SDM’s Sneaks of the Week 2/28/06

Reviewed this week:
The Ultimates 2 #10
Infinite Crisis #5
Ex Machina #18
JSA #83
Nextwave #2

Best of the week: The Ultimates 2 #10 (10/10)
Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch’s The Ultimates 2 is the best title being published right now by Marvel, despite Astonishing X-Men, Runaways and whatever Ed Brubaker is working on. It’s the best title being published even when you throw in the titles from DC, Vertigo, and Wildstorm, like 100 Bullets, Fables, and All-Star Superman. When counting indie books, it’s hard to put it over The Goon and The Walking Dead – for about a second, that is. Millar’s brilliant superheroics coupled with a relevant take on global politics and Hitch’s gorgeous, ultra-detailed art have created the new standard for superhero comics, and this volume of The Ultimates has improved leaps and bounds over the last one.

Now, onto the issue. Previously in #9, there was a surprise attack on the U.S.A, with most of the Ultimates taken out of action thanks to the efforts of Black Widow, who was revealed to be the team’s traitor. That left Nick Fury, Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, and the still-green Ultimate reserves to fend off a myriad of super soldiers and super villains assembled by a cabal of foreign countries eager to see the U.S fall. As expected, it didn’t go so well. This issue is all about the fallout of that attack with focus on the assembly of this supervillain team as well as a look at some of the Ultimates who were out-of-commission when the attack hit New York City.

Oh yes. It would be spoiling to talk about who gets a big moment in this issue, but think about anyone who’s been wronged in the last nine issues of The Ultimates 2. Think about what their perfect revenge would be. What happens here is better than that. Even though Millar’s allusion to current global politics is well-done and seamlessly blends with the story, he knows that the comic fan loves to see their superheroes kick ass. Some ass gets kicked, and quite well at that. There is an boundless energy flowing through every page, and it builds up to an explosive last page, in which anyone who enjoys this title should yell, “Yes!”

Bryan Hitch is the most detail-oriented artist in the business not Gene Ha, and he is proficient at not only putting those awe-inspiring splash panels on paper, but showing the sadness, arrogance, and sheer rage on the face of every character in this issue. The two months it takes for every issue to come out is evidently well-spent, as the effort poured into every page truly conveys the larger-than-life aspects of the story.

There is some confirmed Ultimization of a few 616 villains as well, but that is just a minor note in this next-to-penultimate chapter of The Ultimates 2. This is the best title being published today, and it would be a crime not to pick it up in the midst of all the big crossovers that are taking place in both Marvel and DC. Millar and Hitch prove once again that they are the premier creative team working in comics, and whatever they decide to take on next after issue #12, I will instantly buy.

Best of the rest:

Nextwave #2 (8/10)
Wacky story! Wild art! Giant dragons wearing purple pants! Androids! Ex-Avengers! Ex-New Mutants! An amusing Nick Fury rip-off! These are the things that make up Nextwave, and it is a fresh breath of indescribable fun that makes no sense but is still a great read. Editor Nick Lowe said that this series was dedicated to all of the crazy things you saw in cartoons as a kid that made no sense, but still made you smile for some reason. With one-to-two issue arcs, how can anyone resist Nextwave? I certainly couldn’t, and it is infused with Warren Ellis’ typical brand of random yet morbid humor that makes me feel slightly guilty for laughing. It’s just so silly. The cover of the book reads, “Nextwave gets their lovin’ from your mama!” for Chrissakes.

In this issue, the superheroes fight the giant dragon. It’s a typical set-up (because giant dragons need their beatings), but Ellis fills it with enough funny to make it a worthwhile read. Nextwave is one of the better titles to premiere recently, and I like that Marvel is giving it time to establish its identity instead of thrusting it into the middle of Civil War. This review is a little short, but what more can be said? Some people get beat up. I laugh a lot. The end!

Infinite Crisis #5 (of 7) (7/10)
Warren Ellis wrote once that no one reads crossovers for character moments; they read them to see the heroes get together and fight something or someone. At this point, people are reading Infinite Crisis to see what the hell exactly is DC doing, and also to see their favorite characters fight some vague threat (Alexander Luthor? The OMACs? Max Lord? Superboy Prime? The Spectre? Lex Luthor? WHAT?). Nightwing and Superboy! Batman and Kal-L! Kal-L and Kal-El! Wonder Woman and Superman! Blue Beetle and Booster Gold! It goes on and on. The original Crisis on Infinite Earths mini-series was twelve issues and every issue was used to its fullest potential; here, the relevant parts come and go. DC is trying to cram a little too much into these seven issues, and the result is a little uneven. The first purpose of this mini (what the hell is going on) is a bit neglected (not much the hell goes on), but there are some fairly obvious character interactions and spot-on characterizations that lend a lot to the symbolic weight of the title.

Infinite Crisis is all about bridging the old continuity with the new, and in the process, tying the Golden, Silver, and Modern Age characters together. Kal-L and Kal-El share a moment (looking at the George Perez cover, what do you think happens in that moment) as well as Wonder Woman and *EDITED FOR SPOILERS* (look at the Jim Lee cover for the obvious answer). There is conflict over which set of heroes was better, the ones of Earth-1 or Earth-2, but the torch is passed to the previous generation of sidekicks who are all grown up now. A heartbreaking loss and revelation for Kal-L is the emotional center of this issue, which somewhat makes up for the lack of happenings. The ending was a little obvious because of some solicitations released by DC, so it didn’t really have any emotional impact for me.

To me, DC is marketing their giant event incredibly poorly. The two big emotional and physical reveals of this issue were made known to the public weeks ago, and nothing happens with them when they finally happen. The first surprise appearance just kind of fizzles away, and the second surprise appearance is a cliffhanger for the next issue. Rather than spoiling the external events leading up to the core of the story, DC is showing its cards too quickly. A comparison would be Marvel and Civil War; a solicitation released for May reveals the cover of Fantastic Four to show Dr. Doom’s hand holding Thor’s hammer. WHAT!? That is enough to get me intrigued about the issue, but the “why” is left out; here, DC let the “who” of IC #5’s big reveals be known ahead of time, and the “who” is all that matters here. Without that surprise element, it wasn’t as shocking and emotional as, say, Barry Allen showing up in the last issue. Imagine how the impact of that would’ve been dulled had they put him on the cover, reading out of the Speed Force to help Wally West and Bart Allen.

The art is brilliant as expected and the story is capable enough, but the frenetic pace of last issue is lost. Plus, I was expecting this issue to lead into the One-Year-Later jump, and it doesn’t. If it does, then it wasn’t memorable or clear enough for me to go, “Hmm, that’s interesting!” This issue is the weakest of all the ones done so far because it only serves to set up the events in the next issue; there is little here that can stand on its own. As mentioned before, there is some symbolism that functions on a literary level, but it adds to little.

Ex Machina #18 (7/10)
I like that Brian K. Vaughan writes several different titles with different focuses, much like Robert Kirkman. Runaways is good old teenage fun, Y: The Last Man is a great take on gender roles and such, Ultimate X-Men was a standard, well-done superhero comic, and Ex Machina is his political thriller. There’s a bit too much of the politics in this issue though, and most of the issue is told through borderline-preachy dialogue. Yes, the feds messed up with 9/11, we get it! I don’t think Vaughan is doing it to make a political point (unlike Mark Millar would, perhaps), but the politics slow down the far more compelling story that is only revealed in the last few pages. Tony Harris’ art is best used for action scenes, and the few there are in this issue are told with energy and grittiness that convey racial tensions in New York City and Mitchell Hundred’s superhero past with ease. At the same time, he is also skilled at showing the emotion to be had when Hundred realizes that his former intern Journal Moore was involved in the attack on the protestors. Oh yeah, that scene is shown here, and it’s sad.

Vaughan’s dialogue is typically sharp, and the next issue looks to be excellent. A better jumping on point for this title would be the upcoming Ex Machina Special in a month or two that will showcase Mitchell Hundred’s exploits as the Great Machine. A couple of religious allusions are played up here, but the most exciting part is wondering what will happen next; kind of like with Infinite Crisis, but I’m at least expecting the slow pace here.

I’m not sure

JSA #83 (Setup/10)

This issue was hard to review because it wasn’t exactly bad, but it wasn’t exactly good, either. The plot goes as such: some ghosts are terrorizing the members of the JSA, and no one knows what’s causing them until the end of the issue (featuring the long-awaited return of a villain who hasn’t been seen since the last issue and the month before that). Seriously. Every member of the JSA is shown reacting to the ghosts, mostly with similar results (“It’s a ghost of someone I used to know who’s now dead! Oh no!”) with some vague references to the One-Year-Later jump (“Boy, things sure were wacky in that one year.”) The art by Rags Morales is less-detailed than his previous efforts, but still good, while the flashback pencils of Luke Ross are spectacular. The script by Paul Levitz is fine, with some groan-worthy lines (“Thunderbolt, teach these fools a lesson ‘bout respect!” – I suspect Levitz’s exposure to urban youth comes solely from movies like Hardball) and stiflingly old-school conventions (Alan Scott says his thoughts out loud in his one scene in an almost laughable fashion). I have no idea where the hell this story is going, and I’m a little intrigued, but this isn’t a BRAND NEW DIRECTION ™ for the JSA like the rest of the One-Year-Later titles supposedly feature, just more of the good old JSA we all know. It’s the equivalent of last week’s JLA Classified, except with far better art. You could try this or one of the other OYL titles (I believe Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis, Blood of the Demon, Detective Comics, and Outsiders are all out today), or you could get something more accessible and better, like Nextwave!

