29 August 2005

Invincible vol. 2- "Eight is Enough"

Premise: The teenage son of a famous superhero develops powers of his own. Can he balance being a hero with getting through school?

It's been said that good stories entertain and great stories surprise. By that rationale, Invincible is great.
Volume 1, Family Matters is a fun, lighthearted and entertaining story, and well worth your time and money; however, I'm going to recommend that you start with Volume 2, because it is surprising, and therefore great. It is a better example of what Invincible is all about: a well-written series with plot twists that you never see coming, but are still perfectly logical and plausible (well, as plausible as superhero stories get, anyway). The mood of the series can and will shift on a dime, going from funny to heartwarming to infuriating to depressing over the space of a few issues.
People who really want to jump into Invincible with both feet should pick up The Ultimate Collection. It collects the first 13 issues of the series (or the first 3 paperbacks). But if you want a small sample of a great comic, then start with Volume 2.

Recommended for: fans of Buffy, Smallville, the Spider-Man films, and/or John Hughes movies.
Not recommended for: people who prefer a more consitent tone to their stories.

23 August 2005

A Brief History of Wonder Woman

(I wrote this for another website back in 2002. I present it here with a couple of minor edits for the sake of clarity and modernity. Perhaps I will do more character overviews like this in the near future, if you'd like...)

I can't explain why I love Wonder Woman like I do. Perhaps it stems from fond childhood memories (The second comic I remember owning was an issue where she fought off an alien invasion singlehandedly; also, I was a toddler when the TV show began). Perhaps it is the admittedly lascivious quasi-dominatrix costume (a beautiful woman wearing red leather boots, a bustier, and star-spangled panties, tying people up is just begging for scrutiny). Perhaps it's because she has been the central character in many imaginative and interesting stories (that ain't it; the comics have been hit-and-miss). In any case, everyone has heard of her and seen her, but nobody really knows anything about her. That's why I am here to help...

Wonder Woman is the brainchild of William Moulton Marston, PhD. In addition to being a noted psychologist, lecturer, columnist, and creative consultant for Universal Pictures, Marston also invented the polygraph (lie-detector). In the early 1940's, he saw that comic book characters such as Superman and Batman were staggeringly popular with young boys. He wanted to create a superheroine that young girls could look up to. He was fascinated with ancient cultures, which would help to explain the heroine's connection to Greek mythology. He based the heroine's appearance on his secretary Olive Byrne, a tall brunette who regularly wore a pair of very large bracelets (He would later have two children with Ms. Byrne). Assisted by editor M.C. Gaines (both he and Marston shared a writing credit as "Charles Moulton") and artist Harry Peter (which, to my knowledge, is not a pseudonym), Wonder Woman made her debut in All Star Comics #8 (December 1941-January 1942). He continued to write Wonder Woman's adventures until his death in 1947.

For those of you who don't know her backstory, this is the most recent version:

Diana is the daughter of Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons. The gods endowed her with strength, speed, and extraordinary beauty. The amazons live on Themyscira (Paradise Island), which exists outside of time. Around the time she became an adult, the Amazons were planning to open up diplomatic relations with the "Man's World." Hippolyta forbade her daughter from entering the contest to select an ambassador to the "Man's World," so she donned a mask and entered the contest anyway. She won, and was given the title of Wonder Woman, and was sent to teach the Amazonian philosophy of peace to the nations of the world, even if she had to put a boot in somebody's ass to do it.

She has gone through many changes over the years. In the 60's, she lost her amazon powers and became a kung-fu babe ala Emma Peel. She's lost and regained the invisible jet numerous times. She can no longer be rendered powerless if she is bound by a man. As of 1986, her powers have been defined as follows:

  • She has been given superhuman strength by Zeus, and, in times of crisis, can draw strength from the Earth itself (she is roughly equal to Superman in terms of strength).
  • Hermes gave her superhuman speed and the ability to fly (She's been clocked at about Mach 3).
  • She carries an unbreakable magic lasso, forged by the gods, which compels all who are bound by it to tell the truth.
  • She wears magic bracelets, which she can use to deflect bullets, energy beams, etc.
  • Her tiara is razor sharp, and can be hurled like a boomerang.
  • She is highly resistant to blunt trauma, but is susceptible to edged weapons and bullets.
  • Her only real weaknesses is her rather black-and-white view of the world (the consequences of which can be seen in current DC comics).
Unfortunately, the number of collected volumes of Wonder Woman comics is low, and for the most part, those that do exist are mired in continuity and are not that good. My personal favorite Wonder Woman collection is "Paradise Lost" by Phil Jimenez. It's a fantastic introduction to the character, the art is excellent, and the stories are intriguing. Batman, Robin, Lois Lane, and Lex Luthor show up at various points in the book, and are used to good effect (particularly Lois Lane).

