Lady Sabre & The Kickstarter of the Ineffable Aether

Apologies for the lack of posts, but this time I have a good excuse, I swear.

I moved three weeks ago. And not down the street, but from Massachusetts to New York. I got offered a job I couldn’t turn down and here we are! The Kitchen is now located in a different … house?

ANYWAY, I came for an urgent reason. The Lady Sabre & The Pirates of the Ineffable Aether Kickstarter. Writer Greg Rucka and artist Rich Burchett are creating the first collection of their webcomic, the aforementioned Lady Sabre.

Lady Sabre Hardcover

In the creators’ own words:

Lady Sabre & The Pirates of the Ineffable Aether is a webcomic created by Eisner Award winners Rick Burchett (The Batman and Robin Adventures, The Superman Adventures, Blackhawk, She-Hulk) and Greg Rucka (Whiteout, Stumptown, The Punisher, Detective Comics, Queen & Country, Alpha). Rick handles the beautiful art and Greg provides the story and the words. The whole work is overseen by editor, designer, and web-guru Eric Newsom.

Lady Sabre’s world is one of danger, adventure, and deception, filled with clockwork monstrosities, dire magic, and noble hearts. It is a world flavored by Victorian England and late 19th century Europe and the Old West. It is a world of cannon fire and steel meeting steel, brass gears meshing seamlessly with steam-driven pistons, a world of passion and humor and a dash of romance.”

They are now in the “hours, not days” countdown of the campaign. I wanted to post earlier, but this is only the second time I’ve spent any real time on my computer since I moved. And though it was a success by the end of its first day, there’s still plenty of reasons to donate now. The primary reason is that this will be the only way to get the collection in the format it is being offered, and the only way to get it at all for at least a year.

What started as a 192-page book has now expanded into that book, two additional books (one an in-world almanac, the other a compilation of scripts and process materials, and maps of the world. And all this for as low as $20 for PDFs ($10 for just the comic), $30 for physical copies. Having already upgraded the book’s general quality as well as the materials used to create the comic, the only stretch goal that remains is to create deckplans for the HMS Pegasus, Lady Sabre’s vessel.

Higher pledges receive gifts ranging from swag (dogtags, tintype portraits), to signatures and art, to even appearing in the strip. That’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. (Or at least, that’s how I explained it to my bank account.)

Only $7,000 separates that goal and the current amount of pledges. Hell, if the campaign raises $14,000 more, it’ll have raised $100,000 more than its original goal! And with the way some Kickstarters blow up in their final days, that’s not too much to expect.

So go back to the beginning read some strips or jump in now if you like dragons. If it seems like something you’d be into, pony up some cash. It’ll be worth it. When top creators are left to their own loves and devices, it usually is.

Donate, or the Lady will make you smuggle this map in your keister.

Library Reviews 9-27-10

The library lets you take as many books out as you want. You just bring them back in three weeks. So, I read a lot of crap. Luckily, this batch was quite good.

Astro City: The Dark Ages, Book. 1: Brothers and Other StrangersAstro City: The Dark Ages, Book 1: Brothers and Other Strangers by Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson

That’s a long name for a book, huh? I’ll give you a shorter one: “Today’s Best Hero Comics.” In the intro to first Astro City trade, Busiek basically says “This is why we deconstructed heroes in the 80s: to learn how they work and how to make them work better.” From cosmic clashes to the idea of family legacies, Busiek has covered many aspects of heroes and always treated them interestingly and with the respect these modern gods deserve.

Much he did in the classic Marvels, Busiek often uses the point-of-view of the average citizen, living as a human in a world filled with superhumans. In most comics, where you only follow the heroes, you lose the scope of the events, the sense that these are extraordinary happenings. Exploding planets and Nazi gorillas become common-place.

This tale of two brothers, one living a life of crime and one a life of fighting crime, shows how regular people live with the incredible world around them. When a battle trashes an apartment building, lives can be ruined. We saw one mother’s reaction to the events that started Marvel’s Civil War, but what about after that? Those people have to live with what happened for the rest of their lives. That’s what this specific story is about.

“Two minutes before he arrived in Astro City.” I bet you didn’t get chills reading that sentence. But I did. To explain it would spoil the story. Though I rarely worry about things like that, I will here. These are comics I would recommend to anyone. Especially you, reader.

Batwoman: ElegyBatwoman: Elegy by Greg Rucka and J. H. Williams III

For the nine months or so this team worked on this book, it was the best on the stands.

