|#11||7/5/07 & 7/11/07||#6|
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski Artist: Olivier Coipel Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: Rock-Me AmodeoThor was the second comic I actively collected (after AVENGERS) and I treasured each and every issue up through the mid-80’s. Since I wasn’t buying off-the-rack during Kirby’s tenure, the iconic Thor for me will always be John Buscema’s classic run. Even Simonson comes after Big John, and I don’t think Walt would mind. Wein and Thomas and Conway crafted some great stories with John’s steady hand. They may not even be as good as I remember them (ooh, but Zarrko, Servitor and the Time Twisters was a great arc) but there they are, etched in my memory.
After the second launch, I never could get back into it, though that last arc was interesting (if only to see a skinny Volstagg) but of course, everyone died.
Now we have the third launch. And this…this could be something special. I never noticed before, but I see a lot of Buscema in Coipel, who was tagged as one of Marvel’s “young guns” a while back. He’s good - REALLY good - storytelling with pictures that make you want to break out your own sketch pad.
As expected, JMS gives us a good synopsis of what we have missed, but I thought it was well done and much less painful than it could have been. He also returns to us Don Blake, and I’m interested to see where this goes. We essentially have two people in one body, but they’re not fighting for dominance (ala Bruce Banner and the Hulk) and they’re not whining about the amount of planet-time that each one does-or-does-not have (ala Rick Jones and Mar-vell).
In fact, they seem to be working together, with Blake taking on the role of guide and instructor. I like it! So often, Blake was seen as a liability, unless someone needed some stitches or a brain transplant or whatever. He was Thor’s one constant vulnerability. But now? Apparently, he’s been around the block, and he’s sharing that wisdom with Thor. I want to see where this is going.
And more importantly, I want to see what his opinion is of the recent goings-on with the Marvel Universe. You thought the Hulk coming back to earth was going to force some showdowns? Well, it will, it will, but THOR’s return is the equivalent of the sheriff coming back to town…and even the Hulk better think twice before crossing him. I think for at least the next year or so, this book is going to be a lot of fun and some serious reckoning.
Writer: Joe Straczynski Pencils: Oliver Coipel Inks: Mark Morales Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: JinxoThor is back. Not no stinkin’ Robo-Thor, either. We are talking THE Thor, God of Thunder and Ragnarok and rRll. Sorry, couldn’t help myself.
Joe Straczynski has pissed off a lot of folks with some of the choices he has made in his run on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN so those same folks might be worried about what he might do to Thor. Me? I’m optimistic. I mean someone else has already rudely cloned the dude. What worse can ya do to the guy? Plus, setting aside the later arcs, the stuff JMS did at the start of his run on SPIDER-MAN was solid and entertaining. The biggest complaint some people had for those issues was his adding the mystical magical elements to Spider-Man. Well in this case he’s starting with a freakin’ Norse God. If he’s going to do anything it would likely be to go the other way and humanize the Thunder God which would seem an easier sell than deifying a nerd with radioactive blood.
Now the comic is out. Everyone can judge for themselves. The results? For me, based on just the first issue, it’s hard to say. Again though, I’m optimistic. The thing is, with having to start Thor up from scratch, he can’t just jump right in and go. There’s a lot of setting up to do, the least of which is bringing Thor back essentially from the dead. The issue does have some nice Thunder God versus legions of evil action and a narration with a nice mythic quality to it. The only reason I don’t give an instant rave is what we see in this issue isn’t necessarily representative of future issues. This issue is Thor battling monsters in a mystical void. Once things get rolling Thor will be in - Oklahoma? Yeah - not sure about that. Not 100% opposed to the idea. I’m willing to see where he’s going with this but, as of issue #1, he hasn’t gone there yet. I do like what I have seen so far.
But I do have scenes in my head of Thor getting all bored and lonely out in farm country, calling up the boys in New York. “Greetings fellow warriors! How doth the day find you? Oh - The Hulk is attacking! Zounds, that sounds enjoyable. Should I sally forth and – oh - the battle will likely be over nigh my arrival. Right, right. No, this is fine. Really I, uh, the local crops are in need of some rain so I’ll just…It has just occurred to me, mayhaps after the battle you could use some rest and you could come out here - we haveth the put-put golf! Oh yes, the Hulk doth attack. I should let you go. Alright, I shalt speak onto you anon. Fare thee well…” Then he hangs up and eats a gallon of ice cream as he watches “So You Think You Can Dance” and mumbles, “This sucks.” Apologies to the people of Oklahoma!
G.I. JOE: AMERICA’S ELITE #25
Writer: Mark Powers Art: Mike Bear Publisher: Devil’s Due Publishing Reviewer: Ambush BugOK, OK, I’m reviewing it already…sheesh!
G.I. JOE is one of the properties that I hold near and dear. In the past, I have written short anecdotes about how I used to play with my G.I. JOE figures religiously when I was a kid. I’m sure there are many of you out there, like me, that discovered comics through the gateway drug that was G.I. JOE the comic book. I doubt I would be the comic book junkie I am today if it weren’t for those old comics. I read them until the covers were worn then went out and bought a new copy to read them again. The first twenty or so issues of that Marvel series is so engrained into my mind that I can describe all of the covers and stories within each issue.
