SUPERMAN: WAR OF THE SUPERMEN #1
Writer: Sterling Gates & James Robinson Art: Jamal Igle Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Mr. PastyBy the time you read this, ish numero uno will have been on shop shelves for at least a week, so regarding spoilers please keep in mind that all’s fair in love and war (of Supermen). Now if you think a week is too soon just remember that Sato only gave Miyagi three days to mourn. And speaking of frenemies that constantly bicker back and forth, Supergirl and Supermom open the book with a tête-à-tête over prisoner confessions before (whoops!) everything gets blowed up real good. How good? Well, let’s just say that General Zod isn’t getting back the deposit he put down on that one bedroom flat in the upper red side of New Krypton. That makes Zod angry – angry enough to start a war that will last exactly 100 minutes. Synchronize Swatches!
WAR OF THE SUPERMEN (WOTS) is a brisk read. I won’t say I didn’t enjoy it, but it felt a little uneven. Be forewarned, for an issue that is labeled number one in the series, it’s not exactly the best place to start considering how much of the story is carried over from LAST STAND OF NEW KRYPTON #1 and (to a lesser extent) WOTS #0 that was scooped up by chislers on free comic book day. I mentioned the book’s balance and again, mostly a minor complaint but it’s very dialogue-heavy in the beginning and then practically barren towards the end. Oh look, a bunch of empty panels with grimacing heroes in broad, sweeping scenes. How epic. No problem, I get it, but less really is more in these instances. And I found it very difficult to commit to the emotional arc because I felt the artwork didn’t hold up its end of the bargain.
The pencils weren’t bad, but did seem poorly executed and even incomplete in some frames. Jamal Igle has Supergirl down pat, but the man of steel is assembled so haphazardly during a moment of crisis that he looks like a cross-eyed Dave Matthews after getting kicked in the Kryptonuts. And where did he learn how to draw tears? I don’t know if they’re supposed to be frozen since she’s in space but one particular scene has Supergirl crouched down in front of Superman, peering up at him mournfully with white blotches covering her face and hair. I defy you to look at those panels and tell me it in no way resembles a Mexican 5-Star. All this coming from a book that has the word “Stillborn” in bold type on the very first page. No big deal? Well, beneath it is a wide shot of tiny people in the darkness of space flying away from a glowing white ball that I assume is a star but looks more like a fertilized egg. There are some serious issues buried within this book, or maybe buried within me, but either way it was a little distracting.
In the end, WOTS is priced right ($2.99) and delivers a fairly entertaining story. Putting my nitpicking aside for a second, I did finish the book with a bit of anticipation for issue #2. So really, how bad could it have been if I’m now looking forward to the next installment? That pretty much sums up what SUPERMAN: WAR OF THE SUPERMEN #1 is for the casual fan: a good but not great entry into the Superman franchise that has all the shimmer and shine of a high level project – complete with all the visible streak marks the contributors were either too lazy or too pressed for time to buff out.
Web heads who can’t get enough of Mr. Pasty’s word vomit are encouraged to watch him operate as Nostradumbass over at MMaMania.com here. Love, hate and Mafia Wars requests should be directed here.
Writer: Mark Waid Art: Diego Barreto Publisher: BOOM! Studios Reviewer: BottleImpNow THAT’S what I’m talkin’ about!
Regular readers of this column will know that I’ve had, how you say, somewhat mixed feelings about this title. I’m sure some of you are sick of the fact that with each issue of IRREDEEMABLE I review, I invariably wind up bemoaning the fact that Mark Waid’s premise of a Superman running amok has been stripped of all its vigor. And even I, myself, have grown weary of repeating the opinion that the series fails to live up to its original hook.
Not this time, loyal readers.
What a pleasant surprise to find that this month’s issue of IRREDEEMABLE not only recaptures the drama and intensity of the series’ premiere, but manages to crank that intensity up to a new height! That characters as dry and flat as cardboard are finally exhibiting signs of life, and making me care about them! That for the first time since this comic book’s first issue cliffhanger I finished reading the story and was rabid to find out what happens next!
How did this happen?
To answer this, we need to look back at what was making IRREDEEMABLE…let’s just say, less than enjoyable. The plot of the series, in its most basic form, is that the world’s most powerful superhero, the Plutonian, has turned evil, and his former teammates are scrambling for a way to stop him, while the rest of the world is scrambling for survival. This issue finally shows us the moment when the Paradigm (the Plutonian’s former alliance) first see the Plutonian’s carnage, a moment only alluded to over the past year’s worth of issues. Think about it—the reader was told that the Plutonian went bad and attacked his teammates, but was shown very little of the actual events. As I’ve said time and time again, comic books are a visual medium, and their power at effectively conveying story and emotion depends on that visual communication. Show; don’t tell.
