virgin de-and-re-virginized
:: Liquid Comics ::: Liquid Comics has completed the management buyout of Virgin Comics led by the founding management team of Gotham Chopra, Sharad Devarajan and Suresh Seetharaman. Liquid Comics will continue to develop innovative digital, film, animation, and gaming projects for its original character, stories and other properties.

Commenting on the change, Sharad Devarajan said, "Virgin Group has been a fantastic partner with whom to work and together we have established a strong foundation of great character properties and media partnerships.

We remain fully committed to continuing our mission to provide a home for innovative creators and storytellers across the world."

It looks like this means that many, if possibly not most, of Virgin's titles will continue. The front page of the new Liquid Comics site -- which is redirected from -- contains the first issue of Devi, broken up in a very strange way. The question is, how will Liquid work without Virgin's backing? Who owns the various movie and television coproductions, Liquid or Virgin itself? Will they focus on making good comix instead of focusing so strongly on Hollywood-ready properties? And what's going to happen with the Stan Lee superhero universe that he was going to create for Virgin? Is that still alive? Will they work harder with either the direct market or the book market to get their stuff where people can see it? One of their biggest problems is that they simply got no push at all in the direct market, so a different take on superheroes fell largely on deaf ears. (NB: According to his quarterly Word Balloon interview [FIVE HOURS! FIVE!], apparently Virgin made Marvel's Brian Michael Bendis an offer to work on the Stan Lee project that he was seriously considering. I can't imagine that they can afford to throw mind-numbing amounts of money at him this time around, and in any event, he declined the first time because of all of his other existing work.)

Actually, the real question is: will there be more Devi? I really don't care about the rest of it, I just want her back. (...OK, I care about the rest of it; just not anywhere near as much.)

m. night reconsidering: In other world news, M. Night Shyamalan is considering making Unbreakable 2. Which ... hmm. On the one hand, I kind of think it was the last good movie he made, although it did end on a serious downbeat that limited who would see it. Rightly or wrongly, people generally don't like their superhero movies to end in so dark a manner -- although that said, the end of the original Superman II is awfully bittersweet, and The Dark Knight is only slightly lighter than Unbreakable (although containing more actual corpses). It also had some pacing issues here and there, although I'd say that it's one of the rare movies that doesn't kick you out of the right headspace if you wind up thinking a little about what's going on as it happens. I do think, unless he's going to posit that the main character went into hibernation over the past decade, that Bruce Willis might be a shade long in the tooth to return to the role; that said, given the amount of time that's passed, it would be interesting to see if maybe what happened with the character David Dunn is genetic, and gets passed on down to his son. After all David didn't come into his powers in any major way until he was in his 30s; maybe his son wouldn't come into his until his 20s or some such. And hey! in true supervillain fashion, maybe Samuel L. Jackson's Elijah could escape from prison to plague Dunn from his wheelchair! (And note: if M. Night does decide to make a sequel, Samuel L. is ready to go.)

minx unminxed: According to CBR, DC has pulled the plug on Minx, their imprint aimed primarily at teenaged girls. Some of the remaining titles will still be published, some won't, some won't be published as Minx titles if they're published at all. (I wonder if they'll move them to CMX?) Apparently, no matter how hard they tried, they couldn't get the titles to the manga shelves in regular bookstores. Not surprising, I suppose; with a recession chopping off people's discretionary spending, and with Borders in acute distress -- and Borders was the single largest sale point for manga in this country -- I can't imagine that anyone would have done well. (That said, while the first wave of titles was good, there seemed to be a real drop-off in quality with the second wave. Mileage varies, of course, but I didn't like the second year titles anywhere near as much as the first, with the exception of New York Four by Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly.

What amuses me is that they're possibly considering moving some of the titles to Vertigo, based on the prior success of My Faith in Frankie by Mike Carey. The thing that struck me at the time was that My Faith in Frankie was truly, sincerely, desperately NOT a Vertigo title. It was too light, it was clearly -- except for the ending -- aimed at a younger audience than Vertigo's normal one. Maybe that'll work this time; they certainly won't have problems getting it into regular comics stores, and they've got some inroads into the bookstore markets for the Vertigo and DC labels.
Aw, crap.

Virgin Comics Shut Down - 8/26/2008 6:55:00 AM - Publishers Weekly:Virgin Comics, the high-profile 2006 international joint venture between Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and the India-based comics publisher Gotham Entertainment, has been shut down. The company’s New York office and publishing unit has been closed and the eight people that staff it have been laid off.

Although calls to Virgin Comics CEO and cofounder Sharad Devarajan (who is also president of Gotham Entertainment) have not been returned, sources confirm that the venture has been closed and that a statement will likely be issued soon. The closing appears to effect only Virgin Comics’ U.S. publishing operations in New York City and does not effect the operations of Gotham Entertainment, the Bangalore, India-based partner in the venture that produces comics targeted at the South Asian consumer market.

The company produced about 17 different comics series in addition to publishing about 18 trade paperback collections and 3 hardcover titles. It is unclear what will happen to the rights to these properties....

I have to admit, I'm not nearly as surprised at the closing as I was at the fact that Branson and Gotham decided to open a new comics company in the first place. I really liked most of the Virgin stuff that I read, but from what I could tell by looking at sales charts, it never connected in a broad way. Sales were typical of low-end indie stuff, but the company seemed to be trying to be DC or Marvel (or at least Dark Horse), and that's a circle you just can't quite square. I wonder if, like Crossgen, Virgin simply expanded faster than it could support. That said, as a division of two much larger companies, and one that was signing coproduction pacts all over the place, I'm surprised that it wasn't given more than two years to prove itself. Even Crossgen lasted six years.

I'm going to miss Devi and also the oddball little titles they used to publish. And I wonder what's going to happen to Stranded; it got optioned to SciFi. For that matter, there was this big joint production thing that Virgin and SciFi had going, and I'd imagine that SciFi just got left high and dry on that. And Stan Lee just got screwed over by a company going out of business again; they only recently announced that Stan Lee was developing a superhero universe for them. He was developing the Riftworld superhero universe for Byron Preiss iBooks when that company went under due to the founder's death in an auto accident. I wonder if he might not be better off doing whatever he was going to do as part of Komikworks, which he seems to be somehow a part of. It would be kind of odd for him to do something directly for the web, but at least he could get it out there and not be held hostage to some other company's misfortunes.

Nothing on Virgin's (recently redesigned) website as yet, but then, considering that updates on the website, aside from the weblog section, were always painfully behind the publication schedule, that's not surprising.

EDIT: According to the official press release given to CBR, Virgin is "reorganizing its operations and closing its New York office to consolidate in an LA base." (LA is that much cheaper than New York? Really?) So possibly not dead, but merely sleeping. (Though I'd bet on "dead".)
Yes, I'm beating a dead horse.

No, it's not the dead horse you think it is. Or not just that particular dead horse, anyway.

And it's entirely not my fault! Really! You'll see!

Today's reviews include: Batman, All-Star Superman, Boy Meets Hero, Corridor and others, including the one which inspired today's title.

By the by, being told that you have by far the most esoteric pull list in the store is quite the experience. Consider that a warning...

