Hey folks, Ambush Bug here. Just wanted to pop in and remind you about your last chance to SEND ME YOUR NIGHTMARES; a contest to commemorate the release of THE NIGHTMARE FACTORY Volume 2 from FOX Atomic. We want to give away a copy of the book to five lucky Talkbackers. THE NIGHTMARE FACTORY VOLUME 2 features stories by Stuart Moore and Joe Harris with art from Nick Stakal, Toby Cypress, Vasilis Lolos, and Bill Sienkiewicz and it’ll be available at cooler comic shops on September 2nd. To win, all you have to do is send me your most pee-inducing, toe-curling, spine-tingling nightmare. Last time we did this, we got some genuinely frightening entries. Hopefully, you guys can top yourselves with this one. Deadline for this contest is this Friday and the winners will be announced in a future AICN Comics SHOOT THE MESSENGER Column. Be sure to check out THE NIGHTMARE FACTORY VOLUME 2 when it hits the shelves Wednesday. Good luck and remember those nightmares.
FINAL CRISIS: SUPERMAN BEYOND 3-D #1
Writer: Grant Morrison Art: Doug Mahnke (pencils), Christian Alamy w/ Rodney Ramos, Tom Nguyen, Walden Wong, and Manhke (inks) Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Ambush Bug"We'll be traveling through bleed space between the universes, but you'll need an upgrade to 4-D vision to fully comprehend the experience."
So reads the inscription on the 3-D glasses that thankfully pull out free of staple in this 3-D SUPERMAN effort from the loopty-loop mind of imaginaut Grant Morrison. And as I read this trippy Superman adventure, I did, in fact, feel as if my mind needed some sort of upgrade in order to fully comprehend this story. But as I read this issue, the words on the page became somewhat metatextual, as if Morrison himself were commenting, through his characters, about the comic itself and his own writing. In short, it made my review for this comic somewhat easy to use the words spoken by the characters themselves to exemplify my thoughts on the comic.
"For one terrible moment it seems as though Lois has stopped breathing. But it's time. Time has stopped."
That's Morrison's tricky way of letting the reader know that this is one of those stories between the stories. For those of you who missed FINAL CRISIS, Lois 'sploded with the rest of the Daily Planet as a result of Libra proving to Lex how powerful he truly is. This left Lois in a coma and Superman stuck by her side keeping her alive with a constant infra-red massage (no happy ending here folks, sorry) from his heat vision. In waltzes a Monitor-looking woman announcing that she knows Clark is Superman and that he is needed elsewhere. She stops time, allowing Superman to leave Lois' side, and so begins our adventure. If you ask me, that's kind of cheating. Morrison sets up this dire situation and instead of dealing with the drama at hand, he hits pause and sends him into trippy-dippyland.
"You know your problem? Drugs! Don't think I can't see the chemicals coursing through your veins."
Now, I don't want to accuse Morrison of anything, but reading his stuff is kind of like having a conversation with someone who is completely stoned out of their mind. Ever tried to have a sober conversation with someone like that? It's maddening. There's no focus. A person can't stay on one subject. The television to the dust in the corner to the bird flying by a window to a song that just popped into their head and not a connection between is made. That's what trying to follow a Morrison story is like sometimes. A shaken hornet's nest of ideas, darting in every direction, with little connection or worse yet, nary a care for one. Morrison hurls up a porta-potty full of interesting ideas in FINAL CRISIS and instead of developing one of those in this comic dedicated to Superman, he decided to open a whole new barrel of water bugs here.
"There is a substance my people call ultramenstruum...but which is known by another name in the germ worlds. Bleed."
Ok. Eww. Leave it to Morrison to bring menstruation into comics. I believe this is a comic book first, as Morrison suggests that the universe is on its period. It sure explains a lot of what’s going on in the DCU, but…eww.
"Wir werden verluste hinnehmen mussen! Diese maschine wird gleich explodieren!"
Uhm...whatever Overman. Soon, Superman is joined by other versions of Superman, including Red Son Superman, Ultraman, Captain Marvel from the Fawcett Earth, and some guy named Captain Adam who looks and acts waaaaay too close to THE WATCHMEN's Dr. Manhattan for my tastes (don't go there Morrison, even you aren't good enough to mess with the best...). I guess it makes sense for Ms. Monitor to gather the most powerful individuals from the different Earths, but as with Morrison's ideas for the Death of the New Gods, it isn't something new since it was a concept used in the ARENA miniseries where alternate earth versions of characters were gathered by another cosmic entity. The fact that so many of Morrison's ideas have been used in the last year is just plain annoying. Sure, Morrison is doing it better, but it still reeks of editorial negligence that such a similar concept was used less than a year ago.
"The ship's completely out of tune."
Yeah, this book is out-there. Those of you literal minded thinkers and people who need all things to make sense should look elsewhere. It's not that it's bad, it's just that the story is so mired in Morrisonian wonkiness that all rhyme and reason is sort of thrown by the wayside in favor of jaw-dropping visuals and concepts that make my head feel like Linda Blair's head on fast-forward.
"It has always been, it will always be."
Yeah, Morrison's stuff has always been this way. Ideas take precedence over plot every time. Even as far back as ANIMAL MAN and DOOM PATROL, the guy's main attractor to fans is his ability to come up with big and weird ideas. Telling the story with these ideas almost seems like an afterthought. I've said this many times, the best comic ever produced will probably be conceived by Morrison, but will only be so if someone like a Geoff Johns or a Mark Waid or Ed Brubaker is there to nail the ideas down with a coherent story structure.
"A book with an infinite number of pages, all occupying the same space. That's why no one can read it."
