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AICN COMICS REVIEWS: Indie Roundup! MOON GIRL! THE ABSENCE! HOLLI HOXXX! DARKIE’S MOB! Plus Optimous Douche gives a Free Comic Book Day Recap!

 

@ AICN COMICS REVIEWS! @
@@@ Indie Roundup! @@@

Issue #52.5 Release Date: 5/4/11 Vol.#9

Hey folks, Ambush Bug again. You folks are the brave ones. The one’s curious enough to venture outside of the realm of mainstream and check out something new. Below are some cool indies you might find cool. They may not be done by big names, but I’ve found in recent years, that the best comics can be found if you look outside of the box. Enjoy!

The Pull List
(Click title to go directly to the review)
MOON GIRL #1
THE ABSENCE #1
HOLLI HOXXX #1
DARKIE’S MOB: THE SECRET WAR OF JOE DARKIE HC GN
Optimous Douche gives a Free Comic Book Day Recap!


MOON GIRL #1

Written by: Tony Trov & Johnny Zito
Art by: The Rahzzah
Published by: Red 5 Comics
Reviewed by: Irish Rican


I have to get this out of the way: the cover to MOON GIRL #1 is not good. Yeah - that's not a very harsh critique but it is not the kind of book you look at on comic shelves and go "Yeah I NEED to own that comic." So here we have the idiom 'Don't judge a book by its cover' shouting forth. Here's something I need to tell you: The uninspired cover is the only dull point of this amazing book.

The creators of the book call Moon Girl 'Mad Men meets The Dark Knight'. That's a fair assessment of the book, though it's easier to call it 'Fifties Pulp meets Savage Dragon's Ann Stevens coupled with Alex Ross'. The art here is most important because this book looks like a billion dollars inside. Cover-to-cover Moon Girl is absolutely so beautiful that I immediately looked to see who did the art. The answer to that question is: The Rahzzah. What is Rahzzah? Who is a Rahzzah? I have no clue but whatever he/she/it does to paint this artwork he/she/it should win awards - just from this issue alone. The art is breathtaking, captivating, and downright gorgeous.

The story does the art justice and writers Trov and Zito don't have to rely on beautiful art alone. Of course the gimmick here is that the character is a public domain character originally published in the 40's by EC Comics. The character was co-created by the legendary Gardner Fox who has also co-created such characters as the Jay Garrick Flash, Hawkman, the Wesley Dodds Sandman, and had written over 1,500 comic books for DC Comics during his long tenure.

I honestly don't know how close this Moon Girl is to the original source material but this Moon Girl is nurse Clare Lune by day and the awesome super powered Moon Girl by, well, as needed. She has plenty of scantily clad female arch nemesis types that pop up through the first issue. The issue deals with Moon Girl's origin but just barely touches on it as the writing speeds through the story at a breakneck pace. The book is a whirlwind of spectacularness and easily has to be the best book Red 5 has ever put out. The art alone just blows away anything anyone else is doing right now.

I'm quite interested to see where the book will go in the upcoming months. If the creative team continues the great work Moon Girl will be very hard to ignore. Just work on some better covers for the title, damnit!

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.


THE ABSENCE #1

Writer: Martin Stiff
Illustrator: Martin Stiff
Publisher: Self Published via LuLu
Find out more about THE ABSENCE here!
Reviewer: Mr. Pasty


THE ABSENCE is a six-part miniseries starting with issue number one, HERO, starring Marwood Clay as a soldier returning to a small village on the coastal edge of Southern England. The only problem is Clay was presumed dead, killed in World War II. Further complicating matters is the fact that the townsfolk were kinda glad he was offed and are less than enthused to see him return home. Unfortunately not all of him has made it, as ol’ Marwood lost the lower part of his mouth below the nose. He sort of resembles that anatomy mannequin in the high school nurses office but his disfigurement runs much, much deeper.

