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By | Monday, February 4, 2013 | 1:43 am | 6 Comments | Blog > Database Updates

Character Biographies!

Just a quick weekend update for you guys — fellow TRO staffer Alexander Davis and I have been working hard to write small, one paragraph descriptions for each of the character reading order pages.

Want to help out? You can submit short bios on your favorite comic book characters to gorblax@tradereadingorder.com.

If you write one we don’t have yet, or it’s better than the one paragraph we wrote, we’ll put it right the heck up there on the page for all to admire.

Tomorrow (or later today, depending on your time zone): expect a brand new essay from yours truly!

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You can also sign up to get updates by Email!
By | Thursday, January 31, 2013 | 8:56 pm | 2 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: Thor: Son of Asgard 7-12
Issue Dates: June – October 2009
Creators:

This review contains spoilers. Skip To The Verdict? »

Thor: Son of Asgard was originally supposed to run for only six issues. But, supposedly due to reader demand, it was extended for another six issues collected here as Thor, Son of Asgard vol. 2: Worthy.

While this story arc (actually two 3-issue story arcs, ’Worthy’ being the second one) can stand on its own, the events immediately follow those in issue #6 of Thor, Son of Asgard, so I recommend you read that TPB before this one. With that said, let’s break it down issue-by-issue:

Thor Son of Asgard #7

The first chapter, Thor Son of Asgard #7 starts the first story arc, ’Enchanted’.

With Karnilla’s attack on Asgard repulsed, Thor, Balder and Sif return to their training. This issue is mostly about the growing relationship between Thor and Sif. I don’t believe Balder even has a single line. But Loki is back to his old tricks too, and now he has a new ally in Amora, the Enchantress. Both want to break up Thor and Sif for their own reasons.

Story-wise, this series seems back on track. In fact, this may be the most well-written issue so far. The angst Sif feels at being the tomboy of Asgard is a lot more believable than the teen posturing of past issues.

But no sooner does the story get back on track than the art seems to take a big step backward. The first, relatively minor issue I have is that the teen swordfighters are shown fighting each other in practice swordfights with no armor, and real swords. The way they go at it the sword-fighting school of Asgard must loose a couple students to decapitation and other mortal wounds every day!

But really, that’s a minor quibble. A bit more of a pet-peeve for me is that, up until now, I’ve been keeping my mouth shut about Sif being portrayed as a black haired girl. Anyone who knows their Norse mythology knows that the one defining characteristic of Sif is her golden hair! It’s as iconic to the character as Thor’s hammer or Odin’s eyepatch. Anyway, the reason I bring it up is because this issue Sif actually makes a big deal about both The Enchantress and Brunnhilda being blonde – which just points up this inconsistency. Well… so far in this series Thor has no hammer, and Odin no eye-patch, so perhaps a mystic bleach job is in Sif’s future.

The good news when it comes to the art is Jo Chen’s awesome cover. The bad news when it comes to the art is that nothing inside the issue even comes close to it in quality. In this chapter, there’s an even bigger reliance on the colorist for shading than ever – there’s almost no added dimension from inking here. With this issue, the colorist does all the shadows – and they seem to be overdone. The characters’ faces look ape-like, gaunt, or otherwise distorted in nearly every panel due to the high contrast coloring; and overall, the scenes look muddy and dark. I hope in future issues the coloring will be able to pull off this added job, or that the creators realize how bad this looks and go back to good old fashioned inking.

The second issue of ’Enchanted’ is called ‘The Trio Triumphant’ – does the title sound familiar? It ought to, it was the same title as issue before last (final chapter of the first TSOA TPB). What it has to do with this story I’m not sure – I think they just copy-pasted the title page from two issues ago to use as a template, and forgot to change the title! This should be titled ’Enchanted part 2’, but like I’ve said in the past – attention to detail doesn’t seem to be a priority with this series.
The continued lack of editorial control notwithstanding, this is a significantly improved issue. For one, the golden hair of Sif issue is finally addressed – either I should have had more faith in the writing, or else they realized the need to tackle it after last issue – anyway, my guesses about mystical dye jobs weren’t so far off base.

The colorist handling shading details seems to be improving too – while it still seems heavy-handed and weird looking to me, there seems to be a little more restraint in this one, less dark muddy looking panels, and the faces are a little better.

The team of Loki and The Enchantress seems to be perfect for what amounts to a high school teen drama set in Asgard. Though, one wonders why the heroes still bother listening to a word Loki says – how long will it take them to learn that lesson?

