Friday, April 27, 2007

Weekly Comic Reviews for April 25th, 2007 -- NO SPOILERS

No spoilers because there were no books for me this week. But I have to review something right? Fortunately, I have reviews for Death Note volumes 8 through 11, The Makeshift Miracle, and Will Eisner's The Contract With God Trilogy. Yeah, I was sick for a while and it ended up helping me get some reading done.

Death Note volumes 8 through 11 -- I really don't want to spoil the series for any potential readers so I'll have to be careful here. As the story has progressed it has taken some pretty drastic turns. Some times I kinda felt put off by certain events because I liked how the story was going and the characters. But you really have to be prepared to let any of the characters go at any time. It's kinda tough for a guy who's used to reading North American comics where dead doesn't necessarily mean dead but I see the importance of these events to the story. And in the end, sometimes the ends (in this case, the telling of a compelling story) outweighs the means (sacrificing some characters that readers have become attached to). So enough with the cryptic stuff. The story continues to shift and turn at every opportunity and the suspense builds as Light gets closer and closer to his goal of his "perfect world". I haven't been too ecstatic about the women in the book though and when some characters make comments about how easy it is to use women by playing with their emotions, the knot in my stomach starts to tighten. I wish it was just the raving of a stupid character but so far of the few women that have appeared in the book they haven't really been portrayed very well. I am very eager to read the 12th and final volume of the series when it comes out. I think it's set for a July release and it's going to be a long wait.

The Makeshift Miracle -- The background on how I came about reading this: I've been a lurker on the blog of the writer/artist for this book for a while now. I think I found it via a link on Newsarama when he was talking about how to put a portfolio together. And I would drop by to check out his comments or see his art from time to time. So when he talked about this book, which is a comic he had posted online but has now collected for print, I figured why not give it a read. Gotta support a fellow Canuck after all. :) So as for the review. This is definitely a book that I'll have to give a second read. Not necessarily because it's so great (and that's not to say it's bad) but because it really slaps you upside the head suddenly. It's kinda like those movies with the big ending that you have to re-watch to see how it got to that point. The story seems simple yet weird as you kinda wonder what these characters are thinking when all these events happen. Overall, the story is worth reading in itself as it's quite the magical story with surprising emotion. The art was pretty solid and the style matched the story well but I just felt that something was missing from it. I just can't put my finger on a single overall problem I had with it but it really did have the feel of an amateur webcomic artist without the real punch of a professional. That probably sounds harsh and I really don't mean it to be but that's just what seemed to stick with me as I finished the book. Maybe in a few weeks or maybe even a month or two I'll re-read it. But I'd definitely recommend it for those looking for something a bit different.

The Contract With God Trilogy -- I think more so than the Spirit stuff I read this book shows off Eisner in all his glory. The stories contained in this book are all so meaningful and show the beauty and ugliness of life. Eisner really was a first class storyteller who simply chose "sequential art" to tell those stories and had more than enough talent to tell those stories well. Readers can easily project themselves or those they know on to the characters in each story and see a little bit of their lives told back to them. As we see life on Dropsie Avenue cycle and evolve Eisner paints a history that fills you in a range of emotion from love to hate, happiness to sadness, and joy to sorrow. I really can't say much about this book. It's a masterpiece and a shining example of the comic book/sequential art/graphic novel medium.

So that's it for this week. Looking at next week's list, I should have plenty to review come next Friday. And beyond that, I'll probably be slowing down a bit. Civil War is over and although World War Hulk is coming, I just can't see myself buying too many Marvel books as I really just don't like what they've been putting out. Everyone keeps telling me "Yeah, I dislike their books but I have high hopes that they'll be doing something cool from here." Personally, I've given up that hope I guess as I've been disappointed too many times in the past. And I just can't seem to get myself hooked on any DC characters/books. As for the graphic novels and such, I think I need to slow down a bit with them and get back to reading a few novels and other books that have piled up on my "to read" list. I'll see about getting "From Hell" done and reviewed but no promises. Plus, I'd kinda like to get back to doing some drawing of my own, especially with my new tablet. I think taking these last few months to read a wide range of books has put a bit of a fire under me to finish the trilogy I had planned. I've already said I'd get back to posting pages of Divine Leap on DrunkDuck (though I'll be cutting back to only one page per week). So I really should get going on it. So wish me luck. :)

Friday, April 20, 2007

Weekly Comic Reviews -- April 18th, 2007

Only one book for me this week with the Spirit #5. But fortunately I also got volumes 3 through 7 of Death Note in the mail and I'm already done reading them. And since I'm still sick with a nasty cold, we'll make these reviews short and only include minor spoilers.

