ALL STAR SUPERMAN #12
Writer: Grant Morrison Artist: Frank Quitely Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Optimous DoucheWhat is left to say about this title that hasn’t already been bandied about by my fellow @$$holes, other reviewers and the mainstream media? What accolades could I bestow upon a team that have not only brought their A++ game to every chapter of this series, but have gone the extra mile to slice open their creative arteries and hemorrhage genius into every fucking panel for twelve issues straight? Hmmm, well maybe I did just say it.
With any other title, a three year wait for the closing chapter in a twelve issue series would be inexcusable, and as a reviewer I would gladly use my coveted pulpit to stoke the fervent flames of fandom ire. But this isn’t just any character; this is the foundation for the thousands of comic books that have fueled fanboy imagination since the Great Depression. Nor has this series been just a casual rehash of the Superman mythos, but rather one of the most imaginative and concise reconstructions to ever seep into my over 50 long boxes. Where Morrison is often thought of as the guy that blows up continuity with every stroke of his keyboard, for ALL STAR SUPERMAN he not only held to canon, he coveted it. Everything you have ever loved about Superman can be found in this series without ever becoming mired in continuity nits or inconsequential details. Three years, pshaw, I have been waiting a lifetime for this book.
Whether associated with a movie property, a post-crisis reboot, or simply a mini-series, the question as to whether Superman’s origin and following history needs to be retold for new readers or movie watchers is always under debate. After all, who doesn’t know Superman? Hell, I think I even remember a scene in “The Miracle Worker” when Helen Keller grunted “uperman” right after “water”. In most retellings there are precious minutes or pages wasted with flowery exposition spewed out by a marble mouthed Marlon Brando or conveyed by countless images of crumbling crystalline spires spelling out the doom of Krypton and the subsequent hurdling of baby Kal-El into the cosmos.
Now try this: Doomed Planet. Desperate Scientists. Last Hope. Kindly Couple. With these four simple phrases on page one of the series’ first issue, Morrison set the tone that there would be no waste, fluff or padding in this series. In regular continuity it took the better part of thirty years and hundreds of issues for Clark Kent to reveal his identity to Lois Lane, where Morrison embodied the awkwardness of their relationship and subsequent reveal all in one glorious issue. In another issue that brought this callous stalwart reviewer to tears (not counting issue 12, don’t worry I’m getting to it) was the relationship between Superman and his adopted earth parents. Again, while I have a Superman continuity encyclopedia firmly embedded in my cerebellum there was nothing I had to recall. Superman is dying, he loves his parents and he is about to lose the only man he ever could truly call Father. The moment when Jonathan Kent did pass was superb, heartfelt and garnished with enough of a Sci-Fi twist to keep even the most callous hearted reader riveted to the page.
Quite simply, every moment in this series was superb.
I have always been a zealot defender of Frank Quitely’s art work. Whenever contrary arguments would arise, like “It’s ugly”, I would be the first to chime out on message boards defending the fact that the human form is far from perfect. But there’s more to his art, and unfortunately it took me until this issue to have my grand epiphany as to why I find him so damn compelling. If I had to sum it up in one word it would be “expression”. With each panel Quitely contours the facial lines to convey the true emotion the writer is trying to convey with his words. In many comics these days you can see the heads of characters superimposed from panel to panel, never changing, never truly trying to embody the emotion of the writers’ words. Books that leverage a manga or anime style seem to convey too much emotion turning tepid anger to gaping open mouthed rage. Quitely subtly conveys each beat of emotion in the book. At the very beginning of issue 12, Lex Luthor floats above a blown apart piece of the Daily Planet juiced to the gills on superserum. As he is spewing forth his evil rant on how the world is going to change under his reign, there is one moment when the words coming out of his mouth are filled with loathing for the believed fallen Superman. With one gnarled snarl on Lex’s face I realized why Morrison and Quitely were given the freedom to tackle this monumental title.
