The Luckiest

I used to be able to make music. The language was easy – like sounds with like sounds, punctuated with a few surprises, a bit of dissonance to ratchet tension to provide for a more satisfying conclusion. Just like writing.

Over the years, this talent started to melt away. To be fair, it was because I stopped actively practising. My piano was too large to bring up from home, I never spent the time or effort to find a group in need of a trombone player, so I effectively stopped playing, stopped getting better. The skills I developed regressed and now… well, I can still play reasonably well when called upon, but not nearly as well as I used to. Whenever I see live music, I immediately regret the fact that I’ve been lazy with my time. Last night, I saw live music.

Ben Folds was playing with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. It was a fantastic show, one that started with the conductor arriving on stage via a shiny red bike before Ben made it to the stage and the audience erupted with adulation and cat calls. (Aside: I will never, ever be comfortable with cat calls happening at an Edmonton Symphony Orchestra performance.) The night proceeded to be a more than a little surreal. Forget the part where that one guy you listen to is right in front of you, rocking the shit out of a piano. Focus on the part where this man, this unassuming creature, not only commands and conducts a sizeable audience, but a large group of amazing, professional musicians who are following his cues, escalating and ebbing to his whims. Imagine a section where this man decides to noodle around and make something up on the stage – cobbing something from nothing with a new notes and directions, producing his hand full of musical morsels and having the audience eating their fill, more than their fill, hooting and cheering as this thing happens in front of them.

Imagine the awe.

Then imagine the realization that you, you personally, are a fraud. A charlatan. That you will never ever amount to this, you will never have that talent.

This has never been an uncommon feeling for me. Routinely, I’m confronted with people who make me want to take a torch to anything I’ve ever written. Etgar Keret is a person who makes me feel particularly inadequate, a master of telling stories in mere paragraphs that lesser writers would require a full novel to convey. At the concert, it was my experience with self-disappointment in the writing realm that caused me to recognize the feeling that lurked below the joy of experiencing live music. It was also my experience with inadequacy that caused to light to a very specific fact as Folds closed out his set with the orchestra with one of my favourite songs.

Thank god I’m lucky enough to feel inadequate.

The Luckiest is a song about a confluence of events that the narrator believes brought him together with the person he is meant to be with. It’s a short song, succinct with it’s ideas, complete with an example of a reality where Things Didn’t Work Out – a brief heartbreak in a song filled with happiness and relief. Hearing it usually invokes a thoughtfulness on my part, as I decide to focus on the things that I’m quite glad I have. Thankfully, the list is long. For instance, I’m quite lucky that I got a job working at a comic book store. Oddly, this is a hard task to accomplish, and requires a confluence of several events to occur. I had to arrive in Edmonton at the exact right time, had to be available for part time work. In turn, the store had to be good, which (oddly enough) is a huge concern. If the shop wasn’t good, it would close or my love for the medium and the people would be stomped dead as the work would become to much work. A lot had to go exactly right for me to be where I am right now with my job. (Aside: I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that I’m lucky to have found my own soul mate. And no, not James, although I was lucky to cross paths with that loveable scamp as well.)

As well (and as I’ve already stated), I’ve been quite lucky to be gifted with the need to be better. In writing, in music and in life in general. There’s that part of my brain that tells me to always strive, to always be better than I’m being. It always shows me ways in which I can improve, shows me ways to hone the skills that I’ve been already given. I know that with my writing, I will never be satisfied with what I can come up with. Currently, I have an issue with deadlines and…  you know, actually accomplishing things – which is a huge problem. You can talk about being a writer until you’re blue in the face, but the fact is, if you’re not actually doing something about it, you’ll never actually do it. Again, this is why I will never be a great musician. I know that I have at least a modicum of ability, but I don’t have the drive, nor the passion to be amazing. But with writing? With writing, I feel the drive. I feel the need. When I’m not getting things done, a hole opens up inside me, gaping and hungry. It eats away at everything around it until I fill it with something, with content.

I’m very lucky to have that ability. It’s what makes me strive to make my store better and better each and every day. It’s what makes me wash the windows, dust the shelves, re-order books, adjust orders, talk to my customers, and seek out new ones. It’s what causes me to look at my writing and demand more style, more coherency and less ineptitude. Hell, it’s why this site exists. As you may or may not know, a few years back, we were working for a comic book news and reviews type site, and decided that we had experienced enough negativity, and wanted to produce a platform where we could try and be better. Talk about the books we liked and how we could all probably get a little bit better at liking things, and building things up, rather than continually tearing things down. In small ways, we’ve succeeded. But it’s not enough. It’s never enough. And that’s what drives us, what allows us to continue. Maybe one day, it will make us good. But until then, we’ll count our lucky stars that we’re in this position, that we’ve arrived in this place, and that we’re happy with our choices and our place in the industry. But that’s all just a start.

Here’s to the future.

Um, Actually… | March 29th, 2012

Um, Actually…

Missives from and to the internet, delivered by a series of tubes.

Welcome, dear readers, to our Thursday feature – a letter column of horrors culled from our inboxes. There will be things that are real and decidedly unreal – but hopefully all content presented here will be entertaining.

That said, WE ARE LOOKING FOR LETTERS! We are hiding in your bushes, metaphorical or otherwise. We crave your sweet correspondence. Contact us by clicking on that handy contact button right above the site banner to save yourself from our sweet lips on your power bills.

