|Issue #54||Release Date: 3/38/12||Vol.#10|
(Click title to go directly to the review)
Advance Review: GONE TO AMERIKAY HC OGN
RIVER OF DEATH as published in THE JAMES BOND OMNIBUS 003
THE AGES OF SUPERMAN: ESSAYS ON THE MAN OF STEEL IN CHANGING TIMES Novel
Advance Review: VOLTRON: YEAR ONE #1
INFESTATION 2: TMNT #2
H.P. LOVECRAFT & THE UNDERSEA KINGDOM OGN
Advance Review: THE INFINITE HORIZON TPBK
THE TWELVE #11
THE REAPER OF ST. GEORGE STREET OGN
BOONDOCK SAINTS: IN NOMINE PATRIS: THE SECRET HISTORY OF IL DUCE VOL.1 HC/TPBK
Advance Review: DANGER CLUB #1
Advance Review: In stores this week!
GONE TO AMERIKAY HC OGNWriter: Derek McCulloch
Artist: Colleen Doran
Publisher: DC Vertigo
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
I’m a sucker for historical fiction. Well, let me be more succinct: I‘m a sucker for American historical fiction. Every time “Gangs of New York” or any Scorsese film is on television I will watch faithfully to the end no matter how badly network TV censors butcher them. Hell, I’m so desperate for period drama I even hang in through Mel Gibson’s ultra-cheesy “The Patriot.” It takes a strong love of genre indeed to watch one of Heath Ledger’s worst cinematic performances.
So, when GONE TO AMERIKAY hit my doorstep promising to deliver three unique stories of the Irish immigrant experience told through the lens of three disparate time periods - the 1890’s, 1960’s and today - I was giddier than Daniel Day Lewis throwing a knife.
McCulloch and Doran have not only woven together an engaging mystery, but have also remembered that the coolest (or highest as they say in the biz) concepts need the weight of human drama to bring the story home. That’s really the best way to describe GONE TO AMERIKAY at the highest level: a story that is awe inspiring in its grandness of scope, tender in its examination of the immigrant struggle to achieve the American dream and eerily sweet with how it ties the three time periods together.
Right from the cover Doran’s lush visuals welcomes you to the juxtaposition of reality and fantasy inside GONE TO AMERIKAY. The scene, like every other in this book, steals your breath. With a wooden vessel fighting against the currents of the Atlantic to bring its payload of prosperity from Europe to New York, we are reminded of just what a marvelous age we live in. For all of our bitching about the economy and how we can ever afford to upgrade our 55” TV to a 70”, GONE TO AMERIKAY reminds us of a time not too long ago when we couldn’t travel from one place to the next sans buckets of feces and rampant scurvy. The cover is also our first introduction to the two leads of 1890, Ciara O’ Dwyer and her infant daughter.
This is, again, why I prefer full graphic novels as opposed to serials. So often these days, covers are slapped on books to meet editorial deadlines and rarely reflect the material contained inside. With GONE TO AMERIKAY, this image of Ciara and her daughter on the cover with a beautiful sense of awe upon their faces bleeds right into panel 1 as they are greeted by Lady Liberty before docking at Ellis Island. My grandmother took this same journey from the Ukraine, and even though I lost her a few months ago at the blessed age of 92, her words of first seeing America played as a secondary track during the first few pages of this book.
Next up: the future. As I said earlier, this book lives in three time periods. The next traveler from Ireland we meet is Johnny McCormack, a man with a song in his heart and the dream of becoming a Broadway star. Unlike the O’Dwyers’ journey, Johnny’s is less wrought with peril since by the 1960s transcontinental travel has become commonplace. Make no mistake, though; Johnny is not a member of the elite 1960 class that was pampered by sexy stews on TWA. Johnny, like so much of the lower class of the time, hunkered down inside the belly of a mammoth iron sailing giant.
Once Johnny is safe on shore the flux capacitor is set for 2011, where a billionaire businessman from Ireland, Lewis Healey, whisks across the Atlantic in his own private jet to receive a birthday surprise from his wife. The present is to unravel the history behind a song that inspired Lewis to become the man he is today. We spend the least amount of time with Lewis, and rightly so. His story is the connective tissue that ties together the events of 1890 and 1960, plus if you really want to see modern New York, Google street maps is a click away.
I remember during the 1980s New Jersey news stations would bemoan the current filth that was Times Square. Porn shops and peep shows were the commerce of choice before the area was Bennigansized by Giuliani. Hookers and the homeless littered the streets to the point that a young seven year old Optimous was propositioned by both on an excursion to see “A Chorus Line.” Still, for as awful as this sounds, it was nothing compared to the debauchery and filth of the 1890’s. Ciara and her daughter come to America looking for a brighter future, but what they are met with is the horror that was the old epicenter of New York: Five Points. Alone and waiting on a husband that will never arrive, the two live in a world where prostitutes copulate in stairwells, living quarters house fifteen to a shabby room, and where an immigrant woman can only make wages as a servant or a whore. Doran’s authenticity of this wasteland of hope can only be matched with the despair she etches on the faces of Ciara and her daughter when they see that this is their new home.
Conversely, 1960s New York was a middle ground between the distant past and today. Johnny arrives in America with opportunity aplenty before him. While his dreams of being illuminated by the bright lights of Broadway never come to fruition, Johnny does find a home and eventual success in the beatnik neighborhood of Greenwich Village. Folk music is on the precipice of stealing America’s heart and Johnny’s golden voice and heartfelt lyrics of the homeland poise him to become one of the most prolific voices of the time.
And it’s through Johnny’s music we start to get a sense of the bigger picture behind GONE TO AMERIKAY. Lewis Healey was inspired by Johnny’s music, and one song in particular, “Ciara’s Song” (get it), remained a mystery of inspiration he was hell-bent to one day unravel.
I’m not going to give away the mystery; suffice to say it is steeped in the same mysticism and romanticism that McCulloch uses to paint these players as honest-to-God living human beings throughout every page of this book.