Well, for too long Waid has told. Sure, there was some show, but never the meat of the conflict. Too often the Paradigm would be off in their own corner of the world, looking for an answer to the Plutonian problem, while the Plutonian was depicted being a super-powered dickweed, destroying countries and exacting petty revenge on his former foster parents. Evil? Perhaps. Insane? Almost certainly. But intensely exciting? Hardly. The reader was constantly told that the Plutonian was the world’s most powerful being, but the reader was never shown. Until now.
The superhero clash in this issue almost makes up for a year of lackluster reading. Waid breathes long-overdue sparks of life into his characters, especially Bette Noir…I know, I was supposed to have given a rat’s ass about her LAST issue, when she tearfully confessed her guilt to her friends, but what can I say? Last issue was melodrama—this issue is drama; it just feels more real. Her reactions in the moment of fear and confusion, as she and her teammates fight for their lives against an insane god…those are the moments that make you care about what happens to lifeless, two-dimensional collections of lines and colors. Shit, Waid even makes me care about Metalman, Citadel and Gazer, who are to IRREDEEMABLE as the red-shirted ensigns were to STAR TREK. Where have you been the past year, the Mark Waid who makes me care?
Being such as big fan of show over tell, I can’t overlook the importance of Diego Barreto as the (hopefully!) new regular artist on this title. Barreto brings a sense of finish to the artwork, with dynamic yet clean page compositions and confident, competent linework. Over the course of the previous issues I had grown dissatisfied with former artist Peter Krause’s scratchy, increasingly sketchy drawing style. With Barreto I feel that IRREDEEMABLE finally has someone who can tell the story through the visual aspect of the medium at the same level as Waid’s prose scripting.
This issue was such a pleasure to read that it makes me nervous. I really, really want to believe that this series has finally found its stride, but there’s that little, nagging part of my brain that says that it’s a fluke, and next month IRREDEEMABLE will go right back to its normal, underwhelming self. I guess I’ll just have to pick up the next issue and see which one of me is right.
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.
FIRESTAR One Shot #1
Writer: Sean McKeever Artist: Emma Rios Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: JinxoOkay, I grew up in the 80s with the SPIDER-MAN & HIS AMAZING FRIENDS cartoon show. So I always have been fascinated with the Marvel Universe version of Firestar inspired by the show. I guess I keep wondering when the hell she’s gonna hook up with Spider-Man and Ice Man and share that apartment with all the hidden computers in the walls. Okay, that happening would actually be a pretty bad idea. Still, I always wonder if maybe Angelica Jones will finally achieve the success in comics she did with Saturday Morning Cartoon viewers.
So yeah, the little kid in me inspired me to pick this issue up. But the adult comic reader in me actually found myself enjoying this one-off. Written mostly to reintroduce Firstar to readers before she becomes a member of the new Young Allies comic, this issue is mostly a character piece, showing us Angelica’s life and world. While I love the hell out of an action packed battle filled issue as much as anyone I also like really well done character pieces too, and in this case I really liked what they did with Firestar. In some very basic ways she put me in mind of, ironically, Ultimate Spider-Man. Setting her heroic activities aside, her life is a busy complicated mess most people could relate to. Just a little too much on her plate: school, family, friends, illness, and sometimes just trying to figure out what the right thing to do is.
This will sound odd at first but her physicality also reminds me of Ultimate Spidey. Like him, Firestar is not presented as the typical larger-than-life overly-endowed image of physical perfection. No BAM! figure and massive mammaries. Nope. Both of them are presented as smaller regular Joes…or Janes. Instead of a Playboy playmate on steroids, artist Emma Rios gives us an Angelica Jones who is that cute average sized, average proportioned girl next door. I really like that. I think it adds to our sympathy and concern for her. Sure the giant breasted Amazon can handle a super villain. But this small slip of a girl? Any challenge is going to seem much harder for her and more meaningful if she overcomes it.
Again, no massive battles in this issue. Some action sure but mostly personal battles…with life, former bullies and even her own body. I liked it. The sad thing for me is, all the stuff I liked about this issue? I’m not sure we’ll see any of it in YOUNG ALLIES. A group book doesn’t usually have tons of times to focus in on personal details of the individual heroes. A different artist could easily turn Firestar into a pinup babe.
