The Trade Post: A Big Ol’ Pile Of Library Books

comic pileLongtime readers might remember a time when I was reading so many books a week that I would simply take pictures of them in a stack and do a quick hit kind of report on them. Well, I’m not knocking down nearly as many books these days, but I did read through a good number from the library and figured I’d return to that form for this post. Let’s hit it! Continue reading The Trade Post: A Big Ol’ Pile Of Library Books

Ex Libris Trade Post: Five Fists Of Science & Billy The Kid’s Old Timey Oddities

the five fists of scienceFive Fists Of Science (Image)
Written by Matt Fraction, drawn by Steven Sanders

A few weeks back, when writing about a trio of Marvel minis from the mid 2000s, I mentioned an intended shelf cleaning project before moving. I pulled a series of trades out of my collection to re-read and see if they continue to earn shelf space. Here’s two more of those reviews.

I scored this copy of Matt Fraction and Steven Sanders’ Image Comics OGN The Five Fists Of Science back in my early Wizard days. If there was a free trade sitting around, I was likely to grab it and give it a read, especially if it had a strange or interesting concept. And this book definitely fits the bill.

Five Fists revolves around Mark Twain teaming up with his good friend Nikola Tesla and his one-handed assistant Timothy Boone to create a giant, robotic war machine that can be sold to every nation on Earth to ensure peace (the ol’ mutually assured destruction concept). They join forces with Baroness Bertha Von Suttner who introduces them to all the right people. Meanwhile, a group including J.P. Morgan, Thomas Edison and Guglielmo Marconi are erecting a building to help bring demons into our realm. See what I meant when I said “strange” and “interesting?”

The book features a nice mix of historical characters, many of them who were quite eccentric even when not dealing with demons and robots, with made-up ones to tell the kind of story you’re just not going to get anywhere else. Though, for what it’s worth, I do think this would make a ridiculously fun movie int he vein of the Sherlock Holmes films. Anyway, Fraction did a great job of make this story fun, exciting, strange and adventurous, which gets the thumbs up in my book. My only complaint is that Sanders’ art comes through a bit muddy. I’m not sure if this was a printing, inking or coloring problem, but there were a few pages here and there that were difficult to parse. It’s possible this has been change in the new printing (linked above), but I don’t know for sure as I have the one from 2006. All in all though, I had a great time revisiting this book and will be keeping it in the collection. If you’re looking for something to pass to a friend who’s into science, this is definitely on the list of passable materials.

billy the kid's old timey oddities Billy the Kid’s Old Timey Oddities Volume 1 (Dark Horse)
Written by Eric Powell, drawn by Kyle Hotz
Collects Billy The Kid’s Old-Timey Oddities #1-4

Another Wizard acquisition, Billy The Kid’s Old Timey Oddities comes from Goon creator Eric Powell and artist Kyle Hotz. I believe this was the first book written by Powell that I actually read as it wound up taking me years to get around to The Goon: Fancy Pants Edition Volume 1.

This book finds a freak show owner approaching Billy the Kid, who’s supposed to be dead, and offering him a job accompanying some of his performers on a mission to Europe to recover a Gollum’s heart. Said performers include the Alligator Man, the Tattooed Woman, the Wolf Boy, Watta the Wild Man and the Miniature Boy. As it turns out, the artifact is currently in the possession of another character thought long-dead: Dr. Frankenstein, who has gotten even crazier in his experiments.

One of the most impressive elements of a book like this is how Powell sucked me into the story and got me to like these characters so quickly. I mean, you’re dealing with just four issues and yet, every time someone had a nice moment I smiled and every time someone wound up on the wrong side of a monster, I felt bad. That’s just darn good yarn-weaving, right there.

Hotz deserves a lot of the credit for that as well. He does an amazing job of conveying emotion, terror, humor and action all while rendering these fantastical and monstrous looking characters. To my mind, he’s got a Kelley Jones vibe (who I love), but with his own unique, sometimes grotesque style. He and Powell not only made a fun comic I’ll be holding onto, but also two more volumes I want to check out.

