Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Weeks Act Story

Another missed day yesterday due to internet outage combined with general circumstances. Maybe this week I'll be able to do a couple of multiple-review days. Not tonight, though. Here's a quick piece on an educational mini that I picked up at the Maine Comic Arts Festival.

Title: The Weeks Act Story
Date: 2011
Publisher: Marek Bennett (www.markbennett.com)
Writer: Marek Bennett
Artist: Marek Bennett

This is a fairly minimalist comic, consisting of both sides of a single 8.5 x 11 inch sheet. It's also sponsored by the Weeks Act Centennial and the Arts Alliance of Northern New Hampshire. The stick-figure comic gives the history behind the Week Acts, which was enacted by congress a century ago this year. This was one of the first important environmental laws, and it protected watersheds and established National Forests.

Marek Bennett works with stick figures here (well, President Taft can't exactly be described as a "stick"...), but he does a very nice job of capturing the political maneuvering that was necessary to pass the Weeks Act (not surprisingly, it resembles the political maneuvering necessary to get anything done in Congress now).

This was a cute comic, and I learned a bit of history from it. The format isn't polished, but it since it is licensed for reprint for non-commercial use, the objective is obviously to make it easy to reproduce with a photocopier.

Rating: 7/10

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Million Year Picnic's Jam Comics From Free Comic Book Day 2011

Title: The Million Year Picnic's Jam Comics From Free Comic Book Day 2011
Date: 2011
Publisher: Million Year Picnic
Editor: Aya Rothwell
Contributors: EJ Barnes, Alex Firer, Jay Kennedy, Nathan Kitler, Laurel Leake, Dan Mazur, Aya Rothwell, Kristen Toohill, Andy Wong

This half-sized color minicomic is a collection of jam comics done at Million Year Picnic in Cambridge MA on Free Comic Book Day 2011. The comic are done in color markers, and are standard jams with each artist taking a panel as the page is passed around. Coherence is not necessarily an objective.

The group presents a lot of bizarre and surreal material while touching on themes that include fancy ballerinas, caterpillars in space, Superman renouncing his US citizenship, rogue teeth, berries, and a conqueror named Nern.

High-quality paper and production values make this a nicer package than the typical jam minicomic.

Rating: 6.5/10

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Amazing Spider-Man: Grim Hunt: The Kraven Saga

We had technical problems last night. Here's yesterday's review. This is a Marvel freebie from last year that I picked up in my Free Comic Book Day haul.

Title: The Amazing Spider-Man: Grim Hunt: The Kraven Saga
Date: May, 2010
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: Joe Kelly
Penciler: Michael Lark
Inker: Stefano Gaudiano
Colorist: Matt Hollingsworth
Letterer: VCs Joe Caramagna
Editor: Stephen Wacker, Tom Brennan

This is a promo for the Grim Hunt story arc in the Spider-Man titles. It starts with an eight-page preview from the series, which features some great artwork, especially on a two-page spread on the Sinister… um… well, I was going to say the Sinister Six, but there are actually seven dudes facing Spidey down (Sandman, Lizard, Rhino, Vulture, Electro in new non-goofy costume, Doc Ock, and Mysterio). I think that was Doc Ock anyway. Different costume, same tentacles.

Unfortunately, almost all of the action takes place in a dream sequence generated by Madame Web, who is a captive of Kraven's Daughter (if this was DC, she'd turn out to be Duela Dent!). Spider-Girl is also being held captive, and seems to serve the primary purpose protesting uselessly while we get plenty of images of her in bondage. Madame Web is actually the more scrappy of the two. Also, she's actively trying to do something about their situation. So of course she's in for some off-panel torture to further convince us that the bad guys (girls, actually: Kraven's daughter and her mom) are, indeed, bad.

Spidey, meanwhile does not much of anything.

This is then followed by a brief sketchbook feature and then a very comprehensive index to every appearance of Kraven in the Marvel Universe with bits of the original art. This was fairly interesting to the nostalgia buff in me, and it was particularly fun to see some of Kraven's encounters with other Marvel characters like Beast, Ka-Zar, and Tigra. The book ended with Handbook of the Marvel Universe style entries for Karaven and the Chameleon. These were both a bit redundant with the timeline feature from earlier in the book.

Overall, this was a fun look back, but it didn't make me want to read the new storyline.

Rating: 5.5/10

Friday, May 27, 2011

Avatar: The Last Airbender / Star Wars: The Clone Wars

This is one of 2011's crop of Free Comic Book Day giveaways.

Title: Avatar: The Last Airbender / Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Date: May, 2011
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer: Ryder Windham, J. Torres
Artist: Ben Dewey, Gurihiru
Inker: Dan Parsons
Letterer: Michael Heisler, Comicraft
Colorist: Mae Hao
Editor: Samantha Robertson, Dave Roman
Cover: Brian Konietzko, Hye Jung Kim, Bryan Evans, Lucasfilm

Wait for it... Flip book!

