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A review a day: Top Cow First Look

Yes, a Top Cow book. You gotta problem with that?

I mentioned that while I was at the con, I ran into Joshua Fialkov, who is quite the awesome dude. I’m sure he was happier to see the Delightful Ms. Sonia Harris, because who wouldn’t be, but he did give me a copy of Top Cow First Look, which includes one of his stories. It is, shockingly enough, published by Top Cow, and it includes six “first” issues of what Marc Silvestri and his sinister cabal hope will be six new series. So. Six issues in a nice trade … for $4.99. You read that right. I don’t know how you can pass this up, especially because five of the six stories are good. It’s FIVE DOLLARS, people!

Let’s get the bad story out of the way right now, shall we? Mysterious Ways is the third story in the collection, and it’s really what you think of when you think of a stereotypical “Top Cow” comic. It’s bloody, unpleasant, dull, and mystical, and it features Tyler Kirkham art. There’s a guy named Sam, an ex-cop, who is on parole after being in prison for murder. Someone is killing women (the end of the issue pretty much gives it away, even though it’s not difficult to figure out) and Sam is getting blamed for it. He’s carrying strange pieces of metal in his pocket that apparently enables him to heal quickly. There’s a mysterious old dude and devil worship. There’s Tyler Kirkham art. Jason Rubin’s story is awful and clichéd and gives us no reason to think it will ever get better (these are first issues, so they’re supposed to entice you back). The characters talk like characters in a B-movie that Joel (or Mike) and the bots would mock. Arif Prianto’s colors are drab, but they’re probably the best artistic part of the book. Troy Peteri’s letters give me a headache. And there’s Tyler Kirkham art. I certainly understand why Kirkham gets work from DC, because for much of DC’s middle-of-the-road crap, they seem perfectly happy to have mediocre superhero art. That’s Kirkham! And just so he doesn’t get off the hook, Sal Regla’s inks are heavy and overwhelming. Sigh. I don’t know any of these gentlemen, and I have nothing against them, but Mysterious Ways is just a lousy comic. Oh, Tyler Kirkham art:

*

The other stories vary in quality, but they’re all quite good. Genius by Marc Bernardin, Adam Freeman (writers), Afua Richardson (artist), and Peteri, is the continuation of a Pilot Season comic that featured a Los Angeles gangbanger named Destiny who just happens to be a military genius. She’s uniting all the gangs in LA together and planning a war against the police. A Detective Reginald Grey, who has spent some time coming up with a theory that one person is uniting the gangs, but no one in the LAPD believes him. Bernardin and Freeman do a nice job juxtaposing Grey’s report about “Suspect Zero” (as Grey calls Destiny) with Destiny’s upbringing, showing how spot-on he is (even though he thinks Suspect Zero is a man). So we get her “origin” as the cops are moving into her territory, and at the very end of the issue, she unleashes her forces on them. It’s an intriguing set-up, as it gives us a sympathetic cop and a sympathetic gangster, which is sure to cause problems down the road when they find out about each other. Richardson’s art is cartoony but gritty enough to show the mean streets of LA. It reminds me a bit of Kyle Baker, actually.

*

The second story is called Sunset, and it’s written by Christos Gage, drawn by Jorge Lucas, colored by Felix Serrano, and lettered by … well, I think you know by whom it’s lettered. Lucas obviously uses a lot of photo-reference, but it’s interesting because the action scenes, which are often the hardest to get right when you’re doing art this way, actually look pretty good – everything flows fairly well, and nobody looks stiff and posed. I don’t absolutely love the art, but it’s a lot better than what I expected when I saw the first page. Serrano’s colors are rich, bright, and lush, which I think helps the line art quite a bit. Gage tells the story of Nick Bellamy, a Korean War vet whose wife appears to suffer from Alzheimer’s and who has a large stash of cash under his bed. He’s out at the Wal-Mart (not called Wal-Mart for obvious reasons) and three young punks accost him in the parking lot. They work for a man called Gianelli, who employed Bellamy thirty years earlier. Apparently Bellamy stole from him and Gianelli (who must be a mobster, right – I mean he’s Italian, and according to my Italian wife, EVERY Italian is a mobster, including her!) has finally found him. Bellamy, showing off his moves, kills the three punks and then realizes that they found him at the store because they’d already been to his house. His wife – dead. His wife’s nurse – dead. And Bellamy decides that it might be smart to move on. It’s another solid first issue – Gage gets us involved, leaving out enough to intrigue us, and showing that Bellamy might be an old man, but he still knows how to deal with punks. He doesn’t look anything like Clint Eastwood, but I can’t believe Gage wasn’t thinking about Dirty Harry when he wrote this. But that’s okay – it’s still a pretty cool story.