Letters might be edited for space, but not for intent.

Thank you, internet.

———-

Jay Runham (@jayrunham) asks:

Dear James and Brandon… Is this the appropriate time to use this gif?

Brandon: The fact that you felt the need to ask this throws your credibility into question, good sir. When would this not be appropriate to use? I’m just going to toss out some examples, for shiggles.

WHO WANTS TO WATCH iCARLY!??!

WHICH OF THESE GUYS IS GONNA GET QUALITY LAID TONIGHT???!

LEMON PARTY!!!!!!

Somebody please stop me, I can do this all day.

James: No, I want to see where this goes.

———-

Delivered to James and Brandon via the e-mails:

Dear Parents,

Brandon: Go on…

Join us this Summer in France for New and Exciting Adventures!

VSF gives children from around the world a chance to practice their
French language skills by living in total immersion with French
children of their own age in a real French Summer Camp.

A few weeks holiday in one of VSF's program offers your children the
opportunity to learn about France, its people, its language and its
culture...

LEARNING FRENCH WHILE HAVING FUN!

Brandon: I’m going to stop you right there, fancy French summer camp people, for two reasons. One? The rest of your e-mail is terribly boring. And b, I highly doubt that a person can learn French while having fun. Have you seen the French? I’m guessing you have, since you claim to be based there. You are lying, and I will not have it.

The supposition that James and I have offspring though… I’ll let that pass. Our hypothetical kids would be rad as fuck.

James: Ma’am, I don’t know where you got this, but emailing random dudes on the Internet about hanging out with a bunch of kids in a foreign country might not be the best business plan.  Do you hear sirens yet?  You probably should. 

———-

Andrea Speed (@aspeed) asks: So what’s the next great Canadian comic, guys?

Brandon: Like Scott Pilgrim or Essex County? I say the next great Canadian comic will be Lapjackers Inc. 

James: This is actually a tricky question, because it’s so hard to say what will catch on, especially with you southrons.  No lies, when I started watching Game of Thrones and the northerners in it started talking about the weirdness of the people to the south and how unnatural their lack of summer snow is, I immediately understood what they were talking about.  I enjoy living where I do because a place with six months of winter, where I’ve seen snow in 11 of the 12 months, seems completely natural and preferable.

Anyway.

It’s also hard to say because so many Canadian creators collaborate with American ones for American companies.  There are a ton of great Canadians not making what you could call Kanadian Komiks, guys like Francis Manapul (The Flash) or Kurtis J. Wiebe (Green Wake & The Intrepids, which have ended, and Peter Panzerfaust, Grim Leaper and Debris, the last two being upcoming) but who are still producing unbelievable work.

That said, Faith Erin Hicks recently released Friends With Boys, a coming-of-age story with a slight paranormal edge, and it’s fantastic.  With a bit of love and attention, it could very well be a breakout hit in the young adult (and cool adult) market.  The slam dunk bet however, is Russian Olive to Red Queen, from Kathryn and Stuart Immonen, whenever it eventually comes out.  We talked with them about it last year, and I’ve been eagerly awaiting it ever since.

———-

Josh Bazin (@joshbazin) writes:

A few months ago, I was searching the Kobo store for a book to read on my brand new Kobo Touch.  I didn’t really know what I was looking for.  I wanted something different than what I was reading at the time (which was basically A Song of Ice and Fire and Warhammer 40k novels).  If there’s one knock I have against the Kobo is that shopping just seems harder than going to the dead-tree book store.

So, was thinking about what I wanted to read, then it dawned on me – @soupytoasterson had mentioned that the writer on Birds of Prey, Duane Swierczynski was a novelist in addition to his work on comics.  That’s when I started searching for the writers of the comic books that I really enjoyed (Neil Gaiman excluded, since I knew his stuff wasn’t what I wanted).

Now, anyone that has followed my comic reading career should know that @soupytoasterson dropped the first issue of the Batwoman: Elegy storyline on me as my ‘free hit’, which of course, really opened my eyes to things I would have normally completely discounted.

Greg Rucka was the writer on this book.  I searched him.  Turns out, he wrote a book called A Gentleman’s Game.  It was a spy-book, had decent reviews on Goodreads, and was something that sounded interesting to my Bourne/Bond/Bauer loving self.  On top of all that, it also had a run of comics that had actually started the universe.

I purchased the novel and began to read it.  I didn’t realize I was  reading things out of chronological order, and honestly speaking, the novel was easy to follow, any important back story was clarified (though, not in heavy detail).  There were vivid fight scenes.  Interesting espionage.  The twists weren’t difficult to see coming, but a story doesn’t need to be overly complex to be enjoyable.  The end of the book is bittersweet.

A Gentleman’s Game wove an interesting story with characters that I want to read more about.  I will be starting at the beginning of the story with the Queen & Country Essential Edition Volume 1.

Brandon: It’s interesting to hear how you discovered and approached this series from outside of comics. It actually speaks a lot to how I like to try and get people to read comics – first by asking about their likes in other media. A lot of people treat comics as almost a completely separate thing, its own little genre – but the fact is, a good spy story is a good spy story is a good spy story, no matter what medium. You moved your enjoyment of comics and writers out towards prose. The same can be done for pretty much anything. And that’s rad.

