Hey, hi, howdy, folks. Ambush Bug here, battered but not beaten by my first visit to the San Diego Comic Con. And while I’m just a bit too tuckered out from all of the action to review anything this week, the rest of the @$$Holes persevered and picked up my slack with a whole big bunch of reviews.
I’m going to be popping in at the end of the week with an SDCC Recap Round Up of all of the fun that was had at the con and hopefully I’ll be able to post some pictures of the events (superhero was there too and he took a ton of cool shots which I’ll post as well). I also have interviews that need to be transcribed still, but expect Q&@’s with the likes of Geoff Johns, Peter David, Dan Didio, Radical Comics’ Barry Levine, UMBRELLA ACADEMY’s Gerard Way, Zachary (HEROES/STAR TREK) Quinto, and the one and only Tiny “Zeus” Lister!
Also my filmed panel focusing on Horror Comics/Film will be posted on AICN as soon as it’s ready (and a quick plug for those of you interested in my new book, VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS: THE TINGLER #1 from Bluewater Comics available in late September: but you’ve gotta order it from this month’s PREVIEWS – order code: JUL09 0737 to get it!).
Alright, enough rambling from me. Let’s leap into the reviews!
Written and Drawn by: a mess o’people Published by: Dark Horse Reviewed by: BottleImpI do love me some anthologized horror comics. Being a fan of the classic 1950s EC horror titles, I was very disappointed with the newly launched TALES FROM THE CRYPT put out by Papercutz—they seemed not to “get” the whole tongue-in-cheek, EC vibe that sets those comics on a higher level than the horror imitators EC spawned. And the artwork…again, I was not a fan. So it was a pleasure for me to see that this new CREEPY series is sticking close to its roots, Uncle Creepy, black and white artwork and all. Here’s the rundown on the contents of this premiere issue.
“The Curse (Part One)”: written by Joe Harris, art by Jason Shawn Alexander. This is probably the best story in the bunch; unfortunately, its placement as the first tale kind of spoils it for the rest of the comic. “The Curse” centers around a printing press operator who discovers that he has the power to make people do what he wants, but these wishes are carried out with gruesome consequences. The combination of tight line drawing and looser drybrush inkstrokes by Alexander gives this story a nicely eerie, moody feel.
“Hell Hound Blues”: written by Dan Braun, art by Angelo Torres. Two record collectors go into the swamp to pick up a copy of “Hell Hound Blues,” one of the rarest albums in existence, and indeed they get the blues when they meet the Hell Hound, heh-heh. This story feels uneven, mostly because I associate Torres so strongly with his caricature work for MAD Magazine. His cartoonish style seems an awkward fit for the text, and I think that an artist who treated the material in a darker manner might have resulted in a stronger and more cohesive story altogether. Not bad, though.
“Chemical 13”: written by Michael Woods, art by Saskia Gutekunst. This creepy tale set in a WWII concentration camp comes in right behind the lead-off tale for best story. The Nazis try out a new chemical (13, of course) in their gas chambers, with some slightly less-than-expected results. Very loose, almost expressionistic artwork—very nice indeed.
“All the Help You Need”: written by Neil Kleid, art by Brian Churilla. More cartoony art, but this time it’s well-paired with a slightly more tongue-in-cheek story. Delia Gold enrolls in a fat camp where the only regimen is nightly jogs through the woods…being chased by hunters with ravenous, man-eating dogs. A fun little sick story in the best EC tradition, complete with the twist ending.
“Loathsome Lore ‘Faustian Deals’”: written by Haffner, Braun and Gore, art by Hilary Barta. A two-page filler that looks at the recurring theme of trading one’s soul to the devil for fame, money or power, again in a lighthearted manner. If we’re to believe Sister Creepy, Mick Jagger, Sammy Davis Jr., Oprah, and even the Jonas Brothers have made these unholy pacts.
“Daddy and the Pie”: written by Bill Dubay, art by Alex Toth. Lastly we have a reprint of a classic CREEPY tale—it’s a gentle fable of racism and intolerance in the Ray Bradbury mold (an alien standing in for an earthly minority) that features some lovely inkwash drawings by the great Alex Toth.
All in all, a pretty solid first issue. Now, I know that the $4.99 cover price might be a turn-off for some readers, but consider this: the average monthly comic book carries 22 pages of content and costs at least $2.99. CREEPY is 48 pages—with NO ads—and costs two dollars more. That’s more than double the amount of material for less than double the price! Makes good financial sense, don’t ya think?
In any case, EC fans, vintage CREEPY fans and fans of horror in general could do worse that this reincarnation (or should I say re-animation, heh-heh!) of one of the genre’s iconic titles.
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.
GREEN LANTERN #44
Writer: Geoff Johns Artists: Doug Mahnke Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Optimous Douche“And that’s the way the cookie crumbles.” Some might consider this metaphor in the opening pages of the latest BLACKEST NIGHT chapter a bit clichéd, but I stand firmly behind the fact clichés became clichés for a reason. They work, and they resonated on such a grand scale that everyone started using the phrase. Plus, when it’s done as well as it was here, forgiveness is easy.
The literal cookie I speak of is the generic Oreo placed upon the tomb of the Martian Manhunter by Batman at the end of FINAL CRISIS: REQUIEM (one of the only shining lights in the CRISIS crisis we were subjected to). It fell from its precarious position when one of the nefarious Black Lantern rings burrowed inside the Manhunter’s mausoleum to resurrect the great green one as one of its undead legions. Yes, this is sort of a prequel moment and well known to those of us that read BLACKEST NIGHT #1, but I applaud DC for not forcing the followers of just GREEN LANTERN to buy all of the other BLACKEST NIGHT titles to understand what’s happening in this book. Of course the literal transcends to the greater crumbling of the DC Universe and the utter shit storm, actually make that shit tsunami, that is building with each new chapter of this fantastic story.
