A Pair of Holes Double Up on THE BOYS #46
Writer: Garth Ennis Art: Russ Braun & Darick Robertson Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment Reviewers: Optimous Douche & Henry Higgins is My HomeboyOPTIMOUS DOUCHE (OD): I was a big ass bucket of scared for this issue. I thought for certain given the bullshit divisionary cock slap across the face that was HIGHLAND LADDIE we would see the endless tsunami of wonderful reveals we’ve been getting over past few months in THE BOYS crash on the shore in a foamy "fuck you, readers." Seriously, Ennis has been tying three year old plot threads into such glorious knots I’ve felt like he was trying to earn an honorary merit badge. Then when HIGHLAND LADDIE came out and destroyed not only my soul, but also my faith in Scotland, I fully expected THE BOYS to spiral into some insipid arc about how The Female has to lick Frenchie’s taint for sustenance.
Well page one of this fantastic issue put all of my fears to rest. Ennis didn’t skip a beat from Hughie’s reveal of last issue about his relationship with the enemy. And this is one case where I can emphatically say fuck continuity if it means the bicycle helmet wearers of the world can enjoy HIGHLAND LADDIE while I still get to enjoy the exciting momentum building in THE BOYS.
HENRY HIGGINS IS MY HOMEBOY (TRIPLE H): Well, that was just fantastic. All the threads, all the build up, and Ennis just ratchets it up with ease. In one issue, we have the already staggeringly huge storyline for BOYS getting some extra wrinkles, while also answering some long held questions. The series is heading towards one hell of an apex, and this part just keeps it going.
See, based off your review, I avoided HIGHLAND LADDIE (though I know I'll read it sometime), so I didn't have the shaken faith that you did. All I've seen is Ennis, continuing to be Ennis.
OD: Call me a purist, but when you have Hughie’s faith shaken in THE BOYS by the reveal that his long-time gal pal is actually the enemy — and your next issue in the universe (this case HIGHLAND LADDIE) shows him packing up to head over to Scotland for a respite from that reveal — and then the next issue that comes out (THE BOYS 46) shows him back in NY…well can you blame me for wondering what the fuck? I love Hughie and did not want to take any respite from his place in THE BOYS, so I won’t complain (anymore than I have). This issue though just cements the fact I completely pissed dollars down the drain on LADDIE because it was a piss-poor read and has fuck all consequence on the actual BOYS proper.
TRIPLE H: Want to start with Hughie then or be a prat and bitch about LADDIE some more? I vote Hughie. The conversation with Butcher was fantastic. Butcher continues to walk that very thin line between friend and prick, especially in the final moment of the story. But he still obviously cares for Hughie, and it's actually a little sad, the way he is in the end.
OD: Butcher is now and I believe always will be an anomaly, that’s just part of the dude’s charm and a secret Ennis has now crafted to be the holy grail of this series. Ennis knows this. There’s a reason we weren’t given Butcher’s story during the origins arc a few months ago. We won’t, or at least we shouldn’t know the mystique of Butcher until the bitter end. The next step for Butcher, Hughie and us, the readers, will be whether they can still be “Father and Son” or if they will become combatants in the name of love. I’m also digging this new mystery about the true nature of Queen Maeve, once ice bitch and now (SPOILER ALERT) turn coat.
TRIPLE H: That's definitely an interesting turn, and I quite like it. It gives the anti-Homelander side a better chance in the inevitable fight between the two sides. I like there being a variable like her, and it makes me wonder which other "heroes" we've seen may join up with her and the Boys.
Course, you've got to mention the final sequence. It's Hughie’s face, so heartbroken you feel for the poor bloke. I'm extremely excited for next issue, if only to see how the discussion between Hughie and Starlight goes.
OD: I knew exactly what Butcher was up to as soon as he hit play on the footage from the Seven’s headquarters. I also could tell Hughie would naturally react poorly to his girlfriend blowing the most powerful man on earth. But hell, we’ve all been there. No one wants to think of our beloved’s past dalliances, but everyone has a history. I think everything will work out for these two star-struck lovers. My mind is now totally on the end-game of if not the series, at least this arc. Queen Maeve will die and The Legend, the creepy old man that keeps all of the heroes’ stories, will be the only one left unscathed at the end. Only time will tell if my predictions are correct, but this being Ennis I also know we’ll be in for a few surprises that none of us could predict. All in all, this was another great issue and I will leave with one last political statement: FUCK HIGHLAND LADDIE!.
FREEDOM FIGHTERS #1
Writers: Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray Art: Travis Moore Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Professor Challenger“Um...I know its a cliche, but Houston, we have a problem.” -- Human Bomb
Yeah. It's the Freedom Fighters. Name 'em all: Uncle Sam, Phantom Lady, Black Condor, Human Bomb, The Ray, Dollman, Firebrand, and The Red Bee (maybe also Miss America and Manhunter, a cheap rip-off of The Spirit). Basically, all the Quality Comics heroes from the 40s except for Plastic Man and the Blackhawks. I was first introduced to them in one of those multi-issue JLA epics in the 70s that teamed up the JLA of Earth-1 with the JSA of Earth-2 and the Freedom Fighters of Earth-X. As established within the DC continuity at that time, the FF lived on an Earth where the Nazis won WW2 and they continued to fight the fascist tyranny in the modern day. Years later, the Earth-2 series ALL-STAR SQUADRON retconned the FF as originally inhabitants of Earth-2, but who crossed over to Earth-X to help fight the Nazis there.
Establishing the characters on the alternate Earth gave them a powerful iconic position as, rather than forgettable members of a legion of costumed characters, the sole super-powered heroes of an Earth perpetually embroiled in an endless World War of brutality and oppression.
