Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Gotham and the Big Apple This Week; Books Coming in January.

I almost missed it because it was rush-solicited, but today sees the release of a $1.00 special-edition reprint of the first full issue of Gotham Central, by Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka, and Michael Lark.  The release coincides the debut of the FOX series Gotham, whose series premiere is this Monday, September 22nd; the comic book's cover is evidently branded with an ad for the new series.

We mentioned that, when the series was first announced last year, Brubaker and Rucka had no inside information.  It's become clear that the series is more like the Smallville TV series than the critically acclaimed comic series Gotham Central, except that a young Jim Gordon is the central character rather than a young Bruce Wayne.  I suspect that a series more closely modeled on Gotham Central would have been a lot more interesting.

Gotham Central focused on the Major Crimes Unit in Gotham, when Gordon was retired and even Bullock was off the force.  Batman wasn't a main character, but his presence in the city was still felt in almost every issue, primarily because the MCU resented his probably necessary interference.  And there was serious dramatic tension because -- even though the nature of DC's serialized universe made it a given that Batman would save the day and the major criminal would be captured but not killed -- you were never certain that these detectives and police officers would make it to the next shift.  Sometimes, they didn't.

I'm probably not going to watch the show, but I'm glad to see any publicity for Gotham Central, the series that kick-started my love of Brubaker's writing.  The complete 40-issue series has been collected in four volumes, in hardcover and trade paperback.


This Friday sees the premiere of Liam Neeson's latest thriller, A Walk Among the Tombstones, based on the novel by Lawrence Block, his tenth book about the New York private eye, Matthew Scudder.  Hard Case Crime has released the movie-tie in mass-market paperback of the book, and we have confirmed that, despite its movie poster cover, it is a true, numbered Hard Case Crime book, complete with the familiar yellow ribbon on the white spine.

This is the first time the novel has been in bookstores in nearly twenty years, and it's already on the top of my reading list for the week.  Brubaker and Phillips have something of a history with the crime imprint, as Criminal and Hard Case Crime advertised for each other in their books' back pages.  I'd like to see them work on a prose novel for HCC, but that's a subject for another time.


Finally, the commenter Hobo Keith just drew our attention to a few Amazon listings for books by Brubaker and Phillips, for books coming out very early next year.  Amazon has the first volume of The Fade Out scheduled for release on January 27th, 2015, and they have the same date listed for Image Comics' re-release of the first volume of Criminal, the first of presumably six "strikingly-designed new editions."

"Coward" is one of my favorite stories, and I'm still hoping we'll see a sequel.  With this new edition and a film adaptation in the works, perhaps "Coward's Way Out" isn't too far off.

We'll post more information about these trade paperbacks as it becomes available.  In the meantime, we genuinely appreciate the heads-up from Hobo Keith.

And these books might not be the only big releases from Brubaker and Phillips in January.  Just yesterday, Ed Brubaker tweeted to explain why both The Fade Out and Velvet are missing from Image's December solicitations: he's taking a break between  arcs for a secret project with Sean Phillips.

We can't wait.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Velvet #7 On Sale Today, with a Preview Online.

A very busy week offline is forcing me to keep things short and sweet, but the latest issue of Ed Brubaker's espionage comic with Steve Epting is out today:  Comic Book Resources posted a three-page preview of Velvet #7, and I've already seen two positive reviews, with Unleash the Fanboy giving the issue an 8 out ten, and Comic Vine awarding a perfect five-star review.

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Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Sean Phillips' Void, in Stores Tomorrow!

We've previously covered Sean Phillips' comic Void only once before, but we've confirmed that the book is out this week.  Announced in 2011 as Phillips' first sci-fi work, Void was published by Delcourt and released in France in October, 2012.  The book has been translated into English and is being published by Titan Comics.

The story, written by Herik Hanna, is about "the sole survivor of an interstellar prison ship," and on Monday, Comic Book Resources released a five-page preview, with a page not seen in the earlier feature article by Giant Freakin Robot.

The 48-page, oversized hardcover retails for $9.99.

