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AICN COMICS BREWS TOGETHER SOME MONSTROUS REVIEWS IN THE CROCKPOT O' CREEPINESS!!!

BOO!



Did I scare you? Bet I did. You sure? Well, you shoulda seen the look on your face! You’d better go check your underoos for under-ooze anyway, my friend!

Ambush Bug here with an extra spooky AICN COMICS column. Along with this week’s normal pull of reviews, we’re dedicating this column to horror comics and dubbing it the…



We take advantage of one of our favorite holidays to dust off some old reviews of books that you might want to look out for if you’re in the mood for something scary to read. This is a column you don’t want to read in the dark! Because, well, that monitor glare will probably hurt your retinas or something.

So check under the bed, lock tight that closet door, and get ready for our spookiest column ever!


Table of Contents
(Click title to go directly to the review)

UZUMAKI Vols. 1-3 TPB
ESSENTIAL TOMB OF DRACULA VOL 1-3
DEFEX #1
RETURN OF THE ELEPHANT/THE WHITE ELEPHANT
ALAN MOORE’S THE COURTYARD
CRIMINAL MACABRE: a cal mcdonald mystery TPB
I, PAPARAZZI TPB
JSA: STRANGE ADVENTURES #3
ESSENTIAL MONSTER OF FRANKENSTEIN TPB
GOON: ROUGH STUFF TPB
1000 STEPS TO WORLD DOMINATION
MIDNIGHT NATION TPB
CHEAP SHOTS!

UZUMAKI Vols. 1-3 (TPB)

Writer/Artist: Junji Ito
Published by Viz Communications
Reviewed by Dave Farabee

Okay, so I’m not quite as big a dork for the horror genre as my brother - that guy actually bought FANGORIA back in the day! – but I do dig on the genre, of that there’s no doubt. And if there’s one trend I’ve noticed of late, it’s the growing influence of Japanese horror concepts. Movies like THE RING, THE GRUDGE, and THE EYE are starting to make a serious impact on horror cinema, and likewise, Japanese horror manga are appearing to refute the notion that the genre is an uneasy fit for comic books. Alas, it’s too easy for the best of horror manga to get lost in the sea of androgynous girlie romance manga on store shelves, but don’t sweat it – I did the research for ya, and if there’s only one manga spook-fest you should be reading, this is it…

Junji Ito’s UZUMAKI.

Not only is it creepy as sin, not only is it drawn with a densely-rendered realism that I suspect will appeal to American tastes over the big-eyed manga that many dislike, but it’s only three volumes long, not one of those 36-volume LONE WOLF & CUB type epics! Here’s the description from the back of the trades that sucked me in almost instantly:

“Korozu-cho, a small fog-bound town on the coast of Japan, is cursed. According to Shuichi Saito, the withdrawn boyfriend of teenager Kirie Goshima, their town is haunted not by a person or being but by a pattern: uzumaki, the spiral, the hypnotic secret shape of the world. It manifests itself in small ways: seashells, ferns, whirlpools in water, whirlwinds in air. And in large ways: the spiral marks on people’s bodies, the insane obsessions of Shuichi's father, the voice from the cochlea in your inner ear. As the madness spreads, the inhabitants of Kurozu-cho are pulled ever deeper, as if into a whirlpool from which there is no return...”

It sounded freaky as hell and vaguely Lovecraftian, and it was. Through stories drenched in an atmosphere reminiscent of John Carpenter’s mini-classic, THE FOG, Junji Ito reveals a town in which the inhabitants are constantly haunted by eerie phenomena rooted in spiral patterns. The perpetual whirlpools trickling in the nearby streams are unnerving enough, and the spiral patterns of smoke coming from the crematorium are downright eerie, but inevitably, things get reaaaaaally fucking weird…

*A ceramics artist finds that all the pots and plates he’s baking in his kiln come out with spiral distortions in them, ghoulish faces interweaving between the patterns…

*A woman cuts off her fingertips, convinced the spiral patterns of her fingerprints are the latest manifestation of the spiral phenomena…

*A boy struck by a car, his body wrapped around the wheel axel, makes a disturbing return from the grave…

*A strange lump begins growing on a schoolchild’s back, a curious spiral pattern etched into it. As it continues to grow into a hardened hump, he undergoes a vile physical transformation of the likes not seen since David Cronenberg’s remake of THE FLY…

In the first two volumes, almost every chapter (generally running thirty-two pages) is a standalone vignette involving some new iteration of spiral horror. I was somewhat put off at first that there was little connection between them beyond the presence of the two teen leads, and there’s no doubt that there’s an element of formula to these stories. Generally, one or both of the kids discover some new manifestation of the spiral pattern and try to stave it off, ultimately failing and simply trying to maintain their sanity as the manifestations reach gory fruition. Sometimes the townsfolk even witness these events too, leading me to wonder, “Why don’t they clear the hell out?!” But it becomes apparent before long that, like the doomed protagonists of many an H.P. Lovecraft story, these people have become resigned to their fate. They don’t like it – they’ll fight it – but there’s an inevitability to their doom that ultimately prevails. Ito uses the formula to batter the reader with the sheer morbidity of life in Korozu-cho, his ultimate effectiveness leading me to temper many of my initial misgivings.

The third volume takes the book in a different direction. These stories are all connected chapters, and over the course of 250 pages, Ito reveals the epic resolution to the hauntings that plague the town. Expect more new iterations of the spiral phenomena to emerge as in previous volumes, but on a much larger scale as the leads at last sum up the courage – however tainted with hopelessness – to try and escape the town now undergoing a total transformation into something truly not of this earth. Where the previous volumes often revolved around singular moments of shock, UZUMAKI Vol. 3 stretches an ongoing sense of dread over the course of an entire graphic novel to create the darkest chapter of them all.

Visually, UZUMAKI is powerful from the get-go. I’ve since looked at Ito’s first horror comic, TOMIE, and while impressive, it was clearly the work of a developing artist. With UZUMAKI, his experience comes to fruition, and his detailed, menacing artwork is sure to make readers nauseous (in a good way). He reminds me a little of Steve Dillon, in that he’s a consummate draftsman, seemingly unfazed by all the bizarre visuals his own scripts require him to draw. Look, too, for dense hatching reminiscent of the macabre art of Edward Gorey, and even a hint of Robert Crumb’s dense, queasy linework. Potent stuff.

UZUMAKI is a ways off from being perfect, but it’s as close as I’ve ever seen to translating pure horror to comic book form. With its mixture of high concept, doom-laden atmosphere, and occasional outright gross-outs, there’s really nothing like it. And that chapter in the hospital? The one with the plague of mosquitoes, the vast quantities of blood…the newborn babies…?

As Warren Ellis once put it:

“Tell me the last time any book disturbed you. When you give up, buy UZUMAKI.”


ESSENTIAL TOMB OF DRACULA VOL. 1-3 TPB

Written by Marv Wolfman, Gerry Conway, Archie Goodwin, Gardner F. Fox, Chris Claremont, David Kraft, Steve Englehart, Roger McKenzie
Art by Gene Colan, Mike Ploog, Don Heck, Nestor Redondo, Steve Ditko
Published by Marvel
Reviewed by
Buzz Maverik

All the vam-pires, walkin' through the Valley/Move west on Ven-tura Boulevard.... Tom Petty

Bless me, Talkbacker, for I have sinned. It has been a series of plea bargains since my last confession. I haven't reread all the stories in the volumes I'm about to review. But, to cop out, I own the entire Marv Wolfman/Gene Colan run of TOMB OF DRACULA and have read all those stories before. And I made a point to reread the stories in Volume 3 from the TOD black and white magazine. Not to mention that I've reread a lot of the stories. It's just that in the '70s they gave you a lot of story and artwork for your comic buying dollar because they knew that you still had to buy pot, eight tracks, and Slurpees.

Our friends at Marvel have given us three volumes of ESSENTIAL TOD in pretty quick succession. They must be selling well. Unlike other ESSENTIALS, TOD contains moody Gene Colan artwork that lends itself well to black and white. This is one series where you don't miss the color. You could buy these for the art alone, but you'll want to read the stories as well.

The success of this series also proves, to paraphrase Ray Charles, that there are only two kinds of comics: good and bad. TOD was the good. The very good, in fact.

Gene Colan is one my all time favorite comic book artists. Among other things, he had a great run on BATMAN, was the true definitive artist on DAREDEVIL, drew almost all of HOWARD THE DUCK, did some phenomenal DR. STRANGE (DOC # 14 is included here as part of a crossover with DRACULA), CAPTAIN AMERICA, DR. DOOM, and others. Mr. Colan was a true noir artist. He's giving us the Dracula movie we've always wanted but have never quite seen on screen (and he's also capable of giving us the kind of crime movies we desperately want to see again). You want to talk pacing? Within a single issue, Colan laid out maddening build ups and would finally give us the release of explosive motion. Nobody, but nobody, depicts rapid motion in comics like Gene Colan, whether it's Howard the Duck squawking his way into a fray, Daredevil slamming into Stilt Man, or Juno the Henchman driving his silver stake through Dracula's undead heart!

Marv Wolfman. Let's just say that comic book writers today, and for years to come,have much they could learn from Marv Wolfman. His work on TOD was so highly regarded at the time that it was even questioned whether he could do superhero comics. He could and did with his own creation THE MAN CALLED NOVA (if you only know the Erik Larsen crapfest/relaunch, seek out the originals), THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, THE FANTASTIC FOUR (although I preferred his work on his own insane creation SKULL THE SLAYER). At DC, you might know his work on TEEN TITANS, CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS and many others.

But it was TOD where this writer's gifts were allowed to shine darkest. Mr. Wolfman depicted a Dracula who was always evil, never vulnerable, but still somehow had depth and dimension. In those days, no comic creators would have gotten away with keeping the title character out of the book (and they shouldn't get away with it today) but Dracula was usually given just the proper amount of on-panel time. There wasn't a formula to it. Some issues are all Dracula. Some center on his various foes.

Dracula's enemies. The traditional Harker and Van Helsing. Dracula's own descendent Frank Drake. Hannibal King, both vampire and detective. Brother Voodoo. Werewolf by Night. Dr. Strange. Dr. Sun. Lilith, Daughter of Dracula but not wife of Frasier. Satanist Anton Szandor Le Vey.... I mean Anton Lupenski. Your favorite will probably be the character whose movies saved Marvel Comics...Blade. Blade was always cool and way ahead of his time.

My favorite is hack writer Harold H. Harold, which was Marv Wolfman doing a self parody. Harold and the woman he adores (she thinks he's a nerd), his publisher's secretary Aurora Rabinowicz, run afoul of Dracula when Harold promises to bring in an interview with a vampire. Their burglary of a blood bank to help an ailing Drac is worth the price of admission.

It's too late for many of Marvel's current top writers, but I implore you future comic book writers, burn Robert McKee's STORY and instead turn to Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan's TOMB OF DRACULA. You'll be glad you did and those of us who have to read it will feel the same way!

Finally, some fanboys are getting their innards bunched up at message boards because of some changes made in the magazine stories included in Volume 3. Like anybody'd know the difference. The world has bigger problems. I say, get with the spirit of the times in which Marvel published their black and white mags. Smoke a couple of bowls, drink some Yukon Jack, listen to FOX ON THE RUN and you'll be in the mindframe to enjoy the mags and pass 'em on to your cousin when you're sick of 'em.


