|Issue #9||Release Date: 6/27/12||Vol.#11|
(Click title to go directly to the review)
Advance Review: BEFORE WATCHMEN: OZYMANDIAS #1
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #688
JUSTICE LEAGUE #10
Advance Review: IRRESISTABLE #1
ALL STAR WESTERN #10
Advance Review: HE-MAN & THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE #1
LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN: CENTURY 2009 #1
Advance Review: BATMAN: EARTH ONE Vol.1
Advance Review: In stores today!
BEFORE WATCHMEN: OZYMANDIAS #1Writer: Len Wein
Artist: Jae Lee
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
So here we are, halfway through the event that threatened to tear comicdom asunder and give Alan Moore’s beard a hate-fueled sentience that would bring the Mayans’ predictions for this year to fruition.
To date, there have been no apocalyptic beard attacks. As for comicdom, BEFORE WATCHMEN seems to have left us in two camps: Camp one consists of those who are boycotting the series under the false delusions they understand copyright law or a moral high ground of story purity. Camp two is where I’m getting my Webelos badge; this is the camp that simply wants to read a good story. And all of the stories have been good so far, with some being better than others. Here’s where my list stands right now:
One was an easy choice. Amanda Connor is simply writing and drawing the hell out of SILK SPECTRE, providing deep character exploration about a very troubled young woman set amidst America’s Summer of Love.
COMEDIAN & NIGHT OWL are in a neck and neck race right now in my opinion. Issue 2 will serve as the electric kool-aid test on who sneaks ahead. For now, COMEDIAN takes the lead because I felt he book had better moments. I loved the connection COMEDIAN had to the Kennedy clan, plus the moment where he offed Marilyn Monroe was sweetly sadistic. I liked NIGHT OWL, but Dan’s discovery of Hollis Mason was simply way too Tim Drake in my opinion. Also, I only found myself getting truly interested in NITE OWL once Rorschach showed up. It will be interesting to see how Capt. Ink Blot’s book works in NITE OWL, assuming it will be tit-for-tat. I didn’t hate MINUTEMEN-- it’s finely executed--I simply don’t care about knowing every detail down to underwear size of the original Crimebusters.
So why does OZYMANDIAS get the coveted second position? For starters, we all know Ozymandias’ fate as being the big bad guy of the original WATCHMEN book. This gives Wein a lot of room for character progression and thus far the pacing is spot on. While issue one only gets us as far as Ozymandias donning his Abba head gear, the journey he took from infancy to this point was perfectly epic in scope and purpose. This series has staying power because OZYMANDIAS still has so much further to go from purveyor of justice to its ultimate perversion.
Unlike most of the BEFORE WATCHMEN tales, the story of Adrian Veidt starts before his birth, when his parents flee the mother land so their child can be born on American soil. Unlike today, they don’t take this journey simply to sidestep immigration laws--they want their child to be born in America so he can one day run it. They didn’t know Adrian was going to be a genius, but how many of our Presidents actually were? This is a wonderful nod to many of the hopes and aspirations immigrants had as they fled Europe before it became embroiled in WWII.
Flash forward a few years and Adrian begins to show his genius-level intellect. Wein expertly gets into the minds and unfortunate cruelty of young children during these formative years. Anyone different is ostracized, and when you are the smartest person on earth that ostracizing increases in direct proportion to the level of “weird.” Here is where we begin to see Adrian’s ability to be twelve steps ahead of everyone else in the world and the brutal callousness this breeds towards one’s fellow man. When teased by a schoolyard bully, Adrian doesn’t go for the immediate gratification of merely hurting the boy. Instead Adrian takes his licks, hones his body with martial arts, and ultimately delivers a response that essentially cripples the bully for life. While the child inside of me cheered for the retribution I never exacted on my own bullies, the adult in me cringed as Adrian snapped the bully’s leg in half, knowing the crime did not deserve the punishment.
Wein uses the middle parts of the issue to establish Adrian’s connection to Alexander of Macedonia. This is more than a man crush; Adrian wants to one day be king and uses Alexander the Great’s rise to power as his template. During this sojourn of Alexander’s trail of conquest, Adrian continues to hone his mind and body to perfection.
Once his journey is complete he ends up back in the US ready to start amassing a financial fortune so he can change the world…until he proves that even the smartest man in the world is still just a man. Adrian meets a woman in a coffee shop who changes his world. While it doesn’t stall Adrian’s rise to greatness, love certainly serves as a distraction.
And it’s because of that love or loss thereof we see how Adrian turns from ambitious to world controlling megalomaniac. Sure, he’s not ready to save the world yet through population control, but we see that retribution for crimes against his love drives a wedge between him and whatever humanity Adrian once had.
Jae Lee not only owns the goods on characters and locales, but also breaks panel boundaries with gleeful abandon. I love this simply because Adrian thinks beyond boundaries and we get to come along for the ride with this layout.
I’m not ready to call BEFORE WATCHMEN a resounding success; we need to get closer to the end on every title before any anointing takes place. I will say emphatically, though, BEFORE WATCHMEN is not a failure. Anyone avoiding it right now is cutting their nose off to spite their face. Alan Moore does not care about your boycott and all of these issues will come out regardless of fanboy harumphs. So you can ignore some great titles for the reward of a snuggle inside a beard that will never come, or you can enjoy today’s top talent unfettered from continuity with 20th century history at their disposal. You decide!
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.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #688
Writer: Dan Slott
Art: Giuesppe Camuncoli
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Henry Higgins is My Homeboy
Jesus, Little Too Much...
At this past C2E2, I had an opportunity to briefly speak to Dan Slott, which was wonderful. I thanked him for what, to my mind, is one of the strongest runs on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN in recent memory, and got to shake the hand one of the strongest superheroe writers of the modern day. He responded by thanking me and then hinting at some of the upcoming stories of the year. Among these little tidbits was that an upcoming story was going to be one of the darkest things he’s ever written, and one of the darkest Lizard stories ever. Following “Shed”, those are bold words. And goddamnit if he didn’t keep his word. “No Turning Back” is one of the darkest Spider-Man stories I’ve ever read, and it does more with 22 pages than some entire miniseries can manage it.
