Archive for March, 2010

Walking to Hicksville



I’ve considered reviewing this one before, but held off because it was out-of-print. “Hey, you guys would love this comic. Too bad you can’t actually get it. Ha ha!” Well, no longer. They’ve got a new edition for sale, so here we go.

“Hicksville” was created by New Zealand cartoonist Dylan Horrocks back in 1998. It focuses on a comics journalist named Leonard Batts who is writing a book about a guy named Dick Burger — the most acclaimed creator in comics, whose “Captain Tomorrow” series is a colossal industry all on its own, spawning insanely popular movies, winning the absolute devotion of every fanboy around, and financing a life of incredible luxury for Burger. Batts wants to find out more about how Burger’s youth influenced him, so he travels to the tiny New Zealand hamlet of Hicksville, where Burger grew up.

Hicksville is a… different kind of town. The local library has multiple copies of Action Comics #1, all original, all in mint condition. Everyone in town, from the postman to the farmers to the cafe owner to the little old lady down the lane is a comics afficionado, knowledgeable in everything from American superhero comics to obscure Hungarian mini-comics. And everyone in the village hates Dick Burger.

It’s hardly a perfect comic — for my money, there are too many characters who all look more or less the same, which makes it hard to keep track of which ones are important and which aren’t so important. On the other hand, this is really good for fleshing out people who live in and around Hicksville. There are a few tangents that, while interesting, ended up distracting me from the main story.

But even then, it’s an amazing piece of work, with lots of depth and personality, and an absolutely brilliant hook. What’s the secret behind Hicksville? Why is everyone there so mad for comics? What did Burger do to make everyone there hate him so much? What’s being hidden inside the lighthouse? Why does Leonard keep finding mysterious comics pages about three strange men lost in a land that cannot be mapped? Is Hicksville just a normal (but eccentric) town, or is there something else going on?

And it’s a great little valentine to the comics world, too. Horrocks loves indie and small-press comics a lot, but he loves superhero comics, too. And while the early superstar days of Image Comics get a thorough thrashing, mostly through the excesses of Dick Burger, Horrocks shows a great deal of love for comics creators in general, especially the old guys who never made a dime in comics, but kept doing it because they enjoyed it. By the time you’re done, you’ll end up wishing there really were a town like Hicksville out there somewhere, so you could move all your stuff out there and just check out comic after comic after comic from the lending library and attend the town’s awesome costume parties.

I loved this comic, and I think you will, too. Go pick it up.

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The Gang Green

Tiny Titans #26

All of the green-colored and green-clad Tiny Titans get their spotlight this issue. While Beast Boy is babysitting Miss Martian, he takes her to a toy store to pick out a new dolly. Turns out, the dolly she wants is Gizmo. While Giz tries to make his escape, Kroc and Lagoon Boy get dragged into the action. And it all ends with everyone getting Green Holiday Festive Milkshakes spilled all over them.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Short, simple, to the point, and very, very silly. Miss Martian squeezing the stuffing out of Gizmo, Kroc eating a fishing pole, and Lagoon Boy complaining that he needs a bath are all definitely worth the price of admission.

Batman: The Brave and the Bold #15

The bulk of our story focuses on a competition between Batman and the Flash to see who can wrap up a mystery involving a museum robbed of a few rare crystals. Even with all his speed, does the Flash have a chance of beating the greatest detective in the world? But I had the most fun with the story’s prequel, with Batman traveling back in time to the 1960s to stop the Mad Mod, aided by hippie ragdoll Brother Power the Geek and Bob Hope sidekick Super-Hip.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The entire story was just fine, but the entire prequel really sold it. I mean, seriously — Super-Hip? That’s just so bizarre and weird and awesome, it drags the whole thing to a whole new level of bizarre and weird and awesome. I also liked the way this comic ended up combining characters from three different TV cartoons — Batman from the recent “The Brave and the Bold” cartoon, the wisecracking Wally West from “Justice League,” and the Mad Mod from the “Teen Titans” cartoon.

