You may remember when I confessed my disappointment upon meeting Clay Mann during Boston Comic Con a few months ago. I didn’t go into any detail other than to say that I walked away feeling let down, and left it there. But as it turns out, and as anyone smarter than me could evidently have told you, there’s not much you can say on the Internet that won’t eventually be discovered. As such, Clay Mann found me. And he messaged me. And he apologized. It was extraordinarily kind—not to mention unexpected—and has certainly given me a much different perspective on the experience I had. And I just wanted to share that with you all, because he’s a stand-up guy, and doesn’t deserve to be thought of otherwise due to something I may have written here.
You may or may not know that Clay is working on a new Gambit title that was announced recently. And while Gambit is far from being one of my favorite characters (I’m probably in the fangirl minority there), I’ll still give this book a shot, because one of its creators was kind enough to reach out to a disheartened fan. That should mean a lot.
Oh, man. Hello, all! Hello, home computer! I’ve missed you so! By now I’m sure my usual “I’m so busy, oh my God, I never have time, what is the meaning of life if I can’t read comics, I’m trying to post more I SWEAR” rant has gotten insanely old. So let’s just skip right on over that.
I’ve been wanting to talk about Boston Comic Con for weeks. I went several Saturdays ago, and it was a blast. Even better than last year, and so much fun despite a much larger crowd. First things first—a huge thank you to the organizers who put this on, as they continue to outdo themselves year after year—and congrats for knocking it out of the park. Last year was awesome, this year was amazing. My expectations are already set for 2013.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Here’s the skinny.
For me, comics shows are more about getting to meet creators and interact with people, and less about scrounging for merchandise or sitting in panels. I got to meet Jeremy Bastian, Katie Cook, Phil Noto, Jimmy Cheung, Peter Nguyen, Clay Mann, and Cliff Chiang, among a bunch of other people, and some I didn’t get the chance to talk to, like Scottie Young and Stephanie Buscema, whom I’m so sad to have missed. Then there’s the few people bowed out—like Brian Azzarello, Amanda Conner, and Phil Jimenez, but that’s okay because it was still amazing even without them. I probably wouldn’t have known what to say to Brian Azzarello anyway—the guy seems like he’d be kind of intimidating in person. And meeting Amanda Conner might have easily charmed me enough to crack my moral conviction not to purchase Before Watchmen, so … you know, at least I’ve still got that going.
At this point I honestly can’t remember what booths I went to or who I met in what order, so I’m just gonna run through this thing.
Jeremy Bastian! He was awesome and super nice in person. I bought a sketchbook from him and he gave me a free pin with the Cursed Pirate Girl on it. I told him how much I loved the first volume and wondered about the second, and he said it was still unfortunately a ways off—which, considering how incredibly detailed his art is, doesn’t bother me one bit. I would wait forever for him, his stuff is that stunning. He pulled out a portfolio and showed me some finished pages (which look awesome!), and I was totally flattered that he even let me see. I told him I was very excited for more Cursed Pirate Girl and he seemed genuinely thankful. And he’s so humble. He’s a totally cool guy. Guests like him make the con.
Katie Cook’s table was beside Jeremy’s, and she is equally as nice and super funny. She was cracking jokes at her own expense left and right. She is
hilarious on Twitter and I told her so—yeah, I kind of gushed. I’m a fangirl, I can’t help it. I told her how much I love Gronk, and I bought a copy of the book from her which collects the first volume of Gronk strips in color. She was also doing these little playing-card-sized watercolor sketches of various characters, and I grabbed one with Robin on it that says “Sidekick” with him looking all sad. It’s SO CUTE and might be my favorite thing I got at the con, which is saying something.
Clay Mann. I can’t begin to say how excited I was to meet him; his art, specifically his X-Men, more specifically his Rogue, has been a favorite of mine. Knowing he was a guest was a major part of the reason why I went to the con at all despite being in the middle of a move. I put a stop to my schedule and came out to see this artist, because he took the time out to come see us. I thought it would be amazing to get a sketch and tell him what his work has meant to me.
We met. It was disappointing.
