Thee Comic Column #102: Black Science Returns

BlackScience7coverUnbelievable that I have not yet addressed this book in these pages, especially since Rick Remender has grown to be pretty much my favorite non-Grant Morrison writer over the last two years. All his books – whether for Marvel or his creator-owned stuff Image is currently putting out by the truckload (Yay!) – are fantastic; Mr. Remender treats iconic, cannon characters like Wolverine, Rogue, Janet Pym and Thor with not only the utmost respect but also the restraint of a Claremont; the cash cows don’t need to be the focal point of every story in a team book. He also has that je ne sais quoi that Morrison has, the one that enables him to construct fresh and intriguing approaches to otherwise vapid characters. He’s done this numerous times, whether it’s using X23 and the *ahem* female Ghostrider from a few years ago – quite effectively I might add – in a Venom storyline; making Wonderman a part of the Uncanny Avengers Unity squad or resurrecting that godawful Onslaught visage from one of the worst late 90s X-Men storylines for the upcoming AXIS event, Rick Remender has proven he has the chops to deconstruct possibly any character, examine what makes them tick (or not tick) and then put them back together inside the multi-faceted embrace of a fantastic story, ready to do their part and help carry the weight of some of the most involved and epic storytelling to grace superhero books in decades. Conversely, when we look at the man’s creator-owned series we find that there are no weak links, and it’s here that RR doesn’t have to challenge himself to update or bolster weak characters. No, in Deadly Class, Low and Black Science Mr. Remender just has to tell an outstanding story. And frankly, that is exactly what he does. Every time. Especially in Black Science.

Thee Comic Column #101: Grant Morrison & Frazer Irving’s Annihilator

2014-09-10-AnnilhatorCoverI first heard about Annihilator back somewhere around this past January. Excited at the prospect of one of my favorite writers having a new original book again I waited anxiously for it to arrive. Time passed as it always does – too quickly; I didn’t hear anything else and then forgot about Annihilator in the tide of all the other great books that have been knocking me out all year. Plus, Morrison’s stuff tends to hit in waves, so somewhere inside I think I recognized that shortly after the also long-awaited Multiversity hit Annihilator might rear it’s pincered head as well (now, where’s that Wonder Woman book? And yes, Grant Morrison is the only person that could get me to read WW). And lo and behold, it did! Dropping this past Wednesday from seemingly out of the blue, Annihilator is a new original series published by Legendary Comics and created by Mr. Morrison and Frazer Irving. Mr. Irving, whose beautifully unique style you may remember from other GM projects like the Seven Soldiers of Victory series Klarion the Witch Boy or the amazing penultimate stint on Batman & Robin. Frazer’s dark tone doesn’t fit all of Morrison’s projects, but the writer has a dark side that goes deep and for the ones that really get out there Mr. Irving is the perfect artist to bring them to life. Thus, if Irving’s presence and the set-up of this first issue are any indication, Annihilator is going to go to some terrifying dark places. We’re talking black hole dark, and fittingly Annihilator #1 opens at the edge of a black hole, specifically the real life IE 1740.7 2942. Sagittarius A*. From there we follow the character on the cover, one Max Nomax, who is not only something of an intergalactic super villain but also the main character in one-time wunderkind Hollywood screenwriter Ray Spass’s (pronounced “Space”) new screenplay. Spass needs this Max Nomax script to dig him out of the money-burning black hole he’s put himself in with drugs, booze, hookers and a handful of years since his most notable success. But Max Nomax may have other plans for Mr. Spass…