UPDATE, 11:30 am:  On Twitter, Sean Phillips relays that the book is an oversized hardcover, measuring 8 by 11 inches:  for those on the fence, the book appears to be well worth the price.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Second Printing for The Fade Out #1!

The debut issue of The Fade Out was released last week to great acclaim, not only in most of the reviews cited in the aggregator site Comic Book Roundup, but at major publications like Entertainment Weekly, tweets from fellow writers like Scott Snyder, and more offbeat sites such as Retcon Punch, Rock! Shop! Pop!, and Pipedream Comics -- really too many to list, with the most unusual approach to a review coming from Jim Mello at Coliseum of Comics.

With all the advance publicity for the book -- much of which we covered last time, plus a Newsarama interview with Ed Brubaker that was published after our post -- it may come as no surprise that The Fade Out was an immediate sellout at the distributor level, and Thursday Image Comics announced a second printing, whose cover we're reprinting below.

The book's success shouldn't be taken for granted, however.  Ed Brubaker writes that this is the "biggest print run" he and Sean Phillips have ever had, with a fair amount of overprinting, and he elaborates that the orders were more than double the Final Order Cutoff for the Fatale #1.

A period piece without superpowers, supernatural monsters, or even a direct allusion to a classic comic book like Archie, The Fade Out is the biggest success of Brubaker and Phillips' collaborative career -- at least so far.

The second printing is scheduled to be released on September 24th, along with the second issue AND the final trade paperback collection for their previous hit Fatale.

(And, as a complete aside, Sean Phillips is looking for help researching comic book artists who have done work on album covers.  I'm sure he'd appreciate any info our readers might have.)

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Bullets: The Fade Out, Fatale, Criminal Reprints, and More!

It's been a whirlwind three weeks since the conclusion of Fatale, and so we're summarizing what we can, just before the debut of The Fade Out, in stores later today.

The Fatale Finale Reviews and Interviews.  The aggregator site Comic Book Roundup has links to seven very positive reviews from critics for Fatale #24, and I've seen additional praise from The Outhousers, FangirlNation, and I'd Rather Be Reading Comics.  The only mixed review I've seen is from The Savage Critics; I think Abhay Khosla makes a stronger argument that the story's expanding scope may have slowed its momentum than he does that the story's conclusion is chauvinistic.

If those positive reviews aren't enough, Eat Geek Play provided a list of six reasons everyone should read Fatale, and Nothing But Comics has an essay on the title's search for redemption.

After the series finale, Ed Brubaker provided a few post-mortem interviews about the horror-noir series, at Comic Book Resources and Complex Pop Culture, with the former providing a few spoiler-heavy insights into the series that even careful readers probably missed.

(As an aside, we do hope that digital readers took advantage of the Comixology sale mentioned in the previous post, as Fatale is no longer being offered in a deeply discounted bundle.)

• The Fade Out Preview, Interviews, and Early Reviews.  It's worth reiterating from last time, that the debut issue of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips' The Fade Out reaches stores today, including in an over-sized "movie magazine" variant that features an exclusive eight-page look behind the scenes.

USA Today has just published an article on the series, with a brief interview with the creators and an extended eight-page preview of the issue.  This is only the latest bit of publicity for Brubaker and the series, which has included an August 12th podcast interview with Inkstuds Radio and two August 18th interviews with Multiversity Comics and IGN.  The series' debut even made Entertainment Weekly's Must List.

We're combing all these interviews carefully to make sure we don't miss any big news, beyond the Criminal news we mention below.

In the meantime, Boing Boing provided an advance look at the magazine variant, with a few pictures of some of the exclusive content.  Broken Frontier lists The Fade Out #1 as their pick of the week, Comicosity includes it in their week's "hot five," and we've seen very positive advance reviews from Unleash The, and Big Comic Page.

Paste Magazine also has an early review, giving the issue a grade of 9.0 out of ten and writing, "Hollywood has never looked so dark, so sinister and so seductive."

Darren Orf at Paste writes what we've known for years:  "The pair have generated so much provocative, successful work, that a Brubaker/Phillips byline might be one of the few insignias of a guaranteed good read in the comic industry."

