Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Hoopla! - Episode 4: All the new Yum-Yums!!! (The Best and Worst of April's solicitations)

Hello and welcome to Hoopla!, the online comic-book review column that, much like yogurt, is made by introducing specific bacteria into milk under controlled temperature and environmental conditions, especially in industrial production. In both yogurt and Hoopla!, the bacteria ingest natural milk sugars and release lactic acid as a waste product. The increased acidity causes milk proteins to tangle into a solid mass (curd, denature). The increased acidity (pH=4–5) also prevents the proliferation of potentially pathogenic bacteria.

Interestingly, in the U.S., to be named yoghurt, the product must contain the bacteria Streptococcus salivarius subsp. thermophilus and Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus. Often these two are co-cultured with other lactic acid bacteria for taste or health effects (probiotics). These include L. acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei and Bifidobacterium species.

These stringent requirements are not, however, necessary for Hoopla!

So... Hoopla! vs. Yogurt... Who wins?

That's right... Hoopla! wins.

Anyway, this week we're going to take a look at some of the comics coming up in April... I wanted to point out some extra-cool neat-o things that you might want to order a copy of and also to heartlessly mock a few truly hideous covers. I should note that Comics Should Be Good, one of my favorite sources of online comic-book reviews and general merriment, does a very similar schtick each month, in which they look over all the new covers and talk about which ones they like and such and so forth. It's well worth reading...

Oh, and don't worry... there will also be a comic-book review (featuring my own, home-grown artwork!) tossed in for good measure...

And lots of ellipses...

So, I wanted to start with this, the cover for Teen Titans #46. One of DC's top-selling books.

I'm not sure what's supposed to be going on in this cover, but it definitely involves a LOT of white stuff. Like, maybe the Teen Titans are fighting Chalky, the White Chalk-aholic from the 10th dimension. With white steam pouring out of poor Chalky's chest.

Where do you suppose they are? What are those white, hastily drawn things on the sides of the cover? Are they related to the white icicle things dropping to the ground? Are they somehow connected to that one lumpy potato drifting into view from the upper left-hand corner? Or are they a part of Chalky himself? Perhaps a physical manifestation of all his chalk-y rage?

I guess you'll just have to pick up Teen Titans #46 to find out.

On the other hand, here's a cover that looks downright cool...

I've got no interest in JSA Classified, per se, and I'm not a huge fan of the Alan Scott/Green Lantern character, but I think this cover by Steve Uy is very nice indeed.

Very atmospheric.

And an excellent use of lighting.

Does anyone know who this Steve Uy guy is and what else he's done? And why he isn't either doing covers or interiors or both for one of the Batman titles?

Now, this next one is just plain odd. The odd thing is not the cover itself, which is straightforwardly hideous. No, the thing that really cause me cranial discomfort is that this is allegedly a solicitation for a new Alan Moore hardcover book.

Here's what I don't understand...


1) If this is truly all-new Alan Moore material, why have I never heard of this before? You'd think there would have been some build-up hype...


2) Why would Alan Moore, who has retired from doing super-hero stuff, make an exception to do something like this? I mean, Spawn vs. WildCats??? Deathblow??? I just don't see it...

3) If this is truly all-new Alan Moore material, why such a crappy cover? You'd think they would have taken the time to really put out something special.
So, here's what I think. I think these are some old half-finished scripts they found lying around. Or maybe not even half-finished.

We'll have to wait and see, but my Spider-sense is definitely tingling...

[Hey! That feels kind of good!]

We'll get to an honest-to-gosh comic review in just a minute, but first let's take a look at the cover to The Spirit #5. For those of you who don't know, this book is being written and illustrated by Darwyn Cooke, one of my absolute favorite illustrators. The first issue was a ton of fun -- very light-hearted and silly. Looks like that's going to be an ongoing theme in this series...

Um... if you don't want to buy this comic-book, you have no business reading comics at all.




Or even reading at all.






Or anything.
That, my friends, is a lovely cover.

I mean, seriously, who hasn't woken up on a Monday morning, trapped on the label of a can of beans, feeling like that...?