The Spirit #5 -- I wasn't really blown away by this issue. It was a fun issue for the most part, the art was solid, and the different characters all remained interesting and unique. But I think the story was something that didn't really work as a full length comic. And I have to say, the "relationship" between Carrion and his feathered-friend was a little bit too friendly for me. It wasn't a strike out but it definitely wasn't a home run. More like a lead off single.

Death Note volumes 3 through 7 -- This series continues to keep me on the edge of my seat. The plot continues to deepen. The life or death battle between just about everyone rages on and the cat and mouse game keeps going even if the cat and mouse change throughout. And the way the narrative changes and you get to see each character's thought process as you go along, it really is a thrilling story to read. Though I have to say that I find Misa Amane just a little too annoying for my taste. Her costumes, her speach, and her personality just rub me the wrong way as she always seems to come across as the cute little sexy bimbo. But on the other hand, she has surprised a few people with her smarts, myself included. I'm eager to see where it goes from here and I have volumes 8 through 10 already in the mail according to Chapters.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Weekly Comic Reviews for April 11th, 2007 SPOILERS

So we have 4 reviews this week plus Death Note Volume 2 and The Best of the Spirit. The 4 books I picked up this week were She-Hulk #17, The Great and Secret Show #11, White Tiger #5, and courtesy of my friends at the local comic shop The Spirit #2 (which they were able to track down for me). So let's get to it shall we.

She-Hulk #17 -- NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! Shulkie, how could you??? I'm still in denial of the whole "sleeping with Juggernaut" thing (just as she seems to be) but .... but... Tony Stark???? NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!! Ok, let's get rational here. She-Hulk has had some questionable flings in the past and Dan Slott has continued it. Sometimes she seems to regret them, sometimes she seems to be in denial, and after this little excursion with Tony it seems she's okay with herself for doing it. She even brings up the whole "Why can Tony Stark do it and be respected as a lady's man while I'm considered a skank?" thing. So maybe that's where Slott is going with this, I just don't know. Though it's kinda funny that she would bring up that double standard as well as the whole "Tony gets to put on his armour while I'm stuck in my underwear" thing. Bringing up the double standard and such while also following it. And I know, my current feelings towards Tony Stark make this one as tough to swallow as the Juggernaut episode. Okay, getting past that now. The art stinks. Yeah, I gotta say it. I can't stand the art. It's not really improving that much and it's just annoying me more than anything. Characters look stretched, distorted and weird. Sometimes they look like 2-D cardboard cut outs and other times they just look awful. Really, the artist is bringing this book down for me. We get to see a bit more of "Project Achilles" (it seems to be some weapon for bringing down some pretty powerful people like the Abomination, Vector, IronClad, Wendigo, etc.) and we get to see SHIELD and Tony's overconfidence nearly cost them as Zzzax almost takes out a SHIELD hellicarrier (and almost gets control of Iron Man's suit but She-Hulk saved his butt). But then there's the big finale, the Nick Fury LMDs that were out of control and attacking She-Hulk were blurting out lines from various storylines that they've appeared in and sure enough the head that She-Hulk was carrying decides to blurt out the lines he said to the Hulk/Bruce Banner as they launched him in to space. And now the muck is about to hit the fan as She-Hulk is about to discover the truth about where exactly her cousin is. And oh yeah, they do have a few pages of Mallory and the others back at the law offices that are somewhat interesting (the first page of the issue is good for a chuckle) but that's not nearly as fun to talk about (yet it probably was more fun to read than She-Hulk's little adventure). Overall, not a bad issue but not the greatest. And the book needs a new artist and fast.

