Archive for the 'Read Good Comics' Category


7 Things About Yotsuba&! 7

January 6th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

I grew up around a small battalion of cousins. I was part of the first wave, and we had around seven years before the next group came through. Even now, I’ve got a younger brother who’s a year old, and if I didn’t live all the way across the country, I’m sure I’d still be in the thick of it. So, a lot of stuff in Kiyohiko Azuma’s Yotsuba&! is old hat to me. Only, it’s funny now, because I’m not being shanghai’d into watching someone else’s kid or changing diapers. I can appreciate it for what it is, rather than wishing I was outside on my bike instead of watching some rugrat drool all over the place.

I read the 7th volume in December and loved it. My complaints about the translation still stand, but that’s a difference of opinion. The source material is incredibly strong, from art to writing, and it shows in the translation. Yotsuba&! is the kind of book that you makes you bark laugh, or snort, or guffaw, or whatever embarrassing laugh it is people hate to do these days. When you read Yotsuba&!, you’re going to like it. That’s just the way things work. It’s natural. I read Yotsuba&! 7 while going through hell at work. Bad day after bad day, coming home pissed off, so on and so forth. But, Yotsuba&! was a bright spot. It’s the kind of book that cheers you up, if only for a little bit, and is more than welcome due to that fact.

I picked out seven things I liked from this volume of Yotsuba&!. I don’t know that they’re the seven funniest things, but they are things that I think encapsulate what Yotsuba&! is all about. They range from comedy to craft to characters, all from volume 7. This is a good volume to pull from, being both the latest and blisteringly funny, to boot. There’s a couple pages in there that kill me every time I look at them.

(After you read this, read this. Azuma won the Excellence Prize in manga at a 2006 media festival and gave an acceptance interview. It’s pretty interesting and well worth a read. Thanks to Jog for finding it.)

Real life is mundane. When I wake up in the morning, I calculate whether or not I can sleep several more hoursminutes, figure out what time I finally fell asleep, and then get out of bed, landing on the wrong side. I brush my teeth with my eyes closed, pull on clothes, and hit the streets. Have you ever seen a little kid wake up? No, you haven’t, because they wake up before we do, with three times as much energy.

I like the body language in this panel, with Koiwai and Yotsuba both brushing their teeth the same way, but looking completely different at the same time. Yotsuba is wide-eyed and alert, while Koiwai is still sleepy. It’s not too hard to see that Koiwai probably taught her how to brush her teeth, judging from their posture, but the difference between the two speaks volumes. To Yotsuba, every action, every event, is something to be devoured. To Koiwai, it’s just another morning.

lifeYotsuba&Real Life
The attention to clothes in Yotsuba&! is lovely. Characters don’t just wear Generic [Color] Shirt and Straight Slacks. Clothes have patterns, jeans look like jeans, and people actually look like they pay attention to what they put on in the morning. Yotsuba and the girls next door all wear age appropriate material, from an adorable shirt with a bunny on the front on Yotsuba to classy sweaters and skirts on the eldest girl. Even Koiwai, who spends most of each volume in boxers and a white t-shirt, makes sense when he goes out. If all you did all day was type at a computer at home, you’d do the same. (Don’t front. I know several pro bloggers and none of y’all wear pants, except when someone asks you to.)

What’s nice about Yotsuba&! are these occasional interludes where Azuma just lets Yotsuba roam freely around the area. Part of it is that I like seeing him being able to break out of the tiny panels that made up his Azumanga Daioh work and really go at a panel. There’s some photoref going on, but the way his cartoony characters interact with their environment is always golden. Yotsuba never sleeps straight. She’s always sprawled or draped over something. Falling asleep partially draped over a table with cup phones wrapped around her body? It looks good and it fits her personality.

But the best is just seeing Yotsuba roam and the things she does. Everything focuses down onto the most important part of Yotsuba&!, which is that everything is wonderful if you look at it with the right eyes. A walk to the store isn’t just ten minutes of walking. It’s strolling past neat bushes, finding a cool stick, making noise (everyone who has ever seen a kid make noise just to make noise raise your hand), and, when all that becomes boring, turning yourself into an airplane and flying along.

There is a purity in Yotsuba that I can appreciate. A lot of the appeal of the series is that she isn’t tainted by the things that make adults bitter and mean. Everything is new, everything is wonderful, and Yotsuba is in the perfect position to appreciate all of it. And, by seeing the world through her eyes, we can appreciate it, as well.


Sometimes, man, Yotsuba&! is just funny. Yotsuba runs afoul of a sheep, gets knocked down, hops up, and hits the sheep with a hook. That’s comedy. The cherry on top is that this is apparently not just a one time thing- she makes a habit of punching animals.

Yotsuba trying to decide what to put back at the story, and putting all five years of her experience toward figuring out her dilemma, is another good scene. This one shows Azuma’s skill at cartooning. Yotsuba goes from listening intently in panel two, paying close attention, to carefully examining the goods, to realizing that she can’t put anything back because she needs all of it, before being told a possible solution that she hadn’t even thought of, and then she’s determined.

I really like this progression. Azuma gets a lot across with not a lot of lines, particularly in the fourth panel, where Yotsuba’s practically in agony over having to make a hard decision. His realistic approach to clothes and backgrounds gives way when it serves the story, turning faces into two circles and a line. It’s easy to overdo, hard to get right, but Azuma tiptoes on that line with a deft touch. Yotsuba is the most expressive, but her expressiveness tends to infect other characters in a believable way. Her nature encourages other people to turn child-like, like when Yotsuba and Koiwai have giant monster battles.

One of my favorite things is when a little kid gets super fixated on something. I have a cousin who loves to play video games. I made the mistake of showing him the Wii at an early age, and he was the first one that wasn’t dumb enough to fall for the old “give a kid the controller, leave it unplugged, pretend like it’s two player” trick. After that, it was on. Wii, GameBoy, Xbox, whatever, he was all about it. He was really into Rayman Raving Rabbids for a while, and it got to where you couldn’t mention anything that even sounded like Wii or Rayman or Rabbits without him peeking around the corner like, “Are we about to play Wii?” He knew what he wanted and anything that brought him close to that was a good thing.

