FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2007
By Ambush BugMan, Free Comic Book Day crept up on me this year. Maybe it was due to all of the hype of SPIDER-MAN 3. I don’t know, but for some reason the day dropped out of the blue on me. If I hadn’t been out walking past my comic book store with my girlfriend AKA The Princess on Saturday, I would have missed it completely. Luckily, I was able to pick up a decent stack of books. The store I was at seemed to have a good selection of books up for grabs. I didn’t want to be greedy, so I nabbed up only a few. The following is a quick synopsis of what I was able to snag and my thoughts on both the books themselves and the way they were presented.
In the past, I have found Free Comic Book Day to be kind of lackluster. Many of the companies try to polish off old stuff. It seems as if not a lot of effort went into these free books, which in the long run, I thought would prove to be detrimental since the point of Free Comic Book Day was to get new people interested in comics. Hand out rehashed or half-assed product and you’re not going to impress anyone, but aside from DC which tossed out a reprint of JLA #0, it seems as if a lot of companies decided to put out either some original product or previews of upcoming stuff. Other than LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES OF THE 31ST CENTURY, it seems as if DC didn’t really have much to offer. I think this was a huge blunder by DC. Since COUNTDOWN is coming out, why not put that up for FCBD? It would be a great way to get readers interested in this big event.
I made off with quite a variety of indie and mainstream fare this year. First was a fun little B & W ditty by Chris O’Brien & Rick Berg called MITCH STEVENS VS. FREE COMIC BOOK DAY. It’s a simple yarn about a regular guy fighting a caveman who seems to have stolen his “stuff.” Stevens makes chase and the two foes battle for a bit before Stevens defeats the troglodyte with his belt and a knee to the face. Stevens celebrates with a brew and the story is over. It’s a fun throwaway tale that shows some promise in the panel placement department and the fact that it never, ever takes itself too seriously. Find out more about this book here.
Devil’s Due Publishing put out a flip book featuring their serial killer hunter HACK/SLASH and an adaptation of Fox’s FAMILY GUY. I’ve never read a HACK/SLASH book before. This was a nice little intro to the character with some pretty strong art. The FAMILY GUY section was well done as well, but I found the humor to be somewhat weaker than that of the actual TV show, which is to be expected. The book does a good job of highlighting some promising properties from Devil’s Due.
Next up was Dynamite’s LONE RANGER/BATTLESTAR GALACTICA comic. Having read the LONE RANGER book, I found this to be a nicely written and rendered snippet of what the comic is all about. My main complaint in the actual comic was the fact that it took forever for the Lone Ranger to actually appear in this book. But that’s not the case here. This short story has some great action sequences and shows off some of the Lone Ranger’s personality to boot. Hopefully, the monthly will start following suit. I’m not really familiar with BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, but I found the short story on the other side of this flippy-book to be equally entertaining. Although the artwork is a bit Old School Image-y for my tastes, I found the story to be informative and fun, even though I knew very little about the property. I probably won’t be picking up any new issues of BATTLESTAR, but after reading it, I can see that fans of the series may find this a must-have.
Marvel offered a few nice surprises this time around. Not only did they offer all new, all ages content with a MARVEL ADVENTURES book featuring Hulk, Iron Man, and Franklin Richards, they also offered an AMAZING SPIDER-MAN book by the guy who should be writing the monthly ASM book, Dan Slott. This stand alone feature not only offered a new villain who is actually an out of control Spidey fanboy, but it also marks the first appearance (sort of) of a character that I am dying to see more of, Jackpot. As the name suggests, she seems to have ties to Spidey’s past and her costume design is pretty damn fantastic. The story is strong as well, highlighting the fun aspects of the Spidey Universe--aspects that have been gone for far too long. Once JMS is finished with his run on AMAZING, I’d love to see Slott fill the…er…slot. Phil Jiminez provides the ultra detailed artwork. This is one of the best of the bunch and helped wash the foul tasting SPIDER-MAN 3 from my mouth. This book also features a glimpse at a future ASM issue by JMS and art by Joey Q, which looks pretty cool, but given the portly artist’s track record, expect delays.
Drawn & Quarterly offers an interesting little book called ACTIVITY BOOK by Linda Barry which serves as both a self-help/motivational book for those who feel the urge to write and an instructional manual on how to get started. The book is beautifully put together in a collage-like format utilizing different fonts and cut out texts to push the narrative along. Barry’s own distinct work fills the pages as well. Her simplistic yet stylized linework shows a delicate hand and an eye for beauty. This book is actually an excerpt from Barry’s upcoming book WHAT IT IS, to be published in 2008. The attention to detail cannot be matched in this truly unique looking offering.
