WORLD WAR HULK #1 Plus an 8 page preview.
Writer: Greg Pak
Art: John Romita Jr. & Klaus Janson
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Ambush Bug
This is a story that many of us have been waiting for. It’s one of those stories that has a lot of people chomping at the bit in anticipation, hoping that it’s going to be cool and fearing that it simply will not live up to all of the hype.
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A bit of back-story may be needed: About a year and a half ago, SHIELD sent the Hulk on a “secret” mission involving a sentient experimental satellite out of control. Nick Fury (actually a Nick Fury LMD) sent the Hulk out into space to simply do what he does best: SMASH it. And smash it he did. But as the Hulk re-boarded his spaceship on his way back to earth, he found a message put together by Iron Man, Dr. Strange, Reed Richards, and Black Bolt explaining that even though Banner has been considered a friend, they must do the greater good and take this chance to eliminate the Hulk from the equation. The Hulk was blasted into deep space to an unpopulated planet so that he could finally get what he said he wanted for all of these years: he could be left alone.
Of course, it didn’t work out that way. The Hulk landed on a populated planet where he began his new life as a slave and soon rose to be champion and king of this barbaric world. The Hulk was finally happy. He had a kingdom, a queen, and a chance to live a new life. But a contingency plan was built into the Hulk’s spaceship and its self-destruction resulted in an explosion which destroyed this new world and life the Hulk had chosen. Needless to say, the Hulk was not so happy. So he put together a ship and a crew of warbound barbarians and set course for Earth. With every mile passed on their way towards earth, the Hulk has grown angrier. And we all know that the madder the Hulk gets, the stronger he becomes.
In WORLD WAR HULK #1, after what seems like an eternity, the Hulk finally lands on Earth.
Does it live up to the hype?
Like many of you, I feared that the talky-talky, politically allegorical, air-tight decompressed mode of storytelling that has been the flavor of most of Marvel’s books was going to ruin what could have been one of the coolest slugfests in Marvel history. I’m happy to say after reading this book that this simply is not the case.
WORLD WAR HULK doesn’t miss a beat. Sure it is set in post-CIVIL WAR Marvel, but with the Hulk threatening the destruction of Manhattan, none of that matters. Heroes on both side of this war realize that this is the real deal. There are no pages dedicated to finger-wagging blame and discourse. In this book, a major threat occurs and the heroes just react like professionals. I ask you, when was the last time the heroes acted like that?
In WORLD WAR HULK, Marvel’s heroes act like the heroes we have missed for so long. Sure, people are not going to like Iron Man in this issue and what he does. I fear that, along with the Hulk, that character is past the point of redemption, no matter what type of heroic deed he does. But you may have a bit more respect for old Shellhead after this issue.
The slugfest is raw and brutal. The Hulk isn’t simply angry, he’s out for revenge. He’s coming down with the force of every Marvel fan that has been pissed at the way their favorite characters have been misrepresented over the years. While these whiny heroes have been bickering amongst themselves, his anger and power have been growing exponentially. The Hulk has never been a real hero. Sure, he’s happened into some heroic deeds over the years, but for the most part he is a troubled soul. Writer Greg Pak seems to understand this. With his “Planet Hulk” storyline, he gave the Hulk everything he ever wanted. Along the way, I have to admit I grew antsy for the Hulk to return home, but was satisfied with the new directions and new aspects of the Hulk’s personality highlighted in the arcs off world. With the Hulk’s return and the destruction he wreaks in this issue, I fear that he’s moved past the point of misunderstood soul and ventured more into the full blown villain territory.
Some die-hard fans may be taken aback by the ruthlessness of the Hulk. Sure he’s deserving of a little payback, but some may feel that this path of redemption may sully the character. I’m willing to sit back and see. I know that I loved this first issue. It’s got two great battles and a whole lot of heroism going on between the pages. It’s got some surprisingly detailed work by John Romita Jr. who occasionally gives me the feeling that he rushes through some of the scenes that don’t really interest him. In this book, though, every panel is rich and intricate. It’s also got some great “Holy shit, that’s cool!” moments. At least three come to mind immediately, and the one that takes place in the preview pages scattered around this review is only one of them.
In the end, I hope WORLD WAR HULK sparks a return to not only action packed storytelling, but to heroism in the Marvel Universe. As good as dialog can be, you can only see so many panels of heroes standing and sitting around and debating before you wonder why you are reading it. WORLD WAR HULK is strong storytelling AND big budget action. I’m happy to say that all of my reservations about the return of the Hulk were squelched with this issue.
THE OUTSIDERS #48
Writers: Winick/Rucka Pencillers: Clark/Randall Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Rock-Me AmodeoTop line: I have been underwhelmed after many months of storylines that seemed to be “Hey, we have all these interpersonal problems” or “hey, I’m gay, isn’t that enough to carry half a story?” But I finally feel like I’m seeing issue after issue of balls-to-the-walls action. Maybe someone finally said “we have enough TPBs. Just for grins, let’s fill each issue with plot advancement and action.”
