Comics

AICN COMICS REVIEWS: INVINCIBLE! SPECTACULAR SPIDEY! SUPERMAN! ECHOES! MALIGNANT MAN! & MORE!

Published at: April 20, 2011, 11:58 a.m. CST by ambush bug

 

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Issue #47 Release Date: 4/13/11 Vol.#9

The Pull List
(Click title to go directly to the review)
Advance Review: ECHOES Tpbk
UNCANNY X-MEN #535
Advance Review: INVINCIBLE #79
SUPERMAN #710
Advance Review: MALIGNANT MAN #1
27 (TWENTY-SEVEN) #1-4
Advance Review: SPECTACLAR SPIDER-MAN #1000
INVINCIBLE ULTIMATE COLLECTION Vol. 6
ULTIMATE COMICS SPIDER-MAN #157
Raiders of the Long Box presents JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #246-261


Advance Review: In stores in June!

ECHOES Trade Paperback

Writer: Joshua Hale Fialkov
Art: Rashan Ekedal
Publisher: Top Cow
Reviewer: Ambush Bug


Having been a huge fan of TUMOR and ELK’S RUN, I’ve known to give full attention to each and every book Joshua Hale Fialkov writes. The guy is a master craftsman when it comes to pacing a story, mapping out a suspenseful scene, and amping the tension meter to 11. I guess I’ve been living under a rock because ECHOES snuck right by me. But I had a chance to plow through the entire five issues of this comic and man, oh, man is it good.

TUMOR proved that Fialkov can set up a good mystery. Much like that story in which a private detective discovers he has an inoperable brain tumor and must solve a mystery before his mind and body give out on him, ECHOES has the same feel as a man is not sure what is real and what his afflicted brain is telling him. The reader isn’t privy to this information either which makes the read all the more intriguing. From the beginning we are given information that immediately puts everything we are experiencing through the eyes of our narrator suspect. Brian Cohn admits in the first pages that he is a man afflicted with schizophrenia. But Brian is functioning in life as long as he takes his pills. He is a married man. His wife is pregnant. And his father is dying of Alzheimer’s. At his father’s deathbed, Brian’s father mumbles something about having to go to his home and take care of a box in the crawlspace. Though he thinks this is the ramblings of a man suffering from dementia, Brian obliges and finds the box filled with scores of little dolls made of hair, bone, and skin, each with a confession to the killing of one little girl tied to it. The box is full of these dolls and these confessions. It’s at this point that Brian realizes he has not taken his medication. The rest of this intense book hinges on these moments, as the world Brian has constructed around him is warped and shattered by a revelation about his father. What ensues is one of the most perfectly haunting descent into madness tales I have ever read.

Fialkov again paces each of the chapters of this story perfectly, hitting all of the right beats and ending each issue with a cliffhanger that’s going to make you thank yourself that you got this in trade because you don’t have to wait for the next issue. Each beat is perfect as Brian attempts to find out if his father is really guilty and when a little girl goes missing, is Brian following in his father’s footsteps?

All of this is illustrated by Rashan Ekedal, a name I haven’t heard of, but one I won’t forget now. In Fialkov’s previous works, he has relied on sketchier artists who are more expressionistic with their lines. Here Ekedal has a steadier line. His panels are alive with steady figures and forms. And the faces…damn the faces are wicked and sympathetic and emotive all at once. Ekedal also varies his panel size and shape in an expert manner, amplifying the tension in a scene or the desolation the main character feels with nothing more than a border and a figure. Ekedal is going to be big some day and this is the book where you can catch his work first.

Speaking of the art, Fialkov shows a lot of growth as a writer by showing how much he trusts the artist to tell his story. There are a lot of panels, especially early on in this story that are silent. Fialkov is confident enough in Ekedal to convey his message without mucking it up with unnecessary work balloons. This is the work of a confident writer who trusts his artist (a lesson many mainstream writers could learn from).

Often tragic, often gripping, ECHOES is yet another feather in the cap of writer extraordinaire Fialkov. Though his stories often contain an internal struggle going on within the conflicted mind of his protagonist, Fialkov is able to bring that struggle to vivid life. This is especially true here with ECHOES, another classic tale of tragedy and terror by a modern master wordsmith.

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 covers to purchase)!















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UNCANNY X-MEN #535

Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Terry Dodson
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche


I initially started a review of UNCANNY #534.1 two weeks ago until my insides ruptured. So instead of writing a review I was treated to a medivac ride to Jefferson hospital and had more arthroscopic devices shoved inside of me than an alien abduction.

That review was going to commend Gillen for filling Fraction’s gargantuan ink well with a well crafted X-story that combined my two great tastes that taste great together: public relations and mutant philanthropy (screw you, I don’t judge your interests).

Was it a good jumping on point for new readers? Uh…no. The point one strategy has seem to be hit or miss in that regard; where IRON MAN eased in new readers, UNCANNY was more the tidy bow on the Fraction gift we’ve been reading for the past few years. Now, #535, this is where readers new and returning should come back to the X-Fold. Not only does Gillen serve as a more than worthy successor to Fraction, he has made this book his own by visiting some old friends from Breakworld.

