REVIEW: The Almighties #1

There’s a lot of hype around The Avengers right now.  The movie has made over 1 billion and counting at the box office, and is also a hit with critics.  The Avengers is a hotter property than ever.  So The Almighties, this new comic series by the writing team of Sam Johnson and Mike Gagnon (colorist of The Standard!), seems like a particularly well-timed parody piece.

It should be pointed out that the humor is pretty juvenile.  There’s a group of bad guys called F.U.C.A.S. at odds with an organisation called A.N.U.S., for example.  But this had me chuckling like a fiend, so if your sense of humor is like mine, you’re in for a treat!  Not every joke hits the mark – there’s an extended sequence involving some stereotypical gangstas having a chat that did nothing for me aside from reminding me of the pimp powwow in Black Dynamite – but there was definitely more good than bad.  Perhaps my favourite recurring gag involves the character of Stefanos, an overweight kebab chef with no apparent powers whose presence on this elite group of superheroes is a mystery.  It’s a pretty funny bit in itself, but the extreme lengths to which Johnson and Gagnon push this concept are a hoot.  I won’t spoil it!

Though this first issue is mainly played for broad laughs, it should be pointed out that you actually get a whole lot of plot and superhero action for your first issue.  Many comics would decompress the storyline featured here over a whole arc, but not The Almighties.  We get several action setpieces, and indeed a whole story with a three-act structure, including an accessible opening and a satisying resolution to make this a complete, rewarding reading experience in itself.  And in amidst it all, Johnson and Gagnon have time to flesh out most of the cast.  A couple of the team are neglected a bit (I’ll wait for future instalments to flesh out Maxi-Tron and Mason), but Nite-Fang works as a suitably smarmy reader surrogate commenting on the ridiculousness of the whole scenario, while Ms. F is a bit of a scene-stealer as the divorcee who is using her superhero career to work through some man issues, it would seem.

Though I found the writing to be a treat, the visuals are a tad problematic.  Because the art duties are split across multiple artists – Elonara Kortsarz in the first half, and Pablo Zambrano with a little help from D.C. White in the second half – The Almighties #1 struggles to establish a clear visual identity.  The coloring does go some way towards providing a sense of consistency, however.  Gulliver Vianei (another alumni of The Standard!) gives bold, bright colors for the majority of the issue, while Jennifer Scott fits in with the established style pretty seamlessly on her pages.

It may not be the deepest or most profound comic you’ll read this month, but I had a lot of fun with The Almighties. I’d recommend giving it a try.

The Almighties #1 is published by Actuality Press, Rated Teen+, priced $3.99, and is available now at www.thealmighties.com in regular and Limited Edition Avengers Movie poster-parody versions.

REVIEW: Batman #9

The cover of Batman #9 says a lot.  It’s a reverse of the cover for Batman #4, where the Talon’s head loomed menacingly over the Gotham City skyline, Batman reflected in his goggles.  That image aptly reflected the power dynamic within the issue, with Batman vulnerable, the object of a predator’s gaze.  Here, that dynamic is reversed, both on the cover and in the issue.  We see Batman’s armour now hovering over Wayne Manor, with the cluster of Talons reflected in its visor.  Now, Batman is the predator, and the Court of Owls is his prey.

Snyder delivers a fun, action-packed issue, but as we approach the climax of this storyline, I can’t help but feel that it’s not quite so gripping as the buildup, and that this shifting dynamic could be the reason.  This is soething of a recurring problem in the comics world, and Batman in particular it would seem, given the high volume of quality work surrounding the character.  In the early stages of the story, we are introduced to a seemingly unbeatable threat, and there’s a real air of menace, a sense of legitimate threat to Batman, that this is an enemy he cannot defeat.  We’re drawn in, and think we’re in a bleak noir/crime epic, or even a horror story.  And we almost forget that it’s a superhero story.  But of course, at the end of the day Batman still is a superhero, and that’s a big part of why we love him.  So of course, once we get to the end, that unstoppable, chilling foe ends up as just another villain to be battled and defeated, as the superhero mechanics start to kick in on the narrative.  This largely unavoidable plot beat has proved troublesome for other Batman stories in the past: the mostly excellent City of Crime springs to mind.  Grant Morrison escaped the pitfall by emphasizing it at the climax of Batman RIP and giving us a comeback/”I was just letting you think you’d beat me” switcheroo of epic proportions, and celebrating just how badass and unstoppable Batman is.  And perhaps that was a problem built into the very concept of the Court of Owls: that they followed the Black Glove, and ultimately Batman saw those guys off with little bother.

As I’ve said before, though, something that gave the Court of Owls that added layer of dread beyond the Black Glove was that they weren’t dastardly outsiders come to attack Gotham, they are Gotham.  But though they still make for compelling villains, Snyder does not seem to have been able to subvert that recurring dynamic, not yet at least.  The Talon was creepy when he was a silent mystery figure, stalking from the shadows and bafflingly unkillable.  And the Court of Owls thesmelves were even more unsettling, in that they were intangible, simultaneously everywhere and nowhere.  So, when the Talon gives way to an army of Talons, fought and dispatched with relative ease, their nature scientifically explained and exploited as a weakness?  Or when the Court of Owls is reduced to a piece of paper with a list of names, presumably of corrupt officials at a secret lair waiting to be uncovered by Batman?  It makes them knowable, and therefore less frightening.  It’s a problem that often crops up in horror sequels.  Now they’re just villains to be fought and defeated.

However, having said all that, do we really want it any other way?  The appeal of “Batman in grave danger with no hope of escape” followed by “Batman finds a way to overcome adversity and beat the bad guys” has been built into the character as far back as the old Adam West TV series and its “same Bat-time, same Bat-channel” cliffhangers.  Batman’s been put through the wringer in this arc, and now that he gets to turn the tables on the Court of Owls, that’s quite cathartic.  And seeing how even the most seemingly formidable foes are no match for Batman in the end, well, that’s part of the fun, isn’t it?  After all, as Bruce Wayne said long ago, and has been proven right time and time again, “criminals are a superstitious and cowardly lot.”

I’ve done my critique of genre narrative conventions largely outwith Snyder’s control, but in the actual execution of the issue itself, Snyder’s storytelling was as pristine as ever.  I loved the thematically appropriate narration about the incredible durability of bats when their habitat is invaded by owls, and there are a couple of nice beats, including the shock twist that Lincoln March is actually the nice guy he appears to be rather than a shock twist baddie.  But ultimately, this issue is a showcase for the artists.