Works for me. I’m not even a Winick fan and I like it. (I am, however, a CHECKMATE fan, and that might help. But still.)
The art is consistently good, even though there are two pencillers. I kept thinking that maybe they separated the Checkmate scenes and the Outsiders scenes, but maybe that is for the best. Thibert inked the whole thing, and there are at least a few places where I would have guessed one guy and it was the other. Thibert’s a strong inker. It makes me want to see more Thibert on his own, with the cover being a bit of an exception. Thunder looks like she’s channeling Bride of Frankenstein, and based on Grace’s position, I can’t tell if she’s standing or lying down. But hey, he draws better than I do.
Inside: this story is moving fast. I LOVE these types of stories, where there is an actual mission. And the Checkmate folks walk the talk: “You’re duty’s to the mission, Jo.” Some talkbackers will know I personally dug that.
Also driving my interest is I STILL can’t figure out who the Black Queen used to be. I think I actually READ all the OMAC stuff, I saw this girl created, and I can’t remember any special significance to the Bat-family. So I’m piqued there.
The only thing bothering me is not really a complaint, just an observation – what’s up with Digger’s boy, Boomer? He’s an able combatant AND he’s a speedster – I mean, you would think that superspeed is like having pocket jacks in Texas Hold-em. Immediate advantage, I would think. Now, I’m not keeping real good track, but this is the second time he’s been captured, and I’m thinking his speed should be an advantage, but it’s not. Given the fact that he’s a really nice guy pretending to be a bad ass, he seems to be filling the Xander to everyone’s Buffy. I hate seeing him be everyone’s “buttmonkey,” so to speak. He’s got a lot of potential, and I hope Winick uses it.
Bottom line: a good arc.
THE BOYS #7
Writer: Garth Ennis Penciller: Darick Roberson Publisher: DC...errr, I mean, D.E.! Comics (sorry, had to) Reviewed by Humphrey LeeOnce upon a time, there was a guy who fucked everything...
Sorry, but I figured that was a better lead in than typing something generic like "The Boys are back in town!!" Plus, y'know, I swear a lot.
But yes, after they're much maligned hiatus due to some conflict over content with DC (which I'll mention later) THE BOYS have finally restarted with Dynamite Entertainment. And this issue started off much like you sadly kind of expect and hope it will: with a supersuited superhero type sitting across from a psychologist explaining how he's got uncontrollable sexual urges that have led him to put his, uh, "special equipment" in several unlikely or unwanted places. And while the "Tek Knight" as he's called is coming to grips with his problem, Ennis and Co. take their time to establish some more inside info on the world this takes place in and the Supes that it calls their saviors.
Even though its been months since we've last seen this group, I'm kind of glad this came back with a calm demeanor. Obviously this was written probably a good year ago, but I'm glad there were no changes to bring this back in with a BANG! to get the readers back into the fray. This issue does a lot towards cementing the relationship between Butcher and Wee Hughie, which I think is going to be central to the plot further on while Ennis' little skewering and probably even slaughtering of some sacred cows and typical superhero stereotypes becomes more peripheral. And just the little bit of exposure we seem to get for the rest of the crew, particularly The Female as I can't help but think there's something very insidious in her past that's going to make for a nice story point down the road. I can't help but even think that there might even be something that develops between herself and the Wee one.
That's what I really like about this book though; yeah, I'm speculating a lot on what might happen given the limited exposure we've really had to this group so far, but I want to know more about them. I know this book is supposed to "Out-Preacher PREACHER" (and god how worn out is that line by now) but I'm already seeing this book more as a HITMAN myself. There's all these characters, most of which each have their own little sordid past but seem to slowly be coming together to form a bond. Once this book has a chance to recover from the speed bump that was the company shift and these characters start to mesh more and we can come to know and become more invested in them, I can see this becoming more of a must read instead of something that's so far kind of relying on the more in-your-faceness of its subject matter.
I do love that subject matter though, I have to admit. It really does make for some hilarious bits, mainly because I'm a sick and vile human being, and this issue was particularly packed with them. From the Tek Knight and his penetration problem: the scene with his sidekick, Laddio, while he was doing his stretches and whatnot was absolutely priceless, and I have a feeling that might have been the start of DC's issue with this book because it's obviously one aimed at one of that company’s bigger franchises and his relationships with teenage boys. And I can see why they might have taken issue with it, sure, it is one of their biggest moneymakers, but I'm also of the school of "fuck 'em if they can't take a joke" and I'm sorry, jokes have been made about this situation for years. I really don't see the issue with this one, especially since they were making some pretty solid sales off of it.
