C!TB’s Best of the Week | July 4th, 2011

Your mother was an attractive lady. Also: I hate you.

Happy Canada Day Part 2, everybody!  Yankees, prepare your flying explosives, because it’s time to get crazy like William Lyon Mackenzie King.

Don’t worry, we’ll wait while you look it up.

Whether you’re enjoying either your day off or your day at work, depending on where you live, we felt we shouldn’t leave you out in the cold.  After all, that wouldn’t be very neighbourly of us, would it?  Why not read about the comics we thought were the best of last week?

Just don’t blow your arms off.

Like the Tonys, but more flamboyant.

WITCH DOCTOR? I HARDLY KNOW HER!

I’ve got documented issues with needles. I don’t like ‘em, don’t like getting ‘em, don’t like seeing ‘em. That said, when push comes to shove, I’ll grit the hell up and take one for the team – and by team, I mean my limbs and organs – by taking a needle with my eyes tightly closed. Much like sex, as long as I don’t see if going in, I’m mostly okay – even if there’s always, always weeping afterwards.

What was I talking about? Ooooh right. Comics. Specifically Witch Doctor from Robert Kirkman’s Skybound imprint over at Image. Witch Doctor is the first non-Kirkman helmed book for the line, and I have to say, if this book is any indication of things to come, we’re in for a treat. The premise is pretty simple: this one guy named Vincent Morrow is a doctor dealing with magic medical maladies. He’s a little brilliant and kind of a dick – which is probably why they described the book as Dr. Strange meets House in the solicitations – but he’s a dick that gets results. Unlike my various sexual encounters.

Look, what do you want from me. I’ve just come off Canada Day weekend and I’m still fucked up on poutine and maple syrup. Deal with it.

Troubling and irrelevant insights into my personal life aside, this book was pretty fantastic. Not only did it deliver on the high concept, but it did so with a brisk pace and some fantastically detailed art. Inside the first issue, you learn all about the premise, the main characters and you’re given a complete “case”, from beginning to end. If you’re looking to sample something new, you could do worse than picking up this book and giving it a read through – at the very worst, you’ll get a complete story and at best, you’ll end up having a great new book to look forward to month in and month out.

And so for their efforts, we here at Comics! The Blog award the creators of Witch Doctor the Got a Fever of A’Hundred and Three Award for hot-blooded vaguely medicinal action. Take two in the morning, blah blah blah. (B)

Diving like so many quadriplegics. SOMETIMES A SAW IS JUST A SAW EXCEPT WHEN LIMBS ARE INVOLVED

Damn, amirite?  This is just another comic that proves that DC giving Scott Snyder and Jock money is one of the best decisions they’ve made in years.  I’ll be honest: when Dick Grayson became Batman, I wasn’t sure what I’d think of it; I was definitely open to the idea of a non-Bruce Batman and, later, to Batman Incorporated, but execution is something else entirely.

Apparently, I was worrying for nothing.  Over the course of his run on Detective Comics, Snyder has proven repeatedly to be one of the best writers in DC‘s stable, especially when paired with fantastic artists like Jock.  Take this finale to “Hungry City”.  The idea of Gotham being a twisted entity all on its own is nothing new, but with the two having this play out not only with a member of  an ancient seafaring race – who have been behind mankind’s greatest civilizations – who is also a crime boss who feeds interlopers to his pet killer whales (sue me, Sea World), but with the added plot points of children of the Zucco and Gordon families who may or may not be up to illegal shenanigans?  It becomes something more entirely.  We don’t want these people to be up to no good.  We want them to escape from the jaws of Gotham and become something better.  It may be too late.  Finding out is comics at its best.

For this and those final, amazing James Gordon Jr. pages of the issue, C!TB gives Detective Comics #878 our prestigious Old Friends, Aren’t They the Dickens? Award. (J)

Like James Van Der Beek in comics form.

We’re spoiled. There’s just no two ways about it. There are so many phenomenal comics out there right now… just such an embarrassment of riches, that this section we do on Mondays seems to get harder and harder to complete. There were so many books in the running for Best this week – two have been mentioned above, of course, but that doesn’t account for Batman Inc., THUNDER Agents, Amazing Spider-Man, FF, Uncanny X-Men, and a handful more that I can’t be bothered to look up right now (the feature is already a touch late).

Anyway, this week’s pick was made because the book in question was damn near perfect, and featured something you probably didn’t see in any other single comic book you picked up this week: hand lettering.

Even beyond the fact that regular series artist R.M. Guera hand lettered the shit out of his art this week (more on that in a bit), this issue of Scalped was a piece of art rarely seen on the stands these days. Simultaneously a celebration of the precious 49 issues and a brief lesson regarding the horrific process, nature and history of scalping in general, the comic somehow manages to read as a complete story unto itself, and as a foundation or touchstone for the entire series. If you wanted to check the book out, you could drop in on this issue – and while you might not get to spend a lot of time with the main characters of the series, you’ll be able to leave with a sense of what each character is trying to accomplish, in their own, deeply broken ways.

