ESSENTIAL MARVEL HORROR Vol 1
Writers: Gary Friedrich, Steve Gerber, Mike Friedrich, Chris Claremont, John Warner, Bill Mantlo, Roy Thomas, Tony Isabella Artists: Tom Sutton, Syd Shores, Jim Mooney, Herb Trimpe, Frank Chiaramonte, Sal Trapani, Gene Colan, Mike Esposito, Sal Buscema, Al McWilliams, Joe Giella, Bob McLeod, Dan Green, Sonny Trinidad, P. Craig Russell, Ed Hannigan, Russ Heath, John Tartaglione, Vince Colletta, John Romita, Esteban Maroto, Pablo Marcos, Enrique Romero, Pat Broderick, The Crusty Bunkers, George Evans, The Tribe, Vincente Alcazar, Mike Vosburg, Gene Day, Steve Leialoha Publisher: Marvel Reviewer: Dan Grendell"I am Satan's son, and I will NOT be denied that which I desire!"
I have no idea why this is called ESSENTIAL MARVEL HORROR. It should have been called ESSENTIAL CHILDREN OF SATAN, or if Marvel didn't want to put the word Satan in big letters on the cover, ESSENTIAL HELLSTROM CHILDREN or something. That's what it actually is, a collection of the earliest stories of Daimon Hellstrom and his sister Satana Hellstrom. I don't know of >anyone who was actually scared by Hellstrom. Calling it horror is a bit of a misnomer, and does injustice to the actual Marvel Horror mags that are being given ESSENTIAL volumes of their own.
Anyway, this volume covers Daimon and Satana - The Early Years, and it's pretty damn cool. It gets off to a bit of a rocky start, with the origin story. See, Satan went to Earth and got married and had two kids with his wife. (Huh? Guess he was bored.) He trained the younger one, Satana, to be evil, but I guess just ignored Daimon for some reason. When the mother found out, it drove her mad, and the kids were placed in homes while Satan went back to Hell. Later, Daimon found her diary, and the passage to Hell in the basement, and tracked down his dad. Along the way he sees a Netheranium mine in Hell, which is the only element that can weaken Satan's power. Why the fuck would Satan mine that? When he finds his Dad, he is able to wrest his trident away from him and escape. Wait a second - the issue before this origin flashback, Daimon used that trident to defeat Satan because it has NETHERANIUM TIPS. Are you telling me Satan carried around that trident all the time, even though it made him powerless, until Daimon stole it? Why have I been told to fear Satan my whole life? The guy's a fucking moron.
After the origin, more competent writers take over, and we get fun stories. Hellstrom has to confront his own inner dark side, gets attacked by living tarot cards, goes back in time to Atlantis, takes on a cult of nihilists who dress like Roman soldiers for some reason, and even teams up with the Thing and later the Human Torch. Sure, the stories are kinda goofy, but so what? That's why I like 'em. You can't run around with a pentagram on your chest calling yourself the Son of Satan and not be a little goofy just for that.
Satana's stories are a little more mature and better written, but that's to be expected since most of them were done for the Marvel monster magazines that were outside the Comics Code. She's damn sexy, and she's totally evil. She steals people's souls by kissing them and pulling them out in this neat little butterfly shape. She's not a hero, she's a succubus. And she's no pawn of her father, either. Of course, we still get the fun team-ups with Dr. Strange and Spider-Man. So it isn't all doom and gloom.
This isn't the best of the ESSENTIAL line, but it is far from the worst. If you want actual horror, check out TALES OF THE ZOMBIE; for some fun reading, stay right here.
ABSOLUTE SANDMAN VOL. 1
Neil Gaiman: Writer
I’m sure that, after being in print for 18 years, I don’t need to rehash the storyline for this particular book for anyone. Still, you never know, so the short story is that this book is about the physical manifestation of Dreams, who is trapped for the bulk of the 20th century by a wizard who is seeking to bind Death. The story follows Dream after his escape, and shows what the impact of imprisonment has on this being.
Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg, Kelly Jones, Charles Vess, Colleen Doran: Artists
Vroom Socko: Dip$hit of the @$$holes
That’s the dry, plot-based description, at any rate.
What this book is really about is Death and Life and Rebirth. It’s about ambition and drive, success and failure. It’s about the most powerful of gods and the most insignificant of animals. It’s about family and feuds, quests across galaxies and searching inside souls. This is a story about storytelling. It’s THE story about stories. And it’s one of the best comics ever to see print.
You all know this already, I’m sure. What you really want to know is how does this new Absolute edition look, and is it worth a hundred bones? As far as the price goes, this volume would be worth the price at $150 bucks. The cover alone is gorgeous, as is the slipcase. But what about the much-vaunted recolored interior art, you ask?
I actually read the original PRELUDES & NOCTURNES side-by-side with this volume, comparing each old page with the new (yes, I have no social life, why do you ask?) As published previously, PRELUDES has a significant EC Comics feel to it, with a lot of dark blues, purples and reds filling the page. As a moody, dark horror book, the coloring works. It has a life and a feel that play wonderfully, and if you can’t afford this monster hardcover, the TPB’s are still worth your while. But the colors in the Absolute volume…
For the first time ever, when I’m looking at those five initial issues, I’m seeing art by Sam Kieth. Sure, those issues always had his name on them, but now they actually look like something he drew. The Kirby-inspired dreams of Scott Free look especially sweet, as do the legions of Hell when fully assembled before Lucifer. Mike Dringenberg’s work also manages to look yards better as well. I felt like I was reading “The Doll’s House” for the first time all over again. The only word I can come up with to describe how it looks is luxuriant. I am told that the two Kelley Jones issues contained herein are also recolored, but they looked essentially the same to me. Then again, Jones’ artwork always looks fucking amazing no matter what you do to it.
