AMERICAN WIDOW HC OGN
Written by Alissa Torres Art by Sungyoon Choi Publisher: Villard Reviewer: Ambush BugWith the Anniversary of 9-11 looming ever closer, once again we are inundated with images of the tragedy that happened that day. You'll see documentaries and reenactments and maybe a movie or two "honoring" the lives that were lost and the way it affected the nation. There will be special news reports and celebrity interviews and the whole ball of wax, but I doubt you will see anything as honestly powerful as AMERICAN WIDOW.
Alissa Torres writes an autobiographical story of how, on one fateful morning in September of 2001, her world was turned upside down. Newly married and expecting a child, she watched the towers fall and knew that her husband was working his second day of work in the North Tower of the World Trade Center. This is a powerful personal story of loss, survival, hardship, and hope. It's brutally honest and reads almost like a left-open diary, revealing Alissa to be all too human in the millions of thoughts and feelings that went through her mind that day and the arduous days after.
This is one of the most effective 9-11 stories I've read because it doesn't try to cover an expansive narrative looking at the government, the firefighters, the terrorists, the victims, and the buildings themselves. It focuses on one aspect and how all of the above affect the life of one woman. In doing this, Torres has put together one of the most powerful comics out there dealing with this subject (a hell of a lot more powerful than Captain America holding a flag amidst the rubble).
Drawn simply and elegantly by Sungyoon Choi, this is a true accomplishment in comics and should be required reading for those who know that comics are more than guys in spandex beating the crap out of each other.
Want to honor those who passed during 9-11? Turn off the stupid documentary glorifying all of those images we've seen over and over, and read this sincere account of how that fateful day effected one person that represents all of us.
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!
DC UNIVERSE: LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT One-Shot #1
Writer: Brad Meltzer Artists: Adam Kubert, John Dell & Joe Kubert Published by: DC Comics Reviewed by: BottleImpI’ve always had a fondness for the lower-tier ranks of comic book characters. Sure, Batman, Superman, Spider-Man…they’re all well and good, but on any given day I’d rather read about Blue Devil, Booster Gold or Strong Guy. I think the appeal of the B-list (or lower) hero is that he or she tends to be more human, less perfect, and have a better sense of humor than is usually found among the elite of the spandex set. This of course is due to those comic book writers who like to breathe life and personality into the lesser heroes—Geoff Johns, James Robinson, Peter David…and Brad Meltzer.
The core of LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT’s plot centers on Geo-Force (one of DC’s C-listers, in my opinion) and his plan to defeat DC’s resident ass-kicking mercenary Deathstroke. Now, I knew next to nothing about Geo-Force before reading this issue—I didn’t even know that his sister was famed Teen Titans betrayer Terra—but that lack of knowledge doesn’t hurt the story at all. Just as he did with Ralph Dibny in the first issue of the now-infamous IDENTITY CRISIS, Meltzer adeptly invests the reader’s interest into his central character while drawing the reader into the plot. I learned everything I needed to know about Geo-Force (at least for the purposes of this story) within the first few pages, leaving me free to enjoy this comic book without having to scratch my head and wonder who the hell certain people were. Unlike reading, say, FINAL CRISIS.
And speaking of FINAL CRISIS…
Here’s where I have problems with this book. No, I suppose the problem lies with DC’s editorial staff. Morrison’s FINAL CRISIS seems to be the backdrop against which LWAT is set. I say “seems to be” because I’m still not 100% sure of it. On pages 2 and 3 of LWAT, Geo-Force’s narrative captions read, “For two full days the sun hasn’t come up… there’s just silence and darkness. Not even a volt of electricity.” References are made to both INFINITE CRISIS and CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS, so logically it would follow that this current “end of the world” crisis is indeed FC… except that as of FC #3, I’ve seen nothing about total darkness or no more electricity. Also, Batman appears in a cut-away scene in LWAT, though last we saw in FC he was captured by Darkseid’s minions. And Superman, though he supposedly has to stay by Lois’ hospital bedside so his heat vision can keep her heart beating (however that’s supposed to work), is seen here having a heart-to-heart with Pa Kent down at the ol’ Kent place in Smallville. Is this comic supposed to tie in with FINAL CRISIS or not?