I have to give props to Martin Stiff for serving as both writer and illustrator, as just one of those duties is a daunting task on any book but to do both, and to do them well, is truly the mark of a great talent. I was a little disappointed the comic was in black and white, as I feel like I’m reading a newspaper, but that’s just me nitpicking because THE ABSENCE leaves very little to be critical of. The narrative is sharp, the pacing is just right and Stiff has a loose hand when it comes to the illustrations. I like the way he’s able to capture fear and anxiety right out of the gate which is a considerable feat considering that you really don’t know who any of the characters are and have no established reason for giving a shit about what happens to them. Stiff makes the most of his atmosphere and shadows to draw the reader into a brilliant opening sequence that involves the collapse of one man’s world. Good stuff.

Some of the dialog is hokey but that has more to do with the geography of Stiff’s setting than his execution. In fact, I think it lends credibility to the story because if it’s taking place in Southern England than dammit it should look, sound and feel like Southern England. One thing that drives me batty is when comics have aliens, monsters and mutants all duking it out on the streets of San Francisco yet they all talk like socialites from the upper west side of Manhattan. As far as THE ABSENCE is concerned, we don’t yet understand the significance of Marwood’s return or what scars he shares with the townspeople, but Stiff has done an excellent job of giving me a reason to stick around and find out. And if you’re just in it for the cheap thrills you’ll be happy to know there are abandoned churches, Germans with hypodermic needles and gratuitous beer shots. Dark, creepy and utterly satisfying, THE ABSENCE is a self-published comic that not only meets, but in many cases exceeds what you’d expect to find from any of the big name printers. Pasty likes.

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.


HOLLI HOXXX #1

Writers: Adam and Austin Tinius
Artist: Stefano Cardoselli
Publisher: Tinius Brothers Publishing
Reviewer: Optimous Douche


So who is HOLLI HOXXX? Frankly I don’t give a shit and neither will you if you choose to traverse this imaginative indie discovery. While Holli is the protagonist in this world, all of her hotness and mystery is overshadowed by the cool as fuck world created by the Brothers Tinius.
What if gravity one day stopped working? What would happen to our world? As you would expect it pretty much falls to shit. But what about after that? As humans we feel we can persevere through any tragedy because we always have. What makes this book interesting is that we are not seeing the world directly after the cataclysm occurs, but rather a generation later. This is an important choice, because it allows the bothers to explore a day in the life of humans in this strange landscape as opposed to a day in the life of humanity.
The most interesting concept explored in this book is that once we overcome tragedy, we fall right back into our old habits. In the case of HOLLI HOXXX, we are talking about the human fallacy of greed. If you were lucky enough not to float away after gravity went buh-bye, you would become beholden to corporate powerhouses to help keep yourself planted on terra firma. On one side of the equation are the Newton devices, first starting as home gravitational units, but now being built in large scale to hopefully ground entire cities instead of just several rooms. On the other side are the Tychos, a stylish gravity footwear guaranteed to keep you moving…unless the batteries run down.

While we never see the corporate underbelly of Newton, Tycho is laid out before our eyes. Run by a man of greed and corruption, he will do anything he can to stop Newton’s ambition of a world where gravity is free for all. It’s these real world parables hyper-extended into science fiction that always make for the best story-telling. It’s what made Start Trek great science fiction while Star Wars will forever remain science fantasy. Holli’s story remains an enigma in this first volume. After being dug up from a Newton blast zone in one of New York’s five boroughs, all she knows is that she has to get to what the locals now refer to as Moonhatten. We learn Holli is some kind of creation, but to whether she’s a robot or something else remains to be seen. Again though, I was too immersed in this highly imaginative world that frankly I found Holli’s story a bit distracting.

I must also admit that not all of HOLLI HOXXX is a bed of roses. For as much as I loved the story, the art left me wanting. Cardoselli has a wonderful eye for pacing and a distinct style that is gritty and haphazard. Unfortunately there is such a thing as so haphazard that the imagery transcends into the abstract. I would also caution that gritty does not give one a pass to avoid detail. Especially when meeting the head of Tycho, I’m still not sure if this guy has an actual anatomically correct face or if he’s just a mustache with eyes. This style also hurt the book in the sense of some reveals. When Holli is making her way to Moonhatten, I felt as though I should get some explanation for the gravitational cataclysm, but it was just too damn scratchy and abstract for me to be sure. HOLLI HOXXX, is a great concept and fair mystery. The short comings on the art side are surmountable, but again, I would like to see Cardoselli try to clean things up for volume 2.


