Comics

AICN COMICS REVIEWS: PRINCE OF CATS! SPIDER-MEN! THE TOWER CHRONICLES! WHERE’S MY SOGGOTH! & MORE!

Published at: Sept. 26, 2012, 9:17 a.m. CST by ambush bug

Issue #24 Release Date: 9/19/12 Vol.#11
The Pull List
(Click title to go directly to the review)
Advance Review: PRINCE OF CATS OGN
SPIDER-MEN #5
SWORD OF SORCERY #0
THE SOCIETY OF UNORDINARY YOUNG LADIES #1-5
DAREDEVIL #18
Advance Review: THE TOWER CHRONICLES VOL.1
DEADHORSE CHAPTER 5: WAKE
THE SHADOW #5
WHERE’S MY SHOGGOTH? Picture Book
SPIDER-MEN #5


Advance Review: In stores today!

PRINCE OF CATS OGN

Writer & Artist: Ron Wimberly
Publisher: DC Vertigo
Reviewer: Optimous Douche


The stupidity of this world makes me want to pound faces into jelly. Everywhere I looked online, this is what people are saying about PRINCE OF CATS: “A hip-hop retelling of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.”

Yeah, except: Romeo and Juliet were the focal characters of “Romeo & Juliet”, Tybalt, the lead character in PRINCE OF CATS, died in like the first four minutes of “Romeo & Juliet;” “Romeo & Juliet” at the foundational level is the story of young love and how it’s oft confused with lust. PRINCE OF CATS is the other side of “Romeo & Juliet,” the side that revels in sword play, blood lust, and the pure carnal pleasures that belong to the young.

But sure, it’s exactly like “Romeo & Juliet”…idiots! I truly hate the laziness imbedded in the rest of the reviewing community. If other sites had an ounce of self-respect, instead of cutting and pasting press releases, their reviews might sound a little more like this…

While the comic world wades in sameness,
with spandex, big events, and characters thin;
PRINCE OF CATS defies the lameness,
a smarter tale of a time that never was - yet has always been.

Wimberley channels the Immortal Bard,
with similar characters and motivation;
To say it’s a retelling though makes you a tard,
and clearly shows thy lack of education.

Tybalt was the antagonist long ago,
a foil to cock block lovers young;
PRINCE OF CATS is now Tybalt’s show,
a tale fore Romeo made him undone.

Wimberley drops pentameter in modern tongue,
infusing language yore with the time of Reagan;
as Capulet and Montague spill ancient blood,
across the streets of breakdance Brooklyn.


I won’t make you work too hard on this one. If my poetic verse is too esoteric, PRINCE OF CATS is quite simply the days before Romeo meets Juliet. I won’t call it a prequel because that would diminish the beautiful work of art Wimberley put down on page. This is a story unto itself; Romeo and Juliet are ancillary to the events of passion, frustration and honor that drove Tybalt to his untimely demise at the hands of Romeo’s blade. But even though we know how the story is going to end, can’t we say that about 90% of comics on the shelves these days? The journey is what matters. Wimberley infuses the language of urban culture inside the wrapper of iambic pentameter and not one feels forced or lacks fluidity. I’m as white as they come, so I won’t profess any credibility when it comes to the culture of urban communities. Like most, I merely have the White Man guilt National Geographic view of the urban plight from movies and television. From what I do know of “the street”, though, Wimberley hits every note of violence, territorial pride, and the fierce love and protection of family.

While I don’t know shit about the street, I do however know Shakespeare. I spent a good portion of the 90s getting my BFA in theater. I acted in three Shakespeare productions and I house managed Romeo & Juliet my first semester at school. I know Tybalt pretty well too. Given the fact he died so early in the production, our Tyblat would spend the time between his death and curtain-call trying to get me to be a pyramid notch below him in his Amway empire. You really haven’t lived until you have a man in a bejeweled codpiece espousing the financial rewards found in bulk toilet paper.

While 12 viewings of R&J hardly makes me an expert on the Bard, it gave me enough grounding to see Wimberly’s reverence to the original work without ever aping it. Juliet’s lessons in love move from the courtyard to the girl’s bathroom. Today, Juliet’s perceptions of becoming a woman would be naïve at best, and make her seem learning disabled at worst. Wimberley masterfully and tastefully winds the clock forward by having Juliet learn about love in the age when no topic is off the table for discussion. Imagine the carrot scene from “Fast Times”, where Phoebe Cates instructs Jennifer Jason Leigh on the finer points of pleasing a man. Now imagine that lesson delivered in poetic verse to Juliet from Rosalyn over a fine shared spliff. This is just one small example of Wimberly’s courage that cascades through every single page of this book.