That said, I have to make clear that I haven’t been that impressed with Devil’s Due’s new version of G.I. JOE. And for the life of me, I can’t really put my finger on it. I tried to follow the new series when it was relaunched a few years ago. I liked the concept of having the Joe team reform after many years of inactivity. But for some reason, the appeal passed for me along the way. Maybe it was because writer Larry Hama kicked so much @$$ in the first series. Maybe it’s because as the tales of G.I.JOE piled up, they became less credible with all of the bizarre team members and even more bizarre villains. The gritty credibility of those original few years of GI JOE faded when characters like Raptor (who looked more like Hawkman’s wussier cousin) or Croc Master (who fought G.I. Joe tanks and airplanes with leashed alligators) were treated as serious threats. Maybe it was simply the fact that I eventually stopped collecting GI JOE figures and in some way shut the door on the entire line, choosing to look back on it fondly, but not really feeling the urge to revisit it for fear that it wasn’t as cool as I remember it to be.
Or maybe because some of the relaunch issues Devil’s Due published kind of sucked.
But never being one to let down the fans, I decided to check out this big G.I. JOE event in issue #25, entitled ominously “World War III.”
Turns out, this issue ain’t half bad. I have to give props to this issue for upping the threat level of the Joes’ arch-nemesis/uber-terrorist organization, COBRA. Not only has Cobra Commander swindled MARS (Destro’s weapons manufacturing company) into providing him with more firepower than ever before, he has also come into possession of the real names of every member of the G.I. Joe team and the names and locations of their families. This double whammy of a threat, on both a worldwide and more personal level, makes for an intriguing conflict for the Joes to face. Never before has COBRA been such a formidable foe and this issue not only does a pretty good job of illustrating that, but it does a good job of describing how the Joes are going to respond to that threat.
There is a lot of set-up in this issue. It is very new reader friendly and it almost acts as if it were a first issue continuing directly from the old Marvel series. So it’s easy to dive into the story and get to know these characters that you used to play with on the living room carpet (that seems kind of dirty, now that I’ve written it).
One criticism of the book is that not much by way of character comes across in this book. The characters are all there and each has a moment or two to show a sliver of the personalities that so many of the Joes had in spades, but I didn’t really feel connected to one character in this book. I guess the only person that really got some deep character time was Destro’s son who believes that he is more powerful than his tin-headed father and isn’t too happy that pop lost his company to Cobra Commander. Hopefully, future issues will give us some heroes to identify with and not just put them through cool action scenes and ominous double splash page shots of the team.
I’ve gotta mention the cool bells and whistles this book has going for it. The cover depicts every G.I.Joe member who ever served. That’s right, even Sgt. Slaughter and William Refrigerator Perry are present and accounted for. And in the back of the book, every Cobra operative every to grace the pages of a comic book is listed with their status (whether they are at large, dead, or incarcerated) listed alongside the tiny pics and names. The cover splash page and the list at the end took some time to compile and credit has to be given to the guys behind these little additions to the book. G.I.JOE fans, old and new alike should pick this book up for these little nuggets of goodness alone.
I just may stick with this book to see how this WWIII arc pans out. The art is solid and straight-forward, paying close attention to the hardware and military garb of the characters. The conflict is damn fine. With a little more attention to the Joe characters, this could be the Joe series that converts me from being a former G.I. JOE junkie into a new one.
THE IRREDEEMABLE ANT-MAN #10
Writer: Robert Kirkman Penciler: Phil Hester Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: JinxoOkay, I’m reviewing ANT-MAN but I would also like to say a word or two about last week’s WORLD WAR HULK comics. I didn’t get a chance to write any reviews last week and was sure someone would cover those issues and then…nobody did. Anyway…
This was my first issue of ANT-MAN and I actually liked it a lot. I quite enjoy the idea of doing a tie-in issue to the big event of the summer and then having it just be utterly futile and semi-pointless. There are repercussions for Ant-Man to be sure but not for WWH. I love that. I love it going nowhere and I love the idea of someone actually wanting to be heroic and it not working out. Because who hasn’t busted their ass trying to accomplish something only to have it amount to squat? Maybe the one universal constant that never gets written about, because who wants to read about someone else hitting a dead end? It’s annoying when it happens to YOU so why seek it out in escapism?
I also like it because it makes for a nice contrast to last week’s WWH books. ANT-MAN, in its way, felt real. Well, aside from the giant green monsters, flying mech suits and shrinky dink. Whereas last week’s books - X-MEN WORLD WAR HULK and FRONTLINE WORLD WAR HULK - strained credulity even for a world of such craziness. I mean, how much crap can really believably happen in 24 hours???
Okay, FRONTLINE. So an alien invasion arrives led by The Hulk who says, “In 24 hours, I’m knocking the crap out of New York.” So then, as New York is being evacuated and folks are prepping for war, somehow, incredibly, a truce is drawn up so that the Hulk’s peeps can walk around New York??? What the hell? Spider-Man and company are hounded like dogs for months but invading warriors get a day pass to the city? And you seriously expect me to believe even if our government would allow for such a thing that they could come up with an agreement for an open city in an hour or so? And THEN one of the Hulk’s buddies gets murdered and we’re going to have a full police murder investigation in the few scant hours before the battle? I mean, not even 24 hours since hours were spent evacuating the city, having the Hulk’s people meet with our leaders, arrange for a temporary peace? Come on! I actually still enjoyed the comic for what it was but it is absurd.
