Writer: Mark Millar Artist: Steve McNiven Publisher: Marvel Icon Reviewer: Optimous DoucheNEMESIS finally helped me crack the Millar Conundrum; that puzzling ability he has to polarize the comic book community into almost equal sized camps of blind-rage and gushing-adoration for his work. Millar is essentially the Michael Bay of comic writers. And I don’t mean that as an insult. He appeals to the 15 year old in all of us, tickling the same part of our brains with comic panels that Mr. Bay tickles with robots blowing shit up and Megan Fox bending over. Seriously, every panel of NEMESIS made the 15 year old in me that still “rages against the machine” go “Fuck…Yes!!” Now what did the 35 year old Optimous think? Well, he was a little pissed that he just paid $2.99 for a book that is basically a lot of carnage, a whole lot of swearing, and so shallow that I almost snapped my neck diving into it.
For anyone that does not suffer from an undiagnosed multiple personality disorder like yours truly, and expect your comics to tackle weighty social issues while exploring complex characters; stop reading now! Seriously, you will despise this “Batman Gone Bad” tale. However, if you’re a little bit “Cybil” and enjoy the “sizzle” as much as the “steak” read on; because there is some fun shit in here if you’re willing to shift your brain from 5th gear to neutral.
The question I keep asking myself is, “Why didn’t I come to this revelation earlier?” What was it about OLD MAN LOGAN that made me squeal with glee, where KICK-ASS and at first NEMESIS left me wondering “what the hell is the point of all this?” Again, this was a week of true revelations about my comic buying habits because I finally have an answer. With KICK-ASS, it was on Millar’s shoulders to make me care about the characters (which I never did, but I’ll admit I bailed on the book after issue 2). Some really cool scenes and really cool quips, but without the emotional tether to the fate of these characters and the world they inhabit the book simply seemed like an exercise in base instincts and fool hearted heroics. With OLD MAN LOGAN I already cared about the fate of the main character, actually make that the entire dystopian world Millar painted, thanks to the countless number of years I’ve spent reading WOLVERINE and X-MEN. My mind basically picked up the slack, filling in the deep character introspections between the panels. Essentially I was writing a second book as I was reading OLD MAN LOGAN, my gray matter shoehorned in all of the “talky” emotional stuff between Hulk poundings.
Millar simply does not have this luxury of past history with his original titles. So as readers we are left with two choices; shun the books or shut the fuck up and realize what you are getting into.
No I didn’t hate this anti-batman tale like almost every other reviewer on the intertubes, because I didn’t go into the book expecting FABLES or (insert your erudite title here). Millar’s history combined with the 45 point type on the cover exclaiming “Makes Kick-Ass Look Like S#IT!” well-set the expectation for what I was getting into. Once I knew this, sitting back and reveling in the creative moments of this book was easy, in fact, to use a phrase from my youth, “the shit rocked!”
Where this deviates squarely from BATMAN or any other character that relies on wit over brawn, is that we see none of the planning for Nemesis’ fantastic feats. With Batman we see every thought process, we see his planning in action, we “see” that’s he’s smart because we are shown that he’s smart. Nemesis is an international bad-ass whacking Police Chiefs in all of the world’s major cities. Why? Shut-up with all of your stupid adult questions. It doesn’t matter why; he kills a guy with a freaking train in the first few pages. A meticulously timed kill and he does it because he’s Nemesis fuckers! I hope that’s all you need to know, because that’s all you’re going to get. The second main character of this title is a D.C. Police Chief that is a great fucking cop and is next on Nemesis’ list of marks. In this case we actually get to see that he’s a great cop, well OK you caught me, we actually see that he’s a fool-hardy cop that takes it upon himself personally to break-up a hostage situation in a convenience store. Again, think like you’re 15. We all know that in the real world if cops behaved this way it would be a break down of the system as we know it, but this is comic books. If the Chief is the only guy that can do the job, then by God he’s the man to do it. The book concludes with a great hijack of Air Force One and a cliffhanger, that while expected, certainly sets up some palpable danger for issue deux. While we don’t get to see the planning for the hijacking, the event it self is pretty spectacular all thanks to McNiven who seems to be channeling another artist for this title. It’s all good stuff, just different from the norm.
In the end analysis, I don’t see the need to get so upset over Millar (or any other comic creator for that matter). Seriously you guys are fucking brutal when it comes to big M: I really don’t think I’m a fucktard for enjoying Old Man Logan as one thoughtful reader suggested, nor do I think “I eat the ass of a monkey’s shit after it just ate another monkey’s shit” as one AICN fan kindly told me after I compared KICK-ASS to a lap dance that ends with getting punched in the balls (and yes, their insult is implying that the piece of shit actually has an ass and a mouth – it took me a while). I feel the same way about comics I do about movies. Sometimes I want to watch “Shakespeare in Love” and sometimes I want to watch robots blow some shit up. There’s more than enough room in the world for both kinds of story-telling to flourish – if you’re the right type of reader. Hell, I might even go back and give KICK-ASS another chance when the 15 year old in me wants to come out and play again.
