Advance Review: In stores next week!
Writer: Charles Stoule Art: Renzo Podesta Publisher: Image Comics Reviewer: Humphrey LeeIt’s been a couple days since I got my first exposure to this new series by Image and it took me a while to decide what a good lead in involving it would be. The word I came up with was “expectations.” For example, I typically have high expectations for Image books these days. As I mentioned a couple weeks ago in a review of HALCYON from the publisher, the vast majority of the time I try out a brand new series from them, it is usually some quality stuff. Far as I’m concerned, they are more or less neck and neck with Vertigo these days, maybe even one better, when it comes to picking up some creator driven material to push forward. As each new book comes out and meets my lofty expectations, I start to expect more out of each new one that catches my eye, fairly or not. And it’s lofty expectations, or the rise and fall of them, that is the driving force for Will Garland, the star of 27…
As the narration that opens this title unfolds its background, we are introduced to a young gentleman that had the world at his fingertips. Like any artist, he lived, breathed and bled for his craft and, unlike a lot that live the art, made it with his band as one of the biggest up and coming acts out there. He made it and expected to do what he loved for a long, long while. One rare, crippling disease later, Will is down the use of a hand, his career is in ruins and all that matters is he can’t handle his beloved guitar anymore to the point of obsessing on finding any means of regaining use of it again to slide the nickel plated strings. Obsession leads to desperation and desperation leads to…not exactly what I expected,to be honest.
And that’s a good thing. I, to be fair, glossed over a good bit of the details of this book when I first saw it solicited so as to not totally drive those expectations I was talking about through the roof (if I had, I would have noticed this was written by the same Charles Soule who did STRONGMAN, and I fucking loved STRONGMAN with all my heart and that would have raised my expectations significantly). I knew it was about a 27 year old rock star and there were hints at a correlation to other 27 year old rock stars that, typically, died then: Joplin, Cobain, etc. So, I figured there would be some mystical element to Will’s journey to regain his love and art, but the way this first issue played out was intriguingly surprising, throwing some mad sciencery in the mix, which I think worked well.
All said, it did live up to the e-word, if not just on the raw ambition of the premise but also because of how it panned out to start, and how well I was sold on a lot of the elements at play. The first person narration really drives home just how desperate Will has become in a short span to get the story going, to the point where something as surreal as the procedure he undertakes to regain his hand use is believable. And, as far as setting the stage for the main plot to drive this series forward, the procedure in question is disturbing enough in its function and side effects to really drive interest in where it will go from here. It really is an intriguing package all said and done, with art that sufficiently drives the eeriness that pervades its pages to boot.
So chalk this up, for now of course, as another Image success. Great premise with really solid execution in setup and building tension, lots of open ended potential for development with a character that you can feel for but that still can and should be fleshed out beyond the “obsessed artist” outline, and it’s got a great set of a rather unique style of pencils courtesy of Renzo Podesta that really matches its atmosphere. That is the winning recipe for a quality book--the Vertigo recipe that Image has adapted for its own means so well. Hopefully 27 lives up to the success that its main character enjoyed, without the disheartening crash back down to Earth.
Humphrey Lee has been an avid comic book reader going on fifteen years now and a contributor to Ain't It Cool comics for quite a few as well. In fact, reading comics is about all he does in his free time and where all the money from his day job wages goes to - funding his comic book habit so he can talk about them to you, our loyal readers (lucky you). He's a bit of a social networking whore, so you can find him all over the Interwebs on sites like Twitter, The MySpaces, Facebookand a Blogger Account where he also mostly talks about comics with his free time because he hasn't the slightest semblance of a life. Sad but true, and he gladly encourages you to add, read, and comment as you will.
DETECTIVE COMICS #871
Writer: Scott Snyder Art: Jock & Francesco Francavilla Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Optimous DoucheCrimes…clues…sleuthing…I know it sounds weird, but this latest tale of the Dark Knight has all of these things inside its fantastic 22 or so pages (not counting the back-up story). I know…I know…it took me by surprise as well…I mean, where were the Bat Demons, the trips through time, the metaphysical transcendence to the ideology of the Bat? Well, that’s last year’s BATMAN. The new creative team of Snyder and Jock strap into this series like an old welcome friend that shows up with a hot new trophy wife. It’s a return to the norm, but speckled with a creative flavor we have yet to see within the pages of the Caped Crusader. For all of those out there that were too obtuse for Morrison’s run or simply found the whole experience “simply not BATMAN” get ready. It may not be Bruce Wayne under the cowl, but DETECTIVE 871 is pure BATMAN.
We all know that Jock can satisfy the itch of Batphiles everywhere; he’s done wonderful work in the pages of BATMAN before, and let’s face it--the man is simply in a class unto his own. Snyder, whose most recent work includes AMERICAN VAMPIRE, was my big delta factor as I opened the first page. To my most pleasant surprise, Snyder not only gets BATMAN, but more importantly in this new BATMAN INC. world the man gets the difference between Dick Grayson and Bruce Wayne. Make no mistake, Dick Grayson is no longer a child; he’s far from jokey or flip, but he certainly isn’t as maniacal as Bruce. Dick wears the cowl where Bruce believes he IS the cowl. It’s a vital distinction in light of Dick’s counterpart in this unfolding true detective drama…Commissioner Jim Gordon.
