Greetings Faithful Talkbackers, Ambush Bug here. We’re hip deep in convention season and although the AICN @$$Holes were unable to make it to San Diego for the big con (en route, the @$$-Jet had to take an emergency landing when we hit a flock of Skrulls in the form of carrier pigeons over North Dakota), we will be at this year’s WIZARD WORLD CHICAGO at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, IL just north of Chicago on August 10th, 11th, and 12th. Humphrey Lee, Sleazy G, and myself will be out and about, circling the booths and hobnobbing with stars and fans alike. So if you’ve got a booth or a book you’d like us to stroll by and take a look at or if you just want to chat it up about comics, be sure to contact us. It’s sure to be a fun con this year with all sorts of surprises.
…on with the reviews.
ANNIHILATION: CONQUEST – STARLORD #1
Writer: Keith Giffen Penciller: Timothy Green II Inker: Victor Olazaba Publisher: Marvel Reviewer: Rock-Me AmodeoJust when you thought Marvel was incapable of publishing stories that weren’t drowning in their own continuity, along comes ANOTHER wave of the best package of stories they’ve put out in recent years, ANNIHILATION- CONQUEST. Granted, WRAITH didn’t exactly thrill me, but between NOVA and STARLORD (and the hot interstellar you-know-whos already highlighted elsewhere) I’m in for this round. This title was my favorite book of the week—a week that included BLUE BEETLE, mind you. THAT’S saying something.
To begin, we finally get the background on the artist formerly known as Starlord, and it’s compelling. But it’s not just the story that grabbed me, though my respect for Giffen has been increasing for some time now. What really made it for me was the art. Timothy Green has a style that reminds me of 70’s-era issues of HEAVY METAL, just the right mix of outer space visuals and jaunty swashbuckling snark. I wish I could describe it better, and I’m not sure it would work in a straight-up hero book (there’s no super-duper musculatures on display here, folks) but for this atmosphere, it’s just perfect.
As a bonus, we get one of the best supporting casts I’ve seen since…uhn, since the last ANNIHILATION arc. Now, you know I can’t stand odd characters that seem to be thrown together seemingly for the sake of sales (ooh – I’m such a cynic). But this cast makes sense, as they are all prisoners of the Kree for one reason or another. I won’t spoil all of them, but Loverbug seems to be Bug from the MICRONAUTS. He was always one of the more interesting characters of that series, but how he got here from the so-called Microverse is not explained. Of course, since Captain Universe is there as well, there might be a connection.
Another member of the team is female Shi’ar warrior Deathcry (not to be confused with female Shi’ar warrior DeathBIRD…all them female Shi’ar warriors looks the same ta me, but this is the teenager who served in the Avengers for a bit, believe it or not.) We also catch up with a certain celestial madonna, seemingly every bit as fetching and loony as Bjork without her meds. She has no speaking parts, but if her past is any indication, “this one” is certain that at some point, she’s gonna talk…and talk…and talk… Additionally, we have Groot, whom I’m sure EVERYONE remembers from TALES TO ASTONISH #13 back in 1960…no? Well, didn’t you catch him in NICK FURY’S HOWLING COMMANDOS #1-#6? No?
Well, the team is rounded out by…okay, that one I’ll let you find out on your own. But the nice thing is, even though all these characters have HISTORY, they’re not slaves to it. And we’re not prisoners of it, either. Never heard of these folks? Fine! You can jump right in. Seen every appearance of these characters? Fine! Get ready for more.
Here’s the deal – it’s a suicide mission against the onslaught of the advancing Phalanx, and Starlord is leading these folks into it. Strap on your weapons, activate thrusters, and let’s get to it. I’m really looking forward to the next issue.
HELLBOY: DARKNESS CALLS #4
Writer: Mike Mignola Artist: Duncan Fegredo Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Reviewer: JinxoMore Hellboyee goodness.
