Thursday, May 27, 2010


OK, so friends of the show already know that my good friend the vampire showed up again at work, which is awesome. What is he doing? Just running around being a vampire. Showing off his pipes. In the above photo, he is observed licking his lips as he eyes a woman's jugular.

And I don't want to hear any nonsense about "Oh, you shouldn't make fun of him, he's sick. Oh, maybe he's got porphyria or something."

Bullshit. Maybe he's a GODDAMN NOSFERATU. Because that's what he is.

Now, on this occasion he tried to button hook everybody by wearing a Laguna Beach lifeguard shirt, as though he likes nothing better than to bask in the sun. That is also bullshit. The only way he survived entering the building was because he walked in wearing jet black Hefty trash bags covering every inch of his body.

Proof # 1 that this guy is actually a representative of the undead:

Look at him menace those Vera Wang sheets! He can't hold up the act forever, man. If you wait long enough, he shows his true face. Some lady just passed by with a crucifix around her neck, so he got all huffy. That is one pissed off vampire.

Proof # 2 that this guy is immortal and will drink your damn blood:

He can't hold up the act perfectly. This photo clearly shows him folding his arms across his body. That's because as soon as his conscious mind slips out of "blending" mode, he just naturally folds his arms just like he does when he's resting in his coffin.

Case closed. Brooklyn Center is crawling with many creatures of the night, but this nosferatu is my favorite.

- Ryan

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Re-re-re-re-re-Boot of The Avengers

The Avengers # 1
Marvel Comics

Script: Brian Michael Bendis

Pencils: John Romita Jr.

23 pages for $3.99 (Right in the Goat Ass)

You know what is beautiful about a review by me? Well I'll tell you. I have no knowledge of anything that might have happened in the past for any of these Marvel books. I am cumming into them as a complete virgin (how's that for a Chronic Insomnia Jizm joke?) and that means good things for you.

So I went to my local comic book store and picked up the new re-re-re-re-booted Avengers title by Brian Michael Bendis and at first I thought it was total crap. The first few pages left me with a bad taste in my mouth, not like I should have eaten more pineapple, more like I just drank a vomit shake. To say the dialog was cheesy is an understatement. When Steve Rogers is giving his speech to the "team" I thought my four year old could have written more realistic dialog. But after that it really got pretty good.

The dialog from Spiderman cracked me up and the play between Rogers and Stark felt strained, as it should. Apparently Stark and Rogers had a small falling out in the past and they have issues yet to be resolved. I'm not sure, but it might have something to do with that damned registration act and ensuing civil war.

The story starts with the formation of this rather large group of superheroes, is it me or was the Avengers just a handful of people? Well this group is larger than my High School graduating class and it seems enormous to me, but then again so does my penis, go figure. Anyways after assembling everyone and telling them how they are badasses and are needed to save the world and yadda yadda yadda, insert cheesy dialog once again, they are interrupted by Kang. Now I admit, I have no fucking clue who this evil time traveling bastard is, but Thor really seemed to take a disliking to him straight away. Thor blasted that fucker like twelve seconds after the time vortex spit him out.On a side note I had a huge problem with a certain page in this book. Rogers is standing with his fine ass showing at the conference table spilling his yadda yadda, you badass me badass crap and there are labels above the most notable heroes in Marvel History. What the fuck is that shit? Who do they think is reading this comic book, aliens? Why are they telling me that Spiderman is the one hanging upside down in the picture? Do they think there are NEW comic book readers, wake up Marvel, the only ones reading your books are 35 years old and they already know who the fuck Iron Man is. He just made $140 million at the box office this past month. What a waste of ink and it insults even my intelligence, which is difficult to do. ...k back to the review.

Kang brings some interesting news to the newly formed Avengers society (I would say group, but it's got like twelve thousand members, so it's more like a society to me) and he also brought a device that Stark has yet to build. Some dark energy doomsday device. Either way it's just a plot device to get the heroes to not kill him outright before he can threaten them with future wrong doings from their children. Yeah that's right, even Spiderman gets laid in the future. Sorry if I spoiled that for you.

I don't want to give away the ending totally, but I will post a picture of the final page and let you determine what might be happening. I guess the Hulk has taken hairstyle tips from Thor, because he's got some locks of lust going on for sure. P.S. Is that the same Hulk from Old Man Logan who has sex with his offspring? If so, I can see why, he's one sexy mutha-fucka.

As a whole this book is fun. It's a popcorn comic book and a good one. Honestly the world of comic books could use more books like this. I am a little sick and tired of all the seriousness seen in books these days. Sure cheese can get old, but this kind of cheese leaves a good taste in my mouth. I am not a huge fan of Romita Jrs. pencils, but it doesn't detract from the book at all. I'm not tearing into Romita Jr. because we have a long standing feud with our friends in Canada, it's just he doesn't blow my skirt up and never has. If you like your heroes to look like their ALL in their mid-twenties, then he's your guy. He's just mediocre at best for me, which is just fine. Not everyone is McNiven and that's okay.

If you are interested in The Avengers of old, this might not be the book for you. If you liked "Last Action Hero" because it didn't take itself too seriously and it was meant to be a popcorn movie, this might be the book for you. I was actually a little surprised when I read the final page of this book and the hook got itself into me pretty good, I AM going to go out and get the next book in this series, so for now, I'm in. Grab some popcorn and pull up a seat, be careful, if you're a collector that fucking butter shit gets all over the pages.


