Howdy folks, welcome to AICN Comics! Ambush Bug here, proudly presenting…
That’s right, our very own Buzz Maverik worked double-triple-dipple overtime this week to provide you with an @$$load of reviews. Sleazy G pops in for a peek at the new Morrison book and I Cheap Shot every little thing under the sun in the end, but for the most part, this week’s column belongs to Buzz. Check out this week’s pull and enjoy the Buzz!
(Click title to go directly to the review)
BLACK PANTHER #1
THE TWILIGHT EXPERIMENT #1
SHANNA THE SHE-DEVIL #1
DAREDEVIL: REDEMPTION #1
BLACK PANTHER # 1
Written by Reginald Hudlin
Art by John Romita Jr. & Klaus Janson
Pulbished by Marvel
Reviewed by Buzz Maverik
I'm beginning to worry that I'm not White enough. I lack ...well, it wouldn't be street cred. What would it be? Country Club cred?
Nothing about BLACK PANTHER # 1 pissed me off. Everybody else who has reviewed this book seems to be a little pissed off that a WW II Panther defeated Captain America. Hey, Captain America gets beat sometimes, ya know? Marvel heroes sometimes lose. DC guys, too, now. If it makes you feel better, my fellow people of no-color, tell yourself that Cap probably just got his job, was still wearing his trainee badge, and this Panther was T'Chaka in his prime.
Also, I didn't mind Mr. Hudlin's Bush administration parody because I happen to feel that the Bush administration is a parody. It just seems that if I had the right degree of Whiteness, this stuff would bug me.
The only thing that really bugged me was this Nu Marvel thing of nobody knowing the Black Panther. Hel-lo! Black Panther! Avenger! Saved the world! Daredevil's buddy! You know, the Black Panther.
I missed most of Priest's now classic PANTHER run. Read one issue and thought it was really good. Many, many people I know are crazy about the Priest version.
Me, I came aboard way back in JUNGLE ACTION STARRING THE BLACK PANTHER, which was the first of the super-arcs with the two year long "Panther's Rage". A guy named Erik Killmonger was trying to conquer Wakanda with the help of dinosaurs, the original Venom, the original Malice, and this weird little thing called King Cadaver. He also had a couple of cool foot soldiers named Tayete and Kazabe who kept calling T'Challa "Panther Devil." T'Challa would always tell them to stop calling him "Panther Devil" and then would proceed to step on their heads. This storyline was written by a guy named Don McGregor who always filled up his comics with dozens of dense captions. McGregor also wrote a lot of LUKE CAGE, POWER MAN so I assumed he was Black for a long time. I know the artist, Billy Graham, was Black. His cool Marvel Bullpen name was "The Irreverent" Billy Graham. For me, even though I later learned that Jack Kirby created the Panther, Graham will always be the definitive Panther artist. His art, even more than McGregor's writing, made T'Challa one of what I call the "grown men" of the Marvel Universe, the others being Daredevil and Iron Man. Those three seemed like the kind of adult I aspired to be, with cool jobs, cool hobbies (superheroing), and cool chicks.
Now, the issue at hand. Mr. Hudlin gives us a look at Black Panthers, the guardians of the nation of Wakanda, through the ages. It's pretty cool, although it's mostly how others view the Panther. I am interested in how our Panther, T'Challa, views himself and others.
This issue contains some of the finest JR Jr. art I've seen to date, and his art is usually damned fine! It looks like a movie storyboard. Maybe it's because the book, as we all know, is scripted by the director of HOUSE PARTY and BOOMERANG. There's a lot of motion in these panels. Somebody may have been studying the best of manga and it shows.
