Friday, July 31, 2009

Newsarama Best Shots Extra: 'TEC #855

Not to turn this blog into a serial back-patting exercise, but as I've had little time lately to post much more...

Best Shots Extra: DETECTIVE COMICS #855



By David Pepose
posted: 31 July 2009

Last month I raved about the opening issue of the all-new, all-different, all-awesome Detective Comics, and I'm happy to say that this sophomore issue isn't half-bad, either. While it doesn't have quite the same blow-you-out-of-the-water effect of the first issue, it still helps raise the bar for DC's overhaul of the Batman franchise, with a story that stretches itself as far as it can go to produce a value not often seen in today's industry.

The best way to split this up is to look at the writing and the art separately. Greg Rucka, having wrapped up much of Kate's current status quo in the last issue, goes full throttle with Batwoman's war on the Cult of Crime. If you haven't read the first issue yet, get that one first, as Rucka puts the pedal to the metal in Round One of Batwoman versus Alice. Looking at it from a script perspective, Rucka really is upping the ante nicely here, with a nice scene reminiscent of the Dark Knight where Batwoman begins removing weapon after hidden weapon from Alice's costume. He also establishes a weird sense of menace for the villainous Alice: "How do you know I'm mad?" she asks. "Maybe because you speak fluent crazy," Batwoman shoots back. It's moments like these that really add a zing to the story: "I will get my answer," Kate vows, "And I will shut you and your freakshow down!"

Yet the highlight of this story is getting into Kate's storied past, as she begins hallucinating due to a poisoned blade. As our hero struggles valiantly to survive, we see Kate's history of torture that goes far beyond the followers of the Crime Bible, and yet we also get a nice tease of who she sees as her salvation -- not herself, not her father, but of the strongest woman she ever met -- Renee Montoya. Even two issues in, it looks like Rucka is setting up the seeds for these two lovers to get back together (or at least to have one epic, swashbuckling team-up), but it really says volumes about what this character can strive to become. But it's the last page that really turns the story on its ear, and makes you really wonder what'll happen next.

Now, for the art. J.H. Williams III, while not knocking it out of the park as repeatedly as he did last issue, still stands head and shoulders above many of his contemporaries. One sequence that really had a Frank Quitely style of visceral imagination was suddenly taking the "camera" into Alice's mouth, as she slowly tongues a razor blade to her lips, slashing Batwoman across the face with it. "Okay," Batwoman says, after a look of disbelief washes across her face. "That was just nasty." As a reader, I definitely agree. While sometimes Williams' double-page splashes don't quite hit the mark with their composition, it's really in the second half of the book that he kicks things into high gear, with a spectacular-looking shot of Batwoman leaping from a castle parapet, gliding across a sky sliced in half with a lightning bolt.

While Williams' art is still top-notch, the color work felt occasionally muddy to me. In the first issue, Dave Stewart really made Kate pop off the page with her bright red hair and porcelain skin. In this issue, Batwoman seemed to match her surroundings more, but that realism sometimes kept the character from really getting her hooks into the reader. That said, because of the way this book suddenly energizes itself two-thirds from the end, part of me wouldn't be surprised if this wasn't some sort of printing error -- because when Stewart puts his mind to it, his colors sing.

But what about the backstory? Rucka makes The Question primarily an action story, which is fine by me. Renee Montoya has a nice bit of bravado, as slave trafficker Vargas says he's going to have to teach the Faceless Warrior a lesson. "Great," Renee says. "I love school." Hamner has a nicely choreographed fight scene, with a great panel of Renee looking at us as she tosses a scattergun behind her. That said, I'm still not sold on an all-blue costume for the Question, and in this case, the decision to drench the fight sequence in shades of brown -- from the house to the sky to the fence to even bits of Vargas' bloody nose -- didn't thrill me. Yet Hamner and Martin really sell me on this feature when they team up for a nice page of Renee infiltrating Chandless' office, giving some great facial expressions to the page. It certainly ends abruptly, but I'm excited to see where Rucka and company take us next with this feature.

