Thursday, April 30, 2009

Review: World War Hulk: Incredible Hercules

World War Hulk: Incredible Hercules, written by Gary Frank with Jeff Parker, penciled by Gary Frank, Leonard Kirk, and Carol Pagulayan, 2008, Marvel, 152 pages, $14.99

Hey, all you people who read The Incredible Hercules vol. 1: Against the World and liked it? (Like me?) Because it was good?

Don't bother with this one. Because it's bad.

This collects what was originally published as Incredible Hulk #106-111, and it takes place before the events of Against the World. It's tied in to the "World War Hulk" storyline, which was Marvel's 2007 summer crossover that touched most of the books in that universe.

If you enjoyed Against the World because you thought all the Greek mythology stuff was neat, none of that is in here. Or maybe you liked Against the World because Hercules is an engaging, charismatic character with a fascinating past; well, you also won't find that here.

In fact, it seems like Hercules said all of ten words throughout this book. (And those words mostly consisted of things like "Ow.") This really shouldn't be named after him at all. The book really focuses on Amadeus Cho, the "seventh smartest person in the world," and unfortunately, he just comes across as annoying. The other characters featured here -- the Angel (from the X-Men) and Namora -- also have very little to do other than fly around and hit things. This story could have been told using any other three random superheroes (plus Cho) and very little would have been different.

And the plot? About how Cho thinks that the Hulk is really a good guy and isn't going to kill people? It's okay, I guess. Doesn't really add much to the overall "World War Hulk" story since all of the important events happened in the collected-elsewhere World War Hulk mini-series. Plus, it's wrapped up after the first four issues, leaving the final issue to shoehorn in a silly story about Cho and his bunch trying to put a demon back in a bottle. That last issue is particularly poor: the art seems rushed, and the story just feels like filler.

This was very disappointing. I'm glad that this book was created before Against the World came out and made clear that Incredible Hercules is a good book. Because this one was bad.

Don't believe me? Buy it from Amazon here: World War Hulk: Incredible Hercules

Related: My review of Incredible Hercules vol. 1: Against the World

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Review: Britten and Brülightly

Britten and Brülightly, by Hannah Berry, 2009, Metropolitan Books, 112 pages, $20

This noir mystery starring a depressed private investigator first caught my eye with its distinctive, stylish art. The story holds its own, however, making this one of the most enjoyable comic books that I have read this year.

Drenched in rain and secrets, Britten and Brülightly tells of "researcher" Fernández Britten's efforts to crack the case of the dead fiancé: the police say suicide, Britten's client believes it was murder, and so Britten is off to hunt down clues scattered across 1940s England, accompanied by his partner Stewart Brülightly.

This is twenty-five year old English author Hannah Berry's first book, but it sure doesn't feel that way. The writing is assured, with character, dialogue, and plot all working together to drive the mystery along. Berry even throws in some light comedy, mostly through the wisecracks of Brülightly, who -- did I mention this? -- is a teabag that resides in Britten's pocket. It's an off-the-wall idea, but it somehow works; Brülightly's existence gives us a little more insight into the workings of Britten's mind, gives Britten someone to bounce ideas off of, and marks this book as something more than your average genre piece.

(click to enlarge)

And Britten is quite an interesting character. Berry has said the following about him: "Often in noir the hero is hard-bitten but manages to wear it on his shoulders like a lead mantle. I quite like the idea of having a character that was eventually broken down, if not unhinged, by events. Hopefully it’s given him a more fallible, human face." That certainly comes across, and he does feel like a human, a person, as opposed to either a blank slate or a bundle of detective clichés. Plus, he's fascinating to look at, with those dark circles around his eyes and that huge schnozz.

Berry's art really is terrific. I got a real feeling of the shapes inside of the people and things in her drawings, wearing their slightly cartoony outer shells. Plus the colors are beautiful and help to contribute to the overall tone of "dour foreboding," as Berry called it.

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That's just a gorgeous painting, if you ask me. Berry also does some fun things with form, like on the page below:

She could have drawn the bottom shot in one big panel instead of slicing it into three panels, but this way she can show that the conversation is taking place over time through the almost imperceptible movements of the people in the scene (notice the waiter walking through all three panels, and the one customer who moves his head slightly?). That's just neat, smart comic-booking.

Or on this next page, where she shows Britten's taxi ride from the city to the country from his viewpoint in the four panels in the center row, all four linked by the wispy, foggy streaks from looking out through the glass window:

(click to enlarge)

Good stuff.

It seems like once a year a comic from Britain washes ashore that is both a wonderful book and is totally unlike anything else. Last year it was Tamara Drewe. This year, it's Britten and Brülightly. I highly recommend this book.

Want more? Here is a twelve-page preview, and an eight-page preview, and that interview with Berry from June of 2008 that I mentioned above.

Buy it from the publisher here or from Amazon here: Britten and Brülightly


Disclaimer: This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.

Neato: Kate Beaton's new book

Just went on sale.

Here is her first post about it, and she talks more about it here.

Buy it here.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Happy Friday

(Philippines, 1945, Carl Mydans, photographer)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Sven returns to Northlanders

As you may remember, I liked Northlanders vol. 1: Sven the Returned.

