BIG @$$ 8th ANNIVERSARY COLUMN!!!
Hey folks, Ambush Bug here and I’m very proud to announce that this is our 8th year reviewing comic books at AICN. There have been plenty of highs and lows in the comic book industry and the @$$Holes have been there trying to give our honest, off the cuff, and uncensored opinions about anything comics.
It’s hard to believe that it was eight years ago that The Original @$$Hole AKA The Comedian took the bull by the horns and decided to send in a comic book review of his own to Moriarty at AICN. A few weeks later, The Comedian talked the ever-insightful Cormorant (AKA Dave Farabee), the one and only Buzz Maverik, and some guy named Ambush Bug to join together and write up a review column of our own at AICN. Soon, other rogues like Jon Quixote, Sleazy G, Vroom Socko, Village Idiot, superninja, and the original Indie Jones Lizzybeth joined in on the fun and The Talkback League of @$$Holes were formed.
The rest, as some folks who say things say, is history.
We have a fantastic column this week; a shitload of the best reviews you’ll find anywhere from the best reviewers you’ll find anywhere. A sincere thank you to all who read this column and all who help put it together. I have met some of my best friends doing this thing for all these years. Their contributions to this column, the Talkbacks, and conversations through the years mean the world to me. So to the @$$Holes (past and present), the Talkbackers, and the casual readers who don’t (but should) Talkback; WELCOME TO AICN COMICS: YEAR 8!!!
This week’s column begins with a feature I hope people will enjoy. We call it “Ye Olde @$$ From the Past” where we repost a review of out very earliest columns at AICN. Some of them are painful to read. Others still resonate with what’s going on today. If anything, it provides a nostalgic look at how we used to look at things, how things have changed, and how some things stay the same. This week we have the one that started it all….take it away Comedian!
Written by Peter Milligan Illustrated by Mike Allred Published by Marvel Comics Reviewed by The Comedian Originally posted 4/11/09Well, here we are nearly a year since Joe Q decided to ditch the Not-So-New Mutants so that Milligan & Allred could give birth to everyone's favorite "Junior-Justice-League-of-Wrong-Headed-Miscreants" and I will scream out with pride at the top of my lungs that X-FORCE STILL ROCKS YOUR FUCKING HOUSE DOWN. Sure, it's not a big action book and they've only had one decent villain (The Coach) but other than those and a few other minute flaws X-FORCE is in my opinion in a dead heat with THE INCREDIBLE HULK as the best book Marvel is putting out right now. For grown ups, anyway. I don't really need to get into the why's and how's because they've already been discussed to death. Those of you out there that 'get it' love it. The whining minority still writing in hate mail demanding the return of Sam Guthrie & Co. still don't 'get it' and probably never will. Over the past ten issues we've seen a virtual revolving door of misfits hoping to cash in on their powers and make it in the "big time". Just about every other issue a new X-Forcer is introduced and each and every one of them has been more three-dimensional and compelling than any of the Not-So-New Mutants or even in some cases Jean, Scott, Logan and the "Varsity Team" themselves. HOWEVER, I have picked up on a pattern of Allred's. A dirty little secret if you will that has become blatantly obvious with issue #126. He's taking some of his Oni Press/AAA Pop characters and recycling them as Marvel mutants. Which is fine since they're his characters and he can do whatever the hell he wants with them. I'll give some proofs to this hypothesis in a little bit but first here's the obligatory plot summary.
X-FORCE # 126 is the second part in a storyline that will end in the death of one of the Big Three (Edie, Tike and Guy). The current team comprised of U-Go-Girl, The Anarchist, The Orphan, Doop, Phat, Vivisector, The Spike and new member Mad Gir..I mean, Dead Girl have been sent into space on a bogus mission against fake aliens. They've been told to throw the mission and purposely lose so that a team of C.I.A. goons can come in and hot dog for the cameras. If that weren't bad enough, they've also got to think up a new name for their team because Spike Freeman doesn't feel like paying royalties to the original founders anymore (this is of course a riff on Marvel wanting to cut Rob Liefeld out of the gravy train and there's an added layer of irony because that jackass Spike Freeman is drawn to resemble Liefeld.) We learn that Vivisector and Phat have developed "special feelings" for each other, Tike & The Spike still hate each other and Edie is still in some way pining for Zeitgeist. But all these superfluous subplots take a back seat to the action involving the team's encounters with the "aliens" who are really former Texas death row inmates who have been genetically turned into shape shifting energy blasting mutants by the Govt. As well as the origin and inner demons of the teams newest member MadGir….I mean, Dead Girl. Dead Girl is a mutant whose powers are pretty straight forward. She's a zombie. She can't be killed. She's dead already so every time she's killed again her body simple puts itself back together. She bullshits Edie & Tike into believing that she can communicate with the dead but it's really a front because she doesn't even know what the hell she is. Her pale white-bluish skin, grayish-black hair and bulgy white eyes will remind you of a certain Snap City hero we all know and love. Not to mention her "undead angst". As far as her origin goes, we find out that she was a dime a dozen aspiring actress who came to NYC to start up a theater career and ended up murdered at the hands of some pretty boy, Ted Bundy/Robert Chambers wannabe from her acting class. By the end of the issue Dead Girl has saved the Anarchist's life. The Spike has turned traitor. And the wounded, delirious half asleep imaginary girlfriend we all wish we had, Edie Sawyer thinks up the best suggestion for a new team name yet. "X-Men! Our new name! X-men! It's the perfect name for a group of mutants with the X-Gene! X-Men!…zzzzzzz".
