|Issue #1||Release Date: 5/11/11||Vol.#10|
Hey all, Ambush Bug here. If you were to tell me ten years ago that I would be still writing comic book reviews for AICN, I’d have kicked you in the taint and called you Sally. It seems ages ago that AICN COMICS founder The Comedian wrote his first review, sent it into AICN, then gathered a handful of @$$Holes to take over the comic book reviewing chores for AICN forever more. Now, the roster has changed through the years, but I’m happy to say that the in depth dissection of all things comics, that special snark, and that thing we can only identify as sweet @$$y goodness still abounds every week here at AICN COMICS. I’m so proud to be a part of this weekly trip into jack-@$$ery and to have been a part of it all for a decade. And thank you all for keeping our talkbacks one of the best on AICN. But you haven’t seen anything yet. Our current roster is rock solid and we plan to continue to give you the best of the best of comic book reviews here on AICN as long as they keep on printing them. This week we’ve got another gaggle of reviews to read through and gab about in the talkbacks. So let’s ring in our tenth year right and get on with the reviews!
(Click title to go directly to the review)
SMALLVILLE TV Series Finale
INCREDIBLE HULKS #628
30 DAYS OF NIGHT: NIGHT, AGAIN #1
THE SCOURGE #0-4
X-MEN LEGACY #248
Advance Review: ALL NIGHTER #1
THE UNWRITTEN #25
PUNISHER MAX #13
BATMAN: ARKHAM CITY #1
SMALLVILLE TV Series FinaleReviewed by Johnny Destructo
“Whelp, that was 10 years of my life wasted.”- My direct quote to my girlfriend after turning off the television, but realizing that I couldn’t turn off the memories of all the cheese that show spread on my brain-bread. But let me be honest. Despite my hatred of all the terrible one-liners and “clever” writing that the scribes behind the show no doubt thought they were producing, I came back to this show time and time again. So clearly there must have been something worthwhile, some qualities that projected the gravity-like pull this show had on me, and that’s true enough. The show hasn’t been all bad; there have been glimmers of hope spread throughout--just enough to make me hungry for more, but I’ll save that for a future article.
An old friend of mine and I had started watching this show when it originated 10 years ago and quickly realized that it was terrible, but with the hopes that eventually it would start to even itself out and find its footing. I would say that finally happened around Season 8, wherein we finally saw a sort of Justice League start to take form, and guest character after guest character invaded the show. That was what finally made me start to enjoy the show. Up until that point, I watched it with my buddy in order to mock it MST3K style. We basically watched it to tear it apart. And I would say that as far as I’m concerned, Seasons 2 through 7 didn’t really exist except for some of the awesome work by Michael Rosenbaum as Lex Luthor. But after awhile, I could see just why he decided he needed to leave the show. His character became poorly written and there was simply nothing left for the writers to do with him.
But now he’s back, just in time to see the show reach its climax. Was it good? Well, that depends on your definition of good, doesn’t it? This series finale wasn’t the best episode this show has offered, but it most certainly wasn’t the worst. There was the pleasure of finally seeing the 10 year journey from the Smallville Clark Kent to the mild-mannered Clark that we all know from the comics, and that alone was satisfying. Let’s start with the negatives.1. The endless monologuing that everyone does to Clark throughout this 2 hour episode. If you cut out most of it, you’d have a 30 minute episode. There are even times when characters who have already monologued our ears off COME BACK and DO IT AGAIN, and say almost the same thing! For most of this episode it’s people telling Clark what he should or shouldn’t do. Hell, that’s been most of the SERIES. “You need to let go of the past Clark, you need to look ahead.” “Wait, what are you doing Clark, you have completely let go of your past, and are only looking to the future. You need to remember where you came from.” So on and so forth, ad nauseum.
2. The CHEESE factor that enveloped most of these monologues. There were really heartfelt moments in this show, especially the first Ma Kent bit, Lois’ “the world needs you and I shouldn’t take that away from them by being selfish” bit, and Lex’s nice twist on the old “a hero is only as strong as his greatest villain” speech. But as per usual, this show is rife with soap-opera quality moments that are what I like to call meat-fisted. Just a dude with two ham-sized appendages bashing a message into the audience’s faces.
3. How easily the villains of this season were vanquished. Granny Goodness, Desaad, Gordon Godfrey, and the biggest Superman baddie of all DARKSEID are all dealt with in the simplest of manners. They were basically poked out of existence by either Green Arrow or Clark. Also, we never actually SEE Darkseid himself. I was so impressed with the Doomsday makeup from before, that I was sure we’d eventually see a bad-ass Darkseid. But nope. He just body-hopped like Horace Pinker from SHOCKER, or Jason Voorhees from JASON GOES TO HELL (both of which the world is trying to forget).
4. Seeing Clark as Superman. This is a positive as well, but we’ll get to that later. The negative though is that we get really wide angle shots of Superman flying around here or there, but for never see Tom Welling actually wearing the entire suit. Even close-up shots are REALLY close up, where you see Tom’s face with a bit of CGI cape fluttering into shot here and there. Was the suit not created well? Did he just not look regal enough in the suit? What was the problem? After 10 years, how could they not show Superman in all his red and blue glory?