That’s a big part of why I like this scene in Yotsuba&! 7. Yotsuba doesn’t know what a patissier is, but she knows that chefs cook food, and food is hamburgers, so Fuuka is… going to cook hamburgers! Duh! It’s obvious! Of course, when Fuuka reveals that she is going to make a cake, Yotsuba loses it and declares her undying love on the next page. That’s the other thing about kids. Show them the next awesome thing, or another awesome thing, and they’re ready to go, they don’t even have to switch gears.

And once again, through Yotsuba’s eyes, everything is magical. I’m a big fan of hamburgers, but I don’t think I get as excited as Yotsuba does over them. We might be equal on cake, though.


In terms of calling shotgun, Cross Cutter beats all. Right, Heidern?


Yotsuba’s “Hmph!” in the second panel on the second page is amazing. That’s Azuma’s cartooning at work again, using a little to accomplish a lot. It getting an entire panel to itself is a deft touch, giving the comedy a chance to breathe. We’re right there with Yanda, wondering “Did that just happen?”


Yotsuba is adorable, but she’s also a smug jerk. She’s just so matter of fact and condescending on this page. Why else would you go to a ranch, but for the cows? C’mon Yanda, you’re dumb. The little fist pump in panel five like “So there!” would make it if not for panel 7 and the look on her face. That panel kills me every time.

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We Be That Afrodisiac

January 5th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

Blaxploitation, like film noir before it, was very much a product of its time. The effects of bitterness about Vietnam and the way the Civil Rights movement turned from great success to tragedy can all be seen in the best blaxploitation films. As time goes on, though, audiences get more sophisticated, absorb the lessons of the genre, and then we collectively move on to the next one.

Doing straight blaxploitation doesn’t work these days. There were a couple attempts in the ’90s, the most memorable being Original Gangstas, but it doesn’t really work out as it should. It feels kitsch or like a relic from the past. You need a hook, whether it’s Black Dynamite slyly winking at the audience or World of Hurt‘s painstaking attention to what made blaxploitation work back in the day.

Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca’s Afrodisiac, presented in a fancy hardcover from AdHouse, has a hook, but I don’t know that I can do it justice. It’s kind of a love letter to blaxploitation, but filtered through the style, feel, and design of ’70s Marvel comics. It’s also really, really good. If it had come out in 2009, Parker: The Hunter, Asterios Polyp, and Pluto would’ve suddenly been part of a Top 4, instead of a Top 3.

Alan Diesler, sometimes Afrodisiac, often Mack Midnight, other times The Afrodisiac, still other times Dr. Rufus Blackguy, and even more often simply “Daddy,” is the hero of the book. He runs girls out of Afroca, his headquarters in Wilkesborough. When he’s not pimping, he can be found saving the hood, the world, or some new skirt from predators. He’s distilled John Shaft, smarty, sexy, and able to talk the pants off a clothes store mannequin. There’s not a problem he can’t fix with his charms or his fists.

Afrodisiac is a peek into an alternate history, one where Afrodisiac was a long-running comics franchise, racking up 144 issues, spawning cartoons, manga adaptations, multiple ongoing series, romance comics, and even a magazine, judging by the art on a cover in the book. It reads like an abridged omnibus, spanning the 12-year history (longer if it ran bimonthly, like Luke Cage did off and on) of the character but only showing glimpses into that past.

afrobushIt’s an interesting approach for a standalone book, but it lets Rugg and Maruca cover a lot of ground and build a fascinating world while telling varied stories. There are only so many times that you can fight the man, of course, so Afrodisiac takes on aliens, Dracula, demi-gods, Tricky Dick Nixon, Death, corrupt religion, and computers.

What’s crazy is how well it all manages to come together. Afrodisiac punches Dracula’s whole brain out, teams up with Richard Nixon as tag team partners, and fights a sentient (and evil) computer, but it never feels forced. It feels like Marvel’s ’70s exploitation books, where a hard-hittin’ black hero teams up with a white kung fu master and it’s all to the good.

The thick vein of humor running through Afrodisiac helps quite a bit with that cohesiveness. Afrodisiac is raunchy, clever, and more than willing to poke fun at itself. It revels in its own gimmick, pushing the blaxploitation humor as far as it’ll go. Afrodisiac fights a giant cockroach (“even by ghetto standards” proclaims a caption box) to save #72, one of his working girls. What follows is a series of cheap cockroach jokes and, incredibly, a boxing match involving a car, and a giant cockroach.

afroduckFrom weird to mundane, Afrodisiac stays clever. The dialogue is pitch perfect for the tone of the book, just the right mix of self-conscious cool and slick slang. Dizzy, Afrodisiac’s numbers girl, loses her temper when Tricky Dick threatens to sic the IRS dogs on Afroca. She gets right in his face, telling him to “settle this like you got some class or we can get into some gangster shit.” The dialogue works. It’s not so stilted or stylized that it sounds awkward. There’s flow and rhythm to it, and most of all, style. The slang is never out of place or awkward. And the slang no one uses any more (bloods, turkey) fits the time period perfectly. Rugg and Maruca avoid having their book sound dated or unreal, managing to always land on the side of “cool.”

The capstone on the whole work, though, is Jim Rugg’s art and design. It looks like a collection of old comics, even down to wrinkled pages and names scrawled across covers in pencil. Some pages look like they were scanned in, complete with the scanning bed or the background showing through the edges, while still others have dog-eared corners or worse. This sort of thing could easily go overboard, but Rugg and Maruca strike a really nice balance between properly printed art and faux flawed repro. It never gets in the way of the story, but it does help to build the myth.

