Um, Actually… | May 31st, 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.


NOTE: We have an extra special UM, ACTUALLY this week!  Due to positive life circumstances (living in sin), I (James) will be answering this week’s questions without Brandon’s assistance.  But don’t worry, I’m not alone – I’ve brought with me my patented (not actually patented) BRANDONBOT.  BrandonBot, say hello!


That’s enough out of you.


Brittany Murphy’s Ghost (@britl) asks: If you were a villain from Batman: The Animated Series, which one would you be?

James: As someone with a degree in psychology who also loves to dress like Wizard of Oz characters, I would of course be Sewer King.



Ryan (@bakpakit) asks: I can’t believe I watched the entire Moffatts music video on Comics! The Blog’s latest UM, ACTUALLY article. How were they a band ever?

James: Simple! Take four young Canadian boys with a talent for songwriting.  Add a domineering show dad.  Mix it all up in the greatest decade.  Bam!  You have pop magic.  



Ryan continues: Why can’t I seem to pull myself away from this Jennifer Lopez movie that came on TV?

James: Good question, Ryan!  Of course, since you didn’t mention which Jennifer Lopez movie you were watching, and I distinctly remember being too lazy (for the purpose of this joke) to check the TV listings, I’m going to have to go through every Jennifer Lopez movie just to be sure.

Reasons You Can’t Seem to Pull Yourself Away From This Jennifer Lopez Movie That Came on TV, by Movie:

Selena (1997): You’re attracted to thick, dark eyebrows.

Anaconda (1997): Thinly-veiled homoerotic metaphor, awakened the first time you heard Panjabi MC & Jay-Z‘s 2003 opus “Beware of the Boys”

The Cell ( 2000): Now, you would think the answer would be “a curiosity with Catholic S&M imagery,” but the answer is much simpler: the very same snake metaphor as with Anaconda, combined with the lingering feeling that you know the young version of Carl Stargher from somewhere (he played the younger brother, Matt, on Lizzie McGuire.  He was also in DinoCroc, but that’s beside the point).

The Wedding Planner (2001): It’s scientifically impossible not to love movies where a wealthy, accomplished career woman realizes that what she really needed in her life was Matthew McConaughey.

Angel Eyes (2001): The secret hope that Jeremy Sisto and Jim Caviezel will end up together.  Note: This is actually a prequel to Caviezel‘s newest project, CBSPerson of Interest.

Enough (2002): The emotional catharsis of watching an empowered woman beat the shit out of her abusive boyfriend, The Rocketeer.

Maid in Manhattan (2002): There are actually two reasons at work here:

1. The pun in the title.  

B. You keep waiting for Matthew McConaughey to show up.  Sadly, you’re actually thinking of The Wedding Planner.  On the plus side, you can still be reminded of the hilariously pretentious way Ralph Fiennes pronounces his name, but that’s maybe five minutes of blissful rage, tops.  Just mentally replace him with Liam Neeson, you’ll be all set.

Monster-in-Law (2005): Despite what you might be trying to convince yourself, you’re not still watching this because you’ve been a big Michael Vartan fan since his days on Alias.  You’re actually watching it because every straight man, whether he wants to admit it or not, is incredibly turned on by Jane Fonda being a stone-cold asshole.  Seriously, she tries to poison Lopez.  Isn’t that hot?

Bordertown (2006): Martin Sheen.  That is literally all the reason you need.

The Back-up Plan (2010): There is a scene where Alex O’Loughlin‘s character is mistaken to be a pervert because he goes to a park to watch kids, which, admittedly, sounds really bad.

There’s also a small chance you’re actually just watching Lopez‘s 2010 episode of How I Met Your Mother, “Of Course,” over and over again.  There’s nothing wrong with this, but the next episode, “Say Cheese,” is really good, too.

I hope this has helped.



Jay (@jayrunham) asks: In the Disney Hunger Games, who would win?  Who would lose?  Who would you sponsor?

James: It’s hard to bet against Disney’s Hercules, a dude who is literally a god. The only person who could give him a run for his money would probably be Kida, just because she can turn into a crystal for some reason.  And really, everybody else loses, but it’s hard to imagine that Ariel, Snow White, Belle or Jane would do very well, since they mostly exist to love dudes and sometimes make bad decisions.  Plus, one of them spends about half her time unable to walk on land.

I would probably sponsor Tarzan and spend the whole Games sending him Phil Collins songs.




Josh (@joshbazin) asks: If you could permanently swap a hero between Marvel and DC which would it be, why and what would the impact be?

James: I would switch the two versions of Hercules.  Because I want to see Marvel’s Hercules be bros with Jimmy Olsen.  The impact would be that Jimmy would be even more awesome.



Josh continues: If you could gender-swap any character in pop culture, who would it be?

James: The Eleventh Doctor, because I’ve seen that cosplay and it is INCREDIBLE.



Josh asks one last question: Why does my heart feel so bad?

James: Talk to Scott Williams.



Taylor (@iamtaylorsmith) asks: Which part of Brandon would you eat first?  Assuming you’re on a desert island and need to eat him to survive.

James: The tongue, so he couldn’t ask me to stop.



Chris (@chrisinedmonton) and Ryan ask: Boxers or briefs orrrrr au naturale?

James: Whatever Bill Clinton answered.



Dave (@thehorseman) asks: What would you do if I sang out of tune?  Would you stand up and walk out on me?

James: Yes.




Scott (@scottowilliams) starts by asking: I saw Brad Meltzer’s DECODED about Fort Knox.  What do you think is locked up there, if not gold?

James: Ancient Aliens.


Scott continues: What are your favourite Doctor Who moments?

