Writers: Ed Brubaker, Ann Nocenti Artists: Michael Lark, Stefano Gaudiano, Klaus Janson, Chris Samnee, Paul Azaceta, David Aja Color Art: Matt Hollingsworth Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: Matt AdlerThe final issue of Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark’s run goes out with a bang. As is Marvel’s penchant these days, the issue is renumbered to #500 even though the previous issue was #119; this reflects the total number of DAREDEVIL issues published over the years (as well as providing a handy marketing/sales opportunity). It’s more legitimate than some of the other renumberings, considering DAREDEVIL has only been rebooted once, and the original series started with #1 rather than picking up another book’s numbering.
The 40-page lead story serves to wrap up “The Return of The King” arc, which saw Matt Murdock teaming with the Kingpin in a desperate struggle against the ninja clan known as The Hand. It also serves as a lead-in to new writer Andy Diggle’s run, setting up a new status quo which I will not give away.
Janson, Samnee, and Azaceta provide the art for several flashback sequences, but what’s interesting is that unlike many jam books, the art transitions here are virtually seamless. The shifts in style are subtle enough not to disturb the reading experience, but are effective in setting the change in time and place that the flashbacks require.
As usual for Brubaker, the characterizations are generally spot-on, and he makes good use of minor characters including the female White Tiger from Brian Bendis’ run and Tamora Pierce’s miniseries, as well as the Black Tarantula from Tom DeFalco’s late ‘90s ASM run. My one quibble is with the depiction of the Kingpin; although circumstances somewhat require it, he comes across as fairly futile and non-threatening. I’m not saying he should be unbeatable, but this is a guy who single-handed came to control all organized crime in New York City; he ought to be a little more calm and in control.
Following the lead story is an 8-page preview of Andy Diggle and Billy Tan’s run. It picks up pretty much where Brubaker and Lark left off with the new status quo, but unfortunately quickly brings in Norman Osborn and his Dark Avengers for a tie-in to the upcoming “Dark Reign: The List” storyline. I know that I am not the only one sick of Norman Osborn by this point; this idea of him getting governmental authority perhaps had enough material for a single, finite storyline, but not this ongoing status quo that is now invading every freaking book.
Word to Marvel: Norman Osborn is not Lex Luthor. His ambitions ought to be more limited; he was an obsessive, amoral businessman whose greed drove him to take some substances that put him over the edge and prompted him to dress up like a Halloween character and go on a crime spree. And he hates Spider-Man because he dares to get in his way. That’s it. He doesn’t want to rule the world, he doesn’t want to run a government bureaucracy, he doesn’t want to spend his time hunting down superheroes. Can we get this over with already? Enough is too much. So, that said, to be honest, I’m really not looking forward to the Diggle run; wake me when “Dark Reign” is over.
The third feature in the book showcases the return of late ‘80s DD writer Ann Nocenti, with art by David Aja in a 13-page story. I very much enjoyed the weirdness of Nocenti’s run, not the least because of the spectacular art of John Romita Jr. This story showcases some of that same weirdness, but also shows a little rust on Nocenti’s part after having been away from comics for so long. It features a washed-up ex-boxer and a cynical Catholic school girl rescuing DD after a fight with Bullseye. It doesn’t seem to have a great deal of point to it, beyond DD connecting with these two people through the elements his backstory has in common with them, namely boxing and Catholicism. But maybe that’s enough for 13 pages.
The rest of the issue is taken up with pin-ups from various artists, a DD cover gallery (really, when the covers are that small, is there any point to it?) and a reprint of a Frank Miller story which most people buying this issue probably already have in a collected edition. Still overall, the book was a pretty satisfying read, and a nice conclusion to a great run by Brubaker and Lark.
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.
FILTHY RICH OGN
Writer: Brian Azzarello Artist: Victor Santos
DARK ENTRIES OGN
Writer: Ian Rankin Artist: Werther Dell’Edera Publisher: Vertigo Crime/DC Reviewer: Sleazy GSince these two OGNs are the first offerings from the new Vertigo Crime imprint, I thought it might be a good idea to discuss both of them and their levels of success at helping launch the new imprint. First I’ll quickly address the line itself, then move on to my thoughts about the two books. I really like the idea of this line—a series of hard-edged crime stories the likes of which we don’t see enough of in contemporary comics—and I have a lot of trust in the source, as Vertigo consistently produces such high quality products. The covers for the entire line are being done by Lee Bermejo, and they’re extremely sharp work. The hardcover books are smaller than a standard comic and designed to fit easily on a bookshelf. FILTHY RICH comes in just under 200 pages and DARK ENTRIES comes in just over it, so the stories are of a pretty decent length; my only concern is that the price point is a bit high. $19.99 puts the reader in the same price range as a full-length novel, so it seems a bit steep to me for black and white publications. The product is a high enough quality, though, that I suspect this won’t be too much of an issue.
