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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Review: 'Superman: Earth One'

By Don M. Ventura

A rocket ship. An explosion. An alien child lands on Earth. The child has powers that manifest with age. The boy becomes a man and goes to the big city. He uses his powers for good and becomes the city’s protector. And then the world’s.

All the beats are familiar and have been told time and again. But not here and not this way. I think this is what makes J. Michael Straczynski’s Superman: Earth One a success. While it is not perfect, this book is absolutely worth a read.

Straczynski has taken the Superman story and told it in a wholly different manner, while introducing some familiar concepts, the writer has brought just about the freshest take on the Man of Steel’s story that I have ever read. The book is not bogged down in continuity and Straczynski takes full advantage of this by presenting twists to his Superman tale.

We open with a younger Clark (early 20’s perhaps) traveling to Metropolis for the first time.  He’s still undecided about his future and whether his destiny is to wear the iconic costume Ma Kent has sewn for him. Clark ponders the opportunities presented to him; he is both smart and strong and there are men who are eager to take advantage of this.

Naturally Clark eventually finds himself at the Daily Planet, meets with Perry White, takes an application, then throws it in the trash. What? Yes. This is only one of many scenes that are unexpected but refreshing. I did not miss those familiar beats. What I loved about Straczynski’s approach to the material is that it felt as though he was not obligated in the least to reference the original material and, rather, was determined to write the story that he wanted to tell.

This is good. For my money, I wanted something new and that is exactly what I got. I questioned whether fans would embrace something like Superman: Earth One. I figured The Man of Steel, Superman: Birthright, and Superman: Secret Origins have famously retold the character’s early days and rise to prominence, there was no reason to revisit much of what has already been mined and re-mined.

Add to this, beautiful artwork by Shane Davis. There is nothing that feels rushed in any panel in this book. Clark’s initial steps into Metropolis, the first scene of Clark flying which culminates in him hovering over his adopted planet, the battle between Superman and Tyrell—Davis’s work is astonishing from cover to cover. The artwork is enhanced by Sandra Hope’s painstaking inks and gorgeous colors by Barbara Ciardo. This artby Davis, Hope and Ciardo feels like a labor of love.

There are a few missteps in the book, most significantly with the villain Tyrell. I thought the character’s design felt dated, especially for this book, like something that would be featured in a late 80’s or early 90’s X-Men book. I did not care for the casual tone of Tyrell’s dialogue either; while his intentions were as evil and sadistic as a Superman villain could be, the character did not speak in a way that felt particularly menacing.

Additionally, the story felt as though it was missing an act in the middle. I believe in the importance of at least two showdowns with the main villain. This could be a matter of taste, but I believe by introducing and thwarting the bad guy over two different acts, the characters are allowed to ruminate over their fate and the reader becomes more invested in how the heck the hero is going to fix what seems unfixable.

Make no mistake though, Superman: Earth One is a really strong read. Straczynski, who understands pacing from a film and television standpoint, brings a cinematic quality to the story and it is absolutely effective.

Wednesday's Finest, 10/27/10 Releases

By Don M. Ventura

Incognito: Bad Influence #1

Incognito: Bad Influence brings us back into the life of Zack Overkill, a former villain who was forced into the witness protection program and then begins to fight crime for the thrills of using his powers. As the story begins, Zack is out of witness protection and has begun working with the S.O.S.

While the world Brubaker is writing is set firmly in the present, there are great flashes to the types of villains that were rose to prominence in the Silver Age of comics: G.I. Gorilla, Dick Deadly, Zhing Fu, and of course Dark Leopold and his Nuclear Nazis. Brubaker is having a good time on this book and it shows with some of these throwbacks, illustrated nicely by returning artist Sean Phillips.

Phillips draws grittiness quite capably and fits Brubaker’s style perfectly. Incognito has a classic pulp/noir comic book feel to the art and the story. Like Chris Samnee or Mike Deodato, Phillips uses shadow appropriately to capture the tone of the story.

There’s a great narration by Zack as he walks home with his groceries. “I guess another plus was I didn’t have a shitty day job for cover. But I still had to deal with the lame details… Paying rent, buying groceries, taking out the garbage… All the little human bullshit.” With that last line, the panel is a crossing signal. What says conformity to the rules of man like an illuminated “Walk” sign on a city street?

The story begins with Zack being taken into custody for returning to a life of crime. He protests, claiming to be set-up, but his arresting officer Zoe Zeppelin isn’t buying it. Brubaker flashes back to the beginning of the story to explain how Zack got into this predicament. Zack has inadvertently been set up to look like an unreformed villain and S.O.S. is going to use this to bring down Simon Slaughter, a rogue S.O.S. agent.

Brubaker is a master storyteller and it is enjoyable seeing him produce more creator-owned work. I’ve been following his recent titles (Secret Avengers and Steve Rogers: Super Soldier) but I enjoy the spontaneity of a book like this, where the fate of a character might occur at any point in the story.