I can continue to gush about GONE TO AMERIKAY, but one truly needs to hold and imbibe this book to “get it.” There is not a wasted word or panel in this tale. McCulloch touches on every cornerstone of the American experience from the perspective of those that appreciate American freedom the most. Doran is my new goddess; you could take away every word bubble in GONE TO AMERIKAY and spend days simply soaking in the lush detail of each scene and examining the stark emotion on the faces of each character.
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.
RIVER OF DEATH as published in THE JAMES BOND OMNIBUS 003Writer: Ian Fleming
Adapted by: Jim Fleming
Publisher: Titan Books
"River of Death" opens with what must be one of the goofier assassination jobs I've ever seen in spy fiction. The opening gambit in this chapter of THE JAMES BOND OMNIBUS 003 veered so much to the silly side that it reminded me of a Looney Tunes cartoon, or at the very least something out of the old GET SMART TV show. With the setup provided in this story I was sure that we were heading into Roger Moore A VIEW TO A KILL territory with this particular Bond outing. “River of Death”, however, managed to dump the silly schtick after the first page of the story and actually emerged as having a bit more gravitas than I expected of it based on its opening page.
In "River of Death" Bond finds himself facing off against a particularly nasty character called Doctor Cat. Seems there has been a series of mysterious deaths involving figures that are important to M.I. 6 or its counterparts from across the channel. All of the murders involve the use of an animal to carry out the killings in inventive and sometimes silly ways. In the end it seems as if all the clues lead back to the mysterious Doctor Cat, who at one point served as the “head torturer and inquisitor for the Red Chinese.” It now appears as if Cat has apparently gone rogue and has set up operations somewhere in the Amazon, and our man Bond must travel to exotic Rio De Janeiro to track him down and figure out what his endgame is.
As I stated earlier, "River of Death" starts off with a somewhat silly premise, but once the story gets moving events take a decidedly more serious turn. The villain of the piece, Doctor Cat, at first read seems to be one of the more ridiculous villains Bond’s gone up against; but once Cat’s plans start to reveal themselves, well, let’s just say you don’t want him coming over for Thanksgiving dinner anytime soon. The trappings of the story are typical Bond: a glamorous location, a beautiful and somewhat helpless CIA operative, and the assassination of another “00” agent. All of these elements eventually congeal into one satisfactory secret agent story.
Horak (now known to me as Yaroslav Horak) does another terrific job with the art chores in “River of Death”. His style is energetic and his linework crackles with life. He makes every panel pop and can even make a scene with two people talking at a desk command attention. I just love this guy’s work and can’t get enough of it. Thankfully, there are still about five more stories in this JAMES BOND OMNIBUS where I can peruse the man’s artwork.
In two weeks, look for my review of JAMES BOND OMNIBUS 003: COLONEL SUN!
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 AGES OF SUPERMAN: ESSAYS ON THE MAN OF STEEL IN CHANGING TIMES NovelEditor: Joseph J. Darowski
Publisher: McFarland & Company, Inc.
Reviewer: The Dean
I’ll just come right out and say it: this book is smarter than me. After the first two essays, I tried to make a better impression on it by combing my hair, and changing out of my Cheeto stained t-shirts before cracking it open. It probably saw right past my Richie Rich hairdo and Cheeto stained blazer, but I think I won the book over with my ignorant determination, and charming misunderstandings. AGES OF SUPERMAN from McFarland is certainly a smart book, but it’s also an obvious labor of love from Editor Joseph J. Darowski, which illuminates the evolving relevance the Man of Steel has had in the world. The essays collected here provide the most thorough and comprehensive examination of this type to date - ranging all the way from Siegel and Schuster’s 1938 inception of the character, to J. Michael Straczynski’s 2011 “Grounded” storyline - making this one an easy “must have” for Superman and comic book enthusiasts.
As comic book fans, it’s not every day that our passion for this oft-dismissed medium is celebrated for its worth in society, so I try to ready any work I can get my hands on that reinforces my belief that this isn’t all just a waste of time. AGES OF SUPERMAN provides this in spades, fluidly moving from generation to generation, which rewards readers with a natural narrative that follows Superman’s changing role in his over seventy years with us. The collection is perfectly readable if you’re just dying to delve into an analysis of John Byrne’s Superman (a great read from authors Daniel J. O’Rourke and Morgan B. O’Rourke) but if you can hold off, the chronological read makes each subsequent installment all the more engaging.
I’ve definitely read more entertaining comic book criticism or analysis, but to be fair, it’s clear that these essays were intended for an academic audience more than they were your average internet crowd. One day I’ll throw a line like this into one of my reviews: “while the Spanish importation of the American Superhero certainly reflected American cultural imperialism of the post-war era, the fascist regime in Spain was especially aware of the capacity for Superman comic’s pluralistic tropes to subvert Francoist constructions of society, sexuality, and gender roles.” When I do, you’ll know that I’ve either attained a doctorate and started shopping at Whole Foods, or blatantly plagiarized a much smarter person. That line was taken from a particularly challenging, but enlightening essay exploring Superman’s effect on Franco’s Spain - just one of the many assessments of the character that I had hardly even considered before, yet it wound up being one of my favorite essays in the book.
Latter essays like those exploring the “Grounded” storyline or FINAL CRISIS were probably the most enjoyable reads for me, as their more recent relevancy left me able better able to involve myself in the essay. I didn’t agree with every interpretation of recent events, but they certainly helped me see things in a different light, as well understand my own view or opinion of Superman and his current direction better. Being able to respectfully disagree through my own knowledge of these events helped to make the experience more conversational, and less like assigned reading in some college level lit class (but how awesome would a college course on comics be?), making these recent analyses of events a lot of fun to read.
It wasn’t always easy, but I can honestly say that my time with each of the essays in this book was time well spent. Some of the entries ran a bit highbrow, but never unnecessarily or illegibly so, and the in-depth look at more current events were welcome changes your typical opinionated rant. McFarland and Joseph J Darowski put together a great collection here, and I sincerely hope we get similar treatment for more characters in the future. AGES OF SUPERMAN may not be for everyone, but if you’re a serious lover of all things Superman, or just comic books in general, this collection will no doubt make you a more enlightened reader.