I couldn’t resist. I had to pick up the free GUMBY book. Gumby and his noble steed Pokey visit a museum in this cute little tale. With all of the dour and serious stuff going on in comics, it’s good to see a comic as fun as this among the mix of free stuff. Those pesky Blockheads decide to steal a few paintings, making a boring trip to the museum anything but. When Gumby makes chase, he finds himself jumping in and out of all of the paintings in the museum. Fun stuff for the kiddies and art aficionados too. In what other comic would you expect to see an ending where all of the most famous paintings in the world end up dancing together?
Legion of Evil Press publishes COMICS FESTIVAL 2007, the comic that will please most fans of Indie Jones with vividly entertaining stories from industry giants Darwyn Cooke (NEW FRONTIER), Hope Larson (GRAY HORSES), and Brian Lee O’Malley (SCOTT PILGRIM). This book highlights some of the industry’s best artists from Canada. This book sports some great talent. It’s got quite a few stories packed into one issue. Some are one-page one liners, while others like Cooke’s THE ALEX are full fledged short stories. The variety and quality of artwork in this issue is what makes it stand out. This was one of my favorites due to the fact that it showcased some true talent. Try to track this one down if you didn’t get it on Saturday. Fans of good art will not be disappointed.
The Princess just about did a back flip when she found out that one of the books offered for FCBD was MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE frontman Gerard Way’s debut into comics, Dark Horse’s UMBRELLA ACADEMY. This 12 page preview is paired with snippets of ZERO KILLER (by REX MUNDI’s Arvid Nelson) and Ron Marz’ PANTHEON CITY. I couldn’t pry this issue from The Princess’ fingers to read it, but she said that it was slightly confusing, yet it left her curious to find out more. She was left unimpressed by what she described as your “typical super hero story,” and left the short preview of UMBRELLA ACADEMY with more questions than answers. She said that she would be interested in picking up this series because of the great looking cover and art within and because, and I quote, “it’s done by Gerard Way…Hello?” Apparently if you like MCR, you’ll like this book.
All in all, this was a pretty impressive Free Comic Book Day. It seems that most of the publishers understand that this is a great way to highlight the best of what they have to offer and maybe pull in a few new readers in the process. Sure, I noticed a lot of people only stopping into the shop for the free stuff and then making tracks, but in the short time that I was at my local comic shop, it actually seemed like there were some new faces looking around and maybe discovering how cool comics are for the first time. Later in the column, I’ll give full coverage to the last comic I got on Free Comic Book Day, Robert Kirkman’s THE ASTOUNDING WOLF-MAN #1 and Professor Challenger will be taking a look at another freebie, LITTLE ARCHIE #1.
HELLBOY: DARKNESS CALLS #1
Writer: Mike Mignola Artist: Duncan Fegredo Publisher: Dark Horse Reviewer: JinxoHellboy is back. Hells yes.
Even though the story hasn’t kicked into full swing yet and we’re just a few steps down that path into some dark and creepy woods, those first steps into a good creepy yarn can feel like the best.
Reading this comic hit me with feelings from when I was a kid. Way way back, every summer my family would go camping at the beaches of the Outer Banks in North Carolina. And every year part of the trip was sitting around outside around a Coleman propane lantern (no electricity) and with the sounds of the sea coming over the dunes someone would read a ghost story from one of the numerous books of local legends and folklore. This was the stomping grounds for the likes of Blackbeard so there were good stories to be told. Blackbeard swimming laps around his ship after being beheaded, hoof prints from ghastly incidents that would ‘to this very day’ mysteriously reappear…stories where you could go to where they happen and where, supposedly, the supernatural could still intrude and sweep up the unwary. Good stuff.
That’s what I like about Hellboy and this issue in particular. Often his adventures do take him full over into the realm of the mystical, and I’m sure this story will end up there. But just as often Hellboy’s stories can take place in that middle ground, that twilight zone where that mystical world just brushes up slightly against the normal world and sweeps up the unwary. Despite being a powerful supernatural being, Hellboy is often just that unwary sap, getting caught up in some old recurring ghost tale and going, “Son of a…I just wanted to go for a walk. Dammit!” Fate grabs him up, throws him through a door and makes him the star of some hellish version of “Thank God You’re Here!” Okay…a more hellish version of “Thank God You’re Here!”