Then the CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS series changed all that and plunked the team back into a continuity that didn't seem to need them. They were outdated, kind of silly, what with the half-naked lady and the corn-pone patriotic cliches spouted by Uncle Sam and the walking “pull-my-finger” joke, The Human Bomb. I mean...really...how do you make this team relevant to the modern DC Universe?
Enter Grant Morrison.
Morrison came up with some whacked out concept for reimagining the team for the modern day that gave them a unique place in the DC Universe. Now, they are tied into the S.H.A.D.E. (super-secret political organization) that sprung out of his SEVEN SOLDIERS project. In other words, the FF deal head-on with political intrigue/ideology, super-heroics, and delightfully twisted villains.
I am a fan.
I bought both the 2006 and the 2008 mini-series written by Palmiotti and Gray. In fact, I believe I even named the 2006 mini-series as a “Best Of” that year in the @$$ies. If I didn't, then it was a close call. So, yeah, I'm pleased to see this new FF ongoing on the stands. Although, if I might digress, I am only committing for 1 year because of Dan Didio's apparently new policy to never keep a team on an ongoing more than a year at a time to “keep it fresh.” “Keep it fresh” to me is just a signal to me to “drop a title” just like I did on POWER GIRL, BOOSTER GOLD, JSA, BATMAN & ROBIN (when the creative team switches in a month or two), etc. With monthlies priced like they are, it's always nice to know that I only have to commit for a year to a new DC title.
This first issue beats the pants off of many other first issues I've been reading lately. I do read a lot of first issues because I'm always looking for the next great thing. But very few ever make me want to pick up the second issue...and even fewer make it to the third. This is good old super-hero action and intrigue. No pages and panels of team members sitting around chit-chatting and sipping coffee. Nope. We kick off the book with Black Condor and Firebrand taking out a neo-Nazi super-villain group calling themselves “The Aryan Brigade” with some outstanding losers like “Bonehead” (who has, yep, bony spikes sticking out of his head). Then the story shifts to the Human Bomb landing a spaceship on an asteroid headed for Earth. Mission? Blow up the giant hurtling rock. Problem? HB discovers the asteroid is actually inhabited by some humanoid alien creatures. The story promptly shifts the action back to Earth where Phantom Lady and Ray encounter a small town full of alien-zombie-fied humans.
Once the Earth is safe again (a feat accomplished through highly entertaining means), the team is reassembled by Uncle Sam for a meeting with the President of the United States to undergo a mission to recover a Doomsday Weapon apparently hidden beneath Devil's Tower by the Confederacy back during the American Civil War. Annnnddddd...an exciting cliffhanger that makes me already start counting down the days until issue 2 hits the stands.
So, here's the deal. Palmiotti and Gray know how to write solid, entertaining comic books. It doesn't matter whether we are talking about humorous super-hero (POWER GIRL), serious super-hero (HAWKMAN), western (JONAH HEX), or time travel (TIME BOMB). It's always always good. FREEDOM FIGHTERS is no exception. In fact, it allows them to play around with the more...psychedelic world of the Morrison concepts...and still give the reader a good, rousing super-hero adventure.
I don't know who Travis Moore is, but he does a bang-up job on the art.
Great characterization. Great pacing. Great concepts. Great art. All adds up to a great little comic book.
“Prof. Challenger” is actually Texas graphic artist and lifelong reader of comics, Keith Howell. He loves Green Lantern, loathes Kenan Thompson, draws, blogs, tweets, etc. and it's all available on his website at profchallenger.com and welcomes feedback from readers, both pro and con, but if female please include an attached pic in a tasteful state of undress.
STARKWEATHER: IMMORTAL OGN
What amused me is that as I was reading it I kept thinking that I had it all figured out. “Oh I see, it’s THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND meets TOTAL RECALL.” Then ten pages later I had to amend that with “meets PASSION OF THE CHRIST.” Sure enough, ten pages after that I was at it again with “meets THE LORD OF THE G-STRINGS: THE FEMALESHIP OF THE STRING.” I’m not kidding. There’s enchanted sex precipitated by an innocent side boob that suddenly turns into a full on soft-core banging that would make Misty Mundae proud. Anyway, the book starts and finishes with Alex, who had a pretty traumatic childhood. No, he didn’t fail Home Economics or have his willy exposed in the boys locker room; he had his mind erased when he was five after his mom got hacked up by a bunch of back-stabbing Templars on a mission to eradicate witches.
Well, Alex starts to unravel about 15 years later as he tries to find his way through life and as he’s busy blowing up his grandmother’s basement and fast food employer, we get a closer look at the spear of destiny and the now-immortal creep who wields it. Looks like Jesus got the last laugh after all because this poor bastard is stuck with the carpenter’s immortality and like Scamper from IGOR, living forever is not as fun as it sounds, especially when you can die. Think GROUNDHOG DAY minus the skipping LP and toss in the divine blood from DEMON KNIGHT. Shit, there I go again.
Be prepared for a long read and a lot of backtracking to try and keep up with the narrative. I understand that STARKWEATHER is a graphic novel and I’m not suggesting that anything feels rushed or hurried into place, but this is a book that is story driven and as good as it is, it’s impossible to digest in one sitting. I’ve gone through it a couple of times already and still need maybe one more look to feel comfortable with everything from start to finish. Even after those multiple readings, I’m happy to report that STARKWEATHER never gets boring, thanks largely in part to the exceptional brush of Patrick McEvoy, who’s one of those artists that kind of flies under the radar but if you read comics or play video games then chances are you’ve seen his stuff. To me, there’s nothing more rewarding than watching an artist at the top of his game and this offering is clearly McEvoy’s magnum opus. Yes, I would feel comfortable saying that even without the side boob.
