Double Team: A Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo Wrap-up

The Eiffel Tower of comics criticism!

Sometimes, when a topic is too big for just one of us, we put our rings together and activate our Wonder Twins powers to take the form of the mystical and elusive Double Team. This Last weekend, both Brandon and James attended the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo.  For Brandon, it was a busy weekend dealing with a crowded expo hall as a retailer, and for James, it was his first convention as an accredited member of the media, which I guess means nobody at the Expo actually reads this site.  Both of the boys had a pretty interesting, busy experience, and they’re here to give their own wrap-ups about the highs, lows and near-death experiences of the 2012 Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo!

A Brush With Flavour Death

By James Leask

Every year, attending conventions provokes two alternating reactions in me.  On one hand, I love seeing so much nerdy, geeky glee on display and all those thousands of people having fun, and I love being able to meet and talk with creators whom I respect and admire.  On the other hand, I also have a severe disliking of most people, and while a lot of any con has the kind of celebration that is the whole reason C!TB exists, it also has the kinds of things that frustrate me to no end about nerds and people, mostly falling under the general category of what-the-hell-people-how-is-it-possible-to-be-so-inconsiderate.

First: if you have spent hours in line to get into a place, a place that is full with at some estimates 35,000 people on one day, as my boss informed me was reported on the news, if you suddenly stop in the middle of an aisle, in front of hundreds of people all trying to get somewhere, and form a circle to talk about something while holding up traffic, you are an incredible asshole.  I am not saying you deserve to be cut (I am a pacifist, after all), but it is a distinct possibility because:

Second: I am pretty sure that a vendor skirting the rules that say you can’t sell actual weapons by selling a dull katana (as is allowed) by surreptitiously charging a customer a second fee to sharpen it for them, then allowing them to carry it around for the rest of the day at an expo centre where there is almost no elbow room, let alone murder sword room, is actually, genuinely illegal.  Please don’t do it, you contemptible, reckless assholes.

Then again, I haven’t heard about anyone being maimed with a samurai sword at all since I’ve returned home, so I’m guessing it’s time to take an angry lap and remember the fact that, despite a certain amount of dicks and a fundamentally broken organizational infrastructure (more on that later), ultimately the weekend and the Expo weren’t that bad.  For one thing, this was the first convention I’ve attended with a large group of friends, which meant that I always had people to joke with, wait in line with and have fun with.  We went out for meals, had at least one hotel party and shared looks of shock at the male cosplayer dressed like a scantily-clad Riddler’s Daughter which was, for the record, an incredible costume.

It was also my first convention attended as an accredited member of the press, which, despite my PR contact being completely unreachable for the entire weekend and resulting in the cancelation of every single media guest interview I’d been arranging, meant that it was easier to move around the BMO Centre and to arrange on-the-fly interviews with comic creators, which was pretty dang neat.  Not only was I able to talk with C!TB favourites Kurtis J. Wiebe and Riley Rossmo about the dearly departed Green Wake and their new projects, but I made some connections for future interviews.  Oh, and I sat down for an interview with a certain Dan Parent, aka one of the greatest Archie Comics artists in the title character’s 70+ year history, to talk about his work with the company and the incredible amount of television he watches.  Brandon and I also picked up some of Parent’s original black and white art pages, so I guess all in all it was pretty neat.

It was also C!TB’s first convention presence with an actual, genuine (unpaid) staff member.  If you stop by later in the week, I think you’ll enjoy seeing our photo/cosplay wrap-up for the Calgary Expo with photos by my friend/servant Ryan Tomko, who got the “privilege” of hearing me loudly tell him, “I am your employer and you will take the photos I tell you to, so take a picture of that male Scarlet Spider cosplayer’s airbrushed ass or you’re fired, take it take it take it take it take it THANK YOU.”

James Leask: Employer of the Month!

Believe it or not, that wasn’t the weirdest things got over the weekend, because I hadn’t yet paid four dollars to drink a foul-tasting energy drink that:

  • Contains an amount of vitamins described to me by a friend who works in chemistry as “dangerous” and which “could damage your kidneys.”
  • Also contains selenium, a substance whose antidote, if it’s taken in excess, is more or less, “have some rat poison.”
  • Has a label with such encouraging language as being “a factor in” a healthy lifestyle, advised for only one can per day to be taken “with food,” and “occasional use only,” as well as, “Don’t drink it if you’re pregnant, have a medical condition or get an allergic reaction,” which is more or less identical to the language the local government uses to tell people why it’s dangerous to eat fish from the river downstream of the sewage treatment plant.
  • Is only sold directly to customers (at an undisclosed price and never once using the word “sale”, I might add) because, in the words of the rep, “it saves the company $50 million in marketing costs per year.”  Oh, and also because, as the fine print on their inflatable promotional can reminded me, Verve is not yet approved by the FDA.

Minutes after drinking the can of Verve, I indeed felt a rush of energy and “thrilling results,” defined, I’m guessing, as “dizziness,” “pain,” “the urge to sit down and rest,” and the frequent request to friends that “I need an adult.”

Keep in mind, the product’s tag line includes the word “Insanely,” so it’s not like I shouldn’t have known what I was getting into.  Hours later, I was finally feeling fine and, for reasons unknown, discussing with Ryan my plan to “have three cans [on Sunday], get weird and do some interviews.”  Unsurprisingly, the only friend who would lend me some extra change to buy some Verve was Brandon, despite the physical attempts at protestation by our friends, because he is a good friend.  In the end, I decided to buy some onigiri instead and then later discovered that I potentially escaped a case of selenosis, the symptoms of which include “garlic odor on the breath, gastrointestinal disorders, hair loss, sloughing of nails, fatigue, irritability, and neurological damage,” extreme cases of which can involve “cirrhosis of the liver, pulmonary edema, and death.”

In other words, we have finally found the line I will not cross, and I say that as someone who bought a non-FDA-approved energy drink because “I want[ed] to make some bad decisions.”

LEARN FROM MY EXPERIENCE BECAUSE I WON'T
Pictured: Something you should never, under any circumstances, drink.

