Monday, October 31, 2011

Spooky Halloween DragonBall post! (NSFW)

Just in time for Halloween! I wanted to do a ghoulish post before the Holiday passes us by completely, and a few options rooooose from the brain, when I was deciding. I was considering covering the recent Xombi series, or the Phantom of the Opera-esque arc in Jack Kirby's original The Demon series, or even the issue of Jimmy Olsen (also by Jack Kirby) where he runs into the universal monsters. One manga (Japanese comic for those who do not know) came to mind immediately though, and I decided to go with it...a particularly spooky arc from the classic manga by Akira Toriyama, DRAGONBALL!

Our heroes, ladies and gents.
The basic plot of Dragonball centers around Son Goku, a young boy who lives alone in the woods, who has a monkey tail, and is as strong as an ox. He goes on a quest around the world for 7 magic balls, the Dragon balls, which when gathered together summon the mighty dragon Shenlong who can grant any wish. While the most popular form of Dragonball (at least in the United States) is Dragonball Z, an animated fighting series adapted from the latter half of the Dragonball manga, it may come as a surprise for some the Dragonball started out as a really jokey, raunchy and silly martial arts comic.

The chillllling arc in question sees our heroes Son Goku, with his friends Kruririn (the monk) Yamucha (the tall young desert bandit) Upa (the little Native American boy) and Puar (the floating cat) entering a tournament held by a fortune telling witch who will tell them the location of the last Dragonball they need. Their opponents: SPOOKY MONSTERS!

First up is this Dracula with boxing gloves (I like calling vampires Draculas, sue me) who does battle with Kuririn. He keeps on turning into a bat and fluttering around, which is pretty cheap, and Kuririn can't catch him. He eventually re-dracs and chomps, or glomps, Kuririn's enormous bald head. 

The results of this are hilarious, but the action is still lively and satisfying. The brilliant thing about the early Dragonball comics is that Toriyama perfectly blends exciting and intense action with humor. It seems effortless, and perfectly illustrates why Toriyama is a master of comics. Oh and the hilarious results of Kuririn's wound:

Kuririn loses his match, and 'Count Dracula' is dispatched by Upa and Puar with some fast thinking...Yamucha takes up the next battle and his opponent:

The Invisible man! Yamucha can't see his opponent, obviously, and is getting the tar beaten out of him...that is, until Kuririn has a brilliant idea from the sidelines! A brief aside here, Dragonball is a very raunchy comic, which frequently features pretty low brow jokes and nudity that American audiences would be surprised by. Many of those instances of raunch are perpetrated by Master Muten Roshi, Son Goku's martial arts teacher.Very often when Master Roshi sees a pretty girl his nose bleeds, Kuririn knows this and fetches Roshi and their friend Bulma, for this eyebrow raising strategy for exposing the Invisible Man (possibly NSFW):

Yamcha attacks and makes short work of his opponent, thanks to Roshi's nosebleed, which brings the tournament to the next level. This is possibly the best setting I have ever seen in a comic:

Yep, there is a toilet paper dispenser.

Why yes, that IS an arena made from two giant statues of demons on toilets touching tongues. Here, Yamucha must do battle with his next spooky foe,

a Mu-Mu-Mu Mummy! The battles from here on out become a little more serious, Yamucha is dispensed with fairly brutally and quickly, leaving the challenge up to Son Goku. Son takes out the Mummy, to everyone's surprise, with ease, as well as his next opponent, the Devil!

What an awesome panel.

The panel above is the Devil using his evil beam, which brings the evil in his opponent's heart out and kills them...too bad for him that Son Goku has no evil in his heart! 

The tournament goes on for one more match but that section, but that section is not as SPOOKY as the ones I decided to share. Dragonball gets a bad rap in America, I think, because of the cartoon show Dragonball Z (which I personally still love). If you have an opportunity, check out the volumes out by Viz comics!

