Trades for Halloween!

Happy Halloween guys! I scheduled this post to post today, but it was set to 10:09PM. I apologize for the tardy post. I have no special theme content for you, but I do have regular trade content. Can ya dig?

Batman: Hong Kong (Oct. 2004, 128 pages)
by Doug Moench and Tony Wong
collecting I have no idea the book doesn't credit anything and the indicia is as helpful
$17.95, Amazon

A series of webcam-murders leads Batman to Hong Kong, who inspires one Benny Lo to don the cowl of. . . the Night Dragon! With nunchuks! This reads a lot like an action film, and that's fine. The plot isn't deep, and it doesn't need to be. It's all about showcasing the action shots. Check 'em out:

THRUNCH! It's Batman THRUSTING a PUNCH in your face! Pregnant women cried tears of joy at the conception of this panel. It changed my life.

In this one Batman cloaks a thug in his cape, and proceeds to knock him out through the cape:
Check out Tony's design for Batman's cape. It's this single piece with crazy long tendrils everywhere. It makes him look even more like a spectre in outline:

Hotcha. The Night Dragon has these nunchuks, and Wong draws them in a way that shows their spinning, that makes it appear as if they're defying the laws of space and time.

Only in comic books folks. A nice, fluffy read.

The Unknown (Oct. 2010, 112 pages)
by Mark Waid and Minck Oosterveer
collecting issues #1-4 of The Unknown miniseries

Catherine Allingham is a world-renowned detective who takes on cases of the supernatural. She's absurdly intelligent and eccentric -- a modern day Sherlock Holmes, with breasts. In the first issue she even takes on a partner, her very own Watson.

Catherine also has a malignant tumor in her brain, and has six months to live. After the world's first quantum crime in a Viennese research facility, she and her partner are called to investigate, and the mystery involves the very nature of life and death itself. The mystery takes her across Europe to a confrontation in Europe.
Waid is great at representing Catherine's drive for knowledge, her compulsion to know the unknown. She's an exciting, tragic, compelling figure. The above image, from the second ish, really highlights their chase to know! I highly recommend the first two issues, but not the last two: in #3, her partner holds her back from a momentous discovery. He literally tells her not to open the door -- and that just goes against everything that the comic is aboutt. The 4th issue somewhat makes up for it, but not totally.

Regardless of the conclusion, Catherine is a compelling character in comics who finds crazy, creative cases in the world, and I recommend you give the first issue a shot. It's free!

Panels for October 2011

So 4th letter has this great segment where they post the panels from comic books for the week. It's a great way to sum up the week, and I'd do the same, if I got as many comics per week. I don't, so I've decided to make a showcase of the month's panels.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. Without further ado, chezkevin proudly presents

Animal Man #1
Jeff Lemire, Travel Foreman

Chew #21
John Layman, Rob Guillory

Daredevil #1
Mark Waid, Paolo Rivera

The Flash #1
Francis Manapul, Brian Buccellato

Thunderbolts #164
Jeff Parker, Kev walker

Serials for 10-26-11: Ultimate Comics Spider-Man and Swamp Thing

Ultimate Comics All-New Spider-Man #'s 2 & 3 (Sep. & Oct. 2011)
by Brian Michael Bendis, Sara Pichelli and Justin Ponsor

Counting the first issue, I've put $12 in for this title. For that money I could've went to the movies to see Real Steel. Or that The Thing movie. And I'd have enough left for one of those movie theatre hot dogs. So: three issues of a comic book are equal to one movie and a nasty hot dog.

EXCEPT IT ISN'T! We have yet to have a story in these three issues! Miles finds out he has powers! Miles has a talk with his dad! Miles shows his powers to his best friend! Miles saves people from a burning building! Miles moves into school! It is all a series of episodes that do not adhere. I know you can do better than this, Bendis, but, for the sake of review, I'll highlight some of the best episodes.

There's this great splash page in issue 2, of Miles sitting down with his dad in Central Park. It's half dialogue bubbles, but it's about his dad telling Miles things about his life that, now that he's older, he's ready to hear. It's heartwarming to see that Miles has such a caring dad. Sara Pichelli is really the redeeming factor for the title's shortcomings. Flip to any page and you'll see a real, human expression on Miles' face, whether it's the satisfaction of saving a kid or the horror that he might be persecuted for having super-powers.

Right now I can't recommend this title, for the sole reason that there's a lot better, cheaper and more social ways to be entertained than this comic book. You have to really like comic books and you have to really like Spider-Man to read this stuff.