As far as Dead Girl's blatant similarities to Madman, I don't mind all that much. She may not have "the touch" like ol'Frank Einstein but they do have the whole "I've been brought back from the dead and now I'm a blue skinned, angst filled, zombie freak" thing in common. I mean look at her on the cover or even her first appearance in #125 before Allred decided to make her bluer. Put an electrified exclamation point on her chest and she could be Frank Einstein's hot female cousin with similar powers (like Hulk & Supes). Of course I wouldn't have noticed so much if Allred hadn't already pulled this with The Orphan who's basically a doppelganger of THE ATOMICS leader Metal Man only with completely opposite powers (The Orphan wears his suit and helmet to protect himself from the outside world while Metal Man wears his get-up to protect the outside world from himself.) Still, I don't mind that much and truth be told if it weren't for this spectacular run on X-FORCE I would never have picked up back issues of MADMAN or THE ATOMICS in the first place. Ain't I just the indie comics poser. Hell, maybe this will start a trend. Maybe DC can hire Nick Bertozzi to work on a NEW TITANS book and then he can replace the old team with clones of The Incredible Drinking Buddies.
What I like about this issue and most issues of X-FORCE is that Milligan and Allred are fantastic when it comes to fleshing out their characters and giving them complex, concrete origins. The characters and their internal conflicts take precedence over big action and giant sized superhero plotting. This new storyline and the satirical elements of the book are all going along like a well-oiled machine. The subplot with Phat & Vivisector turning out to be "buddies" is out of left field but I think they're really not gay and just faking it so that they can "stick out, have an edge, and shake things up" like Spike Freeman advised them to do back during the Lacuna storyline. That would be a perfect satire of Gay today, straight tomorrow media whores like Anne Heche. Tike and The Spike's rivalry is running its course and even though we have been set up to root for The Anarchist I'm finding that all Tike's worrying and complaining are revealing him indeed to be a crotchety old woman. The Anarchist is shedding all the layers of pretense and cockiness that we saw in the first few issues. And while I'm rooting for him and loving the multi-layered characterization whammy that Milligan is doing on him I'd really like to see Tike just suck it up and kick some ass. This new "see who dies" storyline at first glimpse seems like they're running out of ideas. But if you look at this entire run one of the major themes has always been "Death as the Ultimate Price of Fame". Even after the first arc where Zeitgeist, the previous team, Rainbow and Saint Anna took the dirt nap it was still a major theme. They wouldn't let Lacuna join because she didn't understand that risk. And in Edie's origin issue we see that even she fears death and doesn't reveal her true identity to her daughter because she wouldn't want to break her heart should she die in action. So by killing one of these three characters we've grown to love Milligan and Allred are wrapping up their first year and bringing it full circle. Sadly enough, my money's on Edie Sawyer. From what I've heard, issue #129 is going to be the final issue of X-FORCE and Milligan & Allred's Hollywood mutants will re-launch in yet another different direction with X-STATICS #1 in July. Which is kind of like when Liefeld relaunched THE NEW MUTANTS as X-FORCE. Here's to knowing that this time around it's actually worth the trouble.
OVERALL: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
THE WALKING DEAD #61
Writer: Robert Kirkman Art: Charlie Adlard Publisher: Image Comics Reviewer: Ambush BugTHE WALKING DEAD is one of those books that I have reviewed so many times that I often find it hard to say something new about it. The story is always solid. And the art by Charlie Adlard is some of the most distinct and amazing stuff to be seen on the printed page today. I named this series as the Best Ongoing Series of 2008 in the last @$$ie Awards Column and five months into 2009 the book is looking to be a frontrunner in that category again this year. Plain and simple—I love me some THE WALKING DEAD!
But that doesn’t mean that occasionally I don’t have something critical to say about the series and that’s the case with the issue that dropped last week; issue #61.
The rest of this review is going to be SPOILER heavy, so tread carefully, my friends.
Now I’m not one to be offended but I do know when something is going to ruffle feathers, even if it isn’t my own. In this issue two children commit murder and two children die. Now this isn’t like the scene in CRAWLSPACE: XXXOMBIES from last year where a zombie nurse is treating a natal unit as if it were her own all-you-can-eat buffet. That scene was ugly and gross. It made me feel wrong for reading it, even though I should have known I was in for a raunchy time when the premise of that series was zombie-porn. But when it comes to THE WALKING DEAD, I’m expecting a higher caliber of story and we got one of sorts here. It’s just that something was off with this issue and that’s why I decided to review it this week.
It’s an ugly world Rick and the rest of the survivors are wandering through in this series. The few remaining living cast members of this series are literally trying to outrace death itself on a daily basis. I don’t really have a problem with how Kirkman is depicting the effects of this zombie world on the child survivors so far. What I have a problem with is how it is dealt with in this issue, though.
First, the homicidal tendencies of little Ben could have highlighted a bit more before he goes off the deep end and kills his brother in this issue. Last issue he’s killing a bunny in the woods and in this one he’s carving his brother to pieces. For me, the pacing was just a bit rushed and would have had more resonance with me had there been a bit of a buildup to the events of this issue.
Secondly, as character goes, Ben and Billy really didn’t have much, so while their deaths were shocking in this issue, Kirkman could have actually given them a couple of scenes to make the impact of their deaths in this issue hit even harder.
But that’s not the thing that bothered me the most about this issue.