Writing: (4/5) Have to commend Slott: even when he makes the story beats as dark as humanly possible, the characters remain true to themselves. The Lizard is as vicious as ever, without ever feeling like an unneeded “grim and gritty” go at it. This just feels like a new direction to take an established character, one that stays true to the character. Morbius likewise works well, consistent with a human monster, willing to cross the lines between the two sides. He may have altruistic intentions, but that doesn’t make his actions anymore humane. Peter most of all rings true, desperately trying to cling to his edicts and principles despite the substantial hit they took during “Ends Of The Earth”. His attempts falter and fail, and Peter has to confront the fact that his strong promise to save everyone just isn’t feasible. Even for Spider-Man, he’s still just a man. Slott writes a wonderful Spider-Man, clearly just trying to be the old fashioned hero in a modern dark story.
The story itself itself, however, feels incredibly rushed. Too much ground in too little time, as the story jumps around too many times. It’s very compressed, and feels like it’s too many story beats. It jumps from the sewers to the docks to the party to the cemetery to the lab, sometimes switching timeframes. It can be muddled at times, and expanding the story could have assisted that.
It’s still a wonderfully written and tight script, it’s just too much.
Art: (3/5) Camuncoli is very hit or miss for me, and this issue should be a good example why. Sometimes his characters look remarkably good, moving realistically and with purpose. The fight scene between the Lizard and Spidey especially looks fantastic. At others, the art can look muddled and directionless, especially during the party scene at MJ’s. It’s an odd mixed bag, and while I ultimately enjoy Camuncoli’s art, the bad moments detract from the overall experience.
He’s assisted well, though, with D’Armata providing bright and wonderful colour, and Klaus Janson doing a superb job with inking. The book looks good, but too many small things stop me from enjoying it completely.
Best Moment: The fact that Morbius developed a hypodermic harpoon gun. That’s just awesome.
Worst Moment: The art for the party scene. I wish Camuncoli would be consistent with his art, because when it’s on, it’s on. It just doesn’t maintain.
Overall: (4/5) Slott wasn’t exaggerating when he said this was one of the darkest Spider-Man stories ever. I don’t want to spoil any of the twists, but it’s well worth reading.
JUSTICE LEAGUE #10Writer: Geoff Johns
Artists: Jim Lee
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man
So the debate about this book has been, is it like a Michael Bay movie, meaning leave your brain at the door and enjoy the explosions? Well, I have another way of thinking about it: lost in execution.
When you look at the outline of the current story, “The Villain’s Journey”, it seems like a great idea. Unfortunately, that great outline isn’t translating into a great comic. It just feels like nothing more than the outline: A character gets a grudge against the League, makes some kind of Faustian deal to get superpowers, commits typical acts of evil and when he finally attacks the League, he beats the crap out of them.
So why isn’t the book translating well? I blame the villain, David Graves (I assume a cooler name is coming soon). We had plenty of time to get to know him (two full issues and two teasers), but we still don’t feel him. All we get is his outline: he’s a former occult writer who believes the Justice League killed his family and caused him to become deathly ill, so with his knowledge of the occult he gains superpowers and attacks the league. But we need more than an outline to be interested in a villain. I say, we need his thought process. Relatively speaking, these events could have happened to anyone, so something has to be unique about David Graves in order for him to become the awesome supervillain Johns wants him to be. I mean, do you remember Dr. Impossible? Didn’t think so. Now, you can argue we are in the middle of the story explaining all this. But it’s also like being in the middle of a Michael Bay movie--do you really think it’s going to get better?Also, the Justice League has problems with the logistics of the League itself (but I suppose that’s true for all the New 52 books). A fair portion of the issue is a JL meeting in which the characters have very little trust or knowledge of each other. Now, if this is a story during the team’s first year together, I’d be fine with that. But they have known each other for five years! They are so tight knit that they refuse to have anyone else join the team (see issue #8). Also, since the villain is preying upon the personal losses of the heroes, it would be nice if we readers knew what those were. But being a brand new universe, I have no idea what is current with Wonder Woman’s mom, Superman’s dad, etc. At this point, it has the same meaning if they called out “Kelly Clarkson!” You just can’t say a character has mommy issues and expect it to have the same impact as writing a character with mommy issues.
Two side notes: is anyone else tired of Aquaman being treated like a joke by the people of this Earth? Again, it seems like something he’d endure during year one, not year five--heck, after two Superbowl rings, no one makes fun of Eli Manning anymore. And is it just me, or has Cyborg become too powerful? The guy can hack, control and know everything on any system. Sure he’s a walking Motherbox, so I get the how. But is it necessary for him to be that powerful, and how often are writers now going to forget those abilities in order to prevent their stories from falling apart?
Ok, enough picking on poor Johns, let’s pick on Jim Lee now. As usual he gets too sketchy sometimes, with all those unnecessary hatch lines. But for the most part he draws a good looking book--until he reveals the villain, Graves, to the League. First off, when Cyborg mentions the silent alarm, what was it? Was it the room getting cold, the “veet” noise, or the lights going off? At least I think they did--am I alone in thinking Jim drew the room with the lights off? Then on the big splash page revealing Graves, why is his back to us? Why is he the smallest thing on the page? And why is Wonder Woman looking at her shoes?!? I can hear the Simpson comicbook guy now: “Worst reveal ever.” Lastly, what happened to Batman? He was never hit, but he’s still lying on the floor like everyone else. Maybe a plot point…so, you still think the movie is going to get better?
Ok, let’s end on a high note: Shazam! Now if you compare this to the original, it’s all messed up! And you can make a really good argument that it’s just change for change’s sake. But if you can let go of that, things are shaping up nicely here. Gary Frank is doing a great job on the art. His stuff has really improved since he left Marvel. I’m really looking forward to Billy mixing it up with Mr. Bryer. And now that Black Adam is in the house (who knew ancient Egyptians wore hoodies), things can only go up from here. Johns is doing a much better job of writing Shazam than he is the Justice League.