If you can scrape up the spare scratch, you should definitely pick up this book. It’s a beautiful, glorious volume, and lord knows that if any comic deserves this sort of treatment, it’s SANDMAN.
Writer: Miles Gunter Artist: Victor Santos Publisher: Image Reviewer: Ambush BugZombie books deal with themes revolving around our own fears of death. I remember one of the most frightening days of my life happened on a calm Sunday afternoon at my uncle’s funeral. I was ten years old and my brother and I were more interested in exploring the funeral home than paying our respects. Kids are like that. Death is so far away that it’s something that seems trivial and unreal. As we played explorer, we happened upon a back room where a corpse lay half covered by a white sheet on a gurney. Our giggles faded quickly as we walked up to the body on the table and looked at death for the first time, face to face. The room was as silent as the body on the table. My brother and I had seen dead bodies on the afternoon Shock Theater show featuring black and white and red thrillers hosted by a painted fat guy in black named Dr. Creep and his silent dog Duffy, but it was never like this. The body lay cold, relaxed, and heavy. The facial features were lax and almost drooping with no musculature actively holding an expression on the cadaver’s face. We were frozen ourselves. Fascinated by this new thing in front of us and scared shitless. A crash from the other room broke our trances and we quickly hauled balls out of there. Out of breath and hearts racing, my brother and I burst into the room where the rest of our relatives sat. They looked at us and dismissed our exasperation as youthful vigor, not knowing that this had been the first time death had touched our short lives.
The fear that was coursing up and down my spine that day had a lot to do with that fascination with death that many of us find on our minds from time to time. We all want to live forever, but the simple fact is we’re all going to perish one day. Zombie books deal with this fear and I think that’s why there are so many good books revolving around this theme and why the genre brings out such powerful stories from these creators.
Take SAMUREE for instance. Three warriors--a noble samurai, a goofy ninja, and a soulful monk--are thrown together to despite their differences in philosophies and beliefs to fight the forces of the undead in ZOMBEE, the latest in a long line of zombie comics to hit the shelves recently. I don’t know if I just love zombie comics so much that I can see no faults or just that making a zombie comic brings out the best in today’s creators, but there aren’t too many of these zombie books that I am finding unentertaining.
The reasons why the zombie genre is such a powerful subject to hang a great story off of is illustrated with ease and creativity in this original graphic novel from Image. In zombie comics there is often a very clear enemy for our heroes to fight. It is an evil that surprises our heroes at first, but soon they become knowledgeable about how to make it out alive. It is an evil that unites people despite differences and one that brings out our baser instincts of survival. Real character is portrayed and the differences between one character and another are often clearly defined when faced with their own mortality. Writer Miles Gunter highlights the differences between these three very different Asian warriors. The differences in fighting styles are illustrated with great ease by the capable art of Victor Santos. Gunter knows when to shut up and let Santos play with some great silent action scenes, intervening only at the beginning or end for a moment of relevance.
But this is not all doom and gloom. It’s actually quite funny, with most of the humorous moments occurring as Gunter plays the samurai as straight man to the ninja’s hijinks or reacts to the monk’s odd actions. It’s nice to see these three Asian warrior archtypes at play with one another. I’m sure it’s been done before, but I found this to be a one of those “damn, that’s cool” team-ups that would make a great movie. Just think Stephen Chow as the goofy ninja, Jet Lee as the soulful monk, and Chow Yun Fat as the dutiful samurai. Tell me you wouldn’t want to see those three kicking zombie @$$ on the big screen.
Reading this book, I couldn’t help but think about the Chinese Hopping Vampire films I used to eat up like gummy bears back in the day. These films paired kung fu with horror and often set a small group of warriors against the undead. Seeing the samurai in ZOMBEE fighting a zombified baby and nanny is just one great scene illustrating this pefect pairing of horror, martial arts, and humor.
ZOMBEE is one of those rare treats that struck a chord with me. It’s a great blending of genres and one of those fun reads that just screams for movie development or at least a comic book sequel. Highly recommended for those who like to have their spine tingled, their funny bones tickled and their kung fu jonez fully satisfied.
THE OMEGA MEN #1
Writer: Andersen Gabrych Artist: Henry Flint Publisher: DC Reviewer: BaytorHuh?
I know I haven’t been following the DCU for a long time, but I’ve always been a big fan of DC’s space books and figured I wouldn’t have too much trouble getting back in the swing of things with a bunch of old faces. Seems the Darkstars are no longer a bunch of Green Lantern wannabes and are space missionaries… ummm, okay. L.E.G.I.O.N. is still kicking around and being led by Vril Dox… check. The Spider Guild is still a bunch of evil bastards… cool. We’ve got a Guardian, a Zamaron, and what appears to be one of the babies from the worst DCU cross-over event of all time, Millennium… well, apart from the last bit, I’m down. And, last but not least, we still got The Omega Men tossing around a lot of violence. Everything seems to be in order, only I’m scratching my head by the end of it.
Not like the plot is much of anything. The Spider Guild is tracking down pieces of some mystical artifact in service of their evil god, who has united the multitude of people of the Vegan System. The Omega Men are trying to stop them, and everyone, including all the good guys like L.E.G.I.O.N., the Guardians, Superman, and the Teen Titans are trying to stop the Omega Men from stopping the Spider Guild… which is where my “Huh?” meter goes off the chart.
