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This Week in Panels: Week 77

March 13th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

A nice, diverse week in this installment. I’m joined by a very full set of panelists such as David Brothers, Was Taters, Space Jawa and VersasoVantare. Due to a little snafu, Veraso’s 2000AD contributions didn’t make it into the last week, so here you go.

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth Gods #3
Mike Mignola, John Arcudi and Guy Davis

Batgirl #19
Bryan Q. Miller and Ramon Bachs

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BPRD: Hell on Earth – New World 04 [Exclusive Preview]

October 28th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

As far as ongoing adventure comics go, those series meant to reward both years of reading and capture the new reader while telling the story of a specific set of characters, Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, and Guy Davis’s BPRD is the best, bar none. It beats the best of the Big Two easily, and they do it by simply being very good at the basics: strong characterization, building subplots over time, quality art, and simply telling a good story. They know when to let things creep in the background and when to bring in the bits where a guy with twin guns goes up against a two-story tall monster. There are no stunts here and no marketing-based character deaths. Just some fine storytelling.

I’ve written about BPRD before. It was one of the 5 Series I spotlighted this summer, where I focused on how it’s similar to and different from cape comics.

The new series is called BPRD: Hell on Earth, with New World being the subtitle. There’s an unspoken rule in comics that the more colons and clauses a title has, the more likely it is to suck. Not true for BPRD, unsurprisingly. To catch up on the new series, check this thing I wrote on ComicsAlliance bringing you up to speed. If you want to jump into the series, there are a few entry points. It’s actually pretty easy to hop right into Hell on Earth, to tell the truth. The status quo is “The Earth is screwed, didn’t you read the title?” and everyone is reintroduced pretty well in the first issue. It’s not a clunky “The focused totality of my psychic powers” introduction, either. It’s much more organic. But, if you want to start from the beginning, B.P.R.D., Vol. 1: Hollow Earth & Other Stories introduces the series and is a collection of stories. The series changed over into being specifically about something (rather than being short stories) in B.P.R.D. Volume 3: Plague of Frogs. If you’re patient, you can pick up B.P.R.D.: Plague of Frogs Hardcover Collection Vol. 1, which covers the first two trades (I believe) and drops in February.

Thanks to the kindness of the folks at Dark Horse, I’ve got the exclusive preview of BPRD: Hell on Earth – New World 04. Words by Mignola and Arcudi, art by Davis, colors by Stewart. Here’s the pitch:

Trapped in a massive firefight with a horrific tentacled behemoth, the B.P.R.D. are rescued by another wild monster, while one agent chases the evil responsible for this chaos.




I really like page two, panel five. The exploding Humvee looks good. It isn’t realistic, but it approaches realism through clever cartooning. It’s all short, rough lines. Lots of implied motion in there. That and the ill zoom on page six are great.

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This Week in Panels: Week 56

October 17th, 2010 Posted by Gavok

Whew! Big week this time around, thanks mostly to TEAMWORK! I got a bunch of panels in, David threw in a couple, as did readers Was Taters and Space Jawa. Even David Uzumeri made me use a damned Superman panel here.

In other news, our very own Esther now has her own Twitter. Start following and she might start Tweeting stuff!

Amazing Spider-Man #645
Mark Waid, Paul Azaceta, Matthew Southworth, Stan Lee and Marcos Martin

B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth: New World #3
Mike Mignola, John Arcudi and Guy Davis

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This Week in Panels: Week 47

August 15th, 2010 Posted by Gavok

This week we have a special collaborator Was Taters who didn’t want me to credit her, but I am anyway. So there.

I personally love the pick for Batgirl #13, because I’m imagining that Meatwad is nearby, off-panel.

