Saturday, July 31, 2004

Human Target: Strike Zones
Writer: Peter Milligan
Artist: Javier Pulido
DC Comics/Vertigo 198 pages $9.99

Christopher Chance is the world's greatest impersonator, who makes his living by taking on the lives of those in trouble until he can get them out of it.

The first story in this collection apparently deals with the ramifications of a past story, where Chance's job didn't go well. Not having read the prior story, I'm not entirely sure of its exact details. Yet apparently while pretending to be a movie director whose son was kidnapped, things went wrong and everyone involved was killed or badly burned.

While not being able to grasp all of the conflicts, the main one about the sense of identity was clearly on display. By the nature of his job Chance has to lose himself into his role, and this time he'd gone too far and it led to a split of his mind.

When he finally comes to himself he must deal with the ramifications, but is still left with the uncertainness of who he really is and whether what he feels is real or not.

Following up on this is so far the only storyline involving the events of 9/11 that doesn't seem exploitive. As Chance takes on the role of a man who faked his death during the event, and is now trying to take on those in power who caused him to take such a drastic measure.

Then to end the volume has Chance taking on the role of a pro baseball player, dealing with the steroid problem that seems ripped straight out of sports headlines. I thought this was the weaker of the three given its rather bland straight ahead storyline, that played only token care to there being other choices.

Still the overall series is very intriguing. The action and violence is well done and made consequential but not the overblown "Importance" that other lesser talents use in attempts to shock the reader.

The art tells the story well for the most part, the action scenes flow well and facial expressions are very strongly done. If I had a quibble with it, it's that during the most emotional impacting moments it tends to pull back too far. This could be by writer design though, but for me it leaves me feeling too distant.

The key element of the series I like though is the exploration of the nature of identity. This series is more direct about it by having Chance's job being about being different people. Yet it is something all can understand, as every one of us has different faces we show people. How we are to friends is different than how we are to family and both can be different to how we are at work.

Through Chance's exploration of who he truly is, we too as readers can examine ourselves to try and determine who we truly are.
Quick takes on two comics I picked up last night.

Captain America #29

I was really looking forward to Robert Kirkman's run on this series, as he's done such wonderful work on his own series for Image Comics. The idea that he was taking the character and series back to its superhero roots, after its last few years of dealing with political intrigue. Was a strong draw for a reader like myself, who cut his teeth on the Mark Gruenwald Cap stories of the 80s.

So I was very disappointed by the results of this issue, which was so by the numbers that it was dull and boring. Cap as a wise cracker, at least as scripted here, just seemed very out of character. Plus the story had no heart or tension, the big reveals lacked any bite because they were not setup enough.

The book was just too simple, and felt like I was being "talked down to" through out the story. Which makes me wonder if perhaps I've just outgrown the simple superhero genre?

The Technopriests Vol. 1

I was looking for something really different to try, and since this is the first of the DC/Humanoids joint publishing I'd seen I decided it would be what I would experiment with.

I must make an important note to myself here, though it is one others should strive to do as well. Look through the first few pages of anything new before you buy it.

If I had done so here I would not have bought this book, as on its first few pages are the graphic gang rape of a young woman by over 50 men. Then the extremely graphic depiction of birth of three monstrous looking babies.

It takes a lot for me to put down a book unfinished, but those opening four pages was enough for me. Perhaps I'll come back to give it another shot. Yet my initial impression of "ugh disgusting" is still strong enough for me to not want to see what happens next.

Friday, July 30, 2004


I've never been a real Grant Morrison supporter, I thought his JLA run was overblown and didn't like his run on X-Men at all. Yet this quote by him in an interview at Newsarama just made me go wow:

The current vogue in superhero comics, post- Hush is for the 'definitive' take, which tends to manifest itself as creators playing it safe by cherry-picking and re-packaging all the best and most popular elements of an already successful feature. It's a commercial strip-mining kind of approach to a given property that seems to make a lot of sense until you realize it can really only work once before you find yourself in the awful position of having to make up stuff again. Seven Soldiers is an attempt to clear some new ground and make stories for people who want something a little different from 'greatest hits' reworkings of books they've already read.

This was a problem I myself had been seeing in superhero comics for a long time, and is likely why I've lost so much interest in the majority of it. Yet to see it written so clearly and concisely by someone in the industry is great. It gives me hope that things can get better, and makes me want to throw my support behind Morrison's next project. Which is a very interesting sounding new take on the 7 Soldiers of Victory.

Sabrina's Manga Makeover

I've never had any interest in Archie's Sabrina comic. While similar in style of story telling to the other books by the company. Its rather simplistic focus on more fantasy elements didn't hold my interest.

