WOLVERINE: WEAPON X #1
Writer: Jason Aaron Artist: Ron Garney Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewed by Humphrey LeeTypically I'm of the opinion that we need more WOLVERINE books like we need more Corporate News Networks, or the Octomom needs more babies for her inevitable army. Really, just insert anything you're tired of hearing the media and public as a whole repeat and drone on and on and on about and you get my drift. But, like all things, there's always an exception. In this case the exception is the creative team of Jason "Scalped" Aaron and Ron "I've drawn just about every damn thing" Garney. Apart they've always turned in the goods - Aaron's SCALPED is one of the best books on the market today and Garney has turned in pencils on some damn classic runs of comics - and together they've already done a Wolvie arc that was overall pretty great and showed they were worthy of doing even more of it together. And now that they've gotten their chance again, I'm happy to say that something that I'd normally roll my eyes at its superfluous-ness turned out to be a pretty decent setup for hopefully even better things to come.
The main thing that comes through in this issue, and the handful of Wolvie stories we've seen from Aaron so far, is that he does seem to understand the essence and the voice of the character. The key to Wolverine, as far as I've always been concerned, is that he needs to be treated like Clint Eastwood as the Man With No Name from those famous Sergio Leone flicks way back when. He needs to be gruff and a little distant, but always willing to step in when necessary. The solemn figure with the grumpy little heart of gold. And Mr. Aaron does get this it seems, with a nice little altercation on the subway to prove this to us. The only complaint I would have about his take on the character is that when he's in his own head it's almost a little too cliche, like with the last dialogue: "A whole lot of killin' that needs to be done, that's what the hell I'm looking at." Yeah, he kills a lot of guys, that's cool and we get it. That aspect could be a lot stronger, but really, we all know we're here to see said killing, so it's not really something worth paying that much mind to.
As for the goings-on of the book itself, again, it's not bad setup. There's a good bit of the old ultra-violence to start and set up the mystery of just what exactly it is that the old Canucklehead is going to be going up against. As you could probably figure thanks to the subtitle of this series there's some shenanigans from the old Weapon X program rearing their head, this time apparently in the form of a company known as Blackguard, as Logan's old combat buddy Maverick - a character that's always squeezed a "hell yeah" out of me whenever shows up - meets up to drop off some intel about them. And that's how we get to a last page with an empty, bloodied lab, lots of experimental vats, and Wolvie spouting the killing line I quoted last paragraph before a "Next Issue" spread showing a lots of green, glowing claws reminiscent of our lead's which promises us just what he said, killing and lots of it. Hopefully there's more to this Blackguard than just what Maverick said - it being a military contractor that bought out the Weapon Plus program's research - that just seems too easy to me, but again, as long as Aaron and company keep the bloodshed where it needs to be, and reign in the machismo in the voice overs, I imagine I'll be contented.
Going over to the other half of the creative crew that I so highly value, Ron Garney, like he has been for lord knows how long, continues to bring the goods on art chores. Except for a couple minor gaffs here and there almost all the lines in this are very crisp and the images very detailed, and there's lots of great shading at work too. Tons of panels fill up the pages too, but nothing ever feels cramped. And like I've come to expect from him, the action (what taste of it we got this issue anyways) flowed fantastically, especially since most of it was stuff that happened without the doers of it in the panels of themselves. Everything was very much "from the shadows" and it was executed with the utmost skill. Even if this run just happens to be more of the furry one letting the crimson flow, it'll be well worth it just to see Garney's rendition of it all.
Since it was inevitable we'd be getting inundated with books about the clawed one on the eve of his own major motion picture release (y'know, for those of you more "honorable" chaps who haven't downloaded it yet), at the least I respect their not throwing just anyone on this title knowing that, c'mon, this thing was going to sell at least 80K no matter who they put on it. Hopefully the next issue will speed things up a little more, and maybe we'll get some more character interaction going on, whether it'll be from other former Weapon X guys, or I assume the reporter babe that we saw Aaron to introduce on the train scene, just something to mix things up a bit. And again, it'd be nice if we got a little more depth in our story besides just having new baddies to unleash his fury on, but that'd just be a bonus since I know what I'm really here for. Like an eleventh nugget in a ten pack, if you will. But with the majority of Wolvie books that look to be coming out being material that is probably just going to be cobbled together by whatever coffee fetcher around the Marvel offices has the time to slap a script together, and with Millar's surprisingly stellar Old Man Logan arc about to come to an end, it's nice to know that there will be one book you can come to to get unfiltered mayhem and badassedness out of the character, and hopefully for a lengthy stay at that.
