|Issue #27||Release Date: 9/28/11||Vol.#10|
(Click title to go directly to the review)
Advance Review: ANIMAL MAN #2
DRIVER FOR THE DEAD VOL. 1 TPB
ALL STAR WESTERN #1
Advance Review: SUPERIOR #5
FURY OF FIRESTORM: THE NUCLEAR MEN #1 (2011)/FIRESTORM: THE NUCLEAR MAN #1 (1978)
CAPTAIN AMERICA & BUCKY #622
THE SAVAGE HAWKMAN #1
Advance Review: In stores today!
ANIMAL MAN #2Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Travel Foreman
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Johnny Destructo
Ok, ok. So ANIMAL MAN #1 got a ton of buzz and was pretty awesome. But was it a fluke? Just a good start that fizzles in the second issue? Oh, HELLS no. ANIMAL MAN is a bonafide, bone-chilling triumph. This is quickly leaping to the top of my monthly stack, especially as I prepare for my favorite holiday. Scary movies, ghost stories, I love all things horror, but haven't had the best of luck finding a horror-themed comic that actually creeps me out. Thank you, Jeff Lemire, for hookin' a brother up. This is a perfect story for Halloween and my only complaint is that it doesn't come out weekly.
From the cover alone, which features gnarled animal bits mixed with tumors, you know what you're in for--and it delivers. Bleeding eyes, chicken-handed fellas, gross hippo-bits: in other words, this isn't a series to hand to your children. Our man Bernhard Baker, as we all know, has access to what he calls The Life Web, or the Morphogenetic Field, which I imagine is much like The Flash's Speed Force. Buddy can tap into this web and access any animal's abilities while still maintaining his human form. It's slightly cooler than it sounds. Can't sleep? Tap into a kitten's ability to nap. Wanna sneak in without waking up your family? Tap into the weightlessness of an insect. Lemire comes up with some interestingly applicable uses for this power, not just punching someone with elephant strength or flying like a bird. It's these little touches that add a layer of awesome to this tale.
I don't want to give away too much of the issue's content, as that would negate some of the suspense, but DAMN Buddy's kid is creepsville! More aware than she lets on and more powerful than she should be--more powerful than even Buddy himself? She not only talks to, but resurrects, dead animals--and then tries to FEED their corpses! This could lead to some very interesting stuff. Though I do love her lil' Animal-Gal costume on the cover. Adorable!
One thing I would like to see adjusted, though, would be maybe adding an inker to the works. Travel Foreman does a fine job with his pencils, but would benefit from some ink. Scanning in the pencils and upping the contrast in Photoshop does NOT an inker make. Other than that, though, the book has a gross and creepy style that suits the themes of the story.
If you missed ANIMAL MAN #1, go grab it and then pick up this issue as well, before you miss out!
JD can be found hosting the PopTards Podcast, drawing a weekly webcomic, discussing movies, comics and other flimflam over at www.poptardsgo.com, graphically designing/illustrating for a living, and Booking his Face off over here. Follow his twitter @poptardsgo. His talkback name is PopTard_JD.
DRIVER FOR THE DEAD TPBWriter: John Heffernan
Artist: Leonardo Manco
Publisher: Radical Comics
I heard about DRIVER FOR THE DEAD when it first came out in single issues. It sounded like “The Transporter” meets “Supernatural”. Coincidentally, John Heffernan does cite “The Transporter” as one of his inspirations during the interview featured at the end of this compilation. With that combination, I assumed the comic would be an action-filled romp filled with dark comedy.
I’m not going to say that DRIVER FOR THE DEAD was bad; there are some strong elements to the book. It merely didn’t live up to my expectations. Of course, after finishing the comic book, I realized where I had gotten my assumptions from. That damn DYLAN DOG trailer didn’t help much. So I’m going to judge DRIVER FOR THE DEAD on its own merits and mistakes, not the ones I assumed it would have. However, that doesn’t help its case.