5. The whole LEX thing. And by this I mean Tessa’s resetting of Lex at the end. Lutessa (ugh, that name. Shudder) Luthor smears a bit of goop on Lex’s face which goes through his skin and wipes his memory. Of how much? EVERYTHING. We watch as Lex’s memory, from childhood, is erased. I understand WHY they went this route with Lex, so that he wouldn’t remember that Clark is Supe...I mean The Blur. But if every memory is gone, how is he still a functioning member of society, let alone PRESIDENT 7 years later? Every lesson he ever learned, understanding how to eat, walk, etc. He has none of these memories. I would understand if this gloop only erased the last 10 years of his life, but everything? It’s ridiculous and just provides more questions than answers.
6. The comic book as narrative device. So this episode opens with Chloe reading a comic book to her son. The comic’s name: SMALLVILLE. It shows Clark as, well…Clark, and then closes showing Clark as SUPERMAN. This one comic book has just revealed to the world that Superman is Clark Kent. Which would be fine if we were to assume that Clark has, within the past 7 years, revealed his secret ID to the world, but we KNOW that’s not the case, since we then see Clark and Lois at the Daily Planet where it’s obvious that they are still trying to keep up Clark’s secret. And why does Clark call her Ms. Lane? Everyone there knows that they were engaged and standing at an altar at one point. They’ve all forgotten that and now think that L and C don’t even call each other by their first names?
7. What’s in a name? Unless I missed it, we never once hear anyone call Clark SUPERMAN. WTF? One of my biggest curiosities has been how they were going to handle the switch from the super-hero monikers from The Red And Blue Blur (blessingly shortened to just The Blur, thank god) to Superman. How did they handle it? They didn’t. A simple solution would just to show a paper with a front page article that says SUPERMAN SAVES WORLD FROM APOKOLIPS! Written by Lois Lane. But nope. Nothing.
8. Jimmy Olsen. That motherlover DIED. Stabbed and then buried. But wait, now we have a new Jimmy Olsen who is presumably the first Jimmy’s little brother, who is miraculously now an adult seven years later, and working for the Daily Planet with Clark and Lois? Horseshit. If the actor needed to leave the show, just have him leave and then come back like Chloe. This doesn’t make any damn sense.
Well, now that I’ve spewed my venom on some of the most glaring problems, let’s get on with The Good.
1. The best actors on the show return. Annette O’Toole, John Schneider, Michael Rosenbaum. Easily the actors who have handled themselves with the most dignity even on a show that has tried time and time again to strip it from them. Bravo, you three. I’d also like to include John Glover, who was also pretty great, but hammed it up a bit too much this season. His early work on “Smallville” should not be forgotten.
2. Speedy. I liked that we saw Chloe’s and Oliver’s son look over at his toy arrows (but where was Oliver in this scene? Whatever.)
3. “See You In the Funny Papers”. I actually liked this little bit of 4th wall breakage. It’s a nice little goodbye from Alison Mack to Tom Welling, while refencing the fact that Chloe Sullivan is now a part of the DC Comics universe proper, and not just an invention of the T.V. show.
4. The effects. Seeing Clark zip around in the sky, saving Air Force One and sharing a moment with Lois while airborne and the bad-ass Apokolips planet were all pretty impressive.
5. The conversation between Clark and Lex. There was some pretty good stuff here and I love the bit where Lex comments on the way that Clark says his name. Also a nice bit of 4th wall breakage.
6. Erica Durance as Lois. When she first showed up, she was annoying as all hell. The smarmy one-liners, the way she constantly attacked Clark. But over the years, once she started to realize that she, in fact, LOVED Clark…she finally found something that she could hook her acting claws into. Especially in this season, whenever she would talk to Clark and be vulnerable, and her eyes would kind of tear up…it was actually kind of heart-warming. I could feel the love that Clark and Lois are supposed to share. She grew into a really excellent Lois Lane.
7. Seeing Clark as Superman. While the specifics of this were in my negative list, it was also kind of a rush to finally see him don the tights and do some flights. 10 years we’ve been waiting for this, and just having it happen was pretty rad.
This show had its ups and downs…mostly downs…but that didn’t stop me from watching and actually growing to enjoy certain aspects of it. I’m glad that it ran its course and finally got where it was going, and it’s kind of amazing that we got 10 years of a super-hero t.v. show that had not only our fave Superman characters, but also Zatanna, Green Arrow, Impulse, Martian Manhunter and hell, even the Legion of Superheroes (thank you Geoff Johns for being the best writer this show had the pleasure of employing), and that’s none too shabby.
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.
INCREDIBLE HULKS #628Writer: Greg Pak
Artist: Tom Grummett
Inker: Cory Hamscher
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Rock-Me Amodeo
A welcome change, that’s what this run is. Every book needs a break, a chance to unclench, unwind and have a little fun. Ever since the end of “Planet Hulk”, the Hulk books have been turned up to eleven, careening from crisis to breathless crisis, with little chance for emotional recovery. And granted, it’s not like Bruce and Betty are sitting around wondering who’s going to win “American Idol” in this issue.
