Thursday, September 30, 2010

Crate Digging: A Piece of Strange

by CunninLynguists

Whenever a conversation turns to discussing someone's "top ten" albums, or which cds you would take with you to a desert island, this album is on my list.

It was with this disc that I first became familiar with the CunninLynguists (a rather unfortunately-named rap group from the south).  Their earlier releases were a little more jokey and frat-party ready, but this album was a sea change for the group.

This is a very mature, thoughtful example of hip-hop at its best.  It is almost a concept album, with a string of connected tracks that tell the story of a father with a mixed-race daughter.  This cycle, which features Immortal Technique and Tonedeff is brilliant, as it progresses into all instrumental tracks that show producer Kno's versatility.

The rest of the album is just as wonderful.  The disk starts rather conventionally, but Kno's more soulful production helps push rappers Deacon the Villain and Natty to challenge themselves.  The last three tracks of the album are very beautiful.

The other thing I wanted to mention that I'd never noticed until tonight is that the cover artwork is done by Becky Cloonan.  It doesn't really look like her usual style, but I think that's incredibly cool.  I love it when some of my disparate interests line up.

The Warm Fuzzies

by Chris Adrian

The last of the New Yorker's "20 Under 40" summer fiction series is one of the best stories of the last little while.

Adrian's story is all about Molly, one member of the Carter Family Band and, by definition, the Carter family, a large tribe of home-schooled Partridge Family wannabes, who sing and talk about Jesus on small tours of mega-churches.

Molly's parents almost always add one foster child, him or herself always black, to the mix.  Most of these foster children do not last long; the rest of the Carters are rarely able to remember them or note their passage.

When the story begins, Molly finds herself going through a number of changes.  She's developed a hard, cynical, and mean voice in her head which is able to see her father's sad and tyrannical idealism for what it is, just as she can see through the bitchy machinations of her older sister.  When Peabo, the latest foster arrival, comes on the scene, Molly finds him fascinating.  She begins to hold strange conversations with him through their tambourines (their instruments in the family's songs), and their relationship starts to become a little more than that of foster child and sister.

The story is quite amusing as it gives us a glimpse into the Carter family, with their visits to a church where every member of the family ends up speaking in tongues, to their elaborate family prayer rituals.  Adrian is non-judgmental in his writing, which makes his send-up of the family all the funnier.  Highly recommended.

Lloyd Miller /The Heliocentrics (OST)

by Lloyd Miller and the Heliocentrics

I picked this up a while ago, and have spent a lot of time with it, just taking it in.  The Heliocentrics, with their last album, introduced me to Mulatu Astatke, and for that I am eternally grateful to them.

With this new project, the group has paired up with Lloyd Miller, another artist I was completely unfamiliar with before listening to the album.  The Stones Throw website refers to Mr. Miller as a "ethnomusicologist, jazz maestro and multi-instrumentalist", and I suppose that's a valid description.

I notice, when listening to this, a number of Eastern influences in the music, which is absolutely lovely.  This is a pretty quiet album, which floats its way around the room.  I find that I zone out a lot while listening to this, although the track "Lloyd's Diatribe" always brings me back, as Miller rants a little about things that he doesn't like about the modern world.

I highly recommend this album if you like ethno-jazz.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Human Target #14 - 21

Written by Peter Milligan
Art by Cliff Chiang, Cameron Stewart, and Javier Pulido

It's taken me a while to track down the last few issues of this series, but I finally got it taken care of recently, and I've enjoyed these comics quite a bit.

Unlike the rather unspectacular TV series that shared a name with this book, the Human Target is a psychological thriller that actually tries to delve into the psyche of its main character,Christopher Chance, a man who takes on the appearance and traits of others in order to protect them from danger.

This run includes a terrific story involving a small cult that is centred around a young faith healer who is basically a fraud.  I believe this is the strongest story in the run, save perhaps the last one.  Next there are a couple of one-off stories featuring some fantastic guest artistry (Cameron Stewart and Javier Pulido).

The series ended (before its time I might add) with The Stealer, a three-part tale that has Chance's former assistant, Tom McFadden return on the scene, and eventually try to steal Chance's life and girl.  This story is, in places, wonderfully ambiguous, as the reader starts to wonder who the real Chance is.