The bad news first. The Star Wars: The Clone Wars story serves to introduce Savage Opress, a new villain (You can tell he's a villain by his name! Isn't that clever? Also by the fact that he looks like a yellow version of Darth Maul). Opress shows up at the lair of Noggox the Hutt. He has been captured without a fight by Noggox's (clearly incompentent) guards. It's all just a plot so he can get inside and kill everyone in sight. This actually pretty violent considering that the introduction proudly proclaims that comic to be suitable for all ages. I guess decapitations are okay if the victim is a hutt. Anyway, that's about all we get. The heroes make a brief appearance at the end to survey the carnage. I'm not entirely sure what the point of that was, but as far as I was concerned, Opress definitely failed to impress.

Flipping the book over, we have Avatar: The Last Airbender. This was my first exposure to this series, and wow. This was good storytelling. It did take a little bit to hook me in, but considering that the beginning of the story was pretty light in tone, it really built to a pretty intense ending. I thought that Avatar worked better when it was being serious than when it was trying to be a comedy, but the comedic stuff was still at least as good as most of the comic relief you see in comic books these days. This was an effective introductory story that had a complete plot. There was also a four-page backup story that was all comedy, but gave a chance to introduce another character. The art is a good mix of cartoony and realistic and the characters are very expressive. The action in this one really did seem all-ages suitable. If I was rating this story alone it would probably get an 8.5. Instead, the opposite side of the flip book drags that whole thing down a bit.

Rating: 7/10

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Booty #24

This was a Free Comic Book Day find, although it's not a freebie.I picked it up at the Trees & Hills table.

Title: Booty
Issue: #24
Publisher: Anne Thalheimer
Distributor: Trees & Hills, Microcosm Publishing
Writer:Anne Thalheimer
Artist: Anne Thalheimer

Booty is Anne Thalheimer's autobiographical minicomic series, and it's can always be counted on to be geeky and fun. Anne is a roller derby referee (!), and this issue has a good section on the mechanics of roller derby from an officiating standpoint, complete with a detailed set of diagrams. Also covered are road trips, life drawing at a Dr. Sketchy event, Halloween costumes, the ongoing battle against bad moods, and a detailed diagram of the contents of Anne's gear bag.

Anne's style loads every page with doodles, notes, and little fragments of thoughts. It's engaging and fun.

Rating: 7.5/10

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Eclectic Etcetera

This is a minicomic that we traded for at the Maine Comic Arts Festival.

Title: Eclectic Etcetera
Date: 2011
Publisher: Bluebirdie Comics
Writer: Christina Siravo
Artist: Christina Siravo

As the title suggests, this quarter-sized minicomic is an eclectic sampler of the artist's work. The first half consists of funny animal cartoons, and the book then shifts into fantasy and faerie tale themes.

The humorous bits were quirky and fun, although in a few places the print got so small that it became difficult to make out all of the jokes.

I really enjoyed Siravo's fantasy art that made up the second half of the book, especially her tale of a moth lost in a beehive and unable to speak in the worker bee language.

The book ends with some nice pinup pieces with faerie tale themes. Siravo puts a lot of detail work into every piece, and I feel like it would look even better showcased in a full-sized book.

Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Title: Reading
Date: 2011
Publisher: Aya Rothwell
Writer: Aya Rothwell
Artist: Aya Rothwell

This is a short story based on Aya's "Mark and the Aliens" comic. The main character, Mark, is stranded on a distant planet inhabited by strange but generally friendly aliens.

In this quarter-sized minicomic, Mark and one of the aliens sit on a hillside and read books. What follows is cute and funny. This is a full color minicomic with some nice watercolor work on the art. Very pretty little book.

Rating: 7.5/10

Guest Reviews For Free Comic Book Day: Laura Cushing

New feature! Our very first guest reviewer here at Comic-A-Day is Laura Cushing. Laura writes fiction and poetry, and manages the online writing community Charloft. She is a partner in Lab Arc Designs and resides in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. You can also get in touch with her via her Facebook page. Laura is reviewing five books that she picked up on Free Comic Book Day a couple of weeks ago.

Let me preface this by saying I'm not a big time comic reader. When I was a kid, I read the occasional Archie or Uncle Scrooge comic. I had the V series of comics because I was really into the show as a teen. But other than that, I hadn't really given much thought to comics until recently. Free comic book day is a great way for comic newbies like me to pick up some titles and start reading. My friend Rick (of Dandelion Studios) first introduced me to free comic book day years ago. I was excited - we went around to various stores and picked up a ton of totally free comic books. Wow! What could be cooler?

This year, my husband Aus and I are living in a new neighborhood. Here in West Berlin, we are lucky enough to have a comic store (Stormwatch Comics) and a game store (All Things Fun). Though I've been too shy to go to the D&D events at All Things Fun like I've wanted to, I did make it in for free comic day. Both stores had great deals going on - at Stormwatch, you could get 5 additional free titles and pay a dollar a book after that - and they had a huge selection for you to choose from. At All Things Fun, they had sales on various games and items in-store. They also had costumed characters from starwars and free pretzels. Pretty awesome stuff!

