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Saturday, September 11, 2010

This Week's Picks

New Avengers #4
The chaos in Marvel Manhattan continues as the New Avengers battle the demons pouring a trans-dimensional rift in the sky.  The man responsible?  Dr. Strange's mentor, the Ancient One.  It seems the good doctor's recent missteps have earned him the a spanking even Odin would wince at.

Irredeemable #17

A confrontation between Qubit and Survivor over Qubit's previous decision to spare the Plutonian's life isn't even the major selling point of this issue.  It's an up-close glimpse at the relationship between Plutonian and Modeus that makes this a must-read. It's hard to give your reader an "oh @#$*!" moment, but it's here.  Open it up and be amazed.

Batman and Robin #14
We've got vicious beatings with crowbars, creepy sado-masochism, an exploding batmobile, the Black Mask, the Joker, Pyg, and Botox.  Is there room in all of this chaos for Batman and Robin?  How do they fit so much in a single issue?  Seriously, this is the build up with a bang.  We normally look for this kind of action at the climax of a story, but Morrison leaves us with a feeling this is just an appetizer for what lies ahead.  Read this for the darkest and most riveting challenge the new Batman and Robin have ever faced.

Lucid #1
It's a comic about a magician spy, what more do you need to know?  The concept alone is worth picking it up, but story is intriguing as well.  It's an interesting mix of James Bond and John Constantine, but entirely fresh.  The art is dynamic enough, I almost felt I was watching Lucid rather than reading it.  This book is something special. Be sure to snag one before they are sold out. 


- Ryan

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Out Now: Stitches

Though autobiographical comics have been around for decades, the more recent phenomenon of the "graphic memoir" is a slightly different animal: rather than a running chronicle of the artist's existence, it seeks to distill some broader truth about that existence into a novel-length story.  Which isn't to say that the former is in some way less literary or meaningful; the distinction between Harvey Pekar's American Splendor and Alison Bechdel's Fun Home isn't one of quality, but simply one of approach.  In his memoir Stitches, out now in trade paperback, David Small looks back on his unhappy childhood for a compelling exercise in the latter.

The narrative is driven by family secrets and unspoken resentment.  Small divides the greater part of it between his six-, 14-, and 15-year-old self; he pieces together the lies and coming tragedies gradually, so the reader really gets a sense of what it was like to grow up without knowing what was so deeply wrong but without any doubt that something was.  The somber ink-wash artwork suits the tone perfectly and the writing is stoic and restrained, often letting the pictures speak for themselves.  Stitches comes highly recommended from your friends at the Laughing Ogre; though it's not exactly the sunniest comic on the block, it's brilliantly executed, and there are glimmers of hope and redemption in the end.  Give it a look!

No Mystery to Magic

The Information Age has brought about many changes in our lives, even in the most unexpected areas.  Magic the Gathering is no exception and the Internet has deeply affected the experience of playing the game.  No, I'm not referring to the handful of digitized versions of MTG out there, I mean the collectible card game available at your favorite local comic shop. ;p

In the early days of Magic, a casual player (Planeswalker in the MTG mythos) would buy decks or packs of cards not always knowing what to expect.  Sure, there were a few things you heard about from a friend and were hoping to get, but in large part, each set of card pack held a bit more mystery than today.  With the advent of Internet spoilers, every card is exposed ahead of time.  It's a bit like peeking into your parents' closet to see your presents.  You can pretend to be surprised when you open them, but you've still robbed them of the chance to witness the real thing.

Why does this matter?  Well, if you decide to try out the "sealed deck" or "draft" formats of Magic, the difference is obvious.  The idea behind playing the aforementioned game types is to highlight strategy and adaptability.  When you have a "preview" of the full set, you get to make plans and contingency plans ahead of time.  Not only that, but it makes some players dissatisfied with the contents of their pack simply because they didnt' pull the hottest card in the set.  If they didn't see what they don't have, they might appreciate what they do and learn to use it.  Rather than facing variations of the same combos, we might see more creativity out there. I'm not saying it makes Magic any worse, but like peeking at presents, it dampens the experience.

Imagine the pulling this card without prior knowledge of it re-emerging from the previous Mirrodin block.  Now imagine your opponents' faces when you play it.  Don't get me wrong, I'm one of the multitudes of players scouring the Internet for the earliest clues of what's coming down the pipeline.  I know it's impossible to put the genie back in the bottle, but it's still nice to think of a time when people had to really think on their feet.

That being said, Scars of Mirrodin, the newest set of Magic is due out on October 1 and looks to be a dynamic and fresh set.  With new mechanics infect, metalwork, and proliferate, there are too many reasons to give this set a try.

- Ryan

Monday, September 6, 2010

Indie Feature: Shadoweyes

For a few years now Ross Campbell has been quietly cranking out unique stories of young women, horror, and general weirdness.  His singular artwork and deceptively understated writing style has been showcased in the zombie GN the Abandoned, Minx's YA title Water Baby, and the Twin-Peaks-by-way-of-art-school Wet Moon, as well as guest spots on a number of Image and Oni Press titles .  His newest work, the dystopic superhero series Shadoweyes, is out now on Slave Labor Graphics!

It's an unspecified year in the future, and the city of Dranac is a grubby, overcrowded, labyrinthine metropolis populated by people for whom genetic anomalies and health issues are the norm.  Mopey teen Scout and her best friend Kyesha have responded to the moral and environmental squalor by developing strong social consciences; unsatisfied with the level of crime prevention their neighborhood watch group is providing, they resolve to start their own task force.  Their first effort ends badly, however: Scout is hospitalized with a head injury, which becomes the catalyst for her transformation into something much much stranger. 

One apparent Shadoweyes influence is Eastman and Laird's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, where because of their inhuman appearances the heroes are separated from the very society they've sworn to protect.  Campbell approaches this conflict, as well as trickier questions about morality and responsibility, with a certain fearlessness- there aren't many easy answers here.  It's also nice to see a cast that's both predominantly female and predominantly non-white, without any semblance of tokenism, and refreshing that our heroine's character design deliberately avoids the oversexualization to which many distaff superhero titles unfortunately fall prey. 

A sequel, Shadoweyes in Love, is already in the works- get on board with this great new series today!