PS238 #43

The Argosians have come to Earth and imprisoned Argonaut (otherwise known as Ron Peterson and Captain Clarinet). After his dad, Atlas, shows up and overpowers the Argosian pilot with a substance called Argonite. Turns out Argonite is artificial, designed by the government to affect Atlas if he ever went rogue — it also affects anyone with the combined powers of flight, invulnerability, superstrength, and superspeed, which explains why it affected 84 last issue. Argos was never the last survivor of Argos — he was just exiled as a child. Frustrated, he returns to Argos with Argonaut, Moon Shadow, and 84. And it turns out the Argosians aren’t very friendly. They don’t trust Atlas, they want to kill Argonaut because he’s not a pureblood Argosian, they want to kill Moon Shadow because they don’t like humans, and they send 84 on a supposed diplomatic mission that’s actually an attack against the Emerald Ones who empower Emerald Gauntlet.

Verdict: Thumbs down. I hate giving any issues of this comic a thumbs down, but it took too much focus off of the kids, who are the real stars of the series, it was jam-packed with byzantine political maneuvering, to the detriment of everything else, and the idea of Argonite as something that weakens only people who have superstrength, superspeed, flight, and invulnerability and no one else just took things a few dozen steps beyond what my suspension of disbelief could handle.

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Essential Salts

I really try not to blog about movies very often — the A-J has a perfectly awesome film blog already, and it ain’t like William Kerns ever runs up and reviews comic books out from under me, right? But I’m gonna make an exception this time…

Any of y’all living in Lubbock — Texas Tech is going to be offering a free showing and panel discussion on a movie called “Salt of the Earth” this Wednesday, March 31, from 6-9 p.m. in Room 101 of the Mass Communications Building.

I’ve only seen this movie once, years ago, while taking a film class in college, and it’s an absolutely phenomenal film. It was made in 1954, directed by Herbert J. Biberman and written by Michael Biberman and Michael Wilson. It starred a few professional actors, like Will Geer, and a bunch of non-professional actors — in other words, many of them had never acted before.

It was based on an actual strike against the Empire Zinc Mine in New Mexico and dealt with the prejudice against the Mexican-American workers, who unionized and went on strike to attain wage parity with Anglo workers in other mines and to be treated with dignity by the bosses. The film has a strong feminist theme, because the wives of the miners, against their husbands’ wishes, play a pivotal role in the strike.

Quite a few members of the cast and crew, including the director, Will Geer, screenwriter Michael Wilson, and producer Paul Jarrico, were members of the Hollywood Ten, who had been blacklisted for refusing to answer questions before the House Un-American Activities Committee. After the movie was completed, the filmmakers had trouble finding anyone who would process their film, much less release it. The film was denounced as pro-Communist, and the movie was in theaters for a very short period, thanks to angry protestors and skittish theater owners. Lots of people still don’t know the movie exists, which is too bad, ’cause it really is an excellent film.

I’ve got to assume all the hoopla about its pro-Communist leanings was just panicked hype, because from what I remember of it, the major themes were pro-union, pro-feminism, and pro-civil rights. It’s really a pretty mellow film — quiet, subtle, not too flashy, heroes with feet of clay, and all that. The acting is really one of the most amazing things about the movie — there are so many non-professional actors — only five of the actors were pros, but if you don’t know which ones they are, you’ll never figure it out, ’cause everyone on the screen just comes across as a serious, 100% professional actors, even the people who were hired from the nearest town and never made a movie again.

It’s an outstanding film, and it’s free, fer cryin’ out loud! If you’re in Lubbock, go see it.

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White Knight to the Rescue

Green Lantern #52

It’s the next-to-the-last chapter of the “Blackest Night” event. Sinestro, almost entirely to my surprise, is now the White Lantern, the embodiment of all life in the universe. This leads all the Black Lantern zombies to fly top-speed at Earth, hoping to kill him, pursued by all of the other Lantern Corps. Looks like they didn’t need to bother, though, ’cause while Sinestro is exulting in all his power, Nekron goes and cuts him in half — length-wise — with his scythe. Doesn’t seem to have killed him, though. And a group of Lanterns manage to blow up the zombie planet of Xanshi, drastically reducing Nekron’s power and demolishing most of the zombies. Can they all shield Earth from the wreckage? And can a reborn Sinestro still lead the forces of life to victory?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Not the best of these issues, though, but it still does a good job of getting the story points across. After all, the big moments will come with the very end of the “Blackest Night” saga. Doug Mahnke’s artwork is just entirely and unbelievably awesome — the big double-sized splash page of the giant Lantern-powered framework protecting Coast City from meteor fragments is fantastically beautiful. Definitely looking forward to seeing how this is all going to shake out.