Oh and on a digital comics aside, for more spooky comics fun check out Dracula the Unconquered, by Chris Sims, Josh Krach and Steve Downer. The story is really fun, the art is spectacular, and it is ONE DOLLAR. Check it out:


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Last Week Of October in Superhero Comics

This week I picked up some pretty awesome books, why don't we share them together? EH?

Bachalo really takes his spreads to the next level.

 So the only new 'X' book I have been reading lately is the awesomely epic, always purty to look at Uncanny X-Force, written by Rick Remender (I especially like the ones where Jerome Opena does the art). The recent Schism story by Jason Aaron got a lot of praise, and there was a LOT of hype on the ol web for this title, as well as good word of mouth from a few trusted friends, so I decided to give it a try. The basic premise, is that Wolverine, after his falling out with Cyclops, reopens Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters as The Jean Grey School For Higher Learning. Wolverine is the headmaster, and Kitty Pride is the headmistress, with Professors including Beast, Gambit, Rogue and Iceman (Toad is the janitor!). Wolverine's school is in utter chaos on it's first day, and will probably remain chaotic for some time. Jason Aaron is mixing X-Men with Hogwarts here, and I think its an amazing idea (and fun!Fun is good for comics!). The art by Chris Bachalo is just perfect for the book, fun, chaotic and full of energy and busy cartooning. I also really like the fact that he colors his own pencils. It looks like I will have 2 X books on my plate from here on out. Also,a selection of some funny classes offered at The Jean Grey School :

 World History (1880-1950): An Eyewitness Account, with Headmaster Logan

Sex Ed, with Professor Remy LeBeau (funny cuz it's Gambit)

Ethics 101: Forgetting Everything You Ever Learned From Emma Frost, with Headmistress Pryde

You can REALLY feel that punch.
I mentioned Rick Remender above, who in addition to Uncanny X-Force is also writing Venom. I never in a million years thought I would buy a Venom comic, but Rick Remender and Tony Moore made me do it! Remender is still on writing duties come issue number 8, Tom Fowler does the art now, and he has a meaty inking cartooning style that has really grown on me (see above panel). I really like Fowler's art, and Remender makes venom a compelling and tragic figure, much like Spider-Man, but this Venom has a much less rosy personality than ol' Pete Parker. He is forced to rely on the venom symbiote, he lost his legs while in the military, and he is a recovering alcoholic...AND his Dad just died. This issue is a tie in with the Spider Island event, and Venom is facing off against the Spider Queen.

I really like her posture and facial expressions.

I love how Fowler draws this character...definitely has a Bettie Page thing going on, sexy but not...trashy. I really enjoy this book.

(This is a dream sequence) Look at Buck's face! Outstanding.
As I have blogged before, Captain America and Bucky  is an amazing looking book (and the story ain't half bad, neither!) that I personally don't think is getting enough praise on the ol' internet. Chris Samnee and Bettie Breitweiser are a comics one-two punch, like Cap and Bucky socking the Red Skull in the face! This issue has Bucky and the sidekick to the original Human Torch, Toro, rescuing a spy from an enemy Nazi camp.  The problem is that he is being held in a concentration camp, and the horrors Bucky sees there drives him into a frenzy. I really like the characterization going on here for Buck, it is really evident that while he has just as high a moral code as Cap, he is a lot more bloodthirsty. I am no Captain America expert, but I do not really remember the Holocaust subject being tackled much in the comics, so I find this path an interesting one.
 I DO think the cover is a little tasteless features Bucky is featured behind some barbed wire with other concentration camp captives all beat up and haggard as if he was a prisoner there. That definitely does not happen in the issue! The cover is on the internet, go find it I don't want to post it here. To be honest I found the covers to be the only weak point of Cap and Buck so far.