When people talk about storytelling in comics, they basically mean how well you can understand the story without reading the words. Can you properly read emotions? Do the events take place in a logical, natural order? Those “people” includes myself of course. When talked last week about Frank Quitely’s work on Batman and Robin, that’s what I was discussing. But with his Batwoman work (originally published in Detective Comics), J. H. Williams truly helps tell the story. His art takes multiple styles, sometimes even on the same page. The simplest example being the use of one style for Batwoman activities, similar to the J. H. you know and another for Kate Kane, her civilian identity, almost a John Paul Leon look. One on page, Kate, at a formal fundraiser, has an epiphany of Alice’s (the story’s antagonist) true plot. The next panel, the art changes to the “Batwoman” style. We don’t just know how Kate’s mind reacts to the news, we see it: she immediately switches to Batwoman mode. It’s just brilliant. But Williams art would not be as impactful without colorist extraordinaire Dave Stewart. As the pencils change, so do the colors. Stark black, white and red for the intro pages,. Flat colors for flashbacks time. Minimal rendering for civilian time. Full rendering for the Batwoman/Alice battles. There’s even some watercolor work in here, which may be Williams’. These artist put thought into every choice and it shows.

Together, this team (including writer Greg Rucka) proved that comics don’t need to use regular panels to be legible. They don’t have to be an artist reproducing a known character in his/her style. They shouldn’t strive to be fine art, ready to hang in a museum. They should be art, and sometimes words, that tell a story. They should be COMICS.

Some critics have said that Rucka’s writing pales in comparison to Williams’ art, but it doesn’t. Rereading this series, I saw how well Rucka was planting seeds. The biggest twist of the story is hinted at multiple times. And that’s just looking at the main plot. You can’t forget that Rucka has fleshed out a believable character who happens to be a lesbian. It’s not a defining characteristic, it’s just part of her. It’s a serious matter, which leads to her separation from the US military, but not she, nor anyone in her life treats it as a flaw. It was nice to read about a character coming out to her family and not have it be treated as a crisis.

I could go on and on, but I’m saying nothing new about this series. I loved it. Though Rucka has moved on, I can’t wait for Williams’ upcoming Batwoman book.

Fables: Legends in ExileFables: Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham and Steve Leialoha

Some friends in college were wicked into this series. I read the first two trades then, but it never grabbed me. The idea is super interesting, but I never cared to continue. I would hear review after review praising it up and down and would always dismiss it. But when I saw it on the shelves, I figured I could give it another shot.

I enjoyed it a whole lot more this time, though I’m still not 100% interested. Perhaps hearing what the series has done in recent years, I’ve realized who some background characters were, giving me more investment. I’m want to read more, and that’s really what matters, right?

The Unwritten - Inside ManThe Unwritten: Inside Man by Mike Carey

Perhaps in a few years, I’ll come back and enjoy this series more than I do now, as I did with Fables. The fictional vs. reality ideas just ran too thin for me. When I cared more about the prison warden and his children, rather than the stars of the series, I knew something was off.

There’s nothing wrong with this book, it’s just not for me. You can’t say I didn’t give it a try.

Summer BlondeSummer Blonde by Adrian Tomine

I’ve talked about Adrian Tomine on here before, reviewing 32 Stories and Shortcomings. I’ve also read Sleepwalk and Other Stories, the first collection of his Optic Nerve issues. The problem with that volume, and not this one was their stories’ endings. Stories would end abruptly, without closure, and with twists that came out of nowhere. This is also the reason I don’t like JD Salinger’s “A Perfect Day for Bananafish.” The writer defines a character, sets up their conflict (if they have one) and then takes a left turn to end the story.

Sample plot (“Pink Frosting” from Sleepwalk): “Oh man, look at this birthday cake … I hope she likes it … Oh man, that car almost hit me … Aw, I just got curb-stomped like American History X.” What?

The argument can be made that these are character pieces, slice-of-life. In that case they have too much plot. They aren’t simple, every day events. These are important moments in people’s lives. The abrupt ending can be a story-telling tool, but if that’s the idea, the tool has been dulled by overuse.

You know what? I’ll take the blame. I probably “don’t get it” or “see how significant these ‘arbitrary’ events are.”

The art is perfect, but Tomine was yet to reach the heights he would later find in Shortcomings. That story’s longer length allowed him to tell a story to its actual conclusion rather than an arbitrary event suddenly given false import by the words “The End”.

Find Related Posts: , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

Find Related Posts: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Shopping List 8-11-10

So what did I buy this week?