With myself and Aus both attending, we were able to get a good assortment of the free comics on offer. Three each, from each store, means twelve great titles! Following is a review of some of them:

Civil War Adventure
What's 150 years old and full of gruesome tales? Why the civil war, of course! There's plenty of (somewhat) educational action in this sampler. Gator Bait tells the tale of a 'swamp rat' blockade runner who meets a well-deserved end, I Rode With the Devil sets up a continuing story of a boy who becomes one of Quantrill's riders. There's also a couple of mini-pieces, one on abolitionists and one on field amputations. This sampler definitely made me want to check out more of the series. This title is from History Graphics Press.

Mouse Guard / The Dark Crystal
Mouse Guard by David Petersen is too adorable! This is another title that made me want to read more. This stand alone story tells the tale of a clever mouse who tricks a hawk, a crab, and a snake by using his wits. The artwork is very pretty and the tale is well-told. Flipping the book over you get Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal. The story here tells of the origin of the Dark Crystal and provides an introduction to a two-volume graphic novel series they're putting out that tells the origins of the Dark Crystal world. In the middle of this there are little teasers for Season of the Dapper Men and A Tale of Sand that were just so-so. This title is from Archaia.

The Lone Ranger / Battle Star Galactica
The Lone Ranger has gotten an update for modern times. He's a lot more badass looking than the 50s version. His native american sidekick can speak english in complete sentences. The story is minimal here, it just gives a little introduction to the Lone Ranger's creed, and has him saving a school teacher from a bad guy then riding off into the sunset. But the artwork is good and it does make me want to check out the series to see what the modernized Lone Ranger is up to. Battlestar Galactica - well. I glanced at it. It didn't draw me in enough to make me want to read it. This book is from Dynamite Entertainment.

The Stuff of Legend / The Intrepid Escape Goat - The Princess and the Pyramid
How cute is this? Stuffed animals in WWII Europe bravely entering the closet to rescue their boy from whatever monsters lurk within. There is an introduction to the world for newcomers like myself, and a preview of artwork from their latest volume for those who are familiar with the series. It all has an old-timey feel to it - the colors are like old newsprint. It looks like an exciting adventure with toys as heroes - what could be better? I definitely want to check more of this series out. On the other side of the book is The Intrepid Escape Goat. This suited-and-bowtied goat is a cross between James Bond, Houdini and Indiana Jones. He's one cool customer, who gets himself out of a sticky situation when his snakey sidekick betrays him to the bad guys. The adventure takes place in an Egyptian pyramid, and winds up in the Intrepid Escape Goat having a new sidekick - a child-aged Isis. That bit of unbelievability aside, this was an exciting adventure story that also made me want to read more of the series. From Th3rworld Studios.

Kung Fu Panda / Richie Rich in Eruption Disruption
This family-friendly book is colorful and easy to read. The Kung Fu Panda side features everyone's favorite chubby panda martial artist, Po. In Let the Fur Fly, Tigress is sick and Po must singlehandedly find the cure by braving the Forest of Isolation. Touch of Destiny is shorter and less involved, but both are cute stories that kids will enjoy. Richie Rich is another old character that gets a modern twist - he's now a globetrotting super hero type. Irona the robot maid and Cadbury the buttler are sporting guns and powers too. I'm not sure what to think about that, but I guess kids will enjoy it. The story has them battling a supervillan while on vacation, and features a volcano. This title is by Kizoic.

Monday, May 23, 2011

April 2011 Statistics

Here are some stats for April 2011.

Total Comics Reviewed: 30
Newly Purchased Comics Reviewed: 29
Comics Reviewed From The Backlog: 1
Marvel Comics Reviewed: 0
DC Comics Reviewed: 2
Minicomics Reviewed: 7
Manga Reviewed: 1
Conventions Attended: 1

Highest Rated Comics:

Bisclavret (8.5/10)
XKCD Volume 0 (8.5/10)
Sky Pirates of Valendor Series 2 #2 (8/10)
Higher Ground (8/10)
Timeless (8.10)
The Hot Fudge Sundae Adventure Club #7 (8/10)
Plastic Farm #4 (8/10)
The Amazing Cynicalman #28 (8/10)

Lowest Rated Comics:

Mercy Sparx: Under New Management #1 Free Comic Book Day Edition (5.5/10)
Detective Comics Annual #11 (5.5/10)

Creators With Multiple Reviews This Month:

Rafer Roberts, Nan Roberts, Jake Warrenfeltz

Average Rating For April 2011: 7.23

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)
XKCD Volume 0 (8.5/10)

What's the Word?

