|Issue #55||Release Date: 4/11/12||Vol.#10|
(Click title to go directly to the review)
Advance Review: SHOOTERS HC GN
THE JAMES BOND OMNIBUS 003: Colonel Sun
AGAINST THE GRAIN #1
AMERICA’S GOT POWERS #1
AVENGING SPIDER-MAN #5
BIONIC WOMAN #1
HELLRAISER ANNUAL #1
Advance Review: THE DC NEW 52 FCBD
Advance Review: In stores this week!
SHOOTERS HC OGNWriters: Eric Trautmann & Brandon Jerwa
Artist: Steve Lieber
Publisher: DC Vertigo
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
It’s a chorus I’ve sung a million times in this column, but a well-crafted cover, one that isn’t merely trying to trumpet sensationalism on the shelf, can tell an entire story with merely one image.
Everything you need to know about SHOOTERS is expertly crafted on its hard stock cover in three graphical elements. The obtuse will simply see the gun, boots and bullet-proof helmet; nothing wrong with that since this is the story of a soldier. Spend a little more time looking at the cover, though, and the true grit of this poignant tale of a soldier’s life in the early years of the current Middle East conflict will be illuminated brighter than a grenade flashing in night vision.
The easy-to-spot army equipment has split the photograph of a nuclear family in half, with mom and daughter on one side and the protagonist of SHOOTERS, Terry Glass, torn asunder from his family and ultimately the happiness reflected during this one moment in time.
Make no mistake: SHOOTERS is about war. It takes a hard look at the sacrifices soldiers like Glass have made in the name of God, country and personal interest. However, this book is about more than the dust-ridden battlefield. It’s about the mettle of a man, the conflict that rages within all of us between duty and family, id and super ego, where we want to be versus where we have to be. Trautmann and Jerwa did such a good job in making Glass’ emotional conflicts universal that my mind could easily replace the gun and boots on the cover with a laptop and slip-on loafers to reflect my own lament of being home for two hours at night before I go to bed then back to my 12 hours of white-collar war the next day.
While Glass’ ultimate lament is universal, he is far from being just an average man or soldier. GI bills, learning a vocation, or simply finding employment in a time when jobs are scarce for those without a BS or BA after our names; we’ve all seen the advertisements for the ancillary benefits in becoming a modern day US soldier. Again, as a white-collar raider I will never begrudge someone personal gain from their chosen work, but we’ve been taught as Americans through history books and cinema to romanticize the life of a soldier as serving a higher purpose--almost like clergy with guns and an intestinal fortitude few of us could imagine. Glass is that ideal soldier, a man who is following family tradition to serve the highest principles of country before self--until his world comes crashing down around him. With one bad move from an air traffic controller, Glass’ unit is bombarded by friendly fire with in the city of Al-something. In one moment Glass loses his infantry, use of his leg for who knows how long and ultimately his faith.
Once stateside we begin to see the man instead of the soldier. Glass attempts to reconnect with a wife that no longer loves him and a daughter that doesn’t know him. We’ve seen this time and again in war stories, along with the fact the world has very little use for a soldier on peaceful shores. To compound Glass’ misfortune, he is immediately presented with his first crisis of faith in the institution that shaped his life. Glass is awarded the Purple Heart as the only surviving member of his battalion, but when he attempts to honor the dead with the same accolades he is thwarted and sent down a spiral of misinformation and government cover-up. Glass soon learns that saving face is more important to the US Army than honoring the dead. To compound issues, every time he tries to uncover disciplinary action against the air traffic controller that killed his unit, all he can be told is that the matter has been “resolved.”
Glass makes every effort to reconnect to life outside the war zone, but with each success there is an inexorable pull to his life that was. It’s not that he doesn’t want to be home or doesn’t want to work at shitty day labor jobs; he quite simply can’t. When he’s at his job he wants to be home, when he’s home he immediately wants to be anywhere else. It’s an impossibility we’ve all found ourselves in at one point or another: the desire to do what’s right being extinguished by our innate desires.
Things don’t go well for Glass. He loses his wife and daughter, loses his job and ultimately begins to lose himself. The second half of the book offers some salvation, and here’s where we get into the standard PR spin you can read on any other site. While I found deeper meaning in Glass’ personal struggle this book also serves as a form of redemption for all of the bad press private contractors received during Iraqi Freedom. Glass’ salvation comes in the form of a former comrade in arms who begins working for a Black Water type operation. With no other choices, Glass returns back to the life he knew best.
