@@@AICN COMICS REVIEWS@@@
(Click title to go directly to the review)
BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT #1
LET ME IN: CROSSROADS #1
BLACK PANTHER: THE MAN WITHOUT FEAR #513
EDGE OF THE UNKNOWN #1
BATMAN INC. #2
UNCANNY X-FORCE #3
AXE COP VOL. 1
TANK GIRL: BAD WIND RISING #1
SUPERMAN: SECRET ORIGINS DELUXE EDITION
IDES OF BLOOD #5
THE AVENGERS: A CELEBRATION 50 YEARS OF A TELEVISION CLASSIC
GREEN LANTERN #60
Big Eyes For the Cape Guy presents HAGAKURI: THE CODE OF THE SAMURAI - The Manga Edition
Indie Jones presents…
BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT #1Writer: David Finch
Artist: David Finch
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
I herald THE DARK KNIGHT 1 for several reasons. Sure, it’s an expertly crafted book, which we will get to in a second. But the main reason I love this book is because I see it acting as a black hole that will finally atomize the perpetual wave of fanman whining and general asshattery that has permeated the inetrtubes since Bruce Wayne began his sojourn through time. You want Bruce Wayne, well, you got him, folks. Other titles might have Bruce setting up surreptitious LLCs across the globe, but for now Bruce Wayne is back, bitches — Gotham once again belongs to Wayne and Finch.
Guys like David Finch make me hate my own existence. While I can shit out several thousand words without blinking, the wheels of my own comic creations fall off as soon as it comes time to add pictures to my purty words. Also, guys that can usually draw can’t write and vice versa. It’s a class balancing created by God that gives some of us less talented folks a chance at actually being successful. Finch is one of those gold standard creators, though, that can expertly deliver both pictures and words to craft compelling comics. Again, as a reader I love him for this talent; as a creator, though, I will continue to hate him. What’s also important in this brave new BATMAN INC. world is that Finch understands who Bruce Wayne is. There are lots of Batmen out there now, but only one Bruce Wayne. For this new world to work, Bruce will have to stand apart and Finch does this by recognizing that Bruce is a man obsessed and, well…sort of a dick.
Finch immediately draws you into this world with his fantastic pencils. Right from the front cover there’s nary a dollop of kevlar adorning the Dark Knight. Nay, Finch draws the Batman outfit as it was intended. Batman doesn’t need a suit of armor; his skills are his armor. Batman needs to be flexible to fit in all of his hidey holes; he requires a fluid yet durable garb. Bat-duds aside, what amazed me most was the level of detail Finch gave to every single panel. Whether Bruce is recounting childhood memories of his now kidnapped friend Dawn Golden or fighting Killer Croc in a present day alleyway, from facial expressions to the ancillary garbage in the alley, Finch explores and presents every single finite detail. It’s a level of craftsmanship that would lead one to expect fallacies in the dialogue or the main story itself. Thankfully Finch’s talent surmounts our jaded expectations.
When a socialite from Bruce’s past goes missing, he takes a hiatus from his globalization of the Bat to do some honest-to-God detective work. And it is glorious to see the juxtaposition of Bruce under the cowl versus Dick & Damian in BATMAN & ROBIN. Cold…methodical…and unrelenting. While Bruce’s motives have always been pure I feel most confident in calling him a dick for the means to his ends. Married guys will be able to relate to this most. Ever had a tough day at the office, one of those days when you just want to go home to your man-cave and simply unwind with some good old X-Box carnage? What if your wife wants to talk to you before your slaughterfest? Do you simply tell her to piss off because you’re preoccupied? Well, Bruce does in what was probably my favorite moment of this book. Alfred simply being the caring man he is wants to help Bruce stay focused, but Bruce will have none of it. It’s all good because that’s basically Bruce, but there’s such a thing as work/life balance, which Bruce has never recognized. Again, this works famously at this point in Batman’s history because you have other Batmen to explore the softer side of vigilantism.
A few more clues are unveiled after an excellently drawn and narrated fight scene with Killer Croc. Since this review is coming out a week before the actual comic I don’t want to spoil the main baddy in this title. But I will say it’s one of my past favorites from Batman’s rogue’s gallery and can be decoded in this simple anagram: sergsbu hedimetr. Finch is off to an amazing start by casting an eerie dark that has been missing from THE DARK KNIGHT for quite some time now.
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.
LET ME IN: CROSSROADS #1Writer: Marc Andreyko
Artist: Patric Reynolds
Publisher: Dark Horse
I was, as many others were, upset when I heard about the plan to re-adapt LET THE RIGHT ONE IN for America. Like critics and a mainly international audience, I adored both the Swedish book and film. So of course I was rather judgmental going into the screening of LET ME IN, directed by Matt Reeves. Yet the film won me over. I wish I could say the same about the comic.
LET ME IN: CROSSROADS is a prequel to the film of the same name. But it is not an origin story. I have a theory about why that is. SPOILERS! While in LET THE RIGHT ONE IN Eli is a castrated boy, in LET ME IN the American version of Eli/Abby is a girl. The origin story for Abby would therefore be different from the book (not that the film does not take other liberties from the novel). But this change is so fundamental as not to warrant even an attempt at recreating the tale that is written by author Lindqvist, in my opinion. I also think that because the origin story is contained in the tome, the writers would have faced copyright issues from the author in their attempt to re-tell the tale.
