|Issue #32||Release Date: 11/2/11||Vol.#10|
(Click title to go directly to the review)
Advance Review: FAMOUS MONSTERS PRESENTS LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF #1
SWAMP THING #3
Advance Review: AVENGING SPIDER-MAN #1
OUR LOVE IS REAL OGN
Advance Review: SILVER STAR #1
Advance Review: RETURN TO PERDITION OGN
LOOSE ENDS #3
FLESH & BLOOD #1
FEAR ITSELF 7.1 CAPTAIN AMERICA
STARGAZER Vol. 1-2
AICN COMICS Podcast #2!
Advance Review: In stores today!
FAMOUS MONSTERS PRESENTS LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF #1Writer: Mark L. Miller & Martin Fisher
Artist: Tim Rees
Publisher: Famous Monsters
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
Beyond certainty Mark L. Miller knows two things: comic books and horror. For years Miller has served tirelessly in the seemingly thankless position of editor of Ain’t It Cool News Comics. I say seemingly thankless because eventually Miller was able to use this coveted pulpit to not only write even more articles for Ain’t it Cool on the subject of horror in geek culture, but was also able to parlay his passion into the emcee role for horror panels at cons across America. The first bit of advice given to budding young writers is always “read, read, read.” Miller has read and watched enough comic and horror material in his life to fill two brains, perhaps even three. So, when Miller takes off his review hat to conjure up his own comic creations, I always take notice. This life long experience ensures two outputs when you read a Miller comic: It will be structured in the purest fashion and to avoid boring himself to tears, his books always take fresh approach to some of comics (and horrors) most stalwart staples.
Miller’s last title NANNY & HANK about two octogenarian vampires got my nether regions lukewarm. The only thing that stopped this tepid burning from turning into a four alarm fire was my utter loathing of the artistic style. LUNA however made me blaze all over from nether regions to top of head. LUNA takes the blood thirsty concept of werewolves and adds dashes of temperance, religion, devotion and the thing we all seek in life – redemption.
As an introductory issue, Miller and his co-writer Martin Fisher hit all bases. We learn the plight of werewolves through the eyes of their leader, Andres Sangre. As Sangre states, who he was before becoming a werewolf doesn’t matter, what matters is the story of the furry abbey he and his brethren created to escape persecution from humans. Together they praise God and harvest fields to keep their minds from the slaughtering blood lust that consumes their very nature. This is what I mean when I say the writers are able to recreate the wheel. Traditionally violence begets more violence in these stories. To have a pack of bloodthirsty creatures not only turn their eye from wolf nature, but human nature as well was a twist that actually made me care about these creatures as characters rather than their traditional role as furry fodder for some do-gooding monster hunter.
There are actually no hunters at all in this first issue, wolf or man. Of course the lives about a bunch of God fearing werewolves could remain self-contained if Miller and Fisher were writing for the Christian Science Monitor, but LUNA is a story…a comic book… damn it. Without conflict all we would have had is a Davey and Goliath Sunday cartoon message about turning the other cheek.
To test the mettle of the wolf’s vow to deny their nature, the book shifts focus to an expeditionary party looking to scale the summit of the mountain where the abbey has hid from humanity. I’m not sure which characters I liked more, the wolves or the expedition. The expedition is led by a man with more money than brains and as these types often tend to do; he continues to push the party higher up the mountain despite the creepy fucking abbey filled with werewolves at the top. The relationships between Richie Rich and his party are strange to say the least, but not out of place, the rich often tend to be weird. There are trysts and deceptions abound within the party, and again I applaud the writers on using scant page space to create fully realized characters.
What happens next is a non-stop action free-for-all. Blood spews as some wolves from the abbey deny their promise to Sangre’s mission, but the real excitement comes when the party takes their bleeding members directly to the abbey’s front door. This door kicking scene is also where the book ends, leaving an action based start for issue 2.