Batman 677 (Morrison/Daniel; DC): In which the Black Glove unleashes its attack on Bruce, and Jezebel Jet tries to get Bruce to see what she thinks is reason. Honestly, the story as a whole baffles me a bit, in part because there are gaps in my Batman knowledge. For example, when did Gordon come back to be Commissioner again? The last I heard, he'd retired, went off somewhere, divers villains killed his new wife and he moved back to Gotham, but that other guy was still commissioner during the Gotham Central days ... and even in DC time, he's getting quite long in the tooth to be commissioner again/still. The Black Glove also clearly knows that Bruce Wayne and Batman are the same person. They set out to destroy not only Bruce Wayne, but Thomas Wayne and Alfred, of all people, knowing that if they strike at Bruce's identity and the one anchor in his world, they might be able to break him psychologically. In the meantime, Jezebel Jet begins to realize just who it is that she's fallen in love with, and all that it means. Of course, the structural problem with this story remains: we still don't have any reason to care about Jezebel Jet, and no reason to care what she thinks. We know both that she's quite right -- Bruce is obviously a few bats short of a full belfry -- and that it doesn't matter. After all, he couldn't function if he were sane, now could he? In any event, it builds to a compelling and interestingly gory end. The art's OK, although there's a moment of problematic artwork, when Alfred expresses concern over a wound he couldn't possibly have seen -- at this point, as weird as the second half of the issue wound up being, I wonder if maybe that was also A Clew, or if it was just bad art. Anyway, just OK; I'll still hang around to see what happens next.

All Star Superman 11 (Morrison/Quitely/Grant; DC): The first page is maybe the most awesome Superman page I've ever seen, even if you absolutely know that it's not going to stick. The second page is also terrifyingly awesome. And then you hit the middle of the story, in which the clearly unwell Superman sums up his life for himself and his robot, and in which Luthor makes his plans. And then superman battles Solaris, knowing full well that he's one of Luthor's allies. There's the rather peculiar moment when one of the Superman robots insists he must atone for a mistake, and the rather peculiar moment when Solaris starts speaking binary--I thought it was supposed to be alive. And then, of course, that final, awesome, peculiarly iconic final image. Honestly, the middle of the story is perfectly serviceable, if maybe that's all it is; the problem is that it comes after those very very good first two pages, and you can't live up to a beginning like that. The story does tie together what had seemed to be random strands from the earlier issues, such as Superman's new powers that have been referenced but never really seen, and the robots, and Luthor in prison. I'm really looking forward to seeing what happens in the last issue, which I assume will be out ... someday. (Seriously, when DC rethinks the All-Star line, which they are allegedly doing, the one thing they need to focus on, aside from getting interesting stories, is timely delivery.)

Aletheia 1 (Bob LeFevre; Image): The story starts with the origin of the Greek gods Zeus, Poseidon and Hades, collectively known as Aletheia (the truth). Them we zip to Olympia, Washington, where we see a young black woman with purple-wrapped dreds working on her motorcycle. Judging from the license plate, her name is Thea. She gets a call from her boyfriend and decides to head to his place -- at which point all Hades breaks loose. And also all Zeus and Poseidon, as well. The Greek gods manifest on this plane of existence, after a very long time away, and immediately they notice Thea, who is apparently the "Formerly departed." The formerly departed whom, they do not say. Thea evades the attacks of the gods and reaches her boyfriend's apartment (or her biggest fan's apartment, as she describes him, which opens the question of why she'd have fans), only to discover that he's been attacked, and he dies in her arms. Then the gods and their agent, whoever the brown thing is, attack her again, and then ... something happens. I'm not trying to be coy -- although, given that it's the ending of the issue, I should -- but I simply have not the slightest idea what she does. On the one hand ... I do like the story well enough to see what happens next. On the other, the story is perhaps not well served by its highly stylized art -- as I say, I really don't have a clue what happens in the last four pages. I hope LeFevre gets rid of most of that clearly deliberately ponderous narration for the next issues. It sets the mood and is well used in the beginning, but during the chase and in the boyfriend's apartment building, it just gets in the way and annoys. Having set up the big emotional moment, you need to trust the reader to know when it arrives. All that said, I'm curious enough to stick around for at least the next issue; I'd really like to know who she is and why the gods are so afraid of her when she quite clearly has no idea. Recommended.

Dan Dare 6 of 7 (Ennis/Erskine; Virgin): I have to admit, Ennis kind of astounds me from time to time. His bread and butter is stuff like Punisher or The Boys or Chronicles of Wormwood, titles clearly meant for adults, dealing with sex and violence and being exuberantly foul-mouthed. And then he comes out with something like Dan Dare, which I wouldn't hesitate to give to give to, say, a kid maybe 10, 12 years old, real boys-own adventure stuff, fun (if somewhat violent but surprisingly lacking in grue) space opera. Anyway, in this penultimate adventure, Dare gets rescued (of course), with everything going more or less as planned. The Mekon expresses his displeasure with his people in ways that ensure that one of the planets develops, at least temporarily, a thoroughly gruesome ring. And then the final confrontation commences. These are all -- well, except for that second thing -- thoroughly obvious beats that had to be hit in this story. It would not, after all, do to have Dare expire before the last issue of his own title, and there is also a last issue to come. (I think at some point this series might have expanded a bit; I'd have sworn that it was solicited as a six-issue mini, and now not only is it seven issues, but the last is to be double-sized.) To be sure, after the rescue, this issue is mostly, but not entirely, marking time; the "not entirely" bits are thoroughly entertaining. Really, the whole thing is just an amazing amount of fun. Buy all the issues, then find a kid and give something to read. And, really, who'd think you'd say something like that about recent Ennis work?

Beyond (Deepak Chopra/Ron Marz/Edison George): We start with a man pushing through a crowd going the other way. Behind him, the dome of the Taj Mahal has been blown up. He walks past television where we see something in Karachi and Tel Aviv and somewhere in Palestine have also gone kaboom. Then we leap back three months in time to Benares, India, where Michael, his wife Anna and his son Ty are on vacation, a gift from Michael's mother-in-law. It's a working vacation for Michael, and he's an entrepreneur of sorts, which means that he doesn't really see much point in vacations and is constantly working. Suddenly, Anna disappears, and moreover, Ty discovers that he's been slipped a magic comic book called "The Rishi" (published by Virgin. Arf arf, even) in which the story of their trip is being told ... right up to the point they're actually at, after which the pages are blank. There are magic doors, and signs and symbols and ... honestly, it's interesting enough, and I do like the art, but since it's a four issue mini, I'd just as soon wait for the trade. It's not quite that gripping.

Corridor (Sarnath Banerjee; Penguin, 2004); An interesting mostly black-and-white graphic novel, telling the story of a group of friends and their various obsessions, centered around Jehangir Rangoonwalla and his bookstore and his tea. Brighu has a thing about Ibn Batuta and obsessively collects various things, none of which he can allow himself to use or enjoy, because doing so would ruin them. Digital Dutta -- with the longest full color segment in the volume -- is obsessed with the pursuit of an H-1B visa; why, we never really learn. He also gets periodically obsessed with Karl Marx and/or Chris Evert. Newly married Shintu, whose story has a few full-color pages, is obsessed with sex and aphrodisiacs. Strangely enough, he actually finds one that works, more or less. (The advice he gets from the guy who gives him the aphrodisiacs is hysterically funny. For example, did you know that frequent nocturnal emissions are a sure sign of impending impotency? And impotence can be prevented by frequent kegeling -- which, if not quite true, is certainly useful -- and eating curried goat's testicles -- which isn't particularly true or useful.) I really like Corridor; the artwork is stylized without being so much so that it overwhelms the writing. There's no overarching story being told; we're just learning about this group of men and certain aspects of their lives. Periodically very funny, periodically touching, and always interesting. Highly recommended, if you can find it (and it may be difficult, given its age). Sarai currently hosts a 24-page preview.