All in all, while Rucka, Williams, and Stewart aren't firing on all cylinders like they did last issue, this is definitely a story that I'm going to be in for the long haul. With 35 pages of story -- counting Rucka's main feature, the Question second feature, as well as a compelling five-page preview of Geoff Johns and Francis Manapul's Adventure Comics -- you're certainly getting a lot of bang for your buck with Detective Comics #855, and with Rucka masterfully leading a set of artists that really shoot for the moon, you can't ask for much more in a comic.
Again, appreciate the kind review. I do, however think Mr. Pepose's fixation on the color of The Questions clothes (which was also on display in his review of #854) is... well, kind of weird, isn't it? To each his own, I guess. But hey, I won't look a gift horse (or a good review) in the mouth!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

DETECTIVE COMICS #855... *UPDATED*

...Is out today at your local comics shop, along with the second printing of DETECTIVE #854. Go and grab 'em!

***

CBR has posted a very complimentary review:

Detective Comics #855

  • by Chad Nevett

Two issues in with its new creative teams, “Detective Comics” is probably the best looking superhero book available. 22 pages of J.H. Williams III and eight pages of Cully Hamner held together by Greg Rucka’s writing make for a gorgeous book with some solid writing. While Rucka is the common denominator over the lead story starring Batwoman and the ‘co-feature’ starring the Question, the art dominates this book.

In the lead feature, Williams is beyond words. I am not sure the proper descriptors exist to properly sum up what he, along with Dave Stewart, does. But, I’ll give it a shot. Like some of the best cartoonists in comics, Williams crafts exquisitely designed pages that function both as a large work of art but also function almost perfectly on a panel-to-panel basis. Many artists focus on doing one or the other, but to illustrate lavish pages that need little context to appreciate and tell the story with clarity at the same time? Well, Williams may just be the best artist working in superhero comics today.

The preview pages only provide the barest of glimpses into his work in this issue as plot events cause Williams to change styles mid-page -— mid-panel even! He uses panels within panels to highlight details, different styles to suggest different levels of consciousness, and a variety of page designs that suit the material. He’s so good that the actual plot almost gets in the way.

Thankfully, Rucka crafts an entertaining story that keeps up with Williams, although can’t match him. Batwoman confronts the new leader of the Religion of Crime, the cult that tried to kill her and cut out her heart, and things go awry when the new leader turns out to be an almost certainly insane woman who thinks she’s Alice Liddell from Lewis Carroll’s two famous books. Not much actually happens in this issue, but Rucka and Williams work to further establish how Batwoman acts as a vigilante, and even throw in a nice callback to last issue.

If that weren’t enough, the Question ‘co-feature’ continues its serial detective fiction plot with Renee Montoya trying to find a missing girl for her brother. Like the pulp stories that Rucka and Hamner are no doubt drawing upon, there’s lot of action and banter in this short chapter. Hamner is a different sort of artist than Williams, but his style is suited quite well to Rucka’s story. He’s one of the best action artists there is and he puts those skills on display here. Again, the writing doesn’t rise to the level of the art, but it’s very entertaining, and is suited to a comic titled “Detective Comics.”

You’re not likely to find a better looking superhero comic on the stands than “Detective Comics” #855 with J.H. Williams III and Cully Hamner delivering career-best work in already stunning careers. That is, until issue 856 comes out next month.

More RED News

From The Hollywood Reporter:

Director closes in on 'Red'

Robert Schwentke circling Summit thriller

By Jay A. Fernandez

July 28, 2009, 11:00 PM ET

Robert Schwentke is painting the screen "Red."

The director of "The Time Traveler's Wife," who has been flirting with a number of projects, is in negotiations to take the reins of the Summit Entertainment thriller, starring Bruce Willis and Morgan Freeman. Erich and Jon Hoeber wrote the screenplay, which is based on the WildStorm/DC Comic.

The spy film follows a former black-ops agent forced out of retirement when a high-tech assassin threatens him and his girlfriend. Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Mark Vahradian are producing.

Schwentke, repped by CAA and Jennifer Davisson Killoran, directed "Flightplan" and "The Family Jewels." He also has been developing the Enron drama "Conspiracy of Fools" for Appian Way at Warner Bros.

