|#32||12/5/07 & 12/12/07||#6|
THE CIRCLE #2
Writer: Brian Reed Artist: Ian Hosfield Colorist: Len O’Grady Publisher: Image Comics Reviewer: Rock-MeTHE CIRCLE is a story about a group of mercs whose core is made up of a gruff fighter named Ulee and the young woman he has (perhaps) helped raise, Ilona. (Remember Ivan and Natasha, before the Black Widow got ret-conned in WOLVERINE: ORIGINS? Sorta like that, only set in the now.) The reader enters their world through the eyes of a desk jockey who freelances for MI-6. And guns are soon a-blazin’ as we try to keep up with the good guys, the bad girls and a missing monster missile train called Goliath.
As always, the pleasure of reading a good comic is in the details. One assumes a good plot, good writing, good artwork, and this has plenty of all three. But for those of us who have been dealing with the medium for better than (ulp!) three decades, it’s the little things that bring a smile.
In the first issue, for example, I enjoyed the way the characters were introduced while the action unfolded elsewhere. I liked the way Ilona had to lean up on her tippy-toes to be able to see out of an apartment door peephole. Granted, she’s wearing huge butt-kicking boots, but that made the juxtaposition between her ability and her stature all the more interesting. In the second issue (which came out TODAY) I liked the way the narration contradicted the events - it was a clever touch.
And there’s a lot more light and deft touches to enjoy. So when I got the chance to talk about the comic with Brian Reed, I took my shot. So now it’s time for…
ROCK-ME AMODEO: I know you’ve been writing for a few years now for Marvel. How long have you had this idea for THE CIRCLE running around in your head? Did you try to pitch it to Marvel first, within their continuity? Or was the idea always a separate universe, straight-up espionage book sans powers?BRIAN REED: The Circle was sort of a hobby project before I even had a comic career. Ian and I wanted to do a comic and started playing with the idea that became The Circle back in 2004. I use the analogy of a hobby car out in the garage- you fiddle with it on weekends and have fun, but you never really expect it to go anywhere. However, once I had a career in comics, I was talking to Ian and we realized we still loved this idea of ours and we wanted to get it on its feet and share it with everybody else.
Yeah, I remember reading an interview you did in back in early 2006 (for the SPIDERWOMAN mini-series) saying you had some creator owned stuff in the works, so I figured this had been stewing for quite some time. Kinda off the wall, but do you have any experience in counter-intelligence, or were you simply drawn to the concept by the concept itself?The closest I ever came to any intelligence work was keeping my parents from finding about the things my friends and I were doing as teenagers. (Rock – I think that counts as covert ops, too…) I was a big fan of spy stories growing up, and a lot of that love has come out in the pages of The Circle.
Cool. So did you pitch it to Marvel first, or did you always think it would come out as a creator owned series?It was always a creator-owned thing. We had discussed doing it as a web comic, but the pacing of a newspaper-style strip just wasn't jiving with the kind of story we wanted to tell. So we went full on comic book.
Have you worked with Ian before, outside of the ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN video game? I’ve really enjoyed his artwork.Nope, Ian and I met during ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN, and it was the fact that I was co-writing scripts with Bendis, and then working closely with Ian as he created the storyboards that made me ask Ian if he was interested in doing a comic book. This is Ian's first comic work.
It doesn’t come across as someone’s first effort. Okay, last question: besides Ms. Marvel and The Circle, is there anything else you’re doing in the near future?Well, MS. MARVEL is about to break the record of her first series, which died on the vine with issue 23 (Rock – I remember: death by Infantino.) I'm already writing issue 28 of her book, and as of issue 30, we're just flipping the table and scattering all the pieces of her life in every direction, so that should be fun. I have a couple of limited series underway right now-- CAPTAIN MARVEL with Marvel Comics, and MERCENARIES with Dynamite comics. Also with Dynamite, I'm wrapping up an arc on RED SONJA co-writing with Mike Oeming. Then I'll be taking Sonja over full time beginning with issue 35. I recently wrote YOUNG AVENGERS PRESENTS #2, which focuses on YA member Hulkling meeting his dad Captain Marvel, and that should be on shelves in February, if I have my dates right. There's also a lot of other stuff brewing (comics work, more video game writing) so 2008 should turn out to be even busier than 2007 for me.
Very nice. I think 2008 is going to be a busy year for a lot of people (me included.)