James: In no particular order:

  • The end of “The Family of Blood,” where the Tenth Doctor just coldly wreaks vengeance on the titular villains.  David Tennant played the Doctor as being so cheeky that when he was serious, it was really, really effective.  See also: the end of “The Christmas Invasion,” where we first see this dark streak.
  • The end of “The Last of the Time Lords.”  For all the Master’s villainy and psychopathy, the Doctor weeping over his corpse because he’s once again alone in the universe is a heartbreaking moment.
  • The Eleventh Doctor’s speeches at the end of “The Eleventh Hour” and “The Time of Angels.”  One of Matt Smith‘s great strengths is how well he can oscillate between goofy boffin and terrifying authority, and he does it so well in these episodes.  In both cases, the Doctor’s speeches exemplify so perfectly why the most dangerous person in the universe is an old man in a suit.
  • Any scene with the Doctor and Stormageddon, Dark Lord of All (Alfie) in “Closing Time.”
  • The scene in “The God Complex” where the Doctor has to break Amy’s faith in him, especially knowing that he spends his next hundred years alone and lonely.
  • If you don’t cry at the end of “Vincent and the Doctor,” you’re a goddamn psychopath.
  • The final scene with Idris and the Doctor in “The Doctor’s Wife” is such a beautiful emotional punch, for similar reasons as “The Last of the Time Lords”: a moment of connection, then perfect despair.  The episode’s denouement is another wonderful little scene that has a gentle poetry to it afforded by this much rougher scene before it.

In fact, most of my favourite Doctor Who moments are ones that make me cry, like the last two on the above list.   However, a few others stand out for making me cry out of pure joy, instead of actual sadness.

One of these is basically the entire final act of “The Big Bang.”  The Doctor’s tearful goodbye  to Amy, Rory and River is sad, but it makes that final reveal, when they’re all reunited, such a perfect moment of happiness.  As much as I love the cleverness of Doctor Who, the core reasons I love it – and the Eleventh Doctor seasons especially – are the relationships at its centre.

I’m actually just finally working my way through the Tenth Doctor’s final episodes, and yesterday, I stumbled across an episode so wonderful and beautiful that I ended up bawling, watching it alone in my office on my lunch break.  One of the best parts of “Forest of the Dead” (and the first part of the story, “Silence in the Library”) is the relationship between the Doctor and River Song, him meeting her for the first time and her seeing him for her last.  Her sacrifice at the end is initially set up as an example of how, as River says, “everybody dies,” but it ends up turning into a statement on why the Doctor is so heroic: he refuses to accept this.  He tries to save everybody, and by the end, you believe River when she says that the whole universe might go dark if, for just one second, the Doctor believes that he can’t.  The ending, with the Doctor saving everyone despite how impossible it was to do so, is maybe the quintessential Doctor Who moment.  On that day, nobody dies and everybody lives.  It’s unspeakably beautiful, and it’s maybe my favourite moment in the entire show so far.


Scott goes on: What skill do you not have that you wish you could acquire?

James: I wish I was taller.  I wish I was a baller.  I wish I had a girl who looked good, I would call her.  I wish I had a rabbit in a hat with a bat and a sixty-four Impala.


Scott won’t stop: What is this thing you humans call love?



Scott finishes by blurting out: Whose face did you eat?

James: See Taylor’s question.



That’s it for the tenth 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 22 – Game of Thrizzles

We're trouble.Brandon might be moving, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a hot, juicy new episode of Podcast! The Comics for you to enjoy.  Please apply topically.

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 22 – Game of Thrizzles

This week, the boys discuss Brandon’s impending move and how, to cut down on the amount of stuff he owns, Brandon inflicted it on James instead.  Next, they have a spoiler-filled discussion of this week’s Game of Thrones episode, “Blackwater,” and the nature of adapting a popular piece of fiction to another medium.  Finally, they talk about comics because it’s in the title of the dang podcast.

WARNING: The discussion of Game of Thrones in this episode has spoilers about this week’s episode, “Blackwater,” and the series to date.  If you don’t want to have plot points ruined for you, skip from 14:00 to 22:20. LISTEN SAFELY!

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”):

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! | May 30th, 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.


It’s hard to go wrong with Batman Annual #1.  It’s got Scott Snyder, one of the best Batman writers in decades (probably ever), cowriting it.  It’s got art by the talented, young Jason Fabok.  Oh, and it’s got one of the first appearances in the New 52 by Mister Freeze.  He’s wearing a tank top and has a floppy little Quentin Quire-esque mohawkAdorable.

This issue brings Mister Freeze into the fold of not just the new DC Universe, but also Night of the Owls, the Snyder-masterminded Bat-family crossover.  Freeze is, like several of Batman’s foes, a tragic villain, often detached from the more straightforwardly criminal or psychopathic actions of his peers, and it should be interesting to see what be brings to Bruce’s conflict with the Court of Owls.  After all, his measured nature is something he shares with the Court; both are brutal but rational, and the thought of them working in tandem – or in opposition – is definitely an interesting one.

GRIM LEAPER #1 (Image Comics)

Kurtis J. Wiebe continues his post-Green Wake new series blitz this week with Grim Leaper #1, which might have one of the best elevator pitches since Morning Glories (Runaways meets Lost), Witch Doctor (House with demons) or Sacrifice (time traveling Joy Division fan in comics’ greatest meta-revenge  Aztec western [Ed Note: That one’s on me, Humphies]):

A gory romantic comedy.

It’s an evocative description that’s matched both by Wiebe‘s talent for the horror genre, given Green Wake, and artist Aluisio Santos‘ creepy, dreamlike art.  The story is wonderfully macabre: a man, cursed to a cycle of endless deaths and rebirth in strangers’ bodies, meets a woman with the same affliction.  As they both try to escape their curses, they… fall in love?  Okay, I’m sold.  It’s a juxtaposition that should be as fun as it is jarring.  It makes me smile, and if it does for you even a little bit, how could you resist checking it out?


Peter Panzerfaust isn’t just one of the best war stories in recent memory, though it certainly is.  Helped along by a little stylistic trick writer Kurtis J. Wiebe borrows from Band of Brothers (probably the best war story in recent memory), it’s an incredible Peter Pan story that seems designed not just for fans, but for people who aren’t fans of other adaptations of J.M. Barrie‘s work.

For some people (like Wiebe), a lot of adaptations capture Peter’s brashness, but lose some his charisma.  The result?  A lead character that just kind of seems like a dick instead of a hero.  With Peter Panzerfaust, however, Wiebe is writing a version of the character that is just so damn likable, you can’t help but want to go along with him, which is, more or less, the point of the character.  He’s matched in this accomplishment by artist Tyler Jenkins, under whom Peter is cocky but not excessively so, a mischievous adventurer who you can’t help but just know is good.  As he, the Lost Boys and their new recruits (featuring a certain Ms. Darling) make their way farther into the battlefields of World War II, this is crucial.

