Wednesday, February 27, 2008

New Comics Day

Quite a boon this week for the artfully minded.

Some New Kind of Slaughter
Savage Sword of Conan

I thought twice about picking up RASL, the new series by Jeff Smith. But then I looked inside. I wasn't apprehensive about anything like story or art, it was just the thought of starting a new series that I know will be collected. But Smith's art is so appealing and the curiosity of his Bone follow-up is high, so I think I'll pick up the first few issues at least just to drink it in. There's fist fights and gritty urban settings and... dimensional teleporting? Sold! And god damn, just look at that cover. That's one of the most striking first issue covers I've seen in some time.

I'm not a regular Fables reader, but I read the trades occasionally and do enjoy the book. This issue is worth special note because the interiors are by Niko Henrichon. Here in Fables it's a looser ink line than the stunning digitally painted pages of Pride of Baghdad, and goes a bit more with a Paul Smith vibe. Nice.

Nexus #100! What more do I need to say? It's a chunk of an issue, double sized. Equal parts new story and retrospective, it's been a long time coming but more than worth the wait. My congratulations (and admiration) go out to Steve Rude and Mike Baron for accomplishing this amazing milestone.

And what do you know, a second volume of Savage Sword of Conan! John Buscema and Alfredo Alcala is some kind of master pairing. Buscema is eternally top form, and the hatchwork inking by Alcala brings his work to another level entirely.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Sam and Max

There were no weeklies that caught my interest today, but there was a surprise offering in the new collection of Sam and Max: Surfin' the Highway. I'm a long, longtime admirer of Steve Purcell (he's got videogame roots, too) and his Sam and Max work was a huge inspiration to me when I first started in indie comics.

The new collection by Telltale Games, coincidentally publisher of the revamped Sam and Max videogames, is a sweet package. It has a classy design that serves as a fitting tribute as well as a great introduction. I've got the original trade, which I've read is quite rare and goes for a tidy sum on ebay, tho I suspect now with the reprint that demand will drop significantly. I'd have a hard time parting with it anyways, but I'm glad this new edition is making these great comics more available to readers.

Aside from the crisp art that's as inspiring in black and white as it is in color (Purcell's traditional media work is dream-inducing), Sam and Max offers biting humor that turns from slapstick to black on a dime. Posed along with Purcell's whimsical storylines and characters, the self-employed freelance police are often send-ups in their own adventures. Hard-boiled detective tales, Americana, sci-fi, and even Cthuhlinan lore is more fun than any dog and rabbit should be allowed to have. But be glad that they are!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Damn you, St. Mystere

Do you like solving puzzles? Or perhaps free time to do other things of import? Be it known that Professor Layton and the Curious Village holds these two actions in high conflict. What is one to do?

I do enjoy brainteasers and their ilk greatly, and like to think myself somewhat skilled in their answering. I figured a cute little game like Prof. Layton would have many of the classic logic puzzles I revel in, and it does. Tho what I did not expect were puzzles of devious construction, those that fool the brain into thinking it knows the answer when it clearly does not, even at times requiring fucking trigonometry. It is torture of the most blissfully maddening variety-- that of the mind.

Have you ever taken an IQ test? There are two kinds. Most common is the series of questions that purport logic and math with your ability to comprehend them. The second is almost purely graphic and stresses spacial relations, shape identity, and numerical succession and is decidedly more taxing. This game has both of those, at first lulling you into confidence as you determine how to get wolves and chickens to cross a river, then toppling your perceived acuity by asking which mirrored image of a complex crank can be used to turn a gear counter-clockwise. And, you know, the astrophysics equations required to make a goddamned sandwich.

There is a lovely art style the game is crafted around, and a quaint story that almost instantly endears you to its main characters and supporting cast. But at its heart are the puzzles, the endless, addictive, boggling puzzles that lead you into a mindset of play that compels "just one more" as if it were that last hit of heroin you need right before you can get clean. Soon the puzzles start becoming meta, as one ties into another or is required to progress further. Each new area of the game and story is propelled by townsfolk that desperately need their deepest quandaries solved, and only serves to unlock newer, progressively harder mysteries. It uses the DS interface and stylus to poke, prod, push, pull, write, and scratch solutions, each leading to the dreaded "Submit" button to judge your answer. Submit, indeed.

Penny Arcade does clue in to the game's nexus.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

New Comics Day

Yikes! What a PHAT week!

Fantastic 4
Fantastic Four: Lost Adventure
Fantastic Comics
Green Arrow/Black Canary
Tiny Titans
Wonder Woman
Green Lantern Corps
Modern Masters: Mark Schultz

Dunno what to make of Millar and Hitch on FF just yet. Tho I do admire they just went to the FF book proper instead of some needless prestige spinoff book. Not that Lost Adventure doesn't deserve it, I mean it's "new" Kirby and all.