Anachronisms du jour: The Enchantress talking to Sif about her complexion might not be a true anachronism, but it sounds a little too Cosmo to us.

With the final chapter of the ’Enchanted’ storyline (issue #9), the series is on the upturn. The story of Loki and Amora’s plan to enchant Thor actually reads like something from Norse legend for the first time. And, while the inkless art style still causes some problems when it comes to shading, whoever or whatever ‘Guru eFX’ is, it’s improving.

Valkyrie does reach out to Sif despite the fact that last issue they were at each others throats – but then I guess they’re supposed to be heroines, so changing on a dime is O.K. if it is changing for the better.

Probably the largest criticism about the series at this point is that it seems to be more like Sif, Daughter of Asgard than about Thor, but that’s O.K., I guess. It’s hard not to like Sif, even when she’s acting like a brat. Sure this whole thing is a little like ”Asgard 90210”, but frankly it still works because so many of us are willing to buy into the old tropes of ‘the pretty ugly girl’ and how even though she’s a tomboy, she wants to be a princess on prom night.

It took 10 issues, but it finally feels like the excitement has really started in Thor, Son of Asgard.

Thor Son of Asgard #10

In this chapter (part 1 of the 3-part story arc called ’Worthy’), Thor finally lifts Mjolnir for the first time. This prompts him to travel into the wilds to seek out the fates and learn more of his destiny. But, in his absence, Asgard is again attacked – this time by storm giants – who lay waste to the city and kidnap Sif. Odin orders Thor to stand guard over Asgard, but Thor has different ideas.

There’s a few things to praise about this chapter. For one, the action really gets started – and if there’s one thing Thor comics were created for, it’s for ”King” Kirby style action. Secondly, this issue has some very dynamic angles – as you can see by Jo Chen’s fabulous cover; Greg Tocchini’s interior art maintains that same cinematic quality throughout. Finally, for once the story feels like Norse mythology. There are none of the obvious anachronisms that plagued past issues – and Thor and Odin even talk a little like we expect them to.

If I have any complaints, it’s that the balance between pencils and inks still seems to be a bit… off. But it’s certainly getting better.

In issue #11, Mjolnir in hand, Thor sets out for Jotunheim to rescue Sif from the Storm Giants. This issue is fast paced, and again feels like a mythological story – which makes it better than a lot of the TSOAs before it.

There are still a number of things that concern me (probably more than the average comic reader). For one, the unfinished pencils look just that – unfinished. I not only find this displeasing to the eye, it can at times make things look confusing. For example, the largest battle in this issue involves Thor fighting some storm giants – I’m sure the way this was originally scripted, it involved a blow-by-blow narrative. Unfortunately, this battle, which goes on for several pages, looks more like a montage of images than a true fight sequence.

Another concern I have is how the issue sort of glosses over things – for example, Odin and the other Asgardian gods went to Jotunheim already – but, at no time does Thor overtake them on the journey, and they are nowhere to be seen when he arrives. In another case, Thor sort of risks everything on a silly attempt to fly using his hammer (which of course works, because we the readers already know that’s how he flies) when he has no knowledge that such a thing is possible. A third example would be when Thor is required to go to the highest peak in Jotunheim and call upon Hel – a quest which for all it’s seeming epic-ness, lasts only a couple panels.

All this nit-picking may make it sound like I dislike the issue – which isn’t the case at all. I think this is one of the better issues in the series so far; dispensing with the moralizing and the anachronisms in favor of a more mythic feel. Also, Jo Chen again turns in another awesome cover.

I think this series is heading in the right direction, it’s just not there yet.

In the third and final chapter of the ‘Worthy’ story arc, Thor faces Hel, goddess of death, who has taken his love, Sif. There’s not much I can say about this climactic chapter, and still remain spoiler free, but I will say that the young Thor is clearly outmatched by the ancient and powerful goddess. How will he defeat her? Chances are you can probably guess the ending, but even if you can, it’s still not too bad.

Overall, this chapter reads like an early issue of Journey into Mystery, and so it’s perhaps not too surprising that the credits page of this issue thanks Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

And that brings to a close the entire Thor: Son of Asgard series. Having served its purpose, it can now be developed into a kids animated cartoon to act as a cross-promotional tie-in to the upcoming Thor feature film. While it may have been nothing more than a ‘paycheck’ series to them, at least the creators had the integrity to try to develop an in-depth origin story for the Thor dramatis personae, and for that they deserve a tip of the great helm.


