Podcast - Episode 115: Best of the Rest

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We thought we'd give some of the OTHER comic book publishers some love this week. We don't hide the fact that this is primarily a superhero podcast, and that our first love is superhero-based comic books, but there are so many great comic book publishers and Dave is on the front lines of seeing what they are putting out each week, so we thought we'd check in. Most of them publish superhero books too!

Here's that delightful article about the drama that went down on the Jeremy Renner app. I'll miss that crazy app.

Thanks for listening!

Even When Stripped of His Fantastic Powers, John Buys Comics

I bought comics! And now you get to read about them!

Flashpoint No. 2 (and about a million miniseries) (DC)


Why it's Here: I'm honestly not sure. Is it because I feel like I should at least make a pass at reviewing DC's Summer crossover? Because I want to see what kind of tomfoolery is going to spark the Big Reset in September? Is it just that I'm a sucker for an alternate universe story? No idea.

Non Spoiler Summary: The Reverse Flash has messed with time and now Everything is Different and Crazy and Dark. Batman is Thomas Wayne! Atlantis done blowed up most of Europe! Dogs are marrying cats!

The Very Best Thing About It: There's a lot of decent alternate-universe-everything-is-different stuff going on: less-used characters like Shade the Changing Man and the Outsider rub elbows with interestingly-tweaked versions of old standards such as the five-kids-and-a-tiger version of Captain Marvel Thunder. Plus it's always fun to see Dr Thirteen.

The Very Worst Thing About It: It just feels a bit... tepid. A lot of the characters in this world have clear motivations (stop the war between Atlantis and the Amazons, don't get killed, steal things, etc) but the series itself lacks any sort of clear reason for being. The world has changed because Reverse Flash did... something, or a lot of things, right? And he did it to... mess with the Flash? To what end? Honestly, the Sadistic Mastermind Who Hatches Overly-Elaborate Schemes and Gloats All the Time villain archetype is near universally the most tedious and irritating thing in comics. Reverse Flash is Hush is terrible and the world that he has created has no dramatic reason to exist. If it wasn't being played up as a BIG! FAT! IMPORTANT! CROSSOVER! this could just be a standalone Flash story with no consequences outside of his own book, and not many there.

I might take all this back if some later issue reveals that, say, the absence of Barry Allen caused the heroes to lose during the original Crisis and this is the shitty final

Also, the entire series takes place at night or under heavy cloud cover. THE WORLD IS LITERALLY DARK and the symbolism heavy-handed.

Who Made It: A Geoff Johns joint. Plus a lot of artists and auxiliary writers.

Closing Comments: I'm going to give this thing a couple of more chances. This means that I am part of the event problem. I feel terrible about this.

The Tooth (Oni)


Why It's Here: It's an original graphic novel about an anthropomorphic tooth that fights monsters. That's amazing.

Non Spoiler Summary: Think old Man-Thing or Swamp Thing: the travels and travails of an improbable creature and its human cohorts in a world crawling with demons and monsters and dark science. And it's framed as a story arc in a long-running series, complete with letters pages and callbacks to non-existent continuity. Fun!

The Very Best Thing About It: That it's a pretty much perfect recreation of the Weird Wandering Monster subgenre from days of yore, complete with purple narration and crazy monsters and an internal mythology that makes things like a tooth monster that splits its time between killing things and living in a dude's mouth make sense.

The Very Worst Thing About It: My boss just expressed interest in the odd book sitting on my desk, whereupon I realized that there was no way for me to explain it to a layperson without sounding like a crazy man. That's unfortunate.

Who Made It: Cullen Bunn and Shawn Lee wrote it and Matt Kindt drawed it.

Isle of 100,000 Graves (Fantagraphics)

Why I'm Keeping This Short: It's a Jason comic. Do you like those? Then you will like this. Do you not like those? You won't like this. If you have no idea what I'm talking about... Do you like the idea of a slice-of-life story in a very strange setting where all of the characters are idiosyncratically-drawn anthropomorphic dogs and birds? Well there you go then.