Cliff Chiang provides the artwork for most of this run, and he is, as usual, stellar in his work.  Human Target was a very intelligent thriller series, and it's a mystery to me why Milligan's Vertigo run was not collected past the first two trades.  I'm sure there is a market for these comics these days.

The Umbrella Academy Vol. 1: Apocalypse Suite

Written by Gerard Way
Art by Gabriel Bá

When this series first started, I was interested because of the involvement of Gabriel Bá, as it started just after his stint on Casanova ended.  I read the Free Comic Book Day story though, and immediately lost all interest in the title.  It was not that good a story.  Then, when the mini-series started, it received nothing but accolades in the comics press, and I figured it would be worth checking out some day.

This is a really good book.  Way has written this as a mash up of Morrison's Doom Patrol, and JMS's Rising Stars.  Seven children were born at the same time to women who weren't previously pregnant, and they were raised by a cold-hearted ideologue, who molded them into a family of disfunctional superheroes.

The team is reunited after years of separation in the event of their "father's" death, and their being together causes an old threat to resurface.  This leads to some more sibling rivalry, and the team's betrayal by their "normal" sibling, who has been previously without powers.

The characters, like Spaceboy, whose head is attached to the body of a giant gorilla, are quite original, but the plot is not.  Way's writing is smart, but his plotting is more than a little conventional.  Bá's art is incredible though, and the book has a nice flow to it.  I look forward to reading the second trade.

Monday, September 27, 2010

McSweeney's 34

There's nothing better than a good collection of short stories, and the 34th issue of McSweeney's definitely delivers.  This 224-page book makes up half of this edition; the other half is a long journalistic piece that I'm going to read next.  In this book there are a number of different pieces of short fiction, one example of oral history, and a collection of self-portrait sketches.

My favourite piece in this book is a story called "Twenty Questions" by a first-time author named Bridget Clerkin.  It's a delightfully twisted little tale that seems, on the surface, to be about a woman remembering how difficult her mother was during her childhood, while her and her boyfriend play 20 Questions with a child.  The flashback scenes contain the random strangeness of the best of David Sedaris's work, and the end of the story, with its revelation about the game that gives it its title, is unexpected and chilling.  This is one of the best short stories I've read in ages.

I also quite enjoyed "The Wreck of the Beverley B.", an excerpt from T. Coraghessan Boyle's new novel.  This story, which has a pretty self-explanatory title, reminded me of how much I enjoy Boyle's work.  It's been years since I read one of his novels, and I should make a point of doing that soon.

Among the other stories I found memorable were Lawrence-Minh Bùi Davis's "Like the Locked Antlers", a story about the Vietnamese-American press and their coverage of Hurricane Katrina; Anthony Doerr's "Afterworld", an interesting tale about memory and the Jewish experience in the Second World War; and Mona Awad's "Your Biggest Fan", about a wannabe rock star and the girl he could always count on for a good evening.

I also enjoyed "Letters From the Academy" by Tom Barbash, an epistolary tale concerning an obsessive tennis coach and his young charge; and Sean Casey's "Conversations With Girls", which is a very bizarre, likely allegorical story, although I'm sure I missed the point, lost as I was among the nine to fifteen feet tall girls with strange limbs and appendages.

The self-portraits did little for me, but the inclusion of Tafi's account of incarceration and torture at the hands of Robert Mugabe's police in Zimbabwe was haunting.

Strangely, I think my favourite part of this book is the letters at the beginning from a variety of authors or 'friends of McSweeney's'.  These letters are frequently funny, such as the one that intends to explain red wine to an ignorant audience ("Some famous people who famously drank red wine include Val Kilmer"), or another that recounts the story of a young man discovering his strange uncle in a compromising position with the family's Thanksgiving turkey late one night.

This is a great, eclectic collection of contemporary writing, and I think I'm going to have to become a regular reader.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Fables #98

Written by Bill Willingham
Art by Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, and Dan Green

Now that Rose Red is back on the job, it feels like the good old days in Fables, as she exerts her authority over the Farm by threatening Geppetto's bodyguards, joining Stinky's cult of personality, and effectively side-lining the traditional Fabletown leadership.