The mystery is a good ‘un: take one high school student instantly transforming into Killer Croc. Combine this with another person wearing a Mad Hatter tag and falling to their death after they try to foolishly blast Batman with a shotgun. End everything with a crooked cop who instantly sprouts roots out of his mouth before he can divulge the mastermind behind the whole scheme. The pacing here was spot on: divulge a bit of the mystery (i.e. bad cops have been selling off all of Batman’s nemeses’ toys) now and whet our appetites for the larger threat later in the arc. What made this issue truly flourish, though, were the interchanges between Gordon and Grayson.
These two have ostensibly grown up and grown old together. Gordon isn’t a fool and Grayson shows the utmost reverence for the new “peer” role he must inhabit. Also, the newly formed BATMAN INC. gets its very first comic scrutiny. After the announcement of BATMAN INC., Wayne Industries builds a state-of-the-art crime lab for the Gotham P.D. to leverage in the war on crime. Not surprisingly, the lab sits in mothballs until Gordon and Grayson deduce that one of Gotham’s own is behind the recent zaniness. I applaud Snyder for addressing what was running through all of our minds after the announcement of BATMAN INC. Vigilantism is illegal. But that line has been skirted many times throughout the pages of BATMAN and effectiveness always trumped this minor deviance from the law. What is not so easy to skirt, though, is the resentment normal cops have always had towards Batman. So naturally a facility funded by the man who funds Batman would most certainly be greeted with open arms and warm smiles.
I’ll have to wait to pass verdict on the back-up story in this issue. While fun and seamlessly woven into the first story, I’m not quite sure why I care about avian theft and a bird harassing Jim Gordon (other than the fact it gives us a little more time with the Commish).
Out of all of last week’s Bat offerings DETECTIVE gets my highest mark. Cornell’s new turn on BATMAN & ROBIN was a bit too frantic for my taste and BATWOMAN just isn’t my cup of tea. If DETECTIVE, Snyder and Jock can continue to deliver this level of quality going forward, the other Bat titles will truly need to up their game to keep pace.
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 #649
Writer: Dan Slott Art: Humberto Ramos (pencils), Carlos Cuevas (inks) Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: Johnny DestructoWell now, that was unexpected. And by "that" I mean "lots of stuff"! I wasn't sure what to expect after “Brand New Day” was over, and “Big Time” kicked in, but I have to say I'm loving it. Peter is enjoying an extremely rare upswing (no pun intended) and he's earned it, dammit. He's finally got himself a new girlfriend in Carlie Cooper, a character who actually seems plausibly compatible for Pete, a new job that makes sense, given his incredible intellect, and a nice place to live. Herein lies the trouble with Spidey as a character. We love him because he's the Everyman who has faults and is a bit downtrodden but always rises to any challenge. But how long can he stay on that course as a character and have it be believable? The man is one of the smartest people in the Marvel U, but he has trouble keeping an apartment, making money, keeping jobs? At a certain point, being as smart as he is, he has to figure out how to make it all work, doesn't he? But that isn't interesting enough to keep reading! So we build him up and let him enjoy it before we strip it all away from him again. That's the bittersweet part of this story for me. I love that Pete's finally getting it together, but since I'm reading a timeless, ageless character who will never stop being published, I know that this is all doomed to end tragically after awhile. This way, we can enjoy seeing him pull himself up by his little webby boot-straps again. This is what keeps us coming back to him as a character, and this is one of the many things that Slott understands. He's doing a fantastic job here and I can't wait to see what else he has up his typewriter.
A little while back, we saw a good chunk of Spidey's rogues get upgraded. One character that seemed to be conspicuously missing was Hobgoblin, but he also finally gets that treatment here. This isn't the same ol' Hobby sporting the same old stuff. He's a little loonier and a lot more formidable. I like that he no longer rides the Goblin Glider and has found other means of transportation as well as some different weapons. For so long, Hobs has been just a Green Goblin in brighter colors, but now it looks like the character is finally getting to spread his wings, as it were. It also looks like Scorpion/Venom is gonna be getting a change-up soon! I'm curious to see where that's headed.
There are some really minor nit-picks, however. First of all, maybe I'm wrong (and I'm sure someone will make me feel like a jerk in the comments below if I am), but didn't Phil Urich's "Goblin Laugh" come from his mask? The mask that was bust-icated during his fight with a Sentinel during the whole *shudder* Onslaught thing? How is he able to do it without his mask? Another instance that felt a mite strange was when Roderick Kingsley made his way into Norman Osborn's hidden Goblin stash. How is it that a fella just walks in and presses a button and is granted access to millions of dollars of villainous weaponry, created and housed by one of the Marvel U's most notorious criminals? The dude was top cop of H.A.M.M.E.R and ran almost EVERYTHING, but didn't think to change the password to one of his lairs? And it wasn't JUST Kingsley! Apparently Phil Urich was able to get access as well! Shenanigans, I say! But hey, I'm just picking nits, here.
Overall, this is a great new chapter in the life of the web-head and I'm chomping at the bit for each new issue! If you didn't like “Brand New Day”, give this a shot. You won't be disappointed!
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 GUILD TPB
Writer: Felicia Day Art: Jim Rugg Publisher: Dark Horse Reviewer: Ian PerschkeTHE GUILD is a webseries about a group of online gamers who have shockingly enough met in real life and it follows their real life adventures together. The trade paperback is the origin story of the main heroine of the series, Codex/Cyd Sherman, as she discovers the game and the people inside it that the webseries is based on. The three issues show the journey of Codex/Cyd Sherman from a mild mannered concert violist to hard core MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) player.
