Game Tape: Monkeybrain Edition

Since I’m getting comics by mail again (don’t ask), there isn’t much to review or read on Wednesdays; books come the Monday after. But, as Jesse mentioned earlier in the week, we were both quite excited about the inaugural releases from Chris Roberson’s MonkeyBrain Comics. The drawback is that I’m not a fan of digital comics as a concept. Until display screens are large enough, portable enough, and cheap enough, I see no advantages and too many hindrances.

Except that digital is the only way MonkeyBrain Comics titles will be released for the foreseeable future. This was one of those rare instances where curiosity won out over curmudgeonly tendencies. This also gave me a chance to see what the new and “improved” Comixology did. I’ve had an account on their website since they were a forum for collectors. Their virtual pull list is a favorite tool of mine for collection, but I haven’t interacted much with it since they became a marketplace for digital comics. But this isn’t a review of Comixology or digital comics in general.

Edison Rex by Chris Roberson and Dennis Culver

From the press releases, three of the five inaugural titles immediately grabbed my attention: Aesop’s Ark, Bandette, and Edison Rex. The three were $.99 cents each. Even at a reduced page count, these comics had a better page to penny ratio than their print cousins. So that’s a good way to start a relationship

 At first glance, Edison Rex, by Chris Roberson and company, is easily dismissed as yet another Superman/Luthor dynamic. Granted it’s a well written bit of character and conversation, but it seems like something we’ve seen before. By the end of the issue, Roberson has deftly defied expectations, and he pushes the story in a whole other direction. So kudos for surprising me in that respect. Of the three that I bought, this one is the most straight-forward: being firmly set in the world of capes and cowls. I enjoyed it, and I look forward to seeing more of this fish-out-of-water story.

 

Bandette by Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover

Bandette, by the husband and wife team of Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover, is easily my favorite of the three. I’m a fan of both of the creators so I was going to follow this one no matter what. In the span of thirteen pages we are introduced to the fast-paced world of the mercuric Bandette, reluctant cat burglar Monsieur, and haggard Police Inspector Belgique. As usual, Tobin nicely and cleverly balances the need to introduce characters with the need to tell a good story. I suspect this is a skill that was especially handy in his days working on the titles of the Marvel Adventures line. The press release for the title compares it to Tintin which is a fair comparison, but it borders on oversimplification and a possible injustice.

Staying with the Tintin comparison, until now it never occurred to me that one of the reasons I love Colleen Coover’s art style is that it is in the same league as both Herge’ and Darwin Cooke. Each prefers the unadorned line or curve to the hyperdetailed anatomy of most artists. All three place an emphasis on facial features and reactions. With Bandette, Coover’s art and layout keeps pace with Tobin’s runaway story. The fluidity of the story would be lost under anyone else’s brush.

My final purchase is Aesop’s Ark by J. Torres and Jennifer Meyer. This is one of those few instances where I bought a book expressly because of the art. Like Mark Crilley (of Akiko) Meyer is able to put an amazing amount of detail and depth into a grey

Aesop’s Ark by J. Torres and Jennifer Meyer

scale world that she and Torres have created. Unfortunately this book was as much a cipher to me at the end as it was at the beginning. The characters in the story emphasize the importance of relating stories, but I have no idea what story is being related to me as a reader. There was a cute fable and it illustrated problems that some other animals were having. Is that it? J. Torres is known for well crafted and enjoyable  all-ages titles, but this one felt a little too young for my tastes. Of the three, I can probably wait for the trade on this one.

Each of these titles has a common problem. At thirteen pages, they feel rushed. Aesops Ark especially could have used a bit more fleshing out/ introduction of concept in the first issue. I am left with two different feelings of wanting more. On the one hand, I want more because they were enjoyable and I want more of the same pleasant experience. On the other hand, I want more because the experience didn’t feel complete.

Game Tape

There comes a time in a man’s life when he looks back wistfully and reviews the choices that he has made. For me that time happens most Thursday. This is the Game Tape; let’s review shall we?

First up is a look at the best issue of any book that I’ve read in a long time. Goon #39 points out every gimmicky things that Powell sees as being wrong with big company comics today, and for my money he’s not wrong. From reboots and seeming pointless costume changes to poor story craft and jab at a certain rainbow corps, this issue lampoons with a sharp wit.

Next up was an enjoyable done-in-one issue of FF. Without going into detail, this is Peter Parker and Johnny Storm being Peter and Johnny. One’s frustrated, and one is oblivious. I won’t spoil it, but the last two pages are the funniest I’ve seen in a Marvel book since Ego the Living Planet fell in love with Earth. The last page is so great and weird that I’m probably going to use it as my facebook profile pic.

Secret Avengers #26 was fairly meh. It had potential and great art, but it wasted an inordinate amount of time throwing Thor and some b-listers at the Phoenix Force.

All-Star Western #8’s minimal use of the simpering Dr. Arkham was a pleasant read. It’s hampered a little by plot exposition, but it was a decent read.

