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AICN COMICS REVIEWS THE HULK RED! THE END LEAGUE! THE SPIRIT! AND MORE!!!

#36 1/9/08 #6

Hey folks, Ambush Bug here with another gaggle of reviews for you all to consume and gab about in the Talkbacks. I know we promised you Part Two of our SPIDER-MAN “Brand New Day” interview with Joe Quesada this week and fear not, it will be posted within the next few days. We apologize for the delay and appreciate your patience. It’ll be worth the wait. We promise. In the meantime, enjoy the reviews!

The Pull List (Click title to go directly to the review) THE HULK #1 THE SPIRIT #12 BAT LASH #2 THE END LEAGUE #1 GREEN LANTERN CORPS #20 THE TWELVE #1 Indie Jones presents… CHEAP SHOTS!

HULK #1

Writer: Jeph Loeb Art: Ed McGuiness (pencils) & Dexter Vines (inks) Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: Ambush Bug

Amidst the maelstrom of stink and hullabaloo that has been associated with Spider-Man and his corner of the Marvel U, there's been another pretty big shake-up in Marvel's second most recognizable character, the Hulk. I was left with mixed feelings at the conclusion of WORLD WAR HULK. I felt as if this was a story better suited to occur within the Hulk comic and that it was overblown and inflated in order for it to be categorized as a crossover event. I don't necessarily dislike the changes that occurred by the end of that event, just the method with which it was done.
That said, the Hulk has always been a story of change. In a literal sense, that change comes when Bruce Banner transforms into the Incredible Hulk. But on a more technical level, the status quo of the Hulk has always been shifting as well. I remember initially being taken aback when Peter David ended a storyline with the detonation of a Gamma Bomb and we came back a month later to see a grey Hulk dressed as a gangster mixing it up in Las Vegas. I remember being shocked at the time. I didn't know what to think and wasn’t sure I liked it, but now I know that change is often an uncomfortable thing, especially to comic book fans. The slightest deviation to the character and they are often up in arms calling for the head of the writer or editor responsible. I know it. I've been there. I’ve felt it. I’ve done it. But with the Hulk, something about the character makes all of the changes somewhat ok in my book.
THE HULK #1, written by Jeph Loeb and penciled by Ed McGuiness, is a definite change from what we've come to expect when we pick up a HULK comic. First off, the Hulk now seems to be red instead of green, a hue more akin to the theme of rage that permeates this book, but a shift that is unsettling nevertheless. The book is set up as a mystery, with all of the key Hulk players in tow: Doc Samson, General Thunderbolt Ross, She-Hulk, Rick Jones. All of these characters interact pretty much according to character. The intro investigation between Samson and She-Hulk is a little too snarky and cute to be taken seriously, but it's been established before that these two characters don't like one another, so it is, at the very least, believable despite its over-the-top-ed-ness. Doc Samson’s impulsivity seemed to be a bit out of character for a psychologist. His willingness to sucker punch the Red Guardian was pretty off base.
The story is a pretty full serving; featuring a hypothetical battle with the Abomination, a real battle with the Winter Guard (Russia's answer to the Avengers), and a pair of revelations that were pretty well structured and downright surprising. Lately, I've been unimpressed by Jeph Loeb's stories. They seem to lack the flair and heart that his epic LONG HALLOWEEN or FOR ALL SEASONS stories had. Although splashy (mostly due to Ed McGuiness' puffy Bart Sears-esque art), I found the issue to be quite substantial for a first issue. The hint as to who this new Red Hulk is appears to be ripe with potential and the embrace of the Hulk U is refreshing to see in this day and age where every creator wants to scrap what came before and make their own stamp on a book. Here Loeb runs with ideas presented at the end of WWHULK and does so in a manner that isn't flashy or even groundbreaking, but it ain't half bad either.
Like I said, the art is a bit puffy and cartoony. McGuiness may turn off some by penciling characters as if they were all He-Man action figures and not basing much anatomy on how real people actually look. But since this is an issue where the main character is stretched and pumped up to balloonish proportions, I found the artwork to be appropriate and not as much of a distraction as I have felt with previous McGuiness works.
I was fully prepared to hate this book, but found myself surprised and downright interested as to how the story will proceed with the new developments with the Hulk and his supporting cast of characters. Although this book has steered in the direction of Marvel's Ultimate line with its casting of Banner as an inmate, it maintains a lot of integrity and adherence to history in that the only constant with the Hulk is change. In time, I found myself liking Peter David’s status quo shattering Mr. Fixit storyline quite a bit, although I was up in arms when it first came out. So I'm not that upset about the change to the status quo. Turns out this book surprised me and although I doubt the changes are permanent, they may be fun to read for a while.

THE SPIRIT #12

Written by Darwyn Cooke (based on a story by Will Eisner) Art by Cooke and J Bone Published by DC Reviewed by Stones Throw

Well so long to that pesky Canuck Darwyn Cooke, who departs THE SPIRIT with this here issue. I feel some words of farewell are in order.
Dear Lord, up in comic book heaven (who is it? Jack or Will?), Darwyn Cooke’s THE SPIRIT and I may not have always seen eye to eye - - personally I feel the stunning art and refreshing ideas were oft hampered by unpolished writing - - but today I would like simply to pay tribute to what was, for one year, one of the most distinctive and downright best-looking books on the stands. I know you probably had some hand in those covers and double-page spreads. No one manages to draw winners like that so many times.
I know this is a time to set aside grievances, but I think one of the flaws with this series is that we didn’t get much of a sense of just who Denny Colt (the Spirit) is or why he does what he does. Well, apart from it being fun and him being able to, of course. I mean, it’s probably faithful to the original Will Eisner stories and all, but it did kind of ensure I never really got too involved in the story. Well, looks like you paid attention to my prayers because in this issue 12 Cooke re-tells the story of the Spirit and Sand Saref (a.k.a. the inspiration for Batman and Catwoman and Daredevil and Elektra) and gives us our best look into the mind of Denny Colt yet. Cooke’s Eisner homage in the flashback scenes really is beautiful.
All things considered, make sure you give this book a good shake on the hand when it gets up there. Not many books manage to buck trends so wholly, to meld and switch between tones so well, to establish a fully-formed and rich world so immediately or to tell so many good one-part stories in such a short space of time. And really, I don’t think anyone else out there could have sold THE SPIRIT so well. Good on the li’l guy.
Now I’ve just got to hope for Frank Miller not to fuck up the movie too badly.
Next issue: a holiday special, two months after the holidaze. Huh. But, with a story by Gail Simone and art by Michael Golden!