Swords, mass bloodshed, hip-hop beats, love, and language – this is how you get kids to appreciate the value Shakespeare rained down on Western culture, not guys in tights using words that have been out of circulation for 500 years. While one must take a leap of faith with the flowery verse and swordplay instead of gun duels, everything about this book is completely accessible because it’s about the basic drives of humanity. We really haven’t changed as a species since Big Willy put quill to parchment; PRINCE OF CATS reminds us that the folly and pride of youth is unending and can undo even the greatest of royalty – including princes.

Optimous has successfully blackmailed fellow @$$Hole BottleImp into being his artist on Average Joe. Look for Imp's forced labor on Optimous brain child in mid-2012 from COM.X. Friend Optimous on FaceBook to get Average Joe updates and because ceiling cat says it's the right thing to do.


SPIDER-MEN #5

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Sara Pichelli (art), Justin Ponsor (colors)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Henry Higgins is My Homeboy


Does anyone else remember when Quesada said that if they ever did a crossover between the main Marvel universe and the Ultimate universe, it meant they were out of ideas?

Because I can’t get it out of my head. Those words reverberated around my head while I read this miniseries, but can you really blame me? Instead of using it as an opportunity to compare and contrast between the two worlds, Bendis and co. instead focus on the newfound relationship between Peter Parker and Miles Morales. Nothing groundbreaking or revolutionary happens here, instead being a subpar storyline with some very good character work.

Writing: (3/5) Not much happens in this issue in the long run, merely tying up the crossover with a nice little bow. As such, there’s not terribly much to complain about. Instead, Bendis primarily uses the issue to focus on the characterization.

Where the issue falters most is the actual story. The development of Mysterio is lackluster, and incredibly spotty. It’s not entertaining or driving, and as the story’s excuse to crossover between the two universes, it’s not the most well thought out. He’s not the real draw of the issue, however, so it’s more excusable than it might otherwise be. Instead, it’s just a reason to let Bendis write the Ultimates again, which is fine with me. There’s no real resolution or grand importance to the story, and as such much of the drive is lost early on.

The issue does have a great sense of humour and fun, focusing all of Bendis’s snarking capacity into twin Spider-Men. The back and forth between Peter and Miles is incredibly engaging and fun to read. It’s rare to see Peter actually connect with a younger hero on more than a superficial level, and the interplay between the two is consistently entertaining.

Art: (4/5) Pichelli is extraordinarily hit or miss with me. Roughly half the time I find her art explosive and well done. It’s framed well, with the action and direction moving incredibly fast, but never losing track of her characters. At others, I see the characters as too interchangeable, with lifeless group shots draining much of the energy, and when there’s too many people in the panel, her work becomes sloppy. However, Pichelli plays to her strengths here, managing to give both Spider-Men a great amount of personality with their stances, fighting style, and way they hold themselves. She’s complimented well by Ponsor, whose shiny and sleek colour is well suited to the Ultimate universe.

Best Moment: “I feel I should say something profound.” ‘With great power comes great responsibility.’ “You already know that one?” ‘Yeah.’ “Well…. That’s all I got.”

Worst Moment: Mysterio is completely pointless, and overtly convoluted.

Overall: (3/5) This could serve as a solid display of Bendis’s work at Marvel; The large arcs and overarching stories may not be the most memorable, but the character work is wonderfully written and incredibly entertaining.


SWORD OF SORCERY # 0

Writer: Christy Marx
Artist: Aaron Lopesti
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man


Just like they did with ALL STAR WESTERN, G.I. COMBAT, and MEN OF WAR, DC is trying to resurrect another old genre title in the New 52. Back in 1973, DC got the rights to Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser (Fritz Leiber’s fantasy characters), and pumped out five issues before canning it. This time, however, they are using a character closer to home: Amethyst. As with most of the characters in the New 52, Amethyst got a makeover. To start, it made me cringe, because it’s so damn clichéd, from the very first page of the loner, cast out, social misfit with two-toned dyed hair Amy, to the mom who has been keeping the secret of her supernatural origins revealed at the end. It’s like every piece of popular pre-teen and teen fiction that exists today--which I assume was the point. The good part is Marx moves the story along pretty fast and Lopresti’s art is decent enough.

