Merry Holidays, Talkbackers. Ambush Bug here, welcoming you to our Day Before the Night Before Christm@$$ edition of AICN Comics. Before we begin, CBR ran a damn cool commercial to HACK/SLASH’s Tim Seeley’s awesome webseries COLT NOBLE & THE MAGALORDS. The book will be available in February from Image, but you can see the sweet @$$ retro commercial here!
Writer: Mark Waid Artist: Jean Diaz Published by: BOOM! Studios Reviewed by: BottleImp“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” —Newton’s Third Law of Motion
Earlier this year, Mark Waid introduced us to his vision of a Superman-like hero turned evil with IRREDEEMABLE. Now he gives us the flip side of that coin with INCORRUPTABLE. The series’ “hero” is superstrong and nigh-invulnerable villain Max Damage, who (we’re told via an FBI “Most Wanted” poster on the inside cover) is the only known super-being to survive physical combat with the Plutonian. He’s got a gang of flunkies, an underage sidekick/girlfriend named Jailbait, and a nifty supervillain lair—all of which Damage is willing to give up in his transition from villain to hero.
I really like the fact that this series expands upon the universe that Waid has created within IRREDEEMABLE. As a matter of fact, INCORRUPTABLE’s beginning stems directly from the Plutonian’s rampage—the reader doesn’t know the exact circumstances that caused Max Damage’s abrupt change of heart, but we can get the general reason. While explaining his desire to switch teams to Jailbait and police Lieutenant Armadale, Damage says, “We were all playing a game until the Plutonian went and turned the board upside-down… He’s killed most of the super-heroes. If any of them are still alive, they’re not doing dick-all to save the rest of us. Somebody’s got to step up.” The fact that the plot of IRREDEEMABLE leads into this new series gives both titles a deeper layer of verisimilitude.
So far, INCORRUPTABLE seems to be set up along the same lines as its predecessor in terms of story arc—it looks as if we’re going to be getting the backstory ladled out to us in little spoonfuls, just as with the Plutonian’s trials and tribulations. However, I’m going to hazard an opinion and bet that INCORRUPTABLE will end up being the better title. First off, because of the main character—aside from his unfortunate moniker (whenever I read it all I can think of is that episode of “The Simpsons” where Homer changes his name to “Max Power,” and that song he sings to go with it… “Max Power, he’s the man with the name, you love to touch…but you mustn’t touch”), the “villain-becoming-a-hero” seems to have more dramatic potential than IRREDEEMABLE’s hero-gone-bad. The Plutonian is interesting, but once the audience finds out what past events drove him to evil, the mystery and interest are going to be gone, whereas Max Damage is just beginning his journey while taking the reader right alongside him. INCORRUPTABLE also has the better visuals. I’m not just talking about drawing styles, but also composition. Jean Diaz is a much more adept visual storyteller than IRREDEEMABLE’S Peter Krause—his panels give the reader a clear sense of the action and settings, and the “camera angles” he uses keep up the comic’s energy and sense of motion.
In short, this series begins with the same punch to the gut that IREDEEMABLE did—here’s hoping that unlike that comic, the quality of future issues of INCORRUPTABLE manages to continue sucker-punching us every month.
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 here. He’s given up comics more times than he can remember. But every time he thinks he's out, they pull him back in.
Writer: Andy Diggle Art: Roberto de la Torre & Maro Checchetto Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: Ambush BugI feel bad for Andy Diggle. Jumping onto a title after two highly popular runs from top tier writers has got to be intimidating and it's kind of a no win situation. I had my issues with Bendis' run and Brubaker’s definitely lost steam after a bang up beginning, so the fervor over Daredevil seems to have lessened this year. Fans dispersed when their favorite writers left this book. I'm sure it still sells well, but things are surprisingly quiet about DD these days. Those of us who read THE LOSERS know Diggle is a writer to be reckoned with. The fact that he wrote that title alone made me do a little somersault in my mind when I heard he was going to write the title.
