Archive for December, 2009

Gift guide 2009

December 23, 2009 | Trades

With a whopping two shopping days until Christmas, now would seem to be the appropriate time for JPK Comics’ ultimate last-minute shopping guide for that comic book fan on your list (and shame on you for not buying for them first!). Fables: The Deluxe Edition — Book One Bill Willingham, Lan Medina, Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Craig Hamilton Vertigo/DC Comics $37.99/$29.99 US (Hardcover) The characters from all your favourite childhood fairy tales live among us — the good and the bad. And you’re sure to be surprised which is which. The winner of a whopping 12 Eisner Awards (comics’ version of the Oscars), Fables has been spellbinding since its debut — the first 10 issues of which get the over-sized, bonus-packed treatment here — and the unfolding mystery of why beings like Snow White, Goldilocks and the Big Bad Wolf are living in New York City and not a land far, far away make for a truly compelling read. Tom Strong: The Deluxe Edition — Book One Alan Moore, Chris Sprouse Wildstorm/DC Comics $49.99/$39.99 US (Hardcover) The debut adventures of the buff-yet-cerebral hero of Millennium City pack the pages of this wondrous throwback superhero book penned by comic master, Alan Moore. The first of three oversized volumes collecting the entire 36-issue series sees Tom work alongside his wife, Dhalua; daughter, Tesla; the intelligent ape, King Solomon; and Pneuman, the robotic butler to stop the threats of the Modular Man, techno-Aztecs, Ingrid Weiss and the Aryan Angels and the nefarious Paul Saveen. Also featured are a wild-west adventure, trips to outer space, the dawn of time and… Funnyland?! Saga Of The Swamp Thing — Book Two Alan Moore, Stephen Bissette, John Totleben Vertigo/DC Comics $29.99/$24.99 US (Hardcover) He’s learned he was never Dr. Alec Holland, lost his mind (then found it again) and finally accepted the fact he’s a hulking green pile of moss and roots. In this second swanky hardcover collection of Swamp Thing by Alan Moore and artists Stephen Bissette and John Totleben, the organic avenger must lay his past to rest and prepare for the terrifying return of his deadliest foe — a battle that leads to a trip to Hell in the name of love and eventually to “Rite of Spring” — the most romantic and visually spectacular single comic book ever published. Bomb Queen Omnibust Vol. 1 Jimmie Robinson Image Comics $34.99 US (Hardcover) Jimmie Robinson takes the old hypothetical: “What if the bad guys won?” and runs with it (through the gutter, an adult video store and several Sam Peckinpah and Quentin Tarantino flicks) in this collection of the uproarious and over-the-top adventures of the vivacious and villainous Bomb Queen. This 328-page powder keg unleashes the full force of the first three Bomb Queen miniseries: Woman of Mass Destruction, Dirty Bomb and Bombshell — all packed with gratuitous nudity, violence and gore as the hero/villain of New Port City blasts her way through enemies, lovers and pretty much anything else that gets in her way. Locas II: Maggie, Hopey & Ray Jaime Hernandez Fantagraphics Books $39.99 US (Hardcover) Jaime Hernandez’s crazy women are back and better than ever. Margarita (Maggie) Chascarrillo and Esperanza (Hopey) Glass are older, wiser and more mature — as is their creator — in this colossal 416-page collection continuing to explore the thought-provoking and visceral lives of these friends and former lovers and their California town. Featuring some of the most exceptional examples of Jaime’s transcendent black-and-white art, Locas II is truly worth savouring. Hellboy Library Vol. 3 Mike Mignola Dark Horse Books $49.95 US (Hardcover) It’s the end of an era and the beginning of a dark new one for the Big Red Dude. This phenomenal library-quality compendium includes work previously contained in the Conqueror Worm and Strange Places trade paperbacks and features Hellboy’s final adventure with the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense (B.P.R.D.) and his first meeting with fan-favourite hero, Lobster Johnson. Throw in an intro by Hellboy film director Guillermo Del Toro and an incredible sketchbook by creator Mike Mignola and you’ve got a near-perfect package.


December 20, 2009 | Graphic novels

A 10-foot tall block of Italian marble, a fat cheque and time is everything a young sculptor dreams of. When Colette Alleine meets the benefactor providing all of this, it quickly becomes a nightmare. The slim, raven-haired artist at the heart of Vancouverite Marian Churchland’s impressive debut graphic novel, Beast (Image Comics, $15.99 U.S., 152 pages) can’t afford to look a gift horse in the mouth when her father, a former art dealer, sets her up with a job that will cover her rent for a year. All she knows, as she arrives at the bedraggled old house in the unremarkable neighbourhood just a dozen blocks away from her apartment, is a rich man wants a portrait of himself done in Carrera marble. Then she comes face to face with Beast. Dark, almost faceless — seemingly made up of shadows — he is terrifying. After Colette recovers from the shock of their first meeting, her benefactor tells her the story of the enormous stone — how a young woman who lived long ago in Florence had begun to sculpt it but never finished and how he wants Colette to complete it in the form of his likeness. Still frightened, but unmistakably intrigued, Colette agrees to stay and complete the commission hoping both to find the hidden masterpiece in the stone and learn the truth about the mysterious man of shadows. Churchland’s labour of love is a striking blend of words and images. Loosely based on the classic tale, Beauty and the Beast, it was started in 2006 and slowly polished over the subsequent two years as she worked on other projects (like an eye-catching stint on Richard Starkings’ critically acclaimed series, Elephantmen). The black-and-white art mixed with subtle, but effective, use of different colour tones that alter the mood of the story is masterfully done, while the story is absorbing — a combination that leaves little doubt Churchland is a Canadian comic star on the rise. (This review first appeared in the Toronto Star)