Chronic Capsule Reviews: Crap I Read Today!

Let me kick this off by saying that I WON'T be reading Secret Avengers, even though it seems to me that Brubaker's little shadow team is by far the most intriguing of the relaunched Avengers nonsense.

If this book were $2.99, I'd be all over it. But it isn't. I've been making far too many excuses about that lately, and it needs to stop. We simply can't afford (literally!) to reward this behavior. If the trend on trades continues, I won't be buying that either, regardless of how well it gets reviewed. Suggested retail on that collected Psylocke mini? If you thought the $3.99 on the floppies was bad, wait til you get a load of the $4.99 per issue they think it's worth in trade form. No. Nononononononononno you don't.

We're watching, Marvel. And we're pissed. Lots of people sitting at the breaking point, Mr. Buckley. We can live without that Psylocke book, trust me. Hell, the fact you're pushing us toward is that we can live without any of it. That's not a bitter threat any more, that's becoming the undeniable reality of it. We're at the breaking point. Tread carefully.

War of the Supermen # 4
Nothing much for me to rave about or complain about, I guess. I hadn't been reading the Superman books prior, so this is resolving issues that don't resonate as much for me. My sense is that if you went through the whole "New Krypton" stuff, this paid off fairly well.

There's nothing here that would compel me to pick up Superman from here on. I'm thinking about doing it simply because of the Straczynski factor. I'm really enjoying Brave & The Bold (more on that later) and I've been re-reading some Rising Stars, too. JMS is pretty good. So yay for him on Superman, his dream project.

Green Lantern # 54
This title has been on the cusp of the "drop zone" lately. It isn't that I feel it's a bad title. But there's a general feeling you carry around about each of the books on your pull, and inevitably certain books stop feeling like urgent reads and you start to wonder about them. If you're smart.

Thing is, every issue of Green Lantern tends to redeem itself upon closer inspection. I mean, in this issue that Red Lantern cat threw up on a bunch of people in a subway, and how can I deny that? There's no way. Every time that cat pukes rage blood on something, I'm in love all over again. Speaking of love, Sinestro has a delicious little one-liner he fires at Hal Jordan regarding his aching loins over Carol, too.

And that's the juice for me. I don't want to say that I can't care about the whole "sword in the stone" white lantern conundrum or the search for the missing "entities"...but I don't care, so I guess I'll say it. Green Lantern stays for now. Next!

Brave & The Bold # 34
The previous issue may end up being the best comic of 2010. It's certainly # 1 in my heart right now. I guess no system is perfect, but this is such a classic example of how broken the system is, and how quality never quite seems to translate into sales. And that, folks, is what is KILLING the industry.

Because there's no "Brightest Day" banner or some event connection, the rotating cast pretty much demands that nobody buys this title. And it's awesome. Every month, it's quality story after quality story. Straczynski takes full advantage of the freedom inherent in a "what if" type framework and just runs wild with interesting crap.

This month the Legion runs into a problem - primordial black hole make Earth go bye-bye. Now THAT'S a problem! Do you see how fun this stuff gets? Lightning Lad concocts a scheme to go back in time and fix that, and he needs the Doom Patrol's help to do it. And here's where it gets really weird, folks. Straczynski sets it up in the story so that internally it makes sense to need Negative Man! Revolutionary!

Now, JMS has been teasing for months that he's going to do something funky with the title that should make it a "Top 10" selling comic. Something feels slightly awry at the end of this issue, and I think that the ramifications of saving Earth are going to open up that can of worms next issue. Something from the future or another dimension, I don't know. But I think we'll see the ace Straczynski's been holding up his sleeve next month. Yay!

Fantastic Four # 579
As usual, so much to say about this comic, and I'm not sure this little blog entry is really the place to get into all of it, but here goes.

With what went on in # 578, this is a real button-hook. Last issue ramped up the stakes to Factor 11, and then this issue behaves as though none of that Inhumans stuff ever happened. It's a "breather" issue, if you will.

First of all, I don't want to say that Neil Edward's art sucks, but it sure gives a strong inhale. Eaglesham is missed, and that's a fact. Reed gives a speech about the future at the Singularity conference, and basically tells everyone (except She-Hulk) that they're old people with no vision, and he's bowing out of the group.

It's an interesting case he makes, and (as usual) an interesting path to explore. I happen to not agree with much of what Reed believes. He sees expansion as inevitable and hopeful, touting
"one trillion human beings spanning an entire galaxy." To me, that's not a message of hope. I believe in quality, not quantity. If you really liked the galaxy, you wouldn't be spreading people as we know them about it. That's littering.

But Reed is more optimistic than I, so it makes sense in that regard. His response is interesting, daring, and quite in keeping with the "Heroic Age" of optimism. He ditches the stagnant old white dudes and sets up his own think-tank with his children, the moloid kids, Artie, and Alex Power. There's your new Future Foundation!

Hickman spends a lot of time acknowledging plot threads in scattershot form. (Nu-World, Sue as ambassador, the Wizard) There's a TON of balls in the air right now, and Hickman is basically letting you know that he knows this stuff is out there. And all of it is entertaining. All of it.

Does it feel weird to me that the Inhumans stuff just went "poof"? Yup. Was it a bad issue? By no means. This is still the must read Marvel book of the lot, hands downs.

Tales of the Dragon Guard # 3
This was the best comic I read today. The super sad part is that it concludes the series. Are there more Tales of the Dragon Guard out there? I don't know. For all I know, there are reams of this stuff in France as I type. But I'll never get to see it, because the sales figures will not have Marvel ordering more of this, I wouldn't think.

