by KC Carlson
Here’s the big wrap-up of stuff that I think is cool this month. (Your mileage may vary.) Our big behind-the-scenes crisis this week: melty keyboards! Man, is it hot out! So if you see any typos this week, chalk it up to sticky keys. And special thanks to Roger Ash for service beyond the call of duty by going in and dotting all the i’s by hand, when they all disappeared into the heat! Good lad, that Rog! (But, man, all that ink on his monitor screen…)
Also: The Snark Alert warning is on. I get punchy when it’s this hot!
DC: ZERO MONTH: In which DC numbers each of its New 52 books #0 and tells an all-new origin story. (Unless they already re-told the origin story, so then they’ll do something else. I really hope that’s juggling flaming anvils!) They’re also launching four new titles in September (which you can order now): Talon #0 spins out of the Batman “Court of Owls” storyline, written by Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV, with art and cover by Guillem March. The Phantom Stranger #0 revives the classic DC character in all-new adventures (picking up threads from last spring’s Free Comic Book Day story). It’s written by Dan DiDio, with art by Brent Anderson and Scott Hanna. Team 7 #0 restarts an old Wildstorm title but repopulates it with both DC and Wildstorm characters, including Dinah Lance, Amanda Waller, Steve Trevor, Cole Cash, and Slade Wilson. It’s intended to be one of those titles that will eventually connect up with most of the seamy underbelly of the New DC, written by Justin Jordan (The Strange Talent of Luther Strode) and drawn by Jesus Merino. Finally, Sword of Sorcery #0 is a new anthology title featuring the revival of Amethyst (and Gemworld), a fan-favorite series from DC’s past rich with amazing fantasy concepts. It’s written by Christy Marx, best known for her work in animation (including as creator of Jem and the Holograms!) and for Sisterhood of Steel for Epic Comics, with art by Aaron Lopresti and Matt Ryan. The back-up feature is Beowulf, written by Tony Bedard and drawn by Jesus Saiz, also a former DC series.
Highlights from the other #0 issues: Justice League #0 is the book-length origin of Billy Batson/Shazam (can they not call him Captain Marvel anymore? Or don’t want to?) by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank . . . Superman #0 features Jor-El by the new creative team of Scott Lobdell and Kenneth Rocafort . . . Batman: The Dark Knight #0 features Joe Chill — so you know what that means! (Another revamp of the classic origin story?) It’s by Gregg Hurwitz and David Finch . . . Red Hood and the Outlaws #0 promises the story of how Jason Todd came back to life after being murdered by the Joker. (Hope it’s better than “Superboy-Prime punched the timestream!”) Blame Scott Lobdell and Dwayne Turner . . . And, finally, Barbara Gordon fans will finally get some New 52 origin closure in Batgirl #0 by Gail Simone and Ed Benes.
Oh, wait! DC Universe Presents #0 revives the Canceled Comics Cavalcade concept by featuring –count ‘em! — five short stories featuring five canceled New 52 series: Blackhawks’ Mother Machine, Hawk and Dove, Mister Terrific, and O.M.A.C. But wait! That’s only four! Is DC accidentally going to slip something new into this book? . . . Lastly, three New 52 series are canceled with their #0 issues: Captain Atom, Resurrection Man, and Voodoo.
