse Presents, that go hand in hand with Kindt's Graphic Novel. These stories are brief snippets of Craig's life, told from the point of view of people he has touched in some way throughout his interesting life.



The range of experiences these people have with the giant are vast, from a young woman so enthralled with the unique individual that she strips down to get his attention, to a couple of Egyptian workers who have the unpleasant task of transporting Craig's excretions to landfill. Each of the three stories told in the one-shot are deeply personal and feature characters that are real and loveable.

Kindt's art is nothing short of Beautiful. the soft watercolours are gorgeous, but they also evoke so much sentiment and warmth, kind of like milk and cookies with a hug from your mom before bedtime. There's a preview of Kindt's new series, Mind MGMT, Which is a great bonus. If you've read the 3 Story Graphic Novel, this one shot really enhances the experience. If you haven't read it, pick up this issue and prepare to be impressed.
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Review: Dark Horse Presents #11

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Any comic that begins with Francesco Francavilla, Ends with Joe Kubert School graduate Luke Radl and is stuffed full of Steve Niles, Evan Dorkin, Tim Seely, Neal Adams and a host of other amazing creators is OK by me. Reading Dark Horse Presents is akin to going to the candy store. you get there, and there are so many great colours and flavours, you just want to try a bit of everything. You like some more than others, but they are all good. In Dark Horse Presents 11, we are treated to 10 delicious and beautiful tales that tantalise the taste buds of our imagination.



Francesco Francavilla introduces us to The Black Beetle, which will no doubt appear in a longer format down the track. While the dialogue is a little clumsy and melodramatic, the art is, as one would expect, phenominal. There's a great period/pulp feel to it, Like a cross between Tonci Zonjic's work on Lobster Johnson and Sean Phillips' stuff on Fatale. Beautiful. The final part of Steve Horton and Michael Dialynas' pirate tale 'Amala's Blade' was as charming as it was action packed - a fitting end to a fun story. Next up is a story that I'm really intrigued about - Carla Speed McNeil's 'Finder'. It's about a man who purportedly cannot get lost. It's visually stunning, and one of those stories that just has you hanging out for more.

Steve Niles and Christopher Mitten continue writing exciting and creepy stories in Criminal Macarbre. Evan Dorkin is nothing short of hilarious in House of Fun featuring Milk and Cheese. Tim Seeley and Victor Drujiniu's work on Mike Richardson's the Occultist was a stand out for me - creepy supernatural horror with real, deep characters that are emotionally relatable. John Arcudi's the creep is a heartfelt powerful story about one man's choices in life. A real tearjerker. The emotional blows keep rolling, as Andrew Vachss provides a compelling prose piece that highlights his passion for giving legal representation to children. possibly the most visually stunning story comes right at the end, as Luke Radl beautifully illustrates a story by Frank J Barbiere from their future project "The White Suits". it is a poignant noir tale about mafia and the choices people make in life.

Dark Horse Presents truly is the perfect way to experience an array of different comic book flavours. Check it out.
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Why I Buy: One Nerd's Pull List Part 3


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Every Monday I share my 48 issue pull list, justifying why I buy each comic and throwing in some interior art. This week I cover my DC, Dynamite and IDW pick-ups, including All-Star Western, Animal Man, Batwoman, The Flash, Swamp Thing, Bionic Man, a Game of Thrones, Locke and Key, Memorial, Road Rage and Star Trek.





All Star Western
Publisher: DC
Writer: Justin Grey and Jimmy Palmiotti
Artist: Moritat
Why I buy: I loved Grey and Palmiotti's work on 'Jonah Hex', and was hoping for more of it in All-Star Western. Unfortunately, it feels like they've 'sold out' and are trying to target a more mainstream audience with conventional storytelling and Batman mythos. All Star Western is still good, and Moritat's art is fantastic, but I'm just waiting for Jonah Hex to get the hell out of Gotham and go back to doing what he does best - being a wandering bad-ass bounty hunter.
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Animal Man
Publisher: DC
Writer: Jeff LeMire
Artist: Travel Foreman, Steve Pugh
Why I buy: Animal Man and Swamp thing are my hands down favourite things DC is publishing right now. Asides the insane horror,
I love the family dynamic in Animal Man. As a happily married man, one of my pet peeves is the lack of solid, committed families in comics. I love that Buddy is totally and unequivocally committed to his family. The stuff with his daughter, Maxine is really cool as well. I love the idea that a little girl knows more about her Father’s powers than he does. Maxine is like a cross between Layla Miller and Valeria Richards.
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Batwoman
Publisher: DC
Writer: JH Williams III, W. Hayden Blackman
Artist: JH Williams III, Amy Reeder
Why I buy: JH Williams III. In fact I'm thinking of dropping the title and picking the trades of the JH Williams arcs. Williams is truly one of the best in the business, always providing breathtaking art and innovative visual storytelling. While Amy Reeder's work is not bad, it's not strong enough to carry the story, which is kind of strange and difficult to follow. I miss Greg Rucka.
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The Flash
Publisher: DC
Writer: Francis Manipul, Brian Buccellato
Artist: Francis Manipul
Why I buy: Francis Manapul has been killing it with the flash. It's visually spectacular, as Manipul Once again shows the current trend at DC of innovative layouts. His story is surprisingly good as well. Manipul humanizes Barry Allen very well, hitting some great emotional beats while maintaining the sense of fun that comes with superhero comics. A beautiful comic telling a strong story.
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Swamp Thing
Publisher: DC
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Yannick Paquette
Why I buy: Swamp thing goes hand in hand with Animal Man – just insane horror.
I continue to adore the fluid panel layouts in Swamp Thing. JH Williams III showed with no uncertainty that you can play around with panel layout to not only make the page look good, but better tell his story. Paquette does it masterfully here. Little things like using vine as panel borders for a jungle scene really make each page stand out, and it’s a treat to look at. If you want superhero-but-not horror comics then you should be reading both Animal Man and Swamp Thing.
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Bionic Man
Publisher: Dynamite
Writer: Kevin Smith, Phil Hestor
Artist: Jonathan Lau
Why I buy: I'm not a fan of Kevin Smith. There. I said it. Don't kill me. I don't find his movies funny, and Comic Book Men was atrocious. Having said that, Bionic man as been great. He is co writing with Phil Hester, who I love. The story of Steve Austin becoming the bionic man, and the missions he goes on, is fast paced when it needs to be, as well as being personal and often emotional. Top notch storytelling.
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Game of Thrones
Publisher: Dynamite
Writer: George R. R. Martin, Daniel Abraham
Artist: Tommy Patterson
Why I buy: George R Martin’s series of fantasy novels, collectively known as A Song of Ice and Fire, is hot property right now. Thanks to HBO, who have been adapting the series as an award winning television show, everyone is talking about it. Dynamite are adapting the books into a comic, an so far it’s been pretty spot on. Tommy Patterson, who provides the art on the series, does a wonderful job in capturing the look and feel of the novels.
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Locke & key
Publisher: IDW
Writer: Joe Hill
Artist: Gabriel Rodruigez
Why I buy:
Locke and Key is a difficult beast to describe. It’s fantasy, with elements like magic and creepy mansions, but set in the modern world, with 'real' people. It’s horror, with murderous students and sinister villains, but it’s not like a Hack/Slash or 30 Days of Night-type horror. In fact, it's a perfect blend of both genres. It’s The Chronicles of Narnia meets H.P. Lovecraft. It’s Dark Fantasy done right.
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Memorial
Publisher: IDW
Writer: Chris Roberson
Artist: Rich Ellis
Why I buy: When I picked up the first issue of Memorial, I wasn’t completely sure if I loved it or not. By issue 3, I’m convinced I do. It’s a fun twisting tale in the vain of Carey and Gross’ Unwritten, although not quite as deep. There’s something very Gaimanesque about Memorial – world-hopping fantasy with abstract concepts in the form of characters that guide or hinder the main protagonist in her sweeping quest.
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Road Rage
Publisher: IDW
Writer: Richard Matheson, Steven King, Joe Hill, Chris Ryall
Artist: Nelson Daniel, Rafa Garres
Why I buy:
The names on the top of the comic read: Hill. Matheson. King. Those three words alone should be enough to convince people to pick up this comic. It is IDW boss Chris Ryall that actually writes the comic, however. He is adapting two short stories – Duel, By Richard Matheson and ‘Throttle’, an homage to Matheson’s piece by father son duo Joe Hill and Steven King. The basic elements to this comic are bad-ass bikies and full tilt action, both provided in bucketfuls.
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Star Trek
Publisher: IDW
Writer: Mike Johnson
Artist: Stephen Molnar and others
Why I buy: I’ve always been a fan of the original series star trek, from when I was 12 and was crushing on the cute trekkie girl who lived up the road. So when IDW announced a new Star Trek ongoing telling Original Series stories but set in the JJ Abrams Star Trek universe, I was pretty stoked. The series hasn’t disappointed. It’s exciting, fun, and feels fresh while maintaining a sense of nostalgia.
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Why I Buy: One Nerd's Pull List Part 2

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Every Monday I share my 48 issue pull list, justifying why I buy each comic and throwing in some interior art. This week Is all Dark Horse, as I discuss the 8 titles i pick up from them - Angel and Faith, B.P.R.D., Buffy Season 9, Conan the Barbarian, Dark Horse Presents, The Goon, Lobster Johnson and Usagi Yojimbo.





Comic: Angel and Faith
Publisher: Dark Horse
Writer: Christos Gage
Artist: Rebekah Isaacs
Why I buy: I’m a fan of the Buffy franchise, and while Angel is my least favourite character of the series, this book has been phenomenal. It feel’s more like a Buffy TV show than the Buffy Comic does. Gage is weaving one heck of a tale, and I can’t wait for each issue. Isaacs nails the character likenesses, and keeps the action coherent and readable.
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Comic: B.P.R.D.
Publisher: Dark Horse
Writer: Mike Mignola, John Arcudi
Artist: James Harren
Why I buy: There aren’t too many that do paranormal horror like Mike Mignola. With Hellboy coming to an end, BPRD is where I get my Mignola fix. This year heralds a whole bunch of BPRD series, including Long Death and the new mini out this Wednesday, Pickens County Horror. Mignola’s world is so rich and full, It’s a pleasure to read.
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Comic: Buffy Season 9
Publisher: Dark Horse
Writer: Andrew Chambliss
Artist: Georges Jeanty
Why I buy: Because it’s Buffy. Season 8 was this massive epic, a grandiose tale. Season 9 takes a step back, assuming a pace more like the TV show. Chambliss finds the voices of the characters perfectly, and Jeanty’s been drawing Buffy for so long he knows exactly what he’s doing.
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Comic: Conan the Barbarian
Publisher: Dark Horse
Writer: Brian Wood
Artist: Becky Cloonan
Why I buy: There are a handful of creators whose work I will almost always buy. Brian Wood is one of them. I’ve loved almost everything he’s done, and Conan is no exception. Along with Becky Cloonan, Wood has fashioned an edgy, bold version of the classic character. The pair are re-imagining the classic Robert E Howard tale ‘Queen of the Black Coast’ and it is awesome sauce.
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Comic: Dark Horse presents
Publisher: Dark Horse
Writer: Various
Artist: Various
Why I buy:
It is the grab bag of style, both art and story, that makes anthologies like Dark Horse Presents so good. It’s like going to a candy store and trying a little bit of everything – there’s some flavours you like more than others, but they’re all good. The sheer diversity in storytelling excites my so much. If you’re not reading Dark Horse Presents, you should be.
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Comic: The Goon
Publisher: Dark Horse
Writer: Eric Powell
Artist: Eric Powell
Why I buy:
Do you want to read about a depression era thug who fights zombies, hobos, sea monsters, monsters made out of wicker, monsters made out of babies and insane burlesque performers? Then why the hell aren’t you reading The Goon? A delightfully fun period comic, this series manages to blend ridiculous lowbrow humour with surprising dramatic weight. Oh, and there’s also a heck of a lot of punching.
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Comic: Lobster Johnson
Publisher: Dark Horse
Writer: Mike Mignola
Artist: Tony Zonjic
Why I buy: Lobster Johnson allows a second monthly hit of Mignola. It’s great period superhero noir, as well. Set in the early ‘30s, Lobster Johnson is a pulpy, fun crime story about a leather clad vigilante who takes justice into his own hands. A thoroughly entertaining comic.
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Comic: Usagi Yojimbo
Publisher: Dark Horse
Writer: Stan Sakai
Artist: Stan Sakai
Why I buy: Usagi Yojimbo is a charming tale of an anthropomorphic rabbit ronin who roams around looking for adventure and noble causes to lend his rather extensive samurai skills to. Usagi is a morally upright warrior who lives by a strong code of conduct. You have to love the guy. Sakai has been writing and drawing these books for 25 years, but the great thing about them is you can pick up an issue without having read anything before it, and follow and enjoy it.
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Talking Trades: From the Ashes

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Described as a ‘speculative memoir’, cartoonist Bob Fingerman’s From the Ashes predicts the future and makes the end of the world a hilarious satire. Set in the smouldering ruins of Manhattan after an unknown but not unexpected disaster, the story follows Bob and his wife Michelle. They journey through a post apocalyptic New York, encountering cannibal foodies, friendly neighborhood mutants and reproduction camps run by ‘Rile O’Biley’. Apocalyptic literature often takes itself way too seriously (read: The Road by Cormac McCarthy) but Fingerman’s cheeky satire is bang on the money.

He makes fun of the Food Network, talk shows, Fox News and society in general, laughing his way through the end times.
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Bob and Michelle feel the burden of their former life lifted, and set about enjoying the new world together. Things start out great at first– plenty of peace and quiet with no pressure from the rest of the world. The post-apocalyptic world, however, isn’t all peaches and cream. The couple soon discovers things aren’t quite as peaceful as they seem, and things turn from bad to worse.

One of the strongest parts of the book is the relationship between Bob and Michelle, who have the strong bond that comes with the lifetime commitment of Marriage. One of the things that bother me about comics these days is that relationships don’t last. It’s very rare to have a strong married couple in comics. Jeff Lemire has it going on DC's Animal Man, then you got Reed and Sue Richards of the Fantastic Four, but generally you just don’t see strong married couples in comics. It's clear that Bob and Michelle are totally in love and committed to each other, which is refreshing for a family man like myself.
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Fingerman’s cartoon-based art style is detailed and consistent, and fits the whole tone of the book perfectly. He uses reddish-brown tones for the outside world, and softer blue tones for inside action, creating a great contrast. Independent comics by cartoonists such as Chris Ware and Daniel Clowes tend to take the sad and depressing route, but Fingerman maintains a fun and lighthearted tone in his story and art. Fingerman worked with Harvey Kurtzman, the creator of MAD, and that influence shines through.

From the Ashes is a great, lighthearted romp that focuses on the important things in life – commitment, loyalty, love and survival without Blackberry. REM lyrics come to mind – It’s the end of the world and we know it – and I feel fine.
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Why I Buy: One Nerd's Pull List Part 1

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Every Monday for the next 5 weeks, I will be sharing my 48 issue pull list, justifying why I buy each comic and throwing in some interior art. This week I discuss 7 issues - 2000ad, Rachel Rising, Fathom, Irredeemable, Incorruptible, Valen the Outcast and RASL.



Comic: 2000ad
Publisher: Rebellion
Writer: Various, including John Wagner and Pat Mills
Artist: Various
Why I buy: I love anthologies, and the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic allows me to get my anthology fix every single week. It often baffles me, the amount of quality stories they can cram into each issue (or prog, as they’re known in 2000ad). 2000ad has an amazing catalogue of characters at their disposal, as well. From Judge Dredd to the ABC warriors to Johnny Alpha to Nikolai Dante, there is truly something for everyone, provided everyone enjoys sci-fi action. 5 stories in 32 pages on a weekly basis? Heck yes.
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Comic: Rachel Rising
Publisher: Abstract
Writer: Terry Moore
Artist: Terry Moore
Why I Buy: Two words – Terry. Moore. I’m such a huge fan of his work. He is an intelligent artist and gifted storyteller. Every little detail in each panel is carefully thought out – how a person fills their clothing, the way characters carry themselves, how a set is dressed. In Rachel Rising, Moore plays around with stronger horror elements than he ever did with SiP or Echo, and it makes for a crazy, exciting read.
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Comic: Fathom vol 4
Publisher: Aspen
Writer: Scott Lobdell
Artist: Alex Konat
Why I buy: I bought the first volume for Michael Turner’s art, and ended up loving the premise. The story is about Aspen Matthews, a young marine biologist who discovers she is actually a child of two non-human races - the Blue, who live in n underwater environment that would make Namor jealous, and the Black, who are their mortal enemies. This latest series has taken an even deeper supernatural tone, as Aspen lays the smack down on some awesome monsters. It’s a beautiful book, and – does a great job at channelling the late great Michael Turner.
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Comic: Irredeemable
Publisher: BOOM!
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Diego Barreto
Why I buy: Imagine if Superman heard one too many internet trolls badmouthing him and snapped, turning into an evil sociopath. Thus is essentially the premise behind one of Mark Waid’s two superhero properties at BOOM!. Plus, it’s Mark Waid, so you know it’s going to be well written.
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Comic: Incorruptible
Publisher: BOOM!
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Marcio Takara
Why I buy: Mark Waid’s other superhero property at BOOM!, Incorruptible is about a reformed super villain trying to do good in the world. It goes hand in hand with Incorruptible, and it’s a damn fine read. The exploration of the human spirit is central to the plot, and while there’s plenty of no-holds-barred action, it is the characterisation that is the champion.
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Comic: Valen the Outcast
Publisher: BOOM!
Writer: Michael Alan Nelson
Artist: Matteo Scalera
Why I buy: Dark fantasy at it’s finest. I’ve been a big fan of Michael Alan Nelson for a long time. He writes action comics as well as anyone, and Valen is no exception. Fast paced, visually exciting and a great example of how following an established formula doesn’t have to be predictable or clichéd. The story follows King Valen’s quest to retrieve his soul, stolen from him by an evil necromancer.
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Comic: RASL
Publisher: Cartoon Books
Writer: Jeff Smith
Artist: Jeff Smith
Why I buy: Asides the fact that it’s a Jeff Smith comic, RASL is an energetic romp through alternate universes. RASL is an art dimension hopping art thief and former scientist working on forms of energy theorised by Nikolai Tesla. Smith’s art is powerful and expressive, and his story melds both real and fictional science together in a twisting, turning adventure.
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CBNAH Interview: Ethan Nicolle!

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When Ethan Nicolle, then 29, created a crazy and unique web comic with his little brother Malachai (5 years old at the time), He had absolutely know idea what a huge success he had on his hands. Axe Cop went viral and became a hit. The Nicolle brothers formed a partnership with Dark Horse, Who are about to publish the third collected edition of Axe Cop comics. I caught up with Ethan to discuss fame, web comics and the future.


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CBNAH: What's it like having something as meaningful to you as Axe Cop become such a hit?

Ethan Nicolle: It's been very surreal because it was so unintentional, and my creative relationship with my little brother, which used to feel like our little secret, became so public, bringing my whole family into my little world of comic books. It was definitely a "when worlds collide" kind of thing, especially when my whole family came to San Diego Comic Con. It's been a lot of fun though, and had given me a lot of time with Malachai I never would have had before, and it's given he and I a deeper bond as brothers because we are in this together.


CBNAH: You and Malachai have been creating comics together for 2 years now. What's it like working with him?

EN: He's hilarious. Our family is, in general, very quirky. Neither my mother nor father ever discouraged silly joking and it seems like one thing my family has that a lot of others don't is a general comfort with being dorks. We were always the poor, tacky, goofy family at church or in the restaurant and we tended to take pride in that. Malachai is not only super silly, but he's pretty intelligent for his age as well. He loves the challenges I give him when I ask him questions and he loves incoporating new things he has learned about in school, or video games and cartoons into Axe Cop.


CBNAH: Does Malachai understand just how popular Axe Cop is? Does he have any crazy fans?

EN: I think he understands now. We did a panel at Comic Con that had hundreds of people present. So far we have not had any real weird fans come up when he is at a convention. No one creepy weird anyway. Generally the Axe Cop fanbase is pretty good people and everyone seems to enjoy the innocence of it. Malachai often says of Axe Cop "everyone in the whole entire world loves it", so that is his understanding of its online success. Though, I don't think he has yet reached the age where he realizes what fame is, so he has the knowledge, but I don't think it effects his writing. Not yet anyway.


CBNAH: What are the challenges you face with such an unusual collaboration?

EN: Well there is the obvious challenge of Malachai growing up, though it has not been an issue yet. I think the stories keep getting better. But the challenge really is on my end, piecing all the madness he gives me together and trying to sort it all out. The biggest job in Axe Cop is the one that is uncredited, and that is playing with Malachai, interviewing Malachai and then sorting out and arranging his stories into coherent (enough) tales to be drawn. It is one of the craziest experiments in creativity I have ever taken part of. It can be a lot of work but I am excited to be working on it.


CBNAH: Talk us through your process.

EN: The process on Axe Cop is very experimental and always evolving. Some of it is done via phone or skype. Some is done in person when I go to visit Malachai. Some is created by role playing, or playing with toys. I generally try to find the narrative in his ideas and then start asking questions and "guiding" the play time so I get more story. I take a lot of notes, or I record the entire session then take notes later. I break everything down and put it in order and try to make sense of it. For longer stories, I start putting everything onto notecards and in outlines. I draw the comic based on outlines rather than scripts. It seems to work well for Axe Cop. Once I have the general thread of the story worked out I can usually tell the story on paper pretty well.