Alabaster Graves is the title character, who drives a hearse filled with various types of the dead: corpses, zombies, vampires, etc. One day, he is hired to pick up the local legend Mose Freeman. But on this day, Graves has to bring along Mr. Freeman’s great-granddaughter. On any other day, this wouldn’t be a problem. But something is creeping along the bayou, waiting for Grave’s cargo.
I never saw “Dylan Dog” in theatres, but the combination of the supernatural and Louisiana is quite prevalent without that failed comic book adaptation. Take the Anne Rice novels, or “Dracula 2000”. The problem with such a used idea is that any medium that takes it will seem trite. Sadly, DRIVER FOR THE DEAD appears that way.
In many ways this is a stereotypical southern gothic comic book. The characters, their reactions and names, the mythology, all seem to be a jumble of previous outings with this genre. John Heffernan does not bring much of his own twist to the table, nor does artist Leonardo Manco.
To start off with, we are introduced to a Morgan Freeman look-alike who just happens to be named Mose Freeman. You can even hear Morgan doing the type of dialogue given to Mose. A few panels later there is another example of unoriginality, or possibly homage. There are two pictures within a manor that appear straight out of Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion and trust me, I live right by the park so I would know. Then there is the hearse. It does have the feel of coming out of the CW’s “Supernatural”, whose Impala is key to the series.
As for the story itself, the structure remains strong until the latter half. While the earlier portion of the comic is solid, dropping hints and re-using them later, the second half is anti-climactic. New elements are brought in and out quickly and without a strong resolution. This includes the final climactic battle, whose lead up is great but does not live up to the prior events in terms of a satisfactory ending.
The dialogue, indeed well-written, is inconsistent concerning the use of dialect. Sometimes there is an attempt to have the characters have an accent, but most of the time there is a lack of proper spelling and grammar. Consistency was lacking.
Though I found the book’s typical ideas to be a negative, including the artwork, the style of the drawings was a positive. I have noticed a similar approach amongst the Radical comics I have reviewed with their artwork. But I’m not going to harp on the publishing house for this, mainly because their style is so strong. It allows them to have gory stories that still remain beautiful when covered in blood. In this way, consistency was not lacking.
If this genre is not your normal fare, by which I mean the southern gothic tale, then you’ll probably get more enjoyment out of DRIVER FOR THE DEAD than me. I found it predictable as it dragged itself to the finish line. It almost felt as if the first couple of issues and the last were written by two different writers, as the handle on story’s structure weakened. I can see why the book was so popular when it first came out, but also why I heard very little about it as the latter issues were printed.
Lyzard is actually Lyz Reblin, a senior screenwriting major with an English minor at Chapman University. Along with writing for AICN, she has been published twice on the subject of vampire films.
ALL STAR WESTERN #1Writer: Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
Yee-fucking-haw! I hate westerns. I hate Jonah Hex. But I loved this book. Why? This isn’t a western, despite what the title professes. If anything, this serves as a detective story set in the same time continuum as the marvelous mini GATES OF GOTHAM. No train heists or teaching cattle wranglers what’s what. Johan Hex is acting as the first Dark Knight of Gotham despite the gray confederate uniform he chooses to don.
I know little of Hex, because as I mentioned his past stories did little to entice me. One time when I was a kid my grandmother, knowing I liked comics, picked up a stack of Hex books at a garage sale. Despite my love of my grandmother and comics, I could not get through one issue. So some parts of this review will have a very “noob” outlook that might set off a few of you old time Hex fans. For that I apologize, but remember, one objective of this new universe was to entice existing readers into books they might have shunned in the past. On that front ALL STAR WESTERN succeeded. Will it keep past Hex fans or entice new readers? I would say maybe and probably not. The western is a pretty dead genre; even its resurgence from the late 90s has long passed, so as for some true noob picking this up I would say no. The delta is the past Hex fans, for them only time will tell.
