|#42||3/3/10 & 3/10/10||#8|
FIRST WAVE #1
Writer: Brian Azzarello Artist: Rags Morales Publisher: DC Comics Reviewed by Humphrey LeeAnticipation always seems to be a “win some, lose some” bet when it comes to comics. Maybe it has to do with the hype factor, or fan response to the creators involved, whatever have you, but how often does a book live up to your expectations, honestly? The past couple years I’ve done well by myself – at least I think so – in not letting myself get worked up in any regard except the raw facts put in front of me when I check a new solicit for a book. “Oh, Greg Rucka is doing a new detective book for Oni? That should be fun. Mike Carey is doing a new fantasy-based book and a riff on Harry Potter for Vertigo? He’s always good times when he works in the imprint; I’m sold” and so on down the line…
I say all this because, when it came to the DOC SAVAGE/BATMAN one-shot that Brian Azzarello did to lead into this whole FIRST WAVE pulp lovers’ wet dream, I had no expectations. I like the way Azzarello writes the Bat, I thought Doc Savage was an interesting choice for him to be working on, and I really dig Phil Noto art. So I added it to my pulls, and two months later it came out I loved every damn page of it. But, fast-forward to now and the debut of FIRST WAVE, the thing to really kick this whole movement into gear, and now I’ve got something I’m really, really looking forward to. My interest is piqued; not only are we getting what we got before, but now the Spirit and the Blackhawks are involved?! And Rags Morales is drawing it?!? How can this not be awesome, right?!
It can not be awesome because instead of the high-falutin’ pulp action, we get a setup issue that’s a little too meandering for its own good. Simply put, this book probably jumps around too much. The entirety of the issue – the first, OVER-SIZED, issue of only a six issue mini – and I never really felt once I was getting enough of whatever was developing on the page. The book opens up with several pages of a man running from a giant robot of death in the jungle. I love giant death robots, but even with a handful more pages dedicated to that part of the plot later on, I’m not sure where that part of the book was going by the end and it got by far the most attention. Now, I’m not saying anything along the lines of “Screw this shit, bring on the Bat!” but when you do have a book that promises to feature the Bat, and other iconic characters such as the Spirit and Doc Savage and the Blackhawks, I do not think you want to spend a quarter of your issue working out what is probably by default going to be the story your readers are least involved in. Hell, the Bat does not even make an appearance in this besides the cover. Just sayin’.
So, yes, basically what I’m saying here is that the book I let myself get excited for went a little pear shaped under its own weight. Obviously this can, and most hopefully, will work itself out, but this first issue really somewhat hampered my enthusiasm. It was just way too “stop-start” to sustain my interest. Too many threads would just kick up in the middle of something finally start to develop its own momentum. There might be too many ingredients in this dish, at least to start. Again, it’s a debut issue so you will have growing pains, but now I’m left to wonder how long it is going to take to get through these set up elements and really get this book a rollin’.
It’s especially painful, because all these characters are really well written and really have that presence you want them to have on page. I really enjoyed Azz’s take on the Spirit and the way he jokes and prowls about. I thought that was pitch perfect, especially with Rags Morales’ pencils which, by the by, are fucking perfect for this project. If there was anything that I had no qualms with, it was his work. There’s something almost magical in his pencils, that they feel almost “cartoony” in a way (in the animated series sense) but convey so much depth and realism at the time, especially in the facial features; it’s downright perfect for a work such as this. I will say, despite my reservations on how the book played out plot-wise, the way Rags’ pencils filled these pages were pretty much worth my money themselves.
I guess that’s just the way things fall anymore in comics these days, at least for me. It really does not pay to get yourself worked up over something until you are at the end of the final product, as it is in your hands, and you have physical confirmation it was everything you wanted it to be. If anything, it probably leads to one being somewhat extra critical, as I feel myself having been the past couple paragraphs on this book. I had a taste and I wanted more, but instead of a meal it feels like I was given a sampler platter here. Now I guess there’s nothing left but to see what the chefs cook up next time and hope its more like what brought me in the door in the first place.
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.
Writer: Garth Ennis Artist: Jacen Burrows Publisher: Avatar Press Reviewer: KletusCasadyCROSSED is a fucked up comic. There’s everything from beautifully rendered gore, to limbs (amongst other things) getting severed, a maniac carrying a horse penis (no joke), to, well, pretty much every conceivable violent act you could think of and that’s just the first three issues. But, if you can get past those first three or four issues you will find a compelling story with excellent art. Zombie stories are kind of the hype right now (seems to be dying down a little) but this story approaches the genre in a way only Ennis can (or at least is willing to) with no holds barred brutal violence. A lot of stuff in this book will offend a lot of people. In fact there’s only two people I know in town that I can actually talk to about this book without someone thinking I am a complete weirdo (which I am but I choose not to share that with everyone). Zombie tales usually have more to do with people coping with an impossible situation thus revealing their true nature when faced with a dire situation then the actual zombies. The zombies most often just become a background landscape for us humans to traverse. Its done in WALKING DEAD really well and really all zombie stories boil down to this formula. The difference with this book is that “hope” isn’t even an issue here; this is a book about getting to the next destination and avoiding these maniacs called the Crossed. In this story, hope is really a distraction from dealing with reality and in a situation such as this, having hope or faith has deadly consequences, mostly because it relies on the fact that something good WILL happen. Not in this book.
