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Hi there, it’s been a while. I’ve been fine, just busy in other areas of my life but that’s a story for another time – if I decide to get around to it.

Recently I’ve caught up on movies flying under the radar for lack of general interest in the superhero genre of entertainment. Anyone that knows me knows that if the train is full of passengers that are all going the same destination I’ll probably jump off, finding my path the long way. That’s definitely been the case now due to the super-saturation of super-heroes in nearly every facet of media these days.

Too much of a good thing I guess.

So the DC Universe Animated (not to be confused with kid-friendly, Saturday-morning DC Animated Universe) and most notably the Batman series of flicks have been fun and the detail they go into giving Batman a near flawless martial arts style is amazing (sometimes I catch myself re-winding the scenes just to watch them again in slow motion).

After binge-watching the movies Son of Batman then Batman Vs. Robin and the newly released Batman: Bad Blood I couldn’t help wondering: So, where the hell is Tim Drake?

Any reader of Batman comics should know that name, but if you don’t and you just happen upon this at random and decided to kill some time I’ll fill you in: Dick Grayson was the original Robin, then he grew up, got pugnacious toward his father-like figure and decided to be Nightwing instead. This left a sidekick void in the dynamic duo and soon a kid named Jason Todd found himself under Batman’s guidance becoming the next incarnation of Robin. Readers hated him so Todd, as Robin, was killed off by Joker. Batman, feeling guilty, went on a Robin strike for a while until a young Tim Drake decided to worm his way into the heart of the Caped Crusader and thus became the third and, boldly, best incarnation of Robin.

Of course with the re-tooling of the DC Universe, in the form of 52, things have changed for the character, nevertheless it makes me wonder about his absence in the animated films.

I get that Grayson is a great go-to for fans both burgeoning and long-time alike and he’s personally my favorite non-super-powered, non-Batman character of all time. They made a complete movie about Todd; three movies now with Damian all angsty and childish and mofo’s acting like they forgot about Drake.

I’ve tried doing searches on the topic and have come to no conclusion and it’s weird that these writers/producers and etc. of the films would introduce new Bat-people in the latest film – with an extra kick to the figurative balls of the fictional character in the last minutes of Bad Blood just before the credits. Not even Red Robin (yum!) but Batwing? I don’t get it. I mean if they were afraid of an over-saturation of bat-themed characters they really should have quit a few bats ago. It still doesn’t really explain Drake’s lack of presence and I can’t be the only person that notices this or *gulps* cares.

Maybe?

All this retcon and rehashing of tired themes and trite characters has taken it’s toll on this middle-aged dude. It’s probably one of the crappiest things about having grown up in the late 80’s-90’s reading comics (and their absolute worthlessness now saddens me but for the kindling it may someday provide).

Eventually I may do reviews on the movies. I’ll have to re-visit them and take notes. I’ve been meaning to do the same for the Direct-to-Video Justice League: Gods and Monsters; in short I liked it. The mystery is “why”.

Thank you. Come again!

-VR

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This is fiction based loosely on reality. The fact that I would have to disclaimer this worries me.

The company I work for is not too far from being a cult. The only real thing lacking is doctrine. That’s ok because if you work for them they will change your life too. See they not only plan for inevitable change, they look forward to the possibilities. They are known for gasoline, but they know it won’t last forever so they started selling food like they’re a restaurant. Yeah, it’s a convenient store open 24/7, 365. I am an NA.

When hired on I didn’t know what to expect other than working my ass off cleaning a store all night long. What came after the ability to successfully maintain and detail a store was the classes they would send me to. When you walk into one of these stores everything looks normal, right? It all looks perfectly harmless in its uni-functionary way but what I’ve since learned is that everything is a weapon. From the type of mechanical pencils and generic pens to the hardware that rolls and warms taquitos, everything is a weapon. They teach us how to use them in special “skill school” sessions held at the division office dojo. It really is the only way to let off steam sometimes from dealing with the general newport-smoking populace and their need for original swisher’s and whether their random choice has a wood or plastic tip. They like to come in brandishing weapons sometimes and their attitudes are as unpredictable as the Texas weather. A daily allotment worksheet makes it to where we are in proximity to different “weapons” at all intervals of the shift.