ELEPHANTMEN #38Writer: Richard Starkings
Artist: Axel Medellin
Publisher: Image Comics
Reviewed by Humphrey Lee
ELEPHANTMEN is probably the most underrated and overlooked book on the market. Sometimes you have to be blatant with these things and, well, there you go. And, honestly, sometimes it takes an issue like this particular one to make even a champion of the product to realize how good a book is and how much of a shame it is you do not see it come up in columns, threads, and so on enough. And then you decide to not be a hypocrite and write up some coverage, because you have that power and that’s how these things work half the time; by built up piles of self-guilt.
While this issue at hand has a somewhat big death and a pretty damn big reveal at the end, it really was not these important to the universe events that are prompting me to talk this book up. What really impressed me and continues to impress me is actually how this book handles very base emotions of fear, love, and hate, et al in very unusual circumstances. Obviously there are very base prejudices at the core of this series, as you have a populace of humans that are now shoulder to shoulder with some of the most effective killing machines ever created. The underlying levels of fear and hate that stem from that very base premise has always been palpable and has only been exacerbated in a very sensationalized way with the brutal serial murders of the Elephantmen at the hand of this Razorback character.
The flip side of this is the budding relationship between the closest we have to a protagonist here, Hipflask, and taxi girl Miki. It’s something that is still highly rare, most definitely frowned upon, and is also unbelievably sweet in how it is developing. There’s a moment in this issue where Hip comes into confrontation with Miki’s mother and it runs a perfect gamut from awkward star-crossed lovers have a rendezvous to blind rage based off of the horrors of war witnessed by Miki’s mother to a moment of almost acceptance as she realizes Hip has a gentle side and a hand in their past survival. It drives home the central theme of redemption for a species that was born and bred to do nothing but irredeemable things.
As for the big moment in this book – and it is kind of hard to go unspoiled here, sorry - it was also the same flavor of bittersweet this series usually comes in. The big death was not one I particularly would have felt before this issue as the character I always saw as more a classic example of token badass meets piece of T&A, but there was a pretty emotional moment that opened up the issue (complete with some pretty gratuitous ass, for good measure) to show her also feeling the effects of love torn asunder by war that opened up another dimension to her, which is a shame. I guess it could also be seen as a bit redundant, though, as that theme combination is more than abundant throughout the series so it is not a surprise to see her go.
The big reveal following thereafter is just that, too; a big, game changing reveal. Given the place of that particular character in the mythos of this universe, it goes without saying their “return” will have way more ramifications than just the death they caused this issue and previously. And it also shows that last dimension that this book has going for it that makes it so well rounded: man, can this thing be a pretty brutal action comic when it wants to be. ELEPHANTMEN really is one of those titles that have it all but somehow keeps getting passed by, like another dead hybrid in the gutter. Admittedly there have been lulls on this trip, but when the book is good it’s great and it would be a crime, I feel, to not use the soapbox a little more on its behalf.
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!
VOLTRON: YEAR ONE #1Writer: Brandon Thomas
Artist: Craig Cermak
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Like many children of the 1980s, I was addicted to the brightly-flashing, action-packed, toy-advertising cartoons that played on the boob tube on Saturday mornings and weekday afternoons. Transformers, G.I. Joe, Thundercats--but my favorite of the bunch was Voltron. How could it not be? Voltron was the perfect hodgepodge of that trio of runners-up. Giant robots? Check. An elite strike force of colorfully-garbed soldiers? Er, sort of. A swirl of mysticism in an otherwise technologically-based world? Ummm…maybe I’m reaching a bit here. But both Thundercats and Voltron did have a phallic fixation on an all-powerful sword, and both had annoying animal sidekicks that, even as a young child, I would have gladly tied up in a sack and thrown in the river. Even so, in my formative years I watched Voltron nearly religiously (I say “nearly” because the broadcast day and time seemed to change on a weekly basis…New York’s WPIX Channel 11 had no respect for an eight-year-old’s schedule). So when I saw that the pre-flying-around-in-giant-lions years of the intrepid space explorers was going to be chronicled in this new series, I decided to take a look and see what Keith, Lance, Hunk, Pidge and Sven were doing before they got hijacked to Planet Arus. But first I decided to take a walk down the misty lanes of nostalgia, and sat down to watch a few episodes of my favorite childhood cartoon on the trusty Netflix.
Holy shit, was it godawful. Why, why did I waste so much of my youth getting my brain scrambled with low-level radiation as I watched these “animated” (using quotation marks to signify that 75% of each cartoon consisted of camera pans across still cels) characters yammer at each other in painfully stilted dialogue and grating, horrendous voices, get into some scrape or another, and end each episode with Voltron (after a protracted battle) finally break out the Blazing Sword and bisect whatever giant Ro-Beast was on the docket for that week? Even as a kid, I wondered, “Why doesn’t Voltron just lead with the Blazing Sword instead of wasting all that time trying out all his ineffectual weapons?” And don’t get me started on those fucking Space Mice. Face it, nostalgia can only provide so much enjoyment before the hard, painful truth sinks in that what you loved as a child, more often than not, is a steaming, soupy bowl of diarrhea to an adult’s perspective.