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.
ROGER CORMAN PRESENTS: BATTLE AMONGST THE STARS #1
Writer: Martin Fisher Pencils: Ben Hansen Publisher: Bluewater Comics Reviewer: Ambush BugOccasionally, I do things bass-ackwards. For example, I recently have been watching ScyFy’s CAPRICA series and despite the occasional heavy handedness of some of the themes, I’m enjoying it. Thing is, though, I’ve never watched BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, so for me, this is a case where I am jumping into an established world without prior knowledge that most may have about the property. Same thing goes for the book that is the subject of this review; BATTLE AMONGST THE STARS. Like many of you, I imagine, you may not be familiar with Roger Corman’s cult classic film, BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS. I think I may have seen it a long time ago, but it’s been so long that I remember absolutely nothing about it. But instead of going back and watching the film first, as with CAPRICA, I’m checking out this “prequel” material first, and in both instances, it’s raising my interest in checking out the stuff that has been released before.
For the sake of fairness, I have to admit a few things before going any further with this review. I’ve know writer Martin Fisher for quite some time now. He’s a writer who first piqued my interest when he sent me a copy of his RISERS miniseries which was a truly original take on the zombie genre. Since that initial miniseries, I’ve paid attention when his name was on a comic mostly because I knew that his take would be an interesting one. And through the years, as Martin achieved permission from Bluewater to write a prequel to Roger Corman’s sci fi opus which many have referred to as “THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN in Space”, I spoke with him numerous times about how the project was developing.
Having worked with Bluewater myself with VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS THE TINGLERS and the upcoming WITCHFINDER GENERAL, I understand the excitement Fisher must have had when given the chance to write a prequel to one of his favorite films. Some may poo poo the recent comic book trend of reimagining, prequelizing, or sequelizing age old movies, but I think that books like Bluewater’s ROGER CORMAN PRESENTS and VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS are filled with potential. Instead of stale remakes, these two properties often provide direct continuations or expansions of a favorite film. And without the limitations filmmakers have of reuniting cast members or building budgets, here you can have a continuation of a property thirty years old and the transition between comic and film are seamless.
This brings me to BATTLE AMONGST THE STARS, a prequel to Corman’s classic set 30 years before the events of the film. This story centers on Zed, who was played by Jeff Corey in the film, in his younger years. Reminiscent of STAR WARS (as was the original BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS) the comic stars small with one lone boy with dreams of flying in space. Fisher injects a lot of humanity into his characters here and avoids the usual over-sci-fi-talk which often permeates sci fi books, in favor of real scenes that develop character and encourage investment. Fisher also does a great job of peppering in tidbits that reference the BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS film, thus expanding the original tale.
Ben Hansen provides the art in this one and does a nice job of depicting both the banality of Zed’s home world and the vivid and stark space scenes as giant ships plow across the screen. Hansen goes into some nice detail with the space ships and the spacecraft’s distinctive and provocative shapes are prevalent in these pages too.
The biggest compliment I can give a book like BATTLE AMONGST THE STARS is that it will propel me to seek out the original film. The world Martin Fisher fleshes out in these pages are filled with sci fi action and intrigue. The art is clear and to the point; not flashy and does not distract from the story. All in all, this is a good looking book with a story any fan of the original film would want to check out.
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 comic from Bluewater Comics, VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS: THE TINGLER #1-2. Look for more comics from Bug in 2010, including ROGER CORMAN PRESENTS DEATHSPORT in July, and the just announced vampire miniseries NANNY & HANK in August (and check out Jazma Online’s new interview with Bug about NANNY & HANK here). Bug’s latest comic is VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS #16: WITCHFINDER GENERAL on sale July 2010. Fanboy Radio recently interviewed Bug about it here.
THE STAND: SOUL SURVIVORS #5 (of 5)
Script: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa Art: Mike Perkins Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: JinxoThe latest "book" of the comic adaption of Stephen King's THE STAND draws to a close with more of a low key whimper than a bang. And, okay, cutting a novel into smaller books you aren't always going to be able to end on a huge moment. Sometimes the flow of events is going to just demand that an arc ends on a smaller moment. This part of the saga has largely been about groups of characters finding each other, coming together. Along the way there has been action and adventure but that isn't he overall point of the arc.
