Archive for the 'love & hate' Category


I Used to Love H.E.R.

December 8th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

In the end, 2009 is going to be the year that I stopped caring about superheroes.

As a kid, I loved them. Then I hit my teens and realized how bad they were and quit them. Then I came back to the US after high school, discovered Frank Miller’s Daredevil for the first time, and got back into them in a big way. Gimme everything you got about Spider-Man, Daredevil, and the X-Men. Add in some Flash, too. And now? Now, I’m bored and tired of them.

The straw that broke the camel’s back was when Dwayne McDuffie was fired off JLA after being hired, hamstrung, and toyed around with. Hiring McDuffie seemed like a no-brainer. He did a stellar job writing and managing an entire DC Universe, one that’s almost universally loved, and there’s no reason to expect that he wouldn’t bring that same magic to the comic series. Except he was hampered right out of the gate, forced to tie in with the wedding of two C-list characters, and then with every other DC event after that, including such unreadable crap as Tangent, Salvation Run, and Countdown. Then they started picking off team members. The most famous characters? Gone. Flash? Gone. Anyone you’d actually expect to see in a book called JLA? Gone. I’d mention Ed Benes’s art, but I think I’ve talked about him enough recently.

And then there’s the bit where DC made a big deal out of bringing Milestone into the DCU, only to flip the script and stick Static into a book that hasn’t been good in three (or more) years, shuffle the characters off into Brave & the Bold, and then step back like “Oh, we only wanted Static, anyway, you keep all them others.” In other words, “This guy made some other people a fat stack of cash, now we want that stack of cash.”

The thing about the JLA, DC, and McDuffie situation is that it is what is wrong with mainstream comics in miniature. It was an eye opener for me. What is important is not the stories, not growth or evolution, but the trademarks. The characters are what matter. As long as Hal Jordan makes a giant boxing glove and is the manliest man ever, as long as Superman has a spit curl, as long as Wonder Woman is in that stupid looking costume, things are okay. What is important is that books with these characters are on the shelves, because if they are on the shelves, they might get noticed, and if they get noticed, we get a movie or money or a game or something.

This year has seen Geoff Johns repeatedly trying to bring childhood nostalgia in line with adult sensibilities and cranking out books that explain why superheroes wear bowties or that feature dudes having sex with corpses. It’s scare quotes edgy, the sort of thing a teenager draws on a binder when he wants to rebel but isn’t sure how. Of course the love army are a bunch of shrill, possessive, needy women who don’t wear clothes. Of course these anger dudes just vomit blood uncontrollably. Doesn’t all this gore and sexiness makes these books grown up, instead of barely adolescent? Look at it, they’re drowning in it.

(Blackest Night is fundamentally stunted from a storytelling, emotional, and craft perspective.)

Brian Bendis and a few other Marvel writers spent a decent chunk of time this year hammering home the childishly binary view of “Villains kill, heroes don’t.” Meanwhile, their top villain was shooting passenger planes out of the sky, having government employees back handtrucks full of gold bars to known mass murderers and antisocial types, ordering assassinations of American and foreign citizens, and stocking the roster of a government agency with criminals who have pretended to reform. But hey, heroes don’t kill. They just kinda sit around and beat people up a little and sleep the sleep of the just. And in the opening pages of Marvel’s Siege, the newest big ticket crossover, Norman Osborn orchestrates the murder of sixty thousand people at a football game. But hey, in Siege #4, Spider-Man will punch him in the jaw, throw him in jail, and feel good about being a hero.

Have you ever seen the cover to Amazing Adult Fantasy #9, the series that eventually gave birth to Spider-Man? It’s a Steve Ditko joint, apparently. It’s got this giant monster with underpants, a helmet, and boots on, and the cover copy says “Ever since the dawn of time, nothing can match ‘THE TERROR of TIM BOO BA!'” Below that, the copy declares “The magazine that respects your intelligence!”

The Avengers books don’t respect your intelligence. It’s another entry in this absurd game of “Can you top this?” where the villains are getting exponentially more vile (Dr. Light goes from goof-off idiot to stone cold rapist to rape addict to a guy who is doing something vile off-screen to a recently murdered young girl’s skull, the villain of Blackest Night literally has sex with dead bodies because he’s ka-razy go coconuts, even though before he just kinda shot laser beams at people, Moonstone suddenly wants to put it on anything with a third leg when before she was just a scheming psychologist-type) and the heroes are… stuck in 1961.