I’ve seen a lot of people down talk this book for its use of violence and fucked up things that happen. I think the consensus here is that Ennis is just doing this stuff to put it in a comic. I think the effect he is going for here is that this is a super fucked up situation that he drops the reader into and he doesn’t want to hold back anything for the imagination and why should he? These things are maniacs that kill with no remorse and I’m pretty sure they enjoy it! It’s really only the first 3 or 4 issues that depict a lot of the carnage that the Crossed caused and the rest of the issues aren’t as visually…well…fucked up. I think the purpose is to show you how bad things are and then it seems to back off of those things in an attempt to give the reader fear that these things will happen again. The way the book was written, I felt like I was fleeing with the group because…hell…I didn’t want to see the shit that I saw in the first few issues again either. I even remember after reading one scene, I put down the book and said “holt shit!” like ten times before I finished it. I was generally concerned for this group of people because of the things I had seen the Crossed do and every issue where “nothing” happened I was actually relieved. When you see the covers of these books, you know what you’re getting into. The covers tell their own story depicting facets of our society that the Crossed have infiltrated and…well…fucked up in their own special and a lot of times perverse way. This book doesn’t pull any punches and I found myself genuinely concerned for what I’d see on the next page. Much like most Zombie stories, this is a book about tough decisions and what we become once we have to make those decisions (this was attempted in THE MIST but everyone just seemed like fucking idiots making bad decision after bad decision).
Despite all of the fucked up things that happen in this book, there is a good story here and really great art. If you are squeamish, against any sort of violence, become sick at the sight of blood shooting out of someone’s body (if you have a Red Lantern shirt on and this applies to you…please remove that shirt and burn it), then DO NOT read this book because you will be immediately put off and you will not be able to get past certain things in this book. If you can get past that, there’s a good horror story about survival in a world that looks pretty bleak and the messed up things that can happen to a group of “normal” people being chased by uninhibited maniac zombies. This issue was not the best of the series but the last issue rarely is. I find it hard to review this book without speaking to the series overall because reading this issue alone probably won’t do much for you other than leave with a big “WTF” above your head. I love every issue of Ennis’s Punisher and if you can dig (just saw BLACK DYNOMITE) what he does in that series, than you can probably stomach this book as some of the ideas such as violent ways to kill or torture someone are very prevalent in that series as well as this one. I like this series because I like stories that have a grim outlook which seems to me to be a more realistic tone for a zombie threat such as this. This issue, as well as the others, have a lot of heartfelt moments where you really start to feel sorry for these characters and the unpleasant situations they are forced to deal with (my heart sank a couple times leading me to say “aww nooo,” at quite a few of these situations).The artwork is really really good, Jacen Burrows either has nightmares every night about this book or he just as f’ed up as Ennis and sleeps soundly knowing he’s drawn some of the most wild, detailed, beautiful/ugly shit I’ve ever seen in a comic (besides PUNISHER). If you are a fan of realistic survival stories and not that cookie cutter shit in movies these days, then CROSSED is for you. Just don’t leave it out for your significant other to find without prepping them first; otherwise you might find yourself struggling to explain why you have a comic with a character who carries around a horse penis (penis is not the word they use by the way).
BATMAN & ROBIN #10
Writer: Grant Morrison Artist: Andy Clarke Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Optimous DoucheTo enjoy this latest installment of the new caped crusaders you will need a hearty helping of willing suspension of disbelief (yes, even for comics). Well, at least I did. Within this latest installment of what has been my favorite Batman title in years is a great mystery, strong character turning points, and finally the beginning of the true hunt for Bruce Wayne. Sure Tim Drake has been on his spirit quest for the Dark Knight over in his hamburger joint title, but it’s always bothered that me that Tim began his quest on faith over hard evidence. If I truly wanted to read a book on faith, I would read that Bible thing everyone’s been talking about. No, I turn to Batman for some sleuthing and detectiving; after all, that’s what has always made Batman unique in a universe where most conflict is resolved by escape pods of magic and might. BATMAN & ROBIN #10 delivers the goods; you just need to move past the fact we should have been witnessing these events a year ago.
None of us were naïve enough to believe that Bruce Wayne was actually dead at the end of FINAL CRISIS or RIP. Even as the events were unfolding, we were all speculating how Bruce would return. You simply can’t let Bruce Wayne die when billions of dollars are at stake over here in the real world. So all of the crazy crap with Omega Beams and exploding helicopters felt more like divisionary tactics — a game of three card monty where all of the cards are turned face-up. Also, if Darkseid had just fessed up that the Omega Beam was a time displacement…uhmmm…beam, then we would not have been subjected to the last lackluster BATMAN & ROBIN story-arc in jolly ole England where we discovered Bruce Wayne’s corpse was a clone. Bygones, that’s the past. Let’s focus on the fantastic present.