A final note is that I am glad that Levitz is doing a typical JSA story rather than trying to shake everything up like some of the other OYL titles are. At the same time, this typical story is far too typical and I hope it picks up, because JSA has been sorely lacking for a while.

E-mail me at for further comments or review requests.

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Luchadors And Indie Clerks

The first of many small posts informing you on whats going on in the TV, Movie and Music world, along with some other news and downloads. This time around we have TV news, trailers for two new films, and several legal mp3s, plus a few more things.

-New LOST this Wednesday. Claire explores the location that she had been taken too while kidnapped, while Jack and Locke argue like schoolgirls about the prisoner. Thank god we don't have to wait for another repeat of past episodes like they do every other week.

-Deal Or No Deal beat The Apprentice premiere last night ratings wise, which I thought was pretty ironic since Trump appeared and promoted the new season on Deal. Don't particurally like both shows since I don't enjoy watching stupid people handling money like their in grade school.

-The Torino Olympics officialy bombed ratings wise, making it one of the highest unwatched Olympic coverage in TV history. Hey, I'm kind of glad they're over now, because that means more Office and Conan for me! The only events I ended up really watching was skiing, just to laugh at Bodie ruin his reputation.

-Mustache Ahoy!: New trailer for the film "Nacho Libre" starring Jack Black, directed by Napolean Dynamite director Jared Hess and School Of Rock writer Mike White. What do you think?

-Whats next? Manos: Hands Of Fate?: Oh crap, their remaking The Omen? Damn! And whose going to "redo" the amazing work Gregory Peck did? Liev "Manchurian Candidate" Schreiber. Is there some remake list Hollywood has against classic 70's horror films?

-Better Than Tv: Channel 101 and Channel 102 posted it's new pilots and prime time shows a couple of days ago, and their all grade A stuff. I hope Classroom and Yacht Rock stay in their longer, since they're better than most shows on TV these days.

-Minus The Katie Holmes Factor...: ....this film looks pretty good. Don't smoke eithier. I'm starting to love all of these non-sequitar comedies coming out recently. Will this be a good one?

-Boo-Hoo: Slovakia is disgusted by it's protrayal in the new Eli Roth film "Hostel", in which the movie took place, since it makes the area seem "that of sin" and "damages the good reputation of Slovakia". Hey, relax, Slovakia! Just remember it was a real shitty movie anyways.

-Rise Up With Fists: Jenny Lewis & The Watson Twins will perform on The Late Late Show (The one with the annoying british guy) on March 21st, seven days before I'll see here down here in Austin. Even though I can't stand that Ferguson guy, he's had a number of great musical guests on his show, including Wolf Parade. Seriously, mad props to that unfunny guy.

-Elliot Smith Fans: Look for the legendary indie hero play another Tupac and sing on Californian singer/songwriter trio Goldenboy's new album in stores now.

-Poetry With Lots Of Bass: Almost of half of Ghostface Killah's album has leaked, and you can scavange various music blogs to find the .mp3s. Two new tracks were released to Spine Magazine, and are free to download. Very very MF Doom-esque, eh?
"The Champ" MP3
"Crackspot" MP3

-Fly Like Superman: Rolling Stone did a great interview with one of my heroes, Kinks frontman Ray Davies, talking about his new album and a Kinks reunion. Cross your fingers.

-Anarchy In The Hall Of Fame: Click here to read the Sex Pistol's statments to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame regarding becoming nominated and inductees. Needless to say, the response is one of the many reasons why the Pistols will always be the most punk a punk band can be with.

-Tune Recommendation For This Post: Architecture In Helsinki. Like Arcade Fire but more electronic popsy. Oh, and a lot more Australian. Check out their songs "Do The Whirlwind" and "Frenchy, I'm Faking."


Anybody have some mainstream medication? These guys remind me of me, which isn't a good thing.

See you next post, kiddos.

SXSW 2006 Coverage Coming Soon!

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Wednesday Morning Quarterback – Comics off the Beaten Path!

By Mike “blackmore” Maillaro

After my last two weeks of bitching and moaning, I figure it’s time to lighten things up a bit. Too many people think of comics as being purely about superheroes and purely for kids, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I really think that there is a comic out there for everyone.

As Havok said when I told him I was writing this column, "If everyone liked the same comics, they wouldn't have to make so many of them." There are a lot of really great comics out there that tend to fall below most people’s radar, so I wanted to talk about some of my favorites.

Now, this isn’t an attempt to knock mainstream superhero comics. I love superhero books, and they still make up the majority of my comic purchases every month. But, there is a lot more to the comic market, and I hope everyone who reads this column checks out at least one of these noteworthy comics.

I am covering a lot of ground here, so I am not going into too much depth. If you have any questions about any of these books, please e-mail them to me.

Arsenic Lullaby/Arsenic Lullabies (AAA Milwaukee) - I love dark humor, and AL is pretty much the darkest comic I have ever read. If you like stories about zombie fetuses or taking weed whackers to a trunk full of babies, this is the comic for you. These guys leave no stone unturned in their attempts to disgust and entertain.

Arrowsmith (Wildstorm) - A very cool take on what World War 1 would have been like in a world full of magic. Alongside the really cool setting, Kurt Busiek manages to put a lot of deep characterization into this book which reallys shows the impact of war on the soldiers and civilians.

Astro City (Wildstorm)/ Common Grounds (Image) - I feel bad lumping these books together, but I love them for the exact same reason. They manage to take superhero clichés and turn them on their ear. Both series look at what the real world would be like if superheroes existed.

Blaze of Glory/Apache Skies (Marvel) - I love good Western stories, and these books by John Ostrander are two great, little known stories about Marvel’s western characters.

Bone (Cartoon) - On it’s surface, Bone is a simple story. Three cousins have been exiled from their home town of Boneville. The cousins are Fone Bone (the normal one), Phoney Bone (the conniving one, who’s latest scheme involving prune juice and running for mayor got them run out of town), and Smiley (the idiot). They end up getting separated and each manage to come a mysterious place called The Valley. A place full of magical creatures where nothing is what it seems. They meet up with strange characters like the ridiculously strong Grandma Ben and the Red Dragon, and some how end up getting involved in a quest to save the world. But, there is much more to Bone than the simple surface story. It is one of the deepest and most fun comic stories I have ever read, and I can’t recommend it enough.

Book of Lost Souls (Marvel) - I am very hesitant to say this, especially this early, but BOLS really feels like the next Sandman. Very complex and amazing stories that seem to tie into a much larger picture. This book always ends up high on my read list every month.

Cerebus (Aardvark-Venheim) - I have only read the first three volumes of Cerebus so far, but it has been a great read. It starts off as a Conan parody, but very quickly turns it’s attention to political satire, and Dave Sim excels at this! Some people find some of the later volumes to be dense and misogynistic, but I have not gotten that far yet.

Crossgen - My favorite comic company. I am still very depressed that they are gone. Crossgen managed to have terrific, well connected stories that still managed to stand strong on their own. Crossgen books were spread out across many diverse genres, had terrific writers, GOOD FEMALE CHARACTERS, and the best art in the business. My favorites were Meridian, Scion, Route 666, El Cazador, The Path, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and Negation, but just about any Crossgen book will give you a very satisfying read.

Dreadstar (Marvel) - No one tells cosmic stories like Jim Starlin! Dreadstar is a fast moving, ever changing story about a warrior who survives the end of his galaxy only to continue his fight on other worlds as a rebel. It’s a book that is a bit hard to explain, but it is always a very good read. They finally got around to re-releasing these trades!

Empire (Gorilla, trade and volume 2 by DC) - If you like JLA: Year One or the current Legion series, HOW DID YOU MISS THIS? Mark Waid and Barry Kitson always work great together, and this is probably the pinnacle of their partnership. A group of superpower beings have gotten together to crush the populace under their mighty heel. I love the political intrigue and downright shock value of this series. House of M and Infinite Crisis has nothing on Empire.

Fallen Angel (DC, IDW) - DC never showed this book the respect it deserved, and I am glad that it has managed to flourish under IDW. Lots of spiritual undertones in this one, and Bete Noire is one of the coolest settings I’ve ever seen in a comic. They really have given this city a live of its own, and the characters that inhabit it are brilliant.

Groo (Marvel, Image, Dark Horse) - I am a huge Sergio Argones and Mark Evanier fan. Groo is a wandering warrior, who just happens to be an idiot. On it’s surface, Groo is just silly fun, but Sergio Argones and Mark Evanier manage to sneak in some terrific satire. My personal favorite is Mightier Than the Sword which takes a hard look at the power of the media.

G.I. Joe (Devil’s Due/Image/Marvel) - While G.I. Joe does have some bad periods (like the Marvel series from around issue 120-150), on a whole, it is one of my favorite runs ever. The new series, America’s Elite, has been a strong revitalization of the franchise.

Hero Squared (Boom) - Giffen and DeMatteis produce some great work whenever they get together. Hero Squared is no exception. It about a corny, silver age-like hero who ends up traveling to an alternate reality and meeting his counterpart, a lazy slacker. Lots of humor and creative writing make this a must read.