Despite this maudlin review there actually is a “happy” ending to SHOOTERS. It’s based on fate offering up fortune that is often only found in stories, but it is fitting and leaves you with at least a sense of peace in lieu of happily ever after.
Lieber is the perfect choice to illustrate SHOOTERS, as was the decision to make it black and white. Having worked on one of the ROAD TO PERDITION books, Lieber is well versed in illustrating the action of emotion. Subtlety is the order of the day when working with a book that is so dense, and Lieber delivers each subtle nuance with the same gravitas as Superman catching an airplane with his bare hands.
SHOOTERS is not a super hero book, but Glass is a hero of super proportions. This is also not a happy book, but just like with life itself, joy and sorrow are perpetually dancing interludes that simply can’t exist alone. I sincerely hope that in an alternate universe SHOOTERS 2: BAGHDAD BOOGALOO has Glass enjoying the joy he so richly deserves after his dance macabre in SHOOTERS.
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.
Colonel Sun as published in THE JAMES BOND OMNIBUS 003Writer: Ian Fleming
Adapted by: Jim Fleming
Publisher: Titan Books
Colonel Sun is probably the longest story in THE JAMES BOND OMNIBUS 003, which is too bad because of the three chapters that I’ve read so far in the book it’s certainly the weakest. That isn’t really a bad thing because the two tales that preceded it were so well done that saying that Colonel Sun isn’t as good as the previous entries is like saying that “Battlestar Galactica” season three wasn’t as good as season two. In other words, Sun isn’t as good as I expected it to be, but it’s still better than a lot of comics out there today.
Part of the reason for it not being as strong as it could be is because of its length but part of it is also because Colonel Sun opens up so solidly that it really can’t live up to the promise of its beginning pages. Unlike the episode before it (River of Death) Colonel Sun has such a great slam bang beginning that the rest of the story is a bit anti-climactic. Instead of building to a thrilling climax, it’s almost as if the story’s been flipped around on its head with the best part of it being told at the beginning and the end not being able to live up to what came before it.
All the familiar Bond trappings are evident but they just don’t gel as well in this story. Much of the narrative is focused on discovering and dismantling the bad guy’s plan. Because of this, the story plays out as a bit of a dry exercise in preparation to take down a nefarious plot without the excitement that should go along with the actual implementation of the takedown of said plot. Colonel Sun is still a good Bond story but it’s just not as good as it could have been. The pacing’s a bit off and the thrill of the story just isn’t as powerful as it should be.
Horak still does an amazing job with the art as he did with the first two stories. I just feel that, unlike in The Harpies and River of Death, he doesn’t get the opportunity to stretch his amazing artistic talents in Colonel Sun. Because of this particular story’s shortcomings Horak’s art almost seems constrained. His work is still solid but because the story is a bit lackluster he doesn’t seem to be able to play with his panels as much as he did in the previous chapters. Horak does continue to impress me, but in Colonel Sun I did notice I had a lot less, “Oh, wow” moments than I did earlier in the JAMES BOND OMNIBUS 003.
Next week in the JAMES BOND OMNIBUS 003: THE GOLDEN GHOST!
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.
AGAINST THE GRAIN #1Writer: Erica Austin
Artist: Erica Austin
Publisher: Slightly Off Productions
Reviewer: Henry Higgins is My Homeboy
Leslie, Destroyer Of Worlds.
While writing this review up, I attempted to find out what I could about Erica Austen, the one listed creator behind AGAINST THE GRAIN. Following her site to Slightly Off Productions, I found a sparse, very average web page. It’s everything that the book isn’t: boring, a little drab, very stereotypical. The one book available for purchase there is something completely different. AGAINST THE GRAIN is endlessly creative, thoroughly enjoyable, and, at the end of the day, really really REALLY fun. The amount of talent showcased here is extremely impressive, and this comic is well worth the read.
Writing: (4/5) Leslie is an immediate treat, a very fun protagonist. She’s intelligent, but still very childish. In a day and age where “intelligent” children means stuffing adult dialogue into the mouths of babes and trusting the audience to go with it, Austin has managed to write a realistic, very clear child. She’s reminiscent of Calvin, with the same flights of fancy and creativeness. The book has a sparse cast, and what time is spent with Leslie’s parents is utilized well. Both are established well within their first few panels, and remain the most consistent tether to the real world throughout the issue. Much of the writing is brief, leaving the art room to show off. When it does get wordy, it can get slightly lost. While I enjoyed the tale of Sarah P., it did drag on a little too long. But it might just be to that section’s strength, as it made the payoff even more hysterical. It’s incredibly weird and off kilter, and manages to elicit at least a surprised laugh.
