DESOLATION JONES: MADE IN ENGLAND TPB
Writer: Warren Ellis Artist: J.H. Williams Publisher: DC/Wildstorm Reviewer: BaytorWhenever I read a really good Warren Ellis book, I'm always left with a sense of profound sadness. Sure, the good guys "win" in the end, but you're never quite sure if the cathartic bits of violence are worth the emotion pain of the journey.
Take the third chapter of "Made In England", which is mostly a conversation during a dinner between our hero and a porn actress. In fiction, there's usually only two ways porn is portrayed. Either it's the fulfillment of the typical male fantasies, in which a bunch of over-sexed starlets have good, clean orgasmic fun for our entertainment, or it's a feminist nightmare where porn is just a couple of short steps away from rape. Ellis takes a more unsettling route, by not backing down from showing us the sort of scumbags that make porn, but introducing us to a woman whose sexual appetites have led her make the informed decision that porn is the best outlet for her unusual desires.
Do I pity her? No, because she, like many porn actresses, made her decision and is more or less happy about it, but it feels a bit hollow.
Such is the tone of DESOLATION JONES, which follows the morose exploits of resident Ellis hard man Michael Jones. He's a sickly weed of a man who isn't at all physically intimidating but more than makes up for it by being more psychotic. To him, it's not about being stronger or smarter than the other guy, but about being more willing to cause permanent damage, which he is more than willing to do in beautifully rendered images from Williams.
But it wouldn't be an Ellis hero without the softer side, which is on display in numerous scenes throughout the book, including the above-mentioned encounter with a porn actress--although the book leaves us wondering if he can truly feel their pain or if he's just going through the motions.
The plot is a fairly complicated bit of business with Jones being hired to find stolen Hitler porn. It quickly turns out to be far more involved than originally thought, but thankfully Jones has gone to the Sin City School of Detectives and simply tortures & kills his way to the truth. It all takes place among the backdrop of L.A., which is an open prison for former intelligence people. Many of them have been augmented in some pseudo-scientific way or other, such as the woman who attempted to transform herself into a super-seductress, but ended up releasing some scent that utterly creeps everyone else out. Except for Jones, who is used to being seriously creeped out.
This is one of the strongest efforts from Ellis, even if there's a certain familiarity among the personality types on display. It's a book that left me in a minor funk after closing it, made all the worse by the knowledge that Williams left this assignment to go work on Batman of all characters (shakes fist impotently at the skies). Jones wins in the end. All the bad people are suitably punished, but we all pay a terrible price in those final pages that will have you writing vicious hate mail to Ellis for being such a heartless bastard.
And I love it, even the parts that brought me close to tears.
THE IMMORTAL IRON FIST #1
Writers: Ed Brubaker & Matt Fraction Artists: David Aja, Travel Foreman, & Derek Fridolfs Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: Humphrey LeeOkay, I honestly don't know what it is. I don't know if it's the green and yellow PJs, or the goddamn footie slippers, or just simply the name of the character himself... but I love...love love fucking love! IRON FIST!! I can't explain it, I honestly can't, but I've even shelled out a good three hundred bills or so just to have all fifteen issues of the Byrne/Claremont stuff that came from back in the day. So honestly, if anyone is going to be this books harshest critic, it's this guy right here.
So, that said, I really, really liked this book.
Yeah, that was really harsh...
But honestly, I think I really enjoyed this first issue so much because it set a great tone. I love the aura of "mythos" instantly created around the idea of the Iron Fist. Deciding to run this book as sort of an anthology and fleshing out the periods where these Champions of K'un-Lun showed themselves to the world in times of need is a stroke of genius. It does a lot towards taking a character that for all intents and purposes is just a C-lister in the grand scheme of the Marvel Universe and turning him into something somewhat more important in its own realm. And this first issue was also a nice introduction into the mindset of Danny Rand for those not overly familiar with the character, as well as giving a nice little crash course on his origin too.
All that said though, this book does have one little flaw, and that is that not a terrible lot of stuff goes on. We get a couple flashbacks to old Iron Fists, and we see the current man in the pajamas fighting a whole fucking slew of Hydra agents. Plus, we get some insight on just where Danny Rand stands these days in running the multi-million dollar company that his father left him and stuff like that. Brubaker and Fraction do some good work at giving us some glimpses as to what to expect from this book, but right now that's all we have. That said, the action in this book is tremendous and gives this issue some great energy. Everything is very kinetic with some great internal monologuing that gives the book and character of IRON FIST a lot of determination and realism to go with the overlaying themes of mysticism. But speaking of the action...
