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ABSOLUTE ALL STAR SUPERMAN HC tpb
JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #46
TIME BOMB #3
THE OCCULTIST #1
ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #151
THE CAPE #1
DARKWING DUCK #7
Indie Jones presents ROSS WELLINGTON: THE VICTOR ROMEO TANGO #1
ABSOLUTE ALL STAR SUPERMAN HC tpbWriter: Grant Morrison
Art: Frank Quitely
Publisher: DC Comics
An @$$hole 2 in 1 review by Optimous Douche and Ambush Bug
OPTIMOUS DOUCHE (OD): Pretty much everyone in the known universe knows this story has legs, but sitting down for the first time with the story in a format that's 2 1/2 times normal comic size reminded me of the first time I watched HD. Sure it was two emus fucking, but they were two emus fucking in HD...perhaps I'm just attracted to shiny things, but the first time we see Quitely's two-page Superman against the backdrop of our own sun I could taste baby seal tears in my mouth and I swear the room smelled of angel farts and lollipops.
AMBUSH BUG (BUG): I guess the greatest testament for this book is that I'm not a Superman fan, but I am a huge fan of this book. I love the format and all of the extras. It really helps shed some light on the more abstract aspects and references Morrison was trying to accomplish with this ALL-STAR treatment. Morrison boils down the characters and set pieces to their basics and then seems to put some real imagination and forward thinking to it. In the past, I haven't been a fan of some of Morrison's works, but because I wasn't so connected to Supes, Morrison's idea vomiting wasn't as offensive as I've seen in the past.
OD: For me, being a fan of the Big S and all, Morrison’s divergences into the abstract simply crafted a compelling tale. There was nary a mind-fuck in this book, unlike say a SEVEN SOLDIERS or the final stages of the return of Batman. Take the overarching theme that Superman is in the beginning of his career, juice him with too much solar radiation so he thinks he is dying and GO…it was almost like the perfect Cliff Notes of Superman canon. Wherein the comic it took years to tell his origin or reveal his identity to Lois Lane, Morrison was able to convey the emotion and drama of these moments in singular pages and panels versus years and years of filler issues and material.
BUG: Yeah, a lot of the things that turned me off from Morrison's work in FINAL CRISIS, R.I.P. and especially SEVEN SOLDIERS is not there at all in ALL-STAR. I feel as if unlike some of those other projects, Morrison really seemed to gel with Superman and thus wanted to tell as clear a story as possible. I think he also may have realized that Superman is bogged down by a lot of history and that the only thing folks tend to do with Superman is retell his origin over and over. I love this story in that it isn't an origin story. The origin story is simple and accessible, which is why it's so universally appealing. I think Morrison's focus on the story here comes from the fact that Morrison wasn't trying to write a story for a select few fans who get him, but to write a new story that works for the masses. I think anyone who knows Superman, but hasn't read Superman in years, would be able to pick this book up and follow it with ease.
OD: Part of that accessibility comes from the structure, which I never truly appreciated until this read-through. It took a long time for this to come out in regular issue format, and I'll admit my short-term memory disorder would often loose sight of the "grand" objective during that time period. Yes, the over arching story is wrought with emotion, but Morrison wrote this exactly how a serialized comic should be written, where each story is an adventure unto itself. By focusing on the twelve feats Superman must accomplish before he dies, we were given mini-epochs of Superman's history told through the Morrison lens. It's very easy to pick favorite moments in this book since it reflects everything we know about Superman. My personal favorite is the Legion of Supermen, mainly because it's the backdrop for the death of Jonathan Kent, but I also see such potential in the Legion of Supermen for further adventures. I dare say I think DC missed a real opportunity here to reset canon for the Big S. This book could be a true launch point for a very successful Superman future.
BUG: Yeah, that was a great issue. My personal favorite was the Clark/Luthor prison chapter. Morrison really nailed Luthor as both the smartest man in the world, but also the most idiotic. Luthor could easily figure out that Clark is Superman if his ego wasn't in the way. He sees Clark and realizes this is a chance to have the podium. His plan is ingenious. The part with the Parasite should have given Supes away, but Luthor is too busy pontificating. Finally, the scene with the penciled in eyebrow was one I totally forgot about. You're right about this story working much more in collected form. It makes me wonder: why put it out in single issues? This may work with RIP and FINAL CRISIS, but I honestly don't WANT to revisit those stories. If Morrison and not JMS would have committed to a graphic novel format from now on, I think I would have supported it.