Now – the hand lettering. While there’s a lot to be said for how digital lettering changed the face of comic book production, there’s still something special about hand lettering. The way it interacts with the art, becomes a part of the page, and has the capability to vary its cadence and style often brings a touch of something special to the proceedings – and this case is no exception. Lettered in a more European style (squared speech bubbles, stylized lettering) Guera’s sense of placement and style really pushed this book from being amazing to a piece of finery. Noting his history with the medium overseas, its no surprise that Guera has a nack for this sort of thing – but seeing it on a book over here is just… it’s different and its special, and man, does it look great. If only the American style of comics could do with a bit of a looser schedule – I’d love to see what a series like this would look like, all hand lettered and what not. But really, when you come right down to it, everything is on a tight enough schedule without adding some time for hand lettering to the mix -a nd so we’ll probably have to do with the occasional issue like this. And Casanova. God bless Matt Fraction and Dustin Harbin for fighting the good fight with Casanova.

But uh, yeah. Buy this book. (B)

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

You Read These With Your Eyes – June 29th, 2011

Can you hand me that cheese?

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 #664 (Marvel Comics)

I’m going to be totally honest with you: I don’t actually know what this issue is about.  I imagine that, as we move closer and closer to that big ol’ Spider Island event that’s going to be showing up pretty quickly, we’ll probably see some of the lead-up to that.  Maybe even some sarcastic Spidey quotes and a bit of webslinging.

See?  I don’t really know.

What I do know, however, is that the slight delay on this issue has me absolutely clamouring for more of Dan Slott‘s remarkable take on the character, because any more than one consecutive week without it and I start going loopier than usual.  When we last saw Peter, he was trying to deal with Anti-Venom and the Wraith and a bunch of other complications in life, and I’m desperate to find out what happens.  Maybe punching!

Please let there be punching.

But mommmmm, *I* wanted to ride the buffalo!BATMAN INCORPORATED #7 (DC Comics)

I don’t think it’s any secret that both of us here at Comics! The Blog are big fans of Grant Morrison‘s epic run with the character of Bruce Wayne.  For all of the various bits of mindfuckery Morrison has done since taking over the character’s direction a few years ago, one of my favourite arcs was the “Club of Heroes” that revisited the long and basically forgotten Batmen of All Nations.  Not only was it Morrison‘s Silver Age lovefest at its best, but it also (re)introduced a bunch of fantastic characters that are absolutely ripe for increased attention.  We’ve already gotten to see several of them again as part of Batman Incorporated - not to mention Paul Cornell‘s brilliant Knight and Squire miniseries, which is also released as a trade paperback this week – but this week, we finally get to see what Morison does with the Native American characters of Man of Bats and his sidekick Robin Red.  Aboriginal people aren’t really one of the more visible minorities in mainstream comics, and a couple of issues devoted to two of them sounds absolutely wonderful to me.  Chris Burnham has been stellar so far, and this looks like yet another issue that won’t disappoint.

DETECTIVE COMICS #878 (DC Comics)

Damn, the Bat-books have been on kind of a roll lately, haven’t they?  Morrison‘s doing his thing in Incorporated, Bryan Q. Miller has been pitch perfect on Batgirl, and Gail Simone‘s Birds of Prey has been wonderful, because that’s just the way she does things.  Then, throw in Detective Comics, which has been one of the best books month in and month out since Scott Snyder took over as its writer.  The A-story for the issue, drawn with the usual mind-boggling skill from Jock, looks to be another strong one.  I mean, a villain named Tiger Shark?  Explosives?  Gotham City as a twisted mirror into the soul of its denizens and its foremost protector?  I am honestly surprised I’m not gripping my wallet already.

The series’ “secret” weapon, however, has been the Jim Gordon story illustrated by Francesco Francavilla.  Francavilla‘s art is like nobody’s I’ve ever seen before, and every new instalment of his and Snyder‘s look at the relationship between Gordon and his estranged sociopathic, maybe-serial-killer son is simultaneously creepy beyond words and a celebration of art.  The news that the two will continue working together after the DC relaunch on Swamp Thing has me suitably excited, but four (yes, that’s correct!) more issues of stories like this in the meantime?  That’ll do, pig.

You’re welcome, internet.

