Hey folks, Bug here. Before we get started with the reviews I wanted to announce the winner(s) of our WHERE THE WIL THINGS ARE Contest from Monday. After a massive response from you all (thankyouveddymuch), and a little flinagling on my part with the publisher to give us one more copy to give out to you guys, the following two Faithful Readers will be receiving a copy of HEADS ON AND WE SHOOT: THE MAKING OF WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE autographed by both Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers!
Thanks all, for taking part in the contest and congrats to the winners.
And now, on with the reviews…
Writer: Warren Ellis Artist: John Cassaday Publisher: DC Wildstorm Reviewer: Professor Challenger“It’s taken a long time to get here, but you and me and her and him – we’re just getting started.” -- Elijah Snow
For a series that was proposed as a 24-issue bi-monthly comic book series which should have been completed in 4 years, there seems to be a fair bit of irony (at least in my mind) that it lasted 10 ½ years. Add to the irony a bit the fact that 3 of those 10 ½ years were just the time between the last 2 issues. I reviewed that issue 3 years ago and all I remember is being somewhat underwhelmed by the big picture revelation of the big threat. The whole subplot regarding Ambrose Chase’s demise had completely disappeared from my memory. So, I was playing a bit of catchup here within the story since it is entirely focused on an attempt to save Ambrose’s life but risk destroying time and all existence to do it. Happily, they recapped enough to bring it all back to me.
A friend of mine said that this issue felt more like one of those lame TV sitcom reunion movies. I will admit there’s something odd in this comic, but I can’t quite place my finger on it. As a stubborn completist who has stuck with this series for the duration, I am glad to have this though. The only reason I decided to commit to it way back when was because of the plan to end it in 4 years. Dammit. It’s such a fantastic series.
PLANETARY honors so many conventions of every conceivable subgenre within heroic adventure and modern fantasy fiction. This series revels in the infinite worlds of imagination and uses them to both surround its Scooby-Doo Gang-like trinity of adventurers but also to entice them into action. Readers of PLANETARY will find their nostalgia tickled and their noses tweaked by complicated mysteries and their minds blown with concepts creatively woven into the tapestry of the journey that is the extended life of Elijah Snow. The Planetary Organization serves as the central firing point for the various assignments and mysteries involving monsters and other such threats to the world.
The series as a whole is pretty near perfect. And this latest chapter is a very satisfying denouement that allows for a heavy dose of exposition laying out a rather fascinating conception of time travel premised on the well established theoretical position that states time travel is theoretically possible given a generator powerful enough, but that time travel would only be possible backwards in time to the point where the first working time machine is fired up. Forward travel would be fine, backwards would only be possible to this present point. In theory, it could mean that the instant the time machine is turned on, people from the far future would start popping in to our present.
So, that’s the theory that Ellis takes and extrapolates some seriously extreme consequences if time travel goes bad, the big question being whether the life of Ambrose Chase is worth the risk. And therein lies the biggest mystery at the heart of this essentially stand-alone comic. As a reader who waited 3 years, I guess I wish there was more to it than this. As a reader who waited 3 years, and stuck with it for 10 ½ years, I guess I wanted to see something perhaps more like a detailed casebook that recapped the series. The closest to that I got was Cassaday’s extraordinary and amazing wraparound cover. That cover alone is worth the $3.99 cover price, in my opinion.
Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t dislike this issue. It is just that standing alone like this after so long, I wanted it to knock my socks off. That it did not do. It was satisfying, but not the ass-kicking I wanted to experience. So, what would be my assessment? My overall assessment is that when I go back and read the entire series from start to finish very soon, I will find this issue to fit in to the flow of the story and probably cap the story off very well. And I guess that in this more modern way of approaching comics, this series will here on out be forever in print as a “Graphic Novel” and my diminished enjoyment of this particular chapter will vanish and be forgotten. Reading PLANETARY #27 really drove home to me the zeitgeist shift that the entire comics industry has undergone in the last decade or so in restructuring the monthly series into multi-issue arcs whereby each issue is now structured as a single chapter in a larger story. As such, reviewing those individual issues can many times be about as rewarding as reviewing individual chapters of a novel.