The dialogue is very hit or miss. Sometimes it strikes the perfect chord between sweetness and realistic, but other times it can feel lacking. The book opens with a very brief but very nice conversation between the soon to be parents. Later, however, there’s a slightly stilted conversation between the same two. It’s finding the right chord, which Austin manages to do for most of the book, but not all of it.
Art: (5/5) This is what makes the book shine. It effortlessly travels between divergent and new styles, from the exaggerated action movie poses of the Sarah P. story to the woodcut snapshots of Mr. Heinz. The art never feels rushed, and instead gives off a surprisingly deep scope. The faces are bright and expressive, demonstrating a wide range of emotions throughout the whole book. It’s wonderfully creative, and plays with various conventions and styles. The occasional face may bother me, but it’s nothing compared to the splendor of seeing Leslie the ninja overlooking the small town, or Leslie sitting before the tribesmen in the desert. The look of this issue is broad and creative, in a way I seldom see. Each little aside is stylized wonderfully, effortlessly playing with the conventions of those stories. The use of shadows in the tribesmen section is well done, the colors in the ninja short are tremendous, the aliens are odd and creative…the art for this book is great.
Best Moment: The end to the Boob Man fight.
Worst Moment: The conversation between Leslie’s parents in the kitchen.
Overall: (4/5) An extremely fun comic and one that can appeal to pretty much everyone. Well worth the read, well worth the purchase, and be sure to share it around.
AMERICA’S GOT POWERS #1Writers: Jonathan Ross/Bryan Hitch
Art: Bryan Hitch
Publisher: Image Comics
Reviewer: Russ Sheath
AMERICA'S GOT POWERS is the new, creator owned series from the writer of TURF, Jonathan Ross, and Bryan Hitch, the artist who gave us THE ULTIMATES and CAPTAIN AMERICA: REBORN. Seventeen years ago a mysterious crystal appeared in San Francisco, its glow inducing every pregnant woman within five miles into labour, each child being born bestowed with amazing powers--all except one. Fast forward to the present day and Tommy Watts is the only one of those infants to have been born without the mysterious side effects which prove a curse as much as a blessing as the government has taken the super powered infants, now teenagers, and created the world’s most popular form of entertainment. The TV show 'America's Got Powers' is the global phenomenon that pits the super-powered youngsters in a gladiatorial battle to the finish. With the tag line 'where winners are heroes', the show inadvertently propels the hapless and seemingly powerless Tommy into the global limelight.
What is the mysterious crystal?
Who are the shadowy government controllers of AGP, and what is their agenda?
What fate awaits Tommy and the other AGP teens?
AICN's interviews with Jonathan Ross and Bryan Hitch this week revealed some hints at things to come, but what did we think of the comic?
The first thing that strikes you with the book, indeed with ANY Bryan Hitch book, are the pencils and colors. If you haven't picked up a comic book in a while, and I'd imagine that with the interest surrounding Ross's involvement in this project that there will be a few folk reacquainting themselves with comics, this is essential viewing. The realism of Hitch's pencils, a standard that has made Hitch a household name in any home where bagging and boarding is commonplace, really strikes you from the outset. The three page prologue introduces you to the world and the events that lead to the establishment of the 'America's Got Powers' TV show, where Ross wastes no time in bringing us right up to speed. The events that take place in the 17 years prior to the book’s setting are as mysterious to the protagonists as they are to the reader and prove a compelling introduction to this world, instantly posing as many questions as are answered.
As we launch into the modern day, the AGP show is established as a spectacle that enthralls the world with society seemingly ignorant to the moral and social implications of the events going on in the AGP stadium. Bryan Hitch described this as a modern day gladiator arena where lives hang in the balance for the entertainment of the crowd. Indeed, as I read I could almost hear Russell Crowe's Maximus yelling 'are you not entertained' at the savage, lusting crowd. Ross, a scribe steeped in cinematic and comics history, lends a voice to AGP that you could argue finds its foundations in the best of stories you might have found in 2000AD or movies like “Rollerball” and “The Running Man”. Skeptical not just in the view of media dominance or the salivating audience and what they call 'sport' but in a vision of the future, society and government. In AGP we recognize the world in the book; it's barely removed from our own as the story takes those aforementioned archetypes and ramps them up to ten for the modern reader, presenting a familiar and not unrecognizable vision of the future and framing it in the events of the AGP TV show. The mystery of the crystal, the emergence of Tommy's powers and the role of the government proving that AGP is less the story of the TV show and more the story of Tommy and the mysteries that impact his life.
