JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #1
Writer: Geoff Johns Artists: Dale Eaglesham (pencils)/Art Thibert (inks) Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Prof. ChallengerGorgeous Alex Ross cover? Check.
Well-done story? Check.
Good art? Check.
Surprising death of a legacy hero? Check.
Shocking sneak peak at the future of 52? Check.
Intriguing glimpse of the next year's worth of stories? Check.
What's not to love?
Well, just a couple of things. And I'll point 'em out here in a little bit. Overall, though, I'd say this was a snazzy new kickoff for DC's cornerstone team's newest incarnation. The title calls this "The Next Age" and it does look like an honest attempt is being made to fashion a JSA made up of representatives from all previous incarnations of the group and bringing in new blood for the future.
Since the book is sold out around the country, I'll lay low on major spoilers, but the first page worked for me to immediately hearken back to the Justice Society's World War II origins. The original team was born in the midst of World War II and it looks The Next Age of the team is born from the ashes of World War III. And intriguingly enough, the rest of us won't have a clue what that means until issue fifty of 52.
Brad Meltzer kicked off his new JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA series with Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman standing around discussing who should or should not be asked to join the team. The way he structured the narrative, it made for a good comic book even though it was light on action. Geoff Johns kicks of this new JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA series also focusing on three founding members of the team standing around discussing potential members. In the JSA, the "Big 3" happen to be Green Lantern, Flash, and Wildcat. But Johns throws all that fancy big "New York Times Best-Selling Author" stuff back in Meltzer's face and just delivers a rocking comic book packed with action, mystery, intrigue, and character bits.
Following the old ALL-STAR formula of focusing on individual adventures and then drawing all of the characters back together at the end, the comic first jumps to a vignette involving Damage (now wearing a costume more reminiscent of the costume his father, the Golden Age Atom, wore). Damage is messed up physically and emotionally, so the JSA will hopefully be a place of healing and support for him. Newlyweds Hourman (Rick Tyler) and Liberty Belle (Jesse Chambers) arrive on the scene to make the offer to Damage.
May I just say that I like seeing a happily married couple once in a while in a comic? Before these two, I think we were limited to Jay and Joan Garrick. But it's nice to see a young couple who's enjoying each other's company as well.
Next we shift to the all new Mr. America, wearing a costume entirely too reminiscent of the Golden Age Mr. America, even down to the white puffy pirate shirt and white boots. Now, I'm all for honoring the Golden Age costumes, but other than the Golden Age Green Lantern and, maybe, Firestorm…I propose a moratorium on the puffy pirate shirt look for male super-heroes. Can I get an "amen?"
Here's the plus side though. In the matter of just a few short pages, Johns had me totally digging this character. And so it just makes me sad that….well, don't want to spoil it, but I'm thinking there's got to be a way out of it. Perhaps something to do with the shadow of the Ultra-Humanite I could swear came down on the character right before his bloody and dramatic entrance into the JSA meeting room? Cause, you know, Ultra and Mr. America go back a long and intimate way if you buy into the conceit that James Robinson's THE GOLDEN AGE mini-series wasn't really an "Elseworlds" series. And I'm one of those who doesn't buy the "Elseworlds" claim. As far as I'm concerned, it's part of the post WW2 continuity for the JSA. So there.
I just have a fondness also for heroes who wrap themselves in the American flag, and the idea of a former FBI agent and descendant of the original Mr. America is just too sweet. But I know….Laura Palmer was wrapped in plastic in the first episode of TWIN PEAKS and yet her presence energized every subsequent episode. So, there's some story-telling value to these types of things.
The next shift is to the most poorly kept surprise on the Net, which is the introduction of Ma Hunkel's cute little college-aged granddaughter who just happens to be blessed with windy/tornado-ey powers. So, we get a laugh-out-loud moment when the super-serious Mr. Terrific and Power Girl show up to offer Maxine Hunkel/Cyclone a spot on the JSA.
Then there's the introduction of, once again, a new Starman. My God in Heaven how many different Starman characters have there actually been? And this one appears to be the Starman (adult version of the Legion's Starboy) that appeared in KINGDOM COME. And based on the sneak peeks into future storylines, it looks like Starman plays a major role in the JLA/JSA team-up involving Arkham Asylum, the appearance by Dawnstar and her Legion ring, and probably the Kingdom Come storyline too. So, that's 3 out of the 4 story arcs previewed.