FILTHY RICH is a fantastic way to kick the new line off. The tale of a washed-up athlete who’s not good at much and finds himself caught up with the wrong dame, it’s a classic crime story that spins murderously out of control. All the elements you’d want to see are here, and Azzarello’s working with the sort of material he’s most comfortable with and adept at. As someone who enjoyed 100 BULLETS, I sometimes found the dialogue to be a little clunky, but that’s not a problem here; Azzarello has brought his A-game and the narration and dialogue are rock solid. Victor Santos’ art is a great match for the material; it’s reminiscent of Azzarello’s past collaborators Eduardo Risso and Marcelo Frusin, and Santos does a great job working in black and white. The use of light and shadow here is masterful, and he’s definitely someone to keep an eye out for. The two work extremely well together, and the end result is a taut crime thriller that barrels right through to its ending. FILTHY RICH is definitely worth picking up, and it’s the kind of thing I’d like to see Azzarello do again over at Vertigo Crime.
DARK ENTRIES is not as successful, however, for what should have been a pretty obvious reason to the editors: it’s not really about crime much at all, which makes it an odd fit in a line dedicated to crime stories. It also isn’t a stand-alone tale, since it’s a John Constantine story. This means that anyone who hasn’t read HELLBLAZER at some point in the last 15 years isn’t really going to know what’s going on, and those buying it as a crime book are going to be surprised at the supernatural elements. It can be read with no prior knowledge, I suppose, but it would leave readers questioning who John Constantine is, why he’s in such high demand in Hell, and why he’s uniquely qualified for the specific situation he’s in. It’s a perfectly good Constantine story, don’t get me wrong; it’s just that with some slight changes to the layout of the pages the art could have fit into a four or six issue arc in the main HELLBLAZER title, where it would have made a lot more sense. Rankin’s crafted a good story here; it’s just that it’s not an ideal fit with the new imprint. I would rather have seen him tell the kind of crime story he’s known for here in graphic form, and the Constantine story in the pages of his own book. I suspect HELLBLAZER fans will pick this one up, but it may not be as popular with a crossover audience.
The new Vertigo Crime line is a great idea, and I’m looking forward to seeing what else it has to offer. So far they’ve got one OGN that’s a big success and a second that I recommend but with the above-stated reservations. So far the line’s off to a pretty solid start, and I’m hopeful that future offerings will be able to maintain the same level of quality.
Sleazy G is one of the Original @$$Holes and has reviewed and co-edited for AICN Comics for close to seven years. Sleazy is the unsung hero of AICN Comics, doing much of the editing for the column.
CHARLEY’S WAR: 2 June 1916 – 1 August 1916
Story by: Pat Mills Art by: Joe Colquhoun Published by: Titan Books Reviewed by: BaytorIn the introduction, Pat Mills describes CHARLEY’S WAR as a creative cul-de-sac, which should not, in any way, be seen as a fault; but just a reality of the comic book market of the late 70s and early 80s. A realistic anti-war comic set during WWI was something of an oddity in the pages of the pro-war BATTLE ACTION and its success didn’t lead to similarly themed strips (although at least one modern writer, Garth Ennis, picks up the thematic baton from time to time); and, ultimately, a disagreement over the research budget led to Mills leaving the strip before its planned completion, so it would be finished by another writer.
I once heard a director claim that it’s impossible not to glorify war when doing a war movie, no matter how graphic and moralistic a story you tell. Such is true of this first volume of CHARLEY’S WAR, which chronicles the story of a young boy who celebrates his 17th birthday in the trenches during the first Battle Of The Somme. Although there’s nothing glamorous about the mud-soaked trenches of the Great War and it’s blindingly obvious that the tactics being used are among the worst ever devised by military men and Pat Mills does his level best to show thoroughly flawed (yet often decent) men on both sides; it still ends up being about cowardice & bravery, honor & treachery, and right & wrong like the far more clichéd war comics of its day. In a strange way, these men come across as more heroic and manly than those in more simplistic tales, because we get a much harsher glimpse at the conditions and rampant stupidity they had to rise above. In this context, you can easily see why young soldiers often pump themselves up watching anti-war films. Still, Pat Mills comes a lot closer to the mark than most, if only in stressing that whatever it is you’re fighting for had better be fucking worth it when it’s this is the cost; which I think is the only realistic goal of anti-war fiction.
