Tuesday, September 2, 2014

500 Essential Graphic Novels: Sgt. Fury

500 Essential Graphic Novels: Marvel Masterworks: Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos, Volume 1 (1963-64/2006) Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Dick Ayers

 

I certainly won’t get to all of them, but I’m attempting to read through several of the graphic novels listed in Gene Kannenberg’s 500 Essential Graphic Novels: The Ultimate Guide. I started with The Yellow “M” and this is the second stop in my ongoing journey through Kannenberg’s book. 

The beginnings of Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos may be apocryphal, but it makes for a good story. Apparently, Stan Lee bet his publisher at the time (1963), Martin Goodman, that the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby formula could sell anything, even a war comic with a wordy, awful title. Lee came up with a fictional Army special forces unit of sorts, the First Attack Squad, also known as the Howling Commandos, which fought primarily in European missions during WWII. The group is led by cigar-chomping Nick Fury (Yes, the same Nick Fury in the S.H.I.E.L.D. comics and Marvel movies... more on that in a minute.) 


Calling Fury a “take no prisoners” type of guy is an understatement of monumental proportions. He spits out orders, leads missions and takes action like a guy who’s got a permanent caffeine iv in his arm. (Make that both arms.) The rest of the commandos are largely stereotypes with recurring jokes played by and against them, such as “Dum Dum” Dugan, a mountain of a guy with flaming red hair underneath a bowler hat who would rather fight the Nazis than face his wife and mother-in-law back home; “Izzy” Cohen, a Jewish American from Brooklyn who’s also a master mechanic; Dino Manelli, an Italian American who gave up an acting career to serve his country; “Rebel” Ralston, a slow-talking but fast-moving Southerner; Gabe Jones, an African American bugler; and Percival “Percy” Pinkerton, a Brit who’s as dangerous with his umbrella as the other Howlers are with their rifles. 

Most of the stories in this collection (reprinting Sgt. Fury #1-13) are sort of “Mission of the Month” stories with the Howling Commandos foiling Nazi plans or rescuing captured Allies. Say what you will about Stan Lee, but he knows how to tell a story and several of these tales hold up quite well, for the most part, although you can probably predict much of what will happen in each one. 


Jack Kirby’s art is always worth your time, but Dick Ayers took over (with a few exceptions) from issue #9 for much of the title’s 167-issue run, giving it his own expert touch. The tone of the stories balances the ugliness of war with frequent humor, usually at the expense of the stereotyped Howling Commandos. But this is far from a Hogan’s Heroes type of book. There’s a lot of fighting, battles, and even killing (although most of this happens off-panel). 

If you enjoy this title, you’re sure to like the Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. stories, featuring the same Nick Fury, only this time in the world of super-espionage. There’s also the Nick Fury of the Marvel movies, but now we’re getting into some slightly confusing territory that I’m going to (conveniently) leave alone for now... 


I enjoyed Sgt. Fury more than I thought I would and certainly plan to read more. I’m eager to see where Lee and Ayers take things from the end of this volume, which features a pretty nifty Captain America and Bucky story. I’ll also be interested to see if I enjoy DC’s Sgt. Rock (which debuted in 1959) as much, which I plan to read soon. 


3.5/5

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Con Activity On the Rise


I'm very excited about three local cons coming up soon. First, the Baltimore Comic Con Sept. 5-7, which I plan to attend only on Saturday, Sept. 6 with my friend K. While it's no San Diego, it is a pretty big con that I've been to a few times and enjoyed. (Check out the guests.) 


Baltimore is always fun, but the con I'm most looking forward to is the Small Press Expo in Bethesda, MD Sept. 13 and 14. I've never been to this event, and to be honest, I think I'm going to be pretty overwhelmed, since I don't really know that many of the creators who'll be there, although I've already interviewed (with Derek Royal for The Comics Alternative) two guys who'll be there - Ben Hatke and Alec Longstreth. (You can listen to both the Hatke and Longstreth interviews.) I hope to be able to do a few brief on-location interviews both at SPX and Baltimore. 


