South-Central Pennsylvania's Ultra-Hip Pop Culture Mecca™! Since its founding in 1988 by local fans Ned Senft and Bill Wahl, Comix Connection™ has served the Pennsylvania comic-reading community for over 27 years. From its humble beginnings in the old York Book Emporium in downtown York to its current globe-straddling locations on White Street in York and on the Carlisle Pike in Mechanicsburg, Comix Connection™ has always provided the very best in customer service, selection of neat stuff and attention to detail. Visit us today! Questions? Comments? Call or Email us! Of course, all images are © and ™ their respective copyright and trademark holders! No matter where you go, there you are.

Friday, February 05, 2016

"Swamp Thing" #2 Review by Counter Monkey John Arminio

 When listing the great comic book luminaries, from Will Eisner, Jack Kirby, and Steve Ditko to Alan Moore, Frank Miller, and Neil Gaiman, I feel as if we perpetually forget about Len Wein. Maybe he didn't define the form as we know it like Eisner or Kirby, or win Nebula and Hugo awards hand over fist the way Neil Gaiman has, but Wein has left his mark on the industry like no one else. He created friggin' Wolverine, he created Swamp Thing, he was the guy DC called when they needed someone to edit Alan Moore's Watchmen (imagine having to edit Alan Moore), and he's the person largely responsible for why the Hulk is so incredible. Though he did not create the character of Bruce Banner or his radiation-forged alter ego, the popular image of the character, the dual personas Mark Ruffalo portrays in the Avengers films, is Len Wein's creation. Since the 1970s, he's been up and down the ladders of editorial and authorial positions at both Marvel and DC with the proficiency with which Doctor Strange travels to alternate Universes and mysterious dimensions. He's written almost every important character, ever major title, and has been a workhorse and a mentor for industry heads and young creatives alike. He's pretty good.

So, as one might imagine, it was with utter glee to learn that Mr. Wein has return to his most horticulturally inclined creation: Alec Holland, Swamp Thing! Along with artist Kelley Jones, Wein and DC have brought back Swamp Thing for what is, for now, a six issue miniseries and the results are vintage swampy, grisly goodness. The story perfectly embodies the feel of a classic backwoods bayou horror story, with the grudgingly benevolent Holland being dragged into the affairs of us fleshy mortals despite wanting to merely govern his realm of The Green. Wein and Jones are able to wander through the paths of past Swamp Thing tales and navigate the dark corridors like the practiced masters they are, digging up a disturbing and even moving story from what was once dead.

The art itself is a complete throwback to vintage horror and Vertigo titles of years past, but lovingly and expertly done. The visuals make each page feel like grit from graveyards is making its way under the reader's fingernails, an air of creeping loam accomplished with exquisite precision. This is ideal, since the title character is the offspring of the Earth given sentience, possessing a sense of self that at once can encompass the entire globe and at another be as present and in the moment as a budding wildflower. The look in Swamp Thing's eyes that conveys such intelligence, along with the simultaneous empathy and emotional distance that has always attracted me personally to the character, is definitely present in this miniseries. 

The physicality of Swamp Thing has always been malleable, as is the form plant matter can manifest depending on the circumstances. Flowers, trees, vegetables; all change form and shape and lifespan based on a variety of environmental and genetic factors, and our hero's physical presence reflects that. During the New 52 era, Swamp Thing could be decidedly vegetative or coniferous; composed of visible branches and leaves in a vaguely humanoid shape. Here, Holland's physical form is more akin to his appearance in his Vertigo era; a malleable green organism temporarily in the shape of a muscle-bound man. This makes his battles with his enemies all the more disturbing, as the damage he takes manifests as what one might imagine a plant/human hybrid might look like, only manifested to nightmare extremes. He splits apart, bends, and twists like the creature from John Carpenter's The Thing (only green and brown) and when severely wounded enough, spills forth with human-shaped organs made of plant matter. It's gross and weird and, most of all, wonderful.

In the first issue, Holland is approached by a family who, through wicked scientific and occult experimenting, zombified their own son. Now, they seek Swamp Thing's help to put their own offspring back where he belongs: the ground (Swamp Thing's domain). Although Holland is certainly not human, he does hold an intrinsic attachment to all life and holds it sacred, therefore he acquiesces to help the tragedy-prone family. Along the way, he encounters (to my delight) the villainous Shade, bane to all slightly darker DC heroes since the 1940s, being properly diabolical. Magic is performed, the undead are battled, and depths of murky despair are traveled down... but in a fun way.

The seeming contrast of the darkest of subject matter with the most noble and sympathetic of heroes is part of what has made Swamp Thing such a fascinating character for so long. He is able to be himself and to strive for contentment while being pulled by the needs of literally every form of plant life on Earth. He only wants to make life better but is surrounded by mad scientists, mischievous magicians, and superpowered zombies. One hopes that complex, layered, dark, and grisly titles like this version of Swamp Thing can continue to exist alongside the bright and shiny comics in DC's catalogue like Batgirl, or other miniseries like the delightful romp that was Bizarro. A diverse slate of releases could only mean good things for comic book readers. If said reader is in search of shadowy horror with a fascinating good guy is what you are looking for, Swamp Thing is the dark door to open.

