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ESSENTIAL TALES OF THE ZOMBIE VOL. 1 JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #2 THE ULTIMATES #12 DWIGHT T. ALBATROS’ THE GOON NOIR #1 ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #100 BATMAN #657 Indie Jones presents a Comics Catch-Up of THE GREAT AND SECRET SHOW #1-6 Indie Jones presents SCATTERBRAIN #4 Indie Jones presents… CHEAP SHOTS!
ESSENTIAL TALES OF THE ZOMBIE VOL. 1
Written by Steve Gerber, Tony Isabella, Chris Claremont, Doug Moench, Roy Thomas, Marv Wolfman, Len Wein, Dave Kraft, Gerry Conway, Stan Lee Art by Pablo Marcos, Alfredo Alcala, Tony DeZuniga, Gene Colan, John Buscema, Ron Wilson, Tom Sutton, Bill Everett Published by Marvel Reviewed by Buzz MarvelzombieESSENTIAL TALES OF THE ZOMBIE VOL. 1 is the greatest thing Marvel has ever published. Say what you want about the current Marvel administration, but they okayed a collection of obscure black and white zombie tales that were a part of only the coolest childhoods. Superhero kids like me didn't read much of the black and whites. Now, I think they were too good for me. I didn't deserve them at the time.
Mind you, zombie Simon Garth isn't a Romero zombie. He's not a flesh eater. He's a mindless slave. We're talking voodoo, not the apocalypse. He's an animated corpse, but he has to do whatever he's told. No one ever tosses him a stray brain or anything. And he's not part of a horde. He's a rugged individual, a loner...even dead guys were cooler in the 1970s.
In addition to the Garth stories, Brother Voodoo makes several appearances. He was a Haitian, voodoo themed superhero, sort of an offshore Dr. Strange, bridging the gap between Marvel's horror wave and their regular books. He's introduced in a couple of prose articles, a first for the ESSENTIALS, one of which explains why he's black (hint: it's not because one or more of his parents was also black). Every now and then, an EC style horror story also surfaces.
The prose pieces and articles were extremely interesting and can really give you an idea what it felt like to be...well, a geek in those days. Pre-net, pre-DVD, hell, pre-VHS, you got your horror film info where you could get it. NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, which gave birth to the modern zombie, is covered but more interesting is the reverence toward the Bela Lugosi film WHITE ZOMBIE, and even better, an article about an AIP blaxploitation film called SUGAR HILL (betcha Tarantino has seen that one). There's something funny about these articles being written by Chris Claremont and Tony Isabella, sort of the elder statesmen of comic book writing. Claremont contributes an investigation of voodoo and reviews of voodoo books, while novelist Lin Carter explores the history of witchcraft. All with bad black and white photos!
Get yerself a slushee-bong, some Zeppelin (LPs or 8-tracks), this book and yer set.
JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #2
Writer: Brad Meltzer Penciler: Ed Benes Publisher: DC Comics Reviewed by Humphrey LeeSo, wow, that must be one hell of a scrap book they're putting together if we've still got Supes, Wonder Woman and the Bat-Man looking over snapshots in the second issue here.
But seriously, I'll give Meltzer some credit here in that he is doing a pretty good job of juggling at least half a dozen plotlines and keeping the majority of them pretty interesting. Obviously the main focus here is Red Tornado; Mr. Meltzer seems to have a special place in his brain meat for that loveable/re-killable bastard and it shows. And it is pretty touching stuff, seeing Big Red becoming human and trying to grasp the feelings and emotions that make us what we are. I think this plotline is the strongest of the ones presented to us, though I'm also enjoying seeing Black Lightning manipulating some of the criminal element due to his status as being labeled one of Lex Luthor's flunkies in order to get close to a case of disappearing metas. It's a good use of the character and a great way to get him involved. Plus, y'know, it's nice to see some continuity here and there. And the bits with Green Lantern, Black Canary, and Arsenal have been pretty keen. They've kinda meandered a bit to get where they did in the cliffhanger that ends this issue, but it's been some solid "family ties" type moments so I'm not really gonna complain.
On the downside, not even the great Brad Meltzer can make the character of Vixen interesting. I'm sorry, I've tried. I've read her in everything from JLA to Morrison's ANIMAL MAN to Gail using her recently in BIRDS OF PREY. She's just boring and I really don't need to see her brought in on the team. And speaking of which, as I riffed on earlier, we've got the big three still sitting around going over photos and debating who should be in on the latest incarnation of the JL of A. One more issue of this and they'll have spent equal time going over snapshots as Batman held young Dick Grayson in his pimped out Batmobile in ALL STAR BATMAN. That's not a good thing. But two weak plot-threads out of five isn't a bad average. It's better than most writers can juggle and keep interesting that's for sure. But we really do need to actually develop a, y'know, team in here somewhere. That'd be nice.
