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By | Sunday, December 5, 2010 | 10:55 pm | 5 Comments | Blog > Reviews
Find This Book At:
Amazon (Softcover)
Half.com (Softcover)
Ebay (Search by Title)
Ebay (ISBN/Softcover)
View our database entry
Includes Issues: Jonah Hex 31-36
Issue Dates: July – December 2008
Creators:
, ,

This review contains light spoilers. Skip To The Verdict? »

What makes a Western? The easiest indicator would be the location, or perceived location of the American expanse, untamed and legendary as a tester of the wills and grit of hard men and women.

But many of the most famous westerns were shot in Italy, and/or take place in the American south or other locations. Some films, like Die Hard and plenty of other action movies, could feel like Westerns and are often referred to as such in excited discussions among film undergrads.

Bullets Don’t Lie, the sixth book collecting the modern Jonah Hex ongoing and the 12th in our feature on the DC Western collections, sees the titular gunslinger across a variety of locals, including frozen Canada and arid Mexico.

But Hex carries the west within him, in his ravaged desert of a soul. It’s safe to say that the story will always be a Western with such a character driving it.

Our writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti have produced a spectacular series so far, with most issues bursting with a complete and satisfying story, each accompanied by a talented artist (often with coloring by Rob Schwager, but also Dave Stewart in this volume.)

Without larger arcs (like a series such as Preacher or Starman), I approach each new Hex volume carefully – I worry that reading these all in a row may dilute the experience and I’ll soon be suffering from Hex fatigue (like some of you blog readers!) But moving through this section of the DC timeline has actually been very enjoyable. Even when it’s not the high point of the volume, each issue thus far has left me ready for more.

The book opens with a story penciled by Paulo Siqueira assisted by Amilton Santos‘ inking. Titled Red Mask, it’s another bounty for Hex to hunt down.

A likable story, it’s notable mostly for the title apparel (probably the closest we’ll get to seeing Hex as a superhero, which is a bit like putting a cat in a sweater.)

Sequeira’s art is well defined and would be at home in a variety of titles and he does a gritty enough job for Hex. The man draws a swell set of choppers and there’s some impressive grinning and gritting of teeth on these pages. My only complaint might be that the artists decided to do an odd inverted ink splatter in the shadow areas, which after seeing in almost every panel seemed kind of hokey. I feel it may have worked better if reserved for one or two splash pages or pivotal moments.

Jordi Bernet returns again for The Matador, a bit of intrigue south of the border. We don’t learn much new about Hex here, but in a relatively chatty issue he gets to swap views with smarmy and sultry characters, showing a bit of his best and worst traits.

Plus there’s that marvelous day of the dead drinking binge depicted by Bernet above.

The Hunting Trip finds Hex all the way up north, past the border and into a rough Canadian winter.

I enjoy when the authors shift perspective, which they do here, telling this story from the perspective of a man remembering his encounter with Hex when he was a young boy.

The viewpoint allows Jonah to be seen as a near-silent force of nature. Darwyn Cooke, an artist I’ve learned to look out for, brings marvelous grace to mass violence over two main encounters, with the forces of nature and fellow man.

He also excels at the quiet moments, with some beautifully stylized illustrations. A trail of blood leading over a snowy expanse, a small form waiting under the snow for the coming confrontation – these were particularly memorable.

Outrunning Shadows is the highlight of the volume for those interested in the ongoing tragedy of Hex’s life. It seems even Hex can seek to run from fate at times, and this was one of those attempts.

The issue is framed by an unidentified narrator, perhaps a chronicler. the voice is familiar from previous appearances and reminiscent of folk song legends.

This particular tale occurs after Townkiller, which was collected in Luck Runs Out. It’s not the same artist and Mark Sparacio draws a relatively smooth faced Hex who seems much younger (this collection is perhaps the oddest so far in this respect, where Hex looks the most gritty and old in the story that takes place earliest chronologically).

While visually he seems a tad off, the characterization here is perfect, with Jonah spitting out the saddest lines I’ve heard him say yet.

