Hey folks, Ambush Bug here. Before we get started with the reviews, I wanted to share one preview that didn’t make it into this week’s Monday AICN COMICS PREVIEWS column, but is still worth checking out. From the makers of SUPER REAL comes ZOMBIE TRAMP VOL.1, which looks to take two of my favorite things -- the undead and loose women -- and toss them all into one book. The book is by Dan Mendoza and clocks in at 122 pgs. You can still order ZOMBIE TRAMP Vol.1 via Diamond Previews Order #AUG10 1130 (ISBN-978-0-9802498-3-5). Check out a 5 page preview below by clicking on the cover.
And now, on with the reviews!
EX MACHINA #50
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan Artist: Tony Harris Publisher: Wildstorm/DC Comics Reviewed by Humphrey LeeYes, I know, we already did a bit of an EX MACHINA blowout for this finale late last week with a BKV interview and the whole works. But I’m going to talk about it again, dammit, because I’ve gone through great lengths to profess my love of this book over the years and I feel I should send it off somehow. When you write a column earlier in the year discussing the “Ten Best Comics of the Decade” – which this definitely was – some extra coverage is probably a solid idea when one of your books on that list comes to its sad end.
The major reason for my overwhelming love for this book is the same one that made this final issue a very admirable: the book was never afraid to take a chance and Mitchell Hundred, as a fictional entity, is one of the very finest we have seen in the medium. In my going on two decades of comic book reading, I do not think I have seen a character grow as much as Mitchell since I finished my first (of many) read-throughs of STARMAN and Jack Knight’s adventures in those pages. Watching the man evolve from a would-be hero to a political force, with all the flashback devices used to show his childhood and the almost idealistic geek he was at heart really made him as fleshed out a character as you get in comics. And, even then, and a reason why this finale overall succeeded more than stumbled – endings are hard after all – is because even in the final moments we realize we may not know as much about the former Great Machine as we think we do.
The topical nature of this book is obviously the other reason it stood out. The very first cliffhanger shown is just as haunting today as it was over half a decade ago. I do not think I’ve ever seen a comic work as politically as this, which is honestly probably a good thing given the temerity of the subject matter, and tackle the social issues it did. In fact, if there was ever a flaw with this comic at times, it is that occasional it did feel topical for the sake of being topical. I’m not going to spoil any moments in this book, but the way the relationship with Mitchell and Bradbury plays out at the end feels like a victim to this, and the final shot, which may or may not be hailed as “infamous” at this point (I haven’t paid any attention to feedback on this book around the Internet yet) may be the same, but I have my own theories about that. Thing about all this was, pretty much all the political discourse in this title was just that; discourse, something I think we’ve lost sight of and is the way things should be handled when you proceed to put your bits out in the open on a project like this. Every point had a counterpoint, every idea led to a new line of thinking. It fleshed out the characters left and right and inundated the pages of this book with enough “real worldness” to make it feel right at home with the live action political dramas. And, again, it made Mitchell Hundred as real as you get with a fictional being: a character with motivations and thoughts and beliefs and goals. Imagine that.
As far as finales go, this was much more on the good side than the not. As I stated before, I do think there were a couple reaches on how some events played out, the Bradbury one the most notable, but the last panel might be one as well. As someone who follows politics way too much though – as someone whose only idol growing up was Hunter S. Thompson, it’s kind of a curse – I can see how that scenario probably played out and it makes sense that Mitchell would be the right-hand man to that particular real world player. But, even at the end, this book kept showing us new characteristics and natures of a lead that already had highly developed ones, but that’s how life works right? We continue to live and grow and at times we do drastic things despite how prepared we think we are. If the conviction is there, that is, and Mitchell Hundred was definitely a man of conviction, despite his occasional questioning of it. And so am I. EX MACHINA is one of the greatest comics ever written and I stand by that. Kudos to all involved and I pray their next projects (or project together maybe?) are even half as deep as this book was. The industry, hell, all media, needs more works as thoughtful as this. Cheers…
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, Facebook and 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.
Looking for more on EX MACHINA?
Check out this Brian K. Vaughan interview &
EX MACINA #50 review by Optimous Douche!
Writer: Jeph Loeb Pencils: Ed McGuinness Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: JNCNDAC“The Strongest One There Is” Were to begin, were to begin?
Ah yes, I remember for all you simple Sams…
Story: eh. Art: ok. Over all arc of this Red Hulk Shebang: The jury is still out.
If that isn’t good enough for ya, then keep reading on, True Believers.
This is a terribly tough nut to crack. There is good. There is bad. And there is UGLY. There is also something intriguing & and some things not so much.
So let’s start with the good. I love the fact that Banner Hulk is the personality we seem to be getting. We have never truly explored the Hulk in this manner before, if indeed that is what we are getting. The Hulk with Banner’s personality intact could be interesting.
More Good: The way Jeph Loeb chose to tell the story laying out just how similar Banner & Ross really are. I really loved the way Bruce interacted with Steve Rogers in the end & even though it was somewhat telegraphed and a tad clichéd, having Banner & Ross end up in the completely opposite positions was cool and somewhat ironic. But c’mon, does the Marvel U really need two Hulks? Evidently sales indicate they/we do. So before we get to the Bad, a little more good. If you haven’t read the book jump to the next paragraph. **** SPOILER AHEAD **** The comments in Mr. Loeb’s little last page ramble indicating Big Red joining the Avengers does have some possibilities.
The Bad: The whole She-Hulk declaration & slap down of Ms. Red was contrived & just sucked. I mean c’mon; she is supposed to be this big bad chick and she takes one punch and she’s down? Unnecessary and it took away from what might have been a much nicer wrap up of this story line.
