Saturday, April 30, 2011

Plastic Farm #11

Another issue of Plastic Farm, part of the haul from the SPACE convention.

Title: Plastic Farm
Issue: #11
Date: September 2005
Publisher: Plastic Farm Press
Writer: Rafer Roberts
Artist: Rafer Roberts, Dave Morgan, Danielle Corsetto
Copy Editor: Nan Roberts

Five in-continuity short stories here, plus a Rafer Roberts backup story that's outside of the Plastic Farm universe.

Lots of cannibalism this issue. Plus some connections established between previous chapters, and some new characters and situations introduced.

Artist Danielle Corsetto's work on the love-gone-wrong story "The Flavor of My Love" was a perfect fit for this disturbing bit of black comedy.

I thought the other segments fell short of providing the kind of connections that I was hoping for this issue, although Roberts did manage to tie in one of the most obvious unconnected threads from a previous issue, and he revisited another.

I also really enjoyed the bit of poetry that is read by one of the characters in the opening scene. It's a nice bit of character development, and holds its own pretty well as a poem.

The final backup story was a a pretty amusing piece, mostly for its use of language, and the protagonist gets some firsthand experience in becoming "wooby".

Finally, worth noting in this issue is a two-page letter from Dave Sim with advice on distribution and marketing of independent comics. It's a bit dated at this point, but still worth a look as Mr. Sim goes into considerable detail on his perceptions of the challenges of distributing to the retail market and the question of when to move to a trade paperback offering.

Rating: 7/10

Friday, April 29, 2011


Diving back into the backlog tonight. I picked this one up from Don MacDonald at MICE (Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo) last September.

Title: Marlowe
Date: 2010
Publisher: Don MacDonald
Writer: Don MacDonald
Artist: Don MacDonald

Don MacDonald has been publishing an online graphic novel on the life of Niccolò Machiavelli. This ashcan previews a future work on Elizabethian playwright Christopher Marlowe. Like his work on Machiavelli, the Marlowe piece is meticulously researched and detailed. This preview ashcan just gives a taste of what is to come as Marlowe is lured into a new venture abroad by an old friend. Although there is not a lot of plot in this sample, there is plenty of flavor of the setting and MacDonald's art style works well with the characters and period.

Rating: 7.5/10

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Action Comics #900

What can I say? I'm a sucker for these "big number" milestone issues, and Action Comics has the highest number in comics, now at #900. Picked this one up at Newbury Comics today, day of release.

Title: Action Comics
Issue: #900
Date: June 2011
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Paul Cornell, Damon Lindelof, Paul Dini, Geoff Johns, David S. Goyer, Richard Donner, Derek Hoffman
Art: Pete Woods, Jesus Merino, Dan Jurgens, Norm Rapmund, Rags Morales, Adrian Syaf, Jamal Igle, Jon Sibal, Gary Frank, Ryan Sook, RB Silva, Rob Lean, Miguel Sepulveda, Brian Stelfreeze, Matt Camp
Colorist: Brad Anderson, Blond, Java Tartaglia, Paul Mounts
Letterer: Rob Leigh, John J. Hill
Cover: David Finch
Editor: Wil Moss, Matt Idelson

Issue #900! Wow! That is a lot of comics.

As is typical for these milestone issues, this one is extra-long and loaded with backup features.

The main story serves two purposes. First it wraps up the ongoing Lex Luthor plotline about Lex seeking out the ultimate power needed to destroy Superman. Meanwhile, it's also setting up a new plot that's a fun little variant on the famous Reign of the Supermen storyline that followed up the death of Superman at the hands of Doomsday.

Unfortunately, the problem with giving a villain godlike omnipotence is that the universe still needs to be intact when it's all said and done. We know going in that no matter what Luthor does with his newly acquired cosmic powers (acquired through a rather convoluted pathway that involved black power rings, the Phantom Zone, and something called the Zone Child), we're going to be hitting the reset button by the end of it. It's just a matter of how interesting the ride is going to be. In this case, it's inconsistent. Luthor tortures Superman in an effort to "break" him, by having him re-experience his greatest losses. This seems a rather futile strategy, since Superman has already proven his resilience in the face of those very events. It does set up one really clever scene in which Luthor searches for the worst moment of Superman's life, expecting to find some sort of planetary-scale tragedy, and instead finds some true insight into what Superman is really all about.

Of course moments later it's time to cue up the convenient amnesia. We do get a nice little cameo by Death, but little else of consequence happens either in the main plot or in the Doomsday subplot, which simply engages in a stalling action to set the scene for the next issue.

Next come the backup stories. The first of these "Life Support" by Damon Lidelof and Ryan Sook, is far and away the best thing in this issue. It focuses in on a very small, but very important moment in Superman's history and does so with a strong plot, a good sense of mystery, and some powerful emotional content. The art is understated, but still among the best in this issue, which is saying a lot because this issue is loaded with strong visuals.

"Autobiography" is a conversation between Superman and an ancient alien being about the choices made when interacting with other species. It's a good bit of science fiction, especially for those fond of pondering "prime directive" type dilemmas.