(Wow, I was a wordy person back then. Well, there have been a few more good Wonder Woman comics since then. I'll review them for you soon.)

Noble Causes vol. 1 - "In Sickness and In Health"

Premise: What happens when a normal woman marries into a famous (and dysfunctional) family of superheroes?

Superhero comics and soap operas actually have a lot in common. Both feature larger-than-life characters. Love triangles and outrageous plot twists are staples of both. And nobody EVER stays dead in either genre. So it was only a matter of time before someone decided to create a superhero comic that was an homage to soap operas.
Noble Causes centers around the Noble family. They are a rich and popular family who are as dysfunctional as they are powerful. The father is cold and distant, the mother is a media whore, the oldest son is recovering from a disfiguring accident, and the daughter is pregnant by an unnamed father. Writer Jay Faerber includes all of the elements of a worthwhile soap opera: romance, bastard children, death, and infidelity. And for the guys in the audience, there's demons and killer robots.
I mean, really: Sex AND killer robots? What's not to love?!?

Recommended for: soap opera addicts; people who grew up reading X-Men in the 80's and early 90's.
Not recommended for: people who don't like heavy melodrama.

20 August 2005

Yet Another Comics Blog

Thanks to Yet Another Comics Blog for the link. The favor will now be returned.

Arrowsmith - "So Smart in Their Fine Uniforms"

Premise: What if World War I was fought by wizards instead of generals, airmen flew into battle with dragons instead of biplanes, and the Germans sank ships with sea serpents instead of U-Boats?

The story is your typical hero's journey. A spry young farm boy named Fletcher Arrowsmith runs away from home to join the Overseas Aero Corps. While fighting in Europe, he experiences life, love, and the horrors of war. Much like J.R.R. Tolkien and George Lucas, writer Kurt Busiek pushes the setting to the forefront and populates it with classic archetypes (the naive young hero, his cocky rival, the bored socialite, the wise old farmhand, etc.) to act as the reader's window to this strange new world.

What really drives this book though, is the art. Carlos Pachecho (penciller), Jesus Merino (inker) and Alex Sinclair (colorist) do some of the best work of their careers in this book. Their work truly gives the book an epic, cinematic feel. I really can't say enough good things about it.

Recommended for: Fans of Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, or war movies; history buffs.
Not recommended for: people who don't like fantasy, people who prefer more traditional fantasy stories.

18 August 2005

"What is a Graphic Novel?"

A few years ago, Jessica Abel wrote and drew this two-page comic strip for the now-defunct Artbomb.
It is an excellent primer for non-comics fans. It will also be linked in the sidebar from now on.

11 August 2005

The Authority vol. 1- "Relentless"

Premise: Explodo!

In my previous post, I described how Warren Ellis renovated StormWatch. Well, critics loved it, and Ellis developed a loyal cult following, but it still wasn't lighting the sales charts on fire. So he ended the series and began a new series with the same creative team and some of the same characters that he introduced in StormWatch. He wrote scripts with less political intrigue and more "explodo". The series was called The Authority, and it was a huge hit with fans.

The team is led by Jenny Sparks, "the spirit of the 20th Century," a 99-year-old British woman who looks about 20. Like most of Ellis' protagonists, she's a hard-drinking, chain-smoking cynic. She is joined in her quest to create a better world by her former StormWatch teammates Jack Hawksmoor ("The God Of The Cities") and Swift (a winged huntress), former StormWatch antagonists The Apollo and Midnighter (picture Superman and Batman as an openly gay couple), and two new heroes: The Doctor (a wizard/drug addict) and the Engineer (who can create weapons out of thin air).

The two stories in this first volume are not very deep. Some things destroy a city, and the Authority beats up on those things, as well as whatever sent the things in question. This series isn't about depth, though. It's about atmosphere, style, and explodo. Lots and lots of explodo.