Simply put, Dave Aja draws the #$%@ outta this book. I love every last bit of the pretty pretty pictures in this book. I really like the "dark and gritty" overtones to it and all the uses of shadow from Hollingsworth's coloring, and I really, really like the forms of Aja's characters. I love the layouts and the panelwork and how they transition the action going on and the diversity in the facial features and expressions, even though some of them tend to get slightly obscured by the dark inks. And Travel Foreman's contribution to the first couple pages is welcome too. I'm not really sure why his art is present (I assume it's to take over a few pages to help out Aja keep a monthly schedule) but it's some really welcome "big fight" stuff. All around good stuff.
So the art is very pleasant, the writing is solid, and we've got some direction here. All in all a pretty good and somewhat impressive start. Fans of IRON FIST (all four of us) should be very pleased, and I can definitely say this is a good starting point for those not familiar with the character. I'm really interested in where we're going to go with all these former Iron Fists plus where we stand with the current one as far as what role he's playing these days. Is he going to become more of a philanthropist, and what kind of obstacles is he going to be facing from a more superpowered front these days? But it looks to be an exciting ride, and quite frankly, I'm just glad to get more about one of my favorite lower tier characters. Here's to hoping...
THE DARK HORSE BOOK OF MONSTERS
Writers: Kurt Busiek, Mike Mignola, William Hope Hodgson, Arvid Nelson, Leah Moore, John Reppion, Scott Allie, Evan Dorkin, Sarah Dyer Artists: Keith Giffen, Al Milgrom, Mike Mignola, Gary Gianni, Juan Ferreyra, Timothy Green II, Paul Lee, Brian Horton, Jill Thompson Publisher: Dark Horse Reviewer: Dan GrendellThis final volume is my love letter to monster comics, some of the most purely graphic-in all meanings of the word-comics ever drawn.
Each year for the last few years, Dark Horse has put out a beautiful little hardcover collection of stories about a horror theme from a variety of comics stars and newcomers. Every year I look forward to it, because I know that no matter the theme, no matter who is in it, editor Scott Allie always delivers one thing: quality. I was disappointed to learn that this fourth volume will be the last, but it holds up just as well as the previous three (The DARK HORSE BOOK OF HAUNTINGS, WITCHCRAFT, and THE DEAD) and I can't say I'm surprised. I've come to expect it. As usual in these volumes, there's a new HELLBOY story and a prose offering.
This time around we have "I Witnessed the End of the World!", an excellent commentary on humanity by Kurt Busiek with Keith Giffen on pencils and Al Milgrom on inks. This was probably my favorite story of the anthology, both because of the power it had and because I liked its message. Next up was "The Hydra and the Lion," the new HELLBOY story both written and drawn by Mike Mignola, a rarity nowadays. I'm a big HELLBOY fan, but this particular story wasn't so much to my liking; it just felt rushed.
Early 20th century horror writer William Hope Hodgson comes next with the maritime prose story "A Tropical Horror," with spot illustrations by Gary Gianni. A great monster tale, and Gianni's drawings really lend to the feel of the story. Arvid Nelson adds to the REX MUNDI mystery after that with "To Weave a Lover", ably drawn by Juan Ferreyra. A bit of a Frankensteinian tale, it wrapped a little to conveniently for me.
One that didn't was "The Horror Beneath", by Leah Moore and John Reppion. Timothy Green II draws this, my second-favorite story of the book, about a couple people visiting an ill-fated archaeological dig. I love endings like that. Moore and Reppion are new to comics, but they already show a lot of promise. Let's hope people can see past who Leah's father is and recognize her skill for what it is.
As they have before, this anthology has a new DEVIL'S FOOTPRINTS story, this one titled "Hidden." Written by the editor, Scott Allie, with art by Paul Lee and Brian Horton, it tells the story of what happens when hypocritical priests mess with people with the support of their gods. Here's a hint- it isn't pretty. The anthology wraps up with what, surprisingly, is NOT a humor story by Evan Dorkin and Sarah Dyer: "A Dog and His Boy." With beautiful art by Jill Thompson, this story just makes you want to cry. And sometimes, that's what monsters are for.
You can read a preview of this book here. Overall, I'd recommend this and any other DARK HORSE BOOK OF... to anyone who is looking for some horror that isn't just blood and guts. This is class between two covers.