High Roads (Cliffhanger) - Take a southern hick, throw him against evil Nazi robots and what do you get? High Roads! Scott Lobdell did an awesome job with this book, developing the characters and suspense perfectly. When I finished High Roads, I immediately wanted more, which is what any good writer should do.

Jonah Hex (DC) - By far my favorite series right now. DC has managed to put together a terrific Western book here. I’ve always like the Jonah Hex character and these stories show exactly why.

Jon Sable: Freelance (First, trades released by IDW) – Read my review of these.

Lullaby (Image, Alias) - While the art style looks a bit manga, if you look past that, you will find a real gem here. Lullaby takes heroes from all kinds of public domain works like Alice in Wonderland, Treasure Island, Red Riding Hood, and the Wizard of Oz and puts them all together on an epic adventure.

Maxx (Image, trades by Wildstorm)/ Ojo (Oni) / Zero Girl (Wildstorm) : Sam Kieth’s work always speaks directly to me. He’s not afraid to show the ugly side of live, and he really goes into deep explorations of dreams, fantasy, and reality. These three books are very different, but all incredible.

Medieval Lady Death (Avatar) - I never thought I would get into Lady Death, which always seemed like a cheesecake comic to me. But when Crossgen started publishing Medieval Lady Death, I got immediately hooked. Avatar picked up this series after CG folded, and it has continued to be a very good sword and sorcery comic. Plus, it is always nice to see some strong female characters.

Polly and the Pirates (Oni) - I have a real love for pirate stories, and Polly and the Pirates has been a very good one. A girl of proper upbringing finds out that her mother was a pirate queen and finds herself being dragged into the pirate lifestyle. I really enjoy this book, and it is definitely something you can share with younger readers.

Shock Rockets (Gorilla, though Dark Horse released the trade) - Kind of a more adult version of Voltron. This is about a group of pilots who control semi-sentient machines in a war against an invading alien race, but the real story is the relationships between the characters and the strain the war puts on them. Pretty much Busiek was setting the stage here for his later work Arrowsmith.

Sleeper (Wildstorm) - What happens if an undercover agent loses contact with the only person who knows that he is undercover? Sleeper tells the story of a character in a bad situation who finds himself forced to do some horrifying things just to stay alive. Holden’s struggles and the changes he goes through are a great read, and it’s a shame this series did not catch on better.

Soulsearchers (and the other Claypool books) - Soulsearchers is a series I jumped on late. It is about a group of paranormal investigators who get in some ridiculously funny stories by Peter David. Unfortunately, Diamond seems determined to force Claypool to close shop with their monopoly of the comic distribution racket. This is a shame as Soulsearchers, Deadbeats, and Elvira have been around for a long time, and they are all fun comics.

Spyboy (Dark Horse) - WE WANT MORE SPYBOY!!!! I love Peter David’s writing, and I hadn’t even heard of this book until the Spyboy/ Young Justice crossover. I immediately became a fan. I even have a Bombshell chibi on top of my home computer. Spyboy is pretty much James Bond for a younger, more modern audience with a lot more humor…and without the boring parts….and if James Bond was a character with two different personalities. Hmmm…come to think about it, this is not like James Bond at all.

Stardust Kid (Image, Boom) - A great all-ages book. Abadazad from Crossgen is one of my favorite series ever, even though it only lasted three issues before Crossgen went bankrupt. The entire creative team got back together to do Stardust Kid, and it is a worthy successor. Besides, it is just fun to see the guy who wrote Kraven’s Last Hunt writing something geared towards readers of all ages. DeMatteis is one hell of a talent! BTW, Abadazad will be coming out as a series of books in a few months, and I can’t wait!!

Tick Volume 1 (New England Comics) - As soon as I saw the cartoon, I was immediately hooked. The first volume of the comics are available as Omnibus editions. Once Bed Edlund stopped writing the book, it took a sharp decline, but the early issues of Tick are hilarious. Even if you have never seen the cartoon or show, you should really check this one out. It’s a terrific parody of the superhero genre.

Warlord (DC) – Not this new pretender series, I am talking about the original hard-hitting fantasy book by Mike Grell! Not only is Warlord one of the best written books, I have ever read, but Grell’s art is just gorgeous. You can find issues of this series in just about any dump bin, and it is well worth reading.

Wildguard (Image) - SUPERHERO REALITY TV!! I became a fan of Todd Nauck when he was the artist on Young Justice, and it is great to see him doing this book. He writes, draws, colors, and letters most issues of Wildguard, which probably explains why they are so infrequent. All, on , he posts a weekly Wildguard strip, which is always fun to read. The characters are a wild mix here, and it’s a fun twist on typical superhero stories.

There were a few more series that I was going to mention like Invincible, Walking Dead, Preacher, Transmetropolitan, Fables, Y: The Last Man, and Sandman, but these series have all pretty much become mainstream by now.

Looking to the future, American Virgin from Vertigo, Emissary from Image, and My Inner Bimbo from Oni all look very promising!

Also, there are a couple of good all ages minis that came out over the last few years like Imaginaries and Hero Camp, but I’ve already gone way over space on this blog, so I will get around to covering those later on.

Some help from my friends

Some cool people over at GameFAQs offered some of their own thoughts:

Gentleman Ghost: Fell is quite different in content, design, and even price.

-Arrowsmith- An alternate past story that takes place during World War One with lots of magic, monsters, heroics, and even some romance thrown in.

-CrossGen stuff
+Way of the Rat- A martial arts epic with a talkin Monkey named Po Po! What's not to love?
+Sojourn- Beautiful art and lots of hot medieval babe action.
+Meridian- Early McNiven art and one of the most unique concepts for a comic out there. Gotta love those floating islands.

- Astro City- Vibrant, complex characters that take up a living breathing world that seems like it's been in existance for decades.

Athena Voltaire by Daly, Bryant and Fidler.

While not really the subject matter I generally enjoy, the first issue was a fun and fast-moving story, with pretty good art.

I never would have picked it up except that the artist (Bryant) is apparantly a local guy. He signed my copy and everything. It's published by SPEAKEASY Comics, and is/was an Eisner Award Nominee.


- Hate: This is the proto-typical indie comic for me. Buddy Bradley is so well drafted he's like a real, rather unpleasant person. And P. Bagge's art is incredibly out there, it's a trip just to look at it.

- Angry Youth Comix: I've only seen a few issues of this, but Johnny Ryan really pushes boundaries in a hilarious way, and he has a nice clean art style.

- Cherry Poptart: It's funny, sweet and sometimes even sexy. A porn comic that only makes me feel the good kind of dirty.

- XXXenophile: Ditto

- Badger: Badger is one of my favorite characters. A masked vigilante who is, without a doubt, nuts. Mike Baron puts him in offbeat and interesting situations.

- Nexus: Nexus is another Mike Baron book that I love. It's more philosophical as it deals with the ethics of an interstellar executioner.

- Whisper: Whisper is still the best Steven Grant work I've read. Suspenseful story with some political themes mixed in.

- Zot!: Scott McCloud's artwork is a thing of beauty. This starts out with a simple and fun story that gradually grows more complex.

- Boiled Angel: This is Mike Diana's awful masterpiece. If you can find it, you won't find many more disturbing works.

- Dork!/ Milk and Cheese: Evan Dorkin is a great talent. Both Dork and Milk and Cheese are truly funny books and I admire his unique art style.

- Stinz: Stinz is just weird. It's about a guy that's part horse.

- Bitchy Bitch: Hilarious, and I thought we needed more women authors on the list.

- Colleen Coover's Small Favors and Bannana Sunday: I just like her art style after reading her story is Sexy Chix. I admit I haven't picked either of these up yet.


If Small Favours is the one that goes with the tagline "Girly Porno Comics", then it's very funny and very tasteful. Same goes for Xxxenophile. No one draws women quite like Phil Foglio, and the series is very funny and sexy in a good way. I know women who hate porn, but love this.

Moving away from the mature content for a sec, how about Scud: The Disposable Assassin? I used to love this years ago, but it ended in such a dissapointing fashion. A retrospective of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles would be interesting as well, as I remember the original series being very dark and the Image comic having its fair share of moments too. And how about Barry Ween: Boy Genius?

Awesome Mike Awesome:

- Savage Dragon: About 90% of all issues are self-contained stories and honestly feels like a throw back to the Stan and Jack FF. It has that retro feel.

Plus, and here's the deal sealer for me. Things change and stay changed. Less than 125 issues has passed and we have seen Dragon:

First 50 issues.
-Become a cop.
-Get fired from the force.
-Join an government sponsored super team.
-Have a kid and then lose him.
-KIlls a tryant in an alternate timeline that some how mucks things up in the present.
-Retire from super heroing altogether.

Next 50.
-Has his spirit return in the body of one of his human friends. Hilarity insues.
-Gets married.
-Gets widowed... sorta kinda not really.
-Kills same tryant again but this time it is the kid version in current timeline.
-****s up his timeline even more and creates a horrible alternate world that he ends up saving.
-Returns home and then chooses to go back to the "savage World"

Next 22
-His original world is destroyed after he fails to save it and his new world from a Galactus type creature.
-Becomes a published writer.
-Gets married again.
-Finally finds his son and then loses him again.
-Meets Invincible
-Loses his healing powers
-Becomes President of US
-Exposes the truth of his victory and gives back the presidency.

