SECRET INVASION: WHO DO YOU TRUST? ONE-SHOT
Writer/Artist: a bunch Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: Rock-Me AmodeoA one-shot with five small stories, each weaving into the overall invasion. Frankly, I thought this issue rocked. Maybe not rock and rolled, but at least rocked.
"Captain Marvel: Farewell" Writer/Artist: Brian Reed/Lee Weeks The first story gave some insight as to why Captain Mar-vell showed up on Thunderbolt Mountain with fists a-blastin.’ But not much insight. He’s definitely trying to be a hero. But he’s posing as a part of the invading force? Even though almost no one knows he’s a Skrull? And why, out of all the other problems he could tackle, is he taking on the Thunderbolts? I mean, the motivation would be the same: pose as part of the problem to help effect a solution from within. It could also be that he’s about to join the team, and this is how he gets written in. I dunno. So I guess we’ll see have to wait and see.
"Agent Brand: In Plain Sight" Writer/Artist: Mike Carey/Timothy Green III Agent’s Brand’s story was well done, and Timothy Green’s pencils (remember him from the STARLORD mini?) are most definitely welcome. As green-haired femme fatales go, she’s a lot more interesting than Lady Hydra. Or Polaris. Or Doc Samson (who’s basically a green-haired woman when anyone but Ellis is writing him.) Combined. I vote that she gets her own book (Brand, not Samson), but it doesn’t seem like that’s quite on the horizon. So I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
"Wonder Man & The Beast: Seems Like Old Times" Writer/Artist: Christos Gage/Mike Perkins The Wonder Man/Beast team-up was nice. It reminded me of the mini (which I liked) and Wonder Man’s OWN book, so long ago (which I also liked) and the Bagley mini-series, which…well, I also liked. Yep, I’m a Wonder Man fan, and a fan of the old Beast, as well. The new Beast is too depressing, especially in light of the seventeen part angst-fest in which he was recently featured. I miss the old “stars-and-garters” Beast, even if he is a Skrull. So imagine my surprise at the ending when…well, we still don’t know anything, not really. So I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
"Marvel Boy: Master of the Cube" Writer/Artist: Zeb Wells/Steve Kurth The Marvel Boy story was unusual. He’s been working to make the prison, where we last saw him, into his own personal army. After a twist or two, the army is done for and so are his plans. The last time we saw him, he was on his own. Now he is again. I would say we have to wait and see, but in this case, I mean we will have to wait and see if any sort of real plot develops around him. Right now, I don’t know who he is as a character. I know that HE doesn’t know either, but the reader should have some clue by now.
"Agents of Atlas: The Resistance" Writer/Artist: Jeff Parker/Leonard Kirk The final story brings the Agents of Atlas back to the forefront of our collective minds. Considering how well received their miniseries was, I can’t believe someone at Marvel hasn’t decided to capitalize on that and give them their own book. We get re-introduced to the various players, and even seen through the eyes of the enemy, they seem a lot more interesting than some characters who have their own books. This is your old-school covert-ops group, a DOOM PATROL for people who don’t have crippling emotional problems. Like I said, I’m hoping this might dovetail into a regular monthly, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see. It was certainly nice to see Parker and Kirk handling this story as well as anything they did in the mini.
In summation, I suppose you’re sensing a theme here. Nothing in this book was (as far as we can see currently) critical to the overall SECRET INVASION storyline. Yet several of the stories were compelling and left me wanting to see what happened next. While I was a little annoyed that none of the stories were “done in one,” that doesn’t take away from the fact that the book was (at least 3/5ths and possibly 4/5ths) well-written, well-drawn and entertaining. That is never to be taken for granted.
Dante “Rock-Me” Amodeo has been reading comics for thirty-five years. If it’s Wednesday, he’s probably at the hospital right now watching the birth of his third daughter (another “Rockette!”), so he’ll be taking a break from reviews for a bit. After he makes sure his family is okay, and things stabilize on the home front, he’ll be back. Peace.
BEARDS OF OUR FOREFATHERS: A Collection of WONDERMARK Comic Strips HC
By David Malki! Publisher: Dark Horse Reviewer: Ambush BugUsually, I find myself neck deep in superheroes. Some may be surprised to find out that, despite being the Indie Jones and dot.comics guy here at AICN Comics, I still read mostly superhero fare. That’s why when a book comes along that pushes the medium to the brink in an original, smart, and well presented manner, I have to stand up and give praise.
