Hey folks, Ambush Bug here. So as you’re reading this, I’m on a plane on my way to San Diego for this year’s Comic Con. I’m going to be there with my buddy and fellow @$$Hole superhero and the rest of the main guys at AICN for the second year in a row. I’ll be out there Wednesday through Sunday and it looks to be another fantastic con this year. Much like last year where I hosted a chat about comics and horror, I’ve teamed up with producer Peter Katz again to put together a panel full of horror’s up and coming voices. We’re calling it “Horror Filmmakers Discuss the Art of Fear” and we’re going to see what it takes to make horror in today’s Hollywood. Slated to be on the panel are:
Kevin Grevioux (Co-writer/actor of UNDERWORLD and creator of I, FRANKENSTEIN)
Dan Myrick (Co-writer/Co-director of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT)
Todd Farmer (Scriptwriter of MY BLOODY VALENTINE remake)
Adam Gierasch (NIGHT OF THE DEMONS remake director and co-writer)
Jace Anderson (Co-writer of NIGHT OF THE DEMONS remake)
Steven C. Miller (Director of AUTOMATON TRANSFUSION & SCREAM OF THE BANSHEE)
Ben Ketai (Scriptwriter / director of DARK DAYS: 30 DAYS OF NIGHT 2)
And just added, Darren Lynn Bousman (director of the upcoming MOTHER’S DAY remake and SAW 2)
I want to invite all who are attending the comic con to stop by the Marriott Hotel in the Marriott Hall 2. It is right next door to the Convention Center (at the Hall A end). The address is 333 W Harbor Dr, San Diego, CA 92101. This panel will take place on Thursday, July 22 at 4:00pm-5:00pm. The event will be filmed and pics a plenty will be snapped. So come dressed in your favorite horror get up and I’ll post them here on AICN!
superhero and I will be at the con all week, so drop us a line if you want us to stop by your booth, give us free shit, or just shoot the shit about comics over beers and unhealthy food. I’ll be reporting all week from San Diego, so look for updates starting today. So if you can’t make it, I’ll give you the next best thing by reporting all I see, hear, smell, and drink while at the con.
ABSOLUTE PLANETARY Vol.1 - 2
Writer: Warren Ellis Art: John Cassaday Publisher: DC WildStorm Reviewers: Professor Challenger and Humphrey LeeProf. Challenger (PROF): ABSOLUTE PLANETARY is proof of God. It is his divine gift to the comic book fans. It is like the holy fire that Prometheus gave to the first humans.
Or is that too hyperbolic?
Humphrey Lee (HUMPH): Heh, possibly.
It's important because it is that good. PLANETARY came at a time when I was getting back into comics after having left them for dead for a few years. I was growing up and the typical "capes and tights" books weren't doing it for me, and I didn't know something like Vertigo existed. So when I got back into comics, at the ripe age of nineteen, and found out not only could you have a super-people book that was mature, with high brow scientific concepts and the occasional low brow humor, but that didn't have to answer to anyone or anything. It didn't have to have a franchise character in it, and it didn't have to be hard R, it just had to be, and it was awesome when it came out. PLANETARY and THE AUTHORITY both, taking a bit of a lead in from Morrison's JLA run, were the kick in the nuts the superhero genre needed at the end of millennia.
PROF: That's interesting. I also picked up my first PLANETARY issue during a down period in comic buying for me. I was buying very few series at all, but was still popping into the shop and browsing every few weeks. One day I went in and saw this cover for a comic called PLANETARY but the cover featured what looked like Doc Savage on the cover and the logo design was the "Savage" style logo. I had to pick it up and see what was what with it. That would've been issue #5.
After reading it, I was hooked and went back the next day to dig through the long boxes and was able to come up with the first 4 issues and I committed to every issue after that up to the end. Of course, I had no idea at the time that it was going to take so long to finish the series.
HUMPH: That's about the only thing PLANETARY didn't have over all the bad 90's comics I was reading. They may have been terrible, but at least they showed up on time. But, I was lured back into funny books by some pretty big offenders when it came to timeliness; the ABC line of books, JMS' RISING STARS and MIDNIGHT NATION, etc. Thing was, they were worth it. They really opened my eyes up to what comics should be and what I could have/should have been reading once I became disgusted with stuff like "The Clone Saga" and year after year of X-events. I assume we'll get back to tardiness eventually - hard not to when talking about this book - but it was always worth it. The sense grandeur I felt whenever I did and still do open up the pages of a PLANETARY always put(s) me in a better place.
So, what was it that really sold you on this book? That made you harbor such a fondness for it that you find yourself in a frenzy over giant-sized hardcovers of it a decade later?
PROF: For me, initially though, it tickled my fancy because of the alternate versions of Doc Savage, the Shadow, Green Hornet, etc. that were featured. I'm kind of a sucker for the pulp adventurers and I kind of collect pastiches of them. So, PLANETARY was already in my "happy place" from the start.
HUMPH: Yeah, you said it and I'll run with it. The ABSOLUTES are indeed a gift to the comic enthusiast. Sometimes I can't just help but sit down in front of my extensive collection of these things (I've got something like thirteen Absolutes) and these are always the ones I pull out to flip through. Cassaday's art is absolutely sublime, and a huge complement to everything I was just talking about when it comes to reverence for the medium. His takes on all these characters - the Doc Savages, Nick Furys, Fantastic Fours of the medium - are the perfect mix of homage and fresh take. And obviously no one does giant action sequences and splashes like the man, only enhanced by these gloriously oversized pages.
