ALL STAR BATMAN & ROBIN THE BOY WONDER #5
Goddamn writer: Frank Miller Goddamn Artist: Jim Lee Goddamn Publisher: DC Comics Gol’durn Reviewer: Ambush BugIf I had a job and at my job, I waltzed into my boss’ office, leapt upon his desk, dropped trou, took a massive shit right between his silver pen set and his rolodex on a regular basis, and said “Where’s my paycheck?”, in the very best possible scenario with the most lenient of bosses, he or she would probably say something to the tone of “Well, at least he’s consistent.”
But if I had a job and at my job, I waltzed into my boss’ office, leapt upon his desk, dropped trou, and took a massive shit right between his silver pen set and his rolodex on a regular basis, then all of a sudden, I stopped doing so on a regular basis, (let’s say, I take six months off) and then I finally walk in and start the dumpin’, and then said “Where’s my paycheck?”, well then that most lenient of lenient bosses might say “That better be one magnificent turd.”
Now, if I had a job and at my job, I waltzed into my boss’ office, leapt upon his desk, dropped trou, and took a massive shit right between his silver pen set and his rolodex on a regular basis, then all of a sudden, I stopped walking in and doing so on a regular basis, but then after a six month hiatus, I did deposit said turd in its regular place and it was of the exact same quality of past turds with no indication that the extended hiatus did anything to improve the quality of said turd, and then had the gall to ask “Where’s my paycheck?”, well then that, my friends, is a turd of a different color.
I read ALL STAR BATMAN & ROBIN THE BOY WONDER through issue #3 and then dropped it. That was quite a while ago and needless to say, I can’t empathize with those who spent the last few months wondering when the next issue of this series was to be released. But released it was last week, and as the reviewing duties of this issue was passed around @$$Hole HQ like the proverbial hot potato, no one really wanting to bite the bullet and cover it, I decided to run out and buy the goddamn issue in question and give it a go.
Now, the reason I dropped this title in the first place was the fact that I think the entire book was misrepresented. Upon its inception, the ALL STAR line said it was different than Marvel’s Ultimate line, but I couldn’t really see the difference. It had an all star line up like the Ultimate U and the draw to this title (and Grant Morrison’s vastly superior ALL STAR SUPERMAN book) supposedly was to tell stories continuity and crossover free. This book was for newbs who may be curious about Batman stories or fans who wanted to see them done right but were scared away from the lackluster regular series. Continuity and crossover free meant new readers to me. And what better new readers than kids, especially since this series came out around the time of the last Batman film? But after reading the first issue of this series, it was clear that this book was, in fact, not for kids. With Batman’s first famous line “I’m the Goddamn Batman”, a quote addressed to a little kid, mind you, it was clear to me that this was an adult title, even though there’s nary a Mature Audiences logo on the cover. Now, I am not some defender of moral decency and I’m not even a parent, but if I were, I might be pissed if my kid brought home a supposedly all ages book where the hero swears at kids.
But that wasn’t the real reason I dropped the title. In the end, the real reason was that I found this series to be ugly and after the way both the DCU and Marvel have dragged most of its heroes through the mud, I had to draw the line somewhere.
Good to see that things haven’t changed.
This issue wastes no time to be ugly. Not one page in and Wonder Woman is referring to urine and sperm while talking about Metropolis and men. She charges in and barks orders to Superman, Green Lantern, and Plastic Man, and basically acts like a total bitch who only shows her softer side when a male abuses her. That male? Of course, it’s Superman. Yes, Frank Miller’s Superman calls Earth “his world, full of his people.” Frank Miller’s Superman is a power-mad god who threatens to kill Wonder Woman and knocks her on her ass with his super sonic voice. Yes, even Superman is not above the ugliness of Frank Miller’s writing. And the writing is sloppy to boot. There really is no indication as to why Wonder Woman is so super pissed at Batman and wanting to kill him. She just hates men and the Batman most of all. She says something about him being the worst of all men, but gives no example as to why she feels this way. Motivation is passé, I guess, as long as it means stripping an iconic heroine of all dignity and virtue.
After this scene, we get a snippet of Bat-action. Miller’s Batman clearly loves what he does. His Batman breaks bones, hates cops, and leaves his criminal/victims to fend for themselves writhing in pain in the alleyways where their crimes are committed. Miller’s Batman is completely unhinged. He’s not the tragic hero from his titles or even from Miller’s forays into Gotham himself with YEAR ONE, DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, and its sequel. This Batman is all about the rush of being Batman. He gets off on the fear he exudes. I must admit, this is an interesting way to go about a take on Batman, but for a reader to identify with a hero he must have a few redeeming qualities. Even Marv from SIN CITY had redeeming qualities. Batman, not so much. Long ago I reviewed THE DARK KNIGHT STRIKES AGAIN. I described that miniseries as a bitter letter to the fans from an artist who grew to hate and wanted to destroy that which made him famous. Miller seems to be continuing that ugly crusade with this title. Even the victims themselves are ugly. The victim in this particular issue seems to take great joy in seeing her attackers’ bloody compound fractures and even joins in on the beating.
Cut to an overly buff Alfred; bare-chested, socking on a punching bag, and ruminating about the deaths of the Waynes and what’s become of their son. One of my biggest comic book pet peeves is the fact that everyone in comics has to have abs of steel and a chest carved from granite. Jim Lee, supposedly one of the greats, draws Alfred as if he were Bruce himself. In fact, if not for the fact that he drew a little moustache on him and indicated that Bruce was his master, I would have sworn it was actually Bruce Wayne and not Alfred boxing away.