White Tiger #5 -- I enjoyed this issue a bit more than previous ones as there seemed to be a slightly better flow to it and it covered things pretty well. I do kinda wonder about some scenes though. Like right off the bat the Tiger awakens to see her legs invisible (all of her was before she woke up, it's a long story so just read the book) and for the next few panels she's standing around with her legs still invisible. When Daredevil/Danny Rand says she was invisible she makes a comment that it wasn't just her seeing things that her legs were invisible when she regained consciousness. That seemed kinda weird considering it's not like they became visible right away, they seemed to stay invisible for the first half of their conversation. It just seemed odd. I also found it odd that her costume (that I didn't think was linked to her powers) becomes invisible too yet later she discovers her regular clothes don't. And then you get yet another appearance from yet another character, Deadpool. I read they are trying to push the idea of the superhero community and them running into each in such close proximity but I don't know, it just seems so out of place to have Deadpool appear, mistake White Tiger for Black Cat and then take off just as quickly. Having said all that negative stuff, the art actually seemed better and I had fewer issues with it though there were times that characters were drawn in ways that meant the letter balloons had to stretch and contort to point out who's talking while at the same time making it clear the order of dialogue. And the story seems to be coming together a bit better in this issue. And I'm happy with that as we head in to the final issue next month.

The Great and Secret Show #11 -- Another solid issue. It was a little "quiet" as the tension builds for the final issue but that's just the way the story goes. You get a little bit of a calm before the storm. And this calm was well done. Well drawn, well written. Though I do still think the series would be better appreciated (at least by me) if you wait until the series is done and read it in its entirety instead of waiting a month between issues (so you can lose track of all the characters).

The Spirit #2 -- Another fun filled issue. This series is a nice throwback to old-style comics with fun and interesting characters, each with a complex past. Yet it's not so overwhelmingly dark as some comics have gotten. They do a great job of capturing some of the essence of Eisner's work and his characters and it's a solid overall story with great storytelling. I only hope that the movie captures the same essence but I have my fears knowing that Frank Miller is the man behind it. I guess we'll have to wait and see.

The Best of the Spirit -- Having read none of the Spirit archives or anything, this was my first foray into Eisner's work. Wow! I really shouldn't have waited so long. It really is true, this guy was doing work in the 40's that many comic writers/artists couldn't match today. At a time when comics had even less recognition as an art form than they do today, Eisner's The Spirity really is a beacon to what comics could strive to. The stories are short and to the point and maybe one or two of them could benefit from being fleshed out a bit more but all in all, they are great little shorts. Characters are different and unique. So many stories have so many messages to them. I don't know if Eisner really gets the recognition he deserves from the younger (and even some older) comic enthusiasts, he really was one of (if not the) greatest storyteller in the business. I've also picked up his A Contract With God Trilogy and have started reading it as of last night. Eisner is truly a great storyteller and you would be doing yourself a huge favour by setting aside some time to read the Best of the Spirit and truly appreciating what he's done here. I might not be eager to put down the money for the Archive books but this one was well worth it.

Death Note Volume 2 -- I got this volume in the mail on Tuesday when I got home from work. After a trip to the gym, a shower, and some dinner I decided I had to take a break from reading the Best of the Spirit to see what happens next in this story. Well, I couldn't put it down. I finished the volume later that evening (though it didn't take all that long) and was even more eager to get volume 3. The tension builds between Light and L as their little cat and mouse game continues. Though who is the cat and who is the mouse is open for debate. It was interesting that at times I found myself pushing for Light to figure his way out of some situations and it took me a minute to remember that he is killing people, and not just bad people, to achieve his goal. His charm seems to not only work on the characters in the book, but on the reader. Where as L is a little harder to get into. He's secretive and rather weird so I don't really find myself connecting with him that much yet he really is the hero here (in my mind at least). And it's an interesting twist to the characters. And although some of the throw away characters are pretty one dimensional you do get some of the secondary characters that really shine. And you do find yourself being engaged in knowing their fates as well. All in all, I'm really loving this series. So much so that I've ordered the next 5 volumes already. And hopefully I'll have caught up in time to read the final volume (#12) when it comes out.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Stupid doctor or just me? You decide!

So on Tuesday my mother calls me in the middle of dinner. I figure it's another one of her "I just wanted to see how you were doing calls" so I was a little abrupt with her. Then she makes the quick comment that she went to the doctor and she needed me to look something up for her on the internet. Well, didn't I feel like an arse then for being abrupt.