Plus SD is the only Image book were all the issues have been done by the same creative team.

Gun Fu by Indianapolis local Howard Shum. Gun Fu is an action-comedy that takes place in 1936 and stars a gun-toting, kung fu-using Hong Kong cop by the name of Cheng Bo Sen that is enlisted by the British Secret Service to battle Nazi's. He also speaks fluent hip hop and noone seems to notice.

There is a one-shot and a 4 issues "Lost City" mini that are currently available to purchase separetly or in one TPB. It's published by Axiom.

Plus it is written and traced by Howard Shum who used to work in a LCS I frequented during my college days. He's an Indie writer in two ways!

- Elk's Run - An 8 issue mini series about a teenager living in a small militia town cut-off from the rest of the world. Here's a link to their site where you can read a 5-page preview of #1 and they have the complete issue #3 for free as well.

Pick up Emo Boy. It's a nice fun read.


Atomika. It's a really interesting book. It's very strange, but it's also good and engrossing.


I'd suggest Girls, by the Luna Brothers, put out by Image.

Or maybe Fell by Warren Ellis . . . although I haven't seen a new issue in a while, is that still coming out?


I would suggest Walking Dead and possibly Hellblazer for the former, and stuff like Transmet for the latter.

Yeah, the aforementioned Roberta Gregory series (Bitchy Bitch) is rather...interesting. Vitriolic and dark real world humor.

Teenagers From Mars, another indy tale, is a parable about what the legal action against the creator of Boiled Angel means to the indy comic industry. Good stuff, great characters, and one of the main characters does exactly what all of us would like to do at least twice. Oh, and there's zombies.

Tales of Supernatural Law, from the genius that brought us "Archie Meets the Punisher". Supernatural legal comedy. Three things that normally don't belong in the same sentence, but it works.

Adventures of Barry Ween, Boy Genius. Best described as "Dexter's Laboratory" meets "South Park". Probably Winick's best work.

anything vertigo

Scott Pilgrim, Scott Pilgrim, Scott Pilgrim. I can't imagine anybody not loving Scott Pilgrim. Boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy has to defeat girl's 7 evil ex-boyfriends in single combat. I just bought my girlfriend some original SP art for her birthday. :D

Hero Squared. Fun new take on the dynamic of being a superhero, as well as just well written and beautifully drawn.

30 Days of Night. Great Vampire story. The art just makes it so creepy.

Concrete's fun

Blood and Water! For the love of god someone read this mini-series, I suggest it all the damn time and no one ever picks it up!

Shinta von Weizegger:
No mention of Poison Elves brings your column down in cool factor by ten points.

Chris Delloiacono from Comics Nexus

The Warlord - Not the relaunched series that just debuted, but the sword & sorcery title from its '70s glory days when Mike Grell was doing the writing and artwork. Some of the best characters and situations in all of comics from the past thirty odd years.

The Ballad of Sleeping Beauty - Great story based on the fairy tale transposed to a western setting. The series featured well written characters, strong action, and interesting villains. One of my favorites from recent years.


Dear Mike,

I greatly enjoyed your column on the symptom of retroactive legions of fans. As a longtime comic reader, I'm pretty familiar with most of these characters, and I have fond memories of many of them. I liked the Flight a lot...Northstar and Aurora especially.
But one thing they never did was sell comics. Heck, I didn't even buy most of their comics. When I reflect back on it, I've bought maybe 5 issues featuring them new, and a few dozen more because they caught my eye in dump bins, and that's it. When I failed to support them several times, is it fair for me to criticize Marvel for the same failure? No.

Both the Alphans and another recent kill have had multiple series cut short by the low sales monster. I imagine that if the upcoming Moon Knight series doesn't sell, he might suffer the same fate. Perhaps this is a shot across the prow by Marvel to up interest in the series, holding Moon Knight hostage as it were. I'd be interested in your views on this. Thanks!

-Mike Weaver

I think that a lot of people tend to over-romanticize the comic industry, forgetting that this is a business. They are looking to sell books, and shock value seems to do a pretty good job of it. Much more so than a C-List super team from Canada…eh.

As someone who owns way too many issues of Alpha Flight and the assorted Moon Knight series, I am definitely the right person for this question. It always amazes me when I hear people talk about how much they miss Moon Knight. The poor bastard has so many cancelled series. You'd think if that many people cared about the character, he wouldn't keep getting cancelled. There are many characters that I think work much better as parts of supporting casts or making random guest appearances, and Moon Knight is definitely one of them.

Just look at Gravity. A great character, but I know he couldn't really sustain his own ongoing series. A few minis here and there is the best possible way to develop this character, and I would say that is probably true of Moon Knight, as well. Honestly, I think the Moon Knight series is more fan service than anything else. They'll launch the series, it will probably get cancelled, and Marvel can cancel it with a clear conscience, "Hey, we tried to listen to fans, but no one bought the book."

I am a strong supporter of anthology books, but they never seem to last because of lack of reader interest. I'd think that an Anthology book like Marvel Comics Presents or Showcase would be the best place to spotlight characters like Moon Knight, Alpha Flight, Gravity, Firestorm, Manhunter, and on and on.

All right, that wraps it up for this week. As always, the awesome artwork at the top is done by my sister, Patti Maillaro. She’s going to be an aunt soon, and couldn’t be much more excited. My poor kid is doomed.

Please e-mail me any questions, comments, or whatevers to I do read all my e-mails, and I’ll post them with my column. Also, remember to swing by GameFAQs and check out Eisner Cup season 3!

Now, go out and read some comics, you slacker!

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House Rules! - Week of 02/22/06

This week: Supergirl #5, ASM #529... also AXM #13, Vigilante #6, and Wonder Woman #226

Supergirl #5

"Power - Chapter Five: Supergirls"

Writer: Jeph Loeb
Art: Ian Churchill/Norm Rapmund

Note-a-Quote: "Please. Make a move on us." - Black Canary (Dinah has one line in the entire book, and it makes me want to have her babies. And no, I didn't mistype that. For you, Dinah, I will grow a womb.)

Two girls, sharing similar abilities but different backgrounds. Each with their own purpose and desires. Both in short skirts and revealing tops. Both incredibly, almost disturbingly thin. Both ready to fight to the death.

But enough about Paris and Nicole, let's talk about these two Supergirls that are flying around.

As our story opens, "Evil Kara" recounts her "origin" wherein her father Zor-El sends her after the spaccraft launched by his brother Jor-El. Unlike the story "Good Kara" would spin, in Evil Kara's tale Jor-El is anything but the loving brother. Upset with always being dismissed and disputed by his younger brother, Jor-El sends his only daughter on a special mission to find her younger cousin Kal-El... and kill him. EK is sent in a ship designed to imbue her with yellow sun power (like Sunny Delight! Sorry, I needed a product plug in here...) and also designed to create an "innocent" persona to allow her to hide until it was time to strike.

Of course, a few things throw a wrench into her plans. The ship doesn't manage to escape all of the planet's destruction, and by the time she gets to Earth, Kal-El is a grown man. So the evil one has to bide her time further, waiting, watching, only rising to the surface briefly when Darkseid controlled Kara. Darkseid sensed the evil, and told Lex to use the black kryptonite to release Kara's inner darkness.

Giant Boobies!

Sorry. Just wanted to wake up everyone that drifted off halfway through that explanation. So Good Kara and Bad Kara fight it out. Rrowr! Cat fight! Now I have your attention back. The fight gets broken up by the Justice League members still on the moon. Both Karas suggest that the JL run for it, but the League's having none of that. Evil Kara takes off, and Good Kara tells J'onn to, "Warn him that we're coming," before taking off as well. Hawkman tries to get J'onn to chase the pair down, but J'onn refuses, noting that "he" will deal with them when they get there.

While Good Kara recalls how she's ended up fighting all the superheroes she's come across because they sensed a "darkness" within her, Bad Kara ambushes her in space. The pair crash down on the planet in none other than Gotham City, where the Batman is waiting for them. Good Kara hopes that Batman brought his K-ring with him. Evil Kara tries to put down Batman, but... well, he's Batman. Good Kara tries to help out, but Batman warns her to stay clear as it's being handled. Good Kara gets smacked back out of the fight, and again wonders why Batman won't use the stupid K-ring. She rushes back in to try and help him, then gets the point. Superman and Wonder Woman are also on the scene.

Bad Kara rushes Good Kara and smacks her into a dust crater... or so it would seem. The dust settles and it appears Good Kara has the upper hand. Superman sweeps in and right crosses Bad Kara... or so it would seem. Bad Kara asks Superman what the heck he's doing, and it then becomes apparent that something is up. Bad Kara accuses Good Kara of switching their costumes (kinky!). Good Kara, naturally, says that her twin is lying. Superman, unable to deduce which is which since they're identical, decides that the best way to resolve the issue is to punch everyone with an S on their chest until he's the only one standing. It works about as well as it sounds like it should.

A mini-super melee ensues, but things finally settle down after a few smacks are laid down by all. Bats whips out the K-ring (yeah, he had it the whole time), one Kara pins the other down, Diana ties them up with her lasso and... mmm, lasso... huh? Oh. Diana ties the two Karas up and asks the question, "Who are you? (Who, who... who, who!)" The action fuses the two Karas back into one Kara, who tells the assembled trio that what was in the past is past and that they as her foster parents, the three of them will help dictate what she becomes in the future. Happy endings all around. See you next year!