 Onward for the Marvel books this week! We have Daredevil number 5 from Mark Waid and Marcos Martin, who I have gushed about in previous posts. This book delivers AGAIN. Waid writes some really compelling and ENJOYABLE comics, that can switch from fun to solemn or poignant at the turn of a page. I think it is very impressive. Read some of the word bubbles in the panel below, hilarious stuff:

Marcos Martin is one of he saviors of superhero comic art, I imagine he and Waid are like two smooth jazz guys who have mastered their craft and are just mad experimenting now, taking the rules and bending them to their whims, like the below panel...

Only comics. Only comics. BUY DAREDEVIL if you like good superhero comics and want to support them at their best.

That about does it for the Marvel books this week, let's check in with DC comics, shall we? This week I picked up two DC comics, both #2s, The Flash and Aquaman. Lets take the Flash first...

In this issue the Flash learns to think as fast as he can run by tapping his brain into the 'Speed Force'. Above he is seeing all the possible solutions he could take to foil some robbers and save some innocent bystanders. This sequence is a really interesting few pages. Like Mark Waid and Marcos Martin, I think Franics Manapul and Brian Buccellato are furthering the greatness of superhero comics, keeping what makes them great safe and furthering the form. I also can't help but think Manapul read Daredevil number one by Waid and Rivera and thought 'Hey I can do that too dammit! (which I think is a great thing for comics). He has a lot of fun with the logos and mastheads as well, which is always fun:

 I also bought Aquaman number 2...not much to say about this one. The art but Ivan Reis is outstanding, and the story and characters aren't too bad...but nothing really compels me to share in this space...not sure if I am going to keep up with that one.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

To Drop or Not to Drop...

I pick up a lot of comics every month. Currently, just from Marvel and DC, I am reading Animal Man, Action Comics, Batman, Batman and Robin, Batwing, O.M.A.C, Punisher Max, Punisher, Moon Knight, Uncanny X-Force, Venom, Batwoman, Swamp Thing, Captain America and Bucky, Daredevil...and probably a few more. I am also reading the Avengers every month, written by Brian Michael Bendis, with art usually by John Romita Junior. I really enjoyed the book initially, although lately the Fear itself ties ins were losing me, as I don't usually read crossovers. At times the lack of central characters bothered me. I was beginning to feel like the book was too unfocused, and that too many characters were sharing the spotlight in every issue, almost like 20-some pages of cameos every month. I was prepared to drop the book this month.

Then, I saw the cover, which I think is just a great image. I think it captures,visually, what Bendis has been doing with the scripts on The Avengers. Bendis is fleshing out the personalities of the Avengers, with small conversational sections and text interview style pieces, with the team members talking about each other, what was currently happening in the book, and what it meant to each character to be an Avenger. I think these sections are really interesting, and do give the readers a bit more of a connection with some of the characters. Seeing Cap's hands rummaging through a pile of potential Avenger's pictures with his cup of coffee immediately (for me anyway) brings him down to earth and also still conveys him as the leader of The Avengers. I also love the selection of characters on the table (how awesome would it be to have Ghost Rider on the Avengers?!).

The artwork, by Daniel Acuna, sealed the deal for me. This is one awesome/beautiful looking super hero book. I loved every page of this comic, but the page above stood out to me. For the past few issues a romance has been budding between Hawkeye and Spider-Woman, and ex wife of Hawkeye Mockingbird has noticed...

Those three panels of Hawkeye giving Spider-Woman that rouge's smile, then getting caught, is just outstanding. It made me laugh out loud. The issue also sets up a pretty interesting future plot point, utilizing many of the major events that have taken place the last few years in the Marvel universe. This issue has made me decide to keep up with Avengers...I hope it stays this good.


