|Issue #50||Release Date: 2/29/12||Vol.#10|
(Click title to go directly to the review)
Advance Review: SUPERBIA #1
THE TWELVE #10
BATMAN BEYOND UNLIMITED #1
Advance Review: HELL YEAH #1
THE ULTIMATES #7
Advance Review: HELLRAISER #11
FANGBONE: THIRD GRADE BARBARIAN VOL.1
Advance Review: THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS #1
Advance Review: RACHEL RISING #1
ORC STAIN #7
Advance Review: VAMPIRELLA VS DRACULA #2
GRACE RANDOLPH’S SUPURBIA #1 (of 4)Creator & Writer: Grace Randolph
Artist: Russell Dauterman
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
As difficult as it may be to imagine nowadays, there was a time when the idea of a costumed superhero having any sort of personal life outside of fighting crime and wearing spandex was revolutionary. The comic book readers of today owe a massive debt to Stan, Steve and Jack for adding a sense of depth and characterization to the previously one-dimensional superhuman archetypes. The Marvel comics of the 1960s shifted the focus of the storytelling from being solely plot-driven to a balance between plot and character—a development that grew and expanded throughout the 1970s and ‘80s, leading eventually to the deconstructionist one-two punch of WATCHMEN and THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS and their myriad progeny. The origins of the character-driven stories we enjoy today can all be traced back to the melding of the four color crimefighter with the melodrama of the soap opera.
Which brings me to one of the soapiest comics I’ve ever read: GRACE RANDOLPH’S SUPURBIA, which reads like JUSTICE LEAGUE meets “Desperate Housewives.” The premise is that all the members of the Meta Legion (SUPURBIA’s stand-in for the JLA) live on the same suburban street in a quiet suburban neighborhood with their spouses and children, making the neighborhood a safe haven for the Legion, away from the danger that their careers bring. Though this story is about super-powered beings, however, the focus of the comic is centered on these non-powered family members who have to live amongst demigods. Housewives, girlfriends, kids and a househusband to an Amazon-like warrior woman—these are the true protagonists of SUPURBIA.
The concept of normal humans living alongside the comic book world of heroes and villains has been explored before in the medium, mostly in the Marvel universe (though DC has touched upon it here and there), but this is the first time I’ve seen a book that promises to favor depicting the situation from the normal humans’ point of view instead of focusing on the spandex set. This is what SUPURBIA has that sets the series apart from other similarly themed comics; if more attention had been given to the heroes themselves, the book would feel like just another entry in the long line of superhero deconstruction. Part of the reason for this is that these heroes are so closely modeled after their archetypical counterparts, thus far they come across as cheap imitations rather than fully realized characters in their own right. Granted, Superman doesn’t do lines of cocaine along with his ex-criminal girlfriend like SUPURBIA’S Sovereign does, and Alfred never walked in on Batman pounding ass with Robin in the Batcave like Night Fox and Agent Twilight, but even so, it’s not exactly the first time that these iconic figures were tinkered with to suit an edgier sort of comic book story. Hell, Alan Moore had his erstatz Justice League running a child pornography ring with their teenage sidekicks in TOP 10, so these guys are getting off pretty light in SUPURBIA.
The artwork in this comic is serviceable—Dauterman has a good sense of page composition and camera angles, and his cartoonish style works in terms of making the civilian characters as easily distinguishable from one another as their costumed counterparts—but I’m afraid that that’s about all I can muster in terms of the positive. There’s some wonky anatomy happening on some pages, and sometimes the simplified drawing style makes for sparse, ill-defined backgrounds and rubbery figures. All in all, the visuals are decent, but they fail to add that extra impact that could have elevated SUPURBIA above its familiar theme.
That added impact is really what this series needs in order to set it apart from the rest of the crowd. This first issue isn’t bad—the characters are there and there’s a neat cliffhanger at the end that provides the necessary intrigue to make me want to find out what comes next—but the focal shift from the heroes to the housewives of super-street isn’t quite enough yet to give the series its own identity. Simply put, I don’t think SUPURBIA is as clever as it thinks it is, but my interest in this soap opera has been piqued enough to want to tune in next month to see what happens next.
When released from his bottle, the Imp transforms into Stephen Andrade, an artist/illustrator/pirate monkey painter from New England. He's currently hard at work interpreting fellow @$$Hole Optimous Douche's brainwaves and transforming them into pretty pictures on AVERAGE JOE, an original graphic novel to be published by Com.x. You can see some of his artwork here.