Again, Miller and Fisher put enough different twists in place to make care about a horror staple that I for one thought ruined by Hollywood over the past few years. Teaming up with artist Tim Rees was also a good choice on Miller’s part. Rees has a good eye for action and a clear eye for human and wolf form. Did I see an area for improvement, well of course I did. I would caution Rees to make more of the wolves look like Beast from X-men and less like upright dogs, or if some must look like dogs for the sake of caste or pecking order in the abbey, I would ask that Rees not be afraid to take liberty with the actual musculature of a wolf’s face. There were too many scenes where the wolves’ emotions were shown with just an open mouth. This doesn’t work for me, sure my Golden retriever can only go between happy and sad with his face, but I realize he has a brain capacity that is never going to be bogged down by complex emotion. If you are going to put animals through an anamorphic transformation, go all out. Friction only needs to mirror reality to be successful.
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.
SWAMP THING #3Writer: Scott Snyder
Artists: Yanick Paquette & Victor Ibanez
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewed by Humphrey Lee
It really is one of those cliché things to say about a writer but Scott Snyder, whomever he may really be, has come out of nowhere to be a guy who I’m finding to be one of the most consistent scribes in the business right now. Between taking a genre I was pretty sure I was done with – Vampires – and showing me I could stand some more (ala how THE WALKING DEAD showed me I could come to love zombie stuff again) and then just writing a wide array of material that is all of a good to great level of quality, the man has the goods. SWAMP THING, I’m going to say, is probably his best work though (but I’m biased in that regard) and one of the easy standouts of the DC New 52.
When it comes to Snyder horror seems to be the name of the game and horror is what you (should) get when you enter DC’s bayou to visit Doctor Holland. Anyone that thinks of the character and his mossy counterpart should be bringing to mind Alan Moore’s pretty much epic run on the character and the pretty bloody and revolting tales within. And Snyder is doing his damned best to channel that essence, with it’s own license of course as now the man has been removed from the beast, a big retrograde but an understandable one. Though that plot line takes mostly a back seat to the big plot thread to be brought to a head here in this issue, one that oozes that dread and revulsion that set the tone of that storied Moore run.
This issues is all about the Arcanes, more specifically, an unknown Arcane that (surprise) may be the doom of humanity. As Alec Holland comes to be introduced to the Swamp Thing’s former love, Abigail, at the business end of a shotgun, her forgotten half-brother, William, rears his head to show he may be as disgustingly powerful/evil as their father. And it all comes down in that tradition set forth by more, with a child put in extreme circumstances, which is eventually slowly corrupted by demented forces. Those forces then compel him to, y’know, horrifically abuse some pretty abusive children that were set on doing some even more nasty things to him after talking to some dead things and realizing it was all a good idea. Now he’s set to do all that and then some to the world and sis and the spiritual tether of her former, uh, swamp-toy have to stop him.
Right now everything here is fantastic, as far as I’m concerned. The first two issues may have taken a little time to warm up to this point, but it was worth the wait. Tone is key with this subject matter and Snyder has really brought it with “The Rot” and how it has been slowly and ravenously unleashed on the world, waiting to be channeled by William. And the Alec/Abigail setup, inevitable as one would imagine it had to be, should be an interesting dynamic considering the history there and the circumstances around Alec’s revival and what that means for the Swamp Thing. All of this and it’s packaged with artistic styling’s to match, with some gory cutaways and panel flow that incorporates some gruesome imagery, from both ends of the art duties as they are split this time around.
Overall it’s a great package that is both reverent to one of my favorite (and in opinion best) runs of all time but is still pretty accessible to the uninitiated. At the end of the day, it’s just good comics, and good horror comics at that, perfectly fitting Snyder’s strengths. It’s rare that I go straight to fluffing up the writer like I did to open this but, like I said, the man’s got the goods and is shaping up to be a “household name” (whatever that means when it comes to comic books) for good reason. Hopefully so is this title as it proudly represents his strengths and is a heralded throwback to some of the best times in all of comics history.
Humphrey Lee has been an avid comic book reader going on fifteen years now and a contributor to Ain't It Cool comics for quite a few as well. In fact, reading comics is about all he does in his free time and where all the money from his day job wages goes to - funding his comic book habit so he can talk about them to you, our loyal readers (lucky you). He's a bit of a social networking whore, so you can find him all over the Interwebs on sites like Twitter, The MySpaces, Facebookand a blog where he also mostly talks about comics with his free time because he hasn't the slightest semblance of a life. Sad but true, and he gladly encourages you to add, read, and comment as you will.