Rugg’s characters are great actors, too, with everything from body language (Afrodisiac wondering if he “finally checked out?”) to the face of Vixena’s mom or Nixon selling emotions without dialogue. Sometimes it goes straight cartoony, as Nixon does when he gets angry. Other times, Rugg goes in close, kicks up the detail, and check that out, Afrodisiac is visibly determined.

afroloveAfrodisiac is incredibly enjoyable. It feels like the work of people who not only enjoy blaxploitation and comics, but get why the two work. There’s never anyone delivering a ton of exposition, explaining what Rugg and Maruca were trying to do. All of it is there on the page, just waiting for you to take a second look.

The easiest point of comparison for Afrodisiac is Street Angel, but even that isn’t quite on this level. They share a similar tone and sensibility, but Afrodisiac is composed of shorter stories, allowing it to get across more content, and completed years after Street Angel. The creators have grown in skill since, and it shows in this.

It’s a book that works on a number of levels. AdHouse has its genres defined as hip-hop, superhero, comedy, and art, and all of those are true. It’s funny, beautiful, and it’s got a toe in that ’70s Marvel aesthetic. It wears a lot of hats, but never seems cluttered or unfocused. It just sets out to do something and succeeds admirably.

Afrodisiac is dope. That’s really the only way to put it. Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca get it. Afrodisiac is a lot of cool in a small package, and my early front-runner for book of the year. It hits retail 01/14/10, so keep your eyes peeled.

Grab an extended preview of the book from the official site and check out these six images to see how the book looks in real life. See if you can spot the silhouetted woman:


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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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Christmas Dollars: What to Spend Them On and Why

December 21st, 2009 Posted by david brothers

A couple weeks ago, I had the bright idea of doing a gift guide. We’d each pick four books (because of the site, you see, and because I am a narcissist) and talk about why you should buy them for friends and family. Except then I got slammed at work, Gav hit Retail Hell (his favorite time of year) and Esther accidentally read an issue of X-Men and fainted dead away on the spot.

So, instead, the 4thletterers (4thletterkateers? citizens of Earth-4thletter?) are presenting to you twelve (or so, none of us are math majors) books that you should definitely, absolutely spend your Christmas money on. And if you do it through Amazon by clicking here… you help us out, too.


Essential Super-Villain Team-Up, Vol. 1
The Marvel Essential books are always fun to read, but they are also incredibly intimidating. I can’t get into reading the ones about Captain America, Spider-Man or the X-Men because they have hundreds upon hundreds of comics. It’s more fun to read through a series that had a more finite number of stories. Stuff like Spider-Woman, Iron Fist and Godzilla.

My favorite one, and the one I always suggest to others, is Super-Villain Team-Up. Don’t be fooled by the title. It isn’t about various villains joining together to take over the world and then fail due to the Avengers and/or Fantastic Four. At least, not for the most part. It’s mainly about the strange, but intriguing relationship between Doctor Doom and Namor, two Marvel kings who at times ride the line between hero and villain. Before that, there are several issues of Astonishing Tales that tell the story of Doctor Doom and his would-be usurper Count Rudolfo, a character who never met his full potential.

The dynamic of Doom and Namor lasts for well over a dozen issues, including two specials and an Avengers crossover with special appearance by Dr. Henry Kissinger. Sometimes they help each other out. Sometimes they’re at each other’s necks. But you know what? Not ONCE do they go forth with a collaborative way to take over the world. It’s STILL fun as hell.

There is a satisfying conclusion to their stretched out story arc, leading the way to a weird Doom vs. Magneto storyline and a disappointing Red Skull/Hate-Monger issue. Just consider that one an extra to a great collection.

The Death and Return of Superman Omnibus
I wasn’t reading comics when Death of Superman came out, but I remember how big a deal it was. It did lead to one of my favorite Saturday Night Live skits where Chris Farley as the Hulk represented Marvel Comics and read a eulogy at Superman’s funeral ending with him smashing the podium and mumbling, “’Nuff said.” Plus, despite what people say about the lack of good Superman videogames, I’ve always dug the Death and Return of Superman SNES game.

The SNES game gave me a very skimmed look at the story’s events. When I got into comics for reals in the early 2000s, I had the idea that the whole story was a dull piece of garbage that wasn’t worth my time. After all, the 90s were known for long comic stories that tried to take the classic hero out of the picture, only to fail miserably, such as Knightfall, Clone Saga, Age of Apocalypse, and Onslaught/Heroes Reborn. The only reason I did read Death of Superman in the first place was because I was getting into Booster Gold at the time and wanted to read as many of his appearances as possible.

I dug it! Even knowing who the true Superman was and who Visor Superman and Cyborg Superman would turn out to be didn’t stop me from enjoying the hell out of the epic. Granted, the art does jump around and the Funeral for a Friend part can’t end fast enough, but everything else is fantastic. We get a good mystery, featuring some crafty red herrings and a couple neat hints here and there. Like when Cyborg Superman is in the White House, connecting to all the satellites and computers, there’s a monitor in the background that shows the Fantastic Four symbol. It’s a nice little clue on his original identity.

Even knowing who the real Superman is, you don’t even realize that he’s shown up until several issues after he appears. There’s some nice distraction in the storytelling to trick you.

The omnibus has the entire series in one thick hardcover for your enjoyment, plus extras in the back. It is a lot cheaper and easier to get the softcovers (The Death of Superman, World Without a Superman, The Return of Superman), but I’m throwing the option out there. With the softcovers, you can easily skip over Funeral for a Friend, but that does mean having to miss out on the “first sighting” segments at the end. That part still gives me chills.

The Marvel Art of Marko Djurdjevic
I feel bad for saying this, but I’m not a big art guy. Yes, I appreciate good art, but I don’t go out of my way to collect it. When at Comic Con with hermanos and our good friends at Funnybook Babylon, they’ll usually be scouring Artist Alley as I wander around for other treasures.

