Bells’ Art Collection, Part 3

Hello again. If you found this through Tumblr or Twitter or wherever, you probably know what you’re about to see. If you found me through a Google image search, welcome to the Kitchen. Each week I’m showing off eight pieces of comic book art I’ve collected over the years. No humble, just brag.

Previous posts in the series can be found here.

And those with no patience can see the whole collection on the Bells’ Kitchen Tumblr.

Featured this week:

  • Gambit by Mike Choi
  • Gronk (from Gronk [in a Rob Gronkowski jersey!]) by Katie Cook
  • Gus (from Sweet Tooth) by Jeff Lemire
  • Gwen Stacy by Tim Sale
  • The Hulk by Tim Sale
  • Jade (from Morning Glories) by Joe Eisma
  • Jamie Madrox, The Multiple Man by Dennis Calero
  • The Joker by Franco

Clicking any of the images will open a gallery, which also links to full-size images.

Some good stuff is coming next week, including another Joker, and one of my absolute favorite sketches, by Declan Shalvey

– Bells

The Shopping List 4-27-11

Blog fatigue is very real. Regardless of any deadlines or restrictions you give yourself, sometimes you just don’t want to write. It can make comics feel like a chore rather than an exciting hobby. It’s like going to practice instead of playing a real basketball game. Sometimes you just have to spice things up.
With that in mind, AN EXPERIMENT! Live reviews! So, as I read each of the comics I bought this week, I’ll give you my thoughts. Let’s see how this goes. I hope this are easy to follow, even for those of you who haven’t read the books. But it’d probably be better if you can read along. It’d be like a DVD commentary. Except on comics. And you’re reading. And I had nothing to do with the creation of the book. But it’s like that.

Avengers #12.1Avengers #12.1 by Brian Michael Bendis and Bryan Hitch ****

Recap page – Hitch’s version of Wolverine’s mask makes him look like a bird. An angry bird. However, I love that you can see a hint of Spider-Woman’s eyes beneath her mask.

Page 6 – “There are 32 alien races living here on planet earth.” – Agent Brand. Does that sound low to anyone else? I see Hitch never got the memo that Beast looks like a cat these days.

Page 9 – We’re lucky that Hitch gets all this leeway to stretch scripts out. If he was actually restricted to the 22 pages other artists are, we’d miss out on great splash pages like this.

Page 11 – Is anyone against those little logos/descriptions some writers use to introduce characters? They’re more graceful than shoving a character’s name in the dialogue. “Something not from earth, Moon Knight,” “We have to hope for the best, Protector.” I’ll admit I didn’t know that was Moon Knight at first glance, but help yourself out. Plus, those intro boxes are pure comic book. There’s a reason Edgar Wright carried them over into “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.”

Page 13 – More clunky names.

Page 14 – The what? Spaceknight? Bendis seems to be going back into and old toybox on this one.

Page 18 – Villains are great. Even the smartest ones forget that Tony Stark is just as smart as they are.

Page 23-24 – Ultron? Sick. Can we get some Hank Pym up in here? Hitch gets a bit weird on his right thigh, but big credit to colorist Paul Mounts on bringing a lot of energy to this spread.

Page 25-26 – Good old Thor. Got a problem? Hit it with a hammer. Nice moment there.

Page 27-28 – Uh … if there was that much destruction, and we see A LOT, you’d have some dead bodies on your hands.

Overall – This was a really exciting issue. This is the kind of thing that can launch an event. The Age of Ultron may be contained within the Avengers title, but it should be big enough to have been an event. This is the best Hitch has looked in years. I wasn’t big on his Fantastic Four or his Captain America: Reborn work, but this is great. I would like to see some more vibrant colors though. A lot of the backgrounds and even characters are very washed out. Art this detailed still needs some pop. Either way, this is a successful .1 issue, but any goodwill from it may be wasted in the months until this storyline continues.

Captain America #617Captain America #617 by Ed Brubaker and Butch Guice, Mike Deodato, and Chris Samnee *****

Page 1-2 – Nazis are a really easy villain. No one cares if you kill a Nazi. Same with robots. Or some aliens (just as the Skrulls). But what about bears? Is this cool or is this animal cruelty?

Page 6 – These little tiny panels at the top? That’s some We3 shit right there. This is a 24 panel page, but reads so easy. I dig it.

Page 8 – Niko? Nick Fury? Or did I miss a character named Niko?

Page 9 – Nope. Not Fury.

Page 10 – Butch Guide is doing some real great design work here. Tiny moments, tiny panels. Events overlapping. I’d say it’s cinemetic, but really, it’s comics.

Page 18 – I knew there was a Steve Rogers feature starting soon, but I didn’t expect Black Widow. Sweet.

Page 20 – I like the style Deodato’s trying out here. It’s still got the shadows he’s known for, but his characters are much less chiseled, so it looks more fluid. Good to see he’s still not afraid to take a weird angle to tell the story, like in the shot directly above the desk.

Page 24 – Oh, Chris Samnee. You’re great.

Page 26 – A few pages back, Natasha got Steve on the phone. Now we see his side of the conversation. Nice job tying the stories together, Bru.

Page 30 – Damn, I’m really going to be sad when Steve gives up his Super-Solider outfit. That thing’s great.

Captain America has been a consistently good book since Ed Brubaker’s run started. But with each month expanding to 30 pages of his story and the storylines getting bigger and better in anticipation of the movie, there couldn’t be a better time to be a Cap fan.

