Dark Horse Previews Picks: August 2016

May 30, 2016

I’ve been writing these “Previews Picks” ahead of my trip to Fanime and I’ve been saving this one for last.  Mainly because I thought that after nothing came out of Sakura-Con, we’d get some juicy news from Dark Horse Manga at Anime Central this past weekend.  As it turned out, they didn’t even have a panel at the convention.  Carl Horn will be at Fanime carrying the banner for the company, but I’m not expecting any announcements from the con.  Much as I love it, Fanime just isn’t high profile enough for a major manga publisher to use it as a platform.  I wouldn’t mind being proven wrong here, though.

So since the major news about Dark Horse in the past month is a lack of news, let’s talk about that new Comixology Unlimited service that was just announced.  It’s a Netflix-style subscription plan for titles from Dark Horse, Image, IDW, Kodansha, and more where you can add trade paperbacks and single issues to your library for the low price of $5.99 a month.  Anyone interested can try out the service with the free 30-day trial Comixology is offering right now.

It sounds like a fantastic deal.  Who wouldn’t want the comics equivalent of Netflix for these publishers!?  After a closer look, I don’t think that’s what we’re getting.  While Netflix rose to fame on the wide variety of movies, and (in particular) TV shows it had available for streaming, Comixology Unlimited appears to just be offering readers the first few volumes or issues of a given title.  The plan here looks to get readers started on a series and then transition them over to actually paying for it if they like that first free taste.  It’s not a bad deal for what it is, but it’s not what I wanted.  Which would be free access to EVERYTHING from these publishers.  I’ll see what I can read for my 30-day trial and that’ll be it.

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Marvel Previews Picks: August 2016

May 29, 2016

Well, it finally happened.  After years of constant delays/postponements, Marvel has finally cancelled the next two issues of Bendis and Mark Bagley’s creator-owned series “Brilliant.”  The first five issues were published erratically over the course of a year and the first volume wasn’t bad.  It did, however, end on a note that was clearly meant to springboard the next arc.  Whether or not we’ll ever see it is anyone’s guess at this point.

Part of me wants to put the reasons why we never saw these issues and their cancellation down to Bendis himself.  After all, he’s the one who has over-committed himself with multiple ongoing titles in the Marvel Universe and additional delayed creator-owned projects.  Bagley, on the other hand, is one of the fastest artists in the business and should’ve been able to draw scripts for “Brilliant” if he had received them.  Except that the artist has also been kept very busy by Marvel over the past few years, including multiple collaborations with Bendis.  The long-delayed pronouncement of “Brilliant’s” death is down to a combined effort on the part of its writer and artist as I see it.

Now it’s time to actually see if we’ll get the next three issues of Bendis and Alex Maleev’s “Scarlet” after all these years.  They’ve been solicited, but will they actually show up?

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DC Previews Picks: August 2016

May 28, 2016

Originally this was going to be about Geoff Johns’ ascent in the Warner Bros/DC Films hierarchy.  The short version was that I generally saw this as a good thing, particularly if it allows for Johns to put his foot down if he didn’t like something that filmmakers were doing with Superman.  He has done some really good stories featuring the character, after all.

Then spoilers regarding “Rebirth” #1 broke and one of them in particular is a lot more interesting to write about.  The big reveal (which is all over the internet at this point so there’s no use worrying about spoilers) is that “Watchmen” is being brought into the continuity of the DC Universe.  Specifically, Dr. Manhattan is revealed as the being responsible for the creation of the “New 52” and his presence will serve as an antagonistic force for the heroes of the DCU to push back against over the next couple of years.  The other Watchmen aren’t mentioned, though speculation is that Johns has been seeding them into continuity under our noses with his runs on “Superman” and “Justice League.”

As a surprise reveal, this is top-class.  I never thought that DC would actually do something like this in regards to one of their most respected works.  Part of “Watchmen’s” appeal is that it’s a stand-alone work where you don’t have to worry about any of the superhero continuity that it’s now being made a part of.  So I can’t deny that there’s a transgressive thrill to seeing them take this final step.  In retrospect, it seems surprising that they didn’t do this sooner since it’s clear that they have no intention at all of ever returning these characters to Alan Moore.

Which brings us to the fact that “ethically bankrupt” is one of the nicer things I’ve read as a description for what DC is doing here.  Apparently the massive trolling exercise of Alan Moore with “Before Watchmen” wasn’t enough and now Johns is effectively making the curmudgeon the force for grim and grittiness in this new story while he himself tries to bring light and optimism back to the DCU.  Johns is a talented writer who has shown that he knows how to incorporate meta concepts quite well into his stories.  I’m sure what he’s writing here may even be good.

It still doesn’t change the fact that DC’s treatment of one of the greatest writers in comics has been frankly abominable over these past few decades.  Moore deserves better from the company and this is just one more kick in the nuts.  Which is how I see it -- Moore probably couldn’t care less about “Watchmen” at this point.  I passed on reading any of the “Before Watchmen” comics for this reason, and I’m going to do my best to avoid picking up any future stories that feature these characters in a prominent role.  There are a lot of good intentions and ideas behind this “Rebirth” initiative at DC.  However, the new comic from Johns shows that they are being built on the worst of business practices.

