Thursday, January 27, 2011

Comic Buzz - Jimmy Olsen

Creative Team: Nick Spencer (W), RB Silva (A), Amanda Conner (C)
DC, one-shot, $5.99, 80 pages
March 30, 2011

When I heard that the talented Nick Spencer was going to be writing a Jimmy Olsen back-up in Action Comics I almost laughed. “Jimmy Olsen?” I thought, “Who wants to read about him?” And to further confuse me, Spencer was really excited about the whole thing. Jimmy wasn’t a character that I expected someone to be so committed to. I wouldn’t even call him a B-list character. In my mind he was more of a supporting character than anything. I know he’s been around for a long time and has a firm place within the Superman universe, but I didn’t figure the story would hold any interest for me.

Then I found out that Spencer would be introducing the wonderful Chloe Sullivan into the DCU in this story and I did a little dance. And suddenly I cared about the story and really wanted it to be good. But I still wasn’t willing to buy the comic only for the back-up story.

I was playing around with my iPod in Tokyo, one of the few places that I can get a Wi-Fi signal, and as I browsed the free comics on Comixology I noticed that I could read the first chapter of the Jimmy Olsen back-up story. I figured why the heck not since it was free and all. On the train ride back home I decided to give it a read through and was amazed by how great it was. The dialogue was fantastic and very, very funny. I found myself laughing quite a bit for such a short story and more than once had to lean over and share a line or two with my fiancé. And by the end of the story I was really bummed out because I didn’t think that I would get to read the rest of the story.

But then I got some great news. As a result of DC canceling their back-up stories in all their books, in order to cut page count and price, the Jimmy Olsen story is no longer featured in Action Comics. But the seven part story had not finished yet. DC assured readers that the back-up stories would all find new homes somewhere and would be released. In March DC is releasing a one-shot that not only finishes the Jimmy Olsen story, but reprints the first four parts as well! So now I, and all of you, can enjoy this story in its entirety.

This is a rather long set up to explain what you should be buying, so I suppose I should touch at least a bit on why it’s so wonderful. The story is focused on Jimmy and while Superman is off on his walkabout he’s being a bit of a slacker. After his girlfriend, our wonderful Chloe, dumps him he finds out that she is doing a story about his rival, who happens to be a Lexcorp employee, and what a week in his life is like. This energizes Jimmy and motivates him to show that he can have a far more interesting week than the jerk who is now hitting on his ex. And he’s going to start by stopping a well timed alien invasion!

The story is lighthearted and fun. It doesn’t take itself too seriously. There have been so many crazy stories involving Jimmy Olsen and I feel like the tone of this reflects that. So if you’re against that sort of thing and like the darker more serious comics that seem to dominate the market at the moment this might not be for you. You are meant to have fun while reading it, and it may be a bit crazy and over the top, but Spencer’s ultimate goal is to put a smile on your face. The colors are bright and fun and some of the facial expressions are just priceless. There are some great little details thrown into the backgrounds that made me want to examine the pages on more than my tiny screen. As started before the dialogue is really good, which I’ve found is one of Spencer’s selling points. I haven’t read much of the character before, but I really felt like I understood his voice by the end of the issue. Jimmy is a normal person who is very comfortable in a super powered world and that gives us a different take on the DCU than we get in most books. I also thought Chloe was very well handled and love that she’s a decorated blog reporter, keeping her on the cutting edge of technology and letting her be a reporter while explaining why we’ve never really seen her at the Planet before.

Spencer’s love for the character is clear (he thinks of writing Jimmy as a dream project), and he apparently has more in mind for the character (apparently like a year’s worth of stories). So if this sells decently we might very well get more, and that’s always a good thing. I think it’s a good sign that DC has decided not only to release the end of the story, but the story in its entirety (not all of the back-ups are being given the same treatment). Clearly this story has generated some buzz and I’m sure I’m not the only one who missed out on the story and wanted to read it.