So instead, the comic takes place only a year before the events in the film. It is also set in the United States, clearly planting it in the universe of the American re-envisioning of the vampire novel. It’s 1982 Wellsville, Indiana, and Abby is with her elderly caretaker. They live on the outskirts of town, but a local realty company wants their land. Will the focus thrust upon them give them unwanted attention, and who will notice first: the realtors, child services, or the neighbors?
If you have seen the movie, the comic lacks tension because you know what will happen to the characters. Actually, if you know anything about the LET THE RIGHT ONE IN universe, I feel the comic is highly lacking in suspense. Many similar events happen in the comic as in the movie. There is hardly any originality in content. I don’t want to spoil anything for the small group of people who go into this comic blind, but there are variants of scenes out of both films, visually as well.
As for the visuals, I feel that the style of artwork did not show Abby in the best light. She’s too rough looking, lacking the innocence that makes her so deadly. While the drawings of the caretaker are spot on with Richard Jenkins, Abby looks like an ugly version of Chloe Moretz. I also found the use of comic onomatopoeia to take me out of the horror of the story; they just felt out of place in this dark world.
LET ME IN: CROSSROADS should not be used as an introduction to the world of LET THE RIGHT ONE IN. It does not do either the film or the book justice. Yet it also fails as a companion piece because of its lack of new information and character development. Least of all is the comic scary, an element I expect from both Hammer and Dark Horse. As I went into the American version with low expectations, I came into the comic with my expectations high--maybe too high.
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?).
BLACK PANTHER: THE MAN WITHOUT FEAR #513Writer: David Liss
Artist: Francisco Francavilla
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Things fall apart. Some of the best comics being put out right now are the ones that pick up the pieces after an event has changed a comic hero’s world. Marvel’s events a lot of times end up deflating during the middle and second halves where that “Holy Shit!” moment turns into “Oh…ok,” and the real story, the stuff that makes readers like myself tune in are the aftermaths of these events, when a new creative team comes on a puts the character in to a new, different & interesting path. This is what we have here, a new team and a bold new direction (but for reals this time!). I finished DAREDEVIL #512 today as well and I hope they do the same for him. It appears as though he’s in a Bruce Banner situation where he wants to disappear whilst finding his true self. I really hope they do something with him where he’s trying to pretend he’s not blind and keep his identity secret but still doing the superhero thing (Ronin time?). I’d love to see a new artist and writer take on DD but I haven’t though of who. Anyway, SHADOWLAND was aiiiight but this new series has potential for some great Marvel Heroic Age action, with a new hero donning the title THE MAN WITHOUT FEAR.
The story is about Black Panther taking over as the protector of Hell’s Kitchen in the wake of SHADOWLAND and how he must acclimate himself to his new surroundings. The tone of this book is great and I love how they tie in Matt Murdock’s situation to Black Panther in that they both are displaced and seeking redemption. This issue has a very Batman feel to it and the art reminds me a lot of “Batman: The Animated Series”; do I even need to say that’s a good thing? This issue does a great job of setting up Black Panther in his new surroundings as well as giving us an insight into the decisions he’s making and why. The internal dialog here is great and I’ve mentioned this recently in another review but internal dialog can go such a far way in establishing a tone and giving our hero a particular voice that when done right, puts the reader exactly where the writer wants us. There’s no question to his motivation or methods; it allows us, in a sense, to “walk with a panther” (old LL Cool J album) as if we are a part of his consciousness rather than just watching his exploits externally. This may not be a big deal to some but I really love this kind of approach and Ed Brubaker is another person that can take you there just by putting a few well crafted sentences in to a dialog box. For example: “It was an irony of wanting to help others in secret that I was forced to view their concern as a nuisance”; a lot of times you just don’t see that attention to detail when dealing with a character’s inner thoughts.
The whole feel of this issue is awesome and the art adds a lot to that somber feeling that’s been very prominent in DAREDEVIL comics the past few years. Francavilla’s art reminds me of Sean Phillips not necessarily in the line work but in its ability to set a mood. There’s nothing flashy about it but the art creates an environment that when coupled with the dialog is very apparent and effective. His art, I would say, is a cross between Chris Samnee (THOR: MIGHTY AVENGER) but a lot more vibrant and better line work too & Sean Phillips but with a larger color palette; some parts of the art even remind me of the old RIN TIN TIN cartoon that used to come on. This issue is a great jumping on point for anyone that wants something new at Marvel. I don’t see this book getting a lot of coverage (hype) but I think that also means that it will be allowed to operate on its own terms without much event interference. Now what if Daredevil went to Africa to aid in rebuilding Wakanda…that also would be something I’d be interested in seeing.
This comic is really great and if you’re looking for something new at Marvel to sink your teeth into….this may be it. I know this is the first issue but if the tone of this book stays the same, then we are in for treat. I said many times that the aftermaths of these events end up being better the events and this issue is prime example, a new creative team taking the pieces of SHADOWLAND and crafting a story that readers like myself are waiting for. The art sits hand in hand with the story and I am having a hard time thinking of another artist on this book. There’s a very noir feeling to this book that makes the art work just as much a part of the story as the main characters. Liss and Francavilla are going to be a team to be reckoned with this year & I bet you a red billy club they’ll be up for an Eisner. I love the approach of a character being taken out of his/her comfort zone and put in to a position where the things that make them interesting can be explored vividly just by changing the landscape around them and that’s what BLACK PANTHER: MAN WITH OUT FEAR is, a character study done from an entirely different angle. If this title continues on this track it may well become one of the best titles Marvel’s is putting out. This is good comics!