All this puts what I was going to wrap up with – namely, that the Calgary Expo’s repeated assertions that, despite turning away hundreds of attendees who had already purchased advance passes because the fire marshal wouldn’t let any more people into the convention, they weren’t actually oversold are factually untrue at the fundamental level of language – kind of inconsequential, because no matter how many vacationing young families with children and advance passes were turned away, how many times Ryan was delayed getting his press pass because he was told that if he stepped outside the hall, he wouldn’t be allowed back in due to overselling, or how many volunteers actually told people in line that the convention was oversold and that they should just go to the Craft Expo next door instead, I survived.  Some days, that just has to be enough, because not only did I get to meet Dan Parent, I managed to live to see another convention.

Brandon! The Sexy Musical

By Brandon “Nerp Patrol” Schatz

I didn’t murder anyone and I haven’t murdered anyone and quite frankly, I think that is an accomplishment.

At about 2pm on Saturday, as the torrent of people kept flowing in and out of the 3 section booth I was working, I felt my brain enter a panic mode. I needed the people to stop coming, and I needed there to be nobody for five whole minutes. Just five. But that wasn’t going to happen, clearly was an impossibility, and through sheer force of will, I wrangled my brain back under my tenuous control, produced a smile, and continued to deal my wares.

But then there’s the people who ask if they can get an extra discount on $35 hardcovers that we’re selling for 10, the ones that haughtily exit your booth because they feel like they’re owed a better deal than less than half when we attempt to politely tell them “no”. There’s the people that grab $500 worth of product and ask if you’d be interested in letting the whole lot go for $100 total. And sometimes, there’s the odd douchebag that walks right into your booth asking if you got anything that isn’t tactile because “paper is fucked and if you don’t start selling movies or some shit, you’ll be out of business in a year.” Yes, some people come to comic and entertainment conventions to tell you how your comic shop is going to fail, while your ever expanding fistful of twenties, fifties and hundreds starts to get unwieldy.

And there’s the set up, which takes hours and makes you tired before the convention even begins. And then there’s the take down, which takes hours, and makes you tired as you begin your long drive home. The bathrooms, the food lines, the ticking clock that tells you that you should be heading back to your booth so the next guy can have an hour to tour around the show as the guy in front of you starts his lecture on why they liked so-and-so’s take on a character better and couldn’t they write them or draw them a little more like that?

Conventions can be maddening, especially when some of your favourite creators are just a walk away, and you’re stuck in the trenches.

However.

Through the day, you are beset by friends, acquaintances, and customers who are positively beaming and vibrating with excitement, because holy damn the things they have done! They have a sketch by George Perez. They met Stan Lee, and he signed their favourite comic. They sat in the Batmobile, shined Patrick Stewart’s head, and had sex with the Honky Tonk Man.

That last bit might be a little exaggerated, but you get the idea. You get to see people that you know, that you love utterly giddy at what they’ve been able to do, what they’ve been able to acquire. And that? That’s the good stuff. You get to drink all of that in, and more often then not, you can smile to yourself when you (somewhat selfishly) realise that they’ve come to you to let you know, because you’re a part of this. You’ve been a part of their love of comics, of media, of whatever, and you’ve helped them down the path. You’ve chatted with them, and you’ve spent time and countless hours helping nurture and foster a love that has culminated, in some cases, in this giant burst of excitement.

You really feel like you’re part of something larger than yourself – and no matter how tiring or frustrating the job can be, helping people get that feeling (and getting that feeling yourself when you’re let out of the pen for a few hours) is just about the best thing in the world.

Comics are fucking rad you guys, and whenever I finish a con, that’s the thing I always take with me. I’m in an industry that I love, helping people love it back. And that’s amazing.

Plus, sometimes to cap off a convention, your girlfriend finds a booth selling pins with phrases from iCarly emblazoned on them, and she buys them for you. And that’s pretty rad too.

Um, Actually… | April 26th, 2012

Um, Actually…Welcome to the Como Murder Palace

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 (@jayrunham)asks: What is your favorite newspaper comic strip? (ex. Garfield, Snoopy, etc…)

James: Do you mean ones that are currently being made, or all-time?  Since you included Snoopy/Peanuts, I’m going to assume you been all-time, because in the current scope of newspaper comics, the only one that doesn’t make me profoundly sad for the state of newspaper comics is Fox Trot, which only runs on Sundays.  All-time, however, I think it’s pretty hard to beat Peanuts, Calvin and Hobbes and The Far Side, which are basically the trinity of modern newspaper comics.  Each of them, in their own way, revolutionized the medium, whether it was Charles Shulz‘s spare, evocative lines & emotional complexity, Bill Watterson‘s push for creator rights and artistic freedom, or Gary Larson‘s willingness to just be fuckin’ weird.

All of them were smart, unique, and dark as all hell, but the one that personally means the most to me is Calvin & Hobbes, which I talked more about on my Tumblr a couple of years ago.

Brandon: I’ll agree with James’ all-time, all-star picks (for me, my favourite will always be Calvin and Hobbes) but there’s a few that I’ve been getting into lately that are… well, old. Done. But recently, IDW and a few other companies have been putting out gorgeous collections of old strips, and I’ve been going through Terry and the Pirates – and damn is that strip good. Of course, that was from an era where folks with adventure strips were the toast of the town and could afford giant mansions from their strips’ profits, so it’s detailed as hell (all that time, poured onto the strips).

But modern strips? I’m probably gonna have to go with Pearls Before Swine, which almost never fails to make me laugh. First one I read, one of the characters dies and goes to heaven and meets Abraham Lincoln, and after excitedly saying that he wants to ask Abe SO MUCH, the former president says something to the effect of “Sure, but before we get to that, I want to know one thing: how did the play end?”

Love it.

———-

Josh (@joshbazin) asks: With AvX in full swing, what two comic-based teams would you see duke it out? Why?

James: The Legion of Superheroes and Legion Lost, because I like having no fucking idea what’s happening at all.  Or the Runaways and the Power Pack, but only if I can get Gurihiru to draw it.

Brandon: Maybe Youngblood and the X-Men. No, seriously. Although to be fair, I would probably want Jason Aaron or Matt Fraction to write it, and uh…. maybe not Rob Liefeld to draw it.