And then there’s X-MEN WORLD WAR HULK. What THE hell. The Hulk, the angriest SOB in the Marvel universe, comes to Earth fully enraged and wanting vengeance for what was done to him. Again he says, “24 HOURS!!! THEN IT’S ON!!!” So he has 24 hours to organize his troops, prep for battle, not to mention getting down into New York City to make cameo appearances in all the tie in books. He’s an angry warrior gearing up for war. You know what that means he has to do! YES! He has to fly to Westchester to ask Professor Xavier a hypothetical question. Wha huh?!?!? I mean, Xavier wasn’t a part of the decision about what was done to the Hulk. The Hulk is focused on pummeling those who DID make the decision. Does Hulk really seem like the guy who would go, “But you know, I know Xavier wasn’t there but, I dunno why, but the question of how he would have voted is just like a bee in my bonnet I cannot get it to go away. I mean, I just have to know or it will drive me goofy!” Again, I enjoyed the book for what it was and the fun dismemberment that occurred (not Hulk’s fault - he was attacked) but it did seem kind of a goofy development. And there is also the fact that an immediate threat to the whole world flew his spaceship down to the burbs and landed it with no government agency noticing or trying to stop it. Absurd.
So last week there were two WWH books accidentally absurd in their unrealistic elements, this week ANT-MAN goes the opposite way by being intentionally absurd and, kinda, realistic. I give this round of the war to the little pummeled ant.
Writer/Artist: David Lapham Publisher: Vertigo/DC Comics Reviewed by Humphrey LeeWhile he's relatively unknown for the most part, David Lapham is the kind of writer that if someone actually familiar with his work just catches a hint of his name on the wind it's enough to get them to make motions and noises not totally unlike a dog who catches the scent of his dinner. Even though his recent forays into the superhero genre have been somewhat unremarkable (the recent “City Of Crime” arc in DETECTIVE COMICS and his DD/PUNISHER mini) but his bread and butter, gritty and unrelenting crime fiction, is a thing of beauty as any reader of STRAY BULLETS or MURDER ME DEAD will tell you. So when you see that the man is not only returning to his roots so to speak, but also doing it in an Original Graphic Novel for Vertigo, that's something to get terribly excited about.
But excitement is one thing, and execution is everything...
See what I did there? I spent all that time talking the man up and now I've put some doubt back in your head. That's called the old "bait and switch" and man I suck at it don't I? But anyways...
SILVERFISH starts off in really familiar territory for a Lapham book: in the head of a very bad man with a very unusual psychosis and also a section of the Jersey Shore in an 80's background. Bored teenage girls getting themselves in over their heads is another motif that this book shares with its peers. This time the story unfolds around one Vonnie and Mia as during a lazy winter in NJ they start to pry into the history of Suzanne, Mia's new and well despised stepmother, while she and Mia's father are off at a cabin for the weekend. Slowly but surely her past starts to unfold into the kind of sordid affair you'd expect to come from this story and involving a man named Daniel who has, uh, silverfish floating around in his head that work him into a frenzy and that make him do all the random acts he has committed, hence the title of this OGN.
The reason this book works is simple: tension. Once the main story starts to unfold, and details about Suzanne's past start to come forward and put current events in motion, the book becomes an absolutely riveting read. Lapham uses all the proper devices to create a sense of foreboding for what is to come with standard symbols for a story like this, like a bloody knife in a Ziploc bag, while also playing with things like Mia's little sister Stacey's asthma to help ramp that tension level just that extra bit at the right moment to keep you fully submerged in the now too instead of just speculating on how things will pay out later on. The occasional sequences we get with Daniel as he slowly makes his way into the picture are very cerebral, as we quickly watch him devolve into the threat he is as he starts to become fully submerged in his psychosis.
Another thing that Lapham does is that he doesn't exactly make the "heroes" of this story totally sympathetic. Then again, that could just be me. Basically they don't come off as a group that sees this wrong that needs righted, they're just a bunch of nosey kids that don't know when to stop. Sometimes he makes them downright bitchy and annoying to the point where you kind of want to see Daniel unleash the full force of his head fish upon them just to shut them up. But then you realize that they are "just kids" so you kind of feel bad for wishing a premature demise on them...until one opens their mouth again and says something petty.
As engrossing as this was when it fully got going, there was one glaring flaw to the story that was only exacerbated by how fast it makes you devour it: it ends rather abruptly. When the adrenaline finally starts pumping, especially at the end when everything finally comes to a head and the situation fully explodes, it seems like things just kind of wrapped up, like Lapham simply ran out of panels. I mean, it's a solid ending; some people make it, some don't, and you're left to wonder how other parties will come through physically and emotionally after it all, but the climax is rather weak and comes off like the story was so spent it just needed to end, killing the buzz a little bit. It's a shame too, it really does feel like after rereading the last twenty or so pages that all that was needed was another handful or so, showing the internal workings of the characters a little more and why certain parties did what they did so it comes off more naturally and less like something that kinda works as an end. The middle act of this book is so good that it makes up for it, but when you lead so much to the payoff and that payoff doesn't come out as well as it should that hurts the work a lot I think.