Actually, it was kind of devastating. I debated whether or not I wanted to get into specifics here, but in the end, I’m not going to badmouth the guy. I walked away from his table feeling pretty sad. Not all creators treat their fans the same. I’ll leave it at that.
So at this point I’m walking around still trying to process the … experience I just had. And I was sad. And I wondered if I was just completely wasting my time there.
That was until Phil Noto. Oh my goodness, Phil Noto. Stan Sakai has a rep for being the nicest guy in comics, but I’m thinking Phil Noto could give him a run for his money, and I totally gushed over him. I praised his wonderful X-23 work, and mentioned how I had the chance to meet Marjorie Liu a couple of months earlier, and how she had nothing but wonderful things to say about him. I was DYING for a commission from him, but his list was full. He asked if I was going to be there Sunday, and unfortunately I wasn’t, so I couldn’t get anything from him. I told him I’d buy a print instead in that case (he had this gorgeous one on the table), and as I grabbed my wallet he was like “No, don’t worry about it, you can have it.” He felt bad that he couldn’t get me a sketch and so gave me the print for free. I was so touched and happy and amazed, and just … couldn’t believe he did that, it was so sweet. I thanked him profusely. He also signed an issue of Birds of Prey I’d brought with me from way back when, and drew a little Oracle on the corner of the cover. He is the awesomest dude ever and I am even more in love with him than before. LOVE. He made up for my experience with Clay Mann tenfold. Clay Mann? Who, what?
Next up, Cliff Chiang. His commission list was also maxed out. Apparently it got full within fifteen minutes of the start of the con—no chance. I bought a print from him as well, chatted a very small bit, and that was it. He looked incredibly busy and as a huge line was forming behind me, I didn’t hang out for long. Very nice guy, though. I admitted to him that the current Wonder Woman has been difficult for me to follow, but he asked me to stick with it, and I said I would for the time being. He’s kind of hard to say no to—his art, and his Wonder Woman, are beautiful to me.
Jimmy Cheung. Commission list: full. Another miss, but I had him sign a Young Avengers trade for me as well as the first issue of Children’s Crusade. I asked him if he was sick of drawing the Young Avengers yet, and he warmly said no and that he was happy to continue drawing them so long as they keep assigning him. He was very soft spoken and sweet, and had a lovely accent. He asked if I’d read all of Children’s Crusade and if I’d enjoyed it, which I told him I did tremendously. At which point my Fiancé decided to leap in and say something along the lines of “You should know how high a compliment that is, because she’s a harsh critic.” Jimmy was like “Is that true, are you tough?” and I must have turned red with embarrassment when I responded with … “Umm … no, I don’t think I’m that tough,” only to be further called out by Fiancé.
At the next table over to Jimmy was Peter Nguyen, who apparently listened to this whole exchange, because I looked over and saw him laughing. We spoke to him and his commission list was … OPEN! I got him to draw me a Batgirl, which was framed and hung up on a wall immediately upon arrival home. It’s beautiful. Peter was super nice and so cool and funny. Fiancé also bought a gorgeous print from him of Zatanna and Black Canary (which I have already stolen). Thank you, Peter—the con wouldn’t have been the same without you.
The final bit I want to touch on is none other than the great guys over at Firetower Studios. As you all know, I have been a huge fan and unwavering supporter of one of their books, Princeless by Jeremy Whitley. Well, I had the opportunity to meet Jeremy Strutz, who illustrates another one of Firetower’s books called The Order of Dagonet, also written by Jeremy Whitley. As a thank you for my reviews, Jason did a wonderful Princeless commission for me, which you can see here. Jason is very kind and I enjoyed talking with him and looking through his sketchbook. He signed a copy of Dagonet for me, and then it was time for me to go. What a great ending to the con.
Of course, I have failed to mention many other great things about Boston Comic Con this year. For instance, there was a lot of fun cosplay—my favorites were Evey Hammond and V. I got to meet Renae de Liz, otherwise known as the woman behind Womanthology. The team at Nerd Caliber had a charity booth going for Child’s Play. And best of all, I got my picture taken with Batman.