The Ugly: Now we get to the heart of the matter and what I personally don’t believe for a one minute. This story was said to be all laid out 2 years or so ago. Sorry, ain’t buying it. It is like the difference between the X-FILES & BABYLON 5. Chris Carter was clearly making it up as he went along, coming up with cool ideas like black oil etc., but doesn’t know were to go with it all. So the story is intriguing until it comes time to end it and every story has to have an end. So before you know the answers to the riddles, the riddles end up being better than the answers and your left with a lot of “eh? That’s it?” When it’s over. Now compare that to the first 4 years of B5 were things from the first year tie into the last year & it’s obvious the story is thought out and not made up on the fly. It makes for a more satisfying experience. Character arcs actually go somewhere & mean something. I mean, aside from a device to bring Betty back, what is the point of the Red She Hulk? What is the point of Rick being this new Abomination? And finally there’s Big Red himself. He is not another manifestation of Banner’s personality. They decide to make his identity a mystery and then they choose to make it Ross because it is the obvious choice. I don’t know. It just doesn’t seem that well thought out.
BUT it was clearly a big seller so you run with it. It feels like the parts that worked were Greg Pak’s & the parts that don’t were Jeph Loeb’s. And what’s with the PH, Jeph? Who spells their name that way? Anyway, I really want to like this character but I am just not feeling it. It was more interesting when I didn’t have the answers.
And now for a second opinion on HULK #24
Writer: Jeph Loeb Art: Ed McGuinness Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: Ambush BugSay what you will about Loeb’s ULTIMATE U work (which I have stayed away from), but I am finding that the broad stroke, punch-em in the face, all out action approach that’s been exuding from the HULK books (Loeb’s HULK in particular) has been, for the most part, a fun ride. The recent WORLD WAR HULK took a gaggle of Hulks, tossed them in a sandbox and had them beat on each other for the last year. WORLD WAR HULK wasn’t the most intelligent read of the year, basically an excuse to get a lot of heroes and villains together for a slug fest, but I’m not snobby enough to say that I didn’t enjoy reading it. At some base level, I found it refreshing to see these heroes and villains hitting each other over and over.
The entre story arc has been leading to a pair of confrontations: Hulk vs. his son Skaar and Hulk vs. Rulk. Not surprisingly, Greg Pak knocked the confrontation with his son out of the park with INCREDIBLE HULK #611, filling each thunderous blow with character and filling the entire issue with a compelling story that really highlighted the difference between Banner and the other characters who have been running around all Gamma irradiated these days. Pak’s final pages as Banner comes to grips with his abusive past with his own father and how history was repeating itself with his own son was both touching and thrilling at once. I read INCDREDIBLE HULK #611 twice and will probably read it again and I have to say I felt goose bumps when Hulk sonic claps a mound of sand in the way of innocents while his son was in full rage. It was a moment that you don’t get with all of this inner angst going on these days where the Hulk did a truly heroic thing. A fantastic issue.
This week’s follow up and final segment of WORLD WAR HULK is under Jeff Loeb’s pen. While Pak’s final installment was soulful and oozing with character, Loeb falls back on what this comic has done best since issue one—Hulk hitting stuff. Though much simpler in concept, two men with vastly differing views on life slug it out after a long history of conflict, the story is somewhat powerful on a much less intellectual level. If anything, Loeb’s writing gets in the way in this issue as Loeb offers up a new trend that I can’t wait to see go away—the multiple caption citing the thoughts of multiple characters. Here, both Banner and Ross (who by now, if you don’t know is Rulk, then you probably won’t care if I spoil it here) narrate their feelings about one another here. But we know all of this. Anyone reading this issue knows the two are at odds. The comic reads more like word masturbation than anything else. Had this just been two Hulks punching each other without all of the captions littering the panel, I think it would have read much smoother. As it is, the captions seem redundant and don’t really add anything more to the story than reiterating feelings that have been pretty well mapped out by now.
The saving grace of this issue was the last few pages as a new status quo is established for the Hulk. **** HERE THERE BE SPOILERS **** Banner in charge of Hulk’s body, working with Steve Rogers, and running a Gamma Base in Death Valley. Rulk in chains in an underground bunker to be let loose with the Avengers and put on a leash held by Steve Rogers, the only man Rulk would respect and listen to. These are interesting ideas--ones that will keep me invested for the next year to see how things unfold. I’m sure the new status quo was a result of Pak and Loeb working together, but Loeb does a good job of establishing it here, so I have to give the guy credit. **** END SPOILERS****
By now you know what Ed McGuinness’ art style is and how you feel about it. Sure his people are puffy, much like Bart Sears, but if any book deserves to be drawn with disproportional characters, it’s Hulk’s. McGuinness delivers a fantastic slug fest here with some truly dynamic panels; again, I preferred Pelletier’s slugfest in INCREDIBLE HULK #611 since the fight resonated deeper on the emotional scale, but as far a Mighty Marvel slug fests go, McGuinness delivered a good one.
In the end, WORLD WAR HULK was a bit overblown (we really didn’t need those HULKED OUT HEROES books), not that intellectual (despite the fact that the supposed smartest heroes and villains were cast into it, most of the sci fi or brainy stuff was done off panel), and there’s like, what, 10 Hulks bounding around of varying colors and sexes (?), but this is a HULK comic, fer cryin’ out loud. It ended with two behemoths beating the crap out of each other and set up for some interesting potential stories to come, so it was what it was and this issue wasn’t a bad way to end the arc.