It’s impossible to do a book like this any kind of justice in a review without revealing major plot points but the beauty of this industry is that most fans are united in their wants. Magic, religion, witchcraft, super-powers, teen angst, dead grannies, exploding restaurants, crucifixion, talking lizards, killer Romans – and did I mention the side boob? Pick this one up, you won’t be disappointed.
Web heads who can’t get enough of Mr. Pasty’s word vomit are encouraged to watch him operate as Nostradumbass over at MMaMania.com here. Love, hate and Mafia Wars requests should be directed here.
Story: Greg Rucka Art: Matthew Southworth, Rico Renzi Publisher: Oni Press Reviewer: Majin FuIf you’re like me, the absence of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ CRIMINAL from the comic stands has left you craving a proper noir yarn. Luckily, STUMPTOWN is around to stem the tide of readers clamoring for more hardboiled mysteries and moody visuals. Even better, Greg Rucka has created a protagonist that is intensely likable, incredibly resourceful, and immediately sympathetic. Dex Parios is a protagonist any reader could root for. She has all the trappings of the classic noir private eye: a sharp wit, a cool persona in the face of immediate danger, the signature physical scar representing her flaws (think Jake’s nose in CHINATOWN), and she can take a punch with the best of them. She may be a tough broad, but it’s her more human qualities that make her so endearing. When she’s sharing her troubles with the bad guy it feels genuine, not at all forced or overly dramatic. For Dex, her job as a private eye is her life, and she does a damn good job.
Sure, the book has had a few delays, but it only makes the conclusion all the sweeter when it finally rolls around. The finale of any good hardboiled story can be a tricky thing to execute. The mystery is already solved, the dominos are all in place, and the final act is just watching and waiting for all the pieces to come tumbling down. STUMPTOWN utilizes the same story device, but stands alone stylistically. This issue wraps up “The Case of the Girl Who Took Her Shampoo But Left Her Mini” and it does so with style to spare, particularly in its climax. The finale is set on the coast at night, with flashlights as the only light source. It’s a brilliant premise which places emphasis on the dark nature of these characters, and the intensity inherent to such a scenario. This scene also displays some of the strongest art in the series so far.
It is apparent with each new issue that Matthew Southworth is an artist with tremendous potential and a sharp eye for composition. Each new issue is an opportunity to expand his horizons and try new things. The main character Dex is especially expressive. She hardly makes the same face twice, and each façade is matched perfectly to the dialogue. At times, the action is disorienting due to canted camera angles and the occasional odd composition, and his line work gets pretty scratchy. Then again, it was obviously meant to show how much Dex is in over her head, so I can’t complain much. One post-punch composition is actually pretty cool, and does an effective job of relaying the toll taken on Dex’s mind and body.
But the art wouldn’t have half the impact without Rico Renzi’s colors. Bright yellows from illuminated flashlights contrast sharply with the murky blues of the darkness, while the bright primaries of the final scene offer a fitting reprieve from the earlier violence. If I had any criticism, the choice of green for a certain fight is a strange one. While it seems to be a way of communicating the private eye’s pain, it’s more of a distraction. Still, the palette varies perfectly with each scene to accentuate the mood and setting, shifting well with the tone of each scene, especially the aforementioned climax, in which Renzi’s colors seem to soften the usual harsh lines of Southworth.
Another thing I should mention is the setting. I have visited Portland plenty of times. Part of the fun in reading this comic is looking out for the familiar sites that pop up, like the adult theatre at the end of the issue, or the oh-so familiar line to Voodoo Doughnuts right beside it. These familiar settings are used as locations of solace for the protagonist, making this just as much a love letter to the city as it is a hardboiled private eye story. Couple this attention to detail with several pages of layouts and insight from the creators, and you have one of those rare books where the extra buck ($3.99 American) is totally justified.
When I first picked up STUMPTOWN, I was admittedly measuring its strengths against those of CRIMINAL. With this issue, I realize my folly. STUMPTOWN is a comic that stands alone thanks to its setting, its stunning characterization, and a humorously dynamic private eye to pull the reader through the story. When CRIMINAL eventually rolls around, I will be a happy camper indeed. I won’t just have one, but two great noir books to look forward to every month. If you haven’t read this yet and you are a noir fan, I encourage you to hunt these first four issues down. If you can’t find them, the trade is out May next year. Buy it.
SECRET SIX #25
Writer: Gail Simone Art: J. Calafiore Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Henry Higgins is My HomeboyI kind of wish I could give this issue a 6.
Has SECRET SIX ever had an off issue? I've been trying to think of one all day, and I can't find one. That's how marvelous this series has been, starting from INFINITE CRISIS as a mini to its current spot as one of the best ongoing comics, not to mention the best DC offers. The series continues its stellar record at #25, with the series moving forward in a new way, and setting up a great direction.
Writing 5/5: The series splits off the story into two plots: one focusing on Bane's new Six, and the other on the splintered originals. Bane's six presents a number of interesting characters and interactions. Jeanette and Bane are trying to hold together a group which, without the chemistry and loyalty of the first team, is one bad fight from falling apart. Especially volatile is having Dwarfstar, who paid to have Atom killed, being on a team with his girlfriend Giganta. When she finds out what happened, it'll probably end bloody and entertaining. Bane seems to be pushing himself to his limit with this group, and it's fascinating to see Bane try to assume an almost Batman like position in the team.