So….let me see if I can sum up my evaluation of PLANETARY #27. If you’ve never read PLANETARY before, ignore this issue. But start buying the collected editions in soft or hard cover. It is essential reading for all readers of adventure fiction whether graphic of prose. If you have stuck with PLANETARY up till now, don’t let irritation over the 3 year wait prevent you from picking it up. It is worth the price. The writing is solid and though-provoking. The plot is fairly satisfying. And the art is once again magnificent.
I still can’t believe I stuck this out the entire 10 ½ years, though.
“Prof. Challenger” is actually Texas graphic artist and lifelong reader of comics, Keith Howell. He really digs Green Lantern and illustrated THE BEST OF PHILIP JOSE’ FARMER and contributed art, design, and editing to a number of books and magazines. He occasionally updates his website at Prof. Challenger. He also wants everyone to know that an exceptional human being whose life touched thousands of individuals around this world was killed unexpectedly last week. Dr. David D. Edwards left this world too soon, and if you knew him you are grieving right now and if you never knew him….you really should have.
Writer: Robert Kirkman Artist: Ryan Ottley Publisher: Image Comics Reviewer: Optimous DoucheDespite the comic holy trinity line-up of McFarlane, Kirkman and Ottley emblazoned on the front cover, HAUNT is an easy target for industry haters based on first glance. The cover is eerily reminiscent of a certain web slinger’s first issue 18 years ago (simply replace webbing with ectoplasmic goo). One might also mistake the appearance of HAUNT’s eponymous main character on the cover with another McFarlane creation that rhymes with prawn. And if you are the type to judge a book by its cover you would be right, McFarlane completely “marked” his territory in this space — fortunately my friends, that is where the similarities end. What lies beneath this homage to the early 90s is pure Kirkman and Ottley doing for the paranormal what INVINCIBLE did for super heroes five years ago — namely weaving a mystery, future plot promise, and kick in your teeth action into a tidy 22 pages.
Kirkman, ever the master of complex characterization, is also intensely focused on germinating the overarching story with this inaugural issue, much like he has done in the past with INVINCIBLE and THE WALKING DEAD. What appear to be throw away moments almost certainly come back at a later time to become full-on driving forces for future stories. Essentially every panel is a spoiler for what’s to come, while at the same time delivering dialogue that keeps you riveted to the here and now. For anyone that has ever skirted past Kirkman’s creator owned titles and wonders what all the fuss is about, there it is. You don’t simply have a casual relationship with one-off issues of Kirkman’s books; you marry these bitches for the long haul.
Focusing on two brothers from seemingly different walks of life, one a priest and one a mercenary for hire, both men clearly have bad blood between them that goes beyond their chosen career paths. It’s also clear that both men are using religion as a crutch to absolve their wicked ways rather than out of a zealot’s devotion to the religion itself. Kirkman cleverly leverages the clichéd Catholic guilt to keep the rosary mercenary and the whore mongering priest within arm’s reach of one another as confessor and deliverance of absolution. When a rescue mission goes south (in part due to the mercenary brother’s own devices) the true tale of HAUNT starts to unfold. Once the mercenary brother is killed for information he does not have, his spirit form begins to “haunt” the priestly side of this Cain and Abel relationship chiding Father Fucks-A-Lot into unraveling the mystery behind his brother’s death. A few bad guys and sprays of bullets later, we unravel the next layer of this story in what feels to be the only truly “borrowed” part of this title. Unsure what to do when a bullet is flying at the priest, the ghost forgetting he has no tangible form tries to push the priest out of harm’s way and the two merge into that character that looks a lot like that prawn fellow I mentioned earlier. Sure, the melding of two bodies, spirits, souls, whatever…has been done before from Deadman to Firestorm, but I can already see stark differences from these characters in HAUNT’S union.