Swamp Thing #1 (Sep. 2011)
By Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette

The comic book is a tricky thing. Any one title is released every 4 weeks, and in the time between you can get hooked on a new TV show or find a new blog. Comic books have to find a way to keep you coming back after 4 weeks, but they also have to have enough story to justify that first issue. Swamp Thing #1 succeeds at the former but fails at the latter.

The script is incredibly heavy, which was actually very enjoyable. It gets you into the head of Alec Holland (he used to be the Swamp Thing) and his familiarity with plants and nature. It makes him a person, but characterization doesn't hold 22 pages. I need more. So you've introduced some kind of neck-snapping zombie dude. Do something with them this issue. I need an actual story with things happening, not a cliffhanger that things will happen. Give me a story here. Introduce a conflict, it's okay if it's small, and resolve it in 22 pages. Please.

I want to like this comic book. I really do. But what's the point if there's no story in one issue? I might as well wait for the trade.

Trades for 10-24-11: My first digital trade!

Hi guys! Today will be a special article because it marks my dip into the digital comics pool. I've been reading the free stuff from, and I made an account so I could read the 17 yrs+ free comics like Animal Man #1 and Chew #1.

See if you can find me! My username's chezkevin.

Captain America vol. 1: Winter Soldier Premiere HC (out of print)

by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting
Collecting Marvel Comics' Captain America (v. 5) #'s 1-7

The best word to describe this would be subtle. Yes. The Red Skull is assassinated and his followers attempt attacks on the world in order to fuel his Cosmic Cube, but that's not the main conflict. The main conflict comes from Cap's inner demons. He comes off as this stoic war hero with all these memories that attack him at night. It's a bit more psychological than your average capes-and-tights book.

Epting is sound as the penciller, and the inks/colors really emphasize the noir tone in the pages. It's war, with all the sound and the fury, but it's also war in Cap's head. The scenes of action are a reprieve from Cap's inner turmoil. By the end of the book, we find out who assassinated the Red Skull, and, yes, Steve knows the guy from WWII, but we don't quite get the full story. Captain America is a title that rewards the patient, meticulous reader, but the story here is incredibly long-form for the format.

This volume doesn't really stand on its own: an interested reader would be better off reading the Winter Soldier Ultimate Collection, collecting #'s 1-9 and 11-14.

Chew Vol. 1: Taster's Choice ($5.99 ComiXology, 128 pages)
by John Layman and Rob Guillory
Collecting Image Comics' Chew #'s 1-5

There's a crazy amount of options out there if you're looking for comics. For this specific trade, I could have gone to Amazon ($9.99), discount comic book service ($5.99 + shipping), (from $3.75, used) or ComiXology. I decided on comiXology because I was getting another trade that was priced cheaper than anywhere else. There's also that sense of instant gratification.

When you buy it on comiXology, you get the five issues, separately along with a 3-page bonus material. When you finish an issue, it takes you back to the table of contents, not to the next issue. And that's a great way to read the trade, because each issue has its own story and contributes to the larger arc of Tony Chu's inaugural work for the FDA. Y'see, Tony Chu's a cibopath -- from the taste of any one thing, he'll get an idea of its life and how it died. In the first issue he's hired by the FDA for his talents in order to break up the chicken black market. Thanks to the bird flu, poultry is now banned in America! Chew takes a fresh idea and a believable main character and makes a great comic book out of it.

The art and the writing is full of flair that you won't find in any other comic. The comedy is great and Guillory lands the emotional beats in Chu's life. I'm on board. Expect me to be reviewing next month's issue.

On the Flash and Freedom

Just look at this image! Click to enlarge. It's amazing. I jocked it from the DCU Source blog. It's my new desktop and all I can do is stare at it. Forget about writing up my resume or looking at applications for jobs. This is all I need!

This one image is representative of comic books as a whole. No other medium could portray this scene in so fluid and clear a manner. In film you'd have to slow it down. Prose would straight up sound silly. The Flash is running on the single blade of an airborne helicopter. How cool is that?

In this way, comic books have more freedom than any other medium. Comic books aren't limited by a big budget or the current technology of special effects, and they convey images in a way prose can't. The only limit is the creators' imaginations. No other medium can tell a story like a comic book can tell a story.

Check out this image from The Flash #1 (2011)Ganked from the Comicsalliance blog. After diving into a pond, Barry Allen grabs his Flash ring and dons his costume. He pumps his legs and emerges from the water in a surge of energy. Nature itself is parting for his way. It's beautiful. This shows that nothing can hold him. Nothing can stop him. As long as he has his own two legs, the Flash is free.