Ex Libris Trade Post: Sin City Booze, Broads & Bullets

sin city booze, broads and bullets Sin City was the first trade paperback I went into my comic book shop and purchased. I’d picked up trades with gift certificates to book stores like Barnes & Noble or our local book store Thackery’s. One week, though, my comic load was super light, I saw that stark red, black and white cover with Marv are beaten up and decided to give it a shot. I want to says I’d read Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns by that point and had read plenty about him and Sin City in Wizard so it seemed like a good purchase.

I remember being quite taken with the kinetic black and white pages therein along with the hyper-everything, violence, language, characters, actions, cars, driving, etc. I realize in hindsight that Sin City comics — I went on to get all seven trades — were my main entryway into the world of hardboiled crime fiction. I realize now that some of those characters and comics would seem ridiculous outside the pages of Sin City, but I still think they fit perfectly when surrounded by Miller’s perfectly suited pencils and inks.

Anyway, with the second film on the way, I decided to dig into my trade collection once again and pull out a few lesser known Sin City offerings starting with the short story and one-shot collection Booze, Broads and Bullets. I should note here that I have the normal sized trades put out by Dark Horse in the 90s, not the digest versions that appeared around the time of the first film. I’m not a huge fan of that smaller format, especially when it comes to an artist like Miller whose pages deserve to be put on as big of a screen as possible.

This book works as a kind of sampler for all things Sin City. It’s got tough guys Marv and Dwight, deadly little Miho and verbose killers Klump and Shlubb. More than that, though, these tales give the reader a feel for the terrible kind of place Basin City really is, the kind of place where you can be driving along, meet a beautiful woman, hook up with her in the tar pits and wind up getting murdered because she’s an assassin and has mistake you for her mark. It also sets up the way Miller builds these stories in a way that just throws the reader in. There were times where I wasn’t sure if I was reading a well known character or a new one. Dwight’s a hard one to keep tabs on thanks not only to Miller’s less-than-clear style (which perfectly first this series) but also that pesky surgery of his.

Because of all this, I realized while reading through this collection that it’s actually a great place to start for new Sin City readers. Along with everything I mentioned above, it also teaches the reader to keep their eyes peeled for recurring characters. Instead of telling the reader when a story takes place, Miller uses characters as a kind of timeline. Is Marv in this story? Then it must take place before (most of) the first volume which was later named The Hard Goodbye. I haven’t really dug into it yet, but I believe there are even Rosencrantz and Guildenstern-like moments where we’re seeing the same scene in different stories from different angles based on which characters we’re following that time around, which is something found in the larger narrative as well.

Trade Post: Star Wars Volume One – In The Shadow Of Yavin

Star Wars Volume One In The Shadow Of YavinStar Wars Volume One: In The Shadow Of Yavin (Dark Horse)
Written by Brian Wood, art by Carlos D’anda with Ryan Odagawa
Collects Star Wars #1-6 & Free Comic Book Day 2013

Like a lot of comic fans, I get skeptical when I hear of a new licensed comic. For every great continuation of a beloved mythos, there are plenty of uninspired stories that either feel like cash grabs or fail to capture the qualities of the original that made them so great to begin with. However, when I heard that Brian Wood was starting a new Star Wars comic set within the time frame of the original trilogy, I was pretty excited. After it started coming out, I heard good things which made me even more curious to pick the book up. So, when I found myself looking around on InStockTrades with a little extra birthday scratch to spend, it was one of the first books I added to my cart.

The issues contained in this book take place just after A New Hope. The Rebels scored a huge victory by blowing up the Death Star, but they’re not exactly on top of the world as they search the galaxy for a new home base. Of course the Empire is looking for them, but they also seem to have some inside information as Star Destroyers keep appearing at potential HQ locales. To find out what’s going on and also speed up the search process Mon Mothma puts Senator Leia in charge of a black ops pilot squad that includes several new characters as well as Luke Skywalker and Wedge Antilles.

Meanwhile, the Emperor strips Darth Vader of his command ship and places him in charge of overseeing the construction of the second Death Star. In his place we meet Colonel Bircher, a hot shot pilot who wears a pretty cool looking red TIE fighter pilot suit when he’s out there trying to blast Leia and her Gray Squadron. And then there’s Han and Chewie who try to meet up with a Rebellion contact on Coruscant which doesn’t work out so well and leads them into that planet’s seedy underbelly. In other words, a whole heckuva lots goes down in this one book and that doesn’t even cover Boba Fett’s appearances.