Still, SOUL SURVIVORS does end on what could be and should be a solid moment of horror and disquiet. Given that the original book has been out for some time and the cover of the issue itself gives it away, I don't think it's a spoiler (but fine "spoiler ahead") to mention what that moment is: what happens after the end of the world when someone needs surgery? Gotta improvise, someone's just gotta take a shot at doing it. Amateur surgery. That's an idea loaded with dramatic potential. Can you imagine having to do that? And visually, wow, what a chance for something visceral, bloody, and just plain upsetting. And the cover image sets us up to expect something just like that. But when you hit that point in the issue, it really pretty underwhelming. Tossed away. I'm guessing the problem was there was just so many plot points that had to be dealt with in the issue that there was only a limited amount of panels that could be devoted to what in the grand scheme of things is a minor story point. The problem is, big picture it's not so important but, small picture, that was the most interesting and compelling plot in the final issue of this "book". It should have been worked. Instead, much like the world hit with the superflu, this volume goes out with a whimper instead of a bang.
Jinxo is Thom Holbrook, lifelong comic book reader, and the evil genius behind poobala.com. He may appear cute and cuddly but if encountered avoid eye contact and DO NOT attempt to feed.
Writer: Peter Milligan (Guest) Artist: Simon Bisley Publisher: Vertigo/DC Comics Reviewed by Humphrey Lee"Sid (Vicious) was just a no-talent prick. And he's dead. And he had a shitty death too." Thank you Peter Milligan, for that line alone you have earned yourself a positive nod from this reviewer. Not to say I’m anything of a buff on UK history, but as a long time reader of the charmingly sadistic John Constantine I cannot help but feel this book is at “home” when it is at home. That is, when it very much has its feet planted in the politics and underbelly of Britain. I may not always understand the history and references, but I get the aura that they lend to the book and the character and how dirty it always makes the book, the character, and the stakes they play for feel. Obviously there have been some great runs that are not always so entrenched in this material, but if there’s anything I’m going to give Milligan credit for in his so far stellar run, it is that he not only writes a hell of a John, but he has done phenomenally in taking this book a little more back to its roots.
Now, speaking of roots, and to go with the quote from this issue I opened up with, this start of a two-parter gets John mixed up with the punk scene and some of his fellow anarchists from back in the day. After having a hard time of it in India and finding himself saddled up with a young new “assistant”, John finds himself pulled back into the world of spiky hair, Thatcher, the Pistols, and a whole bunch of bollocks. And, surprisingly enough, he seems to have grown himself past it finally, despite a former colleague of his, sadly, unable to give up the ghost (in this case literally) nearly thirty years later. Some trips down memory lane ensue, and the subject matter takes a turn for the currently topical as well, if you want to juxtapose the goings on to the climate here in America today (which I do) with the young upstarts raising a ruckus and the old guard trying to beat them down again. “The Conservatives are coming”. God Save the Queen and God help us all.
There is just something magical when this aspect of John’s life gets revisited though. Obviously, part of it to me is the roots part of it, with my being a punk myself (the kind that grew up on the more melodic version of it in the 90’s, with Bad Religion in their prime and the rise of bands like Pennywise, Strung Out, etc. not the Constantine kind of punk, I’m only 28 after all). But, to me, it just so succinctly sums up why this man still has that chip on his shoulder towards authority coming on his fifties, and it’s a great looking glass to how he sees the world. His world may not be as fast and angry, but it’s still just as reckless. And I wouldn’t have it any other way, just like I wouldn’t have Milligan’s wonderful approach to this much-harrowed character any different than it is. It is trademark John and I love it. I wouldn’t mind having the legendary Mr. Bisley along for the ride more often as well.
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.
MIGHTY AVENGERS #35
Writer: Dan Slott Artist: Khoi Pham Inker: Craig Yeung Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: Rock-Me AmodeoI come not to bury the MIGHTY AVENGERS, but to praise them. Even if they are one issue away from the end of their run.
And what a run. With Bendis and Cho in the beginning…then Bagley, to help play catch-up…and then, uhn, I kinda don’t remember the middle. Sorry. But my favorite run, without question, has been this run with Slott at the helm, and Pham on art. My schedule has been a little too busy to review regularly, but I had to come out and play out of respect for this book.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the redemption of Hank Pym. The uneasy camaraderie of the team. The odd subplots with Pietro’s deception, Hercules heroism, Hank’s leadership and returned confidence (the intellectual slap-fight he had with Reed Richards still makes me laugh.) And the times when Pym’s genius was almost scary. Loki in the Avengers… well, if it worked for Ares (though I know he’s recently been split about the whole Avenger’s gig, but still…)
I know that disgust with Pym is part of the necessary editorial impetus to break up the team, so that another book can takes its place. Still, even if it were a bonkers idea right now, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Loki queuing up with the Avengers at some point in the future. Maybe as some sort of Asgardian community service. I would read that, for sure! And just remember, if it happens, Pym had the idea first. Pym has a lot of ideas lately. I love that.