No one, and I repeat, no one seems to have their motivations explained. The Omega Men are doing what they’re doing because one of them is having weird dreams about the mystical artifact, only no one on the team seems all that committed to the notion. We don’t even get to see the dreams they’re following. The Guardians, in typical DC tradition, never seem to have any motivation for anything they do, so they’re no help. Vril Dox is simply doing his job and tossing out commentary about religion, so big ol' goose egg there. The Spider Guild is all about the evil, so nothing there to flesh out the story. I wouldn’t even have known who the hell the Zamaron were if not for having read that crappy DC cross-over event I read 15 years ago, and all she seems to want to do is kick ass. Her blue-skin daughter is on the side of the Omega Men because she’s having the same dreams as the other guy, while Superman and the Teen Titans are just there for the clichéd “… and they stand against the heroes” moment at the end.
I assume that the entire cosmos stands on the brink because of whatever, because that’s how these stories always go; but there’s not a hint as to why the mystical artifact is important, apart from everyone wanting it. Not much characterization here either, apart from some extremely familiar team banter. The only cast member standing out is the gruff but lovable one-eyed, cigar-chomping, sergeant-type talking a cynical game, but willing to go through hell for his teammates. I’d love to tell you his name, but I forgot it long ago, and I can’t seem to find it anywhere in the story. There’s just nothing in this story that I can latch onto and enjoy.
I’ve even disappointed with the art of Henry Flint, who I remember fondly from his random work on DC’s space-faring titles back in the early 90s. It’s been years since I’ve seen his work, but I don’t remember his faces being so dead and lifeless.
Just total and complete crap.
HELLSTORM: SON OF SATAN #1
Writer: Alexander Irvine Artists: Russ Braun (pencils), Klaus Janson (inks) Publisher: Marvel MAX Reviewer: Ambush BugOK, first and foremost, it’s Hellstrom, not Hellstorm. I know, the title of the book has always been HELLSTORM, but once the covers of the comics starring the Son of Satan have been cracked open, the innards of the books have always referred to him as Damion Hellstrom. A book that doesn’t even get the main character’s name right is reason enough for a lot of people (me included at first) to steer clear of this one. But really, what’s in a name, folks? Hell, since in occult true power lies within proper names, maybe getting the name wrong on the cover is a way to make the Son of Satan all the more powerful.
It’s not like Hellstrom (I’m going to use the character’s proper name in this review even though the writer doesn’t in the book) is ever even referred to by name in this first issue other than in the Afterword section. In fact, what struck me in this first issue the most was the fact that Hellstrom is actually not even the main character in this story. In the Afterword itself, the writer admits that this is simply a story that he had pittering around in his head and he just threw Hellstrom in there to make it a comic book tale.
But not even the honesty of the writer and the misnomer on the title could stop me from giving this book a semi-positive review. The story, in fact, is kind of intriguing: a woman gives birth to a boy who ages at a rapid rate, then turns into an eagle and flies away. Set in New Orleans, the writer relates the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina with the flooding of the Nile in Egyptian myth. And just as the story of Isis, Osiris, and Horus took place there, the myth is reborn in this modern setting. And to make matters worse, for some reason, Satan himself is involved.
Even though I usually abhor squishing current events into the pages of comics, writer Irvine does a great job of justifying the presence of an insurgence of gods and demons around the setting of a hurricane-ravaged New Orleans. In times of disaster, people often resort to prayer. And where there are prayers, there are angels and demons. Makes sense to me, in a comic booky way.
But the problem with this book is that it is an interesting story, but not an interesting SON OF SATAN story. Hellstrom takes the waaaaaay back seat in this first issue. He’s cast as a noir-ish drifter sitting on the sidelines occasionally intervening when a demon decides to attack a mortal along a dark alley. As the story progresses, we hear a story from a guy in a bar about the woman and the baby/eagle. Later, Hellstrom himself reiterates the story, this time relating it to ancient Egyptian myth. So the same story, for the most part, is told twice in one issue, not leaving much room for any Son of Satan action. There is some trident swinging by Hellstrom throughout the issue, don’t get me wrong, but these scenes seem to function only to remind the reader that this is a Son of Satan book. After these obligatory scenes, the story quickly returns to the myth of Isis and Horus. It seems as if the writer would rather be telling the story of Isis than that of Hellstrom, and that’s a damn shame, since I love me some Satan.
The art’s decent enough. It’s darkly colored and Klaus Janson’s inks are prominent in a good way, nailed down by pencils from artist Russ Braun, who has a Ron Garney feel to his work. Janson is always as good as his penciler. Left on his own, I hate Janson’s work, but with the right guidelines, his inks make a good story look great. The colors of this book by Giulia Brusco are especially effective in making this book look like a proper horror comic.
In the end, this is a good read, just not a good SON OF SATAN read. There are no signs or even mentions of Hellcat or Gargoyle or the Defenders. Anything that happened between those characters and Hellstrom occurred years ago, so that means Marvel won’t acknowledge their existence since mostly none of the staff seem to have read any comic more than ten years old, so they don’t think any of the readers have either. By the end of this book, I have to say, the story of Isis and Horus is one I found to be interesting. Too bad the writer had to edge out the main character in this book to tell it.
WILDCATS: WORLDSTORM #1
Writer: Grant Morrison Artist: Jim Lee Publisher: DC/Wildstorm Reviewer: BaytorFirst issues are tricky beasts. In my years of reading comics, I’ve seen many a talent writer (and legions of untalented ones) muck it up. Maybe it was easier in the old days, when the pure episodic tale ruled, but in today’s world, people expect not only a kick ass adventure that introduces all your lead characters, but want to see the groundwork being laid for the entire run. Few manage to pull it off, even fewer within the confines of the standard-sized 22-page comic.
And, really, most comic fans know it, which is why you have so many people on message boards talking about how they’re going to give a new series a couple of issues to properly wow them.