Full blown, big bad mystical mojo seems set to hit Hellboy in the puss soon enough, but for right now he seems just to be that poor soul who has wandered into the linger ghosts of past witch burning creepiness. He’s not Hellboy to these souls, he’s filling in the role for them of another missing player--which is never a good thing in such tales. And much as when I was a kid I could not wait for the next night to hear the next tale of a bride going missing and then haunting the halls of what should have been her home, I cannot wait for next month to see what the hell fate has in store for this poor demon who has wandered down the wrong path.
I should point out Mike Mignola is only scripting this HELLBOY outing, leaving the art to Duncan Fegredo. Fegredo does a stand out job. He does a great job of capturing the Mignola vibe while adding his own flavor to the mix. Kudos! That said…man I wish Mignola would draw. Back to the ghost stories: I feel like he’s the guy picking up the book by that Coleman lantern to tell the tale that will creep everyone out. Sue me, but I like when he is fully the one telling that story. I guess though that he can be super critical of his own art, wanting to get it just right. If by some chance Mignola is reading this, let me just say this: it doesn’t have to be perfect. Actually, given the kind of stories, the art being…geeze, I don’t want to say imperfect…the art being rough around the edges is what is needed. Hellboy is so often the comic book incarnation of ghost stories told aloud, of stories told in oral tradition. The best thing about those stories is that living element. Each telling of any story is different from telling to telling, from teller to teller. Each telling of the story is different, unique and no telling is ever perfect. But the quirks of each unique telling are what make the telling. A word gets mispronounced. A page has to get flipped mid-sentence and the flow of the sentence gets flubbed so that the guy reading aloud has to check himself, go back and reread it over. Dude, for tales like these, flaws are part of the tradition. We love the flavor the flaws add. Well, you know, unless the flaw is you got drunk and drew the entire book with all the characters drawn as rabbits. And even that would be enjoyable in a freaky, “someone send him to a psychiatrist” sort of way.
But still, I can’t complain too much. Hellboy is back and that’s a good thing. Now if Hellboy could just get down to the Outer Banks. Trust me, they’ve got some ghost problems down there that needs cleaning up but bad!
THE INCREDIBLE HULK#106
Writer: Greg Pak Artist: Gary Frank
WORLD WAR HULK PROLOGUE #1
Story: "Casus Belli" Writer: Peter David Artists: Rio, Weeks, Phillips Story: "Round Trip" Writer and Artist: Chris Giarrusso Story: "Mastermind Excello" (reprint) Writer: Greg Pak Artist: Takeshi Miyazawa Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: Squashua"Hey, where'd my sandwich go?" - Namor the Sub-Mariner
I don't normally follow Hulk, and with so many disappointing tie-ins and specials I invested in over the last few months, I figured I'd wait until WORLD WAR HULK arrived in trade paperback. Also, last week found a record eleven separate books and one trade on my buy pile. Would two more make me or break me?
Hulk, you can break me anytime.
If you haven't been following “Planet Hulk”, pick up the PROLOGUE. If you have been following “Planet Hulk”, pick up the PROLOGUE. If you read comic books, pick up the fucking WORLD WAR HULK PROLOGUE.
Easy-read chronological order of the stories: PROLOGUE - "Mastermind Excello", PROLOGUE - "Round Trip", THE INCREDIBLE HULK #106, PROLOGUE - "Casus Belli". I’ll review each story on its own merits and faults.
THE INCREDIBLE HULK #106 finds Jennifer Walters (She-Hulk) dealing with the fallout from the latest issue of her own series, which is actually due in stores this week. So much for scheduling. She has been infected with Hulk inhibitors courtesy of SHIELD after she discovered her cousin, The Hulk, was jettisoned into deep space months earlier. There’s some fun interaction with kid genius Mastermind Excello, who could probably put DC’s Mr. Terrific to shame, some odd scenes with token gay wrestler Doc Samson, and a couple unexpected last-minute cameos. I’m not quite sure how those cameos worked out in the narrative; did Excello contact them or did Walters contact them? It’s not exactly a clear plot point. What else is strange is that Doc Samson is hanging with Mr. Fantastic in the Baxter Building at the end of the issue, mere seconds after She-Hulk punched him out of a New Jersey suburb and into the next county (“halfway to Passaic” as explained later in “Casus Belli”). Unless an unexplained teleportation/retrieval/plaht device is involved, that is simply some lousy continuity. This issue sets up the return of the Hulk and sets the rallying of Hulk’s Earth-bound allies into motion. Despite its faults, this story is a very satisfactory lead-in.
