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Saturday, May 8, 2010

Spotlight On: Invincible Iron Man

By now you're probably aware of Iron Man 2, the sequel to 2008's blockbuster Iron Man movie, which opened yesterday to excited audiences everywhere.  Over the course of the next few years, Marvel Entertainment will also be releasing Thor and Captain American films, with the goal of joining their stories with that of Iron Man in the projected Avengers franchise.  As the Marvel universe rapidly expands on celluloid, perhaps you'd like to familiarize yourself with our heroes in print!  For the current hot property, look no further than Matt Fraction's Eisner-winning take on Invincible Iron Man.

The superhero Civil War has ended, the Skrulls' Secret Invasion has been thwarted, and S.H.I.E.L.D. has disbanded.  H.A.M.M.E.R., the security force that took S.H.I.E.L.D.'s place, is run by the decidedly villainous Norman Osbourne, who has access to all the power he could ever want, save the secrets stored in the disgraced Tony Stark's computer-enhanced brain. So begins a harrowing chase as Tony scrambles to tie up his loose ends and safeguard his valuable knowledge(essentially backing it up like a computer program and erasing the hard drive of his mind piece by piece) , keeping one step ahead of the most powerful and ruthless police force on earth.  Along for the ride are personal assistant Pepper Potts and former S.H.I.E.L.D. director Maria Hill, both of whom get the chance to shine as heroes in their own right.  Fraction keeps the stakes high and the dialogue snappy, and his rich characterization adds subtle new dimensions to characters we've known for ages; Salvador Larroca's clean linework

Be warned, a general knowlege of the characters inhabiting Tony Stark's world is neccesary, as is a passing familiarity with the recent events of the Marvel universe.  It's a wild ride, though, and well worth it for longtime Iron Man fans and new converst alike!  Invincible Iron Man TP #3 is on stands now.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Daniel Clowes's WILSON

Out now on Drawn and Quarterly, Wilson is the latest work from Daniel Clowes, acclaimed creator of such favorites as the teen character study Ghost World and the surreal odyssey Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron. Our hero this time around is the titular middle-aged oddball, whose isolated suburban existence takes some strange turns when he begins to face the reality of growing older.  His somewhat warped perception of that reality, however, nearly foils his search for meaning and companionship at every turn, as does his total ignorance of his own unflappable insensitivity.

Clowes cleverly hides a graphic novel in a collection of one-page strips; it took me awhile to realize that there was a strong linear storyline moving underneath all the darkly funny punchlines.  Page by page, the art oscillates between realism and cartoonishness in a way that I think is meant to further throw the reader off the scent of this novel's serious themes.  The lighthearted approach to this heavy material, as though Wilson were just another gag strip on the funny pages, strikes a masterful balance between the bleakness and humor of real life.  It's a quick read, too- perfect for those comic fans who may be a little hesitant to dip their toes into the pool of "literary" comics.  Take a look!


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Rack Pick: King City

Do you remember those picture books you loved as a kid, the ones with such intricate illustrations and so many fun little details that you'd spend hours just poring over every page, finding new treasures in every corner?  Maybe it's just me; regardless, this adventurous spirit is all grown up and jumping off the pages of Brandon Graham's King City,  a 12-issue miniseries on Image by way of manga publishing house Tokyopop.

Currently this reviewer's favorite title on the rack, King City follows a cast of young people as they experience love, loss, gang warfare, alien prostitution, weird drugs, the Korean Xombie War... (I could go on but so much of the fun is in discovering the world for yourself).  Perhaps the most prominent character, though, is the city itself: a teeming, graffiti-covered metropolis whose freeways, outdoor markets, all-night diners, and shady back alleys fall somewhere between Eastern and Western culture.  Graham uses spare lines, shades of gray, and a whole lot of punny labels to create this bizarre world that, despite all its sci-fi trappings, is hilariously and touchingly human.  Fans of Warren Ellis's Transmetropolitan will find a lot to love here, as will anyone who appreciates an offbeat approach to graphic storytelling.

The first half of the series was published in graphic novel format by Tokyopop; Image reprinted this material in six issues and is currently releasing the final six monthly.  Number 8 is out this week- do yourself a favor and pick it up!


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

New Arrivals May 5th

Let's be honest - Every now and then, comic fans need a good, old-fashioned slug fest.  Following up on the FCBD (Free Comic Book Day) issue of Superman, DC is happy to comply in this four-issue mini.  The surprising thing is they've managed to work a story in there! 

 The conclusion of the "Batman vs Robin" storyline as well as the prelude to the "Return of Bruce Wayne".  If that's not enough to make you want to read this comic, I don't know what to tell you. There is one more thing... a certain someone (whom I'm particularly fond of) makes a surprising appearance in this issue. 

***Don't read the last page first, you cheaters!***
It's time to complete your set of power rings!  This week, the White Lantern ring is finally available.  Fans have been waiting to wield the power of white light and you won't want to miss out. Allegedly, there's some comic that comes with it, too.   Supposed to be a big deal or something. 