CBNAH: Tell us about your relationship with Dark Horse. Did you guys approach them?

EN: When Axe Cop went viral we were getting contacted by just about every publisher in comics. Dark Horse had two benefits: they made the best offer and they were the company I thought was the best fit for Axe Cop. Imagining Axe Cop next to the Goon, Hellboy and Marv from Sin City was a thrilling idea to me and I thought he fit in well. Dark Horse has been very helpful, there are a lot of very genuine Axe Cop fans working there. They pretty much let us do what we want. There is no heavy story editing that goes on.


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CBNAH: Have you gotten any job offers from the bigger publishers because of Axe Cop?

EN: mmmaybe. Haha. If I did, it's not something I can talk about publicly yet haha. How is that for an answer?

CBNAH: Besides Axe Cop, what would be your dream project?

EN: I don't know if my dream project has even entered my imagination yet. I feel like I am still just getting the hang of comics. I'd love to get involved in other mediums like TV or film. I want to see an Axe Cop live action movie, I think it would be amazing.


CBNAH: What can we expect in Axe Cop's future? For how long do you guys intend to continue making Axe comics?

EN: Well, besides Volume 3 hitting shelves on March 28th, in July a new miniseries will be coming out via Dark Horse called Axe Cop: President of the Earth, which is a follow up to Bad Guy Earth. It's crazy fun. I think I will continue to do Axe Cop episodes on the web site as well. I haven't thought that far ahead yet. There are a lot of potential things on the horizon for me, so it is hard to say where all my time will be going once the next Axe Cop miniseries is done. For now, all my time is split between Axe Cop online, Axe Cop in print and my other web comic, Bearmageddon.


CBNAH: In a tough financial climate, what role do web comics play in the ever-increasing digital comics market?

EN: They are hard to monetize. You can make some money if your fans are willing to spend it on merch, but in my experience it is not a livable income. For bigger web comics maybe it is. The books are still the best source of income and I think in general, putting your comics online broadens the amount of people who will buy the book rather than deters them. It seems like a lot of us in the digital entertainment realm are just experimenting with this new way of doing things. I'm as interested as anyone to see where it goes.


CBNAH: What comics are you reading at the moment?

EN: Honestly, I haven't read a comic in months. I usually keep up on Walking Dead pretty well, but that is my only regular read. I definitely like making comics much more than I do reading them.


CBNAH: Complete this sentence: Comic book nerds are hot because…

EN:...they buy my stuff and keep me from having to get a real job, haha.

Thanks again Ethan, for taking the time out to answer my questions!

EN: Thank you!
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Talking Trades: Green Wake Vol. 1

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Kurtis Wiebe and Riley Rossmo’s Green Wake was one of the creepiest, visually interesting and engaging comics on the stands. With it’s premature cancellation due to low sales, now is the perfect time to support creator-owned material and check out Volume 1. The first trade follows the original five-issue miniseries before it was promoted to an ongoing.  The story centers around a kind of strange purgatory known as Green Wake. Its mysterious inhabitants have little desire to escape the nowhere place; instead, they have resigned to their existence in a world that’s neither here nor there.



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After a string of  gruesome murders, Morley Mack tries to hunt down the prime suspect– the enigmatic and elusive Arial. The actual plot, while gripping, is secondary to the actual mystery of the story. You’re just not quite sure what’s going on, in a good way. The characters are detached enough to remain enigmatic, but developed enough to be able to sympathize with. Morley and his tough as nails partner Krieger have a liability that defies reason, while some of the other characters a just plain creepy. Weibe and Rossmo introduce us to humans, frog-like people, monsters and other equally frightening things along the way.

Wiebe creates a sense of foreboding, a distant sense of menace, and envelopes it in a cloud of mystery wrapped in an enigma. The eerie goings-on and dark characters provide a symphony of powerful storytelling that’s impossible to predict. Everytime I think I’ve got things figured out, something even stranger happens and freaks me out all over again.

Rossmo’s art is visually spectacular. His unclean lines, stylized shading and layered textures make for a glorious reading experience. Green Wake is a messy, scary place, and Rossmo perfectly illustrates it. I can imagine some people hating it, because it’s not really traditional comic art, but I love it. It captures the tone of the book perfectly and is powerful in emoting all the crazy and freaky things the characters have to deal with. It’s wild, unruly, terrifying and full of energy and power. Rossmo’s work here is, I think, the best work of his career.

Green Wake was consistently one of my favourite books on the stands, and you should definitely check out the first trade.
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Review: Saga #1

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You only need one reason to by this comic. I’ll give you bunch, but you only need one. Brian K. Vaughan. Remember Y-The Last Man? Ex Machina? The freakin’ Runaways? BKV is one of the greatest storytellers in the business, so you know you’re going to get an awesome story. Asides from the writer's name, Saga #1 begins an epic sc-fi fantasy, one part Star Wars, one part Willow and all parts amazing.

Right from the outset, you know Saga is something special.

There aren’t many comics out there that begin with a birth, and even fewer when the child is born with her mother’s wings and her father’s horns. Vaughan hits a really emotional rhythm in the book, and the relationship between the main characters is powerful and strong right from the beginning. The mark of a true master. They bicker like a real couple, but express an unconditional love through their forbidden union. The world BKV has created is full and exciting and unique, and even though we’re still on issue 1, there is already a sense of the epic. From the name of the book to the art to characters to the story, we are in for one hell of a saga.

Fiona Staples provides yet another reason for you to pick this up. Her art is beautiful. It’s perfectly expressive, and really captures the deep emotional beats set forth by BKV. Her layouts and composition are dynamic, engaging the reader on an even deep level. She draws breastfeeding in a very tasteful way and generally complements the story very well.

As if you needed anymore incentive to pick this up, you get amazing value - 46 pages for a meagre $2.99. Everyone should by this book. No excuse. Buy it!
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Review: 2000ad #1774

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The Galaxy’s greatest comic continues to amaze me with the quality of stories produced in a weekly, 32 page magazine.

Political terrorism, chemical warfare and big explosions dominate the current Judge dredd story. As much as I love Judge Dredd and the stories John Wagner tells, I’ve found his stories unnecessarily wordy. This one is no exception, and as great a story it is, I just wish he’d cut the dialogue back a little.



Age of the Wolf II is shaping up to be an amazing story, just as good as the first part. There’s plenty of great action, and the main protagonist – a hot young redhead named Rowan, Kicks all kinds of ass. Jon Davis-Hunt’s art is beautiful – his lines are crisp and his colours vivid.

Flesh by Pat Mills and the wonderful James McKay makes it’s return, with some amazing cowboy vs dinosaur action. I think this is the most visually exciting story of the prog, as McKay’s dinosaurs would make even Ricardo Delgado proud.

As far as visually striking stories go, Lee Carter’s work on Dan Abnett’s Grey Area story is top notch. Soft, painted colours contrast the strong ink splatters and scratched textures to create a beautiful aesthetic. This instalment of the story was a little slow, but set up some crazy things for upcoming issues.
The previous Nikolai Dante story was as good as it’s ever been, so Robbie Morrison has a lot to do to continue that level of awesome. This story is about the war that wages on during the events of last story, and the talented John Burns takes up art duties.

I’m loving this book at the moment, with some of the most engaging and visually pleasing stories in a long while.
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Review: Valen the Outcast #4

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Every week I review Valen the Outcast, and every week I say It's awesome fantasy comics. This issue is no different. Full of great action, as always. Full of bad-ass character moments, as always. Great art, as always. I'm kind of running out of things to say. One thing I love about this comic is how each issue is kind of a story in it's own right, but there is an over arcing story that guides the action. It's a lot like a television series. Normally I would say that's a bad thing - TV is TV, comics are comics, let the other alone. In this case, however, it really works.

What you end up with is an enjoyable comic that doesn't require you to look back at last months issue to figure out what the hell is going on.

In this Issue Cordovan is taken prisoner by a lord who holds a grudge. There is lots of throw-down action as Valen ad Zjanna attmept to bust him out. There are two big reveals in the issue, and the one at the end has me really excited about the series. As if I wasn't already. As much as I've been loving Matteo Scalera's art, this issue I found it a little distracting. He has a very gritty style, with lots of black, and plenty of 'scratch' lines. It suits the book really well, but I think he got a little carried away this month. It's still great, don't get me wrong, just a little distracting.

Valen the Outcast is formulaic, but manages to avoid being cliched. It's great fantasy comics, and well worth a look.
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Review: Fatale #3

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Bottom line first: buy this comic. Seriously, if you're reading this and haven't read Fatale yet, drop what you're doing, jump on Comixology and download it. Any one who has any interest in pulp or lovecraft or crime noir or just a good, sold story should check it out. Brubaker and Phillips nail it once again with this issue. The characters are the main focus here, and the world Brubaker and Phillips has made for them is unusual in a way that I can't quit put my finger on - just how I like it.


This issue is split into two parts. The interlude follows Nicolas Lash and the events surrounding the loss of his leg. The second part begins chapter 3 and continues the story of Hank Raines, crooked cop Walt Booker and the beautiful but mysterious Josephine. 3 issues in, and Josephine is turning out to be an amazing character - enigmatic without being under developed. This is no mean feat, and pays testament to Brubaker as a writer. He has carefully lotted the story in a way that teases the audience without answering any questions, setting things up for an insane issue 4. I await with baited breath.

Sean Phillips is the cheese to Bru's crackers. The Spock to his Kirk. They work so well together, and Phillip's style suits the pulp noir or Brubaker's stories perfectly. Along with colourist Dave Stewert, Phillips adds to the sometimes dark, sometimes exciting tone of the book, and manages to populate the pages with unique characters that are easy to 'read'. He's such an expressive artist, it makes his work a joy to look at. The engaging mystery of Fatale is one that grabs you and sucks you in - a vortex to the imagination. Comics at it's finest.
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Review: The Goon #38

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Eric Powell's The Goon is essentially a comedy. Pretty much every issue has me in stiches. Every know and then though, Powell can hit some really emotional beats. Chinatown, for example, widely considered Powell's best work. The Goon #38 is one such story. Powell dedicates the issue to Betty Jean Wheeler, "the best Grandma anyone could ask for". From this opening dedication to the tear-jerker of a final page This little story tugs the heartstrings and proves to the world that Powell has not only matured as an artist, but as a powerful and moving storyteller as well.



The story itself follows Kizzie, a socially awkward and unattractive girl, as she runs of and joins the travelling circus. The Goon is only in one panel of the story, but it is a story that has clear and deep meaning for him. The Journey Kizzie goes on is wild and emotional - from accidental death to domestic bliss to heartache to passion to heartbreak. The other great thing about this issue is that, because it's a stand alone one-shot, you can pick it up with no real knowledge of the Goon and enjoy the hell out of it.

Powell pulls out all the stops with the art - just when I think he can't get any better, he brings out an issue like this and blows my mind all over again. He is, in my opinion, in the upper echelon of comic artists today. his figures are perfectly stylised, his action dynamic, his composition artful and his lines are bold, while mainting a level of softness. Dave Stewert on colours help, of course, but it is Powell who makes his vixens foxy and provides that trademark watery ink aesthetic. The Goon 38 is a must have.
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Review: Dark Horse Presents #9

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Dark Horse tantalises their readers yet again with even more short stories and serials. Boasting such creators as Mike Mignola, Brian Wood, Paul Pope, Thomas Yeates and Steve Leiber, DHP #8 showcases some of the finest talent in comics. Engaging stories compliment the buffet of artistic styles like a cabernet with a grilled steak, making for a mouthwatering comics experience.

Mike Mignola’s Lobster Johnson story was perfect period noir – dark, gritty and even a scene in the rain.

The second epilogue for Brian Wood and Kristian Donaldson’s The Massive hit all the right beats and has me very excited for the series. Paul Pope’s story of the second moon landing by the Apollo 12 was beautiful and engaging – one of the clear standouts in the anthology. Richard Corben’s adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe’s The City in the Sea captured the dark creepy tone of the original poem. Rich Johnson’s tale of a murderous grandma in a small town continues to be hilarious, and all the other stories, while not necessarily standing out, are visually striking.

It is the grab bag of style, both art and story, that makes anthologies like Dark Horse Presents so good. It’s like going to a candy store and trying a little bit of everything – there’s some flavors you like more than others, but they’re all good. If your not reading Dark Horse Presents, you should be.
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Review: RASL #13

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Bone creator Jeff Smith delivers once again with RASL 13. The story of a dimension hopping scientist art thief takes a big leap forward this issue, as Rasl goes all Mission Impossible in his attempt to stop a universe shattering event. There’s a generous amount of action, a little suspense and some powerful emoting thrown in for good measure.

RASL is back in his own dimension, and breaks into the St George Array to try and shut down the universe bending experiment.

One of the best parts about the book are the two main characters – Rasl himself, and the Antagonist, Sal Crow. Rasl is one of those characters that you just can’t help liking. He’s got a roguish charm, and the fact that he got his education at the school of hard knocks makes him the loveable underdog. Crow, on the other hand, is sinister and mysterious. We don’t know what he wants or why, but we know he’s after Rasl and that’s enough to know this guy is up to no good.

Smith’s art is, as always, powerful and expressive. He communicates Rasl’s pain, his determination and stubbornness, even his surprise and shock, with seeming ease. Bold lines juxtapose softer scratch-like texture, while the backgrounds ground the action firmly in it’s setting. Rasl is nothing like Bone, but it has a distinct Jeff Smith feel, and is one the best stories currently being produced in comics. Well worth a look.
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Review: Dark Horse Presents #8

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If there were ever a time to jump on board with Dark Horse Presents, It’s with this issue. Some of the best stories in this serialised anthology are right here, including a touching Hellboy story, a new tale from the Beasts of Burden and the first preview of Brian Wood and Kristian Donaldson’s The Massive – worth the admission price.

The issue begins with a touching requiem to Hellboy – those following the series will be moved by the short story.

A touching coda to an epic series. Next up, Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson present a phenomenal new Beasts of Burden story, where the beasts come across a herd of sheep who just happen to be dead. Chilling stuff. Other stand out stories include the second part of Tony Puryear’s intriguing Concrete Park,which is kind of 100 bullets meets 100 Percent. Thomas Yeates and Alan Gordon bring Tarzan out of the jungle in The Once and Future Tarzan and Martin Conaghan tells an interesting time travel story illustrated beautifully by Jimmy Broxton. The epilogue to Wood and Donaldson’s The Massive has got me so excited about the series, as a series of rogue waves hit an oil station. It’s beautiful, powerful and terrifying.
What I love most about anthologies is the diversity in the art. Dark Horse presents is no exception, as every story is unique and (Howard Chaykin aside) visually spectacular. From Jill Thomson to Neal Adams to Mark Wheatly, the book is a pleasure to look at. A buffet of comic art goodness. A must read for any Dark Horse fan, or anyone who, like me, goes gaga over anthologies.
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Review: Irredeemable #34

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After treating us with the origin stories of Max Damage and the Plutonian, Mark Waid dives right back into the action of Irredeemable. The Plutonian was saved, at the last minute, by Qubit and Damage from being cast into a prison at the end of time by his parents. Much like The Plutonian himself, Irredeemable is the natural evolution of the superhero comic – a powerful, engaging story about a man with serious issues and world that has to deal with them.


Qubit has come up with a grand plan to save the world, but he needs the Plutonian to cary it out. Tony is offered the opportunity to go back in time if he co-operates. There’s a great scene were Qubit is testing Tony’s powers, and it it’s reminiscent of the many super hero power tests you find in comics. Irredeemable is no ordinary Super hero comic, though. There’s something special about it, something unique and different. Part of it is the fact that it’s about Superman gone evil, but mostly it comes down to Mark Waid’s innate ability to write stories that actually matter.

The art duties are split between regular series artist Diego Barretto and Damian Couceiro. While their styles are distinct and different, I hardly noticed the change, which is want you want. Couciero’s work is slightly less stylised, but no less emotive. Waid has created a world filled with people – some are psychopaths, some are geniuses, some are just regular people. No one is good, no one is bad, and it’s those shades of grey that make Irredeemable worth reading every month.
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Review: Valen the Outcast #3

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Michael Alan Nelson and Matteo Scalera’s dark fantasy continues to be gritty, exciting action. One of the best writers of full-tilt, high octane action comics in the business, Michael Alan Nelson manages to make formulaic fantasy fresh and fun.

Issue begins with a possessed Zjanna attempting to kill Valen and Cordovan, who promptly flee into a forest. There they discover the violent signs that they may be in more danger in the forest than they were from Zjanna. As with the past few issues, the pacing is excellent.

The balance between the rapid action, edge of your seat suspense and powerful character moments is perfect.

Scalera’s art really takes a step up this issue. His backgrounds are beautiful and his characters dynamic. I cant imagine it being easy for publishers to find an artist whose strengths match the strengths of the writer, but BOOM! Have done it with Valen. Action is difficult, and both Nelson and Scalera nail it. Dark fantasy at it’s finest.
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Review: Fathom #4

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A hot young marine biologist? Check. Strange underwater environments? Check. Mad scientist? Check. Scott Lobdell and Alex Konat? Double check. That’s pretty much every ingredient for a great comic. Fathom, created by the late Michael Turner, is in it’s forth volume, not including the myriad of spin offs, and it’s pretty easy to see why.

Issue 4 sees Aspen Mathews throw down with a bunch of bad guys in a church in an ocean under the Sahara desert.

Yup. Bizarre settings aside, it’s great to have Lobdell on this book. The story has been one of the strongest since the first volume, and really explores the subtle mysteries of the under water world. Lobdell pays homage to Michael Turner through his use of internal dialogue boxes, a device used unsparingly by Turner. It works, though, and since most of the action is underwater, regular dialogue is kind of difficult.

One thing I love about Fathom is that no matter who draws it, it sill feels like Michael Turner. Here, It’s Alex Konat who channels Turner’s spirit, to create something that has the perfect look and feel of Turner’s Fathom without copying it. I can’t think of much higher praise. The world of Fathom is as fascinating as it is beautiful, and well worth a look.
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CBNAH Interview: Jim Rugg

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I head the great pleasure of interviewing Jim Rugg, co-creator of Afrodisiac and Street Angel. He talked about his future plans, his inspirations, and his thoughts on the industry. He also puts me in my place! read the full interview after the jump!



CBNAH: What are you up to at the moment project wise?
 
RUGG: I’m drawing iZOMBIE #24. I’m also working on a new comic book, a tabloid-sized format, like Cold Heat Special 4. I applied for some grant funding to pay for it, then to distribute it on Free Comic Book Day. It’s an adaptation of a movie trailer. I’m getting ready for a couple of upcoming art shows. In late March, I have a show opening in Pittsburgh at the Toonseum that will showcase my recent comics art – a lot of short pieces and drawings that probably most people haven’t seen. Then in May, I have a show in LA at iam8bit gallery of my ballpoint pen on notebook paper drawings. Besides that stuff, I have the usual anthology pieces coming up for different things.
 
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CBNAH: Where do your ideas come from? I mean, a book about a pre-teen homeless skateboarding ninja chick is pretty inspired.
 
RUGG: I don’t know. There’s a lot of stimulation in the world. I think ideas just grow out of that. You see or hear something new, and it makes your mind work and ideas just sort of come out of that process. Street Angel came out of a certain dissatisfaction I felt for the comics I was seeing at the time. I wanted something I wasn’t finding at my local shop, and I think we developed Street Angel to scratch that itch.  
 
CBNAH: Street Angel Issue 4 currently resides in the library of congress. What are your thoughts on that?
 
RUGG: I think it’s fantastic that comics have been accepted into libraries, schools, galleries, and other outlets where potential new readers can more easily find them. It’s an honor to have a comic book in the Library of Congress, one I never expected. I’m very grateful to Sara Duke of the Prints & Photographs Division for her interest.
 
CBNAH: Are there any plans for anther team-up with Brian Maruca? I’d love more street Angel and Afrodisiac in my life.
 
RUGG: I assume we’ll work together again. I’ve just been busy with some other things lately. We still hang out and talk. We have ideas for both characters as well as other characters. Just need to find a few more hours in the day. 
 
CBNAH: In 2009, Lucas Testro and Adam Bishop made a short film based on Street Angel. I actually knew Katie Bell, who plays Jessie, when she was in school. Were you involved at all? What did you think off it?
 
RUGG: We weren’t too involved. Lucas and Adam were great about the process. They sent us work-in-progress and gave us access to their production materials, which was interesting to see. But we didn’t actually participate as anything more than spectators.
I was very happy with how it turned out. I’m a fan of the 60s Batman TV series, and I thought there were some nice parallels between the two. I think they did a great job with material that couldn’t have been easy to adapt.
 
CBNAH: You tend to lean more towards comedy stuff, even when you’re drawing someone else’s script (The Guild, for example). What draws you to that over, say, traditional superhero comics?
 