On the art front we get some more decently capable stuff from Ed Benes. The man has definitely got some very good soft lines going on here and a great flow between panels. But at the same time there really just is next to no variety in character models. Every man has the same overly muscled physique with the exact same sternum and midriff and jaw-line, while all the fems have the same curves and soft cheek bones to go with their cleavage. Though I guess this isn't so much Mr. Benes' fault as it is just what happens when you have a superhero book like this. But I like the energy he brings to the action sequences and he actually puts in the effort to put background scenery in his panels which is a huge plus over a lot of the other highly-touted artists out there right now, so overall I say he works quite well here.
All that said there's nothing inherently wrong with what's going on in this series thus far except that it seems to be moving at a very odd pace. Not necessarily slow as some of the storylines are moving quite well, it's just a matter of them all moving somewhat staggered from each other that throws it all off. I think there just needs to be more unison to make them feel like they're all moving towards something, which would pretty much be the inevitable "Here's the new Justice League!!" money shot. We'll see how well this goes next issue I guess.
THE ULTIMATES 2 # 12
Written by: Mark Millar Pencilled by: Bryan Hitch Published by: Marvel Comics Reviewed by: superheroNo one ever said war was pretty but if they looked at Bryan Hitch’s work in THE ULTIMATES they certainly might have to re-evaluate that statement. They might even have to say it’s actually downright beautiful after looking at an issue of this book. I mean, WOW, really.
It’s Hitch’s art that pretty much saves the day here as Millar turns in a typical tale in the pages of THE ULTIMATES. While several of the issues leading up to this one have been nothing short of spectacular, issue twelve delivers some epic combat scenes which at this point are starting to seem a bit old hat for this book. It’s almost like Millar’s bag of tricks has turned up empty with this issue. Sure, there’s some neat stuff in here like the Hulk mutilating and punching an opponent’s head off but by now, if you’ve been reading this book for any length of time, the shock value is pretty much gone. Been there done that. Not only that…but I’ve been there and done that with this creative team. Yes, I know that this isn’t my daddy’s AVENGERS team. I get that these heroes can engage in morally ambiguous acts of mayhem in the Ultimate universe, but is that all you’ve got, Millar? Are you pretty much a one trick pony when it comes to modern day super-hero stories? Because when I look at this and I look at what you’re doing in CIVIL WAR it sure seems like you are. I mean, the best Captain America fight you can give me is some wannabe light saber duel? What happened to that guy who wrote all of those fantastic Superman stories in the pages of SUPERMAN ADVENTURES all those years ago?
While Millar drops the ball with his writing Hitch picks it up and saves the game with his masterful artwork. Millar takes the scope of super-hero combat to a place where few artists are able to go. As a matter of fact, I’ll even say that Hitch’s artwork has probably changed what I expect to see in a super-hero showdown from now on. He’s raised the bar and issues like this one are the reason why. With each panel I felt like I was completely immersed in a super-human war zone. Hitch is a genius as far as I’m concerned and his art carries Millar’s writing for the entirety of this issue. Without Hitch’s ability to render full scale super carnage on a grand scale this issue would have been just another super-hero comic book. I truly believe that this issue is only as good as it is because of Hitch’s talent.
But as great as Hitch is he can’t keep me from feeling that as this run of THE ULTIMATES wraps up the concept is beginning to run out of gas. I can almost hear the engine sputtering as the series reaches issue thirteen. I hope the final issue of Millar and Hitch’s run proves me wrong because I’ve been a huge fan of THE ULTIMATES from the beginning but I’m also starting to think that maybe it is the right time for a new team to take on the book. It seems like a bit of repetition has set in at ULTIMATES HQ and maybe some new blood will be able to send the book into a fresh direction that will regain my interest.
DWIGHT T. ALBATROSS’ THE GOON NOIR #1 (of 3)
Writers: Patton Oswalt, Thomas Sniegoski, Bill Morrison, Steve Niles with an intro by Dwight T. Albatross Artists: Mike Ploog, Eric Powell, Bill Morrison, Ryan Sook Publisher: Dark Horse Publishing Reviewer: Ambush BugTHE GOON is one of those books that I have written scores of reviews on. It’s one of those books that always have a great time reading. One of those books that always seems to strike a nerve right in the ol’ funny bone and entertain like no other because it is a comic like no other. It’s funny. It’s raunchy. It’s got characters that are despicable and lovable at the same time. There really isn’t like anything on the shelves and it’s one of those books that, even on an off issue, it’s still pretty damn good and better than most of the other stuff out there.