Recommended for: people who enjoy mindless entertainment from time to time.
Not Recommended for: homophobes; conservatives.

10 August 2005

StormWatch vol. 3 - "Change or Die"

In the mid 90's, Warren Ellis was hired to revamp StormWatch, a mediocre comic about a team of UN-backed superheroes. He immediately pared the cast down to a manageable number, added a few new characters of his own, and infused the comic with a sense of political awareness (the growing tensions between the UN and the U.S. Government was a recurring theme in many of the stories). The resulting comics generated a great buzz, and helped Ellis to build a cult following (I fully admit to being a member of said cult).
While StormWatch volumes 1 and 2 (Force of Nature and Lightning Strikes respectively) are quite good, Ellis really hit his creative stride with "Change or Die". In the lead story, a band of superhumans emerges from the shadows and attempts to tear down society in order to rebuild it. Over the course of the story, numerous philosophical questions are asked. Is a superhero supposed to change the world, or just protect the status quo? Is the status quo worth protecting? Can idealism and realpolitik co-exist?
One quick warning to new readers: these stories do build on threads that were started in the previous two volmes, but they do a pretty good job of recapping for anyone just coming in.

Recommended for: iconoclasts; conspiracy theorists.
Not Recommended for: isolationists.

Astronauts in Trouble

Recently, Larry Young (creator of this series), published Master Flight Plan (pictured here), which compiles all three of his Astronauts in Trouble story arcs ("Live From The Moon," "Space:1959," and "One Shot, One Beer"). Since I have each of these story arcs collected in separate volumes, I will be basing my review on those, rather than Master Flight Plan.

"Live From The Moon" takes place in the year 2019, when Ishmael Bennett, the world's richest man, asks the Channel 7 News Team (anchorman Dave, cameraman Heck, and segment producer Sparky) to follow him to the moon to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong & Buzz Aldrin's celebrated landing. Unfortunately, the eco-terrorist organization known as Greensleeves sabotages their trip, and that's when things get interesting. Despite its futuristic setting, the story has very few science-fiction elements, focusing more on action and character development. The pacing owes more to "Moonraker" than "2001: A Space Odyssey". This is the longest story in the book, and my personal favorite.

"Space: 1959" is sort of a prequel story (I'll give you three guesses as to what year it takes place), which follows the original Channel 7 News team as they stumble across a top-secret military operation in the middle of the Space Race. It's a pulpy, action-packed yarn that can be read or skipped at your leisure.

"One Shot, One Beer" takes place 10 years after the events of "Live From The Moon." Someone opened a bar on the moon, and the patrons of the bar tell anecdotes that serve as an alternative view of events that happened in the previous two stories. It's a fun, quick little read, but not essential.

By itself, "Live From The Moon" makes Master Flight Plan worth the cover price; think of the other stories as the second disc of a 2-disc DVD set.

Recommended for: fans of the James Bond movies, Armageddon, or any other big, explosive summer blockbusters.
Not Recommended for: anyone who already owns "Live From The Moon."

08 August 2005

Powers vol. #1 - "Who Killed Retro Girl?"

Premise: a pair of homicide detectives (Christian Walker and Deena Pilgrim) investigate superhero murders.

On their first case together, Walker and Pilgrim are assigned to investigate the murder of Retro Girl, a Wonder Woman-type heroine whose popularity is equivalent to that of Princess Di in the real world. The two detectives have to brave the resulting media circus, various lawsuits, and uncooperative superpowered colleagues of hers to get to the truth.

Brian Bendis (who is writing many of Marvel's best comics these days) delivers solid, noirish scripts with sharp, spiky dialogue. Michael Avon Oeming's art is bold, simple and full of contrast, and is reminiscent of the Batman cartoon from the early 90's. If you want to follow the series month to month, the creators are very good about alerting the reader when a brand new story arc begins on the cover; however, I recommend picking up the collected volumes instead. Not only do you get the complete story, but Bendis, a notorious film buff, treats each collected volume like a DVD, and loads it with extras: interviews with the creators, Oeming's original sketches, and some of his original scripts, which are almost as entertaining as the actual issues.

Recommended for: Fans of any of the Law & Order or C.S.I. shows; regular readers of The Smoking Gun.
Not recommended for: children (there's lots of sexual references and strong language, and the murders can be rather grisly).

