Comics

AICN COMICS REVIEWS: BEFORE WATCHMEN: THE COMEDIAN! REED GUNTHER! ULTIMATE X-MEN! WARLORD OF MARS! INCORRUPTIBLE! & MORE!!!

Published at: June 20, 2012, 9:27 a.m. CST

Issue #7 Release Date: 6/13/12 Vol.#11
The Pull List
(Click title to go directly to the review)
Advance Review: BEFORE WATCHMEN: THE COMEDIAN #1
WARLORD OF MARS #18
ULTIMATE COMICS X-MEN #13
LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT #2
REED GUNTHER #10
BATMAN #10
INCORRUPTIBLE #30 (final issue)
DEATHSTROKE #10
SPIDER-MEN #1
CONAN THE BARBARIAN #5
Advance Review: AVEENGERS VS X-MEN #6
CHEAP SHOTS!


Advence Review: In stores today!

BEFORE WATCHMEN: THE COMEDIAN #1

Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artist: JG Jones
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche


WATCHMEN was more than a deconstruction of capes; it also served as an indictment of society. As the clock wound down to doomsday in the comic world it was representational of the fear and terror we all felt during the waning days of the Cold War. It was a spectacular piece because we believed capes could exist thanks to all of the grounded in reality sociological elements that served as a backdrop: if not for Watergate, Nixon’s megalomania could have easily driven him to repeal terms of office. Vietnam would have been a relative cake walk if we sent in capes instead of children. In our ultra-politically correct and overly litigious society, legislation like the Keene Act is far more believable than any tolerance of vigilantism.

While last week’s SILK SPECTRE went balls deep into the characterization of Laurie Jupiter and her mommy/daddy issues, THE COMEDIAN goes just the tip with Eddie Blake the man, while focusing more on the dirty deeds he performed to help keep America’s squeaky clean façade during the time of Camelot.

I’ve always been enamored with the Kennedys, long holding to the belief that the assassination of JFK sent the country into a tailspin of malaise and disillusionment that still grows exponentially with each passing year. Obama may have told us to hope, but that’s a mere waft of the actual mission Kennedy set before us as a nation to dream bigger than ourselves. Our faith in god, country and possibly humanity was splattered across Jackie O’s pretty pill box hat that fateful day in 1963. Azzarello must feel the same, because this beginning of the end for the Kennedys is the catalyst that leads us to the alcoholic, cynical, son-of-a-bitch Comedian that greets us on page one of WATCHMEN.

Taking a page from Life Magazine, the book opens with Eddie Blake enjoying the famous Kennedy touch football games. Blake is one of the fold: a brother from another mother to be sure, but his love of women, alcohol and power earns more respect from JFK than the man had for Ted and Robert combined. This chumminess between the two sets Blake in a very different light than we saw in WATCHMEN. Blake was an antagonist in WATCHMEN, the fulcrum of the dystopian undertones in the book. Yes, Blake was a bastard during WWII with all the rape and killing and what not, but he wasn’t a cynic.

Yet…

We all knew that Blake was the government’s go-to guy for covert ops, so it makes sense he would have a relationship with Kennedy. The fact Azzarello made it an honest-to-God friendship was a nice twist, but what truly kept me glued to the page was Blake’s time spent with Jackie O as she discusses Jack’s dalliances with a certain peroxide D-cup that will destroy this country. Everyone always thought Jackie knew where little Jack went at night, but the fact she put the hit on Marilyn – fucking delicious. There’s a moment between the Comedian and Marilyn’s corpse that speak more volumes about him as a man than every page combined in the original WATCHMEN.

All right, I don’t want to ruin too much of this thing. You have all the basics you need. Comedian, Kennedy, and yes, issue one ends on November 22, 1963.

JG Jones has been gone from the DC fold for too long and it’s a travesty. The way he brings history alive in this book from the real-life visages of the famous to the backgrounds to the cars--everything is simply 100% authentic. What he does with those faces from an emotional standpoint is simply poetic and gut-wrenching.

Some folks seem put off by Azzarrelo’s style of clever conversational word play. Personally, I love his work on books like SPACEMAN and WONDER WOMAN, but to each their own. I would caution any naysayers, though, to remember this is not just another comic on the shelf. The big Azz had to go for historical accuracy, so yes his style is there, but it is greatly tempered for the sake of realism and authenticity.

I was soft on MINUTEMEN for the reason I LOVE LOVE LOVE SILK SPECTRE and COMEDIAN. Give me the story of the characters I truly care about, not their parents (or the COMEDIAN eating a fucking pickle).

All I can say now is…

So, Mr. Nite Owl, how many licks does it take to get to the center of Laurie Jupiter? I can’t wait for the answer next week.

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.


WARLORD OF MARS #18

Writer: Arvid Nelson
Artist: Edgar Salazar
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Reviewer: Masked Man


For the record, I’ve never known much about John Carter--knew of him, sure, but with no movies (until now) or TV shows about his adventures, that meant I had to read a books Well, for whatever reason reading a book doesn’t come easy to me (not enough pictures I guess). With that said, I can’t compare the comic to the book, so let’s just talk the comic book!