I know what you’re thinking as you’re reading this and I want to put your mind at ease. Those of us they have chosen as NA’s have already been trained in various forms of martial arts and many of us even have military training. We are disciplined and will only resort to violence if any problem escalates violently out of control before the police arrive. It hasn’t been necessary yet. Even as I write this I wonder if it will lead some random punk to try something. Well, if it comes to that just know most of us aren’t afraid to die. You won’t get any money and you won’t get far. You will only succeed in shortening your own life as a free moral agent.

-VR

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A few years ago a boy and a girl met each other through average circumstances, happening time and again, that found them getting closer and closer to each other until the day came when they were holding hands. They married. It was a mixed reception – the news of their marriage, not the reception – because there wasn’t one: they had eloped.

Years later, trial filled years later, they brought into the world a baby boy. This baby, the culmination of the light and love his parents had for each other made manifest into the form of a human being they named Avery. The parents, though loving their son, suddenly found their once endearing differences being too difficult to live with and chose to split up. Not wanting the family to be completely separated the dad suggested selling their current house and moving into a duplex. The mother initially protested saying it would be too weird potentially seeing her once husband bringing guests home and she didn’t want it to be weird for him either, in retrospect. The dad, considering her thoughts, still pressed the practicality of the idea, how it will help their situation while giving their son a modern sense of family (though grumbling under his breath at the idea of dating again). Mom reluctantly agreed.Duplex

Many weekends wasted productively and one exhausted Realtor later the mom and dad found a place they could agree upon. It was two-story, had three bedrooms that mirrored one another, a sizable kitchen space and a joint laundry facility. They moved in, each parent to their chosen place of residence with the rearmost bedroom for their son. One day when the dad tried to install a wall-mounted shelf in his sons room on his side of the duplex he knocked a hole through the wall revealing a large square frame in the support structure that could be used to make a door or passageway between the two sides of the duplex. The mom wasn’t so happy about the mess of the discovery and though they fixed the hole into a passageway they covered it up with a bookshelf and some curtains. It remained so for many years until one day…..

-VR

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Amid a world filled with tired themes and worn-out plot-lines

Invincible Vol.#8

it’s difficult to judge accurately a book that, for all appearances, looks like every other book out there. Ryan Ottley, illustrator for Image comic’s Invincible, summed it up nicely within the first couple sentences of the foreword published in the 8th trade volume of Invincible:

When Invincible first hit the stands in early 2002, I remember picking it up off the shelves at my local comic shop, and then setting it right back down. I said to myself “BAH, who needs ANOTHER super-hero book anyway?!?” And I passed on it.

Back when Invincible came out I was still a big Wolverine fan. Don’t ask me why but there is a significant appeal to a short, moody, hairy Canadian berserker bad-ass with metal (or bone) claws coming out of his fists… if you’re an angry teenager. My Wolverine obsession only began diminishing by the time the second movie came out.

Around that time Image comics didn’t have anything that truly interested me and if they did I couldn’t find it anywhere, i.e. BRASS Sure, they cornered the supernatural market with books like Witchblade and The Darkness and even Spawn had managed to eventually tie into that whole magical/supernatural genre and I wasn’t interested at all. The art in Savage Dragon looked drawn by an eleven year old and even after a decade it hadn’t made much progress in the way of story. Nor was I interested in seeing superhero archetypes in homosexual relationships/situations either. I knew what I wanted to know about all those books and it seemed likely that Image just couldn’t cater to my needs.

So when I saw Invincible No.1 sitting on the shelf it initially drew my attention but only slightly and very similar to Ottley’s reaction in the quote above; I thumbed through the book and, looking back, remember thinking, Well… let’s see how long this title lasts and maybe I’ll give it a try.

