The Midnight Comic Club Episode 9 – Frankenstein Everywhere Else

Welcome to the ninth meeting of the Midnight Comic Club! In the third and final look at Frankenstein-related comic books we plunge into the waters of Dick Briefer, EC Comics, Warren, Image, Dark Horse and a variety of other companies. In this episode we see writers and artists experiment with all kinds of variations on the theme ranging from setting and sex to superheroics!

As always, I mention a lot of titles in the episode. I’ll link to them here and also show off some images below to help create a fuller experience. Frankenstein: The Mad Science Of Dick Briefer, The Monster Of Frankenstein By Dick Briefer, the Jack Davis-drawn “Mirror, Mirror On the Wall ” can be found in glorious black and white in Fantagraphics’ ‘Taint The Meat…It’s The Humanity, Creepy Archives Volumes 1 and 2, Eerie Archives Volume 1, Top Cow Monster War, Doc Frankenstein, Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein: Prodigal Son Volume 1, Madame Frankenstein and Frankenstein Underground!

Trade Pile Part 2: Shutter, Aquaman, Batman & Doom Patrol

Alright, so going through the top half of this pile was pretty fun on the previous post. I had a great time with Lumberjanes/Gotham Academy, Batman ’66 Meets The Man From U.N.C.L.E. AND the first volume of Mockingbird so there’s no reason to expect I didn’t also enjoy the bottom half (mostly because I tend to follow the old “if you don’t have anything nice to say” adage). Want to hear about Shutter, Aquaman, Batman: Dark Knight, Dark City and the first volume of Gerard Way’s Doom Patrol? Then you know what to do! Continue reading Trade Pile Part 2: Shutter, Aquaman, Batman & Doom Patrol

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

Trade Post: Marvels, Atlas Volume 1 & Gotham By Gaslight

marvels Marvels (Marvel)
Written by Kurt Busiek, painted by Alex Ross
Collects Marvels #0-4

Going into last weekend, I pulled out a random sampling of mostly one-off trades that I wanted to make my way through this weekend. Some I had experience with, others were brand new to me. I’m splitting the experience between two posts, but here’s how the first three went over.

When I was a kid in the early-to-mid 90s Alex Ross blew everyone’s mind in comics. He might not have been the first guy to paint comic books, but he seemed like it to me at the time. His figures were so iconic and classical looking that you just couldn’t help but pour over his pages. The fact that he and the writers he worked with liked hiding pop culture easter eggs throughout the panels also helped. Kingdom Come was the first book of his I read and it blew me away. I even picked up his next work, Uncle Sam, which I didn’t understand at the time, but definitely want to dig out of my longboxes when I have access to them. I did eventually pick up the four issues of Marvels at a garage sale where a woman was selling off her son’s collection for a buck a book.

I don’t actually remember much about that original reading experience, but I can imagine it was pretty revelatory to me. I was a hardcore DC guy growing up, so my main exposure to the Marvel U was through trading cards, action figure bios, pieces in Wizard and cartoons. At the time, I was a novice when it came to Marvel’s Golden and Silver Age history which we see through the literal lens of photographer Phil Sheldon. He’s there from the beginning, when the original android Human Torch first gets shown off to a suspicious crowd and, as a NYC journalist, sees the beginnings of the superhero world and the way people react to what he labeled Marvels.

Unfortunately, the story wasn’t nearly as fresh this time around. I’ve read a ton of Marvel comics in the meantime and even a few books about the company, so the big action scenes are pretty well-worn for me even if they were presented by Ross in his heyday. I know that’s not what the book is ABOUT, but it is what drives things forward. I appreciate the man-on-the-street perspective that Busiek uses with Sheldon, especially the way his opinions of the “mutant menace” evolves, but I felt like he did all this much better in Astro City (a complaint I realized I also had when reading Busiek’s Web of Spider-Man #81). It’s interesting to see how the writer has wanted to work with specific themes throughout his career, tried them out with Marvel books, but, in my opinion at least, was really able to nail them down in his creator-owned book.