BAT LASH #2 (of 6)

Writers: Peter Brandvold and Sergio Aragones Artist: John Severin Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Sleazy G

Short review: Buy this miniseries. Seriously.
Long review: I’ve been enjoying Palmiotti and Gray’s JONAH HEX since the first issue, including Bat Lash’s appearances there. Lash isn’t one of the Western characters I’m familiar with, so when this series was announced I was on the fence. I greatly appreciate the serious, thoughtful presentation DC is providing Western comics right now, and HEX has been such a good read that LASH was worth considering. On the other hand, it’s a character I don’t know well…and then there’s that “Writer” credit. Sergio Aragones? Naturally, I assumed this was going to be a humorous take on the character. I thought it would be a little tongue in cheek, a little slapsticky, and not my thing. I began to worry about the same problem when I heard Aragones would be taken over THE SPIRIT. My concern about the potentially silly direction BAT LASH might go was almost enough to stop me from buying this miniseries.
But then I reconsidered for one reason: John Severin. The man’s art so blew me away when he worked on one of Jeff Mariotte’s DESPERADOES series a few years back that I decided to flip through the first issue of BAT LASH, and I was won over immediately. Severin, now in his 80’s, has been in the business for over half a century—and you’d never know it. His work is detailed, fresh, lively, and emotional. It’s done in a classic style, yet never feels stagnant. The storytelling he accomplishes and the acting of the characters are exemplary. I sometimes find myself wishing I were better equipped to describe the art in a comic book; I don’t have the training or the vocabulary to do it justice. This is, without question, one of the most glaring cases imaginable of my handicap on this subject. I have been in awe of every issue of a comic I’ve purchased by John Severin. The man is truly a master, and it saddens me that he doesn’t have more support and exposure. The only disappointment for me when it comes to his art is that there will never be enough of it published.
And that alone should be reason enough for you to buy the first two issues of this series. But what of my concerns about the writing? As it turns out, unfounded. Completely. Perhaps this is because novelist Peter Brandvold is handling the heavier parts of the storytelling, or perhaps it’s because Sergio Aragones has talents which have lain hidden in the past, but this series is very well written. While there are moments of lightness (generally when characters are playfully expressing their feelings for each other), the tone is precisely what a good Western should be. There’s a sense of foreboding as all of the elements slowly fall in to place, gradually building tension over the first two issues.
This is the origin of Bat Lash—an explanation of what in his past made him the character we’re familiar with—so we already know things are going to end very badly for several characters here. Rather than rush straight to a big confrontation, we gradually see several disputes large and small unfold, building a head of steam as it moves towards the inevitable climax. In lesser hands this approach could lead to underwritten issues that leave the reader bored, and the inclusion of so many familiar Western tropes (the dirty sheriff, the racist treatment of mixed couples, star-crossed lovers, a land grab by the unscrupulous) could leave readers feeling like it was a lifeless retread.
Not in the hands of Aragones and Brandvold, though. They have thus far done a wonderful job of investing time in all of the characters, good and bad, making them far more sympathetic and relatable than many of those in comics today. I’ve read a lot of comics, and much of the time we accept the shorthand that is commonplace in the writing today: the twirl of a mustache, the villain saying something ominous or threatening, the hero letting loose a catchphrase, and lots of visual cues that suggest a personality. There’s not enough depth, and little time is spent fleshing out the individuals we’re reading about. In BAT LASH it’s clear the writers are spending enough time with these characters to make sure we genuinely care about what’s coming next and who it’s happening to, and it’s a delight to read. Seeing a family that truly loves each other standing up against the oppressive forces of those who seek their ruin is quite moving here, and the credit goes both to the writers for injecting such emotion into the dialogue and to the artist for conveying their feelings with such precision.
The first two issues are full of peril, intrigue, true love, corruption, and gunslingin’. That’s the kind of thing that’s hard to pass up, and a Western as well executed as this is not to be missed. This is one of the best written and drawn books DC has put out recently—creators at the top of their game telling a truly powerful story about people you care about. Its distance from the mainstream DCU means it was destined to be overlooked. Don’t make that mistake: there’s still plenty of time to pick up the first two issues and catch up. You’ll be rewarding those who are responsible for such fine work, and rewarding yourself in the process.

THE END LEAGUE #1

Written by Rick Remender Art by Matt Broome and Sean Parsons Published by Dark Horse Econo-review by Stones Throw