This issue... hmm. You know, I could say that Mr. Loeb and I have a love/hate thing going on. Some of his work really works for me, and then every now and then something just sits wrong. this sits wrong for one very important reason. The title of this book is Supergirl. She's related to Superman. Why then, when it comes to characterization, are the two S characters the only ones doing things out of character?

Case in point: Superman, when pressed with the dilemma of which Kara is which, decides to attack both. Huh? Seriously, here... this is the same dilemma that I've seen countless times before in a hundred different shows and movies. There's always a way to tell which one is which. If nothing else, he could have just waitied until one Kara told him to take out both of them, because that's how they usually figure it out. But no, the Last Son of Krypton uses the same amount of logic that the Hulk does in this situation. The heck?

Adding to this insanity is Clark's initial attack method. He fires off a beam of heat vision at Wonder Woman. Now mind you, she deflects the beam and hits both Karas, which is presumably what Supes wanted. But the expression Diana has the spilt second he does it doesn't indicate this is a plan she was aware of. In fact, the expression is more akin to, "WTF?!" So you see my confusion here. If your own allies aren't sure why you're doing something, how can we believe it makes sense?

To further the S-problems in the book, we have the deulling Karas. Now mind you, the artist makes it pretty clear which is which and that switch has taken place (more on this in a second), but when Superman attacks both Karas, what happens next? Clearly, Good Kara should be able to deduce that Superman is only trying to be "fair and balanced" in his attack, possibly even trying to goad Evil Kara into retaliating. So what does Good Kara do? She launches a counter attack, just like her evil counterpart. What makes it worse is that even Evil Kara sees that the logical thing for Good Kara to do would be to stand down. To have the same relatively intelligent, thoughtful Kara from the beginning of the issue become the reckless, hyper-emotional kid that would be necessary to attack her own allies (...again... sigh...) makes no sense, especially when she's supposed to be separated from her darker impulses.

And to make this bad characterization even more highlighted, every other character in the book is portrayed well. The JL in their limited appearance all fit the bill, Batman and Wonder Woman are spot on (and its not out of character for her to smack an ally if they have it coming... see, it makes sense for her). The only ones that come off badly are Kara and Superman.
I won't harp on the art too much. Churchill delivers some nice images across the pages. Of particular good praise is the way he clearly helps define which Kara is which after the switch takes place. The shock and dismay on Good Kara's face as she realizes the costumes are switched is matched by Evil Kara's amused smirking as she lurks behind Superman and tells him how "evil" her doppelganger is.

But aside from the character flaws, the story was okay enough. It wasn't five dollar good (and why was this issue five bucks? If I had seen it befor eI paid for it, I might have thought twice about it), but it gets us back to one Supergirl. Hopefully it will stay that way.

Story: 4/10 (Good start, good finish; cofusing and mishmashed middle)
Art: 8/10 (Good art, and very good character expressions.)
Overall: 4/10 (You can live without it. I only recommend it if you like pretty pictures.)

Amazing Spider-Man #529

"Mr. Parker Goes to Washington (Part 1 of 3)"

Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Art: Ron Garney/Bill Reinhold

Note-a-Quote: "The bird is voice only. I can't see in there. Nice tan, by the way." -Tony Stark (An obvious answer to an even more obvious question. And the visual is priceless.)

Peter Parker is awakened from his slumber by an insistent bird. I swear this isn't the start to some sort of randy bar joke. It turns out Tony Stark bought his P.A. system out of the Get Smart catalog. You might think I'm kidding, but you just know Tony's got a shoe phone laying around somewhere. Anywho, Tony calls Peter into the lab because Tony is done putting the finishing touches on Peter's new costume. Tony runs through a list of the suit's components, and the darn thing has more special features than the new Ultimate Avengers DVD (it never hurts...). After taking care of one more loose end, there's nothing left to do but take the suit out for a joyride.

Cut to... a pair of lowly thugs evade the police while carrying a hostage in their trunk. As they plot their next evil maneuver and the demise of their hostage, they spot what will be their undoing: Spider-Man! But haha, the bad guys are safe because there's nothing around to let Spidey swing over to where their car is. As the crook points out, "What's he gonna to do... fly?"

Now you know Tony can't build a suit that doesn't fly. It just ain't pratical. And although technically it's a glide, Peter swoops down on the evil doers and shows them the error of their ways. Crooks in custody, hostage recovered, alls well that ends... he's got a gun! The one crook can't let it go and tries to shoot the web-slinger. The hostage is in the way! The one thing Spidey's new suit doesn't have is Spider-sense!

... but, you know, Peter still has that on his own, so he knows danger's coming. He gets between the hostage and the bullet and takes one for the team... well, the lady. But fear not, true believers. Spidey is now bullet proof. Screw that. He's freaking invulnerable.

Later that evening, Peter confronts Tony with an obvious question: why build a new Spidey-suit? The answer is not so obvious. Tony explains that there's some rough times up ahead, and that he needs someone with him that he can depend on. Tony wants to hire Peter on has his second, his protege, his... apprentice . Where the heck did that come from? Anyway, Tony needs someone with him that can back him up through what's coming, no matter what . ... the heck?

Given how Tony's stood by him through the previous hard times, Peter accepts his new position with Tony. Tony welcomes Peter in, and gives Peter a folder to review before they head on their trip. Peter opens the folder and gawks as he reads a letter; it's a request for Tony Stark to appear before the Metahuman Investigations Committee... in Washington!

Oh, please. You know they're going to Washington. It's in the freaking issue title.

Once again, JMS delivers a solid issue. It's a relatively simple and short tracked story, but it fills in a lot of details and answers a lot of questions. Most notedly, it explains why Tony Stark builds a new suit for Peter. Granted, you'd think it's something Tony would do at some point for a fellow Avenger if requested (or maybe even if not), but to see Tony with an unlterior motive gives it a bit more grounding. I'll reserve a good deal of commentary on said costume, as I'll be going into that in more detail in another article, but the new suit goes through the motions well here.

I'm unclear on whether or not the page design fell to the artist or if it's the work of the writer's scripting, but there's some really well designed panel work here. The layouts help the storytelling as well as setting up the humor at some points. A good example of this is the page where Peter asks Tony about why MJ's arm is okay when it was clearly broken during his previous run-in with Morlun. Tony spouts a fantastic meld of techno-babble and pure B.S., and then Peter and Tony both silently stare out of the panel, breaking the fourth wall, as it were. And somehow, despite what it is, it still works beautifully within the story.

If there's one complaint that I might register, it's that Peter doesn't really look like Peter out of his costume. I can count on one hand the number of times where I saw him drawn and thought to myself "If I saw him outside of his own book, I'd know that was Peter Parker." A minor complaint, but one that I'm willing to register.

The character usage gets a big thumbs up from me as well. Peter is the focus (as he should be), but his supporting cast gets a lot of good lines and fleshing out as well. JMS manages to make Peter and MJ seem at home in Avengers Tower, something I didn't think would be possible. MJ in particular always ends up managing to steal at least one scene for herself, which is the way it should be. Tony Stark makes a perfect ally/supporting cast member. I enjoy the notion of his role as mentor to Peter and hope that it leads to mroe positive interaction with them. Heck, even bit roles are portrayed pretty nicely. From cocky 3rd string crooks to an unnamed cop that ends up intimidating the would be spider killer, they all play their parts and do it well. Even the ever-looming notion of having to go behind Steve Rogers' back provides its own little character moment. Cap exerts his presence, and he doesn't even appear in the book.

It's good to know that in the aftermath of The Other, JMS can spin a good tale. Or at least the start of one. As a lead in to the upcoming Civil War arc, this gets things off on a strong note, if not one with small, ominous overtones .

You should probably ignore the ominous music. Probably. At least until Peter stops calling Tony "Boss" and starts referring to him as "Master."

Story: 8/10 (a nice debut for the new spider-duds)
Art: 7/10 (better than average, and the good moments are priceless)
Overall: 8/10 (Need a point to start reading Spider-Man? This is as good as any, kids.)

House Shots (short reviews of other titles this week)

Astonishing X-Men #13


Writer: Joss Whedon
Art: John Cassaday

The Skinny: Joss is back and he's bringing a lovable squad of muties with him. In this issue we learn more about Emma Frost's ties to the new Hellfire Club (and Cassandra Nova). The X-team resumes training on the kids that are left at the Academy. Kitty makes a move on Piotr. A shadowy figure compels Emma to make a move on Scott. An evil move, mind you. And if that's not enough, Sebastian Shaw still wears a neckerchief. An evil neckerchief. Wrap your head around that.

My Take: It's a good opening volley from Whedon on his return to Astonishing. As usual, Joss does the important thing and gets the characters right. In particular, I enjoyed Kitty sitting in her room trying to psych herself up enough to go talk to Pete. But all of the X-Men have nice moments dealing with each other. Wolverine training children is eight shades of wrong, but it feels so right. Someone may want to keep a closer eye on him, though. And I hope the goverment agency SWORD is actually going to do something eventually, because I'm getting tired of looking at them.