Diggle came onto the title with DD divorcing his wife, losing his job, and becoming the leader of the Hand. Some say that the latter was a ridiculous plot development, but I say out of all of the major plots that have run through DD, the Hand grooming DD for leadership was one of the most consistent ones since Frank Miller wrote the book. So now, it's here. Daredevil is leading the Hand, but he's finding that his old code for "no killing" is a tough thing to uphold when you're leading an army of ninja assassins. Killing is kind of what they do.
Diggle has added some nice touches in these first few issues. He's done a pretty good job of showing the Kingpin’s rise to power while cleverly playing with current continuity as Fisk fools more and more criminals into thinking that they are working for the Owl or the Hood instead of himself. There is also the inclusion of Black Tarantula and White Tiger to the cast. Tertiary characters for DD in recent years, now they serve as the devil and angel on his shoulder as he tries to control the Hand. I kind of like that.
In this issue though, I have to admit, there was a few moments that kind of rang false to me. But only at first; then it kind of made sense. There are a few pages where Daredevil gives a sermon of sorts to his Hand bretheren. The speech is over the top and flowery and somewhat guffaw worthy. As I was reading it, I said to myself, "Man, he’s really laying it on thick." But then I realized that this is what Matt Murdock is. Matt Murdock is a pretty good laywer and a master at convincing a case to folks. Matt Murdock is a faithful Catholic (though not really practicing) and has seen his fair share of sermons. To see Matt fall back on his experience as a lawyer and a Catholic, not his heightened senses or billy club, was something definitely new. And although it may not be the type of action that makes me stand up from my chair and shout "GAWD DAMN!" It was pretty fun to see.
This book wasn't all speeches and mopes. There are a few action sequences done masterfully in some of the best art in DAREDEVIL's pages for ages by Roberto de la Torre. Think a cleaner Bill Sienkiewicz with Klaus Jansen inks and you've got the feel for it. It's raw and gritty and makes you feel like you're really seeing these characters move on panel.
One minor criticism: Foggy and Co. are once again kind of pushed to the side in this issue. I love the stories where Foggy is in the action, but these days if he isn't being shanked in jail or kidnapped by Lady Bullseye, he's left to mind the law office which is less that interesting. Hopefully, we'll see some Foggy action important to the plot soon. Same goes for Dakota North. When Matt and Dakota got together, I was excited as hell because this really could have been a cool pairing. Now, it's just kind of blahs-ville. I'm sure this Hand arc won't last forever, so hopefully some of DD's supporting cast can make more of an effective appearance in future arcs.
If you may have bailed when your writer of the moment left the title, it may be a good time to check it out again. The art is reminiscent of the age when DAREDEVIL first became a fan favorite, and Diggle is using the character in ways that are surprisingly fresh and inventive.
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, reviewer and co-editor of AICN Comics for over eight years and one of the original @$$holes. Check out his comic book shorts 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, ROGER CORMAN PRESENTS DEATHSPORT, and the just announced vampire miniseries NANNY & HANK (and check out Jazma Online’s new interview with Bug about NANNY & HANK here).
Writer: Bill Willingham Art: Mark Buckingham Publisher: DC Vertigo Reviewer:Optimous DouchePrior to this issue, FABLES had been slowly losing me. I never hit the point of dropping a one liner TalkBack Shat Post of “Dropped It!”, but since the close of The Great War FABLES has declined from a rabid Wednesday “first read” to a modest (yet still respectable) second or third place. The thing that bugs me most about this is I can’t figure out why. So this is going to be part review and part therapy, using the AICN pulpit to convert myself back to the enlightened and once again find the magic in FABLES.
Issue 91 is a good start.
Part of the FABLES allure has always been the action, the epic battles fighting for glory and what’s right (or wrong). Since the close of the “Great Fables Crossover” though, FABLES has been light on the action and much heavier on the planning and waiting. Issue 91 redeems itself by centering a third of the book on Bufkin and his band of unlikely heroes releasing their entire arsenal of tricks on Baba Yaga in the bowels of the rubble that was once Fable Town. While it was a joy to see the Buf One deliver some comeuppance to the shriveled witch, I couldn’t release the thought of “we’ve seen Baba destroyed before, we will see that chicken-legged house once more.” A fun diversion, but it’s hard to leap out of your seat at the thought of reading an epic non-consequential monkey battle, especially when it takes away from the true action on the fate of Fable Town above.
