(Click title to go directly to the review)
HOUSE OF M #8
7 SOLDIERS: BULLETEER #1
FEAR AGENT #1
ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #85
THE WINTER MEN #3
JONAH HEX #1
BART SIMPSON'S TREEHOUSE OF HORROR #11
TALES OF THE CREVICE: CAPOTE IN KANSAS
HOUSE OF M # 8
Written By: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencilled by: Olivier Coipel
Published by: Marvel Comics
Well, it’s over and what can I say?
All I can muster up is a hearty “meh”.
But the thing of it is I don’t even think it’s even Bendis’ fault. See, unlike some people in @$$hole land I actually really like Brian Michael Bendis’ writing. Sure it’s self indulgent. Sure it gets too wrapped up in itself with the talkity-talk. But I think that, for the most part, he’s done some really interesting stuff here and there. Like a lot of writers with his amount of output, he’s had a lot of misses, but he’s also had some really great moments. If anything I’ve had the feeling for a long time that Bendis is a really, really good comic book writer, but I think he’s overextended himself. I don’t want to make excuses for him, but it seems like he’s trying to emulate Stan Lee’s history with Marvel in that he wants to write almost every book in the Marvel/Ultimate Universe. Hell, even his own book POWERS has suffered because of it. If BMB would just focus on fewer projects I think we’d see some really stunning work like his independent books were. But for now, I guess the bills have gotta get paid so we’ll get what we’ve received with HOUSE OF M: sub-par Bendis.
I have, however, really liked the art in House of M. Oliver Coipel’s artwork has been the best part of this whole mini. His style evokes some of Marc Silvestri’s work but has enough of its own character so as not to come off as a complete clone. His storytelling ability is tight and he’s able to illustrate action and dialogue sequences (which, let’s face it, with a Bendis book is a MUST) equally well. Coipel’s got the goods and he was able to prove it with this mini-series. Yep, even with the She-Hulk’s “wardrobe malfunction”, Coipel could be one of the better artists that Marvel’s got in its stable and that’s saying a lot.
So if Bendis is a good writer and Coipel is a talented artist what’s the problem with HOUSE OF M?
In this issue all of our heroes wake to a world where almost all the mutants of the planet have had their genetic sequences changed so they are no longer mutants. This provides some really powerful moments for some of the characters. Hell, Spider-Man has some of the best lines in the book and he’s not even a mutant. What Bendis does with Wolverine and Magneto alone is truly inspired. There are instances with the kids at Xavier Academy that make the loss that mutants are feeling hit home. On top of that Hawkeye may be alive and well. So why does HOUSE OF M come across as so weak?
I blame Chris Claremont, John Byrne and Marvel greed.
See, the damage, for this fan and probably a lot of others, has been done. For years, and years, and years, and years the X-Men books have been the most convoluted, confusing, absolutely frustrating reads in the history of comics. The X-Men have been put through lame crossover after lame crossover, had plot threads opened up and left hanging, and had so many alternate realities/futures/pasts that they’ve ceased to be relevant. Where the X-Men were once the rebels of the Marvel Universe that you read because no one else knew about them they’ve become, because of having a bajillion books on the stands, the fat, bloated rock stars of the comic world. Heck, the X-Books are almost on par with the pre-Crisis Superman where there’s just such a mess of jumbled continuity that it’s almost impossible to care anymore. So if HOM is the series that’s supposed to clean up the Marvel mutant madness why doesn’t it feel like a breath of fresh air?
Probably because it’s too little too late.
Bendis is a good writer but he’s just not good enough to undo the years and years of damage that Claremont and Marvel have done to the X-legacy. I actually think it reaches all the way back to the “Days of Future Past” storyline that Claremont and Byrne introduced in their legendary run on UNCANNY X-MEN. With “Days” they opened up the proverbial genie in the bottle which gave the Marvel Universe its own multiverse in effect. After that, all bets were off and Chris Claremont and the writers that followed were free to abuse the concept at random. You had characters from alternate futures running amok in the Marvel Universe so that after a while the future wasn’t so bright anymore. What was once a cool concept just developed into a mess that made fans roll their eyes in frustration. And once it leaked into the rest of the Marvel books with the “Heroes Reborn” stunt from years ago there really was no going back. The Marvel U was officially a mess. So why am I supposed to believe that HOM is going to fix it?
We’ve been through so many universe reboots in the X-Books that I’m supposed to believe that this one is special? Yes, the story itself is good, but it can’t escape the cheapness of previous events before it. Especially when it’s not that well written to begin with. There actually happens to be a big, gaping hole in this whole thing. If the Scarlet Witch can change the universe once, twice, three times a mutie, then how the hell am I supposed to believe that THIS change is one that’s going to stick? It just doesn’t resonate because of the X-books’ mess of a past and a plot hole that you could drive a Fantasticar through. So how long before Marvel editorial decides to reboot the universe again and why should I care? HOUSE OF M is par for the course in the Marvel U and Bendis, no matter how talented he is, can’t make it come across as special because it’s not no matter what the Marvel hype machine wants us to believe.