50 Girls 50 (Image)

Why I'm Keeping This Short: Because there's only so much you can say about this story if you're not getting mad about it. It's got a dumb title (at least I think it does, because that's the way it's written in the indicia) and a generic sci-fi story with really nice art - the only really remarkable thing about it is the number of plot hoops that Doug Murray and Frank Cho jumped through in order to set up their cheesecake-fest. "Earth is starving and we need to find another planet! Look, a wormhole that messes up the Y chromosome - better send a spaceship full of hot science-babes to look for one." "Oh, no! This jungle planet we landed on has a crazy atmosphere that dissolves plastic! We are forced to wander around in tiny scraps of cloth and spear-fight giant insects until we can find a way off!" And so on. If Frank Cho's jungle ladies appeal to or repulse you, this book is likely to do the same.

Criminal: The Last of the Innocent (Icon)

Why I'm Keeping This Short: Because I foolishly have not read any Criminal before and I have no idea if discussing the plot of this issue will be spoilery. Succinctly, it is excellent.

A Fresh New Year: Time For the Best of 2010

Well hell. This has been sitting here as a draft for two days. Pretend that didn't happen.

Yes, everything is shiny and new in 2011 and my hose is abuzz with the sounds of my girlfriend tossing things out to make room for all the junk sweet loot that we were presented with over the last week or so. Time to look back on 2010 and lay down some opinions on just what the very best graphical literature to come out over the course of the year was.

I made up a list that was about a million items long and managed to whittle it down to the ten comics, graphic novels, trade paperbacks or whatever that brought me the largest amount of joy this year - no other judging criteria were used. Also, they will be presented in alphabetical order because I am far too lazy to go through the agony of numbering them in either ascending or descending order.

Axe Cop


Hey, it's this again! Yes, it may have just came out a couple of weeks ago but this trade definitely deserves its place on the list of greatest joy-givers. The team of 6 year-old Malachai Nicholle and his 30 year-old brother Ethan produce some of the most legitimately hilarious comics I have ever encountered. You can tell that every idea that Malachai puts forth is chosen for its complete awesomeness and delivered with supreme enthusiasm, while Ethan displays not only impressive technical ability (translation: his drawings are totally sweet) but is an important secondary storyteller as he chooses when to interpret what his brother says literally and when to embellish or downplay in order to create a smoothly-flowing narrative.

Plus, you know, it has a scene where everyone in London soils themselves simultaneously, which is pretty funny.

Crogan's March


Huh. Oni's website claims that this came out last December. Well, no matter, because I didn't see it until February and it's great and I love it.

Crogan's March is the second in the Crogan Adventures by Chris Schweizer, the first being Crogan's Vengeance which came out in 2008 and the next being Crogan's Loyalty, which can't come out soon enough. The series takes place as a series of stories that a father tells his two sons about their ancestors - in this case a member of the French Foreign Legion - in order to teach them lessons about life.

The tale of Legionnaire Peter Crogan and his days in the desert is filled with characters who exemplify a series of world views: loyalty, cowardice, colonialism as stewardship, colonialism as bullying. This makes every character in the book compelling and delightful, while also lending weight to both the humour,  horror and pathos of the tale. I can't recommend this one enough.


This should be no surprise, as I've been going on and on about this series all year. One more time: this is a comic by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Bá, about the life of a man named Brás. Each issue takes place at a point in his life between childhood and old age and tells a self-contained story, and each issue ends with Brás' death. The art is as amazing as usual for Bá and Moon, and the portrait of Brás that you develop over the course of the series - complete with multiple potential paths, a web of relationships and enough ambiguity to satisfy but not enrage - is entirely worth the read.

Grandeville: Mon Amour


Another late entry, but Bryan Talbot has scored a decisive hit on my psyche with this series. In case you missed it, here's the skinny: in the late 1800s, the books follow DI LeBrock as he unravels world-shaking plots in an England that has just emerged from the domination of a monarchical French empire. There are fascinating tidbits of alternate history to unravel, bizarre spins on real-world politics, nods to the Euro comics of my youth and genuinely exciting action sequences - a winning combination for ensnaring Johnathans. Plus, everyone is an anthropomorphic animal of some kind, if you like that kind of thing.