Thankfully, the creators of VOLTRON: YEAR ONE seem to share the same feeling towards their source material. Don’t let the cover fool you: the giant robot is nowhere to be found in this issue. Neither is Planet Arus or Princess Allura, King Zarkov or Prince Lotor, or (thank god) those fucking Space Mice. Writer Brandon Thomas has taken the team of space explorers and given them a background to go along with the moniker. What was once a group of cardboard characters—the sensitive leader, the rebel, the good-hearted but not-too-bright brute, the boy genius and the…umm…the Swede?—has been transformed into an expertly trained, elite fighting force. Instead of vaguely sauntering through the galaxy, Space Explorer Squadron 686, led by Sven—that’s right, here Sven is the leader, and Keith his loyal protégé—works to overthrow dictators on alien worlds, bring food and medical supplies to galactic outposts, and in this premiere issue the squadron is directed to extract a powerful businessman from captivity, as he’s being held hostage by a rival competing for the business of capitalistic expansion on newly-colonized planets. Take away the outer space trappings and the science fiction jargon and what we have here is a tightly-plotted action/suspense thriller with a strong military vibe and more than a little James Bond spygame feel. That’s a pretty far shot from piloting giant lions, and while the kid in me misses the cheeseball factor of a giant robot slicing a giant robot-monster-thingie in twain with a giant sword, the loss is more than made up for by the tense, mature characterization and narrative happening here.
As mentioned above, Sven has been transformed from cannon fodder to a conflicted squadron leader, unsure of the rightness of their actions in taking part in a mission that’s more about money and politics than keeping the planet safe. Keith is shown as being a bit green around the ears, but in Sven’s mind he has the potential for greatness. Lance is no longer the rebellious one; in a bit of a 180° Sven describes Lance as “a blunt instrument” who follows orders without hesitation—the perfect soldier, but not one to lead. Instead of being an annoying whiny-voiced brat, Pidge is the type of boy genius that makes you feel uncomfortable. “Absolutely fearless. Brilliant tactical mind,” Sven thinks, “…this kid scares me a little bit.” Hunk we still have to learn about, but I’m betting that he’ll be a lot more three-dimensional than his animated antecedent.
Artist Craig Cermak is a good fit for this more—I won’t say “realistic,” but perhaps more “credible”—take on the characters we knew from the Voltron series. His figures are good and he has a flair for drawing believable futuristic backgrounds and scientific gadgetry that you could believe would actually exist. My one nitpick is that his faces tend to get a little too similar in characters of the same age and gender. Pidge obviously isn’t hard to recognize, what with him being the youngest and the glasses and all, but Lance, Sven, Keith and Hunk are at times difficult to discern from one another, especially since their uniformed clothing is also so similar. It’s a small detail that could stand improvement, but it doesn’t detract from the visual aspect of the comic as a whole.
I haven’t been keeping up with the other Voltron comics that Dynamite’s put out, so I don’t know if this more adult spin on the kids’ cartoon is across the line or just Thomas’ take on the subject matter. What I do know is that while Thomas is obviously familiar with the source material (there’s a great throwaway line about how Pidge’s twin brother is also a space explorer, a reference to the cartoon incarnation’s twin who was a member of the Voltron team that assembled their robot from three squadrons of spaceships), he’s not bound by it. Thomas, Cermak and Co. are leaving nostalgia at the door and blazing a new trail for the space explorers. Bad news for those of you who crave more anthropomorphic interstellar rodents, but great news and a great read for the rest of us.
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.
INFESTATION 2: TMNT #1-2Writer: Tristan Jones
Art: Mark Torres
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Reviewer: Henry Higgins is My Homeboy
Because if you hear there’s a “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Vs. Cthulu” comic and you don’t want to read it, you’re dead inside.
As with what seems to be most of the nerdy population of the internet (so, you know, all of it), I’m not a fan of the proposed changes Michael Bay is making to the franchise. Like most people of a certain age, I grew up watching reruns of the cartoon, lost all of my money to Turtles In Time, and pretended to be one of the turtles after school. I may have been willing to give the project the benefit of the doubt, but between Bay’s insistence that fans are just screaming for screaming’s sake (and the fact that it involves Michael Bay at all), my hopes aren’t high. The problem is, the interviews feel as if Bay wants to tell a certain type of story, one that isn’t attributed normally with this franchise. And, to make it work, he’s willing to change some principal foundations of the series. And that’s the problem. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles work so well because they can be applied to almost any type of story. You don’t need to remove any aspect of it to tell a new kind of story. They’re a surprisingly flexible cast, who can work in almost any situation, so long as you keep the characters entertaining and enjoyable to watch. For proof, look no further than the latest installment in IDW’s INFESTATION line, focusing on the team. It’s a Lovecraft-inspired tale, featuring the Turtles fighting Elder Gods. It’s a little different than the show. But all the while, it feels like it could work in conjunction with them. It tells a compact story in two issues that never feels rushed, and stays true to the characters.
Writing: (4/5) The story actually foregoes the usual path and focuses on Donatello as our lead. The team’s resident smart guy makes perfect sense here, as it’ll take more than just stabbing the monster and teamwork to win the day. Instead, Donatello does research, investigates forgotten writings, the works. It makes sense to have him serve as the team’s main player. It is his story, so the book doesn’t do much with Leo or Raph, but it doesn’t forget them either. The interplay between the brothers is fun, while maintaining a more matured tone. These turtles feel as if they’ve done more and grown closer over the years, and it’s incredibly well done.
The threat itself is never really elaborated on (I’m sure if I read the rest of INFESTATION, I would have a better understanding of what’s going on), but it works to the story’s advantage. This is clearly a threat the Turtles are not prepared for, and the most they can do is just respond with whatever they can. As such, it reads like a very entertaining, self-contained horror story within their canon. It’s a very compact story that features a number of elements, but it moves at a great pace. It juggles the brothers between Donny’s mystic talk and the Turtles being badass. Jones does a remarkably good job all on fronts, save perhaps the explanations of the mystic. Its place is needed in the story to explain why exactly there’s an eldritch abomination underneath New York, but it’s a little too much, too fast. It bogs down the story, and whenever Donny needs to elaborate on something also happens to be the only times the pace of the story suffers. But, all in all, it’s a very well done script.
Art: (4/5) Even for people who’ve never read a TMNT comic before (or in years, as the case is with myself), everything you need to know about the team is on display in the opening pages. The first panel featuring the whole team has them watching a news report which references them. Leo stoically watches, arms crossed. Raph slumps over the couch, with a towel draped around his neck, crossly eyeing the television. Donny watches and his eyes squint, as he works it all out. And Mikey stands in the back, spoon in mouth, with a slightly distressed face. Right away, you can tell the differences between the characters. It’s work like this that illuminates some of the carbon copy work that is used often these days.