And BEARDS OF OUR FOREFATHERS deserves our praise and then some.
This collection of online comic strips bound and distributed by Dark Horse is filled with hilarity from the moment you crack open the cover to the very last second it takes for you to finish the last page. David Malki not only fills the book with funny comic strips (more on that later), but layers the humor by tossing a little in each corner, a little at the bottom of the page, coming up with gag ads for products that are hinted at in the comic strips. There’s a diagram of different beards. Two copies of an ironic facial hair citation certificate given to people breaking beard laws. A made-up list of previous books by the author, which I would love to see actual print some day (such as CATALOGUE OF SEEPAGES, MOLES I HAVE SEEN, and WARTS OF YOUR MOM). An 8-pg story. A prose piece. And hidden, backwards affirmations and tips from the author telling you that “You can clean a computer keyboard in the dishwasher.” and “Remember how fun it is to imagine stuff.”
So much work has been put into this book to make it entertaining from inch first to inch last that it almost makes one forget the hilarious comic strips inside.
I laughed so hard at some of strips (especially the ones I chose to highlight in this review – click on them to see why). It’s that irreverent type of Adult Swim looniness that either you get and laugh your dick off at, or you don’t and you automatically dismiss it. The latter are people beyond reason and probably aren’t here reading AICN Comics anyway. The rest of you will most likely enjoy seeing David Malki go nuts as he dusts off age-old drawings and puts modern hilarity to them.
Sure, like all humor, there are a few misses here and there, but I’d say 80% of the laughs hit hard in this book, which is a pretty good percentage. This hardback edition rings in at $14.95 American. Those of you who are easily offendable might want to wait outside. The rest of us are going to be enjoying the shit out of this belly-laugh of a book. Check out the author’s website for more mad-cappery.
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. The Bug’s Review Fu is better than your Review Fu.
Writers: Charles & Daniel Knauf Artist: Daniel Acuna Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewed by Humphrey LeeI honestly don't know what I expected out of this comic. I really, really don't. Well, okay, I knew what to expect plot-wise; we were handed the setup on a silver platter by Misters Neil Gaiman and John Romita Jr. with their somewhat...eclectic take on these Kirby creations. Hell, the final issue of that mini-series is about the only one I remember of it, it was sadly so middle-of-the-road overall, from a story aspect at least, because the JRJR art was pretty much lights out. But here I am again, sucked in by the lure of Kirby re-imaginings and a creative team I have a respectful appreciation for (I still maintain “Carnivale” would have gone down as one of the best things HBO's ever done had it got a full run). Sadly, though, it looks like we're still stranded on the side of that same road as before.
The setup that I mentioned before has potential, but is a little, I don't want to say cliché, but it rings of "been there, done that". Basically, it's the end of world as we know it, as the devastating cosmic race known as The Horde are on their way to devour the Earth, unless the current batch of Eternals can find and awaken their brethren to stop it. But the problem with this new series debut is the same problem that I had with the previous mini - despite the impending doom, these characters aren't terribly active. Which, I guess you'll have that with characters of such a powerful and godlike nature and the kind of quest they're on, but that goes for any number of superheroes out there and it's just an intrinsic part you have to deal with. Some interesting personality needs to be invested into them, and there's really only some glimpses of that here and there. Gaiman played up the "man finds out he's a god" angle that he's built a career on, now something needs to switch that up again and make them more identifiable.
As for the actual plot progress of the book, I really didn't see much happening here either. Makkari and Sersi have a fight. Another untapped Eternal is introduced in a rather lecherous way, and dissenting Eternal Druig gets in a tussle with Ikaris and Thena as both sides vie to unlock him and bring him to their side. That's about it. And I guess once you consider the overlaying plot of the book, I guess there kind of has to be a lot of that, and that isn't a very appealing prospect, especially since oddly enough there's already another Marvel book in THOR dealing with a variation of that concept. And if there's a reason that book succeeds where ETERNALS is already failing it would be - you guessed it - the personality JMS has instilled in all the Asgardians, and the character of Donald Blake, etc, etc. Not to say that this book can't and won't get there, but it's definitely going to have an uphill battle, especially with an established house book already doing what it does and better. I'll probably give this series a couple more issues to change my mind (and it's not all for, uh, naught as except for a couple facial expression gaffs Acuna's art in this is actually rather gorgeous) but I don't see ETERNALS having much of a lifespan on my pull list.
