Since almost the entirety of last month's column was about "The Walking Dead," I figured this month I'd offer up a variation on the theme - a short review of Vertigo's "iZombie" series. And I won't even joke or poke fun at our county's legislators, I promise.
Released mid-last month, volume one of "iZombie" collects issues one through five of the DC imprint's monthly series. It also has a mini-story that appeared in a Vertigo Halloween collection.
The premise is a twist on the typical zombie story. There's no legions of undead walking the streets, no small segment of humanity just barely eking by. There's just Gwen. And Gwen's dead. But she still manages to pass as a regular person in the series, working at a graveyard and secretly living on site. The only catch to her being a zombie is the fact that she has to eat brains once a month to keep her memories. More than just that though, the brains keep her from decaying into the more stereotypical type of zombie we know from film and television.
Most interesting about the series though is the many other monster elements which writer Chris Roberson works in.
Gwen's got a ghost friend who's a '60s-era mod girl and a guy friend named Scott, who's sort of a werewolf (more wereterrier). But on top of those two characters there's a centuries-old mummy, a group of monster hunters and a gaggle of vampire girls who run a paintball business.
Sound random and sort of comical? It is, but it works for the story. The only problem with this first trade paperback is the fact that it ends just as Roberson gets going. So much of these first five issues is spent introducing these characters (and there's a number of them), that by the time issue five ends, Roberson's just tipping his hat at how their individual storylines are going to overlap in coming issues.
In terms of tone, the series is less horror and more high school drama - though, I believe Gwen's supposed to be college-age. Anyway, the art's more cartoony than comic book-y, and things like "Daria" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" kept coming to mind while reading this first collection.
And while I did mention a "problem" earlier, the situation I pointed to really is a success for "iZombie." It shows that Roberson and artist Michael Allred have created something compelling enough to keep a reader's interest beyond just these first five issues.
Also released last month was the first paperback collection of Paul Dini's new ongoing Zatanna series.
Zatanna is the daughter of a Golden Age character named Giovanni Zatara. They're both magicians and, throughout the years, Zatanna has been in the Justice League, Sentinels of Magic and Seven Soliders of Victory.
The softcover graphic novel collects the first six issues of the series, which does an adept job of re-introducing the character for new and old readers alike.
For the series, Dini gives the top-hatted magician a new foe in the evil Brother Night. Long a resident of San Francsico, Zatanna discovers that a crime boss has come to dominate the criminal underworld of the city - asserting control with dark magic. For help, the police force turn to Zee. But Brother Night is a whole new kind of criminal, and it takes more than Zatanna's backwards-talk to take him down.
Dini's a big name in DC Comics, having done a number of different things throughout the years - including writing, producing and editing much of "Batman: The Animated Series." Like his television work, Dini's comic writing is satisfyingly episodic. In addition to facing off against Brother Night, this first collection of "Zatanna" also includes a three-part arc which sees Zatanna traveling to Las Vegas for a show, where she almost ends up marrying a scam artist with ties to a demon.
Issue 11 of the series just hit stands this past Wednesday, again proving that the book's one of the best currently coming out monthly. So now's as good a time as any to jump on the series, as issue 12 will be starting a new story arc.
Back in October of last year I read a news story about a Rochester-area man who died after being robbed for his comic book collection.
The 78-year-old man was looking to sell his comic collection and had started inquiring around at city shops. A A local business owner then allegedly sent some thugs to the guy's house to steal the comic books.
The dudes roughed him up and he died hours later of a heart attack.
Well, just a few days ago, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York released news that the four Rochester residents have been charged with felony murder in the man's death.
A federal grand jury returned a 10-count indictment charging Rico J. Vendetti, 41; Arlene Combs, 26; Albert Parsons, 42, and Donald Griffin, 23, all of Rochester, with felony murder in the death of Homer Marciniak following the July 2010 home invasion robbery. In addition, Vendetti and Combs are charged with racketeering and witness tampering. If convicted of the felony murder charge, Vendetti, Combs, Parsons and Griffin face a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole.
Both Vendetti and Combs are also charged with attempting to get potential witnesses, in Vendetti's case, to provide the FBI and the grand jury with false statements and testimony, and in Combs's case, to say nothing to the authorities if questioned about the Marciniak robbery and murder.
Now, the fact that a man died is a sad situation. Plus, though charged, the defendants are still merely accused and are presumed innocent. The four will be arraigned in Buffalo on Thursday.
What strikes me about the story though is the fact that it sounds like something pulled from the pages of a comic book. I mean, a bad guy named Vendetti who's got a goon squad? That's almost as good a crime name as Falcone or Maroni. I'd be taking extra precautions if I were the prosecuting attorney on this one. I mean, one unnoticed vial of acid slips by security and *BOOM* you're Two-Face.
