Leave Your Spandex @t the Door 05.07.06: Advance Reviews and Indy News

Welcome to the 22nd instalment of the new Leave Your Spandex @t the Door!

Wednesday is Comic Book Day in the U.S., and LYS@D is here again with this week’s Early Bird Reviews, so you can catch up on what rocks and what flops this week before you head to your local LCS! I’d like to thank Travelling Man Manchester for providing me with the advance look copies for review!

In this week’s column: it’s too many reviews to find any common link! Let’s just walk through the headlines:
God vs the Devil, Ego vs SuperEgo, Science vs Magic, Talent vs drowning, man vs Tripod, Spidey vs Furry Thompson, Spidey vs mobile phone, Spidey vs Venom, Warpath vs tree, Iron-maniac vs good sense, Black Panther vs strippers, Storm vs a coffin, Chamber vs sunscreen, Franklin vs giant squid, and the Thing vs YMCA

Panel of the week:

Shipping next Wednesday:

Hero Squared ongoing #2
Boom Studios
Writer: Keith Giffen & J.M. DeMatteis
Artist: Joe Abraham

Review Content: I can imagine J.M. DeMatteis to be very cross towards Giffen. Poor J.M. thought he was getting a fair deal when they split the writing duties between them, Giffen taking plotting and J.M. handling dialogue. “How hard could it be, I’ll just write down how the voices in my head argue, Giffen has the tough job of coming up with the scenes and situations and whatnot”, must have mused the naïve J.M.

And then Giffen sends in his plot of “Milo and Captain Valor go to a shrink”. Like I said, J.M. must have been very cross”¦ or in a very good mood, as he turned that simple situation into a delicious meaty 20-minute read.

*[Nexus Disclaimer: Giffen is of course as much a genius as J.M. (slippery like an eel, I am), and equally responsible for the greatness of Hero Squared, regardless of My bad-joke intro]

Hero Squared is a one-man buddy movie, between the lovable loser Milo Stone and his supeheroic counterpart from an alternate realit- er, universe: Milo Stone a.k.a. Captain Valour. Captain Valour dumped his/their girlfriend who then went on to become the villainous Caliginous (if it rhymes it must be true) and destroy their universe. Captain Valous escaped to Milo’s world, causing Caliginous to destroy his apartment, seduce Milo, and break him up with his girlfriend, her own counterpart. You would seek out therapy too in his case.

Milo and the Captain have built up a heap of issues between them during the past series and the oneshot, and it all comes to the forefront this issue. The writers constantly balance between character exposition/development and humour, as the two characters, the two sides of one coin: too human and too superhuman finally clash and confess their true feelings. Although Hero Squared is billed as a Bwahaha book it has the richest characterisation of any other book on the shelves and it shows from the ease and flow of the dialogue and the sheer fact that these two/one people go through so much abuse from the writers each month but still survive without becoming stereotyped caricatoures.

Grade: A

Shipping today:

Talent #2
Boom Studios
Writer: Christopher Golden and Tom Sniegoski
Artist: Paul Azaceta

Review Content: Nicholas Dane is the sole survivor of a mysterious plane crash in the ocean. Noone can explain how he survived or how he now seems to be exhibiting the individual talents of his fellow passengers who died, and why he keeps getting flashbacks from their memories. The in-story explaination is given this issue, as a spirit reveals to Dane that the other passengers gave up their lives and energy so that he would survive. Because of their sacrifice he now carries the heavy load of their hopes, dreams, talents and their unfinished business. He must repay his debt to the balance by seeking out each of their families and settling their scores.

Talent has a unique concept that can provide fertile fodder for a slew of stories involving each of the passengers. It’s no wonder it was so quickly picked up by a movie studio and optioned as soon as the first issue was released.

This second issue advances the plot, and introduces Nicholas’ future direct adversaries, a ruthless couple of contract killers and torturers that are hired by the opposing force. The first sequence in the issue serves to establish the badass factor of the couple but confused me by taking me out of the main storyline. In my first review I had applauded the ‘cinematic’ plot structure, but after this second issue, I need to amend the remark, as each issue is structured as a free-standing item, a structure reminiscent of television drama instead.

The art by Paul Azaceta helps foster the eerie atmosphere of mystery and dread as more elements of the story unfold with his thick brush strokes and Ron Riley’s bare essentials palette. It all comes together to give us an original and gripping mystery that is well worth your time and attention.

Grade: B

War of the Worlds: Second Wave #4
Boom Studios
Writer: Michael Alan Nelson
Artist: Chee

Review Content: Following the ending of the novel and movie, the invading Tripods have been defeated by eart’s germs because of their inadequate immune system. The new Boom Studios series follows a diverse group of people who group together to defend themselves when a Second Wave of alien tripods invade the planet, this time looking much healthier.

This is the first issue I read of this series, but I had no trouble immediately picking up the plot and familiarising myself with the 6 main characters. After some initial tension and a lot of gun-pointing and a unique take on the stereotype Mexican stand-off, the survivors pull their resources to visit a nearby hillbilly community to secure medicine for the diabetic toddler. The apparent apocalypse has made everyone trigger-happy, though, especially when a black man and his sick daughter walk in the town asking for their supplies.

Although I am not a great fan of the recent movie, this story piqued my interest more thanks to the relatable characters and the natural dialogue. Chee is a new name artist, one of the many new talented folk Boom Studios is uncovering every month. His (her?) line is clean and soft with distinctive designs for the everyday people that inhabit this book. It is too clean though, with an absence of any grayscale colouring, ink strokes or gray washes, feeling like an unfinished product, stopped on the production line at the inks stage before a colourist could step in. Only select few panels in the book have a soft wash finish over the inks and they show the true potential of this art.

Grade: C

Uncanny X-Men #475
Marvel Comics
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Billy Tan

Review Content: It’s been a good long while since Uncanny X-Men had a decent story. Apart from one or two ok issues during Claremont’s recent run, I hadn’t enjoyed this book since Joe Casey left, about 60-70 issues ago. Brubaker is Marvel’s next Bendis, heralded as the indy crime writer who can breathe life into any old dead concept (exhibit A: Captain America). Although his Deadly Genesis mini which acts as a stepping stone to this story was uneven, he has already admitted that the plot was introduced to him by the editors, so I still have high hopes for this new run.