But I think Morrison nailed it here. The first issue of WILDCATS reads like one of those brilliant action movie trailers that doesn’t quite tell you everything you need to know, but gives you enough glimpses to hook you. There’s not a terrible amount of substance here. Many of the Wildcats are re-introduced in separate action sequences: Grifter (paraphrasing Wolvie’s catch-phrase) shoots it out in Latin America, Majestic & Zealot butcher hordes, and Spartan & Voodoo engage in a little Warhol-colored horizontal action as Morrison wonders aloud what super-heroes would be like if they acted like real adults.
There are only a handful of writers I’d trust to do something interesting with that last bit. You hear “adult” a lot, but mostly they just trot out the same old clichés from WATCHMEN for the umpteenth time and pretend it’s still 1987; or, even worse, they mistake Warren Ellis’ thoroughly adolescent turn on AUTHORITY (and I mean that as the highest of compliments) as mature, and replicate that with more boobies and swear words. No, the world “adult” rarely inspires confidence in me, but Grant Morrison has made a career of zigging when everyone else was zagging and he earns that trust, even if there’s not much in this issue that suggests anything substantially different than what we’ve seen before.
Jim Lee doesn’t fail either, providing the insanely detailed line-work that fans have come to expect from him over the years. I’m not exactly the man’s biggest fan (generally finding his work a bit stiff and posed), but he had me drooling in more than a few places. This is great work and I find myself wishing he’d drop the chronically late ALL-STAR BATMAN & ROBIN to focus full time on this.
Flaws, it has a few, namely a lot of the Universe Housekeeping in the opening pages, which I didn’t find interesting or informative. My knowledge of the WSU is extremely limited, so I found my attention wondering whenever they started alluding to the shambles THE AUTHORITY became after Millar left, but thankfully Morrison was tossing around a lot more than just Continuity Accounting in those pages, giving hints to the big “Worldstorm” that follows these events and the sci-fi world that the Halo Corporation has created since last we saw them.
What the future holds for this title, I cannot say; but this is one of the best super-hero debuts I’ve seen in a long, long time. The last time I felt this giddy joy was when Morrison took over NEW X-MEN, and while that title didn’t quite live up to my expectations in the long run, it ended up being one of the most entertaining runs in X-History. I’m definitely in on this one.
KUROSAGI CORPSE DELIVERY SERVICE Vol 1
Writer: Eiji Otsuka Artist: Housui Yamazaki Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Reviewer: Dan Grendell"But me and my friends, we're looking to take our experiences here at Buddhist College, and apply them to the real world. We're thinking, there's GOT to be other ways to make money off this."
Yeah. Every time I get complacent, and figure I've seen pretty much every idea manga has to throw at me, i get hit in the face with something new. Truth be told, that's why I keep checking out the new stuff. I love that. KUROSAGI is the perfect example. Never in a million years would I have seen this coming. The main character is a guy named Kuro Karatsu, who goes to Buddhist College. That, by the way, is exactly what it sounds like. They train you to be Buddhist priests and stuff there. Only Karatsu isn't really all that into it. Unlike most of the people at the school, his family doesn't run a temple or anything. So when he meets a group of people like him, he figures they have something in common.
Except they are all freaks.
Ao Sasaki, the leader, ropes him into chanting sutras over corpses the cops find. She takes pictures of the corpses and sells them online. Numata uses a pendulum to dowse for bodies. Makino is an enbalmer, which makes her kind of an outcast in a country where nobody wants to touch bodies and they are all cremated. And Yata speaks to aliens through a puppet on his hand. Of course, Karatsu just blows these guys off until Yata's aliens reveal HIS secret... that he's an itako. He can let corpses possess him and talk for a little while. To prove it, he has a little chat with the body they were chanting sutras over, and lo and behold, the guy wants to be buried with his girlfriend. Looks like the group has a new hobby--helping corpses! And as this volume progresses, the stories take some freaky and even fucked up turns, but really, what do you expect?
Otsuka's writing is punchy and entertaining, but can also be downright creepy at times. Yamazaki backs that up perfectly, with great character design ( I love Makino's cute, wide-eyed look and Karatsu's constant put-upon droop) and the ability to switch from realistic to totally fucking creepy. One panel, where a father fondles his dead daughter's corpse, really just blew me away. It really conveyed how fucked up this guy was, and didn't play it off for some tits and ass thing like many artists mistakenly do. Freaked me the hell out. Wonderful.
Check this one out, if you want something new and interesting. It has all the hallmarks of being a great manga.
AIRGEAR Vol 1
Written and Illustrated by: Oh!great Published by: Del Rey Manga Reviewed by: superheroWhen a creator’s name has the word “great” in it expectations can run pretty high. I’d heard of Oh!great before and seen some of his work a while back in a book about manga creators that I’d read. When I saw it then I was pretty impressed with his stuff. I was also impressed when I saw some of his work when his first American release, TENJHO TENGE, was released by DC Comics. Unfortunately I never picked up that book due to the word circulating around the ‘net that the series had been censored for its American release. I knew AIRGEAR was another manga that great was working on so I decided to wait and see if that one would be released here so I could eventually check out this creator’s skills.
When I finally got my hands on AIRGEAR I was not disappointed. Oh!great’s art in this book is some of the best manga artwork I’ve ever seen. His layouts are dynamic and crackling with energy. The linework is smooth and precise. Honestly, some of the stuff here is really just fantastic to look at and it’s rare that manga artwork really pops out and demands my attention. In a comics genre that is often criticized for producing work that can come across as too similar in appearance, Oh!great’s work stands head and shoulders above the rest. Ito Ogure (Oh!great’s real name) makes almost every panel seem like it’s hyped up on amphetamines and yet he’s able to maintain his ability to tell a clear and concise story at the same time. The result is a steady but fast paced story that just continued to visually impress me every time I turned the page.
