Bells’ Art Collection, Part 5

Don’t worry. I’m feeling a bit more vocal this week. We’re in the second half of the alphabet, but there is some great art coming up. My Tara Chace pieces, work from a WWE legend, and a big old beard. But that’s to come.

This week I have:

  • Molly Hayes (from Runaways) by Adrian Alphona
  • Nico Minoru (from Runaways) by Christina Strain
  • Niightcrawler by Skottie Young
  • Nomad by David Baldeon
  • Penny B (from Phonogram) by Jamie McKelvie
  • Rachel Summers by Hwan Cho
  • Raven by Franco Aureliani
  • Raven by Mike McKone

Other posts of my collection can be found here.

And the whole thing is on Tumblr.

Come back next week!

– Bells

New York Comic Con 2011

I wasn’t a big fan of last year’s New York Comic Con. With 70,000 people crammed in an under construction Javitz Center, it was more like being pulled along a river of people than strolling around a comic convention. You could hardly walk around anywhere other than Artist Alley. It was a three-day show, but I didn’t bother going back Sunday. Too stressful.

For that reason, I wasn’t planning on going this year, but after a few months, I get antsy and need that atmosphere. I called my boy Ronnie up and told him I was coming down.

I’m really glad I did.

Construction was finished, so despite a rumored 105,000 attendees filling three huge rooms, everything was very accessible. With the exception of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s ridiculous lines, I managed to get all the autographs I wanted. I got three great commissions. I met someone who has meant a lot to me since before I could speak.

Me and Oscar the GrouchAnd more than all that I had a once in a lifetime experience. But we’ll get there, first – the sketches.

One commission I wanted to get was a Batwoman by Amy Reeder. Sadly, she was only doing a couple a day, so I was too late to sign up. But Artist Alley is huge. There were plenty of other options.

Readers may know that my favorite book last year was Young Allies. So when I read that David Baldeon was going to be there, he shot up my list. And he drew a great Nomad for me.

Nomad by David BaldeonNext was Scott Kolins. Between recently finishing reading the Flash run he did with Geoff Johns and my love for villains, I was hoping he could do one of the rogues for me. He said Captain Cold was his favorite. Check this out.

Captain Cold by Scott KolinsLast was Dennis Calero. He had done a quick Multiple Man sketch for me back in 2009, but this was a full commission. He said Two-Face was a favorite of his. I didn’t have Two-Face in my book. It was destiny. And he killed it.

Two-Face by Dennis CaleroANYWAY. On Friday, after the show, I went to dinner with Marvel’s Vice President of Creator and Content Development, C. B. Cebulski, their Chief Creative Officer, Joe Quesada, and Editor in Chief, Axel Alonso.

Yeah.

The NYCC people offered a “Wanna Go on a Date with Marvel?” event. Ten fans had dinner with three of Marvel most visible employees at WD-50, a restaurant owned by Wylie Dufresne (yeah, the guy from Top Chef Masters). It was a nine-course meal with wine pairing in the wine cellar. It was the fanciest meal I’ve ever had. And so much fun.

Marvel MenuNot exactly the pulled pork tacos I had Thursday night, huh?

For five hours, the 13 of us (nine fans [one didn’t show up], three Marvel guys and the Marketing Director from NYCC) sat around, ate, drank and talked. About everything. Marvel being part of Disney. Great NYC restaurants. I talked to Alonso about the NBA. Joey Q talked about being on the set of Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. We were mostly strangers, but the conversations just flowed. Some artists that were drinking upstairs stopped by. Joe (Mets fan) and I (from Boston) made fun of Alex Maleev for wearing a Yankees cap. It was just a fun night surrounded by people who all love comics. Aspiring writers. Aspiring artists. Readers. Bloggers. It was a great group of people. The ticket cost a few shekels, but I’m so glad I spent them.

After dinner, a few of us went dancing around the corner at a bar called Idle Hands. The Phonogram guys were spinning that night, but they had already finished. Nonetheless, the music was perfect:
Pulp – Disco 2000
The Smiths – This Charming Man
Depeche Mode – Just Can’t Get Enough
Human League – Don’t You Want Me
The Clash – Train in Vain
It was like someone had borrowed my iPod. After a few songs, it was quickly 2:00 AM. And my drunk legs had a trek back to Jersey.