Before I extend over my word count and I’m forced into serving the standard @$$hole penance of grooming Schleppy’s taint hair for a month, I should say that issue 12 was possibly one of the best endings in comic books and within the Superman mythos. Naturally, Superman saves the day by defeating Luthor and reviving our fallen life bearing star. But it is far from a happy ending. The supposed death of Superman 15 years ago, with the endless mini-series that followed, cannot even begin to compare with the emotion Morrison put into the final pages of ALL STAR SUPERMAN.
Morrison and Quitely not only revived my interest in Superman, but also my faith in comic books. While I have made no secret of my love for the work Johns is doing in the regular Superman titles, he has the unenviable task of toting a full Samsonite luggage set of continuity, complete with steamer trunk, into each of his stories. Morrison and Quitely were simply asked to dive into a light carry-on tote of history, paying reverence to what was important, and then being allowed to move forward in their own direction. The comic world is all the richer as a result. I can only pray that the Superman S on the last page that was delicately inverted and contoured into a 2 means that we will see more of this title sooner rather than later. Regardless of what the future might hold, thank you, gentlemen, for a landmark 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.
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #5
Written by: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning Art by: Paul Pelletier and Rick Magyar Published by: Marvel Comics Reviewed by: Ryan McLellandUp until Jim Shooter's tenure my favorite writers on LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES were Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning. Their “Legion Lost” era is amongst the best written comics ever and it is a shame that there is no collection for that. I'm not here to talk about LEGION - I'm here to talk about A&L's Marvel space book GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY.
I've always been a fan of GUARDIANS, especially Valentino's great nineties run. This is not a continuation of that comic, as new GUARDIANS readers already know. But if you are just picking this book up, like I did last week, this is a new team that was formed in the wake of the huge Marvel space crossover ANNIHILATION: CONQUEST.
There is a bit of the old thrown in with the new here as the team is already breaking apart, our old friend Major Victory is in the house, and Star Lord is here to let the team know that Major Victory should not even exist. There's a search for Drax the Destroyer, Skrulls a-plenty (this is tied into the “Secret Invasion” crossover), and Rocket Raccoon.
Ah Rocket Raccoon. Anyone who knows me knows that I have a weird fetish for these great anthomorphic characters - I was sending Marvel treatments and scripts for new HOWARD THE DUCK comic books most of my young writing career. With Rocket Raccoon we have another anthromorph come front and center, and what a thrill it is to see him not only a part of this team but have him being a great voice of reason.
The book is certainly exciting. Even though this is issue 5 and I haven't read anything prior to this I was easily able to slip into GUARDIANS and follow the plot along. The team book, also featuring Adam Warlock and Quasar, is a great continuation of Marvel's classic space characters. Being written by Abnett and Lanning certainly does not hurt and the two write GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY with great ease. It's a wonderful book full of great characters and certainly made to look amazing by artist Paul Pelletier. Pelletier brings the world of space to life and makes Rocket Raccoon look like he really belongs there amongst humans and aliens alike. Did I mention that I love Rocket Raccoon?
Fans of the old GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY will love how the old characters are intertwined with the new and how it probably means a big storyline down the line. This book certainly did capture my attention and quickly made a new reader out of me.
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
DC UNIVERSE: DECISIONS #1 (of 4)
Written by: Bill Willingham and Judd Winick Pencilled by: Rick Leonardi Published by: DC Comics Reviewed by: BottleImpLike most of America, I am caught up in the maelstrom of political posturing and media feeding frenzy that is the 2008 Presidential Election. And being in a political frame of mind, I was intrigued enough by the premise of this miniseries to pick up the first issue, wondering if the Powers That Be at DC Editorial were going to use their fictional universe as a means of commenting on recent real-world events. And if that was not to be the case, I hoped that the story of a superhero endorsing a candidate would be entertaining on its own merit.
Not so much, as it turns out.