This book takes a dual focus on finding Bruce Wayne and continuing to flesh out my favorite little bastard ever, Damien Wayne. Seeing the half-pint assassin go toe-to-toe with the executives of Wayne Enterprises will definitely be in my next year @$$ie choices as “most WTF moment of 2010.” While it was utterly unbelievable, it was also utterly enjoyable and unexpected opening the issue in this fashion. In light of all the economic meltdowns from rampant corporate greed, there was a visceral thrill in seeing the complacent overly fed fat cats on the Wayne Enterprises Board get their comeuppance from a kid that’s not tall enough to ride a roller coaster safely. Oh ya, Damien is also a sleeper agent. To say more would spoil things, just know he is not completely on the side of angels.
OK, on to the sleuthing. Well, sort of. Again this is where that willing suspension of disbelief is vital to enjoy the happenings. Dick learns from the Justice League that Bruce is indeed lost in time. I’ll have to take Dick’s word on this considering I haven’t read JUSTICE LEAGUE since they became the team without a purpose. Yes, that issue where the holy trinity was slowly walking away from the JL logo (presuming out of embarrassment) was the same exact issue where I walked away from the Justice League. Regardless, between the JL’s information and Tim Drake’s good fortune to finally stumble upon some clues, we now can safely say that Bruce was hurtled into pre-history and perhaps other epochs in time. Leave it to Alfred to discover that second fact, in a moment I can only describe as serendipity or divine comic plotline development intervention. Deciding to finally place the vestiges of the Wayne patriarchs in chronological order, he wonders if there’s a reason why the Wayne men have looked the same from generation-to-generation. Upon closer inspection, Alfred, Dick and Damian discover that each painting is guiding them to a specific place within Wayne Manor.
At this point it might seem as though I didn’t enjoy this book, and that’s simply not the case. While I feel as though we are being led a little too much as readers on the whereabouts of Bruce, the interchanges between Dick and Damian as they follow the trail of clues were a pleasure to read. Smart, funny and wrought with emotion on Damien’s part, I found myself caring less and less about the hunt for Bruce, because I was just so damn engrossed in peeling back the layers of Damien’s psyche. We always knew this kid had issues, but now we also know he has a heart.
Once again, just like with FINAL CRISIS, none of my complaints fall on the shoulders of Morrison. The man is merely writing to this misdirection handed down to him from the Gods of comic sales. The boys at DC got an extra year of book sales and spin off titles from the “mystery” of whether Bruce was dead or not. I would normally be pissed at such shenanigans, but this haphazard ruse did give me more time with this new dynamic duo. At this point I am letting the past go. I am now ready for the hunt for Bruce in the days of future past…or past future...you know what I mean.
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.
SPIDER-MAN AND THE SECRET WARS #1
Writer: Paul Tobin Artist: Patrick Scherberger (pencils), Terry Pallot (inks) Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: WilliamI really liked this title. Funny thing is I just threw it into my pile of comics as a kind of throw-away item. I usually add one or two of these each time I visit my local comic book shop. They’re not really comics I had planned on getting, but in perusing the aisles I notice a cover, look briefly within the pages, and then add them on a whim because they seemed interesting at the time. Kind of like an impulse buy, if I had to place it within the closest business context.
In any case, what I really liked about this title was the bright, good feeling that it conveyed. It’s told in the manner of a flashback from Spider-Man, as he’s retelling his adventures from the epic SECRET WARS saga. Here the issue starts off on the extraordinary feat that the Hulk had first performed, when Molecule Man had dropped an entire mountain on the group of heroes (totaling one hundred and fifty billion tons of rock no less), and the Hulk was still strong enough to hold it up on his own. (Makes me wonder which test of strength is bigger, that or Superman’s lifting of that Kryptonite Island from SUPERMAN RETURNS).
We get to see Spider-Man as he describes the scenes surrounding this moment, and it is here that I really liked the issue because it was almost like turning back the clock into comic book history. I got to see all the major characters in the Marvel Universe (Spider-Man, Captain America, Iron Man, Reed Richards, Hulk, etc) acting from a time period MUCH different from today‘s comics. Things seemed much brighter back then. While today’s Marvel issues are all engaged with the Dark Reign, dark times, brooding type, social commentary stuff, here was a tale that just had the heroes doing their usual classic stuff. There was the light fighting/bantering between the heroes, the Hulk acting like the Hulk we all know (not a Rulk in sight), Reed coming up with a last minute scientific solution to a problem, Captain America taking classic charge of things, Iron Man and his suit providing the technological escape, and of course Spider-Man still cracking jokes left and right as he fought throughout his battles. There’s even a moment where the Hulk (almost breaking the fourth-wall) screams at Spider-Man, asking him why he always has to be joking around so much. I liked all of this. I really liked how things felt different here, how much more…uplifting it all was.