The newest issue gets us closer to the finale of the second John Carter story--“Gods of Mars”. The first story, “Princess of Mars”, adapted by Nelson, was well done. I’d like to say the same here, but especially in this issue, things are a bit rushed. “Princess of Mars” got nine issues, and “Gods of Mars” appears to be only getting seven. So this issue is jammed with a huge sky battle, a ground invasion, some dungeon crawling, a romantic reunion, and a tearful cliffhanger. Any way you slice it, Nelson had a tough job keeping it all in one issue. I think more text boxes--real text boxes, not what has become the new thought bubbles--would have helped. The issue comes off as very jumpy, and it’s hard to appreciate one moment, because it lasts only a panel and the next page has a new one.

The story itself, giving credit to Edgar Rice Burroughs, is pretty damn cool. It’s easy to see why these books have endured. Unlike the first book, John isn’t so much a fish out of water, but more of a brute force for moral superiority. Just like with his literary stepson Flash Gordon, it’s his strong sense of right and wrong and compassion for others that gains him varied friends as he challenges the status quo of Mars. This story also has a thing to say about religion too, as he uncovers the Gods of Mars and pretty much has it out with them!

The artist, Edgar Salazar, has shown promise in the past with a good eye for detail and rendering. He does well with his figures, but they can get clunky sometimes. Unfortunately there appears to be no inker, which is my usual complaint with most Dynamite comics. Salazar’s pages appear to have been penciled with a mechanical pencil, since they comes off too thin and doodly. Previous artists Stephen Sadowski and Lui Antonio seemed to have time to ink their own pages, and boy does it make a difference. Salazar’s pencils would look much stronger with some good inking.

Overall this action-packed issue is the weakest link so far, and its score is lower than what I’m planning to give the whole story arc--2 out of 4.


ULTIMATE COMICS X-MEN #13

Writer: Brian Wood
Art: Paco Medina & Reilly Brown
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Henry Higgins is My Homeboy


The Terrorist Movement…

The new Ultimate universe is a strange and interesting place, if not always for the best. The new approach has been hit or miss—sadly, mostly miss. At least for me, the most interesting place has been what becomes of Kitty Pryde’s new X-Men team. The title returns to this story, and while it’s a good thing they returned to that, it tries to do too much, too fast.

Writing: (3/5) The title has gone to various places, leaving behind its opening storyline of the remaining X-Men becoming insurgents to protect the remaining mutant population. The title has been losing speed since then, going back and forth between Quicksilver, then Storm, then Jean. Wood returns to his original beats, which is a good decision. It’s the most engaging story, and shows off the few remaining X-Men in a unique direction. The team heading off to deal with the Nimrod army is an interesting development, and should manage to remain interesting. Johnny remaining behind to protect the children is also a good direction take it, leaving him open for other titles while also providing a possible reentry of him and his team later in the title.

Kitty gets a full opportunity to show off her abilities in here, and it shows off a surprising amount of skill and power on her part. It’s a well done scene, but ends abruptly, and doesn’t have any real resolution. The recruitment scene is likewise good for the most part, but peters out. Wood has a solid grasp on the team, and it he works best when giving the team some ambiguity (you’d be hard pressed to disagree with Johnny’s criticisms), but when it falters, it falters.

Art: (3/5) The various art crew is good throughout, but nothing spectacular. It actually does best in the early pages, giving the various characters room to move and clear distinction from one to another. The faces and body movements flow well, especially in the opening pages. Kitty discarding her robe also looks wonderful, in a conflicted way. It may just be me, but it’s more reminiscent of a supervillain reveal then a heroic one, which helps sell the ambiguity of her future actions.

Sometimes the art can falter, though, worst of all during Kitty’s council with the other X-Men. It becomes somewhat muddled, with many of the faces looking weird. It’s disappointing because when the book looks good, it looks good. Kitty’s action beat looks fantastic, and Garcia does solid coloring throughout, giving everything a bright, shining element.

Best Moment: Kitty losing the cloak. It looks fantastic, and could be my favorite moment in the run so far.

Worst Moment: The faces during the latter segments.

Overall: (3/5) While it’s nice that the book has returned to its best story, the book could use some improvement.


LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT #2

Writer: Jonathan Larsen
Art: J.G. Jones
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: The Writing Rambler


I’ve mentioned here and there in some of my other reviews how I’ve fully embraced digital comics. Gone are the days of my desk being overrun with a pile of new books to read every Wednesday, and despite me missing the small joy of bagging and boarding my books to put them in a long box for safe keeping until somehow the 20 issues of X-FORCE #1 I still have in their poly bags from childhood (god, I was a stupid kid) ever become worth more than a stick of gum and I cash in on them, I must say it’s refreshing to have less clutter. It just works for me; I love having all of my books in one place so I can whip out an issue for reference in a huge nerd argument I’m having with a friend. It’s also nice to not have to worry every week if it will be the last time my wife puts up with comics littered all over the house. On top of all these domestic bonuses that I’ve experienced, I’m also starting to notice more and more that the digital landscape is becoming the place to go to find books that DC/Marvel wouldn’t normally release as part of their distribution. LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT is a perfect example of this.