It’s not that the story is bad, per se—someone or something is attempting to assassinate the presidential candidates via mind-controlled political aides wired with explosives; the Justice League is attempting to protect the candidates while searching for the person behind the plot; Green Arrow ends up officially endorsing one of the democratic candidates—all good, plotty stuff. But this issue reads less like a political thriller or detective story and more like a half-hearted article DESCRIBING such a story. There’s no real energy or urgency here—part of this is due to the pages and pages of characters talking about what they’re going to do rather than having the characters shown in action. There are also too many panels of characters staring at computer screens of watching television (my favorite shots are of Hal Jordan watching TV in his apartment in full Green Lantern attire—too lazy to use the ring to magic back into your street clothes, Hal?). As a result, the story plods along rather than sprinting.
There are two other facets of the plot that bug me. First: the political leanings and philosophies of the candidates are vague to the point of non-existence. Not something I’d normally nitpick in a superhero book, but since the central characters of the story (i.e. the Justice League members) seem to be getting set to split along candidate lines, it would be nice to know what the candidates stand for and, ergo, what the superheroes who support them stand for. Second: other Leaguers seem surprised that Green Arrow is openly and publicly backing a candidate. Is it just me, or has Green Arrow been consistently the most outspoken, liberal superhero to grace the comic page since the late 1970s? Why is his endorsement such a shock?
The plot seems doomed by mediocre writing and so-so art. I usually like Rick Leonardi’s art, but I’m not wowed here (although the boring staging might be a big part of this). Leonardi does get the prize for drawing the most stumpy-legged Superman I’ve ever seen—he looks a little like a weeble.
Long story short, if you’re looking for a comic that blends politics with superheroes, read EX MACHINA or grab that copy of WATCHMEN off the shelf for another go. ‘Cause this miniseries just isn’t cutting it.
Writer: Andy Diggle Penciler: Leonardo Manco Publisher: Vertigo/DC Comics Reviewed by Humphrey LeeOne thing I've come to cherish in my time as a comic book reader is the joy of having a quality and consistent writer/creative crew on a HELLBLAZER run. John Constantine himself just seems to have that allure about him, with that roguish and charmingly sarcastic demeanor and "win at any cost" attitude, that you'd think he'd be such a deceptively simple character to write. But the key, I've noticed, is that as great a character as John intrinsically is, none of it means anything if you can't find a situation to put him in, or a truly frightening Big Bad to put him against, and make it so you think that, even if just fleetingly, "this is it. This might be the time he's finally bit off more than he can chew" or at the very least, when he steps into the fray and pulls out the trench coat (or three piece suit) and British charm that it's going to cost him something dear for his efforts. And at nearly two hundred and fifty issues of Constantine adventures, you'd have to think the writers that handle him would at least be struggling a little bit in these endeavors, especially given the kind of quality runs this title has seen in the past. Andy Diggle, though, apparently laughs at this notion and has cranked out a nice little run that is looking to end way quicker than it ever rightfully should.
In part one of "The Roots of Coincidence" here, Diggle has started to tighten all the threads he's laid out in the handful of story arcs he's told since he started his all-too-brief stint on the book. The body-hopping and righteous Lord Burnham from the "Joyride" story and the unrelenting and power-hungry Mako from "The Laughing Magician" are working in cahoots with each other in a plan mutually beneficial to each other and with potential Earth-ending horror for everyone else. And all the right notes have been hit along the way. Obviously I wouldn't be singing the praises of Diggle's approach to the book if his rendition of John hadn't been spot on up to this point. The ways that John has tried to get himself out of this mess as he's been hunted down by Mako, and making it doubly worse by actually putting Mako and Burnham together, has been a classic example of the "Constantine luck". And this particular issue's rendition of his pulling out all the stops was absolutely, jaw-droppingly classic. I don't think I ever once thought in all of my comic reading career I would see the protagonist of my story basically snorting the ground up remains of Santa Claus for a power boost but by god here it is, and I think the comic book world is all the richer for someone having the vision to make it happen.
