Hey folks, Ambush Bug here with the final six winners of the X-O MANOWAR Contest. These lucky winners, along with the other winners announced last week, will be receiving a copy of X-O MANOWAR: BIRTH, the new re-mastered trade paperback of Valiant’s popular comic from the 90’s.
Congrats, winners. Look for those trades in the mail soon. And now on with the reviews!
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #1
Writer(s): Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning Penciler: Paul Pelletier Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewed by Humphrey LeeWhen I was in my more adolescent comic reading days, I had this weird affinity for all those more obscure/less popular characters off in their own little part of the Marvel U, doing whatever it is that they did. For every Spider-Man or X-Men book I happened to be reading, I was buying double that in MIDNIGHT SONS material or, to get to the point, SILVER SURFER comics and, yes, WARLOCK & THE INFINITY WATCH. Why? Beats the fuck out of me. Even then I knew the stories weren't anything great, but I really did enjoy the characters and how they interacted. The angsty and oh-so-serious Adam Warlock bouncing off the rather aggressive Gamora, the mood swinging and childlike Drax and the rather lecherous Pip, I dunno. There was something really fun about such an odd assemblage of characters that kept me in tow.
Enter the new GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY...
ANNIHILATION hitting a couple summers ago gave me hope there was something to be done with the Cosmic side of the Marvel U. Yeah, even back then when I really didn't know anything about comics I knew there probably was no reason for books like WARLOCK & THE IW to exist outside of leftover INFINITY GAUNTLET buzz (God, I'm getting such a nostalgia rush right now... wait, never mind. That's just the bourbon. Sorry). But that particular event showed that at least every once in a while these characters could be brought back out and played with, and in the case of some of them (I'm talking about the old Buckethead here, Nova) could find enough potential to get an ongoing or two out of it. And really, what better place to have big "End of Everything We Know" cataclysmic events? At least this way there was no dumbing of them down in order to somehow fit fucking Wolverine or whoever into it, y'know?
So, again, here we are. We've got some old hands, we've got some new replacements of old hands, we've got highfalutin space action, and an anthropomorphic raccoon stealing the show. The fifteen year old in me with no life and no date on a Friday night is squealing out in glee. It also helps that this was one of those damn fun comics that you always love to run across.
It's not an especially high concept or anything; in the wake of the two Annihilation events the universe needs protectors, these guys have the will, sense of duty, or just plain lack of anything else going on to step up and take on that responsibility. Explosions and great off-the-cuff jokes ensue, mainly from that rascally raccoon. It also helps that the characters are immediately endearing. Abnett & Lanning did a great job of bringing out their inner quirks or hardwired traits to bring the appropriate amount of humor and hard-edgedness out in the cast, which immediately inflects itself on the book. This is also nailed home by Pelletier's pencils which I've thought since I first got exposed to them on SHE-HULK were perfect for both action and carrying a humorous undertone. They accomplish both of these very admirably here in GOTG as well. The coloring job by Nathan Fairbairn helps out the cause a lot as well methinks. I know it's rare to see a colorist get any props, but I could tell immediately the brighter and more colorful tones used here did wonders to bring out Pelletier's stuff, so might as well spread the love, y'know?
All around, this is just a great joint effort by everyone involved to make a book that even I, the guy with the nostalgia problem, wasn't even going to buy at first but am now urging everyone to give a shot. Just like GREEN LANTERN's "Sinestro Corps" story last year showed how much enjoyment can be had in stories like these, in those corners of the universe that are rarely visited, books like this are showing that they're not the only one of the big tandem that has those kinds of books at its disposal. It's only one issue, but it was a great indication that Marvel has a "Geoff Johns equivalent" in the Abnett/Lanning duo when it comes pulling something like this off. That's about as good a praise as any as I can give when it comes too a book like this. That's gotta be worth the three bucks for a look-see, don't you think?
Humphrey Lee is a long time AICN reviewer and also a certified drunk whose claim to fame is making it up four steps of the twelve step program before vomiting on steps five and six and then falling asleep on steps one through three. Also, chances are, he's banged your mom (depending on the relative hotness of said parental figure) and is probably the father of one of your younger siblings.
THE ALL NEW ATOM #23
Writer: Rick Remender Art: Pat Olliffe (pencils) & John Stanisci (inks) Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Ambush BugDamn, I'm really loving this book. Like many of you, I was concerned when Gail Simone left this book. Gail did such a great job of fleshing out the character of Ryan Choi as the new Atom. She also made it a kookified fun ride with science and all sorts of adventurism bleeding off the page. And even though the relevance of the quotes kind of faded as the issues went on, I still thought it brought its own kitschy charm to the book.
During the transition from Simone to Remender, there were a couple of weak issues, I have to admit; the book was starting to give me that uneasy feeling that it was going to fade into obscurity fast without the creators that started the series. Then a few issues ago, Rick FEAR AGENT Remender leapt onto the series as writer and hit the ground running. And so far, he's doing one hell of a job.
This series reads like THE FLASH should read. The happenings happen fast. The book begins in the heart of the action and never stops running until the last panel. On top of the pace, Remender makes sure to fill this book with cool stuff of Dan Slott-ian proportions. For the last few issues, THE ALL NEW ATOM has been one of those books that I have to check the page count at the end of the book to see if they added a few. There's no way all of that stuff happened in 22 pages. But it does.
What Remender does best is dive right into the action from a scientific angle. This Atom, like the previous one, is an explorer/scientist, DC's version of the Fantastic Four where discovery and scientific theory is much more important than heroism. The scientific inquisitive mind is the guiding force to this book.