Power Girl #10

Satanna has stuck a device on Power Girl that is about to use a gravity field to compress her into a small, dead ball. Luckily, Terra has shown up, knocks Satanna around a bit, and uses a particularly nasty threat to get her to release PeeGee. While Satanna makes her escape, Power Girl and Terra return to Kara’s apartment, where they meet up with Fisher, the kid who’s blackmailing Power Girl with photos of her real identity. He has a bunch of serious demands — he wants her to go with him to pick up his comics this week, he wants her to take care of some bullies, and he wants her to help him get a date with a girl from school. Okay, that coulda been a lot worse. Power Girl and Terra head off to Kara’s company for a few hours, then go off to see Fisher’s friends at the comic shop. After that, there’s another attack from some of Satanna’s monsters, and Terra starts acting quite a bit more bloodthirsty than normal. What’s going on?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Holy cow, I just love this comic to pieces, and there are only a couple of issues left before Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, and Amanda Conner leave it. We get all the great stuff we’ve come to expect from this book — lots of funny stuff, outstanding artwork, great action, awesome dialogue, the best facial expressions and body language and background details in the comic world. If you’re not reading this, I’m gonna chase you down and beat you with an aardvark, I swear.

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World of Dungeons and GuildQuest Online


The Guild #1

Backstory? Yes, backstory. “The Guild” is a comedy webseries focusing on a bunch of people who play a fantasy MMORPG, created by and starring Felicia Day, who got a lot of attention a year or two ago when she co-starred in “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.” Day plays Cyd Sherman, a very insecure woman whose alter ego in “The Game” is Codex, the healer for a dysfunctional online guild that calls itself the Knights of Good.

Well, Dark Horse Comics offered Day a shot at writing a miniseries based on her webseries. While the show focuses on Cyd after she’s been playing the game for a while, the first issue of the series functions more like an origin story for her. We meet her while she’s in therapy, playing in an orchestra, getting mostly ignored by her moronic boyfriend, obsessed with becoming a rock star. She tries out the game on a whim, desperate to find a way to re-invent herself as a happier, more successful person, and quickly grows to love the action and roleplaying of the game. Will she let the game take over from her real life?

Verdict: Thumbs up. I’ve never managed to get into the webseries, but the comic is pretty cute. I’m sure you’ll get a lot more out of it if you’re an avid fan of the series, but even if you’re not, it’s well-written, with a great eye for all the crazy background stuff in MMOs (No surprise — Day is a big fan of the “World of Warcraft” MMO), and the illustrations are great, too. Go pick it up.


X-23 #1

This one-shot spotlights one of Marvel’s weirder concepts — Laura Kinney, the angsty gender-switched clone of Wolverine. X-23 is visiting the Big Apple with Wolverine while they investigate a series of murders of former mutants, on behalf of Jubilation Lee, former X-Man and ex-mutant. That only lasts a few pages before Laura goes running off on her own to… I’m not really sure what. She somehow runs into a bunch of homeless mutants she used to run with in the “NYX” series. And there’s something with some kind of psychic entity that wants something from her.

Verdict: Thumbs down. I wanted to like this one, but it just didn’t make any real sense to me. But the art by Filipe Andrade and Nuno Alves is absolutely beautiful and unlike anything you’ll see in a mainstream comic.

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Lubbock’s Comics Connections: Kara Edwards

Not all careers in animation require the ability to draw — for example, Kara Edwards is a voice actress who was born in Lubbock in 1977.

She started her career working at Radio Disney in Dallas not long after graduating from high school. After working as an intern for eight months, she was hired as a writer, producer, voice actress, and children’s voice director. She became co-host of the “Squeege and Kara Show” on syndicated Radio Disney in 1997.

Her first role as a freelance voice actress was as Lime in “Dragon Ball Z.” She was soon hired to provide the voices for Goten, Videl, and Gotenks for the remaining episodes of the series. Kara also provided the characters’ voices for a couple of “Dragon Ball Z” video games. (You can see a video of Kara discussing working on the “Dragon Ball Z” shows right here.)