THE TWELVE #0
Writers & artists: Various Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: Ambush BugNot knowing that this was mainly a preview book, I saw the interesting characters on the cover, vaguely remembered that Marvel was going to be putting out a book featuring these ancient characters from the 40's, and let out a curiosity-laden "hmm" when I saw THE TWELVE #0 on the shelf of my local comic book bodega. Not knowing much about this era of comics, I was naturally interested, so I began leafing through. To my surprise, the contents of this book were actual stories from DARING COMICS featuring what looked to be characters featured in an upcoming series. Sure, I could read solicits, but I rarely do. I prefer the surprise of not knowing what is going to hit the stands until I am actually standing right there in front of them. It's the little pleasures in life that you've gotta enjoy, ya know...
Anyway, I wasn't necessarily pissed off when I saw that the brunt of this book was reprinted material. Hell, to me, this was new stuff because I sure wasn't around to read it in its original form. And it was a surefire pleasure to read about Rockman, The Laughing Mask, and The Phantom Reporter. It was a nice little lesson in sequential art storytelling, seeing the crude mish-mash of the panels, the inconsistency in the art, and the lack of real logic behind such stories. Back then, these were stories for fun’s sake. Logic wasn't really an issue and sometimes I long for the type of simplicity shown proudly in these three reprinted stories.
Then I got to the section where the artist for the new THE TWELVE series (Chris Weston) provides some character designs and some paragraphs describing the thought that went into the redesign of these classic heroes. This, again, was a treat to read. You don't really get to see this type of thing enough; peering into the brain pan of an artist and finding out how the character's history, actions, and role in the story influence the way the artist portrays him or her on the page. Weston reminds me of Steve Dillon or Gary Frank at times with his strong line work, expressive faces, and attention to fine detail without overloading the page. His designs for all of the Twelve are well-thought out, original, and show a deep understanding for the seemingly more simplistic era the characters sprung from while not forgetting to take into account modern day sophistication and sensibilities that surely were present back then, but were often not made known.
Finishing out this preview book were some black and white and color pages of the new THE TWELVE series. And this is when it hit me.
This book is written by J. Michael Strazynski.
And suddenly my excitement for this book waned.
Why? You may ask.
Well, I certainly don't hate JMS' work as others do. In fact, MIDNIGHT NATION and RISING STARS were among my favorite reads ever. SUPREME POWER at times was brilliant. And I even liked the occasional AMAZING SPIDER-MAN issue when JMS wasn't focusing on Goblin kids or Spider-Totems, although there is no excuse for his MATRIX-aping DOCTOR STRANGE miniseries.
The problem for my induced wince upon finding out that it is JMS on this title has to do with the fact that the guy is notorious for delayed books. Sure, you apologists could say, "It's not JMS' fault, it's the artist's most of the time." I can understand this happening here and there, but when every title you write is off schedule, you can't always blame the artist.
When I'm late to work and blame traffic on my tardiness, my boss will take that excuse once or twice, but if I am always late and always blaming traffic, eventually my boss is going to say, you know there's traffic, get up earlier and get to work on time.
And that's my advice for JMS and Marvel with this one. How about a bit of professionalism, folks? Let's get a few issues in the can. How about a definite plan for a series before soliciting it? How about making sure an artist or writer stays on task in order to make deadlines? I don't know any other medium with this piss-poor way of doing business. If I were JMS and it was in fact the artist's fault every time, I'd be furious. I'm sure I'm not the only one who saw JMS' name on this project and at first felt excitement, then thought, "fuck, here's a another cool concept from JMS that will start out strong, then peter off into back-bin obscurity." This type of shit is giving JMS a bad name and if my name in the industry was getting a bad rep because of a company's over-eagerness to solicit an unfinished product without there being any guarantee of if and when it will be published, I'd have something to say about it.
RISING STARS was notorious for its late schedule.
MIDNIGHT NATION was the same.
AMAZING SPIDEY was even delayed here and there (perfect example is on the shelves now with the delayed "One More Day" story arc).
SUPREME POWER has petered out into vapor.
Although I'm intrigued by the concept of THE TWELVE, JMS' reputation is making it damn hard to do so. The presentation of material is top notch, but the fact that I've been burned by this writer before makes it hard to get excited about it.