While Johns is crafting an intriguing galactic epic, what keeps drawing me further and further into this story are the breaths and whispers in between the battles.
Take for instance the interchange between Barry Allen and Hal Jordan as they investigate who stole Bruce Wayne’s skull, which was simply perfect from a dialogue perspective and justified the resurrection of Barry Allen in one fell swoop.
A deluge of internet debates rage on about the resurrection of fallen characters. In my viewpoint, once one character escapes death in a universe the door is wide open for any character to escape the final fate. This is called fiction for a reason people. As Barry and Hal stand over Bruce Wayne’s exhumed grave and debate who would know Batman’s true identity, they begin an interchange about the importance of protecting identities. Barry chastises the miniscule nature of Hal’s mask and Hal retorts, “Well what about Clark Kent?” who merely uses glasses. Johns in all of his retcon glory has Barry state that Clark slouches, wears clothes too large for his body and raises his voice an octave. Did you know all that? I didn’t, but it sure makes more sense than the past 70 years of Superman history. As this conversation was happening I had the epiphany about Barry’s place in BLACKEST NIGHT – friendship.
Hal Jordan has always been a leader; while he might count his emerald comrades like Rayner, Gardner and Stewart as friends, they are also his successors and he is their mentor. This can also be said for many members of the past few Justice Leagues; after all, Hal was around for the first iteration, so the “kids” of the universe like Wally West will always have a reverence for him that will impede true friendship. Barry and Hal grew together; couple this with the fact they are both “cops” of a sort, and you can begin to see the formation of where salvation will come from in this tale. I’m also one of the few out there still collecting FLASH: REBIRTH, which has alluded to this theme as well. Before anyone jumps down my throat, I sometimes like my stories a little slow, and yes I find an ironic juxtaposition in this pacing given the main character. Sorry, I digress, back to BLACKEST NIGHT.
What else have we learned through the interchange (OK, battle) between Hal, Barry and Black Lantern J’onn? Well, apparently you don’t need to wield a ring to be part of the emotional spectrum. Several panels were presented through J’onn’s POV, and from the Black Lantern perspective we all embody part of the emotional spectrum of light. Hal appeared a green hue (will) and Barry (no ring) Allen had a blue glow of hope reminiscent of Chernobyl Smurf. We also learned that death made the Martian Manhunter funny; he laments why no one remembers he’s as strong as Superman as he hoists an entire building to get closer to his prey. Mahnke did an amazing job with that scene alone and should be applauded.
Continuing the fast track of reveals, I’m ecstatic to see that the little blue bastard Guardian, Scar, is not just eeeeevil, but actually believes that getting Back in Black will save the universe. That’s assuming you define the word “save” as imposing order. If your definition of save is to preserve life, I highly recommend you never go out drinking with Scar. Scar also dropped a bomb that I was not expecting by saying this black army would herald HIS return. I have a few guesses as to who HIS actually is, but I hope I’m wrong. If I’m right, my flip dig last week in the BLACKEST NIGHT review about this feeling like “a final crisis” will be literal, and that would suck.
Almost 1,000 words and I have barely scratched the surface on how good this title is. This is why we started collecting comics, folks; scenes of deep character exploration, galactic battles, a sense of danger with every turn of the page and cliffhangers that leave you salivating for the next issue. I have a few friends who are trade waiting this series, and believe me I can fully understand the fiscal reasons behind that decision. But if there was ever a time to remember your childhood (when every goddamn title wasn’t guaranteed trade treatment and books actually had a level of scarcity to them) this is the series to remember that weekly thrill of going to the comic shop for the next chapter.
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."
Writer: Robert Kirkman Artist: Ryan Ottley Inker: Cliff Rathburn Publisher: Image Comics Reviewer: Rock-Me AmodeoThis is my first time reviewing INVINCIBLE, which is odd, because I’ve been following the comic with interest for quite some time. After reading last month’s issue, I felt something I haven’t felt in a long time: a palpable sense of regret, along with the feeling of “I’m almost scared to see what happens next month, yet I can’t WAIT to see what happens next month.”
Despite all the mewlings of us jaded fanboys, there are some good comics out there. There are even comics out there where I can’t wait to read the next issue. But rarely does that longing manifest itself almost painfully. That was where I was at the end of INVINCIBLE #63. That’s a lot for a next issue to live up to.
INVINCIBLE #64 lived up to my very high expectations.
During the hiatus, I took the opportunity to reread all my back issues. It’s amazing to see how much Ottley has grown as an artist (not that he was bad when he took over, either) and how much his art carries its own weight. But as Kirkman says, for every wordless artistic sequence, a writer had to write it, and solid kudos go to both of them, for both the verbal and non-verbal parts. This was the bloodiest, most action packed, most emotionally riveting comic I’ve read in a long time. Wow.
One of the things that I hope we address in the future, that struck me as I read the book, is why Mark really IS invincible. Seriously. He’s hardcore. I mean, he’s a nice guy, sensitive, considerate, thoughtful…but in the heat of battle, he absolutely will NOT give up. What would you do if you had not one, but two broken limbs, with bones extruding from your open flesh? And a mangled hand? Maybe you collapse in a bloody heap.
Or maybe you would refuse to give up. Maybe, if your girlfriend were being threatened, you would headbutt to death the guy that did it. And that’s the thing I wonder about. When Mark is pushed far enough, does he have that kind of mettle because of who he is, as a person, or because of who he is, as a Viltrumite? One thing for sure, if he’s conscious, and loved ones are threatened, he absolutely will not retreat. Now, I know there’s lots of heroes who would do the exact same thing, yet there’s something about the way Kirkman writes it…I dunno. Invincible’s moxy is so real, it’s startling.