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, Facebookand 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.
DAN DARE OMNIBUS
Story by: Garth Ennis Art by: Gary Erskine Published by: Dynamite Entertainment Reviewed by: BaytorI, like most of my American brethren, do not know a lot about Dan Dare. Since getting back into comics in the early 90s, I’ve heard the odd bit about him, and a few years ago I read the rather awful Dan Dare strips they published in 2000AD, but of his glory years, I know absolutely nothing.
Enter Garth Ennis, who is among my favorite comic writers…well, at least when he’s not taking the piss and turning in a half-formed joke as a plot. If he writes it, I will buy it, and most of the time I have an enjoyable time. And every so often, he writes a comic that reminds me why he’s one of my favorite writers.
This is one of those books.
He doesn’t write a lot of stories about idealistic heroes. Most of his heroes are true and brave, but they’ve been beaten down by the cynical world they inhabit. Dan Dare is not that sort of hero. True, he lives in a cynical world, where Britain survived a nuclear war between the U.S. and China, abandoned its ideals, and embarked on another reign as Colonial Masters Of All They Survey, and Dan Dare turned his back on a society he could only despise, but he never stopped believing and he inspires the best in almost everyone he comes in contact with.
Long ago, Dare brought the tyrannical rule of the Mekon to an end. Defeated, he escaped with the remnants of his followers, and he has now returned with a vast armada and a weapon that makes his defeat nearly unthinkable. Despite Dare’s abhorrence of everything Britain has become, he doesn’t pause for a second in answering the call of King & Country.
What follows is a story that brings to bear everything Ennis has learned writing war comics the last two decades. This is every courageous last stand in military history: every naval battle, every pitched dog-fight, every victory against overwhelming odds. This is about one man who, through sheer force of personality and nerve, stares down the forces of evil and wins. Ennis’ ever-present sense of humor is wisely restrained in the book, consisting mostly of nasty little surprises that happen to our villains and snappy banter, all of which are in service of a rousing military adventure story.
A military adventure that is built upon the military aesthetic of the Post-War Era when Dan Dare was created. Spaceships look like destroyers of old, with naval style gun turrets. Fighters look like Spitfighters, and when Dare gives the order to “fix bayonets”, he’s not speaking metaphorically. There aren’t a lot of artists that can pull of this sort of book (especially when you factor in Ennis’ love of conversation, which requires a mastery of facial expression), but Gary Erskine manages to bring the chaos of massive naval/aircraft battles into a coherent visual narrative.
While reading it, it reminded me of another British science-fiction hero, Doctor Who; who, like Dan Dare, was co-opted into darker, more cynical stories. And Dare, like The Doctor, has been steered from this dark path to once more become the shining beacon of hope for a universe in dire need of something more than ironic posturing.
It’s tempting to call this story Dan Dare’s DARK KNIGHT RETURNS or “Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow”, but Dan Dare isn't operatic enough to gain the status of those stories. Still, there is a sense that this is the swan song of a great hero, who comes out of retirement to save a dramatically changed world from his greatest foe. And like those stories, many of his companions will not survive the journey. This is certainly a fitting ending for a hero, but, more than that; it’s the re-birth of hope.
BATMAN: BATTLE FOR THE COWL #2
Writer/artist: Tony Daniel Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Optimous DoucheWhile short on surprises, this second installment of Bat succession picked up from the adrenaline infused first issue and kicked it up to 11. Allow me to apologize now, but to deliver this review I have to unmask the gun-toting hooded Batman from issue 1.