DARKIE’S MOB: THE SECRET WAR OF JOE DARKIE HC GN

Written by: John Wagner
Illustrated by: Michael Western
Published by: Titan Books
Reviewed by: superhero


In the middle of World War Two, during the Pacific engagement, a British platoon of soldiers find themselves lost and battered. There is no escape for them. The Japanese troops are almost upon them. Death is around the corner. All is lost. Until…until a soldier unlike any other emerges from the brush. That soldier is Joe Darkie and he’s there to save this lost group of helpless soldiers from the jungles of Japan. Or is he?

That’s basically how DARKIE’S MOB opens. I can tell you that from there on in it gets very interesting very quickly. The action comes fast and furious and the mystery of Joe Darkie’s intentions grows almost from the get go. This is a war comic unlike any I’ve seen since my first exposure to EC Comics’ Frontline Combat. The artwork made me recall all the work of those Golden Era war comics but with an added grit that only a comic from the seventies could have. Artist Michael Western embodies the best of what the old guard comic book artists had to offer. The action is exciting, the panel layout is compelling, and the storytelling is clear and concise. This book offers up an artist at the top of his craft. Each page just sinks you into the savagery of the combat that DARKIE’S MOB faces during their personal war against the Japanese.

And savage is what it is. Joe Darkie’s a bad man. The Punisher looks like little Bo Peep next to this guy. Sgt. Rock looks like a roly poly little boy scout when stacked up against Darkie. When this soldier goes to kick ass he kicks ass and he doesn’t hold back. Joe Darkie is a force of nature and god help anyone who gets in his barbaric way. He’s fighting a war and he wants everyone to know it.

It’s this single mindedness that makes the central character of DARKIE’S MOB so fascinating. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t want to be left alone in a room with the guy but reading about his exploits is a different matter. Each chapter almost tops the one before it and you start to wonder just what over the top heroics or what cold blooded heartless act Darkie will engage in next. Joe Darkie is definitely the guy you want on your side in a fight but, like many of the soldiers he ends up rescuing, after a while you’ll start to wonder if the guy is really playing with a full deck. It’s this insanity, as well as the hardcore action, that keeps the book interesting.

I do have to say that readers obsessed with political correctness in their comics will not find it here. This is a book that takes place in World War Two and which was written in the seventies, so there are anti-Asian racial slurs are all over this book. There’s a part of me that’s uncomfortable with that but I’ve seen enough documentaries of WW2 to know that that is how it really was. I personally think it adds to the authentic feel of the book but I will say that there’s plenty of language in here that will make a certain segment of the population out there uncomfortable. To those readers I can only say, “You’ve been warned.”

To everyone else I heartily recommend DARKIE’S WAR. It is a war comic the way war comics used to be done. It tells a powerful tale of survival and war without apologizing for what it is in any way. In a world where a lot of our entertainment is watered down it’s great to be exposed to a comic from another era that told its story with a real bravado that rarely exists anywhere in today’s comic book industry.

Discovered as a babe in an abandoned comic book storage box and bitten by a radioactive comic fan when he was a teenager, superhero is actually not-so mild mannered sometime designer & cartoonist, Kristian Horn of Los Angeles, California. He's been an @$$hole for three years. Some of his work can be seen at www.kristianhorn.com and check out his blog at www.parttimefanboy.com.


 

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY RECAP:
OPTIMOUS DOUCHE LOOKS A GIFT HORSE IN THE MOUTH

Optimous Douche here. While the rest of the world was prostituting themselves for the eye-candy of THOR this past weekend, ole’ Uncle Optimous went old school and used his free-time pass card to traverse the madness of Free Comic Day and my local comic shop. And it wasn’t all simply for the free comics. No, I view this opportunity like David Attenborough views a trip into the rain forest. I spend my time observing the unwashed masses that are lured into our land of imagination by the siren’s call of free merchandise, scantily clad cos-play chicks and doughnuts.

