(Click title to go directly to the review)
GIANT-SIZE MARVEL TPB
PLASTIC MAN #16
BLACK PANTHER #4
JLA: CLASSIFIED #7
THE WALKING DEAD TPB VOL. 3
NEW THUNDERBOLTS #8
INDIE JONES presents F-STOP
GIANT-SIZE MARVEL tpb
Published by Marvel
Reviewed by Giant-Size Buzz
INTERIOR -- A GARAGE -- DAY
A typical, junk filled garage of a single family home. Three 12 year old boys – ROG, ERIGLIONE, and BUZZ – sit around on BMX style bikes, look at Marvel comics, and take long hits off an elaborate skull-themed bong. The boys all have shoulder length hair; wear clothes made by O.P., Hang 10 and Lightning Bolt; and have red eyes.
A ghetto blaster radio, set to KEZY 1190 "Kick Ass Rock" plays.
NAZARETH ( on radio) : "Now you're messin' with the son of a bitch.. now yer messin'..."
TITLES: "Southern California . . . The Bronze Age."
ROG: " It's no fair, man. You pay fifty cents for a Giant Size Marvel and you only get one comic."
ERIGLIONE: "I keep telling you it's a longer comic. It's 68 pages, dipshit."
ROG: "But it's not twice the story. It's like, twice the ads."
BUZZ: "I liked GIANT SIZE X-MEN number one, but I liked number two better. They had different guys on the team, except for Cyclops. I don't know where the guys in number one went."
RADIO: "That was Nazareth. Comin' up, Frank Marino and Mahogany Rush..."
ERIGLIONE: "So we know you don't have a GIANT SIZE MAN THING, heh, heh, heh. What'd you get? GIANT SIZE FANTASTIC FOUR? AVENGERS? DEFENDERS? INVADERS? CHILLERS?"
ERIGLIONE: "Why not?"
BUZZ: "I'm waiting for the trade."
ERIGLIONE & ROG : "What's a trade?"
GIANT SIZE FANTASTIC FOUR # 1
Written by Len Wein & Chris Claremont
Art by John Buscema
You know it's the 1970s when The Thing is excited about watching Joe Namath play football in the opening of this comic. And what could be more '70s than the GIANT SIZE MARVELS, which were essentially annual-size comics that came out on a bi-monthly basis.
You also know it's a '70s comic because you want to ignore the artwork. In those days, you bought Marvel comics for the writing – humor, character, edge – and DC for the art. All of the really good art at Marvel was going on in their horror and sword 'n' sorcery titles at the time. Yes, Mr. Buscema was a longtime CONAN artist, but whenever I remember a well drawn CONAN issue, I look back and find that it was a fill in by Mike Ploog or somebody like that.
This issue is notable for the introduction of Madrox, the Multiple Man who apparently stars in a Peter David miniseries I can't bring myself to read. Also important, this may be the first time a young writer named Chris Claremont wrote about a Marvel mutant.
GIANT SIZE AVENGERS # 1
Written by Roy Thomas
Art by Rich Buckler
The GIANT SIZE AVENGERS issue to get excited about is the one written by Steve Engelhart with art by Dave Cockrum (creator of the new X-MEN). It involved Kang's quest for the Celestial Madonna, who turned out to be the Avenger called Mantis. Containing the death of an Avenger called The Swordsman, it dealt with the Assembling Ones thwarting Kang in his attempt to father a cosmic messiah.
But this one isn't bad. Roy Thomas loved the Golden Age heroes and revived a great many. Here, he brings back the original Whizzer (not the Squadron Supreme guy) who was the first man thought to be the father of The Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. The Whizzer, later seen as a member of the Thomas created WW II team Liberty Legion, was actually the father of an irradiated monster called Nuklo.
The coolest thing you're gong to see here is the art by Rich Bucker, which is a tribute to Jack Kirby. Buckler is best known as the creator of Marvel's DEATHLOK THE DEMOLISHER. Homage art in a mainstream comic at that time was an unusual move. It paid off here.
GIANT SIZE DEFENDERS # 4
Written by Steve Gerber
Art by Don Heck
This is the best written story in this trade. It's funny, as seriously as fans take their comics, as much as they regard the books as art and literature, they forget the writers and artists who produced the classics. Steve Gerber is one of the true greats. His runs on THE DEFENDERS and MAN THING should be required reading for all prospective comic book writers. And of course, HOWARD THE DUCK is a masterpiece.
Here, we have a hard edged story for the era. Nighthawk, in his Trump-like Kyle Richmond identity, gets into a car with his model girlfriend. It turns out that she is Trish Starr, the niece of Ant Man supervillain Egghead. At one time, she helped Henry Pym defeat Egghead. Eggie, out for revenge, has planted a bomb in the car. His niece loses an arm, while Nighthawk sustains injuries. Nighthawk's non-teammates – Dr. Strange, Valkyrie and the Hulk – blame Nighthawk's co-horts from his villain days, the Squadron Sinister. Fans of the modern SUPREME POWER will be interested in this early, villainous depiction of Hyperion, Dr. Spectrum and the Whizzer. Pym, as Yellowjacket, becomes a Defender by defeating Egghead and joining in battle against the Squadron.