Personally, I know I’ll bail on this book the minute tumbleweed comes into frame. For now, though, this mystery of prostitutes serving as psycho fodder for a new menace in ye olde 19th century Gotham has me hooked.
The premise of a stranger in a strange land has forever captivated storytellers and audiences. As readers, we discover the quirky world through the eyes of our centered protagonist, so every sight, smell and sensation is as new to us as it is to them. That’s a tough order when the quirky world is Gotham City, a town that comics fans know better than the actual town they live in and has become a character unto itself within the mythology of comics.
Well, Gray and Palmiotti nailed it. Even in the days of old, Gotham is the embodiment of urban blight. The streets teem with unwashed masses that seem even more unwashed than normal when bathed in the gray and sepia hues of this title. When Hex first steps off of the train and saunters his way towards the first murder, I honestly expected him to bump into Ebenezer Scrooge. Today’s most plagued street urchins seem to be the crème de la crème compared to someone of even modest means 200 years ago. Never again will I curse paying my water and sewer bill.
People don’t take kindly to Hex, partly because of that whole half of a face thing, partly because of that confederate uniform he still wears, but mainly because of the same problem Batman has had for years - he’s more competent than the people who are paid to protect to the city.
Instead of a welcoming Commissioner Gordon, Hex must deal with the blustering Chief Cromwell, a pork-bellied blowhard with a distaste for not only newcomer Hex, but also the psycho ramblings of another expert called in to help with murders, Amadeus Arkham.
Saddled together (pardon the pun) by the Gotham By Gaslight police department, Hex and Arkham serve as a time-forgotten Odd Couple. Amadeus is all head, while Hex is all muscle. It’s a juxtaposition that has been done countless times, but Gray and Palmiotti make it intriguing to see these two schools of thought collide on the page. Amadeus of course lives by the Freudian seeds of early psychology, basically absolving the transgressions of today because of their root causes in early childhood. Hex believes a man writes his own destiny and that every choice is of our own free will in the here and now. Even though most of Freud’s theories have been debunked, this root seed of evil is a legal defense that is still used today and for that the dichotomy still resonates. Together they unravel smart clues that ultimately lead to not one, but multiple suspects comprised of Gotham’s most respected members of society.
Moritat wavers between splendor and mediocrity with the art. Not being a true art-o-phile I often miss the subtle bugaboos that make the more trained eyes of AICN wince. The flip side of this is the fact I can enjoy a hell of a lot more books because of this review blind spot. Basically, when I notice something you know it needs to be cleaned up. Some pages are true eye candy; the opening page of Gotham in its early years was truly a thing of beauty. Also gorgeous in its gruesomeness are when Gotham’s prostitutes are hung out to dry by our intrepid killer. Then there were other scenes where Moritat seems to have lost interest or was stuck inside a black hole with pencil lines so thick that they can only be attributed to the pull of denser gravity.
As I said before, I might not be into ALL STAR WESTERN for the long haul, but for now I’m in. Gray, Palmiotti and Moritat have crafted a thrilling tale of suspense proving the story of Gotham is one of intrigue even without the Bat Signal illuminating its skyline.
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.
WULF #3Writer: Steve Niles
Art: Nat Jones
Publisher: Atlas Comics
“When I was a boy, I tried and failed to save my love from a fire serpent. Since that day, I have not loved again.”
First of all, how friggin’ pitiful is that line? Secondly, ignore that cover. This book has no women whatsoever unless you count those faceless monsters who make a bargain with the bad guy, which I won’t.
Okay, remember that “Beastmaster” movie where he winds up chasing the bad guy into our present time (the 80s) to thwart evil and save the day? Me neither, but this book has basically the same premise, with a barbarian named Wulf chasing a dark sorcerer named Sanjon through a portal to eventually face him in another dimension. Missing is the young mallrat sidekick who helps the warrior’s assimilation into modern times. Instead we get a detective, Sam, a rather vanilla fellow who is promptly cut in half by our hero in this very issue after witnessing alternate dimension him making out with his alternate dimension wife. It’s all very TIMECOP meets CONAN, but it plods along pretty slowly and it’s too generic to be very compelling.