DEFEX #1

Writer: Marv Wolfman
Artist: Stefano Caselli
Publisher: Devil’s Due Publishing
Reviewed by Dave Farabee

The last time a publisher stepped into the adventure ring as a serious challenger to champs Marvel and DC, its name was CrossGen and it went down bloodied and humiliated by the third round. Notable contenders before CrossGen have included Bravura, Dark Horse (remember BARB WIRE?), Valiant, and at least two or three other companies founded by Jim Shooter. Of them all, only the ever-impressive Dark Horse is still standing, its diverse line-up having served as its safety net, so can you blame me for being ridiculously skeptical of Devil’s Due throwing its hat into the superhero game?

Surely not.

These guys might not be fly-by-night, having bolstered their nostalgia titles (G.I. JOE, VOLTRON) with video game fare (STREET FIGHTER), cult movie spin-offs (ARMY OF DARKNESS), and a few original concepts (the quite-fun HACK/SLASH)…but really, pitting original superhero concepts against the Big Two?

Honestly, people. Do you want to go bankrupt?

And yet, for what it’s worth, the first outing of this insane attempt ain’t half bad. It comes courtesy of vet superhero writer Marv Wolfman (THE NEW TEEN TITANS, TOMB OF DRACULA) and Italian artist, Stefano Caselli, and reminds me of nothing so much as Marvel’s cult hit, RUNAWAYS. It’s a team book, its leads made up of a group of college students working on a group project involving radical genetic theory. Bit of the same ol’, same ol’ in that idea – “unlocking the untapped human potential” and whatnot – but Wolfman’s writing is surprisingly solid. I’ll be honest – I was expecting his stuff to come across as quaint and out-of-date, the sad fate of so many ‘70s/’80s greats, but he’s evolved pretty nicely. He stills veers a bit into melodrama and the occasional “old school” moment, but the guy’s clearly been watching his teen drama TV shows. In fact, his sensibilities seem uniquely suited to bringing a modern voice to an old-fashioned, plot-driven superhero book that’s approachable to younger readers.

In this first issue, our cast of oddballs finds themselves manipulated by sinister, as-yet-revealed powers into working on the same lab team for a university course. They’re doing stuff with trendy nanotechnology, the sci-fi concept which looks to do for 21st century superpowers what radiation did in the 20th century: kick-start ‘em! Long story short, the kids work up all kinds of crazy theories, get drunk one night, experiment on themselves (some plot hooks never change…), then have a skirmish with a special ops team apparently sent to retrieve them. For a jaded follower of escapist comics like myself, it’s all pretty old hat, but if I were twelve or thirteen a comic like this would probably be a pretty cool change of pace from Superman and the X-Men. It’s superhero concepts without superhero codenames and costumes, creating that veneer of realism that’s so important to most kids (and plenty of adults).

And the series looks good. Lush colors give it the unique look of a European comic album, and Stefano Caselli’s slightly comical href=http://www.newsarama.com/Devils_Due/Aftermath/defex_04.jpg target=_blank>character designs are a pleasure to see. I first noticed his distinctive style on the tongue-in-cheek, nouveau slasher comic, HACK/SLASH, and he’s clearly going to be a talent to watch. He’s got an animator’s eye for facial expressions that reminds me of J. Scott Campbell’s art, all the more fitting since DEFEX has something of the original appeal of GEN 13 (minus the extreme T&A). At this point, no single character is strong enough for me to really care about them, but Caselli’s work at least makes me want to like them.

And so…a decent debut. I think it’s interesting that Devil’s Due is deliberately marketing their new superhero series (the line is dubbed “Aftermath”) with such retro tones. For instance, Devil’s Due president Josh Blalock writes as an afterword to the comic that he wanted every first issue to establish all the main characters, their powers, and their central conflicts. He also wants cliffhanger endings and is specifically promoting that these books are to be serials only – no initial plans for trades. It’s either audacious or suicidal – probably the latter - but I’m old-school enough to have to grin at the cajones behind it. I suggest at least giving this first issue a look if you’ve got any kind of similar old-school sensibilities. Alternatively…not a bad book for teen readers. While the storytelling is traditional, supposedly the Aftermath line will strive for realism of story…yet not at the expense of fast-paced fun.

We’ll see. I’m a ways off from thinking the line has a real chance, but Devil’s Due doesn’t need to pull in vast numbers or actually unseat Marvel and DC – they just need to survive and find their niche. Worked for companies like Valiant, at least for a time, and I’d say DEFEX is at least a match for Valiant’s output in terms of craftsmanship.


RETURN OF THE ELEPHANT

Creator: Paul Hornschemeier
Publisher: House Books

THE WHITE ELEPHANT

Creators: Damon Hurd, Christopher Steininger
Publisher: Alternative Comics
Reviewed by: Lizzybeth

People have been talking a lot of shit around here about Indie Comics; mostly it’s the sort of people who think Dark Horse is small press and stories about real people are boring and depressing. I feel that there is room for more in comics than escapism. You’d have a hard time finding a bigger sci-fi fan than me (try.) but still, I’d rather face the complicated, strange real world than focus entirely on fantasy. The comics medium has too much potential, too much power, to be limited to one genre only.

So here are these two comics. Not the easiest of reads, both pretty dark. But these guys are masters at expressing themselves through comics, all-stars of the emotional sucker punch. While these two projects have a lot in common, they also showcase some of the variety that is possible in comics. Both are published in a unique one-shot format – RETURN OF THE ELEPHANT is a tall, thin staple-bound book about 9x5 inches, while THE WHITE ELEPHANT is a wide, thick volume about 7x10 inches. RETURN is a simple, spare two-panel per page two-color affair, while WHITE is wordy white-on-black splash, with Sienkewitz-ish artwork boxing in the heavy type. One work is emotionally intense; the other is so detached as to be ghostly.

I have to suppose that it’s a coincidence that these two unrelated books with “elephant” titles hit my shelves in the same week, but it’s an instructive one. You all know the parable of the elephant in the room? The elephant is something that appears in your midst, where people are gathered in conversation that takes up enormous space in the room. It sucks up all the air. It’s a freaking living, breathing elephant, that’s not supposed to be there. And it’s so bizarre and troubling that everyone in the room pretends it’s not there. Even though everyone is enormously conscious of the presence of an elephant in the room, and it becomes in a strange way the focus of the gathering, it will never once enter into conversation. The old “If You Ignore It It Will Go Away” strategy. Both of these comics are all about the elephant in the room, and the elephant in both is something that almost nobody wants to talk about.

First, Paul Hornschemeier, who is one of the most exciting new artists to appear in comics for some time. His FORLORN FUNNIES (not funny, but certainly forlorn) produced a powerful graphic novel last year in MOTHER, COME HOME that has left me salivating for more. He’s just so good at getting to you. Reading his comics, you can feel cold fingers squeezing around your heart. His protagonist in that story, little Thomas Tennant, was a character you cared about even as you could see a harsh fate in store for him, because he was so good-hearted and sympathetic. In RETURN OF THE ELEPHANT, the characters are not sympathetic in the least, but you do feel something for them, a complicated mixture of disgust and pity that is never asked for but somehow earned. Hornschemeier’s artwork is so expressive. It’s very simple, but so masterfully designed that the most minimal scene can speak volumes.

It will be difficult to talk about RETURN OF THE ELEPHANT without revealing some of the discoveries that make it so effective, which means I will have to describe it in some maddeningly vague manner that won’t convince you of how good it is. So let me explain the effect that this comic, and much of Hornschemeier’s work, had on me. This comic bothered me. It left me with the unsettling feeling that, on some level, somewhere, it must be true. RETURN OF THE ELEPHANT is more of a character study than anything else, and the characters it studies are unlike anything you’re used to seeing. But it portrays them so effectively that I don’t doubt the accuracy. And when you’re finished reading the comic, it’s a necessity to turn back through the pages and see certain images with new eyes… and shudder. Skin care cream. Kids playing soccer. The worn, tired face of a man who deserves no pity. The boy on the back cover with an elephant mask and an inscrutable expression; I think he looks terrified. Who is he? Who is the “cousin” who comes to visit, who looks like a backyard animal with bags under his eyes? It troubles me. It’s not frightening in a Halloween sort of way, but in a deeply sad, incomprehensible way.

A near relative to Hornschemeier’s book, even though it looks nothing like it, is THE WHITE ELEPHANT by Damon Hurd and Christopher Steininger. This “thinly veiled autobiography” uses a dream sequence / morality play dialogue between a young man named Gene and his therapist to explain why he hasn’t spoken to his family in ten years. How thinly veiled? If you read Hurd’s MY UNCLE JEFF last year, you’ll know it’s not very. You’ll also know the terrible secret behind the white elephant that Gene sees whenever he tries to talk to his cousin Johnny. The two guys were once very close, but now the guilt is too overwhelming for Gene, making it impossible for Gene to even think of his mother’s side of the family without seeing the elephant. Even though it was never Gene’s fault, he feels responsible for the abuse that the family never speaks of, that he should have been able to protect his loved ones from.

If you have or know someone who has coped with a legacy of sexual abuse, THE WHITE ELEPHANT will strike a familiar chord. One of the lingering effects that this book deals with is the ongoing aftershocks that go through a family that has to choose sides between victims and the accused, and how painful it is to cut ties with people that they still love. Who may not have had anything directly to do with what happened. Who they may miss terribly, but are tied to such terrible memories that to see them anymore could be a threat to sanity. You can tell that the author is exorcising a number of demons here, and he conveys the experience so well that you understand just what he’s going through. I never had a chance to rave about MY UNCLE JEFF on this site, but that was a terrific real-life tribute to Hurd’s favorite uncle, done with great affection and insight. That volume demonstrates just how much family means to the author, and as a companion volume shows just how difficult it would be to sever ties, even with family members detrimental to his well-being. In a way, it’s a courageous book, honest and painful, that a great many people will be grateful for.

In conclusion I must suggest that, even if these two particular books don’t strike your fancy, there is still so much in indie comics for you to try. If you find yourself giving up on some of your regular titles, couldn’t that money go towards trying something new? At no loss to you, with money you would have spent anyway, whole worlds will open up to you. They may be worlds that look much like your own, but you will see them in a whole new way. It’s worth a try.