Now, that third arc that shows Earth 2 Superman's hand clawing out of the grave? Fool me once, Dan Didio. That's all I got to say about that. Johns is going to have to pull a HUGE rabbit out of his hat on this one to make me forget about INFINITE CRISIS.
Artwise, Eaglesham and Thibert did a nice job telling the story. For my money, this was Eaglesham's best work yet, but I'd still say to work on toning down the steroids on some of these characters, and if it's at all possible, Power Girl's boobs might actually have been TOO big. Never thought I'd say that. Not a big deal though, because there's something about the JSA that just seems to bring the best work out of the artists working on it, and I was pleased to see some really nice, expressive work by Eaglesham. The inks and lettering were all top notch and the coloring was solid, but I would've liked to see more moodiness to the coloring in spots - especially the scenes with Mr. America at the sight of the murder in Virginia. For some reason, that scene just screamed out at me as something that should be darker. Again, though, just minor quibbles.
All in all, DC has done some good stuff since the INFINITE CRISIS. Both Superman titles are kicking butt right now, DETECTIVE COMICS is firing on all cylinders (except when crappy fill-in teams show up), and JLA has been a pleasure to read. JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA is a great addition to those I just mentioned and coupled with my expectations for THE SPIRIT, will likely be one of my favorite ongoing titles of the coming year.
Writer: Warren Ellis Artist: Salvador Larroca Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: Ambush BugWhat I know: The NEW UNIVERSE was a line of comics released by Marvel in 1986, right around the time I moved from casual comic reader to comic book junkie. In a longbox in a place I like to call Parts Unknown, I have the entire run of NEW UNVERSE comics. Although I haven’t read the comics in years, I still have a vague memory of the storyline involving a White Event that changed the “world outside your window” into something else. Series such as STARBRAND, NIGHTMASK, JUSTICE, PSI FORCE, DP7, SPITFIRE & THE TROUBLESHOOTERS, MERC, & KICKERS INC. were thrown upon the comic buying crowd. A crowd that, at the time and for the most part, knew of only the Marvel Universe and the DC Universe. It would be later that tossing out an entire line of books would be commonplace, but at the time, this was something big and new.
What else I know: After the first year, the less popular NEW UNIVERSE titles were cancelled and only STARBRAND, PSI FORCE, JUSTICE, and DP7 remained. After the second year, sales were so low that the books consolidated themselves even further after THE PITT One Shot, where Kenneth Connell AKA Starbrand tries to transfer the brand that caused the original White Event to an inanimate object causing another White Event and resulting in the destruction of Pittsburgh. After THE PITT, the rest of the series ended, which lead to THE DRAFT One Shot starring many characters from the various titles as things had gone so far out of control that world war was eminent. The entire NEW UNIVERSE line came to an end in 1989, just three years after it all began, with the cataclysmic THE WAR miniseries.
What I knew about NEWUNIVERSAL before reading it: Warren Ellis was writing it. Salvador Larroca was drawing it. It was supposed to be a new take on the old NEW UNIVERSE. Like JMS’ SUPREME POWER, Ellis would re-imagine a story plucked from Marvel’s past.
What I thought about NEWUNIVERSAL before reading it: This I LOVE THE 80’s retro shit is getting old. First Reebok Pumps, then THE DUKES OF HAZZARD and WHEN A STRANGER CALLS remakes, now this. I’m too young for this.
What Ellis-ites will say upon reading NEWUNIVERSAL: Visionary! Imaginative! Epic! NEXTWAVE-alicious! NEWUNIVERSAL is so cool it could revive Michael Richards’ career!
What those who have never read the original NEW UNIVERSE will take from the book: A satellite readout documents the moments before and after a mysterious White Event where the sky lights up. Four storylines run throughout the issue:
1) a couple pass out after a night of drinking on a cliff in Oklahoma and witness the White Event first hand with disastrous results.
2) a comatose cop is revived by the White Event.
3) a crabby Asian chick sleeps through the White Event, but makes contact with an alien force in her dream during the occurrence.