Our heroine finds herself in a less than fulfilling relationship with a cellist/budding rockstar boyfriend who mostly ignores her. The only attention she receives is when he needs her help to work on his rock star dreams. Codex/Cyd is lonely and dissatisfied, but not altogether aware as she feels everything is ok with only the slightest positive reinforcement from him. It is out of this place that her journey begins as she seeks to reinvent herself and her life within the game. The game is very addicting, and Codex/Cyd makes friends within as she moves from quest to quest further immersing herself in and losing herself to the made up world. The immersion begins to overwhelm her life, and her real life suffers, but as the story progresses you see that she gets more satisfaction out of the game then she does real life, because she has found in the game what has been missing in her real life: friendship and purpose.
The comic is written by Felicia Day (DR HORRIBLE’S SING A LONG BLOG) who is the writer, producer and star of the webseries that the comic is based on. The comic was able to capture some of the most endearing things that have made the webseries so popular: the charm and genuineness of the entire project. I am sure this is due to the significant biographical essence of Miss Day’s own life experience distilled into the series, but it is the characters. Each of the characters is unique and totally clueless, in a very charming and genuine way. Their ability to come together to form a guild within the game, with their dramatically differing world views, is part of the charm that has made the webseries so popular.
TEEN TITANS #89
Writer: J. T. Krul Art: Nicola Scott Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: KletusCasadyThe Teen Titans have got a much needed kick in the ass by way of the amazing art of Nicola Scott and by the much hated Damian, son of Wayne. I’m not going to lie; I hated Damian when he came out. I hated the idea of Batman having a son, hated his attitude and frankly I thought he was the second person that wasn’t fit for the Robin costume (Stephanie Brown being the first). I didn’t hate him as much as Daken but it was close. He is a spoiled fucking brat who’s a master martial artist, intelligent as hell, has no regard for the rules or the “no I in team” attitude…he’s…actually a lot like his pops but stuck in a adolescent teen’s body and now…I love that damn hellion. His whole persona makes for some interesting stories especially when mixed with a mostly veteran group of Teen Titans. The Teen Titans have always been not just about the action aspect of a superhero team but also what it takes to deal with this sort of life as a teen who barely knows themselves, now thrust into the world of evil villains and saving lives. Enter a teenage boy whose grandfather is one of the most well-known criminals in the world, a mom who’s obsessed with Batman enough to give him a date rape drug and extract you from his loins, not to mention the assassin training you your entire life and nothing resembling a normal life. Now you’re Robin and have just been dropped off at Titans tower...add a dash of Nicola Scott and you’ve got yourself a tasty recipe.
The cliffhanger of last issue was the Titans thinking they were getting broken into and it turns out to be the all new, all different Batman & Robin sitting in the conference room with Nightw…uh…Batman announcing that Damian (Robin) will be joining the Teen Titans. This is where our issue picks up. I have to say I kind of agree with Cassie that it’s kind of a dick move for “Batman” to show up, drop Damian off and peace out. Yeah, the speech about Damian needing some guidance is true but to just do it…no warning and expect it to be cool is very…well…Bruce like. The interactions between Damian and the rest of the Titans were great and pretty much the meat of this issue. The kid is just such a jerk that he’s borderline impossible to deal with and I love reading him because of this. I personally hope that Damian doesn’t lighten up while on this team…I kind of think it’d be a shame to lose that fire that makes Damian such a fun character to read and I don’t want him to change.
If you’re not familiar with J.T. Krul, he wrote the very…um…revealing series JUSTICE LEAGUE: RISE OF ARSENAL and that was a bold fucking comic; I laughed, I said “damn”, and then I laughed again. I didn’t laugh because I thought it was stupid, as I heard a few people say; I laughed because I couldn’t fucking believe the things I was seeing in a mainstream DC comic. With that said I don’t think J.T. is going to shy away from tough issues that could face these kids and that’s really what made Wolfman & Perez’s run so great is that they weren’t afraid to put the Teen Titans in tough emotional as well as physical situations (JUDAS CONTRACT). While nothing too wild has happened yet, I’m hoping for J.T. push the envelope a little to spice things up a bit. We can already start to see the cracks within this team and Damian’s little badass is not going to help much but this is definitely going to lead to some fun reading. I didn’t fully appreciate Nicola Scott’s art work until she left SECRET SIX, and she is sorely missed. I have another confession…I had no idea Nicola Scott was a woman (no, it doesn’t matter)…yeah I know I’m dumb…but not only is she a woman but I, Kletus Cassidy, am in love. Her artwork is really gorgeous, the detail is really great but the facial expressions are some of the best in the biz. Basically Nicola Scott is one of DC’s best artists right now and I’ll be following her to any book she’s on…not in the stalker way either…unless she’s into that.
This book has a lot of potential. From the amazing artwork to Damian joining the team and the fearless J.T. Krul taking the helm of the junior Justice League, I think TEEN TITANS fans are in for a treat. Damian is like putting an M80 in an elementary school classroom during naptime and I’m looking forward to him getting on everyone’s nerves in Titan’s tower. Already Damian’s got some awesome quotes: “I like being wound up…gives me an edge.” and “My first order of business is to get rid of Beast Boy…I’ll call you when we need a talking chipmunk”, haHaHaHahaHa….good stuff. This comic is going to be fun as hell while Damian’s in it and it’s going to look awesome as long as Nicola Scott-Cassidy (We got married while I was writing this) is doing art. If you’ve ever liked the TEEN TITANS, now is the time to get back into it; the comic got kind of boring for a while and seemed to be pushed to the way back burner but now seems to have returned to front burner status.