I thoroughly loved the first issue of this digital exclusive. The concept alone is just great for inventive storytelling: single issue one shots written by different creators who are just telling good Batman stories. It’s simple and so far it’s been awesome. While the first issue saw a classic Gotham tale about Alfred and Bruce’s relationship, in this 2nd issue we get to see Batman at his best squaring off against Amazo while he’s doing some solo duty in the Justice League Watchtower. What I love about this story is that it is made for fans of Batman at his core. It’s not a huge scoping arc or a genius detective tale; it’s simply watching Batman do what Batman does best: outsmart others. Jonathan Larsen paints a fast-moving cat and mouse game between Amazo and Batman and shows that Batman, even when embroiled in a fight, is finding constant ways to test and train himself better.

The artwork in LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT #2 changes heavily from the first issue that featured gritty sketches of Gotham by Jeff Lemire to the more polished artwork of J.G. Jones. His interpretation of Batman in this issue reminds me a lot of the Batman I remember from the 80’s with a quick, campy 60’s Adam West Batman reference thrown in (which, might I add, was awesome). There is one odd drawing early in the book that just seems very out of place where Batman is striking way to much of a modeling pose while holding a “I heart Gotham” coffee mug that just doesn’t blend with the rest of the issue at all, but it made me laugh, so I can’t be that mad at it. I mean maybe that’s just how Batman rolls when he’s finally alone and able to relax.

While there are no groundbreaking twists or storytelling happening here, what you get is a fun look at Batman’s personality. So far the first two issues of LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT have been home runs for me. I can’t suggest you pick them up enough. Not everyone has embraced digital comics yet, but these are the types of stories that show what solid digital exclusives can bring to the table. Oh, and the best part is each issue (which releases every Thursday) runs for $0.99. I can’t think of a better deal in comics right now. Other books have me paying $3.99 for barely 20 pages of garbage and here I’m getting 20+ pages of creative storytelling starring arguably my favorite superhero for less than a buck. Go digital, my friends, and pick up LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT--you won’t regret it.

You can follow The Writing Rambler on his blog here and follow on Twitter @Writing_Rambler !


REED GUNTHER #10

Writer: Shane Houghton
Artist: Chris Houghton
Publisher: Image Comics
Reviewer: Lyzard


Usually I try to keep up with every issue of a series. I reviewed REED GUNTHER #1 for another outlet and not until issue #7 was I able to return to the Wild West story of a cowboy and his bear. Come these last two issues, I felt that I missed out on a lot. However, the adventures that I have read of Reed, Sterling, and Starla were enough for me to become invested in the characters. So did the delayed release of the final issue of this run live up to my expectations?

REED GUNTHER #10 picks up immediately after “Fiends Forever Part One.” Reed has just offered his soul in exchange for Sterling to be exorcised of the evil Mr. Todd. Just a quick note: Though it could have been explained in a past issue, why the shaman hid this despicable man in a 9-foot bear is beside me. Wouldn’t it have been smarter to place the despicable soul in, say, a turtle? Something that couldn’t do much damage if Mr. Todd was awakened?

But that’s water under the bridge, for soon the soul is transferred to Reed after he trades his soul, despite Starla’s logical argument against doing so. You’d think this would be less dangerous than fighting off a possessed wild animal, but this new Reed comes along with a “fiery” temperament.

In my review of issue #9, I hoped “that in the next book both the jokes and terror can work together.” To some degree the Houghtons pulled this combination off. For every victory, there was another problem that arose. This allowed moments of levity in between, where the characters could fall back on their accustomed wackiness.

Related to this was another issue I had with the previous issue where “a moment of pure seriousness from him [Reed], no matter what the level of danger is, seems uncharacteristic of him.” Even more so than issue #9 the stakes are higher for Reed here. However, this time he never breaks character and fights back the best way he knows: by being the greatest annoyance the West has ever had to deal with.

Josh Ulrich’s coloring used the same technique as last time, having the hue follow the change of mood throughout the piece. However, the choice to use black and white when Reed and Mr. Todd are fighting in Gunther’s mind reminded me of Harry Potter and Voldermort in that awkward limbo scene. Not a connection I would have imagined nor found suitable. For a comic that has had so many original takes on the supernatural, to have such a familiar idea not turned on its head seemed out of place.

All that being said, I found the conclusion fitting. It’s not too much of a spoiler to say that Shane Houghton matched my expectations and ended with “one last cheesy one-liner, a real groaner” from our always-sarcastic cowboy. Also, if you read my interview with the Houghton brothers you know that this isn’t the end for Reed, Sterling, and Starla. Though no date has been set for their return, in the meantime you can catch up with the trio when the trade paperback, REED GUNTHER VOL. 2: MONSTERS AND MUSTACHES comes out July 25th.

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.


