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Friday, December 29, 2006

Cooke's "New Frontier" a good read

So, no new comics to close out 2006. If you get Bargain Comics' e-mail newsletter, then you know that no Colorado shops got their weekly shipment of comics. So expect two loads of comics next week.

I've had the week off, and used part of that time to read the Absolute Edition of Darwyn Cooke's "DC: The New Frontier." I'm not a big fan of Cooke's retro, somewhat cartoony art; I'm more drawn to the photorealism of, say, Alex Ross or Greg Land. But the art did grow on me. And the story, which reimagines the birth of the Justice League in the '50s and early '60s, quickly sucked me in.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Looking to the new year

The latest issue of Wizard is devoted to a preview of 2007; my next Comics Fan column, meanwhile, is on Marvel's plans for the new year.

So what are you looking forward to most in 2007? For me, it's the end of Marvel's "Civil War" and DC's weekly "52" series. My guess on "Civil War" is that the pro-registration side wins, more or less, with the anti-registration heroes going further underground but with the other-dimension prison created by Reed Richards destroyed. But what do I know? "52" is even more of a mystery, but it will be fun to see how all the varied storylines come together.

I'm also looking forward to the new "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" series from Dark Horse, in which Joss Whedon brings us an eighth season of the TV show in comic-book form; Marvel's "World War Hulk"; and IDW's launching of its "Star Trek" line. And then, of course, there's "Spider-Man 3" hitting theaters in May.

Monday, December 25, 2006

"Superman II" in my Christmas stocking

So, how was your Christmas? I got a Spider-Man "holiday set" that included two Spider-Man mugs plus chocolate cookies that my daughter determined were inedible. I also got "Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut." Plus a windmill, which I realize has nothing to do with comics, but I've wanted one for a long time.

Friday, December 22, 2006

"Casualties of War" - exploring the conflict

I finally got to the comic-book shop today. It was a pretty big Marvel week for me, including the first issue of “Illuminati,” a Thing-themed issue of “Fantastic Four” and “New Avengers” No. 26, promising the return of Hawkeye and the Scarlet Witch.

But what I’m looking most forward to reading when I get home tonight is “Casualties of War,” a one-shot “Civil War” tie-in that probes the conflict between Iron Man and Captain America. So far during “Civil War,” the two heroes have seemed out of character to me, particularly Iron Man. So I’m hoping the book delves deep enough to show me that the conflict hasn’t been as black-and-white to the two as it seems.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Overnight at the comics shop

I figured we'd be left waiting for new comics this week, but Bargain Comics manager Mike Coco says his shipment came in Wednesday ahead of the storm.

Mike, however, was stuck overnight in the shop. With I-25 closed down, he couldn't get home. Doesn't sound like he had too bad of a night, though. He used a blanket to make a bed in the back of the shop, munched on items from a Christmas basket and, as he notes, had no lack of reading material. "For the first time in I don’t know how long, I got to read the comics first.”

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

King on "The Gunslinger Born"

USA Today has a story today on Marvel’s “The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born,” based on Stephen King’s “The Dark Tower” novels. In the story, King details his role with the comic book, explaining, “I had a lot of involvement in casting the course of the narrative, and in fact suggested that these illustrated narratives should focus on Roland’s young manhood.”

The comic, due in February, is written by Peter David and Robin Furth and illustrated by Jae Lee and Richard Isanove. Though I’m a King fan, I’ve never gotten into “The Dark Tower.” But I might pick up the comic just on the basis of the art. When I was talking to Marvel’s Joe Quesada the other day about plans for 2007, he raved about the “Dark Tower” art. And King says of Jae Lee’s art on the book: “His work has never been better.”

Monday, December 18, 2006

Cookies, cons and Stan Lee on TV

A few bits and pieces here ...

My 12-year-old daughter found out this weekend why artists often find drawing Spider-Man a struggle: It’s all that webbing. Using a Spider-Man face-decorating cookie set I bought at Michael’s, she made a dozen Spider-Man cookies. And they’re, well, let’s just say not professional quality.

