Archive for Unwritten

Dead Wonders

Wonder Woman #10

The wedding of Hades and Wonder Woman is about to begin — and Hades has Wonder Woman’s neck in a noose made of her own Golden Lasso, demanding that she tell him the truth of whether or not she loves him. She says yes — and it’s true! But the wedding’s still off, ’cause she’s pissed that he didn’t trust her and was willing to kill her because he was incapable of trust. Diana steals a horse, and there’s a great chase through Hell as Hades tries to corral or kill her. Can Wonder Woman escape the power of a god?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Good action, dialogue, art, characterization. Just about everyone gets their little moments to shine, but Wondy, of course, gets the best ones. And she’s still wearing that awesome wedding dress/suit of armor that she had last issue, too.

Batwoman #10

Another huge bucket of competing storyarcs — We get to see Killer Croc transformed from supervillain to monstrous urban legend; we see the Medusa organization strike a blow at the D.E.O.; we see Jacob Kane make a heartbreaking confession to his still-comatose niece Bette Kane; and we see Batwoman discover a terrible secret about one of her allies.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The art is still pretty much the best you’re going to see in any comic books today. The writing ain’t that bad either. To be honest, I’ve been enjoying Jacob Kane’s storyarc the most — it’s had a lot more resonance for me than any of the superhero punch-ups in the rest of the book. Although if we get to see some more spooky emphasis on Gotham’s other urban legends, I’ll be pretty happy with that, too.

The Unwritten #38

Fiction has disappeared as a concept from the human mind — with the exception of Tom Taylor, who is the only person left on the planet who can still channel stories. The police in Australia are on the hunt for a Tommy Taylor cult that’s causing disappearances, and Detective Sandra Patterson finds Daniel Armitage, a patsy she can send undercover into the cult’s hiding places to learn their secrets. And Daniel finds one doozy of a secret, too…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Still not seeing our main characters much, other than Savoy, but Det. Patterson makes a good protagonist in their stead. I’m also digging the slow buildup of details about how doomed the world is without stories, particularly the suicidal writer who can’t think of anything fictional anymore…

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Hero’s Creed

Hero Comics 2012

So it’s Memorial Day — a day when we traditionally salute our military heroes. Instead, today let’s talk about some other heroes familiar to all of us comics readers. No, not superheroes — the creators of our comics.

I know we’ve talked several times about the Hero Initiative. They’re a not-for-profit charity that focuses on providing assistance to comic creators, artists, and writers who are having serious financial troubles, whether because of age, illness, or simply because of difficulty finding work. They’ll help pay medical expenses, rent, even help creators find paying work in the comics industry.

Much of the history of comics has been filled with sad stories about comics creators who didn’t get paid very much for the work they did, or who didn’t receive pensions or retirement benefits or health insurance because they were freelancers. In fact, that’s still a problem today — it’s not uncommon for for an active freelancer to have health issues and have serious trouble finding the money to pay for the treatment they or their families need. There are all kinds of things that can leave comics creators unable to work in the industry and facing hard times without a safety net. The Hero Initiative does what they can to make things better. They’ve taken up the cause of taking care of the heroes who helped create the hobby we all enjoy.

They’ll put out a benefit comic about once a year to raise funding and awareness — they tend to focus on a combination of stand-alone feature stories combined with shorter comics in which creators tell about how the Hero Initiative has helped them. So we get an “Elephantmen” story by Dave Sim and Richard Starkings, a story about the Red Star by Christian Gossett and Brennan Wagner, and the piece you’ll really want to pick this up for: a new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles story by Kevin Eastman himself. Coupled with those are short autobiographical works by Tom Ziuko, Russ Heath, Alan Kupperberg, and Robert Washington — they’ve all gone through lean times and have been able to rely on assistance from Hero Initiative to get back on their feet.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Eastman’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles story is really entirely excellent, but I think the real stars here are the creators who tell their own stories about how Hero helped them keep a roof over their head and food on the table. Their stories do the heavy lifting to demonstrate all the good that the Hero Initiative does for the heroes who created comics for us. They’re a great cause — why not help them out by sending them a few bucks?

