The Great Northern Brotherhood of Canadian Cartoonists

Gregory Gallant aka Seth’s old-timey work constantly straddles a line between charming gentility and precious self-indulgence. This sketchbook project belies nostalgia for a world that never really existed, where cartoonists earned respect and even debauchery had an air of refinement. The end result is an amusing, lovely bit of piffle.

The Adjustment Bureau

Matt Damon and Emily Blunt stumble through this stylistically challenged metaphysical romance thriller loosely based on a Philip K. Dick story. The whole thing feels sloppy and half-realized (magic hats!!), a painfully simplistic hack job rooted in the unsophisticated notion of everything being part of God’s plan.

Dexter Season 6

The issue of faith seemed like ripe material for DEXTER, but this season was a mixed bag, with a bit too many leaps of logic and some forced, disappointing character turns, including Deb’s (hopefully confused) feelings for Dexter. Here’s hoping the many open threads tie more tightly next season.


Batman: Noël

BATMAN: NOEL by Lee Bermejo
The Dark Knight takes the role of Scrooge in this bajillionth retelling of A CHRISTMAS CAROL (with Catwoman, Superman and the Joker as the three spirits). Bermejo’s detailed, stylized realism works beautifully in the holiday context (unlike Todd Klein’s distracting lettering), and the (predictable) payoff hits home.



Showtime’s post-9/11 Cat & Mouse Game (who’s who?) is an absolutely riveting, refreshingly unpredictable tale of intrigue and paranoia, on scales both large and small. Claire Danes and Damian Lewis both impeccably portray a sense of tortured conviction and emotional isolation (although Mandy Patinkin’s peevish sanctimony can feel distractingly affected).

The Green Hornet

Unlike The Spirit, The Green Hornet was always a half-assed character, so this dull, ill-conceived, lazily written and utterly charmless adaptation isn’t exactly an aberration; It’s just a waste of time. Seth Rogen and Cameron Diaz remain teeth-grindingly grating, while Christoph Waltz seems rightly embarrassed to be here.


Big Lake: Do You Love Me? Yes / No

Big Lake, DO YOU LOVE ME? YES / NO (Evil Island Fortress)
The debut offering from Jersey City’s Big Lake (aka Lysa Opfer) may only be five songs, but they are five huge pieces of deep, lush, mesmerizing songwriting, channeling an evocative gamut of emotions and displaying a fully-realized musical voice. True, I am biased. But I’m also tellin’ the truth!


A Very She & Him Christmas

She & Him, A VERY SHE & HIM CHRISTMAS (Merge Records)
Zooey Deschanel’s charming singing in ELF became wan and cloying in every subsequent manifestation. Turns out Christmas music is the genre that best suits her vocalizing, as this low-fi collection of Xmas songs with M. Ward is a lovely, if sometimes precious little candy cane in a beautiful package.

Batman: Year One

Using Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s classic run as a direct template, this animated film will please the fanboy faithful who demand these things be literal translations rather than loose adaptations. Bryan Cranston as a young Lt. Jim Gordon is genius casting in this decidedly adult, often violent tale.


John Doe: Keeper

John Doe, KEEPER (Yep Roc Records)
The legendary X co-frontperson continues his rock-solid solo career with another indie-star-studded collection of country and roots rock that never forgets its punk rock pedigree. Mixing melancholic introspection, righteous indignation, wistful longing and soulful celebration, the well-seasoned KEEPER more than lives up to its name.

George Harrison: Living in the Material World

“The quiet Beatle” comes off as, well, pretty darn dull in Martin Scorsese’s overlong documentary that fails to turn tales of Harrison’s Hinduism obsession, often forgettable post-Beatles projects and sometimes-testy personality into enough meat for a meal (although Monty Python share some nice anecdotes about George’s film production).


Catwoman #1

CATWOMAN #1 by Judd Winick and Guillem March
Ed Brubaker and Darwyn Cooke’s 2002 CATWOMAN relaunch was a mainstream comics anomaly, a Caniff-inspired stylish noir. “The New 52” births this lingerie-spattered reboot that reveals Catwoman and Batman engaged in a violent hate-fuck. Sure, we always knew, but, aside from juvenile prurience, there’s no reason for us to see.

New Girl

Following some awful musical dalliances, the undeniably adorable Zooey Deschanel somewhat redeems herself in this mostly worthy sitcom. Sure, the setup is tired and her dude-mates are fairly bland archetypes, but the nicely-timed, genuinely quirky humor keeps me tuned in (as long as the singing’s kept to a minimum!).

Supergirl #1

SUPERGIRL #1 by Michael Green, Mike Johnson, Mamud Asrar and Dan Green
The new Supergirl lands on Earth and punches out an armored security team for thirteen pages before her (presumed) cousin shows to stop the carnage. It’s nicely drawn (and, unlike Superman’s, Kara’s new outfit is actually pretty good), but the non-stop slugfest isn’t exactly a compelling story.