RUGG: I don’t know. I think that’s just how things have gone so far. I like real people a lot. And the less we see real people in media, perhaps the more I’m drawn to them. Superheroes are very complex to me as a genre and a concept. Eventually I expect to do something superhero-related but it hasn’t emerged yet. I enjoy comedy, so for now, it just seems like my work gravitates towards that element. Honestly, it’s another one of those, I need more-hours-in-the-day! answers. Unfortunately, I only get around to a small percentage of what I’d like to do. But the longer I keep working, the more ground I hope to cover.
 
CBNAH: The beats in your dialogue are spot on, and often has me in stitches. I love the conversation between Jessie, the Mayor and the Chief of Police in #1 - something about calling the chief of Police a pervert through a megaphone is so irreverent - comic gold! Does writing dialogue come natural to you, or do you have to work hard on it?
 
RUGG: Every aspect of writing is hard for me. It’s the reason I often work with Brian. He’s a much better writer than I am. But I see him struggle as well. I don’t know. Maybe it’s easy for some people, but it’s the hardest thing I try to do. When we work on a script, at some point (often more than once) we get together and read it out loud and it’s a chance to examine it from a slightly new angle. So usually dialogue gets a lot of attention by the time I’m actually lettering a strip.
 
CBNAH: The comics industry is in a weird place right now, where comics are driving pop culture, but people just aren’t reading them. What are your thoughts on the industry and how can it improve?
 
RUGG: That’s a lot to unpack.

First, I flat out disagree with your assertion that people aren’t reading comics. There may be fewer readers per comic/graphic novel than in the past. But I believe the number of American readers is much, much greater than it’s ever been in my lifetime.
A friend of mine started dating a hair stylist recently. He’s also a cartoonist. When she learned this, she told him about the comics she had read – Watchmen, Scott Pilgrim, a few others. She also read a lot of prose, and reading comics for her was just a casual part of her reading. She’d hear something is good, comic or otherwise, and next time she was looking for something to read, it might be a graphic novel.
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I went to a Chip Kidd lecture recently at the Warhol Museum. It was co-sponsored by the local AIGA (a graphic design/arts organization). I assumed there’d be a bunch of designers and bookophiles at the talk. The talk sold out quickly and was almost all comics fans. 
Our local library system has an insanely good, big, and constantly growing collection of comics and graphic novels. If there weren’t demand for comics among library-users, that collection would not continue to grow.
A lot of what I just mentioned may be readers outside the direct market/superhero/Marvel/DC demo, but I bet they represent a far larger number of readers than currently exist in the direct market/fandom. A few years ago, I remember some controversy when the year’s best-selling list was published. DC didn’t include non-direct market numbers for their periodical sales. If they had, their Wildstorm video game books would have been their bestsellers by a pretty substantial margin.
What I’ve begun noticing is the growth of a huge, casual audience. I love this development. It’s not always been this way. I remember Patton Oswalt’s thing about nerds and fandom disappearing (
http://www.wired.com/magazine/2010/12/ff_angrynerd_geekculture/all/1), but I don’t think that’s true. Come and hang out with me, Ed Piskor, Tom Scioli, and Jasen Lex at some get together and see if geeks still exist. Access to a mainstream audience does not preclude the existence of hardcore fandom. Those are two different things entirely.
My thoughts on the industry and how can it improve? I think in most regards the industry is better than it’s ever been. I think the quality and diversity of content available has never been better. I don’t think it’s ever been close. The talent working in the industry is just incredible. There’s never been a better time to be a comics fan than right now.
Obviously distribution is a popular subject in comics right now, and plenty of other media for that matter. Generating revenue is important for the sustainability of the industry and community, both retail and creative, and traditionally revenue generation has been concentrated in distribution.
I worry about brick-and-mortar retailers. In Pittsburgh, we are fortunate to have a number of excellent comic book shops, but I worry about all of their survival. I’m not sure what the answer is. I like being able to go to a nice comic book shop and look through a bunch of comics and talk to a retailer or store employee who has a different perspective on the form and industry than I do. But I’m not sure the retail model we are familiar with (and this isn’t limited to comic book shops) can survive. The overhead is so great. I’m not sure what the answer is, but I think that’s a troubling issue our industry faces.
There are a lot of legal issues I think we need to actively monitor from free speech to the SOPA/PIPA to obscenity laws. I think it’s critical that our industry (readers, fans, retailers, publishers, journalists, critics, and artists) continues to contribute to these ongoing debates, discussions, and actions. A lot of people don’t realize that comics have a long history in this area, as such, we bring a lot of experience to the table and we need to recognize that fact. I think as an industry we are fortunate to have an organization like the CBLDF doing a lot of heavy lifting on our behalf.
Historically, I’d like to see greater efforts to appreciate, recognize, and support our aging cartoonists. Personally, I want someone to do a multi-volume biography/interview of Marie Severin. Has anyone in comics seen and been around as much significant history as her? But there are many levels of history I’d like to see us care for better. We’ve seen improvements with historical and archival preservation of work, but many of the men and women who have built this history drift into obscurity and we lose their stories forever. I hope more historians begin to look around and shine a light on those cartoonists that have drifted away from comics.
Readership can always be improved and shouldn’t be taken for granted. I think the last ten years have been great for expanding readership, and I think we need to continue to pursue that as an industry. At this point, I think we have comics to offer just about everybody. So that’s an ongoing concern, but it’s also a fun one. I love giving a comic to someone when I know he/she will like it. Inevitably, it gives us something to talk about in the future.
Comics education has been an area of growth over the last decade as well. I think that bodes well for our future and like readership, can always be improved. More and more cartoonists are touring in support of their work. I encourage people to go see a cartoonist read or talk about his/her work when you have a chance.
Comic book shows have gotten better and better. There are so many good regional and specialty shows these days. This isn’t a dig on Patton Oswalt’s rant, but the abundance of small press and regional shows has grown the fandom that he laments. I’ve met a lot of friends and learned about a lot of my favorite artists from attending these shows. They offer a chance for readers and artists to interact face to face, something most industries do not do.
The art world has begun to look at comics. I know a number of artists who work in a variety of disciplines like painting, filmmaking, writing, and also make comics. Galleries and museums have begun recognizing comics. Pittsburgh’s Center for the Arts recently named John Peña its Emerging Artist of the Year (http://www.pittsburghcitypaper.ws/pittsburgh/emerging-artist-of-the-year-john-pea-documented-every-day-for-two-years-with-pictures-and-words/Content?oid=1478268) and his show featured three rooms of breathtaking comics drawings. The Warhol Museum just held an Alex Ross retrospective and supported that with a sold-out Chip Kidd lecture. Last year’s Pittsburgh Biennial commissioned a new comic by Frank Santoro. And those are just the big events from one relatively small city. 
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So overall, I think the industry has a lot going for it, but like everything, that doesn’t mean we should sit back and relax. It’s not perfect. But I think we have a tremendous amount of opportunities to continue to improve this thing we love. How each of us approaches that depends on our individual preferences. Fostering that independence is something I’d like to see more of in the future. The great thing about comics, is that to support them, you basically just need to do more of what you love – reading, seeking out the art, community-building, whatever. The creativity, intelligence, and dedication of the comic readers and fans that I meet is amazing. And that quality of support gives me hope that whatever difficulties our industry encounters, we’ll find ways to overcome.
 
CBNAH: What comics are you currently reading?
 
RUGG: Tom Scioli’s American Barbarian, Ed Piskor’s weekly strip on Boing Boing is absurdly great, especially his Hip Hop history strips (
http://boingboing.net/author/wimpyrutherford), Steve Ditko Unexplored Worlds, Harry Lucey Archie, Carl Barks Donald Duck, Ryan Cecil Smith’s SF Supplementary File 2, Jason Karns’ Fukitor series (so good, please google this if you like b-horror and exploitation movies and Richard Corben and Faust), old Wizard magazines (mostly from the first five years of its publication), Jamie Hewlett’s Get the Freebies, Peepo Choo, Pope Hats, Object 5 by Kilian Eng, Pin-Up Art of Humorama, Fiction Illustrated vol. 2: Starfawn, Eerie 135, Thickness 1 and 2, Chameleon 1 and 2 (especially 2), More Things Like This…I might even go to the comic book store tomorrow for new comic book day (my first one in like five years)…I hear Prophet #21 is coming out.
 
CBNAH: Finish this sentence: Comic book nerds are hot because…

RUGG: Comic book nerds are hot because…they are smart.
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CBNAH Interview: Jim Rugg

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I head the great pleasure of interviewing Jim Rugg, co-creator of Afrodisiac and Street Angel. He talked about his future plans, his inspirations, and his thoughts on the industry. He also puts me in my place! read the full interview after the jump!



CBNAH: What are you up to at the moment project wise?
 
RUGG: I’m drawing iZOMBIE #24. I’m also working on a new comic book, a tabloid-sized format, like Cold Heat Special 4. I applied for some grant funding to pay for it, then to distribute it on Free Comic Book Day. It’s an adaptation of a movie trailer. I’m getting ready for a couple of upcoming art shows. In late March, I have a show opening in Pittsburgh at the Toonseum that will showcase my recent comics art – a lot of short pieces and drawings that probably most people haven’t seen. Then in May, I have a show in LA at iam8bit gallery of my ballpoint pen on notebook paper drawings. Besides that stuff, I have the usual anthology pieces coming up for different things.
 
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CBNAH: Where do your ideas come from? I mean, a book about a pre-teen homeless skateboarding ninja chick is pretty inspired.
 
RUGG: I don’t know. There’s a lot of stimulation in the world. I think ideas just grow out of that. You see or hear something new, and it makes your mind work and ideas just sort of come out of that process. Street Angel came out of a certain dissatisfaction I felt for the comics I was seeing at the time. I wanted something I wasn’t finding at my local shop, and I think we developed Street Angel to scratch that itch.  
 
CBNAH: Street Angel Issue 4 currently resides in the library of congress. What are your thoughts on that?
 
RUGG: I think it’s fantastic that comics have been accepted into libraries, schools, galleries, and other outlets where potential new readers can more easily find them. It’s an honor to have a comic book in the Library of Congress, one I never expected. I’m very grateful to Sara Duke of the Prints & Photographs Division for her interest.
 
CBNAH: Are there any plans for anther team-up with Brian Maruca? I’d love more street Angel and Afrodisiac in my life.
 
RUGG: I assume we’ll work together again. I’ve just been busy with some other things lately. We still hang out and talk. We have ideas for both characters as well as other characters. Just need to find a few more hours in the day. 
 
CBNAH: In 2009, Lucas Testro and Adam Bishop made a short film based on Street Angel. I actually knew Katie Bell, who plays Jessie, when she was in school. Were you involved at all? What did you think off it?
 
RUGG: We weren’t too involved. Lucas and Adam were great about the process. They sent us work-in-progress and gave us access to their production materials, which was interesting to see. But we didn’t actually participate as anything more than spectators.
I was very happy with how it turned out. I’m a fan of the 60s Batman TV series, and I thought there were some nice parallels between the two. I think they did a great job with material that couldn’t have been easy to adapt.
 
CBNAH: You tend to lean more towards comedy stuff, even when you’re drawing someone else’s script (The Guild, for example). What draws you to that over, say, traditional superhero comics?
 
RUGG: I don’t know. I think that’s just how things have gone so far. I like real people a lot. And the less we see real people in media, perhaps the more I’m drawn to them. Superheroes are very complex to me as a genre and a concept. Eventually I expect to do something superhero-related but it hasn’t emerged yet. I enjoy comedy, so for now, it just seems like my work gravitates towards that element. Honestly, it’s another one of those, I need more-hours-in-the-day! answers. Unfortunately, I only get around to a small percentage of what I’d like to do. But the longer I keep working, the more ground I hope to cover.
 
CBNAH: The beats in your dialogue are spot on, and often has me in stitches. I love the conversation between Jessie, the Mayor and the Chief of Police in #1 - something about calling the chief of Police a pervert through a megaphone is so irreverent - comic gold! Does writing dialogue come natural to you, or do you have to work hard on it?
 
RUGG: Every aspect of writing is hard for me. It’s the reason I often work with Brian. He’s a much better writer than I am. But I see him struggle as well. I don’t know. Maybe it’s easy for some people, but it’s the hardest thing I try to do. When we work on a script, at some point (often more than once) we get together and read it out loud and it’s a chance to examine it from a slightly new angle. So usually dialogue gets a lot of attention by the time I’m actually lettering a strip.
 
CBNAH: The comics industry is in a weird place right now, where comics are driving pop culture, but people just aren’t reading them. What are your thoughts on the industry and how can it improve?
 
RUGG: That’s a lot to unpack.

First, I flat out disagree with your assertion that people aren’t reading comics. There may be fewer readers per comic/graphic novel than in the past. But I believe the number of American readers is much, much greater than it’s ever been in my lifetime.
A friend of mine started dating a hair stylist recently. He’s also a cartoonist. When she learned this, she told him about the comics she had read – Watchmen, Scott Pilgrim, a few others. She also read a lot of prose, and reading comics for her was just a casual part of her reading. She’d hear something is good, comic or otherwise, and next time she was looking for something to read, it might be a graphic novel.
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I went to a Chip Kidd lecture recently at the Warhol Museum. It was co-sponsored by the local AIGA (a graphic design/arts organization). I assumed there’d be a bunch of designers and bookophiles at the talk. The talk sold out quickly and was almost all comics fans. 
Our local library system has an insanely good, big, and constantly growing collection of comics and graphic novels. If there weren’t demand for comics among library-users, that collection would not continue to grow.
A lot of what I just mentioned may be readers outside the direct market/superhero/Marvel/DC demo, but I bet they represent a far larger number of readers than currently exist in the direct market/fandom. A few years ago, I remember some controversy when the year’s best-selling list was published. DC didn’t include non-direct market numbers for their periodical sales. If they had, their Wildstorm video game books would have been their bestsellers by a pretty substantial margin.
What I’ve begun noticing is the growth of a huge, casual audience. I love this development. It’s not always been this way. I remember Patton Oswalt’s thing about nerds and fandom disappearing (
http://www.wired.com/magazine/2010/12/ff_angrynerd_geekculture/all/1), but I don’t think that’s true. Come and hang out with me, Ed Piskor, Tom Scioli, and Jasen Lex at some get together and see if geeks still exist. Access to a mainstream audience does not preclude the existence of hardcore fandom. Those are two different things entirely.
My thoughts on the industry and how can it improve? I think in most regards the industry is better than it’s ever been. I think the quality and diversity of content available has never been better. I don’t think it’s ever been close. The talent working in the industry is just incredible. There’s never been a better time to be a comics fan than right now.
Obviously distribution is a popular subject in comics right now, and plenty of other media for that matter. Generating revenue is important for the sustainability of the industry and community, both retail and creative, and traditionally revenue generation has been concentrated in distribution.
I worry about brick-and-mortar retailers. In Pittsburgh, we are fortunate to have a number of excellent comic book shops, but I worry about all of their survival. I’m not sure what the answer is. I like being able to go to a nice comic book shop and look through a bunch of comics and talk to a retailer or store employee who has a different perspective on the form and industry than I do. But I’m not sure the retail model we are familiar with (and this isn’t limited to comic book shops) can survive. The overhead is so great. I’m not sure what the answer is, but I think that’s a troubling issue our industry faces.
There are a lot of legal issues I think we need to actively monitor from free speech to the SOPA/PIPA to obscenity laws. I think it’s critical that our industry (readers, fans, retailers, publishers, journalists, critics, and artists) continues to contribute to these ongoing debates, discussions, and actions. A lot of people don’t realize that comics have a long history in this area, as such, we bring a lot of experience to the table and we need to recognize that fact. I think as an industry we are fortunate to have an organization like the CBLDF doing a lot of heavy lifting on our behalf.
Historically, I’d like to see greater efforts to appreciate, recognize, and support our aging cartoonists. Personally, I want someone to do a multi-volume biography/interview of Marie Severin. Has anyone in comics seen and been around as much significant history as her? But there are many levels of history I’d like to see us care for better. We’ve seen improvements with historical and archival preservation of work, but many of the men and women who have built this history drift into obscurity and we lose their stories forever. I hope more historians begin to look around and shine a light on those cartoonists that have drifted away from comics.
Readership can always be improved and shouldn’t be taken for granted. I think the last ten years have been great for expanding readership, and I think we need to continue to pursue that as an industry. At this point, I think we have comics to offer just about everybody. So that’s an ongoing concern, but it’s also a fun one. I love giving a comic to someone when I know he/she will like it. Inevitably, it gives us something to talk about in the future.
Comics education has been an area of growth over the last decade as well. I think that bodes well for our future and like readership, can always be improved. More and more cartoonists are touring in support of their work. I encourage people to go see a cartoonist read or talk about his/her work when you have a chance.
Comic book shows have gotten better and better. There are so many good regional and specialty shows these days. This isn’t a dig on Patton Oswalt’s rant, but the abundance of small press and regional shows has grown the fandom that he laments. I’ve met a lot of friends and learned about a lot of my favorite artists from attending these shows. They offer a chance for readers and artists to interact face to face, something most industries do not do.
The art world has begun to look at comics. I know a number of artists who work in a variety of disciplines like painting, filmmaking, writing, and also make comics. Galleries and museums have begun recognizing comics. Pittsburgh’s Center for the Arts recently named John Peña its Emerging Artist of the Year (http://www.pittsburghcitypaper.ws/pittsburgh/emerging-artist-of-the-year-john-pea-documented-every-day-for-two-years-with-pictures-and-words/Content?oid=1478268) and his show featured three rooms of breathtaking comics drawings. The Warhol Museum just held an Alex Ross retrospective and supported that with a sold-out Chip Kidd lecture. Last year’s Pittsburgh Biennial commissioned a new comic by Frank Santoro. And those are just the big events from one relatively small city. 
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So overall, I think the industry has a lot going for it, but like everything, that doesn’t mean we should sit back and relax. It’s not perfect. But I think we have a tremendous amount of opportunities to continue to improve this thing we love. How each of us approaches that depends on our individual preferences. Fostering that independence is something I’d like to see more of in the future. The great thing about comics, is that to support them, you basically just need to do more of what you love – reading, seeking out the art, community-building, whatever. The creativity, intelligence, and dedication of the comic readers and fans that I meet is amazing. And that quality of support gives me hope that whatever difficulties our industry encounters, we’ll find ways to overcome.
 
CBNAH: What comics are you currently reading?
 
RUGG: Tom Scioli’s American Barbarian, Ed Piskor’s weekly strip on Boing Boing is absurdly great, especially his Hip Hop history strips (
http://boingboing.net/author/wimpyrutherford), Steve Ditko Unexplored Worlds, Harry Lucey Archie, Carl Barks Donald Duck, Ryan Cecil Smith’s SF Supplementary File 2, Jason Karns’ Fukitor series (so good, please google this if you like b-horror and exploitation movies and Richard Corben and Faust), old Wizard magazines (mostly from the first five years of its publication), Jamie Hewlett’s Get the Freebies, Peepo Choo, Pope Hats, Object 5 by Kilian Eng, Pin-Up Art of Humorama, Fiction Illustrated vol. 2: Starfawn, Eerie 135, Thickness 1 and 2, Chameleon 1 and 2 (especially 2), More Things Like This…I might even go to the comic book store tomorrow for new comic book day (my first one in like five years)…I hear Prophet #21 is coming out.
 
CBNAH: Finish this sentence: Comic book nerds are hot because…

RUGG: Comic book nerds are hot because…they are smart.
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Review: Key of Z #4

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Zombies seem to have infested comic books in a shambling horde of brainless mediocrity, but some Zombie comics stand out from the undead crowd. Kirkman’s the Walking Dead is a prime example, and so is Key of Z. this final issue in the series by ‘Kill Audio’ creators Claudio Sanchez and Chondra Echert, with Aaron Kuder, provides a fantastic climax that left me wanting whole lot more.

Issue 4 begins with our main protagonist, Ewing, being sprung from jail by his partner in zombie slayage, Eddie.

They escape, but of course it doesn’t end there. Without giving anything away, let’s just say It’s not easy sailing for Eddie and Ewing. Buy the time I got to the end of the book, I was left thinking ‘is that it?’. The whole series was fantastic, a really great read, and the climax was timed well and action packed, but I was left somehow unsatisfied. Wether Sanchez and Echert left the ending open for the reader to fill in the gap, or if the have more planned, I’m not sure, but it just didn’t feel like an ending. Other than that drawback, though, this issue, and the series, was an exciting and innovative post-apocalyptic tale.

Kuder’s art is fantastic. Powerful, emotive and distinct characters dynamically grace each panel. One particular page of zombie mayhem is absolutely glorious. The action sequences are easy to follow and masterfully paced. Key of Z was a great little series, and defiantly worth checking out if you’re a fan of Mad Max-like post apocalyptic goodness.
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Review: Green Wake #9

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Kurtis Wiebe and Riley Rossmo’s Green Wake continues to be one of the creepiest, visually interesting and engaging comics on the stands. Issue 9 was no exception. From the very first splash page to the final emotional page, this issue was comics at its freaky no-idea-what’s-going-on best.

We learn a little more of about Green Wake, a little more about Micah and we're shown another sinister side to the strange purgatory that is

Green Wake. I dig this book. Every issue just blows my mind. The creepy goings on and the mysterious characters provide a symphony of powerful storytelling. Every time I think I’ve got it figured out, something even stranger happens and freaks me out all over again.

