Sunday, August 24, 2014

Kirby Your Enthusiasm, ep. 34: My Life With Neil Gaiman


IN WHICH I talk about my history with the quirky English writer and how it grew to an obsessive love thanks to Amanda Fucking Palmer.
Plus my review of Grant Morrison's MULTIVERSITY #1.
20 minutes. Check out the podcast HERE.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

COMICS READING FOR JULY: “Happy 75th birthday, Batman!”



* NOW WITH STAR RATINGS (ala Wrestling Observer Newsletter PPV reports) *

HOW I RATE THE COMICS VIA THE ALAN MOORE SCALE
*****     Watchmen, Miracleman, V For Vendetta
****      From Hell, Supreme, Swamp Thing, Fashion Beast, League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen (first two series)
***        Axel Pressbutton, Tom Strong
**         Promethea
*           LoEG: Century: 1969
DUD (or lower) any of his non-comics stuff

1.-6. Graphic Ink: The DC Comics Art of Frank Quitely (DC, 2014) *****
- some pieces originally published as Batman And Robin #1-3 (writer: Grant Morrison, 2009), The Sandman: Endless Nights (writer: Neil Gaiman, 2003) and The Invisibles Vol. 3 #1 (writer: Grant Morrison, 2000)
Finally finished this book and it’s amazing. Quitely’s artwork is stunning and rises well above even some of the less-than-stellar stories he was given. Sheer brilliance.

7. The Undertaker Morton Stone #1 (Gestalt, 2014) ***¾
Writer: Gary Chaloner/Artists: Ben Templesmith (inc. Cover); Ashley Wood
The Undertaker Morton Stone has been locked up in Corkscrew Asylum for two years. Now he's come home to Thunderhead Cemetery and his darling (but deceased) wife, Lucinda. With his dead dog Cryptoe by his side, Morton is hellbent on finding the real Toe Nail Clipper Killer, Mr Noddy.
8. The Undertaker Morton Stone #2 (Gestalt, 2014) ****
Writer: Gary Chaloner/Artists: Gary Chaloner; Ashley Wood (interior); Ben Templesmith (cover)
The Undertaker Morton Stone and his faithful hound, Cryptoe are on the trail of the tosser Mr. Noddy. Little do they realise that Nod, the Toe Nail Clipper Killer, is on the lookout for Morty as well! Can the Undertaker get to split Noddy's corpus callosum with his spade, while avoiding that pesky a-hole Lt. Aubrey Turgid? Does Morton's spunky sister Sophie have all the clues? And are they all prepared for the dark, manky road they will have to travel to get to the munted truth?

9. Headlocked: The Last Territory Convention Special (Visionary Comics, 2014) ***½
Writer: Michael Kingston/Artists: Michel Mulipola (interior); Jill Thompson (credit page); Jerry “The King” Lawler (cover)
Kingston’s Kickstarter project to finish this insider look into the world of pro wrestling nears fruition. This is the first issue (albeit as a low-res PDF) off the factory line. From Lawler’s Saturday Evening Post-esque cover to the gritty’n’grim-but-intriguing story itself, this is a comic worth getting and supporting, especially as he a lot of big-name wrestlers besides Lawler involved with the project. Learn more about Headlocked at www.headlockedcomic.com and facebook.com/groups/233916990073920/#!/headlockedcomic.