Actually no, I take that back. I’d have the Rob draw Youngblood and mesh those pages with someone else. For shiggles. And why? Whelp, again, because I think that would be rad. (Although seriously, I would also probably have the Runaways fight anyone… if only so they could be published again…)

———-

Danica (@danicahere), who can tolerate Brandon’s touch, asks: You’ve had some really amazing guests on the show. Do you have a dream guest you’d like to interview?

James: It’s really hard to think of that, since I had one of my top two dream guests on the show yesterday, but I’d probably have to go with the other half of Fraction-DeConnick Investigations, Matt Fraction himself.  Unfortunately, that would basically be the most nerve-wracking thing to have happen.  

Hell, comics is full of so many amazing talents right now, I could just start off listing names of amazing creators, but right near the top is probably Kieron Gillen, if only so we could revisit my Kieron Gillen impression.

Brandon: Those are probably my top picks too – though if we were adding, we’d probably toss in Jamie McKelvie and Nick Spencer and Matt Smith and quite probably the rest of the contents of the Soundproof John Wilkes Booth.

———-

James (@Leask) asks: Why am I unloveable?

James: Because you do stupid shit like this, asshole.  

Brandon: Because you insist on paying everyone in Leask Bucks, which are just slips of paper that say “Sex U Later”.

———-

Britneey asks: What are you guys doing this weekend? Another quite couple of days drinking tea & reading comics on the couch?

James: That’s pretty much the plan.  Wait, what?  

WHAT?

Oh shit oh shit oh shit, I gotta book a hotel.  And some interviews.  FUUUUUCK.

Brandon: What James means is… we’re going to the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo this weekend, where we’re going to get to talk to some pretty swanky people. And by we, I mean James, because I will be entrenched at the booths that Wizard’s Comics has at the show, selling our wares. But hey, the interview slate we have lined up isn’t too shabby in the least, so you’ll probably be seeing or hearing a lot from that in the very near future.

But speaking of the convention, I’m rushing my part of this, because I’m off to set up! Hopefully we’ll see a lot of you there!

———-

That’s it for the fifth 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 17 – REAL TALK with Kelly Sue DeConnick

We're trouble.

It’s Wednesday once again, which means it’s time to share another conversation we bafflingly put to tape 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 17 – REAL TALK with Kelly Sue DeConnick

This week, the boys sit down for a long conversation with one of their very favourite people in the world, writer Kelly Sue DeConnick.  What, for reasons unimaginable, starts off as a discussion of Tumblr and James’ field of work eventually turns to Kelly Sue’s upcoming projects: the new Captain Marvel series, Ghost and the latest Castle graphic novel, Richard Castle’s Storm Season, as well as KISS, the nature of art, self-doubt and how making the world a better place requires owning up to your fears and having hard discussions about difficult topics.  It’s a freewheeling, varied conversation that goes from giggling fits to remarkably serious topics, and is all the better for it.

Remember to talk to your comic book shop about pre-ordering Kelly Sue’s new books and also to check out Rappers Doing Normal Shit.  Finally, thanks again to Kelly Sue for being so generous with her time and her kind words.

Find Kelly Sue at KellySue.com, on Tumblr or on Twitter at @KellySue.

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! | April 24th, 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.

More like "TWO SMALL WORDS," amirite?ARCHIE #632 (Archie Comics)

Man, are people upset about this whole Archie-marries-Valerie thing?  Is that a… thing… that people care about?  Well, nuts to them!  Here’s what you need to know: in the surprisingly complicated Archieverse, there are things happening.  Following up on another story where Archie and the Pussycats’ bass player briefly dated, the publisher is exploring a story where not only did that happen, but it was the great, unrequited love of the characters’ young lives.  After jumping back into their romance, we now get to follow it to its logical end: marriage.  Babies.  The return of the amazing plot device that is Memory Lane.

Stories like this are reasons why Archie Comics is, no jokes, one of the greatest publishers around.  The conventional wisdom surrounding a set of characters that is so firmly ingrained into public consciousness is that there aren’t any new stories to tell.  Archie strings along two women and works on his jalopy.  Jughead is a glutton.  Moose has rage issues.  What “Archie Marries Valerie” points out is that the real strength of such an established brand is that it’s such a great sandbox to mess around in by telling stories that surprise readers.  Riverdale is a place free of prejudice, where everyone gets a shot at happiness.  It’s full of limitless potential, and that means there are so many stories to discover.  Isn’t that wonderful?

MARVEL UNIVERSE ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #1 (Marvel Comics)

It is a pretty incredible world where we can bet a comic based on a cartoon that is based on a comic that was based on another comic.  To some people, that is maybe the most ridiculous thing imaginable and an example of one of those sins of the recursive world of superhero cross-media business, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say this not just a brilliant marketing decision, but one of the core reasons I love Spider-Man and superheroes in general.

First, it is a genius business decision because if there’s one thing that comics fans complain about, it’s that the industry is in danger because despite having millions of TV and film viewers, there aren’t that many that read the comics themselves.  And as someone who relatively recently jumped back into comics (in a big enough way that he co-founded a site about them), comics continuity can be incredibly difficult to try and understand, and as much as Ultimate Spider-Man the cartoon is inspired by Ultimate Spider-Man the comic, it’s its own beast.  A kid who loves Spider-Man because they saw a cartoon can’t just jump onto the comic – it doesn’t even star the same character right now – but if he or she can pick up Marvel Universe Ultimate Spider-Man, set in the same world as the cartoon, he or she can start reading comics.  And once you start, it’s hard to stop.  This comic?  It could be like a spark that sets kids’ imaginations alive and gets them excited about the medium, and that is so wonderful it deserves a shot.

But maybe you’re already a dude or lady that knows about Spider-Man.  There’s already a chance you’re buying no fewer than three or four Spidey comics series per month already, so why spend another few dollars on more Spider-Man?  Well, let’s assume you’re not like me and don’t just have a problem.  The comic’s great strength is, like the original Ultimate Spider-Man before it, it’s a blank slate, an open field to play around in and discover.  Each different version of a character as ubiquitous as Spider-Man can emphasize a different aspect of his character, and this is an opportunity to see something new that doesn’t have to play nice with a whole fictional universe around it.  It just has to be Spider-Man.  And what’s that?  We can see a bit of it in the cartoon, but this is just a chance to see more.

More Spider-Man?  Sometimes I feel like I’ve based the bulk of my adult life around that quest.