PROLOGUE – “Casus Belli” continues the tale from #106, alternating between space-faring Hulk and his Warbound allies, and Jen Walters/Doc Samson interaction. Hulk has to maintain the loyalty of his Warbound allies, who fear he may deliver his rage upon them, and Doc Samson attempts to sway Walters to the anti-Hulk point of view. Both groups reflect on past Hulk interactions with the Illuminati members and present them from both Hulk and non-Hulk angles. For example, when discussing Iron Man, Doc Samson focuses on the many cure attempts from Tony Stark, while Hulk presents a more sobering view of himself as a rightfully prejudiced victim, with Stark treating him as nothing more than an untrustworthy monster. This is an excellent story, and it gives the reader a true insight into the sides of the upcoming World War Hulk. Each of the three separate sections to this tale--Hulk and the Warbound in space, Walters/Samson in a hotel, and a variety of Hulk-related flashbacks--were assigned to a different artist. The space scenes are quite graphic in detail as Hulk eviscerates various alien pirates, and the flashbacks are rendered with delicate care, attempting to evoke the appropriate style of the times, but the hotel scenes are downright awful.
I’ve made it a point in earlier reviews to state that I do not complain about art unless it’s terrible. Whomever drew the Doc Samson/Jennifer Walters hotel scenes has to “get with it” or find another career. These scenes are simply half-assed. There are many panels where faces and bodies are consistently out of proportion, with Jen going from a haggard Linda Hamilton to a sixteen year old Mary Jane within the space of a single panel. Her later appearances were obviously sketched using the profile of a prune. Additionally, Samson appears as a giant torso with teeny, tiny feet-legs. One scene depicts a gag where Doc Samson is leaning against a closed door that Jen suddenly opens from the inside and a surprised Doc falls through. Yet, the door hinges are on Samson’s side. Sure, it’s a nitpick attention to detail, but aren’t artists supposed to be detail-oriented? Overall, the art for the hotel scenes is simply not up to par with the rest of the story, diminishing its overall value, and that is simply frustrating.
PROLOGUE – “Round Trip” is the story that is the reason you buy this issue. Chris Giarrusso delivers the funny with his own particular style as the “Mini Marvels” bring the readers up to speed reprising everything from the “Secret Illuminators” decision to ship Hulk off into space up to his eventual return trip. Learn the secret Bendis kept from us in the original ILLUMINATI SPECIAL: Namor the “Sub”-Mariner’s true rationale for souring on Hulk. All that plus Hawkeye and Cap, back from the dead! Actually, it’s a flashback, so, Hawkeye and Cap, not dead yet!
PROLOGUE - “Mastermind Excello” is a reprint of the original short story introducing Excello into the Hulk mythos. It’s a fun tale drawn in an incredible manga style by Miyazawa. I love seeing things from Excello’s point of view, with strange, almost mystical, mathematical calculations overlaying his vision, something clearly lacking from his appearance in INCREDIBLE HULK #106.
I have one issue with Mastermind Excello, or more specifically, his pet coyote pup. Excello has had the pup since his first appearance, from before Hulk was shot into space, yet here he is at the end of Hulk's journey and the coyote is still a puppy. It is a little unbelievable he isn’t fully grown considering it is established that multiple months have taken place between “Mastermind Excello” and INCREDIBLE HULK #106. Then again, this is Marvel, and just how old is Franklin Richards?
With issues like these, WORLD WAR HULK looks like it’s going to be a blast - a heck of a lot more fun than CIVIL WAR. Though I originally planned on waiting for trades, I’m going to pick up the individual issues and hang around until the fun ends.
LITTLE ARCHIE, THE LEGEND OF THE LOST LAGOON, FREE COMIC BOOK DAY EDITION #1
Writer: Bob Bolling Artist: Bob Bolling & Jim Amash Publisher: Archie Comics Reviewer: Prof. ChallengerThe horror! The horror!
Imagine if your elementary school principal turned out to also be your camp director! Now imagine you are the eternally stuck in elementary school "Little" Archie Andrews and Mr. Weatherbee is your principal/camp director. The horror! The horror!