Yes, that’s a horrible way to think.

I know. *sigh*

Especially about a comic book!

I said I know! Sheesh!

Since then I’ve humbly come to learn the error of my ways. And my practice – when I can afford them and am so far behind in the storyline – is to buy the trades.

But back then I was single and didn’t mind dropping so much on Marvel’s MC2 books like Spider-Girl and The Buzz and enjoying Deadpool/Agent-X – among many others – that it just didn’t seem right for me to start another potential flop superhero book from Image. Plus my closet space was slowly being taken up by several, large long-boxes.

My experience with ill-fated books goes a little something like this, though only slightly varied by titles and circumstances….

There’s a book called Iron Wings of which Image published only two issues

Wizard dude

Kaa-meh!.... Haaaa-meh!....

around a decade ago. The artwork was fantastic; the story was leading into something epic and I looked for more but there was none. Maybe Jay Juch was too lazy to keep it going a few more issues; maybe the higher-ups just didn’t want to take a risk on something even Wizard seemed less enthralled by – since I don’t ever recall reading about it within their pages. I don’t know what happened to it. At one point I did email the author when I found his address in the back of an issue, asking him if there are more books in the works only for him to say he had “moved on to other projects”. I sure haven’t seen anything, whatever they were (to be). Image has a lot of comics that just… vanish… after a couple of issues if Half Price book stores haven’t proved that much to me over the years. It happened with many books, titles and publishers not solely with Image but that was the image I had of Image, I’m sad to say.

Invincible….

I’ve just finished trade volume 9. I’m a fan.

This is a really well-written book. Even the villains grow on you.

It’s groundbreaking.

Yeah, I know that’s a major thing to say but it’s a comic book and when I read a book that has this much violence it’s only natural to expect all the characters to be d-bags or the main character to be a whiny, reluctant loser and that’s not the case at all.

The main character – Mark Grayson aka Invincible – isn’t written with a cocky attitude. His powers haven’t gone to his head. He makes mistakes but works through them and his supporting characters really do lend him support. The teenage drama he faces is relatable and the super-heroics, although not on the sMarkGrayson-Invinciblecale of other more seasoned super-type books, have built up with every issue obviously destined for some unknown outcome.

Robert Kirkman has essentially re-created the sandwich in comic form. I’m not talking PB&J here but a real sandwich, something like what you would order at Subway only to realize after the second or third bite that it is the most awesome sandwich you’ve ever eaten and you’re a freaking genius.

Now I will admit it took me a while to adjust to all the nauseatingly bright colors within the book and the repetitious panels seemed a bit lazy at first but for certain scenes the simplicity fits perfectly. At first the art was a little hard to take in but that’s when I began to focus on the story, using the artwork solely for reference. Before I knew it I was five trades in and I’ve been sucked in nearly five trades more. I can’t say whether the art has improved much or not but at this point I really couldn’t care any less.

I’m way behind other readers and fans of Invincible and I’m fine with that. Unlike other books I’ve read that are just as addictive I don’t mind waiting. I’ve even managed to score some really cheap trades off Amazon so that has been really nice – more bang for my buck.

Yeah, says you! Everyone’s a critic. 🙂

-VR

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Now I’ve always liked Mark Waid. The dude is a talented engine of creativity that hasn’t stopped writing amazing stories regularly – or regularly enough – for two decades. That’s twenty (20) years folks, some of the best talent in comics today can’t even remember that far back! His team-up with Alex Ross on Kingdom Come is an absolute must-have for any comic collector although I know him best from his run on RUSE published by the ill-fated CrossGen comics – now a MARVEL book thanks to Disney.

I loved CrossGen. Let’s take a moment to remember it shall we?

Flying fist in your face.

There is no santa? NOOOOO!!!