EDGE OF THE UNKNOWN #1Writer: John Vinson
Art: Marco Roblin
Publisher: Check out the EDGE OF THE UNKNOWN Myspace Page!
Reviewer: Ambush Bug
There are certain characters in history that resonate with us. I’m sure you all have your favorites. Mine is Harry Houdini. I’ve watched Tony Curtis’ films and documentaries, read books and written term papers on the Great Houdini. He’s always been a hero of mine--a man of mystery whose story is steeped in tragedy. So when I was contacted by writer John Vinson and told what the concept of his new comic was, I leapt at the chance to check out EDGE OF THE UNKNOWN.
This was an absolutely fantastic first issue. A must for folks who love THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN. Writer John Vinson has taken the real life friendship between Harry Houdini and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and steeped it in mystery and horror. This first issue has it all: historical facts, historical figures, pure terrifying scenes, and two of the coolest men in history teaming up to solve a mystery. The appendix at the end of the book reveals that Doyle and Houdini were real life friends. Doyle being a Spiritualist and Houdini constantly out to disprove them, the two disagreed on many things but shared a bond. This bond is celebrated here with enough historical facts to make this tale possible and enough pulp adventure and grisly horror to make it one of the most fantastic first issues I’ve read in ages.
A pile of young girls are found in a sewer by maintenance men. One of the girl’s fathers seeks out illusionist Harry Houdini (a longtime friend) to look into the unsolved crime. Surely a master of the unknown would be able to solve this case. But Harry has a secret; he once had an affair with the young girl. So he calls in his friend Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and, like Holmes and Watson, the two venture off into the dark to shed some light on the crime.
The book is made even better with the moody and dark art by Marco Roblin. His wispy figures appear ghostly and aged, almost like black and white charcoal stains in human form. Roblin’s panels are vivid and varied, amping up the tension in Houdini’s feats of wonder and Doyle’s mechanical fake séances.
The first issue ends on the cliffiest of cliffhangers that proves that Doyle and Houdini may be in over their heads. I love it that Vinson makes these larger than life historical figures human without making them weak. EDGE OF THE UNKNOWN is honestly one of the best books I’ve read in a long time and I can’t wait to read more.
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!).
BATMAN INC. #2Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Yanick Paquette
Inker: Michel Lacombe
Reviewed by Johnny Destructo
Much like “One More Day”, after I got over the initial shock of the original idea and the story that brought it about, Batman, BATMAN INC is turning out to be a hell of a fun read! Color me surprised. Even though this Bruce doesn't feel like the same character I was raised on, there's no denying Grant Morrison is having a blast writing this title, and it radiates from the pages. Every character is a joy to read, not the least of which is Grant's Catwoman. In fact, I would love it if Cats became Bruce's semi-regular partner for a while, it's such a joy to watch her and Batman interact.
Everything about these first two issues is huge and over-the-top, and may just be the best Bat-title currently on the shelves. Lord Death Man is effin' ridiculous and awesome! At first he seemed sort of lame, but he steals this entire issue with his shenanigans. I know some people are gonna email me punches in the face for admitting this, but this issue's action felt sort of Mark Millar-ish. That is to say, mega-action-movie-cool, fast-paced and bad-assed, with a dash of humor thrown in. Ow! Yup, there's the first punch. How did you people do that? I'm still writing the damn review!?!
I have absolutely nothing bad to say about this issue other than it's taking Morrison away from Batman And Robin, which was, until he stopped writing it, my fave Bat-book. I wish he had time to write both this AND the Dick Greyson/Damian Wayne dynamic on a regular basis. BaR just isn't the same without him, sadly.
Yanick Paquette and Michel Lacombe do a fantastic job on this book, as well. Strong story-telling with action-filled compositions, without a lack of background detailing, which is appreciated. I hope Paquette is around for the long-haul on this series, because he's nailing it.
If you're like me and think Batman starting his own franchise is gaytarded, don't fret. Give this book a shot, and I doubt you'll 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.
UNCANNY X-FORCE #3Writer: Rick Remender
Art: Jerome Opena
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Henry Higgins is My Homeboy
Best They Are…
The new X-Force...damnit. Alright. A book with the title "X-FORCE" is actually good. That should not be. I've read the original X-FORCE, and it was terrible (and I love Cable). I've read the rebooted X-FORCE, and it was TERRIBLE (and I love Pete Wisdom). I read what came to be X-STATIX, and it was awful (and I loved the idea AND Peter Milligan). I've read the “Messiah Complex” post X-FORCE, and it was awful (and I love all of the individual pieces that came together to form that). But this X-FORCE, at least so far, it's worth a read. It's dynamic, it's fast, it gets its characters, and it's just...cool. It's really rather cool. Some problems with the set up to characters prevents it from being amazing, but the issue overall is extremely enjoyable.
Writing: (4/5) The story sets up our current Horsemen of Apocalypse, and also continues to play with our current X-Force line up. The moments focusing on X-Force are incredibly cool, with almost each member getting some great little moments. Fantomex being able to create illusions becomes the team’s best advantage, and it's used in a very effective, very impressive way. Wolverine gets a decent monologue during the basic "Show Wolverine getting the shit kicked out of him" segment of the issue. Deadpool, being Deadpool, gets a silly scene. But, all things considered, it doesn't detract from the issue at all, and actually got a laugh out of me. Archangel is useless, because he's Archangel. Psylocke, a character I never much cared for, actually proves to be pretty fantastic in this issue, and it's a nice change to see someone other then Wolverine be the fighter. The team works, the chemistry works, and it's an incredibly cool book to read.
