Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Blog Template Update for February

This is the latest monthly update to the left column of the blog, updating my favorite comics and TV for the previous month. The listings are alphabetical, not by rank of how much I liked them in comparison. My criteria for what makes the list is when I read them, not necessarily when they were published.

February was a busy month, just like January. It looks like 2007 just might be a busy year. I finally finished buying the comics & game shop, meaning I could finally announce it here and elsewhere. So I am now, as I write this, the owner of Rogues Gallery Comics & Games and have been for about a week and a half. How's it going? Pretty well, actually, and I'll be writing occasional bits about it here under the title "Adventures in Retailing." This goes along with my other series "Graphic Novel A Day" and "Weekly Comics to Come." Wow, themed content and titles... it's like I'm becoming a real blogger. Only without the wit of people who are good at it, like Graeme McMillan or Heidi MacDonald.

The Graphic Novel a Day feature slid a bit this month, due to two weeks of intense pressure and work around the time the comic shop buying really solidified. But I came back at the end of the month, cheating to put up about six or so reviews and spacing them out across days. The end result? 28 days in February, 14 graphic novels. OK, so it was more like "Graphic Novel Every Other Day," but that's not awful. At any rate, I'll try to do better in March, but with the business going, I'm not making any promises.

Comics-wise, as expected February was kind of a lame month. I didn't have to eliminate anything to make my Top 20, and in a stronger month, some of my Top 20 might not have made the cut. But looking at what I read this month, it's clear that the DC Universe and Marvel Universe have about equal interest for me (with 3 titles each), Vertigo also has 3, Image has 3 (2 by Kirkman, who also represents one of my Marvel books), Oni has 2, Dark Horse has 1, Archaia has 1 and DC and Marvel both have 2 non-continuity titles each. So DC, by virtue of having the Vertigo imprint, is the publisher I read the most of (with 8 titles), but mostly my reading was all over the place.

February was a good month for TV, as almost everything was new, but a bad month in that I realized that a lot of my favorite shows are losing their hooks in me. Studio 60 is probably done, and while I enjoyed what I watched, I have to say I won't be too sorry to see it go, although I hope we get something else by Sorkin as a replacement if it does go away. It's flawed, but there's still a lot I like about it. 24 has fallen into a predictable pattern, but I still enjoy it for all of that. Scrubs has been kind of weak, but with occasional good moments. Battlestar Galactica is in a slump, but it hasn't turned me off yet. And Lost? I'd been digging it more than most, especially the Desmond episode, but the episode tonight (with Hurley) was cute but ultimately empty, and made me realize just how long the writers have been dragging this whole thing out. Veronica Mars is up and down (although the two-parter with the murdered coach was pretty good) and had a pretty lackluster, rushed and unsatisfying conclusion to its second arc, Rome I'm about four episodes behind on. I'm sure I'll catch up later, but right now I'm not wildly enthusiastic, which isn't a great sign.

On the other hand... Heroes has just been getting better and better, and I'm completely hooked on it now. Episode 17, "Company Man" was easily the strongest episode of the series yet. 30 Rock has also really won me over, and the negotiations/sex-addicted agent/Jenna making a political fool of herself episode from last week was brilliant. The Office has really hit a groove with its last few episodes as well. And I rented How I Met Your Mother on DVD, watched the entire first season, and I'm now working through the second. It's not great, but it's about as good as Friends was at about the midway point, which makes it a solid comedy. CBS, you are no longer dead to me. Just mostly dead. Also pleased to see that NBC is planning on releasing the complete Kidnapped series on DVD, although at an outrageously high price point. Thank God for Netflix, I guess.

My novel for February was Fletch's Moxie. I didn't so much read it yet. So much for novel of the month.

I added only two sites to my regular RSS feeds this month. I updated Jeff Parker's blog to his new location and added the Netflix New Releases queue.

