Monday, January 30, 2012

Art Attack: April 2012's Coolest Covers

-I included more covers this month from Dark Horse and Image than I ever have before. Will that incline me to sample their product more? I gotta say, it might. In particular, stuff like Prophet and the other Extreme Studios books are really grabbing my attention on visuals. Ditto New Deadwardians (Dan Abnett doesn't hurt there either). We shall see...

-I also included a lot of Avengers Art Appreciation variants and probably could have thrown a few more in there. I love seeing guys and girls cut loose with the Art Appreciation concept, the weirder the better, with icons I love being twisted and jumbled. In particular, Charles Paul Wilson III's adorable Incredible Hulk piece is precious and John Tyler Christopher's fine art Black Widow on Winter Soldier stands out.

-A lot of very scary covers too. Travel Foreman has really found a visceral groove on Animal Man, and the BPRD images are pretty terrifying; in particular, Becky Cloonan's Pickens County Horror is seriously grossing me out. For real, it's making me uncomfortable.

-There's nothing left to say about Marcos Martin's Daredevil covers. If there were, it would be a steady line of superlatives.

-Mike Deodato's New Avengers cover looks like Mike Deodato but not, y'know? It's got his signature stuff, but he's stretching, which is always appreciated. He does draw a kick ass Iron Fist.

-Alan Davis, man. I can never get enough.

-Love the shout out to Static's original look on Khary Randolph's Static Shock cover. That's an awesome little touch.

THE ACTIVITY #5 by Mitch Gerads
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #682 by Mike Del Mundo
AMERICA'S GOT POWERS #1 by Bryan Hitch
ANGEL & FAITH #9 by Rebekah Isaacs
ANIMAL MAN #8 by Travel Foreman
AVENGERS ASSEMBLE #2 by Mark Bagley
BPRD: HELL ON EARTH-THE LONG DEATH #3 by Duncan Fegredo
BPRD: HELL ON EARTH-THE PICKENS COUNTY HORROR #2 by Becky Cloonan
CONAN THE BARBARIAN #3 by John Paul Leon
CREEPY COMICS #8 by Richard Corben
DAREDEVIL #11 by Marcos Martin
DARK HORSE PRESENTS #11 by Tonci Zonjic
DEADPOOL #53 by Dave Johnson
FATALE #4 by Sean Phillips
THE FLASH #8 by Francis Manapul
THE GOON #39 by Eric Powell
HAUNT #25 by Nathan Fox
I, VAMPIRE #8 by Andrea Sorrentino
INCREDIBLE HULK #7 by Charles Paul Wilson III
iZOMBIE #24 by Mike Allred
MOON KNIGHT #12 by Alex Maleev
NEW AVENGERS #25 by Mike Deodato
NEW DEADWARDIANS #2 by I.N.J. Culbard
NEW MUTANTS #40 by Kris Anka
PROPHET #24 by Giannis Milonogiannis
RESURRECTION MAN #8 by Rafael Albuquerque
SAVAGE DRAGON #181 by Erik Larsen
SECRET AVENGERS #26 by Alan Davis
STATIC SHOCK #8 by Khary Randolph
SUPERGIRL #8 by George Perez
ULTIMATE COMICS ULTIMATES #9 by Kaare Andrews
UNCANNY X-FORCE #24 by Phil Noto
WINTER SOLDIER #4 by John Tyler Christopher
WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN #9 by Chris Bachalo
X-CLUB #5 by Rodin Esquejo

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Kevin & Robin Watch "Skins" Series 6: "Everyone"

Taking a cue from my fellow Bloggers, I decided to start a new weekly feature where every week my buddy Robin Wildman and I take a look at the latest episode of "Skins" and offer our extensive and insightful (ha!) fan perspective! This week, the premiere episode of Series 6! What have our favorite characters been up to during the break? Who hooked up with who? And how does it relate to '90s Board Games? Find out below as Kevin & Robin watch "Skins" Series 6, "Everyone!"


Kevin:
So, opening off the bat here, I've got to say that I am officially on team Maloysius! That's Mini/Alo shipping to you new comers. I know you must be very excited about that. I was a pretty big Minky supporter by the end of last season, mostly because a) I wanted Franky to get with someone and b) I thought Mini's protectiveness was kind of adorable. I really liked the idea of Mini pulling a 180 on a character she totally brutalized in the season premiere. But within ten minutes of this episode, I was definitely behind Mini and Alo getting together. Especially since Alo got pretty much zero love last season. He was well on the way to getting Anwar'ed. But their interactions (ever since he called her Minerva) have been delightfully hilarious.

Robin: I have been shipping Mini and Alo FOREVER. My "Skins"-obsessed roommate tells me the internet is upset that they got together too suddenly, to which I say, pay better attention, internet. There were signs, and you missed them. Keep up.

Kevin: Speaking of Mini, I don't know if I've mentioned this before but I've really grown to like that character. Like, I always enjoyed her early on, but as the first season went continued and then with the Series 6 premiere, I just think she's great. I can't even really pinpoint what it is. There's something about her. She has that kind of bitchiness to her that I tend to gravitate toward (yes, I have problems), but an underlying sweetness--well, her own brand of sweetness. It could also very well be that she kind of reminds me of Karen Gillen. I'm not the only one getting that, am I?