Eric Powell takes a break of sorts from his tough guy creation and his lunatic legion of a supporting cast. Usually, I groan when someone sits back and lets others write stories about their own creations. Often a creator becomes so entwined and synonymous with their creations that when in the hands of other writers, the character often seems to lose that which makes it unique. I found this to be the case with some of the most recent issues of CONAN not written by writer Kurt Busiek. I know Busiek didn’t create CONAN, but he’s adapted some of the best Conan stories I’ve ever read about the character, so when he left, even though it was the same character, something was off. Something was missing.
I feared this upon reading THE GOON NOIR, a compilation of short stories featuring the Goon by other writers. This book serves to prove me wrong about the diminishing quality of characters passed on from their creators to other writers and seals the deal that the Goon himself has become an icon; one of those creations that writers get and understand and can make interesting. It helps that all you have to do is be a bit insane to write a good Goon story, and Powell has gathered quite an asylum full of talent for this book.
The first story is written by one of my faves, Patton Oswalt. I recently saw Patton’s stand-up when he was through Chicago for the Comedians of Comedy tour and just about shat puppies upon witnessing it. Patton’s humor shines in this short about Frankie’s relationship with the Goon and how he deals with another who vies to be the Goon’s best buddy. In true Goon fashion, Frankie deals with this threat and it was one of the biggest laughs in the book. Drawn by the legendary Mike Ploog in full-on ABAZADAD style, this is the best of the best in this compilation.
Story two features familiar art by Eric Powell, though done in a sketchy rushed style that I got used to as the panels passed. It’s part one of a mini feature running through this three issue miniseries and features the group of street kids from the regular Goon series. It looks to be a lot of fun, utilizing the blend of gross-out humor and shock value storytelling that made the last tale starring The Little Unholy Bastards such a memorable read.
Bill Morrison supplies both words and art for “Hey Goon, Comics!” which serves to piss off the Goon as he realizes his likeness is being used in a comic book. It’s a fun little short. And Steve Niles finishes off the book with amazing black and white art by Ryan Sook. And boy-o-boy, what a finish. Any story with the Goon using a gigantic pig as a weapon is okay in my book.
THE GOON NOIR seals it. The Goon is an official icon at this point. One of those characters that any writer can get right. He’s a character that’s recognizable and easy to write as long as you have the right sense of humor. Powell and THE GOON have taken a bit of heat about a recently pulled issue entitled Satan’s Sodomy Baby. Personally, nothing really offends me. I understand that humor is exactly that and should not be taken so seriously. Seems some bible-thumpers took offense to this book without even reading it and had it recalled before it was released. I’m sure someday Satan’s Sodomy Baby will poke its horny fontanelle-laden noggin out of the dark, hairy crevasse of oblivion for all of us to see. Until then, we’ve got some great stories from some great talent that have yet to fail to entertain in the regular GOON series and this GOON NOIR mini.
ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN # 100
Written by: Brian Michael Bendis Pencilled by: Mark Bagley Published by: Marvel Comics Reviewed by: superheroAhhhhh, Bendis, you crazy bastard…I love you. You take chances. You do stuff that other comic writers only dream of doing. Like who would have thought to revive a much reviled storyline such as the Clone Saga? Better yet what writer in their right mind would have even wanted to tread those waters? Hell, if anyone had said to me a year ago that Marvel would be whipping out that horrid mess of comic book history again in any manner I would have thought they were absolutely bat shit crazy! But see, Bendis, I’ve been paying attention and you, sir, are crazy. Crazy like a fox.
When the original Clone Saga reared its ugly head I wasn’t really reading the Spider-books. I had pretty much given up on the web head by the time McFarlane had taken up the writing chores on the book. So when Ben Riley made his mark on the Marvel Universe I didn’t pay much attention to what was going on. Oh, I’d pick up an issue or two here and there but every time I did I’d realize that what I was looking at was complete crap and I’d have the urge to burn the comic in infamy. At the time it seemed like I wasn’t alone. Fandom in general was fighting its own civil war as to whether the storyline was any good or not. Either way it was that run in the Spidey titles that was one of the big things that made me turn away from mainstream comics and actively seek out the indie books. So for that reason I’m eternally grateful to the Clone Saga. The Clone Saga and Chris Claremont. Both of ‘em sent me screaming to the hills of indie-land searching for comic book enlightenment.
So, again, when word came down that Bendis was going to write his version of the Clone Saga I found myself reading the news with a grin from ear to ear. See, despite my hatred for all things ILLUMINATI and CIVIL WAR I think Bendis is a really, really solid writer. Not only that but I think ULTIMATE SPIDEY is one of the best books on the stands. So if someone was going to tackle this whale I figured Bendis was the man to do it.