Rossmo’s art is visually spectacular. His messy lines, stylised shading and layered textures make for a glorious reading experience. I can imagine some people hating it, because it’s not really traditional comic art, But I love it. It captures the tone of the book perfectly and is powerful in emoting all the crazy, weird and freaky things the characters deal with. Green Wake is consistently one of my favourite books on the stands, and this issue continues it’s run of awesomeness.
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Talking Trades: Echo by Terry Moore

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Terry Moore is a rare talent. While it’s not unusual for comic creators to both write and draw their comics on a regular schedule (Erik Larson, for example) few do it better than Terry Moore. Echo is a complete 30 issue story, his second after the 90-issue Strangers in Paradise. Echo is a very different story to Strangers though. Moore uses elements of science fiction, action and espionage, mixing them together in a gripping and beautiful gumbo of awesome.


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Echo follows Julie Martin, an ordinary young woman with an ordinary life who just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. While taking photographs in the desert, she inadvertently witnesses a military test that goes horribly awry. She is rained on by a strange metal alloy that attaches itself to her skin. One thing leads to another and Julie is on the run from the government, who are out to retrieve the alloy so it can be properly weaponised. Terry Moore describes the series as ‘The Fugitive meets The X Files’, an apt description. The science fiction elements are minimal but powerful and used to great effect. The alloy and other technology in the book are not that far removed from reality, which makes for gripping reading. Moore plays with the ideas of science and spirit, human achievement and human nature. There is no ‘good’ and ‘bad’ characters, just people. Each character, from the protagonist Julie to the bored gas attendant, is unique. They’re each people you could bump into and not miss a beat.
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Terry Moore’s art is, as always, amazing. The man is clearly dedicated to, and passionate about, his craft. Things like the way clothing sits on a body and the way gravity affects hair and breasts are important details in realistic art, and Moore takes great care in ensuring these details are evident in his work. It also comes as no surprise that the women in Echo are strong both artistically and in character. This has always been one of Moore’s greatest strengths. The characters vary in weight and size, and everything *ahem
* is in the right proportions. They are real, relatable woman and react to situations like real, relatable women. Moore’s lines are crisp, his composition is interesting and his content is detailed and realistic. Each character is unique and expressive. Moore is one of my all time favourite artists, which is no mean feat, considering he’s one of my all time favourite writers, as well.

At 30 issues long, Echo can be read in 4 hours or so, and you’ll want to set yourself that time, because once you open the cover of the first trade, there’s no stopping. It’s as gripping as it is beautiful, as engaging as it is powerful. Echo is set in the same world as strangers in Paradise, and fans of Strangers get some service towards the end of the book, with a familiar character showing up. I can’t recommend Echo highly enough. 5 stars.



The complete edition is $39.95 and contains all 30 issues.
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CBNAH Interview: The Luna Brothers

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I got a chance this week to pose a few Questions to the Luna Brothers, creators of Ultra, Girls and The Sword. Younger brother Joshua has released his first solo work, Whispers, for Image Comics. Whispers #1 is on sale now. On to the interview!




CBNAH: Hey guys! Just want to start out by apologising – I’m always getting the two of you mixed up. When you work together, Joshua, you’re usually the writer and Jonathan, you’re usually the artist, right?

Joshua
: Yeah, that’s right.

CBNAH: I want to begin with Whispers. Issue one was a great introduction to the characters and the premise behind the book, and I’m really excited to see where it goes. Where do you get your inspiration for your stories?
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Joshua:  That’s a good question.  I love grounded, character driven stories that explore the human condition and I also love sci-fi and horror, so I’m constantly thinking of new ideas and ways to combine the two.

CBNAH: The main character, Sam, kinda get’s a little stalky toward the end of the book. Is he going to be a character like Ethan from Girls who we kinda like even though he makes bad choices?

Joshua
: Morality and the grey areas of having an ability where you’re literally invisible and can manipulate thoughts are main themes in the book, so Sam will definitely be making difficult choices. Whether they’re bad or good, is up to the reader I guess.

CBNAH:
Can you give us a hint as to what’s in store for Sam in the future?

Joshua
:  Initially, Sam thinks his power is a blessing and simply a way to enjoy flying around as a ghost  and maybe “adjusting” his friends and family to make his life better, but he soon discovers a darker side when he discovers  that his ability also allows  him to see a sinister inhuman entity that the normal human eye can’t. How this being affects Sam and how Sam responds is where things get really interesting.

CBNAH:
Joshua, your art is very similar to Jonathan’s. Is that a result of you being brothers, or have you spent so much time collaborating that his style rubbed off on you?

Joshua:
Maybe I’m seeing it differently, but personally, I think our art styles are very different.

Jonathan
: When you look at all the art out there, I can see how someone might see our two styles being similar.  My guess is that we have similar inspirations.  I don’t think it’s from looking at each other’s work.  This is an interesting question because I haven’t really thought about this.

CBNAH:
What was it like working without Jonathan?

Joshua
: Well, most comics are done by at least two people, and I’ve never worked with anyone else but my brother, so I don’t have another collaboration to compare it to. So the intense workload of doing everything on a book myself is the main difference.

CBNAH:
Will you guys continue to collaborate, or ‘has the band broken up’?

Joshua
: I don’t look ahead too far while I’m still focused on a current book, so I can’t say for now.

CBNAH:
Jonathan, What’s in your immediate future?

Jonathan
: I’m working on a book I haven’t announced yet. 

CBNAH: When you guys collaborate, what’s the process?

Jonathan
:  We came up with the concepts and plots together.  Josh wrote the scripts, and once I had a chance to look at it, he made thumbnails for the art.  Then I penciled, inked, and coloured the art.  Then Josh lettered it.

CBNAH: You’re (collectively) very good at the final page reveal. Is that something you work hard at, or does it come naturally?

Joshua
: Everything eventually becomes a little instinctive with time and practice, but the key is to know your story and know where it’s going. When you have that omniscient knowledge, you can play with expectations and tease more effectively.

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CBNAH: I’m a big fan of Girls (shameless plug for the website – you can read my review of Girls here: http://bit.ly/wnVmzY) and I’m curious to know if you knew just how divisive the book would be in terms of gender roles?

Joshua
: From the beginning, our “elevator pitch” was always “the ultimate battle of the sexes.” We wanted to create a story that would explore relationship dynamics, gender roles and sexual politics by pitting men and women against each other, and the Girls were designed t o do exactly that.

CBNAH:
The comics industry is in a funny place right know where comics are driving pop culture, but people aren’t buying them. What do you make of the industry, and what do you think needs to change?

Joshua
:  I think there are much smarter people than me who can better discuss the industry’s problems, so I can only speak from my experience. I will say I do find it troubling when I talk to average, non-comic-reading people who always, without fail, equate the comic book medium to superheroes and spandex.  I just think it’s sad that comics, on a national level, aren’t viewed more like other mediums, like novels or movies, where the genre choice is vast, diverse and for the most part, balanced.  I’m not sure how that mindset can change, but as a reader, I do tend to gravitate towards creator-owned books, where I’m more likely to hear individual creative voices, opposed to a franchise. 

CBNAH:
What comics are each of you reading at the moment?

Joshua
:  Sadly, I’m a little too swamped to read at the moment, but my to-read pile keeps growing.

Jonathan
: At this moment, Habibi by Craig Thompson.

CBNAH:
Finish this sentence: Comic book nerds are hot because…

Jonathan
: ...comic books are the new black.

CBNAH: Thanks so much for your time!

Go out and buy Whispers #1 now!

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Review: 2000AD #1766

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The weekly British sci-fi comics anthology Is really strong at the moment. the current 5 stories are all great, and with creators like John Wagner, Dan Abnett, Robbie Morrison and Tiernan Trevallion, how could it not be?

The current judge Dredd story is intriguing, but I find Wagner can often use way too much dialogue. It's interesting to see the mayoral campaigns going on in the background, and I'm sure it'll com into play pretty soon.

Grey Area is trademark Abnett Sci-fi. Aliens, shock troopers, big guns - all the ingredients are there. Karl Richardson's art is pretty glorious, as well.

Nikolai Dante is one of my favourite 2000AD stories, and Robbie Morrison is killing it with this arc. this prog sees the return of Spatchcock and Flintlock, and the dynamic between Demitri, Nikolai and Jena is top notch. Absolom is also shaping up to be an excellent arc, and Tiernan Travallion's art is the strongest in the issue. It kind of has a De'israeli tone to it. The art just accentuates the awesomeness of Harry Absolom, a grumpy old detective dealing in the supernatural.

Strontium Dog is also putting up a great arc, with the return of Johnny Alpha. Wagner's characters here aren't deep or dramatic, but they are totally cool. Middenface's accent can, at times, make the dialogue a little hard to follow though. All in all, 2000AD is putting up some solid stories, and if your thinking of picking it up, start with last week's #1755.
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Review: Chew #23

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My Goodness, I love this book. If you want a perfect blend of action, violence and humour, you need look no further than Chew. John Layman's script can get quite brutal at times, but Rob Guillroy's quirky and fun art softens the blow a little. It's kinda like being hit by Thor's hammer if it was wrapped in a pillow. What makes it worse is that the main characters, Tony and John, just don't catch a break.

Agent John Colby is having a hard time dealing with his new boss, who hates him and his new partner, who is a glory-stealing cybernetically

enhanced lion (yup, big mane, king of the jungle lion). As bad as it is for Colby, however, it's far worse for Tony Chew. He's been kidnapped by his girlfriend's ex and forced to consume the bodies of dead baseball players. The issue flips back and forward between Tony and John, and the issue moves forward at a blinding pace.

Guillroy's art is, as I mentioned before, perfect for this book. it's heavily stylised, quirky, fun and a pleasure to look at. Chew is one of those books that just get's better and better as it goes along. The last couple of pages of Issue 23 set up the next issue, and I can;t wait for it. Unless you're the 'faint at the sight of blood' kind of person, you should definately be checking out Chew.
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Talking Trades: The Goon

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Do you want to read about a depression era thug who fights zombies, hobos, sea monsters, monsters made out of wicker, monsters made out of babies and insane burlesque performers? Then why the hell aren’t you reading The Goon? Eric Powell has created something somewhat unique and altogether special with The Goon. A delightfully fun period comic, this series manages to blend ridiculous lowbrow humour with surprising dramatic weight. Oh, and there’s also a heck of a lot of punching.






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The Goon follows the titular character, a hulking, heavily scarred thug, who works for the mysterious ‘Labrazio’. As the series goes on, it’s revealed that Labrazio is actually dead, and The Goon has taken over his entire operation, using Labrazio’s name in order to maintain credibility. The Goon is rarely without his loyal buddy Franky at his side. Franky is a skinny, brash, overconfident man with a love of a good scrap. The Goon and Franky spend the first half of the series battling their nemesis, the Zombie Priest, as well as hordes of zombies, monsters and assorted bad guys. Volume 5 was a turning point for the series, where Powell starts to take a slightly more serious tone on the book and his art begins to progress far more toward his soft, painted style.

Being totally honest, when Eric Powell begun the series he was not a very good artist. The first few trades are pretty rough, and he even released a ‘0’ trade called ‘Rough Stuff’, acknowledging his shortcomings as an artist. The real beauty of the series, however, is watching Powell steadily improve and evolve into an amazing artist.
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His use of soft inks create the perfect period tone, and the range of emotions his characters show is impressive, considering you rarely see the Goon’s eyes and Franky has no pupils. Dave Stewart’s colours certainly help, adding an extra layer to the already rich art. The characters themselves are masterfully created. The recurring group of orphans, known as the little unholy bastards, are like feral versions of the original Li’l Rascals, dealing with zombies and necromancers instead of losing marbles down exhaust pipes. Franky is loyal and violent, always picking fights beyond his ability. It always works out for the best, as Frankie relies on the confidence the Goon gave him and the Goon himself, who always comes to his friend’s rescue. Franky and Goon often talk about Charlie Noodles – a character we never meet, but always comes up in anecdotes. I love the fact that Powell can make us care for someone we’ve never seen or met before. The Goon himself is a deeply sad man. He has experienced a world of grief in his life, and Powell beautifully conveys this throughout the series. Scenes in Norton’s bar are particularly poignant.

The Goon is a hilarious, beautiful, touching and action packed package tied together with string made from pure awesome. If Tales from the Crypt was a comedy, it would be The Goon. If you want to start with the best, I’d suggest checking out volume 6, which is widely regarded as Powell’s best work. Otherwise, jump in from the start, knowing that things get a whole lot better as you go along. The series has won 5 Eisner awards, and deserves every single one of ‘em.
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Review: X-Factor #230

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My goodness, do we seriously need more wolverine? What were you thinking Mr David?! Having said that, X-Factor continues to be a blast to read, and this issue doubly so, with Emanuela Lupacchino on art duties. The dialogue is quick and witty, while the story itself is fun and fresh.

While Madrox is off in another dimension, Layla is back at X-Factor Investigations guarding his frozen dead body.

Meanwhile, M and Siryn argue about Guido’s lack of soul right in front of him, which makes for some fun reading. Wolvie decides to put X-Factor Investigations on retainer, offering them some new leadership in Jamie’s ‘absence’. You all know who it is. The last page didn’t really come as a shock. Marvel has been plugging this one for ages.

Lupacchino provides some strong art, something the book has been lacking of late. She nails the characters, and tells the story without distraction. Her Siryn looks absolutely amazing and the look on Shatterstar’s face when Guido offers to do a thousand one handed pushups is priceless. X-Factor hasn’t been this fun in a long time. If you dropped the book for whatever reason, now would be a great time to pick it back up. It’s one of Marvel’s best.
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Review: Batwoman #5

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Wow. Just wow. If you want to be consistently blown away be a comic book’s beauty, then you should be reading Batwoman. The story that Williams is telling has been exciting and he has a great handle on Kate Kane, but it is his art that makes this book consistently one of the best on the shelves.

Batwoman #5 wraps up the first story arc in this book, and Kate finds herself having to make a tricky deal with an old foe.

While the story is yet to reach the greatness of Rucka’s run on Detective Comics, Blackman and Williams have been steadily improving, and plot thickens in this issue. We’re in for a ride! The supernatural elements in this issue were spot on, as Kate deals with the Weeping Woman, and the watery setting was enhanced by Williams III’s fluid art.

In fact the art in this book continues to be amazing. JH Williams III is, in my opinion, the best artist currently in the business. His loose layouts flow from action to action, like a lucid dream. The nearest thing I can compare it to is the stream of consciousness style of Kerouac’s On the road. The watery inks, fluid lines and crazy detail make this book a visual delight. This is one of the best looking comics I’ve ever read. Stewart’s colours cannot go ignored either, because they create an extra layer to the beauty of this book.
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Review: Whispers #1

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Whispers is the first solo outing for Joshua Luna of the Luna Bros. The story follows Sam, a young obsessive compulsive germophobe who discovers he has the ability to ‘ghost’ people he knows simply by thinking of them. The opening scene sets up the story perfectly. We are introduced to all of Sam’s social quirks (and there are many), and I felt an instant warming to the character.

Sam’s ghost like ability is intriguing – no one can see him, and he can here and subtly manipulate there thoughts.

The possibilities of how it could be used are endless, and you get the feeling that things aren’t going to work out they way you want them too. Sam turns from loveable oddball too slightly creepy stalker. You’re still on his side, but you know he’s going to do some weird things in the future. One of the strengths of the Luna Brothers’ work is there ability to rock a last page ‘Holy crap!’ reveal, and while we don’t get that here, the series is set up nicely, with enough of a dangling thread to desire the next part of the story.

The first thing that struck me about the art was how different it is to his work with his brother Jonathan. His lines aren’t as spartan, there’s a little more depth, and his colours are a lot richer. He still struggles with anatomy a little – characters often have necks that are a little too long, or have hands at slightly unnatural angles, but his strength has always been in visual storytelling. Whispers is no exception – his art moves the story forward, it’s easy to follow and introduces the main characters to the audience with ease.

Being Joshua Luna’s first appointment as an artist AND writer, I was pleasantly surprised at how natural the dialogue was, how much I was engaged with the narrative and the quality of the characters. All in all, a great first issue.
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Review: Pigs #5

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Nate Cosby, Ben McCool and Breno Tamura’s series about a KGB sleeper cell in Cuba continues to be all kinds of awesome. We’re really starting to get to know some of the characters, particularly Felix, and this issue ramps up the intensity as it begins a new arc.

The team are assigned to break into a prison to make a kill, and tensions between Felix, Viktor and Havana boil over. A compromise is reached and a plan formed, but sufficed to say, things do not go well.

While there’s not a whole lot of action in the book (although there’s a great deal of violence), the pacing is superb. Suspense is built up when it needs to be, deep character moments are powerful and even the ‘stand around discussing our plans’ scenes move along at a steady pace. The dialogue and character development play a major part in keeping the book interesting and a joy to read.

Tamura’s art is rough grimy, which compliments the story well. It won’t be to everyone’s taste, but it serves the story well. The new character introduced at the end of the book is a perfect example of how the art works. Dark, gritty, sinister and violent. The character will no doubt be controversial, and adds a totally unstable new element to the dynamic of the story. I’m really excited to see where it all goes.
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Review: Operation Broken Wings: 1935 #3

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Operation Broken Wings 1936 opens in a German castle dungeon, so it is only fitting that that’s where we should return at the conclusion of the mini-series. Operation Broken Wings 1936 is a full tilt war/espionage story by Herik Hanna that’s as relentless in it’s pace as a rabbit on crack. Everything this series has been building up to explodes into this issue.

Operation Broken Wings 1936 #3 was a fitting end for an entertaining miniseries, with some truly awesome moments

. This including a scene with the, S.S. ("two divisions, three 50mm cannons, and a Panzer") swarming in on the main character, major, as he sits nonchalantly awaiting their arrival in a cafe. This final issue concluded the series perfectly, with Major finally being caught by the Germans. All is not lost though. For me, the book could only end one way, and for a while I thought it was going to take the softer route. In fact, it wasn’t until the very last page that I got the payoff I was wanting.

Trevor Hairsine’s art has me torn. Some of it, especially the couple of full page splashes, was glorious. Some of it looked like murky blobs of colour. I don’t remember Hairsine's work on Deadly Genesis looking like this. It suited the tone of the book, and was easy enough to follow, but the rough, murkiness of it all was little distracting at times. While the miniseries isn’t going to make it onto any 'best of' lists anytime soon, It was an entertaining little read.
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The Inaugural Graphic Word Awards Show!



The Inaugural Graphic Word awards show! as well as The Stack, We look at the best mini series, best ongoing series best graphic novel and best single issue of 2011.

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Review: Swamp Thing #5

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If you were to ask me who the three best writes of horror comics today were, I’d tell you Joe Hill, Jeff Lemire, and Scott Snyder. If Animal Man weren’t so awesome, Swamp Thing would the best storytelling DC has to offer. And If JH Williams III wasn’t such an amazing freak, Yannick Paquette’s art would be most exciting. The story that Snyder has been weaving really comes to a head in this issue, and points to things to come.

Alec Holland gets his green on in this issue, as William rides in with a herd of reanimated animal carcasses in tow.

Well laid out violence ensues, and just when I thought it was over, Snyder makes it very clear it’s not. Even though Animal Man wasn’t mentioned here, fans of both books (and if your reading one and not the other, you’re mad) know that it’s all leading up to a meeting of the two characters, as they both do battle with the Rot.

I continue to adore the fluid panel layouts in Swamp Thing. JH Williams III showed with no uncertainty that you can play around with panel layout to not only make the page look good, but better tell your story. Paquette does it masterfully here. Little things like using vine as panel borders for a jungle scene really make each page stand out, and it’s a treat to look at.

If you want superhero-but-not horror comics then you should be reading both Animal Man and Swamp Thing. Plus, you know, the cover is awesome!

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Review: Swamp Thing #5

swmpthing5
If you were to ask me who the three best writes of horror comics today were, I’d tell you Joe Hill, Jeff Lemire, and Scott Snyder. If Animal Man weren’t so awesome, Swamp Thing would the best storytelling DC has to offer. And If JH Williams III wasn’t such an amazing freak, Yannick Paquette’s art would be most exciting. The story that Snyder has been weaving really comes to a head in this issue, and points to things to come.

Alec Holland gets his green on in this issue, as William rides in with a herd of reanimated animal carcasses in tow.

Well laid out violence ensues, and just when I thought it was over, Snyder makes it very clear it’s not. Even though Animal Man wasn’t mentioned here, fans of both books (and if your reading one and not the other, you’re mad) know that it’s all leading up to a meeting of the two characters, as they both do battle with the Rot.

I continue to adore the fluid panel layouts in Swamp Thing. JH Williams III showed with no uncertainty that you can play around with panel layout to not only make the page look good, but better tell your story. Paquette does it masterfully here. Little things like using vine as panel borders for a jungle scene really make each page stand out, and it’s a treat to look at.

If you want superhero-but-not horror comics then you should be reading both Animal Man and Swamp Thing. Plus, you know, the cover is awesome!

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Review: Animal Man #5

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My goodness, can this book get any better? Seriously? There has to be a saturation point of awesomeness somewhere along the line, but Jeff Lemire and Travel Forman are pulling out all the stops on Animal Man. The action in issue 5 is insane, and the freaky horror makes the book so gripping.

As Buddy and Maxine return from their trip through the red, Cliff and Ellen are being attacked by the ridiculously warped agent of the rot, and buddy gets there just in time.