But with Hulk in a tuxedo, riffing James Bond references, the stakes don’t seem quite so dire. I appreciate the change in tone, the chance to stretch between the arcs, and let us, and the characters, and the book just… breathe. After all, though the book is pretty much about smashing stuff, and always has been, it’s the emotional resonance that has drawn us in.
Tom Grummett is a great choice for this arc. He has such a magnificent, classic Marvel style. I get carried along for all the excitement and explosions without taking any of it too seriously.
However, it’s not like I can’t see the writing on the wall. All the ancillary characters on Pak’s pallette are being shoved onto the shelves (like Skaar staying in the Savage Land), while the main characters are being getting a moment of respite before the storm. That storm being Pak’s departure and the end of the series… at least for now.
So for now, I get to enjoy seeing what Pak will do with the awkward and perennial love triangle of Bruce and Betty and Hulk. Now that it’s more of a love parallelogram (or trapezoid, maybe?) maybe they’re get a little bit of happiness.
I actually hope that they CAN have a relationship of sorts. I mean, for a while. A steady relationship is not the end of interesting character development, Mephisto be damned! In fact, the way Pak writes them as the gamma-irradiated Bickerson’s, I could stand to read these two going at it for a few years. I guess we won’t get that chance. As always, a great read.
Rock-Me Amodeo is a daytime computer guy and nighttime all kinds of things. He’s also probably the only guy ever to write a book and a movie still hoping he might someday break into comics.
30 DAYS OF NIGHT: NIGHT, AGAIN #1Writer: Joe R. Lansdale
Art: Sam Kieth
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Reviewer: Ambush Bug
It’s been a while since I’ve visited the 30 DAYS OF NIGHT world. I believe it might have been since the second miniseries, which is actually ages ago, I guess, since there have been scores of miniseries and two movies in the interim. The original miniseries was a perfect example of how to do a horror comic. Steve Niles horrifically simple premise of setting a vampire story in a town shrouded in an entire month of darkness and snowfall was sheer genius. Add Ben Templesmith’s gothic and harrowing artwork and a horror classic was born. Since the initial series, it appears the toothy vampires are still around causing all kinds of carnage and though Niles and Templesmith aren’t a part of this new miniseries, IDW has placed the premise in the capable hands of horror scribe John R. Lansdale and master of surreal, Sam Kieth. Just hearing the lineup of creators attached to this miniseries intrigued me as I cracked open the cover.
NIGHT, AGAIN begins in 1943 as a Nazi submarine makes it’s way through icy waters and fires an unarmed torpedo into an iceberg. The captain makes the ominous entry in his log that he hopes the ice will hold the cargo inside. Skip ahead to Barrow, Alaska, 2004 as a group of toothy vampires drink heartily from a nailed up victim and what looks like the survivors of the last Barrow 30 Days Massacre trek across the snow as the sun begins to peek over the mountains. As the vamps retire and the survivors leave to get reinforcements, a research team come across something in a floating iceberg. Guess what it is? Damn that global warming! Lettin’ loose all of those Nazi submarine torpedo caskets! Why I oughta!
The set up is gory fun with two armies (the vamps and the survivors) both out for blood with a research team and whatever the hell is in that torpedo casing in the middle. This issue reeks of setup, but the setup is good here, pushing the tension to the max and heightening my expectations for the rest of the series. Lansdale does a good job with both the minimal dialog and leaving the panels free for Sam Kieth to go nuts with his own picture storytelling.
Having been a fan of Sam Kieth’s from way back (I was one of those who loved that Hulk vs. Mr. Hyde on a train issue of THE INCREDIBLE HULK, back in the day), it was a joy seeing him on this project. Though his caricatured forms are entirely different than Templesmith’s (which are occasionally as caricatured in different ways), they do have that surreal edge associated with a book like 30 DAYS OF NIGHT. Kieth makes most of his panels pretty murky—another concept prevalent in 30 DAYS books. And Kieth isn’t afraid to let the blood flow and splatter in a few key scenes of horror. Occasionally, Kieth’s panels were a bit too cartoonish for my tastes, but he makes up for it when the horror begins and the fangs are unleashed. I’m looking forward to seeing Kieth let loose with more vamp action in the next issues.
As I said, Lansdale and Kieth deliver a worthy successor to the original 30 DAYS OF NIGHT miniseries. The premise of an ancient evil being held in the ice until global warming sets it free is a bit preachy, but with enough tense moments of gore and suspense, I can forgive those behind the book for getting all Al Gore on our @$$es. I’m looking forward to finding out what the hell’s in the torpedo casing and seeing more blood shed as the sun goes down for a month again in the next issue.