With issue one hundred the storyline comes to a head and some really gripping revelations are brought to the forefront. Mainly the reason as to why Peter Parker’s father is still amongst the land of the living. The thing that’s great here is that while tons of questions are answered there’s still a whole chunk of stuff that has hardly been explored at all and much like Ben Parker’s favorite nephew I found myself gritting my teeth with frustration as I read the whole issue. But I was frustrated in a good way. Bendis and Bagley are in the midst of some fantastic storytelling here that just has me dying to see how in the hell they’re going to pull this whole thing off satisfactorily. While I have been disappointed with several of Bendis’s storyline resolutions in POWERS he’s held up pretty well in the pages of this book so I’m hoping it all leads to a satisfying conclusion here. In any case when you have Aunt May suffering from a heart attack and Ultimate Carnage smashing out of the house to do battle with a whole S.H.I.E.L.D. battalion at the end of the this issue…well, I’m all in for next one.
My big problem with this issue though is only that it consisted of a lot of filler. If I’m paying four bucks for a comic book I want my money’s worth and I sure as hell didn’t get it here. While it was nice to see some of Bagley’s pencil work, did Marvel really need to stuff a full quarter of the book with a recap of the entire ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN run? I mean this is issue one hundred in the middle of an ongoing arc. Is this the right time for what is pretty much the equivalent of a television clip show? Just save me some money and print the actual story! Don’t try to foist a higher price tag on a comic by cramming it with stuff no one wants. Want to make sure the 100th issue is special? Well, guess what Marvel? You didn’t have to. The story was great as it was and that would have been special enough. But instead Marvel editorial decides they need to squeeze more money out of fans so we get more pages that no one wanted. Good going, Marvel. Way to leave a bad taste in this fan’s mouth. Luckily Bendis and Bagley delivered a great story so I didn’t end up feeling completely ripped off.
Writer: Grant Morrison Artist: Andy Kubert (pencils), Jesse Delperdang (inks) Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: BaytorWe're three issues into Morrison's run and I really want to like this book. I really, really do, and it comes so very close, so often that it's beyond frustrating.
The first issue started off a bit too close to the grim 'n' gritty crap that it was supposedly getting away from, but it had enough clever moments that I forgave it. The second issue was pure pop brilliance and I loved every panel of it. Now, the third issue finds me back where I started, with an issue that has a couple of brilliant moments, but the over-all tone of it just feels like more of the same ol' same ol' that had me fleeing this title years back.
The big problem is I don't like Batman's punk kid. He's not entertaining, he's not interesting, he's not sympathetic, he's not cool, he's just nails on a chalk board annoying, and makes Batman & Crew look like rank amateurs in the book's attempt to make him appear clever.
We start off with the child being led into the Batcave blindfolded. Why the blindfold? Near as I can figure, it's just Morrison playing up the Batman lore, but it just doesn't make much sense here. I'm sure his mother told him who his father really was, and since he was also upstairs in the mansion, I doubt it would be too much trouble to figure out who it belonged to.
By page 4, it should be obvious to Batman that the kid is a self-centered little psychopath (and he only gets worse from there), yet Batman practically gives the kid the run of the place, only locking up his sword and engaging a voice-activated lock somewhere or other that was supposedly keeping him in. Why the voice-activated lock? Who knows, since the kid had a room upstairs where only a window stood between him and freedom.
Of course, the kid gets out and causes a spot of trouble, using his League Of Assassins training to fight crime like his Daddy, to predictably bloody results. This is also the coolest part of the book, as we are shown an undercover operation into a novelty crime act. The villain in question is called The Spook, who's not much of a villain, but we get to spend a bit of time with a couple of his henchmen, dressed up in your traditional white bed sheet with two eye holes ghost costumes. For anyone who ever wondered about the sort of people who would dress up in funny costumes and hench for The Penguin or The Joker, this is a delightfully silly look into their world, and it's even played semi-seriously.
But the joy doesn't last long, as Batboy, The Boy Jackass, beats Batman to the punch and we cut back to the Batcave for a tedious fight between Batboy and Robin.
Okay, there's one really cool bit in the fight and that's where we learn that the giant dinosaur in the Batcave has an animatronic mouth, creating a deadly trap for people who decide the top of its head is a good place for a fight. Why would Batman have something like this around? Who knows, but it's funny and it gave me my second moment of joy in this comic.