Next up is the (seemingly) obligatory comedy piece, "Friday Night in the 21st Century", which serves as an excuse to 1) mock Lois Lane a bit (apparently she has a messy desk and is a bad cook) and 2) have a gratuitous appearance by the Legion of Super Heroes. Harmless fluff.

"The Incident" is an attempt at a political story, and it almost works really well. The President's national security advisor has a clandestine meeting with Superman to discuss an incident that too place in Iran. Apparently, Superman decided to sit in on a protest in Tehran. This doesn't sit well with the US government who feel like diplomacy should be handled the old-fashioned way (you know, by sending in Hillary Clinton). The actual Iran stuff was great. Absolutely brilliant discussion about the true limitations of Superman's effectiveness in solving the world's problems. But then the story takes things a step too far with Superman deciding that he is going to renounce his US citizenship. Look, I'm no ultra-patriotic conservative, but I respect tradition. "Truth, Justice, and the American Way" may be something that was made up for the TV version of Superman, but it's become ingrained as part of the Superman tradition and mythology, and I have a hard time with Superman going against those ideals, even if it might make logical sense for him to consider himself more of a "world citizen". It's too bad, because this detail seems hastily thrown in and unnecessary to the story being told here.

Last story is an odd screenplay/storyboard sequence featuring a rival of Clark Kent's who is using a STAR Labs suit to gain superpowers and challenges Superman to a "friendly" competition. This had a bit of a Silver Age flavor to it, and featured some good interaction between Superman and Lois.

Finally, a Brian Stelfreeze two-page pinup showing different character designs for Superman ends the issue. Interestingly the "current" Superman is shown holding an American flag. Mixed messages?

This issue is artistically excellent from David Finch's cover to the cosmic Lex Luthor sequences to the Doomsday fight to some great illustration in different styles for the backup stories. It's the kind of visual feast you expect from a milestone issue. The stories themselves were generally good for what they were. I had a few gripes, but for the most part this was an enjoyable read.

Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Hot Fudge Sundae Adventure Club #8

Another SPACE find.

Title: The Hot Fudge Sundae Adventure Club
Issue: #8
Date: 2010
Publisher: Torc Press
Writer: Joseph Morris
Artist: Joseph Morris

The follow-up to last issue's revelations about the mysterious Agent, this issue presents the Agent's complete origin. The flashback scenes move along pretty quickly, resulting in an interesting tale, but one that lacks some of the depth of character interaction that the previous issue showed. Up until the ending, that is, which manages to pull the intensity up a notch while still keeping a good level of fun.

There was a scattering of pretty good comedy details, as well as some oddball touches that didn't make much sense but contributed nicely to the surreal feel that The Hot Fudge Sundae Adventure Club maintains.

Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Plastic Farm #10

Back to the pile of comics from SPACE. I'm slowly making my way through it!

Title: Plastic Farm
Issue: #10
Date: June 2005
Publisher: Plastic Farm Press
Writer: Rafer Roberts
Artist: Dennis Culver
Copy Editor: Nan Roberts

Detective Jake Goner investigates the bombing that killed two of his fellow cops. At the funeral, he makes a promise to one of the widows to find the killer, but the investigation soon grinds to a halt amid a mass of red tape. It seems that powerful people in the police department want this case to remain unsolved.

Detective Goner is unable to shake the need to find the truth, even when his continued investigations cost him his career. But that price, it turns out, is only the beginning.

Rafer Roberts goes back to the straight-up hardboiled detective style for this issue, and crafts a disturbing tale that features the capable illustration talent of Dennis Culver.

Rating: 7/10

Monday, April 25, 2011

Sky Pirates of Valendor Series 2 #2

My last review from Anime Boston. Here is Sue Soares of Jolly Rogue Studios with the display of both issues of Sky Pirates of Valendor Series 2.

Title: Sky Pirates of Valendor Series 2
Issue: #2
Date: 2011
Publisher: Jolly Rogue Studios
Writer: Everett Soares
Penciler: Brian Brinlee
Inker: Alex Rivera
Tones: Jet Amago
Letterer: Steve Kuster
Editor: Amy Haley, Elizabeth Tramonti
Art Direction: Keith J Murphey

Half-elven pirate captain Tobin Manheim gets invited to high tea, and the event turns into a family reunion of sorts. Of course family reunions can be problematic when old suspicions rear their ugly heads, and they become even more problematic when one a family member is a powerful earth-mage.

The family drama takes center stage, but there is plenty of political intrigue in the background as Captain Manheim decides that he can split his crew to take on two missions at once for double the money.

A few of the time-cuts in the earlier scenes seemed unnecessary, but once the action focused on the main characters and the story got rolling, this moved along at a nice pace with plenty of action and some good backstory development.

The artwork on the fight scenes was excellent, with some fun and creative angles and panel layouts.

Rating 8/10

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Higher Ground

My second review from Anime Boston is Higher Ground pictured here with creator Shelli Paroline.

Title: Higher Ground
Date: 2008
Publisher: Foolproofart
Writer: Shelli Paroline
Artist: Shelli Paroline

Very cute quarter-sized minicomic. It's b/w but shaded in yellow hues.