That said, I have a jonesing for anything with Marko Djurdjevic’s name on it. I absolutely love his stuff. When I found out there was going to be a book of all his different Marvel covers, I was on it like consonants on “Djurdjevic.” That awesome cover of Dr. Doom holding the Infinity Gauntlet for What If: Secret Wars? It’s in there. Wolverine impaling Blade’s skull? It’s in there. The mind-blowing cover to Daredevil #100?

Hells yes, it’s there.

It features commentary by Djurdjevic for most of the pieces. This includes a bit in the end where he shows some attempts to redesign key characters. Apparently, he wanted to transform Iceman into Terry Bogard from Fatal Fury/King of Fighters. I can dig that if it involves knocking Apocalypse off a rooftop.

Cookin’ with Coolio: 5 Star Meals at a 1 Star Price
David: Gav, I need to talk to you about your pick for the holiday article.
Gavin: Is this about the omnibus? Because I didn’t know it was out of print until I handed it in.
David: No, I—
Gavin: Okay, I admit it! I found out about two sentences in! But they’re still selling it at a ridiculous price! Cut me some slack!
David: Stop. Please.
Gavin: You did say please. What’s up?
David: Cooking with Coolio? Seriously?
Gavin: I know! It’s great, isn’t it? I can’t believe it exists either. Just like that autobiography by Dustin Diamond.
David: That’s not what I’m talking about.
Gavin: It damn well should be! There’s a segment in the book called “Pimp Your Shrimp”!
David: Gav? Can you tell me something?
Gavin: I can tell you many things. I can tell you how to both chill and grill at the same time thanks to this amazing book.
David: No, I want you to tell me something specific.
Gavin: Oh, right. It’s on page—
David: Not that! I want to know what Coolio has to do with comics. This is a comic book site. You realize that?
Gavin: But he’s comic…al?
David: …….
Gavin: He is! You should read the back cover! It describes him as being “one of the most popular and successful rappers worldwide”!
David: I don’t care.
Gavin: He had a couple hits well over a decade ago and they still have the balls to say that! He’s most famous for being completely butthurt at Weird Al because the theme to that Michelle Pfeiffer movie is serious business! You ever see him on that Celebrity Poker Showdown show? He was out in two hands because he kept betting all-in!
David: That still has nothing to do with comic books.
Gavin: He… was in Batman and Robin. Oh, and he was in the director’s cut of Daredevil!
David: *sigh* Fine. Do whatever. I don’t have time for this.
Gavin: Of course. Busy with Kwanzaa and all that.
Gavin: What?


Blue Beetle
I’ve recommended these before, but I’m just going to keep on doing it until everyone has them. This is an all-ages comic in the best sense of the word. A grandfather could read these and love them. A small child could read them and love them just as much.

Jaime Reyes has somehow managed to become attached to The Scarab. It’s a ancient alien artifact that becomes sentient and gives him fantastic powers. Soon there are superheroes on his doorstep and aliens invading earth. Helping Jaime deal with this is his close-knit family and his two friends, Paco and Brenda.

It sounds like every superhero’s story. It isn’t. I don’t know how to describe it, except to say that the heart that goes into this story makes it stand out from every single book on the shelf. This is a story that will shock you with its power and its intrinsic sweetness. Buy it. Buy it. My god, buy it.

The volumes are, in order: Shellshocked, Road Trip, Reach for the Stars, and Endgame.

Two Superman Books with Tim Sale Art: Superman for All Seasons, and Superman: Kryptonite
There are few books that I read for the art. I’m a story and character junkie. Tim Sale’s Superman, though, gets me every time. The enormous, meaty face, the dark eyes, the way the character never seems to know what to do with his hands, they all add up to a story that you don’t need be able to read to understand.

Superman for all Seasons and Kryptonite, though, are worth getting out your reading glasses, though. They have the same thing that attracted me to the Blue Beetle series; an optimistic sweetness. That tone is hard to find anywhere. It’s too easy to prop up a story with horrors, or go for the cheap sensationalism of a hero pushed to the edge. Good books that are about the struggle to be kind, to be generous, to do the right thing, are worth a lot more than another edgy comic.

Agent X
So let’s talk about cheap sensationalism and a hero pushed to the edge. Agent X is an early Gail Simone book. Published by Marvel, it’s about a scarred anti-hero with no memory who careens through the Marvel Universe in the least dignified way possible. The hero, Alex Hayden, gets trained as a mercenary, goes through a series of disastrous missions, and finally finds his identity and his purpose in life.

Or maybe he doesn’t. It was too funny for me to really notice. A well-drawn, well-paced and hilariously funny series that was (criminally), never collected, this is worth haunting eBay for.


Kiyohiko Azuma’s Yotsuba&!
You know what’s really, really nice? Having a book you know without a doubt that you can turn to have your mood lighten. Yotsuba&! is like that. The story of Yotsuba and her group of friends and family is a great one, made even better by its simplicity. There’s no overarching plot beyond “Yotsuba and…,” though there is continuity between the stories.

One of the best parts is Yotsuba’s relationships. Her relationship with the world is one of utter naiveté and sheer joy. Everything she sees is a source of wonder and possible fun. Her relationship with her friends, the three girls who live next door, varies according to their ages in a really interesting way. Her relationship with her dad is part brother and sister and part sidekick, with lots of shouting and posing and >:O faces. Her relationship with her dad’s two friends, Yanda and Jumbo, is hilarious and completely believable.

Yotsuba is young, energetic, credulous on a level that is equal to six Amelia Bedelias, and intensely curious. The series is fun, and you can pick up any of the seven volumes that are currently out without missing anything major. And good on Yen Press for picking up the lapsed rights to it.

Yotsuba&! is cake comics, intensely enjoyable from all angles. Savor it when you read it.