The TWELVE #10 (of 12)Writer: J. Michael “I’ll Finish When I Feel Like It” Straczynski
Artist: Chris “You Bet Your Ass It Looks Good” Weston
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Majin Fu
After reading the first few issues of the series almost four years ago, I compared the intriguing murder mystery, complete with an ensemble cast of complex heroes from a bygone era to the pivotal superhero murder mystery: WATCHMEN. While my early comparisons may have been a bit hyperbolic, THE TWELVE has still proven to be a memorable story. It’s not even finished yet, but this issue culminates in a moment that is both shocking and thought-provoking, making it a must-read.
So in this issue we learn the Blue Blade was indirectly murdered by Dynamo Man, who seems to have been motivated primarily by his Ken doll status (i.e. a lack of genitalia). While at first this seems silly, and indeed several of the panels featuring DM’s naked form are downright hilarious, the implications of such a resolution can become quite disturbing after further meditation. JMS is obviously probing the limits of sexuality, especially in correlation to the violence inherent to costumed vigilantes throughout the text. Some may consider this a controversial conclusion, but like the best in superhero stories, it’s bound to inspire some heated discussions between those who’ve read the story.
Speaking of story, when it comes to straightforward storytelling, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better artist than Chris Weston to illustrate your narrative. The man practically became a legend with his work on THE FILTH with Grant Morrison, and it looks like with THE TWELVE he has created another masterpiece of the comics form. Every page is intricately detailed, every figure dripping with human emotion, and every essential moment is perfectly, dramatically captured and composed on the page. Each of the superheroes in the cast is especially designed to recall the earlier generation they came from, including one guy who looks eerily like James Cagney. It’s some of the best design work I’ve seen in any comic, in any year.
Chris Chuckry’s colors also deserve special recognition for bringing the colorful costumes of these heroes of yore to life. Each character is portrayed vividly in their larger-than-life costumes, while the environments are appropriately rendered in a realistic manner, making the character practically pop off the page. Flashbacks and repeated sequences from earlier issues are also given a faded tone that distinguishes the scenes well from the rest of the story.What’s in a delay anyway? Well it depends upon the book really, the quality of the writing and art, and of course the reader’s investment in the characters and plot. Considering these factors, THE TWELVE just might be worth another look, if only in collected form later on. Those of you who decided to skip the latest issues (a totally understandable decision) may want to consider checking this out when it is eventually released in trade form, as I predict this story would benefit from repeated readings.
THE TWELVE is a potent meditation on the conflicts which arise from a generation gap, the implications of sexual neglect, and the violence which results from such issues. This culminates in a story populated by a multifaceted cast that compels the reader to consider another time, when values were substantially different from our own. Even with the mystery already solved, I’m looking forward to the final two issues of this series, if only to see how the rest of the cast will cope with their new places in the contemporary world.
BATMAN BEYOND UNLIMITED #1Writers: Adam Beechen, Derek Fridoles and Dustin Nguyen
Artists: Norm Breyfogle, Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridoles
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
BATMAN BEYOND had everything I wanted and more from a Batman comic. It’s a fast-moving ride of Silver Age sensibility minus the camp. In a sea of comics that rely on the cheap trick of deconstructing the hero mythos for laughs, BATMAN BEYOND rises above the mire to walk on water in a savior-like experience of exciting action, deep characterization and outright hilarity.
I didn’t expect to like this book since my dalliances with BATMAN BEYOND in the past were limited. The cartoon came out when I was already well into my college days of bong hits and babes (and sometimes studying), so I never had the free time to truly learn the wonders of future Gotham and the non-brooding, major ass kicking, kid Batman Terry McGinnis. Frankly, I always assumed it was a book for kids. Also, being a past champion of continuity, I had a hard time wrapping my head around the axle of future Gotham visions in BATMAN proper (i.e. #666 with Damian as tomorrow’s Batdude). Thank God for the conversation I had with Mike Uslan; he set me straight on the virtues of multiple Bat universes and how any future prognostications are just that, they are not canon or fact. Basically he told me I was cutting my nose off to spite my fanman face
I’m sure other @$$holes are better suited to write this review, those who know the history of Terry, his girlfriend and the extended bat future family. But despite not having a historical context, I was easily able to acclimate to the story – and even better than that, I actually cared. No, I don’t know exactly why Terry’s girlfriend was mad at him, but writer Beechen gives me all the clues I need to know in concise bubbles: that Terry often shirks his boyfriend duties to work for crusty old Bruce Wayne. No, I have no idea who Max is, but it’s clear she’s Terry’s Oracle and the debate as to whether or not to change a line of code to take down a L33T hacking ring were the tensest moments at a keyboard since Mathew Broderick played tic-tac-toe in “War Games.” No I’ve never seen the Jokerz, but again the name and the clown make-up gave me more then I needed to understand the cult attraction of tomorrow’s clinically insane. I’m also sure if I was a bigger historical fan of BATMAN BEYOND, the end reveal of who’s controlling the influx of out-of-town Jokerz would have been more “gawd-damn” and less “that’s cool.” Again though, in a testament to Beechen’s writing, even though I’m not getting cold sweats, I realize the importance of this reveal and how it can bring Terry’s personal life to new heights of solitude.