BATMAN #10

Writer: Scott Snyder
Artists: Greg Capullo & Jonathan Glapion
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man


Where to start with this one huh? Well before I tackle the elephant in the room, let’s go over the book itself- OK? So, Scott Snyder brings us closer to the conclusion of Night of Owls. I wonder why DC left that banner of the cover. Anyway, the Court of Owls comes to a rather satisfying end, with a good twist. What was set up as a war between Batman and the Court of Owls for Gotham City has turned into the rise of a new super-villain. It comes together really well as Batman, who had all the pieces, slowly puts the puzzle together. As for the backup story, it does a nice job of supporting the history of the main book.

Greg Capullo continues to draw a great looking Batman book, helped by Jonathan Glapion’s inks. The two do a great job of superhero cool and grittiness, which always works well on a Batman book. I’m reminded of Tom Mandrake’s run on BATMAN. Things don’t have to be too clean when it comes to Batman art.

OK, spoiler time for people living in a cave--if you’re still planning on reading this story, then stop now and move on. For the rest of us, Bruce Wayne is no longer an only child--say what!?! So how do we feel about this? Does the comic world need another evil sibling? Is it cool that another Wayne is walking the world? Is this just another cheap gimmick? Want to see how this affects Bruce’s life? Does it improve the Batman mythos? A little of all of that, I think. Now for the most part, when something like this happens I like to ask the question: does this improve the story? For this comic--sure; for Batman and his world, I’m not too sure. These characters have no history together, so who cares that they share parents? Offhand, I’d say Bruce has more in common with Two-Face than Owlman, here. And does Bruce Wayne’s story really benefit from more family tragedy? Sometimes I feel writers get burned out on writing a character’s future, so they start messing with their past-does anyone really care what Peter Parker’s parents did for a living!?

Mind you, I think it’s cute that Snyder has pulled Grant Morrison’s character from JLA: EARTH 2, Thomas Wayne Jr. aka Owlman, and has placed him in the new 52 Earth proper. I won’t give him credit for pulling Thomas Wayne Jr. from Bob Haney’s WORLD’S FINEST #223 from 1974. I assume that was Grant Morrison’s pull for EARTH 2. Grant also added the Owlman aspect that Snyder is clearly running with. So cute, but maybe not necessary (Haney quickly killed his Wayne Jr.).

The end result is that more comics will sell, because people will want to know what’s up with Junior. So DC’s main goal will be achieved, have no doubt. But as we try and figure out how Batman had a kid and went through 4 Robins in the past 6 years, now we have to factor in the junior. Does the new 52 seem all that new reader friendly to you now?

Overall, though, a strong book--it scores a 3 out of 4.


INCORRUPTIBLE #30 (final issue)

Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Damian Couceiro
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Reviewer: BottleImp

Much like its companion title IRREDEEMABLE, INCORRUPTIBLE was a series that sucked me in right away with the first issue and its simple yet intriguing premise. Unfortunately, INCORRUPTIBLE followed too closely to its parent comic in its storytelling arc. Much as I grew bored with the slow pace and minimal characterization in the pages of IRREDEEMABLE, I became disinterested in Max Damage’s quest to change from villain to hero, as INCORRUPTIBLE failed to deliver on the promise of its premise. But seeing as how this series has followed once again in the footsteps of IRREDEEMABLE and ended with this 30th issue, I decided to take one last look and see how Mark Waid chose to close out Max Damage’s story.

Turns out that INCORRUPTIBLE ends not so much with a bang, but with a…well, it would be unfair to call it a whimper, but let’s just say that Max Damage’s story just sort of peters out at the end. No grand, final confrontation with the Plutonian; no blaze of glory final stand that is the stuff of what legends are made; no epic battle to the death. Just a crisis averted, the Plutonian gone, and a world draws back to normal. Lack of cathartic earth-shaking events notwithstanding, Max does find himself changed by his journey, humbled by the realization that he need not have tried to become the world’s savior to atone for his criminal life. Max’s drive to be the super-powered champion to replace the rogue Plutonian was motivated more by ego than by the desire to do good, and at the end of his series, he knows that his need to feel important kept him from helping people as well as he could.

Perhaps this is Waid’s commentary on the role of ego in the battle between good and evil, and how being a good person and working towards a brighter future can be hindered by one’s own inflated sense of importance. That’s all well and good for an intellectual discussion, but INCORRUPTIBLE is, after all, a comic book. About superheroes and supervillains. Who are nigh-invulnerable and can toss cars around like footballs.

And a grand, final confrontation, blaze of glory, final stand kinda thing would’ve made for a much, much more entertaining issue for the series to go out on.

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.


DEATHSTROKE #10

Artist & Writer: Rob Liefeld
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche


I try not to be hard on Mr. Liefeld as I’m a direct contributor to his meteoric rise to success in the early 90s. I was there through everything: HAWK & DOVE, NEW MUTANTS and the ultimate shitting of the bed, anything Image. He captured something during those “In Living Color” days and as fans we couldn’t get enough.

But he wasn’t the only thing I loved back then: I loved Z Cavariccis, a pair of pants that gave everyone that attractive 8 inches of waist that make a torso complete. I loved C&C Music Factory because it was rap white bred suburban kids could understand. I loved “Cheers”, because the banter between Sam and Rebecca was so sexually charged. And last but certainly not least I loved Tiffany Amber Thiessen in ways that still make my right hand blush.