However, I’m always excited when you don’t really have to take my word for any recommendation. Everyone can read the first part of the story on the iPod/iPad/iPhone. It’s free and a decent way to preview these kinds of things. There is an interview about the story here

Remember, there probably isn't an option to "wait for trade" here (unless of course we get a bunch more Jimmy Olsen stories that can be collected together), so if this looks interesting tell your local comic shop to order you a copy or pick it up online while you can.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Top 10 List!

I like top 10 lists. They are easy to digest and compare your own picks with. They can say a lot while only saying a little. So I decided to write up a quick top 10 list of my own.

Below you will find my top 10 ongoing series. I picked them by looking at my pull list as though I had to drop all of my ongoing titles except for 10. If that were to happen, these are the books that would make the cut. The top few spots were hard to assign and in a few months they could easily shift around. But as of now, this is what I would pick.

Honorable Mention: Stuff of Legend – it can’t be on the list because it’s a series of miniseries and not an ongoing title. But I enjoy it so much that I felt it needed a mention and if I was dropping all of my books but 10 and a book had to be cut from this top ten list to keep this one I would probably make that sacrifice.

10. Batwoman – I admit it, this is a cheat. This book isn’t even out yet. But I have such high hopes for it that it still sneaks in at the number 10 spot on the list. When I actually have the book in my hands it could jump to an even higher spot, especially if the previous run in Detective Comics is any indication, but the new creative team has to prove themselves a little before that can happen.

9. Darkwing Duck – What can I say, I’m a sucker for nostalgia. The comic will never be as good as the cartoon (and the cartoon will probably never be as good as my memories of the cartoon) but it’s the only way I’m going to get new stories with these characters. And Darkwing, like Batman, has a great rogues gallery (and Batman doesn’t have a Negaduck!) and a fun family of relationships to explore.

8. Zatanna – I love magic. I always have. And really, who doesn’t love the very idea of magic? We all wish we could be magic, or at the very least, wish we could watch someone else being magic. This book is doing a nice job of treading into the magical side of the DCU that has been more or less ignored lately. Here our normal world and the magical world collide and it’s up to Zee to make sure that things don’t get too messy.
7. The Sixth Gun – I really like the weird west setting. Every time they give me another tidbit about the universe I am itching for more. The villains are scary and the heroes are maybe not so heroic. It’s a muddled environment without the clearest sense of who you can trust and who you should believe. And that helps to make it great. I saw someone describe this series as a western horror series but I don’t feel that really fits. It’s a western with fantasy elements (some of which, admittedly are scary). I look forward to seeing where this one will take me.

6. Batgirl – This book had so much to prove. It fought a hard battle to prove that it was a good book with an interesting character who deserved her place in the DCU. I have to say that I think the writer has a great sense of voice as the first year was full of Bat family guest stars and they were all portrayed believably. The stories have been great and the stakes have been high. This book doesn’t have to prove itself anymore, and now it can simply focus on being awesome.

5. Red Robin – Tim Drake is a great character. I HATED the idea of him being Red Robin, but the past year has really made it fit for the character. The book has a lot of great things going for it right now with some serious long term plotting going on. I hope the creative team can stick around for a long time to come because when Tim Drake is written well he is amazingly interesting and fun to read about.

4. iZombie – I figured I’d like this story because I like zombies, but this book is full of concepts that just really click with me. I love that one of the main characters is a were-terrier. When they sat down and laid out how vampires and ghosts and zombies and mummies exist in the world I really liked the explanation behind it all. With such iconic monsters it’s easy to just hand wave their existence as some sort of magic that doesn’t need explaining. But this book lays out easy to understand rules and shows a lot of forethought on the part of the writer. Also the art is fantastic. There are a lot of places this book can go and I look forward to being along for the ride.

3. Unwritten – This book continues to surprise me, and every surprise makes me excited to read the next volume. The characters are well developed and the threat they face is interesting and mysterious. And it has an adorable flying cat that I demand a plushie of immediately if not sooner. The pacing in this book is really solid and its one of the first things I read every month without fail.

