Posts tagged “Cliff Chiang

Boston Comic Con 2012

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

Evey & V

Cosplay at Boston Comic Con

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.

Batgirl Com

Batgirl by Peter Nguyen

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?


Pull List, a New 52 Experiment, & Reviews

I hope everyone kept safe during Snowtober and that everyone has their power back.  We’re kicking things off early, huh, New England?  Good thing I have a gigantic threatening stack of reading to do while stuck indoors.

I have a triple-sectioned post for you this week.  I haven’t done a pull list in a while, so let’s start with that.  Then I’m going to talk about something else for a little bit, and then I’m going to do some reviews.  But first, I just wanted to say this:  thanks for reading.  You, right there, staring at your monitor.  Thank you for taking the time to click into this blog and follow my bizarre little posts every week.  It’s nice to know people are continually reading this week after week, so despite my crippling self-doubt, I guess I must be doing something right.  You all make my heart all warm and fuzzy inside, and when I close my eyes, I see rainbows and unicorns…

Uh … I mean.  Yeah, whatever.  Cool.  Thanks for the hits.

 

… PULL LIST!

Action Comics #3 – I haven’t gotten to issue two of this yet.  Falling behind….

Animal Man #3 – See above.  Sadness.

Swamp Thing #3 – Funny enough, I did read issue two, and as much as I was all over issue one, the story’s feeling a bit lackluster now.  I still dig Yanick Paquette and Scott Snyder like nobody’s business—it’s not necessarily the creators’ fault—I think it’s just that maybe I’m not as into Swamp Thing as I thought I could be.  Eehhhh … I don’t know.  Should I stick around?  Convince me.Infinite Vacation #3

Infinite Vacation #3 – WWWWHHHHHAAAAAAAAAAAAA???!!  Is this … do my eyes deceive me?  Is this REALLY, FINALLY out?!  Do I want to support this book after its RIDICULOUS lateness?  Tell you what, issue three—I’ll give you a go.  But this is your last chance.  Get your act together, or you’re off the list for good.

Fear Itself #7.1 – I don’t … what?  I don’t understand what’s happening anymore.  WHAT is with all of this “point one” garbage?  What is this all about?  Why is this still going on?  Geez.  I genuinely do not understand the thinking behind this wacko numbering.  Why is it not Fear Itself #8?  Why are we … God.  Also—and I almost can’t bear to address it, but I’m going to—there’s a new title spinning out of Fear Itself.  Want to know what it is?  … Are you sure?  Be warned, this is one gigantic SPOILER.

Fear Itself Fearless #2 – Wait, hang on.  Why is this on my pull list?  I don’t know what this is.

Mystic #4 – Awww, Mystic.  I’m gonna miss you.  I’m glad I get to look forward to you this week.  Thank you for giving me some fun and some magic in a pull list that’s otherwise mostly full of failure.

Shame Itself #1Shame Itself #1 – So I read the page previews of this on CBR and laughed so hard at the re-cap page.  This is definitely coming home with me.  Glad to see Marvel poking some fun at themselves.

Uncanny X-Men #1 – Still haven’t finished reading Schism yet.  Should I even bother?  It’s gotten some fairly bad reviews and I’m SO BEHIND.

Villains for Hire Point One #1 – I’ll be picking this up because I’ve been enjoying the Heroes for Hire book lately, but … *stares at title* … I just … I give up.

X-23 #16 – Hooray!  This should be good.  Marjorie Liu doesn’t let me down and Phil Noto makes me happy because his stuff’s consistently out of this world.  X-23 FTW.  We end on a high.

 

 

Detective Comics #1

Would Detective Comics #1 prove to be a teenage boy's gateway drug?

A NEW 52 MINI EXPERIMENT

I have a nephew named Alex.  He was the cutest thing when he was a tiny little kid—he was like my little buddy and I would take him to the comic shop and buy him comics and packages of Airheads taffy.  Naturally, this made me his favorite aunt, a title I still proudly hold.  He hated reading, but giving him comics was a great way of tricking him into doing so and making it fun.  He loved the Marvel heroes, and on the weekends that he stayed over, we would watch the animated Spider-Man or X-Men shows and bond in this fun little geek world of comics characters.