But the far greater achievement here is that Mills and Colquhoun have managed to make trench warfare visually interesting and arresting. Some of this is done simply through research (which Mills pursued as much as money would allow), so we see the surreal images of horses wearing gas masks and a German sniper in medieval armor. One of the great delights of Harvey Kurtzman’s war comics from the 50s (TWO-FISTED TALES and FRONTLINE COMBAT) was his ability to find unusual images from very familiar war settings, such as seeing fez-wearing Southern soldiers decked out in red & blue instead of the typical gray; and Mills & Colquhoun utilize the same trick here to break up the monotony of often-samey WWI imagery.
They also do everything they can to move Charley around so he can witness things the typical soldier would never see, such as the last great cavalry charge in military history. As Mills points out in the Strip Commentary, he’s frequently in danger of turning the sequences leading up to this moment into the realm of boy’s adventure stories, even to the point of having a villainous German chasing him around the battlefield; but a focus on the horror of the situation keeps it from turning into a fun romp. And as the first volume ends (with another two months of fighting to continuing in the Somme campaign), Charley has joined the highly dangerous ranks of messengers, so the second volume promises to throw a different set of visuals our way.
While not a big art fan, I’d be remiss not to point out the wonderful job of Joe Colquhoun, who comes across as a more detailed Dave Gibbons or John Higgens. As any fan of war comics (and even war movies) will tell you, the absolute bane of the genre is that you have so many characters of the same age group, body type, and hair cuts, wearing matching uniforms. He not only does a bang-up job presenting a visually arresting WWI battlefield, but also manages to keep all of his characters easily identifiable without resorting to all-too-obvious cheats like giving the anachronistic hippy guy a ring of flowers around his helmet (thankfully, no such character exists here, but funny how often he turns up in 70s war fiction). And he even manages to make his well-rendered characters pop against the cluttered backgrounds, which is a freakin’ amazing accomplishment in B&W.
CHARLEY’S WAR isn’t a perfect comic, being not only a product of its time, but also a product aimed a fairly young target audience. Already we have an evil/inept British officer on the scene who (according to the strip chronology presented in the introduction) will loom large over future volumes. No doubt such officers exist, but I always find the presence of such characters in stories such as these a bit too obvious of a plot device, as are the various Evil German characters that seem to exist to bring stories to a more “satisfying” end. But such complaints are negligible and don’t detract from a fascinating glimpse into one of the most brutal and pointless wars of all time. After only one volume, CHARLEY’S WAR is on my short list of all-time favorite war comics.
THE RED CIRCLE: THE WEB One-Shot
Writer: J. Michael Stracynski Penciler: Roger Robinson Inker: Hilary Barta Published by: DC Comics Reviewed by: BottleImpSo DC continues to expand its universe with characters it already owned the rights to—first the Milestone imprint was brought into the “real” DC, and now the “Archie” heroes that last saw publication in DC’s Impact (or !mpact, as it read on the masthead) line. I actually really liked those Impact comics—there was a lot of fun stuff going on, especially in THE FLY and THE BLACK HOOD. Sadly (for me, anyways), THE RED CIRCLE is not using the Impact versions of the old Archie heroes, but rather presenting J. Michael Stracynski’s new take on these lesser-known denizens of comic book limbo. This past week brought us JMS’ revamped version of The Web.
THE WEB evokes the birth of another, slightly more notable, arachnid-themed do-gooder, but manages to put enough of a spin on Stan and Steve’s famous “with great power…” moral to elevate the character of The Web from a mere Xerox of Spider-Man. As a matter of fact, the alter egos of the two heroes are almost polar opposites—whereas Peter Parker was the picked-on school nerd who had a poor but loving family in his aunt and uncle, The Web’s John Raymond was the kind of guy who would have been giving Peter wedgies on a daily basis and who came from a large, wealthy family, most of whom he hated. The manner in which each becomes empowered also varies—radioactive spider bite versus spending half a billion dollars to create the superpowered Web suit and Batcave-like base of operations (I know I should be sticking to the Spider-Man metaphor, but since Spidey usually operated out of a studio apartment, or worse, his bedroom at Aunt May’s, you’ll forgive me this one digression). However, both Peter and John start off their careers in spandex with Personal Gain being the final target rather than The Greater Good.
(Another of the interesting differences between the two is what constitutes Personal Gain for each character. Peter Parker just wanted some cash to make him and his family happy. John Raymond, who has all the money in the world, is looking for something less tangible yet far more important to his egocentric personality.)
I don’t think I’m giving anything away then by revealing that much like Spider-Man, The Web faces a great personal tragedy that shakes him to his core, and forces him to rethink his purpose in playing the hero. It seems that no matter how you get your power, whether it be by atomically-charged grasshopper or buying army surplus nukes on eBay, the old mantra still applies. Everyone together: “With Great Power comes Great Responsibility.”