Richard Stark’s Parker: The Hunter (Darwyn Cooke)
Sometimes, not all of the time, but sometimes, you just need to see somebody get what’s coming to them. And Parker: The Hunter delivers that in spades. Parker is a cold blooded man in the truest sense of the word. Though driven by revenge, he’s scarily calm and collected throughout the book. He doesn’t pause at doing things that would slow a normal person down and when he tracks down his target, there’s no explosive confrontation. It’s a foregone conclusion.

Darwyn Cooke’s already impressive art hits a new level here, with a clean green being the only color in the work, barring the color of the paper and strong blacks. It’s a treat to look at, even without reading the words. It feels like a crime comic should, with a palette that puts you out of your comfort zone and a main character that’s about as bad as the bad guys.

This book is the kind of thing that’s aimed directly at me, crime movie junkies, and people who like a layer of grime on their books. Almost as good as the book itself is its design, which is decidedly not that of your average comic. It looks like a crime novel, or a particularly fancy DVD cover, and the image instantly sets the tone. Totally one of my favorites this year, if not the favorite.

Pluto: Urasawa x Tezuka, Vol. 1
I could spend another eighty thousand words talking about this wonderful book, and The Hunter‘s only real competition this year, or I could point you here, here, and here. Buy it now and you can say you liked it before it wins every award at the Eisners next year.

And if it doesn’t win anything… we’re bumrushing the stage.

Takehiko Inoue’s Vagabond
A financial reason you should buy Vagabond Vizbig Volume 1: It has six hundred pages for twenty bucks, half that if it’s on sale. The value is insane.

A story-based reason you should buy Vagabond Vizbig Volume 1: It tells the story of Miyamoto Musashi, the most popular samurai ever, and how he came to be. We learn about his past, his friends, his family, and his love. We see him when he is talented, but not skilled, and little more than a savage. We see him fall back into old habits over and over while striving to be the best.

An art-based reason you should buy Vagabond Vizbig Volume 1: It looks amazing. Inoue employs a variety of styles throughout the book, resulting in a tale where the art adds a whole lot to the text, above and beyond the call of duty. Facial expressions, posture, and eyes tell tales above and beyond what the word balloons do. Visual metaphor is used to great effect, being both instantly recognizable (though one metaphor in book 4 was intended to take its time, and it paid off huge) and beautiful.

A historical reason you should buy Vagabond Vizbig Volume 1: It’s a manga based on novel based on the life of a real person. It may not be 100% historically accurate, but it is primarily rooted in fact. There are no magic powers, nothing outlandish. It’s just the story of a man, his sword, and his thirst to be the best. You learn something along the way about Japanese history, culture, and various forms of martial arts. You learn the advantages a spear has over a sword, and a sword over a spear. When you finish a volume of Vagabond, you come away with something more than you came in with.

One last reason you should buy Vagabond Vizbig Volume 1: It’s insanely good, bottom line. Words, story, setting, all of it is dead on.

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Battlin Jack: “No, you’re not. Not to me.”

December 11th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Raise your hand if you wanted to read a story about Battlin’ Jack Murdock, bad father, washed up boxer, and dude with no powers. His son, Matt, grew up to have powers, but Jack? Nah. Pointless, right? Gimme the guy with the radar vision, not some pug ugly boxer.

I thought the same thing, and then I read Carmine Di Giandomenico and Zeb Wells’s Daredevil: Battlin’ Jack Murdock, a Marvel Knights series about Daredevil’s pops. I enjoy Wells in general, and Di Giandomenico isn’t half as popular as he should be, so I checked it out on a whim. In exchange for that whim, I got a great story that fits neatly into the Daredevil mythos, adding a lot of flavor to Jack Murdock’s last fight and last night on Earth. It’s much better than it should have been, considering its subject, and way better than probably anyone ever expected.

Pre-Battlin’ Jack, Jack was supposed to lose the fight, but he instead sees his son in the crowd, realizes that throwing the fight would be the ultimate sign of weakness, and knocks Creel out. The Fixer, who fixed the fight, kills Jack in retaliation, leading to Matt Murdock masking up and going out for vengeance.

Battlin’ Jack fills in some blanks. We see Jack’s side of things, from the moment when Matt’s mother abandoned him on Jack’s doorstep to Matt being blinded. We get to know someone who had previously been an archetype, Papa Drunk Boxer. His likes, his issues, his failings, and his goals.

The framing device is pretty swift. The book’s composed of four chapters, each of which begins with one of the first four rounds of Battlin’ Jack in his last fight against Carl Creel, bka Absorbing Man. We hear his thoughts during the fight and then it fades to white. On the next page, the past fades in and we get more back story. So, the flashback has a flashback inside of it. Make sense? It’s very organic in the book, and gives it a sense of… inevitability. We already know how this story ends, the question is what’s going to be different and what layers Wells and Di Giandomenico are going to add onto it.

Di Giandomenico apparently cut his teeth overseas on boxing comics. I’ve been giving some thought to digging one up and importing it, just because I like his art so much. The boxing scenes are just as good as anything you’d see in Hajime no Ippo. There’s a great sense of motion, and Di Giandomenico understands how bodies wrap and entangle when you throw a punch. It’s a little bloody, but hey- it’s boxing. Get punched in the face and see how much you bleed.

Di Giandomenico does a great job of giving each character their own feel, too. Jack is craggy and wear, head bowed, shoulders worn down from having the weight of the heavens on his back so long. Matt’s thin and wiry, but his head’s held high and he’s hopeful. Josie, of Josie’s Bar fame, is drawn with clean lines, borderline ingenue until she turns that on its head. The villains look genuinely bad, with Slade being particularly notable for being kind of a skinny Snidely Whiplash.

Good fight scenes are rare in comics. Too often it comes down to one guy punching another guy through a wall, then the other guy punching the first guy through a different wall, then some jumping, some quipping, and then it’s over and someone’s costume is ripped. Or mostly gone, if it was two girls fighting. Di Giandomenico gets flow and motion and rhythm, which makes his art wonderful to me.