But that doesn't mean that our hero isn't a hero. He is and often finds himself in the middle of saving lives due to either the craziness of the town he lives in or one of his off-the-wall experiments gone horribly awry. Two issues ago, Remender started out his journey with the Atom by having Ryan battling creatures of his own making. The Atom discovers anomalous cells within his body. In order to check them out, he enlarges them, they get loose and start eating everything in sight (mostly friends of the Atom). In two issues, Remender killed off quite a few longtime (well, long for a 23 issue series) Atom supporting characters, including his best friend Panda. While I was enjoying the ride, I definitely felt a bit of unease as this new writer began to destroy the Atom's entire life that had been built up until that issue.
In issue #23, my faith in Remender returned. I don't want to ruin the book, but longtime fans will be happy to see who turns up in this issue. I'll leave it at that.
Along the way, the Atom has a chance to ask some questions about the Atom's shrinking belt that really have never been asked before. Where does the matter go when the Atom shrinks? Do the Atom's travels through the microscopic worlds affect those worlds in ways he never knew? The Atom gets a chance to ponder these questions for a bit in this issue and they create some interesting launching pads for stories I hope to see Remender delve into in future issues.
Remender also doles out the cliffhangers as if he were a cliffhanger salesman on Buy One Cliffhanger & Get One Free Day. Last issue ended with a scenario that I had no idea how the Atom was going to get out of. This issue does the same. It's to the point where I seriously don't know if Ryan will survive from one issue to the next. And with the rate DC is going at killing off main characters, it doesn't give me that usual secure feeling that everything is going to be okay, especially with a character so new and unproven.
Remender does drop some really cool hints at the Atom's future in this issue—a future that doesn't bode well for our hero. Hopefully, though, this writer and this book will be around to develop these bits more.
Before I go, I have to give props to Pat Olliffe. Olliffe is a seasoned veteran in comics. He's been around for quite a while, but I haven't seen his art this good ever. Like famous ATOM artist Gil Kane, Olliffe does a great job of making the fantastical worlds the Atom plops into seem real. He also handles the action with angles and details that you don't normally find in comics. Olliffe is doing some of his best work on this title.
This is a book that keeps me guessing. It always surprises me and I never know what to expect from one issue to the next. I’m not one to gush over just any comic. Remender’s THE ALL NEW ATOM is worth all of the gush, though. Having read so many comics in my life, I'm grateful that a comic like THE ALL NEW ATOM exists to remind me why started reading comics in the first place.
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, reviewer and co-editor of AICN Comics for close to seven years. Look for his first published work in MUSCLES & FIGHTS 3 (AVAILABLE NOW!) from Cream City Comics.
Writer: Chris Claremont Artrist: Scherberger Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: Optimous DoucheI broke two of my cardinal rules when I picked up this title:
One, I swore I was done with Claremont. While I will always hold a special place in my heart for the amazing work he did on X-MEN so many years ago, his recent forays into X-titles have been wrought with confusing, half-hearted tales that seem to regurgitate dialogue that was considered sharp when Carter was in office.
Secondly, I never pick up a title where it takes more than five minutes to figure out how to pronounce the book's name. What the fuck is a GENEXT? GEN-NEXT, while unoriginal, would at least make sense. To be fair to the editors at Marvel I should spell the title out as it appears on the cover. Ready? GeNeXt. Doesn’t that help clear things up?
So why did I pick up this latest entrant into the X-Universe? Call it my reverent nostalgia and sincere hope that Claremont will once again tap into the same vein of creativity he once had; call it my obsessive compulsive need to collect any number one X-title no matter how insipid the book appears to be on first glance; or call me a glutton for punishment, because that’s exactly what I felt like after forking over $4.00 for what was ostensibly an “after school special” dressed up as a super hero title.
The premise was strong and I give Marvel an “A+” for bringing it to fruition. What if Scott Summers and crew weren’t perpetually stuck in their late twenties and early thirties, but instead were about to receive their first piece of AARP junk mail and get discount movie tickets? I’ve always loved the idea of showing superheroes past their prime. One of the best moments of THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS was when Batman was perched atop a building and lamenting the need to take Celebrex for his aching joints.
While the premise was enticing, I’m afraid I will need to come up with a brand new grade for the execution because an “F” would be too high of a mark, let’s give it an “X” for an Xtrordinary waste of time. Instead of seeing the original class rub down their muscles with icy/hot and battle an octogenarian Magneto, what we are given is an issue devoted to a new class of X-men, with a brief three panel guest appearance by Henry McCoy.
I’m willing to forgive Claremont and crew for not focusing the entire issue on the decrepit X-Men; however there is no excuse for the utter caricatures and stereotypes that encompass the new class. If GENERATION X served as a break form the hokey storytelling of NEW MUTANTS, GENEXT takes a leap backwards to a time that never was nor should have ever been.
Some of these new members sprung from the loins of the last generation, like the new Colossus, while others remain a mystery. However, all of them share the unique gift to telegraph their thoughts and verbalize all of the limited action in each scene. Where books like RUNAWAYS truly speak to the turmoil of teenage years, GENEXT speaks to the perception of teen turmoil as told by someone who has watched “Clueless” too many times. I would love to tell you some of the characters’ names, but aside from the opening splash page they simply refer to each other as boy or girl, as in “you go boy” or “you get them girl”. If any of these characters actually exhibited some level of personality, perhaps I would have gone back to see who was who.