Heartwrenching and memorable. Hearing it from his mouth lends a certain weight to the words – “It’s Jonah Woodson Hex. The man what dangles from strings that reach ta the heavens, grasped in hands as cruel as any can imagine.”

Those hands (Palmiotti and Gray’s, I suppose) have brought Hex into familiar bloodshed at the start of A Crude Offer. While it’s just the lead, there’s some spectacularly laid out action to kick things off, winding into some strange events that give J.H. Williams III to show off some trippy sequences.

The collection closes with Seven Graves Six Feet Deep, which is carried by the art of Rafa Garres (last seen in The Return to Devil’s Paw, also collected in Luck Runs Out.)

This story is also accompanied by historical style narration, which seems a scholarly discussion on the nature of Hex’s role in history, particularly on the question of his attitudes towards race and the civil war.

While I don’t feel anything new is revealed about Hex, this story brings much together to give a clear answer. The discourse is wrapped around a story of grievous misunderstanding and fatal results, along with a portrayal of the relatively young (and scarred) Hex as a tortured soul even at this early point in life.

Garres art seems to show every conflicted thought upon Jonah’s face. The other characters receive the same amount of attention, their every thought, carrying evil or despair, showing in the contours of their visage.

His treatment of form is almost psychedelic, stressing dynamic function and gesture along with rippling detail.

While this collection continues to showcase high quality work, it didn’t feel as connected as previous volumes. While the major strength of the Jonah Hex series is built on the character rather than a specific ongoing story, the theme here isn’t as strong as my reigning favorite, Luck Runs Out.

Chasing Shadows and Seven Graves are the most important for understanding Hex and continuing the unfurling of his mythology. They were also my personal favorites of this volume. The Hunting Trip contained the most memorable single panel (which didn’t actually include Hex!)

The other stories were kind of standard. But in this run, even a “normal” Hex issue is a great comic.

Verdict:
4 out of 5. The Jonah Hex series continues to be one of the strongest books I’ve read in the past couple years. There are a couple stand out stories here and no disappointments.

Essential Continuity:
While not as absolutely essential as Luck Runs Out, this volume contains more than a few moments that no fan of the character should miss.

Required for Jonah Hex. Like any DC Western, not particularly needed for understanding the main superhero oriented universe.

Read first:
Read Showcase Presents Jonah Hex and/or Jonah Hex: Welcome to Paradise.

Follow that up with Jonah Hex: Face Full of ViolenceJonah Hex: Guns of VengeanceJonah Hex: Origins, Jonah Hex: Only The Good Die Young, and Jonah Hex: Luck Runs Out.

Read next:
Following along with the DC Comics Reading Order, the DC Westerns and Jonah Hex‘s own list, the next book will be .

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By | Sunday, December 5, 2010 | 11:30 am | 20 Comments | Blog > Essays

I read a lot in the 90s. I was young and my memory is foggy, so I have no idea what my first comic was.

I got almost everything I owned from the 10 cent bins and loved looking through them. I didn’t take care of anything – it all went in a big wooden box that I shoved under my bed.

I remember the Death of Superman very clearly (the rise of Steel and that issue in “heaven” the most) and a healthy interest in Spider-Man.

I liked Spider-Man 2099. I remember seeing Preacher in the shops and thinking the covers looked gross.

I had a couple older western comics (Marvel, I think, I seem to remember a white clad ghostly rider on a horse), and a comic with a kind of lighthouse logo where the guy could see these weird bugs on everyone that represented their fears and demons that fed on them.

The guy glowed.

I had some Wolverine comics where the back up feature had a different cover on the back, but upsidedown – and you had to turn them over to read the other bit.

There was a crossover with Ghostrider where they went to Hell, I think – and my mutant comics were mainly of the Cable oriented variety.

The first thing I really collected was the Milestone line of comics, especially Hardware. I had almost the complete run.

The Milestone characters were at the start of their existence, modern heroes with interesting plotlines, and (probably because they were mostly black, though it didn’t really occur to me at the time) easily found for cheap. I still hold this imprint in extremely high regard today.

I remember very little about much of my collection, but you can be sure that like any 90s kid it was full of number one issues that never went anywhere.