OD: While I couldn't agree with you more about the beauty of moving to Graphic Novel serials, what I'm referring to is beyond the format these books are delivered in. I think there's a wealth of story gold within this book for the continued adventures of Superman as a monthly that has been left festering since the series ended. I know Morrison didn't "originate' some of these ideas since he was culling from past history, but they could work well in the modern age with the modern voice. Look at Jimmy Olsen drag queen...Earth Q...and as much as I hate to say it, even the underverse (not a big Bizarro fan, but this was the first time I found the double negative speak at least tolerable). BUG: That was my least favorite part of the series—the Bizarro world stuff. As a writer, I can see the technical attraction to trying to write a completely backwards language. But as a reader, having to plod and make sense of all of that is tedious. It reminds me of Mark Twain's ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN. All of the dialect. Sure it's technically accurate, but if it slows the reader down to the point where they have to translate each and every sentence word for word, it completely yanks you out of the flow of the story. Most of the chapters/issues were pretty quick reads, but those Bizarro World issues took double the time to read.
OD: I also want to see a universe where Clark Kent is truly a schlub, not simply relying on the glasses to hide his identity. I've said in my past reviews that the modern version of Clark Kent is almost a Superman unto himself: confident, award winning, married to the hottest reporter in heels...he is not an everyman in current continuity. With Morrison's guidance Quitely drew a blueprint to show the true dichotomy between Clark and Superman...shit, all anyone has to do now is simply copy the extras from the back of this book and they have a recipe for continued success.
BUG: Totally agree. Morrison is on idea overload in ALL STAR SUPERMAN. He's practically setting all of these balls in motion just for some writer to latch on and spike it with authority (too much on the volleyball references? Maybe…) All you need is a writer to come aboard a SUPERMAN book who isn't egotistical enough to want to make it "his/her" version of SUPERMAN and use one of these ideas for an arc, at it'd be awesome. The best example of this was Bedard's recent GREAT TEN miniseries which took characters that showed up in a Morrison story for like a millisecond and expanded those cool concepts into a broader story. DC did this with KINGDOM COME. Hell, they practically based their entire universe on it. Why not do the same with ALL STAR SUPERMAN?
OD: Today I make two wishes upon forgotten binary stars. On one side I wish that ALL STAR BATMAN & ROBIN scaled half the literary heights of ALL STAR SUPERMAN. I would have loved to have seen this treatment continue. EARTH ONE is not ALL STAR nor should it be. It's its own universe, not a collapsing of Earth Prime canon. I also wish that our litigious society veered away from comics. I would love to see what some of the Marvel guys could perform in this type of infinite sandbox. Sigh...
BUG: So we both loved the book. Any criticisms?
OD: With this edition…not really. When ASS came out in single issue format the anticipatory pains between issues were worse than dry-humping in corduroys, but that’s buried in the ancient past like Macaulay Culkin’s career. I will say though, while not a personal bug-a-boo, I can see how some of Morrison’s abstract concepts can be off putting, like the cave that was created from reading “Moby Dick” at certain decibels. It’s one of those word balloons that make you go “hmmmm?” It’s a Morrisonism that is right in line with what we expect, but bitch slaps you like Mel Gibson on Passover when everything else is so damn cohesive and clear. However, never having tried to bore a hole with literature, I was willing to roll with the fancies of genius (I mean Lex and his niece here). Your turn…
BUG: My only criticism is the same criticism I always have for Morrison. He's an amazing idea man. But his stories are often overflowing with these ideas, so they feel somewhat surface level. It's like someone runs into a room full of people, vomits a bunch of ideas with a big splat in the middle of the room, and then leaves just as fast to puke in another room. It's nowhere near the surface-level reads one gets when reading a Millar book, but still, even the moments between Clark and Lois and the moments between the Unknown Superman and Pa Kent I feel were somewhat breezy. As you said, this reads as a Superman's Greatest Hits album. Greatest Hits albums are always fun to hear, but usually they contain songs you've heard over and over again. Same here. Morrison hit all the cool points of Superman's life (Lois, Luthor, Jimmy, Ma & Pa, Kandor, Bizarro World, Fortress of Solitude) and injected a ton of fresh ideas into them (maybe the equivalent of rerecording or remastering, if you're sticking with the album reference), but still they are aspects of Superman we've seen time and time again. Hopefully, with Morrison's idea injections, Superman gets the dose of pep he needs. Reading ALL STAR and then looking at the regular books just depresses me because the potential is there for some good stories. But the comics don't seem to want to go there.
OD: Requesting more of something is probably the best damn criticism a writer could ask for. Yes, I want more. Yes, ALL STAR does make many other stories pale by comparison. And yes, I do believe their is a universe here rife with future possibilities. Until the day DC knocks on my door though, playing the probability game will drive us all insane. I look at ALL STAR SUPERMAN the way I look at all masterpieces, and it is a masterpiece. We can find flaws in anything: Mona Lisa, bitch had a hairy lip. Moby Dick, some Victorian mother fucker taunted by a fish. Sistine Chapel, the shit is on the ceiling, you need a chiropractor to imbibe the splendor. At the end of the day though there is an inherent beauty to a classic in which all of its virtue outweighs any shortcomings. After this review is put to bed, I will never look at ALL STAR SUPERMAN with a critical eye again, but rather simply enjoy the greatness that is.