CROSSING MIDNIGHT #1
Writer: Mike Carey Penciler: Jim Fern Publisher: Vertigo/DC Comics Reviewed by Humphrey LeeMike Carey. Vertigo. Ongoing. If anyone has read LUCIFER, then they should know why those words alone pack a formidable punch. And honestly, if it weren't for a little book called FABLES I would say something like "nobody does fantasy as good as Mike Carey", but come on, if all you can bring to bear against the man is one of the best titles on the market, then that's still saying a lot.
CROSSING MIDNIGHT is a bit of an oddity though. It's got an obvious foot in Japanese folklore of a sort (I say not knowing anything about Japanese folklore) but actually has a start with the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki in World War II. Basically the main setup is that in an attempt to appease his mother, Yasuo Hara makes a half-hearted offering to some spirits for the well-being of his and his wife's unborn child (which later turns out to be children since they unknowingly had twins). But even though Yasuo doesn't believe in the spirits in the shrine he makes up an offering to, doesn't mean they don't exist, and later on they come to collect. And that's where things get ugly.
Even though it has a little bit of, I guess you could say "pilotitus", I still really dug this debut issue and see a lot of potential in this series as a whole. The premise is definitely different, but it unfolds well enough and I can see this book going to some really unique places, much like the aforementioned, criminally underread LUCIFER. As the children who this story revolves around (Kai and his sister Toshi) are shown getting older, some interesting events occur, like Toshi surviving a fall that should have been gruesomely fatal without even getting a scratch, and also a brief stint in an almost "fairyland" of sorts. These are the kinds of elements I'm looking forward to, even though this issue kinda forces them along. I want to feel like I'm going on an adventure with these two characters, and it looks like we're gonna get one, it just needs to be parsed better. But overall I like the idea of where this is going, and can see this ramping up into a full blown epic much like LUCIFER did.
And much like the story, the art in CROSSING MIDNIGHT also seems to be filled with a lot of potential, but seems to kinda steamroll itself along with this issue. At times the art is damn near perfect, with good figures set against impressive looking and lush backgrounds, the full nine yards. But sporadically throughout the book there'll be too many instances of some kind of odd facial expressions (like weird wide-eyed looks) or just too many empty backgrounds in the panels. Again, if this aspect of the book can get more consistent, then it'll do so much more for the overall package.
So in the end I liked this book quite a bit, but I really wasn't as blown away as I was expecting. The elements are all there, a unique premise and setting, some characters you can see yourself becoming invested in given the right motivation, and solid to occasionally really great pencils. This one just kinda came up, I dunno, lacking. Definitely sticking with "pilotitus" on this one. I really do figure things will come together much more tightly as this title progresses and it's just a matter of time before I'm hailing this as "one of the best books on the market!" But for right now, I'm sticking with "cautious optimism" and a "check it in trade when it comes out." Besides, if it does indeed turn out to be that good, you'll be glad you have it for display on your bookshelf.
PUNISHER: RED X-MAS #1
Writer: Stuart Moore Artist: C.P. Smith Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: Ambush BugNot all Christmas tales have to be sweet and heartwarming. This one certainly isn’t.
Christmas is one of those universal hooks that many an interesting story can hang itself upon. There’s been a ton of PUNISHER CHRISTMAS SPECIALS published and I think I’ve read every last one of them. There’s something about throwing a human vengeance machine into the middle of the holiday season that makes those who take life too seriously wince and call foul and makes me become filled with anticipation of the potential of such a weird juxtaposition of story elements. Some of these PUNISHER X-MAS stories have been trite. Some poignant. Some forgettable. Some scar-inducing. This story, though, is one of those hard boiled slices of perfection that rarely comes along.
Garth Ennis is currently kicking @$$ with his PUNISHER MAX series, but if Ennis ever decides to leave, with this X-MAS Special in mind, I believe Stuart Moore would be a great replacement. There are moments in this One Shot where Moore nails the character of the Punisher right on the head, even more so than Ennis does himself. Ennis does a great job of fleshing out some characters to be punished and putting Frank Castle into exciting and intriguing scenarios, but Ennis keeps the spotlight on Frank’s inner workings to a minimum. This story by Moore cracks the Punisher open and allows the reader to follow him as he reminisces about past Christmases, plans his attack on those who he deems punishable, and follows through with those plans in a truly brutal manner. There’s a moment of sincerity in this issue where Frank can’t bring himself to mention the name of his dead son. It’s one of those tiny moments in a story that makes it all worthwhile. The fact that this issue involves the death of a young boy caught in a shootout strikes a little too close to home for Frank, even though he can’t even bring himself to admit it. The story is told through Frank’s word captions, yet Moore successfully illustrates the denial and suppression of feelings Frank does so well in order to do what he does.