But overall this is still a great addition to your library, weak ending and all, just for the ride it takes you on, especially if you're already a Lapham fan, or a fan of crime fiction in general. With books like 100 BULLETS, FELL, and CRIMINAL lining the shelves and the occasional OGN such as this one it really is a great time for fans of that particular genre in this particular medium. This really was so close to being one of the best things I've read this year, especially since most of the true mainstream stuff I've read keeps either falling flat or falling prey to their own self-hyping. As it stands this was a nice afternoon read that I don't see any reason to not revisit on the occasional lazy day. I say keep a look out for it if you have the spare dollars, especially since it's con season and you'll probably find it for at least 25% off at some retailer booth or another. Cheers...
THE NEW AVENGERS #32
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis Artist: Leinil Yu Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: Ambush BugI’m not here to rip on Bendis’ writing. I promise. I actually am quite intrigued with the big reveal in last issue that spawned the controversy that all of the missteps Marvel has made with their characters over the last few years are being retro-fixed by claiming that it was all due to an invasion by the shape-changing alien race, the Skrulls. It’s an interesting twist that is just comic-booky enough to get me excited to read where it’s all going to go. This issue in particular has that sort of Mamet feel (one of Bendis’ idols) where the cast is confined to an enclosed space (this time an airplane) quippiingly quipping back and forth about who is or isn’t a Skrull and how it all could have happened. I liked it because this is the type of story Bendis does best: small, conversational, stagey.
The only complaint I really have so far about this new version of THE NEW AVENGERS writing-wise is the way Dr. Strange has been handled. If he doesn’t turn out to be a Skrull, Dr. Strange gets my vote as the most ineffectual hero of the year. He’s proven to be absolutely useless in this book, spouting off excuse after excuse when asked to perform magical feats to save the team that would normally not make the old man break a bead of sweat. In this issue, the Master of the Mystic Arts could not whip up a single spell to save the team from a plane crash. This guy fought Baron Mordo, Nightmare, Dormammu, and the entire Dark Dimension and he can’t stop a descending plane? When asked if he could help out in this issue as the plane goes down, first Strange yells, “NO!” then he shouts “MY CLOAK WON”T WORK UNDER THESE CONDITION!” (direct quote, folks). If he’s not a Skrull, this is bad writing, no doubt about it, in that Bendis doesn’t even give the Doc a valid excuse as to why he can’t help his team out. Maybe he’s just a dick. Or maybe he doesn’t like the line-up as much as I don’t because what kind of Avengers team gets wiped out in a plane crash? If they can’t save themselves from that, then how can they save the world? The Earth’s Mightiest Heroes these guys are not.
But that’s not why I wanted to write this review.
My beef with this issue is the art. To start off, Leinil Yu needs to learn that sometimes less is more. Making scratchies all over a character’s face doesn’t necessarily mean you are conveying depth or emotion. Yu draws everyone as if they were alien Skrulls with hash-marks and scribbles decorating the faces so much that it’s hard to distinguish an expression other than rage. Inking himself, Yu pours on the darks, resulting in muddy compositions and unclear actions. Plus his proportions are completely off. Characters look as if they have been slipped Pym pills in panels where their sizes and proportions change without rhyme or reason. Check out Yu’s version of feet throughout this book. Spider-Woman could have just sailed down to safety on those clown shoes she’s wearing.
Secondly, Yu really needs to read UNDERSTANDING COMICS. Dude, give me your address and I’ll send you my dog-eared copy. **This is the part where I compliment Bendis.** Bendis is telling a subtle story here. A lot of his stories, in fact, involve little movements or beats. He’s the type of storyteller that needs an artist that can communicate his message clearly in order for the reader to get it. Yu is not one of those artists. In a straightforward story where a barbarian has to kick a lot of ass, I’d call Leinil Yu. He does some vicious battle scenes and I think his strengths lie in more gritty, broad scope action yarns. Maybe something like CONAN or even THE HULK would be better suited. In NEW AVENGERS, while the characters are stationary in the plane, Yu does a decent job of moving his artistic camera lens about the cabin and maintaining a cohesive sequence of panels which effectively advance the narrative. But as soon as the plane starts to go down, all form of coherence flies out the window. There is an entire sequence towards the end of this book that I had to read…then re-read…then talk out loud in order to get what the hell was going on. It’s simply not clear as to what is happening between Spider-Woman and Wolverine and since there isn’t a line of dialog, it’s up to Yu (not you) to communicate this in a way that can be clearly understood. Yu fails at this and I’ve seen it happen every time the action picks up in this book. He needs to pay more attention to what exactly he is trying to communicate in panel. He needs to pay attention to the alleyways between panels and make sure that the action in one panel matches up with the previous and next panels. More importantly, he needs to take into consideration the size of the panel and not scrunch some kind of big action into a tiny square and expect the message to be conveyed with any form of clarity.
I’d be liking this book a lot more if not for the art. From the boat feet to the scratchy faces to the incoherent action sequences, this book needs a lot of work artistically.
STEPHEN COLBERT’S TEK JANSEN #1 (of 5)
John Layman & Tom Peyer and Jim Massey: Writers Scott Chantler and Robbi Rodriguez: Artists Oni Press: Publisher Vroom Socko: Colbert Nation MemberThere’s a certain breed of SF book, one that embraces innovation and forward vision, one that examines the world as it is and looks to the world to come. This is not one of those books. But it is one hell of a fun comic.