ARCHIE #616: CAMPAIGN PAINS PART ONE OF TWOWriter: Dan Parent
Artist: Alex Simmons
Publisher: Archie Comics
I had been waiting for this issue ever since I heard about it back at Comic-Con International in San Diego. President Obama and Sarah Palin in the same comic, an Archie no less--now that is an issue I could not pass up. Commonly, when Archie does touch on pop culture they spoof or alter the name of the celebrity slightly, instead of bringing the actual person in. To actually straight out do our President and the former governor of Alaska is impressive, though only if handled with delicate hands. I was afraid that some form of political agenda would be pushed, but you have to make a stretch of an argument to see anything of that sort in this first part of the political run.
The book starts out with Reggie and Archie running for student body president. Veronica is Archie’s campaign manager, while red-head Trula Twyst is Reggie’s. After Reggie defeats Archie at a debate, Veronica decides to pull out the big guns. She takes Archie to an environmental event that President Obama is attending. Sneakily, Veronica takes a picture of Archie talking to the President. When the picture goes public, Trula takes Reggie to a local event where Sarah Palin is in attendance. After that picture goes public, chaos follows. Both Palin and Obama appear in Riverdale, angered by the photos.
What I hoped was not to see Archie Publications putting any political slant in their books. You could argue that by having Palin associated with the much-hated Reggie Mantle that this is some sort of commentary. But I thought writer Alex Simmons handled this aspect well, by not having either candidate truly tied to either our hero or villain, merely in the same room as them. So even though Archie took a picture with President Obama, this does not mean that Archie Publications is commenting on our leader directly.
What I enjoyed most, visually, was the layout of the panels. It wasn’t the typical lined up, various sized panels. Some were askew, others overlapped, creating numerous visual motifs. I think this was an integral decision because it makes the issue stand out beyond its special content. I also think artist Dan Parent handled the depiction of President Obama and Sarah Palin tastefully. They were not caricatures of the political figures, but quite close in resemblance. Again, the character design reflects the unbiased political take of the book.
Commonly when I highly anticipate something, I also blow my expectations out of proportion to the point where whatever I am waiting for with bated breath can never live up to my standards. But ARCHIE #616 did not disappoint. It actually calmed any fears I had going into reading the comic and proved to be an interesting take on the idea of throwing real politicians into the Archie Universe. Most importantly, it left me interested in continuing on with the story. I want to see what happens to Archie and Reggie when President Obama and Sarah Palin come to town, angered by the two high school students’ actions. Will Obama and Palin actually agree on something?
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?).
JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #46Writer: Marc Guggenheim
Artist: Mike Norton
Colors: Mike Atiyeh
Published by: DC Comics
Reviewed by: BottleImp
First off, I feel that I have to apologize to Scott Kolins. I was pretty rough on the artwork in this series over the past two issues—the ungainly blend of slightly-skewed drawing with sketchy, “painterly” coloring—and I laid the blame almost totally on Kolins’ head. But since I opened up this month’s issue of JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA and found the same problems with visual aspect of the comic, but with a new artist on penciling duties, I must revise my opinion. Whatever faults Kolins may have as an artist, he is not the one responsible for the disappointing visuals found on these pages. No, I now have to blame colorist Mike Atiyeh and his smudgy palette… along with the editors at DC who decided that this artistic direction was a good idea.
See, this issue is penciled by Mike Norton, an artist whose work I first saw in DC’s kid-geared SHAZAM title. Norton works in a slightly cartoony style, with simplified figure lines and slightly exaggerated proportions. It’s a drawing style which worked beautifully with the more innocent Captain Marvel stories, but that’s not to say that the same style wouldn’t work just as well with slightly darker subject matter. There is one caveat, though: the coloring must be a stylistic match with the drawings. A simplified form works best with simplified color treatments—just look at Mignola’s HELLBOY, or “The Simpsons.” By adding scribbly shading and overly modeling the basic, elegant shapes of Norton’s linework, Atiyeh transforms what should be dynamic pages of superhero action into overly fussy, sometimes downright ugly pages that remind me of nothing so much as a third-grader’s coloring book. I don’t know who at DC editorial thinks that this pairing of stylized drawing with pseudo-painted rendering makes for exciting visuals; for me, the artwork on this title adds nothing to the story.