Five Arcane Spells of Resurrection Out of Five

Monday, February 01, 2016

It is not often that we here at Comix Connection get to sneak a peek at anything ahead of time. Usually when the new books hit the shelves on Wednesday mornings we've only seen them a few hours beforehand, time that was spent counting and sorting rather than reading! Every once in a blue moon however, a publisher will give us something to preview in advance. Such was the case with The Nameless City, the newest graphic novel by Faith Erin Hicks due to release this April.
Well folks, I fell in love before I even finished the prelude, and the rest of the story only served to make me even more delighted with what I was reading. The fascinating world-building, gorgeous visuals, and captivating characters all weave together into a dangerous plot that sneaks up on the reader just like it does on the characters. This first volume (of a planned trilogy) does a fantastic job of being both a complete story in itself, with all the character development and story-resolution it takes to satisfy a reader, while at the same time setting things up for a surely even more complicated and suspenseful second act.
Here's the actual summary: "An unlikely friendship forms between Nameless City native Rat, and Kai, whose country has recently conquered her city.  The two of them must find common ground between their cultures and foil a sinister conspiracy.  Hicks has created a beautiful and intricate world inspired by Central Asia and the Silk Road in which the besieged inhabitants of an ancient city are desperate to learn the secrets of the perished civilization which carved the city out of living rock."

If you liked the adventure and friendship of the Avatar: The Last Airbender cartoons and comics, if you liked the detailed world-building and fantasy-history of Autumnlands, if you liked the unlikely-heroes-saving-the-kingdom stories of Bone and Amulet, and if you liked the worlds-at-war cultural conflict of Saga, then I have no doubt that you will be enthralled and charmed by The Nameless City. And unlike Saga you can share this story with your kids! In fact, if you're thinking about buying this book just for your kids, let me strongly recommend that you sneak a read yourself before you give it to them (or steal it back after) because this is the kind of story that anybody can enjoy, not matter how old they are.
The author and artist, Faith Erin Hicks, is mostly known for her stories about modern-day teenagers (and zombies) but she's been a longtime fan of fantasy stories, and just a few pages of this comic will convince you that she's an expert at that genre as well. From the carefully-interwoven fictional cultures to the gloriously-realized setting and character design, The Nameless City is a fantasy classic in the making. Get in on the ground floor of this incredible new story and pre-order your copy today! I can practically promise that you won't be disappointed. As for me, I'm already eagerly anticipating volume two!

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Saturday, January 30, 2016

Batman and Robin Eternal is Everything Great about Batman and Robin

A weekly series is a lot to ask from the comic reading public, especially one like Batman and Robin Eternal, which digs deep into the Batman mythos along with the histories of Robin. All the Robins. It is a series that rewards a good amount of foreknowledge of Bat-backstory or at least a willingness to scour the Internet for answers to where certain characters came from or when he or she encountered various adversaries before.

So is Batman and Robin Eternal worth your time and energy? Without a doubt, it is. It is a title I look forward to diving into every week, both for its ability to go to challenging places with familiar characters (while keeping them grounded in who they are and what makes them unique), as well as for asking the very hard questions about the relationship between Batman and Robin.

Batman and Robin Eternal acknowledges the terrible depths crime can go in the real world, a world in which detestable cruelties like child slavery, abuse, forced prostitution, and armies filled with child soldiers exist. The reality that Bruce Wayne finds himself in also harbors such horrors. He has been witness to inhumanity ever since he was a young boy, subject to pain and suffering that are so pervasive in his world that even his immense wealth and loving family could not shield him. So a man born from pain, a man unable to move beyond the great tragedies of his life; what makes him want or need to recruit these orphan teenage boys to fight crime with him? What does that say about him as a man? After all the sadness that his experiences with Dick Grayson, Tim Drake, and especially Jason Todd have wrought, what keeps him going, especially with his own son Damian Wayne? What separates his recruitment of these boys into his mission from a warlord enlisting a child soldier? Even a child slave?

Batman and Robin Eternal confronts this fraught question head-on with the villain known as "Mother" and her assassin-offspring, the formidable heavy known as Orphan (real name David Cain). Mother has, for years, been genetically engineering and training young brides to order for wealthy male "clients," draining them of their humanity and molding them to fit her clients' needs before shipping them off to a life none of us would like to imagine. Orphan is there to enforce her mad mission and her philosophy upon "Mother's children," killing anyone who might stand in her way. The comic frequently flashes back to an early international mission with Batman and Robin in which they encountered the fear-obsessed villain Scarecrow as he developed a trauma-inducing serum that would make Mother's children more easily malleable to her wishes. 