Also, I just looked up Ursa Major, the bear from pages 1-2. I guess he’s a mutant that can shapeshift to a bear. Nothing to see here. Move along.

Detective Comics #876Detective Comics #876 by Scott Snyder and Jock ****

Cover – Yeah, I’ll start early on this one. I love it. It may not stand out on the shelf, but how many covers have the reader inside the mouth of a damn sea beast? The benday dot coloring is great too.

Pages 2-3 – They set me up to think a bomb was going to go off on this page turn. They got me. I expect kablam, I get Shamu. A check out the way Jock plays with perspective. Try to find a perpendicular line.

Page 6 – Uh … Dick? Should you really be cutting that dead whale open? What expertise do you have in marine biology?

Page 7 – Dialogue is a weird thing. You want it to sound authentic, but you often need to clue your readers in on information that may not naturally come out in conversation. Writers try their best to fit it in, and  Scott Snyder usually does. But here, Commish is just a bit dramatic. “As in Anthony ‘Fats’ Zucco” DUN DUN DUN “The man who killed your parents.”

Page 10 – Eww. Another reason to hate whales.

Page 11 – Excellent page. I won’t even try to explain. Just check it out.

Page 12 – Right here, in the narration, Dick says Zucco killed his parents. If it was going to be said in the issue already, there was no need to jam it in the dialogue a few pages back.

I didn’t have too much say about this issue, but that’s not a bad thing. Scott Snyder is giving readers a great Batman story and his artists have been giving it their all. Even if you’ve been jaded by too many mediocre Batman stories in the past, check this out. Who knows when Detective Comics will be this good again.

Flash #11Flash #11 by Geoff Johns and Francis Manapul **

Page 1 – Oh no. Scott Kolins art. It’s not Kolins’ fault. He’s great, especially on Flash. It’s the coloring. When this style is laid upon Manapul’s art, it looks classic. Here, characters look plastic and lifeless. Not to mention it’s a lot darker than it needs to be, which could always be a printing problem. Working in advertising, I understand that 100%.

Page 6 – Pages like this are why I respect Kolins. Look at the details in the apartment – the rug, the pillows, the junk on the table behind Iris. But, why does everyone look squinty here (except Bart who looks ready to punch Barry in the face)? Speaking of Bart, he looks too much like the witness kid from the beginning of the issue. Both young redheads, and the kid is wearing yellow and red, Kid Flash colors.

Page 8 – I’m not sure if Johns is writing Bart as too self-centered or just whiny. “Barry didn’t come to the picnic because of me!” Wah wah.

Page 10 – Writer, artist, colorists, editors – This just doesn’t seem to be anyone’s issue. If Wally’s talking about being a kid, shouldn’t he be in his Kid Flash uniform? Back then, did they EVER wear red outfits at the same time? And Wally’s line “… I didn’t hope Barry Allen was the Flash — I hoped the Flash was Barry Allen” That’s more than a little melodramatic.

Page 15 – I hate when people in comics talk to themselves. Give them an internal monologue. Better yet, give them someone to talk to.

Page 20 – Well, I was right about the colors of the kid’s clothes. Just looking the wrong direction.

Not a bad issue, not really. But it’s flaws are so clear – overly sentimental writing and art that’s trying to clone what’s been done before, but with different ingredients. I’m still not sure how this will really connect to FlashPoint, but with one issue to go, who’s really going to stop reading now?

Morning Glories #9Morning Glories #9 by Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma ***

Page 2 – I will now welcome guests at my house with “Die alien scum!!!”

Page 11 – “I was warned you might be brainwashed.” Does Jun have someone on the inside?

Page 13 – All this birthtime stuff confuses me. Hisao was born second, at 23:59. That would mean they were both born on May 4, same as all the other students at Morning Glory Academy. So … what’s the problem with Jun?

Page 19 – Uh … so … we’ve haven’t been following Jun all this time? Why doesn’t Jun know who he is?

Page 26 – Wow, I never would have realized there were extra pages in this issue. ANYWAY, wasn’t Abraham the guy that discovered Zoe? Could he be the inside man?

There isn’t any real progress in this issue, but there’s some backstory that has already been proven important. That and a couple of twists and you’ve got a basic issue of Morning Glories. Next month: Jade. At C2E2, I told Nick Spencer that she was my favorite. It sounds like I’m the only one. Red-headed emo girls? Sign me up!

Spider-Girl #6Spider-Girl #6 by Paul Tobin and Clayton Henry ***

Recap page – I like that the frame of this page is an iPad. Seeing where the recap is made up of @The_Spider-Girl‘s tweets, it’s a nice tie in. It also doesn’t hurt that I love my iPad.

Page 1 – We’re back to Clayton Henry’s art. Now that the darker story is over, the darker art is as well. Nice.

Page 4 – Pop culture references … I appreciate it now, but will anyone know what Community was in 10 years? 5 years?
Henry’s art has clearer emotions than Southworth’s. That’s a good thing.

Page 8 – The real inciting incident for this series has been the death of Anya’s father. Since then, the Fantastic Four has lost someone as well. She goes to hang out with them, but we’re not going to comment on this?

Page 9 – I may have dropped Amazing Spider-Man from my subscription list, but it is nice to see the books tying together in regards to Phil’s crush on Norah.

Page 14 – Henry throws in a nice easter egg. “D-Man: Turn Off the Trash” I like it. Does the fact I like that conflict with my ambivalence on the Community reference?

Page 16 – It’s sad that Spidey shows little faith in Spider-Girl.