I'm still hoping and waiting for the point where this book becomes more to me than a not-so-guilty pleasure, but I still think it's what my peeps down south would refer to as "a hoot". This issue is what I would like to see more of actually; have your in-jokes, be a little raunchy, take your shots at those sacred cows, but establish those relationships too. I like how brotherly Hughie and Butch are becoming and want more. I want those little insights as to why the Frenchman and the Female are the vicious little fucks they are, and I want to know why Mother's Milk can be so chill around it. The more this team comes together, the more invested I can become in this and then hopefully I can start touting it as the "Must Read" this creative team should be expected to be producing month in and out.
Writer: Paul Dini/Sean McKeever Penciler: Tom Derenick Inker: Andrew Pepoy, Jack Purcell, John Stanisci Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: JinxoOn the surface COUNTDOWN seems pretty similar to its predecessor 52. I mean, in a lot of very important ways beyond the weekly release date they do seem similar. So I can’t help but wonder why doesn’t it seem as good? I mean, I don’t hate it even though some folks do. But it isn’t grabbing me as much. So…why? What the hell is different this time around? I think a whole lot of the problem has less to do with what is in the comic and more to do with what preceded it, to the hype and mystique built up for it.
Okay, let’s start with 52. 52 started up at the end of INFINITE CRISIS. INFINITE CRISIS wasn’t perfect but it did leave the DC universe in a really excellent shambles for 52 to pick up from. Then on top of that DC comics goes and says, okay, we’re skipping ahead a year in the main books. Things will change in such a way that you’ll say, “What the hell happened in that year?” And there is also a “big mystery”. What is it? Well, gotta read 52 to find all that out. Now whether or not they made good on explaining everything in the course of 52 is beside the point. It was a good gimmick to grab you and, even if things in the book were slow, keep ya reading. Then on top of that, DC also says, okay, for the whole year 52 chronicles we’re sidelining the big guns, they will not be around to help. This is all about the “lesser” characters, making them interesting and playing with them some. And, oh, yeah, we’re also taking up the challenge of doing a weekly book. So there is also the fun of, hmm, can they do it? That’s a lot of stuff to get you interested and to maintain your interest even if it might take some time for the story to really get rolling. Oh, one more thing. Given the time frame of 52 being different and separate from all the other DC universe books, something else that was cool was that 52 was very nicely self contained. At a time when Marvel’s CIVIL WAR was asking me to buy 500 tie in titles, 52 just asked you to buy 52. Didn’t need to buy anything else to follow along.
So what about COUNTDOWN? COUNTDOWN starts off after 52. No wait…it starts right after the last year of comics that all chronologically followed 52. So where 52 picked up the momentum of CRISIS and ran with it, Countdown takes the pieces of 52 and after a long pause in the action…runs with it? Because nothing builds tension and excitement like a good intermission. But it does pick up the plots! See, 52 brought back the multiverse! Only, well, almost nobody knows the multiverse is back. So…not exactly a lot that can go on there right away. Building slow on that. Because nothing is more exciting than slowwwww. You want proof, watch “Speed 2”! When I was awake in that movie it was slow and action packed!!!
Okay, 52 sort of dropped the ball on the multiverse thing and threw it in at the end almost as an afterthought. But that was because they were busy with other exciting plots of great importance. Like Black Adam. His was one of the better stories in 52 and became so important that DC Comics devoted 4 comics in one week to his story’s resolution. He went from bad to good to bad and then he killed, well, everyone he ran into. To stop him they had to zap him out of his Black Adam form and then reset his password to access the Shazam mojo. They left him angry and de-powered wandering the streets, the fate that meets all good/bad guys with lightning on their chests (I thing he then went and had lunch with Quicksilver). I was really anxious to see where the hell that was going. Along comes COUNTDOWN! Another plot for them to grab and run with! Yes! Or, you know, sidestep and utterly ignore. Yep, Black Adam is all powered up again somehow and, for some reason, not killing everyone, just killing everyone who wanders near him. Nice. The ONE big dangling plot thread they could work and they don’t. When asked about what the deal was with Black Adam having his powers back, the folks behind COUNTDOWN have said, “Oh, we’ll get to that. Tee hee.” Yeah, an explanation weeks down the road as back story? Whatever. I wanted to see that crap play out! I mean, come on! In COUNTDOWN his magic word is even back to Shazam! You can’t even throw me a bone and have it still be the obscure word Captain Marvel figured he would never guess? Ya can’t give us the fun of Black Adam powering up by embarrassedly shouting out, “Nummy Muffin Coco Butter!!!”
So COUNTDOWN starts with no momentum from its lead in series, and it mutes what momentum might have been there. There isn’t any missing year mystery. It happens alongside current continuity (this led to a moment this week where another DC event crossed into COUNTDOWN which made me say, “Oh wow. I’m not reading that. And I’m not gonna.”). So there is no extra mystery or excitement to help carry this book as it gets running. None. Nothing to help it. It doesn’t even have the buzz of, “Can they do it?” that 52 did. We know they can do it. They already did. For COUNTDOWN the question is “can they do it better?” Given the lack of momentum they are starting with they’re not making that task easier.