I also found a copy of Supreme #63. It was as enjoyable as I remembered earlier issues to be. That’s certainly a pleasant surprise, as I’ve recently been burned on things I’ve reread early last decade.

Game Tape

This week sees a couple of arcs ending as well as the beginning of the end for a guilty pleasure. So let’s go to the tape for the review…

The Boys #65

Man oh man, everything that The Boys  has been about is essentially revealed and wrapped with this issue. More so than most any other issue, this one is a splatter fest. But the readers now know everything. If you’ve been paying close attention, and I wasn’t, the reveal shouldn’t be a great shock. I was caught off guard, but I picked up pretty quickly. So it’s done right? Nope, Ennis is giving us one more arc to serve as a coda/ aftermath. Certain actions dictate that there will be Hell to pay.

With Action Comics vol. 2 #8 we see an end to the Brainiac arc. Three things to note here.

1. I love Morrison’s Lex Luthor. He is as much an embodiment of his times as Byrne’s version was in the 1980’s.

2. I’m guessing that this marks the end of Superman as crusader and street level hero. He’s got the suit, he’s got a space fortress, so there’s little chance he’ll be punching gangsters.

3. I’m intrigued by the dwarf that keeps showing up. Every time I see him I’m conflicted between believing he’s a new incarnation of Mr. Mxyzptlk and being convinced he’s something entirely new.

 

Wolverine and the X-Men #8 is again a fun read with Aaron’s great character moments. Beast is the focus and he is marvelous. Next month we’re being treated to an event tie-in… so… yeah.

That’ll wrap up this week. Check out last week’s edition if you’re curious about my thoughts on A vs. X #1. Turns out Diamond did ship early to some shops. It was Friday before they sent a message to those shops asking them to hold the books until this week. It’s nice see that they’re screwing over all parties involved in the comic distribution system. Maybe events like this will bring about some change.

Game Tape

Books came out, they’ve been read, and here’s what I thought.

I’ve been curious and tempted by A vs X teasers and hype. With issues 0 & 1 out this week (?) my curiosity turns to cynicism and reminds me why I don’t read Bendis anymore. Issue 0 (re)introduces us to Hope and Scarlet Witch in two separate and unconnected stories. It doesn’t bode well for a book when you can sum up a book in two sentences: People really hate Scarlet Witch. A teen with extraordinary powers is rebelling. It took a full issue to dully establish the status quo for the upcoming fracas. The weapons MODOK uses are interesting, but that’s about it.

AvsX #1


Issue #1 showed me that things weren’t going to pick up ergo I would not pick up the other issues. If you’ve seen a Roland Emmerich film, you’ve read the first issue. We get quick views into the status quo of the characters we’re supposed to care for. We are introduced to the crisis via a government council meeting. People talk about stuff related to the impending crisis. Something inexplicably explodes. No. No. No.

The only thing that kept All-Star Western #7 from being great was Dr. Arkham. Why is he still around? The story is set in New Orleans. Nighthawk and Cinnamon are there. Potentially great, but there’s the whining and endlessly prattling character narrating and annoying all. He’s supposed to be a foil for Hex, but he’s not much of anything. Someone pop a cap in him.

If you don’t get the tinglies from the last couple of pages of FF #16, we probably won’t have much to say to each other. The rest of the issue isn’t bad, but those last pages…WOW.

Game Tape

Not much I’m excited about this week. So here are three briefs.

Uncanny X-Men #8 is just okay this month. Basically, the story and the dialogue are more boilerplate than I’ve come to expect from Gillen in this series. There’s a prison break, our superhero team is called to wrangle them, and the Avengers show up to lend a hand. The sense of threat and anything really being at stake are negligible. If this issue was intended to show buddy-buddy status quo of the Avengers and X-men pre A vs X, it didn’t do much outside of tell the reader, “Hey we’re both good guys and we’re fighting bad guys together.” At the end of the issue, I was left feeling like I had finished reading a plot outline rather than an actual story.

The main reason I’ve always enjoyed Eric Powell’s works isn’t the (often excessive) potty humor, nor is it seeing a guy punch the hated slack-jaws into submission. The man knows how to tell a story. This has certainly been evident in the last two issues of The Goon. #37 & 38 actually have little to no involvement from our titular character. In spite of this fact, they have been enjoyable. Both issues deal with (literally and figuratively) strong  women surviving in the depression era world of The Goon. As much as I’m looking forward to further stories involving people punching, shooting, and knifing the undead, as long as Powell remembers how to tell a good story I’m on board.

Regarding Batman #7: “Court of Owls” needs to end. The song has played too long. This issue’s “revelation” had the impact of a balled up sheet of paper. While the issues aren’t badly written, this Johnsian decompression is giving me the bends.

With this week gone, here’s to better days.

Game Tape…late edition.

Comics were late this week, in the end that’s okay. There isn’t much to write about this week. Actually, there’s only one book I picked up upon which I feel compelled to comment. Fantastic Four, Wolverine and the X-Men, Resurrection Man, and Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E. were all pretty much at their standard.

