Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Digital vs. Print

In this day and age, I hear more people going towards digital comics rather than the traditional print comics. I understand the appeal, but I don't think I would ever switch entirely to digital.

For about 8 or so years, I worked with books... from your standard paperbacks you can find at your local store to textbooks. I worked closely with rare books and for about 4 of those years, my workspace was right in the depths of a "rare book room". This room helped to imbue me with a sense of nostalgia and a greater understanding of the tactile world. The feel and smell of a good book can never be replicated by a digital version. Sure, I may be able to acquire a copy of Frank Baum's "Wizard of Oz" easily through a digital service, but it provides little satisfaction from the sensation of holding an original printing of the actual book. You can almost feel the history from the actual book and imbibe it like a fine wine.

I'm thinking about engaging in a monthly digital comic book service subscription so that I can actually start reading what I'm buying, and therefore wouldn't necessarily feel so bad for not reading their stories until I get their subsequent trade.

Something I've also found is that there are comics from my younger years that actually haven't been compiled into a trade paperback format yet. I'm sure that I can find this issues digitally, so this would allow me to further rediscover my lost childhood readings without having to wait for the publisher to finally release a trade.

I'm sure that if I actually owned a tablet device to read digital comics, I wouldn't have nearly as much of an issue as I have. With the computers I own, I simply don't feel like either of them (1 laptop and 1 desktop) were ever meant to be used as a reading device for comics. I know that may sound a little silly, but I have a certain place where I read trades and I don't have my computers there. And my eye sight is bad enough without trying to read a comic book on my iPod Touch or smartphone. No thank you!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

John Constantine, Hellblazer: Hooked

Title: John Constantine, Hellblazer: Hooked

ISBN: 9781401227289
Price: $14.99
Publisher/Year: Vertigo, 2009
Artist: Guiseppe Camuncoli, Stefano Landini
Writer: Brian Peter Milligan
Collects: Hellblazer #256-260

Rating: 3/5

Urban occultist John Constantine has straddled the fine line between right and wrong since his debut more than 25 years ago in the pages of Alan Moore’s acclaimed run on Swamp Thing. A conman and a trickster, he has proved willing to make any sacrifice to achieve his objectives, whether that be friends, family or even his own mortal soul. The jaded, cynical Constantine has allowed himself to get close to someone, but the old weaknesses are hard to abandon, and he resorts to using a love potion to win her commitment, something he would never have needed to resort to in the past. But Constantine is getting old, and for the first time he appears frightened of being alone, leading him to take dangerous risks and sinking to new moral lows.

As anyone who has followed the character will know, things never end well for the streetwise shaman whenever a woman gets involved, and this story is no exception…

Writer Peter Milligan obviously has a long game plan for his run on Hellblazer, and there is much set up here which will only be resolved in subsequent volumes, but that shouldn’t discourage new readers from exploring what dark and deadly corners of reality he is taking John these days.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Zanziber is Going to Wizard World Portland!

That's right! Thanks for an offer on Groupon, I was able to afford a ticket for Friday, February 22nd. My plans are to go primarily for some autographs and take some photo's.

As I previously posted, I am unable to afford the expense of going to Emerald City Comic Con this year, but Portland is a day trip from my home, and easier to afford. I'm also currently working on getting some time with a special guest at Wizard World for my very first interview!

I would be remiss if I didn't also mention that I'm planning on attending Stumptown Comics Fest this year. This will be my first year attending, and I look forward to connecting with special guest Bill Willingham from one of my favorite series, Fables.

As always, I will post about my experiences at both of these fine conventions along with whatever photos I happen to be able to take.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Spider-Woman: Agent of S.W.O.R.D.

Title: Spider-Woman: Agent of S.W.O.R.D.

ISBN: 9780785119999
Price: $24.99
Publisher/Year: Marvel, 2010
Artist: Alex Maleev
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Collects: Spider-Woman #1-7

Rating: 3.5/5

It’s a got a great, moody noir feel.  This can often be heavy-handed and forced, but not here. The gritty mood and Jessica Drew’s first-person perspective is quite appropriate for a former secret agent (two times over) and private detective who is at an all-time low and seeking some sort of redemption after the Skrulls have tainted her name and reputation by replacing her with an imposter as their queen during Bendis’ INVASION storyline. The noir atmosphere is especially right for a story in which Drew is hired by a shady counterterrorism organization to hunt down the shape-shifting Skrulls, first in a nasty part of the world.

