Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Bullets: Criminal "Emission" for Dark Horse Noir, Incognito Solicitation, Second Volume of Gotham Central.

There have been a few updates which I would like to highlight, and there is news about a reprint that has (finally) been announced.
  • Confirmed: Criminal "Emission" for Dark Horse Noir. Sean Phillips himself commented about my recent summary of other interesting crime comics. As I explained in the update, Sean confirmed that his collaboration with Ed Brubaker for the upcoming Dark Horse Noir anthology collection will be a Criminal short story. This would be the second such story outside the pages of the Icon series -- the first one being in last year's Liberty Comics -- and Sean relays that Val Staples will not be adding his color work to this story, making it the first black-and-white Criminal story.

    (I pointed out Dark Horse's page for the collection earlier, but I missed that its format is explicitly black-and-white.)

    Last year's short story was titled "No One Rides for Free," a "Criminal emission" whereas each issue and trade collection is presented as a "Criminal edition." If the preview art that Sean just posted is any indication, this new "emission" will be called "21st Century Noir."

    The first page of preview art suggests that, along with a suitably twisted tale of romance (possibly featuring new characters), the story might obliquely address the way technology changes noir fiction. Noir from fifty years ago features phone booths and large American cars, in a culture where most men were suits and hats and where everybody smoked; now it's all cell phones, hybrids, tee-shirts and bottled water. The core tragedy of human life hasn't changed, but how technology affects it certainly has, and this story might explore that. The trade paperback anthology is scheduled for a Sept 30th release.

  • July Solicitation and Release Date for Incognito #6. As I explained in the update to the original blog entry, Marvel has just released its July solicitations, providing the description and release date for the final issue of Incognito. The issue is currently scheduled for a July 15th release -- which is earlier than I guessed -- and its story's focus has apparently expanded to include a global threat, where Zack Overkill is "the one man left who can save the world."

  • Gotham Central Volume 2 Hardcover. Finally, some new information regarding the hardcover collections for Gotham Central, which began with Ed Brubaker as co-writer and concluded with cover art from Sean Phillips. In DC's July solicitations, the second volume is advance-solicited for a September 9th sale date -- not too long before the Dark Horse Noir collection. Titled "Jokers & Madmen," the book collects the next twelve issues in the award-winning series, and it will retail for $29.99, the same price as the first, ten-issue collection.

    If it's consistent with the first volume, this collection will be subtitled "Book Two" and will contain the cover art for the collected issues -- which would be a good sign that the final volume will collect Sean Phillips' cover art. And, since the first hardcover collection was released in September, 2008, I'm guessing that subsequent volumes to collect the last of the series' forty issues will be published annually.

    Even though I had read his work for the main Batman titles, it was Gotham Central that made me really notice the particular writing of Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka. For me it has served as a "gateway drug" to Rucka's Queen & Country, and to Brubaker and Phillips's Sleeper and, now, Criminal and Incognito. Fans of Brubaker and Michael Lark's work on Daredevil should definitely check out this title, which is a kind of NYPD Blue under the shadow of the Batman and his dangerous enemies.

    This volume should be particularly enjoyable. It collects, for the first time, "Daydreams & Believers" and "Life is Full of Disappointments," two low-key stories that provide some of the best character moments of the series. And, it reprints "Soft Targets," a story where the Joker terrorizes Gotham during the Christmas season; it wouldn't surprise me at all if this story was read by the writers of The Dark Knight.
Since this is my fourth entry in just under a week, I've probably made up for the quiet month before that. It's been a busy week, and I'll keep y'all posted with more news, previews, and commentary as it comes.

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Updated Schedule for Incognito, and What Lies Beyond.

Since the debut of Criminal in October 2006, there has been the occasional delay in Brubaker and Phillip's Icon comics, usually a delay of only a week or two from the original solicitation date, sometimes a little bit more. Because I so look forward to new issues, the delay can feel unbearable, but I cannot stress how minor these delays really are.

Even the occasional one-month delay is nothing in comparison to other books, even high-profile projects involving DC and Marvel's most popular characters. Funnybook Babylon has an interesting summary of how the rest of the Marvel universe kept moving during the 25-issue run of Whedon and Cassaday's Astonishing X-Men. If their collaboration had a somewhat overstated reputation for delays -- they ended up releasing the book every two months, on average -- the same cannot be said for Action Comics' "Last Son" arc from Johns, Donner, and Kubert, a fiasco which FBB also documents in all its gory detail. And All-Star Batman & Robin's delays have become a punchline in their own league.

