|Issue #26||Release Date: 9/26/12||Vol.#11|
(Click title to go directly to the review)
Advance Review: PATHFINDER #2
FURY MAX: MY WAR GONE BY #6
BATMAN INC. #0
AMERICAN VAMPIRE #31 / VOL. 4 TPBK
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #694
MARS ATTACKS #4
Advance Review: In stores today!
PATHFINDER #2Writer: Jim Zub
Artist: Andrew Huarat
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
I’m a long-time D&D dork, but sadly life has limited my days of hours-long campaigns with bong hits and Led Zepplin in the background down to 30 minute WoW jaunts between honey-do lists and dog walking.
So I’ll fully admit PATHFINDER the RPG passed me by. Nonetheless, my love for orcs and crits remains steadfast and true. If I can’t get carpal tunnel rolling 20 side die, I’m grateful to still have time for comics so Dungeon Masters like Jim Zub can run me through their campaigns on page.
Zub seems forever steeped in the ghost of Tolkien. Whether by design or circumstance I’m not sure, but it suits him. I’m a HUGE fan of Zub’s tongue in cheek tale of yore SKULLKICKERS, where a dwarf and strong guy crack wise at traditional fantasy tropes – if you haven’t read it, check it ooouuuttt.
For PATHFINDER, Zub straps on his serious face to deliver a tale of rhyming goblins infected by a virus that transforms them from their usual state of just being a nuisance into marauding blood-thirsty hordes.
Of course, no threat would be complete without a band of heroes to stop them in their tracks. Again, I don’t know PATHFINDER the game for dick, but I do know fantasy. Zub not only strikes the chord of class balancing from a powers perspective, but more importantly, he provides a differentiation of voice in accordance with each class. The team consists of Valeros the drunken brash warrior; Seoni, the wise calculating sorceress; Merisiel, the doe-eyed elven rogue; Ezren, the wise wizard; Harsk, the surly Dwarf guide; and last but not least, Kyra the wise, soulful, and serene cleric.
Zub melds these personalities into perfect usefulness on and off the battlefield. Whether trading barbs in a bar or battle cries amidst bloodshed, each adds a new and distinct layer to the tale that would be missed were they not there.
Speaking of bloodshed, Good God is Huarat a great artist. From facial expressions in the quiet moments to dismembered goblins, Huarat expertly brings the moments of PATHFINDER to glorious life in every panel. Likewise with each background. When Valeros first meets Kyra in the middle of an open field, I could almost feel a soft summer breeze emanating from the page.
Fans of PATHFINDER are brain dead if they don’t buy this book. Aside from seeing a campaign spring to life, the back of the book is packed with maps and enough 8d stats to almost make the book encyclopedic in nature. Not a PATHFINDER player? That’s A-OK. Zub makes the story as close to other fantasy fare as possible without outright aping previous authors. In fact, I was pleased to see he has immense talent outside the immense snark of SKULLKICKERS. Parody isn’t easy, but it’s certainly easier than dipping into a well where many buckets have been before.
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.
FURY MAX: MY WAR GONE BY #6Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist: Goran Parlov
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: The Dean
Jack Kirby once said that while Ben Grimm was likely the way most people saw him, Nick Fury was the way he wished people saw him. Had New York ever been teeming with Viet Cong or threatened by Cuban revolutionaries in the 1920s, he may have grown into the grizzled, ruthless man we see in FURY MAX: MY WAR GONE BY. Lucky for us, though, Teddy Roosevelt and his elite regiment of “Power Rangers” beat back Professor Ratigan’s Foot Clan, preventing the spread of communism to New York, and Jack grew into the ever lovin’ King of Comics we remember today (WARNING: this review may not be historically accurate). But say there were some alternate dimension where a grim, more vicious Jack loved nothing more than cursing and whores – well, this alternate reality may very well be where Garth Ennis found his Nick Fury here.