MOON KNIGHT #12 (Marvel Comics)

Farewell Moon Knight, we hardly knew ye.

Let’s set something straight: while I’m not surprised that Moon Knight is ending after only twelve issues – he is, after all, a relatively minor character in the Marvel Universe, and it’s hard for those kinds of series to get traction – what I am surprised about is that I care.  Over the last year, Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev have done something pretty incredible: they reintroduced a character, stripped him of the bulk of his baggage, and told a different kind of story with him.  A story that was consistently engaging and entertaining for an entire year, even for someone who is not exactly sure how to spell the character’s civilian identity’s name.

It’s also a story that gets an end.  With so many series, especially ones with more vulnerable characters, getting canceled before the have a chance at resolution, twelve issues is a relative gift, and it’s not one to be passed up.  In the perpetual Second Act of superhero comics, a pair of fantastic, star creators telling a pretty self-contained, finite story without having to worry about other titles’ interference is a pretty rare thing, but it’s also pretty dang cool.  So what if there’s not an Issue #13?  With Issue #12, we get an end to this story, and hopefully a big horizon for what comes next.

Baller status.PLAY BALL HC (Oni Press)

Do you love coming-of-age stories?  Do you love baseball?  I’m guessing you already love comics, otherwise you’re probably just here for my hard-hitting coverage of cartoons intended for children. But if by chance you like comics, baseball and coming-of-age stories, Play Ball, by Nunzio DeFilippisChristina Weir and Jackie Lewis, is probably something that will scratch an itch you didn’t know you had, unless you also recently bought Cross Game.

Play Ball is a story about the difficulties of navigating adolescence, especially when you don’t really fit into preassigned gender roles.  For some reason, I identify with this.  Dashiell Brody loves baseball, and she just wants to play it at the highest level she can.  Unfortunately, the highest level for girls isn’t the same as the highest level for boys, and she has opinions about that.  What will happen?  Well, I’m pretty sure she’s gonna play some goddamn baseball, and I couldn’t be more excited to watch her fight for her right.  If this sounds like a story you can get behind – or that a young person in your life can – don’t miss it.

TEEN BOAT (Clarion Books)

If you honestly need more than the following pitch, I just don’t know about you:

The ANGST of being a teen – The THRILL of being a boat!

From breaking out in barnacles to facing pirates and detention, all the challenges of adolescence are given a nautical twist.  Being a teen and being a boat means dealing with a lot of pier pressure!

Much like Play Ball, Teen Boat is another book about a teen, coming-of-age, coping with being different.  But whereas the former is about a girl trying to break through the gender barrier to do something she loves, Teen Boat is about a boy who can… well… turn into a boat.  It’s probably a metaphor or something.

Whatever.

Here’s what you need to know: this book is SILLY.  And SURREAL.  And SELF-AWARE.  Do you think it would be possible for Dave Roman and John Green to make a book like this and not know exactly what they were doing?  By their own admission, Teen Boat was a joke that somehow turned into a real thing filled with real, genuine emotion, and that kind of aw-shucks enthusiasm and presumed giggling fits is something that needs to be rewarded, by adult and young reader alike.  For god’s sake, there is a chapter where TEEN BOAT runs for class president, and it is called “VOTE BOAT.”  Why haven’t you broken into your comic shop/bookstore to grab this already?

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 | April 23rd, 2012

Ta-daaaahhh

Ladies, laddies and ne’er-do-wells! Welcome to what will prove to be another fucktastic week at Comics! The Blog! We’ve got a lot to get to this week (if Brandon actually goes through with some planned articles) so let’s stop screwing around and get to the goods.

COMICS RULE EVERYTHING AROUND ME

BRANDON’S

It’s a hardcover. People are wary of hardcovers. There’s a certain connotation involved with buying one. The price and the fact that a cheaper softcover will soon be on the horizon is usually enough for a casual reader to shrug and wait. It happens with books, it happens with comics.

It does not happen with The Black Mirror.

Before the big relaunch, and before he began writing the Batman title, Scott Snyder was telling tales of Gotham City within the pages of Detective Comics. Featuring Dick Grayson in the role of Batman, alongside an interwoven tale about Commisioner James Gordon and his family, it was an odd sort of book, quite atypical for the family and the line. It remains one of my favourite Bat-books to date.

Flash forward to now, several months after the relaunch. A heady mix of a high profile gig and a heaping helping of talent have readers champing at the bit for more of Scott Snyder’s Batman. Many of them didn’t know about his previous gig – and they are all too willing to jump at the chance to nab The Black Mirror pretty much sight unseen, based off of Snyder’s name alone. Or at least this has been my experience while working in the comic shop. The switch in everyone’s brain telling them to wait for the trade is gone. They need more now, and they are willing to pay a premium to get it. Quite a few of them have come back to the store gushing.

Scott Snyder writes good Batman books. This, of course, holds true for this week’s issue of Batman, in which the Night of Owls begins in earnest. Having just gone through a psychologically damaging and disorienting fight with a Talon, Bruce returns to his home, where he soon finds himself beset by many of them. The fight gets quite out of hand, as the group ends up finding out quite a lot about Mr. Wayne – more than they had bargained for – all the while targeting several other targets in the city.

It’s a big plot, one that will spill out into every Bat-related title next month – and yet Snyder still manages to make the read feel contained. You can be content with just reading this book, or if you so choose, you’ll be able to see the larger effects by checking out the other titles in the Bat family in May. And as always, the art by Greg Capullo in this is just phenomenal. I honestly wasn’t sure what kind of book we were going to get from him when he was first announced, as the only places I knew him from were Spawn and Haunt – two books that never quite grabbed me art-wise (until Nathan Fox started rocking the hell out of Haunt – but that’s another article altogether). But the book looks amazing. Kinetic, cinematic, energetic – exactly what a Batman book needs.

