|Issue #7||Release Date: 6/8/11||Vol.#10|
(Click title to go directly to the review)
Advance Review: GRAVEYARD OF EMPIRES #1
LOVE & CAPES #1-5
ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #159
SAMURAI’S BLOOD #1
JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #624
Advance Review: SWEET TOOTH Vol. 3: ANIMAL ARMIES TPB
dot.comics presents OSCAR & OZCAR Webseries
Advance Review: In stores today!
GRAVEYARD OF EMPIRES #1Writer: Mark Sable
Art: Paul Azaceta
Publisher: Image Comics
Reviewer: Ambush Bug
Though I’m a fan of most zombie fiction (comics, movies, or literature), I must admit there’s a lot of crap out there. I devour it all anyway with my eye-mouths, though. But after so many servings, I’ve come to recognize the shitters from the shiners. GRAVEYARD OF EMPIRES is definitely not a shitter. There’s a lot to like here. But it’s not a perfect comic either.
GRAVEYARD OF EMPIRES starts out slow. Really slow. Writer Mark Sable takes his sweet time introducing zombies and even though I had a vague notion that this was a zombie comic, if I hadn’t seen the cover of the book, I’d have been pretty surprised when the zombies show up on the last page, despite the fact that the opening caption mentions Z-Day (a common term for the day the dead rise). The problem is, I knew this was a zombie book from the cover, and I waited and flipped pages, and waited and read and flipped pages, then waited some more until almost the end of this book before the monsters I knew were coming came.
Sidebar: Many years ago, I watched FROM DUSK TIL DAWN with a bunch of friends who knew nothing about the movie. At the moment when the film turns from crime drama to an over the top horror film, the reactions in the room were priceless. For some, the film blew their mind (in a good way) and they found the unpredictability to be something fun and refreshing. Others immediately got pissed off, spouting that the film was stupid, and two of the girls walked out of the room. I mention this instance because had I not known this was a zombie story, I would have had the former’s reaction; it would have blown my mind when this intriguing military story turned into zombie horror. But since I knew, and it came so trade-pacingly late in the first issue, it was a real turn off. Yes, there’s something to be said about Sable’s decision to be patient and develop the characters before tossing in the zombies, but the zombies came a bit too little too late for me resulting in the inevitable zombie rising splash for the final page.
Sable does his homework, though, and makes the military aspects of the story pretty entertaining. There are nods to THE HURT LOCKER and scores of other military films and books, but none of it felt forced. Occasionally, it was obvious that this line or this detail was an exact quote from someone the writer had done research with. It almost feels as if every time the writer needed to stretch out the story a bit he’d add a detail like using a tampon to plug up a shrapnel wound or a line a sergeant gives a private about his piss being too yellow. But the story of a passionately insubordinate officer is strong and full of spot on military lingo, so it has that going for it.
I always say that for these genre mashing stories to work, both aspects have to be strong. Here the military aspect of the story is really good and I almost didn’t want to obligatory zombie uprising to occur just so we could see the military stuff play out. The zombie parts were somewhat clichéd, mainly because there are so few panels dedicated to that aspect of the story. Now that we got the intro issue out of the way, Sable and co. had better woo me in the next issue with zombie greatness. This is a nice backdrop for a zombie story (although it is very similar to Max Brooks’ WORLD WAR Z tales), but issue one felt drawn out to me despite Paul Azaceta’s sumptuously moody art. Being the glutton for zombie comics, I’ll be along for the ride in the next issue. Here’s hoping the zombie bits are as strong as the military parts in issue one.
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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LOVE AND CAPES: EVER AFTER #1-5Writer: Thomas F. Zahler
Artist: Thomas F. Zahler
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Reviewer: Rock-Me Amodeo
Amidst all the FLASHPOINTs and FEARs and miscellaneous crises, there is a little gem I discovered, and I feel kinda dumb I never heard of it before. I mean, I’ve seen it before, but I literally had judged a book by its cover, thinking this was something for the kids. I won’t make that mistake again.
LOVE AND CAPES is the story of Abby and Mark, with obvious parallels to Lois and Clark. Mark is also the most powerful hero on the planet. His best friend, Batm… I mean, uhn, Darkblade, has just started a romance with Amazonia (guess who?) But unless you’re reading an extremely well-written issue of SUPERMAN, that is where the similarities end, because this is a well-written book.