The writing by Paul Tobin is spot on here. He kept the story going briskly while still covering all of the necessary moments from the saga. And even though the front of the cover says it’s part 1 of 4 this issue still nicely wrapped up its main focus, which was Spider-Man’s distrust of the Hulk being on the “good guys” team. Such a nice change of pace to see that I won’t have to read issue #2 in order to see something resolved, while still knowing that future issues will offer other interesting items to read from. The artwork by Patrick Scherberger was jovial, almost cartoon-like in its approach, which definitely suited the lighter environment presented here.
I highly recommend this issue if you’re a fan of the SECRET WARS saga, or if you’re a fan of good comics in general. SECRET WARS fans will especially enjoy some extra, never-before-seen stuff from the original SECRET WARS issues.
STREET FIGHTER LEGENDS: IBUKI #1
Writer: Jim Zubkavich Art: Omar Dogan Publisher: Udon Entertainment Reviewer: Mr. PastyWhat a long, strange trip it’s been. The STREET FIGHTER franchise has reached incredible highs – as well as some all time lows. A universe born from a 2D video game that had a generation of kids plunking quarters into an electronic peep show and for what? The right to beat the shit out of a total stranger or, hopefully, someone you knew. Of course home video game consoles did for arcades what VHS cassettes did for movies and STREET FIGHTER became a part of our culture – for better or for worse. STREET FIGHTER is like Manhattan in that you can have the world’s richest people working in a building that has the world’s poorest people sleeping in its alcove. Case in point: STREET FIGHTER 2: THE ANIMATED MOVIE, released in 1994, was a brilliant, animated epic that embodied everything great about coin operated ass kicking -- until it was summarily shat on by the oozing polyp named STREET FIGHTER that dangled from theaters until cauterized by low ticket sales, also in 1994.
My point is I’ve learned to take the good with the bad. I realize now that it’s about how much money you can milk from this license and for every Kim Fields there’s going to be a Mindy Cohn. With that in mind, I’m happy to report that STREET FIGHTER LEGENDS: IBUKI #1 qualifies as a post-braces Tootie. Part of that has to do with Jim Zubkavich’s story. STREET FIGHTER is about more than just Ken and Ryu fireballing each other ad nauseam, it’s about the competition. There was sincerity in the video game’s simplicity. You picked your character and then picked someone you wanted to beat on. Sure, there was a shoestring plot on which to hang your motives, but this was about extraordinary people that lived in a world where fighting was a form of communication. Zubkavich captures that essence – and it’s appreciated.
Of course this is a comic book and page-after-page of chopsocky isn’t going to cut it. We don’t control the characters like we do in the game, Zubkavich controls them for us so our entertainment is in his hands (and at his mercy). The good news is he delivers with a strong narrative that doesn’t abandon the underlying theme of this franchise. The book has a very Japanese feel to it, and I think Omar Dogan’s artwork, which reminds me of the ALPHA series, helps contribute to that tone. And he nails the characters. You might recognize many of them from Street Fighter III and you’ll appreciate how they behave. Girls are always jumping and bouncing and giggling, while the men are stone faced and quick tempered -- and seem to live in a world where the only way to make your point is to scream it at the top of your lungs.
As far as the story, don’t expect an abundance of answers in issue #1. Zubkavich is slow-playing his hand and allowing the reader to feel comfortable before turning up the heat. Nothing wrong with that. There were 100 different combos to learn in the game and you didn’t expect to learn them in one quarter – just as I don’t expect to have a complete story neatly packaged and shipped to me in one book. I finished this first offering with more questions than answers but the important thing is I wanted more. A lot of comics spread their heroes and villains out across different titles, effectively making you buy a book you normally wouldn’t because you’ve already committed to the story. Well, STREET FIGHTER LEGENDS: IBUKI #1 committed me to the story and compelled me to buy issue #2 – but not because I had to, because I wanted to. It’s colorful, fun and part of the reason I was so fond of the video game. Simply put, it’s just a damn good time.
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.
BILLY BATSON AND THE MAGIC OF SHAZAM #13Writers: Art Baltazar & Franco Artist: Mike Norton Published by: DC Comics Reviewed by: BottleImp I honestly don’t know what possessed me to pick this comic up off the rack. It certainly wasn’t the hideous cover, what with the grotesque troll-like Billy Batson hunched beneath the lumpy and misshapen Black Adam. And this isn’t a series that I had ever purchased before; I wasn’t a fan of the artwork when this title premiered. But for whatever reason, I ended up shelling out two and a half bucks for this comic after a quick flip-through in the store.
There’s something simple and comforting about reading the adventures of Captain Marvel without the long and convoluted baggage of DC’s mainstream continuity. Seriously, I don’t even know if Shazam exists anymore within the DC Universe—last I remember, Billy and Mary Batson had their powers stripped from them in the pages of JSA, and now Freddy Freeman is supposed to be Captain Marvel, although his new name is Shazam…you see what I’m getting at. The Shazam mythology has been mucked about so much in recent years that the basic appeal of the character—namely, the fact that the world’s mightiest mortal is just a little kid with a magic word—has been lost. It’s a little sad that the powers at DC seem to think that the only way C.C. Beck’s characters work is in their own little kid-friendly bubble. But hey, I’ll take that over the leather-wearing crack-whore Mary Marvel that Morrison gave us in FINAL CRISIS any day of the week.