The FINAL CRISIS vs. SECRET INVASION debate has been brought up often in the talkbacks, and many talkbackers have pointed out that whichever event one prefers, it can’t be denied that Marvel is doing a much better job at making their event a company-wide crossover, while DC seems to be picking and choosing only certain titles to include in the storyline of its latest CRISIS. The resulting sense of confusion—the “is this supposed to be before, after or during FINAL CRISIS” question that keeps popping up in my mind while reading this comic and others—takes away from any sense of a single “DC Universe” that the company may be trying to build, while at the same time undercutting any sense of importance that may have been connected with FC. After all, if Superman and Lois Lane are still alive, healthy and married in Supes’ monthly books, we know that they’ll be fine when all is said and done with FINAL CRISIS. Who’s to blame? Is it the editors, not communicating with each other? Is it Grant Morrison, not sharing his plans with anyone else? Is it the company as a whole?
In any case, an otherwise engaging story about a hero’s search for revenge and/or redemption was muddled up with a lot of cut-away scenes that may or may not have anything to do with anything going on in the rest of DC’s titles. The artwork is good—it’s great that Joe Kubert seems to be having a comeback; now DC just needs to find some way to have him drawing Hawkman again. And since it wouldn’t be one of my reviews without my nitpicking an unimportant detail: Meltzer writes Black Lightning as saying, “[Dinah’s] building an army. Even tracked down the last members of Primal Force.” As one of the few people who own each and every one of the 15 issues of that series, I feel it is my duty to correct Mr. Meltzer. PRIMAL FORCE was the name of the comic; the name of the superhero team was the Leymen. But all pickiness aside, this issue makes for a pretty good read—as long as you don’t look for continuity.
Written by Zack Whedon, Julia Cho, Alex Katsnelson, and Danielle Dispaltro Art by: Tom Mandrake, Simon Coleby, and Cliff Rathburn Published by: Wildstorm/DC Comics Reviewed by: Ryan McLellandFrom the guy who brings us “Lost” comes…a comic book? I was all giddy at the thoughts of a J.J. Abrams comic book not at all realizing that this wasn’t a comic book ‘by him’ though it states it in big letters atop the cover. It also wasn’t an original idea but rather an adaptation of a new television show that actually premiered yesterday on Fox (not a plug or anything – just the facts). Course, I live in a television bubble thanks to my Tivo but after reading this comic book I know now to add “Fringe” to my Season Pass list.
At this point I’m unsure if FRINGE is a direct adaptation of the television show or simply some spin-off tales. I’m going to believe that it might be an amalgam of both – I could be dead wrong but I simply don’t care because either way these stories are good. Damn good. The book is broken up into two stories – the first dealing with a young Harvard teacher, a young student, and a project dealing with a human’s ability to talk to other humans non-verbally. While the teacher’s peers write off his work as science fiction, the student joins in head first to try and bring this telepathy to reality.
The second is a stranger story of a man waking up in prison. Everyone recognizes him except the man himself because it seems that someone has stuck his mind in this felon’s body. The prisoner calls his wife to try to explain what is going on but she’s confused because her husband is there right next to her.
My lone problem with this first issue of FRINGE is that it is short. Way too short. By the time you are getting into both stories they seem to abruptly end. They are both 11 pages long, which might be long enough in other cases but here you are thirsting to read more. You want more. You want to watch the television show. You want to call your friends and tell them to buy this. FRINGE is instantly addicting and makes me want to watch the show. Hopefully the show lasts longer than this six issue mini-series (I mean…it is on Fox!).
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
EL DIABLO #1
Writer: Jai Nitz Art: Phil Hester (pencils) & Ande Parks (inks) Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Ambush BugSick of all of the hype, hoopla, and event-speak, but still yearning for a good superhero yarn from one of the Big Two? Look no further than EL DIABLO. If you're like me, you have a vague recollection of El Diablo from the Mike Parobeck series from the nineties. Quite honestly, I only remember that I loved the artwork. The rest of the story was pretty forgettable. Although the art is pretty fantastic in this rendition of EL DIABLO (more on that later), the writing in this introductory issue is right up on par with the pencils and inks this time.
EL DIABLO is a story introducing us to a new character, Chato Santana. Chato is a gangbanger with a pretty extensive knowledge of how to survive on the street. His gift for survival doesn't keep him out of trouble, though, as he winds up in a hospital after a shootout and near escape from a weapons smuggling bust. Police Detective Alex Aaron knows Chato is a small fish and urges him to roll over on his friends for a lighter sentence. But when Chato spits at the detective's offer, he finds himself faced with another offer from someone more powerful than the law.