I read a New York Daily News review today of “Identity,” the new game show that NBC is launching with airings all this week. Why should you care? Because Stan Lee is in Thursday’s episode, according to the review, as the contestant that night must match “Creator of Spider-Man” and 11 other occupations to the dozen folks she faces.

Going to be in the Big Apple in February? Marvel announced today that Stephen King will be a guest of honor at New York Comic Con, Feb. 23-25. He’ll be discussing the Marvel series adapted from his “The Dark Tower.”

Friday, December 15, 2006

The new Fantastic Four?

Marvel Comics just sent out this image, along with the question: “Is this the new FF?”

Well, if they’re bothering to send it out, my guess is yes. Which would mean Black Panther, Storm, the Thing and the Human Torch are the post-“Civil War” Fantastic Four.

If so, I figure it’s got to be temporary. Somewhere down the road, Reed and Sue Richards will mend fences and the FF will get back to its old self. When “Fantastic Four 2” arrives in theaters in the summer, I can’t see having a team in the comics that readers won’t recognize.

But, hey, I’ve been wrong before.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Note to the Big Three: Move it!

Among the comics I picked up yesterday at Bargain Comics was “Justice League” No. 4. Don’t get me wrong - I enjoy Brad Meltzer’s writing - but I’m losing patience here.

Four issues in and Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are still hanging out in the cave? Quit leaving all the action to the trio of Green Lantern, Arsenal and Black Canary and get moving, guys!

I’m also losing track of the bad guys; it’s sort of like peeling an onion with different layers of villainy. And the quick panel-to-panel scene cuts can be confusing.

As always, though, Meltzer includes a lot of deft character touches; I particularly liked Black Canary’s tough talk. (The art to the left, featuring the kick-butt Black Canary, is the cover to No. 6). I also enjoyed the final-page twist, which I did NOT see coming.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Marvel in 2007: One war ends, another starts

I talked to Marvel Comics’ Joe Quesada today about Marvel’s plans for 2007. I’d like to say I weaseled some top-secret info from him about the end of “Civil War,” but I didn’t.

He did say there will actually be a winner and a loser in the war, with lasting impact on the Marvel Universe. There may not be superhero clashes on the streets anymore, but the divisions caused by the war will continue.

Also in 2007: a big Spider-Man story by Quesada and J. Michael Straczynski, a new Thor series written by Straczynski and, of course, “World War Hulk,” an action epic intended to “cleanse the palette” after the heavy themes of “Civil War.” I’ll have more on Marvel’s 2007 plans in a future Comics Fan column.

"Spider-Man: Reign" proves a hit

Marvel reports that the first issue of the “Spider-Man: Reign” miniseries by Kaare Andrews has sold out at Diamond Distributors and that there’ll be a second printing.

I didn’t pick up the first issue. Should I? Any recommendations out there? Some fans on the message boards have derided it as a Spider-Man imitation of “The Dark Knight Returns,” which saw an aged Batman return to the streets of Gotham. Here’s what Marvel says:

“A searing vision of Spider-Man’s future, ‘Spider-Man: Reign’ cuts to the core of what makes Peter Parker a hero. In a future New York City where super heroes are banished and those closest to him are gone, will Peter Parker find the inner strength to be a hero once again or will he succumb to the despair that has ravaged the Big Apple?”

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Looking ahead to March

While we’re all trying to just get through the holidays and to the end of the year, DC and Marvel are looking to the future. March, to be exact. Both publishers have posted their solicitations for March.

Marvel doesn’t offer much information, though. With the end of “Civil War” in January, Marvel’s pretty much keeping a lid on the post-Civil War landscape. So the soliciations for “Black Panther,” “Captain America,” “Iron Man,” “New Avengers” and others simply read, “Classified information.” There is, however, the launch of a second Avengers title, “The Mighty Avengers,” to look forward to. And apparently a key development in “She-Hulk” as Jen discovers who shot the Hulk into space.

