17 November 2008

Destroy the Cyb.org!

I have been invited to post to Destroy the Cyb.org!, another comics review website. I should be posting there once a week, cross posting any reviews that fit the mission of this blog (i.e., any quality comics that are new reader friendly). Most of my reviews for that site will probably be geared more towards comics fans, and will not be quite so nice. If that interests you, go read my first review here.

22 October 2008

G.I. Joe #0

When I was a kid, I was all about G.I. Joe and Transformers. I liked the Transformers toys better, but G.I. Joe had the more interesting characters and the better comics and cartoons. Even today, I couldn't tell you much about Transformers, but I'll never forget The Weather Dominator or Silent Interlude.

That said, I could not wait to buy G.I. Joe #0 when it came out today. It is a taste of the three G.I. Joe titles coming to the comics store next year. The first story is a typical G.I. Joe mission where the team takes down a couple of arms dealers. The second story is a flashback of how Duke was recruited onto the team. Finally, the third story introduces us to Chuckles, an undercover agent assigned to infiltrate COBRA. The comic also includes a sketchbooks of the updated character designs as well as an interview with all of the writers of the titles.

The best thing about the comic, though? It only costs a dollar. $1 for three good stories and some warm, nostalgic feelings sounds like a bargain to me.

Recommended for: people who loved the toys, comics, or cartoons; Call of Duty and Rainbow Six players.
Not Recommended for: anyone who doesn't like soldiers or ninjas.

Invincible Iron Man: The Five Nightmares

Premise: When is upgrading to version 2.0 not a good idea?

For the last few years, Iron Man has been one of my least favorite heroes. Also, I am not as impressed with Matt Fraction as comics fans seem to be. Yet, some of the best comics to come out this year were the Iron Man comics written by Matt Fraction. Go fig.

In December, a collection of Fraction's first six issues of Invincible Iron Man will be released, and it is a perfect companion to the film. Many of the themes that the film touched upon are present here: modern warfare, corporate responsibility, and foreign relations. Also, Fraction brings the playful banter between Tony Stark and Pepper Potts back into the comics after a decades-long absence. Fraction also does an excellent job of highlighting the differences between events as they were depicted in the film as opposed to the comics. Finally, Fraction succeeds in making a character with roots planted firmly in the Cold War relevant in the 21st century.

Even the best comic scripts can be ruined by sub-par art, so Marvel was wise to pair Fraction with Salvador Larroca, who has been doing consistently great work for the last decade. He marries fantastic technology with photorealistic people seamlessly.

So if you missed the comics when they came out, do not hesitate to pre-order this graphic novel at your local comic shop (if you want it in time for the Holidays) or Amazon (if you'll be buying it with Christmas money).

Recommended For:
People who enjoyed the movie, people who keep tabs on current events.
Not Recommended For: rabid MMORPG players, fans of the Open Source Movement (neither of these groups are depicted in a very favorable light).

30 May 2008

Action Comics #865: New Reader Friendly?

My comic-reading friends and I have a term called "continuity porn". If a story appeals mostly to longtime fans and contains numerous references to previous stories, it's continuity porn. It's a term mostly used in comics, but it can also be applied to other media as well (I love LOST, but it became continuity porn about halfway through season 2). It's also the reason I created this blog, to help potential new readers avoid it.

I honestly can't tell if the latest issue of Action Comics qualifies as continuity porn. It's a complete story told in a single issue, which is a rarity for most Superman comics these days. It re-introduces the Toyman after a long absence, and gives new readers a full history of the character. It also casts his previous appearances in a new light, and builds a second-tier Superman foe into a more credible threat. On the other hand, this comic makes it a point to undo a story from over a decade ago. Also, would anybody who isn't a longtime Superman fan even care about a story that focuses on a villain as obscure as the Toyman?

Misgivings aside, I enjoyed this comic quite a bit, and I would recommend that new readers go to their local comic shop, gamble $3 and answer the "continuity porn" question for themselves.

21 May 2008

RIP Rory Root

I'd like to offer my condolences to the family and friends of Rory Root, comics activist and owner of Comic Relief, one of the finest comic stores in America. Rory died a few days ago from complications stemming from a hernia operation.

I visited his store a few times during my visits to the Bay Area, and bought many a graphic novel from his giant booth at the San Diego Comic-Con. Both the store and the booth were always well-stocked, well-organized, and full of knowledgeable, helpful people, not the least of which being Mr. Root himself.

So thank you, Rory, for all you did for my medium. You will be missed.

21 March 2008

Who Is Wonder Woman?