2. Morning Glories – I’ve only read five issues so far, but the first one alone was enough to get me hooked and more than enough to earn the number 2 spot. This one could go down the list if it can’t keep up the insanely high standards it has set for itself, but it’s just starting out and with a long form mystery like this it’s an exciting time to be reading. The characters are fun and different and have great personalities that play off of each other in entertaining ways. The pacing of these issues has been fantastic with each issue ending in a way that makes me disappointed that there are no more pages that month and excited to see how things turn out as soon as the next volume is in my hands.

1. Tiny Titans – There is nothing better than this book. I feel like I gush about it all the time and if so it’s only because that’s how much I am enjoying this book. If they had an entire Tiny universe of books I would buy every single one of them and they would all probably be on this list. No matter what happens I know this comic will be fun. It will make me laugh. It will charm me with its whimsy. If I am feeling sad it makes me feel happy and if I’m already happy it makes me happier. Any book that can do that deserves the number 1 spot.

I’m honestly surprised by how many of these series are new (6 of the 10 haven’t even reached issue 10 yet, so in a way this list doubles as my best of 2010 list). I suppose the longer a series runs the more likely it is to lose readers for whatever reason. It doesn’t surprise me that half the books on here are independent titles. More DCU books would probably be on here if I could depend on the creative team sticking around for more than a year. But when I think about comics I want to read for a long time it’s too easy to assume that the writer I like will go away and be replaced by someone who doesn’t know what they are doing. Or that some big DCU event is going to come along and change everything potentially derailing stories that have been building for a while.

I noticed that I didn't talk too much about what these different series were actually about, so I've included links where I could to other places on my blog where I gush about the series in question.
Share your top 10 list with me! If you could only read 10 ongoings what would they be? Do you have less than 10? Share that too!

A few volunteers needed

The wonderful blog DC Women Kicking Ass is looking for a few volunteers to lend a little of their time for a short research article. To participate you must be female, buy your comics at a local comic book store, and have another comic shop nearby that you don’t frequent. She estimates that it will only take an hour or two of your time. You can contact her by sending an email to dcwomenkickingass (at) yahoo (dot) com.

Unfortunately I can’t participate since I’m in Japan and get all my comics online, but if you or someone you know fits the criteria you should check it out!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Well, that didn’t last long…

So yeah…this one is going to ramble a little.

*Spoilers for JL: Cry for Justice and the recently released Starman/Congorilla one shot ahead*

Man, where to start. I admit it. I bought Justice League: Cry for Justice. The art was a major draw (although it ended up being pretty offensive in several places and then the artist couldn’t even finish it despite delays) and seemed to contain some characters that I cared about (like Batwoman, who ended up being like three panels of the thing). It ended up being pretty terrible. If you want to know just how terrible it was you should follow the link in the sidebar to Atop the Forth Wall and watch Linkara’s excellent review of it (parts one and two are up now and part three should be up next week).

But as bad as that was, I’m not going to dwell on it too much here. That isn’t what got my attention today. It is important that you know, in case you didn’t read it, that one of the major problems with the series was the insane amount of character death, most of them minor or supporting characters and many of them off panel. The death that got the most attention was probably that of Roy Harper’s (Red Arrow or Arsenal depending on when you are reading) daughter Lian. That one was like a punch in the gut to me, and felt amazingly unnecessary (especially considering poor Roy had just had one of his ARMS TORN OFF). But again, that isn’t what I’m here to rant about.

You may remember a little quote that was floating around after Blackest Night that “dead was dead” from now on. Now of course, we all rolled our eyes knowing that it certainly wouldn’t last. We all know how these things work. But the point was made that they probably wouldn’t be using character death/resurrection as a gimmick for at least a while. The “revolving door of death” in the DCU was apparently going to be closed.

Again, I knew that this wasn’t going to stick for too long. But I figured the editors would be keeping a tight leash on this particular idea and that when the first post Blackest Night resurrection happened that it would be a big deal and would have to have some strong writing to work around the “dead is dead” idea. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, I was wrong.

