Showcase presents the House of Mystery vol. 2

Lotsa filler in this volume in DC’s cheap B&W reprint series, including some art that just doesn’t work in black and white. Further proof that not everything needs to be comprehensively archived and a series of “Best of” compilations (preferably in color) would serve this title better.

ELO: Out of the Blue

Electric Light Orchestra, OUT OF THE BLUE reissue (Legacy)
Pure perfect pop from thirty years ago sounds just as good as it ever has, in a beautiful hardcover book package with bonus tracks, complete liner notes and a punch out spaceship! One of my first rock albums remains one of my favorites. Only complaint: where are the lyrics?

Troubletown Told You So!

My favorite political cartoonist tackles the Iraq War and the Bush Administration’s crimes against us at home. Dangle’s become angrier which results in some strips that are just informational rather than funny, and his pen seems to need a cleaning, but TT remains as vital as THE DAILY SHOW.

WKRP in Cincinnati Season 1 DVD

Yes, the music’s been replaced. Yes, some episodes are chopped up syndication versions. Regardless, this remains one of the funniest, best realized sitcoms of all time, and the pluses far outweigh the negatives. In a perfect world, this would be a complete SHOUT! Factory set, but the world ain’t perfect!

Batman Black & White volume 3

The main problem with this collection of tales from BATMAN: GOTHAM KNIGHTS is that many of the artists don’t understand that drawing for B&W is different than for color. These short stories exhibit more storytelling experimentation than most mainstream comics, but the first two volumes are much better.

28 Weeks Later

This sub-par sequel actually works better as an allegory for America’s military occupation of foreign lands than as a Zombies-on-speed horror film. A few nice moments, but the overall effect (enough with the jerky camera already!) is more tiring than exhilarating.


Spider-Man 3

The most bizarre comic book misfire in motion picture history? While I appreciate Raimi’s off-kilter sensibility, there’s very little super in this superhero film. Too many characters, too much crying and singing and waaaay too many ones and zeroes. A sad fall from grace for a once great franchise.
(for far more, see here)

the Venture Bros. Season 2

Reasons you should buy this set: It’s the funniest cartoon in decades, it looks great, Stephen Colbert’s on it, it’s got the most attractive DVD packaging of the year, it’s chock full of bonus goodies and inside jokes for fanboys and my pal Chris deserves your moolah.

Hot Fuzz

It’s kinda hard to satirize films like BAD BOYS 2 since they’re inherently ridiculous to begin with. After a smart, hilarious 90 minutes, the last half hour of HOT FUZZ becomes a mere pastiche of the films it’s purportedly mocking / celebrating. Still, its moments of brilliance make it worthwhile.

Batman: Face the Face

BATMAN: FACE THE FACE by James Robinson, Dobn Kramer & Leonard Kirk (DC Comics)
I haven’t read Batman in decades, so the continuity left me a bit lost, but still, this tale of the return of Two-Face and his connection to the murder of some B-list villains is thuddingly ponderous and the printing is so dark you can barely make out some pages.

A Man without a Country

A MAN WITHOUT A COUNTRY by Kurt Vonnegut (Random House)
Ironically, I was waiting for this to come out in paperback, not knowing that by that time it would be Vonnegut’s de facto epitaph. Pragmatism that reads like poetry, common sense in the grand tradition of COMMON SENSE and righteous anger that’s somehow sweet in its vitriol. He’ll be missed.

The Office, Season 3

This season has been hit-or-miss, with some lapses into self-parody and Michael becoming a bit too stupid and obnoxious to be either believable or endearing (Phyllis’ Wedding: Worst episode ever). The Pam-Jim storyline is often a lead weight, too. Still, enough laughs to keep me tuned in.

the Legion of Superheroes

Aside from the corporate-mandated renaming of Superboy to Superman (due to ongoing litigation), the first season of this cartoon was a fun, pitch-perfect interpretation of an often muddled comic book legacy. The Substitutes and Ferro-Lad’s death were love letters to bronze-era fanboys (like me).

Mitch Easter, Dynamico

Mitch Easter, DYNAMICO (Electric Devil)
After seeing Mitch last November at Joe’s Pub, I was excited for this first album in almost twenty years, and it doesn’t disappoint. Lush and poppy, It’s like having Let’s Active back again!

Twin Peaks Season 2

The rushed, network-compelled resolution to the Laura Palmer mystery was a jump-the-shark moment for the formerly perfect show, but it still managed to maintain its own unique (especially for TV) sensibility through the end. Dearth of bonus features is a drag and the packaging is horrible.

the Detroit Cobras, Tied & True

The Detroit Cobras, TIED & TRUE (Bloodshot)
It’s kind of unfair to judge an album by a glorified cover band (don’t get me wrong, I love ‘em), but everything about the Cobras’ new release, from the song selection to the execution to the CD layout feels lazy. A big disappointment.