Where it hits its stride and where it falters happens when we switch over to the Horsemen. The origins of them during the first few pages are incredibly well done, and offer interesting avenues for them. During the fight proper, some come off as Apocalypse’s best, while others don't. The Unkillabull is fairly cool looking, but doesn't offer much during the story, save being Psylocke in. Little Drummer Boy has a very unique power, but nothing of interest is done with him. Geisha Girl has a fairly simple power, and while things are done with her, she doesn't seem like Apocalypses' big bad Pestilence. Cancer Copper is by far the most impressive. While he does do the basic villain speech about Apocalypse, he does have the best power and does the most. It'll be fun to see what becomes of this character.
Art: (4/5) Opena is just marvelous here, with no real problems during the course of the issue. The colouring, the designs, especially for the opening origins are just fantastic looking. When the book wants to look ugly, it shows off a knack for the disgusting--look at any of the heroes while being infected by Cancer Copper. Meanwhile, when it wants to look nice, it provides some very impressive shots. Psylocke in particular at the end looks simply fantastic. The biggest problem seems to be consistency. The size of Unkillabull is changing here and there, and it can be distracting, a well as the level of infection Cancer Copper gives our heroes varies. It hinders, but doesn't detract too much.
Best Moment: "Score one for the 'Belt O' Pouches'!
Worst Moment: That sinking feeling when you realize that THIS is apparently the best Apocalypse has ever found.
Overall: (4/5) A well worth it issue, and a solid read. Hopefully the series doesn't go the way of past X-Forces, and remains worthwhile.
AXE COP Vol. 1In stores today!
Malachai Nicolle: Writer
Ethan Nicholle: Artist
Dark Horse: Publisher
Vroom Socko: Hatchet Man
A year ago there was a young boy who did the things all young boys do. He played games, he goofed off, he made stuff up. Man, did he make stuff up. All the things young boys love. Ninjas, dinosaurs, superheroes, robots, monsters...he made up stories featuring all of these things. The thing is, this boy had an older brother, an artist. This brother listened to this young boy's stories, and asked the question that makes games become stories: "what happens next?" He started to draw the stories that this young boy was telling, stories centered around a strange figure. A police officer armed with an axe.
It's a year later, and AXE COP is now an internet bonanza. It's been talked about in magazines and pop culture websites, including this one. A print of Axe Cop showed up in the background on THE IT CROWD. It is, without a doubt, the biggest online comic of 2010. And thanks to Dark Horse, it is now about to become one of the biggest print comics of 2011.
This volume contains the first 70 installments of AXE COP found online, as well as the first 42 answers from Ask Axe Cop. Along with that are copious notes from Ethan about how collaborating with his five-year-old brother works, where and how inspiration strikes, and other bits of behind the scenes trivia. The bits accompanying each Ask Axe Cop are the most informative, and somehow also the most fun.
But it's the stories themselves, the wild, insane, fun as anything stories, that make this book a must read. Stories populated by some of the best bizzare characters ever to show up in comics. There's Axe Cop, naturally, who spends his days and nights hunting down bad guys and chopping their heads off. His partner, Flute Cop, who eventually transforms into Dinosaur Soldier, Avocado Soldier, Ghost Cop, and eventually...I don't dare name his final form, it's so glorious. Then there's Sockarang, the chainsaw wielding lunatic with socks for arms. Ralph Wrinkles, the talking dog. And the star of my favorite scenes in this volume, Baby Man. Hoo boy, Baby Man. There's a chase involving him and a duck that may be my favorite comic book moment of the past year. And it's not even the craziest thing you'll find in this book.
AXE COP is a comic you can't help but enjoy. It's a perfect encapsulation of childhood fun. Buy this book. And if you're one of the seven people online who haven't visited the website, you can do that first, if only to see if the comic is the sort of cool crazy goofy fun I've described. You seven are probably imagining something really out there, but trust me, it's more fun than you can imagine.
Vroom Socko, sometimes known as Aaron Button, lives in Portland, Oregon, a city where the axe has particular meaning. His nephew is the same age as Malachai, and is just as imaginative. Unfortunately, he can't draw worth a damn.
TANK GIRL: BAD WIND RISING #1Writer: Alan Martin
Art: Rufus Dayglo
Publisher: Titan Magazines
Reviewer: Mr. Pasty
When the Fed Ex man delivered an unexpected first copy of Titan’s TANK GIRL: BAD WIND RISING, I felt kind of important, like “Wow, they want me, the man of extreme paste, to weigh in on their latest offering. They must really value my opinion.” Then I flipped the cover over and saw an ad featuring a pull quote for the CREAM OF TANK GIRL that read: “This book f**king kicks ass” –AICN.com. That’s when it became abundantly clear what Titan’s expectations were upon my receipt of this comic. Unfortunately they failed to consult my grade school teachers, my parents, my pastor and just about everyone else I’ve disappointed over the years who could have saved them the postage with the advanced knowledge that I usually fall far short of what’s expected from me.