And I really think the lack of those lead-in ideas is more the problem with COUNTDOWN than anything else. The actual storytelling I think is otherwise comparable to 52. They could do with reading some weekly serialized Sunday comics strips to see how to really put a lot into a few panels and make it feel every week like something substantial happened. I am at least mildly interested in what is happening with The Flash’s rogues. I don’t mind a slow build there if they can keep something moving faster in the other plots. And I must say I was opposed to the idea of Mary Marvel being potentially tarnished. I’m a little tired of everyone really good having to be worked over or killed. But, that said, with her costume change highlighted on the cover of this issue, I’m afraid my dude side overruled my moral “outrage” quite quickly. I’m reading going,” “No, this is…no, they shouldn’t…” Then I turned the page, saw the reveal on the new dark look and went, “Okay. I’ll go there. Yeah baby! Shaaaazam!” I’m not proud but there it is.
To sum up, 52 came in with a million interesting concepts to tickle your ass with. COUNTDOWN comes in without any real intriguing concepts except “lets do it again only this time…wait for it… we’ll count BACKWARDS!!! And will countdown to…some sort of thing. Something will happen at the end. Yep.” Bottom line, COUNTDOWN needs to get things moving fast in every sense of that phrase.
NEW WARRIORS #1
Kevin Grevioux: Writer Paco Medina: Artist Marvel Comics: Publisher Vroom Socko: Old WarriorLet me get one thing out of the way first: I am a huge New Warriors fan. The first writer I ever consciously followed from book to book was Fabian Nicieza, and it was because of what he did in the first fifty issues featuring this team. It pisses me off that people think of them as a joke, it really does. The opening to CIVIL WAR, the transformation of Speedball into Emo Stabby Boy... these characters took on the Sphinx, for God's sake!
So when I heard that there was going to be a fourth series for this team, I was on board. (Back Bin hunters, don't bother with the second run. Really, just don't.) I liked the concept behind the new team. I liked that some of them were going to be revamped established characters. I LOVED the identity of the original member who would be running the show (and there will be spoilers to come, so watch yourself.) And once I had the issue in hand, I found that the concept lived up to my expectations.
The execution though? Not so much.
Don't get me wrong, I'm interested in seeing where this is going, and I got a big kick out of Paco Medina's artwork. But writer Kevin "Underworld" Grevioux is going to have to work his ass off if he wants to keep me on board. The problem here is that the whole issue feels like a rehash of the first twenty minutes of “The Matrix”. And no, just because there's a preemptive reference to Morpheus doesn't make it self-aware, or deprecating, or metawhateverthefuck. It's just another way of saying that "No, this part ain't original and we know it."
Look, here's a blow by blow of the plot. Take notes. There's an action scene with a kickass female, followed by three investigators tracking down her activities. Then we cut to an ordinary person who's having dreams of being more than what she is. Her computer starts talking to her, she meets a stranger with a familiar name, and she's led to meet the mysterious leader of these New Warriors. That's “The Matrix” all right, and I fucking hated “The Matrix”. Someone literally had to pay me to see “The Matrix”. Joy of joys.
What else does this book have to offer, then? Well, as I said, Medina's artwork looks damn good. Then there's the matter of the leader of the NW, one Night Thrasher. Some speculation has it that this might actually be his brother Bandit in the armor, but I'm hoping it's the real deal. Honestly, go back and look at what Fabe did with this character, turning him from a carbon copy Batman into his own man, and tell me you don't want to see him back.
So yes, that last page is a good thing, and it's why I'm planning on sticking with this book. And there's style a'plenty in the artwork. But the plot had better find some originality, and soon. Do something crazy, do something innovative, but don't just tell some story we already know. I want to like this book. Let me.
JSA CLASSIFIED #26
Writer: Frank Tieri Artist: Matt Haley Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Rock-Me AmodeoNote to D.C. – remember that big crossover thing between the two CLASSIFIED titles, JSA and JLA? With the Royal Flush Gang? You may have blocked it out, I know I sure tried, but here’s the deal: all is forgiven.
This was sort of a hat trick for me – I got to review three books I actually enjoyed this week. JSA CLASSIFIED has done a good job lately of one- and two-issue arcs. Since the Big Two are all about grand-scale, paradigm-shifting events lately, I appreciate the simplicity of a character-driven story. I enjoyed the Dr. Midnight arc that recently concluded, and I like this issue as well.
Wildcat is not the kind of character that can drive a book month after month, but he’s a great supporting character, as we have seen in BIRDS OF PREY and CATWOMAN. Frank Tieri proves that a capable writer can hold him in the spotlight for a time.
Matt Haley does an excellent job with some nice visuals. Between the black-and-white flashbacks and the parallel fight panels, the book felt almost like an art book rather than a comic book.