Elk City, New Believers

Elk City, NEW BELIEVERS (Friendly Fire)
After an ugly near-breakup, the NY/NJ band regroups stronger than ever, with the addition of ex-Luna guitarist Sean Eden backing up a more forceful and determined Renée LoBue, whose distinctive style (not just vocally) sets Elk City apart. Hooray for the Phoenix!

Terr'ble Thompson

TERR’BLE THOMPSON by Gene Deitch (Fantagraphics)
The legendary UPA animator’s ill-fated attempt to bring his modernist style to mainstream comic strips in the mid-1950s, this story of a boy who travels through history doing good deeds doesn’t always work, but it’s gorgeous to look at it and is never less than fascinating.

Kristin Hersh, Learn to Sing Like a Star

Kristin Hersh, LEARN TO SING LIKE A STAR (Yep Roc)
After dozens of records and as many demons, the sometimes Throwing Muse continues to be one of rock’s most prolific voices. Not much new ground here, and her work sometimes feels a bit like alt-mom-rock, but I’ll keep coming along for the ride on the wobbly, warbly hobby horse.

the Spirit

THE SPIRIT by Darwyn Cooke (DC Comics)
It takes huge balls to attempt a remake of Will Eisner’s classic strip, let alone update it to modern times, but the always-great Cooke manages to do so deftly (I don’t have such high hopes for Frank Miller’s film). The first mainstream comic I’ll buy regularly since Cooke’s CATWOMAN.

the Sopranos

THE SOPRANOS, every episode.
In anticipation of the final nine, I watched every season in descending order, which showed how the characterizations and performances have only deepened and gotten better in the past decade. Insightful, thrilling, touching, frightening, hilarious, sad, joyous and brilliant. Without question, the greatest dramatic TV series of all time.


BOTTOMFEEDER by B.H. Fingerman (M Press)
Imagine if you were a complete misanthrope, disgusted by the humans you encountered at every turn in bustling, bristling New York City. Now imagine that in order to survive, you had to kill one every day to drink their blood. A hilarious spin on the oft-stale vampire tale.

the Puppini Sisters, Betcha Bottom Dollar

the Puppini Sisters, BETCHA BOTTOM DOLLAR (Verve)
Andrews Sisters style vocalizing, covering both the old (Mr. Sandman, Sisters) and the new (songs by Blondie, Kate Bush, the Smiths and more). It’s well done at times interesting, but whether or not repeated listenings put it in the Novelty category remains to be seen.

the Star Wars Saga

THE STAR WARS SAGA (all six films)
Nostalgia is forgiving, and the first film retains a goofy charm, while EMPIRE is good because Lucas was the least involved in its making. It’s all downhill after that, with JEDI a dull climax to the original series and the stilted, CGI-laden prequels just painful to eyes and ears.

Stax 50th Anniversary Celebration

50 cuts on two discs with lavish book from the celebrated soul label at a bargain price. If you don’t own lots of the catalogue or need the 4-disc box, this is a fantastic sampler… but do we really need yet another comp with the Theme from SHAFT?

Adventures of Superman Seasons 5 and 6

The final seasons of the landmark adventure in full color! Some supremely silly shows best suited for nostalgic fanboys and perhaps their kids. And this Clark is even more obviously Super than even Tom Welling! Plus verbal confirmation that this Metropolis is in California!

The Illusionist

A tad too mannered of a mystery that needs too much exposition at the end. Paul Giamatti whispers, Ed(ward) Norton mopes and Rufus Sewell comes just short of twirling his evil moustache. Jessica Biel sure is pretty, though. Comparison is unfair, but I’ll take THE PRESTIGE.

Notes on a Scandal

The film that raises the question: Is exemplary acting enough to make a film great? Once you look past Cate Blanchett and Judi Dench (and the overlooked Bill Nighy), the script is as melodramatic and unlikely as your average Lifetime TV movie starring Heather Locklear and Joan Collins.

the Mary Tyler Moore Show: the Complete 4th Season

THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW, the complete 4th season
One of the greatest sitcoms ever hitting its stride, with the addition of Sue Ann Nivens, the dissolution of Lou’s marriage and Mary coming into her own in the newsroom. Dated in terms of fashion and television media only, otherwise aging like great wine.

America's Next Top Model Cycle 4

After three seasons of correctly picking the winner from the first episode, I’m lost. There’s nobody who seems inherently like a “model” (for better or worse). Still, despite a relative lack of drama, I’m fascinated by the freaky Russian mail order bride and the pretty, bitchy young mom.

Strangers with Candy

Surprisingly and sadly toothless film version of the brilliantly subversive 1999-2000 TV series tries too hard to appeal to a larger audience, leaving the faithful mostly in the dust. Still, perpetual admiration makes it hard to fault Amy Sedaris, Paul Dinello and Stephen Colbert for taking a shot.