It’s too bad because Marvel really does need something to give its core universe a shot in the arm. HOUSE OF M just doesn’t feel like it’s going to be it. Who knows? Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe getting rid of almost all the mutants will make them interesting again but as it is HOM just comes across as just another story to be forgotten along with the other “Mutant Massacres” and “Ages of Apocalypse” that made no real difference in the past. If anything it just seems like Marvel realizes just how much they wrote themselves into a corner with the apocalyptic mutant future scenario and just decided to hit the reset button. The problem with the reset button at Marvel is that it’s been hit before again and again and each time it’s been less and less of a satisfying experience.
BULLETEER #1 (of 4)
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artists: Yanick Paquette and Michael Bair
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Prof. Challenger
Yowza! I think Power Girl's got some competition in the Seven Soldiers corner of the DC Universe. Phallic symbolism and huge breasts run amuck in the kickoff to another excellent mini-series from the twisted mind of Grant Morrison. This time he tells the story of how a beautiful young woman named Alix Harrower (exceptionally clever and foretelling in that this whole Seven Soldiers thing is part of an effort to prevent a worldwide slaughter called "The Harrowing") unexpectedly finds her entire world turned upside down as she is thrust into the world of the super-hero against her will.
But first, look at that cover. Is there any possible way for your eyes to stray away from those two huge, metal coated boobs thrusting out at the reader? None at all. Neither is there anyway to avoid dwelling on the splash page overly long at the Bulleteer, in all her booby and nipply glory wearing nothing but an expensive Victoria's Secret bra and panty set. And is it just chance that Yanick Paquette has a crack running through the mirror that constantly draws the reader's eye down right onto Bulleteer's boobs?
The thing is that even in the midst of the in-your-face T&A, Morrison manages to craft an interesting twist on the idea of how new super-heroes come into existence in a world where super-heroes have become fairly commonplace. Turns out that Alix was married to a guy, Lance, obsessed with late-night online liaisons on kinky websites where the girls pretend to be oversexed teenage super-heroines. As a result of his obsession with his fetishistic compulsive desire for the illusory lives these virtual super-heroines have tempted him with, he becomes dissatisfied with his wife. Which explains a bit why Morrison had Paquette and Bair make Alix so extraordinarily sexy and sensual. They wanted to drive home the point that Lance has gotten so pathologically screwed up that he doesn't even appreciate what he has at home for real; he prefers the illusion to the reality.
Lance even tries to draw Alix into his fantasy, but being level-headed and grounded she recognizes how absurd his obsession has become. So, she rejects his invitation to try out his new "smartskin" bulletproof metal skin so that they can become a modern-day version of Bulletman and Bulletgirl by becoming virtually indestructible and immortal. Lance has already tried the smartskin out on a lab rat who now runs around all metal and superstrong because his smartskin bonds with "collagen and copies tissue growth." However, in true comic book fashion, Lance has to try it out on a human subject so he injects himself.
Like King Midas' worst nightmare, the metal smartskin doesn't just bond with his skin but changes his insides as well, effectively suffocating him and stopping his heart after a prolonged, and apparently painful, period of time. As for Alix, when she called 911, Lance reached out and touched her which led to the smartskin jumping on to her as well. Don't know why it affected her differently but now she's covered head to toe in smartskin ~ kind of looking like a female Capt. Atom with sexy red hair. She's now completely indestructible and superstrong. There's no indication of whether she will somehow gain the power to fly, but she does put on a sexy red and white costume that includes a nice phallic-shaped…I mean…bullet-shaped helmet. It seems odd that a character called The Bulleteer would not be able to fly but, then again, Grant Morrison's kind of odd I think.
Here's the thing though. Beyond the fact that she looks good, I really just liked Alix Harrower as a character immediately. When she discovered what her husband's secret life online was like, she was justifiably pissed off at him post-mortem. She's a woman who's smart, funny, and a take-charge person who struggles with the changes wrought upon her life in an admirable way. A nice change of pace and a book I thoroughly enjoyed cover to cover.
FEAR AGENT #1
Writer: Rick Remender
“Science fiction has lost its stones,” writes Rick Remender in the afterword to his blue-collar, sci-fi auctioneer, FEAR AGENT #1. His goal, alongside artist Tony Moore (the wunderkind who drew the early issues of THE WALKING DEAD), is to take comic sci-fi back to days of aliens you dealt with through the business end of a ray gun, not a lot of touchy-feely talk.
Artist: Tony Moore
Publisher: Image Comics
Reviewed by Dave Farabee
Not a bad concept – I’m definitely one who snoozed through the trade federation stuff in the STAR WARS prequels and snorted at Picard’s appeasement-heavy negotiations in STAR TREK - but as with most of Remender’s stuff that I’ve read, the execution left me cold.
Our hero is one Heath Huston, the last of a breed of alien exterminators from Texas (a’yep!) whose ultimate fate is one of the first issue’s mysteries. Mostly we see Heath on the job, sporting the kind of geared-up spacesuit Wally Wood drew and Ridley Scott’s ALIEN brought to the big screen. I got tired of Heath’s hardboiled routine pretty fast, though, front and center as it was with his ongoing first person monologue. His musings are a bit like what I might expect from a Walter Hill movie character (48 HOURS, THE WARRIORS), but I don’t think Remender measures up to Hill’s testosterone-fuelled conviction or his jerky wit.