Yes Archie, Betty, and Veronica stories can be simplistic at times, yet at their heart they are teen drama stories that I could understand and relate to. Sabrina's life just seemed too weird for me to have that same level of connection, given that on any page any type of magical solution could be just whipped up.

So when I heard the series was getting a manga makeover, I shrugged even given my love of those type of comics. Because I'd seen what American comic companies like DC and Marvel thought manga meant -- big eyes, spiked hair, and panty shots--- and thought that was silly.

Yet when I saw the first issue I decided to give it a try just for the heck of it. I'm really glad I did too!

One of the things that made the series bland to me was that its art style was the Archie house style, with closed panels and a typical figure work that just seemed dull. The manga style Tania Del Rio brings, provides such a fresh, more open style that sets it apart and brings the magical stuff to life in a way not seen before.

The writing seems much sharper as well, Sabrina and her world seems more well rounded and the love triangle established in the first issue already has my interest as much as the Archie/Betty/Veronica one ever did.

I'm not sure what to make of the night charm school stuff yet though, as it at times strikes me as being too much in the vein of Harry Potter. I guess by the basic concept that the similarities are unavoidable, yet I wonder if there aren't ways to cut those down as much as possible. Though given its popularity, such similarities might be something to purposefully strive for.

One of the big changes, is that for the most part Archie's series of comics are more like their comic strip cousins in being short self contained stories. Yet here the stories are all issue length, and has some plotline carryover from issue to issue.

Will this take be popular, and perhaps change things for the other Archie books? Only time will tell, but I do know that I am enjoying it so far.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

[Sgt. Frogi Vol. 2 cover]
[Sgt. Frog Vol. 3 cover]

Sgt. Frog Vol. 2 & 3
by Mine Yoshizaki

This hysterical sci-fi comedy series featuring a group of frog like alien invaders, who are taken in by Japanese families continues. This series offers hijinxs galore as the aliens try and learn more about the world they are stuck on. Yet also offers some surprisingly indepth insights when the aliens offer advice or commentary on the world that takes an outsider's viewpoint.

In book two for instance, one of the families is doing a cleaning of the house in order to get things in better order. The young boy is hesitant to part with his library of books, so Kero (the lead frog) intervenes with a startling insight.

Informing the lad that reading is the experience of new ideas and stories, not the actual books themselves. Offering that while it is okay to want to keep close favorites, one must be on guard to not let it get to a point where you become hesitant to try new books. Because one should never close themselves out of new stories and ideas because that way leads to nonthinking.

Sounds like something the American comic industry could learn, with its over dependence on old stories and characters for its business. Which has led to a lack of acceptance or even openness for new ideas and characters.

While that is something deep, the main appeal of the series is its fun approach. Mainly because it doesn't take itself too seriously, something which just so rarely happens in comics these days.

Such as the take in Vol.3 on the idea of kids becoming magically adults and vice versa. As one of the aliens invents a weapon that can age or deage a human. The mother is turned into a kid and goes to school for a day, while one of the kids is turned into an adult and takes everyone to a beach.

These type of stories are always fun and interesting, because they show the viewpoints of life from two different takes. And allow for exploration into the idea that the grass isn't always greener on the other side. Plus they are just fun too!;)

This series is just pure goofy fun, in ways similar to the classic Loony Tunes cartoons if filtered through a more modern lens.

Infinity Inc.

So much of today's JSA series is based on this series, that I really looked forward to trying it in order to perhaps get some of the references that writer Geoff Johns throws out in it. And in part it was nice to see just who Hector Hall was, and some of the other bits and pieces helped fill in some gaps.

I actually really enjoyed the early issues of this especially, because it was such a dynamic idea to have this entirely new generation of heroes having to deal with moving out of their parents shadows. The fact that these characters grew up and lived the lives of kids together and separately at the feet of the greats like Wonder Woman, Batman and the like, just added a real dimenion of fun.

What was it like to date Wonder Woman's daughter, who can tell if you're lying or not? What happens when instead of borrowing your dad's car for a night out, you swipe the invisible plane? Or when a simple game of baseball turns into a super villain plot?

Too bad Crisis pretty much killed the series, though its corpse would continue for a year or more afterwards. On one hand it was interesting to see how a shift in a company's directional policy could cause such havoc in one series. Crisis just made most of the heart of these stories null and void, and the attempts at fixing things didn't work at all.

Mainly because the origins went too far afield, and lost the heart of what made the characters so great. Lyta Trevor as the daughter of Wonder Woman is a fascinating character, that has plenty of potential. When her origin has to change to make her from some other island it just seems rather pointless.

It comes more off like lying to the reader saying "see this is the same character, but her origin is completely different" which could still have worked if you just stated that outright and moved on. Except Thomas continued to poke and prod at it, like a bad scab.