The back-up feature is Beowulf, with whom DC has a history as well. Back in 1975, DC managed six issues of BEOWULF. And would you believe it was written by Michael (I produce all the Batman movies) Uslan? Well it was, and though Michael played fast and loose with the original myth of Beowulf, he kept it in the basic sword and sorcery time period. But since nothing can remain the same in the New 52, writer Tony Bedard has moved it into a Thundarr the Barbarian type future. As others have mentioned, its tone is drastically different than Amethyst, so I curious to see how that plays out.

A lukewarm start off, but I do like the sword and sorcery genre so I'm willing to see how it goes.


THE SOCIETY OF UNORDINARY YOUNG LADIES #1-5

Writer: Wahab Algmari
Artists: D.Y. and Joel Sigua
Publisher: Sturdy Comics
Reviewer: The Dean

I’m so mad that this wasn’t my idea. The amount of hours I spent watching family television in the 80s and early 90s is pretty sad, and creating something like THE SOCIETY OF UNORDINARY YOUNG LADIES would have been a great way to turn those wasted hours into some sort of redeeming product apart from the community softball team I managed named “the Balkies.” As it is, I still don’t have much to show for those sunny days indoors apart from corrective lenses and abysmal athletic abilities (that softball team went 1-9). But thankfully, writer Wahab Algarmi along with artists Joel Sigua and D.Y. have provided some validation for TV tanned kids at heart like myself in the form of an immensely entertaining 5 issue “season,” turning youthful nostalgia into a clever Cold War thriller, packed with winks, nods, and time-freezing finger-joining.

My biggest concern going into this one was whether or not it would have a practical enough story that would sustain itself for the full five issues, creating something more than just a cameo fest. So, rather than turning this into “I Love the 80s,”or attempting to recreate the shows these characters spawned from, Algarmi pulls them away from their live studio audiences, and drops them behind enemy lines in an espionage/reconnaissance mission with a Cold War backdrop. I’m glad the decision was made to keep these characters within their decade, and not turn them into ageless retellings in an attempt to modernize their characters - these are very much the characters you grew up with, they’ve just got a little more fight in them than perhaps you remember. The story is just believable enough for a gang of prepubescent oddities, and maintains the very necessary element of humor which keeps it from taking the idea too seriously, but it also never crosses that line into becoming so ridiculous that it stops working; it’s a more adult world for these characters, certainly, but we don’t see the "Facts of Life" girls slutting it up, or Punky Brewster cooking meth (maybe that’s the story I’ll write), so huge kudos to the creative team here for not taking the obvious, shock value road often traveled.

With a series like this, pacing can make or break the entire thing. Obviously, it’s a key element in any story, but when a lot of the interest is developed from an audience’s anticipation to see certain stars, I’m sure it’s tempting to throw them at us all at once, and ride the easy buzz to a decent level of success. None of that happens here, and the surprises keep coming up to the final cliffhanger in issue five, suggesting that this series can go a lot further than just this first season, and keeps my hope of seeing Alex P. Keaton as the president alive! But apart from the major players – Punky, Vicky from “Small Wonder,” and Evie from “Out of this World” – there are plenty of smaller supporting roles filled by other pop-culture icons of the era as well: you can probably guess who is “in charge”, and a certain cross-dressing duo nearly foils the young heroines’ mission.

Of course, all of this is nothing if we can’t tell who it is we’re looking at, and artists D.Y. and Joel Sigua do a more than serviceable job with the artwork. Particularly great here are the facial expressions, which I feel perfectly captured the personalities of these stars, and played a huge role in capturing the charisma and appeal of the television series these characters are based on. Each likeness is a perfect comic book representation of their real life counterparts, adding a cartoonish quaintness to the series that a more realistic, portrait like rendering could easily have dampened. That said, “Small Wonder” as interpreted by a team like Azzarello and Bermejo might be a really weird kind of awesome.

THE SOCIETY OF UNORDINARY YOUNG LADIES has a very particular crowd in mind, and I have no doubt they’ll be pleased with the results. I’m not so sure how well this will be received outside of this core group of twenty- to thirty-something TV watchers, but when you succeed so well in entertaining the target audience, I don’t think it matters. It’s a solid spy team story made great by its clever use of pop-culture icons, and is more than worth your time if for nothing more than to relive those memories of your youth. It may not be entirely original, and it’s not necessarily setting any benchmarks in the industry, but I will say this: THE SOCIETY OF UNORDINARY YOUNG LADIES might just be the most fun I’ve had reading comics all year.

For more, including SOCIETY SHORTS, check out Sturdy Comics


DAREDEVIL #18

Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Chris Samnee
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man


Well, I wasn’t planning on reviewing DAREDEVIL this month. Then I read it--wow! I haven’t been this excited about a comic book in quite a while. If you’ve been on the fence about giving the Eisner-winning series a try, now is the time, my friend.