After going back to radio for several years, she returned to voice work, portraying Upa and Pocowatha in a recent version of the original “Dragon Ball” anime, as well as Murugu in “Yu Yu Hakusho” and Arizona in “Ask Arizona” for She also voices Celica in a series called “Solty Rei” and a character named Razzles on a PBS kids’ series called “Raggs.”

Now I’m not expecting that you’ll be able to meet Kara at the Lubbock Comic Book Expo next month (I haven’t yet seen who’ll be on the guest list), but the thing is, you will get to meet local comic creators and artists. There are always a ton of artists who show up to meet folks, make some sketches, sell some comics, and drink in the atmosphere — you should be sure you make time in your schedule on April 17–18 at the Lubbock Municipal Civic Center so you don’t miss out on meeting some interesting folks.

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The Fallen Warrior

Hercules: Fall of an Avenger #1

Well, Hercules is dead, blown up through the treachery of Athena. Amadeus Cho oversees a gathering of gods and superheroes who pay tribute to the “Lion of Olympus” — Thor, the Warriors Three, Namor, Namora, Bruce Banner, Wolverine, Angel, and numerous others. Thor recalls an epic but offbeat contest that pitted Thor and Herc against a bunch of giants; Namor remembers Hercules attacking him solely to rouse him from one of his marathon moping sessions; And Namora, Snowbird, Black Widow, and Alfyse, Queen of the Dark Elves, tell about some of Herc’s more… adult talents, leading to a few funny moments — first, when Snowbird asks if any other of the gathered heroes want to share memories of Hercules the Love Machine:

And that’s Northstar, Marvel’s most prominent homosexual character, heading for the exit. Those ancient Greeks sure were somethin’ else, weren’t they?

And then there’s this:

I laughed for a good five minutes at Namor’s expression.

There’s also an “Agents of Atlas” backup story where Venus and Namora help wrap up some of Hercules’ earthly affairs.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Some funny stuff, some touching stuff, and some good character work, too. Some of the artwork is a bit odd, but not enough to seriously detract from the story.

Joe the Barbarian #3

Joe is a kid with diabetes who needs to get something to eat before he dies. He’s currently undergoing a golly-gee-whilikers of a hallucination — he’s stuck in a fantasy land based on his house, with his pet rat Jack transformed into a reluctant bodyguard, the bathroom sink into an ocean, and the staircase into a terrible cliff. But is he really hallucinating, or is it all somehow real? This issue, Joe and Jack take up with a bunch of submarine-piloting pirates, and Joe learns that he is the focus of a thousand-year-old prophecy that says he’s the only person who can stop something called “King Death,” and everyone calls him the Dying Boy — not real encouraging when you’re hallucinating from diabetic shock. They acquire a new traveling partner — Smoot, the freakishly large (for a race of dwarven pirates) and extremely clumsy son of the Pirate King. Can they all make it to the Forest City of Yalway and from there, to Hearth Castle?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Still great fun, still beautifully written and illustrated, and still deepening a really interesting mystery. This has become a title where I eagerly anticipate every single issue.

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It's a Dog-Eat-Dog World…

Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers Unleashed #1

The Central Park Zoo is the worst-run zoo in the country — or so Marvel Comics would have us believe. Ms. Lion, a small white dog with boy parts and a girl’s name, manages to free not one, but TWO hippos, all without the slightest interference from zoo personnel. Hairball, meanwhile, makes like the least competent animal superhero ever, either refusing to help or just getting freaked out about water. When both of them suddenly get a psychic impression that Frog Thor has mysteriously vanished, they are soon joined by the rest of the Pet Avengers — Lockjaw, Zabu, Redwing, and Lockheed. From there, they go on to accidentally terrorize an innocent frog before learning that Frog Thor has left the Central Park frog tribe on an unknown quest. The rest of the Pet Avengers decide to use their telepathic link to try to find where he went — and they end up in the arctic wastes. What on earth can they hope to find here?

Verdict: Thumbs up, despite some of the silliness of the plot. It’s a fun, goofy, all-ages story with a bunch of (mostly) appealing characters.

Booster Gold #30

Booster and Skeets are at ground zero in the upcoming destruction of Coast City. Mongul and the Cyborg Superman have dropped 77,000 bombs all over the city and are minutes away from blowing the city to smithereens. Sondra Crain, a time traveler trying to stop the city’s destruction, gets sent back into the future with a little girl after Skeets determines that neither of them are in the records of the people who were killed in the disaster. Booster tangles briefly with the Cyborg Superman, then runs into his sister Michelle, traveling on her own through time and stuck here with her boyfriend. Is there going to be enough time to save everyone?