I was glad to finally come to the last issue, because it became unreadable very quickly. With pointless deaths, depowerment of usually the few female characters who had a personality. (Jonni Thunder) Which huh sort of reminds me of today's JSA series.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Flowers & Bees Vol. 3
by Moyoco Anno
Viz 216 pgs $9.95

This is my real guilty pleasure manga series, that follows a cast of characters who are way too obsessed with their looks and sex, but do so in ways I find extremely funny and interesting. Most of the stories center around Komatsu, a hapless virgin who in an effort to attract the opposite sex finds himself in a male beauty salon.

There two equally sex obsessed women known as Kiyoko and Harumi, who enjoy torturing him ruthlessly as they improve his looks. Despite the treatment, he actually does see an improvement in how others treat him because he has improved his style.

Which is a rather interesting take, as far too often in stories of this type the point goes back to "if people are going to like you, they'll like you for who you are not how you look. " Which is a nice dream, but in reality it doesn't quite work that well usually.

I actually appreciated the idea that a guy should pay attention to how he looks. All too often in stories, female characters are the only ones portrayed as being obsessed by clothes and the like. Yet I've known quite a few guys, including myself at times, who appreciate certain looks in shirts, hair style and the like. Yet that seems to be a "no no" in comics, which leaves me wondering "What's wrong with a guy wanting to look and dress nice?"

In this volume Komatsu enters a nationwide idol type contest, in order to try to beat out his best friend and rival Yamada. Yet when he becomes distracted by a beautiful print shop clerk, who he eventually loses his virginity to. Yamada takes the opportunity to steal Kiyoko and Harumi's help away from him, in order to better his chances in the contest.

This volume's approach to sex was very mature in it's rather immaturity. Building up to it Komatsu's idea of sex was this grand life changing event, yet when he achieves it he's unable to rationalize the experience. The story doesn't demean the wonderful feeling the act can bring, but also doesn't make a fairy tale type like "now everything's changed" approach either which I found a very realistic type approach.

This is just a fun little series, that's oddballness can be sort of eye twirling at times, but I think has a good heart at its center and has me wanting to read more with the end of each volume.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

New Comic Blog

Join me in welcoming Heidi Meeley, a reviewer for 4 Color Review, to the comic blogosphere.

She has started her own blog called Comics Fairplay covering comics and pop culture items. She's a clever writer, and is off to a good start with interesting commentary of her comic purchases of the past week.

So check it out!

Covering the San Diego Comic Con Coverage

I can't be at SD, too expensive for me, but I've enjoyed following the coverage from the various websites and so wanted to list the things that interest me most along with commentary.

From the DCU Panel, as reported by Newsarama

Joe Kelly and Ariel Olivetti(with Alex Ross Covers) are doing a serious take on Space Ghost, with a 6 issue miniseries that tells his origin. I'm not entirely sure what to make of this, I was a big fan of the original cartoon as a kid, but like the rather bufoonish take on the character in Coast to Coast as well.

The most interesting news of the piece though was this from Bob Wayne:

Starting in 2005, DC will begin its own ambitious reprint project, Batman Chronicles, a trade paperback collection which will reprint every Batman story ever printed in chronological order, starting with Detective Comics #27, and including stories from Batman, World's Finest Comics and everywhere else that Batman appeared. During he question and answer period, Wayne said that the idea behind the Chronicles is to keep them as a line of relatively inexpensive softcovers.

To say this is ambitious is a HUGE understatement, given that Batman is the one DC character who has appeared every month since his inception. What does this mean for the Archives though? For years fans have been saying how they wish DC would release trades of this material rather than the rather expensive HCs.

Is this a test of the waters, or just a special deal for the popular characters such as Batman?

In other news, Devil's Due is launching a new line of superhero books. Which at first I rolled my eyes at because "gee just what comics need, more comics with people in tights."

Yet this pic and info has me curious:

Blade of Kumori: (Written by Ron Marz and illustrated by Dub of Grafiksismik Studio) In the mid 19th century, the samurai disappeared forever from the face of the world. Or did they? This book focuses on Kumori, a young woman carrying on the traditions of her family's samurai clan in the modern world, while discovering some incredible things about herself. Think Kurosawa meets Bond.

Sounds very interesting to me, the lead is sexy looking but not in the "huge breasts and no clothing" way that too often happens in comics with female leads.

I was also glad to hear this bit of info from the publisher about their approach to storytelling:
There's no decompressed storytelling here - it's a new universe, and we need people to know what these characters are about with the first issue, because we might not get a second chance. You'll wait ten issues for a new Fantastic Four origin, because you already know the old one, and you already love those characters, but with an Aftermath book, you want to know who this badass looking guy on the cover is by the time you're done reading that single issue.