>br>Speaking of unmitigated failures, I know I speak for a lot of laypeople when I say my familiarity with the TANK GIRL universe doesn’t exceed Hollywood’s 1995 vaginal discharge of the same name. Lori Petty, so desirable as Keanu Reeves’ beard in POINT BREAK, did to fanboys with TANK GIRL what Sega did to dormant epileptics with “Sonic the Hedgehog”. I remember looking over at my friend after the shock wore off and told him I just didn’t get British humor. I still don’t, but I can find a certain charm in it, like when Benny Hill turns on the jets to escape that angry blonde after she gets Hill’s patented surprise internal exam.
I wanted to dislike this book. I mean really, the hell with baseball, finding new and creative ways to shit on a substandard product is the real American pastime. But alas, Alan Martin and Rufus Dayglo have combined to put forth a fantastic comic book, one that not only redeems the TANK GIRL name, but continues the standard of excellence set by the original effort from Jamie Hewlett and Alan Martin (without becoming a carbon copy of it). Martin does a great job of keeping the story loose without letting the narrative come off the rails when this thing picks up speed (and it does). I don’t want to give away too much of what’s happening under the cover, but a tank that shoots Spaghetti-O’s and dog shit is the kind of tank I want to have for my daily commute.
Keeping pace with Martin’s zany arc is Dayglo, who also manages to capture that alterna-punk feel without turning it into album cover art for a Dead Milkmen compilation CD. While the animation is mired in a palette of baby-shit green, the interjecting pinks really give the industrial/military overtones the weight they’re intended to convey. Simply put, everything here works. TANK GIRL: BAD WIND RISING is indeed rising – to one of the better comic books published this year. There wasn’t anything “bad” about this “wind” and I’m excited to continue the exploits of comic’s best sidekick. I am of course referring to BOOGA, who is in dire need of his own book. Sharp writing, engaging visuals and plenty of laughs, TANK GIRL could be this year’s coolest comic. Fans of the franchise will be glad to be back, while first timers or victims of the celluloid skull fucking will be pleasantly surprised. Highly recommended!
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.
SUPERMAN: SECRET ORIGINS DELUXE EDITIONWriter: Geoff Johns
Artist: Gary Frank
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
From the 30,000 foot view it’s easy to look at SUPERMAN: SECRET ORIGINS and decry “we’ve been here before” or “seen it, done that!” After all, this is Superman, the Alpha of the spandex set. However, as we’ve seen for almost the past 100 years, Superman doesn’t belong to the past…present…or future. Superman is an amalgam of all that we hold dear, the epitome of the best we can be when we stop caring solely about ourselves and strive to be better people for all mankind. So yes, while we have seen all of the basic elements in this book before, this is a wholly fresh new look at the relationships that define the man, delivered by a writer that makes these moments epic without ever falling into the easy entrapments of forced or contrived.
Each generation deserves a Superman story. But make no mistake, SUPERMAN: SECRET ORIGINS is not for kids, or to speak succinctly it’s not meant to relate to kids. For that, you have SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE. SUPERMAN: SECRET ORIGINS is built for everyone born before 1990, everyone who wants to feel that initial rush of Superman’s first appearance in Metropolis, everyone who grew up with Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder’s “Tracey and Hepburn” banter on the silver screen, this is about an older more confident Superman that reflects the bravado and last morsels of positivity left inside Generation X. And I don’t say all of this simply because of Gary Frank’s uncanny ability to reanimate dead movie stars better than a Coke commercial.
As much as I will forever covet ALL STAR SUPERMAN, Morrison side-stepped one of the easiest elements of the Superman legend for fanboys to poke holes in, the Superboy years. However, Johns with testicles larger than the globe atop the Daily Planet devoted half of this series (i.e. half of the Deluxe Edition’s chapters) to this all together insanely ridiculous time period of Superman’s life. What made these moments “awwww”” instead of “awwww shucks”, though, was Johns doing what he does best: focusing on Clark Kent’s emotions during this time period rather than having him simply fight a bunch of pint-sized versions of Superman’s older enemies. Everything makes perfect sense when put in this context. Why does Clark Kent wear glasses? Not because anyone actually thinks it’s a good disguise; rather it’s a great way to contain his heat vision (since the glass was taken from his Armageddon escape pod) to contain his awakening Kryptonian hormones the first time Lana Lang plants a wet one on Clark’s puddum. While the moments with a young Lex Luthor were fun, I’ve never been the biggest fan of Lex also coming from Smallville; this approach always felt too coincidental for my jaded comic sensibilities. Rather UI choose to focus my adoration on the second chapter of the book that has Clark meet up with his favorite pals from the 31st century; the Legion of Super Heroes. A brief trip in a timesphere is all it takes for Clark to no longer feel ostracized and understand the monumental life ahead of him.
Our introduction to Metropolis is pulled directly from the mind of Donner, or at the very least borrowed. Clark is a stumblebum and the while the Daily Planet is suffering the newspaper is a still viable medium. What Johns fundamentally changes, though, is the relationship between Clark and Lois and the man that is Luthor. Donner’s Luthor was bent on world domination through destruction and cataclysm, Johns’ Luthor is bent on world domination through controlling the masses by false altruism. It’s a stark distinction that sets the tonality for what would come had this book been a true reset for Supes. We’re seeing a little of this Luthor in ACTION at the moment, but unfortunately it’s a fleshing out of character that works best outside of all other continuity baggage. What I truly loved about this book during my first read and this Deluxe traversing is the relationship between Clark and Lois. In every past iteration of Superman’s origin Lois holds Clark at arm’s length. Whether it’s because she sees him as “top reporter” competition or merely a fool not worth her time, there has always been gruffness to Lois that made her more mannish than a woman in a man’s world. This was especially true when Margot Kidder played the part with her 70s pant-suits, Marlboro man chain smoking and a voice that sounded like gravel being scraped across glass. Johns is able to soften Lois’ heart and her demeanor without losing all of the spunk and fortitude that made her Metropolis’ top reporter. Also gone is Luthor’s sexual obsession with Lois; in the SECRET ORIGIN world they are the bitterest of enemies and it is glorious.