Now I wouldn't say no one could read this book, Superman. I will say that it looks damn cool. Doug Mahnke does a spectacular job with the art. Mahnke is one of those artists that was born to visualize fantastic comic book imaginings. Ever since MAJOR BUMMER all those years ago, the guy has been churning out rock solid work. And although the 3-D stuff is kinda cool, it does, in a way, take away from really enjoying the detailed panels.
"He tells us his name is Merryman, King of Limbo."
Props where props are due. Thank you, Morrison, for unearthing Merryman from comic book limbo. A mopey nerd in a green jester costume is just damn cool. I vaguely remember the character from a long-forgotten issue of SHOWCASE I picked up as a kid. Seeing him gave my nostalgia bone a tickle.
"You lily-livered do-gooders can't see it, but it's obvious to me."
Aahhh, the chant of many a Morrison fan. "Yer stoopid! What, you don't get it!?!?! I get it 'cause I'm smart. You don't 'cause yer dumb." You know what? I'm secure enough to say, yeah, there are times that I don't fully understand Morrison's stories. That doesn't mean I can't enjoy it. The guy can throw out three-dollar words like "ultramenstruum", "the immaculate intelligence", and structures of "infinitesimal rippling manifolds upon whose surface intricate germ-like processes thrive and multiply" as if he's speaking a foreign language, but I don't have to understand it to enjoy it. I must admit, though, there are quite a few occasions that I read shit like that and my head itches on the inside.
"I can feel my own wits failing."
No, it doesn't mean I'm an idiot. It means that either a) this is whacked-out stuff that I can try to rack my brain to figure out (which is stupid since it's all made up stuff anyway) or b) I can just sit back pronounce the words like Lenny from OF MICE AND MEN and move on because it's all window decoration and ain't all that relevant to the story anyway. Again, I find myself more annoyed with Morrison's out-there speak simply because so many people think it's a stroke of genius. He's looking up words and stringing them together. It ain't rocket surgery.
"I tried so hard to make a good end."
Yeah, I know you did, Morrison. And I want to stick with this story until the end too. But more often than not, that's where your stories always fall flat for me. Like many of his ideas, they are birthed, but not fully realized. Take the endings to Morrison's NEW X-MEN run, for instance, or the incoherent SEVEN SOLDIERS final issue or those abysmal JLA CLASSIFIED first issues where absolutely nothing made sense. Many are willing to look past that. Which is cool. And I'm somewhat cool with that if Morrison is playing in his own personal sandbox as he did with SEAGUY. But when the guy is supposed to be writing a story that has been touted as the end-all, be-all of CRISIS stories, I'd like it to end in a way that I can understand things. And more precisely understand the universe he is using as a chew toy.
"I have proof here in this book!...Evil wins in the end!"
That's what everyone has been saying. But having read the first three FINAL CRISIS issues and all of the tie ins, I'm still a bit hazy about what's going on (especially because none of this is being acknowledged in any of DC's other titles). One of the best things about Marvel's event SECRET INVASION is that we get the event told to us from different perspectives because what is going on seems to have relevance with all of its other titles. This gives other writers a chance to tackle the story and explain it in ways that may make the story clearer and more accessible to readers. With FINAL CRISIS, none of DC's books are really acknowledging the event, most likely because no one knows what the hell Morrison has planned and everyone is staying out of his way like an epileptic in a subway. Even now, we've got FINAL CRISIS tie-in special after FINAL CRISIS tie-in special filling in the plot holes and explaining stuff AFTER the main issues have dropped to clear up what's going on in FINAL CRISIS proper. I am just hoping Geoff Johns is going to be around to bat clean-up after FINAL CRISIS is over and make the DCU understandable again when Morrison's attention flits elsewhere.
"Only on the last day will it yield up its secrets, it is said."
I hope so. There are those who will say after reading this review that I didn't like this issue. That's simply not the case. I wanted to bring light to some of Morrison's tendencies and in doing so, maybe I'll figure him out a bit so that I can enjoy his books a little more. I admit, SUPERMAN BEYOND 3-D was an entertaining read and well worth picking up.
"We're off the charts."
We certainly are. And yes, some of that Silver Age, anything goes attitude is kind of fun to read. I love what Morrison has done with ALL STAR SUPERMAN, but that's his own universe he gets to play with. Here Morrison is messing with the mainstream DCU and not really letting anyone know what he's doing with it. My only hope lies in the knowledge that comics have a cyclical nature. Right now, the pendulum sways towards how many ideas can be birthed from Morrison's whacked brainpan, but soon some of these ideas are going to have to be accounted for and explained. I'm enjoying Morrison's manipulation of that pendulum, but longing for it to sway the other way so I can make some sense of it.
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, reviewer and co-editor of AICN Comics for over seven years. Check out a five page preview of his short story published in MUSCLES & FIGHTS 3 (AVAILABLE NOW at Muscles & Fights.com.) on his ComicSpace page. Bug was recently interviewed here and here at Cream City Comics about indie comics, his own artistic process, the comics industry, and other shades of bullsquat. Look for Bug’s follow-up this Fall in MUSCLES & FRIGHTS!
RUNAWAYS V3 #1
Writer: Terry Moore Artist: Humberto Ramos Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: Optimous DoucheI feel as though I have been comic raped in an anime/insipid-story finger-cuff three-way.
I have loved, strike that, I have coveted the past iterations of this title, even going so far as to pay exorbitant prices to own every back issue of Vaughan’s brilliant first and second volumes. Hell, even Whedon’s horrific delays during his stint did not abate my rabid fandom for this book. I loved the characters and I loved the “all too adult yet wrought with teen angst” stories that were delivered in each issue. Now we have a new creative team and it appears rather than keeping this book on the fringe of original storytelling it is now just one other title cookie cuttered out of the Cartoon Network mold. Essentially this issue told all past fans “fuck off, this is no longer your RUNAWAYS, we want a different demographic.”