4) a team of archaeologists investigate a landslide that occurred during the White Event which has unearthed an ancient tomb.
What I can make of NEWUNIVERSAL having read the old NEW UNIVERSE: The passed out couple is from STARBRAND where a regular guy gets a star-like mark burned onto his body which turns out to be the most powerful weapon in the universe enabling the brandee with superhuman powers.
The comatose cop is JUSTICE who could be characterized as either the Punisher with super powers or the Ghost Rider with flesh.
Since the crabby Asian chick’s segment focused on her dream, it looks as if she’s the new NIGHTMASK, which was a whole helluva lot like that DREAMSCAPE movie with Dennis Quaid and the “Warriors come out and play-yay!” guy.
Kate Capshaw is in that movie too and the snake man sequence from that movie still scares the piss out of me.
I don’t know who the team of archaeologists is. PSI FORCE…which was about a group of psychic kids who merge their minds to form a Hawk-like god? DP7…which was about a group of people with paranormal abilities in a medical facility, the concept not too much different than the X-Men? KICKERS INC….where a football team is granted superpowers? SPITFIRE & THE TROUBLESHOOTERS…where a spunky lady builds a suit of armor and gets into adventures with her crew of mechanics? I don’t know who the archaeological group is supposed to be. Maybe they don’t have anything to do with any of these former NEW UNIVERSE titles.
Mark Hazzard AKA MERC has not popped up yet.
I do know something that looks like the Spitfire armor showing up on the next issue page.
Oh yeah, John Lennon is alive and well in this Nu New Universe.
What I thought of the issue: Intriguing. I think Ellis does a good job of setting up a mystery and Larroca does an equally good job of illustrating it. Unfortunately, the usual setback of over-Ellis-speak is alive and well as sci fi and historical discourses crisscross and run rampant throughout the issue. Ellis’ tendency to elaborate on the “news of the weird” oftentimes plucks this reader right out of the story. This tendency is present in NEWUNIVERSAL #1, but not enough to turn me off. Ellis has put out a good issue, but any praise about imaginative ideas should be given to Jim Shooter, Archie Goodwin, Eliot R. Brown, John Morelli, Mark Gruenwald, and Tom DeFalco. It was this group of writers who originally came up with the White Event, the Starbrand, Nightmask, Justice, and the rest of the New Universe--a fact that those reading this story for the first time will not know because not a single caption giving credit where credit’s due is found in this issue. But Ellis is a good writer. This is evident the most in the effective sequence where Justice wakes from his coma. He’s taken some great ideas from some so-so comics from the eighties and packaged them into a slickly presented and tightly paced story. Merging the entire NEW UNIVERSE line of books into one series may turn out to be a good thing, especially since the old NEW UNIVERSE basically did the same thing as time went on and sales dropped. The old NEW UNIVERSE functioned the best when it was a focused and tightly packaged set of books. Starting NEWUNIVERSAL out as one book rather than a handful allows Ellis the chance to play around with all of the best aspects of the old NEW UNIVERSE at once. This more focused approach may be the leg up that this series has over its predecessor.
What I will be doing in the near future: Despite my criticism, I’ll be buying issue number two of NEWUNIVERSAL.
WELCOME TO TRANQUILITY #1
Writer: Gail Simone Penciler: Neil Googe Publisher: WildStorm/DC Comics Reviewed by Humphrey LeeBack when plans to reboot the entirety of the core books that make up WildStorm line first came about, there was something that caught my eye in the midst of "Grant Morrison on this" and "Jim Lee drawing that". And that little gem was this title right here, a little book called TRANQUILITY (at the time) set in a retirement community populated by super people by none other than Gail Simone. Even back then I couldn't help but think that was the perfect kind of title for someone with Ms. Gail's writing style and ability to be displaying her talent on and was excited about the potential of the book. Well, now that book is here and despite my already anticipating a fun and unique title, I'm really still quite pleasantly surprised at how this book turned out.
Again, I knew it was coming, but this comic is comedy gold. Right off the bat this issue hooks you with a hilarious sequence involving a gal named Minxy Millions that was apparently quite the fighter pilot ace back in the day but has kinda sorta lost her touch with her skills and, well, reality in general in her golden years. And it sets a great tone for the rest of the issue. From that opening sequence we get introduced to Sheriff Thomaina Linda (or just Tommy for short) who seems to be our anchor in this setting since she's just a normal human doing her job under some unique circumstances.
