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7 SOLDIERS: FRANKENSTEIN #1
PUNISHER VS BULLSEYE #1
THE WALKING DEAD #24
7 SOLDIERS: ZATANNA #4
Indie Jones presents…
SEVEN SOLDIERS: FRANKENSTEIN #1
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Doug Mahnke
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Prof. Challenger
"Tell them...Frankenstein lives!"
Ok. Let's look at the cover first ~ our first look at DC's new "Frankenstein" character. He's huge, muscular; kind of green-ish with the classic monster flathead, scars, and even has bolts sticking out of his head. But he also has holes (bullet holes maybe?) all over his body that moonlight is shining through. He's also dressed in such a way that bespeaks a history of adventure that has yet to be told. He's wearing a French military tunic from the era of Napoleon and American cowboy boots with spurs, and a tattered trench coat. In his hand he holds a Jules Verne-esque steam-powered pistol and he is being swarmed by unholy creatures that look like a human/maggot hybrid. The character design by Doug Mahnke is so interesting that it is searing my artistic drive to put pen to paper and draw that monster myself. There's something intriguing when a character is dressed in the tatters of a uniform that implies an adventurous history prior to the reader is introduced to the character. Think of Jonah Hex and how part of the visual appeal, beyond the horrible scar ring on his face, is the fact that this deadly gunslinger/bounty hunter is dressed in a ragged rebel Civil War uniform. At a glance, the reader is treated to a taste of an intriguing history to the character that may or may not ever be fully told. Similarly, the costuming choices for Frankenstein establish his tumultuous and globe-spanning longevity at a glance.
This ain't the SPAWN OF FRANKENSTEIN that appeared in the 70s as a backup feature for the PHANTOM STRANGER comic book. This is a ballsy "in your face" reinterpretation of the original Frankenstein creature. Morrison even opts to eschew the usual pedantic author's conceit of stressing for the reader that "Frankenstein" is the name of the CREATOR of the monster and not the monster itself. Nope. Morrison just lets the creature be Frankenstein and it seems a fitting choice as a piece of the overwhelmingly audience-pleasing SEVEN SOLDERS puzzle. After all, if you ask most people here in the West who Frankenstein is, they'll tell you he's that big, green, flat-headed monster with bolts in his neck.
Anyone else out there who vaguely remembers that SPAWN OF FRANKENSTEIN series in the '70s will also remember that the creature had that noseless green-tinted corpse look with stringy long brown hair, and ran around shirtless with tattered pants. He was also lankier than anything and few in the way of scars. In his short story-life, he was resurrected by a modern '70s analog to Frankenstein named Victor Adams. Don't remember much more than that. Later on, Roy Thomas introduced the creature into his YOUNG ALL-STARS comic where the creature was discovered alive in the arctic. He was tall, grayish, with long black hair. This was during the time period where Roy seemed to be making an earnest effort to introduce all public-domain literary characters into his 40s era stories. I'm sure that, given enough time, Roy would've introduced Mowgli, the Scarlet Pimpernel, and Anne of Green Gables into DC continuity, but I digress...
Neither of these versions of the creature ever seemed to have much concern for nor impact upon continuity and have been largely forgotten. There's a good reason for that: unoriginality. The SPAWN OF FRANKENSTEIN was simply an attempt to replicate the original Shelley FRANKENSTEIN story but set it in "modern" day and the Roy Thomas attempt was simply taking Shelley's character and slavishly depicting him as he was described in the original novel. Morrison kicks all these other versions out the window and provides the 21st century with a powerful creature who is a spiritual agent of wrath ~ presumably for God Himself. He wields a steam-powered pistol and a sword that for all appearances looks to be the sword of the Archangel Michael. He is also poetically literate, more in line with his original depiction by Shelley, and this adds to his appeal as a wrathful, murderous monster with a literary bent fighting on the side of the angels.