Finally, we cut to the Batcave where the soon to be (at this rate, probably around 2009) Robin is left alone and tooling around in the Batcave. Way to go, Bats. Swear at a kid, take him for a murderous ride which crushes and kills cops in the process, then leave him in a dark cave and forget to lock the big honkin’ closet with all of those super sharp weapons while you are out feelin’ all alive in “the hunter’s night”, as you say. Remind me not to leave my nephew with Bruce for the weekend.
All in all, it appears the plot has snailed along and even though I missed an issue, I caught up with the storyline pretty quickly because there really isn’t much of one. From cover to cover, it’s simply an ugly book. I don’t know what type of person Frank Miller is. He seems to be comfortable with venturing into dark worlds and focusing on ugly characters. That’s all fine and dandy, but a comic book world seen through the scum-crusted lens of Frank Miller’s camera is not a comic book world I wish to see. In the end, this was the same ugly turd that took an extended amount of time to produce since the last issue. It doesn’t matter if not one @$$Hole wants to review the next issue of ALL STAR BATMAN & ROBIN THE BOY WONDER, whenever the hell that is due to plop on the stands, I won’t be reading or reviewing it when it does.
FALLEN SON: THE DEATH OF CAPTAIN AMERICA - CHAPTER 3
Writer: Jeph Loeb Artist: John Romita, Jr. Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: Rock-Me AmodeoLet’s get right to it: this may be one of the best things to come out of the CIVIL WAR. I don’t want to give away too much. All I will really say is that Tony Stark and Clint Barton are completely in character.
Tony Stark, under his iron jimmies, is still a wheeler-dealer trying to make something good out of a bad situation (without seeming like a complete dirt bag). Regardless of how we got here, registration is the law, and Tony is trying to do the best he can. And Clint Barton is just a little too smug for his own good – as usual – but that doesn’t mean he’s one the wrong side of the issue. He’s still a straight shooter (as one might expect from a bowman), but his mental machinations are-dare I say-nuanced.
There are a few nice nostalgic moments, and there should be. After all, these two guys have worked together off and on for the past 40 years or so. And it’s not lost on me that, before they worked together, they were adversaries, on opposite sides of the law – so who more ironic to be discussing the moral intricacies of a post-Civil War era?
As a bonus, more than a few clever points and observations were offered by our other two guest stars. Well thought-out and salient.
And I tell you, the artwork was great. One thing I thought was a nice touch was Clint’s smile. There’s a part where Clint is trying to be something he’s not, and then he smiles…and you can see he would never ever fit the part. Remember the Hawkeye from the classic run on THUNDERBOLTS? That’s this Hawkeye – and the smile says it all. You’ll know it when you see it. Makes me appreciate Romita’s skills once again (and to think, I used to hate his stuff...).
I apologize if this seems more like an advertisement than a review, but seeing as how I think most people will like it, and given that there have been so many CIVIL WAR books that promised so much and delivered so little, I want people to enjoy this the same way I did: a solid bit of storytelling, with an underlying wistfulness that things didn’t have to be the way they are.
Writer: Paul Dini (head writer) Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray (rest of the body) Art: Jim Califiore & Mark McKenna Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Ambush BugOK, we’re two issues into DC’s new weekly maxiseries and I am not sure what to think about it. I think the main reason for my perplexed…er…ness is the fact that the layout has not been presented as clearly as 52. That maxiseries, although flawed, had a specific goal: mainly to fill in the missing year when Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman took a break. The cast of characters were presented pretty clearly from the beginning and the hint of a mystery was dropped. All of this happened pretty much in the first issue.
COUNTDOWN, however, has not done any of this. Basically, we’ve been re-introduced to three characters that the maxiseries seems to be intent on focusing so far, namely Mary Marvel, Jimmy Olsen, and the Red Hood. From the blurbs that have been peppered throughout DC titles in the past few months, other players like Ray Palmer (the former Atom), Kyle Rayner, Donna Troy, and maybe Darkseid will be highlighted. And this is fine. Each of these characters are due for some face time and I welcome it. But if you’re going to have a big story, it may be good to show who exactly is going to star in this operetta in the first few issues.
But even that I can forgive because it is only the first two issues I have read. What really bothered me after reading this book was that I am not sure what the reason for this book is other than to squeeze three more bucks from my wallet every week. I say this not only because of the extended scene of Batman fighting the Karate Kid (as depicted in the JLA/JSA crossover that is out now), but because of the scene swiped straight from this week’s FLASH where the Rogues get into a fight as they wait for Inertia to tell them what their next big scheme is AND the next issue blurb in the last issue of ATOM that says that “The Search For Ray Palmer” begins next month. I thought that was going on in COUNTDOWN?!? This made me wonder, what the hell is this book for? Are we in store for more throw-away scenes like the two we received in this issue which really added nothing to the story and wouldn’t really have made sense if not for the fact that I had been reading FLASH and the JLA/JSA crossover already? Is this COUNTDOWN book going to be the comic book equivalent of the deleted scenes special feature of a DVD, which in most cases prove to be pretty uninteresting and proof that the editor made the right decision to delete them? And this “Search For Ray Palmer” thing was one of the main reasons I want to read this book. But if this book is going to be nothing but supplementary material tying into other DC titles and not really having a persona of its own, then maybe I would rather just read the main titles and save a buck or three.