I've always dug the Panther. Cool costume. Cool powers. A cool life. We haven't done our Casting Couch feature in a long time. Wesley Snipes has long talked about playing T'Challa. A few of my friends say Djimon Hounsou...well, they type it because I don't think they can pronounce it. A few years ago, I would have said Mr. Hudlin's BOOMERANG star, Eddie Murphy, who sort of played T'Challa in COMING TO AMERICA. Who knows? Eddie can't be much older than Snipes. Get him in the weight room, into his action hero mode... Get his COMING TO AMERICA rival Eric La Salle to grow his jeri-curl mullet back and don some spikes and you've got Killmonger. It'd beat the shit out of THE HULK, THE PUNISHER, DAREDEVIL or ELEKTRA.
Damn, this White thing is just too much work.
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Philip Bond
Publisher: Vertigo/DC Comics
Reviewer: Sleazy G
There’s been some discussion in the reviews and talkbacks lately about Grant Morrison and his writing style. I’ve always liked his work. Sure, not everything he does is perfect. He’s had some slip-ups here and there. It’s never been for lack of trying, though. Any time Morrison’s failed, it’s been a noble one where he was trying to accomplish something new and push the boundaries of what’s possible. His work from ANIMAL MAN through to FLEX MENTALLO and THE INVISIBLES has always been an intelligent blend of traditional superheroing and ideas incorporated from other media, not to mention his own cracked but intriguing psyche. THE FILTH suffered from a slightly weak finish, but I have a lot of respect for it as it comes off as the most coherent distillation of a lot of Morrison’s big ideas to date.
There’s that whole other side of Morrison’s writing, though—the crazy, over the top, blockbuster side. He’s been infatuated for a while with the concept of pop comics that restore a lot of the color, imagination and hope of the comics everybody grew up reading. That’s what he was doing in his JLA run, as well as the just-ended story in JLA: CLASSIFIED. Sure, it was a little short on characterization, but that wasn’t the point of the story. It was supposed to be a big, fun, loud, flashy ride, and it pulled that off pretty well. It also serves as an indicator for what he’s got coming in the near future at DC.
Before he moves on to all of his big new projects, though, he has one more Vertigo miniseries to wrap up. After the recent end of WE3, we’re now seeing the start of the last of those series, VIMANARAMA. The first issue is interesting in that it seems to be a hybrid of the style of a lot of Vertigo books and the big, fun DCU stuff he’s working on. It feels like a bridge between some of his Vertigo-style work and the much brighter mainstream material that’s fast approaching.
The story takes place in Bradford, but with my somewhat limited knowledge of the UK I couldn’t begin to tell you where that is. It follows a young Indian guy named Ali whose family runs a local convenience store. Ali’s father has selected a bride for him and he’s due to meet Sofia for the first time in a matter of hours. When the floor caves in at the family store, he goes down to help his brother Omar and run him to the hospital. While Ali is gone, his baby nephew Imran goes missing, and it’s up to Ali to find him. Imran seems to have wandered off into the hole that opened up beneath the store, so Ali follows him (and Sofia, who he’s not met yet) into the opening. He ends up in an abandoned train tunnel where he finds some strange markings and bumps into Sofia. The two of them then stumble across a mysterious cave with huge columns and a cable-less elevator car that drops them through a pool of black water and into a giant underground city that is half Taj Mahal/half alien technology. And then things get a little weird.
It turns out that Imram’s toys were somehow possessed by demons, and lead him farther into the city where he accidentally unleashes them. The demons decide, as demons tend to do, that they want to eradicate all human life on the planet and quickly blow town in their flying ships, some of which look kinda like glowing shrimp. Fortunately Ali, Sofia and Imran also unleash the good guys. The Ultrahadeen are sworn enemies of the unleashed demons, so they oughta be able to clean things up, but they make Ali’s life just that much harder: apparently Sofia is the millennia-old love of the leader of the Ultrahadeen, Prince Ben Rama, but she only remembers him in her dreams.
