The “If there’s one thing I can’t stand seeing, it’s Americans fighting Americans” Edition
by KC Carlson
After three somewhat lackluster months, it looks like the comics industry has suddenly snapped back into life (must have not seen its shadow), with lots of cool new stuff, as well as new volumes of interesting ongoing series. Plus, the landscape is starting to get cluttered with Batman, Avengers, and Spider-Man stuff. (Hmmm, wonder what those three things have in common?) So let’s get right to it, publisher by publisher. For fun, we’ll save DC and Marvel for last — and start with a blast of dynamite!
DYNAMITE: Big news here is an all-new ongoing series for The Shadow, written by Garth Ennis and art by Aaron Campbell. Since this is a Dynamite production, there will be (touches pinky to lips) one meeellion covers! (Wait — I’m now being told that there are only four — one each by Alex Ross, Howard Chaykin, John Cassady, and Jae Lee. Double drat!) Speaking of Chaykin, his version of The Shadow (published by DC back in 1986 as one of their early Mature Readers titles) is being reprinted under its previous collected title, The Shadow: Blood & Judgment. Westfield will be all over these: Roger is doing interviews about the new book (set in the original time period of the late 1930s) and Bob Greenberger will be looking back at the Chaykin collection.
Chaykin also recently sat down for a lengthy interview with legendary artist (and Comic Book Hall of Fame member) Ramona Fradon, which will be the basis for The Art of Ramona Fradon — a new 144-page hardcover retrospective of her astonishing career. Beginning in 1950, as a pioneering woman illustrating superhero comics, she’s best known for her lengthy run on Aquaman, co-creating Metamorpho (with Bob Haney), and drawing almost the entire run of DC’s original Super Friends title in the 1970s. She’s also worked on Shining Knight (her first assignment), Superman, Batman, Plastic Man, Freedom Fighters, and (for Marvel) Fantastic Four and The Cat. When Dale Messick retired from the newspaper comic Brenda Starr, Fradon got the assignment and drew the strip until her own retirement in 1995. The forward for The Art of Ramona Fradon will be by Walter Simonson, and the book is also available in an edition signed by Ramona Fradon.
FANTAGRAPHICS: The Adventures of Venus is an example of Love and Rockets creator Gilbert Hernandez’s rare work in all-ages comics, collecting the adventures of Luba’s niece Venus in a 104-page B&W hardcover. It reprints all of Hernandez’s stories from the kids’ anthology Measles, adding an all-new story done just for this collection . . . Fans of Linda Medley’s amazing Castle Waiting have been waiting a long time for the next installment of this wonderful series. In April, the wait is over, as Volume Two continues with the long-awaited #16 . . . Also in April, but now on the order form, is Volume Three of the acclaimed Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse reprint series, this one subtitled “High Noon at Inferno Gulch.” This 280-page high-quality hardcover focuses on the Wild West with two epic stories by Floyd Gottfredson — “A Race for Riches” and “Bat Bandit!” Plus, lots of shorter stories and over 50 pages of supplementary features including behind-the-scenes artwork and vintage publicity material. This is one of the best collections of vintage newspaper strips out there — among an amazing number of other great series! Oh, my wallet!
IMAGE: Images has several interesting products of note this month. First up is America’s Got Powers #1 & 2, the first of a six-issue series about the biggest Reality TV show in the world — a competition between super-powered teens to win fame and fortune (and get laid backstage). It’s written by edgy English television presenter (and big-time comic book fan) Jonathan Ross with dynamic art and covers by Bryan Hitch (known for, just for starters, Ultimates, Stormwatch, Authority, JLA, and Fantastic Four). This could be just the thing to kill off Reality TV! . . . One of the least likely comic titles to return — Supreme — does exactly that with issue #63, featuring an unpublished script by Alan Moore and illustrated by… guess who? (Sorry, you’re wrong… it’s Erik Larsen and Cory Hamscher.) It’s the legendary “lost” issue of Supreme. Because nothing sells more comic books than Alan Moore projects without Moore’s involvement! . . . In Jonathan Hickman’s new espionage thriller Secret, the title enigma threatens to bring down two of the largest governments in the world, in a new ongoing series with art by breakout talent Ryan Bodenheim.
IDW: There’s a brand-new Popeye four-issue miniseries coming from IDW, and Segar fans should take note. It’s written by Roger Langridge (The Muppets), with art by rising star Bruce Ozella, and their work looks to be faithful to the roots of the character/strip. Ozella provides a cover that evokes both Action Comics #1 and Segar, and there’s also a variant cover by the legendary Jules Feiffer!
The third volume of Darwyn Cooke’s adaptation of Richard Stark’s Parker is on the way. The Score involves Parker getting involved in the ultimate heist — robbing an entire town. How can anything go wrong? Yet, somehow, it does. 160 pulse-pounding pages! If you’re not reading Cooke’s Parker, you’re missing out on pure adrenaline! . . . Speaking of Darwyn Cooke (who suddenly seems everywhere), he’s also providing the cover to Rocketeer Adventures 2 #2. Inside, there’s all-new work by Walter Simonson, John Paul Leon, Paul Dini, Bill Morrison, and others.