A good portion of this comic is taken up with a variety of one-on-one interview Rose has with the different citizens of the Farm, as they bitch, moan, complain, and occasionally come up with a good idea or two.  These scenes are very well-written, and at times quite funny.

I am enjoying this build-up to the coming conflict with the Dark Man, and especially like that Willingham is leaving us out in the rain with Old King Cole and the Beast, instead of making us privy to these plans.  I imagine this book is going to be pretty good through issue one hundred, although I do question how much life it has left in it past that.

Skullkickers #1

Written by Jim Zubkavich
Art by Chris Stevens and Edwin Huang

As I'm sure you're aware, this title has received a ton of positive press in the last two weeks, and has had Bleeding Cool reporting that copies were selling for five times cover price on Ebay the day before the book even hit the stands.  There seems to be a huge speculative interest in new creator-owned Image books of late (Chew being the gold standard, but books like Morning Glories are good examples).  I don't understand this type of thinking, but I like that it is helping 'the little guys' get some readers.

I'd already decided to buy this comic before all the media storm started, because the manager at my comic store is friends with Zubkavich, and the store was doing a lot to promote the book.  I missed the launch party, but when I picked up my books this week, Zubkavich was standing their signing them.  I'm always willing to pick up a new comic if it supports local creators, and I've learned to trust the Beguiling's staff and their recommendations.

It's not the type of comic I would have picked up otherwise.  It has a little too much of a 'classic Image' look for me, and the first couple of pages did nothing for me.  But then, I slowly found myself being drawn more and more into the story, and by the time I finished reading it, I was pretty sure I'd pick up issue 2.

Skull Kickers is about a pair of mercenaries.  One is a large bald human, who seems very strong and packs a chunky pistol.  The other is a red-bearded dwarf, who seems a little touchy.  Together, they've been killing werewolves in some medieval-looking town, and the local lieutenant refuses to pay them.  Their negotiations become interrupted when a young chancellor arrives in town, only to be promptly assassinated.  Our as-yet nameless heroes go after the killer, but fail.  Later, they are hired to steal his body.

The art is split between Stevens and Huang, and I found that I liked Huang's pages better.  The style reminds me of Udon Studios's work, which make sense as Zubkavich has done work for them.  This is a fun comic, and is worth a look.

DC: The New Frontier

by Darwyn Cooke

I was surprised it's taken me this long to get around to reading this comic, and have found it to be a real treat.  Basically, Cooke writes an almost total reboot of the DC Universe, set between the end of the Second World War and the early 60s.  It's the time when the new heroes of the Silver Age begin to emerge, and it respects and honors as canon the work of the Golden Age.

The story begins with the last mission of The Losers (the Kirby version, not the Vertigo crew), as they end up on the Island That Time Forgot, searching for Rick Flagg.  From there, the story mostly follows Hal Jordan as he flies missions in Korea, and later becomes a test pilot for Ferris Airlines.  We also follow J'onn J'onnz as he becomes a Gotham police detective and sometimes partner to Slam Bradley.  As the books progress, we check in with a number of different heroes, although little is seen of the Golden Age crowd, with the exceptions of Superman (who is working for the government), Wonder Woman (who is fired by the government after expressing her opinions), and Batman (who is operating in Gotham against federal law).

The storyline seems very scattershot and random for the first of the two volumes, but in the second book, it begins to pull itself together as we learn of the type of threat that the Island that Time Forgot (now called the Centre) poses to life.  The various heroes, government agencies, and science-based militias (Challengers of the Unknown, Sea Devils, etc.) have to work together to defeat it, and perhaps usher in a new age of heroism.

I like the consistent approach Cooke takes to these characters.  He works hard to have them, and the people around them, react believably to the fantastic things they are or are seeing.  I also like that he integrates so many corners of the DCU in a way that could never have happened when they were first being published.

The art in this book is, of course, amazing.  What I like most about Cooke's work is the way he pays so much attention to architectural detail.  While I'm sure many are attracted to his shiny rockets and experimental jet planes, what I love the most is the air traffic control tower at Ferris.  It's the way he draws people's offices and high-tech bases that make this such a wonderful comic to me.  He employs the same aesthetic sense he used in his Parker comic, and it makes the book very satisfying. 