*

The fourth story is the long-awaited (by me, anyway) first issue of Black Vault by the quite talented by apparently scatter-brained B. Clay Moore, with art by Nelson Blake II, coloring by Dave McCaig, and lettering by … seriously? Jesus. I really like Moore’s writing, but he has some issues getting his comics out (which I assume is economical in nature and not scatter-brainedness, which is just a joke) – the first issue of Black Vault was solicited in January 2009, I should point out. And let’s not even get into what happened to The Expatriate. I know Moore reads the blog occasionally, so I’ll just say – I’ll keep reading your stuff, sir, even though it vexes me! And it’s a pain, because Black Vault is pretty intriguing. Moore spends the entire issue setting things up and introducing the rather large cast until the final big reveal, but he does a good job with it. It’s 2011, and on the International Space Station, the scientists are about to get visitors. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is sending up a team to install a new weather module. There’s also a deep space probe they need to launch. When they arrive, we learn that the ISS commander, a Russian, knows the American colonel in charge of the shuttle (and later, they have some zero-g sex, so they have that going for them), and that the weather people are a bit coy about their cargo and mission. Of course, something much more sinister is going on, but I certainly don’t want to spoil it, because it’s kind of neat. Moore does a really good job building the tension throughout the issue, as we know something is going on but really can’t figure it out – well, maybe you can, but I didn’t. Blake has a good, solid line – he isn’t called upon to do much, but Moore does need him to make each character distinguishable, and he does that pretty well. Visually, it’s not the most exciting issue, but we’re never confused by who’s who, which is good. I do hope that Black Vault #2 comes out, because Moore usually has some cool ideas up his sleeve.

*

Next is Fialkov’s contribution, which is part of Top Cow’s newly revamped Minotaur imprint (which produced Obergeist back in the day; I read that!) and gives us the final two stories in the collection. Minotaur’s stories are hard-core, so they’re in black and white (which has nothing to do with keeping coloring costs down … nope, not a thing!). Echoes has Fialkov reuniting with Rahsan Ekedal, who drew his mini-series The Cleaners a while back, and it’s lettered by you-know-who. It’s the story of a man named Brian whose father is afflicted with Alzheimer’s (he actually dies a few pages in). Before he dies, he starts rambling about “dead girls” and an address, and when Brian goes to investigate, he finds something unpleasant. It’s a creepy, moody story that slowly builds tension, and Fialkov does a nice job with it. Brian is (probably) schizophrenic (he takes clozapine, which is used to treat schizophrenia), and as he’s so caught up in what his father told him, he forgot to take his meds. That makes his journey through the run-down house that’s at the address his father repeated terrifying for him, and when he discovers what’s in the crawl space … well, let’s just say it doesn’t do his already stressed brain any favors. Ekedal’s black-and-white art is much better than his colored work on The Cleaners (which wasn’t bad, but kind of bland) – the second and third pages, which form one big tableau, is a gorgeous piece of work, with Brian and his father in the middle, surrounded by smaller panels showing both snippets from Brian’s youth and scenes from his current life, including his pregnant wife. Ekedal’s excellent work with shading makes the house even creepier, and he does a nice job with the things that might – or, you know, might not – be figments of Brian’s imagination. Echoes is a very cool issue, and it will be neat to see where Fialkov goes with the story.

*

The final story in the collection is called Last Mortal, which is written by John Mahoney and Filip Sablik (who’s Top Cow’s publisher), drawn by Thomas Nachlik, and lettered by the ubiquitous Peteri. It’s the story of a guy named Alec King who begins the story by telling us he just killed his best friend. We learn that King is a low-level criminal who takes lousy jobs just so he can figure out ways to rob them. One day his friend Brian tells him that he’s been less than honest with some of his criminal contacts, and the only way he can make it right is to assassinate the candidate for mayor (of Philadelphia, where the book is set, because Philadelphia is awesome). Alec, of course, thinks this is a monumentally bad idea, but Brian tells him that he’s dead if he doesn’t do it, and he really needs Alec’s help. The plan isn’t bad, actually – lower themselves down as window washers outside the candidate’s window, then blaze away – but Alec hesitates, Brian gets shot, and everything goes FUBAR. The bad guys are waiting for them on the street, and they shoot Brian in the head for his failure, but Alec gets away. That brings us back to the beginning, where Alec commits suicide. Or does he? Well, it turns out that he can’t die. Hence the name of the comic. Mahoney and Sablik do a good job starting at the end and getting us involved and then looping back around – it’s a standard way to begin a story, but that’s because it works – and they give us an interesting character in Alec – he’s a smart guy who might want to examine his loyalty to his friend. Nachlik, like Lucas earlier in the book, seems to use a lot of photo reference, but while he doesn’t quite integrate the surroundings into the panels as well as Lucas does, he still makes it work. Plus, the shootout on the scaffolding is handled well. It’s a little more stiff than the work by Lucas, but the characters don’t look awkwardly posed, which you sometimes get with this type of art. As I mentioned with Lucas, I don’t love this style of art, but if the artist does a good job with it, I can live with it. And Nachlik does a pretty good job with it.

*

So those are the six issues in this collection. My two favorites are Black Vault and Echoes, but the others are quite good as well. And then there’s Mysterious Ways, which isn’t very good at all. These are some good creators doing some interesting work, and I want to stress – this is FOUR DOLLARS AND NINETY-NINE CENTS. Honestly, when Marvel can barely put out a $3.99 floppy without going into receivership, I don’t know how you can pass this up, especially when the contents are quite good. So look for this at your favorite comic book shoppe! Maybe we’ll get some new series out of it before the turn of the next decade!