The art is cartoony. The writing is not. It’s clever and funny and poignant without being sappy. It’s a light read, but it’s not to be read lightly. In between the frequent one-liners, you’ll no doubt hear the echoes of your own past relationships, thing maybe you’ve said… or wished you had said.
In this world, people settle their differences with conversations and honest appraisals. Bad guys get defeated. Good guys like each other. Couples listen to each other. And a real relationship (several, in fact) has the to time to develop and grow in mature fashion.
Call me crazy, but that’s a world worth tuning into. Zahler’s artwork is fine for the atmosphere he seems to want to create, but the real strength here is the writing. Most comics make you want to see what happens next. This one makes me want to spend time on what’s happening now.
It’s funny how so many books get a “mature” label when the actions of the characters are so sophomoric. This, however, is a mature read for a mature reader. Really. It’s a clever, insightful book for adults that’s also a lot of fun. The whole series is excellent.
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.
ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #159Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Mark Bagley
Publisher: Ultimate Marvel
Reviewer: Henry Higgins is My Homeboy
Morning of June 8th, as I drive to the comic store…
“Wow, that was a pretty good birthday! Got some good presents, got to talk to a lot of old friends and catch up! You know what? Things are going my way for once. Nothing can bring me down! Go team world! Woo!”
READS ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #159
....I'm sad now.
This series was where my first review for Ain't It Cool News came from. This series got me fully into comics. And I'd argue that, even with its faults, it's been one of the most enjoyable mainstream super hero titles of the past decade. And now it seems that the series is going out. I really want this to be a marketing ploy or a publicity stunt, because I love this series too much. But if this is truly the end, at least it went out with a bang.
Writing: (4/5) This is a nice reminder of why people cling to Bendis. I agree, not the best event writer around. But his area of expertise books, like SPIDER-MAN or DAREDEVIL, it's not uncommon for him to write amazing runs. This issue focuses on the last desperate battle between Peter and the Sinister Six, and for once, it feels authentic. Peters monologue and inner thoughts are clearly panicking and reaching for straws here, and you sincerely don't know how he'll pull through this. Bendis also does an incredible job of selling the surrounding world around Peter, with crowds taking photos and calling ambulances. Aunt May getting a call from the neighbors is amazing, and reads like a discovery of this nature would. Every cutaway reads painfully well.The action here is fast and inventive, between Peter’s disarming of Electro and the quick Sandman brawl. The Sandman fight is brutal and hits hard as all hell. You really feel each punch, and more than ever, really see the fight erupting around him. Peter, at the end of his rope, continues the time honored tradition of Spider-Man improvising his way through a fight. It's compelling where most comic fights lately haven't. It's bold and exciting, whereas the fight with Electro feels practical and more realistic. Peter quickly knocking his power out and the no tricks/just punching him method is a great little bit. Peter isn't in the state to be creative or skillful. He needs them out, now. Same goes for the Vulture’s return, playing up the sheer realistic nature that Peter simply isn't winning. Far from it. And it reads amazingly.
This issue’s one fault is the way it ties up the Sinister Six. Now don't get me wrong, I quite love how Electro is taken out by someone you REALLY aren't expecting, but his death (and others like Sandman) doesn't sell so well.
Still, it's a minor complaint.
Art: (5/5) God Bagley is good at Spider-Man.
The faces are consistent and recognizable. There's more emotion in these faces than I've seen on some actors in recent films. The comic maintains Bagley’s amazing habit of making things look both real, and slightly cartoony. Bagley’s style doesn't work with everything, but it's perfectly suited for Spider-Man. The motions of Peter feel real, especially in the big moments.
Sandman's beat down of Spider-Man is terrifying, fast moving, and great looking. His face itself is marvelous, looking amazingly inhuman. It's the sort of thing SPIDER-MAN 3 tried and failed at (god, there were a lot of those in SPIDER-MAN 3). And Electro's explosion looks...well, fuck. It looks fucking cool. No other way for it (especially with Sandman's expression). All the big moments look great.
But it's the little touches that sell the book. Spider-Man escapes Sandman and spits sand out of his mouth, the sweat pouring down Peter’s face, Aunt May’s face as she drives. It's always the little things that endear artists to me, and Bagely does a fantastic job here.
Best Moment: Peter's line to Electro. I fucking love that line.
Worst Moment: Sandman dying the way he does. And the disappearance of Kraven.