Not to say I would want heavy character stuff every issue. Bring on the smackdowns. I just hope they manage to work in some degree of what they establish for Firestar in YOUNG ALLIES.
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.
BOB DYLAN REVISITED OGN
Words by Bob Dylan Art by various Published by W.W. Norton Reviewed by Stones ThrowIn idle moments I occasionally try my hand at drawing a Bob Dylan lyric. It’s not an unamusing challenge. How do you visualise something like:
Like all good poetry, Dylan’s lyrics rely more on the sound of the words and images and associations they suggest rather than any literally-understood meaning. Once you start translating those images into actual pictures you risk losing whatever made them exciting and mysterious in the first place.
As for trying to interpret a whole song, the gap between lyrical song tradition and narrative comics telling a sequential story seems almost insurmountable.
Which makes it all the more pleasantly surprising that, in addition to impressive pictures, most of the artists in this book succeed in providing powerful and original interpretations of the songs themselves.
The strips in the book can be divided into two categories: those that try to illustrate the song line by line and those that use the song as a starting point from which to head off in their own direction. Of the latter category, I was impressed by Thierry Murat’s take on Blowin’ in the Wind, which refreshes what is probably Dylan’s most familiar song by rewriting the lyrics to concentrate on the imagery itself. Each page has three broad panels illustrating an image from the song; so, for the first verse, you see a road, an oceans and birds. It’s a nice way of illustrating poetry, since lines like “How many years must a mountain exist/ Before it’s washed to the sea?” aren’t really metaphor or allegory but simply the thing itself. Murat cuts off the latter half of each question (so he asks, for example, “How many roads?”) and alters the over-familiar refrain. You can’t ask for more than a new way of looking at a song whose power has been blunted by too much repetition. Murat’s black crayon on white paper is well suited to the stark subject matter.
A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Falll is from the same album and similarly works as a series of stark and provocative images. Yet it also has a nightmarish, visionary quality that Blowin’ in the Wind doesn’t have. Since it’s a list song, asking a traveller what he’s seen on his travels, Lorenzo Mattotti’s choice of a panel-by-panel adaptation is effective. His use of strange, chalk colors and exaggerated or misshapen proportions are entirely suited to the song’s disturbing, dream-like, almost Biblical imagery. My complaint would be that, like many people, he understands “Hard Rain” too literally as atomic warfare, an interpretation denied by Dylan in a 1963 interview with Studs Terkel.
One I enjoyed that is more of a “free adaptation” of the song was Nicolas Nemiri’s I Want You. This is one of Dylan’s best songs from his free-flowing “wild mercury” period in the mid 1960s, full of unforgettable imagery like “Your dancing child with his Chinese suit/ He spoke to me, I took his flute.” Nemiri wisely avoids the trap fallen into by his fellow adaptors Bezian and Alfred, illustrating Tombstone Blues and Like a Rolling Stone, of trying to interpret the words literally. Instead he concentrates on capturing the spirit of the song itself, a lone man dashing across a pastel-colored night-time city to be with the one he loves, and achieves the best interplay between Dylan’s words and art in the whole collection. He also draws out the essential melancholy nature of what can seem simply an exuberant love song: if Dylan “wants” the titular girl, he must not have her at the moment.
Also deserving of a special mention is Jean-Claude Gotting’s Lay, Lady, Lay. He takes what is a simple, direct and erotic song of yearning and turns it into two simple, direct, erotic and heartfelt pages. It was refreshing to see one cartoonist not be bound in by Dylan’s words but simply use them as inspiration.
By far the best part of the book is Dave McKean’s Desolation Row. Who better to illustrate one of Dylan’s longest, and certainly darkest and weirdest songs than the guy who did covers for THE SANDMAN? His art, mixing photographs, computer manipulation, painting and drawing, perfectly matches the carnivalesque collage imagery of the song, of which he adapts a surprising amount (including the Einsten/Robin Hood/monk/alphabet bit). Like Gotting, McKean leaves out most of the words, apart from reported speech, thus avoiding the danger of the strip seeming like karaoke sing-a-long accompaniment.
Hurricane and Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door were refreshing, because they tell stories, making them more readily suited to comic book adaptation. Jean-Philippe Bramanti’s Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door was amusing among the more abstract company because the song itself is all dialogue (finally, a speech balloon!); and I liked his interpretation of the “knocking” as a cowboy entering a celestial saloon. It was also nice to see two chapters that fit into traditional comics genres: crime and cowboys. Why weren’t more story songs included? Dylan has many that would suit illustration—just look at the DESIRE album, or Tangled Up in Blue.