B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth New World #1
Mike Mignola, John Arcudi and Guy Davis

Batgirl #13
Bryan Q. Miller and Pere Perez

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The Cipher 07/28/10

July 28th, 2010 Posted by david brothers


Return of Bruce Wayne 4, words by Grant Morrison, pencils by Georges Jeanty, inks by Walden Wong, colors by Tony Aviña, letters by Travis Lanham. Preview

See where the bad guys are to be found and make em lay down! The defenders of the West, crushing all pretenders in the West!

Cowboy Batman! Maybe I should’ve let Esther write this one, I know she was looking forward to it. I don’t even really have anything clever to say!

Book-wise, I got a few from San Diego, B.P.R.D 13: 1947 from Amazon today, and I’m about 15 pages from the end of Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour. SP is kind of interesting. I like it, but I don’t love it. I respect Bryan Lee O’Malley for getting it done and having it become some kind of crazy ill success, too. I’m slowly working through my stack and decompressing from a hectic San Diego, so I’ll have better words next week.

I gotta buy last week’s comics this week, too. Bleah.


The David: Unknown Soldier 22
The Esther: Definitely: Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne 4 Maybe: Batman: The Brave and the Bold 19, Detective Comics 867, First Wave 3, Green Arrow 2
and The Gavin Authority: The Lost Year 11, Batman: Return of Bruce Wayne 4, Green Lantern 56, Green Lantern Corps 50, Justice League: Generation Lost 6, Deadpool Team-Up 891, Franken-Castle 19, Weapon X Noir, Incorruptible 8, WWE Heroes 5

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5 Series: BPRD

July 20th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

When someone dies in cape comics, the first reaction tends to be some flavor of, “Oh, they’ll be back. No one stays dead in comics.” Which, okay, that’s fair. Marvel and DC have cultivated a revolving door sort of status quo for whatever reason, and you’re more likely to see someone back than not if they were ever worth anything.

BPRD, though. Maybe it’s due to being a product of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy, maybe Mignola, John Arcudi, and Guy Davis are more willing to break the toys they’re playing with, but when someone dies in BPRD, whether a main cast member or a random cannon fodder schmuck, it counts. There’s no hand-waving, no cheap tricks to squeeze a few more dollars out of some IP, none of that. There’s just a villain saying “He won’t,” and then someone you’ve grown to love, another in a long line of lost souls, is gone forever.

Having genuine stakes is part of what makes BPRD so entertaining. Batman will never die, Superman will never die, and Spider-Man will never die. Liz and Abe and Johann can and will bite it, or be moved so far out of their comfort zone that we become uncomfortable and unsure. You don’t know what can happen, because people can and will be taken off the board as needed.

BPRD is theoretically Hellboy‘s little sister, but has a very different approach to storytelling. Hellboy always struck me as being as much about the creatures that Hellboy gets into it with, and the mythologies he walks through, as about Hellboy himself. BPRD is about Kate, Liz, Abe, Roger, Johann, and the way that the pressures of their job, which is leading headlong towards some kind of apocalypse, bends them in funny ways.

The cast is really what makes BPRD work. The plots are great, and Guy Davis’s art is fantastic, but I think that the way the characters bounce off each other is my favorite part of the book. When the series kicks off, they’re stuck in a post-Hellboy rut. He left the team fairly recently, and he was in a very real way the sun to their solar system. Without him, they have no center, which means that certain people find their roles have shifted in strange ways after the change. It’s positively melancholy, like they’d just found a hole where there shouldn’t be one.

Over the course of ten or so volumes, you get used to these characters. You see Abe trying to fill Hellboy’s shoes and coming up short. You see Kate trying to keep the BPRD under control and on the ball. Roger is desperate for a friend and imprints on people. Liz is haunted by visions of a toxic future and finding herself increasingly divorced from her friends. The normal humans are overwhelmed and outclassed, but there to do their job.