I know there are other heroes in the Image universe that have been around longer, but I would not be surprised if, after this, Invincible becomes that universe’s premier superhero – especially since the end of his battle was caught by most every other hero AND probably the media, as well. I mean, if I saw the tail end of that, and I were a criminal, I wouldn’t mess with Invincible. Not ever. How cool is that?
I won’t wonder what would happen if he were pushed that clichéd “too far” because I think this is about as far a person could be pushed, and he’s still a good guy. But I’m sure Kirkman could put a neat spin on whatever is going on, inside Mark, and that spin is the trick that keeps me coming back.
If there’s anyone who hasn’t picked up the book, I won’t spoil the ending. But it was about as satisfying as it could have been. And as always, I look forward to the next issue.
Rock-me Amodeo is Dante Amodeo, an SAP and IT consultant by day. By night, after his girls are asleep, and to the general dismay of the world, he writes. He hopes to get his long delayed second novel finished by the end of the year, and recently sold his first script, “The Mountain”, which should air in January on one of the big three networks. It’s nice that some days don’t suck.
BLAZING COMBAT Vol. 1 TPB
Story by: Archie Goodwin Art by: Frank Frazetta, Wally Wood, John Severin, Alex Toth, etc. Published by: Fantagraphics Books Reviewed by: BaytorAccording to the endless text pieces in BLAZING COMBAT, these are the stories you weren’t allowed to read. There are several essays devoted to the subject of the quick cancellation of this magazine, all of which center around retailers being offended by some early stories about Vietnam and refusing to put it on the stands.
And you know what? I was offended by the very first story. This book sat around my house for about a month after I read the very first story, “Viet Cong”, and came to the conclusion that Archie Goodwin just didn’t get war stories. It’s not a war story, it’s a meditation on the futility of war that focuses of the casual atrocities of the South Vietnamese army, while an American soldier laments to himself about how fucking stupid everyone is being, and none of it struck me as truthful or insightful. The second story set during the American Civil War is only marginally better, as a Yankee and Confederate soldier bond over a common cause before politics lead them back to fighting. Had I bought this magazine back then, I doubt I would have been back for a second issue, because Archie Goodwin just didn’t display any great feel for war stories in that first issue.
He found his legs fairly quickly, but the bad taste of those first two stories lingered for quite a while. It wasn’t until the black humor of “Souvenirs!” in the third issue that I came to the reluctant conclusion that maybe this Goodwin fella has got a pretty good handle on things. In that tale, we learn the story of a hero soldier whose intentions were anything but heroic.
Like Warren’s horror comics, this is following in the footsteps of EC’s classic New Trend comics, but it apes the style, tone, artwork, and logos of Harvey Kurtzman’s war mags so closely that it never really develops its own identity. Also Archie Goodwin is not nearly as meticulous about research and accuracy to be anything but a pale imitation of Kurtzman. Still, a pale imitation of the greatest war story shorts of all time is pretty damn impressive.
I love comic shorts. Most of my early comic experience was in reading the horror anthologies of the 70s, so I love the economy of story-telling and their little morals. Whether it be the gift of a bottle of wine that enacts a far-too-heavy price or exploring the twists of history that allows the greatest traitor of American history to be hailed as a hero not long before, there’s a lot of nifty avenues to explore and they’re all drawn by some of the greatest comic book artists of all time. Only the future war story “Survival!” is completely out-of-place here, which would have been far more at home in the pages of CREEPY.
Despite my initial hatred, I ended up being extremely pleased with BLAZING COMBAT and it’s a pity that it didn’t have a chance to continue on past the fourth issue, because I think it might have thrown off the EC influence before too long… and it’s always great to see the impressive stable of EC artists working in non-super-hero genres, although even without hostile retailers, I doubt it would have stayed around much longer. EC’s two war mags were among the least successful of EC’s line and did not survive much past the end of the Korean War, which sparked interest in war stories in the early 50s.
THE LIFE AND TIMES OF SAVIOR 28 #4
Writer: J.M. DeMatteis Art: Mike Cavallaro Publisher: IDW Publishing Reviewer: Matt AdlerWe’re almost to the end of this miniseries, and it’s become clear that it is a complete deconstruction of the superhero genre not for the purposes of making it more relevant (e.g. Marvel’s CIVIL WAR) but in order to point out how fundamentally irrelevant superheroes truly are. DeMatteis’ basic message here seems to be that when you get right down to it, superhero stories really are just about guys in tights punching each other, without regard for the consequences of violence, or thought given to what it would truly take to address the problems of the world.
Typically, superhero stories ignore this problem; in the Silver Age, that was accomplished by having superheroes deal with situations so far removed from reality that the question of relevance was moot. Modern superhero stories typically forego the pure fantasy route and attempt to show superheroes making a difference in the “real world.” But either way, it always comes back to the fights. Because that’s what we want to see, right? DeMatteis questions whether superheroes (and more importantly, their approach, since that’s what has a parallel in real life) actually can make a positive difference in the world, and his answer does not lean towards “Yes.”
It's similar to the sort of position Garth Ennis takes towards superheroes , and yet this is totally different from anything that would come from Garth’s pen. In an Ennis story, superheroes would simply be ridiculed and dismissed as not worth discussion. And don’t get me wrong, those kinds of stories can be a lot of fun.
Alan Moore too has some of the same problems with superheroes, as he explained in a recent interview. “And I wonder—perhaps this is being too simplistic, I don't know, but I wonder if the root of the emergence of the superhero in American culture might have something to do with a kind of an ingrained American reluctance to engage in confrontation without massive tactical superiority... It does seem to me that massive tactical superiority might be a key to the superhero phenomenon. That, if it's a military situation, then you've got carpet bombing from altitude, which is kind of the equivalent of having come from Krypton as a baby and to have gained unusual strength and the ability to fly because of Earth's lesser gravity. I don't know, that may be a simplistic interpretation, but that's the way I tend to see superheroes today.”
