X-Factor #33

Written by Peter David
Penciled by Larry Stroman
Inked by Jon Sibal
32 pages, color
Published by Marvel Comics

I freely admit that when someone mentions “the Peter David X-Factor“, the first comic to jump to mind is not his current series. Instead, it’s his and Larry Stroman’s collaboration from the early ’90s, taking six characters that no one else really cared about (Havok, Polaris, Wolfsbane, Multiple Man, Quicksilver, and Lila Cheney’s bodyguard Guido) and turning the book into a fan-favorite. It was a really memorable book, not quite like anything else on the market, and something that I still think of fondly. With Stroman joining the current X-Factor as its new artist, can lightning strike twice?

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Me and the Devil Blues Vol. 1

By Akira Hiramoto
544 pages, black and white
Published by Del Rey

Robert Johnson was probably one of the greatest blues musicians of all time, his skills like no other and his influence continuing to musicians today. For that alone, I was interested in reading Akira Hiramoto’s Me and the Devil Blues, his story of the life of this amazing artist. What I probably should have done before I started reading the book, though, was pay a little more attention to the back cover copy. Had I looked at that a little more closely, maybe then I wouldn’t have been quite so surprised by its contents.

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Out of Picture 2

By Andrea Blasich, Nash Dunnigan, David Gordon, Michael Knapp, Sang Jun Lee, Kyle MacNaughton, Peter Nguyen, Vincent Nguyen, Jake Parker, Benoit le Pennec, Willie Real, Jason Sadler, Daisuke Tsutsumi, and Lizette Vega
240 pages, color
Published by Villard Books

One of the many great things that the Flight anthologies have done, it seems, is bring the modern comic anthology back to life. Every time you turn around, there seems to be a new anthology hitting shelves. One of the more recent works is Out of Picture, an anthology series from the artists of Blue Sky Studios. Out of Picture 2, the second volume of work in the series, is a beautiful, oversized volume that has one of the best production values of a comics anthology I’ve seen in a while. But do the stories themselves match up to the attention lavished into the book?

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Tim Sale: Black and White

By Richard Starkings, John "JG" Roshell, and Tim Sale
272 pages, black and white
Published by Image Comics

There’s nothing better than a good art book, and nothing worse than a bad one. A slight exaggeration, perhaps, but it does sum up the excitement and fear that I feel whenever I pick up a new art book. I always desperately want them to be good, but I’ve been burned by my fair share of disasters in the past. As a result, I was a little nervous about cracking the plastic wrap around Tim Sale: Black and White, with its new "revised and expanded" edition. I hadn’t picked Tim Sale: Black and White in the past, so I really had no idea what to expect. Good? Bad? In-between? Well, let’s just say that it didn’t land in the in-between category.

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Knights of the Lunch Table: The Dodgeball Chronicles

By Frank Cammuso
144 pages, color
Published by Graphix/Scholastic Books

One of the things I’ve enjoyed the most about the increasing number of all-ages comics is that I’m seeing more and more talented creators launching books and series under its aegis. So, for example, when Frank Cammuso has a new graphic novel series from Scholastic Books that mixes junior high drama with Arthurian myths, I’m excited. Sure, I’m not the target audience, but when the book is this much fun that really isn’t a problem at all.

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Jack Staff #14-17

By Paul Grist
28 pages, color
Published by Image Comics

When I first read Paul Grist’s Jack Staff, I’ll freely admit that it was hard for me to see past its origins as an idea for a Union Jack comic. That was a while ago, though, and I’m glad that not only did I continue to stick with reading the book, but that Grist continued with it as well. It’s a strange, offbeat super-hero comic that isn’t really quite like anything else on the market.

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Conan the Cimmerian #0

Written by Timothy Truman
Art by Tomás Giorello
24 pages, color
Published by Dark Horse

When Dark Horse launched their Conan comic in 2003, the line kicked off with Conan #0, an introductory story that gave readers a taste of what Kurt Busiek and Cary Nord had in mind for their stories about the world’s most famous barbarian. Now, 50 issues later, the book has shifted to Timothy Truman and Tomás Giorello, and to draw attention to the book’s slight shift in direction, it’s being retitled Conan the Cimmerian. So what better way to celebrate than another bargain-priced #0 issue, right?

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COWA!

By Akira Toriyama
208 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

When Viz published Akira Toriyama’s Sand Land a few years ago, I was excited to see something that post-Dragon Ball coming into English. And while I enjoyed Sand Land, it was merely good, not great. Well, it turns out what I was really hoping for all along was COWA!; sure, I’d never heard of it and I’m still not entirely sure what the title even means, but none the less, this was it.

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Madame Xanadu #1

Written by Matt Wagner
Art by Amy Reeder Hadley
32 pages, color
Published by Vertigo/DC Comics

My past exposure to the character Madame Xanadu was in John Ostrander and Tim Mandrake’s run on The Spectre, where the character served as an advisor to the main character. She was an interesting character, one who could divine the future but generally speaking stayed out of the goings on the world herself. When DC announced Matt Wagner and Amy Reeder Hadley were the creative team for a new Madame Xanadu comic, I was cautiously optimistic. After all, I’ve enjoyed Wagner’s writing in the past, and Hadley’s art certainly looked nice in the promos. But really, you never know what you’re getting until the book shows up. And sometimes, the end result can surprise you.

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Patsy Walker: Hellcat #1

Written by Kathryn Immonen
Art by David Lafuente
32 pages, color
Published by Marvel Comics

I will freely admit that when it comes to the big, world-changing events in the Marvel Universe, I normally couldn’t care one way or the other. (That’s also pretty true for DC, so I’m not choosing one company.) When friends told me about how Marvel now has the “50 States Initiative” where each state gets its own officially-licensed super-hero or group, I smiled at the idea, and even made a few jokes about the high level of super-villains rampaging through Montana. Well, I might not have cared about the 50 States Initiative before, but if it’s going to spawn mini-series like Patsy Walker: Hellcat, I might have to revise my interest level.

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