Of course, Peter and the Boys have only seen victories so far… until this issue.  Back when I talked with Wiebe, he foreshadowed Issue #4 as the one where the group sees their first defeat – and maybe their first loss.  Suddenly, the realities of the war promise to hit our heroes in the face.  Will Peter’s charisma be enough?  Will he come out of this issue as the same carefree rogue?  What about these boys he’s leading into war?  We’ll find out soon, but with Wiebe and Jenkins‘ considerable skills, we can assume it’s going to be rough and it’s going to be oh so good.


Tiny Titans is dead.

All hail Superman Family Adventures!

Don’t mourn the passing of Tiny Titans.  It got 50 issues – more than most series – in which Art Baltazar and Franco told a unique story that never got old.  And now they have a chance to bring their voice and approach to something different: Superman!  And his family!

Tiny Titans made wonderful use of its self-imposed limitations, but sometimes you just wanted the “camera” to pan a little higher and show us Superman’s face.  With Superman Family Adventures, Baltazar and Franco get to do just that: they can show Superman’s face.  They can play with his whole mythos.  The sky’s the limit, isn’t that exciting?

Superman Family Adventures promises a combination of Tiny Titans‘ humour with some real superheroic action.  More than that, it’s a project of passion for Baltazar and Franco; how many people get to write or draw Superman for DC Comics?  Just a handful, and today, these men become two of them.  They get to bring their colour and their bright outlook to the prototypical superhero, the very symbol of the idea.  That’s pretty cool.

And it’s all-ages!  That’s even cooler.  This will be a comic anyone can enjoy, and the world deserves more of them.  Rock on, guys.


It’s a pretty auspicious time for Sam Humphries to be joining (and taking over) the Ultimates team, considering that in the previous issue, then-solo co-writer Jonathan Hickman blew up Washington, DC.  With such a visceral, game-changing cliffhanger, Humphries‘ first issue doubled down on the crazy.  As it should.

This is what the Ultimate Universe was made for.  Giant events that have consequences, damn the continuity’s legacy, that really force the characters and the readers to scramble to keep up.  a Nimrod fleet.  A cybernetic reborn Stryker.  The Ultimates on the run from the government and both seemingly at the mercy of the People of Tomorrow and Reed Richards’ heel turn.  Every one of these could be a summer blockbuster movie individually, but together it’s a great highlight of what this universe and the medium can do when there’s nothing fueling it but talent, imagination and, I’m guessing, the dreaded Mountain Dew street team.

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 | May 28th, 2012


Happy Memorial Day, America.  Wait… this is actually a somewhat dour holiday remembering the heartbreaking service and sacrifice of young men and women?  Well… uh… have fun?

Canada, as you were.



I did not expect to love Exiled as much as I am.  Despite my well-documented love of Kieron Gillen‘s work on Journey Into Mystery – he’s easily one of the best writers to happen to the Thor books in recent decades – the reality is that crossovers can be difficult to dig into if the reader isn’t reading all the series involved (in this case, New Mutants).  It’s a considerable mark of Gillen, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning‘s skills as writers that Exiled is as tightly plotted and exciting as it is, and can give such a heartbreaking surprise as the one that Journey Into Mystery #638 delivers.

This issue has all the hallmarks of Gillen‘s work with JIM and Thor over the past few years: high concept, smart humour and wordplay, and a twist on something the reader thought they knew.  In this issue, the big reveal centres around the Disir, the cursed former shield maidens of Bor, and to say it’s effect is massive would be an understatement.  As Gillen has explained, this is a development that has been in the works for years – since he first created them in Siege: Loki two years ago – and it recontextualizes almost everything he’s done in this corner of the Marvel Universe.  In one issue, Gillen, Abnett, Lanning and artist Carmine Di Giandomenico have abruptly turned creepy villains into something infinitely more tragic and sinister, while simultaneously challenging archetypes of gender representation in myth and fiction.  Even if the rest of Exiled hadn’t been marvelously entertaining and funny already, Journey Into Mystery #638 would have earned it the title of being one of the best crossover comic arcs in recent years.  They have earned their Polly Jean Harvey Medal of Valour in every possible way.  (J)


I often lose things that I would very much like to be easily recalled. Within the folds of my own brain, things evaporate, dissipate, or whatever else things do. The point is, a memory can be a terrible thing when you start to lose it – which is one of the many reasons why Matt Kindt’s new series Mind MGMT is a simultaiously amazing and terrifying read.

The first issue reads like a plot to an episode of Fringe – albeit one tailored specifically for the medium of comics. Kindt pulls out all the stops, in terms of design, in putting these pages together – leaving bleed art instructions on the page quite conspicuously. At first blush, it seems like a small flourish – but closer examination produces something far more sinister. Hidden within the template are increasingly strict and terrifying bits of protocol, meant to be followed at all costs – a story of sorts to go along with the one depicted within the bleed lines.

The story itself is quite fascinating, as a reporter attempts to find out what exactly happened on a flight where every single person on board lost their memories prior to “waking” on the flight. Lives wiped completely, she attempts to parse meaning – and manages to stumble onto something far bigger than she (or we) could possibly imagine. It’s conspiracy writ large and it’s absolutely gorgeous. You would do well picking up a copy of this book – I would really like to see this play through to a natural end, and I’m not quite sure how the orders for it went. Hell, we’re even giving this book the Dr. Walter Bishop Award for all of it’s Fringe-y goodness. Which should be more than enough. (B)

Better than alllll the rest

There’s nothing like a new issue of Batman Incorporated to make you realize that it’s been far too long since Grant Morrison really, truly, messed you the hell up.  While many other creators are capable of making good or even exemplary Batman comics (INSERT NOD TO SCOTT SNYDER), there’s something about the textual density and Bat Pantheon-worshipping nature of Morrison‘s Batman comics that make them something undeniably unique.

Oh, hey there.  I didn't see you.

Volume 2 of Batman Incorporated launched with a new #1 issue, a tenuous relationship to the rest of the New 52 – besides making him use the new costume, who at DC is actually going to tell Morrison he can’t do what he wants on a Bat-book? – and some pretty insane plot developments.  After all, this is an issue where Batman and Robin chase a killer through an evil slaughterhouse and that isn’t the craziest thing that happens by far.

