Thursday, May 27, 2010

Super-Powered Comics: Ex Machina

The book will soon come to an end with a final issue shipping this July. So I thought it would be great to take a weekly look back at a truly great series Ex Machina.

Created by Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris, the series continues Vaughan’s evil knack for taking great concepts that no one thought of before. Well, except for me, of course. I came up with the idea of a story focused around a super-powered mayor just months before Ex Machina first debuted. Yet another reason to kick myself for not being a voice in comics yet, but I digress.

The first five issues collect in to a trade aptly titled “The First Hundred Days”. We focus on the first hundred days of Mitchell Hundred as he takes on the daunting task of mayor of New York City. The independent minded Hundred is surrounded by a strong supporting cast of staff members and friends. But as I mentioned before, Hundred isn’t just a normal guy. He possesses the ability to talk to and control machines thanks to a mysterious bomb that embedded a strange layer of wires beneath parts of his skin. He used these powers to become a rather inefficient hero named the Great Machine, but quickly realized his superhero career would take him nowhere fast. He decided to run for mayor as an indepedent, a proposition that would have taken him nowhere if it wasn't for September 11, 2001. For in the world of Ex Machina, a man able to talk to machines could arrive on the scene fast enough to stop the plane from crashing in to the second tower. With hundreds saved, Mitchell was a shoe in for the office.

His first few days don’t go as easily as he might like, as a controversial art show and a mysterious murder spree put a crink in to his position, all while a terrible snowstorm occurs outside. Vaughan gives us everything we need to know to understand Mitchell as a man and his history as the Great Machine, while also leaving dozens of questions still open. It is much the same tact, he took with the early issues of Y: The Last Man, but the more focused narrative of Ex Machina makes it feel less blatant.

Tony Harris comes from the school of photo-referenced art, but unlike some of the more modern purveyors of such art, he seems to be clearly still putting pencil to paper. While his poses and his motions always show amazing human grace, they never suffer from the photoshopped filtered look of many recent artists. Much like he did a decade before for Starman, Harris sets out to make this book his own. It shows on every page.

If it hasn’t been made clear, I love this series. Great story, great art, and a clever concept all combine to make one of the most compelling comics of the last few years. Give it a try. Highly Recommended.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Super-Powered Comics: Diamond Destinations May 2010 (for July)

We are running behind with Diamond Destinations this month as I seek to play catch up on all my writing post-Script Frenzy. So let’s waste no time and go straight in to the Previews.

p. 24: Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom #1: The classic Gold Key hero returns more than a decade after his Valiant incarnation came to an end. Doctor Solar is a character with great potential, a human with godlike powers and a fragile sense of his own humanity. Watchmen’s Doctor Manhattan owes a lot to him, and much like in his Valiant incarnation, writer Jim Shooter knows it. This time his history seems less convoluted than at Valiant. With Dennis Calero’s masterful art, this one came off as a winner in its Free Comic Book Day preview. Let’s hope it stands just as tall when this series debuts.

p. 69: Brightest Day: The Atom Special #1: Ray Palmer gets a new lease on life at DC in this one shot. An interesting creative team is really the selling point here, as celebrated indy writer/artist Jeff Lemire (Sweet Tooth, Essex County) teams with former Dynamo 5 penciler Mahmud Asrar to bring the Atom’s further adventures, first here and then in the back-ups in Adventure Comics, also starting this month.

p. 78: Batman: Odyssey #1: I am probably an odd choice to push the merits of Neal Adams’ art. I came to know of the legendary caretor through his old Continuity Comics (pre-Deathwatch 2000, thank you very much). But I would be lying if I said I wasn’t excited to see him return to Batman with this six-issue limited series. And bravo to DC for continuing to know that if they want to charge me $4 for a book they better give me 40 pages.

p. 90: Mighty Crusaders #1: DC dropped the ball with their initial two Red Circle offerings. No one was going to jump on two books made up of completely unknown heroes for $4 each. But this second wave might have a better chance as the combined heroes of the Red Circle are now members of a government super team called the Mighty Crusaders. This is only a six issue limited, so I encourage everyone to give this book a try. I think DC has been hit or miss with the Red Circle characters, but this may very well be their last chance to shine.

p. 110: Welcome to Tranquility: One Foot in the Grave #1: I was a huge fan of this book’s initial 12 issue run. Let’s hope they can do as well the second time around.

p. 142: True Blood #1: I enjoy True Blood as a television series but I must express doubt as to its quality as a comic. That being said, David Tischman and David Messina are both solid talents, so you never know with this one.

p. 163: X-9: Secret Agent Corrigan #1: Chris Sims chose in his look at Previews to focus on the other book on this page, Pureheart the Powerful, another fine choice. But I am thoroughly excited to see X-9 by the great team of Goodwin and Williamson collected. I am more than a little disappointed at the continued price of $50 for many of these collections however. I really hope that IDW will realize some of us are on a budget and give us paperback follow ups to these hardcover editions.