It's this concept of freedom that appeals to me so much. The Flash has no limits, the same way Manapul and Buccalleto have no limits in their ideas for the title. The next ish is out in the coming week and I couldn't be more excited. I've fallen in love with comic books again.

Serials for 10/19/11: Thunderbolts and The Flash

Thunderbolts #164 (Oct. 2011)
by Jeff Parker, Kev Walker and Terry Pallot

 I haven't read Thunderbolts in a while. 3 years ago the title had a brilliant year under Warren Ellis, followed by a great Secret Invasion tie-in from Andy Diggle. Diggle held the title and it declined in quality until Jeff Parker, the current writer took it over.

I'm gonna be honest with you. I picked this book up 'cause it has Invaders-era-Cap in it. That dude rocks. It turns out that the Thunderbolts super-team has traveled back in time to WWII, and they get caught in a scheme between Baron Zemo and the Red Skull, against the Invaders. The reveals for Zemo and Skull are nice, but the issue offers little else. The story really peaks only at the very end. It's like watching the first scene of a TV show, before we get to the opening credits. And then boom: show's over after that one scene.

Don't get me wrong, I think it's a tight issue. If anything, I'll get the trade when it drops price. I know serials are supposed to hook you in for the next issue, but what about this issue? I want this issue to offer a story too.

The Flash #1 (Sep. 2011)
by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato

 This ish was straight up DOPE, you guys. Manapul inks his own pencils, while Buccellato colors it, and the both of them write the thing together. They are true Renaissance men! I've never read a Flash book before, but the pair do a great job of showing me that Barry Allen IS the Flash. From the heist at a science expo to the death of one of Barry's former colleagues, there are plenty of plot points to keep Flash moving.

And The Flash's all about motion. It's amazing how they depict movement in comics, a static medium. The storytelling is so creative. There's this great page that depicts an overhead view of Barry's apartment. As he moves around the apt. investigating his friend's death, we see all kind of panels popping up showing where Barry goes. It's amazing. Even the body language impresses me. Comic books are visual, and this is one hell of a visual comic book. I'd scan some up for you guys, but I've lent my copy to a friend.

Mr. Manapul, Mr. Buccellato, you guys have hooked me. I'm on board as long as you're working on The Flash, my favorite New 52 title.

Manapul's site
Manapul's Deviantart
Comicsalliance on The Flash #1

Trades for 10-17-11: Superman Vs. Muhammad Ali & Luke Cage: Noir

Superman Vs. Muhammad Ali: Deluxe Edition ($13.89 Amazon, 96 pages)
by Dennis O'Neil, Neal Adams, Dick Giordano and Terry Austin
Collecting All-New Collector's Edition vol. 7 #56 (1978)

I grew up in the 90s, so I never knew who Muhammad Ali was. That Will Smith movie was pretty good from what I remember. This trade paperback collects the monumental issue of Muhammad Ali's bout with Superman for the right to protect Earth from an alien race (They fight under the light of a red sun, so Supes and Ali are on equal footing). It's really that simple, and it's equally historic, collecting figures from history who watch the fight.

Superman comes off as Superman, but I'm especially impressed at Muhammad Ali in the comics. You really get the sense that he's the "Louisville Lip," in the way he talks and makes speeches before a bout.

I never got to see this kind of stuff (and I never watch boxing anyways), so this really makes the comic stand out: the display and reverence for an American icon. I'm glad it's collected, because it is a landmark for comics and American culture.

Luke Cage: Noir ($10.94 Amazon, 112 pages)
by Mike Benson, Adam Glass and Shawn Martinbrough
Collecting the Luke Cage:Noir #1-4 miniseries

The place: Prohibition-era New York City! The man: Luke Cage is out of prison, only to find that his world has changed! The sitch: His girlfriend is dead, and someone's murrrddeeerrreeedd a wealthy white woman philanthropist in Harlem! And people are accusing Luke Cage for her murder???

Cage plays a gritty private dick, shaking people down to find out about his girlfriend and clear his name. You do not get more noir than this, and you couldn't find a better Marvel character to put it in. The art is competent, but my real beef is with the story. It's incredibly dense and difficult to read. I had to re-read a bunch of lines just to understand it, and the dialogue goes overboard with Jazz Age slang. I mean,
"To make some real paper in Harlem, a shine needs 'im a Mr. Charlie in his pocket, one wit' a tin star -- even better."

For all its flaws, the ending is pretty good, creating the legend of a man that would be greater than the man himself. It wraps up the miniseries in a neat little package. If you're willing to read through some dense stuff, the end'll be worth your time.