Outside of the FABLESverse I’m not one to give a shout out to covers, but this one is a thing of beauty. Everything you need to know about the issue is right there in your face. You have the two X-players of the Breakworld saga, Shadowcat and Colossus, against an epic space backdrop that lets you know a celestial come-to-Jesus is about to occur…literally. It’s also rendered in a 70’s throwback style that pays homage to, but never apes, those covers of yore.

Once inside the book, you will see not a vapor of the Fraction run. Instead of cute quip bubbles to introduce characters, Gillen pulls a surprise move by letting the…ready for it…dialog actually let you know who these folks are. I don’t fault Fraction, he brought us balls to the wall action during his tenure, but at the end of the day the X-Men were pawns in that action. The people they are was sacrificed to highlight their tactical abilities. For me the X-Men have always been one part their abilities, but the best stories have focused on the personal turmoil that comes with those abilities. Gillen remembers this fact all too well by starting this issue off with a tender moment between Colossus and the universe’s most literal cock-tease, the ever intangible Kitty Pryde.

And so the story continues: we learn that Namor is an epic douche, because Gillen writes him with a fantastic sense of arrogance. The same can be said for Magneto and Dr. Nemesis as the Mighty M tries to get answers about the Breakworld bullet Kitty Pryde rode like Slim Pickens when she phased the bullet and saved the earth from the colossal mamajamma.

We haven’t seen any Breakworld news since that fateful return and really haven’t delved into this mythology in any great detail since way back in Whedon’s ASTONISHING. Colossus has always been given a rough shake of things and even though Breakworld resurrected him, it came with the price of becoming their lord and savior. He turned his back on this offer those oh so many months ago and now the disciples have come to find their savior.

What I loved best about this issue is Gillen taking the X-Men back into the world of clandestine operations. When the Breakworld ship enters earth’s tracking space the secret space protection agency, S.W.O.R.D, decides to skip inciting the hysteria that would come with assembling a team like the AVENGERS and instead uses the X-MEN how they are used best – in the shadows. Granted, it also helps that the X-MEN have a better history with this warrior race than anyone else.

Gillen and Dodson have not only crafted a great one-off issue, this is the first time since the whole Utopia, battle for Hope that I am salivating for the next issue. I’m also tickled pink to see big changes coming for the world of X once AGE OF X comes to a close. It looks like the mutant population expansion of Morrison’s run is finally put to bed and the woe over the scarcity of mutants from HOUSE OF M is also at its end. Yes, there are only a few mutants in the world, but numbers don’t always equal power. I’ll take a handful of well fleshed three dimensional characters any day over an army of faceless mutant fodder.

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.


Advance Review: In stores today!

INVINCIBLE #79

Writer: Robert Kirkman
Penciler: Ryan Ottley
Inker: Cliff Rathburn
Publisher: Image Comics
Reviewer: Johnny Destructo


I love Fat Eve. Big boned Eve? Husky Eve..? Eve Squared! However you put it, she's great. Not since the great Terry Moore have I seen a comics writer do something realistic regarding a woman's figure in the comics medium. And having dated a size-fluctuating red-head in the past, this really hit home, both with the dialogue and the emotions involved. Eve's self-conciousness and embarrassment, Mark's assurances that he loves the way she looks, it's all note-perfect. This is a touchy subject for woman...hell, for men too. Dealing with our weight, especially as Americans, can be a life-long struggle, and I'm glad that Kirkman decided to tackle it belly-on in this book. While the action of Invincible is fantastic, it's the realistic drama of the supporting cast that really has me returning on a monthly basis, and this is a fantastic example.

I have to say that after the devastating Viltrumite War, it's nice to have an issue of down time. But, per usual, for Kirkman, even the down-time issues are bomb droppers. Mark disappearing for over 10 months has had a tangible and lasting effect on his loved ones, and it's an absolute blast to read! There are a ton of little moments sprinkled throughout this issue which, when combined, are as dramatic and intriguing as the bloody, casualty-heavy war that just ended last month.

Ryan Ottley, inked by Cliff Rathburn is a thing of beauty as well. They are a perfect team, making this one of the pretties damn funny books on the shelves. They do a great job keeping Eve's facial structure under all that extra weight. A lesser artist wouldn't be able to pull that off, but they've done it here. She's still the same elegant and beautiful character, there's just more of her now.

THAT said...how come she's skinny Eve on the cover??? I guess they didn't think people would buy this issue if there was a sizable girl on the cover?? That's a little disappointing. I do love the little nods in the background though. The Abe Lincoln bust, the Science Dog toys. The references to Sea Bear and Grizzly Shark? Awesome!

If you haven't read Invincible, now's the time, people.

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.


SUPERMAN #710

Writers: J. Michael Straczynski & Chris Roberson
Artists: Eddie Barrows & Travel Foreman
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: KletusCasady

This is issue was pretty good aside from the weird narration from Supes & Bats.