You might be asking what the kids’ powers are. If you figure it out feel free to e-mail me. Despite the fact the book opens in the familiar setting of the Danger Room, only Colossus’ brat and some kid that can turn things invisible decide to use their powers. This lack of exposition into these characters was to drive home the point “just because you have powers doesn’t mean the powers define who you are”. That would be great, if I cared one iota about these characters prior to this issue. Seeing as though this is the first time I’ve met them, I couldn’t really give a Toad’s ass about their internal conflicts.
I hate manga style art. It just feels lazy to me. Human musculature allows us to express anger in more ways then a gaping chasm of a mouth and eyes turned into coin slots. I had hoped that Marvel was done trying to shoehorn the Ameri-Manga style of art into their main titles after they experimented with it a few years ago. However, here it is again in its full Sailor Moon glory. I don’t fault a title for using manga, because if the TPB section of my Borders is any indicator, I’m in the minority with my hatred. All I ask for is a warning before I pick the book up. Some would say look at the cover, but as we all know the cover art of a book can be a far departure from the art inside.
To add insult to storytelling and artistic injury, Marvel had the audacity to tack an extra $1.00 onto the cover charge. What you get for that extra Washington is a sketch book of the characters you have just grown to hate or care less about, and preview pages of an upcoming issue of X-MEN: FIRST CLASS. The funny thing is I actually enjoyed the preview pages more than the main story. Generally when I go to a movie and the previews are more enticing than the actual film, I write a hate letter to the studio.
Here is my hate letter to Marvel. This book has potential, but not with its current creative direction. As Claremont enters his golden years, I believe he could offer great insight into the final chapter of life through the characters he has helped define. Please give us more of the original X-Men as they stare down the inevitable abyss of death and sideline the baby mutants.
When Optimous Douche isn’t reading comics and misspelling the names of 80’s icons, he “transforms” into a corporate communications guru. Optimous is looking for artistry help, critical feedback and a little industry insight to get his original book AVERAGE JOE up, up and on the shelves. What if the entire world had super powers? Find out in the blog section of Optimous’ MySpace page to see some preview pages and leave comments.
BATMAN CONFIDENTIAL #17
Writer: Fabian Nicieza Artist: Kevin Maguire Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Rock-Me AmodeoA year or so ago, I picked up this book and threw it back down, my fingers and eyes palsied. If you’ve never seen palsied eyes, lemme tell you, it ain’t pretty. Unbeknownst to me, the book got better with every arc. That first lurid experience almost caused me to miss the entire run of Bedard and Morales, an arc that was well received. So I tuned in this month, just to see who was on the menu, not knowing what to expect.
Holy crap. Nicieza and Maguire. I really think I could stop the review right there, but I’ll get into the heart of the book.
This arc depicts the first meeting of Batgirl and Catwoman, before the latter gained a conscience and the prior lost use of her legs. After reading years of Simone’s stellar run on BIRDS OF PREY, I really gained a lot of respect for Barbara Gordon, both in her current incarnation and her former. And after I saw her move her toes (after one harrowing bout in BoP), I really hoped we might someday see the one and only (in MY mind) Batgirl swinging through the city. Alas, if that was what Gail had in mind, it must have been nixed by the PTB (powers that be) or she simply ran out of time.
But here…here…this is the beginning. She’s not completely green, nor is she as capable as she will one day become. Nicieza is more than capable of doing justice to this much-beloved character.
And did I mention Maguire was drawing the book? Maguire can show more emotion in one facial expression than other artists in a whole issue. Sure, all his women’s noses are a little large. Who’s looking at noses? Not me, no sir. I’m admiring Kevin’s fine grasp of anatomy in general and storytelling specifically. Some of these pages look like he’s storyboarding for the movie. It reads just that way.
And Batman…uhn, well Batman isn’t in it. Ah, I don’t really care, and you won’t either. He’s in enough stuff.
Look, I don’t want to get all long winded. Pick three adjectives for “fun”, apply them to this book, and write your own review. As for me, I plan on picking up every issue of this run. Especially the next issue, even though I’m sure we’re going to see more cleverly placed flower arrangements, statues and possibly cantaloupes than the first Austin Powers movie. Still, this looks to be a clever story and great art, so grab this run if you can.
Dante “Rock-Me” Amodeo has been reading comics for thirty-five years. His first novel, “Saban and The Ancient” (an espionage/paranormal thriller) was published 2006. He began writing for AICN Comics in 2007 and his second novel (“Saban Betrayed”) is due 2008. He’s often told he has a great face for radio.
NEW UNIVERSAL: SHOCKFRONT #1
Writer: Warren Ellis Penciler: Steve Kurth Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewed by: BottleImpI only read the first “season” of Ellis’ NEW UNIVERAL a few weeks ago when I picked up the trade paperback; somehow I had missed out on the series when it first hit the stands. As someone who enjoyed Marvel’s New Universe for what it was—a flawed experiment—I was eager to see what Ellis would do to make the concept of “real-world” superheroes work better than it did in ’86. My feelings are somewhat mixed—combining the individual storylines of Justice, Starbrand, Nightmask and Spitfire into one plotline is an inspired choice, as is establishing as an antagonist a government agency whose purpose is the elimination of superhumans. I wasn’t as keen on the whole “superflow” thing—I like the way The White Event was handled in the original New Universe as equal parts mystery and accident. Ellis’ version somehow feels very similar to his “snowflake” multiverse from PLANETARY. But on the whole, I still enjoyed the first installment of NEW UNIVERSAL and was looking forward to more.