A great read, quite deserving of our Cowardly and Superstitious Award. (B)

ADVENTURE IS INSIDE

Fiction barrels into the unknown.  It’s about exploring new worlds and situations; even old ones can be rediscovered and recontextualized to discover new layers and meanings.  In Defenders #5, Matt Fraction and his artists, Mitch and Bettie Breitweiser tackle both with an energy that’s positively electric.  The twin ideas of rediscovery and exploration go hand-in-hand throughout the entire issue.  First, there is the discovery of an ancient seal on the ocean floor, and the release of creatures long forgotten.  On a second, metatextual level, the comic looks at Captain Nemo and the Nautilus, creations of Jules Verne over a century ago, and turns them over in its hands, massaging and folding them into the Marvel Comics universe we know.  Finally, it examines the character of Namor, reintroducing him to an event from his youth, when he brushed against the world of adults and their sins but turned away, and forcing him to consider it now that he is an adult in his own right.

On each of these three levels, the comic pushes forward.  Sometimes fearlessly, sometimes fearfully, but ever onward.  Knowing what is now known, there is no turning back, for the team or for Namor.  The series, its creators and its readers will have to see what happens next month, as the machine keeps on moving.  Defenders is a series that is steeped in the unknown.  Its characters are surrounded by a mystery they can only grasp at, and they can’t talk about it to anyone but each other.  It’s black and murky all around them, and all they can do is keep trying to figure things out.  As a reader, it’s thrilling; how often do we get to go into something so blind?  To discover things as the characters do, one issue at a time?  How often do we get to be this surprised?

As beautifully as Fraction explores these ideas, it’s the art by the Breitweisers that makes everything that extra little bit more perfect.  Much like in their recent issue of Journey Into Mystery, their style evokes a certain timelessness and echo of the past, and in an issue about rediscovery and memory, it’s brilliant.  Evocative and tinged with nostalgia and regret, it’s the ideal companion for Captain Nemo and for Namor’s self-reflection.

Plus, it closes with Iron Fist macking on Misty Knight while wearing sweatpants, which is pretty damn baller if ever a comic has been.  I think it’s earned the inaugural Drawstring of Discovery award. (J)

Better than alllll the rest

Trying to put together a silent comic is a ballsy move.

At it’s core the art of comics is a cohesion of words and pictures, text mingling with single moments in time, gutters giving the implication of time, all stacked or arranged sequentially to tell a story. Taking the words out of the form sometimes results in well meaning, but technically clunky storytelling. Fortunately, that was not the case with this week’s issue of The Sixth Gun.

The ongoing’s 21st issue is an homage to the Marvel published G.I. Joes #21, the infamous “silent” issue in which no dialogue or text appeared in the story. Done so masterfully there, the silent comics has been tried many times over the years. Here, Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt enter the comic after blowing one of their main character’s eardrums – thus providing them means for a lack of sound. That clever bit certainly helped the suspension of disbelief of those who nit-pick at things that they enjoy. What emboldens the whole experience is the fantastic acting and staging that Hurtt provides. His characters are expressive enough that emotion and intent radiate through, without a need for anything to be said. Reactions follow actions without confusion. The plot moves forward quite nicely. The structure of the story, as provided by Bunn works quite well too, moving plot without the crutch of text. Really, this is a stellar example of storytelling, and definitely the best read of this week. (B)

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

You’re Welcome, Internet | April 16-20, 2012

Drawing sex pictures for the masses.

This weekend, treat your loved ones and disappear into a quagmire of self-doubt and bitter reflection on lost opportunities.

You’re welcome, internet.

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Pinky, NO!

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Hey boi

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Change you can believe in.
Click for full size.

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Slow clap, y'all. SLOW CLAP.

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A...men? Help me here, Brandon.
Click for more.

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LEASK: Bam!  That’s the week, everybody!  A great podcast, an article about a cartoon and a letters column where I re-declared my love for Hanson and Miley Cyrus.  I consider it a week well spent, don’t you?

What do you got, Brandon?

SCHATZ: Shame? I have shame. Didn’t get as much writing done as I had planned this week, but we’ll see what the next one brings.  There will be the HUGE local event that is the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo, which will be rad as hell, and this year, instead of manning the store for a couple of days, I’ll be on the floor, dishing our wares to folks what would like to consume them. And hopefully, I’ll end up with some free time to meet Stan Lee or something. Before that dude straight up dies from the tuberculosis, or whatever the kids are catching with their sex traps these days. I am not what you would call a quote unquote doctor. Either way, next week should be rad – see you then, crackers!

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

Um, Actually… | April 19th, 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.

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Jay (@JayRunham) asks: Dill pickles or cucumbers?

James: Whoa, hey, I don’t know what you inferred about us, but no, we will not engage with you in a sex act the kids are calling “Pickle-Dicking”.  Honestly, I don’t even know why you’d ask, you pervert.  What does that even entail?  Splashing tart liquids mixed with green food colouring on our penises and slapping them all together in a “jar” with some extra “brine”?  Man, I don’t even know.  I don’t even know.

If, somehow, you were actually asking about foodstuffs, then the answer is embarrassingly simple: cucumbers.  Not only are cucumbers delicious and one of my favourite foods, but I have the arcane knowledge necessary to turn them into pickles with the clandestine reagent, vinegar.  Truly, I am a god among men (and grandmothers).

Brandon: Pickles. If only for the existence of sweet pickles. Though to be fair, you can’t really have a pickle without first having a cucumber. Ladies.

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Ryan (@rocketmunkey) asks: What do you think about fighting in hockey?

James: I am not gonna lie, Ryan: I think fighting is an incredible distraction during a hockey game.  Now, I’m not against two dudes pounding on each-other while trying to get the other’s shirt off (see above for a potential definition of “pickle-dicking”) and then sitting down in a box for a few minutes while they awkwardly avoid eye-contact, as a general rule.  Even I, a pretty lapsed hockey fan, still understand that when tempers flare on the ice, sometimes there needs to be an outlet for them, and a bare-knuckle throw-down between two consenting adults is better than if they used their hockey sticks to do it.  My problem is that a lot of the time, this has nothing to do with it.

Instead, what seems to have happened, especially over the last few decades, is that teams have designated fighters, and these fighters have a “code,” and they will basically just agree to fight.  Sometimes, this ends up happening when tempers are genuinely flaring, but more often than not, it seems like they just nod or otherwise agree to drop the gloves.  And not only is this basically the equivalent of two dudes who can’t get it up trying to force the romance and have sex with each other, it’s also at this point, essentially a delay of game, and there is actually a penalty for that.  In these cases, the fights are dumb, they’re boring and they contribute nothing substantial to the game.