No, I mean I really liked it.

I particularly enjoyed watching main character Sven evolve from a pampered but skilled warrior into a HARD CORE VIKING ASS KICKER.

And now it looks like Brian Wood's series is bringing back Sven for issue # 20, with artist Davide Gianfelice in tow.

Sometimes comics make me happy, you know?

(Image from Standard Attrition.)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Not Comics: The State Comes to DVD

I can't tell you how excited I am about this.

(Note: please ignore the lame ad that sometimes runs at the front of the video.)

If you are having trouble seeing the embedded video, just go here instead:

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Michael Kupperman at Marvel

Here's an upcoming comic book that I think people may be interested in:

Variant Cover by MARCOS MARTIN
Meet Blonde Phantom – she’s gorgeous, quick-witted, and hard-boiled. There was never a case that wasn’t open-and-shut for this gun-toting, two-fisted knockout of a P.I. But has she still got what it takes to bust a mystery wide open in the modern Marvel Universe? Marc Guggenheim (AMAZING SPIDER-MAN) and Javier Pulido (CAPTAIN AMERICA 65TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL) turn the classic Blonde Phantom into Marvel’s newest hero!
AND MORE! Writer/artist Michael Kupperman (Tales Designed to Thrizzle) takes on Marvex, the Super-Robot, in a hilarious bonus special feature!!
48 PGS./New and Reprint/Rated A …$3.99
Who is Marvex, the Super-Robot, you ask?

Chris Sims in particular will enjoy this, I would think.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Review: Second Thoughts

Second Thoughts, by Niklas Asker, 2009, Top Shelf, 80 pages, $9.95

Swedish artist Niklas Asker's first graphic novel is a quiet book about floundering relationships that harbors an intriguing message about the impact of people's choices upon their lives.

This slim book features a young writer named Jess and a young photographer named John, both living in London and both unhappy with their girlfriends.

I won't get into it more than that because I don't want to spoil anything, but I should point out that the book is certainly more than just another angsty, youthful twenty-somethings trying to figure out their lives kind of thing (although it might appear that way at first). The book's seemingly simple plot actually contains a slyly-executed twist that adds an extra layer of meaning to the story.

(click to enlarge)

Asker's black-and-white art compliments his story well. He does a couple of interesting things messing around with perspective, but for the most part the art is straightforward and unassuming, allowing the characters and the story to be the focus.

(click to enlarge)

I'd also like to point out that I love the cover. It's a fantastic design, and in real life the colors are slightly warmer than on the computer, so the piece conveys a really interesting mood. It's quite eye-catching. Asker definitely has artistic chops -- his illustration work displayed on his website includes some really cool stuff:

(click to enlarge)

I wouldn't mind seeing him really let loose on his next book -- he has the imagination and talent to really pull off something fantastic. But if you are in the mood for a story with understated art and an interesting idea executed well, check this one out.

There is a lot of material out there if you want to learn more about this book. Here are the first fourteen pages, and you can follow the development of the book at the Second Thoughts blog. You also might be interested in Asker's blog, which provides an interesting window into the world of a working comic book creator in Sweden. And finally, here's an article on publisher Top Shelf's relationship with the Swedish comics scene.

You can buy this book from Top Shelf here or from Amazon here: Second Thoughts

Related: My reviews of other Top Shelf comic books:
Disclaimer: This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.

Friday, April 17, 2009

A Drifting Preview

Many people reading this blog probably saw the New York Times review of Yoshihiro Tatsumi's memoir A Drifting Life, but might have missed that the Times also has a fourteen-page preview of the book.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Funny: "Abridged Script" for Watchmen

The very funny Editing Room has posted an "abridged script" for Watchmen. Here's a small piece of it:



I think I’ve figured out who killed Jeffrey.


Oh? Let me guess. It would have to be one of the main superheroes to have any impact. He didn’t glow blue, he was too tall to be Malin, and it couldn’t have been either of us. Must be that douchebag Matthew Goode. That was easy, did that take you the entire movie?


… God dammit. Jackie’s Journal: Patrick Wilson is a dick.

Read the whole thing here.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Review: Incredible Hercules Vol. 1: Against the World

Incredible Hercules Vol. 1: Against the World, written by Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente, art by Khoi Pham, Reilly Brown, Eric Nguyen, and Bob Layton, 2008, Marvel, 136 pages, $19.99

Along with Captain Britain and MI:13 and Agents of Atlas, Marvel's Incredible Hercules gets a lot of love in the comics blogosphere, so I grabbed a collection from the library last week to see whether it was as good as I heard. And I enjoyed it, happily, as it deftly straddles ancient Greek mythology and modern Marvel adventure.

This collection of issues #112-115 picks up after World War Hulk left off. Hercules and his buddy, the super-smart Amadeus Cho, were left wondering what to do now that the Hulk was out of the picture. Their rejection of an offer to join Iron Man's Initiative program triggers an assault/recruitment by the Avengers Ares, Wonder Man, and the Black Widow. Fighting commences, due in no small part to Ares's escalation of the violence because he is pursuing a personal vendetta against Hercules.