Page 21 – Faith which she totally deserves. There’s a narrative leap here. Hobgoblin is knocked out, but 4 panels later, escapes. It couldn’t have been thirty seconds. Spider-Man’s watching the whole time. We never see him even get up or get untied. Throw us a bone here. Focus on storytelling.

Page 22 – Spider-Man’s been more or less encouraging of Anya in the past, yet he criticizes her again, despite the fact that she’s now defeated numerous foes. This selective support doesn’t play well with me.

With its impending cancellation, Spider-Girl has some exciting ground to cover in the next couple months. If you’ve been reading up until this point, there’s no reason to stop now.

__

So what do you think about live reviews? Interesting? Failure? An interesting failure? Let me know. Maybe I’ll do this again sometime.

The Shopping List 2-23-11

Last week I complained about a couple books. They weren’t good. That’s what I do. The good thing about that, as a reviewer, is that I can find things to say. This week was different. It was a lot of … OK books. Good, but not standout. Except for one. It was a week of good series, with new issues of Cap and Iron Man on the stands. Which was was the five star review?

Zoe Doesn't Know

You’ll just have to read and see.

Captain America #615 Captain America #615 by Ed Brubaker and Butch Guice, Sean McKeever and Pepe Larraz ****

Captain America is one of the few books I read where the bad guys regularly get a few ticks in the win column. After all, the Red Skull’s plot to kill Steve Rogers worked. And in this issue the (new) Red Skull fulfills her plan to give Lady Liberty a black eye. The only problem is that Sin is doing that ridiculous villain thing where she has the perfect opportunity to put a bullet in a hero’s head, but chooses to not take it … yet! Lame. Although Bucky, Steve, Sharon, Sam and Natasha make a good team. I wouldn’t want to lose anyone.

Ob the art front, best I can tell, the multiple inkers on this book divided the book by scene, which helps offer some consistency. Certainly better than recent months.

“The Trial of Captain America” wraps up here, even if I did have to look up what “commuting a sentence meant.” There’s an interesting turn in the final minutes of the trial, which gives way to an even better cliffhanger. Going on seven years of great stories, Captain America shows no signs of slowing down.

This issue also contains the last of the Nomad backups. I’ve been more friendly to these eight-pages than some reviewers. I’ll admit that Rikki’s stories don’t fit in with the book’s main content, but I’ve enjoyed them enough. Sean McKeever uses this last opportunity to put a cap on his Nomad sequence (Cap #600, the Nomad miniseries, these backups) with Rikki coming to terms with her place in this new world and even relishing in it. Good for her. With Filipe Andrade on Onslaught Unleashed, Pepe Larraz shows up on art. He’s got a fun, exciting style that fits the young and reckless nature of the Girl without a World. The strip may be done, but I hope to see his work again.

Detective Comics #874Detective Comics #874 by Scott Snyder and Francesco Francavilla ***

Part of me understands DC’s 20 pages for $2.99 initiative, but this issue sure is one of the growing pains of the change. The last portion of the Commissioner Gordon backup takes up the first nine pages, but the rest of the issue quickly shifts to follow Batman and Red Robin and there’s not much to that story. More or less it’s a bridge to the upcoming “Hungry City.”

The first section is odd. I have no history with James Jr., so the conversation about his past is lost on me. He did some bad things? It’s creepy that he’s back, but nothing really happens. I’ve applauded recent Spider-Man issues for planting future plot threads in its backups, but moving those seeds to the beginning feels strange. I want to tell Snyder not to bury his lead, but I can’t really find the lead anyway.

I hate to say it, but I don’t appreciate Francavilla’s work on the Batman sequences as much as I have on the Gordon ones. To his credit, he does some interesting layouts: the two-page spread that uses the silhouette of a bat as panel borders and the final page, with Commish in an outline of his son. Remind me of J. H. William’s work on this same title. You know, if JH3 used a thick brush and limited color palette.

It’s an awkward transitional issue. Mostly moving parts around, without moving them too much. Check it out, if only for Francavilla’s art.

Invincible Iron Man #501Invincible Iron Man #501 by Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca ***

At first, I thought of this issue as a disappointment. After all, I’ve loved the past two issues. But going over it again, Fraction and Larroca give us some good stuff here.

I’ve never found Matt Fraction’s Tony Stark to be that close to the guy portrayed by Robert Downey Jr. Obviously, comics Tony has been though a lot more. Alcoholism, Civil War, it all came together to make Tony a more serious guy. But since being reassembled, Tony seems to be enjoying life. Fraction’s got him on talk shows and engaging in a little wacky wordplay with Pepper and even giving Doc Ock some verbal jabs. That helps make #501 more fun than the past couple issues have been. And I always like seeing new matches of good guy/bad guy. Why wouldn’t a criminal, sick of being beaten up by the same guy go fight someone else? Here, Doc Ock and a couple famous cronies take it to Iron Man. It helps these old characters feel fresh.

Lorroca impressed me with the flashback style he used in #500.1 and again here. I don’t know any better, but I want to call it European-influenced. He is Spanish, so maybe I’m right. But the modern-day pages are a still a bit off. I have some problems with Sal’s work anyway, but his action scenes with Stark out of the suit are too stilted.

#501 is another solid issue. A bit of a holding pattern, but in another few months, I’m sure the stakes will skyrocket as we launch into Fear Itself.

Morning Glories #7Morning Glories #7 by Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma ***

Zoe! More than meets the eye! After an introductory arc that focused mainly on Hunter and especially Casey, and then an issue featuring almost none of the kids I’m excited to see someone else in the spotlight. I can’t wait for Jade’s issue. She’s more my type.