In the end, JUSTICE LEAGUE is the name of the book, and that what we all paid for. So Shazam can’t help its score, which is a 1 out 4.
Advance Review: In stores this month!
IRRESISTIBLE #1Writer: Raven Gregory
Publisher: Zenescope Entertainment
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
IRRESISTIBLE is hands down my favorite Zenescope title to date (sorry, Bug). Raven Gregory has not only spun an engaging tale that has a very TWILIGHT ZONE vibe to it, but he also tapped into the zeitgeist of the modern American male AND created the first Zenescope title where their famous cheesecake is not only fitting, it’s goddamn essential to tell the story.
Bravo, sir--IRRESISTIBLE is your shiny crown jewel!
Let’s start with the plot. After being dumped by his girlfriend over a year ago, Allen, a hapless mid-thirties schlub, happens upon the mugging of an elderly woman in an alleyway. Being a schlub, not a dick, he helps the old woman. When asked what he wants for his trouble, knowing the old woman could only offer him cat food and Depends undergarments, Allen merely laments the fact he would like to end his 18 month dry spell from the punani by being found irresistible by any woman he crosses paths with.
You can probably guess where this is going. The old woman was a gypsy and grants Allen his heart or junk’s desire, but the plot is far from all the goodness packed within the pages of this book.
The vein of truth Gregory really tapped for me was his keen insight into the mind of the 21st century American middle-aged male. Pop culture will have you believe that only women start to go partner crazy once they hit their mid-thirties. Au contraire, younglings--men also feel the same longings for stability and family especially as their elders start to die off in droves. I’m 37 and have a lot of single friends in the +/- 5 year range. While most of our talks are about comics, video games, and of course work, we do have our soulful moments where they lament a certain jealousy towards my impending 12 years of marital bliss. Humans are pack animals. While there will always be lone wolves in the world, the majority of us from cradle to grave seek a sense of belonging and kinship in this world.
The book opens with Allen’s pack pulling the same fucking boneheaded stunt most guys do to cheer up their single friends – strip club!
Gregory must have visited a few of these houses of ill repute, because he nailed the experience dead on. While the more jocular of the species can shut off their higher functioning brain and let the lizard mind take over, there are many of us that can see past the garter belt charade. Candy, Chartreuse and Angel are not their real names, they don’t actually like you, and if it wasn’t for the surge of testosterone that makes men dumb as nails this business would have died years ago. Allen is one of those more cerebral guys and his observations of this flesh charade are thoughts that have traversed my mind when faced with the inevitable dollar tuck. The only difference between me and Allen is that I usually break the 4th wall by telling the strippers “nice choice” after they tell me their name in forced introductions. There’s a good bit of this first issue devoted to this time in the club and I can’t think of a more original introduction to a lovelorn protagonist. Strip clubs are fun if you take them for what they are, but depressing as hell when you don’t have a warm body and heart to go home to afterwards. Allen perfectly laments the charade while pontificating what true love can be. Wonderful juxtaposition.
I’ll end where I began: the art. Again, Zenescope has been known for and often gets flack for its tantalizing cover art. Now, while these “fuck me” poses are usually tempered on the inside material, there is still the occasional misplaced cocked hip, pushed out ass, or pouty lips when put in context with the story. However, a story that starts in a strip club and ends with a guy getting fucked in a Starbucks bathroom once he is made magically irresistible—yeah, sexy poses make a lot of sense.
Gregory brings the goods, and when I find out who the artist is, I will give them the same accolades.
ALL STAR WESTERN #10Writers: Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti
Artists: Moritat and Jose Louis Garcia-Lopez
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: The Dean
After finishing the first issue of ALL STAR WESTERN, I could tell you with absolute certainty that this wasn’t the comic book I wanted. I wanted JONAH HEX; I wanted a guided tour of DC’s Wild West from the rootinest, tootinest bounty hunter to ever live! An ongoing story that puts Jonah in Gotham City solving mysteries with his buddy, Amadeus Akrham? That ain’t the Hex I know! I wanted the old Vertigo series, and though Hex was there, bringing Gray and Palmiotti with him, it was a different Hex monthly for a different DC, and I was too busy mourning the loss of Vertigo’s Hex to appreciate the New 52 version. But, as typically happens when I overreact, this title has been growing on me with every issue, and ALL STAR WESTERN #10 is easily my favorite of the run so far. It feels like the breakneck pace and scene setting from previous issues have been building to this stage in the series, so it’s time to sit back and enjoy what Gray and Palmiotti do better than anyone else – write a great Jonah Hex story.
I hadn’t really considered it before, but ALL STAR WESTERN is a pretty ambitious series. So far, the title is responsible for establishing a DC history that includes Jonah and his cast of outlaws; a Wayne family tree that leads all the way up to Bruce and Snyder’s current BATMAN arc; a Gotham City on the verge of becoming the criminal Candy Land we see in ‘present day,’ including the new Court of Owls faction; and finally, it must attract new readers and sell well despite its unfortunate title, which announces a struggling, niche genre in “Western” ( despite taking place entirely in an east coast, urban setting) coupled with the hammy, variety show label of “All Star.” That’s quite the Honey-Do list for Gray and Palmiotti, but it’s much more difficult to be disappointed by these two than it is to be impressed, and they’re handling their responsibilities exceptionally well, which is more evident than ever in ALL STAR WESTERN #10.
The issue opens immediately after Tallulah Black’s failed attempt to take Lucius Bennett’s life. The injured Tallulah comes into the care of Hex and Amadeus, which leads to the masterful sequences between any combination of Arkham, Black, and Hex that make this issue so great. Tallulah has only existed in this rebooted universe for one previous issue, but in one page here her character is so fully developed that it’s hard not to know what’s coming when Arkham meets her for the first time, and harder still to not enjoy it. There are very few characters in the DC Universe who are a more perfect fit for each other than Jonah Hex and Tallulah Black, and Gray and Palmiotti show this relationship off perfectly here. We get further development of the Court of Owls in this issue, and a fun nod to Morrison’s ARKHAM ASYLUM, but it all pales in comparison to the Hex/Black dynamic. Hex’s laughter at the sight of Tallulah intimidating Amadeus is pretty touching when you consider how infrequently this man smiles, let alone laughs from the gut like this, and the playful way in which Black tells the doctor “see ya tonight, doc” while upside down when Hex carries her upstairs is a rare, unguarded moment for her as well. It’s clear that these two are able to relate to each other more than they’re able to with anyone else on the planet, and the unrestrained level of glee they reach around each other is a lot of fun to watch, and a major selling point for me with future issues.