James: Buying books is super easy on my Kindle!  I just buy them like any other book and they appear over thin air to my devices!  It’s so much easier than going to a physical store, because when was the last time you bought a young adult novel while relieving yourself?  Probably more recently than I’d like, but whatever.  That’s a matter for the courts.  

You hear that, Amazon?  I will promote your products for free.   Just imagine what I would do if you paid me!

Josh, in response to your letter:

———-

That’s it for the first installment of Um, Actually!  Check in every Thursday for a new batch of questions.  If you have anything you’d like answered, hit up our Contact page!  If you submit anything via Twitter – to @blogaboutcomics, @leask or @soupytoasterson – remember to include the hashtag #UMACTUALLY so that we don’t lose it.  Remember: you can ask us anything.

Podcast! The Comics, Episode 13 – Our Retail Partners

We're trouble.

Once upon a midnight dreary, James edited a podcast.  No, he’s not exactly Edgar Allan Poe, but that dude didn’t make jokes about comics on the internet, so you’re gonna have to take what you can get in a new episode of Podcast! The Comics.

This episode is brought to you by Wizard’s Comics, home of the best deal on comics in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.  Check out their website for a list of the week’s new releases and information on upcoming Magic, The Gathering tournaments, and watch their Twitter account for news and announcements about the shop and its wares.

Episode 13 – Our Retail Partners

This week, the boys recover from a couple of long, guest-filled episodes with a little bit of audio relaxation.  After discussing television series, movies and comics they’ve enjoyed recently – including Game of Thrones, Amazing Spider-Man and the John Carter movie and comics – the boys dig into a conversation about Mark Waid’s recent digital comics announcement and its fallout.

Download the episode here or subscribe through iTunes.  If you want to subscribe the old-fashioned way, insert the following text into your audio program of choice (in iTunes, click “Advanced,” then click “Subscribe to Podcast”):

http://comicstheblog.libsyn.com/rss

You can also find all the episodes to date on Libsyn’s site here.

As always, check us out on on Twitter at @blogaboutcomics@leask & @soupytoasterson!

You Read These With Your Eyes! | March 28th, 2012

If it's good enough for Elvis, it's good enough for you, dammit.

Every week, Comics! The Blog goes through the list of new releases and we tell you which comics to plug into your mind hole. Your mileage may vary.

I see you babyATOMIC ROBO PRESENTS REAL SCIENCE ADVENTURES #1 (Red 5 Comics)

Here is a general rubric for determining whether or not you should buy an Atomic Robo comic:

  1. Do you like comics?  If Yes, go  to #3.  If No, go to #2.
  2. Are you sure?  Maybe you should try Atomic Robo out, just to be sure.
  3. Buy Atomic Robo!

#2 is, honestly, the big one.  Due to writer Brian Clevinger and artist Scott Wegener‘s frequently publicized Promise of what readers can expect – and not expect – in the pages of their comic, they produce a comic that’s very explicitly crafted to appeal to people who are put off by the perceived excesses of the wider superhero comics industry while still engaging in the spirit of the medium.  Atomic Robo is the story of the adventures of Robo, the robot adventurer created by Nikola Tesla, and his escapades in the 20th and 21st centuries during his long life.  Like Hellboy and other Mike Mignola comics because of the different environments and time periods they can inhabit?  Robo uses the same trick.  Like historical action?  Pulse-racing sci-fi?  Zany, wry, smart humour?  The occasional emotional gut-punch?  It’s all here!  And while Real Science Adventures is just the latest installment in the series, the creators craft each one so that you can jump in at any point and still fall in love with it.  Real Science Adventures takes that one step further, too – it’s an anthology series will stories from a wide variety of incredibly talented creators, and chances are there’s something inside the pages to make you happy.  Maybe you don’t like robots, because you are a deeply broken individual.  No worries, there’s even a story without them!  How is that for variety? Robots, no robots, this has it all.  It even has a story where Tesla, H.P. Lovecraft’s father, Annie Oakley and Harry Houdini team up, so just see if that doesn’t get your Time Lincolns flowing.  There might even be dinosaurs.  With advanced degrees.

AVENGERS VS. X-MEN #0 (this week) #1 (next week) (Marvel Comics)

Of course, this week also sees the release of the first part (and a bit, counting the #0 issue) that in terms of scale is almost the exact opposite of Atomic Robo.  Avengers Vs. X-Men is Marvel‘s giant spring/summer event tying together two of its biggest media franchises, produced by the Marvel Architects and a team of the company’s top-tier artists.  It is an event that, when announced, attracted a certain amount of nay-sayers who are tired of annual “biggest ever!” events, and while I understand their concerns, here is why AvX is kind of a genius idea: it is exactly the type of thing that might make some fans’ eyes roll, but can get an entirely different reaction from someone who’s coming into things fresh.  It is the Avengers!  And the X-Men!  Fighting!  You know what that sounds like to someone new, someone who likes the Marvel movies and television shows, someone maybe a bit younger?

It sounds rad as all heck.

For all some readers might not personally want to pick up the book, it’s one that could absolutely excite other people, and it’s also got a frankly stunning level of talent behind it.  The folks making these issues don’t generally let me down, as a rule, and I’m really optimistic that this is a comic that is big and flashy enough to attract some excited people if we’re just smart enough to sell it that way.