Normally, I would hate muddy art like what’s used in here, but artist Alex Maleev’s inked drawings/paintings really adds to the gritty feel. Clear, distinct art just wouldn’t work here.

Drew first was an agent of Hydra before working for SHIELD. Now an Avenger, Drew is recruited by Abigail Brand to be agent for S.W.O.R.D., the Sentient World Observation and Response Department.

“It’s an international counterterrorism and intelligence agency that deals with extraterrestrial threats to world security,” Brand tells Drew in their first clandestine meeting on an empty bus.

Give Drew’s history with espionage (on the sides of both good and evil), one would think she’d be full of confidence. But her inner monologue reveals a skilled woman who not only second-guesses herself and her situations, she’s just plain neurotic. She’s equal parts confident and unsure of her next move and obviously, who to trust. This makes Drew come to life. She’s not just a spurned superhero on a mission. This is important since AGENT OF S.W.O.R.D. truly is a Jessica Drew story, not a Spider-Woman one (regardless of what the title is).

Drew doesn’t have the stereotypical everything-is-under-control demeanor of a James Bond- or Jason Bourne-style superspy. She’s more of a shoot-from-the-hip-and-I’ll-figure-it-out-later person. At the same time, she’s reluctant to use lethal force and even more hesitant to release her pheromone-based gift of making others either fall in love with her (in turn, getting them to do what she wants) or making them deathly afraid of her. It makes for a fun, unpredictable mix.

Adding more intrigue to Drew’s character is her heritage, considering she was raised in the Hydra terrorist organization and has a tumultuous relationship (if you can call it that!) with Madame Hydra aka Lady Viper, whom Drew calls “queen of the crazy women.”

I’ll let Jessica explain: “Factoid. In her most crazy moments, she actually thinks she’s my mother. She’s not. My mother’s dead. I know because I watched my Hydra terrorist father kill her right in front of me.”

Visually, what’s intriguing Maleev used Joylnn Carpenter as his real-life model for Jessica Drew. Maleev makes Drew quite realistic, especially with her expressive eyes - an extremely nuanced and difficult to do with any character. Since I was curious as to what Carpenter actually looks like, I found her on the Internet Movie Database (aka In short, Carpenter is a stunning looking woman with incredibly alluring and sexy eyes. Maleev’s Drew is attractive, but not in any kind of supermodel, or even underwear model, way. Well played, sir!

Combine all this with Bendis’ obvious lifelong jones for Spider-Woman and, well, this tale has legs.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

ECCC 2013 Personal Announcement

Over the past 2 years, I have made it a priority to attend ECCC in Seattle. I have posted about my experiences and have always enjoyed the trip and the convention. This year, there are several of my favorite artists that will be attending. I was extremely psyched to go this year.

Due to several financial obligations, it seems like I will have to miss this years event. I had even tried to make considerations for not staying in Seattle as long as normal and driving up with a friend instead of taking the train. Unfortunately, the numbers did not align in my budget.

I am making plans to attend Rose City Comic Con this year (September 21-22), and look forward to it. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that with the new partnership between ECCC and RCCC will allow for some of the artist I'll miss in Seattle to come to Portland. (Ron- If you happen to read this, I'd love to help you any way I can help make this a reality. ;) )

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Spider-Man's Tangled Web Volume 3

Title: Spider-Man's Tangled Web Volume 3

ISBN: 078510951X
Price: $15.99
Publisher/Year: Marvel, 2002
Artist: Duncan Fegredo, Sean Phillips, Guiseppe Camuncoli, Paul Pope, Leandro Fernandez
Writer: Zeb Wells, Ron Zimmerman, Brian Azzarello, Scott Levy, Paul Pope, Daniel Way
Collects: Spider-Man's Tangled Web #12-17

Rating: 3.5/5

Synopsis: Five different stories featuring five different creative teams:

    I was a Teenage Frog-Man - Leap Frog is out of prison and turning over a new leaf, but his son can't take the embarrassment of having a loser former super-villain for a father.  The kids at high school are constantly making fun of him until he takes matters into his own hands - and becomes the new Frog-Man!

    Double Shots - A group villains get together at a super-villain bar and tell stories of their battles with Spidey.  Kraven (the son) and the Vulture tell their stories until Norman Osborn (the Green Goblin) trumps then all with his story.

    The Last Shoot - We get the story of Crusher Hogan before the fateful night he challenged all comers and wound up against a masked teenager who would become Spider-Man.

    The Collaborator - A teenage girl idolizes Spider-Man and gets yelled at by her dad.  She sneaks out and witnesses a new super-villain battle the cops until Spider-Man shows up.  Then she realizes who the new super-villain is - her dad!