Anyway, this is supposed to be an online comic-book review column, so let's do some reviewing, shall we?

Civil War: Casualties of War
Written by Christos N. Gage
Art by Jeremy Haun and Mark Morales
Published by Marvel

Back when I was just a wee grasshopper, I used to love watching really bad television. One of my favorite shows was Happy Days and one of my absolute favorite things was when they'd have a "Do you remember when...?" episode. That's when the various characters was stand around and say, "We certainly have changed over the years. Do you remember back when Joanie used to hate boys?" and then you'd see clips from earlier episodes showing Joanie kicking boys or saying "I hate you!" or something to demonstrate the point.

And then they'd say, "Of course, some things never change..." and then you'd see a montage of Fonzie hitting the juke-box over and over again, from a bazillion different episodes, to help demonstrate that point.

As a kid, I loved that because I'd seen all the original episodes that they were referring to, so I felt sort of "in the know."

I mention this not to depress you but because Civl War: Casualties of War (also, oddly, titled "Rubicon" inside the book itself) pulls the same trick. The set up of the story is that Captain America and Iron Man have gotten together to try to work out their differences before things get any worse. This involves a lot of reminiscing about the past.

For example...

Iron Man: That wall. That's the one I came through. Remember?

Captain America: How could I forget?

And then we see a flashback to their first fight, when Iron Man crashed through a wall and they, well, fought.

Throughout the story, we also see flashbacks to Gwen Stacy being pushed off the bridge by the Green Goblin (an odd thing to include in this book, since it's not even tangentially related to what's going on), two past secret identities that Captain America has taken on in the past, Hank Pym hitting his wife, Tony Stark being an alcoholic, Operation: Galactic Storm, the "Armor Wars" storyline, etc.

The point of this issue, ostensibly, is to help establish that each character's current actions can, in fact, be traced back logically through their history. That's been one of the major complaints, after all. Readers keep saying "Tony Stark would never do that!" or "Captain America, back in issue #265 of the first volume of his own series, once said that he'd never punch Hank Pym in the face, so this completely contradicts that bit of established continuity!!!"

So, the idea is that we should read this and then say, "Ah, it all makes sense."

To a certain extent, writer Christopher Gage succeeds in this task. I think one of the strongest points he makes is that Tony Stark, as an alcoholic, believes that there needs to be someone watching over the heroes in case they screw up. He has seen himself act recklessly because of his drinking problem and he feels like he and his colleagues need to be accountable to someone. Captain America, however, doesn't have flaws like a normal person (this is Tony's argument, anyway) and that's why he doesn't see the need for oversight. But what he's not understanding, according to Tony, is that no one else is as perfect as he is and so they really do need to be trained and monitored.

It's a good argument, I think, and it's the first time I've seen that particular insight into the characters.

I also love Captain America's response:

You know, even after all these years, that's one of the things about the modern world I've had the hardest time adjusting to. All the damn psychobabble. What's right is what's right. If you believe it, you stand up for it.

Gage has a solid grasp of the character and how he views the world. This is a man who fought inWorld War II and he's a man who has always accepted full responsibility for his actions. It stands to reason that he wouldn't be impressed by Tony Stark's psychological insights.

Despite the many things that Gage does right, the book is certainly not without its flaws. A lot of the flashbacks seem completely pointless (did we really need to revisit their dispute from Operation: Galactic Storm?).

Worse, the art for the final battle sequence is laughable. Iron Man discards his armor suit but is wearing something underneath it that looks very much like a body-condom. He looks completely ridiculous. And there's no 'flow' to their movement during the fight itself. There's a full-page shot of them where the only motion is Captain America's knee sort of twitching in space.

Ultimately, I enjoyed this book. I felt like it added something to the overall Civl War storyline and provided some very solid character moments. The last few pages hit a very melancholy note by contrasting a scene between the two heroes, taken from a classic issue of Iron Man, with the current rift between them.

It's certainly got its flaws, though, and if you're not enjoying the Civil War storyline overall, there's nothing here for you to enjoy. But I was well-satisfied with it.