Not only is this the best main story installment of ALL STAR WESTERN thus far, but the Bat Lash short included here has to best of the series as well. I’ve enjoyed all of the shorts so far, with El Diablo being my favorite before this, but the levity of Bat Lash is the perfect dessert to the main story, and I’d love to read of Lash’s continuing adventures sometime in the future. These eight pages are exploding with action, adventure, and a charming sense of humor befitting of its main character, all wonderfully drawn by Jose Louis Garcia-Lopez. To be honest, the title “ALL STAR WESTERN” fits Lash’s exploits a lot more than they do Hex’s, as Lopez’s opening page screams “western,” and sets the tone well for the rest of the story. The art alone on this series has been reason enough to pick this title up on a monthly basis, and while it took me a while to jump on board with the story, I’ve been loving the work of Moritat from the get go. The hard black lines that border his panels really fade away when you’re reading his work, and set his pages consistently among the more seamless and easy to read in all of comics. Putting his talent for sequential storytelling aside, what’s within those panels is nothing short of awesome on a monthly basis. If I have one complaint, it’s that the detail fades away too quickly as characters are moved toward the background, but it’s such a minute critique, and it may very well be due to my desire to see as much of his work as possible, so let’s just forget I said it. As much as the writing deserves credit for the excellent Tallulah/Hex relationship, Moritat deserves credit for capturing the essence of these chacracters panel after panel, and matching Gray and Palmiotti’s descriptions of them word for word – when Dr. Arkham says of Tallulah that she’s a “monstrous and yet strangely alluring woman,” Moritat draws a monstrous and yet strangely alluring woman who is as easy to be repulsed by as she is to be attracted to. Gray and Palmiotti have been blessed with a number of talented artists in their work on Hex, but Moritat stands out as one of the best.
I can’t recommend this series enough for those of you still on the fence. ALL STAR WESTERN #10 is Gray and Palmiotti really settling into their new world, and it’s a true showcase of talent from all the creators involved. Bat-fans (which probably includes everyone) should be reading it for the Gotham history and Court of Owls tie-in, but I promise you’ll find it hard not to stick around for the myriad Western heroes involved. I still long for those single issue glory days of JONAH HEX, but I’m now perfectly content with this ongoing run that’s cementing Hex’s place more firmly in the rebooted DC history.
THE HYPERNATURALS #1Writer: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Artists: Brad Walker & Andres Guinaldo and friends
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Reviewer: Masked Man
I’ll go on record by saying Dan n Andy’s comic books at Marvel were some of the most boring ones I ever read. Even being a huge Nova fan, I just couldn’t get into their run. They had some cool ideas, but the books themselves did nothing for me.
So here they are working on their own project, and they’re doing a good job! Yes, I was quite stunned to find this comic interesting. Not just because of the writers, but historically speaking, indie superhero books are usually bad (remember Darkhorse’s or Malibu’s superheroes?) Well, I suppose times have changed, with good indie superhero books like INVINCIBLE and IRREDEEMABLE. Thankfully, HYPERNATURALS seem to be another good book.
The story takes place in the future. DnA love their space tales, as they always like to come up with clever future tech and space jargon. They even go to great lengths explaining how the Hypernaturals aren’t the typical superhero team. They’re a government sponsored superhero team, with recruitment and commitment terms--like an army or sports team. Well all that stuff is fluff to me, so I’m not going to give it points for that. DnA do score points for the important things, like good characters, plot, and writing!
The book starts off with a flashback to a former team line as they handle the worst day of their careers. It showcases a super (--er, hypernatural) villain named Sublime--typical crazy genius. Jump to the ‘present’ and the current team has had an even worse day. The team appears to be dead, along with a whole planet. Who could have caused this all? You guessed it: Sublime. So now retired team members and green recruits are assigned to find out what the heck happened. On top of that is Clone 45, once the greatest Hypernatural, now just a bum. You can bet this story will somehow redeem him, but DnA are handling him well, making him interesting enough not to be the cliché he may sound like. Good things are going on in this book, with decent pacing. We are given enough time with each of the five main characters to feel something for them. If you a fan of the Legion of Superheroes, you should check this out.
The art team on the book does a good job as well, though I think the outfits are awful looking. You might not be singing Brad Walker (and the gang’s) praises, but you won’t hate them either (like some guys working on those non-indie superheroes books).
Dan and Andy have a really nice start to their latest adventure, scoring a 3 out 4.
Advance Review: In stores today!
HE-MAN & THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE #1Writer: James Robinson
Art: Phillip Tan
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Ambush Bug
Not the most deftly written. Not the most nuanced. Not the most cleverly orchestrated, but dammit if James Robinson’s new take on HE-MAN & THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE didn’t strum all of the right chords of nostalgia in me. Sure, it was cooler to play with GI JOE and STAR WARS figures (and I did all of the time), but for some reason all of the goofy characters of the MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE line had me from the get go, and for the same reason GI JOE has such a firm hold of my nostalgia glands: it was all because of the trifecta of the cartoon, the toy, and the comic book. In this case, little comics that came with the toys served as a gateway drug I couldn’t say no to and with HE-MAN & THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE placed in the time slot directly after GI JOE, I couldn’t help but fall for it all.