Graphic Novel A Day: Beyond! HC

Writer: Dwayne McDuffie
Artist: Scott Kolins
Company: Marvel
Price: $19.99

This is a great deal, price-wise, as it's an oversized hardcover of a six-issue miniseries for only $20. It also features great superhero comics writing by Dwayne McDuffie and terrific artwork by Scott Kolins. Heck, I'd recommend it for the Dragon-Man fight alone, but there's also a good use of Gravity (up until the end, which I'm still not crazy about), Deathlok, the Dr. Pym incarnation of Hank Pym and Space Phantom, to name only a few. Those whose love of the Marvel Universe extends into the C-listers like me will love this book. Honestly, it's the fringe characters who tend to hold my interest more than the big guys in either universe, and I was glad to see some of my small favorites get the spotlight for a little while.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Sandman Mystery Theatre Vol 4 The Scorpion

Writers: Matt Wagner & Steven Seagle
Artist: Guy Davis
Company: DC/Vertigo
Price: $12.99

Everything I said in general about Sandman Mystery Theatre being pulp goodness and excellent romance is true. Specific to this volume is an interesting story about war profiteering, the oil business back in the '30s, a deadly vigilante named The Scorpion and a big turning point for the relationship between Wesley and Dian. It's funny that only four volumes in, the big secret between them is on the verge of being outed, but I guess that at issue #20, this was about two years into the series, and it makes sense. Guy Davis has settled in as the mostly regular artist at this point, and he's a perfect choice. His work here is not as polished and jaw-dropping as his current work on B.P.R.D., but it's still excellent stuff, and only gets better with every issue from here.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Sandman Mystery Theatre Vol. 3 The Vamp

Writers: Matt Wagner & Steven Seagle
Artist: Guy Davis
Company: DC/Vertigo
Price: $12.99

Some of the earliest and best Vertigo work that has never been collected, I'm delighted that DC has finally decided to rectify this oversight with collections of Sandman Mystery Theatre. The series, a lurid adult pulp series full of the atmosphere of '30s New York, addresses a variety of social issues of the time with a framework that includes mystery, violence, detective work and one of the most endearing and believable romances comics has ever produced. Volume three, The Vamp, has a plot twist that could easily come out of a modern-day story, but which filtered through the pulp lens feels fresher and more interesting, and as always, the case at hand helps to indicate elements of the developing relationship between Wesley Dodds (the Sandman) and his girlfriend Dian Belmont. Their relationship is the real core of the series, although amusing supporting characters like the somewhat racist, ball-busting cop Burke are always fun to watch, and the action, sex and plot twists keep the reader interested. Lesbians, sex scenes, exsanguination and plenty of punching and chase scenes... what more could you want?

Adventures in Retailing: Discounts

I've always wondered why so many comic shops only carried Marvel and DC, and maybe a smattering of Image.

There's so much good stuff at Dark Horse, Oni, Boom!, Archaia, and that's just naming some of the bigger small publishers. Were they just not noticing this stuff? Did they not look past the first half of the catalog?

And then I discovered my discount for the initial six months at Diamond for everything except Marvel, DC and Image. The discounts for those three are less than they were at my previous three-store operation, but they're within striking distance of it. A reasonable speedbump.

But my discounts on indy books? On manga? On Dark Horse? Ridiculously low. Much lower than I'd originally thought. And so, when I'm looking at initial orders for these first six months, when cash flow is king and Diamond is giving me C.O.D. terms, guess what the first fat to be cut from my budget is?

I can understand, to some extent, the smaller publishers. But the manga publishers? Tokyopop and Viz can't afford to get better terms with Diamond? Dark Horse, a premier publisher, can't at least offer something equivalent to Image? I don't know if the fault lies with the publishers, with Diamond or (more likely) with both, but I will say that the ridiculously low discount on these publishers makes the previous mystery of why so few stores order outside of Marvel and DC a little less mysterious. After six months of establishing your business on the comics that are actually profitable for you to sell, it's going to be harder to suddenly retrain your customer base to look for the indies you haven't been carrying. And as much as the financial burden of comics is already on the retailers, it's even moreso when the margin on comics is as low as it is with this initial discount.