Title: What's the Word? True Tales of a Woman on the Go
Date: 2011
Publisher: Metrokitty
Writer: Cathy Leamy
Artist: Cathy Leamy

Cathy Leamy tries a new approach to her autobiographical comics with this collection from her webcomic (with a few extras for the printed minicomic). Each one-page or two-page entry is based on a single-word theme. The autobiographical aspect is great, largely because Leamy seeks out some really cool experiences. In this minicomic, she attends an acoustic performance by Harry and the Potters. Other destinations include Coney Island's Mermaid Parade, disco aerobics in Cambridge MA, and a pantomime play in England.

All of this is delivered with Leamy's excellent wit and good sense of pacing. Fun book.

Rating: 7.5/10

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Comic Book Challenge Showcase: Hero By Night / Gunplay

Another leftover. I picked this up as a freebie at Free Comic Book Day this year, but it's actually one of the 2008 FCBD books.

Title: Comic Book Challenge Showcase: Hero By Night / Gunplay
Date: 2008
Publisher: Platinum Studios
Writer: Jorge Vega, DJ Coffman, James Patrick
Artist: Dominic Vivona, DJ Coffman
Letterer: Shawn DePasquale
Colorist: Jason Embury

Flip book. First up is Jorge Vega's Gunplay. It's an interesting story, although not really the kind of thing I find all that appealing. The main character, a former buffalo soldier in the Old West, has a cursed gun that must be used to kill one person per day. He's teamed up with an adolescent preacher. This introductory piece doesn't get very far in introducing either the characters or the action. Much of the dialogue is background conversation between two minor characters, and the dialogue comes off a bit stilted. A two-page wordless dream sequence doesn't help matters, nor does a sudden time jump. As I said up front, Vega has an interesting idea here, it's just not being executed effectively in this promo.

I liked the plot in DJ Coffman's "Hero By Night" a lot better, but the entire story was a narrative summary. The characters and world seemed good, and I like the very natural thinking that the hero displays. The story itself is a fairly familiar take on the superhero genre which seems to work well thanks to some well thought out characters and a solid backstory. Still, 12 pages of nothing but prose exposition is a bit much.

Rating: 6/10

Saturday, May 21, 2011

With The Light Volume 2

This comes by way of the going-out-of-business sales at Borders. I've been reading it over the course of the last two weeks or so.

Title: With The Light: Raising An Autistic Child
Issue: Volume 2
Date: 2008
Publisher: Yen Press
Writer: Keiko Tobe
Artist: Keiko Tobe

There's a lot that I love about manga, but I think that first and foremost I am amazed by the breadth of story types. American mainstream comics seem narrowly limited by comparison, and while American independent comics do better, they often don't get the kind of distribution that manga receives.

One excellent example is Keiko Tobe's family drama, With The Light, centered on Hikaru Azuma, a young boy with autism. Writer Tobe has clearly done her homework, presenting a very balanced portrayal of Hikaru that mostly avoids the stereotypes of autism that are often seen in the media. She has also meticulously researched educational techniques and presents a wealth of ideas as Hikaru engages with his family and his teachers.

This is the second volume, and it covers Hikaru's later elementary school years. The main plotline is the impending transfer of beloved teacher Aoki-sensei, who has worked very hard to find innovative ways of teaching Hikaru. Along the way, Hikaru helps plant a garden, gets into conflict with the local shopkeepers, and ends up on a train ride with an emotionally distraught fellow student. There is a fair amount of melodrama, but Tobe's characters are always multifaceted. Even the teacher who takes over for Aoki-sensei, and is originally presented as a villain, ends up being revealed as complex and ultimately sympathetic.

The art is beautiful, especially in the depiction of Hikaru himself.

What I love most about With the Light is that it is not just a book about a condition. It's a book about parenting. A really great book about parenting, and about how Hikaru's parents must fight for their child's place in the world. This is a story that's well worth reading.

Rating: 9/10

Friday, May 20, 2011

Donald Duck Adventures #16

I didn't get much at the recent Granite State Comicon. I was running my table and never had a chance to do much shopping. My son did pick up this as a freebie from a dealer who had a box of free comics for kids.

Title: Donald Duck Adventures
Issue: #16
Date: 1991
Publisher: Disney
Artist: Vicar
Editor: Len Wein

Two stories. First up, incompetent meteorologist Donald gets assigned to a remote weather station on a mountain in South America. He's convinced it's an important assignment, when really the weather bureau is just looking for a way to get rid of him. The nephews tag along for fun.

But the fun turns perilous when a giant roc bird (straight out of the Tales of the Arabian Nights, or possibly from the D&D First Edition Monster Manual) makes off with the entire weather station shack for use as nest-building materials, with Donald and his nephews inside!

The second story has Donald getting into the house-painting business. The house is haunted, of course, and the nephews can't wait to sneak in and play some ghostly pranks. But in the end, they're the ones getting spooked.

Both stories were fast-paced, and fun without ever feeling like they were talking down to the audience. There were plenty of plot twists, and a nice balance with the Donald Duck character. He wins some and he loses some here.