Two-page spreads are limited to pivotal poses in the plot rather than dynamic moments of action, making for a different sense of pace and scope. In other words, most spread pages consist of guys just standing around, which actually looks kind of dumb. The art is fine, rich in detail but pretty reserved when it comes to characters showing much emotion. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to keep me that interested. Spectacle is made only of the most gruesome scenes, resulting in a comic that tries too hard to scare you and instead ends up being a downright bore that’s almost worth getting through so you can laugh at the end, like a goofy haunted house.
This book reads like a heavy metal song that goes on for a minute too long. At three issues in, the protagonist has barely accomplished anything except for finding the bad guy and killing his newfound companion. This story has okay art and one or two intriguing ideas, but the lack of momentum leaves me wanting more plot development and less close-ups of skulls and burned corpses.
Advance Review: In stores today!
SUPERIOR #5Writer: Mark Millar
Art: Leinil Yu (pencils), Gerry Alanguilan (inks)
Publisher: Marvel Icon
Reviewed by Johnny Destructo
Well, ain't that always the way? A dame has plans on smearing her ladystorm all over your mantown and a damn SatanMonkey cock-blocks you.
Oh hey, remember that Alex Ross Superman story, wherein Supes tries to end world hunger, but fails and gives up, using the ol’ "teach a man to fish" line (and then DOESN'T teach anyone to fish and instead goes home and cracks open a cold one)? I do. And I thought it was filled to the brim with B.S.-itude. What I like about this issue is that Mark Millar does the opposite. Superior makes it his business to help out the world and then...does it. Quickly. There's also a great bit in here where he is repaid for all his hard work, and it's awesome. Millar never forgets that under his sturdy super-hero exterior, Simon Pooni is just a kid. Comic books are generally considered "wish-fulfillment" tales, but this one takes it literally and gives Simon every wish he can think up. Super-powers: Check. Save the world: Yerp. Getting rewarded by doing anything he ever wanted? You betcha. This is the world's greatest Make-A-Wish tale. But it all has to end sometime, and Simon's seven days are almost up.
Here's the thing about Ormon, the previously aforementioned SatanMonkey. I wish the big devilishly delicious reveal was in THIS issue and not at the end of issue #4. The end here would be far more effective in that regard, but has its vas deferens snipped by the fact that it isn't at all a surprise. We KNOW that Ormon is a monkey with cloven paws and that some shit is gonna go down. What SHOULD have been an "Awwwwshit" moment is just an "Awwwwshucks" moment. This is an interesting turn of events either way, and it left me curious as to how it's going to resolve. Our son Simon has himself a choice to make, and it ISN'T going to be easy, if the next issue's cover is any indication.
This was, all in all, a solid issue with the usual solid art by Leinil Yu. However, I still can't get into Sunno Gho's colors due to that 1 pt. stroke of a darker color that he leaves on each of his color layers. Photoshoppy paint-by-numbers--blargh. And good god, colorists everywhere: please stop coloring the under-lid that Yu puts on each of his character's eyes BRIGHT RED! It makes everyone look disease-ridden. I keep expecting the characters to start bleeding and oozing puss from their eyeholes. It's gross. I do have to give it up to Millar's cover designer. I love how each of the MillarWorld books has the same look and feel. It gives his books a uniform feel that is needed on the shelves.
Do you like words and drawings? This book has those things! Buy it!
THE FURY OF FIRESTORM: THE NUCLEAR MEN #1Writers: Gail Simone & Ethan Van Sciver (co-plotter)
Artist: Yildiray Cinar
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Professor Challenger
“You jerk! You want to say this crap to me? Say it to my face, you geek loser! Come on, right now!”