The main storyline features the titular character dealing with a benevolent alien bringing peace to the planet of Alphalon-7. As you know, I’m sure, anyone who wants to bring peace to a less advanced civilization probably has ulterior motives. Well, this one might not, but that’s not going to stop our hero from finding something. There’s also a backup tale from the creators of Oni’s humor book Maintenance that, while slight, has several great laughs, as well as one terrific punch line. In both stories there’s a bevy of great supporting characters that round out the reading experience, the most memorable one being a malevolent entity that our hero keeps in a birdcage.
But it is that hero, Comedy Central pundit Stephen Colbert’s creation Tek Jansen, that brings the most to the story. He’s the perfect hero, with women swooning in his wake and the conviction that he is right in everything he does. And this brings us to tonight’s Word:
Mary SueA Mary Sue is a character that is meant to be an idealized version of its creator. There are other definitions, of course, but this is the one we’ll be dealing with. If you don’t know the rest, you’re already online. Google is your friend.
Whereas Ask.com is sleeping with your wifeNow, Jansen is certainly not alone in this archetype. There’s plenty of Mary Sues in comics.
See Ellis, WarrenAs well as on tv.
See Crusher, WesleyAnd in the movies.
See Segal, StevenBut just because a character is a Mary Sue, that doesn’t mean they’re a bad character.
Well, Wesley Crusher…And when you get right down to it, Tek Jansen isn’t exclusively the wish fulfillment of Colbert. Being a hardened warrior and sex magnet who works to repel alien invaders is nearly every adolescent boy’s fantasy.
For some conservatives, it’s a realityAnd it does help that, in the end, this is a really fun comic. And it is important that this comic is good, because this may be the first comic for a large section of the Colbert Nation. And we shouldn’t underestimate the impact of the Nation.
These people are the ones responsible for Colbert’s Americone Dream becoming not just the most popular celebrity flavor from Ben & Jerry’s, but their most popular flavor, period.
Take that, Wavy Gravy!Colbert’s also the man who put a national spotlight on Ontario Junior League hockey. Hell, before Colbert, all I knew about Saginaw was that it was somewhere in America.
Translation: he heard it mentioned in the song AmericaMake no mistake, Colbert is going to bring some major exposure to this underappreciated medium. For God’s sake, even my mother watches The Colbert Report!
His mother’s name is Mary SueAnd that’s The Word.
ULTIMATE POWER #6
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski Tracer: Greg Land Publisher: Marvel Reviewer: Rock-Me AmodeoThis comic book has me intrigued on so many levels. For those of you who may not remember the last issue (since it came out a few months ago – I guess that’s why ULT. SPIDER-MAN was bi-weekly for so long, to compensate for ULTIMATES-related titles), Reed Richards sent a probe out to a parallel universe that just happened to be the Supreme-o-verse. The probe ostensibly brought some gunkity-gunk that wiped out millions of people, and the Squadron grabbed Reed, with the majority of the Ultimate players in hot pursuit.
This issue, we get down to the old fashioned business of superhero square-offs. Remember those nasty duels engineered by the Grandmaster, where our heroes would often meet some gruesome death, only to be resurrected in the end? This is not quite that level, and I’m glad – we’ve seen too much of that. Everyone pairs off and seems to be suitably matched, so that’s fun. After the endless run of high stakes, status-quo-changing sagas in the Big Two universes, I like this kind of story, as long as it’s well-told, keeps me guessing, and is pretty.
Speaking of pretty, Greg Land is doing what Greg Land does – assembling a bevy of supermodels and dressing them up like your favorite characters (see Exhibit A – the cover: a veritable pornatopia of heroines with “come hither” looks, virtually guaranteeing a wankfest for every basement-dwelling momma’s boy who picks up this title.) Almost makes me forget the one cover, when Ultimate FF first came out, where Land drew Susan as though she were channeling Martha Stuart—you know the one.
Except, uhn…isn’t Wasp asian? Okay, no big. And, uhn, Pietro’s face looks a lot like Johnny Storm’s face used to when Land was drawing that book. Power Princess (or whatever she’s called) looks a lot like a brunette Sue Storm, who looks a lot like Wanda, who also looks a lot like Arcanna. Intriguing.
Speaking of Wanda and Arcanna, I know their battle could affect time and space, but there are a couple shots where each of their torsos look to be about five feet long, and several shots of Arcanna’s legs where she looks like she got sucked into the quantum probability of a perpetual taffy-pulling universe. It’s as if the photo Land was using ended, and he just drew straight lines out from the legs to fill the rest of the panel. It’s…intriguing.
BUT…it’s also very pretty. And despite all this kvetching, I do indeed get a fanboy thrill when I see that Land has drawn a book, and I will pick it up despite this nitpicky stuff. His heroes are rugged and his women…well, I wouldn’t kick any of them out of bed for eating crackers (unless Crackers was my dog).
And I’m not looking for any deep meaning with the story, so I’m entertained. I am. ‘Nother nit-pick, though: didn’t Reed tell the Mad Thinker that he doesn’t use oxygen anymore? So how was he susceptible to the gas that knocked him out? Whoopsie. Ultimately (no pun intended) none of it really means anything, as all the stakes change on the last page, which I will not spoil. Suffice to say, one more player has been added in predictable (to everyone but Nick Fury, oddly) fashion.