FF #16 (Marvel Comics)

One reason I’m so optimistic about AvX is because of the involvement like Jonathan Hickman and the fact that for almost three years, he has been doing incredible work with the Fantastic Four, both in that book and in its companion FF.  A few weeks ago, Fantastic Four #604 wrapped up the big plot of Hickman‘s run with the characters in a moving, jaw-dropping way (a teaser: if the Silver Surfer is Galactus’ herald, guess whose herald Galactus is) and with this week’s FF #16, we get to see the first part of the fallout.  Because as much as Hickman wrapped up a bunch of plot points in the previous issues of these series, this is something else: a new beginning.  Things are… um… different than they were before this story reached its climax, and the benefit of having two series filled with such compelling characters is that there are so many things to explore.  What will happen to the kids of the Future Foundation now?  I don’t know, and it’s amazing.

MORNING GLORIES #17 (Image Comics/Shadowline)

I will never get tired of saying this each and every month: Morning Glories is one of the best comics being published today.  It is rich, complex storytelling with mysteries, mythologies and humour.  Due to the episodic nature of its release schedule, the series operates in similar ways to a television show: chunks of story every month, satisfying on their own, but with the overall movement of a larger macro plot.  Much like Lost before them, Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma use these pauses to build tension with expert skill.  Remember how mindblowing issue #16 was, with its big sci-fi splashiness and revelations about the overall workings of the series’ world?  Well, remember the issue before that, where one of the characters straight-up murdered someone else?  Or the other group of Glories who have now been kind of abandoned by their friend?  Those are things we still need to check in on.  There are so many threads in this comic, and its creative team divvy them up into such satisfying, riveting issues, that if you aren’t reading this comic I honestly don’t know what to do with you.  Last week I got a friend – who didn’t even like Lost – hooked on the series because the storytelling is just so incredibly well done.  And if I can convince him, I can convince you.

THE NEW DEADWARDIANS #1 (Vertigo)

You might think that a supernatural detective series set in an alternate history post-Victorian past isn’t your thing.  To that, I say: buy The New Deadwardians #1 and then apologize later for being wrong.  The main reason I am so confident about this is because it is Dan Abnett writing the book, and he’s a man who is pretty good at turning words into gold.  It’s got a fun, high-concept pitch: class warfare in a time of great social and political unrest, where the upper class opts for an elective vampirism medical procedure to escape the zombie plague ravaging the lower classes, with regular humans caught somewhere in between.  It’s pretty cool, and the previews give the impression that this isn’t a campy or maudlin world – it’s just one with a catchy pitch and a lot of talent behind it.

I know, I know – vampire and zombie fiction is not exactly a rare thing these days, and if you’re struggling to keep paying attention, I understand.  Here’s the thing, though: Abnett knows what people think about the genre.  Hell, he agrees.  But ultimately, the story he wants to tell, while it lies in that same field that many are starting to turn their noses at, is one that Abnett was so interested in and passionate about that he couldn’t not tell it.  And doesn’t that just make you excited?  If this story got him so energized that he decided to take a chance on it, it’s one that I want to pay attention to.  A great horror story is actually about human themes, and with Abnett and artist I.N.J. Culbard at the helm, I’d wager that The New Deadwardians won’t disappoint.

These are five of the many great books being released this week! You can find the full list of comics being released here. If you have any other recommendations, let us know in the comments below.

C!TB's Best of the Week | March 26th, 2012

Ta-daaaahhh

Welcome back everyone! Did you have a swanky weekend? We went out and watched ourselves some Hunger Games, and that was awesome. Seriously, if you liked the books or if you haven’t read the books or if you just like things, you should probably go out and give it a watch. We recommend that before the games start, you yell out, “This shit’s about to get hungry.” Pretty sure all the people around you will appreciate that.

Also: a quick apology for the missing content on Thursday and Friday last week. We don’t have an excuse, beyond “busy consuming media” – so here’s a picture of an Archie comic.

That makes us even, right? Whatever, let’s get to some awards.

COMICS RULE EVERYTHING AROUND ME

REBEL YELL

I want to destroy Riley Rossmo.

Please note, it is not because he is a terrible person. In fact, he’s probably one of the more personable creators that I have met in all of my years of reading comic books. He’s always cheerful when I’ve stopped by his booth, and can jaw about rad comics for hours if you let him. Also, he’s crazy fucking talented, which is why he must be destroyed.

This week, his new series Rebel Blood hit the stands – a particularly well timed zombie style book that puts a premium on mutation rather than some straight up shambling masses. This plays particularly well to Rossmo’s greatest skill-set: drawing the fuck out of some creepy looking creatures. Things with bonus eyes and sickly, sticky skin. Things that nightmares are made of.

The story could pretty much function with Rossmo’s art alone – but the comic medium thrives upon the give-and-take of words and pictures. (Yes, yes, obvious, fuck off, I’m working here.) The plot could easily be your standard zombie fare – and for the record, the story does hit a lot of those tride-and-true plot points – but the presentation is something else. While building the horrors to come, the reader becomes privy to the main characters hopes and fears as it slowly dawns on him that something horrible is happening. We see a bit of the pain he’s dealt with in the recent past, and are shown four distinct futures that he envisions for himself. He’s a saviour, he’s a fuck-up, he’s a dick, he’s a dreamer. It’s a nice bit of storytelling that emulates a thought process I often have when I’m stressed. I picture several outcomes – the realistic scenario, the worst case scenario, the never-in-a-million-years-but-wouldn’t-it-be-nice scenario… I really liked that bit of plotting in the book. Not only did it give you a glimpse into the character’s thoughts, but it also gave the sense that anything could happen in this book. Really, any thought he had could some into play near the story’s conclusion. Or, you know, none of them could, depending on how bleak things get.

