Hey folks, Ambush Bug here. First off, my apologies for the bare bones column. Due to the hectic pace of the SDCC and a recent move, the @$$hole Super Computer 2000 was damaged, so no images this week. But I didn’t want to leave you guys without a column. Again, my apologies to the readers and the reviewers, but things will be back to normal next week…hopefully.
In the meantime, get ready for quite a few AICN Comics columns this week. I’m heading to San Diego to report from the 2009 San Diego Comic Con. I’ll be doing my best to see the sights, drink the drinks, and experience the experiences. Don’t get jealous though, I’ll be updating you the whole way, so it’ll be like you’re right there.
Speaking of which, for those of you attending the Con, I’ll be hosting a panel Friday early evening focusing on Horror Comics & Film with special guests Marv Wolfman, Tim Seeley, Jeff Katz, Whitley Strieber, Kevin Grievoux, and more. I’ll provide more info later, but be sure to show up and watch me talk horror with the panel.
And now, stripped of all images and bells and whistles, here’s this week’s reviews!
BLACKEST NIGHT #1
Writer: Geoff Johns Artist: Ivan Reis Publisher: DC Comics Reviewers: Optimous Douche & Prof. ChallengerOptimous Douche (Douche): My initial thought after traversing this macabre tale was, “why can’t there be more dead superheroes?” For anyone that feared BLACKEST NIGHT would simply be a tale of zombies in space, think again. Zombies are slack-jawed, mindless rotted flesh merely craving gory nourishment. Sure the resurrected heroes of the Black Lantern Corps have some flesh falling off their bones, but also a sadism unseen in the DC Universe. There are no stupid limericks or mantras to be found within the pages of BLACKEST NIGHT, these undead anarchists have rings that use death as their sustenance. It’s almost like the universe is facing an inescapable crisis, like some kind of final crisis.
Professor Challenger (Prof): My initial reaction was "wow." An understated "wow." But still "wow."
The buildup on this series has seemed excessively long and I'm not sure I'm up for DC continually doing things like this, but the payoff here is worth it so far for me. It felt like there was a deathly pall over the entire proceedings with the focus on a worldwide day of mourning and remembrance. It made even the celebration at Coast City seem somehow eerie. And that's the word that keeps coming to mind...eerie. There's an eerie feeling I get about bringing these characters back in such a perverse and evil way. I'm not a fan of zombies in general, but I do remember the nightmare I had as a kid after watching the original NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. There is something at our spiritual core of humanity that says rotting corpses walking around without souls and focused on eating our brains (or in BLACKEST NIGHT, our hearts) that is universally unsettling.
The image of Ralph and Sue Dibny tearing the hearts out of the Hawks was incredibly shocking and would not have been as shocking but for the fact that Ralph and Sue were for so many years the heart of the DC Universe.
Maybe I'm just unsophisticated or something, but this issue fired on all cylinders for me. I've said it before and I'll say it again, Ivan Reis is the Neal Adams of this generation. What an amazing artist and storyteller.
DOUCHE: And therein is Johns’ greatest strength. In all of the buildup titles he exhibited the ability to write concise moments with heart that honored the rich backgrounds of these characters, while still offering monumental scenes of intergalactic grandeur. And as much as I loved the distinct moments, like Sue and Ralph, and the conversation between the Atlantians, what truly blew me away is just how epic this set-up is. The sheer magnitude of the number of black rings swarming through space is mind blowing. If you really want an enemy gone, you kill them. How the fuck do you stop an endless army that is already dead?
PROF: I agree. This series plays to all of Johns' strengths. If he actually succeeds in a payoff that is worth the buildup, then he should probably just hang it up and walk away because he may not ever be able to top it. In a sense, he looks to be using the horror of the Black Lanterns to actually drive home the importance of these lost characters to the tapestry of the DC Universe over the years, rather than simple shock effect. And I use the word tapestry very consciously because that's the beauty of a single comic book like this that weaves so many separate and discrete aspects of this universe into beautifully cohesive whole. Rather than diminishing what's come before, I found this story to render meaning to deaths and incidents that I previously saw as arbitrary or capricious. Johns embraces the massive and crushing continuity of DC and presents snippets of flashback info just enough to get any reader up to speed as to who the players are and why they are here.
DOUCHE: There is one point of Johns’ retconning I do have issue with. Apparently Damage’s naval cavity (which I guess is his stomach) is his deformation now. Why he’s still covering his face is a mystery to me though.
PROF: That's hilarious!!! I didn't catch that.