The story is a play on the Sisyphus myth set during the age of dinosaurs, and it features an egg-eating dino who believes he's acquired the best treasure he can imagine. He just needs to roll it up a very high hill that may not be a hill at all.

Amusing story with adorable art and some funny dialogue.

Rating: 8/10

Saturday, April 23, 2011


My first live review from Anime Boston. Kel McDonald and the Sorcery 101 crew was across the aisle from me in Artists Alley. I picked up her minicomic, Bisclavret.

Title: Bisclavret
Publisher: Sorcery 101
Story: Marie De France
Artist: Kel McDonald

Half-sized minicomic adaptation of a French werewolf legend.

This was a really interesting take on the werewolf mythology with some great plot twists. A lady wonders where her lord disappears to when he goes away into the forest, and he reluctantly lets her in on his dark secret. The characters came off as complex and real, and the story came to a satisfying conclusion.

Kel McDonald's art style is clear and easy to follow, and she handles detailed action scenes with apparent ease. Very entertaining book.

Rating: 8.5/10

Friday, April 22, 2011

Plastic Farm #9

Title: Plastic Farm
Issue: #9
Date: March 2005
Publisher: Plastic Farm Press
Writer: Rafer Roberts
Artist: Wendi Strang-Frost
Copy Editor: Nan Roberts
Backup Story By: Scott Cristian Carr, Jeff Westover

This issue delves into the origin story of Raoul the baggage handler, a tale which begins with a man hiding from his bill collectors and quickly spirals into bizarre experimentation and government conspiracies.

What I really liked in this issue was all of the minor details that were brought in from previous issues and strung together. Rafer Roberts is telling a complex tale here, one in which everything is connected even though things to not at first appear to be.

Backup story was "The Continuing Adventures of Fat Man and Little Boy", a post-apocalyptic comedy by the team of Scott Cristian Carr and Jeff Westover. I liked the post-apocalyptic culture they have created, and the distorted take on what life was like "afore the war".

Rating: 7.5/10

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Plastic Farm #8

A couple more reviews from SPACE and then I'll spend some time reviewing comics and manga I pick up at Anime Boston.

Title: Plastic Farm
Issue: #8
Date: December 2004
Publisher: Plastic Farm Press
Writer: Rafer Roberts
Artist: Rafer Roberts

"A Fistful of Inferno" finally brings back the Kamikaze Kid, who was first introduced in an extended story in Plastic Farm #1. He's gotten multiple mentions since then, but this is our first chance to see him in action.

Action, in this case, means a lengthy monologue on the nature of reality and the universe. It's largely incoherent, but backed up by some really beautiful artwork showing the Kid making his way through a series of hellish landscapes following a succession of exit-signs.

There's also a confrontation with a creature that resembles a rat with four eyes.

The rambling got a bit difficult to follow, but this was a great issue visually, and it did serve to advance the overall plot.

Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

March 2011 Statistics

Here are some stats for March 2011.

Total Comics Reviewed: 31
Newly Purchased Comics Reviewed: 11
Comics Reviewed From The Backlog: 20
Marvel Comics Reviewed: 4
DC Comics Reviewed: 1
Minicomics Reviewed: 15
Manga Reviewed: 1
Conventions Attended: 1 (plus one that my wife attended and brought back comics to review from)

Highest Rated Comics:

A Beautiful Young Nymph Going To Bed (8.5/10)
A Treatise Upon The Jam (8/10)
Small Town Type #3 (8/10)
The Walking Dead Vol. 2: Miles Behind Us (8/10)
Moses & Bean #2 (8/10)
Unnecessary Accessory #1 (8/10)

Lowest Rated Comics:

2099 Limited (4/10)
Spider-Man Halloween Special 2004 (5/10)

Creators With Multiple Reviews This Month:

Matt Bryan, Jeanie Bryan, Rafer Roberts

Average Rating For February 2011: 6.74

All-Time Highest-Rated Comics:

Amelia Rules: When The Past Is A Present (9.5/10)
Batman: Gotham Knights #6 (8.5/10)
American Born Chinese (8.5/10)
A Beautiful Young Nymph Going To Bed (8.5/10)

Timeless #1

Title: Timeless
Issue: #1
Date: 2009
Publisher: Satyr Play Productions
Writer: Mike Indovina
Artist: Mike Indovina

Clever multi-layered story about a female comic book creator whose connection to Greek mythology turns out to be a lot more than just the inspiration for her comics. This had good touches of humor while it handily tied up plot threads involving time travel and reincarnation.

Pyrrha Stavros, the main character, is a terrific heroine. She's strong and geeky, and she is not intimidated by the sudden appearance of mystical forces in her life. Her voice rings true and creator Mike Indovina has clearly put a lot of thought into establishing her fictional line of comic books, so that there are some fun hints of stories within stories to be enjoyed.

The art style is cartoonish and whimsical, and fits the general flavor of the book.

My only complaint is that the story is very dialogue heavy. To the point where one character is mocked for being long-winded, and his speech pattern doesn't come across as all that different than anyone else's. Part of this is the limitation of the webcomic format (this book was originally published as a webcomic), where a certain amount of information needs to be conveyed to the reader with each installment, but it still comes off as a very wordy book.

