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Toronto comic book fans: Welcome back to Paradise.
The 5th annual Paradise Toronto Comicon (www.torontocomicon.com) hits the city from June 8-10 at the Direct Energy Centre at Exhibition Place and to celebrate this vibrant comic-centric event, here’s a look at some hot new books by a David Petersen, Matt Wagner and Canadian Cary Nord, three of the dozens of creators who’ll be guests at the show:
Mouse Guard: Fall 1152
Author: David Petersen
Publisher: Archaia Studios Press
Price: $24.95 US (Hardcover)
**** 1/2 (out of 5)
Every few years a new comic creator comes along and simply blows people away with their first major work.
David Petersen did just that last year with Mouse Guard, a thrilling tale of heroic rodents who protect their towns and villages from day-to-day dangers — that is, until three of them discover a much greater threat against mousekind.
Guardsmice Lieam, Kenzie and Saxon have discovered there is a traitor in their midst, a mysterious mouse who is gathering followers and planning to seize control of the capital city of Lockhaven unless they can find a way to stop him.
Page after page of lavish and finely detailed art and a surprisingly edgy storyline that evokes the best elements of The Secret Of NIMH and Jeff Smith’s Bone made Mouse Guard my choice for best miniseries of 2006 and this top-quality hardcover collected edition certainly does it justice.
Grendel: Devil By The Deed — 25th Anniversary Edition
Author: Matt Wagner
Publisher: Dark Horse Books
Price: $12.95 US (Hardcover)
It seems astounding that it’s been 25 years since the first appearance of Matt Wagner’s enigmatic anti-hero, Grendel.
What began with just four issues back in 1982 (to be collected for the first time in Grendel Archives in July by Dark Horse Books) and later grew to cult-favourite status after being printed as a four-page backup piece in issues of Wagner’s classic series Mage is now one of the most identifiable creator-owned characters in comics.
Devil By The Deed collects all of those four-page tales, revealing the life story of the first Grendel, Hunter Rose, and his rise from child prodigy to deadly assassin and crime boss to his climactic final battle with the ferocious wolf-man, Argent.
The material in this volume tiptoes the fine line between comics’ standard sequential storytelling and illustrated prose and demonstrates Wagner’s incomparable artistic vision all in one sleek hardcover — featuring an anniversary intro by the creator and another by comic writing visionary Alan Moore.
Conan Vol. 4: The Hall Of The Dead And Other Stories
Author: Kurt Busiek, Mike Mignola, Timothy Truman, Cary Nord
Publisher: Dark Horse Books
Price: $24.95 US (Hardcover)
After just three years as the artist of the monthly adventures of Conan, it’s hard to envision anyone but Calgary’s Cary Nord working on the series.
Nord’s gift for capturing the roughness of the Cimmerian’s sword-wielding brutality, the softness of the lovely maidens he regularly beds and everything in between makes it easy to understand why he’s nominated for the 2007 Joe Shuster Award for outstanding Canadian artist (the JSAs are being held June 9 at 8 p.m. at the Holiday Inn, 370 King St. W. in conjunction with the Comicon).
The Hall Of The Dead, which sees Conan on the lam after bedding the young wife of a city official, brings an end to Nord’s highly successful partnership with writer Kurt Busiek, who left the series that earned the pair a Will Eisner Award —comics’ top honour — for best single issue in 2004.
Following in Busiek’s big footsteps in this volume are Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, with three fill-in issues, and the debut of Conan And The Songs Of The Dead artist Timothy Truman, now the monthly series regular writer.
Supergirl And The Legion Of Super-Heroes: Adult Education
Mark Waid, Tony Bedard, Barry Kitson, Mick Gray
$17.99/$14.99 US (Paperback)
Welcome to the 31st Century where the galaxy’s greatest heroes have just sold out.
Well, that’s how the young fans of the Legion Of Super-Heroes feel after the teen group’s recent decision to work alongside the United Planets.
As the heroes battle their falling public image they’re also facing a recurring threat from a similar group of young super-powered beings who are keep popping up and making daring thefts of seemingly random items.
Oh, and Supergirl still thinks all this is just a dream.