SHOCKFRONT #1 is good, but something bugged me after I finished reading it, and I couldn’t quite place my finger on what it was. I read it again: Izanami Randall (aka Nightmask) leaves the comic shop where she works just before a new superhuman’s power blows the place up, the NYPD begins a manhunt for Detective John Tensen (aka Justice), another superhuman power emerges during a football game (in a spectacularly graphic sequence), and Ken Connell (aka Starbrand) explores his abilities as he and Izanami investigate the explosion of her store. Some interesting stuff, but something still felt a bit off. I went back and scanned through the trade paperback of the first series, and then something clicked.
The television show “Heroes” is another series that I missed the first time around. When it was released on DVD, my girlfriend and I rented the first season and were instantly hooked. We watched every episode almost entirely back-to-back within a matter of days, and eagerly awaited the debut of the second season. As pretty much everyone out there knows, Season 2 of “Heroes” was kind of a letdown. For us it was even worse simply due to the fact that we were forced to wait a week (or more) between episodes, whereas we had just enjoyed the instant gratification of watching Season 1 episodes without breaks in between. A storyline that might have been intriguing became stale and boring when it was drawn out over a long stretch of time. And that’s the feeling I’m getting from SHOCKFRONT.
I think I was spoiled by the instant gratification of the first trade paperback. SHOCKFRONT #1 isn’t bad, but at the same time it doesn’t feel as if the plot has advanced at all. Now that I think about it, PLANETARY often had that same feeling… maybe Ellis’ work just reads better collected than it does on a month-to-month basis. I guess I just have to decide whether I want to pick up SHOCKFRONT as it’s released or just wait for the inevitable trade. Or I could buy it each month and just not read them until I’ve got a bunch stockpiled. Whatever I decide, I’m sure I’ll stick with the series, and anyone out there who is a fan of “Heroes”-style super heroics or who remembers the New Universe (even if you remember it as a joke) should do the same.
DORORO VOL 1 & 2
By Osamu Tezuka (VOL 2 to be released June 24, 2008) Released by Vertical Preview Online here. Reviewer: Scott GreenIn DORORO, "God of Manga" Osamu Tezuka, creator of ASTRO BOY, ventures into the territory of the dark and strange. For a genre fan, DORORO has been the classic manga to hold out hopes of seeing translated for English release. It's the pioneer of the manga tradition wading neck deep into the mire of freakish swordsmen, ghouls and historical messiness: Kurosawa and Leone meets Romero.
Tezuka solidly embeds his story in the outcast hero tradition, and at the same time, he mirrors his view of the human condition in Japan's haunting supernatural world of the yokai While the 1967 manga is a boys' adventure, starring a sort of samurai cyborg, a physically ravaged swordsman in the tradition of the one armed Tange Sazen, or comparable to the heroes of later manga Blade of the Immortal, Kurogane and even Berserk, hunting down the 48 demons who robbed him of a normal body, the manga is not just a warrior with swords for arms cutting through bandits and harrowing boogiemen and not just the tragedy of a flawed hero. Tezuka offers one of his deeply felt dialectics on the human will to survive versus all of the ambitions that endanger the basic imperative to raise a happy family. His sense of irony is sure to appeal to modern, adult readers, and that disparity between the expected and the reality starts with the title of the manga. "DORORO," named for a childish mispronunciation of dorobo, "thief" is actually the side kick or fool of the manga. While Dororo remains a resolutely human force, in each of his victories, the swordsman Hyakkimaru, or "Hundred Demon Boy," trades a piece of the artificial body that made him an effective warrior for a more fallible, human piece, and yet, at the same time, he loses some of his humanity in the experience.
DORORO is set in the Sengoku or "period of warring states" that ran from the 15th century through the institution of the Tokugawa shogunate in the 17th. In the absence of a strong central government, Japan fragmented into contesting daimyo ruled domains. Exacerbating the human suffering, the 15th century also saw famine and earth quakes hit Japan. In DORORO, this doesn't just represent the past or offer a pre-modern platform for people to settle their differences at the lethal edge of a sword. At it's best, Tezuka's eye for imposing, cinematic images is channeled into creating a broken landscape, where the aftermath of tragic times continue to haunt to the inhabitants.
Volume two opens with a single section of a wooden wall, buffeted by winds on an otherwise barren hill top. It's a simple notion, but even before it's significance is revealed, before a group of men, women and children are lined up against it and executed, there's an imposing sense of tragedy to the image. What follows from there significantly advances the manga's overarching story, but that contribution to the manga's continuity pales next to Tezuka's intension to express his humanist philosophy. Throughout his library of manga, Tezuka prioritize fundamental human rights over the will of states or power-collecting institutions. There's the core struggle to survive and endure over the generations. Then there's all the agendas that exacerbate that struggle. This particular story, "Banmon" is Tezuka's effort to engage the theme of families separated by war. It's a parable for Korea, or, given the context in which the story was written, Viet Nam, where a line was drawn as a front for two powers contesting control, to the misery of any family splintered in the process. In "Banmon", there is a fragment of the wall that stand as the lone physical manifestation of the drawn out conflict, the opportunist supernatural presence that haunts the wall, and a boy who was cut off from his family by the conflict.
Like many book shelf manga, DORORO is probably not going to be read by something like its target demographics. North American readers are probably going to be older fans of the comics/manga tradition than the age range that read in original Japanese serialization. For that North American media consumer, who has probably seen plenty of war movies, who's gone through at least a few years of civics/social studies/history class, this is not expressing an unconsidered view of war. The power of "Banmon" is not that it is illuminating something new. Its power is in Tezuka's searing images.