As far as origin stories go, this is a nice one. I like it that writer Jai Nitz decided to go with someone other than your typical whitebread hero. Making Chato hispanic immediately makes him stand out from all of the other heroes out there today. Short of the goofy El Aguila and White Tiger at Marvel and Officer Montoya and dead and lame Vibe from JLA Detroit, there really aren't that many Hispanic characters in mainstream comics (I'm sure the talkbacks will be full of others correcting me on this, but those are the only ones who come to mind as I'm writing this). And Nitz doesn't just mush in hispanic stereotypes and make his character scream, "Hey look at me! I'm hispanic!!!" Nitz peppers in some history that authenticates Chato as a character with a bit of depth. Sure he's a gangbanger, but he is using the profits of his bangin' to support his family in Mexico. His older brother died crossing the border and he has a younger sister that he is very protective of. Chato is a child born in America, but he's the only one in his family to do so. He's literally a child of two worlds. Cultural authenticity aside, Chato is a dynamic character with strong values--someone a reader you can root for.
OK, I just remembered, the new Blue Beetle is Hispanic as well. Still, that's only five I can name offhand. My point is, I can name five Kryptonians faster than I can name five Hispanic characters in comics. But I digress...
Nitz saves the real action for the last half of the book as El Diablo makes an appearance. Although I'm sure superb artists Phil Hester and Ande Parks had a lot to do with the design, Nitz does a good job of making the newly reduxed character kick some serious @$$. Rambo-sized holes are blown into people. Sizzling whips decapitate. And a jet black horse with firey eyes proves to be just as cool as you think it is.
The art is superb. Seeing Hester and Parks together again is a real treat given the fact that Hester has proven himself to be a hell of a writer recently. Here he shines with skewed and tense panels that hold quite a bit of action and detail with very few lines drawn.
I really liked the first issue of EL DIABLO. It's definitely worth picking up if you're looking for an alternative for FINAL CRISIS and SECRET INVASION. Although the character of El Diablo is just beginning of come together, what is present here in this first issue is definitely guaranteeing that I'll be back for the second issue.
Editor’s note: Yeah, we know this review is late. It appears on the way to press, this review got caught in a time eddy. DOCTOR WHO fans will understand what that means…
DOCTOR WHO: THE FORGOTTEN #1
Tony Lee: Writer
In the interest of full disclosure, let me say that I am a fiend for Doctor Who, a complete and total fiend. Why yes, I do own a sonic screwdriver. Certainly I knit my own Tom Baker-style scarf. The theme for my Con sketchbook is… you guessed it. I will watch any and every story, with anyone as the Doctor. (Sure, after any viewing of Revelation of the Daleks I have to watch the whole of The Young Ones just to remind myself that Alexei Sayle is genuinely funny, but still.) Hell, I even read Doctor Who fanfic! Well, not ALL fanfic. Well, really just one. But it’s a GOOD one.
Pia Guerra: Artist
Vroom Socko: Yes, we know who you are.
What does all of that mean for this comic? Mainly that I caught nearly every Easter egg that writer Tony Lee and artist Pia “Y the Last Man” Guerra crammed into the corners. And that I was instantly able to come up with a short list of viable villains who could be the mysterious man in the shadows…but I’m getting ahead of myself. The story begins with The Doctor and Martha Jones finding themselves in a museum filled with memorabilia from The Doctor’s past adventures, including one room where the outfits of his past incarnations are on display. It’s here that The Doctor suddenly finds that he has no memory of the time prior to his current incarnation. But with some prodding from Martha and an examination of some of his old belongings, a few memories start to trickle back.
So basically this is all an excuse to showcase the various prior Doctors for a comic reading audience that might have never even heard the names William Hartnell or Patrick Troughton. If the book was merely an introduction to the rich history of the character, or a Reader’s Digest examination of the character, it would make for a passable story, if a bit dull. Thankfully, Lee and Guerra have nailed The Doctor down to a tee, the first and the latest. Their rendition of the original Doctor is especially fun. He’s overbearing, worrisome, and absolutely fed up with that idiot Chesterton he and his granddaughter have been saddled with. That the scenes featuring him reference other storylines without seeming forced or out of place is just icing on the cake. The nod to Pyramids of Mars is especially deft.
Is this any sort of earth shattering storyline that will redefine The Doctor? Lord no; that’s Steven Moffat’s job. But it is a charming ode to the origins of one of the longest running characters in SF history. And it’s being made by creators who clearly know and love the history they’re representing. And oh my giddy aunt, am I looking forward to the next issue. I just HAVE to see what Pia Guerra’s Jamie McCrimmon looks like.
Vroom Socko, aka Aaron Button, spends the time he isn’t reading comics or watching DOCTOR WHO wandering the streets of Portland, Oregon. He also is an avid supporter of the Portland Timbers. He’s easy enough to spot at matches: he’s the one wearing the 20 foot long scarf.
THE FAMILY DYNAMIC # 1
Written by J. Torres Art by Tim Levins and Dan Davis Published by DC Comics Reviewed by Stones ThrowPersonally, I think a comic book about a family of superheroes with powers that correspond to the four classical elements is a great idea!