That being said, it's also a truly fun book to read.

Rating: 8/10

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

XXXHolic Volume 2

In preparation for Anime Boston this week, here's a recent manga purchase. This was picked up at the recent Borders going-out-of-business sale.

Title: XXXHolic
Issue: Volume 2
Date: 2004
Publisher: Del Rey Manga
Writer: Clamp
Artist: Clamp

For those not familiar, Clamp is the collective name of the writing/art team behind Cardcaptor Sakura, Tsubasa, and other manga titles. The title of this series is a bit deceptive, as it has little to do with alcohol and nothing to do with X-rated entertainment.

XXXHolic is the story of a high school student with the ability (or curse) to see spirits. He has become the indentured servant of a sorceress and he hopes that she will eventually free him of his spirit-sight. But in the meantime, he must do the cooking and help with the errands while strange events unfold around him.

This volume got off to a shaky start for me because XXXHolic crosses over with another Clamp series, Tsubasa, which I have not read any of. The first chapter of this volume was heavily involved in the crossover and I didn't feel like I got much out of it.

The book got better as it went on, however, with an extended discussion about fortune telling that was fascinating. In the end, student/servant Kimihiro Watanuki must participate in a "Hundred Ghost Story Night" along with sorceress Yuko Ichihara, and the girl he has a crush on at school, plus his biggest school rival. The night quickly turns into a dangerous encounter with the spirit world.

Clamp's art is beautiful, and the second and third story segments were very strong and more than made up for the beginning, in which a working knowledge of the Tsubasa series is necessary for a full understanding.

Rating: 7/10

Monday, April 18, 2011

Skottie Rocket: Gay Space Pirate: We'll Always Have Uranus

A minicomic that Gynn picked up at SPACE.

Title: Skottie Rocket: Gay Space Pirate: We'll Always Have Uranus
Date: 2010
Publisher: Frank Cvetkovic and David Brame
Writer: Frank Cvetkovic
Artist: David Brame

Space opera parody. Gay themed, but you probably figured that out from the title. Skottie Rocket tells the story of how he once saved the universe from a powerful and invulnerable alien who has decided to violate her own personal Prime Directive.

Some slapstick, some mocking of gay culture, some mocking of pop culture in general, some mocking of science fiction, and some space ninjas. Jokes were a bit uneven, but I found a decent amount of this to be funny. Humor was crude in places, but actually a bit tamer than I expected. I liked the character designs, particularly Skottie himself.

Rating: 6/10

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Plastic Farm #7

Continuing through the Plastic Farm series, which my wife brought home from SPACE.

Title: Plastic Farm
Issue: #7
Date: October 2004
Publisher: Plastic Farm Press
Writer: Rafer Roberts, Jake Warrenfeltz
Artist: Rafer Roberts, Jake Warrenfeltz

The seventh chapter of Plastic Farm opens in the snowed-in airport bar where Chester Carter has been sharing stories. A new patron has a story of his own, a rags-to-riches-to-rags tale involving an odd anatomical quirk.

From there, we switch to the tale of a female killer-for-hire who's been stalking her target and may have gotten too close.

And in the third story, a young man and his grandfather encounter a mysterious aviator out in the farmlands of the midwestern USA.

The first story didn't do much for me, but I really liked the other two. Rafer Roberts does a great job infusing his hit-woman with a very believable personality. In a genre where assassins for hire are found on the pages of hundreds, maybe thousands of comics, this character was one of the very few examples of the archetype that really stood out.

The final story stood on its own very well. It was a really touching tale with some excellent dialogue.

Two hits and a miss still make this a very good issue.

Rating: 7.5/10

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Irredeemable Volume 4

Here's another find from the going-out-of-business sale at my local Borders.

Title: Irredeemable
Issue: Volume 4
Date: September 2010
Publisher: Boom! Studios
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Diego Barreto, Paul Azaceta, Emma Rios, Howard Chaykin
Colorist: Andrew Dalhouse, Matthew Wilson, Alfred Rockefeller
Letterer: Ed Dukeshire
Cover: Chriscross

This is a trade paperback collection that includes issues 13-15 of the comic series, plus the Irredeemable Special. The basic premise is that Superman (represented here by a character called the Plutonian, who is for all intents and purposes Superman) has "snapped" and gone very very bad. Bad as in entire cities destroyed, populations wiped out, and brutal murders of his fellow superbeings (who were never really in the Plutonian's league power-wise).

Alan Moore did this same story much better in Miracleman.

There. Now that I've gotten that off my chest, I did find Irredeemable to be fairly entertaining. There are some likable characters, and not all of them are used as cannon fodder (some are, though). There is a pretty complex set of subplots, which serve to add a nice level of suspense to the storyline, even though they also mire the story in the cliches of the genre that it is attempting to rise above.

Thanks to the presence of the Irredeemable Special in this volume, I got a nice recap of the story, as well as some background on characters that appear in the regular issues, which helped make it easier to jump right in with Volume 4.

The artwork is generally quite good. There are a few moments of unnecessary gore (well, I'm sure they were seen as necessary to remind the reader that this is a superhero story for grownups), and there were some fight scenes where it was a bit hard to tell what was going on, but the artistic handling of a very tricky climactic sequence involving a bullet and a teleportation effect was brilliant work.

