Comics

AICN COMICS REVIEWS: Advance review of Alan Robert’s KILLOGY! AMAZING SPIDER-MAN! GRIMM FAIRY TALES! GUARDING THE GLOBE! ALIEN THE ILLUSTRATED STORY! & MORE!!!

Published at: Sept. 12, 2012, 8:29 a.m. CST

Issue #120 Release Date: 9/5/12 Vol.#11
The Pull List
(Click title to go directly to the review)
Advance Review: KILLOGY #1
GRIMM FAIRY TALES #77
HAWKEYE #2
GUARDING THE GLOBE #1
ALIEN: THE ILLUSTRATED STORY
THE OCTOBER GIRL #2
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #693
FLASH GORDON: ZEITGEIST #6
STUMPTOWN: THE CASE OF THE BABY IN THE VELVET CASE #1
TOMORROW JONES #1
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #693


Advance Review: Available to pre-order now/on stands in October 2012!

KILLOGY #1

Writer: Alan Robert
Art: Alan Robert
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Reviewer: Ambush Bug


A year after completing his excellent and harrowing tale of madness CRAWL TO ME, Alan Robert is back with a whole new kind of terror and this time he’s brought along some friends. After talking with a lot of writers, I’ve come to find out that in order to get into the heads and develop the voices of their characters, they cast their stories with real life people. Here, Alan Robert has gone a step further and lets us know right off the bat who these people are he’s based his story characters on in KILLOGY, a new limited series to be released this October from IDW. Since Mr. Robert has been kind enough to be a guest on my horror panel for the last few years at SDCC and NYCC, he was kind enough to pass me on a super-secret advance copy of his new book and I’ve decided to share it with all of you!

KILLOGY starts off with a contrived but undeniably cool concept: what if tough guy mob actor Frank Vincent (who most know from GOODFELLAS and THE SOPRANOS) happened to be locked in a prison cell with rock star Marky Ramone (from the Ramones…durrr!), and the gorgeously talented and talentedly gorgeous Brea Grant (star of HEROES/DEXTER/FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS and writer of WE WILL BURY YOU) the night some insanely ghoulish shit happened to the world? Yes, it’s got a bit of a whiff of THE USUAL SUSPECTS, but it’s one of those concepts that works for me. Casting real life people (playing roles, but basically they are playing themselves) is a fun way of adding a bit of fun meta-conceptuality to this miniseries and I like it.

I don’t want to reveal the threat, but it’s right up Robert’s alley as all of his work tends to take a more horrific route. Here it’s handled with ambiguity, which adds to the horrific nature of the conundrum the three characters find themselves in, and while they are safe yet starving in the cell for the time being, they have nothing to do but tell each other the story of they ended up there. And that’s how our story begins.

Having talked with Robert about this book, the stories each of the characters recite in the cell are interconnected, but with Frank telling his tale first, how those interconnections play out isn’t made clear at first. I do know that I had a blast reading Robert’s mafia-style Italiano dialog. I could almost hear Frank mutter the clichéd but hilarious Italian colloquialisms I used to enjoy every week on THE SOPRANOS. Robert gets the voice perfectly.

Robert also did the art of this book and adopted a completely different style from the photoshopped and digitalized stylizations from his previous series CRAWL TO ME and WIRE HANGERS. Here Robert adopts a more straightforward method of drawing. Though it is a bit heavy on inks at times, Robert shows amazing range in his accurate depictions of his stars as well as some horrific scenes filled with scares and gore.

I can’t wait until October to enjoy this series on a monthly basis. It’s definitely something I can’t wait to see play out and with a winning “cast”, a cool premise, and some extremely talented artwork, KILLOGY looks to be a series that’ll satisfy the ghoul in me.

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-September 2012. Also look for Mark's exciting arc on GRIMM FAIRY TALES #76-81 which begins in August 2012.


GRIMM FAIRY TALES ISSUE #77

Writer: Mark L. Miller
Artist: Marco Cosentino
Publisher: Zenescope Entertainment
Reviewer: Lyzard


As I said last time, THE LOCKDOWN has no resemblance to any major fairy tale and because of this the issues are best read this way. Though these issues are a part of the GRIMM FAIRY TALES series, the story of Sela Mathers (or this portion of her story) could stand on its own, and that is probably for the better.

After the explosion and riot that nearly destroyed the Eschue Corrections and Remand Penitentiary, Sela needs to try even harder to hide her powers. Not as easy as it sounds, for around every corner there is a threat. She has to deal with a sociopathic jail yard bully and a curious warden, all of whom are a threat to exposing her true identity.

The character of Sela Mathers, especially her self-pity, can be a tiring trait. However, Miller is able to twist and turn, finding a new take upon this whiny characteristic by the end of the issue. Previously I complained that Miller’s writing was too expositional. Not a problem this time. The dialogue, especially bully Spyder’s, can be cheesy. However, I’d prefer cheap jokes over boring explanations that slow down the read any day.

I wish I could say that the artwork improved as well, but new artist Cosentino’s drawings feature the very sexist portrayal that the GRIMM series has been pegged for. Sexist is a strong term, especially since I feel that Zenescope isn’t purposefully trying to objectify women, but only following in the footsteps of the portrayal of women in comics for years.