Greg Capullo has garnered a lot of praise for his dark, atmospheric, character-driven work on Batman thus far, but here he gets to cut loose with some of the most high-octane action I’ve seen portrayed in a comic in a good while.  From the epic splash of the Batcave’s dinosaur finally revealing its purpose, to smaller moments like the Talon’s blade piercing the visor of Batman’s armour and almost poking out his eye, this is an issue crammed with incident, and Capullo frames everything in a way that it feels frantic and intense, but at the same time every little moment is clearly portrayed, nothing is muddy or inprecise.  And mention should also be made of the inker/colorist pairing of Jonathan Glapion and FCO Plascencia, who do an impressive job of having night gradually give way to morning over the course of the issue’s latter half.  Though we never see the actual sunrise itself, the light it casts on Batman – normally shrouded in shadow and night – makes for quite the potent closing image.

But perhaps what excited me the most this issue was that Rafael Albuquerque – Snyder’s artistic collaborator on American Vampire – was coming onboard to work on the backup feature, “The Fall of the House of Wayne.”  I don’t know what to make of the story itself – co-written by James Tynion IV – as while it was well-scripted, it raised a couple of ropey continuity questions that the geek in me has to ponder further.  The art, however, is stunning, as we have come to expect from Albuquerque, who in my mind is reaching that “comic art rock star” status.  Even American Vampire colorist Dave McCaig is along for the ride, and together they give us some moody, atmospheric work recalling the visual splendour that first made me fall in love with American Vampire.

Any complaints I have about Batman #9 are slight, and probably stm more from me reading too many comics than any substantial forthcomings of the actual creative talent involved.  But still, I didn’t enjoy this quite so much as the best issues of this run thus far.  But I’m still hoping that Snyder, Capullo and co blow us away with the finale.

REVIEW: The Strange Talent of Luther Strode

I picked up The Strange Talent of Luther Strode in single issue format, and had a rather drawn-out experience with it.  I actually didn’t pick up the first issue right away.  I took a skim through it on the shelves when it was first released, and it looked interesting, but I told myself that I just couldn’t afford to pick up any new titles, and put it back on the shelf.  But a couple of weeks later, after hearing good things about that debut issue from people whose opinions I trust, I decided to give it a try.  Almost grudgingly, I liked that first issue.  Damn this title for actually being GOOD!  How dare it, when I’m on a budget!?  I was still on the fence about committing to the whole series, but after much hemming and hawing, I decided to at least try the next chapter.  By issue #2, I was hooked, and onboard until the end.  But perhaps there are readers out there who were like me, who were on the fence about sampling that first issue, but who made the choice to not pick up the title.  And now, like Abed’s “darkest timeline” in Community, that small divergence in path has made your life poorer and emptier.  But wait – there’s hope!  You can amend your grievous error, as a couple of weeks ago, the graphic novel of The Strange Talent of Luther Strode, collecting all 6 issues of the miniseries, went on sale.  If you didn’t give this gem of a comic a go then, you most definitely need to try it now.

The first thing that’s going to jump out at you is the dynamic artwork of Tradd Moore.  In an opening sequence with violence so extreme that it transcends upsetting and enters the realm of the absurd (note the guy whose kicked in the nuts so hard he explodes), Moore immediately captures our attention, delivering us a comic with visuals so assured and professional that it’s incredible to think of Moore as a relative newcomer to the field.  And this slick artwork is very much a trend throughout the book.  I’d say it’s reminiscent of John Romita Jr, in its stark, cartoonish style, but to compare the work to someone else does it a disservice, as Tradd Moore crafts a distinct style that’s very much his own, giving this world a clear aesthetic and tone.  One that writer Justin Jordan cleverly subverts, but we’ll get to that later.

Ably assisted by the bold pallette of colorist Felipe Sobreiro, Moore’s art pops from the page, giving the whole book a dynamic, exciting feel.  His versatility in shifting from slice of life, to gentle comedy, to deranged uber-violence shows some degree of skill.  I’m already excited to see more work from this emerging superstar artist.

But though the incredible artwork may be the most immediately visible asset that The Strange Talent of Luther Strode boasts, the most lasting impression could be left by the story crafted by writer Justin Jordan, another newcomer.  What Jordan does so well is that he doesn’t just sell the central concept and character incredibly well, he builds a whole world around it.  Incidental supporting players become vividly realised characters in their own right.  For example, we come to genuinely care about Luther’s friend Pete, who could easily have become the generic comedy sidekick in a lesser script, but who here shows added shades and dimensions to his character.  Really, the whole cast is likeable, or at least relatable, so when bad things start happening to them or they are put in peril, we are emotionally invested in the outcome rather than passively viewing it as obligatory plot development.

And this brings us to the unexpected dark turn The Strange Talent of Luther Strode takes in its final chapters.  Even with the crazy gore at the start, the tone of this is pitched as a caper.  It’s manic, it’s high-octane, and it’s very, very funny.  So when things turn very serious as the book races towards a conclusion, it comes as something of an emotional sucker-punch.  I don’t want to give it all away, and I’ve probably already said too much, but we reach a point where this stops becoming a blood-splattered twist on a superhero origin and changes into something more tragic and unsettling.  I’ve talked to some people who think of this as Jordan failing to stick the landing, stumbling at the third act and souring them as readers on the whole story as a result.  And yes, I can see this being a divisive ending.  But in my humble opinion, it’s this controversial, thought-provoking finale that elevates The Strange Talent of Luther Strode beyond just being another fun caper into something genuinely special, that will stick in your mind long after the thrill of the gruesome fight scenes has subsided.  It’s not for everyone, but it’s what makes the whole comic, in my opinion.  My advice for Jordan would be to not pay heed to the doubters, and be assured he made the right choice in not pulling any punches.

There have been quite a lot of comparisons made to Kick-Ass, and I can see why: the teenage hero, the play on superhero convention, the liberal dashings of violence and bad language.  But I’m going to go out on a limb and say that The Strange Talent of Luther Strode is better than Kick-Ass: more ambition, more style, and crucially, more heart.  Justin Jordan and Tradd Moore are both significant talents to watch.  I’m onboard for whatever collaborations they embark on in future.  And it seems like the first collaboration will be The Secret of Luther Strode, sequel to this first chapter.  I’ll tell you this: I won’t make the same mistake twice, I’ll be snatching up the first issue of that on the day it’s released.

The Strange Talent of Luther Strode is available now in all good comic stores.

REVIEW: Taking Flight

I’m sure I’ve talked plenty before about how exciting the comics scene in Glasgow, Scotland is.  As the writer of The Standard, I like to claim a kind of weird dual citizenship, where on the one hand I will proudly include myself as part of the ComixTribe family, and talk about what an honor it is to have a fraternity with the quality American comics under that banner.  But at the same time, I also like to claim that The Standard is part of a diverse, exciting lineup of indy and small press comics emerging from Glasgow.  From School of the Damned to Villainous to Team Girl Comic to No More Heroes, and so much more in between, the home of such comics greats as Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely and Mark Millar has no shortage of promising talent.