Finally, I'll be at the Annapolis Comic Con on October 19 with several co-workers representing the Anne Arundel County Public Library. This is a small con, but it's a lot of fun and gets better every year. 

Maybe I'll see you at one of these? If so, please stop by and say hello!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

It's Wednesday... 8/27/14

I think I’m going to need a self-imposed limit at the comic shop today, maybe 10 minutes or so, otherwise my wallet is going to be in sad shape....


I do plan on picking up the first issue of Sundowners (Dark Horse) by Tim Seeley and Jim Terry. Hard to tell if this an action/adventure, sf, horror, or superhero title (or all of the above), but I’m onboard. 


After last month’s first issue, I’ve been rabidly awaiting Low #2 (Image) from Rick Remender & Greg Tocchini. 


And of course picking up Matt Kindt’s Mind MGMT #25 is a no-brainer. 


I’m really enjoying Harlan Ellison’s The City on the Edge of Forever: The Original Teleplay (IDW), so I’m planning on picking up #3 today. I’m normally not a licensed comics buyer, but this is an exception worth making. 

I should just pick up these three issues and stop there, but there are a couple of trades I may linger around for...


I’ve heard a lot of good things about Charley’s War by Pat Mills and Joe Colquhoun and the first omnibus collection comes out today from Titan. 


Also I missed out on the initial hardcover release of Tales Designed to Thrizzle, Volume I by Michael Kupperman, so I’m pleased to see the trade paperback coming out today from Fantagraphics. 



Be sure to tell me what you plan to pick up today.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Graphic Novels Read in August Part I

August is turning out to be an excellent month here at Graphic Novel Universe. Here’s the first part of what I’ve read this month. More to come!

(All works with a + are part of the ongoing SXSW 2014 Starter Pack review series.)


Daredevil Visionaries: Frank Miller, Vol. 1 (1999) Roger McKenzie, Frank Miller, et al. (Marvel) 

Collecting Daredevil #158-161, 163-167. It pains me to say it, since Daredevil is one of my favorite Marvel characters, but these comics just aren’t very good. You should know that while Frank Miller’s name is the headliner for this collection, he actually wrote none of these stories. (That would come later.) Although Miller’s artwork is good, most of these tales are quite forgettable. I’m hoping Volume 2 is better. 

2/5


Forming (2011) Jesse Moynihan (Nobrow)

Moynihan’s take on creationist stories, mythical creatures and gods is absolutely wild, imaginative, colorful and often hilarious. The humor is often juvenile, which may be the whole point of the gods-and-creatures thing Moynihan’s going for here. The first of a projected trilogy from Nobrow Press.  

3.5/5


+ Bikini Cowboy (2010) Fresherluke (L. Frank Weber) 

From ComiXology: Set in the 1800's American frontier, a woman by the name of Whisky Jill must protect a young boy with innate abilities that his original captors seek to exploit.

Together they go on a spiritual journey that shows both the light and dark sides of humanity, and attain enlightenment.

Fresherluke’s Bikini Cowboy defies what we might expect from the book’s title, delivering a truly unique Western adventure story with a protagonist named Whisky Jill - a character you’ll never forget. Despite the title, Bikini Cowboy is a heartfelt tale with lots of humor and plenty of action. Weber’s art (which seems to be 100% pencil work) is astounding. 

4.5/5


Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 (2007) David Petersen (Archaia)

If the rest of the series continues to be of such high quality, I may be posting 5-star reviews for the rest of these books. Mouse Guard contains stunning artwork, which I figured would be accompanied by stories simply too cute to take seriously. Such is not the case. Petersen has successfully built (and is building) a well-structured culture, economy, and society of depth and beauty.