The main brouhaha comes from Lex’s latest experiment; the Krypton-powered Metallo suit. I won’t ruin how Lex deduces Superman’s affliction towards Kryptonite, but suffice to say it also helps spawn Superman’s own Arse-faced villain Parasite. The extras in the piece are few and far between…all right, they are non-existent, but that’s OK. I much prefer the humility of an artist like Johns who says “just enjoy the story” than some of the self-aggrandizing extras we get in most compilations. And when you create material this book, in the super duper DELUXE EDITION size, the work more than speaks for itself.
IDES OF BLOOD #5Writer: Stuart Paul
Artist: Christian Duce
Publisher: DC Wildstorm
It is coming to the end, the tale IDES OF BLOOD. I’ve had a love-hate relationship with this comic. Though I do enjoy the premise, I have felt that the execution failed to live up to my expectations of what such a story should hold. IDES OF BLOOD #5 continued with many of the elements that do not line up with my sensibilities, but it does contain some positive qualities as well. The comic isn’t bad, there are much worse out there. I just feel that vampires and Romans are such fertile ground and that the creators are merely driving a stake through it.
IDES OF BLOOD #5 picks up exactly where IDES OF BLOOD #4 left us. Valens/Iacob, Ione, and newly turned Scipio escaped from Caesar’s funeral. Meanwhile, Antony and Marcus Tullius begin to suspect Brutus as part of the assassination of Caesar. Back to the trio of vampires, they search the dregs of Rome to find the vampire that gave Caesar the infected bite.
What I have not said about the IDES OF BLOOD series, and should have, is that they pack a lot into each and every issue. There are multiple storylines involved that cleanly converge. Numerous characters that, were it not for the artwork, wouldn’t cause me as much confusion. Each book has a twist to it. A revelation that, even if you did not enjoy the issue, makes you want to pick up the next. Stuart C. Paul, though I despise his dialogue, does know something about structure.
The anachronistic tone of the jokes still makes my blood boil. The modern day vernacular and style of humor just does not seem to fit into a comic that is trying to be a Shakespearean comedy with vampires. As in IDES OF BLOOD #3, where the level of gore was pushed, IDES OF BLOOD #5 does the same with sex--however, nothing that provides cause for parental advisory.
As for the artwork in this particular issue, I do have a similar complaint as in my early reviews. It is still difficult to tell key figures apart from each other. To make things worse, as the book continues, the colors get darker and darker to the point where I could barely make any character differentiations.
Plot-wise, I found IDES OF BLOOD #5 to be a step up. Newborn Scipio and the discovery of his abilities was distracting and annoying, but a necessary evil. The twist that Brutus had up his sleeve was rather creative and original, and I rarely if ever say that about something having to do with vampires.
Going into the final issue, I’m interested to see how Stuart C. Paul wraps everything up. He has already solved some of the loose ends from early issues in this particular issue, preventing him from having to cram in every solution in the final comic. Again, Paul knows how to structure a comic, not just within each book, but arcing through the whole series. I have my own opinions and theories about how the vampires will probably reign victorious in this story, but we will just have to wait to see if I am right. The basis for this belief is the fact that in IDES OF BLOOD, the vampires are the heroes. Not an unusual characterization in recent vampire history, but as the reader roots for them it would be a pity to see them lose.
THE AVENGERS: A CELEBRATION 50 YEARS OF A TELEVISION CLASSICWritten by: Marcus Hearn
Publisher: Titan Books
In the early 1960’s a British TV show would premiere that would become the template for most of the spy TV shows and movies to come later that decade. This show was called THE AVENGERS and, no, it didn’t have anything to do with Captain America or Iron Man.
I didn’t discover THE AVENGERS until I was in my late 20’s. Oh, I’d heard of it and most of what I’d seen of it had been images of Patrick MacNee along with the slinkily gorgeous Diana Rigg. I’d always been curious about the show but that was back when VHS ruled the land and it was harder to get a hold of TV shows either to rent or own in their full runs. It wasn’t until DVD came onto the scene that I was able to get into THE AVENGERS. My wife, God bless her, bought me the entire Emma Peel box set for Christmas one year and it was on that holy night that I fell in love with the original AVENGERS.
Sure it was dated. Much of the fight scenes were a bit goofy and half of the episodes on the box set were in black and white (Which I loved…but I know isn’t some people’s cup of tea.) but this damn show had…class. There was something about Rigg and MacNee that just made them so intriguing. Which is a good thing when it comes to a spy/adventure show. Plus the stories are just so much fun. Kooky scenes. Crazy plots. Ludicrous villains. The whole series just played to the pre-teen boy in me but had a sense of sophistication that kept the adult in me interested. Plus, it had Diana Rigg and she definitely kept the adult in me interested…knowutI’msayin? THE AVENGERS as I knew them were a throwback to a simpler yet more fun time where TV didn’t have to take itself so seriously yet still had the power to entertain the heck out of me.