The art is highly stylized, and this works heavily in its favour. The action looks fantastic, very deliberate and fast. The panels flow into one another, and the sense of scope and pacing is very well done. The short scene as the Turtles swim under water through a group of redmonsterhybridthings is great to look at. Likewise, the eventual appearance by the Old One itself looks phenomenal. This is all assisted by Fotos, who manages to give every scene a moody and dismal tone with his colouring. The only truly bright colours are the bandanas around the brothers, as even the green of their bodies almost blends into the shadows. Where the art falters a little is it feels a little rushed at times. The colours sometimes overwhelm the pencils, or vice versa. It’s not a huge problem, but can take you out of the moment.
Best Moment: “Guy needs to learn to shut up.”
Worst Moment: The art could be clearer at times.
Overall: (4/5) This reads like a Mike Mignola TMNT issue, and I mean that as a huge compliment. Even if you aren’t an avid fan of INFESTATION, Lovecraft, or the Turtles (and therefore are a terrible person), it’s well worth a read.
H.P. LOVECRAFT & THE UNDERSEA KINGDOM OGNWriters: Bruce Brown & Dwight L. MacPherson
Art: Thomas Boatwright
Publisher: Arcana Studios
As an H.P. Lovecraft junkie, I love the fact that the eldritch cosmic horrors created by the Old Gent from Providence have snaked their tentacles into public consciousness through countless writers and artists putting their own spin on the HPL mythos. Just when it seemed that every possible twist on his works had been explored, last year found me reading the exploits of young Howard Lovecraft and his pet Cthulhu…er, I mean Spot…in the original graphic novel HOWARD LOVECRAFT AND THE FROZEN KINGDOM. Now writers Bruce Brown and Dwight L. MacPherson have created a new adventure for the unlikely pair in their follow-up, HOWARD LOVECRAFT AND THE UNDERSEA KINGDOM.
As with the first graphic novel, Brown and MacPherson have fused the mythology and horror of Lovecraft’s weird fiction with the humor and buoyant adventure akin to the best “Calvin & Hobbes” strips. The titular kingdom in this case is found in the seas of the distant planet Yuggoth, known to we mythos fans as the outpost of the Great Old Ones on the rim of our solar system. King Abdul—the deposed sorcerer-king of the first book’s Frozen Kingdom—has kidnapped Howard’s family and has brought them to Yuggoth, where they have begun to mutate into the fish-like Deep Ones. In exchange for his family’s safety, Howard must bring Abdul the book of dark magic that he possesses. Howard must travel to Yuggoth and attempt to save his family with the assistance of his father (liberated from a sanitarium) and the cantankerous Constable Smith.
Even though Brown and MacPherson are playing fast and loose with the Lovecraft mythology, I love the fact that certain details pop up here and there that reaffirm that the writers are genuine fans of their source material. For instance, those with only a cursory knowledge of HPL’s work will think of the cephalopod-noggined Cthulhu as the major figure in the Mythos cosmology. We die-hard fans, however, know that Great Cthulhu is only one of many cosmic powers and is outranked (as it were) by the crawling chaos at the center of the universe known as Azathoth. This hierarchy within the mythos is honored here as Cthulhu/Spot is held captive by Azathoth, outranked once again. Another nice touch is the inclusion of young Howard’s father to the cast of characters. The real Lovecraft Senior—who did end up dying in a mental institution—is transformed into a crafty eccentric who is well-versed in the ways of the Old Ones—a much less tragic figure, and one that meshes well with the adventurous tone of the graphic novel. Constable Smith, too, seems to be a nod to the real HPL’s life as a fictionalized version of Lovecraft’s friend and fellow writer Clark Ashton Smith, himself a key contributor to the ever-expanding mythos cycle.
The real star of this graphic novel, though, is the excellent artwork by Thomas Boatwright. Boatwright’s characters are a perfect blend of simplified cartoony figures and faces with an exuberant sense of energy and dynamism in their actions. This goes for Howard, his father and Smith as well as the inhuman Spot, Abdul and a handful of tentacled, amorphous Shoggoths. The effectiveness of heavy black inks used for the characters and foreground details is enhanced by the softer, watercolor-like background tones. This combination makes for comic pages that manage to be bold and exciting while at the same time retaining a sense of moodiness that keeps that horrific element of Lovecraft’s work present. It’s a difficult balance to find, that blend of humor, horror and fun, but here Boatwright does so expertly.
If there’s anything here that doesn’t quite work for me, it’s the fact that the “boy and his dog” style relationship between Howard and Spot—which made the FROZEN KINGDOM OGN such a treat to read—is nearly absent here, as Howard and Spot are separated for the majority of the book. The characters’ interplay in the first comic was so much fun to read that I missed having it around in UNDERSEA KINGDOM. But seeing as how this graphic novel ends, it appears that there are plenty more adventures for Howard, Spot and their friends in the future, and I certainly can’t wait to see what the creators of UNDERSEA KINGDOM have in store.
SUPERMAN #7Writers: Dan Jurgens & Keith Giffen
Artist: Jesus Merino
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
DC says it split itself into seven distinct universes: the Dark, the light, the foliage…but for me there are only two – Noob and L33T...young and old…soulful and soulless.
This latest round with the S’d one is infinitely better than the cumulative sum of the past seven issues, but it still lacks a respect and reverence fro those of us that have been devoted followers and lived with this universe even through the Darkest Ages (DC’s classification of the comic period 1986-1998 – not mine). The new SUPERMAN Is basically two or three horcruxes shy of full.
Even with comedic maestros like Jurgens and Giffens at the helm I still feel like SUPERMAN is the special kid left behind in comics kindergarten. He’s nice and all, and it warms your heart to watch him try, but at the end of the day it’s pity-based entertainment and no soul can sustain on that.