THE WEB is the best so far of Stracynski’s RED CIRCLE series. I thought THE HANGMAN, though nicely illustrated, ended up just being another rehash of the Ghost Rider/Spectre spirit of vengeance thing, and didn’t seem to have much in the way of characterization. As for INFERNO, the idea of an amnesiac who can transform into a member of the Village People with fire powers came off as lame rather than being the intriguing mystery I’m sure it was intended to be. With THE WEB, however, JMS has dangled the carrot of a character who has to overcome personal demons and actually grow into being a hero, and that’s tasty enough for me to stick with the RED CIRCLE series a little longer. It also doesn’t hurt that Robinson and Barta provide some snazzy art reminiscent of Sal Buscema and Ron Frenz (or maybe that’s just my brain reinforcing the Spidey connection), as well as a unique costume design that really grew on me from the first page of this comic to the last.
But during my reading, I couldn’t help but hear the tiny voice in the back of my head that kept saying, “Just fucking finish THE TWELVE already, goddammit.” The tiny voice has rage issues.
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.
The Long Overdue Part Deux of Bug’s Look at OUTLAW TERRITORY OGN
Writers/Artists: Various Publisher: Image Comics Reviewer: Ambush BugSo, a while back, I reviewed the first half of this book and concluded the review with a promise to review the second half. Well, the San Diego Comic Con happened. Then the WizardWorld Chicago Con happened. And then I moved to a new apartment. And then I changed day jobs. And then I started writing another miniseries of my own and one thing lead to another and I found that the best thing to do is not make promises because life tends to happen sometimes. But this promise is long overdue. Enough excuses, though. I promised to review the second half of this amazing anthology book and dammit, I make good one my promises…sooner or later. Apologies to those who have been waiting for the rest of this review; fan and pro alike.
The Apprentice by Steve Orlando & Tyler Niccum - A haunting tale of father and son if I’ve ever read one. Moody and somber. The tension eeks past the borders of each panel leading to an ending that you may have seen coming, but is no less effective or powerful. This is one of those sitting and talking stories, but one where the words hit like Mamet and sing sadness like Waits.
Griswold’s Song by Chad Kinkle & Ming Doyle - There’s a poetry to this tale of revenge. A man with vengeance in his eyes and a gun made from a melted church bell. Although many of OUTLAW TERRITORY’s songs are about vengeance, this one rings louder and resonates longer than most.
Savage Practices by Leonard N. Wallace & Christopher Mitten - There are some stories that make you go hmmm and some that make you get up, scream “Day-ammm!”, and then slap someone near you. Leonard Wallace’s story starts out slow, but ends with a kick to the nards. And Christopher Mitten’s art is as brutal as it comes. If ever an artist was fit to draw a gritty Western, Mitten is. Great, great story about the ugly rules of the outlaw territory.
For Old Times’ Sake by Pat Loika & Jose Holder - A whimsical tale of dire consequences again using the theme of master and apprentice. I like the classical style of Jose Holder’s art which makes everyone look more comical than most of the stories in this book. This story read fast and ended pretty damn perfectly.
Gutshot by Michael Woods & David Miller - Although the art is a bit more akin to Zenoscope’s style, which is very different than the rest of the stories here, it still is pretty effective. This tale of a man’s life eeking away through a bullet hole through his gut is a painfully effective read that will make your tummy ache while reading it.
Them What Comes by mpMann - The Outlaw Territory was a place to start over for some. That’s the theme of this shortie from writer/artist mpMann. A brothel owner goes looking for his former whore to find her attempting to live a new life. Bloodshed follows, as it usually does in these types of stories. This is a somber tale that makes you feel hopeful and sad all at once.
Craftsmanship by Frank Beaton & Melike Acar - This one is one of the coolest looking stories of the whole bunch. Some of the panels, like the panel looking straight down the barrel of a double barreled shotgun, is iconic. The scene where the rider falls off his horse is gorgeous. And the detail put into the town square at the beginning is so intricate it hurts. Plus the story of a hangman who suddenly develops a conscience is truly original and well done. All in all, top tits, this one was.
We Never Sleep by Nemo Woodbrine & Yeray Gil Hernandez - Nice art from Yeray Gil Hernandez in this one. A porcelain-fragile artistry is used in this story of a woman who knows the role she needs to play to make it in the outlaw territory. The beautiful art is made more so by Hernandez’ varied and delicate range of colors.
The Ballad of Sid Grenadine by Josh Wagner & Joiton - Another tale of vengeance outlaw-stylee. This one is set to rhyme and makes for a fun read despite the morose subject matter of a murderer who kills a man’s wife, child, and best friend. Joiton’s stark imagery adds to the heft of the tone here.