There is an intensity to the storytelling; an uneasiness. There is an atmosphere of visceral horror in the best tradition of true horror comics like the classic original SWAMP THING and MAN-THING series. Where else in a mainstream comic book are you going to find the hero of the book ram a sword through the back of the neck of a teenaged boy, regardless of the fact that the boy is possessed of evil? Even on BUFFY: THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, they tended to avoid the graphic killing of underage students by the Scoobies. The artwork has a real European look to it; very detailed but not overly polished. For me, the colorist, John Kalisz, contributed a lot to the atmosphere. Where I had seen some black and white preview art, I was a bit under whelmed, but once I saw the finished product with the line work and the color together, I was impressed.
The writing was very good. It's not overly verbose, like, say TOMB OF DRACULA, but instead is driven by the visuals. The prologue sets up Frankenstein's connection to the SEVEN SOLDIERS mythology by presenting a final battle in 1870 between Frankenstein and the villainous Melmoth, last seen in the KLARION mini-series. The battle ended with a train crash (which I must confess to a bit of confusion about the one page that appeared to show the train crash popping in and out of time over the course of 130 years or so ~ I don't know if the page was missing some captions or what). Bottom line is that the train crashed, trapping Frankenstein inside, while the next century saw a town built over the site. Now, the creepy maggot soul-suckers that were on that train with Frankenstein have parasitically latched onto a bunch of teenagers because of the villainous teen known as Uglyhead. Uglyhead is what every comic book geek fears he looks like to the rest of the world. He's short, fat, ugly, and sweaty, with glasses and acne. He also can read everyone's thought balloons which leads him to a CARRIE-style showdown at the school dance. However, when he comes face to face with Frankenstein, who claws his way up out of the ground to confront him and his maggots, Uglyhead only sees the image of a skull in Frankenstein's thought balloon. Death is all that occupies his thoughts.
Morrison is quite clever with the idea that Uglyhead reads everyone's thought balloons rather than just their "thoughts." He's also clever with the symbolic presence of butterfly imagery throughout the story. I'm sure there's maybe some more literal meaning behind it, but for me, the symbolism seemed evocative of the teenagers' transition from adolescent to young adult and, perhaps, the rebirth of the evil of the Sheeda, but also Frankenstein's emergence from the ground where he tore out like a butterfly from his cocoon. Drawn to the surface by the stench of evil, Frankenstein has been given a new life and a new mission. And....one final note of enjoyment, the teenaged girl who first encounters Frankenstein almost immediately tries to join him in his mission as "Girl Frankenstein." That was a funny bit in an otherwise deadly serious story and it seemed appropriate in this Morrison corner of the DC Universe for her to do that. Thankfully, Frankenstein turned down her generous offer.
PUNISHER VS. BULLSEYE #1
Writer: Daniel Way
Artist: Steve Dillon
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Sleazy G
Daniel Way seems like he’s got a lot of potential. I’m liking his NIGHTHAWK miniseries set in the SUPREME POWER corner of the M.U. (also with Dillon), and he did a pretty solid job with the tragically HOUSE OF M-related WOLVERINE issues so I’m interested in seeing where he takes that title next. Steve Dillon, of course, has been around for quite a while now. Some people don’t like the boxiness of his characters’ faces or how manly most of the women look, but he’s definitely got a lot of style and handles graphic violence like nobody’s business (take, for example, his patented “dude getting his lower jaw shot off” work—nuthin’ like it). That’s why I was really looking forward to this series.
I’ve never hidden how little I enjoyed Garth Ennis’ first two rides around the block with Frank Castle, since he handled the whole thing like a joke and indulged himself in his most immature impulses. I’ve also made it quite clear just how impressed with the complete turnaround Ennis has made on the relaunched MAX PUNISHER, a book that handles the subject matter far more seriously and to far greater effect. Unfortunately, this first issue is much more akin to the first two considerably weaker Ennis attempts. Don’t get me wrong—not every Punisher story needs to be a dismal bummer. There’s room for a more direct action romp now and again, and seeing the two titular characters play off one another should allow for a lot of fun. No, the problem I have here is that once again we have the kind of juvenile character that detracted from the three or four years of PUNISHER pre-MAX. I just didn’t need to see yet another jab at mob guys who cross-dress, and how them wearing panties makes them a pussy, and all the rest. Not only is a mob boss doing this for a coupla decades in secret utterly unbelievable, it’s also a cheap, pointless way to “develop” a character—oh, he wears a dress! Ha ha! Which leads to the next point, and the most unforgivable one: it’s just not funny. I mean, it wasn’t funny when The Russian was an unstoppable killing oaf who wanted boobies and a skirt, and it’s not getting any funnier.