Now, as a longtime fan of BATMAN, I squealed with glee at seeing an elderly Bruce in cahoots with the equally elderly police commissioner Babs Gordon. This was the kind of progression I imagined I would be reading as a young Douche. Time marches on and it’s infuriating when comics won’t recognize that fact. Well, here it is folks, in full arthritic Technicolor.
It shouldn’t go without mentioning that all of this action occurred in only one half of the book. That’s right, kids--you get an entire second story with this comic focusing on Terry’s interactions with the JUSTICE LEAGUE BEYOND. Aquagirl, Green Lantern, Big Barda, Warhawk and everyone’s favorite Kryptonian who is now out of the secret identity closet, Kal-El, protect against the threats that are too large for any one hero. The threading of the two stories was virtually seamless as the JLB tries to break up a gang war between the Jokerz and the gangs that sport the latest designer genes of animal spliced DNA.
The art in both books was fantastic and also practically seamless. While it’s great to have Breyfogle back into the Bat fold, I was most impressed with Nguyen’s ability to meld with Breyfogle’s style without outright aping it. Plus, Nguyen gets characterization. At one point Aquagirl is working at the JL computer and tucks her leg under her as she sits. This is a beautiful touch into her personality delivered solely with visual cues (plus it adds to her cute as a button demeanor). I also found myself enamored with the logical calm fighting style of tomorrow’s Green Lantern. Yeah, there really is no need to fly around frantically when your ring can do all of the work. With so many Green Lanterns being emotional hot heads and a hot mess of psychosis, it’s refreshing to see a more Zen approach to galactic peace.
I really can’t say enough about this book: I laughed (a lot), I was taken aback, and most importantly I truly felt a real force of change and differentiation from the rest of the New 52. BATMAN BEYOND is more than an evolution of today’s heroes or a simple grab at decade old nostalgia; BEYOND represents a stellar new era of heroic optimism and adventure.
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-2012 from COM.X. Friend Optimous on FaceBook to get Average Joe updates and because ceiling cat says it's the right thing to do.
Advance Review: In stores today!
HELL YEAH # 1Writer: Joe Keating
Illustrator: Andre Syzmanowicz
Publisher: Image Comics
Written by: superhero
This was a decent comic. It’s nothing that blew me away but this issue is obviously just a setup story. You know the kind: introduce the main characters, flesh out the world, yadda, yadda, yadda.
What we have here is another misunderstood teenager with superpowers who lives in a world a bit reminiscent of the old, original SQUADRON SUPREME mini-series from the ‘80’s. Superheroes appeared and changed our society several years ago and now we have one angry teenager who is about to embrace his destiny and possibly figure out something is amiss in this somewhat perfect world of his that will change his life forever.
It’s a familiar setup and there’s nothing in here that got me really ultra-jazzed about HELL YEAH. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s just that the setup is somewhat…familiar. I will say that it got me interested enough to check out the next issue, but the feeling that I got with this chapter was very much what I felt when I read the first issue of INVINCIBLE, meaning that it was OK but it wasn’t anything to write home about. Of course, now INVINCIBLE is one of my all time favorite superhero books, so maybe there’s a bit of potential waiting to be born within this series. There is something fascinating about the universe that Keating and Syzmanowicz are putting together, but if the pace doesn’t pick up within the next several issues I may have to relegate HELL YEAH to one of the many “superpower” books that failed to capture my interest throughout the years.
I will say that I did very much enjoy Syzmanowicz’s art and Jason Lewis’s coloring. The artwork and palette of the colors in HELL YEAH were definitely standouts for me. It’s the story that kind of underwhelmed me, but the last page of the book at least got me curious enough to come back and check out what may happen next.
Discovered as a babe in an abandoned comic book storage box and bitten by a radioactive comic fan when he was a teenager, superhero is actually not-so mild mannered sometime designer & cartoonist, Kristian Horn of Los Angeles, California. Some of his work can be seen at www.kristianhorn.com and check out his blog at www.parttimefanboy.com. You can check also out his webcomics at www.babybadass.com and thediplomatics.com, which is currently in development.