First, the art continues to be solid. Duncan Fegredo’s style is a bit more of a classic comic book look than Mignola’s style. Not quite as spare as Mignola’s style but he manages to throw a nice Mignola-esque flavor to it. His lines borrow nicely from him. Sweet. The story is also a lot of fun. Essentially Hellboy has been tricked into wandering off the path of the real world into the world of myth and magic. And those that have led him there are now doing their best to punch his ticket. The interesting thing is that often Hellboy’s adventures take him into conflict with more Lovecraftian villains or large mythical types. This story feels more like s trip through a fairy tale. A Grimm grim fairy tale but still more of that flavor. The main big bad are British witches. There are all manner of giants, gnomes and such scurrying around this book. Hellboy surprisingly even teams up with a Russian fairy tale character. For quick shorthand she is a sort of Russian Cinderella. Only her story gets a wee bit darker than your average Cinderella story.
And as it happens, Vasilisa’s original tale co-stars one of Hellboy’s old foes, a certain mythical Russian witch. She’s been keeping an eye out for Hellboy. No…wait…Hellboy put an eye out for her. I don’t think she’s over that yet. No “closure” there. If some, oh, witches were looking to subcontract some magical ass-kicking, she might be the witch to call.
The book is a lot of fun. Beatdowns, crazy violence, shocking turns. And Hellboy right in the middle of it. Always fun to watch Hellboy stick some common man reality into the fantasy. I actually just rewatched “Return of The King”. The scene comes up where Aragorn confronts Sauron through the palantir. It’s all grand and epic and cool but at some level I wanted Aragorn to just go, “Hey blinky. That’s right, the King is back you little punk bitch. And I am coming to put out your Visine-needing eye!” I love reading Hellboy because he would actually say that sort of thing. Screw the epic talk, talk to the giant epic villains like they’re crap and then kick the crap out of them. That’s all for you!
ABC WARRIORS : KHRONICLES OF KHAOS TPB
Writers: Pat Mills, Tony Skinner Artist: Kev Walker
Writer: Rob Williams Artist: Boo Cook Publisher: Rebellion/2000AD Reviewer: SquashuaBorn and raised in the United States, home of DC and Marvel and a ton of other imprints, I had never been exposed to 2000 AD. Sure, I had seen some JUDGE DREDD lying around and Sly Stallone did that movie, but the closest thing I could equate was HEAVY METAL magazine. As a fan of H.P. Lovecraft, my introduction to 2000 AD began years later when, as a H.P. Lovecraft (and occasional Grant Morrison follower, when he doesn’t go all SEA GUY on me) I snagged a ZENITH trade off eBay - true Cthulhu Mythos meets super-heroes; eye opening, provocative stuff. So when Ambush Bug recently asked an @$$hole to step up and review some 2000 AD material, you can't even imagine how hard I whipped my half-empty 40 of King Cobra at Jinxo's head when he started to raise his hand.
A week later, trades of ABC WARRIORS and ASYLUM trades were in my hands, and Jinxo’s mouth is still wired shut. Sorry, dude.
These are two absolutely entertaining and beautifully rendered science-fiction stories, featuring heavy character development and growth. Though they appear physically thin, they're full color prints on glossy paper, making some of the heaviest tomes I've ever picked up, each worthy in it's own right of being able to put Jinxo right back into the ICU.
ABC WARRIORS follows the antics of a robot tribe dedicated to spreading the gospel of Kaos across the galaxy--the aptly named ABC Warriors. These mechanical beasts of terror travel throughout a slowly unrestrained society, gathering heads for an impending sacrifice, and leaving gruesome deaths and wanton destruction in their wake. They bring with them a strange sense of justice, righting a few wrongs and helping to remove the broomsticks from the universe’s collective ass. For a while, the plot feels chaotic, for lack of a better description. The warriors land on planet Hekate, take down a witch-hunt, beat up an industrialist, assault some officers of the law, and piss off a mummy. They get into and out of multiple heavy military, complete loss situations, generally based on their own abilities, but occasionally due to a few (if you’ll excuse the phrase) "deus ex machina" moments from leader Deadlock.
Towards the end, the overarching goal is realized, and on a second reading the fact that a true plot linking all of this Lobo-esque violence together had been planned and staring you in the face from the very beginning becomes readily apparent.