This is a solid little horror mini that should do well on the shelves next to things like The Walking Dead and Sorrow. It gets our Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride Award for this week. (B)

HOME ON THE RANGE

If you haven’t seen John Carter, that’s okay.  Don’t get me wrong, it is a Thrill A Minute Adventure Ride and I think you would like it if you gave it a chance, but at this point, the die on that movie’s success is more or less cast.  However, behind all the talk about the movie, its marketing and its relative lack of success is John Carter: The Gods of Mars, a Very Excellent Comic that I am worried people aren’t paying attention to because of whatever reason people have for not loving things that are wonderful.

If you saw John Carter, The God of Mars inhabits the same world and features the same characters as the movie, picking up more or less immediately from the ending.  If you’re a fan of the Edgar Rice Burroughs novels, you will be similarly at home.  However, I’m going to play the odds and assume you would be coming to John Carter: The Gods of Mars and the world of Barsoom fresh and would like to reiterate to you why you should check it out: there is not a single ounce of cynicism or jadedness in the entire book.

This is a welcome breath of fresh air in modern sci-fi, where there can be such jadedness in fans and creators, where even those who like something often hedge that appreciation with comparisons and apologies.  The Gods of Mars is full of pure, lung-bursting exhilaration.  It is about returning to a time and place you loved and the wish to recapture that feeling.  As John Carter rediscovers Barsoom, the reader rediscovers the spirit and imagination of the early days of science-fiction, when it was a frontier of exploration and adventure.  Writer Sam Humphries is one of the great new talents, and the excitement for the genre and the medium that he brings to the book is astounding.  Ramón Pérez’s art is lush and expressive, with bold colours that drive home the otherworldliness of Barsoom and its people while inviting you to drink it all in.  A scene where Carter, home at last, takes a running leap into the air and screams with joy, is maybe the perfect summary of how this book made me feel.  It’s exciting and it feels good to be home.

Humphries and Pérez have done something wonderful with this book, and I implore you to seek it out.  Don’t let it fall through the cracks.  Buy it, love it and celebrate it.  I’m genuinely thrilled to be able to award it the Ninth Ray of Raditude. (J)

Better than alllll the rest

It’s the end of everything as we know it!

The phrase has almost become common place within the superhero genre of comic books, alongside the likes of “things will never be the same again” and “in this issue, everything changes!” Time and experience has taught us that these things aren’t strictly true – that the more some comics change, the more they stay the same. The trick is to make the pieces seem like they are moving in ways that have never been seen before. It’s a tough trick to pull off, trying to ascribe importance and heft to a set of stories that we have been told (indirectly) will be rebuilt and torn down every decade or so like clockwork.

And yet, when it’s done right, some amazing stories can be told. Sure it’s all fiction, and sure it’s all fairly nebulous, but god dammit, the very best can cause you to gasp and smile and weep all the same.

Lately, Dan Slott has been telling some of the best Spider-Man stories that I’ve ever read. True, I’ve only been really collecting since Sensational Spider-Man #0, wherein Ben Rielly first donned the costume as the Spider-Man for that era. In some circles, those are regarded as stories of… dubious quality – but when I was reading them? Nothing intrigued me more. Anyway, since that time, Pete has obviously reclaimed the helm and went through quite a few life changes – though suspiciously, most of those changes have brought him back to where he used to be. A man of science, swinging and single, with a myriad of problems that could all be contained if he just stopped being Spider-Man. But honestly? They’ve been great.

Working with a solid framework, Slott has been building some great stories – including the newest story arc: Ends of the Earth.

This is a plot that’s been bubbling in the background since… well, optimistically, since issue #600, when the new Doctor Octopus came back. At the very least, Slott has been actively building this story for over a year, moving around pieces to set the stage for one of the biggest Spider-Man stories ever. Seriously, when have the Sinister Six accomplished something on a global scale? And since when do you feel as though Spider-Man is well and truly out of his depth? It doesn’t happen often, thanks to our comfort with the fact that Spidey will never really go anywhere. But to accomplish that shock? To really drive home the awe? You have to do some really heavy lifting, and you have to hit things just perfectly – and this is what has been happening on this title.

Joining Slott for this arc of Spider-Man is artist Stefano Caselli – who has grown leaps and bounds during his years in comics, and is showing off some of his very best work in this title right now. His expressions and staging is quite wonderful, and he’s quite good at drawing movement, which is always a plus in a Spider-Man book. (B)

Amazing is one of the best books on the stands these days, and as I’ve said, the newest story has just begun. Give it a try – you’ll be glad that you did.

This is Comics! The Blog. We now commence our broadcast week.

Podcast! The Comics, Episode 12 – Berlanti Talk with Kelly Thompson

We're trouble.

Hey guys, it’s Wednesday!  That means it’s time for a new, juicy podcast episode to tickle your ears and gently massage your fancy.  If you’re into that.