Advance Review: In stores today!
AVENGING SPIDER-MAN #1Writer: Zeb Wells
Artist: Joe Madureira
Colorist: Ferran Daniel
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Johnny Destructo
I hate extraneous titles that are there simply to grab the cash out of my hands. Conversely, I love Spider-Man, a character they put in titles that he doesn't need to be in simply to grab the cash out of my hands. He's in ASM every month. He's in FF. He's in ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN, he's in NEW AVENGERS, and now, he's in yet another title: AVENGING SPIDER-MAN. I really, really, really wanted to hate this book solely on principle. "Another Spidey title? And now's he's…AVENGING? Really?" Yes, I know he's an AVENGer, but still, it just sounds more like a 90's PUNISHER title then a happy-go-lucky Spidey book. And Joe Mad? Sure, he's wicked talented and shone bright over a decade ago, but his glorious return to comics back in Ultimates 3 was a muddy mess. Oh, and it also stars The Rulk. Yay. Nothing about this interested me. Until I read it.
Andsweetholyhell Ican'twaitforissue2! Yes, despite my lame preconceived notions, this issue really pulled me in. It's action-packed, it's funny and charming like a Spidey book should be, and is exquisitely illustrated by Joe Mad. Seriously, it's ridiculous how beautiful this book is. It gave me an eye-rection. Whatever coloring issues bogged down the ULTIMATES 3 series…they are no longer a concern. This is a vibrant book filled with bright, eye-slapping colors. It's a joy to look at. Even my usual distaste for inkless pencils doesn't apply here. Mad's pencils are sketchy, yes, but only when it's appropriate. His outlines are so crisp, it almost looks inked.
Granted, this appears to be a MARVEL TEAM-UP type book, which, if more recent attempts are any indication, means it probably won't last long, but hot-diggity-damn it's off to a great start. This issue has the Arachnerd teaming up with the Red Hulk (why? simply because Spidey needed a lift back to NYC) only to find that the city is being over-run by panicked, yellow Moloids. What are the 'Loids there for? I don't want to spoil anything, but it's not exactly what you think. (I was actually sort of wondering how much this series ties into other recent Marvel books, since Green Hulk - Grulk? has been hanging with some Moloids over in his title, but thankfully, it appears to exist on it's own).
If you like Spidey but are hesitant to buy yet another Spidey title, give this a shot. You won't be disappointed.
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.
OUR LOVE IS REAL OGNWriter: Sam Humphries
Artist: Steven Sanders
Publisher: Image Comics
This comic book is…fucking weird, I mean really weird. I mean that in a good way. Not much can really prepare you for what happens in this comic. Your brain isn’t going to exit your skull through the rear after reading this but you will be left with that “What the fuck…did I just read,” look on your face. I don’t even know where to start…I’m…really at a loss of words…maybe I shouldn’t have chosen this to review but here goes.
This book follows what appears to be some sort of cop in the near future trying to stop vegisexual rioters (yep I said it) by beating their jaws off then he meets someone who flips his life upside down. I had no idea what to think about this comic when it came in but on the back it had a glowing review from the awesome Jason Aaron and a description on the back that read, “FILE UNDER: SCI FI/ OMG/ WTF.” I’d say that’s pretty damn accurate. I can’t really go into any more details without spoiling the fun but this comic is great and I love when I come across something like this that is so fucking left field that I’m just left smiling from sheer ‘what the fuckness’. The page that starts with “Something was bothering me,” with Jok and his companion is awesomely funny. The art is great and looks a lot like Ryan Bodenhiem who did the art for the IMAGE comic HALCYON. It’s not quite as good but the people look very similar, plus the main character looks like Glen Danzig…and who doesn’t like Danzig? Commies that’s who! This comic is interesting because within this ultra bizarre story, it touches upon issues that are very prevalent in our society without beating you in the face with it. There are elements of what’s going on in Wall Street, gay marriage, prejudice, love and it’s all melted down into one of the most entertaining weirdest stories I’ve read this year and possibly ever.
