Monthly archives: December, 2006

Book of Doom- Holiday Edition

Due to holiday stuff that’s going on, the Book of Doom is going to be put on hold for a little bit. Sorry to all of our faithful readers (both of you) that look forward to out roundtable reviews every Saturday. See you in 2007.

Identity Catastrophe

Flipping through the wonders of TV’s dead winter season this evening (I was looking for an NBA game. I feel compelled to excuse my tube watching), I hit upon NBC’s new craptacular reality show Identity. In the show, Penn Jillette talks loudly (and shows that his schtick doesn’t work without the funnier half of Penn & Teller) while a contestant looks over 12 random people and tries to attach each of them to an “identity.” The identities range from professional bull rider to “was attacked by a shark.”

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingNormally, I would watch this for all of about 1/20th of a second, but tonight I noticed a familiar (if aged) face in the back row of mystery persons. Yep, it was none other than Stan Lee. I thought, surely, it couldn’t be him. Just couldn’t. I mean, yeah, for the past few decades he’s pretty well coasted on his glories of creating some of the most famous comics characters of all time. He’s made 19 cameo appearances and appeared as himself in nearly 50 movies and TV shows, running the gamut from Jugular Wine: A Vampire Odyssey to The Hulk: An MTV Movie Special. (For those English majors out there, this is what we consider a “false range”)

As someone young enough to not respect Lee for anything more than a creative mind (yeah, his writing was crap. Creative crap, but crap), I don’t know why I felt such an overwhelming sense of shame and revulsion at seeing this legend propped up before a small studio audience as some pretty bimbo named Nikki tried to figure out whether he was the creator of Spider-Man.

It played out as follows:

Nikki — “No offense, Stan, but Spider-Man is pretty old.”

[Awkward laughter]

Penn — “Stan, are you the creator of Spider-Man?”

Stan — “My spider-sense tells me that is so.”

It was just as bad as it sounds, a terribly uncomfortable scene in which this doddering old man was used as an unfunny joke for a TV show that nobody cares about. While I do feel somewhat sorry for Lee, even more I feel aggravated with him. Yes, the spotlight is a hard thing to let go of, but those who revere Stan Lee and have revered him for many, many years are comic book fans. He needs to realize that those loyal readers are who trained a spotlight on him, and if he wants to keep in their minds, he can do so through comic-book related projects.

By keeping on with these other appearances, he’s only making a fool of himself, and making comics appear foolish to non-readers.

A tough category

As several have noted, the Legion’s best of 2006 is coming up soon, and while I can’t remember a lot of my personal winners from last year, one stands out in particular – my selection for “Best single issue.”

It was Wolverine #32, which I believe came right after Mark Millar’s long run of killing, zombifying and eventually restoring the lead lug. It was set in a concentration camp, and I think was supposed to be a tribute to the late Will Eisner. But it was a fantastic issue in which Wolverine was really just a background character (although an extremely important one).

The standalone single-issue story has pretty much fallen by the wayside in a comics era of writing for the trade. But this year has seen some fantastic single issue stories. I wrote previously about the absolute blast that was Superman / Batman Annual #1, and numerous members of the Legion have commented on Paul Dini’s amazing run on Detective Comics, which so far has been a series of single-issue stories.

But I have to say, as close as I was to not picking up the issue due to its Christmas theme and its transitional role between creative teams, Wolverine may take my vote two years in a row.

Yes, it’s a Christmas issue. Yes, Christmas issues usually favor temporal references and sentimentality over substance (see this week’s 52). Yes, it costs an extra dollar for what is apparently a bonus-sized issue. But it has some great characterization of Logan and a payoff that’s as abrupt as it is poignant (and not designed to simply show how “tough” Wolverine is, as some reviewers have claimed).

I’m not trying to sway the voting here – just saying if you are enjoying the single-issue renaissance of 2006, snag Wolverine #49 before Jeph Loeb makes the title “hot” again next month.