That nephew is now an angsty teenager, and having long fallen away from comics (there are no comic shops near where he lives), is more interested in girls, basketball, and his PS3 these days.  So when his birthday rolled around this past month, I decided I would try a little experiment.  I thought there would be no better time to bring him back into the comics fold than now.  And my weapon of choice?  None other than the New 52.

I was banking on buying him a handful of new titles that I thought he’d like, and went into the comic shop looking for specific books.  Unfortunately, we ran out of a number of titles, and since I had put off buying him this stuff until the absolute last minute, I didn’t have the luxury of waiting for re-prints.  So I made do with what I found, which was the following:  Aquaman #1 (a good, easy read); Detective Comics #1 (dark and violent, right up any teenage boy’s alley); and Justice League #1 (a no-brainer).  Since I also had already bought other gifts for him too, I couldn’t afford to pick up too many books.  I thought the new Superboy might be a hit for him as well as he loved the Smallville TV series, but the store had sold out.  What else would a kid his age like?  Blackhawks?  No copies left.  Red Hood & the Outlaws?  Hahaahaa, yeah, NO.  I went over to the Marvel shelves instead and picked up Captain America #1.  He loved the Cap movie; I was hoping this would get equally good results.  Plus, it would provide for some publisher comparison.

He got the issues on his birthday and seemed interested.  I didn’t give him any background information.  I didn’t tell him about the relaunch; didn’t explain that everything was starting over.  I just told him to read.

A couple of weeks later, it was time for follow-up.  I texted him and asked if he’d read any of the titles.  Response was positive.

TextConvo

I told him to read the last book, Captain America, and that I’d call him to talk about it.  When all the issues were read, we had a conversation.  He told me that he’d really loved “the Batman one” and that he was dying to see what happened next (the infamous Joker cliffhanger).  Aquaman was funny—he liked it, but it confused him a little.  I explained some of the inside jokes, and told him that Aquaman had a pretty pathetic reputation—which made him laugh more, and the new understanding added to his enjoyment of the book.  Lastly there was Justice League … he was hesitant about this one, but couldn’t explain his confusion or what was off about it.  And that’s when I told him about the reboot.

“The Justice League has never met each other prior to this,” I explained.

“Huh?”  He had seen the Justice League together before.  He’d seen the comics.  He knew that Batman and Superman were friends.

“They’re starting everything all over again.  This is all brand new.  Forget about what you read before—it didn’t happen.  They’re starting all over again,” I said.

“WHAT?!?  WHY?”  Even as someone who hadn’t read a comic in years, he was dumbfounded by the concept.

“To get to YOU!” I answered.

The discussion that followed was pretty interesting.  I tried, as rationally and objectively as possible, to explain the theory behind the New 52, and confessed that I had essentially used him as my guinea pig—which didn’t seem to bother him (he got free comics out of the deal, after all).  As Marvel had not done anything different to their line of books, I asked him what he thought of Captain America in comparison.  He said that he enjoyed it, but he didn’t understand it as much as the other books.  Peggy’s funeral in the beginning; Sharon Carter, Baron Zemo—these were characters he didn’t know, and after reading the first issue, he still felt like he was missing a lot.  He liked it, but was less inclined to pick up future issues than he was with the DC books.

Kind of fascinating, huh?

The real question now is to see whether or not he enjoyed this enough to go out and buy future issues on his own.  But if the choice comes down to a slew of number two books or a copy of Arkham City on the PS3 … well.  I’m pretty sure he’s about halfway through the game already.

Experiment status:  I’m cataloguing this one a tentative failure.

 

REVIEWS!

Wonder Woman #2Wonder Woman #2
Written by Brian Azzarello
Illustrated by Cliff Chiang
Publisher:  DC Comics
Price:  $2.99

 

You’ll recall that I was pretty annoyed a couple of weeks ago by the spoilery story announcement that Diana is apparently a daughter of Zeus.  My level of geek rage had spiked pretty high at that little nugget, and I really wasn’t sure how wise it was going to be for me to continue to follow Azzarello’s run on this book.  I think, though, that this is just another instance of media and solicitations ruining what may otherwise prove to be a very decent story.  When I picked up issue two, fully knowing the reveal that would come, I assumed I would hate everything else about the story as well.

But I didn’t.

Much as it bruises me to admit, this was still a damn great issue, and Azzarello is still weaving a damn good story, despite my reservations.  And had DC allowed me to find out the big news as I were reading the issue rather than spoil it for me beforehand out of context, I might have actually been okay.