THE DARKNESS #1
Writer: Phil Hester Artists: Michael Broussard (pencils)/Ryan Winn (inks) Publisher: Top cow Reviewer: Prof. Challenger You Tube PreviewSo what if it’s just another grift? So what if the Professor and I are manipulating them? The expectant smiles on their faces are real.— Jackie Estacado
Right off the bat, I’m going to say that I’m definitely not the generation of readers and gameplayers out there who are the type to get into THE DARKNESS. But Top Cow keeps surprising me with their WITCHBLADE/THE DARKNESS series of titles, this first issue of the new ongoing DARKNESS series being no exception. I’m generally not a fan of these gory evil villain-as-anti-hero types of characters but I still found myself intrigued by the setup in this issue. I can’t say I’m digging this series as much as I dig WITCHBLADE, but the Biblical scope of the origin for this character and the generational curse aspect of the story is fascinating to me and the writing is substantial enough to hook me in and be able to recommend the comic.
Just as Ron Marz breathed new creative life into WITCHBLADE, comic vet Phil Hester steps up to reinvent THE DARKNESS for this new era for the character. I suspect the earlier series were more just glorified excuses for artists and readers to revel in graphic violence. This first issue does have plenty of that, including lots of blood and even a casual decapitation to just top it all off. But where I think this series improves upon the earlier series is that Hester’s moved the action down to South America which gives the book an entirely different feel to it than your standard New York or Los Angeles-based series.
The human who wields the power of The Darkness is the same Jackie Estacado, but it appears he now has more control over the power. Rather than being a hitman for the mafia, Jackie now is the head of his own drug cartel marketing some sort of scary demonic form of heroin. Hester does not disregard Jackie’s past to kick off his new series, however; instead he acknowledges it and even has a piece of his former life follow him down south and is promptly dispatched in a rather gruesome yet funny way.
Hester does not answer all the questions a new reader like myself might have, and that is smart. Done well, the tease brings new readers back to find out more in the next and following issues. Before long, the reader’s coming back each month because he/she starts actually caring about the characters. Hester knows how to structure mainstream comics and except for the swearing and the decapitations, this is pretty mainstream stuff. And it’s quite good. Fans of these dark and bloody types of comics would do well to check it out and see if they aren’t as pleasantly surprised as I was by the quality of story and art found in, of all things, THE DARKNESS #1.
GREEN LANTERN #25
Writer: Geoff Johns Artists: Ivan Reis and Ethan Van Sciver Inkers: Oclair Albert, Julio Feirreira Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Rock-Me AmodeoForewarning – there’s a small voice that speaks in my head during times of great trouble or great wonderment. When all seems overwhelming, for good or ill, it gives me two things that keep me grounded through almost anything: cynicism and sarcasm. Like many people feigning sanity, I try to keep them as an (inside my head) voice, but I may need to let them out occasionally. Just a caveat.
First of all, and it must be said: some artists draw splash pages, and some draw SPLASH PAGES! It’s been so infrequent that I see them well done - a recent TEEN TITANS, for example - that I forgot what effects outstanding splashes may cause: they have you searching the corners for action you don’t want to miss. They force you to hold the page at odd angles, as if Hugh Hefner had decided to produce a magazine actually worth looking at, like comic books. They make you wonder not only how the inker managed to finish the page without going blind, but the colorist too. These are not splash pages where the artist(s) merely drew the hero bigger, but where you actually want to pause, and stare, and make sure you take it all in.
Okay. I’ll stop about the art. But just so we’re clear, I think both artists rocked the house, not just on the splashes, but throughout.
Now, regarding the story: this issue pretty much wraps up every story line from the being of this run. How’zat? We gotcher Coast City repopulation situation. Despotellis. The lost Lanterns. The Anti-Monitor and Cyborg-Superman and Prime, all dealt with.
(Inner Voice: Yeah, except that those bad guys aren’t really dealt with, they’re basically sent to their separate corners for an artistic time-out. We don’t even get the illusion that they might be dead – we see what happens to each one, so we KNOW they’re all coming back. Well, I suppose its better than pretending they’re dead)
We also have a magnificent scale and scope set for future Green Lantern tales: each color represents a different emotional state. It sets the ground for a wide array of Lantern interactions with seven or eight or nine different Corps of Lanterns. And lucky us, green is the color of balance since it’s in the middle of the rainbow (hey, Roy G. Biv finally comes in handy as a mnemonic! How about that!).
Each hue also comes with its own handy emblem, vastly simplifying the colorists’ chores. Each presumably will have their own way of charging their rings (Red/Rage oaths will probably involve headbutts and flipping someone off, while I’m not sure I want to know how the Violet/Love Lanterns, uhn, consummate their oaths. And while we’re on the topic, have we or have we not just established the most powerful weapons in the known universe as little more than cosmic mood rings? I’m just asking).