I wasn't too impressed when I first heard the premise of this, so I would have to say I was pleasantly surprised by the degree to which I found it entertaining.

Rating: 6.5/10

Friday, April 15, 2011

Azteca #1

My last review from the South Coast Toy and Comic Show. Writer Enrica Jang was one of the guests at the show and I got a chance to pick up the first issue of her comic, Azteca.

Title: Azteca
Issue: #1
Date: November 2010
Publisher: Red Stylo Media
Writer: Enrica Jang
Penciler: Jhazmine Ruiz
Inker: Andre Frattino
Colorist: Andre Frattino
Letterer: Andre Frattino

Crime story set in Mexico. A vigilante is hacking up gang members in a small Mexican tourist town, and the local politicians scramble to use the situation for their own gain.

I liked the backdrop of political intrigue in this story. The mayor, police chief, gang leader, and councilwoman are all pursuing their own agendas, which are nicely intertwined with the mysterious vigilante killings. The character of Councilwoman Pilar particularly stands for her complex motivations and some Machiavellian maneuvering behind the political scene in the town.

I would have liked to see similar complexity in more of the characters, and especially some breaking away from the stereotypes of corrupt politician, snobbish ignorant American tourist, and animalistic thug.

This story has a ton of potential to rise about the cliches and present a truly three-dimensional Mexico while still telling an intense crime story, and I hope that that it reaches that potential as it continues to unfold.

Rating: 7/10

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Plastic Farm #6

And back we go to the comics brought home from SPACE 2011. Hoping to finish up this stack soon, since I'll be heading to Anime Boston in about two weeks.

Title: Plastic Farm
Issue: #6
Date: July 2004
Publisher: Plastic Farm Press
Writer: Rafer Roberts
Artist: Rafer Roberts
Cover: Laura Socks, Dave Morgan

If you've been following the reviews, you know that I've been enjoying Rafer Roberts' Plastic Farm. My wife brought home the entire series from the Small Press and Alternative Comics Expo (SPACE) in Columbus OH a few weeks back.

The individual issues have been great, but there has not been a lot of cohesion to the ongoing plot. At times it was difficult to tell if there was an ongoing plot. Well, Plastic Farm #6 goes a long way toward providing that cohesion. We even get a convenient timeline of major events from previous issues. And we get some significant crossover of characters from past issues.

And zombies.

Among many other things. We open with Chester snowed in at the airport bar telling his tale to the bartender and a baggage handler. The story covers Chester's high school years following his attempted suicide, and it introduces some additional supernatural elements.

Roberts does a nice job of tweaking the cliches, so as to keep familiar patterns like the high school outcast and the bullying victim pushed over the edge from becoming too familiar. His minor characters are especially strong in this issue, and they provide much of the flavor that makes this story work so well.

Rating: 7.5/10

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

XKCD Volume 0

While I'm making my way through recent convention purchases, the other big ongoing geeky event is the going-out-of-business sales at two local Borders locations. We're in the last week, and this was a pretty sweet find.

Title: XKCD
Issue: Volume 0
Date: 2009
Publisher: Breadpig (based on the webcomic at
Writer: Randal Munroe
Artist: Randal Munroe

This trade paperback edition collects early installments of the xkcd webcomic by Randal Munroe, a stickfigure buffet of math, programming, love, angst, and internet geekery. Some of my favorite xkcd installments are featured here including the graph of human intelligence vs. proximity to a cat, the apartment filled with playpen balls, fields of study arranged by purity, the guide to understanding flowcharts (in flowchart form), and helium-balloon sharks.

This is brilliant stuff that isn't afraid to involve high-powered math and physics or to tackle issues that might hit some geeks a bit close to home.

The "mouse-over" text from the webcomic is included in fine print and there are new notes, observations, and sketches to accompany many of the cartoons.

It's a great collection for an xkcd fan, and if you're not there's a good chance it will make you one.

Rating: 8.5/10

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Hot Fudge Sundae Adventure Club #7

Back to the pile of comics from SPACE today.

Title: The Hot Fudge Sundae Adventure Club
Issue: #7
Date: 2010
Publisher: Torc Press
Writer: Joseph Morris
Artist: Joseph Morris

This is a very odd/surreal play on the superhero team concept and it started out so convoluted that I was worried that none of it was going to make any sense. Instead, the issue came together really nicely and included some great moments that I was able to appreciate even without the benefit of reading previous issues.

The team consists of one clown-faced part-demon (and part something else) killer, one mute penguin (not mute in this issue and completely steals the show), one metaphysical detective, two dancing fools, and one masked secret agent.

The group gets scattered to different alternate realities by way of a reality rupture, which becomes an excuse to do some major revelations about several of the characters. The action was a bit hard (but not impossible) to follow in places, but the character development was excellent once the story got rolling.

As mentioned above, the mute but temporarily speaking penguin proved to be a great character as the voice of reason for the group, and the scene where he reverts back to silent mode was tragic and powerful. The clown character and the agent also got some excellent dramatic moments.