“Remember when we did this?”

“Yeah I do…then you said…then I said”

“But the thing was that I was wearing slacks while you had trousers…that’s when the trouble started…”

The story was definitely entertaining BUT…and I’m not a continuity Nazi …but for the purposes of this review let’s say I am…if Bruce Wayne met Clark Kent BEFORE either of them had adopted their superhero personas and fought along side each too using their unique skills, doesn’t that negate them meeting for the first time and not knowing who the other one was? I mean it’s pretty obvious who these guys would end up being after seeing each other in action…right?

Also it implies that Bruce Wayne got his idea for the Bat theme in Nanda Parbat rather than in his study when the Bat flew through the window…hmmm.

They do mention the Magpie issue of John Byrne’s run but at that time they didn’t know each other secret identities either….hmmm.

I enjoyed this issue, really I did, but there was a nagging, tingling, scratching feeling where my spine meets my skull that said, “Kletus…somethin’ ain’t right!”

The art from Travel Foreman was good and looked kinda like McNiven on NEMESIS (not McNiven’s best work but still good). The last thing Bats says to Supes is pretty cool and should be heeded by those who want to make a ‘Darker’ Superman movie (or comic).

The best issues of this run have been when Superman interacts with another hero, showing what makes Superman unique, and this issue pretty good in that sense; I just wish they would have tweaked a few things to fit better with the things we’ve come to accept as canon BUT I don’t read SUPERMAN that much so I really don’t care …just nit picking again.


Advance Review: In stores today!

MALIGNANT MAN #1 (of 4)

Creator & Story: James Wan
Writer: Michael Alan Nelson
Art: Piotr Kowalski
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Reviewed by: Irish Rican


James Wan, the man behind the SAW series, has written a comic book. I'm not a big fan of SAW. I must admit that the horrid acting of Cary Elwes in the first film is so engrained in my mind that it almost makes me gag even when I watch 'betterer' Elwes films like HOT SHOTS or PRINCESS BRIDE. I have yet to see Wan's newest director effort, INSIDIOUS, so I'm not sure if he's redeemed himself from the god-awful DEATH SENTENCE flick. Luckily, writing-wise, he's hit the mark with BOOM!’s MALIGNANT MAN. The comic follows not a spandex-clad superhero but a cancer patient named Alan. Not only does it totally suck to have cancer but Alan has just been given a couple weeks to live. It's a horrible fate to a man who appears to be pretty young. We can certainly empathize with Alan as he lives a horrible fate usually not seen in a comic book world.

A chance encounter has Alan playing a hero and because of that winding up back in the hospital with some gunshots. The funny thing is, Alan has never felt more alive and there's good reason for this. Do we get to find out the reason? Absolutely. Do I get to tell you in a comic book review? Absolutely not.

The comic itself is short on story but long on plot. What I mean by this is by the time he realizes what is happening we are already at the end of the book, faced with our first cliffhanger. It doesn't make for a great review of the plot but the book itself does a wonderful job drawing you into a world about this cancer patient who is far beyond what he seems to be.

Wan, working with writer Michael Alan Nelson, has done something he's never truly done with his movies: he's drawn me in. It's not to say that SAW wasn't interesting, but the wooden acting did little for me. Piotr Kowalski's drawings did much more than Kevin Bacon or Cary Elwes could ever do. From the lonely life of someone dying of cancer to a hospital shootout that sees Alan and a mystery woman being chased by sinister knife-wielding baddies, the art on the book is well done from start to finish. It brings this world to life and aptly so.

Horror fans might greatly disagree with my SAW assessment but MALIGNANT MAN has succeeded in me wanting to know the entire story. MALIGNANT MAN is an incredibly fun horror/sci-fi/action book that easily distinguishes itself from the rest of BOOM! Studios’ other books. It's a solid read and if that's what you are looking for, this book is for you. As long as Cary Elwes isn't onboard for the rest of the series I'll be happily reading the rest of this series.

Ryan 'Irish Rican' McLelland has worked in movies and comics journalism for the past several years before joining the @$$holes here at AICN. Ryan’s comic work has already graced comic shelves with GRUNTS: WAR STORIES, Arcana’s PHILLY, and THE SENTINELS ANTHOLOGY. He rarely updates his blog but when he does it can be read at www.eyewannabe.com and his "weekly" webcomic RETALES can be found at here.


27 (TWENTY-SEVEN) #1-4

Writer: Charles Soule
Artist: Renzo Podesta
Publisher: Image Comics
Reviewed by Humphrey Lee


This is another book I really had planned to revisit for this site but that unfortunately also fell victim to a lack of time to be @$$hole productive. So I figure, what the hell, if I’m playing catch-up then I may as well do it with some books that I think should get some deserved coverage (and is currently solicited in TPB form right now). Besides, it seemed fitting that this initial volume be given some time to run its course, given the ambition behind the premise. Essentially the matter was whether or not, like the musical subject matter within its pages, would 27 flourish, or would it collapse under its own weight.