As Heath blasts his way into the lair of a tribe of aboriginal aliens that look like cavemen with dreadlocks, he tells us things like, “This morning, Annie wakes me from a good drunk…” and “Set phaser to ‘Cowardly Monkey’” and “If I survive this – I’m never gonna come anywhere near this shit-hole again.” In short, his thoughts are nothing to write home about. I found myself thinking that if our hard-drinkin’ hero had funnier exchanges like this one from 48 HOURS…
Reggie Hammond: What's this?
[[he pulls a wad of money from a redneck’s pocket]]
Redneck: Tax refund!
Reggie Hammond: Bullshit! You're too fuckin' stupid to have a job!…I’d have been a lot more tolerant of the whole macho asshole riff. Heath gives a brief hint of being something more than a SIN CITY extra when he breaks out some wit and wisdom from Mark Twain during one of his digressions, but mostly he gripes about his job and talks repeatedly about wanting to get drunk. That kind of material I can get from my friends.
The book’s saving grace is, unsurprisingly, its visuals. Tony Moore’s clearly having a ball with all the pseudo-retro sci-fi trappings, rendered with loving detail and the aesthetically-pleasing grit WALKING DEAD fans came to love. You can read a preview here. WALKING DEAD readers will note the art looks a bit different, a bit slicker, and it’s possibly the result of Moore’s own artistic evolution, possibly the effect of working with an inker. It’s sharp, in any case, and pops wonderfully as a result of Lee Loughridge’s coloring. Loughridge uses highly saturated tones and minimizes showy airbrush effects in favor of flat swaths of color. Well, not completely flat – there’re definite gradations in there, but they’re of the subtle sort, like early Steve Oliff work on LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT. I was particularly impressed with one of the big alien reveals toward the end, a rare instance of heavy f/x use in the book that ranked among the best I’ve seen since Cassandra Nova’s ectoplasmic transformations in NEW X-MEN a few years ago.
Still, I keep coming back to story and character, and that’s where FEAR AGENT falls down. This first issue is pure action, and on a moment-to-moment level, it’s solid enough. There’s just no hook. We’ve seen heroes like Heath, for whom it’s “just a job,” and the mystery of what’s leading the caveman aliens to attack colony settlements to steal equipment is a little…slight. I think the book will probably rely on nostalgia for retro-spaceman stories to grab its audience, with its space-truckers, aliens with names like Zlasfons, and raygun-blastin’-action. Nothing wrong with that, though I can’t help but recall that the EC stories from which the series purportedly takes its inspiration were often a bit more thoughtful about their alien-zappin’. At their lightest, they were pulp sci-fi variants on O. Henry yarns, but there were plenty of humanist underpinnings (the famous WEIRD FANTASY story “Judgement Day” comes to mind), even a few Ray Bradbury stories adapted. It’s hard not to recall EC’s humanism as FEAR AGENT’s lead kills caveman after caveman with about the same concern you’d give a stomping a cockroach, no irony present.
Struck me as odd. Even for a book with a mission statement to give sci-fi back its “stones,” offing dark-skinned aliens with a grin seems a little empty-headed. EC’s sci-fi was definitely more than just its visual trappings, but it remains to be seen whether FEAR AGENT is.
And for some folks that might be just fine. After all, brainless action wrapped up in high-octane visuals is what made the original STAR WARS trilogy a hit. S’just not for me right now, not without a more compelling lead or a story with fresher twists ‘n’ turns.
ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #85
Brian Michael Bendis: Writer
Mark Bagley: Artist
Marvel Comics: Publisher
Vroom Socko: All Webbed Up
Goddamn! Bendis pulled off a conclusion filled with great moments, wicked action, genuine shocks, and a major setup for the future of his characters, and it wasn’t even HOUSE OFf M! Really, this is the book that Bendis fans should be talking about this week.
You want action? How about Hammerhead versus Electra, and Electra versus the Black Cat. This is some of the rawest, nastiest, bloodiest fighting I’ve seen in this book. Bagley has honestly outdone himself here.
You want character development? Take a look at the conversation between Spidey and the Cat. This, after all, is where Bendis is a Viking. It’s grounded, yet stylish, both witty and grandiose. It’s a little bit heavy-handed in all the right places. Perfect comic book dialogue, in other words.
You want laughs? The Black Cat finally sees who Spider-Man is under that mask, and her reaction is priceless. Priceless, I tell you!
You want building story development? Just look at what Aunt May has to say here. It looks like the time is fast approaching when she’ll have to learn the truth about Peter and his extracurricular activities.
You want a genuine surprise? Check out that splash page at the end. Totally didn’t see it coming. It’s not that there’s a character being such a duplicitous conniving swine that’s a shock, it’s that it plays out in a way that anyone familiar with the original character would never expect. Between this and the Annual, Bendis is playing to the greatest strength the Ultimate universe has: these are not the same characters we’ve been reading about for forty years. The character involved in this particular twist served as my introduction to Spidey comics as a wee lad, and I was not only not offended by this change of personality, I was thrilled to bits. At the very least, it’s going to make for some damn good stories.
You want a just plain kickass superhero book? ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN is one of the best.
