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 28 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.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

BRAND SPANKIN' NEW WEBSITE DEBUT!

That's right folks, there's a shiny new home for Comix Connection Posts and you can find it RIGHT HERE!

We're still in the process of migrating the best of the Old Posts over, but soon you'll be able to find all your favorite comic book reviews and other assorted goodies from days-gone-by as well as brand-new-content over on our new page along with a handy navigation interface so you can actually find all this good stuff! Come check us out -- just pardon the growing pains!

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Thursday, April 14, 2016

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2016 is fast approaching!


SATURDAY, MAY 7TH is Free Comic Book Day 2016 at both Comix Connection locations, and we expect all of you to show up!  I mean, c'mon, EVERYONE GETS TO PICK THREE FREE COMIC BOOKS from our huge stash of special Free Comic Book Day 2016 comics!




BUT WAIT.  THERE'S MORE. 

Everyone gets to chose THREE COMIC BOOKS, PLUS you can pick additional comic books for each in-date food item donated to the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank and the York Rescue Mission! 

2 Cans of food donated: 3 FREE COMICS + 2 MORE FREE COMICS = 5 FREE COMICS
5 Cans of food donated: 3 FREE COMICS + 5 MORE FREE COMICS = 8 FREE COMICS
10 Cans of food donated: 3 FREE COMICS + 10 MORE FREE COMICS = 13 FREE COMICS

ET CETERA


And then there's the BIG SALE:

20% OFF ALL GRAPHIC NOVELS, COLLECTED EDITIONS and BOOKS, ALL POSTERS, ALL T-SHIRTS, ALL STATUES, ALL TOYS, ALL GAMES and GAMING ITEMS!  Everything except NEW/UNBAGGED comic books!

25% OFF OLDER BACK ISSUES ON THE WALL! 

ALL BIN COMICS $1.00 EACH!

ALL 2/99¢ COMICS 10¢ EACH!


SPECIAL GUESTS: 
IN YORK: From 11AM - 2PM: DEADPOOL Artist Mike Hawthorne, and the awesome MAD MAGAZINE artist John Kovaleski!

IN MECHANICSBURG: From 11AM - 2PM: 
Artist Kevin Graha, and possibly more!

ALSO in York AND Mechanicsburg from 11AM - 2PM: 
Elements of Garrison Carida of the 501st Legion Star Wars Costume Characters will be posing for pictures with you and gathering New In-The-Package STAR WARS toys to use in their charity donation work... BRING THEM SOME TOYS! 




FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2016 - Saturday May 7th 2016!



Doors open at 9:00AM, close at 9:00PM! 
TWELVE FULL HOURS OF POP CULTURE GOODNESS!  DON'T MISS THE COMIC BOOK EVENT OF THE YEAR!

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Friday, March 11, 2016

"Doctor Strange" #6 Review by Counter Monkey John Arminio

 Today's Ridiculous Understatement: Jason Aaron is a talented individual. If the only series he was writing at the moment was the uncompromising tale of football, Southern American town life, and backwoods violence that is Image's Southern Bastards, he would still be a remarkable creative force. He is also writing Mighty Thor for Marvel, a perfect balance of grandiose dialogue, hammer-smashing, deceitful politician god-kings, and stakes so dire as to effect the entire cosmos. It is everything a Thor book can and should be.  

And then there is Doctor Strange. It is far past time I wrote of my love for this title, as it gives the Sorcerer Supreme the brilliant and distinct voice that he has lacked for many years. Though the good doctor has been a perennial presence in various Marvel books since his debut in the landmark anthology series Strange Tales in 1963, it has been many years since he has headlined his own title. Sure, he may have had a hand in saving the very fabric of reality in everything from Infinity Gauntlet to the Elizabethan era-set 1602, but it has been difficult to maintain reader interest in Strange as a solo act, at least beyond the odd miniseries like Doctor Strange: The Oath in 2006. All of this makes Aaron's Doctor Strange even more remarkable an achievement, with its blend of occult mysteries, quirky humor, and Apocalyptic repercussions, it is both an intimate character study of Strange and a story so big as to be beyond mortal comprehension. It gives the reader a sense of the unimaginable scale of the forces Doctor Strange is grappling with and the spiritual struggle that is his every conscious and subconscious moment. All that, and he still makes jokes about pizza. 