Let’s face it: you’re busy people. Okay, perhaps not YOU personally, but certainly some people out there. You haven’t got time to read long reviews full of paragraphs and words! You want reviews that fit into your 21st century lifestyle, allowing you to check your e-mails, make a cup of coffee, receive a text message, destroy the music industry, drink the cup of coffee, get up, stretch your legs, sit back down and surf the web while simultaneously being able to bone up on the latest comment-worthy graphic literature! To that end I have devised the EZ-Read review, consisting of three simple steps: WTS (What They’re Saying), in which I’ll recount what the comic book makers are telling you about their product; WTAM (What This Actually Means), in which I translate; and WITOI (What I Thought Of It), where I tell you what your opinion should be. Got that? How couldn’t you? Let’s go!
Step 1
WTS: “a thematic merging of WATCHMEN and THE LORD OF THE RINGS”
WTAM: It’s superheroes in a post-apocalyptic world.
WITOI: I feel slightly dirty.
Step 2
WTS: “The remaining heroes consist of the superhuman known as Astonishman; the WWII legend, Soldier American; the incredible half-spider half-man, Arachnakid…”
WTAM: They’re using ciphers of more popular characters.
WITOI: Arachnakid? Astonishman? Seriously??
Step 3
WTS: “The battle between good and evil is long since over: evil has prevailed”
WTAM: Earth’s gone to crap after a mistake made by Astonishman set off a chain reaction of green bombs across the world.
WITOI: This is actually a pretty cool nugget of the story what with Astonishman still being hailed as a hero for his efforts in the clean-up while only he knows that he inadvertently caused the disaster.
Step 4
WTS: “in order to make a superhero team work outside of Marvel or DC, it was going to need an artist who blew the nipples off anyone who saw it”
WTAM: A guy called Mat Broome is drawing. Number of nipples is undisclosed.
WITOI: The art is too dark and over-rendered in that typical computer-coloring way, but otherwise quite impressive, if a little stiff.
Step 5
WTS: “a desperate and perilous journey through a world dominated by evil, in hopes of locating the one remaining artifact that can save humanity-- the Hammer of Thor”
WTAM: Thor shows up at the end too. But this ain’t your daddy’s Thor! This is full-on Viking barbarian Thor! Wait, SANDMAN already did that?...
WITOI: Meep.
Step 5
WTS: “We hope you enjoyed this issue, and promise that the bi-monthly ongoing adventures of THE END LEAGUE will always be our best foot forward”
WTAM: Better come back next time, cash boys -- we’ve already paid the printer…
WITOI: Another passable deconstruction of superheroes. Unfortunately, it’s nothing we haven’t seen way too many times before and the frankly ugly blend of sci-fi, superheroes and post-apocalypse genres isn’t much fun.
So there you go! All you need to know about THE END LEAGUE in one short and snappy format to fit into your hectic day to day lives! Why not return next week, if you have a second or two to spare.

GREEN LANTERN CORPS #20

Writer: Pete Tomasi Art: Patrick Gleason & Carlos Magno (pencils), Prentis Rollins, Tom Nguyen, Drew Geraci, Rodney Ramos, & Rebecca Buchman (inks) Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Ambush Bug

Although I enjoyed the conclusion to the "Sinestro Corps War" as much as the rest of you, I have to say that this issue and the last issue of the regular GREEN LANTERN title were some of my favorite GL reading in a while. These two issues are establishing the new status quo and adding on to (not exasperating) ideas that were presented in the final chapter of the big event. It's refreshing to see that the writers behind the big war didn't completely blow their loads after finishing the final issue of the "Sinestro Corps War." Reading this issue of GLC makes me confident that the series is in good hands and that the good-time ring-slinging will continue well on into the future.
This issue starts off ominously as the Guardians watch sets of rings from both Sinestro Corps and Green Lantern Corps members fly across the universe to seek out new owners. This detail may add to the interchangeability of the ring-bearers, but it also suggests the story is so much bigger than who exactly is wearing the ring. It's about an expansive mythology that spans across the universe.
Of course, the story would go nowhere if there weren't appealing characters. Although not the most popular of GLs, Guy Gardner and Kyle Rayner are two characters with enough character to fill their own book. In this issue, we get to see the two bounce off one another, and the interactions between the two are what make this book truly special. Writer Pete Tomasi does a great job of fleshing out these characters. Dropping his editorial duties at DC in favor of a writing position may have been a leap of faith for Tomasi, but so far he seems fully capable and in complete understanding of not only the DCU but the characters residing in it.
Guy Gardner has shown quite a bit of evolution as a character in this GLC series. He's gone from the complete asshole one-note to a more gruff elder wiseass. He now reminds me more of a Ben Grimm character than anything else. Sure he still says jerky things, but it appears that Tomasi is actually trying to add a little depth here and it's much appreciated. There are a few tender moments in this issue involving Guy that resonate character with great effect. His relationship with Ice, his friendship with the rest of the human Green Lanterns, and even his lack of respect for authority figures shows up without cardboard cartoonishness, but with depth and a sense of understanding from this writer that hasn't been elaborated on much in the past.
Kyle Rayner is equally fleshed out in this issue, but Tomasi relies on the art to convey his actions here. Kyle has become a GL of little words. Through his short tenure as a GL a whole helluva lot has happened and most of it is pretty bad when it comes to the story of Kyle Rayner. Both Kyle and Guy are looking for a new start and this issue provides that.
As much as I love what looks to be the two new main characters of this book, I will miss the focus on the alien members of the GLC. I'm sure that they will have story arcs and appearances. These first 19 issues of this series have been good at showcasing the different characters, but honestly, because of the expansive cast, the title sometimes felt erratic and uneven. Scattershot would be a good way of describing it; sometimes hitting the target, but oftentimes all over the map. With the addition of the Guy/Kyle partnership as the book's core, I think this book is gaining the focus it needs to be just as good as the main GREEN LANTERN title.
I didn't notice it during my first read through of this issue, but there are 2 pencilers and 5 inkers responsible for the art chores on this book. That's a whole helluva lot of people for a regularly sized 22 page book. On second glance, I noticed the differences in styles represented in the book, but honestly, due to the fact that the story was so strong, I missed it on my first go around. The difference is noticeable and a consistent art team would be nice, but for me it didn't ruin a thing in this issue.
I couldn't be more happy with the GREEN LANTERN stories I've been reading lately. There really is nothing else like it going on in comics right now (maybe ANNIHILATION CONQUEST is a close second). It's a tightly woven, well thought out, and well characterized corner of the DCU that doesn't seem to want to be bothered by all of the COUNTDOWN crap that is smelling up the rest of the titles. My advice for DC is to drop the all-encompassing crossover events and do more smaller interconnection between the DCU. It's working well in the GL corner and will probably do the same if tried in other areas. In the meantime, while the rest of the DCU counts down to the bottom of my reading pile in terms of importance, it's good to know that someone over there still knows how to spin a good super hero yarn. GREEN LANTERN CORPS is just as good as the main GL title and now it features characters that have deserved their own title for years. Inconsistent art aside, don't miss this series.