THE WINTER MEN #3
Writer: Brett Lewis
Artist: John Paul Leon
Publisher: WildStorm Signature Series
Reviewer: Sleazy G
THE WINTER MEN is the kind of high-concept story that can sound great on paper but runs the serious risk of blowing it in the delivery. It’s a story of former Soviet superheroes who are now trying to make a living in the cold, hard, crime-ridden reality of “democratic” Russia. It’s part espionage thriller, part noir, part crime novel. The idea has a lot of potential, but there are a lot of pitfalls, too. We’re already three issues in, though, and so far Lewis is doing a great job with the balancing act.
THE WINTER MEN is told from the perspective of Kris Kalenov. Kalenov used to be a member of Red 11, a squad of five mechanized “rocket machines”—super soldiers in armored suits. Now, though, he’s just working as a drunk, washed-up cop of sorts. He’s working for the city of Moscow, often at the specific beck and call of the mayor of that city (among the world’s most corrupt). Early on in issue #1 he encountered one of the other members of Red 11, Drost, who is still a professional soldier. He’s also working doing “security”, but as a representative of Western investors in businesses in Moscow, which explains why his jurisdiction overlaps with Kalenov’s. We get a glimpse into the kind of back-room deals that have always been far too common in Moscow—the haggling, the false sincerity and deceit with a smile that I’ve seen first-hand there. It becomes pretty clear that while their time in service together made them “brothers”, they know they can only trust each other so far.
Kalenov is then called to the Mayor’s office to investigate the kidnapping of a young child who may be tied to a different secret military supersoldier project referred to only as “Winter”. It seems that competing organizations in the Soviet military would have similar projects running in tandem, often to keep each other in check, and Red 11 was there to provide a counterbalance to a Soviet Superman of sorts called “The Hammer of the Revolution”. It’s implied that Red 11 might have needed to take him down at some point, and now they’re terrified this little girl is tied to experiments like those that created The Hammer.
In issue 2 Kalenov’s search takes him to Brooklyn, home to many a Russian criminal working both in New York and with comrades back in Russia. It turns out his trip there was a distraction and a set-up, so by issue 3 he’s back in Russia and pissed that somebody tried to cap him. He then leads a team on a strike into Georgia to recover the girl. In a scene reminiscent of those on “Alias”, there’s some ass-kicking, some tension and a sudden turn of events when they find out the girl has a disconcerting power of her own.
Throughout the first three issues we get to meet the other members of Red 11. There’s the aforementioned Drost. There’s also a jovial but highly dangerous gangster named Nikki (he’s a dude, so don’t get the wrong idea), a bodyguard named Nina (a woman and clearly and ex-lover of Kalenov’s, so feel free to get the wrong idea) and someone referred to only as The Siberian, who has yet to put in an appearance. Kalenov’s narration of the events is clearly right out of the noir playbook, the kind of washed-up, grizzled commentary you get when you read Chandler or watch “Blade Runner”. It’s also firmly grounded in the kind of detail about pre-and post-Soviet Russia, though, that tells you Lewis really did his research. Lewis also does a great job of capturing the unique mindset and sense of humor that exists only in the Russian people, and that spirit really makes this book stand out from others that have worked with similar material. More than anywhere else, this deadpan irony and sense of resignation shines through when Kalenov is faced with his failed marriage or when dealing with the ex-team members who keep cropping up in his investigation often enough for Kris to realize there’s no way in hell it’s purely coincidence.
John Paul Leon’s art is a great match for Brett Lewis’ writing as well. A little rough around the edges, sure, but the expressions are pretty dead-on and he does a great job of capturing the feel of both NYC and Moscow in winter. Major cities get a stark yet filthily drab look to them that time of year, and between Leon’s linework and the coloring of longstanding pro John Workman the title’s appearance matches its mood and characters wonderfully.
I was quite surprised to find this was a WildStorm title at first (under their fairly new Signatures series) considering the subject matter, appearance and the involvement of Vertigo editor Will Dennis. The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized the only recent series it has even the slightest similarity to is the Ed Brubaker classic SLEEPER. It looks as if WildStorm may be trying to do something similar to Image, starting the Signatures line as a place for creators with ideas that come from different genres or present a distinctly individual vision outside of an established universe. If that’s the case, and they’re going to keep bringing us series like these two, I’m all for it. THE WINTER MEN is a book with a singular voice and style the likes of which I haven’t seen in quite a while. Brett Lewis is almost halfway to the finish line, and so far every chapter has moved along at a steady clip, incorporating action, tension, and a dry sense of humor that provides a lot of characterization for the protagonist. If he’s able to sustain this level of quality throughout the series, it’ll plant him firmly on my list of writers to watch out for.