Don't bow to the drum beat "Tezuka is the best” just on the virtue of historical significance or because people who are/think that they are informed regard him as such. In DORORO, as he generally does, Tezuka demonstrates that the chief limitations in working in the medium are ones talent and ones imagination. While his work is cartoonish, marked by, marked by exaggeration and caricature, it's also cinematic. Many of the grand moments in DORORO borrow from the language of epic film. Looking at the composition of Tezuka's pages and panels, it is always possible to find something interesting and moving in his images.
Unfortunately, while there are no meritless stories in DORORO, not every story has the power of Banmon, and even Banman has some glaring issues. Two volumes in, the markings of series' halt after its third are already manifesting. Inspiration seems to be inconsistently coming to Tezuka. Avenues for addressing his world view produce stories like Banmon. Certain images of the supernatural world, fire him up in starts, producing memorable tableaus like a hidden cave with a water fall spraying the ascetic monk kneeing before an angry statue of the Buddhist fire deity Fudo. Yet, volume two, it is generally moments and not complete stories that stand out.
When a map to hidden gold turns up on Dororo's back and a wizen sage has to prod Hyakkimaru forward, it begins to look like Tezuka is finding these characters unmanageable. As dexterous as Tezuka was, between writing shoujo stories for young girls and gekiga tales of rage and frustration for men, in this case, it's as if he had trouble motivating himself to work through a formula adventure. He allows the stories to slide into the requisite pattern. When a saved town turns against Hyakkimaru because he's different and he's no longer needed or a fated confrontation ends in tragedy, the characters feel like they are reacting strictly in service of the proscribed pattern.
DORORO is not Tezuka at his most groundbreaking. When a character breaks the forth wall and invokes Shigeru Mizuki, the manga artist who created the still popular supernatural adventure GE GE GE NO KITARO, Tezuka seems to be casting his work as a reaction to other strange, violent boy's manga. Nor is Tezuka working in a mode that suits all of his specialties. The sword fights move a bit too much like ASTRO BOY, with a rush and pow mode of exchange. Still, this is Tezuka, doing yokai and samurai manga. It's the kind of title that an AICN'er would hold out hopes of seeing released in North America. Now that it has been released, it is not quite everything that might have been hoped for. However, the conflict of an enraged hunter, tracking down what he lost, and in finding that, losing something else explores the kind of contradiction on which Tezuka thrives. The chief problem is that the brilliant moments foster disappointment in the aspects of the manga that don't rise to the provoked expectation.
Scott Green has been writing for AICN ANIME for close to seven years. If you like what you see here and love anime & manga, be sure to check out his latest AICN ANIME column here.
Website: Found here. By John H Midgley Reveiwer: Ambush BugMy neverending quest to shed light on new and independent voices in comics leads me in many directions. Lately, I’ve been checking out a lot of webcomics. The internet, much like the independent comics printed and distributed out of basements and Kinko’s, seems to be a great way to get one’s comics out there and seen. It’s much easier these days to post comics online than it is to print copies of books that may or may not sell. It just makes sense that webcomics is a nook of comicdom that seems to be growing and growing these days.
This week, I’m looking at yet another impressive offering from the Drunk Duck webcomic community. BLOODHOUND is the amalgamation of noir/super hero/samurai fiction centering on an unlikely hero in wolf’s clothing. Bloodhound is not a squeaky clean hero, in fact, he’s somewhat sleazy at times. But his intentions are good and writer Midgley does a nice job of making the character likable despite his often crude mannerisms. The true standout of this comic, though, is the art. There’s a heavy graphic design sense going on, moreso than most comics. Every page I clicked on was dynamic and iconic. Some are damn near poster-worthy. Midgley uses a simple palette of blacks, whites, and red to communicate mood and lots and lots of blood. This comic pulls no punches in the violence department, but the sharp imagery and simplistic design adds a quality that makes the story seem secondary. Soaking in the fantastic artwork is what made me click through these pages faster and faster, then returning to the previous page to stare at the images some more. BLOODHOUND is into its second issue. Not sure where the story is going, but with fantastic artwork like this, John Midgley can take me anywhere.
There’s a part of me that doubts and hopes that online comics don’t completely overtake the comic book market. There’s something about holding a comic book in your hand and turning the pages oneself that can never be replaced with a mouse-click. But I have found that webcomics can be just as enjoyable to read. Although they may never replace printed comics, webcomics such as BLOODHOUND show that this is an avenue of comicdom that holds quality and imagination just the same.