THE ULTIMATES #7Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Esad Ribic
Publisher: Ultimate Marvel Comics
Reviewer: The Writing Rambler
It’s funny how back in August the comics world was abuzz with talk of the coming reboot of the DCU and how all things were being restarted from issue one (I’m enjoying the NEW 52 but I’m still waiting to see how long it all lasts) and all of the repercussions it would bring. But at the same time Marvel’s Ultimate line was having a remodel of sorts, at least in number form. The ULTIMATE COMICS line all reset to #1’s as well and besides the big news of ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN’s death and subsequent replacement by the younger and controversial (because apparently a non-white SPIDEY is still controversial in 2012) choice of Miles Morales, we also had THE ULTIMATES starting back at issue one. Unlike DC’s reboot, though, Marvel’s edgier, more realistic Ultimate Universe wasn’t restarting, but instead rising from the ashes of utter destruction. Spidey was dead, Captain America had quit, Reed Richards had gone bad and Iron Man, well Iron Man was still a rich & powerful drunk (and that’s why we love him). While I’ve raved in the past about my love for the new ULTIMATE SPIDERMAN book I figured I should show some love to THE ULTIMATES themselves by talking a little about this 7th issue.
I actually enjoyed this newest issue less than the first 6, but despite that ULTIMATES is still one of the best books Marvel is currently putting out. I like seeing this team, and Nick Fury, in general at a point of desperation. It seems as though there is no way they can overcome the clearly advanced “Children of Tomorrow” and their spoilertastic leader. My biggest problem with this current issue is that unlike many other main books, I feel a little lost when not following along with the supplemental tie in stuff (in this case the ULTIMATE HAWKEYE limited series). Were it not for the wonders of the internet (sorry, Marvel, but I still don’t feel like paying 3.99 for ULTIMATE HAWKEYE back issues) I don’t think I would have been able to follow the events of this seventh issue. But don’t let my complaints turn you away; this is still a very good book.
On a major plus side for this book, Esad Ribic brings his A++ game more and more with each new issue. I can’t stress how much I love the look of this book. From the characters’ facial expressions to an absolutely gorgeous page of the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier approaching the Tian Heavenly Cities his work is impeccable. I’d also love to see anyone have something bad to say about a panel showing a certain character sitting peacefully in the shadows drinking tea. It’s just great work all around.
Where ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN is doing a fantastic job telling the story of one character’s personal journey of growing into their new powers, THE ULTIMATES is doing the same but for large scale epic storytelling. Watching these characters up against impossible odds is exactly what great team storytelling should be about. Though issue 7 does slightly suffer from A.D.D. as it jumps around assuming the reader is all caught up with the goings on on the Ultimate universe, it’s more than forgivable with the great story we’re being given.
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Advance Review: In stores today!
HELLRAISER #11Writer: Clive Barker with Robb Humphreys & Mark Miller
Artist: Stephen Thompson & Janusz Ordon
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Reviewer: The Dean
I have not been reading HELLRAISER. I’ve seen the first three movies, and after the third, I thought that perhaps the series is best remembered as those first two movies only. But every month or so, I hear rumblings of how good this new HELLRAISER series from Clive Barker is, and this month I finally decided to give it a go.
Despite having no knowledge of the events in the series’ past ten issues, I found it pretty easy to get the gist of things right from the start. The issue opens with a nice little paragraph summation of what I missed, which more or less boils down to: Pinhead got bored in hell, found a way out, made the first film’s heroine (Kirsty Cotton) the new Pinhead, and the old Pinhead is just regular ol’ Captain Elliot Spencer again. Spencer is just like the rest of us now - hanging out with his pals, breaking stuff in antique stores (although it’s not an accident when he does it), and searching for the key to Heaven’s gate. I didn’t really get a good sense of Kirsty’s Pinhead with this issue, which I was really hoping for, but after the rather awesome cliffhanger in this one, I’m sure that’s coming.
The art for this one is split between Stephen Thompson and Janusz Ordon. I’m fairly unfamiliar with both of them, but for the most part, I like what I see. To be honest, it was hard to really gauge it due to some rather bland coloring from Space Goat Productions, but otherwise, nothing really stands out either way. This issue was pretty light on the hellish mutilation, though, and I’d like to see what they can do there before I start wishing for different artists or anything.
All in all, I’m glad I took a chance and jumped into HELLRAISER with this issue. I’m sure diehards are already reading it, but if you only had a passing interest in the series before like I did, it’s worth giving this one a look. However, for the most part, I think I’ll be reserving my judgment on this team as a whole until I see some more crazy Cenobite stuff going down. Hopefully that one who throws CDs at people isn’t still around. What was with that guy? Guess his mom wasn’t there to yell at him for trying that after watching 3 NINJAS like mine was.