The 2012 version of the Hero Comics benefit book features work by some of the creators who have benefited from the Hero Initiative, as well as new stories starring the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Zombies vs. Robots, Rex Mantooth: Kung-Fu Gorilla, and others. Covers by J. Scott Campbell and Joe Jusko . . . Volume Two of the wonderful and acclaimed Alex Toth visual biography, Genius, Illustrated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth by Dean Mullaney and Bruce Canwell, is now available to order. 288 oversized pages cover Toth’s career from the 1960s to his death in 2006, featuring art (many complete stories) from Toth’s comic book work from Warren, DC Comics, Red Circle, Marvel, and his own creator-owned properties, as well as samples of his animation work at Hanna-Barbera and Ruby-Spears. Massively recommended!
Wally Wood: The Complete Galaxy Illustrations covers a different side to Wally Wood’s comic career by spotlighting over 200 drawings and color paintings for science fiction magazines of the 1950s, mostly for Galaxy. Wood historian Roger Hill has tracked them all down for this 160-page hardcover collection of seldom-seen (most never reprinted) artwork by one of the industry’s master artists. This promises beautiful reproduction, as over half of the artwork is reproduced from originals or from Wood’s personal file copies.
DARK HORSE: Too dumb not to be true! Groo vs. Conan, a four-issue miniseries, begins in April. Conceived by Mark Evanier (writer) and Sergio Aragones, with additional (serious) art by Tom Yeates. Will Groo defeat Conan? Will Conan annihilate Groo? Will Groo destroy everything in sight and then (probably) fall down? At least one of these things is probably true! . . . The Goon #39 will be of interest to anyone who’s even been mildly annoyed by the comic book trends of the recent past, as creator Eric Powell completely re-launches the Goon, with horrible new costumes, variant Goons based on different colors, a promised “Death of The Goon”, and various other SHOCK FACTORS! — all in a blatant attempt to catch the attention of the Mainstream Media. If you don’t like it, Powell promises to change everything again in just five issues!!! Sounds like my kinda comic! . . . Since Larry Marder’s Beanworld sightings are about as rare as Dan DiDio actually answering a question at a convention panel, I’d be remiss in not mentioning a new mini-collection. Tales of the Beanworld Volume 3.5 is a 64-page hardcover collecting never-before-reprinted material from Beanworld Holiday Special, MySpace Dark Horse Presents #14, and Asylum #1-6 — as well as all-new pages that begin the highly anticipated “summer” cycle of stories — all in full color! Someday the beans will rule the world!
DC COMICS: Say goodbye to six New 52 DC comics this month, as OMAC, Hawk and Dove, Mister Terrific, Static Shock, Blackhawks, and Men of War all end with their eighth issue. Next month, say hello to six brand-new (or returning) titles: Batman Incorporated, Earth-2 (starring the Justice Society), World’s Finest (staring Power Girl and the Huntress), Dial H (as in For Hero), The Ravagers (spinning out of Superboy and Teen Titans), and G.I. Combat (featuring The War That Time Forgot and rotating back-ups Unknown Soldier and The Haunted Tank) . . . More New 52 collections are also on tap, with hardcovers for Detective Comics and Batwoman and TPBs for Animal Man, Catwoman, Green Arrow, Justice League International, and Stormwatch. Most of these collect the first six issues of each series . . . The first New 52 DC Direct product is also being solicited, including a Batman Action Figure and a Batman Black and White-styled statue, both designed by Jim Lee.
Previously previewed, the all-ages Green Lantern: The Animated Series #1 debuts in April, inspired by the soon-to-debut Cartoon Network animated series. The comic book adventures will be written by Art Baltazar and Franco (Tiny Titans) and illustrated by Dario Brizuela . . . Northlanders wraps up a long and adventurous run with issue #50 in April.
Those looking for older, esoteric DC series collections will be pleased to see Showcase Presents: Sea Devils Volume 1, collecting Showcase #27-29 and Sea Devils #1-16. This includes much great work from Robert Kanigher, Bob Haney, Russ Heath, Irv Novick, Gene Colan, and others. Normally, the Showcase books are black & white, but wouldn’t it be great if DC could spring for a small color section to reproduce those wonderful full-color wash covers from that era, several of which adorned Sea Devils issues? . . . Also soliciting now are Sgt. Rock Archives Volume 4 (by Kanigher and Joe Kubert), a deluxe Challengers of the Unknown Omnibus reprinting all of the early Jack Kirby stories in full color, and a trade paperback edition of the acclaimed James Robinson and Tony Harris Starman Omnibus Volume 1. Of more recent vintage is a collection of the cult classic Legion Lost miniseries by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Olivier Coipel, and Pascal Alixe, along with a recent overview of the “old” DCU — DC Universe: Legacies, written by Len Wein and illustrated by a host of DC greats including Joe Kubert, George Perez, Andy Kubert, J.H. Williams, and Walter Simonson.