This issue is the first part of a year-long Shi’ar epic, with Xavier collecting a team of his X-Men to head into space after Vulcan, the third Summers brother, who is looking for answers from the Shi’ar. Unfortunately after the events of Danger and Deadly Genesis, Xavier isn’t welcome at the mansion anymore and his favourite students want nothing to do with him. This means it’s time for plan B, as Xavier and most devoted student Nightcrawler assemble an unlikely lot of B and C list X-Men: Havok (the replacement Summers brother since Cyclops I spoken for), Polaris (with a new generic set of green energy powers), Marvel Girl (as a Jean Grey replacement) and Warpath (Thunderbird II, the Wolverine replacement). Polaris is in an interesting point after her blunt madness state since Morisson, and her takeover by apocalypse last month. Warpath is the most interesting edition to the team, with Brubaker respecting the characte’s history with the X-Men and Xavier in particular (Warpath had first met the team when he had abducted Xavier to exact revenge for his brothe’s death).

Although this is a major anniversary issue, apart from the gatefold cover and the return of the traditional cornerbox you couldn’t really tell; the whole story centers around the new team saving Polaris from a group of generic Apocalypse worshippers with interlude flashbacks of Xavier recruiting the new team, and explaining the reasons for his choices. Hardly a memorable anniversary issue without a big event or a great fight.

Billy Tan is an odd choice for such a high-prestige project and I remain unconvinced of his merits, although Brubaker continues to defend him as his personal choice for the project. When you are writing Marvel’s once flagship title, why woul you deliberately choose a sub-par fill-in artist leftover from Top Cow’s 90s empire? Billy Tan is improved from his atrocious fill-in issues, showing a hint of personal style, inspired shamelessly from David Finch, but there are still jarring inconsistencies in characters’ faces from panel to panel and anatomy problems. The scene between Xavier and Rachel is a particular example, with Rachel’s facial features constantly changing, as well as her height compared to Xavier, as she clearly appears taller than him in half the panels, and shorter in the rest. The cover is Tan’s strongest showing this issue, and even that is pretty but dysfunctional; I’d have expected an editor to remind him to leave some dead space for the cornerbox and the title, which end up covering Deathbird, Xavier and Polaris on the cover, two of the main storyline characters.

In the end, the aspect of the issue that excited me the most was the return of the classic Claremont era logo and the cornerbox on the cover. Kinda sad, but I expect things to kick off next issue.

Grade: C

Manifest Eternity #2
Wildstorm
Writer: Scott Lobdell
Artist: Dustin Nguyen

Review Content: Lobdell jumps back in the past, 15 years before the start of the great Science Empire vs Magic Empire war, to look at a hidden event in the history of the key character General Tarkington. Years before the first invasion, the Magic Empire had abducted the General and his crew into their realm and forced him to strike a deal that could decide the fate of the war.

Lobdell handles Tarkington with ample dexterity, showing his dilemma when faced with a choice of betraying his world or saving his friends. Dustin Nguyen creates an impressive magic landscape with unique creatures and animals. His work on the magical realm designs impressed me a great deal more than last issue’s futuristic science plateau. The first issue established the great Science Empire, just as this issue introduces the Magic Empire, still through Tarkington’s POV. Next issue will jump further into the future in the heat of the Science-Magic war, so the two worlds will finally collide.

Grade: B

Beyond #1
Marvel Comics
Writer: Dwayne McDuffie
Artist: Scott Kolins

Review Content: Spider-man! Medusa! Dr Pym! The Wasp! Venom! Kraven Jr! Gravity! The Hood! Firebird!

Wait, Firebird? Poor dear, might as well have spray-painted ‘expendable’ on her hiney”¦

So these 8 ‘popula’ Marvel characters and Firebird have been whisked away from earth through a very familiar looking (if you grew up in the 80s) portal straight out of the original Secret Wars. Now they are stranded in Deep Space â„¢ .It’s oddly reflecting of Marvel’s marketing policy the last few years that the actual revival of the popular 80s event doesn’t bear the words ‘Secret’ or ‘Wa’ in its title and receives zero promotion, while they choose to stamp the Secret War name on an over-hyped New Avengers mini-series that has nothing to do with the concept just to pull in the nostalgia fans.

How does Beyond fare in comparison to the original Secret Wars? The core concept seems to be the same. We have your ominous character-eating white gateway-in-a-park, we have your mix of heroes and villains, your battle contest and your grand prize wish fulfilment right here. What’s changed is the portrayal of the Beyonder, who is now bodiless, characterless (well, that’s nothing new) and calling itself ‘I Am From Beyond’, as well as the scope of the contest; 3 west coast avengers, Spidey and 3 of his villains, Medusa and 2 rookie characters with their own mini-series isn’t exactly a representative sample of the Marvel Universe, especially since there’s not a single mutant amongst them! The death of one of the nine near the end of the issue is a major one and destroys any credibility the series has, as it is simply too big, instantly taking the reader out of the story. Although it is obviously used to set up an ‘anything goes’ and high danger vibe, the result more ‘wtf’ than shock, and you just know it will either be retconned by the end of the series through one of the wishes, or the whole story will be written off as What If.

What is actually good about this issue? These characters play well off each other (and by ‘play’ I mean bicker), as McDuffie has nailed each of their voices and characters. Gravity is our POV character, and McDuffie uses him as the vessel to transport the reader from New York to the contest planet and introduce all tese different characters to the new readers. The feel is more Gantz than Secret Wars, having streamlined the core concept to modern sensibilities. Finally, Scott Kolins shines through as usual, with his portrayal of Medusa stealing any scene she’s involved in.