Most notably this issue veers from the inaugural chapter by switching narration from Robin III, Tim Drake, to…wait for it…Robin II, Jason Todd. A special kudos to whoever decided to place the perpetual brat’s dialogue in black boxes with red text, it definitely helped old guys like me not see him as a kid, but rather a raging maniac. For our younger readers, Jason Todd is probably the most hated character to ever grace the pages of comic books. So much so, that for a few non-chafing days in the 1980’s we all stopped calling 900 number porn lines so we could flood the DC 900 numbers that decided Jason’s fate against the Joker’s crowbar. Unanimously we all decided that the street urchin Robin was destined for a pine box, while also showing the big houses that the next generation of comic readers would demand a comic universe that reflected the evils of the world along with the good. You can thank us later.
I was one of those kids that voted to “off” Jason, mainly because he was a perpetual whiner. You could only tolerate so many pages of, “Weeehhh, I’m from the streets, the streets are harsh, and that makes me harsh, weeehhh.” I’m glad I helped kill him; without his death we never would have this older, surlier version seething with his own distorted mantra of how to defend Gotham by saying, “justice is a dish best served with bullets and fatalities.” This young man is pissed not only at Bruce Wayne, but also at the Robins he could never live up to--the original, Dick Grayson, and his shining successor, Tim Drake. This is one of the first books where I saw true differentiation in character between the three Robins. Where Jason is clearly in place to usurp the image of the Bat by becoming the marred side of the coin of justice, Tim is on steadfast mission to preserve Bruce’s legacy in amber, almost like Dick tried to do during the Bane days. Dick is on a different spiritual journey, refusing to never again try to become Bruce, but still recognizing Gotham’s need for the Batman that Bruce was. It’s interesting that The Flash was so easily replaceable, where no one it seems can wrest the cowl from Bruce’s specter.
Interspersed between the Robin sagas the elite of Gotham’s underbelly continue to get manipulated by the Black Mask into sounding the drums of war. Daniel delivers some truly fantastic full blown spreads of Gotham igniting into utter bedlam. I truly felt as though I was on a roller coaster ride for every page, feeling the rising anticipation as I was pulled into the intimate conversational moments, and then the visceral thrill of hurtling towards disaster and action the next. I really don’t know what else you could ask from a comic that’s been around for over half of a century.
As we trip lazily through limbo in the main Batman titles, I truly applaud Daniel for bringing a palpable sense of reality, danger and action back to the Caped Crusader, even if the real Caped Crusader is nowhere to be found.
When Optimous Douche isn’t reading comics and misspelling the names of 80’s icons, he “transforms” into a corporate communications guru. "What if the whole world had superpowers? Find out in the pages of Optimous’ original book AVERAGE JOE. Read the first full issue on Optimous’ New Blog and see original sketches by fellow @$$hole Bottleimp. If you are a publisher or can help these guys get AVERAGE JOE up, up, and on the shelves in any way, drop Optimous a line."
DARK REIGN: HAWKEYE #1
Writer: Andy Diggle Artist: Tom Raney Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: Liam “The Kid”Note: ‘The Kid’ is 8 years old and has been doing reviews on his own site since August of 2008.
In the regular comics the Green Goblin (Norman Osborn) saved everyone from the Skrulls by killing the Skrull Queen and then he got rewarded by everyone for being a hero. The good guys know that Osborn is really the crazy murderer the Green Goblin but other people think he’s either a nice guy or that he’s just not so bad anymore. Osborn got put in charge of the Avengers and that made regular superheroes like Captain America and Spider-Man and Luke Cage really mad. Those guys are still Avengers but they’re hiding out and doing things undercover just to get Osborn mad. Osborn made up a team of his own Avengers with all of these bad guys that are pretending to be superheroes. Venom is pretending to be black suit Spider-Man. Wolverine’s son is pretending to be Wolverine. Osborn is pretending to be an Iron Man and Bullseye is pretending to be Hawkeye.
I really like that all of the bad guys are pretending to be super heroes for Norman Osborn. Hawkeye is a cool hero because he has a really great looking costume and I like that he is a sharpshooter with bows and arrows. I can shoot a bow and arrow really well, too, but not as good as Hawkeye. And Bullseye is a really tough bad guy who has the best aim in the world and kills people with pens and playing cards and anything else he can throw.