The second plot follows the remnants of the Six, as they're given a mission to hunt down the others. Every member of the team has great little moments, with Catman and Scandal especially having fantastic bits. But major points go to Deadshot, reminding us why he's such a great character. He's despicable and a prick, but upon seeing a young girl terrified of herself, he makes sure she feels better. The entire sequence with Deadshot and her father's doctor is fantastic.
Art 5/5: I unabashedly love J. Calafiore. I do. His art is always striking and fantastic, and he's brought his A game to this issue. With brilliant little touches here and there in between all the marvelous set pieces, the issue's art is simply stellar: Giganta lifting the boat, the other dimension, all the way down to Deadshot’s little facial reactions.
Best Moment: Deadshot's conversation with the doctor. I love this moment so much.
Worst Moment: Maybe, maaaaayyybbeee the prospect of the team getting a full pardon. A lot of the series' fun has come from the team on the run, and I'd hate to see that gone.
Overall 5/5: Utterly fantastic, SECRET SIX remains one of the best ongoings on the shelves.
NANCY IN HELL #2
Writer: El Torres Artist: Juan Jose Ryp Publisher: Image Comics Reviewer: LyzardShe’s wearing fewer clothes than last time. That was the first thing that popped into my head upon seeing the cover of NANCY IN HELL #2. I didn’t think it was possible, but Image’s comic proved me wrong. But at least this time the overdrawn cover doesn’t cover up the Image logo. NANCY IN HELL #2 continues the story of Nancy Simmons and her journey through the pit of Hell, answering some of the questions readers and I had last month while raising more. In some areas there are advances, but in others a retreat.
NANCY IN HELL #2 picks up immediately after the first book. We are introduced again to our “hero” Nancy and the ultimate anti-hero: Lucifer. Yes, in this book they turn him Byronic, into a creature you are supposed to emphasize with. But come on, people, who really trusts Satan? He is the ultimate evil. No story about an obscene amount of guilt can overcome several millennia of bad press. But, as we saw in the first book, Nancy isn’t the brightest crayon in the box. She makes more rookie mistakes in this book as she, with Lucifer’s “help”, continues to attempt to escape from Hell.
In my last review, I questioned the character of Nancy Simmons. I said she felt more like the slutty girl in the 80s slasher flick, not the final girl I was right. In NANCY IN HELL #2, Nancy’s past is revealed and it is much darker than originally hinted towards. In my opinion, with this information revealed, Nancy deserves to be in Hell. Now I’m no longer questioning her character; I just don’t care. Why do I want to see her escape besides answering the question of how she might accomplish this miracle?
Though the book answers some of my questions, it also raises a few more (of course--they want readers to buy NANCY IN HELL #3). Why was Nancy Simmons in the final girl position and not massacred like the rest of her friends? What purpose does Nancy have, and can she trust Lucifer? My opinion: she’s cruel enough to survive whatever Hell can throw at her, but I would never trust the Light Bringer (Lucifer in Latin), no matter how much he pouts.
As for the art, in my mind it is still wild and overdrawn. This time there is a range in the artwork. It is not all reddish Hell, full of animation from corner to corner of the panel. There is a wider spectrum of colors, giving the readers’ eyes a break from time to time. But even then I find the artwork too bold. All of the colors are bold, the lines dark; everything seems to be on the same level.
After reading NANCY IN HELL #1, I was truly interested in seeing what would happen in NANCY IN HELL #2. But after having some of my questions answered, I care a Hell of a lot less now. If I wasn’t reviewing the series, I’m not sure I would finish it. However, I still want to see how Nancy, if indeed she does, escapes from Hell. That storyline still holds some interest to me more than any of the character development or complicated artwork.
Writer:Rick Remender Art: Andrea Mutti Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: Optimous DoucheI didn’t feel very good after reading 1MONTH2LIVE, but that’s actually the point of the book. Because when you strip away the guest appearances from some top-level heroes and villains, and sand blast off the entrapments of origins and “comic science”…what you are left with is an exploration of man’s greatest burden, blessing and eternal battle…our mortality.
What would you do if you had one month to live? It’s a question we’re not often asked to face until our bodies simply can’t oblige our “bucket-list” ambitions. But what about when death decides to bitch slap you in your prime? Would you question whether you had lived enough, loved enough, left behind some kind of indelible impression on this world so someone remembers you were here? In our current “star fucker” culture, everyone wants their 15 minutes of fame for even the most insipid of activities. What if instead of aspiring to Kardashian levels of fame, or getting 4 million clicks on your insightful blog post, you were truly walking amongst the Gods? How much more insignificant would your day-to-day trials appear in this light? Don’t hurt yourself, because all the answers you need are right here in 1MONTH2LIVE.
It’s easy to package this book as MARVELS: THE NEXT GENERATION…but the easy answer is not always the right answer. Sure both books are looking at the Marvel Universe from the viewpoint of the “everyman,” but this is where the comparison ends. Dennis Sykes is truly just an ordinary guy. Phil Sheldon of MARVELS was a man actively seeking fame. Phil wanted to be part of the fray; Dennis is merely trying to live his life and is content (or at least resigned) with this fact until he receives the news of his imminent demise. Also there’s a huge generational difference at play here. Phil Sheldon was part of the Great Generation and his story was one of a forgotten time when MARVELS was released in 1994. 1MONTH2LIVE takes place today and Dennis is a member of the “oh so cynical, never content with simply the gift of life” Generation X. Just as with me and my Grandfathers, there’s a stark difference on what constitutes a “complete life.” For the Great Generation, most of which came of age during the Great Depression, a job, home and healthy family were considered the grandest of aspirations. For today’s thirtysomethings, I’ll say these staples are expected. And since we don’t have to truly “struggle” anymore to achieve these goals, we are left with lots of free time to ponder what more can be done with our time on earth.