I, Zombie

This one is simple: I like weird stories about the supernatural, I like girl detectives and I like Mike Allred, so I like I, Zombie. That might be where things ended but Chris Robeson has really been delighting me with his writing, starting with the aforementioned girl detective stuff and introducing a fairly delightful cast of characters to act as allies and foils to zombie Gwen and her pals as they attempt to solve the problems that she acquires along with the gooky sustenance that she derives from her monthly meal of human brains. Plus: one of the better explanations for the supernatural that I've ever encountered.

Joe the Barbarian

There is some conflict raging in my mind of the inclusion of this one. On the one hand, I've been living in suspense while waiting for the final issue for so long that I'm inclined to be spiteful, but on the other... there's a reason for the suspense, and it's that the comic is just so damned. good.

This is, of course, another one that I've been going on and on about this year, but in case you're new or have been tuning me out: the titular barbarian is a youngster named Joe with a semi-troubled life that includes an absent father, money woes and school bullying. He's also, as of the first issue of the series, going into diabetic shock on a massive scale. In one sense, that's all that this book is about: a kid going downstairs to get a can of pop so that he doesn't die. BUT. Grant Morrison and Sean Murphy have taken that mundane-if-important trip and dramatized it as an epic journey through a disaster-stricken fantasy land, a quest to find and defeat Lord Death. The action changes perspectives between the real and fantasy world frequently and introduces a fair amount of doubt as to whether the other world is real or just some sort of diabetes hallucination. Morrison and Murphy have done something wonderful here; now I just need it to end and I'll be just as happy as a clam.

Orc Stain


I think that the first issue of Orc Stain came out in January last year. It was early 2010, anyway. The important thing is this: I knew that it would be on my Best of 2010 list as soon as I read that initial comic. James Stokoe has created a world that is filled with detail and crazy creatures - some of them functioning as everyday objects like safes or beverage containers - and societies and then filled it with his take on the classic fantasy orc: wild, drunken, violent, nameless savages that ravage the countryside in search of loot and ladies, but now with their own society and with a sympathetic edge that most low-HD humanoids lack. The first six issues have been concerned with getting protagonist One Eye, a thoughtful and talented orc of few words, in way over his head as a potential pawn of the power-seeking Orctzar as he attempts to unite the chaotic orcish tribes and conquer the entire world.

Parker: the Outfit

Richard Stark's Parker novels are basically amazing: the titular Parker is a near-emotionless and entirely ruthless career thief who spend each book meticulously planning and executing a robbery, as well as (usually) dealing with some bullplop that he never asked for. There are very few people who I would have considered able to adapt the feel of those books to a comic page, but any list that I might have made up would have definitely been topped by Darwyn Cooke, so it's a pretty good deal for me that he started adapting them a couple of years ago. Not only has he nail the mid-Sixties style of the first few books perfectly but his strong character design skills ensure that the books' cast of interesting characters make the transition to the illustrated page without becoming the usual smear of bland sameness.

The Sixth Gun

And alphabetically last: The Sixth Gun by Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt. An innocent girl is dragged into a conflict between an amoral wanderer and an undead Revolutionary War general as they attempt to gain control over a set of six enchanted pistols older than the human race. The Wild West is given a supernatural history that is unique and thematically appropriate, the art looks amazing and seven issues in I'm still trying to puzzle things out. In a good way, not a bad writing way - I know that someday I'll reread these earlier issues and have astonishing retroactive insights and be well pleased. Plus: cowboys!

And that's the lot. Tune in tomorrow (and yesterday, dang it) for supplemental lists of runners-up.

Johnathan... out.

John Buys Comics, Gets Around to Reading Them For Once

Firstly, though, a step back. Last week brought two delightful new additions to the ever-expanding John Lair’s library and I wanted to hearken back to them.

First up, Xenozoic, collecting Mark Schulz’s Xenozoic Tales series, which I for one had only ever encountered under the Cadillacs and Dinosaurs moniker up ‘til now, and despite the fact that that is a pretty good description of the series (there are classic cars! Dinosaurs abound!) I like the feel of the original better. It’s less Saturday morning cartoon and more pulpy high adventure, which is also a good description of the series. This is one of the most purely enjoyable things that I’ve bought in a while – humans plus dinosaurs plus strange science is almost always a winning combination, as far as I’m concerned.