This is Ennis’ third Fury-centric series (FURY MAX and FURY: PEACEMAKER precede this one), and arguably his best. MY WAR GONE BY is a guided tour of the Cold War that’s sure to leave readers not just with PTSD, but also a better understanding of the man behind the eye-patch. The first four issues focused on Fury in French Indochina in the early 50s, as he witnesses the beginnings of a very different war with a very different enemy. Issue five then shot us ahead to the start of the Bay of Pigs invasion, where Fury and two other soldiers are tasked with assassinating Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. If you know your history, neither of these operations go so well, and Fury begins this issue in captivity.
There’s a fair amount of Ennis brutality in these first six issues, but it’s far more contained in this new series, and I think much more effective. MY WAR GONE BY is an attempt to explore the mind of Nick Fury, examining those moments that turned him into the grim, bitter man we see in more modern settings, or in some of Ennis’ other stories. Those horrific scenes that warrant the MAX label go a long way in explaining the why behind Fury’s permanent scowl, and they typically resonate long after you read the issue’s final pages more for their psychological impact than for their gruesome cool factor.
When Goran Parlov draws a head being pressed in a vice, though, that gruesome cool factor is pretty considerable. Parlov joins Ennis once again for this Fury run, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. You can almost see a little bit of light leave the Colonel’s one remaining eye with every nightmare he lives through. I love the way Parlov draws Fury, but I knew that going into this, so what I’m most thrilled by here is the introspective tone he captures in his framing, and awesome sense of setting he maintains despite the closely cropped panels. The looks on his characters’ faces alone go a long way in informing readers that these characters are strangers in a strange land, but like those disgustingly awesome horror elements, each opportunity to flesh out a background is effectively placed, making the varying locales distinctly memorable, and thus closely affiliated with those momentous events in Fury’s life.
I usually prefer comics to their movie counterparts, and barring one or two exceptions, never get too excited when I hear news of a characters jump to the silver screen. That being said, I need to see this Nick Fury on film. If the only Fury you know is the guy who makes cameos in various Marvel movies, you should really give this series a shot. It doesn’t get much better than Ennis and Parlov in general, but put them on a war story that delves into the mind of one of Marvel’s preeminent badasses, and you’ve got an essential read on your hands.
BATMAN INC. #0Writer: Grant Morrison & Chris Burnham
Art: Frazer Irving
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Henry Higgins is My Homeboy
BATMAN INC. has been consistently the strongest Batman title in recent memory. The final act in Morrison’s Batman epic, it’s all been building to the climatic battle between the armies of Leviathan and Batman. Sadly, the tragedy in Colorado over the summer halted the series temporarily, and it feels like ages since we’ve seen any traction within the story. This issue bears the #0 numbering, reflecting DC’s prequel month that is just finishing up. And while the story doesn’t necessarily advance, Morrison uses the time to explore how exactly Batman recruited so many like-minded heroes to his cause. Morrison and Irving excel with the format.
Morrison uses the issue to tell how various heroes have been recruited by Batman. The vignettes following each hero transition seamlessly from the classical superheroics of Knight to the exciting recruitment of Dark Ranger to the comedic moments with El Gaucho. They never feel out of place, each one instead being its own fully constructed moment. The issue is fantastic, and is a joy to read.
Irving’s art may at times become a little muddled and confusing, but when it works, it works. During an early scene, Lucius Fox introduces Bruce Wayne to the next line of Batman androids. Watching the Batmen in action is simply fantastic. The blend of colours helps turn an oft-seen scene (of the hero getting a tour of the lab) and makes it visually engaging and exciting. The framing of the book is expertly handled, always finding an interesting angle or unique placement. No one character is mistakable with another, and Irving takes command of the comic in a way few artists can.
The flow of action later during the Dark Ranger vs. Knight fight is especially brilliant. Every time Irving gets an opportunity to show one of the Batmen in action, the comic kicks up and looks remarkable.
(5/5): An extremely solid comic, and one of the most enjoyable “prequel” comics to come out to the best of my memory.
TAKIO #3Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Michael Avon Oeming
Publisher: Marvel Icon
Reviewer: Masked Man
So Brian and Michael’s super-powered middle schooler keeps rolling along in her second miniseries. I didn’t catch the first graphic novel, but if you’re like me, never fear--Bendis does a good job of keeping everyone up to speed on what is going on in this issue.