This issue was a memorable one, made more so by the pencils and inks of C.P. Smith, whose work reminds me of Alex Maleev’s work but the characters are less static. It’s definitely photorealistic, but the subjects don’t seem like posed photo tracings. The panels are more fluid, less staged, and make for a much more exciting read. There are a great deal of really nice close-ups throughout this one, offering a closer look at a story that shows the Punisher in a more intimate light.
But don’t get me wrong, this is about as hardcore and brutal a Punisher story as you can get, involving deaths of innocents, guilt-induced suicides, and the Punisher being about as cold hearted as they come in the end. Moore and Smith did a heck of a job making this one of the darker and definitely most entertaining Punisher X-Mas Specials I’ve ever read. It’s definitely not one I’d want to read to the little kiddies by the ol’ yule log, but it’s some dark holiday easy reading nonetheless.
BATMAN/THE SPIRIT #1
Writer: Jeph Loeb Artists: Darwyn Cooke (pencils)/J. Bone (inks) Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Prof. ChallengerDC Comics and Will Eisner's THE SPIRIT should be a marriage made in heaven. The Spirit and Darwyn Cook should be a marriage made in heaven. Teaming up Batman and The Spirit should be a marriage made in heaven.
That's good, because it means I'm not crazy when I say this was perhaps the most fun I had sitting back and reading a single comic book this entire year.
THE SPIRIT is one of those characters that I know more about by reading and hearing about him than actual exposure to the original comic strips and comic books. In fact, I think the only SPIRIT stories I've ever read in their entirety are those included in THE SMITHSONIAN BOOK OF COMICS. Beyond that, I've seen plenty of pages and especially the trademark splash pages where Eisner would dramatically incorporate the title "The Spirit" into the landscape of the panel. So, what I brought into this comic by way of preconceptions was simply a general knowledge of the character and an appreciation for Eisner's ability to work cartoonish distortion with cinematic lighting, texturing, and layout to set a dramatic tone while telling hard-boiled detective stories set in an absurdist world.
What Loeb and Cooke do so well with this comparison/contrast comic with Batman is emphasize the differences between the two characters and just have fun with the many comparison points. Batman's seriousness and intensity is perfectly balanced with The Spirit's sense of amusement and light touch. Both characters have a unique working relationship with their respective police commissioners and this is the impetus for the story as they head to Hawaii for a "Law Enforcement Convention." Sure, the characters' respective cities are characters in and of themselves, but even though they are utilized in this comic, the creators smartly moved the action outside of Central City and Gotham City so that when the two lead characters are brought face-to-face it is on neutral ground.
What I never realized was that The Spirit had such an insane rogues gallery. Just watching the familiar Arkham Asylum residents hobnobbing with these other nutjobs made for a lot of the fun. I also appreciated that they set this story up as a flashback to a non-specific time many years ago when this occurred. Same little writer's trick that Roger Stern did with that very good Steve Rude illustrated Superman/Hulk team-up years ago. It allows the writer to work with the iconic form of the characters rather than whatever their current form happens to be driven by the waves of editorial attempts to make their characters "relevant" to modern readers. We don't know when this tale occurs exactly, but it does appear to be Holy Frickin' Dick Grayson as a 13 year-old Robin--but Catwoman is wearing her more recent leather and goggles costume. So who knows?
I loved the wonky dialogue, especially from the denizens of The Spirit's world where they seem slightly…askew…sort of like the tilted cameras whenever the villains were onscreen in the old BATMAN TV-series. Commissioner Gordon was a hoot throughout this story. This is a character who rarely gets to have fun in a Batman story, but here he and Commissioner Dolan are part of the action and get a little "action" in more ways than one. Darwyn Cooke's artwork, as expected, was perfectly suited for this project. Setting aside the big Kirby and Timm influence so beautifully on display in his NEW FRONTIER project, Cooke settles quite comfortably into a seamless blend of his animation style rendering with the expressive characters, narrative style and moody shadows and texturing associated with Eisner.