Saturday was spent mostly poking around the rest of the con, picking up my sketchbooks, and seeing Cobie Smulders at the Marvel booth. (Robin Sparkles for the win!) I do want to mention that I picked up a book created by a couple of the girls from the Marvel Dinner. Check out Meridien City, new from Alpha Girl Comics. I picked it up to support some new friends, but it really is a quality book. It follows a homicide cop on a foreign planet with only certain livable areas – the rest of the planet is too hot. When bodies pile up around the outskirts, it’s her job to find out why. There’s a deeper hook, but I’ll leave that to the reader.

Meridien CityAfter the show, I had some BBQ and met up with an old friend from my London days. ($6 for a High Life? Really New York?) And then I went Marvel’s Chesterfest 2011. Take your neighborhood bar. Fill it with comics pros. And give everyone X-Men coasters. Yeah, it was awesome. A few more drinks, a little deliberation about approaching Jason Aaron (I left him alone), and it was time to call it a weekend.

Yes, I skipped Sunday again, but when you’re good with your budget and time, two days is plenty for a convention. It was a great show and I have no question I’ll be there next year.

The Shopping List 5-4-11

Arcade Wants To Play
This week had few mid-list books and the probable #1 book for the month of May. Only one was a disappointment. Care to guess which?

Avengers Academy Giant-SizeAvengers Academy Giant-Size by Paul Tobin and David Baldeon ****

I could review both of this week’s Avengers Academy books together. But with different writers, artists, and moods, it wouldn’t be prudent. Since Giant-Size comes first story-wise, it comes first review-wise.

This story was originally planned as annuals for Avengers Academy, Young Allies, and Spider-Girl. Of course, the latter two went and got canceled. So, it was re-solicited as a three-issue miniseries. When that was canceled, Marvel decided to put the whole thing under one cover. The final title is quite apt. There are more Academy members than Allies and this thing is huge.

Similar to Paul Tobin’s work on Spider-Girl, the character reactions are what makes this book. From Striker’s false bravado to the set-up of a possible Reptil/Spider-Girl romance, the characters feel familiar, yet pushed forward. Tobin also takes the chance to paint Arcade as a cleaned-up version of the Joker. He’s all about his plans, which are of course his undoing. And he loves to make puns. With the exception of Firestar, each of Arcade’s traps is matched to its victim. These element come together to show that this story couldn’t take place with other heroes or villains. It’s this match-up that is so enjoyable.

David Baldeon’s art is perfect. His characters are unique. Storytelling and emotions are clear. I had forgotten how much a part of Young Allies he was. I hope Marvel finds him a home soon.

Yes, Avengers Academy Giant-Size comes with a massive $7.99 price tag, but let’s do some math. 80 pages is almost four regular issues, which would cost $12. There is a lot of story here and something for fans of any of the previously mentioned books. Give it a chance.

Avengers Academy #13Avengers Academy #13 by Christos Gage and Sean Chen ****

Not that I’ve read the issues, but people always talk about X-Men baseball games. Small breaks between arcs where everyone could decompress and Claremont could do some character building. Peter David took it a step up with his psychiatry issues of X-Factor. This week, Christos Gage found the perfect rest for the teen characters of the Marvel U – prom! Gage catches up with some characters who’ve dropped out of the spotlight, brings everyone’s emotions to the forefront and there’s still a lot more action than my prom, if you know what I’m saying.

I dropped Avengers: The Initiative somewhere after Secret Invasion, but based on scenes like the ones with Komodo and Ultra Girl (“Oh. Golly.”), I may have to go back. And I love seeing the Young Allies again, even if their appearances are brief.

This issue also made me realize what separated Avengers Academy from televised teen dramas – horny adults. Shows like My So-Called Life and The OC were about the kids, sure, but they weren’t solely concerned with the young people. That’s a strength of the series and I’ll admit it, Tigra and Dr. Pym deserve to get some.

I like Sean Chen’s art. More when it’s close up. When his characters are too far back, they lose not only detail, but emotion.