Action Comics #894

Of Paul Cornell’s run on Action Comics, this issue has been the strongest. Each month, Cornell has pitted Lex Luthor against a classic DC villain as Superman’s greatest enemy continues his search for a mysterious source of power.

The strength in this issue is that it showcases Lex approaching a problem in a manner that most people wouldn’t. That problem is that he’s dead. Cornell writes a good Lex as he becomes frustrated that he is dealing with death in too predictable a manner. “I feel helpless…” he says. “I can’t be helpless."

Cornell is not presenting a new take on the character, he’s using what has always been there and is saying to readers, “Well, this is what Lex would do in this situation” and it all feels true to the character. It’s the antithesis of what Straczynski is doing on Superman.

Pete Woods is back after a month off and his work is excellent as usual. Specifically with Death, a Vertigo character with whom I am admittedly not familiar. His Death is charming and slightly whimsical as she listens and explains to Lex throughout the issue.

Fantastic Four #584

Man oh man, did this book have some good stuff for fans of Benjamin J. Grimm, arguably one of Marvel’s most beloved characters. This is the second issue of Writer Jonathan Hickman’s infamous “Three” storyline, but the focus is primarily on the everlovin’ blue-eyed Thing.

Ben has a serum that will allow him to become human-form Ben for one week every year. Hickman has all of the team’s voices down and he uses this to perfect effect in the Johnny/Ben scenes. But it’s the final scene between Ben and Alicia that is so powerful, so amazingly touching, that you will regret not giving this book a try.

Credit the appropriately simple dialogue and Steve Epting’s gorgeous artwork. Alicia’s expression and the knowledge that this is something that both character’s have longed for (for far too long) makes this scene so damned chilling. Add to this, an appearance by the Silver Surfer and his employer in the final scene and you have yourself one of the best books of the week.

Supergirl Annual #2

Annuals. The Bald Eagle of comic books. A spare amount appear here and there every few months to remind readers of the olden days when most comic books had a big fat Annual or Special to end an ongoing storyline or tell a super-sized story.

I was surprised to see an Annual in my comic stack this week and I became immediately nostalgic—until I saw that $4.99 cover price. But Sterling Gates has brought another solid Supergirl tale. After leaving the Bizarro world in Supergirl #57, she crash lands in the future and meets up with the Legion of Super Heroes—only this is the Legion that Superboy grew up with.

Gates sets up a really interesting storyline in this issue as Supergirl, acting one hundred percent like a teenage girl, and snoops into her future… and her fate. I’m hoping this is something that doesn’t have to be wrapped up immediately because Gates is leaving the book in December.

Gates catered to my rule of using no more than ten Legionnaires in the book, which keeps things from becoming confusing. The art is split between Matt Camp and Marco Rudy, but the work is distractingly different. Camp has a crisp clean look to his work, while Rudy’s has a rougher quality and in some places rushed.

While regular Annuals might infringe on my ability to eat and drink, it’s a format that I would enjoy seeing more frequently.

Secret Avengers #6

Brubaker can write straight superhero stories too, and Secret Avengers has been a good one. Of the three ongoing Avengers titles, this one is easily my favorite though it doesn’t feel like an Avengers book.

Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu, makes an appearance in the first story of the “Eyes of the Dragon” arc. The story involves the reappearance of a sinister group called the Hai-Dai who have been using violent means to locate a magic scroll that will bring Shang-Chi’s evil father back to life.

I applaud Brubaker’s sparse use of characters in this team book. One of my gripes about Brian Michael Bendis’s Avengers books is that it has wall to wall characters that all seem to speak similarly. Brubaker only uses who he needs.

Mike Deodato as always is well paired with Brubaker. This book is something of a Special Ops superhero book and Deodato style of using a great deal of shadow helps convey the book’s tone. The story opens with great fight scene—Brubaker and Deodato demonstrate why nobody should wake Shang-Chi from his slumber.

Teen Titans #88

Nicola Scott knows how to draw a good comic book. And Teen Titans #88, while not Earth-shattering, is a good comic book. Scott’s pencils are clean and energetic when they need to be. We’re treated to a great fight scene between the Titans and a marauding group of zombie-like men called the feral boys.

This is Writer J.T. Krul’s first issue as the ongoing writer on the book and this is solid start. He’s assembled all the familiar faces to the team and we are treated to a final panel (and another beautiful two page spread) with the newest Titan: Robin. Krul includes a great scene between Batman and Robin in the middle of the issue where Batman is concerned that Damian has no exposure to his peers.

Krul opens the issue by giving each of the characters enough face time, aptly demonstrating that he can write a good team book. Writers like Geoff Johns and Brubaker make it look easy. Krul gives us a peek at where he is going to be taking each of the characters over the course of the arc, and perhaps further, and he doesn’t seem to be throwing any of the characters to the sidelines.

