Hey, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab.
We’ve got both news and reviews from the guys at GrayHavenMagazineOnline today, so let’s get right to it, shall we?
Hey Gang. Andrew from GrayHaven and Preordercomics here. We have a lot of ground to cover with the Reviews segment and these News items (and likely another massive installment from the League of A$$oles) so I'll try and keep it short.
AICN Comic Discounts
You should already know that our online comic store www.preordercomics.com offers substantial discounts on comics and related merchandise as well as Free Shipping, combining for the best one-two savings punch out there, anywhere, but as the ordering month draws to a close it's that time to up the ante and offer a special added discount for AICN readers. Just be sure to point out in an email that you read this at AICN so we can apply the discount.
2 Comics for a Quarter:
January is a big month for Comics with Daredevil going down to 25 cents (or 17 cents for you folks) and Superman the 10 Cent Adventure (8 cents for you) helping to give people even more incentive to check these titles out.
Begun, this Clone Wars
Dark Horse Comics is the place to go to read about the Clone Wars and anything else that takes place between Episodes 2 and 3 and their 50th issue may come with a 6 dollar price tag, but that's before you say you're from AICN and get the book for a mere $3.50.
CSI, oh My:
One of the Best Shows on TV (CSI) comes to comics in a series written by one of the best scribes in the business, Max Allan (Road to Perdition) Collins). Forget the 4-dollar price tag and snatch yours up for $2.
30 Days of Night:
Coming soon to a theater near you (from Sam Raimi) this TPB collects the impossible to find mini-series that asks the question of what would happen if Vampires were to invade the unfortunate town of Barrow, Alaska, currently undergoing their 1 month long period of complete darkness. $18 bucks is a lot to pay, we know, so we've cut this book to $11.
Queen & Country:
If you aren't getting this Greg Rucka penned series from Oni Press, you're only missing out on one of the best books being published. January is Queen & Country month. We think so, too, and are offering 35% off any of the 3 Queen & Country trades being released that month. Catch up now.
These are only a few of the great books being solicited for January, so grab your copy of Previews or check out the store and email me here: Preordercomics@aol.com to take advantage of the best deals on the net.
AICN Comic News
MIGHTY MARVEL LAWSUITS
Just when the fervor over the Brian Hibbs led class action suit over the returnability of Marvel books seems to have died down (media wise, at least), there are two new legal stories concerning the company that could have long term ramifications.
Joe Simon and Captain America: In a decision handed down on November 7th, the US 2nd District Court of Appeals reversed the ruling in the case between Captain America creator Joe Simon and Marvel Comics. Originally, the lower court had found in favor with Marvel, effectively ending Simon's chances of terminating the transfer of copyright he made shortly after he created Captain America, which granted all the rights to the character to Marvel. Full story:
Stan Lee vs Marvel: Stan Lee has filed a lawsuit against Marvel, alleging that the publisher has embarked upon a "shameful scheme" to prevent him from participating in the commercial success of his creations, Newsarama has acquired a copy of the complaint in which Lee is seeking damages of at least $10 million. Full story:
If you read comics, you've seen Augie De Blieck's name in the letter columns at one point or another. If you're a comic fan who checks the web with any regularity, you've probably read Augie's Pipeline column for Comic Book Resources, as well.
Alan David Doane, from Comic Book Galaxy should also be a name quite familiar to comic fans, although I don't think he's been in as many letter columns. Both writers are extremely passionate about their work and views on comics and the industry. That's pretty much where the comparisons end. While Augie could make a case on why the lettering in a comic book is one of the most important issues facing comics today, Alan prefers to spend his time speaking out about what people should do to make the industry better. Recently, Alan began posting `Bootleg Snipelines', a hilarious parody of the popular Pipeline column that is cause for exchanges on both the CBG and CBR boards. For the full story, go here:
Oni Press and Christine Norrie's CHEAT:
Christine Norrie made heads turn and take notice with her meticulous artwork for Oni's Hopeless Savages limited series. Now she's returning to Oni and producing their second original graphic novel, the 64 page black and white story of adultery, Cheat. Full Interview:
John Cleese to Write Superman
After receiving confirmation from DC Comics about John (Monty Python) Cleese working on a Superman Elseworld's comic, THE PULSE was very interested in learning a few more details about the project. The Elseworld's is tentatively called Superman: True Brit and is set in contemporary England. Instead of landing in Kansas, Kal El's rocketship crashes in England and the alien is met with a very different kind of reception. Full Story:
Conan the Barbarian to Dark Horse Comics:
Dark Horse Comics President Mike Richardson is proud to announce a new publishing program featuring the legendary adventures of Conan the Barbarian. The monthly ongoing series will include all new stories based on the classic Robert E. Howard character and also incorporate adaptations of his original Conan tales. Full Story:
Rich Johnston's latest rumor column (Lying in the Gutters) has some interesting tidbits on, among other things, Crossgen's money back guarantee on select titles, Peter David registering the domain name `billjemas.com' and the possible return of MIRACLEMAN. Full scoops:
Farewell, Bill Rosemann:
I've had the pleasure of meeting many, many people in this business since I started writing about comics (God, 10 years ago), but there is one person whose personality, congeniality and enthusiasm outshined the others and that's Bill Rosemann, now former Marketing and Communications Manager for Marvel Comics.
Bill's leaving New York for South Florida (and the House of Ideas for a new career and new and exciting non-comic related challenges). You Crossgen conspiracy theorists can be quiet now.
The first time I met Bill (and his wife) was a few years ago at a Halloween party my wife and I were invited to. Bill and Ali were dress as Hogwarts students and were having the time of their lives. It wasn't because of Halloween or the heavy amount of alcohol we all consumed. No, Bill was in his element.surrounded by loved ones and friends, spending time together, talking about comics and wrestling and assorted topics of geekdom.