The best thing you can say about the art is that you won't notice it. It's not bad. It's just very plain, as most Marvel superhero art of the Bronze Age tended to be. Don Heck did a lot of early work on THE AVENGERS, THE DEFENDERS and he co-created THE CHAMPIONS with writer Tony Isabella. He was sorta Marvel's second tier go-to artist for team books. I wonder why. It's kind of like Marvel was saying, "Well, nobody's Kirby, so if Jack isn't doing the book, we won't worry about the art."
GIANT SIZE SUPERHEROES # 1
Written by Gerry Conway
Art by Gil Kane
The first thing I wondered is why this wasn't called GIANT SIZE SPIDER-MAN or at least GIANT SIZE MARVEL TEAM UP. We have Spider-Man squared off against Man-Wolf, J. Jonah Jameson's son John who has turned into a sci-fi werewolf. Few characters exist that are as purely Bronze Age as Man-Wolf. This story was reprinted in the latest ESSENTIAL AMAZING SPIDER-MAN but here you get it in color. Gil Kane, a man equally at home and equally brilliant on Marvel and DC icons, really shines here. Gerry Conway was the Bronze Age Spider-Man writer. After all, Conway created Spider-Clone.
GIANT SIZE INVADERS # 1
Written by Roy Thomas
Art by Frank Robbins
Around the mid-70s, Marvel launched a set of new titles in GIANT SIZE form first. THE INVADERS was one title, another being something called ALL NEW, ALL DIFFERENT X-MEN, which never amounted to much. Let's talk INVADERS.
Recalling the beloved Golden Age Comics of his youth, Thomas set this superhero team consisting of Captain America and Bucky, the Human Torch and Toro the Flaming Kid, and the Sub-Mariner in World War II. They were the original Timely heroes, the cornerstone of the All Winners Squad. The Invaders battled Axis supervillains (here, Master Man, the Nazi super soldier). I remember at the time having a helluva time explaining to a stoner-bud that these stories were set in the past, so Captain America was still in the Avengers and Bucky was still dead.
Also, at the time, I hated the art by comic strip artist Frank Robbins. Now, I love it. It was cartoonier than most art of the era. But it was also more distinct. Mr. Robbins really captured WW II comic heroes. I'd love to see reprints of his work on CAPTAIN AMERICA & THE FALCON, and other mainstream Marvel series ... which I avoided at the time because he drew them. He was one of the best guys going and my friends and I didn't have a clue.
GIANT SIZE X-MEN # 1
Written by Len Wein
Art by Dave Cockrum
Now, you know the germ of the X-MEN as we know them was created mostly by an artist named Dave Cockrum. He did a significant amount of work on DC's LEGION OF SUPERHEROES, and is an exceptional designer. For a long time, he did the bulk of Marvel's covers. Mr. Cockrum is one of the greatest action oriented storytellers in comics. Much of what you love about X-MEN is attributable to him.
He didn't create Wolverine, though. That was writer Len Wein and the woefully underrated genius Herb Trimpe from THE INCREDIBLE HULK. Cockrum disliked Wolverine, probably because writer/editor Wein (Cockrum's boss) added him to the team. Mr. Cockrum created a character called The Black Cat, which morphed into Storm. He is responsible for Nightcrawler, Colossus and Thunderbird. Former X-Foes Banshee and Sunfire were added as well.
Mr. Cockrum's art has a life, a vibrance, a detail that lacked in most Marvel comics at the time. A young writer named Chris Claremont, who would write a few X-MEN issues later on, praised the attention Mr. Cockrum paid to his characters. You always saw Wolverine as five-four. Storm was always a head taller than Phoenix, etc. And Mr. Cockrum conveyed the power of the X-Man called Havok better than anyone except Havok creator Neal Adams.
GIANT SIZE CREATURES # 1
Written by Tony Isabella
Art by Don Perlin
My first Bronze Age question would be, "Why didn't they call this GIANT SIZE WEREWOLF BY NIGHT? Or GIANT SIZE TIGRA THE WERE-WOMAN?"
WEREWOLF BY NIGHT was a cool part of Marvel's Bronze horror trend. As a kid, I was more of a monster movie fan than a comic fan. Monster comics lead me to other comics on a regular basis. WEREWOLF was unique at the time because it featured a 19 year old hero. As a 10 year old, I saw him as an adult. It's funny: even then, people were more mature, yet more innocent at earlier ages than they are today.
This issue featured the origin of TIGRA. Writer Tony Isabella would later team with artists Will Meugonoit and Frank Robbins for a kick ass Tigra series. She looks a little different here, more monochromatic. She doesn't have her black mane, but the orange stripes are already in place!
Tigra began as policeman's widow Greer Nelson, who was turned into superheroine the Cat. The Cat's creator, a female scientist, turned out to be a member of a race of cat people. Mystic ceremonies transformed Cat into Tigra, who later became an Avenger. The Cat's costume was co-opted into that of the Hellcat, an Avenger pleeb who later spent a lot of time as a Defender.
The art, like a lot of the art in this book (which is indicative of the art in Marvel comics at the time), is just kind of ... eh. You wouldn't hate it, but it wouldn't be a factor in why you bought the comic.