Monday, October 17, 2011

Awesome Art from Recent Comics I Bought

So every now and then I like to share some art I think is awesome from the comics I am buying, this past week there is a lot of New 52 stuff, with some Marvel and a non big two entry. I have a Tumblr mostly for this purpose also, here. Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E, written by Jeff Lemire with art by Alberto Ponticelli, is a title I was not 100% sure about, but I couldn't NOT not buy the above cover, I think that image is superbly done and really funny. The below splash page was also very appealing. I very much enjoy the wonky way Frankenstein's face is drawn in the book.
Animal Man, also written by Jeff Lemire with art by Travel Foreman, is a superbly written book, but the artwork seems a little hit or miss to me. The below spread is definitely not a miss, and will have me back at the shop for issue number three next month...

Batwoman by J.H.Williams III and W. Haden Blackman is another beautiful book, and the art is always top notch and probably the best super hero comics has to offer, but I particularly enjoy the below spread because it takes the viewer through a crime scene in a way only a comic book could do. Bravo.

Speaking of the Bat-verse, the new Batman and Robin book is, in my humblest of opinions, extremely under rated. Pairing Bruce and Damian together makes for compelling comics. Bruce has a long way to go as a father, and this story does not shy away from that. He is cold to Damian sometimes, but you really can tell Batman is trying to be a good Father. Damian is at once sympathetic and chilling, a child torn between the expectations of his Father and his savage upbringing as a killer. There is a gut-wrenching spread I don't want to spoil with Damian in the Bat-cave that was at once very sad and frightening. I am really looking forward to the next issue. Also check out how Patrick Gleason draws Damian...perfect!

I love how intense Damian's face is in the above page...
...perfect. I also picked up the new Shade by James Robinson and Cully Hamner, which was a great book, but none of the panels jumped out at me as ones I needed to share, same with the new Swamp Thing by Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette.
I still wish I enjoyed Grant Morrison and Rags Morales on Action comics a little more, but I trust Morrison so I'll keep with it, I really liked the below panel, especially the thin ink lines.

Also the cape panel is outstanding. Really fun/hilarious stuff here.

As for Marvel I picked up Uncanny X-Force number 16, Venom number 7, and the Newest Punisher Max by Jason Aaron and Steve Dillion. I LOVE Punisher Max, but this week's issue had so many surprises and twists, that it is risky posting a pic I will make due with this over the top scene of carnage:

I also had the chance to pick up The Death Ray by Dan Clowes, and boy is it a sharp looking book...too big to scan though...

And that is that!


Monday, October 10, 2011

Manapul and Martin: Keepin' it Real in Superhero comics

Of the glut of DC new fiddy twos, another book I really enjoyed was the new Flash, with art by Francis Manapul (full credits above). I've never read a Flash comic before, and what Manapul is doing with the page layouts here is spectacular. I love this title page spread, using the letter shapes to introduce us to The Flash, and continues telling the story!

I love that page, it is probably my favorite opening spread I've seen in the New 52. Also for superhero comics I think that the blurb in the upper right corner explaining the Flash's origin is just perfect, and wish more comics and comic book movies would skip the lengthy origin and just jump right into the story! The artwork and page layouts are definitely the best part of this new issue of Flash, the story is enjoyable to read and develops some interesting starting conflicts, but these layouts are what is going to get me back to the comic shop to get the next issue. Pages like these are exhibiting storytelling techniques that only comics can do, and I love it. The below page is also a pretty sweet one,

and reminded me of another similar page in the recently collected 'The Amazing Spider Man Spidey Sunday Spectacular' by Marcos Martin and Stan Lee, which was one of my favorite comics purchases in quite some time. The 1st story is comprised of 2 page chapters that use the format extremely well.