Cinematic and widescreen are terms that are often attached to Hitch's work and when I think back to when I first encountered THE ULTIMATES it really was like nothing I'd seen before. THE ULTIMATES remains as relevant and vibrant today as it did 11 years ago and AGP is the next evolutionary step, proving all the ULTIMATES was and more. The skill that comes with 11 years of experience and practice in honing your tradecraft shines through in every page of AGP as those trademark Hitch pencils shine. Whether the opening shot of the Golden Gate Bridge or the jaw dropping sequence as we join the global audience tuning in to watch America's Got Powers, this is Bryan Hitch at his ULTIMATES best, but free from the creative shackles and limitations of established characters and worlds.
The experience of reading AGP reminds me of a visit from my folks a short while ago whilst I had an Xbox game on pause, raising the comment from my father "There's not much happening in this film." Pappa Sheath couldn't believe that it was a video game, having last seen me hammer away on the keys of my ZX Spectrum all those years ago. Likewise, it's difficult to believe that someone sat and drew, creating from a pencil and a blank sheet, what you hold in your hands when you open AGP; from the insane level of detail to the eye-watering (in a good way) Paul Mounts colors, issue #1 sets the bar high.
38 pages of story at a $2.99 price tag isn't to be sniffed at, either. With titles from Marvel or DC averaging a dollar more for almost half the size, there's no arguing with the creative pedigree or that the book is great value for money. A brand new book from an artist whose vision helped redefine comics for the modern era and a compelling story by a writer who, in a single issue, has more than proven that he can keep pace with his peers. What more could you ask for?
AVENGING SPIDER-MAN #6Writers: Greg Rucka & Mark Waid
Artist: Mark Checchetto
Publisher: Marvel Comics
At first I had resisted this title; I’m not a really fan of Joe Madureira’s art (artist for the first three issues) and I was trying to cut back on my pull list, but week after week my old customers kept telling me I need to pick it up. I did and was pleasantly surprised with the first issue; however, I really think this series started to hit its stride with the Hawkeye team up issue where Spider-Man goes out of his way to help ol’ purple pants keep his much needed confidence; it was a great issue. The last issue was also really good and dealt with Captain America’s little-known artistic skills and had Peter Parker trying to relate to the somewhat rigid Steve Rogers through their past nerdy endeavors. Basically I’m sold on this title for the time being and even if I wasn’t, Mark Waid, Greg Rucka, Mark Chechetto, Daredevil, Spider-Man & Punisher in a three issue crossover is more than enough reason for me to pick this comic up.
If you haven’t been reading DAREDEVIL (really, dude?!?!) or if you happened to skip DAREDEVIL 12.1 (seriously…why?!?) than you may not know that DD has in his possession Omega Drive, which is a micro database that could be used to expose and destroy the top five criminal organizations in the Marvel Universe (Hydra, A.I.M, Agence Byzantine, Black Spectre, and the Secret Empire…don’t feel bad, I haven’t heard of all of them either). This story picks up as The Punisher is now interested in the Omega Drive and Reed Richards asks Spider-Man to look in on Daredevil since the Fantastic Four are somewhat involved in how the information is stored. I like this story because it’s loads of fun and the potential for a great three issue crossover is very high. This issue kind of reminds me of Marvel in the 80s where characters came into each other lives very frequently, and most of the time with good reason and fun results. I’ll admit my bias as I’ve been a fan of these three characters since I was young, but I think that even if you’re not a diehard fan of Punisher, DD and Spidey such as ol’ Kletus, there’s still a lot here to enjoy. The dialog is very strong as I think the writers have these characters’ voices down and their interactions and motivations seem very natural. One thing you can be assured of when you read something Rucka is involved in is that the characters’ motivations and the actions taken in the comic make sense. There’s no guessing as to why they’d do a particular action as his writing is always logical and straightforward. As far as Waid goes he’s been writing a the hell out of DD and putting out a book that’s fun as hell every month, so there’s a very low probability that he’s going to slack off now, especially with the great Rucka riding shotgun. There isn’t a lot that happens in this comic but there is definitely enough to get me drooling for the next issue (which I predict will be the best of the three issue crossover).