At its core, MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE is your typical SHAZAM/PRIME/SUPERIOR/BIG scenario as a young boy lives out his super hero fantasies in the body of a man. What set it apart from the rest was the amazing cast of characters that surrounded He-Man. Though none of them save Beast Man shows up in this issue, Robinson does a good job of introducing us to a different kind of Eternia. Skeletor rules the land from his perch on Snake Mountain, which Adam sees in the distance as he chops timber in a dark forest. This is not the Prince Adam we remember from the cartoons, but a humble serf taking care of his delusional father who was once a strong woodsman, but now hallucinates about a lost life as King of the realm. Adam is comfortable in his role as peasant and nobly takes care of his father, but dreams of high adventure in a hulking body fighting skull-faced monsters. This is an interesting twist that Robinson throws readers placing the nobility of Eternia defeated and seemingly under a spell making them forget who they really are. It’s a nice twist—a good place for a story to start. Not completely original since this type of thing usually happens to the gods of Asgard and Greece on occasion when they want to shake things up, but strong enough to support the vast cast of this series. As with those tales often told in THOR, WOMDER WOMAN, and HERCULES, the quest of finding the lost warriors and waking them from this trance gets pretty repetitious, but some of the variants of what Ram Man, Stratos, and Man at Arms could be do make me want to see them.
Art wise, the book is pretty strong. Phillip Tan does a decent job and definitely has some vivid panel play happening here, especially in the brutal battle with Beast Man in the forest, but my one criticism here has to do with the costume designs of the characters which is just a little too similar to the figures. Now, I know die hard fans will be happy that these characters haven’t changed at all from the characters they played with as a kid, but there’s something about the uniform across the broad design of big muscular body, tiny furry speedo, bulky belt or armor strap that lacks originality. Given the way Tan reinterprets Adam as a smaller framed man with similarly colored but slightly altered clothing which resembles the Prince Adam figure, but makes him fit much more into the story taking place; I couldn’t help but wish Tan would have taken the same liberties with the design of Beast Man, Skeletor, and He-Man. Beast Man does look pretty scary here, all teeth and claws, and what looks to be some kind of metal nipple chain thing going on under that orange fur. So maybe Tan will surprise us with the redesigns, but the Skeletor from the last panel doesn’t look very ominous at all with his fetish gear on.
Design decisions aside, this is a fun continuation of the HE MAN story. Robinson sets up a fun premise and gives us a fantastic action sequence with Beast Man, so no complaints from me. I’m in this series for the long haul, if only because it reminds me of being a kid again.
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's most comic book miniseries GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK from Zenescope Entertainment will be released March through August 2012 and GRIMM FAIRY TALES #76-80 beginning in August 2012!
LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN CENTURY: 2009 #1Writer: Alan Moore
Artist: Kevin O'Neill
Publishers: Top Shelf Productions & Knockabout
Reviewer: Professor Challenger
“I rocked the fretful baby gods to sleep before time started...and I am companion to the women who paste up the stars. The quarters of the world are bound unto my compass. I have taken tea with earthquakes. I know what the bee knows...and you really are a dreadful little boy.” -- Mary Poppins/Prospero/God to Harry Potter/Anti-Christ
For those of you who thought the previous CENTURY volumes were confusing or meandering, well...there was purpose to the madness. CENTURY is brilliantly wrapped up with the 2009 volume that brings the literary world of fiction into the apocalypse and the final battle between the Anti-Christ and God (as embodied by Harry Potter and Mary Poppins).
The genius of Alan Moore's insanity is how such a complicated story can gestate within his mind and be perfectly executed when visualized by Kevin O'Neill, whose art simply sings on this project. The game of spotting the literary and entertainment cameos and references is there and can make rereading the series more fun as you dig into track down the various things you didn't spot before. However, now that the series has concluded, I went back and reread the whole thing (including THE BLACK DOSSIER) and realize just how well-planned and executed this project has been. There are so many foreshadowed thematic and plot elements in 1910 that it took reading the conclusion to realize not the least of these is the blistering satirical criticism of the advent of literature as franchising. James Bond and Harry Potter come under the most wicked commentaries here, most especially by Moore's indulgent incarnation of the Anti-Christ as that wretched, unlikeable, little boy from the Harry Potter series.
Moore's symbolism is strongly in place here as he takes the strong phallic elements that permeate J.K. Rowling's popular series – most especially in terms of the “wand” as phallic symbol – and he literalizes it. His use of the Blazing World and the whole 3D glasses visual established in THE BLACK DOSSIER sets such an interesting visual for me in reading it. How do you identify “God” as a character when he/she can take any form? Look for the tell-tale green/red 3D glasses. It's so simple. I wonder if Moore is even aware of all the various ways this can be used as a symbol like that. I'm thinking about the “magic sunglasses” that Joseph Smith claimed to use to be able to read the golden plates containing the Book of Mormon for example.
If the original 2 LoEG series were mainly character arcs about Allan Quatermain and Mina Harker, this CENTURY series has been about Mina and Orlando, with Allan taking an ever-increasing backseat even to the point of becoming a homeless beggar on the streets of London. It all makes sense with the strong commentary that Moore is making here about the transition from the great heroic literature of the Victorian age and the beginning of the modern novel and its rejections of the forms and limits of the Victorian age. Orlando heralded the new age of modernism in writing and Moore is full-scale criticism of the downfall of civilized discourse in both the real world and in the world of fiction in Orlando's wake.
br>As recognized by writer Tom Jordan on the 2009 Annotations website, this story is about Orlando's symbolic redemption. And, by the way, Orlando wields Excalibur – yet another great phallic symbol of literature and representation of both the life and death of Camelot, itself a Heaven analog like The Blazing World.
I've tried to figure out why so many have been increasingly critical of Moore's LoEG series basically starting with THE BLACK DOSSIER and I don't want to kneejerk it as claiming people aren't smart enough to “get” it. That's not the case. There are plenty of genius works out there that find an audience and near universal acclaim. I am going to go out on a limb and say that LoEG is a perfect reflection of Moore's emotional state at the point that he is writing them. As such, the first 2 LoEG series are grand adventures that are an intellectual and literary playground. Beginning with THE BLACK DOSSIER and now fully realized in CENTURY, is Moore the jaded and grumpy critic. He's still playing in the playground of fictionality but now he is filtering his storytelling through an increasingly dark and angry prism. He is angry at the business of literature in all its forms. He is angry about the business of mass media – the business of franchising – the business of literature merely as licensing and lowest common denominator appeal. CENTURY is Moore's lament on what has been lost because of the business of literature. We have lost that sense of joy and freedom, that sense of individual vision, that unified knowledge of our past, present, and future through literature that glorifies the human spirit and sees mankind as good and not depraved. The destruction of civilization in the world of the LoEG has followed the same path as literature itself as modernism and post-modernism and deconstructionism and dystopian post-apocalyptian themes have supplanted what came before. This is the world ripe for the Apocalypse of The Book of Revelation and personified by Harry Potter as Anti-Christ.