Also in keeping with the book's roots, this run has also been very much a horror book, of course, but with a bit of the old social commentary. While now that it's winding down to the next team there's more an emphasis on the former more than latter as the bodies have started piling high ever since Mako's arrived on the scene, there's been the underlying current of the "haves versus the have-nots" via Lord Burnham's character. From he and his little club's possession of lower class plebians and the vile acts they performed with them, to his end of the bargain with Mako - that of his own little spiritual palace to whisk his soul off to by Mako's design before he's free to ravage all before him - if that's not a case of "stepping on the little guy" then I don't know what is. Throw in some nods at previous HELLBLAZER runs with some uses of older supporting characters like Ellie the Demoness, Map the Spirit of London, and so on to go with the little social-strata commentary and the buckets of blood and gore, this has been everything that a run on this much vaunted and flagship title should be. It really is going to be a tragedy to see this run come to an end, but as our smirking lead knows all too well, everything comes with a price.
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.
UNCANNY X-MEN #502
Writers: Ed Brubaker/ Matt Fraction Artist: Greg Land Reviewer: Optimous DoucheI truly want to applaud the individual that decided to lay waste to the multitude of mutants that were infesting the Marvel Universe a few years back. Yes, infesting. Bird man, wasp chick, and the countless other one power, one story line wonders that inhabited District X were a swarm of beings that fed on the mutant books as parasitic story leeches. They would suck dry story development and focal time on the core group of mutants we had all grown to love over the years. Morrison did an admirable job following the mandate to expand the Mutieverse; I just can’t say that I ever agreed with that mandate.
Even after the events of HOUSE OF M transpired UNCANNY and its sister titles seemed to be lost, searching for not only a home that wasn’t being blown up every week, but also a sense of purpose. Xavier’s was no longer a school and all of the mutants that required protecting were basically camped out of the front lawn. “Shall we go on patrol, Scott?” “Sure, open the drapes.” Not very exciting.
While it was fun watching everything break apart, at its heart the X-Men have always been more successful and interesting as a cohesive team. And I don’t mean a team in just the combat sense; one sign of a well-crafted X-Men arc is when the team members slip into their roles even off the battlefield.
Fraction and Brubaker not only get this point, their deft dancing between combat scenes and down-time kept issue 502 moving so quickly that for the first time in a long time with an X-Men book, I was pissed when it was over, and I can’t wait for more.
There were too many moments not to love in this issue: Wolverine playing the mentor to a young girl with a chip on her shoulder. Emma being an epically large diamond-encrusted monogamous slut. Hank McCoy not only healing the body, but also the soul, and Scott Summers after getting lost in Emma’s vagina has once again taken leadership of the team and brought them back on a track of once again knowing their place in this world.
I was leery of the move to San Francisco, fearing that the first few issues after the move would feel like reading a Zagat’s guide in an attempt to get the readers acclimated with the new surroundings. And the last few issues sort of did. 502 finally lets go of the exposition anchor and explodes with action right from panel 1. Couple this with some torture, a little hot for teacher whoriness from Emma’s past, Dazzler looking better than she has in years, and the building mystery of a seemingly Hellfire-endorsed sapien hate league (it’s official: everyone these days now outsources), and I think you can understand my glee as a man who has collected every issue of this book.
If you’re already an X-man fan, you know how great this book is, I have no idea why you read this review, go away. If you were once an X-man fan, but soured over the past decade, come back. If you are a comic fan that has never tried the X-men, come down off of your erudite black and white panel high horse and mix with the serfdom for a bit in a mainstream title.
Welcome back X-Men.