In the end, when Hal and Kyle have to take Sinistro down, it comes down to straightforward fisticuffs. I know some may balk, but on this matter, even the inner voice is quiet. After all, how many times did Captain Kirk save the day, not because he could out think or outshoot the enemy, but because he could outpunch him? I completely dug it in a manly, expectorating way.
Also, the final fate of the Anti-Monitor, as depicted, is quite chilling (and SO cool to look at, rising ominously like a bleak and pitiless Barad-dûr.) Hey, I though inner voice was just sarcastic and cynical? (Apparently, I’ve been won over) Cool. Also, the new Laws of Oa clearly beg to be explored one by one. The rainbow ranks of the new Lanterns need to be filled. The Black – and presumably White – Lanterns will need to be fleshed out, whether that be living flesh or otherwise.
Across this landscape, the writer-in-me can see storyline after storyline playing out, expanding, overlapping…the possibilities, the sheer dimensions of this universe have increased several orders of magnitude. It’s simply stupefying how big this title has gotten in the space of one overstuffed issue. I’m not asking them to, and I don’t want them to, but DC could spin five different titles and a whole ‘nother imprint out of this issue alone.
And talk about parallels. While Marvel had their CIVIL WAR and WORLD WAR HULK outplayed by the cosmic and extremely well-executed ANNIHILATION saga, DC has similarly had their COUNTDOWN and AMAZONS ATTACK maxi-events completely upstaged by the cosmic and extremely well-executed GREEN LANTERN saga.
One complaint that I’ve heard is that the book doesn’t seem to be a Hal Jordan book anymore. Well, it’s funny, now that Jordan’s humanity has been exposed, I wouldn’t mind seeing more of him. In the past, though, seeing Jordan to the exclusion of the other three Lanterns has kept me from being a fan because I don’t think most writers know how to write him. I suppose it was easier when the book was GREEN LANTERN/GREEN ARROW, because whatever liberal Ollie was for, conservative Hal was against, and vice versa. But a straight-up redstate hero with no bluestate contrast? Outside of Orson Scott Card, I bet most writers can’t relate. Yet Johns has been successful in making Hal identifiable as the simple, iconic hero that he is.
Technically, however, the name of the book is not HAL JORDAN, it’s GREEN LANTERN, and there are four of those folks on our earth alone. I wouldn’t mind seeing all four work together and occasionally appear in rotation, like other team books. Personally, I think the book would suffer if only Hal appeared in it. And with all these new moving parts, that seems unlikely.
I think the best comic books are the ones that are not only beautifully done, but leave the reader with the feeling of “I just can’t wait to see what happens next!” We get that here, in spades. This comic was panel-for-panel, word-for-word, one of the most riveting, mind-blowing mainstream comics to date, and a nigh perfect capstone to a worthwhile mega event. Johns set the whole thing up for months, years even, and then amazingly, he made the payoff worth it.
(Yeah, I guess I kinda liked it, too.)
HALO: UPRISING #2
Written by Brian Michael Bendis Art by Alex Maleev and Jose Villarrubia Guest Cog Reviewer Spartan H82 - The HeathenThat's how I'll be remembered. I'll be dead and half naked in some soldiers locker on some space station somewhere I've never even heard of because the whole entire Earth will no longer be for humans and that ass won't even have even listened to my music.
I never finished "Dead Flowers." It could have been the one. It could have been my "Juli Nights."
What if I don't have anything to say? What if I was just one those people? Not everyone has a profound view of the world and I was rich at 17 years old. Maybe I just didn't have that thing in my heart. Maybe I was just tits and ass. - Myras, a blue lipped pop star.
If you think the above dialogue sounds like something remotely interesting that would take place in a sci-fi action adventure set 500 years in the future in a time when a collective of aliens known as The Covenant are invading Earth in an attempt to destroy humanity and a lone Spartan soldier and the UNSC forces are combatting them for the human existence then you're probably a bald asshole.