Part of the reason for this is because AIRGEAR is about a group of gangs who duke it out on the rooftops of the city on souped up rollerblades. Ogure’s skill shines though because of his skillful ability to convey speed and athleticism combined with incredible figure drawing and detail. Looking at this book I can’t imagine another artist who would be better suited to draw a book like SPIDER-MAN or, better yet, THE FLASH. If I were one of the heads at the big two I’d be getting this guy on the phone right now because the perfect Spidey or Flash book is just waiting to pour out of this guy’s pencil.
I do, however, have some problems with AIRGEAR and most of those stem from the story itself. Unfortunately AIRGEAR is chock full of the typical manga stereotypes. Everything from the spiky hared, brash young protagonist to the squad of overly cute yet top heavy anime chicks is present here. While I don’t usually have any problems with these types of manga trappings I was hoping that the story here would live up to the incredible nature of the artwork. It didn’t, but at the same time AIRGEAR’s narrative wasn’t completely horrible in that it’s gotten me interested enough to possibly pick up the next issue. Sure, much of my interest comes from just wanting to stare at another volume of Oh!great’s artwork again but at least the story wasn’t so silly that it’s actually keeping me away from the book.
OHIKKOSHI Vol 1
Creator: Hiroaki Samura Publisher: Dark Horse Reviewer: Dan Grendell"...and I'd love to have the POWER to puke all over the place and still score my woman. That's what I'm saying!"
The name Hiroaki Samura may be familiar to you already, as he is the creator of the well-known manga series BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL. What you may not know is that he has also done a few romance shorts, under the name Takei Teashi, which are collected in this volume. If you have read any BLADE and guessed that Samura's romance is a bit different than the standard manga romance, you get a cookie. There's romance involved, alright, and it's a central theme, but it's more about how the person you are in love with isn't always in love with you, and sometimes you just gotta deal with it, and sometimes persistence pays off.
The main story, which takes up most of the volume, is titled "Ohikkoshi". It's about a group of twenty-something friends who try to live their lives despite the loves that have formed between some of them. It's mostly funny, often sad, usually right on the money, and always entertaining. That's followed by "Luncheon of Tears Diary", the story of a manga-ka who looks for love while becoming a mahjong shark, a gang queen, and eventually her own woman. The volume closes with "Kyoto Super Barhopping Journal (Bloodbath at Midorigaike)", a short little autobiographical story about wandering in Kyoto drunk.
Samura's art style here is a bit different than his style in BLADE, but only because he tends to keep things tighter. The loose, sketch-like look of the fight scenes from BLADE is missing, which I wholeheartedly approve of--those have always been something I disliked about his art style, so in OHIKKOSHI I get all of the greatness of his dynamic lines and none of the weakness. Panel-to-panel storytelling is superb, as well, and makes it easy to follow the various subplots going on, even with the gags Samura throws in.
A fun take on romance that goes for the heart without being sickly-sweet, Samura has produced something here that is very rare--a romance comic men will enjoy.
Writer: Cullen Bunn Artist: Brian Hurtt Publisher: Oni Press Reviewer: Humphrey LeeDemons and dames, mobsters and machine guns, and the undead. Honestly, if that doesn't sell a comic for you right there I don't know what you're waiting for.
But seriously, THE DAMNED from Oni Press is a really neat little comic with a cool setting. Think "The Untouchables", but instead of Al Capone, we get a mob boss that looks like Tim Curry did playing The Lord of Darkness in “Legend”. We also have a pretty damned interesting lead named Eddie who is actually dead when we're introduced to him. Oh, don't worry, he's alright, but apparently he's got this nasty little curse on him that keeps him from going on to the other side. So he keeps on coming back and coming back no matter how many times rival mobs try to whack him.
And it's that little "gimmick" of his that makes him very important in the upcoming days to mob/demon head Big Al Aligheri. You see, while Eddie was festering in some back alley for three days with a slit throat, a deal with rival mob leader Bruno Roarke was being hammered out, but a key element to the deal has gone missing. It may be because of outside interference on Roarke's part, or it may be treachery from within. Eddie becomes the go to guy from here because he was post mortum at the time, so that makes him the only guy Big Al can trust to bring everything back together. And from there THE DAMNED takes its paces in setting up some colorful characters, a game of cat and mouse, some really eerie bits involving Eddie's little problem and so on.
I personally pretty much dug this entire issue. First off, this series has a great premise and setting, and a really fun cast of characters thus far. I really dig the idea of demonic entities using their influence and power to take wealth from some of the many vices of mankind. The banter back and forth between the characters is nice and snappy, though if I have any gripe about this book it's that sometimes it does come off as typical fare from other medium’s work about this time period. Also, sometimes it's kind of stifling in its execution. But when the dialogue works, it works, and between it and the way the plot progresses this particular issue reads through very smoothly, almost so much so that I barely noticed that it was actually 40 pages for a slightly above normal price of $3.50. You can't really beat that.
Also, speaking of things you can't really beat, the Brian Hurtt art in this pamphlet here is really, really good. The main thing about it is the mood it sets. When you think "30's mobster film" you think stark lighting contrasts, you think seamy outskirts, and of course, three-piece suits everywhere. And all that is present and accounted for and then some. The lines in here are very fine and detailed, every human and non-human character has their own unique look and feel despite being dressed alike, and there's some good depth to the backgrounds. Also, the appearances of the demons and otherworldly creatures themselves have a nice "classic" appeal to them, but with their own little nuances to make them seem a bit atypical from what you're used to. All in all, very very good pencils, enough so to make me want to check out more of them on the much lamented HARD TIME series from DC in back issue form.