Even if this book is going to be somewhat of an advertisement as to what’s going on throughout the rest of the DCU, editorial should really get it together and bring back the editorial blurbs. If you want this baby to open new readers’ eyes to the rest of the DCU, howzabout a bit of a blurb in the bottom corner stating “Wanna find out what the Rogues do next? Check out this week’s FLASH, on sale now!” or something like that? Doesn’t happen though.
I guess before I go I have to say something about the “major death” that was hyped up as the match that lights the fire of this event. ***SPOILER***The handling of the death of the Joker’s Daughter was pretty damn lame in the last issue. When I first saw Duella Dent breaking up a Red Hood bust, I immediately thought, “Now there’s a pretty cool match. The girl who thinks she’s the Joker’s daughter shacking up with the sidekick that the Joker killed. Sounds like a match made in heaven.” But alas, Duella was snuffed out pretty quickly before any of that potential was reached and other than about ten panels in the most recent arc of TEEN TITANS, she hasn’t really had her time in the sun since probably the Silver Age of Comics. And now she never will. Because of this, the death that is supposed to have the DCU reeling landed with a plop and stunk. I’m not for killing off another character and maybe Duella will show up later some time (after all, it is comic book death we’re talking here), but I think the scene could have been reworked or a more established character could have been used in order to have more effect. Instead of starting the series off with a bang, Duella’s Death started this one off with a gnatfart.***END SPOILER***
Props should be spun for the art in this book. I’ve always been a fan of Jim Califiore and Mark McKenna. Here they prove to have a distinct look stylistically, yet still drawing in a straight forward manner. Although the characters are somewhat stiff in the Batman vs. Karate Kid fight scene, these guys did a great job of presenting all of the characters in interesting angles and poses, making them look different from one another, and simply focusing on telling the story rather than doing it flashy-stylee.
I understand that 52 was a malleable experiment for DC and that hopefully they learned from their mistakes. This time they seem to have less cooks in the kitchen with a capable writer leading the way in Dini. Like I said before, a book which has both Jimmy Olsen and Mary Marvel in the forefront sounds pretty damn exciting to me. As long as the main story isn’t strayed from too much with these weekly snippets from other DC books out in that particular week, I’ll be on board. And who knows, maybe this time, the people writing whatever it is we are counting down to know what they are doing and these events interspersed with this issue may have something to do with the grand scheme of things. I don’t know at this point. I’m trying to be optimistic here, but after the way 52 fizzled out with me with its hasty resolutions to some subplots and obvious favoritism towards some storylines over others, color me leery about COUNTDOWN. I’ll be proceeding with caution with this book.
MIGHTY AVENGERS #3
Writer: Brian Micael Bendis Artist: Frank Cho Publisher: Marvel Comics Review: Rock-Me AmodeoFirst, I have to say one thing: preeeeetttttyyyyy! What else can you say about an issue where Frank Cho draws a naked woman (hard to think of her as Ultron, though. Maybe we could call her “the Silver Skank?” “My Ultrona?” I’m open to suggestions…), fighting the half-female Avengers? It’s, uhn…titillating, to say the least.
I’m enjoying the major direction of this arc. That said, I confess I’m of mixed feelings about this issue, for the same reasons that always leave my glass feeling half-empty: reservations about the handling of undertones and subplots.
For example: Carol Danvers is supposed to be leading the Avengers. But Wasp is on point because “Janet-tron” looks like her. Okay. Carol does take charge in the retreat and division of forces, excellent. But a few pages later, the Black Widow takes charge and does so effectively. This causes Carol to lament that someone else is in charge…which is appropriate. She considers it again toward the end of the book…which is appropriate.
But I HOPE that Carol’s on-again off-again leadership is overtly addressed and not overlooked. Remember, this is a woman trying to prove herself in her eyes, the Avenger’s eyes and OUR eyes. So far, her case as potentially “the best of the best” is not a strong one, which makes for a great story IF it’s addressed and resolved.
On the plus side, it’s nice to see Sentry being showcased somewhat, if only as a cosmic sledgehammer on Prozac. Ares is pretty good in his part as the “angry character who wants to rush in without a plan”, but so far, all he’s really doing is making me miss Hawkeye.
Henry Pym is played well to comic effect (though I couldn’t help but think that Tigra’s feline hearing should have alerted her to a possible threat - I know, I’m thinking like a fanboy and not a non-geek reader, but I can’t stop myself).
Even more nitpicky: if a person’s thought balloon is just “….” (page 8), which I guess means they’re not really thinking of anything, do they really NEED a thought balloon? Just wondering. Even “armpitted again!” would be…oops, wrong book.
And as I mentioned, Natasha is an effective leader, but of course, she’s not the one trying to prove her mettle. Also, on a side note, I think you’re only allowed to yell “Battle stations!” or some other generic rallying cry like, uhn, once per issue. It’s a rule somewhere. Even “Avengers Assemble” sounds Velveeta-flavored on its second utterance.
It may sound like I’m slamming the issue. I’m not. It’s one of the books to which I excitedly look forward, and I’ll get the next issue too. I wanna see what happens, and that says a lot of good things about Bendis, not just Cho. But there are a lot of logistical and emotional balls in the air here, because it’s the freakin’ Avengers - when they roll well, that’s how they roll. It’s why I buy the book. I just want to see all the moving pieces come together, and I’m a tad nervous as to whether they will. I think Bendis can do it, but we’ll see.