But it isn’t the unnecessary shots of overly endowed asses that I complain of. It is the shower scene. Wisps of steam barely cover Sela and others. Obviously, characters would be naked in a shower; however, I think it is unnecessary to draw attention to what isn’t shown. But hey, I’m a girl, so I obviously have a bias.

That being said, I’ll give Cosentino credit for remaining consistent to the style Kyriazis established in issue #76.

No matter the problems (or annoyances, some would argue) I have with the artwork, it hardly affects the quality of this book. Miller’s writing, the direction the story went and is going all work. Whether the artists continue to change in and out, as long as Miller stays on, THE LOCKDOWN will continue to have a strong run.

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.


HAWKEYE #2

Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: David Aja
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewed by Humphrey Lee


This may be one of those occasions where I’m just blowing smoke up my own ass, but I’ve always felt that a book like HAWKEYE here, where a top-tier writer is basically doing what they please with a middle-tier character, is really where franchise comics shine. It has just always felt like these types of characters get all the benefits of being in a comic book universe – being able to draw from the long history of the universe, dragging in the occasional team up, playing off events that take place in the big crossovers without having to be a direct part of them, etc. – without any of the drawbacks of being a major player in that universe. The biggest drawback of the Spider-Mans, Supermans, and so on of the comics world is that outside of an Elseworlds tale or some other out of continuity romp, you cannot go terribly crazy with the characters. Well, you can, but I believe that history has shown when you get a bit far off the beaten path with the big players and the characters wrapped up in their worlds the fans will rip your head off for it. Obviously I’m speaking in generalities here, and there’s exceptions to every rule, but it’s really not in much dispute that the Big Two have a lot more riding on a Spider-Man than they do a Daredevil and thereby have to play things a little more conservatively with the former than the latter.

Now, HAWKEYE does not exactly go to the lengths that some of the secondary character classic runs have done or are currently doing. It’s not a DAREDEVIL where Frank Miller or Brian Michael Bendis are stripping the character down to the core, and it’s not ANIMAL MAN or SWAMP THING where guys like Jeff Lemire and Scott Snyder are carving a horrific swath through their own little section of the DCU. What Matt Fraction and David Aja are doing is taking a character that is a highly skilled badass with a checkered past and telling uber-stylish tales about him being a highly skilled badass with a checkered past. I particularly loved, loved, loved the first issue, which was a great take on the idea of the street level hero and what they go through to bring a little justice to the world. They get their hands dirty, they break bones and have to spend time recovering, and they tend to touch lives a little more intimately than the heroes that do their bit helping the world by throwing large parts of it at each other.

The second issue is a bit more underworldly. Okay, and kind of almost jailbaity. It’s definitely a pretty non-standard romp between the dead-eyed one and his fill-in during his temporary death (Kate Bishop) as they roll through a Cirque Du Soleil-type event filled with thieves and miscreants doing their thieving type things. Bullets and arrows fly, the book properly undertones Clint’s past in such a world, and there is some very not-so-subtle subtext about his feelings for young Ms. Bishop and how far they go and what could be implied by them. The book just fucking moves and it’s the silkiest of smooth. That really is why this book is rocking so far. It’s the slickest action/crime-thriller Guy Ritchie and his ilk do in their primes. It shows you why Clint Barton is a great character and doesn’t complicate things because it’s “just” a Hawkeye book. There isn’t two spinoffs waiting in the wings, this isn’t that dreaded “yet another” series, the character isn’t running up to his thousandth issue or any of that stuff. Shit, this book may not exist anymore if/when Fraction decides to stop writing it (given that the sales pan out) and that’s why he can go balls out on it, “balls out” being the secret ingredient to success most times.

And speaking of balls out, David Aja is putting a pretty big pair out there and showing the world how big and shiny they are. Like I said, this book just fucking moves and Aja is definitely the U-Haul. The way he works the page for all it’s worth, from a big splash that gives you the big *gasp* to jamming in double digit panels and giving you almost that montage moment of all the shit going down every page is an exhibition in cinematic storytelling on the comic page. Funnily enough, this book is being touted as the “breakout star from ‘The Avengers’” and while I’m not so sure I buy that I would sure as hell buy a movie ticket to a Hawkeye flick if it were anything like what we have received in these two issues so far. While that “breakout” line previous might be a bit of hyperbole, I don’t think it’s any stretch of the word to say HAWKEYE is the breakout comic of the year thus far. Sing it, True Believer.

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.


GUARDING THE GLOBE #1

Writer: Phil Hester
Artist: Todd Nauck
Publisher: Image Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man


Well mini-series aside, Robert Kirkman’s superhero team Guardians of the Globe (from INVINCIBLE) finally has an ongoing book. And they really expect you to know this going in because there is no explanation of set-up, characters, superpowers or even the name of the team (!) in this issue. This first issue jumps right into the action, which is usually a good hook, but you’d assume some form of context would be explained at some point--but Hester says screw that! “If you don’t know what we’re talking about then hopefully you’ll hang around long enough to find out--or hey, I hear Wikipedia is good.” It’s probably not the best way to start the first issue of a new series.