Writer: Robert Kirkman Artist: Ryan Ottley Publisher: Image Reviewer: Optimous DoucheEach time I open the pages of a comic I can expect one of two things: Either the title is so packed with intense action that it feels like the panels will start bleeding on my living room floor, or the book is wrought with touchy feely character introspection by people sporting spandex. Generally speaking, you have to wait until the next issue for the pendulum to swing back one way or the other. That is of course unless you’re reading INVINCIBLE.
For the past fifty issues, Kirkman has fluidly wed enough action and heart so you’re not only riveted to the page, but you can’t help genuinely caring about each character that occupies the mans’ deconstruction of the Superman mythology. It can be done in 22 pages folks, I swear; INVINCIBLE is the proof. For every minute the eponymous hero spends thwarting a cosmic threat, you can expect equal time to be given to exposing that fact that his heart is about an invincible as Kleenex.
As much as I love this series and this issue, I would not recommend it as a jumping on point for new readers. Each panel is dedicated to those of us that have been along for the whole ride. Take for instance Ottley’s cover. Any comic fan can appreciate the goopy blobs of crimson blood dripping from the heroes’ fists as he pummels what looks like the Crypt Keeper; it’s a damn striking scene on the all white background. For true fans though, this cover is more than a game of Depends Piñata or a pretty picture; before I even opened the book I knew an era was about to end.
In the first of this issues’ three stories, we see Invincible’s trust once again shattered. This time it comes from his surrogate father figure Cecil Stedman, the head of the U.S. clandestine peace-keeping organization. Kirkman manipulates shades of gray throughout this story like a kitten with a ball of string, making salient arguments for both Cecil and Invincible’s points of view. As a reader you end up siding with Invincible, but as an American taxpaying adult, you kind of understand the lines Cecil crossed to ensure that peace is kept at all times.
Not that it was necessary, but the second story chronicling the origin of Cecil Stedman helped to keep Cecil on the side of Angels and was a damn fun read. By peering under Cecil’s hood we find out the life events that made the old bastard so mistrusting and so steadfast in his mission for global peace. You also find out that he and Invincible are not that far apart in their respective codes of honor. Also there’s a great INVINCIBLE prequel moment at the end of this story between Cecil and Invincible’s Father the first day he landed on earth. Again, if you’re a fan you’ll get it.
I’ll admit the whole vignette dedicated to Science Dog left me somewhat unfulfilled. I’m sure it will be redeemed in a later issue, but after the first two spectacular stories, Science Dog felt a bit silly and misplaced.
Congratulations to the team from Image for making this one of my first read titles on the weeks it comes out. I can only hope INVINCIBLE continues to gain momentum as it makes its way to the centennial mark. And I also would like to applaud you for your self-deprecation and modesty with your tag line, “Probably the best superhero comic book in the universe.” I would say that even on a bad day this book is ten times better than a certain title that came out recently claiming to be the best damn comic book ever in 35 point font type. I’ll give you a hint--the title rhymes with scmick-scmass and the writer’s name rhymes with Babar.
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.
THE TWELVE #6 (of 12)
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski Artist: Chris Weston Publisher: Marvel Reviewed by: BottleImpTHE TWELVE is not a Marvel comic.
Sure, it’s published by Marvel, set in the same world as other Marvel books, and features characters created by Marvel (back when the company was still called Timely), but it’s not REALLY a Marvel book.
THE TWELVE is set in New York City, home to Spiderman, the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, and countless other heroes and villains. In a typical Marvel comic, Spidey or some other do-gooder would inevitably cross paths with the title character(s) of a new series (sometimes as early as the first issue), and more often than not, they would team up to fight some already-established super villain such as Doctor Doom or Hobgoblin.
