|Issue #3||Release Date: 5/23/12||Vol.#11|
(Click title to go directly to the review)
Advance Review: BATMAN: DEATH BY DESIGN HC
IRREDEEMABLE #37 (final issue)
TWENTY-SEVEN: SECOND SET TPB
Advance Review: THE DARK COUNTRY OGN
SPANDEX: FAST AND HARD TBP
THE GUILD: FAWKES #1
Advance Review: GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK #3
Advance Review: In stores today!
BATMAN: DEATH BY DESIGN HC GNWriter: Chip Kidd
Artist: Dave Taylor
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
Imagine if you will a world where America’s meteoric rise during the Roaring Twenties was never thwarted by The Great Depression or World War II. What if the Great Generation’s fantastic imaginations of fancy and can-do gumption weren’t inhibited by the practicality of global conflict? What if we continued to grow exponentially through the 1930’s, building the futuristic visions at the World’s Fairs instead of social programs? That’s BATMAN: DEATH BY DESIGN.
Yes, the press releases all speak of this as a story about architecture, about movies like METROPOLIS coming alive on the page, and yes all of that is inside this book. Kidd and Taylor did their homework in spades, but there’s more going on here. Kidd’s interpretation of a 1930’s Gotham wherein today’s technology comes alive via vacuum tubes and physical switches was far more alluring to me than anything surrounding our favorite caped crusader. I believe this world could have been a real possibility, if the world merely allowed it to happen.
BATMAN: DEATH BY DESIGN is about Gotham’s architecture, but also about Bruce Wayne the businessman - the philanthropist and the philanderer. It’s a rare Bat-book these days when Bruce Wayne and his business exploits permeate as many pages as his time under the cowl. Gotham City isn’t a gleaming Metropolis, but Taylor’s architectural prowess created a city far more akin to Superman’s Metropolis than the ultra-gritty cesspool we are traditionally used to. At the center of this land of tomorrow sits a derelict from the past – Gotham Central Station.
When the book opens, the station, also known as the Gateway to Gotham, is a crumbling shambles. The world believes this was due to flaws with the original architecture – basically too much art in the design and not enough math. After a deadly crane collapse, though, we realize that a shinier veneer doesn’t mean less crime, graft and corruption inside the mechanisms that make Metropolis run. I would call this a spoiler, but it becomes clear early on that this story is far more intricate than the simple decay of mortar.
There are really three protagonists in this story: Bruce Wayne (obviously), a man trying to continue his father’s legacy of keeping Gotham always on the bleeding edge; the activist/socialite Cyndia Syl, who is trying to preserve Gotham’s history by saving the station; and a young reporter straight out of architectural design school given the beat of chronicling Gotham’s exponential transformation. There’s also a fourth figure, a Rocketeer-type hero who keeps appearing after each death-defying architectural accident.
Kidd does a more than admirable job stringing along the mystery of this book with the different character’s motives: is Cyndia causing these mishaps in her attempt to preserve what was, or is it the purist reporter’s love of nostalgia? Is it this Rocketeer-type hero to blame, or do we blame the system itself that seems to be more concerned with cost over quality? Kidd does a wonderful job of playing “just the tip” throughout the story, making us believe for a majority of the book that any and all of these forces could be to blame for each architectural mishap. And as an added bonus, we get a newsboy-panted Joker to throw readers and Batman even further off the trail of the true culprit.
When not engrossed with the story, you will marvel at Taylor’s representation of a Gotham that never was. Each character reminds you of Hollywood’s Golden Age, the men are meticulous and the dames are…well, dames, hot without ever transcending to the parlor tricks of Snooki. Each building represents a time that never was, but one our grandfathers dreamed the world would become. And the toys, oh the wonderful toys. Once again, here is where the book revels in sheer imagination. Taylor and Kidd made each piece of technology feel foreign and familiar in one fell swoop. As helicopters hover over the Gotham skyline, they look like what a helicopter would be without microchips inside - mammoth machines that are a hybrid between steampunk and what our concept of a helicopter should be. To call this book black and white would be an affront to the work that was done. It is more grayscale, with flashes of shaded sepia brilliance to change mood and scene. It never crosses into the overt and garish like SIN CITY; the coloring merely accentuates the old-time movie feel that permeates every other aspect of BATMAN: DEATH BY DESIGN.