A lot of the characterization is left for you to figure out. No one explicitly says that Roger is emulating his role models, but it’s clear if you pay a little attention. When Liz goes all wan and sullen, the way Guy Davis shows her cutting her eyes and poking out her lip is crucial. Abe butting up against authority is another clue. No one stands up and says, “I am feeling sad.” The BPRD talk like people, which means that a lot goes unsaid, people say a lot of things they regret, and they don’t always tell the truth. The little bit of digging required to really get these characters makes you even more invested in them. You realize things and it hits you like a bolt out of the blue. “Of course, that’s why this happened and why he said this.”

The story these characters are pulled through peels back like an onion, and you’re right there along with the BPRD. It’s like Lost, if Lost was better written, had dope art, and wasn’t massively frustrating. Only one person has the answers, and he’s more interested in being cryptic or obtuse than actually answering any straight questions. When he does begin answering questions, it’s too late. Answers are pointless at that stage. The apocalypse is here, and no one gets to stop it.

It begins with frogs. The frogs soon turn to monsters, and they run rampant over the countryside, quietly building an army. Another man, a corrupt businessman, decides to get his supervillain on, with unexpectedly catastrophic results. Something that once seemed like a minor infestation was discovered to be more rotten and vastly more widespread than expected. And through it all, the rock of the BPRD, Hellboy, was completely missing in action.

Imagine a snowball sitting at the top of a hill. A push in any direction and the snowball will roll down the hill, gathering mass on the way, until it becomes a problem. When we come in on BPRD, that snowball is already halfway down the hill. The problem is that the BPRD don’t have the perspective needed to see the full shape of the terror that’s coming, and missing that perspective leaves them ill-equipped. They’re playing catch-up, and while they do notch several wins, they aren’t fighting against something that you can just win against every once and a while.

The structure of the series, the sheer size of what Mignola and Davis and Arcudi are throwing at the BPRD, is only obvious once you’ve gotten hooked. BPRD is a juggernaut. Once you get it, once you see how it works, you can’t stop any more than the BPRD can stop what they’re fighting against. You start looking for angles, outs, and ways for the team to come out on top. The snowball is coming down the hill and your head is turning too slowly to actually see it in time. You start to put this together and that together and you realize that, no, things don’t look very good for our crew. But it’s an adventure comic, right? These things always work out well!

Except, BPRD is off in its own little world. It isn’t Superman or Spider-Man. When people die, they stay dead. And really, just when I was getting comfortable, a villain said two words that changed everything and reminded me of just what I was reading. This is the real deal.

That’s something else that works in BPRD‘s favor. Nothing is created or consumed in a vacuum. BPRD is part of a 20-year old franchise that is in and of itself part of a larger tapestry of stories. You cannot separate BPRD from that tapestry, unless you’ve somehow managed to avoid serial superhero comics or adventure fiction entirely. Stories like BPRD, which you could honestly transform into a mainstream cape comic with a few minor changes, have certain expectations. Deaths don’t stick, enemies return, and if someone changes, they’ll be back to normal soon. BPRD bumps up against these expectations repeatedly and to great effect. You think that Liz or Kate or Abe or Roger will go back to how they were in book 1, but no, they won’t. The only thing they’re going to do is grow into whatever shape they need to fill in the next volume.

The key word for BPRD is freedom. Mignola, Arcudi, and Davis, among others, have the freedom to tell whatever kind of stories they want to tell, free of whatever expectations you may have coming in. The BPRD itself is free to act and live and learn and grow in ways that most major comics characters cannot, for better or for worse. Characters enter and exit the book as they need to and in a variety of ways. The cast isn’t static, and people you thought were lifers really aren’t. BPRD is free to push and outgrow its boundaries and become something completely unlike what it began life as.

The format of BPRD clicks, too. The series of miniseries is what I think all ongoing mainstream comics should adopt. Keep Amazing Spider-Man and whatever other series are creeping up on a thousand issues. That’s fine. Giving a character a series of miniseries, each able to stand on its own, but when taken together build up to a monster of a story… that’s the good stuff. BPRD is one of my favorite ongoing series, and the format is a large part of that. There is a clear reading order, clear stakes in every volume, and a slow upping of the ante that leaves you with something like chills by the time you get to the latter volumes.