You could have spared me the rage, guys.  My blood pressure—she’s not so good.

Kidding, of course.  In all seriousness, the in-story reveal was a million times better than DC’s press attempts for shock and awe, and I’m slowly trying to have a bit more faith in the writer here.  He did an excellent job of setting things up before dropping the proverbial bomb at the end of the issue, and it was done in a way that felt organic as opposed to contrived.  He even made sure to address the “born of clay” origin, rather than ignoring it and wiping it away completely, as I’d feared would be the case.  Given that this is the essence of her character and her story, it’s kind of a big deal.

Wonder Woman fans have, over the years, built up a reputation for being … let’s call it “high-strung.”  We’re overly picky.  Some of us are traditionalists.  All of us demand perfection, and we may take it to extremes.  But when you’ve watched a character you love get the short end of the stick over and over and over again; when you’ve watched writers mistreat her, misunderstand her, and/or flat out despise her; when this incredible character, this one-third of the all-mighty “Trinity” gets her panel time cut down in favor of the freaking Green Lantern, you tend to get a little overprotective.  We’re fed up.

I think—I hope—Azzarello gets that.  And I think—I hope—he’s righting the ship.  I’m still on for the ride to wherever he’s steering it.

Also, one more thing—Hippolyta is so totally awesome no matter her hair color.

Also, one more more thing—Cliff Chiang rocks my world.

 

Justice League Dark #2Justice League Dark #2
Written by Peter Milligan
Illustrated by Mikel Janin
Publisher:  DC Comics
Price:  $2.99

Was soooooooooooo not going to read this book.  I generally don’t care for magic-using characters of any kind, and it’s a point of contention between Fiancé and I.  If I’m playing a video game and I can make my own character, I’m going for the badass warrior with weapons galore and insane melee skills—you know, get all up in the action.  Fiancé, on the other hand, prefers to don some cheap cloth robe and fire-bomb the heck out of people from a very safe distance.

Opposites attract, I guess.

That said, the idea of a book centering heavily around the use of magic and magical characters didn’t exactly pull me in.  Not to mention the fact that I didn’t know who half of these people where.  Shade, what?  Who’s that?  It’s safe to say I’ve never read a single issue of anything bearing John Constantine’s name.  Heck, even Zatanna—a character who I bet you’d think I’d be all about—doesn’t draw me in.  I tolerate Zatanna, but I’m not a Zatanna fan.

Not yet.  With Justice League Dark now on my pull list, I can see this changing very soon.

I wish I could put my finger on just what it is that’s making this book so special to me, but I’m honestly not sure I know.  It isn’t one particular thing—it really isn’t blowing my mind in one area.  It’s just a combination of things, the ingredients of a comic book that are all done well and come together to give you something worth your appreciation.  And it’s all enveloped in this ominous, foreboding overtone that’s just enough to entice and not enough to overbear.

Issue #2 continues to bring together our cast of characters in the lead up to a presumable face-off against the Enchantress; we get a striking introduction to John Constantine, and Milligan brings in Dove and Deadman to aid June Moon from last issue.  The title so far has worked almost in a series of vignettes with each character, but it’s interesting because none of them are all that self-contained.  Each character piece is weaved into the overall story, and with Madame Xanadu overlooking everyone and pulling the strings, there are some very intriguing elements indeed.

Mikel Janin on art further sets this book apart from the pack.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen any of his other work, and he has this painted style that’s just lovely.  I came into this title fully intent on finding any reason to hate it, but it seems neither creator wants to let me.  And that’s so, so exciting and great.  The groundwork is being laid, and I can’t wait to see the storm that’s coming ahead.  This book is worth a shot.

 

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #3Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #3
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Illustrated by Sara Pichelli
Publisher:  Marvel Comics
Price:  $2.99

 

With this incarnation of Ultimate Spider-Man, Marvel has me subscribed to a Spider-Man title for the first time in my life.  And I’m sure I’m not the only one.

There’s a lot to be said for Miles Morales, but I’m certain you’ve already heard it all.  In the media storm that ensued following Marvel’s announcement they were killing off Ultimate Peter Parker and putting someone new under the mask, further fueled by Miles’ big reveal, there’s nothing the internets hasn’t already addressed.  I have nothing new to add to the conversation; I just want to say that I think this is absolutely awesome, amazing, wonderful, inspiring, and YES, MARVEL—YOU DONE GOOD!