Understand, I’m not slamming kid-geared comics. In fact, I think that DC (and Marvel too) needs to have more titles that are meant for younger readers. Hook ‘em while they’re young, just like cigarettes. What I’m against is the fact that DC appears to think that the only way to make a character interesting to their adult audience is to totally screw up what it is that made that character interesting in the first place.
Okay, I’m done ranting, honest. Now for the actual comic at hand. What really drew me in was Mike Norton’s artwork, premiering within this issue. His characters all have a fluid design that animates wonderfully on the page—indeed, they are more akin to the animation models of cartoons like JUSTICE LEAGUE and TEEN TITANS than traditional comic book drawings. There’s a little bit of Bruce Timm in Captain Marvel, although Norton also pays homage to Beck’s original designs. I’m also detecting a bit of anime influence, especially in the Mary Batson design. I’ve gotta admit that I’m not a huge fan of the tiny Mary Marvel hovering next to the Big Red Cheese like a slightly less creepy Bat-Mite, but like I said, at least she’s not in dominatrix gear. And the last page splash of Black Adam is such a great simplified representation of his character design that it makes me think that Warner Bros. needs to make a Shazam cartoon with Norton doing the character designs right NOW. His artwork in combination with simple, straightforward storytelling (no narrative captions!) and the Marvel characters as Beck created them (including my personal favorite, Mr. Tawny the Talking Tiger) makes this kid-centric comic more enjoyable to read than most of the intellectual, mature titles geared towards the average comic reader. This title should be on the list for any Shazam fan, or for anyone who might like to balance the gloom, death and destruction found in their regular pull list with a little touch of old-fashioned fun.
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.
X-MEN: HOPE #1
Writer: Duane Swierczynski Artist: Steve Dillon Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: Optimous DoucheRemember the great training montages from 80s movies like “Karate Kid” (“You’re the Best”) or any of the “Rocky” movies, those brief moments where our protagonist goes from zero to hero all in the course of two minutes and thirty-five seconds? If you went to the movies for those moments alone then you’ll love X-MEN HOPE, because it is basically the price we used to pay for the movies with training montages, minus the movie.
I’m not quite sure what I disliked most about this book. It could be the fact the most important child born in mutantdom, the only mutant born after M-DAY, grows from child to adult in four short vignettes and throughout it all we learn nothing about her. It could be the fact that it felt like Swierczynski and Dillon, both accomplished comic professionals, dialed in this issue more haphazardly then when I used to drunk dial ex-girlfriends. Most likely though it’s the fact that this is the seed for the next big mutant event, X-MEN: SECOND COMING and it feels as though it was planted with about as much care as a Mexican gardener high on peyote.
Truly if Marvel wanted to service this new lynchpin character and introduce her to those of us that have shunned her past exploits as a baby in the ancillary mutant titles, they should have actually taken the time to introduce her in a full blown out mini-series. I understand comic fans are hard to please; we perpetually bitch about padded titles and mini-series that are in place simply for the sake of sales. However, this isn’t just any character; she is clearly going to change the future of all mutant books in some capacity. That says to me she definitely warrants more than 5 pages per epoch of her life. I haven’t seen a kid grow faster since the FAMILY TIES brat went from baby to Kindergartner over one summer.
Essentially each 5 page story shows that Hope and Cable are close. Really, that’s what happened in each story. Cable shows her how to fight to survive and they close each vignette with “a very special” heartfelt awwww. These are the same lessons the X-Men have been getting for years inside the Danger Room, except now we see them without the Danger Room.
In the end analysis X-MEN: HOPE gives me very little, so I hereby rename this one and done (thankfully) X-MEN: NOPE.
THE KUROSAGI CORPSE DELIVERY SERVICE Vol.10
Written by Eiji Otsuka Illustrated by Housui Yamazaki Released by Dark Horse Comics Reviewer: Scott GreenI knew there was a reason why I really liked geek scholar/critic/writer Eiji Otsuka. The war in Iraq affected Hayao Miyazaki's adaptation of Diana Wynne Jones' HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE, and it's been argued that shifting HOWL’S to serve as a reaction made it a far more confused picture. And, the war in Iraq apparently effected Otsuka's LEVIATHAN. I only flipped through the series, so I could be getting this wrong. A man washes up on the shore of the Dead Sea, apparently embalmed by the salt, but it turns out he's actually living, with a body comprised of parts from five people, and he appears to have Lovecraftian ooze filling his shadow. He picks up a Japanese passport, and ends up working with a group of people embroiled in the weird things around Tokyo's Shinjuku district: crop circles, tumors full of eyeballs, chimera refugees, imps that pull themselves out of people's heads, something like PINOKO of Osamu Tezuka's BLACK JACK, gods and demons. Then, things start getting really weird and serious. As a character points out, it's the apocalypse as might be imagined by the dirty uncle of manga, GO NAGAI (in his DEVIL MAN vision of the end days, a riot results in the dismembering of the titular horror hero's girlfriend. The infernally possessed lead also discovers that his best friend is really the host of a dormant Satan. Satan wakes and his fight with a raging DEVIL MAN results in the world's destruction. I forget if it was applied retroactively, but Satan/his human host also loves the hero).