    Heartbreaker - Tombstone has a bum ticker and gets sent to prison where he's in danger of having a heart attack at any moment.  The Kangaroo takes a special dislike to him and he may never make it out of prison alive.

The art can be a bit rough, but works with the gritty crime angle to the stories

This third volume of Tangled Web explores the darker side of the street by focusing on Spidey's villains.  It's a refreshing set of gritty stories with surprising appeal and much better than the second (even the first) volume.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Collecting vs Reading

When I first began to collect comic books, I bought them for the art and writing and I read each of them. After reading them, I put each into their own plastic bag with acid-free backing board, sealed the end with a piece of scotch tape, and put them into a box to be saved. Later, I would come to realize that several of these comics that I had collected had value to them. This piqued my interest, and I started to collect more but read less.

These days, I collect titles based on my interests and current trends so that some day they may be worth more than I spent on them. I don't read them anymore as I prefer to wait until storylines have been collected into trades. It's kind of like waiting for a particular TV series to come out on DVD or Netflix instead of watching each individual episode. This is a nasty habit that I learned from my ex-wife, but there are still a few series I do watch each episode of.

There are several problems with collecting comics books like this:
  1. You miss-out on current storylines until they have already passed. Since I'm not reading the comics I buy, I'm missing the "Death of the Family" storyline in the Batman books. I do read enough information online that I keep my interest satiated for a while, but I do kind of feel like I'm cheating myself just a bit. There's a part of me that would get into reading digital comics to keep me up-to-date, but I don't get the same feeling reading a comic on a computer as I did when I read the print version. I appreciate the experience and feel of the print comic over the ease of the digital. Besides, digital comics don't increase in value so there's no investment. :)
  2. Variants! In the 90's, there were a few publishers that decided it would help stimulate the market by providing incentive covers for people to collect. Chromium seemed to be the "drug of choice" for many in those days. Now, we have the retailer incentive covers that are provided when retailers order a certain number of a specific title. Then there are titles that produce multiple covers for a single issue. One of the worst offenders in my collection is Lady Death. For each issue, they put out 3 "standard" covers that are unique. Then there is the Art Deco cover, that you pay a little more for. A few months down the line, the publisher offers additional covers such as:
    • Convention covers
    • Limited editions
    • Holiday covers
    • Special editions
    • Auxiliary editions
  3. eBay! I'll admit that I've used this avenue to sell my comics in the past, but it seems like everyone uses eBay to value their comic books. I remember when the guide was Wizard. Overstreet only comes out once a year, and therefore isn't a good indicator of the fair market value for many issues from the modern era. eBay is the reason that when most people post their collection on Craiglist, they have an inflated concept of what their comics are worth. For what it's worth, I've found that Comics Price Guide has been a fair source for gauging values.
    There you have it. I buy and collect comics as more of an investment than anything else. I buy and collect trades and graphic novels to actually read. I know I can't be the only one out there who does this. I'm glad I have an LCS that can keep my addiction of comics going. :)

    And then there's a service like Comic Bin that allow you to read digital comics for a monthly fee. If anyone who reads my blog had tried their service, are they any good?

    Sunday, January 6, 2013

    Dark Avengers Volume 1: Assemble

    Title: Dark Avengers Volume 1: Assemble

    ISBN: 9780785138525
    Price: $19.99
    Publisher/Year: Marvel, 2009
    Artist: Mike Deodato
    Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
    Collects: Dark Avengers #1-6

    Rating: 3.5/5

    Essentially serving as the first major story beat under Marvel’s recently wrapped company-wide storyline, "Dark Reign," Assemble serves as the origin story for the Dark Avengers.

    Who are the Dark Avengers? Well, they’re basically the normal Avengers, but DARK.

    Just kidding.

    The Dark Avengers are a team of super villains, “assembled” by head of H.A.M.M.E.R. (presently S.H.I.E.L.D.), former-Green Goblin and media/political darling Norman Osborn. Their role in the Marvel Universe is to serve as the public face of Osborn’s regime. On the outside, they don the costumes and titles of recognizable and time-honored heroes, meaning Venom is now “Spider-Man,” and Wolverine’s spiteful, vengeful, bisexual, over-exposed and Punisher-killing son, Daken, is now masquerading as “Wolverine” himself.

    (Sorry, I still haven’t quite forgiven Daken for the whole “chopping the Punisher to pieces” thing. For the record, though, that was an awesome fight, well worth reading for any fans of John Romita Jr’s art, or brutally violent scenes of superhero violence.)