All of this is nightmarish, but it is all the more horrible knowing that it has parallels in the real world. The addition of Scarecrow as a side villain also enables the comic to explore what are the deepest, darkest nightmares of the various Robins and of Bruce Wayne himself. What could possibly make Jason Todd quake with fear? After all, he endured "death" at the hands of the Joker only to be brought back to life. What could frighten someone who conquered death? Well, it turns out, a whole bunch. Todd's psyche is penetrated and dissected in ways that are rare for such a wisecracking, cynical, and physically formidable individual. It's easy to take his surface witticisms and violence at face value, but Batman and Robin Eternal forces the character to confront what is a very deep and damaging post-traumatic stress disorder, one he has spent his life since his "resurrection" avoiding. With the help of the other Robins, he is able to find strength in the truth of his experience, he is able to know that there are people who care about him, even love him. He has his brothers; Tim, Damian, and Dick; and his adopted father in Bruce Wayne. It is a depth to Jason Todd never before experienced nor expected, which makes it all the more enthralling.

This gets to the heart of why Batman's recruitment of his "wards" is fundamentally different from what Mother does, despite her villainous speechifying to the contrary. Batman has created an environment where these "lost boys," these orphans (whether literal or figurative), find meaning in their lives and find attachment to other people beyond what Bruce Wayne himself has ever been able to experience. Dick Grayson, the first Robin, might be the greatest thing Batman has ever done. Wayne took a boy who, like himself, saw his parents murdered before his eyes and instead of letting him wander, to try and find his destiny alone, Bruce Wayne took young Grayson and gave him guidance and companionship and purpose. This goes beyond the purpose Bruce gave himself when he decided to make it his mission to rid Gotham City of crime, a purpose that left him perpetually unfulfilled and on an unending quest for revenge on the ineffable concept of evil. Grayson, on the other hand, was able to forge an identity of his own that is optimistic as well as full of light and depth. From the time Dick was a young boy to his maturity to Nightwing and beyond, he has been able to provide a counterbalance to Batman's perpetual grimness; a powerful source of light so the Dark Knight can at least find his way out of his cave. 

And with the Scarecrow researching his fear serum, exploring the different dimensions of what fear and trauma can trigger in a person, the reader is offered a glimpse into Dick Grayson's greatest fear: being a disappointment to Batman. Which characters know this fear, and whether the heroes know if the villains know, become variables in the mind games each side plays against one another, and this allows the plot itself to provide ways of exploring the psyches of the characters. When Batman is confronted with his greatest fear, it is actually not having fear because he fears having no one to disappoint or care for. So of course he goes out of his way to adopt these orphan boys; he is terrified of having no reason to feel anymore and does not want people like Grayson, who have such potential for goodness and strength, to have nothing to fear for.

Even more relevant to the plot itself is the character of Cassandra Cain, who is a teenage girl molded to be the perfect child-assassin in the service of Mother. In her creation, she was given over to the tutelage of her "father," Orphan (David Cain), and subjected to nauseating emotional abuse, experimentation, and physical trials. Her emotions were systematically erased from her psyche, replaced only with pain, anger, and fear; tools with which Orphan and Mother could use to manipulate Cassandra to their own ends. This is anathema to Batman's training and upbringing of Grayson, Todd, Drake, and Damian, who were all imbued with life-affirming emotions and purpose. They became better able to adjust to their lives through their upbringing, while Cassandra was broken down and almost shattered. Cassandra was trained to abhor the mere act of speech and physical contact, that is, until she meets the Bat Family, including characters with their own families like the young Harper Row. Through the help, sympathy, and love of these people, Cassandra is able to actualize herself, then literally and metaphorically find her voice again. Instead of her backstory being a cliche motivator of villainy, Cassadra conquers her past and emerges whole. It is through the care and affection of others, as well as her own steadfast determination, that she is able to become a fully realized individual. Love brings strength, not weakness, which is a lesson Mother learns the hard way. It is a pleasantly surprising lesson to come from Batman, who even Dick Grayson has jokingly described as, "Batman: obsessed, insane, wears a batsuit, doesn't believe in danger or pain Batman."

Sure, there are occasional subplots that go off the rails, wacky set pieces, weird cults, secret underground cities, and Bane shows up for no reason, but Batman and Robin Eternal is a captivating symphony of everything human about Batman. Through various thrilling plot machinations, it travels across time periods of Batman's history as it travels across the globe as it travels the emotional spectrum. Tragedy in Cairo, triumph in Prague, and angst in the Batcave. Some issues are entirely action-packed, some are dialogue-heavy philosophizing, but everything fits into the grand canvas the Bat writing team of James Tynion IV, Tim Seeley, and Scott Snyder are weaving. If you like comics or any of the Bat Family characters, this is a series that deserves your attention. The art is consistently engaging and beautiful and the writing brilliant. If you are behind, then you owe it to yourself to catch up. If you have not taken the deep dive, there is a collection of the first twelve issues coming in March so I implore you to take advantage. With stories this well-told, Batman will be eternal, indeed. 