With this series, there’s almost too much to put into words. But one thing I can tell you, this has been for some time Hank Pym’s Avengers. They have kicked some serious butt in the last year or so. Pym pulled out some winners that few others could. He did an excellent job stepping up to the plate when leadership was needed. And I think Slott has done an excellent job portraying someone who can pivot from confidence to self-deprecation to swagger to steely resolve…without lapsing into the despair that defined him (uhn, Pym, not Slott) for decades. You might like him or hate him, but you gotta respect him. (Pym OR Slott, actually.)
Even in this issue. The agents of the ridiculously-named GRAMPA think Pym is ignoring Captain America’s call to arms just so he can get laid. But the essence of Jocasta’s personality and life are on the line, and Pym chooses to save her first. If it were Thor’s life on the line, and Pym stayed back to save HIS life, would anyone question that? Or Jarvis’ life? No. I would make the same call. Different people might make a different call. But this is the very definition of the misunderstood hero, where Pym makes an informed judgment, and is true to what he thinks is best, despite what others might think.
I gotta respect that.
One more issue to go, and I won’t spoil the ending if you haven’t gotten the book. But everyone who has ever liked the Avengers ought to be on board for the finale with this set-up.
Rock-Me Amodeo is a daytime computer guy and nighttime all kinds of things. He’s also probably the only guy ever to write a book and a movie still hoping he might someday break into comics.
Written by: Joe Brusha Art by: Jean-Paul Deshong Published by: Zenescope Entertainment Reviewed by: Irish RicanIt's heartbreaking for me to have Zenescope's WONDERLAND trilogy actually coming to a close. I've turned so many people on to the twisted book, even my wife has read it. So with WONDERLAND ending Zenescope has wasted no time trying to find their next awesome GRIMM FAIRY TALES book. I think they truly have found it with NEVERLAND.
The first issue sets up a lot for the reader. Nathan is a guy with one arm (the other is a metal arm with a hook-like contraption. Before you jump to conclusions keep reading...) and is down on his luck. He has nightmares of a weird world where something happened to his brother Tim. More like some THING - a big monstrous creature that probably ate him for dinner.
On the flip side we have gorgeous Aunt Wendy with her nephews Michael and Jonathan. Seems that their parents have died some time ago and Aunt Wendy is raising them in the Big Apple. She enjoys reading them books but Michael and Jonathan's bedtime stories are the LORD OF THE RINGS, not tales of NEVERLAND.
Problem is Peter Pan and Tinkerbell. Did I say problem? Yes - because this Peter Pan isn't the sweet, magical boy from the fairytale. This is some messed guy who really looks like he is kidnapping children rather than offering awesome playtime. Evil Peter Pan? I love it...absolutely love it!
NEVERLAND is over before it really begins and once again Zenescope sinks its teeth in quick. From the awesome David Finch cover to Joe Brusha's kickass story - everything was just awesome with this book. I was going to complain about page count because the story seemed so, well, short - but in counting the pages I was stunned to find out that the issue was just normal comic length. It just read so well that it felt like it was short. That is not a knock - that is rather the ultimate compliment I can ever give for a comic. NEVERLAND is brilliant, Brusha's writing is sharp, and Jean-Paul Deshung's artwork is perfect for the book. This will be a book to watch.
Ryan McLelland AKA Irish Rican has worked in movies and comics journalism for the past several years before joining the @$$holes here at AICN. Ryan’s comic work has already graced comic shelves with Arcana’s PHILLY, WISE INTELLIGENCE, UPTOWN GIRL, and THE SENTINELS ANTHOLOGY. He rarely updates his blog but when he does it can be read at www.eyewannabe.com. Ryan's new webcomic Mobile Estates can be found at www.mobileestatescomic.com.
AVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE #34
Writer: Christos Gage Penciler: Jorge Molina Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: JinxoAVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE continues to entertain , telling the story of the grunts in the Marvel Universe. With Norman Osborn placing Asgard under siege in the like-named mini-series, The Initiative gets us inside the heads of the smaller players on both sides of the battle lines. Having already seen Captain America face off against Taskmaster in the main Siege book, it was interesting to actually get inside Taskmaster's head and hear the logic behind his choices and realize, yeah, his choice to face down Cap for him does make sense.
I want to say something about SIEGE as a whole though. I'm really enjoying the hell out of it, especially compared to some of the other big event books from recent history. My problem with so many earlier Marvel events was they really weren't full stories. What I mean is they were often less about giving you a satisfying, beginning, middle and end and more about ending with the status quo for the Marvel Universe being changed. So, for me, they often ended with a lack of real payoff. But, man, Siege is the opposite. Marvel has said this is the last big event they're going to do for awhile and as a result this event instead of being all setup is in fact nothing but payoff after payoff on things that have been building for years. It's crazy.