This was nothing groundbreaking, but it was some good fun that really is enjoyable by kids and adults.

Rating: 7/10

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Mouse Guard / The Dark Crystal Preview One-Shot

Title: Mouse Guard / The Dark Crystal Preview One-Shot
Date: 2011
Publisher: Archaia
Writer: David Petersen, Brian Froud, Brian Holgun, Jim Henson, Jim McCann
Artist: David Petersen, Alex Sheikman, Lizzy John, Janet Lee
Letterer: Dave Lanphear

Flip Book. There are actually four features here, and they're all good. I'm a huge Dark Crystal fan, so I was skeptical about adding new story, but the Dark Crystal prequel that's presented here captures the flavor of the film beautifully. It focuses on the character Aughra, who sees all but allows herself to be blind to the flaws in the character of her only son, flaws that will eventually lead to the downfall of the world of Thra.

Flip the book over to find a grim and clever fable from the world of Mouse Guard, about a mouse who uses his wits to defeat three predators who had been terrorizing the land.

Also in this volume is a gorgeous four-page Season of the Dapper Men story, and a feature on the upcoming graphic novel A Tale of Sand, which adapts Jim Henson's only completed but unfilmed screenplay. Although they're very different properties, all of these stories have a nice fantasy feel to them, and the result is a very satisfying collection that left me interested in reading more of all four features.

Rating: 8/10

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Adventures of Marky #3

So... Wagon... Totally fell off it. Blogger had an outage last Wednesday, which was a convenient excuse to skip a day. Somehow that turned into skipping six days. Ugh. I'm going to try double duty until I catch up.

I was at the Granite State Comicon in Manchester NH on Sunday. I didn't do much purchasing there because I've still got books from SPACE and from FCBD to review. In fact, I found this minicomic from SPACE tucked between pages in the notebook I use to record sales.

Title: The Adventures of Marky
Issue: #3
Publisher: Dimestore Productions
Date: March 2011
Writer: Madison Shires, Ian Shires
Artist: Madison Shires, Ian Shires

Marky goes all the way to Italy and ends up ordering pizza (with brains on it!). He also meets a fellow brain juice connoisseur named Matilda. Could this be true love? Daughter/father team of Madison and Ian Shires delivers the silly in this $.50 quarter-sized minicomic. Cute and fun.

Rating: 7/10

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Fluffs Escape

Squarecat creator Jennifer Omand had a table at the Rochester NH Free Comic Book Day Festival, and she was giving out this freebie minicomic.

Title: The Fluffs Escape
Publisher: Squarecat Comics
Writer: Jennifer Omand
Artist: Jennifer Omand

The fluffs are little animate clumps of fuzz that reside in the kingdom of Moe, a cat. They just want to be free, but the cat considers them traitors to be devoured and then hacked up as hairballs. Cute sixteen page quarter-sized minicomic freebie that gets in a good dose of the humor and surrealism that Jennifer Omand puts into her Squarecat wwebcomic.

Funny stuff with some cute takes on cat behavior.

Rating: 7.5/10

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

War of the Supermen #0

Another leftover: This is from last year's FCBD, but I picked it up this past weekend.

Title: War of the Supermen
Issue: #0
Date: June 2010
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: James Robinson, Sterling Gates
Penciler: Eddy Barrows
Inker: J. P. Mayer
Art For Second Story: Julian Lopez, Bit, Aaron Lopresti, David Finch, Joe Weems, Gary Frank, Cafu, Ethan Van Sciver, Diogenes Neves, Vincente Cifuentes, Blond
Colorist: Rod Reis
Letterer: John J. Hill
Editor: Matt Idelson, Will Moss

If (like me) you're clueless about the storyline that leads up to this "war", you should read this book in reverse order. The second story is basically a recap, told in the form of Lois Lane's notes for her story on New Krypton. Or you could just let me fill you in. New Krypton is what became of the classic bottle-city of Kandor of Silver-Age fame. The bottle-city was a Kryptonian city shrunk down to micro-scale, which the writers would find various reasons for Superman to be unable to find a way to restore to full size.

Well, someone finally realized how silly that was. Actually, what happened was that someone realized that the concept was silly, and instead of leaving it where it belonged (as a nostalgic memory along with Jimmy Olsen as Elasto-Boy), they decided that the story would be less silly if they went ahead and un-shrunk Kandor.

Nope. Still silly.

So now you've got an entire population of super-persons on an artificial planet, presumably on the other side of the sun from Earth. And they've gone and elected Christopher Reeve era villain General Zod as their supreme leader. Superman, suspecting that Zod has evil intents, has infiltrated the General's forces. But he still acts shocked when it turns out that, yes, the evil villain who was exiled to the Phantom Zone turns out to really be an evil villain. Shocking, I know.

