Greetings Faithful Talkbackers, Ambush Bug here. Just wanted to toss out another quick reminder that there will be a handful of @$$Holes at this year’s WIZARD WORLD CHICAGO at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, IL just north of Chicago on August 10th, 11th, and 12th. Humphrey Lee, Sleazy G, and myself will be out and about, circling the booths and hobnobbing with stars and fans alike. So if you’ve got a booth or a book you’d like us to stroll by and take a look at or if you just want to chat it up about comics, be sure to contact us. It’s sure to be a fun con this year with all sorts of surprises.
…on with the reviews.
BLACK ADAM: THE DARK AGE #1 (of 8)
Writer: Peter Tomasi Penciller: Doug Mahnre Inkers: Alamy and Rapmund Publisher: DC Comics An @$$Hole Two in One Review by: Rock-Me Amodeo and JinxoJinxo here with Rock-Me Amodeo with an advanced sneak peak at DC Comic’s new BLACK ADAM mini-series. The series details exactly what happened between the end of 52 where we saw Black Adam de-powered and the start of COUNTDOWN where he showed up powered up again and sharing his tainted power with Marvel Girl. Instead of a typical review Amodeo and myself decided to do discuss what we thought of the new book. So, Rock-Me Amodeo?
Rock-Me: The one thing I really appreciate is that Black Adam is not some kind of tortured noble soul. He's a killer and an SOB, and he's being written that way. He'll lie straight faced to anyone if it furthers his goals.
Jinxo: Interesting. I wouldn’t use the word "noble" in there either but I do think “tortured soul” fits. Maybe a damned tortured soul. Did he lie? I mean, you know, aside from the people looking to catch him? He came across to me more like a sort of cult leader sort who actually puts his wants and needs ahead of his people and their safety. That said, it didn't seem to me he lied to them about what he was up to but instead somehow convinced them that his goal was worth them potentially getting dead for.
I liked that even though this is a comic book about people with super powers it wasn't a "super powers" book. Yes, super powers, magic and stuff are in there, but they really take a back seat to more real world gritty action and characterizations. And I have to say, growing up I always sort of looked at Black Adam as one more "exact opposite of the hero" villains. The evil opposite number to Captain Marvel. Which works and all, but really, you end up defining the bad guy off of the hero counterpart. Now though, I think Black Adam stands on his own as a character, separate and not defined by the Big Red Cheese. I like Captain Marvel but I'm finding Black Adam a more compelling character. Creepy but compelling.
Rock-Me: Well, I thought it was particularly ballsy to rant about the evil that Black Adam caused his country, knowing full well that he was the one who did it.
I mean, I looked at it again to see if it was cleverly disguised self-loathing (which might have been seemed "poignant" and "deep," but ultimately "trite") but it wasn't. It was more than that. He seems to have almost sociopathic tendencies whilst in pursuit of his goal. Sure, that goal may be a greater good in his mind, but it's the dark side of Nietzsche, fer sure. And we see that "end-justifies-the-means" thing played out even further as he nears his goal (i.e., his choice of sustenance, for example).
Jinxo: See, I just view the anti-Black Adam rants as too freaky. You want to get to point X, the only way is to say certain things, you say 'em. I think if it was a WWII era Captain America trying to sneak into Germany undercover, he'd say whatever crap he thought they'd want to hear.
Ah, I forgot about the fine dining menu. And I'm not so sure he has anyone's greater good in mind except his own. He figures it's him against the world so then the world be damned. Actually Adam reminds me of Harold from Stephen King's THE STAND. The kid starts off creepy and wrong. Then he gets this one shot at saving his soul, becoming a good guy and doing the right thing. But then it all just goes wrong and he falls further, becoming more broken, just plain irredeemable and almost pitiable.
Rock-Me: Damn Nadine!
No, like you said, he’s not the opposite number of Marvel, nor is he some kind of limp anti-hero. He's somewhere between driven and evil and he's becoming more and more a character in his own right. I don't think I would want to read 100-200 issues of "The Irredeemable Black Adam" but it's a very compelling and thought-provoking read for the nonce. And it should certainly evoke some strong mental images of recently fallen real-world tyrants. At least it did for me.