Overall: (4/5) I rather enjoyed this issue immensely. And I'm glad that if Ultimate Peter dies (lip quivers) he goes like this. But does he have to go?
Just remember, birthday was yesterday. I'm fine. I'm fine.
SAMURAI'S BLOOD #1Written by: Owen Wiseman
Art by: Nam Kim & Matthew Dalton
Published by: Image Comics
Reviewed by: Irish Rican
SAMURAI'S BLOOD is not my usual type of comic book read so I consider even sitting down to read it as 'branching out'. It's not that I dislike samurai; it is quite the opposite in fact. I love sitting down to watch flicks like YOJIMBO, SANJURO, SEVEN SAMURAI, ZATOICHI, and usually anything that stars Toshiro Mifune. Problem is most comic books outside of the manga genre have a very hard time capturing the spirit of such films.
SAMURAI'S BLOOD is the perfect example of a comic that does capture the spirit of samurai films. The lead off issue is a first act betrayal and in a samurai comic that means that not one but many heads will roll to make sure that such a betrayal will never come back to haunt them. Gakushi has come to believe that the man he serves has grown weak and that weakness can bring greed to the forefront. Gakushi kills the head of the Sanjo clan, thus bringing a death plot into action that all of the Sanjo clan must also die.
Even long lost relatives like Sanjo Goro are affected by the death sentence. Having lived away from his clan for the past twenty years he has lived in peace raising his son Junichi and daughter Mayuko. Minoru-San, the samurai who works for Goro, also enjoys the peaceful life as he watches his own son Katashi grown into a fine young man and skilled warrior.
The quiet of the village and the secret love of Katashi and Mayuko all coming to a grinding halt as Gakushi's men rush the village looking to kill everyone. With the death of Goro and anyone around him the coup is complete and Gakushi's men are looking to follow orders completely.
Like the finest films or novels on the subject, SAMURAI'S BLOOD draws you in with its rich storyline and extraordinary artwork. The book is written by Owen Wiseman and while that name sounds totally gaijin to me he very much weaves a tale of deception and blood quite well. There are a few mangaesque panels within the book but artist Nam Kim usually allows the solid abilities of the script and his amazing artwork show off the subtle nuances of the comic.
In turn SAMURAI'S BLOOD is the best book of its kind. I sit here and cannot remember one single instance of any book in this genre, and outside of the manga genre, being better over the past few years. If you are looking for a hidden gem among the slew of Image titles, you can't go wrong with this book.
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. CLICK HERE to help make ThanksKilling 2 a reality!.
JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #624Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Doug Braithwaite
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Rock-Me Amodeo
There are comics that make you wonder what happened because the storytelling was unclear, murky or simply disjointed. Then there are comics that make you wonder what happened because the story was so smooth, so clever, so subtle, that only after you’ve read most of the entire thing, you start to fit the pieces together and go “Oh, NOW I see what was happening. Cool!”
This is that second category. Loki’s book is a slick, textured, intricate piece of work that never stops being fun. It’s the same reason I read all the Hickman books that Marvel puts out. Who doesn’t like a game of Mouse Trap played out with god-sized pieces? Or as Hannibal Smith might have put it, ya gotta love it when Loki’s plan comes together.
In this issue, Loki starts working the “Fear Itself” storyline in earnest, but instead of smacking people with hammers (that’s really more his brother’s style, anyway) he’s moving players around like pawns. And not in a way that requires every other character to be an idiot, where people (in the past) tended to believe even the stupidest things Loki has said, not because he was being clever or even persuasive, but merely because the plot require them to be gullible for the thousandth time. And it’s one thing to outwit the occasional canine guardian of Hel, or the Warriors Three, or even Thor, none of whom have ever been the brightest torch in the shed. It’s quite another to simultaneously outflank Mephisto and Hela.
I hope JoM takes center stage by the end of this mega-story, because so far, these behind-the-scenes machinations are the most fascinating thing I’ve read so far.
Gillen is also taking the opportunity to flesh out (no pun intended) the e’er underutilized Volstagg in a way greatly humanizing. So often, the bit players in Thor’s supporting cast have been relegated to caricature, or comic relief, so this effort is greatly appreciated. Tyr, by the way, is another player that seems to catch more of my attention, year after year, and he’s not wasted here.
Braithewaite’s art is perfect for this setting. This is not a setting for splash pages and bulging biceps, though I’m sure Doug could handle that. But the sly looks, the grimaces, the frustrations… these are everywhere, and they should be. He and colorist Ulises Arreola have a dark, stylish flair that I’m enjoying.