CLOSE UP -- ERIGLIONE
TITLE: "Lives at home. Supports deadbeat parents, brothers and sister."
CLOSE UP -- ROG
TITLE: "Came out of the closet shortly after high school graduation. Still into comics."
CLOSE UP -- BUZZ
PLASTIC MAN #16
Writer/Artist/Letter/Colorist: Kyle Baker
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewed by: Prof. Challenger
And now for something completely different.
I know this comics only sells something like 10 copies every couple of months, but the Prof just has to go and recommend it to the world. This comic is hilarious. In fact, it's Prof Jr.'s favorite comic. He even wrote his first fan letter to Mr. Kyle Baker. Not much substance to the letter, but he did inform Mr. Baker that he keeps all his PLASTIC MAN comics in their own special shoebox that he keeps under his bed.
I'm telling you. The opening scene of this comic is hilarious. Joe Chill III gets himself stepped on by a Godzilla-sized Plas stomping through the city. The point where he scrapes what's left of the villainous Chill off the bottom of his foot onto the steps of the police station is classic Baker funny. Or better yet, how about when giant Plas slams into the side of that building? I'm still laughing.
This series is not about continuity (though it makes a lot of fun of it, including this issue which is part 2 of “The Edwina Crisis”). It's definitely not about reality. It's all about the silly. There was one issue awhile back that was essentially a Looney Tunes cartoon with Plas as Wile Coyote and a little white mouse as the Road Runner. That was a classic. Almost no dialogue too. All done with funny pictures.
For those who haven't picked this title up yet: Baker's got Plas living platonically with an old girlfriend (Nancy/Morgan) that had massive plastic surgery, joined the FBI, and tracked him down to kill him, but ended up back with him where they kind of function more like an old married couple than anything else. Then Plas faced a Dracula-like Vampire who was burdened with a goth stepdaughter, named Edwina, going through the teen crazies. Once "Dracula" got staked, Plas and Morgan just took on Edwina as their OWN stepdaughter. It's kind of like the Addams Family or something. No need for blood to join the Plastic Family – just be weird enough.
This series also has Woozy Winks and this hilarious riff on the Fantastic Four except that it's a team of 4 monks with versions of the FF's powers. "It's VANQUISHING time!"
Heh heh. Snarf!
”The Edwina Crisis” is all about teen angst and parenting. Incisive observational humor about parental interaction when faced with a teen girl whose hormones are raging. Here, she's running away with the most unthreatening villain ever. Check out this sample of his rambling, giving Mojo Jojo a run for his money, monologues:
"Now, fair Edwina, we are reunited, our bond made stronger by shared hardship! Let us escape to some remote idyllic locale where we can build a new life together! Yet, before we can reap the fruits of eternal bliss, I must gain closure regarding one outstanding debt. We must crash the party that the popular kids in school did not invite me to. . . AND I SHALL WREAK UNHOLY VENGEANCE UPON THOSE AFOREMENTIONED TORMENTORS!"
Funny stuff. Pick it up if you can.
Writer: Eric Red
Artist: Nick Stakal
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Reviewer: Ambush Bug
Let me start out this review with a hypothetical situation.
A man walks into a restaurant and gives his order.
“A turkey sandwich with lettuce, Swiss cheese, and honey mustard, please.”
“Coming right up, sir.” says the guy behind the counter.
Moments later, the sandwich is served. Being very hungry, the man unwraps the sandwich and takes an enormous bite. He chews a bit, hesitates, and spits the contents of his mouth back into the wrapper. “What the fuh?”
“Is there a problem, sir.” says the guy behind the counter.
“Hell yeah!” says the man, “There’s nothing but bread here! I ordered a turkey sandwich!”
“Yes, of course.” the guy behind the counter replies, “Eat the bread. We promise that the lettuce will be along shortly after you’ve finished. And after you’ve eaten that, we’ll have your cheese ready for you. And then finally, the turkey.”
Would you be satisfied in this situation? I know I wouldn’t. And that’s kind of the way I felt when I reviewed the first issue of CONTAINMENT a few months back. In that review, I praised the book for an interesting premise then went on to criticize the book for that “oh so empty” feeling I felt when I finished the issue. When I got to the last page of that book, I didn’t feel as if I had read a full comic. I felt as if I had read a 22 page set up. My objection being that if a comic is sold in a single issue format, then it should be structured, not only to entertain when the entire miniseries is read in its entirety when one has all of the issues in, say, a trade format; but it should also be entertaining as a single issue read. And, quite simply, I didn’t feel entertained enough with the first issue to give the book a strong recommendation. You see, the first issue is the one that makes or breaks a series. People will flock to pick up a number one issue, but if that issue fails to enthrall the reader and only holds a promise that stuff will happen in an issue or two, don’t count on readers coming back for a second helping.
Luckily, I stuck around. Am I a glutton for punishment? Maybe. But I had two reasons for continuing to pick up the series despite my disappointment with the first issue. First and foremost, the writer, Eric Red, wrote NEAR DARK and THE HITCHER. These films are two of my favorite horror movies of my youth. I loved the gritty realism he brought to his version of the horror/road movie genre and was curious to see what he could bring to the world of comics. Secondly, I love the zombie genre. I’ve never heard of a zombie story set in space. It was the type of premise that movie execs die for; one that is itching to be developed for the big screen. So because of these two factors, I kept buying this series with the hopes that my initial dissatisfaction would subside.