— Ronnie Raymond
So far, all but 2 of “The New 52” that I've read (admittedly a small number) have not started from scratch with a standard first issue “Origin” story, but picked up on the character already in existence. THE FURY OF FIRESTORM: THE NUCLEAR MEN is one of them (OMAC is the other one, if you're curious). Annnnnnd, since I happen to own a copy of the original FIRESTORM: THE NUCLEAR MAN #1 from 1978 (and it was easy to grab), I will be following up this review with a short “bonus” review of that comic as a comparison. Since both are the “first” appearances of the character in their respective continuities, why the hell not take a look at both of them?
I didn't care for this comic very much. It is functional but not very enjoyable, and in parts, really irked me. It started with the opening sequence with a group of white, racist terrorists trying to get their hands on a MacGuffin and proceeding to assassinate a Middle Eastern family (parents and kids) in Istanbul. [“MacGuffin” - noun - \mǝ-'gǝ-fǝn\ : an object that serves to set and keep the plot in motion...”]
The terrorist in charge is a vicious little shit named “Clifford Carmichael.” Move to Walton Mills High School to meet white, All-American, slightly dense football star Ronnie Raymond. While we're here, let's also hook him up with school journalist, black kid with a chip on his shoulder, Jason Rusch.
They, of course, hate each other--primarily because Jason is one of those kids who hates the sports kids and promptly starts intimating that Ronnie's a racist. Ronnie is one of those kids who tires of people making presumptions about him because he's a football star...and now...thinks he's a racist. Reminds me of when I got drug to a Promise Keepers Rally many years ago and the guy on stage spent most of the time informing me and the thousands of other guys there that we were all racists...even if we didn't know it. Wha-huh? Anyway, while we get glimpses at these two boy's personal lives, the visual parallels between the two of them are highlighted with side-by-side panels and internal monologues (Ronnie's in red bubbles and Jason's in yellow). Both just met each other and both think they know what the other kid is all about. The truth is that they're a lot more like each other than they realize (a couple of arrogant pricks, actually) and circumstances are about to bring them a lot closer to each other than they're going to want.
The terrorist group tortures, then kills, a scientist at a Swedish supercollider and we start getting some indication of what the MacGuffin is – some kind of powerful something or other having to do with “The Firestorm Protocol”--and toss in some tantalizing references to a missing scientist named Martin Stein. Visual indications are that there are various countries with their own top-secret “Firestorm” individuals (I noted China, Japan, and Russia--not sure of the other countries).
Naturally, even though nothing in the story leads the reader to understand why, the terrorists “know” that the missing piece of the puzzle is at....Walton Mills High School! The timing couldn't be more perfect for them to break in to get it while both Ronnie and Jason are there. And, like any good high school student with a top-secret “magnetic bottle” containing highly radioactive material that “inhibit[s] the decay of gauge bosons...[changing] quarks of one flavor to another,” HE HIDES IT INSIDE HIS HIGH SCHOOL LOCKER!!! By the way, that stuff about quarks and bosons means it has the ability to transmute elements. Now we get it. “The Firestorm Protocol” is some kind of global top-secret experiment involving transmutation of matter predicated upon the Higgs Boson, or “God Particle”, and is functional only with a genetic match. Makes total sense. Trekkies probably understood that techno-babble, but I doubt anyone else did.
But, really, isn't the whole thing just an excuse to get Ronnie and Jason to fuse together into Firestorm? Well, of course....and that happens....sort of. As the cover that makes my eyes bleed reveals, the two of these guys actually co-exist as separate mirror-versions of each other as Firestorm but they can also fuse together into one massive giant Firestorm who calls himself “Fury” and talks like a tough-guy asshole saying things like “The 'guys' are gone forever, Sweetcheeks. Say hello to Fury.” *facepalm*
I really didn't care for it. I didn't like the pointless brutality of the villains. I didn't like the simplistic implication that Ronnie is a racist because he hasn't had a black kid over to his house. I didn't like the self-righteous attitude of Jason. I really hated the techno-babble. I didn't like the completely and inconceivably stupid idea that Jason would just keep this all-important MacGuffin in his freaking high school locker. That was really just too much for me.
