Friday, March 26, 2010

Episode 69 - I Dig Ragman

This week on Teenage Wasteland...

It is all reviews and comic talk! To make up for last week's lacking, I am bringing the heat this time around and talking about a variety of books. Ragman, mini comics, Jeff Sandquist on The Sandbox....that's only half of it. Dig in!

Books Mentioned
Ragman #1-8
The Deformitory
Lower Regions
Batman: Dreamland
Detective Comics Annual #7
Hellblazer: Pandemonium

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Quick Hit Review: The Red Star #1

Created By: Christian Gossett
Written By: Bradley Kayl
3D Modeling By: Allen Coulter and Jon Moberly
Colors By: “Snakebite”
Letters By: Richard Starkings
Publisher: Image Comics

Image Comics, in my eyes, is the publisher who should be pushing the boundaries in terms of content, production and creator intent. I think this little book from 2000 hit that nail right on the head.

What is interesting about this comic is not so much in terms of story or idea (alternate world, alternate soviet Russia post-World War II), but in the way the comic has been produced. The Red Star is a book created entirely through means of digital expression rather than traditional methods. Now, before this comic book is completely disregarded, I must say that even though this comic relies more on 3D models than actual pencil work, it never really feels that way. There are no blocky, clean figures to be seen, and the actual visual representation has a nice smooth feel that looks like pencil – almost a feel of Pasqual Ferry in style (it is possible that there was some pencil work to lay the base of the art, but from the credits I read I only see, “3D Modeler” no “Penciled By”). The book is visually pleasing to say the least with its use of clean line and many wide shots – very cinematic in visual presentation.

The book is also very well written and constructed in terms of story. As mentioned: cinematic. The opening scene of the book is paced very well (a transition from a wide shot to give the scope and tone of the world, a very large concept, to a very small instance of a personal letter to give the audience a perspective). That transition, that way to bring the reader in is something I really appreciated because it shows to me that there are two important sides to this book: a single character and her journey and a larger world that provides the surface hook. It is great to see that sense of pacing and organization because with this type of project (big splash pages, heavy visuals), most of the time story structure and flow is left secondary.

It seems to me that this was a book looking at the future of comic book production, and maybe it tried to “usher that in” with the turn of the century. But, in the context of today, this book may have just been a bit ahead of its time.

If you dig steampunk or historical fiction, I am sure you will dig The Red Star.

Rating: 5/5

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Quick Hit Review: House of Mystery #22

Written By: Matthew Sturges, Bethany Keele, William Keele and Peter Keele
Pencils By: Lucca Rossi and Farel Dalrymple
Inks By: Jose Marzan Jr.
Colors By: Lee Loughridge
Letters By: Todd Klein
Publisher: Vertigo

The House is under “new management” in part two of this four part tale, but the formula of this book still feels just the same.

As someone who gives Vertigo the benefit of the doubt on many occasions, it is time for me to face facts - I have stuck with this series probably longer than I should have. But before I hit on that point further, let me talk about the actual single issue at hand. I did actually like this one particular issue. As a twenty-two page comic book I cannot find fault on Mr. Sturges or the crew. There is a nice flow for this issue, and the balancing act between the head story and the frame is actually pulled off nicely. I understand what the creative team has been going for with the frame stories (the frames act as a way to comment on the said theme or main situation of the main story through use of metaphor), but I think in very few instances they have pulled it off. The frame does work in this issue though because it is actually more of a flashback for our main character, naturely connecting to the main story. For the fact that Sturges is not trying to stretch and get a bit fancy with the frame, and leans more toward the flashback angle, I think he is able to make it work with the overall story.

I would also say that there were a few nice character moments in this issue. There is a nice opening scene with the troll Tursig in which Sturges focuses on his issues of being a homosexual troll in a world not so tolerant – a well done scene all around. I also quite liked the scene between Algernon and the two ghosts for the fact that it creates some conspiracy and humanizes what has been a pretty two-dimensional character.