This issue put me in a bad mood right from the cover. I despise the Americanized version of anime drawing. I used to allow my ignorance to shield me from all forms of anime until a friend exposed to me some of the real deal stuff from Japan. Don’t get me wrong, I still personally hate the style as a whole, but when done well I can at least understand why there is such an enormous global following for it. While it is certainly better than anything I could scribble on to a page, the bastardized version of “anime” that seeped into this issue feels reminiscent of the $10 caricatures one can get at a state fair next to the funnel cake stand. Everything is blown out of proportion, leaving not an ounce of room for subtle expression. Anger is more than a gaping toothless pie hole, surprise is more than oversized eyeballs sans eyelids, and every woman (or girl) in this world is not built like a fucking twelve year old boy. In past issues of this title, the art would have felt utterly disjointed with the themes of familial betrayal, morbid death and utter fear experienced by the characters as the worlds that they knew crumbled before their eyes. Sadly, the story in this issue takes its cue from the art to deliver plot and characterization that is equally cartoonish.
I tried damn hard to let the art fade into the background and merely focus on the words and the story. After about two pages though, I realized this issue wasn’t merely a bad marriage of artist and writer, but rather an editorial mandate to make the book more “accessible” to all comic fans. The book starts with a group of intergalactic bad guys in hot pursuit of the RUNAWAYS resident alien Caroline Dean. Sadly each member of this gang reminded me of Griff’s retarded lackeys from “Back to the Future II”, where the only thing scary about them is their fashion sense and the fact that carbon based life forms can achieve such a heightened level of stupidity.
Then there are the Runaways themselves, who I have watched grow and mature from sheltered teenagers, to hunted prey by their own parents, to refugees from society, to now a bunch of mallrats from a John Hughes film. I am not one of the types of comic fans that want to impede progress or holds to an unrealistic ideal that comics will never change or evolve; however, I can not tolerate regression to a time that never was. These kids were never flip or carefree. They never seemed like normal kids; rather they were a group of forced into an atrocious existence simply because of their lineage. Now, they are at the mall and looking for work. What? OK, I understand the need for money even for superheroes, but generally superheroes find extraordinary means to meet the demands of a normal life. Isn’t one of the Runaways a wielder of arcane forces? There isn’t some kind of spell that could populate a Swiss bank account with a ton of 0’s?
There were so many choices in this book that I simply can’t agree with. I pray that this issue was merely one of the pint-sized Runaway’s dreams after an all night bender of Gobstoppers and “Power Puff Girls”. Sadly, though, I think the only one slipping into a nightmare is me and it will continue until the next reboot of this series.
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.
BIRDS OF PREY #121
Written by: Tony Bedard Art by: Michael O'Hare & John Floyd Publisher: DC Comics Reviewed by: Ryan McLellandIt's been a couple years since I've picked up a BIRDS OF PREY issue so I was glad to see that it is not the same old status quo for the all-girl team. Last time I read an issue Black Canary was still a part of the team but now that she's off gallivanting with Green Arrow I have a whole new bunch of ladies to get to know.
The team has just from Gotham to Platinum Flats, California where most of the action revolves around the BOP teenager Misfit and notorious Batman villain Joker. Misfit is forced to go through the traumatic experience of going to a new high school and having to put up with all the looks, snickers, rude comments, and ruder classmates. It feels a bit “Veronica Mars” meets “Mean Girls”, but I guess the only thing worse than making that analogy is being able to come up with it. Luckily Tony Bedard's writing never feels like he's going through the motions, doesn't know how to write all females, or feels forced. Coming into this issue I have no clue who Charlotte 'Misfit' Gage-Radcliffe is but after reading through I feel very intrigued to learn more and read more. This follows right through to the Joker's storyline occurring concurrent to Misfit's. The Joker is in fine form here exhibiting some abilities I never thought possible from the madman. Joker just wants to fit in with the reigning organization of Platinum Flats: the Silicon Syndicate. Well - fit in or kill the whole bunch. I read the issue and felt excited for the Joker for the first time in a long time. Sure Heath Ledger kicked some butt in “Dark Knight”, but I can't really remember the last time I saw Joker in a comic and felt the same way. Bedard and Michael O'Hare do an amazing job of bringing the psychotic villain to life.
If you are looking for a great place to jump into BIRDS OF PREY - this is it. With the move to a new city along with Bedard coming onboard as BOP's new permanent scribe there is no better time to find out what BIRDS OF PREY is like post-Simone. BIRDS OF PREY easily continues its amazing streak of being one of the best books on shelves and I'm looking quite forward to Bedard's run for many issues to come.
Ryan McLelland has worked in movies and comics journalism for the past several years before joining the @$$holes here at AICN. Ryan’s comic work has already graced comic shelves with Arcana’s PHILLY, WISE INTELLIGENCE, UPTOWN GIRL, and THE SENTINELS ANTHOLOGY. He rarely updates his blog but when he does it can be read at www.eyewannabe.com
X-FACTOR: LAYLA MILLER #1 (One-Shot)
Writer: Peter David Artist: Valentine DeLandro Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: Optimous DoucheI never wanted to like Layla Miller. She was a character I wrote off in principle from her very first introduction in the pages of HOUSE OF M. Why? I’ve always hated precocious children.
You all know the kids I’m talking about. They are the children like the little red headed country singing bastard from “Diff’Rent Strokes” who always had a quip or a twangy song to diffuse any dramatic tension. Or they are the wizened beyond their years, cherub faced, smart mouthed, accelerated growth, demon spawns from “Family Ties” and “Growing Pains”, or any of the kids from fucking POWER PACK. This rampant ageism towards a smarter younger class just put me in a bad mood the first time Ms. Miller uttered, “I know stuff.”