Tomorrow: A Van Helsing story! With a twist, of course, because we need our twists!

49 Comments

Lol I love B. Clay moore’s work (Hawaiian Dick is great) but yeah I never know when the hell it’s coming out.

I totally ordered this, and am kinda excited to sample six new comics. I mean, you can’t refuse a deal like this (and I got it even cheaper through DCBS! And they don’t even pay me to advertise.)

Oh, and the CBR frontpage right now totally has Ron Marz callin’ you out on Twitter, Burgas. IT’S ON

Wow, Bill, you’re right. I shudder to think what would have happened if I hadn’t liked the collection …

Since Echoes was actually in the latest Image solicits, I feel a lot better about picking this up since Top Cow has been pretty bad about getting some of their creator-owned series out. Genius won back in 2008 and new material hasn’t come out until this year. I am interested in most of the series in some so I do hope that they come out.

I find it weird that both Kirkham and Nelson have series in this though since they both have prior commitments, Green Lantern and Magdalena respectively. Pretty sure those two series probably won’t be out for a while unless something changes.

Greg,

I don’t want to speak for Ron, but I can tell you that my reaction to some of your comments was, “this is a guy who hasn’t read our stuff for a few years and is surprised that he liked it”.

This time a year ago, I was a retailer and had made up my mind about Top Cow and was surprised when I actually started reading their stuff. I won’t say that if you put down your prejudices and read more of the current Top Cow line you’ll be so impressed that it will send you down a path that ends in you getting a job here, but I can say that the quality you saw in the First Look is more the rule than the exception.

Either way, thanks for the review.

Dear Ron Marz and Top Cow,
Are you publishing a book called “Artifacts”, with art by Whilce Portacio?

That would be the exact sort of thing that Burgas is referring to. There’s your homework.

See also:
Witchblade
The Darkness
Magdalena
etc.

Apodaca,

Thanks for the assignment.

Yep. We are proud to put out Whilce’s run on Artifacts in the coming months. Just as we are incredibly proud of the work that Michael Broussard is doing on the same title right now.

Here’s your assignment. Go read Artifacts #1 & #2 and tell me if it’s better or worse than the predisposition you’re hanging on to.

I look forward to your report.

Atom: It’s not necessarily that I was surprised I liked it, because looking at the talent involved, I figured the issues would be pretty good. I don’t often buy Top Cow stuff, you’re right, and when I do, it’s not really my thing. Yes, some of it has to do with prejudices that I have from some years ago, but I do look through the more “mainstream” stuff occasionally, but I haven’t seen anything that really knocks me out of my socks. It’s partly my tastes, too – I’m much more inclined to like these kinds of stories than, say, The Darkness.

I’m glad that you say these are more the rule than the exception, because if the five series I did like in this collection all show up on the shelves, I’ll definitely buy two of them and probably all five, at least to give them a try past issue #1. So there’s that!

So according to you, Apodaca, Artifacts with art by Whilce Portacio the exact sort of “bloody, unpleasant, dull, and mystical” stuff to which Burgas is referring?

I must say, I’m impressed you’ve formed such a concise opinion of a book that won’t be published until December. Did you obtain your copy via time machine, or was it just more of a psychic thing?

I’d reiterate my point about the laziness of making sweeping generalizations about books you haven’t read … but you actually did it for me.

Apodaca, I look forward to hearing what you have to say when you’ve actually read current issues of some of the books you list.

Excellent news, Greg. Can’t wait to hear what you think when they hit the shelves.

Ron, once again, you are insufferable. These gentlemen (or whatever an Apodaca is) obviously made up their minds about Top Cow pre-Ron Marz. Our job is to make sure they get the memo.

A lot of what Ron has been doing the last few years at Top Cow has been de-constructing and re-working old Top Cow concepts and making them work again (or, in some cases, for the very first time), so yeah, if you haven’t been following Top Cow the last few years you have missed out on some quality writing, mostly from Marz, but by others, as well (Phil Hester, for one).

I’m sorry, what exactly is the problem with Greg’s statement? Let’s take a look at what he said.

Mysterious Ways is the third story in the collection, and it’s really what you think of when you think of a stereotypical “Top Cow” comic. It’s bloody, unpleasant, dull, and mystical, and it features Tyler Kirkham art.

If you actually read what he said (especially in context, but even without context), you’ll see some major qualifiers to his viewpoint. First of all, he uses the word “stereotypical,” which already indicates that his comments will only apply to a certain lackluster subset of Top Cow’s output. He’s not saying “All Top Cow books are bloody, dull, and unpleasant save for these five which are miraculously good in spite of the publisher.” He singles out the “stereotypical” Top Cow books as unpleasant, which more or less makes sense, as almost nobody would use the word “stereotypical” to describe the good or exemplary output.