So we've got a great premise with solid writing backed by terrific art, and all at almost double the normal size for a lousy two quarters more. I'd say right there that's another win for Oni Press, who in all honesty, I don't think I've yet to encounter a single "bad" or subpar comic title from them. And now THE DAMNED comes along and I've got another book from them to go along with WASTELAND that I can't hardly wait to see what happens next in its pages. All I can say to that is "Jolly good show boys. Jolly good show."
By Crispin Hellion Glover Publisher: Volcanic Eruptions Reviewer: Ambush BugLike many of you, I find myself fascinated with character actor/professional eccentric Crispin Hellion Glover. From his cameo in WILD AT HEART as Jingle Dale who liked to put a cockroach on his anus to the mild-mannered, sci-fi comic readin’ George McFly from BACK TO THE FUTURE, from being perfectly cast as rat-boy WILLARD to his hilarious turn as BARTLEBY (“I’d…prefer not to…”), from the silent swordsman from the CHARLIE’S ANGELS movies to the spastic karate kicking incident on David Letterman (I actually saw that when it was originally televised), Glover’s career has been something that I have found to be continuously entertaining to follow.
I knew Glover had published a few books, but for some reason or another, I never had a chance to read any of them. When I happened across RAT CATCHING at my local comic shop, though, I saw it as a sign and picked it up. Leafing through it, I saw that this was not actually a comic at all, although it does have graphic elements. It’s actually a sort of instructional manual that drifts into a semi-coherent story, then back again into manual form, ending with an apology to the reader for meandering so far off course in the middle of a book. RAT CATCHING is disturbing, thought provoking, and another foggy window shedding just a smidge of light across the off-kilter mind of Crispin Hellion Glover. It is a book made from pages of other books. Lines are crossed out. Words are penciled in. Pictures are obscured and pages are scribbled upon. Cover to cover, this is more of a piece of artwork than an actual story.
Y’know, looking at pictures of natives with gaping holes in their abdomens, stretched rat pelts, and ritualistic chicken plucking assembly lines may not be the most pleasant of reading experiences, but like a train wreck or DANCING WITH THE STARS, I just couldn’t avert my eyes from it.
Glover is coming to the Music Box in Chicago soon. He’s set to show his recent film, run a slide-show, and do god knows what else. Fellow @$$hole Sleazy G and I are going to be in attendance and I am actually kind of scared as to what this experience will be like. Glover is a truly original voice and I plan on searching for more of his literary work. Check out RAT CATCHING. If you’re as screwy as me, I think you’ll enjoy it for the bizarre art piece it is.
12 REASONS WHY I LOVE HER OGN
Jamie S. Rich: Writer Joelle Jones: Artist Oni Press : Publisher Vroom Socko: As Corny As Kansas In AugustThose of you with long memories will recall the last Jamie Rich comic I reviewed, LOVE THE WAY YOU LOVE. That’s the quarterly book from Oni that I thought was well written and illustrated and not for me. It wasn’t bad by any means, but it just didn’t click with me for whatever reason.
12 REASONS, as it turns out, is the one that clicks. Clicks like a goddamn Snapple cap.
Plot-wise, this is the story of Gwen, and her romance with Evan. If all you want from a book is plot… well this is pretty much the standard sort of romance. These two meet, they date, they fight, and they make up. That’s every romance. What makes this story stand out is the way it’s told. The twelve chapters tell this tale through temporal trips back and forth, starting with their first date, proceeding to their make-up, followed by their break-up, and ending with the day they meet. The pacing and style are lyrical, practically poetic. And Joëlle Jones artwork is definitely poetic; there’s a section with Gwen talking about the seasons that is pure beauty.
This romance is about as far from typical storytelling as you can get without slipping into the abstract. It’s not going to click with everyone, I’m sure of that. But everyone who does have it click will remember this book for a good long while, I promise you that.
DARKMAN VS ARMY OF DARKNESS #1 Dynamite EntertainmentI’ve been a fan of both DARKMAN and the EVIL DEAD movies, but that wasn’t the draw for me in this case. I bought this comic solely because of the talent putting this one together. Not only does it have Kurt Busiek and Roger Stern on tap as writers, but this book also sports some artwork by one of my favorite artists from yesteryear, James Fry. I love Fry’s fluid linework and solid paneling. He’s always been a standout artist, one who has fallen off the map in recent years. Fry does a good job here, but storywise, there’s not much going on. Darkman is skulking about. Ash only shows up in the last few pages. And some Deadites are wreaking much havoc. I know it’s become the standard in these team-up books that the characters meet in the last panels of the first issue, fight in the second, tool around in a fluff filled 3rd and 4th issue, then finally come to some type of resolution in the last issue, but I expected more from a pairing of some of the best writers in the industry. Stern and Busiek are phoning it in and following formula so far, and because of the lack of ingenuity, I won’t be around to see if it gets any better. There was a time when the whole team-up storyline happened all in one issue--it was called MARVEL TEAM-UP and MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE. I imagine Stern and Busiek have probably read one or two of those old issues. I’d just love to have a team-up book break from the new tired formula and try something new. I thought maybe a writing team of this caliber would give me something I haven’t read a million times before in one variation or another formula-wise. Guess not. Color me unimpressed and put me in the “not coming back for seconds” category. - Ambush Bug