JONAH HEX #1
Writers: Justin Grey & Jimmy Palmiotti
Artist: Luke Ross
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Ambush Bug
Jonah Hex is one of my favorite characters in comics. Next to such obscurities as Moon Knight, Daddy Longlegs, Ragman, Connor Hawke, and Red Tornado, you can’t get any cooler than Jonah Hex in my book. The character’s intrigued me ever since I first saw his ugly mug in an old issue of JLA where the JLA take on the Master of Time and he plops the team into the old west where they meet DC Western obscurios; Hex, Cinnamon, Scalphunter, and Bat Lash. It’s the grey uniform, that hatchet scarred face, and that despicable temperament that made me root for ol’ Jonah every time. Throughout the years, DC has tried to resurrect this Western hero who was first introduced back in 1972 in ALL STAR WESTERN #10 (which just so happens to be the very year this Ambush Bug was born). Some have been interesting (I didn’t mind the Jodorosky influenced Tim Truman Vertigo tales), some were horrid (the present day super-model possessed by the soul of ol’ Jonah in the last SUPERBOY series), but none of them lived up the sheer bad-assery that exuded from this character when I first laid eyes on him in that issue of JLA. When I heard that Hex would be given a breath of life with a brand new series, all at once, I gave out a loud yippee and was bathed in a wave of dread. You see, I love this character so much and am delighted to hear about the new series, but I’d hate to see him be bastardized the way a character like Ragman was handled in DAY OF VENGEANCE. So when I picked up this first issue of JONAH HEX, I was filled with hope that one of my favorite characters was going to be done right, but prepared myself for the worst, just in case.
So after reading it, what’s the verdict?
They got it right!
Writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Grey have shown that they can write tough in recent issues of HAWKMAN, but even that ballet of brutality and bravado seemed superficial at times. In JONAH HEX, Palmiotti and Grey break out the big guns. This book is a real deal Western full of blood and bullets and bite. This Hex is the Spaghetti Western anti-hero to beat all. Grey and Palmiotti establish that in the first few pages with this melodramatic, yet scene establishing and ominous intro:
Twilight faded when the desert finally went silent…Now, if that intro doesn’t pump you up for some gun slinging mayhem, I don’t know what will.
In full light of the moon, James Ronnie’s face showed all the contortions of a coward who has lost the resolve to continue masking his fear.
And yet, he still clung to hope…like a drowning man with a fistful of straw.
The irony stood marked by the fact that it was James Ronnie’s guns that aligned with Hex on the side of justice earlier that night.
But as any man, woman, or child knows, he had no friends, this Jonah Hex…but he did have two companions…
…one was death itself…
…and the other, the acrid smell of gunsmoke.
After a phenomenal first few pages, the writers don’t hesitate in flinging Hex into the middle of a mystery involving a lost boy. This stand alone tale is filled from cover to cover with intrigue, violence, action, and mayhem. Palmiotti and Grey do a great job of establishing an episodic feel, not unlike an episode of a well done TV drama. The action, when it unfolds, is brutal. Hex is not your typical hero. He’s a man of his time. A Confederate survivor of the Civil War. These were brutal times and a hero was the guy who would do anything to survive and accomplish his goals. Jonah Hex was such a hero and in this issue, Palmiotti and Grey go out of their way to show just how far Hex will go for the name of justice and honor.
Luke Ross first raised my attention when he penciled WEST COAST AVENGERS. Since then, he’s evolved into a powerful storyteller. His characters are distinct. His style is aged and timeless, as if these stories have been unearthed for new eyes to see for the first time in years. There’s a silver image, daguerreotype feel to the panels. Lines have soft edges and are slightly blurred. The art is further enhanced by colorist, Jason Keith’s rich palette which range from the sickly oranges and tans reflecting the brutality of the dog fight arena to the moody, silver luminescence of the desert at night. This is a truly beautiful book.
I can’t recommend this book more. For those of you who are hesitant to step outside of the comfort zone that is mainstream comics, but want a taste of something other than the same old spandex stuff, give this book a try. Palmiotti and Grey seem to have been saving the good stuff for this series. Each issue will be stand alone, and if they are as good as this first issue, I can’t wait to dig into the stories of one of my favorite heroes done right.
BART SIMPSON'S TREEHOUSE OF HORROR #11
Every comic book fan weaned on comics in the 70s must pick this comic book up. Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan contribute the story THE SUB-BASEMENT OF DRACULA with Mr. Burns as Count Dracula. Teaming up to fight Dracula are Homer Harker, Carl LeBlade, Santa's Little Killer, Bart Drake, and Lisa Van Helsing. Marv should get to write more Simpsons comics because he had a real feel for the dialogue and style of humor. My favorite bit was when the team of vampire hunters entered Moe's Belfry and came face to face with nasty-looking "vampires" with bugged out bloodshot eyes, slathering tongues, and fangs. Woops. Turns out they're not vampires after all, they're COMIC BOOK PUBLISHERS! As one of the Publisher's "victims" informs Bart Drake: "We're comic book writers and WANT them to SUCK OUT the very essence of our creativity so one day they'll let us write our favorite super-heroes."
Publisher: Bongo Comics
Reviewer: Prof. Challenger
There's also a fantastic tribute to the EC horror comics that includes multiple short stories from THE CREEPY CRYPT OF HORROR HOTEL introduced by the "Creepy" Captain. Contributors to the EC stories include the great John Severin and Al Williamson. There are nods to EC's army books, suspense books, and sci-fi books, as well as the horror books. All very funny.
But, the best thing in the entire comic is SQUISH THING by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson. Maybe the most perfect parody of a single comic book story I can remember. Not a spoof of the SWAMP THING comic book, this story spoofs the original Swamp Thing story that appeared in HOUSE OF MYSTERY. In this version, Homer Simpson gets blown up and falls into a huge vat of a beer and lime squishy mixture he's invented, turning him into a walking, lumbering lime Squish Thing. God, the narrative is hysterical. Narrated by Homer as the Squish Thing, Wein delivers the reader such hilarious nonsensical literary thoughts as this: "Night descended like an elephant on an escalator…and a full moon hung in the sky like a fat lady on a swing…" Or how about "Like a spitwad sliding down a blackboard, I shuffle across the room." Man, that's funny stuff. And Bernie Wrightson delivers Simpsons style horror in sheer perfection.