This comic is a lot of fun, I found myself grinning through the whole thing, and then I found myself wondering…how the hell did he think of this?!? A fever dream?!?! Drug induced hallucination?!?! What ever it is Mr. Humphries keep at and I will be picking up your future works. If you’re looking for a great mind fuck comic with good art, this is it.
Advance Review: In stores today!
SILVER STAR #1Writers: Jai Nitz (story & script) & Alex Ross (story & art direction)
Art: Johnny Desjardins
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Reviewer: Ambush Bug
This is my first leap into Dynamite’s new KIRBY: GENESIS characters that Alex Ross dusted off and put a new sheen to. Writer Jai Nitz is along for the ride with what I imagine is most of the scripting here and as far as introductory issues, this is one that is really well done.
Nitz chooses an interesting structure to hang this story to by peppering in letters from various former Presidents through the ages in between explosive battles and depictions of Silver Star’s array of powers. Each of these vignettes carry a lot of sardonic wit as well as potent power in true Kirby style with cosmic crackle and oozing through every panel. The story follows this all powerful walking nuclear bomb as he fights the US’s enemies through the ages (reminiscent of the Captain Atom character in DC, but does so with a fresh narrative sense and a humanity the current version of the character doesn’t possess). Silver Star is called in for an assignment and seems to finally have had enough of being a government weapon. Though this isn’t a totally original moral dilemma, it’s handled with a mature and talented hand here.
Some folks would think that’s enough action for one book, but Nitz adds another battle with a giant octopus just in case you didn’t get enough action in the first half of the book. This fight scene and all of the pages prior are done with wide-eyed glee by artist Johnny Desjardins. Though Desjardins shines in the scenes with plenty of ‘splosions, his quieter moments seem a bit over inked. Still, Desjardins offers up a feast for the eyes for living up to the stamp of Kirby Kwality on the Kover…I mean, cover.
It’s refreshing to see a comic like this. It’s reminiscent of Kirby’s hayday when imaginations ran wild and the limits were only found when you ran out of ink in your pen. SILVER STAR captures the wonder of an old school Kirby comic and honors the creators’ characters.
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole / wordslinger / reviewer / co-editor of AICN Comics for over nine years. Mark is also a regular writer for FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND and will be releasing FAMOUS MONSTERS first ever comic book miniseries LUNA in October (co-written by Martin Fisher with art by Tim Rees) You can pre-order it here! Support a Bug by checking out his comics (click on the covers to purchase)!
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AVENGERS #18Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Daniel Acuna
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Henry Higgins is My Homeboy
FEAR ITSELF is done, and as is tradition with events, there is a reconstruction issue , dealing with the Avengers post "insert random event here". It goes the traditional route of rounding out the new team, while also establishing the general mood of the upcoming stories. A fairly well done effort, it establishes a good future threat while playing to the differing Avengers rapports.
Writing: (3/5) The interplay between the various Avengers is fun and fast, never dwelling too long on any specific Avenger. The jumps between Tony/Cap, Ben, and Ms. Marvel/Spider-Woman are fun, and quickly lay out the relationships that a number of the team will play up later. On the other hand, some of the characization is inconsistent with past portrayals (I'm looking at Wong), which isn't unheard of in Bendis stories.
Bendis continues the trend of connecting the various events in surprising ways, this time utilizing a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who decides to hold onto various DNA samples of heroes from the stories. It's a familiar story beat, but it remains to be seen whether Bendis can portray it. His take on some of the villains presented have, in the past, been well done. This could easily fall through though. It's a beat setting up a tired story, and I'm anxious to see if Bendis can do give a unique take on it. But he has surprised with worse ideas before.
The book really only stands out in it's role in connecting the past stories further, and doesn't feature much. It's mostly a filler issue, and it shows.
Art: (4/5) The art this issue is at it's best when working with Bendis's set up. Acuna is tremendous when showing off the past events. He gives a fantastic air to the general events of the past, and offers a surprisingly epic look at them. Goliath's corpse, circa Civil War, gives the reader a real sense of just how massive these events can be. It's something quite a few of the main event books can lack, but Acuna is perfect when showing off a stand by POV.