THE TWELVE #1 (of 12)

Written by J. Michael Straczynski Art by Chris Weston Published by Marvel Reviewed by Stones Throw

One of the many benefits of reading Michael Chabon’s THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER AND CLAY is that you get a real sense of the freight train of creativity that was forced into motion in the Golden Age of comic books. The mad scramble to capitalize on the sudden, immense popularity of “masked man” characters in the months after the debut of SUPERMAN in ACTION COMICS gets dramatized in one of my favorite passages in that novel, in which Sammy Clay, Josef Kavalier and other assorted, hungry, young would-be cartoonists sit around their tiny apartment and concoct a raft of superheroes to thrill an entire generation, and is also the impetus for this new miniseries from Marvel.
THE TWELVE cherry-picks, you guessed it, twelve of Timely’s (which changed its name to Marvel in the 1960s after briefly being known as Atlas) most obscure heroes that first appeared in that crazy time on the eve of the USA’s entry into WWII. These weren’t icons, or even characters designed to stand out with any particular hook, just serviceable adventurers dreamt up to satiate the audience’s (then kids, and young kids at that) appetite for superheroes. The best thing about THE TWELVE #1 is that it doesn’t try to pretend otherwise. In the grand tradition of the Marvel universe corresponding to the readers’ interest outside the comic books, JMS has these twelve guys be the bandwagon-jumpers that they literally were, except now suddenly thrust into a whole new world in which they suddenly are remarkable – the present. They’re the guys in the background while A-listers like Cap and Namor are photographed decking their way through Berlin. There’s super-powered guys like Dynamic Man and Rockman, the leader of an underground race of rock-people, robots like the original Electro, and then “tourists”, those who don’t have any powers, whether just out for thrills like the scarily-shirtless Blue Blade, or our narrator and eye-piece, the Phantom Reporter, who simply feels he has to contribute to the war in some way. When the most famous characters are the original Black Widow and Mastermind Excello, you know it’s going to be an interesting book.
One of the things about the premise that particularly impressed me is the way it’s established that these heroes aren’t any sort of team, just twelve guys who were in the wrong place at the wrong time when they ventured into the SS headquarters as the Allies liberated Berlin. You can feel the tension between a legitimate superhero like Captain Wonder and an interloper like the Laughing Mask, and the way everyone is spooked by that big, radio-controlled robot. Credit is due in particular to artist Chris Weston who manages to sell the wartime scenes despite there being as many guys in costume as there are in uniform. His work has a depth and unextravagant realism that you don’t often see in comics today.
THE TWELVE feels like it shouldn’t work but by golly I enjoyed it! So much of it sounds like clichés that are so embarrassing they shouldn’t even be spoken aloud. Twelve more WWII heroes in suspended animation certainly doesn’t seem promising but the way it’s presented is a detail and the moment of realization when our leads twig that they’ve awoken in 2008, where Captain America is dead and superheroes are required to register with the government rather than simply put on a mask and go and fight crime is genuinely jarring. Similarly, while it may seem that we could be in for more deconstructionist fare, treating us to characters from a simpler time acting ALL GROWN UP, this first issue has instilled in me the confidence that we’re in for something a little more interesting than that. What’s JMS saying? That as much as we’d like to think so, our WWII heroes weren’t black and white? A comment on the simple comics of yesteryear versus the supposedly more complex stories of today? Or maybe just a cool story with a bunch of random characters thrust together and now bound by fate? I’m not sure yet, but I’ll surely be there to find out.
Credit to Marvel for putting out something distinctive like this. I couldn’t care less about most of the events and hype that goes on at the House of Ideas these days, but with OMEGA THE UNKNOWN and now THE TWELVE they are putting out some genuinely interesting stuff. For some reason THE TWELVE feels like it would be much more at home at DC, what with the less continuity-led stuff they tend to publish. And if it keeps up in the same vein as its great first issue and manages to avoid JMS’ weak endings curse, I think I’d have no hesitation in placing it alongside opuses like THE NEW FRONTIER, MARVELS or THE GOLDEN AGE.

DROID LIFE 2000AD

Cat Sullivan's charming and funny serial about the droids that work in the sub-sub-basement of the offices of 2000AD Magazine is compiled in this tiny little book. P14 has a simple job: writing the number 14 on the bottom of every issue of 2000AD magazine, but he dreams of a life more exciting. This book follows P14's dreams as he comes up with one new and pretty awful story idea after the next. The pages are damn hilarious. Just about everyone and everything in this book is a droid and all of them are imaginatively fun to watch doing their mundane tasks. Cubicle walls, urinals, staplers, and coffee machines--no office machine or furniture piece is unrepresented in this clever and entertaining collection of comic strips. - Ambush Bug

JESUS HATES ZOMBIES #1 Alterna Comics

I know zombie books are a dime a dozen these days with every variation of the theme used from zombie porn to zombies in space, but there's always room for a little zombie blasphemy. In JESUS HATES ZOMBIES pretty much all of the Earth's population has been wiped out by the dead. It took all of six days to do so, coincidentally the same amount of time it took God to make the Earth. This of course cheeses God off and in a steam room in heaven, he tells his son to return to Earth, try to find the few survivors left, and wipe out a few zombies along the way. Since God's power relies on belief and most all humans are dead, though, Jesus is basically powerless on Earth. So begins a quest as Jesus aimlessly walks the Earth, baseball bat in hand, clueless zombie sidekick by his side, and an "I'm with stupid ->" t-shirt on his back bashing his way across America to find these survivors. This allows for a whole lotta story potential and writers Stephan Lindsay and Michael Bartolotta take full advantage of it in this anthology of short stories featuring Jesus at his bat swinging-est and zombie-killing-est. If you haven't realized it from the description, don't expect a serious zombie yarn here. But what you can expect when you seek this one out is some pretty inventive story ideas (one particular story has Jesus stumble across a bowling alley and get really pissed off that even the lanes have been taken over by the undead; bowling ball carnage ensues) and the writers having a lot of fun writing the son of God as a zombie-killing bad@$$. Each story is drawn by a different artist and most all of them are pretty damn impressive. Warning: This book may cause convulsions to your religious aunt and if that isn't a reason to buy it, I don't know what is. - Ambush Bug