For the most part I’ve liked Waid’s run on DAREDEVIL; it had a couple of great standalone issues like #17 last month, but nothing really bowled me over in the main story arcs. To a certain degree I felt that DAREDEVIL getting the Eisner for best continuing series just highlighted the weak state of industry right now. DAREDEVIL is a solid read each month, but if there’s nothing out there better than it, well that’s kinda depressing. But with this issue, Waid and company really got a hold of something interesting!

Ok, here’s what got me so excited: Matt Murdock (aka Daredevil) is on the outs with his law partner Foggy Nelson. Somehow Matt’s deceased father’s remains wound up in his office and Foggy thinks Matt is to blame. He’s afraid Matt is coming unglued over everything that’s happened to him since the “Shadowland” miniseries, so he breaks their partnership until Matt gets some help. Then each man gets a visitor. Foggy gets a visit from a hard luck client that only Matt/Daredevil can really help, so he reaches out to Matt. Matt meanwhile runs into his ex-wife, and now only Foggy can really help him out—cute, I know, but there’s more. Here comes the “Sixth Sense” twist to it (I won’t spoil it because, if you are going to give it a shot, you’ll thank me later). First, Daredevil has a bit of a wtf moment on page 19. Then Foggy calls him with an even bigger WTF moment on page 20! Then I sat back and said “Ok this is the coolest thing I’ve read in a long time!” I can’t wait to read issue #19. Oh yeah, being genuinely excited about the next issue of a comic, that hasn’t happened to me in a while either!

Now you might be like me in that I have no idea who Matt’s ex-wife is. I never read any of her stories. But instead of telling me to buzz off and go read wikipedia like some writers(!), Waid lays out all you need to know about her and what makes her important to the story. He also manages to do this as part of the story, not just a boring read of facts. Seriously people, if you’re hoping to be a comic book writer (or hell just a fiction writer) one day and you’re not studying Waid’s work, you should be flogged. To be the usual nit-picky goof that I am, Waid had one flaw I feel I can poke at: Foggy knew Mr. Santiago’s name before he said it to him--HA! Also I’m not sure what’s up with Mr. Santiago’s hair, I thought that hair style died out in the 50’s.

Speaking of Samnee’s art, this is one of his strongest issues. Samnee’s work is in the same vain as Darwyn Cooke and even Steve Rude, but I never thought his finished panels were as strong as theirs. Yes, that’s a very high benchmark, but I’m not saying that to bad mouth Samnee. I’m saying that because that is the direction I’d like to see Samnee’s work grow into. And more to my point, I feel he is getting stronger with this issue. The panel of Daredevil swinging through the city on page 12 is really nice, and so is the fish eye lens panel on page 20.

So the art and the writing have impressed me more in this issue than any of the others. Mark Waid and Chris Samnee are really putting out something good here with DAREDEVIL and you might want to get in on it. If they can keep it up, it would then be safe to say ‘yeah, it’s that good.’


Advance Review: In stores today!

THE TOWER CHRONICLES VOL. 1

Writer: Matt Wagner
Art: Simon Bisley (pencils), Rodney Ramos (inks)
Publisher: Legendary Entertainment
Reviewer: Ambush Bug


I understand what it’s like to be choosy when it comes to comic book reading. My gig at AICN COMICS allows me (and, more accurately, requires me) to seek out comics outside of the Big Two so that the vast landscape of comic bookery is covered in this here column. But in treading out into those untested lands known as indie comics, I’ve come to appreciate them more. Sure there are a lot of them that aren’t very good, but when I come across one worth shouting about, I have the uncontrollable urge and the luck to have a sounding board like this column to do so.

THE TOWER CHRONICLES is such an indie book, though I wouldn’t say it’s from folks you don’t know. Legendary Entertainment has brought forth 300 and WATCHMEN, to name a few of the big budgeters that reside under the banner. The company has chosen this book, a trade paperback sized graphic novel, to be the first of their line to see the light of day. And in doing so, they’ve brought along Matt Wagner (who is no stranger to comics having etched his name in comic book infamy with GRENDEL and MAGE) and Simon Bisley (kinetic artist of LOBO among other things) to make sure their first book has what it takes.