Cheerful Abandon by Joshua Smeaton

While writing about Undercard, the new boxing comic from Dennis Culver and Chris Gumprich (read an interview with them here) I happened upon the work of a friend of Culver’s, the well-named Joshua Smeaton, who works mainly as an illustrator. He has a new book out called Cheerful Abandon, a fun collection of short slice-of-life stories.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingIn addition to the pretty cover you see here, the book holds seven stories in 24 pages. Smeaton’s illustrations are cartoony along the lines of Alex Robinson, though not so advanced in shading and without big, splashy pages.

Smeaton keeps the stories confined pretty tightly to a straightforward panel structure, but it fits the subject material, which is an assortment of biographical (I assume) stories that are very small in scope and without heft. While some could level that as criticism, I say the work is simplistically fun. Mostly these are stories of the types of shenanigans that every guy engages in at some point. Things like tossing phone books from a roof, battling with snap pops, pranking your friends and seeing a ninja at the beach. The only adventure is into Ikea. Onward, Average Joe!

If it sounds interesting but you’re not quite ready to drop the $4 cover price and however much for shipping and handling, you can get a better idea of the book by visiting Smeaton’s cartoon journal, which is a surprisingly extensive collection of quick illustrations from his daily existence. You can find that here.

To buy the book, visit Smeaton’s store here.

And as always, if you have a book that you’d like us to review, you can send any of the Doomers a message.

An early best-of list

It’s never too early to departmentalize the year, and in that vein, Publisher’s Weekly (which offers the worth-a-look PW Comics Week and a comics blog) had their critics vote for favorite graphic novels, with those books receiving the most votes earning the crown. Or whatever award they hand out.

The list is available here.

I’m not quite ready to close the door on 2006, but after looking through the PW list, I can prophesize that mine will look a little different. For starters, Rick Veitch’s excellent 9/11 reflection Can’t Get No somehow was only an honorable mention. More egregious, my favorite GN of the year (and that of many, many others) wasn’t even mentioned. That’s right, no Pride of Baghdad! I was so surprised by the exclusion that I double-checked the list three times.

The PW cast redeemed themselves with inclusions like Scott Pilgrim, Absolute: New Frontier and Marvel Zombies.

Eventually, you should be seeing some Best of 2006 entries here. If you’re feeling nostalgic, or just massively bored, here are our picks and pans from 2005.

Previews – Warhammer and Left on Mission (BOOM! Studios)

Those gracious gents at BOOM! Studios sent over a couple of previews. First, that for the upcoming first issue of Warhammer 4000: Damnation Crusade, which comes out tomorrow.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingWhat you’ve got to love about BOOM! is how unabashedly they revel in their niche. They know what they want to do — big, tough stories that don’t drip testosterone but gush it — and each series works to that end. They are the Spike TV of comics.

Just from the name alone, you should be able to peg Warhammer 4000 as perfectly fitting that setup. And that it does. There are vague Christian images and phrases (the cross on uniforms and a mission referred to as a “Crusade”), but if there’s a great Catholic allegory going on here, it’s lost below a splattering of blood and guts. Oh, and big guns. There are those too.

The storyline is typically brief. It’s the future. People are fighting. They wear big space-suits and wield huge guns. Amazingly, writer Dan Abnett takes a couple pages at the end to fill in a few unknowns. Like, what’s that really big thing with all the guns? The real point of the book seems to be ripping off a very wide range of “guy stuff” in a fun way. He-Man, The Terminator, Gladiator and Soldier.

Perhaps the best praise I can give the book is that it seems way too good to be based on a video game. Take that as you will.

BOOM also just announced a new ongoing series, Left On Mission. It’s a spy thriller sort of thing, and who would’ve thunk, but it’s being compared to that venerable “guy” franchise, James Bond. The first issue hits in March. Here’s what BOOM! says:

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingCreated by Chip Mosher, LEFT ON MISSION features stunning pencil and inkwork from rising star Francesco (Sea of Red, The Black Coat) Francavilla with two first issue covers from Steph Stamb.