The More Things Change by Skipper Martin & Christopher Provencher - Best. Story. In the Book. Holy shit was this a good one. It reels you in and then fucks your face off. This story is that good. Holy crap. Just…holy crap. The less you know about this one the better. All I have to say is that it’s a romantic tale of sorts, but not one you want to show your girlfriend, lest she get any ideas. Damn fine readin’, this one is. I am definitely looking for more fucked up stories from Skipper Martin in the future. The last panel of this one will stick with you for a long time.
Working on Christmas by Steve Orlando & Tyler Niccum - A noir-ish tale of a man trying to escape his past. That’s what this one is all about. Though it lagged a bit in the middle, the ending is pretty damn intense. Steve Orlando really gets into the head of this army deserter which makes the ending all the more tragic.
Hell Hath No Fury by Noble Larimer & Jason Cheeseman-Meyer - Vengeance again is served (a pretty popular dish on the outlaw territory, it seems). In this one, an ugly crime against a family come back to haunt a mob of villains. This story gets points for the scene where the cowboy shoots the wick of a stick of dynamite and causes it to blow up in the bad guy’s hands. I like the art too. Reminds me of Pat Broderick. Extra points are also awarded here due to the fact that the artist’s name is Cheeseman.
We Meet at Twelve by P.J. Kryfko & William Simpson - Reminiscent of 3:10 TO YUMA, this story of a reluctant lawman coming to terms with his inevitable showdown with a bad, bad man is well paced and has a nice twist ending. The tender moments where the lawman talks about life and death with his son and the last moments he spends with his wife make this typical tale atypical and memorable.
Assmeat by Simon Fraser - You don’t have to be a brain doctor to live in the Outlaw Territory. This story proves that as two bumbling idiots search for food to fill their starving bellies. There is much talk of ass meat, hence the name of this story. It’s humorous, yet ends on a pretty damn sad note. Fine black and white art by Simon Fraser on this one.
And finally, Memories by Michael Woods & Chad Sell - Last but not least, we get a good dose of guilt from a frontier doctor who has sawed off one limb too many. It’s an odd story to end this anthology on. Not because it isn’t good. It’s actually beautiful looking stuff from Chad Sell and emotionally written by Michael Woods. But as good as it is, it doesn’t sum up the entire book. I guess something had to go last. This was a good ending to the book, but made me close finish this book thinking a bit sadly.
OUTLAW TERRITORY is one of those anthology books that you simply can’t read in one sitting. It’s a book to be savored and devoured in small chunks. For those of you like me who love stories set in the Old West, this is a must have. Usually you find one or two good stories in anthologies. In this one, it’s hard to find one not to like. OUTLAW TERRITORY is an achievement in both variety and quality and sure to entertain.
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, reviewer and co-editor of AICN Comics for over eight years. Check out his short comic book fiction from Cream City Comics’ MUSCLES & FIGHTS VOL.3 and MUSCLES & FRIGHTS VOL.1 on his ComicSpace page. Bug was interviewed here and here at Cream City Comics. Look for more comics from Bug in 2009 from Bluewater Comics, including the sequel to THE TINGLER for their VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS ongoing series in stores September 2009 and VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS WITCHFINDER GENERAL and ROGER CORMAN PRESENTS DEATHSPORT to be released in late 2009/early 2010.
INCREDIBLE HERCULES #132
Writer: Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente Artist: Reilly Brown Inker: Nelson DeCastro Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: Rock-Me AmodeoHey, FYI: this is still a fun book. Yes, we were dragged all over the Elysian Fields in search of some angst, pathos and melodrama, and I appreciated the effort. Hey, every heavy metal band throws in a ballad once in a while. I can respect that. But it’s over. Cho is gone, along with his tears and drama. And minus Amadeus Cho, Hercules is more than able to carry this title.
Athena has certainly added to the flavor of the book, but the interaction between the now-pintsized Zeus and his son has been excellent. One part “trading places” and one part “buddy flick”, their not-so-good-natured ribbing had me chucking a couple times. It’s not roll on the floor funny, but it IS entertaining, and it DOES move the story along. So many times, in a book with a humorous undercurrent, I get the feeling that the narrative situation exists solely for the milking of comedic content. This feels a lot more organic, like someone actually thought out a plot, and THEN figured out how to mine it for maximum yuks. For me, I always want the funny (and the art) to serve the story, not the other way around.