That's a very key point because at most you only get the one issue from most fans. There are so many comic publishers and different kinds of comics to read, that if you can't grab that reader the first time then you've probably lost them forever.

This isn't writer Ron Marz's only dealings with samurais in the upcoming year though. According to The Pulse he has a new series called Samurai: Heaven and Hell from Dark Horse Comics due in December. With his current Green Lantern artist Luke Ross doing the art chores.

I've heard from sources that this series will have a preview in the MORE FUND COMICS book that will be available at Baltimore Con.

Apparently Alan Moore's daughter Leah, is launching a comic writing career as well. With a new series from Wildstorm called Wild Girl. I wonder if this is the first time a comic creator's daughter or kid in general has followed their parents footsteps?

ICV2 Announces Electric Girl going to Cartoon Network - I've seen other similar announcements that didn't pan out, but I hope this awesome comic property can become an animated hit show. If you want further info on this series, please check out Johanna's page dedicated to it.

Sounds like a great time was had by all. I hope to make it to the show at some point in my life, but it is fun to read the coverage from those who are there.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Astonishing X-Men #2
Writer: Joss Whedon
Artist: John Cassaday

Isn't that just an amazing looking cover? I'm not one to buy pamphlet comics, that's why this review is so late given that I only just found it on the newsstand at my local book chain store. Yet even if Joss (Buffy:TVS) Whedon wasn't writing this book, I think the cover alone would make me at least look through it. It is very striking, and actually is a metaphor for what happens in the story.

The plot itself, a doctor has come up with what appears to be a way to cure mutants and the main team trying to find a new way by taking an old path. Aren't anything new or that inventive from a plot standpoint.

Yet that's okay as Whedon isn't out to reinvent the wheel here, a trap I think too many new to comic writers all into. His story while not anything revolutionary, is compelling because he puts interesting twists on them.

I've seen stories before about someone thinking they found a cure for the mutant gene, yet none that seem to offer this personal of a response from everyone. Usually in the past such stories focused on one or two mutants, who just wanted to look normal

Here there is that element of course, but there is the reaction by some of being labeled a disease. Which though only a short piece in the comic so far, caused an interesting thought process. Because it caused me to wonder, what if there was a drug or process that made everyone "normal" or like most everyone else?

That would be a scary thought, if the mob rule of normalcy had the power to shift people they feel are different around to their way of thinking or life. Imagine if you are just an extremely smart person, which intimidates many of those around you. Or perhaps like where I live aren't into the "outdoor life" (hunting, camping etc.) which makes me a bit of an oddball.

If such a thing was possible, I wonder whether others might consider trying to make me more their sense of normal. For my own good, and so I would fit in of course. Which just puts an entirely different spin on the whole mutant oppression thing, that I had never really thought of before.

A good element to Whedon's run, is that I haven't read more than an issue or two here and there of any X-Men book in probably over a decade. Yet so far Whedon has managed to use the history in such a way that it in intriguing to me, like wondering if the animosity between Emma and Kitty is something with history. Or perhaps if this is something Whedon himself invented this because the characters are such mirror images of each other.

Whichever it is it works quite well and puts a very interesting dynamic into the mix.

One thing that I found myself doing when reading this, was to try to equate the characters to Whedon's Buffy tv series characters. Which on one level is kind of fun, and even easily doable in this instance. With Cyclops= Giles, Kitty=Willow, Wolverine=Buffy, Anya=Emma, and Beast=Xander being easy touchstones.

Yet that's not really fair to Joss as a writer, thinking he can only write certain character types, and not really fair to myself as a reader. Mainly because if I pay more attention to what I think those characters would be like in relation to that, I don't allow them to be like they truly are displayed.

Cassaday's art is quite attractive, with very defined looks for each character and has created a vibrant world. His scene breakdowns could use some work, especially in the action scenes which are stiff and very stagnant. Still his use of facial expressions and body language are high above what I see in 90% of mainstream artists.

I still find myself very surprised to be reading an X-book, even more so one in the monthly pamphlet format which I thought I'd sworn off. Yet each month I feel the need to get it, rather than wait for the trade, because there is an anxiousness to see what happens next. Something I haven't felt in a very long time.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

The Darkness #10-12

I don't read that many books in pamphlet form anymore. I just don't have a lot of free time for reading and when I do I'd rather read a complete volume, or at least a more substantial amount of material that GNs/trades provide.

Yet I received a number of them in the mail recently, and will be spending the next few days covering them. First up are three issues of Top Cow's The Darkness series.

I have never really followed Top Cow books, because for the most part they seem to only concentrate on the "boobs and blood" genre of comics. Which I'd always thought of as being fairly immature and uninteresting.

So imagine my surprise when I receive these 3 issues in the mail, and see they are written by Ron Marz, whose prior work I've liked a fair amount of.