FANGBONE: THIRD GRADE BARBARIAN VOL.1Writer: Michael Rex
Illustrator: Michael Rex
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Reviewer: Mr. Pasty
When I became a father, I became an expert in a lot of things. You know, all kinds of cool dad things like cleaning up regurgitated formula, wiping baby shit off a toddler’s leg in a Wal-Mart mens’ room, and stumbling around a one bedroom apartment on two hours of sleep. To that end, it was like my freshman year in college – only less vomit. As the little one got older, I also became an expert in children’s books. In spite of my best efforts to make an ad hoc babysitter out of my downstairs television, she loves to find a quiet corner to read. Go figure. That means regular trips to the library and blank checks for the school book fair. So imagine my excitement when I got a chance to nab free copies of Michael Rex’s FANGBONE, a story about an elementary school barbarian who must keep the school safe and pass the third grade. I didn’t have to leave the house and I didn’t have to tap into my beer fund. Then again, my idea of Sunday brunch is loading up on free hot food samples at Costo.
So here’s the deal: I decided to read FANGBONE before pushing it off on my kid, just in case it was awful or had some kind of offensive material (kind of like biting into a Halloween apple to check for razor blades). Not surprisingly, I enjoyed it, but there is no point in having a middle-aged comic book geek try to sell you on the merits of a children’s book, so I’ll now turn the floor over to my third grade wunderkind:
“I say Fangbone always stands up for himself and is always brave. He is never scared and he also learns about the new world he is in to protect the “big toe of drool.” He makes friends with a boy named Bill and in volume two there is the egg of misery. In the egg was supposed to have a white dragon, but there was something else in the egg. I really loved the book because it was just like a comic. Also I loved it because of all of the action. Fangbone tells everybody about himself. I think this book is funny because there is this girl who says everything is stupid. The word is funny because she says the word all the time like in one of the pages she said, ‘Fur underwear is stupid.’ Also she said ‘Beanball is stupid.’
My kid thinks the word “stupid” is funny, probably because I don’t let her say it, but rest assured, there’s more to FANGBONE than grade school curse words. Rex strikes a nice balance between smart and silly without pandering to his audience. The illustrations are simplified and easy on younger eyes and his story is fleshed out and fully realized. My research tells me Rex is also a New York Times bestselling author and after reading FANGBONE, it doesn’t much surprise me. His work is equal to, if not superior to, some of the more recognized offerings currently crowding the bookstore shelves, and I can’t imagine any child in the target demographic not enjoying this charming little tale of a boy from Skullbania. Kids or no kids, FANGBONE is a winner.
Web heads who can’t get enough of Mr. Pasty’s word vomit are encouraged to watch him operate as Nostradumbass over at MMaMania.com here. Love, hate and Mafia Wars requests should be directed here.
Advance Review: In stores today!
THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS #1Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Nick Pitarra
Reviewed by Humphrey Lee
There comes a point in time when you just have to admit you are a shill. For the third week now I am covering an Image comic and, honestly, it’s a trend that is probably going to continue for a bit. Besides my pull list shuffling in the wake of DC’s New 52 last year, no other publisher has enticed me to add more of their lineup to mine than Image. Every month it seems they are adding to the stable by a good handful of titles and at least one catches my eye. I’m not always saying they are a homerun with me – I may be a whore but I’m not easy – but there’s always something in there worth the time. And that brings me to Jonathan Hickman, whose works are also in that vein of “always worth a look” and that always prompt me to put my legs up in the air (allegedly) like Sandra Fluke.
My love of all things Hickman comes from their almost always being rooted in the world of hard sci-fi.” THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS goes a bit historical – as these Hickman works are wont to do – and plays with the World War II era and uses Robert Oppenheimer, Mr. “I Have Become Death” himself, as the central character. What follows next is kind of what I’d like to think is what would happen if Jonathan Hickman drank so much he woke up thinking he was Warren Ellis. Essentially it’s Sci-Fi Mad Bastardry at its best.
There isn’t just Robert Oppenheimer, there’s his evil twin brother that is a psycho murderer. There isn’t just the atomic bomb - the singular form of where this book derives its name from - that made Oppenheimer famous, there’s Zen Powered Death Buddhists coming out of portals that crash from the sky. From a spectacle standpoint it’s pretty great, and lord knows where else this will go based on that time period and all the minds involved, a very prominent one of which we catch a couple panels worth of glimpses of in this and which I was officially giddy to see his frizzy hair and soup-strainer mustache.