I was immediately drawn to Dennis, because he is truly the modern everyman (at least the everyman of my social circles). He has a good paying corporate job that requires him at times to sell his soul in service to “the man.” As someone who has lived within the “corporate world” for the better part of the decade, there have been plenty of times where I was forced into similar quagmires and the only way out was to make decisions that would be good for my family versus the greater good of mankind. And I’ll tell you now it weighs heavily on the soul. Outside of the tough decisions, there is the overall day-to-day fulfillment (or lack thereof) that comes from being a corporate pawn. Anyone that has toiled in a cubicle will tell you there are times you truly wonder if you are contributing something real to the world or are merely serving as a paper-pushing cog that can be swapped out as easily as a car battery. If you ever truly want to see your existence negated in an instant I highly recommend perusing your company’s Disaster Recovery or Business Continuance plans. You will instantly realize that people are as replaceable to a corporation as your car battery or oil filter. Do I have everyone good and depressed? Excellent, you are now in the right frame of mind for all of the comicy stuff within this issue.
At the end of the day the comicy stuff – is just that – comicy stuff we’ve seen before. While on an errand to tell a group of cancer kids that his bank is pulling the funds on their new cancer sculpture garden, Dennis decides to clean his soul by trying to stop the heist of a biomedical waste truck. Things go wrong and Dennis is forced to gobble down a heaping helping of biomedical waste until The Thing shows up and rushes Dennis to the medical labs of Reed Richards. While under the microscope, Reed discovers that Dennis had cancer before the accident and all of that delicious bio-waste accelerated the tumors into a one month death sentence. On top of a cancer, the bio-waste also gave Dennis the ability to transfigure any matter he touches. Cool power, shame the dude is going to die in three issues. To further cleanse his soul Dennis decides to heist money from his bank to fund the garden. A few poor decisions later and we are face-to-face with guest appearance number two: Spider-Man, probably my favorite of the two encounters since Dennis invokes memories of ol’ Uncle Ben’s murder to convince Spidey to let him go. The issue ends with Dennis using his powers in an inventive way to help the cancer kids make their sculpture garden and we are also treated to a certain purple skinned bad man that wants the land the cancer kids’ garden is currently occupying.
As I said earlier the true beauty of this series lies in how fully fleshed out Remender made Dennis the man. What will be interesting in coming weeks is to see if the other creators on this weekly series can make this an interesting comic book – not just an interesting exploration of the modern American man’s decent into middle-age.
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.
FIVE DAYS TO DIE #1
Writer: Andy Schmidt Artist: Chee Publisher: IDW Publishing Reviewer: Johnny DestructoSome of my fave movies to enjoy lately are “Kill Bill”, “Last House on The Left” and “Death Sentence”. There’s just something about revenge. Whether it’s served cold or grilled with some garlic veggies, that shit is delish. We all imagine to what moral depths we’d plunge if someone effed with our loved ones. Thankfully, most of us (knock on wood) don’t have to worry about the actuality of it, we can just dive into these stories and enjoy.
Meet Ray. He’s a cop, and emotionally distant to his wife and daughter. When disaster strikes, he takes the revenge route, despite being told that if he moves too much he’ll die in the next 5 days. Ain't skull debris a bit of bitchtits? What’s more important: staying in the hospital and taking care of his wife and daughter, who might not live to see the next sunrise, or seek out the villain? Even better question: IS there a villain at all? That’s the hook that has me chomping at the bit for the next issue. Our new buddy Ray might be blaming a man just to have a ghost to chase instead of dealing with his family. Or maybe he’s imagining things. There are a couple of options here and I’m super-curious to see the outcome. At this point I think I’d respect the story more if it turns out Ray is delirious and grasping at straws, just to make this noir story a little different than what I’d seen in the past.
The art by Chee employs a fitting style. Dark, almost impressionistic and a little melancholic. There’s also a very dynamic two-page splash that creates comic panels out of splattered blood. Fantastic!
To wrap things up, there is a very personal note from the author Andy Schmidt (previously of Marvel Comics editorial). Definitely give his message a read. I think it enhances the experience.
Now go experience it! Or don't. I ain't the boss of you.
JD can be found hosting the PopTards Podcast, discussing movies, comics and other flimflam over at www.poptardsgo.com, graphically designing/illustrating for a living, and Booking his Face off over here.
THE SCOURGE #1
Writer: Scott Lobdell Art: Eric Battle & David Curiel Publisher: Aspen Comics Reviewer: Professor Challenger“You want impossible?! Turn around!” -- Unnamed Cab Driver
This is a funny comic to review. It's difficult to truly assess it on its own because it's one of those first issues that is essentially the first 15 minutes or so of a movie. As a monthly comic book, it may be a good chapter in a graphic novel, but as a stand-alone floppy....I'm not sold on it.
THE SCOURGE is not a “bad” comic. That is clear. It lets fly the opening salvos of a monstrous assault on humanity and I see the potential inherent in the idea even if it is very derivative in some parts--particularly derivative with what look almost exactly like the “eggs” from the ALIEN film franchise as the source of infection for this transformative plague. The vampire and zombie obsession of the last decade doesn't show any sign of lightening up anytime soon, and the splinter concepts like THE SCOURGE feed off that interest. In this case, instead of vampires, zombies, or werewolves...we now have people infected with something that causes them to transform into living and breathing gargoyles.
The lead hero is a police officer named Griffin, who we learn through his internal monologue, has some personal problems. It is he and his best buddy, Newburgh, who are out on a mountain climb and encounter the aforementioned “eggs” and experience the subsequent infection and transformation of Newburgh into a monster. End of Act 1.