Spencer’s dialogue in the flashback sequence is a little wonky, with odd slang and clunky portmanteaus, but it’s nice to see him making an effort to show that these kids are not what they once were – normal kids. Although, I wouldn’t call high-schoolers with rape fantasies normal either.

Speaking of which, this book sure has some heavy content. And what’s the deal with Spencer being allowed to say “cunt” but not “fuck?” I believe Image is mostly hands off with that sort of thing, so maybe that’s how he scripted it? Awkward.

Joe Eisma continues his consistently excellent art. He’s defined a look and luckily, since it’s a creator-owned project, we don’t have to put up with any substandard fill-ins. It’s a dialogue-heavy issue, but he never relies on still cameras or repeated panels. It’s appreciated. Hopefully, I can get a sketch at the upcoming C2E2.

For seven issues now, the mysteries of Morning Glories Academy get twistier and twistier. I wonder how long this book is planned for. I’m in no rush for it to end, just wondering how far down the rabbit hole we can go before we have to climb up.

Amazing Spider-Man #655Amazing Spider-Man #655 by Dan Slott and Marcos Martin *****

Dan Slott has said if you only buy one of his comics, ever, this is the one to buy. I agree. It’s a look at the current state of Spider-Man. It’s a tour through Spidey’s history. It’s a commentary on comics’ revolving door of death. It’s sad. It’s stirring. It’s a beautiful piece of art.

I want to praise Slott up and down, but really I want everyone to read this. Saying anything would spoil it.

Marcos Martin is a gem. His were the only issues of the One More Day era that I actively sought out and I’m glad to see him again. This is his first Big Time issue and he’s already made his mark. He’s saying “This is what I do. No one else does this. I win.” I wonder how many of the ideas come from Slott, but seeing where Ramos and Caselli havn’t do anything similar, I’m going to give Martin the credit. Whether showing the grandeur of an NYC cathedral or the simplicity of holding someone’s hand, he makes you feel it. There’s one spread (you’ll know it when you see it) that must have taken more time to plan than it would have taken most artists to draw.

There are no words. Just buy it.

The Shopping List 1-19-11

Hey kids! How y’all been? Thanks for coming over. I’ve gotten some nice traffic over the past month. Not a day has gone by where I haven’t had at least one visitor. That may not mean a lot to some people, but it’s nice to know that someone’s reading what I write. That said, if you’re the boy or girl who found Bells’ Kitchen by searching for “spider man and the black cat sex image” or “spiderman sexcomic,” I want you to take your computer and …

Tigra thinks you're a pervert.

I’m sure you’ll be able to find your porn somewhere, but it ain’t gonna be here. Thanks. To the books!

Avengers Academy #8Avengers Academy #8 by Christos Gage and Mike McKone ****

Tigra’s never been an interesting character to me. In her old Avengers days, she was all come-ons and purrs. Even when Bendis had the Hood beat her like a tiger-skin rug, I didn’t see much personality in her. Christos Gage has now fixed that. Her reaction to the possibility of the video of her beating going public is very believable and I’m glad to see some follow-up on what could have just been an exercise in building up a villain.

It’s also interesting to see the kid’s reaction. They can give any motivation they want, but by confronting the Hood, they’re getting revenge for their teacher. It’s an odd way to show her respect, but it’s there. Huge respect for Christos Gage for tackling the “Was this a sexual assault” issue. And it love that it’s Hazmat, another female, that points out that it isn’t. Switch the gender of Tigra and it isn’t even a question. If we’re going to treat female heroes the same as males, sometimes the ladies are going to be assaulted. I’m really impressed with Gage’s handling of this.

Mike McKone is back this issue, but turns in a mixed bag. His figures look great, but there are some extreme and some subtle emotions in these pages, and he doesn’t hit all of them. Some faces look great, others don’t match their context. Next month will be McKone’s last on the book, with Tom Raney and personal favorite Sean Chen coming up. We’ll see where this all takes us.

And a little “I’m retarded” kudos to Mike McKone this week. It took me eight issue before I noticed the biohazard symbol in Hazmat’s suit. I thought I had an eye for detail, but I’m retarded.

Invincible Iron Man #500Invincible Iron Man #500 by Matt Fraction, Salvador Larroca, Kano, Nathan Fox and Carmine Di Giandomenico *****

Last month, we had Invincible Iron Man #33. Imagine what issue #34 would be like. Now imagine the book wasn’t renumbering and issue #500 came out some 40 years from today. Put those two issues together and Matt Fraction and a quartet of artists give you the best issue of the series for far.

It’s a very clever issue, showing how the present affects the future without being another time-travel story. Fraction gets to do some world building, giving Tony not only a son, but also a granddaughter. Much like the Immortal Weapons, Ginny Stark is a character I would love to read a one-shot or even miniseries about.

The issue also gueststars Spider-Man. It should come as no surprise to anyone who has read the Sensational Spider-Man Annual Fraction did with Larocca a few years back, but Fraction writes a great Spider-Man. With Peter spouting off lines like “My therapist said beating up teenagers is good for my self-esteem,” it’s good times. I have no desire to see Dan Slott leave Amazing, but I bet Fraction could write some sweet back-ups.

This massive issue features four artist over its 56 pages. Larocca’s pages are standard fare. I’ve often complained about his character’s faces. Hidden behind a mask, his Spider-Man is outstanding.