I had to do a double take to make sure Ottley had actually done the pencils on this book. Just as the two main characters of HAUNT merge to form something greater, it felt as though McFarlane jumped into Ottley’s body and together formed a whole greater than their parts. I have NEVER seen an artist switch styles so deftly and with such quality before. It never apes anything crafted by McFarlane in the past, but certainly embodies the spirit of Todd’s past work. I’ll be the first to admit that Ottley’s “hyper-cartoony” style didn’t fully grow on me in INVINCIBLE until the last epic battle between Invincible and Conquest, but HAUNT shows the man is more than a style. Ottley is a true artist, allowing the mood and setting of the book to guide his hand rather than forcing himself on to the page.
HAUNT lives up to its name; the events, characters and promise of what’s to come will linger with you long after you close the final page.
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: Andy Diggle Artist: Robert De La Torre Inker: Matt Hollingsworth Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: Rock-Me AmodeoAs I roam through the different facets of this book, let me start out by saying one thing: I liked it. I’m very interested to see where this goes. And the art could almost carry the book by itself. I could stop the review right here, but hang out with me for a minute.
I’ve followed this book for some time, off and on, and watched Daredevil wander through his own life, sometimes proactive, sometimes seemingly helpless to resist his own nature (and I’m not just talking about nailing Dakota North.) I don’t mind seeing his meandering malaise; it’s part of a necessary narrative. But I kept waiting for some marker, some definitive turning point where I could look forward to things getting better. Like when Wolverine first snarled in the sewers beneath the Hellfire Club, “Now it’s my turn!” Or, more apropos, when Matt Murdock himself uttered, at the end of DAREDEVIL #227, “It was a nice piece of work, Kingpin. You shouldn’t have signed it.” Remember those? If you read them, I bet you do. A writer can hang their hat on those kinds of moments, and so can a reader.
And we didn’t get one. Daredevil didn’t pick himself up and rebuild his life. Instead, we got something different. Not just another dark, depressing turn of events. Daredevil leads The Hand. It’s grotesque…and fascinating. And the precursor was set up wonderfully: Matt Murdock found that teaming up with his old enemy, the Kingpin, yielded some serious results. Now Diggle is taking that idea, times a thousand, and running with it.
He (Murdock, not Diggle) already seems doomed to failure. After all, he states in the opening scenes that a weapon, even one as diabolical as The Hand, can be used for good “if the hand that wields it is righteous.” Yet his very next act is to betray one of the good guys. So who’s this righteous man Murdock is talking about? ‘Cause it sure ain’t him.
Yet a well intentioned character can do some good while flirting with evil. After all, this has been HELLBLAZER’s bread and butter for almost 20 years. Not coincidentally, Andy Diggle recently had a solid, revitalizing run on that same book, so he’s well qualified to explore a similar vein here. Unlike Constantine, who made his choices long before he was introduced to reader, Daredevil is in the middle of making his choices here. Now, we know Daredevil is one of the good guys, so chances are he’ll make his way back into the light. But you know what? He may not. He may not make it all the way back. And the real question is how many other people will have to pay the price along the way.
De la Torre and Hollingworth combine efforts for some great visuals which actually bring me back to those old days of Mazzucchelli. Moody and dark visuals, cinematic even. Fantastic individual rendering, highlighted by their usage of specific palettes for specific scenes: midnight blues for midnight skies, dingy yellows for dingy offices, etc. Makes me wish I were a better artist so I could appreciate some of the stuff they put in that I’m sure I missed. Every page, every panel was well done.
I’m really excited about this book. I think you will be too.
Rock-me Amodeo is pleased that his first screenplay begins shooting later this month, and should make its way to one of the Big Three networks early next year.