To say I enjoyed this book is an understatement, which is no surprise given my past trumpeting of all Elseworld-type alternate realities. However, I believe even continuity purists will find joy in the master craftsmanship of BATMAN: DEATH BY DESIGN despite its lack of consequence on all things DC.
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.
IRREDEEMABLE # 37 (Final Issue)Written by: Mark Waid
Illustrated by: Diego Barreto
Published by: BOOM! Studios
Reviewed by: superhero
The first thing I want to say about Mark Waid is that I really think the dude’s got class. With the last several pages of IRREDEEMABLE he takes time to acknowledge the important history of what has come before his own creation and wraps up IRREDEEMABLE with a sweet, slightly upbeat ending. This final epilogue adds a bit of hopefulness to a comic that at times would be an incredibly intense read. The world that Waid had developed in the pages of IRREDEEMABLE was not a world of super-heroic optimism. It was a world where a cruel, almost god-like megalomaniac crushed the world under his boot heel. In the last panel of IRREDEEMABLE Waid seems to reinforce his love for good guy superheroes while leaving the readers with a sense of hopefulness. It’s a sweet ending to series that was oftentimes anything but. I never would have thought I’d say this, but Waid actually managed to end IRREDEEMABLE on a bit of a positive note.
This, however, is the big problem I have with the end of this series.
I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry! I love Mark Waid’s stuff, I really do! But after thirty-seven issues of worldwide Armageddon-like destruction that the Plutonian put his reality through, I thought that this ending was a bit of a cop-out. Issue after issue Waid has just piled on the intensity, and I feel that this chapter kind of felt not only rushed, but a bit incomplete. I was expecting something epic and what I got in the way of finales was something very much akin to the letdown of the final episodes of the LOST or BATTLESTAR GALACTICA TV shows. I’m not saying that I hated those endings (I did like one more than the other) but you have to admit that those finales left many a fan with a sense of incompleteness. This is how I’m feeling at the end of IRREDEEMABLE. I feel that in Waid’s Spielbergian need to indulge in schmaltz he’s taken a series whose ending could have had a powerful final act and tacked on an ending that seems uncharacteristic for the series. The final pages seem to come out of left field and felt to me like Waid just went for the quick out.
Back in the eighties, George Perez wrote a run of WONDER WOMAN comics that is still considered by many fans to be the best take on the character. In the first story arc, Wondy confronts Ares the god of war and captures him with her lasso. Ares then sees a vision of a world ravaged by nuclear war--a world that he has helped put into motion and a world that has no survivors. No survivors means nobody to worship him and without worshippers Ares’ existence fades. He disappears and in the end he sees that by craving ultimate war he will only end up destroying himself.
In my perfect world the end of IRREDEEMABLE would have played out something like that. The Plutonian would have destroyed the earth and been left with almost nothing. The Plutonian is left by himself on a world that he has destroyed with his own madness. Being left in a hell of solitude of his own creation would eventually have been the Plutonian’s final damnation. This, to me, would have been an ending more in character with all of what had come before in the pages of IRREDEEMABLE.
Or something like that.
But you know what? I’m not a comic book writer. I certainly don’t have the big brain that Mark Waid does. So what do I know? I don’t hate the ending of IRREDEEMABLE, but I will say that I’m disappointed by it. I won’t say that I thought that collecting IRREDEEMABLE was a waste of time or money because I disliked the end of the series. It’s been a great book. I still consider it one of the best comics to have been published in the past five years. If you still haven’t read it I’d recommend checking it out. It’s the best Superman-gone-bad story you’ll ever read. Just be sure to enjoy the journey because the end might just disappoint you.