TITANS #2 DC ComicsThis book looks and reads as if it fell out of a time machine from the mid-nineties. It doesn’t read like one of the early Image books. It reads like those second generation Image books that copied the house style and forgot to add anything like proportion, plot, purpose…a point. Faces don’t match up to the words they are saying. And even when they do, they are emoting to a level that would make soft-core porn actors blush. It’s as if the writer and artist aren’t even communicating at all. Not that there would be much by way of communication, mind you. Basically, the gang gets together this issue. All of them run around in unison and over-emote (most of the time inappropriately) as they all stand and watch someone talk. It’s not as if these are some cardboard cut-out no-name characters. These are the second biggest stars in the DCU. And all writer Judd Winick is doing is offering one opportunity after another for artist Joe Benitez to draw a group shot of Beast Boy goofing, The Flash inappropriately smiling, Donna Troy posing like she’s having a rectal exam, and of course, Nightwing scowling. And what’s up with Donna’s hair? Freaking gross. It looks all big and blow dried. Kind like Marge Simpson with her hair feathered back. Just awful. It’s still early, but this comic is by far the worst of the year. I don’t care if the creative team is canned or the book itself, but its very presence on the racks does a disservice to comics, comic book collectors, and the delicate fabric of space & time. – Bug
CAPTAIN BRITAIN & MI13 #1 Marvel ComicsI don't know whether this book exists because Marvel feels that it can and will play a pertinent part in this big old SECRET INVASION hullabaloo, or simply because Paul Cornell wanted to revive their British Contingent of super-heroes, but either way thank god because this comic right here was a damn good time. Pete Wisdom, The Black Knight, and Captain Britain will typically sell me on a book. Actual relevant happenings with the Siege Perilous and the realm of magic, not to mention some admittedly cool Super Skrull designs (I was a fan particularly of the Squadron Supreme one) and probably the best Leonard Kirk art I've seen (and his AGENTS OF ATLAS stuff was pretty much aces) will have me giddy as a schoolgirl and not ashamed to say it. Most will buy this because it has the SI banner running across the top; really you should be buying it because it's really damn entertaining. Don't let unfamiliarity with the characters scare you, it really isn't that consequential, just an added bonus if you do. It's more important you just get in line for the ride, because this looks like it'll be a doozy. – Humphrey
WONDER WOMAN #20 DC ComicsThis is…different. Wonder Woman begins her third Simone-penned arc, this one setting her at odds with Beowulf and a mysterious Hollywood lawyer. Well, I’m assuming he’s a Hollywood lawyer…technically, it just says that he has no soul and that he’s a stalker. Correct me if I’m wrong. Lopresti’s art is nothing short of excellent here; I hope he stays for a while. The banter, particularly as WW and BW begin to fight, is classic Simone (betcha didn’t know you’ve been doing this long enough to be a classic, didja Gail?) and worth the price of admission. The only thing a bit wonky is how exactly things are unfolding. It seems like WW’s interaction with the Stalker sent her to the cold realm, at least in spirit. Then we flashback, then she’s completely zonked out, but comes back enough to utter a few poignant words to Etta…yet she’s still in the realm. Hrmm. But I’ll bite. It’s Red Sonja without the chain-mail bikini, yet still Wonder Woman. It’s…different. As Violet Parr once asked, “Is different good?” And though I won’t say “different is great” just yet, it’s still very good. - Rock-Me
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #559 Marvel ComicsThis comic won’t blow you away, but I continue to be entertained by what “Brand New Day” is offering. Who knows how long Marvel will keep the thrice monthly schedule, but so far so good. The books are not going to please the “event hungry” fans of comics. But those interested in solid storytelling and multi-layered plots will be pleasantly surprised. Dan Slott is back in this issue and he’s brought along an artist that you wouldn’t normally see in a high-profile Spidey comic, Marcos Martin. His style is loose—reminds me of Tim Sale in it’s simplicity of form, effortless communication of movement, and eye-appealing panel angles. The story itself is overflowing with cool ideas; Peter becoming a paparazzi due to financial reasons, new villains in the form of Screwball (a streaming-live villain who commits crimes for hits on her website) and Paperdoll (who seems to be able to become two-dimensional). Slott has set up a real world moral dilemma for Pete in his acceptance of the paparazzi job, then allows fantastical super-hero problems to spawn from this decision. It’s smart writing. Not a lot of flair and pomp. But that’s never been Slott’s forte. He’s all about the strong stories and spot-on characterization and this story is yet another example of Slott’s strengths. - Bug
YOUNG LIARS #3 DC VertigoA couple more issues into David Lapham's "Underground Sensation" (I mean that more in reference to what the book is about, not its actual publishing status, natch) and the going is still getting good it looks. Characters are developing and even the sort-of-lovable loser that is Danny Noonan is losing a bit of luster and going from "lovable" to pathetic in no time, and yet you still can't help but feel for him a little. Sadie, crazy as ever, is endearing herself to me even more simply because of the anarchy that passes in her wake. Affectionate Anarchy, I think that best describes the true essence of this book... and it works. Though I'm not sure how well the caper-esque turn in plot upcoming is going to work out, I still really dig the background and antagonistic side Lapham is creating with Sadie's rather fucking nutbag father and his Pinkertons trying to bring her in. And even though I'm mostly positive Sadie's rantings of "Spider-babies" and "Nazi Martians" in this issue are just weird blurted jokes to add to her aura of craziness, the fact that you just never know with a Lapham book what will happen puts some suspicions in the back of your mind. All in all though, YOUNG LIARS is still pure, chaotic bliss. – Humphrey
THE TWELVE #5 (of 12) Marvel ComicsBUY. THIS. BOOK. Every issue gets better and better, and I hope to god that this series will maintain that quality right to the end, and not fall over with a fart at the last moment the way so many other miniseries tend to do. This issue reveals the Spectre-like origin of the Witness as well as adding more dimension to the motivations of Dynamic Man, who has thus far been the series’ token douchebag. Fantastic, incisive writing, incredible artwork, and finally, a real, non-photoshop painted cover! I officially have nothing to gripe about! Don’t miss out on what will surely be remembered as one of the best comics of 2008! – Imp