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/reviewer/co-editor of AICN Comics for over nine years. Support a Bug by checking out his comics! MUSCLES & FIGHTS VOL.3 & MUSCLES & FRIGHTS VOL.1. VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS: THE TINGLER #1-2 (interview, interview, preview, & review) VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS #20 WITCHFINDER GENERAL (preview, review, in stores Aug 25th!) NANNY & HANK miniseries (interview, interview, interview, preview, & review, available in Previews Order #JUN10 0824, in stores Sept 1st!) Zenescope’s upcoming WONDERLAND ANNUAL 2010 (in July Previews Order # JUL10 1200, in stores in September!) ROGER CORMAN PRESENTS DEATHSPORT miniseries (in September Previews Order #SEP 100860, in stores in November!)
In stores today!
VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS #20 WITCHFINDER GENERAL
Written by Mark L. Miller Art by Manoel Magalhães Published by Bluewater Comics Reviewed by Stones ThrowComics by an acquaintance always pose a thorny problem for the online critic. Pen a glowing review and you endanger an invaluable and carefully-constructed reputation for those journalistic virtues of honesty, integrity, and, prized above all others, @$$hole-ishness. Call it a steamin’ pile o’dog crap and you endanger a friendship and risk exclusion from the @$$hole Clubhouse.
My dilemma is even more profound, since the writer of this particular pamphlet is AICN Comics editor Mark L. Miller, AKA Ambush Bug (and not Scot and self-promoter Mark Millar). Even if I opt for journalistic integrity and force myself to identify flaws, how do I know Bug won’t just snip ‘em out and make my review an unqualified endorsement of a superstar writer in the making, rivalling Alan Moore if not Stan Lee himself in his way with words? How do I know he isn’t doing it right now?
Happily, I can report in my own words that the comic in question, VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS #21, falls somewhere between the two hypothetical extremes. It’s good, but not great, without being ghastly. You’ll find this WITCHFINDER generally recommended.
That’s a pun on WITCHFINDER GENERAL, the 1968 film by Michael Reeves, which starred Vincent Price as the eponymous Witchfinder. Continuing VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS’s premise of adapting the actor’s flicks, #20 is in fact a prequel to the movie, showing how Price’s Matthew Hopkins generally came to find witches.
Bug does a good job with a script that has a twist in the tale. Though it seems obvious in retrospect, when I first read it the turn for the worse made me laugh out loud at how hilariously black it was and the dramatic sleight of hand that let it creep up on me.
I was also impressed with the art by Manoel Magalhães, who communicated well the important qualities of the two main characters: Bethany, sensible and capable but under her surface still innocent and impressionable; and the young Matthew Hopkins, a daydreamer whose distance from the world around him quickly becomes lethal. There was one panel where the two are dancing in a clearing in the woods which Magalhães drew in a wide, proscenium view that nicely suggested Matthew Hopkins’ imagination that it’s a ballroom, showing the momentary connection between the two characters but also emphasizing their distance.
While the ending was a nice twist which also portrayed the injustice and senselessness of witch hunts, the idea that Matthew Hopkins’ murderousness was caused only by spurned love seems too trite. A few minutes’ searching on the internet found this cool article about Hopkins by the historian Malcolm Gaskill, in which he argues that the witch-hunting of 1640s England is inseparable from the Civil War and the religious Puritanism of the time. Almost one in ten men died in the fighting between the Royalists and Parliament which lasted throughout the decade. Rebellion against the monarchy was often religiously motivated – Puritan, Protestant resentment of the extravagant, Catholic tendencies of Charles I – and prominent republicans like Oliver Cromwell and John Milton believed the Second Coming of Christ was just around the corner. Matthew Hopkins himself was the son of a Puritan minister, which seems a more probable explanation for his enthusiasm for witch-hunting and belief in Satan’s presence in the world.
Admittedly, the original film isn’t exactly a history text book. But lines like “entire villages being left in ruin” by the witchfinders and panels that show rotting bodies hanging from trees, Ku Klux Klan-style, seem like a misrepresentation of the truth. Gaskill writes that witchfinders like Hopkins worked within and exploited the wartime disruption of the justice system: at one trial, “the judge was not a professional but a Puritan soldier, the Earl of Warwick.” Plus, he points out:
It took a lot of people to hang a witch: witnesses, constables, search-women, midwives, magistrates, gaolers, clerks, judges, jurors, sheriffs, executioners, gravediggers and so on. Witchfinders gave people confidence to act, and they lent their expertise, but little more than that. In some ways, too, Hopkins the bogeyman deserves to be seen as a man of his time, rather like the fanatics of the New Model Army, the iconoclasts who stripped parish churches of their ‘superstitious’ decorations, and the regicides who signed the King’s death warrant. However misguided and intransigent, such men were inspired by the purification of society and the belief that they were living in the “last days” of man.
The best comic book portrait of a tyrant motivated by purity is probably Neil Gaiman’s depiction of Robespierre and the Terror of the French Revolution in SANDMAN. My ideal WITCHFINDER GENERAL comic would be something like that: a story of fear, suspicion, stupid judges and innocent women being put to death with a fanatic intent on purification at its centre. VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS #21 isn’t quite that comic, but it is an effective and well-produced horror story.
AVENGERS ACADEMY #3
Writer: Christos Gage Art: Mike McKone & Andrew Hennessy Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: BottleImpThe format that writer Christos Gage has set up for the beginning of this series—each issue focusing on a different member of this "new class" of Avengers and giving their back stories one person at a time—has both positive and negative aspects. On the plus side, by letting each young hero/potential villain narrate the circumstances of how they gained their powers, Gage is giving the readers the gift of instant familiarity with each character. The previous issues have given us insights into Veil (transforms into different gases, is unsure of herself and has a crush on instructor Vance Astrovik) and Finesse (can instantly acquire new skills just by observing them in action, is borderline sociopathic) and now we get to see what makes Hazmat, the human toxic waste dump, tick. Since most of these characters have some element of tragedy in their past in addition to the shared experience of having their powers manipulated by Norman Osborn, this method of giving the reader all the sordid details right up front helps to create that empathic bond between reader and character that is so important for a successful story. After all, if you don’t care about the characters, chances are that you won’t care what happens to them… it’s like what happened for the first half-dozen issues of IRREDEEMABLE, before Mark Waid gave us enough information about his characters to make them anything more than two-dimensional cutouts. So getting to know these young possible Avengers right away is definitely a plus.