In truth, though, what I appreciate about Johns when he tackles things like this is that he generally doesn't "retcon" but makes an honest attempt to accept what has gone before and redirect it towards something new. And part of that process, as seen in BLACKEST NIGHT and his entire run on GREEN LANTERN, is to introduce new elements into the continuity that enhance rather than diminish what has gone before.
For an example, something that I've noticed has been latched onto by the haters this week is the fact that the Black Lanterns originate from Space Sector 666. Sure, that clobbers the reader over the head with evil implications but it is not so hackneyed as it might otherwise be. Over the last couple of years, Johns has been laying groundwork for BLACKEST NIGHT; he has established a spiritual and prophetic nature to the event in that it was foreseen millennia ago and written down in The Bible of the Guardians. In other words, within this context, the 666 connotation may have originated BECAUSE of the prophecies from Oa and bled into the shared consciousness of sentient brings throughout the universe so that 666 becomes somehow intertwined with the worst of evil and death and destruction....The Apocalypse.
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.
DOCTOR WHO: ROOM WITH A DÈJÁ VIEW One-Shot
Rich Johnson: Writer Eric J: Artist IDW Publishing: Publisher Vroom Socko and Matt Adler: CompanionsMATT: Alright, Vroom, you should probably kick this off, since you're our resident Doctor Who expert.
VROOM: You know what? Why don't you start. This is an oddball book, and I really don't know where to begin.
MATT: I think you just did! I agree this is a very strange book. The author, Rich Johnston of Lying in the Gutters and Bleeding Cool fame, said he made it intentionally hard to read because he wanted the reader to "work a little" and he certainly succeeded at that. Unfortunately, I think he was a little too clever by half. One of the major goals of any comic has to be an enjoyable reading experience, and if it becomes too much like work, it's no longer fun. I was eventually able to piece together the narrative (I think), but by that time my basic feeling was "who cares?"
You'd need a really spectacular and insightful story to make it worth that level of work, and while the story is perfectly fine, it's not ground-breaking enough to warrant the baffling structure. Still, I have to give him credit for trying something new.
VROOM: Really, the book has a cool concept to it, one that works to interesting effect. If I had to describe the plot in brief, The Doctor is asked to investigate a murder aboard a space station, committed by a member of the Counter Family. These aliens actually experience their lifespan in reverse. Essentially, their perception of life is akin to one super-tactile viewing of “Memento”. This gives The Doctor quite a challenge in attempting an interrogation, and naturally everything ends up going all timey-wimey. I suppose we should just be grateful that The Doctor doesn't end up singing “The Boy With The Thorn in His Side”.
While I do agree that the actual foundation to the story could and ought to have been stronger, I actually like the fact that it was something I had to work to read, something that took time and effort. At four bucks for an issue, I don't want to be able to flit through the damn thing in five minutes then set it aside.
MATT: I think that's a valid point, but to me, it's really about the payoff. I think back to something like Christopher Priest's run on BLACK PANTHER, which was another comic that played around with narrative structure, with lots of non-linear storytelling. Yet there, the payoff was never simply a murder mystery, it was usually about uncovering what kind of Byzantine plot the Black Panther had set in motion, while everyone else in the story runs around in a tizzy, being manipulated like chess pieces, so that when you finally did piece the story together, you got an "Aha!" moment. I never got that here. I did think it was an interesting concept that everything the alien did was in reverse, so nothing was quite what it seemed, but still, I missed that "Aha!" feeling.
I think another problem I had with it is that all the revelations unfolded in an expository style (however convoluted), which tends to drain all the drama out of it. The Doctor knows from the start that things aren't what they seem, and he just has to figure out a way to talk to the alien so he can get the explanation out of him. It's a nice intellectual exercise, but there were no moments of real suspense or doubt, which to me is essential to a good mystery. The art didn't serve to add to the drama or tension either. It was competent, but unremarkable.
VROOM: I'd actually say that the artwork WAS remarkable. Remarkably unnerving, that is. You can see it most apparently in the first and last page, but the way that artist Eric J draws eyes in close-up is...unsettling.
My major gripe with the book is not with the conversational nature of the story, but that there's no real follow-up to the events that the conversation illuminates. Yes, The Doctor has a cool conversation that's both challenging and fun to read, but that's it. The conversation reveals a threat to the space station, but he does nothing about it. The people on the station are quarantining themselves against a massive plague, but nothing is done about that either. The whole of the book, then, is focused on the concept. As I said, I enjoyed the concept immensely, but if you want to have a good story, there needs to be more to it than that.