In evaluating why the comic didn't totally work for me, I've gone back through and tried to isolate the writing, art, or both and see what works and what doesn't.
The art is decent. Eric Battle can draw. There's some flaws, but generally, he seems to be a good storyteller and an above average penciller. I'd actually have preferred to see a separate inker on his work to see what someone else could bring to his pencils as far as mood and detail. The dialogue is good, though the cabbie saying “For fig's sake...” had me flashing back to things like “Sweet Christmas!” and “Holy Cripes!” It's a puzzle. Why does the combination not work like I think it should? I'm stuck, once again, having to focus on the pacing of the story. There are lots of panels, but not a lot happens from page to page. In other words, it seems to me that a lot more needed to happen in this comic to hook me. I'm curious about where the plot goes from here, but by the end of this first issue I am not particularly concerned about the lead characters.
Writing serial fiction is not as easy as it seems. The process of structuring individual stories to be able to stand on their own merits and still be a smaller piece of a larger story is a learned skill. Again, not a bad first chapter of a graphic novel or first act of a movie, but for an individual comic book it really needs to be more substantial for me to commit to the individual issues. Instead, it inclines me to prefer waiting until the first storyline is collected so I can get a whole story.
In sum, THE SCOURGE #1 is a decent set-up for something big, but rather than make me want to commit to the monthly it made me want to wait for the trade.
Writer: Fred Van Lente Art: Jefte Palo Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: Henry Higgins is My HomeboyAwesome is as awesome does.
Let me be frank. I fucking love Taskmaster. I love the concept of the character, I love his interactions with others, I love everything about him. So when I found out he was getting a new mini, I jumped with joy. And it did not disappoint. TASKMASTER is one hell of a read, even if the art isn't quite up to the writing’s level.
Writing 5/5: The writing in this book is marvelous. Taskmaster is actually presented with a good challenge in the form of his memory. His power is to memorize and utilize any physical ability he's seen, but it's starting to lock down on his ability to remember things. It presents a great little challenge for him. But he's still the Taskmaster, which means by the end of the issue, he's wiped out a small army, and reiterated why he's such a badass. Taskmaster still has his usual brand of snark and humor. Between DEATH BY SCIENCE!, Militiamen, and Taskmaster’s decision to just kill everyone, this issue made me laugh more than any other recent comic. The only other big add on would be that the new supporting possible love interest Mercedes isn't good or bad quite yet, but she does get some great little bits (her first memory, for example). The writing for this comic is just nothing less than fantastic.
Art 4/5: That's not to say the art isn't good, because it is. But at times, it was muddled and confusing. Palo does do some fantastic visuals in here and he really has some fun with the various merc groups. The fight sequence in the end is utterly brilliant, with the usual Taskmaster moment of showing who he's mimicking. I still love it though and while Palo may not be my ideal artist for TASKMASTER (Thanks, Mr. Lee), he's still great on the book. While not every scene works as well as others, I can't really find any major faults.
Best Moment: Taskmaster taking down an entire army of mercs. God. Damn.
Worst Moment: The monologuing can, at times, not be stellar.
Overall 4/5: Almost gave it a 5. This comic is great, and if it continues on like this, it'll be netting 5’s in no time.
By Tsutomu Nihei Released by Viz Media Reviewer: Scott GreenVolume 2 of BIOMEGA doesn't quite have the horror heft of its predecessor. In volume one, Tsutomu Nihei pulled of an impressive trick, constructing a sort of biomechanical haunted city, establishing a Lovecraft/Giger/Keiichiro Toyama infected landscape that managed to simultaneously be both imposingly imminence and claustrophobic. In volume two, isolation is replaced with violent interaction. Mystery is replaced with new familiarity with stakes and opposition. That moves the genre a needle a bit, but it doesn't change the essential appeal of BIOMEGA. Its hero, Zouichi Kanoe, should be petrified of the danger he's facing. Every towering wall surrounding him looks liable to be honeycombed with zombies ready to rend him. He's an ant with an elephant's foot hovering above him. Yet, he's completely undeterrable. In TERMINATOR fashion, he can only move towards his objective.
Tsutomu Nihei works off his own particular style, tuned from series to series. As such, it's unlikely that he's deconstructed influences and pieced them together in his own manga. But, especially in the case of BIOMEGA, the work could read as a Nihei dyed patchwork.
BIOMEGA was once featured on the cover of home anthology ULTRA JUMP (an older audience Jump sibling, which also serializes BASTARD!!, DOGS, TENJOU TENGE, and, until recently, BATTLE ANGEL ALITA: LAST ORDER). Zouichi Kanoe is mounted on his black motorcycle, in his black armor, head masked by a black helmet. The only feature on the man and his bike are the cracks, pock marks and the bits of duct tape holding together the face of the bike and a sleeve. Reinforced by his female, holographic companion, the hero functions like duct tape punk Master Chief.
BIOMEGA is set in a broken, corrupted world. Everything is in disrepair, smattered with rust or blood. The notion that the hero is vulnerable to the same forces is sold by his appearance. He's not a FIST OF THE NORTH STAR style muscular beast. Sans helmet, he looks slight and pale. It's a face that would be at home in a more sensitive, introspective manga. Thing is, despite the suggestion of fragility, he's a juggernaut. Evidently, nothing short of dismemberment would slow Zouichi Kanoe. It's all business. There's no posturing, chest thumping, or alpha dogging, so, "macho" isn't the right word, but this is a guy who doesn't flinch with a RESIDENT EVIL boss standing at point blank range, looking to decorate the room with his insides.