It may be a small interlude between bigger stories, but that doesn’t mean Avengers Academy #13 isn’t one of the series best issues yet.

Fear Itself #2Fear Itself #2 by Matt Fraction and Stuart Immonen **

I found the first issue of Fear Itself bland; issue #2 is no better. In this installment, Matt Fraction is so concerned with getting hammers in the hands of The Worthy, that he disregards an actual plot. Four pages on the Raft. Three pages following the Hulks. Two and a half pages following the Absorbing Man and Titania. One panel of … some guy in the ocean. To finish off the issue, we get separate pep-talks from Odin and Steve Rogers.

I can’t explain it; so much happens, but it feels like nothing happens.

One disappointing change from the first issue was a lack of men-on-the-street. Last time, we saw regular people reacting to the status quo. (Remember the dudes in Broxton?) Here, reactions only come via quotes news reports. It’s less personal, and feels it.

I remember Secret Invasion having some logical problems. The idea that, within an hour of exposing themselves, the Skrulls would have thousands of humans cheering for them is ridiculous. Here, there are similar problems. One of the news reports says “Autism rates skyrocketing.” What? Within an hour or so, we already have data on the increasing level of neural development disorders? REALLY?

The best moment of the issue is Odin sending Thor off to prison. It seems a weird plot point (Is Odin always a dick?), but you know once he gets out, he’ll have some serious smashing to do.

Regardless of my problems with the plot, I have no such qualms with the art. Despite massive set pieces and dozens of characters, Stuart Immonen never missteps. I could criticize his Worthy-Hulk to be too similar to Drax the Destroyer, but I won’t. If he can keep this level of art and on-time, he’ll go right to the top of the list of crossover artists.

I’m very excited for the real action to start, but Fear Itself has starting out on bad feet.

Secret Six #33Secret Six #33 by Gail Simone and J. Calafiore ****

If you’ve ever wondered if someone’s torture could warm your heart, I give you Secret Six #33. Yes, we finally see to what corner of hell Thomas Blake was going off with Etrigan and the resolution of Catman’s family drama. (See: “Cat’s in the Cradle“). In a surprising move, Gail Simone used this arc to follow-up on more than just the get-out-of-hell-free card. It’s an impressive skill that every month she can still mine more than five years of stories featuring these characters.

In a series of great character moments, Simone shoes us the Six’s fears. From a mother’s sadness to the despair of eternal life to vegetarian restaurants, even the most vile people are afraid of something.

“Say you forgive me. And that love really exists. Even for us.” Like Delirium having a crestfallen moment of clarity, the issue’s most heartbreaking line comes from a most unexpected source, Ragdoll.

I’ve officially come around on J. Calafiore. He does his best every month and without any delays. He doesn’t have some flashy style, but he’s consistent. I like that. I did figure out my problem with some of his work. Some faces, noticeable Scandal’s, have a great lack of detail. Her face is a big oval with a birthmark. The contours are left to the colorist, who is sadly content to fill her with a simple gradient. Some more features, on either of their part, could do wonders.

The Shopping List 11-3-10

I would like to have more substantial posts on here, diving deeper into stories or characters, but I am glad that these weekly reviews have kept me writing and thinking critically about comics. I’ve even noticed myself looking deeper into the stories of movies and television shows. Ah well, Deadshot, shall we move on to the books?

Deadshot Shoots at a Skank

Okay!

Avengers Academy #6Avengers Academy #6 by Christos Gage and Mike McKone ****

I was reading Avengers: Initiative when Reptil had his first appearance in some tie-in. But it had no connection that I could see and seemed like a cash grab, so I skipped it. I still don’t really regret that, but after reading this issue, I find him the be the most relatable in his class of recruits.

I’ve never harbored much delusion about becoming a superhero one day, but anyone can relate to growing up with a dream profession and doing (or not doing) what they can to make it real. Christos Gage does a lot in this issue, showing a number of ways Humberto (Reptil) tries to find what kind of leader he’ll be. All to often in a story like this, our protagonist would take a chance reaching out to his teammates and by the end, they all hug and receive him as captain. Get real. Here, Finesse, his friend with benefits (second post in a row to mention one of those … hmm) calls it off, Mettle and HazMat walk away in disgust from his suggestion they get together romantically. Ye, in the end he’s comfortable with the role, but not everyone is so fast to accept him. It feels more real, especially where this team doesn’t have the familial feel of say, the Teen Titans.