DC BOOKS: DC finally remembered that Amanda Conner has done a lot of cool stuff for DC over the years (besides Power Girl and Silk Spectre) and is collecting 304 pages of it in the new hardcover DC Comics: The Sequential Art of Amanda Conner. (Wow, that’s the best title that Warner’s lawyers could come up with? Also note, they gave themselves top billing!) Check out stories from Birds of Prey, JSA Classified, Supergirl, and way-cool stories from DC’s various anthologies, including Wonder Woman #600. Plus, a cover gallery! (Uh, guys… covers aren’t really sequential art. Maybe Editorial should reclaim the titling of books. Silly lawyers.) Bob Greenberger will have more on this great book soon, right here at the Westfield Blog. . . 52 Omnibus HC collects all… um, let’s see… 52 issues of this historical miniseries where Superman, Batman, Robin, and Wonder Woman all go on vacation for a year. (No, not all together! Where is your brain?) It’s 1,216 pages. Make sure your bookshelf is reinforced with Supermanium! . . . DC has updated their classic Batman/Judge Dredd hardcover collection — now with more Lobo! Collects five full-length DC/Judge Dredd crossover stories, including the one with Lobo, featuring work by Alan Grant, John Wagner, Simon Bisley, Cam Kennedy, and others. 304 pages . . . Vertigo offers up the Spaceman Deluxe Edition hardcover by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso, collecting the entire nine-issue series, plus the short story from Strange Adventures #1. Also, Vertigo re-solicits Fables: Werewolves of the Heartland, the original 144-page graphic novel hardcover by Bill Willingham, Craig Hamilton, and Jim Fern. Please reorder. Previous orders have been canceled.
MARVEL is basically wrapping up its big series of the year — Avengers vs. X-Men — this month, and as expected, they’re keeping most of the secrets about how the story ends, secret. (Darn them!) So they’re kinda taking a breather on releasing new books until next month’s Marvel NOW! thingamabob. Looks like big shake-ups for the X-Men in the AvX aftermath, so choose those books carefully! As for new stuff, Marvel is re-establishing Thanos as a power player — especially considering their next cycle of movies. The real deal in the comic books is that Thanos reappears in Avengers Assemble #7 this month, and Marvel is reprinting some major Thanos appearances from the past. Thanos: The Final Threat collects the excellent Avengers Annual #7 and Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2 by Jim Starlin from 1977 that wraps up the long-running Thanos storyline from the original Captain Marvel and Warlock series. Also being reprinted is The Thanos Quest two-issue miniseries from 1990 by Starlin and Ron Lim.
Amazing Spider-Man #693 & 694 asks the musical question “Who is Alpha?” which is apparently the beginning of a major storyline featuring a teenage sidekick for Spidey. (Which might be funny if the kid was actually more mature than Peter Parker. Rumor has it that we’ve already met this character.) The storyline is expected to culminate in the upcoming ASM #700 . . . Incredible Hulk #13 begins a new storyline with Dr. Doom, while the (Red) Hulk book is nowhere to be seen this month. Hmm. . . . Big Hero 6: Brave New Heroes collects Big Hero 6 #1-5 from 2008 by Chris Claremont and David Nakayama. Why? The possibility of an upcoming movie that may be the first animated feature from Disney to feature Marvel characters!
MARVEL BOOKS: Marvel is currently soliciting the complete Avengers vs. X-Men hardcover, reprinting all 13 issues (including the #0 issue), the six-issue AvX: Vs., the online Avengers vs. X-Men: Infinite #1, 6, & 9, and material from Point One. It’s 528 pages, and at least 200 of them will be alternate covers. (Kidding!) Plus, each copy will include the code for a free digital copy! The creative team on the book includes a cast of hundreds (but not as many as there are Avengers or X-Men in the book). Available in two different covers: Jim Cheung or Nick Bradshaw. Please specify when ordering . . . Also available this month is a second Castle tie-in in comic form, Castle: Richard Castle’s Storm Season: A Derrick Storm Mystery by Brian Michael Bendis, Kelly Sue DeConnick, and Emanuela Lupacchino. To clarify, this 112-page graphic novel is NOT about the Castle characters. It’s about the fictional author Richard Castle’s fictional character Derrick Storm. (Not to be confused with Storm from the X-Men, both of which I believe are also fictional. Man, I hope I didn’t just spoil one of those “Santa Claus” things for somebody! Jeez, this media stuff is confusing!) . . . Reevolution is some new Marvel buzzword that I haven’t deciphered yet, but it apparently also refers to a new 224-page trade paperback collection of Marvel’s greatest “recent” stories, Here’s the rundown: Avengers #500, Punisher War Journal (2007) #1, Amazing Spider-Man #546, Dark Reign: Fantastic Four #1, Uncanny X-Force #1, Thor #604, Captain America #444, and Wolverine (2003) #62. Perhaps they’ll explain what Reevolution means if you buy it. (Note to self: Dictionaries/Spellcheckers for Marvel execs for Christmas.)