Meanwhile over at DC you have BLACKEST NIGHT going on. For what it is I am enjoying it but... it's maybe too big, too epic in scale. A bazillion Black Lanterns going ape shit across all of space. That's just so huge that it's hard to plot things out in such a way where a reader really feels like they are following everything. I mean, in a way, you can't. The universe is under attack! We're only going to see the key moments, obviously, with the majority of the fight becoming background confusion. Now, not wanting to put BLACKEST NIGHT down too much. Just saying that to point out what Siege has done better. Siege isn't the biggest most important universe-in-the-balance saga ever. It's smaller scale but still made epic by the fact that it's about an invasion of Asgard, city of the gods. And because it is smaller in scale it has enabled Marvel to really do an amazing job plotting the events out. SIEGE and it's crossover books have quite a number of overlapping stories going on and they really all seem to mesh and work really well with each other. Reading any SIEGE title, THE INITIATIVE for instance, I always feel like I understand time-wise where the events of that issue fit into the bigger Siege picture resulting in all the books being pretty satisfying reads.
And since this is really a review of AVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE specifically, one of the best aspects of the book is that it's about the grunts. In some of the other titles, you might not really have much fear that characters will die (especially when some of them only recently got better from being dead). But with a book about B and C list characters, some of them might actually die. And with as good a job as Christos Gage has done building all the books characters, we actually care.
Every comic shop has them… battered long boxes jam-packed with dog-eared titles ranging from forgotten heroes of the 1970s to multiple copies of chromium-covered “collector’s item” comics from the Big Bust of the 1990s. But if you are patient, and dig deep enough, you just may find something special…
ARMAGGEDDON 2001 Two Issue Miniseries and Annuals, 1991
Written by: Archie Goodwin, Dennis O’Neil and others Drawn by: Dan Jurgens, Dick Giordano and others Published by: DC Comics Scrounged from the long boxes by: BottleImpA few weeks ago I wrote a Long Box review of DC’s ZERO HOUR miniseries, wherein I mentioned that the character of Waverider was created in DC’s ARMAGEDDON 2001 series. So for those of you too young to remember those long-ago days when the year 2001 was still an enigmatic, futuristic world of endless possibilities, here’s a look back DC’s flawed, yet still enjoyable, event of 1991.
The story begins in the year 2030, as seen through the eyes of scientist Matthew Ryder. The world is seemingly at peace, with global unity and economic recovery enforced by the mysterious Monarch and his armies of Peacemakers. Much like George Orwell’s dystopian future of 1984, the truth of the matter is that the world’s citizens are prisoners, held in cages by their fear, for the Peacemakers are given the power to preemptively arrest and prosecute (and in cases, execute) those who are thought to be a danger to the Monarch’s absolute rule. There is no one who can challenge the Monarch, for of all the rumors that circle about his origin, one thing is known: that the Monarch was once a superhero, until one day in 2001 when for reasons yet unknown, he destroyed all of Earth’s other heroes and took this new identity for himself. But now Ryder is given the chance to unmake this world and stop the Monarch before he ever comes into power, as he becomes the test subject for a time travel experiment and is transformed into Waverider, a being of pure electromagnetic energy that can travel back and forth along the flow of the timestream. Waverider’s mission is to seek out the greatest heroes of the past (1991) and look into their future timelines to see which one will become the Monarch, and stop this hero before this future can occur.
The miniseries consisted of two issues, designed to tie in with several of DC’s annual issues, a format which had been used well by both DC and Marvel in the 1980s and early ‘90s to craft company-wide events that remained somewhat self-contained, and did not necessitate long commitments or exorbitant amounts of money being spent by the readers. Oh, the good old days… The story began with ARMAGEDDON 2001 #1, then spun off into various annuals as Waverider tested (and in cases of heroes with multiple titles such as Superman and Batman, re-tested) DC’s characters to try and determine which one would fall into darkness. The end result was a collection of comic books that gave a nod back to the “Imaginary Stories” that used to be a staple of DC titles back in the 1960s and ‘70s—you know, the ones where Superman was killed by Lex Luthor and Brainiac, or the one where he ended up never leaving Krypton, or where Batman married Kathy Kane and Dick Grayson became the new Batman. Just as with these goofy stories from past, the creators of the ARMAGEDDON 2001 books had the freedom to explore the characters without the worries of messing up DC’s continuity or the constraints of making sure that the characters would be around for the next writers and artists to work with. In short, these annuals gave writers a chance to write “The Ultimate ___________ Story,” and as a result, some of them are some damn fine storytelling.
