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Comic-Con 2011:
Still About Comics

Every year at Comic-Con, it's a chance to take a chance. Pick up that book you resisted, or let somebody you only see once a year recommend something. Yes, it's a gamble, but it's Con, you brought a little extra money, and it's still about comics. So here's the rundown on the books I picked up this year, whether pressed into my hand or sought out of my own free will.

The Cape
writers: Joe Hill and Jason Ciaramella
artist: Zach Howard
publisher: IDW

This book got two Eisner Award nominations, for Best Single Issue and Best Writer (well, actually, Hill won it for Locke & Key, but close enough). More importantly, it is not a comic book adaptation of the NBC series. Instead, it's based on a short story by Hill about a boy whose mother makes him a security blanket/cape but throws it away after he tries to fly out of a tree while wearing it.

Sure, it's the stuff of every comic book reader's mother's nightmares, but that's only the beginning. When he reaches adulthood (and for a variety of reasons, fails at it), he moves back home to his mother's basement and finds she didn't throw it away after all. Then things get weird .

As a one-shot, it's a creepy exploration of the ordinary guy discovering super powers trope. But both the short story and the adaptation leave it a little open ended, which this week IDW takes advantage of by launching a three-issue follow-up mini-series. Howard's art is both cartoonish and gritty, even using zipatone effects to show that Eric is a man with only one foot in reality.

As for Ciaramella, he's done a good job adapting Hill's story, which in the "Legacy Edition" I bought, is included, with notes showing what was kept and what was thrown away. Your desire to continue on may vary, mainly because Hill excels at writing open ended stories that are satisfying enough to not need continuing.

Daredevil #1
writer: Mark Waid
artists: Paolo Rivera and Joe Rivera
publisher: Marvel

Yeah, yeah, like Marvel needs my help. But this one got recommended to me by our Chicago-based writer David J. Fowlie, who felt strongly enough to send me a text in the middle of Comic-Con. And I'm glad he did.

For me, Daredevil is a hero whose adventures I buy when the creative team is so good it can't be ignored. Miller and himself, Bendis and Maleev, Smith and Quesada… he's had some good runs. But he's lost his luster for me over the past few years, and I was dimly aware that he'd hit rock bottom – in his continuity, if not in his sales.

Not for an instant did I doubt that Mark Waid would breathe new life into the character. Nor do I believe that it's all going to be fun and games, but that's what this first issue is – fun. Waid writes a Daredevil somewhat in denial – trying to just enjoy himself and live in the moment (a point underscored by a back-up slice of life story), while also dealing with everyone thinking that Matt Murdock is Daredevil. Of course they're right, but that's not the point.

Great art from the team of Riveras finds a different way to portray Matt Murdock's radar sense (though not as cool as portrayed on the cover). Thus it makes sense that Waid gives them The Spot as Daredevil's main antagonist. This is comic book art unrestrained, as free and giddy as Daredevil himself wants to be.

And thus, Daredevil is suddenly a book I want to be buying again.

Evil, Inc.: Annual Reports
by Brad Guigar
self-published through www.evil-comic.com

When you find a web comic so good you have to buy the graphic novel collections, well, you have to buy the graphic novel collections. Guigar's Evil, Inc. starts out as unemployed super-villain Lightning Lady finds a job as a receptionist for a supervillain run corporation, but the comic strip soon expands beyond that.

It veers from superhero parody to domestic slice of life (with only occasional superpowers) to family sitcom to … really? Nobody has tried to turn this into a sitcom yet?

Guigar collects his strips under the umbrella of "Annual Reports," and re-arranges the strips slightly to make it appear as more of a graphic novel than a collection of strips. While the change might be unnecessary, hey, he's the creator, and it's still a satisfying work. My only complaint is the prominence of his female characters on the cover, making it seem like a titillating book when really, it's even somewhat family friendly.

There are six "Annual Reports" so far. Pick them up and catch up!

The Mis-Adventures of Adam West
writer: Reed Lackey
artist: Russell Dauterman
published by Bluewater Press

Get past the likelihood that Adam West, a man in his 80s, is being offered scripts in which he'd still play an action hero. This is really a book about a man revisiting his past, his potential and his possibilities, while taking shots at the idea of coming from a simpler time. And okay, if that sounds too pretentious, it's a book about fun with a little bit of mystery thrown in.