THE MIGHTY #9
Writer: Peter J. Tomasi w/ Keith Champagne Artist: Chris Samnee Publisher: DC Comics Reviewed by Humphrey LeeWe are officially in “shit hitting fan” mode in what has been one of the more tense books I have been reading the past couple of months. For several issues now we have watched, almost in abject horror, as our protagonist, Gabriel Cole, has slowly realized something is amiss with Alpha One, this world’s Superman. Slowly he has been pulled into a world of paranoia and dread as a previous handler for the mighty A1 tried to warn Cole of the secret personality he hides before meeting his untimely demise. And ever since then, Cole has lived in a world of fear and dread as the most powerful being to ever exist has been, for lack of a better term, “dogging him” and playing with suspicions he has to know Cole has developed recently. Finally, it all comes to a head this issue…
Like I just said, the atmosphere that all the creative hands have put in place for a few issues now is just absolutely engrossing, which is why in correlation to the amping of the tension here, this book has been also slowly sliding its way towards the back of my stack as well (always save the best for last kids). The verbal sparring that has been going on between Cole and A1, a being who could render his head into paste in less than a second, has been more terrifying than any of the overhyped “shocks and scares” movies that have seen any hype this decade (S”aw” and “Paranormal Activity”, I’m looking at you). The biggest mindfuck of them all has probably come this past issue leading into this one, as Alpha One, trying to calm the fears of Cole (but most likely just fucking with him) brings him back to his headquarters for some one-on-one time in the wake of Cole “losing” his wife Janet recently, another Alpha One development. As Alpha goes off again to save some innocents, Cole is free to have “amateur hacking hour”, stumbling across a revelation that truly kicks off a sweat-inducing game of cat and mouse, except in this case the cat can fucking fly through buildings at the speed of sound…
What Tomasi, Champagne, and the more recently added but very welcome Samnee have made here is a very well crafted turn on the superhero genre. I know that it’s running parallel to a similar story of “World’s Greatest Hero gone mad” in the pages of IRREDEEMABLE, and that seems to be getting more attention because of the writer name attached to it, but THE MIGHTY really is a different animal. It plays with the safety we come to associate with these God-like superpowers because it’s been a slow descent from trust in Alpha One down to the fear of him and what he might do. In IRREDEEMABLE we’re introduced to its hero turned villain, The Plutonian, as a genocidal maniac, but the whole of THE MIGHTY so far Alpha One has still been playing the hero, all while doing super-powered surveillance on Cole and messing with him from afar while saving thousands from harm all the while. And now that we’re really down to the darkest part of it all, the build up has really paid off, and as the cover to this issue will attest, we are probably in for some very dire consequences ahead. This last act of an already very intriguing saga should be a truly startling finish to what is shaping up to be a classic take on the superhero genre and its conventions.
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.
THE ZOMBIE SURVIVAL GUIDE: RECORDED ATTACKS OGN
Writer: Max Brooks Art: Ibraim Roberson Publisher: Three Rivers Press Reviewer: Ambush BugThis is hands down the best zombie book of the year and may be the best original graphic novel I've laid my peepers on this year as well. Its proof positive that even a genre that has been strip mined to its core in recent years can still produce some stupendously entertaining and vividly original material. RECORDED ATTACKS narrates the events coldly with hard facts and fictional historical accounts and sources, but rings with an authenticity that few zombie stories have. Ping ponging through the centuries, writer of WORLD WAR Z Max Brooks tells us that the zombie plague isn't just a current phenomenon. In fact, it's been around since the dawn of man.
I found this book to be completely amazing and utterly maddening at the same time.
Amazing in the fact that there are so many ideas with which to springboard off so many awesome stories. A reported slave revolt in the Eastern Caribbean is actually a massive effort to contain the zombie uprising by freed slaves and slaves alike. A French Foreign Legion station in the middle of a desert is besieged by an army of the dead and trapped for years when they spent their ammo on the army on shots to the body and not the head. A Cossack scouting party resort to cannibalism, but soon find that their hunger has been their downfall as they find bodies in the snow. The Egyptian ritual of removing the brains of their dead is explained. A slave ship slowly succumbs to the zombie plague as slaves chained together, one by one, are subsequently turned, resulting in a floating vessel of death on the high seas. From cover front to cover back, this book is oozing with ideas better than most of the zombie fiction you see on the shelves today.