Alright so enough praise for Mark Waid; let’s talk about his inconceivable Irredeemable! If this book isn’t a good read then I’m not reading good things. It definitely has its roots in a sub-plot of Kingdom Come but takes it to a devastating degree. I haven’t read the individual comics because I’ve been on a trade kick as of late but as the trades are keeping me on the edge of my seat I can only imagine what it’s like to get them one book at a time!

Think of what would happen if the most powerful superhero in the world went all ape-spit on everyone because something in his head just finally tilted and snapped – like the caption I have in the picture – and started destroying cities and continents. Not stopping there he decides to take out certain heroes too and all the while the people he had promised to protect live in fear that he will turn on them. Well… this book outlines all those things as well as a history of events that would make one question the ideals of all super heroes. Thank goodness it’s just a story!

Backfire

No more Tacos for you...

And that’s one of the reasons I started reading Incorruptible; it isn’t the same story although the setting is in the same world and has a nice dessert feel to the big meal that is Irredeemable. Completely the opposite of the other book I’ve now named twice, Incorruptible is about a super-powered asshole villain that decides to go “good”  when the Plutonian – hero-turned-oppressor – goes berserk. Instead of looting he decides to walk the straight ant narrow and begins working with a Police liaison while keeping up the bad-guy status. Kinda like what the last scene of the 2008 film  The Dark Knight implies.

It sounds a little lame when I put it that way maybe, but it’s Mark Waid dammit! The dude is King Midas of comics!!

Potter’s Field is a great read for anyone that appreciates a good noir-style mystery without super-peoples. The brains at Boom! really knew what they were doing by showcasing previews of books like this and The Unknown in the back of their trades. They got me hooked and helped push me a little closer to my Waid appreciation, allowing for this blog post. I know, right? The Unknown is a noir-style supernatural story published in two different trades (The Unknown and, Unknown: The Devil Made Flesh) that I’m aware of. Definitely a great addition to my collection although a bit of a let-down, but I’ll let you down by not expounding. The real tragedy of the Unknown books is that of the illustrator Minck Oosterveer which is something I’ve alluded to in another post.

Anyway that’s all I wanted to say. It’s taken me a while to say it but it’s said and I’ll not repeat myself. Soon enough I’ll write about other books I’ve found – like  Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall. Very good stuff!

Until then…

-VR

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Because bold statements seem popular…

Ok, so I’ve read a ton of novels – both graphic and not – over the last few months and haven’t really kept up with blogging about them, sorry. My fan/reader base is comprised solely of stragglers and those that follow this blog either out of plain curiosity, kindness or a need to point and laugh – it’s all the same really. Reality doesn’t give much in the way of drive. *sigh*
But that aside I’ll try to throw some titles out there.

Fist of flaming fury!

Not as serious as it seems.

Recently I finished Godland Vol.1 – by Image comics. It reads like Stan at first; I think they’re paying homage to the classics because it is visually like Jack. I enjoyed this book. It really gave me that classic-yet-campy feeling like The Venture Brothers.

 Godland is decently written though horribly edited. Not as bad as some Marvel titles I’ve recently read (currently reading [suffering through] the Onslaught collection – ugh!).  The Artwork is definitely Kirby-esque, especially the women – wide and squat but still attractive. I don’t think this book would work any other way, honestly.

If you know anything about me by now it’s that I love Sci-Fi. I especially love Cosmic adventures. Godland has that but not as “epic” as I would like. Yeah, yeah,  planet earth needs saving… whatever. The Villains aren’t really what I would expect a cosmic-powered hero to fight but they do offer him a challenge: the challenge of memory! Read it and you’ll see what I mean.

The most recent cheap find I’ve really enjoyed was Soulwind Vol.1 – again from Image. I like the format of the book so far – thin and easy to hold – but heard/read that there is a “collected” version like the BONE collection. Not a big fan of books that are as bulky as a dictionary. I yawn just thinking about it.