One last comment... on the actual cover, it does not look like Captain America's arm is sprouting out of the side of his head.

-----------------------------------------------------------

So, this next cover really, seriously confuses me. In a sense, it's a really well-drawn cover, in the sense of being sort of eye-catching and all.

But what is it a well-drawn cover of ?

I mean, it sort of looks like there's a guy (?) in a purple jump-suit, tearing off his shirt as he jumps on the back of a normal-looking guy. And the normal-looking guy is running away, but he's also projectile vomiting some green liquid.

That's a real flow coming out of his mouth, isn't it?

I guess maybe that's water he's spewing? It looks more like water than vomit. But, water doesn't really make sense, either.

I don't know. I honestly don't.


And since we're being so honest, here, I'm not too sure about the background, either. It's purple, so that sort of ties in with the undressing purple jumpsuit guy, but what is it, actually? Are those speed lines, perhaps? The top one stops at his head, suggesting that, yes, those are speed lines, but all the other ones continue way beyond the character, indicating that they are not, in fact speed lines.

Here's what the solicitation says:

Things Reach a Breaking Point in the FRESHMEN!FRESHMEN II #5 "Fundamentals
of Fear x153: The Question" pt. 5
(W) Hugh Sterbakov (P) Will Conrad (Col)
Blond (Cov) Conrad, Migliari

The Puppeteer has jumped into many minds,
but never one as terrifying as the one she
finds herself trapped in now! As
she battles for her life, the Freshmen risk
everything to save her! The true
evil of the Jupiter Corporation is revealed
while the kids struggle with a
cataclysmic rift in their team! And the final
fate of Mr. Fiddlesticks is
revealed, in a special issue he narrates!
Co-created by BUFFY and ROBOT
CHICKEN star Seth Green and written by Mr.
Universe runner-up Hugh
Sterbakov!

----------------------------------
Hmm... that didn't really clarify a damn thing.


I wonder what the Marvel family thinks about that...?


One of my favorite solicitations for April is this promo for Aquaman:

AQUAMAN: SWORD OF ATLANTIS #51 Written by Tad Williams Art by Shawn McManus & Walden Wong Cover by Michael Wm. Kaluta Acclaimed fantasy writer Tad Williams continues his run on the title that's already garnered a great deal of attention! Black Manta is trying to move in on the remains of Sub Diego, and Tempest tries to help Arthur recover the Trident of Poseidon! On sale April 18 o 32 pg, FC, $2.99


I love that it's already garnered a great deal of attention! That's such a half-hearted attempt at hype. Sort of like saying, "Several different individuals have already expressed an interest in this title!!!"

Maybe it's the word garnered. I don't know. Other comics get This amazing debut issue! or Don't miss the pulse-pounding conclusion of Dragon's Blood!.

Justice League of America really made full use of all the hype words this month with this solicitation: Beginning the long awaited, epic crossover between the new Justice League and the new Justice Society, uniting the combined writing talents of best-selling author Brad Meltzer and comics mega-star Geoff Johns for the ultimate team-up!

See? That's how you do it. Not Tad Williams continues his run on the title that's already garnered a great deal of attention!

There's also an ad for a four-issue Spider-Man/Fantastic Four series titled, appropriately enough, Spider-Man/Fantastic Four. The cover is generic and dull, much like the title, but it's being written by Jeff Parker, who is rapidly becoming one of my favorite new writers, so I'm very much looking forward to this!

Also from Jeff Parker comes Marvel Adventures: The Avengers #12. This series is "for kids" but every issue written by Jeff Parker has been a total blast! Here's the solicitation for issue #12...

MARVEL ADVENTURES THE AVENGERS #12

Written by JEFF PARKER
Penciled by JUAN ROMAN & CANO SANTACRUZ
Cover by CAMERON STEWART

The skies of Earth are a boiling tempest. Tidal waves threaten the coasts. A large dark force draws closer. Is it Armageddon? Naw, that's love in the air, baby... Ego style! 32 PGS./All Ages



Ah, sweet comic-book bliss...