Monday, January 25, 2016

"Devolution" #1 Review by Counter Monkey John Arminio

 Rick Remender has more horror-filled dystopian futures stored in his brain than Stan Lee has alliterative character names, and he has reached a new level of bleak nihilism with Devolution. A pinnacle abyssal, if you will...

Anyway, the series is set in a future in which much of the life on Earth, everything from insects to humans, has be "de-evolved" into more primitive, savage, and destructive forms. Years ago, some scientists, despairing over the increasingly self-destructive and irrational behavior exhibited by "modern" human beings, decided to genetically engineer a remedy to our species' faults. Pinpointing the belief in God and other non-empirical thoughts as the root cause of our self-destruction, these misguided scientists developed a virus that would de-evolve the part of the human brain that held such beliefs and release it into the world, thereby erasing the faults in humanity.

As is common with all such mad scientist "cures," things went terribly wrong. The virus itself soon mutated and began de-evolving every part of the human brain and body, then de-evolving all other life on Earth until the planet was transformed into a slimy miasma of bloodlust and spiraling self-destruction. 

Devolution is told through the eyes of Raja, a young woman in the mold of Walking Dead's Michonne; a cynical, sword-wielding female warrior as deadly as she is intelligent. She does a good amount of reflecting on her own lack of belief in God, yet the book finds an intriguing point of intellectual conflict when it comes to faith. Our protagonist has remained alive because she is a cynical realist, able to look at things logically, but the world she inhabits ended because of an illogical impulse to purge "illogical" thoughts (like God) from the human mind. On her mission to re-evolve the planet, Raja must find a way to allow humans to believe in the impossible again without believing in anything but what she can see with her own eyes. It's a fascinating conflict to watch unfold, even as the most depraved behavior is displayed and then often punished by Raja's sword.

The art is just as distinctive as in Remender's other sci-fi series. Unlike the watercolor rainbow beauty of Low, the Japanese woodcut influence in Tokyo Ghost, or the inky hallucinogenic hyper-detail of Black Science, Devolution is a gritty nightmare descended from horror comics of decades past, reminiscent of 1970s Creepy or Eerie, but with a modern immediacy. There are creeping, crawling horrors to be sure; creatures with proportions and facial distortions reminiscent of horror titles past, but they are also just as likely to come at Raja (or the reader) with the force of a rabid bull, full of charging horns and gritted teeth.

The content of the book is as nasty and unpleasant as the above description might imply, both in language and imagery, though not quite as extreme as, for example, Jason Aaron's The Goddamned. Devolution actually makes an interesting companion piece to that series, as both depict worlds absent of God or beauty, filled with Neanderthal-esque beasts, and feature a lone protagonist on a violence-filled quest seeking an end to that violence. Only in The Goddamned, the story takes place in a far distant (and biblical) past, while Devolution takes place in a future where Earth has reverted to a decrepit, almost antediluvian state.     

Devolution is a comic that portrays human intelligence and wisdom in the same cartoonishly dim fashion as Mike Judge's Idiocracy, combined with the soul-crushing darkness of Cormac McCarthy's The Road. It's like the worst parts of ourselves in a maze of funhouse mirrors; it would be funny if it wasn't so terrifying. 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

"Secret Wars" #9 Review by Counter Monkey John Arminio

 So, was it all worth it? What does it all mean? The oft-delayed, much hyped conclusion to Marvel's Even to End All Events has finally come and gone and, to be perfectly honest, I don't know what any of it really means... and I kind of feel like it's my job to know. Does that mean I am too dumb for Secret Wars? Does it point to a fundamental failure on the part of Marvel to provide a satisfying conclusion to months upon months of storylines? 

Maybe. But what Secret Wars was actually about was Marvel's attempt to restructure its fictional Universe in such a way as to maximize sales of its monthly books and to consolidate its various titles and characters to expand brand recognizability. So whether it was a success or failure can only be answered by Marvel's editors and corporate officers. The better question is: did I enjoy the ride? Undeniably, yes.

Of course the scheduling, number of issues, price point, and page count seemed to constantly change, dragging on for months. Yes, it is frustrating when books one is reading are interrupted for a new, weird event tie-in that may or may not matter in three months. However, what "matters" is subjective to individual readers and every week brought something surprising, something unique, and something never printed in comic books before, especially in one of the Big Two. It was a crazy, balls-out fantastical comic book opera that had as much to do with quantum physics as it did with the enmity between Doctor Doom and Mister Fantastic. Marvel had enough faith in writer Jonathan Hickman, along with the scribes writing each Secret Wars miniseries, to drastically reshape their brand to its very core. This division of Disney was willing to give Hickman the Keys to the Kingdom, and reshape it to one totally in line with his own mad scientist vision of the Marvel Universe. A Magic Kingdom, indeed, and one rife with "God Doom's" own brand of dark diabolism. That is a creative bravery rarely seen in any context from a corporation, a singular I am grateful actually happened.