Whadja think of the art? I was really impressed with how well it fit the mood.
Jinxo: I liked the art quite a bit. Again, even though it sort of sticks to the classic hero-book style in general, I think it had a nice real world, dirty lived-in (and died-in) look. Black Adam's sort of Rasputin-after-a-bad-car-accident look I quite liked.
I actually just wish DC hadn't been in such a hurry to get COUNTDOWN up and running. One of my complaints with Countdown was that Black Adam just pops back up good as new with no explanation as to how he got his powers back. Yes, this book will spell that all out and I can't wait to see what happens.
But I think the flow of his story would have been better if DC handled it better. You have 52 end, then you just let Black Adam fall off the radar for a month or two. Then when the readers are good and curious you start this book. Then, finally, AFTER this tale is told go have him handing out bad power mojo to innocent little Marvel Girls. I know, I know, they wanted to do the evil Marvel Girl thing ASAP but I just think skipping over his tale and then going back steps on the pacing of Black Adam's tale just a bit. Still looks to be a good story I just personally think DC screwed up the flow a bit.
Rock-Me: Yeah, the Mad Mary Marvel might have been a better story if SHE (not Black Adam) had just suddenly shown up, with HER powers, claiming she was fine. Then we would have watched her spiral to "the dark side...", which would given them time to do the Black Adam story (in bi-weekly installments, even) and then give the Big Reveal of Adam as her benefactor toward the end. Ah, well, I'm sure when DC is hiring writers and editors, they will invariably seek one or both of us out.
But one thing is clear: Adam is a bad mamma-jamma, and if the life span of his loyal henchman is equal to that of any girl who gets engaged to a Cartwright, it’s got to be even worse for the people who piss him off. He's so ruthless, I'm not sure one could even call him a protagonist.
Bottom line for me is, with a few minor nits, this is a very readable and beautifully drawn story that may make you cringe several times over before it’s all said and done.
Jinxo: Agreed. The path ahead looks dark and twisty (or twisted) but it also looks to be a hell of a ride.
Writer: Garth Ennis Art: Howard Chaykin Publisher: Marvel MAX Reviewer: Ambush BugSo issue fifty comes around and what does Garth Ennis do?
Does he do a retrospective issue where the Punisher gets locked in a freezer with Sam the Butcher and they swap stories of ridding the world of scum and banging Alice on that teeter totter Bobby and Cindy used to play on?
Well, no. Maybe Garth is holding off for issue #100 for that one.
Instead, Garth writes the hell out of a new arc for the Punisher--one that looks to be full of surprises, thrills, and wanton kick-@$$$ery.
I’ve been a staunch supporter of this series since the MAX relaunch. Little by little, Garth Ennis dropped the Spacker Dave and the Russian schtick and took the character seriously. Now, Ennis is writing some of the best Punisher stories ever, peeling back the hard shell that the Punisher has built around himself after the death of his family long ago.
For the last few years, this introspection of the Punisher’s psyche has been only hinted at. A lot of times, the inner monologue we get to read only comes at the beginning and ending of these arcs, but in issue fifty, an issue which begins the new arc entitled “The Long, Cold Dark”, we get an entire issue dedicated to the thoughts of the most notorious vigilante in the Marvel U. And while the issue might drag a bit in the middle when Frank gets all “PUNISHER ARMORY” on us and gives a vivid description of the weaponry he chooses to carry, the action moves fast and furious with double and triple crosses on top of manipulations and lies.
This issue also features the return of what looks to be the Punisher’s new arch-nemesis, Barracuda. I’m a big fan of the big guy. He seems to be a truly formidable foe for Frank. And let’s face it, he’s the only guy besides Jigsaw and the Kingpin who has faced the Punisher and lived, so that makes him pretty tough. Barracuda’s appearance is hot on the heels of his own oft-times, over-the-top miniseries that was penned by Ennis as well. I don’t mind seeing the B-Man return in this issue (it truly is a stellar return at that as Barracuda reads the Punisher like a pre-school book and sets him up for capture pretty easily), but I wish the powers-that-be at Marvel would have waited a tiny bit before tossing him at the public again. I’d hate for such a cool character go the mundane way of Venom, the Joker, and Sabretooth, who all lost their bite when they were forced into each and every comic book month after month. Especially with a guy like the Punisher. I don’t want to see him go, but it’s going to be either the Punisher or this Barracuda that loses its bite if both walk away from this one.