Grade: C

Franklin Richards Son of a Genius Summer Spectacular
Marvel Comics
Writer: Chris Eliopoulos and Mark Sumerak
Artist: Chris Eliopoulos

Review Content: Franklin Richards is (obviously) Calvin & Hobbes set in the Marvel Universe, with Calvin as the son of a mad scientist and Hobbes as a floating robot nanny. It is also Chris Eliopoulos’ latest cartoon effort set in the outskirts of the Marvel U., after his famous and popular Mini Marvels.

This ‘Summer Spectacula’ is a collection of five four-page stories:
-in ‘Comic Book Free-for-all’ Franklin uses his dad’s machine to bring his comic book heroes to life
-in ‘Field of Screams’ Franklin uses his dad’s kinetic amplification cream on his baseball bat to cheat on his game, but can’t clean it off his hands
-in ‘Squid Kid’ Franklin hijacks the Fantasti-sub to write a school report on the giant squid
-in ‘Freaky Franklin Friday’ Franklin switches bodies with his pet robot HERBIE
-in ‘Bouncing Baby Boy’ Franklin makes himself bouncy but loses control and hops all around the world Hulk-style

The stories are formulaic, with Franklin always getting in trouble using his dad’s inventions and HERBIE chasing after him and saving the day, but they are all fun and adorable, much like eliopoulos’ rendition of Franklin. A fun escape read in-between the usually crossover madness, but nothing more.

Grade: B

Marvel Adventures Spider-man #17
Marvel Comics
Writer: Peter David
Artist: Mike Norton

Review Content: Peter David is indeed writing two monthly Spider-man titles, although this ‘kid-friendly’ comic has flown undetected under many of his fans’ radar since Marvel has made no effort to hype them. The stories are reminiscent of Busiek’s Untold Tales series, featuring self-contained fun action stories from early on in Pete’s career. They are set in the Marvel Universe proper, although probably out of proper canon, during Pete’s high-school years. That means dork Parker with glasses, the Daily Bugle part-time job, Flash Jerk Thompson and the rest of the old gang. You remember, back when Spider-man’s world was still fun, pre-JMS.

In this issue Flash Thompson enters a haunted house on a dare, and becomes a werewolf after he gets bitten by Werewolf By Night. Spider-man must now hunt down Jack Russell to some of his fur and cure Flash with Dr Strange’s help! It’s a fun action comic, with PAD’s wit shining through the dialogue:

‘This is why the call me Sorcerer Supreme instead of Sorcerer Merely Adequate’.

Grade: B

Marvel Team-up #22
Marvel Comics
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Artist: Andy Kuhn

Review Content: Freedom Ring lies hospitalised after last issue’s battle his almost-boyfriend and flatmate tend over him, while a maniacal Tony Stark from an alternate reality escapes and wears the cyborg Diamondback as a new armour, dubbing himself the Iron Maniac and battles Captain America.

This issue manages to push all the wrong buttons.
First of all, there’s no actual team-up taking place. My new gay superhero idol Freedom Ring gets no lines at all apart from slight drool. Iron Maniac is the worst pun of the month. Finally, the timing of this issue couldn’t be more off, as it comes off as derivative of both last week’s Exiles featuring another mad Tony Stark, and the big Civil War brouhaha since the Iron-Man/Captain America here is what the whole crossover is building up to.

Grade: F

New Excalibur #9
Marvel Comics
Writer: Frank Tieri
Artist: Scott Kolins

Review Content: New Excalibur? Where? Who?

Don’t be fooled by the cover, you won’t find Captain Britain, Nocturne or anyone else in this issue. Frank Tieri picks up the title after CC’s temporary retirement, and uses it as yet another venue to continue his Weapon-X storylines. Much like Bendis, he has a tendency to drag certain characters and stories around with him, whichever title he writes, and Chamber is clearly his own Luke Cage man-crash. Unlike Bendis though, his titles don’t really sell like hotcakes, so many readers will be left scratching their heads as he goes on about showing what happened to the Weapon-X project after M-Day, and then introduces threads from his recent Apocalypse/Dracula mini.

Pete Wisdom pays the depowered Chamber a visit at the hospital trying to recruit him in New Excalibur. Chamber of course tells him to sod off but is then kidnapped by Clan Akkaba, the holders of Apocalypse’s bloodline (obligatory Da Vinci code riff, I presume) and given his powers back, through a huge retcon on the character that re-introduces him as a direct descendant of Apocalypse, going as far as giving him an identical look. Does this mean he can now join Young Avengers with the other cool Jrs? Excalibur only shows up in the last pages outside Clan Akkaba’s headquarters just as Chamber is leaving, with no explanation for how they located him, or the convenient timing.

An average inventory issue that gets shoehorned into an Excalibur book, which puts another nail in the coffin of House of M, by repowering yet another X-Man. To rehash the old list, the repowered mutants so far include Polaris, Magneto, Chamber, Iceman, Quicksilver and Angel (sort of). As far as I know, Scarlet Witch, Rictor and Xavier are the last remaining X-Men with no powers. Scott Kollins does art here, the second book in one week, but unlike Beyond he seems to only be doing a rush-job here, as if sleep-walking through drawing the issue and producing a sub-par rough product.

Grade: F

Last week’s shipment

Lucifer #75
Vertigo
Writer: Mike Carey
Artists: Peter Gross and Ryan Kelly

Review Content: Mike Carey wraps up a landmark Vertigo series with a fitting end issue. After many adventures, wars, betrayals, death and resurrections, Lucifer finally got his wish and escaped God’s plan and his creation in issue 73. After wrapping up unfinished business with the supporting cast in the previous issue, Mike Carey looks back on the now ‘free’ Lucifer (no longer Morningstar) and his flight through the void outside creation. He looks back at the beginnings of the fallen angel in the original war between the angels that led to his fall, his first experiences in running Hell and recounts the events of Sandman: Season of Mists from Lucife’s viewpoint, bringing all the disparate faces of the character together.