On a whim I picked up X-Men: Season One. I’m a sucker for stories with the first class, and I’m always curious how creative teams update the origin of Marvel’s Merry Mutants. This iteration was a pleasant surprise. Essentially, this isn’t the story of how the X-Men came the X-Mansion and fought Magneto. Instead, this one off tells how the five young mutants gelled into a team and a family. The story was well told through the view point of Jean Grey. Best of all, it cohesively weaves the story into key events of the first eighteen issues of the 1963 series. This is an excellent story that recounts the early days and covers events that fell into the gutters the first time around. Kudos to Dennis Hopeless for telling such an old and familiar story in a new and enjoyable fashion.

At the $24 price for a hardback book, it’s worth it. If the price gives you pause, wait for the inevitable soft cover version. You can thank me later.

Son of Game Tape

…ANNNNNDD we’re back.

Comics were purchased. Stories were told. The dust has settled and now it’s time to review the game tape to judge how the week went.

KABOOM's Adventure Time #1 (second print)

This first review will echo several of the excellent points that Jesse noticed in his review, but we came away from the book with two different feelings. This time I’m wearing the grumpy pants.

How is it that a cartoon series that tells stories in 12 minute chunks can’t seem to do the same in a comic book? I’m looking at you Adventure Time with Fin and Jake. I love this property; the cartoon is easily the smartest, weirdest, and funniest show on television. However, I was reticent to pick up the comic book for fear that it might not work in a static form. KABOOM’s new book (I picked up the second print this week) translates that weirdness very well. Ryan North and company also manage to translate the show’s hyperactive pace and kinetic feel well through page and panel layouts; it’s rare to see a page with more than four panels. The art in the main story mimics the cartoon well, down to the little details hidden in the back ground. The back-up story’s art is more stylized, looking as though it were painted by Vincent van Gogh. It’s bright and vibrant with a contrasting texture that the main story’s cartoon art won’t have. One other thing that was impressive was the little messages in the bottom-most gutter of many of the pages. This was something that I loved in Bob Burden’s Gumby. It’s nice to see that here in what is a successor to the surreality of Gumby.

At the end of the day, this is not something I’m going to pick up regularly. As I said earlier, I strongly disapprove of the fact that the main story in the book was not a done-in-one. Younger readers are going to be lost by this approach because a whole 30 days will pass before the second part comes out. That’s a friggin’ eternity and any number of other things have attracted their attention and money in the mean time. Heck, I’m in my 30’s and there are some books written for trades that I have a hard time keeping up with because the last issue was uninteresting middle.I appreciate the perceived need to keep the kids coming back to a comic based on a show, but I know that the same goal could have been achieved with a book that offers a similar experience to the show without replicating it exactly.

On a side note, why isn’t anyone replicating the successful digest model that has worked so well for Archie?

DC Comics' Action Comics (vol 2) #7

Action Comics (vol. 2) #7 is as good as it’s ever been, and after two woefully lackluster (filler?) issues this is a welcome relief. I’m not sure why the Collector story was so interrupted with trips both to the past and the future, but now that we’re back on track things are picking up and we’re getting a strong and fun story. Morrison’s reinvention of Superman and the world of Superman through Action is generally enjoyable. This issue especially. There’s great interplay between Luthor and…everyone really. We see less of Clark and more of Superman in this issue than we have in the past. Also, to his credit, Morrison also found a way to naturally introduce Superman’s actual costume into the story. I was reminded this month of why I read Action Comics first when it comes out.

 

Another book that I’m enjoying more in its newest volume is The Lone Ranger. After is nigh interminable origin volume in which the Ranger chases down Butch Cavendish, something new: shorter stories. Issues 1 & 2 were both fantastic in terms of telling western tales without being generic. This month’s issue #3 is starting a two issue arc that proved to be quite entertaining, and it provided a solid story with a cliff hanger at the end. Well done.

Finally, I really enjoyed Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra’s Manhattan Projects #1. World War II, and the Manhattan Project specifically, is my favorite time period to read about. Hickman’s alternate history presents the historical players is a skewed and fantastically engaging light. From it’s hyper-science and portrayal of Einstein as a violent psychopath to it’s blending of zen

Manhattan Projects #1 published by Image Comics.

meditation, magic, and science, this is going to be a great ride. Pitarra’s art is easy to read. His style is the love child of Frank Quietly and Geof Darrow. It is fun, it fits well with this story, and the characters resemble their historical counterparts without being photo reference. 30 days can’t pass quickly enough.

In Brief

This week Kieron Gillen wrapped up his second arc in Uncanny X-Men (vol. 2). While the itself is essentially cribbed from Star Trek: The Next Generation, what makes the story enjoyable is the character interaction and the sharp dialogue.

G.I. JOE continues boldly with its new Cobra Commander. Although they’ve been three steps behind for a while, this issue shows a hint that a turning point is ahead. The rally inning is near…finally.