DC and Marvel offer Final Cut-Off ordering, allowing us to adjust orders within three weeks of publishing instead of two months. Image offers up a big initial stock of trade paperbacks to new accounts. Dark Horse? Nothing. Tokyopop? Nothing. Viz? Nothing.

Guess who I'm feeling more loyalty to as a retailer right now? Now as a reader, I'm all about the small press, and as a retailer, I feel a certain responsibility to give my customers a selection, so I'm going to have to suck it up and take the hit. But I'm certainly not feeling warm fuzzies about it, and it is going to make me more gun shy about books I'm not personally interested in, or that I don't already know a customer or two who might be interested.

I don't understand the logic of it. I know where my sales are going to be, and where my discount for the indies will wind up being. After six months, I'll be right back to a more reasonable level. Why cripple new retailers in this way, when their cash flow and available cash is at its lowest? I understand requiring C.O.D., because Diamond doesn't want to get stuck holding the bag when over-ambitious and under-capitalized hobbyists (or even just good businessmen with bad luck) go out of business... doesn't mean I like it, but I understand it. But I don't understand why you'd go with such a ridiculously low discount, as it seems like sacrificing long-term profits (a successful store ordering every month) for potential short-term gain (more money coming in from new accounts that may not be able to ride out the six month period).

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Graphic Novel A Day: Journey Into Mohawk Country

Writer: Van Den Bogaert
Artist: George O'Connor
Company: First Second Books
Price: $17.95

An unusual graphic novel, Journey Into Mohawk Country is a graphic narrative based on the words of a real Dutch explorer who traveled into what would eventually be New York state in the early part of the 15th century. Den Bogaert's prose is a little overly florid and, oddly, kind of dry at the same time, and so the narrative text didn't really grip me as I would have liked, but O'Connor's art (with Hilary Sycamore's colors) certainly did. Recalling the work of Mark Oakley on Thieves & Kings, O'Connor's visuals provide the stirring, imaginative imagery that Den Bogaert's words don't. The result is a graphic novel that is not an entirely gripping read, but is an entirely satisfying visual performance.

Adventures in Retailing: Sickness

I think I might be a little bit sick.

No, not physical illness, although with both my daughter and wife having some kind of stomach bug, that might come at me at the worst possible time as well.

No, I mean mentally ill. Beyond the obvious indicators (I bought a comics and games shop rather than investing in something sane, like real estate or ferret farming), I worked seven of the last seven days, and when I finally get a day off, what do I do?

1) Sent out emails for a promotion for the store in June
2) Did a profit/loss estimate for the next month on the store
3) Paid bills for the store and for our personal finances
4) Set up an ebay account for the store
5) Emailed another distributor to set up an account on Monday

What's kind of sick is that I enjoyed it. I'm enjoying the hell out of working right now. There's a definite reward to owning your own business, even with the worry and the stress and the sleepless nights and mornings that come from that. I feel like I'm accomplishing something, and that's nice.

Maybe I'll relax a little bit later in the day and write some comic reviews. Which is also rewarding, but also work.

Hmm... might have to watch The Illusionist on DVD or some more of the How I Met Your Mother on Tivo to balance all this out.

Weekly Comics to Come - February 28, 2007

When I have real trouble narrowing down my top five, that forecasts a good comics week. Of course, it doesn't hurt that Archaia Studios has three books in the offing this week.