Here’s the thing, though: human knowledge and art are exponential in growth. They’re a building process wherein we take what was before extracting and carrying forward the elements of truth that resonate within the core of our collective humanity while leaving the “fad” elements behind.

I’m all for second chances, assuming the transgressions of the past are rectified and those that trespass against us learn the error of their ways.

So I gave Rob’s new titles a chance when the New 52 launched last year, thinking…actually, make that hoping Mr. Liefeld would have taken some classes like Feet 101 (or how I learned to love arches), Physics Is Your Friend (or sometimes people walk), Guns – Triggers are Useful, Faces – Humans Aren’t Perpetually Shitting and last but certainly not least Screen Doors – Why All Stories Should Not Take place on Your Front Porch.

Sadly, Rob didn’t learn shit and I’m guessing neither did the comics world. Not only does Rob still get work without improving one iota, but with over 25,000 Twitter followers, a legion of blog hits and more titles churning off the presses by the day, we have proven beyond doubt that the core of human existence is misery, suffering, and a perpetual cycle of repeating our past mistakes.

I want to ask DC a question. If you have a loved one with cancer and a whisper of hope to save their life, would you get the worst doctor imaginable that charged you an arm and a leg? That’s DEATHSTROKE 10. Slade Wilson ruled the comic scene for a long time--never A-list, but certainly rising to a respectable B through his early days. He was lost in the reboot, but certainly not beyond redemption.

So what does DC do? Instead of getting him the best treatment available to comic science, they instead fix him with a quack who not only embodies every past mistake, but brings a slew of new WTF moments with each passing panel.

Matt Adler said on our podcast last night “DEATHSTROKE 10 is Liefeld at his Liefeldiest.” Meaning if you enjoy comic autopsies, here are the goods. Matt’s a nice guy and was trying to find something nice to say. I equate this statement to saying, “Hey if you liked genocide, then Hitler circa 1941 was ol’ Adolf at his most Hitlarian.”

The raping of comic good taste happens on page one. RobLef takes the examples Peter Jackson taught us about forced perspective in “Lord of the Rings” and gleefully shits all over them. As our favorite Czarnian Lobo eats at a small dessert diner, he, his table and all of the food he’s eating is ten times larger than anything else in the scene. When a lovely waitress saunters up, I was thrilled to see Boom-Boom in comics again, until I realized this is just a waitress and Rob is only capable of drawing one type of woman in street clothes. This scene might have been funny and perhaps interesting if I had never seen the movie “Roadhouse,” but being a huge fan of the entire Swayze catalog, I was nonplussed when Lobo starts a fight with a biker in the diner and takes his bike. What did amuse me, though--for all the wrong reasons--is how RobLef drew the biker as he gets punched through a doughnut display case. Instead of actually showing him travelling through the case, RobLef decides to let us imagine how the scene will play out by cutting to the Biker’s legs basically being attached to the case like a Garfield car window hanger. I mean honestly, do we really need to convey motion when God gifted us with these vivid imaginations…well, some of us?

In case you didn’t know, Rob still writes terribly as well. As Lobo rides off into the sunset on his newly acquired bike with awesome space age treadless tires, we are treated to five monologue boxes that sound nothing like Lobo. This internal pontificating reminded me of my “Corky Reads Hemingway” Time/Life books on tape.

So where is Lobo going? To look for a ship.

Oh…well that’s, uhmmm, awesome. I can’t wait to keep reading. Or I guess I could go read a good comic about looking for a spaceship called SAGA. No, no--why enjoy myself? Let me keep reading DEATHSTROKE.

This would be as good a time as any to mention the intensity of this issue. We all know that not just ventriloquists talk through gritted teeth; a lot of people are doing it these days to wear away those pesky incisors we all have and avoid any hope of clear diction. I bet what you didn’t know, though, is that lip removal is becoming a huge fad amongst kids these days. I mean, honestly--who needs lips when you can just use your teeth to keep your insides protected from germs and penises trying to get inside? Seriously, I’ve seen so many lipless teenagers these days it wasn’t at all disconcerting when they were completely absent from the book.

So Slade Wilson shows up and he’s looking for Lobo, because Lobo is bad and Slade is good. Wait, that’s not right. Look, fuck you and your need for logic. Slade wants to find Lobo and we’re along for the ride whether we like it or not. Kind of like going to visit Grandma in the home: not fun, but you feel kind of obligated. RobLef clearly remembered the first rule of launching a new title: readers like to be confused and not understand who the characters are or what drives them. Next up, DEATHSTROKE and some refugees from I think Gen 13 (or insert any Liefeld production from 1990-1997 here) end up at a big hole in the ground that is a penitentiary for bad guys. We know this because the characters say so. In a visual medium like comics it’s always best to tell the story rather than show it.