06 August 2005

Kingdom Come

You see it all the time in popular culture: a movie, CD, or TV show comes along, strikes a chord with audiences and critics, inspires a legion of imitators, and redefines its medium for years to come. The comics industry is not immune to this kind of phenomenon. Back in the mid-80's, books like Watchmen and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns deconstructed the myth of the superhero and inspired a more "grim & gritty" age of heroes with deep psychological problems.
In 1996, Kingdom Come was created as a response to this dark age, and it, in turn, inspired an age where heroes were allowed to act like heroes again.

Kingdom Come takes place at an unspecified time in the near future, where Superman is forced into retirement after the general populace turns its back on him in favor of newer, more proactive superheroes (i.e., superheroes who are willing to kill). Unfortunately for the public, these heroes are more interested in fighting each other than fighting crime, and they jeopardize more lives than they save. When one of their superbattles goes horribly wrong, Superman comes out of retirement and reassembles the Justice League to teach these "heroes", and the world, what superheroes are SUPPOSED to act like. Unbeknowst to him, however, his actions may well set off a cataclysm that threatens to destroy the world...

Mark Waid's script is a mature and thought-provoking look at superheroes and society, as well as a scathing allegory of the comics industry at the time. The real star of this book, however, is Alex Ross. For those of you that saw "Spider-Man 2", Ross was the artst who did all of the paintings during the opening credits. He renders the entire book in photorealistic watercolors, and it is breathtaking. His art really brings the story and the characters to life.

At the time of it's release, Kingdom Come was a phenomenon. Now, a decade removed from the hype, it still holds up.

Recommended for: Fans of big, epic stories; skeptics who think that superheroes are inherently naive.
Not recommended for: people who couldn't care less about Superman, Batman, or Wonder Woman.

The Filth

Grant Morrison is the closest thing the comics industry has to a rock star. He has matinee-idol good looks, prodigious talent, and a reputation for drug-fueled debauchery. He is equally comfortable writing mainstream superhero comics (JLA, X-Men, and soon, Superman) and more alternative fare (We3, Kill Your Boyfriend, Doom Patrol). His mid-to-late 90's series The Invisibles, has attracted a cult following with its premise of young, beautiful hedonists trying to make the world more surreal. If The Invisibles was one long party, then The Filth is the morning after.

The Filth begins by showing the reader a typical day in the life of a man named Greg Feely. He goes to work, rides the bus home, looks at pornography and feeds his cat. He's about to go to bed when he discovers a strange woman in his shower. She tells him that his real name is Ned Slade, and that he is actually a secret agent of The Hand, a shadowy organization that keeps the world safe from various surreal events that would disrupt the status quo. Over the course of the book, he sees other dimensions, meets cyborg dolphins and chimpanzee snipers, and fights insane superheroes, rogue agents of the Hand, and pornographers who want to destroy the world. At the end of the day, though, all he wants is to get back to his life as Greg Feely.

I will warn you: this book is not for everybody. It is full of some truly disturbing images, and despite the bright colors and fast pace, is actually rather dour and melancholy. However, if you can handle a grim, twisted tale that is unlike anything you have ever seen (or probably ever will see), then you should pick this up as soon as possible.

EDIT: If you do read this book, and you STILL have questions (and you will), this site will have answers.

Recommended for: Fans of David Lynch and/or Charlie Kaufman; people who have taken hallucinogens; people going through a rough period in their life.
Not Recommended for: people who are ON hallucinogens; people who are fully comfortable with their perception of reality.