Boy Meets Hero (Chayne Avery and Russel Garcia; Bruno Gmunder):
A hardback compilation of the former webcomic, Boy Meets Hero tells the story of Derek -- secretly Blue Comet, superhero -- and Justin -- secretly in love with Derek. The latter secret constitutes one of the major difficulties for our guys; Justin wants to be out and proud, while Derek fears losing his job -- in their world, being a superhero is a paid position, just as in the Luna Brothers' Ultra -- and his reputation. To keep the public off guard, Derek is participating in a phony romance, orchestrated by the public relations department, with his superhero partner Sunstar, who also happens to be Justin's sister Jillian. The villains are, of course, conspiring to bring Blue Comet and Sunstar down in revenge for having been beaten in the past.

The artwork is comparatively simple, but mostly works for the story. There is a certain amount of comic-book nudity -- no full frontal (not even in the panel where Justin is told that his junk is hanging out), a bit of buttock here and there -- and romantic sex of the sort you'd see in any mainstream superhero book. The main characters kiss, and we see them on the way to sex, but nothing explicit. And we actually see black gay guys in this story! who get put into peril, but live through it! Granted, they're purely incidental characters, but still.

Those incidental characters bring up one of the few things that annoy me a bit. The story does lean a bit on stereotype here and there. Not a lot, but when it happens, it's somewhat jarring. For example, deeply closeted Derek says at work at one point, "You go, girlfriend!" To his theoretical girlfriend, for that matter, in front of pretty much everyone he works with. It's just hard to believe that someone that deeply closeted would make that sort of mistake in that situation; moreover, he doesn't say anything like that through the rest of the story.

The other issue with the story as a whole is that the guys kind of ... talk too much. The two of them are just spritzing angst everywhere over Derek and his closet and talking about it to each other, to Jillian, a lot. Almost the only frames with the guys that don't contain great whacking chunks of dialogue or narration are those in which they're making love, and it's not as though there are more than a couple of those frames scattered in the story. The villains also have to acquaint us with their unfortunate past with a great heaping hunk of dialogue -- and the curious thing there is that in one case, we actually get thrown into a more effective flashback, with a bit less dialogue. Granted, you don't want to be flashing backward and forward all that much in a 120 page book, but it points out that the authors are entirely capable of showing and not telling quite so much.

Anyway, those flaws aside, it was still a very entertaining and worthwhile read. Recommended.

Jimmy Zhingchak, Agent of D.I.S.C.O. (Saurav Mohapatra/Anupam Sinha; Virgin/UTV-Spotboy Motion Pictures)

And at last we reach the titular ... er, title. Surely you understand now why, especially after the previous poster entries, the title for this review entry had to be what it is. Honestly, although I'd bought the issue before the posters, I hadn't looked at it all that closely. Then, after the posters, I finally got around to reading the stuff I hadn't gotten through yet, and well ... there it was.

The back cover bills it as "the world's first Bollywood comic" and ... I kind of can't argue that point. Although I will note that there is a profound lack of entire cities suddenly bursting into song and mindnumbingly spectacular production numbers.

The story? Oh, yes, the story. We start in Mumbai in 1984, with later occasional excursions back in time and elsewhere in India. One of DISCO's operations has just been compromised by the Naada Ninjas -- who wear white and bright colors, for some reason. We jump to Jimmy Grover's residence, where he's yelling at his mother for spending his hard earned cash on that "foul Desi moonshine". Said "foul Desi moonshine" pretty much immediately puts her in the hospital. The doctor tells Jimmy that his mother's liver has failed, and she needs expensive drugs and an operation. He offers to drop the price if Jimmy will, shall we say, put out. Jimmy responds by slapping the doctor and declaring, "You should be ashamed of yourself trying to exploit a lachaar mazboor najuwan like me!" (According to the funny yet seriously incomplete glossary at the end, this means "helpless strapping young lad headed straight for Oprah".) To make money quickly, Jimmy heads for the DISCO Fights (no, really, that's what they're called) to take on all the DISCO champions (no, REALLY) at once. Suddenly, just as he's clearly about to get clobbered, a mysterious man's head appears in a cloud and tells him to use the zhingchak(TM). What, you might be wondering, is the zhingchak(TM)? And well might you wonder! In any event, Jimmy pummels the champions of DISCO, wins the money, pays for his mother's transplant, and is thereupon recruited immediately into DISCO, which turns out to be the Department of Internal Security and Covert Operations. (For reasons external to the story, I had a small hysterical fit when the chief said, "Jimmy, your country needs you.") Moreover, Jimmy's father was in fact one of DISCO's best agents, until he was killed by the dreaded FIRANG. Jimmy of course agrees to work with DISCO, and is thereupon given his father's DISCO Battle Suit ("100% polyester, machine washable"), keyed to his family DNA. There are, of course, all sorts of absurd twists, turns, gadgets and villains -- I suspect people may be particularly fond of Britney Hypnotits, as well as the Fabled Mithunkwalk (the pelvic thrust that really will drive you insane).

Essentially, the story aims for a sort of Indian Austin Powers vibe, Bollywood does Our Man Flint (much cooler and more mod than James Bond). Mostly, it gets there. Mostly. I suspect if you're Indian, it may get there much better than if you're American. There are chunks of ... um, language to deal with. Not a lot, and I don't think any of it's at all important -- but that's just it; I don't know that the ... er, language isn't important. (Seriously, Hindi? Bengali? Something else? No clue here.) Linguistic weirdnesses aside, it's funny and entertaining, and the artwork is highly stylized and insanely detailed. It's definitely a worthwile, fun read. Just, you know, periodically linguistically aggravating.

Given the Virgin/UTV coproduction, I expect that it will be a Bollywood movie for real any day now. Wonder if it'll make it here?
DC Universe 0 (Morrison/Johns/A raft of artists):
...So I ... and that ... I mean ... what the hell was that hot mess, anyway? It was billed as a big status quo explanation that would be a perfect jumping-on spot for new readers, but it explained so little that unless you read one hell of a lot in the DC universe, you had no idea what was going on.

It was meant at least in part also to be marketing and a teaser for the upcoming Final Crisis and its many many many many many many many many tie-in stories, and it managed to persuade me to read ... nothing I wasn't already reading. I mean, I'll probably do Batman RIP, because I read Batman peripatetically and Detective consistently, and despite the fact that "The Resurrection of Ra's Al-Ghul" crossover, after a great first issue or two, sucked like a sucking thing of suckitude making a giant sucking sound of suckiness. (In other words, it was very very bad.) I'll read "Whom gods forsake", because I read Wonder Woman, and because I've been waiting for the choice she had to make to rescue her mother to have consequences -- although a raft of Spartans about to attack the world because she's a woman who couldn't save it in fact has absolutely nothing to do with that choice. (Don't ask me why they're Spartans, either.) I was already planning to read "Final Crisis: Revelations", because it's Rucka writing Renee Montoya, and it's going to be a teamup with Crispus Allen/the Spectre, and there's no way on EARTH I'd want to miss that. I could give a rat's ass about "Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds: Prime Evil" in which various and sundry Legions try to beat down Superboy ... er, pardon, SuperMAN Prime. (How many colons does a title need, anyway?) I could give a rat's ass about "Green Lantern: Blackest Night Prelude: The Dead Shall Rise". Which is apparently a prequel to their major DEAR GOD YES THIS IS THE END OF ALL CRISES TO BEAT ALL CRISES crossover for next year, anyway. And I could care less about "Final Crisis" itself.

The other thing that baffles me is why DC spent so much time planting information in the media about the Big Event That Happens in the story ... especially since it kind of doesn't really happen. I will note, however, that I was vastly amused that the multiverse literally precipitates fallen heroes when it needs them, just assembling them and raining them out of the sky when it wants them, like sentient magma, judging from what we do see. Granted, it makes a sort of sense, given how he died, but still, it was terribly funny to see them actually do something that silly. That said, the ending graphic is, just barely, subtle enough that if DC hadn't been clanging that anvil, dropping said anvil on the heads of anyone who'd stand still long enough, and then shouting from the rooftops after that, a lot of people would have missed it entirely. Or assumed that the multiverse was precipitating a stripper, which would have been kind of perfect, really.