I bought issue two and set it in my to-read stack. A month passed and another issue came out, so I sat it with issue two. It was at that point that I decided to hold off and wait until I had all of the issues before I gave this story another shot.
And after taking in the entire series, I have to say that this was one hell of an entertaining read. The story, involving a cryogenic tube malfunction on a space ship resulting in turning half of the crew into the walking dead, unfolded and grew in intensity as each issue went on. This story is all about the claustrophobic aspects of space. It begins with one woman waking up in the close quarters of a cryo tube, then expands to the limited space of the ship that is becoming smaller by the second due to the zombie menace, and finally the narrative moves into outer space and the story folds back into itself making that limitless space a form of the worst form of containment one would ever find themselves trapped in. This is a smart story with a theme that ranks up there with the Romero DEAD films which speak about so much more than just a splatterfest focusing on zombies eating brains.
That doesn’t mean that this story is all heavy themes and no fun. Noses are bitten off. People explode in the vacuum of space. There are twists and turns, betrayals and redemption. This is a helluva rollercoaster of a story grabbing the zombie genre and dropping it in a locale filled with possibilities.
In my previous review, I praised artist Nick Stakal for his moody and gritty panels filled with zombie menace, but criticized him for not toning down the abstract aspects for the more quiet scenes. My criticism remains the same. There are moments which slow down the pace for dramatic effect. These quiet moments would have resonated more with me if the art would have toned down as well. Stakal’s panels are filled with gloom and obscurities. This sets a great mood for a horror comic, but there has to be some steady ground for the reader to be able to stand on. Stakal’s panels, be they for a quiet moment or a frantic race against time, are all done in the same style. With every line scribbly and every character and object twisted and obscured, I often found myself having to take a moment to really try to figure out what the hell was going on in the panel. And that’s not a good thing. It immediately pushes me out of a story and distracts me from its flow, forcing me to decipher what that mass of lines and scribblings is. Stakal can draw the gloomy and horrific. He does it very well. He’s reminds me of Ted McKeever or Charlie Adlard in that aspect. This is good company to be in. But those artists ground their abstractions with the details of a reality that is, at times, lacking in this series. Stakal shows great potential. I’m interested in seeing what he does next.
So here we are at the end of the review and I’m thinking back to my original review of the first issue and that guy with a mouthful of bread at the beginning of my rant. I liked this story. After reading it in its entirety, from start to finish, I found it to be entertaining, full of thrills and surprises, with an ending that left me feeling satisfied. Still, I have to ask the question: why release this series in a single issue format? Why not release it as a graphic novel; one that does the strong story justice instead of leaving the reader feeling short-changed because the author needed a slow build to tell his story the way he wanted to? If the story was made for trade in the first place, why awkwardly split it up? Only in the comics medium is this form of distribution acceptable. No one wants a portion of a sandwich or a car with no tires. No one wants to pay for a movie just to have it cut out fifteen minutes in. Why settle for a comic that doesn’t really kick into gear until the second or third issue because the author is writing it as if it were a film or a screenplay and not a comic? My criticism of this book isn’t directed towards the writing or the art or the story. All of that is top notch. My frustration stems from the fact that many of the people in this medium just don’t understand the importance of, much less the meaning of, episodic graphic storytelling. Putting together a story is tough in any medium, but in comic books, when that story is split into sections and sold separately, each issue should stand on its own as well as add to the larger story. In that aspect, CONTAINMENT, read one single issue after another, was unsuccessful. If you want to like this story and not be frustrated with the single issue format like I was, wait for the trade.
BLACK PANTHER #4
Writer: Reginald Hudlin
Artists: John Romita Jr./Klaus Janson
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewed by: Prof. Challenger
As much as I'm enjoying this new Black Panther series, I've gotta say the last 3 issues have sported awful covers and this one was the worst yet. But it's the inside that I'm here to talk about. It's also taken us about 4 issues to finally get some serious time with T'Challa. He is presented here as a hero, a statesman, a leader, a brother, and a legend. All at once. He carries himself with regal stature and finally dominates every panel he appears in.
The new Black Knight is manipulated by Klaw in a most insidious way. The Black Knight is a religious zealot lost in a fantasy world of his own mind where he thinks the Church still functions as it did centuries ago. He thinks he's going to bring "God" to the people of Africa and he'll do it by the point of his ebony blade. Klaw self-servingly uses twisted lies and illogic to feed the Knight's zealous soul. Ultimately, we see the Black Knight is a deadly pawn in Klaw's plan to destroy the Black Panther's world. The Knight even takes out a fighter jet with that sword of his. Impressive. But it turns out the Knight is more of a distraction than anything else so that Klaw can pursue his grand plan of destroying Wakanda's vibranium ore (which is where Radioactive Man comes in, natch) – the foundation of the country's economic and technological accomplishments, as Hudlin has shown us over the first 3 parts of this storyline.