One of the best things about Morrison‘s approach to Batman is that he embraces the character’s entire history (almost everything he’s done on the title has been a reference to a previous part of the character’s history), and while this sometimes makes for sinister villains like Doctor Hurt or the murder mystery with the International Club of Heroes, Morrison and Burnham‘s senses of humour and whimsy also result in a scene where Robin decides to become a vegetarian and adopts “Bat Cow”:

I see what you did there.

Which is almost definitely a reference to a scene from Tiny Titans, which was itself a reference to the fallout from Morrison‘s “Batman R.I.P“:


Isn’t that just amazing?  Isn’t just miraculous that in a comic decidedly for adults, in that it so full of murder it literally takes place in an abbatoir, there can be a moment of such lightness?  That’s what makes Morrison‘s work with Batman so marvelous and amazing: he loves Batman.  Not just a certain version; he loves everything about Batman, and the result is an ongoing love letter to the character, one that gives the occasional bit of whiplash as it veers from chase scene to light humour to the ongoing development of Morrison‘s multi-year opus arc with Bruce Wayne as it gets darker and darker.  After all, the reason this whole chase occurs in the first place is because Talia al Ghul, recently revealed to be the world’s premiere megacrime mastermind, puts out a hit on her own just to fuck with Batman.  Like the best Morrison Bat-comics, this one features a cliffhanger ending, maybe even his best yet, both for its emotional impact and the callback to one of the most famous Batman stories ever.

Batman Incorporated will always take more than one read to glean the details from, something that is wonderfully encouraged by Chris Burnham‘s amazing art.  Like Frank Quitely, Burnham‘s fine line work fills pages with details that are frequently either allusional or foreshadowing, and what this means is that the reader is encouraged to pore over every single page, soaking everything in.  Despite the “disposable” nature of comics, what Morrison, Burnham and colourist Nathan Fairbairn (whose work is so sharply reminiscent of the “camp” Batman-era even as it’s juxtaposed with dark, adult material) are making is an anachronism: a book that’s in love with the pulps but reverent to the ability of fiction to endure and transcend the paper it’s printed on.  If you love Batman – just about any version, really – there is probably something here for you to love.  I’m so glad to have it back. (J)

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

You’re Welcome, Internet | May 21-25, 2012

Drawing sex pictures for the masses.

Listen, just be glad it’s not a 3000-word article about Mass Effect from James.

You’re welcome, internet.


Why won't my oncologist pick up?


I guess he saw Brandon's tweet.


Go on.


Oh... Canada? Wait, something's off.






LEASK: Guys and ladyguys, I’m gonna get real with you for a second: I am playing Mass Effect again.  I am probably going to spend more time playing it this weekend than I anticipate.  Do not count on me to show up on time for anything unless you can promise me a Krogan romance option.

Seriously, BioWare: GIVE.  ME.  A.  KROGAN.  ROMANCE.  OPTION.  I am not fucking around anymore.

SCHATZ: James, there’s a Krogan romance in it for you if you help me move this week! Coincidentally, I’ve just given my soon-to-be old roommate a pretty terrible looking Krogan cosplay costume. This week is going to be interesting, you guys.

But yeah: definitely moving this week – just finishing up some things at the old homestead this weekend, and then hopefully loading up a giant truck with alla my stuffs. And this weekend, I’m holding a big ol’ basement sale in my basement, wherein I try to get people to take some of my rad stuff and part with maybe a few scheckles. And then by next weekend? Well, hopefully I’ll be settled. It’s going to be a wild week – and there might even be another installment of our Movin’ On Up series. You know, if one of my bookshelves doesn’t decide to murder me with gravity. Until then!

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

Um, Actually… | May 24th, 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.


Josh (@joshbazin) asks: After watching the Avengers, my wife wanted me to tell her about the character that showed up in the mid-credits scene.  As I know nothing about this character, my response was, “I don’t know”.  She then retorted “Aren’t you the one that is supposed to know about these things?”

This is permission to buy more comics, right?

James: Josh, the answer is a resounding, “Yes!”  However, note: I don’t know your wife and have no stake in your marriage, so if you buying more comics puts extra strain on the marriage and ends in either divorce or homicide, I can’t be held accountable.

In short: buy more comics, see what happens!

Brandon: As a completely unbiased third party, I say you should buy ALL the comics. At the very least, after you read them, you might be able to treat them with varnish and build a second house. You will probably need it.


Josh continues: If you were food, what would you be?

James: I would be a pineapple because I am sweet, excellent in a salad inexplicably made with marshmallows and am constantly referenced on Psych.

Brandon: I would be a Bits n Bites snack mix, because every handful would be different. Plus sometimes I’m at parties and then people only try to pick out the good stuff or something.


Ryan (@bakpakit) asks: Will the new Superman movie suck?  Will there be a Super-baby born out of wedlock again?

James: Man, who even knows.  That movie is more than a year away and I don’t think we’ve even seen any footage from it.  It’s got some pedigree I like (Chris Nolan), some pedigree that other people like (Zack Snyder) and a dude I’d never heard of before playing Superman, so it could honestly go either way.  I am also maybe the single person that liked Superman Returns (though parts were certainly problematic) and disliked the original Superman movies (despite some amazing performances), so my opinion is probably not to be trusted.

Either way, there will actually be Super-triplets born out of wedlock, and they will go on to be pop sensations along with the first Super-baby:

Brandon: There has not been a Superman movie that I have not fallen asleep watching. And that is a stone cold FACT. They were showing the first two movies on a plane I was on to Australier once and I straight up bought Superman Returns for a few scheckles about four years ago, and I absolutely napped while watching, and didn’t return to any of them. 

But hey, you know what was awesome? The pool table on Lex’ yacht in Returns. That killed me. Wait, what was the question?


Brehttny (@britl) asks: If you were writing a letter to your 8 year-old self… what would you say to them/warn them about?

James: I would warn Past James that he is gonna run a site about comics on the internet and find it actually fulfilling.  Also, I’d tell him to savour the 90s, because they are objectively the greatest decade.  Finally, I’d tell him he should try and go out to help with Mike Evanocho’s beekeeping while he can, because that shit don’t last forever and he will legitimately regret it 20 years later.

Brandon: “Hey bro. This is a message from future you. I know, crazy right? Well hold on. It’s about to get crazier. Seriously, right now I’m on the moon because I am the emperor of the moon. There are Moon Dollars that have our face on them and that shit’s crazy. (Don’t swear.)