Put plainer: Spider-Man could pull Norman Osborn’s whole head off at this point and it would be much, much better than watching him and his buddies circle jerk about how “heroes don’t kill.” Man up, you child.

Marvel and DC’s books, with a few notable exceptions, are ugly, stupid, cruel train wrecks that are busy trying to recapture past glories. I love Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, and Amanda Conner’s Power Girl, but for every one of those, you get a Ms. Marvel, a Mighty Avengers, and a JSA. For every New Mutants, you have to wade through Uncanny X-Men, Dark Avengers, and Flash Rebirth.

And I’m bored. I don’t care why Barry Allen wears a bowtie. That is the exact opposite of what I want to see in a comic book called Flash. I don’t want to see a villain who gropes corpses and has all the depth of the worst of a high schooler’s dirty drawings. I don’t want the fifth version of Superman’s origin to be told in ten years because who cares? Who wants to read this?

I’m bored to death. My pull list for singles is Amazing Spider-Man, Criminal: The Sinners, Hellblazer, King City, and Unknown Soldier. Everything else I either cop off the racks or follow in trade because it just isn’t worth picking up monthly.

I was thinking about this post while I was at work and went poking around for something. The last time I felt invested enough to write something positive about a Marvel or DC tights & fights book released this year, outside of linkblogging-related material, was September, when Black Cat returned to Amazing Spider-Man. I’ve made five negative posts about 2009-era superheroes since, and a whole bunch of posts about old superheroes or books from Viz, Boom! Studios, Image, Dark Horse, and other companies.

There are Marvel and DC cape books that I enjoy and purchase regularly. Spider-Man Noir was a great read and well worth the 15 bucks I spent on it. I like Eric Trautmann’s The Shield, Charlie Huston and Lan Medina’s Deathlok, the Fraction/Larocca Invincible Iron Man is aight, Rucka/JHW3 on Detective Comics is okay, Grant Morrison’s Batman & Robin is hilariously uneven… but by and large, I’m bored. I’m reading most of these in trades and I’m not reading B&R at all right now because Philip Tan is terrible.

Marvel and DC did a pretty good job of chasing me out of their universes. I didn’t even really notice it happening until it was done. They don’t want my money, and I’m not in their target audience, and I recognize that now. They’ve built a world that doesn’t interest me at all, and I’d be a fool to keep trying to force myself to care and be a part of that. Talking and blogging about it kept me in the world longer than I probably should’ve been, but I’ve finally learned.

So, like Tim and Chad and Geoff and Cheryl, I’m off that and looking for the next one. I’ll catch the good capery when it hits the trade, read books only when it’s clear the company cares as much about it as the creators do (i.e., no Peter David, Greg Land, Ed Benes, Tony Daniel, army of pencillers/inkers, crossover tie-ins, and so on), and keep on reading comics like I been doing.

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Are You A Total Creep?

December 4th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Let’s talk superheroines, buddy. How do you like them? Do you like them with glassy eyes, mouth partly open, gasping for breath? A stone cold (or smoking hot, you feel me?) come hither look on a face you swear you’ve seen before? What about boobs? How do you feel about those? We’re talking pneumatic, post-porn star boobs here, straight up carnival breasts. Think Wonder Woman could do with a pair of tatas like those? Or even better– let’s say you could get a peek at Zatanna’s you-know-hair and chimichangas while she just looks at you with this super sexy expressionless face? That’d be dumb hot, right? You’d want to give her a full ten out of ten, am I right?

Let’s be real with each other here. How much would you pay to see a seventeen year old girl’s panties? Just a peek? What if she were Supergirl? I gotchu, dawg.

Luckily for us all, Ed Benes, The King of Sexy Superheroines has space on his commissions list, and he’s ready, willing, and able to break you off some of that super sexy submissive scoliosis bowlegged booty.

11″ x 17″ Pen and inks
$800 1 character, no background
$1200 1 character w/ background (cover quality)
Add $400 for second character
Add $300 each additional character

Let’s do the math: 800 bucks will get you Vixen and some boob socks, or Zatanna and some questionable penciling going on down in panty-land. And hey, even some Wonder Girl panty shot action.

For 1200, you can get Zatanna, a little bit of hair, and a background.

If you want Spider-Man and Kinky Sex Black Cat and Whip Cracking Mary Jane, you’re looking at… 1500 bones. Of course, that’s worth it, right? I mean, they’re totally going to do it. I mean, come on.