    The whole point of the Dark Avengers is that, their actions -- however beneficial to the people of Earth -- ultimately adhere to the will and nefarious machinations of Norman Osborn.

    Writer Brian Michael Bendis manages to cover a lot of ground in this first story arc, all while managing to keep continuity neophytes up to date (including me). In order, we get the obligatory “how they all came together” sequence, immediately followed by the team’s first field deployment. Being as this is a book about villains masquerading as heroes, it’s only appropriate that the Dark Avenger’s first mission is to rescue Dr. Doom, a member of Norman Osborn’s recently installed string-pulling Cabal organization, from the wrath of the vengeful time-traveling sorceress Morgan Le Fay.

    Casting Morgan Le Fay as the villain of this first story arc in the series turned out to be a wise decision, as her magical abilities make her a formidable opponent to everyone on the Dark Avengers roster (the Superman power-leveled Sentry included). As well, it adds an interesting dynamic to the story to know that, despite Le Fay wanting to kill the central characters of the story, her intentions are righteous in the sense that she’s trying to prevent the formation of the Cabal, and thus pre-empt the entire "Dark Reign" storyline.

    The protracted battle sequence set on Dr. Doom’s home turf of Latveria that dominate most of the pages of this story, with art by Mike Dedato, is exciting and beautifully rendered, with some genuine drama throughout as the heroes battle the demons and monsters at the command of Morgan Le Fay.

    Despite what could have been a confusing mess, the plot is well-structured, with wonderfully kinetic pacing that makes the book hard to put down. I particularly enjoyed the two independent sub-plots involving Norman Osborn and The Sentry and each's questionable grasp of reality. Both characters have always been a little loopy, but in this instance, Brian Michael Bendis puts these issues front and center, causing the reader to question both whether Osborn’s going to put on the Goblin costume again, and whether the Sentry has any clue just what he is or how much power he has at his command.

    It’s a thing of beauty watching Sentry repeatedly perform the superhero equivalent to miracles, only for the next panel to cut back and show the Dark Avengers, his teammates, wide-eyed and quaking with fear over obscene power wielded by their unstable comrade.

    My one gripe with the story progression in this arc was the fact that some characters definitely could’ve used so more air time for us to get to know them better. In particular, Daken (the dark "Wolverine") and Marvel Boy ("Captain Marvel") seemed to get the short end of the stick in terms of characterization, while characters like Ares were at least given a panel or two teasing the reader of future plotlines.

    As is the norm for Bendis stories, the dialogue is a highlight.

    While his forte seems to lean more towards the humorous and childishly immature, Bendis’ dialogue is, at the very least, always entertaining. Some characters, like Bullseye (“Hawkeye”) and Ares, are played for laughs, but on the other side we’re given characters like Moonstone (“Ms. Marvel) and Norman Osborn who speak with an uncommon level of measure and articulation. It goes a long way towards legitimizing Assemble as a serious story arc.

    In other words, though you’ll sometimes find yourself rolling your eyes and snorting at the silliness of the some of the exchanges and asides, you’ll never be bored reading Dark Avengers.

    In particular, Bendis’s use of Mac Gargan’s Venom as a comedic element is just about spot-on perfect.

    All of the Dark Avenger’s series is pencilled by Deodato, whom I first took note of when I started reading he and Warren Ellis’ Thunderbolts series. Employing much of the same style he used there, and indeed throughout the past decade or so, Deodato’s art is that of a semi-photorealistic painting style, with an emphasis on detail and motion being the order of the day. His lines are fluid and borderline “smudged,” such that characters don’t so much have outlines as they do “silhouettes.”

    Deodato was an excellent choice of artist for Dark Avengers, if not for his realistic style, which is wholly appropriate given the political nature of the story, then for his versatility. Whether the characters in his panels are fighting demons and dragons, or sitting in a TV studio doing an interview, everything is brilliantly rendered, and framed in an effective and cinematic fashion.

    By the way, you’ve probably read it elsewhere, but I suppose it’s worth noting that, yes: Mike Deodato did in fact use actor Tommy Lee Jones as a reference for Norman Osborn. Some have complained that they find it distracting, but personally; I kind of liked it.

    Come to think of it, I liked this comic. It was by no means perfect, but Dark Avengers: Assemble held my interest throughout with its roster of colorful, identifiable, and ultimately dysfunctional characters and the frequent shenanigans/interplay between them.