Don’t get me wrong, the series has some potential nonetheless. Way’s dialogue is pretty solid, and having Bullseye off a guy by dropping a quarter off the Empire State Building was inspired. Dillon’s art is as good as ever, and I’m not surprised that he’s a good fit for Way’s writing considering the similarities to his old running buddy Ennis. It’s just that there’s a major element of the story that was so jarringly out-of-place that it left a bad taste in my mouth through the rest of the issue. I keep hoping that at some point this type of snickering drunken frat-boy attempt at “humor” will be given the boot by editorial at Marvel, and I keep getting disappointed. I’ll give the next issue another shot because I think Way’s got some chops and the two characters should generate some sparks when they clash, but I was definitely let down here.
THE WALKING DEAD #24
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Art: Charlie Adlard
Reviewer: Ambush Bug
If Robert Kirkman is trying to convey the utter boredom and frustration the cast of THE WALKING DEAD suffer from on a day to day basis in a world where the only thing that dies and stays dead are civilization and humanity, then he’s doing a bang up job. Entertainment-wise, though, not so much.
For the better part of four issues, we’ve been force-fed the zombified version of AS THE WORLD TURNS. Stuck in a safe haven/penitentiary, the survivors of the zombie holocaust attempt to formulate a society. Tensions arise involving laws, morality, loyalty, and the division of power. Like many zombie movies, THE WALKING DEAD serves as the perfect mirror of our own humanity stripped raw. It forces one to face their ultimate fear — the fear of death itself. For the first twenty some issues, Kirkman did a great job of mapping out the danger and introducing us to a cast of characters that spark investment from the reader almost immediately. Recently though, the problem is that the plot has screeched to a grinding halt.
After the intensity of the first twenty some issues filled with zombies around every corner, death of major characters, and tough decisions made by others, the last few issues have focused more on the moral aspects of the survivors’ current situation. This makes for some powerful reading – the type of powerful reading that has permeated this book since issue one, but those first twenty had something these last four issues don’t – the presence of said danger. Namely, the zombie menace.
Kirkman sprinkled the horror with the human stuff pretty evenly for the most part of this series. Characters had to push aside morals and beliefs to adjust to this new chaotic world, but there was evidence of this threat in every issue. There were zombie attacks, major characters died and rose again, and conflicts forced characters to go off on their own. There was a true sense of horror in this book. The last few issues have forgotten all of that and focused on the horror of man itself, not the zombies.
I get what Kirkman is doing. He mapped it out plain as day in the ten page discourse by the main character Rick as he addresses the rest of the survivors. I understand that these past issues have established that the true horror is man himself and that the zombies aren’t the real walking dead, it’s the survivors. The thing is, we already know this. This has been a theme present since issue one. We don’t need the main character to stare at the reader in a double splash page screaming “WE ARE THE WALKING DEAD!” We know this. That dead horse has been beaten flat, risen from the grave, and then run over with a steam roller. No need to cram it down our throats for ten solid pages of dialog ending in a double splash page and finally a single splash. This is the type of literal, obvious, space-wasting storytelling that I would expect from any number of lesser writers, but given the caliber of storytelling that has been present from issue one of this series, I expected better from Kirkman.
As much as I appreciate this slow-build storytelling (I’m fairly certain the payoff will be worth it), I have to say that the last few issues have been the worst in this otherwise stellar series. The literality of the storytelling, the pacing, the ham-fisted melodrama – it’s just too much. The beauty of George Romero’s DEAD films touching on these same themes is that in between the study of the human condition, we got to see some zombies tearing people apart. We got scares and thrills and entertainment. Somewhere along the way, Kirkman seems to have forgotten this, or at least he’s taking way too long a pause in between.