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis Art: David LaFuente, Sara Pichelle, Joelle Jones, Jamie McKelvie, Skottie Young, Sunny Gho Publisher: Ultimate Marvel Reviewer: Henry Higgins is My HomeboyA brief note, first of all. I feel like I owe Brian Michael Bendis (and by extension Mark Bagely, Stuart Immonen David Lafuente, and Sara Pichelli and countless others I'm forgetting) a thank you. ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN turns 150 this issue, and I'd like to say something about it. This comic helped really get me into comics, and for that, I am eternally grateful. The Ultimate line celebrated its ten year mark last issue, which means I was nine when it began. An Ultimate comic was the third comic book I ever bought with my own money. First was the MARVEL 1992 WINTER SPECIAL with Squirrel Girl’s first appearance; then there was X-MEN 11, then ULTIMATE TEAM UP 1. After that, I saved up my pocket money and bought the first trade of the series. I've been following ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN since, and have had the very rare blessing to be in middle school with Peter, then high school, then university. This series has never had a bad arc (some have been admittedly better then others); this series has always maintained a great sense of humor and heart and everything that's perfect about Spider-Man. It made me get invested in Gwen and Capt. Stacey and Spider-Girl and everyone. It made me actually care about Uncle Ben's death. It helped develop my love for Kitty Pryde. It made the Clone Saga readable and, dare I say, entertaining. It made the Shocker one of my favorite villains, no joke. It's part of the reason I'm in love with this industry, that Bendis could stay on this series, get it through crisis after invasion after ultimatium, and maintain one of the most consistently entertaining books I've ever had the pleasure to read. I have friends who don't read comics who always ask for suggestions on what to read. And I suggest the usual non comic fan fare: SANDMAN, MAUS, WALKING DEAD, FABLES, the usual. But I always, ALWAYS, make sure to remind them to pick up ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN. I really wanted to say all this because if I didn't, I'd let it bias my review, and I'd rather not let that happen. I'd much rather let the issue speak for itself, as so many issues of this series always have. So, from the very bottom of my heart, thank you.
Now then, let's start the review.
ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN 150
New school of thought.
Celebrating a big milestone usually either means that specific issue will be a huge gamechanging storyline, or an excuse to cram in great little bits but not advance the series. Of course, there's always the rare third option of "both". ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN manages to tread that line this issue, and does it pretty well.
Writing: (4/5) Carol Danvers, being her usual charming self, decides to discuss with the Ultimates what to do with Peter. Three short stories commence, each having their own individual voice. The Iron Man one is a fun little jaunt, but probably the weakest of them in the writing department. It has a few decent lines, and the image of Spider-Man stuck in an Iron Man chest plate just tickles me. The second, Captain America's, is also fairly interesting. Whereas the Iron Man one feels very Bendis writing wise, this one has only two lines of dialogue. It's refreshing, but not perfect. Probably the best is the Thor segment. While it makes no sense, it's very fun and very good. The main story also serves as an interesting development, and it should be fun where the series goes from here, though the issue has its problems. Not addressing the development of Gwen is a bit anticlimactic, and a lot of his supporting cast (mainly MJ) are missing from the big change. The back up is a reprint of the ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN SUPER SPECIAL, which is just fantastic. It's worth a buy for this alone. A 64 page love letter to the Ultimate Universe and Marvel in general, with some amazing art (which gets brought up down there). A solid buy.
Art: (5/5) The main art for the book is disjointed, thanks to the structure of the stories. But the amazing more then makes up for the okay. Lafuente is brilliant, Pichelli is alright, Jones is solid, McKelvie is solid. Young happens to be one of my favorites, so awesome. The plethora of art styles is a nice change of pace, and a lot of fun to look at. And that's not even beginning on the back up special. Just miraculous looking. If for nothing else, pick this book up just to gaze lovingly at the art.
Worst Moment: Captain America is kind of a prat here.
Writer: Nick Tapalansky Art: Alex Eckman-Lawn Publisher: Archaia Reviewer: Ambush BugWhen I reviewed the first volume of AWAKENING, I touted the excellence of the book in that it told a different kind of zombie story. I know there are folks who are immediately going to roll their eyes upon reading that first sentence and seeing the word “zombie” in it. The term has almost become a dirty word these days due to over-saturation of the sub-genre in movies, TV, books, and comics, but I think that’s bullshit. Like any other type of story, if told with skill and creativity, it can be good no matter how many films or literature have been made on the subject. The thing that is going to separate the good from the bad in zombie stories (and any other story for that matter) is going to be the quality of the product. Sure there are a lot of shitty zombie movies/books/comics out there, but for every bad zombie story, there is a good one keeping the sub-genre alive. AWAKENING is such a story.
Like many of the best zombie stories, AWAKENING focuses on those who are still living rather than the living dead themselves. This is where writer Nick Tapalansky shines as he fleshes out a scientist investigating the zombie plague, a priest trying to make sense of it all, a crazy woman who is one of the first to notice the zombie uprising, and a cop who is dedicated to solving a crime despite the fact that the dead are rising around him. With these four characters, Tapalansky captured the interest of this reader and had me from page one to page done. The narrative juts from one perspective to another, following one or all of these characters as they interact with one another, but despite the erratic shifts in focus, it wasn’t difficult at all to follow this story. Tapalansky realizes that without the strength of these characters, this would be just another zombie story.