The short of it is that it didn’t. Crumple that is. What started off as a strong premise continued to build an interesting mythos around itself using some of the most prolific musical artists of all time. That premise (cue the exposition music) revolves around Will Garland, a rock singer/writer/guitarist superstar whose career hits a wall as he comes down with crippling nerve disease in his hand. All of this ties into and revolves around a core idea that reaching the age of 27 for some of the largest of all time – Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, etc. – was also the downfall of them, with Will being no exception. Thus the quest for reclaiming his hand and his rock stardom began.

What I liked the most about this first arc of the 27 story was that is was just that - an arc - for the character and the forces that Soule is playing with in its pages. What is obviously a premise based in supernatural elements kicks off with a science experiment that Will foolishly partakes in with hopes of restoring his hand. Obviously that blows up, literally and figuratively, in Will’s face, but it adds depth to an “origin” that looked to be very lopsided in its execution. As the situation behind Will’s condition starts to unfold, and those supernatural forces make themselves known (hint: think creatively) the path that Will is on appropriately adopts a bit of a surreal aura. The journey that Will takes in this regard is both intriguing given the players involved and a great showcase for Podesta’s artistic strengths.

Another aspect of what I meant by “character arc” is that this first book of 27 is almost an abbreviated and randomized “five stages of grief” for Will over his hand and career. The “acceptance” aspect is obviously a little flighty though, given that there will be more to come and test Will and his newfound abilities gain from the recovery attempt made in the first issue. But the point remains that in four issues we saw a character that could have easily just be portrayed as successful and brash turned out to be not so much early on and evolved from there. There is a certain air of arrogance about him throughout, that is true, but some of his other unsavory traits abide as his circumstances and “power” grows.

27 is a story of desperation and growth and a love of one’s craft. Will Garland is a character that you may not necessarily like up front with his brashness but at least is sympathetic in his plight and becomes more “endearing” as his saga starts to play out. The artistic style of Renzo Podesta is similar in that it grows on you. It’s an “edgy” and abstract style that really pays off when the book goes supernatural and mystical, though I will say that sometimes the facial expressions might be too embellished for their own good. But it does work well with the story and the story works well within the framework that it has set for itself, which is a real world plight of a man that is basically handed the short end of otherworldly circumstance. Altogether it’s a strong start for a series and is rife with potential that I fully intend to stick around and see how it is met and would, of course, invite others to take a chance on in TPB form to see for themselves.

Humphrey Lee has been an avid comic book reader going on fifteen years now and a contributor to Ain't It Cool comics for quite a few as well. In fact, reading comics is about all he does in his free time and where all the money from his day job wages goes to - funding his comic book habit so he can talk about them to you, our loyal readers (lucky you). He's a bit of a social networking whore, so you can find him all over the Interwebs on sites like Twitter, The MySpaces, Facebookand a Blogger Account where he also mostly talks about comics with his free time because he hasn't the slightest semblance of a life. Sad but true, and he gladly encourages you to add, read, and comment as you will.


Advance Review: In stores today!

SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #1000

Writer: John Ostrander
Pencilers: Todd Nauck & Michael Ryan
Inkers: Mark Pennington & Victor Olazaba
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Johnny Destructo


I haven't read any of the other Marvel Issue 1000 installments, and I don't know what the point of them is supposed to be. I'm also not too certain as to why they chose to do an issue 1000 of SPECTACULAR Spider-Man, since that particular adjective hasn't been used for a Spider-Man book in quite a bit. I do love me some Spider-Man comics though, and figured...Spidey's been really good lately, maybe this will follow suite. Sadly, no.

So, this issue is basically an after-school special. Drugs are bad, peer pressure is bad. Jocks are bad and if they bully people, nerds will bring guns into school and that also...is bad. Oh, and bullies are bullies because their dads don't love them enough. I've been reading iterations of this Spider-Man filler issue ever since I was a wee lad, and I just don't care anymore. This issue was written for the sole purpose of teaching a lesson, which a LOT of comics do and have done for decades. The problem here is that the issue just reads like a PSA with The Punisher thrown in. It's meat-fisted and stale.

The only thing memorable about this one is the cover. Paolo Rivera provides a beautifully done image, that at first glance looked pretty basic, but then I noticed something. We've seen Frank Castle pinned down, taking cover, while unseen assailants fire from off-panel time and time again. The tiny little touch that makes this cover noteworthy is that while The Punisher is dropping a clip out of his side-arm and grabbing for another clip to reload...Spidey is doing the exact same thing at the same time, but with his web-shooters. His spent cartridge is popping out of the apparatus, while Spidey prepares a fresh cartridge for thwippin'. Maybe I'm easily amused, but I thought that thoughtful little touch added something special and placed me, as the viewer, directly into the moment with the characters.

If only issue followed through on the promise of the cover.