With the same sort of straight face exhibited by its protagonist, BIOMEGA approaches its ridiculousness in full deadpan.
Volume two opens with an episode stamped from a familiar action story template. Black hats capture a business. They threaten the proprietor’s daughter to extract information. To rescue them, the hero must dash through the siege of enemies to confront their boss.
Here, a mutated monster wearing a business suit and butcher's apron, head enclosed in mask-like bone is using a drill finger to execute men in laboratory clean-suits. His heavily armed shock troops bring in the daughter of the installation's chief scientist, and Skeletor threatens to expose her to the n5s virus - a deadly pathogen that made its way back from a disastrous attempt to colonize Mars.
To make it onto this scene, our man in black has to ride through a full military deployment. He contends with fighter jets... dodging missiles and counter attacking with pistol and axe. He hijacks a ride back to their aircraft carrier. Past the bay, he screeches into the tunnels of a military industry complex citadel. A motorcycle and a quicker trigger finger gets him through the occupying arm and puts Zouichi Kanoe face to face with the drill fingered unfriendly.
Tsutomu Nihei is not a particularly good panel to panel fight illustrator. If you block out one of the melees and tried to mimic Zouichi Kanoe's lefts and rights, you'd wind up feeling pretty silly.
And, if BIOMEGA's action was depending on coherent choreography, this wilting under inspection would be a problem. However, it's not dependent and it isn't a problem. There's no pronounced deficit when fights are imagined and rendered like Nihei's. In a fight that struck me as especially logically disastrous when followed blow by blow, the knuckle dusting is a stage of a sequence initiated by Zoichi being pierced through the chest by projectiles from a woman comprised of coils; he's sent through a wall; rushed by a gang of white masked Compulsory Execution Unit troops who attempt to remove his limbs with a set of jaws-of-life; Zoichi recovers, turns the table, takes a few heads and launches those severed crania at other adversaries; engages in the above mention kick/punch bits; and finally, dodges a missile on his way out of the scene.
I can point to manga artists who take space and human mechanics into account when illustrating fights scenes, but I can also point to artists who'd just put in an "and then, the magic happened" place holder, leaving the action to the reader's imagination. BIOMEGA situates itself in the middle and sells that with attitude and atmosphere. That's how it coheres. It doesn't invite the reader to think too hard about anything else, and if it did, there would be a ton of suspension of disbelief to wrestle with. Instead, the approach to creating gloom then burning through it races around that concern.
Among manga critics, BIOMEGA is often spoken of as the manga with the sniper-bear... there's a man in a bear's body who uses a sniper rifle, and by volume two, has a hook hand. Though memorable and significant (he is on the cover), from the action fan point of view, the bear might be oversold a bit. He's a nice to have and not a key marker of BIOMEGA's awesomeness. Chewbacca's presence adds to STAR WARS, but the inclusion of an angry sasquatch among the heroes isn't the best persuasive leverage there.
The second way manga critics frame BIOMEGA is to discuss it as the prime manga for people who like video games of the sci-fi foot soldier variety. That sort of game is unpopular/niche in Japan, so I suspect the HALO/RESISTANCE/GEARS OF WAR continuum didn't enter too far into Nihei thinking, but it isn't an invalid value proposition for BIOMEGA either.
"Like a popular video game genre" is a dangerous proposition for anything not a video game. It's liable to place the media in competition with video games, with the immediate rejoinder being, why spend the time/money on it instead of the games? Why read about BIOMEGA's hero's shoot outs, when one can play them out. As the spectacle and writing offered by games has improved, the position of anime and manga in genres like sci-fi and fantasy has eroded.
I'd argue that different media can be in competition for the time and funds of their audience. While I personally prefer manga to video games, I also recognize that manga often loses this competition. At about $13 a volume, BIOMEGA is only slightly cheaper than a downloadable video game, Nut I'm not sure how often manga and games get stacked head to head any more. Instead, it seems like manga has been pushed out of the consideration of the audience who might be interested in both.
BIOMEGA does hold up well in that comparison, but not necessarily by playing to manga's strengths versus games'. While a game can develop plot and character sophistication, manga has a deeper foundation of delivering those narrative elements. Characters and plot are functional in BIOMEGA. Neither deserve much credit for making it an involving manga.
Nihei's success in BIOMEGA is in how he manages the manga's directed experience. He's able to leverage manga's lack of limitations to go big, while ensuring that it doesn't matter that fights aren't perfectly coherent, the characters are thin \and the story is routine.
Tightly focused on developing the impression of its cyclist hero plying his lethal business against titanic opposition, BIOMEGA slams the impact of spectacle manga. Maybe it's punching outside its weight class to go against video games, but it proves ferocious enough to compete.
Scott Green has been writing for AICN ANIME for over nine years. If you like what you see here and love anime & manga, be sure to check out his latest AICN ANIME column every week on AICN.
By Q. Hayashida Released by Viz Media Reviewer: Scott GreenHonestly, I haven't been factious when referring to DOROHEDORO as my favorite splatter-action moe ("moe" is a tough term to nail down, but for a guiding principle, think getting fired up for cute girls, generally framed in a sort of protective, elder brother sense).
It's an arena with some competition, but not an overabundance. One of the contenders is “Elfen Lied”, an anime that hit the US in 2005 that took the standards of the magic girlfriend series (OH! MY GODDESS or the like) someplace very dark.
Five years is an epoch or two in anime time, so permit a bit of recap.