Batman: The Dark Knight #1

BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT #1 by David Finch, Paul Jenkins and Richard Friend
Okay, DC, listen up. The problem with your universe wasn’t that it was dated, it’s that it was incomprehensible. The new DCU still has way too many Batman comics, and I vote that this pointless exercise in grit be granted a quick and merciful execution. Have Zsasz do it.

Game of Thrones

It took about four episodes before I began to care about anyone on this show, but then I had to suffer the endless tragedies and indignities heaped upon the few heroes. There’s a vindictive, bitter undertone to this show that’s discomfiting, but not quite enough to keep me away.

Swamp Thing #1

SWAMP THING #1 by Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette
As the DC reboot is not across the board, some new #1s are continuing old storylines, and in this case, I am beyond confused. Who’s this Alec Holland? This is supposed to earn new readers? Also, I hope artist Paquette is sharing his paycheck with his “inspiration,” Kevin Nowlan.


Superman #1

SUPERMAN #1 by George Pérez and Jesus Marino
Okay, the Man of Steel’s reintroduction isn’t all bad, mixing classic elements (no marriage!) with a potentially interesting take on the digital-age Daily Planet and its staff. Marino’s sleek finishes gild Perez’s breakdowns, but the overall tone is a bit too dark and I still hate that ridiculous costume.

Batgirl #1

BATGIRL #1 by Gail Simone, Ardian Syaf and Vicente Cifuentes
One major Bat-alteration to the DCnU is Barbara Gordon’s regaining the usage of her legs and retaking the mantle of Batgirl. Simone’s tale of a death-dealer named the Mirror is big on characterization, action and suspense, with spectacular art (even her tweaked costume looks nice). This one’s a winner.

NOTE: For a side piece about this issue's lettering, see here.

Jersey Shore Season 4

Italy, Schmitaly. By disingenuously avoiding any reference to our anti-heroes’ wealth and fame, an already-risible show gets even MORE annoying, missing an opportunity to mine potentially interesting territory (The Shituation is getting laid by gold-digging starfuckers, duh). Let’s see these douchebag/ettes openly acknowledge their (hopefully almost expired) 15 minutes.

The Flash #1

THE FLASH #1 by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato
The Flash has often been (sorry, fans) a pretty dull character. Pre-reboot, Flash mythology had become an overpopulated, conflicting morass. This mostly uneventful new debut doesn’t answer the question of how many other speedsters remain in the new universe, but frankly, I don’t really care.


Batman #1

BATMAN #1 by Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion
Behind the hideous logo lies one of the more stylized and subdued entrants in the new DCU. But why not take advantage of the reboot and reduce the extended Batman Family to a more manageable size? Two Robins, a Nightwing plus Batwing, Batgirl, Batwoman… Still? The proverbial Batcave is overcrowded.

Detective Comics #1

DETECTIVE COMICS #1 by Tony S. Daniel and Ryan Winn
Aside from Batman’s pointlessly tweaked costume (and another bad logo), there’s not much new in the reboot of DC’s namesake title. Unless you count the Joker having his face surgically removed. I guess that’s a new one. The verdict’s still out, but so far, the renumbering seems pointless.


Are we really still being subjected to laugh-tracked sitcoms with rat-a-tat gags in the place of actual dialogue and believable relationships? Hasn’t this tired format been euthanized by comedies like CURB and LOUIE? Cardboard characters bantering in an anachronistic form of entertainment is just embarrassing—and painfully unfunny.


Action Comics #1

ACTION COMICS #1 by Grant Morrison, Rags Morales and Rick Bryant
I don’t mind the working-class Kal-El as a callback to the 1930s champ o’ the oppressed (nor even the jeans and work boots), but the usually dramatic Morrison’s introduction to the “new” Superman surprisingly lacks any emotional or theatrical impact. Morales’ art is fine, but where are Jimmy Olsen’s freckles?

Justice League #1

JUSTICE LEAGUE #1 by Geoff Johns, Jim Lee and Scott Williams
The flagship title of the new DC Universe portends an ugly future, with bickering, gritty, armored heroes in video game settings. Jim Lee’s eyestrain-inducing, overly detailed artwork (Green Lantern’s constructs are ridiculous) is rendered even more illegible by coloring that likewise lacks any subtlety or restraint. A sad mess.

Black Swan

Despite Matthew Libatique’s nice 70s-evoking cinematography, Darren Aronofsky’s patented sledgehammer style overwhelms an unavoidably predictable tale (with insulting exposition). Natalie Portman is quite good (and I’m no fan), but it feels like Black Swan’s critical status owes more to the haughty pedigree of its milieu than the film itself.