After Ben’s body is found and Billy is being held in the back of a van, the group discusses what is to be done with him. A similar scenario came up while Rick and the crew were living in the prison, though no one really references it here in the story, I couldn’t help but remember how that predicament turned into a big screw up too. But here, the group is split with Rick, Abraham, and a few others believing that the only thing to do is kill the young boy before he turns on someone else in the group, while the other half are utterly offended by the suggestion of taking a child’s life, especially so soon after one just died. It’s a tough decision, I understand. All parties are bereft of a way to solve it. The child’s seen walking humans being picked off like flies on a daily basis and his sense of value of human life has got to be skewed. He saw his parents murdered in front of his eyes. Over and over members of the group say that the child doesn’t know right from wrong and the only debate they have is whether to execute the kid or not.
Here’s a kooky concept: How about just sit down and talk to the kid about it?
I mean, this comic has been guilty of having its fair share of word balloons. It’s not like it’s out of the realm of possibility or out of Kirkman’s skill-set to do such a scene. Why not try to explain to the child that what he did was wrong and try to explain the concept behind life and death to him?
The argument could be made that the world Rick and co. are walking around in has vastly changed them; that their own perceptions of what’s right and wrong have been shifted due to the zombie apocalypse. In a world where your own loved ones can die and rise from the dead with a craving for your flesh, one can imagine the effects that would have on a person. Maybe I’m jumping the gun here. Maybe the fact that the only solution everyone could come up with was execution is another example of how these survivors and not the shambling mounds around them are actually the Walking Dead depicted in the title of the book. Maybe it’ll be dealt with in a later issue. There’s definitely another kid in this book in need of such a talking to. But to me, the fact that simply talking with the child who is obviously confused was not even brought up as an option is just as disturbing as the act the kid did itself.
This is an amazing book--one of those books that won’t last forever and should be appreciated and cherished while it is still being printed. Eventually, like all good things, it’ll come to an end. Years from now THE WALKING DEAD will be another classic series that people recommend to others like PREACHER, SANDMAN, and Y: THE LAST MAN (mentioned in this issue’s letter column) as one of the best. But for now, despite a story that seemed a bit rushed and not completely well thought out, THE WALKING DEAD continues to be the best on the shelves.
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, reviewer and co-editor of AICN Comics for eight years. Check out 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 in stores October 2009.
SECRET SIX #9
Writer: Gail Simone Artist: Nicola Scott Publisher: DC Comics Reviewed by Humphrey LeeThere's been much to love about this title since it was brought back for yet another run, this time thankfully an ongoing one, but I think my favorite thing about this newest iteration has been the big addition to the roster, both figuratively and literally, in Bane. Not only has he broken the Bat, but he had the most stand out character moments in the first arc, which had a big drive towards getting into the heads and motivations of those that comprise this group of miscreants. Now again we're in a story - stand-alone but with a “Battle for the Cowl” moniker above the title - that puts the Big Man in a more introspective light, this time alongside the Catman, as they both fight back some kidnappers in Batmanless Gotham. Also, Ragdoll dresses like Robin and acts like a big perv, of course. More on that later...
Really, when it comes down to it, this story is basically about two men living in the Shadow of the Bat. You've got Bane, a man whose first appearance on the scene was to snap the Caped Crusader in half, now shown to almost revere the man he once tried to destroy. Then you've got Catman who seems to feel almost like a younger brother to the Bat in that no matter what he does, it will never be good enough, which of course is the case because of how amorally he goes about his actions even if they do more often than not result in "good" being done. It really makes for a great back and forth, as you've got Bane pretty much stoically extolling the virtues of a man he was once in confrontation of and knows that he could never replace now that he's more in the realm of good than evil bouncing off Catman who has had a hell of a mad-on towards Batman that could really only be boiled down to an almost seething jealousy of because of how revered he is. It makes for some great rolling commentary on the two as they go about their vocal denials about their viewpoints on the now deceased protector of Gotham as they now fight on the behalf of some of its denizens. And then Rag Doll makes a "Bat-Pole" joke and I'm reminded of another reason why I enjoy this title so...
Gail's trademark humor is always a key to this title and it was in full force with this, what I would say is easily the best issue we've seen so far of SECRET SIX this new volume. Not only were the usual barrage of double-entendres and sight gags perfectly on point, but they added some great levity to the back and forth between the usually pretty tight lipped duo I was going on about above. But even they had their moments in this I will say, though more in the forms of mayhem, destruction and physical violence than perverted wit, but worth their respective amount of chuckles all the same. I particularly liked the bit early on when Bane had a youngin thrust upon him and tried to console her. Some points may have laid it on a little too thick, but overall this issue showed great balance between all its elements.
And to close this out, big props again to Nicola Scott, whose art I've always enjoyed since I first saw it when she first teamed with Gail back on BIRDS OF PREY. I was so glad she was tapped to pencil this book and this issue is a great example why. Crisp lines, great push on the action sequences, great range in expression to drive some of the more somber bits and get more oomph out of the funny bits. I'm a little disturbed at how much emphasis was put in the big Nightwing panel on his rock-hard ass - it almost looks like he's deliberately clenching it at us - but eh, I'll chock that up to girls being girls…and a little bit of jealousy on my part that I can't get mine to look that way no matter how I work out...yeah, I went there. Anyways. We've got humorous, action-packed, and some good heaps of characterization thrown in to boot. That's what I like in my comics and that's why this book continues to be one of, if not the best thing I pull out of the DCU. "To my Bat-Pole" indeed...
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.
ANGEL: BLOOD & TRENCHES #3
Written by: John Byrne Art by: John Byrne Published by: IDW Publishing Review by: BaytorAs this mini-series goes along, I find myself feeling that it’s being padded. Of the three issues published, I think there’s about two issues of actual plot in the mix. Both this issue and the first could probably be cut in half without losing anything essential. My opinion of the mini is still favorable, but I find myself cooling toward it slightly.