I also read that Vendetti owns or owned two Rochester businesses - Papa Van's Restaurant and Al's Green Tavern. Definitely won't frequenting either of 'em any time soon.
The following is pretty much straight from a Marvel press release.
"Amazing Spider-Man" is the only Marvel title I get monthly. I'm almost as big a Spider-Man fan as I am a Batman fan. The first comics I was given as a kid were Spider-Man comics. So, if I were to ever have to cut back from the dozen comics I buy each month, I'd probably downsize to just two - "Amazing Spider-Man" and "Detective Comics."
Currently, there's an exceptional set of stories being written by Dan Slott in the pages of "Amazing Spider-Man." I jumped back into collecting the comic with issue 600, which led up to a storyline called "The Gauntlet." The end of that run, called "The Grim Hunt," proved to be exciting and enjoyable. But few of the past 50 or so issues have proved as consistently good as the "Big Time" storyline Slott's been writing. Up next for Slott is "Spider-Island," which the press release outlines below.
From the press release: Marvel announces "Spider-Island," a major new storyline beginning in "Amazing Spider-Man" #667.
Billed as "the comic book event of the summer," "Spider-Island" is coming from the best-selling creative team of Dan Slott and Humberto Ramos. Kicking off in August in the pages of "Amazing Spider-Man" #667 (with a special prelude in "Amazing Spider-Man" #666), the citizens of Manhattan - including some of Spidey's closest allies and deadliest foes - begin exhibiting the web-slinger's very own powers!
As Spider-Man attempts to stop a seemingly insurmountable super-powered crime wave, he must also find out just who's responsible for mutating Manhattan ... and the truth will irrevocably alter his world. Fans will get their first full-length lead in to "Spider-Island" in Marvel's special issue of "Amazing Spider-Man," available for free at all participating comic shops on May 7, Free Comic Book Day.
"Back when Slott launched Spider-Man into the 'Big Time' last year, he started laying the groundwork for possibly the biggest Spider-Man story you've ever seen," said Stephen Wacker, Marvel senior editor. "The price of power is high for heroes and villains. The Avengers, the FF, Venom, Spider-Girl, Spider-Woman, the Sinister Six and even YOU are connected to ol' Web-Head in new ways. By the end of this story, we're going to see what Spider-Man means to Marvel Universe and just how far he'll go to keep it safe ... including some life-changing choices that have major consequences."
This summer, "Spider-Island" brings great power to nearly everyone in New York City ... and it's Spidey's great responsibility to keep this chaos from spreading even further! But just what will Spider-Man have to sacrifice in the process?
Plus, don't miss "Infested," beginning in the pages of April's "Amazing Spider-Man" #659, which sets the stage for the next big chapter in Spider-Man history!
Been following the Deadhead drama that I brought upon myself back on Feb. 6?
If not, no sweat. It's all archived online. Just head over to "The Dean's List" blog at www.post-journal.com.
In short though, I wrote critically of a new Grateful Dead box set that's coming out and, in response, some fans and promoters responded with updated info (correcting me) and their own opinions of the box set. So, being the good sport that I am, not to toot my own horn, I followed up on the piece last month.
There's no new drama to report today, just a couple of free mp3s.
It may not be my thing, but, as evidenced by the response to my February column, some of you readers out there listen to the Grateful Dead. So, in the spirit of sharing, rather than delete the press release that was sent to me, I've got the links to the free mp3s up on my blog.
And now for the section of "Nerding Out" where I write about stuff that's become old news in recent days and weeks. But, hey, until this column goes daily, I guess we're just going to have to deal with the delay.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is going to play Alberto Falcone in "The Dark Knight Rises," Christopher Nolan's third and final Batman film. Amy Adams is going to play Lois Lane in the coming Superman film, starring Henry Cavil as Superman and directed by Zack Snyder (which is being overseen by Nolan). Oh, and Geoffrey Rush is going to voice Tomar-Re in the Green Lantern movie.
I could fill this column three times over with similar such film announcements and updates (new "Captain America" trailer! New "Deadpool" tidbits! Set pics of Adrianne Palicki as Wonder Woman!). But, meh, that's what the Internet is for.
I'll meet you back here in a month's time, faithful readers.
Nerding Out With Nick Dean is a monthly column about comic books, movies and more. It runs the first Sunday of each month. Comments, criticisms and/or items for submission can be sent via e-mail to email@example.com or by calling the newsroom at 487-1111, ext. 251.