New Line opens "Time Traveler's Wife" on Aug. 14.



Friday, July 24, 2009

Forest For The Trees ***UPDATED With Some DETECTIVE News from San Diego

Comic-Con International

It's interesting staying home from Comic-Con International once in a while. I see all the hype, all the announcements, all the buzz-- everything on my computer right here in my office at the studio.

When I actually am at the con, right in the middle of it, at the epicenter of the buzz... I don't hear shit. Not a thing. It's just a blur of drawing, signing, lunches, dinners, meetings-- everything I deal with really only pertains to my own experience and career. Outside of getting to meet the odd celebrity here or there, it's only outside the con do I get the lowdown of the show.

This year, at least, I feel pretty good about staying home. I think I'm getting more out of it!

***

Was checking out Newsarama's live-blog of the Batman: New Dynamic panel in San Diego, and just noticed the following:

"Rucka then announced that after seven issues with Williams, Jock (of The Losers fame) will come on board for three issues. Following that, the Question backups will move to the front of the book for a time, with either Williams or Jock drawing a 10-page Batwoman Second Feature. Then Williams (and Kate Kane) will come back to the front of the book."

So, I guess that's out there now! Not sure of the issue numbers, but stay tuned. And if anything else is announced regarding 'TEC via a panel in San Diego, I'll definitely let you know here.

***

Actual quotes from the Bat-Panel, this time from CBR:

"When recent JH Williams pages for DETECTIVE was brought up, Rucka looked to the audience and announced, 'If you picked up 854 ... it's unbelievable, but it gets better looking [than that]. I think JH is changing the form. He's changing the language of comics with this.' According to Rucka, In DETECTIVE COMICS #858, the artist's style will change dramatically. 'You won't believe it's still JH on the book,' he says. 'You're really going to like it.' 'The Question' goes to ten pages (per issue) as of issue #858. Cully will still be on art with Dave (McCaig) on color.

Asked about the co-features, the crowd responded with enthusiasm."

And

"Rucka: ...We are seven issues in. You're getting seven issues of JH uninterrupted. We're doing three issues with Jock from 861. In 864, Cully will do twenty pages of Question and Jock or JH will do ten pages of Kate leading into the end of JH's final five issues (returning to the front of the book). I'm loving it. It's great. This is the best job in the world."

Yes, you read right: Dave McCaig will be stepping in on The Question as of 'TEC #857, replacing my studiomate, Laura Martin. What's up with Laura, you ask? Well, the answer, my friend is over on Newsarama: Laura Martin Signs Exclusive With Marvel!

Sad as I am to lose her from doing any work with me for a while, I know it's the right move for her. Hell, I still get to hang out with her every day and see what she's working on before anyone else even knows about it!

And if I can't work with La Colorista anymore, how great is it that Dave McCaig of the Clan McCaig is her replacement? :)


Monday, July 20, 2009

Freeman In RED?

Many people have been emailing me this morning about Variety's story:

Morgan Freeman in talks to star in 'Red'

Actor eyes Summit thriller starring Bruce Willis

Morgan Freeman is in talks to star alongside Bruce Willis in Summit Entertainment's espionage thriller "Red," based on the WildStorm/DC Comic.

Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Mark Vahradian are producing with DC exec Gregory Noveck serving as exec producer. Brothers Erich Hoeber and Jon Hoeber are penning the script.

Summit acquired rights to "Red," originally written by Warren Ellis and illustrated by Cully Hamner, last year. The three-book series, published in 2003 and 2004, tells the story of a former black-ops CIA agent now living a quiet life in retirement until the day a high-tech assassin shows up intent on killing him.

Freeman's toplining Nelson Mandela biopic "Invictus," directed by Clint Eastwood for Warner Bros. with a December release date.

It does indeed look real promising, and I'm very hopeful. But I have to point out that, to my knowledge, neither actor is a done deal, and even if I'm wrong and they are, it doesn't necessarily mean the movie will even get made. Such is Hollywood-- always proceed with caution. Until they're actually shooting it, it's a big "if."

