Comics

AICN COMICS REVIEWS: ALPHA FLIGHT! BATMAN: GATES OF GOTHAM! LUCID! Indie Jones! & More!!!

Published at: May 25, 2011, 8:31 a.m. CST by ambush bug

Issue #2 Release Date: 5/18/11 Vol.#10

The Pull List
(Click title to go directly to the review)
STRANGE ADVENTURES #1
APAMA: THE UNDISCOVERED ANIMAL #1-2
ALPHA FLIGHT #0.1
Advance Review: LUCID HC TPB
An @$$hole 2 in 1: BATMAN: GATES OF GOTHAM #1
UNCANNY X-FORCE #10
Advance Review: DEVIL’S ISLAND OGN
Indie Jones presents…


Advance Review: In stores today!

STRANGE ADVENTURES #1

Writers: The Best of Vertigo
Artists: Likewise
Publisher: DC Vertigo
Reviewer: Optimous Douche


I know the story of STRANGE ADVENTURES started in the 1950s as a perfect complement the B-movie sci-fi that permeated every drive-in from New York to San Francisco. But this reimagining released this week from Vertigo reminds of another forgotten piece of nostalgia from the 1970’s, “Battle of the Network Stars.” In the days before the mass proliferation of cable, the Emmys and BotNS were the only way to see all of your television stars together in one place at one time. STRANGE ADVENTURES does the same thing by bringing together top talent like Jeff Lemire, Paul Cornell, Brian Azzarello and a host of others to deliver the best sci-fi I have read in years.

Pop culture has been in a science fiction drought the past few years. Battlestar broke our hearts, Star Trek it seems will never grace our television screens again and even though Scy-Fy rebranded themselves, the movies they put out are so horrific they would make Ed Wood sport wood even from the grave. STRANGE ADVENTURES, though, is a sci-fi salvation.

The book does so many things right: each story is quick and concise, with no more than a few pages in each vignette, though these stories feel more complete than the plethora of normal sized comics I review each week. STRANGE ADVENTURES also remembers that the best sci-fi is less about aliens and ray guns and more about highlighting the tragedy and triumph of the human condition in a strange fantastical setting.

The best thing at this point would be a rundown of the awesomeness inside in this hefty 80 page (AD FREE - WAHOO) floppy.

CASE 21: Writer – Selwyn Hinds, Artist - Denys Cowan A reflection of our current dependency on the world wide web and the indelible footprints of our lives in cyber space. 100 years past tomorrow, everyone (who is anyone) possess electronic laced tattoos that give us complete access to the “market.” With this privilege, though, comes the price of never having privacy. This is also a tale as old as the bible, when one sibling betrays another for their own personal gain.

THE WHITE ROOM: Writer – Talia Hershewe, Artist – Juan Bobillo Hershewe writes a wonderful cautionary tale that with greater bandwidth comes the inevitable further disconnection from our true selves. The White Rom is essentially the internet come alive, granting every single fantasy one could ever imagine. The ending of this was sweet and inspiring in that no matter how jacked in we become technology can never fully emulate the true human experience. As much as I enjoyed this story, the art is what truly blew me away. Bobillo dances inside a bleed of water colors, yet somehow still manages to highlight and accentuate the most important details of each panel.

PARTNERS: Writer – Peter Milligan, Artist – Sylvain Savoia More fi and less sci, PARTNERS looks at the life and times of two friends; one is imaginary, and one is not. Which is which? We don’t know and neither do the characters. This was a great concept brought to life by Savoia’s pencils.

ALL THE PRETTY PONIES: Writer – Lauren Beukes, Artist – Inaki Miranda Buekes melds one part “The Matrix” and one part “Karl Marx.” In the future, the rich and affluent can jack into the lives of anyone for the right price. For some, like sports stars and porn stars, it’s a wonderful residual for simply living their lives. But when the rich decide they want to live the dangerous life of the poor, the jacking-in process becomes infinitely less glamorous.

ULTRA THE MULTI-ALIEN: Writer & Artist – Jeff Lemire Lemire is hands-down the best writer of tragic characters. He’s enamored me with this ability over the past few years on SWEET TOOTH and thankfully takes a similar approach with ULTRA. Basted in B-movie schlock, ULTRA is the story of a man who is fused with four aliens. Not only did Lemire do an amazing job of describing the agony and horror of this transformation in a moment-by-moment recap, he also deals with the repercussions of the event. Where does the man end and the aliens begin? The answer is not simple, but it is truly poetic.

REFUSE: Writer & Artist – Ross Campbell Hoarders are nasty. But you know what’s nastier when hoarding manifests itself in physical form. You just have to read this one to truly get it.