Maybe if I had more firsthand experience with Eisner's SPIRIT I could pick apart flaws and such. As it is, I'm just evaluating this comic on its own merits and with that grading rubric, it gets top scores from me all around. All I ask is for someone to 'splain to me howcum this comic cost $4.99 yet the paper stock was just standard newsstand issue? For $4.99 I'd expect at least a cardstock cover. C'MON!!!!!
Based on this comic, I can not wait for the new SPIRIT series later this month!!!
THE LAST CHRISTMAS TPB
Writers: Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn Artists: Rick Remender and Hilary Barta Publisher: Image Comics Reviewer: Dan Grendell"We enabled Santa's awful drinking for years. But NOT ANYMORE!"
I'm not really one for Christmas stories, usually, but I picked this one up on the strength of Brian Posehn's name. I've been laughing at Posehn since he worked on HBO's MR. SHOW, and his stand-up is awesome as anyone who listens to his CDs or watches the COMEDIANS OF COMEDY can tell you. I'm familiar with Rick Remender but more as a writer than an artist. His writing work on FEAR AGENT and NIGHT MARY particularly impressed me, so I was curious to see what his art style was like. I knew he'd teamed with Hilary Barta before on art on Dark Horse's MAN WITH THE SCREAMING BRAIN, but I missed that, so that didn't help much. And Gerry Duggan was a total mystery.
Turns out that Posehn is still damn funny in comic book form, and so is Duggan. LAST CHRISTMAS is full of twisted, hilarious stuff that made me shake my head while laughing like a hyena, which is exactly what it seemed to promise. There's also some goony comedy that didn't quite do it for me, but to each his own. What was more impressive was that there was an actual story, not just a bunch of jokes strung together, a mistake new comedy comic book writers often make. Characters have personalities, motivations, and make you care whether or not they succeed, even if they are caricatures for gags. That takes some talent.
Remender and Barta really sell the comedy, with a lot of uniquely visual jokes. Remender's style here is lanky and just a tiny bit cartoonish, which fits this story perfectly. That slight cartoonishness helps you buy into the ridiculousness all the more, but doesn't pull you out of the drama when it happens. Favorite panels included ones with Santa half-stuffed into a dead reindeer in the snow (a-la “Empire Strikes Back”) to help revive him, a wall painting of Dr. Phil with a huge rack to keep zombies away (wouldn't that scare you away?), and a horrific picture of an ancient elf woman with withered dugs that's supposed to 'stimulate' an older elf. Draw that with life models, Alex Ross.
Lest you get lost and have no idea what I'm talking about, here's a quick summary of the plot: There's been a nuclear holocaust, and mutants and zombies run amok. Some of these mutants attack the North Pole and kill Mrs. Claus, and Santa loses his will to live. Unfortunately, he can't actually die as long as one person believes in him, so his suicides keep failing. So he goes hunting for the last kid on earth who believes in him to murder him, and hilarity ensues. Yeah, you read that right. HILARITY ENSUES. Don't believe me? Buy it and read it yourself, then.
And when you stop laughing and admit you were wrong, I'll be gracious.
GUY GARDNER: COLLATERAL DAMAGE #1 (of 2)
Writer & Artist: Howard Chaykin Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Ambush BugMisogyny.
A strong word.
Not one to be thrown around lightly in this day and age.
For those of you who don’t know what it means, I took the time to look it up for you.
“Misogyny is hatred or strong prejudice against women. The word comes from the Greek words μίσος (misos, "hatred") + γυνη (gunê, "woman"). Compared with anti-woman sexism or misandry (hatred or fear of, or strong prejudice against men), misogyny is usually regarded as directed against women by some men, though women can also hold misogynistic views. In feminist theory, misogyny is recognized as a political ideology - similar to racism or anti-Semitism - that justifies and maintains the subordination of women by men.”
It’s one of those words that sparks a lot of debate when brought up in comics and it should. Considering the fact that this is a medium that is bought mainly by men, the way women are depicted in a story is often quite telling whether the author is man or woman. But it’s no the case all of the time. In an industry where the majority of the consumers are males, often times sexually repressed males (honestly, aren’t we all?), the treatment of women in these stories is something that deserves some attention.
