Thursday's Most Exciting Announcement... Fred Van Lente's upcoming Power Man and Iron Fist mini-series, spinning out of the Shadowland: Powerman mini that begins next month.

Van Lente is a hell of a comics writer, and he's among the few people I trust to bring a modicum of the glory that was The Immortal Iron Fist back to the character. It's no secret that I hold the sixteen issues of that series that were written by Matt Fraction and Ed Brubaker and drawn mostly by David Aja in high esteem, so FVL is going to have some high standards to live up to... but I think he'll probably be up to it, provided that he doesn't go too far down the buddy comedy route. In his interview with CBR about the project he sells it as sort of a fun street book and he talks about the way Fraction thinks of the character, which are both good signs.

It helps too that Van Lente's done some of the best comics work out there in recent years, from The Incredible Hercules to Comic Book Comics- Marvel is handing the reigns of one of my favorite characters to an excellent writer and, while I do hope that Fraction and Brubaker return to Danny Rand some day, I have high hopes for what FVL can do.

The runner-up announcement is pretty cool too. While Jon and I had mixed feelings about the first Strange Tales anthology, the list of talent (which includes Kate Beaton, Rafael Grampa, Jeff Lemire, Jhonen Vazquez and the late, great, Harvey Pekar) is mind-boggling, as are the possibilities.

And the Eisner goes to...

It's getting to be award season for comic books. The Eisners will be announced this weekend at San Diego ComicCon, and voting for the Harveys has officially started, to be announced in late August. It's always exciting when it's time to see these awards, especially the Eisners, which are chosen by the fine folk on the internet. For those who don't know, the Eisner's encompass a wide variety of categories from the obvious like "Best New Series" to the more surprising like "Best Comics-Related Periodical/Journalism" Online polling has closed, but you can check out the list of nominees here. I had to smile at the fact that DC Comics was the publisher with the most nominations. Go DCU!

The Harvey Awards are a little different. While there are no restrictions on who can vote in the Eisners, the Harveys are for professionals only. When submitting your ballot, they ask for information so that they can do a check on your professionalism. Sadly this means, I cannot vote, although it is still fun to watch the process. I'm assuming the idea behind this is to cut out the "screaming fanboy coercing his friends into voting through blackmail" demographic, and create a more objective voting environment. Whether or not this actually works is hard to say, because we all know that even professionals can be secretly screaming fanboys. The list of nominees for the Harvey Awards can be found here.

Well, that's all for now folks. Enjoy perusing the nominees list, and good luck to all of the nominees! I'll most likely be posting the winners of the Eisners after they are announced on Friday.

A "Splendor"ous Memorium

"Me, Harvey, and Everyone We Know" - Tablet Magazine

Far more appropriate than any pure-text encomium (including my own on this blog) of the man who changed autobiographical comics is an actual autobiographical comic.

Vanessa Davis has crafted a personal goodbye to underground comic-book legend Harvey Pekar that gives us a unique and wonderful thing: the opportunity to see the tiniest bit of Pekar's working process with an artist from her point of view. She writes first about her frustrations in college with "the fine art world" and "artsy auto-bio comics" that would lead her to appreciate the work of down-to-earth creative people like Harvey and then her single collaborative encounter with him. Sometime recently Vanessa Davis was contacted to illustrate a Pekar story herself. Considering the timing, it's possible Davis will be the last artist to illustrate a Harvey Pekar story.

"he wanted me to get the joke and get that he was the butt of it."
Sounds like Honest Harvey.

Pekar passed just four days before this comic was posted. Hardly enough time to truly sit down and draft what was probably an unscheduled two-page comics piece. Davis' art is a bit crude, but using a few choice cribbed panel images and dialogue from stories Harvey wrote himself adds immensely here; and seeing a few of the different styles of the various artists who've penciled Harvey's stories on the page and leaving them in the original black and white is a nice effect.

Like this panel, originally drawn by R. Crumb for "The Harvey Pekar Name Story" in "American Splendor" #2.

Or this one, probably originally drawn by Gary Dumm.

Undeniably, we've got Davis' style and not Crumb's or Dumm's or Zabel's or anyone else's on display here, but the slight differences in shading and line-quality shine through if you've read enough "American Splendor".

Most of all, I love the simple and evocative ending of this short piece. It's two pages long. It's not going to take you long.

~ @JonGorga

(Psst- follow the link at the top of the post to read the comic!)

Bryan Lee O'Malley's Finest Hour


How good is Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour?