The comic also focuses more on team member Brit’s family trouble, more than any type of Globe guarding. Again, I feel like we are learning some intimate details on some of these characters before learning who they are. Hester does do a good job bouncing back and forth between characters and showing off their interactions. He’s also crammed so many plot points into the issue that you have a pretty good idea of what to expect in the coming months. He also gives the impression that the series will focus more on the personal drama of the heroes, rather than the world saving adventures (since the two adventures in this issue wrap up off camera). Of course, character drama is very important, and Hester writes it well, but this is a superhero book--or at least that’s how it’s selling itself with 16 superheroes on the cover ready for action. So it should be interesting to see how they plan to execute this series.

Artist Todd Nauck does a good job bring these characters to life. All of his pages are interesting to look and feature attractive figures. On the down side, he’s a little more style or substance. So while everything looks good, it doesn’t all look right. It appears he learned to draw by copying Scott Campbell’s work rather than studying with real drawing teachers. He does, however, attack his pages with no fear, though, loading panels up with figures, backgrounds and details, at all types of angles. He appears to be a good fit for this series overall.

So while I think this first issue isn’t quite as strong as, say, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning’s THE HYPERNATURALS, it’s a decent start and a better start for someone already engrossed in Kirkman’s INVINCIBLE world. I mean, if you want to know what’s up with Brit’s marriage, Donald’s life, El Chupacabra’s new direction, and see some of Best Tiger’s gun-fu action, this comic will not disappoint.


ALIEN: THE ILLUSTRATED STORY

Writer: Archie Goodwin
Illustrator: Walt Simonson
Publisher: Titan Books
Reviewer: superhero


The biggest memory of ALIEN that I have is visiting my uncle’s house with my family as a wee lad and walking into the living room where most of the adults had congregated to watch the movie on this fancy new gadget called a VHS player. The kids had been segregated away in another room playing with each other in peaceful oblivion, completely unaware of the magnificent and possibly horrifyingly traumatizing film that was screening in the room right next to us. I had come out of the kids’ playroom, possibly to ask for a glass of water or something, seen what was on the screen and just stood silently and watched for a minute. What I remember seeing was a group of astronauts in a giant, spooky looking spacecraft. I’ll never forget what I saw because I recall that the visuals in that sequence had a powerful impression on me even at that age. Or maybe I’ll never forget it because of the absolute look of panic that ensued in the room when everyone realized that a young kid had walked in right when some unfortunate explorer was about to discover a facehugger for the first time on my uncle’s TV screen.

I didn’t really get to see the original ALIEN for a long time after that. I actually don’t think that I saw it until after I had the opportunity to have my mind blown by James Cameron’s ALIENS. I was a pretty overly sensitive young child, you see, and so my family pretty much knew to keep me away from anything horror related. I mean, we’re talking about a kid who had to be dragged kicking and screaming out of a showing of POLTERGEIST by another uncle after the shit pretty much started to hit the fan in that flick.

But after being forced to sit through a showing of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE with a group of friends when I was a little older and having what I like to call a “genre revelation”, I became completely enamored with most horror movies. After ol’ Leatherface, it was all downhill from there. It would probably be a little bit of time after that when I’d be exposed to the original ALIEN, but when I finally did see it, it would become one of my favorite sci-fi/horror flicks of all time. I’ll never forget the impact that ALIENS had on me, but when I finally got a chance to see ALIEN I remember thinking how much more truly creeped out it made me than its sequel.

So with ALIEN being one of my favorite flicks, I was really wondering how a graphic novel like ALIEN: THE ILLUSTRATED STORY would be able to adapt the groundbreaking film by auteur Ridley Scott. Comic book movie adaptations are a tricky enterprise. The biggest hurdle in bringing a film to the comic book page is that most people who will pick it up will have already seen the movie. Not only will they have seen the movie, but they will probably have liked the movie very much. The other problem with adapting a film to a comic book is that, honestly, the comic book page has a lot to live up to when it comes to bringing something to life that originated on the big screen. I personally feel that comics have the edge when it comes to telling fantastical tales of sci-fi adventure, but I will admit that the still image has certain limitations when competing with a moving one, especially when the moving image is an established work. I think that most movie adaptations are a bit of an uphill battle for the comic creators, mostly because the creators are constrained to sticking to the story and vision established by the film. It must be a truly thankless task for some comic pros to adapt a film. For the most part, they are stuck to making an adaptation and not being able to really just go out and rock out to their own muse. They have to stick to a blueprint of what’s come before, and as most of us know, an artist who must be confined is not going to be able to do their best work. Not unless they are especially talented and are able to take something that most artists would be confined by and turn it around and flip it on its head. Thankfully, for the publishers of ALIEN: THE ILLUSTRATED STORY, they had the legendary Archie Goodwin and Walt Simonson working on their book.