Superman comes crashing through the wall, but everyone's got superpowers. Ursa (last seen losing her powers and then getting taken out with one punch by Margot Kidder at the end of Superman II) has a kryptonite knife. Really. A kryptonite knife. Apparently just so they can show a bit of blood, because we all know that you can't have a really good Superman story without blood.

The most annoying thing about this, really, is that Superman behaves like an idiot through this entire scene. A lot of people have gripes about the Superman character, but what I've always liked about him is that when he is written well, he thinks his way out of problems rather than slugging his way out. This is not one of those stories.

And even the attempt to replicate the "I destroyed New York twenty minutes ago" bit from the Watchmen fails to make Zod into a particularly compelling villain. He brags that Ursa is going to show Kal-El what a "precise" strike is, and she proceeds to inflict, well, only a flesh wound. He also does all of the usual villainous gloating and revealing of plans.

I liked the Lois Lane recap bit better than the opening story, but it was still only a recap. There's only so much you can do with that.

Bad concept to begin with. Badly executed.

Rating: 4.5/10

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz Sketchbook

This was a leftover freebie from 2008 that Jetpack Comics had in their selection of freebies this year.

Title: The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz Sketchbook
Date: 2008
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: L. Frank Baum, Eric Shanower, Scottie Young
Artist: Scottie Young
Editor: Arune Singh, Ralph Macchio

This freebie introduces Marvel's adaptation of L. Frank Baum's classic, a flagship title of Marvel's latest incarnation of the Classics Illustrated concept (called "Marvel Illustrated"... to distinguish the series from the rest of Marvel's offerings, which lack illustration, I suppose).

The opening introduction discusses the history of adaptations of Baum's work other media, particularly comics, and describes the background of the new Marvel adaptation. From there we get the concept art for Dorothy, the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Woodsman, the Scarecrow, the Good Witch of the North, the winged monkeys, and Toto, all with commentary by the artist.

The book finishes up with the first issue cover (and artist commentary), followed by three pages of completed art without the dialogue.

The illustration style is interesting, and it is clearly meant to evoke the original illustrations from Baum's first edition. The concept art samples do a nice job of showing the transition from early ideas to final concepts, with substantial changes made in most of the characters. The accompanying commentaries give some good insight into the design process, as well as the challenges involved in adapting a classic.

The three pages of finished art are gorgeous and tell the story nicely even without the dialogue in place. This series clearly has some impressive work in it, and this preview does a nice job of showing it off.

Rating: 8/10

Monday, May 9, 2011

Path of the Planeswalker Preview

Free Comic Book Day turned out to be great fun. I spent most of the day at the Free Comic Book Day Festival, run by Jetpack Comics in Rochester NH. The whole town of Rochester gets involved, and there is basically a comic convention at a hall in town, as well as events in the store (it was a Magic: The Gathering prerelease weekend as well), and a town-wide scavenger hunt involving many town businesses. I also visited two other conic shops that day: Double Midnight Comics in Manchester, and the Manchester location of Newbury Comics.

Free Comic Book Day comics that I'll be reviewing fall into four categories:

1) Comics I bought that day.
2) Comics I got for free that were not among this year's official FCBD offerings. These include some regular back issues, some freebies by indy creators (like the mini I reviewed yesterday), and some freebies from past promotions that stores were including in their offerings.
3) This year's official Free Comic Book Day promotional books.

It's from that last category that tonight's offering comes.

Title: Path of the Planeswalker Preview
Date: 2011
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
Writer: Brady Dommermuth, Doug Beyer, Jenna Helland
Art: Alex Horley-Orlandelli, Steve Prescott, Christopher Moeller, Kev Walker, Izzy
Cover: D. Alexander Gregory
Design and Lettering: Jino Choi

The story here focuses on planeswalker Garruk Wildspeaker. We open with a brawl between Garruk and another of the original planeswalkers, Liliana Vess. Lilliana gets the better of Garruk after some back-and-forth action and Garruk vows to track her down because, well, I wasn't really sure. Actually I wasn't really sure why they were fighting to begin with other than that they both appeared to be so arrogant that it was impossible for them to be in a room together. Anyway, Garruk is apparently upset at having been whupped by a girl, and so he is searching the multiverse for Liliana so that he can find her and beat her up. Or maybe he wants to propose marriage. I'm really not sure.

What I do know is that all of this leads into a flashback scene in which Garruk is about to be drafted into the army at age 10. His father is apparently a war protester and decides that his son is going to give the local sheriff (of Nottingham?) the "hell no, we won't go" treatment. The son runs away into the wilderness where he befriends the beasties there. Years later he comes back into town accompanied by a baloth horde ready to take revenge on the Sheriff, who tries trickery without much success and ends up getting his just desserts.

The flashback sequence was considerably more interesting than the more current parts of the story. The artwork was good, but the use of so many artists contributed to it not having its own distinctive art style.

Rating: 6/10

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Pro Tips For Tabling At Comics Conventions

Reviewing the first of today's haul from Free Comic Book Day.