I can’t move on without talking about Ross’s art in this book. It’s as big and bold as you’d expect, though far less pastel than you might expect if you’re more of a recent fan. You can also tell, though, that this is the guy who will evolve into the Kingdom Come painter. The characters here seem a bit lighter and less dense than they do in KC, which is still one of my all time favorites and I’ve got the itch to read it again, so look for that review soon.

atlas return of the three dimensional man Atlas: Return Of The Three Dimensional Man (Marvel)
Written by Jeff Parker, drawn by Gabriel Hardman, Giancarlo Caracuzzo, Ramon Rosanas & Parker
Collects Assault On New Olympus Prologue, Incredible Hercules (back-ups) #138-141, Enter The Heroic Age & Atlas #1-5

In writing about Agents Of Atlas: Dark Reign, AoA: Turf War and pretty much every other Jeff Parker comic I’ve reviewed here on the site, I’ve talked about how much I enjoy his ability to play within the Marvel sandbox while still adding something new to the characters. It’s a skill set that I’m always impressed by, especially in the days when it seems like creators at the big two don’t have as much freedom thanks to huge events and/or other external circumstances that have nothing to do with creating. Of course, it helps when you’re dealing with characters that are only really cool because you made them that way.

Parker launched AoA as a miniseries back in 2006 based off of an old issue of What If?! that posited a team of characters created back in the Atlas days of Marvel’s history actually became the Avengers. Forgotten by most, Parker dusted these characters off, gave them unique voices and personalities and, in the course of telling thrilling stories, hooked me forever. Since that first outing, the team has appeared in a few failed ongoings (I always said I’d like them to simply take the Hellboy/B.P.R.D. series-of-minis approach, but that wasn’t in the cards), minis and back-ups. This trade collects the team’s back-up features in Incredible Hercules which were going on at the same time as the Assault On Mount Olympus story. The team then got another shot at an ongoing simply titled Atlas, but it only made it the five issues collected in this volume.

Anyway, this volume continues all the elements about Parker’s team that I enjoy while always moving the individuals and the team itself forward. The thrust of the main story revolves around Triathalon and the gang figuring out why beings are trying to kill the original 3D Man and his brother (who was a part of that What If?! issue but no subsequent iterations). The book ends with the team searching for and finding a resolution that actually winds up helping everyone involved instead of going the easy route, which is a nice touch. At this point, I believe this is the last AoA book around. I still haven’t gotten my hands on the Gorilla Man or Marvel Boy minis, but I’m hoping somewhere down the line Parker gets to bring these guys back again and show the world why they’re rad.

gotham by gaslightGotham By Gaslight (DC)
Written by Brian Augustyn, drawn by Mike Mignola

Gotham By Gaslight is the kind of book I’ve heard about for years. Though not labeled as such on the cover of this original GN version, this was the first of the Elseworlds tales, stories taking iconic DC characters and putting them in different settings throughout time, space and, oftentimes, literature. Back in 1994 when I was 11, DC gave every ongoing book the Elseworlds treatment in that year’s annuals. It was a lot of fun, spawned one of my all time favorite stories and also sparked my imagination in a general way. So, as a fan of Elseworlds and artist Mike Mignola, Gotham By Gaslight was easily on my to-get list.

After working out a Sequential Swap, I wound up with a copy in hand and while I’m not sure if it deserved so much anticipation, it’s still a pretty good story. The idea here is that Bruce Wayne became Batman back in 1889. As it happens, he comes back to Gotham just in time to take on Jack the Ripper who has also relocated after committing his infamous crimes in London.

I think this book sounds cooler than it actually is. Batman versus Jack the Ripper drawn by Mike Mignola? That was a much different animal back in 1989 than it is today. The book isn’t bad by any means and dodges many of the elements that made some of those Elseworlds books annoying — like every single DCU supporting character coming into play in these alternate universes — but also doesn’t do a great job of creating a compelling mystery. The looming question over the story is, “Who is Jack the Ripper?” {If you want to completely avoid SPOILERS, skip the rest of this paragraph.} We’re offered a few potential suspects, but the actual culprit is really the only person it could have been, right? We’re thrown some red herrings like the creepy British people on the boat and this world’s version of the Joker, but neither of them come up ever again. Had those characters recurred more throughout the story, I would have questioned my original guess at who the killer was, but as it was, I had it pegged from that character’s first appearance in the comic.

Still, I enjoyed the comic and would be interested in checking out the follow-up which features art by Eduardo Barreto called Master Of The Future. While the main character of Bruce Wayne and Batman is basically the same as you’d expect as even a casual Batman fan, it’s cool to see how that character interacts with a world that reminds me a lot of the one seen in Sandman Mystery Theatre. Plus, that costume is just rad!