A young woman, naked except for the metal mask locked around her head, escapes her bonds and begins making her way out of the installation housing her. Set to a solemn chant for soundtrack, armed security personnel attempted to halt her advance and, in turn, are mutilated. Heads are snapped off, limbs wrenched off, pens fly through the air as lethal projectiles. The narrative cuts to a goofy young woman, maybe a secretary. A bit of her life is shown. She does an "I'll get it right" speech. She attempts to walk down the hall carrying a coffee mug on a tray. She stumbles into the battle field. A bloody hand print falls on her shoulder. Her head is pulled up and off. The cranium hovers and bleeds, turns, and falls to the ground as her body is yanked up to be used to absorb gun fire.
Perhaps because she takes an anti-tank shell to the head during her escape, the woman, a subspecies known as a diclonus with magenta hair and small horn like cranial protrusions, develops two personalities. Lucy is the cold, almost gleeful killer who left a trail of limbs, heads and torsos. Nyuu can't function on her own. Unable to talk, dress, or find a bathroom, she is found by a young man named Kohta.
Well, Dorohedoro pulls the spine out of “Elfen Lied” in grisly arena.
If you've seen DOROHEDORO (there is some online on Sigiki) you might not immediately buy that it is action moe comporable to “Elfen Lied”. While “Elfen Lied” aims to be attractive in a conventional, pink haired girl anime way, DOROHEDORO author Q. Hayashida's website greets its visitors with a a cockroach man blocking a sewer path, waving its appendages.
So, "splatter-action moe"...
The "splatter action" part is easily evident. The Dorohedoro is punctuated by oddities beating the ever living out of each other.
DOROHEDORO is set in "the Hole," a slum hunting/dumping ground for the human subjects of Sorcerers' experimentation. One of these guinea pigs blows back a response with equally cruel disregard. Caiman turned up in the Hole with a reptilian face, a case of amnesia and a raging lust for vengeance. He also proves to be immune to the Sorcerers' magic. Allied with a young woman named Nikaido, the proprietor of a dive eatery known as the Hungry Bug, Caiman applies a ferocity that might make Jack Bauer blanche to hunting down the identity of the person who cursed him with lizard features.
Volume two opens with "the Hole's" answer to Halloween. The dead rise from their graves, and the inhabitants respond to the NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD , cause by remnants of sorcerer magic, by taking to the streets with axes and explosives. "Kill! Zombie" t-shirts are sold by vendors. Priest trade their sandals for athletic sneakers and grab flame throwers. Prizes are rewarded for most the kills.
DOROHEDORO makes statements by way of Nikaido in boxing trunks and athletic bra doing a flip, disarming a gun man by knife hand chopping the guy's hand off above the wrist, then spinning to take off the guy's head with her other hand. It's Caiman with his blades going against a sorcerer in nice suit and anatomic heart mask OLDBOY-ing with a hammer.
With graphic decapitations (multiple), skinning, and fingers being bit off, the "splatter" prefix of that "splatter-action" label is also well earned.
It's the "moe" assertion that might be a bit bewildering. Moe is pastel. DOROHEDORO is metal.
Young woman sorcerer Ebisu is exhibit A in the "Dorohedoro is moe" argument. Even if she's taking to the field with death's head mask and scythes, she is SO darling and SO vulnerable, you have to call her moe. Before the zombie night festivities, volume 2 has her strapped down to a chair, her face having been chewed off in the prior collections. She gets a new one magically breathed back on. Though her brains are still scrambled, she's allowed back into combat with her big-bro wizard senior kind of minding her. She's bitten by a zombie, and infected, lead back home on a leash, drooling, snapping and grunting "mmmmmeat! mmmmeat!" Wicked cute. Sort of cured, she's allowed to pick new clothes, and for the second time in two volumes, the girl shows up to dinner near naked, this time, garter belt and stockings, oversized bra, scarf and mittens.
Going back to BIOMEGA, even with the continually floundering economy, there is still a glut of media options. "Ok" isn't "ok" when there is so much competition for attention. In that jostle, novelty and artistry count for a lot. And, those are qualities that Q. Hayashida's approach to splatter-action moe has in spades.
Q. Hayashida takes her education from Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music and experience as an assistant to Tsutomu Nihei to create her own time and space.
And, she's not just performing free association or just seeing what sticks. Like Lewis Carrol's, there's a warped logic to her wonderland.
Notorious seinen manga GANTZ opens its chapters with pin-up style shots of its female cast, semi-undressed and fondling its sci-fi weaponry. Consider the manga's intent declared. It isn't constant, but DOROHEDORO often kicks things off by showing step by step progressions. In 30 regular blocks, the process by which magic reconstructs a human body is laid out. The title card for chapter 9, "Dances With Lizard" shows 24 numbered figures for a rather silly looking dance. In odd works, the bloody mess of DOROHEDORO starts with order.
If you walked up to a rickety looking shack and kicked down its door, the act wouldn't be too impressive.
If you walked up to a concrete building and kicked down its metal door, jaws would drop.
Q. Hayashida isn't just scrawling or riffing here. She's kicking down metal doors. I'm not about to proscribe any great subversive intensions here. None have convincingly revealed themselves over the course of the first two volumes. That said, there's evidently an appetite for stories in which awful violence surrounds darling lasses, and Q. Hayashida throws kerosene on that cake via her own horrific brand of adorable. She also understands design, and she demonstrates that when you understand how clothes, buildings and anatomy are supposed to work, you can break it all in such a way as to create a truely fantastic mad world.
DOROHEDORO is a brutal, kick-ass manga. Anything in which someone absords a headbutt, and responds by shouting "fuck you! enough dicking around" as he puts his fist through the abdomen of the attacker has probably won my heart. But, it's the warp-everything sensibility of DOROHEDORO that pushes it over the top, to make the manga a favorite.