What really makes this project work is the way he taps into the reader's nostalgia and love for a certain era of comics history, but also manages to tell a contemporary and compelling tale.  This is some great stuff.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Walking Dead #77

Written by Robert Kirkman
Art by Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn

It's predictable to say this, but this is another amazing issue of The Walking Dead.  There are some really amazing scenes in this issue:
- Carl finds Rick talking on his Lori telephone, and their relationship splinters a little bit more.
- Glen and Maggie have a heart-to-heart.
- Andrea goes on a date (sort of).
- Pete (the guy that Rick beat up recently) decides to kill him, and interrupts a discussion about a funeral, which leads to a few more funerals being necessary in a scene that is going to lead to a lot of different problems for the community in the issues ahead.

The last couple of pages are chilling, as Adlard finally gets to draw some zombies again.  I especially like the change that comes over Douglas after events in this issue.  Kirkman seems determined to test his character's morals, now that the lower levels of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs have been met by moving into the community.

Elephantmen #27

Written by Richard Starkings
Art by Axel Medellin

It's been a couple of months since we last saw Elephantmen, and I found I wasn't terribly interested in reading this comic.  I started it twice before I finally read it through, which is not something that happens to me often.  I'm surprised by this reaction too, as I like this comic.

I think the problem is that this current arc, "Questionable Things" is very plot-driven, and Starkings has come at the story from a strange angle (which he does a lot, but that's usually what I like about the book).  There's a Mappo sleeper cell planning on doing some Elephantmen-based terrorism, but I'm not sure that their motives or methods are all that clear.

Hip, Ebony, and that strange Blackthorne chick are going after the Mappo base, so they release a bunch of reactivated crocodile Elephantmen into a cattle factory.  Maybe it's a strategically important cattle factory, I'm not sure.

Meanwhile, Sahara continues her walkabout and hangs out with the giraffe tailor guy.  Not much more happens.

I like Axel Medellin's art on this book.  It would seem he's going to be the regular artist for the next little while, so it's good that I do enjoy his work.  I hope he can help put the book back on schedule.  Also, the new "Charley Loves Robots" back-up starts here, by Szymanowicz, Roshell, and Bautista, and it's pretty cute.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Crogan's Vengeance

by Chris Schweizer

Despite having read a number of positive reviews for this book (and the subsequent entry in the series), I resisted reading this for a while because at first glance, Schweizer is the type of cartoonist whose art I don't usually find myself attracted to.

Having read this now, I can safely say this has become yet another example of how I don't always have very good instincts when it comes to picking my comics, because this book is very cool.  The story is all about 'Catfoot' Crogan, a sailor who becomes a pirate when the vessel he's sailing on, under the command of an unfair and cruel captain, is taken over by pirates. 

Catfoot has three talents.  He's fleet-footed, strategically gifted, and morally correct.  Some of these talents land him in hot water with his fellow pirates, such as Mr. D'Or, a massive and cruel man with great ambition.

This story is a lot of fun to read, as Schweizer keeps the pace moving quickly, and his art, which seems overly thick and crowded by his gigantic letters, grew on me.  This is the first in a series which is going to check in with Catfoot's various descendants, who, according to the family tree included in this book, have had a variety of interesting professions, almost all of which have involved weaponry.  Recommended.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Madlib Medicine Show No. 7 - High Jazz

by Madlib

With this entry in the on-going Madlib Medicine Show, the Loop Digga gives us fifteen tracks of high-minded and beautiful jazz.  As with most of his jazz projects, the work here is attributed to no less than eleven different bands or groups of artists, although I'm quite certain that most of these people are fictional, and that Madlib has done the whole thing himself.

It does become easy to question that assumption though, as the liner notes are full of pictures of the different records that these tracks were taken off of, and there is much to suggest that all these people exist.

Not that it matters though, because we're here for the music.  This cd is full of lovely, effervescent jazz.  It's easily my favourite of Madlib's jazz albums (competing with Sujinho, the Jackson Conti collabo), as it doesn't have much that is 'challenging' or hard to listen to.  That is not to say that it's an "easy-listening" jazz album, it just doesn't ever hurt.

