Monday, February 28, 2011

Reviews in 140: Morning Glories, Echoes, Avengers, Action Comics, Green Lantern

Week of 2/28/2011

Reviews in 140 are comic reviews in 140 characters or less; done this way to satisfy a world of Twitter-fied readers who want a quick overview of a comic and a rating so they can decide if it’s worth buying at the store each week.

Book of the Week! 
Morning Glories (#7) – 8/10 
Saying there was an unexpected twist is now redundant. But this one makes the reader second-guess whether the school is evil or the kids.


Echoes (#3) – 7/10 
This issue just retreads the previous issue’s plot points rather than move forward to new information. Still chilling, though.

Lex Luthor’s Action Comics (#898) – 7/10 
Lex being greedy for power is nothing new, but hilarity ensues when Larfleeze pops up – despite him being awfully drawn.

The Avengers (#10) – 7/10 
Interesting hiding spots for the gems are a plus for this issue, while the art remains obscure and messy.  

Green Lantern (#62) – 7/10 
Colorful action sets up a conflict with Krona. Still no indication why the GLs will be going to war with each other.



Green Lantern Corps (#57) – 7.5/10 
An unexpected twist makes for a quality book despite a bad Firestorm cameo.                                   

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Fear Itself and Blackest Night, A Saving Grace

A non-mainstream hero has his mythology expanded upon as an ancient enemy unleashes variants of the hero's signature weapon. No, this is not DC's hugely successful blockbuster Blackest Night, it is Marvel's upcoming event called Fear Itself.

One of these things is just like the other.

DC (more specfically Geoff Johns) took Green Lantern and created a total of eight new Lantern Corps and wove a Lord of the Rings-esque mythology around the character, who beforehand was largely unknown to the general public. Now with his increased popularity and visibility, Green Lantern has a movie out this summer, as well as a few new books being added to his line (Emerald Warriors and Red Lantern Corps).
Marvel is clearly aiming to mimic that forumla for success. Usually big cross-over events involve all of the most popular characters gathering for an epic-scale battle, but after Johns wrote an event starring a B-list character who earned A-list dollars, that formula looks to be getting a change.

As can be understood from the initial press releases teasing Fear Itself, the God of Fear has been unleashed and his awakening has uncovered eight magical hammers on Earth, all of which must be weilded by someone who is deemed "worthy." And in the center of all this craziness is Thor. The story has taken obvious cues from Blackest Night. It's clear they replaced Nekron with the God of Fear, the rings with hammers, and Green Lantern with Thor. To even go one further, all of the Black Lanterns made every character confront their most tortured memories of those they lost. Marvel is taking a direct, more obvious route by making each character confront what they personally fear the most.

The God of Fear and Nekon. Notice any similarities?

Marvel and DC imitating each other is nothing new, but what is more notable is the character-centric formula. For years fans have complained about "event fatigue" with one big battle coming after another and all claiming to have the same high stakes that will change the universe, but usually in their execution manage to fall flat (Secret Invasion, Final Crisis). Changing the scope of the story to focus and expand upon one single character instead of having a large mass of costumed heroes all clamoring for a moment in the spotlight allows for a more nuanced and heartfelt story. Just think of the wildly popular TV show Lost. Each episode focused on a single character, all the while expanding on the mysteries of the island. "Emotions" and "feelings" are strange words to describe a huge comic book event involving super heroes and villains fighting each other, but it is that unique aspect - causing readers to "feel" instead of become over-stimulated by action sequences - that might be the saving grace of event books.

If Marvel can do what Lost and Blackest Night did, and that is introduce some fresh mythology for Thor and keep the story grounded on his character, then fans might be in for a treat when Fear Itself hits shelves. If anything, a change in the format of events is most definitely welcome.

And I will be damned if everyone who picks up a hammer doesn't wind up in a Thor-inspired costume just like a selection of fan-favorites all got a Lantern outfit.

Storm would look good in Thor's helmet, right?

Followup Note: The subject of this article is not about how Marvel is copying DC, rather how event comics are changing for the better by using a refreshing, character-centric forumla as seen in Blackest Night by Geoff Johns.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Creator Spotlight: Josh Fialkov's "Echoes"

Creator Spotlight is an ongoing series of interviews with popular creators in the comics industry, with a specific emphasis on how comics are born - from the initial pitch to the final draft. These articles are written on behalf of Orlando, Florida's A Comic Shop.

Art by "Echoes" artist Rahsan Ekedal.