In the Starman/Congorilla one shot this month (which, for full disclosure, I have not read) the Tasmanian Devil was resurrected by having his remains thrown into a Lazarus pit. Let’s backtrack for a moment. Tas was killed off in the afore mentioned Cry for Justice and, to add insult to injury, his skin was MADE INTO A RUG so that we could all see just what a badass Prometheus was. That’s right. Not only was this character brutally murdered in a rather offhanded manner, but he was skinned and put on display. It was rather distasteful and got quite a reaction when it happened.

One of the reasons that it was a big deal (other than the outright grotesqueness of it)was that Tas, while a rather minor player in the DCU, is one of the few openly gay heroes. And when there are so few of them in the comic universe the loss of even one is felt strongly by fans who are gay and who support gay characters.

Now here’s the rub. Tas was killed in Cry for Justice and brought back in Starman/Congorilla. The writer for BOTH of these works was James Robinson. Wait, what? At first this seemed like it was perhaps some half baked apology for the wonton death of Cry for Justice. But upon reading an interview on Newsarama it seems as though Robinson claims this was “planned all along.” He had always planned for Tas to be brought back and to end up as the boyfriend of Starman (another of the established gay characters). Did I mention that Starman’s previous boyfriend was killed (off panel) in Cry for Justice too? So Robinson’s master plan was to kill the old boyfriend and then kill the soon-to-be-new boyfriend and then bring the new boyfriend back to conveniently take the place of the old (and apparently forgotten) boyfriend?

And now here is the other problem. The big solution to “dead is dead” is the Lazarus pits? Are you freaking serious? Why don’t we just go throw all the bodies of dead superheroes into the Lazarus pit and bring them back too? Why not Lian Harper and Ralph and Sue Digby and all of the other heroes that people miss? Because it’s a terrible idea, that’s why. It has been established many times that while the Lazarus pits are powerful, people have a tendency to come back wrong. Insane wrong usually. Batman decided against bringing Jason Todd back this way. Tim Drake had the opportunity to bring back his parents and best friends (who got better anyway…) and turned it down because he knew that it wouldn’t really be them and this it wasn’t natural. Heck, even when Dick Grayson threw Bruce’s not-body into the pit it was as a last resort that he knew was incredibly dangerous and could have massive side effects. It was a desperation move. But Tas doesn’t seem to have been effected at all. The Lazarus pits were established as a poor solution to death BECAUSE of how broken they are and how many questions are raised if people are brought back with them without consequences.

*Sigh* Even if this was “the plan all along” (which I do not buy at all) it is a terrible plan and some editor somewhere should have put a stop to it. And by it I mean the death in the first place. You want Tas and Starman to hook up? Groovy. You want to kill off Starman’s current boyfriend as a plot device before that? Well…okay, I mean we wish you wouldn’t but it’s not a complete deal breaker. You want to ignore the big status quo change that we have been pimping in the DCU not even a year after it was made so you can kill this character, among a sea of others, for shock value and then almost immediately bring him back? Sorry Mr. Robinson, we’ll have to see another draft of this; I’m afraid this just doesn’t work.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Texas Friends! Meet a Comic Creator!

There is a new miniseries coming out that looks pretty interesting called “Who is Jake Ellis?” I ordered it and almost wrote up a Comic Buzz about it, but at the time I didn’t really have enough info about it and wasn’t quite as excited about it as I have been about the other Comic Buzz entries and then Christmas happened, so I didn’t. Anyhow, the first issue came out recently and I just found out that the author of the series, Nathan Edmondson, will be making a book tour to various comic stores to promote the book and sign autographs.

I was extra excited when I saw that he would be making not one but four stops in my “home state”* of Texas on January 18th-20th. So if you live in or near the Arlington, Dallas, Houston, or Austin areas I think you should take a look and consider heading down to meet this guy. I don’t know about everyone else, but opportunities to meet real comic creators aren’t exactly jumping out at me all the time, so this might be a fun experience. I mean, he’s not Grant Morrison or Brian Bendis or one of the tip top names in the industry, but he’s still a creative guy who works in the industry we all love. And if his book sounds interesting to you I think it would really be worth your time to head over and say hi. You can find more on the comic itself here and here.