ZOMBIES! FEAST #5 IDW PublishingMan, writer Shane McCarthy saved the best for last. I loved the final issue of this series which started out as your standard zombie tale and ended up an intensely action-packed romp till the very last panel. I know zombie comics are a dime a dozen these days, but this one got better and better as it went along. If you missed these individual issues, get the trade for ZOMBIES! FEAST. It’s one of those zombie stories that focuses more on the action than anything else, but the action that occurs in this final issue makes the less than three-dimensional characters seem unimportant. This miniseries was a wild and fun ride. - Ambush Bug
BANANA MAN #6 Crack ComicsAll he wants is to spread the word of the nutritional value of bananas. With such a noble cause in mind, how can you not fall in love with BANANA MAN? I came across this book is in ashcan format. It looks like it was copied and stapled at Kinko’s and may be only 11 pages long, but the sheer kookiness of this book had me thinking about it and giggling long after I put it down. Don’t expect high production values, but it’s a pretty funny read as a noble powerless hero tries his damndest against insurmountable odds to spread the word of the power of bananas. Read it. Experience it. Love it. It’s BANANA MAN and it made me want to eat a banana. - Ambush Bug
7 BROTHERS #1 Virgin ComicsOk, I’m as uneasy as you are about a major entertainment corporation putting out their own line of comic books, but Virgin Comics has nabbed quite a lineup for this comic book so I had to check it out. With John Woo and Garth Ennis in the credits, I thought 7 BROTHERS would at least be worth a peek. I don’t want to say that I was completely disappointed with this issue. But it didn’t blow me away. It’s your typical “group of strangers are gathered together by a mysterious benefactor” type dealie. The story is kind of cool, but one I’ve seen before. Woo’s past foray into comic book lore (HULK) doesn’t really give me any confidence that he understands the medium. Had he a little more experience with the medium, he might have known that the “real world people experiencing super powers” story is kind of old hat by now. It’s THE USUAL SUSPECTS meets SUPREME POWER where a group of rogues are gathered and told that they have special powers and a special purpose for those powers. There are some nice scenes with an Asian chick who beats the shit out of people just by describing what she is going to do to them, but other than that, I wasn’t really impressed. To top it all off, artwise, the book looks a bit muddy for my tastes which makes it hard to understand panel to panel transitions. The book is split into three segments: one set in ancient China, one in a modern day boardroom, and one in an ancient cavern. I’m sure these things will all tie together, but nothing does so in this issue. Sure, this is the first issue, and by some unwritten modern comic book bylaw I should feel the need to stick around to see what’s going to transpire in a few issues, but I doubt that I will because there are a million other comics out there that I could give a try. My decision to purchase issue two when it hits the shelves is going to depend on whether or not it’s a big comics week or not. Not a sparkling recommendation, I know. But it’s the truth. - Ambush Bug
A few books from BOOM! StudiosBOOM! is at it again this month with a rack-full of comics that continue to provide a worthy alternative to standard comic book fare. BOOM! has been successful in creating straight-up sci fi stories such as the surprisingly entertaining WAR OF THE WORLDS: SECOND WAVE series and the nicely paced LOST-like X-ISLE series. SECOND WAVE is one of those books that takes you by surprise. My initial criticism of this book was that it was like THE WALKING DEAD in that it focused on the survival of a group of people rather than the threat itself, but that the characters in SECOND WAVE were less likable and harder to get attached to than with those in WALKING DEAD. Issue #6 is a step in the right direction as some heroic deeds and some nice character moments have helped flesh out our cast. X-ISLE is exactly the opposite. Whereas the writers have developed some pretty great characters (supported by the great renditions of these characters patterned after such recognizable stars as Josh Lucas, AICN’s Harry Knowles, and the Man himself, Samuel L. Jackson), the plot is as frustrating as any episode of LOST. Although I have no idea what’s going on, I can’t help but feel entertained by this book. Issue #3 reveals more mysteries as the survivors venture further off the beach and into the dark jungle to uncover bizarre creatures and more puzzling twists and turns.
Ever the versatile company, BOOM! also produces some of the funniest books out there as well. THE SAVAGE BROTHERS is definitely influenced by Garth Ennis’ work following a pair of brothers out to make a profit off of the zombie apocalypse. This one has a talking head leading the zombie horde. It’s not the deepest of reads, but if you’ve got a fever and the only thing that can cure you is a dose of redneck zombie hunters, this is the book for you. In the second issue, the art in this book takes a powerful leap towards greatness as artist Rafeal Albuquerque proves to be a talent to watch. Finally, the best comic book BOOM! produces has another installment this month. WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?! Is one of those comic book ideas that is covered with gold and filled with nougat and goodness. Keith Giffen and Co. dig up old comics and add a new insanity laced script. Comic books have a rich surplus of odd stories and Giffen and Co. really know how to pour on the laughs. This MONSTER MASH-UP issue of WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?! is no different. Sure, some may call it juvenile, lowbrow, and somewhat offensive, but to me, all of those words translate to fun when read in the right light. Giffen and some of BOOM!’s top writers go out of their way to breathe new comedic life into these ancient stories from comic book history.
Sick of the same-old, same-old in comics? You should give BOOM! a try. I’ve found most of their titles to be a worthy alternative to comic book tedium. - 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.