PROF: It's a weird thing to try and review the ABSOLUTE PLANETARY volumes simply because in previous reviews of the series I've pretty much dealt with the series itself. For my money, PLANETARY is the seminal comic book series of the last decade (even though it technically started before 2000). While it owes conceptual debt to other sources, whether it be LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN or Philip Jose' Farmer's "World Newton" Universe stories, PLANETARY was immediately its own unique vision. The writing is so intelligent and peppered with cultural and literary references, without being a "Where's Waldo" type of game like LOEG sometimes devolves into. The sense of the entire project being a self-indulgent ironic paean to obsessive-compulsives is also thankfully absent.
The mystery of the Fourth Man, the life of Elijah Snow, the death of Ambrose Chase; these are the framework that Ellis uses to build his massive monument and shrine to not only the mythology of comic books, but also all great modern adventure stories. "Fictional realities" is not an ironic term in Ellis's PLANETARY. As such, the work in concept and text speaks to the reader in a deeper sense than your average "super-hero" comic for sure. But for the work to really resonate it requires of the reader a working knowledge of genre fiction in graphic novels, comics, and film. That challenge makes PLANETARY a nearly unique reading experience.
HUMPH: I wasn't really into those when I left comics, but as time moves on and I'm becoming a little more jaded than the typical fanfare that is coming out from mainstream comics these days, I'm actually getting more into those kinds of comics. Not those exact comics - I pay respect to what they did but older comic writing drives me up the damn wall I'm such a modern boy - but stuff like PLANETARY here that pays them respect, hits on all the right notes, but is firmly modern writing. That's why I love my ABSOLUTE shelf ; PLANETARY is sandwiched right between THE NEW FRONTIER and PROMETHEA, two other books that took iconic figures and weren't afraid to put new spins on them, whether it just be updated storytelling or, in the case of PROMETHEA, re-imagining them.
PROF: The price-point on this book is pretty high, though, and I fully understand that cost is a deterrent on the Absolutes to many people. I'm one of them, actually, who finds it tough to justify spending the money on a series I already own. PLANETARY is worth it. I'm tempted by the LOEG and JLA/AVENGERS, but have not bought them. Until reading PLANETARY, the only Absolute I deemed worthy of my hard-earned cash was NEW FRONTIER and it is worth it. After handling and reading back through the ABSOLUTE PLANETARY, I can honestly say it is worth every penny for the quality of the series itself and the product. This is designed and produced with integrity and respect for the creators and the reader. I honestly can't rave enough on a pure production and technical level, to be perfectly honest.
HUMPH: Production level is key and this book does indeed have it. The sewn binding is of the highest importance. Even the SANDMAN volumes, massive as they are, still lay flat and lose nothing in the fold. I will level one complaint against these volumes though...they're incomplete. I assume this is going to be it since all 27 issues are represented, but what about the three PLANETARY specials? PLANETARY/BATMAN is arguably my favorite issue of the series and it's not here to bask in the over-sized glory that is this format and that highly saddens me.
PROF: I agree. I agree. I guess in the midst of this love-fest, we really had to find a criticism and that is it. If nothing else, they could have added those 3 specials as a separate and thinner appendix volume or something. Since only one of them was technically outside continuity, it would make sense to have worked them in. I know that in my own individual issues, I've picked where I think they fit and inserted them.
As to the Elseworlds special being outside of continuity...I have to wonder if, given the driving theme of multiple realities, can anything truly be outside continuity?
HUMPH: Yeah, lets be honest here, if someone is a fan of this series, there's really no reason to not get this other than price tag. We are basically reduced to nitpicking the actual physical content of the book, not the content of the material within the book. I mean, these are what, a whole $100 for both volumes on Amazon, now that the first volume is in print again. That's chump change for this book, given what it is, how good it is, how good it looks, and how the Absolute format presents it all.
Still though, at least that BATMAN/PLANETARY one is a shame, but I don't know if they could justify 144 pages in just one Absolute, unless it came packed with bonus material out the wazoo and was $50 max.
PROF: That's why I was thinking something more along the lines of the addendum in JLA\AVENGERS that showcased Perez's unused artwork from the original team-up plus tons of articles and interviews from that time that shed light on why the original team-up never happened.
But I would not be surprised to find out that Ellis himself just looks at those specials as if they are entertaining footnotes but have no direct bearing on the primary story he was telling and that's why he cut them.
Bottom line is that ABSOLUTE PLANETARY is "absolute"-ly outstanding and worth gracing the library of every serious fan of super-heroes and/or adventure stories. Any final words, Humphrey?
HUMPH: Ummmm...Wonder Twin powers activate!!!???
PROF: Yeah. That'll work.
Prof. Challenger is really Texas artist Keith Howell. Check out his website at profchallenger.com some time and maybe even follow him on Twitter. As long-winded as he can be, Twitter forces him to be pithy. Show him some #FF love.
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.
ASTONISHING SPIDER-MAN & WOLVERINE #2
Writer: Jason Aaron Penciler: Adam Kubert Inks: Mark Morales Colors: Justin Ponsor Reviewed by: Johnny DestructoWhelp, that's a damn shame. I really enjoy most of what Jason Aaron's been putting out. As far as I'm concerned, he really hit the ground running full speed with mainstream comics, but this series is a bit of a stumble, if you ask me. Which you didn't. But tough titty-toenails, I'm telling ye anyways. It's a really nice looking book, to be sure, but it's the story that has me sighing loud enuff to make people stare at me in the comic shop. Spidey and Wolvy are jumping through time (who ISN'T? Cap America, Batman and now these two? I'd like an issue where they all accidentally bump into each other with a "fancy meeting you here"! No, I'm lying. I don't wanna read that.) But then again, I don't wanna read this either. Spidey is walking around in his costume, or rather, a costume he stole from a wax museum, non-stop. Why doesn't he take it off, considering him and Logan are the only humans left? I dunno. Instead he's teaching futuristic cave men science classes, while Wolverine spends all his time in a pseudo-samurai outfit, fighting robots, while they both wait for the giant Doctor Doom planet to show up again. Oh and the ridiculous character called The Orb shows up all buff and terminator-y and stuff. But...how to kill the Doctor Doom planet? Why, with a Grant Morrison-esque Phoenix Force bullet, of course.