Even more than the story, this issue's highlight is a letter to the editor exchange between Hudlin and a letter writer. Accused of racism against white people, Hudlin felt the need to address this letter writer's misguided axe grinding. I thought Hudlin did a good job defending himself here and it's worth it to anyone interested to pick it up and read it for yourself. I would say one thing to him, though. While it is true that the government guy he wrote in issue 1 using the term "Jungle Bunnies" in reference to the African people was clearly supposed to be an idiot, I take issue with his equating of that with other racist terms thrown around in the past by government top brass. The reason is that I grew up with a dad in the army and we lived all around the world and this country. Since Jr. High school, I've lived in Texas, Virginia, and then back to Texas. I've spent much time in the company of racist idiots and I've even got plenty of racist relatives sucking air in the boondocks of Mississippi. So, I've heard just about every possible racial epithet hurled around by people of all levels of education and power. I've never heard the term "Jungle Bunnies" ever used by a real person. Only in fiction. I'm sure that at some time or other it was a term used, but it is so antiquated that I agree with the blathering letter writer to a certain extent, in that it is improbable to the level of practical impossibility in this day of heightened political correctness, racial sensitivity, and White House tapings, that ANY modern day high-ranking administration official would utter that particular antiquated phrase no matter how much of a sub-moronic racist he may be. Other than that, Hudlin's essay on incorporating personal agendas into comic book writing is very good.
JLA: CLASSIFIED #7
Writers: Keith Giffen & J.M. DeMatteis
Pencils: Kevin McGuire
Inks: Joe Rubenstein
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Ambush Bug
Not one month after I criticized Giffen and DeMatteis’ latest adventures of the Not Ready for JLA Players do they twirl around and boot me in the gut with this whopper of an issue. No fancy sidebars or allegories for this review. JLA:CLASSIFIED #7 was the best of all of the books I read last week.
You see, the last time I looked at this series, I complained that there really wasn’t much to it. Sure, it was fun to see old friends like Guy and Beetle and Booster and Sue Dibney and Max Lord (especially since the members of this team seem to be dropping like flies every time DC releases a new event book these days), but there really wasn’t much of a story going on. It was just a bunch of guys standing around and arguing – which can be fun for a while and when the arguments actually go somewhere, but since this miniseries within a series started, the story has been treading water.
Then this issue comes along and not only is there a big action-filled rescue, hilarious moments, and excellent snippets of characterization, but this issue has one of the most heartbreaking endings you’ll read in comics this year, especially if you’re a fan of the old JLI series. Giffen and DeMatteis prove that they not only can write the funny, but they can masterfully handle the poignant bits too. This issue slowly builds to the very last silent splash page which resonates long after you close the book.
Making the experience all the more memorable is Kevin McGuire’s elegant and detailed facial expressions. McGuire and inker Joe Rubenstein have written the book on unique faces which convey a thousand emotions with just a few lines.
This is the JLI story I wanted to read from Giffen and DeMatteis since I first heard of their return to these characters. I knew they had it in them and this issue proves it. The issue stands out from the previous FORMERLY KNOWN AS JUSTICE LEAGUE mini and the first few issues of this series in its serious tone towards the end, but it featured the perfect mixture of drama, comedy, and action. If you missed out on those old JLI issues from the late eighties and are wondering what all this hubbub is all about, pick up JLA: CLASSIFIED #7. You won’t be disappointed.
Writer: Geoff Johns/Kris Grimminger
Artists: Butch Guice
Publisher: Humanoids/DC Comics
Reviewed by: Prof. Challenger
It's things like this that keep me excited about comics. I don't have that infamously anal-retentive "collector's" personality that's so well-personified in The Simpson's Comic Book Guy. For example, I've got a whole lot of broken up and incomplete title runs in stacks and drawers (rather than boxes) and only a handful of them in bags. I buy the damn things to read you know? I find that the older I get, the more I'm driven by nostalgia and storytelling. The seamless marriage of art and words is what makes comic strips and comic books unique as a storytelling medium. For me, however, when it comes to sticking with a monthly series, the artwork is rarely the deciding factor on whether to shell out $$$$ - it always boils ultimately down to the writing. I simply have no problem dropping a title I've read consistently for years simply because the writing doesn't grab me anymore – and I may start picking it up again when and if the writing gets back on track.
When I say I'm driven by nostalgia, that's due to the fact that I purposely stay a bit "out of the loop" from all the tons of comics and comics-related news and information that is available out there. I don't do pull-lists because I still dig that experience of just walking into a shop every week or so and just looking around for things that pique my interest. Sure, occasionally I miss an issue or two of some title I'm interested in, but in this day and age, it's pretty easy to get my hands on a copy of something I really want either from other local stores or the internet. It's not like when I was a kid (breaking into grampaw voice) and I'd peddle my bike 2 miles to the local 7-11 to buy my comics with my allowance and if I missed an issue, there was little to no chance of ever finding it again. And we LIKED it that way! Ya whippersnappers!
Anyway, (back to Prof voice), what this long-winded introduction means is that this past week I got that same glorious thrill of noticing a cool cover drawing me to a comic called OLYMPUS. I pulled it off the shelf. Noticed "Geoff Johns" and "Butch Guice" on the cover. My Prof brain blinked and said something like "Hey, Geoff Johns is that writer that's kind of on the same wavelength as the Prof when it comes to his sooberheeroe comics" and also said something like "Hey, Butch Guice is that cool artist that never turns in a bad job and is the only pro comic artist I ever met at a convention and got a sketch from!" I flipped through it, smiled real big, and promptly plunked my handy-dandy check card down to purchase it.
