|Issue #18||Release Date: 8/29/12||Vol.#11|
(Click title to go directly to the review)
Advance Review: BLOODSHOT #3
TALL TALES FROM THE BADLANDS #2
JUSTICE LEAGUE #12
FF # 21
FLESH & BLOOD VOL. 2
BEFORE WATCHMEN: MINUTEMEN#3
X-O MANOWAR #4
LOCKE & KEY: GRINDHOUSE ONE SHOT
FLASH GORDON ON THE PLANET MOGO GN
BEFORE WATCHMEN: MINUTEMEN #3
Advance Review: In stores today!
BLOODSHOT #3Writer: Dwayne Swierczynski
Art: Manuel Garcia, Arturo Lozzi (pencils) Matt Ryan (inks)Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Reviewer: Ambush Bug
I’ve been hearing a lot about the new Valiant books. About the rich characters in ARCHER & ARMSTRONG. About the high flying action in X-O MANOWAR. About the strong storytelling in HARBINGER. But for some reason, there hasn’t been a lot said about BLOODSHOT. Though there are definite elements at play in BLOODSHOT that are a bit less than original, I still think it is a damn fine read and a more subtle book than its more bombastic Valiant brethren on the shelves.
BLOODSHOT follows the adventures of a man who is clueless as to what his real life actually is. Programmed by the government, he has cutting edge nanites running through his bloodstream which allow him to communicate with machines (Hellooooo, Toaster!), heal quickly, lift heavy people standing in front of him at the bank, and change his face into other people, kind of like the Octomom does although with more of a quickness to it. Sure this sounds an awful lot like the BOURNE series with a bit of DEATHLOK and a pinch of TOTAL RECALL thrown in for good measure in that our hero finds out that the reality he is living is not all it seems to be. Some people might think that because of this laundry list of components from other properties, BLOODSHOT can’t be good. I have to disagree.
Though the premise plays like a jigsaw puzzle made from parts of other films, the puzzle itself when put together is pretty damn slick. I’m enjoying the journey of finding out just who this Bloodshot really is. Though this story has been played before, it hasn’t been done so in the Valiant Universe yet, so I’m willing to give it a try, especially if the action continues to be this bombastic and ballsy. In each of the three issues so far, I’ve found the storytelling to convey at the very least one “Holy shit!” moment filled with what one only can describe as edge of your seat-ness. In this issue alone, as Pulse, another nanite-riddled government experiment, is unleashed against Bloodshot many a “Holy shit!” crossed my lips, right up to the end, which ends with a bang.
I’d be performing a sin if I didn’t talk a bit about Manuel Garcia & Arturo Lozzi’s artwork. Cemented with inks by Matt Ryan, the art in this book is rock solid with strong lines, expressive and fluid figures, and wonderfully energetic poses. The action scenes sing in the tune of an anvil chorus and communicate writer Dwayne Swierczynski’s action scenes masterfully.
Fans of such hard-hitting action comics as Greg Rucka’s THE PUNISHER and Ed Brubaker’s WINTER SOLDIER are the target audience here, and I suspect those fans would be pleased with this. Though my one complaint with the Valiant line as a whole is that there isn’t the strong sense of interconnectedness that the old Valiant was so strong in building, with the books just gaining their footing on their own, I’m willing to give them a year to make all of these books fit together cohesively. Until that is established, I’ll be going back to Valiant for various reasons, and more specifically, I’ll rest assured that my action fix is satiated every month in BLOODSHOT.
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 late 2012 as an 100-pg original graphic novel). Mark has just announced his new comic book miniseries GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK from Zenescope Entertainment to be released March-August 2012. Also look for Mark's exciting arc on GRIMM FAIRY TALES #76-80 which begins in August 2012.
TALL TALES FROM THE BADLANDS #2Writers: Sean Fahey, Nick Nunziata, Seamus Kevin Fahey
Artists: Borja “Borch” Pena, Giannis Milonogiannis, Carlos Trigo, Pablo Peppino, Ger Curti
Publisher: Black Jack Press
A little while ago I was forced to confront my irrational disdain for stories set in that time and place interchangeably known as “The Wild West,” “The Old West,” and “Cowboys ‘n’ Indians.” The catalyst for this heart-to-heart with my opinion of the genre came from the excellent premiere issue of a Western comic book anthology, entitled—you guessed it—TALL TALES FROM THE BADLANDS. The stories within may have been set on dusty trails and in outlaw-infested saloons, but the cores of these tales spoke to deeper themes than simple cattle rustlin’ or black-and-white shoot-outs. That comic made me realize the mistake of assuming that surface trappings dictate plot, and I vowed to no longer ignore the genre of Louis L’Amour, Frederick Remington or Jonah Hex. And so when this second issue of BADLANDS was published, I was eager to read more stories that would expand my newfound respect for the Old West. The good news is that every chapter in this anthology is a well-written, solid example of good storytelling. The bad news? Well, having been blown away by the premiere issue, this one didn’t quite live up to the experience of reading the first.