If you absolutely need poorly drawn, empty eyed, ill proportioned superheroines to get your rocks off you unbelievable creep, hit up Ed Benes’s art page.

I mean, sexy art is one thing. But have some freaking taste about it. Read something with some personality and attention to craft, not some hack who can’t even tell a proper story without putting somebody’s flat butt front and center. You’re better off buying something by Adam Hughes, Kevin Maguire, Jordi Bernet, Frank Cho, Amanda Conner, Phil Noto, or any one of several dozen genuinely talented cheesecakey artists. Shoot, buy some Penthouse Comix backissues. Those had a stellar line-up of artists.

Ed Benes: Wacker than the average.

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Noh-varr’s Got A Brand New Bag

December 4th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Gavin wanted to know what I thought of the Dark Avengers Annual, since it features Bendis writing Noh-varr, which I’ve had some harsh words (one, two) about before. I’m not pissed about the new change or whatever. It’s just clear that Bendis didn’t get Marvel Boy. At this point, it’s like, who cares? It’s a different character in a book I don’t even care to read for free. I do want to point out one thing from the series, though.

From Dark Avengers Annual, words by Brian Michael Bendis, art by Chris Bachalo:

Noh-varr's New Costume

Kobe, what do you think about this new costume?


That’s the dictionary definition of a soft batch. Put that back in the oven, let it cook a little more, then try again.

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Okay. Now I’m Getting Mad.

November 19th, 2009 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell


Wow, I’ve never read about many female characters giving her a hard time in the comics . . . oh.  Oh.  That was meta.  The ‘most women’ comment.  The character looking out at us from the panel.  This is a little speech given to the women who, for some crazy reason, criticize Peej’s uniform.

You know, I think I’ve heard a similar speech.  It was about how Peej was proud of her body, and if men decided to degrade themselves by looking at her, then that was their business.  And I’ve heard the speech about how she had the ‘S’ and ripped it off, and that patch of fabric would stay absent until she found a symbol that represented her.

And I heard the justification about how Canary’s outfit was in tribute to her mother, even when that means she’s in panties and a jacket in the First Wave books.  And I’ve heard the one about Poison Ivy being a plant and therefore unconcerned about human modesty.  Oh, and I’ve heard the one about Supergirl being invulnerable and therefore not needing pants.  There are a few about how Huntress wanted to show off the fact that she was shot, and she lived, and that’s why she fought in a bikini.  And then there’s the one about Batman and Superman . . . oh.  Wait.  There aren’t that many excuses for how  Batman and Superman dress because, golly, for some reason, the male heroes in this mostly male-controlled medium put their fucking clothes on when they’re going to fight someone.

Are you kidding me?  I’m getting an ‘I choose my choice’ speech from a fictional character?  Feminist fans are getting a slap because they won’t accept one bullshit excuse after another for why male heroes are mostly fully-clothed and female heroes mostly walk around in their underwear?

Let me make this clear:  No matter how many times you have the female characters talk about how they decided on their outfits, they are still fictional characters.  These aren’t women who have decided on what they want to wear for reasons of their own.  These are characters who are dressed as playboy bunnies because a bunch of creators decided to dress them that way for fun and profit.

Jen Van Meter; I don’t know what you were trying to do here, but you failed.

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Batman: Black and White

July 9th, 2009 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

Lately DC has been adding an eight-page back-up story featuring a new character to existing comic books.

The Question has been appearing as a back-up to Detective Comics, and the Blue Beetle has been added to Booster Gold.  I love the double feature, both because it gives me a chance to get to know new characters and because it allows ongoing stories of characters who, for reasons that pass understanding, don’t sell well enough on their own.

And now that I’ve pushed some minor characters, let’s get back to the five-hundred pound gorilla; Batman.  This is a guy who’s passed around to any title that needs a boost, from The Outsiders to the Blue Beetle.  (Tough beat on that last one, Battsy.  We all felt it.)

But what would be a different way to present Batman, considering he’s already in at least five books at a time?  I don’t know.  But I know what I want, and that is a return of the Batman: Black and White series.