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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THE SCOURGE #0-4Creator: Gale Anne Hurd
Writer: Scott Lobdell
Artist: Eric Battle
Publisher: Aspen Comics
Reviewer: The Longbox Girl
Uh-oh. New York City is in trouble. We need an ex-Special Forces turned cop that comes equipped with a strong jaw line and a penchant for delivering witty quips at just the right moment. What? John McClane doesn’t handle supernatural menaces hell bent on turning his precious city into a hive for all the infected citizens that have been transformed into gargoyle type monsters? Well, then I guess John Griffin will have to do.
Without getting too much into his back story, John Griffin is John McClane, but with a fuller head of hair. He is our hero in the story and does a decent job at that. The Scourge follows Griffin from the start as he witnesses the inception of the infection that eventually threatens to wipe out all of Manhattan. The story begins with John and his dentist friend Peter Newburgh rock climbing in France, as New York City SWAT team members are known to do (we are later introduced to Griffin’s son Jon that ends up being the driving force of the story, which makes me beg the question “what the hell kind of working man that probably only gets one or two weeks off a year decides to take a trip to France and leave his kid that means so much to him behind? Maybe if Griffin wasn’t such a selfish father and took his kid to Disney World none of this woulda happened!” But maybe I just have my own issues to work out).
So on said rock climbing expedition, Dr. Newburgh comes across some mysterious purple ooze-covered cocoons glowing in the bottom of a canyon. It wouldn’t take a reader much experience with sci-fi to know that this ooze and Dr. Newburgh’s contact with that ooze was going to serve as a pretty major plot point. Sure enough, after a rather sizable freak out on the plane ride home we get the message that something is not quite right. The incident on the plane results in an emergency trip to the hospital upon landing back in the states. No sooner than they can get through the doors of the ER, Pete is no longer Pete and has mutated into some Hulk (no relation to any creature living, dead or fictional)-like creature, determined to infect anyone he can get his now enormous and scaly hands on. Thankfully John is a one man war machine and the game begins!
THE SCOURGE is a genuinely exciting story. It doesn’t take too much time setting up the background or explaining everything that is happening with endless panels of sci-fi mumbo jumbo. As a matter of fact THE SCOURGE #0 takes you directly into the mayhem with no explanation. Issue #1 takes you back a day or two to give you some of the ooze origins, but then throws you slap dab back into the heat of it all. Throughout the chaos you are introduced to other members that will eventually tag along with Griffin on the crusade to save his son. There is Astor, the wise cracking cabby that serves as nothing more than comic relief, except for the fact that he really doesn’t deliver much of the yucks comic relief should. You also get to meet young Jon’s insanely hot substitute teacher Miss Ali Cullen that has an inexplicable knowledge regarding the science of bees and strong enough upper body strength to plow an axe through a monster’s throat.
Eventually Griffin finds Jon and we can assume everything will be fine and lil’ Griff will finally get that trip to Disneyworld that he so richly deserves. No. Wait. The US Military has quarantined Manhattan and seem to be pretty upfront with the general public about their plans to annihilate the entire island. So DIE HARD meets EVIL DEAD just met ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK. Issue #4 ends with Griffin realizing he is going to have to take down Patient Zero, his good friend Peter Newburgh, who may also be serving as the Queen Bee to the thousands of infected New York citizens.
Again, THE SCOURGE is not bogged down by story and major plot points. It is just a good ol’ fashioned contagion story with enough mystery thrown in to make you want to continue tuning in. Scott Lobdell pens the script, and I have to admit it was nice to see him do some original work. While he has always done an admirable job with established characters on titles like X-MEN, FANTASTIC FOUR & ALPHA FLIGHT, something like this is a good exercise for him. The characters could use a little more fleshing out and maybe not all be so amazingly super, but perhaps as the story progresses we will discover a few flaws within the protagonists.
Eric Battle handles the art in the book and holds up his end quite well. I think the art could have been given a bit more of an edge by bringing in a separate inker because it is apparent Battle is great with design and layout, but I think mediocre ink work was sometimes distracting. Never let it be said an inker is just a tracer. It is an art form, and sadly cutbacks are forcing truly great pencillers to mar their own work just to save a few bucks.
Creator credits of THE SCOURGE are given to Gale Anne Hurd, a rather familiar name around Hollywood if you have ever seen a TERMINATOR movie. After a quick trip to Wikipedia and a few Bing searches I couldn’t find much on Hurd’s history in comic books, other than producing credits for live action versions of the Hulk, THE WALKING DEAD and The Punisher. Makes one wonder if THE SCOURGE is already in preproduction and will begin filming any day now. If that’s the case, can I throw in my vote for Jon Hamm as John Griffin right now? Please?
X-MEN: LEGACY #248Writer: Mike Carey
Art: Jorge Molina
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Henry Higgins is My Homeboy
I still don't know how I feel about “Age of X”. It had some very interesting ideas, designs, and concepts. But for every good one, there were two that bothered me on some fundamental level. Ultimately, for all its good, the conclusion was just too deus ex machina-y for me. Epilogue stories are always tricky, and with it being an “Age of X” epilogue, it gets even trickier. But, this issue actually stands up as one of the better comics to have the “Age Of X” banner on it.