Unlike many zombie stories, the zombie apocalypse isn’t an instant de-evolution of society immediately. In the first volume of AWAKENING, Tapalansky takes his time revealing that this is a zombie story. There’s a murder here, a sighting there, an occurrence over there, and a bit of confusion right over there. Tapalansky depicts the chaos and disconnect that permeate today’s society and writes out what would probably be a much more accurate depiction of what a zombie outbreak would look like. At first, it doesn’t register. People are too busy with their lives to notice the dead live. By Volume Two, there are rumblings some kind of series of disturbances, but they are treated as rumor. It isn’t until it’s too late that the fact that zombies exist is recognized.
Alex Eckman-Lawn shows fantastic range in this book. His human forms are loose and expressive. His backgrounds and choice subjects such as birds flying through the panel are so detailed they look like pictures. Each page is filled from one edge of the paper to the other with images, smears, shadows, and mood. The world AWAKENING occurs in is not a pretty world. It’s bleak and dark. The threat hangs dark in every panel. Eckman-Lawn proves that he understands what you don’t show can be just as terrifying as what you show. The story of AWAKENING is a heavy one, Eckman-Lawn’s art reflects that mood perfectly.
Much like all of the other hardcovers released by Archaia, AWAKENING’s packaging is gorgeous. The hardcover makes the book feel heavy and important in your hands. The book is also filled with little bells as whistles like pin-ups, cover galleries, script pages, and sketchbooks. Tapalansky has also written a short prose piece that feeds your appetite for more once the main AWAKENING story is over. It’s this attention to presentation that has made Archaia distinct in the vast wasteland of by-the-book comicbookdom.
The title AWAKENING has as much to do with the survivors as it does “the Awakened” (the term this book uses when talking about the undead). The survivors take way too much time to awake to the fact that the end is near. Because of that, the ending of this volume may mark the end of the world. But with AWAKENING Vol. 2, Tapalansky and Eckman-Lawn have made the end of the world an engrossing read.
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 (click on the titles for purchasing info)! MUSCLES & FIGHTS VOL.3 & MUSCLES & FRIGHTS VOL.1. VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS: THE TINGLER #1 and #2 (interview, interview, preview, & review). VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS #20 WITCHFINDER GENERAL (preview, review). NANNY & HANK miniseries #1, #2, #3, and #4(interview, interview, interview, preview, & review, NANNY & HANK Facebook Page!). Zenescope’s upcoming WONDERLAND ANNUAL 2010. THE DEATHSPORT GAMES miniseries #1, #2, #3, and #4 (In stores in November 2010! THE DEATHSPORT GAMES Facebook Page!).
SECRET AVENGERS #7
Writer: Ed Brubaker Art: Mike Deodato Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: KletusCasadyRemember when you and your friends used to get together and pick a dream team of superheroes? There’d always be that guy who didn’t always pick the flashiest team to the naked eye but when he starts explaining his decisions, the other kids start reworking their teams to make sure every tactical area is covered. That’s this team: Beast (the brains of the X-men), War Machine (heavy gunner Iron man war suit), Ant-Man (misfit fuck up prone to shrinkage), Valkyrie (warrior goddess), Moon Knight (psychopathic vigilante with batman style equips), Black Widow (spy extraordinaire), The OG Captain America running the show and FUCKING NOVA (iron man suit x 100, cosmic level fighter)!!! who is no doubt thanks to DNA one of the premier badasses operating in the Marvel Universe. I know I’m gushing but this team on paper (heh...pun intended) could beat most of the other teams in the Marvel U…yup, I said it. Come get me. On top of all that you have Ed Brubaker writing a spy/action thriller with Mike Deodato Jr. drawing some of his best shit. It’s not blowing my mind quite yet but I feel this combination can’t really lose.
This issue deals with Shang-Chi and his involvement with a dark figure from his past (I recommend killing all of the dark figures from your past…immediately) and that figure’s acquirement of ancient artifact that does evil shit. Cap catches wind, thus our team gets involved. This team is great and I really don’t care who they fight, I just want see each of these characters open up and I don’t mean in the emotional way. I want War Machine letting those weapons loose, I want Moon Knight busting people’s heads, I want Black Widow stylishly stealing secret files and giving them to Wikileaks, I want Beast’s smart ass quips, Valkyrie kicking all kinds of butt, I want it ALL!!!…it’s really just a testament to the heroes picked for this book that the potential for cool things to happen is so high.
If you’re like me and read a lot of 80’s Marvel comics, then this team is exciting BEFORE they even do anything. This isn’t to discount Brubaker at all but in my opinion these guys in any kind of combat situation or hell any situation is good comics. Ok, wait…I need to calm down…I’m overwhelmed by the awesomeness of this team and find myself gushing uncontrollably and I’m not even talking about the issue yet! The artwork is great and Deodato Jr. has really improved his pencils, which in no way needed improving, but now his art almost has a 3D quality to it and if you read the finale to the Dark Avengers then you know what I mean. He’s really stepped it up in the art department and every page shows it. Ed Brubaker has set such high expectations for me than when a comic is simply good, I feel like he’s not writing his best…which I know is ridiculous, but honestly I’m expecting a little more from this book. I know we’re only on the second story arc but when I read the first CAPTAIN AMERICA trade I was blown away and couldn’t get enough and even though I’m not getting that feeling about this book, SECRET AVENGERS is still at the top of my list whenever it comes out. I don’t think this is as good as CRIMINAL or DAREDEVIL but it’s still pretty damn good and I will be picking up every issue. I love the team and I feel that even more obscure characters are going to show up which is a bonus in my opinion.