Story: 6/10 (Building to something, but not quite there yet)
Art: 6/10 (Does what it does and tells the story)
Overall: 6/10

Vigilante #6 (of 6)

"Into the Night"

Writer: Bruce Jones
Art: Ben Oliver

The Skinny: After discovering that psychiatrist Justin Powell is, in fact, Vigilante (whoa. biiiiiiiig shock.... not) police psychologist Rene Taylor is forced to face off with the darker of his alter egos. After convincing Vigilante that the only way he can continue to exist is to merge his personality and Dr. Powell's into one through hypnosis, the pair is interrupted by "Killer" Kort and "Child-Killer" Culkins. Blah, blah, blah, bad guys dead, good guys carry the fight, etc. etc.

My Take: I want to like Vigilante. I really do. And to be fair, I like the character that's presented here. But I have two very specific problems with this story. First, it was painfully obvious throughout the series that Powell was Vigilante. Maybe not painfully, but I couldn't be the only one that had it pegged around issue 2. Because of that, the big reveal in issue 5 and the subsequent aftermath in issue 6 seems a bit anti-climactic.

Second, as this series is set in Metorpolis, there is no way on earth that Superman lets Vigilante operate there. I was willing to let Queston slide in his limited series because he was just visiting Metropolis and the Superman portrayed in that book was such a prick you just wanted stuff to go on under his nose. But Supes would never let an actual kill-the-bad-guys vigilante operate in his city for very long. But who knows? Maybe this new melded Vigilante willbe a little gentler with people. Yeah, right.

Add a cast of characters that were otherwise forgettable (I had to look back at an issue for each and every name I used here) and you get a mini-series that was okay, but probably didn't need six issues to hash out.

Story: 4/10 (Predictable story with odd twists. Meh...)
Art: 7/10 (Nice darkish visuals help set the mood, but can only do so much...)
Overall: 4/10 (Get it to complete your series, but otherwise don't bother.)
Overall (Series): 5/10 (It probably would have worked better with a two less characters and two less issues.)

Wonder Woman #226

"Cover Date"

Writer: Greg Rucka
Art: Cliff Richards/Ray Snyder

The Skinny: Through a series of tabloid covers and flashbacks, we get to see glimpses of Wonder Woman and Superman's relationship through various periods of time in Diana's life. The whole thing ends with the here and now, where Diana inspires people to do the right thing one more time before heading off to help a friend in need.

My Take: As "final" issues go, this is a good one. From the tabloid covers peppered with their own little inside jokes to the actual meat of the conversations betwen Kal and Diana, it's all one nice package.

Despite the news rag's implications to the contrary, Wonder Woman and Superman have a close but ridiculously plationic relationship. If it were any other individuals except them, I probably wouldn't buy it, but because it's them it works. From the way the two relate to each other to the way Diana turns a group of rioters into would-be fire fighters with just her words, you couldn't really ask for a better bookend to this volume of Wonder Woman.

Do you get the impression that I liked this book?

And I dare you not to look at the cover montage at the end of the book that includes Superman wearing Wonder Woman's costume and no have it haunt your dreams. I dare you...

Story: 8/10 (A little more poignant if you know the history, but as good as a one-shot story gets)
Art: 6/10 (Not as defined as it could be, but carries the story.)
Overall: 8/10 (The End. until Wonder Woman #1 this summer, that is.)

T-Mail! (replies to posts and e-mails)

Cory Sanchez posted...
Great reviews. Looking forward to more of them.
I'm not crazy about the subtitle 'House Shots', but have failed to think of anything better.

House Says: Thanks for the vote of confidence, Cory. I'm not all that crazy about it, either, but I'm still at a loss for an alternative myself. I try to look for titles that either incorporate something related to houses (because of my username) or something related to 'T' (as evidenced by this subtitle). I'll probably get over all that before it's over, though.

That's going to do it for this week. Remember kids, we're just weeks away from One Year Later. WAFOYL? Nah, that doesn't work at all. If you have any ideas/suggestions/comments, feel free to leave them here or contact me at Please reference either "Waiting for Wednesday" or "House Rules!" in you subject, so I have some idea why you're mailing me.

Coming Soon in House of Ideas:

The Web-Slingers New Clothes: the breakdown on Spidey's new duds, and why you shouldn't worry if you don't like them.
Cracking the Blinds: In a new sub-feature, I break down exactly how my comic rating system works. For all four of you who care. :P
More T-Mail: And, if you're lucky, the introduction of the T-Mail song! Oh, you know you want to see that.

See you when I see you.

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Looking for help on next week's column

My column next week is going to be on comics off the beaten path...

Next week, I am planning on a column about really good books that are not typical Marvel/DC superhero fare. It's not going to be a rant so much as a suggestion box.

I would love to put posters' inputs on this. Please suggest any titles you like me to mention with a sentence or so on why you like this book. You can either post them here or e-mail me at I will be adding them all in my column next week.

Blackmore out.

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I Got Wood. Again. Luckily, Symptoms LOCALized This Time.

Local is yet another series by Brian Wood (DMZ, Demo) worthy of picking up. Ryan Kelly brings regular people to life with a simple, very indy-looking style. It's simple, and yet it isn't. At all.

Local is just a comic about regular people in regular cities around the US. It's tough to classify, since each issue of the three currently available has been completely different from the last. The first, a stream of consciousness piece; the second, a story about an unorthodox relationship; and the third, a kind of Behind The Music tale. Each story takes place in a different, smallish US town. The first was Portland, OR, then we went to Minneapolis, MN, followed by Richmond, VA. If you live in any of those places (which I don't), it's sure to ring bells, as Ryan Kelly uses actual businesses from the towns as backdrops.

The variety of the stories themselves, as I mentioned before, makes Local a difficult comic to classify. It definitely isn't your typical comic, as it doesn't really have a plot; there certainly isn't a cohesive plot between issues, though one might develop in future issues. This is both a good and a bad thing for the comic: while it keeps things fresh and interesting each issue, people will inevitably like certain issues more than others. I personally didn't really care for the third issue as much as the other two, as I'm not in a band nor do I have any inclination whatsoever to be in one in the future. However, I thought the first two were great, and all three have been deep stories. One might be tempted to blow through an issue in a quick read, but then, by the end, you realize you've missed a lot. There's a huge amount of detail packed into both the story and art, even though it initially doesn't quite seem that way: the stories aren't deep at first glance, but once you get into them, they're much more than initially thought.

There is, therefore, really only one recommendation I can make: pick up an issue and see if you like it. If it isn't quite to your liking, maybe try another one, since it's sure to be something different. The order doesn't really matter, so pick which one sounds good to you: #1, a girl thinking about how things could play out depending on how she acts; #2, a story about a stalker-boyfriend who breaks into a girl's apartment and leaves pictures of himself; or #3, about the trials and tribulations of a band and, more importantly, the people behind the band. They all offer something different, and, as is usual with Brian Wood, his characters make the comic work. They're all well developed, and you instantly know exactly who they are since they're just like real people in the real world. If you're looking for explosions and capes, you're SOL; if you want a change of pace, Local's the thing for you.

End ratings:

Story: 8/10 Again, tough to rate, since they're all different. They're all good, but you'll agree or disagree depending upon your personal interests

Art: 8/10 Expressive, stylized, very consistent. You'll probably either like it or hate it, since it has that...'indy' feel to it. Tough to describe, but that's why pictures are worth a thousand words.

Enjoyability: Really depends on the issue. You don't really get the whole picture until you read the whole thing, but then you're always glad you read it.

Pick up a copy of one of the issues next time you stop by your comic shop and see if it's your thing. It's different, but in a good kinda way.

--The Almeister

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AVENGERS ASSEMBLE! Ultimate Avengers: The Movie is The Ultimates come to life

The first in what will hopefully be a long line of Marvel/Lions Gate Films animated projects is finally on the shelves. As of February 21, Marvel fans can now see Mark Millar's and Brian Hitch's epic Ultimates come to life.

As fans of the Ultimates know, the series is the Ultimate Universe's version of Earth's Mightiest Heroes, the Avengers. Hence the incredibly original title. Following the first 13 issues of the series rather faithfully, the movie does a good job of making the characters work on the little screen. Minor story spoilers (first 10 minutes or so) follow, so be warned. Although if you don't know who Captain America or the Hulk is, you probably don't give a damn about the movie anyway.

Picking up exactly where the comic does, UatM begins in WWII as the Allied forces go after the Nazis. Captain America is among them, giving us our first taste of the huge-scale action to follow. Leaping into the fray and busting some Nazi skulls, Cap saves America from certain nuclear doom as a true hero would. And then he proceeds to fall into the Atlantic and die. Bummer.

From there, much like the comics, we switch to the present day and meet the rest of the cast. This is where the movie really works, since the characters work nearly as well as they do in the comics. I say nearly, because the comics aren't exactly for children. You can't have Hank Pym abusing his wife in an animated movie, nor can you have quite the same level of social/political commentary Millar infuses his work with. They do have to appeal to a mainstream audience, after all. The characters, though, are spot-on:

Captain America's story and character are developed beautifully. It's dramatic, it's poignant, and it's wonderful. From his battle with the Nazis, to his coping with modern-day America, the viewer really connects with him and can't help but root for the guy.