Fresh off the Mandarin-focused Invincible Iron Man Annual, Carmine Di Giandomenico reprises his role here on the Manadrin/Tony pages. His art needs the right setting, like the Battlin’ Jack Murdock miniseries and yes, the Mandarin. He’s great.

I’m not as hot on Nathan Fox’s pages, which focus on Howard Stark II. They’re cluttered and messy in that Paul Pope way. These are new characters, which can be hard to identify, but the biggest problem is the coloring. The panels don’t have enough contrast and it’s very hard for your eyes to focus or flow through the panels easily.

My artistic hero of the issue is Kano. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that his sequence, that of Ginny Stark, is my favorite. His thin lines and simple figures give you the essential information without bogging you down in details like Fox does. I’ve liked his work on Gotham Central and Iron Fist. I only hope his work impressed Marvel as much as it did me.

I want to do a little geek math here. If Howard Stark II is going to be 41 in 41 years, he needs to be born this year. I can’t believe that Fraction didn’t do the math in his head, so should we start expecting a Pepper Potts pregnancy? On another picky note, how is Howard the second? He could be Anthony the second, but Howard? That’s not how Jr.’s and III’s work.

Invincible Iron Man #500 is a great issue of a great series. All you need is the base man-in-a-metal-suit knowledge to follow along. I loved this issue and beg you to give it a shot.

Morning Glories #6Morning Glories #6 by Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma ***

Morning Glories #6 issue is a bit of an odd duck. Only six issues in and Nick Spencer has the confidence to write an entire issue without any of the kids. Instead, this issue is more focused on building the mystery of Morning Glory Academy. It sure is a curveball. It gives some information, though not necessarily answers, about that spinning cylinder in the academy basement and suggests the possibility of time travel. The ideas in this book are still growing. It’s nice to see and keeps me coming back. Spencer has always said that he knows this series all the way to the end. It’ll be fun to review where we’ve been every couple arcs to see the seeds that were planted right in front of our eyes. For now, I’m content with his hints and smart dialogue.

This issue doesn’t give Joe Eisma anything too exciting to draw, he holds his own. With an ever-expanding cast and without iconic costumes, it can be difficult to keep everyone in a new comic straight. Luckily, Eisma’s pencils have the level of consistency a book like this needs.

With a new arc starting next month and a new lower price point, this is as good a time as any to get on board Morning Glories.

Scarlet #4Scarlet #4 by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev **

Four issues and 16 dollars into Brian Bendis and Alex Maleev’s newest venture, I’m done. The idea of a female Punisher-in-development is interesting, but there’s not enough here. Months ago, Bendis commented this issue would be a game-changer. I don’t see it.

Bendis’s noble idea about this whole series – breaking the fourth wall – just amounts to first-person narration, but with the speaker facing the audience. No quite the “I can see you!” from Morrison’s Animal Man.

Another problem is that I don’t buy the inaction of the police force. No one lets Frank Castle run the streets because they’re afraid his arrest will incite a riot. The noble cops, whom she said are safe, should be able to take her down without fear. That’s what a good cop would do. To give credit where it’s due, I appreciate Scarlet’s mom a whole bunch. That’s a real character with rational feelings and reactions.

On the art side, Scarlet doesn’t fare any better. I know Maleev uses models and I know he mainly does his art digitally. But this may be the worst I’ve seen from him. Look at the conversation between Scarlet and Brandon halfway through the issue. It’s my favorite sequence, but it’s marred by ugly art. Brandon’s expressions range from confusion to nausea. His stubble comes and goes. The only culprit I can think is over-reliance on his photos. And the splotchy coloring is just ugly.

These are two high-level talents, but they’re not giving me enough. I gave it a shot, but I’m done with this book.

Amazing Spider-Man #652Amazing Spider-Man #652 by Dan Slott and Stefano Caselli, Fred Van Lente and Reilly Brown

I debated not reviewing Amazing Spider-Man for the second week in a row. Since this “Big Time” era started, the book has been consistently good. Combine that with a biweekly schedule and I’m left with very little to say.

The biggest change this issue comes from a switch in artist. For the second “Big Time” arc, Stefano Caselli picks up his pencil. Slott and Caselli had great chemistry on Avengers: The Initiative, and this is no different. His work is less exaggerated than Humberto Ramos’ was, but there’s a lot to like. Peter may look a bit off in his fruit boots, but there’s not much I like more than a roller derby gal.

Dan Slott and company take great advantage of Amazing‘s ever-changing back up pages. In the past few issues, Alistair Smythe, the Scorpion and Smythe’s insect army were built up, which means this month they can take center stage without spending pages on set-up. The foundation has already been laid. This time, Fred Van Lente and Reilly Brown use the pages to build up the Looter as well as the new Power Man. Expect these two to enter the main story some time soon.

Another artist, another story, but Amazing Spider-Man keeps on truckin’.

X-Factor #214X-Factor #214 by Peter David and Emanuela Lupacchino ***

About six months ago, Gail Simone wrote a cowboy-centric done-in-one issue of Secret Six. Now it’s Peter David turn.

After becoming some sort of death god and leaving the team last issue, Darwin gets drunk off a cactus, fights a dragon, stumbles onto an old movie set, and gets shot by Rahne’s son. Yeahbuhwhat? You just gotta read it.

It’s a nice western tale drawn gorgeously by Emanuela Lupacchino. I can easily see her career taking a path similar to Nicola Scott. Scott was so good on Birds of Prey and Secret Six that she got moved up to the big leagues. Or, you know, whatever level Titans is these days. I don’t know how they found her, but she’s a real talent.

