Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Stumptown 2013 - Thoughts

This was my first year going to Stumptown, and I look forward to attending next year as well. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to stay as long as I would have like due to sickness issues. Here are my thoughts around what I was able to take in:

CBLDF- Since my official introduction to them at this years Wizard World Portland, I found myself drawn to the wonderful offerings they had available. I limited myself to only picking-up volume 1 & 2 of the Grendel Omnibus. (Not sure if there will be additional published.)

Bill Willingham- As those who regularly read this blog can attest to, Willingham is one of my favorite authors. Truth be told, he was the biggest reason for me to come to Stumptown. I must confess, I have not yet been drawn into the life of small press publishing. When I find artists and writers I like, I will be faithful to the end... I just need to open myself up to more. I would welcome opinions.

Back to Bill... When I arrived, he was doing an interview for one of the many podcasts that were also in attendance. He was also sitting in the aisle instead of behind his table, so this threw me off my game to approach him originally. Once I noticed he was sitting there just working on a piece of art, I came up and asked for his time.

Same as the first time I met him at ECCC last year, he was easily approachable and funny to talk to. Unfortunately, my mind blanked on a few of the questions I had prepared to ask him. (I chalk this up to my feeling sick shortly after my encounter.) Next time, I'm writing my questions down.

Becky Cloonan- While I am a recent admirer of Cloonan's work (The Guild: Zaboo and Batman #12 from the New 52), I took my meager offerings for her to sign. When I first arrived at her table, she was working on a sketch and there was someone at her table going over what she had available for sale. The one item she had that really caught my interest was Dracula (Bram Stoker) where she had added artwork to. After flipping through the book, I thought that perhaps this would make reading Dracula a bit more palatable. Between this book and my comics to sign, I left her table content.

Jason Martin- While walking through the con, my eye was drawn to an image that made my inner child giddy...

"Cobra Fett" drew me in to looking at Martin's work, but his print offerings kept me there. He had prints featuring the Walking Dead and Game of Thrones. I wish I had purchased more of his prints, but I did get 6.
I also picked-up a print of "Cobra Fett" and the others are going to be gifts, so I'm not going to post them. I'm going to be keeping my eyes on his work. Here's a link to his blog.

Ron Randall- Though I've never before been introduced to Randall's work, when I stopped by his table I found him very inviting. I took a look at his Trekker offerings, and decided to take an interest. I had never heard of this title before, but when I did a little research after getting home, I found the history very inviting. I'm going to read the issue from Image I bought from him and post a review. Before I even read it, I recommend people to give him your support. From the little time I actually spent with him, I could sense that he is very passionate for this title. Here's a link to his website.

Bridge City Comics- I must have passed their table several times before I stopped to look at their trade and graphic novel offerings... which were all highly discounted. One in particular caught my eye: "X-Men: Fall of the Mutants Omnibus". The 2 reasons this caught my attention are A) I just added the single trades to my wishlist on Amazon earlier in the week -AND- B) they were selling it for $40! That's 60% off the cover price. It's a huge book, and carting it around the con would have proved difficult with the limited space I had in the only bag I brought. After some time, I came back and bought the omnibus. It felt good, and I regret nothing.

After this purchase, I decided to go back to my van and drop-off what I had so that I could come back for more. That's when the sickness took me and I decided to leave rather than share what I was feeling.

Now.... on to FCBD!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor

Title: The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor

ISBN: 978125000838
Price: $14.99
Publisher/Year: Thomas Dunne Books, 2011
Writer: Robert Kirkman, Jay Bonansinga

Rating: 4.5/5

If you’ve been reading the ‘Walking Dead’ comic books (and if you haven’t then you really should) then you won’t need me to tell you just who the Governor is and the influence that he has had on the lives of Rick Grimes and his friends. I’m prepared to bet that a number of you are thinking, ‘the Governor, what a bastard...’ right now.

If you’re not reading the comic books and are just watching the TV series instead, you know that you will see the Governor be a major focus in season 3. He’s too evil a character not to feature in one form or another and I’m pretty confident in saying that you all have some great television headed your way when he turns up. It’ll be near the knuckle stuff though, you have been warned... (FYI At the time of writing this review, season 3 just started.)

Zombie media is great at showing the reader (or viewer, whatever) how a character can develop in certain ways when faced with the all-encompassing fear of a zombie apocalypse. People are thrown back on their own resources and will often have to do unspeakable things if they want to survive another day; they will often end up a completely different person to how they began. The Governor differs here in that when we first meet him he is already capable of some pretty sickening stuff. So... what happened? Was the Governor always like this or did something happen, during those early days of the zombie uprising, that forced him down a particular path?