And what a shame. There's a little box in the bottom right-hand corner of the comic that says "mature content", and for once that's accurate. Dragon Guard is a hokey little hook about half-dressed virgins killing big lizards, except it dresses itself in poignant characters, and gripping drama.

Wherever these dragons set up camp, they cast of field of corruption called "The Veil". It taints the people inside of it like a disease, and to watch the progression is always a trip. I'm really going to miss this book. A lot.

- Ryan

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Chronic Sacrilege: X-Men Origins part 2!

It seems almost impossible now, but in 1975 the X-Men were basically a flushed franchise that nobody gave a shit about. The brand had fallen into such disrepair that Marvel's publishing strategy for the team was to simply reprint old issues with new covers. I'm serious.

Len Wein took the job nobody in the world wanted and re-booted the X-Men with Giant-Size # 1, and pretty much kick started both the Bronze age and Marvel's greatest empire. Spider-Man is its greatest single asset, don't get me wrong. But the X-Men have been almost a separate publishing imprint that has turned what seems like hundreds of junk spin-offs into monetary gold. They've sold a few Wolverine lunchboxes, too.

So my next step in finding the roots of the X-Men was to forage for the beginning of the team as we know it now. As stated earlier, that officially began with Giant-Size # 1 and Len Wein, but obviously it was Claremont who scripted what would become the standard of superhero soap operatics. And that began with X-Men # 94.

The formula for Claremont is pretty clear by page 5:


And nothing produces drama like a pack of giant assholes, which is what the X-Men were. It's unbelievable. The worst of course is Wolverine, who still has a reputation as a bit of a bad ass. Forget about it. The Wolverine in the early Claremont books makes today's version look like a sheepish little fairy.

This was not a silent man with a Samurai code looking to quell the beast within. This was a stone prick desperately interested in starting a fight for no reason at all. It's beautiful.

And he's absolutely not alone, by the way. Cyclops has always been a bit of a douche, in these early Claremont issues he's completely insufferable. Sunfire might be the biggest cock of the whole group, but it's tough to be sure because he's such a giant dong that he immediately leaves, tells everyone to fuck off and never to call him again. You think I'm kidding...I'm not. Read it, it's awesome!

Don't even get me started on Thunderbird, who is simultaneously a giant asshole and a whiny little girl. The good news is that he'll be gone next issue, so you don't have to worry about it for long. That pretty much left just Wolverine to fill the role as Team Bastard. He did it well.

Hey man, give credit where it's due - Claremont was right. Drama is interesting, for the most part. Those stories pop, man! The old Stan Lee stuff is legitimately difficult to slog through in the here and now...the old Claremont stories feel like a guilty pleasure. He basically took a United Nations cast, dipped them in "All My Children", and then handed each of them wide scale lethal destructive force and turned them loose. It's delicious!

But before we crown Chris Claremont as the James Joyce of comic books, let's be realistic about the downsides as well. The problem with running soap operatics is that everything gets a little cartoony. And I guess if you don't mind cartoony, then there is no problem with the X-Men of this era.

But here's the thing. In this issue, the threat is a guy named Count Nefaria, OK? And as if that wasn't absurd enough, his plan is to warp a bunch of Ani-Men into what basically amounts to NORAD. Fine.

But how does he achieve this objective? He sends them a little box with a button on it that literally says "Press Me". AND THEY FUCKING PRESS THE BUTTON. Are you goddamn kidding me???

It's absolutely ridiculous. If you had any sense in your brain you'd start putting the pieces together and say "hmmmm.....Count NEFARIA.....goddamn ANI-MEN......fucking box that says PRESS ME on it and then they press it.....waitaminute....this is FUCKING STUPID!!!!"

But instead you barely register any of that, because basically you're just turning pages until the fighting is over so you can see if Jean is really going to split up with Scott and leave the team like Warren and Bobby did. Because it's a soap opera, man, and it's a damn good one, you want my opinion.

Except then Count Nefaria opens his mouth and starts spewing out the most improbable crap you've ever heard in your life. And you think to yourself; "Chris, why do you have to have them say stupid shit like that and almost ruin all the other good stuff going on here? Why can't he just say something vaguely human? Is it absolutely necessary to make me feel like an asshole for reading this every six panels or so?"

Apparently it is.

In his defense, everybody wrote like that until Alan Moore taught everybody it was OK to aim higher than 12-year-olds with Swamp Thing. Bottom line on the early Claremont issues? I recommend them. Actually, there's a lot that modern comics could learn from this stuff, because the "event" was good character interaction every month. (Or to be perfectly accurate, every other month. In the beginning, Claremont's X-Men were bi-monthly and on life support)

And the art is good, too. You go from Cockrum to Byrne to Paul Smith, and it's all quite a bit superior to what The King was putting down on his run. So my final assessment is that if you're looking for the roots of the X-Men....skip the Lee/Kirby stuff and head straight for "Days of Our Mutant Lives".

- Ryan

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Chronic Sacrilege: X-Men Origins!

For reasons even I don't understand, I got a burr in my bum to read some old X-Men material. I'm not very well versed in the classics, frankly. I'm a weird bastard in that I'm an English major who has never really read any Shakespeare, and I'm a comic wonk who's never really read any Stan Lee/Jack Kirby material.