From a developmental standpoint, this book is pretty tight. It flows very smoothly between its concepts and plot points and never loses a bit of momentum. Admittedly, the crux of the progression, as you go along with the ride, lends itself to the predictable, but you will be so wrapped up in the goings-on of the book, and just what implications that cliffhanger has, that you probably will not give a good goddamn. This is the (I believe) second teaming up of Nick Pitarra on a Hickman joint and a lot of the above buzzwords used, particularly “flow”, are very much due to his work. It’s a great complimentary style as it has this odd matter of factness to it that dares you to take the book more seriously than the events in it seem to warrant. This is especially true in the body language of Oppenheimer, as he’s always so stiff and unexcitable, despite the occasional bits of bugfuck insanity going about before him. The lanky, angular look to him also makes the character that much more menacing as certain events transpire toward the end of this particular issue.
As much as I have enjoyed what Hickman has been doing with his Marvel projects – including what could easily end up being my favorite FANTASTIC FOUR run ever – I much prefer the version that gets to do whatever the hell he pleases. It’ll be especially nice to see an extended run of indie work of his as, I have felt, a couple of his past mini-series – namely THE RED WING and RED MASS FOR MARS – had hurt themselves with abruptness. Tons of cool concepts and not enough pages to let them live and breathe and develop into something more. That is what THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS promises to be; something more. Something more than we’ve seen Hickman and Pitarra develop before and doing something more with a time period that is rife with possibilities considering the players involved, both historically and creatively. Here’s to something more: may we always keep demanding it and folks like Hickman and Pitarra keep it in supply.
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!
Story & Art: Terry Moore
Publisher: Abstract Studios
Reviewer: Johnny Destructo
To almost every other comic book professional alive right now: Terry Moore is kicking your ass. He is writing, illustrating, lettering and publishing his own title on a regular basis, and it's awesome. He's running rings around some of you fellows and ladies who can't get your pencils done on time, even relying on finishes and layouts by other artists. This is a master of several crafts. Not just artistically, but writing as well.
And genres? Forgeddaboudit!
Romantic comedy? - Nailed it.
Sci-fi? Nailed it.
Horror? In the process of friggin' nailing it.
There are comic professionals that are beloved by fans, and then there are comic professionals that are beloved by other comic professionals. That is to say, Moore is someone to look at to see how it gets done.
As a life-long fan of the horror genre, I have found it difficult to get into "horror comics". There is some element lost in the translation. A lack of atmosphere, of anxiety that is usually supplied by music (or lack of music), timing, subtle emotional beats, etc. Static images on a page have, in the past, failed to provide me with the anticipation and the feeling of dread that horror films put forth. Somehow, Terry Moore has properly translated these elements onto the drawn page.
Almost every page ratchets up the tension in some form or another, to the point that I'm getting a little worried about the pay off! How can Moore possibly provide us with a satisfactory wrap-up to this story that appropriately answers all of my questions? It's starting to feel like LOST, in that regard. But I have faith. He hasn't let me down once in the (almost) 2 decades I've been reading his work.
I feel uncomfortable providing a synopsis here, as what I recount will only serve to diminish the story's effect on the reader. Suffice it to say, if you like Terry Moore, or horror books, or just well crafted art, this is for you.
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Nick Dragotta (pencils/inks) Chris Sotomayor (colors)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Henry Higgins is My Homeboy
Last week, I read that Hickman will soon be leaving FF and FANTASTIC FOUR. And as someone who has rarely given the Fantastic Four a passing thought, I’m rather depressed. Hickman has taken the series and revitalized it, producing one of the most engaging titles on the stands today. The title continues the trend as it sets up the finale for the “Council Of Reeds” story, and after the last issue’s bombastic ending, takes a moment to breathe.
Writing: (4/5) The issue juggles the fallout from last issue and setting up the events of the upcoming finale. Both are well written, if a little rushed. The interplay between the various characters remains true, light, and fun, reflecting the ages of these characters. Dragon Man attempting to win over his compatriots to be shot down by Franklin, Bentley pissing off Katie Power and getting decked, it all rings true--especially the continued trend of making Valarie Richards a badass of the highest degree. It all shows Hickman’s great continued characterization, and his grasp on this colourful cast.
If the book snags anywhere, then it’s the rushed feeling prevalent in this issue. A lot of ground needs to be covered, and it’s taken care off sparsely. Before there’s time to really register what’s happened, the team is on the Power Pack’s ship. And before long, they’re in a battle. And quickly after that, the fight is settled. I just wish there was more time to explore the events transpiring.