Regardless of the amount of comic art and storytelling that crosses my eyeballs, I could always count on something knocking me out in the main Secret Wars title, even if I was expecting it to happen. It is a remarkable accomplishment to stick a reader in the ribs when he or she is expecting the knife to show up within those limited number of pages. No matter the delays, that is an experience I will always be thankful Secret Wars provided, and issue #9 is no exception. It's bonkers, it makes no sense when examined critically, but it's a beautiful piece of art that brought about an emotional reaction. What more can I ask for from a Big Event comic book?

Speaking of beautiful, Esab Ribic's art has been astonishing since issue #1. Maybe his workload was the reason for the bulk of the scheduling changes, maybe not, but the finished work remains some of the best art the medium has ever seen. From the layout to the detail in the pencils to the facial expressions to the colors, Secret Wars has been a wonder to behold. Every page has had the detail and precision of an Alex Ross cover, but with a sense of dynamic movement on an epic scale and a distinct emotionality even in the smallest moments. Ribic's work melds with Hickman's reality-altering story perfectly, as both art and narrative have a grandiose scope on the level of the Homeric. Men, women, aliens, and gods intermingle and engage in conflicts both petty and universal, familial and extending across eternity. 

What does it all mean? Trying to explain the motivations behind Doom, Black Panther, Reed Richards, or Jonathan Hickman himself is as labyrinthine and self-defeating a task as trying to explain the motivations behind Zeus or Osiris or the Strong Nuclear Force... but that is what makes reading these characters so worthwhile. Hickman has access to the he hypnotizing infinities in the mind of Doom, in the soul of comics themselves, and as difficult as those might be to understand, I gladly keep coming back for more.  What it means, for me, is a wild and surprising ride, filled with events that I would never have imagined all presented in as gorgeous a package that can be obtained in your local comic book retailer. I have as many unanswered questions as I did when Issue #1 was released, but I think we got to experience something unique in comic book history, some of the biggest creative risks ever taken since the industry began, and for that, I can stand some unfinished puzzles.    

Thursday, January 07, 2016

"A-Force" #1 Review by Counter Monkey John Arminio

 To be honest, the A-Force miniseries was one of the few tie-ins with Marvel's (almost) concluded Secret Wars event that I actively did not enjoy, and considering the talent and characters involved in the book, it was, for me, perhaps the most disappointing. It seemed to lack direction and substituted quips for world-building and utilized cheap cultural references instead of characterization. Having a character compare a giant shark to "Sharknado" in the God Doom-ruled dark fantasy planet of Battleworld, and in the high fantasy setting of Arcadia (the realm where the book took place), felt as off-putting as if the Gandalf the Gray sang Beyonce's "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)" when charging Frodo with tossing the One Ring into the fiery pits of Mordor. Just cheap and unnatural.

So it was not without a certain sense of trepidation that I opened the first issue of the new ongoing A-Force series. To my great pleasure, my lack of enthusiasm was immediately extinguished and I found myself wrapped in the story and its characters. The comic uses the brilliant device of utilizing the newest (and least human) character, named Singularity, as the reader's window into this new world of A-Force. That is, Marvel's All-New All-Different, post-Secret Wars Universe. Singularity still remembers Arcadia, still remembers the friendships she formed when she first found sentience in that miniseries, but she alone retains such experiences. She remembers the joy and companionship she felt when first forging friendships, and the tragedy and loss when many of the characters she only recently bonded with died. Now she finds herself in this strange new plane, encountering people she recognizes inhabiting places foreign to her, but most disturbingly, do not recognize her. Singularity is a proxy for the reader, many of whom have found the transition from the pre-Secret Wars Marvel, through Secret Wars, and now on to All-New All Different Marvel jarring and uncomfortable. Through Singularity, we can struggle along with her, and (if the book does its job right) discover all the wonders of this new reality with her, however frightening it might be.

What A-Force also gets right is the characterization of the supporting cast, quickly and effectively reminding the reader why they are so worthy of the friendship and adoration of Singularity. She-Hulk is still just as wise, discerning, and empathetic as ever; Captain Marvel is still brave with an incorruptible moral center, yet always with enough room for compassion. This serves them well, as lesser heroes might witness a cosmic entity materializing out of reality and approaching them in a flash of wormhole lightning and get, you know, kinda freaked out. Though the characters are shocked, they are able to grasp that Singularity harbors no ill will, that she means well and wants friendship. This most human of missions runs into trouble at the introduction of Medusa, queen of the Inhumans and a mighty hero in her own right. But again, the book gets Medusa's personality so right. Already in several ongoing series, Medusa's inclusion might seem a bit of Inhuman Overkill, but her function so far is that of a politician, which she is. She sees a cosmic entity enter her reality and is naturally worried that Singularity might pose a danger. This is, after all, the Marvel Universe, where a bejeweled glove has given a "Mad Titan" the power to kill... everything that exists. Crazy sparkly things that talk and defy the laws of physics are suspicious. Singularity is now a Stranger in a Strange Land, trapped in the All-New All-Different universe, just like the reader, but with some good storytelling and good friends, it won't be so terrible.