Of note on here is 'Funky Butt, Part 1', which is a collaboration with James Poyser and Karriem Riggins, two artists who are always working the underside of hip-hop, and never receive much recognition.  This is probably the most consistent of the Medicine Show projects released so far.


by The Budos Band

As I find myself listening to more and more funk bands, there is one thing that becomes abundantly clear:  they kind of all sound the same.

I'm sure that such a statement would send the hardcore fans into a tizzy, but to my unschooled and mostly ignorant ear, it's a very true statement.  This stuff all sounds the same to me, but I like it anyway. 

The Budos Band are made up of some twelve musicians, and with this, their third album, they demonstrate skill, swing, and funk.  This album has eleven tracks, but is just under thirty-nine minutes long.  With each track, the listener dives in quickly, and is swept up for a short while in their groove.  The album is solely instrumental, so there is not much to write about, other than to say this is a fun, cool piece of work.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Unwritten #17

Written by Mike Carey
Art by Peter Gross and Ryan Kelly

I'm sure that a lot is going to get written about this issue of The Unwritten, as Carey has borrowed a page from the old 'Choose Your Own Adventure' comics, and presented 'The Many Lives of Lizzie Hexam' as a labyrinthine example of that much-maligned and often horrible genre of children's book.

Lizzie Hexam is a supporting member of the Unwritten cast, and she is either a living character from a Dickens novel, or is a real person who believes that's who she is.  This comic clears up the mystery, but it depends entirely on which storyline you choose to follow, as Carey presents both as viable options, and links them together so that the main plot elements of this comic - Tom and Savoy bringing her out of her coma and escaping the hospital with her - take place no matter which path you choose.

And in that way, the illusion of choice in the story is really just a gimmick, but an interesting one nonetheless.  To tell this story, Carey increased the page count and had the book drawn in a landscape orientation, effectively splitting each sideways page into two, so that there can be more options and paths to follow.  However, most of the story progresses linearly, with the only option presented to the reader to be to 'Turn to Page X'.

Regardless, this is an interesting issue of The Unwritten, although I don't think it will do too much to retain any new readers that the format attracts.  The story is just too confusing at this point to draw anyone new in.  Also, I don't think this will look too good once it's collected in trade - the sideways orientation never works.

THB: Comics From Mars #2

by Paul Pope

I've never read any of Pope's THB comics, mostly because I was sleeping on him when he started the series (I'm sorry to say it), and because they've never been collected.

When my comic store secured a stack of these, which were released with little fanfare at the Baltimore comic convention the other week, I figured it was time to dive in to this series.

Of course, so far as I can tell, this comic, which contains seven short stories, has nothing to do with the main THB series, or if it does, it doesn't matter.

This is a very cool collection of comics, although many of the stories are very ephemeral. In some cases, like the 'tone poem' that makes up the fourth entry in the book, that somehow ties in to the work he has done for DKNY.  It's very pretty, but I'm not sure I get it.

Other stories are more straight forward.  There's a funny tale of a cartoon mouse and cat, and the film director who is frustrated that their careers have moved them beyond the ability to make good mouse and cat movies.  There's a story about a young boy who's interested in David Bowie, and a superhero-like story about El Pollo Diablo the Chicken Devil.

It's nice to see some new work from Pope, and I hope to see more soon.  It's probably going to be hard to find this comic, but it can be ordered from the Adhouse website.  It's worth it.  (While you're there, get a copy of Johnny Hiro - the best comic they've ever published).

Northlanders #32

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Riccardo Burchielli

Metal, the latest arc in Northlanders, starts to really get moving with this issue.  Erik, our dumb brute of a hero, continues his vendetta against the Christians that have invaded his world, in the most brutal ways possible.  The Christians have brought in a man to hunt him down.  This character is basically the same person that we saw in the Ryan Kelly-drawn The Cross + The Hammer arc a while ago, which I continue to see as a companion piece to this story, albeit from an opposite perspective.