Again, this isn’t a bad comic book. I had at least three or four smirks throughout. Honestly, these two guys Pre-New 52 were favorites of mine for years, but post has (and I think all of the fans of the recently cancelled O.M.A.C will dig some of) the Silver Age trappings of over-explanation and intense monologing. I know I found it amusing, even with my lack of reverence for those books of yore.
The intense monologing comes from our new enemy, the crossover-worthy Daemonite Lord Skull Head. We learned everything we needed to know about this intergalactic hellion that is bent on stealing SUPERMAN’S chi, because he tells us…while he stands in place on an altar with two skulls beside it…you know, because he’s evil. Seriously, this bastard remains immobile longer than a Wal Mart Greeter. One panel shift for every five dialog bubbles means someone other than the reader is asleep.
Sadly, though, while I got this guy’s life story it was simply impossible for me to care. Grant Morrison doesn’t need to have Lex Luthor stand there, look at Superman and say “I’m evil.” Deeds, not words, define a man or a Daemonite. Have him at least eviscerating spoiled celebrities or something while he tells Siri his battle plans.
Clark’s personal life has been one of the highlights for me in this issue, and I’ll say it was the most interesting part of the past seven as well. This is where Giffen felt most at home for me. The office banter was fun, lively and brought a smile to my face quite a few times. Unfortunately, the action would pick up and infect Clark with Daemonite Verbal Diarrhea. Still confused on how the suit works? Clark’s gonna tell ya. Need to know what CADMUS is all about? Clark is gonna tell ya…except it’s all in his head.
Maybe I’m insulting new readers by thinking you want your stories spoon-fed to you, but someone has to be buying these guidebooks to comics. SUPERMAN and JUSTICE LEAGUE are top sellers, yet pander to the lowest common denominator of our comic senses.
Again, it’s not bad. It’s better in form and quality than a good percentage of the books I read. SUPERMAN’s just not ranking high for me right now on the caliber of quality big house material.
Whoever writes this series needs to infuse a huge dose of Clark’s personal life against the backdrop of an iconic SUPERMAN enemy, not some backwash from WildStorm. There are a dozen amazing writers out there that could take, say, a certain imp from the 5th dimension and create an amazing, epic and iconic arc for the Man of Steel. No, SUPERMAN is sadly only worth seven issues of an enemy that fought with elements and now simply serves as crossover fodder from the equally unimpressive GRIFTER.
Fine; you can call me an old sourpuss, but there is quality stuff coming out right now from DC and I simply believe SUPERMAN is deserving of that same or better treatment.
We all knew who the second stringers were when the New 52 was announced. The first cancellations were predicted in a CBR poll months ahead of time (we will one day have a poll, but given AICN technology we’re going to ask you mail your ballots). Marginal stories of little consequence were fine for them. SUPERMAN deserves better! SUPERMAN should be changing the world. Fine--let him do it on shaky, untrained, and uncertain ground, but make his stories matter, DC. If not for love of the character, then please for the love of us readers who still enjoy some cosmic level earth-shattering shit being flung at SUPERMAN. Bigger…Bolder…Less Badder. Please….
Advance Review: In stores this week!
THE INFINITE HORIZON VOL. 1 TBPKWriter: Gerry Duggan
Art: Phil Noto
Publisher: Image Comics
Reviewer: Ambush Bug
Though it’s been some time since the first few issues of THE INFINITE HORIZON came out, I remember enjoying them immensely. Unfortunately the miniseries went off the rails a little bit as the creators went through a few life changes (as explained in the prologue of this trade collecting the whole series) and the miniseries found itself delayed for quite a while. Image recently published the final issues of this series, but I didn’t get a chance to finish the series until reading it in this gorgeous trade paperback. Because so much time had elapsed, I appreciated being able to read this in one sitting in trade (it saved me from digging out those first few issues).
Reaffirming what I at first believed, THE INFINITE HORIZON is a stellar modern war story which is as timely today with our troops occupying Afghanistan and beyond as it was when it was first published when Iraq was the target of our armed forces. Gerry Duggan seems to really know his stuff; from the way the soldiers speak to one another to the technology and war tactics used on the battlefield. Though there is a slightly cutting edge technology slant to this story, it feels very modern and real throughout.
That said, THE INFINITE HORIZON also will pique the interest of those with a sense for literature as it follows the narrative of THE ODYSSEY, casting this crew of wandering soldiers to follow the path Odysseus took in the famous ancient tale. Though at times the shades of the original story get in the way of telling a straight up war tale, this adherence to the classics adds a layer that makes this more than just a story about the good guys shooting the bad guys.
Though the story is phenomenal, Phil Noto’s art elevates this tale even further. Noto’s art technique grounds the characters in reality with only sketches and shades. The beauty is in Noto’s eye for simplicity, using only necessary lines to bring to life his images with not a penmark wasted on the page. Noto’s choice of camera angle is some of the best I’ve seen in ages, looking more like storyboards to a blockbuster film than any comic book I’ve ever seen.
Though Image puts out a ton of miniseries, this is by far one of the best they’ve released in ages. Sure it took quite a long time to be released and normally I’d be frustrated with that enough to skip the trade out of spite, but I appreciate Duggan’s humble honesty in the prologue and had I been a curmudgeon and not picked this up, the only one being punished would have been myself for not experiencing one of the best modern war comics in recent memory. As an ode to a classic, as a modern war story, as a gorgeous work of art; THE INFINITE HORIZON masters it all.
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/reviewer/co-editor of AICN Comics for over ten years. He has written comics such as MUSCLES & FIGHTS, MUSCLES & FRIGHTS, VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, THE DEATHSPORT GAMES, WONDERLAND ANNUAL 2010 & NANNY & HANK (soon to be made into a feature film from Uptown 6 Films). He is also a regular writer for FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND & has co-written their first ever comic book LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF (to be released in October 2012 as an 100-pg original graphic novel). Mark has just announced his new comic book miniseries GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK from Zenescope Entertainment to be released in March 2012.