This is due, in no small part, to the character of Colonel Wyndam-Price, who despite being on a mission to avenge his father’s death comes across as something of a cold fish. This issue essentially retells the story so far from his point of view and, quite frankly, there’s not much here that would warrant more than a four or five page flashback. He’s informed that the demon who killed his father is stalking the Western Front, he swears vengeance, then we get a fairly pointless fight scene as German vampires jump into London during a zeppelin bombing run.
Why is this scene here? Apart from demonstrating that Wyndam-Price is adept at fighting vampires (which isn’t needed after he got the drop on Angel last issue), your guess is as good as mine. It also shines a much unneeded spotlight on his batman, whose chubby appearance and thick accent mark him as a comic relief character, only without doing or saying anything remotely funny. He’s just a strange character that doesn’t fit in with the overall tone of the piece.
Then it’s off to the Continent, where he spends a bit of time aboard the German U-Boat that sank the ship Angel came over on. Not much information here, apart from the appearance that Angel fed on the German sailors, which, quite frankly, feels more than a bit wrong for Angel during this time period. While he did feed on humans after regaining his soul during the Boxer Rebellion, he only fed on criminals and only to fit in with Darla, Spike, & Drusilla. Feeding on rank-and-file German soldiers who could not be considered evil by any stretch of the imagination seems a fairly big deviation for the character and requires a bit more explanation than we’ve seen so far. It’s possible this is a bit of misdirection to make us believe Angel is feeding on humans while the true culprit is revealed next issue; but the story doesn’t seem to be making a big deal about it, presenting it in a rather matter-of-fact manner, making it feel like sloppy research.
A quick retelling of ANGEL #1 & 2 later, the Big Bad of the piece shows up and I must say I’m still feeling really underwhelmed by him. Kakistos was a fairly forgettable one-shot villain from the third season of “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” and Byrne has done little to elevate him above the other vamps in the story, apart from being a bit bigger and tougher. Being able to take a stake in the chest and live is impressive to a point, but the character is still a complete cipher with a stock vamp personality. I really would have loved to have seen this issue through his eyes, building him up for the big finale next month. It’s not as though this issue couldn’t have trimmed a dozen pages or so pages to make room for his story.
Even with this rather impressive laundry list of complaints, my impression of this mini-series remains favorable. Byrne’s b&w artwork remains impressive and he seems to have artistically connected to the material. Byrne’s dialogue remains a bit of a weak point, but anyone familiar with his work knows what to expect: it gets the job done with a minimum of grace and poetry.
Next issue is going to be the make-or-break issue of this series. If it can make Kakistos a compelling villain with an interesting evil plan, then this will go down as one of the best Byrne stories I’ve read in ages. If not…well, it still has some pretty artwork to look at.
WARLORD #1 & 2
Writer: Mike Grell Artists: Joe Prado (pencils)/Walden Wong & others (inks) Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Prof. Challenger“I don’t see why she should mind sharing you if I don’t.” -- Shakira
I’m from the generation of comic readers who grew up reading Mike Grell’s THE WARLORD during the 70s. The hidden land of Skartaris and the pilot-turned-warlord Travis Morgan battling dinosaurs, wizards, and other monsters while surrounded by sexy scantily-clad women. What was not to love about that? It was basically Frazetta for the Jr. High set.
Recently, at least sometime in the last year or so, DC attempted to relaunch and reboot THE WARLORD without Mike Grell and it was about as awful as it could possibly be. In fact, I didn’t even realize that it had been quietly removed from the publishing schedule and this new restart for the series planned until I saw the first issue on the stands. Seeing a Grell cover for THE WARLORD #1, I thought at first it might be a reprinting of the original series with a new cover, but happily that was not the case.
DC has wisely chosen to cut their losses on that abominable faux WARLORD series and apparently let Grell pick up the reigns once again as writer on the series (and cover artist) that essentially made his career. And the thing is, it kind of works for me. It feels like no time has really passed between the end of the original series and this one. All the major characters are still there unchanged, including Morgan, his daughter Jennifer, Tara, Shakira, and even Machiste.
In the first issue, Grell sets up a mystery that involves some new visitors from the surface world to Skartaris and in the second issue he lays out all that one needs to know about the Warlord and his history to sufficiently understand and enjoy the series. And for old-timers, it’s a good refresher on what has gone before because it has been many years since the original series ended its healthy run.
The writing on the series feels almost exactly like it always did, so what feels familiar to me may be jarring to a more modern audience that perhaps wasn’t weaned on Grell’s earlier work. Prado’s art is fine. His work reminds me of the young Dan Jurgens who took over the art from Grell back in the day. I prefer for Grell to illustrate his own work, though, and the full-color covers Grell has produced for these issues are so dynamic and sharp that the interior art doesn’t fully hold up to the promise of the covers. And that’s unfortunate for Prado, whose work is still solid and good, especially when inked by Walden Wong, but it’s not Grell. I wonder if the interiors might not work better for me if reproduced directly from the pencils and then fully rendered and textured color work layered together with them? Just a thought. Might give it more of that barbarian style that works so well for Grell.
Bottom line is that I’m happy to have this series on the stands and relegating that recent reboot attempt to the trash heap of bad dreams that disappear into the wisps of lost memory. Didio gets a plus-mark in his failing grade from me for at least seeing this series back onto the stands. For readers who enjoy a bit of the old-school in their sword and sorcery comics, THE WARLORD is a good addition to those decent new Conan comics out there and others.