Second, the word “stereotypical” doesn’t have to apply to the present. Maybe Top Cow’s recent output has been great, but the “stereotypical” output will inevitably have the stigmas of the past. For example, if television networks all of a sudden started airing intelligent reality TV shows, the popular notion of the “stereotypical reality show” would not change overnight. It would take some years before people stopped thinking of the stereotypical reality show as a group of contestants making fools of themselves for the public’s amusement. Relevantly, I’m sure it took some time before people stopped thinking of Youngblood as the stereotypical Image comic. It’s just the nature of a stereotype to hang around.

Third, I’m pretty sure what Greg said holds true for many – if not most – of the readers on this blog. Certainly, if somebody told me Comic Book X was the stereotypical Top Cow comic, “bloody,” “dull,” and “unpleasant” would be some of the first things that come to my mind. By pointing out his disinclination for what is seen as the typical Top Cow book, Greg actually strengthens his endorsement of the other five titles, because now readers who tend to avoid TC books based on the stigmas of “bloody” and “unpleasant” know the line is moving away from that kind of storytelling in five out of six of its new launches. I mean, wasn’t that the point of releasing six books in a trade for $5? To show people who wouldn’t normally pick up Top Cow titles that your line is trying a bunch of new things?

Really, I don’t understand what Ron Marz and co’s objective is in “calling Greg out.” Okay, you schooled him for saying something you didn’t like… cool? I hang around a fair deal (likely more than I should) on the comics internet, and still I don’t see much press for Top Cow books. Now, here we have a review of six first issues from Top Cow on one of the more popular comics blogs around. A lot of people, myself included, read these reviews and their comment threads and make purchasing decisions based on what they read. Do you really want to come across as the company that will make a big stink over one qualified remark in an overwhelmingly positive review, pimping five out of six of your new launches? It just makes no business sense to me.

Since I qualify as “And Co”, I think that I would point out that I wasn’t attacking Greg of calling him out. On the contrary, my objective was to note that in my opinion (formed before I started working here) his qualifier was based on out of date data.

I’d probably do the same if I worked for a reality show production company who was putting out intelligent programming. And I’d keep doing it until the stereotype died the death it deserved.

We appreciate the positive review that Greg gave us. And I look forward to seeing more positive Top Cow reviews on his blog. I’m pretty certain that the only thing that would keep those from coming as quickly as we print them out is out-of-date stereotypes.

Cass: It’s got nothing to do with whether I “liked” the comment or not. It has to do with the comment being uninformed, and frankly, ignorant.

You say you “hang around around a fair deal” on the comics internet. So I’m sure you saw these reviews from just last 36 hours or so, right?:

http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2010/09/26/velocity-2-review/

http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2010/09/26/witchblade-138-review/

http://www.craveonline.com/entertainment/comics/article/artifacts-2-review-112751

http://graphicpolicy.com/2010/09/27/review-artifacts-2/

http://www.comicsbulletin.com/reviews/128544277349607.htm

You’ll note those reviewers seem to have actually read the material in question, rather than taking an easy swipe based on outdated perceptions. I appreciate Greg’s even even-handed review of the First Look, and said so elsewhere. What I didn’t appreciate was the casual dismissal of the rest of the publishing line, or propogating stereotype that a lot of people are working to change.

I’m just happy that you think I’m an awesome dude. :D

Thanks for the very, very kind words Greg. I can’t wait for you to see the crazy awesome that Rahsan brings. And, for the record, Rahsan is finishing page 19 of issue 5 right now, meaning that the whole series will be completed before the first issue ships.

And for what it’s worth, Top Cow have been an amazing home for me, a place to experiment and grow as a creator, and I know that the time I’ve spent working for them on books like Cyblade and Alibi taught me a helluva lot and made me a much, much better writer.

funkygreenjerusalem

September 27, 2010 at 7:05 pm

Wow, Bill, you’re right. I shudder to think what would have happened if I hadn’t liked the collection …

Who knows – he once threatened to punch Rich Johnston in the face for posting a joke article, which he didn’t get, and which didn’t affect him in anyway at all – and where’s Rich Johnston these days huh?

Venice.

That’s where.

I must say, I’m impressed you’ve formed such a concise opinion of a book that won’t be published until December. Did you obtain your copy via time machine, or was it just more of a psychic thing?

I’d reiterate my point about the laziness of making sweeping generalizations about books you haven’t read … but you actually did it for me.

Top Cow is a company with a pretty set ‘house style’.

Maybe you’ve been changing things – props to you for that – but for a lot of us, there’s a decade and a half of not great comics (occasional exceptions though) which act as a mental block for trying any of the new ones.

Also, I think Dan can judge a book by Whilce Portacio being attached – he may be wrong, but it’s a safe call.
The guy isn’t exactly known for being attached to quality projects.
I honestly can’t think of one.

That said – six comics for five bucks… I can overcome my conditioning for that!

Because being snippy about negative reviews *always* engenders sympathy and new readers…

Portacio: “This arc was specially set up for me,” he told USA Today. “I like doing tech stuff, but I also like doing dark and moody.” “In this case, that moodiness revolves around supernatural stuff and that’s right up my alley. This was a chance for me to artistically examine technology versus spirituality.”

So, there’s your mysticism. The title’s dull as can be. It’s generic and nondescript. Portacio’s art is unpleasant. There’s no blood on the cover, so I guess that’s unknown to me at this point. But I’m not going to be buying comic books just to prove to their creator that I don’t like them. That wouldn’t make any sense, would it?