SIMPSONS just doesn't get any better than this comic. I know it's a week out from Halloween, but humor knows no holiday boundaries. Buy this book.
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciler: Michael Avon Oeming
Publisher: Marvel Comics/Icon
Reviewed by Humphrey Lee
I have to say that this is the first time I've really enjoyed an issue of POWERS in a long time. I don't know what it is, but ever since the jump to Marvel (well, ICON) it just hasn't had the same feel as before IMO. It's been good, but not great. All the elements that made me love the first volume of this book have definitely been present, but it just never seemed to mesh like it all had before. I don't really know how to define it... maybe it has just felt like it was going through the motions or something. Add in tons of random shipping delays and it just has fallen to the wayside to me. But whatever, this one feel right. This one feels like the book that made me a huge Bendis and Oeming fan, and made this book one of my favorites on the stands.
This issue starts the "Cosmic" storyline and begins like most POWERS story arcs do... with the death of a superhero. In this case it's a character known as Milennium, apparently some kind of "cosmic enforcer", guarding over a certain sector of the galaxy, like a Green Lantern or whatever. While investigating the crime scene, our resident detectives Walker and Pilgrim run into a bit of a snag with their investigation when it's taken over by an Agent Marcus from the Federal Bureau of Powers. And also, little Miss Deena gets an impromptu visit from a member of the Internal Affairs to ask her some questions about the abrupt "disappearance" of her ex-boyfriend a few issues go... and with that the shit has officially hit the fan.
But yea, like I said, this is definitely a return to form. The dialogue and witty banter between our main characters is just as good as always, and really hasn't ever faltered on this title. But the case set up is definitely more in the vein of what this book is all about, and this was a very good setup to get the ball rolling. We get some new characters thrown into the mix who definitely add a bit of flavor. And the interrogation scene between Deena and the I.A. officer at the end of the book was very riveting. The game of cat and mouse the agent plays with Deena is very tight and tense, and the bomb she lays at the end of this issue is an extremely good cliffhanger. And the art is tops as always. I've always really loved Oeming's style, and this issue brings him on his game. I think at first when this book moved to the glossy paper his pencils just didn't seem to sit right on it, but now it's all in order and looks wonderful.
So, again, one of the best books on the market has got its groove back and looks to stay that way (as long as it can keep some semblance of a shipping schedule). If you were feeling the same apathy towards this book as I was the past few issues then fear no more. The little crime comic that could is back. Oh, and it's back with a misprinted price on the cover. It says $3.95 when it should be only $2.95. Make sure you point this out when you purchase it to avoid getting ripped off.
WILDSIDERZ # 2
Written by: J. Scott Campell and Andy Hartnell
Art by: J. Scott Campell
Published by: Wildstorm/DC Comics
So when I reviewed the first issue of WILDSIDERZ I was very enthusiastic about this new book. It seemed to me like the book was going to be full of energy and fun and that it might have something interesting to offer. The design of the first issue was great as well as the artwork itself. For me the first issue of WILDSIDERZ was a fun read and I was looking forward to more.
Unfortunately WILDSIDERZ # 2 doesn’t show the promise of its predecessor. With this issue the potential that WILDSIDERZ # 1 showed is all but squandered. Oh sure, the art looks fantastic. The coloring is great. Heck, the glowing animal bits that give the characters their powers are even less distracting. But the second issue of WILDSIDERZ fizzles out in a big way.
What’s the reason for this? Well, while the first issue was just a fun filled not so serious romp the second issue just starts to delve into complete stupidity and the characters just begin to really come across as completely shallow. I mean the whole main thrust of this issue is the characters using their newfound powers to win a football game! Didn’t they sort of cover this bit last issue? I guess not because in issue two we get a rehash of the last couple of pages of issue one only this time it takes up a larger chunk of the book. This wasn’t the only thing in the book that bugged me, though.
In this issue the main character discovers that his inventions may be used for nefarious purposes by a corporation that’s trying to obtain them. So what does he do? HE DECIDES TO TRASH THE WHOLE PROJECT!!!!! Talk about throwing the baby out with the bath water! We’re talking about an invention that can be used for truly miraculous things just one of which would be to give people who have become paralyzed the ability to walk again. And because he’s afraid that some nasty people might take the project from him and use it for less than humanitarian efforts he decides to destroy it completely? Something that’s taken up years of his life and helped him finally get popular with the in-crowd? Somehow, I don’t think so.