Now, about this issue.  I loved the heck out of it.  Issue one was good.  Issue two was better.  Issue three?  Still kicking it up, and it is so damn fun to watch all of this … newness … unfold.  HEY, DC—THIS IS HOW YOU DO “NEW.”

I … I want to summarize the issue, but I also don’t want to spoil it.  In short, Miles is learning more about his new powers.  He’s also getting braver and putting them to the test in some very risky situations.  He’s also starting his new school and making new friends (or potential villains, I wonder?).  It all ends on a big cliffhanger that is just so well done structurally that … well.  Good job, Mr. Bendis.  I know I like to rag on you from time to time, but I have to tip my hat and give credit where credit is due.  You get a gold star.

Also, HOLY COW, SARA PICHELLI.  Is this woman freaking amazing or what?  I thought her stuff was good before, but I feel like I am actually witnessing her skills grow.  Woman is on fire.  I absolutely cannot see anyone else drawing this book now.  I hope the Bendis/Pichelli run is a very, very long one.  I hope it’s on par with Bendis/Bagley, because I’m not sure I could bear to see this book under anyone else’s care.  Absolutely wonderful.  I can’t stress it enough.

GO BUY ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN RIGHT NOW.

 

Okay, I think that’s enough.  Hopefully the super long length of this post has made up for my lack of posting the last couple of weeks.  Either that, or I just bored you to death and drove you further away.  Time to imagine that unicorn again.

Have a great weekend, gang.

All About Unicorns


More of the New 52

I’m having a rough go of this DC stuff, guys.  A real rough go.  If I had to pick one book this week to tell you to avoid like the frigging plague, it would be Teen Titans.  Don’t do it to yourself, readers.  You deserve better.

Aquaman #1Aquaman #1
Written by Geoff Johns
Illustrated by Ivan Reis & Joe Prado
Price:  $2.99

 

While That’s E is my LCS, occasional place of employment, and all-around hub of awesome, working in Boston can make it difficult to swing by store hours during the week to pick up comics.  That activity is typically reserved for the weekend when Boyfriend and I—now Fiancé, hip hip!—have the time to chat with our friends behind the counter, praise the latest works we’ve enjoyed, or talk smack about that week’s failures (at which point hilarity and raucous laughter ensue).  But when Wednesday rolls around and the excitement of new comics fills the air, it can prove hard to wait those extra few days.  That’s when I usually wander around Harvard Square during my lunch hour and inhabit Million Year Picnic, a quirky little hole-in-the-wall shop with cozy shelves and some super nice people running the register who clearly know their comics.  And when I went in there this week, the item I immediately grabbed for a quick read-through was Aquaman #1.

Laugh at me all you want, but I have a soft spot in my heart for Aquaman.  His was the first comic I’d ever read when I was a kid, secretly borrowing my brothers’ comics to read whenever they were out of the house.  I can get into the myriad reasons why I love Aquaman and will defend him ‘til the end, but that’s a topic for another post (which I’ve been working on for like six months and might never see the light of review day).  When DC announced this title, I was actually excited.  Aquaman!  What!?  And not belligerent old hook-hand Aquaman either—no!  This was the young, sexy blonde Aquaman that had made my tiny toddler heart skip a beat (he was so pretty!).  As I flipped through the pages gawking at the beautiful artwork and reading the story, I knew immediately that this would be one of few keepers for the New 52.

Geoff Johns loves Aquaman.  He’s proclaimed as much time and again during interviews, but you don’t need to hear him say that in order to get it.  Reading Aquaman #1 felt very much like Johns’ love letter to Aquaman.  He cares about this character, and we see that from page one.  The entire issue is devoted to building up Aquaman—first with a display of brute strength in the opening pages, followed by a glance at his reputation and insight to what’s in his heart, ultimately ending with a declaration of intent.  And in between it all, it is funny as heck.  I’m not sure a New 52 book has given me as much enjoyment yet as Aquaman did.  I loved this, and if Geoff and Ivan Reis (whose art was ridiculously great) can keep the momentum, I’ll be hooked for the long run.

Uh, no pun intended.

Batwoman #1Batwoman #1
Written by J.H. Williams & Haden Blackman
Illustrated by J.H. Williams
Price:  $2.99

 

I hate it when this happens.  You hear so much hype about a book—it’s built up and talked about everywhere and every review you read is like “THIS IS AMAZING!” and you think, oh my, I can’t wait to be hit with the awesome.  Then you get the book and … the balloon has popped.  To smithereens.  You’re deflated and your pieces are scattered everywhere, and you don’t feel like picking yourself back up.

