Tuesday, May 28, 2013

What Lurks in the Longbox? #38 - The Creativity of Ditko!

The Creativity of Ditko
IDW Publishing
$39.99, color, 203 pgs.
Edited and Designed: Craig Yoe
Introduction: Paul Levitz

The following is one of several reviews that was scheduled to appear in the pages of Comics Buyer's Guide Magazine, but unfortunately never made it, due to the magazine's untimely cancellation on January 9th, 2013.  This review would have probably been featured in Issue #1700, which would have been a huge anniversary issue for the publication.

From the moment readers open this beautiful hardcover celebrating the art of Steve Ditko, they will realize it’s one of those rare books in which every page has purpose.  Whether it’s the self portrait on the cover, the title page illustration, or even the back cover panel, everything in here is absolutely breathtaking. 

Ditko’s genius is brought to life through a mix of early photos; essays by luminaries like Mike Gold and Jack C. Harris; and of course selections of Ditko’s best works, ranging from horror and science fiction, to mainstream superheroes.  Most of the book contains little dialogue, as Ditko’s work speaks for itself.  It’s even more enjoyable in this large format, and a great companion piece to The Art of Ditko, which Craig Yoe released in 2010.
Perhaps the best way to describe this stunning collection is to quote the illustration used on the title page: “You’re holding the book in your hand now, and you’re staring at it…even now, you can hardly believe that it’s yours, that you finally have it in your possession.”     

Whether you're a casual fan of Ditko's work, or a devoted completist, this book is a fascinating look at the artist Yoe refers to as "the greatest mainstream comic book artist of his time."  Highest possible recommendation.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

What Lurks in the Longbox? #36 - The Strangers #1

The Strangers #1 - FCBD Edition
Oni Press
FREE, Color, 28 pgs.
Writer: Chris Roberson
Artist: Scott Kowalchuk, Dan Jackson

Described by Mark Waid as "a beautiful harmony of Jonny Quest, The Doom Patrol and Secret Agent," the newest ongoing series from Oni Press made its premiere a couple months early, as the publisher's Free Comic Book Day offering.  While other publishers release preview pages or even reprints for the national holiday, Oni Press celebrates FCBD every year by offering readers the complete first issue of a new ongoing series.  During past years, they have premiered Spontaneous, Bad Medicine, and even the popular series The Sixth Gun on FCBD.  Oni has experienced success with the strategy of offering first issues for free, and smartly taking advantage of an event that brings in many new readers to comic shops all over the globe.

Set in the Cold War era, The Strangers is a team comprised of three people coming from very different backgrounds, with unusual powers and abilities that are gradually revealed throughout the issue.  As the title suggests, the team's primary purpose is "protecting the planet from the strange," whether it involves international intrigue, or just a deranged beauty queen creating her own cult on live television.  However, this time the team may have met their match, as the travel to the island nation of Hidalgo to investigate why their president has cut all diplomatic ties with the U.S. Government.  When The Strangers find out that their arch enemy O.C.C.U.L.T. may be involved, they realize something is seriously wrong, and make plans to infiltrate the island.  Unfortunately, the team is not aware that the villains on the island are more than ready to deal with each one of their extraordinary abilities.

The first issue may remind readers of a classic television show from the 1960's, complete with opening credits and a closing sequence that is reminiscent of shows from that era, such as The Avengers and The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Oni Press has once again hit it out of the ballpark with this new series.  Great art by Scott Kowalchuk, fantastic colors by Dan Jackson, and an incredible cliffhanger will motivate readers to pick up the next issue, which is scheduled to hit stores on July 17th.  Good News: If you missed the FCBD issue, Oni will be releasing a new edition of the first issue on the same day that Issue #2 is released, to bring new readers up to speed.

Friday, May 10, 2013

What Lurks in the Longbox? #35: The Comicverse #2 !

The Comicverse #2
Awakening Comics
$4.00, B&W, 24 pgs.
Writer: Bianca Alu-Marr
Artist: Steve Peters

There are always interesting people to be found at your neighborhood comic book store.  They could be customers, the store owner, or even a visiting comic book artist doing a signing.  Part of the store experience is meeting fellow fans and chatting about upcoming plotlines, your favorite artist, or the next big comic-related movie.  

With the incredible variety of people to be found at these retail establishments, have you ever wondered what would happen if someone took their store and moved it to...let's say, outer space?

Well, wonder no longer.

The Comicverse is a fun and imaginative series about a comic shop that is literally in space.  Reiko Starr is the owner of The Comicverse, a comic shop that is located on the Tianhtar Space Station, a prime location for visits from many different types of alien species.  Like many store owners, Reiko and his employee Ying Starr (a friendly, if somewhat lazy dragon) have to contend with comic fans, unruly customers, and even the occasional flirtation with a female customer.  However, this particular store also has visitors with the potential to cause a little more property damage than your average "fanboy." 

As mentioned in my review of the first issue (published in Comics Buyer's Guide #1689), the store allows its patrons to actually customize their comics.  This process is done by the use of "smart paper" that allows molecules to set permanently after the customer decides which comic book they want.  Unfortunately, the smart rack device (which has a mind of its own) is not always in the mood to service customers, or create new comics, which can create challenges for Reiko and his staff.

In this issue, one of the store's customers is a little short on funds to pick up his weekly stash of new comics (haven't we all been there before?)  As is often the case in real life, the customer offers a barter deal: an entire case of "Zoom" Energy Drink in exchange for his pile of comics.  Reiko is reluctant, but agrees to the deal as part of a promotional offer where customers can get free drinks for checking out the store.  Unfortunately, Ying forgets to inform Reiko that there is only one thing worse than giving an energy drink to a shape shifter: giving an expired energy drink to a shape shifter.  If you've ever seen the effects of sugary soda on a young child, you probably have an idea what happens next, but I'll avoid the full details, as it has to be seen to be believed. 

In the backup story, Steve Peters gives a nice shout-out to Free Comic Book Day as it's celebrated on a space station.  Just like on Earth, customers enjoy free comics, getting sketches and having their picture taken with their favorite comic characters. 

As a special bonus, this issue also features a detailed specifications sheet on the Tianhtar Space Station, as well as some of the characters featured in this issue.  This book is sheer fun, and one of the most enjoyable and original titles currently on the indie scene.  If your local comic store doesn't carry The Comicverse, check out www.awakeningcomics.com for ordering information for the first two issues of this series, as well as updates on upcoming issues!