So up I go to my office and I get her back on the phone to look it up. And here's where my rant begins. She went to the doctor due to dizzy spells that made her feel ill. They send her to an ear specialist (I think he specializes in other stuff too). After diagnosing her and doing some sort of "maneuver" he writes down what it was and tells her if she wants to find out more info then go on the computer and "google" it. Begin rant:

1 -- My mother wouldn't know how to turn on a computer much less "google" something. So simply sending her on her merry way to try and navigate through the web to find the information she's looking for would be asking a bit much (hence the phone call to me).

2 -- In my opinion no doctor should simply tell a patient to google it. Do they realize how much wrong information can be found with a simple google search? Sure, the correct stuff tends to float to the top but that probably wouldn't stop my mother from scrolling down to the page that describes some home-made remedy for this that involves standing on your head while smoking a joint. Okay, I may be exaggerating a bit but still, if the information is on the web then give her the address of a reputable site and don't just tell her to google it.

3 -- Okay, this is just for me but do you know how frustrating it is going through pages and pages of information on this condition while my mother's on the other end of the line asking "what does it say about this scenario?", "what would happen if this happens?", "does it say anything about this?", "why can't you answer any of these questions? Isn't the answer there? How much are you reading?" All the while I'm trying to understand the workings of the inner ear. I snapped back that these were things that she should have been bringing up with the doctor and that he should answer. And I could sense her frustration as she said how he told her to google it and that she thought that's something I could easily do.

4 -- Some of the websites mention other things a patient can do at home but the ones I saw as reputable avoided describing these things saying that they should be shown to the patient by a doctor. I'm sure I could find one that did describe some actions to take but there's no way I want to be explaining to my mom over the phone some trick that some website describes with basic little diagrams. I'd much rather the doctor go through those with her in person.

So yeah, I feel like garbage for snapping at my mom but I was really frustrated with the doctor and still am. I don't think the internet (or in turn, myself) should be acting like a doctor and answering my mom's questions. These are things he should have covered with her, given her some information on, or at least pointed her in an appropriate direction instead of booting her out the door with the task of googling it.

In the end, the condition doesn't appear to be too serious unless the "maneuver" that the doctor tried doesn't work. And last I heard it seems that it did. So yeah, I'm not really in my happy place.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Playing with my tablet -- Finally!!!

I finally found the time to play around with my new Wacom Tablet and for my first attempt at drawing something entirely with it I got this:

Obviously not the greatest piece of art I've ever done but not bad for my first attempt and a rather quick sketch at that.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Weekly Comics Review -- April 4th, 2007 HUGE HULKING SPOILERS

Woohoo! Extra long weekend! So in wanting to spend as little time in front of the computer this weekend as I possibly can, let's try and make this quick. And I got quite a bit to review (at least in comparison to most weeks). We have Marvel Zombies/Army of Darkness 2, The Dark Tower 3 (of 7), Omega Flight 1 (of 5), Incredible Hulk 105, Buffy the Vampire Slayer 2, and a special addition of Death Note volume 1 (my first manga experience, woohoo!). All of this week's reviews contain SPOILERS and some being MAJOR SPOILERS. So be WARNED. (Caps are FUN!)