This is comics, man!
You've got photorealistic Guice art featuring a nice blond girl in a skimpy bikini throughout the whole book. There's lots of cursing, but also lots of cool Greek mythology and monsters! How can you go wrong with that?
The story centers around a gorgeously sexy female archaeology professor and two of her gorgeously sexy students on a diving expedition off the coast of Thessaly. Oh yeah, there's also the obligatory guy on the team too. Of course, he's perfect looking as well. In other words, Hollywood cast this comic! Who cares though? Guice's art is so nice to look at and the horrible monsters these people are about to come into contact with are plenty ugly enough to counterbalance the overabundance of beauty. Where do the horrible monsters come from?
That's where Johns and Grimminger's story kicks in. Without giving too much away, I can say it involves Pandora's Box. It involves modern day pirates. There's a big storm and a shipwreck on an island that may or may not be the site of the mythological Olympus. There's Jurassic Park-style encounters with creatures like the Cyclops, the Minotaur, the Gorgons, and much more. There's lots of gruesome deaths, lots of cursing, but there's also lots of character development and a crash course on the basics of Greek mythology. OLYMPUS even features one classic laugh-out-loud reference to Ray Harryhausen's magnificent CLASH OF THE TITANS.
OLYMPUS kicked my ass. Note to DC and Humanoids: Give us some more of this kind of stuff. If this doesn't garner some Eisner awards nominations for Johns and Guice this year then there's something seriously wrong with the nomination process.
THE WALKING DEAD VOL 3: SAFETY BEHIND BARS
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Penciller: Charlie Adlard
Reviewed by Humphrey Lee
A couple weeks ago I did a review here on the EARTH’S MIGHTIEST HEROES Hardcover edition, and in said review I stated from the get-go: “Sometimes it’s better to wait for the trade.”
THE WALKING DEAD, though, makes me consider a rethinking of that statement.
I say this for a couple reasons. First off, the quality of this book has simply stunned me. When I first started hearing the stir this book was generating, I was skeptical. The zombie movie genre is something that has come to a bit of a stall over the past years, hell, decades even, so to hear that a comic book about the genre was getting such praise made me do little more than just raise an eyebrow. But I figured, what the hell? I had just bought the first two INVINCIBLE trades and Kirkman had done nothing but impress the hell out of me with those. So I was lenient about the idea of tossing down a measly $13 for the first WALKING DEAD trade. And since then, I’ve been absolutely hooked. The ideas he has, the cast of characters, the scope of the story…all have been excellent. And since the quality has yet to falter, this has made it really hard to wait six to seven months between trades. But we’ll get back to the quality later.
The second problem I’ve had with waiting for the trade on this wonderful series has to do with a bit of all the things I just said. Simply put, there’s just a lot going on in this book. And after the excruciating wait over those six to seven months, well, it makes it extremely hard to just jump right back on into the fold. Yes, I know that simply reading the previous volumes before a new one would remedy this problem, and would always be a welcome read, but you all know by now that sometimes you just get so caught up in other stuff that that is simply not possible. Really, I’m not trying to turn this into some sort of an issue; I’m just trying to do my best to say that these volumes really, really need a couple recap and “Who’s who” pages at the beginning of each. Mainly because, while this book is so character driven, it becomes so easy, especially reading it this way, to lose characters in the shuffle. And that means that when they bite it, like oh so many characters do in this book, it doesn’t really have the effect that it should. Then again, that could be the effect that crafty bastard Kirkman is looking for, trying to get us desensitized to all the death, much like the characters in his story. Hmmm…interesting…
But anyway, to focus on this volume a bit, the fresh takes and ideas for the zombie genre are still flowing well in this book. This volume sees the rag-tag bunch of survivors coming upon and trying to set up an abandoned penitentiary as their new “home.” This to me is a nice little take for survival in this post-apocalyptic environment, as really, what better fortress are you going to find to survive, other than, say, a military base? Hope starts to spring amongst the group as they settle in their new home, but we all know by now that’s not going to last. The death count once again begins to rise, though this time it’s more from the humans involved in the story than the zombies, as Kirkman tries to subtly, and then blatantly, make commentary on human nature. Even with all the events that have happened, some people will never change, and despite all the death and carnage around them, they’ll still give into their little urges and inclinations, despite how sick and vile they might be. And through it all everyone starts to lose their hope yet again, and we see our main protagonist, Rick, finally lose all his composure as the weight of everything finally starts to make him and everyone around him buckle.
Finishing off I just have to say how fresh this book still feels. Where now everything in comics seems to be revolving around a big event of some sort, it’s great to see that, yeah, there’s a big event here obviously, but the book is solely on the shoulders of the characters starring in it. The ideas Kirkman are coming up with are clever, but again, some of the deaths fall flat simply because you aren’t really sure who anyone is. The book still hasn’t lost it stride despite that setback, and this volume ended on another great cliffhanger. Here’s to getting through another six months for the next volume.