I guess this is supposed to be a mad-cap-romp with all sorts of wacky shenanagans and what-not, but it just comes off as lame. Which is what it says across the butt of Spidey's stolen wax museum costume the entire issue. This gag was pulled back in the first Wolverine/Spider-Man team up, which was awesome and brutal and touching. This series ain't THAT. And what continuity is JA working with? In this series Spidey and Wolvy are almost enemies. It reads more like a team-up between Spider-Man and Norman Osborn, they have such contempt for each other. They've been on the same Avengers teams for the last several years and have worked together on dozens of adventures! Now all of a sudden they abhor each other?
I was really hoping for another great story from Aaron, but this series isn't really serving any purpose yet. I don't think I'm gonna stick around to find out of it ever does.
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.
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski Art: Eddy Barrows & J.P. Mayer Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Optimous DoucheBy now we have all heard the multitude of jokes surrounding the new “grounded” approach that JMS is taking with the Man of Steel; jibes like “You’ll believe a man can walk,” “Forrest El,” and my personal favorite “Dead Story Walking,” have all been clogging the intertubes in anticipation of this new soul searching approach to the Big S.
And now that the book is released the reviews have not been much kinder. JMS is being accused of everything from new age preaching, geographical clusterfuckery…all the way up to racism (I shit you not). For me it boils down to two simple questions: “How do you view America?” and “Do you need every comic to be a smash-in-the-teeth free-for-all of non-stop action?” If you said yes to the second question, stop reading this review, and don’t pick up this book. It’s not a title for you; JMS is writing an indictment of America in this tale as a respite from the non-stop barrage that has been assaulting our senses in all DC titles for the past five years.
Even if I disagreed with the intent of this book (which I don’t) I would still be lenient, because I fully believe that we all need a breather from the CRISIS Tsunami. As one reporter comments while Superman saunters down the streets of Philadelphia, “How can you be walking? What if there’s a Crisis?” Superman’s reply, “There’s always a Crisis?” See I can’t even spell the word anymore without capitalizing it! If everything is always cranked up to 11, 11 is no longer extraordinary, it becomes the norm. Unless you want to turn Superman into IRREDEEMABLE and ultimately end of the title, there must be times of quiet and reflection. After all, that’s sort of what life is like.
For anyone that believes that this issue is merely Superman walking down the street saying, “Hey, I’m Superman y’all better watch me walk.” Please get your head out of your @$$. Superman uses most of his powers in this issue; he’s simply not focusing them on billions of space zombies or other Kryptonians. His X-ray vision helps identify a ruptured fuel line, he uses his heat vision to incinerate a stash of drugs, his super hearing uncovers a heart murmur, and he uses his aerial capabilities to try and talk a building jumper off the ledge. But this issue is not about the powers, it’s about bringing Superman back to his roots as a reflection and embodiment of the real America, our America’s savior. Since his inception Superman has always been what America needs at that moment in time. In the 1930’s he was an unstoppable hero to show that we all could be an unstoppable hero against threats abroad. This trend progressed until…the beginning of the Dark Age, 1986, when we incinerated our collective hero worship and delightfully started snorting the ashes of the fallible, or to speak more succinctly, the fallen hero. And maybe again this was just a reflection of real society as well. Perhaps Moore, Miller and the rest of dark lords were simply using comics to reflect their own disillusionment with crumbling societal pillars like Nixon, the Catholic Church and the collective build-up to inevitable destruction that was the cold war.
Self serving? No doubt. But I ask you to find me a writer out there, especially a comic writer, without some level of personal agenda interwoven into their narrative. Isn’t that what comics and good sci-fi ultimately do, transcend beyond the fiction to tackle true and real societal woes? My answer is an emphatic yes. STAR TREK was not about the stars, it was about using that device to get us all to pay attention to what’s wrong right here and now.
So what societal woes does Supes tackle? Helping our fellow man comes in the form of assisting a family working on their beat up truck. A fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work comes in the form of a cheese steak for a little stockroom clean-up work -- a lesson that needs to be crammed down the throat of our current malaise ridden Millenials (kids I tell you right now, very few of you will be able to make a career of texting, get a skill). Other themes include personal accountability, acceptance that life is random, but it’s the only life we get, and finally my personal favorite, that you as an individual affect change, no one can change the world for you.
Honestly, I should hate this issue. I am part of the dark generation that revels at the sight of the anointed crashing to earth after falling out of their ivory towers. I giggle with delight when the infallible are caught with their pants around their ankles. But I didn’t hate this issue, because part of me believes we need to step away from the darkness and cynicism for awhile. I want America to believe in ourselves once again and not dominate the earth, but bring it closer together by example. I’ll dare say…this issue made believe that we can once again believe.
Now after going all Pollyanna for most of this review, I will say both Barrows and JMS screwed the pooch on their portrayal of Philadelphia. Philly’s my home town, and these two made it way too sanitized. To the reviewers that decried JMS is a racist because when Superman confronts drug dealers they all possess varying degrees of skin melanin, I retort back with the fact JMS placed way too many Caucasians in the scene…I’m sorry, I meant misplaced them. You see, on the drive-by drug streets of Tioga and Kensington, all of the white people should be in their sports cars with a window merely cracked open an inch (enough room to hand off the money and receive your goods, but not enough room to get a gun through) and ready to jam on the gas at a moment’s notice. Also there’s not one fucking row home in the book. South Philly is ALL row homes, most of them dilapidated. Also, I had to laugh at the squeaky clean “Welcome to Philadelphia” sign at the end. Sure there’s a dingy green “Welcome to Pennsylvania” sign on the Philly/Delaware border on 95, but Philly itself welcomes no one, especially the Mets…and Santa.