Over time, Bill and I developed a friendship that initially sprung from our mutual affection for the character of Spider-Man, and grew from there. We talked about a lot, but mostly we talked comics. Bill introduced me to people in the industry (which inevitably led me to getting my first professional work in comics) and helped get me leads that would lead to some of our bigger stories here at AICN and GrayHaven. And the thing is, he did that for everyone to some degree. Never tiring. Never losing a smile, at least on the outside. This is a guy who truly seemed to love not just his job, but also everyone he came in contact with through that job. And if you know the industry, you know how hard that can be.
If ever there was an ambassador of comics, it was Bill Rosemann. All things must change and now Bill is gone and Newsarama founder Michael Doran has up the responsibility. It's a nearly impossible task, because Bill Rosemann didn't just do a job. He defined it.
For those of you who don't know the guy personally, don't worry, he won't be out of your heads forever. There's no doubt that even if we never see a DEADLINE 2 or similar work, that Bill's talent and infectious passion and determination will see good things come his way. That's great news for us.
For the official story of Bill's resignation, go here:
As anyone who read about my recent New York adventure knows, Bill Rosemann and I were damn good friends as kids, and I had my first chance to see him in about seventeen years when I was there. Marvel’s loss is bound to be someone else’s gain. He’s a great guy, and I certainly wish him well.
Now it’s on to this week’s reviews!!Hi Gang. Andrew from GrayHaven here with another heaping of Recommended Comics for you to check out.
Of course, after your done reading what you have to say about them, you can now preorder any and all of your comic needs from our store located at preordercomics.com. Great discounts, low to no shipping costs and popular features like our Trade Paperback Lending Program.
THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #46
Written by J. Michael Straczynski and Illustrated by John Romita, Jr
Published by Marvel Comics
Reviewed by Adam Penname
The mystical Spider-totem storyline in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN has been quite controversial. Some find it to be an excellent tale while others see it as a potentially damaging and needless addition to the Spider-Man mythos. Whatever the possible consequences of the story (and there's no reason to believe there will be any negative consequences), it has provided some of the most conceptually original and interesting Spider-Man stories of recent memory. AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #46, which brings the Spider-totem storyline back to the forefront after a few arcs in the background, is no exception.
In AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #46, called "Unnatural Enemies," Straczynski explores the previously unknown consequences of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #42 in a way that not only provides a great new arc now, but may lay the groundwork for future stories. Ranging from the humorous and slightly absurd to the intelligent, thoughtful, and exciting, Straczynski pens a well-rounded tale that contains everything a good Spider-Man story should have. There is quite a bit of humor mixed with a great reflection of Peter Parker's current problems as well as an action-packed and intense fight with an intriguing new villain called Shathra which places Spider-Man completely out of his league in a situation he cannot begin to comprehend. Then there's Doctor Strange, too.
As usual, Straczynski displays a phenomenal understanding of Peter Parker's character. Straczynski's Peter Parker is as funny as he's ever been, but this is clearly at times used to cover the character's insecurities. At the same time he's introspective and full of the worries and insecurities that keep Peter interesting. He's heroic, but nervous too. In summary, he is human and vulnerable. Readers can relate to this character as much as ever.
As wonderful as Straczynski's story is, it is penciler John Romita Jr. who truly excels in this issue. Romita Jr. constantly proves himself an artist capable of virtually anything, and this issue alone demonstrates this. At times Peter is seen as pensive, bored, disgusted, or interested, while Doctor Strange is perfectly serious. Far more impressive than the facial expressions, though, is the scenery, for this issue calls upon Romita Jr. to create worlds. Peter Parker's mental realm is at once clever, beautiful, and absolutely hilarious, and it is truly astonishing how, in just one panel, through art alone, Spider-Man is defined. Equally impressive is Romita Jr.'s portrayal of the astral plane. Its abstract beauty is truly a sight to behold as well as the sign of an amazingly gifted imagination. Then there is the action: both the power and irony of the fight scenes and the fear produced simply through Shathra's appearance. The work of John Romita Jr. seems to improve with every issue, and this is quite impressive, seeing as how his work is rarely very far below perfect.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #46 is a complete package, but just the same, it feels like the beginning of something far bigger due in no small part to the great cliffhanger ending. Straczynski's concept of the Spider-totem story is something huge and epic Spider-Man fans have yet to fully comprehend. Whether this will change Spider-Man forever or just add new questions is uncertain, but what is clear is that Straczynski, Romita Jr., and inker Scott Hanna are creating true art with every issue, and this is not one that should be missed.
Written and Illustrated by Various
Published By Mad Science Media, Inc.
Reviewed by Michael T Bradley
Though it might take some space, I see no fair way to review this anthology except to go through the stories one by one. I will try to be brief. All stories are between six and ten pages long.
"Training Wheels," the cover-touted story by Klaus Janson, was sadly the biggest disappointment of the book. Disconnected and distant, I could find nothing (except Klaus' as-usual exceptional art) redeeming about this story. I hope his name on the cover garnered a few extra sales, though.
"Gunpowdergirl & The Outlaw Squaw 1 (of 6)" by Don Hudson is the tepid beginning to what appears to be a tepid western story. Apparently the idea behind this was, "Let's use every dull Western clichÃ© ... BUT WITH GIRLS!" Nice artwork, though, ably assisted by award-winning Marie Javins.
"My Harlequin Romance" by Jessica Wolk-Stanley is surprisingly endearing and brutally honest-which means, of course, downright funny. An autobiographical comic story done well.
"Joey Berserk & Claire in Lost Souls 1 (of 6)" by Steve Buccellato. Just plain odd. "Cagney and Lacey" meets Ultraverse's FREEX. Odd pacing, but good art and interesting-possibly-by-way-of-confusion start to the story.
"An Alien Ate My Brain 1 (of 4)" by Marc Siry. By far the best of the bunch in this magazine. Intriguing, well-written high school angst... and aliens. How can you not love it?