NEW THUNDERBOLTS #8
Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Artists: Tom Grummett/Gary Erskine
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewed by: Prof. Challenger
You know, this comic was a gas. I picked up the first 3 or 4 issues and then dropped off. Picked it up this week because the Shocker was on the cover. Yeah. Sue me. I like the Shocker.
Double-page spread of Tom Grummett goodness with the New T-Bolts battling Batroc's Brigade! What the hell? Batroc's Brigade? Can I stop laughing now! I mean, there's no one with more love for the silliness that IS Batroc Ze Leaper! But how seriously can you really take a character who's power is basically the ability to leap around like a frog? Then you take this guy and have him lead a team with guys with names like Machete? Tossin' around knives and…well…machetes. And what's THAT? Yeah! Here comes the Beetle sporting his cool Beetle armor (not that dorky armor he wore in the sixties but that really cool redesign he sported in the 80s). I've hated every armor Mach IV has worn in either incarnation of the T-Bolts simply because they've never looked anywhere near as sporty as this Beetle armor. And since part of the philosophy of the NEW T-Bolts is that the villains retain their villain names rather than take on new identities, it only makes sense that Mach IV should go back to being The Beetle.
Digression point: Is anyone else as amused by a super villainess/heroine running around calling herself Joystick as I am? This one falls into that infamous Late Night with David Letterman category of TOP TEN THINGS THAT SOUND DIRTY BUT AREN'T.
Many things just cracked me up about this comic book. Does everyone remember the whole Capt. Marvel/Photon saga? Let's see if the ol' Prof's memory remembers rightly. As I recall, Capt. Marvel died from cancer leaving Marvel Comics without a Capt. Marvel, so quickly some African American woman with a French name gained light powers, outfitted her and her huge head of hair with an odd sort of costume, and called herself Capt. Marvel for absolutely no good reason. Then she joined the Avengers, right? Then Capt. Marvel's previously unknown son showed up in classic soap-opera style and went by some other name that I can't recall right now. Then the female Capt. Marvel started calling herself Photon just out of the blue. Well, this freed up the name Capt. Marvel so that Capt. Marvel Jr. could start calling himself Capt. Marvel, which he did. Then he headlined a couple of poorly selling series, the last one looked like it involved a lot of attempts at making an extraordinarily uninteresting character…well…interesting – including getting rid of his red and blue supersuit and putting that old Kree military green and white uniform onto him. (Which also triggers a question from my deep past about howcum the Kree were all blueskinned but Capt. Mar-Vell had pink skin and blond hair like an Earth Aryan archetype?) But, that must have failed because then Cap showed up in the NEW T-BOLTS title back to wearing his blue and red supersuit. Something happened in those issues of NEW T-BOLTS I neglected to buy and now he's silver like the Silver Surfer and calling himself Photon. See the circle of life, here? So, Fabian gives us a scene of the OTHER Photon, the black lady former Capt. Marvel, hearing a news report that Cap is now going by Photon and reacting to that. Just in case we didn't quite already "get it." I guess maybe in a couple of issues down the road we can be treated to one of those classic Marvel fistfights over who gets to keep what name.
The focus of the issue, however, is on Speed Demon, the former rather unfortunately named Whizzer. Speed Demon is buddies with the Shocker (who we discover is so manly that he can be a fan of Kelly Clarkson and still be a super-villain with the best of 'em). Speedy's got this idea that he can play both sides of the street: Be the hero, Speed Demon, in the T-Bolts and then change into his old Whizzer costume and be a thief on a huge score with the Shocker. The banter and interaction between Speedy and Shocker - these are the highlights of the issue. The inevitable double-cross between rogues is well set up and executed. And the temptation that Beetle faces when dirty money is dropped right in his lap is understandable – as we know that the whole reason he's even in his Beetle armor is simply because he couldn't afford to fix his Mach IV armor. But, the coolest part of all was that final full page Grummet-drawn super guest-star setup for the next issue. Without giving away his identity, he's wearing a goofy costume he wore for only a very, very short time back in the early 70s, but for the first time ever it looks good under the pencils of Grummet and inks of Erskine.
Ultimately, the goal of the creators was accomplished in this issue: The Prof is coming back for issue 9 next month!