But the bottom line is: this book succeeds in doing what it should do—make me look forward to buying it, and then making me want to skim back over it to look at the artwork, and maybe re-read a few key lines (to see if I should have guessed what would happen at the end.) Now, with three issues left, do you want to wait it out and get the TPB, or buy each issue? I’ll let you make the call.
PHONOGRAM VOL. 1: RUE BRITANNIA TPB
Writer: Kieron Gillen Penciller: Jamie McKelvie Publisher: Image Comics Reviewed by Humphrey LeeI called this Trade Paperback for review almost two weeks ago in our little @$$hole get togethers (which aren't as exciting as they sound. Typically all that happens is several bottles of bourbon are drunk and we have to take turns dismembering the strippers to properly dispose of the bodies. But I digress...) but I'm just now getting to it. Not because I'm lazy, or because I tend to forsake my reviews for booze and watching “Scrubs” on DVD, but simply because I truly could not find the words to describe just why I liked this TPB so much. I tried to think of something relevant to relate the material to, or clever ways of saying why it's a special read unto itself, but I just couldn't think of anything. And honestly, I still can't. So right now I'm basically just going to start typing and hope that in the next couple of paragraphs I can actually make some sort of coherent analysis of this book, why it's good, and why you should buy it. May god have mercy on my soul.
Reason one why you should buy this? Well, because it's good AND unique. More than half the time you'll be hard pressed to find a comic on the stands that is either one of those, let alone both. Quite frankly, most comics published are in a glut (and by most comics I mean those of the big two because, well, they publish a rather large percentage of what we get here). Half the time they can't tell their own stories because they're too involved it some company dictated event or editorially mandated character re-emergence or whatever. And most of the other time they're being so self-indulgent they don't realize how alienating they are, or lose focus on what matters the most in these books: the characters.
PHONOGRAM has presented us with a very clever world, where Music is Magic and alive all around us. Some people treat it just as an escape, and some treat it as so much more to the point where their lifestyle is very much dependent on it, like one David Kohl, our protagonist who is what they call a Phonomancer... and who's also kind of dick. And now he's been cursed and put on a mission, one involving the dead Goddess of Britpop, Britannia, his old sire and still his tether to the Phonomancy world. Which brings me to my second reason why you should buy this...
PHONOGRAM is about you, your "scene", and how something so seemingly innocuous at the time can in the end be such a huge part of your life. This is about the music we listen to, the way it stirs within us to the point where we become it, or at the least give a part of ourselves up to it. This is about every trend you've picked up on, every "in" thing you've tried out; what's truly stuck with you and what has left you with nothing but embarrassing and sometimes even shameful memories of your youth. Those times you've died your hair, or at least put it up in a Mohawk, those times you painted your nails and put on that mascara. That chain you wore on your belt loops, those black combat boots that looked trendy but absolutely killed your feet and all the spikes and patches you added to your leather jacket. All that black you wore, soooo much black that you pray your kids never see you in such a state. All these defining moments that the sound waves have held on you, that's where the power in this comic lies.
Reason three? It's just a solidly entertaining journey. Yeah, David is kind of a dick, and kinda like John Constantine if he were fifteen years younger, a hipster instead of a punk, and kind of a middling magician instead of a powerful ass Magus. But he's not totally unsympathetic despite his shortcomings, and that's why watching his adventure unfold is all the more intriguing. He's made some mistakes, some because he didn't know better, some because he thought he was bigger than he really is, but a lot of this book is feeling him genuinely wanting to make up for some of these before they consume him in the end. And his tour through the world (and the "otherworld") of this setting is entertaining as you watch it unfold before you and gives you the reader an idea of series and stories to come (I hope).
Reason four: the overall package. Cool setting and premise, relevant-to-life storytelling, and it also comes with a really good art job--the overall trade package is very sleek and solidly priced. McKelvie's art is very base line wise for sure, the characters all have some pretty closely connected features like jaw lines and eye shape and the like, but he's still able to infuse enough style into each of them (a must considering the subject matter of course) to keep them differentiated. The real key to the art is that McKelvie is really good at setting the scene, and pulling the reader into the now which is again very key given the orientation of the book. He's also very good at keeping the eye entertained given that there isn't a whole lot of action in this book. Lots of panel changes to keep the eye moving while the characters are just doing the simplest of gestures as they talk. It's not a visual feast but it keeps the optics stimulated as your brain space takes in all the monologues, dialogues, and ideals and concepts this book likes to throw your way. This is one of those nice occasions where the art perfectly compliments the story.
Hopefully by now that overwhelming amount of rare positivity on my part that I've just put forth has at least got you thinking this is something to keep an eye out for. I don't want to totally delude you, this book isn't the greatest comic to be ever published, it's not going to change the medium, and it's by no means completely flawless, but it is a shining beacon in a medium that has become somewhat self-important as of late. This book happens to be that self-important though, without beating you over the head with its own sense of it. Sure, there's a lot of references that will go over your head here, but even though there's a helpful glossary in the back to help you with them they're not literal to the point at hand. They can mean anything, it's just up to you what you want them to be. For every reference to "Echobelly" or "Kenickie" you can insert whatever era of music or scenic reference you want in its stead. PHONOGRAM is just one aspect of the world of music at large and dares you to enter your own and is definitely worth the effort to lose yourself in, just like your favorite album.