The thing is, the more I actually read Layla’s exploits as the Oracle of X-FACTOR, the more I realized she wasn’t just a bag of forward thinking sarcasm or cutesy one liners. She was victim to a power she could not control, a person forced to see the fates of all in utterly random fashion. Imagine sitting down to watch the San Diego Comic Con footage on G4 and your TV keeps randomly switching to Lifetime or The Food Network, then take that frustration and magnify it times 1000: that’s Layla’s power.
Whether getting far off visions of one day becoming Mrs. Multiple Man or her five minute ahead flashes of events to come, Layla had always seemed to be confident, actually almost arrogant in her abilities. This mini obliterates that façade amidst one of my favorite backdrops in comics – a future dystopia.
I’ve been truly worried about Layla over the past few months. When last we saw the pint-size prognosticator, she had sacrificed her Xeroxed Madrox traveling companion and was wasting away in a mutant internment camp eighty years into our future. Like most past X-Men futures (wrap your mind around that paradox) mutant racism has not abated, but grown exponentially despite the endangered existence of the X-gene (fuck the spotted owl, where is Greenpeace when you really need them?) This story kicks off with one of the most innovative and fun prison breaks I have ever been privy to reading. In true Layla fashion, she waits for the future to unfold and takes full advantage of a hilarious mishap from a forgotten age of space exploration.
One of the things I admired most about this story is the accessibility of the future. Too often writers paint the future with kitschy terms to show how forward thinking they can be when given the opportunity. David doesn’t take humanity on a quantum leap forward, but rather just slightly tweaks what we already know. Naysayers will grouse it’s not forward thinking enough (e.g. the Internet is replaced with the head Ethernet), and were the central character the time period it self (ala “Days of Future Past”), I might tend to agree. But this is Layla’s story (sounds like a Ryan O’Neil movie), and she is David’s baby. Bendis might have conceived her, but David has nurtured all of the little idiosyncrasies that made me keep turning the page until I knew she had found if not safety, at least solace.
While the future is only slightly changed from a technology stand-point, David comfortably slips on his sociology hat to give us the true impact of tomorrow. After disseminating false riotous-worthy information over the Ethernet, Layla uses her sixth sense to drive herself into the terrorist attacked wastelands of Atlantic City (makes sense, it is the East Coast’s den of infidels). She is greeted with optic blasts from an extremely decrepit Scott Summers who has been using the land of Trump as refuge against persecution. As alluded to fifteen years ago in X-MEN, this issue kicks off the Summers Rebellion. To tell you Scott’s counterpart in this historic event would ruin the surprise, but I will say she is made of ruby (you do the math).
The two things that annoyed me about this issue are I have no idea what’s going to happen next for Layla and this is probably my only chance to see DeLandro’s detailed hand render the future and emotional agony in one phenomenal comic book. I sincerely hope Layla makes her way out of tomorrow and back into X-FACTOR present day soon, though--the team has been missing something without her. I should probably finish this review with an apology. Layla, I’m sorry for ever lumping you into the same category as Brian Bonsall, because you are truly in a class all your own.
LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #45
Written by: Jim Shooter Art by: Francis Manapul & Livesay Published by: DC Comics Reviewed by: Ryan McLellandSpeaking of Jim Shooter, there is no one happier to see him writing comic books again than me. Not only has it been a true joy to read Shooter on LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES but it is amazing that he hasn't lost his touch after all these years. I've read LEGION on and off for many years and the only stories prior I truly enjoyed were the Abnett & Lanning “Legion Lost” era. Well, that is until Shooter's run. What do we have now? The best DC book on the market today. Period.
Shooter has done amazing job of reintroducing the characters to Legion newbs and those who have been out of the Legion game for a bit, but does so in a way to not annoy those readers who pick up the book month-after-month, year-after-year. And the story in the latest issue isn't some Darkseid-like villain trying to destroy the Legion. No, the stakes are greater as most of the Legion is facing criminal prosecution, dwindling numbers, and a solar system that is about to be ripped apart killing everyone including the Legion themselves.
You can feel the weight of the universe on the Legion's shoulders, yet the story is personal enough to show what is on the mind of the dozen or so members we are reading about. As the team breaks apart to deal with the quickly crumbling universe, the failure of their last fight, or their redemption in the eyes of the government there's still time for bickering, sex, and unsurpassed cockiness by the egotistical Brainiac 5.
There's not enough to say about Francis Manapul's art. He brings the future to life and nearly every panel comes to life with the characters nearly coming second to phenomenal backgrounds. Reminiscent of Oliver Coipel's electric artwork, Manapul's teaming with Shooter couples into nothing short of amazing.
For those who may have overlooked Shooter's run, didn't enjoy his first few issues, or just haven't bothered to pick up LOSH as of yet - wake the hell up and jump on this issue. It's the perfect place to introduce you to the characters and immerse yourself into a outstanding world outside the realm of Superman and Batman.
THE HELM #2 (of 4)
Writer: Jim Hardison Breakdowns: Bart Sears Finishes: Randy Elliot Published by: Dark Horse Reviewed by: BottleImpSo I had read and reviewed the first issue of THE HELM when it came out. I liked it. In fact, I remember writing that this comic was one of the few that made me laugh out loud when I was reading it. Having thoroughly enjoyed the premiere issue, I was looking forward to reading the rest of the mini-series. Then I read my fellow @$$hole Jinxo’s review of THE HELM #1 in last week’s column. Jinxo did not thoroughly enjoy the premiere issue. In fact, he actually seemed to dislike it. To quote from his review, “…there is nothing positive in [the comic]. It’s just a ton of over the top angry pissy characters all abusing one dumpy sad sack. Could have been a bit of fun but it just isn’t.” Well, I thought, Jinxo is just plain wrong. Here he has a good, fun, lighthearted romp of a comic book that he can’t enjoy because he’s too busy looking for emotional connection with the main character. The poor sap, I thought.