"True Tales of the Comics Biz" by Rob Tokar. Heartfelt without being mushy (or even coming close) true story. Amusing and interesting. Well-done.
"The Lost Tribe 1 (of 6)" by Benjamin Raab, Allen Gladfelter & Jeff Zornow. Jewish vampires in ghetto Prague? Definitely intriguing, but possibly silly. I'll have to wait until further installments come out to pass judgment.
"Zen Girl & Gun Gal" by Steve Buccellato. Oh, if only the villain here were Cobra Commander, the sweet poetic irony of this tale would be complete. Basically, is it immoral to take out an unrepentant killer to ensure he will never kill again? But done in a cartoony, funny way.
Though I might have sounded a bit harsh on some of these, don't get me wrong: the review is for COMICULTURE the magazine/comic/anthology (whatever it is) as a whole, and I am damn happy to have Issue #1. I really hope they continue putting it out, because I think anthologies like this and DIGITAL WEBBING PRESENTS are necessary for comics today. Whether they're showcasing new talent or letting established talent let off steam in a short format, an anthology comic such as this has a lot of potential.
In his editorial, Steve Buccellato tackles the idea that people don't like anthologies because of the differences in format. I think he's missing the boat, here. I generally dislike anthologies because of the differences in quality. As you could tell from my reviews, my reaction ranged from glowing to outright dislike toward the individual stories. Any genre can be done interestingly, and I believe most thinking comic readers realize that. I'm hoping that the ones I disliked that were serials will prove me wrong by the end; and it's possible that the ones I loved may be serials I'll wind up hating. But either way, each issue is a cornucopia of new experiences and new delights waiting to be tasted. I'm definitely going to keep my eye on this series and I want it to succeed. It's a bit pricey, but the oversize format and the amazingly wide variety make it worthwhile. Check it out.
DOUBLECROSS: MORE OR LESS (Graphic Novel)
Written And Illustrated By Tony Consiglio
Published By Top Shelf Productions, Inc.
Reviewed by Michael T Bradley
Again proving that they're not only the kings of quality, but also variety, this little gem from Top Shelf is a fine addition to any comic-reader's shelf.
Tony Consiglio's mini-comic (which has apparently been coming out for quite a while) is collected for the first time in this, possibly the first mini-comic graphic novel, and it is well worth it: 64 pages of funny, cartoony material for under five bucks. You can't beat that!
The work is fairly autobiographical, but twisted at times (I hope!) to make things slightly more exaggerated and funny. Tony's easygoing lines and simplistic figures make for a pleasurable experience for the eyes, while the one-liners and long slow build-up jokes make excellent material for the brain.
Watch as Tony's grandmother nearly cries after finding out he spent the money she gave him on publishing his comic, and be reminded of the feedback you got on your first comic venture (c'mon, we've all had at least one, right?). Watch Tony's girlfriend act as the last bulwark of sanity against the encroaching craziness of family. It's all in here, and it's all very human. Parts of it reminded me of "Everybody Loves Raymond"-but funny.
Dealing out chuckles that last all day, this is another top-notch book from Top Shelf.
GREEN ARROW #18
Written by Brad Meltzer and Illustrated by Phil Hester
Published by DC Comics
Reviewed by Aaron Weisbrod
Do you like action? Lots of action? Well-paced, dramatic, heart-quickening action? If so, GREEN ARROW #18 will be right up your adrenaline-lovin' alley!
The focus of Issue #18, "Grundy No Like Arrows in Face!", is a knock-down and drag-out rumble between the hulking and single-minded powerhouse villain Solomon Grundy and the old-fashioned and lovable hero Green Arrow. In fact, aside from Green Arrow desperately trying to protect himself (and his unconscious partner) from the rampaging zombie-like brute, not much else takes place in this issue. Strangely though, the issue is still incredibly dense and packs a surprising amount of storytelling.
As can be expected, Green Arrow tries to subdue Grundy (who has already incapacitated his partner Arsenal) by pumping him full of arrows... only to have Grundy snap off the arrows and yell "Grundy break Arrow Man!" (Does this sound reminiscent of the Hulk? If not, it should...)
While most of us will never experience a situation in which we are forced to defend ourselves against a giant flora-zombie that is strong enough to toss cars around, many of us have indeed been in a situation where we have felt threatened by someone much bigger and stronger than us, and that's exactly the angle Meltzer uses to sell this battle royal: Grundy is a freakin' huge bully who is seemingly impervious to pain, and Green Arrow must find a way to defeat this illogical monster while not allowing himself (or his even more defenseless partner) to be killed in the process.
With only three issues of GREEN ARROW under his belt, Meltzer has already proven himself to be a writer whose tales are just as witty and dynamic (if not even more so) than those of his much-ballyhooed predecessor. Furthermore, Hester's artwork continues to be even more powerful and dramatic with each passing issue.
I realize that many people started reading GREEN ARROW solely because of Kevin Smith's involvement with the title, and that a large portion of those readers quit buying the book when he left. However, those who stuck around to give "the new guy" a chance are currently enjoying one of the best titles of the core DC Universe. If you have been enjoying such well-crafted DCU books as THE FLASH, you need to be reading Meltzer and Hesters' work on GREEN ARROW. Period.
GUN FU #1
Illustrated by Howard M. Shum and Illustrated by Joey Mason
Published By Axiom Comics
Reviewed by Michael T Bradley
GUN FU is one of those odd little books that makes you wonder "How the hell was this pitched? And to whom?" Not that it doesn't deserve to be made, but I just can't imagine any financial backer believing that it could be pulled off: a Cartoon Network original cartoon-style-look depicting a 1930's Hong Kong kung fu-practicing gun-toting cop who speaks hip-hop and battles giant Nazi robots.