This is a ballsy move for both JMS and DC -- one I applaud and wholeheartedly thank them for. Will it sustain? Based on other reviews and my belief that to sell books you must pander to the lowest common denominator, I think JMS is going to get an editorial mandate to throw in a few aliens or something Super. I hope this is not the case, so you know what? Instead of letting the cynic prevail as I usually do and become mired in dark conjecture, I will just believe otherwise.
Optimous has successfully blackmailed fellow @$$Hole BottleImp into being his artist on Average Joe. Look for Imp's forced labor on Optimous brain child in mid-2011 from COM.X. Friend Optimous on FaceBook to get Average Joe updates and because ceiling cat says it's the right thing to do.
X-MEN ORIGINS: DEADPOOL #1
Writer: Duane Swierczynski Art: Leandro Fernandez Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: KletusCasadyA coworker of mine walked passed my desk holding a comic and mumbled under his breath, “Man that was depressing!” Immediately I looked up and asked what he was holding. It was X-MEN ORIGINS: DEADPOOL. Before he could get to the comic rack I snatched it out of his hand and the emo-Kletus said “I wanna be depressed too!” Now I don’t think the comic was that sad but it did have an entirely different feel than any other of the thousand DEADPOOL comics that have come out in the last two months. Marvel is really bad about this. Any time a character gets a little buzz, be it from a movie or just an increase in fan popularity, they just churn out millions of comics featuring said character to the point of oversaturation. Now DC does a similar thing except it’s usually based around some crossover their doing. I mean, do I really need Final Crisis Looney Tunes or Blackest Night Scooby Doo (actually that might be pretty cool)? Probably not but that doesn’t stop them from having everybody and their mom being involved in the crossover. But it’s what they do so whatevs. I read this comic hoping to get a different angle (a dangle if you will) to Deadpool and Swierczynski delivered a pretty good back story with a little more emotion than your typical DEADPOOL comic.
This story is about Deadpool trying to get the movie of his life made and the mishaps and misinterpretations that follow. Swierczynski takes a nice jab at Hollywood here showing how even the simplest concept for a movie can be skewed and fucked up by hack directors who have their own vision of Deadpool’s story regardless of how he relates the story to him. I knew Deadpool’s origin, but this issue fills in the gaps with things that probably weren’t discussed during his induction into the Marvel Universe.
Swierczynski touches on everything from Weapon X to Deadpool’s relationship with his mother (who may be where he gets his wild sense of humor from), his distant relationship with his father, and how all these things contributed to the Deadpool we once loved but are now sick of taking up all the room on the comic shelves. Now don’t be mistaken, this comic WAS still full of the funny, but most of the jokes were at the behest of Deadpool rather than him delivering wacky punch lines. This kind of added to the tone of the book because it’s written as if prior to Wade Wilson becoming Deadpool, all the jokes were on him. This led him to pretty much rely heavily on jokes to get him though everything. I believe at one point he says that he jokes because the other option is crying…wait, is this a DEADPOOL comic or a SPIDER-MAN comic? We’ve finally come up with reasonable answers for OMD three years later (yes, I’m still bitter…but I feel better now after venting).
The artwork in this comic is really good and Leo Fernandez could be a fill in artist for 100 BULLETS because his art is very similar to Eduardo Risso’s. Even Fernandez’s eyes have that super round, sunken in the head style like Risso’s. There were even some panels that use shadows the same way Risso does. Ha…I actually just discovered that Fernandez did one of my favorite PUNISHER arcs in “Kitchen Irish”. If you want to see more of his artwork, check that shit out. It is AWESOME.
I was pleasantly surprised by this comic, especially when I found myself getting tired of even the main DEADPOOL title that I so fondly praised in my review of HIT MONKEY because this wasn’t your typical DEADPOOL ridiculous comic. This one actually had a little heart to it and after I read it, I cried into my lady’s bosom until she realized I was faking and slapped me…which I’m into, so double win for me. This comic helped flesh out a character that is spread so thin now that he’s almost see-through. Leonardo Fernandez did a great job of setting a solemn artistic tone for this book (the action wasn’t bad either) and I really hope to see him do a lot more in the Marvel Universe. The last page in this book is a whopper and this book will definitely make you think about Deadpool a little differently…at least until DEADPOOL: MERC WITH A MOUTH, DEADPOOL 2: THE QUICKENING, DEADPOOL CORPS, DEADPOOL: THE COLLEGE YEARS, DEADPOOL TEAM-UP, DEADPOOL: WHY DOES THIS COMIC EXIST?, DEADPOOL: DEADPOOL, DEADPOOL CORPS PREQUEL, DEADPOOL: WADE WILSON’S WAR and DEADPOOL VS ARCHIE hit stands next week.
TITMOUSE Vol. 1
Written and Illustrated by: Paul Harmon, Freddy Cristy, Israel Sanchez, Steven Daily, Otto Tang, Richard Mather, Jacob Escobedo, Dave Johnson, Dave Fremont, Travis Millard, Andy Suriano, Kelsey Mann, John Schnepp, Kaori Hamura, and Dave Cooper Published by: Titmouse Reviewed by: superheroWe’ve all seen this kind of thing at either comic conventions or comic shops. A group of artists put together an anthology of their work which provides a small sample of their talent. The success of these collections is always dependent upon the skill of the artists involved. The more successful ones, like FLIGHT, give us jaw-droppingly beautiful artwork to peruse along with short clips of story that move us in a certain way. I’ve seen a lot of these types of books pop up through the years and I can honestly say that not a lot of them have inspired me to pick them up. I have to admit that I’m just not a big fan of anthologies in general. It’s my own personal preference and I can probably count on one hand how many anthology type books I’ve picked up though out the years.