One last maddening aspect of this book is the fact that at the end of the book we get seven full pages of fan letters. I understand fan appreciation. Kirkman seems like one of those good guys who truly loves his fans, but do we really have to read every letter the guy gets in the mail? Hell, I think I saw his electric bill printed on one of those pages. I fucking hate hippies as much as the next guy, but when the letters page takes up almost ten pages, even I have to start thinking about those poor trees that lost their lives to make those extra pages.
We’re often hardest on the ones we love and I do love this book. I’ve followed Rick and Co. through thick and thin, and still will, but Kirkman needs to pick up the pace soon. This zombie-crawl, spelled-out, daytime-soap storytelling in THE WALKING DEAD has got to go.
SEVEN SOLDIERS: ZATANNA #4
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Ryan Sook (pencils), Mick Gray (inks)
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Prof. Challenger
"The book of water is a kind heart. The book of Earth is a graceful body. The book of air, a keen mind. The book of fire is strength of spirit. Do you understand? I wrote my books in you, Zatanna. You were my greatest spell, my gift to the world."
I really dug this mini-series. I'm a huge fan of Morrison's SEVEN SOLDIERS just in concept. I thought the SEVEN SOLDIERS kick-off special was outstanding. As to the first batch of related mini-series, I thought GUARDIAN and SHINING KNIGHT were good but not good enough for me to stick with for the whole 4 issues. I had no interest in KLARION (just a general and personal ho-hum about anything even half-way "goth"-oriented), so I avoided it. But, ZATANNA hooked me in issue one and kept me through to the end.
I'm not 100% sure about everything that happened, but Morrison kept the whole convolution intriguing. Doesn't hurt that Zatanna's running around this issue in a full-body fishnet that leaves little to the imagination. Drawing together elements from the other SEVEN SOLDIERS stories told so far, Zatanna and her gloomy little sidekick, Misty, take off on Sir Justin's (SHINING KNIGHT) winged horse to visit the swamp from the SEVEN SOLDIERS SPECIAL #0. Here she faces her worst nightmare in Zor, a twisted and demonic living effigy of her father Zatara. The sadistic creep uses his magic against Zatanna, even warping reality so that she becomes Zorina, his wicked little daughter. In a brilliant move, Morrison has the evil Zorina do just what she would do to cause trouble for her disgusting "father," she immediately speaks a spell to restore Zatanna in her place. Where some lesser writer would've taken Zorina for a spin, probably in her own mini-series, Morrison pulls this whole stunt off in one page. One page. Storytelling economy at its best and most effective.
Following that, the all-out magical battle between Zatanna and Zor is just mind-boggling. Morrison seems to really understand that if magic were "real," what a powerful force it would be to wield. Imagine the ability to bypass the laws of nature and reality and to bend them to your will. It would be a wonder that the universe could keep from falling apart. Thankfully, in Morrion's corner of the DC Universe, there are individuals like Zatanna with such depth and strength of character that they can resist the temptation of godhood and commit their lives to preventing those of lesser character from destroying everything.
Morrison also moves the SEVEN SOLDIERS story along as Zatanna comes face-to-face with the "Seven Unknown Men." At this point, evocative of THE MATRIX to some extent, these 7 bald-headed clones in suits and ties appear to be outside of our dimension, but in some way controlling certain events in our world. Morrison also provides Zatanna with closure that she's never had before by allowing her to talk with her father, Zatara, one last time. In her quest for the lost Books of Zatara, she neglected to look in the mirror. Zatara hid his magic in Zatanna and made her his last blessing to the world. So, by the end of this comic, Zatanna has found her confidence, her purpose, and she is extraordinarily powerful. And in the final panel, Misty comes flying back on the scene to whisk Zatanna away for the upcoming adventure in SEVEN SOLDIERS SPECIAL #1.