What really brings this book alive is what you'd expect to, the characters that inhabit the town of Tranquility. There are just so many great concepts thrown at us in this book, you almost wish Gail had saved some for later, but I'm sure she's got plenty rolling about in that wonderfully demented brain of hers. In this issue alone we're introduced to a Captain Marvel-like character (the DC version) who has forgotten the magic word that turns him into a deity and is now trying every word in every language on Earth in hopes he finds it again. There's some really cool "Howling Commandoes"-like characters in the form of Colonel Cragg and Bad Dog, a suave little gentleman named just that, Gentleman, and a terribly silly villain who calls himself Emoticon who is actually kinda cheesy, but sadly throws out some lines that hit a little close to home for those who spend too much time on the internet. Oh, and there's a murder mystery cliffhanger as well. Tons of stuff to bring the reader back for more with a really great debut issue.
The art works very well for this book too. I don't think I've ever been exposed to Neil Googe's work but it's got a great comedic tone to match up with that of the writing thanks to some more cartoon-like facial expressions and more exaggerated body motions. A great eye for action is show off in this book too, particularly in the opening sequence where Minxy Millions' rocket plane crash lands right in the middle of the main stretch of Tranquility. And I love the character and costume designs brought to the table. Despite that a lot of these characters are obviously just parodies and homages to ones we've seen before, they still seem really fresh and work really well in the setting. The art is isn't exactly for everyone, I can see that being a problem for some, but I personally think it works perfectly for the book.
This comic really worked for me. While I am a predominate "mature reader" as I'm a big supporter of works from places primarily like DC's Vertigo and the more adult-themed books from WildStorm like DESOLATION JONES and EX MACHINA, I found WELCOME TO TRANQUILITY to be a welcome change of pace. Hell, even as far as your pure super heroics books go from the main lines of Marvel and DC, things have gotten way too tight-assed for their own good as everything seems to have buckled down and entrenched themselves in grim and dark events that will "change everything". TRANQUILITY is just a nice shot in the arm to a genre of a medium that these days looks more like the characters in this book: old and tired.
MELTDOWN # 1
Written by: David B. Schwartz Illustrated by: Sean Wang Published by: Image Comics Reviewed by: superheroYou ever read a comic book that was so good that you knew that it was the debut of some major talent?
That's exactly how I felt as I read MELTDOWN.
As I finished this first issue of MELTDOWN I felt the same exact way as when I'd read the first issues of PREACHER, Y: THE LAST MAN, or THE WALKING DEAD. After reading MELTDOWN I feel that the comics world is all the better for having David B. Schwartz and Sean Wang in it. These guys are going to be major players in the comics world in the next several years and you read it here first.
Yes, I know that last paragraph is incredibly high praise but it’s praise that's well earned. I honestly don't know if I can remember when I've read an introductory issue that's been this good. MELTDOWN is, as the kids say today, the bomb.
MELTDOWN focuses on the life story of a meta-human known as The Flare who never really wanted to be a hero. The Flare has, because of life's strange little twists and turns, really just found himself playing the role of a super person because it's really the only thing he can do. See, the powers that make him so special have robbed him of everything he holds dear…mainly a career in professional sports and the chance at a normal relationship with the woman of his dreams. At every turn his powers get in the way letting him have the things that he wants most out of life which is where the genius of MELTDOWN lies. While most of us probably imagine a life with superpowers as some sort of wish fulfillment paradise Schwartz has wisely crafted the protagonist's super powers into a curse that drives him further and further down the road to self loathing and despair. The Flare hates his powers and it's easy to see why. While this book could have easily devolved into a “Smallville”-type whinefest over how alienated the main character feels because he has super powers, the writer is wise enough to go down a different and smarter path. MELTDOWN really takes a great look at the psyche of a person who has a gift but is unable to see it as such and how that ignorance can destroy him. Schwartz takes the time to intricately build his hero from the ground up for the reader so that as the tragic super tale progresses we can feel nothing but sympathy for him. It's because of this character development that MELTDOWN really shines.
