It was a slow comics week for me, punctuated at the end by the purchase of a new computer. As a big computer geek, this will require several days to set up properly to my liking. So while I'm wrapped up in USB cables everywhere and lost installation discs and FireWire transfers, I encourage all of you to get out there and read more comics to make up for my lost time.

Some random thoughts, in the meantime:

  • Diamond is getting into the digital comics distribution business. Dark Horse is set to start their engines up in January. Marvel is pulling digital comics down to create demand for them, or an immediacy towards reading them, or something.

    Everyone has a business model, and no two are alike.

    Obviously, it's the Diamond effort that's the most interesting right now, particularly with their plan to sell digital comics through brick and mortar stores. Is this further confirmation that dead tree publishers/distributors are clueless and are too busy protecting their current business model to ever succeed in the future's model? Or has Diamond figured out the Big Secret to doing this right? I can't wait to hear the details behind this initiative.

    Does Nintendo still put in those stations at various places that you can download exclusive DS game demos/videos from? I remember downloading a game demo from one of those in San Diego a few years back. Wouldn't that be an interesting, albeit horrifically inefficient and expensive, way to draw comic readers into comic shops? ("Bring your iPad/iPhone into the comic shop, log into their Wi Fi connection, download comics!")

    Yes, it's just backwards enough to fit into the comic industry's usual modus operandi.

  • The Mrs. and I went in to the city over the weekend to see a big tree by where NBC airs television shows. Or, if you're reading this column, you're more likely to be intrigued by "the tree next to Nintendo World."

    Walking out of the Port Authority's parking lot, we passed by this enormous billboard. Yes, this is the theater where the Spider-Man musical is previewing right now. I could hear the bones crunching from across the street.

    My wife said she'd go see "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark." So if anyone on Broadway is reading this column and wants to invite more press to the show, my contact information is at the end of the column.

    Later in the day, just off Times Square, a heavy man wore a Spider-Man costume and posed for pictures. I have no idea if he had a business model or not. I didn't see a hat out or anything. Still, I venture to guess that he was as licensor-approved as the two Elmos across the street giving handshakes-and-half-hugs were.

  • NBM is having another ridiculously good sale over on their website. The two most recent original graphic novels from Eddie Campbell can be had for half price right now, amongst others. Lots of $3 books can be had, and you can get an additional 20% off everything (even the 50% off books) by using the code S11.
  • I had two misfires in my reading stack this week. I hesitated at first in even mentioning them here, because some would no doubt complain that these aren't "proper" reviews. So let me just preface this by saying that all sorts of external circumstances might have impacted my thoughts on the following two books. Don't consider this a critical opinion piece. Please hear me out, and I'll try to explain everything as we go, and not just slag on books that didn't hit my sweet spot of comics reading.

    I read the latest B.P.R.D. trade paperback this weekend, "King of Fear." It's the culmination of all the previous stories in the series, as characters return from previous miniseries, things change radically and a new status quo is put into place. That's what the solicitations say. That's what the reviews all say. Even the back cover hypes that up.

    I have no idea what happened in the story, though. Blame my sieve brain for not keeping the previous 13 trade paperbacks in the front of my mind. Blame my occasional lapses in their readings wherein I enjoyed the characters and the art more than the overall story arc.

    Some things happened in this miniseries. Some characters appeared on the pages that made me say, "Hey, I sorta remember him!" And then things end abruptly out of left field and we're off in a new direction and stop asking why and let's just move on.

    I still love Guy Davis' art, though, particularly with Dave Stewart's colors. In fact, Stewart's work is so helpful to this comic that he should be getting cover credit alongside Mike Mignola, John Arcudi and Davis.

    Hopefully, the next miniseries (almost wrapping up now in its monthly installments) will provide a fresh starting point and be more new-reader friendly for those of us long-term readers who can't remember bumpkus.

    Secondly, I attempted to read "I Am Legion," the hardcover edition of the John Cassaday-drawn French miniseries, now published through Humanoids USA. The good news: If you're a fan of Cassaday's art, there's a lot to like in here. It might not be as dynamic or as showy as his X-Men work, but it does show nicely on the page. Humanoids USA does a smart thing in adjusting the page size for the book to accommodate the larger format of the French albums. Sure, the book isn't as tall, but at least they made it a little wider to let the art fill the page.

    Cassaday's art is colored by Laura Martin, so everything fits together as well as you could hope for.

    The bad news: Man, oh man, was that first issue a complete slog to get through. Tedious. Too many characters. Many start to look alike after a while. And just what's going on? I have no idea. People are sitting around and plotting. They're talking an awful lot, to the point where you forget that Cassaday hasn't drawn a background in a couple of pages because what's the point? You'd never see it behind all the balloons.

    There are a couple of action scenes that grabbed my attention, and there's a mood and a darkness that occasionally sucked me in, but the lack of any forward momentum in the first issue is what lost me. Too often, it was page after page of people talking and conspiring. I have a tough time keeping track of larger casts of characters, too, and it felt like news ones were popping up on every page. Perhaps with this set-up out of the way, the rest of the book will move more quickly? If I can summon up the patience, I'll give it a shot.

  • On the other hand, I need to fess up to a blind spot I just realized I had. Dark Horse is now publishing comics from Strip Arts Features, or SAF. SAF was publishing albums on their own a few years back. It was short-lived, but their price point was right, and the lineup was the most consistently enjoyable of any European translator at the time.

    Recently, they published the Eduardo Risso-drawn "Vampire Boy," which I reviewed here from its SAF printing in 2004. Sadly, they shrunk the page size down, though they did package all four volumes into one nice book. I still laugh that Dark Horse promoted this as the first English language publication of "Vampire Boy," though. Technically, they're correct; the 2004 publication was titled "Boy Vampire."

    There are two other books published earlier this year, both of which I flipped through and put on the To Be Read stack. "Dragonero" and "Vampire Dance."

    Now, I'm reading the fourth Dark Horse/SAF book, "The Wednesday Conspiracy." I'm only a third of the way through this one, but it's much easier to get through than a book like "I Am Legion." "The Wednesday Conspiracy" is the story of a group of paranormal people brought together by a psychologist who understands their issues. When they start getting attacked one by one, a greater conspiracy is revealed and there's a fight for their lives.

    It's not the most original thing in the world. You can pick out bits and pieces of it that you've seen a thousand times, starting with the firestarter who can't control his powers and nearly burns his house down. (Think Liz Sherman and "Hellboy" there, for starters.) While the pieces are cliche and the plot can sometimes be a bit convenient (mostly in how quickly some romantic relationships form out of nothing), it's an easy read that's different from the rest of what's on the shelves today. It's a generic secret society thing with roots dating back hundreds of years, of course, and a politician in his ascendancy thanks to them.

    But it's the art from Spaniard Sergio Bleda that really sets the book apart. It's beautifully cartooned, not phototraced. It has a nice watercolored look to it that's often bold in its color choices. Bright blues juxtapose against black and white at night and daytime seems don't get color keyed. They get filled with brighter colors to make the art stand out. I'm really enjoying it. You might complain that the faces and even the bodies are slightly grotesque -- long nose, chiseled cheeks, large mouths -- but I chalk that up to personal style and grew to like it quickly. The important thing is, Bleda can tell a story, can produce art that's interesting, and doesn't bore me.

    Don't get me wrong; this thing could go completely off the rails in its last 50 pages. I'm not done reading it yet, but I'll be back next week with a full report. For now, I'm very happy with what I've read, which might not be the most original premise in the world, but makes a good show of it.

Somehow, this wound up being a full-length column anyway, didn't it?

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