Art: (4/5) Dragotta is solid throughout the issue, and a great choice for art on this series. As opposed to the epic and grand scale of Kitson’s work in FANTASTIC FOUR, Dragotta presents a much brighter, more cartoony sense of style to the comic. The characters pop off the page (in no small part due to Sotomayor’s colouring), and are inherently fun. There’s a great sense of consistency, and an entertaining sense of motion present. It’s the precise sort of art the Fantastic Foundation class should have. The fight with the Moloids especially is fantastic, doing a hundred things at once but knowing how to focus on what’s important (namely, a troubled looking Franklin). There are no real problems with it, save a few panels here and there. The only reason it’s not perfect is those few inconsistencies.
Best Moment: Valerie ending the battle with the Moloids.
Worst Moment: The pacing feels just a little rushed.
Overall: (4/5) A very entertaining issue, and one I hope continues on even after Hickman departs.
Created, Written, Drawn, and Colored by James Stokoe
Publisher: Image Comics
I hate James Stokoe. You wanna know why? Because he’s fucking amazing, that’s why!
I had never heard of ORC STAIN. I didn’t even know this comic existed. I didn’t know anything about it. Which is a damn shame. A DAMN SHAME. Because this is one of the best comics I’ve had the fortune to read in recent memory.
ORC STAIN is the best combination of old Heavy Metal/Dungeons and Dragons comic goodness that I have seen in a long time. It’s absolute chaotic, mad, mad, MAD brilliance packed in a small pamphlet of a book that just blew my mind.
Every once in a while you come across a comic that just hits all of the pleasure zones of you brain. ORC STAIN was made for the inner pre-teen in me that still yearns to get out every once in a while (and all too often does). It’s filled with alien creatures, otherworldly technology, and crazy, crazy violent action! How in the hell did I, no, how in the hell does the comic book reading WORLD not know about this comic book??? Why is every comic book reviewer, artist, craftsman, etc. just not singing the praises of James Stokoe, the man who apparently wrote, drew and colored this whole damn thing ALL BY HIMSELF???
>I’ll tell you why…it’s because they all hate him. Just like I do. No one person deserves to be this talented.
If you are out there and you long for a day when you could pick up a comic book and experience something that was wholly original and just somewhat on the edge of madness while at the same time being completely impressed by the professionalism of what you’re reading, check out this book. I’ve apparently already missed out on the first six issues but when the trade comes out you can bet your sweet bippy that I will be buying it without hesitation.
I hate you, James Stokoe…but I love your comic.
Advance Review: In stores today!
Writer: Joe Harris
Artist: Ivan Rodriguez
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
You would think that with my interest (some may say obsession) in vampires that I would have read a comic about Vampirella. I hadn’t and her outfit wasn’t a factor this (okay, maybe just a bit). But, even with only a basic idea of who she is, I didn’t find that a hindrance to reading this comic.
I’m glad that I am reviewing issue #2, instead of the first. VAMPIRELLA VS. DRACULA #1 didn’t do anything for me. Well, it did cause quite a headache from confusion. This series is an extension of the Alan Moore/Gary Frank story, THE NEW EUROPEAN, which was reprinted in issue #1. For Alan Moore, the story seemed weak. The tale of Dracula has been adapted ad nausea, to the point where originality is near impossible to achieve. Moore moves the story to 1997; nothing really special there. The change he brought to it was the self-reflexiveness. Our “Jonathan Harker”, now named Jack Halloran, realizes that he is living an updated version of Bram Stoker’s tale. However, Moore doesn’t really take advantage of this self-awareness. Jack comes to this realization way too late in the story, making him thickheaded. While elements begin to change bit by bit near the end, there is no major veer off the road. You would think that a comic that allows the characters to see what plot they are in would also explore the idea of them changing the ending.
But I digress. This isn’t a review of THE NEW EUROPEAN or VAMPIRELLA VS. DRACULA #1. I merely thought that a summarization of my reading experience prior to issue #2 would be beneficial in understanding why I feel a particular way about this particular book.
The comic begins with an addition that has become popular in recent retellings of Dracula. I call it the Coppola version, based on his 1992 film. I don’t know where this Elisabetha love interest came from. If someone can tell me where Stoker mentions her that’d be great, though I must give credit to writer Joe Harris for putting in the narration that “others would gloss over his loss entirely when portraying the origins of the most infamous vampire the world would ever know.” It was this moment that I knew I would enjoy this issue much more.
My confusion with the prior was three-fold. First there was the comic’s description as a story between Vampirella and Dracula “drawn to one another across continents and centuries by a mysterious force…” I kept on holding on to this belief that this story would be centered on the relationship between the two of them, but what I came to realize was this was a story focused on Dracula and Jonathan. Issue #2 tied in Vampirella’s part much better.