Title: Pro Tips For Tabling At Comics Conventions
Date: 2011
Publisher: Trees And Hills
Writer: Colin Tedford
Artist: Colin Tedford

Short comic strips describing the "do's" (but illustrating the "don'ts" of selling your comics at a convention). There was some very funny material here, most of it dealing with situations familiar to nearly every comic book creator.

The individual jokes in this eight-page quarter-sized minicomic freebie range from one panel to eight. The longest ("Close the deal") is the one I found most amusing, but they were all pretty funny.

Rating: 7.5/10

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Lone Ranger #0

With Free Comic Book Day upon us, here's a Free Comic Book edition from 2007's offerings.

Title: The Lone Ranger / Battlestar Galactica Season Zero
Issue: #0
Date: 2007
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Writer: Brett Matthews, Brandon Jerwa
Artist: Sergio Cariello, Stephen Segovia
Colorist: Dean White, Inlight Studios
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Cover Art: John Cassaday, Stephen Segovia

Flip book.

Cue up the William Tell Overture! I'll start with The Lone Ranger.

The Lone Ranger opening action sequence with a caption narration recounting of the Lone Ranger's creed was surprisingly awesome. The exchange between Ranger and Tonto that followed was worth a decent chuckle without the humor seeming out of place or disrespectful to the original material. Tonto is a character who gets put under a microscope a lot, and I have to say that I was impressed with the glimpse we got here. Gutsy move to include the word "God" in the Ranger's creed too. I think that an upfront display of faith works for some characters, and this seems like a good choice. Sergio Cariello did a great job of telling a fast-paced action story with the artwork while the captions established the character. This was a really good start!

Flip over and... There are those who believe that life here began out there... Oh, wait. That's the old version of the show.

Anyway, this takes place two years before the Cylon Holocaust. How do we know? The second caption says so.

Adama and Tigh take command of the (a bit the worse for wear) Galactica for a search and rescue mission in the Romulan Neutral Zone. No, wait. I mean, um... just plain "Neutral Space". I think that's located somewhere between the Positive and Negative Material Planes.

Anyway, just as I yanked myself back out of Star Trek (and D&D) paradigms, here's Commander Adama leading the away team in classic Kirk fashion. At least he's not taking the first officer, chief medical officer, navigator, and chief engineer.

They then exchange a bunch of tough-sounding military jargon. "We've taken a hit and we're going down hard." "Brace for impact!" "Weapons hot and eyes open." "We've got trouble. I'm getting multiple readings all around us." While this is happening, they are getting shot down, finding the marooned crew they came to rescue and then getting into a even more trouble as the "to be continued" looms ahead. This was full of sound and fury, and as far as I could tell, it signified nothing.

One good one and one bad one makes for...

Rating: 6/10

Reviewing from Free Comic Book Day Tomorrow!

Tomorrow (Saturday 5/7/2011) is the Free Comic Book Day Festival, in Rochester NH. This event is part of the nationwide Free Comic Book Day, and is sponsored locally by Jetpack Comics, who get the whole town of Rochester involved. In the spirit of Free Comic Book Day, Dandelion Studios will be giving away free minicomics, including a Zephyr & Reginald: Minions for Hire mini, an issue of our Unpopular Species series, and our latest Caravan steampunk newsletter (featuring the Perils of Picorna prose serial). I'll be there representing Dandelion Studios, and I'll be doing reviews of some of the FCBD freebies starting with tomorrow's column.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Plastic Farm #15

Another issue of Plastic Farm. I tend to buy a lot of different books, so this is one of my few chances to really work my way through a whole series from the beginning.

Title: Plastic Farm
Issue: #15
Publisher: Plastic Farm Press
Writer: Rafer Roberts
Artist: Rafer Roberts

Chester Carter wakes up late for his first college class, advanced physics with the strictest professor on campus. And the stairs are out of order. Meanwhile, inside Chester's head, the Kamikaze Kid is dealing with his own set of problems.

The art in this issue was gorgeous, easily Rafer Roberts' best work in the series so far, with three separate two-page spreads showing the college campus in all of its creepy glory, plus some beautiful wordless sequences involving the Kamikaze Kid. The plot was simple, but did a great job of building tension.

Really good issue.

Rating: 8.5/10

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Plastic Farm #14

Continuing through the Plastic Farm run.

Title: Plastic Farm
Issue: #14
Publisher: Plastic Farm Press
Writer: Rafer Roberts
Artist: Rafer Roberts

Nice to see the letter column and editorial back, as well as clearly marked credits.

Chester continues his tale to his captive audience at the snowed-in airport lounge. This time, the flashback is to his college years. After some early hints that Chester is being taken to a college that is not-quite-normal by has parents, the experience turns fairly mundane.

Chester makes friends with his roommate, gets introduced to alcohol, and proceeds to get drunk and make an idiot out of himself in pretty typical college freshman style.