Past issues in the series have dealt with the consequences of magic in general, both on Strange's own psyche and on those around him. While having a corporeal "cost" to ephemeral actions has all sorts of troubling implications for the history of Doctor Strange's spellcasting and his future in sorcery, it brings a sense of immediacy and consequence to the battles in issue #6. Here, we see beings of pure technology and machinery known as the Empirikul invading various magical dimensions and murdering Strange's compatriots, the other sorcerers supreme. The Empirikul are a virulent fundamentalist force, determined to eradicate all traces of magic from this (and every other) universe. The conceit that it is the forces of science fanatically seeking the destruction of a different school of values and beliefs is a fascinating one, as it is standard operating procedure to assume that fundamentalism comes from a religious viewpoint, as if one is required to believe in the supernatural to hold fast to lunatic ideas. In Doctor Strange, it is the titular magician who is our anchor to reality, even as he travels to limbo, the Dark Dimension, Hell, or all nebulous voids in between. The guy armed with the The Eye of Agamotto is our avatar of logic.

While Jason Aaron brings intrigue, humor, and consequence to Doctor Strange, it is artist Chris Bachalo who saturates it with style. The mad, ever-changing realms of demons and alternative laws of physics are a perfect fit for Bachalo's sometimes wild, almost symbolist style. It's one thing to make Strange's eyes bleed, it's another to have his eyes pour black liquid like two open faucets tapped straight into some interplanetary well of alien tar emerging from Strange's hoary face, turned ashen white from weakness. The reader can feel what it is like to cast spells, to fight the forces of eternity, and to have one's soul fed upon by trans-dimensional parasites. Perhaps such imagery is not rendered with anatomical perfection or accuracy, but then again, I don't know what Dreaded Dormammu looks like in real life. 

Five Cumberbatches Out of Five 

Friday, March 04, 2016

Check out the amazing stuff in Hake's Americana Catalog #217!


Are you in the know? Did you realize that York, PA is the home of the premiere worldwide collectibles auction house? Have you ever heard of Hake's Americana & Collectibles?  If you like pop culture collectibles, HAKE'S AMERICANA Auctions should be one of your first stops. They consistently list some of the most amazingly cool and hard-to-find items from the entire spectrum of collecting, from political buttons to celebrity clothing items to vintage toys to rock star autographs and everything in between. It's always a real treat to look through their massive thrice-annual catalogs... and here's just some of the goodies found in Auction #217!

How about THIS?


"SENSATION COMICS" PROMOTIONAL POSTCARD FEATURING WONDER WOMAN & THE BLACK PIRATE.


Or THIS?


"SUPERMAN ACTION TARGET" RARE BOXED GAME.


How about THIS?



KRESGE CARDED MEGO CATWOMAN FIGURE.

Or even THIS:


RARE "OFFICIAL BATMAN AND ROBIN - JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA" FIGURE SET BY IDEAL ON CARD.

And then THIS!


"CAPTAIN ACTION - BATMAN UNIFORM & EQUIPMENT" BOXED SET.


And of course THIS!


"BATMAN GILBERT ACTION WATCH."

Best of all, THIS:


"DELL" COMICS WIRE COMIC BOOK SALES RACK


These few items are just a tiny handful of the THOUSANDS of items found in the fantastic Hake's auctions!

CLICK HERE to go to the main page of Hake's Americana Auction #217! It's amazing the depth and breadth of cool items they turn up. Go poke around and see what you find... and place some bids if you can't live without something. It's easy and fun! And tell 'em the folks at Comix Connection sent you!