The Family Dynamic are four guys with fantastic powers, like the Incredibles or the folks in those two crappy Jessica Alba movies. There’s Sloan, AKA Pyralis, the genial but kind of square patriarch, who lights up like some sort of human torch. The visible woman is his wife, Sirocco, who has air powers. Their sons are a young hothead called Troylus, who can control water, while Terran gets the bum deal in the group, turning into a hideous, rocky thing when he puts on his magic ring.
I think these are engaging and likeable characters to whom comic book readers young and old will be able to relate and enjoy!
I’ve seen more than enough comics that recast supposedly original characters in the roles of well-known superheroes, but this is one that, through a combination of witty writing and quick pacing, manages not to insult the reader by thinking we won’t be able to recognize Superman or Batman and Robin (the Defender and what is most likely a mother/daughter combination called Blackbird and Little Wing, respectively). The tone feels like some of the slightly less inspired TOM STRONG comics that came towards the end of that series (or, I’m told, a lighter ASTRO CITY), which, for me at least, is a pretty sizeable compliment.
Similarly, while the interview format is a tried-and-tested way to deal with back story, Torres handles it in such a fresh and organic way (a favor to the Defender’s newspaperman alter ego) that by the time you notice you’re about half way through the story and could care less about the cliché.
Tim Levins’ Wieringo-esque style is perfect for the book, and looks a whole lot better than the cover DC has given the book. Clean, fluid and pitched at just the right spot between cartoony and realistic. This guy should drawing A-list characters, if he wasn’t so well suited to this comic.
Despite the dorky New Age codenames and the nonsensical catchphrase (“Get your element on?” I can respect not coming up with some kind of “in our element” pun, but still…), THE FAMILY DYNAMIC is a good comic! I don’t think I would call it the “world’s greatest comic magazine”, but it deserves an audience outside the Johnny DC crowd, and to run longer than the current three issues.
SECRET SIX #1
Writer: Gail Simone Penciler: Nicola Scott Publisher: DC Comics Reviewed by Humphrey LeeBack for another round of misadventure is that lovable group of guns for hire that have been running around the DCU since the last Crisis brought them together. Starting out as the Secret Four, this brand spanking new number one to kick of this series (this time in Ongoing flavor!) is more of a "this is where we stand" issue than just jumping right back into the action, though there is a little of it on the side for good measure. As I just said though, this issue is more about fleshing out the character developments that have been roiling through the group after the last couple of incidents, particularly ones that went down in the pages of Ms. Gail's wonderful run on BIRDS OF PREY and a little beyond. Scandal is coping with the loss of her lover and teammate Knockout and doing it rather poorly, Catman is having a bit of change of heart towards his more or less villainous behavior thanks to his run in with Huntress during said BOP run, and Ragdoll is, uh, still Ragdoll. At least there's that constant...
I'll admit, if I weren't already a fan of what Gail has done with this group of miscreants the past few years I probably wouldn't be terribly pulled in by this issue. Lots of talk talk talk going on as we get more dosage of the status quo for this team, obviously most of which you might be confused by if you're a pure newbie to this title or just oblivious to their interaction with the BOP developments. As is, I think watching some of these characters come to grips with who they're becoming and/or what they've experienced is a decent change of pace from the standard aloofness that the Six tend to exude, but it also is a little devoid of the famous Gail Simone wit that had made the SS the highly enjoyable read it's been acclaimed for in the past, and has also caused me to soil my knickers on more than one occasion while reading it or runs of hers like Agent X and Deadpool and so on. I'm sure this is only a momentary lapse though, and it's not like the book is totally devoid of humor; Ragdoll does his best to bring some oddball and somewhat disturbing interjectional humor to the melancholy.
There are some hints at things to come to offset all the team's bonding sessions (and really, what else brings together people like a six foot plus tall stripper garbed like a fallen friend? I can't think of anything better myself). This issue opens with a nice creepy intro to a villain that I imagine is going to mean bad things for our team. We don't actually get to see him, but he FUCKING LIVES IN A CRATE AND FUCKING EATS PEOPLE! That's a hell of an intro if you ask me. There's also the new addition to the team in the form of the man who once broke the Bat, Bane, which is almost out of nowhere but he absolutely fits the bill of what kind of character I'd expect to see on this team. I imagine he'll be playing a straight man to Ragdoll's antics once the team gets in the field and that's a monthly skit I can sink my teeth into the idea of. And speaking of the field, there's a lot of foreboding about the next mission they've taken on and spent the issue trying to get Scandal out of her funk to prep for. Promises of the new member to make up the last piece of the team also give us one last thing to look forward to as well.