That was before I read issue #2.
Now I’m pretty sure that Jinxo has precognitive powers.
See, I agree with the fact that THE HELM #1 didn’t have much in the way of characterization aside from the broadly-sketched fat gaming dork (Matthew) and the cantankerous old warrior (the Helm), but I didn’t really mind at the time. For me, a first issue needs to accomplish two tasks: one, it needs to hook the reader and bring him or her instantly into the world of the book, and two, it needs to set up the plot and at least point in the general direction of where the story will be going. THE HELM had both of these. Sure, the story was heavy on gags and light on character, but I was willing to wait for more development of Matthew and the talking Helm in future issues… there WILL be some sort of character development in future issues, right?
The second issue feels a lot like the first. Too much like the first, in fact. Lots of gags. A smidgen of action. Some pop culture references. And that’s about it. The humor isn’t as effective this time around (‘cause the jokes are mostly recycled from the first issue) and the action is infuriatingly vague (Matthew kills an antique dealer who also happens to be a sorcerer—we’re shoved into the scene with no real set-up as to why this happens). Too many of the scenes devoted to the Helm’s training of Matthew are done in quick-cut, “clip-show” style panels that consist of the Helm berating Matthew for being fat and Matthew complaining. Here’s where we could be getting some prime character development, but Hardison seems content to slap together some fat jokes and ye-olde-english-speak and move along to the next gag. We also see Matthew’s ex Jill, who dumped him at the beginning of the series, hook up with him again after she sees Matthew jogging (under the Helm’s strict supervision, of course). Here’s a moment when we could really get into the heads of these characters, maybe find out what attracted Jill to Matthew in the first place, how things have changed for both of them, maybe get some backstory… but nope. Quick cuts of their date followed by a sex scene with the Helm doing—what else?—complaining.
Jinxo, everything you wrote about issue #1—I get it now.
I mentioned in my previous review that this story was tailor-made for Hollywood, and I may have been more correct in saying that than I thought. Hardison writes in no uncertain terms in the letters page that THE HELM could be made into a movie—he even points out that Dark Horse currently has a production deal with Universal Pictures. Maybe the reason that this series is so low on character development is because Hardison is treating it as a pitch to Universal. Maybe it’s supposed to be more of an outline than a finished story, with all the right plot points hit to provide the producers with a direction. Maybe the emphasis on jokes and one-liners is Hardison’s way of making sure that the studios will know instantly what sort of story he’s selling.
Or maybe he’s just a lazy writer.
Either way, I might as well pick up the remaining two issues when they hit the stands. Even though the story lacks depth, I’m still digging the art, and I’ve got just enough interest left over from the initial hook of #1 to make me want to see where the plot is going.
Now I’m gonna see if I can get Jinxo to predict some lottery numbers for me.
NEWUNIVERSAL: CONQUEROR #1 One Shot
Written by: Simon Spurrier Art by: Eric Nguyen Published by: Marvel Comics Reviewed by: Ryan McLellandThe New Universe – ah, what a fan I am. I was that 11 year old kid scooping up issues of STAR BRAND, JUSTICE, and D.P. 7 thinking them the greatest comics ever made. To tell you the truth, I still love the New Universe wholeheartedly - especially D.P.7, THE WAR, and those early STAR BRAND issues. I have the entire run and I still pick up the overpriced trades because my comic book OCD forces me to do so. When NEWUNIVERSAL hit stands I tried and loved Warren Ellis' modern take on Jim Shooter and friends' universe.
Now while we wait for NEWUNIVERSAL Season Two we are treated to a series of different minis and one-shots to fill the void. Truth be told, do we really have a void to be filled? Can't we just get more issues of NEWUNIVERSAL? This is Warren Ellis we are talking about - are you that deep in writer's block!?!?
The latest NEWUNIVERSAL one shot is CONQUEROR, featuring none of the characters you know. The elements of NEWUNIVERSAL are here including the Star Brand and Justice but we are driven into a future where the world has reverted back into a barbarian like state. Brutish monsters walk the land and King Starr rules the land. He has the Star Brand power and thusly is able to save the day, get the ladies, and totally rock the world. Starr's people bring him Gila, who they consider a witch. They don't realize she has a sort of Nightmaskish power along with her rockin' bod. The king is more interested in that rockin’ bod but after she hits him with a jolt to the brain she runs off thus causing the king to snap into action...and....and...
And pretty much yawn. This issue can be considered a great misfire in this New Universe. I can deem the issue 'skip-worthy' meaning you feel as you are reading you just don't care much about the words and want to flip the book forward until you reach the end. Now when we were buying comics for a buck that was a bit easier but as this issue is alone four dollars it doesn't pay to have to buy something that is this...bad.
I honestly don't want to read about Starr the Future Star Brand Barbarian and his adventures versus the Army of Ugly. Reading this issue page by page I pretty much read every panel wishing I was reading more of Ellis' NEWUNIVERSAL and not Simon Spurrier's NEWUNIVERSAL. I've read New Universe stories from the beginning: some great, a lot of good, and a few bad. In the past twenty years’ worth of New Universe I can really throw Conqueror into the bad pile. If you are into a bad story with some shoddy not-up-to-Marvel-standard art by Eric Nguyen then this one is for you. If not, we can skip it for the next one shot or wait until Ellis starts NEWUNIVERSAL up once again.