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Thursday, March 03, 2016

"Black Widow" #1 Review by Counter Monkey John Arminio

The best at what they do are back. Mark Waid and Chris Samnee return to their triumphal collaborative ways with the latest Black Widow ongoing series. The two previously achieved superhero comic supremacy writing and illustrating Daredevil for Marvel from 2011-2015, a landmark writer/artist/character matchup that was unequaled in the medium for quality, longevity, and ability to stay true to what made the character special while creating a new path for that character to walk. 

From the above description, it is probably pretty clear that I am predisposed to enjoy whatever creation the Waid/Samnee team (along with colorist Matthew Wilson) is concocting. That creation is a bona fide thrill ride; an issue-long opening chase sequence to end all comic book chase sequences. Yes, it is light on dialogue and story, but as fast-paced as the action is, the reader is advised to take each wordless panel as slowly as he or she might read the most elegant dialogue. The issue gives co-writing credit to both Waid and Samnee, since most of the storytelling is executed with imagery and action, as much accomplished with Samnee's pencils as with Waid's words. The force of the visual elements construct a comprehensive narrative, which is a credit to the collaborative rapport Waid and Samnee have achieved. 

It is not just the action or violence in Black Widow that provide the arresting images, but moments of chilling stillness or character close-ups can be just as compelling. A single panel of Black Widow's eyes, glowing as they reflect the fire of both the havoc she has wrought and her inner turmoil, is gracefully accented with shadows rendered in a cross-stitch pattern by Samnee, stopping the reader in his or her tracks with the image's power. Our titular heroine, rising out of the mud, bathed in the red light of the blood she has shed and the very recent explosions she has caused, harbors the implied menace and violence felt in the fangs of the arachnid Black Widow gets her name from. 

The actual plot, clear from the opening panels, is indeed sparse, as it involves Black Widow fleeing from her former SHIELD compatriots as she attempts to steal... something from that organization's headquarters. This continues a recent trend in Marvel's ongoing series as SHIELD is maneuvered to be the antagonist to many of its heroes. All-New Hawkeye, Captain America Sam Wilson, and Avengers Standoff all also feature SHIELD, supposedly the guardians of freedom, fighting against the characters the reader is rooting for. Even in Amazing Spider-Man, a series that sees Peter Parker designing technology for SHIELD to use, SHIELD's top secret and bureaucratic machinations are often obstacles to Peter being the hero, to doing the right thing. What could SHIELD possess that would drive Widow, Natasha Romanov, to beak with the organization and steal from them? What could be so important to SHIELD that it would rather expend immeasurable amounts of resources in personnel and materiel than see that object leave its facility? What is so valuable and object that SHIELD is willing to kill its most valuable operative to possess it? Black Widow #1 is a comic that makes me ask more compelling questions than there are words spoken within its pages. That is some efficient storytelling and I look forward to reading how those questions are answered. 

Friday, February 26, 2016

"King Conan: Wolves Beyond the Border" #3 Review by Counter Monkey John Arminio

 Sometimes a comic book is just... too awesome to ignore, and the latest Conan series from Dark Horse, King Conan: Wolves Beyond the Border, is just such a comic. Between Dark Horse and Dynamite Entertainment, there is a constant stream of sword and sorcery titles being released, many of them adaptations of Conan creator Robert E. Howard's work. Before that, Conan titles were a perennial presence in Marvel's lineup, so sometimes is it easy to overlook their presence on our collective comic book wall or, at worse, dismiss them outright. This would be unwise. 