“Anyway, a few notes.

“No, nothing will ever eclipse the majesty of MmmBop

“Any chance you get, record the shit out of Teen Angel. They will not put that shit (sorry, seriously, don’t swear) out on DVD and it makes you sad. There’s no amount of Moon Dollars that will console you.

“Yes, you’re going to find someone who compliments you completely. His name is James, and he’s rad and handsome and bees and god dammit James stop it, write your own!  Where was I? Oh yeah, you’re going to find someone amazing, and for some reason, she will like you too. Don’t question it, just be happy that you’re able to make her happy too. Proceed to travel through the rest of time with this woman.

“Aaaaaand I think that’s it. Go off and play or something. Shit, what did I even do when I was 8? (I cannot stress this enough: if you start swearing, if you become that kid who cusses too much because he’s 8, I will come back and kill you. KILL. You.) Live every day like it’s a Party in the USA.

Seacrest, out.”


Jay (@jayrunham) inquires: Which Ninja Turtles Universe is your favourite?

James: While I am tempted to pick the live action movie universe (if only because of the second and third movies, as well as the part in the first where they chill on a farm for a while) or the original animated series (even though it was actually pretty terrible if you go back to rewatch it now), the answer is simple: Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation.

Yes, I realize this is pretty blasphemous because of changes like the addition of the fifth turtle, Venus de Milo, I liked it because not only was it similar in tone to the third live action movie (the greatest one), where they go to Feudal Japan, and might have actually been an extension of that universe (as I discovered on Wikipedia two minutes ago), but because it actually took some big risks diverging from the franchise’s established formula.  It killed off the Shredder in the first story arc.  It added a turtle.  It omitted “key” characters.  It wasn’t beholden to the “rules” of the franchise, and while that was undoubtedly one of the reasons it failed, it’s also what gave us stuff like this:

So yeah, it was the best.

Brandon: This show was my jam for one summer. That, and Power Rangers in Space, which is something you’re seeing above. I was tasked with babysitting a couple of kids for a summer while Fox was running this and the Power Rangers and I want to say Digimon in a block in the afternoons, and we watched it religiously. It was amazing.

But everybody SHUT UP for a second, would you? The Wikipedia article on The Next Mutation brought up a couple of interesting points. First: they plan on releasing the series to DVD sometime soon. And second? The show was called simply Ninja Turtles. James, I think Michael Bay might be onto something amazing.

ALSO, ALSO, ALSO: the two Power Rangers in Space episodes that the TMNT are in are on Canadian Netflix. So there’s that.


Cody (@codyfschmidt) asks: Would you rather read a never-ending comic book, or watch a never-ending episode of iCarly?

James: Good question, Cody.  Good question.  

The answer, of course is that I would watch a never-ending episode of iCarly, because I’m a dude that often reads while the television is on, thus embodying the glorious excess that is the First World, which means I’d still do other stuff at the same time.  Like reading comics or baselessly aggressing against Brandon.

Brandon: A never-ending episode of iCarly? Are… are you deliberately trying to get me upset by reminding me about the impending end of iCarly, Cody? I think you are, and I don’t like it. STOP REMINDING ME ABOUT THE SHOW’S MORTALITY CODY STOP IT SEDDIE FOR LIFE!


Scott (@scottowilliams, our AIDS-riddled guest host on this week’s podcast episode) starts off another Lightning Round by asking: What’s your favourite mythological creature?

James: The uniporn.

Brandon: The sincere James Leask.

Scott continues: Why does Fred Armisen?

James: Because he can’t do impressions.

Brandon: Because nobody likes a wisenheimer. 

Scott goes on: Who is your favourite person (famous or otherwise) to follow on Twitter?

James: Matt Fraction (@mattfraction) is certainly up there, due to his penchant for metatextual, punctuationless, intentionally obtuse humour that clearly inspired my own approach to tweeting.  Fake Tilda Swinton (@nottildaswinton), however, is gunning for a spot on the podium with stuff like this:

I loved him/her in Orlando!

Brandon: Fraction aside (seriously, follow @mattfraction you guys) I would probably go with @SPAMULTRON. Because it’s mostly hilarious and once it changed to Cosby Spam Ultron and that was phenomenal. 

Scott won’t stop: If the Captain must go down with the ship, would you like to become the Captain of my boat, “Leaky Sue?”

James: Is this an AIDS joke, Scott?  We don’t take kindly to those here.

Brandon: Next thing you know is going to punch a crippled child with his AIDS-givin’ hand. I’m pretty sure that’s how it works.

Scott climaxes with: Would you rather be attacked and mauled to death by trained bears or trained sea lions?  (NB: The sea lions would make for more sensational footage, but I have better access to the bears.)

James: I am gonna say Sea Lions just to make you do more work.  Unless you were counting on that and the bears would actually be more work.  You’re a tricky son of a bitch, Scott, I’ll give you that.

My final answer: Brandon’s girlfriend, who might not be an animal (just heading that one off there.  Danica, you’re wonderful), but who has already promised to murder me when I inevitably murder Brandon.  Full disclosure: Brandon and I have a suicide pact.

Brandon: Bros for life! And death.

Scott bats clean-up by asking: If you were a segment on Inside Edition, would you be A) Negligent Parents, B) Embarrassed Celebs or C) Cute Kittens?

James: I would actually be That Traumatized White Woman In The Maury Audience Who Can’t Believe The Results of the Paternity Test because, as I assume people say after I’ve left the room, “There’s always one.”

Brandon: Is this a Maury thing? Again, I thought I killed that guy, while whispering “I am your father” into his ear.


That’s it for the ninth 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 21 – Alex ChilTALK with Scott Williams

We're trouble.Less talk, more podcast!  Which is… uh… about two hours of talking.  Quick, look that way!

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 21 – Alex ChilTALK with Scott Williams

This week, the boys welcome their good friend, music writer, former colleague and fellow weird-Twitter-joke-maker Scott Williams to the show as a special guest co-host!  We’re not going to say he’s actually the famed inker/Jim Lee collaborator, but we’re not going to not do a cheap ploy, either.


Get ready for a long episode, one with even less structure than we’re known for.  Part serious discussion of media criticism theory, part discussion of Big Star and discovering music, part discussion of Community and other television shows, there’s a lot here.