Batman: Black and White, pitched by Mark Chiarello, was a series of 8-page Batman stories written and drawn by different artists.  The stories ran singly at the end of the newly-created Batman: Gotham Knights, and as 4-story collections.  The art and the writing are superb, the stories wildly disparate, running the gamut from gothic horror, to poetic meditation, to cutsy bat-with-a-baby stories.  There is a story in which Batman frees a genetically-engineered mermaid.  There is one in which Batman threatens someone’s life for killing his son’s cat.  There is one in which Batman is futuristic freedom fighter, and one in which he and an early Catwoman/Batgirl mash-up fight nazis, and one where he bleeds in an alley.

The stories are collected into three volumes, all of which are well-worth getting.  They are a must-have to any fan, partly because of the talent involved, but mainly because they add up to more than the sum of their parts.  The many takes on Batman, his motivations and his effects, his different eras and his absurdities, end up building something far more epic and sweeping than any planned Batman story I’ve ever read.  If I wanted to argue that superhero comics can be moving and artistic, these are the books I would present as evidence.

And if something like that were to come back, I would clamor for people to read it, no matter what book it was stuck to.

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Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary

June 23rd, 2009 Posted by david brothers

I’m a little surprised at how much of my taste in comics has its origins in Daredevil. I got back into comics largely through buying copies of Frank Miller’s Daredevil Visionaries. I’d never read his run on Daredevil, and it was just what I needed to leapfrog onto the Bendis run, which led to other Marvel books, and so on. When I was a kid, Miller was my introduction to both grown-up comics and crime comics.

There’s another aspect to this that I haven’t talked about, before. Before I was introduced to Grant Morrison’s work, before I discovered Joe Casey, Ann Nocenti introduced me to weird comics in the pages of Daredevil. I didn’t have many issues of her run, but I had some of the ones with Typhoid Mary and a few seriously off-kilter tales.


I’ve been re-reading Nocenti’s run on Daredevil, and it positively leans. Her run is as much about how Daredevil is an overly violent fascist and a failure of a hero as it is about swashbuckling and dating. Nocenti got right up in the face of what it meant to pull on tights and beat up a criminal and did a pretty good job of breaking it down into its component parts. She has Murdock struggle with the thought of solving problems with his fists, forcing him to look at the effect he has on his environment. She introduced the Fatboys, a gang of youths who alternate between assisting Daredevil and getting into trouble. They follow his example and sometimes they get hurt. Sometimes they hurt people.

What’s so amazing about Nocenti’s run is that she followed up Frank Miller and David Mazzuchelli’s Born Again, one of the top five best superhero stories. Picking up the reins after two masters of the game told an amazing story must’ve been daunting, but Nocenti handled it well. She picked up the storylines they left, continuing on with a law practice-less, but happy, Murdock.

Brubaker and Bendis’s Daredevil is inextricably linked to the Frank Miller version. They’re continuing on in the same kind of story that he started back in the day. Nocenti, though, swerved right out of the gate. Her Murdock flipflops from confident to troubled, wrestling with his demons with the help of his girlfriend.

Typhoid Mary, whose origin story is collected in Daredevil Legends Vol. 4: Typhoid Mary, has been one of my favorite villains since I was a kid. Obviously, I didn’t get the Madonna (Mary)/Whore (Typhoid) complex that helps define her character or the subtle (?) feminism that Nocenti slipped in. There was just something about her that was, and is, endlessly interesting to me. She wasn’t like Batman’s villains, who were just crazy for the sake of being crazy. She wasn’t like Spider-Man’s villains, either, who were concerned with wealth. I don’t know that I had the mental capacity as a kid to articulate why I enjoyed reading about her so much. Mary was just undeniable.

The best word for her, as near as I can tell, is “uncomfortable.” Lesser writers will treat her as a generic crazy chick, Poison Ivy Plus Catwoman Minus Clothes. Nocenti, though, used her like a scalpel. She wasn’t a Bad Girl, but she was a bad girl. Typhoid Mary was a lot of issues distilled into one creature– religion, sexism, feminism, violence, and morality collided in her. She’s genuinely damaged goods, and troubling.

Mary is the easiest thing to point to when describing Nocenti’s run on Daredevil, but it’s just a part of the whole. There was the nuclear holocaust-obsessed son of a supervillain, the trials of the Fatboys, and the Inferno crossover. It’s creepy, but not creepy like a horror comic or a T&A book. It’s a crawling creepy, a book that makes you feel uneasy. Heroes who are far from perfect and entirely too human, a city full of people who refuse to be categorized into neat little boxes, the way a homeless woman tries to tell her husband where her gift is before she’s murdered by a villain… “that’s not right” sums it up pretty well.