And of course Superman vs. Muhammad Ali also came out last week. What a book! I would venture that DC pulled off one of the greatest Superman stories of all time here, an especially impressive feat in light of the fact that this is a book with a celebrity guest star, something that is frequently fraught with peril, but Superman and Ali both work so well both together and in concert, and (and this is important) in the context of a plot that is more than a shoddy background painting for the guest to be showcased in front of. Anyway, about a million nerds have already spouted off about how wonderful this thing is – I don’t have to bore you with yet another paean to its greatness.

I will, however, bring up just how supremely confident the Superman in this book is. Enough of these constant crises of identity and journeys of self-discovery, Clark! Be this guy again, because he is much more entertaining than you have been for a while now.


The Sixth Gun just finished its initial story arc, which means that we’ll be seeing a trade soon, which is terrific. I’ve already mentioned a lot of the things that endear this book to me – the complex morality of the protagonist, the creativity involved in introducing supernatural elements to the Western setting, etc. – but here’s another: with this sixth issue, Bunn and Hurtt have taken the settings and plot elements that they had established thusfar and blown most of them up. There’s character continuity, sure, but virtually everything else is going to be all shiny and new. I very much look forward to the new twists and turns and gunfighters and dry-gulchers.

And speaking of supernatural craziness, Hellboy: Double Feature of Evil came out this week, with art by Richard Corben. It’s excellent, with one of the best twists on the old haunted house story that I’ve seen in a long time, but more importantly it’s a new Hellboy book that someone can pick up without being invested in the series already, which important for those like me who have a twisted need to get their friends hooked on excellent series but know the pain of scaring them away with an enormous stack of trade paperbacks “for context”. Two new Hellboy yarns, some creepy art and my personal guarantee that at least one mummy gets punched out, how can you resist that? YOU CANNOT.

Batman, Batman, Batman. There is a lot of Batman coming out right now and I just keep on buying it, and probably will until it stops being good (and possibly beyond that and into terrible, if the fact that I’m still buying Superman is any indication). Heck, why should I stop? I love the idea of DC having more international heroes, more Batmen of All Nations, as long as they all have distinct identities like Mr. Unknown and the Knight and so forth and aren’t just a series of guys named Batman (or possibly Bat-hombre, Bat-chap and Bat-homme). 


And here's where I get to the part where my title starts to become a lie. I did actually read most of What I Did, the new hardcover collection of stories by John-favourite Jason and his melancholy bird- and dog-men. I haven't even opened Brian Talbot's Grandeville: Mon Amour, though, partially because I'm incredibly confident that it's going to be amazing but mostly because I did a lot of my reading on the bus today and I feared that the sexy badger-lady on the cover might get me some unwanted attention from the sarcastic teens in the next seat over.

And that is that. Good night.

John Buys Comics, August 5th Edition

The Sixth Gun No. 2

So last month when this came out I was running a bit behind, and last week when issue two came out I completely missed that fact. Well, I won't be dropping the ball on one of the best series of the year any longer, no sir!

So: this is (so far) the story of a gun, one of a set of six, that is in the possession of a preacher's daughter. The former owner of the gun, Confederate General Oliander Bedford Hume, is dead and shackled to his casket by chains of cold iron, yet he is pursuing her, aided by the holders of the other five: his wife and four Apocalypse-themed riders. Her only ally in trying to escape the grim fate that Hume has planned for her is Drake Sinclair, a thoroughly unscrupulous and quite mysterious rogue.

Here are the four excellent things about this series: One and Two: the writing and art. Both are top-notch. The book is a joy to look at and reads like nobody's business. Three: it manages to capture the same sense of amorality that the Old West of, say, Sergio Leone has. It is a terrible place, where evil and atrocity can really shine.

Fourth: this is one of the few places that I've really ever seen magic and the occult modernized successfully. Usually, were one to read a tale involving cowboys fighting over a magic artifact then that object would be the Spear of Destiny or something else form long ago. The Hell-forged revolvers and oracular lynching victims of The Sixth Gun are highly satisfying extensions of the mythologies of the past into the present (well, almost. In geologic terms). Why shouldn't the mystical grow and change along with everything else, after all?

Just plain great, on all fronts.