Not every effort was successful: the adaptation of Like a Rolling Stone seems woefully feeble compared to the power of Dylan’s original recording and Christopher’s Positively 4th Street makes the mistake of sympathising with the subject when Dylan’s song is a hymn of hate. But most of this collection is beautifully illustrated and does a better job of adapting Dylan than I could have expected. Just one question: no Ballad of a Thin Man? And one challenge: try adapting Foot of Pride, smart-@$$es.
BRIGHTEST DAY #1
Writers: Geoff Johns & Peter J. Tomasi Artists: Ivan Reis, Pat Gleason, Ardian Syaf, Scott Clark, Joe Prado Inkers: Vicente Cifuentes, Mark Irwin, Oclair Albert, David Beaty Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Johnny DestructoShit ain't right. Yup, that's about the size of it. During The Blackest Night, when I first heard that The Brightest Day was coming, I was mildly concerned. After all, how intriguing could a story about the happy days of DC really be? However, don't let the title fool you, things aren't going so well for everyone. Those that were brought back at the climax of BN are experiencing some glitches: Aquaman is still summoning the dead creatures of the sea, which then go on murderous rampages; Ronnie Raymond & Jason Rusch are fused together and can't separate, as much as they'd like to; J'onn J’onzz is experiencing haunting visions; and someone is pulling a yoink on Hawkman and Hawkgirl's original corpses. All told, it's badnewsbears for the characters in BRIGHTEST DAY.
This was a fine continuation of BRIGHTEST DAY (why was #0 numbered as such? They could have just called that one #1 and made this #2, really. I worry that they're gonna start the next series with a "-1"). Green Lantern, Sinestro and Star Sapphire aren't given much to do but stand around in a crater and stare at the newly-formed White Lantern, though we do discover that neither Yellowpanties or Greenie can lift the damn thing, so that's important. Looks like we're to assume that the only one who can actually carry it is Deadman, who is now lovingly being referred to as Aliveman and is still bouncing around, helplessly watching the resurrected's shenanigans, making him the unwilling Creepy Uncle of the DCU. His first stop this ish involved Aquaman and Mera taking apart some kidnappers, which, I gotta say, was a very interesting and fun sequence! I have no real love for Gills, but this little bit was pretty awesome, especially the double page spread of the undead giant squid putting the lovin' squeeze on the baddy's ship. And major kudos to whichever Colorist worked on this scene because dagnabbit, them's some pretty pages. Check out the way Arthur's suit shines in the sun, with little flares reflecting all around him. Most objects aren't just the base color that you'd expect (which is par for the course in the rest of the issue); here every object is given texture and color layered over color, to give each piece a weight and substance that the rest of the book's coloring seems to be lacking. Truly stunning color work.
This fishy fiasco doesn't go unnoticed, as Black Manta catches wind of it and decides the best reaction is to give up his life as a Massachusetts seafood clerk and murder a bunch of folks in a rage.
Meanwhile, we get two pages of Ronnie and Jason (Firestorm) bickering back and forth for two pages before they come across The Atom and Prof. Stein who appear to have some bad news. On the screens behind them are various incarnations of Firestorm, which I'm sure is there to offer some hint as to the bad news, but damned if I know what it is. I can wager a guess that Ronnie and Jason are gonna be stuck together for quite some time though, which ought to make for a very interesting dynamic, since the Black Lantern version of Ronnie murdered Jason's lady. Awwwwwkward situation to say the least!
And since this is all still just set-up, we also get a whole bunch of not much from The Martian Manhunter, who is on Mars, starting to make it inhabitable, beginning with some plant-life, when he's interrupted by a very direct psychic flash of him murdering the man who brought him to Earth (which never happened.) He also half-transforms into his Black Lantern self, which can't be good.
Throw in the long-time archnemesis of Hawkman and Hawkgirl, Hath-Set, making a one panel appearance, and you have...a beginning. While there isn't enough here to let me decide if this series is going to be worthwhile in the long run, it is definitely intriguing enough to get me to pick up issue #2. And if the art maintains this sort of talent pool, I think we're in for some pretty looking books.
Historically, I haven't given a boogens about ANY of these resurrected characters (except for Hal, but he doesn't count, does he?) but Johns and Tomasi have made their returns something worth reading. And for something called BRIGHTEST DAY, it's still pretty damn dark in the DCU.
JD can be found hosting the PopTards Podcast, discussing movies, comics and other flimflam over at www.poptardsgo.com, graphically designing/illustrating for a living, and Booking his Face off over here.