Although I wasn’t a fan of his recent work on HAWKGIRL with his focus on tearing off the poor heroine’s shirt to reveal a lace bra in every issue, I must admit Howard Chaykin did one hell of a job with this issue. The art is slightly more stylized than the usual art we’re used to seeing in this series, but Chaykin’s panels, highlighted with grimy glee by the talented colors of Edgar Delgado, really makes this an enjoyable story to look at. Chaykin pays just enough attention to the hardware, depicting them with accurate, even fetishistic precision. The action sequence when the Punisher finally meets Barracuda is equally impressive, depicting complicated camera movements and shots without losing this reader.
Ennis has set the stakes high in this issue. The Punisher is trapped by an arch-nemesis, but it’s suggested that there is yet another character pulling the strings. Could that be the first-time-being-written-by-Ennis appearance of the aforementioned Jigsaw I see on the horizon? Not sure. But this book is as good as ever and some of the best if you are missing the Garth Ennis serious action/drama writer from his old PREACHER days.
GODS OF ASGARD GN
Creator: Erik Evensen Publisher: Studio E3 Reviewer: Dan Grendell"These are the gods as I see them…sometimes tragic, often fallible, but always powerful, they populate the mythology as complete, well-rounded characters.”
Norse mythology has been drawn on often in comics and fantasy, and it’s not hard to see why. Hard-fighting heroes, clever villains, items of power, tales of romance -- it’s all there in a rough and ready style. Other mythologies are certainly fascinating, and have a draw of their own, but no gods feel as much like real people to me as the Norse. It’s that connection that has made stories about characters like Thor more innately interesting to me than characters like Hercules (and yes, I’m aware that the superhero versions of those gods far from represent the mythological versions. Not my point).
That same interest led me to take notice of this upcoming graphic novel, where instead of using the Norse myths as a launching point for a book, Erik Evensen searches the ancient Eddas and retells those myths in all their exciting and captivating glory. Granted a Xeric Award to self-publish the book, Evensen shows that he definitely earned it by going from Creation to Ragnarok and all places in between in stunning fashion. Strong lines and a panel layout that focuses as much on what’s happening between panels as it does on what’s happening in them create a focused storytelling technique that draws the reader into each myth, and each individual panel is a treat as well, with a practiced use of shadow and blacks and a natural feel to the lines.
By telling a variety of different myths, Evensen is able to explore who many of the gods are as people, not just as stereotypes or forces, and that understanding makes the entire mythology stronger. From a tale of Freya’s obsessive love to an attempt by Thor to avenge a humiliation, most of the stories are not world-shaking events or attempts to explain natural phenomena, but stories about the lives of the gods and how they lived. Whether you look at these through the eyes of a Joseph Campbell reader, a comics fan, or just someone looking for an enjoyable story, you have a thrill coming your way.
I can only hope that others take up this trend and we begin to see more graphic novels like this. Virgin Comics is doing a series of comics about the Indian gods, but that is focused more on each individual deity. I know I would like to know more about how they interrelate, and if someone did a Celtic or Japanese version of GODS OF ASGARD, I’d be all over it.
This is an advance review -- this book is not scheduled to release for another month or so.
STEPHEN KING’S THE DARK TOWER: THE GUNSLINGER BORN #7
Script: Peter David Art: Jae Lee and Richard Isanove Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: JinxoAll not versed in the ways of Mid-World, turn ye back now. For those what are, listen close if ya will. With issue number seven the first DARK TOWER comic translation draws to a close. Only seven ain’t lucky for nobody this time around, ‘cept maybe for those who appreciate reading about vile deeds and seein’ such deeds depicted in pretty pictures.