Bullseye is a great shot and he can take out anyone that he’s aiming for.
The book starts off with a lot of action with Osborn’s Avengers trying to stop a big huge Hulkbuster robot that is tearing New York City apart. I like how the big robot was in town destroying everything and Bullseye went after it with Wolverine’s son who used his claws to scratch his way up the robot’s leg. A really cool part was when Bullseye opened up the hatch where the robot’s driver was sitting and said the good news is that Hawkeye doesn’t kill people but the bad news is that he wasn’t Hawkeye. The guy tried to escape and he got killed by the exploding arrow and the robot fell down and destroyed the bus with a bunch of people on it.
I think it would be pretty obvious to everyone that he really isn’t Hawkeye since he goes around in the whole book killing people but maybe no one sees him. There is a reporter who thinks that something is wrong and it looks like he’s guessing that Hawkeye is really Bullseye but Osborn gets them apart so the reporter can’t figure it out. I like how Osborn and Bullseye were talking in his office and Osborn was mad because he is starting to think that people really like him and if Bullseye starts killing people then all of his plans are going to be ruined.
The best part of the book was the battle in the end where Bullseye rescued the girl from all of the thugs. I like that he is so cocky after saving her and makes a mistake and lets her know who he really is by accident and then has to kill her with a pen. It was funny how he took care of the other guy, too. It looks like he’s going to get busted but I think that the people that spot him are just going to get killed, too.
There was a lot of action in the book and all of the parts where Bullseye was dressed as Hawkeye were really good. I like the way the artist draws Hawkeye with a crazy looking smile a lot because he doesn’t care that he’s breaking all the rules and killing people. He’s just a really bad guy even more than Osborn who knows that Bullseye has to control himself. The part where he drew the giant robot and all of Osborn’s Avengers was good too, and I like how all the characters were attacking the robot at once. It’s strange that there is a comic where the bad guy is the main person and he’s acting like a hero but I like that because it’s different.
My Rating: 9.5 out of 10
LARRY MARDER'S BEANWORLD VOL 1 - WAHOOLAZUMA! HC GN
Story & Art: Larry Marder Publisher: Dark Horse Comics/Dark Horse Originals Reviewer: Ambush BugUpon first glance, I could see how some would dismiss LARRY MARDER'S BEANWORLD as nonsense: just a bunch of half-rendered shapes spouting non sequiturs threaded together solely by the fact that they all occur on the same page and are bound into a thick hardcover volume. But after reading a few chapters of this collection of stories, I realized that there is something deeper, something more meaningful going on here.
Larry Marder is not vomiting forth gibberish with his oddly shaped characters and fantastically one-dimensional landscapes (it's almost as if you're looking at these stories unfold under a microscope most of the time). This shit actually makes sense to Mr. Marder and after reading a few pages, dammit if it didn't start making sense to me too. Marder has fleshed out an entire world with rules and guidelines; with weird little creatures that have roles to play, jobs to do, and responsibilities that if not followed through with may mean the destruction of Beanworld itself.
Marder's whimsical bean-shaped creatures populate the upper surface region of Beanworld and feed on something called "chow". Below this surface lay layers of "slats", "hoops", "twinks", and "chips", all products used in some way by the population of Beanworld in one way or another. Below those surfaces are the Hoi-Polloi Ring Herd--creatures who are addicted to gambling and use chow as currency. Often, the beans invade the Hoi-Polloi in search of food, stealing their chow, but not before leaving a sprout butt for the Hoi-Polloi to covet and care for. Through the love of the Hoi-Polloi, the sprout-butt soon becomes more chow for the Hoi-Polloi to gamble with. If I still have your attention after that lengthy explanation of the circle of life on Beanworld, then you may enjoy this reading experience as much as I did. And I guarantee Marder pieces all of the aspects of this intricate world together with a narrative that is both entertaining and leaves you salivating for more.