Mike McKone is assisted by four inkers over these 22 pages. That’s usually a problem, but there is a great deal of consistency on these pages. My fear is that the four inkers are a sign that Mike McKone’s art is coming in too slowly for the production schedule. Issue seven will feature Tom Raney, but no more have been solicited. As of issue four, Avengers Academy was selling over 30,000 copies, so I don’t think it’s in danger of getting canceled, but I am concerned that there’s a delay coming. Perhaps Marvel was dipping their toe with a few issues before giving a green light for this as an ongoing. Here’s hoping.

Scarlet #3Scarlet #3 by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev **

Mr. Bendis? Mr. Maleev? You better wow me next issue. I know half the internet is creaming their jeans over this, but it is not good.

Scarlet is a murderer. There is no denying that. I wanted to call her a terrorist, but for now she’s only targeting cops, not the widespread public, so I’ll stop short of that. She’s a girl who was the victim of police corruption that snapped and decided to do something about it. She has no morals that we’ve seen. No remorse. Just a desire to strike back. If she’s gone crazy and lost any sense of right and wrong, Bendis has got to tell us. Otherwise, he’s going to have a hard time getting us to connect to her. The problem only gets worse when Bendis tries to make us an accomplice to her crimes. Scarlet calling us out that we can’t recognize what’s wrong with our world and don’t have the balls to do anything about it if we did does not endear her to us. She’s trying to put the reader down, and just like a friend who does that, people are going to stop calling her.

Alex Maleev’s work has never been something I would call beautiful. Here, I would call it ugly. Characters have ridiculous expressions, especially Scarlet’s friend Brandon. This where Maleev’s photo-referencing pales in comparison to someone like Tony Harris. Harris stages his scenes, and his “actors” look like their emoting instead of posing for the camera. Shading is done in large splotches like jagged countries on a map. The colors are all dark, doing the storytelling no favors. The reader doesn’t know what to focus on.

One last note, and maybe this is sacrilege, but is this really a visual story? In other words, may this be better served as a novel? The only action here is Scarlet running from the cops and then sniping a couple of them. The images allow for some nice reveals, such as the fact that Scarlet is videotaping her actions, unafraid of the public knowing who she is. But really, between the narration and prevalence of talky scenes, the visuals don’t add much. If you write “Concert (Arcade Fire),” do we need to see two dudes in the crowd to understand what that mean? Just a thought.

One more issue sirs, then I’m out.

Secret Six #27Secret Six #27 by Gail Simone and J. Calafiore ****

People often complain about comic books covers falsely advertising the interiors. Well, I will warn you. The cover of Secret Six #26 shows Bane riding a dinosaur. The inside of Secret Six #26 shows Bane riding a god damn dinosaur! And Catman riding a the biggest cat I’ve ever seen. AWESOME.

Prior to “The Reptile Brain,” I had never heard of Skartaris. I only knew Warlord by name. I still don’t really know who Diemos is. In all that confusion, I was a bit lost with the intricacies of the plot. All that said, this was the best issue of the storyline so far. It’s small moments that become more important than the whole. The two Sixes come to blows, no one holding back. This leads to some great clashes, like those between Ragdoll and King Shark and Jeanette and everyone else.

These are bad people, but it feels real. Reluctance to kill has long been a criticism of superheros. “I’m willing to put someone in a hospital, or drop them from a great height, or run from the police, but killing is wrong.” It’s a nice message, but crazy. If you had a great skill and could get away with it, you would take advantage. Shady contracts, bloody violence. Whatever.

I don’t give J. Calafiore enough credit on this book. Big and small, action or discussion, his pencils are consistent and exciting. In this issue specifically, I admire his habit of violating panel borders. It’s done rarely, but always emphasizes the right moments.

With the cliffhanger involving a character I’m not familiar with, I’m not sure where this is going. I am sure though that the two teams will unite and kick some ass. I can’t wait.