THE SIXTH GUN #1 (Free Comic Book Day Edition)
Writer: Cullen Bunn Artist: Brian Hurtt Publisher: Oni Press Reviewed by Humphrey LeeI don’t know what it is with the two gentlemen responsible for this book but they really know how to work the idea of the mystical. After coming off THE DAMNED for Oni, a book that I very much enjoyed for its use of demons and lore in a “Roaring’ 20’s” chic, it was a no brainer for me to pick up (for free!) their pushing of a new title in a similar vein, this time in another one of my favorite backdrops, the Old West. At the least, I think I appreciate just the balls of such an endeavor. While I’m sure there was plenty of superstition and supernatural paranoia running loose on the plains during that time period, rarely does that make an appealing…well, anything. Look at the Jonah Hex movie trailer and you’ll know what I mean. But here we are, and we’re with two gents who once churned out two great mini’s about demon gangsters trying to work their genre-blending magic once again (for free!) and it’s looking like the crazy bastards may have pulled it off one more time.
What I liked most about this issue, and hope this becomes the norm for the title once it is up and running, is how it throws a lot of cool little fantastical scenes at you to get you involved. In the first four pages alone we’re treated to shots of headshrinkers, an image of some skeleton strewn tomb with a haunted lantern of some sort, and, most macabre, a haunted lynching tree. Right off the bat on a book that I was not sure what to anticipate it would be bringing to the table bombards me with so many images of places I want to see visited within its pages. It’s a fantastic lead in to what elements this book will be playing with and immediately piqued my interest.
From there onward the book did well to set up the human element of this book. We get a look into the actions and attitude of Drake Sinclair, who I am to assume will be one of our leads, and who is also a bit of a bastard, which should make things interesting. And next was Becky, a slip of a thing who gets to watch her father die as a lot of bad men come for the object that is the title of this adventure, the Sixth Gun. And then there’s a bunch of heavily armed monks waving fucking an old-school minigun around as they try and fend off an attack by the vile bastards who really want the Sixth Gun back. Just for good measure, and just for a bit of fun I could tell Bunn and Hurtt must have had coming up with the sequence, which is appreciated given that the rest of the book can be seen as a little dour.
There are a lot of great elements going on here though, and I’m excited to see more. I love the setting, I’m interested to see more about the lore of this version of the Old West, more importantly focused on the history of this Sixth Gun, and I’m curious to see just how much of a bastard Drake Sinclair is going to be if he indeed is going to be one of our leads. That’s always such a fine line to dance, especially since our other hero(ine) looks to be a sweet little thing; how she plays off Sinclair should be interesting to say the least. But this first issue played out extremely well, and it looks gorgeous as I’ve come to expect from Brian Hurtt. I don’t think his art is in either way affected by it finally coming in color, but I think for such a book that is going to be traveling to more “colorful” settings, the move to color was a wise one. This was a great (and free!) opening package that sets an excellent pace to what I hope will become a perpetual “top of the stack” read as it unfolds.
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.
Written: Chris Roberson Artisit: Mike Allred Publisher: DC Vertigo Reviewer: Optimous DoucheI have to hand it to Vertigo, their $1 entrance price into new titles has been like a nerd pheromone luring me away from my usual comic comfort zone of spandex and battle royales.
This frugal ensnarement allowed CHEW to sink its teeth into my pull list, and I'll tell you now, it wasn't SWEET TOOTH'S doe eyes on the cover that got the booked tucked inside my messenger bag. Likewise with iZOMBIE, it wasn't the trendy i in front of the even more trendy term zombie. Quite frankly it was great value even if the book sucked worse than an Ed Wood flick. If there was crappy art inside, chances are I would have found some redeeming quality in the story. Crappy story, merely ogle the art and call it a day. All in all you have still derived about twenty minutes of entertainment for less than a pack of bubble gum. Fortunately iZOMBIE will be able to stand well on its own after the inevitable price hike we will see on issue two.
The best way to encapsulate iZOMBIE at the highest level is a "Twin Peaks" meets the aforementioned CHEW. Take an eclectic cast of Pacific North Westerners, including a ghost from the 60s, a werewolf that is more cuddly than ferocious and of course our zombie heroine Gwen. As is the fashion these days, Roberson has deified what is traditionally demonized and gives Gwen an escape clause from being, well...a zombie. As long as she staves off her hunger with brains (fresh or otherwise) she can pass for a normal, if slightly purple, regular ole' gal. The CHEW facet of this is tale is derived from Gwen's unique ability to absorb the memories of her dinner as well as the vitamins.