No, I'm not talking about Frank O'Connor, but I seriously think that Bungie dropped the ball by letting HALO: UPRISING go to print like this. When I heard of a Halo monthly comic (even if it was limited) I was excited. Big known fact, I'm a huge Halo fan and really love the games (specifically the first and third) and I think the universe in general has a good foundation. I even found myself pleasantly surprised when I picked up Eric Nylund's, "The Fall Of Reach" Halo novel at an early XBOX Odyssey tour. His two follow ups ("First Strike" and "Ghosts Of Onyx") are equally compelling and the Halo OGN of last year had the talents of Moebius and Kent Williams among many, many others. Anything to do with Halo and its related universe is looked over very carefully and the quality has been good because of it. Not anymore…
HALO: UPRISING is a four part limited series from Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev. It even has the amazing Jose Villarrubia on colors, but his talents are wasted on static images and characters with such dreadful inner monologues I wanted to drive a warthog off a cliff while being shot with a rocket, lasered, stuck with a plasma grenade and sniped all at the same time.
The story takes place in between Halo 2 and Halo 3, but you wouldn't really know that unless you paid close attention and unfortunately I did so now I can tell you that vital info.
My loathing of this series and its first two issues is due to the fact that it deals with two characters that nobody cares about, would care about or could care about because they're boring and they aren't a seven foot tall Spartan II super soldier who wears his MJOLNIR Mark VI battle suit better known as the Master Chief. Is the Chief in this? Well, if you include the covers he's probably in about 1/4 of the story so far and his scenes are limited to little dialogue, hard to follow action and giant spread pages so we can get back to these other two people that this story is apparently about. And boy, are they interesting! One is a hotel concierge and the other a pop star with blue lipstick because it's the future and we all know that blue lipstick is the way it's going to be, just deal with it people. Yeah, these people are lame and boring. For the most part it's these two worrying about what they're going to do and if they accomplished anything with they're lives, blah, blah, emo, emo… WHO CARES?!?!? I want to see Master Chief sticking plasma grenades to Brute Chieftians’ crotches on every freaking page! I want him running around the Forerunner ship searching for ways to get off of it and saving the human race while he kills groups of grunts without thinking things like, "I just killed. I killed something. It had a family and I killed it." What?!?! Keep that shit where it belongs and not in a sci-fi video game tie-in where you blow up aliens that are trying to DESTROY YOU. And while you're at it, the gun this pop star holds that she used to kill these alien grunts with "families" is not the size of a damned cannon. It's an alien plasma pistol. C'mon, Maleev.
I think that the Bendis must hate Halo. He's even stated that the series should have been done and over with by now on the latest Marvel Podcast, but Bungie has a long approval process and it's taking them forever. He didn't seem at all interested in this Halo project and his thoughts were more on things like how awesome CIVIL WAR was when they created it at the Marvel retreat and something to do with Skrulls? Anyway, Bungie, look… I won't hold it against you if you stop this series from coming out. Hell, I'd think it was great if you did. Stop before it goes to the trades because right now this thing wreaks of 'Phantomenatitus' and we wouldn't want that now would we?
So, I love Halo, but I hate this book.
WONDER WOMAN #15
Writer: Gail Simone Artist: Terry Dodson Inker: Rachel Dodson Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Rock-Me AmodeoWith all the other great stuff that came out, why do WONDER WOMAN? Simple: this is Gail Simone’s book. With Dodson art. How can it miss?
Whhhzzzzzzzzzz! Okay, that was just for comic effect. Fact is, it’s a decent book. But I haven’t bought into it just yet. That’s not for a lack of trying on my part or the comic’s.
Simone has a habit of building a rich framework from which to pull threads into a story at just the right time. And like a tapestry, the edges (which we are just now seeing) start out as fairly uniform until we see the big picture. The trouble is, it really, really FEELS like we’re building toward something much bigger, with just enough action and drama thrown in to make it seem like it’s a self-contained story. But it’s not. Not quite.
And when your first five pages are flashback to waaaaaayy back when, you know you’re only seeing the beginning of something. When another five pages take place on Them-is-scary Island, sans Wonder Woman, you know you’re only seeing the beginning of something. When Wonder Woman is beseeching help (at what seems to be the Rock of Eternity) from the old wizard Shazam, even though Captain Marvel has taken his place…well, okay, we’re not exactly sure what we’re seeing.
I know, when I’m a big famous writer, I’m gonna hate continuity freaks like me too, but we all have our parts to play, right? Circle of strife and all that.
A good story is like a good recipe. We added talking apes last issue. Crazy Amazonian warriors and never-clichéd Nazi evil this issue. Stir and serve in a Mylar bag. Unlike food, however, a comic book has to taste like a meal each issue. This tastes like an appetizer.