Marcos Martin is a powerhouse, his is a world of classic superheroes transported to the here and now. There is a lightness and joy to how he draws superheroes and their world, his is a perfect blend of illustration and cartooning, and the story by Stan Lee here is really snappy and funny, I had a blast reading these. Lee is doing what he does best, that wiseacre banter, corny humor, and interesting, perfect word choice (Stan Lee's thesaurus must be pretty damn dog eared, if he even needs it anymore). There are so many funny moments and details in these Spidey stories, and the number of Marvel characters that appear is staggering, and it all works! One of my favorite examples is when Spidey visits Reed Richards (or Mr. Fantastic) for advice on a project. This could have been just a few panels of talking heads, but look what Martin puts in the background to spice up the story (also this could have been a direction in Lee's script):

I love little touches like these. Artists like Manapul and Martin are Pushing the envelope, and using actual cartooning to help their comics move, and keep lively, not be too bogged down by photo reference, filters and too many word bubbles. The recent Daredevil also yields a spectacular spread. Enjoy:

We need artists like these to continue to push the envelope, mixing old with new, to create some dope comics.


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Obligatory New 52 post: Office Management Amidst Chaos!!!

So DC comics did this line wide re-launch, 52 new issue number ones...if you are even a casual comics fan you know about this, and I don't really feel I need to go into THAT whole thing in this space. Now, I don't have the kind of money to actually buy 52 new comics so I have not read them all, but amongst my favorite titles are the new Batman, Animal Man (which seems to be everyone's fave), Batwoman (which I don't think should really count as a NEW #1) and The Flash. I like a few others, like Action comics (which I wish I liked it a little more) Batwing, Frankenstein and Aquaman, but head and shoulders above all of these, the title I cannot help but enjoy the most happens to be...

O.M.A.C! Created by Jack Kirby, with story and art by Dan Didio and Keith Giffen, inks by Scott Koblish, colors by Hi-Fi, letters by Travis Lanham and edited by Harvey Richards. As I understand it, O.M.A.C was Jack Kirby's update of Captain America for the future, where a scrawny loser named Buddy Blank (the new Steve Rogers) with a strong will gets transformed into an unstoppable super soldier. The original Omac stood for One Man Army Corps, he took orders from a giant eye shaped satellite in the sky known as Brother Eye. This new Omac (which now stands for One Machine Attack Construct) is Kevin Kho, who is transformed into Omac through his smart phone by the omniscient Brother Eye. What Kevin's ties to Brother Eye are at this point still remain mysterious, other than the fact that he works in an office building above a secret base Brother Eye needs to infiltrate. The plotlines of issue number one the new O.M.A.C and the old are relatively similar, Omac busts into an office, and Omac destroys it. I must segue, for a moment, to the original Omac for some inspired Jack Kirby predictions of office work in the future, however...

Buddy Blank is being picked on by people in his office, and his Supervisor (note the SUPER-V name tag, which is amazing) blames Buddy for having a persecution complex after his coworker literally PUNCHES HIM IN THE FACE. I mean look at him! Buddy is sent to the psychology section of the office to lose his frustration. The psychology section is a room with a few different doors, labeled 'silent room' and 'destruct room' and 'crying room'. Buddy picks the 'Destruct Room', where he sees this:

If modern day offices had rooms like this, I think everyone would be a lot less wound up. I like that one office worker is STABBING some UNSEEN dummy or piece of office technology. I also love the word bubble


...another example of Jack Kirby's prophetic storytelling, just look at all of the recent bookstore closings. How could Kirby have foreseen this in 1974? The 'psuedo people' are my favorite feature about Kirby's vision of the future rat race. They are lifelike dummies that are bent over ass backwards so you can kick them down a rail into a granite wall. Absolutely spectacular. The thing about the original Omac series is that in every issue Jack Kirby included at least half a dozen awesome ideas that literally had me saying "wow!" or grinning ear to ear. The new Omac isn't as inventive, and that might be a little unfair because I am comparing the new creators to The King of comics himself. The toned down insanity also could be attributed to this O.M.A.C being a part of the shared DC universe, co-existing with characters like Animal Man and Batman. Nevertheless it is still a really fun read, and has scenes like this:

I really like that the new Omac's Mohawk is like an electric eel fin, that sparkles with raw energy. I think the book looks spectacular, and really appreciate all of the silliness. I think all of the issues are going to be titled with some variation on O.M.A.C (like issue number one's Office Management Amidst Chaos or issue number two's Odd Meals Assure Confrontation). I like how Brother Eye always replaces 'I' with 'eye' (for example 'Eye brought you here for a reason') and one of my favorite pieces of writing in the issue...