Prof. Challenger is illustrator and "Renaissance Man" Keith Howell who is married with two kids, a dog and a cat. Headquartered in the Republic of Texas, he has a glorious ability to annoy people, the strength of ten men, and sometimes updates his website at profchallenger.com.
ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #132
Brian Michael Bendis: Writer Stuart Immonen: Artist Marvel Comics: Publisher Vroom Socko: DeliveringI may be calling it early, but what the hell; ULTIMATUM is the worst crossover event Marvel has ever produced.
Seriously, the whole thing feels like a film that was written by Eli Roth and produced by Irwin Allen, only to be directed by Uwe Boll. There’s so much ungodly, horrific shit happening in the various installments that I’ve just stopped caring. A perfect example of this comes from the issue of ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN prior to this one, which I decided to reread before starting the latest installment. There’s a scene in that issue where Spidey is making his way through the ruins of New York, and stumbles onto the crushed remains of Daredevil. My immediate response to this was, “Oh that’s right, he’s dead. Huh.” The items to take away from this are: 1) In this Event, Daredevil is killed off-panel, with only the discovery of his body shown. 2) After having read this, I completely forgot it had happened. 3) Upon being reminded that DD was dead, I didn’t give a shit one way or the other.
Yeah. That’s a good sign, right?
As to the events in this issue, there’s even more horrible shit happening, due to the destruction of Dr. Strange’s house, releasing the magiks contained therein. (The theme of ULTIMATUM seems to be that if all this superhero crap was real, New York would be destroyed about a dozen times over. Of course, if this WAS all real, the planet would have cracked in half a dozen years ago, but we can’t write a story if the Earth is a dead world, now can we? Oh fuck, I’m giving them ideas…) And so, horrible shit is layered onto more horrible shit, building up to the inevitable fecal trifle.
Did I like anything about this issue? Yes. The first four pages are great. This sequence, where Peter’s friends are surveying the damage and arguing amongst themselves, is the sort of writing that Bendis was put on this planet to create. These small, character driven moments, where insights are revealed and personalities are laid bare, these people and their dialogue are everything that makes Bendis the phenomenal talent he is. Why he continues to forego this for monstrous “epic” event style stories is beyond me. It’s like Woody Allen directing INDEPENDENCE DAY or something.
I must confess, ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN is pretty much the only Marvel comic I’m continuing to buy. (Nobody here counts CRIMINAL as a Marvel book, right?) Thanks to deals with the devil, a bloated “Messiah Complex”, and a company-wide rehashing of 12 year old plotlines from THUNDERBOLTS, I’ve become bored and disinterested in the whole of the company’s line. This book was the exception. I’m a huge Spidey fan. I’m a me-sized Bendis fan. I’ve enjoyed this title from its beginning. But the upcoming new #1 may just be my jumping off point. I hope not, but we’ll see.
Vroom Socko, aka Aaron Button, has two great loves in his life, the telling of tales and the Portland Timbers. To locate him, just head to Portland, and odds are he’s either at PGE Park or Powell’s Books.
Writer: Kurt Busiek Artist: Mark Bagley Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: JinxoSo as we head into the home stretch on DC’s latest year-long weekly epic, seemed like it was worth taking another look at.
On the whole TRINITY has turned out to be…okay. Well, a bit better than okay but…holy crap, plunking down three bucks a week for a year I want something that kicks major ass. And it does try.
On the plus side, it has been much better than the last DC weekly “epic”, COUNDTOWN. They went in with a well thought out plan and a solid story. COUNTDOWN was a bit of a meandering mess. Even when TRINITY comes close to meandering, everything has actually fed into and supported the main story. The problem is TRINITY is just so big and epic that…I don’t know that I needed every last second of every last plot. The book feels at times like it’s being written by one of those people who tells you a personal story and throws in 5 million details not directly relevant to the point.
“So then grandma gave me five dollars. And I was like, hey, five dollars. What should I do with this?”
“Excuse me…this relates to you being shot in Iraq?”
“It will make sense once I explain about the trip to the zoo when I was eight…”
Ugh. While TRINITY isn’t quite that bad…it can start to feel like that. Reaching the end the action is kicking into higher gear. Oddly this adds to the feeling that a lot of the details from over the past year were actually less than essential and could have been yadda yadda’d over. Last week found an amazingly powerful entity actually ripping the Earth to shreds with his bare hands! Really pretty cool. I mean, that’s an image used all the time in comics but usually figuratively for a cool cover. Not sure I’ve ever seen a villain ACTUALLY grab the world with his hands and shred it. That leads into this week where giant cosmic forces confront each other over questions of morals and metaphysics. Strangely that I have seen a lot in comics, but watching the all powerfuls debate can be entertaining. But…the world is shattered, the “gods” debate as all seems lost. Reading that, it’s hard not to look back and think, “Were all those weeks and weeks of following an alien race (which we will NEVER see again) on their religious pilgrimage REALLY necessary?” Yes, important things happened in that part of the story but they didn’t need to take near as long as they did with it.
On another note, don’t go into church and start telling your local clergy that the REAL Trinity is Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. They do not find that amusing. Nope. Not at all.
Jinxo is Thom Holbrook, lifelong comic book reader, and the evil genius behind poobala.com. He may appear cute and cuddly but if encountered avoid eye contact and DO NOT attempt to feed.
THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN CENTURY: 1910 OGN
Writer: Alan Moore Artist: Kevin O’Neill Published by: Top Shelf Productions & Knockabout Comics Reviewed by: BottleImpFor those of you not in the know, Alan Moore’s LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN consists of various characters from the literary world joined together as a British government-sanctioned team of special agents—think JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA with Wonder Woman replaced by DRACULA’s Mina Murray, and Jules Verne’s Captain Nemo filling Aquaman’s flippers. However, much like DC’s foremost supergroup, Moore’s League has a changing roster of members, some famous and bordering on the iconic, while others are more obscure and give off a “B-List” vibe. If the first two volumes of LOEG were the equivalent of the classic JLA lineup of Superman, Batman and the rest, the incarnation found in CENTURY: 1910 is more like the infamous “Justice League Detroit.”
Though I enjoyed this volume more than the previous LOEG offering THE BLACK DOSSIER, I feel that by using these lesser-known literary creations Moore loses some of the spark that made the first two volumes so enjoyable. As much as I’m intrigued by the set-ups offered here—the moon-cult, Captain Nemo’s daughter, the mysterious time-stepping Prisoner of London—I can’t help but be jarred out of the story slightly by my unfamiliarity with this 1910 League’s members. With Volumes I and II it was much easier to jump on board with the storyline, since characters such as Mr. Hyde and the Invisible Man are familiar icons to fans of the fantasy, horror and science fiction genres. So in the interest of helping out my fellow readers, here’s a quick rundown on the new faces of the League:
Allan Quatermain Jr. is in fact the same Quatermain of the previous volumes, just revitalized and youthful again (the details his transformation are tied in with H.R. Haggard’s novel SHE and are alluded to in the text pages at the end of Volume II and within THE BLACK DOSSIER).
Thomas Carnacki is a supernatural detective created by English writer William Hope Hodgson, and seemingly a prototype for later pulp and comic book mystics such as Dr. Occult.
Arthur J. Raffles was created in the 1890s by E. W. Hornung, a brother-in-law to Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, and is basically Holmes’ opposite—a gentleman thief rather than detective.
Orlando is an immortal gender changing character out of a Virginia Woolf novel, though Moore has him/her dating farther back than Woolf originally wrote. Lots more about him/her can be read in Volume II’s text and BLACK DOSSIER.
As I said, I enjoyed this more than the previous volume—incomplete as it is, this first CENTURY book is much more plot than the DOSSIER and much less ramblings about Victorian sex (don’t worry, though, there’s still sex in it…just not on every other page). And it is fun picking out all the little pieces of literary reference that Moore sprinkles throughout the series (for example, in the text back-up feature for 1910 he manages to bring the Monolith from Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001 into the folds of LOEG lore). Kevin O’Neill’s art remains that quirky mix of caricature, cartoon and etched-line style that gives the series much of its character. It’s just a shame that with each volume Moore and O’Neill produce they add more and more works to the tapestry of their mythology, when none of these later additions equals the fun of the first iconic stories. Nevertheless, Moore putting out “B-material is still better than many scribes’ “A” game, so count me in for the next CENTURY installment.
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.
BOOSTER GOLD #20
Writer: Keith Giffen Artist: Pat Oliffe/ Dan Jurgens Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Optimous DoucheBOOSTER GOLD #20 is a cocktail of two parts snark and one part cold war drama all blended together by the Holy Fathers of irreverence Giffen and Jergens. While it’s been pleasant to see Booster man-up and become a big boy super hero since the death of bromate Ted Kord, it’s also fun to once again see the golden one act like a teenager out for a night with Dad’s car, or in this case, his son’s time machine. None of this is to say this issue didn’t have problems because frankly it did, but they are tolerable nits for collectors like myself that have been following the Booster legacy for the past 20+ years.
I could tell from the set-up that this issue was going to be more bubblegum than filet mignon. Rip Hunter, Master of Time and grown son of Booster (still unbeknownst to Booster, and certainly still more of the Father figure in this temporal ass backwardness), gives Booster the parachute equivalent of a time machine in an attempt to simply get Booster out of his hair for a few hours. Booster selects the year 1952 because he hopes to meet The Fonz. Booster has always been fun loving, but if he means this literally (which is how it comes across) somewhere between issue 19 and 20 he suffered blunt head trauma. In some 4th wall breaking fun Rip replies, “I thought we were done with that number.” 52 – get it? Cute, not BWA-HA-HA funny, but cute.
Once he is lands in the time of American Graffiti, Booster ends up at a secret rocket facility under the charge of a Soviet genius that promises to get man into space a full decade prior to when it actually happened (well, when it actually happened in comics). That scientist in question would one day start the Rocket Red program assuming Booster can stop this early launch from taking place.
The choice to take the title down this route presented several problems. Fanmen and fanoldfucks will remember Rocket Red, the bulky Iron Man that always struggled with English back in the JLI days only vaguely. Every time Rocket Red appeared you knew you were in store for some “Cousin Balki Perfect Stranger” English misconstruing fun. Sadly though this is no longer the late 1980’s and what made Rocket Red so interesting was his bumbles, not his “powers.” Fanboys and younger readers will merely recognize the Rocket Red name as fodder from the CRISIS flood of carnage. There’s just a real lack of consequence from this whole story. Personal feelings aside, if the Rocket Red program never came to be, would the universe be truly worse for the wear? Not really. All of Booster’s missions under Johns and Katz in the early days of this series had true consequences, this felt more like biding time. I guess from any other creative team I would tolerate this type of laissez-faire filler, but I know that this august lineup is capable of so much more.
Generally these one-shots are the perfect jump-on point for new readers, but this issues is far from Booster’s finest outing and laden with far too much DC history for anyone under the age of thirty to truly care about the title. To truly play the nostalgia card, Giffen needs to go back to his roots and have present day Booster time warp to the early formation of Justice League International or perhaps a trip to Justice League Europe.