Commenced in 1999, LEVIATHAN's view of the Apocalypse evidently became informed by American foreign policy. George W. Bush was its God. Saddam Hussein was the Devil. Shiva and Buddha were involved too. ASTRO BOY was a disciple or something, but also juvenile murderer Shonen A.
Eiji Otsuka is great at feeding graphically gruesome visions to his artistic collaborators, such as Leviathan's Yuu Kinutani MPD PSYCHO's Shou Tajima and KUROSAGI CORPSE DELIVERY SERVICE's Housui Yamazaki. Volume 10 of the latter certainly has enough ocular damage to get a gore hound blinking. Beyond that, to my thinking, there is no better geek mind commenting on the state of the world than Eiji Otsuka.
I'm not one to deny the appeal of schlocky horror. I'd love to see brilliantly indefensible shock manga REIKO THE ZOMBIE SHOP continued for one thing. That said, from DRACULA to LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT to 28 DAYS LATER, the great works of horror are either consciously or subconsciously reflections on a social moments. KUROSAGI CORPSE DELIVERY SERVICE finds a Scoobie Doo gang of Buddhist college grads with few job prospects, in a world that has plenty of skeletons in its closets. So, what passes for work for this group is moving the dead to where the departed need to be. As that non-lucrative occupation suggests, difficult job markets and finances inform KUROSAGI CORPSE DELIVERY SERVICE, along with wrongs perpetrated across the span of years or decades. Otsuka applies a perspective through these circumstances. The underemployed cast doesn't have much authority to lean on, but they become the problem solvers here by virtue of their attitude as much as their ability to discover and raise the dead. Reconciled, rather than entitled, pissed off or delusionally idealistic, as one character puts it, "hate to say it man...but I guess we are the grownups here."
KUROSAGI CORPSE DELIVERY SERVICE is at its best when Otsuka is shuffling his interests (folklore, the culture of extreme enthusiasts, rituals: both modern and traditional) with current social concerns. Volume 10's great example of this is MOONLIGHT STORY. It opens with a wood block presentation of a kaiden/ghost story about an itinerant monk who seeks shelter with a couple. The husband and wife initially offer welcomed hospitality to the traveler, but when they see he's actually carrying a purse full of gold, they kill him and hide the body under the floorboards.
KUROSAGI CORPSE DELIVERY SERVICE breaks its recounting of this story with a jarring transition. When that's intentional, I love when manga, particularly horror manga pulls this trick. It shows that the artist is really anticipating how the manga will be read, and leveraging that to yield effecting surprises.
Otsuka proceeds to weave the story of the monk's murder with a situation involving the Kurosagi folks delivering a retiring police dog to an officer, supposedly descended from the monk's murderers, about to marry a Russian immigrant (of note, immigration was one of the key themes of LEVIATHAN), and that's further tied to drug trafficking. Utilizing a cast of intelligent, relatable characters, grabbing attention with cadavers come to life (and in this particular case, a cute dog) Otsuka begins developing ideas about the subtext behind stories passed along for centuries and their modern relevance.
When KUROSAGI CORPSE DELIVERY SERVICE is at its best, the ideas that Otsuka are able to associate and tie to pressing concerns are breathtaking. When the horror anthology manages suboptimal efficiency, it still registers head of its class intelligence. KUROSAGI CORPSE DELIVERY SERVICE has been developing its world of people who relate to the restless death in various ways. Volume 10 introduces a novel new one...an AED equipped bike messenger who can briefly revive the dead to allow them to enact final vengeance. But, as an engine, the meeting of necromancers isn't driving the manga with any urgency. On top of that, the manga's Japanese publication jumped from one anthology to another twice - a situation helpfully laid out by manga guru Carl Horn in his editorial notes. This may have been a license to borrow from past stories. These aren't entirely uninvolving, but there is a repetitive "again" quality to stories like volume 10's final situation. While the episode does draw in new concepts for Otsuka to work with it also combines an unfortunately familiar tragic history of one of the KUROSAGI crew with the done premise of showbiz playing a dangerous game with real bodies.
Horror manga is home to some real genre luminaries, but it has also collected story tellers who have little invested in the vehicle. There are plenty of horror manga series out there in which the creators seem to simply leverage ghost stories as a convenient template into which they can fit a few of their own ideas. In contrast, KUROSAGI CORPSE DELIVERY SERVICE is comparable to Osamu Tezuka's medical adventure BLACK JACK. At the same time, Tezuka indulged in his passion for discussing medical ethics and allowed the episodic manga to go where his inspirations took him. The results were one of the most successful manga works created by the medium's "God." Otsuka appreciates horror and is genuinely enthusiastic about the genre. Into that he mixes his academic interests, along with what he's seen on the news or read in the science journals. The results are truly exceptional horror manga.
Scott Green has been writing for AICN ANIME for over eight years. If you like what you see here and love anime & manga, be sure to check out his latest AICN ANIME column every week on AICN.