As far as Andy Kubert's artwork, I really do wish the title had an artist with a wonkier style. A good part of why I keep processing this book as more of the same grim 'n' gritty Batcrap is Kubert's art. Don't get me wrong, he's a brilliant artist and I like his work, but it immediately puts me in the wrong frame of mind for the random odd bits from Morrison. With a different artist, the story wouldn't suck any less, but I might be able to maintain a pleasant enough attitude through the tedious shouty bits. As is, I keep forgetting this book isn't over-wrought and melodramatic, because Kubert's art comes across too seriously and the full suckness of the story is plain to see.
If this was anyone other than Morrison, I doubt I'd be back for a fourth issue. But even after thoroughly despising the vast majority of this issue, I find myself chuckling at the memory of the clever bits and even looking forward to what he'll come up with next month.
Dammit, this shit got away from me. For the last few months, there’s been a quiet buzz rhubarbing around the Talkbacks about IDW’s adaptation of Clive Barker’s novel, THE GREAT AND SECRET SHOW. This buzzing was so persistent that I decided to browse through one (I believe it was issue 3) on the rack. Then and there I was hooked and planned to do a catch-up on the miniseries. But this and that happened. Actually, more this than that, but that’s an entirely separate tale all together and long-story-short, it wasn’t until the sixth issue and midway point in this miniseries was released last week that I decided to chain myself to the computer and write out a review to catch you all up on this marvelous miniseries in something we like to call Comics Catch-up!
THE GREAT AND SECRET SHOW #1-6
Adapted by Chris Ryall from a novel by Clive Barker Art by Gabriel Rodriguez Published by IDW Publishing Reviewed by Ambush BugLike many of you, the first time I heard the name Clive Barker it was accompanied by the words, “I have seen the new face of horror…and its name is Clive Barker.” With those words, I was hooked. Since then I have read many of Barker’s books, seen most of his films, and viewed quite a bit of his artwork. The man is a true visionary. Looking at his artwork and reading his stories takes you on a journey where dreams and nightmares are made real. His is the type of artwork that inspires me and I’ve written quite a few stories of my own keeping Barker’s imagery in mind.
THE GREAT AND SECRET SHOW is a novel that I haven’t read and when I heard it was being adapted into a comic book miniseries, I immediately became excited that Barker’s imaginings were coming to the medium I loved. In the past, Barker’s adaptations have been a hodge podge of success and failures. I remember with ill ease the Barkerverse for Marvel, a company that was too lame to take the risks Barker takes. It was a mismatch from the beginning. I remember more fondly the TAPPING THE VEIN graphic novels which were much better suited at telling Barker’s tales. Barker tells stories like an artist, not a writer, painting a picture of what’s going on rather than telling it. His works are filled with sensations rather than descriptions, feelings rather than discourses. Is it any wonder why his works have been the focus of a visual medium such as comics?
So I went into this miniseries without any prior knowledge of the book. I had avoided any writings on the book because one day, I wanted a chance to sit down and read it. When the comic came along and the buzz in the TBs started, I knew that this was the right time to dive into this story.
THE GREAT AND SECRET SHOW deals with many themes that those who have read with Clive Barker’s stories will find quite familiar. It’s an age-old battle between light and darkness with two warring factions and the oblivious and innocent earth caught in between. It’s a personal tale of obsession and greed, love and lust, revenge and redemption--but enough with the three dollar dramatics. Plain and simple: it’s a damn good story.
Writer Chris Ryall is stuck with the monumental task of adapting Barker’s massive novel and he does a pretty decent job of chopping the book up into 22 page segments. Actually, he goes a great job of sectioning this story up into equal installments that never seem to act as filler or stretch to single issue length. Each issue seems to advance the plot at a decent pace and seems to have much more going on in the 22 pages than a regular comic. There is a great span of time that passes throughout this story, an entire history that adds depth to the main conflict at hand.
Issue one is a dark one, depicting the man who will come to be known as The Jaff and his obsession with a state of mind beyond reality. His search leads him to another man named Fletcher, who himself seeks answers to life’s unanswerable questions. Together these two travel to the edge of reality breaking through to another realm called Quiddity, but The Jaff is a twisted man. Fletcher realizes this and refuses to help The Jaff in his quest. The two become mortal enemies, fighting it out for the sake of reality over the quiet California town of Palomo Grove. It is a mystical battle fueled by hatred, greed, and a quest for power. Themselves equally matched and exhausted, the two fall into a deep pit, their battle seemingly over. So much happens in this issue. It’s a great intro to the major players in this story and the power that this story revolves around. While vague, the intensity of this power is evident on every page and as the story goes on, the dangers and thrills intensify.