Marz does a nice job of summarizing the basics of the series for readers like myself who don't know anything about it. It apparently follows the leader of a Mafia gang, who is able to tap into some alternate dimension filled with demons he can control. When attempts at peace with a rival gang falls through, he decides to kill every member of it.

This is a bit of a departure for Ron, known mainly for his work on Green Lantern and at CrossGen, where the definitions of hero and villains were clearly defined. Here things aren't black or white, just lesser shades of evil, as bad people do bad things to other bad people.

This little run could have really hooked me, given that the dialogue is crisp and it is quite different from what I usually read. Yet as with all TC books, it follows the "house style" that all of their series do, with big chests on women and just a slickness to the inks that looks messy.

It does TC no good to try to be diverse in terms of the writers it hires, if they don't also make some attempt to make the looks of their books different as well.

Sue's Fate After IC

Don't like what's happened to Sue in the Identity Crisis series? I've come up with a "great" way to make lemonade out of this lemon.

How many readers out there read DC's Resurrection Man series? The series followed a guy who died at least once in nearly every issue of his series, returning each time with a new power.

Sue can be brought back with the same power and modus operandi, and be known as "The Victim!" It'll be a huge hit, with a female character you can kill off multiple times in each issue for years!

After all deaths and degradation of female characters is a staple of the superhero comic industry apparently. As it seems that the only way some writers are able to add pathos or meaning to their story, is to do something to the women in the book.

She can in turn team up with the other female superheroes who have garnered similar treatment over the years. Katma Tui, Donna Troy, Hypolyita, Supergirl, Fury, Aquagirl, and Monstress to form Dead Grrls Are Us!

Join me now is supporting what I'm sure will be a surefire hit!

Sunday, July 18, 2004

[Imadoki Vol. 1 cover]
Imadoki Vol. 1

Written and drawn by Yu Watase
VIZ June 2, 2004
$9.95 208 Pages

Imadoki which according to the creator translates to "Nowadays" or means to her "The Present is the most precious time" marks a departure for the creator. Known mainly for sf and fantasy series like Ceres: Celestial Legend this series instead offers a straight forward story about life for a young teenage girl starting off at a new high school in Tokyo.

Tanpopo, which also means dandelion and is a good description of her character, is a high energy teen girl from a small town. She loved where she was, but felt the need to test herself in the big city's high school world.

When sneaking into her high school a day early to see what it is like, she literally crashes into a young male who is also a student there. After some initial consternation they commiserate over a flower the boy is planting, making Tanpopo happy that she has finally found a friend.

Or so she thinks at least, until the next day when the boy and the rest of the school completely snub her. It turns out that the boy is Koki Kugyo, whose family has bank rolled the school and thus is worshipped by his fellow students and the faculty.

Tanpopo's attempts at friendship with him causes her no end to trouble, from both him and his "friends", who see her as bothering him.

His only dealings with people, is with those wanting something from him. So his idea of friendship is only in terms of what others can do for him. Given Tanpopop's lack of money or influential family connections, he sees no reason to be friends with her. Because he doesn't think there is anything she can offer him.

I've had dealings with people like that before, who only think in terms of what others can do for them. Seeing such an honest and direct take on it was interesting.

It was also interesting to see that Tanpopo doesn't just accept this, and go away. She sees something in him that she wants to get to know. So she sets out to prove herself to him, not to change him or lesson herself, but to show him that she too is worthy of being known.

This is an interesting take on the concept of friendship that you don't see too often in comics. Rather than the usual take of "I'll teach him/her to be a better person." It accepts that people are different, and that if you see something in someone else that you think is worth getting to know you must accept their (as you perceive them) faults as well as those things you like about them.

Which makes this manga something to learn from, as well as a fun read that I look forward to seeing more of.

Comic book friends are hard to find

This is sort of a personal, more diaryish entry today, done more to help me sort my thoughts rather than offer criticism. It is about the wonder I had of finding a friend whose comic tastes matched mine, and opened up new doors in comics that I never knew existed.

I live in a very rural area, and comic books just aren't a very big deal here. I loved them, but found trying to find someone to talk comics with very hard.

I tried at the comic shops at first, yet the fans in this area only seemed interested in the corporate X-titles type books or the very odd blood and boobs books like Lady Death and the like. Which I've never had a huge amount of interest in.

When I got online I was thrilled to see so many forums dedicated to comics, yet still found myself a little apart at first. Many of the places had their own little communities of which it was hard to become accepted into.

Or they were filled with fans who just sort of bothered me because of their oddness of behavior.

The DC Message boards are prime examples of this, be it the ones afraid of change to the point that anything new and anyone supportive of it are hammered. Or just the mindless, sexists, bigots, who have no clue as to how to deal with other people. It just made for an unpleasant place to visit and chat about comics with.