And that brings us to Taking Flight, a comic book oneshot that sees a union of two such Glaswegian up-and-comers.  The writer is Stephen Sutherland, a new face at the city centre’s Glasgow League of Writers meetings who is making his debut with Taking Flight.  The artist is Garry McLaughlin, who is well known in the local scene both for his DIY Comics workshops and 24 Hour Comic Book Day events, and for drawing such comics as Old Folk’s Home and Good Cop, Bad Cop.  Knowing both talents as I do, Taking Flight is a collaboration I’ve been keenly anticipating for a while now.  Does it live up to expectations?

I think I’ll start with the contribution of Garry McLaughlin, given that he was more of a known commodity going into Taking Flight, and already earned some critical plaudits for his earlier work.  It’s interesting to see the evolution in McLaughlin’s style.  I’ve seen Frank Quitely comparisons thrown thick and fast in previous evaluations of his work, and I’m sure plenty of artists would be happy to carve out a career as a “Quitely-type”.  Not so for Garry McLaughlin.  With Taking Flight, there is a move away fom that Quitely vibe as McLaughlin works to develop his own artistic voice.  His style here is tighter, with meticulous attention to scenery and the establishing of location.  The story is set in Glasgow, and despite no indicating landmarks, somehow the setting just feels specifically like Glasgow.  His characters are heavily stylised, but McLaughlin still makes skillful use of body language to hammer home the emotional requirements of the narrative.  McLaughlin is also the letterer of the comic, and his contribution in this regard is largely flawless… save for one embarrassing slip-up in the inside back cover afterword where he spells his own name wrong!

McLaughlin’s art is ably assisted by colorist Kieren Smith.  It’s interesting, for with all the talk of Garry McLaughlin often being compared to Frank Quitely, Smith’s colors remind me of the slick work of Jamie Grant, Quitely’s collaborator on All Star Superman.  And speaking of Superman, the coloring ensures that his shadow hangs over this story, with flickers of red and blue peppered throughout.  I love it when the coloring is used to enhance the story being told in its own way, rather than just to fill in the artwork with whatever colour will do.

The other half of the equation is that of Stephen Sutherland.  As much as McLaughlin has proven himself, Sutherland is a bit of a wild card, even amongst afficionados of Glasgow’s small press comics.  But there’s no need to worry.  As it turns out, Sutherland is Taking Flight‘s secret weapon, delivering a story that’s filled with heart.  The twist on the superhero is a clever one, and oddly believable too.  This is a world where superheroes exist, but are hampered by today’s suffocating health and safety/compensation culture, too afraid of lawsuits and criminal damage claims to help the ungrateful sods who will then turn around and sue them.

But this isn’t a story of plot and ideas, of immersing us in a wider world of superheroics.  It is, at its core, a very personal, character-driven story, as we follow the trials of one man, Michael, and his struggles to find his way in life.  The story soars by tapping into his emotions, and making them our own.  We can relate to the stifling frustration he feels at being unable to cut loose with his powers.  And when he does let go, the comic soars, concisely capturing the magic of flight, how breathtaking and exhilarating that would be.  Perhaps my favourite part of the comic is Michael’s relationship with his girlfriend, Rosie.  It would be so easy for a writer to mine that relationship for conflict, to have Rosie be unaccepting of Michael’s powers and have a ready-made arc where she sees the error in her ways.  But Sutherland bravely makes her absolutely supportive and loving, and makes her Michael’s strength, the voice pushing him to better himself.  This is a real skill for Sutherland, I think, as in his scripts for an upcoming project of his, Everlast, he similarly depicts a positive father/daughter relationship.  There’s an openness and an optimism to this approach that’s really refreshing.

So, all told, I’d call Taking Flight a success.  For Stephen Sutherland, it is an incredibly promising debut, and for Garry McLaughlin, it marks a transition into more mature, substantial work.  I’m eager to see more from both.

Taking Flight is available to buy from eBay.

REVIEW: No More Heroes #1

Before I begin, I should mention the connection I have with No More Heroes, this dark new superhero series by writer Gordon McLean and artist Caio Oliveira.  Gordon is a fellow member of the Glasgow League of Writers, a collective of comics writers formed in 2011.  In fact, both of us are founding members.  And in the very first meeting of the group, one of the scripts on the agenda up for review and feedback was none other than the first draft of No More Heroes #1.  Since then, I’ve seen that script be redrafted and refined, I’ve talked to Gordon during his search for an artist and his queries into publishing avenues, I’ve looked at the printed pages of artwork he excitedly brought along to meetings, I recommended Kel Nuttall as the best possible choice for a letterer.  And now I get to read and review the finished first issue.  I feel like I’ve followed No More Heroes on the journey from concept to completion, and that might color my perspective of it slightly.  But setting aside any sense of kinship or personal connection to the title, I feel I can safely say with some degree of objectivity that No More Heroes #1 is a hugely enjoyable read, and makes for a stylish comic book debut.

The plot centres around Sid Millar, a regular 20something average Joe who is hanging out with his friends one night when he receives an anonymous text, simply reading, “SHOULD I KILL MYSELF?” After some heckling from his drunken friends, Sid replies with, “YES.”  The next day, news breaks that Dark Justice, the world’s most beloved superhero, has killed himself.  Coincidence?  Or is Sid responsible?

We have seen many stories about the Everyman superhero.  With No More Heroes, McLean takes the concept even further by having our protagonist be an Everyman without being a superhero, showing what life might be like for regular people living in a world of superheroes, and how their life might be affected when superheroes cross their path.  Sid and his friends are a relatable bunch, thanks largely to McLean’s keen ear for naturalistic dialogue.  It’s almost a shame that the plot is given away in the basic pitch, as without knowledge of what the comic is about, the newspaper headline reveal of Dark Justice’s death is a whopper of a left-field story beat.  This is because, in the opening sequence, McLean does such a great job with setting up the dynamics between our ensemble of normal characters, that you could be lulled into thinking this was a story that wouldn’t feature superheroes at all.

There are a couple of minor plotting problems, largely related to the pacing.  Once the superhero aspect of the story comes more to the fore, we are treated to a full-page and a double-page spread in quick succession, which feels a wee bit like padding.  Especially since, by the time we reach the end of this first issue, it feels like we could have benefitted from just a little bit more plot to further bait the hook for the next chapter.  But even so, there’s still more than enough likeable material to make picking up No More Heroes #2 a safe recommendation (even safer considering that I’ve read the script for issue #2, and it’s even better than the script for #1!).