ALAN MOORE’S “THE COURTYARD” TPB

Writer: Alan Moore
Sequential Adaptation: Antony Johnston and Alan Moore
Artist: Jacen Burrows
Published by Avatar Press
Reviewed by Dave Farabee

Avatar Press is best known to me as the comic book company that produces material that makes me embarrassed for the whole medium. The biggest offenders in their line-up are “bad girl” books like Demonslayer, Threshold, and Hellina. Lately, though, the company’s been making a bid for credibility by bringing aboard the likes of Warren Ellis, Garth Ennis, and yes, Alan Moore. You’ve got to wonder what Avatar’s offering ‘em that’s such an enticement. My guess? Total, unfettered creative freedom to write whatever twisted, outrageous stories they want with zero editorial interference. Now at a glance, the Ennis and Ellis stuff hasn’t been up my alley, and I’m still not fond of the murky gray-tone aesthetic that seems to inform all the Avatar art, but when funnybook deity Alan Moore makes a showing, I take notice. When it turns out that Alan Moore has actually penned an homage to the mythology of H.P. Lovecraft, I actually have to investigate

First up, a mild disclaimer: While I consider myself to be a fan of H.P. Lovecraft, I’ve hardly devoured all of his material with the fervor of his most ardent fans. As a result, some of the nuances of this creepy little two-parter may have been lost on me. For instance, I didn’t know that the mini was adapted from an Alan Moore prose story featured in the 1995 Lovecraft tribute anthology, THE STARRY WISDOM. That info came from my consultant for this review, an esteemed scholar of all things Cthulhu, whom I shall refer to simply as “Reverend Nye”. The Reverend tells me that the anthology as a whole was pretty “eh”, but he thought the comic was an entertaining read, and so did I. There’s a peculiar kind of pleasure to be found in Lovecraftian stories as you’re drawn into a murky and bleak world in which no depth of paranoia is without merit. I’d even call it a voyeuristic thrill. The reader knows full well that the protagonist is going to go mad, get killed, or in some unutterably alien way, get fucked over - it’s just a matter of how

The subject of THE COURTYARD’s descent into madness is Aldo Sax, an FBI investigator with a perpetual scowl and more than a passing resemblance to Lovecraft himself (well, a butched-up Lovecraft anyway). With Alan Moore, these allusions are never coincidental, so it comes as no surprise that the detective’s narration is also laced with racist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic thoughts – an acknowledgment, presumably, that these unpleasant views were among the all-too-real demons Lovecraft never exorcised. Asshole or not, Sax is still good at what he does, and his specialty is “anomaly theory”, picking up on unusual patterns that others might miss in murders and the like. In the words of his own narration:

“…it’s like taking the leftover pieces from various jigsaws and seeing what picture they make when you put them together.”

The concept is very much up Moore’s alley. This is the guy who’s built an entire writing style out of finding ironic synchronicity between seemingly unrelated events, even taking the concept to metaphysical levels since he began exploring the world of magick.

In THE COURTYARD, Agent Sax is investigating a series of dismemberment-packed murders, and his investigation takes him to a drug-heavy music club. The band’s lyrics seem alien and indecipherable, there’s word of a new drug named “Aklo”, and what’s with the weirdo dealer who wears a yellow veil that obscures everything below his eyes? Here’s where the synopsis ends – after all, the descent itself into increasingly inescapable horrors is the appeal of Lovecraft. Suffice to say, Moore finds some innovative new ways to bring the horrors of The Great Old Ones into a modern setting, and he obviously had some fun aping the distinctively pulp sensibility of Lovecraft’s narrators:

“Club Zothique: a strange neon cancer grown out from the crumbling stone of a waterfront church…”

Or how about:

“Hypodermics crunch underfoot, frosting the cobblestones with glass in a scintillant Disney-dust.”

At two issues, the story felt a little on the short side and failed to cast that truly gloomy pall upon me that the best Lovecraft stories can do, but even a quick dip into that world yields some enjoyably grim rewards. Real gripes? Well, I still don’t think much of Avatar’s gray-tone shading. It lacks punch and tends to make entire panels look flat, but the actual penciller – Jacen Burrows – is no slouch. His detailed and wholly linear work reminds me of a Geof Darrow in training. I wonder if perhaps his style is too literal for some of the more hallucinatory sequences, but otherwise, no complaints.

My consultant, Reverend Nye, tells me that the only real problem he had with the book was that Moore name-drops references to Lovecraft stories, their inspirations, and the stories they inspired, at the drop of a hat. Literally dozens of references. Didn’t bother me much, as I only caught a handful of the obvious ones (like a painting from the infamous Pickman of “Pickman’s Model”), but hardcore fans may find it distracting like the Rev did. He likened the experience to “taking a Lovecraft bath”. I figure that might be fun for some folks, but I wonder if Moore is perhaps too enamored of showcasing his breadth of literary knowledge? Certainly I’ve found his work on LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN VOL. II to suffer a bit from that particular malady.

Serious H.P. fans should pick this up. Even if the name-dropping gets to you, well…it’s still a mind-bending Alan Moore story! Casual fans should seek it out, too. You might find it a bit slight, but…it’s still a mind-bending Alan Moore story! And for those of you completely unfamiliar with the works of Howard Philip Lovecraft, consider it your first sample of his peculiar brand of madness, then check out his own stuff to really mess up your head.


CRIMINAL MACABRE: a cal mcdonald mystery TPB

Story: Steve Niles
Art: Ben Templesmith
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Reviewer: Ambush Bug

Those who follow my reviews know that I rarely venture outside the realm of straight-up, standard, super hero books. A book outside of the Big Two companies has to be something pretty special for me to read it. Currently, outside of Marvel and DC, I read Eric Powell’s THE GOON because there’s nothing more fun on the shelves today. And SLEEPER and EX MACHINA are a few other titles I pick up, thanks to the advice of my fellow @$$holes. All of these books provide stuff that I just can’t get from the Big Two companies. One thing I found lacking on the comic racks of late is a good old scary comic. Well, I think I found a book to whet my appetite for horror done right. CRIMINAL MACABRE is that book.

I’ve said it before. Horror is probably the toughest thing to do in comics. For me, the thing that really gets me—the thing that really scares the bejeezus out of me—is the unknown. It’s the thing that makes me pull my covers to my nose at night when I think I hear a sound in my apartment just as I’m teetering on the edge of sleep. You know the feeling. Your eyes weigh. You start to breathe steadily and heavily. Everything starts to drift away…and then something shifts in the corner of your room. You open your eyes. Try not to move. Hold your breath. You strain to see through the darkness, wondering if those half-shadows that line the walls are moving. Is that breathing you hear? Is someone there, in the dark, holding its breath, knowing that you’re awake, watching you, and waiting?

The problem is, comics are a visual medium. You can’t draw the unknown. If you could draw the unknown…well…then…it wouldn’t be unknown then, would it? Because fear and the unknown are so inextricably linked, it is very hard to convey scary things in little four color panels. I believed this. I thought this to be true. I couldn’t remember one comic that truly scared me. And then I was introduced to the twisted works of Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith.

With 30 DAYS OF NIGHT, this team of storytellers showed me that you could, in fact, be frightened while reading a comic. I’m talking about real, spooky, shouldn’t be read alone type of scares. Niles slick pacing and fresh and twisted ideas kept me guessing and fearing what was to come around the next corner. Templesmith added to the mix by creating an atmospheric and mysterious world filled with truly horrific creatures.

CRIMINAL MACABRE: A CAL MCDONALD MYSTERY introduced me to Cal McDonald, a cocky private dick who has seen and done it all. In an interview at the end of issue #1, Cal explains his view of the world. “To me there really isn’t any ‘unknown.’ It’s all real.” Cal knows that supernatural things walk the earth. He fights werewolves in museums and tracks vampires in singles bars. He takes cases involving severed heads and blood-drained corpses. His partner is a ghoul. The thing is, he’s the only human who believes they exist. Every other person on the police force thinks Cal is off his nut. But he solves the tough cases, so they put up with his “eccentric” theories. Cal is Kolchak rated NC-17. He’s Fox Mulder unleashed, without the level-headed Scully to ground him and tell him that his theories are scientifically improbable. Cal knows the supernatural exists and to him, their sole existence seems to be to cause him a lot of trouble and a bottle of painkillers full of pain.

What I like about Cal is the fact that he is never shown without some form of bandage on his person. He’s a fallible hero who can and most assuredly will get hurt while fighting these supernatural forces. He’s real in that he feels the pain as he dives face-first into any ghoulish gauntlet to solve a case. Cal McDonald is a truly human hero fighting against unknown terrors with only a bottle of cheap liquor, a shotgun, and a boatload of cynicism.

Niles and Templesmith have developed an entire world for Cal to shuffle around in. They treat werewolves, vampires, and the undead as different races, warring for supremacy, and slaughtering humans if they get in their way or if they get hungry. Issue two has a nice bit of exposition with Cal and his “ghoul-friend,” Mo’Lock. Mo explains the differences between werewolves, vampires, ghouls, and zombies. The dialog is quick and crisp.

Cal: Any idea where all this started? You know, where you all came from?

Mo’Lock: Do you know where your kind comes from?

Cal: Do you have to answer every question with a question?

Mo’Lock: As long as you ask questions that I have no answers.

Cal: You mind it? Being a ghoul, I mean?

Mo’Lock: As much as you mind being a human, I presume.

Great stuff. Even when the page is filled with word balloons, Niles makes the dialog interesting and fun to read. At the heart of this book is a mystery, and every conversation unravels it just a bit more. As I read this book, I found myself conflicted because I want to see the mystery solved, but I don’t want this miniseries to end. Cal McDonald is the best new character I have read in comics this year and I hope to see more of him in the future.

And about those scares. Without Templesmith’s amazing artwork, this book would not have the visceral impact that it does. The art is gritty and grainy. You have to search a bit to fully understand what is going on. Everything is not defined. Things are deeply shadowed and obscured. Those unknowns that I talked about earlier? The ones that cause the chills? This book is filled with them. The scary stuff isn’t what you see in the panel, but what you don’t see. Templesmith’s art harnesses those deep unknowns without diminishing the impact of a mouth full of teeth charging at you or a form in the corner whispering your name. The art could be compared to Bill Sienkiewicz, David Mack, Ted McKeever, or even Gene Colan, but Templesmith has really come into his own with this series. His characters are more consistent and legible from one panel to the next (a criticism I had with the 30 DAYS OF NIGHT book).

The mystery is swirling. Cal is getting the shit kicked out of him in every issue. The monsters are scary and the dialog is sharp. Anyone who gets that little smile when they get scared will love this book. Check this series out. Savor it. Soak it in. Niles and Templesmith know horror. They know the detective genre. They know mood and atmosphere and noir. I’m sure Marvel is dying to snap these guys up to do some kind of watered down version of one of their horror properties. Don’t jump on then when inept editorial advice hinders their raw talent. Catch these guys now while they’re ripe and hot. CRIMINAL MACABRE is top notch comics entertainment. It takes the genre seriously and introduces us to a world that is rarely done correctly in comics. CRIMINAL MACABRE is horror comics done right.


I, PAPARAZZI TPB

Writer: Pat McGreal
Artists: Stephen Parke and Stephen John Phillips
Publisher: DC Comics/Vertigo
Reviewed by Dave Farabee

I love conspiracy stories. From sci-fi angles (INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS), to reality-based paranoia (THE INSIDER), to outright nonsense (Oliver Stone’s JFK), I can’t get enough of the creepy-cool vibe that occurs when good people uncover things that they shouldn’t. Except…they don’t have to be good people, right? In I, PAPARAZZI, the lead character happens to be a scumbag named Jake McGowran, a hardboiled paparazzo who tracks his celebrity prey so relentlessly that he’s earned the nickname “Monster.” He digs through celebrity garbage bins for incriminating evidence, takes amphetamines to give him the energy for the brutal stakeouts, and as the story opens, is riding high after photographing a supposedly straight actor kissing his gay lover.