Once inside, the team (at least I think they’re a team, I don’t fucking know) meet up with a big strong guy who doesn’t like Lobo either. I forgot his name after I took a shower huddled in the fetal position and cried away the memories. From what I can remember of the experience, though, this guy had the really cool feature of portals on his body that would appear and disappear from panel-to-panel. I also remember at one point DEATHSTROKE takes off his mask so he could show the bad guy that he doesn’t have lips either and maybe they can get along. At least I think that’s why he took his mask off because I can’t think of another reason and neither could RobLef.

Physics abandoned? Check! Anatomical monstrosities? Check! Feet sans arches or form? Check! Backgrounds in their basic most simple form? Check! A story that neither matters nor makes sense? Check! This is pure Liefeldness and those of you who get off on trimming your pubes with a food processor will not want to miss this foray into comic book masochism.

Seriously, at this point DC is torturing the low selling books. It’s more humane to pull the plug on a book than pull the plug, wait for the last dying breath, and then plug the fucking machine back in again.


SPIDER-MEN #1

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Sara Pichelli
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: KletusCassidy


You miss me?!?! No…ok, well…whatevs. When I saw that this comic was coming out I was torn as how to feel about it. On one side, I love Bendis’ ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN (USM) and have ever since I started reading way back around issue #30 or so and I’m enjoying the hell out the ALL NEW ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN starring Miles Morales. On the other side, I find Bendis’ AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (ASM), as shown in NEW AVENGERS and more recently in AVENGERS, completely annoying and unfunny (Bendis’ HOUSE OF M being the exception). I think Bendis writes him too much like USM and the grown man Peter Parker comes off like an ignorant child who won’t shut up instead of a guy who’s been a superhero for 25+ years. The teenager-like dialog both internal and external works perfectly for USM because he IS a kid and thus gets a pass for acting like one, but the older Peter Parker has no excuse. I think most of the reason I picked this book up was on the strength of USM and the hope that the quality of that comic may bleed into Bendis’ depiction of ASM.

Got all that?!? Good, let’s move on.

SPOILERS AHOY: So this is a set up issue, plain and simple. Not too much happens and the meeting between ASM and USM doesn’t really happen until the end of the issue…like…the very end of the issue. This comes off as strange to me because the whole premise and appeal of the book is that these two Spider-gents and are going to meet BUT we now have to wait for the next issue to see it. I really think this book could have been condensed so that these two could meet earlier on in the issue instead of having the cliffhanger be what we already knew was going to happen. I also would have liked a slightly stronger reason as to how this meeting came to be. ASM Peter Parker not only works at Horizon Labs, which is always experimenting with weird shit, but he is (or recently was) also a member of the FANTASTIC FOUR that also does similar science-y stuff that could lead to two alternate universes colliding, so I don’t see a need to have some completely random event be the catalyst for this meeting. Instead of getting right into the action we have an issue where, for the most part, ASM is swinging around New York talking to himself the entire issue, which again bothers me because he sounds too much like the recently deceased USM Peter Parker. Sadly, throughout this entire issue I found myself thinking “Where the fuck is Miles?!?!” because ASM Peter Parker was annoying the shit out of me (you have no idea how much that pains me to express that). I can’t say I’m completely enjoying the current arc on Dan Slott’s ASM, but I think his Peter Parker is way more believable and funny while Bendis’ jokes fall flatter than a methhead’s booty.

Sara Pichelli’s art is good, but I don’t feel it’s as good as her work on USM; the pages here don’t seem as tight and clean as her earlier work. The art is still pretty good, though, and she draws a beautiful Spider-Man, so I’m looking forward to seeing her draw ASM and USM in action together. Sara Pichelli’s art on a bad day still is pretty damn good so it’s not a complaint as much as an observation.

I think if this comic took place before USM Peter died, a lot more emotion could be pulled out of this story as their lives were similar with some obvious differences, but it would have played into that ‘if could go back in time and talk to my high school self’ fantasy that a lot of people have. In my opinion, that would have led to some really interesting conversations between two alternate versions of Peter Parker. I think if you’re a hardcore Spider-Man fan like myself you already have this book and possibly a variant cover or two, but if you’re not and you are on the fence, using this issue to decide whether you want the whole series or not, I’m not sure this issue is going to make you feel like you HAVE to read this series. Hell if you’re on the fence and you are not a completist and need every issue of this story, I’d say maybe start at issue #2 and take it from there as not too much happens in this one. Sara Pichelli’s art is still great; however, I’ve seen better from her, which is the problem when an artist’s earlier work is really good--there’s a high standard that people hold you to. But don’t be mistaken: her art is still top tier and looks great. This issue isn’t terrible, but it does fall into the ugly realm of set up issue and mostly deals with the Bendis Spider-Man I don’t like…so proceed with caution. I think this issue could have been a lot stronger, especially since a first issue’s sole purpose is to grab you by the eye sockets, pull you in, and keep you there until the story is over, which I’m not sure this issue did but what does Ol’ Kletus know--he’s just a drunk with a penchant for comics, cigars, and cheap beer.


CONAN #5

Writer Brian Wood
Art: James Harren
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Reviewer: MajinFu


The days of the buff barbarian saving the damsel in distress are over. Conan’s with a new lady now, and she’s just as dangerous as the lone Cimmerian.