MATT: Hmm, well, I do see what you mean about the eyes, there's an almost manic quality to them. However, the alien looks so cute and cuddly, you just know he could never be a murderer.
As for the plague and the impending attack on the space station, I guess I have to say that's one thing that actually DIDN'T bother me. To me, they were MacGuffins, which Alfred Hitchcock defined as the thing (or things) which the characters in the story are concerned with (such as a plague or invasion) but aren't really the point of the story. In other words, they're mainly used to drive the story forward to its conclusion.
In this case, the plague is used simply to provide some misdirection (i.e. maybe the alien killed the guard because the guard was trying to stop him from spreading the plague) and the invasion is used to impel the alien to draw Doctor Who into the story. The main point of the story is to trying to make sense of the alien's motivations and actions, and once we do, we see he is a sympathetic figure.
But it could just as easily have been some other piece of misdirection (maybe we would be led to believe the alien was stealing something), or some other reason for the alien trying to contact Doctor Who (maybe his own race would have been in need of help). None of that would have mattered; it all would have simply served as a launching point for unraveling the mystery.
So, I don't think there's anything wrong with using those as MacGuffins, but in general, the main point of your story SHOULD be more engaging/intriguing than the MacGuffin itself. For instance, in a Hitchcock movie, the characters might be chasing after some valuable object, but the chase itself, and what happens along the way, is so thrilling, that it doesn't matter what the object is. We didn't quite get anything here that overshadowed the MacGuffins in a truly dramatic or compelling way, which may be why you were left feeling "what about the invasion or the plague?" If the story had achieved its goal, you might have only given them a passing thought.
VROOM: Right. The point of the story isn't that James Mason is smuggling a roll of microfilm full of government secrets out of the country, but that Cary Grant is on the run for his life.
The thing is, though, when you're dealing with a concept-based story that features an established character, you'd better be as true to that character as possible. I just can't see The Doctor walking away from those sorts of dire threats. If it were the William "You-can't-rewrite-history-not-one-line" Hartnell version, I'd probably buy it. Hell, there'd be a way for me to buy it from any Doctor up through Sylvester McCoy. But with David Tennant, I just can't accept that he's not going to do anything. Because the type of Doctor that he is, there's no way that HE would accept that he couldn't do anything. In nearly every other aspect, he’s in-character, but for The Doctor to leave these people to their fate without so much as an, “I’m sorry. I’m so very, very sorry.” just feels off.
MATT: You know, I had wondered about that. But I'm really not that familiar with Doctor Who, so I just sort of shrugged and assumed that was typical for the character, that he was one of those cosmic "what will be will be" types, above concerns such as the fate of mortal life, aside from matters of scientific interest. I guess it's also possible that he was pissed with them for basically executing an innocent guy, and decided to let them reap the consequences, but you'd know better than I whether that would be out of character as well.
So, the way the character is drawn here, he's basically "on model" for one of the particular Doctor Who actors? Interesting. I guess I hadn't even thought about that. When they do Star Trek comics, of course there's only one model for each of the established characters; I'm having trouble thinking of another licensed property where there are a wide variety of visual models to choose from. I wonder if they've ever done James Bond comics?
Wait, what were we talking about again?
MATT: Aaaand... that's probably as good a signal as any that it's time to wrap this review up. Any parting thoughts, Vroom?
VROOM: There's some decent dialogue and a cool idea to be found in this issue. It's just a shame that there wasn't a quality story to be had as well. But I do applaud the effort. And you?
MATT: Surprisingly, that's basically my assessment as well. I guess we weren't so far apart after all!
In most places, Matt Adler goes by the name his mother gave him, but occasionally uses the handle "CylverSaber", based on a character he created for the old DARK FORCES II: JEDI KNIGHT game (one telling hint of his overweening nerddom). He currently does IT and networking support for the government of Nassau County, NY, but his dream is to write for a living, and is in the process of figuring out how to get publishers to give his stuff a look. In the meantime, he passes the time by writing for AICN, CBR, and a few other places. He also formerly wrote for MARVEL SPOTLIGHT magazine.
While wandering the streets of Portland, Oregon, Vroom Socko tends to go by the name of Aaron Button. He also tends to wander while carrying a bag of Jelly Babies and wearing a 15 foot long scarf. He is not currently in therapy, but it might not be a bad idea if he were…
MIGHTY AVENGERS #27
Writer: Dan Slott & Christos Gage Art: Khoi Pham Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: steverodgersMIGHTY AVENGERS was just hanging on as a comic to pick up, and generally the last in my pile to read. I found the first couple of issues by Dan Slott to be clunky with sub-par art that made it almost unreadable; it was only blind faith in Slott’s ability to bring out the marvel in Marvel comics that kept me buying.