My 12 Favorite Trade Reading Experiences Of 2012

I write about a lot of trades on this site, about two a week if I’m on my game. But, I actually read a lot more than that. So, this particular list is the 12 books or runs that I enjoyed the most reading or re-reading this year. Most of them have been covered on the site, but others have not. I’ll give the latter a few more words than the former, but hope you enjoy.
outsiders looking for trouble  I read all of Judd Winick’s run of Outsiders this year, but didn’t write about it? Why? Well, it was a pretty big reading project, something that makes it harder for me to write about as a whole. But, I still really enjoyed this reading experience. Winick brings a realness to superhero comics without letting it get too in the way (if that makes sense). I know a lot of people think he forces issues into books, but I think these are the kinds of things that should be talked about and seen. Anyway, this was a fun superhero reading experience that made me remember how fun the DCU was back when this book and Geoff Johns’ Teen Titans launched. Good times. starman-omnibus-vol-3I haven’t written about James Robinson’s Starman because I haven’t finished the last omnibus yet. I haven’t finished it because I kind of don’t want to finish it and I also need quiet time to really sit down and finish it. This series is up there with Preacher and Sandman for me in my list of all time favorites. It lives in my heart and I was elated to discover that I still like it. This is what shared universe superhero comics could and should be. legend of grimjack volume 1I know I just read the first two volumes of Grimjack, but the experience has stayed with me. I love that world and keep thinking of great ways it could be interpreted for different genres. Right now I’m thinking about a Crackdown/Amazing Spider-Man style video game set in Cynosure where you take on jobs or just spend your day drinking in Munden’s Bar. If you dig Hellboy, B.P.R.D. or 100 Bullets, I think you’ll enjoy Grimjack. Frankenstein Agent Of S.H.A.D.E. Volume 1 War of the MonstersI’ve had a lot of different feelings about DC’s New 52. At first I was upset that “my” versions of the characters would only survive in my trade shelves and long boxes. Then I realized that I don’t really read new issues anymore and I still have my collection (and books I’ve never read from that era) to enjoy. I also realized that I’m almost 30 and have better things to worry about. With that behind me, I was able to dive into various trades with a mostly clear head and enjoyed them for the most part. I appreciate how DC was attempting to hit all different kinds of genres and audiences, of course, not all of those attempts were successful. The least successful tries in my opinion, though, were the books that just failed to set up a basic reason why that book existed aside from “to make money.” I still have a pile of them to read and am getting a sense of the new U, which is kind of fun. secret avengers vol 1 mission to marsEven though I read the second arc of Ed Brubaker’s Secret Avengers first and the first second, I had a great time reading this “black ops” take on superheroes. Bru writing Captain America/Steve Rogers is always aces in my book, but throwing in a lot of other street level-esque characters was even cooler. I’ve only read these first two volumes, but was satisfied with Brubaker’s ability to create an enjoyable sci-fi/spy mash-up story that felt well contained while still making me want to read more. the return of king dougReturn of King Doug came out of left field for me. It was gifted to me by a pal and I knew nothing about it, but Greg Erb, Jason Oremland and Wook-Jin Clark reminded me so much of the kinds of stories I love from the 80s, but while also doing all kinds of new, funny things I enjoy. Read this now. bprd hell on earth 2 new world gods And MmonstersI’ve said this before, but one of the things I miss most about not working at Wizard anymore is access to all of the Hellboy and B.P.R.D. comics that came out. I’m super behind, but I did get my hands on some B.P.R.D. trades this year for a little catching up (Hell On Earth: New World and Gods And Monsters). That’s still the best damn comic series around and has been for a while. hulk red hulkI don’t mind playing catch-up on some books. I’ve been super happy re-reading things like World War Hulk and catching up on Hulk, Incredible Hulk and Red Hulk this year. Super fun, popcorn books mixed with well thought out ongoing superhero tales filled with monsters? Yeah, I’m all over that. izombie vol 2 uVAmpireI read the first iZombie trade in 2011, but was delighted to get my hands on the second and third volumes in 2012. I wrote about the second one here and have a post in mind talking about the third. Anyway, this series is the rare mix of intriguing characters, wacky situations, rock solid architecture and mythology I want to study PLUS one of the greatest artists the medium has ever seen. So, so, so good. american vampire volume 1I’m pretty surprised there are two Vertigo books on here. It seemed like for a while I was reading nothing from them. Now iZombie and American Vampire are two of my faves. Then again Chris Roberson and Scott Snyder are two of the best newcomer writers around, so that’s no surprise. In this case, Snyder takes two things that have become old and boring — vampires and American history — and makes them both super interesting and intense. Can’t wait to see where the rest of this series goes.batman knightfall volume 1Batman: Knightfall Volume 1 was pure, nostalgic joy. All of the Batman comics that got me into Batman in one place in one fat volume? Yes, yes and yes. I have the second and third volumes waiting to be read. Maybe next month after knocking off a smattering of random trades I want to check out. lost_dogs_cover_sm_lgI don’t remember exactly why I didn’t write about Jeff Lemire’s Lost Dogs. It’s one of the few books I’ve bought through Comixology for my Kindle Fire. The long and short of it is that this story about a simpleton trying to save his family. It’s raw and rough and hits you in the gut. I don’t know if I liked the experience of reading this story, but it was certainly powerful. I can’t remember if it made me cry or not, but it came close.