Now, of course, all of us connoissuers out there immediately realize that this concept is pure genius, and NEEDS to be made, but who has money AND recognizes talent these days? Perhaps one of the creators is independently wealthy. In any case, thank goodness it was made... and in color, no less!
Cheng Bo Sen is the protagonist of the title, and it's all about his wacky adventures. Once you've described a comic as I did above, what is there left to say? I will say this: the art style is perfect, and very well-defined. Mason is a talent to watch, and I wouldn't be surprised if he hasn't perhaps done much animation work before doing artwork for GUN FU.
Have no fear that the writing teeters over the fine edge of goofy for goofiness' sake. Though it walks a very thin tightrope at all times, Shum pulls it off like it's nothing. I think the fact that he chose to have no one NOTICE Bo Sen's hip-hop style speak is a major credit to his talent. How boring would it have been to watch every character respond in some dry manner to his 'chill, fly' speech? Shum recognizes this and just skips it, concentrating instead on how cool Bo Sen is under pressure, and how much of a bad-ass, yet funny, an animated Hong Kong kung fu action star can be while fighting Nazi robots.
KISSING CHAOS: NONSTOP BEAUTY #1 (of 4)
Written and Illustrated by Arthur Dela Cruz
Published by Oni Press
Reviewed by Todd Casey
The more books I read from Oni Press, the more I wonder why I didn't start reading their titles sooner. KISSING CHAOS is yet another example of why people should venture into the world of black and white, independent comics about people who can't reach Mach III or shot-put a Greyhound bus. This book is a great read, now lemme tell ya why...
The story begins with Eric and Kim riding the subway together having a quasi-flirtatious exchange. This is broken up with Jersey's appearance on the scene and his reassertion of the fact that Kim is his... but that he knows he has nothing to worry about from Eric anyway. Hopping back and forth between morning and night, the next scene hints that something is afoot-something violent-at a punk show and Jersey is heading it up. Ashley, the central character in this installment, is there to videotape this mysterious event. Traveling back to the morning, Ashley wakes up to what seems to be a lonely and mundane life dominated by instant messaging, blogging and e-mail. She laments the lack of excitement in her life and her inability to find anything interesting to add to her web log. It is then that she receives an e-mail attachment from her friend Angela, who is hiding from the law after the events of the first KISSING CHAOS installment, along with an enigmatic message about all being "undone today." Flash forward to night and the concert where Jersey explains his "noble" cause to the skeptical, yet curious Ashley. Eric's secret desire for Kim is illuminated through a nice flashback sequence just before things kick into gear at midnight. A single black final panel leaves one begging for answers and next month's issue.
Arthur Dela Cruz's art has a sketchbook quality to it. His characters are rough around the edges and without precise lines, but this style works perfectly because his characters are not idealized-they aren't perfect people, so why draw them that way? There is a fantastic contrast between the bright daytime panels and the shadowy nighttime scenes where the action begins to unfold. Dela Cruz really shines during Ashley's online conversations and inner monologue at her apartment. She is a well-crafted character who is rational and strong, but also lonely and oftentimes funny, especially in her witty repartees with an online suitor or her comments about the nobility of Jersey's "mission." Dela Cruz allowed for some digital enhancement of his art during the sequence where Ashley chats online and checks e-mail. For a seemingly small detail, this made a big impact. The addition of chat windows and a computer screen gave the whole scene a very real appearance, especially coupled with the abbreviated lexicon typical of the Internet. While he can give an accurate picture of droll instant messenger chat, Dela Cruz is also able to capture the anarchist Jersey who rants about media outlets with their hidden agendas, always selling out the highest bidder. His characters are diverse and realistic in that some, such as Jersey, might push you away, while others, such as Ashley, will draw you in.
This book stands up on the basis of its strong characters alone, but the engaging story and hints of a grander-scale plot beckon one to stick with the series. This four-part mini-series may entice reader to seek out the first KISSING CHAOS trade paperback, not because back-story is necessary to comprehend the events of NONSTOP BEAUTY, but because that is only way you can get more of KC without waiting thirty days.
Written by Matthew Cashel and Illustrated by Jeremy Haun
Published by Image Comics
Reviewed by Michael T Bradley
The fact that I'm reading PARADIGM is an odd case of Grayhaven-influencing-life-influencing-Grayhaven. I read an intriguing review of PARADIGM #1 on GHMonline.com that made me curious to pick it up again. I had flipped through it on the rack, but the overly dark look of the art put me off immediately. However, the description of the plot had me hooked: an ordinary - EXTRAORDINARILY ordinary - guy's life begins falling apart at the seams, with odd bits like talking cats and murderous girlfriends entering the picture. This, to me, sounded interesting.
Once I got used to the artwork (which is very good, but still, in my opinion, overly reliant on black for a B&W comic), I was really sucked into the comic. With Issue #2, we're beginning to see a little bit of the broader picture, the canvas behind reality, though it's really just enough to whet our appetite. Throughout the entire conversation about VCR tapes and cosmic significance, the bits that really take hold and mean something to me, as a reader, are the small character moments, such as the protagonist's inevitable yet incredibly frustrating response to the hot cosmic chick's request for sex and the other protagonist's inability to connect to life anymore. In fact, it's these little moments that allow me to believe the rest of the craziness going on around them. They react in interesting ways - not just shouting "WHAT?" every five seconds, and not jumping into their role immediately, but rather trying to relate to it all in their own terms (and I don't mean that in some hyper-aware, overly hip, bullcrap-Buffy sort of way). These characters might not be real, but they have definite verisimilitude.
This comic honestly does leave me with the feeling that it could go anywhere. I think after this issue I will stop reading for a while and merely collect, waiting for the seventh issue or so to really dig into the story and hopefully follow it a little bit more coherently. I'm already starting to get confused about a couple of characters and where they fit into everything, but don't let the fact that this will probably work better as a complete series stop you from buying it: it's well worth the effort it takes to read it. I know that, no matter where the journey takes our "heroes" the read will be enjoyable and interesting.