Issue two leaps forward quite a few years. A group of young girls are compelled to go swimming in a lake formed over the pit where The Jaff and Fletcher were buried. While swimming, an invasive force assaults the girls. Each girl is affected differently from that seemingly innocent swim, but none of them leave unscathed. This issue illustrates with brutal strokes the seduction and destruction of youth as these girls are unwillingly drawn into the battle between The Jaff and Fletcher. It was with this issue that I knew that this was a very sophisticated story, one that spans decades. It’s one of those grand epics and not just a simple story. The story layers start to pile up as this series goes on.
By the third issue, we’re planted firmly into the present. The lake over the pit that held The Jaff and Fletcher has been filled, but when the offspring of the Jaff and Fletcher (born from two of the surviving girls who were assaulted in the last issue) meet for the first time, a crack in the earth is opened. Comedian Buddy Vance just happens to be jogging near the site of the lake/pit/landfill/crack in the earth, falls in, and inadvertently awakens the warring Fletcher and The Jaff. The meeting of their offspring awakens The Jaff and Fletcher and rekindles their age-old war. With so much back-story given such attention to in the previous issues, the dangers in the present day story really are very effective. A lesser writer would gloss over the back-story and focus on the present, but that’d be a mistake with this story since it is such a compelling factor. It’s evident that writer Ryall knows this.
By issue four, more characters are put into play. Nathan Grillo is a reporter investigating the famous comedian Buddy Vance’s death. His path is taking him closer to the battle between The Jaff and Fletcher. Meanwhile, introduced last issue, Jo-Beth and Tommy-Ray are the children of The Jaff. Jo-Beth’s meeting with Howie, Fletcher’s son, triggered The Jaff’s resurrection and the two offspring share an attraction towards one another. Now freed from the pit, The Jaff seeks out his offspring and wishes to use them in his battle with Fletcher. Both sides meet their offspring this issue, but the children are not quick to continue their father’s battles. By issue five, The Jaff shows us how powerful he really is as he harnesses the nightmares of others and makes them a part of his army of monstrous creatures. Artist Gabriel Rodriguez has a lot of fun coming up with creatures with mismatched parts of various animals and insects.
Issue six marks the halfway point of the series. All of our players are in place. The reporter is there trying to solve the mystery of the dead comedian. The Jaff has drafted his son Tommy-Ray but has had less success in recruiting his daughter Jo-Beth who has fallen for Fletcher’s son Howie. What I love about this story and a lot of Barker’s work is something I like to call “a layering of evil.” Barker seems to like to do this a lot. I’ve noticed it in his works such as HELLRAISER and NIGHTBREED where there is a mystical evil at play and a more human evil afoot as well. It’s one of those signature techniques I find appealing in all of Barker’s works. In this story, there are some truly despicable characters human and inhuman. Just when you think someone is evil, something comes along and proves that they can be more so.
We’re at the halfway point, and I really have no idea how it’s all going to pan out. Word has it that writer Chris Ryall is staying pretty close to the source material and artist Gabriel Robins not only makes his characters look creepy, but has illustrated some truly innovative imagery to make these mystical characters look like nothing I’ve seen in comics before. His depiction of The Jaff as a frail man surrounded by insectoid creatures and haloed by another face is a truly frightening image indeed.
I’m glad I didn’t jump onto this title too late. If you’ve missed the first half of this series, bother your retailer to try to track them down or get off your lazy @$$es and flip through some back bins. This multi-layered and richly textured story will surely leave you satisfied and longing for the next issue as much as The Jaff is for another trip to Quiddity. Or wait for the trade. Either way, you don’t want to miss this miniseries, it’s one of the best IDW has published to date.
Writer: Brendan Deneen Artist: Szymon Kudranski Publisher: MarkosiaReviewer: Prof. Challenger One of the best Indie surprises of 2006 wraps up its first 4-issue mini-series this week.
Writer Deneen nicely wraps up this story about the mysterious super-hero Scatterbrain (killed in the first issue, yet mysteriously returned by the second), the villainous Shroud, and intrepid (and messed up) police detective Jack Anderfold. When these characters were introduced in the first issue, I wondered a bit where they were going to go over the course of this story. In true noir style, every character dwells more on the dark side of their character than the readers may always be comfortable with. But there was that spark of heroism in Anderfold that made the reader root for him.
The entire series has surprised me with each issue paced so that a new shock or revelation would leave me hanging until the next issue came out. And this final issue is no exception as the various character arcs (Anderfold, his wife, his son, the Shroud, and Scatterbrain) all intersect to a satisfying and logical resolution. This final issue answers all the questions as to who Scatterbrain really is, how he came to be, and what the connection is between him and Anderfold.