On the minus side, the issue-by-issue shift from character to character means that there hasn't been much time devoted to the construction of a concrete plot. Instead, these first issues have been more situation than storyline; we see pieces of stories that never quite gel into a whole. This issue does end with a cliffhanger as the students confront Osborn in his prison cell, so I’m hoping that as this plot thread continues in next month’s issue, the shift to a new character’s perspective will work within this setup rather than branching off into yet another unresolved plotline.
Another negative—well, not so much a negative, it’s more like less of a positive, if you get what I mean—is Mike McKone’s artwork. I’m not bashing it; I actually like his drawing style. But there’s something missing in his pages, some sense of vitality that’s missing even in his action shots. Maybe it’s that his lines are just a little too clean, so that the figures look frozen in space rather than caught in a moment of motion. And I’ve mentioned it before, but once again I’m left wishing that his facial expressions were pushed a little further to show more emotion. There are so many shots of talking heads in this comic, it remind me of the 1980s Keith Giffen JUSTICE LEAGUE; I just wish that McKone had that series’ artist Kevin Maguire’s ability to draw those little curled lips, crinkled eyes, or flaring nostrils that added so much life to his faces.
Once again I know I'm nitpicking here, because that’s what the Imp does best. Believe me, if I didn’t really enjoy this series I wouldn’t still be spending my money on it. Gage and McKone have a good strong start and a lot of potential built up in these first three issues, and I'm sure that things will really get cooking once all the introductions are out of the way. All in all, AVENGERS ACADEMY is a fresh and fun read. And hey, any mainstream superhero team book that finds a Norse demigoddess running a seminar on self-gratification for the team's female members is okay by me.
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.
IDES OF BLOOD #1
Writer: Stuart C. Paul Artist: Christian Duce Publisher: DC WildStorm Reviewer: LyzardAncient Romans and vampires? Has someone been watching FOREVER KNIGHT? Whether or not the creators at WildStorm have been viewing the 3rd series of the cult Canadian hit, they have come upon an interesting amalgamation.
IDES OF BLOOD is revisionist history, a “what if…” tale of the blood, sweat, and tears that led to the fall of the first great Caesar. In the comic’s world, Julius Caesar conquered “the Transylvanian kingdom of Dacia” and, in traditional Roman fashion, turned its people into slaves. The thing is--they weren’t people per se, but vampires. But now a series of murders, attributed to the Pluto’s Kiss Killer, has taken down many members of the Roman aristocracy, creeping ever closer to Caesar himself. Valens, a former slave turned sentry, at the request of the emperor investigates the serial killings. But can he do so successfully before the infamous Ides of March?
The first issue is very bulky, introducing the setting, characters, tone, style, etc. It is a lot to take in for a reader. If one is not familiar with ancient Rome, a few of the references will not be picked up. Even the secondary title “Sic Semper Tyrannis”, which thanks to four years of Latin I know means “thus always to tyrants” will be lost on those unfamiliar with the dead language. Speaking of language, that is the densest part of the comic. If writer Stuart C. Paul was basing the story off Shakespeare’s JULIUS CAESAR, then I could see a reason for the heavy-handed dialogue. The wordings are full of allusions, similes, and metaphors pertaining to ancient Roman mythology and culture. Though Paul attempts to keep all of his references to the times, there are some anachronistic mentionings. As commented upon earlier, many of the timely citations will be lost on non-Classic scholars. But their tone is clear, aided by Christian Duce’s artwork.
Just like NANCY IN HELL, there are plenty of reds within the comic. Of course, what else would you expect from a book entitled IDES OF BLOOD. Due to the main character being a vampire, the book takes place mainly at night. This darkness becomes a problem, as details in the faces become unclear. Many of the characters begin to look alike. Sure, there is tons of blood, but nothing too graphic. Heads are severed, but this is nothing as grotesque as seen in a SAW film.
I’m a bit mixed on whether or not I enjoyed issue one of IDES OF BLOOD. The subject matter is right up my alley, but I’m not sure I find it believable that the Romans would overwhelm vampires. Besides their weakness to sunlight, I have yet to see any other Achilles’ heels for them. In fact, they have many strengths (which you will just have to read the comic to find out about) that make them much stronger fighters than a well-trained Roman soldier. Getting over this minute fact, I found the complexity of the story intriguing. There are no clear good guys and bad guys, just grayness instead of black and white. There is nothing incredibly new to the artwork or layout, but one doesn’t expect to see a grand slam every time they go to the park. What makes the comic stand out is its take on the story of the assassination of Julius Caesar. It’s original and there just isn’t a lot of that in the creative arts these days.
HIGHLAND LADDIE #1
Writer: Garth Ennis Art: John McCrea & Keith Burns Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment Reviewer: Optimous DoucheHIGHLAND LADDIE was so misplaced, mistimed and such a general misfire that its mere existence makes me weep like baby Jesus every time you touch yourself.