I will never know what happened to these early floppies – it’s quite possible my mom got rid of them, cliché though that is.

I spent some time promoting an artist (Rin Ascher, still my best friend) in high school but didn’t actually read comics too much. The highlight of our business was making 3000 dollars in 2 days at Otakon – but that was mostly selling buttons we put together.

As I made my way through college, periodically I’d read some .cbr files or hit up Barnes and Noble, where I’d sit and read a few trades back to back. This is how I read Sandman, Preacher and the first volumes of Fables, for example. I mostly read Vertigo stuff, no superheroes (didn’t know where to jump back in, though they were my childhood favorites.)

I don’t feel bad about my freeloading days because they brought me to my current fandom – and on my budget it was either free or nothing.

The turning point in my life started with two things: A torrent of Alan Moore‘s run on Swamp Thing and finding the first three Books of Magic collections on a random stop into a comic shop in my hometown while visiting.

The torrent was low quality and ended right after his issues. But I loved it, was absolutely enthralled. I found an ebay lot of the trades, which were the first comicbooks I’d bought in a long long time.

Soon after I stopped into Modern Myths in Northampton, MA while visiting my family. The Books of Magic trades were under 5 dollars each and had magic and the Vertigo logo. Also loved them – still one of my favorite series.

This started my collection – I was soon getting every ‘classic’ vertigo book I could think of in an attempt to have a small but relevant shelf of comics. I was only interested in trades since I could get complete story arcs and store them easily on a bookshelf, which was a lot more aesthetically pleasing than longboxes.

But then I started getting more curious about the DCU connections – in Swamp Thing’s various crossovers and with Batman even showing up in Sandman.

I decided I’d get some essential Batman and Superman trades, just a few Year One era titles and the three volume Death Of Superman arc that I never got to see the end of as a kid (I bet if Milestone trades were released at this point I would have jumped on that, but they still haven’t fully collected these series.)

I had to do some research to figure out what was essential. Batmantrades.com was highly visited at this point. I became more active on comics forums, like CBR and The Batsquad. I started saving some ebay searches (I still maintain an average of just 6 bucks a book, though I often get stuff for much less now – I’ve become an expert at bargain hunting.)

I got the bug real bad and things went quickly downhill. I had about 40 Batman books soon – but there are hundreds.

I started getting obsessed with placing things in order and finding the books I needed to understand important events. At first I told myself I would only collect Batman. Then only Batman and Superman. Then just the Modern Age.

I wanted to catch up and I set my sights on Crisis on Infinite Earths and what came after. I started updating my list and hosting it at my personal website, talking with people about placements.

I took a History of Sequential Art class in my final year at Savannah College of Art and Design and started to develop a deeper understanding of the world of comics and found many new favorite creators.

About a year later I found a supplier that handed me every Showcase Presents book for very very cheap. After that point, the whole DC Universe was my baby.

In April 2010, tradereadingorder.com was purchased and the first version of the site launched.

It had been about two years since I first started keeping my DCU organizational list in an excel document, maybe 4 years since I started getting into comics again seriously.

I’ve decided to follow a few other core titles or continuities (like Ultimate Marvel and the Buffyverse) and do my best to create good documentation on universes I may not seriously collect (like mainstream Marvel.)

I wanted to create a site that answered all the questions I had while I was getting back into comics and would continue to fill my own needs. I use the database to manage my own collection, figure out what I should read next, and sort my own bookshelves – and if it’s useful for me, hopefully it’s useful for you.

It’s now about 8 months since the site has launched and I’m constantly surprised by how driven I am to make it the best it can be. It’s easy to motivate myself to work on this.

While the books that pulled me back are legendary, I’m not sure what caused me to get back into my childhood passion so strongly.

It’s possible that it was always waiting for me and I just had a few off years while I was trying to become a “serious” adult.

I may have given up – but I like to think that I’m just serious about my passion. And have admitted that comics are just as legitimate an art form to be interested in as any other.

I’m lucky to have a fiancé that’s amazingly supportive, an education that gave me some skills surprisingly useful in a fan effort (and a really nice scanner that I told myself I was buying for photography uses), and a pretty darn fast typing speed for actually getting all the thoughts I have out there.