A lot of things come to mind when I think of the name Guy Gardner. Arrogant. Blowhard. Braggart. Obnoxious. When cast with other characters such as in JLI or GREEN LANTERN CORPS or NOT READY FOR JUSTICE LEAGUE, those words often fit the character of Guy Garner. He’s the perfect foil to make the squeaky cleaner hero look all the more squeaky. But there have also been a handful of stories fleshing out Guy as a misguided but noble hero. He’s one of those guys who isn’t afraid of getting his hands dirty. He’s a good egg, but just not someone who needs to follow every rule to get the job done. The word misogynist does not come to mind when I think of the character of Guy Gardner.
Now, I’m not out to call Howard Chaykin a misogynist or anything like that. I want to make that clear from the start. I would like to say that there were a few instances while reading GUY GARDNER: COLLATERAL DAMAGE #1 that the word misogyny came to mind. I do think that this is an interesting route to take with a character like Guy. The objectification of women is something that one would think would fit nicely in a story starring the brash macho emerald ring-bearer of the DCU and to a point it does. Seeing Guy attempt to settle a war between the Rannians and the Thanagarians by suggesting a sexual ménage a trois between two sultry delegates was actually a pretty funny scenario to see unfold. It was one of those moments that fit the character and was done in an honestly entertaining manner.
But the thing that made me feel uncomfortable reading this book was the fact that every woman in this issue is objectified not only by Guy, but by most of the other characters as well. Granted, the other characters are bad guys, but it made my skin crawl a little seeing one woman being held captive by her hair then killed and fed to other prisoners (off panel, mind you), then two pages later another female is threatened with battlefield rape and bitten in the neck. The women in this book are either to be ogled or tortured or assaulted or raped or all four. And there comes a point where I felt the need to shout “enough is enough.”
I’m all for violence in comics. But I want my violence doled out without discretion. And don’t call me a feminist or anything like that. I know that if you look hard enough, you can label anything as misogynistic and write out some justification. But the fact of the matter is, this story made me feel kind of dirty reading it and this wasn’t a good sense of unease. The fact that no woman was left unscathed if not physically by lecherous aliens, then by Guy’s sexual advances, left me with the uncontrollable need to wash my hands after reading this one. There are moments of cool. The intro captions to each of the cast members and the inclusion of G’nort in the cast make for nice moments of heroism and humor, although I was a bit confused as to who was exactly telling this story until almost the end of the issue. And I really like the Guy Gardner character. But of the two Guy Gardner characters I listed above (the blowhard and the hero), Chaykin seems to be writing about the blowhard, which in my opinion is the less interesting of the two renditions of the character. Chaykin does a good job of writing Guy in this grimy light, but he makes it awfully hard to root for a hero that seems to be a mere baby step away from treating the damsels in distress the same way the bad guys do.
MARK OF THE SUCCUBUS V.2
Writer: Ashly Raiti Artist: Irene Flores Publisher: Tokyopop Reviewer: Dan Grendell"Remember, you promised me you wouldn't do anything stupid. I'm gonna hold you to that."
Now, this is a fun manga. The characters are enjoyable, even the bad guys (err.... girls), the plot is well constructed, and it moves right along. There's just enough mystery to keep you wondering, but enough is revealed to satisfy. That's good writing. It's a bit sexy, but doesn't go over the top with it, and you expect sexy in a book about a succubus. I'll be a little curious to see how Raiti handles the teenage succubus Maeve actually landing her target- it'll be tricky to pull off, given the tendency and expectation in manga for drawn-out love scenes, and I'll be disappointed if a series about a succubus ends with the main character acting against that demon type's nature. Thus far, that tightrope has been walked very well.
In volume one, Maeve arrived on Earth to seduce and kill her first target, a boy named Aiden, and fell in love with him. That's against demon law, and her mentor tried to protect her, but a succubus out to advance her career is trying to catch Maeve screwing up to use her to beef up her resume, so things got a little hairy. In this volume, Maeve finally admits that she can't kill Aiden, and is going to have to find another target- but first, something must be done about Sylne, the scheming succubus. And Aiden is getting pressure from his parents to stay away from Maeve- can they keep the two apart? And how does Junael, Sylne's unwilling imp slave, fit into all this?
Irene Flores returns on art with another spectacular job. The succubi have such pouty lips, big eyes, and innocent faces that you can't help but believe that people are willing to throw themselves at them. Aiden is consistently well-drawn as the emo thinker, and Flores shines at showing emotions on the faces of her characters. She uses other techniques quite well throughout the manga adeptly for a change of pace, from constant perspective changes to silhouetting, and her panel layouts are refreshing and constantly different. Flores is also obviously having quite a bit of fun with Maeve's costumes and hair, changing them often from one cute version to another. Not only does this help show time passage, it just looks cool.