Philip Bond’s art is fantastic. It’s very clean and detailed. He has an ability to fill in details from panel to panel that serve not just to illustrate the dialogue, but also to flesh out the story and add extra dimensions to the characters and events. The designs for the underground city, the demons, and the Ultrahadeen are strongly based in traditional Indian architecture and art, but Bond has spiked the images with a strong sci-fi slant as well. The cross between the ancient and the futuristic make for a great set of visuals. Brian Miller’s coloring is also a major player here. The palette and style used in the first ten pages, set in the real world, are completely distinct from the coloring utilized once Ali and Sofia enter the strange world under the convenience store. It draws a clear dividing line between the life Ali used to lead and the journey he’s about to embark on and makes Bond’s work really sing.
There’s also a laidback, pleasant sense of humor in this series the likes of which I’m not used to seeing in a Grant Morrison title. It’s actually pretty refreshing to see characters that are a little less cynical, edgy, and cocky than the ones that usually turn up in his stories. There’s also a hint of the culture clash between Old Country and New World. Each ethnic group encounters its own unique problems, but it’s a familiar enough issue to be relatable to anybody who reads the story. This looks to be the most accessible and lighthearted of the recent miniseries Morrison has worked on, and it seems like it’ll be fun enough to make it worth picking up.
THE TWILIGHT EXPERIMENT # 1
Written by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti
Art by Juan Santacruz
Published by Wildstorm / DC
Reviewed by Buzz Maverik
Normally, the books the Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti have a hand in as writers/co-writers/artist/ inker/ hula dancers always knock my brains out. My psychotically rave review was either quoted in an ad or on the back of the first trade for their brilliant 21 DOWN, although it just said AICN Comics. When the PREVIEWS ad for REX MUNDI quoted me, they said, "Buzz Maverik." I can't remember whether that added "AICN Comics" or our former "AICN Comics Talkback League of @$$holes" which used to be our "Donna" names. Maybe the 21 DOWN people didn't believe that Buzz Maverik is my real name. Hey, do you think Dick Cheney is that guy's real name?
I probably won't get quoted for this review, which should prove that we're not just a bunch of frustrated comic book pros. If I was a comic book wanna be, I'd kiss everyone's ass. I used to be a filmmaking wannabe, and would have kissed producer or agent ass. Now, I'm a novelist wannabe and will kiss publisher, editor, literary agent ass. Comics are just the hobby that I love.
If they wanted to quote me, I guess they could do what they do with film ads and say: ...the books that Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti have a hand in ... knock my brains out ...brilliant ... love. I have an ego the size of an International Harvester CXT 4x4 and would like to see my name and our group's name somewhere.
It's not that I hated the book. I rather liked it. It just seemed about 8 years out of date. It sort of fell into that KINGDOM COME superheroes are real and effect their world genre. Not a bad genre, but I'm looking for something else. We have a Phoenix/Starfire type babe battling a Wylie over a city. People die. People grow up to mourn the dead. Our heroine keeps her son on a space station and neglects him.
The coolest angle is one of time. You'll see. I think I know whom everyone is, but I'm usually wrong about these kind of things.
Artist Juan Santacruz is a find.
There's nothing wrong with any of this stuff. I have no clear idea why, but I'm sorta "Eh" on the whole thing.
SHANNA THE SHE-DEVIL # 1
Writer & Artist Frank Cho
Published by Marvel
Reviewed by Buzz The Me-Devil
Shanna is a punk rocker, Shanna is a punk rocker, Shanna is a punk rocker now.
Alright! Jungle girl comics! A great funny book tradition dating back to SHEENA, QUEEN O' THE JUNGLE which was immortalized in film by former CHARLIE'S ANGEL/THAT 70'S SHOW mom Tanya Roberts riding a horse painted to look like a zebra.
The appeal of jungle girl comics is easy to see, if you're a straight dude (and there's probably a camp value if you're a gay dude). Scantily clad (or unclad in the 21st Century) babe running around in a comic book. Works for me.