Last issue’s fun throw down between an unraveling yet confident Pym and a snotty Mr. Fantastic finally got this comic jumping again. This issue continues to pick up steam with general zaniness from the unique mélange of super heroes that make up MIGHTY AVENGERS, and keeps the Kirby crackle crackling by introducing the long dormant, forgotten and angry former king of the Inhumans.
The other major improvement is that the art has picked up as well, with confident action drawn by Khoi Pham, who also does nice Maguire-esque facial expressions that match up beautifully with the dialogue. A shout-out must also be giving to scripter Christos Gage, who I can only assume is responsible for the witty punch to the proceedings as scripter.
It is always nice to be rewarded for having faith in a comic and watch a book move back up to the top of the pile. If you felt underwhelmed by MIGHTY in the past, this is a great issue to check in with, as Slott seems to be hitting his stride; throw in some general Pym looniness (his new costume is wonderfully absurd), a hilarious sight gag with Quicksilver, a new Galactus -level threat and the life of the party that is USAgent, and you got yourself a solid book that’s getting better all the time.
STRONTUM DOG: TRAITOR TO HIS KIND TPB
Story by: John Wagner Art by: Carlos Ezquerra Published by: 2000 AD Reviewed by: BaytorPop culture is littered with the remains of failed revivals. It’s always tough to go home again, because you not only have to compete with the past, but with people’s memory of the past. Even when you succeed commercially, you often have to deal with a horde of angry fanboys that feel you betrayed their childhood. I’ve only discovered STRONTIUM DOG a few years back, so I can’t speak to the memories of the past, but I can say that the Wagner & Ezquerra have, after the misguided attempt to revamp the series with “The Kreeler Conspiracy”, managed to slip back into their old groove in this volume.
For those of us on the left side of the Atlantic, Johnny Alpha was a mutant bounty hunter (nicknamed Strontium Dogs) with X-Ray eyes who faced discrimination wherever he went and used a variety of hi-tech weaponry to collect his bounties. 2000AD stupidly killed off Johnny Alpha some years back and attempted to replace him with a punk Wolverine wannabe, which, predictably, didn’t work out. Realizing their mistake, they’ve now returned the book to an earlier point in the Continuity before they started killing everyone off with alarming frequency.
One of the great things about Johnny Alpha is his family history, which has long been a good breeding ground for the vilest of villains. Chief among them is his father, who attempted to exterminate all of mutantkind on Earth. In this volume he’s joined by his half-brother, who is attempting a power grab in the wake of the kidnapping of King Clarkie II. While not my favorite of the five tales in this volume, it does provide a context for the proceedings that prevents the book from degenerating into a series of non-consequential bounty hunts.
And bounty hunts are what STRONTIUM DOG is all about. There are two absolute corkers in this volume: “The Heady Foot Job” and “Shaggy Dog Story”. Both clock in under 40 pages, which I think is the ideal length for a 2000AD story, whose short installments require almost constant cliff-hangers and unexpected twists. Get much past six parts and it starts getting tedious (unless you’re telling an epic story like “Traitor”). “The Heady Foot Job” starts off as a jail break story then smartly turns into outright farce, and I say smartly because the plot twist is obvious to everyone but a single character and its great fun to watch him get exactly what he deserves. Even better is “Shaggy Dog Story”, which sees our Dogs in pursuit of a Plastic Man wannabe, which is complicated at every turn by the perpetual untruths told by fellow bounty hunter, Shaggy. And if the mid-story trip to a barber doesn’t make you smile, then you’re dead inside.
For anyone curious about STRONTIUM DOG, this is a great volume to check out; not only providing an easy-to-understand history of the character, but showing off a the sort of fun-filled, action-packed stories that made Johnny Alpha the second most popular character in 2000AD’s stable. And to John Wagner who has stated in that he’s doing his best to rectify the mistake he made in killing off Johnny Alpha: mission accomplished.