While flying through the nothingness Lucifer encounters a familiar travelling Inn-on-a-rock and another escapee from Creation: Yahweh, God! They sit down and have a long and multi-faceted conversation about the creation of the world, the great plan, the function of the angels and one person’s escapability from fate. When Yahweh confronts Lucifer that he’s been unhappy because he’s deserved things that cannot be, Lucifer gives a reply that defines Carey’s take on the character through these last 7 years:

“That’s what desire is. The need for what we can’t have. The need for what’s readily available is called greed.
And futile or not, my struggle against you has shaped me into what I am. Do you expect me to apologise for it?”

Lucifer has been a very involving read, especially during the past year, but this final issue reads well both as the culmination of the over-arching storyline and as a stand-alone issue for new readers. Which self-respecting comics fan could pass by an issue featuring God and the Devil having a conversation in the void outside Creation? A highly recommended read for all Vertigo fans and especially fans of Sandman and Neil Gaiman.

Grade: A

Fantastic Four #538
Marvel Comics
Writer: JMS
Artists: Mike McKone

Review Content: Once more JMS provides an entirely forgettable issue if not for a few shining moments featuring the ever-lovable and well-written Thing!

Johnny is still comatose and Ben looks over him in a very awkward sequence of monologuing and, wait for it, dancing the YMCA! After that hilarious sequence, it’s better to just put the book down and avoid disappointment. Ben goes to Yancy Street and is confronted by the usual gang about his ‘Switzerland’ stance to the civil War, but even after a lot of blah blah, there is no change and development.

The issue ends with yet another segment in the ongoing ‘mystery’ of DB and the Mjolnir. Why this Return of Thor ennui has to take place in a Fantastic Four comic is beyond me.

Grade: F

Storm #5
Marvel Comics
Writer: Eric Jerome Dickey
Artists: David Yardin and Lan Medina

Review Content: A young Storm loses her virginity to her first love T’Challa, and is then kidnapped and locked in a box. Ouch! Although the villains and the fight scenes in the issue were uninspired and predictable, the post-coital scenes between the young lovers are magic, with Storm coming through as more relatable and human than she’s ever been. The purpose of the mini-series is of course to retroactively cement the relationship between Storm and the Black Panther by creating a shared history and making T’Challa Ororo’s first lover. Although I see right through this cheap ploy, I still fell for it and I now can’t wait for the wedding!

Grade: C

Black Panther #17
DC Comics
Writer: Reginald Hudlin
Artists: Scott Eaton

Review Content: More interesting crossover continuity: this story takes place during Civil War, and features Storm going on a shopping spree with Kitty and the Invisible Woman. Yes, the same Sue Richards who is otherwise busy watching over her comatose brother and agonising over her marriage falling apart because of Civil War, suddenly decides to take several afternoons off to go shopping for lingerie with a woman she has never really talked to before.

Ignoring that continuity mumbo-jumbo, this was a very good pre-wedding issue, with lots of shopping, buddy talks, bachelor parties, press conferences and pre-wedding fooling around! I viewed this wedding as a negative development for the two characters, an arranged marriage for marketing interest, but Marvel’s propaganda has now turned me around. Hudlin writes Storm and T’Challa with a powerful dynamic, from the way Storm acts as the future King’s wife to the interaction nd fun exchanges between them. He also finally reunites Storm and Kitty, rekindling the mother and daughter dynamic they had lost in the 80s.

This may well be the best Marvel wedding of the century, as long as it doesn’t get sabotaged by the forced connection to Civil War.

p.s. is there a specific reason Marvel doesn’t want to have any SBM (single black male) superheroes? First Powerman and now Black Panther, I would be double careful if I was the Falcon”¦

Grade: B

Amazing Spider-man #533
Marvel Comics
Writer: JMS
Artists: Ron Garney

Review Content: In the aftermath of the public unmasking in Civil War #2, Spider-man”¦ talks on the phone. A lot. To Aunt May, to MJ, to Reed and Sue”¦Then he talks some more about the unmasking, and Stark does even more obviously shady moves but Peter remains blissfully an idiot sidekick to the mighty Iron-Man. When did Spider-man turn into such a pussy?

Grade: F

Indy News & Views

IDW publishing: Clive Barke’s the Great and Secret Show #4 preview

IDW Publishing’s acclaimed adaptation of Clive Barke’s The Great and Secret Show continues in July with the release of the fourth issue of the 12-issue series. Scheduled to appear on comic book store shelves July 6, 2006, the next chapter continues to explore the mysteries of Palomo Grove and is adapted by Eisner-nominated writer Chris Ryall (Doomed) with striking art by Gabriel Rodriguez and Jay Fotos (Land of the Dead).

Clive Barke’s The Great and Secret Show #4
Chris Ryall (w), Gabriel Rodriquez (a & c)
In “Primal Scenes,” part 4 of the adaptation of Clive Barke’s epic novel, word of strange goings-on in Palomo Grove brings unwanted attention to the town’s inhabitants, Howie faces his destiny, and Tommy-Ray is brought one step closer to becoming Death-Boy. All while the Jaff prepares for War. Diamond Code: APR063223
FC “¢ 32 pages “¢ $3.99

IDW Publishing has provided the Nexus with preview of the first 6 issues of the new issue.


Marvel Comics: Join the Agents of Atlas Scavenger Hunt today!

Reintroducing the Atlas characters from the 1950’s in grand manner, Marvel is hosting an interactive scavenger hunt on the internet and in comic stores that allows fans to unlock parts of an exclusive online story leading up the six-issue limited-series Agents of Atlas.
And now, let the game begin”¦
Hello.
I speak for an organization known as The Atlas Foundation. We at Atlas feel that your “comic books” make an excellent recruiting venue for our global organization, and that Timely Comics (do not correct me- I do not acknowledge the recent name change) will serve a valuable role to that end.
I propose to honor our new arrangement by giving your readership a free story to read online– a serial adventure, if you will. Except ours is quite special as it details actual events from the year 1958. We shall meet on the inter-net to review this episodic narrative at a hidden location.
There is a common element relative to certain words in the list below. Once you know the three words that are connected, remove them. Unscramble the remaining anagram to guide you to your beginning inter-net destination.
HELPMATE MENACE FALSETTO VENUS ASTONISHING BOWLEG
I shall await your arrival”¦
It is believed this mysterious message has something to do with the fact that Marvel is publishing AGENTS OF ATLAS, a 6-issue limited series reuniting Marvel heroes from the late 1950s featuring Jimmy Woo, Venus, The Human Robot, Marvel Boy and Gorilla Man.
A game hint: Marvel.com is the fist stop on the hunt.
Retailers can find more information on this scavenger hunt in this week’s Marvel Mailer as well as on the Marvel Retail Page hosted by Diamond Comics.
AGENTS OF ATLAS #1 (of 6) (JUN061943)
Written by JEFF PARKER
Penciled by LEONARD KIRK
Cover by TOMM COKER
32 PGS./T+ …$2.99
FOC – 7/13, On Sale – 8/2/2006
The Scavenger Hunt has been going on for several weeks now, you can join in the current week’s mission at the Temple of Atlas headquarters. (Temple of Atlas is the anagram you get after removing Menace, Venus and Astonishing from the above list, the Timely Comics titles that introduced the individual Atlas Agents)