It would be incredibly easy to more or less get rid of fighting in the game: instead of 5-minute major penalties, players receive automatic game misconducts instead, with a following suspension likely.  It was the rule of the league when I played organized hockey, and I never once felt it was taking away from the game.  While I agree that fighting is a part of the pro game, and more or less always has been, I also think that if it disappeared, people wouldn’t miss it at all after a year or two, because if you’re not watching a fight, you’re watching a professional hockey game.  If it needs a forced bit of fake emotion to be interesting, then the game has much bigger problems.

In the end, I don’t think fighting will disappear from the game any time soon, and I’m not sure that it really should.  That said, I think that there could be increased (conditional) penalties for when it’s obvious the fight is just going through the motions and doing nothing more than delay the game.

Next time, ask about baseball.

Brandon:

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Amanda (@amandacstein) asks: Do bees know they’re going to die when they sting you? 

James: Finally, a real question!  Unfortunately, it’s not one I can give a complete answer to, because I’m not sure about the research, if any, that has been done in this area.  In this case, I went to my BEE TALK co-host, writer/editor Alejandro Arbona, to get an answer:

I don’t know.  I don’t know that they “know” much of anything about what they do, mostly they just know to do it.  But it also depends what they’re stinging.  They can sting each other and some insects without dying.  So it may come as a surprise.

And now you know… the rest of the story.

Brandon: My only experience with anything like this was that time James asked me to dress up as a giant bee and sting him, trying to whisper “and then you die” after the main request without me hearing.

I’m not saying that last bit was the deal breaker, but there’s only so many ways I’m willing to let my girlfriend find me dead by James’ hand, and “in a giant bee costume”, while unsurprising, is not one of them.

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Britt-Knee (@Britl) asks: Dear UM ACTUALLY, how can I find my perfect jam?

James: Britny, Brittny, Brittany… UM, ACTUALLY, the answer is pretty simple, since until recently, there were only five perfect jams*:

  • Hanson’s “MMMBop”
  • Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the USA”
  • Kanye West’s “Monster”
  • 2Pac’s “California Love (Feat. Dr. Dre, Roger Troutman) Disqualified on account of sexual assault
  • Any driving, upbeat-sounding Bruce Springsteen song that isn’t actually about the desperation of poverty, loss and the hollow promises of the American Dream (Lady Gaga’s “The Edge of Glory” falls under this category, since it features a saxophone solo by Clarence Clemons)
  • Checkone2’s “Jam,” featured in the eighth episode of Scrubs’ first season, “My Fifteen Minutes”.

Luckily, in September 2011, another song joined the list of perfect jams: Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe”.

So really, the pool is pretty small and now you should have no difficulty picking a new jam.

Brandon: Ask you grandparents, they should have a few good recipes, and go from there. I’m partial to certain variations of raspberry myself. 

* NOTE: “Jam” is defined here as a “summer jam” because come on, already.

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That’s it for the fourth 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 16 – Poor Spending Decisions, with Matt Wilson

We're trouble.

Apologies for the lateness in today’s Wednesday treat, fine listeners!  James lost control of a few of his indentured podcast servants and had to wrangle them back into order.  Anyway, at long last, a new episode of Podcast! The Comics is here!

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 16 – Poor Spending Decisions, with Matt Wilson

This week, the boys chat with writer/comedian Matt D. Wilson, co-host of the War Rocket Ajax podcast and writer of the webcomic Copernicus Jones and the upcoming book The Supervillain Handbook: The Ultimate How-To Guide to Destruction and Mayhem.  After a discussion of Shia LaBoeuf‘s totally insane self-published comics, they shift their discussion to recent comics and Matt’s own products, including when he’ll do more barbecue reviews.

After buying it during our conversation, James can totally recommend Matt’s book, The Supervillain Handbook, and perhaps even buying it twice.  Actually, scratch that: you should absolutely buy it twice. [Ed Note: May cause destitution.]  It will be physically released in one week on April 25th, but you can pre-order it now or buy the Kindle version, which is already available.

Listen to new episodes of War Rocket Ajax every Monday on their site or at ComicsAlliance

Read new Copernicus Jones comics every Thursday (and sometimes Tuesday)

Read Matt’s Tumblr

Find Matt on Twitter at @highmindedmw, or at his joke accounts @fakeeetiquette & @kingoblivionphd

King Oblivion, PhD, the credited author of The Supervillain Handbook, can also be found at The International Society of Supervillains

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!

Adventure Time with James and the Joy of Childhood (Wait…)

God bless you, children's entertainment!

01. ?UESTARLOVE

Children’s entertainment gets a bad rap.  Far too often, people of my generation – who only stopped being kids a few years ago, mind you – accuse children’s education of being dumb, shallow and an opportunistic money grab, which I assume means they have never watched or supported any of the following franchises:

  • G.I. Joe
  • Masters of the Universe
  • Teddy Ruxpin
  • My Pet Monster
  • Strawberry Shortcake
  • My Little Pony
  • Dino-Riders

To be fair, I’m pretty sure not many people paid attention to Dino-Riders, much to my ongoing condemnation.  My point, however, is not just that there’s a genuinely hilarious hypocrisy to this kind of criticism, but that good, rewarding children’s or all-ages entertainment can come from seemingly shallow waters.  Remember Batman: The Animated Series, which launched the DCAU?  That was a children’s television series.  The legacy and enduring adult fandom is just a bit of luck and a testament to a pretty wonderful truth: children’s entertainment can be deep and rewarding for all generations.

I’m not saying this to try and make my love of cartoons somewhat less creepy.  Okay, I’m not only trying to do that.  Mostly,  I’m just trying to lessen a bit of the acrimonious rhetoric that sometimes pops up and give a counterpoint to the oddly persistent idea that “mature” storytelling equals gritty stories, or that all-ages storytelling means that something is only for kids.  And besides Pixar or Neil Gaiman, do you know what one of the best examples is?  A cartoon series called Adventure Time.

02. C’MON, GET YOUR FRIENDS

Adventure Time is, at its most basic level, about a boy who lives in a sweet tree house with his best friend, who is a magic talking dog, and the adventures they go on in a land filled with candy people, princess scientists, vampire queens, ice kings and countless species of weird, wonderful peoples.  In other words, it is a 10 year-old’s ideal life.  I’m not kidding: if you asked me in 1994 what I wanted from life, Adventure Time would have basically fallen out.