King Conan is a distillation of everything awe-inspiring about the Robert E. Howard stories; full of rousing action interspersed with quiet introspection, grandiose dialogue, and hard-won wisdom... then lots more rousing action. The story itself revolves around a magical crown, one that bestows both power and madness on those who possess it, much like many other jewels of power in other fantasy stories. What makes this particular artifact worth seeking for the reader is its origin in Atlantis, where it was forged, which connects it to another Robert E. Howard creation, Kull the Conqueror. The crown then passes through a Hyborian version of the Picts, a tribe Howard would revisit in his historical fiction efforts centering on that ancient real-world Scottish tribe of the Iron Age. This way, King Conan connects three realms of Robert E. Howard's writing, separated by both reality and millennia, connected via dark magic and a lust for power. It is an intriguing conceit in itself, but it serves only as the inroad into a more compelling story of inter-tribal warfare, evil sorcerers (it is a Conan story, after all), familial duty, and royal succession. 

The art itself is, well, perfect. It's a self-conscious throwback to both covers of vintage fantasy novels and to the golden age of sword and sorcery comics. Sure, the digital process of modern comic production is tangible in the art, but the book manages to just... feel right. Teeth are bared, blood is shed, and characters wear as little clothing as possible. Yet, along with the rippling muscles and dismembered warriors, there are sincere, emotive faces and gorgeous landscapes. It's a truly beautiful comic, one whose visuals tell a story as rugged and intense as the scar that splits Conan's face from forehead to chin.

At this point in the series, Conan, King of Aquilonia, has ventured off into the jungle to recover the previously mentioned crown and prevent the forces of evil from acquiring it. Along the way, he encounters various enemies and struggles through various stages of captivity, battle, and flight from danger. His allies and antagonists take the form of the rival Pictish tribes, namely the Hawk and Wolf factions. This is characteristic of Robert E. Howard's intriguing cherry-picking and mish-mashing of real-world cultures, fantasy tropes, and his own creations. The Picts in this story take the form of what appear to be American Indians living in an Amazon or even Southeast Asian-type jungle, bearing the name of a people who originated in Iron Age Scotland. They are interacting with Conan; a Cimmerian, a people modeled after equal parts Germanic Celts and central European steppe tribes, who became King of Aquilonia, a land modeled after Southern Britain and France. It's a complicated tapestry and it helps compare and contrast various world cultures, showing the commonalities in all the people of the world, be them mythical Scots or noble barbarians. 

Always fiercely independent, Conan is bitter at the slaying of his friend Balthus at the hands of the Picts, and his rage is only contained by the fact that the Picts in his current company saved his life while he was in the clutches of an evil sorceress. You know, just another day for ol' Conan. To express his rage at the tribespeople, he gives a solemn oath: "On Balthus's grave, I made a vow... to paint the halls of Hell with the blood of the Picts who butchered him... then pave its floors with the bones of their brothers and sons!" Sometimes, you just want to give a comic book a high five for being so badass. But what makes this moment truly wonderful is when Conan is confronted with the potential consequences of his formidable threats. The son (and brother) or the man who killed his friend are the people that saved his life and Conan himself saved the life of the son, a very young boy, moments earlier. Conan is not going to slay this child, this comrade in arms, over actions taken in righteous combat. After all, as Conan says, bemoaning the burden of vendettas, "it's the old wounds that chafe us worst." Can Conan and his Pictish foes (an honorable people, not this wicked sorcerers that are his true enemies) swallow their collective pride and come together, as the son who bravely faced Conan's vow of vengeance says, "hunting together, two wolves can take down a bear that one wolf cannot"? The ultimate conclusion that both Howard and these warriors come to is what separates us is not race or gender, but rather prejudice and methods of control. Those in power, those with influence and the keepers of secret knowledge, are the ones who drive wedges between otherwise good individuals. It is up to Conan and his compatriots to overcome these forced divisions and retain their independence.