Young Allies #6Young Allies #6 by Sean McKeever and David Baldeon ****

Rest in peace, Young Allies. I know no reason you should be forgot. You’re my favorite new series of 2010. You were fun. You were funny. You were exciting. You exposed me to some new characters that I’ll hunt down past and future appearances of. You had great, consistent, monthly art. And now you are canceled.

Obviously, I enjoy Avengers Academy. And I understand that there are a few reasons it sells three times as many copies (“Avengers” in the title, better known guest stars, tying in with other titles). But I find this to be a superior book. These heroes aren’t ready to defend the world either, but they’ve also got to deal with the real world. It’s a more complete picture of what it means to grow up super.

Young Allies was a book of underdogs. An underrated writer and artist and C-list characters may not light the charts on fire, but it also means they’re aren’t stuck in a rut of repetitive villains and cyclical plots. Sean McKeever shows his ear for many characters’ voices, this issue guest-starring Emma Frost, one of the most interesting characters in the Marvel U today.

David Baldeon wasn’t afraid to avoid the blood and violence of too many books these days. His cartoony art does what comic art should: help tell the story while adding to its tone. And he did it brilliantly.

“A Change of Mind” is one of those downtime issues that are enjoyable in an extended run, but hard to really discuss. The characters each have to make a decision and by the end, they do. But the outcomes of those decisions will come in the future. Which is a problem.

This issue is one of transition. Which is made awkward by the fact that it’s a transition to … nothing. Time to talk publishing for a moment. The book in canceled. Recent comments from Ed Brubaker (“I’ll be doing both the main feature and writing the back-up feature. And they’ll be intertwining stories.”) suggest that the Nomad backup in Captain America will end soon. All fans have left on the horizon is the new Spider-Girl. I’m interested, but we know how much success that title has had in the past.

#6 is the weakest issue of the title yet, but I implore all of you to read this series when it’s released in trade.

Young Allies – Cancelled

NO! from Young Allies #2

Art by David Baldeon

Well, I guess I just found another $3 for my comics budget each month.

Albert Ching, over at Blog@Newsarama noticed something unfortunate on Previews’ Product Changes. Young Allies, my favorite book of Marvel’s Heroic Age is being canceled after issue 6. Writer Sean McKeever and penciler David Baldeon have been turning in some great work, but the book has barely sold 15,000 copies of each issue.

Another one bites the dust.

The Shopping List 9-29-10 and 10-6-10

Two quick notes:
1) Captain America was my only book on the 29th, so I didn’t even go to the shop. Bonus for this week!
2) Sorry this is so late. NYCC was … overwhelming. More on that later.

Avengers Academy #5Avengers Academy #5 by Christos Gage and Jorge Molina ****

Christos Gage continues to impress me on this book. He manages to sidestep every possible cliché this book could fall into. Instead of a grand reveal of the team’s traitor on a page turn, it’s revealed though a conversation. Rather than following comic book convention, Gage lets his plot develop naturally. I won’t spoil who the character is, but it does add dimension to him/her.

One aspect of the book I appreciate is that the kid’s aren’t shown as invincible. They are still inexperienced. They can contribute, but can’t defeat Whirlwind with the Wasp’s help. And as it should be, Steve Rogers can kick their asses, even six on one.

Jorge Molina fills in on pencils and does a good job. His panels are but more unpolished, but Andrew Hennessey’s inks and Jeromy Cox’s colors keep the look consistent. With the Hank Pym-centric issue #7 coming up, this book couldn’t excite me more.

Captain America #610Captain America #610 by Ed Brubaker and Butch Guice ***

Baron Zemo takes a play out of Reverse Flash’s book in this issue, with Zemo revealing that this has all been about making Bucky a better hero. It’s an interesting twist and is more inline with the Zemo we’ve seen since his Thunderbolts days. But really, this is all pushing pieces into place for the next story, where the new Captain America has to face the actions he made as the Winter Soldier.

I do have some reservations about the art. Guice’s pencils are fine. But two inkers (including Guice) and three colorists kill the consistency of the pages. I understand the periodical comics business is built on a four-week cycle, but if Marvel gave me a more consistent book every five weeks, I’d be happier.

