Review: Harley Quinn #0

Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner team up with, uh, basically every major artist still speaking to DC for a blessedly playful introduction to their upcoming Harley Quinn series.

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Harley Quinn was more damaged than perhaps any other character in the DC Universe (give or take a Jaime Reyes) by the DC Universe ‘soft reboot’ in the New 52.  While Harley’s always had a dark, seductive edge, the New 52 stripped her of all her subtlety and most of her clothes, turning her into a vaguely ridiculous facsimile of one of DC’s most iconic female characters.  Bits and pieces of the old Harley have resurfaced periodically, but by and large, Harley went from the Clown Princess of Crime to another bland merry murderess in a corset and boy shorts.  It was an abysmal redesign.  Now, however, Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner are taking over and steering Harley Quinn back towards being her own thing, a process that starts in the cluttered-but-playful Harley Quinn #0.    Continue reading

Long Beach Comic Con 2009!

Yes, I was there at the first Long Beach con. I thought I’d share my adventures with all of you, and by adventures, I mean pretty sketches.

Amanda Conner’s Supergirl!

I’m going to get a detailed one someday, but these quickies are great too.

Darick Robertson’s Frenchie and Female!

It’s hard to tell in the photo, but this piece is huge.

David Finch’s Catwoman! 

David modeled this after Jim Lee’s art. So, to have Scott Williams ink it is perfect.

Doug Mahnke’s Frankenstein!

Doug. Mahnke. Frankenstein. ‘Nuff said!

Geoff Johns’ Hal Jordan!

I should’ve had him write in the word balloon: “I am so kewl!”

J. Scott Campbell’s Mary Jane!

Finally, after years of waiting.

Micah Gunnell’s Black Cat!

Always a pleasure to talk to this guy, and the sketch aint bad either!

Philip Tan’s Scarlet!

Man, that’s ugly. In a good way.

Simone Bianchi’s Shining Knight!

Two soldiers down, five to go.

Notable signed items?

Ennis’ second out-of-print Punisher hardcover!

Skull, courtesy of Darick Robertson. Mini-Frank, rendered by Jimmy Palmiotti. And that third signature belongs to big Frank himself, Thomas Jane.

The Pro, in oversized out-of-print hardcover style!

Signed by the entire art team: Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti, and Paul Mounts. This just demanded a Pro sketch, and Amanda was kind enough to deliver.

That’s all, folks. I had a blast, and I hope it’s even better next year.

For more comic goodness, go here.

My Comic Con 2009!!!

Wow! It’s already come and gone. I thought I’d just give my report on my experience. But don’t expect to see any pictures of fat, sweaty guys, dressed in 300 “costumes.” No, my Comic Con involved laughter, love, and chatting with the talent.

Sketch-A-Palooza!

Aaron Lopresti’s Wonder Woman!

Alvin Lee’s Sagat!

Amanda Conner’s Power Girl!

Cliff Chiang’s Black Canary!

Cliff Rathburn’s Reaper!

Dean Yeagle’s Mandy!

Dustin Nguyen’s Batman!

Francis Manupal’s Cassie Sandsmark!

Jamal Igle’s Silver Banshee!

Jamal Igle’s Supergirl!

Joe Linsner’s Batman!

Jonboy’s Meyers’ Wonder Woman!

Micah Gunnell’s Wolverine!

Nicola Scott’s Scandal Savage! Hey, it’s signed by Gail Simone too!

Patrick Gleason’s Arisia!

Patrick Gleason’s Soranik Natu!

Philip Tan’s Red Hood!

Sanford Greene’s Supergirl!

Terry Dodson’s Emma Frost!

19 sketches in two days, for a total of 80 dollars. Not too bad, right? I think I did good.

And you have to get stuff signed!

Now, the only signature I need on my Sinestro Corps War hardcovers is Ivan Reis.

I’m gunnin’ for ya, Reis!

Green Lantern symbols provided by Geoff Johns.