The artwork is stunning; everything is painted and the robots always have a proper metallic sheen to them. Each panel is fully rendered in exquisite detail, and with care taken to maintain the consistency of each robot's complex design. The book also contains a Kev Walker Gallery with pin-ups and covers, creator bios, and an interesting preface by writer Pat Mills. This was my first introduction to the ABC Warriors, and I don't plan on letting it be my last; it turns out that the ABC Warriors have had many other adventures, and Warrior Hammerstein even had a cameo in the Judge Dredd movie.
ASYLUM has immigration meet science-fiction. That's the essential story here. In order to prevent conflict across borders, each country on Earth has been hermetically sealed under a giant bubble. This xenophobia hasn’t prevented multitudes of alien refugees from arriving and asking for political asylum, believing the streets to be paved with gold.
Our protagonist, Holt, is a half-human alien hybrid, whose in-born abilities make him a perfect alien bounty hunter. His job is to ensure that no alien bypasses the orbit-based immigration processor. Unfortunately, something is amiss aboard the processing satellite, and aliens begin running amok in a very graphic, somewhat hilarious, yet ultimately gruesome fashion. A lot of effort went into humanizing the aliens which are put in dire, darkly humorous situations; the tension, drama and trauma are palpable. The overall story is split into two halves, the first part taking place on the satellite, the second on Earth. They comprise an epic tale that defines Holt’s loyalties and allows him to determine where he truly belongs. Holt’s decisions and the issues surrounding them make for an extremely moving piece of social commentary relevant and applicable to many of today’s situations, including those of both immigration and terrorism.
The artistry and designs are astounding. The fully rendered aliens are a mixed variety; a multitude of species, many blessed with special abilities and designed with peculiar and unique cultural traits. There is a giant turtle beast wearing a fez, excited Disney-esque Earth tourists with t-shirts, cute squid-like atrocities, and cigar-chomping dog aliens. A lot of insight went into these pages and nary a detail is left out. In addition to the story, the trade also contains an interview with artist Boo Cook, select sketchbook pieces, and a cover gallery.
For about $25 (10.99 GBP) a book, that is a lot of scratch to shell out for a 100 glossy-page trade, but I feel there was more story and more value in either of these two books than in say, the recent ULTIMATES 2 PART II TPB. They make for excellent additions to any bookshelf.
Bowen Design’s 70’s CAPTAIN BRITAIN Sculpted Mini-Bust
Sculpted by Jim Maddox Reviewer: Ambush BugI know, I know. Using the words “bust” and “CAPTAIN BRITAIN” in the same title may bring back that sick “That wasn’t a raisin!” feeling that went along with Chuck Austen’s stanky run on THE AVENGERS where he introduced a new female Captain Britain and…uhm…brought her over to America to serve with the Avengers and mope soap-operatically about her estranged children.
But, no. It’s not that bust I’m talking about. It’s the smooth 70’s CAPTAIN BRITAIN Bust that I just got my grubby paws on that I can’t get enough of and had to blab to all of you about. I’m not one for buying bricka-brak spin-off merch of my favorite comic book characters. I spend enough money on comics as is. But when I saw this little baby in the solcits, I had to have it.
The thing is, I really don’t like the character of Captain Britain. He’s always come off as kind of a douchebag pretty boy with a hot shape-shifting girlfriend when I used to read about him in EXCALIBUR. He’s the kind of guy with the perfect hair, perfect fortune, perfect life that whined about how awful life was and how hard it was defending the Nexus of dimensional realities or some such nonsense. When it came to British heroes, I always fancied the mystery of the Black Knight or the more street-level coolness of Union Jack due to their taste in badass weaponry and cool as hell costumes.
But when I saw that the chisel-masters at Bowen Designs were doing a sculpture of Cap Britain in his original costume, it brought me back to my first meeting with Captain Britain in the pages of MARVEL TEAM-UP. I’m a bit hazy on the story, but I remember how cool the character looked (that’s all that mattered to me in those days of picking up comics in the convenience store off the squeaky rotating racks) and that he used to whomp the shit out of things with what looked like to me at the time to be a giant leg of a dining room table. The Union Jack facemask and the giant lion on his chest were just too amazing for this young soul to take and I had to seek out more. Through time, Cap Britain bulked up and dropped the cooler 70’s version of the suit and my interest waned exponentially with every passing year the old costume gathered mothballs.