This good:

Unlike the last time I used this trick, though, the above picture isn't an easy way out review of a pretty cool but also pretty substance-less Marvel crossover event- no, Finest Hour is, in fact, one of the most well-written, best drawn, most satisfying comics of the year so far. Bryan Lee O'Malley, amazingly, brings his epic twentysomething slacker love story to a clean close: most of the plot threads are tied up (including threads that we didn't even know existed!), Scott drops the modifier from Young Neil's name, fights Gideon, gets the girl, and, in what could have been a horribly clichéd ending that O'Malley turns delightfully on its head, lives happily ever after, etc.

All that's impressive, for sure, but what's really cool is how we get there and the depth and maturity that the slacker epic shows in its conclusion. It would be easy, extremely easy, to write off Scott Pilgrim as just another moody story about moody youngsters being horny, shallow, hip and, well, moody. Instead, the series as a whole deals with its oft-maligned subject in an incredibly clever and always surprising way. Although the titular character often devolves into stormy angst, the supporting cast (Wallace and Stace, in particular) always serve as a foil for Scott's moments, reminding him (and the readers) just how out of touch our hero can be. This restraint is particularly true of Finest Hour- in which the subject matter is more consciously angst and groan-inducing and which could have easily used schmaltz and self-pity as crutches- when O'Malley turns the characters' pain, their damaged views of themselves and their world, into physical manifestations that have consequences, both good and bad, in the real world. The book (in what is actually a natural progression from what has come before, if something of a sudden extrapolation from that previous trajectory) literally lets its characters wrestle with their demons and- more often than not- we get to see them win. We get to see the moments of realization on their faces, the looks of pure joy or sadness or, best of all, understanding. It's really in these scenes where O'Malley's art and his writing work as one and while this synthesis has been clear in the past volumes, in Finest Hour we have a rare example of the form.

In fact, everything about this comic is in rare form- Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour is, in many ways, a perfect piece of sequential literature: I've read it through twice and skimmed through it many more times than that and each time it gets better, each time I catch something I missed before, whether another of the ubiquitous Zelda logos in the book's last act or an Easter-egg call back to other parts of the series. O'Malley's art, steeped as always in manga and video games, cycles through so many different styles, levels of detail, and line weights it's a marvel that he makes it seem so effortless, that his narrative is so coherent. There's always something new to discover in this art, always something that we didn't see the first time.

His writing, too, is full of treats and surprises and, while I'm going to limit what I share, the book's last act is as much about his readers as it is about his characters- everyone's had their heart broken. Everyone's blamed someone else, forgotten their own behavior, and had to come to terms with all of that. Some us get through better than others but- like Scott and Ramona- we all learn to live with it or- like Gideon- we perish.

I truly believe that the best heroes are those heroes we see ourselves in and I'm glad to say that I see myself in Scott Pilgrim, particularly in his Finest Hour. Bryan Lee O'Malley wrote a hell of a series and he ended it in spectacular fashion- this is a book I want to share with my friends and, eventually, my kids. Scott Pilgrim is a classic, and Finest Hour cements its legacy.

If you haven't read these before, I suggest you get to it before the movie comes out in three weeks- I promise it will be worth your while.

A quick note about how excited I was for this book- I went on a LCS run on a TUESDAY just to make sure I got a copy. That's how excited I was. And it was totally worth it.

The Devil You Know...

As always, here there be spoilers, so watch out if you haven't read any Shadowland yet.

I've really, really enjoyed Daredevil, recently. When Ed Brubaker's run was finishing up last year, I wholeheartedly believed that it was the best comic that no one was reading, the one really great comic that no one ever wrote about, that no one ever read about, that no one ever heard about. When Andy Diggle took over for Brubaker last fall, I figured there was going to be a drop in quality but it turned out that Diggle's writing wasn't any worse, just sort of different. The fact that the new writer took the old writer's toys and made me think we were playing a whole new kind of game was really an impressive feat and his Daredevil remained the best book that no one was reading.

