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July is usually a big month in the comic industry. Mostly because San Diego Comic-Con International is at the end of the month. It's known as the largest pop-culture convention in the world, attracting upwards of 150,000 guests every year. Most publishers try to crank out a lot of material and the big two have their big "summer events" happening. I have only missed the show once since I was 9. I attribute that to the fact that it's no longer a "comic convention". Rather it's more of what I like to call "multimedia vomit". Back in the day, the show was about comics. There were comic retailers all over the showroom floor, and it was so simple to find those missing back issues for reasonable prices. Now, the only comics dealers on the floor are guys with Golden- and Silver-Age books, which are going for a pretty hefty price. There's no way you're finding an issue from 6 months ago that happened to sell out your local shop before you could pick it up. Instead, you'll find huge booths from next year's summer blockbuster movie, or demos from upcoming games that were announced a few months before at E3, or the toy manufacturer selling you the "con exclusive" which is really just an entirely manufactured market of its own. So the show is not the one that I grew up loving, but I still recommend going at least once in your life. There's bound to be something there to attract your attention - at the very least a booth babe or two. I will be going there this year to meet up with some old friends from the biz, and well as some new ones that I've met. Though I still reminisce on the simpler times when Jim Lee speaking at a panel would be the biggest draw, and not the off-chance that Angelina might show up to promote some project of hers. Meanwhile, on to some comics!
by Rick Loverd and Jeremy Haun
Published by Image Comics under the Top Cow Imprint
This book got pretty damn crazy real quick. When it was being promoted, I thought the premise sounded a little too much like the Hulk, which, yes, kind of is the case. It's basically these dudes that black out and go into these uncontrollable berserker rages where they have enhanced strength. You gotta figure, though, that if they're going to be using a premise that is similar to an already huge property, they have to do something interesting and unique with it.
Loverd and Haun manage to do that. I don't remember anything off the top of my head that I've seen either of these guys work on, so I had no expectations going into this. I was happy to discover a story that I feel has a lot of promise. The book as a whole grabs you visually because of some pretty intense and gory scenes, but it doesn't rely on those just for shock value. I think where the book really shines is introducing some really intriguing characters. I'm very eager to see where this book goes. Being a first issue, they obviously don't give everything away; just enough to whet your appetite. There's two guys so far that are suffering from this whole "berserker" thing, and some shadowy type organizations that are trying to exploit them. And, as to be expected, there's some vicious ass-kicking. If you can stomach it, give it a shot.
Who should read this book:
People who liked Fight Club (either the book or the movie).
People who can respect violence done well.
People who work undercover for three different government agencies.
Justice League: Cry for Justice #1
The Beginning by James Robinson and Mauro Cascioli
Published by DC Comics
This is a series that I'm pretty jazzed about. I've really been loving James Robinson's work on Superman, so throwing him on a Justice League book makes perfect sense. Plus, it was recently announced that he will be the new writer on the ongoing Justice League book, and he has announced that this miniseries will tie directly into his Superman book, and the JL series. Also, having Mauro Cascioli on this project is a great choice. All of the interiors are done with this painted-looking style. I can't tell if it's all painted, though; some of it might be digital painting. Either way, it looks great. It's a very nice move up since his work on the recent Trials of Shazam series, which was very good on its own.
There's not too much backstory that you need to jump into this. Just know that both Martian Manhunter and Bruce Wayne were killed during the Final Crisis event that happened last year. So as the story opens, Hal Jordan (Green Lantern of Earth) declares that the heroes are paying more attention to "league" more than "justice". He's had enough, and doesn't want to play by the same old rules that haven't really done much to change the behavior of the super-criminal populace. It's great because you remember that these beings with great power are people, too. That comes with disagreements and different ways of looking at things. That conflict, I think, is at the heart of some of the best stories. If this goes the way I expect, it may have the lasting impact that Identity Crisis had in 2004.
Who should read this book:
People who think that traditional heroes don't go far enough.
People who want to get a good superhero team book.