POST-MODERN PROMETHEUS: Writer & Artist – Kevin Colden Again, heart-wrenching. When a lab experiment gains sentience and then finds love with another likewise experiment, they escape their captors and set out to forge a normal life. Sadly, a normal life will never be in the cards when you are doomed to despise the very nature of your being.

SAUCER COUNTRY: Writer – Paul Cornell, Artist – Goran Sudzuka In what seems like a simple straight-forward story about a man who encounters aliens from Venus and has fantastical adventures with them, Cornell pulls the wools over our eyes at the last minute to show us we really don’t know anything about this man, his story or ourselves.

SPACEMAN: Writer – Brian Azzarello, Artist – Eduardo Risso What happens when genetically engineered humans made specifically to withstand the harsh realities of deep space exploration never get to see the other side of the ozone layer? We get a taste for the answer in this tale, but I think Azarello is holding back the true goodies for the on-going series.

STRANGE ADVENTURES tweaked both side of my geekdom. Not only is it the best damn sci-fi anthology to come along in years, these nine stories are simply comic craftsmanship at its finest.

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.


APAMA: THE UNDISCOVERED ANIMAL #1 - 2

Writers: Milo Miller & Ted Sikora
Artist: Benito Gallego
Publisher: Swinging Cane Productions
Reviewer: Professor Challenger


Apparently there was a small indie film called "Hero Tomorrow" and within the film one of the characters was trying to publish a comic book called APAMA. This is the comic that he would have been publishing. It is a full-on carbon copy of the look of your standard Bronze-Age Marvel Ccmic right down to it looking like it was drawn by John Buscema himself. The content is a bit more adult than your average Marvel Comic circa 1978, but the look of it is spot on. However, this is a web-only endeavor. The guys at Swinging Cane Productions have created a comic that perfectly blends the experience of reading an old-style Marvel comic with the digital age, replete with embedded video and mp3s within the comic. They include letters pages, bios of the creators, some pin-ups from artists like Mark Wheatley and Ron Frenz and even a surprise appearance from "The Flaming Carrot".
Their goal is to reproduce the look and feel of a classic Marvel comic but update it for the digital age. In that they fully succeed. But how about the comic book itself?

Let's take a look.

There seems to be a disconnect to the style of the comic and the writing. I found myself constantly distracted by the crude and vulgar tone and language throughout both issues. I also found the origin of Apama and the bad-guy to be exceedingly silly. Now, if I got the vibe from the comic that it was intended to be a satire or a spoof, I would be down with the silliness. However, APAMA seems to be intended to be read as a fun but straight action/adventure super-hero type comic book. By that standard, I couldn't fully get into it.

When ice cream man Ilya Zjarsky gains increased strength, agility, heightened senses, and an ability to talk with animals, he is channeling the spirit of the greatest of the land animals, the Apama. Apama, according to legend, was a tiger-striped hyena-looking animal that defeated the lion to become the true "King of the Beasts." However, this powerful creature appears to have become extinct, but his spirit is still here. When Zjarsky discovers a cave with a costume, some pictographs, and a mummy standing in an extremely awkward position, he somehow deduces that if he can stand in the exact same position as the mummy that he will gain these powers. It takes him something like 85 days of tweaking to finally achieve it but he does.

His first thought is to take revenge on the mean, foul-mouthed kids who egged his ice cream truck and flipped him off. But instead he goes off on a path towards heroism instead.

The villain of the second story, who I guess in 1978 would've been christened "Lawnmower Man", is a dimwitted jerk of a lawn mowing guy who inadvertently drives his riding lawnmower into a hidden lair where he discovers he has some kind of Magneto-like powers. He also becomes "queen bee" of a hive of "skyfish" or "flying rods." The editorial note says these things are real and I should google it. So I did.

They are UFO's for the even more gullible. Video of moths at night sometimes give off a weird image of these flying rods, but if you just slow down the video enough you can see it's just a moth. So, by asking me to google it, they kinda killed the plot just a bit.

I'm not "feeling" the love for the characters and the story yet, though. In fact, nobody seems particularly likeable to me and the conversations between Zjarsky and his rat are very odd.

Anyway, the thing is that I didn't hate it. I really liked the look of it. I like the project itself. I didn't think the actual story and dialogue was quite up to the standard I was hoping for based on the art. I do think it is worth checking out and supporting. I think it has potential in there.

Prof. Challenger was beloved by many, despised by a few, but always lived his life to the fullest. Never did he miss an opportunity to pet a puppy, kiss a pretty girl, or ignore a hobo. He is survived by a long-suffering spouse, 2 confused children, a ridiculously silly dog, and a pompous fat old cat. The things that brought him happiness in this life were his comics, his books, his movies, and string cheese. Had he passed from this plane of existence, he would expect the loss to the world to be severe. As it is, however, he has not passed and has no plans to pass for quite awhile. So visit his website at profchallenger.com and read his ramblings and rantings and offer to pay him for his drawrings. He will show his appreciation with a winning smile and breath that smells like the beauty of angels.