And if you needed more evidence of why Top Cow gets the reputation it does, this is a quote from your website, “But nothing – nothing – is like walking into your local comic book store and having the store owner, who has become your friend through vicious debate over who draws Sara Pezzini in the best halter top…”

That’s the kind of thing that re-enforces a stereotype.

So, stop calling me lazy and handle your own shit.

Bloody, unpleasant, dull.

“Bloody, unpleasant, dull” was a typo. But feel free to imagine it as the coup de grace of my post.

I’m with Apodaca. I’ve only been interested in Top Cow since Artifacts #0 and the announcement of the series Someone like me would want to look at the origins of its central characters, Witchblade, Angelus, Magdalena and Angelus, at once, plus some of the best Pilot Season comics for to look at the storytelling and artwork. I just hope Top Cow makes a First Look of those comics next time.

BTW, Ron Marz, Artifacts #2 was just as good as the first and it has the same effect. Just thought you could use some praise to keep up the good work.

Apodaca: “The title’s dull as can be. It’s generic and nondescript.” Again, you would know all this how?

The issue’s not out for three more months, and admit you won’t buy it anyway. But somehow, you already know it’s “bloody, unpleasant, dull.” With that kind of amazing foresight, you should be picking stocks, not comics. Your reasoning essentially amounts to, “Well, I just know.” Which is an answer a 5-year-old gives.

I have no idea where that quote comes from. It’s certainly not from my website. I write comics, not websites. But apparently you form judgments about comics not by reading the comics, but by looking at websites. That makes sense.

Funky: What is the current Top Cow house style? Sejic’s painted work? Rocafort’s design-oriented work? Nelson Blake’s clean style? Broussard’s Silvestri-meets-Golden style? Your assumption that there is still a “house style” is a bit of an indication you haven’t actually looked inside any of the books.

Just because there’s, as you say, “a mental block” about trying new comics, doesn’t mean the mental block is valid any longer. And that’s my entire point about pre-judging an entire line of comics sight unseen. If someone goes to the trouble to check out the books, and doesn’t find them to their taste, no harm; I absolutely appreciate that they made the effort. But to dismiss the books without even bothering to read them is, as I said, lazy.

Prophet: Thanks so much for taking the plunge and trying the material before actually forming an opinion. And that’s really all I’m saying — if you’re going to have an opinion of the current line, base it on something other than comics you read 10 years ago.

It would seem to me that if Top Cow wanted to attract readers who have been predisposed not to buy Top Cow books, then a review like Greg’s that acknowledges the perconceptions that lots of folks have about the company but recommends the book anyway would be exactly the sort of piece you’d want out there. Weird.

I’m going to have to agree with Ron, if you’re going to give a valid review, you should base it on the material itself, not on anything else, no matter what that is. If you feel Top Cow as a company is lacking, then you need to really state why, and maybe a review of an individual comic is NOT the place to do it.

As a long time Top Cow fan I have to say the work they have been producing now are them at the top of their game.

As with everything, if you don’t like it, you don’t need to make a point out of it.

You say you “hang around around a fair deal” on the comics internet. So I’m sure you saw these reviews from just last 36 hours or so, right?:

http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2010/09/26/velocity-2-review/

http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2010/09/26/witchblade-138-review/

http://www.craveonline.com/entertainment/comics/article/artifacts-2-review-112751

http://graphicpolicy.com/2010/09/27/review-artifacts-2/

http://www.comicsbulletin.com/reviews/128544277349607.htm

You’ll note those reviewers seem to have actually read the material in question, rather than taking an easy swipe based on outdated perceptions.

Again, you take a caustic “I’m going to school you” tone that’s not going to help your cause. As a matter of fact, no, I had not read those reviews, a couple of which are from websites I haven’t heard of (no slight to their creators, I simply haven’t heard of them). My point still stands, I haven’t seen much press about Top Cow’s books, and I wasn’t lying about being a regular peruser of the comics Internet. There are a dozen or so popular sites that I visit on a regular basis and there hasn’t been much, if any, discussion of Top Cow books on them.

I’m not saying that means your books suck, or that Top Cow is a tainted line that nobody will read, which is how you seem to be interpretting the comments. I’m more than happy to read good comics from any publisher. I’m just making the point that Greg’s recommendation is great press for you in that it places your books on the radar for a sector of the comics internet that doesn’t seem to be aware of them, and it would be even better press if you simply left it alone.

You’ll note those reviewers seem to have actually read the material in question, rather than taking an easy swipe based on outdated perceptions. I appreciate Greg’s even even-handed review of the First Look, and said so elsewhere. What I didn’t appreciate was the casual dismissal of the rest of the publishing line, or propogating stereotype that a lot of people are working to change.

But I disagree that this is what Greg actually did. Greg pointed out a stereotype that really does exist, expressed his disappointment that one book conformed to the stereotype (in his opinion), but then said hey look at these other five that don’t. I don’t see his review as dismissive of your line or as propagating a stereotype. I guess if the entire review was just the one statement, you could see it that way, but he obviously does not dismiss your line if he’s encouraging people to buy what I imagine will be a good chunk of your publishing output when these titles are finally released.