All in all, this was a pretty decent issue and not a bad "welcome back" for the title. I just felt a couple elements that typically run all over what makes this book what it is were somewhat absent. I'm not opposed to the kind of issue we're given here - one that takes it slow and develops the story to come in a large batch - I guess it's just that since it's been a while since I've really seen these guys (and gal since this book is currently a little low on the double X chromosome sets) in action I wanted a bit of the old school flava. But now that the setup's out of the way, The Job and some of the opposition are in place, and we're now acclimated to the pretty rockin' Nicola Scott art that's going to be our eyepiece to all the proverbial shit-fan hitting, I think it's only a matter of a few weeks before the SECRET SIX resolidifies itself as one of the best pure joyride comics on the stands.
Humphrey Lee has been an avid comic book reader going on fifteen years now and a contributor to Ain't It Cool comics for quite a few as well. In fact, reading comics is about all he does in his free time and where all the money from his day job wages goes to - funding his comic book habit so he can talk about them to you, our loyal readers (lucky you). He's a bit of a social networking whore, so you can find him all over the Interwebs on sites like Twitter, The MySpaces, and a Blogger Account where he also mostly talks about comics with his free time because he hasn't the slightest semblance of a life. Sad but true, and he gladly encourages you to add, read, and comment as you will.
DEAD OF NIGHT: DEVIL-SLAYER #1
Writer: Brian Keene Art: Chris Samnee Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: Ambush BugEveryone's got a favorite super-hero. No matter how obscure the character, there's going to be someone it struck a chord with. My absolute favorite character is not Devil-Slayer necessarily (that honor goes to Gargoyle, who thankfully, is showing up pretty much as he was back in the old Defenders days in the background of THE INITIATIVE...thanks Dan!!!), but he's up there as one of the characters I love. He's a dude who has fought all sort of beastie and has the scars to prove it. He's got monster detection powers and a cool cloak which houses an arsenal of ancient and mystic weaponry. Devil-Slayer reminded me of the way Hawkman is portrayed now: a warrior using ancient weapons to battle menaces of yesterday, tomorrow, and beyond. For a long time, I was wondering when someone would smarten up and bring back the Devil-Slayer into modern continuity.
Be careful for what you wish for.
I don't want to say that DEAD OF NIGHT: DEVIL-SLAYER #1 is bad. I just came away from the issue feeling next to nothing about it. This isn't Eric Simon Payne, the Devil-Slayer from the Defenders. This is an all new incarnation with seemingly no ties to the previous character. In fact, it doesn't even seem like a comic in need of a Devil-Slayer at all.
The plot has to do with a modern military man who, after coming home from Iraq, had difficulty reentering society, so he decides to reenlist. We get montages and flashbacks of new guy Danny Slyva trying to get a job and being rejected. We see Danny's wife leaving him. We see him realizing that the war zone is the place he feels closest to home. And we see him returning to the battlefield a man who is trying to go home again, yet having difficulty finding that home.
You know what we don't see?
Well, up until the last page, there really isn't a lot of devils in need of slaying.
And that's the thing. I'm all for a comic out there giving voice to a problem like how soldiers are treated when they return from war. I think there are some interesting stories to be told about this subject. What I'm against is shoe-horning a story like that into a superhero comic.
It appears writer Brian Keene had a story about soldiers, Iraq, and the relationships between the war zone and the real world and went to Marvel with it. In response, it appears Marvel said “hey, we've got a character Devil-Slayer that isn't doing anything right now.” So they square-pegged this story into that round hole of a character. Aside from the title and the aforementioned appearance of demons on the last page, you could pick this issue up and find a pretty nice war story. What irks me is that instead of doing that, they took a character that could have been someone's favorite superhero, and made him fit into the story without really considering how that would sit with fans of the character.
On top of that, writer Keene's first issue suffers from Typical Marvel First Issue-itis where the only appearance of the character on the cover is the cover in the first issue. Usually, we at least get a splash of the character on the last page, but I guess they are saving that shocker for the last panel of the trade-paced second issue. I thought Marvel had evolved past this "house style" of doing a comic, but this is Nu Marvel at it's best: spending most of its time trying to tell us that "something interesting is coming", but saving the payoff for later issues.
In the end, after witnessing a disrespect for a perfectly cool character, an issue that felt as if the plot were forced into a superhero universe, and one that was constructed like a million first issues I've read before, I think I'm going to have to save the 399 cents I dropped on this issue the next time DEAD OF NIGHT: DEVIL-SLAYER hits the stands. In the meantime, the real Devil-Slayer recently popped up in the latest issue of THE INITIATIVE. Check that issue out for a good story that respects the characters of the Marvel Universe and has stuff actually happening between it's covers.