The stories here all share a common thematic thread: that of the nature of Justice, with a capital “Juh.” The best of these is definitely the lead-off story, “A Nation of Laws,” written by Sean Fahey with art by Boris Pena. A small-town sheriff waits for the arrival of a judge so that they can set a trial for an imprisoned man, a man who murdered another over a card game. The sheriff is adamant that the townspeople must put their faith in the law over the rule of the lynch mob--that the town needs to step into the modern times of the rapidly-approaching 20th century. Convinced that this new judge truly believes in the law and will not be swayed by bribery or corruption, the sheriff waits to see the system of law played out properly. When all is said and done, however, he finds his faith in the institution of law burned down to the ground. Though perhaps a bit dry for a rip-roarin’ Western (the majority of the story takes place in the courtroom in a way that feels more “Law & Order” than “Gunsmoke”), it’s a wonderful character study as well as a wry, somewhat cynical look at the legal loopholes that remain within the system to this day.
Justice of a different sort is depicted in “The Great Wall,” written again by Fahey with artistic duties filled by Giannis Milonogiannis. Again there are no blazing shoot-outs, just a simple, sweet parable about how the evils of racism—even the subtle racism of ignoring another race’s accomplishments rather than overt bigotry—can change over time. For those who might want more cowboy and less preaching, “Paw” is a more traditional tale of justice and revenge. Written by Nick Nunziata and drawn by Carlos Trigo, this story tells of a family’s grief after one of their young boys was killed by crossfire in a gunfight. When the man responsible escapes punishment by the law, it falls to the boy’s father to decide if he should take the law into his own hands. If he leaves the matter be, then no one is left who will avenge his son. Or is there…? The law is set at odds with moral justice in “The Inside Man,” written by Fahey and illustrated by Ger Curti. Calvin Fisher is a railroad man for the Union Pacific whose ten-year service to the company has given him…a certificate of appreciation. With no bonus for his unwavering service and no chance of a raise in pay (his regional manager claims that the overhead has to be kept low in order to keep the company’s bottom line healthy), Calvin is put in a moral quandary when he is presented with the opportunity to become the inside man for a train robbery. Does he take the moral high ground and stand with the company that has given him next to nothing for his loyalty, or does he take the reward he deserves with his own hands? The answer may or may not surprise the reader depending on their own notions of morals and justice, but no matter what personal ethics one may have the final page will definitely provoke thought.
All these stories are well-crafted, with artwork that complements the settings and moods perfectly. From the delicate linework of Milonogiannis’ depiction of an old man and his grandson to rougher, almost woodcut-like inking in Curti’s “Inside Man,” TALL TALES FROM THE BADLANDS has assembled an impressive array of talented artists who are experts in black-and-white illustration. So what makes this second issue just good and not great? Well, though these tales here are told well, they lack the “tall” element that set those published in the first issue apart from the ordinary Western story. There are none of those “Twilight Zone”-type twist endings (or perhaps I should say “O. Henry”-type, since this comic never strays from its placement in the real world) that gave the stories in issue #1 their “Wow!” factor. This issue is certainly high quality—just not possessing the same quality that made the premiere issue so unique.
Nevertheless, if you’re not as picky as I am (and I’ll admit it, few people are) and just want to read some damn good examples of graphic storytelling, get your hands on a copy of TALL TALES FROM THE BADLANDS.
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.
JUSTICE LEAGUE #12Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Jim Lee
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewed by Humphrey Lee
All right, so here’s the thing about writing a “bad” review: no one ever really wants to write them. Well, okay, some reviewers probably get off on it, but those people are assholes…er, I mean. Sigh…okay, I don’t like to write bad reviews for a couple of reasons. One, yeah, occasionally the book I am reviewing came across my way via the wonderful world of marketing and the ever convenient PDF file, but the vast majority of the time I am reviewing a book I also bought that book and I abhor the waste of time and money that could be put toward buying and spreading the word on what I perceive to be a fine piece of craftsmanship. A second point to make is that if I’m buying a comic in the first place it is because of a perception that it should be good when I order, whether it being trust in the creative team, something in the pitch that looks interesting, some quality preview pages, etc. I did not get on the JUSTICE LEAGUE train when the New 52 initiative hit because I wanted on the hype train, I did it because Geoff Johns has done some tremendous things with characters I love (or did not know yet how much I loved until he handled them) and Jim Lee’s art help get me into comics. Sadly, neither of these feelings is with me anymore a year into this run.