INVINCIBLE ULTIMATE COLLECTION Vol. 6

Written by: Robert Kirkman
Illustrated by: Ryan Ottley and Corey Walker
Published by: Image Comics
Reviewed by: superhero


Damn it. Now I have to wait another year for the next volume.

Every time I read one of these INVINCIBLE collections it reminds me why I loved superheroes. It brings me back to a time where superhero books just filled me with excitement. I get giddy reading these books and with this particular volume, as soon as I picked it up, I could not put it down.

Volume six of the hardcover INVINCIBLE saga just starts to kick ass right out of the gate. It starts with an INVINCIBLE doppelganger invasion and just continues to move on from there. This is epic superhero storytelling full of combat on a huge scale mixed with delicate and well thought out characterization. Honestly, I think that this has been the best volume to date. So much happens in this book that I just kept wondering how Kirkman kept it coming and was able to keep it fresh at the same time. I’ve been reading superhero books most of my life and Kirkman’s able to take stuff that I should consider standard superhero stuff that I’ve seen over and over again and make it seem completely vibrant and original.

This book is so good that each new release is quite literally my most anticipated book of the year. I scan Amazon almost every month when spring rolls around to find out when the newest edition is coming out. It’s that good and it pretty much never disappoints. Everything about this book is well done. Beyond the writing the artists are just terrific. I am beyond envious of Ryan Ottley’s talent. The guy can draw and every page just crackles with an energy that I don’t see in a lot of comic book pages. From epic slamdowns to quite character moments, Ottley’s just got the goods and his art is superhero art the way I remember it being when I was younger. Vibrant and dynamic. The fill in chapters by co-creator Corey Walker don’t disappoint either. His artwork is just as crazily energized as Ottley’s and just as expressive. Both of these artists make INVINCIBLE perfect superhero art candy.

It would be neglectful of me not to mention the colorist of INVINCIBLE. The book’s colors are fantastic. The coloring adds a huge amount to the visual appeal of INVINCIBLE. It’s a unique range of colors that make the book stand out from other comics that I see these days. It adds a pop to the pages that help keep your eyes drawn to the page and engaged in the story.

If you haven’t been able to tell yet, I loved this book. INVINCIBLE is the only superhero book that I look forward to with real anticipation these days. Every time I read one of these collections I’m tempted to pick up the book in single issues. But that would kill the sheer joy I get whenever I crack open one of these hardcovers and just get a huge, fantastic dose of INVINCIBLE greatness. Yeah, I have to wait about a year between books but, dammit, the wait is worth it.


ULTIMATE COMICS SPIDER-MAN #157

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Mark Bagley
Publisher: Ultimate Marvel Comics
Reviewer: KletusCasady


I have to admit, I have a love/ hate relationship with Bendis. He’s a good writer, there’s no doubt about that, and his ideas are pretty awesome, but there’s just some aspects of his comics that kind of rub me the wrong way.

First thing is, I think a lot of times he talks too much…there are some issues that just have waaaay too much exposition. I feel like one of the challenges in writing a comic book is finding a concise way to say something that leaves the impact you intended without bogging people down with giant speech balloons and many times Bendis ignores this in lieu of squeezing “witty” dialog in to a scene. My second gripe…characters voices, namely, The Avengers. I love all the characters in this book, I really do, but I wish they didn’t all sound exactly the same and the only people you can separate by dialog alone is Spider-Man because he’s basically a jackass with little to no worth to the team (which sucks because he could be a valuable asset rather than a wise cracking idiot) and Luke Cage because he talks like he just stepped out of a blaxploitaion movie (which is by no means the way ANYONE talks nowadays) and SECRET INVASION was dull and uneventful…ok I’m done…with that said I have tons of respect for anyone in the comic biz because one day ol’ Kletus would like to be there and have people like myself criticize my writing which I probably wouldn’t read.

On the flip side of that coin, when Bendis is on, the guy is red hot and ULTIMATE COMICS SPIDER-MAN is a prime example of that (other examples include HOUSE OF M, SIEGE {mostly because of the length}, Avengers Disassembled, Illuminati, DARK AVENGERS, the beginning of the old NEW AVENGERS…I’m sure there’s more but I just saw Iron Maiden so my brain is trying to make new room for the awesomeness I witnessed). I can say with confidence that I have yet to read a bad issue of USM, maybe a slow issue or two but for the most part this comic fires on all cylinders, damn near every time.

This DEATH OF SPIDER-MAN has been interesting because it’s different than many other ‘Death of’ books. Most of the time a ‘Death of’ books involves one threat that looms over a hero’s head like the sword of Damocles, only to inevitably have that sword fall killing our hero at the conclusion of the story or there’s some fake way of not actually killing them (see Invisible Woman--Mark Millar’s run). The last few months of Ultimate Spider-man stories have had multiple threats, all with the ability to kill our teenage hero in a multitude of ways. The most recent issues have been about showing that this young kid from Queens imbued with the proportionate strength and speed of a spider might be a tad bit over his head. Which kind of made me think that MOST heroes are in over their heads and a high school kid, no matter how strong, may not be emotionally (or physically) able to deal with certain things heroes have to deal with such as death, threats to family and friends, constantly having to fight someone or something all while trying to keep people alive could take its toll on even the greatest hero. That’s one of the major differences between this Spider-Man and the current 616 Spidey in that there’s more of an emphasis on the struggles a high school kid experiences with all this pressure mounting on him to not only do good in school but maintain relationships and fight super criminals on top of that.