The art includes some wonderfully odd background details, and does a good job capturing the offbeat flavor of the story. This was a very pleasant surprise and it left me eager to check out more of this story.

Rating: 8/10

Monday, April 11, 2011

SCTC Showcase #1

Title: SCTC Showcase
Issue: #1
Date: February 2011
Publisher: South Coast Toy And Comic Show
Art Director: Noah Barrett
Featured Writers & Artists: Noah Barrett, Frankie B. Washington, Errick Nunnally, Scott Hamilton, Bob Almond, Enrica Jang, Jason Casey, Jeff Burns, Shawn Corliss, Cesar Feliciano

Very clever promotional item. This is a program for the South Coast Toy And Comic Show in comic form. It includes comic previews from two of the guests and plenty of sample art from others, as well as spaces for sketches and autographs. This was a great way to connect with the artists at the show, and the comic format made for a very nice-looking product (where program booklets from other shows might get thrown out, this was definitely a keeper).

The first story is Oliver Roach by Noah Barrett, and it involves a character being menaced by an angry toon. It's played part serious and part for laughs, and there's enough of a scene here to establish the basic scenario but not all the details of how things work in this world. Still, it looked like a pretty entertaining story that didn't take itself too seriously.

The second sample story is Nightblade by Errick Nunnaly. The scene involves a former vigilante in court-mandated therapy following his release from prison and serves as a compact recap of the character's origin story while namedropping some of the supporting cast. It had a lot of stereotypes (vigilante, gangbangers, hooker-with-heart-of-gold, mysterious FBI agent), but it was effective in its purpose of introducing the story, and there were some potentially interesting plot developments hinted at.

The rest of the book contains profiles, interviews, sample art, and a bit of sample script. This definitely contributed to the enjoyment of the show and from what I observed it was a big hit with the attendees. It's a nice idea and I hope that they will do it again for future cons.

Rating: 7.5/10

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Detective Comics Annual #11

Another break from the SPACE reviews, this time for a comic I picked up at a going-out-of-business Borders recently.

Title: Detective Comics Annual
Issue: #11
Date: 2009
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Fabian Nicieza, Derek Fridolfs, Dustin Nguyen, Mandy McMurray
Art: Tom Mandrake, Dustin Nguyen, Kelley Jones
Colorist: Nathan Eyring, Michelle Madsen
Letterer: John J. Hill
Editor: Mike Marts, Janelle Siegel, Harvey Richards, Michael Siglain

This is the second part of a fairly convoluted two-part story involving a cult of Seven-Deadly-Sins-based metahuman baddies who are kidnapping a bunch of boys for what appears to be a fairly generic ritual sacrifice gimmick.

We start out with The Question (Montoya, not Sage) trying to fight her way through a horde of zombies (actually mind-controlled bystanders, but zombies for all intents and purposes). The numbers nearly win out, but the Batman (Grayson, not Wayne) arrives to make the save.

Rather blunt recapping and infodump follows. We learn that Robin (Damian, not Tim or Jason or Dick; are you feeling like you need a scorecard with these characters?) has gone undercover as one of the kidnap victims.

He's in the lair of the bad guys, drugged up, but still managing to do a pretty classic "Ransom of Red Chief" routine.

Since there are plenty of bad guys to go round, the party gets split up. Azrael (Michael Lane, not Jean-Paul Valley; okay, now this is getting ridiculous) goes to help out Robin. These two actually have the makings of a great team of villains. Heroes, not so much.

Question and Batman fail to stop another kidnapping. Well, actually, they stop it just a bit after the actual kidnapping occurs. This then leads to the one really great scene in this story, a reunion between Detective Bullock and Renee Montoya with both characters handled really well.

The bad guys are trounced pretty thoroughly when all is said and done, which is fine because in spite of having some powers they're basically nobodies and they're up against some fairly formidable heroes. Well, okay, they're up against Dick Grayson. And some at-least-competent heroes. That is still pretty formidable.

Speaking of the end, we're not done. There are backup stories. Lil Gotham: Question & Answer is a cute rhyming bit with the Riddler. Fun riddle, but the final punch line didn't amount to much.

This is followed by an Oracle team-up with Looker. A vampire called the Stygian is doing the creepy stalker routine on Barbara Gordon, and Looker gets called in because (I guess) if you want to catch a vampire, you call in Buffy! But when she's not available, another vampire is an acceptable option.

Writer Mandy McMurray tries to throw in some bits to make Looker and Oracle seem competent, but neither of them is able to accomplish much of anything against Stygian, who is a pretty generic villain. This seems to be trying to set the Stygian up as a recurring villain for Gordon, I wasn't left with much interest in seeing further chapters of this conflict.

While there were some good moments (Bullock/Montoya, some of Damian's dialogue, the riddle), this annual mostly served to remind me of just how silly DC continuity is these days, even in the Bat-books, which can usually be counted on for at lease some level of quality.