The three Superman annuals end up being the best examples of the writers doing something new and innovative with an iconic character (I was kind of surprised that the Batman stories didn’t have as much of an edge, but then again perhaps nothing could top THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS). In SUPERMAN Annual #3, the destruction of Metropolis by a nuclear bomb sends Superman over the edge, turning him into a fascist dictator bent on world disarmament—sort of a SUPERMAN IV with balls. His threat is finally neutralized by Batman in a scene obviously meant as an homage to DKR’s climactic battle, right down to Batman’s Frank Miller-esque armor. ACTION COMICS Annual #3 takes a much lighter look at the Man of Steel as he is elected President of the United States (a Constitutional possibility thanks to the re-vamping done in the 1980s which changed Kal-El’s spaceship into a “birthing matrix,” in essence an artificial womb—so Superman was, in fact, a United States-born citizen), and uses his power as part of the diplomatic process to spread peace and prosperity through the world. And in THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN Annual #3, a question that has puzzled comic readers for decades (it was even discussed in Kevin Smith’s MALLRATS) was finally answered, as Lois Lane dies from internal hemorrhaging resultant from a kick from Lois’ unborn child. The rest of the issue follows Superman as he exiles himself from Earth in his grief, ending up as the husband to the super-strong Empress Maxima of Almerac (as Brodie Bruce might have put it, “the only woman strong enough to handle his super-sperm”).
As I said, the Batman titles didn’t take quite as many chances, though both the BATMAN and DETECTIVE COMICS annuals feature good stories. DETECTIVE COMICS Annual #4 pits Batman against Talia al Ghul in a battle to the death, with it being revealed that Talia’s ultimate goal is the resurrection of Bruce Wayne in one of the immortality-granting Lazarus Pits, so that the Batman might take his place as the new Ra’s al Ghul. BATMAN ANNUAL #15 depicts a future where the Joker is declared sane and the Batman is sentenced to death for the murder of the Penguin, and features another homage to an iconic Batman comic, in this case Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s THE KILLING JOKE.
Both JUSTICE LEAGUE AMERICA and JUSTICE LEAGUE EUROPE were in their humorous Keith Giffen-penned phase, and their respective annuals reflect the less-than-serious tone with futures that fit in better with the slapstick antics of their regular titles, rather than the more tragic elements that popped up in DC’s other annuals. However, the final pages of JUSTICE LEAGUE EUROPE Annual #2 feature an ominous build up to Waverider looking into Captain Atom’s future… an event which would be revealed in ARMAGEDDON 2001 #2.
This is when things get weird.
News had somehow leaked that Captain Atom would be the hero that would become the villainous Monarch. The powers that be at DC panicked and decided to alter the final issue of the miniseries and change the identity of the fallen hero, so that readers would still be surprised at the outcome. Therefore, the Monarch was revealed to be Hank Hall, aka Hawk of the HAWK AND DOVE duo, who witnesses his partner Dove’s death at the hands of the Monarch, who had traveled back in time thanks to the combined energies of Waverider and Captain Atom. Hawk then kills Monarch and takes his armor and identity (just as the Monarch remembered, hence his trip backwards in time), and vows to bring order to the world.
Okay, what’s wrong with this picture
First off, let’s just think about the likelihood that a superhero would kill the man responsible for his partner’s death, find out that the villain is in fact a future version of himself… and the first thing he does is put on that evil version’s costume and step right into his shoes? That takes a big suspension of disbelief, even when we’re talking about people who wear their underwear on the outside of their pants. Then let’s look at the character of Hawk: a man whose soul is linked to the spirit of Chaos. This is the guy who decides to bring ORDER to the world? In their effort to keep the mystery of the Monarch’s identity maintained, DC ended up turning this miniseries into a tangled mess of “what the hell happened?”
And the originally conceived identity of the Monarch, Captain Atom? He and Hank Hall were thrust back to the age of dinosaurs and ended up fighting each other across the timeline in the (sort-of) sequel to ARMAGEDDON 2001, entitled ARMAGEDDON: THE ALIEN AGENDA. The less said, the better.
Waverider popped up again in the miniseries ARMAGEDDON: INFERNO, a mostly forgettable affair whose only redeeming factor is that it brought the original Justice Society back from their Roy Thomas-sentenced Limbo and re-introduced them into DC’s current continuity. Then came ZERO HOUR (see the Raiders of the Long Box review here), and since then the time-traveler has popped up from time to time in titles such as BOOSTER GOLD. He also has the distinction of being immortalized in plastic as one of the JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED line of action figures, even though he had just a brief cameo in the animated series.
Though the final outcome of ARMAGEDDON 2001 is a letdown, you could do worse than pick up a few of these WHAT IF?-style annuals next time you’re browsing the cheap boxes at your local comic shop. When all is said and done, they are great examples of the kind of storytelling that is done all too seldom in today’s publications: comic books created with excitement and energy and unconstrained by editorial shackles and decades of continuity.
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: Kaare Andrews Artist: Kaare Andrews and Jose Villarubia Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: WilliamBuy this book immediately. Seriously, when you have a chance visit your local comic book shop and ask the owner the order you this copy. Even if you don’t have a comic book store nearby then I suggest you order it off of Amazon,com, because this mini-series from a few years back remains of the best comics that I have ever read.