The tales as it’s been tellin’ has concerned the first adventure of the young Gunslinger Roland and his ka-tet, that bein’ his friends who have joined him on this fateful mission. Roland shouldn’t be on a mission at ‘tall. He hurried too soon to embrace his place as a gunslinger, was sent off on this mission into the world likely too soon. Having done that he made the foolish mistake of fallin’ in love with the wrong girl in the wrong place at the wrong time when his head should have been on what he was supposed to do, do ya ken it?
But life happens as it will and there’s nothing for it. As the final chapter of this tale starts, Roland’s ka-tet is set to unleash violence and destruction on thems that deserve it. And such violence this reviewer has not seen in many a day. By knife, by shot or by doom more horrible than there are words for, there is vivid death enough for all. Horrible but pretty as a paintin’ if you please.
But as I say seven ain’t lucky for none and that goes for Roland and his ka-tet as well as for villains. For as he moves to take the lives of hundreds of evil men, an evil woman moves to take the one life Roland values as high as his own and yet has left less well guarded than is wise. Watch ye the dreamlike images of death wrought onto men what have it comin’ but also watch death wrought on them what don’t. And watch as the face of Roland the still summit innocent boy hardens into that of Roland the forever damned man.
THE ANNOTATED NORTHWEST PASSAGE OGN
Scott Chantler: Creator Oni Press : Publisher Vroom Socko: King of the Wild FrontierI have to admit something right out the gate: I’m an annotation junkie. I’m a massive fan of this site of comics annotations, not to mention the various times I’ve cracked open FROM HELL, only to read Alan Moore’s notes in the back. So NORTHWEST PASSAGE gets points from me right with the title.
Of course, I’d already read the initial issue of this story, of which this volume collects parts one thru three, so there were points there already beyond a written history of the Hudson’s Bay company. I had the build-up of the saga of Charles Lord, governor of remote Fort Newcastle in 1755, well in hand. His friends among the Cree, his subordinates in the Company, his enemies among the French, and let’s not forget his son. I knew them all, but not where their journey led to. Well, it leads to ass-kicking.
This is apparently Chantler’s first published written comic. The way he manages to juggle character, plot, action and all around badassness, you’d think he’d been writing for decades. This story works, not because of the badass elements, but because the characters are so strong and clearly defined and everything else hangs off of that. That is what’s known as great writing.
This book is a blast, and the promise of a follow-up is a welcome one. I simply must see what Lord and his cohorts decide to do with themselves after the events of this volume. I’m especially curious to read more of René the French mercenary, as well as John Blackmoon, that mad cross between Daniel Boone and Snake-Eyes.
This is a wild, crazy frontier ride. It’s fun, thrilling, and smart. It’s chock full of background notes and is wrapped up in a perfect package. Do not miss out on this one.
THE NEW AVENGERS: ILLUMINATI #4
Writers: Brian Michael Bendis and Brian Reed Penciler: Jim Cheung Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: JinxoHey! A story where the Illuminati are not acting like total tools! Almost, but not quite. Kinda nice.
I have to say I enjoyed the hell out of the start of this book in particular. Bendis real world talk at its best. Anyone who has to deal with meetings at work knows that often meetings are preceded by friendly and stupid pre-meeting banter about stupid minutiae. Seeing that the most powerful men in the Marvel universe are prone to the same pre-meeting BS was funny as hell. Seriously, I would not have guessed Dr. Strange was internet savvy either! Also good to know that the big guns are just as clueless about women as the rest of us.
The main body of the story was also a nice change of pace. Instead of just shooting people into space, the guys debate between a moral and immoral solution to a problem and decide to go with the moral solution! Go figure. I really enjoyed the flow and logic of the story as the Illuminati tried to find a solution to dealing with young Noh-Varr’s world crushing desires. It was thoughtful, involving and not bone-headed at all. Odd since I thought bone-headed decisions were required in the Illuminati’s charter.
The art for the issue is top notch too. The story relies both on big images of landscapes and battles and on smaller images of more subtle facial expressions, both of which are well done. Sub-Mariner smirking or kicking ass, Noh-Varr seeing worlds through others’ eyes and looking into his own soul…it all worked really well.