Aww, Gail Simone loves me!

And she put a Wonder Woman star over her “i”. How precious! Terry Dodson and Bernard Chang have pretty signatures too.

Terry Dodson calls Frank Cho a perv!

The war is on. Which artist will win?

Greg Rucka gave me a free copy of Detective Comics #854!

So, I was standing in line for Jamal Igle at the DC Booth, when Greg Rucka shows up next to me! We talked. I said I was sad since I didn’t have anything for him to sign. He went into his magic bag and pulled that out. Sweet, huh?

So, there you have it, friends. I had a hell of a time, and you got to see my reward for fighting through the unkempt masses. Thanks for reading!

For more comic goodness, go here.

Review: Wednesday Comics #3

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Last week’s Wednesday Comics was the first to really disappoint.  The premise of the project should suggest that the creators compress their stories as much as possible, at least in general – when all’s said and done, they only really have 15 pages to finish the story.  While some creators have risen to the challenge, like Caldwell on Wonder Woman or Pope on Strange Adventures, some strips that started out strong have begun to peter off already.

There is still the seeds of genius that were strongly evident in the first two issues, but there are too many non-starters here.  The flaws remain relatively unfixed, with the weakest pages among the first two issues showing little improvement.  Not all is bleak, of course – a project with this many gifted creators is bound to have some astonishing moments – but I am not sure that a book facing all the challenges that Wednesday Comics faces can afford to have many more issues like this one: Not bad, but not quite worth the trouble.

Grade: B-

– Cal Cleary

Wednesday Comics #2

Wednesday Comics #1

Review: Wednesday Comics #2

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Though Wednesday Comics #2 didn’t do much to improve over the flaws of the first one, and certainly won’t change any minds about the project as a whole, it also kept all the charm, wit and creative energy of the first issue, and even improved upon some of the slower stories.  The keyword with Wednesday Comics is variety, and you get a lot of it.

Busiek’s Green Lantern is a wonderfully retro The New Frontier-style sci-fi adventure, while Pope’s Strange Adventures is classic pulp action.  Flash reads like a bizarre blend of romance and super-hero stories, while Baker’s Hawkman offers a dark, fascinating look at a frequently muddled character.  As with the first issue, not every story is a hit, and the two biggest offenders from #1 (Teen Titans and Sgt. Rock and Easy Co.) remain relatively weak, though both show at least some signs of improvement over the previous issue.

Meanwhile, the creators are making full use of the space, sometimes in interesting ways.  The Gaiman/Allred Metamorpho is essentially one enormous panel while Caldwell’s surreal Wonder Woman features roughly fifty panels on its only page.  

The format is definitely bringing out the best in many of these artists, most of whom have admirably risen to the challenge.  The less-glossy pages and creases that come from the folding were a worry to some people when it came to the quality of the art, but rest-assured, this is rarely the case.  Only Caldwell’s Wonder Woman and the Arcudi/Bermejo Superman seem to have been hampered by the fact, each of them a little too dark for their own good.  Despite that, however, both pages remain well-crafted and interesting.

Wednesday Comics is too scattershot to appeal to everyone, but those who try it out will find a selection of interesting stories by star creators that hearken back to the early days of comics and the traditional stories without being lazy or condescending.  Everyone involved seems to be having far too much fun to either.

Grade: A-

– Cal Cleary

Read/RANT

Wednesday Comics #1

Review: Wednesday Comics #1

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Wednesday Comics is here!  While DC often struggles to stay relevant in the fact of a vastly more trendy Marvel Comics, it’s had a few successes in recent years.  One such success was their year-long event, 52, a weekly with an absolute powerhouse of a writing team that managed to gain both critical and fan acclaim – no small feat for an event comic largely lacking Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman.  After that, of course, DC felt the urge to repeat their success story with the watered down Countdown and then again with Busiek’s Trinity.  Still, three years in and the weekly format, once a fresh revival, had begun to seem stale.