Nice guy, huh? Truth be told, he is kind of likeable in the story’s context. To begin with, his first-person narrative is so over-the-top that it’s borderline hilarious. Take, for example, his defense of his profession to the reader: “How would you feel if you had to spend your life chasing after a bunch of preening fuckheads while your dreams got so moldy you could cure the clap with ‘em?” Raymond Chandler, meet Andrew Dice Clay. McGowran also earns a few sympathy points as we learn about his mysterious past and what led him to such a vile living, and there’s just the vaguest, most ephemeral hint of “white knight” about him. Mostly, though, he’s an entertaining scumbag to watch, compelling in his relentless drive to bring down celebrities with his camera. Credit writer Pat McGreal, the innovative writer behind such undervalued Vertigo projects as CHIAROSCURO, a Leonardo da Vinci biographical sketch, and VEILS, an erotic Victorian melodrama.

The first thing that’ll grab you about this original graphic novel isn’t the story, though, or the characterization or even the high concept – it’s the visuals. I, PAPARAZZI sidesteps the traditional storytelling tools of pen, brush, ink, and paint, opting instead for a series of sequential photographs overlaid with text. It’s a technique often referred to as “fumetti,” and sometimes disparaged for its artlessness. This is a fairly well-crafted use of the process, though, with substantial Photoshop tweaking for mood and special effects. It certainly fits the subject of the story, even if it’s a little ways off from being perfect. The characters within often look posed, and extremes of emotion on faces that would look fine as drawings seem a little silly when frozen in photographs. On the other hand, it’s a suitably gaudy approach for what surely can be described as a gaudy story – you just have to work through that initial barrier against comics-by-way-of-photos. In the same way that you become acclimated to the initial strangeness of, say, animation on the big screen, I suspect it won’t take more than a few pages to be drawn into PAPARAZZI’s surreal, weirdly vivid world.

And surreal it is. After being introduced to a trio of rival paparazzi, all of them entertaining and oddball characters, we follow a night in McGowran’s life as he sets out to find the most incriminating shots possible of a pretty-boy celebrity who’s garnered his hatred. Events take a turn for the bizarre when he tracks his quarry to a members-only shindig, stakes out a nearby stairwell, and begins snapping photos of party-goers that include Drew Barrymore, Salmon Rushdie, Matt Groening, and…Andy Kaufman?! But wait…isn’t he supposed to be dead? And what about that glimpse of Bob Crane from HOGAN’S HEROES? He’s dead too. Suddenly McGowran’s thoughts drift back to the previously ignored rantings of his fellow paparazzo, Ollie Beck, whose conspiracy theories of secret societies and power elite cabals are tinged with supernatural goings-on in the traditions of H.P. Lovecraft. I’d been enjoying the book’s sleaze-laced melodrama up till this point, but the appearance of an utterly unexpected conspiracy hook marked the point when I was officially won over.

The twists and turns to follow I won’t spoil, but I will say that they’re a mixture of high points and disappointments. Paranoia stories inevitably peak during their rising action, as the protagonists first begin to piece together clues to whatever mysterious forces are at work around them, and consequently, some of them fall apart in the last act when the cards are finally placed on the table. I, PAPARAZZI is one of those stories, but its fall is more like a bad landing after an otherwise stunning gymnastic routine - a mild letdown that’s still worth the price of admission.

After enjoying Pat McGreal’s work on CHIAROSCURO, VEILS, and now, I, PAPARAZZI, I’ve officially found a place for him on my writers-to-watch list. Unfortunately, he remains an unknown quantity for most readers because his work is offbeat even for Vertigo, and DC’s marketing of his work hasn’t been the best. If I hadn’t picked up the book on a total whim, I’d have had no idea that what appears to be a straightforward melodrama on the surface is actually tinged with both paranoia and the paranormal. And that’s why I’m spreading the gospel to you guys ‘n’ gals. PAPARAZZI isn’t the Second Coming, but if you’re a fan of celebrity culture, conspiracy theories, hardboiled assholes, or the works of H.P. Lovecraft, there’s a good chance you’ve missed out on a graphic novel that’s up your alley. Give it a look.


JSA STRANGE ADVENTURES #3

Writer: Kevin J. Anderson
Artists: Barry Kitson and Gary Erskine
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Sleazy G

I wasn’t sure quite what to expect of this series. I haven’t read any of Anderson’s work in comics, and the only novels I’ve read from him were some STAR WARS novels that left me unimpressed a decade ago. Still, I’ve always enjoyed stories involving the original JSA, and have ever since I encountered some of the characters in a 1970’s giant-sized reprint of the November 1940 ALL-STAR COMICS #3, in which the JSA first formed while sharing a Thanksgiving dinner. I’d never heard of these characters at the time, but they caught my attention immediately. There was action, sure—but there were also some surprisingly weird segments as well. Each of the members relates a little story of some menace they defeated. The Hawkman one, which one would expect to be straightforward action, turned out to be much creepier—strange molten creatures tied to the eruption of Krakatoa, if I remember correctly. The ones from Dr. Fate and The Spectre really stood out as well. It was the first time I’d run across this type of supernaturally slanted character, and it opened up my mind to the potential these stories had in comics. It still didn’t completely prepare me to have my young mind blown away by Dr. Strange’s adventures, but it certainly laid a lot of groundwork and cemented a love for these characters that has lasted a lifetime. I’ve kept up with various members of the JSA ever since, and they remain some of my favorite characters.

The main storyline in STRANGE ADVENTURES details the arrival of a new nemesis for the JSA named Lord Dynamo. He’s hanging out around New York, commandeering the airwaves, and telling everybody he’s a benefactor of humanity. He’s offered to cure disease, end hunger, supply weapons to defeat the Nazis, write new symphonies…the usual bad guy stuff, y’know? While the public is willing to accept Dynamo’s offers at face value, the JSA is a little less convinced of his good intentions. This is probably because they keep running into cyborgs built from the reanimated dead hanging around Lord Dynamo’s zeppelin, trying to steal power and commandeering crucial communications systems like The Shadow’s radio show. Meanwhile, in the backup story, Johnny Thunder is finally getting the big break he always wanted: to write for a pulp magazine. One of the editors over at AMAZING STORIES has decided that Johnny’s got some great material, thanks to his experiences with the JSA. Unfortunately, he’s got no real writing talent, so the editor hooks Johnny up with a ghostwriter to show Johnny the ropes. Johnny’s as enthusiastic and clueless as ever, of course—but still manages to find a way to shine, just like he always does.

Lord Dynamo has asked one simple thing from the people of New York before he goes out and single-handedly saves the world: give him Green Lantern’s ring and Starman’s cosmic rod. The heroes know they can’t trust Dynamo, but haven’t figured out what he’s up to yet, and the clock is ticking—they have to make their decision soon and give it to him before he’ll move forward with helping everybody out. With limited options, and wondering if the tradeoff might not be worth it, GL and Starman agree to give up their items. Before they get the chance, though, Johnny Thunder crashes the stage and stops them, with exactly the kind of stirring speech about the nature of heroism that Johnny can always be counted on to contribute. His words convince the people that Dynamo’s promises come at too high a cost, but that causes Dynamo to lash out and take what he needs, draining the city of electricity.

This is the kind of story that has to be handled very carefully. There’s a great deal of potential for modern-day cynicism or for retrofitting elements into the story that don’t quite belong there. So far, though, we’re halfway through the miniseries and there hasn’t been a hint of that. Admittedly, there’s a little commentary going on in Johnny Thunder’s back-story—the decline of the pulps as they lose popularity and its affect on the writers can be viewed as a parallel to the conditions of the comics industry, I suppose. It’s not really a focal point, though. It’s just a quiet little moment in the background, and it’s not handled in a heavy-handed or preachy manner. It’s just a tiny bit of bittersweet subtext for those looking for that sort of thing.

The story contains all the elements fans of the JSA want. It’s got a huge cast of great characters that were the inspiration that everything that came after them. It’s got adventure, it’s got science, it’s got a hint of the supernatural, and it’s got a pointed reminder of what the heroes mean and why their values are important. I know it’s got a daunting price tag at $3.50, but it’s also got 30 full pages of story, though, instead of the usual 22 we get nowadays for 50 cents or a dollar less. The longer issues don’t feel like filler either—it feels like more meat being added to the story. It’s well worth the extra money to get to spend a little extra time with these classic characters. We’re only three issues in, which means it’ll be easy enough for anyone who wants to give the series a shot to track down the couple of previous issues. It’s great to see this kind of traditional storytelling told so well, reminding us all of why we liked comic books in the first place.


ESSENTIAL MONSTER OF FRANKENSTEIN TPB

Writers: Gary Friedrich, Doug Moench & Bill Mantlo
Artists: Mike Ploog, John Buscema, Val Mayerik, Don Perlin & Bob Brown
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewed by Dave Farabee

Always been a fan of ol’ Frankie. Talkin’bout the one with the bolts in his neck, not the Chairman of the Board (though he’s alright too). And I suppose I should say “Frankenstein Monster”, not Frankenstein, because it’s not the monster’s creator that generations of young monster fans have learned to root for – we want the behemoth with the stitches! That particular bit of name confusion always struck me as analogous to the whole “Captain Marvel/Shazam” mix-up, being one of those mistakes even fans make sometimes.

But the real question I had in approaching ESSENTIAL MONSTER OF FRANKENSTEIN was…am I fan enough to read twenty-five damn issues of his tragic wanderings? ‘Cause that’s what you get in this bizarre tome of black and white reprints, the first serious challenger to ESSENTIAL ANT-MAN for the greatest abuse of the word “essential” in a Marvel comic collection. That’s right, twenty-five issues of various Frankenstein-themed Marvel comics and magazines from the horror boom of the ‘70s. It’s a sort of companion piece to the ESSENTIAL TOMB OF DRACULA series, though the writing is rarely up to Marv Wolfman’s standards, the art, while strong in spots, can’t match the shadowy genius of Gene Colan, and the Monster as a character just isn’t the charismatic personality that Dracula is.

So how the hell do these stories work?

Somewhat shakily, as it turns out, though the first third is quite a bit of fun. The series, originally titled MONSTER OF FRANKENSTEIN, opens with four issues that retell the Mary Shelley goth classic that started the legend. The concept writer Gary Friedrich came up with is that in the year 1898, an arctic expedition is mounted by the great-grandson of the ship captain who witnessed the final struggles of Victor Frankenstein and his monster in those icy wastelands. Flashbacks to the original novel (real history in the comic) give readers a pretty good Cliff Notes version of “what came before”, even as the great-grandson and his crew of course discover the monster frozen in ice…yet still alive! I swear, if the guy who first cooked up the notion of frozen suspended animation had copyrighted the idea, he’d have died a rich man…

I’ll cut some details here, but suffice to say, the creature awakens, inadvertently kills some crewmen (in the first of dozens of such misunderstandings – it’s almost comical how often this ostensibly “good” monster kills!), and after the ship goes down, the monster and a handful of survivors make it to shelter. What’s coolest about these early issues is that this is so clearly the Monster of the novel – hideous to look at, but unlike the Monster popularized in the Karloff flick, fully capable of speech and surprisingly articulate. Still, the keynote of these stories is tragedy, and while the Monster makes his peace with the great-grandson of the last man to know his creator, said great-grandson dies as surely as every other halfway decent person the Monster meets. And so the monster begins his tragic wanderings, his goal to find and kill the final descendant of Victor Frankenstein, though predictably he ends up trying to help people along the way. It’s all a bit shamelessly reminiscent of the Hulk’s wanderings, ironic as hell since FRANKESNTEIN is surely second only to DR. JEKYLL AND MISTER HYDE in having inspired Stan Lee’s monstrous creation.