Roberson sets up a nice little mystery by the end of this introductory tale and team Allred does what they do best: invoke silver age pencil styles and hues minus the innocence.
While I enjoyed this introductory tale I do have a couple of "complaints" and a little bit of constructive criticism. I'm going to assume that Roberson and Allred are riffing on Asimov's "I Robot" and Gwen's operating system can in fact run both Flash and Quicktime. The small "i" felt more like a marketing ploy than an artistic choice. Really guys, the "i" these days is synonymous with personalized technology not a first-person tale.
I will also warn not to fall into the "Twilight" trap. I would rather be faced with a horde of real zombies over a mob of pissed off zombie fans. I don't claim to be an expert, but other than the fact Gwen likes to snack on the human cerebellum, there wasn't a lot of zombie in a book that leverages the name in the title. I realize the story well for the monsters of yore is starting to run dry, and I'm OK with experimentation into a softer side of what were once the stuff of nightmare. At some point, though, we need to see the evil in these characters. Personally, I have no love of Zombies, I'd be willing to give the book a good 10 or so issues before I will really need to see Gwen in dire straits and start to transform. I can guarantee though that true fans of the genre will not be so tolerant.
All in all a good first run, just give us a little more zombie. Hell, even if it's a guest appearance by Rob Zombie.
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.
PUNISHER MAX # 6
Writer: Jason Aaron Artist: Steve Dillon Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: WilliamWhile I am aware that this issue had recently been reviewed by another poster two weeks ago, I finally managed to obtain a copy from my local comic book store just last week. After reading it and realizing how truly great this issue was, why not review it again so that others could get a fresh perspective on the matter you know?
To begin with, after reading this comic I found that the strength of a Punisher comic comes not from the actions of this stoic hero, but rather the interesting stories surrounding his villains. Let’s face it, the Punisher alone is very bland. He points, he shoots, he frowns a lot, he essentially gets the job done with the least amount of conflict or emotions involved. Instead Marvel is smart enough to follow the George Lucas model, where Lucas injects a rich assortment of sub-characters to keep the stories truly going. Count Dooku, Boba Fett, Jango Fett, Zam Wessel, Darth Maul, Grievous, etc., how many comics and novels and cartoons have now been weaved around these rich characters? It’s so that before you know it, one realizes that anything involving the main characters is somewhere a few pages back, and you never even missed them.
Such is the case with the Punisher comics. One has to only look at the Ma Gnucci, Barracuda, the Russian, etc., stories to realize that the Punisher hardly even shows up in them, but they‘re still great Punisher comics nonetheless. Now a few weeks back I had criticized this aspect within my review for PUNISHER: BUTTERFLY. I had mentioned how writer Valerie D’Orazio fails to make this a Punisher comic due to him only appearing in two pages. Before being called a hypocrite, I must point out though that the fault in Valerie’s tale is two-fold. One is that the sub-character Valerie injected, Butterfly, was a confusing (but promising) mess. There was little sway won over by the reader on Butterfly. Secondly, Valerie failed to do the most important thing with sub-characters. The reason why all the other aforementioned stories (and this issue) worked is because those sub-characters’ actions still involved the Punisher somehow. The Punisher may not have been in a scene with the Kingpin or Bullseye, but he was certainly still on their mind throughout most of their acts. It’s like with Khan in that second “Star Trek” movie. He actually has so little screen time, but his presence is still felt throughout the movie due to all the actions everyone takes around him.
This is what writer Jason Aaron continues to do with the introduction of Bullseye within the Punisher Max universe. Right off the bat we get a villain who, early on during a contract hit, uses a bathroom break to crap out a gun hidden within his ass, and then proceeds to kill everyone and his target with it. And now that the Kingpin has hired this formidable villain to get rid of the Punisher, am I interested in seeing how this story plays out throughout the rest of the issues? You better believe it, even if the Punisher only shows up once every 5 pages or so. That is the strength of a good Punisher comic, where the sum of all the surrounding parts equals one good story.
I strongly recommend this comic, and its continuing issues, for any Punisher fan out there. Be warned though that it’s highly adult-oriented; lots of blood, lots of swearing, occasional nudity. So much so that in requesting the previous issue, my comic book store’s owner mentioned that Marvel doesn’t reprint these issues because other comic book stores consider them under that category of comics usually reserved for T&A and Playboys. Strange but true.