ALPHA FLIGHT #0.1

Writers: Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente
Art: Ben Olivier w/ Dan Green
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: MajinFu


I have been interested in Alpha Flight ever since I first saw them battling their former teammate Wolverine on the X-MEN animated series. The only notable Canadian super-team, they just seemed really cool to me, especially Puck, who I’ve heard is now dead. Unfortunately, the John Byrne series was before my time and my army brat childhood made it difficult to follow certain teams or comics, so I hardly got to see Alpha Flight again for many years. With the latest release of this “0.1” issue, I can safely say my interest in the team was not simply a result of childish adulation. While this issue merely serves as a reintroduction to the team, it’s fun to finally see the team thriving once again.

Considering this is a “.1” issue, you would think the publishers would make more of an effort to introduce the team to new readers. For example, they could have put a side bar on the intro page, with the characters’ names and pictures. As a reader who has always been interested in the team but never actually got their stories, it would be nice if the team’s members had been identified right from the beginning. Still, I didn’t have too much trouble figuring out who was who and where everybody stands in the scheme of things. The story is straightforward, as the team reunites once again to battle terror set in the backdrop of Canada’s election day. Of course, events take a turn for the worse when the people of Montreal suddenly rally against Alpha Flight. It’s a simple premise that makes for a relatively quick-reading introduction of all the main players.

One thing I always liked about Alpha Flight is that there weren’t any redundant characters. Every single character in Alpha Flight stands alone as a fully-realized hero. This is the team’s quality best preserved in the new issue. Shaman is cool and confident, whether he’s performing surgery or fighting the baddies (or both), while Northstar is just worried about the safety of his boyfriend. For me, the standout character of this issue was Snowbird, who displays how powerful she really is, in contrast to her earlier scenes. I still have fond memories of Snowbird joining Hercules as he chased Skrulls across the cosmos during “Secret Invasion”, a story also written by Pak and Van Lente that I highly recommend. The villains of the piece, Citadel and the Purple Woman, were pretty much just there to get their asses kicked by Alpha Flight, although they did present a compelling moral conflict. Hopefully the new series will introduce a more challenging villain that will explore this issue further.

Artistically, the issue looks pretty good. Yes, Sasquatch is off model. Yes, you can tell when the page is drawn by another artist, but it never really hurts the flow of the story. Special recognition goes to Frank Martin, who did an excellent job of coloring the team and managing to make those costumes look natural. Also, Phil Jimenez did a great job on that cover. Now THAT is a Sasquatch!

This issue will probably be best enjoyed by readers who are already fans of the team, which is kind of a shame since I think Alpha Flight could turn out to be a really good series some people are going to miss.


Advance Review: In stores today!

LUCID Vol.1 HC TPB

Writer: Michael McMillian
Illustrator: Anna Wieszczyk
Publisher: Archaia
Reviewer: Mr. Pasty


LUCID: COLLECTED EDITION HARDCOVER is straight from the bowels of Hollywood. Literally. It features the first four chapters of the LUCID graphic novel sewn together in one of those “high-concept” projects constructed by a few recognizable names from the motion picture and television industry. Moving the pencil is Michael McMillian, who would be known to fans of TRUE BLOOD and possibly even THE HILLS HAVE EYES 2. It’s also published “in association with Zachary Quinto” of STAR TREK fame and has a sincere foreword from Alan Ball who won an Oscar for a movie I never saw but heard was fairly good. So it’s safe to say the LUCID project has some pretty serious starpower behind it. But is it any good? Well…

Let’s start off by saying it isn’t bad. That I can say with a strong degree of certainty. It just feels …I guess I want to say “scripted.” Everything is where it should be. The writing is strong, the visuals are pleasing and the story does what you’d expect it to at the exact times you would expect it to. Maybe that’s my problem with LUCID as a whole. I don’t want to call it paint-by-numbers because that would be unfair to McMillian, who clearly demonstrates a passion for his work and does an admirable job of entertaining the reader, but I couldn’t help feeling like it was a ride I’ve taken before. The scenery had changed but the route had stayed the same. I mentioned earlier that LUCID came from the bowels of Hollywood because it reminded me of the summer blockbuster that gives you what you pay for. Humor? Check. Romance? Check. Effects-laden action and adventure? Check, check. But it’s also just like the summer blockbuster where someone asks you how it was and you say “Great!” and they proceed to ask you what it was about and you have absolutely no clue.