His more inconsistent field are the smaller character moments. While sometimes (namely the comical Carol/Jessica conversation) is great looking. But other faces seem bland and interchangeable. It's a bit odd, and detracts from the general feel of the issue.
Best Moment: Bendis is consistently entertaining with his favorite characters, and as such, we get a fun scene between Jessica and Carol.
Worst Moment: I miss real Wong.
Overall: (4/5) A solid (if forgettable) filler issue.
Advance Review: In stores today!
RETURN TO PERDITION HC OGNWriter: Max Allan Collins
Artist: Terry Beatty
Publisher: DC Vertigo
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
Each year when the cold snap plagues the east coast I dig into my DVD archives to settle in for the long winter ahead. I start off my hibernation by watching my very favorite Mafia movies of yore. Nothing eclectic just the standards like “Godfather,” “Goodfellas,” “Casino,” and “Sopranos.” This year as I was beginning my nesting procedures I was granted a diversion from sameness by the Mafia Fairy with a new treat — RETURN TO PERDITION the graphic novel, the latest and apparently final chapter in the saga of the O’Sullivan family.
I consider myself one of the unwashed troglodytes when it comes to PERDITION. Just like your neighbor who doesn’t read comics, my only exposure to the PERDITION saga before now was the movie that made Tom Hanks and Paul Newman household names (/sarcasm). While I enjoyed the depression era crime drama about a mafia hit-man trying to protect his son from his masters, I’m not such a comic purist that I had to imbibe the story in pulp once I knew the plot. This is a mistake I plan to rectify after reading Collins’ tantalizing closing chapter set in 1970’s Hollywood (and of course Perdition, Kansas). Collins effectively gave me the Mafioso fix I was looking for, as the Grandson of the original O’Sullivan proves that Harry Chapin knew his shit when he wrote “Cat in the Cradle.”
As the name implies, PERDITION is about inescapable damnation no matter how many mea culpas you throw towards J.C. And there are HUGE religious undertones throughout RETURN TO PERDITION, the biggest of which I really don’t want to mention since it’s one of the best surprises of the book. Just know that no matter how many times the O’ Sullivan clan (who become the Satariano’s after the events of ROAD TO PERDITION) try to redeem themselves they can never become clean of the past.
Revenge is a dish best served cold. But really it should be a dish never served if one wants to truly end a conflict. After the events of ROAD TO PERDITION, Michael O’Sullivan Jr. gets a new name and a new lease on life as a WWII war hero during the prose novels ROAD TO PURGATORY and ROAD TO PARADISE. Revenge and pride mix into a Santorum froth and rain shit storms on Satariano’s life as he goes after the gangsters that hunted him and his Father so many years ago.
Even though the brunt of RETURN TO PERDITION belongs to Michael Satariano Jr., the son of Michael O’Sullivan Jr, this is really the father’s story and how his sins have now cascaded like a waterfall to drown any chance his son might have at happiness. Even though Satariano Jr. becomes a POW Vietnam hero, even though he was never exposed to his Grandfather’s gang of Midwestern goons, even though Michael has aspirations of a quite life, forces and powers beyond his control get him caught in his Father’s web. Michael is truly a puppet throughout this story. Sure the God strings of fate send him towards perdition, but he is also the literal marionette of the US Government, where graft and corruption run rampant in the witness protection program that gave his family their new name.
His family is told he was killed in action and Michael is told that his family was killed during his time as a POW. With no family or friends, he willingly becomes Uncle Sam’s sniper taking out one Mafioso or another in the name of a better America. These hits culminate to one “last” assignment, unfortunately this one can’t be done at a distance and Michael must become close to the mark to avoid any civilian casualties. During his time with his mark, M.A.C. takes us on a real behind the scenes tour of Hollywood and gangsters in the 70s. As the mark tries to get a film produced about the glory days of the mob, we learn why the government really wants this man snuffed out. Here is where M.A.C. deftly combines fact and fiction to give a palpable taste to the conspiracy theories about a mafia run government that spans from the Bay of Pigs to the killing of the Kennedy brothers. It’s made of the same conspiracy theory goodness that gets me to watch JFK every damn time it airs on AMC. Also during this time Michael falls in love with the mark’s niece. Like all mafia love interests, the dame is the least interesting part. Especially in this case! While every mafia story needs some sex and to show how the evil deeds of men affect those they love, all I got from this character was sex. Michael wanted to leave the US hit squad before he met the girl; she was merely the icing on the cake. It was a love story that didn’t need to be, but it did give artist Beatty the chance to draw some tasteful love scenes to show her talents beyond splats and bludgeoning.