STORM SHADOW #1
Writer: Larry Hama Art: Mark Robinson Publisher: Devil’s Due Publishing Reviewer: Ambush BugEt tu, Hama?
Remember GI JOE? I loved GI JOE. I had almost every figure until they started getting all Day-Glo colored and shit. And the first series from Marvel came out right about the time that I became interested in comics. GI JOE and STAR WARS were probably more accurately the gateway drugs that lead me to my addiction to comics in the first place.
Now, I remember Storm Shadow and I remember Larry Hama. I believe Storm Shadow made his first appearance in the “Silent Issue” AKA GI JOE #21 AKA probably one of the coolest comics ever published. I also remember Larry Hama to be pretty bad@$$ when it came to writing intense, character-driven action. He was dedicated to GI JOE and made some pretty complex stories involving the toys I grew up playing with and taking the whole damn thing pretty seriously.
I know Devil’s Due has been publishing GI JOE for a while. I think I even reviewed a few of the very first issues and remember liking it quite a bit, especially an issue dedicated to that Hawaiian-shirt wearing douchebag, Chuckles. The problem I had with GI JOE was that it seemed as if Devil’s Due was trying to cash in waaaay too hard and too soon. Within a short time, there were spin-off titles, secondary titles, animated series titles, titles dedicated to origins, and villains, and vehicles, and whatever. That was the type of shit that drove me to stop buying the Marvel series in the first place and for Devil’s Due to follow suit so quickly was a turn off. So I haven’t really been following GI JOE in a few years.
After hearing a few requests from the TBs, I decided to keep my eyes peeled for any new GI JOE properties that I may be interested in reading. I’m always one to try to appease the readers, y’know. So this week, I saw STORM SHADOW on the racks, saw Larry Hama’s name on the cover, shrugged my shoulders, and said “What the hell?”
Now, I know times have changed and comic book storytelling has changed with it. These days, filling an issue with both action AND character drama is almost unheard of, but with Larry Hama at the helm, I didn’t think this would be a problem for such a wizened Real American Hero. I thought I was in for some “Issue #21-stylee wicked-@$$ ninja shit.” But unfortunately, I was wrong.
Despite the pretty kick-@$$ cover that just screams “Within this book resides some Issue #21-stylee wicked-@$$ ninja shit”, there’s really not much by way of “Issue #21-stylee wicked-@$$ ninja shit” going on in this issue. This is your typical Nu Marvel type issue where the character on the cover, the character who you bought the book to see, doesn’t really show up in costume or do much of anything.
Yes, Storm Shadow is in this issue, but he never is in his ninja outfit. He just walks around in all white street clothes (it’s what every fashionable ninja is wearing this summer). He does have a couple of confrontations with guys, but they end quickly and one of them occurs completely off-panel. Some drama unfolds involving a kidnapped kid, an albino woman, and something called Morning Light, but no one really knows what the hell that is. We get to see a lot of cool shots of Chicago, which I recognized since that’s the place I currently call home (which I did find pretty damn cool, mind you, but I doubt anyone else would who doesn’t live in Chicago). But I’m sad to report that “Issue #21-stylee wicked-@$$ ninja shit” does not occur in this issue.
Is it wrong to compare this comic to one of the coolest comics ever? Maybe. But it does star the same character from that issue. It is written by the same guy; the same guy that used to be able to pack an issue with action, character, and cool shit over and over again with room to spare. To see Hama go the decompressed route with this issue was pretty disappointing.
The artwork is pretty nice. It reminds me a bit of a tighter AEON FLUX-like animation cell style. The characters are outlined in grainy lines, yet slightly stylized to look not like manga, but more like American anime. The characters look pretty distinct and dynamic, all thanks to artist Mark Robinson’s skillful pen work. The action that does happen is pretty sweet (especially a scene where Stormy dodges some tasers) and Robinson could probably do some pretty cool stuff in the “Issue #21-stylee wicked-@$$ ninja shit” manner if such scenes were written. But alas, it looks as if we’re going to have to do another one of those wait-and-see’s with this series and since I only haphazardly picked this issue up, I doubt I’ll really be interested in doing that. The image of @$$-kickery on the cover of this one is misleading. Storm Shadow’s alter ego Thomas Arashikage shows up a plenty, but if you’re looking for “Issue #21-stylee wicked-@$$ ninja shit” like I was, you will probably be disappointed.
ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #109
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis Penciler: Mark Bagley Inker: Drew Hennessy Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: JinxoThere has been a lot of dissatisfaction of late with the mainstream Marvel Universe Spider-Man titles. I’m one of the people who hasn’t been doing backflips, what with Spidey having to accommodate CIVIL WAR crap and the black suited “Dark Spider-Man” crap added to help promote the most apathetically received blockbuster ever.
But what specifically are the problems that are messing up Spider-Man’s game? I mean practically speaking, what’s going wrong plotwise? Reading this month’s issue of ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN kind of crystallized those problems for me. Because everything the mainstream SPIDER-MAN is messing up, ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN is doing right.
What does a solid Spider-Man story need? The plot itself should be big, epic if possible. Spider-Man is usually at his best as the hero in over his head, trying to not just survive but also trying to hold onto who he is, what he stands for. I mean, part of his origin is his selling out who he is and paying the price. Finally, there has to be some humor. Now, that humor can be Spider-Man just cracking jokes or being a nerd. But it doesn’t have to be that. It can also be the horrible humor of the universe itself seeming to play just giant, ironic, cruel jokes on Spider-Man.
So, AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. Right off, JMS does love his epics. It seems whenever possible if he can he will try to imbue his stories with some sort of epic scale. A bunch of folks seem to enjoy the first stories of his run more than the later ones. So what changed? Well, all the way through there have been epic stories with Spider-Man in over his head. But his early stories have a great deal of humor that his later ones are desperately missing. I just think back to Spider-Man sitting at Doctor Strange’s house, waiting to disappear into another dimension. Then for a panel he disappears and you think, oh, well there he goes. Then the next panel there is an off screen “flush” and then Spidey is back. Back at the start JMS would be sure to get those moments IN and their humor and humanity would help keep Spider-Man as the regular likable nerd stuck in the epic drama. But more and more the main stream Spider-Man books have all just gotten darker and darker in tone where I think the feeling is, I guess maybe there is no room for levity. As to the other type of humor…they do have life just dumping on Spider-Man but not in a life playing a cruel joke on him way. Spider-Man is killed and reborn as more of a Spider-Man. Okay, getting killed sucks, getting giant stingers is intense and funky but I’m not seeing anything “fun” for him or us. He puts his faith in Iron Man, Tony Stark turns out to be a douche, Peter ends up on the run and Aunt May ends up getting her daily dose of iron in the form of a bullet. Again, it is life dumping on him but in a way that is just depressing. And as to Spidey hanging on to “who he is”? Well, he’s lost that battle already. Yes, he switched sides in the war to keep his integrity. But now he has turned into a man bent on murder. Even with good reason, that is a betrayal of who he is. I’m sure in the end he won’t end up killing Kingpin but that’s beside the point. He has already set out to do it and he did it without seeming to bat an eye. Part of the point of the current plot was him just jumping in with righteous fury and going for that kill. Spider-Man isn’t funny, he isn’t troubled by deciding to become a killer… he’s a bummer.
Peter David goes wrong a different way. His last arc had Spidey involved in a big time traveling, Uncle Ben killing mess. Now David actually DID try to get some humor and amusing irony in but he just put it in in a way that just didn’t work. Maybe it is that with the war and the black suit humor just doesn’t mesh in easily. I dunno. If that’s the case, if there is no room for fun in Spider-Man comics, then Marvel Comics has screwed the pooch big time.
So what about ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN? The current arc hits all the right notes being missed by that other Peter Parker. Similar to the plot in AMAZING, ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN is also out to kill The Kingpin. But that’s where any similarity ends. The plot leading up to this issue had Peter teaming up with a number of other heroes so that together they can work to take out Kingpin. Hitting that checklist. Epic? Yes. Not spider-gods or civil revolution level epic but so much larger than teenage Peter Parker that, yes, it’s got an epic sized quality to it. In over his head? Oh yeah, you bet. In fact Peter is in over his head even further than he even knows which leads into the humor part. The humor is definitely of the life screwing you over variety. Peter is just so so screwed in such amazingly horrible ways but in ways that, as a reader, are just so much fun. So Peter joins a hero group. The bad news: none of the heroes likes each other, trusts each or even knows each other very well. It’s not often you get a group that doesn’t even like each other so that’s a surprise. And as the story has gone on nearly everyone has been suspected of screwing over the rest of the group. And, oh yeah, one of their members, Moon Knight? They send him in undercover to work for Kingpin. Probably would have been a better idea if they DID know him so they would know he’s nutty as a fruitcake with split personalities. So asking him to adopt a new fake identity…probably not the best move. But an entertaining bad move.
But wait! There’s more. Like that isn’t enough of a cosmic wedgie this issue reveals Spider-Man is still even MORE screwed. You know what? Kingpin shooting your Aunt is just so straight forward horrible. What Ultimate Kingpin does to his Spider-Man is just so much more deliciously horrible. Kingpin pwns Spidey in a very tangible way. He’s in so deep he’s drowning and the fates are just lauuuuughing. And as a reader I feel bad for him but I’m grinning from ear to ear the whole time. With Mark Bagley leaving as artist on this book I will miss the current ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN era when it ends. By comparison the black suit and The Initiative “Spider-Man on the run” plots can’t end soon enough for me.
AQUAMAN: SWORD OF ATLANTIS #52
Writer: Tad Williams Art: Shawn McManus Publisher: DC Comics Rantin’ & reviewin’: - Ambush Bug“Sword of Atlantis?” More like “Bored of Atlantis!”
Did you see what I did there?
I made a joke…with the name.
I…I did a funny thing there.
A-heh! A-ha! A-hurm…er…sooo…
I hate to get all “This book sux!” but man this book sucks harder than a suckerfish from Krypton fully bathed in yellow sunlight sucking on something that sucks even worse than the idea of a Kryptonian suckerfish.
God, will they just kill this Aquakid posing as Aquaman already? We know DC made the decision to youth-ify Arthur way back when the WB was considering an all-new, all-different, all-teenie-bopper-melodrama take on the character as a spin-off from SMALLVILLE, but that idea sunk like a rock hard turd with the WB ad wizards, yet the comic book guys can’t catch on. Even a writer of Kurt Busiek’s caliber couldn’t do anything with the concept. Yet DC is plodding along with this idea like the guy you know who obviously wears an awful toupee and thinks he’s fooling people into thinking that he actually looks cool. This book is that guy!