The art in this book is really damn good; I’d even say the artwork here is better than Checchetto’s work in THE PUNISHER. I liked the artwork in THE PUNISHER, but when some of the action scenes started I had a hard time following it. I want to point out that I love Checchetto’s Spider-Man, especially the mask…I like his artwork in general but damn he draws a good lookin’ Spidey.
I really had no doubt that this was going to be a good issue and my suspicions were confirmed, Rucka and Waid are two of the best writers out right now and this comic is evidence of that. This is a comic that if I saw it on the spinner rack in the drug store when I was a young Klete, I’d beg Momma Kletus to buy it for me only to realize I may never see the remaining issues…thank god for comic shops. The art in this comic is great, even better than Chechetto’s past work in my opinion, and Spider-Man looks fucking awesome…so does everyone else but Spidey is my dude so I tend to be focused on him. I highly recommend this issue because I firmly believe this is going to be a pretty fun and good looking crossover. Waid, Rucka and Checchetto on SPIDER-MAN, DAREDEVIL & PUNISHER…nuff said!
BIONIC WOMAN #1Writer: Paul Tobin
Illustrator: Leno Carvalho
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Reviewer: Mr. Pasty
Gee, what a shock, a franchise that I loved growing up has been chewed into cud and spit upon the masses umpteen years later by Dynamite, a company which historically (at least in my reviews) has done an admirable job of proving why comic book fans can’t have nice things. So why did I love BIONIC WOMAN? Probably because writer Paul Tobin was able to execute the perfect balancing act: not only did he stay true to the source material, but he (intelligently) updated it to reflect a modern day cyborg, complete with built-in wifi! Tobin clearly respects the bionic franchise, but does Dynamite? As one of my fellow @$$holes pointed out, nowhere in the entire book will you find a tip of the hat to Kenneth Johnson, creator of the original BIONIC WOMAN television series. Instead, they credit smarmy superhero salesman Kevin Smith, for “events based in THE BIONIC MAN” comic.
Bad job, Dynamite.
That aside, I think the opening act does a nice job of establishing why Jaime Sommers is on the run from the Office of Scientific Intelligence (OSI), the organization that created her but is now trying to destroy her. The narrative is heavy on exposition like any first issue is, as the who, what, where and whys are prepared and packaged neatly like a digital bento box. I enjoyed the little Easter eggs throughout the book, including the bionic animals, but I was sure hoping to see a tennis ball get squished. I will give kudos on a terrific cliffhanger, and I thought Leno Carvalho’s illustrations were on point, though I must admit to being a little disappointed at the final reveal, as her body and borg didn’t quite seem to mesh the way I expected them to. Perhaps that’s a matter of personal preference because outside of that, his action scenes were money and well-framed.
Would I recommend THE BIONIC WOMAN? Hell yeah, but it helps to familiarize yourself with Dynamite’s BIONIC MAN graphic novel, also in comic shops and up to issue number eight. You can’t have a bionic Adam without his bionic Eve and it’s nice to see them running around an inner-city Eden trying to figure out there place in the world. You won’t be completely lost without her other half, but it certainly adds a little something extra, especially for dinosaurs like me who used to mark out for a certain bionic hottie in the late seventies. You may not fall in love with this reincarnated version (yet), but that doesn’t mean it can’t be just as fun.
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.
HOMESICK WebcomicWriter/Artist: Jason Walz
Reviewer: The Dean
Even after just the prologue of HOMESICK, you know exactly what you’re going to be getting from Jason Walz, and you know it isn’t going to be easy to take. This is, in part, a cancer story, and the ubiquitous experience of cancer makes even its most poorly written stories guaranteed tearjerkers at some point or another. I generally don’t like stories like these because I feel they’re just too easy, and often do nothing but emotionally torture their audience more than they enlighten them. There are plenty of these cheap, formulaic cash grabs out there in all mediums, which do nothing but throw as many difficult situations at you as possible, and might as well be called something like “Remember When Your Grandpa Died?” Thankfully, Walz doesn’t do anything by the numbers here, and delivers a story about loss and letting go that’s both entirely personal and universally resonant.