I think the broader concepts are sound. The idea that “The Firestorm Protocol” is a global project with multiple competing countries experimenting with this powerful weapon is a strong premise. The pettiness of the two unlikeable lead characters and the “Fury” aspect really turned me off. I am usually a fan of the work of Gail Simone and Ethan Van Sciver and I appreciated Yildiray Cinar's work on LEGION this past year, but I didn't enjoy this comic.
It has potential in the concept, but this went off the rails a number of times and never really righted itself.
FIRESTORM: THE NUCLEAR MAN #1 (1978)Writer: Gerry Conway
Artists: Al Milgrom (pencils) and Klaus Jansen/Josef Rubenstein (inks)
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Professor Challenger
“Wowee! If the kids at school could only see me now! I haven't felt this good since I made the winning touchdown in the championship game with Central High!”
– Ronnie Raymond (Firestorm)
The cover, by artist Al Milgrom, is simple but it is much more dynamic than the static, posed, over-colored and over-f/x'd cover of the 2011 cover. The 2011 series involves a global terrorist group led by Cliff Carmichael who slaughter their way to a high school in pursuit of some important canister that ignites and joins 2 teenagers together both separately and joined as Firestorm super-heroes.
The original version of the character premiered in 1978 and was smack dab in the middle of the oil crisis and widespread fears of nuclear power (the Three-Mile Island meltdown was right around the corner). This comic also featured terrorists. Not the kind of terrorists who put a gun to the head of a little boy and shoot his head off after making him watch them first kill his family. No, these are 70s-style terrorists with curly perms, muttonchop sideburns and sticks of dynamite. In fact, the comic begins with Firestorm already in action taking on a group of thugs trying to blow up a nuclear power plant in New Jersey with a stash of dynamite. Then it does a quick flashback to the circumstances surrounding how Firestorm came to be here in the first place.
So, the flashback machine takes us to the high school where new transfer student, and football player, Ronnie Raymond is experiencing his first day in a new school. Instead of Jason Rusch, the antagonist in this comic is “Cliff Carmichael,” who is NOT a terrorist here but, rather, an annoying little shit who relentlessly picks on Ronnie. In this scenario, Ronnie is a jock but Cliff is the smart nerd who lords his brains and cutting wit over the “big dumb jock.” It is an amusing twist on the usual scenario of the jock picking on the smart kid.
Ronnie is much more likeable in this story than in the new version, and the reader is more empathetic to his situation as the new kid in school. Cliff is the guy we all want to just punch in the nose--which is exactly how he should be. He's not the hero, he's the foil.
The Coalition to Resist Atomic Power is protesting the opening of the Hudson Nuclear Power Plant, where Prof. Martin Stein hangs out as the physicist who designed the installation. In the new version, Martin Stein is so far just a mysterious name. Here, he is an angry and irritable man who presents a very unlikely and intriguing pairing with the youthful, non-intellectual Ronnie. The Coalition is really just a front for an anti-nuclear power terrorist group who breaks in to the power plant with some dynamite to blow it up and make everyone see the danger. Inexplicably, that explosion fuses Ronnie (who shows up at the plant at just the wrong time) with Prof. Stein and gives them the power to transmute elements.
With Ronnie's football player physique and Prof. Stein's brilliant mind plus fire hair and a puffy-sleeved shirt, they embark on a new career as the powerful nuclear-powered “Firestorm.” The terrorists at the Jersey power plant are, of course, the same group that tried to blow up the power plant.
The story follows some basic Silver Age tropes such as name alliteration (i.e., Ronnie Raymond, Cliff Carmichael, Doreen Day), villain set-up, and stylized soap-opera relationships and dialogue. However, there is real dramatic tension without imposing any social or political agenda. The anti-nuclear group are the villains of the piece, but it never feels like any judgment is being pushed on either side of the issue by writer Gerry Conway. The look of the Firestorm character is really bizarre by any standard and, yet, I've always liked it--even when I was 12 years old.