Eleven volumes is a tough row to hoe, but not when the writing, art, and overall package are this good. This is grown folks’ comics, with the level of quality and cohesiveness that all comics should shoot for. You get invested, you pull the plot apart while the characters do, and in the end, your eyes bug out and your mouth gapes a little and you’re left fiending for the next volume.

(My only suggestion, the only thing that could make BPRD a better comic, is to dedicate, say, four issues to the origin and day-to-day life of the mad scientist up there. He shows up a mere handful of times, but he’s got my complete attention every single time. He’s great.)

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Monday Moaning Linkblogging

March 22nd, 2010 Posted by david brothers

-Over at ComicsAlliance, I’ve got a pretty good idea on what major Marvel comic Charlie Huston’s gonna be writing later this year.

While “Deathlok” is currently being serialized, Huston doesn’t have any announced work coming out of Marvel’s stables. Until now, that is, as he spilled the beans on a few projects on his site on Thursday. Longtime readers will know that he’s written a year’s worth of stories on a major Marvel series which should debut this fall, but he also revealed that he’s doing a two issue story “about a guy who never misses [his] mark.”

-And at Tucker’s spot, I talk a little bit about How to Make It In America and Archer.

How to Make It In America is, at least theoretically, about Ben Epstein and Cam Calderon getting off their butts and making something of themselves. Now that they’re pushing 30, they’re gonna strike it rich, or at least solvent, by creating a new line of jeans. Along the way, they’ll have to negotiate with Cam’s menacing cousin Rene, played by an aging but still talented Luis Guzman, coordinate with one of Ben’s rich friends, and fight against everyone who is telling them that they can’t do their thing. And then, in the end, they’ll win. They’ll stick to their guns, believe in each other, and their jeans will be the talk of New York City.

-Archer’s last episode for a while aired last Thursday, and whooo. It was something else. Vile, obscene, disturbing, hilarious.

-David Welsh on the appeal of One Piece:

One observation that really caught my ear was about Oda’s world building and his willingness to plant tiny, seemingly irrelevant narrative seeds that come to full flower later, sometimes much later. Natsuki Takaya did this all the time in Fruits Basket (Tokyopop), turning seemingly oblique observations and sideways glances from volume two into searing heartbreak in, say, volume nine. It’s quite a skill, that kind of callback work, and it displays a great deal of confidence on the part of the creator that they’ll be able to tell their story according to plan.

-Esther writes about five ways you probably wouldn’t die in a vacuum at io9, and it is good:

Because a vacuum does not carry sound very well, you would not be able to hear the many, many alveoli in your lungs pop like bubble wrap under a child’s fingers, but don’t tell me that you wouldn’t imagine it.

-Judd Winick and Sami Basri are taking over Power Girl as of issue 13. Coincidentally, I have three extra dollars to spend a month now.

-Dave Johnson talks about his first cover for Abe Sapien: The Abyssal Plain.

-I haven’t talked about BPRD on here at all, I don’t think, but please believe that it has better than every single comic put out by mainline Marvel or DC for the past four or five years. Maybe All-Star Superman stacks up, maybe.

-Cheryl Lynn has a line on the hottest new t-shirt of the spring.

-Treme, the new show from David Simon and others, is gonna be a problem.

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This Week and That Week in Panels: Weeks 25 and 26

March 21st, 2010 Posted by Gavok

For those who haven’t noticed or forgot, a nasty storm caused me to lose my cable connection last week and rather than wait a day to post TWiP, I made the dumbass decision to add it onto the next week. Apparently I was too busy to notice that this week was a huge one regardless, making this a gigantic update. Welp, let’s get moving.

The A-Team: Shotgun Wedding #1
Joe Carnahan, Tom Waltz, Stephen Mooney

Amazing Spider-Man #624
Mark Waid, Tom Peyer, Paul Azaceta and Javier Rodriguez

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