Phonogram: The Singles Club #1

Written by Kieron Gillen
Art by Jamie McKelvie, Laurenn McCubbin, and Marc Ellerby
28 pages, color
Published by Image Comics

I liked Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s original Phonogram mini-series. It was a clever comic, with Britpop being used as magic in a story that served as both a musical and magical history of the UK. Both have gone on to other comics, like McKelvie’s Suburban Glamour and Gillen’s Newuniversal and X-Men Origins one-shots for Marvel. Now that they’ve reunited for Phonogram: The Singles Club, though, I’m not only happy that they’re back together, but I’m tentatively saying that this new Phonogram mini-series may well knock the socks off their earlier collaboration.

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Captain America #43-44

Written by Ed Brubaker
Penciled by Luke Ross
Inked by Fabio Laguna
32 pages, color
Published by Marvel Comics

So let’s say that two years ago, you surprised a lot of readers by killing off one of your company’s iconic characters. And let’s say that you surprised even more readers by—at the end of an 18-issue follow-up—keeping that character dead, letting his old sidekick actually keep the mantle and title. What do you do next? In the case of writer Ed Brubaker and the comic book Captain America, apparently the answer is "business as usual." Fortunately for readers, that business involves writing really good stories.

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Marvels: Eye of the Camera #1

Written by Kurt Busiek
Art by Jay Anacleto
32 pages, color
Published by Marvel Comics

Have you ever felt like a comic (or a book, or a movie, or some other form of art) wasn’t meant for you? I couldn’t help but shake that feeling the entire time I was reading Marvels: Eye of the Camera #1, and that was a strange sensation. I remember buying the original issues of Marvels at my local comic book store back in the ’90s, and absolutely loving them. And you see, I think that’s the problem. With the first issue of Marvels: Eye of the Camera, it seems to me that Kurt Busiek and Jay Anacleto have created a comic that targets people who haven’t ever read Marvels.

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Yokaiden Vol. 1

By Nina Matsumoto
192 pages, black and white
Published by Del Rey

There are a lot of different terms being used for when a publisher known for their manga line decides to produce (instead of just translate) some comics of their own. American manga, amerimanga, western manga, world manga, global manga, neo-manga, original English-language manga (or OEL manga), the names appear almost as fast as the comics themselves. Sometimes the attempts are merely formatted the same but in no other ways different. Sometimes the comics ape many of the hallmarks of Japanese comics. And sometimes it has more to do with going for the same sort of undefinable feel that the creator gets when reading manga. With all of that in mind, Nina Matsumoto has one of Del Rey’s early attempts at adding Western-produced comics into their manga line, in the form of Yokaiden.

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Where’s my healing factor?

I don’t often put personal notes here, but I just wanted to let all of my readers know that I’m taking a week off while I take care of some much-needed surgery on December 15th.

It’s nothing too serious—I’m having my gallbladder removed—but I suspect a few days will be spent in bed instead of at the computer. (On the bright side, I’m hoping to get a lot of reading done.) And as bile is a reviewer’s best friend at times, I figure it would be best to wait until it levels back out before jumping back into the reviewing seat.

Expect a limited number of reviews for the last two weeks of the year (with the holidays, it will be a reduced schedule) and then back to full steam in 2009!

Showcase Presents: Challengers of the Unknown Vol. 1

Written by Ed Herron, Jack Kirby, Dave Wood, and others
Penciled by Bob Brown and Jack Kirby
Inked by Bob Brown, Jack Kirby, Roz Kirby, Bruno Premiani, Marvin Stein, Wally Wood, and others
544 pages, black and white
Published by DC Comics

Despite knowing who they were, I’d never actually read any of the original Challengers of the Unknown comics before, but they sure sounded like fun. Four adventurers living on "borrowed time" (after all surviving a certainly-fatal plane crash) going up against strange creatures, artifacts, and lands? What’s not to love? As it turns out, when reading Showcase Presents: Challengers of the Unknown, it’s good to remember that a little can go a long way.

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Thunderbolts #126

Written by Andy Diggle
Art by Roberto de la Torre
32 pages, color
Published by Marvel Comics

The last time I read Thunderbolts regularly, the creative team was still Kurt Busiek and Mark Bagley. So while it’s certainly been a while since I’ve checked in on Marvel’s resident team of super-villains, it’s certainly been hard to ignore them. Warren Ellis and Mike Deodato Jr.’s revamp of Thunderbolts was big enough news that I’m certainly familiar with the book’s current status with supervillains forced to work for the government. With the arrival of Andy Diggle and Roberto de la Torre as the new creative team, it sounded like a good a time as any to take a look and see firsthand just how it’s doing.

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Alan’s War

By Emmanuel Guibert
336 pages, black and white
Published by First Second Books

Have you ever read one of those books that you absolutely cannot put back down? That was absolutely the case for me when it came to Alan’s War: The Memories of G.I. Alan Cope. What was a strictly chance meeting—comic creator Emmanuel Guibert and World War II American soldier Alan Cope—spawned not only a long friendship, but the retelling of Cope’s experiences in the European theatre in the 1940s. As the last of the World War II veterans are vanishing, a book like Alan’s War in many ways is more important than ever, recording those memories with such great ability and power.

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Teen Titans #65

Written by Sean McKeever
Penciled by Eddy Barrows
Inked by Ruy Jose
32 pages, color
Published by DC Comics

The current volume of Teen Titans is one that certainly started out strongly five years ago. Geoff Johns’s line-up of the new generation of sidekicks teamed up with some of the older Titans was a strong one, and for several years it was a big success with me. After Infinite Crisis, though, I’ve been wondering where the book was headed—and for a brief time it finally seemed to be back on track once new writer Sean McKeever had some time to settle in on the book. Now, though, I’m wondering just what the point of the comic even is.

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Usagi Yojimbo #114-115

By Stan Sakai
24 pages, black and white
Published by Dark Horse

One comic that I think the industry takes for granted is Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo. Running since 1984, Sakai’s shogunate era samurai drama is so consistently well-written and drawn that I think people just automatically expect and assume that it will be great as always. Reading the latest two issues, for instance, is a strong reminder of just how Sakai’s series is able to remain so creatively strong.

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