SUPER REAL-TRADE PAPERBACK COLLECTION
Created by: Jason Martin Published by: Super Real Graphics Reviewed by: superheroI’ve reviewed Jason Martin’s SUPER REAL several times in the past so it should be no surprise to anyone who’s a regular here that I’ve often enjoyed this book. So there’s not much new for me to say here about the trade paperback edition. It’s still funny, it’s still entertaining, and, yes, it’s still pretty freakin’ juvenile. It’s pretty much a great romp all the way through if you can afford to not take your comics, or your politics, or just about anything too seriously. If there’s one thing that I know about SUPER REAL is that it’s a book that is about having fun with its premise and it’s a book where the creator’s enthusiasm for his own project just bleeds off of the page. Martin’s passion is infectious and it’s pretty much what makes SUPER REAL the enjoyable read that it is.
One thing that I will say is that I had pretty much lost track of this book when it was being released in single issue format. Like a lot of indie books it seemed as if it would take a while for each new issue to come out, and then when I did finally get one in my hands I would have forgotten what had gone on before so the story would come off a bit fragmented to me. Which is a very big reason why I’ve enjoyed this trade so much. In one volume the whole story just gets laid out and I get to see the whole ridiculously fun thing play out at once. There’s no lag between chapters and the two specials (SUPER REAL VS. THE COMIC INDUSTRY and SUPER REAL VS. THE MOVIE INDUSTRY) seem like more of a natural part of the story instead of the filler I had earlier thought they seemed to be. So the SUPER REAL trade is very much worth reading, especially if you’re someone like me who enjoyed some of the single issues but never really felt they were able to get the whole story down.
For anyone who’s never heard of SUPER REAL you can check out my review for issue number one here. It’ll pretty much fill you in on what’s what. But if you’re too lazy to check out that link just know that SUPER REAL is well worth your time and money. I’ve waited to a while to see this whole story play out and it was well worth the wait. Congrats to Martin for finally finishing and I look forward to his next project.
Discovered as a babe in an abandoned comic book storage box and bitten by a radioactive comic fan when he was a teenager, superhero is actually not-so mild mannered sometime designer & cartoonist, Kristian Horn of Los Angeles, California. He's been an @$$hole for three years. Some of his work can be seen at www.kristianhorn.com and check out his blog at www.parttimefanboy.com.
HULK: LET THE BATTLE BEGIN #1 Marvel ComicsThose of you who are fed up with the question “Who is Rulk and why should I care?” may want to check out this Hulk one-shot. Jesse Blaze Snider takes a shot at the Hulk and proves why the green goliath is such an icon. No need for continuity here. It’s just a couple of Hulk truths that I don’t think has ever been addressed in a Hulk story, specifically about the disorientation Banner suffer when waking up after Hulking out and the challenges Banner encounters wandering around half nude in a strange place. Sure it’s a scenario we’ve seen many times. But where does Banner get money? How does he come up with an alibi to get from the desert to civilization? This story centers on Banner from the TV show, the homeless loner, apart from society to protect them. Don’t worry, though, it’s not all deconstruction of the Hulk mythos. Snider tosses in a pair of slugfests with the Wrecking Crew and Thor which are pretty dynamic as well. Steve Kurth provides the art for this damn fine done in one. The backup by Mark Parsons and Tom Cohen is an Elseworlds type tale mixing Norse mythology with gamma science. Not a bad read in itself, made better by solid art by Ed McGuinness. - Ambush Bug
LOCKE & KEY: CROWN OF SHADOWS #3 IDW PublishingYou know, if any other series released its issues at irregular intervals with the latest installment arriving weeks behind schedule, and then the issue turns out to be a “calm before the storm” kind of thing without much action, I’d be pissed. But damn it all, Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez manage to make what should by all counts be a disappointing read into a taut and suspenseful chapter that has me desperately hoping that issue #4 arrives on schedule. The titular Crown of Shadows is finally revealed, as is a new magical key. The characters are continually explored and fleshed out, and the art, as always, is top-notch, especially the creepy living shadows created by the Crown. Can’t wait until next month for the “storm after the calm.” –Imp
JUSTICE LEAGUE: RISE AND FALL #1 DC ComicsThis isn’t a bad little one shot featuring Green Arrow on a vengeance kick after the mauling of Arsenal, the killing of his granddaughter, and the destruction of Star City. I can’t say I don’t blame Ollie for being more than a bit pissed and the actions he performs in this book seem somewhat sensible given his situation. It will be interesting to see how this new darker version of Green Arrow will cohabitate with the rest of the JLA. There are some nice moments of introspection at play in this one and the art all seems to work well given the dire situations at play. All in all, I’ve read much worse one shots and look forward to see how the events of this book will ripple out into the rest of the DCU. - Ambush Bug