On art duties, newcomer Caio Oliveira handles himself very well.  This is a very talky script, in the first half at least, but Oliveira manages to make it visually interesting, designing expressive characters that have little bits of  business and body language that pop.  And once we get to the action scenes, Oliveira comfortably makes the transition.  I might have a problem with them from a plotting perspective, but from a “Holy crap that looks great!” perspective, those splash pages are stunners.

One thing I will say, though, is that this book could really benefit from color.  A colorist – Goran Kostadinoski – is credited, but according to the comic’s official website, this was just for the cover and promo art, with the actual interiors currently being black-and-white.  I can understand the desire to keep a book black-and-white to keep costs down.  I almost made The Standard black-and-white.  But I think that superhero books really need to be in color for maximum impact.

Overall, No More Heroes #1 is a very promising start.  Dark, tense, frequently funny, and stylishly drawn, I’d definitely recommend this as a series worth checking out.  And Gordon McLean is a talent to watch.  Since writing this, Gordon has shared several other scripts at GLoW meetings, quite a few that are even better than this, and he has several in various stages of development.  He’s a breakout writing talent in waiting, so you should be one of the cool kids and check out this opening salvo.

No More Heroes #1 is available to buy in print and digitally from the official website.

REVIEW: Batman #5

It goes without saying that Batman #5 is the best issue yet of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s run on the comic.  I must look like a total pushover with a reviewer, as I started with gushing praise for Batman #1, and have had to stretch to new heights of hyperbole for each subsequent instalment.  But more than that, Batman #5 is in my opinion the best comic from any title to be released by DC since the relaunch, and could very well be one of the best single issues of a Batman story I’ve ever read as a new-release floppy.  This is the comic I’d hand to people, not just to win them over on trying the relaunched Batman series, but to comic fans who think stories with major superheroes like Batman can’t match creator-owned or indie titles for creativity and ambition, or even to comic cynics who think Batman is just for kids.  In short, Batman #5 blew me away.

To offer a catch-up on the plot, last issue ended with Batman’s investigation into the Court of Owls – a shady organisation that could be tied into the very fabric of Gotham since the earliest days of its history – leading him to the sewers of Gotham, where he was ambushed by the Talon (the Court’s mysterious assassin) and dropped into an underground labyrinth.  As we begin this issue, Batman has been trapped in said labyrinth for over a week, with no food and only water that is probably drugged for him to drink, with no escape in sight.  And he’s starting to lose his mind.

In my review for issue #4, I talked a little about how Capullo’s art was showing touches of horror amidst the classic superhero action.  Well, here, we’re taken right over the edge of that cliff, as Snyder gives us a story that is pure horror, arguably scarier than anything he’s written for Swamp Thing or American Vampire.  Snyder has talked about horrors such as Jacob’s Ladder and The Shining acting as inspirations for this issue’s script (in particular, there is a truly horrific sequence that owes a lot to the latter’s notorious “Room 217” scene), but what Batman’s twisted journey through the labyrinth most reminded me of was the terrifying conclusion to Twin Peaks, the extended sequence with Dale Cooper in the Black Lodge.  “The owls are not what they seem,” indeed.  Both tap into that primal fear, that common nightmare of being lost in a strange place, getting increasingly panicked as every attempt to get out takes you back to where you were before…. and you realise you’re not alone, that’s something’s in there with you, chasing you.

This setup alone would be chilling enough, but I think it’s all the more unsettling in that the victim is as beloved a pop culture icon as Batman.  This is Batman, who can get out of anything with prep time, the ultimate escape artist, who Grant Morrison triumphantly showed us is capable of outwitting the greatest of masterminds and even coming back from apparent death and a journey through time unscathed!  We’ve seen him lured into so many death-traps that it’s old hat, that we see it as little more than a mild inconvenience for him.  Snyder gleefully erodes that notion, letting us see Batman struggle to apply that famous logic to his situation, only for it to slip through his fingers and for him to descend into hysteria.  As the chapter progresses, it becomes increasingly clear that Batman is acting like a crazy person.  And it’s upsetting!  Seeing Batman ranting and raving, screaming and sobbing, tearing at his flesh and digging his fingers into the floor… it almost feels like it shouldn’t be allowed.  But by dancing on the fringes of what you can get away with in a mainstream superhero property – capped off with a truly shocking cliffhanger – Snyder has injected a sense of genuine “how’s he gonna get out of this!?” peril into a genre that is too often accused of predictability.

Though the bulk of the issue takes place within the labyrinth, acting as an enthralling character dissection of Batman, we do get brief bookends showing how his absence his affecting the supporting cast.  I enjoyed this glimpse of the wider Batman universe, particularly the use of Robin, capturing Damian’s pomposity, but also showing the vulnerability of a child whose lost his father.

Snyder has claimed that he feels this could be the best comic script he’s ever written, and I might be inclined to agree with him.  For some time now, I’ve come to take Snyder’s name on a book as a guarantee of quality, but here he takes his storytelling to a whole new level, and years from now I imagine people will still be ranking this amongst his best work.  This is Snyder’s “Anatomy Lesson”.

Capullo also ups his game, giving us some of the most innovative, experimental visuals I’ve seen in a comic in quite some time.  As Batman’s mind fractures, and he’s plagued by ever more nightmarish visions, that sense of the very fabric of reality coming apart is enhanced by the artwork.  The pages twist and turn from portrait layout to landscape, and eventually spinning upside down, forcing us to abruptly start reading from right-to-left.  We’re left as dizzy and disoriented as Batman.  And look at how the page layouts steadily dissolve from neat, regimented grids to haywire, crooked little windows crammed into the page.  This is a visual representation of going mad.

I love the way Capullo draws Batman here too.  One small touch – the visor on one side of his mask being broken, exposing his eye – speaks volumes throughout the issue.  Firstly, it’s a humanising factor, showing us the man, the Bruce Wayne behind the Batman mask, the vulnerable human in this situation.  But as the story progresses, that eye gets more dilated, more bloodshot.  When Snyder’s script has Batman’s voiceover announcing that he is in control, that he can defeat this enemy, that wild, frantic eye makes a liar out of him. Capullo also makes creepy physical alterations to Batman.  Subtle at first, with his cape shifting and changing size and shape from panel to panel.  But by the end sequence, we descend from Lynchian horror of the mind to wince-inducing Cronenbergian body horror.  Capullo’s been doing superstar work since issue #1, but issue #5 could be his best showcase yet.

The team of inker Jonathan Glapion and colorist FCO have lots to do as well.  There is a reversed dynamic at work here, where its the darkness that offers safety and shelter, and harsh, blinding light where the horrors await.  And it’s through the efforts of these two that this works so well.  The light really does feel harsh, the colors saturated under it.  Moments like the scene with the minature city really make you appreciate what an atmospheric, textured comic this is.