Seriously, though, any little kid should be able to enjoy the harmless misadventures of Little Archie and his now multi-ethnic classmates while away for the summer at Camp Riverdale. The story, such as it is, focuses on Little Archie and the other ankle biters discovering a hidden lagoon (and maybe even spying an elf or two) while Betty's big brother, Chic, falls in love with a beautiful female counselor from Camp Piney Acres.
Sure, I could go all post-modern and start deconstructing the innocuous nature and creepy Pollyanna smiles throughout the comic, but I'm just not that cynical when it comes to stuff targeted toward the younger readers. This comic is a breezy little romp and a great thing to put in the hands of new young readers. Archie and the other kids are easy for young readers to identify with. They're good-hearted kids with a bit of a mischievous spirit to them. Not only that, the kids even get one of those nifty little "teaching" pages that tells them all about owls. Now, how can you go wrong with that?
The art's pretty good. Clear and tells the story in pictures nicely. I think the inks of Bob Smith on the cover were quite superior to Amash's interior inks and would've preferred Smith on the interiors as well, but that's not a criticism of Amash - just a preference on my part. The story is another one of those timeless tales that they can probably reprint for decades since there's no appearance by anything overly technological to date the story.
However, everyone who reads my reviews knows I often end up with some nagging question or concern that the reviewed comic stuck in my head. In this case, I'm scratching my head wondering why "Li'l Archie" has recently been uncontracted to "Little Archie." What was wrong with "Li'l Archie"????
On Free Comic Book Day, my kids and I came out of Rogues Gallery Comics with a nice sampling of current comic book-ey stuff and I'll give props to Archie Comics for including LITTLE ARCHIE this time out. My 9 year-old daughter already read and re-read that one comic multiple times this weekend. She loved it. Her favorite comic other than Archie Comics was BANANA SUNDAY, and she particularly enjoys LITTLE ARCHIE. I also saw a family with four kids hop out of their car that Saturday to go eat at the pizza buffet next to the comics store and the kids noticed the FREE COMIC BOOK DAY sign and loudly dragged their parents into the comics store first. FCBD is slowly getting the job done.
GOD SAVE THE QUEEN OGN
Writer: Mike Carey Artist: John Bolton Publisher: Vertigo/DC Comics Reviewed by Humphrey LeeY'know, it takes a lot to get me excited about a particular comic these days. I openly admit that I've become jaded after years and years AND YEARS of comic book reading. Usually it takes something particularly high concept to get my fanboy blood flowing, or to see I know I can trust taking on a character I feel that has been particularly neglected or mishandled. In the case of GOD SAVE THE QUEEN, I was ecstatic just to see a writer I know handles a particular genre of comic amazingly well doing just that after putting out some rather lackluster performances on titles he isn't really suited for in the first place. Sure, I have no problem with a writer branching out, especially when they deserve the significantly higher exposure after spending so long on the fringe doing niche work. But it's nice to see them come home so to speak. It makes you feel warm and welcome, like everything will be all right again.
Sadly, that feeling went out the window about halfway through my read of this OGN.
All the elements were there for this to be amazing. Carey telling some stories in the land of Faerie that he's used before after its introduction by good old Neil Gaiman but also solidly grounded in the Earthly realm in order to show some parity and all that good stuff. Oh, and it features John Bolton art. Y'know, John Bolton? That guy who has done sporadic but always breathtaking comic art for the past couple decades? Yeah, he's back and makes this look gorgeous too. If there's any main redeeming factor in this, it's definitely his amazing paints.
But anyways, back on track. So why didn't this work out the way you wanted it, Humphrey old pal? Well, because I hated the main character for starts. She's supposed to be some sort of rebel and a bit of a tortured soul, but all I saw throughout this book was some snobby bitch who doesn't listen to her best friend ever, takes him for granted, and starts shooting heroin with some group of misfits that serve only one purpose despite being on too many pages in this book. The overlaying story in this is supposed to be Queen Titania's rule being overthrown in the Kingdom of Faerie, but for the most part it's about following around this pretty annoying girl who does all this stupid stuff despite supposedly being really intelligent, and she kind of bumbles and halfasses her way into this situation where she's supposed to help dispose of Queen Mab who took over the realm.