05 August 2005

Prelude to Infinite Crisis

For years, it has been accepted that all of the heroes owned by DC Comics live in the same universe. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc., all live in cities not too far from one another. They started a club to fight crime together (The Justice League of America). They occasionally trade villains (The Joker has been to Metropolis; Lex Luthor helped rebuild Gotham after it was hit by a massive earthquake). For the most part, they have maintained a cohesive universe, but after 70 years, some inconsistencies are bound to show up. Comic book fans love to point these things out ("How can Batman be helping to rebuild Gotham after if he just got sent to the 853rd Century by his futuristic counterpart? And why isn't Superman helping with the rebuilding? Fighting an army of robotic duplicates of himself can't be THAT hard!").
Over the years, when the inconsistencies got too far out of hand, DC comics would do some massive housecleaning. In 1985, they released a series called Crisis on Infinite Earths. In this landmark series, the very fabric of time and space was threatened, numerous alternate realities were merged into a single universe, and many heroes and villains were killed along the way. Now, 20 years later, to deal with the inconsistencies that were left in the wake of this series, they are about to release another series this fall called Infinite Crisis, which will reboot the DC Universe yet again.
They have been dropping hints in various comics over the past year or two as to what is going to happen. Prelude to Infinite Crisis compiles scenes from these comics, and reprints some key stories which will feed into this upcoming series. It's also an excellent primer to the DC Universe as a whole. And it's $5.99, which, at 96 pages, is a bargain compared to a lot of the comics out there.
In addition to Prelude to Infinite Crisis, DC's website is offering Crisis Counseling. Every Monday, they will update readers on events that happened in the previous week's comics which will lead into Infinite Crisis. I think it's an excellent way to ease new readers into the fold, and well worth a look.

Recommended for: people who want an entry point into the DC Universe; people who like to get in on the ground floor of a big event.
Not Recommended for: people who like smaller, quieter, more realistic stories.

04 August 2005

The Intimates (ongoing series, Wildstorm/DC Comics)

The premise of this series isn't terribly original: a bunch of super-powered teens are sent to a special high school to learn how to be heroes. The characters aren't that original either: the four main characters are a super-strong hick, a rural white boy who acts like a gangsta, a spoiled rich girl, and an overweight girl with self-esteem issues. Still, writer Joe Casey uses these cliches as a springboard for one of the most innovative and subversive comics on the market.

The structure of the series is based around the typical school year (The series debuted last fall and took place on the first day of school; the last few issues [July & August] gave us a glimpse of how these characters are spending their summer vacations), and seems to take place in real time. Subplots revolve around issues that all high schoolers face at some point in their life (unrequited love, bad cafeteria food, school dance anxiety, etc.), issues that modern teenagers face (classmates finding someone's blog, teens being hounded by corporate "coolhunters") and some that they don't (being acceped by your fellow teens when you're undead, keeping a powerful telepathic teen from destroying the world).

My absolute favorite thing about this comic is the ticker along the bottom of the pages. Like the banners that run along the bottom of the TV when watching the various news channels, these tickers provide interesting factoids about the people on the page (example from issue #1: Punchy [the aforementioned "gangsta"] has been banned from mass e-mailing by four internet carriers..."), statistics (issue #7: "Median age of ideal corporate trendspotters: fourteen years old"), and "helpful tips" (issue #5: "Teen assimilation tip: keep your head down and try to conform..."). You can ignore the tickers and still enjoy a good story, but if you do, you're really missing out.

Recommended for: anyone who ever went to high school; people who appreciate innovation.
Not recommended for: people who don't like information overload.

Superman/Batman vol. 1 - "Public Enemies"

(This review was originally written for Clusterstruck, and I intentionally limited myself to 100 words. If you prefer this review format to the other one, please leave feedback.)

Recently-elected president Lex Luthor declares Superman and Batman enemies of the state, and battles them using America's resources.

Thoughts:Writer Jeph Loeb has written comics about both characters separately, with great critical and commercial success. Unlike most other comic writers, he seems to love both heroes equally, and you can feel that love in every page. Artists Ed McGuinness and Dexter Vines infuse an already fast-paced story with a breakneck, manga-inspired energy that practically lifts the action off of the page and directly into your brain, making this book an intense, cinematic experience.

In short: Best $13 you'l ever spend.

02 August 2005

Supreme Power, vol. 1 - "Contact"

Quick Comics History Lesson:
Back in the Sixties, Marvel Comics created the Squadron Supreme, a team of superheroes blatantly based on DC Comics' most popular heroes (Hyperion is modelled after Superman, Nighthawk is a Batman clone, Power Princess bears a striking resemblence to Wonder Woman, etc.). Originally intended as mind-controlled punching bags for The Avengers (whose ranks include Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, and many others), the Squadron proved popular enough to make many guest appearances over the years, and even star in a few comics of their own.