Concern: the mobster, though written in equal parts humor and fierceness, may be too dumb to enjoy. I can’t believe he could possibly think a loser like Sportsmaster is worth any sort of big investment, and I will be sorely disappointed if this doesn’t end as at least a double or triple cross.
But I will tune in for round two next issue. Ding!
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: SEASON EIGHT # 4
Writer: Joss Whedon Penciller: Georges Jeanty Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Reviewer: Sleazy GLook, I’m a Buffy fan from way back. I didn’t see the movie in theaters—back then I was kinda broke and had to wait for a lotta stuff to go to video--but I rented the movie once it did, and I enjoyed it enough to watch it a few times (still love Paul Reubens’ death scene). There’s exactly one episode I didn’t see the season it ran, and it’s the one episode from Season 1 that the WB refused to air a second time. And yeah, for some reason, I’ve bought almost all of the related BUFFY and ANGEL comics, for better and worse. But I can honestly say this is the first time the BUFFY comics have been strong enough to really deserve an unqualified recommendation.
The previous series have had their ups and downs, with writing ranging from decent to mediocre and art doing the same. Oh, there were writers with a decent ear for the characters, capable of getting the voices reasonably close to what they should have been or coming up with an interesting turn for the characters here and there. For the most part, though, it felt like a hollow cartoon version of the series, lacking depth and weight. I know much of that was due to licensing issues or requests not to take the characters anywhere too extreme or irreversible, but in the end it felt…well, it felt like most of the TV and movie properties licensed to comics I’ve ever read. Which isn’t saying much, as any of you who’ve read licensed properties for long will know.
This new run on the book, though, has earned its name and fully deserves to be called Season Eight. It picks up a few months after the original series, moving the stars of the series along just far enough to keep you interested but without leaving you scratching your head. They’re all maturing, growing in different directions but without being pulled apart. It’s also packed with lots of stories spun straight from the TV show and has at least three past villains (one of whom I was sad to see go this issue) who have all cropped back up to make life miserable for Ms. Summers and the Scoobies. It’s what Buffy fans have been wanting to see all along, and so far it’s humming along quite nicely.
Let’s face it: nobody knows these characters better than Joss Whedon does, although some of the other top writers from the show are fantastic as well. When these characters talk, they sound like themselves and act like themselves in ways that only their creator or the other show writers could really understand. Joss’ love for these characters is so evident on these pages that you can feel how perfectly realized they are and how much he’s invested into them. This book has the spark that’s somewhat missing from his work on X-MEN—one which I’ve only ever noticed one other place: his recently started arc on RUNAWAYS. His talents seem best attuned to ensemble casts of youngsters, and it shows in these two books.
As to whether the book is new reader friendly—man, it’s hard to say. There’s a lot of new stuff here that has nothing to do with the show, so I think it’s probably no big deal to jump in—no more so than, say, with the X-Men or Avengers or the JLA or the Titans. Sure, you know there’s a lot you missed, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start with the beginning of a new storyline and get your feet under you pretty quickly. SEASON EIGHT is definitely an easy spot to jump in and try things out, and the quality’s the best the BUFFY series has ever been. It looks great and reads great—hell, even the fill-in talent next month (Brian K. Vaughan) is pretty kickass. After years and years of waiting, Buffy fans finally have something to fall in love with on the stands. As somebody who was a little skeptical at first as to whether Whedon could pull off a monthly BUFFY without feeling like retread, I gotta say I’m really pleased so far.
DETECTIVE COMICS #833
Writer: Paul Dini Artist: Don Kramer Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Rock-Me AmodeoIf you like Batman, you should be picking up this book. Forget all the nonsense about Batman’s sons and Batman’s clones. Those sand castles will be washed away in the tides of continuity like…like…something else that gets easily washed away.
This title consistently rocks. Heck, the covers alone make me want to buy it.
But the story inside delivers, too. I don’t want to give too much away. You expect tension between Zatanna and Bats? You got it. You expect another top-notch mystery unfolding? (And hence the word “detective” in the title, imagine that…)? You got it.
What I didn’t expect was a completely plausible and touching bit of backstory between Bruce Wayne and Zatanna. And I did NOT expect the book to end the way it did. I was expecting the demise of a Marilyn Manson wannabe. And I got a lot more, beautifully illustrated and well told.
BLACK SUMMER #0
Writer: Warren Ellis Penciler: Juan Jose Ryp Publisher: Avatar Reviewed by Humphrey LeeThe last couple times Warren Ellis has taken a creator driven approach to the superhero genre some very fantastic things have happened; anyone who has read his STORMWATCH, AUTHORITY, and PLANETARY will attest to that. And if you know someone who doesn't, please provide me with their names and addresses so we can rectify these little oversights. But all threats of mass murder aside, BLACK SUMMER already seems to be just as ambitious, if not more so, than any of the works I just mentioned.