So, all around, a pretty good issue…but it is only one of many. As mentioned, I have been reading this one from the start with the mentality of “Oh, it’s Vertigo…it’ll pick up”. Honestly though, I have not been satisfied by much of this series because with every issue I felt I was getting more of the same thing: too many questions, scene changes and story concepts met with average execution. For a series to have the reader questioning, it is not a bad thing. I usually like when a series builds questions because those questions are what draw me back each month to continue reading. But, in the case of House of Mystery, I feel that the questions present are ones you do not want to have. Namely, what is the purpose of this book? Is it to explore these characters? If so, not doing a great job…more there in a second. No, seriously though, what is the point? Whenever an ongoing story begins – especially a Vertigo story – I like to have the point or the direction somewhat labeled within the first story arc. The idea (or ultimate goal) allows a reader to build a connecion with the work. I feel House of Mystery has not set any goals or really given any reason as to why it should be read. I feel like after twenty-two issues I have a very limited idea of the series purpose, and without that sense of direction my care for the project seems to lack.

If the point is character study, then the characters may want to be defined a bit more. A major heartbreak of this series is none of the characters offer up any reason as to why they do what they do. Every single one of them walks as a two-dimensional figure with no purpose or visible motivation. Yes, they are all stuck in this house and, yes, they all have tormented pasts, but does that explain why two specific characters fall in love? No. If so then all of these characters would love each other because they all originate from a similar setting. No, there are reasons why these characters act the way they do, yet Sturges and crew never really distinguish them. The creative forces leave these figures behind a veil as they rush something. All I want is to understand what makes these characters tick, so when they finally commit an action their motivation is clear. Maybe if the book had an opportunity to slow down, instead of jumping from the main story, to the frame, back to the main and then covering the entire cast, the author and the reader would have a chance to define the characters and the series itself and build a connection. Again, what is the point of reading if their is not a connection between the audience and the material? The characters of a story should be the relatable factor, and House of Mystery fails in that catagory.

Yes, number twenty-two was good, but at this point in the game, after plenty of poor attempts, I have lost my overall interest. After twenty-two issues I feel like I barely know the characters, the situation and the point. After twenty-two issues I feel like this series has lacked some serious steam. After twenty-two issues, I am calling it quits. Next time I will put into action that “six issue” rule on a Vertigo book.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Episode 68 - Nic Klein Kicks it on Viking

This week on Teenage Wasteland...
The past seven days have been an accumulation of light reading, but join in anyway as I run down some listener feedback and discuss some of the news items from the Emerald City Comic Con. And, do not fear, I do have one review for you as well does Mr. Jeff Sandquist with his installment of The Sandbox.
Book Discussed
Viking #1-5

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Quick Hit Review: OMAC #5 (1975)

Written and Drawn By: Jack Kirby
Inked and Lettered By: D. Bruce Berry
Publisher: DC Comics

Take some wacky, comic book awesomeness and throw in a hardcore mohawk, and you have a peice of Kirby's prime: OMAC - One Man Army Corps.

Personally, even though I have read so little, I really dig Jack Kirby. Many more could probably elaborate on his idea better than myself, but I will simply say his art is the base for the contemporary medium. Aside from his obvious style, the thing I love about the artwork in this book is the amount of idea, detail and creativity in the backgrounds and in the world. Page 5 for example: a roof-top sanction of multiple guards hidden between the crevices of architecture, holding and aiming a vast assortment of "out-of-this-world" weaponry. Can you say, "awesome"? That is only the start; every panel of this issue packs some sort of visual capture-point that sells to the reader that, "this could only be done in comics". I also love the sense of action and movement surrounding the character of OMAC. Whenever he makes some sort of motion or leap or bound, Kirby illustrates it a way that the reader really feels the energy involved (I LOVE panel 6, on page 11).

Storywise as well: excellent. Kirby may have been an artist first, but the man could certainly construct a captivating story -  this issue spotlighted tells the story of OMAC working a crime organization that captures and sells people for body-transplants. It is a wacky idea, but certainly a fun idea that nontheless entertains a reader. But, do not take it as simple fun either; I think Kirby built in a few moral ideas. Peace Agents? An army, a special squad that does not kill nor harm? Yeah, Kirby is certainly saying something.

Simply, this is some fantastic work. I mean, did you expect anything less from The King?

Rating: 5/5

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Comics Overload = AWESOME!

The topic of "My To Read Pile" can sometimes draw urges of complaining or oppression, but I say bring it on! Look at all the fun I'll have this summer:

Friday, March 12, 2010

Episode 67 - Choker, Ultimate X and a Bit of Business

This week on Teenage Wasteland...