Please keep in mind two things as you read this review: I do not hate Garth Ennis or his work, and if a guy with my life experience found 90% of the dialogue indecipherable, the rest of the American comic community should be screaming for their money back. I have had way more international exposure in life than the average American. I feast on a steady diet of BBC America and, thanks to my upbringing and my day job, I have had many dealings in life with inhabitants of those wee islands from which America spawned. I usually love comics that come from creators who live across the pond. Also, I truly love THE BOYS, HIGHLAND LADDIES’ sire title, and the protagonist, Wee Hughie, is my favorite character in comics today. This is my caveat to say that none of the vitriol I’m about to spew comes from hate…no this is a rant born of confusion and the agonizing question of “why did we need this book?”
Let’s first discuss misplaced…as in HIGHLAND LADDIE was misplaced on American comic book shelves. Look, I understand Europe’s perpetual frustration with the good old USA being ground zero for comic inception. I’m sure you are confused when we call it a truck instead of a lorry or when smoking a fag is something that can’t be done in public. I get it and all I can say is, “that’s just sort of how the world is…sorry!” But I’ll even go so far as to say there will probably be some Europeans that are just as lost as I was while reading HIGHLAND LADDIE. Scottish colloquialisms abound in this book. These intersperses of this unique dialect are easy to gloss over in THE BOYS, because only one character uses them. In HIGHLAND LADDIE everyone talks like Hughie and it really is an exercise in frustration since all people do in this book is talk. Wee Hughie, his parents, his childhood friends…I truly felt like I needed Garret Morris in the bottom of each panel screaming in “American” what these people were trying to get across. Hey, I’m all for broadening my horizons, but at a certain point this “origin” story moves into a foreign language piece. Origin must go in quotes because we already know Hughie’s superhero genesis. Unlike the origin arc for the rest of THE BOYS, this mini-series focuses on the people and places that made the man Hughie, not the hero.
Now we get to mistimed. In a universe where there are only two books, yes, I expect…no, make that demand. a little conti-fucking-nuity. Wee Hughie is leaving for his childhood home and taking a break from the madness that is THE BOYS. Understandable that the wee bloke needs a break, but the question is, WHY FUCKING NOW??????? With the reveals in the last few issues of THE BOYS, plot threads that have been dangling for years are now finally being tied together. I am excited and thrilled these days to read each issue after quite a few months of “this is going where exactly?” Well apparently it’s going towards vacation, and I guess Wee Hughie’s girlfriend who was just outed as a superhero and Homelander’s plans for world domination are now on hold until Hughie’s return. I know mealy-mouthed little fanboy nits like this are something that creators vehemently hate, but fuck you guys for hating. You have created a universe we cherish, so please forgive us lowly fans for expecting some sense of cohesion and sense of place in the grand timeline. I mean Jesus, a dialogue bubble simply stating “a few months ago” would have more than sufficed.
Now on to the misfire, and yes I cheated on this one to simply give me a catch-all complaint category. As I said earlier, Hughie has returned to his homeland of Scotland to get back to his roots and spend some quality time with maw and paw, plus his two childhood buddies. Up until the last page, that’s the entire book, folks. We often complain in hyperbole that a book has no action. This time it’s not a hyperbole folks, unless you consider walking as action. The last page shows a clandestine figure in a limo planning something nefarious for his Hughie, and through association, his childhood chums. But even the bad guys are just sitting…and talking.
Speaking of Hughie’s childhood buddies, you can’t understand a fucking word they say either. Gasmask and Tranny (they have real names I’m sure, but I couldn’t figure it out and I don’t really care) are uhhh…pretty much a guy in a gasmask and a transvestite. Gasmask wears his namesake because he is so smelly…clever huh? Plus at one point when they are in the pub he drinks out of it. Are you laughing yet? My college roommate was the McGyver of bong making; he could fashion any two items together to make the perfect smoking device. One time we acquired a gasmask to use in our dirty deeds. We tried to drink with it on as well. Unless you have the mouth of a blowup fuck doll, and the sucking power of a porn star, it ain’t going to happen. So I’m going to call Hughie’s chums fails on both humor and physics.
This book was just a tragedy, which is a shame because in theory I should have loved this title. I love Wee Hughie and have thirsted to see more of him since the beginning of THE BOYS. Also McCrea and Burns did amazing work on the art, but the best art in the world could not keep this train wreck on the rails. So...if you want to learn more about Scotland and the dreary existence of day-to-day provincial life therein, this book is right up your alley. If you want to read good Garth Ennis, pass on HIGHLAND LADDIE and go read THE BOYS.
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.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #640
Writer: Joe Quesada Art: Paolo Manuel Rivera & Joe Quesada Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: Henry Higgins is My HomeboyAt this point, I think you could accurately define me as a "masochist".
I hate this story. It's a very simple sentence that covers a whole range of emotions, all pertaining to my feelings for this issue. The writing, the art...okay, I will say this. The art has been improving, but it's still very hit and miss.
Writing (1/5): It's just...so...bad. The plot, the characters, the writing, all of it. And the worst part? Every character in this book is fucking thick. Every one. The doctor goes up to Peter and tells him that it was "love" that saved his aunt from the fatal bullet wound. Love….and...that's it. He doesn't feel like contacting anyone or trying to figure out a logical explanation for this turn of events, just "Love saved her life." The mystic arts of Doctor Strange, the healing golden boy from the X-Men, all of Iron Man’s tech, none of that could save her, only "love" and he doesn't feel like questioning it. Then there's Aunt Anna, who is a target for attack because of her relation to Spider-Man. She rightfully calls up MJ and says "I heard something", before just assuming it was a cat. Yes, your best friend is in the hospital from a murder attempt and you are definitely a target for super villains. Go ahead, assume it's a cat. MJ decides to NOT wake up her superhero husband to deal with this and go it alone. And then we meet the villain of this story, one of Kingpin’s guys, the one attacking Aunt Anna. The one who is wearing a wrestling mask. Yes, balaclavas are the usual means to hide one’s face, because they're black, nondescript, and blend into the night easier. This fucker decided to hell with that, bright primary colors are the way to go. Or how about his stealthy means of yelling he's going to cut off her head and show it to Spider-Man while shooting at her…in the middle of the goddamn road! I know New York is bad at times, but is there no one alarmed by this? MJ, for what it's worth, doesn't do the basic damsel in distress maneuver (she manages to get a few hits in here and there), before masked man catches up to her, and at point blank range, shoots...and misses. Are you fucking serious? He's literally standing over her, pulls the trigger, empty shell goes flying, then Spider-Man finally catches up and kicks him. Maybe it's supposed to mean Peter caught up just in time to get him before he could aim, but the way the book lays it out, the crook fires, misses, and gets kicked. Spidey rips off the mask to reveal OH FUCK ME it's the fucking crook from the first part! Are you fucking serious!?! Forget Green Goblin and Doctor Octopus, Spider-Man's true nemesis is Portly Crook #3! He's a pathetic villain, and one who seems to be more dangerous!