MARVEL: The big thing this month for Marvel is Avengers vs. X-Men (or AvX). I’m mostly on board, despite the fact that this series’ logo (or at least the logo being used for promotion on current covers) looks like something that should be stamped on drums of radioactive waste. Very much hoping that the series itself doesn’t make the same connection in my head. Marvel stayed pretty true to their word and kept the number of titles tying-in to a minimum. So far it looks to be just the Main Avengers books (Avengers, New Avengers, and Secret Avengers) and the two main X-books (Uncanny X-Men and Wolverine and the X-Men). Then there’s the lone spinoff title, AvX: VS. (I’m sorry, did you just sneeze random letters? Gesundheit! Jeez, everybody’s sick this time of year…) AvX: VS is a six-part miniseries offering an extended look at some of the bigger battles from the main book (AvX) — only done by different superstar creators.
I’m very curious about where this book is going to go, in terms of where the Marvel Universe will “be” when it all wraps up. It promises to expand upon two of Marvel’s long-running storylines, both involving two of their most powerful (and some might say “most screwed-up”) female characters — the Scarlet Witch and Jean Grey/Marvel Girl/Phoenix. I’ve already seen plenty of internet speculation that Marvel will follow DC and re-do their universe at the end of AvX. I don’t think that’s gonna happen. Mostly because, with the exception of some major shifting of their timeline (moving 1960s events to the 1990s, a la Captain America’s Avengers origin), Marvel’s foundation is rock solid. DC’s was not and should have been fixed (not “patched”) long ago. So, DC took the big gamble on revamping their universe, in their effort to chase declining sales. Early on, it seems to have worked, especially in gaining a new, younger audience (while hopefully not alienating all their old fans).
Marvel’s sales are also declining, but instead of starting over from scratch, their strategy seems to be going back and reemphasizing what they have always been the best at, since almost Day One — conflict with other Marvel heroes. I call it “The Big Fight”. Sub-Mariner vs. the Human Torch. Thing vs. Hulk. Thor vs. Hulk. Namor vs. Fantastic Four. Avengers vs. Defenders. Spidey and the X-Men vs. everybody (including themselves). The Big Fight is part of Marvel’s history — and lifeblood. It’s time for Avengers vs. X-Men.
More Marvel this month: The Omega Effect, running in Avenging Spider-Man #6, The Punisher #10, and Daredevil #11, has these long-time rivals teaming up. Written by Mark Waid and Greg Rucka, art by Marco Checchetto . . . Just in time for the Avengers movie, Captain America and Bucky becomes Captain America and Hawkeye with #629. (Next logical step: Hawkeye and Trapper John.) . . . Venom joins the Secret Avengers in Venom #15 . . . Marvel’s all-ages line is being completely revamped this month with two new titles based on Marvel’s animated series: The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes Adventures #1 and Ultimate Spider-Man Adventures #1 . . . It looks like something really bad is happening to Rhodey in Invincible Iron Man #515 . . . Moon Knight is canceled (again) this month with issue #12 . . . In celebration of the title’s 15th anniversary, the New Thunderbolts meet the Original Thunderbolts in issues #172 & 173, with covers by original Thunderbolts artist Mark Bagley . . . Finally, the Human Torch eats roommate Peter Parker’s cereal in FF #17. That fight might be even bigger that AvX!
Marvel Books: There are even more Avengers collections available this month, including The Art of the Avengers, specifically about the movie. I won’t list them all here, but go check ‘em out . . . It’s probably not specifically for this market, but Avengers vs. X-Men: It’s Coming is a very interesting sampler of what you need to be familiar with for the upcoming event. It includes issues of Avengers: The Children’s Crusade, X-Men: Schism, Magneto: Not a Hero, X-Men: Second Coming, House of M, Avengers: X-Sanction, and Point One. That’s a lot to know . . . Never thought it would be collected: John Byrne’s X-Men: The Hidden Years Volume 1 is on this month’s order form. It’s 328 pages, reprinting the first 12 issues, plus material from X-Men (‘91) #94. The series told “lost stories” of the original X-team between their cancellation after (Uncanny) X-Men #66 up until the team was re-launched in Giant-Size X-Men #1. Except it didn’t get that far because it was unceremoniously canceled by the Bill Jemas administration, and Byrne vowed he’d never work for Marvel again. (And hasn’t!) If you’re into “implanted continuity”, X-Men: The Hidden Years was one of the best.
SHORT TAKES: Bart Simpson’s Pal Milhouse #1 is the next in a series of Bongo one-shots about Simpsons characters and features work by Pat McGreal, Gail Simone, Bob Smith, and Carol Lay . . . Roger Langridge’s Snarked is being collected, although BOOM! neglected to mention how many issues are included. It’s 128 pages of color material, including behind-the-scenes content and commentary by Langridge . . . Writer/artist Ted Naifeh’s Courtney Crumrin debuts from Oni Press in her first ever full-color comics series. This fantasy adventure is perfect for young readers!
KC CARLSON: Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? I have no idea, so I’ll have to get back to ya!
WESTFIELD COMICS is not responsible for the stupid things that KC says. Especially that thing that really irritated you.