One book that comes to mind (you guys can decide which is better) that also has a similar theme is INVINCIBLE where the interpersonal moments have as much gravity as a fight scene. At first this approach threw me off because I wanted fights, I wanted to see Doc Ock, I wanted to see all the things that made the 616 Spider-Man so cool BUT this is not him and over time I grew to realize that this is more of an in depth character study on the world of Superheroes from a young kid’s perspective which requires those smaller moments to take importance first and foremost thus making the Super heroics have a little more gravitas than say a book like AVENGERS. Yeah the time/ space will cease to exist if you don’t stop whoever but really…why would that concern me? Time/space collapsing? How can I even pretend to be concerned with that…even if I was what could I do? Now the trials and tribulations of a high school kid that may not make it to graduation because his once best friend’s dad is a fucking maniac Goblin man bent on revenge who actually knows his secret identity and has recently escaped from custody, all the while that kid is being trained by a the premier superhero team that’s got more infighting than his entire high school put together (and that’s just the tip of the iceberg) now that my friends, interests me.

Throughout this issue I really felt a sense of impending doom, especially when Peter comes home to tell Aunt May and Gwen to go somewhere safe and the conversation that erupts is why Bendis has one foot on the love side of our love/ hate relationship. Seeing Peter tell Aunt May that he HAS to go help and that he can’t come with them is one of the strongest moments in this book and showed progress in Peter and May’s relationship because she finally understood why Peter can’t just stop being Spider-Man. As far as the death goes you’ll have to read the book to see what happens but it’s pretty unexpected and while I’m not sure if this is what kills him, it seems that it contributes in some way to his downfall.

The art in this issue is fucking stellar and I realized that I really miss Mark Bagley on this book (and at Marvel in general) and this isn’t to say the other artists aren’t good but Bagley was genetically engineered to draw Spider-Man. From the emotions to the action to…well every damn thing in the book looks good and I guess it took a few issues with other artists for me to really appreciate his work on USM. I’m not sure if it was his work on JLA or if his time away has made him miss drawing Spidey, but his art looks better than ever…{sniff}…{sniff}…I miss you Bags {wipes eyes, blows nose, doesn’t wash hands}.

This is easily one of the best issues of USM I’ve read and I’ve been reading since about issue 30 or so. Everything comes together really nice in this issue from the tie in with the ULTIMATES, to Aunt May’s maturity about Peter’s compulsion to do the right thing, to the art work…This is a damn fine issue. This is one of those books I buy as soon as it comes out and read as soon as I get home. This book is easy to overlook mostly because the quality is so consistently high that that there are times that you may not notice how great this book is until you miss a couple issues, read something you’re not thrilled about, then come running back to this book like that ex-girlfriend that did that thing that your new girlfriend refuses to or just won’t do…you know what I’m talking about. Seriously, if you want a consistently great comic book every month, go no further than this book.



Every comic shop has them… battered long boxes jam-packed with dog-eared titles ranging from forgotten heroes of the 1970s to multiple copies of chromium-covered “collector’s item” comics from the Big Bust of the 1990s. But if you are patient, and dig deep enough, you just may find something special…

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA: Post-Detroit, Pre-International #246-261 (1985-1987)

Writers: Gerry Conway, J.M. DeMatteis
Penciler: Luke McDonnell
Inkers: Bill Wray, Bob Smith
Published by: DC Comics
Rescued from Obscurity and Reviewed by: BottleImp


There are certain moments, certain events in the history of comic book publication, that are so unbelievably awful that they elicit grimaces of disgust and/or snorts of derision from even the most forgiving reader. THE DARK KNIGHT STRIKES AGAIN. The Clone Saga. Anything by Rob Liefeld. And, of course, Justice League Detroit.

Definitely one of the lowest points in the long life of DC’s premiere super-team, the Detroit era seemed to be an attempt at fusing the social commentary of Denny O’Neil’s groundbreaking comics of the 1970s with the Marvel signature of a ragtag bunch of misfits who fight as much with each other as they do against criminals. The roster included founders Aquaman and J’onn J’onnz, the Martian Manhunter, B-Listers Zatanna and the Elongated Man, and a quartet of new heroes: Steel, Vixen, Gypsy, and perhaps the most infamous, the Latino breakdancer Vibe. Frankly, it didn’t work. DC decided to move the League out of Motor City, but the move came too late to save this incarnation, and a little over a year later, the Justice League of America was no more.