4.5/5


Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 1: Legacy (2008) Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning (Marvel)

I probably should’ve read this trade before watching the movie, but I didn’t... Those unfamiliar with the story and characters (like me) will probably watch the movie and experience some level of disappointment with the book (also like me). The movie wisely cut some of the characters from this volume (Including them would’ve been way too confusing) and tightened up some elements of the story, but there’s a fair amount of common ground here. This is a fun volume, but it seems pretty scatter-shot, taking the equivalent of eight issues to tell about five issues’ worth of story. 

3/5


+ The Black Well (2012) Jamie Tanner

From ComiXology: A dog-faced man, a disappearing woman, a headless vampire, a mysterious clinic on a remote island, offering treatment for "unusual ailments"...

A comedy without laughs, a horror story without scares, a mystery without solutions.

THE BLACK WELL is a strange graphic novel by Jamie Tanner, Eisner-nominated author of THE AVIARY...

Reading The Black Well is sort of like watching a David Lynch movie: you’re not quite sure what’s going on, but you keep watching anyway. Tanner’s book deserves more than one read-thorough, but don’t expect to have anything handed to you. 

4/5


Airboy Archives, Vol. 1 (1986/2014) Chuck Dixon, Timothy Truman, Stan Woch, Ben Dunn, Bo Hampton, Ron Randall, Larry Elmore, Bill Jaaska, Tom Lyle, Attilio Micheluzzi, Dan Spiegle (IDW) 

In 1986, in the midst of Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns, it's easy to forget pretty much everything else comics-related, especially comics that weren't coming from Marvel or DC. Yet Chuck Dixon's Airboy, which was originally published every two weeks, was a fun, sometimes gritty, action/adventure title that still works pretty well 30 years later. Eventually Airboy expanded from 16 pages every two weeks to 32 pages, including backup stories of other related characters such as Skywolf. The backup stories are pretty good and often tie in to the Airboy stories, but I prefer the Airboy's adventures. 

Airboy was originally a Golden Age character, but don't let that keep you from reading these tales. (You pretty much get up to speed during the first issue.) The art in all of these tales (from a wide variety of artists listed above) is absolutely stunning.

(Thanks to my friend Chris Marshall over at Collected Comics Library for suggesting this title.)

4/5


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

It's Wednesday... 8/20/14

 

There may not be that many titles on my list today, but the main one is huge, The Fade Out #1 (Image) by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. This will certainly help fill the Brubaker/Phillips void left after the completion of Fatale. If you’ve read any of their other works, such as Criminal, Sleeper, Fatale, and others, you’ll be on board for this one. If these guys are new to you, this looks like a great place to jump in to experience one of the best collaborations in comics. The Fade Out #1 will also be published in a larger magazine-sized format. I’m planning on getting both. 


Anytime there’s a new Grant Morrison title, it’s big news, so I’ll be giving Multiversity #1 (DC) a shot.


As far as trades, I’m intrigued by the new English language release of a title originally published in France called ZAYA by JD Morvan and Huang-Jei Wei (Magnetic Press). You can read more about it (and view some sample art) here

 



Finally, I want to get the second volume of Hip Hop Family Tree (Fantagraphics), but first I’m going to have to finish Vol. 1. (Which I got from the library, but had to return before I finished it...) I’ve been talking to one of my co-workers who is practically a hip hop scholar, so this series intrigues me. (A box set of both volumes will be out in October.) 


Be sure to tell me what you plan to pick up today.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

It's Wednesday... 8/13/14


There's not much on my radar this week, which is probably a good thing, since both the Baltimore Comic Con and the Small Press Expo (SPX) are coming up soon. But I definitely want to pick up Jason Shiga's new comic Demon #1. Demon has been a web comic for awhile, but I know I'll want to pick up this series in single issues. If you aren't familiar with Shiga, you should be. His graphic novel Meanwhile is pure genius, a sort of Choose Your Own Adventure on steroids. 