What more could a fangirl want?
I guess my Monday deadline somehow morphed into Thursday….
Hello, readers. Guess what? I read some books! And I have opinions about them! Shocker, I know. Also, I totally lied with half those covers I posted last week. Sorry about that.
I’m sad. :(
I’m sad because I really want to like this title. I really, really do. But it’s so … it’s so … I don’t know how to explain why it isn’t working for me. I guess, when it comes down to it, honestly … it doesn’t feel like Barbara. It just doesn’t feel like her to me. This new role of hers, it’s so … “forced” is the best word I can think of to describe it. It’s not Barbara—not the one I know—and that’s kind of shocking considering that Barbara Gordon is Gail Simone’s bread and butter. If anyone at all understands that character, it’s Gail—they’re practically interchangeable. Yet, as much as I want this to succeed, it just isn’t firing for me.
I wish I could explain it better … it’s just not right. It doesn’t feel right. And the writing style … there’s so much narration. That worked in Gail’s Birds of Prey when you needed the POVs of several characters, but it’s not clicking here. There’s too much of it; there’s too much telling and not enough showing. It’s so flat, and I … I don’t know how much more of this I can back. And that makes me so, so sad.
You know what else? I have read this story before. I think that’s what’s really bothering me more than anything here, is that it still feels like we’re going backwards. Which, we are—literally, we’re dialing back the clock in terms of character ages and whatnot, but I also mean to say that we’re going backwards allegorically. The stories and the progressions of these characters have taken giant steps downward. This idea of a character called Batgirl finding her footing—I have read this before. I read it in Bryan Q. Miller’s Batgirl run, and I even read it in Chuck Dixon’s Batgirl: Year One. Why am I reading it again? I’m not getting anything different this time, not one bit. Barbara healing and regaining use of her legs is only influencing this story on a very minor level—it isn’t enough to make these issues feel fresh or different. This issue was all about reuniting Batgirl and Nightwing. I should have been moved by it, but I wasn’t. Not even close. I put this book down, blinked a few times, and wondered what was wrong with me for leaving it feeling absolutely nothing.
So … what does one do in this situation? Do I keep reading this in the hope that once the groundwork is laid and some of the setup “fluff” is out of the way, I might have a more interesting story? Might I feel more for this character by issue #13, as opposed to issue #3, and is it even fair to have to wait that long? Ardian Syaf’s artwork has been great. Other than that, I haven’t got much. A part of me doesn’t want to give up on the title, because I do love Barbara and this is apparently the only Barbara that I’m going to get for the foreseeable future. I also have a certain level of faith and respect for Simone, and I want to be able to lean on that. But with every issue of this so far, I’ve only left feeling disappointment. And I never thought I’d say that.
…And with that, an interesting idea turns into utter horse poop, as Nick Spencer fills this issue with preachy drivel and a needlessly despicable downturn that I guess is meant to be humor. Biggest waste of $3.50. To say I was mortified while reading this on the train is a massive understatement. And to top things off, I read the solicit for #4 to find it isn’t even due on the shelves until April. Buhbye; I’m OUT.
I was a little worried when this was first solicited, because with a title like “Not a Hero,” my immediate thoughts were that they were turning Magneto into a villain again. That would be the worst thing you could do to the character in my opinion, and just as bad a regression as Barbara Gordon re-donning the Bat cowl. Magneto has grown by leaps and bounds in the last few years, and I’ve always enjoyed him as a villain, but I find I love him even more on the side of the angels. His presence is still so very grey—he’s so ambiguous, and in the hands of a writer who knows how to use it, that’s an invaluable quality. And so I shook my fist at the sky for a bit at the thought that this wonderful drama might be taken away for something as utterly boring as Magneto turning “bad” again. Happily, upon reading this issue, I find that this is not the case. Not yet, anyway.