Warning, rant about plot holes to follow…
Presumably, Doctor Strange, Iron Man, and Mr. Fantastic are going to erase the world’s memories of Peter Parker being Spider-Man. So, saving an old woman's life by fixing a bullet wound is disruptive to the natural order of things. But mind-raping the entire fucking planet because Peter Parker was a dumbass? That's perfectly acceptable. And if this ability is available, why hasn't it been used before? It's being built up as something the three have to work together to accomplish, but it's definitely a possible maneuver. Why didn't this conversation happen when Daredevil’s identity was revealed? "Aunt May had a death scare! Can't let Peter's world be turned upside down, we must erase the world’s memory! What's that? Since Daredevil’s identity was revealed, he's had a wife driven mad, friends almost killed, and been jailed? “Eh, never much liked him. Fuck him." And why is Aunt May not allowed to remember who Spider-Man is? She's proven a valuable asset to Peter since she found out, and she can still be helpful as all hell. I was unaware that a bullet wound erases characterization.
And the big one, the one that's been bothering me, the one I brought up last issue. I didn't explain is as well as I should of, so here goes again. Okay, Aunt May gets shot by a sniper, because she's Spider-Man’s aunt. Then everyone’s memories are erased, and no one knows who Peter is. That doesn't change the fact that someone on Kingpin’s payroll shot Aunt May with a sniper rifle. How do you explain that? If we're going by the whole "no one can save her" angle, then she would still have a sniper wound. But no one remembers why she was shot. Isn't anyone going to be wondering that? No one gets mugged with a sniper rifle. Aren't the doctors going to wonder what happened? Or at the very least, Kingpin? "One of my guys tried to assassinate an old bird from Queens. I should look into that." At the very least, Kingpin now has the means to figure out who Spider-Man is. Or, the past was changed and Kingpin's man never took the shot because no one knows who Spider-Man is. But that means there would never have to be a deal with Mephisto, and a paradox sets in.
And by the by, it WAS Mephisto who did the original memory wipe. Mary Jane comments about how just because their marriage is gone, Aunt May can be shot at again. Mephisto responds, and I quote,
"Have you thought for a second to ask yourselves why? Why I chose you two out of all people? It's because yours is the rarest love of all. Pure, unconditional and made holy in the eyes of he who I hate most. A love like yours comes about but once in a millennia and to take that away from him...to deny him....is a victory like none other imaginable. So if that's all it takes, consider his identity forgotten." BONG!
It was Mephisto, it was. That just means “One More Day” and this don't connect on that issue.
The plot is covered in holes, most of the characters are idiots, it's just not well written. At all.
Art (2/5): Strangely enough, the art has been improving steadily over the story. Quesada only has two pages of art in here, and they're like the past ones, i.e. not good. The worst part is Quesada has done good art in the past, but these pages don't work. Rivera however has been doing better over time. Various big spread scenes like Peter carrying MJ to safety work, and Spider-Man's few action moments are done well. But the faces are still incredibly weird, and most of the quiet moments don't translate as they should. It's a very average go on the art. And I can't get over the wrestling mask or how an out of shape former henchman is doing all this shit.
Best Moment: MJ kicking the crook in the bollocks. That amuses me.
Worst Moment: Everything that has to do with the crook apart from that. Goddamn it I hate this character.
Overall (1/5): only saved barely by the art - Don't pay attention to the words, and the art is decent. But the writing for this issue is terrible. At least it's almost done.
THE RECONCILERS #1
Written by: Erik Jensen Art by: Shepherd Hendrix Published by: Viking Warrior Press Reviewed by: superheroA couple of weeks ago I reviewed a graphic novel called FLUORESCENT BLACK which was a vision of the future where the pharmaceutical and bio research industry had gone mad. This time around I’ve read a book called THE RECONCILERS…which happens to be about a future where the space mining industry has gone awry. Seems like our giant corporate overlords are the big baddies in a lot of the sci-fi fiction I’m reading, and listening to the news these days who can blame the artistic community for feeling like corporations are the perfect villains to set up against their protagonists? Sometimes, seeing what’s being done out there to the little guy, it seems like the world set up in books like THE RECONCILERS isn’t too far off.
In the 22nd century there are no nations anymore, no individual religions, and there is only one power: Sokor Industries. It seems that years ago there was a giant corporate war with all of the great companies vying for control over, well, whatever they could get their hands on. In the end it was Maximillian Sokor who rose above the ashes of the carnage and propped his company up as the new great power on Earth and its space colonies. As part of his peacekeeping efforts he set up a system where any company who could not resolve their differences through litigation could do so with a team of Reconcilers, or futuristic gladiators. Basically, if one company had a gripe with another there would be trial by combat. Each company has its own team of warriors and they fight each other until one team slaughters the other. So instead of all out military engagements the peace is kept by having small clashes which are televised to the masses as entertainment.