STRANGE DETECTIVE TALES #1-3 OddGod Press

It's a concept that has you hitting your head for not thinking of it first. Mr. Renfield and Dr. Igor Vorlic start up a detective agency in late 50's LA. Yes the insect-eating peon from Dracula and the hunchbacked lab assistant from Frankenstein team up to solve crimes and argue with one another. The way writer Jesse Bausch plays the grumpy and snobbish Igor against the impulsive and sentimental Renfield is a thing of genius. Taking notes from just about every noir story imaginable, these two detectives try to solve crimes that star characters from urban myth and classic sci fi and horror movies. These books are a Universal horror film buff's dream. The humor is smart. The story is funny, but doesn't lack heart. And I hope writer Jesse Bausch and artist James Callahan have more in store for us. Speaking of the art, it is definitely all kinds of cool. Callahan's character designs of Igor and Renfield are perfectly imagined and I couldn't help but think of Peter Lorre and Tom Waits (who played Renfield in Copolla's DRACULA) when I saw them on the page. The imaginative inclusions of the Green Meanies from MARS ATTACKS! and especially the ants from THEM! were the deal-sealers that this was one of those books that I would not soon forget. These books also have a good amount of bells and whistles including pin-ups of classic horror monsters and stand alone back-up horror/noir tales. I love, love, love this book and encourage any fan of horror and noir to seek it out. I'd love to see more STRANGE DETECTIVE TALES, but in the meantime, I think I'll just leaf through the first three issues again for its fun story, amazing art, and creative ideas. I shit you not, folks. Seek this one out. It’s highly recommended. - Ambush Bug

GREEN ARROW & BLACK CANARY #4 DC Comics

Dammit all. I don't understand why writer Judd Winick continues to write Connor Hawke into his Green Arrow stories. Seems he doesn't know what to do with the character at all short of painting a target on his back. For the ga-billionth time, Connor Hawke is incapacitated by a mysterious sniper. He's on death's door. And Ollie comes to terms with the fact that he may lose his son, the one who he abandoned and failed to be a father to. **SPOILER** Connor doesn't die in this issue, but he's brain dead...again!***SPOILER*** If Winick has so much trouble writing the character, just send him off on some kind of quest for self discovery and write the character out of the book. Hell, we have four Green Lanterns pittering around the DCU in GL proper, GL CORPS, and JLA. What's so difficult in doing the same with Connor? Why put Ollie in the upcoming OUTSIDERS series (written by Connor Hawke creator Chuck Dixon, fer cryin' out loud) when Connor could round out that cast nicely? Either way, I'm happy Connor didn't die in this issue, but it's sad to see that the only purpose Winick has for the character is punching bag and victim. Connor is a great character. He deserves better. - Bug

BPRD: 1946 #1 Dark Horse

Thank Cthulhu for Mike Mignola, who, gods willing, will be able to keep our black souls appeased with quality HELLBOY/BPRD miniseries for all eternity. This one is no exception, featuring BPRD founder and Hellboy-discoverer Trevor Bruttenholm trying to make headway into the Nazi collection of the occult in 1946 Berlin, while paired with a group of soldiers who’ve made it through the war in one piece and reliably conform to the war movie types. Political intrigue and creepiness abound, and POTTER’S FIELD’s Paul Azaceta is another worthy replacement for Mignola, serving up some wonderfully moody artwork. Why can’t more mainstream books look like this? – Stone

SIMON DARK #4 DC Comics

I just don’t know what to make of this book. There are a lot of elements that are so familiar you’ve seen them dozens of times (civil servant uncovers the dark secrets of an urban legend/neighborhood defender? And business and political leaders in a dark, potentially occult conspiracy? Again?), and there are some places you’re not sure if it’s an homage or a ripoff (the naïve young girl befriending a disturbed, reanimated, stitched-together, misunderstood monster? Rings a bell…). Additionally, the four issues thus far could have been told in two and we’d be a lot farther along with the story right now. On the other hand, Scott Hampton’s art, while clearly photoreferenced, works extremely well with Chris Chuckry’s colors. The pages are atmospheric, creepy, and yet feel strongly rooted in the real world. There are also some genuinely creepy moments, like a guy who plucks out his own eye, rests it in a rock wall, and uses it to spy on others. I’m sticking with it a little longer, but very tentatively. Hopefully the pace will pick up a bit, and hopefully some fresher ideas will be introduced, before it’s too late. –Sleazy

X-FACTOR #27 Marvel Comics

Hey, Marvel--wanna know a sure fire way for me to drop the only X-book that mattered? Have it cross over into the other X-books for another gratuitous and overwrought multi-part crossover event. Sure the recap page at the beginning caught me up to speed with the story I missed, but if I wanted to see Wolverine lead a ragtag group of mutants into battle for the umpteenth time, I would be buying the rest of the X-line. X-FACTOR always had an enjoyable nook carved out for themselves and functioned separately from all of the rest of the X-Men hullabaloo. Now that most of the characters are making only a cameo appearance in their own book in favor of a Wolverine or Cable splash page, it looks like that's all the excuse I needed to drop the title. That's another $2.99 in my pocket each month. Thanks, Marvel! – Bug

NIGHTWING #140 DC Comics

This was my favorite straight-up superhero read of the past week, and I’m not even that big a Nightwing fan. But writer Peter J. Tomasi obviously gets the Bat-family and the character of Dick Grayson, as well as just intrinsically knowing how to write a good, meaty superhero story. An utterly unself-conscious and enjoyable read featuring A-list art from Rags Morales, bitchin’ action scenes and a cool status quo for the lead character – you can bet I’ll be back next month. – Stone

FRIDAY THE 13TH: BAD LAND #1 DC/WildStorm

As much as I appreciate WildStorm's somewhat serious portrayal of the FRIDAY THE 13TH franchise, I have to say that we're getting a bit repetitious regarding stories. Although the structure of this book is somewhat different compared to what we normally get from a F13 story, the story itself follows the basic guidelines. Crosscutting between the 1800's and the present, the story follows two groups of wanderers (one set in the past, another in the present) and illustrates how Crystal Lake has been haunted ground even before Jason drowned in the lake. This new revelation in the F13 Universe is nice to see. Lord knows we don't need another stalk n' slash remake (there's been enough of that in the movies), but still, seeing Teen X chopped in half with a machete can only happen so many times before it becomes yawn-inducing. New slants or takes on an old premise is nice, but a good story is something that would really exciting and something I've yet to see that in this series. - Bug