There are good folks there, but they get drowned out by the loudmouths who the moderators let run free. Plus even the good ones still mainly use made up screen names.

I've always had a problem talking with people who use screen names rather than their own names to discuss things. It just creates a detachment that for some reason or another makes it hard for me to take them seriously.

Still one day I lucked out and found a friend who I just clicked with. We seemed to like many of the same comics, shared similar views on the problems we saw and just seemed to really get along well.

It was just amazing to find someone who matched me in a medium where I always felt like an outsider. After all, I wasn't a long time reader so didn't like or know a lot about the heavy continuity or all time greats books that so many readers have a history with.

I also always found that most of the really popular books like X-Men or Spawn to be really poor works. Yet when I would see how well they sold, I thought something must just be wrong with me or my tastes. Having a friend who felt the same way made things okay though, just to know that I wasn't alone in what I liked or didn't was a good feeling.

Through my friend I got suggestions on things to try, many of which were these odd b&w small press comics which I had never heard of before. Which just amazed me because they offered content that I had never expected to see in comic book form. It was like someone turning on a light in a dark room, and opened my eyes to a whole new world.

For years it was great to have someone to chat with, get/make suggestions from/to, trade stuff with and just know what I was talking about no matter the topic. I would make other friends who were into comics as well, but none that just clicked in such a similar way.

Unfortunately in recent months, my friend's time to talk with me has lessoned to the point where it is almost nonexistent. Which while I understand completely, is sort of hard to deal with because this friendship helped opened so many doors for me. I probably wouldn't even still be interested in comics without this friendship.

Yet I'm trying to move forward, and while I hope to not lose my friend from my life completely, am trying to find things that while won't replace that level of friendship can offer similar things. Looking on the various forums I've only found two places that I really enjoy though.

One is the Usenet, Rec.arts.comics sections, where the fans tend to go by their real names and the discussion of industry topics is strong. The other is the The Grotesque Rampage Forum which is run by John Jakala. It offers a great bunch of people, it isn't a huge group but the participants are all very interesting and fun to know.

Which in the end is a good thing, because when I first got online I was mainly looking for interesting comic discussion with intelligent people.

Thursday, July 15, 2004


Does anyone know if this wonderful Vertigo series by Wil Pfeifer and Jill Thompson, taking a harsh but funny look at college life was ever collected? I found an issue of it tonight at the bottom of a box, and had a burning need to want to reread it again.

[Princess Ai Vol. 1 cover]
Princess AI Vol. 1

Created by Courtney Love and D.J. Milky
Written by Misaho Kujiradou and D.J. Milky
Illustrated by Misaho Kujiradou
Tokyopop July 1, 2004
$9.95 160 Pages

It's always good to see a book try and be ambitious, given how many books stay too close to typical formula, which this one certainly strives hard to counter. Yet there is a such a thing as trying too hard to be everything for everyone, because usually you wind up with a muddled mess that is nothing to everybody.

The story follows Ai, a princess of sorts from another planet or dimension who finds herself on our world with little idea how she got there, and only the vaguest notion of who or what she is. After some initial confusion she finds herself a friend in a librarian, would be singer as she tries to sort out what to do.

The story tries to do too many things, and winds up giving mixed messages from page to page. Ai is shown at times as a stranger in a strange land, and we are supposed to feel her trying to adapt. Which would be interesting, except that in other places she's shown as very worldly and able to fit in with little problem.

She's shown at times as very shy and wary of attention, yet on the next page she's ripping up her dress in order to go on stage and sing some really bad lyrics.

Still if the book would have only settled on a theme and dealt with it rather than skip around. It likely would have still have been at least a decent read. Yet at times the book seems to be a "finding yourself in the world down to Earth epic",other times a "behind the scnes look at music and the spiteful world of backstage politics thriller", to a "sci-fi/fantasy epic" involving aliens, wings and the like.

Leaving me unable to really care about what was going on, because not enough attention was paid to any one part to make it matter.

The most interesting thing in the book, were the brief bio pages on the people behind the book. Given that of the three, I'd only heard of Courtney Love and wasn't that familiar with her. This book as a sort of vehicle for her is getting a lot of attention, yet doesn't move me to want to try more.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Stop Caring?

One of things I've been contemplating over the last few weeks is the notion of caring. People caring about other people is one thing, though only works well if the people you care for do the same for you. Which as I've been coming to know, isn't something easy to figure out some days.

Yet another type of caring I've seen can be about fictional characters, and I've begun wondering how wise that is.

When you care about something or someone, that gives them or it a certain level of power over you. Rather than doing things that might suit you best, you put the interests of the person or thing above what you may initially want at least.