Then there’s the revelation that the Wildsiderz technology which endows its wearer with super-human animal like glowing bits has an invisibility setting. Meaning that the glowing animal bits don’t have to be glowing at all! They can be tuned so that people won’t see them! So the question becomes…why even have the glowing animal parts at all? If you can turn them invisible why even make yourself conspicuous at all when you’re out super-heroing? Why even give anyone a hint of the fact that your powers aren’t really coming from you but from some device you carry? Not to mention that the one character who IS paralyzed and uses the machine to walk has a glowing grid over legs at all times. Why would you do that if you could just make the grid transparent? Just this one bit alone shoots the whole reason for making the protagonists have glowing animal parts which give them their powers to holy hell! What could the writers been thinking? Oh, I know: glowing animal parts will make the book unique and will give the graphic designers something cool to do with the appearance of the book. Forget about the part that the superheroes in the book don’t NEED the glowing bits. Seriously, who was editing this book? It’s stuff like this that editors are for! Campell should fire the one he has now and get a new one and soon ‘cause he needs some serious quality control.
And then there’s the problem of the main characters. While the first issue presented them as your typical average teenage stereotypes in this issue they come across as completely vapid airheads. I mean, there’s no character growth whatsoever and instead of them being endearing they just come across as annoying. One issue of teenage vapidity is enough. Once you get to the second issue you should be getting to the deeper parts of the characters but it seems like the writers here don’t have the capacity for that. Maybe Campell and his friend Andy Hartnell should pick up a few issues of ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN and RUNAWAYS to get some pointers. As it is right now I’m hoping that the villain clocks all of these kids because they’re coming across as complete brats and brats do not make characters readers root for.
As it is WILDSIDERZ # 2 has disappointed me immensely. I love Camplell’s art and it may be enough for me to pick up another issue of this book but if there’s more of this mess to come I may not even do that. Give the WILSIDERZ some heart and brains to go along with the zest you gave me in the first issue or I predict that this book is going to end up far from being the wild ride it’s hoping to be. Last time I compared this book to BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER. I take that back. If this issue is any indication it’s heading into CHARMED territory and that, my friends, is not a good thing.
I thought he was a very nice gentleman. Soft-spoken. I thought so right up to the moment I cut his throat.
That is the most chilling line from the most chilling scene in the most chilling book ever published. The person speaking is Perry Smith. The man he’s talking about is Herb Clutter. And the book, the book is In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. To those of you that haven’t read it, get the fuck off the Internet and go buy a copy.
What, you think I’m kidding? FUCK OFF!
All right, assuming the rest of you have read it, I’m sure many of you have also seen Philip Seymour Hoffman earn himself an Oscar in the film Capote. Some of you may have even read the book of the same name by Gerald Clarke.
Quick, how many of you have read the comic book by Ande Parks?
Published by Oni Press, CAPOTE IN KANSAS covers similar territory to the movie. Similar, but not exactly the same. Oh sure, Capote still strides into town like the cock of the walk, claiming that he doesn’t really care if these killers are caught. And yes, once he finally meets Smith his whole world changes. But there’s a small measure of something I hate to call hope, but there’s definitely something in this book that the movie doesn’t have.
This book has Nancy Clutter.
Nancy makes up quite a bit of this book, in fact. Capote spends whatever time he’s not interviewing Smith in the company of… I’m hesitant to call her a ghost. Let’s refer to her as a memory. It’s these (admittedly wholly fictional) moments that make up the heart of the book. Not just because of Parks writing, but because of the starkly beautiful artwork of Chris Samnee. If his work on the closing two pages doesn’t get to you just a little, there must be something wrong with you.
I’ve lost count of the number of original graphic novels and digest books I’ve reviewed from Oni, but in all of them there’s not a one that I’ve regretted reading. I actually had to tell editor James Lucas Jones that he should publish something substandard; he’s making the other companies look bad. CAPOTE IN KANSAS maintains their 1000 batting average quite nicely.
Question For Discussion
What’s your favorite comic based on a true story?
What’s your favorite comic based on a true story?
JSA #79Slowly but surely I can feel this book getting back on track. After countless interruptions from "TEH CRISIS!!" this book is finally starting to tell its own stories again...some with lead-ins from INFINITE CRISIS... yea. Anyways. The story continues with half the team locked up by Mordru in yet another face off with the evil wizard, while the other half is in the Fifth Dimension trying to find Jakeem Thunder and question him as to why he's been causing so much havoc in that particular dimension. All I can say is that there is some good old-fashioned superheroing going on in this book, and that's good. It's what made the title so great in the first place, and is slowly regaining that glory. On the downside, there's Mordru, a-fucking-gain, and it's just a well that's gone dry. After getting his ass handed to him by the team so much he just doesn't feel like a threat anymore. Hell, the team even points out that he's not as powerful as he once was. And while there's some really clever little tricks committed by the team in this book, there's also a good bit of cliched dialogue and antics to even the writing chores back into the realm of "slightly above average." All in all, it's not a perfect issue by any means, but it's a might bit better than what came before it. - Humphrey