The story in its simplest form is that of Walz accepting the inevitable fate of his cancer-stricken mother. I’ll admit I wasn’t totally sold on HOMESICK right away, because the pain to come was just so palpable from the get go that I was sure I was about to read a rejected made for TV script. What kept me reading, however, was the curious inclusion of a lost cosmonaut in the story’s opening few pages. In a later chapter this character’s tale is explained by a precocious student of Walz’s, but his significance isn’t fully realized until the final chapters, where we begin to realize that this isn’t merely a story of Walz and his dying mother. The concurring story of the cosmonaut helps readers to consider the idea of home as both a physical and mental state, providing the more geographic definition of what it is to be “homesick,” where Walz and the life he knew with his mother highlight the more emotional, reminiscent state of homesickness.
Walz’s artwork in its pure, ink and paper form lends to the story’s personal touch, not unlike other biographical favorites such as MAUS or PERSEPOLIS. Character designs and styles are pretty simple here, but Walz manages to squeeze a great amount of emotive detail into his panels, either through facial expressions or interesting, imaginative panel designs or settings. There are several panels that showcase Walz’s ability as an artist here, but the final page of HOMESICK really shines as it’s both a beautiful ending to the story and a powerful enough image on its own if viewed completely outside the context of the comic.
I’m not going to be ridiculous and tell you Walz is the most talented cartoonist out there right now or the next Will Eisner, but if he can maintain this quality of work, I wouldn’t be surprised if his becomes a seminal name in the industry within the next five or ten years. So if you’re tired of the emotional overload that many stories of this nature force down your throat, I would certainly recommend you give this new voice a chance. This is about as strong a debut as they come, and I’m very curious to see what we’ll see next from Walz, but for now, if I’ve sold you on HOMESICK and you’d like to know more, head on over to www.jasonwwalz.com.
HELLRAISER ANNUAL #1Writers: Clive Barker & Mark Miller (“Closer to God”), Brandon Seifert (“My Ememy’s Enemy”)
Art: Jesus Hervas (“Closer to God”), Michael Montenat (“My Enemy’s Enemy”)
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Reviewer: Ambush Bug
I’m continuously impressed with BOOM!’s treatment of the HELLRAISER property. Being a fan of the earlier films, the ongoing story supervised and plotted by Clive Barker is as close to a new (and good) HELLRAISER movie as we’re probably going to get. The comic follows the first two films (HELLRAISER & HELLBOUND) as canon and shits on the other films (because they deserve to be shat upon). The Annual focuses on the current storyline running through the HELLRAISER ongoing: Pinhead has earned his get out of Hell free card and returns to earth to reestablish his human life as Elliot Spencer. Tiffany (from the HELLBOUND film) leads a group of believers smashing Lament Configurations (puzzle boxes) around the world in order to seal off the portals from Hell into our world. Finally, HELLRAISER & HELLBOUND Final Girl Kirsty Cotton has been drafted as the new head Cenobite in Hell, sporting her own crown of nails as she tortures evil souls in Pinhead’s place. Now that I’ve caught you up, what’s this annual all about, you might ask?
Story one is by Clive Barker and another writer named Mark Miller called “Closer to God”.
Side note: This is not me writing this issue and it’s funny that now there are three Mark Millers in comics (Mark Millar whose real name is Mark Miller, this Mark Miller who writes with Clive, and myself who goes as Mark L. Miller when I write funny books). One of these days, there’ll have to be a cage match with the three of us.
Anyway, “Closer to God” is a fantastic opener to this Annual depicting a typical soul in hell. We first see him listlessly wandering among other lost souls and hear his story as to why he has come to reside in the infernal regions. The tale that brought him there is somewhat typical, but the gritty artwork and gruesome imagery of Hell make this a nice intro, albeit a short one, to the book
The book then quickly darts into tale two by WITCH DOCTOR’s Brandon Seifert. This was by far my favorite part of the book as Seifert resurrects another familiar face from the HELLRAISER films, Frank Cotton. I loved the character of Frank in the original film. He was full of sleazy charm and despite the grotesque form he returned to life in, still had the charisma to influence those around him. The skinless blood-sucking fiend is one of the more memorable characters from the film and Seifert channels that energy in this story which stars a de-Cenobited Elliot Spencer (the aforementioned former Pinhead). Seifert gives voice to both Elliot and Frank perfectly, with both acting in character, yet the story remained unpredictable because it is the first time we’ve seen these two characters interact since Pinhead tore him apart with hooks in the first film. Of course, Frank shares no love for Elliot and the cat and mouse game played between the two deviant characters is staged well. The artwork by Michael Montenat is consistent with Jesus Hervas’ gritty style from the first story. The skinless Frank is as gruesome as ever. All in all, this is a great continuation of two characters from a fantastic film franchise (at least the first two films of it, that is).