Robert Kirkman has teamed up with thriller writer Jay Bonansinga to fill in that gap and the result is just what you would expect from the creator of ‘The Walking Dead’. You’re going to need a strong stomach to read this book but it’s more than worth it in the end.

The dead are walking and Philip Blake’s life will never be the same again. The only constant let over (from a former life that already seems like a dream) is his seven year old daughter Penny and Philip will do whatever takes to make sure that she survives.

Rumor has it that refugee centers are being set up in Atlanta so Philip and Penny aim to make their way there along with Philip’s brother and two old high school friends. Atlanta isn’t far away, as the crow flies, but in a new world where the dead are looking to eat the living... Atlanta is now a lot further away than anyone thought. Our band of survivors will do whatever they can to get to the city but not only are there thousands of zombies in the way but Atlanta might not be as safe as everyone thought. Philip Blake’s problems are only just beginning...

Every so often I’ll come across a book where I’ll find myself stopping and thinking, ‘what the... did I just read that?’ You know what I mean; the writer really goes for the throat and you find yourself physically shocked by what’s happening on the page. ‘The Rise of the Governor’ is not one of those books, preferring instead to take things to another level and set out to shock you pretty much every couple of pages. And it succeeds. ‘The Rise of the Governor’ makes for visceral, bloody and downright brutal reading that I just couldn’t put down. Kirkman and Bonansinga’s team up proves that Kirkman’s creation can live just as well on the printed page as it does in the comic book.

That’s not to say that it’s all perfect though. The journey that Philip Blake makes is arduous to say the least and one development led me to wonder whether Kirkman and Bonansinga took pity on the group and decided to let them rest up for a bit. The safe shelter that they find is a little too safe and drastic action is needed to move them on and keep the story flowing. Therein lies the problem, it’s clear that the plot needs to keep moving and one particularly powerful scene (seriously, the weather gets involved and everything!) is rendered nothing more than a really transparent plot device there to kick-start the plot. Talk about being taken right out of a book (which was hitherto really easy to get into) and having it shown for what it is...

This is a real shame as the rest of the book, both before and after this point, absolutely rocks and I’m eager to see how Kirkman and Bonansinga tie the next two books into the ongoing ‘Walking Dead’ continuity (although it’s not a hundred percent clear whether the book will tie into the comic book plot or that of the TV show, my money is on the comic book personally).

When the dead start trying to eat bits of the living, civilization crumbles fast and that puts a lot of pressure on the people trying to live in the ruins. Nowhere is this clearer than in the characters of Philip and Brian Blake, two men just trying to do the right thing by the people that they love. Kirkman and Bonansinga throw everything they can at Philip in particular and you can’t help but root for him as he struggles to overcome another setback (and discovers levels of savagery that he was previously unaware of), even though long term fans will know how his story ultimately plays out. Or will they? There is one hell of a twist, right at the end, which casts new light on everything and makes prospect of the next two books just that little more enticing.

Before you get to that bit, there is a whole wasteland of the zombie apocalypse to work your way through; jammed full of zombies and the worst elements of what is left of humanity. Kirkman and Bonansinga use this backdrop to great effect, pulling no punches in showing us just how tough life has suddenly become for Philip and his friends. ‘The Rise of the Governor’ is full of frantic moments where streets suddenly fill up with zombies, cars break down and safe shelter is proved to be anything but. Kirkman and Bonansinga set out to show us just what people will do to survive and Philip Blake learns some hard lessons along the way. For the reader... Prepare to feel your heart race like mad and remember to breathe every now and then, this is a book where it’s all too easy to take a breath and forget to let it out.

‘The Rise of the Governor’ comes to a clanking halt mid-way through but stays in fifth gear long enough for it not to be a major issue; there are more than enough shocks and zombies to keep you going. I cannot wait for the next book.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

G.I. Joe: Reinstated

Title: G.I. Joe: Reinstated

ISBN: 1582402523
Price: $14.95
Publisher/Year: Image, 2002
Artist: John Larter
Writer: Josh Blaylock
Collects: G.I. Joe Vol. 2 #1-4

Rating: 3/5

Marvel Comics began producing a G.I. Joe comic book back in 1982, the same year Hasbro rolled out the new 3 ¾” line of Joe action figures. The series was a big hit and would be one of Marvel’s top sellers for many years and spawn several companion titles such as G.I. Joe Special Missions and G.I. Joe European Missions. But as the popularity of the toy line waned, so did the popularity of the comic and the title was finally canceled in 1994 after 155 issues. G.I. Joe lay dormant for seven years until resurrected by Devil’s Due in 2001. “G.I. Joe Reinstated” re-prints those first four issues where we see the Joe team brought out of the mothballs to once again face off against arch-nemesis, Cobra. But this was not the G.I. Joe of twenty years ago which was squarely aimed at the young boys who played with the action figures. This was a grittier, edgier Joe, fully immersed in our modern world of terrorism and 9/11.