I do know that the protagonist, Matthew Dee, is mired in a global fight to keep the earth realm from being invaded from an alternate reality where magic men want to come and do bad things. There is something about Merlin banishing the bad people way back when but now some kind of star-gate exists that has to be blocked to keep them from coming back and oh, John F. Kennedy was killed by a magic bullet. It all sounds so silly after the fact but I can’t deny I enjoyed watching it unfold. I had no clue as to why Matthew Dee had magic powers or was a super secret crime fighter but Anna Wieszczyk’s visuals were so engrossing much of the time I didn’t really care. I know there’s a plot in there somewhere but I couldn’t unscramble it because it was like the island from LOST: whenever you got close enough to get to it somebody behind the scenes went and turned that frozen wheel and it vanished from sight.

The presentation is first rate, no question, and you can tell by the finished product that a lot of time and energy went into this book and I wouldn’t expect anything less from a project that has its roots buried in Hollywood. While you get plenty of bang for your buck, the overall experience leaves you feeling a bit confused and perhaps a little unsatisfied by its conclusion -- and I wouldn’t expect anything more from a project that has its roots buried in Hollywood.

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.


BATMAN: GATES OF GOTHAM #1

Writers: Scott Snyder & Kyle Higgins
Art: Trevor McCarthy
Publisher: DC Comics
An @$$Hole 2 in 1 by Optimous Douche & Ambush Bug


OPTIMOUS DOUCHE (DOUCHE): BATMAN has finally come home. Yes, I realize Bruce Wayne came back many months ago, but it took the following months and many precious pages to explain his sojourn through time and to establish the saran wrap of identity secrecy, Batman Inc. When I say BATMAN has finally come home, I don’t mean Bruce Wayne, what I refer to is BATMAN the character, the man who solves…mysteries…duhn—duhn—duhn. I love the new Batverse. In the past, one Batman meant a few years focusing on him as the Dark Knight (the man who protects all of humanity) followed by a few years of Batman, Gotham’s top detective. With multiple Batmans, though, come multiple titles and multiple opportunities to keep continuity tighter than a nun’s vagina while still having the essence of Batman used in whatever capacity the writers and DC editorial please. ‘Tis glorious. With GATES OF GOTHAM, Snyder delivers the same top notch mystery and mayhem he has so masterfully delivered in DETECTIVE, by focusing on a mystery and blood feuds as old as Gotham itself.

AMBUSH BUG (BUG): Yeah, I think going back and telling stories that fit in with the current storyline is ripe with potential. With so much attention to legacy in the DCU, it's a wonder why more stories of this nature haven't been attempted. I'd love to see the untold histories of other characters and cities explored, sort of like Robinson's “Times Past” stories from STARMAN. This miniseries reads like one of those, though in Snyder's hands, it's all the more scrumptious. I think Snyder's one of the best writers DC has in its stable at the moment.

DOUCHE: And Higgins is no slouch either if the credits are true about him handling the dialog solo. The deliciousness of GATES is truly one part over-arching story, but the execution is just as splendid. Now that we've gushed over the creative team like thirteen year old girls at a Bieber concert, I would say now is the perfect time to enter SPOILER country--wouldn't you agree?

BUG: Agreed--SPOILER away! My favorite part of GATES OF GOTHAM is how different the interactions between Batman (Dick Grayson) and Commissioner Gordon are. Gordon almost gives Batman orders in their brief interaction on the bridge. I love it that Gordon isn't being played at the clueless exposition spout he usually functions as. He and Batman are partners here.

DOUCHE: I've been getting my Gord-On in DETECTIVE, so this didn't really bitch-slap me into the surprise-o-sphere. Snyder not only gets the necessity of this dynamic for Gordon in the face of multiple Batmen, but seems to revel in these quiet interludes between all hell breaking loose. Speaking of all hell breaking loose, I'm torn as to which part of the book I loved more: the building of Gotham's three bridges (or gates) or their complete annihilation.

BUG: The destruction of the gates was really well done with a great sense of urgency in both the writing and the art for Batman. I also love it that they're making this a Bat-Family book with Red Robin, Robin, and Cassandra Cain. Makes it a lot of fun and it was good to see Cassandra again. It reminded me of when Chuck Dixon used to write the Bat-books and he really treated it as a team book.

DOUCHE: Right on, Bug--the newest entries into Batman are definitely akin to the Dixon glory days. Each Batbook (even this one) gels seamlessly without requiring a deep investment in every book. Even when in the past, at the building of the three gates, Snyder and Higgins are able to immediately acclimate the reader to a world that is as foreign as it is familiar. I'm also digging the use of flashbacks to unveil the current day mystery of the destruction of the bridges by looking at their inception for clues. It's a story device that I hope continues into issue two. My final spooge of glee from a story perspective is how old money warped and perverted the progeny of Gotham's elite over a hundred years. We all know what happened to the children of Alan Wayne and Cobblepot, but the third bridge built by...hmmmm...perhaps I should just hush-up before I give away the whole story.