Writing: (4/5) A decent sized section of the book focuses on the decision of many X-Men to erase their alternate lives, and not have any memories of the event. It's a nice touch, as such precautions aren't done enough after stories like these (it just reminds me of Spider-Man post HOUSE OF M wanting a wipe, and not getting one. Never made much sense to me why he couldn't get one). Cannonball's reasoning is a little trite, but Pixie’s interview is a nice little look into the psyche of the character. The demonic and dark Pixie of the other world was severely fucked up, but still had some things that typical teenage girl Pixie desires. It'll be interesting to see if this comes back in some way or form. The overall ramifications of the story are promising, notably a chance to make Hellion not so much of a twat, to remedy the "Chamber is a descendent of Apocalypse!!!" idea (god, but that was dumb), and a chance to return the wayward space X-Men. The Scott and Rachel conversation is probably the highlight of the book, and actually feels quite tender. I miss Rachel, and it's good to see Scott with a similar feeling.
The rehabilitation of Legion, on the other hand, has all the makings for an interesting story, but doesn't come through here. The set up is there, but it just doesn't feel right. Maybe it's Xavier not exactly sounding like Xavier, or Legion being a little inconsistent (he comes off between "repentant" and "young newbie". It would have been better to stick to one and build to the other). I don't know, so I can't really hold anything against the idea. It just doesn't feel exactly right. It can't be anything with Dr. Nemesis, because Dr. Nemesis is great.
I don't think I've gotten to mention on the site yet how much I fucking love Dr. Nemesis, especially lately, and ESPECIALLY under Mike Carey’s writing. Seriously. Everything about him is just awesome. He's a walking, talking definition of comics, and I love him to pieces.
,br>The Frenzy/Cyclops pairing was one of the weirdest, most interesting parts of “Age of X”, and it's nice to not see it brushed under the rug. It's actually played with here, and it's one of the most well written parts of the issue, as is the Rogue/Gambit section. The two reflect briefly on their time in the other world, and it's a very nice, bittersweet look at the them.
If the issue has any real weakness, and it may admittedly only be me who's bothered by this, but I'm not a fan of Magneto and Rogue's scene. I never much liked them together to be honest, and their conversation here just doesn't stand up to the rest of the story. It's full of trite little moments that have either been done better or simply doesn't feel authentic.
Art: (3/5) Molina is very...well, okay. I'm torn because half of the book is impressive. The design and look of Rachel is beautiful, and how I think Phoenix should always look. The mind wipes are quick, fast, but also very well defined. None of the characters look the same, which can be difficult in scenes like this. Some of the facial shots are cool and stylized, and the brief glimpses of action and motion are quite fluid.But the other times...the faces are very inconsistent. They change from panel to panel in such drastic, contorted ways sometimes. The Frenzy Cyclops scene especially gives her some nice little looks, followed by monstrous face Frenzy. It's disconcerting and saps much of the mood out of an otherwise great scene.
Best Moment: My gut wants to say anything with Dr. Nemesis, but the Rachel/Scott moment is really rather well done, sweet without being too sentimental.
Worst Moment: Some of Frenzy's faces. They're just that bad.
Overall: (4/5) A solid issue, with some major flaws. But the potential being set up here is almost all intriguing.
Oh, and Carey? Please write a Dr. Nemesis mini series. I'll buy every copy.
R.E.B.E.L.S. #28Writer: Tony Bedard
Art: Claude St. Aubin
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Rock-Me Amodeo
Seems like it’s my week to say goodbye to great books.
Goodbye REBELS. I think this book had a great run, and was just beginning to flesh out some characters that could use some fleshing out. Adam Strange was just starting to get interesting again. Kory really hasn’t had any depth since the days of Marv Wolfman. Captain Comet has always been two dimensional, despite getting exposure via Jim Starlin involving him in a (wait for it) intergalactic religious war. And so on and so forth.
But Bedard made me look forward to the nuances of their personality, and made me fall in love with the character of Vril Dox, who is one of the most ruthless, smug and entertaining manipulators I’ve read in a long, long time. The rest of the cast was entertaining, but Dox MADE this book great.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention what a great cast of pencillers this book has had, most notably Claude St. Aubin, of course. So there, I mentioned it, but really, hats off to him. Great work all the way around.
Do yourself a favor, pick up the trades. Twenty-seven issues ago, I really thought this would be a dud, and for over two years, it’s been the first book I’ve read more often than not.
Advance Review: In stores June 22nd!
ALL NIGHTER #1Written & Art by: David Hahn
Published by: Image Comics
Reviewed by: Irish Rican
ALL NIGHTER is a great indie film wrapped up in a comic book. It's part HEATHERS and part NOW YOU KNOW with plenty of angst and intrigue surrounded by a whole bunch of cool.
Kit Bradley is a 20 year old art student who is trying to stop going off doing petty crimes with her ex-boyfriend. The character is pretty interesting straight from page one when she freely admits that at the age of 11, she killed her mother. Not watched her mother die, not just losing her mother, but actually killing her mother. What does that encompass? Who knows - but it is the second line of the book and as we watch this gothish chick with the cool hair sitting atop a diner roof it's instant intriguement.