Beyond that, with Criminal and Incognito, we're dealing with a creator-owned title by guys who are juggling other projects. I wouldn't want their work to be rushed, and fill-in work makes no sense whatsoever. For such a well-made labor of love, the delays are not only minor, they're understandable and even desirable compared to any realistic alternatives.

I say all that to say this: I like Ed Brubaker's personal page or two of notes and letters in the back of every issue, and I really appreciate his apology for the one-month delay, opening the notes page in this week's issue. It wasn't necessary, but it's appreciated as a small recognition of the connection between the creators and the readers.

In this week's issue, Brubaker also writes, "from here on in, we should be monthly for the rest of the series and then we're going right into the next run of Criminal, with no break this time."

I'm looking forward to it, and I have some details for our readers here.

As an update to yesterday's news, I see that Marvel has corrected its announcement and confirmed my initial suspicion that the double-issue reprint is scheduled to go on sale on May 13th.

Yesterday, I talked with one of my good friends working at Great Escape Comics, and he found that the March 25th Diamond Dateline -- the weekly newsletter for Diamond customers -- listed updates for the next two issues of Incognito. Though issue #4 was originally scheduled for April 22nd, and issue #5 was originally scheduled for May 27th, Diamond reported that the issues have been rescheduled for May 20th and June 17th, respectively.

I have not found a page for issue #5 yet at Marvel.com, but the official site now lists a release date of May 27th for issue #4. Since that issue has been delayed one more week, I'm guessing issue #5 will also be released a week later than Diamond's update -- that is, June 24th.

The sixth and final issue was not included in the June solicitations, so I imagine a release no earlier than late July.

Taking these dates and adding info from the original solicitations and press releases along with some final cover art from Sean's blog, I would say that this is, essentially, the current schedule for the remaining issues of Incognito.


    Marvel is pleased to announce that INCOGNITO #1 & #2, which quickly sold out of both their first and second printings*, are collected in the all-new INCOGNITO MUST-HAVE ONE SHOT. From the Eisner-winning, noir dream team of Ed "The Man Who Killed Captain America" Brubaker, Sean Phillips and Val Staples, INCOGNITO presents the gripping story of a former super villain in the witness protection program. But when he starts using his powers once more, does this spell the end of his rehabilitation…and his very life? Collecting the first two issues of the acclaimed limited series, INCOGNITO MUST-HAVE ONE SHOT is the perfect jumping on point for the book that critics and fans agree is a hit! Plus, this collection features a new cover by Phillips!

    (* - Completists and other collectors should note that I do NOT believe issue #2 had a second printing.)

  • INCOGNITO #4: May 27th

    THE MOST TWISTED SUPER-VILLAIN TALE OF ALL TIME TAKES A SHARP RIGHT TURN... AS THE HEROES FINALLY ARRIVE! Zack's masked mayhem hasn't gone unnoticed by the authorities or the bad guys he's been in hiding from. Now, Zoey Zeppelin [sic], granddaughter of the legendary Professor Zeppelin is here to find out just which side he's on -- even if she has to kill him to be sure. (cover art)

  • INCOGNITO #5: probably June 24th

    Doc Lester is the mad scientist's mad scientist, and he may just be the only person who knows the truth about Zack Overkill and his twin brother...A truth that Zack will soon have to kill for, as all sides are closing in on him. (cover art)

  • INCOGNITO #6: late July, possibly July 29th

    A description has not yet been made available. (cover art)

    UPDATE, Apr 21: Newsarama has just posted Marvel's full solicitations for July, including a description for issue #6, which is scheduled to go on sale July 15th.

    THE HARD-HITTING CONCLUSION TO THE MOST TWISTED SUPER-VILLAIN STORY EVER! It all ends here. All of Zack Overkill's planning and scheming has brought him face-to-face with his own past, and now he's the one man left who can save the world... but does he care enough to even try?

The later dates are my best guesses, and, of course, all dates are subject to change. Since Brubaker mentioned a return to Criminal without any further delay, I would guess that the series will return in late August or early September.