This is the genius of Pendleton Ward, the show’s creator: he has tapped into a treasure trove of children’s dreams and is riding that Korean rainbow unicorn as far as it will take him.  But if it were just a 10 year-old’s delight, that wouldn’t explain the enduring and fanatical popularity the show has beyond its original target demographic.  Grown-ass adults don’t love this show just because it reminds them of their childhood imagination; they love it because it’s idiosyncratic, wildly intelligent and surprisingly dark.

The fact that it’s smart is present in the very first scene of the very first episode, the whole plot of which is that a princess who is also a super genius (and maybe a mad scientist) accidentally creates a zombie horde.  This isn’t just a case of, “Oh no, there are monsters!”  This is a case of (admittedly dubious) science and the need to get a cure.  Plus, and this is important, the scientist and her adventurer friend are kids.  You want kids to feel encouraged and respected?  Show them characters who are.  This is something Ward and his crew know extremely well.

This first episode, “Slumber Party Panic,” also introduces the darkness and sense of dread that often lurks throughout the show.  These zombie candy people that Princess Bubblegum created?  They want nothing more than to murder and eat everything that’s alive, and it’s Finn’s responsibility to protect the living citizens while Bubblegum tries to create an antidote, but if he tells any of them, they will flip the hell out and explode, because they are basically your grandparents with weak hearts who you don’t tell that you’re gay because you don’t want them to rock their worldview and be scared to death.

No, Mom, I’m not gay.

Scary elements are a big part of the show.  If Finn is supposed to be a hero, he needs to be scared and he needs to overcome it.  As a result, the show spends a lot of time with genuinely terrifying monsters even as it tells stories about Finn and Jake adopting a baby creature that responds to auto-tuned singing or about the challenges of friendship.  There is an episode where, for a brief moment, Manfried the Talking Piñata absolutely believes that his friends are going to beat him to death (they’re not).  Yeah, this show gets a little bit disturbing in its first episode alone.

It’s important that it is kids who are protecting these adults, and it is important that these kids are smart and talented, because it gives them all the agency.  The show encourages its child viewers to engage and identify with characters who, no matter what scary, seemingly inescapable odds, know they can save the day.  Occasionally, through science!  It’s also important that the show is willing to include scary elements, because if there’s one thing kids hate, it’s feeling like they’re being treated like kids.  When I was Finn’s age, I loved the hell out of scary stories, ones that would keep me up at night.  Do parents always approve of their kids being scared witless?  Of course not.  It’s worrying, and parents want to protect their kids.  It’s natural to worry about whether kids are being exposed to things beyond their ability.  But sometimes, protecting kids from stories doesn’t do anything helpful.  Sometimes, it just makes kids feel like babies.  Adventure Time, as weird and silly as it is, doesn’t do this.  It knows something that writers like Neil Gaiman and J.K. Rowling know: kids are smart and kids can keep up.

03. MATHEMATICAL!

I was struck by this on Sunday when I was watching Adventure Time the show, and I was struck by it later that day when I was reading the Adventure Time comic that BOOM! Studios is putting out as a part of its kaboom! line.  The third issue of the series was released last week, and the only reasons it didn’t make our Best of the Week yesterday were that the week had such an incredible line-up of comics and because I also kind of knew that I wanted to write a feature article about the comic there I didn’t actually get to it until 900 words in. [Ed Note: Send your editing offers to bschatz@comicstheblog.com!]

Adventure Time #3 continued the series’ first story arc, about the Lich King destroying the entire universe, in spectacular fashion.  I won’t spoil the actual story for you, but let’s just say that it feels like a great episode of the TV series and, well, the title characters don’t usually lose in children’s entertainment.  That said, one thing writer Ryan North (of Dinosaur Comics) has done extremely well in his adaptation is that he understands serialized storytelling extremely well and delivers a twist ending very well to set up the next issue, something the television series, operating in pretty distinct episodes, doesn’t really have to worry about.

North also nails one thing that the television series does well, but which a comic or other textual medium is better able to capitalize on: it uses big words.  Words that are complicated not just for 10 year-olds, but often for people even older.  Of course, this isn’t exactly surprising considering that North is a writer and programmer who has a friggin’ master’s degree in computational linguistics, but it’s still impressive because it challenges the idea that you need to talk down at a child’s level to make them understand.  Kids are smart, and they are biologically designed at that age to soak up any new information they can get.  If a kid doesn’t know what “metaphorical” or another word they might not know means, they will ask someone or something that does and they will figure it out.  If they know how it’s spelled, which the Adventure Time comic allows and the show doesn’t, they can look it up in a dictionary themselves.  When I was a kid, I asked so many questions about word meanings that my parents stopped having to tell me to look up the definitions in the dictionary, I just did it.  I didn’t know something and I wanted to; the rest was just a matter of being naturally inclined to not stop until I figured it out.

Given the chance, kids will figure it out.  They’re designed to.  As a result, the best entertainment for kids, be it comics, television or movies, aims a little above kids’ heads but still well within their reach.  It assumes they’re smart and not only that they will naturally attempt to figure things out, but that they can handle things that confuse or scare them because they’re not only smart, but resilient, too.  Do you know how The Graveyard Book, a children’s book from Neil Gaiman, starts?  It starts with a baby’s entire family being murdered by a man with a knife.  It’s scary.  It knows kids – some of them, at least – can handle it.  That’s why it won all the awards and it’s why Gaiman is as good as he is: he trusts kids.  Adventure Time does too, and like Gaiman‘s stories, the result is a story that’s deep and rewarding but also not boring for kids or adults.  By not aiming low, it aims high enough for kids and adults to become absolutely obsessed with it.

04. RIOT GRRRLS

And not just boys, either!  One thing I like about the show is that Princess Bubblegum might be pink, but she’s also the Land of Ooo’s super-genius version of Reed Richards.  She has adventures.  She’s smart.  She doesn’t take guff.  Neither does Marceline the Vampire Queen, who playfully torments Finn and Jake and also plays a pretty swank bass guitar made from a battleaxe.  They’re probably my two favourite characters (besides the elderly green elephant Tree Trunks, of course), and it’s why I’m so excited that at C2E2 this last weekend, Boom! announced a spin-off comic starring the two of them, Adventure Time: Marceline and the Scream Queens.