Now, ambition is one thing, but execution is another. I will give this a little slack, because it is a preview issue and its whole purpose is to hit you in the face with the story that is going to drive this series. The premise of BLACK SUMMER is this, for those who may not have caught wind of the hype: John Horus, former superhero and one of the most powerful men on the planet, has casually walked into the White House and executed the President of the United States. And this little ninety-nine cent pamphlet is primarily about him, covered in blood from head to toe, standing in front of the White House Press Corps and explaining the actions he perpetrated just minutes ago to a stunned and shocked American public.
This is where I had to say I give this issue a lot of slack, because this issue is very exposition laden, making only eight pages seem like a very engorging read. But it has to because not only is Horus selling the public on his very radical actions, but Ellis is selling us on the premise through it. It's a pitch with a little bit of history thrown in too because it's also trying to establish a past for the character of Horus, and where this crusade of his might and will lead to conflict with his super powered ex-teammates and colleagues. But I, for one, do actually kind of buy into Horus' extreme actions. It's honestly not that terribly original an idea; the problem is, though, how can you really capitalize on it? The vast majority of superpower and superhero based comics are owned by companies more focused on properties than ideas. You simply can't have a Superman story where he says "Y'know, fuck that (insert President) fellow and all the misery his actions have caused. I think I'll go stage a coup and cave his head in while I'm at it." And yes, I know there's argument about unnecessary brutality in this, but I'm a fan of it. I personally like the implications of a character for who all intents and purposes is godlike and how it can affect his demeanor and rationale in dealing with something like this. I know to some the violence will seem a little too lowbrow for such complicated subject matter, but I think that's the point Ellis is making here and to me it works.
And the art works for me for the most part, but it definitely isn't up near the level of talent that Ellis had with him on those almost seminal works I mentioned earlier. At times it can be downright impressive, like with that wraparound cover that binds this book. When Ryp can pull out and have these large shots they're really impressive. Tons of detail, lots of ambiance to it and the character of John Horus has a lot of draw to him. He definitely gives the character a lot of impression, and mostly in the more enlarged shots. But when taken down to the six and nine panel pages or just some of the close up shots some of pictures falter a bit. Some of the facial features are really exaggerated and really awkward looking. And some of the bodies on these characters tend to look disproportionate and elongated. I'm not trying to say these faults are overly detracting; far from it. It's very competent and sometimes pretty downright impressing, but it's not as masterful as you'd expect to come with a story with this much weight and hype behind it.
I was probably fully onboard with this title from the get-go, but I still appreciate the gesture that Avatar is making with this preview and I liked this enough that I'm getting the rest of the series for sure now. I think that Warren Ellis is an absolutely brilliant writer, particularly when he cuts loose like this, but at the same time some of these edgier works of his (and particularly most of the ones from this same publisher) have left me with a bit of a bland taste in my mouth so there was a little bit of doubt. This could end up being a very "important" work, but now the rub lies with this book avoiding becoming overly preachy with this subject matter. There's not a lot of hyperbole here; this is some very frank conceptual work and it’s going to rub some people the wrong way right off the bat but that's the nature of political discussion. Hopefully there's a proper balance in the future for this book that it is able to make some revelatory and insightful statements without them getting lost in the sea of violence that I'm sure is going to encompass a lot of the mini-series itself.
VÖGELEIN: OLD GHOSTS GN
Creator: Jane Irwin Publisher: Fiery Studios Reviewer: Dan Grendell"The important part is, I got my happy ending."
I am a big fan of the original VÖGELEIN mini-series, so I was excited to hear that there was a follow-up graphic novel. Jane Irwin's story of a clockwork faerie who must be periodically wound by a human companion or she dies is a moving one, and her search for freedom and desire for self-knowledge touch chords in us all. This new story continues in those themes, as Vögelein (it's German, so pronounced PFEU-gul-ine) looks back on her past and deals with guilt from the loss of her first companion.
The biggest draw for me to VÖGELEIN is Irwin's art. She has an incredible ability to draw faces so that the expressions draw you in, making you feel as if what is happening is real. Every look is vivid and energetic, or sad and withdrawn, as the mood calls for, exactly as it should be, creating a basis of reality for the story that makes it so much more engaging than it would be if the facial expressions were less well done.
Irwin also does careful research into her subject. Not only into faeries, but Romany culture and the lifestyles of Irish musicians. Again, this gives the story a very true to life feel, despite the fact that the main character isn't human. This careful attention to detail is the mark of a creator who cares about their subject, and it is evident that Irwin does.
I would definitely recommend VÖGELEIN to anyone with an interest in fantasy or human interest stories, or just anyone looking for a good read. For a sample, go here.