BUG: I like it that they are establishing the four or five families of wealth in Gotham and how those families have into today's versions. I know I said it earlier, but DC has an untapped source of awesome if they would just do “Times Past” stories and link them to today's stories. It takes some mapping out, but Snyder and Higgins seem to be able to do that with ease. I can't wait for the rest of this series. Batman miniseries have become passé these days. I've skipped most of them because it seems they are just trying to fill a quota of Batbooks on the shelves. But this is a miniseries that seems to matter--one that's establishing stories in the Bat-mythos for years to come.

DOUCHE: Well, that's about all I have on the story--another phenomenal work from a talent that is on the same stratospheric rise to greatness as the likes of Geoff Johns a few years ago. However, no comic review would be complete without some talk on the art. Here I was 50/50. I absolutely adore the flashback scenes to the 1800s and the use of sepia tones to give us that old world feel. I was even enamored with much of the present day. However, and this is a small nit, there were times when Dick and Tim were out of costume that the style shifted abruptly to a BATMAN BEYOND style. It dropped me out of the book with a mere wisp of a WTF, but a wisp is still enough to bitch-slap aesthetic distance and remove one from the story.

BUG: The art was somewhat different than we've come to expect from a Batbooks. That doesn't mean it was bad, per se. It seemed to lack shading, which is ok, but really kind of took away some of the foreboding and darker elements of it. I've never heard of this artist or seen any of his work before, have you?

DOUCHE: Nay, but I fully admit that writing styles never escape me where artists always require a wee bit of googling to jog my memory. Again, I totally agree there was nothing bad about it, there were just a few shots in the Bat Bunker that made me wonder when Tim and Dick decided to throw on their Asian disguises for the evening.

BUG: Ha! Yeah, well, Cassandra I believe is supposed to be Asian, but I don't know why the rest of them were looking that way. All in all, the book is tops. Probably one of the best Bat-minis in years.


UNCANNY X-FORCE #10

Writer: Rick Remender
Art: Billy Tan & Rich Elson
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Henry Higgins is My Homeboy


They're trying to make Angel scary. Really.

And the really weird thing? It's working. Not the scary part, no. But making him into an interesting character? Yes. It's been a while since you could honestly say that about Angel (anyone else remember Austen's run?). This series has been on a rather decent run, and it'll be interesting to see if they can keep it up, especially when this issue sets up a number of ways it could shoot itself in the foot.

Writing: (4/5) Remender writes a very interesting story here by focusing more on the little people threatened by Archangel and not on the team proper for most of the book. The tale of two reporters, one with leaked information about X-Force, doesn't really serve much in the grand scheme of things. It's an excuse to really look into the dueling Warrens, and look at how far gone he is. While the story might come back down the line, for the time being, it's an easily wrapped up thread. While normally I'd rail on the story for that, I'd be surprised if it doesn't resurface, and it does lead to the main conflict.

I've never much liked Angel, or Archangel, or whatever the hell he gets called. He's just never that impressive of a character. But this issue plays up the disconnect between Warren and Archangel well, and manages to make it interesting—especially the revelation that this is all a side result of the murder of Apocalypse earlier in the series. It's a nice bit of continuity, and a cool concept. The issue manages to do its best when it lets the characters play out. Wolverine's monologue, Angels inner conflict, all the character stuff works.

Where the issue falls apart is the set up. It plays out a number of cards (Deathlok predicting big things ahead, Angel’s fate, the reporters info, moving into Age of Apocalypse) without resolving any of them. It's a pretty big set of stories to set up, and while I hope it pulls it off, I have my doubts.

The issue also has a few weaknesses here and there, notably Dark Beast (who, while well written, just isn't the force he needs to be to be intimidating) and the civilian drivers just sounding wooden.

The issue is enjoyable overall and is hopefully setting up bigger and better things. But misgivings abound.

Art: (3/5) Nothing really stands out positively or negatively in this issue. Tan and Elson do deliver some very cool moments (I rather do like Angel mid transformation, especially the designs of his wings), but the issue falters about with faces here and there. It's not an incredibly impressive issue, but neither does it have any real weaknesses, save some consistency issues. Paul Mounts, it has to be said, can draw the fuck out of Archangel though. That cover sold me more on this issue than anything involving Angel ever should.

Best Moment: Archangel’s weird WW1 Danger Room fight. It's so odd. I love it.

Worst Moment: The Brazilian Bikini Team.

Overall: (3/5) A rather solid issue that could either go really well or rather poorly in the long run.


Advance Review—Out This Winter!