Is ALIEN: THE ILLUSTRATED STORY a faithful adaptation of the ALIEN movie? Well, yes and no. In Goodwin and Simonson’s hands ALIEN becomes something faithful and yet very different from the movie it was based on. Much of what happens in the movie is very much the same in the comic book, as it should be. But in Goodwin and Simonson’s hands ALIEN becomes less of a gripping thriller and more of a giant intense action piece. While some may consider this a detriment I see it as a somewhat different and spectacular development. Anyone who’s been a fan of Simonson knows just exactly how full of energy and power his work can be. Simonson takes the concepts and designs of H.R. Geiger and Ron Cobb and makes them explode on the page. It turns out that Simonson is perfectly suited to illustrate the unfortunate adventure of Ripley and crew. Simonson’s unique style takes what Scott set to celluloid and takes it in a bold and impressive direction. While the art and color palette of the book definitely make reading ALIEN a much different experience than watching ALIEN, it is still a pretty powerful read. I mean, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen Walt Simonson draw one of Geiger’s acid blood monstrosities. Simonson’s talent takes ALIEN to a very different place but it’s a great take on material that someone like me who is very familiar with the movie was able to appreciate. I cannot express how much I was impressed with Simonson’s work in this book. If you are a fan of his THOR work or if you remember his brilliant classic graphic novel STARJAMMERS then you will love this. If you love ALIEN the movie, then this may be something different than what you’re used to but it is nevertheless an impressive take on material you already love. So, in my opinion, ALIEN: THE ILLUSTRATED STORY is a win win for both comic book fans and film fans alike. It gives you some of Walt Simonson’s best comic book work and gives the original ALIEN movie a facelift that it didn’t really need but is striking in and of itself. Highly recommended.

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.


THE OCTOBER GIRL #2

Writer/Artist: Matthew Dow Smith
Publisher: Monkeybrain Comics
Reviewer: The Dean


To be perfectly honest with you, the only reason I took a chance on this one is because it has October in the title. It’s my favorite month, and I got so excited thinking about hoodies and pumpkin coffee that I downloaded the second issue before I even opened the first. Well, as luck would have it (along with overwhelming evidence proving that anything affiliated with the fall rules), this wound up being one of my favorite reads of the week.

THE OCTOBER GIRL from Matthew Dow Smith is a conspicuously stated proponent for escapism that serves as a reminder of why this, and other mediums of storytelling, are as important or as cherished as they are. At just 13 pages an issue, this series emits more heart and emotional impact than many of its 22 plus paged peers, which is something I hope young adult readers, the target audience of this one, pick up on. Make no mistake, though: this title touches on themes that are central to any human experience, ones I think adults may appreciate even more, but they’re presented in a short, simple, easily digested manner that you’ll probably find yourself pondering long after you’re done.

In its first issue, THE OCTOBER GIRL introduced us to Autumn Ackerman, a disillusioned teen (redundant?) who’s beginning to wonder if the simple, often imaginary world of her childhood wasn’t the better “reality” to the stress and responsibility filled alternative. A discarded memento of her youth is later discovered in the dumpster by the story’s end, which establishes one of the better hooks in an opening issue that I’ve read all year. The frustrated and disheartened tone of Autumn’s narration makes the conclusion to the debut issue a less than obvious venture into fantasy, presenting us with a couple of key questions which Autumn and the readers will struggle to answer throughout: Is this real? Does it matter? This second issue pushes this perhaps not-so-imaginary world even further, introducing more elements into Autumn’s world that may turn out to be just her mind’s way of giving itself a vacation from her everyday realities. At this point, I’m as excited for the next issue as I am for the conclusion, because I’m dying to find out how legitimate these visions are, and where this will all lead Autumn development-wise.

Writer and illustrator Matthew Dow Smith (DOCTOR WHO, WITCHBLADE) imbues his characters with a sort of reserved, modest intelligence that make his characters immediately likable without too much wordy exposition. Autumn is no exception here, and though each of these first two issues has had a great deal of internal dialogue, Smith is able to keep her likable, dodging the often whiny or selfish affiliations that the overuse of such a tool can have. Autumn’s illustrated character is at least as well depicted, looking every bit the lost and defeated teenage girl that the words imply, and the monochromatic blue coloring sets the tone perfectly. In a story like this one, not enough is better than too much, and the simple, clean art from Smith compliments his story perfectly. It’s pretty amazing what’s accomplished here with nothing but straight lines forming simple shapes, but as rudimentary as that sounds, this is probably the most invested I was in anything I read this week, and I thoroughly enjoyed trying to take in every mark that went into each character or setting.

At only $0.99 an issue, there’s no reason not to at least give this new series a try. Matthew Dow Smith is creating a fun, reverential story of the power of fantasy, which is as unique as it is universal. These “Digital Firsts” are becoming some of my favorite series out there, and are among the more interesting risk-taking ventures in the industry right now. If you haven’t already perused some of what’s being released as a digital first or exclusive, let THE OCTOBER GIRL be your first step into a larger world*.

* “Star Wars” was on in the background, and Obi Wan said that right when I was trying to figure out how to end this review.


AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #693

Writer: Dan Slott
Art: Huberto Ramos
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Henry Higgins is My Homeboy


The Alpha storyline currently running in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN…it did not leave me with the best first impression. It set up a fairly predictable story with not much behind it. And look what a difference a single issue can make. While the basic elements of the story are lacking, the deeper beats are incredibly strong.

On the surface, it’s not the best issue of SPIDER-MAN. The big reveal from the last issue(that Alpha has caught the attention of Jackal) ends up not being terribly important to the events of the story. His role could have been played by any number of “mad scientist” villains, and he fails to leave any form of impression on the reader. The quick fights sprinkled through the issue aren’t terribly memorable, and The Jackal is almost as bad as the new Hobgoblin in terms of obnoxiousness. At first glance, it seems Slott reined it back in and just let Ramos draw cool people exploding other cool things (which, admittedly, looks really cool, because it’s Huberto Ramos drawing cool things).