Anyway, a story that managed to actually not be worth the 50 cents they charged for it. Who knew?

Devi 19 (Mohapatra/Chandrasekhar; Virgin): basically, an issue long fight between Devi and the abruptly resurrected and body-jumping Daanvi, although it also contains flashes to activity going on underneath Sitapur in the lost city of Candara. Some tourists/archaeologists have most unfortunately gotten themselves mixed up with the darinde, who have plans for them. Aside from Tara getting a forced, and thankfully brief, review of her sister's life, not a lot happens in the main storyline -- issue long fight sequences tend to have that effect. Chandrasekhar's artwork is very nice, as always. It turns out that reminding us that Candara exists is also relevant to...

Witchblade/Devi (Ron Marz/Eric Basaloua; Top Cow/Virgin): a profoundly unnecessary, but oddly interesting crossover. It starts with us watching the original team-up between a very early holder of the Witchblade and an early Devi incarnation, teeing off against Tama, Bala and Iyam. (Familiar names? Why, yes, they are!) The artwork for the earlier Devi incarnation is sincerely problematic; we're explicitly told that Tara is the first living human to contain the Devi goddess -- the first incarnation that we see in the original Devi series is actually blue, for heaven's sake -- and yet this person appears to be exactly that. She's also wearing nothing more than the Devi crown and strategically placed fire. Anyway, Sara Pezzini wakes up from her dream of the Witchblade/Devi teamup, gets guided about Sitapur by Rahul, who is helping to investigate a murder in which the murderers killed in New York and ran away to Sitapur, and then gets attacked by darinde when she tries to sleep. She drives them off, and then has a lovely meet-ugly with Tara/Devi. The story, as mentioned, is unnecessary but fun, although it's clear that it's going to get on an express train for the Devi/Witchblade issue from Virgin/Top Cow next month; it's got places to go, and it's nowhere near there yet. Basaloua's artwork, on the other hand, is wildly inconsistent. At times it's much too simply drawn -- Sara's face in particular suffers from a lack of detail and expression and she almost always has her mouth half-open -- and at times it's really well detailed -- Candara and the darinde in particular are very well done. An enjoyable read if you normally pick up Devi; I have no idea how this works for readers of Witchblade.

Abyss 4 of 4 for the first story arc (Rubio/Maragon; Red 5): in which the big fight to which we've been building up finally takes place! At a comics convention! And it's much much shorter than you were expecting! ... because it turns out that we only thought this issue was building up to the big fight. It was actually building up to what comes after that. (No, I'm not telling.) Artwork is very nice, and it's going to be interesting to see what they do with this setup, now that they've got it. Eric with a superteam is most unexpected, I have to say.

Proof 7 (Grecian/Rossmo/Staples; Image): In which the big guy unleashes a bit of whoopass -- if only a bit -- Ginger and Elvis find and try to rescue the baby brontosaurus, and all the traitors are revealed. And ... not a lot else happens, actually, but it happens very interestingly. Highly recommended.

Jack of Fables 22 (Willingham/Sturges/Akins/Pepoy; DC/Vertigo): In which we're introduced, quite abruptly and seemingly unattached to the current storyline, to Jack in his past. Unlike the present, in which he's a very self-involved criminal but still somehow charming, the Jack of 1883 is a brutal, vicious murderer. He's so bad that Fabletown decides something must be done, and sends Bigby out after him. It's going to be interesting to see how Willingham and Sturges manage to maintain this arc, and how long they take it. Jack really was a borderline sociopath already; pushing him into full-fledged serial killer/spree murderer/robber/thug may be a bit more than the audience can stand for too long.

Caliber: First Canon of Justice 1 (Sam Sarkar/Garrie Gastonny; Radical Comics): One of the first issues of a new title from a new company. I read the issue and then saw some publicity elsewhere; only then did I discover that Caliber is meant to be a revisioning of the King Arthur legend. It's incredibly easy to miss if you're not paying the right sort of attention. (Though paying the right sort of attention makes it a terribly puzzling story indeed.) In the role of Merlin stands Jean Michel, son of a French trader and a Nez Perce shaman's daughter. In what appears to be the conflated role of Morgaine and Nimue stands Morgan, Jean Michel's lover. Captain Pendergon, commander of the town fort, appears to be standing in for Uther Pendragon -- his wife, standing in for Ygraine, dies during the story. And, of course, there's Arthur, the captain's son. And standing in for Excalibur is ... well, it's the old west. What would you think Excaliber would be? Knowing what the story is meant to be helps you understand a bit of what's going on ... if only a bit. For example, Jean Michel makes a critical mistake, because the spirits that speak to him to tell him what to do -- and we do hear the spirits along with him -- are profoundly unspecific, even though it seems as though they're being responsive. In any event, it may be interesting to see how this story goes. (Against that is the fact that I kind of hate Westerns, although a western with fantastical elements is pretty much something I may be able to deal with.) The art work ... well. Part of me wants to say that Gastonny's artwork is magnificent, because what we can actually see is well drawn and very detailed. The rest of me wants to say that it's incredibly muddy and dark, and it desperately needs to be lightened so that we can see what's going on. A good and intriguing beginning, anyway.

Hercules: The Thracian Wars 1 of 5 (Steve Moore/ Admira Wijay; Radical): ...yeah. OK, take a bunch of heroes, most of whom seem fairly dislikeable anyway. Stick them in a situation where they get insulted and pushed and pushed and pushed. Add a quite dislikeable Hercules. Have the insulting Thracians insult some more. Set Herc to blenderize. You wind up with a quite quite gory story, with nothing about it making me want to pay any attention in the slightest to issue 2. Not recommended.

Helen Killer #1 (Andrew Kreisberg/Matthew JLD Rice; Arcana):

First, the title is NOT a typo.

Second, this story may be the most bizarrely awesome thing I've seen in a while.

In real life, Helen Keller was blind and deaf, and an incredibly accomplished woman. She met all sorts of luminaries of her day, including Frederick Douglass and Alexander Graham Bell.

In this story, her early life is the same, including meeting Anne Sullivan, who helps her retire her "Phantom", the personality she thought herself to be when she was locked into her dark and silent world. Anne and Helen are walking home from a college lecture when they're set upon by thugs. Cornered, and unsure where Anne is or if she might be hurt, Helen reaches up to touch a switch on her large, clunky dark glasses ... and suddenly she can see and hear. Moreover, it turns out that being able to see and hear allows her to tap into something that fills her with a wondrous rage and an awesome physical power. It turns out that Alexander Graham Bell has fashioned something in those glasses that uses a carrier wave into her brain that allows Helen to see and hear and to tap into that rage and power as an unintended side effect. It also turns out that she's being recruited by the secret service to ... well, that would be telling. Seriously, this is the sort of setup that's so audacious that it's clearly headed for either incredible success or awesome failure. Rice's black and white artwork is very very good, conveying character and expression very well. Kreisberg's and Rice's story ... works, so far, is all I can say. It's very good and very strange. Highly recommended.
Huh. Interesting the stuff you miss when you're not paying attention.