Writer: Peter David Art: Pablo Raimondi Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: Rock-Me AmodeoFirst off, I’m a big Peter David fan, ever since his nigh-legendary run on the HULK. I’ll try anything he writes. And so of course I’m reading X-FACTOR. And I like it. I do enjoy picking up each issue. But I won’t say that I love it.
I do love Raimondi’s artwork, and the book feels less complete when he’s not drawing it. He’s trying to create a mood, and succeeds for the most part. It has a beautiful quality of still life that serves the quiet moments very well. But it also has a stillness that makes even action scenes seem a bit sterile, and the fact that this was an “in-between” issue reinforced that.
See, I keep getting this feeling when I read this issue that I was moving through a museum, or a planetarium, and I was getting to watch certain scenes, but not quite getting involved. “There’s the mysterious guy. He can hear people’s thoughts if he’s not on meds. He’s very powerful. Aaaannnd…we’re moving. We’re moving. There’s the French girl. And we’re stopping. She and Layla don’t get along. Aaaaannnddd…we’re moving. We’re moving. There’s Madrox, trying to figure out how to make things right with Siryn and Monet…”
Actually, that was pretty funny. Madrox is presented with a dilemma in this issue that should bring fear to heart of any man who has ever been in a relationship. And David continues to flesh Madrox out as so much more than the throwaway character he was for so many years. Siryn and Monet twist and bond unpredictably. Guido has more of a personality than ever before; Rahne too. And there’s not a real stereotype in the bunch, no one unalterable characteristic you could hang your hat on and say, “Man, that will never fly with so-and-so.” They are so much like real life, with their personalities being slowly revealed and explored issue after issue.
And maybe that is the thing that holds me back. Superhero books are typically iconic almost by definition. But this is not really a superhero book per se. It’s more like real people who happen to have superpowers. I’ve often wished more books could be like that (and that more writers could write like Peter David, frankly.) But without a Hawkeye or a Captain America or a Thor – without the unknowing straight man – it feels like a meandering stream of a book. I enjoy the scenery. It’s a good way to spend time.
But we’re between purposes this issue, and it makes we wonder about the direction and feel for the book. It’s a detective agency. It’s a safe haven for unregistered mutants. Or maybe they’re all just foils for Layla Miller. Odd that all of them are so willing to indulge Layla’s closed-mouthness just because she knows stuff. But the stuff she knows seems to be driving the book, so I guess it’s better to let her do her thing.
If you want a nice, engaging read, with some real emotional tension every few issues (and a chuckle or two EVERY issue), pick this up. The stakes are not world-shaking, but they could be, maybe. But there are a lot of moving parts, and I’m not sure they all fit the same puzzle, and you may not finish one before you start another. So if you are looking for an occasional sense of closure, don’t hold your breath. But if you’re looking for a good read, then dive in, because this is as good a jumping on point as any.
GREEN ARROW: YEAR ONE #1
Writer: Andy Diggle Artist: Jock Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Ambush BugI’m not a big fan of the YEAR ONE/origin story. I can understand the appeal to want to know how your favorite hero came to be, but the common flaw with these types of stories is that the characters aren’t really strong enough to carry the entire narrative. Let’s face it. There aren’t that many fully realized characters in comics. Clark Kent, Bruce Wayne, Peter Parker. These guys could carry a story. But other characters rely on aspects other than personality to be interesting to the public such as powers, costumes, and other comic book conventions. As seen in many a summer blockbuster, it’s pretty damn boring until we get to the part where the powers start taking effect and the costumes are donned. Most movies waste no time to get to this part, Other less successful attempts wait until the end before the big reveal resulting in a feeling of disappointment. We want to see Batman, not Bruce Wayne in the Himalayas. We want to see Jason Voorhees in Manhattan, not Jason on a boat to Manhattan. We want to see Hawkeye shoot a bow and arrow, not ride around like Lorenzo Lamas on a motorcycle. You see where I’m coming from.
Fortunately, when it comes to character, Ollie Queen has it in spades. The instant classic creative team of Andy Diggle and Jock (the talented with a capital T team who brought you pulse pounding action on a monthly basis in Vertigo’s THE LOSERS) have served up another great helping of adventure and intrigue. Although Ollie doesn’t don his little green booties in this issue, roots of where the idea of his heroic persona came from are present throughout the story. Diggle does a great job of fleshing out the shallow character of Ollie Queen, a spoiled trust-fund baby who did the exact opposite of what Bruce Wayne did when he inherited his ba-zillions from his dead parents: namely threw it all away on excesses and self destruction. Whereas Bruce used his family fortune to make himself into the Batman, Ollie spent his money on bling, broads, and booze.
Diggle drives this point home in a few scenes where Ollie recklessly thrill seeks his way through life, buying expensive things because he can and barfing in public. Diggle paints Ollie as a sort of male Lindsey Lohan, which I’ll have to admit is a pretty interesting route to go. The narrative does its job to get Ollie to that fateful island where he has to learn the art of archery to survive and there’s a nice little twist followed by a pretty suspenseful cliffhanger in the end. All in all, this issue did its job in entertaining me and enticing me for a return for the next issue.