I definitely recommend this book to folks that love spy/espionage style stories involving superheroes. These aren’t missions that the world is going to know about, these are black ops missions that require a degree of forethought and careful planning and this team is perfect for the job. I’ll go as far to say this is the coolest team operating now in any comic book universe. The art is phenomenal, and I will give you the Kletus guarantee that Mike Deodato Jr. will not let you down on this book…he’s just that good. Ed Brubaker has been writing some excellent shit for Marvel; CAPTAIN AMERICA has been consistently good, DAREDEVIL was excellent every issue and if you haven’t read CRIMINAL…do it…now! However I can’t help but feel like this is under par for Brubaker, which by the way is still better than most comics being put out. I’m still waiting for that “HOLY SHIT!” moment and even though it hasn’t happened yet, that’s ok because I believe in Brubaker and he has yet to let me down. This team of heroes and the team of Brubaker & Deodato Jr. are a match made in heaven and while nothing is earth shattering yet, this comic is cool as a cucumber in a bowl of ranch with a side of polar bear toenails…or something…just check it out!
IDES OF BLOOD #4
Writer: Stuart Paul Artist: Christian Duce Publisher: DC/WildStorm Reviewer: LyzardJust when I was starting to look forward to and anticipate the next issue of IDES OF BLOOD, Issue #4 has to go and disappoint me. Last time, I said that IDES OF BLOOD #3 was “hopefully…a sign that the latter half of the series” would improve. Perhaps I spoke too soon. IDES OF BLOOD #4, despite its numerous storylines and action, is a downhill spirally mess filled with anachronistic humor.
IDES OF BLOOD #4 picks up where the last issue left off. There are three major storylines which all converge at the end. First of all, there is Valens coming to the underground vampire city to find the Pluto Kiss Killer. Then you have the hiring of the Doctor, a vampire slayer, who envies Marc Antony. Finally, the story of Publius Scipio, who helped Valens and the vampire prostitute escape the dungeons, where he is punished for his deeds.
Writer Stuart Paul does a good job of weaving the three stories in and out and finally tying them all together. However, it is not his structure that I complain about, but the content, mainly the humor. For a comic that takes many elements from Shakespeare, the use of crude humor does not seem to fit. Yes, some of you may say that Shakespeare too had jokes such as this, but for the most part when one thinks of Shakespeare they think of elegance and wit. Though some of the jokes may aspire to be witty, they are just plain lowbrow. They feel extremely anachronistic to me, trying to put a 21st century sensibility on an Ancient roman story. If the rest of the dialogue followed suit, I would probably not complain as much, but switching between proper and improper language is a fault I see in the writing.
I’d just be beating a dead horse if I spoke of the art. Christian Duce has remained the artist so far during the series, unlike the change in artists for NANCY IN HELL. What I can say is that the coloring in this issue was dark; too dark, in my opinion. It became difficult to pick out certain characters and specific actions. The problem I find is too many of the Romans look alike, such as Publius Scipio and Brutus. However, for the most part, their dialogue distinguishes them one from another.
Switching from vampires to werewolves, there is a sneak peek for WORLD OF WARCRAFT: CURSE OF THE WORGEN at the end of this issue. Nothing particularly enticing or original about it, but with the incoming Cataclysm I’m sure WoW fans can’t get enough until that day.
Story-wise, IDES OF BLOOD #4 had several great elements to it, though it did seem to wander at times. It’s the wavering tone of the comic that I feel is the weakest part of the entire series. What keeps readers coming back, in my opinion, is the mystery of the Pluto Kiss Killer, and as long as writer Stuart Paul keeps solving that as his focus, I think he can maintain his readership despite the dialogue.
Lyzard is actually Lyz Reblin, a film student at Chapman University. Lyz’s love for comics stems from an internship at Dark Horse Entertainment as a freshman, which may explain why some of her favorite comic book writers are Gerard Way and Steve Niles. You can find her on Facebook, but only if you follow her band: Castle Town Convicts (possibly a Zelda reference?).
SERENITY: THE SHEPHERD’S TALE #1
Writers: Zack & Joss Whedon Artist: Chris Samnee Publisher: Dark Horse Reviewer: Optimous DoucheFans of Joss Whedon’s SERENITY universe are like starving Ethiopians these days, collectively coveting and then ravaging even the smallest morsels of storytelling that continue the universe we all loved and cherished before the evil Alliance of Fox ripped the series from away from us. I’ve always been thankful Dark Horse gave Whedon the venue to continue SERENITY in comics, but past forays continuing this universe have ranged from wonderful to lackluster.
Most of the comic continuances of SERENITY have been shiny gap filler adventures that occurred during the TV series time period. All of those were well and good. Then came FLOAT OUT, the story which started and ended in post a SERENITY timeline and filled the middle with flashbacks of Serenity pilot Wash’s life. I had issues with this issue, but it truly took reading the masterfully crafted THE SHEPHERD’S TALE to realize exactly what was missing from Wash’s homage. While both SHEPHERD and FLOAT OUT were flashbacks there was simply no skin in the game with FLOAT OUT. The narrative was delivered by three people we have never met before…and now is certainly not the time to introduce new characters into SERENITY canon unless you were going to start a whole new series. THE SHEPHERD’S TALE fixes these two issues, by making Book the narrator and starting the story in the most horrifying time period of any person’s life…the moments before we know we’re going to die.
We never saw this moment on screen, but have all imagined it in our minds. In SERENITY the movie, we saw Reynolds land on Shepherd Book’s planet after the Reavers had already slaughtered the entire outpost. THE SHEPHERD’S TALE starts during the actual attack on the outpost and we get to see a side of Book that we knew existed, but couldn’t imagine living behind his soulful and pensive eyes– Book the warrior. As he bravely mans a space Gatling gun to take down the powerful Reaver vessel, he knows this is the end and whether conscious or simply an effect of the last rush of endorphins that will ever run into his brain he begins a backwards journey through time to achieve the final epiphany of his life.