THE TWELVE has no such crossovers. There have been no guest spots from Spiderman, Captain America, or Tony Stark (thank god). Wolverine is right out. The villains that have been faced by the heroes tend to be either mundane purse-snatchers, gang members, or the occasional giant robot-thing. This is not a Marvel comic.
What this series is, is the best superhero deconstruction to come along since Alan Moore invented the idea more than 15 years ago with a little book called WATCHMEN.
Straczynski has taken the “hero out of time” theme that is closest associated with Captain America and applied it to twelve different people, giving them different backgrounds, motivations, and reactions to the world of the 21st century. When Cap was revived in the 1960s, I believe the extent of his culture shock was something along the lines of, “Wow—clothing sure has gotten strange since I’ve been frozen!” JMS has done a masterful job of applying real-world issues to these previously one-dimensional comic book heroes. Mister E was forced to face the consequences of both his absence and his hiding his Jewish heritage; the Laughing Mask is in prison for his killing a gangster sixty years ago, when justice was simply black and white; the Blue Blade dreamed of stardom only to discover that he’s waaaayyy too out of touch to be a part of today’s entertainment; Captain Wonder, grieving for his lost family, forces himself to be a superhero and fight crime without ever stopping, just to keep himself from coming back to dwell on his loss. And Dynamic Man’s bigotry (which is probably on par for most Americans back in the pre-civil rights years of the ‘40s) and his dissatisfaction with the America of today are starting to push him over the edge. Some pretty tough adjustments to be made—a lot more than getting used to Beatle boots and miniskirts.
Another reason this isn’t a typical Marvel comic? Rockman’s origin, previously given as a typically goofy Golden Age romp through mysterious underground cities, is truly revealed, and it’s as human and heartbreaking as the death of Ben Parker from Amazing Fantasy #15… wait, maybe THE TWELVE IS a Marvel comic… just a better one.
The writing is amazing, Weston’s artwork (particularly his facial expressions) is fantastic, and the story just keeps on building an almost fearful sense of excitement and suspense. I said it before and I’ll say it again: don’t miss out on what will surely be remembered as the best comic of 2008.
CAPTAIN BLASTO Web Series
First two episodes found here. Writer/director/editor/starring: Christopher Preksta Story by Christopher Preksta, Aaron Kleiber, & Ben Shull New episodes weekly. Reviewer: Ambush BugOne of the coolest things about reviewing for this here dot.comics section of AICN Comics (other than the fact that you get to read comics free online) is that you never know what you’re going to get when you click that link. I get emails all of the time to check out this webcomic or that webcomic. Last week, I saw an especially peculiar email with a link to what I thought was a webcomic called CAPTAIN BLASTO. It was to my surprise that after following the link, I found out that this was an online comic/live action series and not a simple comic. After watching a few of the episodes, I couldn’t wait to pass the word on to the rest of you to enjoy this mind-numbingly fun story.
CAPTAIN BLASTO is the childhood hero of Colin Carter, who lives a dull, and predictable life. One day, he gets sick of the hum-drum-ity of it all and concocts a plan. Donning a homemade costume and enlisting the aid of the janitor from his school to aid him in this scheme, an all-new, all-different Captain Blasto is born. The plan is simple: the janitor acts like a criminal, does a criminal thing, and then Captain Blasto swoops in and saves the day. In the end, life isn’t so tedious and our hero gets to bathe in the fame and fortune of hero-dom.
While watching this web series, I was surprised by the quality of the story and the direction. This is no fan-fic film you see as you wander through YouTube or a Convention room floor. There are really impressive production values at work. The story wallows in fun. Its characters are having a blast. The humor is smart and crisp, like an extremely intelligent head of lettuce. Camera angles are skewed and exciting. The screen sections itself off into panels (a helluva lot more effectively than Ang Lee’s HULK) and fits the fun mood laid out. I love the mixture of comic book drawings with the live action looniness. If I were to pitch this to a big time Hollywood exec, I’d say it’s CLERKS meets FIGHT CLUB; a light-hearted romp about the drudgery of human existence and the lengths man will go to crawl out from that drudge. It’s also pretty funny when Blasto pounds the would-be criminal with a trash can over and over.
This live action comic strip is going to be updated weekly. Two episodes are already available and I had a chance to preview two more episodes. Each episode is better than the next.
