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WLG #400: Team-Up!

A column article by: Brandon Billups, Matt Spatola

Greetings and Salutations one and all! Welcome to the latest installment of what is, if not the longest running column in the history of the world, should be: What Looks Good! The place where nearly every week in and out you can stop by and see what's looking good in the world of comics (and occasionally the world of music, movies, and television, too!).

This week marks the grand 400th installment of the little column that could, so rather than just give you one taste of What Looks Good, we've got three for you! So now, turn your attention to the incomparable Brandon Billups, followed shortly thereafter by the lovely and talented Matt Spatola! Our third regular contributor couldn't make it to the party this week, so I, Paul Brian McCoy, shall be filling in.

And away we go!

Brandon Billups

One of my absolute favorite things about comics as an artistic medium is their relatively low cost to produce compared to film or television. Basically, I appreciate the way comics aren’t constrained by a special effects budget. They also suffer less from the editorial or executive interferences that can occasionally reign in a high-concept piece of science fiction, removing what might’ve made it interesting in the process.

So it’s only natural that on weeks like this one I have a tendency to get excited. Along with some great superhero books, there are three particularly interesting concepts that might not have worked in any other media, whether due to the size of the necessary budget or the general strangeness of the concept. Or, you know, all the violence and weird sexy stuff.

I talked about Infinite Vacation way back in November when issue #3 came out, and it’s been awhile but the fourth issue is finally out this week from Image. Back when I read the first three issues I was relatively unaware of Nick Spenser, but this book prompted me to backtrack and read Morning Glories, which I enjoyed quite a bit. Infinite Vacation has a much more mad-cap tone to it though, and it’s ultimately that limitless feeling (and Christian Ward’s pitch-perfect art) that keeps me devoted to this book despite its inconsistent release schedule. Given the rather disturbing turn of events in the last issue, I’m also very excited to see how this one moves the plot forward with the final issue on the horizon.

Prophet #23 is another great Image high-concept science fiction work that simply couldn’t have been accomplished on television or the silver screen. Brandon Graham has reworked a Rob Liefeld property from one of the least fondly-remembered periods of comics history, combined it with the incredible world-building and attention to detail found in his King City work, and successfully made something new and compelling out of it. I was excited, but also a little worried due to the Liefeld pedigree and the fact that Graham wasn’t doing the art himself, but Simon Roy proves to be an exceptional replacement. Plus this issue has an awesome cover by Farel Dalrymple!

Finally, while not quite as spaced-out as the last two, Dominique Laveau: Voodoo Child #1 (DC Vertigo) shows a lot of promise after the preview in The Unexpected back in October. Denys Cowan’s art looks better than I’ve ever seen it before, and, as a huge fan of Louisiana-centric stories of the supernatural, I’m really hoping that former The Source editor Selwyn Hinds can hook me. It’s an easy subject material to mistreat, but I’m holding out hopes. Okay, so maybe this one could be done on TV, but TV doesn’t come with cool Rafael Grampa variant covers, so what’s the point?

 

Matt Spatola

Amazing Spider-Man #682 $3.99 (Dan Slott & Stefano Casselli)

This year is the big 50th Anniversary of Spider-Man and certainly Marvel is hoping that will help bring some attention to the title. Plus there’s this little movie also called Amazing Spider-Man that is being released this summer that also might bring some more eyeballs to the title. And I hope they really do. Dan Slott has been doing one of the finest runs on the title in years. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again- this book is one of, if not the, densest reads from Marvel and DC. With so much complaining about the entertainment value and reading time value of $3.99 comics, this book serves as an example of giving as much as you can to the reader. There are so many captions and characters that when I finish an issue it feels like to me I read four issues of other, more decompressed books.

I’m really loving the book right now. Never thought I would say that again following the nightmare of One More Day. But Slott has expanded the character in natural ways, with Horizon Labs and the new supporting cast. My only complaint right now is that every story arc seems to be trying too hard to be a mini-event of some kind. Even this one. That’s it really though because otherwise this is one of the most enjoyable titles Marvel publishes.