It feels weird to put it down this way, but I think my feeling on this book is that I’m just not “buying what they’re selling.” Basically the approach I’ve been reading for the past year has just not worked for me, mostly down the stretch the past couple months. While the first arc I understood the intention behind – fresh start, might as well go with a “Year One” approach – it ended up leaving me somewhat cold in that it was not as epic as the first issues would have lead one to believe it would wind up. If anything it was a squandering of what a tuned up revamping of the “first” appearance of Darkseid in an epic clash with a newly banded together Justice League could have been as it made a classic error of thinking it was bigger than it was and rushing to a finish because, well, I guess there was bigger and better things to do. Sadly, this past arc really has not been either of those things.
To go with my “not buying” statement earlier, I really don’t buy this being the follow up to such an introductory arc. You go from a big, almost-sweeping piece introducing the team and the mother of all baddies and then jump to bickering, infighting, bureaucracy, and a throwaway villain that has some minute link to that origin story. Not really buying it, especially the villain, Graves, who goes from three pages of menacing (though derivative of Hunter Zolomon with his “I’m doing this to make you better!” machinations) to panderingly sympathetic in the span of three pages and ends up being a contrived way to try and break up the team (and score some points for Johns’ biggest pet character, Hal Jordan) and will end up being the launching point for the newly announced JLA book.
And while the word “pandering” is in the air I’m…actually not going to call the big kiss between Supes and Wonder Woman that. Much like my understanding of wanting to have a big Year One tale to kick off the fresh slate New 52 is supposed to be, I get taking that opportunity of having a non-married Superman getting with the armor-brassiered one for fanboy points. Now, slapping it on a cover and obviously leaking it to news outlets who only kind of care about comics when they do things like this or when movies based off them are breaking box office records to drum up hype, that’s pandering and was kind of off-putting for a moment that, yeah, we’ve seen on rare occasion before but still gets a little “Woooo!” when it goes down. And, sadly, it was really the only takeaway I got from this arc--that and digging the Billy Batson/Shazam backup story that was more forecasting for the year to come, but was also not enough to mitigate the big problem this book has had so far, that problem being that you can do all the grand forecasting you want for the future but if the present experience is dragging the reader down then why would they stick around hoping you deliver on future promises? So while I genuinely hope everything this book should and promises to be comes to fruition, I will not be putting down my $3.99 again until one of my peers who continues to pay for this, or gets those perky preview looks, informs me that reality is coming true.
Humphrey Lee has been an avid comic book reader going on fifteen years now and a contributor to Ain't It Cool comics for quite a few as well. In fact, reading comics is about all he does in his free time and where all the money from his day job wages goes to - funding his comic book habit so he can talk about them to you, our loyal readers (lucky you). He's a bit of a social networking whore, so you can find him all over the Interwebs on sites like Twitter, The MySpaces, Facebookand a blog where he also mostly talks about comics with his free time because he hasn't the slightest semblance of a life. Sad but true, and he gladly encourages you to add, read, and comment as you will.
ELDRITCH! #6Writer: Aaron Alexovich
Artist: Drew Rausch
The end has come! The destruction of all is nigh…unless Anya has anything to say about it. It has been a long journey through the freaky world of ELDRITCH!, created by writer Aaron Alexovich and artist Drew Rausch. But does the conclusion of issue #6 make all the toil and trouble, the nightmares and paranoia, worth it?
So Anya is currently stuck in a pool house with Owen, having just decapitated Chaston and some other monstrous friends. The police were no help and Anya’s brother has now taken lead. Not sure if pulling the loving sibling card will work when we haven’t seen much love between these two.
I find judging a final issue much more complicated than a single book. ELDRITCH! #6 needs to work as a strong finale for the series much more than it does as a stand-alone issue, at least in my mind. This is why I can’t hate THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, a film that fails by itself but holds up when placed within the trilogy (yes, Talkbackers, have at me). So does ELDRITCH! #6 fill the necessity for a satisfying conclusion and/or stand out on its own?
If you want to talk consistent, the issue does feature a problem that I have harped on in my past five reviews. The characters are too chatty. This is to be expected, of course, in a finale where answers must be given. But the problem here lies in where the book became more about telling instead of showing. All of the exposition and reveals are plopped right down in the middle of the comic. The pacing and action just plateaus, halts, and you are forced to listen to Anya and Owen sort through the mythos. Luckily, the comic’s pace picks up again after this and the book finishes up the way it should, amidst chaos and confusion.