Maxine is able to save the day by utilizing the aid of a bunch of animals, but her intervention has dire consequences. The last page sets up the inevitable crossover with Swamp Thing., which is great, because that book is awesome as well. I love the interconnectedness between the two books, with Animal Man being part of the Red, Swamp Thing being of the Green and the Rot, which both are fighting, are the Black.

I also love the family dynamic in Animal Man, and it plays out well in this issue. As a happily married man, one of my pet peeves is the lack of solid, committed families in comics. I love that Buddy is totally and unequivocally committed to his family. The stuff with his daughter, Maxine is really cool as well. I love the idea that a little girl knows more about her Father’s powers than he does. Maxine is like a cross between Layla Miller and Valeria Richards.

Travel Foreman’s art is fantastic. I know not everyone likes his style, but it suits the book really well. I love the thin but hard lines, and his horror elements are just downright creepy. Animal Man is, for me, the best thing DC is publishing, and Issue 5 just solidifies its pole position even further.
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Review: Animal Man #5

images-3am5
My goodness, can this book get any better? Seriously? There has to be a saturation point of awesomeness somewhere along the line, but Jeff Lemire and Travel Forman are pulling out all the stops on Animal Man. The action in issue 5 is insane, and the freaky horror makes the book so gripping.

As Buddy and Maxine return from their trip through the red, Cliff and Ellen are being attacked by the ridiculously warped agent of the rot, and buddy gets there just in time.

Maxine is able to save the day by utilizing the aid of a bunch of animals, but her intervention has dire consequences. The last page sets up the inevitable crossover with Swamp Thing., which is great, because that book is awesome as well. I love the interconnectedness between the two books, with Animal Man being part of the Red, Swamp Thing being of the Green and the Rot, which both are fighting, are the Black.

I also love the family dynamic in Animal Man, and it plays out well in this issue. As a happily married man, one of my pet peeves is the lack of solid, committed families in comics. I love that Buddy is totally and unequivocally committed to his family. The stuff with his daughter, Maxine is really cool as well. I love the idea that a little girl knows more about her Father’s powers than he does. Maxine is like a cross between Layla Miller and Valeria Richards.

Travel Foreman’s art is fantastic. I know not everyone likes his style, but it suits the book really well. I love the thin but hard lines, and his horror elements are just downright creepy. Animal Man is, for me, the best thing DC is publishing, and Issue 5 just solidifies its pole position even further.
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CBNAH Interview: Justin Jordan

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U.S.A. Today recently named Justin Jordan the best new talent in comics. His breakout book, The Strange Talent of Luther Strode, published by Image Comics, has been a critical success. CBNAH got the chance to have a chat with him about fame, Luther Strode and the state of the comics industry. Enjoy.



CBNAH: Hey Justin! You were recently named best new talent in comics by U.S.A. Today. What’s it like to be a critical success?

JJ: It’s good! Weird, but good, which is sort of how the Luther Strode thing has been in general. It’s funny, because we’ve been really successful in a lot of ways, but from the day to day nothing seems all that different, you know? But I’m really glad people like the book. You never know until you put stuff out into the world.

CBNAH: The characters in Luther Strode are very real – Luther’s mom reminds me so much of my own mother – she’s pretty much my favourite character! Did you draw inspiration for your characters from your own life?

JJ: I do, but in an indirect way. Luther’s Mom isn’t, for instance, too similar to my Mom (who is awesome, but in a different way) but she does have character traits that are drawn from real life. Same with everyone else – Luther, for instance, isn’t much like me except that the rhythms of his speech are similar.
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CBNAH: The character relationships are also very real and powerful. What were the easiest and most difficult relationships to get right?

JJ: The character relationships actually came pretty easy, thank god. Luther and Pete are really easy to write, and Luther and his Mo are pretty easy, as well. Luther and Petra, on the other hand, takes more work.

This is partly because their relationship is developing over the course of the story, so I had to work hard to show that evolution, whereas Pete and Luther are already established before the book begins.

The other thing is that Petra is a really aggressive personality, and it’d be really easy for her to just take over any scene she’s in. Which is fun to write, but not necessarily good storytelling.

CBNAH: We’re halfway though Luther Strode and some pretty crazy stuff has happened so far. What can we expect in the last three issues issues?

JJ: Insanity. At the end of the last issue, the Librarian and Luther finally meet, bringing those plots together, and the overall plot kicks into overdrive from there. The first three issues take place over the course of a couple of months. The last three take place over a couple of hours. Issue four is the issue where you get an idea of what is going on and why, for people who’ve been wondering if we’d ever get to that.

CBNAH: Tradd Moore is a perfect fit for the book. What was your reaction when you first saw completed pages?

JJ: Holy shit! I’ve talked about this in a lot of interviews, but Tradd is a tremendous, ridiculous talent, and I am hugely lucky to have grabbed him at this stage of his career. When I approached Tradd, I knew he was good, that he had a Ryan Ottley type energy and flow to his work, which is what I was looking for.

What I got when the pages started coming in was all that AND truly great storytelling on the page, and a great way with body language. You could strip out all the dialogue from the book and still be able to get most of the story, and that’s pretty much down to Tradd.

Plus, we think along the same lines, which has made for a great collaboration. That’s all true of Felipe, as well – his colors have really helped make the book what it is. So I got lucky, which is good.

CBNAH: What have you got planned post Luther Strode?

JJ: Bunches and bunches of stuff. We’re going to be doing The Legend of Luther Strode later in the year (and, hopefully, The Legacy of Luther Strode in 2013) so I’m working on that. I’ve also got a good six projects that I’ll be pitching in the next couple of months, so hopefully one of those gets the greenlight. And I’m working on some work for hire stuff that I can’t talk about but is very cool. So 2012 is busy.

CBNAH: Throwing in a curly one, what do you make of the comics industry today? It seems comics are driving pop culture, but people just aren’t buying them. What are your thoughts on the health of the industry?

JJ: We’re in a weird position – comics, or at least the ideas behind them, are more popular than they’ve ever been. But the actual books themselves are dying on the vine. Even looking at the New 52, the numbers they’re hitting are still not even what some Top Cow books were hitting at the tail end of the nineties. Trades have helped, and digital probably will, but I think it’s a pretty clear indication that the readership is not growing. Which is a problem. When I was a kid in the early eighties, comics were everywhere. Grocery stores, gas stations, convenience stores. In the (very small, very rural) county were I live, there were a dozen places to get comics when I was a kid. Now, it’s basically zero. There might be comics at the Wal Mart, but I work hard at never going there.

And comics are a medium where being exposed to them as a kid is probably pretty important. Books, movies, television – all of these are so ubiquitous in our society that you can’t avoid them. But comics? Comics are probably more like poetry, in that it’s entirely possible to get to adulthood with out reading much, if any, and you have to work to get to it. I love comic shops; I drive an hour to get to mine. But for the most part, if you’re not already into comics, you’re not going to go into a comic shop, if there is one near you to begin with. That’s not to say that new people don’t wander into the trade section of Barnes and Noble or a comic shop, but pretty clearly, there aren’t enough of them doing so to replace the people that are leaving.

Digital is not, I think, going to be a panacea. E-books are grown at ridiculous, enormous rates these last few years, going from a tiny part of the market to being on the verge of being the dominant part. I think a lot of people expect the same sort of thing to happen to comics, which I don’t think is realistic. What’s happening with e-books is not that they’re creating new readers, for the most part. The number of people who say that didn’t purchase a book at all during the year has actually risen a bit over the last few years. What things like the Kindle do is make it really easy for people who are already reading to purchase more books. Part of this is the desire to have something on the e-reader, and partly because you can have the book instantly.

The problem with comics is that the readership is small, and while digital does make it much easier for people to get something, you don’t have the base of people to convert. So if digital is going to “save comics” it’s going to be over a much longer time period. I do think digital comics will expand the readership eventually; the trick is getting from here to there. Comics are dependent on the direct market to stay alive. The direct market probably is threatened by digital comics – at this point I think you’re more switching readers from one format to the other rather than growing. I think digital comics could be good for retailers, if they can survive the transitional period. There will always be a place for specialty stores, and if we expand the readership by ten fold (which would probably still be less people than watch Two and a Half Men each week) there will be more business for them. But getting there is the trick.

Ack, I’ve written an essay. TL;DR version: Comics are in a rough period, but if we hang on, things should get better.

CBNAH: What comics are you currently reading?

JJ: Let’s see: Spaceman, Daredevil, Green Wake, Skullkickers, Blue Estate, Infinite Vacation, Hack/Slash, Animal Man, Swamp Thing, Witch Doctor. There are others, but those are the ones that pop into my head.

CBNAH: Finish the sentence: Comic book nerds are hot because…

JJ: …of the beards. Definitely the beards.
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Review: Valen the Outcast #2

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In a recent interview we did with Valen author Michael Alan Nelson he said “I've always been a fan of fantasy.  It's what I started reading as a kid and it was a fantasy story that inspired me to become a writer.” This love for the genre really shines in Valen the Outcast. It’s dark, magical and thrilling. I’ve always wondered why there aren’t more successful fantasy comics on the market, because the genre seems to really lend itself to the medium, and Valen the outcast is a great example.

Issue 2 sees Valen, Zjanna and Cordovan continuing there travel north to reclaim Valen’s soul.

They are roped into attacking a nearby stronghold and Valen goes to extreme measures to ensure there safety. This issue really solidified my like for all three of the main characters – Valen as the strong leader, Alexio Cordovan as the lovable rogue and Zjanna as the bad-ass chick. It’s nothing new, but that’s the thing with fantasy – the formula is what you want. Some of the dialogue is a little melodramatic, but the fantasy elements are spot on – It’s an exciting story.

Matteo Scalera’s art fits the dark tone of the book to a tee. It’s raw and thick and gritty. The evil characters are scary and foreboding, the violence and action easy to follow and Valen himself just looks bad-ass all the time. If you’re enjoying DC’s Demon Knights, you’ll love Valen the Outcast.

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Review: Buffy Season 8 #5

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Remember issue 5 of Buffy Season 8? Where Buffy has a dream where a fairy thing invades her dreams? Well the fairy is back! It seems like Joss and crew decided they were onto a winner. This time the fairy hijacks Buffy’s dreams through the First Slayer. This issue continues to establish the direction the ‘season’ is going, and the first slayer reveals to Buffy and Willow that there is a chance that magic can be restored to the world, after Buffy eradicated it at the end of season 8.

The story itself isn’t all that mind-blowing (except for the last page reveal, which was a true ‘holy crap!’ moment), but it sets up the future

of the title really well. I’m really excited to see where Whedon and his crew are taking this story. Most of the issue takes place in Buffy’s dreams, something that Buffy fans are familiar with, and Steve Morris’ amazing cover reflects that perfectly – kind of a trippy, florescent tribute to the dreamscape.

As good as Georges Jeanty is, Karl Moline puts up the best art of the series thus far. His likenesses are good, but it’s the dynamic panel composition that really stands out in this issue. The action sequences are full of life, the ‘camera’ angels are interesting and the characters are believable in their movement and expression. Top notch stuff. If you’re a Buffy fan, you’re most likely reading this already, but if not, Issue #5 is a great jumping on point.
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Review: Li'l Depressed Boy #8

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From the Jamie Mckelvie cover to the sparse dialogue to the hip characters, Little Depressed Boy (LDB) #8 by Steven Struble and Sina Grace just oozes coffee culture cool. Let’s be honest, LDB is not for everyone. It’s slow, minimalistic and completely lacking in capes and tights. But in an industry dominated by superpowers, it’s always nice to take a breath and read a story with real dramatic weight.

This is not a fast comic. In fact nothing really happens in the issue at all. LDB and best friend Drew have breakfast, their car breaks down, LDB sees the girl he has his heart set on, Jazz, but doesn’t really talk to her and then he goes to sleep on his couch.

That’s pretty much it. Funny thing is, that’s not actually a bad thing. The series is about a depressed young man trying to to come out of his shell, but totally clueless as to how to do it. It’s fresh, it’s hip and it shows that if we live life with a negative attitude, it’s hard to see the positive in anything.

Sina Grace, series artist and Image editor, does a wonderful job in conveying a variety of emotions in a character that is pretty much a featureless ragdoll. In fact, LDB emotes better than all the normal looking characters in the book. It’s wonderfully simple. Grace is a consummate storyteller and the little dialogue in the book indicates that Struble has faith in his ability to let the pictures tell the story.

If you’re into deep, thoughtful and emotional tales, then check out the Li’l Depressed Boy Vol. 1 TPB as well as this issue. Great read.
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Oz & Tim's Weekly Picks

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Oz:
Animal Man 5
JLI 5
Stormwatch 5
Swamp Thing 5
Avengers Academy 24
Thunderbolts 168
Uncanny X-Men 4
X-23 20
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X-Men 23

Tim:
2000AD 1764
Animal Man 5
Fatale 1
The Goon 37
Irredeemable 33
Mudman 2
rachris4
Nowhere Man 1
Valen the Outcast 2
Punisher 7
Rachel Rising 4
Scourge 6
Swamp Thing 5
Sweet Tooth 29
Wolverine and the X-Men: Alpha and Omega 1
X-23 20

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Talking Trades: Sin City

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Sin City is not intelligent. It’s not a deep, allegorical story. It’s not one of those books that keeps you guessing the whole way through. What it is, is a high-octane noir full of guns, girls, car chases, violence and bad-ass characters. Sin City consists of 7 separate but interconnected volumes, each standing alone, but all part of the wider story of Basin City.






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Volume 1, A Hard Goodbye, will be familiar to those who have seen Robert Rodriguez’s film adaptation, which follows the story of Volumes 1, 3 and 4 quite closely. A Hard Goodbye follows Marv, a violent and fiercely loyal man investigating the murder of a prostitute named Goldie. Volume 2, A Dame to Kill For, follows Dwight McCarthy, a man whose one weakness is a particularly manipulative woman. Volume 3, The Big Fat Kill once again stars Dwight, albeit with a new face, and a ridiculous amount of scantily clad women. Miller is more one dimensional and misogynistic here than in the previous two volumes. 

That Yellow Bastard, the fourth volume, is about a cop who gets falsely accused of child rape and murder after saving a little girl from the real culprit, who just happens to be the son of an immensely powerful man. While Marv makes the first volume great, this book is carried not only by the equally bad-ass main character, Hartigan, but by the compelling, pulp-noir story. Dwight once again pops up in volume 5, Family Values, which is the weakest in the series. Volume 6 is a collection of Sin City shorts, with some amazing little tales, including The Babe Wore Red, Lost, Lonely & Lethal, and the mostly wordless Silent Night. The final volume, Hell and Back, is kind of weird, and feels both a little rushed and at the same time overly long. It follows an ex Navy seal named Wallace, who garners little sympathy from the reader.

Sin City follows traditional ‘40s pulp formulas, particularly with its characters. The male characters are strong and mostly one dimensional – either i
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nsane and bad-ass like Marv, noble and bad-ass like Dwight or heroic and bad-ass like Hartigan. The bad guys are ruthless and without depth – they’re sole purpose in the story is to antagonize the good guys and then get beat up at the end. The women are Miller’s definition of ‘strong’ – they’re prostitutes who wear leather because they choose to, and they can kick your ass. Not exactly a step forward in women’s rights. I can imagine Germaine Greer having an absolute field day. 

The stories are also formulaic – vehicles for the predictable characters. Bad guy wrongs good guy, good guy goes on a mission to beat up bad guy, bad guy tries to stop good guy, good guy beats up bad guy. It’s not rocket science, but it’s not meant to be. The reason it works is because it is formulaic. We are familiar with the story and the characters right from the beginning, which is comforting.

Frank Miller’s art can be lazy and rushed every now and then, but on the whole, his high contrast art is beautiful. The heavy inks, stylized anatomy and splashes of color make the visuals a perfect fit for the pulpy noir stories. You either love it or you hate it. I love it – it’s fresh, powerful and matches the dark and seedy world of Basin city. The art is not the only contrasting thing in Sin city, either. It’s formulaic, but compelling. The characters are one dimensional, but engaging. Frank Miller is not known for deep, complex stories full of metaphysical messages, so don’t expect it. There are strong points and weak points, but on the whole Sin City is Pulp noir comics at its best. 4 stars.
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On the Cover: Jo Chen

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Taiwan-American Jo Chen is best known for her highly detailed, painted covers. Her attention to detail and eye for dynamic composition are responsible for her rapid rise in success in the American comics industry. Chen has been working in comics since she was 14, and continues to get better and better. Check out some examples of her covers after the jump!




Buffy

I love the cheekiness of this cover. It just screams "I'm Faith and I'm a bad-ass, so screw you!'"
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There is so much emotion here. The composition is spot on and the fact we can't see either character's eyes gives it more emotional weight.
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Is it wrong to be turned on by the below cover? If so, it doesn't... turn me on... at all...
Buffyl

Chen nails the characterisation of the Runaways in the covers, particularly the Molly Hayes covers.
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This cover perfectly sums up Molly as a character and the feel of The Runaways as a book.
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RunawaysWolvie

The composition of this cover, with the figure at the very bottom of the page, the misty mountains in the background and the rain all make this cover fell lonely and isolated.
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Hawkmock

These next two covers show just how competent Chen is at interesting and dynamic composition.
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CBNAH Interview with Michael Alan Nelson!

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Michael Alan Nelson is one of BOOM! Studios' senior writers, having authored Fall of Cthulhu, 28 Days Later, Hexed and a heap of others. His current book, Valen the Outcast, is an action fantasy epic and issue one is on the stands right now. Michael took time out of his busy schedule to talk comics with me.

CBNAH: Your new book Valen the Outcast delves into the fantasy genre. Is that something you've always wanted to write?



MAN: I've always been a fan of fantasy.  It's what I started reading as a kid and it was a fantasy story that inspired me to become a writer.  So, I've always had a soft spot for the genre.  But ever since I started writing professionally, I've never had a chance to write a more traditional fantasy series.  Which is why I'm so excited about Valen the Outcast.  I'm finally getting to scratch an itch I've had for years. 
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CBNAH: What excites you the most about writing this book?

MAN: Just the chance to play in a universe of my own creation.  Quite often, I'm writing stories in already established worlds or helping other creators develop their stories into comics.  With Valen, I have a level of creative freedom that I didn't often have with other titles.   


CBNAH: I think one of your strengths as a writer lies in action comics - how do you go about finding the balance between action and drama?

MAN: It's tough.  Though I'm sure there's probably a formula out there (X pages of drama with Y pages of action for every Z pages of story), I just try to go by what feels right.  If I start to grow bored writing a scene, I know the reader is going to be bored reading it.  And action can get boring as well so I have to choreograph action in a way that keeps it interesting and, if I'm lucky, will introduce some things we don't normally see in action scenes.  Also, I have really good editors.  They're great at letting me know if something is dragging or doesn't have enough punch to it.   

 
CBNAH: what's the process in plotting out an action sequence?

MAN: I approach it like I do most any other scene.  I figure out just how much space I have to show the scene then focus on a specific "moment" that I'm moving toward.  Once I have that, I'll work out if there are any specific actions that I want to see.  To give you an example, there were certain things that I wanted to do with the battle scene at the end of Valen the Outcast #1.  It was the first time we were seeing Valen fight and I wanted to showcase how a man who is already dead would approach battle.  That's why I wanted to include Valen running himself through with a sword to stab an enemy behind him as well as taking a dagger in the side of the face, biting off the blade, and spitting it in his enemy's eye.  So instead of just hack and slash, there are specific moments in the scene that emphasize aspects of his character.  And Matteo did an incredible job of taking those moments and really making them so wonderfully effective.

 
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CBNAH: Talk us through the collaboration with Valen artist Matteo Scalero - How did you guys end up working together? what was your reaction when you first saw a completed page?

MAN: I don't have much contact with my artists because my editors act as liaisons.  Once I have a script polished and ready, it goes off to the artist.  If there's anything specific I want Matteo to know, I'll include it in the script, but I don't really have any other communication with him other than the final script.  But I'll tell you, I just love it when I get to see his pages.  I'm always bothering my editors.  "Did you get pages yet? Didya, didya?  Can I see?"  I'm sure it's rather annoying for them.  But when I saw what Matteo was bringing to the table, I was beyond ecstatic.  It just looks so good, beyond anything I could have hoped for.  


CBNAH: I'm a huge fan of Dead Run - any chance you and Andrew Crosby will return to the world of Dead Run? Or even a completely different mini series with Andrew?

MAN: There's nothing in the works right now.  Dead Run was written to be a nice little 4 issue mini so there were never any plans to do more, though it's certainly open for more story.  Of course, Francesco Biagini is now doing a great job with BOOM!'s Elric series so he's been a little busy lately. 

 
CBNAH: What comics are you reading at the moment?

MAN: Scalped, Locke & Key, and Irredeemable are the ones I'm really big on at the moment.  I'm also playing catch up with The Walking Dead since I had to stop reading it when I started writing 28 Days Later (I wanted to avoid any accidental influences while writing it).  Jason Aaron and Joe Hill are two of my favorite writers and, of course, Mark Waid could write a grocery list and I'd pay money to read it.    

 
CBNAH: Finish this sentence: Comic book nerds are hot because...

MAN: there are few things sexier than a love for reading and art.  

 
CBNAH: Thanks for taking time to answer these questions. Keep up the great storytelling.