Jack Of Fables Vol 1 Nearly Great Escape Tp (The rare spinoff that's just as good as the series it sprung from)
Killer #3 (One of the best, most chilling comics I've ever read)
Okko Cycle Of Water #2 (Crazy Miyazaki-esque epic fantasy)
Runaways #24 (Essentially the last issue of Runaways for me, I'm guessing, as I don't have much interest in Whedon's 6-issue run)
Secret History Book One (The secret history of the world with beautiful artwork, I'm expecting another big success from Archaia)

52 Week #43 (I have to admit, while some of the issues miss the mark for me, I'm pretty much hooked on a DC weekly now... I'll be checking out Countdown too)
Action Comics #846 (First issue good, second issue weak, third issue make or break for the Johns/Donner run...the upcoming fill-in story doesn't give me a lot of hope that it'll be great enough to stick around for through delays)
American Virgin #12 (Loving this series, hope it doesn't get cancelled)
City Of Others #1 (Bernie Wrightson on art in this Dark Horse horror mini)
Conan & The Midnight God #2 (First issue of this King Conan tale was pretty solid)
Crossing Midnight #4 (I'm just interested enough to keep reading, but still not completely drawn in)
Daredevil #94 (Brubaker reveals all about Daredevil's wife Milla, and I'm curious to see where he goes with it)
Doctor Strange Oath #5 (Vaughan's fun, hip Dr. Strange series, with terrific art by Marcos Martin, concludes)
Jack Of Fables #8 (Loved the first part of the Vegas series, looking forward to seeing more)
Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane #15 (The last Takeshi Miyazawa issue)
Star Wars Knights Of The Old Republic #14 (I'm an issue behind, but I've been digging this fun, action-packed series)
True Story Swear To God #4 (Issue behind on this one as well, but I still love it)
Walking Dead #35 (Last issue won me back over a little bit with a great cliffhanger)
Heartbreak Soup Palomar Vol 1 Tp (Always been curious to give Love & Rockets another shot, this looks like a good opportunity)
Maggie The Mechanic Locas Vol 1 Tp (Ditto)

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Graphic Novel A Day: Seven Sons

Writer: Alexander Grecian
Artist: Riley Rossmo
Company: AIT/Planet Lar
Price: 12.95

A folk tale retold in a western (as in the Old West, not just a western POV) style, Seven Sons is an interesting read. I hadn't previously heard the tale of the seven brothers, but there's a good text piece in the back of the graphic novel that tracks some of its history, and Grecian's story stands alone whether you've heard it or not. It's got the universal themes of xenophobia and family loyalty, and a nice mythic feel that smoothly blends the style of American folk tales and Chinese myth, both inspirations for the tale as told. Artist Rossmo has a compelling style, with a charcoal-looking finish and a style that reminds me in some ways of Vertigo/Minx artist Sonny Liew. Although his storytelling has some kinks to work out, it's a promising debut, and I'm sure we'll be seeing more of him in future. Also, there are no lettering credits, so I'm not sure whether it was Grecian, Rossmo or somebody at Planet Lar, but the sound effects lettering on this one is nice, bold and classic.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Graphic Novel A Day: Kafka

Writer: Steven Seagle
Artist: Stefano Gaudiano
Company: Active Images
Price: $14.99

I first discovered Seagle's work on the underrated superhero book Primal Force, but it's clear he'd had a burgeoning career in the small press long before that. Thankfully, Richard Starkings' Active Images is uncovering these gems and republishing them with the same kind of beautiful design and production values you'd expect from the guys who design Godland and Elephantmen. Kafka is a thriller, about a spy with some limited abilities to influence the minds of others, and as he goes on the run from two different sets of agents, both claiming to be the government, the story unfolds as to how he got these abilities and skills. Gaudiano, best known for his work with Michael Lark on Gotham Central and Daredevil, is very rough here, but his storytelling is solid enough, and it's easy to see why this indy gem was nominated for an Eisner back in the day.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Secret Project

Back in late December, I posted about a secret project that was taking up a lot of my time. That secret project has also been the cause of my frustration and tension over the last couple weeks. Now it has been completed, and I can reveal it on the blog, for those who care.

I bought a comic book store.