This first edition of THE TOWER CHRONICLES not so much introduces us to John Tower, the story’s protagonist, as it introduces us to the world Tower resides in. It’s a world much like our own, but the myths, legends, and nightmares of old actually exist here and Tower seems to be the only one both aware of their existence and possessing the abilities to confront them. The nice thing about the monsters of this series is that it draws from multiple cultures, some of which are not known by the general populace. So while you have vampires popping up in this book, you also have Romanian strigoi, undead monsters who wear your flesh like a suit, and other creatures of the dark. Wagner has created a world where all forms of monster are given shape with a distinct set of rules and a backstory to each species. This is an incredibly thorough and well-realized world that has sprung forth from Wagner’s dome.

Though cleaner than what I remember, Bisley still has it in the art department. The lines are a bit tighter and some of the scratchiness is gone, but those thick forms and dynamic panels are still front and present. This is a gorgeous looking book and one any appreciator of good graphic art will enjoy.

This first volume contains three massive chapters cluing us into the world of John Tower. Only bits and pieces of Tower’s character are revealed, but Wagner is too busy tossing him right into the action to worry about that. In this sense, there’s a nice pulpy, serial nature to the book as Tower appears, does what he does best, then slinks away with only bits and pieces of his own background left for us to sift through. This is an extremely strong debut from Legendary, which seems to be putting their all into their books to be a strong foundation for what most likely would be developed into something bigger and more cinematic in the future. But even if it doesn’t, we still have Wagner’s ambiguous and shady Tower character leaving us with a lot of questions with this issue and the jones to get them answered in subsequent volumes.

Highly recommended for lovers of dark action and gritty horror.

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.


DEADHORSE CHAPTER 5: WAKE

Writer: Eric Grissom
Artist: Phil Sloan
Publisher: 215 Ink
Reviewer: Lyzard


DEADHORSE hasn’t been the most consistent series I’ve reviewed. It has never been awful, but stellar issues like VACANCIES are not the norm. But Grissom and Sloan’s work has continued to intrigue as the overall mystery keeps me coming back.

Issue #5, though, is an anomaly of a different sort. The past four books have featured mysterious set ups, flashbacks that raise more questions than answers, yet move the story forward clearly. But DEADHORSE: WAKE plays out like an acid trip. It isn’t that the art is psychedelic or skewed, but Sloan does take a normal scene and adds just small oddities. The suited birds (finally!) that open a kitchen door, with blood sleeping out ala THE SHINING, only to lead into a wake featuring a red carpet--that especially stands out.

Even after our hero William Pike breaks free of these visions, the issue just gets weirder. But instead of the artwork lending itself to the abnormal, it is the plot that becomes confusing and strange.

William Pike finds out who attacked him at the end of the last issue: none other than the Dr. Andrew Conroy he has been looking for. But a man who attacks visitors on sight doesn’t seem to be the most reliable source of information. Will answers finally be given to Pike and us?

Meanwhile, we have the return of my favorite character: Sasquatch! Never underestimate the power of supporting villains. Anyhow, Elise and Edgar are chased into a cave by the Sasquatch, unavailable to help William.

Yes, at first this all seems normal, nothing out of the ordinary plot-wise. But I’d say a good half of the issue left me scratching my head. The visions William suffered after being knocked out resembled the dialogue of the Sasquatch--disjointed and jumpy. Scenes transpired with ellipsis, reading more like panels or even pages were missing.

After Pike wakes up, Dr. Conroy attempts to explain the history of Deadhorse and the work of William’s father there. This flashback is hardly any different than the dream, where there is too much cryptic dialogue and missing information to make sense of most of it.

There were positives to the book, just like other DEADHORSE issues that fail to reach the level of VACANCIES, but still contain well-done aspects. As mentioned earlier, the artwork is creative and definitely evokes a feeling of eeriness and creepiness that stands out compared to the other issues. Answers are given to some questions, or at least more clues that don’t feel like red herrings. There is only one more issue in this run and though I suspect it will not fill in all the blanks, there should be enough holes filled in to satisfy some. The dialogue continues to consistently be strong, funny, and to the point.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say WAKE is a bad issue, though it probably is the low point of the series thus far. But even at its worst, DEADHORSE has plenty of quality material that prevents me from giving up on it and I strongly believe that a satisfying conclusion can make up for an issue like this. DEADHORSE started out strong, and VACANCIES proved that Grissom and Sloan have it in them to end this run on a high note.

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.


THE SHADOW #5

Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist: Aaron Campbell
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Reviewer: Masked Man


It was around issue #5 of Garth Ennis’s DAN DARE that I came to realize it was extremely dull and not going to get any better. I started to doubt Ennis’s ability to write a straight action/adventure story. Now, after issue #5 of THE SHADOW, I doubt no more: this has been a really good adventure story.