Our introduction to this story centers around what is something of a storytelling cliché—Magneto is being framed for murder. Exciting, right? Bet you’ve never read anything like that before. It’s okay, though, because there are things here that make up for the questionable originality, and by the end of issue one, we can see that ultimately the story is going to deal with much more than who’s framing Magneto. I have to hand it to Skottie Young—everyone knows him for his great artistic talents, but he’s making a transition to writing here, and he’s not doing a bad job of it at all. It most certainly beats out a majority of the crap you see on the Marvel shelves these days, and rather easily at that. Young has a good handle on the characters in issue one, particularly in a scene that involves Captain America and Iron Man calling out Cyclops and Mags to get their act together. The cliffhanger reveal at the end—I really should have seen it coming. I can’t believe I didn’t. It’s some good stuff.
And Clay Mann on art duties … wow. What can I possibly say to do this guy justice? In a short couple of years, he’s hands-down become one of my favorites, and every book he’s on makes me drool a little bit. He’s wonderful. He’s coming to Boston Comic Con next year, and I am getting a sketch from him if I have to wait in line all weekend. Outstanding.
Did this book blow my mind? No, but it did some things well, did other things great, and was all around an enjoyable read. I wasn’t asking for much more than that.
More happiness! Have you seen this little bit of WIN called Princeless #1? Well if you haven’t, then you’re sorely missing out.
It’s soooooo great. It’s so great. I remember reading about this on the internet somewhere and I wasn’t really planning on checking it out, but then I found it on the shelf and read the first three pages and was like OH MY GOD, THIS IS SO WONDERFUL. Three pages—that’s all it took. And, you know, that’s kind of a big deal in a situation where you’re paying four bucks for a book when you weren’t anticipating having the expense at all. But this was so worth it, and I absolutely can’t wait to have the next issue in my hands.
This is a story about a princess named Adrienne who grows up being read stories about other princesses who get locked up in towers and have to be rescued by handsome princes who slay dragons and ultimately win the princesses’ hearts. Adrienne is baffled and outraged by this idea, criticizing and belittling the stories, and makes her mother promise her not to lock her up in a tower, only … of course you know that’s exactly what happens, right? The resulting scenario is nothing short of hilarious, adorable, brave, and pretty much unlike anything else on the comic racks right now. Whitley’s writing is beyond clever, and I found myself laughing at something on every page of the book. It’s smart enough for adults to enjoy, yet still written with a young audience in mind. This is exactly the type of thing you should be giving to the little girls in your life. Introduce them to comics now, with this. And actually, I take that back—it isn’t just for little girls; not even close. Adrienne is not the only character in this book—don’t let the “princess” thing fool you. Boys will enjoy this as well, and I encourage you to pick it up to find out why.
If I could get you to read one book and only one book this week, I would give you Princeless #1, and I wouldn’t even blink.
Since the debut of this title, I’ve had nothing but praise for Uncanny X-Force and Rick Remender. That hasn’t changed yet, and I don’t see it on horizon any time soon. Just when I think the story has reached a plateau and couldn’t possibly get any better, another issue comes out and BAM—I’m smacked in the face with the awesome.
The problem with loving a book this much is that it makes it insanely difficult to review. When you have no criticisms, there isn’t much left to say beyond shameless, unabashed gushing. And you have to admit, that’s kind of boring to read.
But I literally have nothing bad to say. There is nothing I would change about this book—not a thing. Not the writing, not the pencils, not the pacing, not the colors. Well … I suppose I might change the price … and maybe I’d make it ship twice a month, because I can’t get enough of it. But that’s all. Not much to ask.
If you’ve been subbing to this title, you know that Remender has been building up the Dark Angel Saga for quite some time—since day one, in fact. It’s some of the most well-timed and patient writing I’ve seen in recent memory. The thing I love about this book is that when I pick up an issue, I can tell that Remender has taken his time with it. He isn’t writing with collected editions in mind or decompressing the story, as one might accuse of Bendis’ Avengers titles. No; there’s a level of thought and care and precision to what Remender does, and it comes through in his scenes and character interplay. It’s harmonious. It’s a melody to which I never want to stop listening. If even a quarter of the other books Marvel puts out demonstrated this much attention to their craft, I’d be a much happier comics reader.