I don't have any history with the Marvel version of the character, but I grew up reading and loving the Greek myths, so when I realized that writers Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente were going to weave those old stories into the fabric of this modern adventure tale, I was pretty well hooked. The myths (and I'm unclear how much creative license Pak and Van Lente are taking with them) are interesting on their own, but the writers intelligently use them to enhance the stories taking place in the present.

For instance, we are told within six pages that Hercules slaughtered his own family in a mindless rage, way back when. Not only does this revelation add more depth to his character, imbuing Hercules with a sadness and guilt and making him more than just another big dude who punches things, but it sets up what appears will be the theme of the series: when the gods mingle with mortals, bad things happen.

Khoi Pham does the majority of the artwork, and turns in a good performance. His Hercules is appropriately big and meaty: he's less body-builder and more brawler. And the action scenes have good power and flow to them.

I don't know if other writers have relied on (and celebrated) the Greek myths in this manner when it comes to Marvel's Hercules, but Pak and Van Lente pull it off so well, and they make the series so much more interesting and unique, that it is worth checking out if you are at all interested in Greek myths.

READ IT: You want to see some of it? Here is a six page preview of issue # 112, six pages from issue # 113, seven pages of issue # 114, and finally, seven pages from issue # 115.

BUY IT: You can buy it from Amazon here: Incredible Hercules Vol. 1: Against The World

RELATED: My review of World War Hulk: Incredible Hercules

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Four Upcoming Collections

Here are four collections of comics from mainstream publishers that I am looking forward to reading.

(1) Patsy Walker: Hellcat

Written by Kathryn Immonen, pencils by David LaFuente and Stuart Immonen, Marvel, $16.99, available June 24, 2009

Pre-order it from Heavy Ink here.

(2) Batman: The Cat and the Bat

Written by Fabian Nicieza, art by Kevin Maguire, DC Comics, $12.99, available December 8, 2009

Pre-order it from Amazon here: Batman: The Cat and the Bat

(3) I Kill Giants

Written by Joe Kelly, art by J.M. Ken Nimura, Image, $15.99, available May 27, 2009.

Pre-order it from Amazon here: I Kill Giants

(4) Sub-Mariner: The Depths

Written by Peter Milligan, art by Esad Ribic, Marvel, $24.99, available July 8, 2009

Pre-order it from Amazon here: Sub-Mariner: The Depths

What are you looking forward to reading?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Neato Webcomic: Sorry Comics

"Sorry Guy," a 29-year-old cartoonist from Silver Spring, Maryland, has been posting short autobiographical stories called "Sorry Comics" since February. He's got a good sense of humor and an interesting, wistful tone.

I like his comics and I recommend that everyone check them out. Go here to read them.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Review: X-Men & Spider-Man 1-4

X-Men and Spider-Man 1-4, written by Christos Gage, art by Mario Alberti, 2009, Marvel, 128 pages, $19.99

Well, I won't lie to you: the art is the draw, here.

Sure, the story by Christos Gage is perfectly solid. It details four encounters between the X-Men and Spider-Man, with many years separating the events of each issue, a nefarious plot by Mr. Sinister tying them together. He wants their genes, don't you know.

And it's kind of neat to see the four-issue mini-series nimbly slide through established continuity, referencing events, plotlines, and costume changes without being weighed down or overwhelming. Gage has a good handle on the characters and makes sure to bring in some interesting baddies from the rogues galleries of both Spider-Man and the X-Men.

But as I said, if you are going to buy this, buy it for the dazzling art. This is Italian Mario Alberti's first major work on this side of the Atlantic. (He's done some covers for DC.) Prior to this, he worked on two separate series for French publisher Les Humanoides Associes, the very same publisher that Jog and Tucker Stone currently are examining with a microscope (I'm sure they'll get to him eventually).

Alberti, who does the pencils, inks, and colors, breaks out the whole toolbox here. His action scenes are terrific, using nifty perspectives:

(click to enlarge)

dynamic storytelling:

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and knockout two-page spreads:

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Though this mini-series really is just a collection of action scenes, strung together by a fun little plot that knows enough to get out of the way of the art, I liked it.

You can order the collected edition from Amazon here: X-Men/Spider-Man HC (Note: the collection's size is 128 pages because it includes a reprint of X-Men #35.)

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Not Comics: My Ideas for New Search Engines

A new search engine that only returns results involving pretty people.

- and -

A new search engine that only returns the least relevant results.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Matt. Fraction. Really. Means. It.

I hereby dub the following statements "Fractions."

(click to enlarge -- all of the following comics were written by Matt Fraction)

Images from The Immortal Iron First, Casanova, Uncanny X-Men, The Order, and Thor.

Note: I have not gone through his work on Invincible Iron Man, Punisher War Journal, or recent issues of Uncanny X-Men, but I have a feeling there are a few more Fractions out there to be found.

Neato Comic? Johnny Hiro

I've heard a lot of good things about Fred Chao's Johnny Hiro series. Just wanted to point out to everybody that Johnny Hiro Vol. 1 comes out in June.

Here's a preview.

The book is in the current issue of Previews. You also can pre-order it from Amazon: Johnny Hiro