Instead, Slott has put his effort into creating a wholly unique quandary with Peter Parker. In an interesting parallel, Alpha continues to be a sensation even after he caves in to temptation and uses his powers for personal gain, while Spider-Man spends the issue belittled by others and being plagued by “aaaaaaaangst!”. The impressive thing about it is how well it works. The parallels between the two have been noted, with Peter believing the only difference between the two was the murder of Uncle Ben. MJ reassures Peter that is wasn’t just Ben’s death that made him a good man, but rather Ben period. It creates an interesting balancing act, where Peter (who in the last few years has become extra committed to the super heroics) is doing all these wonderful acts, but can’t exactly explain why. Is Peter a hero because of guilt, or because he’s a compassionate, good person? And if Peter is a hero because of who he is, not because of what happened to him, then what does that say about Alpha? As Peter imparts an inspirational speech onto him, Alpha only sees the immediate future and how it pertains to himself. It forces Peter to come to the conclusion that, since this is his responsibility, it’s up to him to “fix” the situation--namely, removing Alpha’s powers, because he’s not worthy. It’s a fascinating look at how Peter views himself, and Slott handles it all deftly.

This is a story that didn’t start on the best foot, and the Jackal doesn’t add much to the story, but Slott has put together an extremely interesting and engaging issue of SPIDER-MAN.


FLASH GORDON: ZEITGEIST #6

Writer: Eric Trautmann
Artist: Daniel Indro
Co-plot and Art Direction: Alex Ross
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Reviewer: Masked Man


Well, it’s been a while, but Dynamite finally got another issue of FLASH GORDON OUT. The bad news is, despite an effort to lower the saturation of the coloring, the artwork is still pretty muddy. Indro’s artwork probably looks better in black and white as opposed to the final printed page. With no inker, Indro likes to use as much pencil shading as he can and once you lay bright computer colors over (under, actually) it, it’s not very appealing. This issue is the best looking one of the series. I am curious to see if they can figure out a way to do it right, but they shouldn’t be experimenting in the actual book. This is something the creators should have figured out before publishing the books. It’s akin to Pixar not developing hair and fur before they started final renders of MONSTERS INC. So the weakest part of FLASH GORDON: ZEITGEIST - despite Alex Ross’ cool designs and despite Daniel Indro’s nice looking pencils - is the art.

Now, I’m a long time fan of Flash Gordon, though I have yet to really read the original comic strips. I’ve watched all of Buster Crabbe’s serials (my god does that guy look like Flash Gordon come to life!), DeLaurentiis’ big campy movie, SyFy’s ridiculously bad series, and Filmation’s great animated movie as well. With all that personal history with Alex Raymond’s creation, the biggest challenge for me as a reader is knowing the set-up story too well. Just like sitting through Spider-Man’s origin again in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, it’s a little laborious. Alex Ross and Eric Trautmann did try to craft a more original take on Flash Gordon’s first adventure, while cramming it with everything they loved about the previous Flash Gordon adaptations (oddly enough, they took nothing from the Syfy show - go fig). So their bizarre and brutal world of Mongo is one of the best you can come across. Just as the title states, this is a story brimming with everything that is ‘Flash Gordon’.

So, while we have the usual set up: Flash is on the run from Ming, Prof. Zarkov is forced to work for Ming and Dale is being forced to marry him (though seriously, why did Ming ever want to marry her? Know what I’m sayin’?), they have rearranged things to keep it from being too predictable. They’ve also expanded on Filmation’s angle of Ming being a benefactor of Hitler (since this is a period piece from the late 1930’s) as a small group of freedom fighters from Mongo seeks to prevent Ming’s takeover of Earth. They’ve also add more court intrigue as well, with Klytus (Ming’s right hand man) who is working with Princess Aura and Flash to overthrow Ming. With this sixth issue, they’ve set the stage for the start of Flash’s united rebellion against Ming and the last second rescue of Dale at the altar. On some level it seems a little too quick. I would have liked to have seen Flash really build alliances and friendships with all the other races of Mongo before the big climatic battle, but this could just be the first quarter.

It’s just a shame that the art work is so muddled on this series, because I feel the story is working well. It’s certainly better than Ardden Entertainment’s recent Flash Gordon comic book. If you can get passed the overbearing artwork, I think most sci-fi fantasy fans would enjoy this series, and things should get more interesting once they’ve finished with all the typical Flash Gordon plot points.


STUMPTOWN: THE CASE OF THE BABY IN THE VELVET CASE #1

Greg Rucka: Writer
Matthew Southworth: Artist
Oni Press: Publisher
Vroom Socko: Out of retirement


It's been two years since the close of the previous STUMPTOWN case (the rather ZERO EFFECT-ishly titled THE CASE OF THE GIRL WHO TOOK HER SHAMPOO BUT LEFT HER MINI), and I must say it's good to see P.I. Dex Parios back in action. She has a new office (at Union Station, no less) and she hasn't even had time to finish unpacking before a client comes knocking--a client whose baby has gone missing.