Reinstated begins deep in the Florida Everglades at the base of Dreadnok leader Zartan. Zartan hosts a meeting of Cobra dignitaries including the Cobra Commander, the Baroness, Major Bludd, Destro, Dr. Mindbender, Tomax, and Xamot. These diverse and ego-maniacal personalities instantly begin squabbling over power as the Cobra Commander presents Cobra’s newest weapon…nanite technology which he claims will infect and destroy virtually anything it’s introduced into, whether it’s mechanical or organic. Destro manages to usurp power and imprison the Cobra Commander. But military has been keeping an eye on Zartan in the form of Snake Eyes’ apprentice Kamakura, who relays his information to Joe command. After seven years the Joe team is reassembled with Duke, Flint, Scarlett, Snake Eyes, Roadblock, Shipwreck, Gung Ho, Mainframe, Spirit, and more…We catch up with the Joe team and learn that Snake Eyes and Scarlett were to be married but Snake left three weeks before the wedding. We also learn rather humorously that Bazooka is no longer quite fit for active duty.

The Joe team begins their assault on Zartan’s base but it is all a ruse to draw the Joe team in. Scarlett and Snake Eyes are captured and several members of the Joe team, including many new recruits are infected with the nanites. Furthermore, Cobra has begun infecting infrastructure in the U.S., hitting government installations, communications networks, and other targets, resulting in widespread damage and chaos. Cobra’s plan is then to play the good guy and save the day so the government will be in their debt. The Joe team must now find a way to battle this new technology and save the men and the nation from Cobra’s latest threat.

Reinstated was an extraordinary story and a great way to bring back the Joe team. Far from the more implausible Marvel stories, Reinstated handled the seven year absence logically with the various Cobra members quibbling over power. Meanwhile on the Joe side we are given some meat to the past seven years that the Joe team had been disbanded. While it would have been great to see a bit more of what’s happened to the team in that time, it was at least nice to see the subject handled intelligently. And in a plot right out of today’s headlines we hear that people are protesting in Washington over the Joe Teams attack on the Cobra base. Kudos to Josh Blaylock for playing up the whole sympathizing with the terrorists angle as many people today have done with Al-Quida. Steve Kurth and John Larter provide the striking artwork putting the finishing touches on this great trade collection. Devil’s Due had done a great job of balancing staying true to the characters Marvel and Hasbro introduced and updating them for 21st century readers. I like having the stories aimed at a more mature audience than the “G” rated Marvel material. Clearly, G.I. Joe is in good hands at Devil’s Due.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Wolverine Volume 2: Coyote Crossing

Title: Wolverine Volume 2: Coyote Crossing

ISBN: 0785111379
Price: $11.99
Publisher/Year: Marvel, 2004
Artist: Leandro Fernandez
Writer: Greg Ruka
Collects: Wolverine (Vol 3) #7-11

Rating: 3/5

This isn’t a storyline that does much to advance the Wolverine mythos. It’s not about his past or his returning memories or his eternal fight with Sabretooth or anything like that. It’s a stand-alone storyline in which Wolvie is forced to face the fact that he’s stuck somewhere between being a man and an animal. The story itself is about Logan dealing with the leader of a Mexican gang and being tailed by the DEA agent who made her first appearance in the previous Wolverine story arc, “The Brotherhood”. I won’t go into the story, because a lot of it is meant to surprise you, but I will say that this story does a LOT to establish Logan’s humanity. Even after killing dozens of men in a rage, he is forced to deal with the fact that he’s not all animal… nor is he all man. This is a nicely complex character development story that I enjoyed immensely.

The art is also better, IMO, than Robertson and Palmer’s work on “The Brotherhood.” I know Wolvie’s short and stocky, but I don’t like art that makes him look like he just stumbled out of his cave. The art in “Coyote Crossing” captures his stature, but also conveys the elegance and ease of movement that he’s known for. I’m a bit ambivalent on the fact that his face looks a lot like Hugh Jackman’s; I prefer a bit more separation between the movie and comic ‘verses, but I really like that he’s drawn with long hair. That needs to be done more often.

Saturday, April 13, 2013


For many people who collect comic books, signatures add to the personal value of an individual issue. There are also those who feel that unless you go through a professional grading service like CGC or PGX to authenticate and encapsulate your comic, so many people believe that a signature doesn't add anything, but rather detracts from the potential value.