So I decided to begin my nostalgic X-Men reading with issue # 1, by the aforementioned Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. I read the Marvel Essentials black and white stuff, to be specific.

Hoo boy. Where to begin? The quick capsule review is that it's terrible. Genuinely, demonstrably horrible.

The issue begins with Professor X and his young students at the mansion. Charles runs his students through some "danger room" type drills, and they all behave like jerkwads to one another. Suddenly Jean Grey shows up, and everybody loses their goddamn mind except for Iceman, who is apparently in the closet. Even Xavier expresses his attraction toward the barely pubescent Ms. Grey, which is sort of creepy.

After some more asinine behavior, Prof. X informs the team that they must deal with a threat, which in this case is Magneto whumping ass all over this military base. So the X-Men send Magneto scurrying away, including Jean whose combat training at this point consists of being groped for four minutes at the X-Mansion. And that's that.

The script is fairly infantile. Professor X informs us that he named his students the X-Men because of their "extra power". Are you shitting me with this? And while Chuck's philosophy evolved, in the beginning there is nothing directly in the mission statement about building bridges between mutants and humans. Their job is to find "evil" mutants and pound the crap out of them.

The characters are all stock stereotypes. These are hormonally challenged teenagers at their worst. They are giant assholes raging with testosterone, and God forbid a girl enter the room - the evolutionary clock REALLY starts ticking backward.

Beast just goes straight for Jean's stars and garters and sexually assaults her first thing. This kind of thing was called "Wednesday" in the 1960s. Today it's called "8-12 years plus probation."

It was a different era then, and I guess it's fair now to make some concessions. Through the eyes of 2010, this stuff wouldn't make it past an editors desk. But it wasn't 2010, and the audience was different and the standards were different. I suppose we have to give him credit for simply trying to create "realistic" teen behavior instead of robotic stiffs. I'm sure that was a novel concept when X-Men # 1 was released.

I think it's also worth mentioning that Stan Lee was scripting about 34 books a month, and I don't care how good you are, quality is going to suffer when the quantity gets that prodigious. So it isn't entirely Stan's fault that the original X-Men stories haven't aged very well. They were produced by a different era for a different era, and he was working under significant deadline duress. But wow is it bad.

And then there's Jack Kirby. Some of you out there are thinking to yourself:

"He's not seriously going to go after The King, is he?"

Yes, I'm going to go after The King. Listen, don't take my word for it...crack open the issues and look for yourself. Look at this tank, friends, and tell me that a portfolio containing that illustration would even get a second look at Marvel today. There would be derisive laughter, and that's a scientific fact.

Look at the military figures surrounding it. Those aren't even pencils, really, those are breakdowns! And someone just said "Fuck it, we got a deadline, let's ship her out!" The pencilling work in X-Men # 1 is often rudimentary and appears to be unfinished:
That's just terrible. And I'll be more than happy to make some concessions for Kirby as well. There are panels where he's able to achieve effects with faces in a very small amount of space, it's almost magical. I'm told that Kirby's figures exhibited dynamic action that was unprecedented for the time, and I'll take people's word on that. There are certainly spots where the action has some Kirby crackle to it.

What I'm saying is, you hear the names Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, and the hushed tones with which the names are uttered suggest that if you dared to turn the pages of their work, you would barely survive the awesometude of their excellenticity. Instead, you get done reading it with the lens of 2010 and wonder how they found work.

Next up: Pot shots at Chris Claremont!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Chronic Review: Zatanna # 1

Zatanna # 1
DC Comics

Script: Paul Dini
Pencils: Stephane Roux
22 pages for $2.99

I've been sharing my cautious optimism about this book for several months now. I've been in love with Zatanna since I first discovered her on Batman: The Animated Series. She was sexy and smart back then, too.

"What do you want with a leggy dame in nylons - or have I answered my own question?" That was Paul Dini who wrote that line waaaaaaaayyyy back in 1992, and here he is eighteen years later for her first ongoing series. I have reason to be excited.

The problem is that as much as I'd like to trust Paul Dini, comics don't have a stellar track record with "girl books". (See: all seventy-nine girly books Marvel has produced in the last six weeks) So there's cause for concern, too.

Well, you can set your fears aside and breathe easy, because Dini avoids all the obvious pitfalls and sets this title up for a very promising future. Promising for storytelling purposes, mind you. Regardless of how good this gets, I'd be shocked if it makes it more than twelve issues.

My concerns were alleviated by page three, when a captive Zatanna is revealed to be practicing her stage act. Whew! Dini recognizes where these things generally go, shows it to us, and then pulls the rug out. Right then I knew that Dini had studied the playbook of Fail, and knew how to avoid the traps.

So don't look for Zatanna to be a dirty slut, a victim, or a drama queen. She can still be hot, and it looks like we're going to see some flirting and such with detective Dale Colton, and that's fine. As long as it's clever, I'm good with that. It's still too early to tell how that's going to play out.

The other major obstacle in my mind is wrapping Zatanna up in Justice League, earth shattering type event nonsense. Too many comics try to sell plot and "impact", when they need to focus on simply being entertaining.

Again, Dini hits some very satisfying notes. No real mention of the JLA or the wider DCU at all, which is perfect. Instead we're getting some world-building with the mystic underground of San Francisco. We're introduced to Brother Night, a genuinely creepy cat who does some genuinely creepy stuff.

Zatanna dispatches with his initial assault fairly handily, but Brother Night is established as a worthy adversary. Rather than go toe-to-toe with Z in a messy rumble, Night simply teases a dark prophecy about Zatanna's future and sets about payback from behind the scenes.