The writing isn't the only thing that's great in this book, however. Artist Sean Wang employs two uniquely different art styles to illustrate MELTDOWN. Wang illustrates sequences in the present with a grittier, hard edged style but uses a lighter, cartoonish style when illustrating the many flashback segments in the book. The result is a book that looks like it was drawn by two different people. The reality is that it's just one incredibly talented artist at work. I was very impressed by the fact that the two distinct styles were rendered by one artist. Not many artists would be able to switch between two such distinct styles as deftly as Wang is able to, much less maintain a coherent sense of storytelling between the two. It's a fantastic technique that adds so much to the storytelling it's hard to describe the effect. As The Flare's life is falling apart the pages are dark and filled with a sense of doom. When we look back on his life during more innocent times the pages are colorful and wide open. The transition between the two becomes jarring as the story develops and it makes the tragedy much more powerful than if the whole book had just been laid out in one style. Kudos to Bernard Chang for apparently suggesting the technique but Wang deserves high praise for really pulling it off. Wang's art adds so much atmosphere to the story it's just incredible.
There is one slight negative to this book and I would be remiss if I didn't mention it here. It's the book's price tag. MELTDOWN is priced at a hefty $5.99. Normally I wouldn't even think of picking up a comic book at that price but one of the creators was at my local comic shop signing the book and if it's something I can't resist it's an indy creator hocking his wares. I decided to pick up the book and as you can see I loved it. So I'm going to write something that you will never, ever see me write again…this book was worth every cent of the $5.99 I paid for it. The production values of this book were incredibly professional. The pages are slick and durable and the cover stock and binding are glossy and sturdy. So you can see where the money went when this book was put together. Plus the book has no ads and a ton of pages. So if you have to do an overpriced book, this would be the way to do it. At least they put some effort into making comic fans feel like they would get their money's worth…unlike that rip-off SPIRIT/BATMAN book that came out two weeks ago.
So there you have it…David B. Schwartz and Sean Wang are the next big things in the comic biz. While MELTDOWN is only a two issue mini-series I'm going to be keeping an eye out for any of their upcoming projects. MELTOWN may last only two issues but I have a feeling it's going to be the beginning of a long and healthy career for both of its creators.
TEEN TITANS #41
Writer: Geoff Johns Guest Pencillers: Paco Diaz and Ryan Benjamin Guest Inkers: Jonathan Glapion, Michael Lopez, Edwin Rosell, Saleem Crawford, Vincente Cifuentes Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Squashua is not going to be making any friends today.Here's what I thought when I read this book. Page one, hey decent art. Page two? HOLY FUCKING SHIT MY EYES.
DC Comics, what the FUCK were you thinking approving this shit? Everyone and their sister is eyeing this book since (1) the cartoon, (2) Geoff (JSA) Johns is writing it, and (3) the plots seem to be integral to 52. We all want to know all about the new teen characters and what do you do? You let in some palsied artist who was having a stroke at the same time as his epileptic seizure when he picked up the pencils. And afterwards, he pulled down his pants and dropped a giant dookie right there on his so-called sequential art. You need to call these fuckers on this shit or you need to delay the book, like Marvel does. I hope you didn't pay him very much. This looks like something Valiant squeezed out of its ass in its final days.
TEEN TITANS is supposed to be one of your top tier books, like JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA and JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA. TEEN fucking TITANS. I haven't seen any of the other reviewers calling you on this, but you can't fool me. This issue is complete shit that should never have been sent to the printer. And there are what, two guest artists and FIVE inkers? Can't one of the two editors grow a pair and tell these people that one of them draws like shit? And they didn't even fill in the backgrounds. Fucking lazy fucks. Three bucks I paid for this.