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 #2
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. And you can now follow the kid’s daily ‘adventures’ on Twitter.
Daredevil’s enemy Bullseye is pretending to be the good guy Hawkeye because Norman Osborn has set up a team of bad Avengers to do whatever he wants. A lot of the Avengers on Osborn’s team are bad guys pretending to be superheroes and Hawkeye is the craziest one on the team. Even Osborn can’t control him because Hawkeye just kills whoever he wants and then when Osborn yells at him he really doesn’t care. In the last issue Hawkeye looked like he was going to be a hero because he rescued a lady from being attacked but then he killed her and the people attacking her and someone was taking pictures of it from a helicopter.
This issue starts right after that part and I guessed right how Hawkeye was going to stop them. I know that the real Hawkeye has good aim because of how he took care of the Skrulls in the SECRET INVASION comic but I think Bullseye has even better aim because he is doing a lot of hard shots and making them. I think it would be cool if the real Hawkeye shows up in this comic and is mad at Bullseye for stealing his name and they fight. I’d like to see which one would win.
This time Osborn isn’t really as mad at Hawkeye and gives him another mission to go on. Osborn says that it’s okay if Hawkeye kills people this time because the bad guys are terrorists and people won’t think he’s bad if he kills them. The end of the comic got a little strange. When Hawkeye shows up at the building all of the terrorists are dead and it looks like another Bullseye killed them. They don’t really tell you who the Bullseye is and maybe Hawkeye is imagining it but on the last page something happens which is pretty crazy and I don’t think it’s a dream. I think I know how Hawkeye can get out of it because he used trick arrows in the beginning of the book but we’ll see next issue if I guessed right.
The comic has a lot of action in it. Hawkeye is doing a lot, especially in the beginning and end of the book. It’s not good that he was killing regular people but the parts where he was doing his trick shots with the arrows and stuff showed how good he was at being an assassin. I also liked the part where Osborn had his goons come in and take care of Hawkeye’s mess. He had them show up so fast and just take care of the whole place it’s like Osborn can do anything. I bet that he and Hawkeye are going to end up fighting because Osborn wants everything to be his way and Hawkeye is too crazy to follow rules.
The art is great in the comic. I like all of the poses that Hawkeye is in when he’s running or shooting the arrow. He’s drawn really well and the artist makes him do these crazy smiles to show people that it isn’t the good Hawkeye. But he also draws other characters and things like buildings and helicopters really good, too. I even like his Bullseye and he draws him with a really creepy smile.
It’s a good comic for action even if it’s really just about a crazy bad guy who is going around killing people and getting into trouble. The middle part of the book with just the talking with Osborn is just okay and I hope there is more Bullseye and Hawkeye next issue since there wasn’t a lot of it in this comic and they were both on the cover.
Rating: 9 out of 10
POWER GIRL #1
Writer: Jimmy Palmiotti Artists: Amanda Conner Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Prof. Challenger"Green Lantern used to ask me why I never wore a mask. It's because most of the time...they ain't lookin' at my face." -- Power Girl (JSA CLASSIFIED #1)
A couple of years ago, I reviewed that JSA CLASSIFIED comic that featured Power Girl and I had a lot of fun by basically rating her breasts page by page. For, as we all know, Power Girl has become the possessor of comicdom's most famous twin headlights. The thing is, as a character she's so much more than that. Finally, after decades of floundering attempts at writing this character (and a lot of that time in embarrassingly awful attempts at pointless costume redesigns), we have Power Girl done right.
So many times, people approach PG as basically a confused Supergirl with big tits. But the truth is, a simple sampling of her original appearances in ALL-STAR and SHOWCASE demonstrate a fully realized and intelligent young woman. As Karen Starr, PG did not run around pining for boys and dealing with angst. She was a professional who owned and ran a tech corporation and could hold her own in the business world as well as the costumed crime-fighter world. And Palmiotti picks that up and runs with it. In the high-tech 21st century, of course, Karen Starr is ready to take Starrware Labs and restart it with a pointed purpose in addressing and curing environmental problems through high-tech solutions. This gives her character meaning and direction beyond just how she and her company tie into whatever the next mass cross-over storyline might be.
Palmiotti resets PG firmly into the modern world and introduces a new supporting cast around Karen, which should give him much to play with. He relocates her outside of Metropolis and smack dab into New York which works perfectly to give her a setting that is familiar but slightly outside the usual "fake" cities of the DC Universe. Plus, like PG says in her voice-over narration, there's no better place for a fresh start than New York.
To me, the plot takes a back seat to the pure character work being done here. Palmiotti has developed into one of my favorite writers working at DC right now. The work he did with Justin Gray on the FREEDOM FIGHTERS and JONAH HEX started out strong and got better (continuing so on JONAH HEX). As well, his writing on the TERRA mini-series (also with art my Connor) was outstanding. So, I expected that this comic would be pretty good, but in my book, within the context of mainstream super-hero comics I would say the writing is flawless. Nothing missed its mark with me. The briefest of brief recaps of her Kryptonian origin and structure and pacing of the story completely worked for me. The balance of humor and seriousness was perfect. And the introduction of the villain of the piece, the Ultra-Humanite, was dealt with as a true and deadly threat upon the people of New York rather than just a villain-of-the-month plot device. Ultra being a longtime JSA villain from the 40s through to today who was originally most famous as a cheap knock-off of Lex Luthor until he started plopping his brain into other people's bodies -- then he turned into a monstrous hyper-intelligent maniac (used quite effectively in James Robinson's classic THE GOLDEN AGE). Ultra's current form where his brain has been transplanted into the body of this huge albino ape has been his only visual since the 80s and I guess he's tired of that ape, because he now apparently wants to shove his brain into the beautiful skull and body of Power Girl herself. Thus, a cliffhanger ending ensues and I'm hooked for the next issue and the duration.