MAN: My pleasure.

Valen the Outcast #1 is on stands right now, and it's only $1! Buy it!
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Review: Pigs #4

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I first picked up Pigs on the basis of the story’s premise – the activation of a KGB sleeper Cell in Cuba. How awesome is that?! 4 issues in, the story hasn’t disappointed. Revolving around the children of a KGB cell, trained for a specific mission, Pigs is full of Russian mafia action.

Nate Cosby and Ben McCool have crafted a team of characters that have such a great dynamic – they are all different (although sometimes only subtly) and I love that team member and central character Felix no longer wants anything to do with the job, having carved a nice little life for himself in Cuba. Felix cops a whole lot of flak from the team, but it’s nice to see him being assertive in this issue.


This issue was absolutely brutal. The violence ranges from children beating the hell out of each other to full on torture. The final page was a genuine shock as well, which is not easy to do in comics. Breno Tamara’s art is murky and gritty, which matches the tone of the book perfectly, while Will Sliney’s flashback sequences offer a nice contrast. If your into action comics and special ops teams, then you should be reading Pigs.
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Review: Walking Dead 92

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The past year on the Walking Dead has been, with the exception of half of Carl’s face being blown off, pretty stagnant. It’s all been about getting the community zombie-proof, and dealing with issues inside the fence. Issue 92 of Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard’s long running Image book heralds a change that will shake things up in a big way.
Issue 91 left us with a final page implying someone is spying on the community. This issue we find out who it is, and they reveal something I thought would happen eventually, but was still pretty mind blowing. The community are becoming more and more desperate for food and supplies, and Carl is starting to remember things from before he was shot. Things Rick would much rather have stay forgotten.

Abraham and Michonne go out to clear some walkers when they run into the mysterious stranger.
The action sequences are great, and there’s plenty of them in this issue. Adlard has been drawing Kirkman’s scripts for so long it’s almost as if his pencils are an extension of Kirkman’s imagination. From the simple action of a sword slicing open a zombie to the way each figure graces the panel the art perfectly serves the story. The Walking Dead 92 has a perfect blend of action and character moments, with a reveal that will make things interesting for a long time to come.
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Review: Memoir #5

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Issue 5 of Ben McCool and Nikki Cook’s thrilling horror has been a long time coming, but my goodness, it was worth the wait. Memoir, published by Image Comics, has been hands down my favourite miniseries of the year. It’s creepy, unpredictable and compelling. As each issue unfolds, we’re taken further and further into the mystery of Lowesville, a small community that suffered town-wide memory loss. This issue is the creepiest one so far.
Issue 5 offers more insight into ‘the shadows’, although they still remain an enigma, and Trent meets the mysterious ‘Mary-Ann’. The pacing of the issue is superb - as a reader, you’re always on edge.

I felt slightly paranoid throughout the whole issue, knowing that something bad was going to happen. Even when things slow down a little, there’s this real sense of lingering menace, a feeling kind of like thinking you’re being watched. As we get closer and closer to finding out the dark secrets of Lowesville and its residents, that sense of looming menace gets closer, like storm clouds about to burst.
Nikki Cook provides clean lines and deep grey tones, with composition that enhances the menacing tone provided by McCool. The sequence between Trent and Mary-Ann is particularly poignant, as is the final page. McCool describes the series as Twin Peaks meets the Twilight Zone. I describe it as pure awesome sauce. If you’re into creepy horror like M Knight Shyamalin’s film ‘Signs’, then you should be reading Memoir.
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Oz & Tim's Weekly picks

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This week Oz has his usual stack with a couple of trades:
Batman and Robin 4
Batwoman 4
Demon Knights 4
Frankenstein Agent of Shade 4
Green Lantern 4
Ressurection Man 4
Avengers Academy 23
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Fables vol 16
Walking Dead vol. 15


Tim’s list is decidedly lacking anything from Marvel:
Baltimore 5
Buffy 4
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Orchid 3
Strain 1
Batwoman 4
Demon Knights 4
Ray 1
Unwritten 32
Locke & Key Clockworks 3
27 second set 4
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Memoir 5
Pigs 4
Severed 5
Walking Dead 92

Fables Vol. 16
Garth Ennis’ Complete Battlefields Vol. 1
Walking Dead Vol. 15

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Oz and Tim's Weekly Picks

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Oz is picking up 7 issues and a trade this week:
Animal Man #4
Justice League International #4
Stormwatch #4
Swamp Thing #4
X-Factor #228
X-Men #22
X-23 #18
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Fables Vol. 16 TP

Tim has a massive week this week with 15 issues and 2 trades:
Animal Man #4
Chew #22
Hack/Slash 10
Heart #2
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Irredeemable #32
Jurassic Park: Dangerous Games #4
Last of the Greats #3
Punisher #6
The Rinse #4
Strange Talent of Luther Strode #3
Swamp Thing #4
Sweet Tooth #28
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X-23 #18
X-Factor #228
Valen the Outcast #1

Criminal Vol. 6 TP
Fables Vol. 16 TP

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Talking Trades - Locke & Key

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Locke and Key is a difficult beast to describe. It’s fantasy, with elements like magic and creepy mansions, but set in the modern world, with 'real' people. It’s horror, with murderous students and sinister villains, but it’s not like a Hack/Slash or 30 Days of Night-type horror. In fact, it's a perfect blend of both genres. It’s The Chronicles of Narnia meets H.P. Lovecraft. It’s Dark Fantasy done right. OK, so that wasn’t so difficult after all…





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Written by Joe Hill, son of legendary author Stephen King, Locke and Key is set in the fictional town of Lovecraft, Massachusetts (named after the aforementioned H.P. Lovecraft). The story follows the Locke family as they move back to their family home in Lovecraft in an attempt to deal with a tragic event in their life. The home, Keyhouse Mansion, is like something out of an old Scooby Doo episode, albeit far more real and chilling. When the three children (brooding Tyler, angsty Kinsey and innocent Bode) discover magic keys, craziness ensues. The book’s main antagonist – a creepy, sinister character, is after one key in particular – the Omega key - and will stop at nothing to get it.

The dark fantasy of Locke and Key is as compelling as it is chilling. As the story sweeps along, Hill introduces us to some great characters, and just you’re getting comfortable with the story WHAM!- you turn the page and you're hit with a shocking reveal that feels like a frozen icepick to the heart. The keys do some pretty crazy things too – one turns you into a ghost, one mends things, and another can be used to open your head and add or remove things at will. As the story unfolds, more and more keys are discovered, and are used for both good and not-so-good. It’s not until the latest volume, volume 5, that you actually discover the origin of the keys, and Joe Hill’s timing in his reveals is spot on. Each page, each issue and each volume are paced in a way that builds up the tension, hits you with a shocker and then has you craving for more. Locke & Key is more addictive than Caffeine infused crack.

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One of the major factors of this book’s success is the seamless integration of story and art. Hill’s story is such an intricate, detailed story it requires an artist who can capture all the nuances of the characters and the world they inhabit. Few could do it as well as artist Gabriel Rodriguez. Possibly more than any other book I’ve read, Hill and Rodriguez complement each other so well it’s hard to tell when one stops and the other begins. They’re like Spaghetti and meatballs. 

Hill’s characters are lovingly realized by Rodriguez, in all their flawed perfection. The amount of care and detail he puts into every panel, the way his characters emote and have their own little quirks is nothing short of superb.  His characters are stylized enough to make them unique and comic-booky, but realistic enough to make them real people. You really can’t help but be emotionally attached to the characters – wanting things to work out for the good guys, being infuriated when it doesn’t. That, in this writer’s humble opinion, is the mark of a good story – emotional involvement. When you want to throw the book across the room because something hasn’t gone the way you wanted it to, you know you’re onto a winner. And it’s not only the characters that are the fruit of the Hill/Rodriguez loins. The fantasy elements, the dark tone of the book, the beautiful backdrops – all are seamless creations from writer and artist.  

The over-arching story is rich and compelling, and the single issues are perfectly paced. Vol 3 #5 contains 12 enormous splash pages of an epic giant vs giant battle. Vol 5 #2 was nominated for an Eisner award. Locke & Key is a modern classic. I doubt it will be very long until it will be thrown around with names like Sandman and Watchmen. It’s just that good. This is the kind of book you give to your non-comic reading friends to get them instantly hooked. 4 ¾ stars.
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Issue in 5 - Daredevil 6

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Want to know what happens in Daredevil #6 but don't want to read the whole thing? Well here it is, summarised in just 5 of the comic's pages! Matt Murdock has been working on a case where a blind employee is fired from a big corporation for overhearing something he shouldn't have. The corporation is Evil. Daredevil is on the job...



1. Page 5 - Bruiser is not very nice. He thought he killed Matt last issue, but the rumours of his death were greatly exaggerated....
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2. page 7-8 - Daredevil lays the smack down, in order to save Austin, his client.
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3. Page 10 - Daredevil gets beat up, but off course, wins. If he can do this, imagine what he can do to his lady friends!
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4. Page 13 - Turns out the whole thing was for a hard drive of information in the form of a fantastic four insignia.
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5. Page 16 - Not only does daredevil have super knee breaking powers, he also has the power of lawyer speak. Kinda like parsel tongue.
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He walks out unharmed. That's a pretty hand power to have!
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Issue in 5 - X-Men Legacy 259

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Want to know what happens in X-Men Legacy #259 but don't want to read the whole thing? Well here it is, summarised in just 5 of the comic's pages! The Starjammers are finally back on earth, but they arrive to find the x-men spilt. Rogue is having a hard time figuring out which side she wants to be on...



1. Page 8 - Rogue can't decide to stay or go, so she asks dirty old man Magneto. she discovers a frament of something inside him. That isn't dirty thoughts about someone a third his age.
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2. Page 11 - Nemesis discovers that Korvus' sword is the source of the weird mutant blip, but a fragment is inside each of the team returned from space.
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3. Page 14 - Emma uses blindfold to communicate with whatever's in the sword. Because that won't be weird at all...
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4. Page 19 - Rogue is able to 'unlock' the sword and a big ol' door appears. Rogue goes through to discover...
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5. page 21 - ...Ariel. Yeah, I had to google her, as well.
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Wednesday Reviews - Pilot Season: Theory of Everything

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I love the idea of Pilot Season – put out the first issue of a bunch of new series and let the readers decide which one stays. Theory of Everything by Dan Casey and Thomas Nachlik is a good entry, especially if you like intelligent science fiction.



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Theory of Everything follows Charles Witten, a genius scientist whose life falls apart after the death of his wife. Witten designed a device that could theoretically move an object form one dimension to another. His designs are stolen and used for the largest gold heist in history.

While there was nothing that was outstanding about the book, it’s a solid science fiction story, perhaps in the vein of Isaac Assimov or Phillip K Dick. In fact it’s hardly original – Dan Casey seems to riff of Nick Spencer’s infinite horizon, and the real life quantum physics theory called string theory, that involves interconnected multiple dimensions, has been used in a bunch of books and comics. Having said that, this issue works. It’s a solid little read. Borrow it.
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Wednesday Reviews - Savage Dragon 176

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When I went to school, you were teased for wearing the wrong hat, or having red hair. Imagine what school would be like if you were green, had a fin on your head and a disproportionately large upper body? Issue 176 was a great issue of Savage Dragon. Malcolm has a run in with the self-proclaimed ‘king of the school’, as well as his father’s arch nemesis!


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Issue 176 was a great issue of Savage Dragon. Malcolm has a run in with the self-proclaimed ‘king of the school’, as well as his father’s arch nemesis! Both Malcolm and Angel are developed really well in this issue, with big moments for both of them. There’s plenty of action to be had as well, in more than one sense of the word! On top of all that, the last page blew my nerdy little mind.
It’s the characters that stand out in this book. Malcolm, Angel, the school kingpin – Larson lovingly moves them forward as characters, and gives us a little glimpse into who they are as people.
Larsen, as always, rocks the art, and it’s amazing to think he writes, pencils, inks and colors each issue himself. A true story-telling master. If you’re new to the series, this isn’t a bad jumping on point – there are a few things that have happened that are important to the story, but you can pick up on them through the dialogue in this issue. Buy it.


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Enter the Hero

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Enter The Hero is 135 pages of full color graphic novel by Michael Heitkemper and Simon Butler that will keep you guessing till the end. Coming soon to Arcana Comics, I had the opportunity to interview the author and first time graphic novelist Michael Heitkemper about the project.

Welcome to Comic Book Nerds are Hot, Michael! You're putting the finishing touches on your new book Enter the Hero. What's it about?
First off, thanks so much for the interview.  Now, Enter The Hero is the tale of an unusual super hero whose powers, motives, and even his identity is a secret to everyone, including the reader.  The story revolves around many different characters whose lives unbeknownst to them are in some way connected to the Hero's secrets.  Meanwhile, a mysterious villain is stealthily attacking the city, and the only way for the Hero to stop him is to reveal his secrets.


 


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Why should people buy it?
If you’re a super hero fan, you’re going to love it.  The book really has everything; compelling characters, amazing artwork, and an outstanding story filled with mystery and action.
 
What drew you to write about superheroes?
I would have to say it's the heroics and endless possibilities.  Super heroes are fun to create, and give backgrounds to; I mean there isn't anything you can't do.  You can tear them down, take away their powers, make them transform, destroy their lives, and somehow they still come out on top, and become the Hero that you wanted them to be.     
 
4This is your first graphic novel; what made you want to write comics?
I’ve actually wanted to write a comic book for a very long time.  But I knew that when I finally started it, I wanted to make sure it was the perfect story for comics.  I didn’t want it to have a cliché character, or a likewise plot; it had to be something that was not only worth reading but also worth seeing.  When I came up with Enter The Hero, I originally wrote it as a novel; but before I even began pitching it around to publishers, I realized that I had finally created what I was looking for.  I crossed paths with an incredible artist, Simon Butler, and before long the Hero had an actual image. 
 
The market is pretty tough right now, and even though comics are driving pop culture, they're not selling all that well. How do you go about getting a project off the ground?
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To be honest, it is tough.  We’re a few years into this project now, and it’s all wrapping up very soon.  In the beginning, we believed that after we found a publisher it was all downhill from there, but in reality that’s just where it all began.  The interior artwork for the book needs to be finished before the book goes to print.  And because at this point in time, artists for some reason need to eat, the pages can not be completed for free.  To help fund the completion of the book, we’ve started a Kickstarter campaign.  It’s an all or nothing fund raiser where potential backers are given the opportunity to donate to our cause.  In return, backers will receive some Enter The Hero books, downloads, posters, and other cool stuff. Any help would be much appreciated, so please consider checking it out.  http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1709611879/enter-the-hero
You can donate as low as $1, and remember that if we don't reach our goal, no money will be collected.
 
What comics are you reading at the moment?

Right now, I’m kind of in a comic book slump.  I’ve recently fallen off the Spider-Man wagon; things got a little too out of place for me.  I can usually give the title a year, and come back feeling a little better, so we'll see.  I’ve been trying to catch back up with Batman now that he’s no longer dead, but I hadn’t realized how big of a job that would be.  Of course I’m also always browsing through the independent titles looking for a good read, and this is a trend I sincerely recommend.  There are so many titles out there that are not given the attention that they deserve.     
 
Finish the sentence - Comic book nerds are hot because...
Have a look… Nuff said.
Support Michael by donating to the project's
Kickstarter now! Do it for the love of comics!
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Talking Trades - Local

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I’ve found that as my taste in comics has matured, I’ve stopped following titles and characters and began following creators. This opened up a whole new world of amazing comics for me, and the guy at the top of the list is Brian Wood.

It began with Demo, and progressed onto everything he’s ever written. I’ll admit it. I’m a Brian Wood fanboy. But of all the amazing stories he’s done - Demo, Northlanders, DMZ, the Couriers – It’s Local that sits at the top as my favourite. Mostly because of the amazing story it tells, but partly because of Ryan Kelly’s beautiful art and partly because of the gorgeous oversized, cloth bound hardcover it comes collected in.



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Local follows Megan McKeenan, a young, brash, drifter, as she travels around the US and Canada. Each issue is set in a different town or city as Megan tries to discover her place in the world, physically and spiritually. These emotional vignettes each open a different chapter in Megan’s life, as she matures from a naïve young teen to an experienced, albeit emotionally insecure, young woman. The backdrops of the different cities aid in setting each chapter apart, delving into a new and different aspect of a unique character. She’s far from perfect – Megan makes bad choices, she abandons people who care about her, she lies, she bitches. She has some terrible relationships, including one with a boy she’s never seen, who leaves polaroids of himself in her house while she’s out. It is her flaws, however, that make her real. Brian Wood paints a portrait of her life so true to reality, so intense, by the time you finish the book you feel like you’ve been in Megan’s life all along. There’s a real sense of emotional investment.

Local is the kind of drama Brian Wood excels at. He has proven to be such a versatile writer, not only in the different kinds of books he writes, but also within each book. The format of Local – 12 short stories – really gives Wood and Kelly room to explore different forms of storytelling, much like in Demo (Wood’s series with Becky Cloonan). The first issue
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explores multiple possibilities of how a bad situation Megan has found herself in could play out. Issues 3 and 7 barely feature Megan at all, but still advance her as a character and give insight to her life. Issue 11 recaps Megan’s life through an art installation. You won’t find any capes or spandex here, just pure human drama. Some of the most compelling stories are ones of life journeys. Local is one of them. Megan matures as the story progresses and takes us on a journey of redefinition and change. It is a heartfelt, powerful journey.

Part of the credit for the emotional balance of the story must go to Ryan Kelly’s art. His character work is masterful, and conveys emotion through facial expressions, body language, and even in the technical aspects of each panel. Kelly’s art has great tone and weight, with thick heavy lines and halftone shading (which I go nuts for). He skillfully ages Megan throughout the book – recognizable, but still changing. What blew me away the most though was the detail he puts into each panel. Kelly makes the book real with his attentive recreations of each city. They are spot on. He clearly did his homework for this series.

The collection contains the art, production notes and essays that were published in the original series. It also contains the covers in full color and a bunch of great pin-ups. If you’re a paper stock nerd, you wont be disappointed on this front, either. Local is a masterpiece of dramatic storytelling. It’s a story of one woman’s 12 year journey, with all the ups and downs, good times and bad, little moments and big moments that come with it. 4 stars.
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Issue in 5 - Wolverine & the X-Men 2

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Welcome to issue 5, were we reduce a comic book back to 5 pages! This week we look at Wolverine and the X-Men #2. Basically the Hellfire Club do their evil child thing and try to destroy the school. The issue had some great moments, but overall felt a little flat. So here we go - W&TXM 2: the best bits!





1. Page 6 - Don’t you hate when your school board inspectors are turned into a Sauron and a Wendigo?!

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2. Page 9 - The jnr Hellfire Club unleash zombie-robot-frankensteins to destroy the school.

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3. Page 12 - Awwwww. How adorable.

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4. Page 14 - Iceman brings it....

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5. Page 15 - ...And Kitty receives it.

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Oh, and Krakoa is attacking the school, as the school was built on him. yeah. Can’t forget that... So there you have it. Iceman and Kitty kiss. and Broo falls in love with Idie. See you next time!
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Creator Roundup

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This week Dan Hipp solemnly swears he’s up to no good, Mark Waid talks about Marcos Martin, Dave Johnson gets the ink out, Charles Soule talks about being helpful, Becky Cloonan goes vampire, Eduardo Risso talks about Brian Azzarello, Chrissie Zullo captures dualism, Christos Gage writes angsty teens and Peter Nguyen graws a seascape.



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Dan Hipp is up to no good:
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Mark Waid has a chat with ComiXology about Daredevil and Marcos Martin:
Speaking of the "we", can you talk a little bit about the artists on the book, Paolo Rivera and Marcos Martin? Were those guys already on board with Daredevil before you? Was it a package deal when you started talking to Tom Brevoort about the book?

Yeah. Either Brevoort or Wacker or both assembled them, I'd bet Wacker. Marcos and Wacker are pretty good pals, and both artists were already on board by the time I signed on. I couldn't have been happier with that. I'd never worked with Paolo before, and I was a little nervous because I wasn't terribly familiar with what the process of working together was going to be like. I met with him and at the Orlando Megacon last year and he got it immediately, I knew we were on the same wavelength because he was all about storytelling. He didn't care about splash pages, he didn't care about some two-page spread he could sell for a lot of money at conventions. He wanted to tell a story.

Now, both of these guys are suffering through the adjustment I'm having to make as a guy who has written 22 page stories his entire career and is suddenly having to write twenty page stories. It probably doesn't seem like it would be that big a deal, and I'm not whining...but it is a bigger deal than it would seem. Every single storytelling rhythm I have, having written comics for 25 years for a 22 page beat....it's instinct by now, my gut knows where I should be by page six, where I should be by page 17. All those rules are out the window, and unfortunately for both Paolo and Marcos, I've been temporarily solving this problem by cramming 22 page stories into 20 pages. That's not a solution. They, to their credit, have gotten my back 100% and they are not afraid of denser material. They still find ways to open it up and surprise me, Marcos in particular.

It seems to me like people still haven't grasped how special Marcos Martin is.