Just like Alex Ross’ work on FLASH GORDON (another Dynamite book), Ennis is building a patchwork of THE SHADOW based on previous Shadow adaptations. Ennis has made Kent Allard the Shadow’s real name, like in the original pulp stories. After becoming the Shadow, Allard has taken a new name: Lamont Cranston. This was the Shadow’s secret identity from the radio show (though Allard, in some pulp tales, would masquerade as the real Lamont Cranston at times). Also, the Shadow has the power to appear invisible and hangs out with Margo Lane, just like he does in the radio show. Then, like in the movie starting Alex Baldwin, Ennis has expanded the Shadow’s powers with more mind control abilities and has given him a criminal past. So if you know or like something about The Shadow, Ennis is probably using it.

With one more issue to go in his story “The Fire of Creation”, things are getting interesting and deadly. The Shadow, with Margo Lane and Pat Finnegan (basically a “Star Trek” red-shirted officer), has chased down two of his old criminal associates in China. I’m a bit disappointed that the superweapon of the story is just plutonium. Of course that works for the 1930’s period piece story, but it’s always plutonium in these types of stories. In a world where a man has the superpower to cloud men’s minds, I was hoping for something more than just atomic bombs again. That said, Ennis is keeping it all interesting with several moving parts. Finnegan is proving himself useless again, Margo is still having a rotten time trying to survive it all, The Shadow is taking out the trash and the collection of villains aren’t playing nice together. The Shadow himself is moving like a skilled assassin, cutting through the ranks of his enemies. It certainly is bloody, but Ennis has The Shadow use quite a bit of guile before getting to the brute force. His enemies, meanwhile, are starting to turn on each other and on themselves as well--a little seppuku, anyone? All of this is adding up to a really good story, as the characters are dealing with their own personal agendas while being part of the greater plot.

Now Aaron Campbell is still not one of my top 20 artists. I find his ink work too scratchy and his desire for photorealistic panels done with pen and ink to be futile. I also found the two page layout of pages two and three to be a little annoying. But he has improved with each issue and as I wrote in a review of issue number three, his style works well with a character like The Shadow. He has a great eye for detail, and knows how to use black shadow really well (no pun intended). He does a really nice job drawing the small village’s dock on page five and the up-shoot of The Shadow on page 12. I feel Campbell is winning me over more and more with each issue, though I’d still like to see a smoother ink line.

So if this is any indication of the final issue, it should be pretty great. Ennis and Campbell are knocking out a nice little adventure of The Shadow, and I’ll be sad to see Ennis go when it’s done.


WHERE’S MY SHOGGOTH? Picture Book

Writer: Ian Thomas
Illustrator: Adam Bolton
Publisher: Archaia
Reviewer: BottleImp


Though the tentacled monstrosities and vast cosmic horrors of H.P. Lovecraft might seem a strange subject for what is ostensibly a children’s picture book, it bears pointing out that the horror genre has always been closely linked to those impressionable years of childhood. If we go far back to the great granddaddy of all children’s books we find the blatantly horrific tales of the Brothers Grimm, which as a matter of course include such standard horror tropes as witches and monsters—not to mention the more torture-porn sadistic aspects of dismemberment and cannibalism. In “Danse Macabre,” Stephen King’s nonfiction book about the genre, King points out that children’s minds are more elastic and accepting of the strange and bizarre than most adults’ are, and that children may see a scary movie or read a scary story and enjoy being scared without being traumatized (as opposed, he points out, to an adult whose mind has been artificially made more elastic through LSD, and who might need a long stay in a padded room after watching a horror flick whilst tripping). William M. Gaines, publisher of the notorious EC horror comics of the 1950s, put it more succinctly, comparing the thrill of a horror story to the same thrill of a roller coaster—really scary while you’re riding it, but also a lot of fun! So the transposition of Lovecraft’s mythos monsters to the pages of a childrens’ book is simply a continuation of the age-old tradition of kids’ fascination with the Things That Go Bump In The Night.

But pseudo-intellectual bullshit aside, WHERE’S MY SHOGGOTH? is just a really fun read for HPL fans of all ages.

Ian Thomas follows the clichéd picture book format perfectly, as a young boy and his cat search for his missing pet…except that instead of a little lost puppy, the boy’s absent friend just happens to be one of Lovecraft’s amorphous Shoggoths (detailed in his novella “At the Mountains of Madness”). What follows is an adventure through old houses, swamps and the farthest reaches of the black cosmos as the boy meets up with other creatures from the Mythos in his quest to find his missing pet.