I think this negative spiral and angry tone and spirit to his approach in this series has caused Moore's audience to disconnect from him. Comic book readers by large are looking for escapism, and Moore's CENTURY series requires one to see through the darkeness and anger to see both the sharp-witted humorous criticism in the satire but also that spark of hope. Moore is taking his readers to the precipice in 2009 just so he can offer redemption to all.
Moore is saying to his readers with 2009 that the future does not have to be bleak. It can be bright. It's okay to be angry but just grousing about it does no good. 2009 is a challenge to all creators of fiction to recapture literature back from the arms of the lawyers and the corporations.
CENTURY 2009 is a triumph of individualism in creation and in literature and I found it brilliant.
Prof. Challenger is Texas artist and writer, Keith Howell. You can read his stuff here and over at profchallenger.com. You can also get in on the ground floor of his new endeavor, "Everything I Ever Needed to Know I Learned from Comic Books" here.
AQUAMAN #10Writer: Geoff Johns
Artists: Ivan Reis
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man
I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to read a good Aquaman book. Sorry, Orin lovers, but I’m firm lover of Arthur, the original Aquaman. Lucky for me, so is Geoff Johns.
So what is great about this issue? Well, first off it has Ivan Reis’s amazing artwork. The guy really is one of the best in comics today, and probably the best artist currently working for DC. From the great reveal of the old man to a sweet two page spread of Aquaman and Black Manta punching it out, what’s not to love about this man’s art? I know he’s created a lot of Mera fans as well. Shout outs to Inkers Joe Prado and Andy Lanning as well, not to mention colorist Rod Reis. They all help make this one of the best looking books on the market.
Mind you, no matter how great the art is, I’m gone if I don’t like the story. Thankfully, Johns is bringing his ‘A’ game here. However, I’m not crazy about the new reason Black Manta hates Aquaman (I’ll try not to spoil the big flashback incident). Not that I’m against what Aquaman did. This wasn’t a cheap shot, like what they did with Wonder Woman. Aquaman has always been very quick to get angry (well, except in “The Brave and the Bold” cartoon). So it’s not totally out of line that given the right circumstances he’d snap like that (sorry). But did Black Manta really need this to hate Aquaman? Not everyone has to be connected--Did Joker really need to be the guy that killed Bruce Wayne’s parents? Still, this is no game breaker, because Black Manta is a bad ass, and he kicks a lot of it in here.
The Others are coming together nicely as well. Johns is doing a good job of mixing action (that doesn’t seem random) while introducing the Others to us. While the plot is still a mystery, which usually drives me crazy, I feel Johns is moving it forward with each issue. Johns is also doing a good job introducing more elements to Aquaman and his history (and Zero month hasn’t even hit yet!). So I’m glued to my seat to see how Shin, Black Manta, Aquaman, and the Others all got together. Not to mention what is up with Atlantis itself!
Aquaman continues to one of the best DC has these days--a solid 3 out 4.
An Advance @$$Hole 2 in 1 Review!
BATMAN: EARTH ONE VOL.1Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: Gary Frank
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewers: Optimous Douche & Ambush Bug
OPTIMOUS DOUCHE (OD): I'm an alternate reality whore. From "What If" to 'Elseworlds," I love it all. But the EARTH ONE titles (all two of them now) have resonated more to me than just a one-off throw away like their aforementioned ancestors. These stories feel far more real, as if the Earth woke up one day, in 2011 or 2012, and BAM superheroes are real, bitches. These are essentially what I wanted the New 52 to be, especially since New and 52 were mere whispers on the lips of PR professionals when SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE was released. Yes, I was giddy at the prospect of the Multiverse being opened back up at the end of FINAL CRISIS, but EARTH ONE especially took my glee to a new zenith of ecstasy when I first read SUPERMAN Zuckerberg. With BATMAN: EARTH ONE we may have shifted focus over to Gotham, but every element of updating the mythology is as here and now as it was in SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE.
AMBUSH BUG (BUG): Hmmm. Me not so much. See, the thing I don't like about alternate realities is that it's kind of like the rules of magic when done badly: there are none. In alternate realities, we are immediately thrown into a familiar situation, only one or two things are different. I'll give it to you, the EARTH ONE books are top notch, but in the end, everyone is just waiting for the beats to happen that happened in the DC prime universe: What's the Joker going to be like? What's Arkham going to be like? When will Robin be making an appearance?
OD: Agreed, magic needs rules. Seems an apple and orange comparison to me, though. As you pointed out, without certain tent poles the book goes from a reimagining of a character to a Mark Millar deconstruction.
BUG: Pretty soon, when these "new and different" versions of what has come before happen, the readers get sick of it as do the writers, then they move on and retell the retelling again. I mean, how many times do I have to sit through a retelling of Batman's origin? Same with Spider-Man. Same with Superman. I want new stories, not retellings of the same stories over and over. That's my initial beef with this entire EARTH ONE thing. Aside from this being the first time Johns has written solely Batman, I really wasn't interested in it going in.
OD: Personally, I'm not sick of it as long as the reimagining is done well and rings true within the context of the new universe that's being created. Where the New 52 dropped the ball in my opinion is that it tried to make it our world where these heroes were first appearing, but the whole 5 year before thing was rushed and not holistic enough. With only two books on the shelves out of the whole 52 line-up that were set 5 years before the entire concept got lost. And even in those books the world was still much more technologically advanced than we are now. Look at ACTION and show me a city (in the US) where a train system looks like that. With EARTH ONE everything felt like it was our world in both SUPERMAN and now BATMAN.