The bottom line for the book, though, is how cool Loki is. I want to believe he’s going to do the right thing. I want to believe he’s as clever as he thinks he is. I want him to win. And not just because he’s reclaimed some of his innocence in his youth. It’s because, when it comes to characters, Loki could be SO much more than he has been. I have loved to hate the sneering, scheming, bitter anarchist for some 40 years now (not as long as he’s been around, but as long as I’ve been reading comics.) But he’s played out for a while. It’s time for something fresh to take his place, and something has. Whoever decided to bring him back as a kid is a genius. There’s so much ground to be explored, and if they never have him move back to the dark side, that’s fine by me. But this book is doing an excellent job of plowing this field.
Clearly, the age of the anti-hero is in full swing, but I’m a little tired also of the ones that have tons of guns, or healing factors, or both. Give me someone whose brain is his weapon. Whose words are the delivery system. Give me someone who makes me think.
Give me Loki.
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.
Advance Review: In stores today!
SWEET TOOTH Vol. 3: ANIMAL ARMIESWriter & Artist: Jeff Lemire
Publisher: DC Vertigo
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
Oh how far our little deer boy has come. What started as a “simple” tale of the post-apocalypse (still hate that phrase – after all if it’s a true apocalypse there should be no post – bygones) inhabited by animal/people hybrids, has evolved over time into…well, I honestly don’t know what to call it. I believe Lemire is writing the new new testament; how would Genesis have been rewritten if God wasn’t so wrathful and vengeful, but had Jesus (cough SWEET TOOTH) instead of that pesky snake.
This is part speculation on my part, since Lemire draws out clues longer than Shaggy after three bong hits in the back of the Mystery Mobile. But this is the volume where Singh, the scientist searching for a cure inside a mad man’s prison camp, delivers his prose decline from a man of science to madman searching for a religious resolution to the plague that decimated humanity. I normally scoff at this text heavy comic device, but Lemire is a comics craftsman, the prose didn’t laden a single page. Doubly this device gave Lemire the freedom to focus on multiple points of the story through Singh’s narrative.
In Volume 2 we saw Gus, our doe-eyed protagonist, captured and forsaken by the tooth of SWEET TOOTH, his stalwart companion, Jepperd. Volume 3 is a definite story of redemption, but Lemire whiplashes readers between tragedy and triumph with the velocity of a Dick Smothers yo-yo. Just when you reach a high from watching Gus and his anipals escape from Singh’s lab they are captured. Just when you think Jepperd is completely in the shit at the hands of a mountain militant bad-ass he is instead able to raise an army to rescue. One can never really hate Jepperd, but Lemire definitely used Volume 2 to sully his savior-like status. Volume 3 not only gives Jepperd a much deserved redemption, the closing panels make him one of the most tragic characters in comics today. Jepperd closes a door both literally and figuratively that will make parents and frankly anyone with a heart scream in rage at his inevitable decision. It’s a Sophie’s Choice, and Jepperd makes it at great cost.
This is the closing of a chapter and I hope that chapter is just the beginning. We are now past the exposition; Gus and Jepperd are now for better or worse completely intertwined. This is the also the closing of “leaving the shire” and beginning the quest for Gus and Jepperd’s ultimate destiny, which apparently lies in the frozen wastelands of Alaska.
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.
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Artist: Michael Scharf
If anyone has taken time to read my little blurb of a bio at the end of my reviews, then you would know that I’m currently a film student. Consequently it would seem appropriate that I review “the first Comic Strip for Hollywood!” Not to break Michael and David Scharf’s hearts but I’ve read other Hollywood-esque comic strips. One example that I have been reading for a while now is DON’T FORGET TO VALIDATE YOUR PARKING by Mike Le.
So besides presumptuously stating that they are the first, what do I think of the pair of OSCAR AND OZCAR? I find them to have a CALVIN AND HOBBES feel. Oscar is a young spiky headed boy whose best friend is an imaginary award named Ozcar. At times, especially when Oscar screams, he even resembles Calvin. The parodic movie posters starring Oscar and Ozcar could be seen as a play off of Calvin’s numerous dream personas such as Spaceman Spiff. But this strip is not nearly as intellectual as some of the classic CALVIN AND HOBBES strips were. But the work of Bill Watterson is a high mark to reach, so don’t discredit OSCAR AND OZCAR just yet.