... is priceless. They inject a lot of Kirby and DC universe nods in here, and I love every second of it. This book doesn't take itself too seriously, it isn't grim n gritty, it doesn't offend any of my sensibilities. So far it is just good clean comics fun, and that is in startlingly low supply in superhero comics these days. I have no idea if anyone is reading this book, but I hope you are, dear reader, and that it continues for a good long run.


Monday, October 3, 2011

Captain America and Bucky is the best looking superhero comic on the shelf.

Dc New 52 blah blah blahs aside, the one comic I think EVERYONE should be talking about (and it is a Marvel book) is Captain America and Bucky, with Ed Brubaker and Marc Andreyko on writing, Chris Samnee on art, Bettie Breitweiser on colors and Joe Caramagna on letters. Most of the buzz I have been reading on a Marvel book has been for Daredevil, by Mark Waid, Marcos Martin and Paolo Rivera, and don't get me wrong, that praise is extremely well deserved. The new Daredevil is one of the best comics out there now, and certainly a cut above most superhero books being released.

...But hot DAMN Chris Samnee is on fire, as is colorist Bettie Breitweiser. I'm not sure whose work on this book I like more, Samnee's or Breitweiser's. Samnee's art is the PERFECT combination of superhero style comics illustration, mixed with pure cartooning and a splash of Norman Rockwell. His inks are milky pools of black, they are like dessert, so satisfying and thick.
It's obvious he uses a lot of reference, but he draws every last bit of it, he doesn't just scan a photo and use posteredges to make it look like a drawing. Almost every panel has a background, and if it doesn't, there is a visual reason or excellent coloring choices that make it ok. Everything looks right, nothing is confusing, and it all looks damn good. If there are characters in the background, they are all individuals, and they are interesting to look at. Every panel tells a story. Some specific examples of what I'm talking about below...look at those clowns! Look at that train!

The action is exciting, and it's pure WWII pulp style storytelling, played a little less over the top than the Simon and Kirby Cap stuff, but the art is just spot on. I enjoy the story so far, which mainly focuses on the exploits of Cap and Bucky from Bucky's perspective, but the artwork is just so astounding that it is all I want to talk about. To be honest, the two mesh together perfectly, I can't really separate one from the other, which is PERFECT AND WHAT ALL COMICS SHOULD DO. Sometimes you might read a comic, and go "Hey, that was a great story, but the art just wasn't doing it for me" or vice-versa (I think a perfect example of the vice versa would be Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale's Catwoman: When in Rome story, fan-freaking-tastic visuals, but definitely one of the worst written comics I own).

It is interesting to see the transformation of Bucky from a troubled but well meaning kid into a killer. It is also a little bizarre that the younger Bucky seems almost more bloodthirsty than the older Captain America, but he is still a kid, the three panels below show ways that the artists convey those sides of Bucky... the cold blooded killer and the young soldier looking to impress, still unsure of himself.

The colors are digital, but they don't advertise it. The textures almost make the colors look painted, and they don't just serve the inked artwork, they enhance them, they make them look even better. I'm convinced that if this book was colored by someone else it would not look nearly as good. This book is a feast of comics storytelling, I feel like I get my $2.99 value with each and every issue. My only real qualm with this book is why Samnee isn't doing the covers. This is a perfect example of "don't judge a book by it's cover" because I think as cover images these issues have pretty unremarkable ones.

I would expect this book to be all over the web, pages and panels being tumbled, 5 star reviews on comics websites...maybe I'm just not looking in the right spots, but if you see this book BUY IT NOW. Let's not have another Thor The Mighty Avenger here people.