That’s kind of how I felt after reading this issue.  Despite how gorgeous it was for the eyes—as though anyone would expect any less from J.H. Williams on that—it left me deflated.  Yet, I’m not really sure what my expectations were.  Story-wise, I had none.  I’m not a huge Kate Kane follower, but I liked her enough to sample this.  The only thing I left the issue with, though, was a sizeable dose of confusion.  I haven’t read Greg Rucka’s acclaimed run on Detective—the only Batwoman I’d read was the “zero” issue that came out last year or so—and as such, I had no frame of reference for a lot of what was happening in this book.  Whatever happened to “new reader-friendly”?

Could I follow along with this?  Yes.  I could piece together most of what I think I needed to know by the end of the issue.  But was it easy, or even rewarding?  Not really … I didn’t leave it feeling as such.  I’d like to blame that on the fact that J.H Williams, like many on the New 52, is artist-turned-writer.  That’s not an easy transition to make.  I’d also suggest that this title was never actually meant to be part of the New 52—it wasn’t written to entice new readership or be part of this comics-holy endeavor.  It was just a title that kept getting delayed and kept getting delayed and eventually found its way to being a part of this.  I think it’s done some harm.

I’m going to read issue two.  I’ll likely stick out the entire first arc, because I think whatever nitpicks I have with this can certainly be overcome.  I will say that the opening scenes in particular were incredible, and I’m looking for more of that to come.  Overall, the book just didn’t hit me the way I was expecting, and so much of that I’m sure has to do with the internet hype.  Drowning it out for next month.

Birds of Prey #1Birds of Prey #1
Written by Duane Swierczynski
Illustrated by Jesus Saiz
Price:  $2.99

 

Ugh.  I really … I didn’t want to do this.  I staunchly and adamantly shot down this book before it came out; very loudly voiced my hatred at the concept of a new Birds of Prey without Oracle or Huntress or Gail Simone behind the board.  I was NOT going to give this a shot.  But in a week where Catwoman and Starfire were degraded and exploited beyond all comprehension … suddenly, a female team book felt more alluring.  And really, let’s face it—I’m a masochist.  Comics fans in general are absolutely masochists.  We know it’s going to be bad—we know it’s going to hurt, but damn it, we just can’t look away.  We just can’t stop.

So I picked this up.  And … it broke my heart.

First of all, let me get this off my chest:  Dinah’s outfit is absolutely dumb.  Dumbest thing ever.  I will say that I’ve never minded the fishnets in her previous getup—I thought her outfit was fine, and no, I didn’t think she looked like a hooker.  I thought she looked like a badass biker chick, though much of fandom had complained that the fishnets were tacky.  DC’s answer to that, apparently, was to re-tool her costume and add even MORE fishnets?  Up her ARMS, no less?  What the hell, guys.  This is the stuff that makes me want to cuss my head off.  (I’m trying to tone it down—it isn’t easy.)  It’s just the most senseless outfit of all the redesigns, and that’s saying a lot considering there is some genuinely BAD stuff out there.  My eyes … they bleed.

Okay.  Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about this book.  The Birds of Prey, to me, has always been about friendship.  Well, it’s about girls kicking ass too, but mostly, it’s friendship.  The unfailing, strong-in-the-face-of-all-danger, love-you-no-matter-how-many-times-you-screw-up friendship between Dinah and Barbara.  Then Huntress eventually came along and stirred the pot, and the book became even more amazing because the relationships built between the three women was not something that was found in any other DC book, or any other comic book period.  Add Zinda Blake to the mix, and things still kept getting stronger.  Four ladies, four unshakeable ties.  A family.  That was the Birds of Prey.  And I came back for it month after month after month, because it felt like these were my girls.  You find things you relate to and after so many years of a book like this, you build these immensely personal ties and attachment to it.  Not having the Birds anymore—my Birds—is heartwrenching.