TEEN TITANS #62
Failed Writer: Sean McKeever Artists: Eddy Barrows, Ruy Jose Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: SquashuaWhen I was a young lad, I watched an innocent show called “The Superfriends” featuring the greatest DC heroes, plus Aquaman, El Dorado, and of course, the Wonder Twins: Zan, Jayna and their pet space-monkey, Gleek. Jayna could transform into any animal in existence, which meant she could make up animals like a Space Elephant or a Three-Headed Minok. Her brother, Zan, transformed into elemental forms of water, generally a large wave with a water-based face on the crest, or a steam cloud with his gassy visage shimmering through, or even an ice cage complete with an icy face protrusion so he could talk. When the twins travelled somewhere, Jayna would turn into a large bird creature, Zan would become a bucket made of ice with his face on the side, Gleek would hop into the bucket, Jayna would grab the handle, and they’d be off, all of which begs the question: if Zan’s face was on the side, what did he use to create the open end of the bucket?
That’s right. Gleek ass-raped Zan right in front of America’s children, an act pretty much emulated verbatim by this very issue of TEEN TITANS.
Now, don’t get me wrong here. I believe that Wendy and Marvin were the most useless of characters to begin with, and their initial introduction to the DC Universe boggled the mind, but I figured it might work if they were developed properly, and I mildly anticipated reading about them. Instead, issue after issue went by with nary an appearance from these so-called super-intelligent computer experts, barring a solitary moment of victimization in a recent arc. Honestly, I wouldn’t know as I dropped TEEN TITANS months ago.
Yes, you heard me right. I dropped TEEN TITANS months ago, some time after my last review of it here; stuck with my guns and left it on the shelf. Now, that isn’t to say I haven’t paged through a few issues in the store, and that’s what happened here. I saw Wonder Dog on the cover and had to see what the deal was. Maybe the issue was finally buy-worthy, but after a quick read-through, I was summarily disgusted and put it back down. Then, as soon as possible, I deliberately downloaded a copy so I’d have my facts straight when I reviewed it here. I do not normally download books, nor do I endorse it, but I refuse to give money for this piece of tripe. If I wanted to read THE BOYS, I’d buy THE BOYS. In fact, I do buy THE BOYS. TEEN TITANS isn’t THE BOYS, and rightly should never be THE BOYS.
Over almost thirty issues, McKeever and other writers before him took absolutely no care to develop these characters. These twins could have easily been written off into the background and eventually appear elsewhere, possibly filling the super-sleuth void left by Ralph and Sue Dibny. Instead they were thrown away to make an upcoming enemy seem more bad-ass. In the end, the removal of Wendy and Marvin is insignificant; they never made any impact or barely any appearances - their sole characterization was primarily contained within this very issue - so no one should feel any loss, except for DC in the number of issues sold.
Kuax'kua plucks and strums the fibre electric between worlds, writhing in amorphous ecstasy with each pulsing nanobyte of digitized information. A fount of queries and feedback cloaked as an unassuming sass-imbued avatar, this shapeless servitor scribes only of that which fuels its emotion, driving all observers to a slow and inevitable madness.
MOON KNIGHT #21
Written by: Mike Benson Art by: Mark Texeira & Javier Saltares Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewed by: Ryan McLellandI picked up this issue because of the great Venom cover. I was all thinking, "OOOOOOH! Moon Knight Vs. Venom!" and got all nostalgic of those great 90's crossovers of old. Then I saw that the man himself Mark Texeira is drawing Moon Knight and it was a must buy! What better can you get than Moon Knight Vs. Venom drawn by Texeira?
How about no Venom? That's right - even though he's right there on the cover with Gene Simmons tongue he is nowhere to be seen in the issue. How about no Moon Knight? Yup, you heard me right - Marc Spector is actually briefly in the issue though not wearing his MK garb. After that disappointment I was actually surprised to see that it was Texeira drawing this issue though Javier Saltares (who, like Texeira, also drew issues of GHOST RIDER back in the 90s) did do some layouts.
No Venom and no Moon Knight aren't the only disappointments in this latest Moon Knight saga titled 'The Death of Marc Spector.' The issue is very bogged down by plot I really don't care about. We see Tony Stark trying to track down Moon Knight and interviewing all of MK's friends. Then there's more interviews in prison. Then Stark sits down for a meeting with the CSA. Basically the entire issue is people sitting around talking to each other with Moon Knight, wearing Daredevil's garb from the TV-movie “Trial of the Incredible Hulk”, beating up people for about 5 whole pages in his own book.
I'm not sure what Marvel Comics and writer Mike Benson are trying to accomplish here. The whole plot is supposed to be about how Stark and S.H.I.E.L.D. are hunting down Moon Knight. Of course, someone could look at this issue and say it is a set-up for what is to come, but when you have an issue like this that is so utterly boring how do you expect readers to wanna cough up another 3 bucks to buy the next issue? I know I don't - if I wanna see people sitting around talking to each other I'll go rent a Kevin Smith movie and be a little more entertained.
You surely can enjoy Texeira's amazing artwork throughout this book but it is not nearly enough to save the newest issue of Moon Knight as it fails from page-to-page. Do yourselves a favor and skip this one.
THE GIRL WHO RUNS THROUGH TIME OGN
By Gaku Tsugano, based on story by Yasutaka Tsutsui To be released by CMX September 24, 2008 Reviewer: Scott GreenAfter previously appearing in isolated North American screenings during conferences, conventions and festivals, the 2006 anime feature "The Girl Who Leapt Through Time" has begun appearing in short theatrical engagements in select cities, with a DVD release forthcoming. The Mamoru Hosoda directed feature offers the kind of beautiful, resonate human film that an animation fan would expect of a Hayao Miyazaki work, but in a style particular to its director.
