(Inset witty title here)

Why is it that that the weeks with lots and lots of things to discuss are weeks where I have some other deadline driven project (order form, ONOMATOPOEIA, whatever), but the week's I have time to write there's not a lot I actually want to say?  

Still, I've been horrible the last few weeks, and while I did a lot of writing for the next Savage Symposium, I don't think you'll see that for another week or three? So let's me dive into what I have to say here...


PUNISHERMAX #13: This book seriously lost its momentum when it went on that hiatus (seriously, we lost like 1/3 of our sales here at Comix Experience), but I have to say that this current "Frank in jail" story is pretty terrific. Ultimately I care little about Frank in jail, because I've seen it so many times, but I thought the rapid intercutting between in-jail, and returned-from-vietnam was pretty astonishing well done. VERY GOOD.


One editorial note, however: Story page 11, panel 2, speech balloon. the word you want there is "grisly", not "grizzly". How that slipped past AT LEAST three sets of creative eyes (writer, letterer, editor) I couldn't possibly tell you. "Editors" don't really edit, do they?


FLASH #12:  If you want to know what happened in FLASHPOINT #1, you sort of need to read this... though by the same token you really sort of don't NEED to, because it kind of doesn't matter, and it's all kind of chatty nonsense anyway. (Though I sorta liked what happened with "Hot Pursuit")


This is also the final issue of this version of FLASH -- the solicited #13 is apparently NOT coming out, and I gotta say, looking back over this "volume", man this series has been a creative failure. I know Graeme liked the art, but I still really don't even know why Barry was back, etc. FLASH: THE FASTEST MAN ALIVE (the Bart allen series just before this) was as strong creatively.. and everyone hated that book.


Also, F:FMA #13 (the last issue of that series) sold in 76,860 copies back in 6/07. FLASH #9 (the most recent one that we have numbers posted for) sold... 55,980 copies. Hrm.



FLASHPOINT #1: Now having said that.... I really really liked this. It might be like the thing about the THOR film -- my expectations were so low, that it couldn't help but exceed them... but I don't think it's quite that either.  In fact, after I read the FCBD bit, I opined to Matt, "Wow, that didn't whet my taste, and, it actually made me not want to see what happens next", so when I picked this up and found out the FCBD stuff was just the FIRST SIX PAGES OF #1 I got extremely leery.


Thankfully, the rest of the issue picked right up, maybe as soon as the next page when we find out the Flash isn't even in this comic book series, which makes that cover pretty weird, really.


Anyway, I was pretty happily amused with all of the world-building here -- probably not amused enough to actually want to read any of the individual mini-series, but that whole rooftop sequence was extremely crisp and strong. The last page twist was also amusing, but not as jaw dropping or game changing as some people have said. It was also deeply undercut by the three pages of badly placed ads.


I have a lot more to say... but well I think this is part of the next Savage Symposium, so I'll keep it to myself right now. What I will say, however, is that given the end of the book, most of that initial narration doesn't actually make any sense whatsoever, it being stuff the narrator *can't* know.


I might be premature here, but I did like this, and I think I'm going to give it a VERY GOOD. I sure hope they can pull of the ending though -- if it turns into another BRIGHTEST DAY fiasco, I'll be extremely sad.


Right, so who wants to place early bets on who/what will Nate Gray this?



NEW MUTANTS #25: Speaking of Nate, NM gets a "new direction" which made me laugh -- "cleaning up old X-Men business". Man, there's a premis that could last you another 20 years or more! Abnett & Lanning take over the scripting, and it works as well as you'd expect it to, though the art bored me to tears. I also really liked the Ilyana scenes, and hope that she has a chance to stay in this new remit. Solidly OK.


X-MEN LEGACY #246: The other bit of the post "Age of X" storyline, and this one seems a little more ragged to me -- while NM gets a clear new path, these sort of seems like more of the same to me, except people's memories are jumbled. It isn't just that the AOA stuff adds something  new to the characters (though you certainly can argue that), but the problem is that it does so in such a way that you need a thousand word preface to explain it before you can actually begin to deal with it. Many impacted characters will have it "mindwiped" away according to this issue, but those that don't... I really don't see anyone other than Carey making any hay from this? Especially with a major character like Cyclops? I don't think I can do better than EH here.


BATMAN INC #6:  I just loved this issue. Have I said that I hope Chris Burnham stays on this book for a good long while? I don't know, that cover just made me giddy with joy, and the notion that Bruce indulges in internet sock-puppetry made me howl with glee. But the best parts are how many times Bruce smiles. VERY GOOD.


And that's it for me this week -- what looks good to YOU?




Comics Prose

Because comics are "hot", I guess it isn't any real surprise that there's more and more "proper" books about comics, or by comics people. Not like I even have enough time to read comics, dang it!

But, I plowed through two books in this spectrum this last week, and here's my report for you:

SOON I WILL BE INVINCIBLE: is kind of an odd duck -- it's straight prose doing Marvel-style superheroes. Its not that there hasn't been superhero-prose before -- I'm a pretty big fan of the WILD CARDS series of books for instance -- but, usually, those try to set their superheroes in the "real" world. This novel is pretty unapologetically a story set in a "superhero" world, where the logic of the superhero comic is presented at face value.