There's really not enough story on either side of this book to make it really interesting. Nowhere near enough time is spent on establishing just exactly how things went so bad in the kingdom, or how Mab was able to take the realm like she was; always off the cuff remarks, but nothing to make her seem like that big of a deal. Our lead Linda doesn't really show any redeeming qualities either until way toward the end of the book, and by then she becomes really nothing more than a Deus Ex to help end the story. Honestly, a big problem here I think could be identified as the format betraying the overall. There was way too much here trying to happen to the point where really it feels like nothing happened. There's glimpses of what could have been, some moments where Linda realizes how badly her life has spiraled and tries to compensate, or even the good old "gathering of the forces" that happens to rethrown Titania at the end, but there's just not enough meat at all on these. It feels like a book that could have easily been two years worth of monthlies all shoehorned into this specialty format to showcase the lush art, which ironically is the best part of it all.
I really wanted to like this, I really, really did, and I kept trying to convince myself as I read it that "there is a plan" and that things would get drastically better, but they just never did. There's flickers of hope here and there, but that's really it. I wasn't expecting this to be an all-time great like Carey's ungodly good LUCIFER, or his exceptionally good HELLBLAZER run, but I didn't expect to keep it on my bookcase basically for the pretty pictures alone. I guess you can't win them all, but at the very least you expect a game to be made out of it.
THE ASTOUNDING WOLF-MAN #1 Freebie
Writer: Robert Kirkman Artist: Jason Howard Publisher: Image Comics Reviewer: Ambush BugRobert Kirkman has been hit and miss with me throughout the years. I found his mainstream work with Marvel, specifically MARVEL TEAM-UP and MARVEL ZOMBIES, to be some of my least favorite of his work. These books tried so hard to capture that Old School Marvel feel without giving any indication of understanding of what that really meant. I do, though, respect Kirkman as a writer because some of my favorite reads have been in the pages of THE WALKING DEAD, although I have a love/hate relationship with the title. From one month to the next, the book alternates between an utterly meandering bore and a pulse pounding thrill-a-minute. Because of this bizarre relationship I have with Kirkman's comics, when I saw his ASTOUNDING WOLF-MAN issue on the Free Comic Book Day shelf, I decided what the hell, let's give it a try.
The story is your run-of-the-mill werewolf tale. A guy named Gary goes camping and is attacked by what they believe to be a bear. He is in the hospital for a while, but makes a remarkable recovery and during the next full moon, he breaks out of his hospital room and turns into a creature of the night. The next morning brings a full recovery and a return home. One month later, things are pretty much back to normal, but that night, Gary grows extra hairy and starts hunting rabbits out in the front lawn. It looks to be that our main character is, in fact, a wolf man.
So. We've got your typical werewolf origin going on here. What does Kirkman bring to the table that makes this different? In all honesty, not much. I was surprised at how bland and unimagitive the whole thing played out. Nothing by way of twists really appear. By the looks of the hairy guy on the cover, you are pretty certain that it wasn't a bear that bit our hero, Gary. And anyone who has seen a werewolf film knows that the odd feelings Gary is experiencing have to do with lycanthropy. The only thing by way of a shockeroo happens at the very end when a vampire pays a visit (during the morning, mind you) and offers to help Gary out with his hairy problem.
I guess what I am saying is that I expected more. I know reviewers should look at what they've got in front of them and not what they want in front of them, but in this case, what I got was pretty much the same type of werewolf tale I've seen in movies and read in books for years. Maybe this series will be a bit more in depth. Maybe it will go places that no werewolf story has ever gone before, but as far as this issue goes, it's all by the numbers.
The artwork doesn't help things. I don't know when people are going to understand this, but I guess I will have to say it again. IF you are looking to make a horror book - and I think that is what this book is trying to be (maybe I'm wrong) - but IF you are going to make a horror book, well lit panels, clean lines, and cartoony characters is not the way to go. I can't fault Jason Howard. He draws a clean crisp line. His attention to detail in the backgrounds and stylistic way he depicts posture and weight are pretty damn impressive. But scared I was not with this book, and a lot of that has to do with the fact that the werewolf doesn't look like a monster to be feared. He looks like a cartoon. I have a hard time taking something more reminiscent of Loony Toons seriously, let alone be scared by it.
Another complaint I had with this book was the fact that it looks to be bi-monthly with the next issue hitting the stands in July. I have to say, if I am waiting around for two to three months between issues, the story had better be grabbing me by the balls and keeping me at attention the whole time, otherwise, why bother? The ending of this issue didn't really have that effect on me. It made me somewhat curious to see what's next, sure, but if Kirkman is going to take a couple of months in between issues, he had better make it worth my while.