Stan Lee to oversee Virgin Comics' superheroes - Los Angeles Times
April 19, 2008

Does Stan Lee have any more heroics in him? Richard Branson hopes so. The British tycoon is going into business with the 85-year-old Lee, the co-creator of Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, Iron Man, Daredevil and dozens of other signature characters made famous by Marvel Comics. Branson's upstart Virgin Comics will formally announce the deal with Lee at this weekend's New York Comic Con, where Lee is being honored as "a living legend" and is scheduled to receive the inaugural New York Comics Legend Award at an event at the Virgin Megastore in Times Square.

The new venture will have Lee as the editor overseeing a line of superhero comics that will launch next year with a tentpole title he is writing himself. That project -- the title of which remains under wraps -- will center on a superhero team that sounds similar to his classic work on the Avengers at Marvel. (Lee ended his exclusive relationship with Marvel in the 1990s but still has ties to the company and even has cameo roles in the upcoming Marvel films "Iron Man" and "The Incredible Hulk.") "It will be a team of 10 heroes and they will be dealing with personality conflicts, personal problems and chemistry within the team," Lee said in an interview this week. "I'm going to get started working on it right away and I'm very excited about doing something that will be fresh and breaking new ground. I can't give away the details or the names yet, but I have some exciting things in mind." [...]

Branson is really serious about trying to turn Virgin Comics into, arguably, at least a player in the second tier of comics companies here. (DC and Marvel as the top tier -- though it can be argued that DC has been slipping mightily over the past few years, and it's clearly #2 -- Image and Dark Horse on the second tier, and Oni, SLG, IDW, Devil's Due, Dynamite, Viper and everyone else as ... well, everyone else.)

I have to admit, I'm curious as to what this universe is going to look like. Mind, I'm not necessarily curious about what his "tentpole title" is going to be -- the only thing I've seen lately that I know that Stan Lee wrote recently was the "Who wants to be a superhero" tie-in issue "Feedback", and that was, frankly, quite quite dreadful. (Though, to be fair, if I hadn't gone into it with expectations high because it was STAN LEE, it might have seemed merely very very very bad.) I do wonder how well it sold; I haven't seen any announcement of the next season's issue for Defuser, and that should have been in Previews by now, at least.

I did try to see what else he'd written lately, since it's entirely possible that the Flashback thing was just a one-off bad issue that was also heavily constrained by the source material, and eventually found the Stan Lee - Chronological Listing at appears. (Tell you what, for someone deep into his 80s, the man is amazingly busy.) Of course, finding the listing didn't quite help because (1) I don't read Marvel universe, at least not those books, and (2) I'm not going to read those particular Marvel Universe books, so I have no idea if any of them are any good. I will say that Stan Lee's Alexa, Volume 1: The New Series from the World's Most Popular Comic Writer (and yes, that IS the listed title) from 2005 looks intriguing, if slightly out of scope for Stan Lee. I mean, yes, superheroes, sort of, but a put-upon woman in the man's world of cartooning sounds like a distinct change of pace. (The Amazon listing is deceptive; it's entirely unlikely that new copies will appear in 3-6 weeks, as Byron Preiss' iBooks, along with the rest of the company's holdings, went into bankruptcy proceedings in 2006 after Preiss' 2005 death in an auto accident, and I can't find any evidence that the company ever came out of those proceedings or that its assets were purchased. Heaven only knows who holds the rights to the titles the company published.) The writing in Alexa was generally well reviewed, although people did note a slightly dated, silver-age feel -- the art, on the other hand, got savaged -- so it's possible that with more freedom to work, maybe Stan's still got it.

All that said ... Stan Lee joining Virgin to create a new universe is just odd. Granted, they've been branching out into other areas; for all that the main line's focus is clearly on India, its people, myths and legends, everything that's not the main Virgin line has been decidedly non-Indian. Their Director's Cut Line doesn't have a single Indian title or creator anywhere to be seen. (...Interesting, that.) So I suppose this could also be a way to change how people perceive the company; for all that the other stuff is higher profile, when you think of distinctive Virgin titles, you think of Devi and Sadhu and Snakewoman and the like. I guess they're aiming to have people think of Virgin as a general comics publisher, and not just a British/Indian comics publisher.

We shall see, in any event.
Tall Tales of Vishnu Sharma: Panchantra #1 (Samit Basu/Ashish Badelekar; Virgin)

Virgin has, it seems, signed up for this year's Free Comic Book Day. Due to the brouhaha with The Salon and apparently one or two other titles, the people in charge of FCBD have declared that all titles offered should be all-ages appropriate. Virgin has been, shall we say, notably lacking in all-ages titles until this year. "Tall Tales" would appear to be one of their two attempts -- Dan Dare being the other -- to do an actual all-ages title, and this is an attempt at an all-ages story doing what Virgin does, retelling and updating traditional Indian stories. That said ... I wouldn't recommend this for anyone under the age of 12 or so.

We start out inside the book of the Panchantra. Chapter 1, verse 18, apparently. An old man is arguing with two beautiful women, because he doesn't want to do what he's supposed to do. Eventually, they talk him into it, and he transforms into a tortoise while the women transform into swans. A magician leading a horde of orcs, or something like, comes over the hill, slaughter the geese and the tortoise, and eat them and drink their blood. This disrupts the narrative of the story, which is vitally important to the flow of things in the world.

Jump to modern day Mumbai. Vishnu, a teenager, is grousing to a friend over the phone because his grandfather died and all he got was a book, the Panchantra, a kid's book of tales. He opens the door to his home to discover a talking lion, ox, and monkey, trying to convince him to take up his grandfather's mantle as world-guardian. After a very bad start, they kind of convince him that they're real, that the stories are real (for certain values of "real"), and that they need to go to his grandfather's house to find the world-guardian's weapons. The orcs have followed. Mayhem in midtown Mumbai ensues, including orcs getting shot point-blank in the eyes and having throats slashed.

The artwork works for the sort of modern day fable that the story is aiming for, and the story itself is a fascinating blend of the traditional story and a modern tale, and gruesome fun. It's just not really an all-ages story. Recommended; just not for children.

Oddly enough, Tall Tales appears to be on a seriously compressed publication schedule. Either that, or Virgin's given Amazon a seriously mistaken publication date for the trade, which is also entirely possible.

76 (B. Clay Moore/Ed Tadem for "Jackie Karma"; Seth Peck/Tigh Walker for "Cool"; Image)

I don't know ... I just don't know.

"Jackie Karma": a man comes to New York to find Bobby Horner, a drugged out, burned out drunk living in an alley. Bobby doesn't remember the man, although they've met, but the man tells him that he's about to start something, and he doesn't want any interference from "you kung fu motherfuckers." Howler gets a message to John Carmichael, attorney at law, about what's happened. Somewhere in there, some guy gets his head cut off. Not knowing about that, John tells his wife that he's got to settle up some business from the old days. He hauls out the old leather jacket, puts on the lion's head belt and the extreme bell bottoms, and then goes out on to the street, causing everyone in a five-mile radius to curse and pray because Jackie Karma's back in town!

"Cool": a much more involved story so far. Pete and Leon work for Smitty the bail bondsman, and they're out pursuing Sheldon Abramowitz, wanted for mail fraud. (Sheldon happens to be the size of a small house. Smitty neglected to tell them that.) After a bit more trouble than they were expecting, Sheldon is subdued. Meanwhile, elsewhere in LA, Mark Reed brings his girlfriend cum stripper, Cherry Baum, along with him to make a drop, unwise though that is. Turns out that the person he was making the exchange with had instructions to kill Mark, which he does. Cherry, not wanting to become deceased herself, hits the murderer with the car and drives away. Meanwhile, back at the bail bondsman's office, Pete and Leon get their next assignment ... to find Cherry Baum. Meanwhile, back at the murderer's employer -- said employer happening to be a porn mogul, former porn star, and little person -- Logan is confessing that he killed Mark but didn't know about the person in the car until too late.