Fresh from the great feeling that I had received with recently reading and reviewing Spider-Man: The Secret Wars #1, I decided to continue the Spider-Man streak by ordering this book. I had heard many things about it, such as it being a huge parallel to Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, and how it involves an older Peter Parker. Other than that I had remained pretty much in the dark about everything else, so once I finished reading this TPB I was amazed at how well everything was produced here.
First off, yes there are clear similarities to The Dark Knight Returns. Yes it deals with an elderly Peter Parker deciding to take up the Spider-Man mantle one last time as he battles a new era of crime. But those similarities can best be described as a respective homage rather than a rip-off. Much like Singer made his Superman Returns as a big thank-you note to Richard Donner’s original Superman movies, here Andrews both respects and reveres Miller’s classic tale by juxtaposing it with an elderly Spider-Man. But the thing that made it all so great was that Andrews still incorporated his own original ideas into the mix, some of them becoming quite haunting in fact in their nature.
For example, my favorite aspect within the TPB remains Peter’s relationship with a deceased Mary Jane. Seen now as a hallucination by Peter, I can’t ever quite recall how amazing Peter’s love was for her. Some internet poster nicely said that there are only two comic book relationships that truly matter, that of Clark Kent/Lois Lane and Peter Parker/Mary Jane. I agree with that assessment, as any comic book fans knows how important their relationships are within the comic book world. I won’t spoil how Mary Jane met her demise here, but when Andrews reveals how it happened and how it affected Peter afterward, I was in awe of how truly moving that scene was. It’s haunting in its simplicity and implication, and it’s a testament to Andrews’ skill in making the impact of it so devastating. His recurring hallucinations/interactions with Mary Jane’s “ghost” remain my absolute favorite scenes of all.
Besides that Andrews also incorporates some great storylines as Peter takes on a revised Sinister Six, meets with Doctor Octopus in a manner that has to be seen to be believed, and confronts what Andrews decides is his ultimate archenemy, Venom, for the final time. I say Andrews “decided it” because the only thing seen here as a misfire remains the non-inclusion of Normal Osborn/Green Goblin. I would’ve always thought that somebody as important as him (and to me the true archenemy of Spider-Man) should’ve at least been given a cameo here. But unfortunately he’s nowhere to be seen, and only guessable as to why Andrews never decided to incorporate him. It’s like having The Dark Knight Returns without including the Joker. This non-inclusion is the only thing that keeps this mini-series from becoming a great comic book.
I highly recommend this TPB for anyone out there who’s a fan of Spider-Man or of comic books in general. Andrews created a wonderful epic here, one that you’ll start from page 1 and read all the way through immediately afterward. The artwork is great by Andrews (including computer generated backgrounds that add to the mood), the storyline is fantastic (including obvious allegorical references to a post 9/11 world), and one absolutely roots for Spider-Man in what is supposedly his final tale here. If only all comic books out there had this same type of care crafted within them.
PRINCESS RESURRECTION Vol. 6 & 7
By Yasunori Mitsunaga Released by Del Ray Reviewer: Scott GreenAs anime and manga have increasingly become the domain of long time fan creators speaking to long time fan consumers, the dependence on reference has increased in kind. Comedies base their humor on recognition. Action shows rely on the viewer knowing the template to feed their anticipation. In no configuration is this reliance more acute than male oriented relationship stories. There's an established language of character types and relationships in which the majority of these works communicate, and PRINCESS RESURRECTION is a native speaker. Its point of view is a dull guy, with little going for him other than being explicitly the hero (his name is Hiro) of these circumstances and, despite being dull, magnetically attractive to virtually every female character. There's a female lead who literally goes by "Princess," (Hime) whose iciness towards the lead melts away - tsundere character - to quote Galbraith's Otaku Encyclopedia "combining onomatopoeia tsun tsun (which suggests turning your head away in disgust) with dere dere (to turn all lovely dovey)... a developmental process wherein an icy character shows their warm side of the course of time." And, there's literally a wild girl (surname Wildman). A social queen bee...a particularly young girl....all of the standard types.
These relationship stories need a specific tone or gimmick. In the case of PRINCESS RESURRECTION, this identity is found in black and lace. Yasunori Mitsunaga applies solid black ink and nice curves to the loligoth attired Princess of the monster realm. The porcelain young woman in a gown raises a hapless, regular guy from the dead and uses him as a protective vanguard...not that she isn't able to take care of herself. As each volume's cover illustrates, with a saber or rapier, sledge hammer or chainsaw, this Hime is willing to get her hands bloody, if not necessarily dirty.
What PRINCESS RESURRECTION says in that language of anime/manga relationship stories loops back into the referential business. Upper echelon horror enthusiasm is being applied here. PRINCESS RESURRECTION features the obvious. Cute girls mixed with the Universal monster types are in the forefront. The vampire girl, complete with black sailor uniform, with plenty of panty shots as she hovers in the night sky; the werewolf girl, complete with large, fluffy mitt claws. The Frankenstein's monster girl...a little daintier than you'd expect. I imagine that Mitsunaga has a stack of international horror DVDs, because what's brought into PRINCESS RESURRECTION hardly ends with this mandatory set.