A long time ago, I talked about how much I love me some Wonder Woman. I also lamented the lack of great stories starring this character. Thankfully, DC recently released a collected edition of a story that reinvents and redefines the character for new readers as well as long-time fans.

One of the best decisions DC made is to hire the team of Terry & Rachel Dodson to provide the art for this series. Terry is unparalleled at drawing sexy heroines and sultry villains, but still managing to render them in a tasteful manner, thanks to the influence of his inker/wife, Rachel. Together, they make Wonder Woman (the heroine and the comic) beautiful.

Of course, art this good deserves an excellent story to match. Allan Heinberg does an amazing job taking 65-years of back-story and paring it down into 5 issues of a story that educates new readers, rewards the faithful readers, and takes the character in a new and unexpected direction.

Recommended For: Women who owned Wonder Woman Underoos as children, girls who love the character on Justice League, men who like seeing catfights, women who are turned off by overly exploitative depictions of women in comics.
Not Recommended For: Greek History majors.

26 September 2007

All-New! All Different!!!

And now, the reboot.
When I started this blog over 2 years ago, I wanted to bring new readers into the medium that I loved so much. Most comics aren't exactly new reader friendly, and I wanted to provide jumping on points for the casual reader. Unfortunately, I got a little derailed.
First, I got a little discouraged when I realized that the original title of my blog, "Gateway Comics", was also the name of a chain of comics stores back east, and my blog would be pushed to the third
page of Google Links.
Second, I was wondering if I was really the best person to bring the casual comics reader into the hobby, since the majority of what I read is continuity-laden superhero titles that have become more and more entrenched in their own backstories.
Turns out both of these problems are relatively easy fixes.
My partner-in-crime Jessica is firmly entrenched in the online knitting community, and it seems that most of those people name their blogs "So-and-so knits." It amuses me for some reason, but it also gets its point across. "Here I am and here is what I do." Hence the new name, "Dan Reads Comics."
As for the other problem... there are a couple of diamonds in the proverbial rough. Who better to find them than someone who spends most of his time wading through the mire?
So here's the deal. I buy comics every Wednesday after work, and if something in my weekly pile strikes me as high quality AND new reader friendly, I'll post about it. If not, I won't. Simple as that.
So on to the next page...

X-Men: First Class

Premise: What were the original 5 X-Men like back in high school?

My favorite X-Men have always been the originals: Cyclops, Beast, Angel, Marvel Girl, and Iceman. My biggest complaint about the X-Men comics is that they seem to be walled off from the rest of the Marvel Universe. Apparently, writer Jeff Parker feels the same way, since this series features the aforementioned heroes and often has them interacting with the other heroes and villains of the Marvel universe. In one issue, they fight the Lizard (a Spider-Man villain). In another issue, Marvel Girl teams up with the Invisible Girl from the Fantastic Four. Doctor Strange, the Scarlet Witch, and Thor also make appearances over the course of the series.

Casual fans will also enjoy this series because each issue is self-contained (with the occasional two-part story). And most of the stories are told from a single character's point of view, which gives a fresh take on the interpersonal dynamics of the team, and also helps the reader empathize with these characters.

Recommended For: Old-school Marvel fans, kids of all ages.
Not Recommended For: People wondering why Wolverine isn't in this book.

23 September 2006

The Illustrated Dracula

This isn't a comic, per se, but it IS an item of interest to comics fans and non-comics fans alike.
Penguin Books has published a new edition of Bram Stoker's classic novel Dracula with illustrations by noted comics artist Jae Lee. The presentation is stylish and the illustrations are excellent. This book would look cool on anyone's coffee table or bookshelf.
Oh yeah, and the book ain't bad either...

Recommended for: Fans of classic literature, Jae Lee, and or White Wolf products, goths, book collectors.

Not recommended for: anyone who already owns a copy of this novel.

08 September 2006

The Exterminators: Bug Brothers

Premise: An ex-con gets hired as an exterminator, and lears that it's a dirty job on many, many levels.

Simon Oliver and Tony Moore have put together a sharp, funny, and twisted series that works on two levels. On one level, you have cheap laughs, unsettling visuals, a little bit of sex, and lots of explodo. On a deeper level, this is a satire that touches on subjects such as poverty, local politics, big business and human nature. The characters are colorful without being too broad. The art is vivid and evocative (penciller Moore is particularly adept at depicting LA as it really looks, not how you see it on TV).
On top of that, it's one of the least expensive paperbacks on the market, so give it a whirl.

Recommended For: people with a dark sense of humor; Southern California natives; fans of Repo Man, Men In Black, Training Day and/or Six Feet Under.
Not Recommended for: people who are freaked out by bugs.