The chaos and confusion permeates the entirety of the issue, including the artwork. The layout and how busy it plays teeters on the edge of contextually appropriate or just too much. I guess it comes down to whether or not you are a “less is more horror” type. Usually, I like subtlety. However, in my last review I noted that there was “nothing too nightmare inducing yet.” Rausch went full-tilt Freddy Krueger for ELDRITCH #6, filling the book with plenty of terrifying imagery, making the excessive grotesqueness work.
Does ELDRITCH #6 make me laugh as the other issues did in the past? No. Is the Anya portrayed here someone I would want on my side come the end of the world? Still yes, but no longer first pick. ELDRITCH #6 isn’t the fun romp I’ve come to expect. That all being said, it still works.
There are so many places where the finale could have fallen apart. There could have been some bullsh*t explanation for what was possessing Owen and his friends. The book could have closed on an anticlimactic note, just begging for a second run but without giving a satisfying conclusion for the moment. ELDRITCH #6 didn’t do any of that. It went balls to the walls crazy and shocking. It took all the glimpses of danger we have gotten throughout the series and brought it out into the light.
ELDRITCH #6 may not have been the conclusion I wanted, but it is the one the series deserves.
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.
FF # 21Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Nick Dragotta
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: The Dean
I get confused a lot when I read FF.
I reread FF a lot, too, and sometimes find myself more confused after the second go ‘round. I also buy FF religiously, because despite my befuddlement at being drowned in sci-fi technobabble or intergalactic politics, the series is a blast. I think the best way I can put it is that, for me, this series and the occasional FANTASTIC FOUR issue play out a lot like episodes of STAR TREK – the science is there (maybe more of it than is necessary), but it’s not meant to be studied and scrutinized, as character is, and should always be front and center.
Most of the time Hickman keeps his science employed as a stable, just-believable-enough foundation or plot point which supports these characters as the drama unfolds. It can be distracting, certainly, but the heart always shines through, and that remains the case with FF #21. There’s a Spider-Man moment here that’s a bit of a show stealer, but most of the issue revolves around the relationship of Crystal and Ronan, the fate of which is revealed in these final pages, and is likely to be a powerful moment for longtime readers. New readers may want to jump back a few issues at least to develop a better grounding, but really, this one’s best read from the start.
The series as a whole has been a great ride, but so much of the pleasure I’ve gotten out of this has been from artist Nick Dragotta, and the pairing of him and color artist Cris Peter is one that I can’t see myself getting tired of. They create an invigorating, Silver Age kind of magic on every page, merging simplicity and explosiveness, which makes me want to read each issue again as soon as I finish it – this is particularly great, since I usually need to reread FF anyway to figure out what just happened.
FLESH AND BLOOD VOL. 2Writer: Robert Tinnell
Art: Neil Vokes (with backup stories by Bob Hall and Adrian Salmon)
FLESH AND BLOOD returns with a follow up issue filled with an absolutely balls to the wall vampire tale filled to the brim with blood, gore, and saucy female vampires! I have to say that I really continue to be impressed with the continuing adventures of young Van Helsing and his cohorts in the war against the undead. Writer Robert Tinnell and artist Neil Vokes are certainly able to amp up the vampire hunting action in this volume of FLESH AND BLOOD. I was really captivated with the first volume of FLESH AND BLOOD, and I didn't think it could get much better, but leave it to the dedicated crew at Monsterverse to prove me wrong.
In the second book of FLESH AND BLOOD the game gets stepped up a bit as we see one crazed vampiress just go medieval on just about anything in her path. The sexual tension gets amped up a bit as well as everyone's favorite re-animator, Victor Frankenstein, manages to conduct a little bit of his own, ahem, research as to whether vamps only really get aroused through the drinking of blood or whether they actually are able to experience pleasure in other ways as well. Let's just say that outside of YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, I don't think any of us have really seen Victor get as down and dirty with the "fairer" sex as he does in this book.
Even putting aside this version of Frankenstein's trysts with blood sucking succubi, FLESH AND BLOOD delivers the Hammer horror movie goods. From beginning to end there is everything in this comic that you'd expect from the classic horror tales that were spun out from that magnificent horror movie factory of years past. You want violence? You got it. You want flying naked vampire chicks with wings? You got it. You want heroes with overly wrought emotions trying to sort out the best method of dealing with the madness that surrounds them? You got it. It's all here, and in volume two the scale of craziness has been ratcheted up even more than it was in volume one.