Seeing the old costume brought back my initial feelings of “Awww cool!” and I knew that, despite the fact that I was running along the fine line of falling into another area of collecting that I would rather not necessarily dive into, I had to have it nonetheless.
And damn, doesn’t it live up to that level of coolness. Standing a mighty six inches tall, the details are many. The coloring is precise and vivid. And the pose says, “Keep yo’ mutha-flippin’ distance lest I blast yo’ ass with this dining room table leg, bitch n’ chips!!!!” except, of course, it’s in a British accent. The Amulet of Right dangles from a real chain from his neck and turns out that giant dining room table leg I loved is actually called the Star Scepter. It’s all resting on top of a solid base with a roaring lion on the front similar to the one on the good Captain’s chest insignia.
On top of the cool looking statue, I learned a bit more about Captain Britain from the box it came in. Bowen provides a pretty detailed description and history of Captain Britain’s origin and appearances. From costume changes to details about his weaponry, this purchase definitely made me curious about the character past his cool threads.
Now, I fear that I’m a bit hooked. Browsing through Bowen’s website, I found quite a few more cool statues I wouldn’t mind having decorate my desk as I type out my reviews. I already picked up the snazzy red-jacketed Wonder Man bust and am currently eyeing the bust of Daredevil’s nemesis Gladiator. I don’t know if I have room on my shelf for them all, but I’ll probably be looking for the sweet Black Knight and Union Jack busts at the upcoming con to round out my British trifecta. And maybe one day, my dreams of a 70’s Disco Dazzler bust will be a reality. But in the meantime, I’ve got Captain Britain looking down at me and yelling, “Write more reviews, bitch n’ chips!!!” in a British accent, of course, and he looks damn cool up there doing so.
BLACK METAL VOL. 1
Writer: Rick Spears Penciler: Chuck BB Publisher: Oni Press Reviewed by Humphrey LeeAnd Lo! Though the world be thee slowly ravaged by the tendrils of mundanity and felt by the lowly and frosty cold grasp of despair as popular culture sinks further and further into a desolate void of, uh, desolation, there remains a hope in these grim times ahead! And that hope is... BLACK METAL!!! Begone ye vile multitudes of trivial subject matter and trendy factions! Make way for the grim Brothers Stronghand and... uh...uh... aw fuck it, I can't keep this up.
Seriously, this book was pretty tits, and I suck at being clever, so let me just tell you a little about it why don't I, huh?
BLACK METAL is a quirky little brainchild from Rick Spears, a man who has created a couple real good ones here and there like TEENAGERS FROM MARS and THE PIRATES OF CONEY ISLAND. This Original Graphic Novel from Oni is about what it says; it's sort of the weekday afternoon cartoon riff on the genre of Black Thrash genre of music. Or maybe more of an adolescent version of METALOCALYPSE. I haven't really decided yet. But either way it's a really fun homage and roasting of that type of music.
The story focuses on twin brothers Shawn and Sam Stronghand, two youths that are bursting metal at the seams. These boys end up entangled in a very heavy and mythological quest involving demons battling for hell, mystical weaponry, and the most brutal of guitar riffs. And it's a story that never fully takes itself seriously and revels in the innate humor that tends to leveled at the subject matter at hand. Just the "grim and righteous" way the two brothers speak (and which I horribly tried to emulate to begin with here) brings a constant string of chuckles in how ridiculous it tends to get. Plus there's comedic relief galore with some of the side characters and the over-the-topness of the situations and battles they find themselves in the midst of. Sure, sometimes it gets a little self-indulgent, but I think that comes with the territory, and more importantly it never becomes very "cutesy" since it is aimed more at a younger audience. In fact, there's a little gruesomeness here in these pages as some demon folk get cartoonishly disemboweled like something in an Itchy & Scratchy short on the Simpsons. But it's all in good fun.