Thor is just a great character, both in the comics and in the movie. Despite his lack of facial hair, animated Thor keeps the same hippie/Norse God/possibly schizophrenic personality that makes Ultimate Thor so lovable. His quirky references to Norse characters and his love of Asgardian mead only make him better.
Much like Thor, Iron Man/Tony Stark is spot-on. His armor is the classic red and gold, rather than red and gray, but he is portrayed exactly as a rich playboy should be: chasing beautiful women, being the quick-witted smooth talker, and even having that delightful quirk we all love Iron Man for: his devotion to the hard stuff. Bruce Wayne only wishes he were this damn sexy.
Giant-Man, as stated before, has the biggest departure from his character. The wife-beater is gone, replaced by an arrogant “lab-jockey” who loves to bicker with everybody. It's close to his comics personalities, and it's really about as close as the creators could get him and retain a PG-13 rating.
The Wasp, though a relatively minor character, also stays true to her comic roots, as does Banner, in his role as a tragic, misunderstood, slightly psychotic genius. He gets fleshed out (and Hulked out, for that matter) just as well as everybody else. The Black Widow was, in my opinion at least, the weakest of the characters, since she was really just a femme fatale and little else. However, despite that fact, every other character was developed in a way to engage the viewer for reasons other than the big explosions (of which there are many, incidentally). Instead of the mindless kids' movie I was expecting, the story is truly compelling, and the characters work just as well as they do in the comics.
The animation is equally good. It is Brian Hitch's spectacular style, albeit a slightly simplified version of it. Everything is animated smoothly, with a seamless blend of computer effects and traditional animation that leaves painful memories of Spider-Man's badly-rendered New York in the 90's far behind. It's truly top-notch stuff.
The Special Features on the disc are also worth mentioning. "Avengers Assemble" is the typical creators-patting-themselves-on-the-back deal, and really seems like little more than George Perez and Kurt Busiek glorifying themselves. I must admit I didn't watch the whole thing, but I couldn't take it anymore after the first few minutes. If you've seen the analogous bits on other Marvel DVDs, you know exactly what it's all about.
However, one of the Special Feature segments is worthy of a paragraph all its own: the search for the voice talent. A while back fans were encouraged to send in their audition tapes to see if they had what it takes to voice one of the characters. These are their tapes. Some of them are pretty good, some of them are really funny because they're supposed to be, and some of them are riotously funny because they're horrid. Definitely worth your time. There's also a preview of Ultimate Avengers 2, which looks promising if predictable. There's also an Avengers trivia track you can play while you watch the movie, if you so choose. Toss in some trailers for UAtM, Elektra (?!) and some new Heroclix ripoff, and you've got a Special features menu that's at least decent.
Overall, Ultimate Avengers is, at the very least, worthy of a rental. Most stores are selling it for around $13, which, for a 71 minute movie, is rather reasonable. The story is very well executed, the characters are worth caring about, and the animation is top-notch. If you liked Ultimates, or if you have a passing interest in the characters or their universe, give it a shot. Fans of the comics will be happy, fans of animated superheroics will be happy, and the whole family can enjoy watching the bad guys get stomped. Grab yourself a mead or martini, or even a vial of super-soldier serum, and have a blast.
--The Almeister

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Words With Waiting: Jesse Ledoux, Artist

Words With Waiting
Love Is In The Air Interviewee: Jesse Ledoux
Interviewer: Gambit

Among all the cds that deck my shelves, the ones with covers done by Jesse Ledoux are the ones I like to display at the top of each pile. You've seen his work on posters and CD covers of such bands as The Shins, Pedro The Lion, Spoon, Elliot Smith and just about every big indie name you can think of.

His paintings and drawings are very detailed, and usually display strange creatures, places and beings in a cartoon like manner, though heavilly detailed and filled with things you might notice every time you take another look at it.

-First of all, could you give us some information on how you got into art? What was the first poster/ CD cover that you worked on?

Get Here And StayI’ve always enjoyed drawing and making art as a kid. When I went to college, art took the backseat to the text books. After a while I remembered how much I enjoyed art (and unfortunately it also reminded me how much I didn’t like the text books). And that’s when my grades plummeted. The first CD project that I really worked on was 764-HERO’s “Get Here and Stay”. John Atkins, the singer/guitarist in the band, did the paintings and I designed it. The first poster I did was for a show with Karp and Silkworm at the University of Washington. While there are certainly some things I’d do differently now, I’m still happy with them. Well, come to think about it, that poster IS pretty embarrassing. I’m still happy with the CD though.

-Do you enjoy listening to most of the bands you do album covers these days? What tunes do you usually listen to these days? Or while your working?

It’s incredibly important to know what the band I’m working for sounds like, however, I’ve found it difficult to listen a band WHILE I’m working on a project for them. Lately I’ve found that noisier bands like godheadSilo or Hella are GREAT when starting a project, while jazz, like Charles Mingus or Ornette Coleman, are better when I’m working on the final artwork.

-I managed to find the posters you did for bands and events on the internet and at some local record stores (Yay Waterloo.) Right above the computer I'm typing this interview on is your horsehead SXSW 2004 poster, and to my right is a smaller version (I assume) of your Shins Showbox poster. I like all of your covers and posters, but my favorite work of yours is the The Shin's Chutes Too Narrow CD, especially the booklet that came along with it. Are you proud of a certain cover you did?

Chutes Too Narrow

I always try to learn something new with each project, and experiment with different techniques. Because of this, I’m quite happy with a lot of things I’ve done, as they remind me of that new thing I tried. I think the ones I’m MOST happy with are the ones I took the biggest chances on. That Shins package is one such case. There was a chance that the die cuts wouldn’t work out well, or it just wouldn’t look right. However, I had a good feeling it would work. I took that leap of faith, and am happy with where it landed.

-Are you doing work on any posters related to South By Southwest 2006? I always look forward to the promotional posters and cards they hand out around the area.


I recently finished a new poster for Suicide Squeeze’s SXSW showcase. Oh! I also did a different poster for a party they’re co-hosting (I nearly forgot about that one!). That’s 2 posters total out of probably 10 kazillion that will be made for the event.

-You've done lots of CD covers and posters for lots of band. If there was one band or musician that approached you to do a cover, which group or singer would get you the most excited about? What would you want to draw for their cover?

Six Part Seven

I hate to say it, but the more I like a band, the more scared I am to do their album art. Last year, I did several CD packages for small bands who were just putting out their first release. It was great! Having never heard them before, I didn’t have the chance to be nervous about working with them. Probably the most difficult project would be to do something for a band I really REALLY like. In times like that, I tend to over-think things and not trust my gut.

-Are there any certain artists who've inspired some of your work? Who are your favorites and which ones have influenced you the most?

Electric Six PosterMusical artists or visual artists? I think both disciplines are a huge inspiration to me in very different ways. Visual artists are inspiring to me for obvious reasons. They create images that can give me ideas of how to approach my own work differently. Musicians can be inspiring in a very different way. The sounds of a certain sound can evoke images in my head that I’d never be able to think of if I tried. Plus, with musical inspirations, there’s no fear of my work looking too much like the work that inspired me.

-On your website, you posted a flipbook cartoon you did with animation cells, featuring a creature who gets his eye ripped out by a larger being. Can we expect to see any more animations in the future?

Flipbook Still

I’d sure like to, however, as you can see from the flipbook cartoon, I clearly have no idea what I’m doing. If only I could find somebody who loves animating things, hates creating characters, and doesn’t mind my uptight pickyness. Unfortunately, I think I’ll have a better chance of finding a volcano in my back yard.

-Can you tell us of any future projects that you are doing? Maybe a new CD cover or poster?

I have a couple projects I’ve got to keep a lid on (yet are exciting nonetheless!), but one great project that I CAN spill the beans on is the stuff I’ll be doing for Suicide Squeeze’s 10th Anniversary. There’ll be a double CD (maybe even triple?!?) with best-of’s, rarities, and unreleased tracks of all the bands who have been on the label. And in addition to that, they are doing a series of shows in Seattle and each night will have it’s own limited edition poster.

-Your drawings are unique, since they feature strange places and weird creatures. Is there any reason that you like to draw these type of creations? The purple, 12 legged, eye beam creature with the gas coming out of his ears is my personal fave.


I like drawing the weird imaginary things more than real-life things because there are so many other people who are far better at drawing the real-life things a lot better than me. If you can’t beat ‘em, avoid ‘em!

-I've tried imitating your style a few times on doodles I'd make on my homework or school notes, but I can never really get it right. Do you have any tips for any readers who might be trying to draw a piece like you do? Any tools or exercises that make the whole process easier?

While I’m flattered you’d want to draw like me (though I DO question your sanity), I’d suggest finding a style that you ARE able to do with relative ease. It’s bound to be more unique, and you’ll be a lot happier with the end result, knowing it’s something wholly yours.

-Is there any type of media besides music that you'd like to apply your artistic skills too? Maybe a movie poster or a cartoon show? I'd love to see a series that ventures into Ledouxville every episode.

Suicide Squeeze Tour Poster

Although I really enjoy working on music related projects, it’s the projects that AREN’T a CD or a poster that I really find exciting. It forces me to think about things in different ways, and presents new and unique challenges. I’ve done a few book covers, a couple bike helmets, and other miscellaneous tidbits, and those have been a lot of fun.


Look for Ledoux's work on the Suicide Squeeze project and many others on these websites:

Related Links:
Ledouxville, Jesse's Homepage

Flipbook Animation
Ledoux's Shop For Prints And T-Shirts
Suicide Squeeze Records
Sup Pop Records

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SDM’s Sneaks of the Week 2/21/05

Credit goes to Gambit for the rhyming title. If it makes you cringe, blame him.