BATMAN: STREETS OF GOTHAM #2
Writers: Paul Dini with Marc Andreyko Artists: Dustin Nguyen with Georges Jeanty Publisher: DC Comics Reviewed by Humphrey LeeI honestly don't know how it's possible, what with how much he has contributed Bat-Universe wise for lord knows how long now going back through the Animated Series, but it honestly feels like Paul Dini's contribution to Bat-comics has really gone under the radar the past couple years. I assume it's because all he's done has been to tell straightforward detective stories or to write good characterization or reinvigorate shaky villains like he did with Hush and so on that he just hasn't set the internet on fire with his run on DETECTIVE COMICS. How dare he not tell muddled stories involving Bruce Wayne on heroin before executing him in yet another over-hyped Event Comic! Rabble Rabble Rabble! Here we are though, a new Batman, a new title for Dini and his partner in crime Dustin Nguyen to strut their stuff on while playing second fiddle to something more hype friendly. Are they going to continue to just tell boring old character driven stories involving Batman's cavalcade of schizo villains, or will they cave and try and mimic all that is more hyperbolic?
Nah, they're just going to continue to tell kick ass stories set in the cesspit that is Gotham City, especially a Gotham City that has seen much more activity from its more despicable elements in the wake of BATTLE FOR THE COWL. Now, the first issue was a little bit of a mishmash I think. There was some really good re-invigoration of one of the Bat's sort of mid-tier villains in the Firefly becoming a much bigger and somewhat more disturbing threat, but on the whole I think maybe the issue jumped around the bit. This follow up, though, is a lot tighter. The new team of Batman and Robin are a lot more in the mix which focuses the chaos better as it hones in on the chaos that torchy one let loose on the city at the end of last month's tale. Stakes become higher all around as lots of other players start pulling themselves into the mix, lots of dangerous individuals as Black Mask and Zsasz show up during Firefly's antics, and Hush, now fully decked out as Bruce Wayne mind you, escapes to knock things way more over on the hellacious side.
The main thing that I think I like this book for is that it's more willing to jump into the fray than the others now that "Batman: Reborn" is in effect. Since both Morrison's pet project and BATMAN itself are running more emotionally right now, and understandably so given the circumstances, I just like that at least one of the books is taking the time to realize that the city of Gotham is hell in a hand basket right now from all the usual players and isn't calming down anytime soon. And as we all know, Dini's grasp on the Bat's Rogue Gallery is honestly probably second to none out of everyone working on one of these books right now. He's just that good at piling on the mess that is now Dick Grayson's life now that the city is under his protection. Sure, I wouldn't mind a quiet moment of reflection thrown in there from time to time to show how Dick is getting through this period of his life without Bruce, but BATMAN & ROBIN, despite my reservations about Morrison's previous Bat work, is doing a bang up job in that regard, so why use more panel time on it here unless it really is necessary to drive home a plot thread or deepen a particular moment? If this book is to be the "All Ass-Kicking Extravaganza" then so be it. I can't think of a better team for it given what Dini and Nguyen were outputting before this mass relaunch of the Bat-verse.
Now, to talk about this book on whole, given the back up story in the back, I for one am all on board with this, but I can see how this book may get passed over even more because of said back matter. As a full supporter of Marc Andreyko's MANHUNTER book and character, I'm so glad to see that Kate Spencer has a place in any book out there, especially one that has a banner on it that people will buy pretty much no matter what and get exposed to her. But, on the other hand, the confines of back-up space kind of limit her down to one dimension - the lawyer/masked vigilante one - and probably aren't going to hook anyone not familiar with her previous book and thus probably cost this book some sales given the extra dollar they have to pay for something they really don't have an opportunity to appreciate. Without the family aspect of her son and all the wonderful side characters that really drove MANHUNTER itself home - Cameron Chase, Dylan the tech sidekick, Obsidian, Director Bones – causes it to lose all the fun interactivity that made the book itself so great, and that makes these follow up tales a little more by the numbers. Hopefully Andreyko can find a way to rotate all of the crew back in and make this something new readers will want to pay that extra buck for - and bless DC for actually giving readers something for that extra dollar - but until then I think it's going to be more of a support thing from guys like me that remember the good old days, or the diehards that will throw any amount of money each month at a book with the name of their favorite character on it.
I'm just glad that already it looks like this book has hit its stride, at least from the main aspect of the book. We know the characters are going to be depicted as they should, its just a matter of seeing how Dini makes some relevant and pushes the envelope on what our new Dynamic Duo are going to have tossed at them after seeing what he put the original through. I wouldn't mind seeing this book becoming an interacting point for some other DCU alums to pop in and out of as well, like how we'd get some Zatanna sightings and whatnot during Dini's DETECTIVE run so we can see their take on this new situation Gotham has found itself in and third person insight on how Dick and Damien are handling it. As for now though, at least we know we have another Bat-book and creative team we can rely on to deliver month in and month out. And with this ringing in of the new and a little of the out with the old, maybe this time around they'll get a little more notice instead of taking a backseat to the other, more-hyped Bat-books despite their quietly rivaling, if not outright trumping them, like they were before.