But this is Simone and the Dodsons. I’m more than willing to wait for things to kick into high gear. It’s not like it was a bad issue. I guess I was simply expecting to feel a little fuller after consuming it. S’okay. I’ll come back for the next course.
THE ORDER #5
Writer: Matt Fraction Pencils: Khari Evans Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: JinxoI find myself in an odd position. I hated the Civil War. I haaated it. And a lot of what it has done to the Marvel Universe just pisses me off. At the same time, though, some of the Marvel books I’m enjoying most of late are the books that have actually spun out of the stupid Civil War. AVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE is a great read. I liked THUNDERBOLTS before the war but the new version of the team I find just as interesting. And now, I’m stunned to discover… I really dig THE ORDER.
I actually found myself having overlooked several issues on their release week and so this week found myself not just diving into the latest issue but several back issues as well. And I gotta say, for a book I wasn’t expecting much from, I’m impressed.
First off, I like the way they are handling the setup of the comic. They are managing to deftly establish the group, set up the back stories on their characters and keep forward momentum going on their first story. That’s a lot and they do it well. AVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE and THUNDERBOLTS aren’t handling as deftly. Again, I like them both but each of them has had to resort to additional one shots and special issues to build out character elements and back stories that apparently couldn’t be fit smoothly into their books. That last AVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE one shot just threw all sorts of back stories without any meaningful context where the stories felt almost non sequitur. With THE ORDER, every issue they find a way to spotlight and establish one of their characters.
Yes, many of the characters are comic versions of real world types: the aging star in AA, the out of control young starlet, the I-want-to-save-and-adopt-the-whole-world older starlet…but, again, they do a nice job of taking what could be easy “types” and turning them into unique characters. It’s compelling to watch Henry Hellrung (Anthem), the alcoholic actor turned team leader, not just take the reigns and become the perfect leader but to actually flounder and feel his way. Being the leader can suck especially when the main law guiding the team seems to be Murphy’s Law. And his good friend Tony Stark seems to offer help when it’s not wanted and miss seeing it when poor Henry desperately does need it. I also really liked the setup for the team speedster James Wa (Calamity). His spotlight had him discovering the location of the drunk driver who had crippled him and ended his sports career. That plot twisted in a way that actually took me off guard and had me really liking Calamity. The best thing I can say is these are strong characters all on their own, without the powers. The super powered ass kicking is almost just gravy.
The team itself gets treated like a character with just as many problems as any given member. It’s only issue 5 and the team has already had to deal with half the original team being fired, a sex scandal, a fatality and being evicted from their original HQ. It’s almost fitting that this is the group that, in the real world, had to change its name for legal reasons. And with all the problems they still manage to fight crazy Soviets and robo-hobo zombies. Sort of fitting for an LA hero team: trying to build something solid while the ground just keeps shifting under their feet. I like that getting this team started isn’t as easy as when, say, The Avengers simply hang out a shingle for a new team and announce they’re open for business. Not even counting the bad guys, running a hero team is hard work.
Dammit, I can’t believe I’m liking another Civil War title.
THE NORTHLANDERS #1
Writer: Brian Wood Penciler: Davide Gianfelice Publisher: Vertigo/DC Comics Reviewed by Humphrey LeeSetting the record straight, I've been Brian Wood's bitch for a solid six years or so now. If it's got the man's name on it, I'm going to buy it. DMZ, DEMO, LOCAL, THE COURIERS... on and on we go and it's all lined up on my bookcases or in my long boxes. But admittedly, I do have to say that most of the man's work is a little on the downtrodden side. Somber and poignant with either very blatant (like DMZ) or underscored (like LOCAL) parallels, there's not much for adrenaline junkies in a Brian Wood book except the occasional moment like in DMZ where maybe a bomb goes off and some troops land. This is why I was so anxious for his NORTHLANDERS project; not because I've grown tired of his proverbial "bread and butter" stories like those I just mentioned, but simply because I like to see my favorite writers branch out from time to time. Now this, this is branching out...
As if to satiate my desires, right off the bat in THE NORTHLANDERS we're treated to a dozen or two panels of decapitations, axes to various parts of the anatomy, and several men being run through by swords. There's more of the color red in the first pages of this than in all of the movie "Carrie", and I damn well loved all of it. Sadly, the violence from that point pretty much subsides, but as much as it contrasts what I was saying about Wood's books lacking the action I don't mind it here. It is the first issue and first part of an eight issue tale, so of course some setting up is in order. Basically the next two-thirds of the book are spent giving us insight into the past of our main character (named Sven just like the story title "Sven The Returned" denotes) and where his next adventure lies. It's a story of regaining his birthright for all the wrong reasons (basically money and arrogance) from his Uncle and his men who usurped it all upon his death.