Verdict: Thumbs down. It’s just so blasted boring. I mean, when this series is on, it’s very good. But when it’s not on, it’s just spectacularly dull. And there are so very many comics that have been so much better that still haven’t been able to get enough readers to stave off cancellation…

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Friday Night Fights: A Giant Shard of Artificial Kryptonite!

It’s time for the twelfth and final match of the latest round of Friday Night Fights.

Let’s set our stage. It’s The Brave and the Bold #6, from October 2007, by Mark Waid and George Perez. Someone has stolen the Book of Destiny — the magical book owned by Destiny himself. The book shows the complete history of the universe — everything that has or is going to happen. By reading it, you can know your how your enemies are going to move against you and counter them perfectly. It’s fallen into the hands of a guy named Mondath, who plans to use it to become the champion of the planet Rann, and it’s going to get handed over to the evil Luck Lords, who want to use it to conquer the universe. Green Lantern, Supergirl, Adam Strange, and Batman are trying to fight off Rann’s forces, and Batman figures out that the Challengers of the Unknown, because they’ve cheated death, are completely invisible to the Book of Destiny, so Adam Strange uses the Zeta Beam to teleport them from Earth to Rann. Their actions are the only possible counter to the Book of Destiny, and they show immediate success in foiling the plans of Mondath and the Luck Lords.

Or so Supergirl thinks, until she gets a rebuttal from a Giant Shard of Artificial Kryptonite.

Thanks to our pal SpaceBooger for another fun 12 rounds of weekend fightin’, and I’m looking forward to the next 12, too.

Y’all have a merry weekend, and I’ll see y’all back here on Monday.

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Cowboys, Vampires, and Stephen King

American Vampire #1

Listen, man, I need good horror stories in my life. I need an occasional Western, too. And I got this entirely unnatural fondness for stuff from the 1920s. Co-written by Stephen King? That’s a bonus. Art by Rafael Albuquerque, who aside from having an awesome name, also provided art for my fondly-remembered “Blue Beetle” series? Another bonus. So yeah, you bet I picked this one up.

We get two different stories in this one. We start out in Hollywood in 1925, where Pearl Jones and her roommate Hattie are living their silver screen dreams — well, not really dreams. They’re just extras in a silent costume drama, and Pearl also works extra jobs as a cigarette girl in a fancy club and as a waitress in a diner to make ends meet. Things finally start looking up when she catches the eye of the handsome star of the movie, who invites her to a ritzy party being thrown by the film’s producer. And it turns out the producer and his friends have a — how shall we say this — a bit of a drinking problem, if you catch my drift.

Our second story is set in Sidewinder, Colorado, back in 1880, where notorious murderer and bank robber Skinner Sweet has finally been captured and is being taken by train to New Mexico, where he’ll be hanged. Riding with him are James Book, the Pinkerton agent who captured him, William Bunting, a writer looking for a story, and Mr. Percy, the wealthy financier who helped pay Agent Book’s salary. But even chained up, Sweet’s a dangerous outlaw — and that’s without his gang looking for a way to derail the train. And once the lead’s started flying at the end, it turns out that someone on the train has an even sweeter tooth than Skinner Sweet…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Loves me a good vampire story. Pearl and Skinner both make very enjoyable protagonists, and we’re treated to a lot of fun characterization for both of them — probably more for Pearl, since she’s likely to be a much nicer and less murder-y protagonist than Skinner is. But all told? I like it. A lot.

Daytripper #4

Brás de Oliva Domingos is now in his 40s, and his wife is gonna have a baby any time now. After they race to the hospital, Brás learns that his father, a famous novelist, has just died. So he has to go through the stress of losing his father, the stress of the high-profile funeral, the stress of waiting for his baby to be born, and the stress of meeting, for only the second time, the half-sister he never knew. And then something unexpected happens.

Verdict: Thumbs up. For something that has basically the same ending every time, this one is a story that never fails to entertain me. The art and writing by Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon are just really wonderful. If you aren’t reading this, I really do hope you’ll start soon — it’s something special.

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