Find Scott at:

Twitter: @scottowilliams (so that you can see the weird, insular jokes we make to each other)

Web: Sound of the Week

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”):

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! | May 23rd, 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 #686 (Marvel Comics)

Listen, I don’t know what to tell you at this point.  Dan Slott is doing the work of most careers on Amazing Spider-Man right now.  He’s got a wicked art team to work with.  “Ends of the Earth,” like “Spider Island” or “Big Time” before it, is an exciting story based around a simple idea (“Everybody gets Spider-Powers” and “Peter Parker’s life stops being awful for like five minutes,” respectively), in this case, “Spider-Man is a leader.”  It’s an angle I’m surprised isn’t worked more, actually.  Spider-Man is so popular that he is literally the company’s mascot [Ed. Note: Or used to be. Whatever] and he can and has been so many different things, and yet so many of his comrades often treat him like a burden or an annoyance.  He can web-sling… but he can’t fly.  He’s super-strong… but there are probably ten Avengers who are stronger.  He’s a genius… but, as is frequently pointed out, Reed Richards and Tony Stark are smarter.  Spider-Man is a great many things (for instance, the “objectively… greatest comic book character ever created“), but he’s seldom portrayed as the leader he could be.

This is perhaps why “Ends of the Earth” is so emotionally rewarding.  Besides the danger, big action scenes and pantheon of Spider-Man’s greatest non-Osborn foes, at its core is a story where Peter Parker gets to take charge and be the leader, with the whole world at stake.  One of the best things Slott does is embrace his love of the character and, like Grant Morrison‘s work with Batman, the result is a wonderful ongoing statement on why the character is so good.

The “Spider Island” finale was a great cap to last year’s “Nobody dies” theme, and “Ends of the Earth” is a logical extension of scale.  As we enter the final act of the story, Slott and Stefano Caselli (and Humberto Ramos) have set the odds against Spidey, and while we know he’ll live to see another day, it’s hard not to feel worried for everybody else.  How will he save everyone this time?  Let’s find out.


Speaking of Grant Morrison and Batman, this week also sees the return of Batman Incorporated and Bruce Wayne’s fight against Leviathan?  Where does this fit in the New 52?  Who cares?  It’s Grant Morrison Batman!  With Chris Burnham on art!  Basically, it is going to be visually, textually and metatextually insane.

One of the things that’s great about Morrison‘s take on Batman is that it’s full of such love for everything about the character and his history.  The result is one of the highest concept, most dense comics around.  Love 60s Batman?  He’s there.  So is the 70s Batman and every other version around; Morrison‘s take is one that respects Frank Miller‘s version but knows that it’s not just that; it’s so much more.  It’s everything the character can be, and that’s exciting, even when it takes a lot of rereading to follow.

To be honest, despite being a #1 issue, this is probably not something a new reader could just go and pick up.  It’s for people who really loved Morrison‘s work with Batman beforehand.  If you’re coming at it new, prepare to be a little confused.  That said, if a celebration of the multifaceted nature of one of comics’ greatest characters is an idea that appeals to you, it’s something to keep in mind.  If Batman Incorporated #1 is too intense, fire up Wikipedia and give the Batman & Son story arc a try; it’s the beginning of Morrison‘s run and it’s great.  Batman Incorporated will be here when you’re ready.


At a time when people are arguing and bickering over The Avengers, the Kirby estate and the legacy of comic industry’s history with creator rights (or lack thereof), a book like The Comic Book History of Comics couldn’t have come at a better time.  Originally published in single issues as Comic Book Comics, Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey, the book is an intelligent, exhaustive and entertaining look at the creation and rise of comic books in the 20th century.

As a comics fan, it can often be difficult to grasp the history of the medium, in particular the various lawsuits and emotionally-charged issues that have plagued it for decades.  With The Comic Book History of Comics, Van Lente and Dunlavey have created a book that’s as accessible as it is frighteningly in-depth, and it’s definitely worth a look by anyone who’s wondered about why people are upset about a pink video game character and how he knew Stan Lee, or who likes books like Scott McCloud‘s.

I am STILL angry that Nick Spencer and Emma Rios aren't doing a Cloak & Dagger ongoing series.THE GUILD: FAWKES (Dark Horse Comics)

Felicia Day.  Wil Wheaton.  Writing a comic together.  One that is drawn by Jamie McKelvie.  It doesn’t matter if you’re not really familiar with The Guild; it’s something you should consider if any of these names mean something to you.

Truthfully, the Guild comics Dark Horse is publishing are pretty new-reader friendly.  To someone who’s only seen the first two episodes of the web series, the fact that most of the issues focus on just one character and tell a discrete, contained story is definitely a plus.  I’ve never felt lost while reading these comics as a relative newcomer, and despite being related to the events of a recent season of the series, I trust that Day and her collaborators will continue the skillful execution they’ve pulled off so far.

Plus, there is a variant cover by Emma Rios, and that is just amazing.

MIND MGMT #1 (Dark Horse Comics)

While they might be known more these days for the great work they do with licensed properties, Dark Horse is a publisher with a great creative pedigree (like, you know, Ghost or everything Mike Mignola touches) and to remind the world of it, they’ve launched their Dark Horse Originals brand.  Not only that, but Matt Kindt‘s Mind MGMT is a great way to get people’s attention because, from what they’ve shown so far, it’s going to be incredible.

It’s a great concept: two years after a flight where everybody on board lost their memories – except one man who disappeared – a struggling writer begins investigating the mystery.  What she discovers instead is a world of scientific impossibilities, espionage and suspense straight out of Fringe or G. Willow Wilson‘s Air.  Kindt‘s art is evocative and vaguely ethereal, as if everything in it could blow away at a moment’s notice.  The result is a comic that feels just outside your reach, the mysteries floating just far enough away that you’ll follow it wherever it takes you.

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.

There Are No Guilty Pleasures, Episode 8: Don't Be Small

Grab my glasses, I'm out the door, I'm gonna hit this city.


On Fridays, we go over shelves.

On Tuesdays, the shipment comes and we process the comics. Counting, alphabetizing, moving them to files until the remainder comes to a rest in a long box, waiting for Wednesday.