NOW, THE GOOD STUFF: Happy is a new Grant Morrison/Darick Robertson four-issue series for Image Comics. Nick Sax is a corrupt, intoxicated ex-cop turned hit-man, with a bullet in his side and a monstrous child killer in a Santa suit on the loose. Nick and his world will be changed forever this Christmas. So, probably not for the kids, then. Apparently, Morrison saw the heavily censored Black Kiss II pages in Previews last month and decided to one-up Chaykin in a most “black boxes” per page arms race. Morrison clearly wins, with an average of two per panel, although Chaykin did manage to get over half a panel of artwork “black boxed.” Merry Christmas! Don’t forget comics make great stocking stuffers!
Legendary Comics (they legendarily published Frank Miller’s Holy Terror) has got The Tower Chronicles by Matt Wagner (writer), Simon Bisley (artist), and Jim Lee (covers) coming up soon. It’s about John Tower, a supernatural bounty hunter who tracks down the shadows that the modern world has forgotten about, leading him into the darkest recess of mankind’s most dangerous places (it says here). This is Volume One of the first book of a graphic novel trilogy, serialized bimonthly in four deluxe prestige editions. No one told me there’d be math!!! ARRRGH! (If you’re like me and can’t figure out the math, just wait… eventually this will probably be a movie some day.)
Agent 13 (from Hermes Press) is a 128-page reprint collecting the previously published “The Midnight Avenger” and “Acolytes of Darkness” written by Flint Dille and Dave Marconi and illustrated by Dan Spiegle. Set in a world of pre-WWII espionage, only man-of-mystery Agent 13 can stand up to the evil Brotherhood of Hitler, Mussolini, and Tojo. Doesn’t this sound like it deserves an all-new cover by Howard Chaykin? Good thing it has one! And you can’t beat 128 pages of classic Dan Spiegle artwork!
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle is a classic in children’s literature, but in the 50 years since its first publication, the book has never been illustrated. Enter acclaimed artist Hope Larson (Mercury, Chiggers), who has adapted the fantastic story into a breathtaking 392-page hardcover graphic novel, destined to be on many “must read” lists this year. Larson’s dreamlike lines are a perfect choice for the imaginative science-fiction adventure. I can’t think of a better person to draw Meg and her struggles to rescue her brother. With so many wonderful concepts, it’s a perfect choice for Larson to adapt to comic form. Published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.
You may know Raina’s work from her adaptations of The Baby-Sitters Club books or her much-acclaimed graphic memoir Smile, about losing her front teeth as a kid. Drama is her first original fictional work, and it’s astounding. Callie’s working stage crew for the school play, and during the year, she’ll need to solve problems both technical (how do you fake a cannon onstage on a middle-school budget?) and more importantly, personal. Between negotiating actor drama (who gets to play the leads? And why do they act so jerky once they’re rehearsing?) and getting to know the twin brothers who share her love of theater, both with their own journeys of discovery, you will come to love these characters and enjoy following along as they struggle with their dreams and feelings. Raina’s open, comfortable style is the perfect way to show these adolescent characters coming of age.
Drama is published by Graphix and is available in both hardcover and softcover editions. 240 full-color pages.
Acclaimed creator Chris Ware (Acme Novelty Library, Jimmy Corrigan) has a new project available called Building Stories. It’s not exactly a book, but a collection of ones that come in a box, and it promises to be a challenging read. There is no predetermined beginning or end — you figure that out while you are reading/assembling the work. One of the items folds out to 42” long. (So, not recommended as an eBook, then.) Ware has been working on the project since 2001 and kicking around ideas for it (and its format) for more than twenty years. (Basically, having to wait for the technology to be able to publish such a project while standing a chance of it being profitable). Building Stories follows the lives of three inhabitants of a small apartment complex in Chicago. The scope, ambition, artistry, and emotional heft of the project may be beyond anything we’ve yet seen from Ware. Hardcover box set of 224 “pages”. Published by Pantheon.