ROYAL FLUSH MAGAZINE ISSUE # 4
Publisher: The #Number Foundation Reviewer: Dan GrendellAt first, as I opened up the pages of ROYAL FLUSH and began reading, I was a little confused as to why they had sent me a copy. It’s sort of like Rolling Stone if it was written by the guys who work at Maxim, without the focus on T&A. You know, sort of blue-collar, goofy humor, with a focus on music, though unlike Rolling Stone, ROYAL FLUSH really seems to have a more indie feel to it and the bands it covers and artists it focuses on aren’t ones you would think to see in headlines. Regardless, there didn’t seem to be much for a comics reviewer to see.
Then I started taking a better look at the articles I was seeing. These weren’t slick pieces filled with headshots and whatnot. These articles were filled with bits of artwork, some from comics artists, some not, but all hip and all much more interesting and individual than mere photos. That’s more like it, I thought. I wasn’t personally too interested in the contents of the articles, many of which seemed to be a bit out of date, but the artwork was turning me on. Hell, even the ads were filled with cool artwork, not at all the slick crap I was used to seeing.
The real payoff, though, came when I hit the actual comics section. It took up roughly a quarter of the 136 page magazine, all in full color, and featured funky indie jams from the likes of Steve Chanks, Josh Bernstein, Shannon Wheeler, Erik Rodriguez, Ryan Dunlavey, Harlan P. Cress, and John Reis. Ranging from Too Much Coffee Man to a Hitler-hammering Jewish combo named the Mitzvah 4 to the frenetic Hispanic Batman, there was nothing but energy and creativity on those pages and they actually seemed a bit out of place alongside tired Michael Jackson jokes.
Overall, I found ROYAL FLUSH to be a mixed bag. The comics were cool, with an energy all their own, and the art throughout the magazine gave it its own vibe, but there was a strange dichotomy between lame humor and actually interesting articles about bands like the Dresden Dolls. The comics stuff alone makes it worth a look, though if they can figure out what kind of magazine they want to be this could be a great read.
JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #8
Writer: Geoff Johns Penciller: Fernando Pasarin Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: JinxoI have to say, I really am enjoying Geoff John’s run on JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA. I’m not sure he’s everybody’s cup ‘o tea but I really enjoy his style. I like that beyond the characters having super powers and running around in tights, he actually really treats them like people. The classic hero trope is that everybody has their vulnerability, their weakness. Superman has kryptonite, Green Lantern can’t effect anything that’s yellow, Batman has that bad peanut allergy…but Geoff John’s gives his heroes real human vulnerabilities. His heroes might be powerful heroes but beyond that, their lives can be just as messed up as ours are. Heck, theirs can be worse. I’d be tempted to say, oh, he’s taking the Marvel heroes tack except I think maybe his heroes have even worse times of it. I mean, Spider-Man feels a need to make his dead Uncle Ben proud. But Citizen Steel gets to feel overshadowed by and unworthy of his family legacy while also having no ability to physically feel others AND having to wear tons of armor just to mute his powers. With Peter Parker you can go, yeah his life is rough, but he gets to be Spider-Man. Citizen Steel? Wow, his whole life is a struggle.
The latest issue focuses on Liberty Belle and Damage. On the face of it, they would seem on the opposite ends of the spectrum. Damage is actually physically – and through that mentally – damaged. Liberty Belle seems to be, as the book states, perfect. But as the story unfolds, we see that Liberty Belle’s life, like nobody’s life, is perfect. Liberty Belle might not have had a soul crushing life as Damage has, but it clearly ain’t been a bed of roses. I’m not familiar with all the DC heroes and until now I didn’t really know or care a ton about Liberty Belle. I mean, I’ve read stories featuring her but she never made an impression on me. But with this issue, I now feel like I have a vested interest in her. More than that, I like her.