GREEN LANTERN #34
Writer: Geoff Johns Artist: Ivan Reis Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Optimous DoucheBromance, man-love, unrequited hairy nipple passion; there have been a slew of terms conjured up over the past few years to help an overarching homophobic society develop a level of comfort for the affection between two men. In the opening pages of this latest foray into the genesis of Earth’s original GREEN LANTERN (no, I don’t consider Alan Scott a Green Lantern) writer extraordinaire Geoff Johns boils down the relationship between Hal Jordan and Sinestro into one simple term that we don’t hear too often anymore: respect.
The friendship once shared by these two has become the stuff of legend over the past forty some odd years. Through a multitude of intergalactic battles and epic douchebaggery on the part of the great magenta one, it’s easy for us all to forget (especially younger readers) that these two were once fighting for the same side. While both acting in the purest sense of their mandated mission by the galactic guardians, it was never the “what” that drove a wedge between them, but rather the “how”.
One of the over arching challenges of doing a prequel is the fact that everyone knows how the story is going to end. The trick is to make the journey enticing by providing unknown nuggets in an entertaining and enlightening fashion. Lucas missed the mark with the last three (or I should say first three) “Star Wars” movies, for example. Johns avoids these trappings by delicately unfolding the Blackest Night prophecy and gently interspersing the feelings of these two emerald juggernauts towards one another and the galactic guardians. This delicate blend of the old and the new satiates even those overflowing with knowledge about all things Emerald, while also providing a damn nice entrance for those that could not tell an Abin Sur from an @$$hole TalkBacker.
What set this issue apart from the rest of the story arc is that Johns is truly starting to embark into new territory despite the fact we’ve all been here before. There is only so much you can do with Hal Jordan’s early years, the man is who he is and the circumstances that made him so are not to be trifled with. His Dad can only die one way if he is going to traverse the rest of his heroic destiny. Johns did an admirable job updating these events with modern sensibilities and his own spot-on interpretation of characterization, but aside from a few nuggets about “the prophecy” (oh the delectable prophecy), much of the material was old hat.
This issue not only tugs at the heart strings, as we see a friendship and a romance (not with Sinestro) form that we know is ultimately doomed, but Johns in usual style delivers a blindsiding donkey punch of action to boot. You want inventive ring wielding? You got it, as Hal for the first time realizes the full potential of not only his ring, but also the man that wields it. Yes, Sinestro is still a condescending prick, but he’s a prick that hasn’t lost his…well, his humanity for lack of a better word. There is a genuine affection for Jordan as Sinesto views a piece of himself in the neophyte ring wielder. Also for the first time in his life Sinestro is plagued with doubt at his own abilities as he sees Jordan overcome that which no other Lantern has ever been able to surmount, the dread color yellow.
This is the first issue where the prophecy became secondary for me and I just wanted to see more of Hal and Sinestro. Ahh well, there will be an issue 35 in four short weeks, where I am most thankful that Guy Gardner is not in the picture yet, because if anyone would drop the term bromance it would be him.
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.
A Special dot.comics Catch-up!
Hey folks, Ambush Bug here. It’s been a while since I did a dot.comics section here at AICN, so I wanted to do a special edition of the feature focusing on a few webcomics I think are worth your time. As always, I want to stress that these comics are 100% absolutely free and just a mouse-click away. If you like what I say about these webcomics, follow the links and you can enjoy them for yourselves. Again, there’s no real complaints here. I read a ton of comics here from this section and didn’t spend a dime. So in these trying economic times, I’m here to let you know that you don’t have to give up comics. If you love graphic storytelling, there’s plenty to enjoy online and oh yeah, did I mention they were FREE!Let’s start out with Hal Jones’ BEYOND HUMAN (you can find page one here) which is featured on the Drunk Duck online webcomic website. Jones writes and draws this expansive and eclectic hodge podge of a tale which flips between characters and storylines in each chapter. I’m not sure what it all means, but it is an interesting story filled with colorful characters. Three in particular are focused on a mutated freak named Jamie Masters, a gun-toting badass named Aeric Summers, and a burnout named John who seems to have a thing against evangelists. Like I said, this story flips between stories from one chapter to the next. Only Jamie Masters’ first story is complete, and it’s a heartfelt one about bullies and abuse. Aeric Summers’ story just seems to be getting started with updates ranging about every other week. Although the story lost me a bit during the prelude as writer Jones takes us on a biblical journey through time starting with the creation of earth and ending with today’s apathetic and corrupt world, Jones won me over with the first chapter. It was definitely worth sticking with. The true highlight is Jones’ pencils and inks, which remind me a lot of Gene Colan’s work or something reminiscent of the spectacular Tom Mandrake. Jones specializes in detail and splash pages which tell multiple layers of stories. BEYOND HUMAN isn’t your typical comic book fare, but if you’re looking for fantastic art and stories with real emotion and depth, look no further than this one.