Robin: I also am a big Mini fan. I always liked that she was really insecure about sex (though I guess, not anymore?), because most of the "Skins" kids are way more confident than people actually are at that age. Also she had the best line of the episode, something about liking Franky better when she might have been a lesbian. But for the record, I don't really see the Karen Gillian thing. Maybe you connect them because both are Scottish?

Kevin: Yes, all Scottish women are the same to me. In that I love every single one of them.

Kevin: Getting to the episode itself, is it me or was the setup kind of weird? Like, they're vacationing in Morocco, just sort of chilling at this run down house. Is that, like, a normal thing British kids do?

Robin: Surely, this is NOT normal. I think I've mentioned before how now that I'm (mostly) a grown-up watching "Skins" (as opposed to the early seasons when I was closer to the characters' age), I spend a lot of time wigging out over how irresponsible they are. Like don't they have homework to do? How do they always have so much money for marijuana when hardly any of them have after-school jobs? Basically the whole first half this episode was me trying to determine who was funding this trip. And more importantly, did David Fucking Blood approve this? Seems unlikely. This episode also made me hate winter. It was difficult to watch in January.

Kevin: "Don't they have homework to do?" Seriously? Jesus, Robin. You and your Lawful Good behavior.

Kevin: Oh! Franky! How could not have mentioned her already. For those who don't know, I was super in love with Franky last season, but right from go we see a very different Franky this episode. She certainly looked like she's grown since we last saw her. And it's funny, cause when she first shows up this episode, I noticed that her braces were gone. And I thought to myself, "Huh. That's interesting. I wonder if the creators did that to signify her growth." Then I thought to myself, "No, you idiot. The actress probably just probably didn't need braces anymore."

Robin: Franky, man. How gorgeous is she in this episode? (Don't answer that actually.) And, also, how bizarre is it that she looks that gorgeous? I get that people reinvent themselves a lot in high school and getting your first boyfriend would probably lead to some of that, but it was really jarring to see her, say, sleeping in sexy bras and whatnot, when last season she was wearing men's briefs around. So, I don't know. I'll reserve judgement on new Franky till I've seen more of her, I guess.

Kevin: Yeah, I agree. I'll see how I feel about "FemFranky" as the season goes. You hit the whole "first boyfriend" thing, too. She's been dating Matty it seems, and immediately we see that they're having major problems. I'm wondering if that's because by her nature Franky can't be in a relationship or if it's just because it's Matty and he's, well, Matty. You've never liked him, right?

Robin: OF COURSE she and Matty are having problems. He's the worst. Give me an Alo over a Matty any day.

Kevin: Incidentally, speaking of Franky's new wardrobe, how awesome was Rich's pink tank top and shorts? That had to be one of my favorite bits this episode.

Robin: How awesome were ALL the clothes in this episode. I really want Mini's red one-piece. Just saying.

Kevin: What is your obsession with clothes? This is at least the fifth or sixth thing in which you've mentioned how adorable the clothing was as a main point. I believe it was the first thing you said to me about the HUNTRESS miniseries.

Robin: Huntress's clothes WERE really cute in that miniseries.

Kevin: Was it me or did that Luke guy look super weird? There was something off about him. And he's like some weird drug dealing, creeper. Plus, Franky was all over him. I was like, "What? Why? He's super freaky looking!"

Robin: I'm really happy you brought this up. I watched this episode with my roommates and we got into a HUGE thing over whether that guy was incredibly attractive or incredibly terrible. For the record, I vote terrible looking. He looks like the weird 90s-guy dates from that board game Dream Phone. But maybe some people are into that?

Kevin: Then there's the big thing that happened this episode. Franky drives off with freaky dude. Matty goes speeding off after her with Liv and Grace in the car with him. Sure enough, car flips, and poor Grace gets hurt BAD. You know, since her and Rich got together, I think every fan knew she had a target on her back. This is "Skins," after all. Happiness cannot last for an extended period of time.

Robin: It sounds weird to say, "I'm glad this happened." But they're fictional, so, it doesn't matter. I'm glad she's in the hospital. The show wasn't going to have them be happy and drama-free, so I prefer this to breaking them up over something dumb.

Kevin: Well, this is "Skins." It's either in the hospital or DEAD. Obviously, the repercussions of this episode are going to play out for a while. Franky obviously feels very guilty about what happened. Rich must be PIIIISSSSSSEEDDDD. Nick's a bit torn. And Matty's run off. I'm sure you're of the opinion that Matty actually doesn't even need to come back?

Robin: Matty can stay away forever for all I care.

Kevin: Let's talk a few predictions for the season. Who do you think is hooking up with who? Obviously, Alo and Mini are secretly together. But it seems every other relationship has been torn up. I'm wondering if Franky and Nick's guilt will pull them together. Liv... I'm not too sure what her story is going to be this season. Last season it seems she was just the girl who got with other people's love interests, and drama ensued. Rich... poor, poor Rich. What do you think?