People who have been thawed after being trapped in a block of ice since the end of WWII.
The Sword #18
by Jonathan and Joshua Luna
Published by Image Comics
I wanted to include this book in this post not so much as a review of The Sword #18, but rather a recommendation of the Luna Brothers' work as a whole. Oh, don't get me wrong, Sword #18 is a cool read, but moreso as one part of the larger whole. I was first exposed to the Lunas with their 2005 miniseries, Ultra. The art in that project wasn't spectacular by any means, but it wasn't amateur. While at first glance, it may look a bit simplistic, you can tell that the Lunas understand the art form. Each of their pages is composed well, setting the scene and paced nicely. The style hasn't changed much since that freshman project, but it's still impressive considering that they do everything themselves - plotting, dialogue, layouts, art, lettering, and book design - and they're never late. Two dudes putting out a series every 4 weeks consistently is a rare beauty. Ultra was an 8-issue series that drew quite a bit of critical acclaim and commercial success. It was supposed to be developed into a TV series on CBS starring Lena Headey. You may know her as the latest woman to play Sarah Connor on Fox's canceled Terminator series. She was also the lady that showed her boobies in the 300 movie. Unfortunately that series was dropped because of that whole writer's strike from a years back. Ultra was followed by Girls, which was one hell of a new take on a zombie story. Both of those series are available in trade form, and both definitely worth cover price.
Their current project, The Sword, continues their pattern of well-crafted character-driven stories. That's not to imply that these are highly personal, soap opera borefests. There's plenty of fast-paced action sequences, which IMHO are made even more dramatic because you come to care about and relate to the people involved. The Sword is a story of Dara Brighton, a girl in a wheelchair who sees her family murdered by an immortal trio that has been pursuing her father for thousands of years. I can totally see this story being adapted into a big-screen film, but hopefully more along the lines of Star Trek, than say, Wolverine. There have been some really great battles, which somehow managed to involve a huge naked rock monster - not as startling as certain portions of the Watchmen movie, but close.
Who should read this book:
People who are on a righteous quest for vengeance.
People who are tired of the old gods and want new ones.
People who save the grease that slides off the George Foreman Grill.
Dark Avengers #6
by Brian Michael Bendis, Mike Deodato and Will Conrad
Published by Marvel
Okay, now one of my overriding goals for this entire column is to get more people reading comics. With that being said, I've tried to avoid recommending books that are continuity-heavy. I personally love books like that, because I get really into the history of comic universes. I love flipping through my backissues to figure out when obscure characters made their last appearance. But that doesn't really help for new readers. They don't want to have to know every detail that has occurred for the past 8 years just to understand what's going on in this one issue. I get that, so I try to always recommend stuff that's either still in local comic shops, or very easy to get in collected editions, whether as trade paperbacks or hardcover editions.
Dark Avengers, on the other hand, is drowning in continuity. It's a great book - if you've been following every major (and a lot of minor) titles in the Marvel universe since 2005. It's really stirring up the status quo and making life miserable for a lot of Marvel mainstays. But someone picking up this issue, or even the title from issue 1 would be hard-pressed to appreciate any of that. You should instead just look at all of the pretty pictures being drawn by Mike Deodato. That dude really knows how to use shadows to establish a mood. Some would argue that he does that to a fault; I wouldn't.
The reason I wanted to throw this book into the stack this week is because it has one of the best lines I have read in comics in a while. Namor addressing Norman Osborn (Green Goblin) who has just given the Sub-Mariner a direct order: "Listen very carefully, human... The fact that I even allow you to speak directly to me is a gift I bestow upon you. You do NOT order me. You beg for my appreciation and then wait to see if I choose to bestow it upon you." That, dear readers, is Namor to a tee. Bendis has that guy pegged. He's so arrogant, and yet has the brute force to back up every word. Badass at its most royal.
Who should read this book:
People who like to see the bad guys in charge.
People who enjoy continuity-heavy stories (I'm one of those).
People who rule undersea kingdoms.
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