DEVIL’S ISLAND OGN

Writer: Nikola Jajic
Artist: Josef Cage
Published by: Arcana Studios
Reviewed by: BottleImp


It’s a long, fine tradition using an island setting as a microcosm to analyze the human condition, from Golding’s “Lord of the Flies” all the way up to ABC’s “Lost.” Writer Nikola Jajic merges this theme with the historical backdrop of the French penal colony of Devil’s Island to present a grim story of Man’s will to survive against seemingly unbeatable odds. The graphic novel centers around four prisoners whose experiences as hunters and military men have led them to become the Hunters of the prison colony—aiding their captors in hunting down any other prisoners who may try to escape the island and its horrors (both natural and man-made).

Jajic tells this story with bold, cinematic strokes, effortlessly blending the fictional elements of his hunters and their rebellion with the historical facts of this Napoleonic prison. His in-depth description of the island and the inclusion of the factual assassination attempt on Napoleon in 1858 add an overall sense of verisimilitude to the graphic novel—it’s easy to imagine that the bloody events that make up the book’s plot could have actually occurred. But DEVIL’S ISLAND avoids the trap of becoming a dry history lesson—something that I’ve seen happen in other examples of the historical fiction genre—and keeps the action and suspense moving swiftly. I called Jajic’s writing cinematic at the start of this paragraph, and indeed, this story would make a fantastic movie. I’m most strongly reminded of films like “The Dirty Dozen,” with the Hunters neatly fitting in to that archetype of the gang of misfits working together towards their common goal, but there’s also quite a bit of Richard Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game” (a story that’s inspired countless films) in there, with the overall plot of men hunting other men.

The cinematic nature of the story is captured wonderfully by Josef Cage’s artwork. Cage’s use of heavy black areas and his strong design sense (especially in his powerful and effective use of silhouette) convey the darkness, the drama, and the grim mood of the story. Raymund Lee’s colors enhance these tones with his simple yet effective palette, his muted colors and analogous color schemes adding just the right touch to capture the emotions of the each scene. This is one of those rare cases where the script and the artwork are in perfect harmony, and it makes for a fantastic, engrossing read.

Jajic will be at San Diego Comic Con this year, so if you’re heading out that way you too can get a closer look at DEVIL’S ISLAND before it hits the stands. For fans of French history, fans of war movies, or for just plain ol’ fans of plain ol’ good storytelling, I highly recommend this graphic novel.

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 here.


FRACTURE #1 (of 3)
Action Lab Comics


What happens when an average, ordinary schlub discovers that he himself is both a superhero and a supervillain, and that neither of his costumed alter egos is aware of their shared body? That’s the question posed by writer Shawn Gabborin in this clever, “Memento”-esque mystery, as FRACTURE’s protagonist Jeff realizes that he has been living a triple life as himself, the costumed protector of the city known as Virtue, and the evil genius dubbed Malice. The darker tones of multiple personality disorder are balanced by lighter elements such as the hidden lair in Jeff’s apartment filled with nefarious gadgetry and the fact that Jeff has no clue how to utilize the powers Virtue possesses when he isn’t actually being Virtue. Chad Cicconi’s artwork is simple and a little cartoony—there are some pages where I wish he had used a little more detail or gone for a more realistic figure rendering—but his pages are well-designed and for the most part his style is a good match for the script. FRACTURE is worth a look and should appeal to die-hard superhero comic readers as well as those whose tastes run towards the more unusual fare. – BottleImp


THE MOLTING #6
www.themoltingcomic.com


Another creepy installment of THE MOLTING, a surreal trip into banal hell following a family of eccentrics, all social outcasts in some way who may have some kind of dark power flowing through the roots of their family tree. This issue focuses on a family therapy session from hell showing that the bizarre power which makes Mom so freaky may have passed down on to Trevor whose criminal behavior increases in this issue. Only Joseph, the younger brother, appears to have some semblance of normalcy, but even he is being corrupted because of familial bonds. Writer/artist Terrence Zdunich shows patience and a gift for dramatic pacing with multiple panels stretching out the anticipation and building tension between acts of horror. This being the halfway point of the series and with a nice dramatic build with equal parts psychological horror and suggested dark power, I’m interested to see how it all fits together in the end. There’s a definite BLUE VELVET vibe to this where normalcy is twisted to a surreal level. Fans of all things Lynch would love this book. - Ambush Bug