There's two main threads of story here, one that focuses on the villain, Dr. Impossible (no, not from JLA), as he battles his foes in The Champions (no, not from Marvel.... or Heroic, either for that matter); and one that does the hero team-POV from a new cyborg member, Fatale.

Its reasonably effective at what it does, though one has to question why the reader wouldn't just read CIVIL WAR instead -- there are JLA or Avengers-style analogues on display here, and the prose is zippy enough, but its not like it breaks any new ground, or adds anything to the genre that the actual comics cover. Its a fast read, and highly OK, but there was a pretty large sense of "just do the real ones" to this reader.

THE DEVIL YOU KNOW: is Mike Carey's first novel. It is going to be inevitable to compare the protagonist here to John Constantine, Hellblazer -- and it would be just as inevitable had not Carey had a successful run on HELLBLAZER. There's certainly differences -- Felix Castor isn't a mirthless bastard for instance; and the world-building going on points to a very different world than JC's London -- here the set up is that for some unexplained reason, the dead have been reappearing en masse (as ghosts, or zombies, or loup-garou [explained as animal spirits rewriting the flesh of their hosts]), so there's a whole class of exorcists who are there to put those spirits down -- but, other than that, yeah, this could have easily fit into JCs world just fine.

Carey is a strong writer, and the prose drips with Britishisms like "All Mouth and Trousers", and what I liked the most about the book is that it ends up in a place that JC probably never would have. That is to say: I'd very much like to read a second book with these same characters and to see what it goes from here.

It is solidly GOOD work, but I think you're going to have a really hard time, like I did, separating out FC from JC. If you've never read a JC story before, this might work even better.

SOON I WILL BE INVINCIBLE is available now; THE DEVIL YOU KNOW I read in galley form -- the front cover says "Hardcover publication July 2007", so I guess it will be out real soon.

Not that you've probably read either of these, but if so, what did YOU think?


We mean it, man: Graeme doesn't love The Queen.

There's something really kind of sad about GOD SAVE THE QUEEN, the new Vertigo graphic novel by Mike Carey and John Bolton. Not necessarily in the content of the book itself, although it's hardly the greatest thing that you'll read this year - or even this week, arguably - but just the fact that it's being published at all in 2007. For anyone who's read almost any Vertigo in the past - especially any high-profile Vertigo - then this book seems like nothing so much as the comic book equivalent of a Vertigo tribute cover band. The plot is just a mash-up of old Vertigo series (Look, the main character is a mix of Fairy and human, just like Tim Hunter from Books of Magic! But she's a rebel who doesn't conform, and has a well-meaning teacher try and reach out to her just like Dane from the Invisibles! And there're Titania and Puck, just like in Sandman!) with Carey bringing nothing new to the mix whatsoever. The plot moves along in exactly the direction you assume that it will, with dialogue that rings hollow and as if the characters exist in service to the plot instead of having a life of their own. The art, meanwhile, is a lifeless glossy mix of photoreference and Bolton's obvious-and-slightly-creepy love for his main model's body (which, considering she's meant to be a teenager, is really kind of disconcerting). This is a book that would've seemed cliched had Vertigo published it ten years ago, so I'm not entirely sure why it seemed like a good idea now. Actually, forget I said that; this is clearly a grab for the fantasy dollar (and, in particular, the Sandman dollar; the press release that accompanied this - because, yes, I got this as a preview copy from DC themselves - begins with a pullquote by Neil Gaiman, and the back-cover copy states that the book "echoes the epic scope of The Books of Magic and The Sandman." Mind you, the back-cover also claims that Bolton's art "perfectly captures ...the lurid underbelly of modern London," even though there's nothing particularly lurid about the art, and especially nothing that suggests any specific place never mind London, so perhaps YMMV, as they say), but it's such a non-inventive one, literally retreading old ground and trying to recreate old glories, that it leaves a nasty taste in my mouth. Never mind that Vertigo has, for better or worse, kind of moved past its Sandman-corpse-fucking days (with the obvious exception of Fables, although Fables is, unlike this book, good. Mind you, wasn't the Fables anthology the last hardcover OGN that Vertigo pushed out...?) and yet this book reaffirms all the stereotypes and cliches about the imprint - What made Sandman so good when it started was that there wasn't really anything else like it available. It had a sense of identity and uniqueness - a reason to exist - that this entirely lacks. As melodramatic as it sounds, a book like this doesn't just rip-off Sandman, it's almost disrespectful to the series in doing so.

(Yes, I know; disrespectful to a comic book. What can I say? It annoyed me.)

And that's before you've even got me started on the Sex Pistols riff in the title (Justified by the dialogue in the book from our heroic rebel: "God save the Queen. And her fascist regime. I mean, this was my Dad's music, this wasn't cool. It was beyond cool. And it was all mixed up in my head with memories of him. A thousand, thousand lullabies."), even though the ultimate message of this book - Just say no, and love your parents - is the safe alternative that punk was pushing against, or the fact that, weirdly, the cover art is just two panels from inside the book with some nice design to try and disguise the fact; was the book late for deadline, or did John Bolton decide that he couldn't be bothered doing any more paintings for the project...?

It's a Crap book, and not worth the $19.99 that they're asking for it. If you have that money in your pocket and you haven't read Sandman, The Invisibles or any earlier Vertigo, you should pick up one of those books instead.