The art in this digest sized OGN is a perfect match for the "spoof-ish" story. It's a very animated style, again, something you'd probably see if you flipped on the old Cartoon Network at 4pm on a school day, which I imagine was the plan all along. But it's got a lot of energy to it, even in a panel that's just a simple throwing up of the horns. And there's tons of great sight gags and even some pretty righteous battle sequences too. Just more good fun to add to an already heaping pile.
This is another great digestual treat from Oni this year, and fills a great little subculturally comedic void until the next volume of SCOTT PILGRIM from Oni graces shops across the country. If I'm not mistaken it should be arriving in stores the day this review makes an appearance so it's something to keep an eye out for. At the very least it's worth a flip through; even if you're not a fan of the music or all too familiar with the stuff it's there's probably enough gags or troll dismemberment in these pages to keep you entertained throughout. Should Oni hopefully continue to produce volumes of these, this is another great addition to their roster.
GRAPHIC CLASSICS: H. P. LOVECRAFT - VOLUME FOUR (Second Edition)
Writer: Howard Phillips Lovecraft Publisher: Eureka Productions Website: Graphic Classics Reviewer: SquashuaIn my review of GOTHIC CLASSICS a few weeks back, I mentioned being impressed enough to go to the Graphic Classics website and pick up a couple more books, including the Lovecraft volume. During the time between my receipt of the book and writing this review, I went to a game convention (Origins, in Columbus) and while there I noticed every table which sold Cthulhu Mythos tchotchkes had a stack with copies of this exact volume (and its earlier edition). I am reviewing the Second Edition of this book, which has an additional 75 new pages over the initial release. I could not tell you which stories are newer, but will let you know that I could only order the second edition from the Graphic Classics website. As with all Graphic Classics volumes, this one ends with artist and writer biographies.
“A Memory” Artist: Gerry Alanguilan
Appearing as a single page pre-index presentation, this is a short poem from “Fungi from Yuggoth”, the words painting a chilling vision which was skillfully brought to the page in a single, haunting image.
“The Shadow Over Innsmouth” Adapter: Alex Burrows Artist: Simon Gane
Lovecraft’s classic tale of a degenerate town with a small fish problem is wonderfully and faithfully rendered to the page with designs using hard angles rather than rounded corners. The designs have a slight cartoon-y lilt to them, but it comes across with the same dread the original story imparts. I would have preferred a slightly more distinguished “Innsmouth Look” for the protagonist earlier on, as his facial structure is too similar to the grocery cashier, but that is a minor nit-pick at best.
“Dreams in the Witch-House” Adapter: Rich Rainey Artist: Pedro Lopez
This story of a haunted man living in a haunted house is much more easily visualized here as a comic than it is as a story. The eldritch designs used for the Mythos concepts are quite accurate and this is another faithful translation evoking much excitement and fear in the reader. I felt I got more out of this story in the comic format than I ever did on the printed page. The artwork has clean, sharp lines with well detailed elements.
“Sweet Ermengarde” Adapter: Rod Lott Artist: Kevin Atkinson
I’ve never read “Sweet Ermengarde” before. I guess Lovecraft made an attempt at a goofy stage play satire, poking fun at the “sweet girl goes to a city to find her fortune and proper suitor” storyline of the times. It’s amusing jest, presented in a “you are watching a performance” format. It’s clearly not what I expected, but it was nice to read something “new”. The artwork is deliberately silly, with set pieces ushered in by various Mythos beings, and the audience consisting of a select milieu of Lovecraftian characters. A nice respite from the otherwise dark stories in the volume.
“Herbert West: Reanimator” (four chapters) Adapter: Tom Pomplun Artists: Richard Corben, Rick Geary, J. B. Bonivert, Mark Nelson
For those who don’t realize it, yes, “Reanimator” is a Lovecraft property. Each story is a different tale about the experiments of Herbert West as he tries to create and properly use a serum that brings the dead back to life. I own a lot of older Lovecraft-themed comic books, one of which contained all the various “Reanimator” tales put together in an out-of-order format with minimal artistry. This attempt completely trumps that earlier volume. Each of the four chapters presented here is illustrated by a different artist, each of them giving the Reanimator a proper treatment.