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.
TWENTY-SEVEN: SECOND SET TPBWriter: Charles Soule
Artist: Renzo Podesta
Publisher: Image Comics
Reviewed by Humphrey Lee
As basically a companion piece to the interview I did with Charles Soule about this trade paperback release, I figure it’s probably best to comment on how the book, y’know, actually is. I’d also imagine that, between an interview and a couple reviews already, you’ve probably figured I think the book is the bee’s knees, before you go back to wondering what the hell is the point of that saying. And I do, very much so in fact, and here’s why…
The main affection I feel toward this series is definitely the mythology is setting up, particularly in this volume. While the first TWENTY-SEVEN tome was basically the “origin story” of Will Garland, his affliction – a nerve disorder that has rendered him unable to play the guitar at “Rock God” status like he used to – and the chest device that kind of sort of helped him for a bit, this volume goes way more down the rabbit hole of a world that supports such a device. Erebus, the Lord of Decay and basically who has claim on Will once he uses the device so much, shows up a bit more prominently as well as other players such as the God of Fame and some other spotlight fiends that have been where Garland is before and will do anything to get back there. The mythological beings and themes being brought in as players that are all orbiting around Will and the, basically, H Dial in his chest and what he does with it are interesting enough as they are introduced.
While the mystical characters have stolen the show, as far as I’m concerned, the physical being that is at the center of their machinations is doing well as a solid lead. Will Garland in the first book was a man on a mission to get his life back, and while he was a bit braggadocios about his past talents you felt for the man as he was willing to do anything to get his craft back the way he knew it. Now, he’s devolving a bit more to the dick side of things as he’s got some new exposure from the media and is more than willing to ham it up, even at the expense of his new “sidekick” Eric and their potential friendship, and the respect of his occasional lover and manager Mac. It’s all strong, human fanfare that plays well even with the cool supernatural tale it takes place in being the center of attention.
Lastly, there’s the art by Renzo Podesta, which is a show stealer in its own right. It’s not exactly your every day comic book art, with very angular figures (particularly with faces and other defining features), but it’s so lush and detailed and unique; it’s real standout stuff. The shading done in here, especially, adds a lot of depth and atmosphere and then the color work is sublime, making everything that has that supernatural tilt in this book quite radiant looking. So, basically, I think this book has it all. A lead character you want to like but occasionally pisses you off, knows he pissed you off, and then tries to win you back only to do it all over again. It’s got a great hook with the device and the otherworldly aspect it brings to the table, as well as the themes all the beings vying for it represent and inflect on the book. And it looks pretty damn gorgeous. All in all, SECOND SET does everything the first did but better and with raised stakes and execution. If you tried the first you’ll love the second and if you haven’t tried either, well, you’ve got some catching up to do. Cheers…
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: Available today through digital first at ComiXology!
DARK COUNTRY OGNWriter: Tab Murphy
Illustrator: Thomas Ott
Publisher: RAW STUDIOS
Reviewer: Ambush Bug
Available exclusively first through ComiXology this week is an amazing book from Thomas Jane’s Raw Studios; a company bent of creating breathtaking sci fi worlds and dark noir stories. I actually saw Jane talking about this new company a few years ago and being impressed with Jane’s previous comic work BAD PLANET, I keep my feelers alert for anything that comes from this company. This week, a good one is coming out digital first; DARK COUNTRY. Steeped in noir and horror overtones, DARK COUNTRY was actually originally a short film that impressed Jane so much he wanted to make it into a film. And that he did in 2009. He even made it in 3D (because that’s what you do these days), but unfortunately, the film was never released in theaters. Now, the story has been given new life in comic book form and though I haven’t seen the film or read the short story, I have to say I loved this version of it.