Now, one of the things that just really pissed me off about IDENTITY CRISIS was simply the wholesale gutting of Zatanna's characterization by Brad Meltzer. What pissed me off about it was that he disregarded any semblance of how Zatanna had previously been portrayed just to further his idiotic brain-wiping idea. Meltzer's pervasive misogyny seemed to require that Zatanna be portrayed as a weak-willed little girl who could be bullied by a bunch of angry men into raping people's minds. What pissed me off about that was simply that the whole idiotic brain-wiping story did not require the character violations that he performed ~ see how Geoff Johns has told similar stories to see how it can be accomplished without rewriting characterizations. In fact, it was one of the things that so angered me that I packaged up those first two issues of IDENTITY CRISIS and shipped 'em back to Paul Levitz and demanded my money back.
Thankfully, Morrison has basically kicked Meltzer in the nuts by how strong a character he has made Zatanna by the end of this series. I am enthused by where she stands now as a confident, strong-willed character that just happens to like dressing up and being on stage. Here's hoping this mini-series will springboard into another Zatanna series with this level of quality.
GIANT MONSTER #2
This issue surprised me in a number of ways. First and foremost, Nat Jones’ depictions of mayhem and violence are jaw-droppingly good. This is a true up-and-coming artist whose scratchy detailings give the entire read a sense of rawness. Jones’ Giant Monster is all teeth and muscles and if Marvel doesn’t nab up this guy to draw the Hulk someday, they’re a bunch of idiots. The second thing that surprised me was the fact that the FINI at the end of this book looks to mark the last issue for this miniseries. I say this because Steve Niles’ story just sort of ends. With all of the hardcore violence and drama which leads up to the last page of this issue, I was left with that “what-the-fuh?” feeling as the story doesn’t so much as come to a resolution as much as it just stops. This is the same sense of befuddlement that I felt at the end of Niles’ LONELY TOMBSTONE one shot. A few more pages of resolution may have been nice, but I guess with the events that occur in this issue, there really wasn’t many left kicking to take part in said resolution. The shock value deaths that occur in this issue seemed to have painted Niles into a literary corner, leaving him with no one to tie any sort of ending to. I guess this is the writer’s fault for not writing this story with any character that the reader can relate to or sympathize with. Aside from the structural flaws of the story, I did have a hell of a good time reading this story due to some well placed cool moments. Seeing a giant Nazi robot swoop in to save the day in this issue, witnessing the Giant Monster take on a gaggle of great white sharks in the last issue, the scene between the Giant Monster and his estranged wife – these were the moments that make this two-part series worth picking up. - Ambush Bug
Written by: Orlando Harding
Art by: David Miller
Published by: Revolution Comics
When I got this book in the mail and opened the package I honestly didn’t know what to think.
I mean, just look at the cover image. If that isn’t a set up to get some kind of reaction then I don’t know what is. Honestly, I was afraid that what someone had sent me was comic book espousing some sort of religious extremist viewpoint.
Turns out, strangely enough, that the religious aspect of the book wasn’t what I should have been concerned about at all. What I should have been concerned with was getting a coherent story…something I definitely didn’t get in this book.
PARIAH opens up with some very compelling storytelling. In the first few pages the victim of an apparent accident is being rushed to the hospital via ambulance. The victim’s legs and left arm have been cut off and her vital signs are non-existent. Any attempts to inject an I.V. have failed as the needles keep breaking off on her skin. By all accounts the woman should be dead and the doctor on call at the hospital states this to the EMS workers en route but they insist the opposite. They claim this because of the fact that she was actually conscious a second ago was able to actually to speak to them while her vitals were down.
As I said, the first few pages are pretty interesting stuff with the ambulance crew arguing back and forth with the doctor who refuses to believe that the person that they’re bringing in could possibly be alive if she has no vitals. As compelling as this sequence is, though, it absolutely makes no sense. The problem with it is that while they’re bringing this mystery woman in she’s actually unconscious so how in the heck are they supposed to think that she’s alive? I mean, if someone is passed out and shows no sign of life then how would an EMS worker assume she was still alive in the first place? As illogical as this bit was I was willing to forgive it as the actual situation itself seemed intriguing. The first few pages do exactly what an introductory sequence should do. They pulled me in and kept me interested as the staff learns that the woman apparently has no internal organs as well. The story so far had me where it wanted me. Suddenly, I wanted to keep reading this comic despite of the plot hole in its opening. This comic actually seemed like it might be a decent read.