Sloan, The Double Cross

Sloan celebrates its 20th anniversary with another solid slab of power pop, melding 60s British Invasion, 70s melodies and harmonizing and a post-new wave sensibility in a way that isn’t a mere retro pastiche. Not as awesome as BETWEEN or PRETTY, but a worthy addition to the library.


Patton Oswalt, Finest Hour

Patton Oswalt, FINEST HOUR
Some years back, Oswalt predicted that contented domesticity would dull his comedic edge, a sadly prescient fear. This latest special (and CD) feels like a pale imitation of his former caustic brilliance, at times even evoking Ray Romano with a better vocabulary. Unfortunately, this is nowhere near his finest hour.

Entourage Season 8

A show that was never great goes down in flames in a final season so contrived (E and Sloane split!), forced (Johnny Bananas!), inane (Turtle’s a millionaire!), unconvincing (Ari quits!) and predictable (Vince marries Sophia!) that I honestly thought it was going to all be a dream. Nope. Just putrid.


The Tillman Story

This documentary on the cover-up and exploitation of football star Pat Tillman’s friendly fire death in Afghanistan is heartbreaking on many levels. Aside from the illumination of even more Bush Administration malfeasance, this documentary shows how nuanced thought and conviction of non-conventional belief is considered anathema in modern American culture.

DC Universe: Legacies

DC UNIVERSE: LEGACIES by Len Wein and many artists
This epitaph for the pre-reboot DCU attempts to encapsulate 75 years of history, retroactive continuity and character acquisitions. The book starts strong, but falls apart in the post-CRISIS crossover-event eras, clumsily summarizing convoluted storylines in a few pages. Ironically, LEGACIES ultimately illustrates how overarching continuity is mainstream comics’ worst enemy.

Stuyvesant: Fret Sounds

Stuyvesant, FRET SOUNDS (Dromedary Records)
Mixing breakneck melodies and righteous sloppiness in a classic Minneapolis mode (“St. Cloud” even gets a shout-out), Jersey’s own Stuyvesant hits its stride with this new collection of witty, fuzzy bluster, highlighted by the absolutely terrific “Duly Noted.” A big, big record from some awfully nice guys.


The Looney Tunes Show

The design, animation, writing and voice acting all vary from competent to quite good. So why does this Bugs & Daffy sitcom just feel… wrong? Maybe trying to update these characters is simply a fool’s errand, as no modern interpretation can ever measure up to what are true American masterpieces.


DC Retroactive: Batman - the '70s

DC RETROACTIVE: BATMAN – THE ‘70s by Len Wein & Tom Mandrake (DC Comics)
The Terrible Trio return to torment the Darknight Detective who, for some strange reason, has his bat-symbol photoshopped onto his chest in most panels (it ain’t that hard to draw). Wein’s script and Mandrake’s pencils capture the era, but again, modern production techniques dull the intended effect.

Louie Season 2

LOUIE Season 2
What makes LOUIE one of the best shows on TV isn’t its unique combination of hilarity and melancholia so much as its singular vision (a tube rarity). Extreme hyphenate C.K. produces, writes, directs and edits as well as stars, making this a true, undiluted extension of his brilliant stand-up style.


DC Retroactive: Superman - the '70s

DC RETROACTIVE: SUPERMAN – THE ‘70s by Martin Pasko, Eduardo Barreto & Christian Duce (DC Comics)
Mr. Mxyzptlk mentally torments the Man of Steel in this fun throwback to Superman’s Galaxy Broadcasting era. The art feels a bit rushed (as two different artists might indicate), and the retro esthetic is weakened by Andrew Elder’s overdone, completely anachronistic coloring. A superfluous backup 1978 reprint suffers from horrid reproduction.

The American

George Clooney mopes through Anton Corbijn’s fashion shoot / thriller as a butterfly-loving hitman / gunsmith who befriends a priest and falls in love with a hooker while hiding out and doing one last job in Italy. The movie’s snail-paced, but atmospheric enough to engage until the heavy-handed conclusion.


Captain America: the First Avenger

A unique opportunity to make a gritty WWII-period superhero movie is squandered in favor of a two-hour ad for toys and THE AVENGERS. Chris Evans is just okay while Hugo Weaving’s cartoonish Red Skull feels lightweight in a film with adequate style, but a sad lack of character development.
(for more, see here)

¡No Pasaran!: Porter in the Making

¡No Pararan!, PORTER IN THE MAKING ep (Killing Horse Records)
I’ve always been impressed by this Jersey trio’s highly intelligent art rock, but often felt like I didn’t get it. Until now. This new ep is a revelatory, perfect mesh of brain and brawn, a refreshing slap of righteous post-punk directly to the head, and the gut as well.