This is fine with people, again as long as they care for you in return as well, yet when you take that over to entertainment like comic characters I have to wonder if that is a good thing.

Yes it can be fun and easy at times if a character strikes a personal chord with you, to look forward to reading their adventures. You come to feel as if they are a friends to you, who you enjoy visiting every month. Living vicariously through their highs and lows.

Yet I often wonder if that doesn't leave you open to taking a certain fall. One of the most common things is that no matter the character, there will come a time when the writing on the book will be subpar. Yet if you care about the character, you'll often find yourself continuing to buy it out of some sense of loyalty.

Without that level of involvement a reader might focus more on the things that make them happy. Where if the started gravitating to the stories they like, rather than focusing on who stars in them, they would enjoy comics more.

Yet too often in the current industry you don't see that. Whether it is the readers or the creators, there seems to be more importance on who the characters are, rather than what or how the stories are done.

I'm back!

So what have I been doing while under the doctor's orders to just take things easy and relax? Reading those great novels in history, that I've always meant to read? No. Watching some of the greatest movies of all time? No.

I've been reading comics, or more specifically manga! Here are some quick opinions, on what I've read over the past week. I'll go into further detail on many of them later but just had to share these quick takes.

SGT. FROG #1 - I honestly didn't think much of this title when I first saw it in stores. The idea of a member of a frog like race trying to invade the Earth, only to be caught and forced to live with a family of humans. It struck me a bit too close to the TV show Alf for my tastes, and just a dumb idea in general.

Yet when I saw people whose tastes I trust -- Yes John Jakala I'm thinking of you!-- praising the series I was surprised. Yet I didn't know whether it would be for me so was hesitant to try it.

Yet I'm glad I did as its mixture of humor and strange science fiction twists has me hooked. The situations these wacky characters find themselves in every story just gets more preposterus each time. Making me hardly able to wait to see what happens next in volume 2, because if the zaniness level increases I may laugh myself to death.

HIKARU no GO #1 - Yet another title I didn't expect a lot out of, because it seemed to focus on a game I'd never heard of before. Which I thought would mean that I'd be lost when I read it, and would have no sense of what was going on.

Yet the way they include the game in the book works out well, what I need explained is, and actually made me interested in the game itself. The focus of the book being about the differences between ages and interest is the driving force though.

Hikaru is a likable enough lead, who I could feel for in being sort of pressured into doing things by others that he may not necessarily be interested in. Yet when he tries it starts to garner a better appreciation for some of it. Something I've often felt as well, with friends pressuring me to try things that I may not necessarily be inclined to.

The ghost who drives Hikaru to play the game Go is an interesting character, that was made more interesting by how I got to look at it in two different ways. When I first read it the character seemed to clearly be female. Just the way the character was drawn, behaved and sounded in my head screamed feminine to me.

So it was with great surprise when I read reviews like this one that pointed out differently. Which led me to going back and reading the book again, seeing things in a very different light then before.

THE KINDAICHI CASE FILES: DEATH TV - Whew I'd forgotten how great it was to read a good mystery, one that keeps you guessing to the identity of the culprit to the last chapter. There just aren't very many such comics like this, but the KINDAICHI books always meet my need for them really well.

This one isn't quite on the level of the previous two volumes, but it still a very intriguing case. I wonder at times at the rating on it, since some of it seems more violent and racier than I expect for 13 year olds.

Yet it doesn't pander or go for the easy shock, everything has an importance and level of realism that keeps things even keel.

I've also begun to watch the Wonder Woman Season One DVD set which I received for my birthday. I've only watched the pilot and first episode so far, yet while it is fun, I also get this odd "so this is where Baywatch came from" feel about it in places.

Especially during the scenes where they have the classic Baywatch bouncy trot, years before those infamous lifeguards hit the beach. Still a fun show, that while a very keen example of its time and place also offers enough enjoyment for my cynical nature.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

On "hiatus"

Not sure how long the blog might be down for, could even be for one day. I've been having some health problems the last couple of weeks, lack of appetite and other factors. Plus other things that have been going on longer than that which I sort of ignored.

Things finally came to head this morning when I fainted at work. So I went to the doctor where I was put on an IV for a few hours. Ran tests and I'm waiting on the results now, could be problems with my thyroid of which there is a family history or just sheer exhaustion from some upheavals of the past two weeks in my personal life.

I'm not really caring that much about comics these days anyway. I'm reading some manga, and hope to get around to covering them. Yet I look at everything else and am wowed by my lack of interest. I can't recall a time when I've been so disinterested in everything by DC, Marvel, the Indies etc have to offer.

I am watching a lot of movies though. I'm fast approaching the end of my nearly three month experience of watching all of my Buffy The Vampire Slayer DVD seasons. Watching one episode a night has given me such a familiarity with the characters and storylines, which I didn't have when I watched them live.