He's groundbreaking. He's absolutely groundbreaking in the way he approaches storytelling, in the way he approaches layout. When I work with him it's a very collaborative process. I was giving him plot first, dialog after the pencils just to give him a little bit more elbow room to storytell but he found it was slowing him down because he really felt like he needed more of the details. So I started giving him full scripts, and even with a full script, he would blow it all up and then put it back together. Which is all fine! He would ask first, sure, but he was turning out these layouts that were moving things around, putting in a new emphasis. The opening to his first full issue was originally a two page sequence that he turned into four, with Daredevil reaching down for the flash drive, the lion growling and stuff. That was his invention, that was not quite what I had called for.


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Dave Johnson draws a sumi girl:
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Charles Soule has a cracker of a post on helping out. here’s a taste:
Sort of an odd post to write, because the subject matter is a bit of a tightrope walk.  I’ve been extremely fortunate with comics writing so far – I’ve had some incredible opportunities, and I think a large part of that has been that I’ve had a few people in the business who were further ahead in their careers than I, who decided to help me out in large or small ways.  That could be anything from advice on the business to a critique to a publishing deal.  There are a ton of people I could name, but my list is starting to get so long that I’d be in danger of skipping important people.  Basically, my feeling is that you don’t get very far in comics if you don’t get the occasional leg up from someone higher up the ladder.
I think that it’s important to pay that forward – Haley Joel Osment and Kevin Spacey taught me
that much, at least.  (They also showed me a bit about telling believable stories to police detectives and a great deal about how to craft a successful performance as a sad, child-sized robot.)
(Yeah, that was an A.I. shoutout.)
Anyway, when I get asked to look something over, or to give advice on breaking in, or to talk about page rates or similar questions, I do my best to find time to answer.  I did a long Q&A session over on reddit’s comic book board recently, which was great because I was able to reach thousands of people in the same time it would have taken me to explain all that stuff to just a single person over email or at a con.  You can see that here, if you’re interested.


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Becky Cloonan posted the cover for the upcoming Dracula book she provided illustrations for:
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Eduardo Risso sat down with Comics Bulletin to discuss Spaceman, 100 Bullets and working with Azzarello:
Chudolinski: What is your working relationship with Azzarello like? I think most people tend to think the writer pens the script, hands it to the artist and that's all. Nevertheless, I get the feeling that might not have been the case here. How did the two of you trade ideas back and forth while working on particular stories?
Risso: Building a team is not simple. That's why, in my case, when I see that the relationship works I try to keep it. I believe that, over time, a good team can get wonderful products from which we all win -- companies, readers and ourselves [the creators].
Now, my relationship with the writers has always been the same. I try to show that they can trust my graphic narrative [for everything] that they want to tell. That is, if the writer asks me [for] A and B, I give A, B, C and D, so that he can pay more attention to the dialogue and [trust me completely for] the task of graphic sequences.
Chudolinski: In 100 Bullets, were there stories that got cancelled and were never published? Did DC Comics ever censor your work?
Risso: There were no canceled or censored stories. We always had complete freedom on the part of the company.
Chudolinski: You're one of the few artists working in superhero comics these days that has fans both within the mainstream DC/Marvel world and the European comics world, especially among the Italian and Spanish fan bases. If we can get you to speculate for a minute, what is it about your art that draws in readers from so many different geographical areas?
Risso: I can’t say that there is anything in particular [that I do] to attract readers. I would summarize in a few words -- professionalism and respect.
Chudolinski: What are some of the movies and books that have had an influence on your work and your life?
Risso: [With] Spielberg's ET, I remember there was a break in my way of thinking about comics. A book I read in my youth, Juan Salvador Gaviota, influenced my life. I guess many others have done [the same], but [these in particular] left an important mark on me.


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Chrissie Zullo added some more art to her blog, including this Black Queen/White Queen:
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Christos Gage chats with CBR about Avengers academy and Angel & Faith:


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Peter Nguyen posted this pic of Aquaman on his Tumblr:
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The Graphic Word 9



I review a bunch of comics, including Rachel Rising 3, Batwoman 3, X-Factor 227, Morning Glories 14, Severed 4 and trades Daytripper and CBGB.

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Talking Trades - Phonogram

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For the next 13 weeks, I’ll be counting down my 13 favourite comic series or graphic novels of all time. This week, & coming in at number 13, is Phonogram by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie.

For music lovers, songs have always held a certain amount of power. They have the ability to move us– physically, emotionally and spiritually. Some songs take us away into fantasy, some have the ability to ground us in reality. What if we could take that raw power that music holds and channel it into magic? This is exactly what Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie manage to accomplish in Phonogram.




Phonogram consists of two stand alone but connected volumes: Rue Britannia and The Singles Club. Both volumes are about those people who can turn music into magic. These unique people (who all seem to be young and pretty) are called phonomancers.
 
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Rue Brittania follows one such phonomancer, David Kohl, as he seeks to prevent the resurrection of Britannia, goddess of Britpop. In order to get it done, Kohl has to face a slightly crazy ex, a retromancer who feeds off nostalgia, and enter a crazy dream world. The story is fast paced, but every now and then it stops to smell the flowers. The one problem (if it is indeed a problem) I have with the book is its density. It’s so thick with storytelling, so packed with music references that it can be a heavy read at times. Not Sandman heavy, but heavy enough to notice.
 
Volume 2– The Singles Club, is very different to Rue Brittania. It follows on directly, but while the first volume is good, Volume 2 is better. Where Volume 1 was dense, Volume 2 is light and easy to read. Where volume 1 was epic in it’s scope, volume 2 is far more intimate, taking place in a night club over the course of a single night. The night club enforces three rules: 1) No boy singers  2) You must dance 3) No magic. Each issue is told from the perspective of a different character– some phonomancers, some not.
 
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There are some returning characters – David Khol makes an appearance, as well as a few others from Volume 1 – but the book stands on it’s own. You don’t need to read Rue Britannia to understand and enjoy The Singles Club. Issue 7, the final issue, is almost completely silent, and is one of my favorite single issues in comics.
 
Jamie McKelvie’s pop art style suits the book really well. His lines are crisp, the characters unique and the story flows through the visuals. Volume one is in black and white, with some great halftone shading effects. Volume 2 is in glorious colour, which matches the far lighter mood of the book.
 
What makes Phonogram great is that it takes something we all have experienced – that moment when we’ve been moved by a song, or felt the raw power of a riff coursing through our veins – and turns it into a rich, engaging narrative. Gillen’s own musical influences come out strong, and can sometimes overpower the story. There is an unnecessary amount of Kineckie love. Having said that, the book is easy enough to follow without knowledge of who the bands they reference are. If you’re a music fan, you’ll definitely want to check it out. Rue Britannia scores 3.5 stars, The Singles Club gets 4.5.
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Week of 16/11 - Oz and Tim's Picks

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Oz has a big week, introducing a few more x-titles:
Green Lantern Corps 3
Justice League 3
Red Hood and the Outlaws 3
Legion of Super Heroes 3
Wonder Woman 3
Generation Hope 13
New Mutants 34
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X-Factor 227
X-Men 21

Tim’s picks are surprisingly Marvel heavy:
Amazing Spider-Man 674 – Because fallout stories are always better.
Chew 19 – Because it’s a perfect blend of quirky humor and intense violence.
Gen Hope 13 – Because it’s a Regenesis title.
Key of Z 2 – Because the first issue was truly amazing.
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Morning Glories 14 – Because we might have a genuine escape from the academy.
New Mutants 34 – Because Blink is on the cover.
Northlanders 46 – Because I’m a Brian Wood fanboy
Punisher 5 – Because Ruka is focusing on those affected by the Punisher.
Walking Dead 91 – Because it’s TWD.
Wonder Woman 3 – Because I smell violence…
X-23 17 – Because it’s a great book that doesn’t deserve to be cancelled.
X-Factor 227 – Because the solicit says a member will die.
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Trades
Captain Swing and the Electrical Pirates of Cindery Island – Because Warren Ellis writes steampunk pirates and Raulo Caceres’ art is breathtaking.

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Week of 9/11 - Oz and Tim's Picks

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Oz’s pull list continues to be dominated by DC:
Batman and Robin 3
Batwoman 3
Demon Knights 3
Frankenstein Agent of Shade 3
Green Lantern 3
Resurrection Man 3
Suicide Squad 3
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Tim has a light week this week:
Baltimore: Curse Bells 4 – Because it’s Mike Mignola.
Batwoman 3 – Because its JH Williams III.
Buffy Season 9 3 – Because the first 2 issues felt more like the show than season 8 ever did.
Demon Knights 3 – Because it’s an action packed page turner.
Jurassic Park: Dangerous Games 3 – Because I’ve got a hard on for dinosaurs.
Pigs 3 – Because the series has been good, but I sense some awesomeness coming in the next few issues.
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Punisher MAX 19 – Because it is consistently one of the best books from Marvel.
Rachel Rising 3 – Because I predict this to be the pick of the week. It’s Terry freakin’ Moore, after all.
Unwritten 31 – Because Tom Taylor goes to war with the Cabal. Could an ending be in sight?
X-Men Legacy 258 – Because we may just see the space X-Men return to earth.

Trades:
Kill Shakespeare Vol. 2 – I’m pretty sure I’m the only Shakespeare nut who actually enjoyed this series, but I did. I think the Bard would have dug it himself.

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New Episode of The Graphic Word!



‎10 comics in the stack, reviews of Wolverine and the X-Men 1, Captain Swing 4, Infinite Vacation 3, Heart 1 and the Goon 36. In Talking Trades, I do in-depth reviews of Age of Reptiles by Ricardo Delgado and Holy Terror by Frank Miller.


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Week of 2nd November - Oz and Tim's Picks

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Oz continues to pick up all the major X-Men titles:
Animal Man #3
JLI #3
Stormwatch #3
Swamp Thing #3
new mutants #33
uncanny x-men #1
x-men #20
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and MAYBE Shame Itself #1

Tim failed to stick to his 15 a week policy again, but only by an extra 2:
Action comics 3 – Because even though it didn’t meet expectations, it’s an interesting book.
Amazing Spider-Man 673 – Because it’s Spider Island aftermath time.
Animal Man 3 – Because it’s not just DC’s best book, it’s one of the best ongoings in comics.
The Goon 36 – Because it’s also one of the best ongoings in comics. Funny, pretty, awesome.
Hack Slash 9 – Because I’m hoping the book will pick up a bit and revert to the quality of the DDP days.
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Heart 1 – Because Blair Butler mixes MMA and comics.
Infinite vacation 3 – Because issue 2 was 6 months ago and I really wanna know what happens.
Invincible 84 – Because its great superhero comics.
Mystic 4 – Because Wilson and Lopez create great fantasy, and this is the last issue.
New Mutants 33 – Because it’s Regenesis, which feels like Decimation, which was better than the event itself.
The Rinse 3 – Because its great crime comics.
Stormwatch 3 – Because I’m kinda digging the characters.
The Strange Talent of Luthor Strode 2 – Because this book is AWESOME! Think Kick-Ass but without Millar.
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Swamp thing 3 – Because it seems to go hand in hand with Animal Man.
Sweet Tooth 27 – Because Jeff Lemire is my home squeeze.
Uncanny 1 – Because I have 3 issues left on my subscription. Gillen, you’ve got 3 issues to show me this book is worth reading.
X-23 16 – Because it’s X-23.


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Review: Holy Terror by Frank Miller

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Having never read Hitler’s Mein Kampf, Frank Miller’s Holy Terror is probably the most ridiculous, shallow, offensive piece of propaganda I think I’ve ever read. Pretty? Sure. Any good? Absolutely not. So why did I enjoyed the hell out of it?




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Unless you’ve been living in a nerd-proof bunker, you’ve most likely heard that the original title of the book was Holy Terror, Batman!, and the concept was basically Batman vs Al Qaeda. When the book moved from DC to Miller’s own company, Legendary, not much changed. Sure, the characters have different names, but they’re still pretty much Batman and Catwoman without the ears. There’s even a panel where Miller clearly forgot to erase one of the ears off the Catwoman character’s shadow.

The story starts in Empire City (not Gotham City) with The Fixer (not Batman) going toe to toe with Natalie Stack (not Catwoman), which of course culminates in a rooftop pash session. While they’re making out, There’s some kind of terrorist attack involving nails and Fixer and fake Catwoman decide to go on a personal vendetta against the terrorists. Oh, and Commissioner Gordon, I mean Captain Donagal, gets angry. That’s about it.
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The story is shallow. The characters are thinly veiled knock-offs. The book is often offensive, stereotyping Muslims as terrorists. The terrorists use ridiculous attacks like nail bombs and razorblade bombs. I’m not joking. They use bombs. Filled with razorblades. So why did I like it so much? Primarily it’s because of Frank Miller’s art, which I’ll get to soon. But it was also something else, something I can’t quite put my finger on. Perhaps it’s because the book feels like a parody of America’s bloodlust when it comes to terrorists. It’s not, and reflects Miller’s real world thinking, which in itself is kind of scary. But if it were a parody, it would be awesome. It could also be because I didn’t have to think when I was reading it – kind off like watching an Arnie movie or reading Jeph Leob’s Hulk. I feel ashamed for liking it, because it really was trash, but I did. Sue me.

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Frank Miller’s art in Holy Terror is mostly amazing, although some pages feel like he rushed through them so he could catch the last 20 minutes of the football or something. I love the wide page format, as it really brings out the best in Miller’s art. Lots of ink, heavy lines, splashes of colour and amazing composition. Miller really evokes a sense of weight and gravity in his work, using silhouettes and other minimalist techniques to achieve
movement and fluidity on the page. He still sucks at drawing faces, but this shortcoming is more than made up for by his heavily stylised anatomy. The scratched ink, stark contrasts, smudges and ink splatters work well on some pages, but others are indecipherable. Some pages are a beautiful mess others are just a mess. If you’re a fan of Miller’s art, you’ll love it on this book.

Frank Miller’s Holy Terror is terrible. It really is a bad book. The art is great, but everything else is just plain lousy. The thing is, it’s the kind of lousy that makes Michael Bay so successful. It’s the kind of lousy that you pick up at an airport bookshop. It’s not well written. It’s not intelligent or original or even tasteful, but if you want to kill an hour with some mindless tripe, Holy Terror is a good looking way to do it. 2 stars.
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Boondock Saints: In Nomine Patris Review

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Gangsters, Mafia, avenging angels and a bucketload of violence. That’s what Troy Duffy and JB Love’s Boondock Saints: In Nomine Patris, is all about. It’s available for pre-order now at 12 Gauge Comics and will be released next month.



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Troy Duffy’s independent film The Boondock Saints and its sequel have garnered a massive cult following. Despite it’s very limited theatrical release, the first film grossed almost $50 million in domestic video sales. The critics hated it, the fans loved it. The story follows Irish twins Connor and Murphy McManus as they go on a mission to rid Boston of crime. Wanting to further delve into the world of the Boondock Saints, Duffy collaborated with comics scribe JB Love and Boondock Saints: In Nomine Patris was born.
In Nomine Patris follows two stories – The McManus twins investigate a murder, while their father, known as Il Duce (the Duke), tells the story of his rise to infamy. We learn of the events that led him to become a sort of avenging angel, which ties into the brothers’ story as they seek to avenge a murder and bring a crime family to it’s knees. It’s this righteous anger that drives both Il Duce and the McManus twins, and it makes for some pretty compelling reading.
The action sequences were great - well paced and nicely laid out. Some of the scenes were totally bad-ass, the kind of action that makes you step back and think "that was awesome." On top of that, The book displays a really good balance between the high octane action sequences and the slower, dialogue heavy scenes that are a vital ingredient in mafia stories. The dialogue is well written – witty in some parts, brutal in others. The characters, especially Il Duce, are well developed. You really get to understand his passion and drive, and like all good antiheroes, he makes you pump your fist and go "yeah!" The antagonists aren't just one-dimensional mobsters, either. They have character and motivation, although some of the characters’ Italian names can get a little confusing.
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On that note, parts of the story were a little hard to follow. With the narrative jumping back and forth from the present to the past and the list of characters in both narrative lines, I sometimes had to flick back and see who was who and where they were. I had not seen the movies when I read the book as I wanted to read it from the perspective of someone who was coming into the story completely fresh. While I was able to follow and enjoy the story for the most part, I think the book is far more suited to fans of the films.
Guus Floor's art reminds me a little of Sean Phillips, albeit with simpler lines. While at times it’s a little messy, the overall look and feel is a murky and gritty, which goes together with the story like tea and biscuits. Thick lines and a muted palette dominate every page. As with the story, it is the action sequences that are the real hero. Dynamic, exciting, full of energy - they're a real thrill to read.
Boondock Saints: In Nomine Patris takes Troy Duffy's world and delves deeper into it. No real knowledge of the movie is needed, particularly if you're a fan of mafia stories, but it helps. The story can get a little confusing at times, but it's solid enough to be thoroughly enjoyable. The art wont blow your mind, but it serves the story well. The book is a must read for fans of the movies, and if you’re into gangsters and the mafia, you might want to check it out too. 3 ½ stars.
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Week of 26th October - Tim's Picks

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Tim absolutely blew his 15 issue limit, but with no trades, it’s OK…
2000AD 1754 – Because I finally caught up with my progs and found a shop that can get them to me on time!
27 second set 2 – Because it’s a book about music and magic that’s totally different to Phonogram but equally awesome.
All Star Western 2 – Because I’m hoping beyond hope this issue improves on last.
ASM 672 – Because it’s the end of Spider Island.
Angel and Faith 3 – Because Gage is nailing the characters.
Annihilators: Earthfall 2 – Because it’s Marvel Cosmic.
Captain Swing 4 – Because it took so long to come out, and it’s a beautiful book.
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Daken 16 – Because of the Runaways.
DMZ 70 – Because it’s the continuing epilogue to Brian Wood’s epic series.
Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz 2 – Because it’s Skottie Young.
Flash 2 – Because it was good enough to survive my new 52 cull.
Fly 5 – Because it’s creepy and awesome and the best thing I’ve read from Zenescope.
Game of Thrones 2 – Because the story is awesome and suits comics well.
Green wake 6 – Because the mini series was good enough to make it ongoing.
Red wing 4 – Because Hickman writes a story about a war across time.
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Spaceman 1 – Because it’s Azzarelo and Risso.
SI: Cloak and Dagger 3 – Because I love me some Ty and Tandy.
Star Trek 2 – Because it reimagines original series Star Trek episodes in JJ Abrams’ universe.
Walking Dead 90 – Because it’s the Walking Dead.
Wolverine and the X-Men 1 – Because I’m really curious to see where it goes.

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New Episode of The Graphic Word!



I review: Star Trek 1, The Strange Talent of Luther Strode 1, Casanova Avaritia 2, The Cape 2, The Unexpected 1, Spontaneous 5, Northlanders 45 and trades Local and I Kill Giants.

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Creator Roundup

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This week Dan Hipp is on the same bat (adventure) time, Joe Hill passes the blame, Eric Canete channels the power cosmic, Phil Hestor goes bionic, Brian Wood previews barbarity, Georges Jeanty answers a bunch of questions, Bryan Lee O’Malley tells a tale about a fly, Jeff Lemire is not as vain as Grant Morrison, Fabio Moon gives a nod to Chris Claremont and Brandon Graham decides to collaborate. As always, if you want me to follow a specific creator, let me know in the comments.



- As always, let us begin with a bit of Dan Hipp:
BATJAKE


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Joe Hill shares his involvement in The Cape series from IDW:
Big credit to the creative team on the book – artist Zach Howard, colorist Nelson Daniel, and scripter Jason Ciaramella. My name is on the cover, because the comic spun out of my short story from 20th CENTURY GHOSTS. Also I’m a creative consultant on the thing, a job which largely consists of looking at Jason’s scripts and saying, “this fuckin’ rules,” then looking at Zach’s art and saying, “This fuckin’ kills.” But Zach, Nelson, and Jason are the dudes who have really brought this thing to life, with a healthy mix of ink, imagination, and blood. Thanks to them for treating my characters so well – or not, as the case may be – and big thanks to everyone who checks it out.

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Eric Canete has a bunch of commissions he did up on his blog including this one of Galactus:
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- Phil Hester and Jon Lau
talk about their Bionic Man series from Dynamite Entertainment:
TFAW.com: This is the second time both of you have collaborated on a Kevin Smith screenplay–the first time being with Green Hornet, of course. What were the major differences this time, with The Bionic Man?

Phil Hester: The source material is a bit older. Kevin wrote his Bionic Man screenplay quite a long time ago, so there were a lot of technical updates we needed to do, especially regarding computer and cell phone advances. As far as the actual working process goes, very little difference. I adapt the screenplay, Kevin edits my pass, I incorporate his notes, Kevin does a final polish, and then poor Jonathan has to draw it all.

Jonathan Lau: Yes, very much so–at least poor Jonathan is glad to be on this team. Phil knows what I enjoy working on and allowed me to have at it. The only thing missing is the live-action movie that coincides with the comic book, as with Green Hornet.

TFAW.com: I’m a huge fan of the original Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman–were you familiar with the shows before you started on the project?

PH: Sure. I was a kid when both shows originally aired. I spent many a recess running in slow motion and lifting imaginary cars off of imaginary trapped grandmas while humming “nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh!”

JL: I have vague memories of the show, so I couldn’t say I am a die-hard fan. But Lee Majors will always be the Six Million Dollar Man for me. And very similar to Phil, I did those things too. It’s just that when leaping off high cabinets, gravity isn’t in slow motion for me, so I go “nuh-nuh-nuh-n-OWWW!”