My second problem was Ivan Rodriguez’s drawings of Dracula and Jonathan. They are way too similar. Both characters have the same body type, just with one scruffier. In issue #2, though this poor design continues to some extent, though there are different versions of Dracula (based on the different timelines) that have a stronger distinction to that period’s Jonathan.
My final issue with VAMPIRELLA VS. DRACULA #1 was the mechanics of the time jumps. This was probably the only problem not cleared up in the second issue; in fact, it was the only facet that became more complicated.
All that being said, VAMPIRELLA VS. DRACULA #2 showed how this story spinning off of Alan Moore’s is actually more creative than its predecessor. The idea of Dracula and Jonathan reliving their tale over and over again throughout history is an original idea. It could represent how the story keeps on getting told repeatedly. The second issue also showed the potential for such an idea. Once the mechanics of the time jumping is cleared up, it’ll be easier for me to focus on both Vampirella and Jonathan’s realization that they are repeating their lives, the very aspect I wished that Moore had explored in his version.
I know most reviews cover the quality of writing or the artwork, but I spent so much time focusing on the plot and structure that I paid little heed to anything else. If I were to comment on the dialogue, I’d have to say the Texas drawl of Quincy was a favorite of mine.
If you pick up this comic because you are into Vampirella, be patient. Her character has been passive in both issues, but you can see the potential for her to take the reins and become more of the focus soon enough.
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.
JUSTICE LEAGUE #6
A common criticism of the first issue of JUSTICE LEAGUE described the comic akin to “an issue that would come with an action figure.” And the sentiment, sadly, still holds true. This is a comic that features the formation of the Justice League, the appearance of Darkseid, and a classic superhero beat down, and despite all that, all one can muster afterwards is a half-hearted “meh.” The action is dull and tired. There’s no real tension because, serving as a prologue of sorts for the current new 52, we know everyone comes out of it. There’s a horribly cliché framing device. The fight ends with an obvious deus ex machine, featuring Batman telling Cyborg, “It’s not the machine, it’s YOU who can save the day” in the worst possible Saturday morning cartoon manner. It’s just a lackluster comic. Even the usually reliable (if dated) art of Jim Lee is forgettable here, displaying some awful shots (look at Wonder Woman stabbing Darkseid). It’s a comic that takes a number of great individual elements, puts them all in a rucksack, then beats them with a stick until they’re indiscernible from one another. Six issues in and the first story done, JUSTICE LEAGUE has failed to impress. - Henry Higgins is My Homeboy
RALPH WIGGUM COMICS one-shot
I wasn’t allowed to watch Simpsons as a kid. My mother looked down on the show as crude and rude, so as soon as it came on the channel was sadly switched. Over the years I managed to catch a few episodes here and there (mostly in German so I didn’t get some of the jokes). Thanks to friends, my experiences with Springfield and its inhabitants have increased ten-fold, and thanks to the comics from Bongo, I can take the laughs with me. Ralph Wiggum is the son of the inept police captain from the show, a character who perfectly encapsulates the frustrating lack of aptitude some cops possess. Similarly, his son Ralph is the personification of the sissy boy we all remember from school. You know, the one who would sooner pretend to be a pony than play football with the other boys, not that there’s anything wrong with that. The stories start strong, with a script from Mary Trainor depicting Ralph ruining the house in a matter of moments, all the while oblivious to the danger around him. They get slowly less funny from there, but all of them are still hilariously ridiculous, especially Matt Groening’s story, where Ralph is being stalked by a nefarious leprechaun. Recommended for fans of the show. - Majin Fu
The search for the Amber Room continues! Or the search for the truth behind the Amber Room. Or the…you know, I really don’t care anymore. UNCHARTED in comic book form is starting to feel more and more like its video game counterpart, less the action, adventure, and intrigue. Sandoval has a great grasp of these characters, and the monthly doses of Drake and Sully are at least entertaining enough to keep me reading, but when the dialogue shifts from playful banter to plot exposition, I start thinking about saving that $2.99 next month. Now this is going to sound like much more of an insult that I intend it to be, but here goes – this issue is much better when you ignore the words. Sergio Sandoval is probably the main reason I’m sticking with this series, and his art is telling a much better story than Williamson’s writing. There’s a real sense of wonder and exploration here when you ignore the boring explanations of various totems and caverns. Be it the genuine character drawn into the cast’s faces or the exhilarating vantage points and dramatic reveals, there’s too much to love in this art for me to drop this title now. This issue in particular might not be Williamson at his best, but it is Sandoval at his, and UNCHARTED #4 deserves a flip through at least next time you get a chance. - The Dean
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G
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