This book has too many characters played for comic effect or given absolutely nothing to do. There are too many plots and locations with little focus at all. It’s like a bucket full of minnows darting around with no purpose and bumping into each other. There is one tiny scene told in flashback that was effective in this issue. Aquagirl talks about a chilling tale of drowning water breathers followed by a tale of drowning air breathers. But this sidebar doesn’t involve the main character at all, although it would have been a far more interesting story than the one we got.
And although I’ve loved Sean McManus’ art in the past, it is completely unsuitable with this material. His flippant pencil work make all serious moments seem unintentionally goofy and his character designs are just painful. Hot chicks with dolphin, seal, and crab faces with long flowing hair wearing motorcycle helmets that would never fit over their snouts? Monsters that look more like bad guys from early Mickey Mouse cartoons? It’s that bad, folks.
I didn’t think it could get any worse than it was when Busiek was writing the title. I would sooner recommend squatting on a sea urchin before I can recommend reading this book.
Writer: Chris Claremont Artist: Paul Pelletier Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: Rock-Me AmodeoEXILES is the book Claremont was born to write. This is not necessarily a bad or good thing, it just is.
In Claremont (BTW, did you catch his appearance on HEROES last Monday? He was the sword repairman…), we have the guy who steered Marvel’s most well-known franchise to its early successes. But we also have the guy who created some of the most convoluted storylines in all of comicdom. AND we have a guy who LOVES stories set in alternate universes.
Seems like a match made in comic book heaven. This should be a nice, old-school book.
Except that it’s not very well done. I really wanted to like it, but I kept getting taken out of the story.
For example, Morph talks about getting a breather to build some shield arrays. Out of which orifice, exactly? It’s just his body in the shape of…uhn, multiple spikey things (technically, I suppose any number could be an array…I guess…).
Longshot’s power is temporarily nullified because he didn’t see something coming. But his power is probability altering, and not affected by line-of-sight. Whoopsy.
Sabertooth (man, does he EVER shut up?) talks to himself WAY too much – expository stuff, info-dump stuff, and the always laughable “Losin’ my balance – Ouch!”
And deep things are thrown at us at the end that really had no resonance. I’m a heartless cad, I know. Overall, it’s not horrible, just clunky. But think twice before spending your dollar arrays on this.
SUBCULTURE # 1
Written by: Kevin Freeman Illustrated by: Stan Yan Published by: Ape Entertainment Reviewed by: superheroWell, this could have been better. Well, it could have been worse but it definitely could have been better.
SUBCULTURE # 1 deals with the misadventures of the "geek crowd". Oh, we all know them. The comic collectors, the hard core videogamers, the tabletop RPGers. Hell, you, like me, may even be one of them. Heck, I've been known to toss a few dice at the table with my pen and paper role playing game crew. I've even been known to have a comic collection stashed somewhere as I'm sure that many of you out there reading this column have. So you'd figure that SUBCULTURE would be just the book for me, right? You'd figure that any comic that tries to tell the tale of a group of geeks like me would be right up my alley, right?
The problem is that SUBCULTURE doesn't really celebrate the geek culture so much as it seems to have an outright disdain for it. I get that this book is trying to poke fun at the stereotypes that make up fandom nerds but the problem here is that there seems to be an underlying disdain running through the pages of this book for the aforementioned demographic. Almost every character in this book is pathetic in one form or another. No one character seems to have any real qualities to care about. Heck, even the female lead in the book, the supposed "cool, hot chick" comes across as overly obnoxious and incredibly annoying. Meanwhile the main lead is so full of self loathing that it's hard to identify with him much less root for him in any way. Instead of having fun with his characters writer Freeman seems to just be pointing at them and addressing how truly pathetic they really are. Not to mention that most, if not all, of the characters in the book are completely one-dimensional. Almost every one of them consists of cheap stereotypes that all of us have seen hundreds of times before. And they weren't any funnier then.
SUBCULTURE seems to try to position itself as some sort of CLERKS for the comic/videogamer/RPG crowd, but it falls short. The difference between this and something from Kevin Smith's Jerseyworld is that Smith seems to have a genuine affection for his characters no matter how truly pathetic they really are. There's a quality in something like CLERKS or even the truly magnificent TEENAGERS FROM MARS that's lacking in SUBCULTURE. It's the fact that instead of truly fleshing out all of his characters, giving us people we can truly identify with and recognize, Freeman just pastes together loosely constructed caricatures and therefore there's no real depth to SUBCULTURE's characters or the story that they're engaged in.
This isn't to say that there isn't anything enjoyable in SUBCULTURE. Stan Yan's art is fun to look at with a professional cartoon-like style. Plus, despite my problems with the story's characters and all around feel there are a couple neat little gags here and there that made me smile. The problem is that those little gags weren't enough to engage my interest in SUBCULTURE's world of stereotypical geekdom.
RAY HARRYHAUSEN PRESENTS WRATH OF THE TITANS #1
Writers: Darren G. Davis and Scott Davis Art: Nadir Balan Publisher: Blue Water Productions Reviewer: Ambush BugSimply put: I found this comic to be Hamlin-tastic!
It’s a direct sequel to CLASH OF THE TITANS. And who the hell doesn’t love that movie? I believe it’s downright un-American not to love CLASH OF THE TITANS. In fact, I know for a fact that that if you don’t love CLASH OF THE TITANS, the terrorists win.