Batman #5 is a triumph on every level, with the whole creative team delivering astounding work.  If you haven’t been reading Batman, this is where you should jump on, and even if you have no plans of reading Batman monthly, I’d recommend buying this issue in particular, as I imagine it’s going to become a hot commodity before long.  If you have been reading Batman, you should feel vindicated.  I’ve been enjoying this title immensely, and I already said with last issue that it has become my favourite DC book.  And yes, I’m aware it’s been widely critically acclaimed.  But I’ve also seen quite a bit of, “Not quite as good as The Black Mirror, but…” type comments.  This was in positive reviews, and it’s fair enough, as The Black Mirror has already entered the canon of all-time classic Batman stories.

With Batman #5, this story has now topped The Black Mirror.  If Snyder can keep up the quality, we’re looking at another all-time classic.  I’m expecting Batman #6 to finally break this streak of this title constantly outdoing itself, because I genuinely think you can’t top a comic as good as Batman #5.  But all the same, I expect it to be great, and the third week of February can’t come fast enough.

 

REVIEW: The Hero Code #1

It feels good to finally be reviewing The Hero Code.  I was watching artist Jonathan Rector’s Ustream show back when he was actually drawing some of the early pages featured in this first issue, and it seems like ages ago that I first saw writer Jamie Gambell mention it as an upcoming project somewhere.  Later, I donated to the Kickstarter project to help get this series made.  And finally, a few days ago, a nice big bundle pack full of comics, prints, cards, posters, a badge, a T-shirt and other assorted goodies arrived in the mail, and as I sat down to read the first issue, it felt like the culmination of a long journey.  But was The Hero Code #1 worth the wait?

In his afterword at the back of the comic, Jamie Gambell talks about how The Hero Code is designed to hark back to a simpler time for the superhero genre, when the good guys were good, the bad guys were bad, and the stories were fun and accessible to children.  It’s an admirable goal.  Deconstructionist superhero stories are so old hat that they’re the new norm, and that’s coming from someone who’s writing a deconstructionist superhero story.  So, it’s nice to see Gambell present what comes across as a totally earnest love letter to classic superheroes of old, with nary a sly wink in sight.  Making an impressive about turn from the grim, horror-orientated fare of Omnitarium, Gambell succeeds in making the story kid-friendly, too – dialling back on any bad language or violence – but at the same time not pandering to kids or patronising them, instead trusting them to keep up with a plot detailed enough to interest adult readers as well.

In terms of the plot, the main body of this issue revolves around introducing our central trio of heroes, each seemingly serving as a pastiche of one of DC’s iconic trinity.  As such, we get Optiman in place of Superman, Myth seemingly sharing traits with Wonder Woman, and The Black Wraith, a shadowy figure thriving on the fear of the criminal underworld in a manner much like Batman.  Right now, each is in their own city, reacting to the dawn of this age of the superhero in their own way, and there are mere hints of the threat that might bring them together, with glimpses of potential antagonists including a vengeful gangster, a mad scientist, and a shadowy figure watching all of the heroes from afar.  It’s mainly set-up, and Gambell is taking his time to carefully lay out all the pieces of his puzzle before putting them together.  One criticism could be that perhaps he’s taking his time too much, as by the end of the first issue I had yet to come across the hook that is going to keep me coming back for more.  I understand the intention that here the twist is there is no twist, but still, I’m trying to think about how I would pitch this series to someone if I was selling it at a con, and just had a sentence or two to catch their attention.  But still, if, like me, you like a classic superhero romp, and are always interested to see new superhero universes be built from the ground up, you’re likely to find much to like in this opening issue.

Of course, the major winning factor that sets this book apart from much of the numerous other creator-owned superhero titles out there is that The Hero Code boasts the powerhouse art stylings of Jonathan Rector.  Now, I may be a bit biased, given that I work with Mr. Rector on my own comic, The Standard, but nevertheless, I’ll say that his work continues to amaze.  His pages don’t look like something you’d find in an indie book.  I could pick at random any Marvel or DC book out of the pile of new comics I bought this week, and odds are that, when placed side by side with this, The Hero Code would look just as good, if not better.  His layouts are exciting, his action dynamic, and the character’s finely nuanced in their “acting” through facial expression and body language.  Rector’s art is always a joy to behold, and it keeps on getting better.  I imagine he won’t be on the independent scene for much longer, so if you want to be cool and say you were following a superstar artist of years to come back before there were huge, The Hero Code #1 could be your ground-floor entry.

Though I must say that Rector is here assisted by some gorgeous colors from Heather Breckel.  The colors are bold, bright, and jump off the page, the perfect compliment to Rector’s bombastic style and Gambell’s intended tone.  One particular standout sequence for me is the scene in  Dr. Pontarius’ lab.  Here, everything is bathed in an eerie, glowing green that creates a real 50s B-movie vibe for our mad scientist, and strikes just the right atmosphere to help make this the most visually memorable moment in the first issue.

I had a lot of fun with The Hero Code #1.  From my perspective, it’s a good feeling to have been following the progress of a comic for so long, and find that it turned out good at the end of it all.  But really, the whole creative team have done such a stellar job with this debut issue that, if I’d never heard of it and picked the comic up on a whim, I think I’d still be impressed enough to want to read more.  Now, the journey towards issue #2 begins!

The Hero Code #1 is available in print through the official store, or digitally via Graphicly.

REVIEW: Rapid City #11

This is a bit confusing.  When people send me their creator-owned comics for review, typically it’s an issue #1.  After all, where better to start than at the beginning?  So I was intrigued when writer Josh Dahl sent me Rapid City #11 to review.  I was impressed that he had managed to get 10 issues of this series made before getting to this one: quite an achievement in the world of indy comics.  And I thought it might be an interesting exercise to jump into a series well underway, and see how accessible it is for a new reader unfamiliar with what has come before.

But things get more complicated.  Rapid City #11 reads as a comic entrenched in an established superhero continuity, with references to events that have happened before.  But upon doing further research, I discovered that though Josh Dahl has written 26 Rapid City scripts (hosted on his blog), issue #11 appears to be the first one that has actually been made into a comic book with the help of artist A. Kaviraj.  As a result, this simultaneously acts as issue #11 and issue #1.  I’d actually say it works better as the former than the latter.  As an issue #11, you get an accessible story that someone can walk right into and enjoy, without feeling the continuity of what came before is overwhelming.  But as an issue #1, I don’t think much is done to establish Rapid City and its heroes and villains, and give the series a distinct statement or niche to set it apart or carry it forward.