I appreciate the kind words. The sporadic appearance of some of my books is largely due to the volume of work I’ve down on creator-owned projects, where too many things to name can get in the way of schedules.

For what it’s worth, I don’t think I’ve ever had a work-for-hire book show up late, and I no longer solicit Image books unless they’re in hand (which is why GREAT BIG HAWAIIAN DICK has yet to be solicited).

Hell, I’ve been working on the book Tony Harris and I are doing for DC (THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF THE WHISTLING SKULL) for two years. And I scripted this issue of BLACK VAULT at least two years ago, I think.

That should say “volume of work I’ve done.”

I hate typos.

Also, Top Cow is pushing in all kinds of new directions these days.

Sounds like things are only going to get better from here.

From 1986 to 1997, I bought every issue of every Marvel title. From 1992 to 1997, I also bought every issue of every title from DC (plus imprints), Image, Dark Horse, Malibu, Valiant, Defiant, Topps, Claypool, and individual titles here and there. In 1998, I lost 3 of my 4 jobs, went through a divorce and moved to a different state, thus putting comic books much much lower on my priority.

I ventured back here and there. For a while I specifically avoided the bigger investments like the X-books, Bat-books, Spider-books, etc. But, when Jason Todd fought Tim Drake in an issue of Teen Titans, I returned to the DCU. When the skrulls invaded Marvel, I peeked in there. And, around the time Dark Reign started I finally took the plunge and started up a subscription hold at my LCS.

Before today, the only Image (or, formerly Image company like Top Cow) title over the last ten years that got a second glance from me was Groo. The only reason I read this review is because I saw that Ron Marz replied, and I wondered what a writer of his caliber had to say about Top Cow. I never thought that the one would be working for the other. As “Atom!” said, many of us haven’t gotten the memo that Top Cow has changed.

So, maybe I’m not the target audience, but I appreciate that Greg took a line to say that these aren’t what a person like me, who hasn’t read a Top Cow book in years, might expect from the company. Again, I read the review because I wanted to know what Marz thought, and wanted to know the context. I had already decided to take a look at First Look before finding out that Marz is involved in directing the company. I think that without that little disclaimer, I would have simply assumed that Greg liked the sort of books that Silvestri and Lee produced over 10 years ago.

I mean, seriously, when I hear “Top Cow,” I still think of books that I bought for months long after I’d stopped reading them like Witchblade, Ballistic, Cyberforce, and Transformers. But, when I hear “Ron Marz” I think of books that I looked forward to every month like Silver Surfer, Batman vs Aliens, and Kyle Rayner’s tenure in Green lantern.

I guess what I’m getting at is that I’ll take a look. I’ll weigh it against the titles I’m already getting (because I don’t want to get into another 250+ per month comic book hold) and see if it is something I want to get. But, I never would have if it hadn’t been for this review, and the way Greg presented it.

Theno

Ugh, Tyler Kirkham has the flaw that many 90s-Image-ish styled artists have. The total inability to draw “normal” people. Every male who is attractive has to have a totally chiseled lantern jawed, a V-shaped torso, abs and muscles that somehow show through street clothes, superheroesque bodies, even if civilians. Every atractive woman has to look like a top-caliber fitness model. And the people who aren’t attractive have to be exaggerated to the other extreme and be total slobs. That fat cop in that Tyler Kirkham example is exactly what I mean. His slovenliness is SO over the top. And just in case you can’t tell he’s supposed to not be a dashing protaganist, he has food stains too boot. No subtlety. Fat people are all whales. Old people are practically skeletal and decomposing.

@ T.

Co-signed.

We have never agreed more than in this moment. I’m cherishing it!

DanLarkin nails it:

It would seem to me that if Top Cow wanted to attract readers who have been predisposed not to buy Top Cow books, then a review like Greg’s that acknowledges the perconceptions that lots of folks have about the company but recommends the book anyway would be exactly the sort of piece you’d want out there. Weird.

It’s awesome that the company has turned a corner – there can never be enough diversity and quality in the funnybook business – but it’s disingenuous or at least naive to pretend Top Cow doesn’t have a reputation for publishing utter dross or to get huffy when someone points out that that sort of thing casts a looong shadow. Had Burgas not acknowledged it and made explicit that First Look wasn’t just the usual bit of Top Cowflop that’s presently festering in quarter bins everywhere, I wouldn’t have bothered to read the review or give the book a second thought.

The defensive, derisive, and hostile responses directed towards Burgas are indeed pretty weird since he wrote a review ideal for people who don’t consider themselves the Top Cow’s target audience and/or haven’t been interested in their books. Unfortunately, those comments now give people who haven’t been into Top Cow a brand new reason to not buy their product.

Layne,

I’ll address this to you since you are the latest on this thread to make this point.

The point is not to attack Greg’s prejudice against Top Cow. On the contrary, we applaud his ability to get past that prejudice and read a package that we’re all very proud of. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been reading comics for a very long time from a variety of publishers and genres and I don’t remember the last time I enjoyed as large a percentage of an anthology as Greg did of First Look. And for only $4.99.