This is my first trip back to Titans Tower in a few years. It feels as though I never left.

Happy Halloween! SNL Superhero Sketch

Happy Halloween! While the theme of this classic Superman sketch is not Halloween, we get the cast dressed as your favorite DC and Marvel superheroes and guest starring Margot Kidder as Lois Lane.

Poor Ant-Man!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

'Superman Lives' Costume Designs Hit the Web

After a failed attempt to get Superman back to the big screen in the early 90’s, the film seemed back on track after Warner Bros. hired Kevin Smith to take a stab at what appeared to be a fairly lousy script. If you have never heard Smith recount this story and his interactions with the film’s producer, Jon Peters, click here for the brilliant and thorough rundown of events.

Warner Bros. brought in Director Tim Burton to helm the movie—why not, he had mined gold with Batman in 1989—and things started really moving. Wesley Strick (Arachnophobia and Cape Fear) was hired by the director to rewrite Smith’s script; Strick kept Lex Luthor and Braniac as the villains, but they eventually join into a single entity called Lexiac.

Nicholas Cage was hired to portray Superman and the rest of the cast began contract negotiations (I believe only Chris Rock had been confirmed for the role of Jimmy Olsen).

Under a mandate to keep Superman out of his classic primary duds, Art Designers James Carson and Sylvain Despretz were tasked with bringing a more current (I guess) look to Superman. The pictures of the outfit have finally hit the web, and we can see that this film was looking to be the super hero film equivalent of The Day the Clown Cried, Jerry Lewis’s never-before-seen disasterpiece.

The script was completed, the sets were designed (and some built), and the “costumes” were ready when Warners decided to pull the plug, reportedly due to budget concerns (and not due to what would have been the rape of comicdom’s most legendary character).

A while back, Burton’s Braniac design (below) was finally released. Oh boy. Zak Snyder’s Superman film has nowhere to go from here but up, up and away.

Granny Goodness and Her Female Furies Pay a Visit to 'Smallville'

By making Darkseid and his Hounds the villains for the final season of Smallville, the series has saved the best for last. A few weeks ago, Glorious Godfrey was introduced into the series in the form of Glenn Beck-type washed up radio host who is inhabited by a dark force and immediately rises to prominence as he lashes out against masked vigilantes.

Granny Goodness, played by Christine Willes (above), and her Female Furies are set to make their appearance on the November 12th episode (“Abandoned”). This episode also marks the appearance by Teri Hatcher as Lois Lane’s dearly departed mother. Lindsey Hartley (below), wife of series star Justin Hartley, also appears as Fury Mad Harriet.

Granny Goodness is just one of many classic Jack Kirby New Gods villains that Smallville will have the opportunity to utilize this season. While I’d love to see Kalibak and Dessad (the former appeared in name-only in the Godfrey episode), it is Granny Goodness who is one of my favorite villains.

Perhaps it’s the irony of her name or the fact that she is a geriatric bad-ass with a heart of pure stone (a prerequisite for employment with Darkseid). Granny, true to her origins in the pages of Mr. Miracle, will run a mysterious orphanage where there is sure to be not-so-nice stuff going on.

'Dexter: Early Cuts' is Sure to Quench Your Thirst for Blood

Jonesing for some serious blood spattering this weekend? Well it is almost Halloween and The Walking Dead still has a day before it premieres.

Try Dexter: Early Cuts, a continuing series of motion-comic webisodes that feature the title character’s early years in medical school and is narrated perfectly by series star Michael C. Hall. If you’re a comic book fan you may instantly recognize the beautiful artistry of David Mack and Bill Sienkiewicz.

I haven’t been sold on taking comics (classic or otherwise) and giving them the motion comic treatment, mainly because you can lose some of the finer storytelling details that are meant to be viewed in its original form. For the most part, this is an enjoyable experience (although some of the movement does not seem entirely necessary).

As a major fan of Dexter, I enjoyed these short tales of our anti-hero which faithfully compliment the series.

Click here to watch Dexter: Early Cuts.

Where to Begin? Marvel's 'Point One' Initiative

Marvel has a head for business.

First, I love that I can pick up just about any Marvel comic book and immediately catch up on the story because they’ve smartly included a summary page at the beginning of each issue (with a chapter number so I can pick up the rest of the books in the back-issue bin if I feel so inclined). I love me some DC, but they really need to follow suit.

Yesterday came news of Marvel Point One. This is to help new readers and avid readers who are looking for a jumping on point to certain titles by adding a “.1” to the book's number. This a fantastic idea for anyone intimidated by a book that is numbered six hundred and anything.