The two men have a confrontation, but before that we learn a lot more about Ingrid/Agnes, the girl who caused Erik's rampage to begin in the first place.  It turns out that she really is an albino, which was somewhat unclear before, and may be as tapped into the spiritual nature of the old ways as Erik seems to be.  We also get a lengthy treatise on the proper way to make charcoal, which is the type of thing I love this comic for.

Burchielli is doing some cool work in this comic.  He has a couple pages to show Erik at his Christian-slaughtering work, and the style he uses is visceral and unsettling.  There is an undercurrent of hallucination throughout this arc, and it's been very cool to see.

Star Wars Legacy Vol. 8: Tatooine

Written by John Ostrander and Jan Duursema
Art by Jan Duursema, Kajo Baldisimo, and Dan Parsons

As much as I usually praise this series, this particular volume is perhaps the weakest in the run so far.  It feels, in many ways, like it is an interlude volume, giving Cade Skywalker and friends something to do while Ostrander works to set things up for the next big storyline.

For the majority of the book, Cade and his crew are running scams on Tatooine (always Tatooine, the most pivotal backwater in the galaxy) and attacking Black Sun pirates who attack Imperial weapons shipments.  The Empire sends a fighter pilot we've seen before to arrest Cade, and pairs her with Morrigan Corde, a special operative and Cade's mother.  There are also some vampires pursuing Cade, and this is where things all start to feel a little forced.

First, two of the bounty hunters are of a vampiric race that like to refer to the emotions and/or luck they drain from their victims as soup.  It's hard to deliver threatening dialogue that way.  I don't know if these are Ostrander's creations, or if they are from some other aspect of the Star Wars universe, but they're silly.  Also stretching credibility is the revelation about Corde that kind of slips out but isn't used much.  What I love most about this series is the way that Ostrander has been playing with George Lucas's creations, but ignoring much of the overly melodramatic or cloyingly cute crap that chokes the films.  Now, learning what we do about Corde, we're back into the overly complicated family ties that irritated me so much when I was a kid.  Not everyone in the comic has to be related.

Finally, there is a one-off story featuring the Rogue Squadron of the Rebel Alliance.  This is what I usually like most about this comic, but this time around, I got a little lost.  One of the characters is revealed to be Mandalorian, which seems to me to mean being part of a samurai-like warrior tribe that wears Bobba Fett's armor.  Perhaps these guys have been around before (a quick Wikipedia search reveals that these guys have had a long history - who knew?), but nothing is done to introduce them to a new reader.  It's all good, but it threw me a little and made me wonder if I'd just forgotten something important.

In all, I'm still very impressed with this title, but I hope the remaining two trades in the run are better than this one.

Friday, September 17, 2010


Written by Kim Krizan, Robert Steven Williams and Louise Staley
Art by Toby Cypress and Giorgio Pontrelli

This issue is a disappointment compared to the first three stories across the two earlier issues of the comic.

The first story, written by Krizan (who is a screenwriter) is an odd tale about the origins of rock and roll (I guess), which can be interpreted as culturally insensitive or misinformed, and it has to do with three youth who leave their "tribes" and end up forming a band.  "Boy, do you like Big Noise?" is a good sample of the dialogue.  I was waiting for a character to say something like "Me make-um heap big music."  The art, by Cypruess, is as strange as his art usually is (and I mean that in a good way), especially with wide vertical bands altering the tone of many panels.  The art should be enough to redeem this story for me, but somehow it doesn't.

The second story, written by Williams and Staley (Williams edits the CBGB website) is a music and weed-fueled time travel story that is cute, but came across as flawed.  A professor of music (we assume) goes back in time to the night he broke up with his girlfriend and decides to stay for a concert instead, which somehow alters the timeline, although I don't understand how.

I like this series (more in theory than in practice this month), and hope that the last issue is going to be impressive.  This type of project is crying out for a Vasilis Lolos story, although I think I'm going to be disappointed there...

DMZ #57

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Cliff Chiang

Since the series began, I've liked the one-off issues featuring various supporting characters better than the main storyline, and this issue is the perfect example of why.

As with the other issues of 'Collective Punishment', Wood uses this comic to give us a wide view of life in New York under a bombing campaign by American forces ("The Liberation of Manhattan" their propaganda calls it) by examining what happens during it to one particular person.