This a fairly light summary, but hopefully it tells you a bit about me.

What about you folks?

I think that the titles that pulled me back are fairly common books for new readers – Batman, Sandman, and maybe even Swamp Thing. Fables, too!

How did you get obsessed? Or if you’re relatively new to comics, what is pulling you in?

Or back in?

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By | Sunday, December 5, 2010 | 3:37 am | 1 Comment | Blog > Database Updates

First – Congrats to Brian from Belmont, NC (TRO User DevilSoprano) who won the Sandman Mystery Theatre Giveaway.

Hope you are all as excited about the Flash trade currently up.

Now that we’ve spent some time on the front page, blog post, and sidebar designs, the database entry layout deserved a little attention. I wanted to do the same tightening things up there, and tweak anything else that needed it.

– I moved everything up a bit, trimming excess padding and margins to get more content near the top of the page.

– Switched the ordering of the amazon/ebay links (Did this for the listing pages also – I just more commonly use amazon as they also have info and reviews *shrug*)

-Moved Edit Link next to “add to my collection” (currently only matters for administrators)

– Set the post titles to have an h1 tag and formatted that tag to look nicer

– Fixed a “line height” bug that I hadn’t noticed because it only happened on very very long titles

-removed a superfluous table (nested in for no apparent reason. must have been drunk when I coded that.)

Not too many huge changes here, mainly just a little housecleaning. I’m going to change some of the [More Info] text eventually, but for now I think it’s ok (if not perfect on the novel pages).

I also added a couple new Series tags while writing that little “How I Got Into Comics” post:

There’s now a Milestone list tagged with the few books I thought of collecting those characters (off the top of my head) and a Death of Superman list. I’m not sure what else tied into that one, but I just put the three collections on there for now.

I’m also a little off schedule with my planned reviews and updates, so I’ll probably tweak some timestamps just to keep myself on task.

It’s easier for me to see my planned goal of one review per day if each one is set at a day (even if it went up three to a day and none on the previous, etc.)

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By | Saturday, December 4, 2010 | 9:34 pm | 6 Comments | Blog > Reviews
Find This Book At:
Ebay (Search by Title)
Ebay (ISBN/Softcover)
Half.com (Softcover)
Amazon (Softcover)
View our database entry
Includes Issues: Original Graphic Novel
(Manga Digest Style)
Issue Dates: July 3, 2006
Creators:
, , , ,
,

This review is spoiler free! Skip To The Verdict? »

I’m not a fan of manga. I read a few when I was a kid. Like many in my generation, I was sucked into anime fandom for a bit.

Since then, I’ve had plenty of opportunity to flip through old ‘classics’ and none of it has held me. I’ve a healthy respect for true gods of the field but I mean the top selling titles that somehow are still counting upwards on the spine. They just don’t do it for me.

Naturally, I don’t have many TokyoPop titles in my collection.

However, Riding Shotgun is one of those American creator titles and happens to be written and drawn by a couple Savannah College of Art and Design grads. Despite the ten year gap in our attendance, I’m always excited to check out work by fellow SCAD kids (plus I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Nate Bowden through my day job and he’s a real nice guy.)

I figure my dueling biases (Natural inclination against TokyoPop and Manga and for enjoying work made by nice guys) will balance out a bit and result in a relatively fair review.

This book, like the average translated import is a black and white digest of fair length, just under 200 pages. It’s grayscale with tones instead of hatching.

There’s the odd manga style background effect and the action has a dynamically distorted nature I’ve seen most often in manga-influenced work.

Most of the manga resemblance ends there.

It reads left to right and is actually separated into chapters that almost makes it feel like a collection of issues (except without any redundant recap pages).

The writing style is definitely American and while the art is obviously created in a post-manga invasion world, it’s clearly a western style.

It felt more cartoon influenced than anything – maybe Tracy Yardley grew up watching the same Batman: The Animated Series that I did. I can’t quite place an exact comparison or next-nearest but this style of art isn’t my area of expertise.

In any case, I found it quite enjoyable.

