I rest my case.
(Source: Crossing Midnight #12, Vertigo Comics)
Saturday, November 10, 2007
At the close of every month, LYSAD will be putting out the absolute and final word on what was H-O-T in comics.
2. ESSEX COUNTY VOL 2 GHOST STORIES (Top Shelf)
3. CASANOVA #10 (Image)
4. BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER #7 (Dark Horse)
5. CROSSING MIDNIGHT #12 (Vertigo)
6. BLACK SUMMER #3 (Avatar)
7. UMBRELLA ACADEMY APOCALYPSE SUITE #2 (Dark Horse)
8. PARADE WITH FIREWORKS #2 (Image)
9. EMPOWERED VOL 2 TP (Dark Horse)
10. RUNAWAYS #28 (Marvel)
October saw Dark Horse seizing the game, and taking home a record 4 spots in the chart, with the excellent webstrips colection from PBF, the still-amazing Umbrella Academy, BKV's Buffy and Adam Warren's ode to T&A, Empowered.
Image, Vertigo and Top Shelf upping their game meant Marvel barely scraped in the Top 10. Gems that almost made it in the list: DCU's only saving graces: Simon Dark and Infinity Inc, Marvel's MODOK's 11 and Image's hot new premieres: The Sword and Suburban Glamour.
Plenty of new titles makingit into the chart, although it was a skip month for Astonishing X-Men, Y the Last Man and the Order. More on those next month!
Thursday, November 08, 2007
Writer: Brian K Vaughan
Artist: Georges Jeanty
Producer: Joss Whedon
Dark Horse Comics
Things heat up as our slayers take to the water in the wettest Buffy adventure in history!
The story so far: renegade Slayer and socialite Gigi has declared open season on slayers, forcing Giles' hand, who sends former slayer Delinquent Faith in undercover to hunt the huntress. Little does he know Faith will find a kindred soul in the neglected and misunderstood sociopath, forging a ... friendship? It's time to move Buffy into play.
Scene by scene:
The issue opens up with some girl-on-girl-in-bathtub
action bonding, as Faith and Gigi grow closer together, and Gigi is bearing out her 'Kill Buffy' masterplan. Vaughan bears out his X-geek in this sequence, unsubtly casting Gigi as Magneto to Buffy's Xavier, in the 'slayers as Mutants' parallel (without all the ear and hatred); Buffy is seeking and training the new slayers to serve and protect the world, while Gigi wants to replace Buffy as 'Queen Slayer' and lead the girls to rule the world.
Roden, by referring to her past dealings with Mayor Wilkins from Buffy Season 3; in the flow of the conversation though, this backfires and reminds Faith of the way Giles, another father-figure, is using her now against Gigi. Gigi thinks she's in control of the situation, pretending to be a pawn to instead control her controller, reminding Faith again of her own past (and present?) naivette.
Things take a sharp turn, when Gigi reveals the action plan: they're not taking the fight to Buffy, they're instead bringing Buffy to their location. 'Pot-sickness aside, Buffy is not a happy girl when she arrives at the mansion and meets Gigi. Cuts, kicks and smart quips ensue in a well-choreographed fight, reminiscent of the TV series.
In yet another sharp turn, Faith jumps in right before the final judgment is passed, leading to a spectacular long dive into the third act of the issue; the rematch that's been brewing for years materialises as actual girl-on-girl-in-pool action, as the frienemies finally come to blows. This time we have the benefit of Faith's viewpoint and her finally dealing with her inner demons in the resolution of the issue.
Water plays a significant role in the interactions between the girls in this story. In the start of the issue, it acts as the medium to bring gigi and Faith closer together as the bear their souls (and other bodyparts) bare to each other and come closer. In the climax of the issue water again brings Buffy and Faith together, this time as enemies, as they both again bare out their true feelings, thoughts nd grudges against each other. I'd like to hear everyone's thoughts further into this through the comments feature.