EX MACHINA #11 - Gaze over the first two pages of this book and tell me that’s not powerful? If there’s anything I love about this book it’s that it has yet to be afraid to pull punches. Between the levels the violence has reached in this book, the hot-topic political issues, and the use of September 11th as a backdrop for our hero, this book is proud to be what it is. Just like this issue is proud to really be nothing but a filler/foreshadowing issue. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a well written issue, but the first half (sans the first two pages) is just a set up to get to, well, a set up. The first half of this issue sees Mayor Hundred arguing with a couple members of his staff about a proposed crackdown on the city’s fortunetellers, as some sort of initiative to get more tourists in the city as he feels “con artists” such as these are one of the things that keep tourists at bay. It’s a neat idea, and has its merits, but it really is mostly just a set-up to get Mayor Hundred to one of these tellers (does anyone else feel the spirit of STARMAN being channeled here?), specifically one that hinted to one of his aids not to go to work on 9-11. Since 9-11 is pivotal to Mayor Hundred’s character, it’s only natural his interest would be peaked. Out of it all, we get a foreshadowing of things to come in the next arc, but we get to see truly how Hundred was affected by the events on that fateful day when he became more than just “the World’s First Superhero.” Filler? Yes. But still very smart and emotional stuff. – Humphrey
SPIDER-MAN: BREAKOUT #2 (of 5) - I’m enjoying this miniseries more than the series that spawned it. The warring gangs of escaped super villains show a side of the Marvel U which has been gone for way too long. Writer Tony Bedard deftly incorporates obscure powers and villains into a plot involving mystery and action. Bedard does something that most writers at Marvel don’t do anymore – he depicts these obscure villains seriously and doesn’t make fun of them or emasculate them. He makes the U-Foes and Crossfire’s gang formidable. Bedard is taking full advantage of the chaos released when all of the villains escaped the Vault in the first issue of NEW AVENGERS and he’s making it fun to boot. - Bug
BATMAN: GOTHAM KNIGHTS #65 - I've liked a lot of the writing A.J. Lieberman's been turning in on the Bat-titles lately. This issue falls a little short, though. The characterization for Poison Ivy feels off for some reason. She goes from feeling so guilty about children under her care being hurt that she wants to stop being Ivy, but the minute she's human she wants to go back to Ivy to help those kids. It doesn't come off as the rantings of an unstable woman, though – it just doesn't ring true. Neither does the cliffhanger we're left with over whether she's dead or not. I'm pretty sure that if Ivy were dead a bigger deal would have been made out of it, so it just feels like they're ramping up to another revamp like the one they just did to The Riddler. Not terrible, but not up to the quality of some of Lieberman's other work. - Sleazy
YOUNG AVENGERS #4 - Toss me in the camp of those who have become pleasantly surprised with this title. After an over-talky first issue, this series hit the ground running with issue two and hasn’t stopped. This has the same sort of energy I remember from the earliest issues of NEW WARRIORS, bringing fresh ideas and building off of established aspects of the vast tapestry of the Marvel Universe. Something very uncommon at Marvel these days is going on in this comic. The lost Marvel concept of continuity is utilized. The highest compliment I can give this series is that with its recognition and respect for Marvel continuity, this is the closest thing to a DC comic Marvel is publishing today. - Bug
THE MANHATTAN GUARDIAN #2 - Grant Morrison's 7 SOLDIERS train keeps a-rollin'. There's action, adventure, mysticism, a snarky twist, and pirates doing battle from subway train to subway train. It's imaginative and fun. In a bit of a surprise coming from Morrison, the story also seems like it's done in only two parts, which leaves me interested to see what the final two issues will bring. The only downside to the 7 SOLDIERS project is that it's not an express run. I really wish the series weren't spread out over the course of an entire year – I want more of this stuff as soon as I can get it. - Sleazy
Antony Johnston: Writer
Matthew Loux: Artist
Oni Press: Publisher
Vroom Socko: Flash Reviewer
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again; Oni’s original digest line is the best thing to happen to comics in ages. The past year has seen such a vast variety of digest comics from these guys it’s hard to believe that so many of them are so exceptional.
F-STOP tells the tale of Nick Stoppard, a wannabe photographer who can only get by doing headshots for his actor friends. While out on the town one night, he tries to impress the new girl in the bar by telling her he’s a fashion photographer just back from Europe. And the next day, when her normal shooter has an emergency…
I know, sounds like a standard sitcom plot, right? How’s this amateur going to fake his way through a magazine photo shoot? Ah, but that’s where the most brilliant of twists comes in. Nick’s shoot is crap, of course, but the publisher… the publisher thinks the layout is brilliant. Nuevo-Crap, if you will (Well, the magazine is named Gauche, after all.). Nick quickly rises to the top of the fashion heap, blindly trying to keep the world from finding out he’s a fake, while at the same time being enslaved to shooting shit pictures when his talent quickly outstrips his “style.”
This book is full of surprises, not the least of which is the writer, Antony Johnson. When I went to see what else this guy’s done, I was pleasantly shocked to find his last book was THE LONG HAUL, another Oni digest I had a blast reading. I didn’t realize it at first, because that book was an Ocean’s 11-style action piece, while F-STOP is a character driven comedy. The two projects feel nothing alike. In an era where, in five panels you can tell if the writer is Brian Bendis, Chynna Clugston, or Joe Straczynski (excellent writers all), it’s more than refreshing to find a writer who can disappear from his work. I’d need to read more of his work to be sure, but I don’t doubt that this cat Johnson can write just about anything.
I’m sure, though, that part of what distinguishes this project from the last is the variation in artwork. Where THE LONG HAUL has a more realistic slant, Matthew Loux’s work in F-STOP has a more cartoonish caricature feel. Most of the humor here comes straight from the artwork. It’s alive in ways the so-called “realistic” work currently steaming up the sales charts is sorely lacking, and it compliments the story to utter perfection.
Gimme more work from Antony Johnson, please. And more Oni digest books while you’re at it.
Remember--if you have an Indie book you’d like one of the @$$holes to take a look at, click on your favorite reviewer’s link and drop us an email.
Remember--if you have an Indie book you’d like one of the @$$holes to take a look at, click on your favorite reviewer’s link and drop us an email.