Now, here are some thoughts on comics that don't involve "Watchmen" (at least not yet anyway):

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Image Previews Picks: August 2016

May 27, 2016

It turns out that the third volume of “Rat Queens” did represent the beginning of the end for that series.  Just not in the way that I thought it would.  While issue #16 came out a couple weeks ago, word came out from artist Tess Fowler a couple weeks ago that she was being pushed out of the series to make way for the return of co-creator/original artist Roc Upchurch.  This is after he departed the book amidst charges of domestic abuse and Fowler was apparently told by co-creator/writer Kurtis J. Wiebe that Upchurch would not be returning to the series.  It’s an ugly situation that Fowler is taking in stride and coming out looking like a champ through the good vibes she’s been maintaining through her Twitter posts on the matter and refusal to turn this into a crusade/vendetta against the “Rat Queens” creators.  As for the series itself, it was already on hiatus and Wiebe has said that he’s not sure what the future holds for the series -- if there even is one -- as he needs to find his voice for the series again.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Wiebe leaves the series behind altogether.  He’s got a new series, “Bounty,” lined up over at Dark Horse and has shown himself to be a fairly prolific man of ideas with all of the other series he has done through Image.  “Rat Queens” was his biggest success, but this new controversy has sadly turned it radioactive with an unknown half-life.

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Comic Picks #211: The Goon (Full Return)

May 25, 2016

Fifteen volumes in and still more on the way.  Except I'm now done with this once-great series.

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Genshiken: Second Season vol. 8

May 23, 2016

Well, vol. 7 really left me feeling that this series had gone off the rails with its focus on Madarame’s Harem.  Like all good(?) harem stories, it had several of the series’ female characters positioned as romantic interests for the man but precious little explanation as to why they felt that way.  This is even more problematic for a series like “Genshiken” which at least tries to be grounded in realistic human emotions and situations.  Yet even when I was about to resign myself to following through with this series because I had bought the previous seven volumes, vol. 8 comes along and offers me hope that it might stick the landing in the end after all.  This may seem like the ramblings of a junkie who’s trying to chase one last high, but I swear there’s actually some decent stuff in the latter half of this volume!

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ElfQuest: The Final Quest vol. 2

May 22, 2016

Two volumes in and I’m not feeling as nearly involved as I should be for what’s effectively being billed as the last “ElfQuest” story.  Part of that’s due to the large sense of disconnect that comes with jumping into this without being caught up on the saga’s history beforehand.  That may change when Dark Horse finally reprints the necessary stories in “The Complete ElfQuest,” but that’s several years off at this point.  Another is the fact that the story feels very unfocused at this point.  A good deal of vol. 2 is spent on Suntop sending out “The Call” to help unite all elves on the planet, yet you’ve also got Warlord Angrif Djun building his fleet to take them all out, Shenshen’s desire to utilize her midwife skills more, Rayek and his ongoing possession of Winnowill, Two-Edge going crazy again, and more than a half-dozen more subplots like these.  It’s that rare case when even though there’s a lot going on, the story doesn’t actually feel like it’s going anywhere.  Wendy Pini’s art looks better than ever after all these years, especially with Sonny Strait’s colors, and that makes all of this go down considerably smoother than it would otherwise.

I imagine my feelings reading this volume are akin to what lapsed fans of “X-Men” would feel if they tried jumping back into any of the comics currently being published.  Even so, amongst all of the plot threads being pursued in this volume, only one stands out as being somewhat misguided.  That would be the “major revelation” teased in the solicits for issue #12, the last one collected here.  It involves Wolfrider chief Cutter and part-time wolf/part-time High One Timmain and the newly-revealed connection they’ve shared since the beginning of the series.  Honestly, it feels really late in the game for Wendy and Richard Pini to be busting out a massive retcon like this, especially since it pretty much comes out of nowhere.  Cutter/Skywise shippers, however, may find that their prayers have been kinda, sorta, somewhat answered by it.  I can’t say that I’m put off by this development, and it may even wind up giving the series the focus it needs going forward.  “The Final Quest,” however, remains a series that is only for the “ElfQuest” faithful and no one else at this point.

jason@glickscomicpicks.com

The Fuse vol. 3: Perihelion

May 21, 2016

Well, the first two volumes had their endings derailed by the old “talking killer” trope.  Did writer Antony Johnston go for the hat trick with this third volume of his and artist Justin Greenwood’s sci-fi police series?  No he did not, and that just one reason why this is the best volume of “The Fuse” yet.  The title refers to the day of the year when the station’s orbit is the closest to the sun.  It’s also called the “Day of Chaos” by the cops because this is when crime is at an all-time high.  Some of the stuff is strictly small time:  fights, crowds getting unruly, diapers being stolen from different stores, indecent exposure, and the like.  However, there are several big-ticket items that our protagonists Klem and Ralph wind up lucking into.  There’s the mystery of the “haircut killer,” a mob boss who suffers a heart attack, a bomb threat called in during the mayor’s speech, a mass shooting at a hospital, and more on top of all this.