Incredible Hulk #105 -- This is going to be a tough one as this issue had quite a few positives but yet fell so short in my opinion. Art-wise, this was a strong issue by Pagulayan. He captures a lot of the emotion well and when things start to go "boom", it's pretty exciting to look at. And writing-wise I felt Pak actually paced this issue somewhat better than previous issues. Although there may have been hints of choppyness to it, this issue by itself seemed to flow a bit better. But overall, it was a bit of a disappointment. The first and most glaring for me is the death of the Hulk's new wife and mother of his unborn child, Caiera. Pretty much right from her introduction it seemed clear that she was yet another "woman in the refrigerator", a female character introduced solely as a plot device to further the story for the male lead. And after building her up as an interesting character to me, sure enough her fate was sealed when she said she'd never leave the Hulk. It was actually hard for me to really connect with the Hulk and feel what he's feeling at that point. And perhaps the "choppyness" that I refer to in previous reviews of this title added to that. You got glimpses or snapshots of her character and her interaction with the Hulk but in the end, she was just an empty device in the story. And in the midst of that, the fact that the whole planet was destroyed by the ship that the Illuminati sent the Hulk into space in seems to lose its impact as well. Yet another "whoops" moment by the Illuminati has led to a major booboo, this one being the destruction of a planet and who knows how many deaths. So with a pretty weak ending to the storyline Planet Hulk slides further from "compelling character story" and closer to a somewhat cheap attempt at triggering Marvel's next big event that they hope will make oodles of cash. It doesn't give me much confidence in World War Hulk.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer #2 -- Joss you little minx, you're toying with us! This issue more than the first seems to be designed with Buffy fans in mind. Right from the start you have Giles making his first appearance. Then you get the tease of Xander and Buffy hooking up or bringing up once again, Xander's feelings for Buffy. Are they still there? Is it true love? Does Xander have the guts to find out? A glimpse of Buffy's love. Is it Angel? Is it Spike? And there's a whole bunch more but when I got to the second last page and read the line "As a friend of mine once said..." I knew right then (and maybe seeing next issue's cover may have helped, who knows) that we'd get our first shot of Willow. And that line, "... I'd like to test that theory", well it gave me chills and darn near brought tears of fanboy excitement just as it did when Giles said it to Willow. Yeah, I'm going to regret admitting to that but I was stoked. But that's a lot of talk from a Buffy fan, what about non-Buffy fans (those poor souls)? I gotta admit, while the story is engaging and there is some mysterious stuff going on. And there does seem to be enough for a non-Buffy fan to catch on to. But this issue more so than the first will connect more with the Buffy-fans and a lot will go over a new reader's head. But I guess this is "season 8" so you just have to expect that. Oh, and the art was another solid effort. I still don't think he has all the likenesses down but I'm still enjoying it. I can't wait to see more of the Slayer/walking dead battle in issue 3.

Omega Flight #1 -- The Canadian superteam gets another shot except this time, it looks like only one canuck (maybe two, I'm not sure what Sasquatch's role in this is going to be) will be making the team. And yes, that will be my first complaint. I know it doesn't bother some people but it bothers me. Canada is being overrun by villains who are high-tailing it out of the US during/after Civil War and sure enough they have to say that after Alpha Flight being killed and now this the few heroes that Canada had have just given up. That just seems so sad and pathetic. We created Wolverine... Well we did until they did that retcon to have the American government be behind it, yeesh, we can't do anything I guess. But I guess nobody wants to read about Canadian heroes (hey, Jenkins had some pressure from the fans to make Logan American when he wrote Origin). So one thing I have mixed feelings about is that nobody from the eventual team actually shows up in this issue. Instead, you get Sasquatch doing what he can against the Wrecking Crew. And that actually made this book pretty interesting to me. I'm also happy that the Canadian government is appearing and being depicted as separate from the US (and not just a bunch of yes-men/women to the US). And art-wise, I usually have somewhat mixed feelings about Kolins' work but this felt like a strong issue by him. Though, I wonder how much has to do with the inking or colouring but I can't say for sure. I guess this means I'll have to be checking out at least one more issue of the series to get my opinion of it.

Marvel Zombies/Army of Darkness #2 -- About as much fun as a barrell of monkeys here. Ash's interaction with some of the heroes (Spidey, the Punisher, Dazzler,...) are all loads of fun just as any Ash interaction should be. But then you have parts like the two scenes in one with the Runaways eating Old Lace (their dinosaur) and the Blob huffing and puffing as he's being chased down by Zombies and you hit gold. But a lot of focus will be on that last page. I mean, Zombie Howard the Duck!!! Hopefully he goes after Lucas. Yeah, he was only Executive Producer on the Howard the Duck movie but I'm also one of those fanboys who didn't like the changes to Star Wars or the prequels. But that's way off topic. And without the flashbacks and such the story for this issue doesn't get all out of whack like the last issue (though I was kinda surprised at how quickly Ash went from being coccooned in webbing to being free since I thought even Spidey had problems with his own webbing). The art... Well I'm still not entirely sold on it. Some pictures of Ash just look weird in comparison to other characters (some being too "real" and others almost looking cartoony). And it took me a little while to determine that it was Old Lace that the Runaway were eating. But it's still fun and the "twist" ending had me for a moment but there are clues for issue 3 that I won't spoil here.

