The Cipher 06/16/10

June 16th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

amazing spider-man presents black cat #1: words by jen van meter, art by javier pulido, colors by matt hollingsworth, letters by joe caramanga, cover by amanda conner, and cover colors by christina strain.

North beach leathers, matching Gucci sweater… Gucci sneaks on to keep my outfit together, whatever, hundred for the diamond chain. Can’t you tell that I came from the dope game?

You know who I love? Felicia Hardy, the Black Cat. Up until her reintroduction in Amazing Spider-Man last year, courtesy of Joe Kelly and Mike McKone, she’d hadn’t had any substantive appearances in a Spider-book in a good long while. She’s been one of my favorite characters since I was a kid, but not for any particular story. She was in my first comic, ASM 316, but all she did there was get dissed by Venom. Not exactly a selling point. But no, I like her because she’s got a great visual, with the white hair, black costume, white gloves and shoes, and tufts of fur. I like her like I like Domino, I think. Her bad luck powers are neat and allow for some fun action, but the real key is that she’s a thief. Heist stories are some of the best stories, and hopefully Van Meter’s story in Black Cat is going to be a good one. I’m feeling optimistic. The team is pretty fantastic all around. Javier Pulido is an astonishingly good artist, Matt Hollingsworth a great colorist, and how crazy is that Amanda Conner cover? Check the preview here. Four bucks is less than optimal, but I’m curious. We’ll see how I feel at the shop.

Looking at the other stuff on my list… this is a surprisingly large week for me. Amazon-wise, Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys, Vol. 9 arrived yesterday, Ultimate Spider-Man, Vol. 11 is due in today. 20th Century Boys is kicking up now that Urasawa has gotten around to answering questions, but the last volume definitely had two scenes that featured someone going “Oh no! It’s YOU!” without actually showing us who it is. That was massively frustrating, but hopefully we’ll get to see who it is in this volume? Ult Spidey I preordered when it was cheap, and it completes the last run of Ultimate Spider-Man. After this… I think I’m out. The new stuff isn’t clicking like it should. It has its moments, but not so many that I want to keep buying it monthly. I might check out the first couple trades a few months down the line, see if my opinion changed.

Floppy-wise, I’m looking at Amazing Spider-Man 633 & 634, Atlas 2, Hellblazer 268, Heralds 3, and Unknown Soldier 21. That’s the end of “Shed,” the beginning of “Grim Hunt,” a Jeff Parker/Gabriel Hardman joint, a Shade the Changing Man guest spot, more from the Kathryn Immonen/Tonci Zonjic superstar team, and more from the sadly cancelled book about a lone soldier battling himself and others in Uganda. This is the best week I’ve seen in a good while. I’m juggling a few things, but I figure I’ll have a post on Unknown Soldier up soon. Whether it’ll be about this week’s issue (which is about the life and times of an AK-47) or the series as a whole, I’m not sure.

Other notables: Brightest Day 4 is the first appearance of the new Aqualad, Seven Soldiers of Victory, Book 1 is the first hardcover collection of the fantastic Grant Morrison-led megaseries, and friend of 4l! Ian Brill’s Darkwing Duck launches.

Oh yeah, I did a few movie reviews over at Tucker Stone’s spot. I watched four Akira Kurosawa films at New People here in San Francisco and you guys get to reap the whirlwind.

What’re you buying? What am I missing? What did you like? Check out this week’s books here. Anybody else have characters where they like the idea more than the actual execution on the page? I can’t think of a single great story with Domino, but I like her nonetheless.

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Fourcast! 33: Last Week in Comics

February 15th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

-6th Sense’s 4a.m. Instrumental for the theme music
-Oh snap, comics reviews!
Batman & Robin #8? Good stuff! Cameron Stewart drew a great fight scene, Grant Morrison writes a fun Batwoman (“I have to die.”) and the British stuff is pretty fun.
-Esther wants Damian to disappear, though. That sucks.
Amazing Spider-Man #620? Pretty good, with a great Mysterio bit and amazing art from Marcos Martin and Javier Pulido.
Secret Six #18? Blackest Night crossover, Amanda Waller runs things, and Deadshot shoots dudes.
-Fact: I cannot say “Deadshot” without saying “Deathstroke” first.
-Fact: Deadshot’s miniseries from a while back ruled.
Jormungand volume 2 from Viz features a child soldier who goes into two separate suicidal rages in this volume, a wacky arms dealer, and the hijinx they get into. David likes it because he probably has a gun fetish. Good stuff!
-See you, space cowboy!