Another amazing issue, as Vaughan further earns his props as a Buffy writer! Georges Jeanty raises to the occasion and the tricky action shots demanded this issue. I just wonder if SMG and Eliza feel envious of the scripts that are developed in these comics, wishing they could still act them out as their TV counterparts. I certainly would be, in their shoes.
UNCANNY X-MEN #492
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Billy Tan
After Chapter 1's dramatic under-perfomance to expectations, Brubaker seems to have reformed to the fans' request
'A little less conversation, a little more action please'
(I do love a review with a good soundtrack, don't you)
That's exactly what we get with this issue, the second chapter of the 'Messiah CompleX' crossover.
The issue opens with a news report recapping the events of the Messiah CompleX oneshot from a civilian POV, followed by Scott and Emma giving the X-Men's perspective. A new mutant baby has been born, the first since the 'new mutie embargo', and as a result a whole city has gone up in flames. The X-Men arrived on the scene too late. The clues point to a battle between the Purifiers (religious mutant-hating fanatics) and the Marauders (mutant mass-murderers), but who won? And who has the baby now? You can save yourselves the trouble and money of reading the first chapter yourselves.
Xavier butts in the Emma-Scott conversation to get a verbal bitch-slap from Cyclops who seems to have grown a pair (see current issues of Astonishing X-Men for the developing story on that). Brubaker has taken Xavier down a rocky path of failure, redemption and more failure, following on past writers' footsteps, to muddy up the good Professor's boringly clean profile, and establish Scott& Emma as the rightful new headmasters of the School. I don't fault Cyclops for his reaction, Xavier has lied, abused and lied some more the past years, making some tough decisions to preserve his status among his students, trying to sweep his mistakes under the proverbial rug. Over the years, he has faked his death, turned evil on two occasions, written detailed instructions on exterminating each of his students, killed his sister, sent a team of young students to their deaths on Krakoa then erasing everyone's memories of them, hidden the birth of the living Danger Room consciousness and that's just the highlights.
BAD boy Xavier
An interesting goof to mention, at some point Xavier actually switches to telepathic talk to Cyclops. The problem? The only other person in the room is Emma, the world's current most potent telepath, since Xavier suffered the whammy during Decimation and is just now recovering. Never mind that she shares a telepathic bond with her lover anyway.
After the girls are done fighting, we cut straight to the Action! The X-Men (Colossus, Nightrawler, Angel and Wolverine) are hunting down a team of Acolytes (who have been working with the Marauders) for clues to the baby's whereabouts. It was refreshing to see some straightforward action in the books. The poor 3rd stringer Acolytes Brubaker picked had no chance of course, as their complete cannon-fodder: Gargouille, Vindaloo, Neophyte and Projector (most from the throw-away teams who premiered in Quicksilver and the forgettable Magneto War. More details on roster here) . The fight sequence and choreography is still highly entertaining, as Billy Tan steps up his game and gives us a thrilling chase. Wolverine slicing ferociously through projector's shields was a personal favourite, as it really made me jump back on my seat, as well as Angel's breathtaking high speed flight with Neophyte.
For another minor gripe, I would have liked a bit more characterization to top up this cocktail, as these characters involved have a nice bit of history between them. I.e.: this is the first time the three buddies (Logan, Peter AND Kurt) are reunited together in combat on-panel. Colossus and Neophyte have even deeper history (Uncanny X-Men #315, where Colossus stood trial to defend Neophyte's life, when they were both in the Acolytes). Colossus' previous standing with Magneto's team isn't even acknowledged, something I surely expected here (the Acolytes were always cruel towards those they viewed as 'deserters/betrayers to the cause). Instead, we get Angel fussing over Rogue's abduction, while they have never really even shared a private conversation on panel. Minor gripes from a continuity freak.