Justice League #7 $3.99 (Geoff Johns & Gene Ha and Gary Frank)

So I guess it is mere coincidence that the week that the Shazam, formerly known as Captain Marvel, feature starts in Justice League, Marvel announces a new Captain Marvel book of their own with a new Captain Marvel, formerly known as Ms. Marvel.

I know the name change really stings for some fans, especially those hardcore lovers of the Big Red Cheese. But I can understand where DC is coming from as a publisher of not just comic book characters but also of brands, franchise and intellectual properties. And if possible confusion with the name limits that, then something- like a name change- make sense.

As much as part of me still misses the old DCU I have to say another part of me has the most excitement I’ve had for DC since the original Crisis of Infinite Earths was published. It’s a whole new universe but at the same time it is not.

Geoff Johns and Jim Lee took a lot of heat for that first storyarc in JL. While I would agree that some of the characterizations seemed off to me I take it more that I’m forgetting that these are different versions of those familiar characters. And that makes it all come together. But the art was beautiful for sure. I am so excited that Lee is sticking with this book and will be back after having Ha fill in for a couple of issues.

Paul Brian McCoy

Since our regular third eye, Kyle Garret, couldn't be with us this week, I've stepped in to round out the WLG Pyramid before it topples over beneath its own weight! You'll have to forgive me if I'm a little behind the times. I've not been reading a lot of comics regularly as I'm ridiculously poor, but there have been a few things that have caught my attention.

Vertigo's Hellblazer continues its fantastic run under the guiding hand of one of my favorite writers, Peter Milligan. This week Issue #289 hits, wrapping up the "Another Season in Hell" storyline and John Constantine makes it out of Hell with the soul of his sister. But will it cost him the love Epiphany? It was a little cold of John, offering up her soul as a bartering chip, but that's why we love the bastard, right?

I'm also a bit fond of his sense of vengeance. And I'm pretty sure Epiphany's dad Terry is going to pay for beating the snot out of Gemma.

What's that? You're not reading this awe-inspiring comic and don't have a clue what I'm talking about?

Well remedy that, ye sods.

Not only is Milligan at the top of his game here, the art by Giuseppe Camuncoli is consistently fantastic. It's a little on the cartoony, overly stylized side, but I'll be damned if it doesn't work, making this not only one of the best, most tightly written book Vertigo is putting out, but one of the most distinctive looking ones as well.

Just in time for the release of The Hunger Games (more on that later), Anchor Bay is officially releasing for the first time the U.S., Kinji Fukasaku's 2000 classic, Battle Royale on DVD and Blu-ray! If you haven't heard of this, here's the skinny. It's set in a future Japan where an entire high school class is drugged and taken to a mysterious island where they are fitted with explosive collars and then told they have to hunt each other down until only one is left alive! And it's all government sanctioned and televised as a way of keeping the youth in check!

If you're short on cash, there's a single disc version available, but if you're mental like me, you'll splurge and drop a few dollars more for the huge 4-disc set with Battle Royale (both the Theatrical Cut and a Director's Cut), its sequel Battle Royale II (2003) co-directed by Fukasaku and his son Kenta Fukasaku after he died during filming, and a bonus disc (DVD – which kind of sucks) loaded with special features.

I know that it sounds similar to The Hunger Games, but the similarities are mostly superficial.

To prove it, buy it and go see The Hunger Games, which opens this week!

The film is directed by Gary Ross, who isn't exactly the guy I'd expect to helm a film about kids killing each other in a public game run by the government to keep the citizenry in check. He's the guy who directed Pleasantville (1998) and Seabiscuit (2003) for Pete's sake. But those trailers are well-sexy and I'm fully on-board. He and the author of the books upon which this is based, Suzanne Collins, co-wrote the screenplay, so it should be as true to the spirit of the books as possible.

And if you haven't read the books, then you should be doing that right now instead of reading this. I've heard complaints about the quality as the trilogy goes on, but I thought each book was better than the one before. Brutally violent with some extremely bleak, hard-core nihilism that I doubt will ever make it to the big screen.

I could be wrong, though. I can't wait to get the theater to see, one way of another.

 

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