That all changed with the announcement of their next weekly, Wednesday Comics, a 12 week long project, packaged as a newspaper, in which superstar creative teams would be given continuity-free reins on a vasty supply of DC characters to tell their stories… one page each week.  There were a lot of risks, obviously, but the announcement of the creative teams was where they had it: Gaiman, Busiek, Allred, Azzarello, Risso, Gibbons, Pope, Baker and many more, all getting involved in the project.

So, with all that expectations, how does the issue stack up?

Very well.  Very well, indeed.

It’s tough to review due to the grab bag nature of the book – Caldwell’s Wonder Woman, for example, is gorgeous and surreal, while Kubert’s Sgt. Rock and Easy Co. on the very next page is about as bland as can be.   I toyed briefly with the idea of reviewing each story, but the simple fact is this: these stories stand together or fall together, but the strength of an Azzarello/Risso Batman doesn’t necessarily offset the slow start of the Berganza/Galloway Teen Titans.  You buy one, you get ’em all.

And, as a collection, it works.  This, this is traditional super-hero comics done right.  For those yearning for a set of simple, gorgeous stories, Wednesday Comics delivers.  Not every story will be a hit, but #1 offers a number of strong starts and relatively few missteps.  I eagerly await seeing where it will go.

As a note, however, the stand-outs of the issue for me were Batman, Kamandi, Supergirl, Metal Men, and The Demon/Catwoman, with Superman and Wonder Woman having okay starts but gorgeous art.  The only pages I didn’t really appreciate at all were Teen Titans and Sgt. Rock and Easy Co., so the bulk of the issue was, for me, a hit.

Grade: B+

– Cal Cleary

Read/RANT

Review: Power Girl #2

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Fair or not, it’s hard to think of a comic solely by the name of the artist, much harder than it is to think of it solely by the name of the writer(s).  More people say “Moore’s Watchmen” than Gibbons’ Watchmen” or even “Moore and Gibbons’ Watchmen“.  Still, this is unquestionably Amanda Conner’s Power Girl.  Conner carries the success of this book on her shoulders, her expressive art and unique style offering up an absolutely lovely take on the old, underused character.  But is her art enough?

Palmiotti and Gray have teamed up a number of times before, but have achieved little critical or devoted fan following over the years.  Power Girl illustrates why – the plot is overly simplistic and the dialogue trite, as they fail to fully make use of their talented art team or free reign with an interesting character.  The book is often fun, and the pair seem to be having a blast, but not all of that energy makes it to the page.  There is the argument that it’s simply traditional super-heroics in a more cynical age, but many of us have experienced ‘traditional super-heroics’ in a more complex form – traditional or even simple doesn’t have to translate to lazy.

Power Girl is not a bad book by any means.  Admittedly, this is only because of Amanda Conner, but still – for $2.99 you get an absolutely lovely 22 pages of story.  It may not be the most compelling story on the stands, but as far as fluff goes it nonetheless remains satisfying.

Grade: B-

– Cal Cleary

Read/RANT

Top Ten August 2009 DC Covers

Illustrated by Ed Benes

No, this isn’t my number ten. I thought we’d kick things off with the worst cover. Oh, Benes. Must we have a zombie ass shot? Really? Yeah, DC, get that man on the Blackest Night: Titans series and he’ll draw all the dead Titans in one big zombie orgy. Terrific.

10. Illustrated by Fabrizio Fiorentino

Whose hand is that? Will the JLA DIE??? No, but is that Plastic Man as the King? That’s cool. I kind of want to read this. Oh wait, this book is terrible. Nevermind.

9. Illustrated by Andy Kubert

Maybe it’s just me, but I think that’s a striking image. It’s not every day that someone has a hand in Batman. Will DC kill off their new Batman already?

8. Illustrated by Amanda Conner

That’s an interesting cover. I wish it had a background, but it’s been awhile since I saw Power Girl in a monster’s paw. And PG’s expression is awesome! Well done, Conner!