Jerome Opeña on art is no different. You look at these pages, and you know instantly that these babies were not rushed to meet looming deadlines. Opeña is careful, crafty, and deliberate, and the results are a joy.
On the surface, this is a black ops book. It’s assassinations and unspeakable deeds; it’s an X-Men book that’s not very X-Men-like. But read deeper, and you know these characters are about much more than that. This isn’t just about taking out threats before they become threats; this is a story of addiction, inferiority, self-worth and self-hate, fear and perceived altruism … and so much more. But Remender lets you figure that out for yourself; it’s underlying, and he doesn’t beat you over the head with it. I love that. The mark of a good writer.
Big changes are coming up for this team, and I can’t wait to find out what Remender has planned for the next year of this book. Best one on the X-shelf.
The even more intriguing parts of this tale unfold toward the end of Legacy and throughout New Mutants, wherein Kitty Pryde comes into play and we discover that not all is as it seems within the Fortress. Imprisoned beneath its walls are a number of mutants deemed too powerful and “dangerous” to be let free, and you may or may not be able to guess what surprises lay there.
After reading the first two parts to Age of X, I went back into older issues of Legacy to see if I could piece together any information from previous hints dropped in the preceding stories. There is a great, great line in #244 wherein Rogue speaks to Madison Jeffries and asks him if he’s getting a sense of deja vu—which will only make sense if you read New Mutants #22. The thing that makes it so difficult to review a book like this is that there is so much to address, and yet so little you actually feel you can address without “spoiling” what makes it so special. This is particularly so with regard to new readers—you’re better off coming in blind (pun!) than trying to form some sort of understanding of the plot before you read it. Where normally I’d be rioting against a story that takes place across multiple books and forces you to pick up more titles than you’d care to (e.g., Civil War, Secret Invasion, Marvel’s next big event, on and on), this one actually makes sense. You really need more than one title a month to contain this story, and you’re only picking up one extra book, rather than five or seven.
And I nearly forgot to say something about Clay Mann’s pencils, which are extraordinary. Mann is quickly emerging as one of my favorite pencilers, and he is absolutely at the top of his game here. I cannot say enough good things about him.
Take the leap and pick up these two titles. In fact, part three of the story was due out yesterday in Legacy, and it is beyond worth a look. If you’re used to the commonplace, stale guff that’s been going on in Uncanny lately, you’ll find energy in this book. Do yourself a favor and meet Mike Carey in Age of X.
X-posted @ Nerd Caliber
This issue of Legacy continues in India, where young mutant Indra has come home to a comatose brother and a subsequent arranged marriage. Meanwhile, in the heart of the city, Rogue, Magneto, Anole, and Loa take on a Sentinel sent by the Children of the Vault, who have made their triumphant return. The group also takes in a new mutant girl, Luz, who has the power to bend light and create “light sculptures.” Little do the X-Men know, she is on the run from the Vault, and proceeds to stir up trouble amongst the group of mutants before the Children make their appearance known at the end of the issue in order to recapture her. There’s also an absolutely hilarious, badass, and completely unexpected scene between Rogue and Magneto that I won’t spoil for you, because it’s worth checking out. So … go. Check out.
And that’s just what’s happening on the surface. Below that, there is so, so much more. Carey is clearly continuing to build and plot with this storyline–wherever the story ends, we’ll continue to feel the effects of it long during the writer’s tenure, I’m sure.
What can I say about Clay Mann? Something about his pencils echoes Olivier Coipel to me, and I like it. In fact, this guy might just be my artistic hero. I can’t remember the last time I actually opened up a comic and saw the human figure drawn proportionately and real. Rogue is full bodied and lovely. Magneto is robust in his civvies without appearing overly muscular and fake. The background sceneries and architecture are inviting, and everything’s easy on the eyes. Overall, I can’t imagine what this title might be like in the hands of someone else when it comes the script, and now the art is living up to the writing. Can’t say I’ve been this happy about an X-book for a long time.
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Written by Mike Carey
Pencils by Clay Mann
Inks by Jay Leisten
Colors by Brian Reber
Letters by VC’s Cory Petit