Marvel's original version of SHANNA THE SHE-DEVIL was before my time. And I wasn't really reading comics in that part of the '80s where Shanna married Ka-Zar and helped him do whatever he did in the Savage Land. All I really know about Shanna is from THE OFFICIAL HANDBOOK OF THE MARVEL UNIVERSE. She was supposed to be some sort of doctor or scientist, don't ask me, I hate research.
In Frank Cho's new, beautifully illustrated SHANNA series, there's some sort of Nazi connection. Probably one of those hidden bases that Hitler had under the North Pole where he kept all his flying saucers. In this issue, we have those sci-fi liquid filled tubes full of clones. Ya gotta have those. Especially when there's a naked blonde shiksa floating around in one.
In one of the truly stupidest acts I've seen in comics, one of the military men who discovers this base, shoots Shanna's tube. He could have killed her. The good thing is, I have a feeling that Frank Cho is writing this guy stupid on purpose. With a lot of writers, you'd have to worry. Let's just say that when Shanna falls out of her shattered tube, you'll envy the "Doc" character...if yer a guy and straight.
The rest of the issue. Cho must be a Spielberg fan because we get homages to JURASSIC PARK and JAWS. By homages, I mean rip offs that we're meant to recognize. Some ALIENS, right down to the dialogue ("Stay frosty") is thrown in. I liked the comic tons, but I'm sick of homages. Do something new!
This is a fun book. An excellent book. A book filled with truly exceptional artwork. We've got naked jungle babes, dinosaurs, hidden Nazi bases, and an idiot running a military unit. No Ka-Zar in sight, but I never really dug Ka-Zar -- in the Stoned Age, the dudes always called him, get this, K-Mart.
So knock yerself out. BTW, in addition to Mr. Cho's gorgeous cover with Shanna and her bagonzas, I have to say the logo had some of the coolest lettering that I've seen since...well, the Stoned Age.
MORA # 1
Written & illustrated by Paul Harmon
Published by Image
Reviewed by Buzz Maverik
I cannot help but support somebody who truly believes in what they are doing. How can I not get behind someone with such passion in their work; somebody who is doing it for the love of it?
Paul Harmon, creator of the new Image comic MORA, is clearly a true believer.
MORA may remind you somewhat of the works of Alan Moore...or, more appropriately, Neil Gaiman. It had that SANDMAN and CORALINE vibe. The storyline is not easy to lay out. We're following the parallel lives of two little girls, Mora and Anandra. We're also following the growth of a monster lion cub. And we are presented with Tarot-like images of the Snake, the Bat, the Wolf, and the Witch. A MIDSUMMER'S NIGHT DREAM cast of fairy folk and goblins pop up in the background. And it's all narrated by the Tortoise and the Rabbit (not the Hare?).
Mora's parents, who are up to some mysterious business, neglect her. She turns to communicating with supernatural things that initially come in the forms of small animals. Some are benign. Some are not.
Mr. Harmon is a gifted artist. His black and white pages are alternately scary and whimsical. Our storytellers may be animals from AESOP'S FABLES, but they are scarred, bizarre, and vaguely creepy. In the art and the story, Harmon's delving into mythology and folklore that are apparent but never overpowering. He's done his research but he's showing us the product, not the research itself.
Mood is very important in this comic. Harmon has even included a poem called WITCH that is filled with evocative imagery.
Room for improvement? Always. Too much Tortoise and Rabbit. I hope that in future issues, their roles will be cut back. Also, I had a hard time distinguishing Anandra from Mora. I think that may have something to do with parallel lives, duality, etc., but simply from a visual standpoint, it was distracting.
I think the main reason I feel Mr. Harmon is the real thing and very cool is that he included photos of the gray markers he used to color the book and the brush pens that he used to ink his pencils. How's that for a true believer?