Yet, I am going to stick around for the second issue mainly to see where Kirkman plans on taking this story. He's proven to take horror cliches and run with them in entertaining directions. The wolf-man on the cover seems to be wearing some kind of costume, so maybe they are going to go the super hero route with this book rather than the direction of horror. The first issue lacked originality and the artwork lacked that fear factor that makes this an actual horror comic book. Here's hoping Kirkman comes back in issue two with something that makes this story stand out from the rest of the werewolf stories.
MADAM MIRAGE VOL. 1: FIRST LOOK #1
Writer: Paul Dini Artist: Kenneth Rocafort Publisher: Top Cow Reviewer: Prof. ChallengerNighttime in Los Angeles. Hot. About to get hotter. -- Madame Mirage
Okay. I don't usually start with the art. But wow. That's hot. Sexy stuff. I'm usually turned off by ginormously huge boobs in comic books (unless they're on Power Girl and drawn by Amanda Connor), but artist Kenneth Rocafort brings life to this new character and she just reeks sensuality. Wow.
Now, as to the character, this week's "First Look" is just that - a first look, so there's not too terribly much in the way of characterization yet. There's some introductory text from writer/creator Paul Dini about the roots of the character being based in an aborted web animation venture. There are also a number of pin-up shots, cover peeks, and mood-setting pieces of art throughout this 99¢ special.
In addition, there are seven pages of story to let new readers know in what type of world Madame Mirage exists and exactly what archetypal character she stems from. At a glance, she looks like a character who would be comfortable in a 1930s era pulp magazine. The comic, however, is set in the very near future in a world where bio-engineering and enhancements have run amok creating a world full of super-powered individuals. In that world, as Dini envisions it, the heroes have for the most part disappeared and the powered villains have essentially taken over.
It is into this corrupt and shady world that Madame Mirage, a sort of female version of The Shadow, emerges to exact justice. And just like The Shadow, who would remorselessly kill the villains if he deemed it the most expedient choice, Madame Mirage does the same.
Based on my "First Look" I'd say that MADAME MIRAGE has the potential to be a breakout hit for Top Cow in 2007. I'll have to hold out final judgment until the first couple of actual issues hit the stands, but for less than a buck, this preview is worth picking up and getting a taste of the moody hotness of the deadly Madame Mirage.
Creator: Housui Yamazaki Publisher: Dark Horse Reviewer: Dan Grendell"...I'm so happy... you'll be my friend forever."
Dammit. I've really gotten into this series, which is basically a creepy and cool ghost story book, and now I find out that this is the last volume. And Yamazaki introduces such a cool new character here, too. I seriously haven't been this bummed about a series ending in a long time. Damn.
In any case, this final book really delivers on both the creepy and cool fronts. As usual, private detective Reiji Akiba uses his spirit gun Kagatsuchi to put ghosts to rest, and his cases serve as an excuse to tell a variety of different ghost stories. Things like lonely haunts trapped in cell phones, a baby killed in a hotel room by its mother, and a ghost that follows a girl home from an abandoned building all make for awesome tales, but the real story here is Mikoto.
Mikoto was a childhood friend of Akiba's, until burglars murder her whole family. Strangely drawn to her side, young Akiba finds her body, only to have her dismembered head smile at him and remind him that they had promised to be friends forever. Years later, her ghost begins to haunt him, and he puts Kagatsuchi to a new use. As normal, the gun's bullet captures the spirit, but this time, instead of putting the bullet in a shrine to give the ghost peace, Akiba sews a body together from several corpses and shoots Mikoto's spirit bullet into it. Then... it's alive! And it's the cutest little possessed Frankenstein gothloli ever. From that point on, Mikoto accompanies Akiba on his cases, keeping the lonely detective company.
Yamazaki's art delivers on the creep factor, not just because he has a seriously messed-up imagination but because he knows how to draw things in a realistic fashion too, so that when something freaky happens it just seems that much more out of place and shivery. Yamazaki also does a great job of slowly ramping up the tension in each story, so that by the end you are left having to decide if you want to turn pages quickly to find out what happens or slow down to keep from getting to the inevitable disturbing finish. That takes skill in both writing and artistic storytelling, and Yamazaki delivers on both.
It's a shame that this was such a short series, but that may prove to be a draw to some readers, who are intimidated by manga series with twenty-plus volumes. Here's hoping it helps draw those people into checking out MAIL.