So is Beanworld a metaphor for the way the human body works? Is it about how an ecosystem sustains life? Does it represent a perfect utopia that supports and sustains itself with a give and take system? Is it a political/economic statement? Who the hell knows? It could be any of these or none at all. The concept is so abstract that meaning after meaning could be assigned to it. Then again, it could be an elaborate world crafted from the off-kilter brainpan of a skewed genius with no association to the real world whatsoever. If nothing else, this hardcover collection is something I could not put down. BEANWORLD is one of those concepts that defy classification, revels in that fact, and makes that revelry contagious for the reader.
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, reviewer and co-editor of AICN Comics for over seven years. Check out previews to his short comic book fiction here and here published in MUSCLES & FIGHTS 3 and MUSCLES & FRIGHTS on his ComicSpace page. Bug was interviewed here and here at Cream City Comics. Look for more comics from Bug in 2009 from Bluewater Productions, including the just-announced sequel to THE TINGLER for their VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS ongoing series.
LOCKE & KEY: HEAD GAMES #4
Writer: Joe Hill Artist: Gabriel Rodriguez Published by: IDW Publishing Reviewed by: BottleImpLOCKE & KEY was one of those titles that I never noticed on the stands when the first series, “Welcome to Lovecraft,” was released…which is kind of bizarre for me, since you could slap the name “Lovecraft” on just about anything and I’d at least pick it up and glance at it. Hell, if there were a line of Cthulhu brand tampons out there I’d probably buy a pack for my girlfriend—“But honey, he DID live in a sunken city, and they say they’re super absorbent.” But I digress…my point is, I ended up reading the first volume of LOCKE & KEY in trade form rather than month by month, and really enjoying it. So when this volume of the series started showing up at the comic shop, I decided to read the comics rather than wait for the inevitable trade. And so far, this story arc (though it’s really a continuation of the first storyline rather than a stand-alone) measures up well against its predecessor.
I’m really digging the whole magical, multigenerational mystery that Joe Hill is laying out for the readers; Hill is also smart enough to keep the mystery mysterious—I know that doesn’t seem like it should be hard to do, but it’s amazing how many mystery novels I’ve read that blow their sense of suspense by revealing too much far too soon. We still have no idea how the Locke childrens’ father is connected with the Keyhouse, or who the creature that escaped from the well in the last series and is now masquerading as a high school student really is, or why he/she is looking for a special key. LOCK & KEY reminds me a lot of Neil Gaiman’s SANDMAN, except the pretentiousness of Gaiman’s writing and his focus on society’s subcultures has been replaced with a world and characters much closer to the world we inhabit—which makes the mystery of the keys and the Well Creature that much more disturbing.
(And just to pre-empt anyone who might cry “Foul!” at my remarks about SANDMAN, I love the series, but you gotta admit, there’s a lot of text in there that tends to be overly verbose, if you know what I mean.)
Gabriel Rodriguez provides the perfect visual complement to Hill’s writing—I honestly can’t imagine anyone else’s artwork melding so well with the dual aspects of down-to-earth, kids-next-door world and ancient mysteries of the world of the Keys. His blend of the realistic and the cartoonish, especially in the different facial features and expressions, makes this series a pleasure to look at as well as read. I only have one small problem with this comic, and this issue in particular…
As I said, I discovered the first series of LOCKE & KEY in trade format, so I had the instant gratification of being able to read the entire story arc with no waiting in between chapters. But reading this comic chapter by chapter, I’ve noticed that there isn’t as much enjoyment of each individual issue. I understand that the nature of the mystery story means that the plot details need to emerge slowly as to not give too much away to the reader early on, but this deliberate slowness of pacing just doesn’t work as well when each chapter of the story is read a month apart from the next. I actually had a similar problem with Marvel’s NEW UNIVERSAL (though I ended up solving that by not buying that title anymore… no great loss). Another factor in this collection vs. installment argument is cost—seeing as how each issue of the comic costs $3.99, waiting for the entire series to be collected in trade form doesn’t end up costing you any more money than if you buy issue-by-issue…in fact, depending on the format, the trade could conceivably cost you less money. You’d be coming late to the party, as it were, but you’d get that instant gratification that feels oh so good. I’d be curious to know where the readers of this column stand on the trade vs. monthly debate.