A few months ago I was given the amazing opportunity to pick the brain of Ron Glass, the man that along with Joss Whedon crafted this counselor of the SERENITY crew. When we weren’t dishing on Barney Miller or Buddhism, Ron let slip four spoilers about what would be contained inside Book’s book:
The first is that Shepherd Book found God in a soup bowl. The second thing is that he was guilty of identity theft. Yes, part of Book is artificial. His greatest accomplishment was also his downfall.
I always knew Book was a man of secrets; this was clearly alluded to many times throughout the series. However, I never could have expected the intricate layering and double blinds that made up his life. And I sure as shit never would have expected them to be delivered so well or so damn concisely.
Obligatory SPOILERS AHOY warning…
When one’s life flashes before their eyes, I had always assumed it would go in chronological order - birth up to death. Zack Whedon takes a different approach, which is a narrative joy to behold. As Book lies on the ground after being downed by the Reavers, we are instantly whisked to two years prior when he is aboard Serenity having a deep theological debate with ship cro-magnon Jayne Cobb. OK, I’m lying, their debate isn’t theological; instead it is Jayne being his usual selfish self. A few other off color encounters with the rest of the crew and Book moves into his room to pray for their souls and then BAM! The next scene is Book praying at the abbey he was stationed in just before he boarded Serenity for the first time.
Each transition back through the epochs of Book’s life is more seamless than the outer hull of an Alliance ship. In addition to the smoothness, each transition is purposeful. There are no wasted pages; each moment that is portrayed is vital to understanding the inner complexities of the man that was not born Darrial Book, but rather found salvation in this guise…eventually.
So what about Mr. Glass’ words?
“The first is that Shepherd Book found God in a soup bowl.” Indeed he did; through one bowl of soup Book realizes the connectivity of the universe. This is the “what happened”, though. How Whedon articulates this connectivity truly makes one ponder the necessity of all matter that was spewed out during the Big Bang!
“The second thing is that he was guilty of identity theft.” This was far and away the most startling revelation in the entire book. Part of me almost feels bad for spoiling it, but you were warned. Book was not only a member of the Alliance, but he was a double agent for the Browncoats. Part of this required a brand new identity and Book kills to take that identity. It wasn’t the purposeful, planned or thought out tenets that Book always exhibited to juxtapose against the hot-headedness of the rest of the crew. The real Darrial Book was just a man walking at the wrong place at the wrong time.
“Yes, part of Book is artificial.” Yeah, I know, I went where your mind did during my interview with Glass. Thank God 90% of all men think the same way and I was not the first to ask Glass what it must feel like to have prosthetic reproductive junk. In actuality though, the prosthesis was his eye, which served as a recording device during his double agent days.
“His greatest accomplishment was also his downfall.” Nope, not giving this one away. Buy the book. However, I will offer one buyer beware before signing off. I have a few issues with Samnee’s art. I truly waffled between loving and loathing from panel to panel. When dealing with a TV property you expect the vestiges of the actors to bleed through in some shape or form. And in some cases they did; others the people looked barely human. There’s one point in the beginning of the book where Book runs into Reynolds torturing an informant. The only way I knew this was Reynolds was from the clothes he was wearing. Actually I would not have been able to tell this person was human except for the fact they had two arms and two legs. I’m tough to please on this front; I find a hyper-realistic portrayal to be creepy, but I also expect some facial features to bleed through. In some cases it does, but in most cases I think Samnee needed to spend a little more time on the finer details.
In the end analysis I’ll buy anything with the SERENITY name on it, but I’m a zombie. And I thoroughly encourage all of my fellow SERENITY zombies to run…not walk…to buy this tale. However, I warn non-fans to tread cautiously. Samnee not bringing his A-game coupled with the deep rich history required to understand this tale could put a bad taste in the mouth of anyone who has never heard Kaylee talk about her twixed nether regions.
SECRET WARRIORS #22
Writer: Jonathan Hickman Art: Alessandro Vitti Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: Henry Higgins is My HomeboyAnd then there were none.
SECRET WARRIORS has the unfortunate pleasure of being maybe the most hit and miss title Marvel is currently putting out. Some things land and give off a great sense of gravitas, while others falter about weakly. This issue in particular plays to that, being incredibly scattered with its appeal.
Writing: (4/5) Hickman has been running this series well with some absolutely amazing set pieces and moments, but what these characters lack is personality. The scale of the story is insane, and rightfully so. Hydra vs. Fury should be epic. The collapsing mountain is a nice backdrop for the events to unfold and gives it a nice sense of urgency. One of the biggest draws to this series is the sense of dread regarding the characters. Seeing how many were created just for this series, it's not hard to fathom none of them surviving, save Fury. And that feeling is justified here, with two confirmed kills on the team. One was expected and is lackluster, while the other was oddly nice. The death is a bit confusing given recent events elsewhere, but it's a nice and quiet moment; a perfect to end the characters’ arc (though I'll be amazed if he stays dead long). The other area where this run lacks is character. We're supposed to sympathize and be conflicted over the decision made, but the scenes lack heft, which undersells the story completely. For an issue with little action, the ones we see really stand out. The setup for next issue regarding the Baron should be fantastic down the line.