As much as I love free comics day and the exposure it provides this medium we love so much, part of me can’t help but wonder if there are missed opportunities. For as much as it warms my heart to see a higher percentage of people walking away around with comic books, it also saddens me how many of them actually convert into paying fans of the medium. Money makes the world go-round and an essential part of Free Comic Day should be that flip conversion.

As I traverse this year’s offerings, I will also offer some noob perspective from some folks that were kind enough to give a grown-man named Douche a few minutes of their time.


RICHIE RICH
Ape Entertainment


RICHIE RICH was my entrance in to comics. From the ages of three to about ten, I was consumed with the poor little rich boy and his uncanny ability to climb down from the ivory tower and mingle with the serfdom of society. When I caught wind of Ape’s relaunch of this title last year, I spent some time with the editor-in-chief of Ape, Jason Burns, to learn how they would make Richie’s bow ties and short pants translate into the modern age. Thankfully everything Jason promised in our interview came true: Richie is now more global, as seen by this inaugural story in Hawaii. Cadbury is no longer a waifish fop, but a square-jawed Jekyll and Hyde. A man who is prim and proper while in butler mode and a tsunami of ass-kickery when provoked. Irona thankfully lost the goofy maid uniform and is now far more Apple in design over junk-yard scraps. Reggie is still a douche Dollar is still a dog, and Gloria is still…well…still the token girl. Danger is firmly in place and so is the old Richie mantra of using keen intellect to overcome evil, but something felt missing. When I saw young lad pouring through the book, I asked him what he thought. “I like the doggie.” “Great kid,” I lamented, “anything else?” “Who are these people?” A-ha…from the mouths of babes. Who are these people indeed? Why should anyone, but old men stuck in perpetual arrested development care about this Rich Rescue? Well, that’s not really answered. One of the things that made Richie great in the past was his lament of being alone in the world and how through being a good person, one will achieve the greatest treasure of friendship. At first I thought my sensibilities were for a forgotten time, but after talking with my first anthropological study perhaps not. Action is wonderful if you care about the characters performing the action. For future issues, I think Ape needs a little more Rich and a little less rescue.

GREEN LANTERN: SPECIAL EDITION
DC Comics


All Johns all the time, baby. Like every other DC fan out there, the cover story was not what drew me into the mouth of the mall beast for my DC freebie. Nay, it was the back-up “Flashpoint” preview that made my nipples stand at attention…well…at least that was the theory. The tease was extremely minimal and a majority of the book was yet another side-ways perspective of Hal Jordan’s origin as GREEN LANTERN. Don’t get me wrong, both stories were great. Reis and Kubert drew the hell out of these something-for-nothing pamphlets and Johns once again writes some damn snappy dialog. As a fan I wanted a deeper “Flashpoint” reveal than Captain Cold is now a good guy. Truthfully, I saw this coming during the past few issues of FLASH that have been teeing up this descent into alternate worldliness. From a business perspective the layout of this book was spot-on for DC. Free Comic Day really isn’t for existing fans, and with the Green Lantern movie currently in the visible horizon, these books flew off the shelf faster than condoms in the nurse’s office. I guess if the goal is to keep propping up GREEN LANTERN, then mission accomplished. The rest of the DC line-up has my deepest sympathies and don’t worry Optimous still loves you.

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN
Marvel Comics


This is Free Comics Day done right: A little fourth wall breaking on who Spidey is now from the master of shattering himself Dan Slott, some fantastic art by Humberto Ramos, a little omnipotence on who Peter was and what his world has in store Madame Web, and some damn fine action involving one of my favorite Spidey foils, the Mandrill. Seriously this thing was a delight from start to finish. Everything you need to know about SPIDER-MAN is wrapped up beautifully in this free, but coveted offering.