But here, DeMatteis rather than dismissing superheroes outright, uses his story to explore and illustrate exactly what is wrong with them. It’s also worth noting that during his career, DeMatteis has written quite a few “straight” superhero stories, his run on Amazing Spider-Man being foremost among them (though as with all his work, there too he strived to get “inside” the characters). So it’s something new and distinctive to see this kind of critique from someone who has been “in the trenches” so to speak; perhaps because he is American, he intimately knows where these characters are coming from, having been immersed in the culture from youth, and so offers a different perspective even when reaching similar conclusions.
In this issue, Savior 28 AKA James “Jimmy” Smith, a Superman analogue (though this story was originally conceived for Captain America, the ultimate patriotic superhero) is captured and tortured by his former allies in a Justice League-like superhero team, at the behest of a government conspiracy masterminded, apparently, by Dick Cheney.
This may seem trite and clichéd by this point given how many “evil Dick Cheney” stories we’ve seen, until you notice that just the other day, a news story emerged about Cheney secretly pushing for the use of the military for a law enforcement operation on American soil, in direct violation of the Posse Comitatus Act (which prohibits this specifically for fear of an out of control executive branch using the military to enforce dictatorial whims).
Thankfully, Cheney was eventually overruled, but it does give one pause; every time you start to think “well, gee, maybe he was just misguided” another story comes out about him attempting some wild breach of our country’s fundamental laws, for no apparent motivation other than expanding his own power. Unfortunately, this makes him the perfect villain for these sorts of stories; you only WISH it were hokey and clichéd instead of frighteningly close to reality.
In any event, the government has got Savior’s former allies convinced that he’s a fake. How do they convince them? Well, the central conceit of this story is that Savior 28 has, after suffering the trauma of accidentally killing a foe, and then seeing the horror of 9/11, come to the conclusion that violence isn’t the answer. He then goes on a world peace tour to promote his views, all while the U.S. is engaged in the war in Afghanistan and building up to the war in Iraq.
The government isn’t pleased with this, and they bring in his former allies to set him straight, who naturally are convinced that any Commie/pinko/terrorist-appeasing traitor like this CAN’T be their old friend Savior 28. It’s got to be an impostor, and they’ll beat the truth out of him (as is their standard M.O. for problem-solving). His former kid sidekick Dennis (now graying and over the hill) is also working for the government, but ultimately sets him free with a warning to give up his crusade, and keep his mouth shut from now on, for his own good. The key exchange between the two comes during Savior’s captivity.
Dennis: There are crazy motherfuckers out there who can’t WAIT to blow us all to hell. They think if they do it, God’s gonna REWARD them for it. You wanna make yourself USEFUL? You wanna change the world? Then fly your fat ass to Afghanistan…find Bin Laden—and crush his skull like a goddamn GRAPEFRUIT.
Savior: And inspire a million MORE Bin Ladens to rise up…to hate everything we are?
Dennis: A million more rise up—you take THEM down too.
Savior: And THEN what? Wait for the NEXT “bad guy” and then crush his skull—and then the next and the next and the next? THAT’S INSANE.
Dennis: THAT’S LIFE.
If there’s one weakness to the series, it’s that it’s very wordy. I personally don’t have a problem with that, and DeMatteis’ narrative and dialogue are always a pleasure to read, but there is a school of thought to comics that says “show, don’t tell.” In any event, artist Mike Cavallaro does do a wonderful job of showing, particularly with facial expressions, given that Savior is held immobile for most of the issue. His style is in the vein of artists like Bruce Timm, Mike Oeming, and Dean Haspiel, and I think he’s going to become very much in-demand after this series.
In the end, it’s funny; I really do agree with many of the points made by DeMatteis here (and shared by Ennis and Moore)…and yet, I still love superhero comics. Perhaps I, too, have been conditioned by my American upbringing. Oh well. Back to the punching and kicking!
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 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 has also written for MARVEL SPOTLIGHT magazine.
WEDNESDAY COMICS #3
Writers/Artists: Think of a name and they're probably here Publisher: DC Comics Reviewed by Humphrey LeeNow that we're a couple weeks into this new, somewhat unprecedented idea from the brain trust at DC, I think I've seen enough to finally weigh in on this experiment. Honestly, I think I knew when this was announced that I was going to be a big supporter of this idea, but I also knew that not only was the format going to make or break it, but also how well the creative teams involved adapted to it. I was a huge fan of SOLO, as I am really any project that just lets an artist, or writer, or those lucked out with enough talent to be both, to cut loose. That's why I've bought Lord knows how many anthology books the past year (especially COMIC BOOK TATTOO, which got some Eisner props this past weekend). Even raw talent, though, might stumble a little bit when they come across something a little unfamiliar to them, and I think that's pretty much WEDNESDAY COMICS in a nutshell.
The very first criticism I have with this book is not from a quality standpoint though, but a quantity one, namely that I think fifteen stories is just WAAAAYYYY too many. Even on my very first read through of the very first issue, where my interest was at its most piqued, about two-thirds of the way through the paper I was kind of counting it down to its end. At first, I just chalked it up to maybe since it’s obvious that the teams were getting used to the format, that maybe not enough information was being given per segment, therefore making everything feel a little abbreviated and giving the book on the whole a little feeling of ADD. But no. After three issues of this I can definitively say that fifteen stories is too damn much. The only thing is, I'm not sure what the solution is to that from a format standpoint. My initial reaction was that I thought maybe it'd be best to halve the amount of stories and to double the output to two pages to a character, but there are a few stories, like the Supergirl one from Jimmy P and Amanda Conner, that actually do have the pacing and story of a one page story down pat. Thing is, though, not everyone has been able to bring everything all together so well.