A spy thriller in the vein of The Bourne Identity, LEFT ON MISSION spotlights former agent Eric Westfall who has been called out of his perfect suburban retirement, complete with wife and kid, to recover an agent gone rogue. He has to stop his target from auctioning a stolen hard-drive, chock full of classified info, on the black market for $50 million. His mission: turn the target back into a loyal agent for the government, or kill him. But things get complicated when it’s revealed that Westfall has been called back to duty specifically because he has history with his target – romantic history. Will he be able to take down Emma, his ex-lover? LEFT ON MISSION is a monthly series for fans of gritty, dark espionage thrillers like Casino Royale!

“All three of these creators are talents to watch,” said BOOM! Studios publisher Ross Richie. “Most people are familiar with our roster of creators, whether it be Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, EUREKA creator Andrew Cosby, or EUREKA series writer Johanna Stokes, among many others. While we have an array of seasoned veterans well known for the stature of their creations, I’m confident that newcomer Chip Mosher will join their ranks. Francesco pounds out bold, confident pages of lush brushwork with great regularity. He’s a powerful storyteller who’s really hitting his stride. And Stamb, on the covers, is a revelation.”

This Christmas has seen a makeover of the venerable James Bond franchise into a more realistic, accessible, darker series of films – to great success. The Bourne franchise set the stage, with the third installment of the series on the way soon. LEFT ON MISSION operates in this new film tradition, while at the same time bringing a new voice onto the scene.

“Our story’s really the story of a guy who’s found safety and peace, but now has to go back into his previous life and face potential tragedy and danger,” said series writer Mosher. “This isn’t just about gunplay. It’s a dark emotional journey honing in on a man who has to grapple with ghosts of his past, and fears they’ll consume him.”

Meaningless Awards of the Week- 12/13/06

JLA 4Most Inappropriate Belt Buckle of the Week- Red Arrow

Surprisingly, it wasn’t one of those Marvel belt buckles that are being advertised in every issue. The inappropriate belt buckle I speak of is of course the one R-Red Arrow is shown sporting on the cover of Justice League of America #4. Decked out in what will assumedly be his costume in the near future, the hero formerly known as Arsenal (until Hal Jordan kept accidentally calling him Roy in front of the villains) is shown sporting a nice big “G” belt buckle. Did DC let Michael Turner think he was drawing Green Arrow, or can he just not draw “R”s? Judging by his inability to draw people to accurate proportions, it might actually be the latter.

Line of the Week- Battle Pope’s former landlady (who I’m sure has a name but I’m too lazy to look it up), Battle Pope #12

Just in time for the holidays!

“Speaking of tight asses, do me a favor and point Santa to my bedroom sometime. I want to see the size of his candy cane.”

Artist of the Week/Image Jean-Claude Van Doom Was too Lazy to Scan of the Week- Darwyn Cooke, The Spirit #1

For the second week in a row, Jean-Claude Van Doom named not only my favorite artist of the week in his “Worst to First” reviews, but my favorite panel from the issue. Technically a splash page in this case. Enjoy:

The Spirit 1


Book of Doom: Wonder Man #1

For the Book of Doom this week, we decided, well, I decided, to take on Wonder Man #1, written by Peter David and drawn by Andrew Currie. Here’s the synopsis, thanks to

Meet Lady Killer – the dangerous assassin who comes head-to-head with the Avenger called Wonder Man! But Wonder Man doesn’t want to just stop her; he’s made a bet with a movie producer to rehabilitate her into a hero! Is this too much for even the mighty Simon Williams? Fortunately, he’s got Ms. Marvel and X-Men’s Beast in his corner…

Sounds interesting, right? Here’s what we had to say about it:

Worst to first: 12/13/06

This’ll be the last of these before Christmas, most likely, as I’m headed to the rural hinterlands of western Nebraska, where the only thing more rare than a comic book store is a solid Internet connection. Okay, it’s not that bad. But I’ll be out of the loop all the same. So, without delay, here’s the week that was from the crappiest book I read to the best…

Six: Justice League of America #4

Well, for the second week in a row there’s a really strong book at the bottom of the order. I know all us Internet fans complain about the comics world plenty, but I’d say it’s pretty clear that this is simply a great time to be a comic book fan. And what better of example is there than famed novelist Brad Meltzer writing a straight-up action story? This issue continues the mysterious unveiling of Meltzer’s mystery plot, with a nice surprise villain at the end as well as continued moments of humanity from “Reddy,” a nickname I could really do without.

One problem was that without the narrative device of the three big guns looking over their superhero trading cards (which set up scenes with those heroes), the issue took on a disjointed feel. Also, my shop only had the Michael Turner bonus cover, tempting me to tear it from the book.

Five: Welcome to Tranquility

This is a week late, yes. I thought about getting it last week, didn’t for some reason, then thought better of it this week and added to the pile. Good choice. This is easily the cleverest book I’ve read in a good long time, which owes to fun-yet-only-slightly-annoying art but mostly to Gail Simone. While I don’t have the crazy love for Simone like, say, Redhead Fangirl, I do really, really enjoy her work. And this series seems to be a perfect “throw whatever zany ideas you have at the wall” kind of forum. I mean, The Emoticon? An old man who’s forgotten the secret word that turns on his powers and spends all day reading from dictionaries of various languages? These are ree-diculously clever gags. And what’s great is Simone doesn’t rely on those to carry the book. They just brighten the world.

One thing I’m not sure about: The annoying TV reporter who acts as a pseudo-narrator is just that – annoying. I’m sure she’ll play a role eventually, but in this issue she seemed a bit unnecessary and took focus away from much more interesting characters.

Four: The Spirit #1

Iconic hero? Check. Dynamite creative team? Check. Will Eisner sentimentality? Check.

So why only fourth place? Well, it was a really strong week. And, after digging through some classic Spirit stories for an article I’m writing for another publication, I was ready to jump head first into the Spirit nostalgia. This issue was good, don’t get me wrong. It was a ton of fun and balanced in the contemporary commentary that Eisner was noted for. It just seemed (much as Batman/The Spirit last week) like a bit of a trifling affair. I wasn’t expecting the density of Ellis or Moore, but this being a first issue and what’s sure to be a first introduction to the character for many, there wasn’t enough weight to Denny Colt.

Quickly: The Pill is a greatly disgusting villain, the scene where Spirit cuts loose from the trunk is typical of Cooke’s subtle brilliance, the TV captions are pretty clever, it’s nice to see Ebony as something other than a caricature (but if you change his appearance, why not the name as well?) and the opening splash page is one of the coolest pieces of art I’ve seen.

Week Thirty-Two

Is Ralph Dibny dead? It’s doesn’t seem plausible, since he’s interacted with so many characters throughout this series, but I think he’s either dead or going to die soon. He’s told that the end is written, and he wrote it himself, in the Ambassador Hotel in May. Remember, the first time we see him in “52” is in Week One, in the Ambassador, with a gun in his mouth. Be careful what you wish for, he says. So he’s dead.

What else happens in this issue? Well, Ralph fights a Yeti and spends some time talking about stuff with some dude in Nanda Parbat. It’s really not that interesting, aside from the bit I mentioned earlier.

Plus, Osiris tries to join the Teen Titans and is shot down. And the space jerks are hanging out, ready to fight.

All in all, it’s an uneventful week. Nothing really happens. The art’s so-so, and the story is just laying some groundwork for upcoming weeks.

I have nothing to say. Other than what I’ve said.

See ya in seven.