Beyond the creature’s intelligence and the novelty of adventures in turn-of-the-century Europe, the most notable hook of these early issues is the dense, detailed art of Mike Ploog. Ploog might not be a name to many readers nowadays, but he was one of the stalwarts of Marvel’s ‘70s comics, especially in the fantasy and horror genres. Happily for those genres, Ploog was also one of the rare artists who wasn’t notably riffing off of Jack Kirby’s larger-than-life superhero style. His stuff seems to be more from the Burne Hogarth school of dynamic realism and the Will Eisner school of noir. He’s the only artist in this collection who really captures the sad droop of the Monster’s face, and he puts so much detail into his backgrounds that when the legendary John Buscema takes over for him, Buscema’s stuff ends up looking notably throwaway. It’s just too bad Ploog only stayed onboard for six issues, having apparently decided to leave when the decision was made to bring the monster into modern times.

Check out Ploog’s splash page of the Monster guiding a raft on a storm-tossed sea – pretty nice, huh?

Propelled by Friedrich’s purple prose, the Monster wanders Europe for several issues, encountering every staple of classic monster yarns in the book - gypsies, werewolves, giant spiders, dungeons, and cleavage-baring maidens. There’s a certain doomed, dismal quality to these stories that reminded me of the morbid “Tales of the Black Freighter” pirate comic that recurs throughout WATCHMEN. The monster tries to help the locals and does find brief moments of acceptance, but inevitably ends up manipulated, inevitably ends up leaving a trail of dead bodies, inevitably ends up moving on. The writing’s not great, but it has its moments of hyperbolic fun, especially when the Monster’s whuppin’ ass:

“As the villagers stare in disbelief, a huge arm swings backward and then rapidly forward with the strength and speed of a crossbow, hurling a single limp form into the crowd as if it were a man-sized arrow! Bones break in that awful impact! Men DIE!”

On the other hand, as with so many over-written old comics, half the time you want the writers to shut the hell up and let the pictures do more of the storytelling. These writers surely never envisioned these comics being collected, though, so you have to forgive them a bit for their excesses and repetition of themes (I swear to God, the phrase “paroxysm of violence” must appear at least a half dozen times). On a monthly or bi-monthly release schedule, the stories probably stood alone just fine, but taken as a whole – though the stories are connected by continuity – reading ‘em in one sitting can get painful.

A little over half of the trade is devoted to the Monster’s adventures in the modern world, and these were the ones I had the hardest time plodding through. The Monster loses his capacity for speech in these stories and essentially becomes just a hokey plot device. He’s manipulated by mad neurosurgeons, tricked into murder at a costume party, and even finds himself on a train where assassins are out to kill the President. A big chunk of these stories were from Marvel’s adult-oriented black and white horror magazines of the era – translation: grislier violence and many more glimpses of half-nekkid chicks – but the plotting by the likes of Doug Moench is really just as dopey as the plotting in the comic stories. Thing is, it somehow seems worse since the monster’s so useless and really doesn’t fit into a modern setting anyway.

On the plus side, the art in some of the magazine stories is quite nice. John Buscema redeems his hackwork on previous issues and Val Mayerik’s becomes the series’ regular artist, outdoing Ploog when it comes to sheer line density and bringing at least a sense of maturity to the concept with his impressive gray-tone washes.

All told, I leave the collection with very mixed feelings. About half the stories are fun, but you really need to appreciate the art and/or have a love of the Frankenstein Monster to enjoy them, and there’s not a single one that’s great. They’re definitely interesting as cultural artifacts, though, with a certain enjoyment to be had in watching Doug Moench combining gothic themes with bad 70’s dialogue (“Damn! He smashed the dude’s skull! Now I won’t be able to use his body!”), and the final story by Bill Mantlo is just plain weird with its robot antagonist that talks like the Recorder robot from Marvel’s cosmic-themed stories.

Looks like the ideal melding of comic art and Frankenstein themes remains Bernie Wrightson’s out-of-print illustrated edition of the original novel, but for a mere seventeen bucks, ESSENTIAL MONSTER OF FRANKENSTEIN does have its moments…strange though they are.


THE GOON ROUGH STUFF TPB

Writer/Artist: Eric Powell
Publisher: Albatross Exploding Funny Books
Reviewer: Ambush Bug

In 1999, Bill Clinton was cleared of all charges in his impeachment trial. George Harrison was attacked and stabbed in his Oxford mansion by a loony loon bird. The world lost Joe DiMaggio, Stanley Kubrick, Oliver Reed, and John F. Kennedy Jr. Teletubby Tinky Winky was outed as a homosoexual role model. And I was sitting face down in a plate of pistachios after downing shots of Tequila at Schlepy’s International House of Pig Innards right off of Route 95 beside the Burning Knuckle Hooter Bar and Cafe. Some things never change. 1999 was also the year that Eric Powell first unleashed the Goon and his pal Frankie on to the comic book world. THE GOON ROUGH STUFF reprints the hard-to-find first Goon miniseries. I wasn’t lucky enough to pick up this series when it first came out, but was delighted to find out that these issues were available again in this slick new trade.

I’ve reviewed THE GOON a lot. In my previous reviews, I’ve told you all how much fun this book is. I’ve told you all how seamlessly the horror and the humor in this book are melded together. I’ve told you all about my fascination with the Goon’s sidekick, Frankie, and how cool of a character that spindly-armed shit-talker is. And I’ve told you that this book is the comic book equivalent of the EVIL DEAD 2. It’s a great read. The black and white art is beautiful. The story is not heavy, but still entertaining. It is what it is – a gory, exciting romp with characters who don’t take too much seriously written and drawn by a creator who doesn’t take too much seriously.

Eric Powell seems like a humble guy. In the foreword of this trade, he almost apologizes for what unfolds in the rest of the book. He says that the art and the story of first mini are not up to snuff with what is going on in the current GOON series. This may be true, but it is still a hell of a lot of fun to read and above par with a lot of the other stuff out there on the racks today. In an industry full of egos the size of… uhm… Ego the Living Planet, it is refreshing to see this talented young creator grow from issue to issue, becoming confident with both his words and art, while staying down to earth enough to rip on his own stuff every now and again. Still, I think the guy is being hard on himself.

The stories and art are, in fact, pretty good. As we follow the Goon and Frankie through a gauntlet of drunk werewolves, giant reanimated gorilla-monsters, zombie gangsters, and poofy-shirted vampire fops, we also are witness to the evolution of a talented writer/artist. From issue one – where the Goon and Frankie take on Joey the Ball, a guy who has had a bowling ball stuck to his hand since he was a kid and now has one gigantic, over-developed arm, through issue number two where our pair of adventurers take on a hook-handed, Admiral Akbar-lookin’ sea beast, to issue three where we learn the secret origin of the Goon – the stories beco

Readers Talkback
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  • Oct. 28, 2004, 2:25 a.m. CST

    Montrous was Sammy Hagar's best band

    by Darth TJ Mackey

    "Rock Candy", "Bad Motor Scooter"...more on topic: lotta good info here, thanks y'all...

  • Oct. 28, 2004, 2:43 a.m. CST

    so when does what happened in IC worm its way into the Bat books

    by Tall_Boy

    I guess I answered my own question there, but hey, posting is fun.

  • Oct. 28, 2004, 2:44 a.m. CST

    oh yah, and Madrox rox madrox rockin roxs

    by Tall_Boy

    P.A.D. is G.O.D.

  • Oct. 28, 2004, 3:44 a.m. CST

    Rebirth?

    by Mr.FTW

    Hal Jordan comes back and not one of you guys talk about it? It's bad enought you didn't cover Kyle's last arc for a while. And what about events going on in the Flash or the insane monent between Supes and Bats? I know there is a ton of stuff to cover and you can't hit everything but you know what, screw all those weird/indy comics where no one wears a cape.

  • Oct. 28, 2004, 4:03 a.m. CST

    IC and the worm

    by Lukecash

    Probabbly not till January will the effects of IC will hit the bat books. DC is sort of overlaping time a bit. The new Firestorm series, which just hit issue #6 (I think)had it's orgin in this issue of IC. War Games, which takes place over a few days in Gotham, took 3 months to tell. IC wich is taken 7 months to tell, is only one week. As far as Rebirth, I hope that Kyle Ryner remains his own Green Lanter. He's a cool character that had a lot of support.

  • Oct. 28, 2004, 4:15 a.m. CST

    uzumaki movie b waxin' all the mad flavas...

    by Acne Scarface

    that is, it's da shitznit, err, it's tight, check it out. peace...

  • Oct. 28, 2004, 5:42 a.m. CST

    Madrox rocks

    by Peter Venkman

    Besides Astonishing X-Men, it is the best comic Marvel is putting out right now.

  • Oct. 28, 2004, 8:57 a.m. CST

    actually the eye

    by talbuckin

    is not japanese, sorry. More like Thai.

  • Oct. 28, 2004, 9:56 a.m. CST

    Another creepy comic

    by Lizzybeth

    The Coffin. Not so much with the scary, but very, very unsettling. *shudder*

  • Oct. 28, 2004, 9:57 a.m. CST

    "Hal Jordan comes back and not one of you guys talk about it?"

    by bizarromark

    Not to mention the fact they had a preview copy from Geoff Johns himself, so what the heck, guys? This week's Halloween-theme would have been the PERFECT time to review the book. Yeah, you "reviewed" it a few weeks ago, but due to DC's request that you not talk about anything in the issue, there (understandably) wasn't much to take away from it. As for the story itself, there's a nifty mystery brewing that coud be on par with the one in "Identity Crisis"...and without the raping and murdering of superhero relatives! I never question your choices for review topics, but this time you blew it, guys. Plain and simple.

  • Oct. 28, 2004, 10:05 a.m. CST

    Creepiest comic?

    by bizarromark

    I think the creepiest comic book I've read might be Swamp Thing #27. Created by the amazing Alan Moore/Bissette/Totleben team, this story featured a spooky little character called "The Monkey King". Add to that Moore's "upgrade" of the Demon speaking in verse. Countless writers since then have made the poetry angle painful to read, but Moore's genuine understanding of poetry and its subtle rhythms made this (then) new twist on the character a fascinating, chilling experience. Read this story and you'll never look at those cute little Spider Monkies at the zoo in quite the same way.

  • Oct. 28, 2004, 10:11 a.m. CST

    creepiest of them all

    by Fuzzyjefe

    Alan Moore's Swamp Thing. Nothing has come close since. The Monkey King, Arcane in Matt's body, Swampy in hell.......shivers baby.