Geared for new and long-time readers alike, the all-new Marvel: Point One initiative delivers the perfect jumping on points for the biggest super hero series in the world! Beginning in February 2011, select Marvel comic series marked with a “.1” after the issue number feature full-length, self-contained stories by Marvel’s top creators, laying the groundwork for the next year of storylines. From Invincible Iron Man to Avengers to Amazing Spider-Man, each Marvel: Point One issue of the associated series not only begin major new storylines, but also seamlessly introduces new readers into the dynamic Marvel Universe and its popular super heroes.

Below is a full list of Marvel: Point One titles:

February 2011
Amazing Spider-Man #654.1
Invincible Iron Man #500.1
Wolverine #5.1

March 2011
Captain America #615.1
Deadpool #32.1
Hulk #30.1
Thor #620.Uncanny
X-Force #5.1

April 2011
Avengers #12.1
Secret Avengers #11.1
Uncanny X-Men #534.1

'Secret Avengers' and 'Young Allies' Team-Up: 'Onslaught: Unleashed'

Look who is back to rear his big evile psionic head: Onslaught.

An entity born of the darkest regions of Charles Xavier and Magneto, last seen in the Negative Zone, appears to be returning to the Marvel Universe to finish some unfinished business in Onslaught: Unleashed. That is, end all that is.

From the looks of the teaser image (above) by Humberto Ramos, this is going to be a crossover between Secret Avengers and The Young Allies. The book is written by Eisner Award-winner, and Allies writer, Sean McKeever and penciled by Felipe Andrade (X-23).

McKeever’s Allies was cancelled with issue #6; issue #7, featuring Captain Steve on the cover, was solicited but isn't going to see the light of day. It does not appear that this Onslaught story is just a repackaging of the remaining issues of The Young Allies since the artist handling this new mini is Andrade (not series artist David Balderon).

Onslaught: Unleashed #1 hits comic book stores in February 2011.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Obama Reads Comic Books! No Authentic Proof As of Yet.

Word began to spread like wildfire of a picture of President Obama holding the first issue of Superior hit the net today. It turns out that the picture was actually photoshopped. He was actually holding an issue of Kick-Ass 2 #1. No wait... it was something about Lincoln. Boring!

I wonder what people would have thought if the picture had been real? I would guess that this would have garnered Superior creator Mark Millar a pretty spectacular amount of press (and a third printing of the book to boot) and a condemnation of the President for reading "funny books" as I am sure they would be described.

Move Over Robert Downey Jr., Josh Holloway (Sorta) Stars as Tony Stark

I've been catching up on The Invincible Iron Man the past few months in back issues and have been enjoying Matt Fraction's run quite a bit.  I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was surprised by the amount of focus on Tony Stark as opposed to him flying into action repeatedly as Iron Man.  But something else struck me about the book.  Tony Stark's uncanny resemblance to Josh Holloway of Lost.

Being terrible at faces, I could not place it at first, but I've assembled some pictures from recent issues and set them against a photo of Holloway (above). While I couldn't find anything from Iron Man Artist Salvador Larroca commenting on the use of Holloway as a model for the title character, I did find some blog articles and reviews about it (click here for an astute piece by Writer Joe Vince).

I'm not sure that I'm against this, but while I was reading the book I kept stopping to wonder "Where have I seen that face?" Personally, I don't like to be repeatedly taken out of my comic book reading by the comic book I happen to be reading.

'Young Justice' Preview

When I first saw the trailer for Young Justice, I was impressed and shocked. Impressed at how amazing it looks and shocked that I didn’t see Bruce Timm’s name anywhere in the credits. Well producers Brandon Vietti and Greg Weisman have enough street cred to carry the show. Vietti directed Batman: Under the Red Hood and Superman/Doomsday, while Weisman has acted as a supervising producer on The Spectacular Spider-Man.  Additionally, Executive Producer Sam Register has overseen many of the DC Universe line of films, including Batman: Under the Red Hood, Wonder Woman, and Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths.

Original Young Justice scribe Peter David confirmed at the San Diego Comic-Con this year that he would be writing some episodes of the series. Along with long runs on the Hulk and X-Factor, David really defined the original Young Justice characters during its original 1990’s run. It was in 2003 when the series ended and morphed into Teen Titans which has been going fairly strong ever since.

The series features Robin, Superboy, Kid Flash, Aqualad, Miss Martian and Artemis (guessing they didn’t use Arrowette due to her lame name). What I have also found surprising is the number of big guns that appear in the show: Superman (Nolan North), Batman (Bruce Greenwood), Green Arrow (Alan Tudyk), Captain Marvel (Rob Lowe), Aquaman (Phil LaMarr) and the rest of the Justice League.