And the story here could really use the help. Once again, the plot is that some supervillain comes out of nowhere to make trouble for the JSA, and things get (supposedly) shaken up. I feel like it’s been the same old, same old ever since Geoff Johns left the book, whether the villain is the Injustice Society, Mordru, the Aryan Brigade (or whatever the hell the Neo-Nazi supervillains called themselves) or the current duo of the Scythe and this issue’s mystery villain, Dr. Chaos. The Justice Society has been reduced to a collection of bland-as-mayonnaise-on-white-bread heroes (Mr. America? Please…) whose sole function seems to be to wait around for someone to attack them. Mark Guggenheim also tries to make some sort of social commentary by having the original Flash work with his teammates (and with Blue Devil, in an inexplicable cameo) to police the city of Monument Point, which had been ravaged by the battle between the JSA and the nigh-invincible Scythe. Why is this a social commentary? Because last issue, when the people of the city were angry at the JSA for not helping to fix the damage they had caused, some of the superheroes basically shrugged off the responsibility, saying, “that’s not what we do.”
Really? So after tearing up the city in the most irresponsible manner possible, these so-called heroes (some of whom have been active since the 1940s) are squeamish about cleaning up their messes? In the span of only three issues, Guggenheim has managed to make the JSA into a group of boring, two-dimensional douchebags. Oh, and he also apparently kills one of them off in this issue. But don’t worry, it’s not a member that anyone gives a shit about.
Buying this title out of some sort of nostalgic affection for the Golden Age superheroes only goes so far. When the artwork is sub-par (and sometimes downright ugly) and the writing is uninspired (and also sometimes downright ugly), forking over money month after month just becomes a waste of funds that could have been better spent… well, almost anywhere. I’ve been reading this series in hopes that the new creative team was going to bring some life to these old characters, but it seems like Guggenheim and Co. are just putting the old folks in a home to quietly, and most uninterestingly, rot away.
When released from his Bottle, the Imp takes the form of Stephen Andrade, an artist/illustrator/pirate monkey painter from the Northeast. You can see some of his artwork here. He’s given up comics more times than he can remember. But every time he thinks he's out, they pull him back in.
TIME BOMB #3 (of 3)Writers: Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray
Artist: Paul Gulacy
Publisher: Radical Comics
Reviewer: Professor Challenger
“That's a pretty big missile...you boys trying to compensate for something?”
-- Jack McCrea
Any comics fan who hasn't been picking up this series has missed out on one of the best mini-series of the year! Thankfully, the trade version is just around the corner. However, I recommend picking it up in the individual comics so you don't have to wait. There is such a sense of satisfaction in the conclusion that I must give this comic my highest recommendation.
This series is a rollicking ride through a great sci-fi action thriller movie...but rather than film, it is on paper visualized through the cinematic eye of the great Paul Gulacy. Gulacy is a master at dramatic viewpoint and dramatic lighting. His visual pacing perfectly punctuates and hammers home Palmiotti and Gray's pounding story and “grindhouse” dialogue.
Picking up with last issue's cliffhanger, our time-traveling special forces commander Jack McCrea is imprisoned in a Nazi prison while his team struggles to complete the mission and free their commander before they get yanked back into the 21st century. What is their mission? To destroy the secret Nazi “Omega Bomb” before it can be triggered to explode in the 21st century and destroy the entire human race.
This particular issue resolves a number of plot issues: the final fate of the team. The final fate of the human race. The final fate of the characters. The final fate of Hitler himself. It all comes to an action-packed and rousing resolution in this issue. Palmiotti and Gray give each character opportunities to shine and develop their characters and exist as more than your standard cardboard cut-out action hero. Throw into the mix Gulacy's character designs, sexy scantily-clad women, and even an opportunity for a few flashes of nudity, and I can't find a flaw in this comic. It builds in excitement perfectly and delivers an ending that every reader will cheer about.
TIME BOMB demonstrates exactly what a Radical mini-series should be and I hope to see this exact team of creators working together again on more original works or more missions for these characters.
Prof. Challenger was beloved by many, despised by a few, but always lived his life to the fullest. Never did he miss an opportunity to pet a puppy, kiss a pretty girl, or ignore a hobo. He is survived by a long-suffering spouse, 2 confused children, a ridiculously silly dog, and a pompous fat old cat. The things that brought him happiness in this life were his comics, his books, his movies, and string cheese. Had he passed from this plane of existence, he would expect the loss to the world to be severe. As it is, however, he has not passed and has no plans to pass for quite awhile. So visit his website at profchallenger.com and read his ramblings and rantings and offer to pay him for his drawrings. He will show his appreciation with a winning smile and breath that smells like the beauty of angels.
THE OCCULTIST #1 (One-Shot)Story: Mike Richardson & Tim Seeley
Script: Tim Seeley
Art: Victor Drujinui & Jason Gorder
Publisher: Dark Horse
Reviewer: Ambush Bug
While Jim Shooter is bringing back Solar, Magnus, Turok, and the Mighty Sampson in various shades of “hmmm…” and “meh.”, THE OCCULTIST is the first non-Shooter book to be lumped into this line of comics. Though there are definitely shades of the old Gold Key mystic DOCTOR SPEKTOR, THE OCCULTIST is a completely fresh take on ancient magic.