J. Michael Straczynski is set to take on both Wonder Woman and the Man of Steel, and I find it interesting. Plus, a small observation on comic sales and the direct market and a run down of reviews on plenty of Number 1 issues.  And, last but not least, Mr. Sandquist stops by to talk all things Sam Kieth.

Books Discussed
Ultimate X #1
New Ultimates #1
Demo #1
Human Target #1
Choker #1

Download / iTunes / Forum

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Quick Hit Review: Starslayer #19

Written By: John Ostrander
Pencils: Timothy Truman
Inks: Yoho
Colors: Janice Cohen
Letters: Janice Chiang
Publisher: First Comics

A series originally created by Mike Grell, Starslayer projects the tale of a rag-tag space crew and leader Torin Mac Quillon as they rebel and battle against an oppressive regime that now holds Earth under its control.

I believe I have breifly heard of this series from some source, but in all honesty I walked into reading this book with no knowledge of its story, characters, world or purpose. Yet, with all that against me, I must say this book seriously packed a great story. On its surface - when the premise just nips your ears - it may seem like this book would be some throwaway science fiction blunder. John Ostrander has a wonderful talent though, and it is evident in this issue. For me, I love the tone, the mood this book carries, and even though I just walked in, Ostrander forces me to care about the dangers and fear for the outcomes of the characters. Honestly, there's a point in this issue (Mac Quillion vs. Bragg) where I felt that EPIC sensation; that feeling that I had been reading the series all along and I was getting the payoff.

To throw it over to the art side: Timothy Truman is perfect for this kind of story. From Hawkworld to Starslayer, Truman illustrates that "space opera meets the middle age" like no one else. I really love the way he angles his "camera" to show unique glimpses of the characters in their climactic moment.

To offer one small pick though, I got the feeling that this could have almost been the FINAL issue. The scene I mentioned earlier (Mac Qullion vs. Bragg) really gives off that idea because of the apparant relationship between the two characters. These two characters are connected. Their destinies intertwine. This battle doesn't read like any other either; this is THE battle and after a few deadly blows I really began to think that this was the resolution of Mac Quillion's character and the series. But, turn the went on. To me, it just had that excellent finale feel, but then was kind of tainted by the fact that wasn't. Guess they needed another issue, eh?

With the nit-pick or not though, this was a great issue. Wonderfully written and illustrated on both parts. This is a space odyssey I wish to take more of at some point.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Quick Hit Review: Green Lantern:Emerald Dawn #1

Written By: Jim Owsley (Christopher Priest)
Pencils: M.D. Bright
Inks: Romeo Tanghal
Colors: Anthony Tollin
Letters: Albert De Guzman
Publisher: DC Comics

Where did Hal Jordan (Green Lantern) stand in a Post-Crisis world? Green Lantern: Emerald Dawn sets out to tell that tale and fill in those continuity gaps while also updating the character for a contemporary (1989) era.

I understand the role this mini series was meant to play, and I see the purpose of re-telling the origin within it, but honestly I don't think this issue itself worked in the best way to tell the story. Owsley brings you in with an excellent opening scene that feels so very cinematic and captivates: a wonderfully narrated sequence of Hal's father suffering his accident - easily Hal's defining moment as a character. But, it seemed from there to just become the standard - maybe even below. The story begins to revolve more around the supporting cast (Carol, Jack, Andy) than Hal's own presence, and while his character should see some strong development, well...those moments are lacking. Hal does become the center piece once again as the influence of green begins to creep its way in, but at that point it just felt unexciting and really something I had already seen many times before.

Bright's artwork was a nice clean style that worked well, but overall this to me was not a promising start to what should be (in its context) an important Green Lantern story. I'll read the rest at some point...


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Quick Hit Review: Metal Men #48 (1976)

Written By: Martin Pasko
Art By: Walt Simonson
Coloring: Carl Gafford
Letters: Gaspar

Take a classic villain, put him up against a quirky super-team, and you will easily get a fun-filled comic book. That's Metal Men #48 - Eclipso working his diabolical scheme while the Metal Men try to intervene.

It's a story from the Bronze Age of comics, so don't expect a complex story of any means, but the book still packs a fun adventure. I love the Metal Men characters for their quirky interaction, and Martin Pasko seems to nail it in his writing of the issue. Also, do no forget Mr. Simonson; it is an earlier version of his work, but still remains an eye-catcher with a distinct style. 