The idea behind "76" is that it's telling the same sorts of exploitation/action stories that you saw in movies in 1976. And, on the one hand, the authors and illustrators successfully evoke those sorts of stories -- including, unfortunately, the utter lack of sense to some parts. (Seriously, once you discover that the people you were worried about are either druggies or out of the vigilante business, why would you bother them? Why would you deliberately get their attention?) Thing is, these stories strike me as the type of thing that you're probably going to really like if you were actually around in 1976 and old enough to see and understand them, or else it completely sails over your head if you weren't. The black and white artwork is clean, distinctive, easy to distinguish characters and more or less works for the story. I just can't quite figure out who the audience is. As far as I can tell, it's meant to be an ongoing, rather than a mini, so I hope they can figure that out.

Afterburn 1 of 4 (Scott Chitwood, Paul Ens/Wayne Nichols; Red 5): The concept is that a massive solar flare blasts half the planet, to wit: "Scandinavia, Europe, Africa, Russia, the Middle East, Asia". (Scandinavia apparently not being part of Europe, and Russia and the Middle East being neither European nor Asian, apparently.) The Americas kinda sorta being the only surviving part, they quickly realize that the rest of the world is open to plunder, which is also kind of necessary, what with needing to reinvent industrial economies without much oil. We follow the main character Jake on a couple of the plunder runs, done for private clients; on the first, his team takes the Mona Lisa from the Louvre (because plundering the Louvre, once people realized that there was plunder to be had, wouldn't have been one of the first things done. Right.) On the second, they're doing something at the behest of "the Chinese embassy" -- apparently the embassies abroad cobbled together a government, though what it is that they're governing is entirely unclear, since China itself is a land of floods and mutants. Peculiar geography aside, this is the sort of story that feels very much as though it should have been a movie in the first place -- not because it would have been better visually (I suspect it would have been nearly impossible to make, given the extensive CGI needed to represent the flooded planet), but because you can make this sort of film move fast enough that people don't have time to think about it. It's also the sort of story that's probably going to grab people better if if it's more dynamic and kinetic. As it stands, we've got the situation, but we don't really have characters. Everyone is basically an action-adventure cipher right now. It might improve, but given how busy the story is already, I can't see where it's going to get the time.

Devi 16-17 (Mohapatra/Chandrasekhar; Virgin):
In which the second real story arc finally gets underway. Oddly, we get an (impressively brief but informative) recap from one of the villains, as though they expected a long publication gap that didn't happen. In any event, having told us what just happened, said villain and his gang are killed by person or persons unknown. Rahul, having recovered from his recent possession by a celestial enforcer, investigates, and finds signs that lead him to believe that Tara/Devi might have committed these murders. (Strangely, stray police have noproblems with finding darinde, supernatural creatures in the shape of men except for being very green, murdered on site. Anyway, Rahul questions Tara, who knows nothing about the murders. (Incidentally, Tara seems to have gotten back to living her non-goddess life. Not so incidentally, the writers appear to have clean forgot just exactly what that was, or how difficult it should be to just fit back in after being away for more than a month.) Tara also discovers that she may have a sister, who winds up staying with her while Tara tries to validate that claim. In the meantime, more murders make the local political situation go completely pear shaped, and Rahul's investigation to try to clear Tara winds up implicating her.

I have to admit, I wish I knew more about the source Devi legend. In Bombaby, the graphic novel version of the Devi tale done by Antony Mazzotta, her sister also winds up playing an important role, as a sort of tiger-avatar of the goddess. Anyway, this second arc looks like it's going to be less "world ending soon, pay attention" and more focused on how being Devi affects Tara's life, which looks to make an interesting change.
Between Virgin's Dan Dare and Marvel's The Twelve, apparently 'tis the season for dragging old characters into the modern/future world.

The Twelve 0 (J. Michael Straczynski/Chris Weston; Marvel)
The Twelve features characters resurrected from Marvel's pre-Marvel days, back in the Atlas and Timely Production pre-war years. Issue 0 isn't necessarily required for the series, from the look of it. Although it's entertaining to see the differences between what people were willing to accept then and now from their stories. I mean, if you think that the whole Batman/Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent/Superman secret identity thing is a bit strained, you ain't seen nothin' yet. Take the Phantom Reporter, who appears to have two different secret identities. There's Dick Jones, Cub Reporter; strangely, despite the fact that he never seems to bring back the story, every story to which he's assigned somehow miraculously gets resolved. Secret Identity 2 is Mr. Van Ergen, a Park Avenue playboy whose father left him $50 million. The hero -- entirely without powers of any sort -- is the Phantom Reporter. All three of them wear blue business suits. Van Ergen and the Reporter both wear bright red capes. The Reporter adds a glowing red domino mask; I'm guessing that the glow manages to distract people from anything important. (The clothing problem, by the by, is only going to get worse in the new series, if the triple identity remains, since, due to two characters with similar designs, Weston changed the color of the Phantom Reporter's suit to a lovely shade of magenta. Magenta business suits, then and now, being so overwhelmingly common as to pass without notice, of course.

Anyway, aside from the character designs, there's not a lot to comment on, as aside from those designs, issue 0 only contains three of the old Daring and USA Comics reprints. Fun stories, though, even with massive gaping plotholes. It's interesting to note that people of 60 years ago were willing to tolerate far more in the way of violence than we are now. Every single one of the heroes in those old stories kills someone, sometimes several people, and they get away with it, and it's seen as a good thing. I suspect that one of the things the heroes will have to deal with is the fact that killing with such impunity is no longer accepted.

The revised character designs are ... intriguing, let's say. Have a look at Captain Wonder, for example. Bare legs will certainly be an interesting thing to carry forward. (And I wonder how long it will be before Weston gets massively tired of doing the hairs on the legs like that). But ... well, thing about bare legs is, they draw your gaze down. And Captain Wonder ... kind of ain't so wonderful in certain areas, if you see what I mean. Don't get me wrong; I'm not saying that the character ought to be Captain Steel'd, so to speak --- wait, yes, I am saying that. Poor man has a negadick right now. The thing about bare legs is that it draws your attention to how the anatomy fits together, and really, there ought to be a bit more there there. Of course, as soon as you do that, the fanboy masses scream. I have to admit, I don't entirely get that, but I think that's a rant for another time. I'm also curious about the Blue Blade, especially given Weston's character notes on that page. And I'm really curious as to what Marvel lets Straczynski get away with for these characters. They let him pull Squadron Supreme over to Marvel MAX, allowing for more in the way of violence and boobies. This appears to be on themain Marvel label, judging from the announcements and issue 0, so I'm guessing not so much with the boobies this time.

Kind of recommended, for the fun if exceeding violent old stories, but not actually required.

Robin 169 (Milligan/Baldeon/Bird; DC): ... Eergh. I'm beginning to think that Milligan should never be allowed near regular superhero series, because his brand of weird just doesn't work for them. Infinity Inc. is well-nigh incomprehensible -- though it may work better as a collection when done -- and Tim Drake is savagely out of character for this story. (Though the graveyard story in Robin Annual that was the first part of this crossover now feels a bit more connected.) He's just not stupid enough to do this, especially after he's been kidnapped, dragged all over the world, threatened with death, etc. The only purpose this issue serves is to produce the Nightwing/Robin smackdown due in next week's Nightwing. I will say that this Bat-crossover is being handled with amazing dispatch -- all of the issues have been on time, at least -- but starting with the end of the last issue and continuing with this one, it's gone rather impressively off the rails. I'll probably keep reading -- or rather, I'll look at next week's Nightwing to see if there's anything other than a smackdown with a pre-ordained conclusion -- but I couldn't seriously recommend that anyone else even look at the thing.