I freaking loved this book. Not only does it tell a variety of interesting and compelling stories that match up with my expectations for new additions to this world, but they also take into account several elements I never would have thought of. In my mind, Luke’s the hero of these movies, but at this point in the story, he’s still the brash farm boy who’s pretty high on himself after blowing up the Empire’s major weapon, but who has very little Jedi training. He actually doesn’t play that large of a role in these issues. Instead, Leia takes the spotlight and shows the world why she’s such an amazing badass. Seeing her in that cool dark Gray Squadron flight suit, zooming around space and shooting bad guys was great!

It also seemed like Wood did his homework when it came to the prequels. I’m no huge fan of those movies, though I also don’t spend my time hating or resenting them for what they are. In fact, I haven’t seen them in a while, but reading this book made me want to go back and check them out again because there are allusions and references to those films that take them seriously. It would have been fairly easy to ignore those movies — basically writing them as if the original trilogy were the only movies in existence — but Wood takes bits and pieces from them, which makes them more relevant in a way.

StarWars_4_CVROf course, Wood’s not the only big name on this book. I’ve been a fan of Carlos D’Anda going back to his WildStorm days. He’s got a great, cartoonish style that works so well when rendering everything from crazy aliens to shiny robots and stealthy vehicles. I’d like him to draw a huge Mos Eisley Cantina poster to cover my walls with. And then there’s this cover artist you may have heard of by the name of Alex Ross. I became a huge fan of Ross’ painterly style with Kingdom Come, but thought he got too far into pastels in the 00s. These Star Wars covers he did are so great, though, that I’d also like to see posters of them. If Dark Horse could get on that, that’d be great.

All in all, I’d say this is a home run for Star Wars and comic fans. I loved the story held within these covers and am looking forward to adding more of these books to my library as they come out. My only complaint, and it’s a publishing one, is that all the covers from the monthly issues aren’t included in the collection. I prefer them to appear in between issues, but barring that, they should at least be collected in the back, especially when you’re dealing with a killer artist like Ross. But that’s all I got on the negative front, which says a lot about how much fun I had with this comic. Here’s hoping Episode VII captures some of that same energy and adds another great new chapter to one of my favorite franchises.

Ambitious Halloween Reading List: Creepy Archives Vol. 1

creepy volume 1 Back when I was still at ToyFare, I got a pretty epic box of books including the first two volumes of Dark Horse’s Creepy Archives reprints. I’m a bit embarrassed to say that they’ve been sitting in my closet pretty much ever since. I might have pulled volume one out a few times, but never really dove in properly until this year. Not only was I excited to get into these stories as part of the Ambitious Halloween Reading List, but I was also able to make some money off of it by working on a fun list over at Topless Robot called The 10 Best Stores from the Early Days of Creepy.

I talked about some of the history over there, but basically, back in the mid 60s Warren Publishing figuratively picked up the mantle of EC Comics and rekindled quality horror anthology comics with books like Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella. Many of the old school EC guys came over and did art while most of the stories in this volume were written by editor Archie Goodwin. After reading a few EC collections, I wasn’t quite sure what to think of Creepy, but I’m glad to say I had a wonderful time reading these stories.

The big problem I had with the Tales From The Crypt and Weird Science books I’ve read is that, while the art is often amazing, the stories are hokey, boring or built in such a way that the twist ending is just so obvious it’s not even entertaining. I was worried that the Creepy tales would be along those lines and was delighted to find that that wasn’t the case.

ambitious halloween reading list 2013In fact, this book had some incredibly unique stories that I’ve never seen anywhere else which is really saying something. In that regard, these stories reminded me of The Twilight Zone because there was such a variety of stories being told, which is all the more impressive when you think that one guy was writing most of them.

But, the real eye-opening aspect of this book was introducing me to some classic comic book artists that I’m not very familiar with. Classic guys like Al Williamson, Jack Davis, Angelo Torres and Joe Orlando came in ready to rock as did Frank Frazetta whose gnarly style fits perfectly with those vets (not that he was any rookie by this point, but you get my meaning). The one artist that really blew me away, though, was Gray Morrow. His work has such depth and quality to it that you almost wonder if these were more modern stories slid into these others from the mid 60s. I’m so intrigued by him that I want to check out books like Orion and Space: 1999, which both happen to be on my Amazon Wish List if anyone wants to get me a little something.

