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Stan’s Soapbox – A 40 Year-Old Retrospective

 

Stan's Soapbox
Stan’s Soapbox from 40 years ago, courtesy of Erik Larsen’s Twitter Feed.
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Comic Book Fetish Favorites – September 2014

In this edition of my monthly reflect on comic reads, I find myself rating two of my favorite writers high in one instance and low in another on their respective pair of titles on the list. Also, when a month fails to deliver new Sex Criminals and Rat Queens issues, the overall rating for the month as a whole is bound to be of a lower average. However, the good news is September did bring new issues of other faves like Lazarus, Velvet and of course Sagacame out regularly when it’s supposed to. Looking at the new metrics I’ve put together for rating, tracking and critically analyzing my monthly reading habits, September was the worst ratings-wise of the five months I’ve been keeping track of this. HOWEVER, it’s also the month with the most reads (21), so who knows how that all shakes down. For contrast, both July and August had seven titles at 4.0 or better. Check out the breakdown for September to see how my birth month compares.
1. Lazarus #11 (Image) 4.5 – A consistent 4.0 series, this could quite possibly be the best issue of Lazarus yet. It hit well in all aspects. In a somewhat down month, it takes the top spot with grace, though barely fending off what’s at numero dos.
 
2. Saga #23 (Image) 4.5 – The penultimate chapter to Saga’s challenging fourth arc, this one picked up where #22 left off in terms of hitting that usual high bar Saga was known for during its first eighteen issues.
3. Southern Bastards #4 (Image) 4.0 – I’m really digging this series so far. It hooked me from the start. It seems to fill a hole left long years ago by Preacher for me in terms of its dixie-fried flavor. Hard not to buy into Earl Tubb’s plight. When you’re laughing out loud and verbally rooting for the lead character, you know you’re on to a good thing. But, damn, this issue showed ol’ tough-as-nails Earl Tubb in tears. And to add insult to injury, it also looks like things just got a little tougher for him.
4. Velvet #7 (Image) 4.0 – An issue that’s actually all about Velvet Templeton despite her only showing up in a brief flashback. At first I was dismayed by this, but by issue’s end I couldn’t deny its high quality of writing/illustration/storytelling. It’s Brubaker and Epting. They don’t make no junk. It’s usually a slow burn with those guys but Velvet breaks that mold. Still hands down Bru’s best writing. Ever.
5. Copperhead #1 (Image) 3.5 – A sci-fi western. “Deadwood in Space” the creators called it, upon conception. Means it’s a crime book. Could be cool. Decent start. Glad to have Jay Faerber back from the evil Hollywood empire and committed to an all-new creator-owned ongoing comic series again. And as usual he’s brought along a good artist who’s virtually unknown. This series shows promise.
6. Black Market #3 (Boom!) 3.5 – Still a really cool alternate take on the superhero and crime genres. Still agonizingly average in execution. Yet due to the cool intriguing concept I always rate it a cut above average. This issue was more of the same. I’d say it’s plotting style is similar to that of a b-grade action movie or network TV show. Will October’s final issue break the pattern, positively or negatively?
7. Wicked + Divine #4 (Image) 3.5The concept is awesome on many levels. But, for me, I guess given my aversion to “pop” things and overly self-aware “pop culture” (especially these days) it might not be quite the book for me long term. We’ll see. Despite his self-imposed limitations, Jamie McKelvie’s art is the consistent gem here with his very unique, clean style. No disrespect intended for writer Kieron Gillen, but if only the story was conceived within the mind of, say, a Brian K. Vaughan or Matt Fraction…(j/k)
8. C.O.W.L. #5 (Image) 3.5I’m going to repeat my initial statement yet again: this series would be so much better as a cable TV show. This issue reaffirmed that with 5/6 of it being an exercise in talking heads.COWL is an awesome concept. It’s just that the dramatic way its story is executed strikes me as a great TV drama with excellent actors…put onto a static page. Next arc looks likely to bring improvement while digging deeper into the mythos, while also ramping up the superheroic (and supervillain) action.