This episode is brought to you by Wizard’s Comics, home of the best deal on comics in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.  Check out their website for a list of the week’s new releases and information on upcoming Magic, The Gathering tournaments, and watch their Twitter account for news and announcements about the shop and its wares.

Episode 12 – Berlanti Talk with Kelly Thompson

This week, the boys talk to writer Kelly Thompson!  Kelly is an author, columnist and critic, and she also has the same go-to “crying” movies that James does!  Over the course of the episode, the boys talk to her about her story in Womanthology, the comic she’s currently working on and why her first novel was too violent for the young adult literature market.  Kelly also owns up to her shameful nature as someone who doesn’t love Everwood or Treat Williams, and the group discusses the problems the comic industry has in diversifying to non-core demographics.

You know, fun stuff.

Read Kelly’s column, She Has No Head!, at ComicBookResources, where you can also read her reviews throughout the week

Read Kelly’s latest  other column over at LitReactor

Check out Kelly’s personal blog, 1979 Semi-Finalist

Listen to Kelly’s podcast, 3 Chicks Review Comics

Finally, check her out on Twitter at @79semifinalist

Download the episode here or subscribe through iTunes.  If you want to subscribe the old-fashioned way, insert the following text into your audio program of choice (in iTunes, click “Advanced,” then click “Subscribe to Podcast”):

http://comicstheblog.libsyn.com/rss

You can also find all the episodes to date on Libsyn’s site here.

As always, check us out on on Twitter at @blogaboutcomics@leask & @soupytoasterson!

You Read These With Your Eyes! | March 21st, 2012

If it's good enough for Elvis, it's good enough for you, dammit.

Every week, Comics! The Blog goes through the list of new releases and we tell you which comics to plug into your mind hole. Your mileage may vary.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #682 (Marvel Comics)

Dan Slott is the king of the slow build.

It’s an art that’s been lost in the wash when comics moved away from more convoluted story telling in deference to more well defined arcs. Gone are all the little seeds that writers plant for future stories – or rather, if they are seeded, they are done for the short gain, or the next story arc – and not several arcs down the road.

Somehow, Dan Slott has managed to meld a bit of that old school, soap opera, slow build story telling with a bit of a modern flair, and tell some amazing stories. Take this Ends of the Earth story arc, for instance. The seeds for this pretty much go back to before his solo arc again almost a year ago. In that time, Slott has been setting up little bits and pieces here and there, building up something massive that can’t help but feel bigger because of the time and care it took to get to this place.

Doctor Ock and the rest of the Sinister Six finally have everything they want in place, and they are making their move… and it’s big. It’s world breaking. And only Spider-Man and his amazing friends stand in his way. Can he save the day? Well, probably, but it’s going to be swanky seeing just how he does it.

JOHN CARTER: GODS OF MARS #1 (Marvel Comics)

A quick note for the record: John Carter was a fucking awesome movie. It’s why I’m champing at the bit for my copies of all of the John Carter books to arrive, so that I can start reading them (the second omnibus before the first? Really Diamond? Fuck you.)

Anyway, this newfound love is clearly going to carry over, as this week sees the start of the newest John Carter adaptation, brought to us by the super-talented Sam Humphries and the shatteringly brilliant Ramon Perez. Seriously, when you see some of the pages in this book, you will physically die and become a ghost – that is how awesome they are.

So hey, if you weren’t planning on checking this book out, or hell, if you haven’t checked out the John Carter movie yet – we urge you to do so. Chances are, you will love them both. And if you don’t we might have to stop talking for a while.

INFINITE VACATION #4 (Image Comics)

They’re really delivering on the promise in that title, amirite?

Ill-advised jokes aside, Infinite Vacation has been absolutely stellar. Yes, it has been well over a year since the first issue hit the stands – but honestly? The wait has been worth it.

Nick Spencer and Christian Ward have put together such an amazing book. The idea of an app that will switch you out with any version of yourself that you would like just seems like the perfect end game to our society filled with easy answers and self gratification – and the story and mystery that is accompanying that tale is quite intriguing in its own right. Thank goodness its still trucking along. (And seriously, I can’t wait until this thing is collected and I can run through it in one go.)

SMOKE AND MIRRORS #1 (IDW Publishing)

This one might seem a little out of left field – and to be fair, I’m not entirely sure how good its going to be. It’s going to be a comic about magic – and not comic book magic, like Doctor Strange… but actual, physical magic. In fact, the pages of this very comic are supposed to conduct a magic trick before your very eyes, which should be interesting.

The story is written by Mike Costa (the guy who made me read and love a GI Joe series)  & Jon Armstrong (a legit slight of hand magician) and should be pretty swanky. I supposed we’ll all find out shortly, yeah?

STAN LEE’S MIGHTY 7 #1 (Archie Comics)

I’m not saying I’m a sucker for anything Archie puts out, but this week, they’re starting a new superhero series that stars Stan Lee and Archie Co-CEO Jon Goldwater. Or rather, they are characters in the story about a new superhero team. It’s goofy and crazy, and definitely hits my sweet spot of things that I love – Archie comics and highly ridiculous premises. If you’re predisposed to these types of things too, maybe check this book out!

These are five of the many great books being released this week! You can find the full list of comics being released here. If you have any other recommendations, let us know in the comments below.