A special round of applause is owed to artist Jorge Molina and colorist Laura Martin, whose visualizing of A-Force is a remarkable achievement. Together, the artists achieve a distinctly sentient sparkle in the face and movement of Singularity, a being who is composed of space and the stars themselves. Or not-space. Or... I don't know, portals maybe? It's an incredibly difficult task, but the character is rendered with such childlike innocence and open-souled wonder that we instantly adore her. At the same instant, her reality-shaking power is evident each time she traverses dimensions or battles a baddie. It's a balance that could have easily gone off track and made the book unpalatable, but with Molina and Martin, A-Force has the opportunity to excel. 
  
Rating:
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Saturday, January 02, 2016

"Batman: Europa" #3 Review by Counter Monkey John Arminio

It's that other currently running Batman title co-written by Brian Azzarello in a collaboration with another creator;* Batman: Europa has been an intriguing foray into what makes Batman himself and what elements writers and artists can take away or add to the character and still keep him distinctly Batman.  For starters, Batman: Europa (as the title implies) takes the Dark Knight from his familiar home in Gotham City to a very seedy, scary, and unfamiliar Europe. Gotham is such an integral slice of Batman's mythology, the backdrop to his dark quest for vengeance that is so different from the sunny skies of Metropolis or any other DC Universe locale, that removing him from his home changes the story drastically. The change from a fictional city to real-world locations is drastic in and of itself, but this allows Azzarello and company to mine reality for elements that work with the Batman mythos, both visually and in the narrative. The first issue, taking place in Berlin, hearkens to the days of the Cold War and the scars left by that decades-long conflict of philosophies (and armies) and draws parallels to Batman's own duel-yet-united personality. He will always be one man, but will always be Bruce Wayne and Batman separately, the same way that East and West Berlin (and Germany proper) are now united, but will always have the shared darkness of a prolonged, bitter division.

Issue #3 in the series takes place in Paris, with another artist, Diego Latorre, taking the reins of the visuals. As both Batman and the Joker descend further into sickness and madness, each being infected with a nefarious disease known as the Colossus virus, the art likewise manifests an angry chaos. Paris might be the "City of Light" but for characters as bleak as the Joker and Batman, it harbors no such shining enchantments. Forced to unite, as much as they can, in order to pursue a cure for the disease that infects them both, Joker and Batman plumb the depths of Paris' underground and past alike, finding dark undercurrents in the catacombs of the ancient city. Of course, Batman goes to a city known for world class cuisine and art, a place heralded for inspiring ardent romance, and spends all his time in a cave.

No matter where Bruce Wayne goes, he finds a way to still be Batman, to still inhabit the darkest of places and the bleakest of circumstances. The Joker skews reality to suit his warped vision at every turn in the catacombs and the book's art likewise shakes and rattles the reader's perception with gorgeous slices of distorted visual storytelling. The dialogue is sparse, so the weight of the plot, simple as it is, depends upon what the reader sees. It is a credit to the work of Latorre that his art is so unique and compelling that it manages to tell a Batman story that stands on its own, amidst a comic book marketplace awash with Bat titles, telling another story of a character that has been in print, movies, and television since 1939. Batman: Europa is a story that keeps the history and weight of Batman in mind but endeavors to forge its own (forked and scattered) path, one casting deep shadows and sparks of blinding lights. It's a challenging title for both Bat-fans and comic readers in general, but so is the main Batman book, in which James Gordon is officially Batman, and Dark Knight III, which deals with everything from politics to DC cosmology. 

*Another oblique reference to The Dark Knight III by Azzarrello, Frank Miller, and with art by Andy Kubert and Klaus Janson. It's also good. You should read it.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

FINAL DAY OF YELLOW DOT SALE... AN ASTONISHING 80% OFF!

 
BOTH COMIX CONNECTIoN LOCATIONS: All Yellow Dot items are a whopping 80% OFF TODAY UNTIL WE CLOSE AT 5PM!  

This is your last chance this year to scoop up some truly amazing bargains!  Get in here already!

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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

ALL YELLOW-DOT SALE ITEMS NOW 60% OFF!

 
BOTH COMIX CONNECTION LOCATIONS: All Yellow Dot items are a whopping 60% OFF TODAY!  

And here's how it looks for the rest of the week:

WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 30TH --70% off! 
THURSDAY DECEMBER 31ST -- 80% off!

Grab some awesome bargains before someone else does... these things won't last forever!

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Monday, December 28, 2015

The Annual Comix Connection YELLOW DOT SALE continues!

 
BOTH COMIX CONNECTION LOCATIONS: All Yellow Dot items are a whopping 50% OFF TODAY!  