Basically, the art’s great. Here’s a five page sequence to prove it.


This quickly became one of my favorite Daredevil stories, and I talk about the ending in the 22nd Fourcast!. Esther agrees that it was tremendous on the show. For fun, read Battlin Jack and go directly into Frank Miller and John Romita Jr’s Man Without Fear.

If you’re looking for more Di Giandomenico, he did Spider-Man Noir last year, which was probably the best Spider-Man story that year. Amazon’s got the normal-sized Premiere HC and a smaller softcover graphic novel. The smaller book is around the same size as Viz’s Signature books, like 20th Century Boys or Pluto. Maybe a little bigger.

But yeah, Battlin’ Jack Murdock was a good’un. And it’s dumb, but I kinda liked seeing Josie as more than “Hard-nosed chick from the bar with the window Daredevil always throws dudes through.”

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One Piece: I’d Be (East) Blue Without You

December 8th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

A few days before I received my copy of Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece: East Blue 1-2-3, Shueisha announced that One Piece volume 56 had a print run of 2.85 million copies, the largest first edition print run in manga history. A couple days after I finished reading its 600 pages, a chart detailing the best-selling manga in Japan by series for 2009 dropped, revealing that One Piece sold 14,721,241 copies over the course of the year. To put this in perspective, according to Brian Hibbs’s Bookscan analysis for 2008, the total units for comics sold in America last year was 15,541,769. The top 750 sold 8,334,276 total copies.

What I’m trying to say is, even before you factor in toys, movies, other media tie-ins, and video games (though if you don’t own a Wii, it’s been a while since one of those), One Piece is an industry of its own. It’s kinda like a big deal.

It’s not hard to see why. One Piece is the story of Monkey D. Luffy, a teenager who wants to be the King of the Pirates by finding Gold Roger’s lost treasure “One Piece.” Along the way, he collects a crew of interesting weird crewmates, battles incredible enemies, leaves a trail of broken bodies and new friends in his wake, and punches so far above his weight class it’s a wonder that he doesn’t simply get squashed by his betters.

Except this is shonen manga, and like every other shonen hero, Luffy has heart, magic powers, the power of true friendship, and about thirty gallons of blood in his body. His heart comes from his drive to become King of the Pirates and live up to the expectations of his mentor, Red-haired Shanks. His friendship comes from the mutual respect between all members of the crew, even when they quarrel. The blood is a genre trope, and the magic powers come from the time he eat the Gum Gum Fruit, which turned him into a rubber man.

Luffy is kind of like Reed Richards, if Reed was good at fighting, really really dumb, but focused enough to achieve anything he put his mind to. His rubber skills range from purely offensive (Gum Gum Gatling) to protective (Gum Gum Balloon) to ridiculous (Second Gear), but they are all visually entertaining.

Oda’s style is somewhere between Dragon Ball and Looney Tunes. The proportions vary from character to character (Nami’s impossibly long stick legs [she’s like 2/3 legs, seriously], Usopp’s nose having actual bones in it, Luffy’s rubber body, Buggy’s weird face), but they all manage to look good. It looks weird, but endearingly so. Several traits that I usually associate with American animation or cartooning mix with traditionally Japanese effects, resulting in situations where characters simultaneously bug their eyes out like Ren & Stimpy while sweat drops or anger clouds (for lack of a better phrase, the swirly anger stuff usually seen around yakuza/hooligans) flood the panel.

One Piece has some great fight scenes, in part due to the weirdness of the design and art. Characters have powers that are more than just “shoots lasers” or “ninjutsu.” One guy splits apart into floating pieces, another’s made out of sand, another uses three swords at a time (Santoryu: Three Sword Style means two in the hand, one in the mouth), and still another just has an ill iron jaw and an axe for a hand.

East Blue: 1-2-3 collects the first three volumes of the series for fifteen bucks or so and establishes everything that you need to know. The piracy tends toward the fun and melodramatic, but there’s a clear delineation between fun and “We will straight up kill you.” Luffy and friends stay on the fun side, of course, but some of their villains are genuinely villainous.

Over the course of the volume, we meet the first three members of Luffy’s crew, though the third doesn’t join just yet, get all of the introductory business out of the way, and meet a gang of villains, only a couple of which are recurring characters. You get to know the weird nature of the series through the lion tamer who has hair just like his pet Richie (it’s not a mask) and Luffy’s Amelia Bedelia-esque nature.

He’s very… credulous, if I can use that word like that. He’s not too far off from Yotsuba in that sense. When an enemy, when referring to one of Luffy’s friends, says, “Maybe I know… then again, maybe I don’t,” Luffy simply responds, “What are you talking about? Are you an idiot?”

Oda created a manga that’s both funny looking and funny. It switches from hardcore action to comedy to tear-filled drama at a moment’s notice, and it never feels like a jerk from one kind of writing to another. It’s always very smooth and well-earned.

One Piece is one of my favorite manga, and it’s definitely the one I’ve stuck with the longest and read the most of. I discovered it back when Shonen Jump first started, and though I’ve taken breaks off and on, it’s one I’ve kept up with over the years.

Oda’s painted a world that’s a great storytelling engine, with enough freedom to tell almost any kind of story. Just when you think you’re going to get yet another story about pirates vs pirates, you end up with a civil war or a trip to heaven or something equally ridiculous. (Both of those happened.) Or hey, you can get a madcap escape from an underwater jail with several floors of gimmicks. It’s fresh and interesting and it’s easy to see why it’s such a huge hit in Japan. It’s childlike in a way that adults and kids can both appreciate, not very deep, but immensely entertaining.