Before we get into the indies a note to DC and Marvel: guys, while I fully appreciate these free offerings to the Gods of Comics, I have to ask, one book each? If Dark Horse, Image and the rest can find within their operating costs to serve up one book, I have to believe the juggernauts of this industry could certainly muster up a few more morsels. Green Lantern and Spider-Man are all well and good, but you both have big beautiful universes to share. Please do more than simply participate in Free Comic Day, truly embrace the spirit of what it’s trying to achieve. /PSA OFF.

SUPER DINOSAUR
Image Comics


While not my cup of tea, SUPER DINOSAUR is a great entrance into comics from one of the true maestros, Robert Kirkman. One part “Land of the Lost”, one part “Danger Brothers”, this Free Comic Day prequel gives you all of the required exposition to understand…well…a super dinosaur. It’s fun, it’s crisp and it’s highly imaginative. If any of the primary characters were older than junior high students, I might actually care. Also, I did not grow up with a love of dinosaurs; I was twenty-something when “Jurassic Park” came out. To kids today though, dinosaurs are awesome and SUPER DINOSAUR has the potential to be a rock star in the elementary school circuit.

BALTIMORE/CRIMINAL MACABRE
Dark Horse


Mike Mignola’s is a book to keep an eye on. Set just after WWI, all of the evil stuff fiction has awoken for realsey in the world. Eponymous evil hunter Baltimore is a man on a mission to destroy these nasties of the night. I walked into this one completely blind, so I really thought the book was going to take place in Baltimore. I was ready for an exciting tale about an aquarium and feeling inferior to Washington D.C. Instead I was delighted by this tale of a young German boy who wanders out and night and is saved by our stalwart hero.

On the flip upside down side was CRIMINAL MACABRE. The long venerable history of this book is undeniable and was certainly a delight for many long-time comic collectors I talked to. Having never traversed the book myself I was surprised and delighted by what I found inside. The idea of a modern-day detective working for what are traditionally the bad guys is an ingenious twist, especially when that bad guy is a cognoscente Frankenstein. I also love flawed heroes and the pill-popping alcoholic Cal McDonald certainly fits that bill. This was truly fantastic: great danger, great art and funny as hell. CRIMINAL MACABRE was a perfect vignette that has me on the hook for future issues, and some trade diving at Wizard World Philly this year.

WORLDS OF ASPEN
Aspen Comics


Pretty pretty pictures.

THE MIS-ADVENTURES OF ADAM WEST/THINGS TO COME…
Bluewater Comics


Uhmmm...it’s fucking Adam West, I’m not sure what else to say here. I know we tend to confuse the “art” and the “artist” as a society, but Adam West is one of those guys I’ve never had that problem with. The man is the master of camp, so when he opens this book prattling on about justice one would think this book is an exploration of Alzheimer’s disease. I also know that Adam West will appear in just about anything and everything if the price is right, so when he’s talking to his agent about the latest scripts not embodying enough justice, one can’t help but laugh. However, I don’t think any of this was supposed to be funny. Adam West transforms into a younger version of himself…mystically…and gets ready to do…something. Maybe try to finally bang Julie Newmar, I don’t know and I don’t care.

While the rest of the old Star Trek crew keeps talking retirement, the surprisingly rich and lush THINGS TO COME springs forth from the mind of Walter “Chekov” Koenig. It is two hundred years after the apocalypse and humans have burrowed underground like Morlocks to escape the poison air. Now, this new breed of cave man is ready to head back topside and see how the world has changed. J.C. Baez paints some lush pictures that hang in a dewy haze across the page, perfectly befitting this underground landscape. Seriously, this looks like one to watch.

MOUSE GUARD/THE DARK CRYSTAL
Archaia


Beautiful and imaginative, the two things a comic should always be. MOUSE GUARD needs little promotion, but this was a perfect entrance for the uninitiated. It’s a simple idea, take the world of mice and anthropomorphize them into the days of yore. Then add an elite guard of mice that must protect the other mice and you have comic genius displayed before you. THE DARK CRYSTAL was also a lush reimagination of the Jim Henson favorite. Archaia also gets the product differentiation award by sizing the book in the traditional MOUSE GUARD wide screen format.