“The Cats of Ulthar” Adapter : Tom Pomplun Artist: Lisa K. Weber
This tale from the Dreamlands relates the how and why the cats are most prized and treated with due respect in the land of Ulthar. Instead of a comic panel presentation, each page has a full illustration associated with the paragraph appearing next to it. It is just as effective, considering how truly short this short story is.
“The Terrible Old Man” Adapter / Artist: Onsmith Jeremi
My least favorite tale in this volume, “The Terrible Old Man” tells of a planned robbery gone awry, and is handled with a straightforward 9-panel-a-page fashion. The art is grim but cartoon-y; I’ve seen the art style before in some short National Lampoon or collegiate cartoons, and I know that others appreciate its “indie” style, but coupled with the story, it is simply not for me.
“The Shadow Out of Time” Adapter / Artist: Matt Howarth
One of my favorite Lovecraft stories and the best of this volume, “The Shadow Out of Time” is a classic, yet wholly unique tale of alien abduction. A professor who had suffered from amnesia is invited to join an expedition into the Australian outback where he realizes a horrifying personal connection. Certainly predictable, especially coupled with the realistically rendered images (and a cameo by Doc Samson), this story still evokes the overall universal dread that fleshes out one of my favorite aspects of the Cthulhu Mythos.
As I have read most of these stories in their non-comic format, and though I would have preferred some different or additional choices (“The Dunwich Horror”, “The Call of Cthulhu”, “The Mountains of Madness”, “The Whisperer in Darkness”, “The Colour Out of Space”, or a Randolph Carter collection), the ones illustrated here have impressed me greatly, and I would not hesitate to purchase an additional volume containing more illustrated Lovecraft stories. As an introduction to the Cthulhu Mythos and for $12, this black-and-white book makes for a top notch gift to anyone.
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, SEASON EIGHT #5
Writer: Joss Whedon Penciller: Paul Lee Inker: Andy Owens Publisher: Dark Horse
SPIKE: SHADOW PUPPETS #2 (of 5)
Writer: Brian Lynch Artist: Franco Urru Publisher: IDW Publishing Reviewer: Rock-Me AmodeoIf you don’t “get it” by now, you probably never will, because Buffy is a small cultural phenomenon, like (long ago) the Grateful Dead were, for a time. Those who got it were extremely loyal – those that didn’t, they just stood back, shaking their heads in disbelief, thinking “What is all the fuss about?” Except Buffy fans possibly bathe more than Deadheads.
Issue 5 of BUFFY marks the end of this arc of Whedon-penned stories. I won’t say the arc was everything I thought it would be, since I know that there were lines uttered and hints dropped that won’t make complete sense until a few months from now. But I don’t care. Much like the way Dawny felt as she looked joyfully at a grimy, injured and befuddled Buffy in episode 7.2 (after spending the summer cozying up to the Buffy-bot between seasons six and seven), I’m just happy to have my Buffy back. It doesn’t matter to me exactly what shape she’s in.
But this issue isn’t about Buffy, rather one of her stand-ins. And not the one partying in Rome, but one that is literally underground, doing Buffy-type things. Herc made it sound like she had her own supporting staff, but I don’t thing things have gone that far. She does have people who care about her, and that counts for something. The action is glossed over, though, as this book is really about the temperament of our protagonist. It’s like most Whedon stories, actually - the action is simply the vehicle used to carry the character development.
Paul Lee does an excellent job on the artwork, making recognizable characters…well, recognizable. We also see Giles and a few minor characters, but our centerpiece is the backstory of a nameless girl, whom we are supposed to like, and I do. I’ll let you read the rest.
As for SPIKE, I think Bryan Lynch is doing a great job with this character. One or two lines had me chuckling for a few days, and the book “feels” like Spike. I don’t need to give you the plot – I mean, it’s Spike and ninja puppets. How much more do you need? Anything more self-explanatory would have to be called “Snakes on a Plane” by definition.