The Unwritten #37

Things have changed for our heroes and for the world — Pullman is dead, Tom Taylor and Richie Savoy are both famous, Lizzie Hexam is dead — and fiction is disappearing from the world. More people look on Tom as a messiah figure as he travels the world talking to fans, and the police are taking an interest. As Tom’s tour takes him to Australia, we get acquainted with police detective Sandra Patterson, who’s trying to track a string of disappearances linked to a cult of Tom Taylor worshipers. She goes undercover hoping to flush out the truth — but she’s quickly discovered, ejected, and beaten — and she misses the chance to witness the cult’s magic.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Few appearances of the comic’s stars, but the story moves forward fine on its own. It’s an intriguing concept, too — what happens to a world that finds itself unable to remember stories anymore? A combination of depression and madness — slow at first, but accelerating as time passes. It’ll be interesting to see where this is all going.

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Aliens and Sedition Acts

Saucer Country #2

Arcadia Alvarado, Democratic Governor of New Mexico, has just announced she’s running for president — mere moments after realizing that she’d recently been abducted by aliens and that they are definitely not coming in peace. Harry, her chief-of-staff, and Chloe, the Republican consultant who’s helping troubleshoot her campaign, don’t really believe her, but Harry’s loyal to his boss, and Arcadia offers Chloe permission to write a tell-all book about her if her campaign fails. They hire Professor Kidd, a disgraced academic who can talk to the invisible spirits of the Pioneer 10 couple, to see if he can assist on the quest. And Arcadia’s ex-husband, who apparently has a past history of seeing weird stuff, goes to see a hypnotherapist to help him straighten out his head — and gets it messed up worse than before.

Verdict: Thumbs up. This series has just barely started, so there is still time for you to jump on board and enjoy this one — so go get it. The story is fantastic, the mystery is developing excellently, and the entire thing is even more fun than I was expecting. Go get it, people, go get it.

The Unwritten #36

The Tinker, elderly Golden-Age superhero, wakes up from being dead to find himself on an endless, decaying staircase. Eventually, he falls off — and falls and falls and falls — before landing on a great plain where a vast number of refugees — all from various forms of fiction — are fleeing something they call “the Wave” that will completely annihilate anything it reaches. Soon afterwards, the Tinker meets up with our old pal Pauly Bruckner, furiously foul-mouthed storybook rabbit, still desperate to regain his human form. The superhero and the bunny wander the countryside, encountering a castle of Pauly’s children, going through the Tinker’s inventory of legendary swords, and withstanding a stampede of the most famous locations in fiction. But do they have any chance against the Wave itself?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s great to see both Pauly and the Tinker again, and just as fun to watch some of the great elements of fiction track past, too — the Lone Ranger, Alice in Wonderland, Sancho Panza, Stormbringer, the Eye of Zoltec, the House of Secrets, the House of Leaves, and so many more. I think I love these once-a-year visits with Pauly more than anything else in this comic…

Batwoman #8

Once again, we’ve got several different stories told around different characters and time periods. Batwoman fight off a bunch of Gotham’s urban legends, Agent Chase pressures Kate to use her relationship with Maggie Sawyer to get info for her kidnapping of Sune from police custody. We also get to see the Hook’s origin, Jacob Kane keeps trying to rouse Bette from her coma, and Batwoman gets an unexpected ally in the fight against Medusa.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Great story, great art, loads of creepy stuff and excellent action. My lone complaint is that this is the last issue we’ll get to enjoy Amy Reeder‘s fantastic artwork.

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Golden Dreams

The Unwritten #35

Hmmm, how much can I say about this issue without spoiling all the good stuff? Probably not a lot. Tom Taylor has his great confrontation with Pullman. There’s some fighting and quite a bit of talking. Pullman reveals who he really is, who Tom really is, and what he really wants. The Leviathan makes its return, and we lose two of our cast members.

Verdict: Thumbs up. A masterful ending to this storyarc, and to quite a few other things in this series. Don’t miss it — and if you haven’t been reading this series, I really don’t know why you’ve been skipping it.

Batwoman #7

Batwoman finally catches up to the hook-handed madman who attacked Bette Kane weeks ago, and when she tears the hook out of his arm, she gets a major surprise when the hook itself starts talking to her. Meanwhile, while Jacob Kane continues to try to get through to his niece Bette, lost in a coma after being attacked, and while Cameron Chase of the D.E.O. tries to get Kate Kane to break a prisoner out of the Gotham P.D. under her girlfriend’s nose, Falchion, head of Medusa, assembles a team of urban legends with the aid of his wizard Maro — the aforementioned Hook, Killer Croc transmogrified into a mutated sewer alligator, La Llorona, the Crying Woman, who has been a villain in previous issues of this comic, and the truly terrifying Bloody Mary, summoned from a mirror and out of your nightmares. Don’t believe she’s scary?