Finally, Scott and Emma welcome the X-Factor team in the mansion, linking to next week's X-Factor for chapter 3. X-Factor's mission links to the other involved team of villains, the Purifiers, as the now human Rictor is asked to infiltrate the zealot team. Nice shades of Operation Zero Tolerance there, where it was Sam and Bobby who were asked to pose as the mutant-haters. One thing that didn't jive in the scene for me was Madrox's name-dropping Proteus as he entered the room, referencing an almost 30-year old storyline; bringing up the dead ex's name (or rather, referring to her as 'your girlfriend') would have been odd and tacky enough. Was this subtle characterisation, of Madrox biting back at Emma? Since when is he that petty?
The issue closes yet again with a page of Predator-X, running through the forest, accompanied by a caption narrative talking him up. Like last week, it sticks out like an editorial sore thumb in an otherwise great issue.
After a lukewarm launch (mostly due to excessive marketing ruining the story's beats), the crossover is back on track and looking amazing! All the teams are accounted for, there is a breakdown of missions for each one so noone feels tacked-on, and the tapestry is just beginning to unravel! This looks to have all the great elements that made the x-crossovers of the past decade such a memorable hit among the fans!
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Day 2 of our BICS coverage
Simple but brilliant recipe for a fun panel:
-Three huge A0 flipcharts of blank sketch paper
-Lots of marker pens
-A raffle book
suckers -- eager experienced and friendly comic artists
A simple procedure: Every fan in the room gets a free raffle. The artists keep churning out giant A0 sketches, and each sketch is raffled out to a member of the audience until time runs out, or the artist's wrist starts bleeding on the sketch pad.
James A. Hodgkins (sexy and stylish) hosted the panel, with special guest artists: Alan Davis, Staz Johnson and Mark Buckingham. Two of them had prior experience in this panel last year, I thought they'd have reconsidered before signing up again for this slave labour (sic)
Some peeps went away with gorgeous artwork, but I lucked out and went home empty handed
[I wasn't as unlucky the year before that, in the first BICS, where the same panel was introduced but unfortunately scheduled as the penultimate event on the last day of the convention. Unlucky for them as the panel had a poor turnout, lucky for the 20 of us who did attend, as we all got to walk away with a giant sketch (they learnt their lesson well this year, as they made this the second event of the opening day, with great results).]
Here's my lucky sketch from last year: Giant-Size Naked Borat by Essad Ribic (Silver Surfer: Requiem, Loki, Children of the Atom), who is a big Kazakh fan.
The panel wasn't without its amusing moments, including Bucky drawing his version of Staz, and all three artists trying to field off questions from the audience while they're drawing (Survivor: Birmingham!).
Meanwhile, James Hodgkins was having his own technical difficulties trying to realise the how-to of pulling raffles out of a bowl, as he kept putting the winning raffles back in the bowl, shuffling, and then pulling out the same number. Multiply this by ten or so repeats, and you get a very amused audience! James took it all in good humour and was a great host overall.
Following is a gallery of the sketches the artists gave away this year, along with a special treat: a video of Alan Davis drawing a giant Phoenix sketch for a lucky winner. Watch a master at work!
ALAN DAVIS sketches the Batman, the Thing and Nightcrawler
MARK BUCKINGHAM toiling away on Rose Red, Flycatcher, Pinocchio Samurai (sweet!), and Bigby Wolf (all from his Eisner-winning FABLES series), Sandman, and Spiderman
and finally, STAZ JOHNSON on the Silver Surfer, the Joker and the Batman (looking very stylish)
Before we wrap up, the video as promised:
and the finished sketch:
Monday, November 05, 2007
Talk about falling behind on deadlines! BICS, or Birmingham International Comics Show was held 2 weeks ago, and LYSAD was invited over in official press capacity to cover the event.
Although getting off to a late start, I’ll be posting small chunks of news and photos from the event throughout this week to make up.
BICS was held for a second year in Birmingham, UK’s second largest city (although some Mancunians will argue the decimal points).