But really, all that is secondary, what we came for is Vikings and bloodshed, what we got was Vikings with some bloodshed, and a promise of a lot more to come. Despite the fact that Sven is basically a pompous (bad)ass Wood did a good job of making his adversaries even more assholish and thereby deserving of a horrible death at Sven's hand, whenever and however he gets out of the predicament left facing him at the end of this debut issue of course. Obviously a more "anti-heroish" lead like Sven (if you can even call him that) isn't going to hold the reader's support for too long, but that's why the rotating lead format Wood has chosen is where we need to be; that way we can support various forms of vicious beatings, which is what I expected from this and all I really wanted in this departure from the norm for Mr. Wood (and quite honestly, your typical Vertigo line book as well).
Just like DMZ, THE NORTHLANDERS has pulled in some foreign talent for art chores and just like DMZ they're really quite excellent. They're exactly what a book like this needs to compliment the story: highly detailed with very little exaggeration in the character designs to make it feel very much real and alive. There's great fluidity between the panels (and there's quite a large amount of them used actually, kind of like Sean Phillips’ work in CRIMINAL) and of course, there's very nice flow in the battle sequence that kicks this issue off which be will the key to rest of the storyline (I hope). All said THE NORTHLANDERS turned out to be a very solid start in a nice looking package that I expect to fill my monthly need for bloodshed that I've developed after years of watching movies, reading comics, and playing videogames. Somewhere, somehow, I hope Jack Thompson just had a convulsion from that statement. Thank you Brian Wood...
SHOOTING WAR HC OGN
Writer: Anthony Lappe Artist: Dan Goldman Publisher: Grand Central Publishing Reviewer: Ambush BugThis is a story of politics and war. It focuses mainly on the media and how it can influence the tide of war and how one voice can possibly change all of that for better or worse. I'd like to say this is a unbiased story on this subject, and I think I would have enjoyed it more if it were, but it simply isn't. I'm not saying that having a political stance and putting it onto paper is a bad thing. All the power to you. I am saying that when I sit down to read a story, no matter what political party those creating it lean towards, it has to be an entertaining one. Is this an entertaining story? Well, it kind of depends what political party you side with. And therein lies the problem.
There are two types of stories. One is a story about something where characters are manipulated to convey a specific message. The other is a story told about a character, letting a character be a character, and in the end, if it turns out to be about something specific, cool, but it's not the reason for being made. One focuses on character, the other communicating a message. This is definitely a story with a message to tell. The story does tell a pretty powerful tale about one reporter's experience in a not-so-distant future where the War in the Middle East is still going on full-swing, but it also takes some pretty pointed shots at the Bush Administration, the religious right, big corporations, capitalism, American foreign policy, and violence in the media. I guess, I would have enjoyed this book a bit more if it stayed more focused on one thing (the horror of war) and made an interesting story about that instead of going down a laundry list of complaints one political party has against another. Yes, these opinions were stated by one character in this book, but aside from a nutjob rant by Bill O'Reilly, there isn't much by way of counter-argument going on. When I read a story where one side of an argument is represented at length and another is represented in a breezy, cartoonish manner, I can't help but be turned off and think that the writer took the easy way out by making one side look foolish in order for his own personal views to look better.
The art by Dan Goldman is often times pleasing to the eye with his mix-n-match photo and graphic image style. Goldman has a good eye, but the mixed media approach works sometimes (in the more static panels), while other times misses its mark (in panels where action occurs). The artist needs to pay a bit more attention to perspectives (especially body perspectives) at times, but all in all it is a good looking read.
If you're a Republican, you'll roll your eyes at this. If you're a Democrat, you'll find it on the level. Personally, I put very little weight in what either side is saying because it's become more of a pissing contest than a vie to give voice to the people anyway. As this story about a reporter’s rise from a simple blogging website to covering the Iraq War reached its conclusion, I found it to be sometimes funny, sometimes heart-wrenching, sometimes right on, and sometimes infuriatingly biased. I guess if it brought out that many emotions in me it's doing something right. If you lean either one way or the other, you're going to have strong feelings about SHOOTING WAR. Since I'm in the middle of it all laughing at both parties, I felt it was a bit skewed in its delivery and needed a bit of focus on a singular topic, but a worthwhile endeavor with a powerful message about the atrocity of war nevertheless.