Not in the same way as a barbarian, of course. Bêlit is far more devious, and arguably more daring, in her endeavors. While the first arc of the story drew extensively from Robert E. Howard’s original texts, this arc strikes out to further explore the exploits of the pirate queen while Conan serves as her companion, both in arms and the bedroom. This is only the second issue of a new arc (“The Argos Deception”) so it’s still not clear if she is using him or their relationship is truly mutual, which makes for a very compelling reading experience.

The issue begins in a harbor city where Conan is trapped in prison awaiting death by hanging. Bêlit’s intervention shortly before the execution leads to a thrilling fight where Conan must defend his life to attain his freedom. This battle against the harbor city’s champion is the centerpiece of the issue, but it never gets tedious or boring. The city of Messantia is realized in vivid detail, right down to its very own laws and traditions leading to the aforementioned clash. The choreography and composition of the fight are superb, as the deliberately scripted narrative shifts between the two leads, Conan obliging his queen by distracting the people of the city as only a manacled Cimmerian can, while Bêlit does all the dirty work.

It’s a cunning dynamic that makes the old killer Conan seem like such a softy. The characterization may appear a little shady to fans of the classic persona, but bear in mind this is a younger version of Conan, and the pair have such a natural chemistry that you’re too busy rooting for them on every page to care. Bêlit is a fascinating and multifaceted character with enough ambition to go places, and she’s smart enough to take her new beau along for the ride. It’s one of the best romantic angles I’ve seen in a Conan comic in years. I really don’t know what will happen next, although I suspect these two are just getting started, and things will only get bloodier before it’s all over.

Becky Cloonan, the artist from the last arc, is on hiatus and the latest visuals are provided by James Harren. Cloonan had a great run on the first arc of this book, but if you thought the filler artist was going to be any less stellar you’d be dead wrong. Compared to Cloonan’s soft, atmospheric art Heenan has a rougher style that complements the urban sprawl and quick action of the story quite well. The slightly exaggerated character models and harsh lines lend a weight to the fight that really conveys the impact of the action. The establishing pages of this issue hum with a subdued intensity but the lines thicken substantially as the issue progresses and the action heats up. In fact, some of the inks in the later pages were almost distractingly thick but still served to intensify the sense of battle fatigue nicely. With Dave Stewart continuing to coat the whole thing with these brilliantly evocative colors, the book continues to be a visual tour-de-force.

I really enjoyed this issue, but what could be misconstrued as decompressed storytelling might throw some people off. In my opinion, CONAN THE BARBARIAN #5 is far too deliberate and well-executed to be considered filler! Regardless, this is a real swashbuckler of a comic that epitomizes the genre in nearly every way. There’s a splash page in this issue that would make the Spartans from “300” blush yet the action never feels derivative or goofy. This is another one of those comics concerned with getting from point A to point B while cramming as many cool moments as possible in between and in this case the journey is far greater than the destination.


Advence Review: In stores today!

AVENGERS VS X-MEN #6

Writers: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Olivier Coipel (pencils), Mark Morales (inks), Laura Martin (colors)Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewed pompously, by Johnny Destructo
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During the latest AICN COMICS/Poptards Podcast (Episode 111) , a chorus rang out to the heavens. A fanboy cacophony of disappointment unleashed as we announced, with no uncertainty: Failure. I, being the ever-so-sensitive and shy one, said "well, it's just not been for me". And, by Odin's Beard, I meant it. Um..verily. The experience until now had, to me, felt more an economy of story in lieu of knuckles on faces. The detailing of the world's "most expensive punch" while cute, wasn't what I was hoping for. It's the Mighty Marvel Way of old, to be sure...to pit hero against hero, but I was hoping for a little more. And as much as I've worshiped JRjr's weighty pencil stylings in the past, the sequentials were coming across as a little rushed and to all four of my eyes, it looked like it was going to keep disappointing me.

Well, even your jovial Johnny Destructo can be wrong once in a ....

well..ok, just the once.

I admit it with Glee, (but without all the dumb singing) that this issue has turned me around! No longer do I scuttle slump-shouldered down the beaten path towards Jadedsburg, now I face a new horizon as I stride proudly towards ...Awesomes...ville? Look, the book is fantastic, is what I'm saying. As Douche would bellow, in a bass-heavy tone "SOSOSOSOSO GOOD! SO SO SOSOSOGOOD!"

This book finally disperses with the silly slug-fests and the burly brouhahas, and we arrive, as Charles Xavier does, to a new Utopia. In fact, an almost new WORLD. Changes are sweeping the world as the Phoenix Five (Cyclops, Emma Frost, Colossus, Magik and Namor) take it upon themselves to use their new powers to remold the world to their liking, making things better. And not in a misguided "Oops, we're trying to make the world a better place, but in our misunderstanding are actually unintentionally harming it" way. It actually seems to be BETTER, with the Fabulous Phoenix Force Five (as I will, from here on, call them, cause it sounds fancier, and I do enjoy the fanciful, as well as run-on sentences, it seems) making sweeping changes where hunger and thirst are rampant, as well as creating new energy for the world. They don't even seem to be interfering with our world-leaders, the demand for the cessation of weapons manufacturing being the only exception. But of course, the sudden appearance of seemingly all-powerful beings taking control, however peaceably, worries us, and we can't just leave it alone.