PUNISHER WAR JOURNAL #15 Marvel Comics

I recently gave a very positive review of the first issue of this arc, focusing on Kraven’s son capturing Frank and a zoo’s worth of Marvel’s animal-based villains. The story, while kinda fun, also managed to keep me interested with the developing team G.W. Bridge is building to take down Frank: seeing the likes of Domino and Silver Sable pressed into service suggests some interesting story possibilities. All that said, though, it turns out the art is a major component on this book. Scott Wegener’s highly cartoony art is so contrary a style to that of Ariel Ollivetti previously that the mid-story transition was highly jarring. Although Wegener’s style isn’t terrible, and might work quite well on some titles, it feels terribly out of place on a Punisher book. It may work on some of the jokier issues, but any of the heavier stuff Fraction has done will be lost in the mix. It would be nice to see Wegener get more work at Marvel, but here’s hoping they can find a more appropriate artist for WAR JOURNAL quickly. –Sleazy

DETECTIVE COMICS #840 DC Comics

I enjoyed this Paul Dini-helmed issue featuring an epilogue to "The Resurrection of Ra's Al Ghul" crossover better than the entire crossover itself. This done in one story features a new quirky character in The Globe, a master criminal with a tendency to plot his crimes with longitude, latitude, time zones, and landmass themes. It's goofy enough to be fun, but with Batman playing it straight, the story never goes over the top. By the time Ra's shows up, Batman is already sick of fighting. This issue does a great job of illustrating that, even though post-INFINITE CRISIS/52 Batman is no longer supposed to be a total dick, he is still a very dark and serious avenger of Gotham. The way Batman finally takes down Ra's in this book is downright cruel. Not that Ra's doesn't deserve what he gets, but Batman takes the kid gloves off and gives him a punishment that, although within character, shows us the lengths Batman will go to take care of one of his most dangerous foes. Dini continues to do single issue stories like few others, filling the book with just enough story to make you check the pagination to see if he slipped a few extra pages in there when DC wasn't looking. – Bug

Remember, if you have a comic book you’d like one of the @$$holes to take a look at, click on your favorite reviewer’s link and drop us an email.

Check out the @$$oles’ ComicSpace AICN Comics page here for an archive and more @$$y goodness.

Readers Talkback
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  • Jan. 16, 2008, 7:14 a.m. CST

    First

    by Volfan8404

    I can't believe I just wasted two minutes of my life to say this.

  • Jan. 16, 2008, 7:16 a.m. CST

    first?

    by DannyDorko666

  • Jan. 16, 2008, 7:17 a.m. CST

    So close..

    by DannyDorko666

    ...yet so far. Red hulk looks like a great big carrot btw.

  • Jan. 16, 2008, 7:22 a.m. CST

    Yeah.....

    by Volfan8404

    That was my first post ever and even that wouldn't have happened if I wasn't here in Iraq. The Hulk looks like Satan on Roids. Maybe he can play for the Yankees.

  • Jan. 16, 2008, 7:25 a.m. CST

    Fifth?

    by The Penultimate Gunslinger

    ?

  • Jan. 16, 2008, 7:25 a.m. CST

    God I wish Judd Winnick would leave Green Arrow alone...

    by Sledge Hammer

    ...Hasn't Ollie and Connor suffered enough by now? It's been far too long since a decent writer who 'gets' their characters wrote their adventures. Far, far too long.

  • Jan. 16, 2008, 7:28 a.m. CST

    Winick even...

    by Sledge Hammer

    ...Damn stupid 'n' key. Oh, and more people should be reading Jonah Hex, one of the best books coming out of DC right now. Looking forward to Bat Lash too - which I've been buying but likely won't read until all six issues are out.

  • Jan. 16, 2008, 7:31 a.m. CST

    Jesus Hates Zombies!

    by ChrisTuckersOnlyFan

    Hell Yeah!

  • Jan. 16, 2008, 7:37 a.m. CST

    OK, so...

    by BizarroJerry

    You guys listened to me way back when, but, isn't it about time someone reviewed G.I. Joe yet again? The America's Elite series is now smack dab in the middle of their World War III storyline, with a double-sized issue, no less. They've just introduced something that never would have made it into the fun but kid-aimed cartoon series: Cobra's new death squad. And Cobra's currently "taking over the world" in the most realistic way I think we've ever seen in any version of G.I. Joe. Subverting governments, making countries thinking other countries have committed acts of war, etc. This current Joe story may turn out to be a nice set of TPBs to read before Hollywood sodomizes another beloved franchise.

  • Jan. 16, 2008, 8:02 a.m. CST

    I...I just can't

    by greyspecter

    I'm too disinterested to gin up a religious debate. Forget it.

  • Jan. 16, 2008, 8:07 a.m. CST

    John Severin

    by Lone_Wolf_McQuaalude

    Pick up anything this man draws. He's a legend. Desperadoes, Caper, Sgt Fury, Kull, and on and on

  • Jan. 16, 2008, 8:07 a.m. CST

    Spider-man BND

    by The Wang

    what happened to the BND interview ? did they remove it cos of the slating we were giving "Jackass" Quesada ?

  • Jan. 16, 2008, 8:11 a.m. CST

    Strange Detective Tales!

    by DuncanHines

    Cool that you guys gave those books some face time. I scored 1 and 2 at 2006 SPX, and got an amazingly KICK-ASS sketch from that James Callahan. Cool dudes and good books.

  • I'm absolutely horrified by how badly he's going to mangle the new TITANS series (Devin Grayson redux, anyone?), but at least OUTSIDERS is readable again now that Chuck Dixon's on the title. I hated that Katana, a former wife and mother filled with personal sadness, constantly sounded like she just walked off the set of MTV's THE HILLS...or should that be THE REAL WORLD?

  • Jan. 16, 2008, 8:25 a.m. CST

    Yeah, right before the new movie comes out...

    by Kid Z

    ...a movie they hope will renew the Hulk franchise, a movie featuring the familiar green Hulk... let's hire some pampered boutique writers who know nothing about producing good comics to make the Hulk red!