Suck it, Franzetta.
Cover by JAB.  Check out the announcement article for covers by Ming Doyle and Colleen Coover!

Just like Ryan North was the perfect person to write the first Adventure Time comic, Boom! has made a similarly excellent choice for Scream Queens with Meredith Gran, the writer and artist behind one of the greatest webcomics in existence, Octopus Pie.  Adventure Time is a show with a really unique, idiosyncratic voice, and with Ward‘s own background in independent comics being an influence on his show, webcartoonists/online cartoonists make a perfect choice when it gets brought into the realm of comics.  Like North, Gran is incredibly intelligent and her background in animation results in stunningly good-looking, well-designed and laid-out comics.  Gran refuses to talk down to her readers, and while she can tackle some really emotionally heavy stories about relationships as a result, she also uses physical comedy, silliness and exuberance to tell different types of stories, too.  All this is to say: Marceline and the Scream Queens is gonna be phenomenal.

More than that, it will be great to see stories about Princess Bubblegum and Marceline.  Despite being two of the smartest characters on the show (who are pretty much able to run circles around Finn and Jake, for the record), because they’re not the main characters, they don’t get as many stories featuring them, which is a shame, especially given that they’re the series’ main female characters.  Luckily, Marceline and the Scream Queens is a great way to rectify that with some smart, fun stories that highlight all the great things about Adventure Time: its intelligence, darkness, silliness and imagination.  Pendleton Ward has created a pretty great universe, and, whatever our ages, let’s go play in it.

You Read These With Your Eyes! | April 17th, 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.

THE SHADOW #1 (Dynamite Comics)

Old pulps have always fascinated me. It’s an odd fascination though, in that I have yet to read through a single old pulp story on my own volition. I have some collections, and I stare at them hungrily. More than anything, I like the idea of them – quick and dirty tales of daring do, of scum and villainy overcome by larger than life vigilantes. Obviously, this fascination comes from my love of superhero stories, but there’s just something… something different about the pulps, how they made no bones about being disposable entertainment, how they were made purely to entertain, rather than be held up as works of art.

This week, Dynamite starts reviving some of the old pulp characters with a new take on The Shadow. Garth Ennis will be writing the series, and it looks to be set in the 1930s, when the character was originally released. And of course, it’s going to be violent as hell. Because c’mon. It’s Garth Ennis.

Anyway, I’m really looking forward to this book, and the companion title (The Spider, from accomplished prose and comics writer David Liss) as a bit of a gateway into the pulps. It should be an interesting journey with people so talented at the helm.

SIXTH GUN #21 (Oni Press)

Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt’s amazing supernatural western book is going to try something ballsy this week: a comic without any dialogue.

It’s a neat storytelling excursive that has been tried many times in the past, most famously by Larry Hama in the pages of G.I. Joe #21, which in turn inspired a month of Marvel Comics that did away with words in late 2001 under the blanket label Nuff Said. It goes without saying that some of these comics worked a little better than others – but this issue of Sixth Gun? I expect to be phenomenal.

The series is already stunningly good, using issues as full episodes rather than singular acts in a larger story. A lot is accomplished in each issue, and somehow, Bunn and Hurtt just seem to get better and better with each passing month. It’s always a joy to read, and I can’t wait and see what they accomplish with this self imposed limitation.

THUNDER AGENTS VOL. 2 #6 (DC Comics)

And thus, another Nick Spencer series draws to a close at DC Comics.

THUNDER Agents was a book that never quite fit in with the rest of the line – and somewhat rightfully so. It’s one of those aquired properties that the company tends to dabble in every now and again, this one a creation of Wally Wood back in the day for a different comic book company.

Because the book functions in its own corner, and is not so tied up in the editorial push and pull of the main line, the stories told in the pages were quite unique and refreshing, in regards to superhero comics. After all, a team that agrees to take on a set of powers, knowing full well that their use will eventually kill them – that’s quite a different place to start – one that doesn’t quite match with the core of a publisher like DC, built upon the perpetual unending nature of their mainstay superheroes. Either way, the stories were fantastic and compelling, and I really wish we were getting more.

But hey, if this frees up Spencer to try his hat at writing a Jimmy Olsen ongoing inside of this New 52 universe, whelp, I might just be persuaded to be a little less sad about this.

C’mon DC. You know you wanna.

DEFENDERS #5 (Marvel Comics)

Oh hey look, a Matt Fraction book on our recommendations list! Will wonders never cease?

This is a book that takes the craziness of Casanova and distills it for the bits that are more appropriate for a title befitting the main line of a large superhero comic publishing house. The results, are quite stunning, from the stories bursting with swagger, to the weird little blurbs at the bottom of pages – which in this issue, are all in Atlantean. So you better believe I will be glued to the damn computer on Wednesday, waiting for someone to pop up a translator for me to decode my copy.

Oh, and yeah, Fraction will also write amazingly, with pretty, pretty art provided by Mitch and Bettie Breitweiser. But really, you should expect that by now.

Buy this.

FEAR AGENT VOL. 6 (Dark Horse Comics)

And finally, the book I am most excited about – the final volume of Fear Agent.

Fear Agent follows Heath Huston, the very last Fear Agent, as he tries to save all of existance in a glorious, amazing series of space pulp adventures. The book is written by Rick Remender, who is currently rocking all of your shit with Uncanny X-Force, Venom and Secret Avengers – and if you’ve read any of those books, could you imagine what a Remender book would look like without any kind of leash holding the ideas in?

This series was and is a big, brash, and ballsy, hitting you with fits of violence, humour and incredible heart. It will make you laugh, make you cheer, and it will break your god damn heart – and this conclusion ends the entire run with the absolute perfect pitch. Seriously, Remender rocked the hell out of that ending.

And hey, you know, having artists like Tony Moore and Jerome Opeña as your principle artists (along with pinch hitters like Mike Hawthorne and Kieron Dwyer) doesn’t make for a shabby looking book either.

If you haven’t started this series, do so – and if you have? Here’s the ending you’ve been waiting for. It was worth the wait, goddammit.

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.