The story behind THE RECONCILERS is what happens when Sokor Industries attempts to jump the claim of a smaller mining outfit and the owners of that outfit don’t like it one bit. I’ll say right now that I loved this book. The setting is believable, the characters are fantastic, and there’s a real tension that’s built up throughout the book as the small mining outfit and its rag-tag team of combatants head to their inevitable slaughter. THE RECONCILERS is well conceived and extremely well plotted and kept me interested the whole way through. Although I did have a bit of a problem with the climax of the book, the read as a whole was extremely satisfying. Writer Erik Jensen does a great job of setting up his world, creating believable characters, and then forming a story around them that’s as compelling as anything I’ve read recently.
Artist Shepherd Hendrix brings a workman type style and feel to the book. There’s nothing really flashy about his style and I appreciate that. What he lacks in panache he makes up for with straightforward storytelling ability, which is something that can be lacking in today’s comic books. His style reminded me most of the late Dick Giordano, and when I say that I say it as a real compliment. While this type of comic art may not jump off the page at you it gets the job done and does it old school. It’s about getting the story on the page and Hendrix gets it on the page well. If you’re a fan of the old Valiant comic book art style be sure to pick up THE RECONCILERS because that’s what the art in the book reminded me of: an art style that told the story and didn’t get wrapped up in itself.
Super Duper SECRET AVENGERS #4
Writer: Ed “He’s the Best” Brubaker Artist: Mike “Do you Dig me ?” Deodato Jr. Publisher: Mighty Make Mine Marvel Reviewer: Just another jerk JNCNDACSecret Histories Part 4 of 4 Ok kids, its time for another Stan the Man Lee channeled cavort of comic kudos. I’m telling ya kids & I kid thee not, as sure as Steve Rogers would make one heck of a Human Rocket this boy Brubaker continues to show why he is one of the most astute of Avenging Authors and if the conclusion of this first epic is not enough evidence then you need an all expenses paid week in the Negative Zone! Brubaker knows how to write a Fantastic 4 (pun intended) color comic!
When I read stories such as this, I can’t help but hearken back to what The House of Ideas was once: Comics of the Most Captivating Kind! Not only do you get Steve Rogers been his most dedicated--the hero of integrity & incorruptibleness. Not only do you get Ant Man being the unsung hero. Not only do you get wit & wisdom & wackiness, you get captivating continuity. That’s right Marvelites, I am talking with just one word balloon Awesome Edward B. positions this story within the time frame work of the latest Cosmic Collision that is THE THANOS IMPERATIVE.
ARE YOU PAYING ATTENTION BRIAN BENDIS????
I could cultivate continuous verbose verbiage of vintage voracity until you hate me more than usual, but boys & girls THIS is yet again the wonderful reason you and I love this fascinating format when it is done correctly. This book spills out so unflinchingly fast that when you’re done you can’t believe it went by so quick. Powerful pacing, wonderfully written, dynamically drawn AND I love that tried and true & lately ignored comic book storytelling devise of beginning the next mystery as soon as the first has been concluded.
My oh my, Stan would be proud, Kirby would Crackle & Big John Buscema would blush! This boy can weave a wondrous web, I’ll spoil yea not….So go buy the book and read it already!
PS It was really good, I liked it.
BERONA’S WAR FIRLD GUIDE HC OGN
Creators: Anthony Coffey & Jesse Labbe Publisher: Archaia Reviewer: Ambush BugI have to be honest, when I first heard of BERONA'S WAR at the San Diego Comic Con, I wasn't really interested in it. As much as I love indies, it's often hard for me to dive into a new universe while still invested in mainstream comics as well. There's only so much information this bald brain-pan of mine can contain and I wasn't about to download the real name of the Fixer or the names of the original members of the Inferior Five for new information about a whole new universe. I'll bet there are a lot of you out there who feel the same way. It takes a brave and bold person to step outside of the mainstream and immerse yourself in a whole new universe with new rules, new characters, new everything. Problem is, as I sat an interviewed Anthony Coffey and Jesse Labbe at this year's San Diego Comic Con and they explained the concept behind their collaboration that came to be BERONA'S WAR, I found that the more I heard about it, the more fascinating it became.
BERONA'S WAR is a story birthed out of that creative competition one has with a friend. I found out from the interview that Coffey and Labbe went to art school together and were said to have similar artistic styles. When I was a kid, I had a best friend who I was always in competition with. If he got a good grade in school, I had to as well. If he got a new toy, I had to rush right out and get the same. We were the best of friends, but it was a friendship built around competition. If he drew something, I had to try my best to draw it better. It was that friendship that pushed me to try to be the best and that friendly competition that usually brought out the best, not the worst, in the both of us. I don't want to assume that is how the creators of this book's relationship is, but it sure seems that way. BERONA'S WAR is a story of two different races of furry animal things, advanced enough to know how to create weapons and have feelings like humans, but not so far advanced that they haven't figured out that war doesn't really solve anything.
I have so much to say about this book that I doubt I'll get to it all in this review, but it's safe to say that BERONA'S WAR FIELD GUIDE is a richly textured, well thought out, and fascinatingly addictive read. The Croponians and the Ele-Alta are two races, one side thinkers/schemers and the other stronger soldier types. The book tells the story of how the two races went to war over a fertile and rocky ground in the middle of the island of Berona called Amity. It is for this stretch of land that the two races decide to utterly annihilate each other. It is a story that reflects many real world events, but stays its distance from being overly preachy or taking one side or the other.
