Not much new out there this week… But still plenty to talk about.
I am going to go ahead and start off with something that you do not see very often… So, I guess it is fitting for the first new Insideman’s Pull List of the New Year that I admit:
I was wrong!
Specifically, I was wrong about Dynamite Entertainment when I wrote that I didn’t think the publisher could produce a worthwhile comic book NOT written by Garth Ennis.
Now they have: It’s called Warlord of Mars Volume 1.
On the surface, it’s easy to think that this is just like any other Dynamite POS licensed comic. But it’s NOT. It’s actually a rather faithful, well-considered adaptation of the Edgar Rice Burroughs’ classic… And given how downright scary (not in a good way) most of Dynamite’s non-Ennis output is… It’s almost amazing that this collection even exists.
But it does.
When things go right, I feel very strongly that it is just as important to take time to praise as it is to negatively criticize… Especially when you hope, in some small way, that your words of acclaim won’t fall on deaf ears and might actually be considered by the Dynamite Entertainment Powers That Be moving forward… With everyone concerned working harder to make BETTER books… Not middle-of-the-road shit just pumped out to sell on the basis of name recognition alone. The list of such piss-poor licensed titles from Dynamite is almost legion, with everything from such vibrant properties as Army of Darkness to Red Sonja suffering from a lackluster, factory-type treatment.
What’s even stranger, Arvid Nelson wrote both this series and Dynamite’s Warlord of Mars Dejah Thoris Volume 1: Colossus of Mars collection… Which I also liked, a lot.
Yet why is this strange? Well, to be blunt– I believe I have read almost everything Arvid has ever written for Dynamite and I’ve never really liked any of it before. I especially disliked his Queen Sonja Vol 2 and Robert E. Howard Presents Thulsa Doom collections. I believe I even described Nelson’s Queen Sonja stories as some of the worst Sonja comics I have ever had the displeasure to read.
And please do NOT take any of this blunt commentary as a personal attack on anybody. I don’t know Arvid and I bet he is MORE than a fine fellow. In fact, I would guess that he’s always been a very talented writer too– just looking for the right character or publishing situation to flourish… As he has done here.
So what’s changed… What happened to make Nelson go from ZERO to HERO in my eyes? Hard to tell. If I had more time, I would check and see if there were different editors for each of the series… Which, depending on the editor– or even the GROUP EDITOR— can make a HUGE difference. There might also have been MORE or LESS guidance (read as: interference) coming from the licensor of the different characters. This can also make a HUGE difference in the freedom a writer has when telling his/her tales within the confines of these licensed properties. (And the list of what you CAN’T do with licensed characters is often FAR LONGER than the list of what you CAN do.)
Writing these types of “corporate” characters (no longer owned by the original author or their family– now more the life-blood of some soulless LLC)– is tantamount to typing with handcuffs on, while a testy fellow stands behind you with a fully charged cattle prod ready to strike whenever your scene direction barely steps outside the boundaries set forth by the licensor.
In short, writing characters like these is often a thankless task.
So BIG UPS to Arvid Nelson for finally finding a way to have his talent shine through the licensing morass. What I can’t wait for: To see Mr. Nelson get a MORE CHANCES to write his own stuff on a regular basis. I’ve read his Rex Mundi and Zero Killer series (both from Dark Horse) and truly admire and recommend them… So I really hope we see another wholly unique, totally self-controlled Arvid Nelson Dream Project in the near future.
Then I can write about how RIGHT I was again!
P.S. For those who know all about my constant and unwavering appreciation of the female form, I promise that NONE of my positivity toward both of these series has anything to do with the literally almost nude Dejah Thoris seen throughout both collections. Trust that I am NOT saying that I mind her character design (based much more closely on ERB’s original descriptions than Marvel’s decades old John Carter Warlord of Mars series– Where Dejah Thoris was beautifully drawn by Gil Kane, Dave Cockrum, Carmine Infantino and Walter Simonson– also about to be released as Marvel Omnibus in about a month)… In fact, I love that comics have come so far that we mature readers can get a Dejah Thoris attired EXACTLY the way her creator desired. Another point in favor of these series!