p. 170-171: Invincible #75 and Walking Dead #75: I have made it clear I think that I am an unrepentant Robert Kirkman mark, so these two giant size issues have me excited beyond belief. And not just for the third Science Dog adventure. Kirkman likes to throw in big plot changers in his anniversary issues. Expect these two to be no different.

p. 178: Officer Downe: I know absolutely nothing about artist Chris Burnham, but I know Joe Casey can write some really crazy comics. And Burnham has provided this book with art I can only describe as Bruce Timm meets Geof Darrow. It looks freakin’ amazing.

p. 200: Artifacts #1 (of 13): Top Cow under Ron Marz has been building to this book literally for years. I don’t know how meritous it will prove to be, but I for one am just interested in seeing all of the 13 artifacts we were promised.

p. 220: Boneyard: Resurrected #1: I have read this series before, in black and white from NBM. From the sounds of it, I may have been the only one. Now Richard Moore has brought the book back, in color, through his new publishers Antarctic Press. If you haven’t read it before, I highly recommend you check the book out. Moore is an amazing artist, and his story of Michael Paris and the monsters of Raven’s Hollow is one well worth picking up.

p. 265: CBGB #1: I have no idea what the merits of a CBGB comic are, but this does feature a story by Phonogram’s Kieron Gillen and a cover by the always amazing Jaime Hernandez that was worth sharing IMHO.

p. 276: Pat Lee’s Widow Warriors #1: It is rare that I will single out a comic for this reason, but I highly recommend everyone avoid this comic. Pat Less has prven himself one of the douchiest talents in comics, repeatedly taking the money and running. I am honestly disappointed to see Dynamite pick up this book.

p. 280: Green Hornet: Parallel Lives #1: Since I took time to tell you not to buy one of their books, I thought I would take a second to focus on one of their other new titles. I have enjoyed the relaunch of Green Hornet at Dynamite with Kevin Smith’s story starting rocky and really coming together, while Matt Wagner’s Year One was great from the get go. This one is a prequel to the upcoming movie, so make of that what you will. I will say it is written by a great young talent in Jai Nitz though.

p. 292: Avatar of the Futurians #1: I am not going to lie and say that its title is not based on marketing off a certain record-setting motion picture, but I will say that this book does bring back Dave Cockrum’s classic superteam. I own every other issue of the Futurians (all eight) and always thought they were loaded with potential. I hope the new creative team of DAvid Miller and Greg LaRocque can bring out all the potential these characters were loaded with from the beginning.

p.312: I am Legion: John Cassaday draws some really pretty things, and this is a collection of 144 pages of those pretty things. Don’t ask me what its about. Something with World War II and the supernatural. All I know is it was released in France years ago, and has been partially released in America at two different times. This will be the very first time anyone can get the entire series in one package.

p. 314 & 315: Captain Action Season Two #1 and Honey West #1: Two new series from Moonstone continue their tradition of pulp excellence. The classic sixties toy line and the classic spy series are both getting new leases on life there, and I am thoroughly excited about both. But Honey West in the hands of Trina Robbins and Cynthia Martin really stands out as being potentially amazing.

p. 321: Sixth Gun #2: I loved the Free Comic Book Day first issue of this western book, and highly recommend it for fans of supernatural genre benders like Hellboy and The Goon. If you missed the first issue at your comic shop, they are also re-releasing it on the facing page.

p. 322: Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour: It goes without saying, but I will say it anyway. Buy this book.

p. 328-29: Hotwire: Deep Cut #1: In the last couple years, Steve Pugh has developed one of the most gorgeous art styles of anyone anywhere. It is on full display here, as he writes and draws the sequel to the series he co-created with Warren Ellis.

p. 362: Back Issue #42: Regular readers have seen me down this route before, but I cannot recommend this magazine enough. This month’s theme is the Wild West, complete with a Jonah Hex cover.

p. 380: Peeping Spidey: I cannot say for sure what it is, but I really love this Marvel t-shirt. Good stuff.

p. 429: Star Wars Chopsticks: After months of delay, these things are finally coming out. And I declare them awesome.

Pulp Empire: Now Accepting Submissions for Volume Two!

Pulp Month is over, but the work of Pulp Empire is far from done. We really do want to help continue the pulp fiction revolution through our website and print media, and to do that we need to continue bringing new pulp fiction to the market! So we are out to find stories by you, the pulp fiction and superhero loving fans of America, for the upcoming second volume of our Pulp collections!

You can check out our submissions page for more details!

This is everyone's chance to get in on the ground floor of a great initiative. I hope to see some submissions come our way soon!