BILLY BATSON AND THE POWER OF SHAZAM! #2
Written and Art by: Mike Kunkel Published by: DC Comics Reviewed by: Ryan McLellandI was a big fan of Mike Kunkel's HEROBEAR AND THE KID. I was a little late onboard with the title and simply picked a collection one day. Kunkel's animation background lends itself greatly to comic book form as HATK was almost a comic book come to life. I swear that I read the book and it was nearly animated as I read panel-to-panel.
The same thing applies here to BILLY BATSON AND THE POWER OF SHAZAM, though I can't help think that it is a bit more for kids. With HEROBEAR AND THE KID it felt like a Pixar cartoon - something adults and children can both enjoy. With BILLY BATSON it feels like I'm watching some not-so-great Nickelodeon cartoon. It's not that Kunkel's artwork has diminished by any means, because the book looks great. It's just that the writing has been dumbed down for your average comic book reader.
The sad part is, even if this book is pegged for pre-tweens it still feels a bit dumbed down for them. I guess because when I was a kid I had the far superior SPIDER-HAM, who was certainly dumbed down but at least reached for the lowest common denominator. With this kids book I certainly felt like I was reading a very long novel.
Did I mention that Kunkel's art is phenom!?! Because it certainly is and is the point of having Kunkel on a book like this. But if you enjoy a plot about changing into Captain Marvel to get to school to face the fire hose you are a better person than I.
Hey folks, Ambush Bug back with another gig of goodness from dot.comics. This week, we start out with a trio of clickable picks that are sure to entertain. Although I doubt the first two are for the same audience, they are proof positive that there’s something for all comic book fans floating out there on the web. The third is so mellow that while the fans of the first two webcomics are debating, it’s sitting back and soaking in the moment. See what I mean by clicking the links below and devouring these FREE COMICS!!!Freakin’ hilarious. That’s what this next webcomic is. JESUS CHRIST: IN THE NAME OF THE GUN pits Jesus versus the Nazis in an all out, bullet balleting, water walking, kung fu kicking battle to end all battles. Not only does it have Jesus making an intro by walking up a stream of piss to attack a Nazi soldier, it’s also managed to wrangle Marlon Brando’s head to star as God. This webcomic is clever, funny and should not be missed. Sure, there are those that may be a bit offended when they see Jesus firing a German Luger and screaming “Suck my Balls!” with his trusty sidekick Ernest Hemingway at his side, but the plot involves Jesus questioning God’s decision for having a Holocaust, then deciding to do something proactive about it, so the story does have a positive message under all of that blasphemy. This webcomic is by Eric Peterson and Ethan Nicolle and is updated weekly. Be sure to check out this series from the beginning and laugh your @$$ off.
Although DUE EAST is not going to be a comic for everybody, with the internet the size it is, there are bound to be folks that would enjoy this one. Not being a church-goer myself, I walked into this one a bit leery after reading about how the makers of this webcomic found Jesus and decided to stop making superhero comics and tell something more positive. But I soon found that creators Allen and Angel Steadham were more focused on telling a story about strength of family rather than preaching the gospel. I can dig that. This is a slice-of-life story about a family unit and their friends and how they handle life's ups and downs together. No capes or tights or super villain fights to be found here. You do get a nice story with well thought out characters. What impressed me the most is the development I witnessed as I clicked though over 100 pages of this website. To me, it's fascinating to see an artist develop his or her skills, and as the pages passed by, I could see much of that growth. Not your ordinary comic book fare, but proof that there's a wide variety of comics out there just a click away.
Finally we have, UNTRUE TALES by Sam Little. This book is Richard Linklater’s SLACKER/WAKING LIFE in comic book form, jetting from one random topic to another with no particular rhyme or reason other than to offer up a freshly baked and steamy slice of life for our eyes to absorb. Little’s strength is his Kevin MacGuire-esque complex facial expressions that completely capture the emotion and enrich the experience. These UNTRUE TALES range from confessionals to adventures with uzi squirtguns to drunken barfights over before they begin. All of them honest. All of them interesting. All of them vividly appealing. And, apparently, all of them untrue. But who cares, they are some of the most interesting snippets of unlife out there on the web.