Alex Cahill: The Last Stand

Alex Cahill’s The Last Island is a wordless strip that works.

It works on several levels, as both playful tug of war between two young boys but also as a backdrop to larger social and cultural issues. But fear not a heavy-handed approach by Cahill, as he succinctly balances it in a way to enjoy either perspective, or both.

Released last month, The Last Stand is Cahill’s first comic since receiving a Xeric grant for Something So Familiar in 2005. We talked with Cahill via email to discuss his newest release in depth.

Newsarama: Say you’re at a convention, and someone comes up and asks what The Last Island is about. What do you say?

Alex Cahill: [laughs] Mostly people don’t have to come up to us at conventions. We’re really outgoing dudes, my business partner Jad Ziade and I, and if anyone even walks near us, we’ll just start talking to them. But we do use a party-line for The Last Island. I always say “it’s a story with no words about two kids who don’t like each other on an island in the middle of nowhere where things fall out of the sky”. To me, it’s a terrible simplification of the story and the characters, but you gotta sell comics, so you gotta say something. If I have a patient passer-by who’s genuinely intrigued I might add that the story is self-contained, but mostly I just give people the book and trust it to sell itself.

NRAMA: Correct me if I’m wrong, but this is your first comic since getting a Xeric Grant for last year’s Something So Familiar. How has that experience, both creatively and practically, helped you come back with this second release?

AC: Getting the grant and being thrown into the world of self-publishing was unbelievably valuable. I thought I had my game together before the grant, because I’d been researching self-publishing for a long time and knew comics inside and out, but the truth is that I was utterly unprepared for self-publishing. I didn’t know nearly enough. Having the foundation pay for everything really saved me and gave me the entree into comics, so when I was making calls for The Last Island and promoting it, I already had friends and supporters and a even a bite-size reputation. Having a Xeric book at conventions always gets eyeballs, too. People always at least wanna look at it.

NRAMA: The story of The Last Island is sort of a Spy vs. Spy battle between a content island boy and an up-rooted city-dwelling boy. How’d this originally come to you?

AC: My original idea was actually really different. I thought Sammy and Teddy (Sammy’s the Blonde) were gonna make up and maybe get off the island together, but it just never worked out that way. I was writing the book realtime, with every new panel, and I realized as I went that they just couldn’t ever be friends. If you’ve read the ending this might make more sense, but I didn’t even come up with the ending until the book was half-finished.

The Last Island grew from my original idea, which had a man and not a boy, and went from being about just Sammy to being about both of the boys. It just kept changing until my original idea was long gone and I realized that I had a semi-autobiographical surreal fantasy story.

Read the rest of this interview at Newsarama.

Aspen Studios: Soulfire TPB

Aspen MLT, Inc. will be collecting for the first time in trade paperback format their critically-acclaimed mini-series Soulfire: Dying of the Light. The collected edition of the popular Soulfire series will include the zero issue as well as the complete run of issues one through five. As well, included in the book is the entirely new Dying of the Light Beginnings story only available in the trade paperback. The Dying of the Light trade will also contain a complete cover gallery featuring the series covers by Michael Turner and Peter Steigerwald.

“The Dying of the Light mini-series was a great run for Aspen last year and we’re excited to release the entire collected work in this format. We really wanted to thank fans for the great support they showed the series, so we decided to include an entirely new story packaged with the trade,” states Executive Vice President Frank Mastromauro.

Written by J.T. Krul and featuring the artwork of Micah Gunnell, Soulfire: Dying of the Light was a spin-off of the regular Soulfire series and centered on a new cast of characters along with some from the regular series including the stunning warrior Grace and the malevolent Rainier. Gunnell brought to life these characters with his dynamic style of art with work literally breaking through the panels. Along with colorist Beth Sotelo, the team established a look to the series that was entirely all their own.

Aspen plans to release the Dying of the Light trade paperback in September coinciding with their current mini-series Soulfire: Chaos Reign by J.T. Krul and Marcus To. Both mini-series provide the essential history of the Soulfire universe and set the stage for the regular Soulfire series by Michael Turner and Peter Steigerwald.

Aspen Comics Still Available for Reorder:

Soulfire #6 (JAN062874)
Soulfire #7 (FEB062870)
Soulfire Hardcover (SEP052766)

Archaia Studios Press: Mouse Guard sells out and reprints

Archaia Studios Press (ASP) announces today that both the 2nd printing of MOUSE GUARD #1 and the 1st printing of MOUSE GUARD #2 have sold out. This brings the total number of #1’s sold to 13,000 copies. Issue #2, which had a print run of 10,000, sold out in about two weeks. MOUSE GUARD #3 arrived in stores in the first week of June and is close to blowing through its 13,000-copy print run. Fans and retailers will be happy to know a 3rd printing of MOUSE GUARD #1 will be in stores the week of July 10 and a new printing of #2 is in the June 21 Diamond Dateline Previews Plus.

“You know,” said creator David Petersen, “I can’t thank retailers and fans enough for buying and enjoying my labor of love. MOUSE GUARD took many years to come to fruition and it’s a pleasure to see such a positive response to something I’ve worked so hard on. I hope as the series continues and the traitorous plot is revealed that readers’ enjoyment will continue. I know I’m enjoying telling the guardsmice story.”