Eric Powell, Tracy Marsh, Victor Santos
Right about now, a flu-ravaged Jose Melendez is sitting up in bed going, “What. The. Fuck?!”
First, I rarely like to profess I’m wrong (who does?)… Then I do just that over a couple of Dynamite Entertainment trade collections. Now I am praising another IDW graphic novel. Truth be told, I praise IDW Hardcovers and Graphic Novels all the time (even if I still believe their floppies are overpriced by– at least– 50 cents USD). But I can understand Jose thinking that I might have been overtaken by a POD PERSON… Since I rarely have any kind words reserved for IDW’s licensed books.
But here I am… Praising Again.
IDW has finally figured out what needs to be done with their licensed properties. They’ve hired talented, smart writers to pen meaningful stories– that just happen to feature a radioactive lizard named Godzilla. That’s what Eric “Goon” Powell has done with Godzilla Kingdom of Monsters Volume One and that’s what John “Chew” Layman did with his Godzilla comic series, Godzilla: Gangsters & Goliaths.
And Eric Powell continues to do more of the same with this graphic novel. When you think about it, 99.9% of all creators of great genre Novels/Comics/TV Shows & Films do exactly the same thing too… They realize early one that their main draws lose their coolness/uniqueness/gravitas with constant overexposure.
But let’s face it, sometimes other mediums portray these characters better than comic books. If you want to see Godzilla go berserk, breathe radioactive fire and fuck shit up, there’s plenty of different films out there that showcase these extremely repetitive hissy fits. I think it is a fair assessment that most people don’t queue up for Godzilla movies to watch a story about a bunch of humans while a monster happens to flailing away in the background. They want HOT LIZARD ACTION. In contrast, Godzilla comics that follow this formula have never lasted very long.
So here’s where Godzilla comic books have the opportunity (if handled correctly) to shine over Godzilla films: They can offer a compelling story and crazy action.
Eric Powell’s Godzilla Kingdom of Monsters is NOT about Godzilla’s flammable halitosis. It’s about HUMAN things.. The human condition and how people react toward each other… While a fire breathing MONSTER happens to be lurking and kicking the shit out of stuff in the background.
And that what’s great about comics: They can give fans BOTH a great story and fast paced set pieces without worrying about budget constraints or losing readers if the humans talk a little too long. Godzilla King of Monsters is a hybrid that delivers an intelligent story and lots of cool stuff too… And isn’t that all any of us really want (or need) when we read a comic book?
Annotated Sandman Vol 1 HC – This Week’s POS*!
Avengers Academy Vol 2 Real World – Own the Hardcover
Avengers X-Men Bloodties HC – Older X-Men/Avengers clash
Batman The Dark Knight Vol 1 Golden Dawn Deluxe HC
Batman The Return Of Bruce Wayne – Own the Hardcover
Battlestar Galactica Origins Omnibus – Owned the Original Trades
Billy Fog Gift of Trouble Sight HC
Black Fire HC
BPRD Hell On Earth Vol 2 Gods and Monsters
Charlie Adlard Curse Of The Wendigo
Crawl to Me – Saw an intriguing preview
Crysis – More Video Game puffery…
Dare Detectives Snow Pea Plot Collected Edition HC
Darkness Accursed Vol 1 (Book Market Edition) – Own the Original Trade
Doc Savage Double Novel Vol 54 – Highly recommended
Donald Duck and Friends Double Duck Vol 3
Duke Nukem Glorious Bastard – See Crysis blurb above
Eerie Archives Vol 9 HC
Enders Game Ultimate Collection – Own the Original Hardcovers
Essential Fantastic Four Vol 4 (New Print)
Fear Itself HC – Aaugh! Bought (and read!) the original comics!
Fearless Vol 1
Godzilla Kingdom of Monsters Vol 2 – HOT PICK of the WEEK!
