Image Comics

Back With A Bullet(s)

I've been trying to figure out how to talk about this and not come across as a gushing, ridiculous fanboy and it's much harder than I would have imagined. Especially when I consider the fact that it wasn't until it was coming back that I had really realized how much I had missed Stray Bullets.

But sometimes life is like that.

David Lapham's Stray Bullets hit me at what must have been just about the perfect time. Because when I finally gave it a day in court I couldn't stop reading it. I devoured it. It started with the second hardcover collection "Somewhere Out West" which begins with the second half of a story that had started in the first hardcover "The Innocence of Nihilism" and even with that being the case I could not possibly have cared less. I loved being dumped down into the middle of a story that was so crazy that I couldn't help but be locked in. 

I had often heard of Stray Bullets being spoken in the same breath as Strangers in Paradise, Eightball, Black Hole, Optic Nerve, and many of the other incredible independent black and white comics of the 90s that were starting to get collected during the early 2000s and as a result were becoming more available. 

Stray Bullets was a unique story in that it was a period piece (set mostly in the 1970s) as well as being darkly twisted noir that lingered more in the world of suburbia than of the dark underbelly of the world of crime. 

Lapham had experience in the world of comics prior to setting out on his own and creating Stray Bullets having worked on several books as an artist for comics written by Jim Shooter at Valiant Comics (most notably Harbinger) in the early 90s as well as some books at Defiant Comics (most notably Warriors of Plasm). His art style lends itself to the gritty content of both the books he had done previously as well as the work he began crafting in Stray Bullets.

And in 2005 it ended ... the siren call of making money enough to support his family wound up being too strong to resist and he left his creation behind for work from Marvel (Daredevil vs. Punisher, Terror, Inc., Spider-Man: With Great Power, DeadpoolMAX, and Age of Apocalypse) & DC (Detective Comics & Tales of the Unexpected), Vertigo (Young Liars, Fables, Silverfish, American Splendor) as well as Top Cow (The Darkness) and others additionally working quite a bit for Avatar Press (on titles like Crossed, Caligula, Ferals, and Dan, The Unharmable). 

But finally, after more than 8 years of waiting we loyal fans will finally get the return of the book we've all loved and been waiting for.

Stray Bullets returns. And it doesn't just return one issue at a time. Oh, no. It comes back with a colossal bang. The long awaited issue #41 hits the shelves with the first issue of an all new story: Stray Bullets: Killers #1. AND!, AND!, The Stray Bullets: Uber Alles Trade Paperback which collects all 41 published issues all in one book!

The time has come friends. The time has come to once again stare deeply into the dark abyss where the human heart usually resides and let the despair of everyday life at it's most grim and desperate. The time has come to once again come to grips with the simple things that can take life down a dark path ... the extra curricular activities of teenagers, the secret lives of housewives, and the poor decisions of average businessmen.

The time has come to return to the pages of Stray Bullets.

Nick Spencer Strives for a Better Future with Morning Glories

Nick Spencer is a name that has been on my mind for quite a while. First I couldn't stop hearing about his sci-fi mini-series Existence 2.0 (which has been optioned by Platinum Dunes to be made a feature film, and was followed by Existence 3.0 which will be collected in a combined series collection later this summer). Then his series Forgetless totally overtook me with full on geek joy. There was something magical and spectacular about this weird homage to non-linear story telling and modern teen culture that captured me whole cloth and held me down and made me gasp, laugh, smile, and even truly feel. His next series, Shuddertown, is a dark murder mystery that I've mentioned a few times on the ComicDorksCast and has really got me enthralled as well. There is something really hard to peg about what makes his work so incredible but it has left me feeling an awful lot like I did when I walked out of The Tivoli Theater after having seen Christopher Nolan's Memento: "I know that this is going to be the kind of creator whose career I am going to follow unhesitatingly and whose impact on the industry is going to be incredible." 

Prior to c2e2 I had heard whispers about Spencer's next series Morning Glories which I thought was initially called "Morning Glory Academy" (which, as shown by the teasers leading up to the convention and the announcement of the series, was not an entirely silly idea) sounded really interesting and then I got to sit in on the Image panel at c2e2 where Spencer revealed that the series would be, in his words: "Runaways meets LOST". That's really all he had to say to get me interested but once you start looking at the character teaser images, done by cover artist Rodin Esquejo, you start to realize that there really might be something special going on with this little series.

And then you read the first issue, a day early in my case, and you become such a big fan of what is going on in the series that you can't stop thinking about it. Much like the series premier of LOST or the first issue of Runaways it leaves you chock full of questions and dying to get the next installment. Spencer paces out the reveals and develops such intriguing characters in the first issue that you can't help but be taken in by their charm and infuriated by their brash, callous, youth. And the opening scenes make you, or at least me, wish that there was a score to go along with them. I was dying for music to pair with the scenes, so much so that I was even hoping for the kind of sound-tracking methods that Chynna Clugston used in books like Scooter Girl, but was pleased enough with the kind of dramatic instrumentation that was going through my head as I read it (sort of like a Hanz Zimmer kind of thing ... but maybe that's just me).

The book is rather well drawn by Joe Eisma, and with the exception of one minor coloring mistake I felt that it lived up to the expectations that I had set for it, which I will admit were lofty. There is a great sense for individuals throughout the book and each of the characters has a very distinct look all their own. And in a book where each of the characters are likely to be wearing similar uniforms, their school uniforms even, it's going to be important that each character be unique and Eisma does so with panache. 

The book starts with one of the most "grab-you-by-the-shirt-collar-and-drag-you-along-with-reckless-abandon-and-leave-you-breathless" scenes I've read in a comic in a ridiculously long time, maybe only The Boys #1 has started with as break-neck a pace as this book. And the book doesn't really slow down from there. It keeps introducing new concepts and new characters and posing new questions as you go along. It's, in many ways, indicative of the kind of comics we've been seeing from many publishers outside of The Big Two in the last year or two. Books like The Boys, Irredeemable, Incorruptible, Umbrella Academy, Chew, Fear Agent, Scarlet, Criminal, Incognito, Sixth Gun, American Vampire, Sweet Tooth ... and you know ... more.

This is a book that belongs alongside those I've just mentioned. This book is going to leave any reader with even the slightest bit of taste with their jaws on the floor, and I am not afraid to assure that. It's, without question or hesitation, going to be the Satisfaction Guaranteed Book of the Week at the South County Fantasy Shop this week. Between the complexity of the characters, the pleasantly mind boggling story, the exciting art, and the incredibly composed (and totally excellent) cover I think that it has every chance to be the best new book of the month (and is easily in the running for best new series of the year, in my humble opinion). 

And much in the recent spirit of the comics industry there has been a recent announcement by DC Comics that Spencer will be penning their long awaited T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents series (to be drawn by the incredibly talented CAFU) as well as a Jimmy Olsen Co-Feature (drawn by R.B. Silva who recently pencilled the totally excellent Secret Six #23 [a brilliant take on The Most Dangerous Game]) to appear in Action Comics starting with September's #893. Spencer could be the kind of creator for DC that Hickman has been for Marvel, and this is your chance to catch the book that everyone is going to be clamoring for in a few weeks. Get there first.