I am personally of two minds about getting my books signed by authors, artists or someone simply related to the book in my collection. I have included several pics and scans of comics I have in my collection that are signed.

Cable: Blood and Metal #1-

Signed by John Romita, Jr. at a Portland Comic Book Show in 1994. At the time, autographs from artist's of Romita's caliber were $0.25 each, with all proceeds going to charity. This was the first time I got a chance to actually chat with an artist whose work I was not only familiar with, but was also a fan of.

Uncanny X-Men #197-

Signed by John Romita, Jr. at the very same comic show. With the increase of comic cons in the pacific northwest, I wonder what the chances are of having Romita come back? My inner child yearns for this day.

New Mutants #100-

Signed by Fabian Nicieza at a Portland Comic Book Show. As with John Romita, Jr., it was great to meet and chat with Nicieza. Just as I liked Romita's art, so to did I appreciate Nicieza's writing.

Lady Death: Swimsuit Special #1 (Red Velvet Cover)-

Signed by Brian Pulido at an Emerald City Comic Con. Unfortunately, I don't have any special memories around this signature. When I couldn't attend, I sent a box of comic to a friend to get them signed. As much as I value Pulido's signature on this specific issue, I wish there was a story behind it similar to what happened at ECCC 2012.

I'm thankful that I was able to connect with Pulido in 2012. To me, it makes up for not being able to meet him when this specific issue was signed.

The Walking Dead #100 (SDCC Previews Exclusive Black & White Cover)-

Signed by Robert Kirkman at San Diego Comic Con. This is actually a comic that I purchased at Wizard World Portland 2013 and don't have a good story about meeting Kirkman. In 2012, he was at ECCC... but every time I passed the Image tables, he was nowhere to be seen. Although this was a great find for me, that is the sum total of my memories for this specific issue.

X-Force #25-

Signed by Fabian Nicieza at a Portland Comic Book Show and then later signed in 1996 by Greg Capullo at a comic book show in Seattle. This show was very memorable because Capullo and Todd McFarlane were doing promo's for the Spawn cartoon on HBO. There's a funny story about how I first met Greg, that I promised that I would never tell again.

Ultimate X-Men #38-

Signed by Brian Michael Bendis at the same Emerald City Comic Con that Brian Pulido was at. This was part of the box of issues I had my friend take to get signed. To date, I have not had the chance to meet Bendis personally. I'd like to.

Ghost Stories-

Signed by Adam Hughes at the first Emerald City Comic Con I attended... I believe it was in 2006. I remember this well because there was a small line at his table in the morning before he actually "opened" to do signings. His assistant mentioned that it was the first time that had happened. Hughes is one of my favorite artists and when Ghost was first released, it was part of my monthly pull list at my LCS.

Ghost #4-

Signed by Matt Halley and Tom Simmons at the Portland Comic Book Show in 1996. A crossover with Barb Wire and Adam Hughes didn't do the art. As much as I like this issue, I really believe that Hughes would've made a deeper impact by adding his art.

I remember buying my first print from Halley. It was of Gambit from the X-Men. I still have it in an old photo album.

Daredevil #64-

Signed by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev at the Emerald City Comic Con that I was unable to attend. While I'm not a huge fan of Maleev's work, I do like how he drew Black Widow for this cover.

Dawn: Convention Sketch Book 2005-

Signed by Joseph Michael Linsner at the Emerald City Comic Con in 2007. I know that I wasn't at this particular ECCC but I don't recall if this was the same year that Brian Pulido and Brian Michael Bendis were there. Love to meet Linsner in person some day.

Bluntman & Chronic-

Signed by Mike Allred at a Portland Comic Book Show. Even though I can't remember the year, I do remember that I had a table there and was actually selling and I sent my wife (at the time) to get signatures while I tended to the table. This was the year that the show was actually on the floor of the Memorial Coliseum instead of the exhibition hall where it normally was.
Grendel Tales: Four Devils, One Hell #6-

Signed by Matt Wagner at a Portland Comic Book Show. I think this may have been in 1996 because I want to believe that it was the same year that I went to Seattle and met Greg Cappulo. I'm not entirely certain, but as a long time fan of Grendel, it was incredible to finally meet Wagner.