“We’re very fortunate to have such a wonderful book as MOUSE GUARD,” said Mark Smylie, publisher at ASP. “As a relatively new publisher of other creators’ work, it’s a thrill to come out of the gate with such a small-press hit. And we’re excited that interest in and growth of MOUSE GUARD is ever increasing. With the success of MOUSE GUARD and our other titles like the Harvey Award-nominated THE LONE AND LEVEL SANDS, we’re quite pleased with how ASP is growing. Thank you to our fans and supporters!”

MOUSE GUARD is the story of a band of mice trying to survive in a hostile medieval world, to prosper among harsh conditions and vicious predators. In the 1st issue, we met three members of the Mouse Guard on a mission to find a grain peddler who has disappeared on his journey from one protected mouse hold to another. In MOUSE GUARD #2, while Guards Saxon, Kenzie & Lieam are off searching for the missing grain mouse, another of the Guard, Sadie, is dispatched to a shore outpost of the mice territories. Conrad, the mouse posted there, has failed to stay in touch with the outside world for far too long”¦

And in issue #3, as Saxon, Kenzie & Lieam move on to Barkstone, the map-holding grain peddle’s destination, they hold hope that what appears to be a traitorous plot against Lockhaven is little more than a”¦misunderstanding. Unaware of information Sadie carries with her to Lockhaven, or of the fate of fellow Guard Conrad, Saxon, Kenzie and Lieam find themselves in a city where they are not the law, where they can trust no one, and where bad soon turns to worse.

Each issue of Mouse Guard releases bi-monthly and is 24-pages, full color, 8″x 8″ and retails for $3.50. It is recommended for ages 10+.

Bandai acquires rights to Witchblade Takeru Manga

Bandai Entertainment Inc. announced Monday at Anime Expo that it has acquired the North American publishing rights for the Witchblade Takeru manga from Top Cow Productions, Inc. creators of Witchblade. The manga series is an adaptation of Gonzo’s Witchblade anime television series which is currently airing in Japan and as the LOS ANGELES TIMES recently stated “is fast becoming a comic to anime crossover juggernaut.”

“This property has been one of our long term goals,” says Bandai Entertainment’s Robert Place Napton. “We began our publishing relationship with Top Cow with our line of successful Tankobon graphic novels, introducing manga fans to the classic Witchblade and Tomb Raider comic book series — this original Witchblade manga from Japan is the next step.”

Witchblade is the first ever American comic book to be adapted for the Japanese anime market. Bandai Entertainment plans to release the series in English following the same pattern as the Japanese edition of the manga which will be available in Japan later this month. Release date is to be determined but likely to coincide with the release of the Witchblade Anime series in the North America. More details to follow.

“There’s great excitement with the incredible response to the Witchblade anime both in Japan and internationally. We’re looking forward to working with Bandai Entertainment to bring this manga to the U.S.,” says Matt Hawkins, President and COO of Top Cow Productions, Inc.

Look for more information on this series in the coming weeks.

For more information on Bandai Entertainment, visit www.bandai-ent.com

For more information on Top Cow and Witchblade visit www.topcow.com

Big Red A Press: The Parverian Tales

THE PARVERIAN TALES (Big Red A Press) by Mike Jordan for July 2006

The boys from Parveria are back!! with an all new story and in a brand new format. Eric, Maldren, Valerian, Faraniar, and the Princess return in their latest online epic. This time, seeking aid for their war-torn contry, the companions end up in medieval Britain and soon become embroiled in what would become the greatest adventure story ever told. Better still, you’ll no longer have to wait a month to find out what happens next to them. The PT has gone weekly. Every Friday, the next page of their daring exploits will be published to our website, and-best yet-it’s absolutely free.

For July (pages 20-23) Ector goes unexpectedly against his grain. The companions are abandoned to the medicinal devices of Morgan Le Fey, who splits their forces in twain upon entering London. Maldren makes a new special friend, and Valerian crosses swords with the wrong opponent.

Contact: To read the current installment of the PT or to peruse the back stock, please visit us at: www.bigredapress.com and either click on the “Weeklies” button or click on the “Parverian Tales” for individual issues.

Blue Water Productions: Lost Raven features HIV-positive hero
This October, Blue Water Productions and Alias Comics will release LOST RAVEN. By writer/creator Darren G. Davis (10th Muse,Legend of Isis), and artists Keu Cha, Renato Arlem & Mike Miller,LOST RAVEN focuses on a man who finds out he has the HIV virus and is forced to make changes in his life.

Following a strong role-model, Zak Raven, whose recent diagnoses fails to slow him down one bit, LOST RAVEN treats the issue with respect and sincerity, while leading leaders on an exciting adventure of man versus nature … and the UN-natural!

After learning that he has contracted the HIV virus, attorney Zak Raven leaves his practice behind to set forth on a mission of relaxation – until his peaceful trip goes wildly astray, leaving Zak shipwrecked on what he thinks is a deserted island with only the words in his own journal to keep him company.

Unknown to Zak, however, four-miles below the surface of this quiet
island secretly hides a government experimentation center where
scientists play God by trying to artificially evolve a human-based
species to combat a coming Armageddon. Unfortunately, all
they’ve created so far are deadly monsters … and
they’re about to meet their new neighbor, Zak Raven!

“This book is not about sexual relations, but about what it is
like to live with this disease day to day,” said creator,
Darren G. Davis. “It is based on the journal of a friend of
mine who passed away. Before he died I asked him if this would be
okay to do – to let people know what it is like to live with
HIV on a daily basis. It touches on stigma, the pain of the drugs,
and the mental strain caused from this disease.”

Part of the proceeds from the sale of this book will go to the
Evergreen AIDS Foundation.

LOST RAVEN is a 96-page graphic novel published by Alias Comics for
release in October 2006, and will be available for readers to order
in Diamond Comics Previews catalog in August.