 The Fade Out Retailer-Exclusive Variants.  Before moving on to other topics, we would like to highlight a bit of news that has flown mostly under the radar, that there are two variants to The Fade Out #1, both exclusive to the retailers that commissioned the cover artists to produce them.

(Sean Phillips tweeted that he received both variants along with his comp copies of the standard issue and the magazine variant.).

Jamie McKelvie produced the following glamorous variant cover for three retailers: Beachball Comics, Laughing Ogre, and Austin Books.

And Chip Zdarsky produced the more harrowing variant cover for DCBS.

 Heart of the Beast, On Sale Now.  In January, we reported that Dynamite Entertainment was releasing a prestige hardcover commemorating the twentieth anniversary of Heart of the Beast, written by Dean Motter and Judith Dupré, with painted watercolor artwork by Sean Phillips, who subsequently provided us with an exclusive first look at the final cover art.

We almost missed it entirely, but the hardcover went on sale last week.  CBR published a 12-page preview, and Amazon has an even more extensive preview.

 Sean Phillips' Artwork, On Exhibition in Kendal.  On Twitter, Sean Phillips has announced that his artwork is being featured in a small exhibition at the Baba Ganoush Cafe in Kendal, England, in the months leading up to the Lakes International Comics Art Festival, October 17-19.  Phillips has confirmed that the artwork will be for sale after the exhibition concludes.

 Velvet in the Times and on a T-Shirt.   In the wake of the off-beat success of Guardians of the Galaxy, The New York Times posted an article arguing that the comic book is usually better than the movie; along with three other titles, the writer recommends Brubaker's espionage comic Velvet for new readers.  The series is the focus of a Loikamania podcast interview with Brubaker published last week, and the series features heavily in Image Comics' November solicitations, released yesterday.  Along with The Fade Out #4 and Velvet #10, the month of November will see the release of a Velvet tee-shirt that "demands respect."

 Criminal Reprinted in January, Deluxe Fatale Volume 2 to be Published Later. Finally, one bit of news toward the end of yesterday's USA Today story caught my eye, and it cannot wait for a future blog post.

On the subject of Criminal, Brian Truitt reports, "Image will start re-releasing collections of the comic beginning in January."

We're about six months away from seeing Criminal back on the shelves, published by Image rather than Marvel's Icon imprint.  We'll do our best to investigate whether the new printings will differ from the Icon editions in any significant way. 

We're certainly further away from the second (and presumably final) deluxe hardcover collection of Fatale.  Although he generally doesn't comment on publishing plans until they are announced, Brubaker has tweeted to a reader that he can expect the second hardcover "At the earliest, a year or so after the final trade."  The fifth and final trade paperback collection, for "Curse the Demon," is currently scheduled for a September 24th release, so the second hardcover may be tentatively planned for the 2015 holiday season.

Regardless, next year should most and perhaps all of Brubaker and Phillips' creator-owned work in print and being published by Image Comics.

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Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Look Back at Fatale, A Look Ahead to The Fade Out.

An extremely busy couple of weeks offline has kept me from blogging, but it's given me a chance to reflect on Fatale -- FYI, the entire run is now available for almost 50% off at Comixology, for $25 -- and to take an advance look at the debut issue for The Fade Out.

I've been intending to write one more lengthy essay to wrap up our look back at the Lovecraftian horror noir, but I'm not sure what more there is to say.

On the one hand, the series has been a little bit frustrating:  not only did the final issue not answer any of the numerous questions I had after re-reading the series, it actually raised a whole host of new questions.  What seemed to be Nicolas Lash's final fate, wasn't, and I'm not sure how that happened or whether that was really foreshadowed at all.  I don't know how exactly we got from the final showdown to the epilogue set one year later, without any apparent consequences for Nicolas' being a fugitive from the law.  And, I'm not quite sure how the story of the owl and the dragon quite fits into the big picture.  There was a brief discussion in the comments of the previous post, and I've added a few more thoughts there.