A new addition to this review column will be the “Quick Picks” (I came up with that rhyming gem myself), which will be short reviews of comics I read during work but didn’t end up buying.

Best of the week: Astonishing X-Men #13 (9/10)
Did anyone not see this coming? For its first six issues, Joss Whedon and John Cassaday’s Astonishing X-Men was easily the best superhero comic being produced by any company, and in its second arc, lost some readers but stayed excellent in my opinion. During the inaugural run, I said to myself, “Self, if I had to drop my entire pull list except one comic, this would be the comic to keep.” So for all my intense love of this comic, I found that the release of issue thirteen snuck up on me like the revelation of Emma Frost’s allegiance to the new Hellfire Club way back in issue twelve (see how I worked that plot point in?). I wasn’t eagerly anticipating this comic like I have been with Infinite Crisis, Ultimates 2, and Superman/Batman, so it wasn’t until I actually opened the cover up and read the first page that I was reminded of why exactly Astonishing X-Men is, well, astonishing.

Whedon picks up the plot thread of the new Hellfire Club established on the closing page of the last issue to come out, exploring when it was exactly that Emma was approached to become a mole in the X-Men. This is a flashback to the pre-Morrison era X-Men, and Whedon deftly weaves in the connection, also explaining a development in Emma’s powers in this scene. Snap back to the present, where Wolverine trains a bunch of X-noobs in the dismantled Danger Room, Beast and Cyclops discuss each others’ secret lives, and Kitty Pryde and Colossus try to reconcile their feelings for each other. Whedon’s knack for characterization shines here as he treats us to a day in the life of the X-Men, capturing Kitty’s character best as she tries to sort out her relationship with Colossus. We get a few more scenes of the Hellfire Club and S.W.O.R.D. (the S.H.I.E.L.D. counterpart established in the first arc of this book), and an ending that is as sexy as it is confusing, with a surprise for Cyclops.

Cassaday conveys everything beautifully with his detailed art and talent for facial expressions, giving us proud and arrogant Emma, awkward and scared Kitty, brooding Scott, haughty Hank, and cocky Logan. Laura Martin’s coloring takes the art to the next level as she washes everything in a brilliant mixture of color and shadow to make everything more realistic. What more needs to be said? I think everyone gets how good of an artist Cassaday is at this point.

Astonishing X-Men #13 is an important reminder of why Joss Whedon is such a good writer, with his expert dialogue and plotting complementing John Cassaday’s brilliant artwork. This is an excellent jump-on point for readers because it’s a new story, and if one has to pick up the two trades out of the previous stories, then they’ll be reading two great trades in order to understand a great comic. The bi-monthly schedule of this title is a little annoying, but at least Marvel is being upfront about the time it takes to produce an issue. Count me on board for the rest of what is sure to be one of the best runs on Marvel’s favorite mutants of all-time.

Best of the rest:

Ultimate Hulk vs. Wolverine #2 (of 6) (8/10)

While the first issue of this much-hyped series from Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof and Superman: Birthright artist Lenil Francis Yu focused on Wolverine, the second issue is spent explaining what Bruce Banner has been up to since being left for dead way back in Ultimates 2 #4 after being convicted for killing six hundred plus New York citizens. Banner’s story is told with some morbid humor, leading all the way to the temple where he was found by Wolverine at the end of issue one. While many of the scenes of this issue are repetitive if not funny, the penultimate flashback offers a spin on the Banner/Hulk dichotomy that could be one of the best Ultimizations done thus far if carried out properly. It was enough to make me go “Whoa” in my best Keanu impersonation, and definitely lent more weight to the otherwise sparse plot.

Lenil Yu’s art is very sketchy with a lot of cross-hatching, but not in a 90’s way like Jim Lee and Marc Silvestri. It’s a style that I haven’t gotten quite used to yet, but the art here is a big improvement over the last issue, where Yu had to relegate his big-screen action-packed technique to showing facial expressions and emotions, something he isn’t too great at. Fortunately here, we get lots of wide shots and explosions showcasing his skill, and while there are some talking head scenes here, the layout is more inspired than the six-grid pages employed previously. With most of the exposition out of the way, Yu’s art should get even better in issue three, when the fight between the emerald giant and the surly Canadian will actually begin.

I like that this mini is obviously tied into Ultimate continuity instead of just being a vehicle for a big-name creator to do whatever the hell he wants (Orson Scott Card and Ultimate Iron Man, I’m looking at you), and Lindelof has shown a real love for getting into what makes these characters tick so far. The current plot of Wolverine fighting Hulk is moving at a Lost-like pace (for non-fans, that means it’s slow beyond slow), but a lot has happened to build up that story so it will explode at us the next issue. Definitely recommended.

Legion of Superheroes #15 (7/10)
This issue reads as a recap of the Legion’s past as the title prepares for the One Year Later jump (Supergirl and the Legion of Superheroes, I await you with bated breath). It pays homage to the many incarnations that have been retconned away over the past, as civilian members of the Legion share their interpretation of the team’s history. One take on the Legion is a Silver Age-styled adventure in which Braniac 5, Element Lad, Bouncing Boy, and Duplicate Damsel assist members of the JLA and the JSA, whereas another is a tale from the Giffen/Levitz team featuring Wildfire, Tyroc, and Dawnstar as they combat the Secret Society of Supervillains. The last tale is a look at the original Crisis on Infinite Earths that has the Legion intervening, but did they really intervene? Did Wildfire and Dawnstar exist even though they aren’t on the current team? What’s the real story? A mysterious character offers his interesting perspective on the situation considering his storied past with the Legion, and I found his view to be introspective and touching. The art by fill-in artist Pat Oliffe is a little uninspired, but it gets the job done. Also present is an amusing letter column where every member on the current team is explained, with some funny moments included by Waid.

I wasn’t immediately attracted by this issue because I’m unfamiliar with a lot of the Legion’s past; however, there was enough explanation and rumination here that I couldn’t help but be interested. If you’re a fan of the old-school Legion, this issue is a must-read; if you’re a fan of the new-school Legion, then there’s enough to keep you engaged. This is a nice tribute to the past with plenty of consideration towards the future, and I have a feeling that despite my original groaning, Mark Waid has enough affection for the Legion to make the newly christened Supergirl and the Legion of Superheroes a good read.

Kind of good

JLA Classified #17 (6/10)

The events that transpire in this issue are mostly a mess. We get some insight into General Tuzik’s philosophy concerning war and his plans to combat the JLA as the team tries to help an afflicted Flash and figure out who or what is attacking them. Gail Simone doesn’t display her trademark snappiness, and without her quick dialogue and humor, her writing becomes lost. I’ve heard Jose Garcia-Lopez touted as a legendary artist, one of the best of all-time, but honestly, either he’s overrated or a bad combination with inker Klaus Janson. The art starts out choppy in the beginning and degenerates into something sloppier and messier in the end, with ugly cross-hatching and uninspired coloring flooding every page. With careless art and a story that doesn’t go much of anywhere by the end of the issue, this arc is off to a poor start, and it is definitely the weakest of all the stories so far in JLA Classified. So why does this get a 6? Because I have enough faith in Simone that she will pull this story from the funk it’s currently in to deliver something that reads great by the end. The premise is certainly interesting enough, and hopefully Garcia-Lopez and Janson will tighten up in the issues to come.

Quick Picks

Amazing Spider-Man #529 (8/10):
An entertaining story by J. Michael Stracynzski and solid art by new series artist Ron Garney that introduces the new “Iron Spidey” costume and sets up future events in Marvel’s upcoming event, Civil War. A fourth-wall breaching explanation of a continuity gaffe in the previous The Other event makes for big laughs to this issue that is otherwise a day in the life of the new and improved Spider-Man. A great jumping-on point.

Captain America #15 (9/10): Wonder what Crossbones has been up to all this time with the Red Skull’s daughter? The answer shown here by Ed Brubaker and fill-in artist Mike Perkins (I want to say that’s his first name, but I can’t be sure) is a bit chilling, and there will undoubtedly be a few giant wrenches thrown in Cap’s life in the next few issues. Perkins is a capable substitute for Steve Epting, but the obvious strong part of this issue is Brubaker’s rock-solid take on the Captain America mythos, as he embraces previous continuity while firmly moving forward. This issue is also an excellent jumping-on point for anyone who has been interested in this title but hasn’t been sure when to check it out.

Storm #1 (of 6) (5/10): This issue takes us back into Storm’s past to shed some more light on her beginnings as a thief. We get some glimpses into early manifestations of her weather-controlling powers and temperament despite a fairly weak plot set-up. I hope comics newcomer Eric Jerome Dickey ditches the lame story of revenge quickly and instead gets into the good stuff with Black Panther, who is absent from this issue. An uninspired beginning to a much-hyped event.

X-Men #183 (6/10): This issue would be better if I liked Apocalypse, I’m sure. There’s a nonsensical plot point involving his blood and desperate mutants as he wages war on the X-Men, introducing his new Horsemen. Sunfire’s Age of Apocalypse costume makes its long-awaited return, and one of the X-Men is apparently turning traitor. Artist Salvador Larocca has a new colorist or inker or something, because his art is a lot more dream-like and a lot more pleasurable to my eyes in this issue. Give me Astonishing X-Men any day over this competent but inadequate story.

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