Birmingham itself was as I had left it. Vast, dirty, industrial, with a shiny mall smack dab in the middle, shaped like a Bull’s ass in strass. Don’t believe me? Behold, the Bull Ring:
After last December’s humbler beginnings, this year the organisers really shot for the skies, moving to the largest exhibition venue in the city, Millennium Point, and caving in to popular demand and bringing in the one thing guaranteed to make an UK comics convention a roaring success:
Which brings us neatly to the Opening Reception of the Show. Friday night, Bennets, up on Bennets’ Hill. Invitation only, this reception was open only to VIPs (ha!), creators, early bookers and dirty paparazzi – like yours truly-.
The drinking venue was packed to the brim, and everyone was happy-smiley to see familiar faces amongst the professional circles, and get beer down their throats. The evening was sponsored by Tony Lee and Markosia Comics, promoting Tony’s upcoming Hope Falls comic release.
Entertainment was provided by Skelter, headlined by DC editors Michael Wright and Nachie Castro. The only dark spot of the evening was the unfortunate acoustics and loud volume of the music, as it made any conversation within the venue problematic. Geeks love to yabber people, leave the rocking for Saturday night.
Luckily LYSAD escaped with Mike Carey to quieter corners to discover the real nitty gritty of the upcoming X-Men events that brought a grin in this fanboy’s face. But that’s a secret I’ll never tell! xoxo
SATURDAY MORNING, RISE AND SHINE
After Friday’s excess, BICS wisely opened its doors after 10:30am to allow everyone their beauty sleep, or the chance to get back to their own hotel rooms for a fresh change of clothes. LYS@D slept alone, in a room with 4 snoring strangers, and only one fellow geek. LYS@D accuses Birmingham for the lack of sex or sleep on a Friday night.
Making my way to the actual exhibition floor, we picked up our proud laminated press pass (FREEEEE) and got to work.
The queues were massive, taking up the entire foyer of the exhibit, as everyone wanted an early piece of the action (and a freebie bag from Forbidden Planet, which unfortunately LYS@D missed out. The later spotted and highly sought-after copies of Umbrella Academy FCBD included within some of them didn’t help matters)
Rich Johnston (front and center in fashionable green checkers) didn’t share his loot.
COMICS BEFORE BREAKFAST
I still didn’t despair, I already had three free comics ‘shoved’ in my loving pockets before the time I had finished breakfast:
Dan Fish’s always popular giveaway free mini-comics kicked off the trend on the Friday night drink-a-thon. This year it’s Baffling Mysteries #1. It’s a murder mystery done in 13 panels, including, a murder, An accusation, three suspects, a twist, another murder and another twist! Comics compression at its tightest!
The second comic caught me unaware on Saturday morning breakfast from my bunkmate Lorcan McGrane. When he’s not snoring he makes cool photocopy comics. The title is ‘The life and times of Jimmny Homunculus’ and I’ll be pimping it more later. Lorcan’s blog address is http://jhomunculus.blogspot.com
Chime in tomorrow for coverage of Saturday’s panels, Mike Mignola, photos from the floor, Mike Carey playing Wonder Woman and other weird stories…
No, no, no!
After my glowing smilies review of #8 last month, I clock in again this month with my £2.50 and what do I get?
A week's worth of diary from Tom and Lily's life: Tom shifts through his old art and throws stuff away (hey! I'd love some original art!); they move in to the new house, and Tom meets Cristy, Lily's youngest sister who is going to be their lodger/freeloader. A lot of fuss is made about coke with no apparent subtext. Tom freaks out when he witnesses two random deaths in the same week. There is more fussing about coca cola. The drain pipe clogs up and they call a plumber. Lily's book gets published and Tom reassures Lily for her insecurities, returning earlier favors when he was preparing his own book. The drain pipe is fixed.
See the connecting thread in the above? Yeah, me neither.