GREEN ARROW & BLACK CANARY #8 DC ComicsI don’t know how Winick does it. He kills my taste for comics in his pathetic attempt with TITANS, yet redeems himself fully with GA&BC every time. I guess that’s why DC publishes both books in the same week, so we can examine the broad range of quality Winick is capable of putting out. I like this “Quest For Connor” story arc where GA, his wife, and AIDsy the Sidekick go globetrotting to find out what really happened to Connor Hawke when he was sniped a few issues back. The introduction of the SNATCH-esque Dodger is kind of fun. And that’s the overall tone of this book, despite the driven nature of Ollie to find those responsible for putting his son down—the book’s damn fun. This book doesn’t try to be “message-driven” (a quality that bogs down other Winick reads) and when it’s just straight up action, Winick delivers. The chase to find the canister that may or may not house Connor’s body is as exciting as anything you’ll read this week and the reveal at the end proves that next issue will be just as fun. Maybe Winick is over-exerting himself. Maybe two books a month is too much for him. Either way, don’t let the dag-nastiness of TITANS turn you away when you see Winick’s name on the cover of this book. - Bug
THUNDERBOLTS #120 Marvel ComicsC’mon, do you need me to tell you this is another great issue in a string of great issues? Sometimes Ellis can be a little self-indulgent, and since he writes like nine different titles a month, I suppose he can afford to be. But he’s not writing this series for himself – he’s writing it for us, a big, nasty lithium-and-prozac cocktail, served in a dirty glass. He’s redefined how Norman Osborn should be written, and if I never hear the words, “curse you Spiderman!” coming from Green Goblin’s lips ever again, I won’t cry. The Goblin has moved past Spiderman gallery– he’s becoming a Dr. Doom, or a Magneto…or at least a Crusher Creel. He’s a bigger personality than just one hero, and holy crap, did he carry this issue. Oh yeah, some other stuff happened, too. And a few people seemed slightly skewed, like Swordsman’s attack of wuss-itis, though that can easily be explained by the head games being played from the basement. But mostly, Goblin has to do everything himself, and we’ll see the fruits of that…next issue. You really don’t need much backstory to pick up this one. Do it. - Rock-Me
ROUND THREE WINNERS
We started out with sixty-four of comic bookdom’s best fighters. Last week, our Sweet Sixteen squared off, now eight remain. Only one will be crowned THE SECRET TOURNAMENT OF INFINITE @$$-KICKERY Champion. It’s comics’ version of March Madness, only…it lasts a bit longer. Ambush Bug here, on behalf of the @$$Holes at AICN Comics, welcoming you all back to a contest unlike any other: boiling fanboyism down to its basics...whether one guy can kick the other guy's @$$.
Last Week we finished up Round Three’s fights. Below are the winners. Since there was no SHOOT THE MESSENGER AICN COMICS NEWS Column this week, we’re going to take a breather before we move into our Fourth Round. So no new fights this week, but here are the best of the best submissions from you, our loyal fans.
USAgent kicks back at the bar. The music is loud rock n roll. A guitar solo wails across the purple lights and smoke.
A hot brunette wearing a low cut purple dress walks up to USAgent and hands over her number. She turns around and walks off. USAgent crumbles it up and throws it on the ground.
He sees a tall redhead wearing a zebra pattern dress dancing by the dance floor. A couple of big guys with drinks in hand watch her moves as well.
USAgent pays attention. The song stops. The redhead walks over to the bar. One of the guys approaches her. He says something yet she keeps walking.
USAgent makes his approach.
“ Hey, I hope you like my club. It’s a great place to unwind after kicking super villain ass.”
“ First time I’ve been here, I generally go to places wilder than this. “ smirks Red Sonja.
“ You don’t look like a wild type of girl to me. That Zebra must be really upset that he ended up as a dress.”
“ I know. I hunted it myself. “ Red Sonja faces the bar.
“ Hey. I’ve tamed a lot of wild women in my life. I’ve scored heaps more chicks than Captain America himself.” boasts USAgent.
“ Get lost. “ snaps Red Sonja.
“ Hey. You’re in my club. How about you get lost?” snorts USAgent.
Red Sonja spins around and she knees USAgent in the balls.
“Taskmaster would be very disappointed. He would always teach his students to keep an eye on the ball. On in your case, balls.”
Red Sonja smashes the ice with her straw. She takes a sip and walks off.
WINNER: RED SONJA
Last night was the coolest. It was me, Stacy, Stephanie, and Maxine. The normal crew. I talked mom into a sleepover, so we set up the sleeping bags in the basement and rented a bunch of scary movies. Things were cool until two other girls showed up.
These girls were a little weird. One of them said her name was Tuh'Challia. I don't know who she knew at the slumber party, but we felt sorry for her because she covered her face with a mask and had a really low voice. Prolly one of those glandular things like what Aunt Trudy has.
The other girl, Shiva, was cool though. She was a little older than us, which made her cooler, and said she wanted to teach us some moves. I said "Dance moves?" And Shiva smiled and said, "Sort of."
Tuh'Challia didn't like that. I think she was jealous. Prolly because she didn't know how to dance. So the two of them started arguing. I warned everyone that my mom was gonna hear us and send everybody home, which settled everybody down.
So we watched GHOST and popped some popcorn. Maxine was always the nicest. She asked Tuh'Challia if she would like her to paint her toes. Tuh'Challia slipped off her footie and she had the biggest feet I had ever seen. They were like a man’s feet. And the smell. Whoo! It smelled like she had just stepped out of a jungle or something.
But Maxine was a trooper and did her toes anyway.
Later on, we snuggled into our sleeping bags and I was about to go to sleep, when Tuh'Challia and Shiva got into it again. The argument got loud and Shiva hit Tuh'Challia with a pillow. Soon, all of us girls were up and wailing on each other with pillows. Shiva had two pillows and focused mainly on Tuh'Challia. I don't know if Tuh'Challia stole her boyfriend or what, but she didn't like her one bit. Tuh'Challia fought back as hard as she could, but Shiva was just too fast.