I have stayed away from many of the IDW Buffyverse mini-series because they’re usually hit-or-miss, with more than a few more in the “miss” column. But this one hits, and I think that’s because it draws on the SPIKE: ASYLUM mini-series (which was also good, which was also written by Lynch). Hey, getting the “in” jokes is half the fun of this universe, so it’s definitely appreciated.
I wish Urru’s pencils were inked a bit more definitively. He makes very good use of space and lighting, but there were more than a few places where I think he was going for “mood” and wound up with “muddy.” Each panel conveys the essence of each action, but there’s nothing that makes you go “Holy crap, let me look at that again!” Still, it’s nice to look at—we’ve settled for far worse.
And at least Spike will come out once a month for the next three months. BUFFY is on hiatus until September, until the Faith arc begins, and after that, it might be a FRAY-like YEAR until BUFFY comes out again, so we have only Spike to keep us warm. No ANGEL series on the table as far as I know. But that’s okay, because in my opinion, Spike on a bad day is still about twice as interesting as Angel on ANY day.
Now, a mini-series, with Buffy, Spike…and Faith…and Illyria…penned by Whedon and drawn by Chen…(*shakes self into waking*) well, that would just be too much ask for, wouldn’t it? Joss? Joss?
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #542
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski Penciler: Ron Garney Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: JinxoCredit where credit is due: I think JMS wrote his ass off to try and make his “Back In Black” story work but… I still don’t think it’s enough.
So, for those late to the party, an assassin’s bullet meant for Spidey has landed Aunt May in the hospital with the potential for a free trip to the morgue. Filled with rage, Spider-Man pulled out his old black costume as a symbol of his willingness to go the dark side while finding out who was responsible for what happened to May (that and there was this movie out…). Spider-Man has discovered the man behind it all is his old foe The Kingpin. The build has been Spider-Man is out not to hurt Kingpin but to actually kill him.
Okay, before even talking about the issue itself, that’s the point where the whole premise potentially goes kablooey. The idea of someone decent wanting to go that far, to kill in the name of someone they love, is believable. The problem is I don’t think any Spidey-fan wants to see Peter Parker turned into a stone cold killer, even for the noblest of reasons. But on top of that is a bigger problem: does anyone out there believe they would actually kill off Kingpin? Really? Cause I don’t. And for me to buy this story, for it to have some real weight, they would have to go all the way and actually follow through on killing fatboy. All of which leads to an impossible Catch-22. If Spidey kills Kingpin the story fails because they ruin who Peter Parker is. If Spidey doesn’t kill Kingpin then the story fails because it doesn’t live up to its promise. I just don’t see how JMS can write himself out of that corner.
But, I’ll tell ya, he gives it a hell of a try. This issue is THE big moment, Spidey vs. Kingpin. JMS does throw his all into it. At the start it almost feels like Spidey and Kingpin have switched roles with Kingpin being the snarky one and Spider-Man the more serious. The fight is set in a really great location. What he does with the suit made me go, “Ooh. I like that!” As to the battle itself, some might buy it. I do. Given Peter’s focused rage…I buy it. And then there is the part where…man, I so want to say multiple things that would all be too spoilerish. I’ll just say the page that starts with Peter “helping” Kingpin to his feet? That whole page is great, biatch.
JMS really lays out all sorts of fun and razzle dazzle. Stuff I really loved. Good action, solid dialogue. Really good stuff that, while it tries to, fails to hide the fact that the book doesn’t live up to its promises. It reeeally tries to pretend it does but… it doesn’t. Not yet at least. One issue to go with which, I guess, a miracle can be worked but as of yet… no go. If the story was going to go for it, this was where it seems it would have and it didn’t.
He also really tries to spin the idea of Peter killing Kingpin into something…acceptable. But it still just felt creepy and wrong for me. Spin it some more because I still don’t like it. That crap is too dark even for fricking Batman. BATMAN BEGINS already used the only move that could make this story work of the hero almost following through on killing the bad guy only to be beaten to the punch.
Again, one issue to go. Maybe he can pull it off in that last issue but I just don’t see it. This issue just tried so amazingly hard and fell short so…I just don’t see the last issue doing any better.