I've said it before in my comments about the other issues in this series but the real strength for me as a reader has been the depth of characterization in the writing. Devil's Hopyard is a gritty setting and the characters are all hard-boiled and gritty themselves - true products of their environment. But I've been fascinated to see how they've developed and surprised me over four issues. This issue spends a bit less time developing the characters because the drive is on to finish the story. As a result, it moves at a faster pace than the previous issues, once again dramatically illustrated by the expressionist artwork of Kudranski.
For the fourth time, I'm going to highly recommend you search this gem out. If you haven't picked up the earlier issues, get the back issues and read the whole story. Deneen's SCATTERBRAIN is complete in this story, but the genesis of Scatterbrain has left open a smartly obvious scenario to continue telling new SCATTERBRAIN stories perpetually. Here's hoping sales warrant a second go around. Hats off to this creative team.
SE7EN: GLUTTONY #1 Zenescope EntertainmentWe interviewed writer Raven Gregory about this one a few weeks ago and it turns out to be a winner of a book. If you’re like me and love the movie SE7EN, you’re going to have to pick this one up. This issue reads more like a deleted scene from the movie than a comic itself. It’s the murder of the Gluttony victim told from the victim’s perspective while shedding just a sliver of light into the mind of the killer John Doe. The book doesn’t go overboard and reveal he was an abused child or a jilted lover, so don’t worry about demystifying the character of the killer. Within the parameters of the SE7EN story, writer Raven Gregory does a pretty great job of adding some spills and chills that were not expected. The book was illustrated by Tony Castillo and although his art is a bit cartoony for such dark material, the production of this book gives off the same sickly pallor as the dull tones of the film did. Photoshopped to make it look as if these pages were ripped from John Doe’s journals of madness, this is a book that looks good, delivers the goods, and has me looking forward to future installments elaborating on the other 6 deadly sins. - Ambush Bug
ZOMBIES: FEAST #4 IDW PublishingWe’re coming to a close with this one and it turns out ZOMBIE: FEAST is what it is. A group of inmates and their guards crash their transport vehicle outside of a rural town. After walking to a close-by farmhouse, the group finds out that the dead are rising. The story isn’t complex, the characters aren’t particularly well rounded, and the dialog’s a bit stiff. But I can’t help but like this fun little zombie tale that, yes, should have probably been an issue or two shorter, but never tries to be any deeper than what it is. It’s straight-for-the-jugular action B-movie stuff. Nothing fancy. Just Zombies vs. inmates. And for its simplicity I have to recommend it. This miniseries also sports some of the most beautifully rendered zombie crowd scene wrap-around covers I have ever seen by the talented Chris Bolton. - Ambush Bug
RUNNING ON EMPTY VOL. 1 ponbiki.respark.netI had the privilege of talking with RUNNING ON EMPTY creator Alberto Rios and the rest of the chaps at ELEMENT X STUDIOS when I was at this year’s Wizard World Chicago Con. RUNNING ON EMPTY VOL. 1 is a silent comic about a guy who was launched to the moon by the government but was never meant to survive. So the government is trying to take care of their mistake by trying to kill him. Turns out our cute little astronaut is tougher than he looks and isn’t going out so easily. This is an inventive yarn and a delight to read. It’s tough writing a silent comic and relying solely on the image to tell a story. Rios handled this hurdle pretty well in this story, only stumbling later in the series when some of the action is a bit hard to follow. But that didn’t stop me from enjoying this one. Rios’ style is along the lines of Frank Miller and Geoff Darrow’s THE BIG GUY AND RUSTY ROBOT. Rios is not afraid to use symbolism and dreamy atmosphere to make his action scenes more visceral and he’s got a great sense of pacing, evident in the opening scenes as the astronaut discovers that the package sent by the government that he thought was food turns out to be something far more deadly. Order this one from the artist’s website. I have a feeling that Alberto Rios is a name that we’ll all soon know. - Ambush Bug
MOTHER HYDRA’S MYTHOS RHYMES Dagon IndustriesWith a snake-like tongue firmly planted in its mystical cheek this book has a lot of fun with Lovecraftian mythology. If you liked BOOM’s recently released CTHULHU TALES or any of Lovecraft’s classic stories of horror, this is a must buy. Sure, some of the stuff is a bit forced and hokey like the entry If You’re a Cultist and You Know It, Clap Your Hands set to If You’re Happy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands, but I giggled a few times at the warped renditions of D-A-G-O-N set to B-I-N-G-O, Where Oh Where Has My Shoggoth Gone?, and a truly entertaining version of City At the Bottom of the Sea set to Hole At the Bottom of the Sea. The best part was the Edward Gorey-ish section entitled My First Mythos Alphabet which rhymes its way through the alphabet using Lovecraft-isms throughout. This is a slickly produced little book of sickness. - Ambush Bug
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.