Here’s the thing, though: for that brief period of time between Detroit and Giffen and DeMatteis’ revamp, JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA was a really good comic. Seriously. Yes, the characters were still mostly C-Listers (even Aquaman had buggered off earlier), and yes, Vibe was still ridiculous (though writer Conway made vast improvements by excising the breakdancing and losing the cringe-inducing Hispanic patois that had previously been peppered throughout Vibe’s dialogue), but the stories returned the grander scale that always worked best with the JLA. The artwork stood out from the usual stuff on the stands, thanks to the combination of McDonnell’s strong page designs and drawings and Wray’s rich, dark inks. These two gave the Justice League a depth and a darker edge that added a hitherto absent sense of drama and tension to the tone of the comic.

This moodiness worked especially well with the first post-Detroit storyline. Issues #247-250 see the League return to their underground sanctuary outside New York City, only to find an alien creature living there—one who begins to feed off the life-force of the Leaguers (if this seems familiar, it’s because I mentioned this story arc in last year’s Halloween column). #250 also brought Batman back onto the team, ostensibly to help train the fledgling heroes to reach their full potential, but more importantly, to give a little A-List cred back to the team.

Issues #251-254 are probably the most important in terms of their legacy in the DC Universe, in that Conway and artist McDonnell introduced their new version of the classic JLA foe Despero. Transformed from a more intellectual, scheming villain into a seemingly omnipotent powerhouse, the new Despero took on the League in a slam-bang battle, dramatically rendered by McDonnell and inker Wray. Though seemingly destroyed in #254, this incarnation of Despero returned in Giffen and DeMatteis’ run, albeit in a more monstrous form drawn by Adam Hughes, and has since become a major nemesis in the JLA title over the years.

The next story arc is less external conflict and more internal trippyness, as the League attempts to rescue Zatanna from a cult attempting to elevate humankind to higher levels of consciousness. The cult leader ends up attaining a one-ness with the universe that threatens to destroy all of reality, forcing the Martian Manhunter, Zatanna and Gypsy to enter his mind in an attempt to save the universe from the leader’s madness. It’s not the classic comic action that was on display during the Despero arc, but a more cerebral exploration of psyche that reminds me of the later work of Alan Moore in SWAMP THING or Neil Gaiman’s SANDMAN.

This version of the team comes to a close with the final story arc beginning in issue #258, appropriately titled “The End of the Justice League of America.” Professor Ivo, another old enemy from the League’s rogues gallery, holds the JLA responsible for his hideous deformity (though it’s clearly spelled out for the reader—from Ivo himself, actually!—that the scientist’s condition is of his own making) and sends his robot “children” out to destroy his enemies. Writer DeMatteis pulls no punches with this one—Ivo’s insanity is pathetic and horrifying all at once, J’onn J’onnz’s and Vixen’s rage and fury attain levels that seem shocking for the time in which this comic was written (though par for the course for today’s market), and Steel and Vibe are killed off in surprisingly brutal fashions. The series comes to a close with a mix of action and melancholia, as the two heroes left standing muse the purpose of the Justice League and the never-ending cycle of violence begetting violence.

Of course, we all know what happened next, when Giffen and DeMatteis decided to take the League in the opposite direction and play it for laffs—quite successfully, too—but I feel that this brief span of time after the awfulness of Detroit and before the light-heartedness of the Justice League International, there was some damn fine storytelling that has been overlooked by readers for way too long. So do yourself a favor and scour the cheap bins for this span of issues; I found most of them for fifty cents to a dollar apiece.

And even if this version of the JLA isn’t your bag, you still have to respect the balls on DC to publish this:


How the hell did that ever make it past the Comics Code?

When released from his bottle, the Imp transforms into Stephen Andrade, an artist/illustrator/pirate monkey painter from New England. He's currently hard at work interpreting fellow @$$Hole Optimous Douche's brainwaves and transforming them into pretty pictures on AVERAGE JOE, an original graphic novel to be published by Com.x. You can see some of his artwork at sandradeillustration.com.


Editing, compiling, imaging, coding, logos & cat-wrangling by Ambush Bug
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G

Remember, if you have a comic book you’d like one of the @$$holes to take a look at, click on your favorite reviewer’s link and drop us an email.

 

Readers Talkback

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  • April 20, 2011, 12:17 p.m. CST

    FIRST is for losers.

    by Tim

    Like me.

  • April 20, 2011, 12:43 p.m. CST

    Malignant Man looks seriously interesting

    by Jeffrey

    Never looked at anything by Boom in the past, anyone have any opinions?

  • April 20, 2011, 12:57 p.m. CST

    DC has given up with Superman

    by hank henshaw

    It's not only that they retell the origin every 3 years now (never committing to any single origin, but instead having stuff from MOS run along with Birthright and Smallville with events from Secret Origins and even Earth One that could've never happened if MOS events were true)... the even bigger problem is that every new creative team they bring in, completely disregards what was done before them, and just want to tell their own "take" on Superman, only to be replaced, the next year, by a new creative team that will undo everything and start from scratch. Superman had a fairly tight, coherent, but not perfect, continuity from Byrne's era all the way to the final stages of the Loeb/Kelly run. After that: a disaster.