The story starts out with a man sitting naked in a hotel room. Behind him, is a woman in the shower. From the looks of the room, there’s been quite a party. Flash back to the couple in a car, driving down a lonely road. The man accidentally hits a person standing in the middle of the road. Though their initial reaction is noble; get the man into the back seat and take him to the hospital. When he gets up halfway there and attacks the couple, they have no choice but to fight back. What happens next is an unconventional story about guilt, love, and all of the things that make up a good noir tale.
Though the set up of this book is somewhat typical, the storytelling on display in this DARK COUNTRY is anything but. Told without a word balloon or thought bubble, the story relies on the compelling illustrations of Thomas Ott to take us on this pitch black journey. Not a word is necessary, because Ott’s work (which looks to be done on scratchboard) fills in the gaps masterfully, never revealing too much, though never losing the reader as one panel transforms into the next. Having some experience working on scratch board myself, I understand the painstaking process of carving away at the image and thinking in negative terms. It’s often a maddening process; one that takes a lot of time and energy to master. Ott does it as if it were an afterthought, making imagery that looks photographic at times, yet stylized to make the black and white tones feel like full color in their shade variation. Each page is an eye full and once you finish this book, you’ll find yourself rereading it, just to soak in Ott’s work.
The story ends on a haunting and serendipitous note; one that some might be able to predict, but its satisfying nevertheless. Though Jane’s company seems to want to be known for their updated version of the sci fi classics of old, they have turned in an absolutely gorgeous work of art in this wordless book that speaks volumes. I can’t recommend DARK COUNTRY more. For its simple yet fascinating story, and most of all for the engrossing artwork on each and every page.
Look for a chance to check out a free copy of DARK COUNTRY later today on AICN!
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.
SPANDEX: FAST AND HARD TBPWriter and Illustrator: Martin Eden
Publisher: Titan Books
There’s a lot of big gay stuff happening in comics these days. If it weren’t for the fact that it all seems to be in the service of a cause I support, gay marriage, the cynical part of me would say that all of these machinations on the part of the big two were just one big, cynical cash grab. Yes, gay marriage is all the rage in some parts, but because of the fact that there is still a decent sized part of the country that is vehemently against it I have to say that there is a part of me (the part that still thinks that all of mankind is basically good) that believes that there’s a bit of altruism behind it all, that what the Big Two are doing is what superheroes have always done…which is stand up for what’s right and protect the little guy. When I see all the “Northstar getting married” and “DC making an iconic character gay” stories it kinda makes me proud to be a lover of comic books.
Of course, it’s one thing to jump on an issue when it’s become the hot topic in the news cycle and wave the gay pride flag when it’s become somewhat popular to do so and it’s quite another to have been doing it all along when no one was really getting riled up about gay issues. SPANDEX is a comic about the first all gay superhero team and it’s a book that its creator, Martin Eden, has been putting out probably before gay marriage became the cause célèbre among many of us godless liberals. To me, it takes quite a bit of courage to go out and publish a superhero book in print without the backing of some kind of major publisher even if they aren’t gay. The costs of self publishing a comic can be absolutely ridiculous and, to some people, financially suicidal. So to take a group of characters and make them all gay, which could possibly limit sales, is an extremely bold move and I applaud Eden for even attempting to do it. Of course, this edition is being published by Titan Books, but from what I understand Eden started this all out on his own and for that I have to give him a great amount of credit.
So it’s a great thing that someone was able to put out an all gay superhero team on their own and actually make it successful enough that a publisher would publish a collected volume of their creation. It’s an even greater thing that the book itself is actually good. Look, I’m not gay. I didn’t really consider myself the core market for this book but when the opportunity to review it came up I said “Sure, why not?” I’m not closed-minded but I have to admit I didn’t know what to expect. Yes, that lame assed straight guy knee jerk reaction kicked in and I have to admit I didn’t know if the book would speak to me. Boy, was I wrong. When I sat down to read through this collected edition of SPANDEX I read through it in one sitting! I read through the whole thing as soon as I opened it and I loved it! It’s got fun characters, neat super-heroic adventures, a terrific sense of humor, a bit of naughty sex in it, and a love for its genre. Imagine that! A superhero book that loves the idea of superheroes! To put it another way: It was love at first sight as soon as I laid my eyes on SPANDEX.