9. Storm #3 (Marvel) 3.0 – Another one-and-done, compressed adventure for the goddess of the wind. It’s refreshing to see classic, 80s-style comic book-making (the good aspects) in a modern comic. Greg Pakshould be commended for this. Ororo’s conversation with Forge works as both a treat for long-time readers and a history primer for new fans. This issue could have been a solid 3.5 if it had merely “good” art, and a 4.0 with actual “great” art. Yet instead it has bad art. That’s the reliable drawback with mid-to-low caliber series like this one – they will almost always get what is usually inexperienced artists on them. A necessary strategy in the industry, I get it, it’s just unfortunate for titles that already have the deck stacked high against their long-term success.
10. Cyclops #5 (Marvel) 3.0 – Wow, how the mighty has fallen. The penultimate chapter to Greg Rucka’s run on this exceptional series had me a bit confused. I think part of it was the switch from the more quiet, intimate father-and-son issues of numbers 3 & 4 that boasted some of Rucka’s best writing, while this one is more of a return to the feel of the first issue, only with less grace in the storytelling. Here’s hoping the conclusion is satisfying in October. Can’t promise I’ll stick with it post-Rucka, though.
11. Private Eye #8 (Panel Syndicate) 3.0 – I had such high hopes for this digital-only series when it first debuted, I believe in Spring of 2013. Can I say it’s impact might be diminished by the digital format and delivery? Yeah. I like holding/collecting/filing away the comics I really like and want to collect. I mostly read Image Comics and their production values are so high that I just love pulling new issues off the stands, anxious to see those beautiful single issues. Also, can I say this series may have lost me with its sporadic release schedule as well? Yeah. And I’m a fairly patient dude.
12. Rise of the Magi #4 (Image) 3.0 – Five issues in (including #0), this is a bad time for the excitement to NOT be ramping upward on this series. Kills me to say this about something my main man Marc Silvestricreated/writes, but this series may leave my pull list after the first arc completes. Here’s the crux: with all due respect to the Kesgin/Valentino art team, Silvestri, in my opinon, should be drawing this series while a seasoned writer joins him on the scripting and co-plotting duties. Heck, why not Top Cow veteran Ron Marz, or 2nd Cow-in-Command Matt Hawkins? Sigh. I feel like a blasphemer.
13. Wayward #2 (Image) 3.0 – Well, if the first issue read like a number zero issue, then #2 reads like a first issue. This series is holding my interest only by a mere thread so far.
14. Multiversity: Society of Superheroes #1 (DC) 3.0 – My disadvantage of low DCU character and lore knowledge kicked in on this one, so not as fun as #1 for me. The next issue in the miniseries looks to be really interesting though, so hopefully this is just a one-off misstep.
15. Hawkeye #20 (Marvel) 2.5 – A Kate Bishop “as Hawkeye” issue, which just isn’t as interesting as the Clint Barton ones (or the one’s where they work closely together). The cartoonish art jibed well with the silly aspects of this particular issue.
16. Outcast #4 (Image) 2.0This comic has been dull at best. #2 was its best issue while #1 was actually its worst. The art is its only real treat. Never been a fan of Kirkman’s dialogue and he uses it to push his narrative so much that the storyTELLING really suffers from it. I’m going to try to commit to the first arc, which ends with #6. But in terms of thrilling story, this is a FAR cry from that first The Walking Dead story arc (“Days Gone Bye”) from eleven years ago.
17. Roche Limit #1 (Image) 2.0 – Not a lot of hype on this one, but I was still hoping that it would be yet another exceptional sci-fi title from Image Comics which seems to have quite the stronghold on the genre these days. Jury’s out on whether it will eventually become that, but this first issue will not be admitted as overwhelming positive evidence. In a way it reminds me of RedCity’s first issue, only slightly better. Like Red City, and the above-mentioned Copperhead, Roche Limit also combines some crime elements with the science fiction.
18. Dead @ 17: The Blasphemy Throne #2 (Image) 2.0 – Unlike the first issue, this particular issue seems to play more off the stuff that came before in the other miniseries, so I was a bit lost while also unimpressed by the overall storytelling.
19. Low #3 (Image) 2.0 – And…I’m out. I respect it. The concept is really cool, and I respect what Rick Remender is trying to do with his writing on this one. But it’s just not for me. Greg Tocchini’s obscure, while very stylish and unique, does not help matters. It’s a beautifully colored comic. Probably one of the absolute best in that category.
20. Daredevil #8 (Marvel) 2.0 – Now with the interesting Original Sin stuff out of the way, this title returns back to its main agenda, which, sadly, does not interest me. And I still can’t accept Chris Samnee’sart on DD.
 