No review, however, would be complete without spending some time gushing lavish praise upon the beautiful art and storytelling of the incomparable Amanda Connor. Yes, the one who posted a copy of her cover art for the comic on FACEBOOK recently and had the assholes there remove the art because it was obscene or something. Regardless of those FB dumbasses (who seem to have since realized their mistake since Palmiotti now has the cover posted), I swear that each and every time I see something new by Connor it is even better than the last thing she did. She's at the top of her game and yet keeps topping herself! I loved her work on TERRA last year and spent a lot of time just going back through the issues admiring her artwork, but her work on this issue is equal parts pretty, sexy, powerful, and clean. In fact, just as I said about the writing, I would say her work was flawless here. The costume tweaks that Connor has done to PG's costume here have taken my favorite super-heroine costume and actually improved it. The only thing I would change back would be the buccaneer boots. I just happen to love the buccaneer boots. But Connor has managed to retain the essential elements of PG's costume but upgrade them to look like something she could actually wear in the 21st century. Outstanding work and I can't wait to see how Connor improves once again next month with POWER GIRL #2.
I am committed to this series for as long as Palmiotti and Connor continue to work on it. This comic made me feel like a kid again. Thank you to all involved.
THERE’S AN ALIEN IN MY TOILET Vol 1
Written by: Samuel Vega Art by: Jorge Medina Published by: Crazee Comics Reviewed by: Ryan McLellandYou would think just by the title of this book that the authors are going for the lowest common denominator. This isn’t really the case and the comic is not about E.T.’s excrement. Rather THERE’S AN ALIEN IN MY TOILET is a wonderful kids property from Crazee Comics. It’s fun, it’s cute, and it’s a book I can read to my own 5-year-old.
The plot is simple: An alien named Doodie (He’s from Uranus. Hee hee.) is sent to Earth to determine if the blue planet is a threat. Upon (crash) landing his vessel in the forest Doodie is at first thwarted by every imaginable creature in the woods from bear to ant. While he may be ‘big stuff’ on his own planet we get quickly that Doodie has no clue what to do once out of his element.
With the government on his trail Doodie hides in a house with a wide-eyed Dad, a video-game obsessed boy, and a Chihuahua determined to bite the odd-looking creature. His hiding place of choice? One look at the title might tell you.
For those who might roll eyes – don’t. I know this isn’t a comic for everyone and it’s not Alan Moore writing a space saga. This book is meant to be fun and for kids – accomplishing both with ease. My son LOVES the book and constistantly asks me to read it to him which is great. It gets him not only into the art but interested in reading as well. I’m very glad the powers-that-be at Crazee have put together this great TPB which does include a bonus story, some pin-up art, and a look from Medina’s sketchbook. I love this book and can’t wait for future Doodie adventures in years to come.
Ryan McLelland has worked in movies and comics journalism for the past several years before joining the @$$holes here at AICN. Ryan’s comic work has already graced comic shelves with Arcana’s PHILLY, WISE INTELLIGENCE, UPTOWN GIRL, and THE SENTINELS ANTHOLOGY. He rarely updates his blog but when he does it can be read at www.eyewannabe.com. The first issue of his new WISE INTELLIGENCE miniseries can be found here.
HOUSE OF MYSTERY #13
Written and Illustrated by a multitude of talent
It’s a tricky thing to disrupt a story in mid flow, especially on a cliffhanger. If you’re going to do something like that, you’d better have a damn good reason, and it better be pulled off with style. Thankfully, HOUSE OF MYSTERY #13, with three short stories centered around that number, has style to spare.
Vroom Socko: At Dinner
Each of these tales has a particular “Rod Serling” vibe to them, with each also being distinct enough from each other to keep from feeling repetitive. The first story, from writer Matthew Sturges and artist Ralph Reese, features a young man who is the only person aware of a secret thirteenth hour in the day, and of the horrors that happen during that hour. The second, from Bill Willingham and Eric Powell, has a man shopping for a thirteenth wedding anniversary present for his wife, only to receive a most interesting offer from the shop owner. The final story, by Chris Roberson and the incomparable Neal Adams, is a story of two immortals and the thirteen different times they meet over the millennia. Then there’s a final page, provided by Sturges and Sergio Aragonés, that’s too fun for words.
Of the three main stories, the one that has the most fun with the whole 13 theme is the Willingham/Powell one. Each of the stories has a bit of a twist to them, and this one was the easiest one to see coming. However, Willingham is so dedicated to the 13 theme, and Powell’s artwork is so appropriately moody, that I can’t help but think of it as my favorite of the issue. The other stories are no slouch though, with the Sturges/Reese story having the most interesting, and chilling conclusion. As for the Roberson/Adams story, well if you really need to hear anything other than “artwork by Neal Adams” then just know that this story is the most charming of the three.
If you’ve been reading HOUSE OF MYSTERY the past year, don’t skip this one by just because it’s an aside from the main story. If you haven’t been reading HOUSE OF MYSTERY, then for the love of Neal Adams pick up this issue, then go get the ones you missed. In either case, get your hands on this book. Reading this issue was like finding a lost installment of HARLAN ELLISON’S DREAM CORRIDOR. If there’s a higher compliment than that for an anthology comic, I can’t think of it.
(Oh, and for an extra treat, count the page numbers. Go ahead, I’ll wait.)
(Nice touch, eh?)