Yeah, that’ll definitely keep me from chanting her name into a mirror.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Still the best looking comic on the stands — and it’s too bad that Amy Reeder will soon be departing this series. Besides that, we get excellent scenes with Jacob Kane, good relationship stuff with Maggie Sawyer, and Falchion’s amazingly creepy urban legends. Good stuff, and you better be reading this.

Demon Knights #7

We get an all-out, wall-to-wall battle in this issue. Jason Blood goes to Hell to find the one substance that can revive Madame Xanadu. Vandal Savage turns on Mordred and the Questing Queen to steal from them and save his own hide. The Horsewoman seeks aid in the nearest city. The Shining Knight faces the Queen in battle, and Xanadu duels Mordred. How will this battle turn out for everyone?

Verdict: Thumbs up. The action here is almost nonstop, and it all works out very, very well.

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Skin of my Tiefling

Dungeons & Dragons #15

As seems to be the standard state of affairs, things are not going well for Adric Fell and his band of adventurers. Adric and Bree the halfling rogue are getting chased by a beholder, Tisha the tiefling warlock has fallen down a chasm and found herself surrounded by hordes of monstrous kruthiks, and Khal the dwarven paladin and Varis the elven ranger are fighting off Danni (Khal’s girlfriend) and her shapeshifting homunculi. No spoilers for how they get out of these predicaments — but the solutions include teaming up with the kruthiks, kissing a dwarf, and opening a portal to a realm of Elemental Evil. All in a day’s work for Fell’s Five!

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nothing but awesomeness all the way through. Tons of wonderful moments — Bree offering to stab Adric to help him run faster, Khal and Varis bantering in the midst of battle, the beholder saying “Pardon?” The sole disappointment I have with this issue was realizing that it’s one of the few series that IDW doesn’t promote. I mean, come on, it’s the best fantasy comic on the shelves, and you don’t wave signs about it? That’s crazy, man.

The Unwritten #34

Tom Taylor is done for — the Cabal has captured him and taken away his magic powers by enlisting a roomful of storytellers to read conflicting stories about him. But Lizzie Hexam and Richie Savoy have been listening in, and as soon as they realize he’s in trouble, they use the magic doorknob to take them to the storytellers, where they sow a ton of chaos and disrupt their ability to block his powers. With his powers back, Tom takes care of the Cabal’s inner circle, then summons the spirit of one of its dead members to interrogate it about what the Cabal is. And he learns the answers to everything can be found in the Cabal’s deepest basement by communing with something called the Sibyl. Will he learn the answers he needs?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Good story, great action, good dialogue. This all feels like it’s leading up to something big. This series isn’t about to end, is it? It feels like it’s all working up to a conclusion…

Severed #7

Jack Garron has been captured by the salesman, who has engineered his entire journey to this point. He’s killed Jack’s best friend, he’s hidden him from the world, he’s taken one of his arms off, and he plans to eat Jack alive. And then Jack’s adoptive mother shows up on the doorstep, and the salesman decides to take care of her, too. With one arm lopped off, strung up in the basement, does Jack have a chance in hell of stopping an immortal cannibal?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Good dialogue, excellent action, some outstanding plot twists. And in the end, perfectly, gloriously bleak horror. If you haven’t read any of this yet, I think you’ll certainly want to pick up the trade paperback when it’s released.

Demon Knights #6

With the army of the Questing Queen and Mordru laying siege to the village of Little Spring, our heroes have their work cut out for them. Exoristos the Amazon takes out some of the enemy’s siege-monsters, the Horsewoman mentally communicates with all the wild horses in the countryside, and Al Jabr’s crossbow-engines slaughter multitudes. But Exoristos is eventually cut down, the Horsewoman gets gravely injured, and the Horde finally breaks through the village’s defenses. Is there any hope to save the village?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Yeah, this story is obviously being stretched out to fill a trade paperback, just like all of DC’s other comics, but at least this one feels appropriately epic in scope. Still, they’re going to have to make it worth sticking around for the eight issues it’s apparently going to take to complete this first storyarc.

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Beware the Claw!