More specifically, I bought the comic book store I've been co-managing for about six years now. Dave and I, the co-managers, had expressed to the owner a couple years back that if he was ever thinking about selling the store, we'd appreciate the right of first refusal. In November, he contacted me about buying it, I was interested and I've been putting together the deal ever since.

There has been much talk online lately about comic book stores in general, especially with Riot Comics closing down. But there are some pretty significant differences between me and Jason Richards, owner of RIOT, not to mention significant differences between Riot Comics and Dragon's Lair Comics & Fantasy, which I'm buying.

For one thing, Jason had this to say: "Don’t get me wrong. I still LOVE comic books (and will continue to buy them by mailorder so I can be a geek in the privacy of my own home), but I’m not sure I was ever in love with selling comic books. There’s a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes that I was so blissfully ignorant about, from scheduling problems to freight charges, marketing gimmicks to creator meltdowns, that I’d much prefer to just be a reader again."

Oddly enough, I'm not as in love with comics as I was when I began working at the store, but my love for selling them has only grown. I love the business problems and marketing challenges presented in comics. Yes, I'd be happier with a healthier, bigger market and several distributors operating at the top of their game, but I've been dealing with Diamond for six years now (plus two years during college), and for all the shit that they get, they actually provide a pretty solid service 90% of the time. And I love selling comics to people who are getting back in or looking for something new. Even if I'm not into Civil War, I get a certain joy at seeing someone get just totally hooked on a comic series like that. And when I get to sell someone on, say, Queen & Country or Bone, or when a kid picks up Owly, that's a good feeling that's hard to beat.

Also, Dragon's Lair is a comics and games shop, about 50-50. I know some purists look down their noses at that kind of shop, but I'm pretty happy with the niche we've carved out. We've got the indie guys, the mainstream superhero readers, the kids (we've got a great level of family and kid readers) and we've got the role-playing gamers, the boardgamers, the CCG guys, etc. It's a diverse and pretty great customer base that Dave and I have cultivated over six years, and I'm really pleased to be able to continue with them.

We will be changing the name over the course of the year to distinguish ourselves. Because Yellow Pages advertising is done so far in advance, and because a new neon sign is gonna be pricey, and also because we want to avoid confusion, we're doing a slow transition. For the rest of the year, we'll still be answering to Dragon's Lair Comics & Fantasy as well as the new name.

The new name is Rogues Gallery Comics & Games. We open at 10 tomorrow (that's Monday) as we do almost every day, so if you're in the area, come on by and say hi. And maybe buy something... I've got to send my kids to college someday. ;)

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Weekly Comics to Come - February 21, 2007

Invincible #39 (The Martian invasion has gotten my interest back onto the book in a big way)
Local #8 (As always, a great looking cover has me anxiously awaiting the issue)
Spirit #3 (The origin of The Spirit, sure to come with a Darwyn Cooke stylistic flair)
Naoki Urasawas Monster Vol 7 (More of a terrific suspense manga)
Brave And The Bold #1 (Mark Waid and George Perez on Batman/GL team-up, sounds like fun)

52 Week #42 (Darick Robertson art, Ralph Dibny focus)
DMZ #16 (Continuing the story of divided loyalties, suicide bombers and corrupt corporate security forces)
Ex Machina Inside The Machine #1 (Behind the scenes info on the book)
Hellstorm Son Of Satan #5 (Concludes the New Orleans-set superhero horror book)
Immortal Iron Fist #3 (Not blown away by this, but generally enjoying it)
Impaler #3 (Moody, beautiful art and an interesting take on the vampire apocalypse)
Marvel Adventures Avengers #10 (Guest stars The Black Knight, written by Jeff Parker)
Previews Vol #27.3 (Down the Line may or may not hit this month, due to comic shop responsibilities)
Wasteland #7 (Guest art by Carla Speed McNeil!)

Monday, February 12, 2007

Blog Lapse Again

I know, I haven't posted my Weekly Comics to Come or Graphic Novel A Day reviews for the past three days. This will greatly upset the three of you who are my regular readers.