As for the tropes of Joker, Arkham and other Bat goodies, I dug Johns' interpretation, athough we should mention Joker is not the baddie of focus here and Robin isn't even a glimmer in this young Batman's eyes. Making Martha Wayne an Arkham, though--I thought was a delicious twist.
BUG: Yeah, I know the Joker isn't the focus in this and neither is Robin, but you know that's what everyone will be asking about at the cons and on the message boards. And inevitably it's what people will get, because they don't know of anything else. And, seemingly, neither do these creators who tell the same story over and over. Seriously, enough is enough with these origins. It doesn't matter the tweaks that are put into it. They're all window dressing. The framework is the same. Kid's parents are killed in an alley. Servant steps in to raise kid. Kid trains and is brooding. Kid becomes Batman. I've seen it all before and want to read a new story.
Now, the subtle changes were interesting to me, ad I don't know if Johns did this intentionally or if this is his inner child coming out. Alfred is elevated to hero status, which in a child's eyes is exactly what he would most likely look like. Making this change seems like Johns is looking at this story through a child's eyes. Same goes for making Bruce a snotty kid who brags to the robber that he's the richest kid in Gotham. Then his parents are snuffed for it. To me, that's an infantile way of looking at a situation and bringing guilt to the character. By doing that, sure it makes Batman more identifiable (much more like Peter Parker who lets the robber go and then he goes on to kill uncle Ben), but at the same time, it makes him all the more infantile in blaming himself for something that ultimately was out of his hands. As I said, this may be a conscious choice of Johns to handle matters in this way, but I really don't like a guilt-ridden, insecure Batman. All of a sudden, the senseless act of violence has meaning, which kind of ruins the mystique of Batman for me.
OD: See, I think that's one of the things Johns didn't change. Batman was always racked with guilt over his parent's death. He was the one that wanted to see fucking Zorro. And on that note, good job finally shitcanning the movie title. It was dated when Miller did YEAR ONE so many years ago and definitely would not have worked today.
As for the perpetual retelling of origins, I see this as a cyclical necessity. Now I'll admit, in recent years this has happened far more often then is needed for that generational bridge, so I don't see this being done for the sake of freshness and generational relevancy of the characters, but more of a marketing stratification. Mike Uslan said it best when we did an interview a few years ago. I'll paraphrase:
There is no one true continuity anymore. All the houses realized a long time ago that different iterations of their heroes will appeal to different demographics. BATMAN BEYOND is a very different "continuity" than the portrait Snyder is painting of Wayne in BATMAN proper; likewise with YOUNG JUSTICE. But for me they work and work well. I hear the lament for trueness of the character, but that shit died the minute the creators walked away from titles and everything was farmed out to teams of writers.
Personally, this is the BATMAN I want to read because, THIS world, EARTH ONE, has never heard of costumed heroes, so it gives me a sense of freshness I think that's akin to when Grandfather picked up http://now.msn.com/living/0630-drunk-cabs-vomit.aspx?ocid=ansnow11so many years ago - or what would have happened if my Grandfather was literate. I also love the format. Give me a $20 complete story every two months in beautiful hardcover versus floppies please, I'm old and I have a job, it's cool.
BUG: My grandfather had no arms, you insensitive ponce!!!
OD: That's his your cowgirl Grandma's problem pal. Batman...stay focused!
BUG: No, he had arms. And a penis, which made my father--but I'm getting off track.
I understand your argument and realize that the older I get, the more I have to make a decision. Am I comfortable with a reboot every five years or am I willing to say, "OK, my Batman is gone and I don't really want to read him any more." I like that Snyder is building on the history of Gotham right now. To me, that expands the mythos so much more than reimagining it for the umpteenth time. I understand why marketing does the retooled origin every other year, but as a long time reader, I'm kind of bored with it. It's interesting that Johns is doing this, given his penchant for respecting history though.
I agree about the Waynes going to see ZORRO being dated. I think they could have updated it to ZORRO, THE GAY BLADE, but I think I'm showing my age referencing that one too. It would have said a lot about Tom and Martha though if they did go see it.
OD: Yes, Gay Blade would have been dated as well, especially since it only stayed in theaters for a week and a half. Ahhh, early HBO, thank you. OK, so let's look at the story for the half of the readers that didn't abandon our Grumpy Old Comic Reader tirade.
Now, I think the whole damn story was spectacular, but the beginning moments as Bruce Wayne essentially suck ass a crime fighter and possesses a series of broke ass tools was especially engaging. For the first time in a long time I actually felt a palatable sense of danger. After all, once you've beat Darkseid's Omega Beams there aren't too many other places to go as a character. Here's a Bruce Wayne that hasn't done dick in crime fighting and doesn't really know how.
BUG: I agree, Batman in training is an interesting way to go. A much more interesting trip than,say, SMALLVILLE. I always thought a GOTHAM TC series would have been infinitely cooler That said, I think the transition from amateur to goddamn Batman was pretty fast. I know Bruce is nowhere near the master by the end of the issue, but it appears that all he needed was a visit to see Lucious Fox to get the job done. I think things moved way too fast in the latter half of this book and thought that the way it ended basically left us with a very close version of the Batman we know today.
OD: And what do we think of the reimagining of other characters? I have to admit, 2012 is the year of Penguin. First he had the great turn in PENGUIN: PAIN AND PREJUDICE and his turn in BATMAN EARTH ONE--Almost a Michael Corleone, trying to use his ill-gotten gains to legitimize himself. When we finally get to meet him as Mayor of Gotham I was shocked to see him in that capacity, keeping his stupid umbrellas in a stand where they belong and doing all of his dirty deeds under the cover of a legitimate front. Also, nice twist with making the demise of Thomas and Martha Wayne a political move (ooops--spoiler).
BUG: I really enjoyed the use of subtlety when it came to the Penguin. Like when Batman was lunging at him and he stabbed him with the umbrella. Sure, it's not a shotgun umbrella, but it still gives a wink to the hokeyness of the character, while still making him a crafty bird. I also really liked the sick introduction of Birthday Boy. He seemed much more Morrisonian than something Johns usually makes up, but fit into the story well. Again, though, I wonder had we not known who the Penguin was prior to reading this, would we be so impressed with this incarnation.