  • Oct. 28, 2004, 10:15 a.m. CST

    Batman editors and writers: YOU SUCK.

    by riskebiz

    I officially hate all Batman titles now. Not only do they understand what makes a great Batman story ... or even what makes Bruce Wayne tick ... but they rely on cheap stunts and gimics and this "War Games" storyline takes the cake. They took the most interesting character in the whole Batman universe (today) and killed her off. The Spoiler is gone! Why? So Tim Drake can go off the deep end now that his Dad, girlfriend and school-crush are all dead within 2 months? Stephanie was the perfect foil for Robin and that comic only worked whenever she was in the issue. She couldn't have been a more interesting character and should have been treated better. I hope someone puts her in a Lazarus Pit immediately. That would be a Batman editor/writer gimic I could applaud. Otherwise ... congratulations. You pissed off and LOST a long-time Batman reader. I hope the gimic was worth it assholes.

  • Oct. 28, 2004, 10:16 a.m. CST

    Rebirth

    by Ambush Bug

    Boy o boy, you just can't please everyone can you. One of oour largest columns ever and you're all still clamoring for more. Never fret, Rebirth will probably be covered again in the next column, but since we already covered it two weeks ago and it didn't come out till yesterday, the @$$holes who didn't get the preview had to wait until it hit the stands. Ease off a bit, b-mark, and check out the books we DID review, not the ones we didn't. I'm sure every column has a book or two that you'd all like for us to focus on. The reality of the situation is that a whole lotta books come out and we're only a small group of reviewers. Plus these columns don't put themselves together instantly and unless you guys want to call in a few favors at MARVEL and DC and any other company for that matter for us, we have to wait right along with you guys to read the books as they come out. Wait a week, Rebirth will be covered. For now, chill, try a bit of patience, and check out the column at hand.

  • Oct. 28, 2004, 10:19 a.m. CST

    Gee... sure woulda been nice to have some new "Hellboy" comics t

    by TheWoodMan

    I guess Mignola's got better things to do... like sitting back and watching Del Toro make a mockery of his work in yet another unspeakably lame movie (if it's as bad as the first, even Bruce Campbell as Lobster Johnson won't be able to save it... and that's saying A LOT). Or perhaps pondering the "Amazing Screw-On Head" cartoon (pardon my cynicism, but it's for the Alleged Sci-Fi Channel, so I think it's safe to assume it'll suck). Anything but comics, apparently. Very unfortunate.

  • Oct. 28, 2004, 10:20 a.m. CST

    Hey bizarromark--

    by Fuzzyjefe

    How about that creepy vampire kid from the lake? "Nickeeeeeeeeee!"

  • Oct. 28, 2004, 10:21 a.m. CST

    NOT

    by riskebiz

    Not only do they NOT understand what makes a great Batman story ... or even what makes Bruce Wayne tick .. ______ sorry ______ NOT was omitted last time. Too busy with my rant to check on spelling and grammar and such.___________ Green Lantern Rebirth was just okay for a first issue. Nothing jaw dropping. My first thought was thinking that they dropped the ball with Jordan as the Spectre. There was a lot of cool things they could have done. AND ... I liked the Spectre comic with Jordan. What I miss is Norm Breyfogles great artwork. ... who was the great Batman artists of the 90's (along with Alan Grant as writer). Man ... I wish Grant and Breyfogle would return as writer/artist for Batman. Batman titles need them.

  • Oct. 28, 2004, 10:30 a.m. CST

    Ambush

    by bizarromark

    Hey Ambush...I completely understand how the column is put together each week. I know you guys can't write reviews of comics that come out the day before. However, my point was that you guys (or you specifically) *had* the entire issue of "Rebirth" #1....whether in printed or electronic form. Since I know you guys never get to have new comics in the column (for a whole constellation of valid reasons), I would have thought you'd have jumped at the opportunity to have a rare review of a comic book that came out the same week. Understand, I'm not losing sleep over this or miffed about it. Just recognizing that you had a golden opportunity to surf the perfect wave, but let it roll right by instead. Say, speaking of the "other @$$holes", you and Dave seem to be doing the lion's share of reviews these days. What gives?

  • Oct. 28, 2004, 10:39 a.m. CST

    I thought Nukeface was creepier than the Monkey King.

    by rev_skarekroe

    But that's just me.

  • Oct. 28, 2004, 10:44 a.m. CST

    The creepiest comic I read recently

    by mortsleam

    Was when Austen spent a whole issue talking about Angel and Husk's relationship. Eww.

  • Oct. 28, 2004, 11:43 a.m. CST

    I know it's been addressed already, Mark, but about GL:

    by SleazyG.

    Seeing and advance B&W copy a few weeks early is one thing. Seeing the finished, colored product is quite another, especially in this case--there were some nice touches to the coloring I really appreciated, believe it or not. Since we didn't have access to that until yesterday, like everybody else, it's just gonna wait a week. It's not a matter of "blowing it", really--it was just a matter of waiting to get the finished product in our hands. Heck, my local store didn't even get the usual one copy a week in advance to put up on the wall for REBIRTH, either because DC didn't want it spoiled or because of a random mishap, so I couldn't even convince my guy to let me flip through it at the store. Besides, we caught flack for reviewing it a couple weeks early; don't you think people would have also thrown us some shit for reviewing it a second time so close together? We can't please everybody. People forget we're buying the comics at the store and reading them at the same time as you, and that we're working inside of our own limited budgets. Last week people complained we covered to much mainstream stuff; this week, we covered too much indie. Sometimes we just can't win for losing with this stuff.

  • Oct. 28, 2004, 11:48 a.m. CST

    B-mark, what gives.

    by Ambush Bug

    Nothing really gives. The good thing about the @-holes is that, since we are a group, when some of us go on hiatus, the rest of us step up and take on more stuff. We just have a few of our regular reviewers on hiatus right now. It's kind of like an issue of the Avengers. Some issues you get Hawkeye, Cap, She-Hulk, and Scarlet Witch on an adventure. Others go with BLack Knight, THor, BLack Panther, and Ant Man. This column just featured Lizzy, Sleazy, Buzz, Corm and I is all. As for your Rebirth comments. I understand where you are coming from, but, to be honest, we were so busy whittling this column together, we just overlooked it. Too many comics, too little time. But since it came out this week, we're sure to cover it next time.

  • Oct. 28, 2004, 12:14 p.m. CST

    Always cute when X-Men fans toss around words like "faggot"...

    by Dave_F

    Talk about missing the theme of the comic...

  • Oct. 28, 2004, 12:17 p.m. CST

    Uzumaki

    by Ambush Bug

    I actually caught a little bit of this film on cable. The images of people twisted into spirals were enough to make my skin crawl. I'm definitely seeking this book out. Great suggestion, Corm. I didn't know that was the name of the movie or that it had been adapted to the screen until I read the review.

  • Oct. 28, 2004, 1:40 p.m. CST

    Hal Jordan, Hal Jordan, Hal Jordan, blah, blah, blah

    by Xandr37

    What?!?! Have you never read the reviews on this site before. They review the comics that came out last week, which means...tada the Green Lantern Rebirth will be dealt with next week. Which will be when I'm selling my copy on ebay for $20.

  • Oct. 28, 2004, 1:55 p.m. CST

    windsorsmith, thanks for the news flash

    by Homer Sexual

    Because, really, Bryan Singer is a "faggot?" None of us had ever heard this before. I am not even a fan of Bryan Singer, but thanks for the offensive subject line. On-topic, this is a snoozy bunch of reviews. I will, however, purchase Tomb of Dracula based on Dave's review. I almost bought it last week, but; a) I think Wolfman always mistreats his female characters b)it's b&w and I hate B&w comics. But if it's THAT good, I'll go out on a limb and buy it. Identity Crisis didn't deserve more than a cheap shot this month, and I will reserve judgment until the story ends, but this book is losing me and yet another "revised" Boomerang isn't thrilling. We'll see where all this ends, since an issue #2 peak, each successive issue has been lesser and I am hoping, but not expecting, a slam-bang ending.

  • Oct. 28, 2004, 2:11 p.m. CST

    "Talk about missing the theme of the comic.."

    by bizarromark

    Dave: I agree that gay people fall under the general theme of the X-Men comic book, but no more than any marginalized group of people, whether it be due to their race, sexual preference, religion or economic status. I think Stan and Jack's original aim was to emphasize the humanity and dignity of The Outcast, whomever he or she might be. In recent years, probably due to Singer's association with the movie, the X-Men gay-metaphor has been elevated to the forefront....which I argue is not the primary drift of X-Men societal symbolism. Just sayin'.

  • Oct. 28, 2004, 2:29 p.m. CST

    Xandr37, bad news:

    by SleazyG.

    You're not gonna make any money off your one issue. There are some really stupid Hal Jordan fans out there. They bitched for a decade to get him back, and now that they got him they're going back and buying 10 or 20 copies (or more) and falsely inflating the sales numbers. DC has already gone to reprint on REBIRTH #1, and there are a whole lot of idiots out there with 20 copies of it who are gonna try to sell them too when they don't need them next week. Not only is there gonna be a complete glut on the market for these things, but sooner or later these Jordan fans are gonna stop buying a dozen copies. When they do, the sales are gonna plummet, and DC is gonna look poorly on the results, which will be no fault of the creative team. It was an ill-conceived campaign destined to fail, and you're not gonna make any cash as a result. Sorry.

  • Oct. 28, 2004, 2:30 p.m. CST

    New issue of Planetary

    by Shigeru

    Did anybody else's brains melt out of their ears after they read #21 or am I just alone here??

  • Oct. 28, 2004, 3:18 p.m. CST

    Thanks for the tip SleazyG, but this isn't my first time

    by Xandr37

    ebay seems to be the gathering place for the misinformed. I've sold issues that were still available in the store for 10 times their original price.

  • Oct. 28, 2004, 3:47 p.m. CST

    I think I saw in Previews that Alan Moore's BOJEFFRIES SAGA is f

    by FrankDrebin

    It was a backup feature in DALGODA in the early 80's, and an issue or two of A1 in the 90's. Sidesplitting stuff about a working class family of monsters living in a public housing block outside London. Only lasted maybe six installments or so, but--needless to say--it was genius. Should have been on the shelves for Halloween.

  • Oct. 28, 2004, 4:03 p.m. CST

    The Goon

    by Thefuckingdevil

    Classic shit. Nuff said. Anyone know anything about this... www.houseofduza.com I've been seeing posters around town here in Philly. Something called Dead Bitch Army. Awesome cover (not sure who the artist is) and some pretty cool artwork in the gallery section, including a piece by Rich Larson whose Haunted House of Lingerie series was great fun. Anybody else heard of this? CW

  • Oct. 28, 2004, 4:38 p.m. CST

    Moore's Swamp Thing

    by lousypunk8

    "The Monkey King" was a great creepy comic, but honestly, I think my favorite "horror comic" from Moore's run was his first (err, maybe second issue?)- The Anatomy Lesson. It's almost fantastically creepy. I didn't really understand how a horror story could be told in a comic until i read that. And making Swamp Thing the monster in the story was just brilliant.

  • Oct. 28, 2004, 5:12 p.m. CST

    BM - marginalization

    by JonQuixote

    The fact that the X-MEN have lent themselves to various tolerance metaphors doesn't invalidate the fact that the lesson was obviously lost on Slurry McHomophobe here.