I’m certain I missed a few books that I didn’t write about, but this is a pretty solid list by all accounts. I should probably branch out into more diverse trades and graphic novels — and I plan to — but what can I say? I love me some superheroes. I also happen to love all kinds of other comics, so let’s continue to make and talk about awesome comics.

B.P.R.D. Hell On Earth Trade Post: New World & Gods And Monsters

B.P.R.D. Hell On Earth: New World (Dark Horse)
Written by Mike Mignola & John Arcudi, drawn by Guy Davis
Collects B.P.R.D. Hell On Earth: New World #1-5 & B.P.R.D. Hell On Earth: Seattle Ashcan

A month or two back I caught up on a bunch of B.P.R.D. trades. I had some extra cash from my birthday I believe and three of the volumes were cheap on Amazon, so I bought them. After tearing through those, I happened upon another sale, this one on Thwipster, that had the first two Hell on Earth volumes. I originally intended to write about the three previous volumes I read, but too much time elapsed, it stopped being fresh and I didn’t want to sully my good memories of that reading experience by trying to slog back through so soon after a first reading.

But, I read these books far more recently and would love to tell you about them. If you’re not caught up on what went on before this new storytelling volume, but a giant monster thing appeared in the middle of the U.S. and started releasing a kind of fog that’s been changing people. The B.P.R.D. are now not only far more well known to the average person because everyone saw this monster on TV, but also a part of the U.N. which puts them in charge of a much larger area with a lot more manpower.

This first volume finds entire Canadian towns disappearing and Abe Sapien heading up north to find out what’s going on. While there he runs into a familiar face SPOILER Captain Ben Daimio! I was so glad to see his return because he’s not only still fighting the good fight, but he also is just a fun, badass character who deserves more page time. The two men do their best to find the monster and put a stop to it, which winds up being a pretty sad story all around. Meanwhile, Panya keeps doing suspicious things, Devon continues to not trust Abe and Johann seems to be becoming obsessed with a potential new physical body all of which leads right into the next volume!

B.P.R.D. Hell On Earth: Gods and Monsters (Dark Horse)
Written by Mike Mignola & John Arcudi, drawn by Guy Davis & Tyler Crook
Collects B.P.R.D. Hell On Earth: Gods #1-3 & B.P.R.D. Hell On Earth: Monsters #1-2

The first story in this collection focuses on a group of people on the run from monsters with a future-seeing girl at the center. Abe and Devon’s tensions also come to a head with Kate forcing them to sit down and try to get through their issues. With it’s shorter issue count, this one stays very taunt and has an insane ending I won’t spoil here. I must say, I was shocked by that ending–literally open-mouthed shock–but even more so by the person who witnessed it and how they react. What is happening?! That’s the kind of ending I like!