The back of the book has an icon of a bomb with the word “action” under it and I can only assume this is an indication of genre. It’s appropriate.

The set up is this:

We’re in a world where assassination has been legalized and a pair of small timers with attitudes are hoping to get into the big leagues by joining the foremost union in their field.

Of course, that plot alone would be a little too straightforward and things take a couple twists resulting in as much gunplay and weapon related ridiculousness as possible.

The surprises aren’t particularly staggering but I still didn’t see them coming.

I found myself caught off guard by the ending, even thought I was expecting something similar, the actual tone and scripting of the events was not what I could have predicted.

In a book with over the top violence at every turn, some subtly in the interest of humor can be just as surprising as a bit of gory action at the right moment.

There were times where I felt like the book wasn’t really made with my audience in mind – the other icon on the back suggests 16+, and I feel like while some parents might not want this book in front of their younger teenagers, I could see it being very appealing to that age group. One of the things that was a turn off for me – almost every girl being a huge breasted semi-skank, in dress at least, is something sure to gain some audience.

In fact, based on the characters’ actual actions, I found it annoying in the same way that hot girl in your algebra class was annoying – while perhaps not coldly calculated, the characters are at least aware of their objectification and seem to be exploiting it.

In other words, it’s more of a character trait than just an artist’s inclination. And the slight annoyance is tinged with appreciation.

The rest of the character designs are pretty amusing.

Except for when intentional, no two people look alike, and half of the plot just seems to be an excellent excuse to draw a huge variety of armed to the teeth assassins, each with visually obvious preferences when it comes to modes of killing.

Reading this book reminded me why less “detailed” drawing styles can be so great.

Yardley’s expressions are often distilled to the bare minimum, instantly setting the right feeling for Bowden’s script.

And as for the dialogue, it’s no Proust but I’m pretty sure that’s not the point.

It flows, it’s easy, and I could nitpick a comma or excess “Man,” or two, but besides that everything is in the right place to keep things going.

The rhythm of the book’s almost constant humor, sometimes worth a smirk and laugh out loud funny at least twice for this jaded reviewer, rolled things forward at a brisk pace.

I was almost surprised when the story wrapped up.

A couple intriguing plot threads were planted for next time, though, so I’m looking forward to Volume 2.

Verdict:
4 out of 5. Some good clean, well, lightly dirty action with a dose of humor and just the tiniest bit of intrigue.

It may not be poetry but not every comic has to win a Pulitzer. Fun.

I read it in a sitting and forgot I was on the toilet.

Essential Continuity:
I’m pretty sure that you’re going to have to read this book before the next one.

Read first:
None, this series starts here.

Read next:
The next book in the series is Riding Shotgun Vol. 2, which I’m going to have to get my hands on. Shouldn’t be too hard since both these books are available on Amazon for a couple bucks each (used) or their 4-for-3 promotion new.

I’ll try and see if I can get a couple signed copies to give away through the site.

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By | Friday, December 3, 2010 | 11:59 pm | 34 Comments | Blog > Giveaways

Update: This giveaway is now closed and a winner will be announced soon.

Update 2: Winner has been announced!

Here’s the weekly giveaway!

I hope everyone is enjoying the new site layout. Last review was our first ever in the “widescreen” format, IE, bigger images!

The Sandman Mystery Theatre giveaway is complete and the winner will be contacted tomorrow.

This week I’m giving away the first trade of Geoff Johns’ run on The Flash!

It’s the new printing shown here.

From DC’s website:

Collecting THE FLASH #170-176, plus stories from THE FLASH SECRET FILES and IRON HEIGHTS, written by Geoff Johns!

Featuring art by fan-favorites Ethan Van Sciver (GREEN LANTERN), Scott Kolins (Beyond).

The Rundown:

(1) Flash trade paperback: The Flash Vol. 1: Blood Will Run

(1) Winner – Randomly selected from the comments on this post. You must be registered and logged in when you comment to be eligible. You must also be in the continental USA.

Deadline – You have until 11:59 on Friday, December 10th, 2010. The winner will be contacted that night or early the next morning, and the announcement will be made as soon as they are confirmed.

Good luck everyone!

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