The Kryptonian cousin of Superman, hurled 1,000 years into the future due to the events of 2006’s Infinite Crisis crossover series, has convinced herself that becoming Supergirl and ending up with the Legion is all so far fetched that it can only be a fantasy and thus isn’t always taking things as seriously as she should.
Just wait until you read how the team plans to snap her out of it.
Supergirl And The Legion Of Super-Heroes continues to be a quick-witted and enjoyable adventure well worth reading.
Star Wars: Legacy Vol. 1 — Broken
John Ostrander, Jan Duursema, Dan Parsons
Dark Horse Books
$17.95 US (Paperback)
A not-quite-as-long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…
Over 100 years after the events of The Return Of The Jedi, a new threat looms over the galaxy. The Sith-lord Darth Krayt has broken the rule of two (which states there can only be a pair of Sith at a time) and has amassed an impressive and deadly team of lightsaber-wielding ne’er-do-wells and seized control of the remnants of the Empire.
The only ones standing in the way of another bleak Sith-ruled era of history is the former Emperor Roan Fel, who escaped Krayt’s coup attempt and is hiding out on a remote planet and gathering allies, the last few Jedi and three bounty hunters, including one with a rather infamous last name: Skywalker.
As the Sith seek to eliminate Fel (and turn Cade Skywalker to the dark side, if possible), Cade’s former master tries to locate him and turn him back to the forces of good. Meanwhile, a face from the past appears to help remind Cade of the legacy he has to live up to.
This familiar, yet different, take on the Star Wars universe is quite engrossing and getting to see where things have gone in the years since Episode VI is too good to miss.
Hawkgirl: The Maw
Walter Simonson, Howard Chaykin
$21.99/$17.99 US (Paperback)
Beware the evil vagina in the basement — for it wants to eat you!
No, I’m not kidding. But we’ll get back to that in a minute.
Kendra Saunders, A.K.A. Hawkgirl, has been one of the most refreshing new characters of the past decade. With sass and attitude she broke from tradition by not hooking up with Hawkman and forged strong ties across the super-hero landscape by become a member of the Justice Society, the Birds Of Prey and recently the Justice League.
So fans of this character were no doubt pretty excited when she got her own title as part of DC Comics’ One Year Later (after the events of Infinite Crisis).
That is, until they read this first storyline.
What should have been a golden opportunity to highlight this fine character gets sidetracked by the fact she spends more time changing in and out of her clothes then she does battling bad guys and for some reason sports rock-hard nipples at all times.
To top this, Kendra’s also battling a mostly nude musclewoman who wants to feed her to the vagina-like passageway to another dimension in the basement of the museum she works for.
Books like this horrible male fantasy gone wrong are simply bad for the image of comic book heroines.
Paul Dini, Jesus Saiz, Jimmy Palmiotti
Just when you thought it was over, they’re pulling you back in.
One week after the conclusion of the ambitious weekly series 52, DC Comics gets right back at it with another one called Countdown.
This debut issue opens with a bang as the villainous Darkseid returns, a Teen Titan is murdered and a missing hero is revealed as the universe’s only hope.
So get ready for another year of mysteries aplenty as writer Paul Dini (Batman: The Animated Series) and a team of artists helps the clock tick down to the next major “crisis” in the DCU.
Hellboy: Darkness Calls #1 (of 6)
Mike Mignola, Duncan Fegredo
Dark Horse Comics
Life’s a witch as far as Hellboy’s concerned.
It has been two years since we last saw the hulking red paranormal investigator (in 2005’s two-issue mini-series, Hellboy: The Island) and he wastes little time in this new adventure of finding himself some trouble.
It seems the witches of the world are descending upon Hellboy’s current location in England, but whether they’re after him for revenge for his past actions, or something even worse remains a mystery.
Meanwhile, a lowly half-demon named Igor Weldon Bromhead has enslaved the evil Hecate. That can’t be good.
Fans of the big red hero have been eagerly, if nervously, waiting for Darkness Calls — the first in-continuity Hellboy series to not be drawn by creator Mike Mignola.
But have no fear, fanboys! New artist Duncan Fegredo doesn’t come in drawing things “Archie” style and does a very solid job of keeping the feel of the character’s world intact. Now let’s hope he and Mike can keep to a monthly schedule!