Jew Gangster

JEW GANGSTER by Joe Kubert (iBooks)
This Depression-era tale of a Brooklyn lad who defies his father and gets involved with a local mob is rather predictable and clichéd, but is lifted by comics legend Joe Kubert’s gorgeous drawings. Now in his 80s, Kubert remains one of comics’ most powerful and distinctive artists.

the Sarah Silverman Program.

The first run was overall inconsistent, but the Lesbian/Tab episode made me laugh harder than anything in recent memory and the season finale in which she beds then disses “Black God” (after pooping her pants) was gloriously blasphemous. I will buy the DVD and can’t wait for Season 2.

Sloan, Never Hear the End of It

Apt title for this overambitious, rambling collision of 30 songs all running directly into each other. The album never has time to let the hooks sink in and it ends up feeling like an old commercial for a K-Tel Hits of the ‘70s compilation.

It's Superman!

IT’S SUPERMAN! By Tom DeHaven (Del Rey)
After almost 70 years, you’d think there wouldn’t be much radical reinvention left for Superman, but DeHaven’s tale of an insecure, unsure boy stumbling into superheroism during the depression is completely refreshing, taking Clark on a hobo’s trek from Hollywood to Manhattan before his first tackle with Lois and Luthor.

Maybe Later

MAYBE LATER by Dupuy & Berberian (Drawn & Quarterly)
French cartoonist team responsible for the terrific “Mr. Jean” series works separately for the first time in a collaborative comics journal of their lives. The result is a fascinating, touching look inside the collaborative and individual processes of the artists / writers.


As juvenile as the doodles in a 12-year old boy’s notebook, this movie seems designed for closet cases who join the wrestling team so they can simultaneously beat up and roll around with musclebound jocks. Even the visuals get old after the first half hour. Painfully awful.

Ted Leo & the Pharmacists, Living with the Living

Ted Leo & the Pharmacists, LIVING WITH THE LIVING (Touch & Go)
Jersey is a little poorer for the relocation of Ted to Rhode Island, but this latest slab of agit-punk is another perfect soundtrack to the Bush era. At just over an hour, it’s a tad long, but Ted’s got a lot to say and says it better than anybody.

Ghost Rider

The fanboy in me was compelled to go see the cheese, a sillier, but more enjoyable comic book flick than both DAREDEVIL and FANTASTIC FOUR (true, not exactly high praise). A few nice scenes, but Eva Mendes is unbearable and Nicolas Cage is more bemusing than superheroic.


Less stylish than expected for a David Fincher film, with a few off-key scenes and so much information that a second viewing is required. But amazing performances, a compelling story and a rare scene of violence that’s actually affecting make it well worth seeing.

the Comics Journal Library: Harvey Kurtzman

Essential historical “reader” of not only one of the greatest cartoonists of all time, but one of the most important figures in modern humor (Kurtzman’s MAD almost single-handedly defined modern satire). Loaded with gorgeous art, there’s only one complaint: Why a Jack Davis illo on the cover?

the Complete Dennis the Menace vol.3

HANK KETCHAM’S COMPLETE DENNIS THE MENACE vol. 3: 1955-56 (Fantagraphics)
From an era before Ketcham relied on his many assistants, the strip was hitting its full stride, with Ketcham’s line as assured and beautiful as it would ever be. Nobody in the history of comics ever drew clothing better than Hank and the humor was quaint but believable.

Tigers and Monkeys, Loose Mouth

Tigers and Monkeys, LOOSE MOUTH (Little Lamb)
Shonali Bhowmik’s new combo is even better than her former Ultrababyfat and this head-boppin’ debut is chock full of killer riffs, smart sardonic lyrics and Bhowmik’s smoky, enticing vocals.

Louis C.K.: Shameless

The ballsy comedian points his smart and hilarious barbs at the normally sacrosanct nuclear family: A handjob from a wife who may as well be dead, a daughter that’s so annoying that he no longer loves her… it’s so wrong, but it’s undeniably rioutous and refreshingly un-PC.

Playboy 50 Years: the Cartoons

An amazing collection that suffers from a lack of historical annotation (each cartoon should’ve noted the artist and issue appearance) as well as a jarring lack of linear chronology. Awful modern “King of the Hill” parody doesn’t work well opposite a vintage Vargas drawing.

the Defibulators, the Defibulators

Awesome EP from this super-fine band of country drunks perfectly captures their exuberant chemistry and inspiring virtuosity. A mere two complaints: It’s too short and the artwork is meh. Gimme a call when the full length is done, Roadblock!

the Shins: Wincing the Night Away

Achingly sweet and dulcet follow-up to the nigh-universally beloved CHUTES TOO NARROW. From the opening dreamy escalation of “Sleeping Lessons” through a perfectly-timed 42 minutes, the record breaks no new ground, but sometimes pleasant déjà vu can be cozy.