As of this writing, the duo of artist/writer Michael Scharf and writer David Scharf have fifty strips, some of which play off of classic movie posters. For the most part, the strips are hit and miss. I found a majority of them funny, but this is the world I want to be a part of. It is said that movies about Hollywood don’t do well (more in the case of box office than critically) because no one besides those in the biz enjoy them half as much. I wonder if the same goes for comics. Sure everyone likes to poke fun at Hollywood, but when you start to delve into its inner workings, the inside jokes aren’t always open to outsiders.
The best strips are the broad ones, the strips in which you don’t have to keep up with the Hollywood scene to understand them. Those that do talk about current events in the world of movies and television usually explain themselves enough for readers to get the joke. However, they are not necessarily enjoyed as much as those that did not need clarification.
The art is simplistic, black and white. What I did enjoy is that the characters do not remain stagnant. It would have been easy for Michael Scharf to maintain the same facial expressions, especially on Ozcar, but he instead moves his characters, even if ever so slightly, and those little touches add a lot.
The comic strip is published on Tumblr, an interesting way of using the blogging website. The great thing about Tumblr is you don’t have to be a member to view the pages. Also, there is a function that allows you to view only comic strips or only movie posters. The Scharfs also take advantage of social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook to keep readers up to date with their work.
Since I have such an intense interest in the film business, I’ll keep my eye on OSCAR AND OZCAR Webseries. There is nothing better than waking up in the morning to see how the world you plan on entering is full of treachery and garbage.
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?).
FEAR ITSELF: FEARSOME FOUR #1
Howard the Duck, Nighthawk, She-Hulk and Frankenstein team up to take on a fear-amped Man-Thing. Sign me up. It’s these kinds of quirky team-ups that I miss from the current no MARVEL TEAM-UP/MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE Marvel. Pitting unlikely heroes together to fight bizarre odds used to be a Marvel tradition. Brandon Montclare’s story is pretty straight forward, but Michael Kaluta, Ryan Bodenheim, and especially Simon Bisley’s fear-tripped art is all amazing. Seeing Howard naturally lead this team is fantastic and makes me think the Duck would be a cool lead for a Defenders book. Ah, a Bug can dream. Until then, I’ll enjoy this fun tertiary sidebar to a somewhat lackluster “event” in FEAR ITSELF. - Ambush Bug
RED SPIKE #1-2
Red Spike throws in a perfect mix of covert action, espionage, superheroes, lies, and deceit. In a world obviously full of real-life terrorists and baddies, Red Spike is an organization that flies under the radar to help take out those who would seek to hurt the good ol' U.S. of A. RED SPIKE is obviously trying to tell a very human story and not just have some muscled freaks running in and out of trouble. The lead character Matt is the good looking guy with a jealous friend for a partner and the hottie as the girlfriend. Chemistry and jealously obviously are abound with this threesome while dealing with the internal struggles of their organization. Certainly not your ordinary superhero book, RED SPIKE deals with issues like pride, power, ego, and love. The first two issues delve into Matt's backstory while dealing with the modern day problems in the espionage world. A very interesting concept - it'll be fun to see where the book goes. - Irish Rican
AVENGERS ACADEMY #14
I’m really enjoying this series, and this issue is particularly good. Why? Because the teenage superheroes in training lose…again. Last issue they got trounced by the newest incarnation of the Sinister Six, and this month they get their butts handed to them by a superpowered twenty-something billionaire who uses his powers of chemical manipulation to help improve the world. Why is this good? Well, for starters, comic book heroes can’t always win, or else it wouldn’t be interesting. It’s the classic Marvel method of adding layers of humanity and believability to these seemingly invincible powerhouses, like when Spider-Man lost Gwen Stacy, or when the Masters of Evil stormed the Avengers Mansion. This issue is also good because writer Christos Gage takes a well-aimed shot at the very genre in which this book is set, as billionaire Jeremy Briggs criticizes the archetypical hero/villain conflict: “Most of the guys running around in tights these days are doing it to get revenge on someone. It’s like what’s wrong with politics. It’s not helping anymore. All it’s doing is perpetuating itself.” A statement that can be read as a critique of the current state of superhero comics, perhaps? In any case, this series continues to be a sterling example of the best of the genre in the best Mighty Marvel Manner, and a lot of fun to read. – BottleImp
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G