Since I mentioned BONE in the Soulwind paragraph I’ll compare: It’s similar.
Yeah, deep.
How is it similar? First off the obvious would be the B&W format. Second being the somewhat cartoon-style creatures, expressions and silent moments – narration solely by the voices in your head interpreting the images you see.

Soulwind

I have no problem with a lack of color if the art is decent and the story is slightly interesting – I’m easy; what makes this book work for me, aside from a great, compelling story, is the artwork. Different story segments have different art-styles by the same artist (note the picture). It could be a portfolio in the guise of a story for all we know and I would assume all comics are like that to some extent. That doesn’t matter. What does matter is that I got my money’s worth. Even if some of the shadows didn’t make sense in a panel or two I understood what the artist was trying to convey and accept that.

Nope, I’m not hip to the new books coming out. I have, however discovered within the last year a publisher called Kickstart Comics when I stumbled upon them in the magazine section of the-store-that-shall-not-be-named when I need to get my Tiger Beat fix. Thumbed through them right there and liked what I saw.
Bought a couple too!
Got them home and read them in a flash.
I didn’t feel like they changed my life any but they were decent and entertaining enough. Likely geared toward teenage audiences, I’m assuming.
Kickstart publishes digest-sized graphic novels – being self-contained story’s – so far.
Some of the titles I picked up read a little… rushed. Heavy Water could have been a little longer but Endangered, maybe even Ward 6 were a bit choppy on the editing. That’s why Editors make the big bucks!

There are several other books I need to list but this is a good start for now. At some point I need to write about how amazing both FABLES and Unwritten are (no, not the song damn you!) and maybe even dive into my new-found obsession with Mark Waid and Boom! Studios and why I believe that talented, up-and-coming artists can never be too confident on their motorcycles. But that’s all for another time.

Thanks for reading!

-VR

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Many years ago I read a magazine called Wizard. In said magazine they had written an article about an independent/self-published comic series called Castle Waiting written by an author/illustrator I had never heard of named Linda Medley.  The article amused me and Castle Waiting seemed like something I could be very interested in, but – for the life of me – I couldn’t find a store that had any issues in stock.

When I did – finally! – find some issues they were random at best making it difficult for me to get a true feel for the title (like Jeff Smith’s Bone I hope I don’t reference that series on my blog too much!). In case you hadn’t noticed I’m a fan of continuity and that includes starting a series, no matter the format, from the beginning. It’s just how I roll.

Castle Waiting

Yay for collected editions!

A few years ago – after some time passed and I had all but forgotten about Medley and her book – while my wife and I were shopping at the local mega-book mart I finally found the series published in a hardback, collected form by Fantagraphics! I knew I liked it from what I remembered seeing but when I thumbed through it this time there was nothing but love.

When I saw the simple-yet-detailed artistic style Medley brought to every page and panel and how well her art complimented the characters, the setting(s) and mood(s) it was then that I fell in love. Truly. The artwork reminded me of the books I’d “read” as a child, all the different illustrations for some old story within an Encyclopedia or my dad’s highly touted upon “Book of Knowledge” series.  How the little-known (to me, that is) artists would draw simple but well enough structured depictions of certain ideas and themes within the story’s; whether characters, scenery or both on the following or preceding pages within the chapters. I thought it was brilliantly simple, clean and fitting for a fantasy-based graphic story.

Now I won’t bore you with details on the story within the book. I do believe that Medley wrote Castle Waiting for a non-male audience but that doesn’t make this book less enjoyable. Truth! ;o)
I don’t waste time; yours or mine.
There are now two volumes out and I’m just a little disappointed in the second one because it just… drops off (not to mention that Medley’s name does not seem to be on the book, oddly enough!). You should at least pick up the first volume and see if the characters and the mystery behind them and their surroundings manages to pull you in. If it doesn’t suck you in no matter how much you struggle (as if)…  it’s obviously not for you; but if it does, welcome. Welcome!

Thanks for reading and I’m sure the ever elusive Linda Medley thanks you too.

-VR

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