AFRO SAMURAI VOL 1
By Takashi Okazaki Released by Tor / Seven Seas Reviewer: Scott GreenA recent AICN Anime column linked to CollectionDX's review of Toys Are Us - A Revolution in Plastic . Approaching the documentary on designer toys from the perspective of a toy enthusiast, CollectionDX's JoshB conveyed ambivalence towards a field that attracts artists for whom toys might be just another medium in which they can express their designs. Manga fans may encounter similar reservations when reading AFRO SAMURAI.
AFRO SAMURAI is a work of design. It utilizes the medium to which it is applied as a platform rather than as an ends unto itself. It resonates with the visual impact of a character who is Sweet Sweetback AND Ogami Itto... the samurai and the antihero of African heritage. Showcasing that conceptual thread, starting with Afro and continuing through MC yakuza, DJ monks and a teddy bear headed Yojimba, is the manga's Raison d'être. Displaying these ideas trumps narrative and action, and as such, though Afro Samurai is formatted as a sequential story, it serves to function as an art book as much as it does manga.
Takashi "Bob" Okazaki's original work was published in the dojin magazine Nounouhau . From the publication's description of itself "NOUNOUHAU is a self-published comic magazine by young creators, who were just coming into action as artists in various fields like comic, illustration, animation, game and performance at that time, having the hope of set up their own media for their artistic self-expression. Now, each member is active in the front lines of Japanese pop culture. Their range of activities is expanding to not only art, comic and TV, but also world wide stages!"
Depending on the interview, there are various origin stories of how AFRO SAMURAI came to be adapted into an animated series, boasting the talents of Samuel L. Jackson and RZA, broadcast on Spike and topping anime sales charts. The story goes, after Nounouhau's limited print run, Okazaki managed to have a few thousand figures of his swords, sandals and billowy hair sporting hero, Afro produced. One of these sat on a desk at the anime production house Gonzo. VP of Creative Affairs Eric Calderon spotted the figure and set the ball rolling. Nine years after the original publication of Okazaki's doujinshi, the franchise is still picking up momentum, with a best selling Blu-ray recently released, an anime sequel and a video game scheduled for 2009, and a live action film still in discussion. And, it's all predicated on the "wow" of see Okazaki's design.
A veteran swordsman, identifiable for his cloud-like canopy of hair tells his son to wait as he walks across the plain to greet a gunslinger. The man in the serape and sombrero announces "long time no see, No. 1," to which the samurai responds "yeah... let's do this No. 2." When the confrontation is over, the gunslinger pulls a band off the head of the samurai, proclaiming his acquisition of "the power of a god!" Years later, there is a new Afro Samurai. He's hunting the No. 1 gunslinger. In turn, the rest of the world is hunting the bounty on his head.
This premise is patently direct. With the single-mindedness of a genre hero unloaded with both barrels, there's a world of men with swords, guns and worse standing between the hero's revenge on the man who killed his father. Like LONE WOLF AND CUB'S Ogami Itto, who speaks of walking the road to hell as he embraces the Path of the Assassin or "the son of the Black Mass" Nemuri Kyôshirô/Sleepy Eyes of Death, Afro's mission transcends morality. As with Itto, Afro is prepared to carry out the adage "If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him." Which is to say, he's a hard-ass and generally not a sympathetic, humane character.
In chronicling this drive towards vengeance, the manga's story around Afro is more skeletal than the anime's. Rather than interweaving episodes of his past with their echoes in his present, Afro cuts his way through emblematic encounters as parties looking for his head attack in waves. Knowing that Afro's going to gut and/behead the attacker and advance on, unpredictability comes in who Afro will encounter chapter to chapter rather than the result of the meeting. With the genre paired down to the basics in this way, attention falls to looking at the images rather than reading the story, and while there is progress and continuity, events do not crescendo.