 I, Zombie #1
I know what you're thinking, "No more zombies!", but you need to give this one a shot. Gwen is not your moaning, lumbering, run-of-the-mill zombie.... So long as she has a regular helping of fresh brains.  Luckily, she works as a grave digger, so she has access readily enough.  One of the troubles with Gwen eating the brains of the deceased is that they pass on memories to her.  The deceased also pass their dying will on to Gwen.  Whatever the mission, this atypical zombie is compelled to see it through.  This story is true to Vertigo quality and worth much more than the $1 it will cost you.  If you don't buy this, people will think you're brains have been eaten!

Todd Carey's life kind of sucks right now.  In the wake of his divorce (not his choice), he is living with his father as he helps him through some troubles with Alzheimer's.  Surprise Todd, your dad is "Stealth", the Batman/Tech Jacket of this world and he can't seperate fantasy from reality.  The disease can have some devastating effects on the mind.  Not exactly the kind of thing you want to worry about with a super hero.  There is a lot of great story potential here, I'll be sure to give it my vote for Pilot Season 2010.

- Ryan

Monday, May 3, 2010

An End to Segregation Pt. 1

Laughing Ogre comics has a vast selection of great products for all kinds of fans - collectible cards, figures, shirts, novels, statues, comics, manga, and more.  Why do I have to list comics and manga separately?  Both explore visual story-telling through a vast number of genres. Is it because of the style of the art?  The two sides each have as many deviations in art as the other and there many instances when they're hard to distinguish.  Maybe the region of origin?  No, there are manga made here and comics drawn there.  We accept other foreign "comics", regardless of printing format or origin, so why is manga different?

Are you a comic fan tired of being prejudiced against drawings of big eyes and spikey hair? Maybe you are an otaku with a suspicion that comics are about something more than killing and resurrecting the same characters?  It's time we put an end to comic book xenophobia.  Today, I suggest a few options for comic fans to venture into the rich world of manga.

1. "Pluto" - Urasawa's dark homage to Tezuka's "Astro Boy"

     In an ideal world where man and robots coexist, someone or something has destroyed the powerful Swiss robot Mont Blanc.  Elsewhere a key figure in a robot rights group is murdered.  The two incidents appear to be unrelated... Except for on very conspicuous clue - the bodies of both victims have been fashioned into some sort of bizarre collage complete with makeshift horns placed by the victims' heads.  Interpol assigns robot Detective Gesicht to this most strange and complex case - and he eventually discovers that he too, as one of the seven great robots of the world, is one of the targets.

2. Akira - this is the "Watchmen" of the Manga community

   Welcome to Neo-Tokyo, built on the ashes of a Tokyo annihilated by a blast of unknown origin that triggered World War III.  The lives of two street-wise tennage friends, Tetsuo and Kaneda, change forever when paranormal abilities begin to waken in Tetsuo, making him a target for a shadowy agency that will stop at nothing to prevent another catastrophe like the one that leveled Tokyo.  A the core of the agency's motivation is a raw, all-consuming fear of an unthinkable, monstrous power known only as Akira.

3. Death Note - the ultimate debate on the death penalty and man's right to judge man

   Light Yagami is an ace student with great prospects - and he's bored out of his mind.  But all that changes when he finds the Death Note, a notebook dropped by a rogue Shinigami death god.  Any human whose name is written in the notebook dies, and now Light has vowed to use the power of the Death Note to rid the world of evil.  But when criminals begin dropping dead, the authorities send the legendary detective L to track down the killer.  With L hot on his heels, will Light lose sight of his noble goal... or his life?

4. Biomega -Robots vs. Zombies?  Nihei began that fight in '98

      In Tsutomu Nihei's nigthmare vision of the future, the N5S virus has swept across the Earth, turning most of the population into zombie-like drones.  Zoichi Kanoe, an agent of TOA Heavy Industry, is humanity's last hope, and he's not even human!  With the help of Fuyu, a digitized intelligence built into the computer sytem of his heavy dual coil motorcycle, Zoichi's search for the key to salvation will take him on a journey across surreal landscapes and hurl him into battle against mind-bending evil.  Prepare yourself for the ultimate trip - prepare yourself for the world of Biomega.

     Zoichi Kanoe plunges into the depths of 9JO - an island city in the middle of the Pacific Ocean - in search of Eon Green, a girl with the power to transmute the N5S virus.  He's not the only one looking for her, though... agents of the Public Health Service's Compulsory Execution Unit are also hot in pursuit.  Zoichi and his transhuman allies have no time to waste; the countdown to the zombie apocalypse has begun.

5. Black Butler -  a dark, calculating 12 year old sells his soul to a demon... and makes him a butler

Just a stone’s throw from London lies the manor house of the illustrious Phantomhive earldom and its master, one Ciel Phantomhive. Earl Phantomhive is a giant in the world of commerce, Queen Victoria’s faithful servant…and a slip of a twelve-year-old boy. Fortunately, his loyal butler, Sebastian, is ever at his side, ready to carry out the young master’s wishes. And whether Sebastian is called to save a dinner party gone awry or probe the dark secrets of London’s underbelly, there apparently is nothing Sebastian cannot do. In fact, one might even say Sebastian is too good to be true…or at least, too good to be human…

Don't hesitate to ask for more suggestions the next time you are in Laughing Ogre. Next up... Five comics books for Manga fans.

*** Blurb's were taken from the books covers or sleeves.

- Ryan