Hosoda constructed a charged, emotional experience through the not entirely unfamiliar story of a girl who stumbles on the ability to go back in time. Tinkering with previous events relative to one's own life is not exactly a new conceit in fiction. For Japanese audiences, that familiarity is even more pronounced. Influential, controversial, beloved and inflammatory writer Yasutaka Tsutsui penned the original Toki o Kakeru Shojo novel in 1976. (Anime fans should note that Tsutsui also wrote the story on which Satoshi Kon's PAPRIKA is based; English translated Tsutsui prose include short story collection SALMONELLA MEN ON PLANET PORNO and novel HELL). Since then, TOKI O KAKERU SHOJO or THE GIRL WHO LEAPT/RAN/RUNS THROUGH TIME has inspired live action films in 1983, 1997 and 2002 (the last of which was made for TV as a vehicle for idol group Morning Musume), a 1994 TV drama series, two works of manga, and Hosoda's animated film.
Gaku Tsugano's 2004 manga adaptation of the novel predates the 2006 anime. It's not the same story, or even the same character, though there is an implied connection in the 2006 version. However, a caveat is still warranted. Hosoda's film provokes impassioned reactions. There is an abrupt revelation that almost seems to intentionally derail the movie. Even if Hosoda picks a moment for the reveal where the audience's attention is directed elsewhere, almost deliberately ensuring that it is a jarring moment, considering how well known the previous works were in Japan, the revealed reaction is probably more acute for North Americans approaching the anime as their first exposure to the story. THE GIRL WHO RUNS THROUGH TIME is not going to spoil THE GIRL WHO LEAPT THROUGH TIME. But, having read the former will affect the experience of seeing the latter. RUNS is a competent short manga (two volumes), and LEAPT is an enthralling masterpiece. In other words, maybe it is better to read the former after the seeing the latter.
Though THE GIRL WHO RUNS THROUGH TIME’s relationship subject matter and its mode of telling a story through expressive facial illustrations and context shots resemble those of shoujo (manga for young, female audiences), the series is in fact seinen (manga for males from their older teen years, into adulthood). The genre of manga is dictated by the Japanese anthology in which the manga ran. In this case, the manga ran in the same Ace Tokuno anthology about the same time as some of GHOST IN THE SHELL director Mamoru Oshii's Kerberos: PANZER COPS manga. In seinen manga, nostalgia is apparently manifested in the form of a high school girl. The prime example of that is AZUMANGA DAIOH, a gentle four panel comic strip looking at the lives of a clique of girls passing through their high school years. Like AZUMANGA DAIOH, in THE GIRL WHO RUNS THROUGH TIME, memories of friends and small moments of high school are underscored by the fact that the period of life ends after a prescribed span of years. As hazy and confusing as it might be, after a few years, you graduate and it's over.
As THE GIRL WHO RUNS THROUGH TIME opens, Kazuko Yoshiyama's thoughts are drifting between scent-provoked memories and sidling up to her childhood friend as he sits next to her on a bus. Arriving at school, she's volleyed between the principal advising her senior class to remember that their future is imminent and her stern friend's lecture to find a serious boyfriend and a defined direction.
In all derivations of the story, the origin of the girl who moves through time occurs during an after school assignment to clean a science lab room. After a concussive accident, the subject tumbles into the ability to move through time. In RUNS and in LEAPT, the girl uses the ability to protect those in-between moments that make for small, pleasant memories, such as a favorite snack or meal. Kazuko also uses the ability to protect and improve more substantial past and potential memories, such as the final day with her beloved grandmother or her friend's ability to compete in the athletic competition that he had been working towards.
While these trips in time are initially beneficial, the law of unintended consequences is quick to catch up. Tsugano utilizes the tools of the medium by employing a compound visual metaphor. As the manga develops, it cuts to images of a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis. Dialog explicitly invokes the concept of a "butterfly effect," where the wing beats of a butterfly could cause an air disturbance that would result in a storm on the other side of the world. In this case, the consequences of an small action are magnified by the passage of time. Simultaneously, the butterfly serves to signify maturation, and the changes undergone when reaching adulthood. As obvious and unsubtle as this might be, Tsugano does utilize it to construct provocative points concerning the appeal and danger of nostalgia. As endeavoring as Kazuko's childlike qualities and sentimentality might be, her inclination to dwell in the past has its consequences.
If THE GIRL WHO RUNS THROUGH TIME was content to stay small, it could have been a powerfully moving manga. Unfortunately, as an adaptation, it is stuck chasing something larger. Even read as a stand-alone, without plans to see the anime, live action or novel, it is evident that the manga is working through a prescribed agenda. Within the run time of the movie (a fairly long for anime 98 minutes), Hosoda was able to demonstrate a progression in which tumbling pebbles gathered the momentum to trigger a rock slide. Rather than utilize events that fit the scale of a two volume work, the manga is forced to rattle with sudden tectonic shifts. Suddenly, action A causes critical result B.
Tsugano does not rest on the knowledge that he is adapting a well regarded, maybe beloved story. He captures some of Tsutsui's pairing of a potentially intriguing sci-fi conceit with a subversive message. In the mode of a seinen manga, Tsugano effectively presents a hapless, cute female lead (reminiscent of School Rumble), juxtaposed with more serious peers. In its symbolism and character design, the manga platform is well utilized. But, ultimately, THE GIRL WHO RUNS THROUGH TIME does not escape being a two volume adaptation. As such, what it desires to tell is an imperfect fit for the form and space in which it is told.
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.
Hey folks, Ambush Bug here. This week’s Indie Jones unearths more independent comics that should tempt you to step outside of your mainstream comics comfort zone and take a chance on something different. We’ve got squabbling children, an evil genius, and a prison full of monstrosities. Check them out.