  • April 20, 2011, 1:09 p.m. CST

    JLA Detroit

    by You Have MY Voice

    I remember really enjoying the Detroit years. Sure, Vibe was initially an incredibly bad stereotype, but for the most part, I liked the concept of a major super-team settling publically in the ghetto. I even liked the mix of characters -- one standout for me was James Gunn (who should make a return to the DCU in some capacity), and maybe because of this run I don't think I've ever thought of Aquaman as a pushover. I remember the post-Detroit pre-JLI run, as well. The buildup to #250 was very creepy and #250 itself was treasured for Batman's involvement alone. "The End of the Justice League," to me, was pretty shocking. I remember expecting to see some last-minute save of Vibe after Part 1. And I thought if there were any more fatalities, it would be Gypsy, not Steel. To me, JLA had a pretty solid run from "Crisis" through "Legends," before heading to JLI. It's not a "classic" lineup and there isn't much in the way of galactic peril, but it's good storytelling. I'd personally love to see a TPB or two from that run. It's a shame that it gets such a bad rap.

  • April 20, 2011, 1:25 p.m. CST

    Malignant Man.

    by UltimaRex

    If the movie (come on, it's the guy who did saw!) is R/18, I'll see that first. If not, trade or back issue hunt. Invincible Collection #6 is on it's way! Yes!

  • April 20, 2011, 1:57 p.m. CST

    X Men/James Wan

    by BlaGyver

    My biggest issue with X Men as a whole is that it seems like the last couple years have had some great storylines but it's very difficult for me to jump in as a new reader. So much has gone on since "No More Mutants" went down that it's just kind of confusing. Real bummer too, because I love X Men and wish I could read it regularly. And man, you gotta see Insidious. I won't lie, I was shitting my pants for about a third of that movie. Really good scare bits even though the third act is shaky.

  • April 20, 2011, 2:13 p.m. CST

    My favorite JLA is obscure, as well.

    by Homer Sexual

    It's so obscure, I can't be sure of the writer's name, but I think it was Chuck Wojciewicz, approximately. It featured Nuke, Obsidian, Hawkman, Wonder Woman in her black biker pants, (sooo much better than her current new costume), Fire and more. That time isn't even remembered as bad, it's just forgotten. And there was a weird alien of indeterminate gender. But it was my all-time favorite in terms of characterization and interaction. Lots of romantic interaction, in a believable way. Obsidian realizing he's gay, Nuke freaking that his bff is gay, and lots of action. The art was so-so, but I loved those stories.

  • April 20, 2011, 2:16 p.m. CST

    Also, I miss all those mutants

    by Homer Sexual

    House of M seemed like some editorial decision to reduce the number of mutants. I didn't like that idea, and it also seems pointless in hindsight. Unless every single mutant is either an ally or enemy of the X-Men, the quota is kinda reached. There still seem to be lots'o'mutants (which i like, but the 299 or 199 or whatever number was so lame). I enjoyed all the training groups of little X-Men. I guess TPTB wanted to make the instructors back into the younger characters again, hitting the reset button so to speak. But I liked the mutantverse Morrison developed. In fact, I liked everything X from Morrison, except his very last storyline.

  • April 20, 2011, 2:41 p.m. CST

    Malignant Man/Michael Alan Nelson

    by RealDoubleJ

    Definitely looking forward to this. Not the biggest fan of the Saw series but knowing Nelson is handling the script I have more confidence in the comic. I seriously implore horror comic/Sandman fans to track down BOOM!'s CTHULU series overhelmed by Nelson starting with FALL OF CTHULU. A great epic of a story, some mediocre art here & there but some inspired panels everywhere else.

  • April 20, 2011, 2:50 p.m. CST

    Don't get me wrong

    by optimous_douche

    I loved the Morrison run, but like all titles after he leaves, no one knows what the fuck to do with them. Mutant expansion was great, until we started getting too many who gives a shit characters.

  • April 22, 2011, 11:57 a.m. CST

    How many vibrators has elongated man seen?

    by Joenathan

    I bet a lot. This is a VERY revealing character line. Why? The Elongated Man is like a rubber band, sure he can stretch, but what can't he do? Get hard. Poor, poor, Sue Dibney

  • April 22, 2011, noon CST

    Also

    by Joenathan

    Man, am I glad JRJR is off Avengers. His last couple of issues have been TERRIBLE. TERRIBLE. He ruined the arc with these terrible, terrible pin-ups. They were all pin-ups! Terrible pin-ups! UGh. I am glad he is done.

  • April 22, 2011, 12:56 p.m. CST

    joe

    by KLETUS_CASSIDY

    who's the new artist? please don't tell me Chaykin...

  • April 22, 2011, 4:19 p.m. CST

    New Avengers artist

    by Joenathan

    Bryan Hitch