What's also great is how this work manages to be a bridge between what is very much a Van Helsing prequel tale and Bram Stoker's brilliant novel that started it all. It seems to me that future editions of FLESH AND BLOOD will carry on beyond the horror novel that brought Van Helsing into existence and become somewhat of a sequel to not only Dracula, but Frankenstein as well. Thinking about the book in a broader sense, it almost serves as a backstory to how many of those old Hammer horror flicks may have actually tied into one another in some way. While FLESH AND BLOOD VOLUME ONE sees us at the beginning of Van Helsing's career, VOLUME TWO finishes up that tale, takes us into the climax of Dracula and brings us out into the other end, exploring what may have happened to him after he helped destroy the vampire to end all vampires. Altogether, the main story in FLESH AND BLOOD VOLUME TWO ended up being a very fun read indeed for someone like me who's been a fan of the old school Hammer films for a long time.
In my last review for FLESH AND BLOOD, I forgot to mention the backup feature of the book, OPERATION SATAN. That was a big mistake on my part and I have to take the time to apologize to the creators of that tale here. OPERATION SATAN is a great little follow up to the main story in the book and I actually wish that it could be a bit longer. It's a fantastically illustrated piece that I just love. It's moody, it's creepy, and it's weird. It’s everything that you could ever want in a horror story. I would love to see more from this team in the future.
There's also another short at the end of FLESH AND BLOOD that's enjoyable as well. Entitled A TERRY SHARP STORY, it seems to be a tribute to former horror director Terence Sharp. It seems at first glance to be a re-working of the classic Frankenstein story, but may be a tribute to some of Sharp's better-known works, which also happen to be Frankenstein movies. The combination of cartoon style art with bright color combinations make A TERRY SHARP STORY stand out a bit from the first two entries in the book, but that doesn’t keep it from being an effective read. I actually found it to be a neat little chunk of story set towards the end of the book and I really felt that it helped cap the volume off nicely.
Discovered as a babe in an abandoned comic book storage box and bitten by a radioactive comic fan when he was a teenager, superhero is actually not-so mild mannered sometime designer & cartoonist, Kristian Horn of Los Angeles, California. Some of his work can be seen at www.kristianhorn.com and check out his blog at www.parttimefanboy.com. You can check also out his webcomics at www.babybadass.com and thediplomatics.com, which is currently in development.
BEFORE WATCHMEN: MINUTEMEN#3Writer: Darwyn Cooke
Art: Darwyn Cooke & Phil Noto
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Henry Higgins is My Homeboy
So…BEFORE WATCHMEN…to be frank, I actually haven’t read much of it. Maybe it’s a mix of reverence towards Alan Moore, maybe it’s how the titles looked in previews, maybe I just love the characters of Watchmen in WATCHMEN and didn’t really care to see them elsewhere. I don’t know, but I have made almost no effort to read much of the titles. Except, well, MINUTEMEN. Darwyn Cooke has provided some of the most wonderful titles of the past decade, and his stint on MINUTEMEN was always the most exciting prospect for me. The book has been consistently well done, but not because it’s some beautiful bridge to WATCHMEN, but rather it’s a solid deconstruction of Golden Age characters. It works best when you forget it’s related to WATCHMEN at all.
Writing: (4/5) Nothing in the story that really interests me has much to do with the fact that it’s the Minutemen from WATCHMEN. Much in the same way that Watchmen were originally based on Charleston characters, Cooke’s MINUTEMEN are clearly meant to be the Minutemen from the original continuity, but they’ve developed into versions of them I did not expect to see. For example, one of the most engaging relationships in the title is the slow partnership between Nite Owl and The Silhouette, who previously were only supporting players or merely alluded to. But the story of Hollis slowly building Silhouette’s trust in him is incredibly enjoyable. It has no real impact on WATCHMEN or how I read that story, but remains an enjoyable story otherwise.
When the book focuses on the connections between the two series is when it starts to falter a bit more. The fallout of Comedian’s attempted rape, while it looks wonderful (more on that in a second), doesn’t flow as well with the rest of the issue. Suddenly, the Comedian is gone, and next seen with a new costume for a page some time later. The book works best when it’s looking at a team of flawed individuals from the perspective of arguably the best of them.
Art: (5/5) Cooke approaches Gibbons’ nine panel structure, but brings his own personal flair to it. The book slowly transitions from a more relaxed, Cooke-esque style into a nine panel grid. Cooke does wonders with the set up, expanding on the standard that Gibbons set with WATCHMEN. As the Comedian is ejected from the team, two panels are diverted towards the public perception of the heroes in the form of the comic book adaptations of the team. It gives certain moments a jaunty Golden Age feel, while retaining its very stark, very tight present day. Both are incredibly well done, to be blunt.