  • Jan. 16, 2008, 9:06 a.m. CST

    Christ, Bug, mountain out of a mole hill with X-Factor

    by sgt.spoon

    X-Factor makes ONE crossover issue mostly because of its obligation to do so for an X-MEN CROSSOVER more than anything else and you decide it's reason enough to drop the book? jeebuz. Do you dump your non-existent girlfriend when she's obligated to attend a family gathering rather than go on a date? You were just looking for a reason to either drop the book or bash Marvel. The crossover will pass. Settle down for crisakes.

  • Jan. 16, 2008, 9:22 a.m. CST

    THE TWELVE

    by alfiemoon

    "For some reason THE TWELVE feels like it would be much more at home at DC, what with the less continuity-led stuff they tend to publish." - - - You're joking, right?

  • Jan. 16, 2008, 10:27 a.m. CST

    Self-Serving Squashua's been busy<br>selling his stuff

    by Squashua

    I haven't written a review in a while (and I totally intended to this week) b/c I've been much too busy putting 1/4 of my collection on eBay, and I refuse the chance to use my reviews to whore my wares. <br><br>Therefore, this talkback works fine for me.<br><br>Here's the link to eBay and my stuff: http://tinyurl.com/25tvb5

  • Jan. 16, 2008, 11:05 a.m. CST

    Lord in Comic Book Heaven...

    by Prof_Ender

    Would probably be Osamu Tezuka. Or is he the Comic Book Buddha? ^_^

  • Jan. 16, 2008, 11:15 a.m. CST

    heaven?

    by blackthought

    where is that again?

  • Jan. 16, 2008, 11:46 a.m. CST

    so is abomination dead or what?

    by drewlicious

    the reviewer kind of skimmed over that. I didn't know if maybe he could still heal himself back from the brink.

  • Jan. 16, 2008, 12:48 p.m. CST

    Abomination

    by rev_skarekroe

    According to the reviewer, that was some sort of fantasy sequence. I just skimmed the book at the store, so I have no idea.

  • Jan. 16, 2008, 12:52 p.m. CST

    Jesus fightin' zombies...

    by BizarroJerry

    Wasn't there some other comic involving him fighting Vampires? Ignoring any offense I may take to such a story, it just doesn't make sense that he's fighting anybody. Doesn't seem like Jesus would ever be kicking any ass, undead or otherwise.<p> Ooh, look! It's offensive!

  • Jan. 16, 2008, 12:53 p.m. CST

    Nobody dies forever in comics, except for Bucky & Jason Todd...

    by Sledge Hammer

    ...what? Oh. <p>If Abomination is dead then I'm sure he'll be 'un-dead' again soon enough...not that I'm cynical or anything.

  • Jan. 16, 2008, 1:09 p.m. CST

    Messiah Complex (and X-Factor)

    by Archangel7883

    It's not overwrought, it's perfectly wrought. I'll agree that the chapters leaping from title to title (along with the writers and artists) was distracting at first but this is easily on par with Astonishing X-Men in terms of story quality. What Marvel is doing with the X-Men with this arc is incredible, and if you're only catching one out of every four, then you're missing a shitpot of fun. Your loss.

  • Jan. 16, 2008, 1:14 p.m. CST

    Strange Detective Tales

    by Son of Superfuzz

    Anyone interested in getting copies can a.) buy them in comics shops this month. If your shop did not get them ask your comic retailer to order them using these Diamond order codes: Issue 1: NOV073743 Issue 2: NOV073744 Issue 3: NOV073745 or b.) go to www.velocitycomics.com and order them there.

  • Jan. 16, 2008, 3:21 p.m. CST

    Alfie Moon

    by stones_throw

    See WATCHMEN, V FOR VENDETTA, SANDMAN, Vertigo, NEW FRONTIER, ALL STAR etc. That's what I was referring to more than the current superhero line. At Marvel there ain't a lot of stuff that isn't continuity-driven superheroes. And I know THE TWELVE is in continuity but...eh, *I* know what I mean anyway.

  • Jan. 16, 2008, 4:14 p.m. CST

    Book of the week: CEMETARY BLUES

    by Bedlamite

    CEMETARY BLUES from Shadowline (imprint of Image) put out the best book of the week (in my NOT so humble opinion). I'd give the full review here, but it's lengthy for a comment, so here'a link: http://tinyurl.com/2wwv5d

  • Jan. 16, 2008, 4:16 p.m. CST

    Jesus Fighting Zombies?

    by bibble 3000

    That's kinda hypocritical, right? Isn't Jesus a zombie?

  • Jan. 16, 2008, 5:09 p.m. CST

    Messiah Complex

    by The Heathen

    Is surprisingly good… so far.

  • Jan. 16, 2008, 7:37 p.m. CST

    This Red HULK Thing / GREEN LANTERNS

    by LaserPants

    I read it. Thought it was okay. (I like the idea of the Winter Guard; I'd like to see a Russian Super Team explored more in-depth, especially with the resurgence of anti-West sentiment we've seen lately care of Putin.) But I'm kinda confused -- is this a part of the generalized Marvel Universe continuity (or what passes for it)? Or is it some kinda alternate universe thing? <br><br> And a note on GREEN LANTERN and the GREEN LANTERN CORPS. Both of these titles are pretty much my favorite comics going right now. Can't wait to see where this whole Alpha Lantern thang is gonna go. And I REALLY can't wait for the whole Zombie Lantern thang in THE BLACKEST NIGHT, which is a hideously long way off, but which I'm eagerly awaiting...

  • Jan. 16, 2008, 10:10 p.m. CST

    i second the glory of...

    by blackthought

    all things lantern related, just keeps on being fantastic.

  • Jan. 16, 2008, 10:22 p.m. CST

    Bug, X-Factor is done with the crossover next issue!

    by TallBoy66

    Don't drop it, you've made it throught the darkness of the crossover and will emerge with fresh, self-contained X-Factor in just 30 days! With Pablo Rimbolli on art, too!