SUPREME POWER: NIGHTHAWK #3Three issues in and the intensity of this series has not faltered. Although this series should be called JOKER ANALOG instead of NIGHTHAWK since the focus of this story rests firmly on the villain’s shoulders, I have to say I am firmly entrenched in this story. Similar to Burton’s BATMAN film, writer Daniel Way gives the clownish madman center stage, shortchanging the hero, but entertaining nonetheless. Way also throws in a political slant as the politicians bicker about the fact that the only people succumbing to this madman’s rampage are drug dealers and users. Way walks the fine line between telling a story with a political message without being preachy or one-sided. He’s allowing the reader to form his or her own opinions. And I have to commend him on that since this is the day and age when everyone uses every outlet as a soapbox for their own personal beliefs these days. A worthy accompaniment to the amazing and thought provoking SUPREME POWER universe. - Bug
SHOWCASE PRESENTS: JONAH HEX Vol. 1(TPB)I’m still working my way through this 500 page+ mega-tome, so if there’re some real stinkers to be found in the end, I can’t speak of ‘em. Based on what I’ve read, however, it gets my highest recommendation. These tales of DC’s premiere Western hero have aged extremely well since they first appeared in the early ‘70s, maybe because they had so many filmic Westerns to draw upon, maybe just because the creators were enamored of doing some non-superhero material. I mean, this art is bloody brilliant, a match for E.C.’s big guns like Wally Wood and Al Williamson. It’s the work of creators, many of them seemingly Spanish and Italian, many little known today, who draw with the conviction of early 20th century illustrators. They know how to draw horses and infinitely detailed canyons and different facial types and saloons that look good ‘n’ worn. If only to see these masters at work, I’d recommend this volume, but the stories are a happy find too. Hardboiled, rich in Old West dialects, and dotted with a winning sense of black humor, they have the unique quality of serving up a hero seemingly fleshed-out from the get-go and needing no time to grow into the memorable scoundrel that he is. Want tough? Just sneak a test-read of the opening yarn at the store and watch Jonah Hex ride off into the sunset telling some luckless schmuck of a kid that he hates him like poison! Hell, I don’t think even Sergio Leone himself could have served up a more ornery cuss. - Dave
THE PUNISHER #27This is the “quiet before the storm” issue that Garth tends to do in his story arcs. I can’t recommend this single issue, but this current story arc is particularly nasty and it looks as if Frank is going to exact an especially vicious form of vengeance on the sex slave traders that he’s been tracking down since the beginning of this arc. Ennis often takes his time in these arcs to flesh out the new baddies which usually leaves the arc to be one or two issues too long. There is a particularly brutal fight scene between a pair of cops against the rest of their squadron, but aside from that scene, the bulk of this issue could have been trimmed down for a tighter read. I’m loving what Garth Ennis is doing with the Punisher lately, but I have to say that not all story arcs need to be six issues. A tight, entertaining, and to the point three or four arc would make this a truly great read. - Bug
DETECTIVE COMICS #813Three simple words to describe my feelings here: It's Almost Over. Seriously, while at first I was all about Lapham's take on the Dark Knight, now this "year long" arc is just dragging its heels to get to a finish. The story has been at least three parts too long so far, IMO, and combined with the three issue delay it had to go on thanks to the *wonderful* WAR CRIMES crossover and setup... it just needs to stop. Lapham definitely fits the tone and darkness that a Batman title should have, but he's just taken his sweet time with it to get to any sort of resolution. Add to that, that his new villain "The Body" really isn't all that interesting, and the arc just feels all for naught. This might end up reading really good once it's in trade and you can put it down all in one sitting, but it hasn't held up when stretched out over almost a year and a half. - Humphrey
OUTSIDERS #30This issue made me want to take a bath after reading it. Maybe it was the gay prison sex scene. Or the scene where evil genius Psimon hits on Arsenal. Or the way baddie Sabbac has just a tweense-bit too much body hair for my comfort. Or when Katana slices Shift in half. Or maybe the way the Kevin Nowlan-esque art by Matthew Clark threw it all out there in great detail. I’m not sure. I guess a story about a bad guy who utilizes the Seven Deadly Sins as a weapon is supposed to make you feel a bit dirty, but this issue kind of did a cannonball over the edge for me as far as pitting DC heroes into “adult” or “mature” situations. The fact that this issue centers on badass cutie Katana is a plus. The fact that it also features the most lame character in the DC or any Universe, Captain Marvel Jr., is a big minus. Heap on the fact that “unstable molecules” are referenced in this book and I have to say that I smell a stinker of an issue. Unstable molecules? Wrong U, Winick! - Bug
EXALTED #1 - I’m a sucker for the fantasy genre, but when I see books like EXALTED, with all their glitzy visuals but a storyline that’s pure nonsense, I can see why some folks look at it like it’s Sanskrit. Lavishly illustrated by Udon Studios, EXALTED is based on a mythic fantasy setting in a roleplaying game of the same name. The game and the comic are very anime-influenced, with characters plying their magic and swordsmanship at almost superheroic levels, but it’s all sound and fury without a story and characters to hang the cool stuff on. And EXALTED doesn’t deliver on that count. Rather it introduces a host of characters, none of whom get more than a few pages to earn any interest, and then offers a back-up story of snooze-inducing history of the era in which it’s staged. The one thing I thought was kinda cool was the inclusion of game stats for the lead character – the kind of bonus material the old D&D comics from DC used to include – the supreme irony being that the character’s bio was more interesting than his actual time in the story. In the story, we just see him as a thief about to be executed by some cruel guards for reasons unknown, but in the bio we find out that he’s an aspiring actor, that his provincial talents haven’t been enough to earn a living in the metropolis he ran away to, and that his poverty has forced him into a life of begging and thievery. Y’know, that ain’t half bad! Would’ve been an infinitely stronger first issue had this one kid been the focus rather than a host of characters. - Dave