Depending on how long that next arc is, I also imagine that the sequel to Incognito that I mentioned yesterday will probably reach stores around the beginning of next year.

Buy Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips comics from Amazon.com

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Notes on Other Crime Comics.

As I just wrote yesterday, I plan to continue focusing on Brubaker and Phillips' collaborative work: their Wildstorm comic Sleeper, and especially their recent work under Marvel's Icon imprint. I'll briefly note their other projects as time permits and as events warrant it, and -- as I did in February -- I'll occasionally make note of other crime comics, which are the subject of this brief blog entry.

First, alongside issue #3 of Incognito, the final issue of 100 Bullets was released Wednesday. The award-winning Vertigo series by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso concludes with issue #100. I couldn't find any online previews, but CBR and IGN have already posted very positive, spoiler-filled reviews.

There have been some developments for the upcoming projects I mentioned earlier. First, a website devoted to the criminal character Parker, created by Donald Westlake (as Richard Stark), has pointed out some new images of Darwyn Cooke's first Parker adaptation, and the site also highlighted a brief introduction to Parker and Cooke. The first graphic-novel adaptation, Parker: The Hunter, appears to be scheduled for a July 14th release.

And, Dark Horse's Noir trade paperback is now listed at the official website. The listing features apparent cover art and a link to pre-order the book, which is scheduled to be released on September 30th. The anthology will include work from both Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, but it's still not yet clear whether they will be working together, much less whether we'll have another "Criminal emission" as we did with Liberty Comics.

[UPDATE, Apr 20: Sean Phillips added a comment to this blog entry, confirming that Dark Horse Noir WILL include a "Criminal emission," a black-and-white short story, without colors from Val Staples. (Thanks, Sean!)]

(As a brief aside, issue #1 of Liberty Comics, featuring a short Criminal story starring Tracy Lawless, went to a second printing with new cover art, and it's available for sale here, to benefit the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. Though they mistakenly include this second printing's cover art, Newsarama recently reported that a second issue is scheduled to be released in October. This new anthology comic will accompany The CBLDF Liberty Series, "a series of high-end variant covers featuring Image's strongest titles with exclusive artwork not available anywhere else.")

It's a good time to read crime comics, and if I come across any other projects that might interest Criminal readers, I'll point them out.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Bullets: Eisner Nomination, Interviews, and Incognito Previews & Reprint.

It's been quiet around here, but the Criminal creators are keeping busy. Ed Brubaker's Angel of Death, the online live-action mini-series starring Zoe Bell, debuted at Crackle over the first few weeks of March. Meanwhile at his blog, Sean Phillips has been showcasing preview art for "The Brothers MacKenzie," which Sean explains is "a cowboy story for Outlaw Territory written by Pete Doree," and which he first mentioned in early February.

If I had the time, I would consider providing more regular coverage of all the other great work that the guys are doing, especially Ed Brubaker's many high-profile projects for some of Marvel's most popular characters.

But, if I had that kind of time, I wouldn't try to cram a month's worth of updates into a single blog entry. As it is, I'll continue to focus on Brubaker and Phillips' collaborations, and I'll catch up with a "bullet" list.
  • Eisner nod for Val Staples.First, the 2009 Eisner Award nominations were announced, and Val Staples was nominated for Best Coloring for his work on both Criminal and Incognito. (h/t Newsarama)

    Criminal won the Eisner for Best New Series in 2007, and Ed Brubaker won Best Writer that same year -- and again in 2008 -- in part for his work on the Icon series. Though I think his work on the recent Age of the Sentry "throwback" mini-series was good, his work on Criminal and Incognito has been exceptional. I personally think the coloring for "Bad Night" is particularly striking, and we congratulate Val for the well-deserved nomination. The awards will be announced at the San Diego Comic-Con on Friday, July 24th.

  • Brubaker interviews reveal an Incognito sequel. I've caught a few recent interviews with Ed Brubaker, focusing on other topics but revealing new information about his creator-owned titles. First, two of the big comic news sites interviewed Brubaker in early March, focusing on Angel of Death. Newsarama asked about adapting his comic books to other media, and Ed relayed that he has "several deals in the works in various stages out there." While one cannot count on these projects coming to completion, Brubaker assures us that comics is still his life: "I want to work more in film, and I'd love to do more screen writing, but I can do anything I want with Sean right now, and that kind of freedom is not widely available in Hollywood."