Check out the schedule for details on stores, dates, and times. I’m only highlighting the Texas locations because that’s still where most people who read this blog are probably from (as in people I actually know), but if you’re from somewhere else check out the schedule and see if he’s headed to your neck of the woods as well.

*As an army brat I don’t really have a “home state” in the traditional sense, but I lived there longer than anywhere else, so it counts.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

On the cancellation of some Batbooks

I knew this was coming. I didn’t know for sure which titles would be cut, but it had been too long since DC had trimmed off some of their lower selling books. And since there are so many Bat family books out right now, I assumed that a few of them would be getting the axe. March will see the final issue of three of my current ongoing series. Let’s take a closer look at these titles, shall we?


I was very close to dropping this book anyway, but the low sales clued me in that this one might not last and it seemed a pity to drop it an issue or two before it ended (since I was there for the beginning and all). This is a title that severely suffered from a change in writers. When Fabian Nicieza had the book I felt that it worked. It wasn’t astonishingly amazing or anything, but it did several very interesting things. I enjoyed the issue with Ragman where the two characters talked about the differences of their powers. It was interesting religious philosophy without being heavy handed. I was intrigued by the fact that the first issue showed the main character dead at some point in the mystery future. I thought it was an interesting gamble, and while I thought it could be a fake out of some kind, I admired the guts it took to set up a story that way.

Unfortunately, Nicieza left the book and was replaced by David Hine. And his take on having a religious hero went from uninteresting to downright offensive. I’m Catholic. The character of Michael Lane is also Catholic. He is “working for” the Order of Purity, a secret religious sect from the middle ages. Now I’m a big girl and can take digs at my religion in forms of media. Nothing said in a comic book or a movie is going to shake my faith. But you would think that the writer or editor might have taken a step back and said, “Hey, Catholicism is a widely practiced religion. Some of our readers might in fact be Catholic. Perhaps we shouldn’t have a splash page that depicts the Pope (who is very real) as a demonic monster. That might be going a bit far.” Azreal was “safe” when he was under the umbrella of the Order of Purity. You could have all sorts of crazy religious commentary things going on and it was okay because that religious sect didn’t actually exist. But suddenly we decided to tie a lot of real world religion into the book in a very unflattering way and it did not come out the better for it. I get that religious conspiracies are cool and hip, but even that felt stale and overused (oh wow, Lane might be the descendent of Jesus, because he didn’t really die and had kids, and this has never ever been thought of or done before, aren’t we edgy?).

I have no idea where Nicieza was planning on going with the book had he stayed on, but I have to assume it would have been better than what we got. As it stands, this book would have been far better off being canceled when Nicieza left instead of trying to squeeze whatever final blood they could get out of the title. I’ll see it through to the end in the hope that it finds a way to redeem itself, but I’m actually pretty glad this one is going away.

Batman Confidential

It really confuses me that this book lasted over 50 issues. DC NEVER promoted this book. I read a lot of interviews online, and even when people were bitching about not being able to read about Bruce Wayne as Batman no one EVER brought this book up. When they were giving the low down about who would be appearing in what Batbook, this title was never mentioned. It was like DC was trying to hide this book for some reason, and yet they kept publishing it.

This book began as a series of untold tales back from when Bruce Wayne had just started being Batman. His first encounter with the Joker, his first this, his first that. It was all very classic stuff. Easy to follow and far less complicated than most of the other books at the time. But then, somewhere along the line, this book seemed to lose its focus. It seemed like we weren’t dealing with a young Batman anymore. It seemed like we were dealing with whatever Batman the writer decided to write about. The stories were still all very “safe” but there didn’t seem to be any connection between the arcs. One arc we’re in Russia, the next we’re dealing with a ghost/fear monster thing, then we’re fighting vampires and werewolves. It really became the weird Batman miniseries book, except that instead of miniseries it was an ongoing with lots of disjointed arcs.