THE GATHERING Volumes #2-3
Grey Haven Comics


Here’s another anthology series that has both a great variety and a fun theme to every issue. Though a theme like Despair and Heroism isn’t always fun, it is great to see such indie talent out there itching to be seen. Although I found THE GATHERING to be a mixed bag, some of the best work is in Volume 3 with Kevin LaPorte & Amanda Rachels’ “Clown Town” which is both imaginative and shows great promise. Others like Aaron Bir’s gorgeous “Thank You” are both touching and well done. Structurally, I think this anthology would do well to have an index page identifying page numbers and the artists who did them. Usually the writer and artist is in the text, but it’s not always easy to find, and for a reader like me who likes to know who’s doing what in a story, I found the lack of a structured page to be a bit distracting. But format issues aside, this is a great collection of stories which shows that comics outside of the norm are out there demanding to be heard. - Ambush Bug


F+: ALPHA-SKETCH #1
www.alpha-sketch.com


This was a sweet and fascinating read. The writer/artist Bradd Parton tells an image and prose story about how his life was turned upside down when he started looking at the world as a mixture of shapes of the alphabet. All of the images in this book are made by combining different letters which makes for both a fun read and a fun task to scan the images for as many letters as you can find. This revelation coincides with the death of the writer’s father, so the story takes a surprisingly interesting twist. Did this new world view coincide with the death of the father, or is this new way of seeing things come as a result of it? An interesting quandary to ponder while finding all of the letters in the simplistic imagery. I really liked this unusual indie offering and if you like stories outside of the norm, you’ll find it worth checking out. - Ambush Bug


OMEGA COMICS PRESENTS #4
Pop! Goes the Icon


Checking in with the imaginative anthology OMEGA COMICS PRESENTS once again finds the usual hodgepodge of goodness. Russell Lissau gives us a thrilling WWII vampire story called “L’ange de Bastogne” with gorgeous simplistic yet voluminous art by mpMann. “Omega” gets another chapter as our team of terrorist fighting heroes continue to battle forces set to destroy the Hoover Dam. I like the way this story by PJ Perez, Victor Moya, and Merbitt is unfolding. “Cold” is a touching tale of two astronauts stranded in space with words and art by Steve Wallace. And finally, Dino Caruso, Sam Agro, and Ed Brisson deliver a derivative and clever play on words and super hero stereotypes in “The Night Shift”. Once again, OMEGA COMICS PRESENTS offers a great chunk of indie fun that has enough mainstream sensibilities to please both mainstream and indie readers. - Ambush Bug



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

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Readers Talkback

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  • May 25, 2011, 9:30 a.m. CST

    I loved Apha Flight as well...

    by art123guy

    ...I have a complete collection of all 3 series. But I just can't afford it anymore. MAYBE I'll pick up the trade. All the series seem to revolve around the Government and Dept. H manipulating the team. You'd think they'd just leave Canada.

  • May 25, 2011, 9:34 a.m. CST

    DOOM Wishes Greg Pak Good Alpha!

    by V. von Doom

    If anyone can pull Alpha Flight out of the abyss it's Mr. Pak. DOOM couldn't believe the claptrap in the last two tries masquerading as "series". DOOM's brain cells are contaminated forever by them. Greg Pak likes his characters and knows their motivations. All power to him.

  • May 25, 2011, 9:59 a.m. CST

    X-Force cover artist is Esad Ribic...

    by Peter

    ...not Paul Mounts. And while Mounts is a good colorist, to me what's really been giving X-Force it's awesome feel is the painterly blue and purple color palette of Dean White.

  • May 25, 2011, 10:19 a.m. CST

    John Byrne was drawing his a.** off back then...

    by ewokstew

    and Alpha Flight was one of the recipients of that goodness. Although, I have to say, Byrne came off better when Austin was inking his stuff. Incredible Hulk vol 2 Annual 7 is proof of this.

  • May 25, 2011, 11:13 a.m. CST

    Everything Old is New Again, plus Winnick good and bad

    by Homer Sexual

    So, Angel is again Archangel, blue and traumatized with metal wings. That takes me back to the 80's. But.... I never liked that character. I did "like" the suicide of Angel after Apocalypse cut off his wings, that really affected me more than almost any comics event I can remember. But then he was brought back and was lame for many years. And.... still seems lame. That review did not, in any way, provoke my interest in X-Force. I bought Alpha Flight, and also bought the original run for quite some time. It was really good... killed off the main character about 10 issues in, pretty ballsy. Hinted that Northstar was gay way back before that was permitted. But then it went horribly wrong, Northstar was outed as... an elf. I dropped it. They got a whole bunch of new characters, I picked it up again, it got cancelled. While I could do without Sasquatch, this book does indeed look promising. My comments about Judd Winnick... he wrote two books I read last week: Batman & Robin and Power Girl. Winnick took over Power Girl from the uber-awesome Palmiotti and Gray, and he kept up the quality much better than expected. But now Power Girl has gone from losing her company, struggling by, being in over her head, to becoming, per the book "Lex Luthor in a wig with enormous hooters" and that really sucks. It sucks because it is a lame direction to go in, not interesting at all, and it sucks because it's too much to swallow. A minor company goes from bankruptcy to purchasing CNN. I am sad to say that one more shi!t issue of PG and I'm dropping it :( But then Judd redeemed himself with Batman & Robin. Jason Todd is the character Winnick was born to write. Everything I've read, including this issue, shows Jason Todd aka the Red Hood as a damaged anti-hero. And not in the way Wolverine and Co are "anti Heroes" Logan and Co have been softened by their mainstreamness, but Jason Todd can still "go there." I don't especially like Guillem March's art, but the story is excelente.... though the letters page of that book hints that DC is considering a Red Hood ongoing, and that would likely cause Jason Todd to be softened up, leading to the ruination of what makes him such a compelling character.