Ambush Bug back again with another handful of indie goodness for you to gobble up…or scroll past, if yer yella. Don’t be yella. Check these worthwhile indies out!
ZOMBIE BOMB Vol. 1 Terminal PressThere are many zombie books out there, but few are this successful at being entertaining. From comedy bits that ask the unaskable like “How long does it take a person eaten by a zombie to wake up and become a zombie?” to dead serious spine tinglers about the walking dead. There’s even an amazing pin up gallery and a prose piece in this one which marries sci fi and zombie fiction. If you are a zombie fan like me, you will devour this one when it hits the stands just in time for this year’s San Diego Comic Con this July.
ROGER CORMAN’S BATTLE AMONGST THE STARS #2 Bluewater ComicsSpace battles, evil dictators, laser rifle blasts, and a pretty sweet torture scene. It’s everything you’d ever want in a prequel to the Roger Corman classic BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS. Fans of the cult classic will eat that up, but I found this book to be just as digestible for newcomers like myself too. Writer Martin Fisher shows he knows this universe very well and is in the middle of a pretty sweet space adventure. Plus it’s got a spaceship with a huge rack in the front. How can you not check this one out?
DEAD HEAD COMICKS: STILL BIRTH Vol. 1 96 Eyes ComicksSo what if Kick-Ass existed in the Marvel Universe? That’s kind of the premise of this comic as we follow a powerless hero who repeatedly can’t catch a break until he meets an unmotivated stoner with the power to do just about anything. Toss in a talking ape for shits and giggles and you have DEAD HEAD COMICKS. Though the writer could use a spell check, this is a surprisingly entertaining read. The story goes all ROSHOMON on our asses, telling the story from three different perspectives in the first three issues of this trade, yet keeps the fun flowing from one page to the next. Written by Sebastien Ragnier and Nadim, with art by Nadim. This is a comic full of potential and despite the crude lettering, it’s something you should seek out if you liked KICK-ASS and are thirsty for more.
STARMAKER: LEVIATHAN #2 – 3 Dare ComicsAdam Hamdy offers up international intrigue with a hint of trippy cosmic power in this well crafted thriller. Hamdy’s second issue involves an intense jet fighter battle that had me on the edge of my mousepad. Issue 3 deals with the ramifications of that battle and something ominous on the horizon. Hamdy is keeping the power close to his vest and only hints at it from the outside, building tension masterfully. I can’t wait to see how this intricately constructed story unfolds. The art by David Golding is about as crisp and clean as you can get. All in all, a fantastic effort from Dare Comics with the trade to be released very soon.
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 #21: WITCHFINDER GENERAL on sale July 2010. Fanboy Radio recently interviewed Bug about it here. Order VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS #21 in May's Diamond Catalog order # MAY10 0828.
BRIGHTEST DAY #1 DC ComicsComic Books revolve around mysteries. Whether your hero will live or die, the cliffhangers, to the question of whether your favorite writer will piss you off. A comic of this ilk isn’t the type of mystery that gets resolved by the next issue; in fact this comic forces you to ask multiple questions that get larger and gain steam as the comic goes on. Some people don’t like this and that feeling is understandable. Some mysteries can get so caught up so far in the non reveal that a reader gets bored and no longer cares who the fucking Red Hulk is because we know good and damn well the reveal won’t be as shocking as the writer wishes. The mystery of this book revolves around the end of Blackest Night and the heroes who were brought back to life without any cosmic, religious or lantern related reason. Why are they here and do we fucking care? These are the questions that may be revealed by the end of this comic and I for one am along for the ride. I’ll sum it up for you like this: the recently no longer Deadman…uh…Deadman seems to be the tether that runs through these different characters’ lives but why…hmmm. Aquaman is alive but afraid of something (yet to be revealed…black lantern-related for sure) and can now only control dead sea animals (kinda cool actually)…hmmm. Martian Manhunter is in the process of rebuilding Mars when he has an eerie vision of him strangling Michael McDonald (makes sense--I hate that guy’s voice)…hmmm. Hawkman and Hawkgirl have noticed that someone has stolen their bones (yes, they are alive but there are alternate bones that belong to them that aren’t housed within their skin…another mystery that probably won’t be talked about) and they’re deeply in love despite their inevitable death and rebirth…hmm. The new Firestorm is now fused with the old Firestorm but the new Firestorm is mad at the old Firestorm because he, as a black Lantern, turned his boo into salt…hmmm. Max Lord is working on something big…hmmm. Deadman is confused…hmmm. Also no one can lift the White Lantern Battery…hmm. I’ve said this before but I like DC’s aftermath a lot better then the big events. This mystery has me hooked! (for now…) - KletusCasady
