Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Gosh! Authority 28/02/08

Hello! This one’s a week for creator-owned titles from far and wide, as well as returns for some much-loved creative teams, so let’s dive straight in:

DC delivers the goods this week with the latest issue of what’s been an impressive run for writer Geoff Johns and artist Gary Frank with this week’s Action Comics #862. Johns’ love for the Legion of Super Heroes has paid off for devoted Supes fans, as he flashes forwards to a dystopian Earth ruled over by a Legion-hating, xenophobic Justice League. The background is littered with teasing in-jokes alluding to the events of this year’s Final Crisis, and the story has thus far maintained its pace excellently. What’s more, new artist and former Hulk mainstay Gary Frank has really shown his clout with this incredibly expressive, dynamic and design-conscious turn. If you’ve missed out so far, this is worth giving a try.

Marvel does one better with their biggest mainstream title this week, Thor #6. Despite the delays this issue has suffered, Straczynski and Coipel throw the reader straight back into the action with the accessible and intelligent spin they've put on the new regular Thor title. I big the issues up each time they arrive, but with good reason, believe me. When Thor isn’t action-packed, it’s witty and likeable. When it’s not being funny, it’s heart-warming. Each issue has approached the set-up in a wonderfully unique manner, and the two creators responsible have achieved something very tricky – successfully creating a consistently entertaining self-contained title within Marvel continuity. Give it a shot just for Coipel’s consistently lustrous artwork, this issue in particular is a winner.

Marvel also brings us two of the aforementioned creator-owned comics through their Icon imprint, with one re-launched title and one brand new offering. Criminal 2 #1 starts a new era and a new format for the title. If you’ve any interest in noir comics or Brubaker’s writing, you’ll already know it’s good. Very good, in fact. However, you might not know what the new issue format represents for the title. So what’s different? Well, to start with, there’s a bigger page count, allowing for both a larger chunk of story each month and an expanded magazine section in the back. If you need any reason to buy the issues over the trades, the latter’s the factor to consider – each Criminal has thus far been packed full of interesting appraisals, reviews and articles about detective fiction, film noir and comics by a wide variety of folks from the relevant industries. The new format also brings with it a three-issue run of one-shot stories, fleshing out the background of Criminal’s world and its denizens.

Second from Icon is Kick-Ass, the much-awaited new outing for fan favourite writer Mark Millar and evergreen artist John Romita Jr, fresh from his triumphal job on World War Hulk. Kick-Ass is yet another attempt at the genre of ‘what if superheroes, only in real life, yah?’, but even closer to the bone. Going for thrills as well as laughs, it looks like quite the entertaining romp, assuming Millar stays well clear of Wanted territory. And besides – John Romita Jr! What a fellow.

However, perhaps the most exciting new release of the week is celebrated writer/artist Jeff Smith (creator of indie comic Bone)’s brand new series, Rasl. Rumoured for months, the plot deals with an inter-dimensional art thief, who hops between the planes stealing multiple parallel Mona Lisas for sale on the black market. Cool, right? Smith’s art is gorgeous to look at, and Bone showed that not only could he sustain the plot and character development of a long-running title, he could also infuse it at every turn with a flawless design sensibility, storytelling versatility and pure fun. This one’s my Pick of the Week, and I recommend that everybody add it to their “buy pile”.

If you’ve been enjoying these columns, then you’ll be pleased to know that the whole damned business has expanded yet again! All of these email How Late columns are now being reproduced in a much prettier format on the new Gosh Comics blog, as designed and maintained by Mssrs. Andrew Salmond and Josh Palmano. The blog can be found at: , but hey, you might be reading it there anyway! While a bit shy of content at the moment, it’ll soon be bursting with staff reviews and recommendations, announcements and release listings from myself and other members of staff.

The news this week ends on a sad note, as we regret to inform you of the loss of British comics industry legend and former Gosh employee Steve Whitaker. Whitaker who died of a stroke on the morning of Friday 22nd February, in a taxi on the way to his doctor’s office. By all accounts Whitaker was one of the friendliest, most encouraging and most dedicated people you could ever hope to meet in comics. Testament to this is the comments system for Matt Brooker (better known as Disraeli)’s blog post about Whitaker’s death, which has been flooded with tributes:

Among these is a memorial by comic artist and current Gosh person Will Kane, which follows:

“This is very sad news.

I haven't seen Steve for quite some years, but he was one of the first friends I made in the UK comics biz when I moved to London in the late 80s.
He was always very encouraging to me, enthusiastic about my work, always available to look over my portfolio and always ready with helpful criticism.

A fine tutor, I have fond memories of Steve attempting to explain to (the colour-blind) me the finer points of colour theory when I landed my first colouring job at Dark Horse UK.

Possessor of quite the vast comic and LP collection, he lent his me entire run of Mike Sekowsky 'Mod' Wonder Woman comics when I expressed an interest.

A great draughtsman and a lovely bloke all round, he will be missed.”

- Tom