The flow of motion is likewise incredible, turning small confrontations into sprawling tracking shots. As Silhouette storms out of a photo shoot with Silk Spectre, the frames pan across the scene. Towards the end, the beaten Silhouette is dragged into her bed, down and across various panels on the page. It’s simply amazing. As the panels shift between time and location, Cooke frames everything beautifully. Special mention goes to Phil Noto, whose colouring is grouped splendidly with the art by Cooke. The shifts from red to blue to stark white are brilliantly done, and the ability to convey a great deal of mood by simply switching palette is very well done.
Best Moment: The way Cooke portrays motion in this issue. It’s awesome.
Worst Moment: The trial for The Comedian. It’s a moment that feels rushed without WATCHMEN to reinforce it, and doesn’t work as well within this issue.
Overall: (4/5) Ultimately, this is the ideal for BEFORE WATCHMEN; It’s a solid title by very talented people that happens to be based in the WATCHMEN universe and therefore copies it from time to time.
X-O MANOWAR #4Writer: Robert Venditti
Art: Cary Nord
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Reviewer: The Dean
I’m not surprised that I’ve been enjoying X-O MANOWAR, but I am surprised with just how much I’m enjoying it.
It’s a lot of fun to go back and read old issues of X-O to see just how different the approach in this thirrd series really is. Despite Venditti’s slower, more drawn out origin of Aric and the X-O armor, the relaunch of the series reads much more quickly than its predecessors, as every aspect of this new universe shines with careful and clever consideration.
Issue #4 continues this great start and is probably my favorite so far. The presence and threat of The Vine grows, Aric comes to the difficult realization the world he knew is now long gone, and Cary Nord (who I always mistakenly call Ned Kord – a brother of Ted, perhaps?) continues to impress on pencil duty. I’ve never liked the design of the X-O armor, but Nord does his best with it, and even manages to make it look sort of cool to me in a few panels here.
If you’re only willing to give one series from Valiant a shot, this is the one to follow. If you’re not willing to give them a try, you’re probably a very stubborn person, but more importantly, you’re missing out on a really fun re-restart for the X-O, which I sincerely hope outlives the last two.
AQUAMAN #12Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Ivan Reis
Reviewer: Masked Man
Ok, I think it’s about time to talk about one of Geoff Johns’ major flaws- not enough information! This is the sixth issue of “The Others” and, for the most part, we still don’t know anything about them or their arch villain Black Manta. Seriously, how did they meet? Why did they meet? What started this whole problem with Black Manta? What is the context of all these Atlantean objects? What’s the deal with Aquaman blowing off The Others for five years? What’s Aquaman’s big secret? Now sure, the whole “what is Aquaman hiding” is a big part of the plot. But does Johns really believe that this is the only reason people continue to buy this book? Come on, Johns--we are buying it because the story is good, the characters are good and the art is good. So revealing more of this information to us will not destroy our desire to read the book. On the other hand, if you keep withholding this information, we will become annoyed over it. Remember INFINITE CRISIS? By the time Johns finally got around to revealing the plot (something like the second to the last issue), did anyone even care anymore? Or what about BRIGHTEST DAY?
Again Johns built up some cryptic plot, so by the time he revealed the return of Swamp Thing as the main point of the story, nobody cared anymore. So while Aquaman continues to be a great adventure book, Johns is getting very close to turning off readers again. Take Dr. Shin, for example: after nine issues of no information, I’m starting not to care how he betrayed Aquaman. It feels like Johns will either never tell us, or by the time he does it will not be worth all the buildup. Writers can only tease something so long before the audience says, “Screw it: I’m reading something else.” I can only hope some real answers will appear in issue #0.
Now as frustrating as that is becoming, it’s still just a cautionary tale to a great run so far. The best thing about this story (especially being a long time Aquaman fan like myself) is seeing Aquaman and Black Manta going at each other like rabid dogs. This has always been Johns’ main strength: great superhero adventures. So Aquaman gets another face-off with Black Manta, as Manta has gained the Scepter of Atlantis. As the Others join the fray Black Manta kills another one of them (hey, it’s not a spoiler, I didn’t tell you who, and I’ll bet you can’t guess). I did find it amusing that Mera is getting as annoyed as myself with the lack of context to this all. All the scenes with Dr. Shin would have been greatly enhanced if we know what was going on--what the hell was there to forgive!?