For more information on LOST RAVEN, visit Blue Water Productions on
the web at http://www.bluewaterprod , or
visit your local comic book shop!

# # # #

ABOUT BLUE WATER PRODUCTIONS:

Blue Water Productions is a creative studio founded in 2004 by Darren
G. Davis; creator of such popular characters as THE TENTH MUSE, LEGEND
OF ISIS, and JUDO GIRL! Blue Water Productions currently publishes
through Alias Enterprises, Arcana and Angelgate. Visit Blue Water
Productions online at http://www.bluewaterprod.com

Cartoon Books: Bone One Volume back in print!

This September will see the return of one of the most popular graphic novels of recent years, the BONE: One Volume Edition.

The massive five-pound, 1300 page paperback, by Jeff Smith, is being brought back by popular demand. The paperback tome, which originally retailed at $39.95 and has been out of print for more than a year, regularly sells for $100+ on e-bay.

The return was made possible by an arrangement between Cartoon Books and Scholastic/Graphix, the current publisher of BONE.

The original black & white BONE: One Volume Edition debuted at Comic-Con International in San Diego 2004 and sold 50,000 copies before being taken out of print the following year to make way for Scholastic’s full color versions.

With the tremendous success of the full-color books (Graphix, Scholastic’s Graphic Novel imprint has sold more than a million copies to date of the newly-colored BONE books), both Scholastic and Cartoon Books felt there was enough room on bookstore shelves for two versions.

David Saylor, Creative Director said, “In view of the historical significance of the black & white collections, we wanted to work with Jeff and Vijaya to bring the One Volume back.”

The One Volume Edition has been named one of the ten greatest graphic novels of all time by TIME Magazine, Book of the Year by The Comics Journal, and earned a starred review in Publishers Weekly.

Vijaya Iyer, Co-founder and Publisher of Cartoon Books explained the indy company’s motives, “We noticed that while BONE now has a significant presence in the children’s section of bookstores, it was mostly absent in the adult graphic novel section. With the re-release of the One Volume Edition, we hope to fill that void.”

Cartoonist Jeff Smith summed up his feelings this way: “I’m thrilled. The BONE: One Volume Edition is my baby, and I’m glad to have it back.”

For more information, and to see the complete new cover art, visit http://www.boneville.com

DMP: Cup Noodle

I bet you’ve probably never wondered about the history behind the Cup Noodle soup that you ate for lunch today. Well, wonder no more. Digital Manga Publishing is releasing a two-hundred and eight page graphic novel dedicated to the exciting saga of the Cup Noodle, the latest installment of their Project X series.

Seriously.

We spoke to Fred Lui, editor and production manager at DMP, to get the scoop on the book that’s more than just a comic.

Newsarama: I knew there were all types of manga, yet it never occurred to me that there would be a series of biographical books on business men. How long have these types of books been around? To what genre do they belong to in Japan?

Fred Lui: They belong to the business or salary-man genre in Japan. This kind of manga has been around for a while since the early ‘70s. So the genre is not new to Japan, but it is to North America. As far as the Project X series, the manga was based on the popular NHK documentary programs broadcast in Japan.

NRAMA: In Japan, what type of demographic reads these books? Are they used in schools as text books?

FL: It is not unusual for business men to be reading the manga while riding along the subways in Japan, but I don’t believe that they are used as text books in the educational system there.

NRAMA: What sparked the idea of bringing the Project X series to America for Digital Manga Publishing? Is it something that your company believes American readers are ready for? Was there any resistance in-house to these books?

FL: The President of Digital Manga, Hikaru Sasahara, likes to try out new and diverse things, and bringing a business manga to the States is something he wanted to try. Even though there may have been business manga published here in North America in the past, they probably didn’t do very well and faded into obscurity; manga wasn’t as big or as well known 10 to 20 years ago as it is now. Digital Manga wanted to give it a shot again and try to reintroduce this genre. Hopefully the timing will be better. So far we have been getting positive responses. There wasn’t resistance in-house towards producing these books as it was more of a challenge to strategically figure out a way to promote and reintroduce this genre to the market again.

Read the rest of this interview at Newsarama.

Dynamite announces two trades for September

Dynamite Entertainment today released images and information concerning two trade paperback releases, both scheduled to be in stores end of august/beginning of September and both available for Pre-Order Now.

First up is the softcover release of the long out-of-print and highly in demand Army of Darkness movie adaptation featuring fully painted art by legendary John Bolton. Dynamite had previously offered a limited hardcover edition of this material.

Next up, the adaptation of the Red Sonja and Thulsa Doom mini-series, which featured the first Dynamite appearance of a key villain in the Sonja mythos – Thulsa Doom! Featuring action, adventure, and intrigue, this is a must-have for any fan of comics!

ARMY OF DARKNESS COLLECTED EDITION TPB (JUN063026) Written By Sam And Ivan Raimi, And Painted By The Legendary John Bolton; Featuring Two Covers, One By Bolton (50%), One A Bruce Campbell Photo Cover (50%)

This Army of Darkness TPB presents the complete adaptation of the Army of Darkness feature film! Featuring 88 pages of non-stop Ash action, and release in conjunction with the launch of the new AOD comic book series, this TPB is a must-have for your reading collection! Also features an interview with Bruce Campbell by writer Kurt Busiek who also provides the forward.

FOR ART AND MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE VISIT:

http://www.dynamiteentertainment.com…p-C105208.html

RED SONJA VS. THULSA DOOM TPB (JUN063027) Written By Luke Leiberman And Peter David, Art By Will Conrad; Covers By Gabriele Dell’Otto And Will Conrad (50/50 Split)

This new TPB collects the four issue Red Sonja mini-series event by writer Luke Lieberman (w/Peter David) and artist Will (“Serenity”) Conrad!

Thulsa Doom is introduced to the Red Sonja world in this mini-series, collected here for the very first time. Featuring the comics debut of writer Luke Leiberman, along with legendary writer Peter David, and artist Will (“Serenity”) Conrad, this collection features Sonja’s return to Hyrkania as she battles with Thulsa in his never-ending quest to answer the riddle of steel!