The bottom line on this one is that I don't know enough about where this is going to call it a triumph, but I think we can scratch pathetic "girl book" off the list. We are in capable hands with Paul Dini, who appears to have all the right moves. He presents us with a capable, likable heroine. She's got a unique patch of ground to stomp around in, and some interesting adversaries to play off of.

If this book gets some time to breathe and develop without event interference, we might be looking at a little diamond in the rough here....

- Ryan

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Chronic Market Spotlight: Gold in the Gutter!

When you're in "The Game", it's easy to get off track and chase big scores. It's fun to make $100+ sales, and it's exciting to score that rare Miracleman hardcover, and there's nothing quite as exciting as holding one of those obscenely expensive Marvel Limited books from 94' in your mitts.

Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with thinking long as you aren't stuck there. Here's a fact of the game that I've learned over the past three years that nobody else is going to teach you: there's a mental barrier for a lot of buyers out there, and it's sitting right at about $30.

Obviously, it is possible to make sales beyond that mark. Funny stuff happens, a movie comes out, and all of a sudden you can sell that $15 copy of Losers Vol 5 for $100. It does happen. But the vast majority of folks out there are just like you, which means they think spending $50 on a book they can read in 45 minutes is pretty silly. So they don't do it.

The flip side of that coin is that there are a ton of people who will drop $20-$30 on just about anything that suits their fancy. People love reading comics in trade form, but the problem is that 90% of everything is out of print and relatively difficult to come by. So when a collection picks up a little steam and gets any kind of scarce, you can often fetch that $20+.....regardless of initial cover price. Hence today's topic - gutter gold!

There is plenty of fodder out there available for a couple of dollars that you can turn around at 10X very quickly. This is the best of all possible worlds. No, you aren't going to be able to retire on one sale. But on the other hand, you're never going broke on your initial investment, either. That's the best place to live - your upside can be 1,000% profit, and your exposure is less than the price of a cup of coffee.

I'm spotlighting a handful of DC books, all with suggested retail prices of less than $10. These are all items that can be found in discount bins and Half Price Books. These are all books that can be flipped very easily, because they are aren't priced out of Joe Plumber's budget. The other bonus is that each of these books is a very slim volume, which means no weight, which means you can offer it to international bidders and Priority Mail seeking domestic buyers without losing your shirt on the shipping reimbursement.

Aquaman: Time & Tide
ISBN = 1563892596
SRP = $9.95

Peter David is a known commodity, his run on Aquaman is remembered fondly, and there isn't much of it that has been collected. All of that translates to a book with a little heat behind it right now.

When I purchased mine over the weekend, min price on Amazon was $50. I've since dropped mine down to a more reasonable $30 to get it into that buyer's "sweet spot". Remember, you don't have a profit until you sell the damn thing. If you have a book listed on Amazon for $270, congratulations. If nobody buys it, you've got nothing.

Find this one at Half Price Books for $5 and then flip it for $30. Do it four times and you've earned about $100. Your total investment? $20. That's a win-win formula.

Wonder Woman: The Contest
ISBN: 1563891948

= $9.95

This one will never go out of style, because the Deodato art kills. I've sold this item for $28-$30, and it's a pretty easy sell in nice shape at $20. Even if you pay full retail, a $20 sale is worth it. You're investing $10 to make $6-$7 at the low end of the cycle. Again, these can be found in half-off bins at conventions and used book stores for much less than retail.

Condition is a factor in everything, but don't sweat it much if you're getting them below retail. The market here is a reader's market, which means they'll pay that $20 even if it's been a little loved. At the same time, everybody prefers a fresh copy, and buyers will often pay a little premium for something near mint. If you find a really nice example, don't be afraid to pay full retail for these at all. (UPDATE: I just sold a particularly nice copy of this book for $29.99 on 5/22)

Batman: Darkest Knight

= $4.95

I've sold this tiny little Elseworlds volume for $50 on the good end of the cycle. It's always an easy pop at $20, and you can find it for $2-5 all over the place if you keep your eyes open.

I bought one this weekend in very nice shape for $2.50 and just dealt it for $30. That's a $24 profit that I risked nothing for. Batman with a Green Lantern ring - when is that going out of style? Never. Darkest Knight is a tiny little gem.

Superman: Speeding Bullets

= $4.95

I've seen this cycle down as far as $10-12, and I've seen it hit the $30 range quite often. Again, if you're picking it up for less than $3 at Half Price, you just can't lose. Other items under $10 that I've had success with:

Batman: Nosferatu (Elseworlds)
Green Lantern: Emerald Twilight
Zatanna: Everyday Magic
Superman: Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?
Batman: Gotham Noir (Brubaker!)
Star Trek: Enter the Wolves

- Ryan

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Chronic Breakdown: Siege # 4

Siege # 4
Marvel Comics

Script: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: Olivier Coipel

30 pages for $3.99

So I finished Siege, and I ended up where I started...underwhelmed. I'm not so far gone that I can't render props where they are due. Kudos for keeping the damn thing to four issues instead of eight, as an example. Sure this thing is way overloaded with meaningless splash pages, but at least they gave us 30 pages of that for $3.99 instead of the usual 22. It says something I suppose that in this era, we victims are thankful for our rape when the bindings aren't too tight or overly chafing.