And I did love SPANDEX. I even loved the art to a certain extent. At first glance Eden’s art seems simplistic and possibly even crude. But I have to say the style of the artwork here perfectly suits the tone of SPANDEX. Much like Paul Grist’s artwork in JACK STAFF, the artwork in SPANDEX is deceptively simplistic. It lulls you into thinking that you’re looking at something that isn’t that complex but once you start reading through the comic the art perfectly suits the story that’s developing in front of you. While I don’t believe that Eden has the gift that Grist has with panel layouts, I still think that Eden’s artwork is able to entertain in ways that certain more complex comic artists aren’t. There’s a lightheartedness to his artwork that adds a great sense of fun to SPANDEX that is lacking in many other superhero books out there. Because of its simplicity, Eden’s style was able to take me back to a time when things in superhero comics were a lot simpler and a lot more enjoyable.
So if you’re out there and you’re excited over the fact that Northstar’s getting married or you’re happy that one of the big boys at DC is coming out of the cosmic closet…make sure to reserve a spot in your pull list for this book. I can almost guarantee that this comic will be just as entertaining as and a bit more fun than anything that the Big Two might be planning. Heck, even if the notion of the big two diving into the gay pool doesn’t get you all excited just check SPANDEX out. It’s a fun superhero book with just the right bit of mischievousness that I’m sure almost anyone who isn’t a complete homophobe would enjoy it.
THE GUILD: FAWKES #1Writers: Felicia Day & Wil Wheaton
Artist: Jamie McKelvie
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
Felicia Day and Wil Wheaton are the current royalty of geekdom, like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie without the looks or the money. Separately Wheaton and Day have helped transform and report on the collective zeitgeist for those that prefer 20 sided dice as opposed to soccer pucks and base balls. Together F-wil or Wheatday (whichever you prefer) have kept their dalliances together at a minimum, but each time they have crossed streams it’s like a geek big bang, lending a level of gravitas to the other’s endeavors that could never be achieved separately.
Case in point, THE GUILD: Day’s hyperbolic reflection of her time on the Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) game World of Warcraft (WoW). For those that don’t know WoW or think MMO is cured with penicillin, THE GUILD and its subsequent spin-offs into comics are not for you. Geekdom has stratified in this glorious information age, and it would be myopic to suggest that all comic fans engage in MMOs or even video games, just as it would be presumptuous to assume all MMO fans spend their time in-flight to new continents with a comic on their lap (even though, that’s EXACTLY how I roll).
Now, for those who know MMOs, not imbibing THE GUILD web series is a pity. It’s free, bitches--you’re only denying yourself joy. For those that read comics and love the web series, not reading the comic is a crime against nature itself. Yes, you will give yourself cancer and make baby pandas cry every minute you ignore these deeper dives into the eclectic characters that make up THE GUILD.
Now that the philistines are gone, we can finally talk FAWKES. When Wheaton entered the series as the haughty yet powerful leader of The Axis guild, he broke every stereotype we have of Wheaton the man. And just to be clear, I’m not talking about the persona most of have as Wheaton wearing high space-age turtlenecks and annoying the fuck out of Data during his time as Wesley Crusher. In the subsequent two decades since Wheaton made the career choice of shitting the bed by leaving “Star Trek”, he has emerged as a damn fine writer who uses social media to bring together like-minded nerds the same way PT Barnum used the circus to unite the unwashed masses. Everything from old “Star Trek” stories to his own personal musings to his time as a father have been chronicled with the utmost clarity and detail since before blogging was blogging. And you know what? He’s a nice fucking guy. I find few other writers who are as appreciative or as engaging with their fan base as Wheaton. Fawkes, however, is the anti-Wheaton; it’s Wil’s cathartic equivalent of growing a goatee. We all know a Fawkes, even if you don’t play MMOs. He’s the guy that knows everything and is so insecure he needs to constantly spew forth his random factoids to anyone within ear shot. He’s a fucker so full of delusions of grandeur, he honestly believes telling five people what to do in an imaginary dungeon places him on par with Patton. He’s a dickhole with a festering UTI that is beginning to smell like the Cheesy Beard special of the week. Basically, he’s the guy we can get drawn to, but feel like we need a shower and a rape kit after being with him for five minutes.