All in all, I'm very impressed with the direction of Free Comic Day. While marketing is a definite by-product of the day, it's the most altruistic form of the dreaded M word this 15 year mar/comm vet has ever seen. In the end though it will be up to us as fans to continue championing the comic cause. I truly believe anyone who says they don't like comics simply hasn't found the right book yet. I'm about half-way through spreading my ill gotten gains to neophytes, I implore you all to pay these book forwards as well (after you're done enjoying their goodness of course.


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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  • May 11, 2011, 9:24 a.m. CST

    I completely forgot it was FCBD last Saturday.

    by Cletus Van Damme

    Too hungover from Thor, I guess.

  • May 11, 2011, 10:32 a.m. CST

    Thank you!

    by JC Baez

    Thank you for the great write-up on Things To Come, Optimus. I've been a lurker for years and an everyday reader of the site but never posted because it can be rough in these here parts! I just want to add that although I do the pencils and some of the coloring on the book I share the coloring duties with Jon Lyons who deserves props for his amazing work. I just forwarded your review to Walter. I hope we live up to your expectations with the full book and the mini-series/graphic novel.

  • May 11, 2011, 10:45 a.m. CST

    Moon Girl

    by Zitoman

    I haven't logged in since 2004-ish but I was so overwhelmed by your kind review I reset my old password to say Thank you! Moon Girl was a real labor of love. We produced three issues for digital release through Comixology. Red5 finally noticed us at San Diego Comic Con this last summer. It means a lot that Ain't It Cool News, the site that first exposed me to good geek culture and etiquette, gave us a thumbs up.

  • May 11, 2011, 12:59 p.m. CST

    FBCD

    by Hedgehog000

    I think Locke and Key was the only comic that actually made me think about getting more issues. A lot of the stuff was kid oriented. Richie Rich was way too bland, Super Dinosaur was more imaginative but still too derivative. However, something called Escape Goat was actually kind of cool. I'd never heard of it before. I liked the Spidey story but what it was leading to "spidercity or somthing" just seemed lame. Also, the idea that Spidey needs to learn how to fight is just ludicrous and it's been ludicrous every time someone tries this kind of gimmick. How many years worth of comics filled with awesome Spidey fightin' moves have we had over the years?

  • May 11, 2011, 2:24 p.m. CST

    The Moon Girl cover...

    by rev_skarekroe

    ...reminds me of something from Eclipse or First comics in the '80s. Kind of a Nexus vibe.

  • May 11, 2011, 4:28 p.m. CST

    Books I got on Free Comic Day

    by kungfuhustler84

    2000 AD Mickey Mouse The Tick Thor and Cap: The Mighty Avengers Dark crystal/Mouse Guard is the only one we had in common. I never read Mouse Guard, but I really enjoyed that little fable. I'm also a huge fan of the Dark Crystal movie, so I enjoyed revisiting that world. All five were extremely good, but my favorite was probably Thor/Cap. They go back in time and meet King Arthur! Damnit, I'm sad there's no more Thor: the Mighty Avenger. :( I'm still working through the Mickey Mouse comic but gee whiz, that sure is some solid cartooning!

  • May 11, 2011, 7:06 p.m. CST

    No love for Vincent Price Presents?

    by Gislef_crow

    Or is Bluewater not considered an indie?

  • May 12, 2011, 11:01 p.m. CST

    Kids' love affair with Dinosaurs began waaaay before Jurassic Park

    by dahveed1972

    In the 70's, many schools nationwide recognized the allure of dinos for the kids and began to use them more and more in the curriculum. and not just science class.

  • May 13, 2011, 1:50 a.m. CST

    DC and Marvel had more than just GL and Spidey

    by troz32

    Just a note of contention - free comic day is aimed at younger readers, and there were plenty of offerings by Marvel and DC to fit that bill. Someone mentioned the Cap and Thor issue, I also picked up an X-men issue that was fairly good. He predictably went for Super Hero Squad (he's 4), a young justice/Batman Brave and Bold combo, and an issue that combined three of DC's kids series. So it was more than just the one book for each (though the Green Lantern and Spider-Man were the best they had out). I can't remember who put it out, but the GI Joe comic was great fun.