Young Justice premieres on November 26th with a one-hour episode on the Cartoon Network. The series joins the network’s schedule regularly in January 2011.  Get an official glimpse of the series straight from Warner Bros.:

And here's an unofficial glimpse that is certain to please:

Business is Healthy for 'Superman: Earth One'

Early congratulations appear to be in order for DC and J. Michael Straczynski for this week’s Superman: Earth One release. According to Jim Lee, DC Comics co-publisher, the OGN is heading back for a second printing and Amazon has sold out of their initial inventory before the book even debuted yesterday.

This is wonderful news and continuing proof that Superman can still generate excitement. Earth One’s publication has been all over the mainstream news this week, which is also exciting for fans that don’t want to see their favorite entertainment medium going anywhere anytime soon.

Next up? Batman: Earth One by Geoff Johns and probably more Superman adventures in Straczynski’s new universe.

One More for Good Measure: 'Captain America' pic

Of all the Captain America: The First Avenger photos that Entertainment Weekly previewed today, this had to be my favorite.

Ladies and Gentleman, 'Captain America'

Earlier this year, just before the summer I believe, we were treated to some really cool concept art for Captain America: The First Avenger and it really seemed to give fanboys and fangirls a small taste of what the film might be: a period superhero film bustling with plenty of action and adventure.

Director Joe Johnston knows how to film action (Jurassic Park III and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids). Writing-team Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (The Chronicles of Narnia films) know how to bring an epic fantasy to life. While Johnston has not directed any of my favorite films, this material seems custom suited for his talents.

Soon we started to learn the names of those attached to the film: Hugo Weaving (the Red Skull), Stanley Tucci (Abraham Erkisne), Tommy Lee Jones (Colonel Chester Phillips), and Toby Jones (Arnim Zola). The movie has quite a pedigree. Initially I thought Chris Evans as Captain America seemed a bit young and perhaps didn’t fit what I thought Cap should look like. That was until the first set photos appeared of a bulked up Evans looking extremely Steve Rogers-like. This guy has been transformed into the First Avenger.

The rest of the cast signals that this isn’t just a Captain America movie—they’re bringing his whole damn universe to the screen: Dominic Cooper (Howard Stark), Neal McDonough (“Dum Dum” Dugan), Sebastian Stan (“Bucky” Barnes), Hayley Atwell (Peggy Carter), and Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury). And lest we forget all those cool pictures of Hydra agents and weaponry. This movie is beginning to feel really big.

Today, Entertainment Weekly released a swarm of photos to whet our appetite for some good ‘ol American adventure. The cover (above) is an extremely cool picture of Evans as Cap without his mask and holding his war-torn shield. Goose-bump worthy. The issue, which hits stands tomorrow, is full of photos of the some of the rest of the cast and a sneak-peek feature on the making of the film (which is currently shooting and will arrive in theaters on July 11, 2011).

I must say, I am really excited for the next couple of years of comic book films. Marvel and DC are pulling out all of their big guns to either kick off or continue some pretty enormous franchises. Enjoy the new pics!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Make-Up Tips... from the Set of 'The Walking Dead'

We're only four days away from Halloween... and the premiere of The Walking Dead on AMC.  If you're still undecided on your costume this year, check out this educational video by the special effects make-up artists on the new series.  Who knew transforming yourself into a flesh-eating zombie could be as easy as 1-2-3 (hours)?:

Zombie is the New Vampire: 'Marvel Zombies Supreme'

Mark Millar introduced zombies to the Ultimate Universe in the pages of Ultimate Fantastic Four. Robert Kirkman mined the idea to huge fan fervor shortly thereafter in Marvel Zombies. Since then, Marvel characters have been zombified several times over and the fans have been, excuse the inexcusable pun, eating it up.

In March 2011 Marvel will publish Marvel Zombies Supreme, a five-issue mini series featuring zombie versions of the Squadron Supreme—Marvel’s loose homage to the JLA. Writer Frank Marafino will bring the flesh eating nastiness to life with the aid of Artists Fernando Blanco. Credit cover artist Michael Komarck for setting the creepy tone this book aims to evoke.

From the Press Release:
Responding to a mysterious emergency call, Jill Harper and her super-crisis special-ops unit descend deep into the bowels of a top secret underground research facility. They discover that the demented experiments of an unhinged geneticist have placed them at ground zero of a brand new virulent zombie strain – one that has infected powerful superheroes. The Squadron Supreme, once heroic defenders of justice and utopian ideals, have been reduced to corpulent cannibalistic murderers with a voracious appetite for human flesh. Harper and her team fight against overwhelming odds to stop this ravenous zombie menace where it began – before it spreads out to devour the earth.

'Deadpool' Film May Have a New Director

I have shied away from Deadpool movie news much in the way I have the Deadpool books. I think we all have those characters that, for whatever reason, just do not appeal to us. Deadpool is such a character.

The Los Angeles Times has reported that Ryan Reynolds is still on board to star as the title character but unattached Director Robert Rodriguez is no longer attached to helm the movie. Enter Adam Berg, a Swedish commercial director with no motion picture experience. I recall Marvel Studios Producer Kevin Feige commenting this summer that it has been a goal of Marvel's to make unconventional choices when selecting directors for their properties.