 

C!TB's Best of the Week | March 19th, 2012

Ta-daaaahhh

It was a busy weekend, full of comics and other emotions.  What, comics aren’t an emotional state?  Then you’re doing it wrong.  These were the best of last week:

COMICS RULE EVERYTHING AROUND ME

THE X-MEN, NOW WITH 100% MORE FASHIONABLE SCARVES

Marvel‘s Season One initiative struck me as something filled with a lot of cool potential.  Despite reading enough comics that co-founding my own site about them on the internet seemed like a viable idea, I haven’t actually read the origin stories of, well… any of my favourite superheroes (that wren’t included in limited edition sets of Batman Begins).  And while I’m actively trying to change that, Season One presents an enticing thing for someone who wants to learn about their favourite heroes: graphic novels, made by up-and-coming talents, set in the early days of the heroes’ careers, but with a contemporary approach and setting to interest new readers who aren’t enticed by the original art or by old ones who have already seen it.

Of course, that just gets someone to pick up the book and open it; the comic itself has to do the rest.  And X-Men Season One, by Dennis Hopeless and Jamie McKelvie, is a fantastically crafted comic and introduction to the world of Professor X’s first class of students.  Not only is McKelvie‘s art spectacular, filled with energy and style, but Hopeless does a smart little trick: he doesn’t pretend for a second that virtual reality combat simulators and battles against mutant terrorists are anything other than an absolutely insane thing for a teenager to have to deal with.  Through Jean Grey’s point-of-view, the creators emphasize something that’s often forgotten in the day-to-day stories of the monthly comics, but which is often the first response of someone seeing it for the first time.  Combined with elements of young love, friendship, humour and alienation, Hopeless and McKelvie have made a comic that fits alongside a 50 year-old one but is wonderfully new, and that’s  a nearly impossible thing to do.  I’m happy to share some of my Coconut Popsicles of Achievement with them. (J)

BRENDAN SCHOTZ: SEX MACGUFFIN?

Paul Cornell has yet to fail me.

While all the so-called cool kids knew him best from his episodes of Doctor Who, I knew him as the guy that once had Dracula declare war on Britain by firing vampires out of canons from his castle on the moon. For that moment alone, he will always hold a special place on my book shelf – but as I’ve subsequently gone through his various works (including those stellar episodes of Doctor Who), I always find myself quite taken with the way he approaches story telling.

Almost invariably, Paul Cornell tells stories with a “why not” mentality. Meaning, instead of always and continually asking why, he will pre-emptively retort why notIt’s a simple statement that is often times misused in comics, confused with a lack of internal logic. Saying why not gives you the ability to live like Lloyd Dobler did before that unfortunate plane crash that took his life and that of Martin Crane’s daughter. It opens story possibilities and gives you the ability to say absolutely anything – and that often makes for some amazing stories.

Saucer Country is a ballsy book – one that wouldn’t exist without that old why not mentality. The elevator pitch is “The West Wing meets The X-Files” which is almost as ballsy as “Runaways meets Lost“. How exactly can a person try and channel Sorkin, with his verbose walk-and-talk, ground level story flow and drop in something higher concept like aliens? Part of Sorkin’s inherent charm was the fact that the things he would write about were just on the plausible side of reality. Heightened reality for sure, one in which man’s inherent self-interests were often scuttled for “the greater good” in situations that would never play so altruistic in real life, but reality just the same. But Cornell makes it all work. He plies his story with a healthy dose of Sorkin style politics (a female divorced Hispanic woman making a plausible run for the presidency? How utterly American) and crazy ass alien shenanigans with equal measure and respect. Neither is treated as being more important or more ridiculous than the other – and it’s that balance that allows the book to work.

This is not to short-shift the amazing work of Ryan Kelly. Kelly is a guy whose work I discovered when he and Brian Wood did Local together all of those years ago. I’m not a person who is really good at describing art, but suffice to say, Ryan Kelly’s people often look like people – albeit ones who are a touch more inky and stylized than ones we would see on the streets. His faces are always expressive, and the way he makes various characters act and carry themselves is second to none. Everyone’s posture fits with their tenor, and his staging is quite lovely. (Or to use a term Paul Cornell will more readily understand, loverly.) It makes for a characters you can believe exist, despite the fantastic circumstances that you find them in.

This review has been light on plot details – and deliberately so. A first issue, I think, needs to be experienced as fresh as you can possibly approach it – and going through plot beats will usually deaden an experience. I don’t want that, and chances are, you don’t want things ruined for you. That said, this is a book that you need to seek out and try – even if you’re just grabbing the first issue as a taste before you wait for the collections. Paul Cornell has yet to fail me, and the strength of this first issue emboldens my opinion that he will not do so anytime soon. It’s why we’re giving the book our Aaron Sorkin’s Brick of Cocaine Award, which should almost definitely carry some caché, right?

Right??? (B)

Better than alllll the rest

Let’s get this out of the way: Brian K. Vaughan, I’ve missed you.  Ever since I first cracked open a page of Y: The Last Man, your comics have enthralled and entertained me, and I’m so very glad to have you back, especially in such a fantastic debut issue:

He's so... horny! Also: I'm sorry.