On Wednesday we put the remaining books on the shelves. Our bread and butter is the file customers, the one that come weekly or monthly or whenever, the ones that we’ve placed into files, but the shelves are useful. There is always foot traffic, always other stores who have already run out of copies of certain books (much like we do from time to time) and there’s always the people who love the hunt to much to set up a file. Wednesday is always our biggest day of sales (with the very odd exception) and the day from with the majority of the shelf comics are purchased.

On Thursday, we reclaim the store. We place reorders, we shift displays, we tidy and dust and sell comics to the stragglers and the more casual fans.

And on Fridays, as I said, we go over shelves. With two locations, we have the luxury of spreading things out. If one store ordered too little of something, the other can usually compensate. If one ordered too much, the other can eat a bit of the stock. It’s a nice safety net to have. Beyond that, however, is the chance to see what is selling, and what is not at other locations in the city.

Surprisingly enough, things sell quite differently at different locations. There are many different reasons for this. The location that I manage is located quite close to a university and a haven for locally-owned businesses. Our other store is located in an adjacent suburb. The demographics in both areas alone are reason for quite a difference in sales and tastes. My store caters quite nicely towards a more indie-driven mindset and has a lot of walk-ins due to location. Our other store deals more in traditional superhero fare, as well as action figures and other items that people with kids will nab. Its location also has quite a bit less walk-by traffic, and so it’s usually more of a destination shopping place more than anything else. Location definitely has an effect – but more than that, the people who work the comic book store affect sales.

But more on that in a second.

On Fridays, we go over shelves. We start with the new releases, heading down alphabetically until (unsurprisingly) the end, occasionally stopping along the way to chat briefly about books or news tangentially related to the books. One week, when we hit an issue of the newly relaunched Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series, the guy on the other end of the phone brought up the subject of the new movie – and how it would be simply titled Ninja Turtles.

“It’s really challenging my calm,” I admitted, “Like when all of the GI Joe and Transformers fans were losing their shit over the movies, and I shrugged and told them that the things they used to love weren’t changed by it. The cartoons are still there, you know? The old figures, everything. But I dunno. I don’t know how I feel about this. The TMNT were my jam.”

“Yeah,” said the guy on the other end of the phone, “I remember when they watered the turtles down into shit the first time with that stupid cartoon and the original movies.”

Which is when I went quiet for quite some time.

“You still there?” the voice on the other end of the line asked.

“Yeah, sure,” I said, “Totally. But you know that I grew up on that cartoon, right? And those movies?”

“Oh damn really? I feel bad for you.”

“Sure sure,” I said, moving onto the next book on the shelves – all the while thinking… wait, why does this guy feel bad for me?


Yesterday, James and I had a nice meal at a local eatery called Dadeos with his sister in tow. James hadn’t eaten at this particular establishment before, and we were quite excited to share it with him. We all enjoyed some delicious New Orleans style food, and pleasantly stuffed, I set about driving everybody home – which was when the insanity began.

Plugging her iPhone into my car, Sarah began playing a mix of summer jams. As The Moffats came on we cranked the sound and rolled down the windows and the three of us rode around Edmonton with complete disregard for what anyone was thinking, staring at a car full of three grown ass adults car dancing with equal fervor to Miley Cyrus and Carly Rae Jepsen. Some would call that a cry for attention. We just did it because we genuinely wanted to.

The key to happiness, I’ve discovered, is having a complete and utter disregard to what other people think of you. Other than the caveat of “keeping it legal” (seriously, don’t be a bad person you guys), being confident about the things you like and how you like them is the only way to live. On more than one occasion, I’ve had people scrunch their nose at the music playing in the comic shop, asking me if someone else had stuffed the machine with music. I always give them a stone-faced “no, that was me”. Sometimes I’m greeted with an eye roll and judgement. Other times, slight embarrassment and apologies. No matter what, I keep the music going. My rules for the shop are simple, and they encompass all aspects of the store, really: if you enjoy something, you should not be ashamed of it and the people around you should not judge you for it. Really, it’s that simple.


The comic book industry is rife with a weird sense of shame and righteousness. For some reason, people think they are owed. They think that things are broken because everything isn’t going exactly their way. And that’s bullshit.

The problem is twofold. First, there’s the idea that change is a bad thing. That there is something inherently wrong with something like changing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles into the Ninja Turtles. Is that an idea that I like? Not entirely, but does that mean it doesn’t have merit? Absolutely not. My opinion is personal, just like how the guy working our other location was allowed to think that the cartoon I loved as a kid was a travesty. Having watched the cartoon between now and then, I know it wasn’t a work of art. I know fans of GI Joe have had the same experience. Those cartoons did not feature great storytelling. But I loved that show and it still holds a place in my heart. Now, do I want to take that kind of experience away from someone? Do I want to selfishly keep that thing that I loved to myself, something that appeals to a very specific set of people? Or do I want there to be something called Ninja Turtles so that a new generation can fall in love with the characters like I did, so that they can grow up and explore things deeper with the moneys that they earn, much like I do? It still blows my mind that the TMNT started as a grubby, semi-adult series of black and white comics. It goes against pretty much everything that I used to know, that I used to hold dear. And yet, it’s wonderful. I fully explored one realm of the Turtles as a kid, and now I have this other world, rife with stories left to explore. And that’s amazing.

Then there’s the part where people are made to feel ashamed because of the things that they like in this medium. The indie snobs thumb their nose at company books. The die hard superhero fans thumb their nose at changes made to their characters and dismiss many independent comics as unimportant or less than. This too, is complete bullshit – and it has to stop.

I’m not saying people should stop having opinions. I would never say that. I like the things that I like, and there’s a lot of stuff out there that I’m not a fan of. But I’m not going to be the guy who tells somebody not to love the things that they love. I’m not going to be the guy who treats people like they are shit because they’ve never read an issue of Casanova. Seriously, I challenge you to go back into our archives and find a spot where we legitimately chide people for not reading Casanova. As much as we love the book, that’s not what we do. We advocate it to the people like us who will enjoy it, and we never, ever make a person feel bad if they try it and don’t enjoy it. There’s no point to that. It’s selfish, tearing down something you perceive as worthless in order to give yourself a little bit more worth by comparison. At the end of the day, you haven’t actually made yourself better in any way, you’ve just torn down a person, possibly standing atop their body [Ed. Note: Just go ahead and dial 911 and tell them you’re calling about Brandon. They’ve got a file.] – and that still makes you a small person.