OD: Yeah, he just would have been another corrupt politician without our foreknowledge, but that's OK. This is EARTH ONE, baby. Now, Alfred....
BUG: You mean Sam Elliot?
OD: I was going to focus less on the visage and more the fact Alfred is no longer genetically bound to serving the Wayne family like he came over on the Amistad. I like that he and Thomas served in, I'm guessing. Desert Storm. And I like the new look. I was growing tired of the traditional poncey butler.
I would say my favorite transformation, though, was Harvey Bullock from a hard boiled trench coat detective to Hollywood reality police star. It’s a very sensible and pertinent modernization choice.
BUG: Harvey was cool. But was I the only one who got a bit confused and thought it was Harvey Dent at first? Either way, it looks like fit and hunky Harvey will be developing his beer gut soon given the last panel. It'd be hilarious if in Vol.2 he is 200lbs heavier and more like the Harvey we all know and love.
OD: What would be even funnier is Harvey Dent showed up in Vol. 2 wearing a trench coat and was 200 pounds.
BUG: The introduction of Dent's twin sister is an interesting twist, given the dual nature of Dent's fascination with duality. I'm interested in seeing where that's going as well as the sneak peek at the Riddler in the end. But again, these are just reimaginings and reinterpretations, which is interesting only to a point with me.
It sure did look pretty though. Gary Frank can do no wrong in my book.
OD: Goes without saying...hell, even though Batman's original grappling gun was broke ass on the first page, Frank made the goddamn thing look like something from one of my dreams. This level of detail officially anoints him as the anti-Liefeld.
BUG: Yes, sprinkle a little Gary Frank on Liefeld and it shamwow that shit away, right quick!
OD: OK, cardinal rule of reviewing, as soon as we talk about one artist sprinkling another the end is definitely nigh. I'm in it to win it with EARTH ONE. If I lost my job tomorrow and had only one comic I could buy it would be this universe. It's relevant and I have been begging for the shift from monthly floppies to complete stories delivered quarterly for years now. I've seen some advanced pages for SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE VOL. 2 and I can't wait to see the thing completed. Honestly, I want DC to expand the whole universe, but for fuck's sake do it organically. This universe doesn't need Booster Gold; as much as I love Goldie he's a contrivance of a time gone by. Expand, but do so with relevance to the 21st century DC.
BUG: If this were the only Bat-book out there, I'd be happy, but fortunately, there's Scott Snyder's BATMAN. Right now, with the way he is bringing history to Gotham, I have to say his work edges out Johns. But this is a good book. Redundant and somewhat unnecessary, but fun.
HELL YEAH #4
About the end of the first arc (or five/six issues) of a new book I like to think it’s safe to say if I’ve got a feel for a book, and I really don’t think I have much of a feel for HELL YEAH here by now. Oh, I like the idea behind the book – a first generation of post-superhero superheroes – but after having read four issues of the characters therein, I don’t really care much about/for any of them. Honestly, outside of our lead, Ben (who is kind of a smarmy hipster dick) I can’t even name any without looking. There’s a neat alternate reality jumping plotline that is basically other Bens going all Jet Li from the movie “One” on down the line in order to show the type of superhero tropes this book wants to play with, but it isn’t stuff I haven’t experienced before in my comic book reading outside of its tone (which, like Ben, comes off kind of “hipster chic” and is definitely not my bag). I don’t want to rag on this book as “bad” or come off as overly severe on it as it’s more a case of “not my taste” but I think lack of attachment this many issues in is somewhat troubling. Still, I must say it does have its sense of style about it so maybe I will revisit this in another arc once some more character and world building has been done. - Humphrey Lee
MIND THE GAP #2
Now, to go along with my almost “Debbie Downer” review of HELL YEAH, I have to say that MTG #2 here is almost in the same boat in the aspect of character building but it is going above and beyond your conventional plot building. The problem is, it is to the detriment of the overall book. There’re good characters in here, but they are each getting such a scant amount of page space it’s really hard to move them further than the big splurge of character droppings that came in the oversized first issue. The ambition is there for this big, bold whodunit with this group of varying degrees of intimacy, but without the insight into each and possible motivations, it rings a little hollow. Also, and I hate to be this blunt on the matter but I will: It’s one thing to have a big, intricate mystery you are proud of but it does no good to continually point at it and give “didja see the thing? Didja didja didja!?!?!” which is more annoying than motivating and is what I’m getting out of the back matter here. The best mysteries are work, yes-indeedy-do, but the overall work rings a little hollow when you force the effort instead of letting it develop naturally. Especially this early on when there (rightfully) isn’t full information to work on and it becomes more frustrating than motivating to pay it forward if you think you’re missing details already. The mystery looks properly mysterious with lots of nooks and crannies, the characters also seem to as well, but as the title says, let the readers mind the gap, not feel like they have to take a giant leap into it. - Humphrey Lee
Lastly, for the Image trifecta, a book that I was actually down on (surprise!) a couple issues back but am happy to see the “fresh start” of a new arc be just that. As is the theme with my coverage this week I was pretty down on the scattershot of characters and plot building that FATALE was presenting. This issue is a little more drawn back, overall complicating the life of Nick as he tries and figure out the mystery that is Josephine and his obsession with her and almost gets a bullet for his feelings. But then there’s a pull back and refocus on the past again, this time with a new character – a 70’s actor named Miles – and how he accidentally got mixed in with the ever ageless Josephine and the cult that always ends up after her and the men in her life. If anything, the time period pieces of this book have been its biggest draw as the background they create has been more or less a character itself so a 70’s setting, considering all the “free love” it represents, and combine it with all the culty goodness and it seems like a pairing rife with commentary. That this looks to be a means for Brubaker and Philips to doing some plugging away at the past and mystique of Josephine is all the better. Sometime soon I’ll probably have to pencil in a reread of what we’ve got so far to make sure I’m not missing something and have my head around the overarching bits of FATALE, but this issue went a long way to make me feel the overall picture is going to come into focus a bit more and at a steadier clip. - Humphrey Lee
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G
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