So, running with that train of thought, maybe the format could be reworked so that some of the teams involved who have a story that could stick to the single page format, can just run theirs like always, but if someone needed the second page, they could get theirs so that it could stay the same size as it is now. The amount of stories really is too much, and I could see some of these benefitting very well from double the space a week. Take the Gaiman and Allred “Metamorpho” story, for example. As one page per week, so far I think it's fallen completely flat on its face in a few aspects. On the positive, it looks gorgeous with the blown up art, and I can't blame Neil for writing a story that lets a master such as Mike Allred use a full, over-sized page like this. But as an installment for the week, it's a laughably short read and there's really nothing to hold onto for the next week. Throw in the second page though for a glorious two-page spread that lets Allred unload his ability and that would make the story more exploratory and adventurous, and I think it wouldn't harm the flow of the paper as a whole very much. And even a few stories that are paced very well for the single page, like Kyle Baker's “Hawkman” and Paul Pope's “Adam Strange”, could benefit from having that second page to let themselves breathe more. I think even with all the extra space this format brings, sometimes their material here is still looking a little cramped, though gorgeous nonetheless.
Now, from a creative aspect, this endeavor really does reinvigorate my love of the medium, even if it has its ups and downs just like any project of its ilk. There's something about unfolding this hunk of newsprint and scanning over the lines and colors and inks that gives me some inherent joy. Mileage may vary on how well everyone uses their space, but there seems to be a genuine love of the art that flows through the pages. I may not be a big fan of the couple stories - I actually started skipping the “Wonder Woman” and “Metal Men” ones this edition, they really weren't doing anything for me - but there seems to be a determined effort behind them. I think this makes more of a case to streamline the amount of stories being told, make sure you're not just putting in more stuff to fill all the folds than because they should be there. On the whole though, I'm still relatively excited to see this each week, and glad that such a project exists, even if it comes with its own unique set of flaws. I like the idea that someone in mainstream comics is trying something to reinvigorate the medium in some way, and to shed a more creative light on its properties instead of just turning the Hype Light on something and seeing who it attracts. It might not be perfect, but it's a damn good step in the right direction, and something worth pursuing farther, with the appropriate modifications of course.
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.
PROJECT SUPERPOWERS: CHAPTER TWO #1
Writer: Jim Krueger Art: Edgar Salazar Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment Reviewer: Mr. PastyPROJECT SUPERPOWERS: CHAPTER TWO (PSCT) takes a coterie of Golden Age superheroes, dusts them off and reinserts them into a modern day world that, like ours, has a syndicate of lunatics and religious zealots calling the shots. Because the heroes presented here are essentially characters that originated in the days of World War II, names like “The Death-Defying Devil” and “Green Lama” are not atypical for this story. Unfortunately neither is the feeling that evolution is the enemy of anything Golden Age after about five pages or so. With that in mind, I’d feel more comfortable renaming this series “Project Stupidpowers,” especially after watching some of the tepid action sequences that seem to be stuck on a loop like Rousseau’s annoying French distress signal on LOST. Every battle consists of scowling, levitating and force lighting. I’m sure this was enough to pacify the mindless drones of yesteryear – but then again so was “Leave it to Beaver.”
Like any book that bears the track marks of Alex Ross, PSCT is teeming with manly faces and heroic posturing, as if this throwback to the glory days is supposed to automatically conjure up some sort of elegance gag-reflex. The first time I saw a cover by Alex Ross was like the first time I saw a girl topless: I was in awe. However, it’s been a few years since then and the “wow” factor has started to wear off. Yes, they still look good, but what else can you do with them to get me excited about what’s inside?
One of the things that irritates me about so many of today’s books (including this one) is getting a mere three pages deep and suddenly being faced with every character in the publisher’s universe lined up asshole-to-elbow vying for attention. How can I take a story seriously if the opening panels look like the wide angle shot outside the TODAY SHOW when the 200 brain-dead hicks that got bussed in from Tallahassee are pounding on the studio window for their fifteen minutes of shame? This book is pretty damn crowded. I’m not asking them to waste an entire issue on formal introductions and true, the book does provide a character cheat sheet – but nothing kills the continuity of a narrative like flipping pages mid-read to try and discern why the guy who looks like a cross between Eddie Munster and Blanka from “Street Fighter” is so pissed at the guy who looks like a homoerotic Shazam.
Maybe I’m not right for this book. It’s full of outdated and goofy looking characters that come across as caricatures of today’s uberheroes, the writing is a bit pretentious and the art seems to be overly concerned with proving how great it is. The lone bright spot in this book is Captain Future, who lives up to his name by using his superpowers to bag as many hot chicks as he can before clowning a bunch of whiny do-gooders. In fact, I could have done without the sub-plot involving a New World Order and the heroes attempting to right the balance of the universe and blah, blah, blah. Give me more of Captain Future (and his debauchery) on the run from the forces of good. What can Ross and Dynamite do to turn this series around? Like Jack said before he shot Eckhart: “Think about the future.”
Final word: I wouldn’t ordinarily trade gold for silver, but this is one era that should have remained in Grandma’s attic.
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MS. MARVEL #42
Writer: Brian Reed Artist: Sana Takeda Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: Rock-Me AmodeoGosh, I want to like this title, and I do. I love the twist that Karla Sofen brings to the mask, her just-the-other-side-of-brutal way of doing things. I know she won’t be around forever, but I’ve always liked the way she rarely cares about anything. Heck, that was what made her concern about Hawkeye’s opinion of her so poignant, back in the original run of THUNDERBOLTS. She rarely gives a damn about anything.