Mom opened the door to the basement and told us to "Keep it down!"
All us girls flew into our sleeping bags and giggled. Shiva was clearly the winner of the pillow fight though.
I know it was mean, but later on while everyone but Shiva and me were sleeping, I saw Shiva put Tuh'Challia's hand in a bowl of water. That Shiva is bad. But it turned out to be the coolest sleepover ever anyway.
WINNER: LADY SHIVA
Moon Knight cracked his knuckles as he entered the ring.
"Where the hell is he?" Khonshu mumbled in his ear, "We are wasting our time with this pointless violence, when you could be out there, enacting meaningful violence on the deserving masses."
As if on cue, the original Boy Wonder back flipped into view, and instantly let lose with skills honed in the Batcave.
Moon Knight blocked and dodged the majority, but still suffered a decent amount of damage at the decidedly younger and better trained vigilante's fist.
"Finish this," Khonshu screamed, dressed in a Bat-mite getup. "Things to do, people to punish!"
"I can't concentrate with you in my ear" the snowy crime fighter murmured through his bleeding lips, suffering more and more blows to all parts of his body.
"You fight like a pansy! Maybe I should find a new avatar, I hear that Night Thrasher's out of work. I imagine a chronic loser like that, without the devoted, though some what niche, fan-base that you have would have no trouble following orders-"
That was it. Mark Spector jumped across the ring, putting enough distance between himself and Nightwing that the fighting took a hiatus. "Jesus Christ! What does it take to please you?" Moon Knight screamed at no one that Dick Grayson could see, "Sorry, kid, he just won't shut up unless I get back to work," Moon Knight gestured to his left and shielded his mouth as not to let the figment of his imagination hear, "You know how it is with some people, am I right? I'm gonna split, been a pleasure."
As Moon Knight was carried out of the ring by his crescent plane, Nightwing wondered if and when he would ever get a real fight.
As Shang advanced to the next level of the pagoda, he prepared himself for what he would encounter next in this Game of Death. So far, each opponent had been more challenging than the next and Shang had been fighting for so long that he forgot the reason why he was fighting in the first place. What surprised Shang was that he found that he cared even less why and only how he could advance to the next level, testing the limits of his martial arts abilities.
From the shadows, a husky voice echoes. “Never thought they’d pit the two of us against each other.” The Black Cat silently landed from her perch in the rafters. “We had some times in Heroes For Hire.”
The Black Cat slinks towards her opponent.
“You should know better than that, Felicia.” Shang warns. “Your feminine charms may give you an advantage against someone who isn’t used to seeing your beauty, but we fought as friends…it won’t work.”
“Ahh, it was worth a shot. I know you’re still hurting from what happened with Tarantula. We all are.” The Cat moves closer.
The mere mention of his lost love’s name stung Shang’s heart.
The Black Cat noticed this. Deciding to take advantage of this show of emotion, she pounces. But Shang recovers quickly, tapping the Cat once on the jaw, then following with the side of his foot to her midsection.
The Cat gasps for air, yet swipes at Shang, catching his side and leaving four red tears.
Shang winces and take a few steps back, allowing the Cat to get to her feet.
“You fight well, friend.” The martial arts master remarks. “But you rely too much on emotion to fuel your battles. Lust and deceit can only take you so far.”
The Black Cat finally regains her breath. “Man, that Brazilian bimbo really did a number on you, didn’t she?” Felicia prods for a reaction from her former teammate and gets it in the form of a roundhouse so fast, she doesn’t even see it coming. She slumps to the floor before Shang’s foot hits the ground.
“Like you, the Tarantula tried to disrupt the inner peace within me.” Shang holds back a tear and moves towards the stairs to advance to the next stage. “And like her, you failed.”
WINNER: SHANG CHI
The jungle was not Connor’s preference, but he would make do. He scanned his surroundings quickly, making note of every rock, every branch – anything that might be used as a weapon against his opponent. For all the land’s lush growth, it seems to have been stripped of any such items.
His pacifist’s heart was pleased, though it hardly served his needs. But there was no more time to think about such things, as his opponent was approaching. Connor appraised the Kingpin—massive, purposeful, and implacable—and knew what he had to do.
“He’s as big as anyone I’ve ever faced,” Connor thought. “But even a mountain will fall with enough rain. The question is simply how to use his size against him.”
Conner began with a few quick parries to gauge the Kingpin’s speed. They were easily blocked. The Kingpin was certainly quick, but not as quick as Conner.
Next came the solid hits. Conner landed a flurry of fists and feet, looking for nerve clusters. The Kingpin winced, but his layers of muscle were too solid. Conner was barely hurting; worse, he couldn’t easily land a blow higher than the Kingpin’s shoulders. And the Kingpin’s own strikes were coming much too close.
“Time to bring him down to my range.” Conner managed to avoid getting tagged as he leapt high, finger-striking just above the Kingpin’s eyes. The resultant gash was soon bleeding profusely, causing the Kingpin to wipe blood from his eyes with one mammoth paw and flail blindly with the other. Connor struck the back of his opponent’s knees with all his might, simultaneously reaching up and pulling backwards on the Kingpin’s shoulders.
The Kingpin fell to the ground, and Connor went to work on the only part that wasn’t protected by thick layers of sinew – Kingpin’s head. Connor was tiring, but began his “rain” of blows while avoiding the Kingpin’s defensive counter-jabs. “It’s only a matter of time,” Connor thought, as he punched and kicked again and again and—