I suppose that Shadowland aims to change that, to make the 'Devil' one that we know, and, although my first impressions of its first two issues (Shadowland #1 and Daredevil #508) were rather negative, I think the story so far reads a lot better the second time around. Shadowland #1 goes like this: Daredevil's gone all fascist in Hell's Kitchen and has built a huge pagoda to remind everyone who's in charge, the leaders of the Avengers aren't happy, send the leaders of the New Avengers (read: Luke and Danny, who, lets be honest, I'm always happy to see together in print) to talk to ol' Hornhead. That, of course, ends in an homage to one of Frank Miller's most famous Daredevil moments- which is, in and of itself, a clue to just how much different this Daredevil is to the Daredevil we're used to. Bullseye's moment of realization just before that homage is really clever, as is Diggle's Alan Moore-style arrogant-gods-above-the-fray portrayal of the big three Avengers and if nothing else, those moments are proof that Diggle is a master plotter in the old Marvel style, constantly building off old stories while also setting up new ones and, even if these ideas aren't exactly fresh, Diggle is building his tale and tackling his characters in a way that incorporates ideas that we've seen before and makes them feel new and interesting. My only major problem with what's here is that it feels like a prologue- there just isn't enough meat to it, despite the strength of some of the storytelling. It's definitely part of something bigger, but what it isn't is satisfying in and of itself, which is too bad- this stuff really is pretty good, and it would be a shame if it gets ruined because Diggle doesn't demonstrate an understanding of serial storytelling.

There's a light at the end of the tunnel, though; rather than telling the next part of the same story in Daredevil #508, Diggle and his co-writer Andy Johnston are writing a parallel story, equally as important but not necessarily contingent on having read the first. This seems to be where Marvel is headed as far as event storytelling is concerned- tell a bunch of stories, all of which work on their own but add up to something greater and, as far as I'm concerned, it works. It means I can buy the parts of the story that I want, and not the parts that I could do without- hello Fred Van Lente's Shadowland: Power Man, see ya later Moon Knight one-shot- without missing a beat.

As for the issue itself, it's pretty good- it feels like a more complete story than Shadowland #1 and manages an equally compelling ending, which is another reason to write-off the incompleteness of that other issue as fluke rather than pattern- but I wished it focused more on Matt. We get a lot of what's going on with the people around the title character, but don't hear very much of his internal dialogue, which is a fascinating choice given how important narration has been in the character's past. What we get instead is an idea of how Matt's choices affect those closest to him: Foggy, Dakota, etc, those people that he's recently shut out and the manipulations that are really behind what's going on- that is, we see the Hand behind the curtain and the people of Hell's Kitchen, but nothing of the Devil himself.

Whether or not this is an effective storytelling technique remains to be seen, however, given the crossover so far, I have faith in what Andy Diggle has planned. I'm just hoping that it's as far-reaching and well told as it has the potential to be.

A quick note about the art- both Billy Tan and Roberta De La Torre do good work here, although the latter isn't quite as good on Daredevil as he has been in the recent past and neither did anything that really blew me away. What's really disappointing, though, is looking at their art in comparison to the killer John Cassaday covers (you can't see me, but trust me when I say my hair is windswept)- here's to hoping we get to see something sequential from the Drummer soon.

Making the Best of It?

There's a new movement of people (proudly?) declaring themselves #notatcomiccon. You can read about it here. 55 comic shops around the country will host parties funded by Dark Horse Comics and something called ChinaShop Magazine, supposedly owned by Red Bull. The goal is to give people who can't make it out to San Diego for the big days a chance to get together in their respective communities.

This is... interesting.

On principle I'm against declaring something in negative terms. I don't believe it to be mentally healthy. Why are you declaring yourself #NOTatcomiccon? It smacks of over-the-top, woe-is-me irony. The promotional images don't help.

On the other hand, on principle I'm for spreading something good out from a single-centralized geographic location. Why should San Diego have all the fun? Furthermore, the San Diego Comic-Con, while probably still a very fun and exciting event, has become increasingly 'the San Diego Media-Con' as TV and film folk originally there to promote their comics adaptation works have, in some people's eyes, begun to take over the convention.

This simultaneous nation-wide party is described as a promotion to "celebrate the highly dedicated culture of sequential art". To me, that sounds like the way it's supposed to be.

"a fun and creative atmosphere where free drinks and over $200 worth of Dark Horse prizes will be available"

I believe that the 24th is the exact date of a previous engagement Clare and I have with a college friend. If it weren't for that, I'd be planning on being at either Midtown Comics (Times Square) or St. Mark's Comics (Brooklyn Manhattan!) here in NYC partying it up!

~ @JonGorga

UPDATE 7/21/2o1o:
I was incorrect on two counts here. One is not my fault because Dark Horse's website gave me bad info. The party hosted by St. Mark's Comics will be at their MANHATTAN location, not their Brooklyn location.

The other, is that the dates were changed for the previous engagement and so you can expect to see me at at least one of the two #notatcomiccon parties. Possibly both!