I’ve got to praise this new 3in1 format, too. It’s a masterstroke, making it easy for new readers to get into the series or long-time readers to have handsome new volumes on their shelves. If you get impatient, you can just pick up the series where the omnibus leaves off. East Blue covers the first twelve trades, so there are three more of these due over the next few months. I’m hoping that these sell well enough to justify the next arc, and the arc after that, catching 3in1 releases. I love these. I went ahead and preordered the next three (4-5-6, 7-8-9, and 10-11-12), because, at Amazon prices, these are basically three for the price of one at full retail.

That’s a steal.

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Jumping on Empowered and Jonah Hex

December 7th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Two releases last week ended up being great jumping on points for titles that actually deserve it. Rather than being a back to basics issue (which tend to be pretty bland) or exposition hour, these two just present their series as-is, and let you come to your own conclusions about it.

Jonah Hex is written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, and is fifty issues deep. On the art side, it’s been blessed with issues by Luke Ross, Tony DeZuniga, Phil Noto, Paul Gulacy, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Art Thibert, Phil Noto, JH Williams III, Val Semeik, and Darwyn Cooke, but most of all, Jordi Bernet is the regular artist. The only DC Comics that looks better than Hex month in, month out, is Greg Rucka and JH Williams III’s Detective Comics.

Hex #50 is a one-shot tale, like almost the entirety of the series. The artist this time around is Darwyn Cooke, who you should already be familiar with. It features Jonah Hex, of course, his on-again, off-again lady friend Tallulah Black (a great name made greater by the fact that I used to live on Tallulah Trail years and years ago), and a whole mess of bad guys that need killing. It hits almost all of Hex‘s main points: brutal killing, Hex being a bastard, a little bit of black humor, and incredible art.

Hex is a series that I purchase mainly in trades. I know that it is going to deliver a good experience each time I drop ten bucks on a trade, but I went ahead and picked up this issue because of the anniversary and its extra size. I wasn’t disappointed at all. It was a great issue among good issues and definitely worthy of the expanded size.

Adam Warren‘s Empowered is another series I enjoy a lot, and Empowered: The Wench with a Million Sighs is a great introduction to the series. The story is an examination of the various sighs that Empowered employs in her life, be they out of frustration or of a baser nature. It’s laugh out loud funny, with a mix of both raunchy jokes and clever gags.

The Wench with a Million Sighs feels like a single chapter out of one of the larger Empowered volumes, which is definitely a good thing. As far as getting to know the book goes, this has everything. The humor, action, and personality that make Empowered great are in full effect. Emp spends the book fighting Irresistimovable while her boyfriend, best friend, and caged arch-enemy talk about her sighs and compare notes.

It’s a little self-aware, a little willing to poke fun at itself, and a lot of fun. Doing a one-shot special is a good play to gain attention in the Direct Market, and Warren’s approach to the special makes it easy to hop right into Empowered Volume 1. It’s a good series, and I hope that this works to get more readers for Empowered.

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Pluto 6: On Man’s Casual Inhumanity

November 17th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Sometimes, knowing a creator’s work means realizing partway through a book that yes, this guy is seriously going to take everything he’s good at, put it down onto the page, and throw it right into your face. I was a couple of chapters into Naoki Urasawa’s sixth volume of Pluto when I realized that that was exactly what was happening.

Urasawa’s proven himself to be a master of tense, emotional confrontation, believable conversation, and careful pacing. What he isn’t as known for is high impact action scenes, but Pluto 6 manages to put that notion to bed.

The first third or so of Pluto 6 follows a formula similar to the earlier volumes. Gesicht is investigating and talking to people, there are brief asides where small robots break your heart into pieces with an equal mix of adorableness and poverty, a mysterious teddy bear does something frightening, and secrets are slowly passed out.

The difference here is that the secrets are passed out like candy. We find out exactly what Pluto is and where it came from. We find out why Gesicht killed a man. We find out what it looks like when a robot is consumed with hate. We learn just how deep certain characters are, and we get to see true grief in the face of more than one person. We learn the meaning of “500 zeus a body” and it’s the saddest thing.

We also finally get to see Gesicht in hard action. I’m talking wall running, hand turning into a laser gun, fighting a giant monster, dashing through the exploded remains of your enemy action. And Urasawa pulls it off just as masterfully as everything else. It’s horribly violent and utterly tragic all at once, as Gesicht is forced to fight something that either doesn’t know any better or isn’t interested in knowing better, because the truth is too awful to bear.

Pluto 6 is paced in a way that it all feels very inevitable. Inexorable. The first scene in the book is an uneasy conversation between Gesicht and a scientist from Persia. It sets the tone. Where Gesicht was once on top of things and ahead of the investigation, he’s apparently slipped a step. He finds out something surprising at the end of the first chapter, and the hits keep coming from there on out.

Tragedy is the fuel that makes Pluto go. By the end of the volume, we realize that Gesicht, our hero and point of view, has been lied to, betrayed, misled, and hindered by forces beyond his control. All of this despite being a more powerful being than most of the populace. He has to consult a murderous robot to even find a semblance of truth. He’s a good man in a world that doesn’t deserve him.

Pluto is that book where a conversation is just as tense as two robots fighting, and the last eight pages just raise the bar. Two people, one a robot, the other a human, embrace on the border of the past and the future. They open up in a traditional Japanese garden outside of a hotel, as a high-tech city looms menacingly in the background.

Pluto 6 is the best yet. There’s really no other way to put it. It’s everything that’s made Pluto the best series of the year, but simply done better than before. That’s impressive.

Matthew Brady has a good review of this volume. He includes some scans and it’s good reading.

You should be buying this comic. Blah blah blah, I don’t read manga, it’s backwards, it’s black and white, whatever- shut up. It’s the best. You’re doing yourself a disservice by missing out.

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They Got More Rights Than Miranda

November 9th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Brandon Thomas, creator of Miranda Mercury, has jumped from Newsarama and launched a new blog to hold his thoughts and long-running Ambidextrous column. Ambi 316 went live this morning, and it’s a clearing of the deck/status report for Miranda. Definitely worth reading.