Invincible 47 (Kirkman/Ottley; Image): Mostly marking time on the way to The Super! Spectacular! Smackdown! In Issue 50! (Yes, yes, we know, issue 50 is going to be The Epic to End All Epics.) It felt very much like a chess-piece issue -- people all being moved where they need to be either physically or emotionally for issue 50 -- but a surprisingly enjoyable chess piece issue.
An Open Plea to Comics Writers: Could we please please PLEASE confine the zombie thing to Marvel Zombies and Walking Dead? PLEASE?

Buffy the Vampire Slayer #9: No Future for You part 4 (Brian K. Vaughan/Georges Jeanty)
...Well, thank goodness that's over.

Look, it's not that it was badly written. And I understand that it was a means to an end; the slayers organization would need some way to go after rogue slayers. AFter all, not every single one of the thousands of girls who received superpowers on that day is going to be filled with the desire to save the world. It makes sense that Giles wants to protect Buffy from knowing what needs to be done or that he's doing it or from having to handle it herself, because he knows she really couldn't; it's consistent with what happened in "The Gift", when he killed Ben and never told Buffy what happened. Now that Buffy is really and truly the leader of thousands, she can't be seen to be sanctioning the murders of some of them. It even makes sense that Faith and Giles would be the ones to do what needs to be done; they're the two characters most likely to be able to live with it. However, to get there, Vaughan essentially ignored everything that happened with Faith in Angel and in the last season of Buffy. She grew up and changed in ways that just aren't reflected in "No future for you". (We will serenely ignore the sheer lunacy of Faith being trained to act as an English aristocrat, because the very concept is so absurd that you have to simply accept it as the story's "god point" to read the thing.)

If this were Faith right after the bodyswap episodes (which I can't remember the titles of), then yes, it works really well. That Faith was still bone-deep furious with and jealous of Buffy. If that's supposed to be Faith after she helped Buffy and the slayerettes save the world, then it simply doesn't work at all.

Atomic Robo #3 (Clevinger/Wegener/Pattison; Red 5): Man, that was just an unreasonable amount of fun. Intelligent robots, wandering attack pyramids in Egypt, stuff blowing up ... it's like BPRD as funneled through Raiders of the Lost Ark, in a way. It even manages to do the zombie thing in a not-at-all-annoying way. The sort of story that appeals to your inner kid. Plus one that you can give to your outer kid, if you happen to have one around. It doesn't stand alone; if you haven't read issue 2, you're going to be a bit lost, but only a bit. Highly recommended.

The Sword #3 (Luna Brothers; Image): In which the story moves forward incrementally, and a whole lotta people die. Lots and lots and LOTS of people. If you like sheer gory mayhem, this is your issue right here. In terms of story beats, mostly, it allows a lot of people to find out about Dara and the sword. Judging from the cover of issue 4, things are about to get very very sticky.

Dynamo 5 #9 (Faerber/Asrar/Riley): In which we discover new aspects to Scatterbrain's powers, and he gets intriguingly pissed off about something that happened while he was in a coma. I'm looking forward to seeing what exactly the explanation for his reaction is; it seems like the sort of thing that can only really go in one of three directions (with all of them carrying a certain element of "How dare you do that while you were pretending to be me!") and it's going to be interesting to see which of those directions Faerber picks.

Resurrection #1 (Marc Guggenheim/David Dumeer; Oni Press)

As Guggenheim says in the letters column, the base concept behind the story is "What happens next?" What happens after all the aliens have been killed in "Independence Day", for example? All the capitals and major cities of the world have been substantially destroyed; millions upon millions have been killed. In Guggenheim's case, he says he was inspired by "V: The Final Battle", which is essentially the same situation, except that in the V miniserieses, considerably more was left intact. In this case, it looks as though while V may have been a source of inspiration, Independence Day was a more direct antecedent. The aliens and the humans have been fighting across the surface of the world for over a decade, driving humans to live in underground bunkers the past few years. Oddly, later in the story, we discover that the aliens were here for considerably longer before fighting broke out, making one wonder why this all happened. (You also wnder how people have survived; it's clear that there can't have been any agriculture or manufacturing or transport during the worst of the wars, and this would have been the case world wide. So how did they manage to live?)

People are, depressingly, pretty much what you think they'd be after spending years underground. A gunfight nearly breaks out among some of the first to emerge. Sara, a youngish woman, gets disgusted by them all and sets out to walk to Washington DC, to see if anything is left. The government, it turns out, has been moved to, apparently, Berlin, New Hampshire, but Sara doesnt know that. On the way, she decides first to visit her son, and she happens to run into Ben, another refugee, and they decide to travel together.

I am, I must admit, very curious to see where this story goes. To see just how far "what happens next" can go. Dumeer's black and white art works really well most of the time, although there are places where he uses shadows in a way that make people faces look very eerie, in a way that the story doesn't quite seem to support. Are we meant to think of these people as creepy in that way? I guess we'll find out.

I do wonder how long this series is meant to run. Guggenheim's comments sound as though he's got a specific endpoint planned, and I suspect this may be more enjoyable as a whole than as a serial. Any road, recommended.

The Infinite Horizon #1 (Gerry Duggan/Phil Moto; Image)
Retelling the story of the Odyssey, updated to the modern day. In this story a soldier identified only as "The Captain" is in Syria, fighting what appears to be an ever expanding, never-ending war of the US versus the Middle East, when suddenly the entire world goes to hell in a handbasket. And through all of this, the Captain needs to get his men back home, through intractably hostile territory. Meanwhile, back at home, his wife Penelope tries to keep things going, standing between neighbors hostile to each other, but not to her. However far in the future this is, it appears that the water situation in this country has gotten peculiarly bad, perhaps due to some war-related cause we haven't yet seen or due to global warming; peculiar because absent major weather changes, the Catskills in New York shouldn't be experiencing the sorts of water shortages that would bring people to blows. (Then again, neither should Georgia in the here and now, and we all know how that's going, so maybe not so far fetched after all.)

Honestly, nothing about this story really grabbed me all that much. Part of it is just typical first-chapter expositionitis; we need to get at least a general idea of who people are and what's going on, and there's not a lot you can do to avoid exposition dumps for that. Part of it is that the art is so stylized that it doesn't quite feel like a good match to the story to me -- although, that said, I think the artist may be trying to faintly echo ancient Greek art, which makes sense.

I don't know if I'm curious enough to see what happens in issue 2, despite the fact that a lot more ought to be happening -- and it's not as though a lot didn't happen in issue 1, expositionitis or not. Just not my taste, I suspect.

Will Eisner's The Spirit #11, "Day of the Dead" (Cooke/Bone/Stewart; DC):
In which the interminable zombie plot finally comes to an end. And, to be fair, a very satisfying grand-guignol sort of end. And hey! there's a gay couple! This being a superhero story, they end about as well as you'd expect, especially given that they're one-shot supporting characters.

The story is a hard leadout from issue 10, starting with Ebony bandaging Denny's injuries from the beating he took at Montez' hands last issue. The story takes place on the night of November 2, el Dia de los Muertos, very appropriate to undead like Montez and Denny Colt, as Denny himself notes. Ellen goes to see a former fiancee, name of Argonaut Bones (...and, you know, after Ginger Coffee, the names in this series shouldn't get to me, but still, how can you not roll your eyes a little at that?). She's gone to see him because he's the most knowledgeable person she knows on the topic of folklore and zombies. He doesn't entirely believe her, but decides to go with her, and, of course, is rapidly made to believe by the zombie infestation spreading across the middle of Central City. It turns out that Argo and Ellen wind up being key elements of the story. (The nice thing about Ellen, overall, is that she's not merely a damsel to be distressed and rescued; in fact, she's been unusually UN-distressed, for a superhero's girlfriend, through the course of this series. She doesn't actually appear a lot, but when she dies, she's usually fairly important in the story.) This issue does form a reasonably satisfying ending to the Montez arc -- though perhaps it might leave Denny with a few psychological issues relating to his ongoing semi-zombiehood.