Hime and Hiro are the core of one of a network of monster cadres in which members of the royal family of the demonic realm and their entourages vy for the throne. Along with assorted free agents and beasties the manga corrals a diverse host of horror figures. Previous volumes included triffids, the Fly, a little mermaid of the dark, pre-Disney variety, bag headed slashers, and so on. PRINCESS RESURRECTION has impressed in this regard in the past, and this set of volumes nicely carries the torch. That includes a DUEL-like truck. There's a kaiju rumble between Godzilla and a Tetsujin 28-esque robot butler. And, a local spider goddess looks for her sacrifices in Hiro's school.
The manga has gotten away from its gag of slugging grievous bodily harm upon the ill-equipped Hiro, but PRINCESS RESURRECTION still has plenty of glib fun playing with the interaction between character types and horrific violence. It manages to turn thinly drawn characters into a virtue. The persistent smugness of the vampire girl, the unquenchable belligerence of the werewolf girl, it recasts horror as a sitcom. The characters are thoroughly relationship story types and the horror is an enthusiastic reproduction of the genre. This disparity works as comedy. It's rarely hilarious, but it is consistently funny.
PRINCESS RESURRECTION's failing is its fight scenes. Mitsunaga sets up an expectation. Hime's faction is stranded 2,000 years in the past, besieged by yeti and told that they must hold off the assault for three days. The group is locked into a monster world prison, where the werewolf must fight against her like type for supremacy and against a lethal vampire foe. If only Mitsunaga had an assistant that could choreograph these set pieces, because while Mitsunaga has plenty of horror expertise and a knack for illustrating black clad young ladies, he can barely manage disconnected blows in his fight scenes. The author appears to have figured this out, because while he continues to set up the battles, he cuts away before the deficit becomes too evident.
Compounding derivative elements is not exactly a path to greatness and this weakness does not help. It's not a brilliant manga and it isn't as good as it perhaps could be. Still, PRINCESS RESURRECTION is a consistently amusing manga series. Especially for horror fans who are familiar with the template of anime/manga relationship stories, there's a lot to like here.
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.
THE MOLTING #1-3
Writer/Art: Terrance Zdunich Publisher: www.TheMoltingComic.com Reviewer: Ambush BugOne of the best things about horror is that it comes in all shapes and sizes. Some find horror in giant monsters crashing through cities, others through shambling masses of corpses overrunning society. Still others find horror in the banalities in life. THE MOLTING is that type of horror story. Much like David Lynch’s films which often have extremely horrific elements, THE MOLTING is the type of horror story that wallows in the banalities of life and how that can mask true horror. Lynch’s films are most effective when terrifying things occur and the horror lies in how the characters are unfazed by it. This occurs a lot in Terrance Zdunich’s THE MOLTING, a story of a little girl with a troubled past who grew up to have an equally troubled adulthood.
Issue one begins with a flashback story where we are introduced to Guilty Susie and her brother, who both are adopted by their aunt and uncle when their parents are killed. Their new parents are less than perfect; in fact they are downright sadistic, abusive monsters. As best as she can Susie attempts to defend herself, but the severity and gruesome lengths she goes to are the most disturbing aspects of this flashback issue.
Issues two and three take us to the present, with a grown up Susie who has an abusive husband herself and a pair of delinquent children. She is emotionally cut off, spending most of her time in her room, guarding an attic that houses a secret yet to be revealed, and a house infested with roaches that seem to know a lot more than they are letting on. The horror lies in the fact that Susie is shut off from the rest of the world. She doesn’t notice her two sons getting into trouble with the law. Or her oldest son’s bizarre gift to influence people with a stare. Or the roaches skritching around in every corner of the house.
All of the elements for a successful horror comic are in this book and it all works effectively. The thing that is most impressive is that writer/artist Terrance Zdunich is publishing this one his own. This is a true labor of love for the guy best known for his portrayal of the Graverobber in the cult classic REPO! THE GENETIC OPERA. Zdunich also provides some very impressive artwork for this book which seems to be developing with every issue. In issue one especially, the layout is superb, with the flashback sequences focusing mainly on the action of the panel, leaving the backgrounds to fade out, which is reminiscent of how we ourselves remember specific things when we revisit the past, but can’t remember the entire picture. Zdunich’s present day panels are much more grounded, but all of them dark and twisted, yet innocent, much like cartoon snapshots through a twisted toy camera lens.
THE MOLTING is a fine, fine horror comic and I can’t wait to read the rest of this 12 part series. Be sure to visit www.TheMoltingComic.com to find out how you can pick up this unique horror experience.