The first issue sets up the life of Kit Bradley. Her ex-boyfriend Dwayne still has a thing for her and a penchant for getting Kit wrapped up in his low-ball cons. Kit's two roommates are looking for a fourth thus throwing the house off-kilter long before a new roommate even arrives. We delve briefly into the past as Kit drops hints about how her mother was killed. And, because love is dumb when you are young, she goes off with Dwayne for a "big score".
ALL NIGHTER is a 5-part miniseries so the first issue does its job: it's an Act 1 that introduces the players and the beginning of the plot. This is all David Hahn's book. Literally. The man plots and draws ALL NIGHTER and you instantly feel the love he's giving to these characters. Again it is a book that doesn't feel like a comic, it feels like you are literally reading a movie. The "camera shots" are great, the dialogue is crisp and smooth, and it drew me right in.
I love when Image Comics prints nice creator-owned non-superhero books like ALL NIGHTER. They are printing this book for a reason, it is DAMN good. If you are out there looking for something different and come across the book there shouldn't be a second thought. It's a fun read and I look forward to the rest of the series to see how Kit's adventures pan out.
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.
JUGHEAD #207Writer: Craig Boldman
Artist: Rex Lindsey
Publisher: Archie Comics
While the last issue of JUGHEAD was three separate stories, JUGHEAD #207 is one long tale. Jughead goes to live with the Andrews (Archie’s family) after a fight with his Dad. Now as a huge fan of Jughead (right now I’m staring at the bobblehead of him that I have) you would think that the idea of his living with me would be glorious. Wrong! Jughead would probably be the worst houseguest, except maybe for Reggie. Why? First of all, there is Jughead’s appetite. Your grocery bill would sky rocket. Secondly, there is his laziness. Don’t expect him to work for his rent. Finally, there is the matter of Jughead’s trusty companion, Hot Dog, who just happens to have the same annoying qualities as Jughead. Double trouble.
That is what the Andrews have to deal with when Jughead arrives in “A Jughead in the Family” Part One. Turns out that way way way back, the Joneses (Jughead’s family) and the Andrews shared a common ancestry. So Jughead and Archie, who are already best friends, begin to treat each other like brothers. Obviously Archie believes that with his newfound relative it means mi casa y su casa. But Archie’s parents are less than excited to have a new son and try to mend the bond between Jughead and his parents.
Usually with Archie Comics, the artwork is consistent with all of the preceding comics. For the most part JUGHEAD #207 follows the precedent of previous artists. But Rex Lindsey does have two panels that stand out for diverting from the traditional Archie look. In one panel, Archie’s eyes bulge out of his head. The look reminded me more of a Tex Avery cartoon than an Archie comic. Then, Mr. Andrews gets steamed and you can see the vein throbbing in his head. This panel reminded me of manga or anime. There’s nothing wrong with either of these moments. In fact, I would have preferred Lindsey to include even more of them.
The story itself is typical of Archie Comics. There is nothing very extreme at stake and whatever problems there are you know will be fixed in a short amount of time. Archie is essentially the Brady Bunch of the comic world. That being said, the ending did have one unique surprise that I will not spoil. Just keep in mind that this is only Part One of “A Jughead in the Family.”
The humor was stronger in this issue than in past works. I rather enjoy Jughead’s attempt to keep Archie away from Veronica. Sure, I prefer her to Betty, but the truth is I don’t want Veronica to suffer under the wandering eyes of the young Andrews. JUGHEAD #207 is just what readers that follow the character should expect. There is nothing out of place within the canon and for the most part it looks like all of the other Jughead books. Simply put, if you like Jughead you’ll enjoy it, but this comic won’t win over any new fans.
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?).
THE UNWRITTEN #25Writer: Mike Carey
Artist: Peter Gross
Publisher: DC Vertigo
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
I implore people to buy this book. For anyone that has taken a cursory glance at UNWRITTEN in the past and chalked it up as a “Harry Potter” rip-off, you’re wrong! Yes, the protagonist Tom Taylor is the living embodiment of his Father’s Rowlingesque work of fiction. And yes, Tom has two friends that have helped him uncover the nature of his being and the nature of “magic,” but don’t think for a minute that Tom is Harry or that Lizzie Hexam and Richie Savoy are Hermione and Ron. Now, for anyone that has found the series inaccessible due to its multitude of twists, turns and cornucopia of characters, well there you might have a point, but I would also say you’re horrifically lazy. However, Carey gives that latter group a pass with UNWRITTEN #25 because in a few short panels he explains everything that all the twists and turns have been leading towards over the past two years and sets up the next year of life for our literary sliders.
Carey has used the past two years of UNWRITTEN to not only exhibit his vast knowledge of fiction, but he has done so in a way that demands to be treated with the utmost respect. As Tom began his “real-world” adventure to discover his origins and escape the shadow cabal, Carey used London and other “real-world” European locales to serve as a living Dewey Decimal system. The second year saw Tommy find his “magic” and become literally transported into the novels of yore as he continued to search for his Father and more answers about the nature of his abilities. Finally free from this typographic prison, Tom now understands that “magic” is merely the manifestation of humanity’s conscious energies spraying into the universe, and traversing this plane can be achieved as long as you believe.