The star of the book this month is Amina, the former terrorist who Matty rescued (and also manipulated).  She's living in an apartment that was given to her by the Delgado Nation, and is just enjoying being on her own.  On the eve of the bombings, she sees a young baby that has been abandoned on the street.  She takes her in, and finds herself opening up to people again.  Aside from the bombing, this is a quiet, introspective issue, and is the type that Wood does best.  Amina's only companion before this has been the mysterious pirate radio broadcaster we keep hearing from, who helps to provide exposition and continuity in the comic.  I would really like to know more about her one day.

The art on this issue is by Cliff Chiang, who I think has never worked on this title before.  As always, his work is incredible, although it doesn't seem instantly recognizable as his.  It seems he's channeling the aesthetic that regular artist Riccardo Burchielli has established for the title, and yet is still making it his own.  Great issue.

Morning Glories #2

Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Joe Eisma

While this issue didn't have the intrigue of the first, it's still a very good comic.  Spencer has set up a very strange place in the Morning Glorie Academy, where it seems that the people in charge find ways to torture and test teenagers who all share the same birthday.  This issue opens with Casey, reeling from the discovery she made on the last page of the first issue, as Miss Daramont, her teacher, quizzes her on advanced theoretical physics.

From there, she is sent to detention, alongside her peers, who then explain what they did that got them into trouble (explanations involve crashing a Satanic ritual in the basement and stopping a roommate from killing them).  The testing continues, as the room starts filling with water.

I'm not sure where this is going.  Casey has been established as a genius, and one of the other kids is clearly a sociopath, but the rest seem more or less normal.  This is not some weird take on Professor Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters, and I'm not sure what Daramont and her colleagues are up to, or what their intended end result is going to be.  Right now it just seems like torture for torture's sake, but I'm sure there is a plan.

Spencer's writing is keeping this interesting, as some of the characters are becoming easy to identify with, although a couple others (psycho boy and the spoiled girl) are very hard to like.  Eisma's art is decent, without being spectacular.  This book is pretty much unlike anything else on the stands, although I'm not sure if there's enough going on to keep me coming back over a long run.  At least, not yet...

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Time Bomb #2

Written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray
Art by Paul Gulacy

Time Bomb is a very cool comic.  It feels like Palmiotti and Gray are writing for an eventual screenplay with this, and I think the story would work as well for a movie as it does for the comics.

A group of operatives have been sent through a 'time bomb' to 1945 Berlin to put a stop to a Nazi doomsday device that has devastated their own time.  They have a limited amount of time to secure the device, or destroy it.  They did not expect to arrive at this particular time, thinking instead that they would simply have to convince subsequent German leaders from staying away from it, and now have to improvise.

Most of this issue (the comic is in that wonderful Radical double-sized format) deals with these four splitting up and finding different ways to achieve the same goal.  Their technological advantages give them an interesting edge over the Germans, and it's cool to see how the writers set the characters loose in this time period.

Gulacy's art is great.  I know he's a love him or hate him artist for a lot of people, but I really like his work, and feel that he's well suited for this type of comic.  This comic manages to take some pretty standard ideas - Nazis, time travel, Armageddon - and do something unique with it.

Lucifer Vol. 10: Morningstar

Written by Mike Carey
Art by Peter Gross, Ryan Kelly, Colleen Doran, and Michael Kaluta

I'd started to feel like this comic had played itself out a little over the last couple of volumes, and that feeling extended into the beginning of this penultimate book, but the latter half of the trade is amazing.

In this volume, Carey brings most of the plotlines that ran through the first sixty-odd issues of the comic to a head, as three armies (the Lilim, the Angels, and the combined forces of Hell and its damned) meet outside the gates of heaven while Lucifer fights the Fenris Wolf at the Primum Mobile, the throne of heaven.

The action and warfare is nowhere near as significant as some of the other things going on though, especially with Elaine Belloc and Lilith, who meet Jahweh and debate the future of all creation.