  • May 25, 2011, 2:38 p.m. CST

    Still havent dug the Batman Inc series.

    by yamayama

    I am really holding a grudge against DC Comics at the moment. I have loyalty to the character of Batman but i hate the direction they have taken the Bat in. Its something i would expect of Marvel Comics with their constant rebooting of books that destroy any continuity or depth. But not DC Comics The only way for Batman Inc to have a good pay-off is for them all to be killed off one by one globally leading the killer back to Gothams streets. Once thats done just leave the comic book to run along with no changes for a couple of years.

  • May 25, 2011, 2:47 p.m. CST

    homer sexual

    by room23storeblogspotcom

    Actually I believe that it was the Mauraders that crippled Angel's wings and then Apocalypse gave him the metal wings and made him Death.

  • May 25, 2011, 3:05 p.m. CST

    *clears throat* *puts on Patton Oswalt "geek" voice*

    by Prof

    Someone on the InterWebz posted something wrong and I MUST correct it!!!!!!

  • May 25, 2011, 3:05 p.m. CST

    Always beware the sentence that begins with...

    by Prof

    "actually"

  • May 25, 2011, 4:29 p.m. CST

    aaron, hickman, remender > bendis, millar, fraction

    by Laserhead

    Just saying. I want the first three in charge of the Marvel Universe, and the other three to work on Dynamite properties.

  • These guys need to do more of the mainstream Marvel U stuff.

  • May 25, 2011, 9:54 p.m. CST

    crazy talk

    by Joenathan

    Hickman is awesome. Aaron is weak sauce wanna be pulp and Remember... ick. The rest of those guys belong on DC stuff. D LEVEL DC stuff... Mighty Avengers anyone?

  • May 26, 2011, 8:18 a.m. CST

    Wrong!

    by Laserhead

    For me, Jason Aaron's Ghost Rider is one of the best books Marvel's produced in a really, really long time. Certainly one of the most enjoyable. His Wolverine is the only time I want to read the character, and Scalped certainly isn't 'wannabe pulp', whatever that is. Remender is actually the most able writer of the three, structurally. His narratives build toward satisfying endings with interesting characterization. X-Force, Punisher, End League, Fear Agent. All better than anything Bendis has written in about 8 years. H,R,A all write big ideas, but unlike B,F,M , they know how to construct them into satisying, well-paced narratives with credible characterization. Having just finished Fraction's 'Thor: The World Eaters' I had to admit to myself, he's not great. Usually doesn't know how to structure stories effectively, and he can be as indulgent as James Robinson with the 'character meandering around his point, in love with the sound of his pretend-voice' syndrome. Generally his circuitious dialogues are more engaging than Robinson's, but still. It's bad. Also want to second Slott, Van Lente, Gage, Pak, Parker, et al. Christos Gage goes unnoticed generally, but he's become one of the most solid comic storytellers of the current generation, like Parker and Slott.

  • May 26, 2011, 9:22 a.m. CST

    Strange Adventures

    by Coma Baby

    Good recommendation Optimus (Though I only read the beginning, skipping all the synopses to go in fresh). I'm not done - kind of savoring them. The stories pack a lot in a few pages and still manage to be smart, dark, and imaginative. Also, the art so far has been really diverse and fitting for the stories. I forgot how much I enjoyed Denys Cowan's art.

  • May 26, 2011, 11 a.m. CST

    Ultra the Multi-Alien is back?

    by Snookeroo

    I'm so there.

  • May 26, 2011, 12:27 p.m. CST

    I wish I had time to savor Coma baby

    by optimous_douche

    To tell the masses of the goodness of books, I rarely can savor these days. This is one though, that demands savoring. Plan on bringing with me on my vacation to puerto rico tomorrow.

  • May 26, 2011, 2:14 p.m. CST

    oopsie

    by Homer Sexual

    Of course I knew that, Callisto wanted to rape Angel or something and he had to have his wings amputated. My bad... many years (and substances) ago, but Warren's suicide was still a very moving issue of X-Force for the 20 year old me.

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