Dishonorable Mention:
Stumptown #1 (Oni) 1.0 – I really hate dogging out my other main man writer /creator Greg Rucka – and to be fair (or unfair, I guess), this was my first issue ever of this title, which just started its third volume, the first ongoing. I turned the pages bored out of mind and cringing at the art. I don’t have much more to say, I think that’s enough criticism right there. I guess when it comes to Rucka, make mine Lazarus and Cyclops.
Next Month: We’re already in October now and the first week has indeed delivered the long-delayed, but oh-so-anticipated eighth issue of the sorely pined for Rat Queens mentioned above. This past week also delivered the first issue of Jason Aaron’s Men of Wrath and the second issue of The Fade Out, which I’m suspicious of. Also of note: Birthright #1 from Skybound/Image, Wytches #1, Sex Criminals #8 and I’m curious to see Ororo’s reaction in the aftermath of Wolverine’sdeath in Storm #4.
In the meantime, keep healthy, hearty comic book fetish…
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Comic Book Fetish Favorites – August 2014

So I’ve expanded out to 18 books read this month, can 20 really be far behind? Overall I would say that critically August was right on par with July, with both being better than June. As always, given my 1st issue fetish, there are a few #ones here: Dead @ 17, The Fade Out, The Multiversity and SIP Kids. Also of note: Marvel hits twice in the Top 5. WTH? Let’s see how this all shakes out below.

1. Saga #22 (Image) 4.5 – Happy to say that after a three issue “slump” (as if still scoring 4 out of 5 from me is all that bad) Saga is back to hitting the 4.5 or better bar set by the first 18 issues. Also, three other words about this issue: King Robot. Wow.

2. Sex Criminals #7 (Image) 4.5 – Still one of the most unique high concepts in the market. Still consistently a great read (like those early issues of Saga). Still Matt Fraction writing at his best. Still moving the story along while exploring the past. Sadly, I’m the only person ordering this at my LSC. That’s a shame.
3. Cyclops #4 (Marvel) 4.5 – Okay, this trend of Cyclops being one of my top reads of the month is completely unexpected but very welcomed. Greg Rucka is trying his damnedest to vie for the top writer of the year spot for this year with me. Only one issue left of his run and I have every reason to believe it will be a satisfying conclusion. Incoming creators will have tough shoes to fill in October.
4. Storm #2 (Marvel) 4.0 – Greg Pak is channeling his inner Chris Claremont. See my additional thoughts here.
5. The Multiversity #1 (DC) 4.0 – Grant Morrison brings his usual blend of fun, wonder and out-of-this-worldness, making me read a comic about the DCU. I have ten more random thoughts about this comic here.
6. Lazarus #10 (Image) 4.0 – #9 wrapped up the previous story arc very well, and this stand-alone issue keeps the quality high on this series that’s rightfully been hailed as “the most unique” of sci-fi series, and given that there’s so much sci-fi at Image alone these days, that’s a good thing indeed. I’m very much still invested for the long-haul on this epic (which is very worthy of cable television adaptation someday).
7. SIP Kids #1 (Abstract) 4.0 – I was a big Strangers in Paradise fan back in the day, but even I noticed that there were certain similarities between it and Jaime Hernandez’s portion of Love and Rockets (specifically his Locas stories). Not saying Terry Moore is a copycat, but Hernandez had treated long-time readers to flashback stories of his characters’ youth and here Moore does the same with his SIP characters, although this is not a proper in-continuity flashback. More like a “What if…” It’s fun too, almost like Peanuts with an edge.
8. Dead @17: The Blasphemy Throne #1 (Image) 3.5 – Speculation buy and not a bad one. Really enjoyed the art and most importantly I’m interested in what comes next while not being overly concerned with what has come before, as I know there were at least two previous miniseries. Maybe I’ll rock all 7 issues of this mini. I may eventually discover the old ones too. I certainly found this more interesting that Wayward (see below).
9. Rise of the Magi #3 (Image) 3.5 – Zany, fun, urban fantasy, inter-dimensional monsters and a magical frog. Needs to pickup a little, though.
10. Black Market #2 (Boom!) 3.5 – Like C.O.W.L, this is a unique angle on the superhero comic and I’m real curious to see how it wraps up in two more issues. Victor Santos’ are is not really the draw here, however, it does help create this books different flavor.
11. Daredevil #7 (Marvel) 3.5 – The Original Sin tie-in for Daredevil deals with why his mother abandoned him to his father Battlin’ Jack Murdock as a baby, but not before he infiltrates Wakanda to deal with the new Black Panter and Queen of Wakanda. Not bad.
12. C.O.W.L #4 (Image) 3.5 – Still one of the most unique and intriguing superhero books in the market, and still after four maddeningly intriguing issues, I say it would make a better weekly cable television show. That’s more of compliment than it sounds. This is a superhero universe book, the kind even I’ve conceived on my own, so I know it takes patience to build and present that kind of world and all its mythos. So, patient I remain.
13. Low #2 (Image) 3.0 – I actually liked this better than #1 by a notch. My thing is while I dig Remender as a writer, I just can’t get into Tocchini’s art, despite that it’s his best work. It’s just too obscured. Still, Remender effectively makes you feel Stel’s emotions.
14. The Fade Out #1 (Image) 3.0 – I’ll admit it, I expected more. I was not impressed with this first issue. Granted it’s one issue. It’s no Velvet, which was great from the start. I think one thing that hurts The Fade Out is the third-person narration, whereas Velvet’s is first-person. I think for noir, it just needs to have that close narrative intimacy of a first-person narration, since Ed Brubaker has a penchant for using prose captions to tell his stories. Also, this being Bru, I know it’s going to have a slow-burn.