Visiting the farm with Cap

brought to you by Captain America #2, from Ed Brubaker, Steve McNiven and Justin Ponsor

Serials for 10/12/11: Animal Man, Daredevil and Chew

Animal Man #1
by Jeff Lemire and Travel Foreman 

The blogosphere was on fire from this #1, and for good reason. For a new 52 book, it keeps the original continuity but keeps it accessible. It's not so much a reboot, as it's a new phase in Buddy Baker, Animal Man's life. Continuity is nice and tidy and, as a well-read comic-book-er, that makes me happy. Buddy returns to super-hero-ing on approval from his wife, only to find that his daughter's sprouted animal powers. . . zombie animal powers. It's a bit more horror than it sounds, which I'm all for, but the thing overall doesn't feel fresh to me. I'll pick up issue 2 on a slow week.

Best part in this ish: a dude takes the children's wing of a hospital hostage, because his daughter died of cancer there. After getting pwned by Animal Man, he covers his face and says, "I'm sorry. . . I'm sorry. . . I just want her back." We don't get enough of that in comic books, a dude who does one bad thing but is not a bad person.

Daredevil #1
by Mark Waid, Paolo Rivera with Fred Van Lente and Marcos Martin

Comic books are a visual medium. We can't hear a comic, we can't listen to them, and well, eating them would just ruin the mint condition. The only information comics can convey is through your eyes, and it's your job to take that information and read the story out of it. We read a BAM, and it's the sound of Batman punching a dude, even though we don't hear anything. Nothing's traveled through your ear drum and sent a signal to your nerves, but still we know that it's the sound of Batman, the sound of justice being served.

Daredevil is blind. The only information he can gain is through his four other senses, and his "radarsense." A liar's spike in pulse. The expensive perfume on a bride. The way Waid and Rivera convey his radar sense is amazing. By translating Daredevil's radarsense to the one sense he doesn't have, it transcends the idea of sense. I highly encourage you to check out the preview at

The main story covers Daredevil's appearance at a mob wedding, and Matt Murdock's new take on life. The inner monologue brings him to life and into his head. There's a back-up at the end from Waid that really makes the issue. There are no costumes, no Daredevil -- just Matt Murdock taking his pal Foggy Nelson through New York, and visiting his dad's grave. It's beautiful, emotionally and visually. Heck, even the letters column got a tear out of my eyes, as one reader talked about his father and the parallel to Matt's dad.

My point is, read this comic. It is the most perfect comic book out there. You can get a better-worded opinion from Chris Sims over at comicsalliance.

Chew #21
by John Layman and Rob Guillory 

It excites me to no end to see a Chinese-American in American comics. "Chew" involves a police detective, Tony Chu and his adventures in. . . cannibalism???

That's right! Dude's a cibopath, which means whenever he eats something, he gets these flashes of its life and what happened before it died. He'll eat a Big Mac and he'll see what exactly happened to the cow! It's uncanny, and it's fresh. In issue 21, his commissioner transfers him to. . . the traffic beat???

The comic reads a lot like a sitcom would, with typical, uh, typecast characters: the splash page ending is a gag as well. Also, the letters column is littered with kitty photographs. Chew is a fun book, even if some of the gags are over my head. This one, I might get in trade, if anything.

Bye week for trades 10-10-11

because I have school stuffs. Weekly singles will still be on Wednesday.

I thought I'd use today to show you my desktop.

Hahahaha it's lil' cap saluting me! Right back atcha Cap. The art's from one Darren Rawling. Check him out on blogspot. He also does lil' Spidey and lil' Daredevil. And lil' Punisher spouting hearts when he sees a pile of guns!

What's on your desktop? Share in the comments!

"It was YOU!"

"YOU did it! I SAW you do it!"

Chris Claremont and Sean Chen's X-Men: The End: Book 2: Heroes & Martyrs #1. Cover by Greg Land.

 "YOU took the cookie from the cookie jar!"


Why is this comic in a bag?

Ultimate Comics All-New Spider-Man #01
by Brian Michael Bendis, Sara Pichelli and Justin Ponsor
Me: Why is this comic in a bag? 
Joe the cashier: Because, Marvel thinks their fans are suckers - and they're right! People bought two or more copies of it the day it came out. 
Me: Oh.

So on my walk back to campus, I was wondering if this was a gimmick, or was it a commemorative event? I can tell you right now that this book marks an important event. Marvel wouldn't ever be able to kill off their biggest character in their regular universe, but the ultimate universe is a different place. They're allowed to change things, and they're allowed to kill Peter Parker and make Spider-Man Miles Morales, a half-hispanic, half-black from Brooklyn who feels guilty about winning a lottery for a charter school. In that sense, this is an issue you want polybagged, because it pushes the industry forward. It makes comics feel fresh and modern.