Perhaps the most exciting thing about this production, for me at least, is that the film is being scripted by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (Zombieland).

If you’re like me, who watched Firefly immediately after Joss Whedon was announced to helm the Avengers, you’ll want to see what Berg is capable of. Below is a commercial he directed for Philips Electronics. There is no disputing that the director has quite the eye.

Batman 3 Gets a Title: 'The Dark Knight Rises'

The title for the third installment of Director Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy has been uncovered by Los Anageles times writer Geoff Boucher (click here): The Dark Knight Rises. Pretty cool.  The story also confirms that the main villain will not be the Riddler. That leaves only about a million other possibilities considering Batman's legendary rogue's gallery. Moviehole recently reported that Nolan has been meeting with possible leading ladies for an unknown role, resulting in speculation that Catwoman might make an appearance in the 2012 outing.

Stay tuned for more developments Bat-fans!

'Superior' #1 Sells Out, Leinil Yu's Cover for 2nd Printing Variant

The name Millar may one day become synonymous with “2nd Printing.”  Issue #1 of Mark Millar and Leinil Yu’s Superior has gone back to the presses after the first issue has sold out.  Check out this exquisite variant cover by Yu, whose work on the first issue was nothing less than spectacular. The 2nd printing of Superior will be released on November 24th.  

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

'Icons: The DC Comics & Wildstorm Art of Jim Lee'

On November 2nd Icons: The DC Comics & Wildstorm Art of Jim Lee sails into bookstores in plenty of time for you-know-what-smas. This big ‘ol book of Lee creations features the legendary artists work at DC and Wildstorm (the company he helped found in the ‘90s).

The 296-page book promises to feature Lee’s work on a host of DC heroes—he’s drawn a ton of them since he first came to DC in 2003 to work on the mega-successful Batman “Hush” storyline with Jeph Loeb. While his work has met with many delays, there is no disputing that Lee’s work is as dynamic as it’s ever been. Just look at the book’s cover (above).

Icons is expected to also feature many never before seen drawings by Lee and it looks like some concept work for various heroes (Green Lantern, left). I’d be interested in seeing some of the other Wonder Woman makeovers that remained on the drawing board.

Will Marvel be preparing a companion?

Click here for an in-depth interview with Lee from Publisher's Weekly.

My 100th Blog Post

'Nuff said.

Malco and Reeser: The MVP's of 'No Ordinary Family'

I’m still hanging in there with No Ordinary Family, and so is ABC. They announced that the show, which still remains in an unfortunate time slot against Glee, has been reviewed for entire season of 22 episodes. That is quite a vote of confidence for this freshman series that hasn’t generated the greatest deal of buzz.

No Ordinary Family has surpassed my expectations—but I remain a tad concerned that the series can run into a repetitive glut. That remains to be seen though. It’s good to see that the show hasn’t gone the route of supervillain-of-the-week.

I think the most unexpected pleasure of the show has been its two MVP’s: Romany Malco and Autumn Reeser.

Malco (The 40 Year Old Virgin) plays Jim Powell’s best friend and confidant George St. Cloud. Malco knows how to play over the top without becoming totally obnoxious. His strength is also the subtlety of his facial expressions; they express everything the viewer needs to understand about his character.

In “No Ordinary Ring” Powell daughter Daphne is frustrated that she is without a sounding board of her own. Jim brings George home for Daphne to do some gut spilling. George tells her to spill away, but his expression conveys anything but comfort as he thinks “Anything but that puberty stuff. Just pass right over that please.”

In the same scene Reeser, who plays Stephanie Powell lab assistant Katie, looks equally uncomfortable as she wonders if the Powell’s will be serving dinner. Reeser has the complex task of playing a ditz with brains and her scenes are consistently memorable. In tonight’s episode (“No Ordinary Quake”) she goes from competently explaining how she’s breaking into an encrypted file to spastically sharing her knowledge of super hero conventions.

Malco and Reeser are keeping No Ordinary Family from being anything but ordinary.

Cornell Gets a Little Action on 'Batman and Robin'

I’ve loved Paul Cornell on Action Comics, I liked (not loved) his first issue of Knight and Squire, so I am pretty excited to see what he can do with a brief stint on Batman and Robin. Due to scheduling conflicts as a result of a hectic Brightest Day schedule, Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason’s run on the book has been pushed back to issue #20.

Cornell will pen issues #17 through #19 as current Batman and Robin helmer moves from this book to Batman: Incorporated. Cornell said the following on his blog:

“…I'm regarding it as a major gig, and giving it my all, with my attempt at a new Batman villain.” He went on to write, “I'm particularly pleased that the artist on the arc will be Scott McDaniel, whose work I enjoyed on Green Arrow and lately on Detective Comics. From what I've seen so far, he's knocked it out of the park again, adding some vicious details to what's already a dark and mad story.”