Warlord of Io

I love James Turner's comics, and not just because I get to talk about vector graphics every time another one comes out (honestly, I know nothing about 'em. I just like writing "vector graphics" - the words roll off the typing fingers).  

If you've been reading my blatherings about comics for long enough then you may recall that Warlord of Io had a single issue maybe a year ago and then moved online. Diamond's distribution policies dictated that it wasn't getting ordered in sufficient quantities, so pfft, no more issues for me. Needless to say, I was delighted to see this collection on the shelf yesterday. 

As for the plot: the titular Warlord is Zing, twentysomething video game aficionado and aspiring rock god, who inherits the throne of the Jovian satellite Io when his father abruptly retires. Zing is swiftly overthrown by a military junta and must balance his aspirations, the good of his people and the demands of ladyfriend Moxy Comet as he flees for his life. 

Setting this thing in the far future and also in orbit around Jupiter is the perfect showcase for Turner's inventiveness - I think that this book might actually include more crazy monster designs than the last Rex Libris trade, which was quite literally about crazy monsters being everywhere. Not that this is an example of craziness at the expense of plot - Io is a lovely little character piece that just happens to have weirdo aliens on every page. Hooray!

Brain Camp

I've managed my time poorly yet again. In keeping with my poorly-thought-out policy of reading books after floppies, I just finished this and it's late at night. Trust me, I would go on but I need sleep. Here are the highlights:

1. Faith Erin Hicks excels at drawing young people in strange situations. Here we have a book about science fictional weirdness at a summer camp. Predictably, it is great-looking.

2. Susan Kim and Laurence Klaven: I hadn't read them before, though I may now have to go back and pick up City of Spies. Again: young people in weird situations. Plucky youths against adult conspiracy! There's a reason I read so many books that could be described in those terms whilst I was growing up and that reason is that done well they equal pure entertainment.

To summarize: GOOD BOOK. And Hicks' art looks delightful in colour.

Kill Shakespeare No. 4

Another  highly entertaining issue! This is the one, in fact, that out-Shakespeare nerded me - I had to look up a couple of the minor characters. In my defence, I was at my most slackerly the year that I was supposedly reading all of the plays. Wait, that's not really much of a defence, is it? In any case: good job.


I have one major problem with this issue, and since I didn't notice it earlier it's probably some form of editorial oversight or the like. There's a lot of olde timey English being spoken here, which is appropriate for something set not just in Shakespearian England but in Shakespeare itself, but there are some major grammatical problems here. Thee, thou and thy are not interchangeable! Oh, the madness!

Writers of the world: I will check your Elizabethan English FOR FREE at any time, it drives me so nuts.

Superman: The Last Family of Krypton No. 1 - Hey, Elseworlds is back! Hooray! And this is a lovely little story about Jor-El and Lara coming to Earth with their kid! Yay! And of course everything is going to go horribly wrong next issue! Yay!

Sparta, USA No. 6 - Yet another Wildstorm series ends. Will they step up with a new crazy yarn for me to read? Who knows? What I do know is that I was taken off-guard by the end of this one. Hooray for surprises!

Hellboy: The Storm No. 2 - I know that I go on and on about Hellboy and its sibling titles, or at least heavily imply that I could go on and on,  but hot damn. Stuff from maybe a decade ago is paying off in this title right now. There is possibly nothing else out there that encompasses both continuity and progress quite like these series do. Okay, there probably is, but I like this better.

Baltimore: The Plague Ships No. 1 - And speaking of Mike Mignola... I see now that I should never have skipped the Baltimore illustrated novel when it came out. Oh for both the money and time to read everything I want to! But enough whining: whether I have context or not the fact remains that a vampire gets harpooned in this book and that that is never not awesome.

John Buys Comics. Boy, Does He Ever.

It was another heavy week for me, folks. Literally, I mean. I had a hard(er) time carrying my comic bag home. What terrible scheduling spirits conspired to have Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour and Rasl come on the same week as my copies of The More Than Complete Action Philosophers! and the second Agents of Atlas trade came in, I'll never know. Mean ones, they are - I was listing sideways all the way home.