And I feel quite a bit of pity for Damage. He sums up his pain with one particular line concerning things he will never have again given his facial deformity that was for me pretty moving. It hit me as the sort of pain someone might keep inside but would rarely say aloud. And as to heroic vulnerabilities, if someone was to say to most people, “You can be a superhero, but the trade off is you can never have this thing again,” I think most people would take a pass on the whole hero thing.
Next issue: Green Lantern suffers from halitosis and Hourman copes with the heartbreak of psoriasis. Oddly enough, if that were true, I think Johns would actually have me giving a damn.
Story: Warren Ellis Artwork: Raulo Caceres Publisher: Avatar Press Reviewer: Sleazy GA couple of years back, Warren Ellis established an imprint at Avatar called Apparat. Its intent was to allow him a place to publish one-shots in a wide variety of genres and tell stories that wouldn’t ordinarily reach a more mainstream audience. Unfortunately, his first batch of Apparat titles sold out so quickly I never got the chance to read them, making CRECY my inaugural Apparat title. Now that I’ve read it, I can see why the imprint was necessary: CRECY is a story that wouldn’t make sense with most other publishers. It could certainly be stretched out to a miniseries, or at least a full-length graphic novel, but it would have been unnecessary and excessive. At 44 pages, it feels just right--like Ellis had something to say and knew when to stop.
CRECY retells the tale of a legendary battle that took place on French soil in August of 1346. Ancient history, to be sure, and a story reminiscent of the Spartans’ stand at Thermopylae, only instead of a handful of soldiers defending their homeland it’s actually about a small but brutally effective squad of British soldiers as aggressors, devastating a far larger and better equipped French army. As was the case with the Spartans, the numbers sound as if they’ve been aggrandized in the telling—a couple hundred British men lost while taking out thirty thousand Frenchmen seems unlikely at best. Still, it’s the kind of macho asskickery that makes history more interesting for the telling, and while the numbers may seem a bit off it’s still a grimly inspirational story.
I don’t know if I’ve ever heard the tale before or not, to be honest—I don’t recall it from my Modern European History classes in high school, but then again, that was long enough ago to be considered history itself. But this story of a British people so fed up with getting their asses kicked by the French for so many generations that they take the fight to them—and do so with a savagery and brutality completely at odds with the chivalrous traditions of the times—is definitely one that deserves more attention. Ellis tends to do an awful lot of research into his subjects, and the real focus of this book is on the strategy and weaponry of the times. It’s almost a primer on medieval warfare, explaining how weapons were made and put to use in the field. Some of it was familiar—the different types of arrowheads used for different purposes and the vital role of excrement in battle, for example—while some of it was a bit surprising. While everyone is aware of the use in Southeast Asia this century of traps made by hiding pits filled with wooden spikes, I had no idea the British had used it 600 years earlier, and it’s piqued my interest enough to make me want to look into the subject further.
There are times where the book feels a little like a textbook as it lays out the above information; the book is narrated by one of the soldiers as if he’s talking to a modern reader directly rather than being told as a story that gradually unfolds. That said, Ellis isn’t one to do a dry educational manual by any means. The book is full of era-appropriate vulgarities, and being English our narrator is merciless when talking about the French. Still, they’re not the only ones to get the short end of the stick: the Normans, Scottish and Welsh all get their fair share as well. And once the battle finally kicks off, we get our fair of battlefield butchery.
I’ve not seen Raulo Caceres’ work before, but he definitely impresses here. The artwork is black and white, with a detailed style that at times resembles etchings. Caceres does well with all of the details, from facial expressions to accurate depictions of the weaponry. Even potential trouble spots for black and white work like rain and evening scenes are handled well with only one or two minor exceptions. It’s a style that’s well suited to the subject matter, and Caceres is a name I’ll be watching for in the future.
If you’re looking for something new or have an interest in historical battles, this one is definitely worth checking out. For those of you who are already Ellis fans, not to worry—his signature attitude and style are here, just presented in a different manner than you’re used to seeing. Which is a good thing, as far as I’m concerned—seeing a writer stretch himself and push in new directions is always worthwhile. CRECY wasn’t quite what I was expecting, but it was an interesting and entertaining read, and one I’m glad I decided to try.