BANANA MAN #7 Crack ComicsAnother earth-shattering installment of Banana Man. This time our hero is joined by two more costumed types; Yo Yo Man and Gorilla Guy. Sure their names are hokey, but they make for some pretty hearty guffaws. This book never takes itself too seriously. It’s got self defacing humor such as a blurb on the cover remarking that this is the Appealing 7th Issue! Our villain Yo Yo Man starts a rumble with Banana Man simply because he is becoming “slightly more popular.” This is clever, yet low brow, humor for a low price of 50 cents. Don’t expect THE WATCHMEN, folks. It’s a guy who dresses as a banana who preaches the nutritional value of bananas and fights those who disagree with him. But this is inventive and fun stuff for those with a sense of humor…
and a taste for bananas. - Ambush Bug
CLIVE BARKER’S THE GREAT AND SECRET SHOW #12 IDW PublishingThis maxiseries must have been a daunting task to adapt. Clive Barker has been famous for the subtle nuances and intricate plots in his stories. TGASS was one of his most well received works. It’s filled with vivid imagery and complicated metaphysical details. A comic book adaptation of this book has been attempted in the past, but they have never been very successful. Writer Chris Ryall has done the near-impossible and made this story not only faithful to the source material, but adding to the story by giving shape and form to all of the weird and wild mythology that permeated the book. What always impressed me about Barker’stories was that they often had a tendency to “sandwich” the evil in the story. Sure there were good and bad guys, but Barker never stopped there. In Barker’s stories there were bad guys, then there were badder guys, and then there were usually even badder bad guy manipulating it all. Barker understood that no one was without sin, so characters that you think are evil turn out to be helpful or heroic and the heroes rarely come out untarnished in the end. Ryall’s adaptation communicates this tricky morality clearly in this story. Writer Ryall and artist Gabriel Rodriguez provide some jaw-dropping scenes as the story reaches its conclusion in issue #12. This is definitely a story that you must immerse yourself in due to the heavy terminology and giant cast of characters, but Ryall does a phenomenal job as ringleader; corralling all of these “out-there” aspects into one massive, cohesive tale. I gave this maxiseries the Comics Catch-up treatment at its halfway point, but haven’t revisited it since. The maxiseries wrapped up not long ago and it’s definitely worth a dive into the back issue bin to find the final issues of this series. At the very least, wait for the trade and enjoy the whole damn enchilada in one sitting. You’ll definitely be full after devouring this story which throws you into the narrative, jostles your expectations, and leaves you fully satisfied. – Ambush Bug
BUMP #1 Fangoria ComicsIf you’re a regular reader of this site, you’ve probably picked up an issue or two of FANGORIA AKA the best damn horror magazine on the racks. I’ve been a FANGO junkie since its early issues. Hell, I remember grossing out my cousins with the covers alone and I’ll never forgive my religious aunt for tossing out a box full of early issues because she said they were “devilish.” I must admit, I haven’t read the mag in a while, but I do often flip through it on the magazine rack to catch up on what’s new in horror while other snoots are reading THE SMITHSONIAN or COSMO at the bookstore. Now FANGORIA has dug its claws into comic books. BUMP is the first issue I have read from this company, and after enjoying this one so much, I hope to have a chance to read more. This read was an unexpected treat. It starts out as a typical serial killer yarn, but soon ventures into more supernatural territory. Weird things are afoot as a car crash results in a group of people having to take shelter in an old house in the woods. This story delivers in the scares department, which isn’t that easy to accomplish in comic book form. But writer/artist Mark Kidwell supplies moody ambiance and some pretty imaginative and wicked modes of murder. I especially like the way the killer carves statues out of wood representing his victims. These spooky wooden mannequins are all the more creepy in that they have shelves built in for all of their naughty bits. What’s pretty cool about the story of BUMP and the other books FANGO is offering with its comic book line is that a lot of them are being made into film, so you don’t have to wait long before seeing these comics come to life on celluloid. I was impressed with this first issue. Fans of FANGO will not be disappointed and it’s a comic that is sure to piss off all those religious aunts out there too. – Ambush Bug
THE BLACK DIAMOND DETECTIVE AGENCY OGN First SecondThe name Eddie Campbell is synonymous with the words quality comic books and Mr. Campbell continues his streak with this Original Graphic Novel from First Second. A large cast of characters all play a part in a mystery involving a train explosion and a missing safe filled with…well, we’re not sure. What impressed me the most about this story is that it is actually a mystery. Mystery is a word tossed around a lot in comics. There are books focusing on detectives and criminals and all who like to call themselves mystery and detective stories, but in those yarns, the crime and criminals are often clearly identified. The reader is made omniscient spectator. There’s no real mystery for the reader to solve. It’s more like a race to see if the detective himself can solve what was shown to the reader early on. No such case in this story. This is an actually mystery that keeps you guessing and only slowly reveals the truth behind the crimes committed. I had a lot of fun trying to piece together the mystery and figure it out before the detectives