Switching gears to talking about Ivan Reis, it can get redundant; you can only say great, amazing, and frick’n awesome so many times. Because his work here is just as great, amazing, and frick’n awesome as it always seems to be. So let’s point out some highlights: The cover, Aquaman reflected in Black Manta’s helmet as both are out for blood! Page two, as Mera blasts herself through the water at mach speeds. Page nine, where Black Manta is looking to finally kill Aquaman. Pages 10 and 11, some really pissed off jaguars! Page 16, Owwwwwwww! Plus Black Manta fading into the dark at the bottom. Not to mention (though of course I am) some really nice faces throughout the issue. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens to this book when Ivan leaves.
Next issue is Zero month (I thought that was back in 1994? (shut up!)), so I’m curious if Johns will put this story on hold or find a clever way to weave it into the zero month concept. Either way, issue #13 will wrap-up the Others’ story arc, and I hope our loyalty will be rewarded. But with a tease that Black Manta is working for someone, I can sense myself not caring who he’s working for (unless it’s his dad, who we all believe Aquaman killed), since Johns has never thought to mention Black Manta might be working for someone in the past six issues.
LOCKE & KEY: GRINDHOUSE One-ShotWriter: Joe Hill
Art: Gabriel Rodriguez
Publisher: IDW Publishing
While I’m still eagerly—all right, impatiently—awaiting the conclusion of the LOCKE & KEY saga, I have to admit that the quality of these occasional one-shot issues that Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez put out make up for the fact that it’s taking them so damn long to finish the LOCKE & KEY series.
GRINDHOUSE takes the reader to an isolated incident in the early part of the 20th Century—either 1920s or early ‘30s, by my guess—as the Locke family is held hostage by a trio of criminals using Keyhouse as a hideout after a crime spree. The tables are soon turned as the Lockes use the magical doors in ways that we haven’t seen before. I never thought of the gender switch key as a weapon, but hoo-boy!
Rodriguez works in a deliberately different style from his usual clean inking that recalls the rougher inks of the crime and horror comics of the 1940s and ‘50s, and the lettering likewise is done in a pseudo-Leroy system (the rigid, machine-crafted lettering used by EC for its comic lines) that serve to evoke the tone of that period.
As an added bonus, LOCKE & KEY: GRINDHOUSE features Rodriguez’ meticulous architectural plans of the Keyhouse, showing just how insanely in-depth his artwork actually is. But come on—get to the end, already!
FLASH GORDON ON THE PLANET MONGO GNWriter & Illustrator: Alex Raymond
Publisher: Titan Books Reviewer: superhero
“Flash! Ahhh-Ahhh! Savior of the universe!”
Like many of you out there, the only real experience I’d ever really had with the classic science fantasy hero Flash Gordon was through the classically cheesy 1980 movie with the blaringly awesome soundtrack from Queen. Actually, that’s not quite true. A good friend of mine gave me some of the Flash Gordon movie serials (starring Buster Crabbe) on DVD a long time ago and I remember being quite fond of them. Truth to tell, I’m actually a big fan of the 1980 movie so I suppose you could say that I do have a soft place in my heart for the original space swashbuckler with the fantastically retro moniker.
But in all my time collecting comics I’d never really been exposed to his actual sequential strip adventures. I’m sure I’d come across some of them in a book about the history of comics, but I don’t think I’d ever discovered an actual collection of Flash Gordon newspaper strips. On top of that, I’d never really been exposed to Alex Raymond’s art either. Other than knowing that Raymond’s art was a big inspiration to mega-comics star Alex Ross, I don’t think I knew anything about the man or his work. So I was really going into this collection without any real knowledge of the wonderful world of incredible derring-do that was about to be revealed to me.
Let me just take a second to sort of stop mid-review here and say that if you are out there reading this and you are a parent of a young boy, say about anywhere between six to ten years of age, and you have been wanting to get a comic for him that the two of you could enjoy together and that would help instill an appreciation of comics and science fiction in general…then YOU MUST BUY HIM THIS BOOK! Yes, I know it’s a hardcover volume. Yes, I know it’s beautifully produced. Yes, I know it’s probably more than you would spend on a book for your kid who might get dirty thumbprints all over the pages. But I’m telling you, if you buy your kid this book and you sit down and read it with him…it will blow his freaking mind!