I think a large part of my disinterest lies in the fact there has never been a better foil than Geppetto in his role as The Adversary. The simple yet effective mind fuck of taking the doddering lonely old man of legend and twisting him into Hitler with a bondage fetish is genius that’s hard to bottle twice. This current uber deliverer of badness — this Dark Man is just not doing it for me. Yes, he looks evil, he has perpetrated the evil deed of destroying Fable Town, but that’s about it. Compare a few buildings crashing to the scene where they discovered the Blue Fairy locked inside Geppetto’s dresser, a withered pixie husk siphoned of magic, and well…there is no comparison. Geppetto wins the evil Olympics hands down. I’ve been thinking all through this run, either I want more time with the Dark Man or I just want him vanquished and gone.
Well, it looks like 92 will make all of my wishes come true. Geppetto makes a strong power play in this issue with the help of a brother and sister set of druids or dryads (I always mix up that Wiccan stuff) — naked tree people as his sworn protectors. Using the current Dark Man’s occupancy of Fable Town as his campaign platform, Geppetto begins to sway the denizens of the Farm to mistrusting the current political structure. Perhaps this happened a wee bit too easily considering all of the trouble Geppetto has performed in the past, but I’ll forgive this plot fast-forward. It looks as though issue 92 will deliver a cast off between Ozma, the newly elected head of the witches’ coven, Geppetto and…spoiler alert…The Blue Fairy. No longer a captor, and no longer a sickly husk, the Blue Fairy’s look of determination and vengeance in the last panel offers the promise of a fantastic magic battle ahead.
Is FABLES back? I’m not sure. As readers we were more forgiving of the first 75 issues since there was nothing to compare them to. Perhaps by the time we hit issue 150, I’ll regret having ever been bored since it will all fit together as a nicely collected package. Perhaps I’m being too critical, demanding exceptional excellence when being handed a lesser form of excellence. I certainly won’t be dropping FABLES anytime soon; there are about five other books I can name off the top of my head that would go on the chopping block first. But I am still pining for the sheer excitement and newness of The Great War arc. For now, it is what it is: if I can get a little more Geppetto, a little less planning, and a resolution to the Dark Man I will be a happy reviewer this Holiday.
Optimous is lonely and needs friends. Even virtual ones will fill the gaping hole, join him on Facebook or he will cry like a newborn kitten.
LOCKE & KEY: CROWN OF SHADOWS #2
Writer: Joe Hill Art: Gabriel Rodriguez Publisher: IDW Publishing Reviewer: Humphrey LeeAfter two miniseries installments of this title, I think I have finally narrowed down what it is about this book that gets me all excited. Oh, of course there’s the usual: Beautiful art, fantastic writing, deep story, etc, etc. But what I like about it, I have decided, is what I like about LOST so much. What does it for me for that show and this book is that not only is there such a huge, rich background that we cannot even begin to fully understand – even going into its last season we still don’t completely know where we are with LOST, and it looks like we’ve just scratched the surface of L&K here – but despite there being so much that could be revealed in an orgiastic bid to appease fanboys, both these works always take their time to make sure the characters are never overlooked for the machinations of mystery waiting in the wings. And while that can be oh so frustrating, it is also very rewarding.
This latest issue does well on two major character accounts. One, it introduces some well needed side characters into the mix, which is great because besides the Locke family itself and he/she/it antagonist Zack there is a decided lack of overall character interaction, I would say. And secondly, it really does well to take Kinsey out of her “funk” and kind of re-evaluate herself and her overly emotional ways that she has been way too self-absorbed in since the events that kicked off this series occurred. What we’re getting here now is a girl that is going from “woe is me” to accepting of what is being handed to her and is ready to face life head on. It may have taken a shit-ton of exposition and dialogue to get this out of her – the one knock I really have on this issue - but it does feel like a great burden has been taken off of the pages of this book with her newfound determination. With her “reawakening” now it feels like we can get to some business, and there’s so much business to attend to.