As manga, Afro Samurai is wanting. Its imposing full page illustrations of a bandit king with his feast layed over the bodies of bound women, the terraced temple build into Mt. Sumeru, or Afro relaxed as the shadows around him fill in with an encirclement of armed adversaries are undeniably evocative. Beyond that, Okazaki does a have a head for cinematic sequences. Afro react to a sky a Hero/300 style sky full of arrows by stomping on his canoe to capsize the vessel. It's the kind of decisive counter-measure to be hoped for from a fighter with unstoppable intentions, but a mortal body. And between the flying arrows, the flipped boat and the drive into the water, the waves of motion lend themselves to the kind of spectacle to be hoped for from a medium with the range of possibility of manga.
Despite the strength of Okazaki's specific images, he does not seem to have a good head for manga as a storytelling form. With Jackson, RZA, and animation that brought in everything from quick draw chambara to an Itano circus, the Afro Samurai anime worked to leverage the strengths of it medium. In contrast, the Afro Samurai manga labors to show off Okazaksi' design. Consequently, the transition between panels are less apparent than they should be. One glance at Afro is enough to instantly grasp what defines the character. When motion begins blurring and figures start throwing themselves into the murky inks of the manga, that ability to quickly discern what to take away from the manga is lost. A collision between weapon wielding opponents that sends both combatants hurling backwards is an established conceit of the genre. Here, it loses the kinetic reverberation in the split second required to think through what the panels are illustrating.
The trouble is not that Okazaki is sloppy or cheating with shorthand. It's that the images don't flow properly. A skilled manga artist will factor in how the reader processes the images panel by panel, page by page. Afro's fighting a mob of people. In the middle of one page there is a prominent image of a man swinging a ball and chain. The swinger is not in the rest of the page. The eye moves onto the adjacent page and he's still not present. Flip. Onto the next page. First two panels and still no sign. Middle panel: the ball is released towards Afro. Small, following panel, Afro is moving towards an ambiguous end. Below that: a panel of Afro plucking another foe and using the man's skull to catch the ball. Still on that page: a large panel of Afro dashing into the group. Ideally, the manga reader should be able to follow this sort of action intuitively rather than rationally. Okazaki's disappearing, re-appearing foes and unclear fight geometry means that the action requires thought to piece together.
That Afro Samurai has captured international attention is an indication of the strength of Okazaki's work. Even coming into the manga from the standpoint of familiarity with the anime, it is still visually arresting. And, for fans of the genre, the raw, largely unpandering violence is impressive. Yet, as a manga enthusiast, AFRO SAMURAI provokes a degree of ambivalence. It's manga that is a compelling showcase for AFRO SAMURAI and not compelling manga.
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, back again with some books too cool for the Big Two. A kiddie book, a pigeon man, a must for all would be artists, a prequel to a video game, a showcase for tomorrow’s stars, and an electrified rodent. What do they all have in common? Why, they are all featured in this week’s Indie Jones…
CANDY AND CIGARETTES #2 CandyandCigarettes.comI know these things are a collaborative effort so I’m going to take a moment to mention all of the talented and opinionated artists and writers who contributed to this book: Jonny Etcetera, Sydni Honey, Whitney Jardine, Bradley Oliver, Bill Jeffery, Dale Wallain, Rahman Doodles, Maseman, Yasmin, SF, Ian Orth, Zay Shaefer, Zach McDonald, Ann S. Stevens, William Cardini, and Reynard Seifert. Whew! Hope I didn’t miss anyone…now, I can say that this is an impressive comic book collaboration focusing mainly on feminism and women’s rights, but not in a way that forgets it’s also entertainment as well. The entries vary from straight up comic booking, to essays, to poems, to prose. All of the people listed above are extremely talented, making this a nice little snippet of art and writing from what looks like a thriving artistic community. Favorite entries of mine, of course, were comic book related, especially one featuring a lengthy discussion between a floating head and a cat who go out to a bar to pick up chicks and end up discussing women’s rights the entire time. This gem by Dale Wallain is short but funny in all the right places. William Cardini’s “Hyperbox” is trippy fun, as is the beautifully articulate and surreal piece by Bill Jeffery which reminded me of the video “Genius of Love” by the Tom Tom Club, for some reason. This book is worth seeking out for those who like their art unsafe, smart, and experimental.