BEELZEBUM: THE ROOMATE FROM HELL #1 Red Tie StudioEver had a roommate from hell? I’m sure we’ve all had to cohabitate with annoying people from time to time, but Brian Bowen didn’t really know what he was in store for when he put an ad in the paper for a roommate. He didn’t know that the devil would come a callin’ for a room. There’s a lot to like in this humorous comic. Writer/artist Garth Gerhart makes this a comfortable read. All of his characters have a slacker-esque quality to them, but he makes them distinct and fun to read. Brian is somewhat responsible and serves as a moral compass for his new horned roommate. Some of the humor lands flat, but for the most part, the comedy is fresh, somewhat self-deprecating, and sure to cause a chuckle or two. Gerhart also has a confident pen stroke with a fun sense of design. His Devil is not all that imposing, more like an annoying shit and the disgruntled looks of the worrisome Brian are well done indeed. All in all, this is a light and fun comic. Definitely worth a peek - Ambush Bug
ZOMBIES VS ROBOTS VS AMAZONS #1 IDW PublishingI have to admit, I met the final page of the ubercool ZOMBIES VS ROBOTS miniseries with a resounding "Wha-huh?" as the battle between decomposed corpses and mechanized gadgets washed up on an island shore to meet the business end of an Amazonian spear. But after reading the first issue of this sub-genre leaping miniseries, I can still be colored impressed by writer Chris Ryall and artist Ashley Wood's mix of horror, sci fi, and now mythology. It looks as if nothing is sacred in this battle royale as we are introduced to the Amazonian culture as it was right before the first zombies made it to their shores with the robots not far behind to eliminate them. I like the frantic pace of this book. There's a definite purpose and strong narrative here. Writer Ryall isn't just throwing a bunch of shit against the wall to see what sticks, but there's a looseness to the plot that makes you think that anything can and probably will happen. Ashley Wood's art adds to the mayhem. His loose images aren't intelligible, but they are bound to make those who like clean and crisp art go a bit batty. Still, I am loving the imaginative use of sound identifiers, the design of the robots, and the grisly splatter Ashley uses to detail the zombies and the carnage. I'm looking forward to the big battle between the remaining Amazons, the few robots, and the ever increasing undead in the next issue, and whatever else Ryall and Wood decide to throw at us. - Ambush Bug
MIDNIGHTER #14 DC WildstormI checked out this issue (and the last) at a friend’s recommendation, and I have to say, Keith Giffin has done something unique. I think I’m as sympathetic to the villains as I am to the protagonist. The villains consider superheroes to be mostly out-of-control killers. One of them, instead of killing Midnighter, chooses to keep him alive and try to reason with him. In return, Midnighter snaps his neck when he could as easily have knocked the captor out, then cuts off the captors face in Ector-ish style and makes his escape. That’s, uhn, the good guy who kills the captor and cuts his face off. There’s mayhem on both sides of the aisle, and the bad guys are draped in the American flag, as bad guys sometime are. I don’t know if Giffen is being nuanced or if Midnighter is that unlikable, but I appreciated the honesty. In other words, I don’t like the character, but I appreciate the way it was told. As of yet, I fail to see much difference between Midnighter and the people he’s fighting. I wonder if he will see it, too. But the fact that I’m still thinking about it has caught my attention. - Rock-Me
FEAR AGENT #17 Dark Horse ComicsContinuing to roll from its debut mini-story at Dark Horse comics titled "The Last Goodbye" this issue of FEAR AGENT kicks off the "Hatchet Job" storyline, bringing us right back to the current timeline in the series. And just like the previous storyarc, and the ones before it, FEAR AGENT is doing what even the vast majority of the Big Two's books can't: Enthralling me with riveting Sci-Fi based material. They can produce all the Superman, Batman and Spider-Man books they want, and cram Wolverine into as many appearances as a universe can hold, none of them entertain me as much as Heath Huston and his intergalactic antics do. It's just everything a comic book should be and more. I know none of that is necessarily a "review" but at this point if you're not already reading this book I don't know what I can do to convince you besides provide overwhelmingly ooey-gooey praise. Go buy the trades and get caught up now!
Trust the fuckhead, I would not lead you astray... – Humphrey