My words make this concept sound hokey, so thank God I’m not the writer of UNWRITTEN. Carey is playing with some powerful mojo here that has sparked debate across the millennia’s of our existence. While Carey remains committed to exploring the effects of “true” fiction in the public consciousness, part of me has to wonder if he will ever explore the best-selling book of all time: The Holy Bible. Did God create man in his image or was it the other way around? Did Moses merely part the sea because someone wrote down that he should part the sea? And what about the Ten Commandments, probably the most powerful words ever written from a societal context? Did society follow this guide or was this guide written because of society? It’s pretty obvious from my questions where I stand on the state of the Bible; basically some nice stories on how we can all get along. This is an issue I don’t think Carey can ignore for much longer, considering the new crux of the entire series.
However, all of this is conjecture for tomorrow. Issue 25 is one of the first issues that’s simply as plain as the nose on your face. Almost so plain, it felt like an episode of “Scooby Doo”. Again though, in this simplicity Carey has built the perfect jumping on point for new readers before he goes back down the rabbit hole. Tommy’s return to the real world is so delicious I won’t spoil it here, but suffice to say the through-line of water that allowed him to traverse between literary favorites like Moby Dick and Baron Munchhausen brought him back to the diner where Lizzie was eating lunch and Savoy was watching. Speaking of Savoy, he steals the show in this issue. Over the past few months he’s been grappling with his bite from Count Ambrosio that turned him into a vampire; not only has he finally learned to cope, he’s the first vampire since Lestat that actually seems to enjoy his new blood sucking state. Blood is easy to find when it doesn’t have to be human and it sucks for sunlight to hurt, but Savoy was always more of a night owl anyway. This also helps with the erstwhile mission mentioned earlier.
Tom has returned and discovered the nature of magic (at least he believes he has – no one can predict future twists), but the mystery of who his father was and what he did to Tom still remains a mystery. Thankfully an upscale auction house is about to auction the lion’s share of Wilson Taylor’s journals and other items. The gang plans an old fashioned heist in an attempt to spend some time with these goods before they head out to the highest bidder.
To say more would give away too much of the next arc. I will simply say that the auction house is more than we initially believe and Tom is not yet done running from the shadow cabal that rules the world of fiction.
I’ve read some reviews that’s aid this issue left a sour taste in their mouth, stating the series continues to present more mysteries than answers and after three years “we need answers damn it!” To those naysayers I say poppy-cock. Learn to love the serialized medium or get out. Mystery, cliff-hangers and unraveling artistic meaning are the tent poles of great comics. Carey continues to deliver the goods on all three fronts.
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.
PUNISHER MAX #13Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Steve Dillon
Publisher: Marvel MAX
Reviewed by Humphrey Lee
Well, this feels familiar. Actually, it feels familiar on two levels, and while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, I can’t help but feel it detracts a little from something that has been a very good thing, as Aaron’s run on the R-rated version of Frank Castle has. One aspect of that familiarity is a great thing really, as it has been for this entire run, in that Aaron has completely channeled the voice that Garth Ennis put on this character, the voice that I honestly only hear when I think of the Punisher. Mr. Aaron has also done very well with his own style of storytelling and variation with this book, particularly in the MAXing of some of the Marvel U’s more influential “street level” villains. The last arc in particular, featuring Bullseye, was many levels of amazing.
But now we are back to a plot element that while we obviously don’t see all the time with Frank now finding himself in prison, surrounded by those that would massacre each other to be the ones wearing Frank’s entrails as jewelry, it has happened (recently) enough to also feel familiar. Add on top of this the internal debate that was the lynchpin of this particular issue, where Frank goes over in his head his troubled past and the chain of events playing on the idea of the Punisher being born in the blood and muck of Vietnam, not a park in NYC. Again, more territory that I feel like we’ve tread enough of in this incarnation. All of that though, covering more ideas that are relatively fresh with a mimicry voice that redefined a character not that long ago and, fuck it, this book is still great. Mr. Aaron, if for some reason you read this, please don’t be slighted by anything I just said, the book still kicks ass, I’m just saying that while I don’t mind this aspect of the Punisher being played up in this scenario again because the execution is still there, I’d like to get past it pretty quickly is all.
Yes, this issue was still great despite all that. It’s that voice again, this time focusing with its quiet rage and contemplation a little more insight into the life of Frank Castle after sheathing his bayonet overseas for the last time. The desire of his wife to ignore the missing years and the children that probably spent more time without a father than with. His “reintegration” with society is a bit more detail than we usually get and all that, it’s just at the end of the day we’re left, again, with another “Frank is in jail and he was the Punisher way before the wife and kids died” story.