Lobster Johnson: The Burning Hand #1

This new Lobster Johnson series starts off with a 1930s setting, a scalped cop, and a bunch of mobsters dressed up as ghostly Indians. They all get slaughtered by Lobster Johnson before they can kill anyone else, and the case attracts the attention of a newspaper reporter named Cindy Tynan, and while most of the locals refuse to talk to her, she’s able to get a lot of the backstory from Harry McTell, a black mechanic, who shares his theory that the mobsters are pulling a Scooby-Doo plot — scare off all the locals, then buy their homes for a song. But when the Mob finds out that Cindy is snooping into their business, they’re going to send a few goons out to give her a permanent deadline.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Excellent writing as ever from Mike Mignola and John Arcudi, with the excellent addition of Tonci Zonjic on art chores. Zonjic does a great job with action, facial expressions, and pretty much everything he works on, and I always love seeing his stuff.

Wonder Woman #5

While Wonder Woman, Hermes, and Zola hang around London, they meet up with a guy named Lennox, who claims to be the half-mortal son of one of the gods. He offers to help them out, and Wonder Woman gets to have a meeting with Poseidon, the very large and very fishy god of the sea. How will he react to Wondy’s request for an audience? And what kind of trouble is Lennox going to run into in London’s sewers?

Verdict: I’ll thumb this one up for the sake of Tony Akins’ art (which isn’t as good as Cliff Chiang’s, but is still pretty good) and for the always-fun visions of the modern-day Greek pantheon. But I don’t yet understand why anyone should care about Lennox, and the issue in general doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of story or action running through it.

Severed #6

Jack Garron is traveling to his father’s home in Mississippi with the traveling salesman, who he has recently discovered is a violent, murderous man who’s lied about his friend Sam deserting and robbing him. Jack gives the salesman the wrong address to his father’s home, then accompanies him to the “recording studio” — actually just a shack in the swamp. Jack tries to kill him with a switchblade, but the salesman has an axe — and his scary shark teeth. Jack wisely beats it outta there and steals the salesman’s car. Hoping he’s seen the last of the salesman, Jack heads for his father’s home, only to learn that both of his birth parents have been dead for almost a decade. So who’s been sending him letters all this time?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Great suspense and beautiful artwork. This one’s nearing the end, and I’m keen to see how it all works out.

The Unwritten #33

More and more people worldwide believe that Tom Taylor is the boy wizard Tommy Taylor, and as a result, Tom is hyper-charged with magical power. He plans to hit the Cabal’s headquarters as soon as possible so he’ll have enough magic to overwhelm their defenses, but he needs more information about where their HQ is located, which he manages to get by summoning and interrogating the ghost of the architect who created the building. But the Cabal knows he’s probably on the way. Pullman gives them a lecture on how consensus reality works and doesn’t work, and the Cabal’s masters work on a desperate gamble involving storytelling. Do they stand a chance of stopping Tom?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Good dialogue, plot development and twists, fun art. As always, a good, solid read.

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Broken Wings

Batwoman #4

Like most issues of this comic, we get a couple of storylines running alongside each other. Kate Kane and Maggie Sawyer spend the night together, and then Batwoman investigates a woman named Maria, learning that her children died while she was in a drunken stupor and then she committed suicide, eventually becoming the Weeping Woman who has been abducting children recently. The second storyline focuses on Bette Kane, Kate Kane’s cousin and former crimefighting partner until Kate rejected her in an attempt to get her out of the superhero business. Unfortunately, Bette got mad and went out in her old Flamebird costume to bust some crooks’ heads — and she ran afoul of a killer with a boathook for a hand. Now she’s slowly bleeding to death in DEO custody, and all Agent Chase cares about is finding out Batwoman’s real name. Will Bette survive? Will Kate get arrested by the DEO?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Beautiful art, but that goes without saying. I’m good and worried about Flamebird by this point — very much hoping she survives, but assuming she does, it also leaves open the question of whether this will make her a more dedicated crimefighter, or if it’ll just scare her back into DC’s C-list characters folder. Let’s hope it’s the former and not the latter.

The Unwritten #32

Tom Taylor is stuck in the Antarctic with a nonfunctioning magic wand, unable to teleport himself to safety. And with Tom losing consciousness and slowly dying, the magic that keeps the generators running for Lizzie, Savoy, and Frankenstein is also stopping working. They use the Crystal Doorknob to rescue Tom, but Frankenstein ends up trapped in the frozen wastes. Can Richie figure out a way to save them using the belief of Tommy Taylor fans on the Internet?