Comic strip classics: Bloom County, The Family Circus, Peanuts

December 20, 2009 | Trades

Three of the most beloved comic strips of all time reach milestone anniversaries in 2010 and readers have some handsome new options to help them get a jump on the celebrations. Berkeley Breathed began work on his offbeat daily strip, Bloom County, in 1980, introducing the world to quirky characters like Opus (the penguin) and Bill (the cat) en route to a Pulitzer Prize in 1987. Breathed’s work finally gets the deluxe treatment it deserves in Bloom County: The Complete Collection Vol. 1 — 1980-82 (IDW Publishing, $39.99 U.S., 288 pages), the first of a five-volume set featuring every single daily and Sunday strip, along with new — and often very humourous — observations by the creator and handy margin notes explaining references that could be dated for some readers. The Family Circus Library Vol. 1 — 1960-61 (IDW Publishing, $39.99 U.S., 240 pages) helps 87-year-old Bil Keane, who still works on the strip with son, Jeff, mark the 50th anniversary of his timeless strip. Published to this day in a remarkable 1,500 newspapers, these first true-to-life follies of Jeffy, Dolly, Billy and their often-flustered parents (P.J. doesn’t arrive until 1962) continue to resonate strongly a half a century later. Next year also marks the 60th anniversary of Charles Schultz’s seminal strip, Peanuts, and the comprehensive collection of the series continues in The Complete Peanuts 1971-74 (Fantagraphics Books, $49.99 U.S., 688 pages). This collection of the 11th and 12th volumes of a planned 25-book set, designed by Canadian cartoonist and designer, Seth, show Schultz’s staggering talent in the prime of his career and even introduce Linus and Lucy’s little brother, Rerun. A retrospective view through the decades is on offer in the coffee table-sized gift book Celebrating Peanuts: 60 Years (Andrews McMeel, 534 pages, $92). (This review first appeared in the Toronto Star)

Buffy The Vampire Slayer — Season Eight Vol. 5: Predators and Prey

December 20, 2009 | Trades

Buffy The Vampire Slayer — Season Eight Vol. 5: Predators and Prey Joss Whedon, Jane Espenson, Steven S. DeKnight, Drew Z. Greenberg, Jim Krueger, Doug Petrie, Georges Jeanty Dark Horse Books $15.95 U.S. (Paperback) **** (out of five) Joss Whedon, creator of cult-classic TV series Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Firefly and Fox’s recently cancelled Dollhouse, brings writers from hot shows like CSI, Dexter, Smallville and Battlestar Galactica in to help pen Buffy The Vampire Slayer — Season Eight Vol. 5: Predators and Prey. Continuing where the show left off in 2003, Buffy now leads a virtual army of slayers — one which comes out on the bad side of public opinion when a beautiful blonde vampire becomes the star of her own reality show. (This review first appeared in the Toronto Star)

Scalped Vol. 5: High Lonesome

December 20, 2009 | Trades

Scalped Vol. 5: High Lonesome Jason Aaron, R.M. Guera, Davide Furno, Francesco Francavilla Vertigo/DC Comics $18.99/$14.99 U.S. (Paperback) **** (out of five) The powder keg that is Dash Bad Horse’s life as an undercover FBI agent on the Prairie Rose Indian Reservation threatens to blow sky high in Scalped Vol. 5: High Lonesome when a con man Dash busted years ago sees him working for crime lord/tribal chief Lincoln Red Crow and threatens to blow the whistle on him. One of the best comics around just keeps getting edgier and edgier with betrayals, bullets and bloodshed galore. (This review first appeared in the Toronto Star)

Image United #1 (of 6)

December 17, 2009 | Comics

Image United #1 (of 6) Robert Kirkman, Erik Larsen, Rob Liefeld, Todd McFarlane, Whilce Portacio, Marc Silvestri, Jim Valentino Image Comics $2.99 U.S. **** (out of five) Six of the top comic artists of the past 25 years have come together for one of the most daring and eagerly anticipated miniseries of the decade — and they’ve brought along an all-star writer, too. Image United sees six of the seven Image Comics founders — Erik Larsen (Savage Dragon), Rob Liefeld (Youngblood), Todd McFarlane (Spawn), Whilce Portacio (Wetworks), Marc Silvestri (Cyberforce) and Jim Valentino (Shadowhawk) — each drawing their own characters over Liefeld’s layouts in an ambitious and impressively delivered effort on all parts. The series, which opens with several of these cornerstone heroes of the Image universe teaming up to try and stop a series of coordinated, yet strangely random attacks on major U.S. cities by a slew of super-baddies, is penned by newest Image partner, Robert Kirkman, who brings rock-solid credentials as co-creator of hit series like Invincible and The Walking Dead. Issue #1 also features the introduction of Fortress, a mysterious new hero created for this series by Portacio (since DC now owns the rights to Wetworks) who just might hold the key to stopping the looming big bad — an event brought on by a very familiar face to long-time Image fans.