I've also started watching the first season of the Dead Like Me TV show. A very different show, that continues to surprise me so far. I heard it was going to start coming on the Sci-Fi Channel soon, which will hopefully increase its exposure. As when I was trying to buy the DVD in stores here, none of the staffs had even heard of it, much less ordered it.

So anyway I hope to be back soon, recharged and energized.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Tuesday Link blog

Bruce Jones Signs DC Exclusive - Interesting to see DC take another name away from Marvel, I never cared that much for his work on the Incredible Hulk yet he had a good fanbase. Also interesting to see that one of the series he's working on is the Vigilante series that Micah Wright was removed from after his controversy.

Steve Wacker named Full-time Editor - Steve was one of the regulars back when I used to host the chats on DC Comics On AOL,and was one of the nicest guys I ever talked with. When he was hired as an assistant editor and am pleased as punch to see him doing so well.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Positive FCBD Stories

While the day didn't work out for me, I was pleased to see that others elsewhere had a good time.

Shawn Fumo had a day that started off sort of like mine, but was lucky enough to live in a place near to many comic shop options. So I envy the way the day wound up for him.

Johanna Draper Carlson had fun at her local shop, devoting herself for 9 hours(!) to the cause.

Ron Marz devoted some time on his son's birthday no less, for a signing.

All of which gave me a real well rounded view of the way the day should go, seeing it from a fan, person behind the counter and comic professional's viewpoint.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

More Marvel Age At Target

I don't know if anyone else has mentioned this, but I was in Target last night and noticed they have expanded the number of Marvel Age "Magazine sized" books. The original books in the line I saw were of Ultimate X-Men, Marvel Age Spider-Man and a sort of who's who type book.

Now they have volumes featuring Gail Simone's Gus Beezer stories, about the little kid who befriended many of Marvel's big name heroes. A Marvel Age Fantastic Four(?) series written by Scott Mckeever, and surprisingly a Marvel Mangaverse book collecting some of the stories from Marvel's manga week event a little while back.

I was sorely tempted by the mangaverse one, mainly because I missed out on those stories when they came out, so am curious about what they were like.

My First Free Comic Book Day

For one reason or another I've always had to work on FCBD, and when I do it has usually been for 10 hours meaning I miss the entire day. When I had to work again today I thought "Oh well business as usual." Yet I went in early, and got off at 4 so knew I could finally make it to one.

Now the point of Free Comic Book Day is to showcase comics to people who aren't regular customers, to give them a free sample in hopes that they'll come back for more. This gets new people into the comics shops, so hopefully the shops can put on their best face.

I used to be a regular customer at comic shops, until the behavior of my retailers eventually drove me off with their lack of quality service. Yet with FCBD I was willing to give them one more shot.

Too bad once again I was let down by them. The first store I went to had to have the weirdest thing, and perhaps shows the folly of putting FCBD so close to a national holiday. For on its doors was a "Closed for the 4th of July Holidays" which left me scratching my head.

So it was off to the only other shop in my area, which was open thankfully. Yet I've never cared for it because it looks like a teenage boy's room in regards to what's on the walls and the way things are just stacked everywhere.

I wander in and the place is empty, the shop owner looks at me and nods, which is more than I used to get. So I wander around looking, looking and can't find the free comic day stuff anywhere. The place is just as much of a mess than it used to be, except for some newer "babes with little clothes bending over" posters on the wall.

I finally ask him about it and he looks up annoyed because I've interrupted his reading to go "Oh yeah that" and points me towards the very back of the store. Where buried underneath a box are the Archie, Teen Titans Go! and a few of the others very basic offerings that I knew FCBD had.

I thought about getting the Archie one, as the others Star Wars (not into it), Image (yuck), Teen Titans Go! (waiting for digest) and Marvel Age Spider-man (no interest) just didn't interest me. Yet was so put off by the experience, which should have been fun, but reminded me of what I quit going.

That I just left it there and went out of the shop. I love comics, and know that at least these shops are just some poor representatives of the larger comic shop whole.

I've been in shops that I've loved, Richmond Comix, and if I lived in the area I would be a constant customer at. Yet I wonder about those who for them this FCBD is their one shot at comics? What kind of impression does this lead them?

Of course maybe I'm being too pessimistic, after all after I left the shop I went to the mall, where I was pleased as punch to find the first volume of the SGT. Frog Manga I've been looking ages for. Which I'm really looking forward to covering here once I get a chance to read it.

I'm hoping others around the country have had a better experience during their FCBD though.

Friday, July 02, 2004

No Updates

Today is my birthday, and I'm likely to be out for most of it at work or at dinner with family.