BE NOT FOOLED by the cover of Green Arrow/Black Canary, it says "Conner" but my hopes of an Amanda Conner-drawn issue were dashed. Even the credits list her as a cover artist but there was no alternate cover that I saw. The existing art is not bad, tho.

Fantastic Comics, a Erik Larsen free-for-all through Image is exactly as it is called. Fantastic. The book's production has nailed the look of color-sepped comics from days past, doing so with flair and fun. Check it out!

Modern Masters knocks it out of the park once again by profiling Mark Schultz. I cannot tell you how much I have studied this guy. Xenozoic Tales was an awesome book, and when he started mixing the tone over his pencils I would look over those issues like a hundred times. He is an absolute master of the black and white comics panel. The story was awesome, too, great fantasy sci-fi. All of his work is downright amazing, it gives me the tinglies!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

New Comics Day

Just a couple books.

Teen Titans Year One
Star Wars Rebellion

Holy bejeezus is Teen Titans Year One a great looking book. It would be great if DC would adopt this look forthe TTs, because in this book they actually look like teens! But I guess they are relaunching "Titans" with the original cast but all grown up of course, under the watchful eye of Dan Didio. BUt This year One book, it has so much life. And the Aqualad scenes are awesome!. Aw, hell with the Teen Titans, relaunch Aquaman and make it look like this!

Speaking of good looking, I don't often stray into Star Wars comics, but now and again they get some interesting art in there. This ish of Rebellion (which has had a string of really great covers), showcases work by Colin Wilson. It is also colored adeptly by Wil Glass.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Goodies from Japan

I've got the hookup in Japan. Even though I hound my buddy for constant, demanding requests that are hard-pressed to fill, occasionally I get a little love form the land of Nihon. Imagine my excitement when this box arrived!

The contents were varied and every one was a treat and a half:

A. Super black ink! Squozen from rare and ferocious cephalopods that roam the ocean deeps, this ultra opaque fluid draws like silk, never clogs nibs, and never fades. Or so I am told. Time to bust out the cro-quills and get my ink on.

B. Green leather pass wallet. Thin, compact, stylish.

C. Negative notebook. The paper is black, see?

D. FF minifig. The deal with these thingies is you don't know which figure is inside. I hoped for a cutey Penello or Yuna but got a groovy Vaan instead.

E. Pokémon DS biggie fig. :::fingers crossed::: Score! INFERNAPE! Coolest. Pokémon. Ever.

F. Random paperworks and brochures.


Monday, February 04, 2008

Y: The Last Comic

Being with a series from the beginning creates a lot of personal investment. This is especially the case when you know the story is finite and, by the way, so damn good every step of the way. Y the Last Man was quality from the get go and it stayed that way with uncommon consistency. For easily the first half of the series, those cliffhangers kept you on the edge waiting for every next issue. Through the second half they did keep coming, and the twists were the kind you either didn't see coming or thought they might-- but didn't think he'd have the balls to do. And by "He" I mean Brian K. Vaughan, I'd say one of the best writers today. And by the sounds of things, not just comics. Towards the end the weight of the series had to bear its resolutions through, but never stopped adding to the overall story.

Vaughan took the hook, the "Last Man on Earth" scenario, and made it anything but. And the best part for me was that it was delectably sci-fi. Most people wouldn't classify it as such because the best usually isn't, but it was hardcore science fiction. But what can't be argued was that that the book's concept was the wrapping, because at it's core Y was totally character driven. Yorick, 355, Dr. Mann, and all their wonderful intersections made for some great comics. With the last issue we get a well executed "fast forward" scenario as the world without men learned to move onward, and even here there are a few last surprises. I'm glad it ended the way it did, without any switcheroos or dreams or reversals of past documents. It was strange seeing Yorick in his altered state, and his flashbacks were even kinda spooky in a way like you maybe should not be watching as he fills in some gaps. And Ampersand, dammit, his sequence was without a doubt geared to tug at the heartstrings, damned if it didn't. As with all good stories the ending was in fact a sweeping arc that leads to a new beginning.

While my grattitude for the story stays strong, the art on this book throughout its life was nothing short of amazing. I love Pia Guerra!!! Ranked possibly only with Steve Dillon and Frank Quitely in her ability to portray humanity amongst the fantastic, issue after issue wrenches out every range of action and emotion through countless situations. This is quite a feat considering the book can at times be 80% talking heads. When Guerra was absent, Vertigo chose very wisely for fill ins, I've mentioned each of them here on the blog and would welcome them on other books. But what they accomplished with those choices was a maintained consistency, an thematic artisty that complimented the book as a whole. And boy do I respect that.

I guess what the last issue represents is respect. Not just my respect for the series, but the series itself. If you've not read Y, you owe it to yourself to pick up that first trade, bet you'll be hooked. If you have been reading Y, you may understand what I mean with the statement to its respect. It was a damn good series, and while I'm sad it's over it will be fondly remembered as one of the medium's most intriguing books.