BLUE BEETLE #7 DC ComicsI was a little unsure of the last issue of the initial storyline, but this issue sucked me right back in. We find out the scarab isn’t magical at all, it’s alien tech, and the aliens in question aren’t the biggest fan of the Green Lanterns (Qwardians, maybe?). It also turns out there’s a reason he doesn’t know what the hell is going on with the suit half the time—he didn’t get the data upload he was supposed to, it somehow ended up in Peacemaker’s head, which seems like it might not be the best thing ever. We also find out what happened when Jaime went to help the JLA take out Brother Eye, including Jaime putting Batman in his place without even realizing it to hilarious effect. Rogers does a great job of dropping in snarky humor to balance out some of the heavier emotional stuff, and there’s definitely some of that here. I also love Hamner’s art—energy blasts out of heroes’ arms get awfully dull after several decades, but the way the suit ripples and undulates first is pretty sweet. This is a strong issue that wraps up a dangling plot thread or two and sets up the next couple of storylines. I was wavering a bit, but I’m definitely right back on board. - Sleazy G
SHE-HULK #12 Marvel ComicsStarfox goes on trial, Shulkie finds out the truth behind her and John Jameson's relationship, Awesome Andy deals with heartbreak, and we get a startling new insight into the origins of none other than the Mad Titan, Thanos. Yea, this was a pretty busy issue, but a great example of why this is one of my favorite Marvel titles. One reason this book works so well is the plethora of cool secondary characters like the aforementioned Awesome Android, She-Hulk's would be lover Pug, and then occasional guest spots like in this issue with Thanos, Pip the Troll, Moondragon and so on. Combine those with events that actually evolve and have relevance in the "life" of our heroine, it just makes for good comic book writing. And I really like Rick Burchett's art on this book. I think it fits the title perfectly. Yep yep... - Humphrey
THE TRIALS OF SHAZAM! #2 DC ComicsLeery, but interested. Suspicious thrice-fold by both writer Judd Winick (who’s writing is hit and miss with me—BATMAN and GREEN ARROW hit!—GREEN LANTERN and OUTSIDERS miss!), this new age of magic hooey that totally fizzled out my interest levels in SHADOWPACT, and a pure and utter hatred for that waste of a character Freddie Freeman AKA Captain Marvel Jr., I’m hesitant to get into another magic book. But after being mildly amused by issue one of this series and somewhat intrigued by the presence of a test set up for the new Shazam to prove himself by winning each letter of his famous name, I am kind of getting into this series. That’s right, you read it. It’s SHAZAM, not Captain Marvel anymore. Just one of the big changes that is going on with the Marvel Family. Don’t know if I like it or not, but Winick is keeping things moving fast so far and Howard Porter remains bizarrely interesting to look at with his new clean painterly style. I’m tip-toeing and unsure with this one, but entertained nonetheless. - Bug
INVINCIBLE #35 Image ComicsA little bit of a downbeat "talky-talk" issue here, but like every issue of INVINCIBLE, there's a lot meat in all the word balloonage. In this issue Cecil sends over a learning instructor to help with the development of Mark's new-found half-brother (who also gets a name here too). Robot, in his brand spanking new human body, reveals himself to his Global Guardians teammates with some interesting revelations on top of that. And our resident teenage hero has a bit of a man-to-man conversation with Art the Tailor about his relationship with his girlfriend Amber and a bit of a conflict about his feelings towards his superhero ally Atom Eve. Oh, and there's more on top of all of that, but I'm running out of space here. So I'll just wrap it up and say this: this issue actually ran a bit on the boring side, but I'll be damned if a lot of stuff still didn't go down. That Kirkman really knows how to push his storylines; this one just could have used a little bit more of the old ultra-violence. Cheers... - Humphrey
HAWKGIRL #56 DC ComicsOther than the dull and confusing storyline, the clunky dialogue and the mediocre, poorly colored art, this issue pretty much sucked. Argue all you want about the legendary status of Simonson and Chaykin, but this is nowhere near their finest work. If it just read like something they would have written 20 years ago it might still get a pass, but it doesn’t: it reads like mediocre work from creators past their prime.
This went from a title I loved under Johns to a title I liked under Gray and Palmiotti to a title I can't even laugh at any more, it's so horrible. I'm less than 10 bucks away from dropping the book entirely and the creative team can't change fast enough. Not even my love of female bodybuilders in gold bikinis was enough to make this storyline worth reading. For the luvva pete, DC--sometimes you just gotta know when to let the old creators go, and this would be one of those times. Quick. Before you're letting the series go instead. - Sleazy G