When Day’s neurotic but sweet-natured character Codex fell for Fawkes in the web series, I know I was screaming at the screen. The fact that he would ultimately break her heart with his epicurean lifestyle was telegraphed harder than Laura Ingalls talking dirty to Manly. Ultimately, though, she fell for Fawkes and as expected Fawkes broker her heart. Since that season, Fawkes has appeared in THE GUILD from time to time with each reappearance being pathetically sadder than the last. THE GUILD: FAWKES is the final swan song. There’s no lower this guy can go at this point than a warm bath with a sharp razor.
Unlike prior GUILD comic one-shots, this is not lighthearted fare. Past looks at GUILD characters like Zaboo always had a sing-songy feel to them, even going so far as to make a game out of certain objectives in the book, shattering of the fourth wall to the nth degree. FAWKES is grounded in pure reality. We learn more about the man outside the context of Codex and The Game (the generic name used so as not to pay WoW for licensing). And just as expected, he’s kind of pathetic. We can look past the fact he wears a kilt (which contributes to a hilarious literal fall that’s a precursor to his figurative one later); hell, I’ll even look past the fact he’s a philosophy teachers’ aide at community college. What I can’t abide, tolerate, or even understand, is the blind arrogance that fuels him despite life’s pitfalls. I am an eighth the douche that Fawkes is.
Wheaton and Day clearly know dialog. Each pitfall Fawkes falls down is interlaced with philosophical quotes from Voltaire to Gabe Kaplan. You know, since he’s an epicurean philosophy teacher’s aide. I’m also always enamored with the ease in which the dialog flip-flops between real-world speak versus the in-game Tolkien homages. I laughed a lot during this book. Granted it was schadenfreude, but funny none the less.
The art always leaves me a little less than enamored in THE GUILD comics; simply way too cartoony for my taste. Surprisingly, though, this was not the case with Fawkes. Also, Dark Horse broke their mold of their licensed comics creeping me the fuck out by putting photorealistic photos on top of cartoon bodies. The style was comic and actual looked like the folks in the show.
Kudos to all for THE GUILD: FAWKES.
Advance Review: In stores today!
GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK # 3Writer: Mark L. Miller
Art: Carlos Granda
Publisher: Zenescope Entertainment
I have to admit, when I first heard the news that our own fearless leader Ambush Bug was going to be doing a book for Zenescope my heart sank a bit. I’ve been impressed with Bug’s comic writing in the past several years. I particularly liked his Bluewater Comic outing, NANNY AND HANK, and I was hoping that that series would be the opportunity that would open the door for greater comic book writing opportunities for Mark (a.k.a Ambush Bug). He had some good ideas and I was hoping for nothing but the best for him.
Then I heard about him writing a book for Zenescope. Not just any book, but an adaptation of Kipling’s THE JUNGLE BOOK where Mowgli would be gender shifted into the “fairer sex”. As soon as I heard about that I just groaned. I have no real love for Zenescope’s T & A approach to publishing comics. Don’t get me wrong, I love T & A as much as the next guy--but if I want that I’ll just go check out the interwebs. I don’t need to spend three to four dollars on a lame assed fairy tale adaptation where Alice in Wonderland suddenly gets the double “D” treatment. Maybe I’m giving Zenescope the short shrift but I’ve never really liked any of their stuff all that much, despite them using some fantastically talented artists on their books. All in all, when I heard that Mark was going to be doing a book for Zenescope I was worried that he’d sold himself short. That he’d relegated himself to a writer that might not ever be taken seriously if he’d be doing work for Zenescope. In short, I thought that our own beloved Bug was too good for Zenescope.