ROBO-FUCKING-DINOSAURS, PEOPLESUPER DINOSAUR #3 (Image Comics/Skybound Entertainment)

If you don’t like this comic, there might be something broken inside you.  For chrissakes, it is a comic about a boy genius and his best friend WHO IS A TALKING TYRANNOSAURUS REX WHO WEARS A ROBOTIC SUIT THAT HAS A JET ENGINE AND GIANT ARMS THAT T-REX CONTROLS USING HIS OWN ADORABLY TINY ARMS.  If you don’t like this, well, you need to reconsider a lot of life decisions.  Maybe even see a therapist.  I mean, just… wow.  Wow.  I feel bad for you.

Writer Robert Kirkman has talked about how Super Dinosaur came into existence because he wanted to write a comic that his son (WHO IS NAMED PETER PARKER, SUCK IT NICOLAS CAGE, BUT PLEASE MAKE MORE NATIONAL TREASURE MOVIES THANK YOU) could read.  Because, well, as wonderful as The Walking Dead is, it’s not really all-ages, what with the murders and rapes and undead and all.  Did he know that when he sat down to write a simple tale about a boy who fights evil with his dinosaur best friend (!) that he’d be stumbling onto something that adults everywhere would start hyperventilating over?  Maybe.  He’s pretty savvy.  But I like to think that this whole series is just one big happy accident, a perfect combination of content suitable for all ages and a concept that is too incredible not to love that just kind of came together.  Whatever the case, this is a comic that brings out that pure, childhood love out in adults, and that is something that should be applauded.

THE WALKING DEAD #86

If I were to be completely honest, I’d have to admit that I kind of thought Rick Grimes’ son Carl would be “safe” in The Walking Dead.  Yeah, I know that Rick’s wife and newborn daughter were horribly murdered already.  I know that there have been so many beloved characters that were horribly murdered along the way that as soon as I saw Lori take a bullet, I should have just figured anything was fair game.  Call it Robert Kirkman‘s storytelling skill, then, and not my incredible gullibility, that when Carl took a bullet to the head a few issues ago, it caught me completely off guard.

No, I don’t think that’s a spoiler at this point.

In the end, that’s the real strength of the series; that after 86 issues of murder and gore and the absolute worst things that people can do to each other, I was still shocked by something as simple as a stray bullet.  The fallout from that one event looks to be massive, and with this week’s issue, we should see things develop even more.  Are the survivors safe where they are?  Pull your head out of your ass.  Of course they aren’t.  Even if they’re not in any danger from zombies for the time being, the series’ big lesson can probably be described as “people are fucking awful,” and Rick, Andrea, Glenn and the rest aren’t exactly living with cuddly penguins right now.  I think it’s safe to say that things are going to get sticky pretty quickly.  I can’t wait to crack open this issue and find out how.

Does that make me a bad person?

These are just five 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.

Recommendation: Super Dinosaur #1

SUPER DINOSAUR #1 (Image Comics/Skybound Ent.)
by Robert Kirkman, Jason Howard, and Rus Wooton

Synopsis: Derek Dynamo and his science-and-missile infused T-Rex fight evil with awesomeness.

01. I can’t exactly remember when it happened – whether it was shortly after he left Marvel to focus completely on his creator owned comics or around the time that he became a partner with Image – but if you poke the internet long enough, you’ll find a bit of dialogue from Robert Kirkman bemoaning the state of all ages comics from the big two. At the time it seemed a little odd – the man behind The Walking Dead and the increasingly blood soaked adventures of Invincible and The Astounding Wolfman talking about how superhero books needed to shed their adult-oriented story lines in favour of more kid friendly fare – but now the man is putting his money where his mouth is with a decidedly all-ages book called Super Dinosaur – and it’s rad.

02. The book opens big with our hero Derek Dynamo taking on some evil dinosaurs with the help of Super Dinosaur. In a short span of time, Kirkman lays out all the rules and the stakes while things are punched and everyone has a good time – minus the story’s villain. As the story progresses, the cast is fleshed out, as are their roles – and we learn just what kind of food Derek’s T-Rex likes best. Here’s a hint: it’s awesome.

03. The art from the book comes from The Astounding Wolfman’s Jason Howard, who is drawing a lot less blood, and a lot more missiles in this outing. His style is particularly suited for this kind of story – a larger than life romp with big ideas and crazy looking villains. It’s like you’re watching a Saturday morning cartoon with big stylized characterized humans and creatures alike – though unlike a cartoon, page turns are utilized to make big moments even bigger, like near the end when Super Dinosaur shows up with… ah, well, that would be giving things away. Suffice to say, it was a lot of fun to read.

04. This book is going to be a huge hit on Free Comic Book Day – I mean seriously, you tell a kid that they can read a free book about a boy an his pet dinosaur that uses missiles to fight bad guys? And you’re going to see them lose their minds – and with good reason. It’s a fun book with a great cast that can be enjoyed by the young and old alike. So if you’re into this kind of thing… uh… get it. Okay?

Recommended if you like: Invincible, Tiny Titans, Iron Giant and good comics.