If you had told me five years ago that I’d be reading an issue starring Darwin that takes place in an old west setting, I wouldn’t have believed you. Moreover, I wouldn’t believe you that I’d enjoy it this much. But, here we are. From Brubaker’s Deadly Genesis to Uncanny X-Men and now X-Factor, our boy Armando has been through a lot. I don’t know how this will all fit into the larger X-Factor picture, but in PAD I trust.

The Shopping List 12-22-10

Look who’s updating on Monday! The day I always want to update on! Woot.

Small week this week, but some of my favorite book next week : Flash, Captain America and new additions like Detective Comics and Spider-Girl. And if you’ve got any questions or recommendations, drop a comment. They’re always appreciated. See you later!

Zoe Can't Hardly Wait

Invincible Iron Man #33Invincible Iron Man #33 by Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca **

I was all excited last month when Tony left Pepper and Rhodey behind to save the day by himself. I was wrong. He was just running away so Maria Hill and General Babbage (who?) could save the day. It’s an idiot plot (if Stark wasn’t an idiot and accepted help, this could have been wrapped up issues ago) but that’s the point. Stark’s insistence of having everything on his shoulders is getting him into trouble. I can’t wait for it to bite him in the ass.

When “Stark Resilient” was first being discussed, Matt Fraction said it was going to be an eight-issue arc. This is part nine. And it shows; not enough happens in this issue. It opens with an exciting Tony and Detroit Steel chase scene through Seattle, but the narration needlessly recaps the last eight issues. Then we get the Hill/Babbage anti-climax. After that’s wrapped up, Rhodey gets a promotion (Iron Man 2.0 in stores soon!). Then it takes four pages to get Zeke Stane out of jail. Then we get a commercial for Stark Resilient. The events aren’t connected enough, so it feels like Fraction is setting things up and treading water before next month’s issue #500 rather than a telling real story.

There’s no closure here, but that doesn’t mean it’s not interesting. Detroit Steel is rendered useless by bureaucracy, but ther will have to be a showdown soon. Stane is released from jail and reunited with girlfriend Sasha Hammer, who introduces her father, The Mandarin (Whaaaa?). I already mentioned the plug for the upcoming War Machine book. This is one of the best books month to month, so I’m excited to keep reading, but after nine months, I want to feel like something has been accomplished.

The silver lining on the issue is the Jamie McKelvie drawn “Good Morning, Tony.” Stark lives a busy life and we see it here from sunup to sundown. Like the “Wolf Like Me” issue of Phonogram 2: The Singles Club, it’s told without dialogue. Jamie McKelvie is love.

Morning Glories #5Morning Glories #5 by Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma ***

Issue five opens with a new administrator, a Mr. Gribbs, giving one of the students (the person is hidden) a speech about youth, the school, their destiny, all kinds of stuff. It’s a good monologue, deepening the mystery of the academy, while illustrating the level of their belief and their cruelty. Speaking of deepening mysteries, Spencer acts as if it’s no thing, but Casey’s level of planning and contingency planning hints at a past much deeper than her blonde bombshell looks suggest.

Each issue, the events Joe Eisma draws get stranger and stranger. This month, a ghost presses his hand through a man’s head. As strange as things get, his art is always good enough that we understand what’s happening. His panel layouts also demonstrate the proximity of danger. Like a spidey-sense tingling, panels lose their 90º angles as danger approaches. It’s a nice, almost subliminal touch.

Issue six will wrap up the fist storyline for Morning Glories. The next month will bring the first trade and issue #7 at a reduced price point. Seems like the perfect time to jump on doesn’t it?

Zatanna #8Zatanna #8 by Paul Dini and Cliff Chiang ****

I like Paul Dini. His Detective Comics run was a good read and Batman: The Animated Series is a feat yet to be duplicated.

I like Zatanna. Her conflicts since Identity Crisis have been very interesting. Her Seven Soldiers series was one of the weakest, but still, good character.

I love Cliff Chiang. He does some of the best convention sketches out there. He drew one of J. Micheal Stracynski’s most memorable (and problematic) issues of The Brave and The Bold.

So when these three things came together in the perfect storm of Zatanna #8, I had to give it a shot. I’m glad I did. Part one of “Pupaphobia” is a great read. For reference, pupaphobia is the fear of puppets, not … that.

Chiang’s art is a little choppier than usual, but his framing, emotion, personality, and detail are all there. He does some incredible work with body language here. When Zatanna takes no less than six poses on her therapists couch, we see how uncomfortable she is discussing her history with puppets. He also realizes that people don’t all wear plain t-shirts and jeans. From Z’s bunny slippers to Jana’s necklace, his characters’ wardrobes show their personalities. So yeah, Cliff Chiang. Thumbs up!

Not that it’s hard to make puppets creepy, but Dini does not disappoint either. Zatanna is rarely a star player, but he gives her some believable backstory from which this plot can grow. This is my first issue of Zatanna, but between Jana, Mikey, and the magic community, I believe and appreciate her supporting cast. It’s nice to be able to drop in this late in the game and not feel lost.

I’ll definitely be back for the rest of the story, but Dini does have some work to do to keep me interested once Cliff Chiang moves on.

The Shopping List 11-10-10 and 11-17-10

Lots of book. Little time. Here we go.

Avengers: The Children's Crusade #3Avengers: The Children’s Crusade #2 by Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung

– Heinberg writes great dialogue. Here, he writes too much. The issue is full of talking and debates and arguments and only one action of consequence.
– Cheung is taking his sweet-ass time on this book. I’m glad he is. It looks great.
– Once again, the schedule is killing the momentum on this book.
– I love Magneto and Quicksilver. I think they’re great characters on their own, but their relationship, especially here, really pushes them to a new level.