Written and Illustrated by Min-Woo Hyung
Published by Tokyopop
Reviewed by Michael T Bradley
While every American comic company (it seems) is intent upon devouring and repackaging the manga style and calling it their own, Tokyopop is one of the devoted companies out there diligently translating many actual manga comics and putting them up for grabs in the American market. Slowly but surely Tokyopop is building up an army of reprints, some of which are done in the right-to-left original style, while some (such as PRIEST) which are (I assume) rebound going the other, more American, way 'round.
PRIEST is a rather intriguing tale, because it's very, very, VERY much not your typical manga storyline. Imagine Sergio Leone meets SPAWN and you have a fair idea of the style PRIEST is inventing. The main character is a priest in the Old West who sold his soul to gain some sort of amazing powers with which he can take down the bad guys who are terrorizing the countryside. However, some of the bad guys are also controlled by demons, and there's a limit to how far the priest can exact vengeance because, as we all should know by now, deals with the devil never turn out the way you want them to.
PRIEST is engaging, and although at times confusing, it is always intriguing because you never know quite where the plot will drag you along to next. Besides, at an estimated 200 pages for only $9.99, you can't go too wrong.
Pick up Volume 1 of this bizarre manga treasure (easily orderable through the Star System) and see for yourself what keeps bringing me back every month.
SPIDER-MAN: LEGEND OF THE SPIDER-CLAN #2
Written by Kaare Andrews and Illustrated by Skottie Young
Published by Marvel Comics
Reviewed by Adam Penname
The first issue of SPIDER-MAN: LEGEND OF THE SPIDER-CLAN, which was the second appearance of the Marvel Mangaverse version of Spider-Man, was a moderate, uneven effort. It had its fun, high points, but also its rather uninteresting, somewhat clichÃ©d low points. However, just the same, it seemed to be going somewhere more interesting. That somewhere was SPIDER-MAN: LEGEND OF THE SPIDER-CLAN #2: a great, exciting, and frightening issue in its own right.
Kaare Andrews continues her story, moving it from just another Spider-Man adventure to an epic story attacking on several levels at once. This is much bigger than anything this Spider-Man has had to deal with, and for the first time readers begin to feel just how overwhelmed he really is. Beginning on an extremely disturbing note, Andrews's story flows, increasingly constantly in momentum, intensity, and severity. Readers fear not only for Peter Parker's life, but also for what he's becoming, especially after a truly frightening scene with Aunt May. The feeling is essentially one of darkness falling on what was initially a fun story, and yet this still seems to be just the beginning.
The characterization here is not phenomenal, but there are some good moments. Peter Parker's gradual transformation is quick enough to be constantly shocking, but not so fast and dramatic as to be unbelievable. The result is an alteration that is dramatic in scope and very alarming. Andrews begins to develop some of her other characters, as well: a flashback from the perspective of Matt Murdock, the Devil Hunter, defines his motivations, and a call from Aunt May to Murdock reveals that there is far more behind hers than previously expected. The Osborns, Norman and Harry, receive some good definition here as well, but it would be far more interesting if the means by which this occurs wasn't something readers of other Spider-Man titles have seen time and time again. However, an individual moment with Norman Osborn suggests that there may be more to his character than previously supposed.
Penciler Skottie Young's work is quite impressive this issue, adding much of the emotion necessary to Andrews's story. From the very beginning, with a terrifying and disturbing two-page splash panel, Young captures Peter Parker's descent and truly captures the feeling of the onslaught of darkness Spider-Man must deal with. His semi-manga, cartoonish style is interestingly and intelligently juxtaposed with scenes of darkness and violence. Seeing these humorous-looking characters in such frightening panels increases the panels' power, and makes it feel as though all are involved in something bigger than they realize. Working with this visual descent are some extremely action-packed and well-designed frames, making this story quite aesthetically appealing overall. Young's semi-manga style may have its limits, but it works beautifully here.
After a rocky start, SPIDER-MAN: LEGEND OF THE SPIDER-CLAN is rushing forward at full force. This epic tale is still just getting started, and readers will find themselves truly concerned for the fate of Peter Parker. Andrews, Young, and inker Pierre-Andre Dery have created a great read here, making this issue the best Mangaverse Spider-Man issue to date.
SPIDER-MAN'S TANGLED WEB #19
Written by Robbie Morrison and Illustrated by Jim Mahfood
Published by Marvel
Reviewed by Adam Penname
The concept behind SPIDER-MAN'S TANGLED WEB is truly a great one. It is constantly interesting to focus upon characters and situations related to Spider-Man, but not featuring Spider-Man himself. Unfortunately, the results of this experiment have been quite uneven. SPIDER-MAN'S TANGLED WEB #19, "Call of the Wild," is an average example of the title and quite uneven in its own right.
For the most part, Robbie Morrison's story is very entertaining. Theoretically taking place prior to the Grizzly's membership in the Legion of Losers (SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #246), that being the only place where this issue fits in continuity, this issue follows the Grizzly's attempts to readjust to society, and watching him try is quite amusing. Morrison pens a genuinely funny tale, a situation comedy featuring supervillains former and present (the Grizzly and the Rhino) as the main characters in a supervillain odd couple. Most importantly, the comedy is set up in a way that does not contradict the pre-existent characterizations, making the story, for the most part, believable for the characters involved.
That in mind, it would have been nice if Morrison paid a bit more attention to detail. "Call of the Wild" is a pretty good story, but it would have been better without inaccuracies such as Spider-Man's webbing taking "eight, nine hours," or the Rhino being about as strong as the Grizzly. The Grizzly is described as having "the strength of twelve men," while the Rhino is in the Hulk's class, at around one hundred tons. These errors seem to be examples of ignoring logic for the purpose of forwarding the story, and that takes a toll on an otherwise good tale.