Now, the art isn't the only problem with this book. Geoff isn't getting away easily by writing a seventeen-page fight scene. Seventeen pages. Christ almighty, this is the wrap-up of a what, 5-issue story arc? Way to pad for trade, Geoff. Clap, clap, clap. TITANS is an ensemble book. Can't you break away to show some other characters doing shit, like flash to Titans Tower where Marvin has his hand down Wendy's pants or something? You know what I mean. Diversify. And Jericho? What legion of fans was clamoring for this numb-nut to come back from the dead? You added thirty new teens to the DC Universe and yet you have to resurrect another? Ravager is barely entertaining as it is; we don't need her mute brother. And what's with Wonder Girl bringing up Nemesis to Diana at the end of the book? The dude doesn't even appear for a single panel (that I could see), or was he supposed to be and one of the artists not only dropped the ball, but lit it on fire? The six-page Teen Titans "Introducing Some Kid We Don't Give a Shit About" insert had better art.
Even the cover is inappropriate. It makes this issue look like a jump-on book. No, it's not! We're 4 issues into a 5-part story. This is definitely not a good introductory issue. And what's next issue? Fucking filler. Great. Way to go, DC. Hear that sound? It's the sound of no one applauding.
TEEN TITANS #41. What a fucking horror-show. And bonus 3D glasses for the one-page 3D HeroScape advertisement. Good job, Hasbro. Use the same fucking ad you've had in comics for the last year and a half and make it 3D. Way to milk a snapshot of someone's basement miniatures scene. Who's your marketing genius?
So get straight with me, DC. Are you guys pulling a gambit on us like you did with the last few issues of JLA and JSA where they were so terrible as to be unreadable and everyone was just dropping the book anyway? Is this your way of retiring TEEN TITANS? The only good thing about this issue is that DC is supposedly paying dealers back five cents for every book that shipped due to the extra weight from all the useless advertising packed in with it. At least, that's what I heard. Now kids, don't get me wrong. I'm sticking around for a little while because I want to at least see what's up with the Titans East dealie, but if that fails to deliver, I'm dropping this turd.
ONSLAUGHT REBORN #1
Writer: Jeph Loeb Artist: Rob Liefeld Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: Sleazy GI’ve seen Jeph Loeb at Wizard World a few times now. He strikes me as a smart, charming, funny guy, and I think the world of his tireless work in support of the charity he started in his son’s name. I’ve also read comments from Jeph on more than one occasion in which he springs to Rob Liefeld’s defense, talking about what a nice guy he is and how much he’s learned from his mistakes and what a well-meaning guy he is. From what I’ve seen of Jeph, I’m willing to take him at his word here, so you’ll not see any personal attacks from me on either of these two.
What’s that? ONSLAUGHT REBORN #1? Dammit…shoulda known somebody’d ask about that.
It’s a stinker, folks.
I actually feel really badly about knocking this one, I do, but it’s just not any good. A lot of the dialogue is stilted or clichéd—“Attaboy, Johnny Boy!”, for example, just clunks its way out of The Thing’s mouth. It’s the same kind of clichéd, boring, over-the-top stuff that drove me away from BATMAN/SUPERMAN. I guess I’m finding it just doesn’t work for me. It apparently works for others, and that’s fine, but if you’re like me and didn’t like the writing on that title you’re probably not gonna care for this one, either.
I’m also having a hard time with the fact that there’s this big, ugly gray monster thing in purple armor that’s supposed to be Onslaught. I mean, it existing is one thing, but the why is where I got stuck.
See, apparently, when Wanda said “no more mutants” at the end of HOUSE OF M, it created The Collective, a flaming creature which trashed (maybe killed, maybe not) Alpha Flight up in Canada in NEW AVENGERS.
Oh, wait, except it was actually controlled by the sentience of Xorn, who never really existed, but then he was jettisoned into the sun just in case.
Oh, wait, except it also apparently re-created Onslaught and then dropped him into our universe instead of the “Heroes Reborn” universe. Only it wasn’t noticed or mentioned by anyone, like, say, the Fantastic Four who had to deal with him in this issue, or the X-Men who he’s intimately wrapped up with, I guess cuz they were all too busy with that whole CIVIL WAR thingy that’s been going on.
Hell, I think there’s even another situation the whole Wanda thing’s been used to justify. I dunno—I’ve lost count. I do know, though, that it’s been used for two or three plot points so far, and now yet again, and not a one of them is actually any good. It’s overused, and the timing of when this story would have to occur overlaps so closely with so many other major events in the Marvel Universe, that it all just feels like overkill.