Which leads to the utterly maddening part. As awesome as these ideas are, Brooks only spends about five to ten pages on each of them. Each and every one of them could have been full blown miniseries or films, placing zombies in situations that we haven't seen them in and utilizing the conventions of the genre in smart new ways. Reading each chapter as we skip through the ages, I was literally saying, "Man, that'd be an awesome story." or "I'd see that film twice!" Instead, the stories are almost wasted in this format which screams to be treated much more extensively. Maybe someday, some of these stories can be elaborated on. If not, these snippets of stories that never were seem like wasted potential.
Maddening as this book is, I loved every page of it. A lot of it had to do with the fantastic art by Ibraim Roberson, who I have never heard of, but should be a household name soon. His art is reminiscent of Tom Raney, yet his figures are more proportional and three dimensional. Roberson seems to be able to draw just about everything, from horses, to humans, to animals, to cars, to tanks, to just about every terrain imaginable. An artist with a range such as Roberson will go a long way. His black and white imagery in this book makes the mouth water, the eyes burst, and the stomach turn.
Hopefully, the ideas mapped out in this book are elaborated upon in subsequent issues. They're just too damn good to die in this form. Until then, though, I'll be rereading RECORDED ATTACKS. It's got a documentary feel, but not in a hokey manner. Brooks proved he is a talented writer of fiction. Here he makes the transition to comics utterly seamlessly. No other zombie book out there will cover so much ground and have as many amazing ideas as this one. Highest possible recommendation to those who lean towards undead sort of things.
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 and here and here about his latest comic from Bluewater Comics, VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS: THE TINGLER #1-2. Look for more comics from Bug in 2010 from Bluewater, including VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS WITCHFINDER GENERAL and ROGER CORMAN PRESENTS DEATHSPORT.
MODELS, INC. #2
Writer: Paul Tobin Art: Vicenc Villegrasa Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: Mr. PastyOn the surface, MODELS, INC. seems like a natural fit for a creepy social misfit like me, and I’m sure it’s apparent after my ATHENA and RED SONJA reviews that it doesn’t take much to sharpen the Pasty pencil. With that said, I must confess that the only motivation I had to shell out the few extra clams for this book was the memory of a stillborn television drama by the same name, unceremoniously dumped by NBC after garnering a 0.001 rating when it debuted back in 1994. Since I also rented “In the Heat of Passion II,” hoping to catch Theresa Hill running around without pants, consider this the second time the now-defunct series has cost me a Lincoln.
That’s not to suggest the artwork doesn’t deliver, because it does, especially the pulchritudinous Pat Benatar-ish cover. Vicenc Villegrasa is sleek and showy, propping up his female characters like exotic cars in a showroom full of product you could never afford. And alas, therein lies the fault line in the MODELS, INC. crust. While it’s enjoyable to look at, this book is completely inaccessible by the common man. The running joke around an average Joe getting his hands on a $250,000 Ferrari is the impracticality of the score. Do you drive an F70 to the Quik-E-Mart to grab a gallon of milk? Leave it parked next to the rat-infested dumpster in your run-down apartment complex? MODELS, INC., like the gratuitous toys of the super-elite, exists inside a fantasy world that while visually entertaining, doesn’t transition well into the laps of the casual reader.
It sounds funny knocking a comic book for being unrealistic, especially since I can talk passionately to my friends for hours on end about the exploits of men and women who fly, breathe fire and wear silly costumes. The difference is that MODELS, INC. is like “Sex in the City” minus the sex and thankfully, minus the face of Sarah Jessica Parker. This book is heavy on dialogue and I think I speak for most men when I say that listening to a woman debate fashion is like trying to translate the instructions of Charlie Brown’s elementary school teacher: I can hear the talking, but I can’t understand what the hell is being said.