But back to the book. Chances are if you are a regular reader of this site, you’ve ooh-ed and aahh-ed at a few Harryhausen films. WRATH OF THE TITANS writers Darren G. Davis and Scott Davis do a great job of harnessing the fun and wonder that ran rampant through the movie and transferring it into this first issue. CLASH’s hero, Perseus, and Andromeda are about to have a child. Zeus, Big Poppa of the Gods, is ecstatic and wants the rest of the gods to shower his grandson with gifts. Of course, the sea-bitch Thetis is still pretty sore at Zeus for making her once beautiful son, Calibos, look like Dennis Rodman, so she comes up with a surefire plan for vengeance. Welcome and familiar faces like Bubo and Pegasus show up, as do Perseus’ magical weapons from the film. We even get an appearance from the Hydra (not the terrorist organization from Marvel Comics, but the million headed serpent from mythology) and we catch up with Perseus’ momma.
From panel one to the very end, I loved this comic. It embraces everything from the movie and expands on it by incorporating other characters from Greek mythology. The art is equally memorable with some seriously amazing monster designs. This first issue also has quite a few character sketches of monsters that will most definitely prove to be a challenge for Perseus in future issues.
Sure, it ain’t Shakespeare. But neither was the movie. The movie took classic mythology and made it into a story for all ages to enjoy. This is a worthy sequel of that film that we all hold near and dear. Plus this book has the official stamp of approval of Mr. Ray Harryhausen himself and provides pages from Harryhausen’s sketchbooks from some of his films. Highest recommendation for those who want to read comics that put the fun back in funny books.
MOUSE GUARD: FALL 1152 HC
Writer/Artist: David Petersen Publisher: Archaia Studios Press Reviewed by Humphrey LeeSo the "Indie darling" of 2006 has hit shelves in its first bound edition so I, being the inquisitive fellow with way to much disposable income on his hands that I am, decided it was worth a gander. Besides, it's already got the AICN stamp of approval on it inside the slipcover. Worst thing happens, that Farabee fellow will owe me a couple rounds of brews. Or a shot at his wife... (I'm kidding. I don't even know if the bastard's married or not).
The problem here though, is that I'm not sure how much I enjoyed this. And believe me, I did enjoy this, but the thing about "Indie Darlings" like MOUSE GUARD here is that sometimes I think you find yourself liking it more than you really do because you feel obligated to do so. Books like this almost never get any attention outside the mainstream so that it becomes something extra special to you when you become exposed to it. Since there's such a small group of you that have read and enjoy it so much, it's almost like this exclusive little club and you bump it up in your head to be more important than it really is. I think right now I can firmly say that I can easily see myself falling in love with the world that MOUSE GUARD has presented us with, but for now it's a really enjoyable yarn with lots of potential in its future.
Here's the main thing about this story: it goes by way too fast. And not one of those "it's so good the time just flies by as you read it" dealies. It's a really quick read. It's very art driven. Which is fine, the art is absolutely gorgeous and greatly unique all at the same time and that's a great place to start to draw in an audience. Off the top of my head I can think of maybe just a handful of artistic endeavors from the past year that I'd rank up with this one. The story is where I tend to pull back a bit. Oh, it's a fine little tale involving three mice of the fabled Mouse Guard that have come across a traitorous plot to ransack the home base of their troops. There's lots of comraderie, some surprisingly vicious sword-fighting amongst the mice themselves, and against some of nature's more vicious inhabitants (especially if you're a furry creature of all of three inches tall) and so on. But like I said earlier, this story goes by really fast: so fast that we don't really get to know a lot of the characters, or much of the obvious mythos and history Petersen has for this fledgling little world of his. There's hints and slight references to some past wars and events that have made the world of MOUSE GUARD what it is currently in this, but not enough to really satiate my palate and draw me fully in. I need some more to this besides the flashy battles and the really, really pretty artwork. The good news is, though, that by the end of this volume things look very much on the up and up as far as progression the way I want goes. There's going to be some carryover in the story from this volume into the next, plus it looks like a prime opportunity for Petersen to pull back and give us a little more in depth involvement into the lives of the furry protagonists he's introduced here in his first MOUSE GUARD outting.
I really hope this is the case, because there looks to be so many great stories to be told with this series. I'm remaining very positive that a year or two or three down there road that I'll have a nice little row of these hardcovers and will be looking for any opportunity and reason to break them all out and soak up this lively and rich world. As it is this initial hardcover is just a nice little appetizer: a great presentation to look at but not terribly filling.