Verdict:
A quick, fairly mindless action-oriented origin series for Thor that’s fun, but by no means essential. 3 out of 5.

Essential Continuity:
This series is not essential to understanding the modern Thor character. It was probably created to be the blueprint for an animated DVD called ’Tales of Asgard’ and to tie-in to the big screen ’Thor’ movie, so it does introduce many of the most important characters in the Thor series, which would make it (along with Vol. 1) a good primer for anyone who has never read Thor and wanted to get up to speed fast.

Read first:
Prior to reading this, it’s recommended that you read Thor Son of Asgard Vol. 1: The Warriors, since although this can stand alone, it picks up immediately following the issues of that volume.

Read next:
You might want to follow up this trade paperback with a viewing of the original animated DVD Tales of Asgard, starring Jay Brazeau as a teenage Thor, which is said to have been largely based on this series.

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By | Tuesday, January 29, 2013 | 8:56 pm | 6 Comments | Blog > Reviews
Chew Vol. 1 Taster's Choice
Find This Book At:
Ebay (Search by Title)
Ebay (ISBN)
Half.com
Amazon
View our database entry
Includes Issues: Chew 1 – 5
Issue Dates: June – October 2009
Creators:
John Layman,  Rob Guillory

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

Still feeling as though my trade paperback collection is in its infancy, I tend to stick with what I know. A Batman trade here, a few Superman trades there, and a couple Green Lantern trades thrown in the mix as well. While randomly browsing trades during an online session I came across something outside my usual comfort zone with a description that caught my attention and would not let go until I clicked “add to cart”.

This captivating statement in the product description was the sole reason for my purchase: “…Tony Chu is Cibopathic, which means he gets psychic impressions from whatever he eats…he’s a hell of a detective, as long as he doesn’t mind nibbling on the corpse of a murder victim to figure out whodunit.” If that statement didn’t take hold of your interest completely and conjure a variety of images and stories that could stem from it, then you are obviously less disturbed than I.

Despite such an intriguing description, upon the arrival of Taster’s Choice I hesitated before reading. Would this book stand up to half the expectations posed by its promising description? Would this premise become a crutch that the writer would depend ad nauseam? Fortunately, my concerns were quickly laid to rest after reading the very first couple of pages. It was clear that the author had intended this “Cibopath” to work well outside his unfortunate gift.

The premise is Tony Chu (get it?) is a detective who is able to eat any object to establish a telepathic link to its history. If he eats an apple, for instance, he knows where it came from, the gender of the person who picked it, and the color of the truck that delivered it. His talents are put to use in the highest law office in the government: the FDA. In the world of Chew, the Food and Drug Administration is the most powerful organization in the United States due to the illegalization of poultry consumption, thanks to an avian flu epidemic which killed millions.

Now, instead of street pushers in back allies and kingpins in seedy clubs profiting from narcotics, their main focus is the illegal trading and selling of any poultry related items. Chicken speakeasies are home to many neighborhoods now with only the privileged few allowed in. To discuss the actual stories contained in this collection with more depth would reveal too much. Suffice to say the stories are varied and in this five issue set touch on the topics of love, death, aliens, vampires, killer Russians, and Government Conspiracy Theories.

John Layman (Marvel Zombies vs, Army of Darkness, Puffed) does a first-class job of building a meek yet likable character who due to his “gifts” finds himself in many an odd situation. He continues to keep the stories fresh from issue to issue. Each one reminds me of one of many popular crime dramas that feature a prologue, or snippet, of the story to come up front to grab your attention and make you think “What is going on here?” He then leads you through a well paced detective buddy story that mixes drama and comedy effortlessly.

Chew - Art by Rob Guillory

As easy as it might be to do so, Layman does not rely on a “gross factor” to keep this title interesting. The subject matter may be over the top, but I never felt like he was using any cheap tactics to build a “wow” factor. Each issue connects to an overall arching story that deepens later in the collection, but also features solid, individual self-contained plots. Unlike many trades I did not find myself confronted with a cliffhanger at the end of each issue and was pleased that I could set the book down without feeling a jarring break in narrative.

Newcomer artist Rob Guillory has done an amazing job with this book and I feel has actually contributed more to the feel of the story than his partner. Not to take anything away from Layman, but Guillory has a fantastic way of conveying the emotions of the characters in any situation with his wonderful layouts. His color and lines do have a very distinct feel however and may not fit everyone’s taste perfectly, but it complements Chew better than any style I could imagine. The action scenes are top notch, and despite not being chock-full of action, Guillory is able to demonstrate any movement with ease and better than many classic superhero comics.