did. Campbell does a great job of juggling a large cast and peppering in factoids about Chicago at the turn of the century. Campbell has done his research. At times, this is a slice of life book set in 1899. Campbell makes sure to make even the slow moments in this story poignant and relevant to the plot. His gritty style of artwork has never been better, suggesting movement and emotion with very few lines and shades. My only complaint is a small one. As much as I enjoyed the story and art, I found myself distracted by Campbell’s lettering. I understand that Campbell is a “do-it-all” type of guy, but his lettering in this issue seemed rushed and too italicized. At times, I felt distracted from the story by this minute detail. Again, this is a minor complaint, but it was a detail that took me out of the story, if only briefly. That said, you won’t find a better mystery than this book. It’s definitely worth checking out this modern master's latest. - Ambush Bug
DAREDEVIL: BATTLIN’ JACK MURDOCK #1 Marvel ComicsIn this age of defacing heroes and humanizing villains, where do the supporting characters fit in? I’m not sure if this miniseries will answer that question. My old writing teacher said that it doesn’t matter what type of story you are writing, the one rule is that this story must be interesting. And I’m not sure if this story qualifies. This book tries to pick up the pieces left by Joey Q’s failure (DD: FATHER) and flesh out the character of Daredevil’s father, Jack Murdock. Writer Zeb Wells tries to paint a sympathetic portrait of a down and out, punch drunk galoot who can’t seem to get a break. But in actuality, Murdock’s basically a loser whose shitty life decisions have landed him alone, an alcoholic, and working as a strongarm for a small time mob boss. This may have worked for Rocky Balboa, but at that character’s core, the story revealed that Rock was a good person. This story fails in that aspect. Jack Murdock is reactionary, not so smart, and aside from being a pretty good boxer, he doesn’t really seem to have much in the redeeming quality department. The story “reveals” some secrets such as the night Jack finds out he has a son, an early encounter with Turk (DD’s future informant), and the fact that Jack thinks of his son as weak due to his blindness. These tidbits prove to be somewhat enjoyable and I like the way Wells is structuring this tale by making each issue reflect a different round in Murdock’s final boxing match, but I found myself straining to care about a guy who destroys an elderly shopkeeper’s store with a baseball bat and trashes his own place and screams “WHY!!!!” like an infant while a newborn is laying on the floor in front of him. I’ve enjoyed Wells’ work in the past and the art from Carmine Di Giandomenico is downright gorgeous, so I’m going to give issue two a shot, but so far, the story has failed to grasp any sort of sympathy or interest in the main character. – Bug
INVINCIBLE #42 Image ComicsOkay, look, I know Kirkman and Image are very proud of this book. And they should be; it's a very entertaining book and proudly character-centric. Definitely the best pure superhero book I read each month (or whenever it happens to arrive). But look, this is issue forty-two. You've already had a "new reader friendly" special trying to hook newbies. There was even an INVINCIBLE Encyclopedia that just came out to detail the universe some more. I think this is really just pushing the luck now. From what I understand, the big pull of this book for new readers anyways are the trades. This is just excessive, especially since it's a lot of exposition for the readers that are up to date to trudge through. Sure, a couple plot threads are nudged along to satiate us long-termers, but two or three pages of relevance for two-thirds the normal cost isn't terribly exciting. It's time to just tell the story and let word of mouth and excellent trade packages do the work now guys. Oh, and getting the hard covers on track would be nice too. But stuff like this is more likely than not just gonna piss off the guys you've already won over. Just bring on the next issue already. - Humphrey
THE ATOM #12 DC ComicsI was surprised to find that, despite the fact that I love this series, I have never written one single review about it. This issue of THE ATOM continues to set the bar higher in comic book inventiveness in storytelling. Gail Simone’s run on this book has improved with Byrne’s departure. The best thing about this series is that you never know what you are going to get when you crack open its cover. Is it going to be a journey into quantum physics or a zombie ghost tale? Is a giant head going to attack or a man sliced in half? Things take a turn for the interesting in this issue as our hero Ryan Cho seems to be embarking on a quest to find Ray Palmer, the former Atom. Fun exudes as a pitiful cadre of former Atom villains show up at his apartment and things get extremely interesting when a major Atom baddie shows his hand in the end. This looks to be the beginning of a wild ride and if you aren’t a fan of this series, this is a good issue to pick up and see what all of the hubbub is about. But be prepared, this is a loony-@$$ comic. You can tell Simone is having a blast writing it and I’m having a blast of equal magnitude reading it. – Bug
AVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE #3 Marvel ComicsWith this issue, with its character twists, and its focus on both the flaws and the nobility of superheroes, with its use of past concepts to create a whole new idea (Clones + Iron Spidey = Sweetness!) and with its focus on just how hard it is to live up to ideals, and how important it is that you do, I realized just who Dan Slott reminds me of.
If Bendis is this comics generation’s Stan Lee, then Slott is their Mark Gruenwald. I can think of no higher compliment. - Vroom