Speaking of artwork: holy crap, where did Reilly Brown come from? I don’t know what other stuff he’s done, but just like David Aja on the early IRON FISTs, his style seems perfectly suited for this book. It has a lot of old-school feel to it, you know, the “Merry Marvel Style” and all that, yet it really holds up as contemporary, too. It’s not heavily stylized, and it’s not too cartoony. But unlike Aja (whom I love), I could see this guy drawing just about anything. And like every artist I respect, Brown’s art is “complete,” in that it’s not a bunch of floating heads, or heads and torsos on blank backgrounds, with a fully rendered background doled out every 4 or 5 panels. This guy nails each and every panel.
I’m looking forward to seeing Hercules as the replacement Thor, as I’m sure much Thor-mocking will ensue. Bottom line: still a book worth checking out, and despite the fact that some jokes work and some do not (which pretty much parallels every writer on the planet), it’s still a consistently entertaining read.
Writer: Michael S. Bracco Art: Michael S. Bracco Publisher: Alterna Comics Reviewer: Mr. PastyTrying to port a graphic novel to the dark and seedy underworld of the iPhone to me seems like a suicide mission. Web comics have their place in society but are mostly an acquired taste. I personally prefer the touch and feel of the paper as I digest my weekly offerings but that doesn’t mean I’m not enough of a tech whore to download and visually molest a free app whenever it presents itself.
BIRTH has landed on the iPhone and I’m happy to say the experience of reading it was kind of charming, sort of like getting a MacDonald’s Happy Meal as an adult. The pages swept across the screen without fail and I didn’t find the presentation distracting in any way. Unfortunately BIRTH was not the best choice for breaking my cherry. There is an imaginative and wondrous mind at work here, but those efforts are buried under a silly premise that I found detrimental to a universe that from a creative standpoint, deserves much better.
With a title like BIRTH, you can imagine there are some reproductive issues at play here. Two species are at war, the Aquans and the Terans. Why are they at war? Well, both races suffer from a crippling genetic defect that brings death during childbirth. Mrs. Aquan’s head goes boom during birth almost as if Darryl Revok was performing the delivery. On the other side of town, Mr. Teran can’t reproduce unless his heart gets ripped from his chest and inserted into his partner’s womb. Sounds like a real hoot. Dr. Kano, please report to Delivery room #3. Anyway, instead of spending their time in some sort of science facility researching the defect and the correlation between the two species’ boot-knocking boogaloo, they simply point the finger at one another and declare war, which is just what you want to do when you’re trying to avoid extinction. On the upside, we get blood soaked battlefields and a body count that would make Colonel Matrix proud.
I enjoy comics, now matter how preposterous, when the material is handled with a certain degree of plausibility. When it isn’t, I like to know the creators are winking at me behind the scenes. I didn’t get either option with BIRTH. Bracco gives us a span of 1,000 years in his first issue, which to me seems like more than enough time to get this problem licked. However for the Aquans and Terans, it takes that long for them to finally decide to get off their butts and do something to reverse the process that has decimated their respective populations. True, there is a throwaway line at the end about how they’ve been searching all along, but there is no flashback or explanation of what that search entailed so it’s another wasted opportunity to commit the reader.
BIRTH is drawn quite well, but presented in black and white, which never does it for me. It works even less on the iPhone. There are fans of the form so I won’t go crazy over it but the Aquans were such an intriguing race I would have loved to see them fleshed out and more colorful. I guess I could same the same about Bracco’s script. He creates an interesting and dynamic world – but then fails to do anything interesting or dynamic with it.
Final Word: BIRTH suffers from complications during delivery.
Web heads who can’t get enough of Mr. Pasty’s word vomit are encouraged to watch him operate as Nostradumbass over at here. MMAmania.com. Love, hate and Mafia Wars requests should be directed here.
BLACKEST NIGHT: SUPERMAN #1
Writer: James Robinson Artist: Eddie Barrows Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Optimous DoucheAverage and slightly middle of the road; this is the first time during the Blackest Night run where I felt like filler was being forced into this epic tale. This isn’t a bad issue (well maybe it is, let’s reevaluate after my stream of conscious) and it ends with a strong set-up for the miniseries’ middle chapter. However, when held up against the beautiful orchestration and execution of the other Blackest Night titles, average will always appear lackluster by comparison.