PRINCE OF PERSIA OGN First SecondSure, most video game adaptations suck, but every now and then an exception to the rule occurs. PRINCE OF PERSIA from First Second is that exception. Unconventionally drawn by LeUyen Pham and Alex Pavilland, and wonderfully told by A.B. Sina, this book deserves a place on the bookshelf smack dab in between your SANDMAN and FABLES Trade Paperbacks. This story elaborates on the fable inspiring the popular video game, enriching the story and allowing the reader to dive right into this extravagant and mysterious culture. Here’s hoping more video games get this type of mature and high quality treatment.
THE ADVENTURES OF LIGHTNING SQUIRREL #1 Ronin StudiosLook, up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s a squirrel with lightning powers, of course! I’ve always felt a kinship with squirrels. There are those, like some of LS’ insidious enemies in this book, who think they are bushy tailed rodents, but to me, there was always something fascinating about the little critters. Seems creator Jeffrey F. Kipnis shares this fascination as he casts a mild mannered squirrel as the hero of this book. The nice panelwork by penciller Victor Cabanelas and inker Eran Aviani add to the quality of this book with some clever panel placements involving some of the more subtle movements Lightning Squirrel makes during one particular quiet section of this book. The book has a tongue in cheek tone with the quirk meter on eleven, but the absurdist humor works most of the time, making this a memorable and fun debut issue.
COMIC ARTISTS’ PHOTO REFERENCE: MEN AND BOYS Impact BooksThis comic book instructional offers an abundance of photos for artist to use as inspiration for the various poses one may need in drawing your typical comic book. Put together by 7 DAYS TO FAME & DEADPOOL’s Buddy Scalera, this book should be a must have for anyone serious about honing their artistic talents. Any artist worth mentioning knows that no person has in identical body shape. This book highlights the differences by providing photo after photo of models in dynamic and comic booky poses. Highly recommended for those of you who want to draw body proportions and poses like the pros.
WELCOME TO MONSTER ISLE HC OGN Immedium BooksHere is a book that is geared towards kids, but embraces the adventurer in all of us. If you are as huge a fan of the SciFi Channel’s DESTINATION TRUTH as I am, you’ll definitely want to check out this book of monsters creatively illustrated by Jeff Miracola. The story by Oliver Chin is pretty simple: a family crashes their boat onto a desert island and run into one monster after the next as they explore its shores. It’s a quick read, one that will most likely please those youngsters who are just forming an interest in comics. Perfect bed time story reading material.
CHUMBLE SPUZZ #2 Slave Labor GraphicsIf massive amounts of poo flinging offends thee, avert yon eyes, gentle reader. To the rest of you with a sense of humor, this is one damn funny funnybook. This volume of CHUMBLE SPUZZ contains two hilarious adventures: one focusing on “The Pigeon Man” (a feral man raised by pigeons), and another tale about blues, death, purgatory, undeath, and yes, you got it, more poo flinging. Not afraid to dive deeply into the down and dirty, artist/writer Ethan Nicolle (with a little help from Isaiah Nicolle in the writing department) knows full well that a well timed fart is the pinnacle of hilarity. I loved the first story centering on the rescue of the Pigeon Man from a feral human zoo. This is the best story melding FIST OF THE NORTHSTAR, LIONHEART, THE IRON GIANT, and NELL you are likely to read this year. Four words should guarantee your purchase of this book: The Fighting Man-Cock! Nuff said. Buy 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!