So…full disclosure time…I was sent a preview copy of this book for free. Which, to be honest, makes me more inclined to appreciate it, right? But I will say that without a doubt I would have bought TITMOUSE VOL. 1 without a second thought once I leafed through its pages. That’s how good the artwork in this book is.
Just scanning through the contents of the book you can see that this is a top notch collaboration. Each page offers up some of the most interesting and fascinating artwork this side of comicdom. There is nothing static here, and nothing completely unoriginal. Every artist contributing to TITMOUSE brings their “A-Game” to this book and it shows with every turn of the page. This is the type of book that makes other artists swoon over its sheer creativity. TITMOUSE VOL. 1 is a collaborative book artistically done right. I will admit that some of the stories themselves might be a bit more “out there” than what your mainstream comic book fan might be ready for but the gorgeous art more than makes up for any lack of coherent storytelling some of the pieces might contain. This is a display of powerful comic book/cartoon illustration talent and anyone who sees themselves as someone who appreciates indie comics or is a fan of comic book artwork should do themselves a favor and pick this up.
I don’t know if this will be available for sale at Comic Con but I’m told that anyone interested in this book should go check out Titmouse.com to place orders for it. If I were you, I’d go there right now…otherwise you might be missing out on one of the best compilations of the year.
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.
ULTIMATE COMICS SPIDER-MAN #11
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis Art: David Lafuente Publisher: Ultimate Marvel Reviewer: Henry Higgins Is My Homeboy"He looks just like Peter Parker!" And you look just like every other Chameleon story!
Don't get me wrong, I love Spider-Man. He's my favorite comic book character, has one of my favorite rogues galleries (THE SHOCKER, MOTHERFUCKERS!), some of the best supporting players in comics, and has produced countless fantastic stories. So, it's only a matter of time before various stories repeat in various titles. And for this years repeat, brought to you by Brian Michael Bendis and David Lafuente, we have the Chameleon's grand...ish introduction proper to the Ultimate line. And how does it stack up? Well, it's better then the last Chameleon arc in AMAZING, but that's not saying much, by virtue of Bendis's ever exceptional dialogue and Lafuente's art.
. What Worked: Bendis has a lot of faults (please stop letting him do big epic crossovers, Marvel, please!), but what he does right, he does exceptionally well. And Spider-Man, he does right. Which is even more impressive, considering Spider-Man doesn't appear in this issue. Instead, we have Chameleon, one of the better known members of his arch-enemies. The story feels similar to...okay, exactly like the AMAZING SPIDER-MAN arc from back in March. In case you forgot, let me recap. Chameleon, in the process of capturing J.J. Jameson, grabs hold of Peter, and nicks his face for a bit. It's essentially the story from AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #601, just planted into the Ultimate high school verse. What separates this from the earlier story would be the back up cast.
I've got to say, I love all three main artists they've had for ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN, and Lafuente is doing a brilliant job.
What Didn't Work: Chameleon. Just Chameleon. His one strength comes from his ability to screw with Peter's personal life, and he definitely accomplishes that. But apart from that? Not all that impressive. When Chameleon kills a cab driver, his pre mortem quip is:
"You got change?" "For what?" "Your life."
Seriously? That wouldn't make it on CSI: MIAMI. He's brought over a sociopath scary teen vibe to fake Parker, which is a lot less cool and a lot more Columbine. Yes, Chameleon, lay low, via frightening everyone in your path. The discussion with Gwen about using the word "UBER" really doesn't strike me as an intimidating player, more of an idiot. Bendis’ attempts at humor usually fall apart, aside from a few well done lines. And by a few, I mean two.
Maybe it's just because I really don't like this villain, or maybe it's because the inner monologue is the same exact route they went with earlier this year. But at the end of the day, Chameleon just doesn't work. And that wouldn't be such a big problem if he wasn't such a big part of this issue. He's the focus of every scene. Hell, his little sidekick over the phone is better than him, and he gets something like five lines.
But I've got to be honest, best line of the issue goes to Chameleon. "You sexually confused, future used tire salesman", aimed at Flash, made me chortle. I liked it more then I should have, I expect, because I remember the theory from a while ago that, "Flash is gay! Ad he's going to come out to Peter!", and I saw this as a quick little reference to it.
Worst Moment: "Oh, shut up, you old bag of hippie." Wow. Your real superpower is your rapier wit.
Writing: 2/5 - When it's not Chameleon talking, it's to the gold standard that Bendis has built with this series. Which is unfortunately only about 20% of the issue, tops.
Art: 4/5 - A few off faces here and there slow it down, but don't detract from the whole.
Total: 3/5 - The worst issue of ULTIMATE COMICS SPIDER-MAN in a while, which still puts it over most titles right now. Still, as lackluster villain as your lead character was, what did you expect?
A TREASURY OF XXTH CENTURY MURDER: THE TERRIBLE AXE-MAN OF NEW ORLEANS HC OGN
Writer/art: Rick Geary Publisher: NBM Comics Lit Reviewer: Ambush BugI’ve been a huge Rick Geary fan since I read his LINDBERGH CHILD book which described in unflinching and heartbreaking detail the abduction of said child. Since then, I’ve tried to pick up everything Geary puts to page.
In 1918 through 1919 there was a series of murders in one of America’s most mysterious towns, New Orleans. In the middle of the night, a man would chisel through a door of a house usually connected to a grocery, find an axe owned by the occupants of the house, and hack the occupants repeatedly and viciously in the head. The killer was never caught. The murders continue to be a mystery. It was a killing spree which frightened the entire town, usually known for joy and celebration.