What really bums me out is that the book seemed to be getting back on track. There was a one shot issue that I felt was very good, and the current and final arc seemed to feel more like we were dealing with a young Bruce Wayne still finding his limits and his place. And it was good! And now that I’ve felt we were getting back to where we belonged the rug is pulled out and the book is canceled. Oh, well.

Batman: Streets of Gotham

This is the only cancelation that really surprised me. And apparently surprised the writer too since he mentioned in an interview that he was working on the next year’s worth of stories for the book. I love Paul Dini. Most of his work I have really enjoyed, and I always found Streets to be an interesting read. But I will admit that it didn’t have as clear of a place in the family of Batbooks as some of the others. You can kinda sum up the purpose of most of the other books in a sentence or so. And while I don’t think its necessarily a bad thing that this book didn't have that, I can see it being tough from a marketing point of view. And with so many other Batbooks out there I guess something had to give. Paul Dini is still an amazing writer and I’m sure they will find a place for any Batman stories he still wants to tell. It’s just always sad to hear that a writer had more stuff planned that they won’t get to put out for the readers.

With as many comics as I am getting I will admit that I’m slightly relived to have three less comics a month. I’m sure I’ll find something to replace them with soon enough. And none of them were my top tier favorite books, so all in all I can’t really complain all that much.  But it does serve to remind me to try to help promote those books that I enjoy that have lower sales so that they do not end up cancelled too.

Happy New Year Everyone!

I’ve added a poll to find out how those who visit my blog enjoy their comics. I’d be very happy if you’d take a second to answer it. It will help me to know what kinds of posts will be the most helpful to those who are actually checking the blog on a somewhat regular basis. Of course I’ll still probably post a little bit of everything, but if one option is far more popular than the others I will know to give it a bit more attention. I like connecting with my readers through polls so don’t be surprised if more pop up in the future.

I’ve been a bit lax at posting here for a spell (as in did not post at all in December…), but I’m sure most everyone had more important things to do during the holidays than to read about what I think about comics. And I too had plenty of other things that kept me busy and away from this blog. I thought about posting a Christmas List post or a Top of 2010 post, but as I thought about what I would write I realized that I would just be repeating myself about the series I already post a lot about here. And since that wasn’t new or interesting I put it off and let it slip by. If you want to know what I thought was really good this past year check out the Waiting for Trade posts or even the Comic Buzz posts. Those are things I can recommend to you and will probably continue to remind you of in the future (until all of you have actually read them all, MWAHAHAHAH!).

I’ll try to keep this blog updated regularly this year with lots of fun and interesting content. I’m really feeling the difficulty of posting things that are timely when I get all my books a month late, but I’ll continue to do my best. It’s hard sometimes feeling like the only comic fan around since I haven’t found anyone here in Japan who shares my obsession (save my fiancé, who at this point doesn’t really have a choice). It’s also tough because when I do venture into the interwebs to find “likeminded” people I’m often overwhelmed by the amount of negativity out there among comic book “fans.” Everyone is free to express their opinions, but some people are so harsh on every little thing that it can be disheartening. Everyone is so vocal about what sucks and sometimes I think people enjoy hating on things more than they like sharing the things they are actually enjoying. While I’m probably going to hate on my fair share of things this next year, I promise to also try to present as many positive recommendations as I can. I set up this blog to share my love of comics with my friends and I won’t convince any friends to read comics if I don’t point them in the direction of things I think are worth a look.

Well, that’s about it for this long rambling post that is probably a bit boring. I promise to be back with more interesting content soon!

By the Numbers – December

Total comics for the month: 61
Change from last month: -5

Company Run Down
DC: 42
Vertigo (DC): 3
Wildstorm (DC): 1
12 Gauge: 1
Archaia Entertainment: 2
Boom!: 4
Dark Horse: 1
GG Studios: 1
IDW: 1
Image: 3
Oni: 1
Zenoscope: 1

Average price I paid: $2.32

First Issues: 4
Last Issues: 3

Ongoing: 34
Mini-series: 16
One shot: 8
Half trade thingies: 3

Batman Issues: 21
Brightest Day books: 6