Art: (3/5) Vitti does a rather average issue here. Sometimes, the art pops, such as a page spread of the surviving Warriors. Other times, it falls flat. A number of the faces are just weird or distorted, such as Daisy at the end. There's not much to say. It has some good moments such as Alex's scenes, whereas others don't. It’s very much a middle of the road issue.
Best Moment: The page spread of the survivors. That's just cool.
Worst Moment: The dialogue between Fury and J.T. is just painful.
DARKWING DUCK #6: CRISIS ON INFINITE DARKWINGS
Writer: Ian Brill Artist: James Silvani Publisher: BOOM! Studios Reviewer: LyzardMaybe I went a little far when I reviewed my first issue of DARKWING DUCK. Perhaps I was enamored by my childhood memories that created a euphoria only matched by, say, morphine. But when I read DARKWING DUCK #6 there was no such reminiscing back to days of old. Since it is the holiday season, I shall compare it to Christmas. Reading DARKWING DUCK #5 was like Christmas morning when you first open your presents, happy and joyful. Reading DARKWING DUCK #6 is like six months later, where the toys or books or movies sit gathering dust. They have not changed in those six months; just their aura has diminished. DARKWING DUCK #6 is not bad; it is just not special.
DARKWING DUCK #6 starts off with a little blurb catching up the readers. Negaduck has teamed up with Magica de Spell to bring a horde of brainwashed inter-dimensional Darkwings to St. Canard. In this issue, however, there are bigger troubles afloat. As hinted at in the last issue, there is something in the water and Darkwing Duck is now busy fighting off villains, mysterious H20 monsters, and “himselves.”
The issue started off strong with a reference to the Disney cartoon 90s classic “Gargoyles”. I’m a sucker for a good homage. But the next few pages go on to explain what readers could have assumed from the last issue about Negaduck and Magica de Spell’s plan. Now I know that this comic is probably aimed at kids, and though I’m not a fan of those younger than me, I do not like it when writers speak down to kids. I feel that reiterating what has been shown in a previous book is doing so. Also, I know that more than just children read this comic, so the beginning is just boring and repetitive for the older readers.
The comic, luckily, gets stronger from there. There is foreshadowing but it is not overly predictable. Again, with the dialogue, I have the same complaint I had last time. Launchpad’s vocabulary is too erudite for him. But he barely speaks, so maybe I am just being nitpicky. What I really want to see is Gosalyn speak up more. She’s been overlooked in both books and I always found her to be a fun, though at times slightly annoying, character.
As for the art, it has not really changed from the last issue. The drawings and coloring are still cartoony, but in a good way. The comic does feel like it is a collection of stills from the television show, not that I’m complaining. I do enjoy how dynamic the panels are and the kinetics. You can really feel the panels between the panels.
No amount of numerous Disney references can make up for the fact that some jokes just fall flat, but there are more homages than failed jokes. Overall, DARKWING DUCK #6 is fun to look at, but not the same experience as starting off the series. It’s not bad enough that I won’t keep on following it, because the writer has set up numerous strong storylines. I just hope these paths are executed well.
Lyzard is actually Lyz Reblin, a film student at Chapman University. Lyz’s love for comics stems from an internship at Dark Horse Entertainment as a freshman, which may explain why some of her favorite comic book writers are Gerard Way and Steve Niles. You can find her on Facebook, but only if you follow her band: Castle Town Convicts (possibly a Zelda reference?).
UNCANNY X-MEN #530
Writer: Matt Fraction Artist: Greg Land Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: Optimous DoucheSince SECOND COMING the X-Men have been rebuilding their ironically named island of Utopia into a safe haven for mutants everywhere. But as we know through over forty years of history with these characters, safe havens are mere whispers in time until the next great threats begin to billow over the horizon. Fraction uses this issue to set the stage for not one, not two, but three pockets of bubbling turmoil that will surely bite the collective taut asses of our merry band of mutants for issues to come. For anyone that was expecting an issue of Scott and Emma determining next semester’s mutant curriculum after several hours of steamy lovemaking think again…an extermination by any other name can and will be called Utopia.
This issue is a prime example of what Marvel and more particularly the X-Men do best: extrapolating our real world trials and tribulations into the world of the fantastic. In fact, given recent events in the Korean peninsula, I almost believe the hive mind was sending telepathic messages to Matt Fraction to write this issue with great haste. In threat one (I’m going by what stuck in my mind, not chronologically), San Francisco’s Chinatown is in the middle of a turf war. Well…a one man war, that is. One man seems to be taking on all of the gang leaders for falling so slovenly into Western habits of greed and corruption. This mutant espouses rhetoric of working for the collective whole, of shunning personal gain for the benefit of all…basically this mutant is China and all of its ideals – including the attitude of paying the personal ultimate price of death for the benefit of all. On the surface this might seem like a small footnote compared to the rest of the events in this book, but I was reading this issue as I was watching our personal war drums beginning to thunder in what could be the precipitating events of WWIII.
Threat two is one we have seen before in X-books, but was well handled especially as we enter into yet another flu season. Apparently the X-Men have caught a bug that seems to be one part H1-N1 and three parts Ebola virus. And naturally this virus only threatens mutants. Again, we’ve seen this before, and I’m sure there will be some kind of super sciencey Hail Mary to halt the threat in the end. However, I have to give props to Fraction for delivering the inception of the disease with exceptional narrative through the eyes of patient 0. The voice of a scared little boy delivers a hell of a lot more gravitas than Wolf Blitzer interviewing the CDC.
Threat three is again old hat, but Fraction delivers it in such a way that’s strangely compelling even for someone that has read every single issue of UNCANNY X-MEN. There have been designer drugs