So, why did this kick off chapter about the dark resurrection of Earth-2’s Lois and Clark make my Blackest Night boner flaccid? We’ll look past the fact (for now) that Robinson, quite simply, is not Johns or Tomasi. I can even look past my seething hatred for the very concept of the Science Police (really how much longer will this ridiculous pairing of words continue); who for some reason Robinson felt the need to tangentially touch upon in this story. No, what truly bothered me was the fact I wanted to be somewhere other than Smallville the entire time. When you have the opportunity to kick in the teeth of a big city like Metropolis or watch planets crumble and stars collide, a hostage situation with Ma Kent just doesn’t seem to measure up. “But Optimous, BLACKEST NIGHT: BATMAN took place in one graveyard in Gotham, so why the hate?” Basically, Tomasi and of course Johns, can keep me interested in solitary moments, also every moment of BLACKEST NIGHT: BATMAN felt connected to the over arching event with the Dead Man body snatching convention. BALCKEST NIGHT: SUPERMAN is insular and the “moments” ranged from the ordinary to nonsensical.
In the nonsensical category, we have an ex-President of the United States of America, Pete Ross, running a general store sans any level of secret service protection. Unless there was a never stated ret-con of his past position in the infinite deluge of Crises, how does this make a lick of sense? Yes, I do find it sweet and endearing that he isn’t pimping himself out on the lecture circuit like most of our ex Commander in Chiefs, but on the same token wouldn’t it be funny to see a bunch of secret service guys hanging in the canned foods aisle protecting old Pete? If not funny, it would at least be original and authentic. Also, the entire scene with Pete was merely a set-up for the cliché “What’s that in the sky? Is it a bird?” No, it’s a dark Superman who wants to hijack Ma Kent, don’t worry Smallville hick, you’re safe. Or are they?
Next up was the unnecessary mention of Science Police. Well, unnecessary from a plot perspective, but I guess necessary to cross-sell the most ridiculous law enforcement name ever imagined. I dropped Superman proper about a month ago from my pull list, so I can say I did give the Science Police a fair shot. They were Police in armor, I never saw one of these fuckers look through a microscope or perform any level of “science.” This reminds me of the B-movies of the 1950’s that whenever everyone was completely befuddled by an alien invasion they would pull out a scientist who of course wielded science to thwart the attack. That worked in the 1950s because people were naïve back then. But, even as far back as the 1970s people had wised up enough to call Quincy a forensics specialist on the police force; he wasn’t Quincy - Scientific Police Man. A young member of the Smallville police force tells the sheriff he wants to leave for bigger and better things in Metropolis and to one day be selected for the elite science based law enforcement organization. The Sheriff notes that the young man doesn’t know anything about science. Thankfully the sheriff is sucked through a whole in the floor. I would have watched Kal-L anally fist the sheriff’s pock marked hairy brown-eye in close up panels if it ended this inane scene.
After Korpse Kal powers up his ring to a whopping 4%, he finally goes after Clark and Conner. While we are on the topic, how are these black rings powered? Everything up until this point has alluded to the fact that the rings draw their power from death and the fresh hearts torn out of victims. Kal-L’s ring seemed to be powered on simply instilling fear. Unless of course he murdered the people in the diner, the drive-in and at the police station and someone just forgot to put those panels in the book. I don’t know, but I was certainly confused.
On a high note, once the battle between the three Supes begins and Earth-2’s Lois shows up, the book moved at a much brisker pace. I usually don’t focus too heavily on coloring in my reviews, but Rod Reis gets a definite gold star for displaying the multiple hues of the emotional spectrum as viewed through Kal-L’s eyes. At one point Superman is charged with every emotion in the spectrum and Reis did a great job displaying this without over saturating or losing the original image.
Despite my misgivings I still can’t say I outright hated this book, this almost the same way I felt about Robinson’s work on the Superman titles. Something just always feels off, not outright wrong. Perhaps the end of the book redeemed the missteps of the opening. Or more likely, I’m simply a zombie at the moment for any Blackest Night revelations, even the confusing ones.
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."
Script: Michael Uslan Pencils: Stan Goldberg Inks: Bob Smith Colors: Glenn Whitmore Publisher: Archie Comics Reviewer: Matt AdlerSo, Archie’s getting married. There’s irony in this, since comics’ ultimate soap opera character Spider-Man has recently be determined to not be capable of that radical level of change, while Archie, who for almost 70 years has stood for unchanging teenage-dom goes in the other direction. But is it advisable?
The story opens with another big change for Archie; his class is about to graduate from Riverdale. His parents begin pressuring him to start thinking about college (isn’t that a bit late? I started applying to colleges about a year before graduation). Archie gets all rebellious and walks out in the middle of the conversation. At this point he comes to a street called “Memory Lane” which seems to be the metaphor come to life, although bizarrely, Archie is already familiar with it, and doesn’t seem the least bit fazed by what is apparently a time travel corridor in the middle of his town. This is probably our first clue that future issues of this comic may not exactly be bound by what happens in this story; the editors have already said in interviews that Archie comics don’t have the approach to continuity that most comics do.