The story revolves around a murder in the big city and (gasp!) one of society’s top models is accused of the crime. She gets out of jail, declares her innocence, fights off a ruthless district attorney and hides behind her lawyer. Of course all this drama is interspersed with a female think-tank that’s comprised of an assortment of hotties brainstorming over the big whodunit. And believe me, I use the word “brain” in brainstorming very, very loosely. (Surveying the crime scene) “All this damage…I think it counts as a clue.” Imagine Daphne from “Scooby-Doo” as Edmund Exley and I think you get the idea. Thank God Johnny Storm makes a cameo as a boyfriend to one of the models, or I might have even forgotten this was a comic book. Regrettably, he doesn’t “flame on,” but he does sound a bit like a flamer. “Secret identities are sweet!” Sigh.
I wouldn’t consider MODELS, INC. a total disaster. Paul Tobin is a competent writer and Villegrasa certainly has an eye for good looking women. Unfortunately they can’t elevate themselves above the limitations of the material. I will however, give them credit for being authentic: MODELS, INC., like the typical Calvin Klein model, is just too damn thin to be considered appealing.
Final Word: Have you ever been attracted to a beautiful woman until she opens her mouth? That pretty much sums up the experience of reading MODELS, INC.
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.
BATTLEFIELDS VOL. 2: DEAR BILLY
Written by: Garth Ennis Art by: Peter Snejbjerg Published by: Dynamite Entertainment Reviewed by: BaytorWhat to say about Garth Ennis’ war comics that I haven’t said a million times before? There is simply no one in comics today who writes a better war comic than Garth Ennis. No one is even close, and DEAR BILLY is one of the high water marks in his career.
For the first time, he switches his focus from the familiar WWII European campaign to the Pacific, where it follows the story of a nurse who miraculously survives a Japanese execution after having been raped. This event is the centerpiece of a tragedy about a likeable young woman who is unable to move past her anger toward the Japanese and becomes something quite monstrous, albeit in a quiet and understated sort of way.
If there’s a fault, it’s in the fact that it never presents the Japanese as anything but violent & savage, but to present them as anything else would have completely undercut the story that is being told, because we need to understand Nurse Carrie Sutton’s rage and be able to put her actions into the context of the times, when the Japanese were widely viewed just as Ennis portrays them here. Only near the end of the story does Ennis nudge us from this war-torn perspective into a more objective reality. But mostly the story trusts the audience to view this experience through an emotionally damaged woman’s eyes and doesn’t stand up and moralize about the wrongness of such commonly held views.
Most of the story takes place behind enemy lines, so there are few opportunities for the blood & gore that categorize Ennis’ work. Those few violent scenes serve to remind the audience of how Carrie views the enemy, and serve to justify (temporarily) her killing defenseless Japanese P.O.W.s in their hospital beds.
I’m not a huge fan of the behind-the-lines military dramas, because no matter what hardships they face, they almost always pale in comparison to those who are actually under enemy fire or domination. Ennis deftly sidesteps the issue by having Carrie fully understand the hardships that are being faced by the men on the frontline and never wishing to burden anyone with what she considers her own petty concerns. Her desire to accept her burden and just get on with things keeps her from becoming a whiny, self-indulgent character overburdened with her own fairly inconsequential problems; and allows the tragedy of her situation to spring forth from her own unwillingness to deal with the horror and indignities that she experienced until the fateful letter that begins with the story’s title.
Frequent collaborator Peter Snejbjerg, is on pencils, where he does his usual bang up job conveying the wide range of emotions that are often required of his scripts. Ennis rarely writes for flashy artists, opting to go for solid craftsmen who can handle a wide variety of facial expressions, and Snejbjerg does an admirable job ushering Carrie and her love, Billy, through the good, bad, and terrifying moments of war.
I read this book about a couple of months ago and it’s stuck with during that time. It’s got all the hallmarks of a ripping good WWII tale of tragic love and revenge, and it features yet another great female character from Garth Ennis, who seems to know that perfect mix of vulnerability and toughness that makes them feel real and approachable. Garth Ennis war comics: accept no substitutions.