As much as WHERE’S MY SHOGGOTH? is a childrens’ book, it also serves as an art book showcasing the talents of Adam Bolton. Bolton’s renderings of some of Lovecraft’s most famous creations are as wonderfully dark and strange as some of the finest pieces inspired by the Old Gent’s writings, while complementing the naïve innocence of the rhyming text. I love the fact that in the illustration of the Mi-Go (the brain-stealing aliens from HPL’s “The Whisperer In Darkness”) Bolton has painted the creature in the midst of extracting the brain from the boy’s kitten. Don’t worry—the cat survives the operation and all is well…at least until the last double-page spread. And Bolton tackles two of the entities that have been a thorn in illustrator’s sides for decades: Azathoth, the Crawling Chaos, and Yog-Sothoth, the Lurker at the Threshold. These Mythos deities are given the star treatment usually reserved for Cthulhu (though he’s well-represented too), and Bolton manages to convey the cosmic aspect of Lovecraft’s work even when slipping in sly comedic touches that keep the book from getting too serious.

That sense of fun (extending even to the endpapers of the book, which are emblazoned with a “Chutes & Ladders” type game board design that need only dice and tokens to play) is what makes WHERE’S MY SHOGGOTH? a pre-Halloween treat for horror fans no matter what their ages, and perfect for the Lovecraft lover in your life.

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.


SPIDER-MEN #5

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Sara Pichelli (art), Justin Ponsor (colors)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Guest Reviewer: Mighty Mouth


The streets of Manhattan are in ruin! The alien hordes have crippled communications worldwide. The Ultimates have fallen and all hope rests on not one, but two Spider-Men. Well no, not really--it’s not that big a deal.

Issue #5 in this limited series concludes the first ever encounter between Peter Parker and Miles Morales. With Peter still trapped in the Ultimate universe, it’s up to the two Spideys, Nick Fury and the Ultimates to track down Mysterio in hopes of returning Peter to the 616 universe where he belongs. Sure enough, some fighting ensues and then there is the matter of keeping Peter’s secret identity…well, secret.

I know the general consensus is that Bendis is a little overrated, or rather overexposed; still, I liked what he did with this quirky little tale. The obvious finish would have been to have these two Spider-Guys team up in a titanic tussle with both universes at stake. Instead, Bendis delivers a more personal story jammed with chuckle moments and some substance to boot. I particularly like how Mysterio would have triumphed, if not for his self-serving inquisitiveness and Peter’s indispensable message for Miles on what it means to be Spider-Man.

Another element that made this read rather enjoyable was the captivating artwork produced by Italian artist Sara Pichelli. Every one of her panels surges with charisma and sentiment. It’s not hard to see why Sara is quickly becoming a fan favorite. In addition to being able to illustrate exciting action sequences, Pichelli constructs believable backgrounds and expresses emotion in her character renderings. Some other artists that disregard these essential elements could learn a thing or two from this little lady--right Rob?

SPIDER-MEN Issue #5 may not provide the most amazing or ultimate conclusion that one might have hope for, but nevertheless it makes up for its lack of earth shattering KA-BOOM by delivering a more intimate finale. I mean, must we always require a confrontation that levels buildings and shatters blocks of skyscraper glass to appreciate the outcome? Of course not (hmmm…come to think of it, maybe that wouldn’t have been all bad either).

SPIDER-MEN #5 may not be what I would call a climactic finish, but I would dare to say it is a satisfying one.


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. 26, 2012, 9:19 a.m. CST

    I didn't read any of that yet!

    by Daniel

    Because I'm first.

  • Sept. 26, 2012, 9:54 a.m. CST

    Dont. Say. My. Name.

    by i_created_this_to_do_a_first_post_bitches

    Because I'm second.

  • Sept. 26, 2012, 10:02 a.m. CST

    Spider-men

    by Loosejerk

    I've really enjoyed Spider-men so far. It sounds like the finale is pretty lackluster. That's too bad.

  • Sept. 26, 2012, 10:11 a.m. CST

    Spider-men

    by Joenathan

    I also really enjoyed it, but didn't find the ending lackluster at all. The change in the world of the Ultimate book is obvious, but the way it ends makes me interested to see if there are ripples in the regular universe too

  • Weeeeeeeee!!!!!!!

  • Sept. 26, 2012, 12:26 p.m. CST

    Spider-men

    by Hedgehog000

    Haven't read the last issue yet. Bendis has two flaws I've often noticed in his work that I think hurt this. One is with his villains. Sorry, ultimate Mysterio is as uninteresting as old Mysterio. The other is that I think Bendis just isn't as good with 616 Spiderman as the Ultimate side. Part of me kept thinking this ought to be such old hat for 616 Spidey, he'd be like "Oh, everyone's ten years younger and I'm dead here? That's interesting. Where's the Watcher, he oughta be able to explain this."