There were certainly plenty of monumentally explodey moments. I'm sure there's someone out there brain damaged enough to lament the "loss" of Ares for the four minutes he'll be gone. Asgard is basically rubble, Osborn is ousted and fully outed as a nutbag, the registration act is rescinded, and the heroes are back in charge. Yay?

Rationally, I can recognize that things happened in Siege. I have a difficult time caring about any of it, though, because it all felt less like a story and more like a corporate conveyor belt. By now we all know how these things are supposed to work. You paint a way too large picture of heroes in preposterous poses looking all menacing. They spout cliched dreck to show how tough they are. You'll need a dozen or so splash pages of powerful people hitting each other with stuff in place of any actual drama. A couple people "die", and then you erase everything that came before you so you can move on to the next Big Thing, which by the way won't remember you.

It's all been done, and that might actually work if it was done well, but this wasn't. Let me show you what I'm talking about:

The Dialogue Sucks

Everybody has their own laundry list of things they need out of their comic reading experience. I need dialogue. I need it to sell me on the characters, people's speech tells us who they are. Speech patterns should be distinct and appropriate to the character's history and environment. Occasionally, it should make us laugh, make us cringe, or surprise us.

So here's Nick Fury, the overconfident cigar-chomping military guy who's forgotten more trauma than most heroes will ever see. He should have a better rejoinder than "You bet you will." It's boring, and it's beneath the character. I don't think "toots" is a very clever choice, either. It's not a crime, but when the rest of it is so dull, it comes off to me as a dirty shortcut. You want to write an old school character? Write old school attitude, not "toots". It's lazy.

Here's Thor all irritated after the Sentry supposedly blew up his brother:

Again, it's boring. It's stock. If you showed a sixth grader a copy of Journey Into Mystery and then asked him or her to write that scene, that's the dialogue that would get written there. "Take that, vile fiend!" And you know what? I get that it's difficult to have a real good handle on all of those different characters, and I get that not everybody can be Gail Simone and just knock it out of the park every time.

But dialogue is supposed to be Bendis's wheelhouse - what the hell happened? Here's your major comedic moment in an unnecessary splash page featuring Spider-Man:

That isn't funny, or clever, or interesting. If you're going to waste that kind of space for a "zinger", make it count. This is the best we could come up with for our special event? This is the filet mignon of comedy? Let a dozen 8th graders re-write the line, and I bet eight of them score more laughs.

Here's the thing that bothers me the most, though...

Unsupported, Unfulfilling, Illogical "Big Moments"
Here's Steve Rogers passing the torch at the end of Siege:

Where the hell does that come from? Did I miss something? What happened that told Steve that Bucky is the guy now? It certainly wasn't anything that happened inside of Siege proper. Steve certainly seemed to have things under control when he was holding a casual conversation with Nick Fury while doing battle inside of the Siege: Secret Warriors one shot.

You can't have an impactful epiphany with no set-up. Captain America has been a huge part of Steve's life for a long time. He's not going to give that up on a lark. It needs to make more sense than "Well, we have this Secret Avengers book coming out next month." It's fine if you have that....but then tell the story in such a manner that the transition seems natural, even imperative.

Siege did nothing of the sort. It's irritating to read that scene, because it's telling me that I'm an idiot who should just roll over and accept whatever is said. Well... no. I'm an entirely different kind of idiot. You can't just say it, at least not on my watch. It has to make sense inside the story, or it feels like a cheat. And this was a cheat.

Same thing goes for registration, frankly. True, Osborne probably put a sour taste in people's mouths over his stewardship of the law....but that doesn't make the law illegitimate. That means you don't hire somebody with a clinical psychosis to run the damn thing.

Siege didn't build up a case inside the narrative that would lead me to believe the public would suddenly abandon the concept of responsible, accountable use of powers. This is not as egregious and out of left field as the Cap thing. There are people who would recognize that it was the unlicensed heroes who stepped in and stopped the chaos that the licensed folks caused.

To me, though, there is no case for the obvious abolishment of registration. There is an obvious case for Marvel wanting to return to the status quo and forget all the earth shattering "never be the same" moments of 2005. But inside the story, it feels hollow to me.

In the end, Siege reads like a giant action piece, full of sound and fury, and signifying the next step in the conveyor belt of money. This was not a story. This was a series of explosions designed to distract us from the fact that we paid $15.96 for a commercial about the next 19 Avengers books they want to sell us. Color me unsatisfied.

- Ryan

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Chronic Interview: Anthony Del Col of Kill Shakespeare!

Kill Shakespeare
IDW Comics

Scripts: Anthony Del Col & Conor McCreery
Pencils/Inks: Andy Belanger

If you're a character in a Shakespearean play, the odds are good that a bitch. In heat. With advanced rabies.

Take Hamlet, for example. His father is dead and he killed the wrong guy in revenge. His mother won't speak to him, there's no Zoloft to curb his anxiety, he's hallucinating, and now he's being exiled to England.

Things look pretty bleak for Hamlet, but a "chance" meeting with Richard III proves that he is not alone. Richard offers him his father back, and a chance to get at the real source of their problems. You see, there's a mad wizard beyond the veil running things like a sadistic dictator - and it's time to Kill Shakespeare!

Intrigued yet? You should be. This is a hook so epic it created a new segment on Chronic Insomnia # 136: The Buzz Book. Kill Shakespeare has continued to buzz at high volume since issue # 1 hit the stands on April 14. Frank Miller's girlfriend (and noted Shakespearean scholar) Kimberly Cox called it a stinking turd of a comic book that made her want to throw up in her mouth on Bleeding Cool.