Nocenti’s one of my favorite writers. No wishy-washy “one of my favorite female writers” or “throwback writers” or whatever. Just straight up, real talk, “favorite writers.” She’s good at what she does, and well worth seeking out. She’s spent the past few years out of comics, including filming a documentary, but she’s got a story in Daredevil 500 this August, with art by David Aja.

Good on her and good on Marvel for seeking her out. I’d like to see more work out of her in the future. I miss her voice in comics. Marvel should reprint more of her Daredevil. She did something special, and I think she’s been unfairly overshadowed by Miller’s run. Both are classic for different reasons.

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“Reruns of Your Grief”

June 12th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Geoff Johns and Ethan van Sciver’s Flash: Rebirth #3 explains Barry Allen’s bowtie (again), features a race between Flash and Superman (Flash wins, because the other races were for charity), and the return of a Flash villain (surprise!). It’s bringing a very Silver Age character into a modern context, resulting in the kind of story that Barry hasn’t really appeared in before, to my knowledge. It’s kind of like Green Lantern: Rebirth, which was the revitalization and redemption of a Silver Age icon whose time had passed some years before. The new Supergirl is the old Supergirl, the new Kid Flash used to be the Flash, and Green Lantern is doing a story that springs from, what, eight pages from twenty years ago?

And I’m bored.

I’m not on the “DC sucks, Marvel rules!” tip, because a lot of Marvel books are boring me in a different way than most of DC’s current output. I’ll read a book if an interesting team is on it, obviously, and I buy a gang of Vertigo. But, when I think of what I’m least interested in currently, DC is the first thing on my lips.

It was the Flash/Superman race in Flash: Rebirth. I’m a Flash fan. It’s obvious, and I’ve written about my love for certain stories featuring character before. At the same time… the race was just another in a long line of nods at a time that was over before I was born. That’s the only reason it existed. It’s like a Family Guy joke– “do you remember when?” I don’t know what it added to the story except “Barry is a jerk now” and “Superman is slower than the Flash.” The bowtie thing– I don’t get it. Who cares about his bowtie? Is this something I’m missing? Does it hold some special significance, other than a woman he just met gave it to him, and he later married her?

No, it’s another “remember when?”

Answer: Yes.

“Interested yet?”

Answer: No. I’m tired of watching reruns.

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Pluto: Kids’ Comics for Grownups

May 29th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

In a just world, Pluto: Urasawa x Tezuka would be a game changer.

For the past twenty or thirty years, Marvel and DC have made a business out of telling mature stories with characters that were originally aimed at kids. While they have had some runaway successes, the majority of their output has been less than quality. The characters began growing older, going through increasingly extreme trials and tribulations, and rapidly speeding away from anything resembling “appropriate for all ages.”

In Pluto, Naoki Urasawa does it right. I recently finished the first three volumes He avoids the sensationalism and grime that tends to accumulate around stories that reinvent kiddie characters for an adult audience. I can’t judge its faithfulness to Osamu Tezuka’s “The Greatest Robot on Earth.” I’ve never read that story, and probably won’t until I finish Pluto. However, as a story in and of itself, Pluto is excellent.

pluto-atomPluto is, essentially, a re-telling that shifts the focus of the original story. My understanding of the original work is that it was an Astro Boy story that featured several guest stars. As of volume 3 of Pluto, Urasawa has elevated Gesicht, a detective, to the same position as Astro Boy in the original work, while Atom and another character serve as something between supporting characters and lead protagonists.

You could say that the story is about Gesicht and his search for a serial killer, but that would be selling it short. It is about Gesicht, Atom, Atom’s sister Uran, and various other characters. The serial killer, whose identity isn’t truly revealed until the end of book three, simply serves as a convenient way to move these characters into situations where they have to interact with and bounce off each other.

I’m very fond of the relationship that Atom and Gesicht have. The inversion of the traditional “wise old man” works very well. Gesicht comes across as child-like next to the more technologically (and emotionally) advanced Atom. He’s full of questions and conjecture, and eager to pick Atom’s brain. He comes across almost rude in his probing, but he’s coming from a good place.

pluto-atomfaces-01Atom, on the other hand, is impossibly self-assured and confident. He knows his abilities well, and is content with his life. His “real boy” demeanor never comes off as false or forced. When he sees a floating UFO and get distracted, or when he digs into a bowl of ice cream, he genuinely enjoys it. Boiling him down to something as simple as a robot is doing him an injustice, because he is clearly so much more. Just the fact that the first thing he orders is ice cream is telling.