10.-13. Marvel Universe: Guardians Of The Galaxy: Cosmic Team-Up (Marvel, 2014) ***
- originally published in Marvel Universe: Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes #18, Marvel Universe: Ultimate Spider-Man #22, Marvel Universe: Hulk: Agents Of S.M.A.S.H. #4, Incredible Hulk #271 (Marvel, 1982, 2013-14)
Writers/artists: various
A mixed bag of adapted tales from various animated TV series, linked by GotG appearances. Of the first three, USM is probably the funniest, although Hulk is also a lighthearted read. The fourth tale – featuring Rocket Raccoon’s debut – is typical godawful early 80s Marvel writing by Bill Mantlo, with slumming art from Sal Buscema.
14. Stray Bullets: Killers #4 (Image, 2014) ****
Writer/artist: David Lapham
15. Moon Knight #5 (Marvel, 2014) ****½
Writer: Warren Ellis/Artist: Declan Shalvey
Ellis finally hits his stride with this ultra-violent, poetic-yet-almost-wordless tale of Moon Knight rescuing a kidnap victim from an apartment building filled with thugs. Annoying then to learn that this is his second-to-last issue. Fuck.
16.-17. The Woods #2-3 (BOOM!, 2014) ***½
Writer: James Tynion IV/Artist Michael Dialynas
The teachers and jocks go all Lord Of The Flies on the student body as this “school-mysteriously-shipped-to-a-hostile-planet” tale picks up steam. Nasty and getting nastier.
18. The Royals: Masters Of War #6 (Vertigo, 2014) ***¼
Writer: Rob Williams/Artists: Simon Coleby & Gary Erskine
A strangely dissatisfying end to this alternative WW2 miniseries that held some promise at the beginning. In the end it all just, kinda, petered out.
19. The United States Of Murder Inc. #3 (Icon, 2014) ***½
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis/Artist: Michael Avon Oeming
20. Justice League 3000 #8 (DC, 2014) ***½
Writers: Keith Giffen & JM DeMatteis/Artists: Keith Giffen & Howard Porter
21. Original Sin #5 (Marvel, 2014) ****
Writer: Jason Aaron/Artists: Mike Deodato (interior), Julian Totino Tedesco (cover)
22.-23. Original Sins #2-3 (Marvel, 2014) ***¾
Writers/artists: various
24. Original Sin: Thor & Loki: The Tenth Realm #1 (Marvel, 2014) ***½
Writers: Jason Aaron & Al Ewing/Artists: Lee Garbett & Simone Bianchi (interior), Dale Keown & Jason Keith (cover)
25. Original Sin: Hulk vs Iron Man #1 (Marvel, 2014) ***½
Writers: Mark Waid & Kieron Gillen/Artists: Mark Bagley & Andrew Hennessey (interior), JG Jones (cover)
26. Infinity Man And The Forever People #1 (DC, 2014) ***
Writers: Keith Giffen & Dan DiDio/Artists: Keith Giffen & Scott Koblish