But Aint it Cool News declares that "...Kill Shakespeare will probably please each and every one of you out there", and Mike Carey says that "...McCreery and Del Col get it gloriously right".

There's a small schism of opinion on Kill Shakespeare, is what I'm saying. So what's the real story? Find out on Chronic # 141 when we interview Kill Shakespeare co-creator/writer Anthony Del Col!

This isn't just about comics, folks. This is a group that raised $350,000 in capital for the project, and possibly have an eye toward world domination. We're talking about writers accused of Shakespearean ignorance who went through 16 researched drafts of the first issue and launched their enterprise the month William Shakespeare was baptised and buried. We're talking about a battle between Froofery and Lunch Bucketry at it's finest.

How fun is that? Listen to the next episode of the show, and grab a copy of Kill Shakespeare # 2 on 5/19 to find out for yourself!

- Ryan

Friday, May 7, 2010

Chronic Review: Iron Man 2!

So I went to see Iron Man 2 this afternoon. I bought my tickets online and showed up about 30 minutes early to be certain of obtaining a decent seat. That ended up being unnecessary, since there were less than 20 people in the theater with me. I'm not suggesting that this is a sign that the film is tanking or anything. I'm sure it did well in those midnight showings yesterday, and I'm sure the house will packed tonight. I'm just saying that I caught the matinee and had the place to myself, and I don't think we have to worry about this film challenging Avatar's numbers is all.

For those of you who caught the Nerds of the Round Table show on Iron Man 2, you'll know that I was hopefully pessimistic about the movie. Most of the talent involved deserved the benefit of the doubt, but most of the post-wrap press sounded like tap-dancing around the fact that this was a cuffed and rushed cluster-fuck.

I'm pleased to report that this movie is legitimately outstanding, and does not come off as unpolished or lackluster. It feels slightly less magical because it has to. We've already had our socks knocked off by the first film, and it set the bar in a spot where the sequel can be equally as deft, exciting, vibrant, and yet something feels... missing. There is something missing. That empty space you came to the original film with is now filled with the worst possible thing you can bring to a work of art....expectations.

Also you're filled with a bunch of information from the trailers. I did a bunch of research for the Round Table show that didn't hurt my viewing a lick. I really, really, really, tried to avoid the trailers, because I want things to be a surprise. Unfortunately, I ended up seeing several movies that showed trailers of Iron Man 2 before the feature. And that absolutely detracted from my experience. Not a deal breaker, mind you. But significant.

If this is sounding like a negative review of the movie, let me turn that right around and say that I enjoyed the movie front to back. I have since read reviews of the movie that complain about "lagging" sections of the film, and I found the two hours zipped by in a blink. The other major charge leveled against the movie is that it isn't as "fun" as the first.

And that's true. Iron Man 2 is not a fun movie at all, nor was it designed to be. Iron Man 2 takes Tony Stark down a very dark road, not everybody is happy with him for much of the film, and he becomes a much more human character. Guess what? I liked all of that.

Yes, Downey gets to play the rakish rogue, and there are plenty of good one-liners to be had. But his keynote speech at the Stark Expo comes off with more blatant arrogance than charm, and that's OK. Tony's partying at his birthday feels a little more gross and a little less harmless. That a good thing. That's called, let's take the foundation of the character and move him toward something more flawed, more real, and still true to the path he took in the comics. Is it fun, exactly? No. Was it entertaining for me? Yes, ma'am.

I was worried about Whiplash as a viable villain, but his origins are re-worked in such a way that it works, and Mickey Rourke does menacing just fine. Matter of fact, I don't think anybody ever refers to that character as Whiplash. He's just Ivan Danko, a kind of ghost from the Stark family history bringing home some painful chickens to roost. That works, too.

After watching this movie, I have no idea why they needed Don Cheadle to play Rhodey. Didn't have a problem with anything he did, but nor did I see him doing anything that wouldn't have played just as well with Terrence Howard. Also, based upon my viewing I don't see audiences coming out with a clamoring for more War Machine. That nod goes to...

Black Widow. Scarlet Johansson was fantastic. She sells the capable assistant, she sells the competent super-spy, and she sells the action sequences on top of it. There is nothing sexier than watching Scarlet Johansson clear out Hammer, inc. of hired muscle. She also plays her character with just the barest trace of some vaguely European sounding accent, which is perfect. Romanov wouldn't run around spouting thick Russian, she's blending into an American firm.

I could definitely see interest in that character spiking, and they even have a new ongoing Black Widow book in place to potentially capitalize. The downside is that Marjorie Liu has her getting her ass beat badly straight out of the gate, which will seem like a downer for newbies interested in watching the strong woman they just saw on screen. Shame, really.

What else, what else...oh. Avengers stuff. Here's where the filmmakers are in a bit of a pickle, because they don't know what the other films are really going to do, hell, they didn't really know what THEY were going to do until somebody yelled "Action!" So they need to set up the Avengers film a bit, but they can't really commit to much, because it's all up in the air.

What they chose to do was take SHIELD/Coulson and give them a little more balls, which was great. Coulson was not some bumbler begging for an appointment, and SHIELD was an entity with a rich history and bigger problems than Iron Man, not a paper tiger still feeling out what to call itself. There is an "Avenger Initiative", but there are no details beyond that. Cap's shield sort of makes an appearance. Thor's hammer definitely does. And that's about the best we can hope for, is to have this movie acknowledge that such things exist while avoiding details that will inevitably have to be backtracked upon. It's satisfactory.