The plot here revolves around an idealistic superhero called Kinetic, and his struggles to clear out a local park of drug dealers, even when an older, more disillusioned superhero tells him not to bother.  It’s a story that raises some interesting questions.  Why don’t superheroes bother to focus on the little things?  And if they did, would they really be able to make a difference?  Unfortunately, Dahl’s dialogue can be a bit clunky in places.  For example, take this exchange:

“Hey, I’m sorry man, I’m a jerk.”

“You sound like one when you talk like this.”

“Guys, we’re here to work, not argue about superheroes.”

“Alright – good idea.”

That’s an exchange that takes up three panels.  There are too many scenes like this, with “empty carb” dialogue that doesn’t really do anything but take up space on the page, or with conversations that beleaguer an important theme and over-explain it when a more succinct reference to the point being made would have sufficed.  I’m not saying that dialogue should be entirely functional, but in a comic script you really have a limited amount of real estate to play with when it comes to your words, so you should really try hard to make them count.  It’s a shame, as when the dialogue doesn’t let him down, Dahl has some good ideas at work here.

The art of A. Kaviraj also has a mix of strengths and weaknesses.  In the quieter, more conversation based scenes, Kaviraj’s pencils are suitably atmospheric, complimented by the slick, heavy blacks of his inks.  But when we get into the central fight scene, some major problems with clarity emerge, with cluttered layouts and hard-to-distinguish costumes at points detracting from the clarity, and making it hard to figure out what’s going on.

Rapid City #11 seems to be something of a learning curve, for both Josh Dahl and A. Kaviraj.  But there are some compelling ideas at the core of this comic, and if the creators can refine their execution, I think there’s enough meat on the bones to justify a return visit to Rapid City in the future.

Rapid City #11 is available to buy from IndyPlanet.

REVIEW: Batman #3

As hard as it may be to believe, not everyone is in love with Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman.  Those who have been reading my reviews will know I’ve been highly vocal in my praise for the first two issues of the relaunched series, and that I’d rank it as the best of the current Bat-titles, a field that’s actually proven to be pretty competitive.  But I’ve talked to a couple of people who have expressed disappointment, saying that after the dark, psychological tone of Snyder’s Detective Comics run, Batman has felt more like standard blockbuster superhero fare.  Those critics might be more satisfied with the sinister turn the narrative takes in this third chapter.  With the steady build in dread over the course of the issue, Batman #3 is paced a lot like a horror story.

Scott Snyder has been very methodical with his pacing and his plotting, but now the pieces are falling into place and the scope of the threat Batman faces is starting to become apparent.  In my review of the last issue, I talked about how Batman’s utter confidence in his deductive skills and his knowledge of Gotham City was being reframed by Snyder as a kind of hubris, an inability to accept that there could be anything at work in Gotham beyond his understanding.  That very much comes to the fore here, and though we do get an excellent action scene set in an underground railway tunnel, for the most part the challenge to Batman here is a cerebral one, and this is a case that will push his deductive abilities as “the world’s greatest detective” to the limit.

The threat of the Court of Owls is almost entirely off-panel in this issue.  They are built up through insinuation and recollection of old folklore and superstition, rather than a physical presence.  But in spite of this – no, because of it – they are built up to be a terrifying threat.  For now at least, they are intangible, unknowable, and, as a result, unfightable.  Snyder draws once more from his Big Book of Trivia to Make You S**t Yourself to come up with some unsettling facts about owls – they are natural predators of bats, they take the nests of rival birds rather than building their own – that when applied to the context of the story make them seem even more formidable as a foil for Batman.  The closing sequence of the issue really hammers home how omnipresent the Court of Owls are, and how deeply ingrained they are not just to the history of Gotham, but to the Waynes.  And the ranting of Alan Wayne in the flashback to 1922 that opens the issue – “Their nests are all around!  They’re in my home!  My home!” – foreshadows that their influence could soon prove to be even more uncomfortably intimate, and the old nursery rhyme’s warning that, “They watch you at your hearth, they watch you in your bed” could turn out to be eerily accurate.

Indeed, if there’s any small complaint I have with the narrative of Batman #3, it comes with the final page.  At first, I thought the second last page was the end, and that was satisfying.  The revelation of how far-reaching this menace was, and the challenge Batman faced in getting to the bottom of it, ended things on a note of quiet dread that really left me wanting more.  But then I turned the page, and was met with a rushed, cheap cliffhanger that I really don’t think the issue needed.  I can appreciate the reasoning behind it, though, and it wasn’t enough to hurt my overall enjoyment of what was otherwise a perfectly structured instalment of this saga.

Once again, the art of Greg Capullo is stunning.  In fact, this could very well be his finest work on the series thus far.  His work has always been slick and stylish, but here Capullo really starts experimenting with his layouts and angles in a way that makes this a visually dense, rich reading experience.  The inventive layout of having the various Wayne buildings in the Gotham skyline framed inside a guilded owl’s eye was striking, and the transition from what could be a pair of glowing owl eyes in the darkness in 1922 to a pair of train headlights approaching in the present day is one of the best match cuts I’ve seen in a comic in a while.  Perhaps my favorite angle used in a panel comes on page 9, where we get a POV shot of Bruce and Alfred talking in the Batcave from behind Batman’s mask, which has been left sitting on Bruce’s worktable.  We see the pair through the narrow slits of the eye-holes, adding an off-kilter, sinister dimension to the talking heads scene.

These were the standout artistic flourishes on first reading.  But upon repeat reading, it became apparent that there is a real visual motif of watching and observation going on here, and once you become aware of it, it’s everywhere.  There are a couple of instances when people are talking about the Court of Owls, where the angle shifts to an overhead shot that feels eerily like a POV shot from an unseen observer.  And there is a big focus on eyes.  Not just the aformentioned owl eyes, but lots of close-ups on human eyes, and things and people reflected in those eyes.  And once you’ve got eyes in your head, eye-like circles start popping up everywhere!  The shot from the blackness below, looking up through the open manhole cover, the railway tunnel at the bottom of page 4 with the far end looking like a little pupil, the circle honed in on Luka Volk when Batman is using lie detector technology on him, the insignia on the Talon’s blade, Batman silhouetted against the full moon on page 13,  the device Batman uses to cut a hole in the floor on page 14, the giant owl insignia we see looming behind Batman or over his head in the scenes that follow.  It all reminds us of the Talon and his circular, owl-like goggles.  And it enhances this pervasive sense that the Court of Owls are everywhere, always watching.  This is a perfect example of art and writing going hand-in-hand and creating an immersive experience for the reader.