As for the art, well…grudging credit where it’s due, okay? There are places in this issue where I found myself honestly wondering how something with so many damned lines and hatch-marks and criss-crosses and whoknowswhatelses could possibly be blurry and ill-defined. There are other places, though, where it looks like Liefeld is trying something new—stretching himself a little—and it was a noticeable improvement. In fact, I think I like it a lot better than his work on TEEN TITANS a year or so back. I’m still not a fan, and it still has its share of problems, but there are clearly changes for the better.
Look, I’m not gonna try and pretend I didn’t buy every issue set in the “Heroes Reborn” universe. I didn’t hate it at the time; I thought it was okay. Haven’t reread it since out of an expectation I would end up hating it, but I thought I’d give this little return trip a try and see if I could find anything appealing. I did, I think—I was reminded I kinda liked the spunky female Bucky for some reason. But the truth is comics writing and art have improved a lot more over the last decade than we give credit for, so something that feels as “ten years ago” as this does just kinda lands with a thud. If you’re a fan of these guys, or really loved the “Heroes Reborn” stuff, maybe you’ll really dig this. But I went in to it with an open mind, hoping for a fun little bit of nostalgia, and what I got was clunky, overwrought and dull. I still haven’t decided if I’ll give the series another chance or not, but I can’t really recommend it unless you’re already in its target audience.
FRIDAY THE 13th #1
Writers: Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray Artists: Adam Archer & Peter Guzman Publisher: DC WildStorm Reviewer: Ambush BugI take my horror too seriously. I know it. I try to intellectualize it when I should just sit back and enjoy the carnage. Blame my college professor who made us study the psychology of horror cinema. Blame my mom who let me go see THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2, ALIENS, and THE FLY on my 13th birthday. Hell, blame the video store guy who let me rent everything and anything shy of hardcore porn even though I could barely see over the counter. Whoever is to blame, there’s something in me that loves, appreciates, and respects the horror genre. So imagine my delight when I found out that WildStorm would be launching a line of horror books based on the Big Three in slasher movies! I’ve reviewed the first issues of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE in previous columns. Liked CHAINSAW better than NIGHTMARE simply because the artwork fit the tone of what a horror comic should be. But I really was just biding my time. I simply love FRIDAY THE 13th movies. I’ve seen every one of them and, despite the fact that they can be really stupid and repetitious at times, I get a thrill out of seeing them over and over. I’m sick that way.
Now, I know there are those who turn up their nose to FRIDAY THE 13th. They cast it off as z-grade filth with no artistic value whatsoever. They scoff at an unkillable mongoloid death machine in a hockey mask preferring other things like meowing Japanese children or elaborate torture sequences when it comes to horror. And while those things have merit too, to me, seeing the old hockey mask and machete takes me back to a time when I would sit on my belly in the living room in front of the television and disappear from the world around me. I love FRIDAY THE 13th. Got it? Good.
Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray have proved themselves to be a pretty formidable writing pair when it comes to action. Their hard-hitting work on JONAH HEX, UNCLE SAM & THE FREEDOM FIGHTERS, and HEROES FOR HIRE have sealed that. But can they do horror?
Well, after reading issue one of FRIDAY THE 13th #1, it seems they can. The writing team set up the issue with a nice chase sequence we’ve seen a thousand times. A naked woman runs through the forest, with Jason, machete in hand, hot on her heels. The girl is rescued by an elderly couple in an RV, leaving Jason pissed off at the side of the road. The girl is hospitalized and hysterical and a police officer, referring to Camp Crystal Lake, gives the understatement of the century: “Maybe they ought to close that fucked up place for good.”
While this sequence isn’t anything new, there really isn’t anything wrong with it either. Palmiotti and Gray put together some intense paneling and newcomer artists Adam Archer and Peter Guzman make Jason look pretty fucking imposing and scary. I liked this little shred of story. It’s the type of sequence you’ve seen at the end of many a F13 movie. The difference is that this occurred at the beginning of this tale and not the end.