  *First Issue Spoilers Ahead*

Wrtier Josh Fialkov’s new comic “Echoes” was an original idea about a schizophrenic named Brian.
            “’Echoes’ was born out of my research for my last book, ‘Tumor.’ I stumbled across some of the side effects of both Alzheimer's and schizophrenia while working on research for that book, and it just sparked an idea for me,” Fialkov said.
            Filakov’s previous projects at publisher Top Cow are what gave him the opportunity to have his original story published. 
            “Because I'd worked with them before, I've got a great relationship with everyone over there,” Fialkov said. “After the success we had with ‘Alibi,’ which they created, but I wrote, it just seemed natural to find something else, and ‘Echoes’ was at the forefront of my mind at the time. Because I had that existing relationship, the process was actually a lot easier.  Dealing with a smaller company like Top Cow, once you get someone on your side, it becomes a fast moving snowball. In this case, I was lucky in that I pitched it to both Filip [Sablik], the publisher, and Matt Hawkins, who runs the place with [Marc] Silvestri, simultaneously, and I think the book fit in with their plans for Minotaur [Press] pretty succinctly.”
Minotaur Press Imprint.

            Top Cow’s recently revived Minotaur Press brand is a place for sophisticated, adult, complex books with clear, understandable hooks, according to Fialkov.
            “I think that if I was in any other medium, I'd be considered fairly mainstream, but in comics what I do is so different than most of what's published that I have a hard time finding a place to fit in,” Fialkov said. “Which if you look at my publishing history and how wide and varied it is, you get a picture. What Minotaur is, is a place that does what I do.
“My goal with a lot of what I write is not so much to reinvent the wheel as to give you a new perspective on it. ‘Echoes,’ to me, is a look at mental illness and trauma through an odd shaped lens that couldn't be written by anyone but me.  It's – hopefully – a singular experience between my reader and me. That's what Minotaur has allowed me to do with, I think, some success.”
            When trying to get an original story published, Fialkov noted the importance of networking and persistence.
            Once I'd established myself, sold “Elk's Run” to Random House, and so on, I started to meet and talk with various publishers about working for them. But you still need to chase and push and prod.  Maybe some of the more successful guys out there would disagree, but no matter how easy or good the relationship is with a publisher, getting somebody to part with their money is a challenge. With Top Cow, I did quite a bit of work for hire – for the better part of two or three years – for them before I was in a position to do a project that I created like ‘Echoes.’ Most publishers won't even listen to pitches, let alone green-light them, unless you have an existing relationship with them,” Fialkov said.           
          “The idea behind working with a publisher, for me, is this: You keep them in the loop and give them every chance to say no or make suggestions along the way, so that at the end of the project, there's nothing there that surprises them and makes them freak out,” Fialkov said. “You want them to be there, at your side, a part of the process. And this is sort of a trick on my side because you're still doing exactly what you want, but you're offering up a way for them to be involved and take ownership over the project themselves. Which means you have someone who's championing you, rather than fighting you. They want the project to be great, because it's their project, too.”

The Fialkov himself. Image from

            In the first issue of “Echoes,” the protagonist finds a chest full of dolls made from the remains of several young girls; an image Fialkov said played a key part in hooking Top Cow on the story.
            “I think because it's so grotesque and also not something that you see, it's just an effective striking image,” Fialkov said. “And it's sort of the perfect thing for our protagonist because he feels like a puppet, like a doll in his father's games.”
            The inspiration for Fialkov’s characters having mental disorders comes from events in his personal life.
            “I'm terrified of losing my mind. My grandfather had a brain tumor, and my grandmother is currently suffering from Alzheimer's. So I see that as a potential thing down the road. And I had some fairly weird neurological issues that at one point or another were diagnosed as a possible tumor to unexplainable nerve damage,” Fialkov said.
            Fialkov stressed the importance of telling a personal story.
            “You need to find stories that you're passionate about, that resonate with you on a personal level, and that you feel have to be told. So much of what happens in comics today is people doing stuff out of fandom or out of Hollywood dreams. But the fact is you have to spend the time to make something magical and beautiful and perfect, and then, all of that other stuff will happen,” Fialkov said.
            Aside from “Echoes,” Fialkov’s other projects include an issue of “The Darkness” for Top Cow, a Jean Grey Marvel Girl one-shot for Marvel, “Punks the Comic” and a new graphic novel “Helltown” for MTV Geek, and an unannounced project with friend Tony Fleecs for Oni Press. He also teased that a movie for his first hit, “Elk’s Run,” is in the works.

Related Links:

Follow me on Twitter @JoshuaYehl

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Reviews in 140: Green Lantern: EW, Spider-Man, Batman & Robin, F4

Week of 2/9/2011

 Book of the week! 

Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors #7  

Reviews in 140 are comic reviews in 140 characters or less; done this way to satisfy a world of Twitter-fied readers who want a quick overview of a comic and a rating so they can decide if it’s worth buying at the store each week.
Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors (#7) – 8.5/10 
Guy uncovers a snake pit of answers and delivers a long-waited-for red kiss.
The Amazing Spider-Man (#654) – 7/10  
JJJ’s reaction to a low-profile death hits a note of sincere sadness expertly crafted with four short sentences.
Batman and Robin (#20) – 8/10 
An unsettling mystery beings, but it’s the Bat-Family scene that makes this issue great.
Fantastic Four (#587) – 8.5/10 
A heroic death ends a beautiful arc.