The second story here is a two parter that took me a little more time to grasp on to. This one’s about Liz Sherman, former fire-starter and B.P.R.D. who seemingly used up all of her fire powers to kill every frog demon on earth. Now she’s apparently living in a trailer park with her husband? This is the part that threw me. Maybe I read through too quickly and didn’t catch something, but I had no idea Liz was with this guy or why she was living where she was. As you’d expect, she stumbles on a murderous cult and has to figure out how to get out of it using her training. This one ends on a double cliffhanger, the first leaving Liz in the wind, the second relating back to the previous story’s ending. I haven’t read past this book, so I have no idea what happened, but as with all Hellboy/B.P.R.D. comics, I can’t wait to see where it goes. I should also note that Monsters featured art by Tyler Crook instead of Guy Davis. I believe Davis has left the series for good (or at least for now). Not sure what happened there, but he will be missed. Crook brings a cartoonier style to the proceedings, but still keeps things in line with Davis and Mignola’s artistic vision.

Comics Comics Comics Comics: Starman #43

Not a lot goes on in my mind when I’m going through cheap comics at shows. If something looks even remotely interesting and has a low low price, it’s pretty much a sure thing I’ll buy it. This issue of Starman struck my fancy for three reasons: it’s a Mike Mignola cover, Lobo’s in it and I’ve wanted to check this series out ever since I read James Robinson’s Starman series. This issue–which was written by Len Strazewski and drawn by Vince Giarrano in 1992–is actually the second part of the four part story “Star Shadows.” As if needs saying, I haven’t read the previous or following issues, but I didn’t have any trouble following the story.

We start off with Lobo drunk in a space bar (what better way to start the story?). A text box tells us that this action takes place earlier in time from whatever happened at the end of the previous issue. Lobo’s drunk and board, so when a space turtle offers him a bunch of money to killed Eclipso on Earth, he very quickly accepts the job and bails.

But, this is no ordinary space turtle, it’s actually a Lord of Chaos masquerading as a space turtle. See, the Lords of Chaos are angry at Eclipso because he failed to destroy Earth, which should have been a small task. We get a little recap about a Phantom Stranger mini that these events take place in, a mini I didn’t even know existed. Soon enough, things are picking up where the previous issue apparently left off with Starman trying to get to Bruce Gordon in what looks like a fighter jet in space. Lobo’s peeved because Starman wrecked his space motorcycle, so they start fighting.

As it turns out–and it came as no surprise even though I’m not very familiar with this version of Starman or his powers–Starman isn’t much of a match for Lobo, even when he’s really pouring on his light power. While they tussle, Bruce Gordon digs out the ol’ purple gloves, black gem and becomes Eclipso once more. According to Eclipso’s thought boxes, this Starman was created as a way to feed Eclipso. I’ve never heard that before, but it makes a strange kind of comic book sense. Just as Lobo’s about to beat the living tar out of Starmna, Eclipso blasts them with some dark light and the issue ends.

Overall this was a pretty interesting issue and, for the most part, I wasn’t too lost even though I’m not super familiar with Eclipso or Lobo and I’m hardly at all familiar with this version of Starman. When I got to the page revealing that Lobo was going after Eclipso, I actually thought this was going to tie into Superman Annual I read a few weeks ago, but it’s a few years too early for that. I wonder if Lobo’s past with Eclipso (presumably shown in this story) was referenced at all during The Darkness Within. I’m still very curious about this Starman series as a whole and hope to pick up some more issues on the cheap in the coming shows.

World’s Finest Trade Post: Batman Gothic & Superman The World Of New Krypton

BATMAN: GOTHIC (DC)
Written by Grant Morrison, drawn by Klaus Janson
Collects Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #6-10.
Legends of the Dark Knight was one of the two Batman books I didn’t read regularly (the other being Shadow of the Bat) unless it was giant Bat-crossover time, but there are some really interesting stories from the lengthy LOTDK run that are slowly being mined for trade consumption, like this Grant Morrison/Klaus Janson jam called “Gothic.”

I’m a pretty big fan of Morrison and dig a good chunk of his work, though definitely not everything (Invisbles befuddles me every time I try to read it), but this book doesn’t really read like what you might expect from the guy who was doing Animal Man and Doom Patrol at the same time in the late 80s/early 90s. Sure, there’s some weirdness with Batman facing off against a seeming immortal who feeds on misery, soul-catching buildings and ghost nuns, but it still feels like a solid Batman book.

I can’t completely speak to that time in comics because I hadn’t gotten into them yet, but I would imagine Batman dealing with these kinds of supernatural elements wasn’t a regular thing, so it might have seemed unique at the time, especially with some flashbacks to Bruce Wayne’s childhood, but to a reader now, the book feels a little been-there done-that. For those who like to trace the Morrison-verse that he’s been creating for years, I didn’t notice any connections here to any of his more current work, but I could be completely wrong on that.