Anyway, as you can tell, I’m pretty darn far away from reviewing these supposedly Halloween-themed books in a timely fashion, but I’m enjoying this mix of books still and will continue on until I find myself distracted by something else. I’m partway through the Wally Wood book and about a third of the way through The Fall right now, so maybe I’ll actually finish this one out before the end of the year (but probably not).

Casting Internets

airborne vhs notebook

My pal Rickey Purdin did one of my all time favorite 90s movies Airborne over on his excellent VHS Notebook Tumblr.

My other pal Alex Kropinak did an amazing stop motion trailer for David Ezra Stein’s upcoming children’s book Dinosaur Kisses. The video’s above, see how he did it over on his blog.

league of extraordinary gentlemen volume 1

There’s going to be a League of Extraordinary Gentlemen show on Fox? Huh. (via TVLine)

Jon Negroni took a lot of time to come up with a timeline that supposedly sets every Pixar movie in the same universe. There’s some huge logical leaps many of which are based on the idea that Easter Eggs (visual or verbal nods to other films) mean something more. It’s fun and a little crazy, but also a lot crazy.

Hey have you seen the new action movie and video game news site called Explosions Are Rad? You should check it out.

There’s a Rambo video game in the works according to Topless Robot. I like the idea of this news, but I’m not sold on the quality based on this trailer. Still, if the mechanics aren’t terrible, I’ll probably dig the game.

J.W. Rinzler and Mike Mayhew’s adaptation of George Lucas’ original Star Wars script, called The Star Wars, from Dark Horse is something I will aim to read in trade. (via CBR)

THR reports the Duplass Brothers’ Togetherness got ordered to series for HBO. This is good news for the world.

There’s a Calvin & Hobbes documentary called Dear Mr. Watterson. What else do you need to know? (via The Mary Sue)

Fearnet did a cool list of George R. Romero’s projects that never actually happened. That dude was involved in a LOT of dead or morphed projects!

Tony Shasteen Vincent Price

Tony Shasteen’s Vincent Price art over on Ashcan Allstars is fantastic.

My fellow Happy Endings fans will be interested in reading this TVLine interview with the show’s creators who talked a bit about the end and where they would have gone next season.

Like a lot of people I watch most of Sharknado. Before the movie even hit, GQ did an interesting article on The Asylum as they were filming Atlantic Rim. Interesting stuff.

I’m not done with Sharknado links. THR talked to the film’s VFX supervisor and also analyzed of the film’s success and what that might mean for quality shows on the network moving forward.

I Tweeted this out, but while looking through my wife’s old Martha Stewart magazines I came across this ingenious idea for a hidden office space made out of two book shelves hinged together. I don’t even have the space for something this small these days, but if I did, I’d be all over it.

Rolling Stone talked to Pete Wentz about Fall Out Boy’s recording session with Ryan Adams. I need to hear those tracks.

The Fwoosh ran down the first wave of M.A.S.K. figures, if you were a fan of this line like I was, this’ll be a nice walk down memory lane.

huckleberry_66batman

Tom Whalen‘s 66 Batman poster is fantastic.

My favorite news of the week comes from this ComicAlliance story explaining that Dark Horse is taking over the EC reprints. I adore the copy of Weird Science Volume 2 I have and want more!

Stacie Ponder analyzed the importance of landline phones over on her Final Girl blog. Entertaining as always.

Finally, I feel for Riley in this clip where she says that girls want to play with girl toys as well as boy toys. Can we finally cut this gender specific BS, please? Thanks to The Mary Sue for posting.

Star Wars Trade Post: Legacy Volume 1 & Tag & Bink Were Here

star wars legacy vol 1 brokenStar Wars Legacy Volume 1: Broken (Dark Horse)
Written by John Ostrander, drawn by Jan Duursema
Collects Star Wars Legacy #1-3, 5-6

Man, Star Wars is just in the air right now, isn’t it? I read both of these books a few weeks back when speculation was running rampant about who would be directing the next episode of Star Wars for the now Disney owned Lucasfilm and rumors were swirling that there might be spinoff/non-episodic entries in the franchise. After reading Star Wars Legacy and Tag & Bink, I was all the more convinced that the latter would be a fantastic idea because just look at how diverse these two comics are. You’ve got a straightahead, in-the-future action adventure in Legacy featuring almost no characters from the origina trilogy and a comedic Rosencrantz and Guildenstern look at the events of, first, the original films and then the prequels. In fact, I’m way more familiar with Tag and Bink, so I refer to any “comedic look behind the scenes of a piece you’re already familiar with” by their names instead of Shakespeare’s characters.