Still, that toll is minimal, especially when compared to the damage done to the story by Jim Mahfood's art. Mahfood's style is simple and cartoony, but not like that of, say, Fred Hembeck. The pencils in this issue are silly and inaccessible, making them completely and entirely emotionless. Action scenes just sit on the page and character moments become clear through the writing alone... never through the art. Mahfood does employ some interesting panel design at times, but it is not enough to make up for a style that plods, never flows, and damages the groundwork laid out by Morrison.
That's not to say that this issue is not worth picking up. Morrison does provide an interesting Grizzly story, and even with Mahfood's art, it is still a decent read, rating about middle-of-the-road for this series. Fans of the Grizzly should particularly enjoy this issue, because it shows his more human, civilian side, something that has not been often seen. Buy this issue for the story, but beware of the art.
TEENAGERS FROM MARS #4
Written by Rick Spears and Illustrated by Rob G.
Published By Teenagers From Mars Comics
Reviewed by Michael T Bradley
TEENAGERS FROM MARS is by far the best comic currently being published. This is the comic that makes my eyes pop open, that makes me jump in surprise and give a small shout when it arrives in my box at the comic shop. This is the comic I can't wait to read, and the comic I hate to read, because once it's read, I have to wait for so long before I can read more.
Rob G's art continues to evolve and become more fantastic. The heads are becoming better proportioned (even though that never really impinged on the beauty of his artwork anyway), and the facial expressions continue to tell stories of their own even though his lines look amazingly simple and smooth.
The story works in much the same way: everything is underdone, scored more by mood than by brash effects or wild plot twists (though they're there, too). More and more this book has the feeling of a good movie: perhaps an odd cross between a good John Hughes teenage love story and a "human" superhero movie such as "Unbreakable."
Plot-wise, this issue finally begins showing us what the "real"(?) center of the book will turn out to be: the kids and their storyline. A mysterious rock with bizarre properties should seem completely out of place in this amazingly down-to-earth romantic comedy, but it's handled with the same understated style as the rest of the series, so it practically passes you right by on the first reading. Slowly, though, it dawned on me that this might become very important-even though my brain was mainly reeling from the amazing double-page spread of Madison jumping into hot street-fighting action, and the incredibly sweet yet deliciously sensual love scene (which I've been impatiently awaiting).
I proudly wear my TEENAGERS FROM MARS pin at work (I work at a comic shop) and use the TFM sticker as my bookmark, always hoping that someone will ask me about it so that I can gush about this excellent book. If you're not reading TFM, what the hell is wrong with you?
ULTIMATE DAREDEVIL AND ELEKTRA # 1 (of 4)
Written by Greg Rucka and Illustrated by Salvador Larroca
Published by Marvel Comics
Reviewed by Todd Casey
ULTIMATE DAREDEVIL AND ELEKTRA is the latest title to make its debut in the Ultimate Marvel Universe since the ULTIMATES appeared some time ago (I purposely leave out ULTIMATE ADVENTURES because it does not specifically cater to the precise Ultimate cannon), and it is no coincidence that this four-part series will be wrapping up right around the time that the Daredevil film hits screens. After all, Marvel is trying to get new readers warmed up to Daredevil and Elektra in order to pique interest in the film-and what better way than beginning with the characters from scratch? While the current DAREDEVIL and ELEKTRA books are both fantastic, they may not spark the interest of new readers the way an Ultimate title can, and judging by the first issue, Marvel will accomplish its goal.
The story begins with Elektra's father, Mr. Natchios, helping Elektra move into her dorm for her freshman year at Columbia University. Her roommate, Phoebe McAllister, is a Texan with an aggressive but friendly attitude. The two quickly become friends as Phoebe demonstrates her musical skills on the guitar while Elektra shows off her martial arts prowess by back flipping between their twin beds. They adopt a third friend when Elektra rescues Melissa Beckerman from the taunts and harassment of a typical straw-man jock ready to be bashed down. With a flick of her wrist Elektra puts Mr. Calvin Langstrom (another Texan) in his place. From here the story progresses quickly through the trio's first semester at Columbia. The girls meet Elektra's sensei, Master Stone, and watch the two demonstrate their martial arts skills. Just when you are wondering when that dashing young redhead would turn up, Elektra's tough-girl feminist attitude melts when Matt Murdock appears swinging gracefully on the horizontal bar in the gym. Foggy Nelson, his bumbling but loveable sidekick, is also briefly introduced, but shooed away when the pair bumps into Elektra after class. The future assassin and lawyer-in-training hit it off quite nicely. Elektra is blissful until she and Phoebe return to their dorm after a night out to find a disturbing scene that yanks Elektra off cloud nine and back to harsh reality.
Salvador Larroca's pencils are clean and his lines precise. The character's facial expressions are emotive and provide beautiful accent to the story. Whether it is the warm smile of Master Stone, the anguished yelp of Calvin Langstrom with his arm twisted, or Elektra's shy smile when she meets Matt, Larroca is accurate and demonstrates the importance of depicting emotion in a dialogue-driven story. Danny Mikki's inks are light, which suits the mood of the story, but as evidenced by the final shocking panel, the pair can produce a dark and moody scene just as well. As computers are used more often in augmenting artwork, I have observed a preference for a kind of blurring technique, combined with old-fashioned speed lines, to show action. Normally I would prefer the old method, but somehow the blurring effect fits with the artwork in this book and works to give the impression that Elektra moves very fast.
Greg Rucka truly has a knack for crafting a strong female protagonist (see WHITEOUT or QUEEN AND COUNTRY for others) and he knows Elektra's character inside and out. However, this series is a unique opportunity for Rucka to dabble in the more playful, youthful side of Elektra rather than the reticent, stoic assassin originally created by Frank Miller. This issue was predominantly exposition and character introduction, but Rucka didn't write it as though it were a chore. Some writers rush through exposition and treat it as a laborious task they must drudge through to get to the action, but Rucka has fun with it. As a result, he was able to cover a lot of ground and entertain at the same time. Elektra took center stage for this issue, but preference for her story over Matt's makes sense because people know much less about her past. Besides, there are still three more issues...