Milgrom's work on this comic displays elements of both Ditko and Kirby in it. It doesn't always work, but for his pencil work (Milgrom is more known for his inking and editing work), it's pretty strong in terms of selling the narrative while limited in terms of actual drawing ability. The inks by Klaus Janson and Josef Rubinstein are solid and help out a lot, although Janson and Rubenstein are not similar in style at all.
Of the two, I definitely enjoy the original FIRESTORM #1 over “The New 52” version, but even with that I will admit it's pretty lightweight. But at least it is fun. The new version is not very fun at all.
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.
CAPTAIN AMERICA & BUCKY #622Writers: Ed Brubaker & Marc Andreyko
Art: Chris Samnee
Publisher: Marvel Comics
“So yeah…World War II…water-breathing sea kings…men made of fire…I was just a kid in a domino mask.”
Bucky is one of the reasons I got back into comics. I started reading CAPTAIN AMERICA with issue #25: the “death” of Steve Rogers. Since then, I have spent the last four years or so watching James “Bucky” Barnes’ meteoric rise from the shadow of his predecessor to become one of my biggest heroes in comic-dom. Prior to his work on Cap, Bucky’s death was one of the only examples of true mortality in comics; he’d been dead for centuries. Ed Brubaker spent years building up the character from his nearly-laughable origins and making him a viable entity in the Marvel Universe. Seeing his shift from exploited agent of the Cold War to eventually inheriting the shield and becoming the new Captain America became one of my favorite character arcs in contemporary comics. It felt so fresh and original, while embellishing the character’s past and present with nuanced character studies and superb action sequences. So you can imagine how disturbed I was that after all that fine work put into reintroducing the character to a new generation that they killed him (again!).
This comic, using the numbering of the original Captain America series, continues Bucky’s story while remaining firmly rooted in the past. So while the new CAPTAIN AMERICA #1 delivers intense current events from Steve’s perspective, it seems tailor-made for readers like me who felt his untimely death in FEAR ITSELF was an unfair end to one of Marvel’s most well developed sidekicks.
But I digress: this book continues his memory in a way that is respectful of the work that has already appeared, and a whole lot of fun as well.
While the first issue of Cap n’ Bucky (#620) reintroduced Bucky in his original form, and the second focused on his relationship with Steve Rogers. This one finally places the duo with the rest of the Invaders in their battle against the Nazis during World War II. Bucky’s dynamic with the other heroes, especially Namor the Sub-Mariner, is fascinating and lends a believable, human arc to the team. Let’s not forget, Bucky was a teenager during his time overseas, carrying all the emotions and insecurities an adolescent feels, along with the weight of a warrior born upon the battlefield. Brubaker and co-writer Marcus Andreyko find an excellent compromise between Bucky as the apprehensive sidekick and as the hardened soldier in a manner that is subtle and believable. It doesn’t feel forced at all and there’s a natural progression reminiscent of Brubaker’s earlier work with the character. To say more would spoil a good story, so suffice it to say this is exceptional work from the writing team. Also, Cap calling dibs on the Ubermensch was pretty darn funny.
Chris Samnee, whose work on THOR: THE MIGHTY AVENGER earned him unanimous accolades across the internet, continues to put forth excellent work with a clean, dynamic style that is perfectly suited to the retroactive storytelling in this book. The art teeters nicely between all-ages propaganda and gritty war-reel footage in a way few artists can accomplish, except maybe Darwyn Cooke. The washed-out colors provided by Bettie Breitweiser are perfectly suited to the material. It’s some of my favorite work in comics today.
Considering how poorly Bucky was handled in the movie (he was cool but they killed him off too early, imo) it’s nice to see the character getting a second chance for new readers to learn of his earlier exploits. Plus, at a dollar cheaper than the new CAPTAIN AMERICA comic, this is a slightly better deal. With one of comics’ best creative teams working full throttle, this is a book Cap-fans can cherish and share with friends. It is true Bucky is dead now (again), but his spirit lives on through this book.