CORRECTIVE MEASURES V1 TPB Arcana StudiosAny story that takes place in a prison will automatically be compared to OZ, but as with Ben Templesmith's WELCOME TO HOXFORD, with the right spin and some nice writing, an original prison story can be told. Instead of going the horror route as Templesmith did with HOXFORD, longtime AICN TB’er and helluva writer Grant Chastain takes the prison story into a new genre, super-villainy. The prison, San Tiburon, is an island facility where every inmate has been incarcerated due to some kind of act of super-mayhem or crime. Set in its own universe, some may recognize versions of your favorite heroes like The Punisher and Electro, but giving them his own spin allows Chastain to do whatever the hell he wants with them, making for a truly surprising reading experience. Now, you know if Frank Castle goes to prison, he's going to get out. But Chastain's Payback? Who knows what's going to happen. Expectations are turned on their ear in this book that utilizes the serialized format popularized by OZ and LOST, which inches the central plot along while detouring and focusing on one story per issue. This trade collects six issues of CORRCTIVE MEASURES, and each of them is a slow build with a mallet-hit of an ending. The central storyline of a new correctional officer who is just getting used to the prison is a strong one. This character, like all of the rest of the characters Chastain has constructed in this morally ambiguous prison-opera, has many sides: cruel disciplinarian, loving father, heartless brute, upholder of morality. It's fun to guess how this character will act given the arsenal of situations Chastain throws his way. Francis Moyano provides the pencils. From one issue to the next, Moyano's art evolves and solidifies into something visually strong and dynamic. Moyano isn't afraid to pull back and show the world these characters are living in. These wide shots are especially cool when Moyano struts his stuff in the artistic range department as we see villains of all sorts of shapes and sizes doing their monotonous prison routines. These scenes can be compared to the STAR WARS cantina scenes where four armed scaly creatures interact with fiery eyed Muslims and super-strong Aryans in the mess hall or the prison yard. All in all, Chastain has fleshed out quite a detailed and fascinating little prison how his inmates to evil around in. This trade is nicely colored and packaged and presents the story in the best possible light. Recommended reading for fans of HEROES and OZ.
STICKLEBACK: ENGLAND'S GLORY TPB 200ADThis visually stunning masterpiece is another example of the fine graphic literature offered by 2000AD. STICKLEBACK ran through 2000AD Progs 1518-1525 and 1567-1577 in 2007 & 2008. It's a story following not a hero, but a villain. And a quite despicable villain at that. Reminiscent of Moriarty, this tale of a vile criminal mastermind is a fine read. The pages ooze imagination. From Chinese Jumping Vampires to Siamese Twin henchmen to werewolves to zombies, Stickleback seems to have an endless menagerie of evildoers at his disposal to lay waste to England. The only people to stand in his way are reflections of Sherlock Holmes and Watson, but these are not the master sleuths of lore, but bumbling sad sacks incapable of offering any type of obstruction to Stickleback's trail of terror. The highlight of this book is most definitely D'Israeli's beautiful artwork. His images aren't so much pencils and inks, but layered tones. This may be accomplished by computer effects or engravings. I'm not quite sure, but the end result creates an almost three dimensional panel with characters that pop off the page due to their simplistic construction. Yet at the same time, the panels are surprisingly complex and detailed. Ian Edgington writes a wonderfully wicked tale. You can tell he had a blast wreaking all of that havoc. But it's D'Israeli's art that makes this a must have for lovers of Baker’s Street and fine, fine, fine artwork.
MO AND JO: FIGHTING TOGETHER FOREVER Toon BooksThis is the third offering from Toon Books I've had the pleasure of reading and I think it's probably my favorite. Not that the other two, STINKY and JACK AND THE BOX, weren't great reads, but those books were specifically geared towards kids while this one has that universal feel that one often gets while watching a good Disney or Pixar film. Mo and Jo are siblings and they do not get along. The only thing they agree on is that Mojo is their favorite superhero. When a strange mailman comes knocking on their door to deliver a package, they are given the powers of their favorite hero. I liked the way these two ornery kids fought each other and found themselves in situations many kids will find familiar. Creators Dean Haspiel & Jay Lynch have created a pair of super-kids who have problems like any pair of siblings, which makes the story all the more fun. I've said this about the last two Toon Books I reviewed and it applies with this book as well: if you're looking to start kids on comics early, you can't go wrong with Toon Books. Perfect for that story before bedtime and completely kid safe. Recommended for the young and young at heart.
If you think you have an independent comic worth looking at, shoot an email to your favorite @$$Hole for review.
HELLBOY: THE CROOKED MAN #2 Dark Horse ComicsHELLBOY II finally got released in Britain, and I would like to agree, damn, that was a good movie! I think the next one should be a road movie with Abe, Hellboy, Liz and the twins going from town to town solving mysteries. Also, I can’t think of a better companion to Guillermo Del Toro’s excellence than Dark Horse’s latest Hellboy mini. The art’s by Richard Corben, so it looks both great and creepy-as-hell (three good books at once between HELLBOY, CONAN and Marvel’s HAUNT OF HORROR, is that some kind of record?), and Mignola’s story is a good one of witchcraft up in the Appalachian mountains featuring a race against the sunset to get to the safe haven of a church. Comics are a pretty difficult medium to do scares in, but Corben’s imagery freaked me out on more than one occasion here. Highly recommended for fans of Hellboy, witches, the Appalachian mountains and good things. – Stones Throw
TEEN TITANS YEAR ONE #6 DC ComicsI can imagine the proposal for this series. “Yeah, we have some pretty kick ass artists lined up and this bare-bones outline for four issues… uh-huh, sure we can punch it up to six issues for trade. Uh-huh. Excellent. *click* Hey artists, here’s a four issue outline, maybe we’ll write the other two issues, but make this thing stretch out.” There was no reason this series should have existed, and they might as well have never published this not-thought-out coda. I bought it (unlike actual TEEN TITANS), but I don’t recommend you do so. In fact, if I had to reflect the unfinished quality of the issue in this review, I’d