Jock continues to be one of my favorite artists. Although somewhat straightforward, he never forgets to grain and grit up the lens of his artistic camera to make every panel seem as if it were shot by Peckinpah. My only complaint is that Ollie’s hair is really, really ugly in this one. That floppy blonde hair annoyed the shit out of me, but since Ollie is a complete prick in this book, I guess it goes with character.
Due to the talent behind this book and the fact that Ollie’s character is pretty vibrant and memorable, GREEN ARROW: YEAR ONE #1 doesn’t suffer from boring origin-itis. Fans of THE LOSERS shouldn’t miss this and I have to say that this is the best Ollie I’ve read in years. Structurally, it’s a much sounder story than the limp Winick-written stuff that DC has been schlepping out recently. Diggle and Jock know how to write good action and character and they are doing it again with this one.
DEADPOOL/GLI SUMMER FUN SPECTACULAR #1
Writers: Fabian Nicieza and Dan Slott Artists: Kieron Dwyer, Nelson, Paul Pelletier and Clio Chiang Inker: Dave Meikis Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: JinxoIs it wrong that I really like the Great Lakes Avengers… er, Great Lakes X-Me… make that The Great Lakes Initiative? Formerly also rans, thanks to the 50 State Initiative they are now an actual, bona fide, funded hero group. If nothing else can point out the absurdity of The Initiative, that oughta do it.
And, appropriately enough, the best part of this book is where it goes out of its way to in great fanboy detail actually point out the absurdity of the very basis for the Civil War. I mean, I was enjoying the book quite a bit at the start. AIM’s creation of one of the goofiest and yet most effective plans I’ve seen is solid fun. Then to have the only ones able to stand against that plan be the GLI and Deadpool? Nice. Very nice.
But the reason to buy this book and where it hits its true stride is with Squirrel Girl’s subplot. As wacky as Squirrel Girl is, I’m actually getting to like that character quite a bit. I love the very concept of a hero who appears to be a D-list hero who is in fact, impossibly, an A-List hero underneath it all. Just someone no one would take seriously at all but who can, in fact, throw down with the big boys. Whose very absurdity almost becomes a power all its own. I mean, in a legit Marvel Comics story the girl defeated Doctor Doom. And MODOK and Terrax and Thanos. And if you’re “Squirrel Girl” and you beat someone like Doom, you own his ass because that very fact is so humiliating to him as this issue makes hilariously clear.
Better than Squirrel Girl and Doom though is her short interlude with Penance, the hero formerly known as Speedball. Squirrel Girl had quite a crush on Speedball and decides to hunt him down and check on how he’s doing. Her chat with Penance is all of three pages but it is an awesome three pages with Squirrel Girl as the voice of reason pointing out some, uh, logic problems with certain recent events. And the revelation of the fate of Speedball’s “sidekick” just about made me drop my comic from laughing. If you have affection for the Speedball of old, this issue is for you. They even manage to create a loophole that could be used to bring back the old school Speedball…if anyone would have a desire to do that. Hmmm…maybe a grassroots campaign to save Speedball (ala Jericho) is in order. Or a goof on such grassroots campaigns. I can see it now, Marvel’s offices flooded with superballs!!!
But, I should point out, as is semi-tradition, in this issue a member of the GLI… dies. It would be very sad but, well, it’s not. Actually more horrifying than that is a peak at poor Deadpool. Dude needs an Extreme Makeover. Home Edition. That kisser is going to need more than plastic surgery. It needs drywall and some work with a sander. Yikes!
Writer/Artist: Nick Abadzis Publisher: First Second Reviewer: Ambush BugDammit.
Why did this book have to be so damn good? I read it and put it down quite a while ago, and it is still lingering in my brain and weighing like an anvil on my heart.
This is the story of Russia’s first cosmonaut, Laika, a special dog who was chosen from many to be the test subject in the Russian Sputnik II satellite launch, marking the first mission into space with living cargo.
Writer Nick Abadzis does a phenomenal job of roping in the reader and binding them in knots so that they have to witness the heart-wrenching drama of this little dog’s story. Needless to say, things don’t end well for Laika. I know it’s doesn’t take much to get a reader to feel for a perky little puppy dog who just wants to be loved, but Abadzis does such an effective job of making one feel for this little guy that I really had a tough time reading the last chapter. The writer does a great job of not only making the reader fall for the dog, but also for the people who work in the space program who are forced to see the pup as more than just an experiment.
This is a wholly human tale about the humanitarian aspects of space travel. It’s a pretty factual take on the story (it actually happened, although the outcome of the satellite launch was covered up and sweetened a bit for the sake of saving the reputation of Russia’s space program), and a fascinating look at not only Russian culture but the space race that occurred in the late fifties. All of the cast members talk tough and try to exude a professional exterior, but one by one, that hard shell of professionalism cracks because of the life of this little dog. The conflict is palpable and I found myself rooting for a last minute save in this book, despite the fact that it would have been a contrivance.
Due to my busy schedule, I read this book over the course of a few days. In that time, I spoke with fellow @$$Hole Sleazy G and told him how this book was going to suck if something happened to that dog. Of course, he called me a puss. And I have to admit that this book did in fact make a puss of me. It made me feel for the thoroughly thought-out characters. It clawed at my heart and left marks. It was a book that made me ache. And at a time when I find myself feeling absolutely nothing upon finishing a lot of the comics that I read, I am thankful to have been able to experience it.