I appreciate this book and support it each month because each issue so far has had a central theme; even though it occasionally veered into 'what happened today' scenes, it always connected it back to the central focus of the story and the theme of the issue. This issue was nothing more than a dear diary, random entries hat jumped around erratically with no connecting theme or scene transitions. When the scene jumped from the coca-cola subplot (eek), to the first death of the week (brrr), I was left leafing through the book to see if there was a missing page misprinted in the back, connecting the two scenes. I'd have preferred to have seen the three separate plots/stories in this issue as three actually distinct stories, instead of an intermeshed mess. American Splendor is a good example of that format.
Then again, if I had the choice, I wouldn't have bought a book about binge pop drinking and clogged drains. I hope next issue springs back into shape and the title's usual excellence.
Sunday, November 04, 2007
Writer: Joss Whedon
Artist: John Cassaday
Colours: Laura Depuy
It's a grueling task doing a spoiler-free (Marvel's strict rules) advance review for this issue, trying to avoid the elephant in the room, namely the aftermath of Cyclops' death in the previous issue; there has been a lot of discussion about the death and how this arc lines up with the Messiah CompleX continuity in the rest pf x-titles. All I will say for now, is that most of the questions will be made clear by the end of this issue.
and now this issue:
When Whedon first launched the title, I resisted the hype as much as humanly possible, trying to bad-talk the book as much as possible and discover the cracks in every page. Talk about hopeless. For once the hype is right, and there can be no denying it.
In the first draft of the review, I had decided to skip all the usual routine about how "this is the best an X-Men book will ever be, so enjoy it for one month more while you still can". But, it's hard to resist: it is true, after all. Marvel realizes this as well, thus giving this title the special deadline-breaking privileges to make sure the art is the best it could possibly be to fit a volume of work that will be re-read and references back for decades to come. I wish they had made the same realization earlier, back when Morrison's New X-Men run was in full-swing and the book was shoved into a bi-weekly schedule and fill-in hell. Whedon and Cassaday certainly benefit from that experience.
Some persistent nay-sayers might retort 'Hey, the guy's only writing an X-book, it's not like he's reinventing the wheel'. Well, that's where they're wrong: in this issue he actually does.
Joss Whedon rewrites the book on comics (well, more like adds an appendix, but allow me my hyperbole this once), introducing a brand new tool in the arsenal of the medium, something unique to comics alone which no other medium could reproduce. I wish I could do more than tease, but this ties into the major twist in the storyline ('oh no! now he's said there's a twist!'). I knew Whedon had a talent for revisiting classic scenes from X-Men history and shedding light at them from a new perspective, but I never imagined he'd be doing the same with his own X-Men stories!
Enough Whedon hype for this review though! Instead, let's talk up John Cassaday.
When Ord of the Breakworld first showed up in the opening arc, I had found him a visually unimpressive alien villain. No distinctive costume, no catchy colour scheme, no cool headgear (seriously, what was up with the metal nose-muzzle and those funky eyebrows?). He just looked poor to me. (wait, here comes the 'but' again). Now I get it. See now, the X-Men have visited Breakworld and we got to see Cassaday's brilliance in design. He hadn't created a throwaway one-note villain; he had designed a entirely new alien race: their bone structure, their facial features, their body language, their materials and their fashion, their armour and their architecture. The kind of thing Jack Kirby (i.e. the Skrulls, the Kree) would make seem effortless, yet we hadn't really seen since Dave Cockrum created the Shi'ar for Uncanny X-Men. An alien civilisation designed whole cloth for the sake of one storyline.
Whedon does love to break loose once in a while and indulge himself in a new alien landscape for a closing chapter; here he doesn't have the budgetary hindrances when creating Pylea for the wrap-up of Angel Season 2, but instead has the only limitation of John Cassaday's pen and imagination. Cassaday is the perfect fit for this, having proven himself in this area from his previous work with Warren Ellis in Planetary --which called for this kind of feat only every other issue.
Before I wrap this up, a small tease without breaking spoilers taboos. By the end of the story, you'd have gone guaranteed WHOA over at least 4 scenes, before the shocking double geek-gasm finale, starting with a Thundercats moment and finishing with a splash which rivals in coolness 'that' Kitty cliffhanger from #15.