This is where I will end my revealing of the plot, as I'd really like you to go into the book and be as surprised as I was upon reading it. In the process of reading each previous issue of this crossover, I could be interrupted by life, my girlfriend, by customers, and I wouldn't really feel a burning desire to return to the book, I only did so because I thought I should. With this hefty issue, I got interrupted by my girlfriend, and found myself actually anxious to get back to this story, to see where it was going. If that's not a positive sign for a book, I don't know what is. "Yes my love, you are the best, the light of my life, now shut yer damn word-maw so I can finish this comic, this isht is just gettin' REAL!"Several frying-pan shaped lumps on my noggin and an apology later, I was able get this issue read and this review written. I felt I must tell you just how wrong I was and how great this issue is, so that you too can pick it up and enjoy the boogens out of it. So much do I wish this, that I do so from within a darkened closet, armed only with this laptop, in the hopes that my vengeful love won't find me. Good lord, I hear her coming. If anyone asks, I got these bruises falling down the stairs.

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.


FLASH GORDON: ZEITGEIST #5
Dynamite Entertainment

Alex Ross has managed to take everything he loves about Flash Gordon--the comic strip, the cartoon show, the movie--and jammed it all into one comic book. It’s a pretty good idea; the story and the look work well--aside from the yet again retelling of Flash Gordon’s main story, which I can’t say I’m too fond of reading again. It’s like an origin story in a superhero reboot movie-we know! Get on with it! Even with the Earth connection (which I must say works far better here than it does in Dynamite’s BUCK ROGERS or VOLTRON), things could be more interesting. Still, Trautmann manages to capture the Flash Gordon we all know and love. But the book has one major problem above all that--the art. Mind you, Daniel Indro seems to be a good artist with nice figures and great action. But pages and panels are often too cluttered and oversaturated in color. I’m curious if Alex Ross is setting up all the pages and leaving things to, dare I say, lesser artists to make them work. Because where Alex can really make his pages sing, these are just mud. Seriously, they are a mash of Photoshop color and graphite pencil shading. It’s a real shame, because I believe there is a fine book under all this. It scores a 2 out of 4. – Masked Man


POPEYE #2
IDW Publishing


In my review of the first issue of Popeye’s brand spankin’-new book I noted that the book’s top quality could be hard to recreate in further installments. That was silly of me of course, because while the second issue lacks some of the adventurous attitude of that fantastic debut, it is still an excellent comic readers of all ages will enjoy. The rather singular narrative of the first issue gives way to not one but two shorter but no less quality stories. First, Popeye must compete with a snarky actor named Willy Wormwood for the affections of his love Olive Oyl who fails to notice his deceitful nature. The second is about self-titled genius Professor O.G. Wotasnozzle using his numerous inventions in an attempt to quell the conflict between friend John Sappo and his wife Myrtle. The ending to this story is rather abrupt but it’s still a serviceably silly yarn introducing a few faces with whom some Popeye fans may be unfamiliar. This is another quality issue that recreates the original comics in nearly every way, from the humorously phonetic dialog to the simple yet lush art. Speaking of the art, Luke McDonnell’s rich color scheme really helps to revitalize Popeye’s world and give it a fresh coat of paint that still looks pretty retro. While many will doubtless appreciate the nostalgia factor, younger folks who missed the boat at first can now pick this up and see what all the commotion’s about. - MajinFu


ZORRO RIDES AGAIN #10
Dynamite Entertainment


By now it might be apparent that I love me adventure heroes. I just always have to check out what they are doing next--for good and for bad. Unfortunately, Matt Wagner and Zorro have not been a good match. Strange, because I thought he’d be great on ZORRO. Now, I get what Matt Wagner has been trying to do; he’s trying to craft a real, serious, gritty Zorro story (yes, even with Lady Zorro on the cover). Unfortunately, it’s long and boring and he’s managed to suck most of the fun out of the character--until now. After taking way too long to set her up, things have finally gotten interesting. Lady Zorro is a butcher, and while she dishes out her own brand of justice, she’s undermining Zorro’s mission. Now if Matt Wagner throws in the deranged former Sergeant Gonzales as well in the final two issues, this series that started with a whimper will end with a bang! Also, getting John K. Snyder III to sign on as the new artist helps a lot too (actually John joined on issue 7). Where many of Dynamite’s books suffer in the art department, this one does not; John does a really great job. I’ve been a fan of John’s ever since his days on the SUICIDE SQUAD. Just like Matt Wagner’s art, it’s bold and interesting. Mike Malbrough’s colors go great John’s pages too, giving them a real painterly quality. It still might not have been worth the trip, but this issue scores a 3 out of 4. – Masked Man



Editing, compiling, imaging, coding, logos & cat-wrangling by Ambush Bug
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G

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