***** = Loved It
**** = Really Liked It
*** = Liked It
** = Didn’t Like It
* = Hated It

Daredevil #509Daredevil #509 by Andy Diggle, Antony Johnston and Roberto De La Torre ***

These Daredevil tie-in issues to Shadowland have been pretty good. By focusing on Dakota and Foggy, they do exactly the opposite of Shadowland proper – they focus on people, with problems normal people have. Other parts, following Elektra or Luke Cage and Iron Fist keep the issue exciting. The addition of Typhoid Mary is really interesting, but Daredevil is right; we can’t really trust her.

Roberto De La Torre’s art is incredible. The progression from Maleev to Lark to De La Torre has been nice to watch. Daredevil has looked like little else on the shelves for a decade now. Matt Hollingsworth’s colors are perfect. From smoke effects to filling in the spaces in De La Torre’s scratched up inks, this is coloring that helps the storytelling, which I rarely see outside of Dave Stewart and Laura Martin.

So, why are these tie-in issues so much better than Shadowland? Antony Johnston’s writing assistance? De La Torre art? Whatever it is, Marvel may have made the wrong decision on the creative team for this street-level event. Shadowland is not going to convince people to read Daredevil monthly, let alone support whatever series (one or more) they hope to launch when this is all over.

Daytripper #9Daytripper #9 by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Bá *****

I usually have a problem with dream sequences. They easily become too literal or too oblique. They do nothing to further a story. But, damn if the boys from Brazil haven’t written a damn good story here. Around issue seven I was getting tired of the Daytripper formula, guessing where Brás’s demise would come from instead of following the story. Because this issue switched from dream to dream and scene to scene rather quickly, I couldn’t get too ahead of myself. This leaves issue nine as one of the most enjoyable in the series.

The art is as crisp and unique as it was in issue one, but because of the dream sequences, the visuals weren’t held to our natural laws and logic. Brás’s kitchen filling with water from a running faucet, his dog asking, “What do you think you’re doing?,” it all fits.

The most exciting thing about the issue is how final it felt. It read as though Moon and Bá were tying together all of their themes and giving their readers a final piece of advice before they head back into the real world. With everything wrapped up, I have no idea what the tenth and final issue will hold. I can’t wait.

Invincible Iron Man #29Invincible Iron Man #29 by Matt Fraction and Salvador Larocca ***

This is the best run of Iron Man ever. Salvador Larroca’s figures can be inconsistent. Frank D’Armata’s colors are off and his skintones are too shiny. What can I say about this book that hasn’t been said everywhere else?

Well, for one, I enjoyed catching up on the first 18 issues in one big chunk. If I had to summarize each issue of this arc, they would all be the same: “The Hammer Girls are up to something. Tony and Pepper have tension. Tony and Maria Hill have tension. Tony wants his company to create new technology.” I dig Fraction’s characterizations, but 22 pages at a time, “It gets confused with progress/It’s only motion.”

Morning Glories #1 by Nick Spncer and Joe Eisma ****

Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma sure can define characters. The first teaser for this series features Zoe and the caption “Most Likely To Cheat On You.” Each following ad featured a new Glory, each with their own superlative. Each of the six are instantly made unique by their wardrobe, body language and look. In an Avengers book, out of costume, I couldn’t tell you the difference between Steve Rogers, Hank Pym and Clint Barton. And how many nondescript brown haired heroes are there in the Marvel Universe? These six will never be confused with each other.

“You remind me of a cokewhore I used to love.” That one line showed more character than some entire issues of other books. I’ve never read anything by Nick Spencer, but this is a good start. Debuting with a double-sized issue gives plenty of room to set up the real world status quo, define your characters and then blow said status quo to bits by page 44. Jump on while this book it’s still fresh.

From the back issue bins:

Black Widow: Pale Little Spider #1Black Widow: Pale Little Spider #1 by Greg Ruck and Igor Kordey ***

Yes, this is the MAX Black Widow book. That may scare some into thinking this would be a regular Marvel book, but with swearing instead of ^*#@ing and maybe some nudity. But Greg Rucka is better than that. Yes, Yelena Belova lets an F-bomb or two fly, but the plot revolves around a murder at a sex club, truly an adult theme. (More on that in a future post.) Long story short, a military man is killed and it’s the Widow’s job to find out why and by whom. Nothing revolutionary, but Rucka’s dialogue and action scenes keep the plot exciting.

Other than some ugly issues of Grant Morrison’s New X-Men, I’m not familiar with Igor Kordey. Here, his characters remind me of Steve Dillon, but with dark shadows instead of details. This sounds too much like an insult, but the best I can say is that the art is serviceable.

The story is only three issues. I’ll be sure to pick #2 up  the next Wednesday I’ve got some money left in the budget.

Find Related Posts: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,