I can’t say that I’m any kind of Avengers expert, though. I don’t know the ins and outs of every episode or the history of all the characters. Hell, I could care less about the Honor Blackman years or about whatsherface who replaced Diana Rigg after she left. It’s because of that, though, that I found this book fascinating. While this book isn’t a synopsis of the whole series in any way, shape, or form, it is an interesting time capsule of the Avengers production history set in one giant photographic volume. There’s a lot to look at as there are just tons of photographs from every era of the series. Plus, I learned a thing or two about the show through some of the writing that accompanies the photos, the big thing being that THE AVENGERS began as a trio and not a duo. That revelation threw me for a loop and it was interesting for me to learn what happened to shift the dynamic to a dual team of crimefighters. It’s small little bits of trivia like that which kept me turning the pages and not only enjoying the pictures but making sure I read all of the text as well.
This book is full of terrific images of the whole run of the original show. For a casual fan like me it was a great book so I can only imagine how fantastic this book would be for any Avengers fanatic. I can only surmise that it’d be like hitting the jackpot in a way because these seem to be pics that have never been presented anywhere else or are only available as stills on the DVD sets. The book lays all of the images out perfectly and really presents them in a beautifully hardbound and, dare I say it, classy package. This book is worthy of the show that inspired its genesis and I am more than happy to have gotten a copy. I would think that Steed and Mrs. Peel would be proud to have a copy in each of their respective flats as well.
The Avengers: A Celebration imagery copyright © 2010 CANAL+ Image UK Ltd. All rights reserved.
Discovered as a babe in an abandoned comic book storage box and bitten by a radioactive comic fan when he was a teenager, superhero is actually not-so mild mannered sometime designer & cartoonist, Kristian Horn of Los Angeles, California. He's been an @$$hole for three years. Some of his work can be seen at www.kristianhorn.com and check out his blog at www.parttimefanboy.com.
GREEN LANTERN #60Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: Doug Mahnke
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Henry Higgins is My Homeboy
Fast As Light...or, Rather, Should Be!
The latest GREEN LANTERN issue is...well, it's an issue of GREEN LANTERN. It's got pretty lights, deus ex machinas....bland heroes? Alright, look. This is very much a run of the mill, basic, by the numbers, average, average, AVERAGE issue of Green Lantern. The writing is alright, the art is alright (which is rather depressing, given how utterly brilliant Mahnke has been on this title), everything is alright. Not much to say, to be honest.
Writing: (3/5) The writing here tends to fall into the usual Johns tropes, but does offer some well done moments. The dialogue is stilted at times, but well done at others. The duel between Barry and Hal provide some interesting gems—namely, the moment where Hal calls out Parallax and accuses him of being afraid. It's a fantastic moment, and sets up a nice new idea for Parallax. The arrival of the big bad proves to be a bit interesting given the history of the character. And, as one of the last major villians missing from Johns run, it's nice to see him appear finally. But it does offer some possible problems with continuity which will hopefully be explained. Overall, it's...well, it's your generic issue of GREEN LANTERN.
Art: (3/5) Whenever the art focuses on constructs or far away shots, it steps up. Rather impressive even. The designs for the Entities are still dynamic as all hell. But on the other hand, the close ups are much less defined. Hal in the first double spread looks very weird, and his face changes appearance more then once. The designs of Flash/Parallax are fantastic. Creepy and odd, but with a certain consistency. The constructs by Hal are also cool, but don't appear nearly enough to distract from the sloppy look of Hal himself. The attack on the big bad is also very weird. The constructs look nice but the characters themselves are less detailed. The issue has decent art, overall—which is really quite disappointing, seeing as how the art usually tends to be amazing in the art department.
Best Moment: "Or are you afraid? Are you afraid of me?"
Worst Moment: The Time Machine moment.
Overall: (3/5) Eh. ....Yeah, that sums it up. Eh.
By Yamamoto Tsunetomo, Sean Michael Wilson, William Scott Wilson, and Chie Kutsuwada
To be released by Kodansha International January 3, 2011
Reviewer: Scott Green
The Hagakure, or Book of Hidden Leaves, explains the bushido virtues of the samurai warrior class through anecdotes - over 1,000 in the original text. Having a notion of the complicated history of these instructions for The Way of Dying is essential to understanding what exactly you're reading.
Author Tsunetomo Yamamoto served as a retainer to daimyo lord Nabeshima Mitsushige, during the Edo Period, the time in which the Tokugawa Shogunate ruled over a unified Japan with policies instituted to keep power consolidated. The Sengoku Period, in which samurai were actually serving on the battlefield as their lords contested land had passed. Because a samurai's death in the service of his lord was no longer going to occur while on the battle field, storming or defending a castle, how to die became less a given and more a subject for consideration. It was during Tsunetomo's life that The Forty-seven Ronin Incident occurred. In a chain of events that still captures the popular imagination, daimyo Asano Naganori was forced to commit seppuku ritual suicide for assaulting Kira Yoshinaka. Naganori's retainers, made masterless ronin, waited two years before taking their revenge on Naganori and in turn committing seppuku. Forbidden to perform junshi ("suicide through fidelity"), when Mitsushige died Tsunetomo Yamamoto retreated to a hermitage to live as a Zen priest. There, he was visited by young Tashiro Tsuramoto, who recorded Tsunetomo's thoughts on how samurai should behave, from etiquette to their relationship towards life and death.