DAREDEVIL : REDEMPTION # 1
Written by David Hine
Art by Michael Gaydos
Published by Marvel
Reviewed by Buzz Maverik
Dear Future Comic Book Writer,
Congratulations! You will one day take over the scripting chores for the Marvel comic book DAREDEVIL. No doubt you are familiar with the title and avidly follow the current stellar run by Brian Michael Bendis. You've also read the various trades collecting Frank Miller's work. You've devoured other back issues and trades by the likes of Stan Lee, Gene Colan, Denny O'Neil, David Mazzuchelli, Ann Nocenti, John Romita Jr., and others. Recently, you have picked up DAREDEVIL: REDEMPTION # 1 written by David Hine with flawless art by Michael Gaydos. More on that one later.
I'm asking you, one fan to another, to consider why and when DAREDEVIL ceased to be any fun at all. Why do the publishers, editors, writers, artists, and fans insist on Daredevil being a dark, morose crime comic? Now, I don't have anything against dark, morose crime comics, but I can't really get behind one, especially based on the real life murder of a child, when it features a character dressed in red sweats with horns on his mask.
Don't get me wrong. I love superhero comics. I prefer them to crime comics. I dig the mystery men, dressed up as bats or devils or panthers or psychological tests as they carry out their larger than life campaigns of terror against twisted, maniac gangsters and madmen. As a writer, you know that these stories are archetypical and appeal to our yearning for power over the forces of evil. You also know that no matter how much the current spin doctors tell the message boarders that characters like Daredevil and Batman aren't superheroes, that they fit the bill. They're not Wylies. They're their own breed.
Look at DAREDEVIL: REDEMPTION #1. It is an extremely well written comic book. If Marvel published books that weren't about their 40 year old superheroes or if Mr. Hines had gone to Vertigo with the story of a lawyer investigating the supposedly Satanic murder of a child and the search for justice for a heavy metal dork, this would be an awesome, can't miss book!
But on page 31, Matt Murdock puts on his DD costume and walks through the darkened streets of a small, Alabama town. Mind you, this is a town where if you listen to heavy metal and imitate the Satanic poses of some of the older bands, you're accused of ritual murder. Frank Miller did a one-shot of DD as the Continental Op in a corrupt town, but he had Matt out of costume the whole time. For that matter, Matt was only in costume for a few pages out of the 1980’s BORN AGAIN arc. Mr. Miller, like you, knew that if you go realistic, you stay realistic as long as the suits will let you.
Granted, this is only the first of six issues. Unfortunately, it already had me wondering why an insomniac didn't peek out of his shades, see Matt dressed like Anton Le Vey on his way to church, and say, "Hey, Ethel! Bill Z. Bub just strolled on by."
Another side to Daredevil exists. It's been ignored for a couple of decades. Currently, you'll hear of Stilt-Man referred to as a guy on stilts. What about the super-powered armor controlling those stilts that lift Wilbur Day hundreds of feet into the air? What about the extreme, twisted personalities that would cause men to dress up like matadors or frogs to commit their crimes?
Personally, it makes more sense to me that a blind acrobat/martial artist would battle gladiators, torpedoes, and guys throwing paper clips. I have a harder time fathoming this character investigating the 1993 murders and mutilations of three little boys.
Who knows? You may have to write this kind of story when you get your shot at DAREDEVIL. An experienced writer like Brian Azzarello had to write HULK and POWER MAN minis when he slummed at Marvel. I'm sure he enjoyed it. BANNER and CAGE were cool. But no way in hell was he going get to do anything like 100 BULLETS at Marvel. To be fair, I know he does Superman and Sgt. Rock at DC. Ennis does FURY and THE PUNISHER for Marvel. Where is Marvel's PREACHER? Or FABLES or PLANETARY? It's just not going to happen.
Future Writer and Current Writer Mr. Hines, I hope you're both open to other sides of Matt Murdock and other kinds of story telling. You're talented guys in need of the right project.
Finally, I hope you always get artists as great as Michael Gaydos.