Well, it turns out I should have had a little more faith in our fearless leader.
Ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages, what we have here is a fantastic comic. Millar has taken a respectable piece of literature, put a twist on it and made it a respectable piece of comic book craftsmanship. I was impressed with the first issue and as the series has moved past its second issue and now into its third I can honestly say that I am beyond impressed. Just glancing at the book’s marvelously produced artwork you can tell that it’s a visually striking book. But, as I stated earlier, Zenescope knows that appealing art is a big part of the battle when it comes to producing comics, so that was something that I expected coming from this comic publisher. What I wasn’t expecting was how much I would love Miller’s take on Kipling’s beloved books.
Yes, it’s true that Mowgli now has “girl parts” but despite the deceptive Dolly Parton-esque character drawings on many of JUNGLE BOOK’s varied covers, Miller’s female Mowglii (how her name is spelled in the comic) is a very respectful take on the original character. This is a powerful lead female character whose purpose is not to titillate but to entertain. There’s a big difference. and no one’s saying that you can’t do both, but by making the new Mowglii less physically bombastic than other Zenescope heroines the argument that making Mowgli a girl just to draw in male viewers is automatically deflated. As a matter of fact, I’d say that this new Mowglii would be a character that many female readers would appreciate—if only it weren’t for those darn covers that are bound to scare off female readership.
This issue finds Mowglii dealing with the repercussions of the Tiger assault upon the Wolves which occurred in the previous issue. Mowglii is out for vengeance, and despite Balloo’s warnings, heads off into the jungle on her own to get medieval on some Tiger ass. On the way she stumbles across a den of monkeys and apes led by Bandar Louis. This is where this issue impressed me the most because it manages to successfully shift the tone of the narrative from one of tragedy to a sort of creepy mirth. The arrival of Louis and his cohorts saves the story from becoming one of just pure vengeance and lightens the mood a bit. By the end of the comic you still feel Mowglii’s sense of loss but the tale has taken an unexpected turn and introduced some fairly charming new characters along the way. The pitfalls of a hardcore girl out for vengeance story are avoided and there were enough interesting developments by the end of this issue that I found myself intrigued in how the rest of the JUNGLE BOOK story would play out.
I would be extremely neglectful in this review if I didn’t write a couple of words about the artists of the book. As I’ve said earlier, the book is beautiful to be sure, but I think that the work being done in JUNGLE BOOK really stands head and shoulders above other work that I’ve seen come out of Zenescope. From the first issue it’s pretty evident that the melding of Carlos Granada’s pencils along with color team Liezl Buenaventura and Tim Yates is a winning combination. The detail in the work here is astounding. This is a very professionally illustrated book and the art here stands among some of the best I’ve seen in comics being done today.