It is an all ages comic, so Bendis keeps everything light and breezy. Aside from Oeming’s artwork, nothing really jumps out at me in this issue. In fact, the issue is so breezy that not much happens at all. We do get two fight scenes, but it’s pretty much the same fight scene repeated twice. The bulk of the issue mostly defines the changed relationship between Takio and Kelly Sue: once best friends, now enemies. The issue is so breezy, though, I didn’t think it was necessary to spend that much time on establishing the change in the character’s relationship, especially since I assume it’s well covered in the first graphic novel. Be that as it may, Bendis does do a good job portraying the kids’ relationship. And I did enjoy the hints of inner struggle between Kelly Sue and her father. Both are the bad guys, or secondary bad guys to the father’s boss, but Bendis writes their dialogue in a way that suggests they are not really looking to hurt Takio or her younger sister Olivia. This does not stop them from kidnapping Takio to experiment upon her, though. So for me this was the best part of the book.
Oeming’s artwork is as fun and inventive as ever. To a certain degree, I feel people hate him or love him. His work is very unique and I’m sure that puts a lot of people off. That uniqueness and dynamic quality of his work is sure to win him fans as well. The two pages of Olivia searching the house for Takio are very well done. On the other hand, I have no idea what is going on in the last two panels on page eight. People screaming, Takio posing--huh?
So if you are looking for a light and breezy well put together adventure book, TAKIO could be the book for you. It has flaws, like most of Bendis’ work seems to have, but then the good , as usual, often outweighs the bad in his work as well. The next issue’s cover looks pretty cool, but considering this issue’s cover had nothing to do with the story inside, I’m not so sure that’s a selling point.
AMERICAN VAMPIRE #31/VOLUME 4 TPBKWriter: Scott Snyder
Artist: Rafael Albuquerque
Publisher: DC Vertigo
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
Hollywood rapes entertainment and hipsters are voyeurs to the crime. Case in point - vampires. All across the intertubes poser geekdom bemoans the lack of originality and the complete bastardization of Transylvania’s favorite bloodsuckers. Everywhere you look these faux intellectuals resound a chorus of “Twilight blows this and True Blood blumpkins that,” as if vampire entertainment begins and ends solely in moving pictures. And I guess for these lazy complainers it clearly does. They blame Hollywood for doing its job of appealing to the 98% who gleefully lick the jukebox, begging to be taken advantage of, instead of simply logging their hipster asses off the internet for five minutes and looking towards some other medium of satisfying entertainment. You know--a form where originality still burns bright, where the story is a marriage of you, the author, and artist making the comic come alive by their design and your unique interpretation. Comics…I’m talking about comics.
I’m not saying the sheep of hate are wrong; there are flaws aplenty with the aforementioned properties of True and Twi (aside from being direct copies of one another in theme), but if the Internet complainers would actually crack open a comic for two seconds they would see that all of their complaints truly roll up into one overarching issue. For vampirism to truly matter there must be suffering, and I mean beyond the bemoaning of teenagers looking to get their Bellgina Edcocked. Both vampire and victim must feel one another’s losses and laments and then sadistically feed upon those vulnerabilities - and I’m sorry, but the ending of a true vampire story should never be Asian massage.
This is why comic fans live in such solitude: we understand good entertainment doesn’t always end happily—actually, the darker a piece gets the happier we seem to become. Oh, we’ll revel in joy for a time, but then fully expect a piece to end with an atomic wedgie of the heart. This is the antithesis of formulaic Hollywood pabulum and why most comic properties end up losing a piece of their soul when moved to celluloid. 98% need their Prince Charming, the 1% of pseudo intellectuals need to feed on the 98%, and us final 1% of comic fans are merely left to watch the animals consume themselves from our island of ideation and originality.