This was a good story in spite of (or in some sense, because of) its lack of some of the surrealism that characterized earlier issues. It was nice to see writer/artist Rafer Roberts devoting some space to teenaged Chester just being a kid, and the dialogue flowed smoothly and naturally.

Rating: 7.5/10

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Plastic Farm #13

Another comic from our purchases at SPACE.

Title: Plastic Farm
Issue: #13
Publisher: Plastic Farm Press
Writer: Rafer Roberts
Artist: Rafer Roberts

Plastic Farm returns to minicomic format with issue #13. There's also no credits or contact information given. I'm assuming this is all Rafer Roberts' work.

Two stories. The opening is a fairly detailed set of scenes from Chester Carter's arrival at Greybridge as a baby and his baptism by the Brethren. This is as close to a detailed origin story for Chester as we've seen in the series. The artwork very nicely captures the flavor of the abandoned mental hospital, now being taken over by the Brethren, who may not be as united as they first appear.

From there, we return to the snowed-in airport for a short scene that serves mostly to introduce new characters to the cast. Oh, and there's more cannibalism.

Good start to the new format, although I'll miss the lettercolumns and Rafer's editorials and his spotlighting of guest creators.

Rating: 7/10.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

How Dear To Me Is Sleep

A fitting title for the moment, I think.

Title: How Dear To Me Is Sleep
Date: 2009
Publisher: Drowned Town Press
Writer: E.J. Barnes
Artist: E.J. Barnes

Half-sized minicomic completed as part of 24-Hour Comic Day 2008.

Part science and part autobiography, this minicomic explores the concept of sleep from several angles. The opening discussion concerns scientific (lack of) understanding of the nature of sleep, followed immediately by a discussion of sleep in the animal kingdom.

From there, the comic explores EJ Barnes' childhood, the unusual sleeping habits and patterns of her parents, and her brother's struggle with sleep apnea. EJ goes on to recount the sleep study that she went through, and then ends with several pages illustrating a relevent quotation from Michelangelo (Renaissance painter, not mutant ninja turtl),

There is some clever art here, showing peoeple's different experiences with insomnia, and I liked the ending with the Michaelangelo quotation. Nice cover too! Gotta love the cat curled up in the blanket.

Rating: 7.5/10.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Batman #699

Well, this represents my first miss. Sort of. I actually did read this comic and write the review yesterday, and had every intention of posting it once I had a chance to get a cover scan going. But between the breaking news of Bin Laden's death and a deadline for my day job, I simply forgot that I hadn't finished.

Anyway, here's yesterday's review. I'll have a new one up for today shortly.

Title: Batman
Issue: #699
Date: July 2010
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Tony S. Daniel
Art: Guillem March
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Editor: Mike Marts, Janelle Siegel

The Riddler has been poisoned by an almost-fatal dose of Joker toxin. Or has he? All is not as it appears in this story that hearkens back to an earlier criminal conspiracy by Riddler, Blackspell the Magician, Firefly (the third-rate villain, not the Whedon TV show, but you knew that, right?) and some other villains who I guess don't even rise to the level of third-rate and who are dead by the time this issue starts up.

This had some good action, and the plot generally made sense. I particularly liked Riddler's escape from a guarded hospital room by good old fashioned bribery. Somehow the concept of a corrupt Gotham police force makes more sense to me than an utterly incompetent one.

The final battle with Blackspell got very silly, with Blackspell transforming into what can best be described as an angry ent. Which doesn't help at all against the Batman. Dude should have just decided to make like a tree and leave (sorry!).

This was complicated enough to make me want to read more, but logical enough to be entertaining without all the pieces of the puzzle.

Backup story introduced the new Green Arrow series. Gang chases lone woman into woods. Tackles her and then get shot in their respective hands and arms by Ollie. I'm not really a fan of gratuitous implied rape, or of the use of it to justify gory (but non-lethal) violence by the hero. But the final splash page is almost good enough to make me forget all of that. Almost. Welcome back, Ollie. Hope they give you some better writing once your new plot actually gets going.

Rating: 6.5/10

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Plastic Farm #12

Continuing through the Plastic Farm run.

Title: Plastic Farm
Issue: #12
Date: December 2005
Publisher: Plastic Farm Press
Writer: Rafer Roberts
Artist: Rafer Roberts
Copy Editor: Nan Roberts

Chester Carter visits a fortune teller and gets all the answers. He just doesn't get to keep them. The final chapter of the first part of Plastic Farm doesn't wrap everything up, but it does give the reader some better insight into where Chester fits in all of the strangeness around him.

The dialogue is really strong in this issue, and the story has a nice even flow to it, as it concentrates mostly on a single narrative (with the framing story of the older Chester telling his tale at the snowed-in airport.

Rafer Roberts handles the art solo this time, and provides some really strong visuals, including a very nice final splash page.

A good breaking point, if not an actual conclusion.

Rating: 7.5/10