THE TWELVE #11Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Art: Chris Weston
Publisher: Marvel Comics
I know that there were a lot of readers out there who, having to endure a two-plus year gap in the publication of this series due to J. Michael Straczynski’s apparent inability to deliver his scripts on schedule, vehemently proclaimed their intention to not buy further issues of THE TWELVE if ever new issues were released. Now that the series has hit the stands once more and is nearing completion, I’m assuming that many of these readers stuck to their guns and, true to their statements in talkbacks and message boards, have not purchased or read these latest issues. If this is true, then it’s a damn shame. ‘Cause your overblown sense of butthurt is keeping you from enjoying the conclusion of this fine series.
As seen last issue, the culprit behind the string of murders was found to be
I’ll admit, I was as frustrated as the rest of the butthurt multitude by the seemingly endless publication delays and lame-ass excuses offered up as JMS fell further and further behind schedule (if memory serves, at one point he even tried to throw Chris Weston under the bus as the reason for the protracted shipping schedule, to which Weston countered nicely by drawing AND writing a one-shot prequel to the series). But it’s easy for me to put that ill will aside when the end result is such an enjoyable read. The title characters, once two-dimensional Golden Age superheroes with little to no personalities other than their abilities, have been given rich histories that explain their actions and inform their emotional responses to being dropped into the 21st Century. JMS has made me care about these heroes in the span of eleven short issues; he’s made the goofy underground circus strongman Rockman into a tragic character whose sacrifice in this issue is genuinely heartbreaking. His insightful developments of the other heroes are no less impressive. And as with every issue of this series, Chris Weston brings his skill at drawing raw emotion to the forefront of every face, whether human or robot. Dynamic Man’s face as he reaches his final fate is a masterwork of both technical skill and that indefinable ability to make lines on a page breathe with life.
Though the action has reached its zenith in this comic and the dust has already begun to settle, there’s still one more issue left to wrap everything up for our displaced protagonists. If you haven’t already, try to put aside your hurt feelings and come back for the conclusion of THE TWELVE. All the butthurt in the world wouldn’t change the fact that you’re missing out one damn good story.
THE REAPER OF SAINT GEORGE STREET OGNWriter & Artist: Andre R. Frattino
Publisher: Pineapple Press
Well folks, I got a story to tell. I went to a book signing/release party for THE REAPER OF SAINT GEORGE STREET and bottom line, shit got wild. First off my college basketball team lost leaving me in a sour mood, second the dogs that were at my house were driving me crazy, leaving my roommate to exclaim “All dogs go to hell!” and third off it was raining and I had to carry DJ equipment. Now I have to say that the party was really fun, good music, good people and it was at a place called The Sequential Art Workshop in Gainesville, Florida which is basically a school for comic book artists that I had no idea existed. There was wine, there was dancing and there were arguments…mostly between me and Lady Kletus. There was even a fight at the Black Lips after party that resulted in someone I know pulling some hipster girl’s hair because the hipster girl flipped her off after deciding it was cool to talk shit about the cops whilst they stood at the door. I have to tell you this was the wildest and most fun time I had in a while and the arguing with the girlfriend as well as the fights at the party made me feel like I was 21 again, plus I got to see my good friend JB. Then there was the next day when I have to deal with the repercussions of arguing with Lady Kletus as well as a fuck of a hangover….ahhh, spring in Florida. Anywho, I read THE REAPER OF SAINT GEORGE STREET and thoroughly enjoyed it.
This book is about a guy who comes to St. Augustine, Florida to go to school and after having a few weird ghost-related incidents finds himself with a low rent group of ghost hunters searching for The Reaper, a ghastly being that seems to be after a girl that our main character has taken a liking to. If you know anything about St. Augustine, you know that one of their biggest attractions are the multiple ghost tours that take you around the city in an attempt to scare the bejesus out of you before dropping you off at your hotel, leaving you unable to sleep because you’re worried that the ultra-young ghost of Ponce De Leon may come through your window and unzip your pants and…uuuh…huh...where was I? Oh yeah, this book is pretty fun and the art is good too. The story flows really well both storywise and artistically. I like this story because it kept me interested until the very end and made me laugh quite a few times. The art is pretty good, and I only say that because I’ve seen pages for his newest book and the art looks like it has improved greatly. Frattino’s art in this book isn’t as good as most of the stuff you would find at Marvel or DC, but there are quite a few artists working for the big two that could take cues from a book like this as far as having each panel tell its own story, making the action easy to follow as well as making the emotions very clear. In my opinion this style of art would fit perfectly with a company like Archie Comics, where the art is a little more cartoony but still very appealing to the eye. At the book signing, Frattino actually had some pages for a Sonic The Hedgehog pitch and they looked as good if not better than the current art on Sonic (question…why hasn’t the Sonic fast food place used Sonic The Hedgehog as their mascot?!? Fast food, Sonic is fast…whatever, you know it works!). The closest comic I could use to describe this book would be a longer issue of SCOOBY DOO but less campy and a little more in depth. If you are unfamiliar with Pineapple Press, they are a Florida based publishing company that mostly puts out books having to do with Florida that focus on the history of the state (I think they put out a few books related to haunted places in Florida as well). THE REAPER OF SAINT GEORGE STREET is their first graphic novel.
THE REAPER OF SAINT GEORGE STREET was a fun read and definitely kept me interested until the end. Frattino’s art is good, and seems to be getting better judging by the pages I’ve seen for the new graphic novel. The one thing that stands out about this book, as you can tell, is that Frattino put his all into this book and it shows. I have to say that for someone’s first graphic novel, this is a very enjoyable story and the art is pretty good. If you are looking for something a little different than your usual pull list and you have a thing for ghost stories, I recommend you check this out.
LENORE #4Writer/Artist: Roman Dirge
Publisher: Titan Magazines
Reviewer: Mr. Pasty
Roman Dirge returns with LENORE #4, featuring none other than Lenore Lynchfast, “the cute little dead girl” who escaped Heck, but apparently can’t eat pork wrapped inside pork after midnight.