Michael kills the Mafioso movie producer, but not how you would see it coming. Actually the whole end of the book is a cacophony of unexpected moments that lead him quite logically back to the town of Perdition. While Michael is sent to Perdition by his government handler for one last kill, here is where the strings that have tugged at Michael’s life become expose.
Again, I’m not going to ruin the ending, it’s a surprise that even a man that calls himself Douche can’t bear to spoil.
RETURN TO PERDITION was the finest end to a crime saga I have ever witnessed. Leagues above Goodfellas’ absolution of Henry Hill and since Godfather III was about as entertaining as watching a monkey shit on my face, I won’t even sully this fine work with the comparison.
As I said, I never read PERDITION, but by the end of this closing chapter the emotional weight delivered by M.A.C. made me feel as though I had been on the entire journey.
LOOSE ENDS #3Writer: Jason Latour
Artist: Chris Brunner
Publisher: 12 Gauge Comics
Do you know what the advantage of reading bad comics is? When you do come across comics of quality, they seem even better. It has been awhile between my reading of LOOSE ENDS #2 and this newest book. I decided I’d try to read the third issue without referring back to the old, just to see how well the series has been sticking with me. I was happy to find that I did not need much reminding to follow the story and characters.
In LOOSE ENDS #3, Sonny and Cheri Sanchez have finally arrived in Miami to rendezvous with Sonny’s buddy, Rej. However, Sonny plans on meeting up with Rej without knowing his friends involvement with Flynn. While Sonny and Cheri go deeper down the rabbit hole, we get a flashback to Rej and Sonny’s days in the Middle East, where their wheeling and dealing takes a heavy toll.
Where LOOSE ENDS #2 increased the violence, issue #3 gives us much more drug use. The artwork shows off a drug trip well… not that I would know what that looks like. What I mean by that is that the drawings and coloring make it clear just how out of control Sonny and Cheri get when under the influence. Also, though this issue doesn’t increase the violence from the previous book, there is plenty of it come the climax of issue #3.
Another aspect of the comic I really enjoyed was the references to the previous books. Writer Jason Latour is tying in previous elements quite well, with some revelations that illuminate past events while others reveal how the past still haunts our characters. But this is not done just by Latour. Artist Chris Brunner also creates visual references to previous events, which are much more subtle than the expositional dialogue a lazier team of comic book creators would have gone for.
Usually at this point within a series, nearing the conclusion, I worry that the story can’t be tied together neatly enough. However, we have all our eggs in one basket, with every character we have met (who is still alive) together in South Beach. This, along with how much story so far has been fit in each 28-page issue, leaves me with a sense of trust that this won’t be a hurried or rushed conclusion.
LOOSE ENDS has always been gritty, about showing the underbelly of life. I expect no less from the finale of the series. This isn’t a comic I plan on walking away from feeling good about life. In an odd way, I hope that I finish reading LOOSE ENDS #4 and desire to take a shower.
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.
MONSTERVERSE: FLESH & BLOOD #1Writer: Robert Tinnell
Art: Neil D. Vokes (back-up by Bob Hall)
Reviewer: Ambush Bug
Monsterverse is at it again. First they dazzle with an anthology which give a deep low hug to all things classical horror with BELA LUGOSI’S TALES FROM THE GRAVE, and now they offer classic horror fans another treat with FLESH & BLOOD #1. Anyone familiar with Hammer films should put this book on your “Must buy and devour list.”
Utilizing some of Hammer Horror’s most famous and infamous characters, FLESH & BLOOD #1 tells the story of a young Dr. Van Helsing who is smitten with Laura Horst. This would be hunkey dorey if not for the villainous vamp Carnilla who has her beady eyes set on the fair damsel herself. Toss in Count Dracula and Victor Frankenstein and Laura’s uncle who happens to be a werewolf and you have a regular Monster Mash that fills that classical monster jones in this horror freak.