The way I run my store – the way I try to live life – is quite simple. If you enjoy something or if something means something to you, then it is worthwhile. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to be treated with scorn. Translating this idea out towards the shop has garnered some fantastic results. In an environment that is not judgmental, people are free to pick up anything without scorn or dismissal. People are free to stop reading books without some kind of bullshit retribution. People are free to be ambivalent towards creators or characters, and more importantly, people are encouraged to love the medium in the way they are most comfortable. Other than pushing them to get things they will legitimately enjoy, I don’t force a certain mindset or set of beliefs on anyone.

Sales have never been better.

So, some thoughts: if you’re dismissive, if you’re fractious, if you’re deliberately tearing down the way a person loves this medium, maybe stop. Seriously, you’re not helping anyone else. You’re doing active harm to the industry, if only to make certain you feel good about yourself and the books you are reading. Sure, you might ensure that they only make books with yourself in mind after you chase the rest of the audience away, but the industry can not be sustained on so little.

Stop being little.


C!TB's Best of the Week | May 21st, 2012


Happy Victoria Day Canada! And to our American readers – happy don’t-put-a-gun-in-your-mouth day! Which should be every day. Please you guys, don’t make us sad. We don’t deserve it. Even though we started the week with a terrible suicide joke.



In short, it’s real life scientists placed in a setting where mad science is running rampant. Across a larger canvas, it is much more than that.

The Manhattan Projects is a culmination – or at the very least, a convient confluence of events. It’s an extension of the stories Jonathan Hickman started telling when he hit the comic book scene a little over five years ago, and the lessons learned in between. It’s the realization of artist Nick Pitarra’s talents as it stretches to meet the grind of a monthly ongoing series. It’s an experiment in the single issue delivery system, a statement about the power of creator owned content, and finally, it’s a damn good read.

Detailing the crazier shit that was happening below the surface of the Manhattan Project, we get to learn about a secret history involving folks real and imagined, in situations and with circumstances that can only be realized in this gorgeous medium. In each issue, the ideas come hard and fast, each story building on previous stories, each a self contained read focusing on a single member involved in the Projects. In this issue we learn more about the background of Leslie Grove, the man who effectively “runs” the Projects, and the dude is probably just as screwed up as the rest of the crew – which is saying something. It’s hard to describe the amount and the heft of the ideas presented here, but to discuss much beyond the surface gives away much of the game – but let’s just say there is a Nazi rocket scientist present that has a robot arm. And that’s probably the least crazy thing inside the pages of this series.

We’ve said as much before, but if you are not currently reading this series, you are doing yourself a disservice. Great if you’re a fan of Hickman’s more traditional fare, or even some of Warren Ellis’ stranger material. Thus we are giving it one of our highly coveted Weird Science Awards. (B)


People, I want you to mark May 16th, 2012 on your calendars, because that was the day Brian K. Vaughan gave us the unofficial sequel to Runaways in Saga #3.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like it works out well for our parentally disinclined heroes, because in this issue of Saga we met Bisected Teenage Ghost Molly Hayes.

I’m kidding, of course, but what I’m not kidding about is the fact that the visually Molly-esque character of Izabel is perhaps my favourite new comics character in years.  It’s a testament to Vaughan and Fiona Staples‘ significant talents that in a series full of aliens with wings, horns, grotesque arachnid bodies or televisions for heads, they can fit in another visually striking character and nail the emotional landing so gracefully.  Izabel is so obviously, wonderfully a teenager and so immediately likeable despite it that it’s hard to imagine anyone not wishing the best for her along with Alana and Marko.  Much like them, she was born into a desperately bad situation, one she never chose, and together they present each other’s best chance to get the hell out.  She offers to help Alana get the injured Marko some help, but she asks for some pretty serious help in return.  Perhaps the best part of the issue isn’t even the big payoff for Izabel when Alana agrees to help her, either – though it’s a stunning piece of art from Staples – but the panel immediately following it.  A smiling kid, grateful, hand outstretched, glowing.  A tiny family in an uncaring galaxy gets a little bit bigger and things, however briefly, get a little bit less scary.  In that one panel, Vaughan and Staples remind us why their comic is one of the best currently out there.

It also doesn’t hurt that the rest of the book features humour, violence, violent humour and a hilariously smutty alien Harlequin novel, either, culminating in a pretty spectacular twist.  For as many small, subtle moments in the comic (like Izabel describing herself as the “oldest of seven”), there are big, exciting ones, too.  Three issues in, Saga is only getting better, and it’s definitely earned this week’s Teen Angel Award. (J)

Better than alllll the rest

More often than not, there are so many amazing books on the shelf, its hard to quantify one as the “best”. We’ve always stated that our choice is quite personal – after all, how could it not be? There is no possible way our very personal tastes mesh with that of everybody, everywhere and at all times.

And so it’s in the spirit of recommending books that appeal to us specifically, that we bestow the “BEST” title upon something very new, and very niche.

Dancer is a new mini-series from Image, written by Nathan Edmondson, who has had quite a good run of things lately. From books like Who is Jake Ellis? to The Activity and beyond, he’s shown himself to be quite adept at the thriller genre – even if the genre is somewhat poorly received in the current comic book market.

(An aside: what a fucking crime it is that genres beyond “superhero” don’t really get a good shake in terms of sales figures. Yes, this has been talked to death here and elsewhere on the internet, but dammit, there are so many good books in so many different genres and we would absolutely love it if the sales charts started to reflect the quality of books across the board, regardless of genre. But that’s a completely different discussion.)

The story begins as most stories of this ilk do. A hitman is calling an end to his old life, trying to live a new life on his own terms, not dictated by his former life. And then, his old life catches up with him… quite literally, as the story’s main hook shows. It’s a neat twist on the genre, and one that evokes a lot of questions. Just when you think you know where the story is going to go, it bucks you off violently, and leaves you wondering about what’s to come. And that’s delightful. And the art by Nic Klein is nothing short of amazing. The man is great at composing a scene, and as you can see from his cover, his imagery is quite evocative. The guy is far too talented and needs to be destroyed.

If you’re a fan of noir, or of action stories, definitely check out this series while you have the chance. You’ll be glad that you did.

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