Rating: 5.5/10

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Plastic Farm #5

Title: Plastic Farm
Issue: #5
Date: March 2004
Publisher: Plastic Farm Press
Writer: Rafer Roberts
Artist: Jake Warrenfeltz
Backup Story By: Matt Dembicki

A group of party-crashers raise some hell to start off what morphs into a pretty sweet romantic story. Interesting and well fleshed out personalities and good dialogue keep things moving along. Still waiting to see how all of this connects to the storylines of previous issues. Connections are just barely hinted at this time out.

Backup story is a rhyming horror piece by Matt Dembicki that's got some great artwork, particularly on an incredibly detailed border that frames a splash page.

Rating: 7.5/10

Friday, April 8, 2011

Mercy Sparx: Under New Management #1 Free Comic Book Day Edition

This is the first of my purchases/finds from the South Coast Toy & Comic Show in Fairhaven MA a couple of weeks ago. This was one of a stack of old FCBD books that Rubber Chicken Comics had brought and put out on the freebies table.

Title: Mercy Sparx: Under New Management
Issue: #1 (Free Comic Book Day Edition)
Date: May, 2009
Publisher: Devils Due Publishing
Writer: Josh Blaylock
Artist: Matt Merhoff
Colorist: Bill Crabtree
Letterer: Crank!
Cover Art: Tim Seeley, Josh Blaylock

Two pages of text in a very small font are required to fill the reader in on the basic scenario and the happenings in the previous series. And then it takes another four pages of exposition before the story gets started. This could have gotten out of the gate a lot faster and with a lot fewer words.

Mercy Sparx is a, well, essentially a demonic being of some sort, but she's not particularly evil. Just snarky. The main thing she seems to do is to get manipulated into doing other people's dirty work. Dirty work, in this case consisting mostly of tracking down rogue angels and beating them up. With occasional moments of getting beat up by said rogue angels, not to mention suffering the occasional serious beatdown from the various more powerful beings that she works for.

When we finally get to the plot of this issue, Mercy is acting as a messenger for Heaven. Messenger here kind of in the mob sense. So she's got some angel she needs to deliver a message to, but en route she gets jumped by some other angels. A brawl ensues, followed by the seemingly inevitable bondage scene.

I liked the cynical dialogue in this, and the fight scenes were reasonably pretty if occasionally lacking in logic (Mercy gets knocked through a window and into a wall by an angel flying at full speed and gets up swinging, but a single kick puts her lights out a couple of pages later).

But there is a definite vibe that this is a comic that's pretending to be about a strong woman, when really it's a comic about a woman that things happen to, and who is constantly being controlled by (male) beings that she is hopelessly outmatched against. Silly excessively revealing outfits, generic comic-heroine body types, and bondage sequences did little to alter my opinion.

Which is too bad, because there is a lot of fun in the way this is written and there is a lot to like about the artwork. I have a distinct bad gut feeling about the themes I'm reading into this, but I would love for that feeling to be proven wrong.

Rating: 5.5/10

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Radio Free Gahanna #2

Title: Radio Free Gahanna
Issue: #2
Publisher: 2 Headed Monster Comics
Writer: James Moore
Artist: Joel Jackson

A nighttime disc jockey and a freelance web designer meet up for the first time since college, and they revisit old hangouts populated by the ghosts of times past. Really good dialogue that flows naturally as an intriguing assortment of characters reflect on life, art, music, and zombies. A bit hard to follow in places, but there is plenty here to keep the reader engaged.

Also includes two essays. The first is a tribute to Columbus OH radio DJ John "Andyman" Davis. There is also an essay on the music of Jenny Lewis and Rilo Kiley (cut off in the print version, but with a web address to read the full piece).

Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Grixly #10

Title: Grixly
Issue: #10
Date: 2010
Publisher: Grixly
Writer: Nate McDonough
Artist: Nate McDonough

A journey through a year in Andy's life in which a mysterious egg hatches into an even more mysterious bird that talks, smokes cigarettes, and lives in blood in classic Little Shop of Horrors fashion.

Andy also has a series of convenient store encounters and befriends one of the clerks there.

This had a lot more plot than the other issue I reviewed (#18), and I enjoyed the story, which was a nice mix of quirky charm and disturbing creepiness. The pacing was good and McDonough made excellent use of the seasonal imagery.

Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters #1 Newbury Comics Edition

Taking a break from the SPACE reviews to look at a fairly well-hyped recent release.

Title: Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters
Issue: #1
Date: 2011
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Writer: Eric Powell, Tracy Marsh
Penciler: Phil Hester
Inker: Bruce McCorkindale
Colorist: Ronda Pattison
Letterer: Chris Mowry
Editor: Chris Ryall

IDW's new Godzilla book featured one of the greatest gimmicks in comic history. They created a custom cover art for any store willing to order 500 copies. Each cover showed Godzilla's foot stomping the store that placed the order. Marketing genius! Now you can see your local store get flattened by the King of the Monsters, and if you're really obsessive, there are 75 store-crushing cover variants (not to mention four cover variants for those stores who didn't pony up the bucks for the custom cover deal).

This issue also contains thumbnails of all (79!) covers, and the "standard" cover art is also reproduced in full size on the back cover.

Oh, and there's also a story in between those covers. Well, a bit of one, anyway.