Mike Richardson, along with Tim HACK/SLASH Seeley, come up with a character in Rob, a lovable loser who is dumped by his girlfriend just seconds after we meet him. We find out he’s a pretty good guy who is underpaid at the bookstore he works at, calls him mom every day, and just happens upon a book that claims him to be the chosen bearer of the book’s magic. This is a fast-paced issue that establishes a world where magic seems to be commonplace and known by most of the general public. Business seminars are held by technomages who shatter and read pieces of cell phones much like old mystics used to read chicken bones and tea leaves. Assassins for hire are not mere thugs with guns, but hit mages all lording over a dark corner of the black arts. Seeley and Richardson have mapped out a cool little place for our novice Occultist to get into trouble in.
The detail I love the most is that Rob’s mom is a devout Catholic and with Rob’s newfound mystical powers, he is doubly fearful of being found out. Having grown up in a Catholic household, this is one of those details that immediately attracts me to the character. If I were to happen upon occult-like powers, I too would be most fearful of what my mother would say. In that simple detail, a devout reader of THE OCCULTIST was born. With the genuine honesty depicted in the scene where Rob debates who to go to for help, I would imagine one or both of the writers feel the same way.
One of the best things about some of Ditko’s early issues of DOCTOR STRANGE was that he was able to draw both the real world and the surreal world of magic so distinctly. Artist Victor Drujinui (inked by Jason Gorder) is able to separate the two worlds here just as well. The real world is solid, with grounded characters, detailed backgrounds, and simple panels, but once the shade is pulled back to the realm of the dark arts up is down and black is lime green. Drujinio does a great job of coming up with creative designs for these mystic beings while giving them a grounded background to inhabit.
Anyone trying to do a DOCTOR STRANGE story right should take notice of THE OCCULTIST. It’s got the angst of a young hero reminiscent of the best Spidey stories mixed with some of the best magic storytelling I’ve seen since Warren Ellis wrote DRUID. Tim Seeley has proven himself to be a solid storyteller in HACK/SLASH but he approaches this character with energetic beats and creative ideas. This new magic kid on the block is a winner. Though this is a one shot, the editorial in the back promises more of THE OCCULTIST in the spring. I can’t wait.
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, Check out the NANNY & HANK Facebook Page!).
Zenescope’s upcoming WONDERLAND ANNUAL 2010.
THE DEATHSPORT GAMES miniseries #1, #2, #3, and #4 (in September Previews Order #SEP 100860, in stores in November 2010! Check out THE DEATHSPORT GAMES Facebook Page!).
ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #151Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: David Lafuente and Sara Pichelli
Publisher: Ultimate Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Henry Higgins is My Homeboy
The first issue after the big 150th, the series has some big shoes to fill. And, for the most part, it does. While segments (mainly Gwen’s) fall apart, the issue is definitely on the good side, all things considered.
Writing: (4/5) While it does have some problems, ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #151 plays well as an establishing issue. In this one, we get a little more time with the new cast member Bombshell, as well as a nice reintroduction to both Black Cat and Mysterio. Bombshell is a fun character so far, but if she doesn't get some real characterization soon, she could lose what made her good. In her earlier appearances she was a funny character, in the same vein that the Shocker used to be. For now it works, but it could easily not work in a few months’ time. Black Cat, still a mystery in this universe, offers a simple scene that does nothing to hinder or advance her character. Mysterio....I'm still unsure of. He has the potential to be a fun anti-Spider-Man, a villain who can snark and fight. But he could prove to be too Mary Sue-ish. As with Bombshell, though, I need to give it more time to pass judgment. The best bit of the book, however, stars Aunt May. Aunt May's small solo sequence is heartbreaking and brilliantly written. Aunt May here feels more real, more three-dimensional, and more honest than she has been in the 616 universe for years. Arguably some of the best May moments have come from USM, and here especially is the feeling that this woman is responsible for the man Peter Parker becomes, while remaining her own character. Opposite her, however, is the return of Gwen, and what should be a fantastic scene is completely underwhelming. Her leaving two months ago was an interesting turn and a very nice way to further mess with the status quo of the series. Having her return so readily and quickly is annoying. It takes away some of the momentum revolving around her characterization, and even though I love Ultimate Gwen, I'd rather give her some time away from the series.
Art: (3/5) David Lafuente and Sara Pichelli split the art on this issue, and it shows. Lafuente does the action sequences which flow beautifully. Pichelli manages the more down to earth moments and while it's certainly not bad (rather, it's very good, expressive, and nice), it doesn't mesh well with the more stylish Lafuente. Pichelli is very good, but doesn’t gel with the tone of this series. It'll depend if she does some action in the future, though.
Best Moment: May’s scene...
Worst Moment: …followed directly by Gwen’s.