THE SAVAGE HAWKMAN #1Writer: Tony S. Daniel
Artist: Phillip Tan
Publisher: DC Comics
One of a magician’s oldest tricks is pulling a rabbit out of a hat. The appeal isn’t really that he pulled the rabbit out of the hat, necessarily, but that he was able to pull anything larger than the hat out of it and the mystery of what else could inside that hat waiting to be magically presented to the audience. I think comics operate in a similar manner. If there’s a good foundation to a new direction of a comic than seemingly a writer can create a situation within the comic from which multiple interesting stories could emerge from, like a job that may put our protagonist face to face with constant danger. Flash had it with him being in charge of the CCPD’s unsolved cases (not much came of it but the potential was there), Spider-Man has it now with his new job at Horizon Labs, and Tony Daniel has does it here by giving Carter Hall a job with a company whose interest is in alien archaeology. The potential for stories is really great here because there’s always going to be that fallback where Carter shows up to work and shit gets weird like it did in this issue.
The art in this comic really impressed me. By now you all know how picky I am with art, and I wasn’t into Phillip Tan’s artwork in BATMAN & ROBIN or THE OUTSIDERS. I mostly didn’t like it because there wasn’t really much definition to his pencils and to me it seemed as if his pages always seemed unfinished, like he’d forgotten to put a few important lines on the page. In this comic, though, his art looks the best I’ve ever seen it. It’s kind of a mix between Jefte Palo & Khoi Pham. This isn’t my favorite artwork of the new 52 but compared to his other work, I think this is really good. Hawkman looks pretty badass, the action scenes are good and the colors in this book look great.
The story in this issue isn’t bad. Like I said earlier, this book has a good hook with Carter Hall being employed by a guy whose interest lies in researching alien archaeology (yes, I know he was an archaeologist in the past). Not only could this lead to his boss looking to find out more about other alien superheroes (Superman team up?), but Carter Hall could also use his job to study his own armor and possibly find a way to be rid of it, if that’s his actual desire (at least it was at the beginning of this comic). Obviously, this could also lead to finding hostile alien creatures such as the ones we find in this issue. I did enjoy this story and I think the potential is here for a good ongoing series. I heard some rumblings…well…complaints that there was no mention of Kendra/Shiera (Hawkgirl; Hawkman’s eternal lover destined to be together, then apart, then dead, then together again for all eternity) but I’m fine with that. That whole love story angle has been played to death (literally—hi-YOOOOO!) and I honestly think it kept both characters from evolving past this Romeo & Juliet-esque circular romance that only someone with a warm heart like Lady Kletus could appreciate. I say that not because she’s a woman but because she loves romantic comedies where every couple ends up together and in love forever and that shit makes ol’ Kletus’ black heart that much blacker…where was I…oh yeah, please leave Hawkgirl out of this series.
I think Tony Daniel did a great job setting the stage here for a lot of cool things to happen in this series. Now whether those things will actually happen is something we’ll have to wait for, BUT I will be reading in anticipation of things to come. The writing in this comic isn’t going to knock the lenses out of your glasses but it’s solid and a lot better than quite a few of the new 52s. Daniel did a solid job on BATMAN, so he’s got my attention with SAVAGE HAWKMAN. I will say if Daniel was drawing this series, the artwork would be out of fucking control (in a good way); his new style would fold into this book like a baby kangaroo into its mother’s pouch. Don’t get me wrong, Phillip Tan in the past has had me avoiding his books because I wasn’t into his art but now I can pick up what he’s putting down here. I’d say this is another of the new 52 that ol’ Kletus would urge you to gamble on. This comic has great potential and I’ll be picking up issue two to see how high this savage bird can fly…..wow…I think I’m still drunk off those mimosas…
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G
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