The Flash #6The Flash #6 by Geoff Johns and Francis Manapul

– “The Dastardly Death of the Rogues” wraps up a little too easily here. Spinny, spinny, rewrite the future, change how a police department is run.
– Johns gives his characters great, unique personalities.
– Manapul is good. Colorist Brian Buccelato makes him amazing.
– Now that this arc is done and Scott Kolins is coming on for a few issues, maybe the book will get back on schedule. More Johns Flash? Yay!

Morning Glories #4Morning Glories #4 by Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma

– This book is a delight every time it comes out.
– Now that the characters have all been introduces, Spencer can start placing them together, letting their relationships build. I think most geeks will relate to Hunter. I know I do.
– Ooh! The plot thickens!
– Eisma’s art has smoothed out again. It looks great.

Amazing Spider-Man #648Amazing Spider-Man #648 by Dan Slott and Humberto Ramos

– This is kind of exactly what I want in a Spider-Man book.
– I’ve never liked Humberto Ramos’ art. Runaways was close though. Here, it perfectly fits the energetic pace of Slott’s script.
– The issue has about 10 plots. Instead of cutting between each, they are dealt with one by one. You may think it would come off as disjointed, but it works. If these are the stories Slott is going to tell, I’m interested.
– Spider-Girl prologue! Yay!

Spider-Gril #1Spider-Girl #1 by Paul Tobin, Clayton Henry, and Dean Haspiel

– It’s nice to see Anya land on her feet after the cancellation of the great Young Allies.
– I wish the industry could have supported this book with the name “Araña.” It reeks of changing a book to suit the industry rather than the story.
– This book is the Marvel equivalent of Batgirl. That’s a good thing. It’s fun. It’s exciting. It will live and die by its name-recognition and guest stars.
– Clayton Henry draws an amazing range of emotions. He’s a real talent.
– Anytime I get to complain about the cancellation of Young Allies I’m going to take it.

Superior #2Superior #2 by Mark Millar and Leinil Yu

– A bit of a let-down. I know Millar loves the Superman archetype. Now do something new with it.
– Yu’s pencils are beautiful (just look at those pages in the backmatter), but the colors are too splotchy. It looks like Superior has a rash.
– This book has exactly what Nemesis doesn’t: heart. The only emotions in that book are anger, rage, wrath, blah blah.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1 by Nick Spencer and Cafu **

– I bought this based on Nick Spencer and good reviews. After the incredible debut of Morning Glories, this falls flat.
– I’m not sure who is going to be the real protagonist(s?) here and the plot is a bit overthought.
– The big hook is the that the agents are given super-powers that will eventually kill them. But Spencer doesn’t show enough (if any) of the characters who would take such a deal.
– Cafu’s art is clean and Santiago Arcas’ colors give some eerie realism. They’d make a great fill-in if Salvador Larocca needed a break on Iron Man.

Thunderbolts #150Thunderbolts #150 by Jeff Parker and Kev Walker

– This issue feels like a book. For $5, you get a 40-page main story, an 8-page “Thunderbolts Saga,” and a 38-page reprint of Thunderbolts #1. Almost double the standard cost of the book, but well worth it.
– A pared-down cast results in some great conflicts and better outcomes. Tony Stark disarms Ghost with no punches or repulsor rays, just words. Clever.
– It’s nice to see Kev Walker back. If his art has always been this good, I’ve got to do some back issue searching.
– I know people complain about anniversary issues containing reprint content, but this had something going for it; I had never read the story. Despite knowing the plot, specifically the twist ending, I was surprised how much I enjoyed the story. It’s a bit wordy and Bagley’s art is not as clean as it would be on Ultimate Spider-Man, but very enjoyable.

X-Factor #211X-Factor #211 by Peter David and Emanuela Lupacchino

– Last issue, all the shit of the past few issues launched fanwards. Here, it splays all about Las Vegas. Three words: Undead Viking Henchmen.
– David’s best skill is his character interactions. Bringing prim and proper Thor and the motley crew of X-Factor Investigations together should be brilliant.
– I can’t wait to see where Emanuela Lupacchino ends up next. She’s so good. At NYCC, regular X-Factor artist Valentine DeLandro told me he would understand if they dropped him from the book and put here on full-time. (I’ve heard no plans to do so.)

Sorry for limiting this post to simple bullets points, but you know, life happens. Big week this week. Cap, Iron Man, Ultimate Spider-Man #150, and my girl Batwoman. Woot.

The Shopping List 10-20-10

It’s Wednesday. i’ve got some free time. May as well knock these reviews out while they’re fresh in my mind.

Another note before I begin: My comics enjoyment has really increased since dropping a few titles. It’s just nice to look and the pile and not expect a stinker in the bunch.

Dakota North. Ass kicker.

Daredevil #511Daredevil #511 by Andy Diggle and Roberto De La Torre ****

I always focus on the supporting cast of books like Captain America and Invincible Iron Man, but these Shadowland tie-ins have certainly shown the strength of secondary and tertiary characters like Foggy Nelson (risking life and limb to save his friend), Dakota North (kicking some ass) and Becky Blake. And of course, past issues have spotlighted Elektra and Master Izo. Matt Murdock/Daredevil only appears on one page of this issue, but it was still a great read.