It is this philosophy that pervades Robert E. Howard's original stories; tales of various people coming together to face a greater foe, be that foe or feat an evil dictator or a serpent guarding a particularly valuable ruby. Yes, Conan might be the most mighty sword in all of Hyboria, but he would have been slain many times if he had held any prejudices against different peoples or lands, as it was only with the help of his comrades that he has escaped many a dark dungeon or defeated a vastly superior army of foes. These stories were authored by a man in love with history, archaeology, and cultures from all corners of the globe; a man so in love with his own fantastical creation, a reflection of those interests, that he wrote poetry dedicated Hyborian geography and history, including it in his sword and sorcery epics. King Conan is a series just as in love with Hyboria as Howard was and it is a joy to read.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

"Superman: American Alien" #4 Review by Counter Monkey John Arminio

Jae Lee is an artist perfect for DC. He has a way of crafting iconic imagery out of his characters in both grandiose moments and everyday gestures. There is something mythic about his superheroes, which is why his contributions to the Before Watchmen series were so compelling and appropriate. Yet, unlike other artist so accomplished at forging myths in pencil and ink, he has his own distinctive style and voice. Instead of creating images of what he thinks the reader finds iconic about a character, he uses his singular perspective to make these characters his own. By using his own vision and his own voice, he makes these legends accessible to the reader. His pencils are simultaneously razor sharp yet fluid, allowing the images to flow into one another while being flawless discrete from one another. Jae Lee is a storyteller as much as he is an artist, and he is a storyteller as much as Max Landis is (the writer of Superman: American Alien).


Superman: American Alien itself was conceived of as a miniseries by Max Landis (notorious Hollywood screenwriter and enfant terrible) as a sequence of life-changing events in the life of Superman, telling the story of how Kal-El, an alien baby from Krypton, was able to gain his identity as both Clark Kent and Superman. Issues have been their own standalone stories, with a different artist making contributions to each, while Landis remains the main narrative force. For Lee to so greatly impact the reading of this book, one conceived of as a very writerly concept, speaks volumes to his power as a visual artist and storyteller.

Landis is, at this moment in Superman's history, also the perfect person to take a stab at the character. He has spoken at length about what his loves about Superman and how certain other writers have done a disservice to him (e.g. killing him). Much has also been made of Superman's place in popular culture, both now and since the character has been created. With the upcoming Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice film coming out, the Internet is awash with commentary and criticism, from the erudite to the juvenile; from lengthy Atlantic articles to sophomoric social media posts. There are probably more people reading about reading about Superman than actually reading about Superman. So it stands to reason that a very forceful, intelligent, and individualistic writer would choose now to write about what it means to be Superman (and, in a meta way, write about what it is like to both read and write Superman).

It is a challenge, to be sure. Other, more talented writers have discussed the potential pitfalls with the character; how he is so powerful as to be unrelatable, that he is too much of a boy scout, etc. Hogwash and fiddlesticks! People seem to have no trouble "relating" to a bat-obsessed billionaire who saw his parents die as a child and subsequently spent those billions, and the next few decades of his life, fighting crime in a desperate attempt at redemption, revenge, and fulfillment. Hell, people "relate" enough to Deadpool, an insane impossible-to-kill mercenary who talks about being a comic book character almost as much as he talks about Mexican food and murder, to send his movie's box office returns into the stratosphere. Is an alien who wants to be a good guy and fight for what is right really that hard for us to swallow? But... maybe if Superman talked about Mexican food just a little more...? Anyway, Max Landis seems to understand that Superman is fascinating, which is what makes American Alien a fascinating and fun read.  

With the fourth issue, we see young Clark Kent and Lois Lane on an early assignment from the Daily Planet, off to write a story on a historic meeting between some of the biggest business leaders in the world, namely Lex Luthor, Oliver Queen, and Bruce Wayne. Each reporter hopes for an exclusive and each gets one, to a certain extent. Oliver Queen, future (in the timeline of this comic) Green Arrow, is appropriately brash and confident while Lex Luthor is just as megalomanic as one might expect, spouting Objectivist claptrap in celebration of his own image. Some of the dialogue is rather on-the-nose, foreshadowing future conflicts and even costume choices, but 20-something super-geniuses are given to grand declarations and ego-stroking, so that is certainly forgivable. Lois Lane also shows herself to be a better reporter than Clark, which is why Clark is so attracted to her to begin with. Who is this... human, better at investigation and getting people to talk than the Last Son of Krypton? Lois friggin' Lane, that's who! She's the best at what she does, even at this early age. Luthor really only gives Clark a quote because he wants to excoriate a good person with a moral center about how foolish morality and virtue are; for plebeians only. It is Lois who knows how to twist the truth out of people and situations, much like Landis and Lee find the truth in these characters with their own storytelling. 