It's been a frustrating weekend. It's not that I haven't the time to write, it's that I'm so focused on frustrated anger that I can't focus enough to do it. It should end soon, and then I'll be writing again.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Graphic Novel A Day: Rock Bottom

Writer: Joe Casey
Artist: Charlie Adlard
Company: AIT/Planet Lar
Price: $12.95

Joe Casey and Charlie Adlard both have a history of AIT/Planet Lar, although most of my favorite projects from them have come from Image (Godland, The Walking Dead, etc.) Rock Bottom is an interesting story about a musician (and a bit of a womanizer) who finds himself turning to stone. The how and why leads him to dig into his own history and analyze his life, and the same happens with his best friends, a lawyer and a doctor. It's an interesting "real guys" type of story with a science-fiction element as its driving focus, and probably the best thing to recommend about it (besides Adlard's terrific clean-line artwork) is the excellent writing of human relationships that really makes the story work.

Weekly Comics to Come - February 14, 2007

I'm cheating by posting this late, so these are books I've already read. By the way, stinker of a week, the worst of 2007 thus far. Great hardcovers, single issues mostly disappointing.

Beyond HC (Great superhero action by Dwayne McDuffie and Scott Kolins, delighted that it got a hardcover collection)
Drink & Draw Vol 1 HC (A stunning combination of sketchbook and yearbook, amazing production and great art)
Godland #16 (Wasted opportunity with a 60 cent issue on a somewhat boring recap. A standalone action story would have been better, as would a flashback narrated by Basil Cronus. You want your jumping-on point to reflect how fun the book can be, and Godland #16 doesn't)
Manhunter #28 (Continues to be a good read, but knowing that it has cancelled has put a damper in my enthusiasm for Andreyko's ongoing comics style storytelling. I'll still buy the whole thing if they do all the trades, though)

52 Week #41 (Not as bad as week 40, but still a little bit weak)
Justice Society Of America #3 (Atrocious. The influence of the worst parts of Identity Crisis can be seen in the work on this book)
Thunderbolts #111 (Eh. Expected what I got, and sort of bored)
Y The Last Man #54 (These one-shots focusing on lost characters seem weird and out-of-place so late in the series)

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Graphic Novel A Day: DMZ Vol. 2 Body of a Journalist

Writer: Brian Wood
Artists: Brian Wood, Kristian Donaldson & Riccardo Burchielli
Company: DC/Vertigo
Price: $12.99

While the first trade paperback of DMZ was good, it was uneven. There are no such troubles with DMZ Volume 2, which really takes everything good about the first volume and raises it to a new level. Wood said on his blog that "By the second DMZ arc, I had realized what sort of book I wanted DMZ to be," and it's easy to see what he means in reading Volume 2. The political machinations and general danger of Matty Roth and his newfound celebrity journalist role, not to mention the various factions working at cross purposes and the constant worry of betrayal, all come through in the "Body of a Journalist" story. And Burchielli's artwork, as always, is fantastic, bringing the images of a wartorn, third world version of Manhattan to all-too-vivid life. As a bonus, the book also includes the "origin of Zee," one of my favorite DMZ stories to date with art by up-and-comer Kristian. It closes out with issue #12, which was Brian Wood working more in the collage underground format he used for Channel Zero. While it wasn't a wholly satisfying single issue read, it makes a great extra to finish out the trade and pack the whole thing with lots of information about the world and characters of DMZ. I like the first DMZ trade, but I love volume two.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Graphic Novel A Day: Gyakushu! Vol. 1