DON’T FORGET TO VALIDATE YOUR PARKING is another diamond in the internet rough. This comic strip composed of repeated panels of the same image of a guy at a keyboard talking with his clueless agent on the phone is smart, entertaining, and the cause of many a belly-jiggling laugh for this reviewer. What makes this comic strip so special is its simplicity, using the same image one panel after the next if not for the fun conversations that transition one panel to the next. It’s a fun experiment with the genre and a testament to the writing skills of the creator of the strip Mike Le. The strip pokes fun at the entertainment industry as well as jibes at social phenomenon. DON’T FORGET TO VALIDATE YOUR PARKING is a memorable look at the frustrations a writer goes through to make it big, yet maintain integrity, in an industry that doesn’t even know how to spell the word. This webcomic is recommended to lovers of film and the trials and headaches that go into making putting them together.
Finally, I’m surprised I haven’t checked out Zuda, DC’s webcomics project. From what I see so far, there’s tons of new and exciting projects to enjoy with DC’s stamp of approval. I took a look at NIGHT OWLS by Peter and Robert Timony, a fun detective yarn which reminded me of DICK TRACY with its noir settings and freaky villains, but these detectives fight the supernatural. Ernest Baxter is nerdy and somewhat of an alchemist. Mindy Markus is a scrappy tomboy, but easy on the eyes too. Finally, Roscoe is what looks to be a gargoyle. The three investigators solve mystic crimes and battle supernatural menaces. The narration of the book makes me feel as if I’m listening to an old radio serial. Some of the pages are self contained adventures, which makes it easy to pop in and just read a few when you have a few extra minutes. Other pages are strung together to tell a more elaborate mystery. A ghost looks for the man who killed him. Roscoe’s sister attempts to marry Bluebeard. A vampire comes a calling only to meet a firy end. These are the types of adventures you can expect to see in NIGHT OWLS. The tone is light and fun. The production is of high quality and it seems DC is really putting their all into this project. NIGHT OWLS was December’s instant winner at Zuda, meaning that they didn’t have to compete with others to appear on the website. The webcomic has been renewed for a second season. It’s good to see DC jumping into the webcomic world. So far, it looks like they know what they’re doing.
Whew! That’s a lot of mouse-clicking. Time to rest the old finger until next time on dot.comics. Until then, check out some of these imaginative webcomics. They are varied, original, exciting, and best of all, FREE!
BLACK GOD VOL 1 – 3
Story by Dall-Young Lim Art by Sung-Woo Park Released by Yen Press Reviewer: Scott GreenAt its best, BLACK GOD is a kung fu fairy tale - while exploring the hidden rules that govern human destiny, factional Mototsumitama demi-gods battle it out with savage intent. The manga's first throw down features titular child-like goddess Kuro ("Black") taking grief for fighting like a human with jabs and crosses rather than striking down her enemies with god-lasers or something to that effect. However, the manga is at its best when showcasing super-powered boxing or jujitsu. Glowing seals materializing or stampedes of clone duplicates charging onto the battlefield are all well and good in a super-power action manga, but a kid weaving and hooking, trying to box a pack of motorcyclists or an angry goddess shooting a double leg takedown then cracking the earth with her ground-and-pound attack literally kicks ass.
While by no means universally adhered to, the convention in super-hero comics is that someone employs super powers or they employ martial arts. You have a Superman, a Spider-man or an Incredible Hulk who can lift cars, but who wings it on technique. Or, you have a Batman or Daredevil, who, from a conceptual standpoint, are limited to what a well trained athlete could accomplish, but know what they are doing. Nor is this unique to American super-hero comics. On the manga front, there are works like DRAGON BALL, a series that purports to be a martial arts story, but especially as it progresses, becomes a contest of super-powers.
The fact that BLACK GOD looks to model its action after identifiable martial arts or combat sports does not mean that it is particularly careful or particularly accurate. Of the manga/manhwa being released in North America, SHAMAN WARRIOR, or, after its own outrageous fashion, Tenjou Tenge are more concerned with getting the details correct. In this case, the manga seems to be working off fan-ish notions of boxing or grappling, and to the extent that this sloppiness translates to the characters themselves, it is a liability. Maybe the boxer wouldn't get a flying boot to the face if her fists weren't chambered by her ribs. But, if the details aren't there, the excitement is. Seeing Kuro quickly cut angles like Bruce Lee or Spike Spiegel (same difference) then punish her target with volcanic strikes is reason enough for an action comic/manga fan to seek out BLACK GOD.