If Cornell has proven anything with his Lex Luthor storyline on Action Comics, it’s that he knows how to write villains. By the way, Lex and Joker go toe-to-toe in January’s Action #897.

Image Reprints 'The Walking Dead' Weekly in January 2011

Image is gearing up with a new jumping on point for rabid fans of the new AMC series The Walking Dead, the only-days-away television adaptation of the long-running Robert Kirkman book.

Beginning in January 2011, Image begins reprinting the original series on a weekly basis starting with issue #1. The plan is to continue this schedule for the whole of the year, with a cover price of $2.99. While they've made no promises, I'll wager the book consistenly ships on time.

For readers familiar with the series, but who prefer to read it in trade (like myself), the hardcover Walking Dead Omnibus, Volume 3 is set to hit bookshelves on January 5th 2011. This edition collects issues #49 through #72 and is a whopping 560 pages of drama, self reflection, and flesh eating zombie fun. The cover price is $100 for the third Omnibus—so don’t go spending all those Amazon holiday gift cards on December 26th!

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Devil's Food Made Them Do It: DC and Marvel's Hostess Ads

Last week Marvel announced that they would be releasing Tron: Legacy inspired variant covers of ten popular comic books. Captain America, Wolverine, and The Amazing Spider-Man were among the titles that received the Tron-ified cover treatments. Is this selling out?  Disney owns Marvel now and there are some who believe the Mouse House has crossed the line. Is this an act that is less about corporate synergy and more about whoring out some beloved characters?

There's a much worse example of comic book companies selling out.

Think back to the 70's when DC and Marvel would regularly allow Hostess to take their top-tier characters to shill baked goods using horrendous single page adventures revolving around criminals who fancy Hostess Fruit Pies, Cupcakes, and Twinkies.

Batman, Hulk, Captain America, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Superman, and Wonder Woman were seen regularly in the pages of our favorite books thwarting lame villains hell bent on stealing a truck (or handful) of various Hostess desserts.

"Sorry Commisioner Gordon," Batman might have said, "I know the Joker is terrorizing Gotham, but if we don't bring down a made-up villain you'll never hear of again, he may succeed in his plot to steal worthless Hostess desserts that have an obscene amount of calories and questionable nutritional value."

Take a look at these dark pages in comic history and breathe a sigh of relief that our comic book reading is not interrupted by "Wonder Woman and the Maltese Cupcake" or "Aquaman in 'Twinkies and Kelp'".

Who's Gonna Keep Things Cool Next Summer? The Frost Giants of 'Thor'

Marvelous News discovered an eBay auction for a batch of not-yet-released Thor action figures from next year's summer release.  The lot includes Thor, Loki, Odin, and a Frost Giant (above). It definitely looks as though the Thor movie is going to embrace it magical roots.  We learned of the inclusion of the Destroyer (below) at the San Diego Comic-Con this summer. Now we have our first peek (in toy form at least) at the Frost Giants who are sure to cause some trouble for the God of Thunder.  I recall Tom Hiddleston (Loki in the film) promising some Frost Giants during an interview with MTV while at the Comic-Con; this is just the confirmation I was waiting for.

Words Cannot Describe... 'Zombie Jesus.'

Not since Snakes on a Plane has a title so plainly promised exactly what to expect.  Zombie Jesus is a new web-comic written and drawn by Rob Liefeld, the man who brought us Cable, X-Force, and Youngblood.  Because I cannot find the words to describe this oddity, here is the official press release:



MATTHEW 27:51-52 “The earth shook, the rocks broke and tombs opened and many men and women who had died came back to life again. They left the cemetery and went into the city and appeared to many people there.”


Following the crucifixion of Christ, supernatural warfare tore apart the Roman Provinces. Zombie Hordes attacked Jerusalem in search of the corpse of Christ. The Disciples were under siege as the Undead tore apart the countryside and an unlikely hero, LAZARUS THE IMMORTAL emerged to combat the Legion of Dead!

Written and Illustrated by legendary creator Rob Liefeld, ZOMBIE JESUS! reveals the secret history of the supernatural war that ignites the scriptures following Christ death. ” Where The Passion of The Christ ends, our story begins!” states Liefeld ” ZOMBIE JESUS involves all the key players that moved behind the scenes following the crucifixion. The Disciples, Pontias Pilate, Judas Iscariot, Joseph of Arimathia all play key roles as the Undead attack. Most importantly, Lazarus, the man Christ returned from the Dead, arrives to fulfill his destiny. Lazarus was delivered from death for a purpose and ZOMBIE JESUS connects all the mystery surrounding the days following the death of Christ. It’s 300 meets Dawn of the Dead with a ticking clock reminiscent of 24.