The Hagakure, Tashiro's 11 volume collection of Tsunetomo's thoughts was held by the Nabeshima clan until the Meijer period, during which the shogunate was replaced with a restored emperor and Japan underwent rapid modernization. It was during the 20th century that Hagakure became significant in shaping notions of bushido. By the 30's it had found a place in the culture and its warrior's death ethos is often credited as informing the attitudes Japan's Imperial Army as well the kamikaze pilots. Following the war, it was still being evoked by thinkers like writer Yukio Mishima, who'd end his own life by ritual suicide.
So, Hagakure teaches a warrior's code, shaped by the martial conflicts of the Sengoku Period but interpreted and inscribed in the Edo Period, during which the code was struggling to adapt to a less martial, more materialistic age, then popularizing leading up to the conflicts of the first half of the 20th century. It's essential to recognize that this is more about an ideal than an ongoing way of life.
For this manga edition, Sean Wilson (Ax: Alternative Manga) adapts William Scott Wilson's 1983 translation (called "definitive" in press releases, and it pretty much is). Bridged with conversations between Tashiro and Tsunetomo, its main concession to the reader is a structure that builds up an understanding of the values being illustrated. And in this, it does succeed in explaining even the non-obvious concepts, like the seemingly contradictory dictate "matters of great concern should be treated lightly.”
The punchy string of short stories works as a single volume representation of the hundreds of stories translated by William Scott Wilson, of the thousand recorded by Tashiro. Given that the manga that gets released in North America is largely from long serials, longer narratives are generally what is expected. Though the Hagakure develops and embellishes concepts, it is Tsunetomo instructing Tashiro and not a longer story. And yet, the chain of short anecdotes is just narrative enough to alleviate any didactic strains.
Chie Kutsuwada's (Manga Shakespeare: As You Like It) illustration works for the material because, as much as despite, not being flashy. While there is some precision and detail, the art's slight presence leaves a light impression. Since the stories are supposed to be true and supposed to be parables, balancing touches of reality with vagueness looks appropriate.
It's well justified to read the Hagakure manga with hopes of enhancing a sociological interest in samurai culture. And, if you're looking for background on genre media that works with samurai, there is perspective to be gleamed from Hagakure. Beyond that, to some extent, it is possible to read Hagakure with motivations other than drawing perspective. If you're just reading Hagakure to read samurai stories, you're not going to be entirely at a loss.
Departing from the 47 Ronin's two year wait, Tsunetomo emphasized quick, action: don't wait to enact revenge, strike down an offender, respond to uncertain bravery by taking a position on the front line. Divorced from its implications, it's real brutal "manly manga" stuff, punctuated with pissing and beheading. One of the stories finds a group of shogun's retainers playing go. One excuses himself to answer natures call and returns to find that a fight had broken out. The samurai handles this situation by killing the other players lest anyone think he was a coward who slipped out to avoid the fight. This is presented as exemplary behavior.
However, the distancing the material from further considerations difficult. As unbuffered as the adaptation is, I don't think that there is an extent to which violence can be romanticized that Tsunetomo's suggestions aren't jarring. They don't sit well with a modern value system. Thinking about wider consequences, what the proscribed actions might do to family, law and society, the frequently death concluded anecdotes are troubling. It's almost incredible that any lived that way. And, the extent to which people lived up to these ideals is actually questionable. These are the preserved thoughts of a person who believe that the more settled, materialistic people of his day were not living up to the ideals of a more war defined past. The lasting importance of Hagakure is that it spells out how people like Tsunetomo and his 20th century descendants believed that samurai should behave. That the ideas appear in sharp contrast with modern thought is significant, since the value the Hagakure manga is in how it illustrates those notions of a samurai ethos.
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.
Hey folks, Ambush Bug here with more indie books than you can shake a stick at, just in time for the holidays. Be sure to make an indie creator happy this year and check out some independent comics!
CYCLOPS: THE RECRUIT #1
My favorite type of sci fi is the kind that is somewhat believable. The not so distant future where things are very recognizable and society is just one or two major inventions ahead of the one we live in. This is the future represented in CYCLOPS: THE RECRUIT and it’s a pretty believable one. There are no jetpacks or alien cantinas, but the advancements are believable in that they represent two of our culture’s fascinations; war and entertainment. Most of this issue is set up as a recruit is brought into a war program. He is suited up with cutting edge technology and set loose with a battalion on the Iraqi border. The difference with this scenario is that the soldier is wearing a helmet called a Cyclops which broadcasts his wartime activities on national television. A reality show set on a battlefield is not such an alien concept. Some could argue that news channels like CNN and FOX NEWS are nothing more than this now, but this story is set to an obvious extreme. The fact that I remember the first Gulf War starting as I ate my dinner as a kid shows that a wartime reality show is not such an insane concept. Writer Matz who also knocks socks off on a consistent basis with Archaia’s THE KILLER series, writes a compelling comment on our own world while fleshing out the world of CYCLOPS: THE RECRUIT. THE KILLER artist Luc Jacamon brings in an AEON FLUX feel to his characters while paying attention to authentic backgrounds and smaller details. CYCLOPS: THE RECRUIT is the start of something good.
MS. JOHNNI #1-2
What starts out a