Vaughan‘s major strength, crafting a full, believable fictional world, is a deceptively simple one, because it’s actually comprised of so many smaller ones.  Not only does a world – or in this case, galaxy – have to be big enough in scope to fit a story and its title, but it has to be filled.  A world where only enough exists to tell the words that are on the page isn’t a very good fictional world, and where Saga #1 succeeds is that it makes Alana and Marko, its two main characters, feel like a truly small part of their own world.  Because of this, the danger feels real.  Will they make it?  Will their daughter?  The voiceover narration subverts the expectations of this kind of fiction by telling us that she’s not going to be a great war hero or savour, just that thanks to Alana and Marko, she gets to be something.  At the end of a first issue filled with blood, death and dystopian war, that’s enough.  It gives me hope, and it makes me want to follow that story wherever in the galaxy it takes me.  It’s a series filled with characters I already care for, whom I already want to see do well.  That’s Vaughan‘s magic: an epic story in a galaxy filled with wonders, populated by people who feel real enough to care about.

The world itself is interesting: a blend of sci-fi and fantasy, it’s a world where spaceships and magic seem to exist side by side without feeling weird.  Instead, it feels fresh and new.  Have we seen something quite like this before, with aliens and people with horns and people with wings and people with televisions for heads?  Large cats that detect lies?  Treasure maps?  I don’t think so.  Like Y: The Last Man before it, Saga #1 combines a multitude of factors to make something bigger.  Unlike Y, it veers from a brutally realistic, familiar world to one that’s fantastical and filled with wonders, but still feels real.  Fiona Staples fills the issue with lush, wonderful art – some of the prettiest you will see all year – and, like the best of Vaughan‘s collaborators and co-creators, does an equal share filling the comic’s world with its characters and places.  Would Marko be the same character if anybody else had helped develop him?  Would Alana have that same wry resolve?  I don’t think so, and I don’t ever want to find out.  I just want to see Staples‘ beautiful hand-lettered – or is it brushed? – narration, and I just want so much more of this comic, for as long as I can get it.

This is Comics! The Blog. We now commence our broadcast week.

Love in the Time of Mass Effect

If you are like me, you don’t pay attention to most internet memes.  However, if you’re like me you also probably like making dumb jokes on Twitter about nerdy subjects and your brain gets stuck doing them because you are complicated, like in that song by Avril Lavigne.  You know, “Sk8er Boi.”

This feature article started out as a series of jokes I made on Twitter while I was working on something else, a way to direct all the crazy somewhere where it wouldn’t, say, affect a research report or academic manuscript.  Seeing as how a surprising amount of my day is spent thinking about Mass Effect, Ryan Gosling and an urge to remove all punctuation when making dumb jokes, what happened was a silly hashtag (#masseffectlove) and suddenly… I couldn’t stop.

I’m sorry.  You’re welcome.

Can't it be both?

If I wan’t so dead-set on romancing a Krogan, Garrus, I’d absolutely take you up on your offer.

How rude!

Note to self: do not take Wrex here for sexy makeouts.

Now THAT'S a C!TB Double Team! Wait, what? EW.

Well, I’m sure… for some people… theoretically… can you try not scowling for a second?

Twins, Basil! TWINS.

Hey, it’s a valid question.  Wait, are those sirens?  Anyway, speaking of which…

Alternate text: Hey girl are those moon pants what is the shield bonus on those

You know, if you’re into it.

It's all fun and games until the Collector Particle Beam runs out of batteries.

It’s an honest mistake, really.

Do you know how hard it is to find a non-alluring image of Samara?

Suck it, design nerds.

Ooh girl let me run my fingers all over that carapace

Hey, whatever floats your boat.  I’m not judging, I think Krogans are adorable.

Krogan baby let me kiss your tears away

BioWare, listen to me:

I.

Want.

A.

Krogan.

Romance.

Option.

Why couldn’t people make a petition for that?

[Ed. Note: All thanks to BioWare for not suing me into oblivion and also, you know, for making games with such rich universes and rewarding gameplay.  But, at the moment, mostly for the not suing me thing.]

You’re Welcome Internet | March 12-16, 2012

Drawing sex pictures for the masses.

Something something Mass Effect something something Bruce Springsteen.  I bet you can’t tell which one of us is writing this!

You’re welcome, internet.

———-

I want to treasure this forever.

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Who's he going to make out with now? Wait.
Click for more!

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I would pay so much money for this.
Click for full size!

———-

-Hail Savings!

———

Hey ladies.
Click for the whole story behind this joy.

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(From “Batman Running Away From Shit“)

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LEASK: I am not gonna lie, I am psyched as balls for this weekend.  Not only is my friend visiting all the way from Australia, but my work is forcing me to take a whole week off before the new fiscal year starts in April, which just happens to coincide with my friend’s visit!

That’s right, they’re making me.  I don’t actually have real problems anymore.

Anyway, now instead of showing him the wonders of my office where he would sit quietly while I reviewed manuscripts and dashed dreams (I might be overstating it), now I can show him the wonders of Edmonton… in March!  You might otherwise know it as January, if it weren’t so unnaturally warm and this was actually the proper frozen hellscape I know and love.  Anyway, this means I’ll probably just make him watch me play Mass Effect.

I… am not a very good friend.

SCHATZ: Oh, forced vacation. Remember that time the store owner made me take time off from work and I almost murdered that bus full of children?

Seriously, don’t give me time off from the comic shop.

But yeah, this week was one of those interesting weeks that I’m looking forward to cleansing starting on Monday, by being RAD AS HELL. Until then, we bid you a good weekend, and junk!

You have been reading Comics! The Blog. This concludes our broadcast week.