The previous volumes focused on one main story with a few subplots to pick up the slack and flesh out the world and its characters.  What Johnston does here is that approach dialed up all the way to eleven.  Granted, some of these stories do have the ring of the familiar to them and play out in fairly conventional ways.  Yet what makes the volume as a whole compulsively readable is that Johnston and Greenwood manage to juggle things in way that keeps all of these stories straight and constantly delivers key information regarding each of them.  So the pace remains relentless throughout and you feel the tension and eventual wind-down along with the characters throughout this “Day of Hell.”

Speaking of them, Klem and Ralph remain a likeable and engaging “odd couple” between their banter and complementary skill sets.  She’s the grizzled veteran who knows how things really work on the Fuse, he’s the skilled (and seasoned, at this point) newbie who can look at things from a different angle.  Ralph’s also keeping a secret from his partner that could ruin their relationship, which is touched upon at the very end of this volume as a tease for the next one.  I felt the wait for  this third volume, and it looks like it’ll be the same thing all over again for vol. 4.  May you live in interesting times indeed.

jason@glickscomicpicks.com

Deadpool: World’s Greatest vol. 1 — Millionaire With a Mouth

May 20, 2016

What the hell happened here!?

I’ve enjoyed the Brian Posehn/Gerry Duggan run of “Deadpool” for a while now and was looking forward to what the soft relaunch had to offer.  Yeah, Posehn was no longer going to be co-writing it, but his real job is as a stand-up comedian/actor.  Surely leaving the comic in the hands of professional writer Duggan wouldn’t change things that much, right?  Wrong.  As it turns out, the professional funny guy was responsible for most of the jokes and overall sense of humor in this series.  I imagined Posehn’s contributions to this series mainly consisted of phoning or texting in a joke here and there -- because comics isn’t his main job -- but if this volume is any indication then he was much more integral to the success of the previous run than I had thought.

The core concept behind “Millionaire With a Mouth” is solid enough:  Now that he’s a member of the (Uncanny) Avengers, Deadpool has achieved a level of fame and adoration with the general public that he never thought possible.  What’s the next step for a mercenary like him?  Establishing a franchise based on his services!  Whether it’s simple theft, a necessary bludgeoning, or emceeing a Bat Mitzvah, Deadpool and his Mercs For Money have got you covered.  It’s all going great, until certain important people wind up dead and the evidence all points to the Merc With a Mouth himself.

What follows is a surprisingly po-faced cautionary tale about the trappings of celebrity and what happens when people spend too much time in Deadpool’s head.  The comedy starts out light and never really picks up steam, leaving the fairly uninteresting drama to dominate the story.  Duggan is a decent enough plotter, but comedy isn’t his forte here.  Here, he shows himself to be a guy who thinks that repeating George Stephanopoulos’ last name over and over again actually counts as a joke.  Returning artist Mike Hawthorne is as good as he’s ever been, save for the fact that he’s having to prop up some very thin material here.  I’m honestly shocked by how flat the comedy falls here and the emo-ness displayed by the title character.  Even though there are some promising story threads teased here, like Deadpool’s showdown with Sabretooth, I’m not sure they’ll be worth reading after what I’ve just been subjected to.

jason@glickscomicpicks.com

The Amazing Spider-Man vol. 1: Worldwide

May 18, 2016

Parker Industries has gone global!  What was once a struggling startup has now become the hottest new name in cutting-edge consumer technology.  After all these years Peter Parker has finally managed to not only have a new business venture that didn’t immediately blow up in his face, but become a worldwide success as well.  Also, a target for the international terrorist syndicate known as the Zodiac.  They’ve got their sights set on Parker Industries and all of Peter’s skills -- and partnerships with Mockingbird, the Prowler, Nick Fury Jr., and most of S.H.I.E.L.D. -- will be needed to stop them.  It’s a different kind of “Spider-Man” story, one that feels even a little more surreal than Dan Slott’s “Superior” run because this is actually Peter  being thrust into the kind of role that has been occupied by Tony Stark in the Marvel Universe.  What makes the difference here is that the title character’s selflessness still shines through in his CEO role, and the whole hard luck aspect of his character is still intact.  You wouldn’t catch Stark giving a major press conference with his fly down after all.

The action and overall style is still very much in the same vein as what Slott has been delivering with the character for several years now.  So even though the setup here is drastically different, chances are you’ll still enjoy it if you like what the writer has been doing with the character after all this time.  It’s also nice to see semi-regular artist Giuseppe Camuncoli finally topline the character’s latest relaunch and he brings effortless style and energy to the large-scale action in the main story.  There’s also plenty of hints and foreshadowing for future events and storylines crammed into this volume.  You get the inevitable return of Norman Osborne and the “Dead No More” event teased in the main story, while a character introduced in “Renew Your Vows” is primed to make their mark on the mainstream Marvel Universe.  As long as you’re not completely put off by Spidey’s new status quo, there is quite simply a ton of stuff to enjoy here.

jason@glickscomicpicks.com