If this were a modern day book, I may be a bit tougher for the fact that this issue has a lot of plot with very little slow-down time, but again, we are talking about 1976 - in that context the book does what it should. I cannot fault it there. If anything, I may point out where I think a few scene transitions were a bit rough: (a single page shows how the Metal Men land their hover craft, enter a cave, an earthquake occurs and Lead manages to rescue a secret tablot). That's a lot for one page, and the flow is not too smooth. 

Overall though, this was a fun, enjoyable read for a comic book. Find some Metal Men in the back issue bins.


Sunday, March 7, 2010

From WildC.A.T.S. to Today

I had some leisure time today, so I took the liberty to rummage through the infamous backlog of comics I own. What managed to catch my eye was Jim Lee’s own WildC.A.T.S. – issues one, three and four of the original mini series from 1992.

My knowledge of the super-team only roots itself so deep. I know the characters’ names and the premise, but I have not really read any C.A.T.S. comics. I have only witnessed the mediocre television cartoon.

Now, the animation series may have left me cold, but I have to say the comic book counterparts did no such thing. But, let me also stress, the original WildC.A.T.S. mini series is not excellent either. I think this is a case where a book is serviceable to its intended idea. C.A.T.S. is a book about a super-team saving the world depicted in an early 1990s Jim Lee fashion. Could the book have done that job from a Steve Gerber perspective? Sure thing, but the book already carried the idea well enough and got the job done.

I also have to say that I like Lee’s art in all of its muscle-bound, Image-esque, detailed glory. It is not a style I would like to see replicated today – we are past that – but observing the art in the context of its era I quite enjoy it. Lee captures an iconic, statue-like look; his style and others like him at the time are what made Image the success story. It was an artistic look never seen before in American comic books, and it was a movement that easily spawned and influenced contemporary comic book pages.

Now, the early Image stuff usually receives the short end of the stick from most, but for my own personal taste I hold quite a strong interest for Image’s first wave. It is not the fact that the books are exceptionally mind blowing – because they are not in most cases – my fascination just stems from the circumstance of what the Image founders went up against and the insanity that soon followed as success hit (there’s a letter page in WildC.A.T.S. #4 that makes note that Rob Liefeld will be working with Steven Speilberg to write, produce and storyboard a film).

Granted, I did just admit that most of Image’s output at the start was not mind blowing, but at the same rate I do think the hate some of these titles receive is a bit misdirected. Mind blowing? No. Good? Most, I would say, hit the “good” level on the meter. Savage Dragon, Spawn, Stormwatch, Wetworks and yes WildC.A.T.S. are good comic books. The all convey stories, they all entertain and they all showcase substantial artwork – probably the best artwork of the business at its current time. Plus, you need to mention some of the talent the Image Founders brought in: Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Frank Miller and Dave Sim - four men of exceptional talent who worked on four consecutive issues of Spawn that later lead to other projects (Alan Moore on WildC.A.T.S. and 1963).

Was all of Image good at the beginning? No. Sorry Mr. Leifeld, but Youngblood, Brigade and Supreme…I think that is where the bad reputation originates from. A few books, and their clear flaws, managed to condemn an entire line and unrightfully so. The Image Founders may have been artists first and writers second, but for the most part I believe most produced good work in those early days. They were doing what they wanted to do and doing it in new ways. Look where some of them are today because of Image: Jim Lee is the co-publisher of DC Comics, Jim Valentino heads up Shadowline, Todd MacFarlane owns his own company and Erik Larsen continues to pump out Savage Dragon while growing immensely as an artist.

How can anyone hate? They changed comics. Whether it was flawless or not, they changed comics. Respect.

I enjoyed my time with the WildC.A.T.S. issues today: bold 1990s artwork, big super-hero action and the Image Comics seal of approval.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Episode 66 - 1963...Oh, What a Year!

This week on Teenage Wasteland...

A new intro and a bit of business to push out of the way, but quickly after that I pose the question of, "How many younger people listen?". Plus, some thoughts on spending, large reading piles and plenty of reviews. Oh, and don't forget, Mr. Jeff Sandquist talking up the Punisher!

Books Discussed
The Corpse Carries a Gun and Tyrannosaurus Beth #1
Daredevil Vol. 1 #100 and #101
1963 #1-6
The Losers Vol. 1 and 2

Monster Island Media

Download / iTunes / Forum