We even get to see how Batman and Superman are both inherently good, both seeking truth and justice, just in profoundly different ways. Their perpetual conflict is satisfying and interesting because it's not a conflict of philosophy, but rather of method. They have advanced moral codes, evolved enough to not be unyielding or merciless like that of, say, Punisher. Once they come to an understanding, they can at least avoid working against each other. Sometimes they may not like each other and sometimes they are the best of friends, but when they get together, they have the power to change the world for the better.

Friday, February 12, 2016

"All-New X-Men" #4 Review by Counter Monkey John Arminio

 Should we, you know, care about Angel? He has a dumb real name (Warren Worthington III? That's like the name of an annoying WASPy cousin of Thurston Howell III from Gilligan's Island). He has fairly middling powers compared to his fellow X-people, limited to nothing but flight while characters like Jean Grey can fly... and read minds, control other people's actions, and employ world-shattering telekinesis. He's been a charming playboy, but so have marquee characters like Iron Man. He certainly had a harrowing story arc when he was turned into Archangel, the most prominent and tragic of the Four Horsemen, the servants who assisted Apocalypse, the most evil and powerful villain in the X-Men Rogues Gallery in trying to, well, end the universe. Though he came through this experience a good guy again and with some greatly enhanced abilities, the transformation would leave Worthington with mental and physical scars for years to come.

Well, until his Teen-Self was brought to the future because, hey, it's X-Men and this franchise can't go five minutes without time travel and alternate versions of characters from alternate timelines. To be clear, the run of X-Men that Brian Michael Bendis wrote in which such timeline chaos occurred is absolutely magnificent top-to-bottom and you should read every page of it. 

Anyway, now that good ol' Warren (who is actually Young Warren) is living in the present day, in the same universe where the Archangel version of him is flying around with another X team, he is again faced with an existential crisis of finding his role in the mutant community. He's on a team with Teen Cyclops, Laura Kinney (the female clone of Wolverine, aka X-23, who is both featured on the cover and Warren's super-sexy girlfriend), and Kid Apocalypse, the good-natured scion of the aforementioned supervillain who once enslaved and mutated a future version of Warren... in the past. Confused yet? It's no wonder Angel has trouble finding solid answers in who he is.

While his romantic relationship with Wolverine is one born of affection, love, and certainly mutual physical attraction, it does leave Angel with a both an inferiority complex and perpetual distress. He has to watch the woman he loves wade into hails of gunfire and flame, laughing as she cuts down her opponents. Sure, her mutant healing factor will make her whole again within the hour, but seeing the woman he loves engulfed in flames or maybe disemboweled sort of disturbs him. He wants to protect her but, being the "Best at What She Does" (i.e. killing stuff), Wolverine has no patience for being protected. 

This integration of interpersonal drama and spine-busting action is what the X-Men have made their foundation for decades and Dennis Hopeless' writing captures that balance perfectly. While the early issues focused on Cyclops' own teen drama and sense of identity, with some quippy interplay between other teammates like Beast and Iceman, issue four gets right to the violent (and violently passionate) heart of Kinney and the more restrained, but no less deep, passions of Worthington. The latter is seen acting as a glorified pitching machine, carrying and tossing the more deadly Wolverine into harm's way while he gets to fly around and watch the blood of both his enemies and the love of his life soak the ground. The more Angel helps her, the angrier she becomes at his interference, but the more he stands back, the more damage she takes. He's stuck between a rock and a set of razor sharp adamantium claws, and for a character so used to being able to soar free at will, being stuck is a compelling story turn for him.