Writer/Artist: Dan Hipp
Company: Tokyopop
Price: $9.99

I'm a big fan of Dan Hipp's work on Amazing Joy Buzzards, so I had to check out his original graphic novel Gyakushu! from Tokyopop. It's very different, tonally, featuring some of the same over-the-top sensibilities but in a more serious, tragic way than the comedic tone of AJB. To tell the truth, I prefer AJB, with its wild, out there premise and cast of characters. Gyakushu's story, featuring revenge-driven action, is similar to the type of tale I've seen plenty of before. That said, this is an interesting read, with an intriguing fantasy setting, some terrific action and fantastic artwork throughout. Though I'm awaiting his return to AJB more, I'll definitely check out another volume of Hipp's Gyakushu.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Graphic Novel A Day: Grendel Red, White & Black

Writer: Matt Wagner
Artists: Various
Company: Dark Horse Comics
Price: $19.95

It's been a while since I read this miniseries, and I'd forgotten just how good it is. True, some of the stories are a little hard to follow if you're not already familiar with the Grendel cycle, but some of them stand alone just fine. Looking back at the Hunter Rose and Argent era of Grendel, which has relatively few comics about it, results in a lot of great stories, generally with a crime noir or psychological horror edge. Wagner experiments a little in his writing, with poetry, illustrated text pieces and even illustrated haiku, but the book is at its best when it's Wagner writing a gritty crime story and one of the immensely talented artists illustrating. My favorites are Jill Thompson's "Nasty Lil Devil," Cliff Chiang's illustration of two detectives analyzing a Grendel crime scene, Tom Fowler's tale of a corrupt senator's assassination, Farel Dalrymple's work on "Devil's Retribution," Mike Huddleston's "The Devil's Tide", Zander Cannon's "Devil on the Roof" and John K. Snyder III's "Devil's Sentence," but really there are no bad stories here, and a ton of beautiful art.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Graphic Novel A Day: Who Fighter With Heart of Darkness

Writer/Artist: Seiho Takizawa
Company: Dark Horse Comics
Price: $11.95

Promising weird war tales, I was looking forward to reading Who Fighter, especially when I saw that it also included an adaptation of "Heart of Darkness," the novel on which Apocalypse Now was based. Not that I have any huge fondness for the novel or the movie (I haven't read the former nor seen much of the latter, although it's on my list to watch someday), but it was an interesting idea. As it turns out, while Who Fighter is plenty readable, it never fully engaged me. Takizawa has a love for historical detail, but at the same time he assumes his reader already knows the history, and as someone who doesn't follow military history, I didn't really know any of it. The first story is the best, about a Japanese pilot who runs afoul of alien technology, but it never really got into truly creepy or mind-blowing territory like I was hoping, playing out more or less along expected lines. "Heart of Darkness" is interesting, but lacks the edge of madness that I always picked up from Apocalypse Now, making it a bit bland. And the last story, a 8-pager about tank warfare, doesn't really have an impact either. All of these have nice artwork, particularly the impressively detailed tanks, planes and other technology of war, but the stories never connect.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Graphic Novel A Day: Grendel Tales: The Devil May Care

Writer: Terry Laban
Artist: Peter Doherty
Company: Dark Horse Comics
Price: $19.95

I've read most of the Grendel Tales series, the ones that came when Matt Wagner opened up the post-apocalyptic world of Grendel for other readers. In general, they were great reads, and this one, a rare story that I hadn't already read, was no exception. This time in, writer Terry Laban and artist Peter Doherty focus in on a nurse trying to run a hospital in Indianapolis, where the corrupt Grendel warlord system has turned the Indianapolis 500 into a barbaric ritual that is pretty much the only reason the city still exists. Like all of the Grendel stories, it has a nihilistic tone to it, and it's definitely a tragedy, but the characters are fascinating, the plot and its many twists gripping and Doherty's art really beautiful, reminiscent of Wagner's stuff but clearly his own style. Doherty, a Judge Dredd artist, clearly knows his way around futuristic violence. It occurred to me in reading this book that Grendel has a real Shakespearean feel to it in many ways, with doomed or forbidden love and a corrupt, often brutal feudal system at its heart.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Graphic Novel A Day: Museum of Terror Vol. 3