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Best of Marvel 2009: Keemia’s Castle

December 23rd, 2009 Posted by david brothers

I’m pretty sure the best Marvel story of the year just ended in Amazing Spider-Man. I asked some friends and they mentioned Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca’s Iron Man: World’s Most Wanted and Jonathan Hickman and Dale Eaglesham’s Fantastic Four: Solve Everything. Those are perfectly fine whiz-bang superhero stories, which I overall dug, but Amazing Spider-Man: Keemia’s Castle, a Fred Van Lente and Javier Pulido joint, with able color art by Javier Rodriguez, is the real deal.

The covers suggest that Keemia’s Castle is about Sandman vs Spider-Man in a knock-down drag-out battle. Well, it is, but that’s just the dressing the story is wrapped in. It’s really about Keemia and her father, Flint Marko, better known as Sandman. Keemia lives on an island with her father, and he does his best to make all of her dreams come true. Keemia’s Castle is a tragedy in two parts.

The conflict comes when Keemia’s mother and the person who wanted to develop the island end up murdered, with Sandman being Spider-Man’s #1 suspect. Spider-Man, in attempting to do the right thing, sets out to rescue the little girl and return her to her grandmother.

And in the end, after the fighting is done and Spider-Man is feeling good about himself, the rug’s pulled out from under him, leaving him feeling less than heroic. It’s like something out of Ann Nocenti’s Daredevil, where heroism isn’t as simple as punching a dude and calling it a good day’s work. Sometimes the heroes lose and win at the same time.

Spider-Man approaches the Sandman fight as if it’s just another supervillain battle, coming equipped with special webbing to counteract Sandman’s powers and essentially ready to throw down. In actuality, though, Sandman is trying to protect his daughter and hold on to the only good thing in his life. He wants to provide a safe haven, and Keemia means everything to him. And though circumstances end up keeping him from being able to fulfill his goal, it never seems like he’s lying. He’s genuine about what he feels.

At the end of the book, Spider-Man delivers Keemia to Glory Grant, who in turn notified CPS. Keemia’s grandmother, who was watching TV when Keemia was kidnapped, was found to be an unfit guardian. So, the little girl gets to go into the system and placed in a foster home. The kids are mean and there are a lot of them.

Maybe it’s because my mom was a social worker when I was younger, but I’ve always been aware of child abuse and DFACS-related issues. I know that the job involves constant misery for all involved and that sometimes good people just aren’t good enough. I know that my mom quit doing it and switched careers entirely, in part because working as a social worker means that you’re going to want to cry or you’re going to want to strangle someone until they die, and both reactions are equally valid and acceptable.

Being put into foster care doesn’t always work out how it should, even when people mean the best or there’s no other choice. Kids don’t get the childhood they deserve. All I can think of is how Keemia is about to go through it and come out the other side different. She still has the image of her father in her mind, and that’s a bright light for her, but even that can dim over time.

Van Lente ending the story there, with Keemia facing an ugly future, a hero who was stuck between a rock and a hard place, and a family left torn apart, is a kick in the junk. These stories aren’t supposed to end like this. The cape has to save the day, everyone is supposed to smile, and we can close the book, content in the fact that being a superhero is awesome and life is good and simple and safe.

Except it isn’t. And that sucks, but it’s true. It’s nice to see the Amazing Spider-Man gang dig into it without getting preachy. It gives you a little bit to think about and digest. It’s something Spidey, as a franchise, hasn’t done in a long while.

Definitely my pick for the best Marvel story in ’09. Van Lente and Pulido snuck it in under the wire, I’ve gotta say, but it was great. If you’re at your store, pick up Amazing Spider-Man #615 and #616. I was reading comics in bed, dozing off, and ASM made me hop back out so that I could talk about it with Uzumeri and some other dudes. That’s kind of a big deal.

(In an odd coincidence, my first issue of ASM was #316, the big Venom comeback issue. That’s three hundred issues gone.)

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