All the tension in Hell’s Kitchen is coming to a head. One issue of Shadowland, one issue of Daredevil left and 10 years of great DD stories are over. Please, please, please let it end well.

Despite a lack of heroic action, De La Torre turns in a striking, emotion issue. I love the spaces he leaves in his black inked areas. They add dimension and allow some color to shine through. They’re a nice touch.

Morning Glories #3Morning Glories #3 by Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma ****

Issue three of the industry’s newest surprise hit starts with a flashback. It appears some of the mysteries in Morning Glories have been going on for centuries. It’s a short enough sequence that the reader doesn’t get impatient, but connects to the plot enough that I can’t wait to see how this all ties together.

Much of this issue is spent building the cast, adding new students (prisoners) as well as staff at the school. It succeeds in expanding the world of the book, but Jun, Zoe and Hunter are nowhere to be found. Not a problem necessarily, but this early in the run, I’d hate to see half the main cast left behind.

Joe Eisma’s art is starting to look a bit uneven. Depending on the page and even panel, characters are smooth, then jagged and back again. Luckily, Alex Sollazzo’s colors keep everything balanced.

X-Factor #210X-Factor #210 by Peter David and Valentine De Landro *****

Writers of a team books could take a lesson from X-Factor. Rather than cram all the characters into one story, or split 22 pages 7 ways (my complaint to Matt Fraction a few weeks ago) Peter David allows the group to fracture and deal with their conflicts themselves. Many books would follow one plotline to its conclusion, then have an issue between arcs to catch us up on the other characters. But by taking a break from the great, great Vegas story, David ensures that we don’t forget about Rahne and Rictor. Speaking of Rahne, it’s great to see her laughing after the brood-fest that was X-Force.

There’s some big laughs and big drama here. And it’s stuff I’ve never read in a hero book before. Love it.

De Landro does his own inks here and I really like the results. Yes, the thicker lines can make mouths look a bit off, but details like clothing and environments look great.

A trimmed pull-list means some high-ranking books. Yay!

The Shopping List 9-15-10

This was a quality not quantity week. Here we go:

Morning Glories #2Morning Glories #2 by Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma ****

The least I can say is that you should buy this book. Your shop may have issue two in stock. If not, a second printing is coming. And the third printing of issue one came out this week as well.

What you want me to say more? OK.

of the Glories (I guess we’re going to call them that, even if the book doesn’t?) acts like a normal person. Whether being questioned by a teacher or locked in a room filling with water, they argue, they panic, they each have their own reactions but they are all real. Nick Spencer is also doing something right with the staff of Morning Glory Academy. As a reader, I still don’t know their goal, but it’s not bothering me yet. That’s because in each scene, there is still something concrete that they want, even if it’s to have one of the student’s answer a question. This is how you handle mysterious circumstances. Each

Artist Joe Eisma has to be given equal credit for the characters’ clear personalities. Even if they are only in the background, Eisma gives each of the kids something to do like Jade writing or Ike reclining at his desk. That’s how they’ve defined these characters and gotten readers to relate to them so well in only two issues. *clap clap*

Thunderbolts #148Thunderbolts #148 by Jeff Parker and Declan Shalvey ****

The Siege tie-in issues were a killer for Thunderbolts. Of course, the arc also had the task of closing down that chapter in the book’s life, but the main thrust of the arc, the Spear of Odin, was inconsequential, much like the arc itself.

Not here. Rather than find a way the Bolts can fight Daredevil, Jeff Parker finds a side of the story mostly ignored, the prisoners of Shadowland, and giving one of the prisoners a connection to Luke Cage. Luke then sends his team out as, in Moonstone’s words, “his own private death squad.” Something great comes of this, as the leash is taken off and they are allowed to fight undead ninjas without restraint. Man-thing crushing people’s heads. Crossbones with a flamethrower. And it looks this will only continue next month. Woohoo.

Not seeing Kev Walker’s name on the cover was a disappointment, but Shalvey’s work is not a problem. It’s quite good. He sticks to square, easy to follow panels, but varies the layout and sizes to great effect. Reading through the issue again, another thing that sticks out to me is how often he moves the POV in and out of a scene. On page 15, he starts with way back with five figures at different depths. Then an extreme wide shot, an extreme close-up, another wide shot, then a midshot of two characters. Parker does him a favor by never asking him to repeat the same panel, but even when he does, he’ll change the zoom to keep it interesting. Perhaps this is more common than I think, but it caught my attention.

Wow. As I write this, I realize I like this issue even more than I thought. Awesome.

X-Factor #209X-Factor #209 by Peter David and Emanuela Lupacchino****

I was going to start this review by saying that no other X-book, or really any hero book, would ever take a trip to Vegas for gambling, pirate fisticuffs, and stripclubs. Then I remembered why X-Factor is so good: it’s not a hero book. The best storylines haven’t revolved around some megalomaniac trying to take over the world, but people with extraordinary abilities helping people in extraordinary situations. This story is no different. Summarized as much as possible, X-Factor is trying to rescue someone who was kidnapped. But in Peter David’s hands, that simple plot is made so much more interesting.

Emanuela Lupacchino returns on art. She’s a real find. Her linework is filled with details in the Vegas hotels and casinos. And her characters are the distillation of themselves. A trip to the craps table puts Longshot the showoff and Layla the excitable kid on display. And I hate sounding like such a dude, but her Banshee (Siryn) is super hot. And on page 8, Rahne has the best butt I’ve ever seen in a comic. Must be those cheeky underwear.

I’m running out of ways to compliment this book. Read it for yourself.

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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.

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