In the end, it’s a nice little story that’s pretty interesting and was probably a big deal at the time, but we’ve seen this kind of a thing a lot since then, both on the “Batman vs. monsters” and “background revealed” ideas. It’s fun to see a younger Morrison playing with the character he would go on to spend years playing with, but I’m not a big fan of Janson’s art, so that’s not a huge draw for me at least.

SUPERMAN: THE WORLD OF KRYPTON (DC)
Written by John Byrne and a bunch of others, drawn by Mike Mignola and more!
Collects Superman: The World of Krypton #1-4, Man of Steel #1 and Superman #233, 236, 238, 240, 248, 257, 266, 367, 375 and Superman Family #182.
With the whole “World of New Krypton” story going on through the different Superman books for a year and the temporary return of thousands of Kryptonians, DC released this collection of books looking at the planet through the eyes of several creators over the years, but focusing on John Byrne and Mike Mignola’s post-Man of Steel miniseries along with a series of back-ups from the silver age about Krypton. Makes sense right? Well, kind of.

As anyone reading “WONK” will know, the writers used a hodge podge of all the versions of Krypton instead of focusing on one particular past version. And, hey, that’s not so bad. I liked seeing how the different guilds represented the various takes on the people. This trade sets up the version of Krypton I became familiar with while reading Superman comics in the post-Man of Steel era, but it doesn’t really matter anymore as far as continuity goes. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad story by any means. In fact, it’s  an engaging, century-spanning sci-fi story about how Krypton went from a people whose lives were prolonged by using clone parts to one where exoskeletons did the same thing to the final Krypton-shattering conclusion. I was surprised at how deep the story went and how they explained the destruction of the planet.

I’m going to take a moment here to go off on a bit of a tangent. I’ve been reading Superman comics since 1992. Over those nearly 20 years a lot has changed and even when new stories would come out to contradict the history I knew, I’d be able to easily reconcile or ignore it, but lately I’ve been having a harder time doing that, especially post-Infinite Crisis which now says that Superman got his powers as a boy and went off to hang out with the Legion of Super-Heroes. The change didn’t really seem to mean anything for a while, but now we find ourselves knee deep in Legion comics many of which feature Superman. It was starting to bother me. I like the MOS mindset that says that Superman is the only Kryptonian so any other Super-folks have to have another explanation as to why they’re wearing the S shield. Sure, the Matrix Supergirl might have been confusing, but I liked that there was a certain level of creativity that went into those characters. Anyway, I do like most of Geoff Johns’ run on Action Comics even though the first arc really bugged me when it first kicked off. I’ve kind of come to a mental place where I’m comfortable with it all now because I’ve told myself that MY Superman is over. I’m not quite sure when it ended, maybe Infinite Crisis, but that realization has really helped me enjoy some of the more recent Superman comics, though I still don’t care about Superboy hanging out with the Legion in Adventure Comics. I know it’s the epitome of geekiness, but by not worrying about how “WONK” fits in with MOS, I’m having a much better time with comics.

That’s the mentality I went into World of Krypton with, which really helped me enjoy it, though it helps that this story does explain MY Krypton better. That same outlook might help you too if you’re a fan of another Superman era as it’s a good story (as are the older Superman back-ups reprinted which also don’t hold much sway on current continuity) and how can you go wrong seeing Mike Mignola break downs on a superhero comics?

Trade Post: Death Of Captain America Vol. 3, Walking Dead Vol. 10 & B.P.R.D. The Warning

THE DEATH OF CAPTAIN AMERICA VOL. 3: THE MAN WHO BOUGHT AMERICA (Marvel)
Written by Ed Brubaker, drawn by Steve Epting, Luke Ross & Roberto De La Torre
Collects Captain America (current volume) #37-42
I’ve mentioned here and there how much I like Captain America, but I don’t think I’ve ever done a review on one of the trades before. Let me say this right off the bat, I think that Ed Brubaker’s Captain America is one of the best ongoing comic books ever written. I haven’t read a lot of Cap comics to compare it to, but I put it up there with some of my favorite runs of all time like Starman, Sandman and Preacher. That he’s been able to keep up such a high quality of story over so many issues, not to mention through several major events that lesser writers let screw up their flow, is ultra impressive. Brubaker’s Civil War tie-in issues are, in my opinion, better written and more logical than anything else wearing that banner. You can trust me on that one, I had to read it all while working at Wizard for an online column called Civil War Room (I’d link to it, but I think all that stuff is gone now).