Wait, that doesn't sound very heavy at all. Perhaps I should explain something about my bag: It's already very heavy, because I must carry a ridiculous amount of stuff around with me for my own peace of mind. Four more books made it think seriously about gravitational collapse.

Curiously, the fact that my stack of comics contained fewer items this week did not make me any more productive, review-wise. Quite the contrary, in fact - evidently the height of the pile is the thing that'll really kick my procrastination circuits into gear, not the number of items it is composed of.

Which is all a way of saying that I don't have much to say this week. Oh, Action Philosophers! and Rasl are terrific, and it's about time that I got around to reading them, but you probably already knew that. I'm going to confine myself to the two exciting brand new things of the week, Scott Pilgrim and Welcome to Tranquility. I'll save Scott Pilgrim until the end, just to give you ample warning: much as I try I might spoil something or influence your experience or something, so don't read to the end if you need to keep your thoughts pure to derive pleasure from a comic.

Welcome to Tranquility: One Foot in the Grave No 1

Speaking of series that I waited way too long to get into, I didn't pick up on this one until the second trade came out, despite Rachelle's insistence that it was rilly, rilly good. And it is!

If you're not in the know, Welcome to Tranquility (Gail Simone - Writer, Horacio Domingues - Art, Jonny Rench - Colours) is about a small town where a large number of Golden and Silver Age super-heroes retired, settled down and raised their families and got on with small-town life. I keep wanting to make a comparison to Neopolis in Alan Moore's Top Ten, but it's not a perfect fit. Where Top Ten is about a city full of people who have no place in the outside world any more and thus have recreated the wold in microcosm, complete with all the crime and vice that they fought on the outside, Welcome to Tranquility features larger-than-life figures trying to recreate what they imagine that everyday folks have. Of course, there would be no story in that if everything didn't go wrong, so the series is really about non-super-powered Sheriff Tommy Lindo having to solve small-town murders and conspiracies. Only think Hot Fuzz, rather than Agatha Christie. Because of the super-powers.

If you've ever read anything by Gail Simone, you know that she can write characters, and this is a book full of 'em, ones that she created herself, and complimented by Domingues' art and Rench's colours. You've probably seen the preview for this if you read any Wildstorm books at all, and let me tell you, I don't know what the hell is going on. In a good way. Mayor Fury is getting out of prison! My mind is blown! His lawyer wore a suit and cape! That was awesome!

So. As I recall, the first two trades were pretty reasonably priced, so if you check this out and like it but have no idea what the hell's going on I most heartily recommend them. I can't remember if there are gorillas, but basically every other excellent thing from comics shows up at one point or another, including robots and really fun mysteries. 

Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour

Or should I write that Scott Pilgrim Book 6: Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour? Or Scott Pilgrim Book 6: 's Finest Hour? Damn you, O'Malley! Oh wait, book one was Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life, wasn't it? i guess consistency gets you off the hook. This time.

First off, I have some bad news. My theory about Ramona being a fictional stand-in for Kim Pine and the whole fighting evil exes thing being Scott's penance for how poorly he treated her in high school totally didn't pan out. I repeat: Scott and Kim don't end up together at the end. So sad. Why do my crackpot theories never pan out?

Other than that, though, totally awesome. As is required of any Scott Pilgrim epic, this had crazy fight scenes and video game references and callbacks to prior volumes and sappy twentysomething romance. All of my favourite characters got some facetime and there was resolution without absolute certainly. An ending completely in keeping with the quality fun and pure joy that the series has been for me.

Here's where you really, really want to stop reading if having my reading experience taint yours would make you sad. Seriously, I'm going to talk about themes and stuff.

Aside from the straightforward joys of watching Scott Pilgrim fightin' and lovin', this was an extremely satisfying read because it managed to cast the entire series in a new light. My guess wasn't that far off in one respect - Scott Pilgrim has been on a voyage of redemption and redefinition. In light of what happens in this final volume one can look back and see it: Scott Pilgrim making the transition between the selfish world of high school love and the hard-to-attain adult relationship that isn't just high school love with a new face. He's trying to grow up without becoming an asshole (the assholes are represented by the evil ex-boyfriends). Or something like that. What this really means is that Bryan Lee O"Malley has given me a really solid excuse to read the series again. Thanks, man!

And now I must go. Good night!