Thee Comic Column #100: The Five Graphic Novels Everyone Should Read

Preacher-59For the 100th entry into this column, a column meant to be a celebration of all things great in comics, I wanted to do something a little special. A host of ideas came to me, most of which would require a heck of a lot more time to write than I currently have in any given week. But there’s one thing that I’ve meant to do since this column began, something that harkens back to every comic shop I’ve ever been in or even my time working at a big box bookstore with a fairly hearty graphic novel section. Inevitably, in either place of employ, the good folks working there are often called upon to act as gatekeepers for the curious – “what’s good?” “Where should I start?” “What do you recommend?” And in no time during my thirty-eight years on planet Earf has this question been more relevant than now, when comic book culture IS pop culture. Everyday more and more people take a tip from AMC’s The Walking Dead or whatever the newest brilliant Marvel movie is and they flit about online and (hopefully) wander into comic book stores looking to find out if comic books/graphic novels are for them. “What should I read if I want to try to get into comics?” Oh, how I love those words. I used to write a column on where I identified myself as “The Opinionated Bastard”, largely because as anyone who knows me will tell you I have a lot of opinions, especially when it comes to great content to consume, and in no other area is that expertise more honed than in comics (well, I’m no slouch with music either, but Joup’s Thomas H. Williams and Chester Whelks have shown me I have a long way to go in that department). And so, I thought for this 100th edition of Thee Comic Column I would give the world the top five Graphic Novels I feel everyone should read, not just because they showcase just how much more graphic fiction is capable of than the uninitiated often consider, and not just because they are by this time mostly all iconic, but because in every sense of the words they are great, life-affirming contemplations on the human experience.

Thee Comic Column #99: Grant Morrison’s Multiversity

Comics-the-multiversity-1Anyone who reads this column on a weekly basis will no doubt notice I missed last week’s installment. That doesn’t happen very often, and it’s not so much that I wanted to start out this week’s column by explaining myself, it’s more the fact that last week’s absence directly helps define what I’ve been wanting to write about for two weeks but simply have not had the time or ability to figure out how exactly to do so. And if you somehow didn’t see the title of this piece then my confessed inability to comprehend and discuss today’s comic of choice may no doubt lead you to the conclusion that this slippery topic of discussion is none other than Grant Morrison’s new DC book Multiversity. 

Thee Comic Column #98: Bill Sienkiewicz’s Stray Toasters

Stray ToastersIt’s 1988 and I’m 12 years old. While out running errands with my mother in Worth, IL I get her to stop at Heroland Comics on 111th. This is a regular routine for us at this point. I’m always spending my meager allowance on comics, and as I’ve talked about often in these pages the limits on my funds ($5 a week? maybe $10?) dictates that I buy my essentials and then very carefully screen for any other purchases. This is why there’s a lot of series from the 80’s that I have arcs from but did not follow religiously. It’s also why some of the prestige format books that were rocking the comics world at the time remained out of my grasp for several years still. Bill Sienkiewicz’s Stray Toasters was definitely one of those latter –  although I don’t think it ever found the audience that Dark Knight Returns or Watchmen did. Stray Toasters is an anomaly among the ambitious, groundbreaking books of the late 80’s and unlike the aforementioned classics one that I looked through very carefully from the relative safety of the shelves; Stray Toasters was a book that genuinely scared me. Not, “Oh no, this is scary”, but “What the hell is this? Why does that man have a toaster for a head – or perhaps why does that toaster have a man’s body – and why is it killing that woman? My twelve year old mind, reared as it was on the relative sophistication of Larry Hama’s GIJOE and Chris Claremont’s Uncanny X-Men just had no capacity to process what the hell this was.

Thee Comic Column #97 Robert Kirkman Outcast!

outcast_02This is going to be short and sweet because I’m pushing to get the current novel I’ve been writing for two years finished by this Wednesday. It might not happen – I’m not going to rush the ending. But I have to know I did everything I could to at least try. I’m sooo close. But I also am not about to neglect my weekly column here so that leaves the question, without just throwing up something that is piss poor, what can I talk about that won’t lead into the kind of lengthy dissertation I’ve been increasingly wont to fall into here lately.

Thee Comic Column #96: Guarding the Galaxy

Starlord TradeAssurance: There are NO SPOILERS contained in this article. This is not a review of the film so much as a treatise on what it means to comics.

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