If you’re a fan of HELLRAISER and HELLBOUND, there’s no excuse as to why you aren’t checking out this book. Clive is overseeing all of it and with exceptional writers like this other Mark Miller guy and WITCH DOCTOR’s Brandon Seifert handling the stories, this is a surefire winner of an Annual and gets me more excited for the events unfolding in the regular series.
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.
SECRET #1Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Ryan Bodenheim
Publisher: Image Comics
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee
I honestly can not say whether SECRET here is more a homecoming or a departure for Jonathan Hickman, but what I can say for sure is that it is yet another successfully intriguing comic on his part. What I mean with that opening is that since his breakout with THE NIGHTLY NEWS, it seems that the Hickmeister has become the Sci-Fi Guy (SFG) in comics, between runs of FANTASTIC FOUR and his SHIELD book at Marvel and miniseries like THE RED WING and TRANSHUMAN for Image here and so on. The name of the game here with SECRET, though, is basically espionage and ball kicking at its finest, which is nice to see for several reasons. The main reasons coming to mind are that Hickman’s last departure from being SFG was SECRET WARRIORS, which was great and, well, it’s Hickman writing a so far pretty stylish espionage story. What’s not to love?
Disclaimer time: There’s no actual ball kicking within the pages of this issue. There is everything else I mentioned, though, in spades. There are some pretty quick and brutal pieces of ultraviolence which lead the story, though, including the open in which a Mr. Dunn, a corporate muckety muck, finds himself getting face punched and tied down for some impromptu dental work during sleeping hours by a masked man nonchalant about taking the damage to the next, more personal level in exchange for some company security information. The next day, Grant Miller of Steadfast Security shows up to get the lowdown on this incident at Dunn’s law firm and to tell everyone involved, with some pretty stoically delivered snark, how essentially a paraplegic with some gum and a bit of patience could break into their headquarters and access all the down and dirty they have on their clients. One can probably see where we are going from here, though things are obviously not going to be that easy.
Not that I wanted to basically lay out half the book like that, but I think it gives a good underlying summation of what the book is playing at whilst being a tip of the iceberg because, honestly, this book is just that: the tip. That scenario explained above gives an idea of the kind of stakes SECRET is playing at but not for, which is where I think things are going to get real interesting as the book progresses. Right now we’re seeing Mr. Miller do some pretty sneaky and backstabbing things on his own company’s customers, all while being the cool customer with a quick and penetrating way with words, but we have no idea to what end and why. Add in one other brief interlude of brutality involving Steadfast Security that is presented to us and this plan of Miller’s, whatever it may be, could already be going tits up, or it could be going exactly as desired.
In all actuality the main selling point of this first issue is that it goes down silky smooth in all its setuptitude. The plot for the first half seems like something that is kind of a standard caper affair, but a couple gunshots later and some name dropping of players we are not fully acquainted with yet and it looks like things are going to get complicated fast, as well as a bit bloodier. The dialogue really is stylish to the teeth and Ryan Bodenheim’s art does its expressive best to drive home the intentions all these words are meant to have and how ruthless the slight action we get this issue is and will continue to be as these matters get bigger and probably badder. SECRET might not be the biggest package to start but it is a very tightly wrapped one that promises substantial surprises to come which I, for one, am very much looking forward to opening.
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.
STRANGER WebcomicWriter: D.A. Bishop
Art: D.A. Bishop
Reviewer: The Writing Rambler
We live in a grand time for fans of the undead roaming the earth. Much like superhero fanboys have seen our beloved crusaders of justice and truth become part of the pulse of mainstream pop culture, fans of zombies need not look far to get their fix. It’s a blessing and a curse for longtime fans as we have to learn to share our beloved obsessions with every idiot that can work a TV remote now but there’s also the benefit of seeing some great creation being done with our favorite genres. Obviously the biggest example of this is the huge success that is “The Walking Dead”, and despite some lifelong zombie fans hating how mainstream it’s all become, it does open up opportunities for attention to be given to some great independent zombie projects. Such is the case with D.A. Bishop’s STRANGER.
STRANGER is something wonderful and unique if only for the ability it gives its readers to actually follow along in its creation from the ground up. Luckily that’s not its only selling point, as what Bishop has created is well done and a joy to read. Published as a FREE web comic at www.renerd.com (though you can support his efforts by ordering hard copies of his books as well), STRANGER chronicles one nameless man’s journey through other people’s experiences during the zombie apocalypse. The main character is no hero or leader--he’s just a guy trying to avoid the chaos that surrounds him. Some decisions/moments shown in the first issue lead you to believe that he may also have “checked out” mentally due to the horrors he’s experienced. This idea alone leaves a lot of room for Bishop to explore exactly what’s going on in the protagonist’s head and I have a feeling in future issues this will serve for some great material.