So that attitude has me confused here. We have a big dust-up where “Karla Marvel” is fighting “Carol Marvel” for what? Karla’s right to keep wearing a costume she doesn’t even like, and go by a name for which she has no respect? Part of it could be Karla just trying throw Carol off her game. But part of it…the internal dialogue… seems to indicate that Karla is genuinely outraged. I would think that, given Karla’s background, even she would question her own motives. It just doesn’t jive.
I’m guessing that’s the picture Reed is intentionally painting here. We’ve already seen Karla’s unnatural concern for the vacuum tube babies, and that has to be the result of some mental tampering. So chances are this odd turn of events will also be explained in similar fashion. In the meantime, we’re left with an interesting turn of events at the end, and with the blurb/title “War of the Marvels”, things are sure to get even, uhn, twistier.
Artwork: not sure I’m really digging Takeda’s take on the book. With almost every head and face just being a liiiittle too small for the body they’re attached to, the whole thing feels very manga, even if everyone’s eyes are drawn in a non-manga style. I keep expecting Team Rocket to pop out and tell everyone to surrender now, or prepare to fight. Meow, that’s right.
However, I will say that the sequences are laid out fine, and they do tell the story. But, by the same token, I also wish there had been more of a story to tell. It’s a mixed bag of nuts, and I know it’s a difficult line to toe: too much story and you’re an exposition fiend. Too little story and you’re Loeb’s HULK. But it’s still a good book, and I still see (especially in the final hours of the Skrull War) the journey of Carol Danvers to the top of the A-list…even if she’s not center stage right now.
FINAL CRISIS: LEGION OF THREE WORLDS #5
Writer: Geoff Johns Art: George Perez Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Matt AdlerThe first issue of this 5-part monthly miniseries debuted nearly a year ago, back in August of ’08. The 7-part main FINAL CRISIS series, of which this was ostensibly a tie-in, ended back in January of this year, even with its own extensive delays. And a new ADVENTURE COMICS series spinning out of this book was announced back in November, but had to be delayed until this series was completed. So to put it charitably, we’ve been waiting a long time for this mini to wrap up. The question is, was it worth the wait?
From my standpoint, the answer is an unqualified “Yes.” Firstly, let us remember that it is George Perez on art. George Perez is not a fast artist. Plus, this issue clocks in at 30 pages (in addition to a 5-page ADVENTURE COMICS preview). So our options were either to wait a while for the gorgeous Perez art that appears in this series, or get inferior art from someone else. I’ll go with Door #1, please.
I know some of you may say “why can’t they have him draw the whole thing before soliciting it?” You have to understand the reality of how a comic book company does business; the number-crunchers will generally say “no way” to paying an artist for all the issues in a miniseries before they have a chance to recoup any of the costs by publishing them. It looks bad on the balance sheet, and that can get people fired.
There’s also the issue of the near-impossibility of coordinating with the other DCU books if it was drawn months in advance (although this series has more of general impact on the DCU rather than heavily tying in to FINAL CRISIS). Yes, the lateness itself affects coordination, since a lot of the revelations of the series are well-known by now (such as Superboy being announced as co-starring in ADVENTURE COMICS), but it’s a lot easier to push back an upcoming book like ADVENTURE COMICS than it would be to have to have Perez redraw art to coordinate with story changes in forthcoming books. Imagine the lateness then (or, alternatively, a COUNTDOWN/FINAL CRISIS continuity clusterfuck).
So, bottom line, do the delays and spoilers leave this final issue with anything to offer readers? Again, yes. I’ve often felt that the true worth of a comic is if it’s still a good read after it’s been spoiled for you. Think back to some of the classic comics of all time; you know their stories by heart now, but don’t you still get a charge when you open them up and re-read those panels? I do. I’m not necessarily saying this comic will go down as one of the all-time classics, but there ARE a number of moments in it that will likely give you a thrill even if you’ve anticipated them based on spoilers for upcoming comics. And there are a few genuinely surprising moments that I don’t think we’ve learned about before.
Let me try to cover the attractions of this issue without getting too much into spoilers. First, Johns has really given Perez a workout in this series. There are two big superhero crowd scenes in this issue alone, and I don’t have to tell you, dear reader, that there are few things better in this world than a Perez superhero crowd scene. And there’s a fantastic sequence upon the defeat of one of the villains where he fades away from full color, to pencil & inks, to just pencils, and finally to a thumbnail sketch before he disappears completely. And it works; it really doesn’t take you out of the story.
One thing worth discussing that does require some spoilers is the return of Earth-Prime. A lot of people have mixed feelings about this concept. In short, Earth-Prime was meant to be our world, where all the DC superheroes are just characters in comics published by DC. It was first featured in a Flash story, where Flash uses his powers of dimensional travel and accidentally winds up in the offices of Flash editor Julie Schwartz. Of course, the irony inherent in the concept is, once a superhero from another universe shows up, it can no longer be our universe, since to the best of my knowledge that hasn’t happened here yet.
Later stories took Earth-Prime a bit further off the rails from being “our world”, particularly when Superboy-Prime first showed up. SBP was originally just a regular kid from Earth-Prime named Clark Kent who constantly gets teased because his parents named him after a comic book character. In the same story, however, Clark discovers that he really does have the powers of Superman. This was a one-off story, with Earth-Prime shortly thereafter being wiped out in CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS (we’re still here, right? I think I remember everything after ‘85), and SBP being shipped off to a “paradise” pocket dimension along with other characters from the destroyed Earths, presumably never to be seen again. Until INFINITE CRISIS, when those characters returned, and SBP was reinterpreted as a frustrated fanboy who did not like all the changes to the DC Universe since CRISIS (remember, he grew up reading these characters and adventures as comic books). He became increasing violent and destructive, determined to wipe out what he saw as a flawed universe and restore things to way they “should be.” And that’s where we find him, as the main villain of this series, which serves as both a sequel to Infinite Crisis, and the JLA/JSA crossover “The Lightning Saga”.