Last thing to talk about - yet another familiar aspect of this run that I never want to see go away - and that is Steve Dillon and his artistic take on Frank, another definitive take, in my opinion. It’s his expressions that really carry these issues; the emotionless facial expressions in Frank that still house ungodly amounts of rage and so on. It really helped make this issue work and will be key in riding out the emotions of Frank’s past with the ungodly amounts of bloodshed I assume will be riding shotgun with his plight in the present. You can always count on the bloodshed, the last familiar note I’ll play. This arc may not exactly be what I want to read right now, but after the level the previous one played for, it’s understandable. I’ll gladly take any more Aaron Punisher that we get though (to the point where I make a rare break in my “no $3.99 books with no extra pages” rule to get it) and if the last page of this issue was any indication, the crazy levels of physical and psychological violence this current run has unleashed will be back in abundance and soon. I await this carnage with the glee that Frank will no doubt take pleasure in doling out.
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.
BATMAN: ARKHAM CITY #1Writer: Paul Dini
Artist: Carlos D’Anda
Publisher: DC Comics
Well I’m kind of pissed cause I wrote about half of this review…then…it disappeared from my computer. FUCK YOU, AUTOSAVE. Ok I feel better now.
We all know Paul Dini, we know he’s great with pretty much anything he’s writing be it a comic (his DETECTIVE COMICS is my personal fave), cartoons (do I even need to mention BATMAN THE ANIMATED SERIES?) or video games (BATMAN: ARKHAM ASYLUM) for that matter. So I won’t bore you with the details of how I have shrine in my house dedicated to him or how I cover myself in black light body paint and praise his very existence or how that one time I found out where he lived…crept up to his window…and…
oh…ummm…where was I?
Oh yeah, Paul Dini is basically the man. BUT…I’m going to rant now so if you want to skip to the next paragraph I understand…what is the point of a comic (or novel) based on a video game? Are there people out there saying to themselves, “this game is cool and all but I really wish I could read about the game instead of playing it!” I know that a lot of these games have cool stories within them but I just don’t see the appeal of reading, instead of interacting with the property that the book is based on…I guess someone does because they keep coming out…but why?!? (I realize Batman is different because it started out as a comic, I’m mostly referring to game properties that are made into comics). No offense if that tickles your fancy but I just don’t get it…However this IS Paul Dini so it’s definitely worth a gander.
Well that was pretty good, I’m not saying anyone is going to shit themselves because of the awesomeness of this comic, but it’s pretty entertaining. The story picks up right after BATMAN: ARKHAM ASYLUM and if you’re a Batman fan and you have never played this game…you should impale yourself on Ra’s Al Ghul’s sword for your disrespect to the caped crusader…yes it’s that good. The story picks up after the final fight (worst part of the game in my opinion) and the loser of said fight is lamenting about the aftermath (hint hint…it’s not Batman). Really this comic is here to pick up the loose ends of ARKHAM ASYLUM and create new threads into ARKHAM CITY. If that means I can just jump straight into the action of the new game instead of having to watch a lengthy intro, that’s totally fine with me. Basically the story is about Batman’s investigation into a couple thugs who used the Titan serum (amped up version of Bane’s Venom) for their own dastardly purposes or is there a larger plan?!?!
I’m not going to lie, this issue got me excited about the game and if that was its purpose…consider me sold. I think Paul Dini is the king of short comic stories and there’s enough within these pages to pique my curiosity as to how this ties in with the game. Dini’s got such a handle on these characters that he could write a tie in comic to a Batman hand sanitizer and the shit would still be spot on and pretty damn enjoyable. I guess if all video game tie-in comics were written by someone who knows the material as well as Dini, I can understand reading it but the ones I’ve come across just seem like a way to get a few extra bucks out of people who are really in to the videogame. Because I’ve been reading about ARKHAM CITY and have seen the trailers, I know who the man in the shadows is, so I guess being into game and its development will take away any mystery to this book but if you’ve been reading Batman for a while, you probably could guess from the clues they drop.
The art is good…but it’s not really my cup of tea. It reminds me of Ryan Ottley (INVINCIBLE, who I like), Pete Woods (who I didn’t like until ACTION COMICS starring Lex) and J. Scott Campbell (not a fan, but he is in my Facebook profile pic behind Stan Lee and I). It’s not terrible but people look too bulky at times and there are too many sharp edges but I’m really picky about art as you know.
So I see the error of my ways and how a comic book (damn, a novel though) can enhance the playing experience if only and only if a total badass is writing it and the comic leads smoothly into the next game. The jury is still out on game tie-ins that just meander in the video game universe for shit’s sake, though. Also I imagine this comic will be long gone before the game comes out because DC knows the only title with ARKHAM in it that people will give a shit about after October will be ARKHAM CITY (I plan on buying an X-Box and the game the day it comes out). I enjoyed this comic despite my dislike for these types of comic book tie-ins. I’m not sure I’d buy, it nor can I recommend someone else to buy it…but if you have the dough this IS an enjoyable straight forward Batman tale that has a very BATMAN THE ANIMATED SERIES feel to it. To sum this up Paul Dini rules nonstop, the art isn’t bad I’m just a picky bastard and I was just joking about the black light body paint.
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G