Be sure to tell me what you're picking up today. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

SXSW 2014 Submit Starter Pack Review Part IV

Back in March, I purchased the SXSW 2014 Submit Starter Pack, 100 digital comics/graphic novels for 10 bucks. I thought it would be fun to review the entire bundle..... slowly, ten titles at a time. This is going to take several weeks months, so bear with me here. 


My rules: if it’s a more-or-less standard individual issue (36 pages or less), it gets a one-sentence review. If it’s a graphic novel or longer work, I’m allowed to write more. I’ll start each entry with the title and creators, followed by the copy in italics as it appeared on ComiXology, followed by my review. Here we go - hope you enjoy it.

Parts I, II and III

PART IV


Squid & Owl
John Holbo

Love story? Team-up? Revenge? Or merely a pleasant wallpaper pattern ...

This whimsical, gorgeously illustrated title resembles poetry on wallpaper (albeit beautiful wallpaper) more than it does a traditional graphic novel and therefore seems a little out-of-place in a collection of digital comics, but I can’t deny its beauty.

3/5


The Legend of Oz: The Wicked West #1
Tom Hutchison, Alisson Borges

Take a trip over the rainbow to Oz as you've never seen it before. Dorothy "Gale" is a tough as nails cow-girl trapped in our wild-west version of the land of Oz. Follow Gale, Toto the horse of course, and a host of familiar companions as they make their way to the Emerald City on a quest to find the Wizard who claims to have the power to send Gale back to Kansas. Issue #1 of the hit mini-series which launched this fan favorite comic book title!

The Wicked West #1 adds little to the all-encompassing influence of The Wizard of Oz, this time set as a Western drawn with neat, clear lines and a rather ordinary story, even by Oz standards. 

2.5/5


Ultrasylvania Vol. 1: King Dracula
Brian Schirmer, Jonathan Aguilion, Edward Edgerson, Jr., Valerio Fabbretti, John Gomes, Matt Harding

At the end of the 19th century, Bram Stoker ventures to Ultrasylvania to interview its monarch for a biography. But, is this man a writer -- or an assassin?

Fifty years earlier in neighboring Bavaria, King Victor Frankenstein grants sanctuary to a young woman -- and quickly falls in love. But, is she more than she seems?

The answers to these questions will bring these men together -- and seal their fates.

Dracula vs. Frankenstein’s monster in a battle over generations. Much of it works, including the different art styles depicting different periods of time as they move back and forth throughout the book. The story itself involves lots of conversation, some of it compelling, some of it seemingly just taking up space. A good concept that's worth a look. 

3/5


Archeologists of Shadows Vol. 1: The Resistance 
Lara Fuentes, Patricio Clarey

In a world where every living thing is forced to become mechanical, the Authorities punish those who resist the transformation, although all wonder about the real reason for the changes. Archeologists Of Shadows, Volume 1 The Resistance, is a Graphic Novel that has been in development for more than 5 years. It contains well over 100 pages of story and art that combines drawing, sculpture, photography, photo manipulation and digital painting with a 3D quality to it. This edition includes the first 4 chapters of the story along with a full Art book documenting the making of Archeologists Of Shadows. Fans of the Matrix or Lord of the Rings will be captivated by this Sci-Fi Steampunk Fantasy. “Fans of science fiction will surely enjoy this and would be remiss if they didn't pick it up.” Jeff Marsick, Newsarama.com “This story really needs to be experienced not just for its storyline, but also its beautiful artwork.” Dakster Sullivan, WIRED.com “A bold and ambitious project that could redefine the graphic novel industry.” Mr. Pasty, AintItCoolNews.com Visit www.AosComic.com to learn more about the Archeologists Of Shadows series, art, and creators.

I don't mean for this to sound negative, but Archeologists of Shadows looks like a video game. Maybe it's based on one - I don't know. The art is very nice, but I'm afraid the story wasn't quite what I was expecting. Know also that of the eBook's 100+ pages, half of them are art and sketches only.