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.
FLIGHT: VOLUME SIX
Written and Illustrated by Various Publisher: Villard 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.
I really like reading the FLIGHT books because they have a lot of short stories by different writers and artists all in one big book. Most of the stories are really good and they’re all different from each other. Some of the stories can be funny or scary. Some stories have a lot of action in them and some are just crazy. Not all of the stories in FLIGHT are good. There are some that I think are pretty boring or the art doesn’t look that great but mostly everything is really good. My favorite FLIGHT book is FLIGHT: EXPLORER. That had the best stories in it, I think. Pretty much all of them were really good.
I got to read the new FLIGHT book, VOLUME SIX, ahead of time which is pretty cool and this is another really good collection. I like getting the advance copies of books before everyone else. After the San Diego Comic Convention I’ll be able to review a book called THE COMPLETE VADER which is totally awesome but it isn’t a comic book. But there is going to be a lot of cool STAR WARS and FLIGHT stuff at the Comic Con so people should go check it out. I’m just going to review a few of my favorite stories from this book but there were only maybe one or two bad ones that I didn’t like.
“The Excitingly Mundane Life of Kenneth Shuri” is tied for my favorite story. It’s about a guy who wants to get a job as a ninja. Actually he already is a ninja but he can’t find a job and he’s really depressed that he has no money and has to take on different jobs that he doesn’t like. The best part of the story is when Ken the ninja has to take on a ton of other ninja warriors for a job. It’s a huge battle in the office building with a lot of action and crazy death scenes. The story looks more like a cartoon than some of the other realistic type of comic book art but that style makes it better. If it was drawn realistic it would probably look way too bloody. It is a funny story though and I liked how the writer ends this one.
“Epitaph” by Phil Craven was the shortest story in the book. I liked how it seemed like the story was taking place in outer space or something and the characters find a dead body. I thought for sure that it was going to end up being some monster story with the space guys getting chased around the whole time but it was a lot simpler than that. I liked what the guys did with the body near the end of the story, too.
“Kidnapped” by Rad Sechrist was probably my favorite story. One Samurai warrior’s girlfriend or wife was kidnapped and he’s fighting another warrior to save her. There is a lot of good action in the book and the art is really nice. It takes place in the woods in the winter time so there is a lot of snow and trees around them as they’re fighting. Both of the warriors are really tough and they keep fighting even with arrows shot into them and stuff. My favorite part of the story was the ending because it’s a trick ending. For a minute I thought that one warrior won but it was really just a fake out. Once I figured out what really happened it made the story even better.
“The Zs and the Attack of the Early Birds” by Richard Pose is more of a story for kids. A little boy is going to go fishing with his dad and has to go to bed early so he isn’t tired. Even the teddy bear tells him to go to sleep but the little boy says he wants to go look for worms instead and goes off on an adventure with the teddy bear following him. There are cool parts with the little boy getting attacked by the early bird for stealing the bird’s worms and then the army of the Zs goes after the boy and the bear. They all want him to sleep and he just wants to get away. I think the early bird was really funny. He just shouts and yells at the boy for everything he does. He’s such an angry bird. It’s a good story that is a lot of fun because of how the boy doesn’t like going to bed and the sleep monsters try and attack him to make him sleep.
There are a lot of other stories in this book that I liked like “Fish N Chips” and “Jellaby” and those two were in other FLIGHT books, as well. These were my four favorite, though. I like reading super hero comics like SPIDER-MAN and DEADPOOL but sometimes it’s fun to read a bunch of different shorter stories like they have in FLIGHT.
Writer: Mark Sable Art: Julian Totino Tedesco Publisher: Boom! Studios Reviewer: Mr. PastyWhat happens when every doomsday scenario the government contracted you to predict starts coming true? Why, you get yourself a good alibi and try to stop the person (or persons) behind such a dastardly deed. That’s the premise behind UNTHINKABLE, a taut thriller that follows a bookworm and his braniac buddies as they pursue a group of global terrorists hell-bent on destroying the world – using handy step-by-step instructions that were designed to prevent such a scenario rather than create it.