If you haven't been picking up the Jeff Parker-scripted issues of Marvel Adventures: The Avengers, you've been missing out on some BIG fun...


Let's see... we've also got a pretty cool cover for Iron Man...

























And for the first of DC's new Minx line of books, The Plain Janes...




















Damn... that's a sweet cover!

I actually went ahead and got one of Cecil Castellucci's books (Boy Proof) from the library to help me decide if I should pick this up. It's ten dollars, y'know, and that's a fair bit of money for a book I know almost nothing about.

Anyway, I must confess, I wasn't all that impressed with her book. But then, I'm not really the target audience for this sort of thing, either.

In any case, I hope it does well. It's nice to see the big two publishing companies trying to reach a wider audience and it can only be good for the industry in the long-run...

This next cover is for Fables, which is a wonderful, wonderful book that I plan to write more about in a future column.





















Great idea for a cover and very nicely done. And especially for a book like Fables, which is normally about faeries and magic creatures and stuff. Good stuff!

This next one is for 52. That series has had pretty outstanding covers all along, but I particularly like this one...






















This next cover is for Tranquility #5.

First of all, I want to say this: Yuck.

This is an ugly cover on a couple of different levels.

Level #1: It is ugly in the sense of not looking very nice.

Level #2: It is ugly in spirit.

There's something about a woman in pink lingerie getting beaten bloody (while another woman cowers helplessly behind her) that just really doesn't cry out "Comics are fun!!!" to me.

I know, I know... not all comics have to be fun. But this is a series about a retirement community for old super-heroes and super-villains. It's supposed to be fun.

More than that, it's a Gail Simone series. Gail Simone is a funny, funny woman. Her books certainly have their dramatic moments, but she's not trying to be Frank Miller or Brian Azzarello.

So, I'm guessing this is a case of the artist (Neil Googe) being on a totally different wave-length than the writer. Further, I think it's in poor taste and it makes me dis-like Neil Googe's art even more than I already did.

The writing on Tranquility is pretty good... definitely not Simone's best work, but it's okay. But Googe's art has kind of ruined it for me.

Yeah, "yuck" pretty much covers it.

I want to close on an "up" note with a very fun cover for the new Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century series, based on the popular cartoon series.

If I were a kid and I saw this cover in the store, I'd be pretty damn excited.



Oh, who am I kidding? I'm pretty damn excited anyway.


It just looks neat. And fun.


I've been a big fan of the Legion for a long, long, time and the current incarnation just doesn't do much for me. It's boring and grumpy and pseudo-rebellious.


[That whole it's-us-against-the-grown-ups thing is just tedious and silly.]


Anyway, I hope this is good, because I'd love to have a Legion of Super-Heroes book that I could pick up regularly...


Well, that's all for this week...

Be here next week when we look at Mega Event Crossovers and the Comic-Book Readers Who Love to Hate Them. In particular, we'll be taking a look at Crisis of the Infinite Earths and Secret Wars and asking by which criteria these things are best evaluated. It's the first part of a two-part column (the second part will focus on more modern Mega Event Crossovers, such as Infinity Crisis and Civil War) and it's going to be swell, I promise.


Here's what we in the business like to call a "teaser"...




Oh, yeah, and we'll probably have some comic reviews too...



In the meantime, I encourage you to drop me a line and let me know what you're reading and enjoying these days. At some point in the future, I'd love to have a Readers' Recommendations column.



So, until next week, here's hoping that all your comic-book-y dreams come true...

3 comments:

ADD said...

Paul,

The Alan Moore collection is of previously-released works. Spawn vs. Wildcats is actually pretty good, Moore's version of Days of Future Past with Image characters instead of the X-Men. Most of the rest of the book, especially Deathblow and Voodoo, is, erm, doo-doo.

Alan

Martin said...

...so the Avengers are going to be stuck in a three-day temporal loop until they can figure out how to keep the crotchety old Moon from crashing into New York?

Paul said...

ADD,

How do you know these things?

And when is Comic Book Galaxy coming back???

- Paul