Writer Robert Tinnell never lets things become too convoluted and campy. The characters all have rich histories in both literature and cinema and he mixes them all together like a literary alchemist resulting in pure gold. Characters bounce off of one another in a sensible and fun way. This first book seems to be just the tip of the iceberg of an epic confrontation between these characters. I especially love the way this story is set in between the story of Frankenstein and Dracula’s classic literary tales with Victor being locked in a young Van Helsing’s asylum. Though a young Van Helsing may not have been the stuff of great storytelling in Hugh Jackman’s turn with the character, here it feels much more natural with Van Helsing just developing his hatred for all things vampy. It’s a cool little untold origin tale for this character.
It took me a bit to get used to Neil Vokes art. Not because it is bad in any way. In fact, Vokes seems to be able to draw just about anything. It’s just that his cartoony style isn’t the first thing I’d think of when I’d think of an illustrated untold tale echoing from the Halls of Hammer. But as the story went on, Vokes craftsmanship shines through.
No self respecting horror fan should miss FLESH AND BLOOD. It’s got vampires, lesbians, werewolves, bats, wolves, monster hunters, monks, and oozes every inch of the panel with gothic atmosphere. Once again, Monsterverse has whittled together something special. Don’t miss FLESH & BLOOD #1 in stores now!
FEAR ITSELF 7.1: CAPTAIN AMERICAWriter: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Butch Guice
Publisher: Marvel Comics
This comic is another great example of MARVEL being to follow up a somewhat ‘meh’ event with something awesome. SECRET INVASION I consider ‘meh’ but what came after specifically DARK AVENGERS and the developments that spun out of that were in my opinion pretty cool. CIVIL WAR wasn’t a big fan of but some of the things it lead to DEATH OF CAPTAIN AMERICA being the first to come to mind (even though Bru was killin’ it all the way through) but what I’m saying is I love you Ed Brubaker...no well yes…y’know…but MARVEL has good follow ups and this is one of ‘em.
I’ve said my peace a few times about how Bucky got the shit end of the ‘hero must die in an event’ stick, and how he deserved better blah blah blah… SPOILERSPOILERSPOILER. I think he might be getting what he deserves. This series captured that missing emotion from the scene in FEAR ITSELF #6 or whatever it was way back in what August. This issue picks up from the moment Bucky is taken out and from there it’s just great fuckin’ espionage style development. Exactly the way something should go if Nick Fury is involved. This issue’s got great fights and great emotional moments. And a damn good set up for…weeeellll, I don’t want spoil it too bad but I guess you probably know or will know soon.
FUCK! Just when I thought I had my comic budget under control (I’m now buying twice a week to pretend I’m not buying as much) there comes something I feel like I have to have. Now as much as I love Brubaker…this story could have easily been told in issue #1 of that thing that I’m not telling what it is. But maybe if someone was just reading the FEAR ITSELF stuff and the tie-ins, having this with the FEAR ITSELF banner may entice them to check out this new thing. The story is good and I love it that there this thing that the main characters know that the rest of them don’t …hah how’s that…the story is tense and I look forward to see where this goes.
The art here is great and Brubaker seems like only works with artists who operate in a certain tone and it works great here. If you’re not familiar with Butch Guice (he’s been around for a while) his art is similar to Doug Brathwaite but the inks seem a little heavier here. He also did the run of CAPTAIN AMERICA (Bucky) with Zemo, most recently.
I'm on board with what Bru and Butch are doing here and I think the new turn is going to be cool. Think secret agent/ revenge/ Nick Fury/ retribution/ intelligence agency/ running from the law running from everyone/ double cross/ yatta yatta and you’ll be close.
STARGAZER VOLUMES 1-2Writer & Artist: Von Allan
Publisher: Von Allan Studio
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
“Oh very young what will you leave us this time” – Cat Stevens
Innocence…something we can’t buy and once lost never regain (outside of head wounds and memory loss of course). It’s also treasure and trash - coveted by adults and discarded by children as they thrust themselves headfirst into adulthood.
I jump at reviewing children’s graphic novels for two reasons: One, I think it’s important that people keep producing comics for kids. Two, I selfishly want to regain my own innocence lost even if it’s only for a short time.