Godzilla awakens and begins stomping things (by "things" here, what we really mean is "the city of Tokyo"). And people are upset about that. To be continued. This seems to be a complete reboot, rather than a "return" storyline such as many Godzilla revivals have done. There is even an "origin" sequence for Godzilla's radioactive fire breath, which involves what has to be the quickest and least agonizing decision to use a nuclear weapon in comics. Because the Japanese are certainly not the types to spend any time worrying about the possible consequences of using a nuclear weapon. Anyway, to that list of consequences, you can go ahead and add "granting radioactive breath powers to monsters".

There is also an appearance by President Obama, and an attempt to make "You have got to be %$@#ing kidding me!" into a kind of recurring catchphrase (those are the book's curse-marks, not mine). What is lacking are any sympathetic characters (Sorry, Mr. President!) other than possibly Godzilla himself.

And while there is plenty of destruction, most of it is in isolated pinup-style pages with little actual effort at transition from panel to panel. The whole comic book felt like it was rushing to get the readers past the dull stuff that they'd already seen a million times and get on with the real story, which starts next issue apparently.

I'm not sure this is the way to score points with the die-hard Godzilla fans who are plunking down their money to see Tokyo wrecked.

The artwork is quite nice, and does a good job of capturing Godzilla's size, something that has been difficult in past attempts to bring the big guy to life in comics.

The series promises more monsters (and Toho even included their little monster logos on the inside cover). Maybe with additional monsters will come likable characters and a plot.

Rating: 6/10

Monday, April 4, 2011

Plastic Farm #4

Title: Plastic Farm
Issue: #4
Date: December, 2003
Publisher: Plastic Farm Press
Writer: Rafer Roberts
Artist: Rafer Roberts
Backup Story By: Rafer Roberts, Nan Roberts, Dennis Culver

The main story here is a tragic romance about a young pilot and the first and only love of his life. It's a stand-alone story, so we've still got a lot of loose ends hanging from earlier in the series, but I'm enjoying the ride so far. The dialogue, especially early in the tale, flows smoothly and naturally and the characters are great.

Two backup stories here. First up is an illustrated poem by Nan Roberts, wife of creator Rafer Roberts. Rafer Roberts handles the illustrating on the piece, which has a nice quirky beat-poetry feel to it.

The second backup story is Astro Zombies, an space-opera zombie tale by Dennis Culver that doesn't take itself too seriously. Two of the three characters are pro wrestlers (one with extra arms!). The story is simple and straightforward, but the characters are amusing and likable.

Rating: 8/10

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Amazing Cynicalman #28

Title: The Amazing Cynicalman
Issue: #28
Date: 2011
Publisher: Not Available Comics
Writer: Matt Feazell
Artist: Matt Feazell

More stickfigure minicomic goodness from Matt Feazell. This time around, Cynicalman takes on Cash For Clunkers, town hall meetings on healthcare reform, and the digital TV switchover (and TV in general). Cynicalman's neighbor Ken Tucky brings home a new dog, which proves to have some advantages as well as some drawbacks.

Feazell has some good jokes here and an interesting cast of recurring characters, and he manages it all with stick figures.

Rating: 8/10

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Plastic Farm #3

Continuing to make my way through the pile of purchases from SPACE.

Title: Plastic Farm
Issue: #3
Date: September, 2003
Publisher: Plastic Farm Press
Writer: Rafer Roberts
Artist: Dave Morgan, Jake Warrenfeltz
Backup Story By: Sean Frost, Wendi Strang-Frost

Plastic Farm has some of the most unusual and creative covers in comics, and this issue's photo cover is one of the most fun in the series.

This issue also represents a departure as writer/artist Rafer Roberts turns over the art chores to Dave Morgan and Jake Warrenfeltz, who each take a story. First up is the story of a country couple whose dinner is interrupted by a call for help. This is one of those quick/nasty/ironic pieces, and it works pretty well. I particularly liked the space given to the art and the very sparing use of dialogue.

The second story is a much more straightforward tale, a hardboiled cop story about an undercover operation that doesn't end well. It's got good dialogue and action and a nice buildup of suspense.

Nothing in this issue's stories appear to have any connection to the first two issues. It will be interesting to see how the series develops over the long term, but readers looking for immediate continuity will find themselves at a loss.

Backup story, Johnny Public: Queen of Hearts Preview, was a better fit for Plastic Farm than the previous two backup stories have been. In fact, this bizarre tale of a woman visiting her father's grave fits pretty well flavor-wise. It featured some nice artwork (and a cat!), with some surreal character depictions.

Rating: 7/10

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Care And Feeding Of Cats... Or How To Train Your Human

Title: The Care And Feeding Of Cats... Or How To Train Your Human
Date: 2011
Publisher: Canada Keck (
Writer: Canada Keck
Artist: Canada Keck

From 2011's 24-hour comic day comes this collection of cat-sitter instructions adapted into minicomic form. Canada Keck has four cats, each one with a list of nicknames and a startling array of quirks. The jokes are spot-on here although they stick to fairly standard observations about felines.

There is also a running joke about TS Eliot which is pretty amusing. I like my cat comics literary.

This is a fun minicomic and an excellent example of what can be accomplished in 24 hours.

Rating: 7/10