Press Release ends here.

Is it supposed to be funny?  I'm not religious and therefore I'm not offended by the material, but there was nothing interesting in these first few panels of Zombie Jesus.  It didn't deliver on the over-the-topness that the title demands.  Seriously, Zombie Jesus is a name that would be hard to live up to and this first chapter does not bring the goods.

Click here to read for yourself.

Wednesday's Previews, 10/27/10 Releases

Action Comics #894
Written by Paul Cornell; Co-feature written by Nick Spencer; Art by Pete Woods Co-feature art by RB Silva and Denis Frietas ; Cover by David Finch and Batt.

Guest-starring Death from Sandman! Yes, you read that right! Death! From Sandman! In Action Comics! Lex Luthor finds himself literally at Death's door, which leads to a fascinating look not only into the mind of one of the all-time greatest villains, but also at what Death means in the DC Universe…

And in the Jimmy Olsen co-feature, an alien race has chosen Metropolis to be the host of their millennial celebration! And who better to show them around town than James Bartholomew Olsen? But when the alien princess gets wasted and her brother starts picking bar fights, it's up to Jimmy to get things under control before all of Metropolis is destroyed!

Superman: Earth One
Written by J. Michael Straczynski; Art by Shane Davis and Sandra Hope; Cover by Shane Davis.

Forget everything you know about The Man of Steel and brace yourself for a staggering new take on the world's most popular Super Hero.

Best-selling, Hugo Award-winning writer J. Michael Straczynski (Brave and the Bold, Thor, Babylon 5) and red-hot rising star artist Shane Davis (Green Lantern, Superman/Batman) team up for this exciting launch of the Earth One graphic novel series. Set in an all-new continuity re-imagining DC's top heroes, Earth One is a new wave of original, stand-alone graphic novels produced by the top writers and artists in the industry. The groundbreaking new line rockets into effect right here with the Super Hero who started it all – Superman!

What would happen if the origin of The Man of Tomorrow were introduced today for the very first time? Return to Smallville and experience the journey of Earth's favorite adopted son as he grows from boy to Superman like you've never seen before!

Teen Titans #88
Great jumping on point!
Written by J.T. Krul; Art and cover by Nicola Scott and Doug Hazlewood; 1:10 Variant cover by Adam Hughes.

It's here! A new day dawns for the Teen Titans, brought to you by the dynamic duo of J.T. Krul (Green Arrow, Blackest Night: Titans) and Nicola Scott (Wonder Woman, Secret Six)! Packed with action, steeped in emotion and featuring your favorite heroes, Teen Titans is ready to explode off the racks!

Starting right here, the team finds itself pushed in new directions and brought to new heights while also rediscovering its roots. With the rise of a mysterious new threat called the Feral Boys, Superboy, Wonder Girl, Kid Flash, Raven, Beast Boy and the newly returned Ravager will have the chance to rebuild their camaraderie in the face of all that might endanger it. But if they discover the truth behind the Feral Boys, will they be able to stand together to face it? Find out here as the new era of the Teen Titans begins in this perfect jumping-on-point issue!

Captain America #611
Great jumping on point!
Written by Ed Brubaker; Art by Filipe Daniel Moreno de Andrade and Daniel Acuna; Cover by Marko Djurdjevic.

"The Trial of Captain America" begins here! Nothing will ever be the same again, and this time we mean it. Award-winning writer Ed Brubaker and acclaimed artist Butch Guice continue to take Captain America to new heights!

Fantastic Four #584
Written by Jonathan Hickman; Art by Stephen H. Epting; Cover by Alan Davis.

It's the return of Galactus, a trip to Nu-World, the Old Kings of Atlantis and Namor, the all-new Yancy Street Gang, and the day the Thing becomes human again. Join Jonathan Hickman and superstar artist Steve Epting in "Three, Part 2: 'Congratulations, Mr. Grimm...You're Human Again.'''

Incognito: Bad Influences #1
Written by Ed Brubaker; Art and cover by Sean Philips.

Last year’s breakout hit finally returns! By the award-winning team of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. One of the biggest Hollywood options of the year, nominated for three Eisner Awards, Incognito is finally back for more! It’s apocalyptic pulp noir at its finest! It’s been over a year since Zack Overkill came out of Witness Protection to build a new life. But working for the government isn’t that different from being controlled by them, and his new secret identity is becoming more trouble than it’s worth! So what will Zack do when tasked with a mission that sends him on a hunt into darkest corners of the super-criminal underworld where he was raised? Also returning with Incognito are the exclusive Pulp magazine essays by Jess Nevins, Professor of pulp history, only available in the single issues of Incognito.

Wednesday's Second Chances
If you missed them the first (or second) time around, the third printing of Skull Kickers #1 (below), the second printing Fantastic Four #583, and the second printing of Artifacts #2 will be released this week.