BOOKS: Westfield’s resident reviewer Bob Greenberger has authored what may be the definitive word on the Star Trek phenomenon with his Star Trek: The Complete Unauthorized History, a 256-page hardcover covering all the TV series and films. The book concentrates on the property’s cultural impact while outlining both the missteps and achievements of each piece of the popular franchise. A lifelong ST fan, Bob has been covering Star Trek since his days reporting and editing at Starlog. He also edited the DC Star Trek comic books, which he’ll be covering in this book as well. Watch for Roger Ash’s interview with Bob right here at the Westfield Blog in just a few days.
I’m always kinda skeptical of new histories of classic comic book publishers — especially books that have a boldly generic cover like this one. (That’s mostly because Marvel/Disney lawyers don’t allow their characters on anything they don’t publish or control.) But it looks like Marvel Comics: The Untold Story may be the real deal. Written by Sean Howe, former editor and critic for Entertainment Weekly, whose writing has appeared in the LA Times, Spin, and The Village Voice. Here’s what Patton Oswalt (actor, comedian, and professional comic geek) has to say about it: “A warts-and-all, nail-biting mini-epic about the low-paid, unsung ‘funnybook men’ who were unwittingly creating twenty-first century pop culture. If you thought the fisticuffs were bare and bloody on the four-color page, wait ‘til you hear about what went down in the Marvel bullpen.” A massive 496-page hardcover history from Harper. Can’t wait to read this one!
I’ve also been skeptical of DK’s comic-book-related books from the last couple of years, since they’re frequently riddled with errors, with the exception of the Marvel and DC Year-by-Year histories which I loved (and are also great for finding something fast!). DK is edging into applying the format to long-running individual characters with Spider-Man Chronicle: A Year-by-Year Visual History, a 352-page oversize hardcover. It traces the comic book history of the character month by month, highlighting important storylines and spotlighting notable creators. (Spidey’s had a lot of those!) It also traces the history of Spidey in animation, TV, and movies. Written by Michael Manning, who also contributed to both the Marvel and DC Year-by-Year books.
MAD’s Greatest Artist series spotlights Mort Drucker in a brand-new 272-page hardcover. (Although at Amazon.com, it’s currently listed as a 7,000-page book. MAD strikes again!) If you don’t know (and shame on you!), Mort was largely responsible for most of the popular movie and TV show parodies over his five-plus-decade career as one of MAD’s most brilliant caricaturists. The very best of his work is presented in chronological order and interspersed with testimonials by his famous artistic peers, as well as many of the celebrities he parodied — including George Lucas, Harrison Ford, Robert DeNero, and Michael J. Fox. Another great MAD book from Running Press!
If you like old trading cards, Mars Attacks 50th Anniversary Collection — a first-ever compilation of the original 1962 Topps series of edgy, subversive, and darkly comedic sci-fi trading cards — is right up your alley. For the first time, this book brings together high-quality reproductions of the entire original series, as well as the hard-to-find sequel from 1994, rare and never-before-seen sketches, concept art, and test market materials. And it includes four Mars Attacks trading cards! (No gum , though…) A 224-page hardcover from Abrams.
BOOK NOTES: A lot of James Bond books are also available this month (must be a new movie around the corner) . . . A bunch of Sonic the Hedgehog titles (National Hedgehog Month?) are excitedly recommended by Miles (one of the guys who carefully packs and ships your Westfield boxes!) . . . Lou Scheimer: Creating the Filmation Generation, previously solicited by TwoMorrows, is being re-solicited this month, due to rescheduling. All previous orders are canceled, so if you want the book, please re-order it this month.
If you missed them, the Classic Comic Book and Newspaper Strip Collections lists were posted last week. You can get to them quick by clicking the link.
KC CARLSON: Wishing he was Captain America today. At least the frozen-in-a-block-of-ice part. Wee dawggies, it’s hot!
WESTFIELD COMICS is not responsible for the stupid things that KC says. Especially that thing that really irritated you.