Verdict: Thumbs up. A short, focused chapter. We get our heroes out of a jam and open up some new threats against them. And hey, kudos must go out for the fact that the Arctic setting was so well done that it made me go put on a coat. That’s nicely done work.

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Here are these three comics I got fairly recently:

All Star Western #3

The Unwritten #31.5

B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth – Russia #3

Honestly, I liked all three of them. I thought all three were well-written and well-illustrated. But I’ve not been able to summon up an ounce of enthusiasm for writing about them in-depth. I think that probably still counts as a thumbs-up. But YMMV.

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The Unwritten #31

Tom Taylor has decided to take a more active role against the Cabal, essentially declaring war on them. He ambushes them in supposedly safe locations, using magic spells lifted from the Tommy Taylor children’s fantasy novels his dad wrote. His friends, Lizzie Hexam, Richie Savoy, and Frankenstein’s Monster, aren’t sure how well he really understands magic, but Tom is able to find out plenty of secrets using magic. But magic may prove to be a fickle power…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Lots of action, good dialogue, fun plot developments. I’m still fairly jazzed by the idea of Frankenstein’s Monster being an actual member of the cast.

The Dunwich Horror #2

The Horror comes after our small band of heroes, but they manage to elude its grasp. Doesn’t mean they’re out of the woods yet — so they need to find a way to send it back to the horrific dimension it hails from. To do that, however, they’ll need the Necronomicon from Miskatonic University’s library — but the university recently decided to scan the decaying book to preserve it, and the librarian who scanned it went nuts, burned the original book, swallowed a flash drive with the files, and then died in the hospital when the flash drive blew her apart. Our heroes have finally managed to break the code on her computer — but how can you read a book when everyone who looks at its pages goes mad?

Verdict: I think I may thumbs this one down. The story has an interesting Lovecraftian feel to it, but there’s really not a whole lot to tie it in with Lovecraft’s classic short story. We get the Necronomicon, madness, mentions of Wilbur Whateley… and there needs to be a bit more if we can really call this an adaptation of the story. Plus, it still comes with “The Hound” as a backup — and the lettering is still mostly illegible. No need to subject yourself to eyestrain for just a backup story…

Today’s Cool Links:

  • Just one link today: Here’s the most intensely sad thing you’re going to read about a comic creator this month: Marvel Comics giant Bill Mantlo, writer of hundreds of comics in the 1970s, is currently living in a nursing home after a hit-and-run accident in the ’90s left him with severe brain damage. He gets few visitors, has almost no possessions, and is just a whiff away from dead broke. It’s a long, sad story, but read the whole thing.
  • Okay, one more link: The HERO Initiative tries to help out creators who, like Mantlo, are down on their luck and need help. I know the economy is rough, and we’re getting closer to Christmas. But please consider sending a contribution their way, if you can.

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Night of the Demon

Demon Knights #2

The village of Little Spring is under attack by dragons controlled by Mordru, but Etrigan and his new kinda-sorta team aren’t having too much trouble with them. Vandal Savage, in fact, is entirely delighted — he hasn’t gotten to eat a dragon in centuries, and he’s looking forward to dinner. We get introduced to a new character, the Horsewoman. The village prepares to evacuate before Mordru and the Questing Queen can attack again, but they’re far too late to stop yet another attack by more and stronger dragons.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The character work here is what’s really selling me on the series. Right now, there’s not a lot of plot, other than arguing and chopping up dragons. But the characterizations are pretty solid. And it looks like Vandal Savage and Shining Knight may be the breakout characters of the series.

The Unwritten #30

Tom Taylor meets his half-brother Milton while the old man is on his deathbed — but he gets a nasty surprise when someone else emerges from Milton’s body — the fictional Golden Age superhero the Tinker! The Tinker thinks Tom is his father, and the Tinker isn’t a big fan of Wilson Taylor. The Tinker is about to kill Tom when Frankenstein’s Monster and Tom’s winged cat Mingus intervene to help calm him down. But the Tinker is getting older as Milton gets closer to death — how long will he last, what can Frankenstein’s Monster do to help Tom and his friends, and what’s going to be the fallout from the worldwide murder spree the Cabal is engaged in?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Great art, dialogue, and an ending to the Tinker storyarc that’s equal parts exciting and bittersweet.

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