Fans of the hit television show 24 or Grishamites will be right at home here. Like most political pressure cookers, UNTHINKABLE moves at a very brisk pace with little time for digestion. Solving one crisis just leads to another. A majority of comics adhere to a basic story arc – UNTHINKABLE just flat out ignores it. In fact, forget the arc. This story follows a straight line like it was shot from a rail gun. How else can the protagonist go from a sacrifice at the Temple Mount to the Large Hadron Collider in less than two pages? Ordinarily that kind of bravado can breed contempt for the writer, but Sable is skilled enough to avoid any grandstanding with his characters. When it makes sense to them, it makes sense to us. A large part of that success comes from Sable’s effectiveness in balancing both dialogue and exposition without interrupting the considerable pace or the suspense that pace establishes in the opening pages.
Tedesco compliments that pace by bringing this word to life (and death). Colors are desaturated and often indistinguishable in almost every frame, muted by overtones of brown and blue. You can argue there’s an overreliance of mood here, but the panels are masterfully arranged, overlapping and hurried into place in conjunction with the tension of the narrative. It’s really handled quite beautifully and one of those subtle and unfortunately overlooked contributions that can really elevate a book.
RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK is mentioned a few times here and the film’s influence is readily apparent. The pessimist in me thought it might have been a cheap way to justify all the jet-setting across exotic locales, but I felt better after seeing the grainy map with a broken red line to indicate travel between Cairo and Jerusalem. The characters may not turn and wink at you every so often, but Sable does. While I won’t call it lighthearted, those random nuggets keep the tone of this book just above sea level. There are some heavy duty themes presented here including torture, terrorism and government conspiracies. With everything that’s happening to our soldiers and the economy, trying to broach the subject of Armageddon requires a delicate hand. Sable has the chops to get it done and he didn’t have to pin a yellow ribbon to the Mylar sleeve to do it. Conversely, he doesn’t make light of the ills of the world and that makes UNTHINKABLE an intriguing and unique look at what people might or might not do when the evils of our world can no longer be viewed from a safe distance. True, this instrument only plays one note, but when you can play it as beautifully as UNTHINKABLE can, one is all you need. A must-buy.
Final word: If the end of the world is indeed upon us, make sure you add UNTHINKABLE to the collection of reading materials inside your fallout shelter.
Writer: Nathan Edmondson Art: Christian Ward Publisher: Image Comics Reviewer: Matt AdlerI read the first issue of this miniseries when it came out, and honestly, I didn’t feel the need to follow the story any further. The first issue seemed like a lot of effort from first time comic book creators--full of energy and enthusiasm, immensely impressed with its own cleverness, but without any clear idea of how to sell the reader on the notion that this is a story worth following among the dozens of other options on the shelves each month. So I forgot about it, like I have so many other first issues.
But recently I was given the opportunity to read the second and third issues, and here is where the book gets its footing. That’s not an excuse, of course; if you’re doing a 4 issue miniseries, you’ve got to have a strong start out of the gate, but hopefully the creators have learned that lesson for their next endeavor. That aside, we now have the makings of an interesting story. Whereas the first issue was little more than a generic super-powered battle (with art that was a bit hard to follow), the story now becomes about a global quest to stop a mythological figure from destroying the very myths that control the natural world.
The main characters are the legendary Gemini twins Castor and Pollux, who in this story (set in the modern day) are agents of Zeus tasked with policing the various figures of mythology and making sure they don’t interfere in our world. At this point in time, the gods have adopted a hands-off policy towards the world (quite in contrast to the original myths, when Zeus was pulling the old “Hey babe, wanna see my lightning bolt?” on every mortal woman he could get his mitts on). So Castor and Pollux become enforcers of this policy, and violators get sent straight to Hell. Well, Hades. As in the original myths, Castor and Pollux are only half-immortal, therefore having to spend half their time in Hades being, well, dead (they accomplish this on New Year’s Eve through a ritual suicide/homicide of one another, which they seem to find quite fun). They are then resurrected every other year to perform missions for Zeus.
In practice, the twins are not exactly tough guys or ultra-cool secret agents; it’s more like Frank and Joe Hardy meet Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Castor is basically Joe, the more impulsive, vivacious one (and quite a ladies’ man) while Pollux fulfills the role of the more serious, level-headed Frank. They take their marching orders from their Bosley-like handler “Didi”, who appears to be some mythological character or other, but I can’t place him.