The artwork in the book is good with definite room for growth from Bishop. Part of the luxury of digital publishing is that with each page Bishop will often leave a short commentary explaining his thoughts for the above panel, etc. It’s here where you can see that this is a new medium for him as well, and throughout the first 3+ issues you can see the quality grow as he further develops his craft digitally. This is the high point of the story’s art for me. I really enjoy watching Bishop grow as an artist with each page, and having a “Director’s Commentary” available to follow along is just the icing on the cake. He also makes a great choice of creating a completely wordless third issue where his artwork tells a beautifully tragic story of one man’s journey to becoming a zombie (that our nameless stranger happens to stumble through).
My only issue with the book at all is that Bishop puts out on average one page of work per week on the site, and despite his clear hard work on each panel I was spoiled by being able to read the first three issues in their entirety and now selfishly want to know what will happen next a.s.a.p. It’s a testament to the story he’s created that I have a definite new stop for myself on the ol’ interwebs and I think anyone who even vaguely enjoys a good zombie story will love every second of STRANGER. I highly recommend you all check it out and support someone who clearly does this for the love of creating something he’s passionate about.
You can follow The Writing Rambler on his blog here and follow on Twitter @Writing_Rambler !
Advance Review: In stores for Free Comic Book Day, Saturday, May 5th!
THE NEW 52! (Free Comic Book Day issue)Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: Jim Lee, Ivan Reis, Kenneth Rocafort, Gene Ha
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Johnny Destructo
Free Comic Book Day has several goals. Get people into the stores to support our dying medium, introduce new readers and hopefully get past readers interested again, while giving current readers something to discuss. I can only speak to the success of the latter-most goal. Fans are going to be talking about this particular issue. Herein we are treated to a sneak peek of the upcoming "Trinity War", which, at first glance, I assumed referred to Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman. But oh ho ho, how I fell victim to my own folly. Curse my rapscallion brainbits. Turns out it harkens to the Trinity Of Sin! Who makes up this menagerie of malevolence? Well, I don't want to spoil this preview but I will say that two are well known characters and one, eh…not so much. Not only do we get the origin of this threesome, two of which we haven't been clamoring for and one…very much so, we also get some of Johns' refurbishing of the Captain Mar-I'm sorry, Shazam! mythos.
At the risk of sounding harsh, it would seem that much in the same way I used to joke that “The Simpsons” (in its downer years just prior to the film release) was keeping all its GOOD jokes for the movie, it looks like Geoff was keeping all his interesting Justice League ideas for this event and for Shazam. That may read as rude, but it truly feels like this story is something he's passionate about writing, while the first arc of JL felt like something he wrote to just warm up his typing fingers in the morning before getting to work on his other, better books like AQUAMAN and now THIS.
We are also introduced to The Red Room, The Black Room and only a hint is dropped about the mysterious room called The Circus. And speaking of mysterious, who is this new Green Lantern with the umm…interesting…costume? (I'm going to guess that he's from Earth-2, but that's just me probably being completely wrong, as is my nature). There is A LOT of really interesting and exciting stuff crammed in here, and that's only 14 pages! And one of those pages is a 4 page wide-spread Jim Lee trough of awesome. I'm more stoked about these 14 pages than I have been about the entire run of JL so far. I'm really hoping that this is going to be the new level of quality that we can expect from upcoming JUSTICE LEAGUE issues. This is the Geoff Johns JL that's I've been waiting for, and the reason I haven't dropped the book yet.
There are also quick introductions to the new DC titles that are starting soon: BATMAN INC, DIAL H, EARTH 2, WORLD’S FINEST, THE RAVAGERS and G.I. COMBAT. There is far too little included in this section of the book to get a grasp on some of the books, but I'm excited by BATMAN INC, EARTH 2 looks like a lot of fun, and hell: we get Kevin Maguire on WF!
This book was a ton of fun and the best part is it's FREE! So what are you waiting for? Well, besides for it to come out, I guess.
When not hosting the PopTards Podcast, fist-bumping his own nethers, discussing movies, comics and other flimflam here, JD is graphically designing/illustrating/inking for a living, hanging with the @$$holes. 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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