Olivia Munn! No, she is not Iron Maiden. In fact, she's completely expendable in this picture, taking up about 7 seconds of screen time posing as a Giuliana Depandi wannabe. Stark's big opening got major axing. That Gwynneth Paltrow kiss on the helmet? Cutting room floor. My guess is that Downey and Munn had a little red carpet interview that was flirtatious and fun, and Favreau decided that it didn't fit with his "Stark Disassembled" movie. And he was probably right. Maybe we'll find out when the DVDs hit.

I thought it was interesting to see Stephen Platt listed in the credits as an "illustrator." I don't know if that means he was doing storyboarding or what. Platt put Moon Knight back on the map with his pencils that boldly aped everything Todd McFarlane had done before him. He was about the biggest star in pencilling until he left Marvel and took that Prophet gig that went nowhere at Mach three. Now he's probably making more than Steve McNiven doing drawings for Hollywood. Good on ya, mate!

If you're expecting to see a repeat of the first film, you are not going to like Iron Man 2. It's too dark, too deep, and not nearly smarmy enough. If you want to see the dark side of Tony Stark and to see Stark struggle to rise about that, you're in luck. If you want to see some of the "real world" ramifications of what that kind of technology would unleash on the world, you'll be happy. If you want to see the Tony/Pepper relationship move forward a bit in a more bittersweet and less traditionally Hollywood way, you'll be in good shape. I think my favorite scene in this movie is a three way conversation between Tony/Pepper/Natalya just before Tony fights an army of Hammer drones. Spots like that highlight the Favreau "freeball" method of letting his actors do the work, and boy do they work at times. And yes, if you want to see guys in iron suits wreaking havoc on all manner of objects, that is available as well.

Iron Man 2 is better than good, and I think it's appropriate for everyone involved to be very proud of what they accomplished.

- Ryan

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Chronic Review: War of the Supermen # 1

War of the Supermen # 1
DC Comics

Script: James Robinson & Sterling Gates
Pencils: Jamal Igle
24 pages for $2.99

Spoilers ahead ye swabs, and now ye be warned.

Before we get to the Superman stuff, lets talk about something far more important: the Colgate "MaxFresh" ads attached to the DC comics this week. The Where Monsters Dwell guys were not pleased with this phenomenon. Not pleased at all. In fact, they had a little rip fest live on Air for Episode # 99. They tore those things to shreds with all the glee of a 1960s bra burner all hopped up on Gloria Steinem.

I'm not in love with those Colgate ads either. They detract from the reading experience, it's irritating, and it's redundant since there's a regular ad page for the damn product already in play.

I think the larger concern here is that these people don't have any noses. To me, if I were those people, fresh breath would not be my biggest priority. It would be the fact that I'm missing a nose. It is adorable that these two genetic freaks found each other, though. It gives me warm fuzzies to know that a couple of mutant degenerates can carve out a romance in a world that hates them for their deformity.

I'm so disgusting at this point that my real concern is whether this week's DC books can be considered CGC 9.8 if you take the offending Colgate ads out. Sad, really. But I digest.

Now, on to the War of the Supermen. Kudos to DC for their treatment with the zero issue on FCBD, by the way. It gives you most everything you need to know to dive in. Most everything, any way.

General Zod is riding a very favorable approval rating on New Krypton, and has decided that everybody needs to go to Earth and kick the ever loving crap out of it. I like the "100 minute war" tagline. I like the fact that James Robinson and Sterling Gates have correctly surmised that thousands of powered Kryptonians could take over our planet before you could watch Avatar front to back. Because they could. That, my friends, is a losing battle with or without a JLA.

But wait just a minute, folks. We're not completely helpless. Lois's father is a giant dick, and he plays rough as well. Matter of fact, he gets the first shot in. While Zod is busy amassing an army, General Lane blows up the entire planet of New Krypton with one Trojan Horse named Reactron.

Reactron is down in Zor-El's tomb with Supergirl and her mother. I'm not sure that I'm in love with the fact that Kara gets bushwhacked by her mother, thrown in a closet and "sealed" away from the blast. I don't care how emotional the situation is, it just seems weird to get your ass kicked that quickly by your mom. I also get that it sets up a story moment where Alura sort of redeems herself, but it feels a little contrived to me.

Also contrived is the fact that Supergirl is at ground zero of planet exploding event and survives completely unscathed. I don't care what kind of panic room she got locked into. The goddamn planet blew up. She's dead, dig?

My broadcast partner is not in love with Jamal Igle's art in this book, and I think I get it. Here's a shot of Superman when his little brouhaha gets interrupted by the end of New Krypton:

I don't know if that's concern, or horror, or disbelief. What it resembles most is a man who just ate 10-12 White Castles and is now preparing to take a massive grumper. Igle isn't getting an Eisner for that panel, is what I'm saying.

This series is delivering some pretty big moments, and we're just getting started, because Zod still hasn't landed his first salvo. After inexplicably surviving that blast, Kara grabs a flag and looks like she's going to Earth to exact vengeance on us for blowing up New Krypton. That's pretty cool.

I'm a bit ashamed to admit it, but this thing basically works at the same level that Siege does, except it's delivering all of that epicness for 25% less.

The stakes are appropriately high here, things are moving along at a brisk pace, and I can recommend this to most folks interested in comics provided they're either abreast of the Superman mythos or read the FCBD issue first.

- Ryan