And here's how it looks for the rest of the week:
 
TUESDAY DECEMBER 29TH -- 60% off! 
WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 30TH --70% off! 
THURSDAY DECEMBER 31ST -- 80% off!

Grab some awesome bargains before someone else does!

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Sunday, December 27, 2015

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is a BIG DEAL

 I have often sung the praises of Unbeatable Squirrel Girl to anyone who will listen and, honestly, in terms unworthy of the book's greatness. Here again, I will attempt to do it justice. 

In a previous review of (the latest) Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1, I talked about the brilliant humor of the comic as well as its inherent positivity, statements about body image, and emphasis on the importance of friendship. It's like goodwill and merriment distilled into comic book form. So not only is it a superhero comic that might be the funniest anything in print right now, it makes you feel better about yourself and the world around you. It's pretty neat! 

What makes Doreen Green, the titular Squirrel Girl, unique in the larger context of comics and the characters within the genre is Green's perspective on the world outside and the world within herself. Comics is replete with characters who are ostracized, persecuted, or even assaulted for their differences. Oftentimes these individuals internalize this persecution, either from their own insecurities or from institutional pressures. Characters from Peter Parker to Kamala Khan to X-person Jubilee to Wolverine to Marvel's new Moon Girl series have experienced various hardships because of what makes them different. Ms. Marvel's Kamala has to confront the dual challenge of being a Muslim American from a conservative family while having a more Young Liberal outlook on politics and culture... while also being an Inhuman with superpowers. Wolverine has suffered decades, if not centuries, of abuse, much of it monstrous, at the hands of various state institutions and villains.

Many people who read comics do feel isolated from mainstream society, even if that just means growing up as a "nerd," though it certainly includes far more profound distinctions. I have certainly felt apart from many of my peers or from the culture at large, so the story of people who face challenges because of their differences; be it from their nerdiness, religious background, sexual orientation, race, or genetic characteristics; is one that certainly needs and deserves telling. However, Doreen Green, the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, is a singular vision when it comes to her differences. She sees how she is different (e.g. she possesses the strength and agility proportional to that of a squirrel, has a tail, talks to squirrels) and celebrates it. She likes learning and knowing things and, as a result, is almost as fascinated by computer science, her major at Empire State University, as she is by squirrels. She adores and draws strength from her friends, be them human, superhuman, or squirrel, and anyone who finds anything wrong with that is not worth her time... or is just another person to be turned into a new friend! Heck, Doreen Green engineers herself to the good graces Galactus, and he eats planets! That is how potent her friendship superpowers are. She's just that darn great.

It is so refreshing to see a character, a young female protagonist no less, view how different she is from everyone else and conclude that such things make her all that more awesome. She spends her time with awesome people who make her feel better about herself and she, in turn, improves their self-esteem. Her celebration of all that is life enables Green and the book to poke fun at less... cheerful characters such as The Punisher, who apparently spends all his time, as is the wont of grizzled maniac vigilantes, knitting skull shapes onto all his black t-shirts. He's crafty! 

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is a story about a young woman and her friends who feel good about themselves, a tale so well-told that such feelings are transmuted to the reader. It is, at its core, a fun, charming, and laugh-out-loud funny comic about interesting and recognizable characters. It is not a "message book," per se, but because it functions as a wonderful narrative with characters you want to be with, it carries the weight of its message in every panel. In everything from Sandman to Pixar movies, this is what visual storytelling at its best and most masterful can accomplish, and Squirrel Girl is that brilliant. It tells readers, tells all of us, that our differences make us special and we should love those aspects of ourselves, that we should express them by being awesome to other people. We accept that message because Unbeatable Squirrel Girl a joy to read. It's a profound statement that leaves room for puns about nuts and kicking butts with a heart as big as Galactus' headgear. Maybe... the best comic? 


DAY TWO of the Fabulous Yellow Dot Sale! NOW 40% OFF!

Yes, it's DAY TWO of the INCREDIBLY EXCITING Comix Connection Yellow Dot SALE!  So come on in and peruse our selection of various assorted items that are Destined for Drastic Markdowns.







All Yellow Dot items are a whopping 40% OFF TODAY! 

But of course it only gets better:

MONDAY DECEMBER 28TH -- 50% off! 
TUESDAY DECEMBER 29TH -- 60% off! 
WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 30TH --70% off! 
THURSDAY DECEMBER 31ST -- 80% off!

The longer you wait, the better it gets! But how long will this stuff last? So get in here and check out the eclectic selection of NEAT STUFF at deep discounts!  Get 'em while they're hot!

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OK, now the Yellow Dot Markdown Merchandise is FORTY PERCENT OFF!



It's Sunday, day two of our after-Christmas  Yellow Dot Markdown  Sale, and that means all sale items are now  40% OFF ! There's a lot of great stuff left, but we saw yesterday that items are starting to move, so don't wait! Come out today and take advantage of some great deals! 

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Saturday, December 26, 2015

Yellow Dot Sale and Canned Food Drive!