2.5/5


Department O #1
Jamie Gambell, Andrew MacLean

Department O - they hyper-secret and supernatural team, established to protect the crown from all threats occult. Severely depleted by a mission gone wrong, the mysterious Department O find themselves sequestered for a diplomatic mission, with a twist!

A very interesting start with not much explanation, Department O has a Hellboy-like look and feel to it that makes it well worth your time.

3.5/5


Fatherhood #1
Ryan K. Lindsay, Daniel Schneider

When a father can't get the doll for his estranged daughter, he snaps emotionally and enters a pulp landscape where he has the power to do what he needs. This noir crash of a one-shot looks at how far you would go to make your child happy, and could you go too far?

The question of “How far will a father go for his child?” is answered in this issue, a story that could create lots of good discussion as well as controversy, and includes some nice art and panel choices. 

3/5


H.G. Wells’ The Chronic Argonauts
H.G. Wells, Jason Quinn, Russ Leach

Doctor Who is currently very popular within geek culture. But did you know that the character is not the first quirky doctor to adventure through time?

The mysterious Dr. Moses Nebogipfel arrives in a small Welsh town in 1887. The apprehensions of the simple rural folk eventually cause them to storm the inventor's workshop in an effort to avenge perceived witchery. Nebogipfel escapes with one other person, the sympathetic Reverend Elijah Ulysses Cook, in what is later revealed to be a time machine. After having been missing for three weeks, Cook returns, aged many years older. He talks about a journey that took the duo to the days of mankind's last stand against an alien invasion in the 41st Century, and even further into the future to a time when humans are no longer the dominant life form on Earth.

Originally written by a 22-year old H.G. Wells in 1888, "The Chronic Argonauts" is considered to be the first well-developed use of a 'time machine' in science fiction. It predates his more famous time traveling novel, 'The Time Machine', by seven years, yet has never been adapted for other media. While Wells' version ends with a cliff-hanger, New Baby Productions has expanded the story with an adventure that is influenced by the legendary writer's other works.

Quinn and Leach have done a nice job of taking an early H.G. Wells story and giving it a new look, yet still maintaining the essence of the original tone of the work, delivering to readers a story they might not otherwise have encountered.

3.5/5


Bikini Cowboy #1
Fresherluke (L. Frank Weber)

Set in the 1800's American frontier, a woman by the name of Whisky Jill must protect a young boy with innate abilities that his original captors seek to exploit.

Together they go on a spiritual journey that shows both the light and dark sides of humanity, and attain enlightenment.

The best of this set, Fresherluke’s Bikini Cowboy defies what we might expect from the book’s title, delivering a truly unique Western adventure story with a protagonist named Whisky Jill - a character you’ll never forget. Despite the title, Bikini Cowboy is a heartfelt tale with lots of humor and plenty of action. Weber’s art (which seems to be 100% pencil work) is astounding. 

4.5/5


Minor Acts of Heroism #1
Adriana Ferguson, Kristen Van Dam

It started out like any other forced hangout session with a sort of emo kid in a creepy vampire looking mansion. And yeah, maybe going into the haunted looking basement with a weird long pool that went off into the dark depths of the house wasn't the smartest, but it seriously seemed like a good idea at the time.

Minor Acts of Heroism #1 is a combination of traditional comic art and Manga, one which works well as we learn about the boys Simon and Sergio as they develop a friendship by exploring the strangeness of Sergio’s guardian’s house. 

4/5


The Black Well
Jamie Tanner

A dog-faced man, a disappearing woman, a headless vampire, a mysterious clinic on a remote island, offering treatment for "unusual ailments"...

A comedy without laughs, a horror story without scares, a mystery without solutions.

THE BLACK WELL is a strange graphic novel by Jamie Tanner, Eisner-nominated author of THE AVIARY...

Reading The Black Well is sort of like watching a David Lynch movie: you’re not quite sure what’s going on, but you keep watching anyway. Tanner’s book deserves more than one read-thorough, but don’t expect to have anything handed to you. 

4/5