Beyond the fist fight of the spirits side to BLACK GOD, it is a surprisingly conventional manga from an unconventional set of manga creators. In justifying the "manga" classification in their encyclopedia, Anime News Network offers.
"Although it was first published in Japanese, BLACK GOD was first written in Korean, then translated into Japanese and published. Because this title was created for the Japanese market, it was originally created in the right to left format of Japanese manga, not the left to right format of Korean manhwa. Other titles created by (writer Dall-Young) Lim and (artist Sung-Woo) Park were created initially published in Korean in left to right format."
The more manga you read, and more anime you watch, the more BLACK GOD will provoke dejavu. This is especially, true in the early chapters, but even into volume three, there is plenty of "that's like BLEACH, that's like FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST, like WELCOME TO THE NHK... like FATE/STAY NIGHT... KANON..."
Keita Ibuki lost his parents at an early age. As a child, he was walking with his mother when the pair spotted a woman that looked identical to Keita's parent. The next day, his mother died. His father, who had previously been a creature of the office, remained away from home in the wake of his wife's mysterious departure. The years pass, and Keita Ibuki grew into a self-absorbed 19 year old who moved to Tokyo to pursue a career as a video game producer and leech off his slightly older childhood friend, now employed as an office lady.
On a fateful night, after mooching some funds offs his friend and offending the two colleagues working on his video game, he ends an night of excess by stopping at a roadside noodle booth. The meal is interrupted by the arrival of a dirty, homeless looking girl wearing nothing but a raincoat and dog collar. Keita shares his ramen with the girl. After he reminisces about his own childhood insistence on ramen and missing his mother, the mysterious girl, Kuro begins correcting Keita between mouths full of soup.
The woman that his mother met was not one of two doppelgangers, but one of three doppeliners. She goes on to talk to a complex system of spiritual energy distribution and the way in which fates can be absorbed or poisoned. The introduction to metaphysical accounting is interrupted when a Mototsumitama from the Shishigami clan bursts into noodle stand and begins assaulting Kuro. Keita responds by clubbing the guy with his chair, a move which ensues that his fate is intertwined with Kuro's.
The best and worst quality of BLACK GOD is that it withholds its mysteries and little else. Though the world of Mototsumitama and doppeliners is complex upon introduction, the manga periodically reveals even more convolutions. Beyond that, the manga exercises Chris Claremont style plotting with a horizon that is crowded with people in shadows, doppeliners who may or may not be in play, unstated agendas, and so on. When not dealing with one of these mysteries, BLACK GOD is quick to deliver. Most threats are presented, then quickly executed. For example volume two heats up its fight between boxing Kuro and a jujitsu fighting Mototsumitama to a boil over the course of that particular volume.
Dall-Young Lim directs BLACK GOD towards a lot of the excess common in the manga/anime tradition. There are numerous tropes in these media that are potentially offensive for their gender politics, or potentially offensive in their condescension. There's what North American fandom call's harem, in which an unimpressive guy never the less manages to win the affection of a host of attractive, interesting women; there is magical girlfriend, in which an unimpressive guy never the less manages to win the affection of a woman who is so impressive, so exotic, that she's literally magical; there is moe, in which a quality such as innocence is fetishizedl there's lolicon, a "lolita complex" attraction to youthful character. BLACK GOD loads up its candy bag with handfuls of all of this.
From the standpoint of someone who is not moved by these tropes, the aggravating factor is that BLACK GOD is consciously forthcoming with justification for these behaviors. Keita might seem like an irredeemable twit who abuses the generosity of others, but when women cling to him, the reader is reminded explicitly in the dialog, and during the critical points in the action that he does in fact have a noble heart. There is a European Mototsumitama with his human companion who look like a healthy middle age man and a young girl, but the manga explains that she's of an unknown older age and looks childlike as the result of a mutation." BLACK GOD is not a series that wants to explore ideas beyond its own concept (doppeliners and spiritual energy). As such, it consistently offers rationale for why it can present an idea without making it a topic to be pondered.
Considering both the super powered beat-em-up and the character conceits, BLACK GOD commits to delivering what people who like genre manga like. If you're interested reading about a scruffy kid laying down the science and seeing bishojo (cute young women) in dangerous situations, know that BLACK GOD make it its mission to get your number.
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.