But it’s a moot point for me, since I’m well into this series and loving it (even with slower issues like this one). Maybe I’ll hold off on reading ahead until I’ve got the next two or three issues on hand, so I can get that rush of gratification. In any case, if you like a good mystery and haven’t yet read LOCKE & KEY, go check out the first collection, and then decide whether or not you have the patience to wait for more of this great series.
When released from his Bottle, the Imp takes the form of Stephen Andrade, an artist/illustrator/pirate monkey painter from the Northeast. You can see some of his artwork athere. He’s given up comics more times than he can remember. But every time he thinks he's out, they pull him back in.
ULTIMATE WOLVERINE VS HULK #4
Writer: Damon Lindelof Artist: Leinil Francis Yu Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: WilliamThis title is really starting to test my patience. What I mean is that the name of this title is “Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk”, but by this 4th issue you sure could’ve fooled me when it comes to getting to see an actual fight. Like many of the pay-per-view boxing matches that last only 2 or 3 rounds, I’m seriously get ripped off here. Here’s what I mean:
The title references a fight between Ultimate Wolverine and Hulk. The front cover of the first issue showcases an amazing image, Hulk ripping Wolverine in half (apparently Adamantium is no longer indestructible here). In fact, every front cover thus far showcases the two of them tussling somehow. The first issue even shows the aftereffects of the fight as Wolverine limps his legless way up a mountain towards his lower half. In other words there’s a whole lot of build-up leading to this iconic clashing, and what’s there been so far to actually showcase this event? Just a few pages in issue three where the action is so fast and cut, it’s the equivalent of any of those action shots from the Bourne movies.
That’s right, it’s been four issues now and there’s only been about 4 to 5 pages of the actual fight. Unbelievable. I went into this title expecting a wall-to-wall action fest, salivating at the fact that with 6 issues it’ll be so epic to see such a long fight between the two. Instead I’ve been treated to issue after issue where there’s either talk before the fight between Wolverine and Hulk, talk after the fight between the two of them, talk amongst supporting characters such as Nick Fury and Betty Ross about the upcoming clash, talk amongst supporting characters about those other supporting characters, and you guess it, more talk amongst everybody involved. I thought the title was “ULTIMATE WOLVERINE VS HULK”, not “Let’s talk about every freaking angle leading up to and after the fight”. It’s as if the comic were on a special effects budget, where the more action shown equals a larger cost for Marvel, so they in turn told the writer and artist to limit the fighting to as little as possible and instead focus on the “talking”. To me this is the equivalent of the movie CLOVERFIELD.
Look I’m not just craving for mindless action here ala Image from the 90‘s. I enjoy an interesting dialogue between characters as much as any other comic book fan. I enjoy reading the WATCHMEN TPB just the same as reading the latest issues of the PUNISHER. But what I don’t like is that this title has been developing so much inane build-up, and covering so many different angles of the same scenes, it’s seriously making me think that Marvel simply stretched a two-part story into six parts in order to milk the most out of us. It’s as if they realized that their fight was really only going to be an issue’s worth of stuff but still wanted more.
To me the main blame on this lies with the writer, Damon Lindelof. He’s the guy writing this stretched-out mess, he’s the one who should explain why there’s been so few pages actually dealing with the fight. And I’ve read up on the history of this title and it seems that it was in development since late 2006, only there was such a delay from the team that they didn’t have a chance to publish it until today. Three years of waiting, for THIS? Wow. The one credit of this title though goes to the outstanding artwork from Leinil Francis Yu. Give that man a trophy please, because his art is simply phenomenal. His people are so great looking, so real and detailed and the facial expressions so perfect, he should seriously just be given a trophy from somewhere, anywhere. And his women, my goodness I’ve never seen Betty Ross look so good. After watching her I can understand why Bruce wouldn’t be able to get her out of his mind.
In any case, like a sucker I’ll purchase the last two issues to see if everything finally panned out nicely. Who knows, I may even be surprised by getting to see the actual fight in all of its glory.