I am beginning to wonder if maybe I've just read the wrong stories in forming my opinion of what Eisner's Spirit actually was. This is the second time in four issues where you could reasonably approach Cooke's version by talking about the sheer overwhelming body count -- not just of the zombies, but of all the people they kill. Central City's police department, especially, has had the crap hammered out of it in those two issues; you wonder if anyone but Chief Dolan is even still alive. That, combined with the casual approach taken in the original issues of The Twelve (see above) to heroes killing off the bad guys makes me wonder if maybe there are a lot of issues that Eisner wrote where Denny does in the criminals then goes out singing a jaunty version of "Je ne regrette rien". And also makes me wonder if Frank Miller's approach to the film maybe isn't as wrongheaded as it sounds. Then I think, "Six villains! One movie!" and I get over that, at least. But I digress.

Dan Dare #1 (Garth Ennis/Gary Erskine; Virgin Comics)
Man, Ennis can be fun to read in a good old-fashioned comics way, when he decides to indulge himself.

"Dan Dare" resurrects an old British title, much as Ennis did last year with Battler Britton for DC/Wildstorm. Dan Dare himself was an international space pilot, back in the day. He fought the good fight, then retired (to a most surprising place) when Britain changed into something that he could no longer fight for. In the meantime, the rest of the world went to hell, with nuclear war bustin' out all over, and Britain surviving only because they had an effective SDI. The US is essentially a land of blasted craters where cities ought to be, as are Canada and Mexico. In any event, it turns out that the beings that Britain thought they'd defeated back in Dan Dare's day are still very much alive, and have retrenched to become more effective enemies. The British go to Dan Dare to recruit him to rejoin the fight, and of course he eventually agrees, because we wouldn't have any story if he didn't. Erskine's art is just perfect, matching that sort of old-time storytelling while being perfectly clean and modern. Looks like the story is going to be good old fashioned space-fighting fun. (So to speak.) Highly recommended.

Purchased but not reviewed: The Overman #1, Northlanders #1 -- I think I need to see issue 2 of both of those before I can express an opinion.
Including: Devi 10, Sadhu 6, Buffy 3, Dark Xena 1, Hunter's Moon 1 and so on.

And I'm going to try, and no doubt fail, to do actual sort of capsule reviews with pretensions of shortness.

So, let's get started, shall we? )
Somehow, I'm not at all surprised. (Well, OK, about Cage, yes, because when you think strong-thewed British heroic type, Nicolas Cage is, of course, the first person to come to mind. But not that this is happening so soon.)

Cage Eyes Chopra-Scripted Superhero - Deepak Chopra will script - Zap2it: Virgin Comics is looking to adapted "The Sadhu" into a feature vehicle for noted comic enthusiast Nicolas Cage. "The Sadhu" was created by Gotham Chopra, chief creative officer of the Richard Branson-financed Virgin Comics and, according to Variety, Gotham's daddy Deepak will script the project. Cage could play James Jenson, a soldier who time-travels back to colonial India and becomes a spiritual warrior.

Cage is all wrapped up in Virgin Comics' business. Early this year the company made a deal to publish "Enigma," a comic developed by Cage and the actor's 15-year-old son Weston. The thriller, which will be published as a five-part miniseries starting in March, could also be a potential film vehicle for the "Leaving Las Vegas" star. Steven Johnson's "Ghost Rider," another comic-based Cage offering, will premiere early next year.

I will say that Sadhu is one of the two Virgin titles about which I've so far changed my mind. Initially, I thought that Snakewoman was maybe the most interesting, and Sadhu was the least, and by issue 3 of both titles, I'd reversed position. Partly because Snakewoman's premise is somewhat more problematic than it had initially seemed -- in order to redeem herself and her past (don't ask), the Snakewoman will have to become an almost unparalleled serial killer. The question will be how she manages this, and what she does when she discovers that some of the people she has to kill aren't what they used to be -- and I can't say more than that without giving major spoilers. Snakewoman also had the heroine go passive in her own early story, due to drugged unconsciousness, for slightly more than an issue, broken over issues 3 and 4. It's not that such passivity is a bad thing per se; it's just that when it happens early in a title, it makes it more difficult to care about a character or their story.

Sadhu, on the other hand, after surviving an unrelentingly bleak and violent few weeks in which he lost his family and his position, is now faced with discovering these miraculous powers that he has -- which he apparently came back in time to tell a friend to tell him that he had. The premise has gotten interestingly twisty. Additionally, there's the question, still unanswered but distinctly not unasked, as to why the Indian gods have favored this white devil with these miraculous abilities. There's also the political and personal situation that led to the murder of his family still hanging out there. For twisty intrigue, it's the most interesting of the Virgin titles, so far.

Devi #5: In which Tara awakes -- at LAST! And man, is she pissed off. To nobody's surprise -- at least, nobody who's paid attention to the covers of Tara/Devi and the depictions of the Devi spirit from issue 1 -- the good(ish) monk's plan works, and Tara becomes the Devi incarnate. To the surprise of nobody intelligent, it doesn't quite work the way he thinks it will, although that Tara would be angry was a surprise. After all, we didn't really know her at all before she became Devi, so who knew that she'd be understandably a bit ticked about the way things had happened.

I'm guessing that at some point, she may need to backtrack on the offers she refused, because at this point, she only knows just so much. The gods (including one named Interface, of all things) could only put so much into her head and body.

I think it's going to be interesting to see how all this plays out. I really wish I knew if Virgin planned to issue trades of their titles, though. I think that Sadhu and Ramayan will work best in trades; they have the look of finite stories that might even be collected in just one really big book. Not sure about Devi or Seven Brothers, and not necessarily caring all that much about Snakewoman at this point, but it would be nice to know.
VOA News - Comics Drawing on Indian Mythology Are a Hit in US:
Comic books are not just for kids anymore. Young adults buy thousands of comics and related products. And tens-of-thousands of fans gather each year for comic conventions to celebrate heroes like Spiderman, Wonder Woman and Supergirl.

Now, British-based company Virgin wants to introduce comic readers to Snake Woman, the heroine of one of its new comic books, inspired by Indian mythology. The books went on sale a few weeks ago in the United States, and have made a big impression already. Reader Geremy Hartwik says the comics combine good writing and fresh ideas. "I can see the Indian elements especially in the character names and everything,” he says. “But I didn't think they seemed only accessible, if you know anything about Indian culture. I think they seemed very accessible because the story is very well written."

Virgin is producing the new comics in Bangalore, India, where it has a facility with 50 artists and writers. The firm says it wants to mine the rich history and mythology of India and other parts of Asia to produce new stories that appeal to American comic book fans. One of Virgin's first comic book hits, Snake Woman, is about a quiet young woman working as a waitress in Los Angeles, California, who suddenly discovers predatory instincts that seem to possess her. It is based on an ancient legend, in which the spirit of a serpent is born into a young woman. Other new titles include Devi and Sadhu, which include stories of Indian mystics and female super heroes. Aspects of the books should be familiar to all comic fans. They include plenty of action, adventure and stories about people struggling to do the right thing and help others....

So, after their first few months, of publishing, how does Virgin Comics itself and its titles look?

Take a look behind the curtain to see... )


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