A-TEAM: SHOTGUN WEDDING #1 IDW PublishingOh, the sweet, sweet nostalgia. It’s a good time to be a comic book reader. No matter where you turn, all of the cool shit from my youth is ending up in the four color funny books. When I was a kid, I would watch THE A-TEAM every Tuesday (sometimes my mom let me stay up to watch RIPTIDE afterwards…when’s that one coming out, bitches!), then I would hurry to bed so I could wake up and talk with my friends about the episode the next day in grade school. A quartet of us would run around the schoolyard acting out the scenarios from the night before. THE A-TEAM was the best show on TV to me. That’s the feeling I was going into this first issue of IDW’s new set of comics focusing on the new film release. And for the most part, I wasn’t disappointed. Much like IDW’s awesome treatment of their GI JOE licenses, the makers of this book have taken the original story to a more mature level and made it more digestible for today’s rabid audience. So no, cars don’t fall off a cliff only to show the driver popping out seconds later favoring his aching head. People are capped. Fools are pitied. And the Mad Murdoch’s come in a definite Howling variety. Sure the appearance of Sarah Palin was a bit off putting, mainly because it immediately dates this story, not because of the politics behind it all. And Murdoch doesn’t seem to be as nutso as Dwight Schultz used to play him. But all in all the interactions between B.A. and Hannibal were spot on. And the Face-Man being all smarmy was pretty cool too. Plus the scenario setting up the team going after Russian arms dealers in Alaska was pretty detailed and textured. I can’t wait to continue to hang ten on this wave of nostalgia with future issues of this mini and the other A-TEAM books IDW has coming out in the coming months. - Ambush Bug
And finally, a few thoughts on THE TWELVE: SPEARHEAD from a few of the @$$Holes…The following is an actual email thread shared by the @$$Holes as Bug makes his usual last minute call for reviews from the rest of the Holes.
AMBUSH BUG (BUG): OK, guys. Sending up the @$$ Signal. We need a few more reviews this week to fill out the column. Don’t tell me no one's reviewing the Twelve. After all of our complainin’ in the @$$IES?
OPTIMOUS DOUCHE (OD): Wasn’t it a mini or a side story and not the main book?
BUG: Yeah, it wasn't even JMS at the wheel. Which shoots holes in the repeated comments from him that the scripts are done. If that were so, how did Weston have the time to draw and write this one…yet not finish issues 9-12?
OD: I guess, I could provide a cheapie. Here goes.
I almost had a heart attack when I walked into my LCS last week and saw a brand spanking new issue of THE TWELVE staring in my face. As I approached the book cautiously (as not to scare it away), my elation slowly sunk into a pit of rage and disgust. As hard as I tried to will it into appearance, the 9 never magically appeared on the cover. Nay, this is a mini-series or one-shot or whatever to compliment the uncompleted main series. Will this book follow suit? Do I care? Nope. Burn me once shame on you, burn me twice shame on me, burn me for the 4,000th title in a row — then I should be fitted for a bicycle helmet for the activities of breathing and walking.
SQUASHUA: I went to my local comic shop last week and got the books from my pull list and left. THE TWELVE book that JMS didn't write wasn't in my pull, even though THE TWELVE is on my pull list. At least, THE TWELVE used to be on my old pull list, but my shop dropped it from the new iterations when the issues stopped coming out (ir-)regularly, and with this economy, both they didn't buy any singles and it fell off my "must buy" radar. No big loss.
BUG: Personally, the whole thing pisses me off. And I won’t speak for the rest of you guys, but I’m not going to be reviewing any further issues of THE TWELVE even if it does ever find the light of day. Not because I don’t like the story (because I do), but because I don’t want to support starting a comic and then taking a year long nap between the release of issue 8 and 9 of a 12 issue miniseries. I don’t know if it’s JMS’ fault or Weston’s or Marvel’s or global warming’s, but it is piss poor comic booking that doesn’t deserve any attention. I do find it odd that Weston had the time to write and draw this new book, all the while JMS was proclaiming that the miniseries was in the can and they were waiting on the art and Marvel to publish it. Everyone is pointing fingers at each other and no one is coming forward to take the blame or admitting any mistakes. The real problem is that Marvel had a sure fire hit on their hands. It was coming out in time for the release and resurgence of WATCHMEN with that film (one can’t deny the similarities between the two stories), but now with the delay, all of the momentum built in the first eight issues of the mini is shattered. I for one won’t dig deep into my long box in an attempt to remember character names, subtle plot points, or specific themes present in what could have been a rich and textured tale to dredge up the shades of investment that I once had for this book. To me, the book is already done. It was good, but I’ve moved on and I hope others do as well and give the book the attention it deserves when issues #9-12 finally hit the shelves, namely no attention t’at t’all. It’s even more offensive to have Marvel ship out this new book to appease the sheep still baa-ing for the rest of the miniseries. Much like Kevin Smith’s SPIDER-MAN BLACK CAT which finally finished years after the miniseries first issues were released and comic fandom gave out a collective yawn, I can only hope that the rest of THE TWELVE will be released and received in the same way. All of the folks involved deserve it. Paying attention to the release of any further issues of THE TWELVE (main series or supplemental material) only supports this type of non-professional behavior from Marvel and I, for one, won’t do it.
PROFESSOR CHALLENGER: I will read the trade once the series is finally complete.....in 2050!