Lackey creates a West that seems reasonably not too far off from the real man, bemoaning his place in an industry that he's not sure he would want to be a part of, even if it hadn't passed him by. He has morals and a belief in what his image should be, but he's still human enough that when he finds himself young and trapped in a bad spy movie script, he's at least curious to know what he might do now.

Unfortunately, he's also awakened too late in the script for the fun stuff; now it's just the danger. And so the storyline looks like fun, fast-paced and acknowledging that it has a central mystery to solve: what the heck is going on?

Dauterman has a decent facility with the art, mostly coming close enough in capturing West's looks without ever truly succeeding. That's not really a jab; getting likenesses down is always a challenge. Instead, Dauterman at least shows consistency so that we can tell that the character called Adam West is supposed to be the actor Adam West.

I may have to check in for at least one more mis-adventure.

OZopolis #2
writer: Kirk Kushin
artist: Gonzalo Martinez
published by
Forcewerks Productions

As writer Kushin reminded me while talking by his booth, we're about to get a whole slew of OZ movies, so his timing is pretty good. But that's not why you should pick up this book. It's simply a well-done continuation of L. Frank Baum's finest fantastic creation, and that's something we may not be able to say about the movies coming.

Taking place sometime after the novels, the second issue of OZopolis begins with several characters turning the Gale house from Kansas into a museum. There's an unspoken but present joke about it being too plain in Dorothy's opinion to be a museum, but of course that's the point: because it's the only thing in OZ not marvelous, it's marvelous!

It's meant to commemorate the end of the wicked witches, but a new, mysterious wicked witch has arisen, causing trouble for everyone. While Dorothy gets carried away (literally), Trot and Cap'n Bill have to save the day on the ground.

And if you're asking yourself "who?", well that is simultaneously the joy and possible problem with OZopolis. Kushin goes deep into the mythology, but at least writes the characters so fully that even if you don't know who they are, it's clear what kind of people they are. I'm not a hardcore OZ fan, having read only descriptions of the later books, but it seemed pretty accessible to me. More importantly, it's a good story.

Martinez' art fits well, too. While maintaining his own style, he incorporates the design work of book illustrator John R. Neill really well. That's not to say that new designs wouldn't work; Skottie Young's work at Marvel attests to that. It's just nice to see a book that seems a legitimate continuation and not a re-imagining.

Notice, of course, that this is the second issue, and I couldn't tell you what happened in the first, even though I read it last year. The only real complaint I have is that it's annual and I'd like to have them closer together, especially since this one, if not quite a cliffhanger, sets up the third issue for summer of 2012. It's going to make a great trade paperback, sure, but I want to read what Kushin has in mind now.

R.P.M. #1
writers: Mick Foley and Shane Riches
artist: Jose Holder
published by 12-Gauge Comics

It's not fair to say that 12-Gauge is more of a regional publisher; it's just hard to get noticed in shops all across the country with all the various publishers crowding for attention. So, before reading R.P.M., I could tell you this much about them: they have a reputation for high-octane books featuring ass-kicking characters, not necessarily super-powered, the kind of books that would if they'd been movies thirty years ago, would have starred Chuck Norris or Steven Seagal and done really well.

And R.P.M. fits that mold with two additional hooks for me: an interesting and almost believable ability in "Hyper-kinetic Depth Perception" and one of the book's creators being my all-time favorite wrestler – but more because he's a decent writer – Mick Foley.

So it moves as fast as one might expect, especially with that vague super power. It enables Revere Windsor to calculate his moves much faster than the average man, giving him almost inhuman reflexes and a driving skill that Jason Statham would envy.

Impressively, Foley hasn't cast himself in the role of Revere Windsor, though it's high concept enough to be shopped around as a movie franchise. Instead, he shows up as "Dominic" near the end of the first issue.

It's a decent read, but had trouble sticking. I read it twice because I thought maybe I'd missed a few details, but no, that wasn't it. It's just moving as fast as an action movie, and if a couple of things cause you to scratch your head, well, you're on to the next page before you know it.

The fourth and final issue looks to be out now, and if your local store didn't carry this title, you can order it from the publisher here.


Derek McCaw

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