My annoyance with the story hinges on the fact that after these first six pages, we are taken back two weeks as the camp counselors (final girl included) arrive at the camp. This is where the book began to get on my nerves a bit since we’ve seen this a million times before. Just when I thought we were going to see something new, the writers decide to jump back into familiar territory. The remainder of this book serves to line these lambs up for slaughter, giving them only a bit of character that will only serve to keep us from falling asleep until Jason kills them off. Palmiotti and Gray do a decent job of making these characters semi-interesting. One couple is on the run for something they did back home. One is an expert on the history of “Camp Blood.” One is a local who never stays close to the lake when it gets dark. There are some decently written back-and-forthings between the counselors regarding the camp’s history. I wouldn’t say these folks are fleshed out at all, but at least they are given a smidge of interesting character to make me give a fig when inevitably Jason chops them up.
I guess you can say that Palmiotti and Gray did an okay job of doing your typical FRIDAY THE 13th scenario. There was nothing new, really, and that’s what annoyed me. I wanted more and was dissatisfied with the same ol’ same ol’. That is, until the last few pages. Basically, Palmiotti and Gray are writing not about Jason per se, but about the curse of Crystal Lake. This is the subject of discussion among the doomed camp counselors. It’s not just the hockey masked killer in the woods that poses a threat to those who enter Camp Blood. It’s the lake itself and the history around it. Up until the last few pages, I was really pissed at this book for bringing nothing new to the table, but by the end of the book, I found myself surprised and looking forward to the next issue. This new element fits the talk about Camp Blood’s curse, and at least for the moment, has me thinking this may be the comic that takes the gruesome adventures of Jason Voorhees seriously.
Not only was I entertained by the attention to Camp Crystal Lake’s history, I was also enthralled with the way these continued occurrences fit a psychological trend and wondered if this was intentional from the writers. Now, I said it at the beginning, I take my horror seriously. Maybe too seriously. I read into this shit. So when Palmiotti and Gray choose to elaborate on the fact that before Jason drowned in the lake and the killing started there were forest fires and a bunch of animals were found dead, my whiskers perked. In psychology, arson and harm to animals are two of the three factors that make up the Homicidal Triangle among children, the third being bedwetting. Children who exhibit these characteristics have been known to grow up with homicidal ideation. It doesn’t mean that if these things occur the child definitely will become an axe murderer, but many serial killers have had this symptomology at some point in their childhood. Is this coincidence? Am I reading too much into this? Do Palmiotti and Gray know about the Homicidal Triangle? I don’t know. I could just be taking this shit way too seriously, but I already told you…that’s what I do.
In any event, Palmiotti and Gray themselves seem to be taking this book seriously. It’s a lot better than previous FRIDAY THE 13th comics and better than most of the latter movies as well. It mixes enough of the old “tried and true” elements with some new ones, while respecting the history that has been established in the films. I have long waited for someone to come along and treat Jason and the mythology of Camp Blood seriously. With the looks of things, that day has finally arrived. Of WildStorm’s three “slasher” releases, FRIDAY THE 13TH #1 is the best of the bunch. If you like slasher films taken seriously, give this one a shot.
THE OFFICIAL HANDBOOK OF THE INVINCIBLE UNIVERSE: A-K
Robert Kirkman and Cory Walker: Creators of Invincible
First of all, that’s no joke up in the header. The great and wonderful Gru really does get a credit in this book. The original Marvel Universe HANDBOOK is just one of the many reasons Mark Gruenwald is a comic book legend, but even if the HANDBOOK had been the only thing he’d done it would still be enough. Everything about that project has become almost as iconic as the Marvel heroes themselves, from the art design to the covers to Eliot R. Brown’s technical cutaways. You couldn’t make a better reference book for fictional characters.
Mark Gruenwald: Creator of concept
Image Comics: Publisher
Vroom Socko: @$$hole handbook still pending
So Kirkman and company didn’t even try.
Instead, they made the single best homage to 80’s comics I’ve ever seen. The whole book, from the covers to the floating heads in the team entries is pitch perfect old school Marvel. Which is great, since INVINCIBLE is one of the few superhero books out there that has that old school Marvel feel to it. Of course, if you haven’t read any of INVINCIBLE before now, you might not want to have the story spoiled by something as simple as an encyclopedia entry. Any current fans of the book should snatch this sucker up now. Everyone else should pick up the first few TPBs of the title.
Then you’ll know why it’s just so damn cool that the first entry in the book is for Allen the Alien.