I wrote a review of the first issue for another site back when it first came out, but it’s apparently been lost to the wilds of site redesigns and Google page ranks. Lucky for you, I’ve reproduced it below. Go show Brandon some love, pick up his comic when it comes out again, and let’s get this book turned from a Thing into an Avalanche. It’s a little bit Kirby, a little bit Star Wars, a little bit Indiana Jones, and a lot of day-glo adventure comics. It’s fun in a way that doesn’t need modifiers.

You can see a preview of #295 here, and the sadly unreleased #296 here. Remember that the front cover is the first page of the comic.

(I love the idea of the radial pulse cannon.)

The Many Adventures of Miranda Mercury

mirandamerc_295cover_thumbLet me list three of my top five favorite creators: Frank Miller, Jim Lee, and Brian Azzarello. All three of them dropped books this past week, and yet my book of the week was produced by Brandon Thomas and Lee Ferguson?

Let me introduce you to The Many Adventures of Miranda Mercury #295. No, you didn’t miss 294 issues of a comic somehow- Miranda Mercury‘s conceit is that there is a storied past behind the title character and that this is just the latest of her adventures. Miranda is a hero in the Doc Savage, Tom Strong, Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers mold. She’s out to have a good time, see the sights, and maybe even learn a little bit while she’s out and about.

The book first caught my eye because it stars a black female. If you’ve been reading 4l!, you know that I feel pretty strongly about the lack of positive black females in comics. Lee Ferguson’s art delivered up a black girl who is both cool and attractive without being sexed up. Thomas’s script brought it all home when it put Miranda’s quick wit and stubborn will on display.

Basically, this comic is great. The cover page ties into the story in a big way (here’s a hint: it’s the first page of the story), the art is insanely attractive, and the story is a great one. Despite being dropped in mid-scene, it’s very easy to follow. You have the villain, the heroine, the sidekick, the hook, and the twist. The villain is a short fellow with an anger problem. The heroine is a skilled fighter in that Indiana Jones kind of way. The sidekick is a supersmart kid with a penchant for possibly being too smart for his own good. The hook is a magical cube that lets you have one wish once you solve its puzzle. The twist? The twist is something I won’t ruin, but which casts the series in a new light.

This isn’t Brandon Thomas’s first comic. He wrote an issue of Robin a few months back, just pre-Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul, that was the best single issue that book had seen in probably eight years. It was just a quick done-in-one about Robin, and ended on a few pages that really nailed the Batman/Robin dynamic for me.

Thomas displayed a deft grasp of the characters and dialogue in that book, and it’s carried over to Miranda Mercury. You get a feeling of real history between all the characters, but not the kind of history that feels manufactured. There’s none of the “Like that time on Alphozon-VII, where you narrowly escaped my clutches!”-style awful exposition. Just quick lines that hint at a shared past and allow your imagination to fill in the blanks.

The Many Adventures of Miranda Mercury #295 is, as far as I’m concerned, an incredible success. The characters and art are equally vibrant, the story has a great twist at the end without being an annoying cliffhanger, and I’m genuinely interested in where the story is going to go. Miranda Mercury is an A+ right off the starting block.

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Behold, I Teach You the Wildstorm

October 21st, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Grant Morrison and Jim Lee on Wildcats ended up being a non-starter. The first issue came out, the second didn’t, and that was the end of that. I reread it recently, though, and it is actually very good, for a number of reasons.

One of my favorite parts of Frank Miller and Jim Lee’s All-Star Batman & Robin the Boy Wonder is the dissonance between the art and the story. Jim Lee, love him or hate him, defined superheroic art for the ’90s. Multiple artists were told to draw in his style, including Ian Churchill, and from a strictly comics perspective, he’s probably the most successful of the Image founders. Miller’s story, though, runs in direct defiance of that, dripping with pulpy narration and so over the top in its grotesque incorporation of superheroics that it seems off-kilter and wrong. Once I got it, the book clicked for me.

As in ASBAR, Jim Lee’s art is used in Wildcats as a tool above and beyond “sequential art on a page.” Lee’s style is Wildstorm. They’ve had various artists come through their doors, with an astonishing amount of great ones (Dustin Nguyen, Sean Phillips, Travis Charest, Aron Wiesenfeld, Richard Friend, Laura Martin), but Lee defined the style and still stands out in my mind as the Wildstorm artist.

And Wildcats is Grant Morrison’s take on the Wildstorm universe, but a take on a very specific time in the WSU. He’s going right after the period of time when Wildstorm was at its peak, when The Authority, Planetary, Wildcats/Wildcats 3.0, Automatic Kafka, and Sleeper reigned. It’s Grant Morrison taking what Lee, Casey, and Ellis, in particular, built and pushing it to the next level. The book begins with a bit of exposition that sets the stage: President Chrysler has just come to power, and the world is in turmoil. With a few short phrases (“from the new underwater cities to the asylum ghettoes of Europe”), he establishes this new world. It is not ours, rather, it is a comic book world. Suicide bombers don’t strap explosives and ball bearings to their chest. Now, they are radioactive supermen who lurk in outer space. Telephones are 3D and you can have your very own android for protection (“In stock now! New low price!”). And, more than anything, superheroes are everywhere and revel in their glory.

scan0013Joe Casey’s Wildcats was all about pushing superheroes to a new level. Not the next level, but one different from the one they were on. A focus relationships and business maneuvers, rather than superheroics and spectacle, was a valid description of his run, until he had to give in to market forces and jazz 3.0 up some in an attempt to avoid cancellation.

Morrison takes Joe Casey’s Hadrian, CEO of Halo and reformed superhero, and pushes him to the logical conclusion of Wildcats 3.0. Halo has revolutionized the world, providing families with personal Spartan robots, fancy telephones, and other high tech tools. It’s the end point of the Reed Richards/Tony Stark/Superhero Super Scientist character. At some point, they are either going to drastically improve the world or die as failures.
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