CASSANOVA #5 Image ComicsSadly, I don't think any of us at AICN have checked in on this title since the first issue, but I just wanted to stop by to remind you all of its existence and say that, yes indeed, this comic is doing really damn well and at a damn good price. Ever since the first issue (which I felt was a little too dense a read but a really good one nonetheless) the following ones have moved at a very good clip, telling pretty well self-contained stories, but adding a lot of depth to the surreal situations in the everyday life that our lead Cass lives out. And this issue is another prime example of this as Cass is sent on a mission to an exotic island inhabited by savage Neanderthals to find and extract a very important enemy agent from there. But like everything else in the world of CASANOVA, looks from the outside are deceiving and instead of the caveman society Cass expects to find, he finds something rather remarkable... and even finds more of himself. It's very interesting and just plain fun stuff, and all to the tune of a measly two bucks a month. Buy it, you won't regret it. - Humphrey
PUNISHER #39 Marvel MAXI don’t want to criticize Garth Ennis too much for the way he is writing the Punisher these days. The caliber of stories has been top notch since the beginning of this MAX series. The problem is that Ennis is following a specific formula with these arcs; one that he has repeated over and over. Introduce problem that gets Frank pissed, spend two or three issues fleshing out evil characters who will eventually meet Frank and die, then in the third or fourth issue Frank meets the baddie and gets the snot kicked out of him, only to catch back up with said baddie in the final issue where Frank kills the guy. This series has been one variation or another of these events. Issue #39 is firmly planted in the “spend two or three issues fleshing out evil characters who will eventually meet Frank and die” category. Ennis is bringing his A-game to this series and it’s present here in this arc as well with some really great moments peeking into the mind of Frank Castle, but I can’t help but notice the pattern and fear that one of these times, the series will become boring. It’s not there yet, but if Ennis doesn’t mix it up a bit, we’ll be approaching dullsville very soon. - Bug
THE EXTERMINATORS #10 DC VertigoDammit. Dammit, Dammit, Dammit!! You can tell how much you love a book when you have an actual physical reaction to the events inside it. Well, with this issue alone I had two "OH SHIT!" exclaiming moments, and upon seeing the absolutely heartbreaking ending and loss of one of my favorite characters in an ongoing today, I felt absolutely beside myself. That's how much I love this book, and this issue itself was probably the most fun I've had reading a comic this month. The fight between the trio of exterminators and the cockroach army is hilarious and priceless, I really dig the turn the overlaying plot of this comic is taking with the Egyptian mythology kicking in, and, of course, the Tony Moore art is fantastic. THE EXTERMINATORS is another one of those "one helluva rides" you should not be missing. - Humphrey
THE LAST CHRISTMAS #4 Image ComicsMore insanity from Brian Posehn and Gerry Duggan as Santa finds a new lease on life as a warrior against evil during the zombie apocalypse. Although he’s not the star of this book, the spotlight shines on Gary the Snowman. There’s something about a snowman carrying a spiked club and singing “Let the Bodies Hit the Floor” in his head that teeters on the line between insanity and genius. Which is a good way to describe this entire miniseries placing loved childhood characters into the wickedest and most offbeat of situations. Good, not so clean fun. Can’t wait to see how it all ends next issue. - Bug
DESOLATION JONES #7 DC WildstormEveryone's favorite experimental British ex-spook is back, and boy does he look, uh, inky. Really, there's nothing different about this book except the drastic change in artistic style. The book still reads very "Chandler-esque" but with the Warren Ellis infusion of a very nihilistic sense of humor and mad-bastardry. But the change in artists from J.H. Williams III to Danijel Zezelj is a very drastic one. Gone is JHW3's very unique panelwork and storytelling style and it’s replaced with Zezelj's extremely heavy lines and black inks. But you know what? It works. Given the absolutely, well, depressing tone of the book that reflects the attitude of our lead, Zezelj's art is very stark and direct, lending to the atmosphere perfectly. The only complaint I've ever really had with his art is that it's typically very difficult to tell characters apart since their facial features tend to get muddled, but that problem actually seems pretty unapparent with this outing as each character has enough of their own look, whether it be a hair style, facial hair, body type, etc, to tell them apart. So the art works, the story is as good as you'd expect, and the book's got still got some genuine heart to it despite the crushingly depressing atmosphere. It's great to be back in the world of the Desolate One. - Humphrey
WOLVERINE #47 Marvel ComicsI know it’s caused quite a ruckus that the Marvel bigwigs have decided to have Logan give up smoking cigars. But I understand why the decision was made. I mean, Wolvie is the hero of millions and what kind of example is Marvel showing the kids of today by having Wolverine chomping on a stogie and breathing nasty nicotine smoke into the air. I’m glad Marvel has taken such a proactive stance against this type of deviant behavior and made their heroes heroic again by leading a good, clean life.
Oh, almost forgot. This issue features Wolverine stabbing his claws straight through someone’s head in a bloody, on panel, half page shot, killing the person immediately…
…but at least he’s not smoking because that would be a bad message to send to the kiddies. - Bug
Hey Kids, Halloween!
A cautionary tale by SquashuaIt's October, a month known for hosting the spookiest holiday of the year, Halloween. And what do kids do on Halloween? They stock up on rotten eggs and mold shaving canister caps with hot pins in order to spray your house with cream from 15 feet away. Oh yeah, and they trick-or-treat.
Costumed children of all ages travel door to door throughout the neighborhoods begging for treats. They'll end up with sacks full of Snickers bars from those who care, Sweet Tarts from the cheapskates, sugar-free lollipops from the dentist, razor-filled apples from that guy down the block who's out on bail for molesting his sister, and some spare change from that desperate single guy who just wants those damn kids to stop ringing his doorbell so he can go back to World of Warcraft.
Halloween is a nervous time for parents. They're worried about those razor apples and anthrax-laced pixie stix. All "treats" are suspect and spare change isn't fun for kids who want instant gratification, even if learning the value of a dollar is a good lesson. Did you know that around Halloween, a bag of 18 "fun-sized" Snickers bars at my local grocery store costs $4.50? And I'm not even guaranteed 18 bars; it could be 16 or 20 on a lucky day. Nonetheless, if I gave one to a kid, I might as well have given him a quarter.
A quarter. Two bits. $0.25. Twenty-five cents, USD. Do you see where this is headed?
No, wrong. Yes, I understand a peep show doesn't cost all that much, but...OK, your argument is sound, but can I get to my point? Thanks.
Go to almost any comic store, excepting the ones where the owner opened solely to cash in on the CCG craze or owned a large X-Men collection and slapped a plastic board in with every bagged issue, and what do you see that's a common theme? Quarter bins. Fifteen minutes of entertainment to a speed-reader at half the cost of one play at an arcade game, with nigh-endless reusability. Comics not only promote literacy, but kids seem to enjoy them, and they