15. Outcast #3(Image) 3.0 – Still better than #1 but not better than #2. Many have lauded this series as the great “next Walking Dead” from Kirkman. I’m just not feeling that yet at all. TWD’s first six issues are arguably its best. I don’t think that will be the case for Outcast once we get a year, two years and more away from this first arc.

 Other Notable Reads:
Wayward #1 (Image) 3.0 – Reports of this being “the next Saga” are either premature or greatly exaggerated. I’m opting for the latter. This issue felt like a #0 instead of a proper #1
Trees #4 (Image) 2.5 – Seems I only like the odd-numbered issues; this series is missing an engine to thrust it along. Seriously. The first half was filled with conversations that I can suppose MIGHT payoff in say, issue 12, but had no bearing on what occured in the second half where things finally got interesting (just like last issue). I’m a huge fan of writer Warren Ellis, but even he has to admit he’s really testing ones patience with this maddening series. However, artist Jason Howard does his best to save the show with his awesome scratchy, cross-hatched line work.
Wicked + Divine #3 (Image) 2.5 – This would be lower if not for the line and color art, otherwise it sports quite possibly some of the worst dialogue I’ve read in a while (well, since Outcast #1 and Red City #1, I suppose). I really hope I haven’t been duped with this series given this kind of free-fall from grace.
Well, the great month of September brings not only my birthday, but also another individualized issue of The Multiversity, plus all-new number ones of: Copperhead, Roche Limit (yes, both bring yet more sci-fi from Image) and I think I’m finally going to check out Rucka’s Stumptown as it returns with an ongoing series. Until then, keep a healthy, hearty comic book fetish…

 

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Marvel Comics

Don’t Call It a Throwback | Thoughts on Storm #2

So this issue was good and I would say better than #1. It opens with a classic Claremontian-styled scene between Ororo and Logan. Logan and Hank’s guest appearances feel so classic, Greg Pak seems to have recalled the spirit of middle era Uncanny X-Men. This would fit so well in mid-1980s UXM in tone. Pak seems to be writing this like he’s been handed a new character for a new audience, and that’s not a bad thing. It works. Each issue so far has been self-contained, and I will only nitpick that they almost have the feel of a TV episode where things wrap up neatly by the end, all nice and pat. But that’s how they did it in the old school “compressed storytelling” days of the Golden and Silver Ages, and if I’m honest, that’s what I’ve been advocating for over at Marvel — less decompressed storytelling. If only they’d apply some of this to their marquee titles, especially the team books.
I give this issue a 4.0
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Comic Book Fetish Favorites – July 2014

Overall July was a better month than June in terms of what came out and the average quality (although no Sex Criminals is…criminal). For this list I’m going to expand to include the 15 books I read in July. A few notes: there were four all-new number ones in my reading pile this month: Black Market, Death Vigil, Low, Storm and Grayson, the latter of which reminded me that I don’t need a faux spy title while the excellent spy series Velvet is around.