The author has created a wonderful world without relying too heavily on the hook of the story, being a detective who eats gross things for clues. Chew Vol1: Taster’s Choice is a pleasant surprise from two fairly unknown creators. Volumes 2 and 3 [as well as 4, 5 and 6! -ed.] are already available and if similar in caliber to this first volume, are sure to be a “treat.”


Verdict:
This new title from Image Comics has more then grabbed my attention and is definitely worth a read. With the foundation that is in   place, I hope this duo continues to produce fantastic stories with their wide range of topics and cast. 4 out of 5.

Essential Continuity:
It’s entirely self contained and the start of this new series.

Read first:
Chew Volume 1: Taster’s Choice is the first trade to read for your Cibopath fix.

Read next:
Chew Volume 2: International Flavor is next on the list, or you may instead purchase Chew: Omnivore Edition Volume 1, a hardcover bound collection of both Volume 1 and Volume 2.

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By | Monday, January 28, 2013 | 1:33 am | 24 Comments | Blog > Giveaways

Hey there, TPB collectors!

This is Alex “Uncle Gorby” Jaffe, an old pal you may remember from this site’s early days a few years back.

I’m here to let you know that while Ian is occupied doing real world things on Earth-Prime, I’ll be here every week as the new Editor to keep this Watchtower in orbit.

But first, why not ingratiate myself a little with the natives?

Let’s welcome this bold new era for TRO with a giveaway!

Here’s all you’ve got to do:

Use the comments below to tell me what you believe is the greatest superhero team book of all time, and why.

In one month (February 28th), if you’re the winner, I’ll contact you for your address and send you the thematically appropriate JUSTICE LEAGUE: A NEW BEGINNING, a now quite rare discontinued print which covers the first issues of Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis’ legendary Justice League International series.

Coming up later this week — and, Zod be willing, every week after that — no less than two new trade reviews from our staff or you the readers, and a database update worth writing home about. See you in the comments!

Alex

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By | Tuesday, January 22, 2013 | 11:41 am | 3 Comments | Blog > News

Now Hiring an Editor!

This is a paid stipend and percentage position.

Trade Reading Order has been a one person operation for a long time, though we’ve had a string of amazing regular contributors to the blog and through the forums.

As you may have noticed, I’ve gotten way too busy in the past couple years to give this site the attention it deserves. Comics are my much loved hobby, but I just can’t manage it full time.

The database still requires my attention, I simply am anal about it and don’t trust anyone else (yet) to get updating it right. But we ARE hiring an editor to manage several things on the site.

I’m going to lay out all the details up front and very clearly in this post. Please don’t send me questions at this point, just information about you. I will be getting an insane amount of mail about this, so it’s important you read carefully.

  • Post reviews at least two times a week.
    • These can be user submitted (and there are five sitting in the backend to start you off) and/or written by yourself.
    • They need to have images (ideally original scans) added.
    • They need to be tagged with the proper meta data and linked to the  book in our database. (data includes ISBN number, author names, etc.)
  • Post a news article once a week.
    • Keep your eyes on the comics world and write a new article on a topic you choose.
    • Post user submitted articles after carefully editing and reviewing them.
  • Post database update news once a week.
    • You don’t have to do all the updates yourself, but you need to do some, including:
      • Writing a few short descriptions of  characters of your choosing for their headers each month.
      • Adding some pictures to characters each month (users even submit these through the forum and adding them to the database is as simple as uploading them to a folder with the name of the character as the file name.)
    • Encouraging me to actually get around to doing the big database updates.
      • If the site gets active again I’d eventually like help with this, but for now it falls to me. I’m very busy with paid tech world work (which pays YOUR stipend income – more on that below), but just some reminders that I’ve promised updates will help – I’m basically asking you to manage me as if I was another unpaid site contributor.
  • Moderate the forum and contributors.
    • Several users already have contributor access to the backend and it’s easy to set up more. Just check their posts and post them up.
    • Users also submit ideas for new content (like new reading lists) on the forum, just copy these into new posts and include them on the site once they’ve been vetted by the users.
    • Respond to some comments. This isn’t really necessary, but it’s fun and a nice thing to do. I’ll probably keep responding to them myself, I like actually using the site, I just don’t really have time to be the only one running it.
  • Moderate the social media.
    • The site already posts new article to twitter automatically, but you can use this account to talk to other comics world people if you want. This is totally optional, but it’s been a lot of fun for me to interact directly with authors in the past. They tend to retweet it when you review their book! It’s a really friendly industry.
    • I have no real plans for facebook or anything else, but if you have an idea, this is something you can do.