That's not baby as in child. More of a baby as in an all-original 1977 Gibson Les Paul. The client, Mim Bracca, had just finished playing the Crystal Ballroom, and was looking forward to a relaxing end to six months on tour (is it a coincidence that this issue comes out right after MusicfestNW wraps up? Probably, but I'm going to pretend otherwise.) She had her guitar, her favorite guitar, her first guitar, her baby, packed up and sent to her Portland home. It never showed up. That's where Dex comes in.

It's hard to gauge this sort of thing from the first issue alone, but this feels like a smaller story than the prior STUMPTOWN arc. If you haven't read that one (and why not, then? Look, I know the collection is thirty bucks for a four-issue arc, but it's worth every penny!), the first issue introduced not only our hero, but her brother, her casino-owning client, a pair of thugs, and a whole family of villains (literally, a family.) This story is starting out with what feels like a smaller cast. It doesn't seem to be as far reaching with the plot. This isn't a bad thing, mind you. Plus, the final page has a twist that I will not spoil here, one that hints at a potential for larger story elements down the line.

Also, another benefit of this being a somewhat tighter story is that it's highly accesssible to anyone who hasn't read the first volume (again, go out and read it!) The one nod to the prior story is a mention of Hector Mareno, a major player in that narrative. He may be a player here as well, but I doubt it. The scene in question seems more of a character set-up for Dex, one to orient new readers as to the character of our protagonist. It's also my favorite bit of writing in this issue. In a few pages, Rucka shows us how this woman approaches her job, reveals her moral core, and throws in some gratuitous quoting of Shakespeare. There's another terrific scene near the end involving a stopwatch, but as a piece of writing this scene is the highlight of the issue.

As for Matthew Southworth, he knocks this out of the park. One of the hardest things to do in comics is to draw two people standing around, having a conversation, and to make it engaging. It comes down to one simple element: body language. Southworth knows his body language. And the rest of the book looks great, too. Hell, his Union Station is almost as beautiful as the real thing.

Is this as strong a first issue as last time? Not quite. Is it a solid beginning that promises plenty of twists and turns? Hell yes. Does it have the same spirit as the last volume? Without question. Do Rucka and Southworth bring it on every page? They're Rucka and Southworth--you have to fucking ask? Am I going to miss out on even one page? Not on your life!

Vroom Socko tends to answer to the name Aaron Button, and has called Portland his home for almost 37 years. His current favorite past times include rooting for the Timbers, (Turn on NBC on the 15th to see why,) recreational walking, and watching GRIMM while taking a shot every time the show screws up Portland geography. He hasn't touched a comic from Marvel or DC in over a year. No one is sure if that's a good or bad thing.

TOMORROW JONES #1

Writer: Brian Daniel
Illustrator: Johan Manadin
Publisher: Various
Reviewer: superhero


Tomorrow Jones is a teenager with problems. She's got an overbearing mother, a father who ignores her existence, and an overachieving brother who spends most of his time trying to impress those parents. But that's not the worst of it. See, Tomorrow (yes, that is her name) and her family all have superpowers. The Jones clan is a family of "Legacy Heroes", people who have been handed down the torch of super heroism throughout the generations. Now that Tomorrow is getting older she's expected to carry on the tradition and follow in her super-folks’ footsteps. She's expected to fight the good fight and do it how it's always been done…in a skimpy outfit, in high heels, and wearing a smile the whole time.

The problem is that Miss Jones doesn't want to do the whole superhero thing. She doesn't feel like she fits into her own family and doesn't want to make an attempt at trying to fit into two phony identities (a secret identity and a superheroic one) that don't represent what she truly is or what she truly wants to become. It's not that she doesn't want to be one of the good guys (or gals, as the case may be); it's just that she's not sure how she wants to approach it. Much like any other teenager she feels like a square peg in a round hole and any attempts by her family to make her fit in just increase her growing sense of social anxiety.

I have to say that I really enjoyed TOMORROW JONES. Writer Brian Daniel takes the whole "teen with superpowers" thing and takes a bit of a different approach with it than what we've seen before. Much of this new approach has to do with the fact that the protagonist is a female. Being a superhero fan since I myself was a teen, I could never imagine that someone wouldn't want to be a superhero. But when you're looking at it from the viewpoint of an awkward teenage girl who just doesn't want to run around in a bustier while she's punching the bad guys…it doesn't seem like it'd be that much fun. I found this to be a refreshing take on the tried and true teenage superheroes stories from years past. Tomorrow Jones' problems really come across as legitimate gripes, and the writer balances the tightrope of making her identifiable to both male and, I would suspect, female readers. There's a lot to love in Tomorrow Jones. There's humor, commentary on the current state of superhero comics and how they can't relate to female readership (There's a particular bit I enjoyed where Tomorrow's mother suggests that her new costume would be much less embarrassing/revealing if she wore skin tight pants while she was wearing it), and a very relatable central character. Creators Daniel and Manadin do a great job making TOMORROW JONES a sort of female version of INVINCIBLE, but with its own very distinct voice. I liked this book very much and think that it’s a great antidote to a comic book industry that too often has no real idea what most young female readers want to see in superhero books about women and girls. I hope it does really well, because I feel that the comics world need more books out there like TOMORROW JONES.


AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #693

Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Humberto Ramos
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: The Writing Rambler


I JUST WANT TO PUNCH ALPHA IN THE FACE. I JUST WANT TO PUNCH ALPHA IN THE FACE. I JUST WANT TO PUNCH ALPHA IN THE FACE. Okay, I think it's out of my system now…no, wait: I JUST WANT TO PUNCH ALPHA IN THE FACE. Okay, I'm done for now, but I can't promise it won't come back in this review.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #693 follows the further adventures of Alpha (who was introduced in ASM's giant sized 50th anniversary issue #692) and his sidekick Spider-Man (at least that’s the way Alpha sees it). I get that Dan Slott wants to make us hate Alpha, but damn if he isn't approaching Jar Jar levels of annoyance territory only two issues in. Unlike Mr. Lucas, though, I firmly believe Slott knows what he is doing. You can see it in the way he has thrown references towards some other infamous sidekicks/new additions, with my favorite being Alpha referred to as Poochie (the rocking dog from “The Simpsons”/Itchy and Scratchy fame) in the last issue. Slott seems to be setting up Alpha for the great fall that comes after a run of pride. I’m not sure exactly how it will happen or if he’ll be able to make me care when it does, but without a question, that fall is coming.

I’ll give Slott one thing, though: Alpha is the perfect example of both what Spider-Man could have become had it not been for Uncle Ben and Aunt May’s upbringing and also a slight commentary on what would happen if someone from today’s youth stumbled onto some powers. Now before I break into full blown “get off my lawn” mode, I’ll clarify my point. I don’t mean it as a commentary on what’s wrong with today’s youth, instead I see it more as a commentary on how in today’s breakneck speed society of instant overnight celebrity it would be near impossible for a kid who got powers to not turn out the way Alpha is. Today’s world is not designed for anyone to carefully hone a craft. Success, at least in its popular culture form, is a mixture of dumb luck and being exposed enough for people to notice. It really doesn’t take much else. The sad truth is often that hard work doesn’t always pay off any more, and Alpha getting the spotlight over Spidey in this issue is a prime example of it. It’s an interesting idea Slott brings up while still making Alpha’s face in need of a good punching.

The artwork in this issue is handled with the quality that is always on display by Humberto Ramos. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m not the biggest fan of Ramos’ stylized artwork being used for AMAZING SPIDER-MAN but there’s something about Alpha’s personality that actually meshes well with the style.

I’ve been a fan of Slott’s work on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN for some time now, and it’s been his stories that have got me back into having ASM on my pull list, so I trust that he has a decent story mapped out here. I’m still not sure if Alpha’s introduction was the right way to kick off Spidey’s big 50th anniversary year and makes it seem that this may only be filler to hold off until the big 700th issue that’s down the pike. I hope I’m proven wrong, and with Slott’s handling of Spidey over the past year plus, I’m sure I will be.

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


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

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Readers Talkback

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  • Sept. 12, 2012, 9:41 a.m. CST

    Hawkeye's okay, BUT

    by Laserhead

    that "I don't want to sleep with you" from Clint, from OUT OF NOWHERE, is really, really, really creepy. That'd be like a college professor taking a girl student aside, explaining that she's his best student and that he sees all sorts of remarkable talent in her, but he wants her to know-- she didn't ask, he just wants her to know --that he does NOT want to sleep with her. This isn't the first time Fraction's done 'older male mentor will bang young ingenue' but it's creepy and felt wildly inappropriate. That, and especially Fraction's tendency to turn everything into a form of AA literature is really, really off-putting.

  • Sept. 12, 2012, 10:19 a.m. CST

    Hawkeye

    by Joenathan

    Ripping off Hickman? Do you think Hickman is fuming about it? Maybe he's sitting at the table at the big conference, grindign his teeth and just staring, staring, staring at Fraction. I bet Hickman is pissed! Or... maybe it's just mainstream comics catching up to an innovator... As for the whole "I don't want to sleep with you" thing, what made it weirder is that Kate is portrayed as obviously wanting to. How old is she supposed to be? Hawkeye I'd say is... 29ish, give or take. Is Kate still in high school or just graduated?

  • Sept. 12, 2012, 10:48 a.m. CST

    I think there's a reason Hickman doesn't draw anymore

    by Laserhead

    As an artist, he was about Bendis-level. The info-graph stylings didn't seem innovative. Particularly if you've ever seen 'pop-up-video.' Coupled with ultra-stiff figures and physiology seemed like the work of a man who should be a writer. That said-- one of the very best comic writers of this generation, no question. But I'd be fine if he never drew anything again.

  • Sept. 12, 2012, 11:22 a.m. CST

    Yes

    by Joenathan

    I always assumed the muddy colors were there only to obscure the sub-standard art.

  • Sept. 12, 2012, 11:42 a.m. CST

    SPOILER *Huge A vs X rant* SPOILER

    by Paul

    I just read a spoiler on whats happening at the end of issue #11 and man am I angry. This individual has gotten so little page time and now their doing what their going to do to he/she?!?!?!?!?! Its gong to take awhile to get used to/over this one.