The Nomad backup continues to be well written with underwhelming art. It starts well enough, but the final page is rushed. Out of seven faces on the page, only two can be said to have any resembling eyes.

Secret Six #26Secret Six #26 by Gail Simone and Jim Calafiore ****

Until the book, I always saw Bane as one-note. He broke Batman’s back and that’s it. Like Doomsday, he debuted with one big, fantastic action and had nothing else to him. God bless Gail Simone. She’s made Bane interesting and his relationship with Scandal one of the most interesting, if confusing, in comics. With each of their two factions facing off in this issue, they’ve taken another swerve and I love it.

I’m usually good with Calafiore’s art, but his faces here come off as flat and emotionless. Blank expressions and gritted teeth about in these pages. There are some great sight though, such as a giant, three-headed small intestine and battle-axe wielding madman.

Also included here is a preview for J. T. Krul and Nicola Scott’s Teen Titans. I met Scott this weekend at NYCC and she’s a sweetheart, I just wish she was headed to a book I had more confidence in. She’s one of DC’s greatest talents, I hope she isn’t wasted.

Young Allies #5Young Allies #5 by Sean McKeever and David Baldeón *****

Sean McKeever sure has created some great characters for Young Allies. The Bastards are interesting themselves, but Toro is a new favorite. In two silent panels, we see a great deal of character as he calmly stops Gravity from doing something he’ll regret.

Baldeón’s pencils are nothing to ignore either. You know the feeling that was lacking in Calafiore’s work on Secret Six? I found it. Fear, rage, whatever ring you wear, your emotion is here. They have so much movement and energy to them that my only hope is that he stays with this book. I’d hate to lose him to something more high-profile.

I addition to being great on its own, this book also has me excited for Spider-Girl’s upcoming solo series. That’s the mark of a great book.

The Shopping List 9-1-10

Avengers: The Children's Crusade #2Avengers: The Children’s Crusade #2 by Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung ****

Issue one was tasked with a lot of exposition, but here, the story just moves, and not just from Manhattan to Wundagore Mountain. New players are introduced, conflicts are developed, and it’s all wrapped up with a cliffhanger of Doom. Good times. Heinberg created the Young Avengers, so his voices for them are still the ones dominant in most people’s minds. They don’t quite have the idiosyncratic personalities of Vaughan’s Runaways, but each has their own believable stake in the proceedings. He also does well in making sure the book lives up its title. This not simply a Young Avengers story: needless to say, Scarlet Witch is a key part, but Quicksilver and the old New Avengers also show up.

I don’t like the bimonthly schedule. Two months is too long a time to remember any plot intricacies. It’s not that bad this early, but nine issues is a lot for anyone to remember, nevermind those nine issues coming out over a year and a half. However, the slower distribution allows Jim Cheung to perfect every panel. Scenes regularly involve 5+ characters, but they don’t seem rushed. Cheung doesn’t even skip backgrounds all that often.

I don’t have the memory for bimonthly publication, but with a book this good, having to reread every eight weeks is not a problem.

Scarlet #2Scarlet #2 by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev ***

I don’t dislike this book, but I do have some problems with it.

Bendis is trying the whole address-the-audience thing. It works, but other than addressing it “you,” it’s not all that different from the first person narration of Ultimate Spider-Man or Daredevil. Scarlet tells us she needs our help, but unless this book goes interactive all of a sudden, there’s nothing we can actually do to help her. Reading comics is a passive thing. We’re not involved in the events. Bendis certainly would be among the first to try something new like that, but until it happens, Scarlet’s request feels empty.

Then there’s the art. Maleev makes choices that confuse me. When I first read Grant Morrison and Dave McKean’s Arkham Asylum, I didn’t understand it. I could follow the plot, sure, but panels would go by and I didn’t understand their relevance. Luckily I had the 15th anniversary trade, which includes the full script. I read that and then everything clicked. I then understood Morrison’s allusions to Anubis or who certain characters were, regardless that the book hadn’t explained them. Maybe seeing the script would also make the difference here. Each issue has featured panels of solid color for reasons I can’t comprehend. Also, Maleev’s coloring is distracting; it bathes everything in an eerie glow. With Spider-Woman’s alien-centric story and Madripoor setting, this same technique made sense. Here, it doesn’t help tell the story, it’s bothersome.