However, it's just nuts to get two copies of a 3.99, twenty-two page comic that only tells a kernel of a story. Bendis' decompressed style of storytelling is rampant in this funny book. Does he really need three pages to show, "This dude breaks into Oscorp Industries, stealing a bunch of stuff. A spider enters his bag unnoticed."?? Do you really need five panels to say, "The spider crawls on Miles' hand and bites him"? It's straight-up ridiculous, but, if you consider his track record with Ultimate Peter Parker (6 issues to see him in costume -- but they were amazing comics), I think it's worth the wait.

Blackhawks #1 (Sep. 2011)
by Mike Costa, Graham Nolan and Ken Lashley

The preview for this comic has the unfortunate circumstance of being way better than the rest of it. There are about two great moments in the preview, and precisely none in the rest of it. I purchased it on the strength of those two moments and Lady Blackhawk AKA Zinda Blake. Her name appears in a dossier, and I think she fires a rocket thing on page 3, but that's as much screentime as she gets. That's it.

The hook of the story is that the Blackhawks are a U.N.-sanctioned black ops team formed to combat global evil and whatnot. Sure. The problem's in the execution, as you're introduced to all these unfamiliar people by the end of the book. That's right: unfamiliar. Not "mysterious" or "interesting." I don't know this person and I don't really care to read more. Consider this #1 a failure. Maybe I'll flip through the #2 preview to see if they feature Lady Blackhawk, but we know where that lead me!

Trades for 10/3/11: Superman Earth One, Clumsy

Superman: Earth One
by J. Michael Straczynski and Shane Davis

Back in 2010, DC Entertainment decided to retell the origin of Superman, in a new way, all over again. The contents cover Clark Kent as he "graduates" from Smallville and seeks a job in Metropolis. Conveniently, an alien invasion occurs there forcing a Superman to rise and stop them. In the chaos, Daily Planet journalist Lois Lane and photographer Jimmy Olsen bravely enter the fray for news coverage. Their courage inspires Clark to become a reporter. The end.

There's a great line from Jimmy Olsen about how the truth is worth dying for, but there just isn't anything new in this graphic novel. Sure, we get a glimpse at all the other jobs Clark could've taken, but that adds very little to the mythos. At least Waid added post-9/11 hysteria to his take on Superman's origin. And when you get to the alien invasion, everything seems bland and written five times over in previous iterations. But look! He's wearing a hoody! He's relevant now!

This was meant to appeal to new readers. Nuts if I know whether it succeeded or not, but to me, it's a failure.

Strange Tales
by Peter Bagge, Nick Bertozzi et al.
collecting material from Strange Tales #1-3, Startling Stories: The Megalomaniacal Spider-Man and All Select Comics 70th Anniversary Special.

Well willya lookit that. This anthology has over 25 creators from indie, web and online comics bringing their own talent to creations like The Inhumans, Iron Man and the Hulk. It's amazing to wrap my head around.

As with all anthologies, some stories are better than others. The Punisher threatens a kid to straighten up in school, and he ends up graduating from Harvard with 54 different degrees! M.O.D.O.K. makes friends with "Donnie"! Many of them are delightful stories that couldn't occur in the Marvel Universe proper. One of my favorites is Dash Shaw's "Dr. Strange vs. Nightmare," in which Dr. Strange fights to stay awake.

Hah! Good stuff. There's another one from Paul Hornschemeier on the Molecule Man, a ridiculous villain from a Fantastic Four book back when Stan was doing it. The story's actually insightful, explaining the ennui that comes with the ability (the curse?) of viewing the world in its basic elements. It's a thoughtful, literal take on one man's life in the Marvel universe. The latter half of the hardcover contains The Megalomaniacal Spider-Man, which is a What if? style story that goes way off on its own track.

All in all, whoever you are, you'll find something to like in this anthology. It's just highly unlikely anyone's ever going to read through this, because comics are obscure enough as they are.

by Jeffrey Brown 

This is usually out of my range of comics, but it doesn't hurt when your friends lend you things! There are just a bit over 200 pages in this digest-size trade. Each page or 2 depicts a small moment in the author's life with one Theresa. Put together, they depict all the honest, awkward moments of a long-distance relationship. It's pretty excellent, with scenes like them playing air hockey together, or them sleeping with each other. Apparently this was Jeffrey's MFA Thesis project, which launched him into other works. Crazy!
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