THE CAPE #1Writer: Jason Ciaramella (Based on Joe Hill's short story)
Artist: Zach Howard
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Reviewer: Optimous Douche & Johnny Destructo
Optimous Douche (OD): Anti-hero stories must be successful since they are a dime a dozen these days. Most of these stories are basted in fail-sauce because of lazy writing. It always seems to be an exercise of blending existing power and costume tropes with stories that have already been explored from the hero perspective a thousand times over. Personally, I’m not a fan. Well, that was until I read THE CAPE.
Success in this genre within a genre is far from complex, yet time and again I see writers boggle the one foundational tenet for continuity stamina: make me care about this character. NEMESIS failed in this regard by swapping cool carnage for character development. Likewise with a book like IRREDEEMABLE, which out of the gate seemed promising, but took so much time showing us how to destroy a world and the fall of the Plutonian without telling us anything about the man he was prior to the insanity. THE CAPE takes a completely different approach to exposition and it has me completely and utterly vested in buying future issues.
Johnny Destructo (JD): Though we share differing opinions on NEMESIS (I'm totally ok with it existing solely for a fun factor), we are simpatico not only on the squandered promise of IRREDEEMABLE, but the potential for THE CAPE. My first thought after setting this issue down was: "Thank holy hell this wasn't one of the contenders for this year's TOP COW PILOT SEASON." I would be terrified that, on the off-chance this story didn't get the votes it needed, I'd never see the next issue, leaving me a shuddering mass of unsatisfied man-shapes.
As an avid comic reader for a few decades now, the exploration into the foundations of good and evil are intrinsically linked to my level of interest in a story. Not to say that it has to be spelled out for me; it's equally entertaining to sit and consider the options, the whys behind a character's development as either a good guy or a jerk-face. Half the fun of THE CAPE is not being entirely sure which direction our slacker protagonist Eric is going to veer.
OD: And despite the dirty deeds done dirt cheap by Eric at the end of the book, I still think there is potential for this book to continue to veer throughout the run. What Hill has created with THE CAPE is a polarized character and a bit of a Rorschach for the reader. I honestly see the physical manifestation of The Cape Eric dons in THE CAPE as a metaphor for our own welfare system. Just stay with me on this.
Hill gets us entirely vested in the character of Eric by watching him progress from a foolhardy child to a wasted adult. As we watch Eric’s mother transform his baby blanket into the cape he wears as an outlet for his childhood imagination at least two out of three readers will identify immediately with this imaginary metamorphosis. When his Mother adds the patch of his P.O.W. Father’s Marine corps patch, you immediately feel sympathy for this kid for never having a father around.
After Eric’s fall, he suffers a life of “headaches” and other pains, which he uses as a crutch to be a layabout and a screw-up. This is where the reader must decide as to whether he’s a victim that should be helped or if he is merely playing the "system"--the system in this case being the friends and family Eric sponges off of. Honestly, we only get a few pages where Eric flies around with the cape on. They are a glorious fucked-up few minutes, but they are not the true meat of this story. They can’t be; there needs to be a moral quandary for the reader, otherwise no one will sympathize with Eric.
JD: Absolutely. Intriguing comparison, BTW. You are no doubt my intellectual superior, Mr. Smarty-smarts. Next you'll be telling me there's more of a metaphor behind Buffy besides stabbing men with phallic chunks of wood. I always assumed it was about reverse rape fantasies...no?
Seriously though, it never occurred to me that his headaches were fakesies. I think if Hill had intended for us to consider that, he wouldn't have had the kid fall out of a tree, be impaled with a giant piece of branch, causing a shunt in his brain and a half-dozen operations. I am in no way disagreeing with your brilliant metaphor, but questioning Eric's sincerity. Using it as an excuse NOT to even bother looking for a job? Absolutely...but I believe the ailment is actually there.
OD: Not fakesies...a crutch. Very different. I was born with a very small penis. Would I like it to be larger? Sure. Could I rage against my father for saddling me with this very small phallus? Sure. The question is, do I? And the answer is no. Life is about adversity and how you choose to handle it. Do you choose to curl up into a ball because of headaches like Eric, or do you push through since...you know...life doesn't stop because of headaches? Just like with welfare. There are some very legitimate folks suckling from the public teat right now. But there are also some real scumbags out there playing the system because of an ingrown taint hair. And I think that’s the game Hill is playing with us in THE CAPE. Do we sympathize with this guy because he fell out of a tree as a child, so his dirty deeds are merely a waterfall from having a tough life, or do you man up and become a good person regardless of the shit life flings at you? Eric made his choice to become a villain in all of this and it’s up to us as the readers to determine whether it truly was a choice or not.
JD: Ah, I see, I see. In that case, I've already made up my mind about Eric then. It isn't adversity that defines us, it's our reaction to said adversity. I got testicular cancer and named my tumor Crunchy and made him a Myspace page, I didn't give up on living and try to kill people.