Wisely, Carey intersperses some of the more pivotal scenes with interludes, one of which involves a sorcerer who summons the most powerful demon in Hell to be his thrall, not realizing that Gaudium, the troublesome former cherub is the only creature currently in Hell.  That's a great issue, with art by the incomparable Michael Kaluta.  An earlier interlude returns to some of the earliest supporting characters of this series - the crippled Jayesh and his conflicted ex-skinhead boyfriend.  This story is drawn by Colleen Doran, an artist who we see way too little of these days.

This book goes a long way towards helping me understand why this series is spoken of with such respect, something I wasn't always getting earlier.  I look forward to finishing it all off with the next volume.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Joe the Barbarian #7

Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Sean Murphy

In the two and a half months since the last issue of this comic came out, I thought I'd lost interest.  I'd been enjoying Morrison's riff on the old CBC show The Odyssey (which might not be an inspiration, but the parallels are clear), but was starting to find it a little drawn out.  When I saw this issue finally showing up in my pull-file, I expected to be underwhelmed.

Instead, I quickly got back into Joe's story, as he and the various denizens of Playtown (more on whom momentarily) face off against King Death's forces, Joe reaches the Fountain of Life (ie. the soda in the fridge), and then has to make some hard choices about what he does with it.  The pacing of this issue is excellent, and I appreciate some of the more bizarre asides (like the blue crabs).  Now I'm eagerly looking forward to the last issue.

Murphy's art is as great as it's been throughout this series.  The big kick in this issue comes from seeing which DC, Star Trek, Transformers, and other characters get the Playtown treatment and show up in the comic, albeit slightly altered to avoid copyright issues.  There's a lot to look at with this comic, and it's worth reading through it slowly to absorb all the details.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Universal War One: Revelations #1-3

by Denis Bajram

It took me a while to track down all the issues of this French comic translated into English, but it was well worth the effort.  As much as I liked the first volume of this series, I enjoyed this one much more.

In the first series, the members of Purgatory Squadron, a group of misfits who were part of the United Earth Force (UEF) were sent to destroy a wormhole weapon (how Farscape!) operated by the Colonization Industrial Companies (CIC), an insurgent force fighting against the UEF.  The men and women of Purgatory emerged from the conflict three days into their past.

As this title opens, the Purgatory crew are rushing against the clock to destroy a wormhole station that is poised to destroy the Earth.  They are unsuccessful, Earth is destroyed, and they are again sent through time and space.  The story, as it plays out over three extra-sized issues, follows the ever-shrinking members of Purgatory as they try to stop the CIC for all time.

There is a lot of very hard science fiction in this title, involving time travel, wormholes, teleportation, and how foreknowledge can be used to influence societies.  Bajram uses some truly complex ideas, but integrates them into the story seamlessly, as the plot remains character driven.  The universe he portrays is very well-constructed and rich.  Each issue contains about as much content as a year's worth of a mainstream North American comic, and it is a treat to read a story so dense and yet so compelling.

Bajram's art is beautiful.  He does well with the human aspect of his story, but is also at his best when showcasing scenes of mass destruction or outer space.  This is a wonderfully designed comic.  I wish that there were more pieces of work of this caliber being produced in the US.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Weird War Tales #1

Written by Darwyn Cooke, Ivan Brandon, and Jan Strnad
Art by Darwyn Cooke, Nic Klein, Gabriel Hardman, and Steve Pugh

What a shame that this is only a one-shot.  I love war comics, and have been eying the recent single issues that DC has been putting out.  I've ignored the others because of their price, but when I saw the line-up of creators on this one, I decided it was well worth buying.

The comic opens with a story by Darwyn Cooke set in some form of afterlife for soldiers, where their skeletal remains gather each year to engage in some Olympic-style games and some debauchery.  It's a funny little story, gorgeously drawn.

Brandon and Klein (the Viking team) have a story about a submarine crew that is close to running out of fuel in the Second World War.  It's an interesting tale, with great art.  Strnad (there's a name I haven't seen in a while) and Hardman have a pretty standard, but still effective, story about the loyalty of friends during a war.  As expected, it also has great art.

I would gladly buy a mini-series or anthology graphic novel of stuff like this.  I'm sure the recent rebirth of the various old war titles is a copyright-related thing, but I would like to think that DC is testing the market for material like this.  The other one-shots have not had the same caliber of artist and writer attached to it, but this one is a gem.