Geary paints a amazingly vivid portrait of New Orleans at the turn of the century. He pulls the reader in with unblinking factoids about the town’s rich history, and then dives right into the mystery of the Axe-Man. I’ve said this before in many of my reviews of Geary’s work: Geary relies heavily on caption, which gives me the feeling of a documentary style narration. Scenes are played out, but there’re very few word balloons. This may read to some as cold, but to me, the delivery makes the read all the more chilling. As I read, the voice narrating this book reminds me of the beginning of MAGNOLIA or the narration throughout THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD. It was this inscrutable delivery that chilled me to the bone in as Geary describes step by step the Axe-Man’s bloody rampage. By the time the Axe-Man sends a threatening letter Zodiac-style to the local newspaper describing himself as “a full demon from the hottest hell” my fingers clutched this book with all their might. Geary has mastered telling his stories in this documentarian manner, describing these mysteries as if reporting on them first hand. Geary’s books are relentlessly researched and the proof shows that he is definitely in love with his work.
Geary’s art is another plus for this book. Simple and stark lines and straightforward panels convey a tone of utter terror. The scenes of the killer in the shadows and the crime scene he leaves behind are absolutely bone chilling.
If you like a good mystery and want to check out a book that will make you have to stretch your fingers after reading because you’re gripping the cover so hard and flipping through the pages at a lightning pace, you should do yourself a favor and check out THE TERRIBLE AXE-MAN OF NEW ORLEANS. This year, I’ve had the pleasure of reading JONAH HEX: NO WAY BACK, A GOD SOMEWHERE, and WEREWOLVES OF MONTPELLIER, three books that I rank as the absolute best of 2010. THE TERRIBLE AXE-MAN ranks right up there with these books as one of the best of the best. Check it out and soak in every page. If you don’t find this to be one of the most chilling reads of the year, you’re a stronger man than I.
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole / wordslinger / reviewer / co-editor of AICN Comics for over nine years. Check out his ComicSpace page for his entries in Cream City Comics’ MUSCLES & FIGHTS VOL.3 and MUSCLES & FRIGHTS VOL.1 anthologies. Bug was interviewed here & here (about AICN Comics) and here & here (on his VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS: THE TINGLER comics). Bug’s latest comic is VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS #21: WITCHFINDER GENERAL (available in May’s Previews Order # MAY100828) on sale in July. Fanboy Radio recently interviewed Bug about it here. Bug was also interviewed here & here about his upcoming original vampire miniseries NANNY & HANK (available in June's Previews Order #JUN100824) due out in August.
THE THANOS IMPERATIVE #1-2 THE THANOS IMPERATIVE: IGNITION #1 (One-Shot) GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #25
Writers: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning Art: Miguel Angel Sepulveda & Brad Walker, Publisher: Marvel Comics Guest reviewer: JncndacI have just finished reading the first 4 issues of the latest cosmic epic of those daringly demented cosmic kings of marvel madness, Abnett & Lanning, and let me just say: THIS is what comics were to me as a 10 year old. Unbelievably incredible & unimaginably entertaining in all the right ways. I am talking about the latest cosmic craziness that is THE THANOS IMPERATIVE. If you have not picked up this title or have not been reading GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY you are missing cosmic comic classics being doled out before your very eyes! Think the Silver Age was great? Well I will bet my depleted cosmic cube that one day we will talk of these boys’ incredibly epic marvelously mad mayhem as a renaissance of 4 color creativeness that has not been enjoyed in a dogs age & i don't mean telepathic Russian dogs…but I digress.
Speaking of digressing, let me take you back a few years, ok actually a bunch of years, something like 38 years (yeah I'm old, get over it). As a 10 year old my very first cosmic comic experience was the first appearance of Jim Starlin's Thanos stories. When I read the death of Warlock at the hands of his future self I was impressed. When 2 years later I read the very same death scene played out from a different aspect artistically, I had a déjà vu all over again like you wouldn't believe. It made me go back to my comic stacks & dig out the same scene that played out 2 years prior and let's just say I understood what time travel was & I wasn't even stoned!
(That is a reference to Warlock's first limited series & an AVENGERS Annual 2 yrs later.)
Fast forward to today & with what Abnett & Lanning have done with not only the characters & continuity but the fantastic story line is not just impossibly perfect, it is why we read comics in the first place; namely, for the love of this format and epic story telling that only comes when you embrace the past but aren't enslaved to it. These stories are some of the most entertaining love letters to comic story telling you can read. Without spoiling anything, how cool is it that Peter Quill, with no real super powers, can man up & approach a deranged & naked Titan with a cosmic cube (given to him by Kang no less), and lure in the purple puss of power like a moth to a flame & then put him down! All the time, readers like me know what pull that object has on Thanos because of his history with the Cube in his first attempt to please Death those many years ago. It draws the connective line, lovingly, back to the history of that character and all that transpired before and don't even get me started about Adam Warlock, Adam Magus, Drax the re-imagined Destroyer in his new/old duds, talking raccoons, I Am Groot, and having a team’s base of operations being in the severed head of a Celestial! (Hey! Where's Pip?) But don't take my word for it, read it for yourself & enjoy why you started reading comics in the first place. Excelsior! Indeed.