In any event, on a whim, Archie decides to walk “up” Memory Lane rather than “down”, and eventually comes to a divergence in a wooded path that would make Robert Frost jealous. Again on a whim, he chooses the path to the left, saying he will save the path to the right for another day. It’s not too hard to figuring out where all these metaphors are going, but even after Archie encounters his father who makes reference to him being about to graduate college, the editors helpfully add a note clarifying that it looks like Archie has walked into his own future. Interestingly, Archie himself is oblivious to any notion of skipping ahead; to him, the normal passage of time has occurred.
What follows is an exploration of the various characters of Riverdale 4 years into the future, seeing where their lives are at, and where they plan to go after college. Surprisingly, most of them have set fairly low post-college goals; both Moose and Jughead are going to work at burger joints, Reggie is going to be a used car salesman, Midge is going to run a beauty parlor, and Betty is going to be working as a “buyer trainee” for Sacks Fifth Avenue. Some of these jobs could make them some nice money, but it seems a waste of 4 years of college. Even Veronica is simply going to work for her father “running charities.” Only Dilton Doiley, the school’s resident nerd, has his sights set higher; he’s going for his PhD in Quantum Mechanics. And Archie is just completely undecided.
At this point, Archie is going steady with Veronica in a committed relationship. But when he hears that she is planning to go on a world cruise after graduation, he decides to propose to prevent them from splitting up (this seems like a spectacularly bad reason to get married). Betty witnesses the proposal, and becomes traumatized by it. This doesn’t really ring true though, because it’s already been established that by this point, Archie and Veronica had been going steady for quite a while, and Betty had assumed the role of friend. A little sadness, sure, but she completely falls apart over this. She even says “The hopes and dreams I had since I was little… all gone!” Really? All of them? Way to go Archie Comics. Great message to send to young girls, that their entire hopes and dreams should consist of getting one guy.
Another bizarre message the book sends is when Mr. Lodge, Veronica’s father, questions Archie about his job prospects and how he intends to support Veronica. When Archie says he’ll find a job and work hard, Lodge declares that no daughter of his will have to suffer a working man’s life, so Archie will come work for him. He promptly makes up a brand new position within his company that has no actual responsibilities where Archie can draw a paycheck while presumably doing nothing. Is this growing up? Hopefully, it is simply a plot point for later issues in the arc that will be used to show why this situation is unworkable.
The art is bit wonky in places, particularly in its depiction of the characters. Veronica especially, (and to a lesser extent Betty and Archie) seems to randomly change her face every few panels, alternating between the classic cartoony look we’ve always know, and a slightly more refined and realistic look. I’m not clear on the reason for this, but it’s a bit disruptive.
This book has its problems, but I will say one thing for it; it’s probably not what you’ve come to expect from an ARCHIE story. There’s an uneasiness and a tension to it that is distinctly different from the laugh-a-minute, nothing-matters gags that those of us who grew up buying Archie digests in the supermarket remember. I’ll be curious to find out if later issues in the arc have Archie choosing the path to the right on Memory Lane, and we see what a possible marriage with Betty would be like. Somehow, I picture eight screaming kids, and Archie telling Betty to get off his back about cleaning up the house after he gets home from the factory.
Hey folks, Bug here. I’ve enlisted the help of your favorite Douchey Autobot to help me get caught up with some very cool webcomics that have come my way. This week we’ve got creative takes on historical figures, goofy alien fantasy, and super skies. Check out the webby madness which is only a click away and better yet…frikkin free!Optimous Douche
COLT NOBLE & THE MEGALORDS By Tim SeeleySwitching gears a bit from his work on HACK/SLASH, Tim Seeley brings Colt Noble & the Megalords to the interweb. This is a fun, sci fi fantasy set in a universe populated by all sorts of creatures, but humorously rooted in reality. Reminiscent of the old HE-MAN cartoon, when Prince Jaysen finds the Figure of Action he transforms into Colt Noble, super-powered Paladin of Power. Seeley is only about 15 pages into his story so far and although Colt Noble hasn't made an appearance yet, it's still been a lot of fun as a would-be sorceress gets drunk and conjurs up Archfeind, Lord of Annihilation! Archfiend devises a plan to destroy the world by watching television for a few hours and eating bowls of cereal. Meanwhile, Prince Jaysen gets kicked out of a nudie bar and oogles his warrior princess trainer. This is a very fun serial and doesn't have a lot of content yet, so you'll be able to catch up pretty quickly. COLT NOBLE debuted this month and has updated twice so far and appears to be on a pretty consistent schedule. Fans of the quirky HE-MAN cartoon will notice the similarities, but Seeley has put a modern sense of humor to this story that makes COLT NOBLE & THE MEGALORDS completely unique. – Ambush Bug