  • Oct. 28, 2004, 5:18 p.m. CST

    I Don't Like The Word "Faggot" And I Don't Like Seeing It Applie

    by Buzz Maverik

    Bryan Singer is a film director who came out of USC Film School at a time when the emphasis was on making movies that were just like whatever was a current hit when your picture got the green light. I don't know what they teach now, because I try to stay away from that world these days. So Singer's second film, which was a big hit, was an awful lot like RESERVOIR DOGS and you can bet that if RES DOGS hadn't been so big, Singer wouldn't have had any interest in USUAL SUSPECTS. His X-MEN was heavily influenced by the visuals of THE MATRIX. Don't bother posting to tell me it wasn't because people have wasted years of their lives telling me that it wasn't. Singer simply doesn't have much imagination but he knows how to sell himself, which is not altogether a bad thing if you want a career directing "Hollywood" movies. But clearly, he's no comic book fan. Again, that's not altogether a bad thing. I shudder at the thought of what Kevin Smith would do with a comic book property, although I think director/fan John Singleton might be able to pull it off. Singer didn't know jack about X-MEN. He wanted to show that he could handle larger budget, action pictures while boosting his profile and getting a nice paycheck. I applaud all that. Tim Burton didn't give a shit about BATMAN and Sam Raimi hadn't picked up a SPIDER-MAN comic since he was a kid. The difference is that Burton and Raimi were both visual directors more interested in making the films they were making than scoring their next jobs. They weren't AFRAID to go out on a limb visually, so they weren't AFRAID of comics. They didn't go to USC when Singer did. I think Raimi went to NYU and Burton went to CAL ARTS. Singer had the screenplay he was given and THE MATRIX would have been the big hit when he got the X-MEN greenlight. Don't give me budget shit because there's things he could have done. Throw out all those stupid mutant kids at the school and you've saved some bucks there for one thing. He was AFRAID to make Storm fly. Neo flew, but that was almost a throwaway in those days. The yellow spandex jokes were invented because Singer was AFRAID to try visually interesting costumes (and don't tell me about reality, because in reality, super-powered mutants don't battle each other on top of the Statue of Liberty either. If we had reality, it'd be a movie about a bunch of us jerks bitching on message boards). And there was no test of costumes. If they looked silly, the test would have been trotted out a billion times so people like me would shut the fuck up (kind of like how we get to see how bad William Katt would have been as Luke Skywalker, Cindy Williams as Princess Leia and Kurt Russell as Han Solo). X-MEN was Singer's audition for bigger and better things. He was AFRAID to risk looking silly, so he was AFRAID of being visually dynamic. And he was AFRAID of imagination. Burton didn't make the best film of all time and he played fast and loose with a shitload of Bat mythos, but what we saw came from his imagination. And Burton is, to this day, secure enough to say, "I don't really know anything about comic books. I don't read 'em, I just make the movies." Raimi did his research and he's geeky enough to get many things right. Clearly, with his filmography, Raimi isn't a guy who is motivated by fear "And then, the guy's hand starts chasing him around the cabin and at one point, it gives him the finger". So that's why Bryan Singer sucks. Not because he's gay. And the word is "gay". I admire him for being open about who he is, especially when he's making comic book movies because fanboys aren't the most secure guys when it comes to their masculinity. Sorry to break it to you, but most of the movies and T.V. you see have a lot of gay people involved in the production, often at high levels. Take gay people out of the entertainment industry and I'll bet there'd be about 2/3 less films and T.V. out there. Probably the same for novels and...*gasp* maybe even comics. I fail to see how whom somebody wants to get it on with has anything to do with their films. Anybody ever take a meeting in Hollywood? Nothing ever came of it, so I'm not bragging, but I took a couple of meetings...with Bryan Singer's less talented classmates. I'm not going to tell you who they were, so don't ask. They were real BOWFINGER/Gene Hackman in GET SHORTY types. Fringe dwellers, which is okay because I couldn't even get near the fringe. But to show you how inside they were, the first thing they want to tell you is who is gay. Apparently, in the film industry, everyone is gay. I'm going, "Okay, now how are you going to pay me for figuring out how to get Fading Action Star (gay) from point A to point B? And what about the stupid screenplay you wanted to me rewrite last week? And what about the stupid screenplay that I gave your D-slut?" Personally, there are some gay guys whom I'd rather hang out with than straight guys. I know last weekend, my wife (I mention my wife so you homophobes will know that I'm not gay) said, "Buzz, we have two dinner invitations. My friend with the racist homophobic husband who will spend all evening telling you stupid jokes and talking about the size of his motorcycle engine. Or my friend Albert and his partner Alfred." I said, "Albert and Alfred because Alfred doesn't even own a motorcycle and I can argue with him about movies."

  • Oct. 28, 2004, 5:36 p.m. CST

    Also, I Too Gotta Disagree With BizzarroMark About X-MEN Subtext

    by Buzz Maverik

    I don't think it's because of Singer and if it is, well, that's a good thing Singer's done. I think Lee and Kirby's original motivation was that THEY GREW UP IN THE DEPRESSION AND WERE GLAD TO BE THE HELL OUT OF THE TENEMENTS AND LIVING IN LEVITT TOWN OR WHATEVER SUBURB AND WANTED TO MAKE SURE THEIR KIDS NEVER HAD TO LIVE IN THE TENEMENTS. The oppression themes started soon thereafter and subsequent writers, artists and editors added to them. Honestly, most of all, I think that the X-MEN stand for the fanboy...Now, this part isn't really addressed to BizzarroMark, but I have to say that what I always see the people missing when they say, "Buzz, you don't understand X-MEN because way back in the old days, it was about oppression, and alienation and angst" is that all that was SUB-FUCKING-TEXT, at least in early Claremont/Cockrum/Byrne days and certainly in Lee/Kirby and Steranko, Thomas/Adams days. Yeah, it was there, but it was subtle. Mostly, you had battles aboard Asteroid M, giant robots trashing the apartments of green haired babes, slugfests with alien hordes, threats to the Savage Land, etc. I know. I bought every copy of ALL NEW, ALL DIFFERENT X-MEN from GIANT SIZED # 1 up until Claremont got fired the first time. Right off the stands, usually the day it was published. And later, one way or another, I read all the Lee/Kirby/Thomas/Steranko/Adams stuff. That's doesn't make me think I'm any better than anybody else (I think that for other reasons; Simpson's comic book guy would think he was better than others because of the comics he read)but it means that I know we weren't hit over the head with the "themes" in the old comics.

  • Oct. 28, 2004, 6:47 p.m. CST

    Buzz, you da man in many ways

    by Homer Sexual

    For one thing, you explained why Bryan Singer, who seems to be talented, isn't a very good director and I learned a lot from that. For another thing, your defense of gays in the industry is right on! But I am a tad conflicted because the bf and I are both bikers as well as movie buffs (but we never discuss the size of our engines).

  • Oct. 28, 2004, 7:37 p.m. CST

    Judge Dredd

    by El_Barstardo

    Have any of the DC Judge Dredd TPB come out yet?

  • Oct. 28, 2004, 8:05 p.m. CST

    re: windsorsmith

    by beamish13

    Hate Singer for valid reasons. Don't spew homophobic bullshit that has no bearing on the guy's artistic output whatsoever

  • Oct. 28, 2004, 9:22 p.m. CST

    question for Dave (well, all of you) a question for Buzz

    by sideshowbob

    I notice you (Dave in particular) frequently lament the loss of innonce and fun in superhero comics, as they become more and more cynical, self-aware, and "realistic". So I was wondering: are any of you reading Waid/Weiringo's Fantastic Four? This past arc has chock full of "holy shit!" moments and enough whiz-bang cosmic hoo-hah to make Kirby smile down from the heavens. I've been liking this creative run for a while, and noticed lately that it's somehow become one of the few I really look forward to every month. It's got a real sense of danger, of humor, of ideas, and of the unexpected that reminds me why I started liking these things all those years ago. Was kind of surprised not to see a review this week, but I'm not complaining. *** Other than that, I don't have much to say, between the f'ed-up talkback order, the Red Sox-related hangover, and the fact that you didn't review much of interest to me. Horror comics just arent my bag, even though horror films/video games definitely are, I guess for reasons Ambush even said in his review. Though that Tomb of Dracula sounds mighty cool, and God, I really miss artwork like they had in the mid-70s (before my time, but still). But one question/gripe with the review: if you were a new reader looking to buy ONE essential tomb of dracula volume, which would it be?

  • Oct. 29, 2004, 1:34 a.m. CST

    All's I know about IDENTITY CRISIS is...

    by Dave_F

    SPOILER WARNING!!! . . . . . . . . . . . . . Okay, I don't give a pair of Robin Elf Boots about Tim Drake's dad getting cacked, but I'm pissed as hell that Meltzer, that schlocky tourist of a comic book writer, got to kill the great Captain Boomering. Think I'm kidding? Nuh-uh. The vastly underrated John Ostrander did brilliant stuff with the character throughout the run of his cult DC title, THE SUICIDE SQUAD, in the late '80s. In a comic that frequently touched on issues of redemption, Boomerang was the one sleaze-bag you knew would never go straight, never look out for anyone but himself. He was a relentless watchable bastard, and as such, truly a villain readers loved to hate. So, yeah, I'm getting a little tired of these celeb-writers like Meltzer and Kevin Smith coming in and offing major (or even minor) characters in their debuts. Smith, of course, killed Daredevil's longstanding girlfriend in his first story. You remember her, right? Her redemption and survival was only the ENTIRE FUCKING POINT of the best DD story ever ("Born Again"). And Meltzer...Jesus, this boy's treating the DCU like his own personal FACES OF DEATH movie. Way I figure it, these guys shouldn't be allowed those kinds of options until they've had to struggle like other writers to, y'know, actually create something first. 'Cause guess what? Making death dramatic might not be easy, but it's not the hardest thing in the world either. And it can even be pretty cheap. Pretty hacky. Meltzer's got some writing chops, I'll give him that - it's just a shame he's using 'em in service to a shock-driven story. Call me when the man actually *creates* something. Note: said creation must be more substantial than Captain Boomerang Jr. . . . . . . . . . . . END SPOILERS, END RANT.

  • Oct. 29, 2004, 1:47 a.m. CST

    Homer, RE: TOMB O' DRAC

    by Dave_F

    It was actually *Buzz* who reviewed that one, not me, but I definitely give it my endorsement too. I grew up reading my bro's copies of the series and loved it - especially the fact that it was finite and had a satisfying resolve that made it all seem a little more meaningful. As for the black and white art, I suspect that if you groove on Gene Colan's art at all, you'll find his work translates better to that aesthetic than just about anyone else's. He and inker Tom Palmer were just on fire with all the shadowy realism, and besides, black and white's traditionally a good fit for horror anyway. The one criticism I have with the book is something that's really not anyone's fault, and it's one of the same criticisms I had with ESSENTIAL MONSTER OF FRANKENSTEIN and with, well, most of the ESSENTIALS: the writers of the '60s and '70s could never have imagined their stories being bound and collected in those days. As such, there's always a degree of repetition to them and reading a number of the stories in one sitting, though they're all of one continuity, can be a little maddening. Definite danger of burn-out. So I say read five issues a week, ending on a cliffhanger if possible, and make the classic stuff laaaast a bit.