Also featuring a cover gallery and Thulsa Doom character sketches from Will Conrad’s sketchbook!

FOR ART AND MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE VISIT:

http://www.dynamiteentertainment.com…p-C105209.html

Dynamite plans to support these releases with house ads, online ads through Newsarama, and prints ads in Comic Shop News!

Guardian Line launch

“Prepare to Witness the Dawn of a Comic Book Revolution!”

“The joining of two publishing superpowers promises to create a new concept in comic book development that appeals to more young readers than ever before.”
Dallas/Fort Worth, TX—UMI (Urban Ministries, Inc), the largest independent African American media firm and the leader in independent (non-denominationally affiliated) urban Christian and positive media content for over 35 years, announces the biggest launch in comics’ history for African American content—The Guardian Line. This series is the superbly styled, positive-themed result of the combined resources of UMI and creator of The Guardian Line Michael Davis.

“We have been developing this concept for two years, committing all the necessary time and resources to perfecting it. We are releasing a product that is just right for the African American audience,” states president of UMI, Carl Jeffrey Wright. “This series of comics will invite young urban readers to become part of a universe filled with memorable and inspiring characters who look just like them. Teenagers and kids in America face daily choices between good and evil. As The Guardian Line keeps them highly entertained and coming back for more, it will nudge them toward the good.”

Michael Davis is the co-creator of the Emmy-winning animated show Static Shock! and one of the founders of the Black comic publishing phenomenon Milestone Media. Davis has been looking for the perfect opportunity to produce a faith-based, positive comics series for ten years. He first conceived the idea in 1996 while serving as president and CEO of Motown Animation and Filmworks. After Milestone Media shattered all records in Black comic book publishing, Michael recognized the way to reach an even greater audience. “The Black church is the most powerful entity in Black America,” he states. “If you can create something that resonates in the Black church, you can reach the majority of African Americans.”

For over 35 years UMI has been the trusted source for teaching materials and inspirational book titles in the African American church market and is the exclusive or semi-exclusive publisher for several church denominations. They are poised to reach a network of 40,000 churches and 1,500 bookstores with The Guardian Line—a larger audience than that of even Michael’s own Milestone Media.

As a child, Michael witnessed the ability of comics to teach and provide an escape from the trials of inner-city life. He states, “Comics kept me off the streets. After one summer of reading comics, my reading scores jumped by seven grade levels.” His partnership with UMI has afforded him the opportunity to utilize the power of comics to touch the Christian market.

“You can’t overstate the importance of literacy in America. A kid who doesn’t read well will struggle to compete for acceptance to a good college or will often simply drop out of school. How will that child advance in life?” Carl Jeffrey Wright muses. “Well-written comics series like The Guardian Line will offer at-risk students a chance to practice reading skills while thoroughly enjoying themselves. They create a chance to level the playing field.”

The Guardian Line includes four separate series (Joe and Max, The Seekers, Genesis 5 and Code) targeting specific age groups. All the stories take place in the fictional New Hope City and feature the three essentials fans have come to expect in a Michael Davis universe: strong African American characters, a multicultural cast (some with extraordinary powers) and a guy named Larry. The focus of each series is the battle between characters chosen by God to fight evil, in the form of New Hope City’s nefarious nemesis, Steven Dark. While UMI wields its considerable experience to tailor the positive content to fit the needs of its market, Michael and a team of experienced A-list comic creators have crafted a comic universe that will surpass the expectations of mainstream comic readers who may be skeptical of a faith-based series. UMI’s recruiting of the best talent in the comic industry infuses The Guardian Line with the hip legitimacy necessary to connect with young urban readers and is in character with the company’s reputation for producing graphically superior, relevant content for the African American church market.

The unveiling of The Guardian Line is scheduled for September 2006. The first series released, targeting the tween segment, will be Joe and Max, based on Michael’s experiences in elementary school. Additional titles will release weekly. The comics will then be released bi-monthly for a total of six issues of each series per year.

Narwain: Fiendish Fables

Fans of the classic horror and suspense comics of yesteryear will be happy to hear about the upcoming publication of FIENDISH FABLES, a new anthology releasing from Narwain in late August. Diamond Comic Distributors has highlighted the book with a “Certified Cool” ranking in their June Previews catalog.

FIENDISH FABLES is the brainchild of writer John Schlim Jr., who set out to create a collection of creepy tales inspired by the classic horror comics that defined the genre. Anybody who’s familiar with the timeless works of EC and Warren will recognize Schlim’s use of storytelling techniques made famous by those pioneering publishers: twist endings, cruel revenge, horrific irony, and tragic moral lessons.

“John Schlim Jr’s Fiendish Fables hearken back to those glorious days. They’re short and often grisly; they’re fun and entertaining, fast-paced, well told, illustrated by a variety of styles,” says Jeff Mariotte, who wrote an introduction for this anthology.

“So much of today’s horror seems focused on nothing more than sadistic voyeurism,” adds Schlim. “I wanted to revisit some of the classic traits and story elements of other eras to put some fun back into horror. The resulting tales of terror might not be works of literary merit, but hopefully these twisted vignettes provide some hair-raising reading pleasure for Halloween.”

The book includes nine black and white stories illustrated in a wide range of artistic styles, but they don’t all take the same nostalgic approach. Some are told in a more contemporary style, and one even uses a humorous tone.

“I was thrilled and honored to have Jeff Mariotte writing the introduction to this anthology and Billy Tucci providing the cover,” says Schlim, “as well as to collaborate with such an amazing group of artists. Thanks to their incredible talents in visual storytelling,
you’ll be able to witness marauding zombie kids, a bloodthirsty vampire horse, vengeance-seeking storybook creatures, a wild west monster, the debut of Goth Ghost Girl, and much more!”

FIENDISH FABLES is suggested for mature readers, and features 48 pages of beautifully grayscaled black & white artwork for only $3.49. It includes an introduction by Jeff Mariotte (Angel/Desperadoes) and a cover by Billy Tucci (Shi/Zombie-Sama).
Previews order code JUN06 3277.
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