The mission that really kicks off the series is the escape of an ancient foe from the depths of Hades. Technically, this was set up in the first issue, but only at the very end, with most of the pages in that issue being given to a mostly irrelevant chase and fight scene. Now we actually learn the nature of the threat; it is Pelops, who was famously served up for dinner by his father to the Gods, and was eventually regurgitated and reassembled. But it seems the reassembly didn’t go so well; Pelops is in constant pain. The central conceit here (and it’s not one I’m aware of from the myths, so I think it is the invention of the author) is that being cooked by his father literally set his blood to boiling, and he hasn’t cooled down yet, which is the primary source of his agony. Presumably this drove him mad, hence why he was imprisoned in Hades. To alleviate his suffering, he’s set out to murder three of the Four Seasons, leaving only Winter alive so he can cool down. As of this issue, he’s 2 for 3, and only Summer is left.
The art is very interesting. It’s done primarily in a watercolor style, with some digital manipulation worked in; lots of hazy lines, and bizarre, abstract representations of scenes and figures. It gives the story a dreamy quality, which both fits its mythological nature and provides a nice offset to the more mundane suspense/thriller aspects. Consistency and clarity of form frequently elude this style, so it is occasionally unclear and a little difficult to follow, but in the end, it’s so pretty, you don’t really mind stopping to try and decipher what’s being depicted.
I do wonder how difficult it is for a writer to script for this sort of style; my understanding is that the writer and artist didn’t know each other at all before starting this project, and you have to wonder if any key points wind up lost when the team hasn’t had that chance to hone their creative rapport. Still, all in all, this miniseries is shaping up to be a strong first effort from these creators, and if they can look at themselves critically, see where the flaws were in this series, and work to improve on it, they’ll have a bright future ahead of them.
THE TALISMAN #0
Writer: Robin Furth Artist: Tony Shasteen Publisher: Del Rey Comics Reviewed by: Andrew GoletzThe debut issue of the debut book from the new line of Del Rey Comics is a pretty big deal. Not only will this special 0 issue be given away free to those who stop by the Del Rey booth (Booth 1129) during the San Diego Comic Con but the story serves as a prequel to the series which is an adaptation of the novel by King and Straub. Furth is no stranger to comic book adaptations of King’s work, having already plotted THE DARK TOWER: THE GUNSLINGER REBORN from Marvel Comics. Shasteen’s most recent project was DC’s FINAL CRISIS: SECRET FILES but I’m pretty unfamiliar with his work.
The zero issue introduces us to all of the major players, including young Jack Sawyer and Morgan Sloat, but particular attention is paid to Jack’s father Phil who is featured on the cover. Those of you familiar with the novel know of Phil’s ultimate fate but this issue focuses on what happened prior to that. Jack is a young boy who wants to be around his dad with every opportunity he has but Phil’s job apparently makes it so those opportunities are few and far between. When Jack sees his father go out to the garage, he follows behind to catch up with him but the father has already disappeared into the other realm.
The rest of the story focuses on the other realm where ‘Prince Philip’ is having words with Morgan Sloat. Fans of THE TALISMAN undoubtedly know that Morgan is bad news and his duplicity is made known right off the bat. Hints are given as to what has caused the tension between Philip and Morgan both in the real world and the other world. The mysterious Talisman is mentioned but its whereabouts and the effects of its power are at this point unknown. I found the finale of the book to be extremely well done. The main event occurs in our world with the action taking place simultaneously in the other world with the ramifications of that moment leading to the ongoing story beginning this Fall.
The strength of the book is clearly in the writing. Furth keeps the story moving without spending too much time on one particular character or setting. The dialogue is sharp and poignant, especially in the brief scenes with Jack and his father. The art seems a bit uneven in places. With Sloan in particular I can’t tell whether he is drawn a certain way to set a darker tone or whether he is just drawn poorly. There are a few examples where the dimensions seem a bit off and the storytelling comes off a bit flat because of it. Having seen the colored version of the book as well (and the last page of this issue features a color page) I do believe that it was the black and white art which did the disservice to Shasteen’s pencils. Most of the issues I did have with the art were nonexistent in the fully colored version. Another bonus of the colored book is that readers can see the beautiful work by Nei Ruffino. Like I said, you get a glimpse of it on the final page of this issue but Ruffino has chosen an interesting color palate on which to draw from and the results are amazing to look at. I also have to give props to the cover by Massimo Carnevale. Massimo will be doing the covers for the entire run and I think it was a great choice.
If the purpose of this special issue is to get people interested in the concept it definitely achieves that. From the front cover to the last page this is a quality effort by everyone involved and I’m anxious to read this team’s adaptation of the novel.