I laughed out loud tons of times as Blasto beats the shit out of his opponents and stages his capers. The story is just beginning. It looks as if Blasto has a lot more story to it and as of issue four, our fake hero and villains are just getting started. With enough episodes put together, this would make one damn fine movie. Get in on the ground floor and see what I’m talking about. It’s got laughs that made me chuckle even after multiple viewings. Don’t miss this one. New episodes are going to drop every week. It’s freakin’ free and worth so much more. Check out the first episode. I guarantee you’ll be hooked.
By Akira Toriyama To be released by VIZ Media July 1, 2008 Reveiwer: Scott GreenWhile COWA! is far from meritless, its moment might have passed. In 1997, it was the first of Akira Toriyama's manga to run a complete volume since concluding GRAGON BALL (DRAGON BALL Z was called DRAGON BALL in its Japanese manga run.) When DRAGON BALL had heat and the nature of post DBZ Toriyama works were not overly familiar, COWA! represented a prospect that was quite intriguing. In 2008 even if North American readers haven't had access to many of Toriyama's short, goofy post-DRAGON BALL works, they've received a representative sample in Sand Land. Between the diminishment of the name "Akira Toriyama" as DRAGON BALL's popularity has at least in part receded, and a prior representative sample on the book shelf, COWA! is not as attractive as it might have once been.
Toyiama's volume length works from his post DRAGON BALL period, including SAND LAND, COWA! and KAJIKA seem to try to recapture the magic of early DRAGON BALL, in which a young hero quested through a wondrous world, unbound by the long form tournament structure of serial fight manga. COWA! in particular grafts DRAGON BALL's notion of an odd, fearless young hero with Dr. Slump's premise of a strange community. Its lead Paifu is a cherubic little monster, who is half vampire, half were-koala. The vampire half is the side that usually manifests, with Paifu appearing as a rosy cheeked, shirtless mini Lugosi. Like Goku's transformation in DRAGON BALL, when Paifu is confronted with a cross, the little guy turns into a raging, not quite hulking, fanged koala person.
The earlier part of the manga is weighed more towards the Dr. Slump side of the formula; with Paifu and his ghost buddy Jose Rodriguez literally farting around. A representative of the shaggy dog jokes consists of Paifu's shapely Morticia Adams mother sending her son to pick up a watermelon, Paifu pocketing the money, stealing a watermelon, giving the stolen water melon to a sad sack human kid, convincing Jose to disguise himself as a melon, until finally, Jose's farting gives away the ruse.
The majority of COWA! is structured around Paifu, Jose, Paifu's "rival" Arpon and renegade Sumo/presumed murderer Maru-Yama's quest across the land to retrieve medicine manufacted by the Witch of Horned-Owl Mountain as a cure for the village's outbreak of Monster Flu. In Toriyama tradition, the journey is punctuated by just about anything that the author and/or the audience might find interesting. Even if the story is structured around a goal, it is paced for chapters in which it can unapologetically indulge in its juvenile fascinations: stopping for beetles, beating on aggressive low lives, helping a Bruce Lee doppelganger.
When creators like NARUTO's Masashi Kishimoto or ONE PIECE's Eiichiro Oda credit Toriyama as an influence, they are generally referring to the wonder of seeing DRAGON BALL's Goku act out the famous “Journey to the West” epic, fighting dinosaurs one chapter, mummies the next, martial arts assassins and Native Americans in the next. In theory, COWA!'s sort of short, condensed work should have been perfect for this king of strange adventure. The off beat, but iconic look of Toriyama's monsters and miscreants has a contagiously fun charm. However, Toyimama does not seem to be over his DRAGON BALL exhaustion. The ridiculousness is more forced than the natural ease demonstrated in Dr. Slump or the pre-Z part of DRAGON BALL, as if he was pressuring himself to recapture his pre-wary youth. The convolutions of these stories do not need to make sense, but they do need proper comedic pacing. Instead, COWA! latches DRAGON BALL-lite action onto meandering jokes. The results might interest the Toriyama faithful, but otherwise, Dr. Slump or maybe the VIZBig re-compilations of DRAGON BALL are more satisfying choices.
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.