It would be negligent of me to not also continue praising the work being done by inker Jonathan Glapion and colorist FCO.  As I’ve mentioned before, Glapion’s heavy blacks are a major part of this title’s overall aesthetic, and that applies in this issue more than ever.  His sharp lines also serve as the perfect compliment to Capullo’s distinctive style.  Similarly, FCO’s muted color palette – making precise use of earthy browns/oranges and cool blues – gives Batman its own unique feel that sets it apart even from the other Bat-titles.  The whole creative team come together to ensure this is just a great-looking book.

It’s getting hard to review this title on a monthly basis, without just repeating the “it’s great!” hyperbole.  My conclusion for this issue is the same as it was for the last one, and I imagine next month I’ll be saying the same thing: Batman #3 is the best issue yet, building on what came before and steadily ratcheting up the tension.  It’s so rewarding when a comic doesn’t just coast on the power of the title character’s brand name.  The writing is striving to provide fresh insight into Batman’s character, while the art is innovative and charged with a desire to explore new and exciting possibilities the comic medium makes available.  This is comics done right.

My Week in New York: Saturday

I got up even earlier on Saturday, setting my alarm for the scary time of 6am, and was down at the Javits Center by around 8:30am.  I think that’s as much a testament to how slow I am in the mornings as it is to my earliness.  Even at this time, however, the queue outside the building dwarved even the big line from the day before.  I could tell that Saturday at New York Comic Con was going to be crazy.

Joe arrived early with a fresh shipment of stock, which was appreciated, as we were starting to run down.  Indeed, by Friday night we’d sold all the stock of Red Ten and Scam we had, which I suppose is a good problem to have!  With the increased Saturday traffic, we managed to get a lot more people at our table and looking at our stuff, but we were still having some trouble really hooking people and closing the deal.  Joe and I couldn’t help but throw Glengarry Glenn Ross references at each other: “Coffee is for closers!”  “A.I.D.A.!”  It was also really interesting observing how master pitcher Tyler would alter and adjust his pitch for each book depending on who he was talking to.  To read about his technique, and more notes from New York Comic Con, be sure to check out Tyler’s awesome ComixTribe column here.

One great moment of the day came from meeting Stephen Blaha, who I’ve known for years as Superferret on Superhero Hype.  He bought copies of The Standard #1 and #2, and we chatted for a bit about forum and RPG stuff.  One of the great things about travelling to comic cons in America in recent years has been being able to meet these people I’ve known for ages through message boards, but finally being able to put a face and a voice to the username.

I took a minute to do a bit of shopping.  Well, I say “took a minute”, but with how insanely packed the show floor was on Saturday, a brief journey to nearby stalls that would have only taken a few minutes before all of a sudden required a commitment of quite a bit of time.  From the Midtown Comics booth, I picked up a few gifts for friends back home, the first volume of the Starman Omnibus for myself, and a copy of Voodoo Heart, a collection of short stories by Scott Snyder.  This was the prose novel that first brought Snyder to the attention of the comics world, and though it’s not readily available in the UK, I was keen to pick it up and check it out.  Plus, I could add it to my hefty pile of signing material for Scott Snyder, as I already had samples from just about every other project he’s worked on.

Scott Snyder has quickly become one of my favorite comic writers, and he was one of the people I was most excited to meet.  I had been periodically checking his Artist’s Alley table over the first couple of days of the con, but he never seemed to be there.  And on Saturday, he’d left a note at his table saying he wouldn’t have time to be there much, and the best place to find him would be at his designated signings.  The first one was at the DC Comics booth.  Foolishly, I headed over to that one – clutching my pile of Snyder books –  a mere few minutes before the signing was scheduled to start.  The line was already massive.  And, in a bit of a dick move, the guy about 3 people in front of me let me and a few others wait and talk amongst ourselves for several minutes before turning around, shouting “SURPRISE!” and flashing his I AM THE LAST PERSON IN THIS QUEUE sign, saying no one would be seen after him.  So, that was a near miss.

I only had one panel to attend today, which was the DC Dark/Edge panel.  I’m not reading many of the Edge comics, but for me, the Dark titles have been the highlight of the DC relaunch, and so I was really excited to find out more about what was coming up from them.  I was lucky enough to get a seat in the front row for this one, which was an added bonus.  Before the panel started, I spotted Joshua Hale Fialkov milling around, so I ran over to say hello.  He kindly agreed to sign my copies of Tumor and Echoes, as well as I, Vampire #1.  When you read how screwed up the protagonists in his books are, you may be surprised to learn that Mr. Fialkov is a warm, personable guy, and we chatted a little bit about the British NHS and the history of the I, Vampire franchise.  I must say, getting the Fialkov books signed would be a big weight off my shoulders.  No, I mean literally: I would no longer need to carry around two hardcover graphic novels in my satchel bag each day.

I spotted someone else before the panel started: Scott Snyder!  Perhaps a bit rudely, I shouted, “Oy, Scott!” to get his attention.  You can take the Glaswegian out of Glasgow, but you can’t take the Glasgow out of the Glaswegian, it would seem.  I asked him if he had any plans to be at his Artist’s Alley table that day, as I’d just missed him at his DC signing.  He said he’d be at a signing at Midtown Comics later in the day, but if I just had a few things he could sign them now.  I told him I had a big pile, so it would probably be better waiting for the Midtown Comics signing.  He complimented my (Swamp Thing!) shirt and asked me my name, and I was left very happy at having met Scott Snyder, who came across as just as friendly as he does online and in interviews.

A blurry photo of an Animal Man #3 page by Travel Foreman that you've probably already seen in hi-res.

The panel itself was great fun, as we got treated to glimpses of art – cover and interior – for a whole range of quality titles.  Scott Snyder gave us a teaser of a villain who shows up in the next issue of Swamp Thing who sounds really great, and an ideal foe for Swamp Thing.  Apparently it’s a guy with control over decay, who can find any small piece of decay in someone – even a bit of rot in a tooth – and make it grow and spread throughout that person’s whole body.  Plus, he’s allergic to chlorofill, so has to wear an oxygen mask at all times.  Sounded really cool.  Some problems with dodgy mics up on the stage caused some delays, though, so by the time we’d gotten through everyone and their books there wasn’t much time for questions..  But still, a really fun panel.

Learning my lesson from the last attempt, I headed straight from the panel to join the queue for Scott Snyder’s Midtown Comics signing, a good 20 minutes early.  The queue was still sizable, and with the way it stretched out across the con floor, we were causing a bit of a fire hazard, and we constantly had people having to break through the line to get past us.  But I did get talking to people in the line, so the time went by quickly enough.  However, my heart sank when I neared the front of the line, and the moderator informed us we could only get 3 items maximum signed.  I looked down with sadness at my pile of 10 books, and with great difficulty, chose 3 titles – American Vampire #1, Batman #1, Swamp Thing #1 – for Scott to sign.