BOOSTER GOLD #34
Writers: Keith Giffen & J.M. Dematteis Art: Chris Batista, Rich Perotta, Keith Giffen, & Hi-Fi Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Majin FuI entered DC’s BRIGHTEST DAY excited, but quickly became disillusioned when I realized many of the stories bearing such a title were notably lacking the upbeat tone implied by the banner title. There are a few exceptions of course, and I have no issue with dark material, but I was looking forward to superheroes getting a bit more cheery. For me, Booster Gold has become the contrast of the ironically-named maxi series and its tie-ins. Like BRIGHTEST DAY, this particular issue has violence (mostly of the ludicrous variety), but it also has lots of laughs, characters with humanity and definitive personas, and most importantly, true heroics. Booster Gold is still as lighthearted and fun as the old days, but he’s grown up a bit.
The first page has a deceptively simple layout, but the writing is so eloquent, and the characters are so expressive and detailed, it tips this into the realm of some of the best first pages this year. DeMatteis also includes an aside I am sure any Blue Beetle fan would appreciate. This also made it apparent right from the beginning just how invested the creators are, and it’s heartwarming in an old school kind of way, down to the humorous personalized credits on the fifth page.
The title for this issue, “Déjà Blue (and Gold)” is appropriate since this is mostly a re-tread of familiar territory for Giffen and DeMatteis. Booster Gold once again returns to his Justice League International days, which of course means teaming up with his ol’ pal Blue Beetle, as well as Miracle Man and Big Barda. Inevitable time travel hi-jinks soon follow in pursuit of the “Cliffs Notes version” of the Book of Destiny. It’s a humorous yarn with several well-timed gags and a rather hilarious villain. My one qualm is Booster seems to be spending a lot of time in his glory days and I would like to see him address the issues of his present more directly, but this is addressed in the story. I won’t spoil anything, but the very last panel hints at some exciting developments which could impact Booster Gold’s future.
Yet in a series that is plagued by chronically shifting time, Booster Gold remains the constant, and grounds the story through his evolution and development as a character. This makes for some very humorous dialogue as the rest of the gang still think Booster is his old self, but it also creates tension between him and the rest of the characters, making for a more interesting read. While the second half of this issue is rather goofy and nostalgic, the beginning of the issue ideals with Booster Gold’s responsibilities in the present. No doubt about it, Booster Gold has matured since his JLI days, but as a result he has become a better hero who must bear the weight of the decisions he makes.
Chris Batista draws incredibly expressive faces, especially for the Blue Beetle, and in this issue he shows a knack for great action as well. He is an artist who mostly keeps the perspective tight, but also knows when to pull back for greater effect. Part of why the comedy works so well in this issue is how well Batista can draw these characters interacting with each other, and how the action and comedy blend seamlessly. Giffen also pitched in for the art, as noted in the credits. His figures are a lot looser than Batista’s but no less expressive, with more simplistic layouts which suited the more dialogue-heavy scenes. The comic is also designed so Batista’s art is set in the past while Giffen’s pages are in the present, making for some nice transitions, as well as hinting at Booster’s psychological shift between times. Giffen’s figures can sometimes be obscure or exaggerated, but it only helps to emphasize the hero’s lack of focus on the present, while his past is still so clearly defined. No matter what the time, Hi-Fi brings colors that pop, making this really feel like a SUPER-hero comic. The cover by Kevin Maguire is a cool idea for a layout, and is well executed, but has little to do with the content of this issue, except to remind the reader of the hero’s primary goal.
For fans of the old JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL stories, this is a must read. For anyone else seeking reprieve from the latest myriad of comics laced with antiheroes, this might be the break you’re looking for. For kids, this is a great introduction to some fun characters of yore, with loads of laughs and a sprinkling of super heroics.
SYNDROME HC OGN
CONCEPT by Blake Leibel Writers: Daniel Quantz & R. J. Ryan Art: David Marquez Publisher: Archaia & Fantasy Prone Reviewer: Ambush BugI’ve had the pleasure of reading an advance copy of SYNDROME from Archaia recently and I have to say it’s one of the best comics I’ve ever read from Archaia. And with books like DEVIL’S HANDSHAKE, MOUSE GUARD, TUMOR, and HYBRID BASTARDS under their belts, that’s a pretty big deal. I first heard about this book at C2E2 where the comic was described as “THE TRUMAN SHOW meets SE7EN” and I’d say that’s about right. With those two flicks ranking as two of my absolute favorite flicks put to celluloid, I had to get my grubby little fingers on this book ASAFP.
What really drew me into this story was the deft use of psychology and how the writers seemed to have put a lot of thought into the actions and motivations of the characters of SYNDROME. Writers Quantz & Ryan do a fantastic job of depicting characters who act more three dimensional that most stories I’ve read: an actress who needs a job, a therapist whose failure to save a client paves a path to a darker form of medicine, and a serial killer who has no idea he’s part of a huge experiment. These three people are on a collision course with one another resulting in one of the most smartly written and cleverly paced psycho-dramas ever put to graphically illustrated page.
I can’t say enough about how amazingly this story plays out. It’s anything but conventional in story structure as the narrative flips and flops from the past to the present to the future, but it never becomes hard to follow. The writers do a fantastic job of grounding the reader in the story and fleshing out the actions and motivations of these characters, so whenever or wherever they take us, we are sure to follow with bated breath. Even the unconventional ending proves to be utterly satisfying in execution.
All of that great character work aside, this is a damn fine looking comic. Shades of Gary Frank permeate artist David Marquez’s panels. Clean lines usually take away from stories of terrors and scares, but here it only shows the heinous acts in vivid and clean detail. The horror is in your face and because we care about the characters the clarity only makes things more dire for the invested reader. This is one beautiful book. Marquez can draw a beautiful woman just as gorgeously as he can an impaled cat (a true talent for sure).
From page one to page last, SYNDROME is definitely something to look out for when it finally hits the stands in August. If you’re like me and love psychological horror, this is a must have. The amazing premise and attention to psychology (real psychology, not the dime store stuff you usually see in comics and movies) has me hoping this creative team reunites for a sequel. SYNDROME is going to be available at SDCC this year and will be released in August.