I guess the key takeaway from this is that no matter if you feel that signatures add a monetary value or not, each one contains a story of how the signature was obtained and/or came to reside in your collection. I know people who, like me, appreciate the story behind the signature. There are also many who prefer to "insure" their investment in a signature by having the comic graded and the autograph officially certified. As a collector and as someone who occasionally sells comics, I can respect that. For me, I only have 1 issue that I've had signed and graded:

Catwoman #51-

Signed by Adam Hughes at Emerald City Comic Con. This is by far my favorite cover. I even bought a large print of this also signed. If I had enough money, I would probably have more of my signed issues graded to keep them safe. This specific issue means a great deal to me and it holds a special place in my collection.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Stumptown Comics Fest 2013

10th Annual Stumptown Comics Fest
April 27 and 28, 2013 • Oregon Convention Center
Sat. 10-6, Sun. 12-6 

Stumptown Comics Fest - Saturday pass
Stumptown Comics Fest - Sunday pass
Stumptown Comics Fest - Weekend pass

I plan to be there, will you? 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

X-Men: Age of Apocalypse Prelude

Title: X-Men: Age of Apocalypse Prelude

ISBN: 9780785155089
Price: $29.99
Publisher/Year: Marvel, 2011
Artist: Andy Kubert, Jan Duursema, Steve Epting, Terry Dodson, Roger Cruz, Ron Garney, Ian Churchill
Writer: Fabian Nicieza, John Francis Moore, Todd Dezago, Scott Lobdell, Mark Waid, Jeph Loeb
Collects: X-Factor #108-109, Uncanny X-Men #319-321, X-Men #38-41, Cable #20, X-Men: Age of Apocalypse Ashcan Edition

Rating: 3.5/5

Out of all the comic books I've ever read (not as many as some but still a fair old few) why is it the 'Age of Apocalypse' series is the one that has always managed to occupy pride of place in my head? I mean, there are definitely better series out there

'I don't know' is still the honest answer. It's probably a cross between my picking the books up at a time when college life suddenly got a lot better (it had been pretty bad at one point) and the series being a whole world away from the X Men cartoon I'd made a habit of watching. All of a sudden anything could happen and I wanted some of that action!

I didn't stick with the X Men books for that long, just long enough to see what happened with the Onslaught storyline, but I've always had a little soft spot for the 'turn everything on its head' madness of the 'Age of Apocalypse' books. The collected editions are very much on my 'to buy list', once I can pick up copies without crippling my wallet... I can wait :o) I had never really given much thought to what led up to the main event, too busy being blown away by the good stuff, but something had to kick it all off... I finally got my chance to find out when I came across a copy of 'Prelude' in a local library. There was no way that I wouldn't be reading it!

The premise is simple. Professor Xavier's mad son, Legion, has woken from a coma and promptly jumped back twenty years into the past. His plan is to make the world a happier place by killing its greatest villain before he turns to a path of darkness. Can the X Men of the present save the Magneto of the past? A lot more than one man's life rides on the outcome... And what if the wrong man were to die? That death could turn the present into a far different world entirely...

In many respects 'Prelude' is the book that I have been waiting years to read. I already knew what the Age of Apocalypse was all about but I never really knew what caused this event to take place (well, not in any great detail). Now I do and it's a story that may be a little too straightforward for some (like me) but also a story that resonates with a lot of power and emotion. This can lend a 'soap opera' air to proceedings (part of the reason why I stopped reading these books) but not as much as I thought there would be.

I did wonder how much of what happened was necessary to the plot though (Iceman's issues and Gambit's run in with Sabertooth for example) and this was where things got a little too much for me. 'Prelude' is as self-contained as it can be but there's no escaping the fact that it's part of a much larger narrative with lots of smaller sub-plots that clearly need to be rounded off before a new scenario can begin. This is ok for those readers who are familiar with the story already but if you're not (like me) then things can feel a little disjointed with what feels like several plots all working against each other. There are also loads of little references to events happening in other comics entirely (a 'Rogue' mini-series and 'Wolverine' for starters). This is a pet hate of mine anyway, it just feels like a money making gimmick, but it also has the unfortunate effect of making you feel like there's even more story that you're missing.

Once you get past this though, 'Prelude' still has a lot to offer and I'm glad I got to give it a go. I'm always up for a bit of super powered confrontation and there is plenty of that on offer here, particularly in the end stages where the X Men take on Legion in a suitably pyrokinetic fashion. The artwork is of a good standard anyway but was glorious in these sequences.

I also got a lot out of the focus on the relationship between Xavier and Erik; not only in how it gave the plot added impetus (and added an air of tragedy to the climax) but also in that I'd never seen this relationship before. It made for a real nice change to see things actually play out rather than be referred to yet another back issue.

'Prelude' suffers from problems that I think are endemic in Marvel comics as a whole but there is still a lot there to recommend the read. Definitely worth sticking with and it's got me all fired up to finally track down the big 'Age of Apocalypse' collections. I'm glad I read it.