Well, it’s too excessive, according to the warning from one of her little pals named Pooty, and brings about the wrath of “The Creepig Creeping,” a floating zombie pig that will exact vengeance on all those who break the pork code. This is exactly the kind of zany narrative you can expect from a LENORE book, which is saturated with dark humor and the type of artwork that reminds me of THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS – if Jack, Sally and the rest of the crew were still in elementary school.
This issue also features a hilarious holiday pin-up and Dirge, as usual, does a nice job of balancing silly with the macabre. I haven’t read a LENORE book yet that failed to deliver, and this pork-centric offering is no exception. I can’t wait to get my hands on part two, “Wrath of the Creepig,” but I’m beginning to reconsider my habit of eating bacon-wrapped pigs in blankets before bedtime.
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.
BOONDOCK SAINTS: IN NOMINE PATRIS: THE SECRET HISTORY OF IL DUCE Vol.1 HC/TPBKWriter: Troy Duffy, J.B. Love
Art: Guus Floor
Publisher: 12 Gauge Comics
I was introduced to BOONDOCK SAINTS back in high school. It is one of the few movies/televisions shows in which I didn’t feel the need to correct their Latin pronunciation. Maybe they were doing it incorrectly, but I was having too much fun watching the bullets fly.
That being said, I was still a bit wary about reading a comic based on the movies. There is always a question of what to explore that goes beyond the films. Do you do a prequel, sequel, or fill in the holes? I guess Duffy couldn’t decide and just chose all three.
IN NOMINE PATRIS: THE SECRET HISTORY OF IL DUCE tells the backstory of the father while also following the boys’ continuation of their dad’s work. The comic fills in the story told in BOONDOCK SAINTS II: ALL SAINTS DAY, where we learn of Il Duce/Noah MacManus’s relationship with Louie “The Roman” Patronazzi. After the mafia kills his father, Noah is helped by Louie to take down New York City’s mob problem. However, Louie (as we also learn in the film) did so to help himself by having Noah eliminate the competition. In another part of the story, we go back to the present (actually 2009 in this case), where the sons are still dealing with the Yakavettas and the mobs. There are also several sections following the MacManus brothers in Ireland before their return at the beginning of the sequel.
All in all, the purpose of this comic seems to be character development more than anything else. Most of the basic information, on some level, has already been given in the films. This book just allows us to see how and why these characters have become what they are.
I’m sure die-hard fans of the series will enjoy finding out more about these vigilantes, but I’m still on the fence about whether or not I liked the choice of material. What I loved about the movies was the gratuitous violence and the dark humor, little of which can be found here. In fact, a quick skim through the comic reveals very little red and therefore barely any blood. There is plenty of wit when the brothers are off doing their thing, but their 2009 storyline is barely one third of the book. There is no Special Agent Smecker or Bloom equivalent, which leaves the book feeling much darker and more somber than the movies.
But should this affect the quality of the comic? The artwork lacks detail; however, this helps to focus the reader on a plot that is heavily dialogue driven. You can more easily read the text, instead of being distracted by the images. This makes the book a smooth read. Duffy and Love’s dialogue stays true to the characters, and though highly expositional, the writing was never redundant or unnecessary. The comic had everything it needed to be a quality piece of work: it was faithful to the source and had a strong sense of character and stable structure.
The book may not have been the story I wanted told, but the story was told well. Up next is to be the tale of the brothers’ predicament at the end of ALL SAINTS DAY. Based on what I read here, I feel that all of the trappings are there to make that the comic I want. I view this first volume of THE BOONDOCK SAINTS comic to be a stepping stone. It works, but just wasn’t my cup of tea.
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.
Advance Review: In stores today!
DANGER CLUB #1Writer: Landry Q. Walker
Artist: Eric Jones
Publisher: Image Comics
Reviewer: Johnny Destructo
I was getting a little frustrated. Book after book I read this afternoon, and nothing screamed "review me!" ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN was the same level of great it always is, Action was a let-down and I couldn't even get all the way through the hipper-than-thou FANBOYS VS. ZOMBIES. Already covered in a fine sticky sheen of disappointment, I grabbed the first issue of DANGER CLUB.
The conceit is pretty simple, but great. What if, one of the times when our superheroes took to space for some secret war, or for one of an infinite amount of crises...they just never returned? The only ones left to save the world would be the side-kicks. And much like the kids in THE LORD OF THE FLIES, when left to their own devices, they can be dicks.
We have some familiar characters, there's a Robin-esque kid (a mixture of Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne) named Kid Vigilante, there's an Ozymandias from WATCHMEN, a young Nick Fury, a STARS AND S.T.R.I.P.E...but none of them feel like direct rip-offs, only homages. At this point, there are only so many powers and personalities to imbue your characters with. Every personality is going to have something in common with a famous figure. It just depends on if it's done well. And this is done VERY well.
One of the things that struck me was that, done by anyone else, this issue could basically be the dramatic climax of a miniseries. The superheroes disappear, things go ok for awhile, until the most powerful of the sidekicks goes rogue and starts gathering worshipers, then the Danger Club takes him down. Roll credits. But not here. This is just the first issue! How ballsy is that, to start your series at the end of an already interesting concept? And it's one thing to be ballsy, to take a chance. It's quite another to back it up with quality.
The story, the writing and the art, are all top tier. I was about to say that these fellas were heading places, but a quick google search informed me that they've already worked for DC, putting out SUPERGIRL: COSMIC ADVENTURES IN THE 8TH GRADE...which, as I recall, was adorable and well done. This is even better, but sans adorable. This is a violent, adult-themed book, but thankfully doesn't delve into gratuity.
This was a wicked, wild ride from cover to cover, and while I'm not sure if this is a mini-series or an ongoing, I'm hoping this book has a long road ahead of it. Pick up a copy, you'll be glad you did.
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. He is also now co-hosting another Comic Book discussion show on Party934.com alongside Bohdi Zen. They discuss comics and play music, check it out live every Saturday from 4-5pm.
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G
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