Now that this is behind us/her, and a group of friends is in place to parallel that of Rendell and his crew from twenty years ago, it does feel like this book is building momentum to do some revealing. And it is not like Mr. Hill still did not take the opportunity in this character-centric issue to tease us a bit. Again, to draw back to the LOST comparison, it’s the simple things that really drive one up the wall; in this issue all it took was three panels featuring a simple round door with a number one inscribed on it down in the set piece for this issue to get me frothing - not unlike when a certain hatch door was unearthed in that hit TV show. Congratulations Mr. Hill, you’re a bigger cock tease than most of the strippers at the club I used to bounce at, not that I would have it any other way.
All that material above pretty much exemplifies why every month LOCKE & KEY finds its way towards the “most anticipated” end of my book stack. The characters, the setting (complimented by the always gorgeous Gabriel Rodriguez art – can’t forget him), the mystery, the intrigue, everything is all presented and balanced so deftly that it almost hurts. Some books get by on just having a great hook, some thrive on telling a story the best damn way they can with exemplary execution and craft. LOCKE & KEY does both, and as well as anything else out there. This is such a must read on every level, and unlike the TV show I’ve been paralleling all this time, this looks like it’s just getting started.
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.
HULK #18 “Delilah”
Writer: Jeph Loeb Art: Whilce Portacio Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: Mr. PastyAfter the rousing success (and action-packed series) that was HULK: CODE RED, I was expecting HULK 18: DELILAH to be the comic book equivalent of GODZILLA VS MECHAGODZILLA. Instead, I got THE ENGLISH PATIENT. Warning: DELILAH has a word count that nears or surpasses the 1,500 mark. There’s a lot of talking. I’m sure many of you can recall past titles with plenty of dialogue but the difference here is that all 1,500 words are spoken by Doc Samson, who chats with himself in one of those played out scenes we’ve already witnessed 100 times – and 100 times better.
If it’s true that deep down inside Doc Samson has always wanted to be the Hulk, then I have to believe that deep down inside Jeph Loeb has always wanted to be Peter David. Why else would he deliver this limp imitation of the brilliant HULK personality struggle from issues 372-377? Maybe we’re supposed to be riveted by Samson’s tedious monologue as proof of his slow descent into madness. And believe me, it’s a very slow descent. George Carlin once said that watching golf was like watching flies fuck. Imagine if the late, great comic had to read this snoozer. Part of my frustration comes from the fact that I’ve always kind of enjoyed Samson as a character. I liked his flaws – especially his holier-than-thou attitude when dealing with (or trying to stop) the Hulk. By destroying his personalities so that only the @$$hole remains, he also destroys the dichotomy that makes him interesting. He works as a conflicted anti-hero. He fails as a soulless villain. What, one Rulk wasn’t enough? Now we need a Ramson? With all these hard R’s it’s damn near impossible not to read this series in a Scooby accent.
Anyway, the only appearance of HULK and RULK is via flashback. Instead we’re stuck with SULK, which is what Samson does for 20+ pages. You know, in my day we just prescribed Thorazine and got on with our lives. But wait! Maybe it’s not Samson’s fault! We get a creepy last-page cameo that reveals the puppetmaster who may be pulling Samson’s strings behind the scenes. Hopefully one of those strings is to Samson’s tampon. For God’s sake man, pull that thing out and man up. I don’t want to hear that Daddy didn’t love you enough or that you’re tired of playing second fiddle to Banner. This is a comic book. Please resolve your differences by beating the shit out of someone. I want Dr. Samson, not Dr. Phil.
The good news is that Whilce Portacio’s return is a triumphant one. His pin-up of Betty Banner may be the best rendition of her I’ve ever seen. Not too brainy, not too beautiful, just somewhere in between. I was mesmerized. I also really dug the one-shots of Samson’s otherwise annoying flashbacks. The mid-air collision with Ol’ Greenskin is a definite 10 out of 10. While some of his body types resemble the exaggerated physiques of 80’s action heroes, his brilliant framing and understated shadowing easily outweigh such a minor complaint. It’s terrific art and rather unfortunate that it wasn’t accompanied by a stronger narrative.