MARK OF THE SUCCUBUS was one of my favorite finds of Tokyopop's new wave of OEL manga, and I'm glad to see that the second volume is even better than the first.
ZOMBIES VS. ROBOTS #1
Writer: Chris Ryall Artist: Ashley Wood Publisher: IDW Publishing Reviewer: Ambush BugYou got zombies in my robot story!
You got robots in my zombie story!
It’s two great tastes that taste great together!
I know, I’ve been pretty generous in praise towards the zombie comics. Hell, some may think that if it has the word “ZOMBIE” or “DEAD” in the title, I’ll automatically love it. And to some degree, that’s true. I simply love zombie comics, zombie movies, and zombie stuff. So there it is, plain as day, for all to see, right off the bat, no beating around the bush.
That said, ZOMBIES VS ROBOTS #1 is one of the best of the best out of all of the zombie comics out there today. It has the right mix of art, pacing, quirkiness, and storyline to make it a winner. But as I picked this book up and leafed through the beginning pages, I didn’t feel that way at first.
You see, when I see something on the shelves that I have never read before, expectations arise, and the writer in me takes the title and the cover image and goes to town, imagining my own scenario. In the short walk from my comic store to my place, the entire story plays out in my head. Everyone does it to some extent. It may involve intricate plots or it may just revolve around whether or not you think it’s going to suck. But assumptions and judgments are made, whether that’s a good or a bad thing.
When I heard about ZOMBIES VS ROBOTS and saw the cover, I quickly imagined a silent story, told only through panel progression. I mean, it’s a book starring zombies, robots, and humankind’s last living baby. How much conversation could there be? How much was needed? Let’s just see some zombies and robots ripping into each other with mankind at stake. I imagined a special story, told solely through the use of sequential art, and not reliant on many discourse-laden word balloons and captions.
So when I picked up the book and started reading through it and saw caption boxes and word balloons, I was immediately annoyed. So annoyed that a scathing review began to formulate in my head focusing on the missed potential of this book.
Then I put the book down and took a wizz.
Then I read the book from the beginning again and all the way through.
Boy, was I wrong.
Sure, a wordless sequence of grisly carnage involving metal gears and chunks of flesh flying through the air would’ve been fun, but had that occurred, I would have missed out on all of the extremely nice bits of detail this story has going for it. The history of the robots unfolds in an intelligent and fascinating manner. The cause of the zombie plague is made reference to, but left vague. And the best set of details of all involves the classification of the robots themselves. There are Warbots, Guardbots, Scibots, Docbots, Workbots…all types of bots in this one. All with a purpose and all with a certain personality trait that makes them unique. Not unique in the sense that each robot has its own personality, but unique in the sense that each type of robot functions in a specific way and its interactions with the world depend on what type of robot it is. A lot of thought seems to be put into these different personalities, which have everything to do with the job the robots are designed for. This could have been a book solely about these robots and I wouldn’t have minded.
And then the zombies showed up. And the shit really started to fly. And the good gets great really quick.
I could rant and rave about panel placement or the way the story unfolds or a cliffhanger to beat all cliffhangers. All of this goes on masterfully and Chris Ryall deserves to be officially labeled as “A Writer to Watch” after this and his stellar work on IDW’s adaptation of Clive Barker’s THE GREAT AND SECRET SHOW. The thing about this book, though, is that it is a kick@$$ idea to have zombies fighting robots. The fact that there’s the last living human baby in the middle of them makes it all the cooler.
Ashley Wood’s art may turn off some of you who love their comics with nice and neat line-work. If you like clean pictures and focused imagery, well…look elsewhere. Wood’s art is just that…art. It’s blurry and abstract at times. You sometimes have to scan the panel to know what’s going on, but in doing so, you become much more involved in the story that’s unfolding. Although conceptual, Wood has a good handling of the progression of panels. You can easily follow what’s going on and the flow of the story isn’t broken one bit due to the less than structured lines. Wood’s panels are reeled-in abstractions that never lose focus on the plot. Really nice stuff.
This book is just damn cool. It’s the SNAKES ON A PLANE of comics. It’s one of those concepts that drips with awesome and makes you smile before you even crack open the book. To top it all off, Ryall and Wood bring their writing and artistic best to this book. ZOMBIES VS ROBOTS is one of the best zombie comics out there.
It’s one of the best comics out there, period.