Just a quick reminder that while we run the YELLOW DOT SALE between now and New Year's, we will also still be taking donations for the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank until the end of the month! For every (two-months in-date) item you bring in you will get one entry to the spiffy awesome raffle with prizes to be drawn at the start of the new year, including shiny gift certificates so you can start your New Year's Resolutions to read more comics off well -- and feed hungry people at the same time, a total win-win for everyone!

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Friday, December 25, 2015

THE RETURN OF THE YELLOW DOT SALE!




Comix Connection's Annual Progressive Discount Yellow Dot Sale starts Saturday, December 26th... and it runs through Thursday December 31st. 

Select merchandise at both stores is displayed on tables with YELLOW DOT STICKERS! What do these YELLOW DOT STICKERS do? 

Behold: 

Saturday, December 26th - 30% OFF all "Yellow-Dotted" Items

Sunday, December 27th - 40% OFF all "Yellow-Dotted" Items

Monday, December 28th - 50% OFF all "Yellow-Dotted" Items 

Tuesday, December 29th - 60% OFF all "Yellow-Dotted" Items 

Wednesday, December 30th - 70% OFF all "Yellow-Dotted" Items 

Thursday, December 31st - 80% OFF all "Yellow-Dotted" Items

COME ON IN AND SNAG SOME AMAZING DEALS!

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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

HOLIDAY HOURS!



Both Comix Connection locations are open tomorrow, Thursday December 24th from 10AM until 5PM! 

Stop on in for those last minute gifts and stocking stuffers!

We are closed on Christmas Day so that everyone can enjoy festive family fun time!

Merry Christmas, everybody!

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Friday, December 18, 2015

"Weirdworld" #1 Review by Counter Monkey John Arminio

Anyone who has spoken to me in the last several months or read my review of the Weirdworld Secret Wars tie-in knows how I feel about this title: I am as totally bonkers for this book as this book is... just totally bonkers. But is Weirdworld able to lift itself out of its miniseries origins, establish itself on its own, and make it a book worth your time as an ongoing title? The answer is an unequivocal "yes."

Bringing back the old Weirdworld brand that emerged in Marvel Premiere in 1977 might have, at first, been the... weirdest choice Marvel made in lining up its Secret Wars tie-ins back those many months ago when the universe-changing event began, but that is what I love about the event as a whole. It's just never afraid to get very, very strange, which resulted in the absolute joy that was, and is again, Weirdworld. Although Jason Aaron is no longer lending his mad poet prose to the title (he's only writing about a dozen other comics everyone and their grandmother should be reading), he is replaced by the more than capable Sam Humphries, who is also writing Star-Lord for Marvel and penned the Planet Hulk Secret Wars tie-in which was pretty much personified badassery in comic form. 

What made Weirdworld unique, what continues to make every page an absolute thrill to read is Michael Del Mundo's multi-dimensional, electricity-drinking, otherworldly art. And it is his art, as he does the pencils, inking, and coloring himself, making the look of Weirdworld more a singular voice than any other title from the Big Two publishers right now. This is a vision of hyper-colorful beasts, swamps, wizards, and apparitions, at one moment mutable and transparent, then solid and immovable the next. 

Though characters from the previous manifestations of the title are referenced or even make an appearance, this incarnation of Weirdworld follows Earth teenager Becca Rodriguez, travelling on a plane after experiencing what she describes as the worst day of her life. While Ordinary Young People in Bizarre Locales on Strange Journeys is an oft-explored trope in the realm of fantasy, science fiction, and comics in general, and previous Weirdworld protagonists have at least been familiar with magic and the trappings of the genre (if still disturbed by Weirdworld itself), Becca is a character worthy of following on her strange quest. She is as human as the reader is, and therefore just as baffled by the denizens and geography of Weirdworld as we are, yet she has experienced a life-altering tragedy, one so great that even the physics-defying laws of the realm she now inhabits do not stop her. She is willing to go to the very heart of Weirdworld if that's what it takes to come out the other side intact, even if that means teaming up with an unhinged wizard-slaying giantess warrior driving a fantastical muscle car that looks like Rob Zombie was given free reign to redesign a Corvette. Because... that happens.

Along the way, we meet characters both familiar and unfamiliar to readers of Weirdworld and fantasy in general. What makes this comic all the more remarkable is that it is able to twist both creatures and themes of fantasy and comics just enough so that they are still recognizable, yet are newly bizarre and unpredictable. It is as disquieting as dreaming of your childhood home and walking through a door leading to where your bedroom should be, only to find yourself walking into your elementary school.  Except there are also Man-Things and dragons. This makes Weirdworld feel as exciting and new to veterans of the genre as it would be to newcomers. I invite all sorts to read it, because it's going to be an entertaining, reality-altering time with multidimensional neon-colored ghost wizards obsessed with creating wormholes between realms, and hey, where else can you have that much fun? Weirdworld isn't a place that can be found on purpose, but it is a place "where the lost can be found."