That brings us directly to your last statement, re: moral quandary. That's what makes Magneto such an interesting character (with certain writers). Sure, he wrecks shop usually, but sometimes we get a glimpse behind the curtain of his mind into what makes him tick, and the emotions behind the actions. That's what makes a character interesting. So, while the ending to this was surprising, and his last words sort of bad-ass, Ciaramella/Hill are really going to have to give us some more in way of this guy's actual character to keep me coming back for more. I'm a bit torn. After realizing that this comic was based on one of Hill's short stories, I'm tempted to track that original story down and read on, without having to wait for the next issue. However, I think reading this tale without Zach Howard's part would be doing him a disservice. Zach's realistically cartoony (huh?) work here is excellent. He gets a tad Zip-A-Tone crazy, but it's beautiful work that I've enjoyed going back over several times.
OD: I have no idea what Zip-A-Tone is and I’m too lazy to Google it, but if it’s synonymous with Kirby Krackles and fucking awesome I’m totally on board. Howard’s art was essential in showing the progression of Eric from imaginative youth to slacker teen to lay-about twenty-something to the final fat scumbag thirty-something he is today.
But even the best art in the world needs a solid story behind it. As a one-off this works, but a series solely about a villain is an unenviable writing task. Even the main character in INCOGNITO ended up on the side of angels by the end of the book. If Eric continues to just be a prick, the only end I can see that will offer a satisfying progression for the readers is death. I hope I’m wrong and our writers give us a few twists in the next few issues to shake things up.
JD: Zip-A-Tone is what creates all the little dots all throughout the artwork. What we may be missing is that perhaps this series isn't ONLY about our slovenly pal Eric. Where there is a villain, there must be a hero to balance it out, no? If Eric has a magical cape, might his brother have something of his own? So many questions to be answered, so many directions this could go, and I'm stoked to see what's on the horizon!
DARKWING DUCK #7: CRISIS ON INFINITE DARKWINGSWriter: Ian Brill
Artist: James Silvani
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
There is one line from DARKWING DUCK #7 that I want to focus on. As he makes a grand entrance, our caped crusader says, “I am the T.V. crossover that doesn’t live up to the hype.” Now I know I was a bit harsh on the last issue of DARKWING DUCK, but I disagree that it does not live up the hype. First of all, what hype? I only heard about it through word of my mouth through some old Dark Horse buddies of mine, nowhere else. Secondly, if the first four issues had not lived up to the hype, why would they have gotten a continuance? No, I think Darkwing Duck is being too hard on himself. Is it as good as the T.V. show? That’s hard to tell. I mean who, recently, has watched DARKWING DUCK? It is difficult to judge whether or not the crossover is up to par because all us readers have is our faulty memories of days gone by.
DARKWING DUCK #7 has a horde of villains. Not only does Darkwing Duck, Morgana, and now Gosalyn/Giszmoduck have to face off against an army of interdimensional dopplegangers, but they must come face to face with Nega-Duck and Magica de Spell, not to forget the odd happenings with the water supply. There is a lot to deal with in this book, but is it too much for “the terror that flaps in the night?”
I commonly find comics too talky, filled with speech bubbles half the size of the panel. But DARKWING DUCK #7 has what I believe is a good combination of expository dialogue and action. Yes, there are times when the talking is close to a monologue, but these periods of long-windedness are followed by plenty of action. The comic provides both written and drawn jokes, a strong mixture of both. I do think, however, that artist James Silvani’s artistic comedy usually beats writer Ian Brill’s jokes, but that does not mean Brill fails humorously. Where Brill succeeds is in capturing the spirit of the TV show, especially in the words of Darkwing Duck. It has the same rhythm, if memory serves me right, of the television show.
I usually don’t compliment colorists, but Andrew Dalhouse has done a fine job as well capturing the world of Darkwing Duck. The colors are cartoony, yet dark enough as well. They are bright and bold, bringing Silvani’s drawings to life.
As I mentioned in the paragraph explaining the plot of issue #7, there is a lot going on. But I felt that it was a flowing reading--too quick, though, in my opinion. Not that the events were rushed, but by the time I reached the end of the comic I wanted more. This is a sign of great storytelling, to end on a note that makes the reader want to come back for the next issue.
I think the best word to describe DARKWING DUCK #7 is fun. It’s not deep, but it doesn’t need to be. I despise it when any form of entertainment--movies, books, songs, even comics--try to be bigger than what they are yet sacrifice entertainment. DARKWING DUCK #7 is entertaining and I don’t expect nor wish for anything more.
Writer: Brian Ellis
Art: Mark Van Handel
Find out more about this book and read the first issue here!