IT’S THE FUCKING BATMAN MONTH

27.-28. Batman: Detective Comics #28-29 (DC, 2014) ***¾
Writer: John Layman/Artists: Aaron Lopresti & Art Thibert (interior), Jason Fabok (cover)
I reread the first instalment from Detective Comics #27 and was inspired to read the rest of the “Gothtopia” storyline. It was pretty good, but kinda petered out by #29.
29. Batman/Judge Dredd: Vendetta In Gotham (DC, 1993) ***
Writers: Alan Grant & John Wagner/Artists: Cam Kennedy (interior), Mike Mignola (cover)
30.-31. Batman/Judge Dredd: Die Laughing #1-2 (DC, 1998) ***¼
Writers: Alan Grant & John Wagner/Artists:Glenn Fabry, Jim Murray, Jason Brashill
32.-43. Batman: Hush (DC, 2009) ***½
- originally published in Batman 608-619, Wizard #0 (DC, 2002-03)
Writer: Jeph Loeb/Artist: Jim Lee
Merely OK. A little overrated, to be honest.
44.-47. Batman: Mad Love And Other Stories (DC, 2009) ****½
- originally published in The Batman Adventures: Mad Love, The Batman Adventures Annual #1-2, etc (DC, 1994-99, 2003)
Writer: Paul Dini/Artists: Bruce Timm & friends
48.-53. Batman: The Widening Gyre (DC, 2010) ***¾
- originally published in Batman: The Widening Gyre #1-6 (DC, 2009-10)
Writer: Kevin Smith/Artists: Walter Flanagan & Art Thibert (interior), Bill Sienkiewicz (covers)
54.-57. Batman: The Man Who Laughs (DC, 2008) ***½
- originally published in Detective Comics #784-86 and Batman: The Man Who Laughs (DC, 2003, 2005)
Writer: Ed Brubaker/Artists: various
Ed retells the Joker’s first battle against a neophyte Batman and it’s great. His depiction of the psychotic, murderous Joker is pretty chilling in his pure, insane love of chaos and evil. The three-parter is a more by-the-numbers detective yarn co-starring the Golden Age Green Lantern. It’s probably the weakest Brubaker tale I’ve ever read.
58. Batman: Detective Comics #27 (DC, 2014) ****
Writers/artists: various
Got this free at Kings Comics as part of the 75th anniversary celebrations (also scored a free Frank Miller Batman mask and a sweet cupcake!). Sure, this is now the THIRD time I’ve read this issue (or parts thereof), but this freebie also contains a reprint of the first tale of “The Bat-Man” from the original Detective Comics #27 (May 1939) by Bob Kane and Bill Finger. Plus a sneak preview of Brad Meltzer’s reimagining of the same yarn with design work by Chip Kidd. Makes me want to catch the rest of it in the upcoming Batman: A Celebration of 75 Years.
59.-65. Batman: Under The Hood Vol. 1 (DC, 2005) ***½
- originally published in Batman #635-641 (DC, 2005)
Writer: Judd Winick/Artists: Doug Mahnke, Paul Lee, Tom Nguyen & Cam Smith (interiors); Matt Wagner (covers)
While I liked the way Winick continued the idea begun by Jeph Loeb in Hush, dealing with the return from the grave of Jason Todd as the demented vigilante Red Hood, I thought it ended kinda flat. But the Black Mask is an awesome villain.
66.-71. DC’s Greatest Imaginary Stories Vol. 2 (DC, 2010) ***
- originally published in a bunch of mags (DC, 1959-60, 1962-65, 1969, 1978)
Writers/artists: various
These feature a bunch of Batman and Robin yarns that range from silly (but entertaining) to just plain dull.
72. Batman: Death By Design (DC, 2012) ***¾
Writer: Chip Kidd/Artist: Dave Taylor
I picked this up on special during Kings’ “Batman’s 75th Anniversary Day” celebrations. I can see why they had so many remaindered copies: I can’t imagine too many fanboys being into book design and architecture. Still, if you ARE, then this is the perfect book for you as Kidd has filled this slim hardcover with both. The story’s a good noir mystery with a 1940s/50s-feel. I liked it, probably more when I reread the ending. Still...not surprised it didn’t sell well.
73. Batman: The Jiro Kuwata Batmanga #1 (DC, 2014) ****
Writer/artist: Jiro Kuwata
Speaking of Chip Kidd, I first read Kuwata’s version of Batman in his Batmanga book several years back. This new digital weekly series is reprinting the complete run of the original Batman manga from the 60s! It’s dumb in that typical “Batman of the 1960s” style, but with a vicious Japanese manga bent. Anyway, the first instalment features Batman and Robin’s first encounter with the seemingly unkillable Lord Death Man. Good stuff.
74. Just Imagine Stan Lee’s Batman (DC, 2001) *
Writer: Stan Lee/Artist: Joe Kubert (main story)
Writer: Michael Uslan/Artist: Michael Wm. Kaluta (back-up)
Cover artists: Joe Kubert; Adam Hughes
75. Detective Comics #600 (DC, 1989) *
Writer: Sam Hamm/Artists: Denys Cowan, Dick Giordano & Frank McLaughlin (main story); Will Eisner, Bernie Wrightson, Neal Adams, etc (pin-ups)
This comic perfectly sums up everything that sucked about Marvel and DC in the late 80s and early 90s. A huge milestone in Batman’s publishing history is treated to poor printing, bog roll-paper quality, and a horribly written and illustrated main story that made me nearly fall asleep as I plodded through it. Oh...and by this stage in his career, every man and his dog knew Bruce Wayne was Batman and that he had a freaking cave under Stately Wayne Manor. Not good at keeping secrets are we, Bats? The only saving grace to this shockingly bad tribute issue are the pin-ups by the likes of Eisner (Batman teaming up with The Spirit), Walt Simonson and Mike Zeck. But this is pretty inept overall.
76. Gotham By Gaslight (DC, 1989) **
Writer: Brian Augustyn/Artists: Michael Mignola & P. Craig Russell
This “alternative history” version of Batman sees him do battle with Jack The Ripper in 19th century Gotham City. It’s kinda lame, has huge plot holes and I worked out the killer’s identity within the first five pages. Mignola’s art is lovely though.
77.-78. Elseworld’s Finest #1-2 (DC, 1997) ***¼
Writer: John Francis Moore/Artists: Kieron Dwyer & Hilary Barta
Mid-30s Doc Savage-style action featuring very different versions of Superman, Batman, Lex Luthor and others. It’s passable, light fluff. But nothing great.
79.-85. Batman Black & White Vol. 2 (DC, 2002) ****
- originally published in Gotham Knights #17-49 (DC, 2001-02)
Writers/artists: various
86.-96. Batman Black & White Vol. 3 (DC, 2007) ***¾
- originally published in Gotham Knights #1-16 (DC, 2001-04)
Writers/artists: various

97.-101. Juice Squeezers Vol. 1: The Great Bug Elevator (Dark Horse, 2014) ****
- originally published in Dark Horse Presents #26-28 and Juice Squeezers #1-4  (Dark Horse, 2013-14)
Writer/artist: David Lapham


102. Bunny & Rink #1 (Ninja Cafe Comics, 2014) **½
Writer: Zach Dominello/Artist: Seb Dominello
TV cartoons like Adventure Time and Regular Show have a lot to answer for. Now, a ton of shitty cartoonists with a “hipster” sense of humour think they can write and draw post-ironic kids’ comics that “adults will loooooove, too”. This painfully obvious attempt is about two ninjas: Rink manages a cafe while Bunny is a platypus. They meet, become friends, beat up other ninjas and get home in time to watch rasslin’ (yes, that’s the only reason why I bought it). Scrappy art, hip “humour”...I can see the demographic they’re going for. It’s just not me, thank fuck. Glad I only bought this for a buck as a digital comic.
103.-105. Future’s End #8-10 (DC, 2014) ****
Writers/artists: many