Now, in the series Supreme Power, writer J. Michael Straczynski (creator of TV's Babylon 5 and the comics series Rising Stars) and penciller Gary Frank (JLA, Gen13) are using these characters to tell a dark, paranoid tale about what would really happen if superheroes suddenly appeared out of nowhere.
At first glance, the story might sound a bit familiar to you: An alien baby lands in the middle of a cornfield, where he is discovered by a young midwestern couple. On the next page, the story takes a sharp left turn, as the baby is seized by the U.S. government and placed in the care of two undercover agents posing as a typical American couple, to ensure that he embraces the American way of life wholeheartedly. As the story unfolds, the reader discovers that his arrival is responsible for more super-powered beings and costumed crimefighters appearing on Earth, whether directly (in the case of Doctor Spectrum, The Blur, and Kingsley) or indirectly (Nighthawk, Zarda).

Straczynski does an incredible job of taking these pastiche characters and infusing them with freshness. Hyperion isn't too far removed from his original incarnation (or from Superman, for that matter), but other characters receive altered personalities (Doctor Spectrum, formerly a clean-cut astronaut, is now a stone killer for the U.S. Government), nationalities (Nighthawk is now an African-American man who watched his parents get killed by stereotypical rednecks), names (The Whizzer has thankfully been renamed The Blur, and has also been made an African American), and genders (Kingsley, the Aquaman-type character, is now a woman who appears to be half-human and half-angelfish). Frank's art strikes a very delicate balance, and he makes the heroes seem equally larger-than-life and down to earth.

Recommended for: people who like comic-book movies, but wish that they had less explosions and more character development; people who loved superheroes as a kid, but feel that they outgrew them.
Not Recommended for: people who don't like the idea of superheroes that curse and/or have sex; people who refuse to question the motivations of the U.S. Government (the comic is still fairly non-partisan, though; Presidents Carter, Bush Sr., and Clinton are supporting characters, and all come across as somewhat machiavellian).

Eyeshield 21, vol. 1

One thing I respect about manga is that it encompasses a broader scope of genres than American comics. One of their more popular genres is sports comics. Manga about basketball, baseball, and professional wrestling have proven successful, so why not a comic about high school football? Hence, Eyeshield 21.
The basic premise is as follows: A shy teenage boy transfers to a new school, where he meets a devil-may-care scoundrel and a gentle giant. Together, they start a football team in order to win the prestigious Christmas Bowl, and hilarity ensues.
I enjoyed this manga for a variety of reasons. First of all, I like football, and seeing football action rendered in a hyperkinetic manga style is vastly entertaining. Secondly, it's quite funny, in a silly, slapsticky sort of way. Finally, it is educational, as it teaches the basic rules of football to the uninitiated.
In conclusion, this book is a light, fun, cheap little read. Give it a shot.

Recommended for: Football fans; manga fans; people who don't fully understand the rules of American Football.
Not recommended for: people who don't enjoy sports; people who find the various conventions/cliches in manga to be tiresome.

Starman vol. 1 - "Sins of the Father"

I love superheroes, but I can see why a lot of people wouldn't. The average superhero wears a ridiculous costume, deals in antiquated, black and white morality, and solves all of his problems with violence. If that type of character does not appeal to you, then you should try Starman. In the first of 10 volumes that collect roughly 60 issues, James Robinson (writer) and Tony Harris (penciller) introduce us to Jack Knight, owner and proprietor of a collectibles shop. His father invented the cosmic rod ("Huh-huh, he said rod...") that gives a Starman his powers. When he retired, he passed the rod onto his son David so he could take up the role of Starman, which didn't bother Jack at all, since he finds the hero game to be a bit childish and silly. Fate has other plans for Jack, however, and he is forced to take up the rod and save his beloved Opal City.
Jack Knight is arguably the most realistic and complex superhero ever created. He doesn't wear tights, instead opting for a leather jacket, tank goggles, and a sherriff's star that he got from a cereal box. He doesn't always win his fights, and takes more than his fair share of brutal beatings. He often has to think and talk his way out of situations, although when he does have to throw down, he is more than handy with his cosmic rod (yeah, I know, it's immature, but it's funny).
Anyway, the series wasn't without its flaws. When I kept up with it from month to month, I would often get impatient, as it took a long time to get to the explodo. Reading it in collected form isn't nearly as frustrating. Also, when I had another non-comics friend from college read the book, he said that there were too many references to other comics, and that he felt lost.
I don't really agree with that, but I accept that I may not be fully divorcing myself from my fanboy nature, so I'll include his criticisms as a caveat.