LEFT ON A MISSION #1-3
Writer: Chip Mosher Artist: Francesco Francavilla Publisher: BOOM! Studios Reviewer: Ambush BugLEFT ON A MISSION is another strong, strong, new effort from BOOM! Studios. This is a company that seems to be putting out promising projects on what seems like a weekly basis. And not only is this a fun new miniseries, but they have a cool contest going along with it to boot. More on that in the last paragraph though. I had a chance to read through the first three issues of this five issue miniseries. Usually, I read a comic, take a break, then read another, but with this series I read all three books in one sitting. The story intensifies as the issues unfold. What starts out as one last mission for a washed up secret agent turns into an emotional rollercoaster filled with espionage, action, and intrigue.
This series reminds me a lot of one of my favorite spy comic books, SLEEPER. Although set in the real world and not in the world of super heroes as SLEEPER was, LEFT ON A MISSION has the same dark feel to the story. The stakes are high and there is no guarantee that the hero will come out alive. This is a dangerous comic; one that you can't rely on. You know bad things are coming and are helpless to stop them. Writer Chip Mosher does a great job of fleshing out the main character and really lets him get under your skin. You want for him to succeed even though the probability shows otherwise. I have no idea how it all will turn out, but you'd better believe I will be there for this entire miniseries to see it all unfold.
Additional goodness comes from the subdued artwork of Francesco Francavilla. Much like Sean Phillips' artwork in SLEEPER, Francavilla doesn't go for the bells and whistles. He has a straightforward approach, clearly depicting the action on panel, and transitioning from one to the next with ease. In a comic with so much action and suspense, you need an artist that can easily communicate subtle movements and gestures. Francesco Francavilla is that man.
The first issue will be available soon, so be sure to seek it out. It sets up the pace perfectly and lets you know that you are in for a story that you cannot predict. BOOM! and the creators behind this comic are running a LEFT ON A MISSION contest where you can create your own trailer for the miniseries. You can find more information about that cool contest here and be sure to check out LEFT ON A MISSION when it hits the stands. It is one of the most promising new miniseries from BOOM! Studios and a must for fans of 007 and SLEEPER.
WARHAMMER 40K: DAMNATION CRUSADE #3
Writers: Dan Abnett and Ian Edginton Artist: Greg Boychuk Publisher: BOOM! Studios Reviewer: Dan GrendellIn the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war.
I've been quite impressed with this mini-series so far. There's a certain very specific feel to the WARHAMMER 40K universe, both in the way it looks and in the attitude it delivers. By going with Dan Abnett, an established comics writer as well as a long-time author of Warhammer books, and Ian Edginton, who had proven his sci-fi comics chops in 2000 AD and books like SCARLET TRACES, Boom! has done a good job of ensuring that the story and characters all feel right for 40K. The artists in this series have done the same, delivering the dark, dirty look of a future at war that is the hallmark of classic 40K art.
This issue is no different, as Abnett and Edginton continue their looks at a Chapter of 40K's elite augmented power armor troopers, the Space Marines. Each Chapter has its own rules and traditions, but they are all steeped in mythology and devotion to the Emperor, worshipping him as a God. Weakness is failure, and the self is submerged in the role of a member of a brotherhood. There are callbacks to the idealized tales of the Crusades here, as fanatical soldiers fight for their God to destroy alien menaces - except the Marines are actually doing that, it seems, not fighting for land or wealth or a chance to escape.
Exploring life in the Black Templars Space Marine Chapter, the series looks at neophyte Raclaw, newly trained and inducted; experienced Marine Gerhart, who fears that his desire for victory comes from a need for personal recognition and not the proper devotion to the Emperor; and ancient Tankred, spirit of a long-dead Marine kept alive in a Dreadnought of armor and weapons, who continues to serve despite his weariness of war and loneliness. By looking at the struggles of these three warriors, following the same tenets at different stages of their lives, Abnett and Edginton are able to explore what it means to be a Space Marine.
Oh, yeah. And there's lots of cool-ass action scenes and fighting with 40K alien races like Orks and Eldar. Don't go thinking this book is boring.
Boychuk took over art chores after the first issue, but there's no artistic whiplash from the transfer. Both he and the initial artist deliver in the iconic 40K style and are skilled at storytelling. The colors are sometimes less than compelling, looking a bit like washed-out chalk, but more often than not it's a solid art delivery.
My only real issue is that this is a mini-series focused on the Space Marines, so that the brief introductions of the alien races don't really give those opponents much time to be cool. Here's hoping we see more of these miniseries in the future, exploring the other races in turn.