STARGAZER gave me the same cathartic release from my from my jaded cynicism as my yearly rereads that take me back to Hogwarts, or through a wardrobe, or across a bridge to Tarabithia. While all of these are journeys to strange realms, the true meaning of the books, the thing that makes them classics and let’s them appeal to both children and adults is the central theme of crossing over from make-believe into the harsh cruelty that is adulthood.
I had grave concerns when Allan first approached me about covering STARGAZER. Could a middle-age man write not only in the authentic voice of children, but also children of the opposite gender? The answer is yes, but with a caveat. Marnie, Sophie and Elora, seem to have a bit more soul and depth than the kids I see running around like maniacs in front of my house. Now, part of this is because they are girls and as we all know girls always mature faster than boys. The other half of this soulfulness though, is that Allan chose to give these girls hefty totes of emotional baggage. Read any psychological study and you will learn that kids that have to shoulder great tragedy at a young age grow up infinitely faster than their emotionally cloistered counterparts. So it makes perfect sense that our central character Marnie would be ahead of the emotional curve with a Mother battling depression and a nut less wonder of a Father who buries his head in the sand about his wife’s affliction. It also makes perfect sense that Marnie wouldn’t associate with just anyone in school. There are major trust issues that come from living in emotionally strained households and the bonds of friendship seem to be forged from much stronger material than the kids that grow-up in fantasy lands.
Now if Marnie’s cloud wasn’t dark enough, the central catalyst for STARGAZER’S story is the loss of Marnie’s Grandmother. Actually this is exactly how the book opens…within a few short pages we understand that Marnie is now truly alone. Allan conveys this sadness with simple, yet effective pictures and words. Honestly, these pages were all I needed to dub STARGAZER an emotional success. Not a successful story, but certainly an impactful short vignette.
Marnie is left a magical device by her Grandmother. Don’t ask me what the hell it is, I can’t tell you. Not that I won’t tell you, I mean I literally can’t tell you. No one, not Marnie, her Grandmother (when she was alive) or Marnie’s friends can identify this “artifact.” Marnie and her Grandmother would use their fantastic imaginations to turn the device into an assortment of objects as they played make-believe, but at the end of the day it was simply a back packing looking thing with four holes in it.
Please keep in mind I’m truncating events of the book. All in all the two volumes of STARGAZER clock in at a hefty 200 + pages. What I describe as mere moments are truly emotionally wrought scenes when read inside the book. My lame description of the mystical backpack is so much more vivid within the pages of STARGAZER as Marnie takes her friends through old photo albums of her and her Grandmother playing with the object together.
Ultimately this object serves as a transportation device to whisk Marnie and her friends away from their mundane suburban existence to a world unlike any other. A world comprised of a skyline with multiple moons, a world where the seasons change overnight, a world of pure imagination.
I won’t do Allan a disservice by describing this world; suffice to say he always kept the characters true to form. If boys were faced with a mute robot I have no doubt that the first instinct would be to beat it with a stick until it talked. The gentler sex though, chooses the strange approach of treating the creature with love and trying to truly understand it. Likewise when faced with a monster that reminded me of a Mad-Ball, boys would posture and try to one-up one another. Girls actually work together and emotionally support one another in times of turmoil. Together the girls go on a physical journey through this world, but the emotional journey as they leave childhood behind is what’s most engaging.
Allan is an accomplished writer; he captures the essence of coming-of-age without ever blatantly slapping the reader across the face with it. One place I would like to see him grow though is in his artistic style. He portrays images very well with his simplistic style, not once did I ever go “what the fuck was that?” However, with the deep emotions he tried to convey with the three girls their faces did not always match up. I know the human form, especially the subtlety of facial expression is an artist’s greatest challenge, but in a book with such emotional levels as STARGAZER there were moments when the facial expressions Allan has perfected just didn’t quite gel. This is something an adult focuses on though; it’s a subtlety children would give a lick about. And at the end of the day STARGAZER was written for children and I can’t recommend it enough for the most overlooked demographic out there.
Looks for more of the Holes rambling about comics on Poptards in future AICN COMICS columns!
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G
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