This was a concrete first issue and the story promises to pick up pace in the next installment (admittedly, this is purely speculation based on the cliffhanger). My only regret so far is that Rucka doesn't have more time with the characters. It took Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Millar a few months worth of issues to get Spider-Man and The Ultimates into some serious action... and their stories turned out magnificently. I can only imagine Rucka could have done the same if he were allowed more than four issues. Perhaps this could be the launching point for the next on-going Ultimatization? It is hard to say, but if Elektra and Daredevil get the treatment for the long haul, Rucka is sure to be the scribe.
ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #30
Written by Brian Michael Bendis and Illustrated by Mark Bagley
Published by Marvel Comics
Reviewed by Adam Penname
The last issue of ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN contained one of the most immediately alarming endings in the history of the title. However, unlike with the terrifying ending of ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #25, the follow-up to this shocker does not disappoint. Indeed, writer Brian Michael Bendis and artists Mark Bagley and Art Thibert create an exciting and frightening story that delves deep into the characters of Peter Parker and Mary Jane.
This issue has no fight scenes, but it lacks nothing in excitement. From the first panel, the readers truly fear for Peter's life, or at the very least, his freedom. Once that fear begins, it doesn't end until the issue closes, and even then Bendis keeps the story going. The risk is not as immediately great, but things are only going to get worse from this and from the Spider-Man Imposter. Perhaps most importantly, Bendis takes the situation from last issue, one that has appeared in past Spider-Man issues but never in such an intense manner, and deals with it realistically (or, as realistically as is possible for Spider-Man). You see, while Spider-Man is incredibly powerful, but Peter Parker is only human.
Indeed, it is the characterization in ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #30 that shines most of all. Without any call for heroism in this issue, Bendis focuses on Peter's humanity, largely on desperation and fear. With both come determination, and it is wonderful to see Spider-Man battling such terrible odds, even if it is primarily out of desperation. Furthermore, it is quite interesting to note that, as much as he has tried to be since #27, Peter Parker cannot always be self-reliant. Here Spider-Man needs help, and this potentially widens the growing rift between Peter and Mary Jane.
Mary Jane is exceptionally well-portrayed in this issue. Her acts, dialogue, and thoughts reveal factors of the character (the Ultimate version) that readers have never seen before. In so many ways, yet in ways not yet focused upon, Mary Jane is trapped: the character is suffering, yet at the same time placing Peter's needs first. These are the consequences of her knowledge of Peter's identity, and Nick Fury's words from #27 are beginning to ring true. In a small way, this issue also shows the Ultimate version of the "party girl faÃ§ade" from the core titles: Mary Jane is a complicated character, as much one as Peter himself, and one cannot help but wonder how much longer she is going to be able to deal with Peter as Spider-Man.
As usual, Mark Bagley shines in this issue. From the opening desperation the ending's near-peacefulness, his work is beautiful and frightening at the same time. But while Bagley is always brilliant with action and facial expressions, what makes this issue special is the imagery. The idea of an injured Peter Parker in darkness is a great one, and there is much thematic significance at play when Mary Jane, in helping Peter, enters the darkness herself. Likewise, the conclusion of the issue is darkest of all, signaling worse things to come. While not as remarkable as his work in some past issues, Bagley's art here is terrific, with only one flaw: the sergeant at the end of the issue looks too much like Norman Osborn. Otherwise, there are no problems.
However, there are problems abound for Peter Parker, and Bendis, Bagley, and Thibert are doing a great job at creating walls that are quickly and dangerously closing in on Spider-Man. ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #30, like most issues of this series, is a great issue, and one truly has to wonder what will happen next.
VERTIGO POP! - LONDON #1 (of 4)
Written by Peter Milligan and Illustrated by Philip Bond
Published By DC/Vertigo Comics
Reviewed by Michael T Bradley
Ah, yes, two of the "Golden Boys" of Vertigo, Peter Milligan and Philip Bond, show us again how it's done.
Honestly, I'm not exactly certain what the whole VERTIGO POP! line is out to accomplish. Basically, it seems as if they gave Peter this for the basis: "write something set in London that deals with pop culture." When you consider the amazingly wide milieu of possibilities presented with that as the 'genre,' could give you any of a million outcomes. So ... if there's meant to be some organizing glue, I don't get it. But who cares, really?
Milligan's take on whatever the "high concept" is behind VERTIGO POP! is a tale about an aging rock star who had a fleeting moment of glory forty years ago, but who is tired of his current life. Not because it's horrible, but simply because his time has been wasted. Everything he wanted to accomplish... every dream he set out to fulfill... is still empty. No novels, only a handful of forgotten songs, one broken marriage and one lifeless marriage... the only highlight of his life seems to be his daughter.
But, not content with that for a legacy, he uses a trick learned from a guru in India and swaps bodies with a talentless git from the streets. Wackiness ensues, or so one would assume, since that's where Issue #1 ends. This rather cliched Twilight Zone-era plot device is a little silly, but of course Milligan simply glosses over it in a few pages, focusing instead upon the human relationships of the book, and building up why a transformation like this would be taken by this character, if available.
I'll admit, I'm not certain where this book will go. It seems like Milligan could probably extend it to a 20-issue series, having both the "swapped" characters dealing with every important person in their life before finally reaching some sort of resolution. However, since Milligan only has four issues to work with, I'm assuming something a bit more insane than that rather banal "Vice Versa" plot will occur. What it will be, I don't know, but in Milligan's capable hands, I'm willing to kick back and see where it goes.
WAY OF THE RAT #7
Written by Chuck Dixon and Illustrated by Jeff Johnson
Published by CrossGen Comics
Reviewed by Aaron Weisbrod
Say it with me now: "Slow-burn."