One of the best scenes in the series so far, from an emotional and artistic perspective, involves two of the strongest robots in the world, Brando and Mont Blanc. Urasawa begins the scene with wide shots of bits of wreckage and Brando’s battle suit. Brando himself is a heavyset man who resembles his armor. Urasawa plays with angles and scale in the scene, causing Mont Blanc to seem enormous next to a man who can fairly be called “large.” Mont Blanc stays motionless while Brando approaches, and doesn’t speak when Brando greets him. When Brando asks him how many he killed, there’s a close-up panel of Mont Blanc’s emotionless face, which is followed by a panel that’s even closer while Mont Blanc simply says “A lot.” The next page is a two page spread of devastation. Robots lay dismembered and unrecognizable. No robot is whole in this scene except for Mont Blanc and Brando, and neither are scratched. It was clearly a slaughter.


This four page sequence is just a sample of how Urasawa makes Pluto work. There is action, yes, but the real action, the action you care about, is in the drama. It’s in the despair in an emotionless face, and in the way that a robot, a machine built to be precise, simply answers “a lot.” It doesn’t matter how many robots he killed, because the only true answer is “a lot.” He’s fighting in a war, but he’s also struggling with his faith in that war. It doesn’t matter that he killed 3,022 robots. It just matters that he killed a lot. The specifics don’t measure up to the reality.

The follow-up sequence to this examination of war features a televised broadcast of Atom and his role as a member of the peace-keeping forces in this war. The old warhorses (Mont Blanc, Brando, and a third named Hercules) talk about how easy he has it. He’s an “Emissary of Peace.” He isn’t stuck fighting for someone else’s hate, an emotion they don’t even understand. They came to fight for justice, but found something hate in its place. The kind of hate that forces three robots to destroy almost ten thousand of their kin in one day. After Hercules asks “What is this thing they call hate?” they look out over the battlefield and broken robot bodies and the answer is clear.

Even the scenes focused around the serial killing are more about the people involved than the murder. Atom’s encounter with a bigoted detective serves to tell us as much, if not more, about Atom’s character and depth of compassion as it does about the case itself.

It’s hammered home in scene after scene: the characters are what matter. It isn’t about the why, or the what. It’s about the who. The latter third or so of the first volume is dedicated to the story of North No. 2, his new master, and both of their attempts to regain, or attain, their humanity. It’s almost complete lacking in action until the last few pages, and even that action is kept mainly off-screen.

Our first meeting with the killer of the book is played the opposite of the way these scenes usually are done. Rather than a scene which would normally begin with slam-bang action and end in pithy farewells and threats, Urasawa pens a meeting that is disconnected and more than a little sad. Urasawa’s choice for the character who meets the killer first is a keen one in light of that character’s special ability.

The killer, rather than being a thoroughbred monster, is more like a lost animal. He’s confused and detached, not entirely sure of who he is or what he can do. He’s at a different level of humanity than Atom or Gesicht. Gesicht is curious about being human, Atom accepts his humanity, and the killer has lost his, if he ever had it in the first place.

This is where Pluto shines. It’s more than just a murder mystery, and sometimes borders on a subtle meditation on the idea of humanity. Gesicht, Atom, Uran, Brando, Hercules, and the killer are all functioning as different aspects of humanity, and this makes their interactions all the more interesting.

pluto-atomfaces-02pluto-atomfaces-03Urasawa takes an idea that has been run into the ground and manages to pull it off. Every other mature book starring a kids’ character needs to sit up and take notice of how it is actually done. Urasawa doesn’t show us Atom waist-deep in the blood of the fallen to get a rise out of us. There’s no leering, drooling rapist of a villain lurking around in the background to raise the stakes. And despite that, the regret is clear as day on Atom’s face and in the awkward pause after he talks about his role in the 39th Central Asian war.

Where Marvel and DC failed in this is that they went for the cheap shock. A wife of a superhero was raped, a Robin beaten to death, another Robin grew up and became a victim of sexual assault, and if a hero doesn’t die in an event, that event is a failure. They went for the thing that would rile people up, rather than get them talking.

Urasawa gets me talking. I’d barely finished the scene of Atom and Gesicht in the diner before I got online to say something about it. Urasawa has a lot to say in Pluto, and he’s doing it in a way that draws you in without going for the cheap shock of Atom punching through a bad guy.