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Brian Wood threw up this promo for his new Conan series with Becky Cloonan:
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- Georges Jeanty indulged fans in a great Q & A on the Slayalive forums. Here is but a taste:
Q: The new character Severin seems to burn out a vampire's demon leaving a human corpse. Did you have any special instructions on how this should look when he uses his power or were you given total creative freedom in how it would appear?

Georges: Not really. that was something that developed over time. I knew I wanted to have something distinctive for Severin's power. There was talk of it being electricity, which was fine, but I also wanted to draw stuff that I don't often do. Jack Kirby became famous for an effect that was later named after him: Kirby Krackle. It's all those little black spots grouped together in some creative design. That became more of a style thing for Sevrin's power. Usually the visuals are left up to the artist. It's one of those things where if you get good people, then leave them to do their work.

Q: How has it been drawing the more real world C.S.I. scenes we've seen so far and the interrogation of Buffy scene in the new issue.

Georges: That's more true than you think. We are in an age in the Buffyverse where 'reality' is starting to creep in. Seriously. If you'll notice in Seasons 1 through 7, we pretty much had Buffy in Sunnydale and that was for all intents and purposes her world. It became kind of a surreal world where you accepted all the weird goings on (actually you wondered how in the world could anyone live in Sunnydale?!). Yes, there was that time at the beginning of Season 3 where she left, but starting with Season 8 Buffy and the crew were jet-setting all over the globe, bringing her into the 'real world', when you think of it. Granted Angel Season 5 had glimpses of Buffy in the real world, but you never 'saw' her. Now that she's out in the world and the general population knows about Slayers, things feel a little more real. The interrogation room scene just drives home how reality was creeping in. Look out for a lot more 'reality' in the future.

Bryan Lee O’Malley shared this cool little cartoon:
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Jeff Lemire discusses a bunch of stuff with IO9 including Animal Man:
So, what's your master plan for Animal Man?
If you read the whole Vertigo Animal Man series of 89 issues or whatever, each writer has a completely different take on his origin. If you try to put them all together, they contradict one another. I had to pick and choose to make up a new origin that makes sense to new readers.
It's about taking stuff like the family aspect of Grant Morrison's run and concepts like The Red and boiling them down into one new package that's really accessible to readers who didn't know anything about him. That was my challenge as the writer.

In the first issue, you cast yourself as a magazine reporter interviewing Animal Man. Grant Morrison famously wrote himself into Animal Man. Will Jeff Lemire the DC character be appearing in future issues?
No, that was just my cheeky nod to the whole idea. The next few issues are really cool, with Buddy and [his daughter] Maxine going into The Red for the first time. They bring the reader with them to meet these characters called The Totems, who are all the former avatars of The Red. They're new characters I created, they're like The Red's version of The Parliament of Trees. When they meet The Totems, they begin to understand what Maxine is, what The Red is, all these things readers have been wondering about.

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Fabio Moon posted some art in honour of Chris Claremont’s upcoming appearance at Rio Comicon. Here’s the first:
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Brandon Graham posted a ton of stuff this week including updates on Multiple Warheads and a bunch of preview pages for his new Image book Prophet. It’s his first collaboration with an artist that’s not himself (It’s Simon Roy):
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Week of 19th October - Oz & Tim's Picks

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This week Oz picked up:
Blue Beetle #2
Green Lantern Corps #2
Justice League #2
Legion of Superheroes #2
Red Hood and the Outlaws #2
Wonder Woman #2
X-Factor #226
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Tim was able to cut back to 12 issues and 3 trades this week, after dropping a few marvel and DC books:
All-Nighter 5 – Because David Hahn writes drama very well.
BPRD Hell on Earth: Russia 2 – Because Mike Mignola is my homey.
Bonnie Lass 2 – Because it has pirates in it.
Dark Horse presents 5 - Because it’s an anthology and includes an Eric Powell story.
Fables 110 – Because it’s Fables and Fables is awesome.
Helblazer 284 – Because it’s a story about a trench coat with residual magical powers.
Justice League 2 – Because I’m kind and give second chances.
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The Scourge 5 – Because Scott Lobdell is writing the hell out of this series.
Spontaneous 5 – Because Spontaneous has been the best thing Oni has produced since Rucka’s Stumptown, and this is the final issue 2!
Uncanny X-Men 544 – Because my subscription hasn’t run out yet.
Wonder Woman 2 – Because we were all taken by surprise by the Awesomeness of issue 1.
X-Factor 226 – Because it’s PAD. Seriously.

15 Love TP – Because it was a surprisingly good teen drama mini series.
Freak Angels Vol. 6 – Because It’s a totally fascinating story that I want to re-read.
Unwritten Vol. 4 – Because it’s about magic and literature, and I’m and English Teacher/wizard.

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CBNAH Podcast Episode 4

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The latest episode of the CBNAH Podcast is here! Listen here or go to iTunes and subscribe!





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Week of 12th October 2011 - Oz & Tim's Picks

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Oz’s Picks:
Batman and Robin 2
  • Batwoman 2
  • Demon Knights 2
  • Frankenstein Agent of SHADE 2
  • Green Lantern 2
  • Suicide Squad 2
Resurrection Man 2
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Tim’s trying to narrow his weekly picks to 15:
ASM #671 – Because Spider Island continues.
Baltimore: The Search Bells #3 – Because it’s Mike Mignola’s take on Van Helsing.
Batwoman #2 – Because JH Williams III.
Buffy season 9 #2 – Because issue 1 was just the setup.
Demon nights #2 – Because Oz convinced me to get the first issue and it was awesome.
The cape #2 – Because it’ll be the best comic I’ll read this week.
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Morning Glories #13 – Because I was starting to lose interest in Morning Glories until the awesomeness of last issue.
Northlanders #45 – Because it’s Northlanders. How is this series being cancelled?!
Pigs #2 – Because it’s about a KGB sleeper cell in Cuba.
PunisherMAX #18 – Just because.
Shield #3 – Because I love me some Da Vinci.
Unexpected #1 – Because I’m a sucker for anthologies.
Unwritten #30 – Because it feels like we’re starting to get some pay-off.
X-Men Legacy #257 – Because of my two great x-men loves - Rogue and Gambit.
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X-Men: Regenesis #1 – Because I think it’s an anthology.





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Graphic Novel Review - Habibi by Craig Thompson

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Craig Thompson, Author of Goodbye, Chunky Rice, Carnet de Voyage and the critically acclaimed Blankets is back with his latest offering – the 670 page proverbial monster called Habibi.





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Set in a timeless middle east, Habibi follows young Arab girl Dodola, sold into child marriage at 9. She is taught to read and write by her kind hearted husband, and her knowledge of letters and numbers wind it’s way through the trials and triumphs of her life. At age 12, She is taken as a slave by thieves, manages to escape with a 3 year old boy, Zam, and finds an abandoned boat in the desert, which they make their home. In order to survive, Dodola must prostitute herself to traveling merchants in exchange for food. As time moves on, and Zam grows into puberty, he struggles with lust for his foster mother/sister, something that haunts him into adulthood. This struggle is not helped when he witnesses Dodola being raped by a merchant, so he decides to be more proactive in providing for them, selling water in the local village. While Zam is out collecting water one night, Dodola is kidnapped and sold into the Sultan’s harem. Zam, in a desperate attempt to find Dodola, lives of the streets in the city, where he befriends a group of eunuchs, and, still struggling with lust and haunted by the image of Dodola being raped, decides to join them and is castrated. Despite their separation, the story never stops being about the relationship between Dodola and Zam, and is masterfully crafted by Thompson.

At times the narrative moves along at a roaring pace, faster than an 8 year old on a sugar high, but mellows down when it needs to, offering some deeply emotional scenes. In fact, along with the stunning visuals, it is the emotion of the story that is the true champion.

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The way Thompson makes us empathise with the characters is a rare skill – we share the deep sorrow, the loving contentedness, the emotional turmoil of the characters. There are plenty of lighthearted moments as well – In one scene, a young Zam is so annoyed with himself and confused after getting his first erection thinking about Dodola that he punches himself in the groin, not realizing the pain he is about to go through.

Habibi is a visual banquet, a veritable feast of brushstrokes and intricate detail. Thompson uses eastern design and the beautiful Arabic script to weave the story together in a soft, organic flow that floats along from panel to panel, page to page in rich, breathtaking beauty. His loose panel layout and masterful panel composition help the story flow forward and keeps each page interesting.

Habibi is a truly magnificent book, one that is compelling, thoughtful, emotional and visually Beautiful. It does contain a fair bit of nudity and sex, so it’s probably not appropriate for children under 15 or so, but aside that, I can’t praise it highly enough. I was totally hooked from the first page – I was just going to read the first 100 pages or so before bed but ended up staying up till the early hours of the morning reading it cover to cover. If Habibi is not the graphic novel of the year, I’ll eat my left testicle.
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Week of 5th October 2011 - Tim and Oz's Picks

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Only 4 picks for Oz this week:
Animal Man #2
Justice League International #2
Stormwatch #2
Swamp Thing #2

Tim, as always, has slightly more:
Action Comics #2 – First issue was good, but not great. It’s Grant Morrison, so I’ll give him another chance.
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Animal Man #2 – Heck Yes.
Batwing #2 – The surprise package of the new 52.
Casanova: Avaritia #2 – What a mindwarp this series is. Love it.
Chew #21 – New arc of one of the best ongoings on the shelves.
House of Mystery #42 – The new status quo on this series is interesting and feels like the ‘good ol’ days’ of the book.
Invincible #83 – One of the best superhero comics on the shelves.
Mystic #3 – Wait, what? How did I miss issue 2?
The Rinse #2 – A surprise book from BOOM!. Great crime noir that feels like Brubaker and Phillip’s Criminal.
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Severed #3 – an interesting story so far – I’m hooked.
Stormwatch #2 – First issue was good enough for a second go around.
Strange Talent of Luthor Strode #1 – The solicit seemed interesting – Young kid buys muscle gain product from the back of a comic book, and works way better than he expected…
Swamp Thing #2 – Love me some Swamp Thing.
Sweet Tooth #26 – If your not reading sweet Tooth, you’re missing out on one of the best series in comics.
Walking Dead #89 – It’s been a while between issues…
X-23 #15 – love this series.
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X-Men Schism #5 – The end.

Trades:
Axe Cop: Bad Guy Earth – Genius. Pure 6-year-old genius.
Hark, A Vagrant – Kate Beaton’s amazing satirical web comic is collected for the first time by Drawn and Quarterly.

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CBNAH Podcast Episode 3

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The latest episode of the CBNAH Podcast is here! Listen here or go to iTunes and subscribe!





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Week of 28th September 2011 - Tim and Oz's Picks

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Oz’s Picks:
Annihilators earthfall #1 (of 4)
All star western #1
Aquaman #1
Flash #1
Green lantern new guardians #1
Justice league dark #1
Superman #1
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Teen titans #1

Tim’s Picks:
All Star Western 1 - This will be the best book of the new 52, guaranteed.
ASM 670 - Spider Island is pretty sweet so far.
Angel and Faith 2 - Issue one was fantastic, and I have high hopes for issue 2.
Annihilators Earthfall 1 - marvel Cosmic. That is all.
Cap and Bucky 622 - Brubaker writing Cap is continually a win.
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Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz 1 - Skottie Young makes any book worth it.
Hack Slash 8 - Slasher Horror at it’s finest.
Justice League Dark 1 - Interesting Concept. I’m hopeful.
Kick Ass 2 #4 - I’ll believe it when I see it.
New Avengers 16.1 - because i’m a sad, sad man.
New Mutants 31 - Oh how i wish fear itself was over.
Rachel Rising 2 - Terry Moore is hands down my favourite creator. I love that dude.
Secret avengers 17 - Jamie McKelvie.
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Superman 1 - I’m interested to see how this one pans out, with Action comics being a dissapointment.
Teen Titans 1 - Scott Lobdell writes great teenagers.
Trades:
Habibi - Craig Thompson is a cartooning genius.
Holy Terror - Let’s hope the wait is worth it. Love me some Frank Miller.
Srange Tales II - The best book marvel produced last year.
Undying Love - an interesting tale about samurai and vampires.

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The Literary Worth of Comics

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The debate about whether or not comics are a form of literature has raged on since the early 80’s, and a key component in the debate is trying to build criteria for literary worth. This is, in my opinion, a fruitless endeavour. Literary worth is purely subjective and determined not by criteria, but by personal importance. The academic perception of literary worth is very different, and it’s this academic perception that I wish to discuss. It generally takes three elements into account when attempting to determine worth in storytelling mediums.





These elements are the narrative itself, it’s cultural importance and its Innovation as a piece of literature. When comparing comics to other forms of literature it becomes clear that the medium itself should not be ignored, but afforded a place among the literary elite.
Why do comics get a bad rap?
In order to fully understand why comics should be accepted as having literary worth we must first understand why they generally aren’t. Comics have been around since people could draw, but it wasn’t until the 1920’s and 30’s that the ‘American Comic’ became popular. The boom coinciding with other ‘low-brow’ literature of the time, namely science fiction and the pulps. Comics and pulps were inexpensive escapist fiction written simply with little subtext, so the story was easy to follow and easy to read. It was storytelling for the masses. Genre fiction in general has only recently gained critical acceptance anyway, with gothic horror such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Bram Stocker’s Dracula, followed by fantasy fiction such as The Lord of the Rings. Comics were doomed from the beginning.

It also doesn’t help the medium’s cause that there is a culture and perception that ‘comics are for children. I’m not sure how this perception came about. Certainly there have been many comics for children over the years, but for every Donald Duck, there was also a Fritz the Cat. Perhaps because comics have been used to bridge the gap between picture books and works of prose in teaching children to read or may be because they bear resemblance to children’s picture books, comics have been unfairly labelled ‘for kids’.

Unfortunately, another major factor that hurts the reputation of comics is comic readers themselves. Nerd culture often does more to discourage people from reading comics than it does to bring in new readership. There’s nothing worse than bringing a non-comic reader into a dark, greasy comic shop with a customer arguing with the shop attendant about whether Hulk could beat Superman in a fight. While there are great positive advocates for the comic industry out there, they are few and far between, unequally balanced by the obsessive fanboys spouting their nerd rage to anyone who will pretend to listen. Sorry, you know it’s true.

Having said all that, Comics should be accepted as having literary worth. Of course not all comics have literary worth, just like not all novels are worthy, but those shining examples of our medium deserve recognition. Here’s why.

Comics Can Have Strong Narrative
The narrative is, of course, the prime factor in storytelling. Without the narrative, there is no story. But stories are stories. Whether you’re reading A Tale of two Cities or Y: The Last Man, or watching The Shawshank Redemption, a good story can be told in any medium at all. When individual aspects of a narrative are analysed, one can see that the nature of the comics medium lends itself very well to the telling of good stories.
Plot – While plot is not the be all and end all of narrative (On the Road by Kerouac has no discernible plot whatsoever), a poor plot can certainly undermine the value of the narrative (Stephanie Myer’s Twilight, for example). A story in a comic needs to be told in a small number of pages, and can achieve it through the sequential images. They say a picture says a thousand words, and in the case of comic books, the pictures tell the story. Take this example from Raymond Feist’s Magician:

Pug tugged at the collar of his new tunic. It wasn’t really new, being one of Tomas’s old ones, but it was the newest Pug had ever owned. Magya, Tomas’s mother, had taken it in for the smaller boy, to ensure he was presentable before the Duke and his court. Magya and her husband, Megar the cook, were as close to being parents to the orphan as anyone in the keep. They tended his ills, saw that he was fed, and boxed his ears when he deserved it. They also loved him as if he were Tomas’s brother.
Pug looked around. The other boys all wore their best, for this was one of the most important days of their young lives. Each would stand before the assembled Craftmasters and members of the Duke’s staff, and each would be considered for an apprentice’s post. It was a ritual, its origins lost in time, for the choices had already been made. The crafters and the Duke’s staff had spent many hours discussing each boy’s merits with one another and knew which boys they would call.
The practice of having the boys between eight and thirteen years of age work in the crafts and services had proved a wise course over the years in fitting the best suited to each craft. In addition, it provided a pool of semiskilled individuals for the other crafts should the need arise. The drawback to the system was that certain boys were not chosen for a craft or staff position. Occasionally there would be too many boys for a single position, or no lad judged fit even though there was an opening. Even when the number of boys and openings seemed well matched, as it did this year, there were no guarantees. For those who stood in doubt, it was an anxious time.


This whole scene can be converted into one page:

Magician - Apprentice 02 - 04
With virtually no text, we still get the same sense of awkwardness and nervous energy as in a page of text.

Due to the nature of comics being released in monthly segments, A comic’s plot needs to be well structured. One could argue that each issue is equivalent to a chapter of the story (as in Alan Moore’s Watchmen) and to assist with the balance between a thorough, unrushed story and a small page count, comics rely heavily on pacing.
Pacing: Writers use all sorts of techniques to create the right pace – sentence structure, Alliteration and assonance, flashbacks and foreshadowing, etc. I think pacing is one area where comics are able to transcend its prose counterparts, as comics can use visual techniques as well as written to create pace. Some great examples can be found in the pages of Invincible By Kirkman and Otley:
Invincible%202Invincible%208

The first is a great example of slow pacing. It gives the sense of the mundane, slow job the main character has, until he throws the garbage, and then we get a sense of shock, and dawning comprehension. We don’t need to read any words to know exactly what’s going on.
The second is a great example of fast pacing. The small, quick action sequences give a sense of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it speed, something that is difficult to achieve in prose fiction.
Characters: creating good characters that are relatable on some level, characters we love or love to hate, is important in driving the narrative forward. As an amateur (and later semi-professional) actor during high school, I played John Proctor in Arthur Miller’s the crucible. When I first read the script, I was totally engaged, not by proctor, but by Abigail, the young servant who was responsible for the false accusations of witchcraft and subsequent deaths of many of the major characters. Likewise, the main character of Vanity Fair by Thackeray, Becky Sharp, is so unlikable it makes the story very compelling. Good characters, including antagonists, are essential to create complications and drama in a narrative, and they are everywhere in comics. What’s more, a large part of what a character is feeling can be gleaned from visual cues – facial expressions, body language, even costume. Take this page for example:
Rogue 8

Only four pictures, but they tell us so much about the two characters. We get a real sense of drama and history between the two.

Dialogue: Another area that the comics medium has the potential to transcend other written works is in dialogue. There are two reasons for this – the first is that comics in their very nature are dialogue heavy, so writers are forced to continually work on their dialogue. This is not always the case, and many writers continue the Golden age tradition of clunky, expositional dialogue, but on the whole, good dialogue is a pre-requisite for good comic writers.
The second reason is that many comic writers write for film and television as well – in fact some of the best writers of comics dialogue (Brian K Vaughan, Peter David, Joss Whedon) are screenwriters. Comic scripts and screenplays are quite similar, and both focus fairly heavy on dialogue. A good comic writer or screenwriter will let the visual elements drive the exposition and the dialogue drive the character development.

Comics can have Social Importance
The second element that marks the perceived worth of literature is its longevity - whether it will stand the test of time. I think there are two parts to this, the first being the Themes explored within the narrative. Why do we still study Shakespeare in schools? Because the themes in his work are just as relevant today as they were 400 years ago. These universal themes abound in comics, from the obvious struggle between good versus evil to the more abstract power politics in Alan Moore’s Watchmen. The superhero is the outward expression of the inward desire to be something greater than what we are. Heroes like Captain America and Superman speak to the caring, just part of ourselves, while Batman represents the dark and painful. We see themes being played with in the subtext of non-superhero books as well. For many writers, their comics aren’t just about getting from a to b or who’s fighting who, but they are about love or peace or politics or ideals or roots or something else that is important to both writer or reader.
A work of fiction’s importance is also influenced by it’s social relevance. Jane Austin has endured because her novels are socially relevant, despite the massive changes in society since she wrote them. Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, though set in late 17th century Massachusetts and about McCarthyism in the early 50’s, still has social relevance today. And because it is a snapshot of those periods, it has endured. Maus by Art Speilgman showed us what life was like during the second world war, and we can use that picture to give ourselves a better understanding of our society today. If Social Importance has bearing on literary worth, then many comics fit the bill.

Comics can Show Innovation in Storytelling.
Many ‘modern classics’ are such because they show great innovation in storytelling. Douglas Adam’s critically acclaimed Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy was completely different in it’s sarcastic brand of storytelling. The stream of consciousness that is Kerouac’s On the Road made it an American classic. The fact that art is such a diverse beast means comics can be innovative just by changing the pictures a bit. Here’s some examples:
buzzardprev3SWTO-24_p5page02Rafael_Grampa_04

four totally different artists (Eric Powell, Jeff leMire, Ben Templesmith and Rafael Grampa), four different feels, and some great innovative art. The diversity of the medium, not just artistically, but in the writing as well, means that comics can be so innovative. Anyone who’s every been through a Morrison mind warp can pay testament to that.

Comics have been a very misunderstood story telling medium, and I truly believe they deserve to be counted as literature. Furthermore, the visual element of comics opens up a whole knew set of tools for creators to tell their stories, and can be as technically proficient as and work by Thackeray or Dickens, as engaging as and Miller or Orwell and as relevant as any Austin or Shakespeare.

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