Final Word: Leslie Ann Shappe was obviously talking about the dialogue in HULK 18: DELILAH when she told Samson “It never ends.” Next time have The Leader brainwash him or something and save us 20 pages of exposition.
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.
THE BIG BAD BOOK OGN
Writer: Nikola Jajic Artists: Sergio Giardo, Rick Hershey, Bob Cram, Cliff Kurowski Published by: Alterna Comics Reviewed by: BottleImpWhat’s almost always hilarious, though sometimes terrifying? Why, a monkey, of course! And what’s almost always terrifying and seldom funny? If you said, “a clown,” then you’re on the same wavelength as the creators of THE BIG BAD BOOK, wherein your average everyday cubicle drone is terrorized by the apparitions of a clown and a monkey that only he can see.
The Book of the title is a record of the Norse thunder god Thor’s numerous sexual liaisons with farm animals which, quite understandably, Thor wants suppressed. Loki, the god of mischief, would rather hold onto the book as a means of blackmailing Thor. Odin, the king of the Norse pantheon and Loki and Thor’s father, decides to set up a contest between the two to determine ownership—the book is sent to earth to be found by a mortal, and each god must try to convince the mortal of his rightful ownership of this ancient Penthouse Forum. Oh, and Loki and Thor must do so disguised as a clown and a monkey, respectively.
The book of Thor’s bestiality is merely the McGuffin of the story—aside from a few instances that Loki lists at the very beginning of the comic, the contents never come into play. The story then becomes a Kevin Smith-esque romp of dick jokes, discussions about the pros and cons of same-sex pornography, and pants-shitting as Jim the office worker juggles his nightmarish visions of the clown-Loki and monkey-Thor with trying to score with Debbie, the big-breasted receptionist. Pretty filthy stuff, right?
The odd thing is, despite the underlying thread of vulgarity running throughout the story, THE BIG BAD BOOK manages to retain a sense of innocence. I’m again reminded of Kevin Smith movies, especially MALLRATS and JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK—the characters themselves display just enough childlike naïveté to make the R-rated humor cute rather than vile. The reader is never confronted with anything truly shocking or disturbing (nothing on the level, say, of your typical Garth Ennis comic), and the end result is a comic that manages to be mildly offensive rather than perverse. That’s not a bad thing by any means, but it does sap some of the story’s edge.
Unfortunately, the effectiveness of this graphic novel is further weakened by the fact that there really isn’t a clear central character that the audience can call the protagonist. Sure, the majority of the story revolves around Jim and his harassment by the disguised Norse gods, even relying on his first-person thought captions to explain what’s happening, but as a character, Jim doesn’t really do much—the story basically happens around him. Meanwhile the comic’s got Loki breaking the fourth wall and providing commentary during the chapter breaks, so that would seem to nudge the reader into seeing the God of Mischief more as the central character. Then the book wraps up with a courtroom-style hearing involving the Norse and Greek pantheons resolving legal complaints. There’s just a little too much going on in the comic without a clear sense of the overall hierarchy of the various story elements, and the resultant muddle contributes in making THE BIG BAD BOOK a good read but not a great one.
I also wish that the artwork were more consistent throughout the book. As it stands, the quality fluctuates greatly between chapters, with the first and last segments of the comic competently drawn and well-executed, while the middle of the book meanders between amateurish and, at times, downright awful. When your comic is in black and white with less of the typical action pages and more talking heads, you really, REALLY need to have an artist who can bring enough ability to the visual end of things to maintain the reader’s optical interest. Even though the dialogue may be great (and certainly, the dialogue in THE BIG BAD BOOK is one of the most successful elements), comics are a visual medium, and the importance of good page compositions and drawing technique should never be ignored.
All in all, THE BIG BAD BOOK is a fun and breezy read—there are a lot of good ideas in there, and Jajic’s handle on dialogue is top-notch. If you’re like me, however, you may ultimately find this graphic novel to be a little too fluffy to be anything more than disposable reading. If you’re intrigued and want to see more, check out this link for some preview pages!