Reviewer: Mr. Pasty
Back in October I took a dump on LADY MECHANIKA, a high concept steampunk project whose narrative was nothing more than a clothesline for Joe Benitez to pin comic clichés to while parading his attractive antagonist through the pages of rough-and-tumble action scenes. Looks great in the showroom, just don’t start poking around under the hood. That brings me to ROSS WELLINGTON. The reason I mentioned LADY MECHANIKA is because ROSS, too, is a private eye with extraordinary capabilities who has nothing to do at this point but exist. It seems Mr. W is the last remaining survivor of the Roswell crash in July 1947. That makes him TANGO in the VICTOR ROMEO TANGO byline.
ROSS WELLINGTON is the kind of book you didn’t realize you were missing. That’s probably because it’s becoming easier and easier to forget what this medium can be when you have talent, passion and creativity all working in unison. Simply put, ROSS WELLINGTON is more than just a great comic, it’s an artistic triumph, expertly crafted and flawless in execution. If you had a snobby friend who hung out at the bookstore and sipped decaf lattes while catching up on his fine print, ROSS WELLINGTON is the book you would lend him if he ever broke down and asked you to show him why you love comics.
What frustrates me about great writers is how infrequently they’re capable of writing greatly. Part of what makes ROSS such a success is the fact that it plays it straight. No one’s winking at us from behind the scenes and that makes ROSS a very endearing character. Imagine if the Jeff Bridges alien from STARMAN made himself human by watching Philip Marlowe movies. The writing here is superb without being pompous. References aren’t so obscure that you spend an hour Googling every other line and there’s none of that silly posturing either. What you see is what you get, or is it? ROSS has to help a friend solve a missing persons case and he has no choice but to follow every lead, no matter how dangerous, because the poor guy can’t even pay his rent. He dresses the part, has the language down pat, but still has those big, buggy eyes and paunchy midsection. Kind of hard to get a job waiting tables looking like that but in contrast he doesn’t seem to have any trouble attracting the ladies.
ROSS WELLINGTON works because it’s a dialogue-driven mystery that doesn’t show its hand on the flop. And unlike LADY MECHANIKA, it also puts the substance before the style. Will ROSS solve the case? What happens now that the government knows he’s at large? Who are all these hot chicks? There’s a lot to enjoy here and even more to look forward to. Beautifully drawn, meticulously detailed and just downright fun to read, ROSS WELLINGTON would be a welcome addition to any publisher’s line-up. I know that’s not saying a whole lot these days, but maybe it would be if we had more ROSS WELLINGTON’s on the shelves. This is an absolute must-have.
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.
Though this issue focuses on one of my favorite characters of the Marvel Universe, I couldn't help but be underwhelmed by Jeff Parker's secret origin of the Ghost. I don't know what I was expecting and but to have the Ghost be who he is because of a girl just doesn't seem...right. The story isn't terrible, it just doesn't match the caliber of story I imagined behind the weird mask of the Ghost. I think I felt the same way about Wolverine once his origin story was told. Once the shade is lifted, the story, no matter how well structured, never lives up to the mystery and in the end, it kind of takes away what was cool with the character. This is a pretty straightforward story of a nebbish IT person who lost his girl and now blames big industry. It just doesn't match up with the coolness the Ghost has exuded over the last few years. Parker tells a solid tale and I'm really digging his work on THUNDERBOLTS so far, but this ghost story lacked oomph. - Bug
BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #2
Every so often I’ll pick up a comic that’s geared to younger readers as a way to cleanse my palate of the buildup of dark and mature themes, and every so often I’ll find one that reminds me of why I stared reading comics in the first place. Sadly, this issue is not one of those times. The story sounded good—Batman teaming up with Captain Marvel against the Psycho-Pirate—but what really drew me to this comic was seeing that Rick Burchett was on penciling duties. I’ve always loved Burchett’s clean, graphic sensibilities, and he’s successfully adapted to the “animated” styles in the past. But here Burchett’s pages feel uninspired, and his drawings come off as stiff and static. It seems like he was too much a slave to the BRAVE AND THE BOLD style guides to allow his characters to be as expressive as they could have been. Oh, well…at least the Big Red Cheese looked true to his C.C. Beck roots here. - Imp
IRON SIEGE #1
Pretty typical yet solid military yarn with pretty typical yet solid horror elements makes for a pretty typical yet solid military horror story. Look I can do math! Anyway, IRON SIEGE has a group of WWII troops on a mission with some Nazi soldiers (including a Nazi commander) in tow. The mission is going as plan until they run into a giant wereboar and then into a herd of slobbering zombies. I'm sure those occult-obsessed Nazi's are at fault here, but now the troop and their prisoners are trapped and must join forces in order to survive. The art in this book is what really makes this standard Nazi zombie story stand out. It's moody and gritty, giving enough info to induce chills, yet leaving enough in the dark to cause even more chills. Trevor Goring has the right amount of Wrightston going on to make this a graphic horror treat. - Bug
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G