This?  If they had called Duane Swierczynski’s version anything else—anything at all other than “Birds of Prey,” I might have actually been able to swallow this.  But I can’t.  I keep looking at this book hoping that it’s what it was—what I want it to be, but it’s not, and I’m not MEANT to look at it that way.  We’re supposed to look at it as something new.  It’s its own thing.  DC is asking us not to compare it to what came before.  But that’s really unfair, and it’s just not something I can do.  DC built this attachment of mine; they gave me a security blanket that I loved and loved, and they can’t expect me to throw it away for some new toy.

I’m genuinely sorry about it, too, because the artwork on this was flawless.  One issue and I am already a huge Jesus Saiz fan.  And as much as I wasn’t crazy about Swierczynski coming on board, I have to give credit where credit is due—he writes a pretty damn good Black Canary.  Maybe even second best to Gail.  Unfortunately, I won’t be sticking around to see what he can do.  He screwed that up for me the moment he introduced Barbara Gordon in this issue for no apparent reason whatsoever outside of raising a million continuity questions that he doesn’t proceed to answer.  I can’t look at this with the new eyes that it needs.  Maybe some day … but for right now, looks like I’m out.

Wonder Woman #1Wonder Woman #1
Written by Brian Azzarello
Illustrated by Cliff Chiang
Price:  $2.99

Yeeaaahhh … I have to say, I was really on the fence about this one.  I had no idea what to expect until a few weeks back when I watched this hysterical interview with Brian Azzarello about his run on the book.  He has such utter disdain for the interviewer in it and he’s so frank with his responses that I couldn’t help but be oddly endeared.  Suddenly, any worries I had about the title just kind of fell away.

Despite being turned off by the idea of yet another revamp for Wonder Woman, after over a year of horrible, pedantic, pointless WW issues during the “Odyssey” story arc of Straczynski’s ill-conceived run, I was suddenly DESPERATE for a title re-launch.  Time to kick the lame pants and jacket, adolescent writing, and cheesecake artwork to the curb.  Cliff Chiang on art duties?  GODSEND.  Brian Azzarello writing?  Er … I hadn’t read the guy.  There was a 50/50 chance this could work.

I liked this issue.  It took me two reads, but I liked it.  The first read through was a little rough—Azzarello wasn’t lying when he said he wanted to introduce a “horror” element to Wonder Woman, and at first, it just seemed like a whole bunch of violence and gore.  But on the second read through, the issue took a much better shape, and I caught things I didn’t catch the first time around.  The tone was different, and I actually liked it.  It was hard, but in a good way.  Azzarello re-introduces some of the Greek gods, and for the first time in a long time—maybe ever—they actually come across really cool, powerful, and scary.  When was the last time the gods were actually scary?  They SHOULD be scary.  It’s refreshing to see.  Especially interesting is the fact that this doesn’t feel as “mythological” as it actually is.  You’re not watching the gods walk around in togas and hang out on Olympus the way you did during Greg Rucka’s run (which I loved as well).  It’s not in-your-face ancient mythology.  It’s modern day, and it WORKS.  So much so that I’m surprised.

The story involves a human girl named Zola who has unknowingly gotten herself mixed up in godly affairs—literally—and it’s up to Wonder Woman to protect her from the wrath of who we presume to be Hera and Apollo.  I was very concerned with how Wonder Woman would come across under Azzarello’s pen.  Would she just be a violent Amazonian?  Would she retain any of her compassion?  Would she wear pants?  (Just kidding.)  My favorite renditions of Wonder Woman have always been the loving, empathetic ones—Simone’s and Rucka’s.  An overly violent Wonder Woman goes against the grain of everything the character represents.

That said, she isn’t afraid to kick ass when ass needs kicking.  She isn’t afraid to kill if it’s what must be done (see Maxwell Lord).  And in this issue, Wonder Woman kicks a lot of ass in what is one of the most well-choreographed, beautifully drawn fight scenes I’ve read in ages.  Cliff Chiang kills on this book, illustrating a Wonder Woman who isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty, but can also show concern where it’s called for.

Did this completely fire on all cylinders for me?  Not entirely.  I have a few nitpicks, to be sure—for example, this being her own title book, it felt oddly as though Wonder Woman somehow wasn’t in it very much.  I also wasn’t crazy about the use of her lasso in one scene, and I feel like some of the dialogue can be tweaked as we move forward.  But overall, this is a HUGE improvement over the garbage Wonder Woman fans have had to suffer through over the past year.  I am most definitely on board here, and the creative team has set my expectations high.  For the first time in a long time, I can’t wait for the next issue of Wonder Woman.