SALVADOR #1 BOOM! StudiosPossibly the most beautiful comic I have read this year and most definitely the most visually pleasing book BOOM! has ever published. This silent first issue follows a trio of sinister looking fellows as they recover the body of a faceless silver being. Wrapping him in a pair of large feathers, the trio takes the body on a slow precession through an underground subway system, leading to a river, and emerging in a temple in the middle of a jungle. I’m not sure what exactly is going on, but I so know that I love what I am seeing. This is the first work I have seen from artist Steph Stamb, but I hope to see much more in the future. The imagery is lushly drawn and the splash pages are utterly engrossing. Written by The Polish Brothers (the creative cinematic force that brought you NORTHFORK and TWIN FALLS IDAHO) and Sebastian Jones. This book may be light on story so far, but the imagery makes up for it in spades. I can’t wait for further issues of this book so I can dive into those as well. - Ambush Bug
ZOD #8 Zod Magazine.comSteingroot delivers another fun volume with his latest volume of ZOD. This comic sees the continuation of Steingroot's interpretation of the literary classic THE ODYSSEY but with cute little cartoon animals playing all the parts against a backdrop of space adventure and superheroics. When I reviewed previous volumes of this book last year I said that this comic was perfect for younger readers and for anyone with a younger reader trapped inside. That still holds true here as anyone looking for a unique yet simply fun read is sure to find it within the pages of ZOD. The creator of this book uses the best elements of childrens' books, kooky sci-fi, and old fashioned comic book hijinks to put together a package that is just out and out adorable. That's right, I said adorable. Publishers take note: ZOD has true potential to be a breakout hit with the little tykes so snag a deal with this indie creator now before someone else beats you to it. If ZOD gets the exposure it deserves you could be kicking yourself for not going after it when it was just the tiny little pamphlet that could. - superhero
BLACK GAS 2 #2 AvatarLet me make this perfectly clear. This is not a story about Sleazy G’s flatulence after a long night of burritos and tequila. That, my friends, is a horror story of a different color. This is, however, an awesome zombie book. Sure, Ellis is kind of slumming it here. He has made it abundantly clear that he dislikes the zombie genre, but Ellis proves that even half-assed, he writes better than most writers do on their best day. It’s the tiny things that make this book worth reading, like the officer going on and on about how the military helicopter taking shots at them should realize that zombies can’t drive cars, then moments later a zombie in a car tries to run them down. It’s that kind of stuff that makes this series fun and has me wishing for a part 3 and 4 and 5 from Ellis, pulling the camera back a bit further from the island that spewed the zombie-making black gas skyward to the city on the shoreline mere miles from the island. I want to see the cloud move country-wide, across continents, eventually affecting the entire world. Certainly Ellis could handle a zombie tale on a world-wide scale better than anyone. But in the meantime, this issue is another strong one with one hell of a revoltin’ development for one star character occurring at the end. Although distribution is sporadic, this zombie comic is well worth the wait and definitely one of the best on the racks. - Ambush Bug
HERO SQUARED #6 BOOM! StudiosThis book should be bought and cherished simply for the fact that I believe comic book history has been made with the use of the term TINKALATINKALATINKLATINKLA as a sound descriptor of talking a leak. Yep, that’s right. This issue tells the secret origin of Captain Valor…and it takes place in a public bathroom. More offbeat antics that have come to be expected from Keith Giffen and JM DeMatteis ensue in this issue. We also get to see how uber-cutie Stephie became the evil Caliginous. Both origins are fun, but what is best is the mirror image story telling that is going on between Milo and his alternate universe counterpart Captain Valor. Both run in to crisis and their lives continue to intertwine with fun twists on comic book conventions and morality. All of it marked with the banter that made Giffen and DeMatteis famous. - Ambush Bug
ALL STAR BATMAN & ROBIN THE BOY WONDER #5 DC ComicsReview delayed indefinitely due to circumstances beyond Professor Challenger's control. All solicitations have been cancelled. As soon as we have enough of the review in hand to set a probable publication date, we will solicit the review once again.
Thanks to all our wonderful fans for bending over and grabbing the ankles.
'Nuff said. - Prof.
CONAN #40 Dark Horse ComicsI guess with a title like “Two Wizards and a Funeral” I shouldn’t expect the most hardcore of CONAN tales and that’s exactly what I got with this issue. It was a fun story that didn’t take itself too seriously. I am going to wait and see how the “Rogues in the House” arc turns out, but so far, since Kurt Busiek left this title, Tim Truman’s Conan just isn’t cutting it for me. There are still scenes of badassedness and the art is still fantastic (this issue’s art is the same with some great gritty scenes from Paul Lee), but Busiek’s CONAN proved that even though the book focused on a barbarian known to act first and ask questions later, that didn’t mean that it couldn’t be told in a smart way. Much like the HBO series DEADWOOD, Busiek seemed to love the language this barbarian spoke and the tales of Robert E. Howard, paying attention to minute details to make Conan’s rise from thief to king make sense. That craftsmanship seems lacking with Truman’s take on the character. Maybe he’ll surprise me with “Rogues”. I hope he does, but so far, I am not really impressed. - Bug
THE FLASH: THE DULLEST MAN ALIVE DC ComicsI’ve been calling this book “The Dullest Man Alive” for so long that I actually forgot that when the last issue ended, I was mildly excited to see the next one. And here it is. This issue wasn’t too bad. If you don’t like FLASH, this is not going to change your stance. But if you do like him, the season of perpetual teeth-grinding may actually be over. Guggenheim picked up the writing chores in issue 9, and I was initially skeptical, if only for his usage of the New God Steppenwolf (still waiting to see appearances from Wolf’s lesser known siblings, Big Bad, Virginia, and Timber. Come to think of it, seeing Brin Londo would rock! Especially if he showed up in Chameleon Boy’s costume: that would make him a Wolf in Reep’s clothing. And how often can you roll out THAT joke? But I digress…) Happily, Guggenheim delivers in this issue. Anyway, the book seems to be taking a more meaningful and engaging direction Now if only they can find a steady artist. They’ve been going through them like Spinal Tap through drummers. I wouldn’t mind seeing more of Tony Daniel’s stuff, or any of the pencilers on parade, really. They just need to find one and stick with him. Maybe this book will gain a consistent feel – and audience – if that happens. - Rock-Me
ULTIMATES 2 #13 Ultimate Marvel ComicsReview delayed indefinitely due to circumstances beyond Professor Challenger's control. All solicitations have been cancelled. As soon as we have enough of the review in hand to set a probable publication date, we will solicit the review once again.
Thanks to all our wonderful fans for bending over and grabbing the ankles.
'Nuff said. - Prof.