  • Sept. 12, 2012, 12:05 p.m. CST

    AvsX

    by Laserhead

    Just read it-- what's the big deal? I'm not sure anyone's even dead. But if 'the guy' is dead, I'm not sure I care, and it won't be for long, anyway.

  • Sept. 12, 2012, 12:08 p.m. CST

    Also

    by Joenathan

    Who is surprised? Raise your hand if you are surprised AT ALL by that "twist"

  • Sept. 12, 2012, 12:17 p.m. CST

    The AvX death works.

    by DOGSOUP

    You know it does. It explains all this Uncanny Avengers business

  • Sept. 12, 2012, 12:43 p.m. CST

    Guardians

    by Hedgehog000

    I'm at least interested. I'll try anything in the Invinceaverse. I'm ordering the trade of the mini. Most of the Guardians had pretty interesting plots in Invinceable.

  • Sept. 12, 2012, 12:44 p.m. CST

    Older men are irresistable

    by Hedgehog000

    to younger women in mass market entertainment. In real life, not so much.

  • Sept. 12, 2012, 12:56 p.m. CST

    What about the "What If.. Uncle Ben Didn't Die?"

    by ME_M

    I only read it once, but that writer pointed out that Peter was well on his way to being an asshole (but not an @sshole) when Uncle Ben's death (and Peter's role in it) shocked him into humility. There is definitely room to believe that Ben & May would not have been able to control Peter, if he didn't receive that shock.

  • Sept. 12, 2012, 1:17 p.m. CST

    You do know that the AILEN GN...

    by Mikey Wood

    ...is as old as the film, yes? This is a re-print. It was originally released by Heavy Metal books to coincide with the film's release. Good stuff, that.

  • Sept. 12, 2012, 1:18 p.m. CST

    Jesus...ALIEN, that is.

    by Mikey Wood

    Brain's faster than my fingers.

  • Sept. 12, 2012, 2:04 p.m. CST

    Yeah, the Alien thing is a re-issue...

    by superhero

    and it's a DAMN FINE re-issue!!!

  • Sept. 12, 2012, 2:45 p.m. CST

    who dies in a vs. x

    by foree forehead

    and what... happens? go on, spoil away. go on, go on go on go on go on go on (mrs. doyle from fr. ted)

  • Sept. 12, 2012, 2:49 p.m. CST

    Fraction and AA is so shitty

    by Joe Jones

    I detest AA people and their we-are-more-enlightened-than-you-because-of-our-shared-weakness-before-drugs-and-alcohol to they always ram the 12 step bullshit down your throat. How pathetic was the cassanova back matter where fraction and that other AA junkie from that washed-up shitty 90s band wax "cool" about how cool and enlightened they are about art and shit. like, "we're SO fucking cool, we're gonna, like be 'over' everything". Fuck that cult and those self-serving assholes that dismiss anyone who isn't a fellow weak-spined junkie as a common "normie".

  • Sept. 12, 2012, 3 p.m. CST

    i don't do AA...

    by foree forehead

    ...but i do do the not drinking anymore part. godspeed to those than can manage their gargle better than i eventually couldn't. godspeed i say!

  • Sept. 12, 2012, 4:34 p.m. CST

    Fraction's recovery lit

    by Laserhead

    The Iron Man alcoholism with the dwarf in need of twelve-step was hilariously bad. Just the whole story point-- "We're going to get drunk and make weapons to save the world and then feel guilty for ten issues about being drunk for a couple hours, during which, we should remember, we made weapons to save the world." I think when the dwarf effectively asked Tony to be his AA sponsor I did a spit-take guffaw.

  • Sept. 12, 2012, 6:33 p.m. CST

    The Manhattan Projects is great as always, but....

    by 3774

    ...Laika was female. I know they desperately wanted to use the 'licks balls' joke, but...well. It'll just confuse the children who don't know their space exploration history.

  • Sept. 12, 2012, 9:26 p.m. CST

    Uncanny X-Men was great this week

    by Laserhead

    With a capital G. Cyclops's Charlie Sheen line to Magneto-- Ilyanas revalation to Peter-- And the excellent mental dinner between Emma and Scott, which contained more character and depth than the entire miniseries. Nice work, Mr. Gillen.

  • Sept. 13, 2012, 10:04 p.m. CST

    Nice to see you again Vroom!

    by HiWayRobry

    As a fellow Portlandite it's always great to see the City of Roses get some pub. I haven't read Stumptown (and why the hell not?!?, cuz I'm cheap), but I'm hooked on Grimm. It makes Portland look like Portland. Which, if you've never been here, is eclectic, rain-soaked and just plain weird. Which is why I love it!!

  • Sept. 14, 2012, 12:11 p.m. CST

    @mikeywood Thanks for helping me avoid looking like a fool

    by AlienFanatic

    I picked it up after reading the AICN article and was going to come back here and make a few comments, one of which was that the art style had a very 70's vibe to it (the loose drawing, the way they drew the rocket exhaust, etc.). But knowing that it's a re-issue makes SO much sense. I'd still love to see a modern artist go back and do another take on it, but with the opportunity to add in the deleted scenes, such as the cocoon and the airlock sequence where Brett almost catches it. Whereas those things might have ruined the pace of the movie, they'd be totally at home in a graphic novel. Dark Horse, make it so!

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