Over at DC, the big news is “52,” as it heads toward the big finish. And it doesn’t sound pretty. Here’s the solicitation for weeks 44 to 47: “In the month to come, death and destruction will reign supreme in the DCU. Storylines will intersect with horrifying results, a main character will die, another will do something he hasn't done in years, and one will fall from grace. A war is coming, and the end is near.”

Friday, December 08, 2006

Joker vs. Robin: Worth a look

If you didn’t pick up a copy of “Detective Comics” No. 826 at your friendly neighborhood comic-book shop this week, you’re missing out on a taut, race-ahead tale by writer Paul Dini.

The story starts with a chance encounter between Robin and the Joker, which leads to a life-or-death struggle for Robin. The Joker’s never been wackier — or scarier. And Robin shows his inner strength by keeping his cool in what appears to be an impossible situation. Batman doesn’t make an appearance until the last page or so, but Robin shows he doesn't need him anyway.

"Smallville" hits a speed bump, but keep watching

Last night’s “Smallville” seemed kind of lame to me — your basic “meteor-freak” episode that could have fit in way back with the first season. And Lana kept Lex Luthor - and us - waiting to see if she’ll accept his marriage proposal. But she did come to the stunning realization that money, as in Lex’s millions or billions, means power. Duh.

The best part was the coming attractions at the end of the show, showing the Justice League forming to take on the superpowered army apparently being formed by Lex. I’m jazzed.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

DC's Justice Society returns

Comics were a day late this week because of weather woes, so today was comic-book day.

Topping my stack: The first issue of “Justice Society of America,” as DC’s oldest superhero team gets a new start. I’ve only had a chance to flip through it, but it looks great. The last page is a teaser to the next year’s developments, and it certainly has me hooked. Once you’ve taken a look, head over to Newsarama.com for a multiple-part interview with “Justice Society” writer Geoff Johns.

Also in my rather short stack: “Marvel Holiday Special,” “Detective Comics” No. 826 and the latest weekly installment of “52,” in which Ralph Dibny reveals that he has determined the true identity of Supernova. He doesn’t tell us readers, though. Has anybody else out there figured it out?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The "Heroes" come together

Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t last night’s “Heroes” the first to feature all our heroes in one episode?

As promised, a character did die, but it wasn’t one of the main heroes. It was Eden, who killed herself to prevent Sylar from stealing her powers - and who I mistakenly thought was a big baddie a few weeks ago. Whoops.

The other big development: Peter’s vision of being a human bomb. Now that he’s saved the cheerleader (will they ever explain how by doing that he saved the world?), it looks like the focus will be on getting Peter to not blow up New York City.

And the wildest development: the painting of Hiro battling a dinosaur, which presumably is predicting the future. Well, his future, which may find him in the distant past. Confused yet? All I know is the next new episode isn't until Jan. 22, and that's too long to wait.

Friday, December 01, 2006

You, too, can be Spider-Man - or not

I got a copy this week of “The Spider-Man Handbook,” the latest superhero training manual from Quirk Books.

Previous versions were devoted to Batman and Superman. “The Batman Handbook” fueled fantasies of being a superhero with handy information on throwing a batarang, executing a back flip and so on. After all, if you could hone your body to perfection and had Bruce Wayne’s millions, maybe you could be Batman.

Since presumably you’re not from Krypton, you can’t be Superman, so “The Superman Handbook” focused on how to be a hero in everyday life. “The Spider-Man Handbook” falls somewhere in between those two books. There are bits of useful info such as sections on “How to Crawl Up a Wall” and “How to Deal With a Nightmare Boss” (as in J. Jonah Jameson.) Other part are just for grins: Step 1 of “How to Build a Web-Shooter,” for example, instructs you to engineer “a highly adhesive, shear-thinning, air-hardening/dissolving, nontoxic, fire-resistant polymer with three times the tensile strength of steel.” Hey, no problem.