  • Jan. 17, 2008, 10:48 a.m. CST

    Bug, I think the word your looking for is

    by Borgnine JR

    ...impulsiveness. Impulsivity exhists as a word only in your own fevered mind. but I agree Samson semed out of character sucker punching Red Guardian. Not something you'd expect from an Ivy league schooled psychiatrist. If they needed a fight to break out, maybe it should have been instigated by the very defensive GIANT BEAR MAN. Maybe he's a Skrull.And I thought Samson's give and take with She-Hulk was kinda amusing. Snarky sure, but I wouldn't say over the top. And I like change as part of the Hulk's milieu. Remember the grey Hulk story where Banner gets arrested by an abusive small town sheriff and yadda-yadda-yadda gray Hulk stands over the now dead sheriff's gun holding wife and laughs'You're as big a monster as I am?" One of my favorite Hulk stories. I don't mind a different Hulk, I just want a good Hulk.

  • Jan. 17, 2008, 10:48 a.m. CST

    Bug, I think the word your looking for is

    by Borgnine JR

    ...impulsiveness. Impulsivity exhists as a word only in your own fevered mind. but I agree Samson semed out of character sucker punching Red Guardian. Not something you'd expect from an Ivy league schooled psychiatrist. If they needed a fight to break out, maybe it should have been instigated by the very defensive GIANT BEAR MAN. Maybe he's a Skrull.And I thought Samson's give and take with She-Hulk was kinda amusing. Snarky sure, but I wouldn't say over the top. And I like change as part of the Hulk's milieu. Remember the grey Hulk story where Banner gets arrested by an abusive small town sheriff and yadda-yadda-yadda gray Hulk stands over the now dead sheriff's gun holding wife and laughs'You're as big a monster as I am?" One of my favorite Hulk stories. I don't mind a different Hulk, I just want a good Hulk.

  • Jan. 17, 2008, 11:49 a.m. CST

    Sorry for the double post

    by Borgnine JR

    SOMEBODY doesn't refresh very well.

  • Jan. 17, 2008, 12:27 p.m. CST

    Cheech & Chong Created Red Hulk...

    by Buzz Maverik

    See the boys visit the set of '70s TV sensation THE MIGHTY WAMBA in CHEECH & CHONG'S NEXT MOVIE.

  • Jan. 17, 2008, 2:17 p.m. CST

    Jesus Wasn't a Zombie...

    by Kerouac77

    When Jesus rose from the dead, he maintained his soul and humanity. Zombies maintain nothing from their former lives... they're empty shells looking to feed.

  • Jan. 17, 2008, 4:33 p.m. CST

    Maybe Cheech & Chong Will Figure Prominently In Future Issues

    by LaserPants

    "Yo, pass the gamma-bong, ese!"<br><br> That would be great if Marvel suddenly went all stoner gonzo; hit the time machine, bring Robert Crumb circa 1968 back to the future (2008 is the future btw, we already live in the future and it blows) and have him take over as EIC from Joe "Retard" Quesadilla. Twist a fatty, kick back with an issue of STONER AVENGERS and trip out to the psychedelic adventures!

  • Jan. 17, 2008, 5:47 p.m. CST

    Marvel Tried To Get Crumb In The Seventies...

    by Buzz Maverik

    They published a few issues...maybe even a single issue, I don't know...of a magazine called COMIX, trying to do underground comics in the mainstream. Stan really wanted Crumb, who was disgusted and horrified.<p>Me, I think Vroom Socko should be EIC of Marvel.

  • Jan. 17, 2008, 6:29 p.m. CST

    kerouac77

    by bibble 3000

    There no way to say for a fact that Zombies REtain nothing from their former lives. Just because they hunger and they no longer speak, doesn't mean they don't have a thought process or memories at least. Remember a little thing called 'Marvel Zombies'? And you can make claims as to whether this even counts, but it was written by Robert Kirkman, author of 'The Walking Dead' series.

  • Jan. 17, 2008, 7:55 p.m. CST

    I Love Crumb, Never Knew Stan Tried To Recruit Him

    by LaserPants

    Thats great that Crumb resisted, but how great would it have been if he took over, I dunno, Spider-Man for a year and gave it the Crumb treatment -- like Peter Parker uncontrollably humping thick legged girls, hanging out with Mr. Natural, and the like. Ah, if only he sold out just a little bit!

  • Jan. 18, 2008, 11:39 a.m. CST

    Strange Detective Tales Animated!!

    by Son of Superfuzz

    The Strange Detective Tales guys have also teamed up with hungrymantv to produce an original animated series based on the comic! Episodes 1 and 2 are up now at: http://tinyurl.com/39mp3l

  • Jan. 18, 2008, 12:16 p.m. CST

    Messiah Complex

    by Homer Sexual

    Messiah Complex isn't bad, this latest issue had at least one nice moment with Mystique. And I like a lot of characters. <p> However, one of Marvel's most horrid 90's creations is a major player. I despise Cable, and his prominence in this story bugs me. Bishop also sucks, but much less than Cable. Cable is part of the reason I dropped the X-books for much of the 90's. <p> The Twelve is pretty good, but I am assuming JMS has some complex plans for this story, because a regular super hero story with these characters would not be interesting. <p> Love Jonah Hex, but Bat Lash seems totally uninteresting. Not tough enough. Hex doesn't pull any punches, plus he's got my favorite team, Palmiotti & Grey, on him. <p> Finally, is it just me or does all of Bedard's writing have a bit of misogyny. I was reading Countdown, and the tone made me think Bedard was the co-writer, flipped back to the credits...and he was. He's a good writer, but I don't think he cares for women much.

  • Jan. 20, 2008, 9:56 p.m. CST

    i'm liking bat lash...

    by blackthought

    should give it a try, he and jonah are tight you know.

  • Jan. 22, 2008, 12:26 a.m. CST

    SeSergio Aragones...

    by Jack Ryder

  • Jan. 22, 2008, 12:35 a.m. CST

    Sergio Aragones...

    by Jack Ryder

    Created, or at least co-created Bat Lash way back when. I get the feeling in the story that the red Hulk was supposed to be a mystery since they never showed him. shades of Bruce Jones! Still, I liked the story and want to see how it plays out. I agree with you about X-Factor. But I lost interest when it was interupted by Civil War. And then every other cross-over Marvel kept throwing at it since.