When I got to the table, Scott not only recognised me, but remembered my name.  That amazed me, as I was hopeless at remembering the names of even the handful of repeat visitors at the ComixTribe table, so given how many fans Scott must have met, that was quite a skill.  Living up to his reputation as the nicest guy in comics, Scott recalled that I’d had a big pile of comics I wanted signed, and said I could leave the rest of my stuff with  him, and he’d sign it all at the end.  This was a really nice gesture that was very much appreciated.  I gave him copies of The Standard #1 and #2 as well, thanked him again, and made my exit with my three signed comics, happy at meeting one of my fave writers twice.

Returning to the ComixTribe booth for a little while, I was pleased to meet Cesar Feliciano, the artist of The Red Ten, who had stopped by our table to help out for the day.  He also drew up a great artist edition cover of The Standard #1, which I was very pleased with!

Heading back to the Midtown Comics booth, a little after the end of the signing, I figured Scott would have left my comics behind the table for me to collect.  But to my surprise, he was actually waiting on the floor for me to come back to give them to me himself!  Again, the guy’s a total class act.  He rummaged through his backpack, and produced my pile of books – Voodoo Heart, Severed #1, Severed #3, Swamp Thing #2, Detective Comics #871, Detective Comics #875, Detective Comics #879 and another copy of Batman #1 – all signed.  In a funny moment, he almost accidentally gave me a copy of Batman #2 a week before its release, and had to take it back upon realising his mistake.  To be honest, I kinda regret not really saying anything to him but “Thanks” a few times when I could have been asking all kinds of questions about what lies in store in the future for some of my favorite books – I’d had a question all prepared about his future plans for The Joker that totally slipped from my brain – but I was just too chuffed for anything to come to mind.  Scott told me he’d read my comics, we said goodbye, and I left VERY happy, having met one of my fave writers thrice!

Perhaps I was energised by my shamanic encounter with Super-Snyder, but whatever the cause, when I returned to the ComixTribe booth, all of a sudden I found that I’d at last got into a proper selling rhythm.  Things started to take a real upswing where, after a quiet stretch, I picked a random person passing by through the crowd, pointed at them, and shouted, “YOU!”  I asked them to come over to the table, and we ended up selling them a ComixTribe package.  But the real turning point was a seemingly small detail, where I found that moving from sitting behind my table to standing in front of it made a huge difference.  Perhaps it was a body language thing, where I was now more closely connected to the passing trade, but for whatever reason, all of a sudden I was much more successful in grabbing people’s attention and bringing them over to the table.  And we started getting a much higher ratio of people actually buying something once we’d attracted them to the table.

Tyler, Joe, me (in a pose oddly like a Vegas showgirl) and Cesar.

Something that I discovered was a real boon to my salesmanship was my Scottish accent.  Tpically, I hate my voice, and I have come to accept that in America a lot of people just won’t understand a word I’m saying.  But it seemed to really work a charm in getting people interested in our comics.  I joked that it was because people couldn’t hear me when I said, “Hey, want to check out some cool comics?”  As a result, they’d come closer and get me to repeat myself, by which point I’d reeled them in and had them in position to get a closer look at my comics.  Whatever the cause, people seemed more interested because I was Scottish, and I started playing up that Scottishness more in my pitching, starting to make a bigger deal of showing people the pages of The Standard #1 featuring The Frying Scotsman – which always seemed to get a laugh.  Even more shockingly, my accent seemed to get me some kind of sex appeal!  Apparently my grating Glaswegian brogue sounds exotic to New Yorker ears, and it seemed like the number of women we sold books to surged on the Saturday.  I was getting the flirty body language and everything – is this what it feels like to be a “playa”?  At one point, I gave the whole ComixTribe pitch to one young lady, and when I was done, I asked her if she was interested in any comics, but she say, “No, I just wanted to hear you talk for a bit.”  Oh my!

In a way it was a bit infuriating, business really getting going once the con was more than half over.  But better late than never!  After being absent for much of the first couple of days, and underwhelming in my selling to the point of practically being a cooler while I was around, I was relieved that I’d found an approach to selling that worked for me, and helped me to start pulling my weight at the table more.  I even earned the nickname “The Sellin’ Scotsman” from Tyler, which was nice.  I was really pleased to start seeing copies of The Standard shifting en masse, and I managed to sell people on the other titles on the ComixTribe lineup as well.

Towards the end of the con day, I took a walk down to Artist’s Alley, and met Greg Capullo.  I’ve been a big fan of his work on Batman, but my main incentive for introducing myself was my knowledge that Capullo is the hero of Jonathan Rector, my friend and artist of The Standard.  I got Greg to sign two copies of Batman #1 – one for myself and one for Jon – and gave him copies of The Standard, explaining how much the artist was a fan of his work.  So perhaps Greg Capullo is now a fan of your work too, Jon!

I’m pleased to report we were selling comics right up to closing time, and a little beyond.  Saturday was a huge success for ComixTribe, and the best day of NYCC thus far.  My one disappointment of the day was not getting into the after-hours Black Dynamite panel.  Infuriatingly, there was a Dragonball Z panel in the same room immediately after it, so I arrived to a massive queue, populated mostly by young anime fans who quite clearly had no interest in Black Dynamite.  I was in line with a couple of other Black Dynamite fans, and once it became clear that we weren’t going to get into the panel, things started getting nasty.  These other guys started getting into a confrontation with one of the NYCC volunteers, who didn’t help the situation much by replying with, “Well, if you wanted into this panel you should have been queueing from Avengers this afternoon.”  In my repressed British way, I wasn’t up for getting into a fight when it was quite clear that no amount of shouting would get me a seat in this panel, so I told the increasingly flustered NYCC rep that I appreciated it wasn’t his fault, and dejectedly left the Javits Center.

After grabbing a quick Subway for dinner (so much for making the most of New York’s cuisine) I met up with Joe, and we headed out to the Indy Comics After-Party, an invite-only event at Blaggards Pub we had managed to score invitations to.  However, we didn’t see anyone there that we knew or recognised, and with a live band playing, the music was even louder than at Tempest a couple of nights earlier, so loud neither of us could hear a word the other was saying.  After a while, Joe and I gave up and headed out, relocating to the quieter, nicer Twins Bar and talking about politics and other subjects for a bit.  Oooh, I’m such a party animal!

Of course, Spider-Man loves NY.

Overall, Saturday was an amazing day.  I got to meet some great comics people, ComixTribe and The Standard really started to gain momentum, and the whole day was just good fun.  I was already starting to feel sad that the con – and my time in New York – would soon be over.

NEXT: An ode to cosplayers.