  • Sept. 26, 2012, 12:30 p.m. CST

    Society review

    by Hedgehog000

    From what I could pick up of the review, this sounds like it might appeal to me as someone of that era, but it would really have benefited from a little more explanation of the plot. Is this supposed to be about a team of former child stars or something?

  • Sept. 26, 2012, 12:44 p.m. CST

    @hedgehog000

    by TheDean

    Fair enough! It's the actual characters, not the former stars, gathered for a recon/rescue mission. Think LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN (as the title implies) but with 80s, early 90s television characters. Definitely worth checking out at the site linked in the review - they're quick reads, and very well done.

  • Sept. 26, 2012, 1:04 p.m. CST

    Hedgehog

    by Joenathan

    Ultimate Mysterio IS old Mysterio. That's the gimmick. And I disagree about regular Spidey, his moments with Aunt May and Gwen and all were great. Plus, it obviously was old hat for Peter because he DIDN'T ask for the Watcher, since he knows the Watcher only shows up when the universe is threatened, so since melonhead didn't show up, Peter could infer that this is just a little crisis, not a big one. You're so lucky you have me to explain this shit to you

  • Sept. 26, 2012, 1:57 p.m. CST

    Joenathan

    by Hedgehog000

    Yes, I'm so lucky. Hopefully you didn't spoil it for everyone who hadn't read it yet. My point was I don't think Pete would be all that upset or emotional finding he died in the Ultimate universe or that Gwen was still alive there. I will say I liked how Gwen got po'd at the idea that MJ was a supermodel in 616 continuity. I was being facetious about the Watcher (merely referencing classic What If openings where the Watcher explains how one single change caused a whole different universe to spring forth). I'd just love to hear that kind of explanation for the Ultimate U.

  • Sept. 26, 2012, 1:59 p.m. CST

    Dean

    by Hedgehog000

    Thanks. I'm surprised nobody's suing. A lot of those shows are still in reruns somewhere. Anybody nostalgic seeing Blair back on Survivor?

  • Sept. 26, 2012, 2:11 p.m. CST

    Really?

    by Joenathan

    You don't think he'd be emotional? Seeing Gwen alive again? Seeing his Aunt May in pain? Sure, they aren't "his" versions, but that's hardly something that would matter in the moment. I think you were serious about the Watcher and I, for one, am not buying your cover story. Not for a moment.

  • Sept. 26, 2012, 3:23 p.m. CST

    Yeah, really

    by Hedgehog000

    I know it's not all continuity any longer but how many times has Pete seen alternate universe Gwen, house of M Gwen, clone Gwen, children of Osborne and Gwen, imitation Gwen? Heck, there could have been a Gwenbot in there for all I know. Ultimate Gwen isn't even as close a match as some of those have been. Frankly, I'm surprised he'd even recognize Aunt May. In his universe, Aunt May's never been less than about 75, even when he was the same age as ultimate Pete. It would be interesting if 616 Pete now calls up Kitty Pryde and suggests a hook up.

  • Sept. 26, 2012, 10:02 p.m. CST

    exactly

    by Joenathan

    Interesting. I'm glad you see things my way

  • Sept. 26, 2012, 10:06 p.m. CST

    Spider-men #5 has an AMAZING Finish that's not mentioned

    by Jawsh Murdock

    There is a cliff hanger at the end of the issue that no one mentioned (and I won't spoil), but it's freaking great. I loved it.

  • Sept. 26, 2012, 10:45 p.m. CST

    Society of Unordinary Young Ladies

    by tbrosz

    You had me with the cover of Issue 4 and Wednesday Addams. I agree--one of those concepts we all wish we'd thought of first.

  • Tower is so insanely bad ass it makes my nose bleed and my eyes feel like jalapeno juice got in them.

  • I believe it's the opposite. It's also about how forbidden fruit is twice as sweet. You'd have to be 13 to believe those characters were in love in any meaningful sense.

  • Sept. 27, 2012, 9:58 a.m. CST

    jawshco

    by Poptard_JD

    I'm with you, I love the cliffhanger! I'm so curious!!! arrrrgh!

  • Sept. 27, 2012, 11:55 a.m. CST

    Nicely Stated Hst666

    by optimous_douche

    We all know it ain't love, but it's still shoved down in our throats in the school system that way...so I was just trying to keep it real fro teachers across America.