MARVEL ADVENTURES: SPIDER-MAN #50
Writers: Marc Sumerak and Roger Langridge Artists: Sanford Greene and Sonny Liew Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: Liam “The Kid”Note: ‘The Kid’ is 8 years old and has been doing reviews on his own site since August of 2008.
There are a lot of Spider-Man comics that come out and a lot of them that I read. The Marvel Adventure comic is different because it’s supposed to be more for kids so they can do stories that are a little bit goofier than would be in the regular Spider-Man comics. It’s not better or worse that Amazing Spider-Man or Ultimate Spider-Man, just different. And usually the art in Marvel Adventures is more like a cartoon than the real looking art in other books. There are a lot of comic books that are supposed to be for kids but they’re either boring or way too silly all of the time. Tiny Titans and Marvel Adventures are for kids but they’re fun too and hardly ever boring or dumb. I like the new comics coming out like MUPPET SHOW and INCREDIBLES, too.
This book was good because it had all of Spider-Man’s enemies getting together to team up and fight him. Norman Osborn visits a jail and everyone thinks that he’s going to help fix the jail and make it stronger but instead he puts on his Green Goblin costume and frees all of the other prisoners. It was pretty weird that all of the bad guys were allowed to wear their costumes in jail under their prison clothes. They probably could have just busted themselves out.
Osborn gets Electro, Hydro Man, Doctor Octopus, Rhino and the Scorpion out and tells them that he’s going to be the boss now and that makes Doctor Octopus mad because he used to be the boss of the bad guy team. All the bad guys keep arguing and they are too busy fighting themselves to be able to beat Spider-Man. I really liked the fights in the book. It was cool that Spider-Man was going up against six of his bad guys and you get to see all of them using their powers to try and kill Spider-Man and he’s just beating them up instead. He came up with some really funny ways to try and beat the six of them and I like how he wasn’t afraid that he had to fight them all by himself.
There were a few funny parts in the comic, too. I like when Peter Parker goes to a restaurant where everyone dressed like super heroes and then this big fat waiter in a Spider-Man costume gets mad when the real Spider-Man shows up because he thinks he’s stealing his job. I like when he sneaks up on Electro and knocks him out, too. The way he did it, just saying ‘hi’ was funny.
I wish the big battle between the six bad guys and Spider-Man was longer. I like that there were some bad guys in this book that haven’t been in the other Spider-Man comics and would have liked to see them do more stuff. Spider-Man is a good super hero but I think he beat them all up way too fast. I liked the art in the book except for how they made Peter Parker have a Mohawk. I don’t like his hair that way. I did like the short story in the back of the comic. It’s a rhyming story so it is really fast to read and the art is done in a crazy way that’s kind of neat. I like how Spider-Man was drawn bendy and stuff and there were a lot of things going on in the pictures. It was good that they used some other bad guys that I haven’t seen in the comics too like the Vulture, Mysterio and Kraven. The best part was when Spider-Man threw a bunch of eggs at the Scorpion and smashed them on his face. I wouldn’t read a lot of comics like that but in a short story it was really cool.
My Rating: 9 out of 10
DOGS 0: PRELUDE
By Shirow Miwa Released by Viz Media Reviewer: Scott GreenWhile DOGS isn't necessarily a manga series that I was looking forward to, it has been on my radar for a while. Buried on my desk, I have a Power PC Mac Mini with its desktop image set to DOGS' "Blade Maiden" crouching down, flowing coat billowing dramatically behind her, hand hovering over the hilt of her katana. That image actually appears in this volume on the reverse side of a full-color fold-out. The front side of this is a similarly memorable illustration: the four principal characters are laid literally and metaphorically naked; a sad looking gray beard with battle scars distributed across his body, a steel eyed young woman with an "X" cut across her chest, a guy with long red hair and less combat-shaped musculature ... a cigarette dangling from his mouth and the eye patch that usually covers his damaged right eye resting in the palm of his hand, and finally, a silver haired young man with a feral gaze and metal collar bolted to his neck.