Well, I’m actually sorry to say that as quickly as the book had me it let me slip through its fingers almost as immediately.
The problem begins when the mystery woman springs to life in the emergency room. You would think that this would be the incident that really gets the story moving but instead it brings it to an absolute and awkward halt. Honestly, I can’t think of the last time I read a comic book that had me so interested and then ended up crashing and burning as much as PARIAH did. What was it that turned me off about the last part of the book? Well, pretty much everything.
As soon as the mystery woman awakens she begins to ask the doctor about his faith and talk to him about his grandmother and the closet monster he was afraid of as a boy and asks him if he believes in heaven and hell. In short the story devolves into almost nonsensical gibberish. The dialogue gets so ridiculous that at one point this woman claims to have actually been the closet monster that terrified him as a child. Not only that, but the story itself then takes an absolutely bizarre turn. The woman assaults an orderly in the hospital by ripping his eyes out (how she manages to do this without legs is beyond me) to show him a vision of hell and no one except the head doctor acts as if anything is even remotely wrong. As a matter of fact the doctor actually wheels the woman away in a wheelchair so they can get some privacy!
Let me get this straight. A woman who was supposedly brought in dead, has no legs and one arm, has unbreakable skin that no needles could get through, has no internal organs, and just tore a man’s eyes out just gets wheeled to another room in the hospital so she can have a private chat with the doctor who just cracked her chest open and no one does anything????? I mean, even in the fantastic world of comic books this was a little too much for me to swallow.
What follows after that is several pages of, quite literally, the doctor and his organless patient talking. They sit in a room and talk. About what I honestly couldn’t make out because none of it is presented in any coherent fashion. Apparently something bad is going to happen and it has something to do with a second fallen angel who isn’t Satan. Either way the dialogue just goes on and on and just serves no real purpose other than to fill up space. By the end of the story I was just so tired of reading bad dialogue that didn’t make any real concrete sense that I just didn’t care about the story anymore. The writer of this book should really learn to condense his thoughts more so as to get his point across more quickly. I mean Bendis goes a little crazy with the talky-talk but at least his stuff is compelling. This was just…I don’t know what to call it. Not only that but the letterer, Nate Piekos of Blambot fame, needs to learn how to lay out his word balloons and captions. So much of the dialogue is just crammed into one balloon or caption at a time. Part of making dialogue flow in a comic is the placing of the balloons. Honestly, I actually feel bad for the letterer because I get the feeling it may not have been his fault as there are just SO many words you can fit into a word balloon or caption. I mean, the guy runs blambot.com. It’s hard for me to believe that he doesn’t know what he’s doing when it comes to laying out a comic page. But when you’re laying out balloons with too much dialogue in them, well, that might make your job impossible.
As far as the art goes…well, it’s not perfect but I’ve seen worse. Honestly, the artist’s storytelling ability is actually pretty good but I would actually suggest that he try and take some life drawing classes. As it is his style comes across as a bad early Image knockoff artist. The anatomy of all his figures is way off and his work is harsh and overly angular. There’s actually some potential there but the artwork itself looks very rushed. As a matter of fact, the artists of the book should thank their lucky stars for their colorist, Roderic Rodriguez, as I believe it’s his coloring that actually uplifts the quality of the artwork. If anything it’s Rodriguez’s work that comes across best in this book. His palette and use of effects is extremely capable and if anyone’s work comes across with star quality it’s his. This guy could color for the pros. The problem is that when the star of your book is the colorist, well, then your book’s got problems.
The thing of it is that the creators of PARIAH have actually put together a really nice package with this book. The book is printed on terrific quality paper which helps the artwork and colors pop off the page. A lot of the time an attractive package can be half the battle with an independent book so this gives me the feeling that the creators of PARIAH actually have their act together in a way. Now if they could only go back and re-tool their concepts and visuals a bit PARIAH could actually be something interesting. Unfortunately, right now it’s a project that’s in serious need of some focus or, at the very least, clarity.
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.