The visual balance of vigorous violence and relationship interplay is expertly accomplished by penciller Mark Bagley, along with inking and coloring victories from Andrew Hennessy and Nolan Woodard. The explosions are as bright and sudden as the smiles and the blood is as deep and dark as the barely contained teen angst. All-New X-Men is a comic with a bunch of divergent talents combining their efforts to create a compelling story that, despite all the swirling elements, comes together for a united whole. Rather appropriate for an X book. 

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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

In Comic Fashion: A Review of "Girl in Dior"

I love comic books! I think comic books are truly a superb form of high art. For in the comic book, we see the marriage of the arts of literature and illustration, and from this pair is produced the progeny of such a magical union with its DNA of words and pictures now as one! The form also possesses the ability to achieve something akin to the art of filmmaking, as we the readers are caught up in these tales, swept away by the framing of scenes, the pace of the action, and the infinite scope of visual presentation "on screen" in every panel and on every page! My admiration for comics has had me in their service as a devoted reader, a collector, a hopeful storyteller, and a bookseller. I have a collection of works that span as many worlds as there are genres of fiction. There are also many fine examples of comic books that serve as non-fiction, sometimes they are a little bit of both! French writer and illustrator Annie Goetzinger's original graphic novel, "Girl in Dior" ("Jeune fille de Dior") is one such example.


Set over a period of ten years, "Girl in Dior" begins in 1947, as we meet French fashion designer Christian Dior. 1947 is a special year for Dior, for he launches a line of dresses that come to make Dior one of the most premiere fashion houses of Paris. This line goes on to define the world of fashion for not only the next ten years of his life, but it creates a legacy and sensibility of style that remains to this day. Readers are carried through this period in Dior's working life through the eyes of a young fashion reporter named Clara, who, as fate would have it, discovers that her destiny in this industry goes well beyond reporting on the clothes. Her character, while fictional, lends this very real biography a wonderful lens to help us learn of this man, his life, and his approach to his art. Her rather Cinderella-esque tale of lowly shy reporter transformed into charming Dior "It" Girl may seem a fanciful cliche, but it's certainly full of charm! Coupled with the fact that she's graced by a look that is so very Audrey Hepburn, some readers may simply smile as visions from "Sabrina" or especially "Funny Face" spring to mind!


It's a beautiful tale and a well-paced and enjoyable read, that's a complete joy for the eye! I believe it must be Annie Goetzinger's own experience in fashion design and dressmaking that give this book so much of its visual strength. Her drawings are as gorgeous as any designers etchings who has ever lived! The book is accurate in its portrayal of the post-war period of France, right down to the small waistlines of the models, which, at that time, had everything to do with the plight of food rationing during the occupation rather than any imperatives on waif-ish body size. Thoroughly referenced and researched in every detail, it's a well imagined tribute to the inner working of one man's artistic ideals, as well as the team of women, Dior's four "Darlings," that worked long and hard beside Dior to bring his vision to the world. A thoughtfully entertaining meditation on the importance of a good design for a good life!

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Monday, February 08, 2016

ANNOUNCING COMIX CONNECTION'S TWENTY-EIGHTH ANNIVERSARY SALE!

We're not sure how much longer we can keep doing this crazy sale, but HERE YOU GO:


You read that right... everything except Gift Cards and vending machine items are a ridiculous TWENTY-EIGHT PERCENT OFF on Saturday, February 20th and Sunday February 21st at BOTH COMIX CONNECTION LOCATIONS!


BONUS: Meet DEADPOOL and SPIDER-GWEN IN (cosplay) PERSON at Comix Connection - York on Saturday from 10AM until ???
 

This looks to be a hot one, so we expect EVERYONE to show up!  

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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.