Anyway, as I mentioned, Legacy focuses on the future of the Star Wars Universe relative to the original films (as the cover bust says, 125 years after Jedi) and focuses on a descendant of Luke Skywalker called Cade. As a teen, Cade was training to be a Jedi like his father before him and his grandfather before him, but most of the group was slaughtered by Sith agents. Cut to present day and Cade’s a bounty hunter working with Jariah Syn (who hates Jedis, but doesn’t know Cade is/was one) and Deliah Blue (who loves Cade). Cade’s doing his best to avoid the Jedi thing, but it very much falls into his lap and he’s reunited with some of the survivors of his old group while also meeting the daughter of the new Emporer (who is not the main Sith bad guy, that’s Darth Krayt).

I don’t want to get too deep into the connections and triangles, but I do have to say that John Ostrander is fantastic at making comics. He not only gives great single issues stories, but also works so damn well in arcs with foreshadowing and moving the story forward that it makes you realize how bad some other writers are at it. Everything of his that I read, I wind up loving from the original Suicide Squad and GrimJack to random 90s Valaint Magnus Robot Fighter issues. I’m very interested in getting the rest of these trades and seeing where this story goes, it’s a good one, one that actually make for a great film series in and of itself. Someone get on that.

I want to talk about Jan Duursema’s artwork for a second. She’s fantastic on this book and does all kinds of work from panel to panel. The characters look lived in gritty was the first word I thought of, but there are too many negative connotations to that term in comics, they don’t look like action figures that were just taken out of the packages. At the same time, they look heroic and iconic. That might sound like a contradiction, but think of how Indiana Jones looks on screen, that’s what I’m talking about. Duuresema does do something interesting in the book though, every few pages it looks like one panel doesn’t get inked, so that panel comes off softer in comparison to the others which might be because of inker Dan Parsons or colorist Brad Anderson. I’m not exactly sure how I feel about these panels. On one hand they kind of take me out of the story because you’ve got a less polished looking panel in the middle of “finished” looking ones, but on the other I wonder if the art shift is an indicator of something important that I’m missing. Thoughts?

Star Wars Tag and Bink Were HereStar Wars: Tag & Bink Were Here (Dark Horse)
Written by Kevin Rubio, drawn by Lucas Marangon
Collects Star Wars: Tag & Bink Are Dead #1-2, Tag & Bink II #1-2

As I mentioned above, Tag & Bink is a comedy book featuring a pair of Rebel fights who wind up finding their way into the background of just about ever major scene in the Star Wars films. Remember the Emproer’s red-clad Royal Guards? Yup, that was them. Same with the two Stormtroopers who Obi-Wan tricked to get to the generators. How they get there and why is the real fun of the book. And yes, this book is a ton of fun, Rubio actually got the gig making these comics after making a fan film called Troops.

Like with Legacy, I don’t want to get too far into what makes this book funny because talking about humor can be super boring and, worse, unfunny. So, to fill space past saying, “Hey, if you like funny and Star Wars, do your best to dig up one of these trades,” I’m going to mention how both of these comics remind me of working at Wizard. I actually got the Tag & Bink book for free while working at Wizard and was either turned on to it by my co-workers or if they were talking about the book in the magazine before I started working there. Also, at one point, the ToyFare guys did a feature on the series and were raving about it around the office (this was before I joined the team). They even did a really cool feature in the mag that was a kind of wish list for characters from the comic. This memory came back to me when I was reading through the first volume when I kept recognizing characters even though I’d never cracked one of these comics. I want to say I even helped get artwork for that feature, so there’s even more of an old school connect.

Anyway, if you dig Star Wars and haven’t gotten too far into Dark Horse’s Star Wars comics, I’d recommend giving these two books a shot because they’re both high quality and also show the width and breadth of this franchise.