To put it mildly, a lot of fans were not pleased with this development to the character. They (likely correctly) interpreted the character as a poke at them. Myself, I enjoy the character for what it is; the creators are having fun.
Are they taking shots at a certain segment of fans? Yeah, but y’know what? When I read some of the message boards, I too want to tell those people to get a life; it really is unbelievable how infantile and narrow-minded some fans can be. So I don’t really have a problem with a character that pokes fun at them. If you feel Superboy-Prime is directly aimed at you, well, maybe it’s time to take a look at what you’ve been posting and see if it is a bit silly and immature. But let’s face it, we’ve all done our fair share of whining and bitching about the way comics “should be.” We have to learn to laugh at ourselves-- or at least pretend they’re making fun of the other guy.
Anyway, there’s an interesting development here for SBP that I won’t spoil, except to say that it’s a little heart-breaking and a stark reminder that what we do in the public arena WILL be seen by other people, and it will have consequences. I do think Johns missed the boat at the end by reverting SBP to a thoroughly unlikeable and maniacal character; I like him better when he’s just a bit pathetic. Still, this issue has a lot going for it, with the fantastic art, non-stop action, and intriguing developments that set-up a multiverse of possibilities. Worth the wait? Yeah.
Writer and Artist: Rob Liefeld Backup Feature “The More Things Change” Story: Rob Liefeld Script and Art: Marat Mychaels Published by: Image Comics Reviewed by: BottleImpI was enjoying Joe Casey and Derec Donovan’s run on YOUNGBLOOD earlier this year. No, it wasn’t the best title out there, but at least Casey managed to mix up the characters from the various incarnations of this comic in a fresh way and drop them into a socially relevant context that commented on reality TV and the government manufacturing news in order to spin it to its own advantage. And Donovan’s simplified drawing sensibilities took those übermuscled, scribbly-hatched, pouch-slung representatives of everything that was bad about comic character designs in the 1990s and made them visually appealing, dynamic and, above all, fun to look at. But then Rob Liefeld, like the greedy spoiled brat who can’t stand to see anyone else playing with his toys, decided to kick Casey and Donovan off YOUNGBLOOD in the middle of their story arc so that he could make his triumphant return to his series (and being Rob Liefeld, this return of course took place three months later than he initially announced).
Here’s the thing: aside from the “story by Liefeld”-credited first issue of X-FORCE (purchased when I was a naïve youth looking to make an investment, totally ignorant of the rules of supply and demand), I have never actually read a comic book written by Rob Liefeld. So this issue is my very first full exposure—my de-virginizing, if you will—to the work of one of the most controversial comic book creators of all time. In lieu of an in-depth analytical review, I have instead opted to write down what my exact reactions were upon reading YOUNGBLOOD #9. I hope that you will find them informative.
Page 1: Okay, an establishing shot of some sort of airship, which I’m assuming is transporting the Youngblood team. Boy, that caption text sure is tiny…
Pages 2-3: Huh? I guess they’re breaking in to… somewhere. Sure would like to see more details as to where they are besides some random pipes on the wall (or ceiling… not really sure). Why is that purple-and-white chick just sort of kneeling in midair? Oh well, at least there’s Shaft’s big white package and Diehard’s taut, shiny buttocks to look at.
Page 4: Hey! There were people wherever they landed! Or robots…or something. Why is there just a big empty white space at the bottom left corner? Wouldn’t that space been better served to throw in a little detail as to the surroundings? “Badrock bats clean-up. He’s the bowling ball; Cybernet, the pins. He always rolls the strike.” Not only is Liefeld mixing sports metaphors in the same caption, but he can’t seem to decide if Badrock is the bowler or the ball. Balls don’t roll themselves, Rob.
Page 5: For having “cold stone skin,” Badrock sure does have a lot of folds and wrinkles in it. I’m also beginning to notice a current trend of missing commas in the dialogue. Grammar-check is our friend, Rob.
Page 6: Shaft’s narrative caption references the subplot Casey introduced of Badrock’s body beginning to crumble and break apart. “He turned a corner; the doctors said it was his version of puberty. Luckily he’s bounced back, bigger and better than before.” I wonder if that’s the same way Rob’s planning on “fixing” Shatterstar’s sexuality… “Shatterstar was in love with another dude, but luckily he bounced back from that and is back to being a Spartan warrior who’s all about the poontang.”
Page 7: Not only is Badrock’s “cold stone skin” wrinkly, but it’s also veiny. And curvy—check out that hourglass figure…sexy.
Page 8: Again with the swords. A Freudian would have something to say about the constant phallic imagery in your work, Rob.
Page 9: And for someone who loves drawing characters holding swords, you really should pay attention to the way the human hand actually grips something. And…what the hell? Shaft just had one sword, now he’s got two…
Page 10: …and now back to one! Did that other sword magically shrink to fit into one of his many pouches?
Page 11: Do Shaft and Vogue go to the same barber?
Pages 12-13: Someone crashed through something. I wish I had a clear idea of where this all is taking place.
Pages 14-15: “Badrock engages Maddox 3000. The better to measure himself against.” What?
Page 16: You know what’s embarrassing? When people try to inject hip pop culture references into their work in order to seem cool and relevant. “Diehard has more upgrades than the iPhone. Seriously, the iTunes app store couldn’t keep up with his rapidly adapting software-hardware combo.” About as painful to read as the Twitterings of middle-aged Congressmen desperately trying to appeal to young voters (now THAT’S a hip pop culture reference!).