Dark Tower #3 -- I guess some of the novelty of this series has worn off for me. I wouldn't say it's gone to bad yet but I felt this issue was a little blah. I mean, the pages dedicated to a standoff that went nowhere just seemed to drag on. And with all the characters with strange names, I'm just losing track. I just hope this was just a blip on the radar and the book gets back into the groove soon. The art, it still seems to work for the book as a whole yet I'm still not a Jae Lee fan. Wow! That was a quick review wasn't it? :)

Death Note Volume 1 -- My first manga adventure. And yes, I had some issues with the whole reading from right to left thing (as this book is not adjusted for North America). I didn't realize that it's not just the individual pages but the whole book that's the reverse (ie. what would be the last page in North American comics is the first page of Manga). But I got by it after a while (though sometimes the panel layouts did take a minute for me). Anywho, this was a series that I saw mentioned on the Girl-Wonder forums and thought "Hey, I've been wanting to try out manga. Why not this book?" And I was really very surprised at just how much I enjoyed it. One bonus is that it doesn't go to the overly cartoony characters which I know have their place in some manga books but I still just don't like. Another is that I really enjoyed the twists and turns the story goes through. Just when you think you know what's going to happen or what Light is going to do, the rug gets pulled out from under you (or at least it did for me). The basic story: A death God has dropped his Death Note on Earth. The Death Note is a book that has a set of rules but the important one is that if you write a person's name down in the book that person will die (there's more to it but I won't go into it as I'm trying to keep this short). A top-of-the-class high school student finds the book thus becoming the owner. Needless to say he decides to use the book and attracts the attention of the police and one special investigator in particular. And the book becomes an interesting cat and mouse game between them (but who exactly is the cat and who's the mouse). Unfortunately the first digest ends before much can be resolved and I have to wait for volume 2 to come in the mail (with the holidays I don't expect it any time soon). But the first digest definitely had some interesting plot twists and multi-dimensional characters, more so than I was actually expecting. As for the art, I'm still not a big fan of it even though this was probably not an example of what some might think of when they think "manga art". I think it works well with the story and there are some great page breakdowns and tricks that enhance the storytelling but I guess I'm still too stuck on the "realism" of North American artists. Overall though this is a very well put together story and a top notch example of great storytelling. I'm eager to dive in to the second volume/digest.

So that's it for this week.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Extra comic reviews -- The Life and Death of Captain Marvel

On the weekend I finished the Life and Death of Captain Marvel TPB and I figured why wait until Thursday to post a review. So let's get right to it:

The Life and Death of Captain Marvel -- This TPB reprints the first encounters between Captain Marvel and Thanos, and Captain Marvel's eventual death (from his encounter with Nitro). If I needed something to remind me how much I dislike what Marvel Comics is doing now, this was probably it. There is a reason this storyline is heralded in much of the comic community. The emotions expressed through the narratives and the artwork as the most noble of characters slowly dies of cancer is magnificent. Watching, as the "warrior" is transformed into the "protector" and reading how it changes him not only physically but emotionally and mentally you realize that Marvel's recent attempt at bringing him back not only cheapens the original story but does such a disservice to a great character. I only wish the Captain Marvel that appeared in Civil War: The Return and Civil War #7 was a clone/cyborg because nothing else seems right. And as he lays dying with all his friends surrounding his bed (and even an enemy or two show up to pay their respects) and he comes to peace with his fate (not wanting to die but knowing there's nothing that can be done for him) you are right there mourning him as well. As Thanos appears to give him one last battle, a warrior's way to go, and escort him into death's realm you realize that this was a hero that stood above others.

Okay, enough talk about the problems I have with the current Marvel and let's get back to the TPB. The art, the writing and the dialogue are all just as they were in the 70's so you have to expect that. The story is deep and meaningful but it is wrapped in a classic comics package. It's nice for us older readers to look back on, younger readers may not "get it". Having said that, the art conveys a lot of intensity and emotion to it especially for its time. And it's nice to have this TPB as it covers the character very well. You understand his importance to the people of the universe and why they are there to mourn his passing. It ranks pretty high on my must-read list.