Recommended for: people who wish superheroes were more realistic; collectors and hobbyists.
Not Recommended for: impatient people, people who like lots of explodo (it delivers, but sporadically).


This is writer/artist Alex Robinson's follow-up to the critically-acclaimed Box Office Poison, and it proves that he is no one-trick pony.
Tricked follows individual characters from different walks of life whose paths all ultimately intersect at the big climactic moment.
Robinson is an incredibly gifted storyteller. In the hands of a lesser writer, the reader wouldn't have very much emotional investment in these character archetypes (How many times have we seen the washed-up rockstar, the waitress looking for love, the teenage girl just off the bus from the middle of nowhere, etc.?). In the hands of Robinson, though, what could have been tired stereotypes became fully-formed, fascinating characters that compel you to keep reading. The dialogue is clever, but not forced. The pacing is excellent, and builds to a satisfying, yet unexpected, climax.
The art, on the other hand, is a different story. Robinson's drawing style is reminiscent of the cartoons in the local college paper. It's a bit over-inked, and possibly too cartoony for such a serious story. Still, it is easy to follow, and it isn't so bad that it distracts from the story.
In any case, Alex Robinson is a true talent, and Tricked is an excellent read. Ask your local comic shop or bookstore to order it for you.

Recommended for: music geeks, sports memorabilia collectors, anyone who has ever been in love.
Recommendation to avoid: people who read comics mainly for the art.

Transmetropolitan vol. 1- "Back on the Street"

(I chose this book to start since I feel that it has been most successful at converting my friends into new readers.)

This book collects the first 3 issues of Warren Ellis' & Darick Robertson's groundbreaking science-fiction comic, published from 1997 to 2002. I used to describe it to people as "Hunter S. Thompson living in the world of Blade Runner," but that description doesn't really do it justice. It follows a misanthropic, drug-addicted journalist/author named Spider Jerusalem, who has returned to a futuristic American metropolis known only as The City, where there is a large division between the rich and the poor, genetic and cybernetic self-modification are popular among the youth, television is full of hardcore sex and violence, and politicians are power-hungry sociopaths who care more for power than the people. The more things change...
This book is actually my least favorite in the series, but that's because the series just got better and better as it went on, building to an explosive climax, and a quiet, beautiful epilogue. Still, it does an excellent job setting the tone for the rest of the series. Ellis' writing is sharp, caustic, and frightfully precognitive, as our world is becoming more and more like The City with each passing day. Darick Robertson's pencil work is highly detailed, and he excels at bringing The City to life.

Recommended for: Fans of William Gibson and/or Hunter S. Thompson; science-fiction fans; people who like sex, drugs, violence, and profanity.
Not Recommended for: Devoutly religious people; people who are apathetic about politics.

Origin Story

Hello, and welcome to the new blog.
The idea got started when I was at a party a few weeks ago with an old college friend. We were discussing his love of zombie movies, when I told him about a comic series called The Walking Dead. He was intrigued, and wanted to check it out. He then mentioned that comics in general had always interested him, but getting into the hobby seemed a bit daunting. A few years ago, I had lent him Judd Winick's excellent graphic novel Pedro & Me, since he is a big fan of The Real World, and he enjoyed it quite a bit. My track record for getting friends and ex-girlfriends to read comics has been pretty good so far. Perhaps I could recruit people into the hobby on a larger scale. And so, Gateway Comics is born.

My plans for this blog are as follows:
  • Write reviews of some of my favorite graphic novels that are geared towards people who don't read comics with regularity, to give them an idea of some of the books they might enjoy.
  • Get some of the friends I forced comics upon to contribute to the blog, and offer opinions on what they read.
  • Use my friends' children as guinea pigs, to see what kind of comics kids would like and not like (I may be an immature 30-year-old man, but I am still a 30-year-old man; I have no business second guessing the likes and dislikes of an 8-year-old girl).
  • Recruit as any people into the hobby as humanly possible.
All of that having been said, please stay tuned, spread the word, and enjoy.

EDIT: I almost forgot. Unless otherwise specified, all of these books can be ordered through either your local comic book store or Amazon.com.