On the other hand, the series was immensely enjoyable.  The conclusion was surprising but emotionally satisfying, it was worth reading that second time, and I'm sure I'll be reading the whole series again soon.

The conclusion did remind me of the end to Sleeper.  Not to spoil either series, but the main characters had a similar ability to harm others by transferring pain to them, and both stories ended with bittersweet scenes in two very similar locales.

Readers of both books should know exactly what I mean.

Along with an interview with Brubaker, Phillips, and colorist Elizabeth Breitweiser, the AV Club has published an exclusive five-page preview of The Fade Out #1, in stores this Wednesday.

Brubaker and Phillips have also graciously provided us with an advance look at the extra-large "movie magazine" variant, and we cannot recommend this book more highly.  The variant includes eight additional pages of behind-the-scenes extras, with Brubaker providing photos from his family's work in Hollywood, and with Phillips writing about the process producing the book from Brubaker's script.

The issue itself is -- aside from the title -- classic Criminal, moody noir with already broken characters, this time with the superficial glamour and deep corruption of postwar Hollywood.

The issue begins with a dramatis personae introducing the main ensemble characters, and the book is clearly going to be more expansive than the typical single-arc story of Criminal, but the series doesn't meander.

The Fade Out begins with debauchery, murder, and a cover-up...

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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

30 Days of Fatale: The Conclusion of an Epic Short Story.

Fatale #24
released today, July 30, 2014
following a five-page preview

Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips' Lovecraftian horror-noir epic Fatale draws to a close today, after twenty-four issues released over the course of 31 months. In the back pages, Brubaker writes that the story spanned 586 pages, echoing what Phillips had tweeted as his work wrapped up, and that makes the book the longest single work in their fifteen years of collaboration, longer even than the 24-issue run on Sleeper.

I'm still processing this final chapter of "Curse the Demon," and I want to give readers sufficient time to buy the issue and read it for themselves.

An advance review was published Monday at The MacGuffin, and the spoiler-free review rates the issue a 10/10, praising the series overall as a triumph and saying that this final issue ends the story in style.  Rather than rate the issue or series, I'd like simply to draw readers attention to a few observations.


The final chapter has quite a few sudden twists.  I set the book down at its midpoint -- where the staples show -- when my family met me for lunch, and that hour-long break ended up heightening the tension for a conclusion that I didn't really see coming.

Brubaker and Phillips managed the rare feat of confounding the expectations of even the most attentive readers while still providing a completely satisfying ending.  I wasn't the only person online writing about Fatale and speculating about its conclusion, and reading all this analysis enriched the experience without spoiling the ending.  So far as I could tell, nobody's guesswork really stumbled upon the ending.

And yet... it occurred to me early on in the series, that if X happened, Y would be a likely consequence, but I strongly doubted X would occur.  When it did, I was happy to see Y.

And, in hindsight, there's a fairly obvious, early clue about one aspect about how this arc would end.


In the midst of all the horror, there is one early scene of striking beauty, of Jo taking what she fears will be her last moonlight swim, but even that scene has a bit of unspoken menace.  Sean Phillips shows us that as she swims, Jo is surrounded by sharks, with only their dorsal fins visible above the waves.

Apart from learning more about the owl with the ribbon around the world, we didn't get any real answers to the questions I mentioned yesterday, but that's not a bad thing, as the answers weren't crucial to the story's resolution.

I recently read a 2012 article from The Atlantic, by Ian Buckwalter, on the effectiveness of horror anthologies.  Noticing that Lovecraft and Poe rarely wrote anything other than short stories, he begins with a quote from Raymond Carver.

"Get in, get out. Don't linger. Go on."

It felt like this is exactly what Fatale did, despite its length and the often intricate plotting and artwork.  The story was vast in its scope, covering four different eras at length and having Josephine's curse influence a half-dozen fully realized characters:  Walt Booker, Hank Raines, Miles, Wulf, Lance Hickok, and finally Nicolas Lash.

And yet, the overall effect is still like reading "The Call of Cthulhu," where we grasp enough of the larger world to dread what we don't see.

It's like seeing the fin and not knowing how big the shark is beneath the surface.

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