The point is to say that in our opinion, and in the opinion of dozens of reviews every week, the current output of Top Cow is of the highest quality available. And because of that, any prejudice attached to the publisher is as valid as the belief that any of us are only as capable and responsible as we were 15 years ago. I don’t know about you, but I’ve changed a lot in 15 years. So has Top Cow.

And, frankly, as Ron pointed out, any criticism of the publisher that discusses it’s unappealing ‘house style’ shows a level of ignorance of the line that should be ignored. To say that our entire line should be judged by one artist is an uninformed opinion. And opinions are like Apodacas. Every thread seems to have at least one. (Oh, and my favorite line from the article quoted earlier is “Nothing is like the feeling of being recommended an excellent read by your retailer – especially when they rediscover a title or a character for you that you thought you knew.” – You know, as long as we’re pulling things out of context.)

I applaud Greg’s getting past his own prejudices. I can’t wait to hear what he thinks of our burgeoning Minotaur line. And, I’m pretty sure that if he picked up some of our Universe line and gave them a fair shake, he would find something worth his time. And, I enjoyed the review. I like a little snark to keep things fun (does anyone really believe that he has a problem with our letterer? (Oh, wait, we do have a house style! Of LETTERING!))

Speaking of artistic styles. I will admit that Whilce may not be everyones favorite artist. Artistic styles are tricky things, what works today may not work 10 years from now. What works for some will definitely not work for others. This is why we find and develop different kinds of artists. But, I would hate for the announcement of that artist to anyway keep anyone who is interested in mainstream universe comics from trying Artifacts. It’s big, it’s loud, it’s understandable, and in the opinion of one reviewer today on another mainstream comics website, “”To be blunt, Artifacts displays how mega events in comics should be done”.

Tell you what. I’ll be at NYCC next week. Anyone reading this who is also going to be there should find us at booth #2129 and I’ll personally buy you a copy of Artifacts #1. Anyone but Apodaca, that is. He’s just rude.

funkygreenjerusalem

September 28, 2010 at 5:11 pm

What is the current Top Cow house style? Sejic’s painted work? Rocafort’s design-oriented work? Nelson Blake’s clean style? Broussard’s Silvestri-meets-Golden style? Your assumption that there is still a “house style” is a bit of an indication you haven’t actually looked inside any of the books.

That’s true, I haven’t – last I read was Hunter/Killer – but from covers and advertising materials it still looks like the pseudo-Silvestri style reigns.
Also, me not looking inside the books isn’t really catching me out – I haven’t.

Just because there’s, as you say, “a mental block” about trying new comics, doesn’t mean the mental block is valid any longer. And that’s my entire point about pre-judging an entire line of comics sight unseen. If someone goes to the trouble to check out the books, and doesn’t find them to their taste, no harm; I absolutely appreciate that they made the effort. But to dismiss the books without even bothering to read them is, as I said, lazy.

It may be lazy, but with a limited time and a limited budget, I’ve got to call it how I can.

Top Cow spent a long time branding itself a certain way, and that’s whats stuck in my mind (and a few others it seems).
Also, you can tell me it’s changed, but it’s still the same characters for the most part right?
The Darkness and Witchblade and Cyberforce etc?

You may prefer I try the books before I dismiss them, and I may even be pleasantly surprised, but I really don’t think I’d enjoy the books – based on the plots, characters, art styles not jumping out at me, and that it’s in a shared universe I’ve never cared for – so why would I?

If you think Top Cow has changed that much, and that we’re all running off of what the company pushed itself as for it’s first decade of existence, then maybe it’s a branding problem you’re facing.
Nothing I’ve seen – and I’ve not read every press release or interview – has done anything to convince me that it’s totally changed and is now a company with books I’d like to read.
(And that’s if you’re even interested in getting me as a reader – maybe you guys are doing it right by making books I’m not interested in!)

Again, maybe I’m lazy for not spending my money on the books, or reading press releases and interviews, but in that sense, everyone is lazy.
It’s not the consumers job to try everything – it’s your job to make the best product you can, and then marketings job to really make me want to read it.

Interestingly enough, I am interested in checking out the six new books for 5 bucks – that’s great value, so even if nothing grabs me, I won’t regret it – so that’s a good bit of marketing.
That said, I only found out about the book through a review you really don’t like!

Mr of Ms Funkygreenjerusalem,

If shared universes are your thing and you budget is tight, you might want to take a look at the Witchblade Vol 1 TP and Darkness Accursed Vol 1 TP. Both are only $5 at your local comics shop.

A quick search would also net you full issue downloads for free on several sites including most of our first issues free from most of our digital providers.

If you’d like to send me a direct e-mail, I’d love to point you to several of the free ways you can try our first issues. I can be reached at Atom@TopCow.com. If you happen to find yourself in NYC next weekend, I’ll even give you one.

But, for the record, I believe what Ron was reacting to was statements of fact about our line that are out of date and/or completely inaccurate. “Top Cow is a company with a pretty set ‘house style’,” is both. It’s insulting to the men who work in our bullpen for days at a time to refine their own unique voice. They work incredibly long hours to put out work that they are proud of and all of them have a unique style.