  • Oct. 29, 2004, 2:11 a.m. CST

    I Would Have Reviewed Hal Jordan Coming Back As Green Lantern...

    by Buzz Maverik

    ...except that I don't give a crap about Hal Jordan coming back as Green Lantern.

  • Oct. 29, 2004, 2:20 a.m. CST

    Sideshow, I hate Mark Waid and all he stands for.

    by Dave_F

    Or maybe that's overstating it. I'm no fan, though. I thought EMPIRE's brand of Machiavellian evil was schlocky and corny, found KINGDOM COME inappropriately pretentious ("And lo, The Heavens Did Part...for Captain Marvel! You know, the guy who pals around with a giant, talking tiger!"), and as for JLA: YEAR ONE...hmm, I kinda remember liking that outing; maybe I need to re-read it! And, in fact, I *was* quite the fan of his FF run when it began (gave it one or two glowing reviews), but I soured on it within maybe a year or so. Long story short, I don't like his darker entries in the run (the FF's torture, Franklin in hell, Reed goes nutso, etc), ultimately felt he got Doom's personality wrong, had mixed feelings about Wieringo's art (slick, but too "friendly" in its Disneyness), and his humor's a little grating. I can see the merits, though, or at least understand what everyone *else* is seeing. Just at the moment, though, there's nary a single superhero book that really appeals to me. SHE-HULK comes to mind, and ASTONISHING X-MEN. ADAM STRANGE, definitely. What else? That's about it, unless you count oddballs like SLEEPER, FALLEN ANGEL, and GOTHAM CENTRAL. So expect my superhero review output to drop off sharply in the weeks to come. And learn to love pitches for manga and weird shit! ******* As an aside, Sideshow, my video game playage has declined sharply in recent years, but I've certainly had fun with games like RESIDENT EVIL and SILENT HILL in the past - were those the kinds of horror games you were talking about?

  • Oct. 29, 2004, 2:35 a.m. CST

    Zeekade, have you read Ito's GYO?

    by Dave_F

    I'll agree that horror is a hard sell in comics, but to some degree I think that reflects the fact that creators haven't experimented enough with the mechanics of making it work. I think the Japanese are making distinct progress with their cinema-infused outings, though. Some of the opening scenes in Ito's UZUMAKI follow-up, GYO, for instance, actually gave me chills. I'm thinking of those scenes where the boyfriend is chasing that weird, scuttling shape around the apartment, and there would be, say, a progression of three panels focusing on a shadowy patch behind a desk where he thinks it *might* be hiding. And the first two panels might be almost repeated - just a focus on the crosshatched patch of darkness(inviting the viewer to strain to see if anything's changes), but in the third...ah!...you notice that the shadow bulges *just a little*, and it's chilling. By controlling the pacing and allowing for some near-repetition, Ito creates a visceral sense of being there, squinting your eyes alongside the protagonist. Of course, with comics the viewer runs the risk of accidentally taking in a page as a whole before reading it and glimpsing the big reveals, but I thought Ito controlled that insanely well in GYO, revealing only small shocks in his moment-to-moment scenes and saving the big shockers for when the viewer actually turns the page. When he's "on", the viewer's so drawn into just moving his eye from one panel the next that the danger of seeing too much is minimized and those page-flip shockers can really have an impact. Unfortunately, once GYO gets up and running it becomes more of a gross-out comic with an air of morbidity, but it loses a lot of its jump-scare scenes. Still good, though, and the best sign of the *possibilities* that are open.

  • Oct. 29, 2004, 8:41 a.m. CST

    Buzz, when it comes to the X-Men movie you're a lone voice cryin

    by rev_skarekroe

    But I'm with you on the gay thing. I can just imagine that guy sitting there watching "X-Men" and saying "Bryan Singer is gay... Ian McKellan is gay... Hugh Jackman likes musical theatre... I'm going to catch the gay just watching this movie! Thank God we've got Bush in the White House! I hear that Kerry wants to give queers the right to vote!"

  • Oct. 29, 2004, 8:49 a.m. CST

    Response to Dave on Waid/IC, wherever this falls in the talkback

    by sideshowbob

    Yeah, I can see some of your points with the Waid/Weiringo run (and I just bought Kingdom Come--thanks for deflating my hopes). I think if you're going to take the FF down some dark roads, Weiringo is not the artist you want along. This most recent arc simply caught me off guard as to how much I'm enjoying it. Aside from FF I actually agree with you 100% on the 3 titles you listed as the only really good superhero books right now, though I am close to adding Millar/JRJr's Wolverine to that list (who knew?), and would add Daredevil if I considered it a superhero book anymore. But please don't push yo' manga on me: I'm not buying it, despite the fact that my favorite horror video games are the ultra-Japanese Fatal Frame series (tho Resident Evil and Silent Hill are good too), and I've got a stack of bootlegged Japanese DVDs sitting right here. Yep, I'm one of those *those guys* when it comes to manga. ****** Also agree with you on some of Identity Crisis's shortcomings, though I'm not so fervent about it as long as it's being told well. Suicide Squad was the only DC title I bought in the 80s, aside from JLA/JLE, and I loved Boomerang too but I don't care that he died (was surprised he was still alive, truth be told). What is annoying is that Meltzer was doing such a great job making him interesting and fleshing him out, and then offed him. Just like he did with Ralph & Sue's relationship in the first issue. I guess if you want to know who he kills next, look for which B-level character he's made compelling. It's a shame too, because it's much harder for a new writer to breathe new life into a tired old character than it is for him to off an old character, and Meltzer appears to have with the latter route when he was so close to achieving the former.

  • Oct. 29, 2004, 12:22 p.m. CST

    'Did anybody else's brains melt after they read Planetary #21?'

    by Lizzybeth

    Oh yes. The expression on Snow's face at the end of the issue just kills me. I've never seen him nearly so disturbed. Damn, Cassaday is good. On another note, I'm positive that many comics fans would be shocked at how many gay writers and artists make their favorite comics (and I'm talking Marvel and DC high-profile supertights here, folks). Sort of an open secret in the industry.

  • Oct. 29, 2004, 2:30 p.m. CST

    Response to Moviemack

    by riskebiz

    I do like the Spoiler. She has been the only good thing in the Bat-universe in a long while (though Brubaker/Rucka's work up to and including the issue where Sarah Gordon gets killed by the Joker was the best single issue of any Batman comic since the introduction of Tim Drake's Robin), but that was a while ago now). I will say this: I liked Spoiler best in the Robin comic and that was the place for her. With all her problems and background, she made for an interesting character .... especially since the writers and editors have gotten the characterization on all the other characters completely screwed up. Robin, as a comic, has sucked for a long while and only got good when Steph became Tim's girlfriend. It made for an interesting dynamic (I suppose we'll go back to the high school girlfriend of the moment ... yawn ... you KNOW it's going to happen). Granted, I normally really don't like romance in hero comics, I have "Strangers In Paradise" for that kind of stuff, but it worked in the Robin comic and it was beginning to work in Nightwing when Dick and Barbara Gordon finally had hooked up, too. That was a great moment and I have no idea why the editors/writers insisted on breaking up that relationship. To me, it read like "Well we don't know what to do with these characters, so let's break them up and hope that stirs something up." I will say that I HATE any time Bruce Wayne hooks up with whatever PC-friendly girlfriend the editors hook him up with. The doctor love-interest when his back was broke about took the cake. The female security guard that took a liking to him when he was accused of murder was sort of interesting (but they stopped that storyline cold) .... but what blows in all of it is the characterization of Bruce Wayne during these moments ... NONE of these writers get him as a character. But Alan Grant did and so did Denny O'Neil. Truly, the only book in the Bat-universe that is any good at all ... and in fact it is terrific ... is Gotham Central. If they applied that kind of storytelling to Batman, it would be something. That way they wouldn't have to get stunt creative teams like Loeb and Lee and Brian Azzerello to do a short run and they wouldn't have to rely on stunt devices like killing off the Spoiler. She was fun in her place and the only well written character in Batman. I think it says a lot when someone gets annoyed when a minor character like the Spoiler gets killed off because there isn't any character remotely used as effectively to replace her in the books. It's sad when the Spoiler is one of the few redeeming qualites of Batman these days. I'd like Alan Grant for a long spell again. If he had Norm Breyfogle doing the art, it would be a welcome respite.

  • Oct. 29, 2004, 10:26 p.m. CST

    Thanks for the mad props re Gene Colan and Mike Ploog...

    by Johnny Ahab

    I was a crazed Marvelite in the 70s, and got hooked via their horror line as a 5th grader, crossing over into superheroes shortly thereafter. While you always hear Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko praised to the heavens, you hear nothing about other artists and my fave was Gene Colan. Daredevil was in a crappy rut in the 70s, but I snapped up most of Colan's incredibly cinematographic run from the 60s, and it is just stellar stuff. Nobody does mood or movement or lighting better, and to me, he was an unsung artist of the 60s/70s era there. Also loved the short-lived career of Mike Ploog. Had most of his issues of Werewolf by Night, Frankenstein and Man-Thing, and his art was wonderfully skewed, creepy and original. Thanks for recognizing these artists' huge talents, which you don't hear much about when top artists are debated.

  • Oct. 30, 2004, 3:53 a.m. CST

    no mention of Romero's comic??

    by Dr Farragammo

    Why no mention of George Romero's Toe Tags for DC on halloween?!? Shit, talk about being behind on the 8 balls. It's seriously fucking cool. IC continues to blow me away. Also people buy Bloodhound & Human Target. These are some seriously cool comics that deserve a wider audience.

  • Oct. 30, 2004, 3:59 p.m. CST

    Moviemack, I'm there with ya on the Jordan thing.

    by SleazyG.

    I understand why fans were upset he went apeshit. I also understand that it was 12 years ago. A lot of writers, especially Ron Marz and Grant Morrison, busted their asses to make sure Kyle Rayner had an arc where he started out an insecure nobody and ended up growing into one hell of a GL. The Bitchy McWhinersons of the world (who included names like Alex Ross) insisted that since they read Hal in the 70's, he was the One True Green Lantern. Horseshit. So much for Alan Scott, huh? Or Kyle? Or John Stewart? If the stories being told and the arc of the character were good (which a lot of us think they were), just enjoy the stories already. I get they grew up reading Hal. I also get, though, that a lot of people grew up reading a dozen years of Kyle stories, and just had the guy kicked to the curb because some people just couldn't move on. Once Hal went bad and then redeemed himself in FINAL NIGHT, we never shoulda heard from him again. Done. Period. But no, hal fans had to keep it up until he came back as The Spectre (which simultaneously dishonored two different classic characters) as a way to eventually put him back in uniform. All that said, though: if there's anybody I trust to do all the characters justice (including Kyle) and actually turn this decision into something worthwhile, it's Geoff Johns working with Pete Tomasi as editor. They're good people who respect and care about these characters. I never really wanted Hal back, but if it has to happen, these are pretty much the ideal circumstances. They're not gonna screw over Kyle or Guy or anybody else. It went from a project I never wanted to see happen to one I was looking forward to, and that's pretty impressive.