Still... pretty damn cool. Fingers crossed. :)

***And by the by, The original series Red was recently re-released in a deluxe edition from DC/Wildstorm. Not only does it contain the entire original series, but it includes Warren Ellis' original first-issue script, my first-issue layouts, and all the concept art and covers I could dig up. You can buy it at Amazon, or at your local bookstore or comics shop.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Treason Season

It's amazing to me that people can hate the President so much that they're willing to commit treason:


U.S. Army Maj. Stefan Frederick Cook, set to deploy to Afghanistan, says he shouldn’t have to go.

His reason?

Barack Obama was never eligible to be president because he wasn’t born in the United States.

Cook’s lawyer, Orly Taitz, who has also challenged the legitimacy of Obama’s presidency in other courts, filed a request last week in federal court seeking a temporary restraining order and status as a conscientious objector for his client.

In the 20-page document — filed July 8 with the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia — the California-based Taitz asks the court to consider granting his client’s request based upon Cook’s belief that Obama is not a natural-born citizen of the United States and is therefore ineligible to serve as commander-in-chief of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Cook further states he “would be acting in violation of international law by engaging in military actions outside the United States under this President’s command. ... simultaneously subjecting himself to possible prosecution as a war criminal by the faithful execution of these duties.”

Cook, a reservist, received the orders mobilizing him to active duty on June 9.

According to this document, which accompanies Cook’s July 8 application for a temporary restraining order, he has been ordered to report to MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday. From there, the Florida resident would go to Fort Benning before deploying overseas.

Documents show Obama was born in Hawaii in 1961, two years after it became a state.

A hearing to discuss Cook’s requests will take place in federal court here Thursday at 9:30 a.m.

Oh, and by the way.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

DETECTIVE #854 Sells Out!

Yup, it's true, according to DC's The Source blog:

DETECTIVE COMICS #854 sells out, and we have a snazzy new cover to show

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

By Alex Segura

Seems like people like Gotham’s newest citizen, huh?

DETECTIVE COMICS #854, by writer Greg Rucka and artist J.H. Williams III, has sold and is going back to press for a new, second printing. As most of you know, DETECTIVE COMICS also features a snazzy co-feature by Rucka, with art by Cully Hamner.

And though you probably don’t need any added incentive to check out the book, we’ve still got the mind-blowing new printing cover by Mr. Williams and Dave Stewart right here. Enjoy.


dtc-cv854-2nd-prnt

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Truth Bears Reposting

Sorry I've not posted for a few days. But in that time we've seen Al Franken FINALLY certified as the new junior senator from Minnesota after almost eight months of excruciating legal wrangling, and the estimable Sarah Palin resign as governor of Alaska because of... well, no one is quite sure.

Anyway, on those subjects, two op-ed's felt, to me, worth passing along this morning. First up is a dose of reality from the ever-realistic Paul Krugman:


July 5, 2009

Al Franken’s secret

By Paul Krugman

David Broder has a column this morning calling for bipartisanship. I know, you’re shocked. But what struck me was this bit about Al Franken:

Franken, the loud-mouthed former comedian, will be the 60th member of the Senate Democratic caucus …

Two points.

First, implicit in this characterization of Franken is the notion of the Senate as a decorous gentlemen’s club. I doubt that club ever existed in reality; but in any case, these days the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body is, not to put too fine a point on it, chock full o’ nuts. James Inhofe: I rest my case.

Second, Al Franken’s dirty secret is that … he’s a big policy wonk.

I used to go on Franken’s radio show, all ready to be jocular — and what he wanted to talk about was the arithmetic of Social Security, or the structure of Medicare Part D.

In fact, the only elected official I know who’s wonkier than Al Franken is Rush Holt, my congressman — and he used to be the assistant director of Princeton’s plasma physics lab. (The campaign’s bumper stickers read, “My Congressman IS a rocket scientist.”)

So what will Franken do to the level of Senate discourse? He’ll raise it.


WASHINGTON

Sarah Palin showed on Friday that in one respect at least, she is qualified to be president.

Caribou Barbie is one nutty puppy.