I have to say that I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by JUNGLE BOOK. This issue was particularly enjoyable. It makes me happy to see that I misjudged Ambush Bug’s career path. This is a book that I hope the rest of comicdom will appreciate for the solid work that it is. I hope it offers everyone involved the great opportunities they deserve to be offered and more.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #686
I’m really wishing I’d have sat this “Ends of the Earth” stuff out. I’ve been consistently glazing over at around the third or fourth page of each installment, often struggling to get through just one panel because I can’t stop thinking of other titles in my stack I’d rather be reading, or even rereading. AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #686 is better, but not by much (I started thinking about reading MIND MGMT again around page 5), because while we learn the secret behind Doc Ock’s intimidation tactics, and a member of the Sinister Six jumps over to team Spidey, the issue ends with a mix of “been there, done that” and “don’t care, wrap it up already.” Also, while Stefano Caselli is certainly a more than capable artist, just like Slott, he’s definitely been better than this current arc would suggest. I’ve really enjoyed Slott’s work on the series, and I hope he gets back to fun, exciting Spider-Man storytelling soon, but I think we’re going to have to wait until this disappointing story wraps up after the next issue. - The Dean
THE BIONIC MAN #9
So we’ve reached the penultimate issue of Kevin’s Smith’s SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN screenplay. Kevin had said when he original wrote it, the studio said it read like a comic book and Kevin was pleased. Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with that, but I can see what they meant. An army of cyborgs attacking Washington D.C., ripping tanks apart--not really the tone of the original TV series or books. If you’re OK with that, then this comic book deliveries an entertaining adventure--more so than his GREEN HORNET tale, I feel. The script is peppered with Kevin’s sense of humor, which I enjoy, and I look forward to the final showdown between Hull and Steve. Their first throw down in issues 5 and 6 was good. Jonathan Lau continues his admirable job of penciling. I wish Dynamite had the money for a real inker, though, since I assume some form of Photoshop contrast is proving inks, as it were. While I might not always appreciate Lau’s art style (what I’d consider western figures with a manga flare), his storytelling is always solid. Though I questioned the uses of a body part in the beginning of the issue, where clearly he had other options attached to his uniform, it was still a nice scene. This issue scores a 3 out of 4. – Masked Man
The writing is good, if a little rushed. The story jumps from beat to beat, not really giving the reader a chance to connect with any of the action. And while Grodd himself comes off well (finally giving him some purpose too), the ending is incredibly rushed. It’s fine, but flawed. What is impressive is that while the writing is well done, Manapul and Buccellato are artists first and foremost. The book looks remarkable--dynamic while still retaining a cartoony approach. The title page is one of the most inventive title pages I’ve seen recently, and quickly covers everything you need to know. The art throughout impresses, between the fluid pencils and the faint but well placed color. FLASH manages to be one of the better New 52 titles on the stands, and while this issue isn’t perfect, it is a solid read. - Henry Higgins is My Homeboy
CAPTAIN AMERICA #12
This is the second issue of the month for Cap--curious that he has enough time for all this, with the whole AvsX thing is going on, but I digress. This issue features the big reveal behind the new Scourge. Which, I have to say, I was surprised it happened so quick! With many comic books today, it should have been drawn out for eight issues, at least- but I’m glad it wasn’t. The story behind Scourge I like a lot--interesting angle. The story behind the mask of the Scourge—not as impressed. If you are not a long time reader you will need to look the character up online, and then in both cases you’ll be saying “really?”, though I assume Brubaker wanted someone close to Cap. Overall, the story builds quite nicely, if more for Bravo’s scheme than Cap’s showdown with Scourge, which should be the next issue. Patch Zircher again is the artist, and while he’s got skills, his art reminds me of pre-HELLBOY Mike Mignola, as in it doesn’t look like this guy should be working on a superhero book. He seems more suited to pulp fiction. In the end, this issue scores a 2 out of 4. – Masked Man
I, VAMPIRE #9
I’ve been glossing over a lot of I, VAMPIRE’s problems in its previous eight issues, probably due in large part to my genuine surprise that the series wound up being as good as it’s been. But if I’m being honest with myself, it’s suffered from some pacing/layout issues that made for unnecessary confusion at times. Well I’m happy to say that I, VAMPIRE #9 is probably the most readable issue of the series yet, and really showcases the foundation of what could be a great story involving the messianic Bennet and his nomadic vampire pals. What Fialkolv accomplishes in clarity of storytelling here, Andrea Sorrentino matches in art, and I think the move to a sunnier, more open atmosphere in the Utah deserts does his work more favors than the cramped sewers and Gotham rooftops did – his work is dark enough without effectively shutting the lights off on it in underground layers and Gotham nights. This is a really strong start to a new story from Fialkov and Sorrentino, which should be every bit as good, if not better, than the last. - The Dean
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G
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