Seek. It. Out.
X-MEN: SECOND COMING #2
Writers: Mike Carey, Matt Fraction, Zeb Wells, Chris Yost Art: Terry Dodson, Greg Land, Esad Ribic, Ibraim Roberson Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: Henry Higgins Is My HomeboyThe Phoenix Has Landed
Okay, seeing how they decided to split the issue into four parts, I'll take a quick look at all four.
Before I start, I have to ask something of the various artists. You guys realize Wolverine's abilities don't include a costume color variant power, right? Every chapter, he's in a different suit. Did I miss an issue where Wolverine explores his new metro skills? Okay, let's go.
Part one - In the first part, Hope latches onto the last piece of Cable she can find, his severed arm,(.....mmm-kay) before waking up in the infirmary next to a beaten Magneto. We see various members of the team recuperating from the fight. The writing is good, but nothing special, with the only stand out moment being Magneto shutting Hellion down with a glare because Magneto is awesome and Hellion is a twat. The art is good, but much like the writing, nothing stands out. And...that's about it. Yeah. Not one memorable scene, but nothing stands out as bad either.
In our second chapter, we get Hope reflecting on her time with Cable before cutting to Cable’s funeral. Mike Carey does a well done memorial to the character without making it long winded or pointless. The scene is short and sweet, and has some great little touches (having Deadpool appear at the service and being silent out of respect was such a fantastic moment), which helps drive the point home. While Nightcrawler's funeral had a little montage moment for him, this one doesn’t. But the Cable funeral responds by having a more emotional farewell. A quick nitpick, though; is it just me, or does it seem that Cable, the unknown soldier who's only been in the present for a total time of maaaaybe a few years, got a bigger funeral than Nightcrawler? The art is pretty good, with only one panel that doesn't mesh. If you see the page, you'll know what I'm talking about. Hope suddenly goes from cute redhead teen to whoa birth defect!
In the third section, we have Wolverine, as he mourns Nightcrawler, meeting with Storm, X-23, and Cyclops. And yes, this is the chapter with Greg Land on art. And in Land's defense, his art here is better then it's been in the past. There are actually some really good moments (Psylocke has legs!), but there are some poorly done bits as well (the picture Storm takes has Nightcrawler looking like brain dead six year old). But overall, it's a decent scene artistically speaking. The duo writes a good Wolverine who is unrepentant about his actions but recognizes them as terrible actions. It even has a really nice moment where he points out the last time they saw each other Nightcrawler was furious with him for his involvement in X-Force. The X-23 scene slows down the momentum, seeing how nothing happens. And for a dialogue-heavy set of scenes, that's saying something. The Cyclops scene is a well written moment where the two meet to discuss X-Force. The scene is essentially an excuse to meet up with the next X-Force, which is pretty hit and miss. (Deadpool & Fantomex! Archangel & Psylocke?...and why do those two have guns?). Though, I do have to make a quick comment against Land, just for an odd moment where, in a distance panel, Cyclops has a jet pack. For exactly one panel.
With the final part, we get a proper look at Cyclops and Emma after the events of the story. I love Fraction's take on Namor. So him showing up, being a douche, then walking away was a fun moment for me. The art, much like the first sequence, is fairly good, without a lot of faults (except, like the second scene, one moment where Hope suddenly looks like a freak of nature). The story ends on an ambiguous high note, but it needed to. After this many hits to the team, they needed a fucking win, as brought about by the birth of a few new mutants across the world. But it may be at a cost, as Emma witnesses Hope grinning while the Phoenix insignia appears behind her. The big theory is that we're getting Phoenix back, but she may be bringing back Dark Phoenix with her. A great way to end the story.
If there's anything that really stands out against the issue, I still think the defeat of Bastion last issue was extremely anticlimactic and for being billed as a major player, Rouge didn't do much, but I'm just nitpicking. The story was a great boost of adrenaline to one of my favorite series of all time, and I can only hope it stays at this level.
Best Moment: Either Deadpool being respectful for the first time...ever, at Cables funeral, or Iceman trying to teach Namor basketball.
Worst Moment: Hope's two birth defect panels. Seriously. What was up with that? Oh, and Cyclops having a magically appearing and disappearing jet pack.
Total: 4/5 - A few art mistakes here and there can't detract from an overall finale that for the most part was quite satisfying.
ROTTEN #8: REVIVAL OF THE FITTEST (PART 2)
Writer: Mark Rahner/Robert Horton Art: Dan Dougherty Publisher: Moonstone Books Reviewer: Mr. PastyJust last week I was complaining about the shitstorm of zombie comics still pouring down upon the current landscape of rag shops like one of those blizzard spells from WARCRAFT 2. Even though I have been heaping globs of Pasty praise on BREAKFAST WITH ROB, I pretty much had my fill of the zombie genre for the remainder of 2010. Then Ambush Bug had to go and do a cruel thing like tell me ROTTEN #8 was ready for review.
For those of you just joining us, ROTTEN got my vote for “Best Ongoing Series” at the sixth annual @$$IE AWARDS -- and for good reason. Most comic books can’t make a decent western without pissing on the grave of Sergio Leone (yes, I’m talking to you Dynamite) and how many sorry-ass zombie books have we suffered through that actually read like they were written by the characters themselves? So not only does Moonstone give us a great Western and a great zombie story, they give them to us at the same damn time. Double the risk, double the reward. This series can really do no wrong.
REVIVAL OF THE FITTEST (ROTF) is exactly what it sounds like. Anyone else remember their excitement when a new generation of zombies appeared in movies like 28 DAYS LATER and the video game RESIDENT EVIL 5? These aren’t you father’s ani