    Comic Book Resources asked Brubaker about his current work in comics. After briefly teasing "huge stuff" for Captain America this summer, Brubaker revealed that the next issue of Incognito will contain some "major twists" and "goes even darker." His recent body of work has been quite dark and twisted already, so that might be saying quite a lot.

    Then, at the end of the month, it was announced that Ed Brubaker's popular run on Marvel's Daredevil will be coming to a close with issue #500, which I believe corresponds with the second volume's issue #23 (correction, #120), at which point the original numbering will resume. Newsarama interviewed Brubaker about his leaving the title with the conclusion of the "Return of the King" storyline, passing the title to Andy Diggle. He confirms that he will remain quite active with Marvel, on Captain America for the foreseeable future, the Marvels Project which was announced in February, and "one other big Marvel project" that remains a secret.

    (Captain America fans should note that an enigmatic teaser image started appearing a few weeks ago and points to a major event in July. It's not clear whether Brubaker is directly involved in this event.)

    After discussing his mainstream Marvel work, Brubaker discussed Incognito at length. He talked about the mini-series' surprising success and mentioned that one theme is its exploration of its protagonist Zack, "why he is the way he is" and why that prevents him from a life of bourgeois normalcy. He confirmed that the story would conclude at six issues rather than five, because its pace ended up being slower than he expected. And, he revealed that a sequel to Incognito is fast on its heels.

    Earlier, we reported that the next arc of Criminal should feature the return of Tracy Lawless. In this most recent interview, Brubaker teased the Incognito sequel that will likely follow this arc: "It's a weird story that just appeared to me while plotting out the first issue, and I've got this burning desire to get to it quickly."

    Brubaker hopes Incognito fans will try his crime series, and he reassured Criminal fans of his love for the older title: "Criminal does really well, and our trade sales are incredibly steady on it, as are our European sales, and it's really the comic I've been wanting to do for a long time, so I'll always come back to it."

  • Incognito #3 preview. At the end of the most recent Newsarama interview, Brubaker teased an online preview of the next issue, and the site provided a then-exclusive preview the next day.

    (The preview includes some blacked-out text and a black box over some partial nudity. CBR's subsequent preview of the same material -- plus one extra page -- confirms that the obscured text was some hasher profanity, and its lack of black boxes strongly suggests that this editing was for the Newsarama preview only, and not for the actual issue.)

    The cover features the beautiful but deadly (aren't they all?) Ava Destruction and is shown above. The new issue is scheduled to go on sale tomorrow, April 15th.

  • Preview art at Sean's blog. Over at his blog, Sean Phillips continues to feature preview art for Incognito. In addition to showing work-in-progress for the main story, he has shown both the sketch and the final art for the image that will apparently accompany the essay on the pulp hero, "The Spider." I suspect the essay will be in tomorrow's new issue. Phillips has also shown a very arresting preliminary sketch for the trade paperback cover art. It's unique from the perspective of art design, it quickly conveys the anonymity in Zack's witness protection program, and it will certainly stand out on the comic-book racks.

  • JUST ANNOUNCED: Incognito Must-Have One-Shot. Finally, I just noticed that, today, Marvel has announced an Incognito Must-Have One-Shot, a double-issue reprint of the first two issues of the mini-series, both of which have already sold out. (h/t CBR)

    The cover art is reprinted here. As of this blog entry's writing, the press release lists two final order cutoff (FOC) dates, which I suspect is an error. If it is, the later date might be the sale date; this double-issue reprint might go on sale on Wednesday, May 13th.

    I'll post an update on the sale date as soon as I have more information.

    UPDATE: I confirmed this suspicion, as detailed here.
Quite a bit's happened over the last month.

To review very briefly, previews for Incognito #3 are already online, and the issue goes on sale tomorrow. An extra-length reprint of the first two issues has been announced, and it appears that it may go on sale in about a month. The Eisner Awards will be announced at the end of July, and Val Staples has been nominated for his coloring on Brubaker and Phillips' two Icon titles. Around this time, we will probably see the Incognito trade and the first new Criminal story arc for 2009. After that arc wraps, we should see the strange sequel to Incognito.

In the meantime, I'll keep posting updates, even if they aren't exactly the most timely announcements.

Buy Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips comics from Amazon.com

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