Page 17: Shit, I can’t do this anymore. Let’s sum up: more toothy grimacing, more terrible grammar, President Obama making an appearance, the White House apparently having a staff of only two people working there besides the President (Secret Service men wearing purple wraparound shades… not sure if that’s accurate Secret Service dress code, but why start quibbling the small stuff now?), and a final group shot of the team gazing at where the White House used to be. Rob, along the same line as the swords: if you’re gonna draw someone using a bow and arrows, you really should research how one’s hands are positioned as one uses them… not to mention muster up the energy to use a ruler and actually draw in a bowstring… you know, so the arrows will actually “go.”
All this and a back-up feature that’s better-written and better-drawn than the main attraction.
Rob Liefeld has officially cemented his place as the Ed Wood of the comic book world. This comic was more entertaining (unintentionally, I shouldn’t need to add) to read than many middle-of-the-road comics published today. All it needs is a little silhouette of a guy and two puppets down in the lower-right corner of each page, and there you have it: MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000: THE COMIC BOOK. YOUNGBLOOD is so hilariously horrible, is such a huge, “epic fail” that I almost considered picking up the next issue to see if Liefeld could outdo himself.
HOUSE OF MYSTERY VOL 2: LOVE STORIES FOR DEAD PEOPLE
Story by: Matthew Sturges, Bill Willingham, Bethany & Peter Keele Art by: Luca Rossi, Henry Flint, Bernie Wrightson, Kyle Baker, etc. Published by: DC/Vertigo Reviewed by: BaytorWhen I was a kid, about once a month I’d gather up all my old comics, go down to the Used Book store with my dad, and pick up another stack of comics. We’d then spend the rest of the day reading through westerns, horror, and war comics. As I entered adulthood and reacquired the comic habit, I learned just what a freak I was because I had spent so very little time reading super-hero comics. We had hard cover copies of BATMAN: FROM THE 30s TO THE 70s and Jules Feiffer’s THE GREAT COMIC BOOK HEROES. I even had a paperback copy of some early Spider-Man stories and the first six (and utterly illogically plotted) of the Incredible Hulk; but beyond that, my super-hero reading was few and far between.
Real comics were stuff like CRACKED Magazine (MAD would come later), G.I. COMBAT, SGT. ROCK, JONAH HEX, TWILIGHT ZONE, RIPLEY’S BELIEVE IT OR NOT, BORIS KARLOFF, THE HOUSE OF SECRETS, and, of course, THE HOUSE OF MYSTERY. Cain & Abel were my absolute favorite comic characters and I devoured every copy I could lay my hands on. These days when I’m reading through the SHOWCASE PRESENTS editions of HOUSE OF SECRETS/MYSTERY, I always get a thrill when I recognize one of my childhood favorites.
Seeing HOUSE OF MYSTERY back on the shelf is probably the closest I come to the non-stop nostalgia parade of most comic fans that wet their pants in excitement whenever the DOOM PATROL makes it triumphant (HA!) return or catch a mention of one of their favorite stories in the latest cross-over event.
It’s also among the only time that I experience the same crushing disappointment that this isn’t the same book I loved as a child.
There’s nothing terribly wrong with Vertigo’s new HOUSE OF MYSTERY series. It’s actually a pretty good book, except that it’s not really the HOUSE OF MYSTERY. Sure, Abel gets a walk-on part the second volume, but the focus is on the main story line and not on the short stories, which were the best part. I know, I know, anthologies don’t sell anymore and you need that larger story to suck regular readers in, but it’s like the book is teasing me by showing me all the things I loved as a child and taking them away to tell me about a bunch of people I haven’t loved since childhood.
Damn you, Vertigo, you’ve turned me into a spurned fanboy. I am so going to blog about this forever.
TARA NORMAL Webseries
Written and Drawn by: H.C. Noel Website: www.taranormal.com Reviewed by: Ryan McLellandBeing a monster fan of H.C. Noel's phenomenal comic MR. SCOOTLES (if you haven't picked it up you truly missed one of the best indie comic books in the past ten years), I'm extremely happy for his newest project Tara Normal for a number of reasons. First, it is his first mainstream project to hit since SCOOTLES was collected in a trade last year and I'm interested in seeing what else Noel has up his sleeve.
Secondly, it's a web comic so I can read it for free. Free is always better because...well...I'm a cheapskate. Even with that being said Noel has put his writing and artwork prowess to work here with Tara Normal making it his best looking and best read story to date. I'd pay for this in a second if this was in comic stores, but I don't have to!
It's X-FILES meets SCOOBY-DOO with this delightful web comic. She's a feisty green-eyed paranormal private investigator who shows up to help whether she's needed or not. In her first adventure we join her in a small town where aliens have landed and a large amount of corpses are missing from the cemetery. Tara quickly jumps in, though she is still knee-deep in her last case as well, and the fun begins - even the Sheriff of the local town can't believe he's calling some young girl for help in a police matter. Between aliens, possessed dolls, and a man who is a living shadow AND a sidekick this series delves well into the paranormal.
It all works because of Noel's obvious love of the genre. I am a fan as well; I love reading mags like WEIRD N.J. (being from the state, I see weird on a daily basis) and watching shows like GHOST HUNTERS. So it is fun for me to partake in this comic that retains Noel's trademark look and humor.
Tara Normal is obviously still in its infancy, having only been around for a couple months. It is a quick fun read that will hook you right into reading it each Wednesday - which is today! Fans of Noel's, MR. SCOOTLES, or the paranormal will get a great kick out of this amazing web comic.
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.
SHAMAN WARRIOR VOL. 7
By Park Joong Ki Released By Dark Horse Reviewer: Scott GreenVolume 1 eComic can be read at http://www.darkhorse.com/Features/eComics/882/Shaman-Warrior
SHAMAN WARRIOR is the ONG BAK of comics. Five years ago, If I simply recommended watching a Muay Thai flick with a guy named Tony Jaa, it's doubtful that the suggestion would land on many "to do" lists. If I showed you a clip of Jaa leve