7. Illustrated by Frank Quitely

As much as I love Quitely, his covers aren’t always the best, but I like this. It’s like we’re in the POV of some giant. Look at our huge hands, and our minions are beating up the heroes way off in the distance. The pencils are unusually loose for Quitely, and I dig the coloring.

6. Illustrated by J. Bone

Take note, Benes. That’s how you do ass shots! It’s the generic JLA cover backwards! Sweet!

5. Illustrated by Simon Bisley

Who hurt you, Constantine? Who hurt you?

4. Illustrated by Dave Johnson

“I killed him, Horatio.”

3. Illustrated by David Lapham

The last Young Liars issue. Too bad. Great cover, though. Sad, absurd, and tells you something about the comic. It involves Mars.

2. Illustrated by Brian Bolland

Brian Bolland back on Animal Man covers, everything is right in the world. How amazing is that? Wonderfully drawn, striking, who’s pointing at Animal Man? What’s happening to Animal Man? The only downside is Starfire. She just radiates “skank” doesn’t she? Oh, well. At least Bolland didn’t draw Starfire naked.

1. Illustrated by JH Williams III

Williams is amazing. This cover isn’t as spellbinding as last month’s, it’s a bit more conventional. But this is a cover you will notice. That wolf makes it look like Coppola’s Dracula is involved. I have no idea who that guy embracing Batwoman is, and I love the way Batwoman’s blood blends with her red hair. I am so looking forward to this comic!

So, that’s my list. What’s yours?

Review: Power Girl #1

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I’ll admit it – I bought this largely because I love Adam Hughes covers and Amanda Conner art.  I almost never buy a book because of the art, but between those two, I did.  I also tend to at least try and support new books, especially with characters that deserve a shot at the limelight or creators who don’t do nearly enough work.

The book, largely set-up, reacquaints us all with Power Girl – after a brief one-page rundown of her origins, Palmiotti and Gray are off, stepping deftly between two different timelines.  In the first, Power Girl is flying throughout a Manhattan that is under attack by an army of giant robots while the entire city comes under increasingly intense psychic assault.  In the other, they have her restarting her secret identity of Karen Starr and buying back Starrware Labs, an up-and-coming R&D thinktank that she feels will give her focus and allow her to try and save the world in a different way.

Both segments are fun and at least a little frivolous.  The action is well-paced and beautifully illustrated, never resorting to cheesecake shots of the titular heroine to keep us interested, and the Karen Starr scenes are treated with the same level of respect… though with significantly more humor from both sides of the creative team.  Each segment has its ups and downs, but it is the Karen Starr scenes that really shine.  As the action plot moves forward quickly, Power Girl meets the mastermind behind the attack, the Ultra Humanite, but the confrontation between the two is as bland as possible, offering the issue’s weakest moments.  

Despite its flaws, however, the opening issue of Power Girl was, by and large, a success.  Conner, Gray and Palmiotti are clearly having fun, and regardless of the issues flaws in plotting, invite us to join them.  There may not be a great deal of thematic depth, big ideas, or huge crossover appeal, but it is a fun, engaging superhero story throughout, with promises of more to come.  If Palmiotti and Gray can cut back a little on the excessive narration and refine the plotting, the series may have a great deal of life to it.

Grade: B

Read/RANT

Should I Read Power Girl?

I’m torn. I love Amanda Conner’s art, but I’ve never been one to buy comics solely on art. I haven’t read much from Palmiotti & Grey. I read Claws, which I, um…bought for the art, and it was just fun fluff. Other books, like Hulk, give me enough fun fluff. I didn’t read Terra. I thought about buying that in trade, but no trade has come out. So, I wonder if one big trade containing: Terra, the first Power Girl arc, and that Supergirl issue will come out someday. I don’t read enough books starring females, but, then again, Power Girl isn’t really the book to get a dose of feminine power, is it? Oh well, at least this has been a half-assed excuse to post some chessecake Power Girl covers, right?