I mean, I don’t even know where to begin here. These comic strips are absolutely fantastic! There’s a dude who gets on a rocket ship with a scientist and his girlfriend and they go up into space and from the moment they land they are just thrust into the jaws of adventure! It’s action from beginning to end! Not only that but Flash goes up against giant lizards, and great big red monkey men, underwater sea barbarians, warriors who fly with wings on their backs, and even befriends a real honest to gosh lion man! A lion man! I mean…c’mon! That’s just fantastic! Right from the beginning I was hooked! Flash Gordon reached down into my cynical soul and pulled out the eight year old kid who loved “Star Wars” and screamed into my face, “JEDI??? I LAUGH AT YOUR JEDI!!! LOOK AT THIS!!!!”
Honestly, if someone had given me this book when I was around that age my head would have exploded and after I picked up all of the pieces and put myself together again I would have never put it down.
But that’s not to say that Flash Gordon is only for kids. No, no dear reader. Because as we all know, that which inspires the child in all of us can only be considered truly great if it brings about appreciation in the jaded adult in all of us. Beyond the crazy space antics is a beautifully realized collection of fantastic comic art. After reading FLASH GORDON ON THE PLANET MONGO I can truly see why so many artists hold Alex Raymond in such high regard. The man’s draftsmanship is absolutely terrific and each page of these strips just displays a strength of craftsmanship that is not always evident in comic art of its day. Raymond’s reputation is not overblown hype in any way, shape, or form. Alex Raymond really lives up to the legend in my opinion.
But Raymond’s genius would not be evident if it weren’t for the amazing job that Titan Books has done with reproducing his artwork. I’m not any kind of technical comic scholar but I cannot imagine the Flash Gordon comic strips looking any better than they do in this book. The artwork on every page is just crisp and clear. While the style of Raymond’s artwork certainly does give away the era in which it was produced, it really does appear as if these comics were just rolled out of the press just yesterday. There was some serious work done putting this together and I can’t imagine a true Flash Gordon or Alex Raymond fan being disappointed with the way the comic art is displayed in this volume. You top off all that amazing production value with two terrific introductions by Alex Ross and Doug Murray along with an all around fantastically designed hardcover book and you’ve got a winner. This takes the cake for me as best comic collection of the year by far. Do not miss this one.
BEFORE WATCHMEN: MINUTEMEN #3Writer: Darwyn Cooke
Artist: Darwyn Cooke & Phil Noto
Reviewer: Masked Man
Another issue of THE MINUTEMEN and another dead child! Darwyn Cooke certainly knows how to bring the funny. I jest, of course, because I don’t think anyone expects a lighthearted WATCHMEN comic—well, maybe if they made the Watchmen Babies, as mentioned on “The Simpsons”. No Darwyn with his words and great artwork brings all the dark that Hollis (Nite Owl) Mason’s book, “Under the Hood”, hoped to reveal. The bulk of the comic goes through the history of the team as laid out in Mason’s book. It also covers the immediate reaction to the book, just before it being released, by his former teammates. Both angles are being executed quite well.
On the reaction side, some characters don’t like that the book will out them. Since it’s 1962, who can blame them? Since their reactions so far have been negative, I’m curious if any of the Minutemen will approve of Mason’s book. And I’m also curious if anyone will talk Mason into editing anything out of his book. Hopefully Darwyn will show us the release of the book and we can see the public reaction to it from his former teammates. It’d be cool to see how they will handle all the negative press it will supposedly bring.
On the history side, this issue covers Silhouette’s war on crime again. This makes me wonder if The Minutemen themselves ever really fought crime! Silhouette and Nite Owl seem to be the only ones engaged in it. This is where Cooke is really forging new ground, with Silhouette and Nite Owl’s relationship--and Hooded Justice and Captain Metropolis’ relationship! The homosexual aspects of the characters seem to be very important to Cooke. He spends a lot of time showing the straight members’ reaction to the gay members and also how they react around members that they don’t know are gay. To a degree the homosexual angle of the book might be overstated by Cooke. Given the time period of the book and the current homosexual issues of the day, you can see why he might want to focus on it some much. Darwyn Cooke’s work in general often shows an interest in social justice, so I’m putting money down that Hooded Justice will be revealed as black. That could be the final revelation that dissolves The Minutemen.
This issue also covers the aftermath of the infamous attack on Sally Jupiter by The Comedian. Aside from the specific actions of the Comedian, he comes across like the Hulk in the original Avengers, making you ask the question, “Why the hell did they let this guy on the team in the first place?” We also see The Comedian take his first steps towards becoming the government spook Moore introduces him as.
Finally, as we are at the half way point, I think back to a question I had at the beginning of the series: Did this flawed team ever work together well? Seems that answer is no. So almost like Mason’s book in the story, this series comes off like a celebrity gossip column: you’re just reading it to see how bad the train wreck was.
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G
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