So, without further ado …

1. Velvet #6 (Image) 5.0 – some of the finest character + story work this century, Brubaker & Epting at their best.
2. Cyclops #3 (Marvel) 5.0 – can’t stress enough the high quality of this series under Rucka’s pen and Dauterman’s pencil.
3. Southern Bastards #3 (Image) 4.5 – Southern-fried justice served up with a big stick (literally)…can’t help but root for ol’ Earl Tubb.
4. Lazarus #9 (Image) 4.0 – satisfying end to this extended world-building second arc.
5. Saga #21 (Image) 4.0 – has rolled three 4 stars in a row, not normal, will it ever match its first 18 issues?
6. The Wicked + The Divine #2 (Image) 4.0 – a slight slippage from the stellar debut, but not by much.
7. Black Market #1 (Boom!) 3.5 – earns its rating with its strong premise, high concept and pacing.
8. Outcast #2 (Image) 3.5 – impressive bounce back from the underwhelming debut, now I care.
9. Veil #4 (Dark Horse) 3.5 – wicked and vivid and really sets up a big payoff in the finale.
10. Rat Queens #7 (Image) 3.5 – weakest issue of this stellar series yet, pains me to say.
11. Rise of the Magi #2 (Image) 3.5 – and now merges the fantastic with the urban.
12. Storm #1 (Marvel) 3.5 – the windrider’s first “ongoing” series gets off to a good start (see the rather glowing CBR review).
13. C.O.W.L. #3 (Image) 3.5 – great concept still unfolding, would make great television.
14. Hawkeye #19 (Marvel) 3.0 – Clint Barton is deaf, so half the issue is quiet and using sign language; executed well by David Aja, but overall a weak issue for this series.
15. Low #1 (Image) 3.0 – the best I’ve seen Tocchini illustrate, and the concept is quite interesting with good world-building, but Remender’s script was a problem for me.
Notable pickups:

Trees #3 (Image) 3.0 – the pivotal issue to make or break the series for myself and many, even stated so by the author himself Warren Ellis; I think I’m out (although there’s only a few more “trial” issues left before it goes on a decision-making hiatus).

Grayson #1 (DC) 2.5 – another failed attempt getting into and caring about the DCU by me; just not my thing.

Death Vigil #1 (Image) 2.0 – spec buy during a light week, didn’t hold my interest.

August brings new promise in Brubaker & Phillips’ The Fade Out and the seventh issue of #SexCrims. Until then . . .

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Dark Horse Comics Fetish Faves Image Comics Marvel Comics The Fetish Life

Comic Book Fetish Favorites – June 2014

Rough month considering Rat Queens, Velvet, Lazarus, Southern Bastards and Veil did not ship as solicited. Naturally my read list is still Image-dominated, but I did manage to read an anomaly of a Marvel title. Just as May was led by the much anticipated returns of Rat Queens and Saga, June was led, of course, by the triumphant return of Sex Criminals as well as a certain promising debut. However, there was one debut this month that was rather sleepy.

Read List for June 2014
  1. Sex Criminals #6 (Image) 5.0 – Excellent return.
  2. The Wicked and the Divine #1 (Image) 4.5 – Intriguing debut.
  3. Cyclops #2 (Marvel) 4.0 – Best X-book in a while.
  4. Saga #20 (Image) 4.0 – Is the luster fading?
  5. The Private Eye #7 (Panel Syndicate) 4.0 – Still wishing this was on paper. 
  6. Rise of the Magi #1 (Image) 3.5 – Promising.
  7. C.O.W.L. #2 (Image) 3.5 – Getting there.
  8. Red City #1 (Image)  2.5 – See my review here.
  9. Trees #2 (Image)  2.5 – Oddly, the first issue was better.
  10. One-Hit Wonder #3 (Image)  1.5 – Speculation buy, what can I say?

Dishonorable Mention: Outcast #1 (Image) 1.0 – I was disconnected during the entire read

___________

Read List for May 2014 (last month’s Fetish Five in bold)

  1. Rat Queens #6 (Image) 5.0
  2. Velvet #5 (Image) 4.0
  3. Saga #19 (Image) 4.0
  4. Cyclops #1 (Marvel) 4.0
  5. Southern Bastards #2 (Image) 4.0
  6. Veil #3 (Dark Horse) 3.5
  7. Rocket Girl #5 (Image) 3.5
  8. Rise of the Magi #0 (Image) 3.0
  9. C.O.W.L. #1 (Image) 3.0
  10. Trees #1 (Image) 3.0
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Linkage: From Horse to Mouse – Speculating the STAR WARS Comics Transfer

Over at Bleedingcool.com is an article I wrote speculating on Star Wars comics life after Dark Horse, wondering Marvel which writers could be a good fit to try their hand at penning the further adventures of Luke Skywalker and company. At the end of the article, I ask: Who do you want to see writing Star Wars comics for Marvel?


Check out the article via this linkage