Usually we don’t find that exquisite battiness in our leaders until they’ve been battered by sordid scandals like Watergate (Nixon), gnawing problems like Vietnam (L.B.J.), or scary threats like biological terrorism (Cheney).

When Lyndon Johnson was president, some of his staff began to think of him as “a sick man,” as Bill Moyers told Arthur Schlesinger Jr. Moyers and his fellow Johnson aide Dick Goodwin even began reading up on mental illness — Bill on manic depression and Dick on paranoia.

And so it was, Todd Purdum learned, as he traveled Alaska reporting on Palin for Vanity Fair, that the governor’s erratic and egoistic behavior has been a source of concern for people there.

“Several told me, independently of one another,” Purdum writes, “that they had consulted the definition of ‘narcissistic personality disorder’ in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — ‘a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy’ — and thought it fit her perfectly.”

The White House can drive its inhabitants loopy. So at least Sarah Palin is ahead of the curve on that one.

As Alaskans settled in to enjoy holiday salmon bakes and the post-solstice thaw, their governor had a solipsistic meltdown so strange it made Sparky Sanford look like a model of stability.

On the shore of Lake Lucille, with wild fowl honking and the First Dude smiling, with Piper in the foreground and their Piper Cub in the background, the woman who took the Republican Party by storm only 10 months ago gave an incoherent, breathless and prickly stream of consciousness to a small group in her Wasilla yard. Gobsmacked Alaska politicians, Republican big shots, the national press, her brother, the D.C. lawyer who helped create her political action committee and yes, even Fox News, played catch-up.

What looked like a secret wedding turned out to be a public unraveling as the G.O.P. implosion continued: Sarah wanted everyone to know that she’s not having fun and people are being mean to her and she doesn’t feel like finishing her first term as governor.

She can hunt wolves from the air and field-dress a moose, but she fears being a lame duck? Some brickbats over her ethics and diva turns as John McCain’s running mate, and that dewy skin turns awfully thin.

Maybe there’s another red Naughty Monkey high heel to drop — there’s often a hidden twist in Sarah’s country-music melodramas. Or is this a reckless high-speed escape from small-pond Alaska, where her popularity is dropping, to the big time Below?

Even some conservative analysts admitted that the governor’s move seemed ga-ga before venturing the spin that Palin might be “crazy like a fox,” as Sarah’s original cheerleader, Bill Kristol, put it.

Maybe, Kristol mused, she could use the 18 months she would have spent finishing her term to write her book and study up on the issues for 2012.

Why not? Palin/Sanford in 2012, with the slogan: “Save time — we’re already in Crazy Town.”

Palin’s speech is classic casuistry.

After girlish burbling about how “progressing our state” and serving Alaska “is the greatest honor that I could imagine,” and raving about how much she loves her job, she abruptly announced that she was making the ultimate sacrifice: dumping the state on her lieutenant.

Why “milk it,” as she put it, when you can quit it? “Only dead fish go with the flow,” she said, while cold fish can blow out of town. Leaving Alaska in the lurch is best for Alaska. She can better “effect change” in government from outside government. She can fulfill her promise of “efficiencies and effectiveness” by deserting Juneau midway through her term — and taking her tanning bed with her.

“We need those who will respect our Constitution,” said Palin, who swore on the Bible to uphold the Constitution. She said she can’t fulfill that silly old oath of office in the usual way because she’s not “wired to operate under the same old politics as usual.”

Naturally, she dragged the troops in, saying that her trip to see wounded soldiers overseas “fortified” her decision to give up because “they don’t give up.”

She refuses to succumb to the “politics of personal destruction.” It’s no fun unless she’s the one aiming those poison darts, as she did when she accused Barack Obama of associating “with terrorists who targeted their own country.”

Sometimes, she explained, if you’re the star, you have to “call an audible and pass the ball” and leave at halftime, “so the team can win” somehow without you.

The maverick must run free when greener pastures beckon. The musher must jump out of the dogsled when warmer climes call. As Palin’s spokeswoman, Meg Stapleton, says, “The world is literally her oyster.”

But just remember, beloved Alaska, it’s all about you.