The spread covering pages 2-3 shows Scarlet 12 times. Each panel shows the same facial expression and background, with her clothes, hairstyle and the panel’s coloring changing each time. Why? If it’s to break up the monotony of a floating head monologue, this is not the way to do it.

Scarlet may be one issue away from its real hook, but if not, it needs to do more for my $4.

Secret Six #25Secret Six #25 by Gail Simone and J. Calafiore ****

After two months of standalone issues, Secret Six is back to doing what it does best: showing terrible people doing terrible things. After expressing his displeasure with the Six’s recent activities, Bane has assembled his own team. And next issue the two teams will fight. I can’t wait.

Simone has a great talent for infusing new characters into a story without resorting to a dead-stop to introduce them. I don’t remember reading anything with Dwarfstar or King Stark before, but I feel I already understand their personalities. Much like my introduction to Cheshire in Villains United, she has a way of making me love these people. And that’s in addition to her skill creating new characters like Scandal or the new Ragdoll.

Calafiore’s art is certainly adequate. I don’t mean that as an insult, but there is nothing unique about his art. His name will never scare me away from a book, but it won’t convince me to try something either.

Please buy this book. I don’t want it to ever go away.

Shadowland #3Shadowland #3 by Andy Diggle and Billy Tan ***

Wow. This book. All action. All the time. Maybe I’m adjusting my expectations, because I didn’t hate it. Once I expected it to be all action, I didn’t mind waiting for the Daredevil tie-ins to give me real emotion. Once I accepted that Daredevil was possessed or whatever, I wasn’t bothered by his being out of character. Let’s be honest, if a correctly thinking Matt Murdock killed Bullseye, he would never EVER resurrect him. He would just cry about it for a while and say his prayers.  Shadowland is not good on it’s own, but it’ll do.

I’m not going to give Billy Tan any shit this month. This is the best his art has looked in the series. I like his rendition of the Punisher and his female characters, especially Lady Bullseye. I also want to give special recognition to colorist Christina Strain this month. Between all the shadows, Ghost Rider’s flames and the streets of Hell’s Kitchen, playing with light in this book must be a bear, but she does a great job. I’ve met her at cons and she’s always very sweet and does great sketches.

Stumptown #4Stumptown #4 by Greg Rucka and Matthew Southworth ****

Rucka and Southworth have a gem on their hands. With this 32-page closer to “The Case of the Girl Who Took Her Shampoo but Left Her Mini,” the pair has left me waiting for more. To solve the case (and not die) Dex has to use her PI skills, but also know how to read a situation and play the other parties against each other. Real crafty, this one.

Southworth’s art is perfectly unfinished. Darker books always run the risk of their art coming off too exaggerated and not fitting the mood. Looking at another Rucka series, Queen & Country, the art oscillates between cartoon and grit, much to the chagrin of some of its readers. Southworth is the regular artist on this title, so we don’t have to worry about that. What we do have to worry about is the schedule. Issue one came out on November 2009. That’s an almost three month average time between issues. The creators have assured us such delays will no longer happen, but that means a longer time between each arc.

The coloring in the book’s climax is a great experiment. The nighttime beach setting is washed in dark blue, with only a flashlight’s yellow glow to illuminate the characters. Not only does this preserve the beach’s shadows, but the contrasting colors make the players pop.

Young Allies #4Young Allies #4 by Sean McKeever and David Baldeon *****

This is my new favorite book. I wish I read these characters before. I know Gravity had his own series, but I never tracked it down. Same with Araña or whatever she’s called now. These are great characters finally finding a place in my spotlight.

McKeever spends this issue throwing the Bastards’ identities into question, leading to inner-group tension as well as hinting at a larger conspiracy. I was wondering who the Allies would have as antagonists after this initial arc. That conspiracy is just what I was looking for, a hook to keep the book going.

Compared to Stumptown, this is the kind of book that can use non-realistic art. Baldeon, Bowling and Sotomayor take advantage and have given us some exciting, fun pages.

I’m running out of ways to praise this book. Just read it.

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