When Scott Snyder started AMERICAN VAMPIRE a few years ago I knew there was something special in the pages…well, at least half the pages. For all of Stephen King’s virtues, of which there are many, he is simply not a comic writer. Comics are not an exercise in littering a page with words; it’s a dance between writer and artist, both consuming the page in equal parts. King handled the exposition of America’s first vampire, Skinner Sweet, well enough but it was then unknown Snyder’s exploration of 1920’s aspiring starlet Pearl which had me truly enthralled. I’m on record--Google it. It was eminently clear even then Snyder was in this story for the long haul. The seeds he was planting in those first few issues would clearly take time to flourish. I don’t think anyone guessed at the time he would rewrite the 20th century as he unfolded Skinner and Pearl’s stories, but that icing on the cake of complex characterization makes me wish he would slow the fuck down as the present story arc puts us well into the McCarthy era. Since it took three years for us to get from the Old West to the 1950s, I fear we’ll be at 2012 in no time. What then? Space Skinner? A Pearlonaut? Most definitely not.
31 is a pivotal issue for a few reasons: one, we are fresh off Pearl and Skinner banging out their blood lust while Pearl’s decrepit husband was in a coma nappy. Two, we learn why Skinner really made Pearl. Basically, it was to shift the old vampires’ jealousy of Skinner’s ability to still get a tan on to Pearl so he could leave LA in peace and start up Sin City. Three, Hattie Hargrove, the anti-Pearl, returns on the last page as the grand puppet master of all 1950’s vampire troubles. I’m laughing right now because with her slashed psycho Marionette cheeks and freckles she looks like a demented puppet. I’m easily amused.
Disgust, betrayal, angst, longing - the emotions run as deep through AMERICAN VAMPIRE’S characters as Snyder’s exploration of American history. And VOLUME 4 of AMERICAN VAMPIRE is the perfect hard covered embodiment of this statement. Till this point Snyder has stayed pretty linear: He and Stephen King danced between the late 1800’s and early 1920’s in Volume 1, shifted to depression era for the tale of the Hoover Dam and Skinner turning the lights on in Sin City for Volume 2, splayed out both campaigns of WWII in Volume 3…but…but…but…now uses VOLUME 4 to play time travel roulette giving us a prequel of Skinner’s time in F-Troop fighting the injuns, a trip to a very bloody Happy Days, and a little racism song and dance south of the Mason-Dixon line. The thing that makes these stories truly sing is that Snyder captures the zeitgeist of the time. The Indian extermination arc tests the merit of a man’s soul as Skinner and his brother, like Cain and Abel, decide whether winning this war requires the final solution. You can guess Skinner’s answer to this quandary. Our Happy Days arc explores the short-sightedness of youth as one rebel without a cause teen tries to exact vengeance against Skinner for slaughtering his family. Youth knows no consequences, which is the perfect armament in a war against a seemingly unstoppable foe. The final story focuses on a black taxonomist for the VMS in the Deep South when moonshine flowed freely and segregation was a law, not just a way of life.
Albuquerque’s art adds the perfect atmosphere for this book, with his scratchy lines and ability to shroud a page in darkness without ever getting muddy or too obscure. I’ll admit, he took a while to grow on me, but now I couldn’t imagine anyone else in the driver’s seat.
Titles like AMERICAN VAMPIRE and NEW DEADWARDIANS prove that the vampire genre has not been bled dry. Despite the surface virtues of immortality and godllike powers, vampirism only works if writers remember that it’s a curse, not a blessing. While writers like Snyder give some of the vampire species an out from their traditional downfalls like sunlight and allow them to still feel human emotions, he intuitively counter-balances the blessings with great burdens of immortality and the insatiable thirst to feed on the sentient.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #694Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Humberto Ramos
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Guest Reviewer: Mighty Mouth
Spider-Man turns 50 this year (he looks pretty good for his age), and AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #694 wraps up the three part “Alpha” storyline before the big thrust towards issue #700 begins.
This story got off to an enthusiastic start. If you missed the last two issues, here is a little background to bring you up to speed: Mid Town High School student and resident wallflower, Andrew Maguire (don’t look at me, I didn’t name him) attends a class trip to Horizon Labs, where Peter Parker now works. During a demonstration of a new form of hyper-kinetic energy, in an act that can only be described as repetitive fate, Andy is accidentally charged with this newly created energy and ZAP! Alpha is born.