I guess I should actually talk about this volume now, which I got for Christmas along with the second and third Immortal Iron Fist trades. What you have here is the second trade featuring Bucky as Captain America. We’re knee deep in the Red Skull’s plan to get his very own president and birth a new Steve Rogers thanks to his captive’s pregnancy (that would be Cap’s girl Sharon Carter). Bucky and Falcon team up and Bucky takes on the Cap from the 50s who thinks he’s Cap and is being manipulated by the Skull and Dr. Faustus. It’s kind of a hard volume to explain without spoiling everything that’s come before and after, but this book is integral for understanding the Skull’s plan and features Bucky Cap’s first real dent in those plans. Don’t bother starting with this trade (that should seem pretty obvious as it’s the eighth in the series), just do yourself a favor and get the first trade or catch up since whenever you left off because, next to Green Lantern, this is the best ongoing comic coming out right now.

I also want to mention the art, specifically that of Steve Epting. I love his simple, but elegant style. All the figures have this amazing presence on the page that is only added to thanks to the inking and coloring. I really wish they would have gone to him for Captain America: Reborn instead of Bryan Hitch. I have never understood Hitch’s appeal and really dislike his art. Plus, I feel like Epting is just a better artist all around and should have gotten the chance to draw Steve’s return. Not that it really matters because the ending has been spoiled already. Ah well, moving on.

THE WALKING DEAD VOL. 10: WHAT WE BECOME (Image)
Written by Robert Kirkman, drawn by Charlie Adlard
Collects Walking Dead #55-60
I’ve had a lot to say about Walking Dead to pretty much anyone who will listen. I have problems with some of Kirkman’s writing ticks, like how he always tells instead of shows, but this 10th volume didn’t fall into a lot of those traps, thankfully. In fact, I think this is one of the better Walking Dead trades all around. Again, the tenth volume of any comic isn’t a good place to start, but as someone who’s read most of the issues, I think it’s one of the better ones. I don’t want to spoil too much, but this one picks up right after a pretty huge tragedy in Rick’s life and he’s going a little crazy. By this point, Rick and his fellow followers have teamed up with a trio of people trying to head to Washington, D.C. in order to get in with what’s left of the government. There’s a scientist, a crazy military guy and a girl who’s in love with him. We learn more about the military guy in this issue while he, Rick and Rick’s son Carl head back to a house that Rick stopped off at on his way to find his family early in the series. It’s a pretty cool callback to a character I’m sure most people figured would never be seen again. There’s also a ton of action as this trio-turned-quartet try to outrun a horde of zombies who are all after them (we’re talking hundreds of biters). All that mixed with a fair dose of drama from some of Rick’s people (including an attempted suicide and a faction wanting to break off on their own) make for one of the more fulfilling arcs in the book’s impressive run. Oh, and, to be fair, there’s a story that the military dude tells that I’m glad didn’t have a visual flashback, it would have been ultra creepy, sad and depressing.

B.P.R.D. VOL. 10: THE WARNING (Dark Horse)
Written by Mike Mignola & John Arcudi, drawn by Guy Davis
Collects B.P.R.D.: The Warning #1-5, “Out Of Reach” from Hellboy Free Comic Book Day 2008
Haha, I just realized that all three books I’m reviewing are pretty terrible jumping-on points for potential new readers. The best I can tell you is that, these series’ are all so good, that I’ve followed them this long, going so far as to buy the trades (or finagle them whenever possible). I remember reading issues of The Warning while still at Wizard and having no freaking clue how one issue tied into the last. Part of that comes from reading upwards of 20 comics a week and part of it comes from the fast and furious approach that Mignola and Arcudi took with this trade. A lot goes on that has to do with the ever-growing war on frogs and other evil things growing in both B.P.R.D. and Hellboy miniseries’. We find out more about the mysterious Panya and Gilfryd, witness a full-on destruction of Johann Kraus’s hometown thanks to giant monster robot things built by trolls or some such and a fight between one big monster and another one being manipulated by Kraus. This trade really has everything that makes B.P.R.D. awesome, big crazy monster stuff, interpersonal character development, the progression of a gigantic storyline and great action scenes. And, you could actually do a lot worse than starting with this or any other random B.P.R.D. book. If B.P.R.D. was an ongoing, it would also be on my list of the greatest ongoing comics. Actually, I wish more companies would take this route for books that might not do as well as ongoings. I also wish they’d take a cue from Dark Horse and include the level of extras that Dark Horse does. Almost every volume has an intro by Mignola or Arcudi as well as a sketchbook in the back with designs from Mignola and whatever artist is working on it. All the Cap trade has is a “Previously In…” paragraph on the inside front cover and Walking Dead doesn’t even have the covers. And don’t worry, the next Trade Post will have more books that anyone can just pick up.