Writer/Artist: Junji Ito
Company: Dark Horse Comics
Price: $13.95

For me, Junji Ito is the best horror writer (and one of the best horror artists) in comics. I first discovered his work on the Lovecraft meets Japanese horror flavored series Uzumaki, and have been seeking out more ever since. The first two volumes of Museum of Terror, Dark Horse's reprinting of Ito's work, have focused on his undying girl who inspires murder in others Tomie, and while it was good, it wasn't as great as Uzumaki. This volume begins collecting other short stories, and while the quality is hit and miss, there are several stories in here that are as creepy and effective as the ones Ito told in Uzumaki. My particular favorites in this one are the blood-spattered Bio-House, about a secretary who gets more than she bargained for when she dines with her boss, the cover-featured "Long Hair in the Attic" about a girl whose hair gets the better of her, the EC-esque "Love As Scripted" and the story of a haunted town in "The Village of Sirens."

Friday, February 02, 2007

Weekly Comics to Come - February 7, 2007

I don't think too many people are reading, but just to head off email... Dark Tower: The Gunslinger #1 isn't on here because I have no interest.

DMZ Vol 2 Body Of A Journalist TP (The second story arc of DMZ is better than the first, which I quite enjoyed)
Gyakushu Vol 1 (Dan Hipp's action manga from Tokyopop. Love Amazing Joy Buzzards, looking forward to this work by its artist)
Pantheon High Vol 1 (The sons and daughters of the gods in high school, courtesy of my friend Paul Benjamin and Deadshot artist Steven Cummings)
Pirates Of Coney Island #4 (Loving this whacked out, beautifully drawn book from Image)
Shazam The Monster Society Of Evil #1 (Jeff Smith's take on the Marvel family... one of my most anticipated reads of the year)

52 Week #40 (Interesting developments in the previous issue)
Action Comics Annual #10 (All-star artists, Superman by Johns and Donner, should be fun)
American Way TP (I've heard a fair amount of praise on this book, I need to check it out and see how it was)
Astro City The Dark Age Book Two #2 (Love Astro City, wish we had more of it more regularly)
Cthulhu Tales Rising One Shot (Boom's new Cthulhu ongoing debuts in this one-shot)
Fell #7 (Wow, I was starting to think we'd never see this one again)
Iron Man Hypervelocity #2 (First issue was odd, but intriguing)
Irredeemable Ant-Man #5 (The closest thing in terms of quality to his Image work that Kirkman has done at Marvel)
Maintenance #2 (First issue was kind of meh for me, but I'm a fan of both these creators, so I want to give #2 a chance)
Newuniversal #3 (Weakening interest, but still enough to read at least a couple more issues)
Other Side #5 (Lost interest in the series as it went on, but I'm hoping it'll finish strong)
Scalped #2 (Good debut issue, plenty of room to develop)
Secret #1 (New horror mini from Dark Horse with artist Jason Alexander)
Uncanny X-Men #483 (12 issues is feeling like a long time for this story... but there's still enough to keep me reading)

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Graphic Novel A Day: The Nightmarist

Writer/Artist: Duncan Rouleau
Company: Active Images
Price: $14.99 ($10.19 at Amazon)

Knowing of Rouleau's general style, and of the premise of Nightmarist (it's a horror book about dreams and madness), I suspected this was going to be one weird book. I worried it might go from weird to straight-out incomprehensible. On occasion, it does cross that line and I found myself skimming over to the next bit, but in general this is a legitimately creepy, twisty, turny piece of horror fiction, with stunning black and white art that I suspect any fan of Chris Bachalo will find very much to their liking. I'll confess that the whole plot about our heroine possibly being crazy, possibly being some sort of monster, possibly some sort of savior didn't really engage me, but I found her fascinating as a character, and there were any number of great moments throughout. Unusual, beautiful and quite unlike anything else out there, if you're looking for some good horror, a rare find in American comics, check out The Nightmarist. (Note to Nate, if he's reading: You should borrow this from me.)