I get that this is the internet and that you are not likely to apologize for insulting people you’ve never met, but you shouldn’t be surprised when people who put in 80+ hours a week to bring quality books to the shelves chafe a little when you decide to score cheap points in an online argument by insulting the team they work with.

I’ll accept the criticism that we haven’t marketed our line properly. That’s my job and we learn more about it every day. If you have specific ways you think we can improve that, please let me know.

Funky, I responded to your points since you posed them. But please understand I don’t expect you, the consumer, to try the stuff if you don’t think it interests you. Wish you would, and if you ever see me at a show, tell me who you are and I’ll make sure you get some freebies.

However, I do expect someone who is reviewing books to have familiarity with material he/she refers to. That’s just being professional.

I realize people cling to their perceptions, even if they’re out of date. It’s a one-reader-at-a-time battle. That’s why I’m passionate about changing those perceptions. An uninformed comment, even a casual one, such as in this review, simply propogates the perception.

The irony here is that I think the vast majority of the Top Cow line these days is much closer to the five titles Greg liked, rather than the one he didn’t. It’s unfortunate the review gives the opposite impression.

The irony here is that I think the vast majority of the Top Cow line these days is much closer to the five titles Greg liked, rather than the one he didn’t. It’s unfortunate the review gives the opposite impression.

That’s the thing, though, and why I’m characterizing your comments as being hostile; Burgas’ review doesn’t give that impression. Rather it acknowledges preconceptions apparently a lot of people have or had (Including your own Direct Market Liason, as recently as a year ago*) and makes it explicit there is more going on at Top Cow than the conventional wisdom would lead one to think. I can understand that some of the comments here were probably hackle-raisers – that Apodaca is a bit of a caution, the scamp – but Burgas’ review doesn’t trash or badmouth Top Cow to the extent that your comments or tone would lead one to think.

*I’m not saying that as a ‘Gotcha!’. Atom! has been a total mensch in this conversation, even if his name wreaks havoc with my already shaky punctuation and grammar. It’s great that you’re passionate about what you guys are doing, Marz, but Top Cow’d probably be better off if you let him do the proselytizing. And if you’re going to mock people on the Twitter, you may want to reconsider pronouncing upon what is and isn’t professional.

Not being someone who buys a lot of comics these days, $5 for 6 issues is great news. I’m excited to get it. I wouldn’t know about this, however, without Greg’s review. I’m not prejudiced against companies, but “Top Cow = Witchblade & The Darkness * ” is, as you see from the comments, ingrained in many readers’ minds. To us out-of-date consumers, Greg’s assertion that most of the material is unlike what we remember Top Cow being like is valid. Some of us haven’t looked at a Top Cow book in a long time.

I’m glad that the company has expanded its output. I hope, Atom! & creators working at the company, that the word gets out, and such prejudices are reversed. For what it’s worth, Image is no longer seen as the company that puts out bad superhero comics, Dark Horse is no longer seen as that company that only puts out licensed comics, and Vertigo is no longer that imprint that puts out Sandman & magic comics. The $5 trade is a great enticer, and the quality and diversity of the comics within could get some of us on board. I’ll give it a try, thanks to Greg, and we’ll see what happens.

* which might be great books now, but were not for me when I tried them years ago.

[…] Burgas reviewed Top Cow’s First Look over at Comics Should Be Good!. I liked the Genius story in there and honestly have yet to read the […]

First, I’d like to say thanks to everyone who has commented on this thread (even Apadoca) or biggest hurdle here in the marketing department is letting people know that we’re devoted to creating great comics.

And second, if you aren’t reading Phil Hester’s Darkness or Ron Marz’s Witchblade just because they weren’t the superhero comics you wanted when the first came out with different creators, you are missing out.

Thanks Again!

Hey Ron and Atom!, do you guys seriously have nothing better to do with your time than search the web far and wide for any disparaging comments about your work? Not everyone likes everything, news at 11!

And to reiterate the point above, you guys don’t exactly do your company any service by coming after every negative review that’s posted. I wonder how many prospective customers you two have pushed away with your posts in here and your most recent back and forth on twitter. I will admit to being curious about some of your recent output, but when I think about pulling the trigger on it, I can’t look past these ridiculous pursuits you engage in and just pass.

So this book gets mostly positive reviews and its only 5 bucks? I don’t see any reason to complain. I’ve never been a Top Cow fan but I also remember when I didn’t like anything by Image or Wildstorm. Both of those companies ended up making some pretty damn good comics. If Top Cow is trying to reinvent itself in a similar way, they at least deserve a shot.

Just wanted to say thanks for making Ron Marz straight piss himself on the Internet. Bravo.

Atom! at Top Cow

October 1, 2010 at 8:24 pm

Tim and Jbird,

You guys are fantastic. Thanks for keeping up with our stuff.

Atom! at Top Cow

October 1, 2010 at 8:25 pm

Shogun,

Can’t wait to hear what you think.

[…] A review a day: Top Cow First Look (goodcomics.comicbookresources.com) […]

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