Comic Cartoon Double Feature: Hellboy Sword Of Storms & Batman Mysetry Of The Batwoman

I’ve been watching a lot of animated comic-based movies lately for a top secret project (not really, it’s a list of good and bad straight-to-DVD superhero cartoons). With the holidays and Netflix not being able to ship me the Christmas movies I wanted to check out like Santa Claus: The Movie, I ended up with a stack of these things and figured today would be a good day to go through some of them. Hey, the sooner I turn the article in the sooner I get paid.

I actually used to have a copy of Hellboy Animated: Sword Of Storms (2006) in my possession from my Wizard days. I thought I still had it, but must have passed it to someone else or put it on the free table. Anyway, after not really liking Hellboy 2, I wasn’t too interested in delving into that world anymore (yeah, I know this DVD came out before the sequel, but I hadn’t watched it yet), but I want to be complete any time I work on one of these lists, so I gave it a shot. And, as it turns out, I like this animated feature more than either movie.

Sword Of Storms captured the character of Hellboy who I love from the comics much better than the films, even though the voice cast carries over from the movies with Ron Perlman, Doug Jones and Selma Blair coming back to voice Hellboy, Abe Sapien and Liz Sherman respectively. Oh, plus, you get a nearly panel-for-panel interpretation of the “Heads” story from the Chained Coffin And Other Stories TPB, which was a nice surprise.

The animators also did a pretty good job of nailing Hellboy creator Mike Mignola’s style when it came to a few of the background and attacking characters like corpses and mummies. Aside from that, though, the animated versions of our well known heroes all looked pretty different from the comics. There’s a lot of good, weird Hellboy moments like a woman playing a stringed instrument until her fingers bleed and a talking fox that remind me more of the comics than the movies, which is nice.

Plus, Kate Spencer is actually in this one and she’s voiced by Roz from Frasier, also known as Peri Gilpin. I will say that the movie felt a little long and somewhat aimless at times, though that might be more a product of the comic-like story and Hellboy’s wandering journey through some kind of ghost dimension. Oh, and there’s a psychic B.P.R.D. agent who I wanted to punch in the face because he was too cartoony and over-the-top. Had they toned him down a bit, I think the overall film would have been much better.

Up next on the double feature was Batman: Mystery Of The Batwoman from 2003, which I didn’t find nearly as fun or entertaining as Sword Of Storms. See, the plot almost exactly follows that other Batman animated movie Mask Of The Phantasm, which I didn’t like much either.

See, Batwoman’s out there causing trouble and it just has to be one of the three new female characters introduced in the first 15 or so minutes of the movie. Batman also seems to fall for the most obvious person potentially responsible without really questioning it or looking into it too much. And guess what, he’s right because SPOILER WARNING it’s all three of the new female characters wearing the costume. I didn’t see that coming by any stretch, but it also wasn’t that surprising because you KNOW it’s got to be one of the three female characters.

There were some fun fight scenes and action sequences, but overall it just wasn’t all that fun to watch. Plus, they decided to cast David Ogden Stiers as the Penguin and redesign him while all the other characters retained their voice actors and the appearance they had in the Animated Series’ later relaunch. I will say that the design on the Batwoman costume was fun, even though it’s really really similar to the on from Batman Beyond. It should be noted that TAS masterminds Paul Dini and Bruce Timm had nothing to do with this movie, at least as far as the credits on IMDb go, so that might explain why the quality isn’t as high as those cartoons. Ah well, it wasn’t a complete waste of time and definitely isn’t the worst of the animated bunch I’ve ever seen. Hopefully everything from here will at least be a little better though.