After reading the book itself, I'd say that this pair of images is the best thing about the manga. DOGS might not be dull, and I wouldn't call it a failure. But, I wouldn't say that Miwa succeeds in his aims either. He shoots high with a mash up of elements in his stylish tales of urban violence, a sort of quasi-sci-fi action manga Le Samouraď. Unfortunately, the muddied landing is something of a hodgepodge. Reading it, you can see what Miwa was going for, as well as the deficits in the final product.
This PRELUDE volume introduces the manga's four tragic anti-heroes in distinct stories that sometime pull in guest appearances by others of the quartet. The tone shifts in variations of a larger theme from story to story, reflecting the attitudes of the stories' subjects. "Blade Maiden" Naoto's stars in a typical steely revenge plot with the heroine training to acquire the skills needed to avenge her family's death. Heine, the "Stray Dog" is not a particularly talkative character either, but in contrast to The Blade Maiden's coiled tension, the Stray Dogs simmers up to a rage filled boil of bullet ballet. The real note of distinction comes from the story of information broker Badou the "Gun Smoker." It's the one entry that doesn't mention the tragedy that defines its subject's life. This character's story opens with the anti-hero rappelling from a roof top to photograph an adulterer. He spots an heiress' lost cat on a ledge. Going for the feline, he drops, but, fortunately, his rope catches him in front of the window of a crime boss engaged in a masochistic past time. Hijinx ensue, with plenty of running, gunning, cigs and comical shifts in design.
Because of the loose binding between stories and shifts according to focal character, the overarching concept of what DOGS is as a manga series must assert itself through the visual style of the manga. The details of the protagonists' home city aren't laid out in these shorts, yet, the world and the stories do set the tone for each other. Despite the late inclusion of information about highly advanced genetic engineering, it's a cold looking, old world place without any artifacts to distinguish it from our time.
On one hand, the tired looking city seems to encompass the events, fencing them in with stone facades and cracked pavement. On the other hand, Miwa situates actions in the middle of a void of negative space. The two approaches complement together to frame DOGS' brand of stylish brutality.
If anything, DOGS errs on the side of overcompensation in this aspect. Though the setting does look gritty, the air of the place has the ozone scent of fiction; like it's set up solely and specifically to stage the type of action on display in the stories.
I'm not quite sure that Miwa has the taste or sense of moderation to pull off the slick, dark action that might be envision. Miwa can certainly draw an effecting figure. There's a specificity...a difference can be seen between how a loose, wild character stands and how a tense, knotted up one does. And, there's a rightness. If someone shoots low across the floor to advance below their opponent's guard in a knife fight or someone grips their head in their hands, it looks like the genuine article.
Unfortunately, this rightness backfires when falling back on routine rather than introducing something fashionably new.
The detailed world of homage layered on homage is fragile. It breaks rather than bends. When Miwa pulls from the familiar templates or presents an under-considered image, the dissonant note is enough to snap a scene's hold. A psychopath with his head tilted, a Joker smile-snarl across his face, holding his gun sideways or a young woman with tiny wings given the black and white frills of a loligoth ensemble becomes risible.
The notion of a group of characters who aren't a team is intriguing, but the loose plot puts a keen focus on the manga's presentation. When its Heine painfully staggering forward, trying to return fire, it works. When it's a slow motion handgun duel, climaxing in a sentimental scene of synchronizing firing, the sappiness curdles the image from stylish to over-mannered.
DOGS has a mature rating, which isn't inappropriate for a manga series with notable instances where nudity is mixed with violence in an almost sexually charged manner. For perspective, its original serialization took place in ULTRA JUMP, home of BATTLE ANGEL ALITA: LAST ORDER, READ OR DIE, BASTARD!! and TENJOU TENGE. Due to its style of story telling, characterizations and approach to angst, I'm inclined to recommend DOGS more to a fan of FINAL FANTASY than I would to a fan of its cinematic antecedents. This might be unfortunate, considering that I think many of those readers might be younger than the explicit content/mature rating aims the book.
Scott Green has been writing for AICN ANIME for over seven years. If you like what you see here and love anime & manga, be sure to check out his latest AICN ANIME column here.