TA-DA! A new superhero in the spirit of Spidey! Well…no, not exactly. You see, Andy lacks the moral sensibilities and the strong upbringing that Peter Parker had. In short, Andy appears to be everything Peter is not. As the story progresses, Andy displays a lack of humility and an irresponsible attitude making him more a delinquent than a defender. Infuriated by this unruly behavior, Peter contemplates how to change this new hero back to a zero.
Ok, still with me? Good. This brings us to AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #694. First I have to say I absolutely adore the cover of this issue. Ramos pays homage to one of the all-time classic comic covers of the 70’s. Yep--this issue’s cover was designed after the classic confrontation from the1976 Superman vs. the Amazing Spider-Man one shot. If you’re the nostalgic type, the cover alone almost makes the book worth the buy. Unfortunately, the cover is a tad deceiving.
Exploring the notion of how a young man who is the product of today’s self-obsessed and glamour-crazed society handles attaining super powers is a novel enough concept. With these elements of drama and the prospect of a deep central question, the story felt fresh and inspired. So coming into this issue I found myself anticipating an ending worthy of a modern morality tale. Sadly, this was not the case.
The real problem I have with this issue rests in the all-too-expedient resolution, especially after a two issue build up. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like this little shit “Alpha,” not one bit. I couldn’t wait for Spidey to take him down a few pegs. It’s just that the conclusion of this tale left me saying aloud “Wait, that’s it?!?”
This isn’t to say that the story is a complete dud. There are some gripping action sequences regarding commercial airlines losing power, and Humberto Ramos’ pseudo-manga style is growing on me. It’s just a shame that Dan Slott squandered the opportunity to deliver a more substantial conclusion. Slott has crafted a number of enjoyable stories over his run on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN regularly. In fact, after that abysmal storyline known as “Brand New Day,” Slott was instrumental in restoring AMAZING SPIDER-MAN to a worthwhile reading status again. That’s why I felt a little let down with this particular issue. But, I digress; I guess everybody is entitled to miss the mark on occasion.
MARS ATTACKS! #4Writer: John Layman
Artist: John McCrea
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Reviewer: Masked Man
John and John’s MARS ATTACKS! continues to impress me. Layman continues to build an elaborate history of Earth/Mars relationships and McCrea continues to draw the crazy, gore-filled action in an amusing fashion. One of the things I feel the two are doing really well is mixing the fun in will all the sci-fi action. There is a healthy sense of humor throughout the book, but it’s no comedy as the Martians, lead by general Zar, tear up the place in a rather gruesome fashion. Overall this is an action book, which is fitting since the title is MARS ATTACKS!. And like an action book, the plot is stronger than the characterizations. Thankfully, Layman’s plot is quite interesting.
This issue brings to light that Mars has been having trouble with Earth for centuries. Every time a Martian comes peacefully down to Earth, it ends in a blood bath. And now General Zar has had enough, deciding it’s time to take out the trash! We also learn that the Martians have been abducting humans for a long while as well, probably trying to find out why we’re so blood thirsty. As in the Tim Burton Mars Attacks! movie, things don’t go well for these abducted people either. The ending of this issue was a bit too convenient, I think. As a civil war vet instinctively knows what a grenade is, an Aztec warrior manages to fly a space craft, and all the main protagonists manage to meet up with each other on the last page. I can’t help feel Layman was a bit lazy and a bit rushed with all that.
With the artwork, it’s still as cartoony as ever, but I feel it makes the gory action of the book more palatable. If someone like John Cassaday was drawing this book, it would not only suck all the fun out of it, it would also make all the kill shots too extreme for most of the viewing public. McCrea, on the other hand, draws all the popping eyeballs, melting bodies, and exploding heads in fashion that makes you laugh and appreciate that, that has got to hurt! As with the writing, McCrea’s art showcases the action, with a hint of humor.
I’m always happy to see another MARS ATTACKS! issue at the store. For me it’s a nice, well made alterative to all the superhero stuff I read. If you like monsters, action, horror, and/or aliens and sci-fi, you should definitely check it out.
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G
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