The most interesting aspect of this book to me is the aforementioned artistic collaboration between Coffey and Labbe. Each artist draws and creates one side of this war and they explained that their process involves a sentiment of one-upmanship. If the Croponians have a group of snipers, the Ele-Alta have aerial attack squads. If the Ele-Alta develop tunnel digging technology, the Croponians develop bunker buster weaponry. Not only does this artistic competition make for some interesting reading, but it also is a beautiful and scary representation of how real war is. In the past, wartime has been the birthplace of much of today's technology. They say "necessity is the mother of invention" and there is no greater necessity than the fight for one's life. This book documents the development of the struggle between the two armies, but also documents the development of training and more importantly the weaponry that ultimately is the cause of the downfall of both races.
That's right. According to this field guide, it doesn't look like there is a real winner or loser in this battle, a powerful statement in itself. But the real magic comes from the structure of this book. Sure it may real like your run of the mill MARVEL UNIVERSE style factoid book, but if you read the book from start to finish, you realize that as the entries continue, not only is there a story here talking about the development of these events, fractions of armies, and weapons, but that this may very well be the only account left talking about this struggle since it looks as if the two furry races wiped themselves out.
I guarantee you won't read anything like BERONA'S FIELD GUIDE this year. Imagine if the Ewoks were cool and had a down and dirty battle involving all sorts of military warfare and complicated weapons and machinery made of sticks and stones. That's what BERONA'S WAR is. Both Coffey and Labbe's styles are gorgeous and stylized. They are the architects of this world not too unlike our own and have every nuance seemingly mapped out. More BERONA'S WAR books are on the way being told in a more traditional style of story. I'll definitely be searching for future installments of this amazing battle that not only exemplifies the competitive creative spirit amongst all artists, but the tragic tendencies of humanity. There's a lot to be learned and be inspired by in this tale of battling beasties. BERONA'S WAR is poetically poignant, gorgeously drawn, meticulously factual, and thoroughly entertaining and proof that original concepts are alive and well if you are brave enough to venture outside of the mainstream.
NEW AVENGERS #3
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis Art: Stuart Immonen Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: Henry Higgins is My HomeboyYay! Someone else loves Iron Fist! I can't hear that enough in life!
Bendis may be a very polarizing writer, mostly for his dialogue and preference towards pet characters. But you can't really fault him for it, because his best work comes with a certain set of characters. And Bendis has crafted a team of just those characters. This book won't convert any Bendis haters, but it's still an enjoyable read.
Writing (4/5): The series carries the traditional Bendis tropes, which are actually quite enjoyable here. The snark, the action, the tone - It's a team tailor-made to Bendis, and he utilizes it well. I maintain that Bendis writes the best Spider-Man right now, and is one of the better writers the character has ever had. He gets some nice focus, as does one of my favorite B-Level heroes of Marvel, Iron Fist. After being sucked into another dimension, Iron Fist survived what should have knocked him into ash. He then tells off the power that brought him there. That's utterly fantastic, and Bendis sells Iron Fist's character. And of course, Jessica Jones and Victoria Hand are brilliant playing off each other and creating some nice chemistry. It'll be interesting to see where they go together.
This, to my knowledge, is Bendis's real first go at Thing, and I'm not quite sold on it yet. He does a serviceable version of him, but it feels very paint by the numbers Thing. He doesn't steal away attention like the others. And the threat to the world (sky’s opening up, demons are pouring out) does seem old by this point. It's a very traditional story arc, and has been done a lot in the last couple of years. But the originator of the event is an interesting twist. A major player in the Doctor Strange’s mythos is the cause of it all, but I don't know if it really works. It'll be fun seeing it progress.
Art (4/5): A huge fan of Immonen's past work on ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN, I'm quite happy with what he does here. The shots are bright and colorful without seeming gaudy. The facial reactions (particularly on Victoria Hand) are fantastic and memorable. There are a few inconsistencies (some wide shots don't work perfectly), but nothing major enough to detract from the whole.
Best Moment: The Ghostbusters conversation got a laugh out of me, as did Iron Fist's disappointment in the "afterlife".
Worst Moment: The Thing feels a little flat. I also reserve the right to change this to the big bads revelation in the future.
Overall 4/5: While the core Avengers are lagging a bit, this series continues to improve. A great book, especially if you like Bendis.
TANK GIRL: SKIDMARKS TPB
Written by: Alan Martin Art by: Rufus Dayglo Published by: Titan Books Reviewed by: superheroIn all honesty, you could just take my review for the first issue of TANK GIRL: SKIDMARKS (which you can read by clicking here) and cut and paste it right on this page. Everything I said in that review pretty much goes for the trade paperback of this newest TANK GIRL collection. It’s still a crazed riff on the old Saturday morning cartoon “Wacky Races”. It still is a terrific tribute to the glory days of TANK GIRL. It’s still entertaining as all get out. All in all it’s still a great little series and a funny and fantastic romp which made me smile pretty much all the way through. It’s degenerate comics at its finest and I have to say that I’m very happy with how this new, and yet still familiar, TANK GIRL series has developed. It’s fun in all the right places.
One thing I’d like to say, however, that may be different than my original review is that, as far as I’m concerned, Rufus Dayglo is the Tank Girl artist of the future. I think when I initially read the first issue of this series I was just coming off of having read the re-releases of all the old classic TANK GIRL stories so I was having a hard time distancing myself from my love of Jaime Hewlett’s art. I couldn’t fully immerse myself in Dayglo’s artistic talents. Well, after reading this book, I have to say that now I’ll have a hard time enjoying another TANK GIRL story unless Rufus Dayglo is the one illustrating it. Dayglo is a fantastic cartoonist. He’s just the right combo of Harvey Kurtzman meets Hanna Barbera on acid. As I kept going through the book I just grew to