If you aren’t reading Pluto, you are missing out on some of the best comics around. Volumes 1, 2, and 3 are available now, while 4, 5, and 6 drop in July, September, and November respectively. I assume that Viz is going to keep up a monthly schedule for the series, which means it will conclude in March 2010 with volume 8.

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Being Broke Is Something I Can’t Afford To Be

May 15th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

FCAD Cv1DC’s The Source blog put up a preview of the new Joe Casey/Chriscross joint, Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance.

Written by Joe Casey
Art by ChrisCross
Cover by Stanley “Artgerm” Lau
Japan’s Super Young Team wants nothing more than to be seen as heroes in the eyes of their adoring public. Unfortunately, their adventures during FINAL CRISIS have gone unnoticed, and they’ve been reduced to performing at public appearances and on various TV shows literally dancing for their livelihood. But the appearance of a new American teammate and a deadly threat complicates the motives of the team as they try and find what truly makes somebody not just a hero, but a sensational hero. Discover the path to greatness in this exciting 6-issue miniseries!

Even better, Brandon Thomas interviewed Joe Casey about the book and his other work. Casey is off Youngblood, so I’m off that book, too. Plus, he says something I agree with 100% on Obama comics:

JC: No way. That move is so played out. Let the guy be the President now, for chrissakes. I think he’s all through being a cheap marketing ploy, a shortcut to making a quick blast of cash in the Direct Market, don’t you?

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Welcome to Essex County

May 14th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

I get bombarded with Marvel‘s press releases on a daily basis. They vary from on-sale announcements (once a week), interview pimping (a few times a week), and sell-out notices (five in the past seven days). Generally, it’s three or four emails a day. Constant information updates, hype, and pimpery.

Some of it is interesting, I’ll admit– it’s nice to see links to interviews on, since I don’t usually check the main site. However, most of it? The sell-out notices for books that are made on something close to a print-to-order basis? I don’t care. It’s stupid. It isn’t news, because it isn’t even a retailer sell out. It’s at the distribution level, and whoops here comes a second printing next week. It’s a total smoke screen.

I work with a lot of PR in my day job, and I’d like to think that I’ve picked up some things over the past few years. Successful PR campaigns tend to be focused, rather than spread out. There’s a target and you have to hit that target the first time. A constant flood of information only serves to dilute your message and turn your news into anything but.

I got something very interesting in the mail today. Top Shelf Comix is re-releasing Jeff Lemire’s (excellent) Essex County trilogy in softcover and hardcover editions in August. Leigh at Top Shelf sent over a pre-release pamphlet, for lack of a better word. The back cover says that it’s a chapbook that was designed by Carlos Hernandez Fisher. So, chapbook it is.

A Reader's Introduction to Essex CountyA Reader's Introduction to Essex County

It’s a small booklet, about as tall as my hand, with a brown cover. The book is titled “A Reader’s Introduction to Essex County,” and the interiors are just that. There’s an introduction by Leigh Walton that introduces the trilogy, announces the Complete Essex County volumes, and explains the purpose of the booklet.

What follows are preview pages from each book in the trilogy, with praise from critics and creators alike scattered throughout. The previews give you a brief taste of each volume, just enough to give you an idea of the story and the art, but not enough to blow any reveals. It’s a teaser. After the previews are a couple pages of the extra bonus material from the collected edition. A brief bio of Lemire rounds out the book, with the inside back cover being dedicated to a picture by Lemire that says “Now Leaving Essex County.”

A Reader's Introduction to Essex CountyA Reader's Introduction to Essex County

This, to me, is successful PR. It doesn’t get lost in an avalanche of info of varying relevancy and quality. It’s focused on doing one specific thing: reminding you that Jeff Lemire’s award-winning and critically-acclaimed trilogy of Essex County books are getting a deluxe re-issue in three months. It provides order options, details on the format (6.5″x9″, 512 pages, hardcover and softcover), reiterates those details on the back cover, and pulls it all into a neat mini-comic style design.
A Reader's Introduction to Essex CountyA Reader's Introduction to Essex County

It’s attractive, memorable, and different. It’s the sort of thing that helps to build interest in a book, as well as delivering a good amount of info in a tiny package. Even better– I got to the page of one of the books just by clicking one link on the home page from a drop down box. No navigating to Universe/Series/Franchise. Easy.
A Reader's Introduction to Essex CountyA Reader's Introduction to Essex County

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