That’s a lot! So you have to be really really really passionate about comics if you want to do this. It’s a good in to the industry and blogging in general and I will be always happy to recommend you strongly to future employers, even if it means you have to leave the site to take a job. I’ll even write you a recommendation on linkedin (this is mine.)

But I’m not an asshole. This is work, and I’m going to compensate you.

The site is not currently profitable. I’ve always supported it out of my own pocket as part of my comic book hobby. It makes about 100-300 dollars in Amazon and Ebay affiliate fees a month, and can sometimes cost more than that a month. I will continue paying for it because I believe it is a valuable resource for new readers and it’s a huge work of love. But I’m going to start by offering you this.

  • A monthly stipend.
    • This will be out of my own pocket, be small to start, and we can decide on a fair number. If the site brings in enough to actually pay you, we’ll renegotiate.
  • 50% of whatever the site brings in through affiliate links.
    • I am opposed to ever featuring banner adds or similar distracting content, but the in line links are actually useful to collectors as well as bringing in 4-10% back from the purchases.
    • The more content you generate, the more the site brings in. The more useful the site is, the more the site brings in. Want to make more? Make the site better.

You:

  • A comic fan. Rabid comic fan.
  • Highly organized.
  • Internet expert with a love of dicking around (I expect to see a good facebook or personal blog, or something.)
  • No ‘experience’ necessary. I’m sick of seeing job postings that require people to have a four year degree and 10 years of experience. If you are an internet generation person (and I mean someone who breathes internet because you were raised doing it) you are not going to have ten years at print papers. Fuck that. Just be good and reliable and nice.
  • Reading comprehension. If it’s obvious that you haven’t read this whole post and the directions at the bottom, I’m just going to trash your email. Applying for jobs is very simple and I’ve hired enough people in my life to know that 99% of applicants can’t even fill out the form. It’s amazing. You want a job? Just get past that first thing at the very least.

Training: 

  • This site is shoddily built on wordpress. I was in a rush when I built it and a lot of the functionality of modern wordpress wasn’t there yet. I’m continuisly refining it and will be redesigning at some point, but it IS functional and works great on the front end when cached. I’ll teach you wordpress.
  • I’ll run you through the backend in a series of skype meetings and answer questions when I’m available.
  • We’ll check in weekly, but of course I’m subscribed to the blog so I’ll see what your doing.
  • You take the site down, mess up the content, or use the site for your harmful personal vendettas – I will hunt you down and kill you. This is a friendly site and a learning resource. It’s the internet so cuss all you want, but no porn, no personal attacks (outside of essays, maybe) and well, don’t be a jerk. I can get the site back up from offline backups and with my host, but it’s a big pain and.. why would you want to be so mean anyway? Just don’t.

Applying

Again, please don’t send me questions at this point, just information about you. I will be getting an insane amount of mail about this, so it’s important you read carefully.

  • Apply by email to ian@tradereadingorder.com
  • Use this email headline, without quotes: “I want to be an editor at Trade Reading Order”
  • Literally use that exact headline. Just paste it. This is to see if you can read and follow simple directions and is really the only set part of any kind of interview process. 50% of people that send me something about this will literally frick this up.
  • Attach a resume (but I am not going to deduct points if it’s not ‘designed’ or doesn’t have ‘a lot of work’ on it.) I’m just curious.
  • Write a SMALL paragraph about why you love comics. (about three sentences.)
  • Write a SMALL paragraph about yourself. (about three sentences.)
  • Include a link to social media / your website. (Facebook is fine, don’t be surprised if I instantly add you – I’m curious. Feel free to block me in your feed, I post a lot and chat on there a lot and it can flood people’s feeds.)
  • What you think you should be paid. This can be a joke, cause honestly I’ve already set a budget for the first few months and will be sticking to that, but I’m curious. I want to know what you think.

That’s it, really. Don’t expect a quick reply. Like I said, this is because I’m extremely busy. I’ll try to reply as soon as I can and intend to let everyone know individually when I’ve picked someone. But I want to take the time to really look over each applicant.

If you read that much, you’re qualified. Feel free to apply.

Thanks!

-Ian

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