Robin: I actually really like the idea of Franky and Nick having a mismatched romance founded on mutual guilt, but I wouldn't want them together for all time. And since Liv seems to have nothing going on, I predict her storyline will dovetail with the new character's. Though probably not romantically, as I just read online that he's gay.

That's all from Robin and me this week! Next week, we got Episode 2 headed our way, focusing on our favorite metal man, Rich!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Should Have Beens: The Ray

Probably (maybe?) hundreds of new characters are created in super hero comics each year, yet only a precious few (if that) catch enough to even become reserve Avengers or Justice League alternates, let alone headliners. A lot of times the most popular “new” characters are just old friends wearing new clothes or familiar names (though I’m not complaining, because I love me some Flash Thompson as Venom and Kaine as Scarlet Spider; thanks Steve “recycle, reduce, reuse and close the loop” Wacker). The true newbies are like so many little sperm struggling to reach the egg, with only one ultimately surviving (my wife is a labor and deliver nurse and I fear it’s beginning to affect my metaphors).

Take this situation and multiply by the fold of a hundred foil variants in the 90’s, where a larger market, more publishers and an exponentially wider swath of titles with new ones being launched seemingly every day (not just Wednesday) meant thousands upon thousands of characters we barely got 12 issues to meet before they faded off into obscurity.

In large part, the concepts that didn’t survive and haven’t experienced a renaissance since make sense in retrospect, as they had the feel of the assembly line, but in some cases, I remain somewhat baffled by the ones that got away.

The Ray was a legacy character before that was that big a thing at DC (you had the Silver Age successors and Wally West, but the concept didn’t full on explode until the JSA series). I was drawn to the character without knowing a thing about him because he had such a cool, striking look designed by current Marvel CCO Joe Quesada. During an era where most costumes were either more colorful than the set of Flashdance or simplified to a t-shirt and jeans, Ray bucked every trend. When he was powered down, he had the intriguing combination of mostly white with yellow plus a neat jacket and unique helmet, then while using his powers he went jet black offset by patches of white. He looked like nothing else out there and was expertly handled by Quesada, Howard Porter and others.

Ray also had a crazy origin wherein he grew up in his boarded up basement raised by his uncle and privately tutored because his father, the original Ray, didn’t want him exposed to sunlight which would activate his powers too early; moreover, he was told he was allergic to light, making his childhood lonely and downright freaky. He eventually meets his dad and refuses his request to succeed him as a hero—understandable given that this dude let him rot in a basement for the first 18 years of his life—but then eventually does it for the greater good.

It’s a very unusual genesis for a character with grim elements that weren’t gritty just for the sake of, but because they were story driven. It also set Ray apart personality-wise as he was leery and distrusting with good reason given his upbringing, but also genial and eager to experience the world; he could flip the switch from surly to na├»ve like your average teenager but there was story meat as to why.

Ray was put on the Justice League pretty quickly and became the centerpiece of Justice League Task Force not long after. I tend to think that was maybe too much too soon as he didn’t really have time to develop organically and become a true fan favorite before he was stacking up next to the (relative) big guns and instantly becoming less impressive by comparison. I remember a moment during the climax of Zero Hour where Ray is the grizzled “been there, done that” guy giving Damage a hard time and thinking how that seemed odd given that he’d only been in existence a couple years, but a lot of stuff was crammed into those years.

I daresay The Ray was a character a bit ahead of his time. The persona created by Jack C. Harris and later honed by Christopher Priest is one that could really have thrived in the more character/story-driven last decade as opposed to the flashy 90’s. If he debuted in the past 10 years, I believe The Ray could have caught on as a cult favorite with strong followings among the type of people who dig something like Invincible (story of a kid lied to by his hero father and forced to grow up too fast). I also think he was put on the Justice League too fast as it felt like a case of that brand name being used to foist a character upon us rather than it being awarded to him because we voiced our approval.

Every time Ray has shown up since his initial run, there’s usually a requisite nostalgia cheer, but more a stigma of coming from an era which wasn’t ready for him, which is a shame.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

30 Comics I Dig

100 BULLETS #86

THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF THE ESCAPIST #8

ANNIHILATION PROLOGUE #1

ARCHIE MEETS THE PUNISHER #1

AVENGERS #13

CABLE & DEADPOOL #21

DEADSHOT #1

FANTASTIC FOUR #67

THE FLASH #164

GREEN LANTERN #78

INFINITY CRUSADE #5

JLA INCARNATIONS #2

LEGEND #3

MADROX #1

THE MUPPET SHOW #1

NEW TEEN TITANS #33

NEW WARRIORS #37

NOVA #12

THE RAY #1

ROBIN III #2

SHAME ITSELF #1

STAN LEE MEETS DOCTOR STRANGE #1

STORMWATCH: POST HUMAN DIVISION #1

SUPERBOY ANNUAL #1

TASKMASTER #3

ULTIMATE X-MEN #10

UNCANNY X-MEN #297

USAGI YOJIMBO #100

WOLVERINE: SAUDADE #1

X-TREME X-MEN #8