Yer favorite critic,
Buzz Rosco Maverik
P.S. Did you catch how the accused killer character quoted Aleister Crowley, Matt called Crowley a Satanist and the kid agreed? Crowley did not believe in Satan or Jesus, but had nothing against either. We know he was more than initiate in both Black and White Lodges, but he had to know how to battle the forces of evil, didn't he? Why do you think we won World War I?
SUPREME POWER #15 - Say what you will about JMS’ cheap shot to DC in last week’s AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, but he’s writing one hell of a story in SUPREME POWER. This issue focuses on Redstone, the serial killer brought to justice by Hyperion, Nighthawk, and the Blur in the previous issue. This well-paced and intriguing spotlight shows just how sick an individual this guy is and just how twisted the government is for using him. Biggest treat in this issue: the first re-appearance of Tom Thumb. Let’s hope this trash-talking, pint-sized powerhouse will be appearing in future issues. - Bug
THE QUESTION #4 (of 6) - Like his AQUAMAN run before this series, Rick Veitch continues to make my eyebrows raise when I read his concept, but the execution makes my eyelids weigh. Not knowing anything about the Question made me pick up this miniseries, but after reading issue one, I let issues 2-4 sit in my pile until recently. After reading three issues in a row, I have to say that I’m not really impressed. The Question is shambling around the streets of Metropolis, listening to snippets of conversations and rambling like a haiku lunatic throughout the entire series. I get enough of that on the subway on the way to work. The photo-refrenced art is better than average, but even that isn’t enough to make me pick up the rest of this bland miniseries. - Bug
NEW AVENGERS #3 - So you expect me to rip into this one since I’ve been critical of Bendis’ past work, huh? Oh ye of narrow minds. Think again, Bendii. Although this book continues to be wordy and highlight action of minimal proportions compared with threats the Avengers have faced in the past, I have to give BMB credit for gathering a group of interesting heroes and tossing an interesting challenge at them to face. I like the twists BMB is introducing with Spider-Woman and the Sentry. I love it that Cage is finally getting the respect and status he deserves. And the longer Wolverine stays away the better. - Bug
ADAM STRANGE #4 (of 6) - This is one of my favorite miniseries of the last year. Andy Diggle never fails to please with his space-spanning adventure epic. Adam Strange and the Omega Men are on a direct collision course with Vril Dox and LEGION (the modern version of the Legion of Super Heroes). OMEGA MEN and LEGION were some of my favorite comics in the eighties and to see them back and handled with such respect and ingenuity makes me smile so big I can taste my ears. Pascal Ferry’s art continues to be some of the most gorgeously elaborate renditions of retro-futurism I have ever seen. This miniseries is getting everything right. - Bug
THE GOON #10 - I know this review is a little late, but this is my favorite GOON comic to date. A retelling of the old Ebenezer Scrooge story cast with characters from the Goon mythos, but that’s not the reason I’m flipping for this issue (even though the scene where Tiny Tim craps on Scrooge’s leg had me rolling). The back-up short story starring Frankie is the real treat of this issue featuring our tiny tough guy on a bizarre quest for a fabled train car filled with shoes. Hilarious writing and superb art. If you aren’t buying this series, you don’t know how fun comics can be. - Bug
FIRESTORM #10 - This is a fun little series and in this issue a major new twist makes me think that the fun is just beginning. On the big last page reveal from last issue, Ronnie Raymond the original Nuclear Man, not the new Firestorm, appeared when Jason triggered his powers. In this issue, it looks as if more than just Ronnie’s powers transferred into this new kid the night Firestorm “died.” This series isn’t a barn-burner, but it has the energy and feel of a good old fashioned comic; focusing on the conflict a young man has with these new powers and the responsibility of doing good with that power. A fun read. Pick this one up and save it from the same fate as recent DC cancellations-too-soon; HERO, BLOODHOUND, and MONOLITH. - Bug