HELLBOY IN MEXICO #1 One Shot Dark HorseHellboy stories vary between grand end-of-the-world epics and smaller, lighter (relatively speaking) action romps. I’ll give you one guess which category HELLBOY IN MEXICO falls into. Stranded with Abe Sapien in Mexico following an unspecified mission (I really want to know who or what is in that trunk) Hellboy finds himself telling Abe the story of his last trip south of the border. It’s a story of devil holes, vampires and Mexican wrestlers. So, you know, a typical trip to Mexico. While not exactly a groundbreaking story, it’s a bit of good fun. For me the whole thing was worth it for the laugh I got at the image of Hellboy passed out drunk in a cantina wearing a sombrero (that should be done up in greater detail as a poster--I’d buy it in a heartbeat). So if you’re looking for a bleak story of a fight against ultimate doom and destruction, you can give this one a pass. If however you’d like to get a bit sh*tfaced with Hellboy and some masked wrestler, then throw down with some vamps, you’ve come to the right place. - Jinxo
I never met Frank Frazetta, but I wish I had. Yesterday, after word started making the rounds through the various internet channels, many people were sharing their moments; their experiences, with the man. I recommend everyone to click here for Jimmy Palmiotti’s personal experience meeting his hero. Last year, I heard Bernie Wrightson on a panel in Dallas tell a story of meeting Frazetta back when (I think) Bernie was just 17. The key thing about all the stories I’ve heard about Frazetta is that they are uniformly positive. There is nothing like meeting your lifelong hero and discovering that not only is he or she human and approachable but that they are willing to humbly embrace you and demonstrate true friendship and sometimes even mentorship. I know this from my own life experience with the late Philip Jose’ Farmer. Frazetta was one of those heroes of mine that I guess I mistakenly believed would live forever…that I had time still to maybe one day make the trek to his museum and possibly have an opportunity to shake his hand. That’s all I ever really wanted…an opportunity to shake his hand and say “thanks.” But that’s not ever going to happen.
FRANK FRAZETTA (1928-2010)
Many people in the various art fields are considered “greats” and “masters,” but few of those are truly that. Frazetta was a once-in-a-lifetime prodigy of artistic power. He has been copied and imitated and has inspired more than one generation of artists and illustrators but no one alive has matched or exceeded his innate ability. His cartooning skills were unparalleled. He could range in one sitting from the lush illustration style of Hal Foster to goofy big-foot style of E.C. Segar. He rarely used photo references, preferring to rely on his own incredible imagination. He trusted his instincts when he taught himself to paint. The power found in his paintings show the bold strokes and colors of someone not trained to observe “rules” or to over-intellectualize the work but instead he went by instinct and what he created are illustrations that are equally fine art as well as illustration. Where Norman Rockwell transcended illustration to touch people’s nostalgic fantasies of Americana, Frazetta transcended illustration to tap the deepest and boldest imaginations buried in the collective psyche of the entire world. Packed with raw sexuality and danger and power…Frazetta’s art single-handedly and essentially created the modern art of science-fiction and fantasy book covers as works of art.
At one point, Frazetta’s covers outsold the competition so dramatically that publishers were buying his art and then commissioning books based on the cover or even slapping them on books that had nothing to do with the cover. Frazetta had no apparent limitations on what he could do. He succeeded in every new endeavor. Comic strips? Comic books? Movie posters? Mad Magazine? Book covers? Films? Album covers? Frazetta mastered them all. He was blessed with artistic success and never seemed satisfied to stagnate, even as he got older and beset with health problems that led to the loss of his ability to paint using his right hand. Frazetta, the fighter, retrained himself to paint with his left hand and produced works that were the equal of anything he had done before. His absence in this world is a loss to the entire world. And even though I never had the opportunity to meet the man, his work has been a part of my artistic experience as far back as I can remember and I feel sadness at his passing.
Brooklyn born and raised, Frank Frazetta was a natural scrapper who finally met his match on May 10, 2010. He was a tough guy with an artist’s heart and a fondness for beautiful women. He married Eleanor Kelly (Ellie) in 1956, and she preceded him in death last year. He is survived by three sisters, Carol, Adel and Jeanie; two sons, Alfonso Frank Frazetta (Frank Jr.), and William Frazetta; two daughters, Heidi Grabin, and Holly Frazetta; and 11 grandchildren.
Rest in peace, Frank Frazetta...and Godspeed.