That's the pace at which CrossGen creators let their tales unfold, and as a result, the first six issues of WAY OF THE RAT served primarily as an introduction to the core characters and concepts of this martial-arts based epic. However, now that the "introductory" story-arc is out of the way, Issue #7 serves the dual purpose of both an epilogue to the first storyline as well as an introduction to the second.
The first seven pages of Issue #7 move at a rapid-fire pace, quickly showing where the events of the first story-arc have left the major cast members. After that is out of the way the story veers into "newer" developments, specifically focusing on Judge X'ain's attempt to con Boon out of the Book of the Hell of the Hungry Dragons by baiting him into gambling it away in a game at which the Judge is extremely... "proficient."
Naturally Po-Po (the talking monkey who serves as Boon's advisor-whether he likes it or not) tries to warn Boon that the Judge is tricking him, and naturally Boon (who continues to remind me of the namesake character from Disney's "Aladdin") dismisses the monkey's warnings, instead opting to wager with the corrupt judge.
The biggest side-story in the issue deals with the mysterious female character "The Silken Ghost" and her attempts to track down Boon. Unbeknownst to everyone else in the city (all of whom now hail Boon as a hero), Boon recently accepted (swiped?) the magical "Ring of Blades" and claimed it as his own even though it was/is destined for another. The Silken Ghost has made it her mission to set these circumstances right, and the end result is a visit to the head of the thieves guild Boon (until very recently) served. This side-story also gives readers the sole fight scene of the issue, and as always Jeff Johnson (who is himself an accomplished martial artist) does a masterful job of choreographing an amazing combat sequence. (Mind you, if I were "The Ghost" I would have followed the foot block with a sidekick using the SAME leg, followed by a crisp front snap kick to the jaw... but that's just me.)
Packed with great characterization from comic vetran Chuck Dixon and gorgeous artwork by Jeff Johnson, WAY OF THE RAT #7 was yet another great read, and I am already anxious to see what will transpire as a result of the developments in this issue. Furthermore, the cover is the first part of a collage that will eventually connect to form one huge poster featuring a large Chinese Dragon! (Hey, Jeff, does this mean that that TPB that collects this story will feature a gatefold cover? Please?)
If you've been enjoying any of the other martial arts-based books that have been hitting the stands as of late, make sure you're also reading WAY OF THE RAT. Believe me, I've perused the other "kung fu" titles currently on the shelves, but WAY OF THE RAT is the only title that has continued to deliver so much action balanced with so much story month after month...
This is the stuff "must-read" books are made of!
Written by Peter Milligan and Illustrated by Michael Allred
Published by Marvel Comics
Reviewed by Aaron Weisbrod
While I loved Milligan and Allred's X-FORCE, as well as the first issue of X-STATIX, the subsequent two issues of the relaunch left me somewhat cold. Yeah, they were good... but they weren't as good as what I had come to expect from the series to date.
Well, I am happy to report that Issue #4 is a return to form as X-STATIX once again begins to "gel" with this issue.
Seemingly abandoned by his self-absorbed teammates, X-Statix team leader "The Orphan" has single-handedly inserted himself into the surreal warzone that a small suburban town has become when a powerful mutant teenager virtually takes the whole town hostage in an attempt to attract the attention of his favorite superhero team: X-Statix.
Issue #4 serves as the climax of the storyline, and I was pleasantly surprised by how well this issue "roped-in" the seemingly extraneous subplots of the last few issues. Furthermore, Milligan did a masterful job of injecting some much-needed life into the cast, many of whom have spent the last two issues doing little more than lifelessly moping around. Of course, I believe it goes without saying that Allred's art has been top-notch throughout all of this, as X-STATIX seems to pull the best work right out of him (even I'm not typically a fan of his overly-cartoony style, it works perfectly on this title).
While X-STATIX has yet to reclaim its spot as one of my favorite Marvel titles, this issue was certainly a step in the right direction, and I am anxious to see how the developments at the end of this issue will take the book in the upcoming months...
Besides, even the "decent" issues of X-STATIX are better than most of the other "team" books on the market!
ZERO GIRL: FULL CIRCLE #1 (of 5)
Written and Illustrated by Sam Keith
Published by DC/Wildstorm /Homage Comics
Reviewed by Michael T Bradley
At first I was a little leery of this title. I mean, I loved the ZERO GIRL mini-series, but was a little annoyed after awhile at how out-of-hand the whole circle/square motif got. However, when the whole heart of the story was the relationship between high school student Amy and her teacher, the unrequited love story was much more interesting than the cirlce/square dilemma, and I feared that with the sequel, Sam would rely too heavily on this unnecessary plot device.
And while it does perhaps pop-up in an unnecessary way, the circle/square problem is now working on more of a metaphorical level, for which I'm thankful. Furthermore, the whole unrequited-love theme between Amy and her former teacher is skipped over for the first issue, becoming relegated to the climax of the story (I assume), which works a hell of a lot better. Also, much time has passed between the initial mini-series and this one, allowing this to be its own story rather than a pale continuation of a great series.
Unrequited love is still a heavily prevalant theme: David's (Amy's former teacher) daughter loves Amy. Rat, the geeky teen 'outed' lesbian, loves David's daughter, although she won't admit her attraction to women even though it's obvious to Rat and Amy in milliseconds. Also, David's daughter has the power to cloud other's thoughts.... But where it will all lead is anyone's guess.
Sam Keith has, as is his strength, crafted an intricate web of emotional dependency and tenuous relationships. The people in his dramas are fragile and on the edge of emotional breakdown at all times while forcing their way through a life that doesn't make much sense. As a result, his people are realistic throughout all the surreal craziness being thrown their way. Also, his art is just as impressionistic and darkly beautiful as ever. Check this mini-series out to view Sam Kieth's sadly beautiful view of the world once again.