Kevin Smith interview (September 2007)

December 15, 2009 | Interviews

[dewplayer:] JPK talks to filmmaker and actor Kevin Smith (Clerks, Chasing Amy, Zack And Miri Make A Porno) about his book/blog collection, My Boring-Ass Life, working on TV and the best part of being famous.

The Umbrella Academy: Dallas

December 14, 2009 | Trades

The Umbrella Academy: Dallas Gerard Way, Gabriel Ba Dark Horse Books $17.95 US (Paperback) **** ½ (out of five) It’s the kind of scenario no good and true hero ever wants to face: To save the world, you have to take a life. Good thing there’s no good and true heroes in the Umbrella Academy. Dallas, the second collection of this delightfully bizarre and edgy comic by rocker/writer Gerard Way (My Chemical Romance) and artist Gabriel Ba, picks up shortly after the events of the first, Apocalypse Suite. It’s been just long enough for the Kraken to have gotten more paranoid, Rumor to have gotten more bitter, the White Violin to face up to the chaos she caused, Seance to have embraced fame, Spaceboy to have packed on the pounds and the mysterious Number Five to have gotten even more mysterious. With legions of gun-toting baddies and a pair of psychopaths (who, for some reason, wear theme park cartoon character heads) hot on his trail, Number Five has to come clean about how he was able to return from the future, how he’s become the most ruthless killer on the planet and the job he left unfinished that could lead to the end of the world — unless a member of the Academy can pull the trigger for him. Not since Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol have there been so many “I can’t believe how freaking odd, yet totally awesome, this is” moments in a comic series as after just 12 issues, the Umbrella Academy has cemented its status as an absolute must-read.

Chew Vol. 1: Taster’s Choice

December 10, 2009 | Trades

Chew Vol. 1: Taster’s Choice John Layman, Rob Guillory Image Comics $9.99 US (Paperback) **** ½ (out of five) Tony Chu lives in a world where chowing down on a plate of Buffalo-style wings or a bucket of the Colonel’s extra crispy can land you in the slammer. Of course since Tony is a cibopath, a person who gets psychic visions of the life — and death — of anything he eats, from an apple to a cow, he’s happier with a can of beets than with anything that might have once walked around a barnyard. As a Philadelphia cop, Tony’s job is to help crack down on the illegal trade in poultry, which was banned after 23 million Americans died from bird flu. But when his unique talents help him in the shocking takedown of a serial killer (after he accidentally gets a taste of the murderer’s blood), Tony finds himself with a new gig — as an agent with the special crimes division of the most powerful government agency around: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Now, alongside partner and fellow cibopath, Mason Savoy, Tony is munching his way through cold cases and warm crime scenes (and the occasional dead pooch) with such success that he’s racked up a $5 million price on his head. His new job also helps him cross paths with Amelia, the woman of his dreams — an almost uncomfortably eloquent restaurant critic. Unfortunately, Tony’s newfound luck all turns quickly after he makes a startling discovery of a crime that will rock the FDA to its core and could cost him a heavy price. This breakthrough book, by creative and clever writer John Layman (Marvel Zombies vs. Army of Darkness) and impressive newcomer artist Rob Guillory, is audacious and affecting. Chew will probably make you laugh, is likely to make you feel queasy and is sure to make you want to come back for seconds.

Batman: Battle For The Cowl

December 7, 2009 | Trades

Batman: Battle For The Cowl Tony S. Daniel, Sandu Florea DC Comics $24.99/$19.99 US (Hardcover) **** (out of five) Three heroes have been called Boy Wonder. But which one is ready to be the Man? In the wake of Batman’s death in DC’s blockbuster miniseries, Final Crisis, there is a massive void in Gotham City. And the criminals in this seediest of towns are taking notice. With a three-way super-villain gang war rocking the city, civilian casualties mounting and police so afraid that they’re quitting in droves, the small band of heroes who worked closest with the Dark Knight, including Robin No. 3 — Tim Drake — and original Robin (now Nightwing) — Dick Grayson — are trying to stem the tide. However only Batman can truly end this crisis, and a new, trigger-happy contender is ready to throw his cowl into the ring. This journey to figure out who will become the new Dark Knight is a real revelation. Readers have known for a while that Tony Daniel is a superb artist, but we now know what an excellent overall storyteller he is as he handles his usual chores, plus writing duties in fine style in this milestone tale that rocks the status quo in Bat-universe.