Habibi HC (Signed Bookplate Edition) – Own the Unsigned Edition
Hotwire Vol 1 HC (Limited Signed Edition) – Own the Original Trade
Hulk World War Hulks HC – Own the Original Hardcovers
Invincible Iron Man Vol 2 HC – Own the Original Hardcovers
Jim Hensons Dark Crystal Vol 1 Creation Myths HC
Kato Origins Vol 2 Hellfire Club
Malignant Man – Subject matter just seems gross & stupid
Modern Masters Vol 27 Ron Garney
Screamland Death Of The Party
Seven Soldiers Of Victory Vol 1 (New Print) – No thanks. Again.
Shadow Double Novel Vol 56
Shaky Kanes Monster Truck GN
Spider-Man Masques HC – More McFarlane WRITTEN Spider-man
Stand Vol 2 American Nightmares – Own the Hardcover
Superfun Adventures of Jax
Tank Girl Bad Wind Rising HC
Vampire PA Pittsburgh Noir Limited HC
Walt & Skeezix Vol 5 1929 – 1930 HC
Witchfinder Vol 2 Lost and Gone Forever – Runner Up PICK of the Week!
X-Force Vol 2 HC – Own the Original Hardcovers
Young Marvelman Classic Vol 2 HC
Black Bird Vol 12
Cage of Eden Vol 3
Drops of God Vol 2
Kimi Ni Todoke Vol 12
Love Hina Vol 2 Omnibus – MANGA PICK of the WEEK!
Monster Hunter Orage Vol 3
Naruto Vol 54
Negima Omnibus Vol 3
One Piece Vol 60
Oresama Teacher Vol 6
Psyren Vol 2
Skip Beat Vol 26
Yu GI Oh Gx Vol 8
Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, John Severin
Previous readers of one of my numerous Jonah Hex & BPRD Trade reviews will remember me gushing about long-time veteran John Severin.
Well, here I am doing it again. What else can I say? Well, I can start with this:
The Dude is NINETY YEARS OLD!
Put that in your crack pipe and smoke it, supporters of ageism! John Severin’s work at 90 is just as good– if not BETTER– than his work when he was 40! Everyone knows I love Mike for not only remembering– but ROUTINELY hiring— such great artistic stalwarts as Richard Corben and John Severin for his books. In other words, don’t let the striking Mignola cover on this edition fool you!
The GREAT Severin Art is INSIDE!
Neil Gaiman / Various
I’m going to catch HELL for this… I am going to catch HELL for this…
And you know what? I don’t give a flying damn.
Many of you know I have been a lifelong comics reader… But I did take a break for about 8 years while I pursued other interests. I read some comics during this time but not many. One of the series I really wanted to read, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman got away from me early on and I didn’t read it until much, much later… After the fetishisation of the series was already complete. There was a time when even the slightest disparagement of Gaiman’s Sandman in front of comic geeks would be tantamount to spitting at the very sound of Meryl Streep’s name at an Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences gathering (usually called the Oscars®).
In other words: You. just. did. NOT. do. it.
Thankfully times change and while there are still tons of Sandman fans out there… There are also plenty of people like me, wh0– for the most part– like it but don’t feel like it is ANYWHERE NEAR the best comic book writing or the best comic book series ever written. It just isn’t.
If you feel like it is, then please believe me when I tell you I grant that your opinion has just as much validity as mine. I simply just don’t agree with your assessment.
That’s why books like The Annotated Sandman Volume One make me want to vomit! The publishers– most of whom haven’t read nearly as many comics as you and I have– buy into the decades-old hype and print this shit. They are also quick to remind that their intentions are of the purest form– as they hope these annotated editions bring NEW FANS to the genre… People who originally turned down this supposed masterpiece because it had the audacity to be published in comic book form.
You know what? BULLSHIT! Fuck your “NEW FANS“… Those who would DENY ARTISTIC VALIDITY to an ENTIRE ARTISTIC MEDIUM simply because the stories therein were originally published in cheap, easily consumable formats.
Who cares of the opinions of a group of people who can only infer ARTISTIC VIABILITY on works if they are published in a $49.99 Hardcover Format accompanied with paragraph after fawning paragraph added to insure these morons understand what Gaiman supposedly truly meant when he wrote these comic book scripts in the first place?
I KNOW I DON’T… And that’s why The Annotated Sandman Volume One is This Week’s POS!