|Issue #||Release Date:||Vol.#11|
(Click title to go directly to the review)
Advance Review: SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE V2
JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK ANNUAL #1
Advance Review: SHADOWMAN #1
THE FLASH V1 HC
Advance Review: HELLRAISER: THE ROAD BELOW #1
Opinions Are Like @$$Holes presents WONDER WOMAN: Then & Now!
Advance Review: In stores today!
SUPERMAN EARTH ONE V2Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Artist: Shane Davis
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
Superman is a character who seems to incite the same black and white feelings in the real world as he does within his stories. Just as Good and Evil doesn’t cross boundaries in the comic universe, hate and love leave no room for gray when it comes to audience response for the world’s first superhero. I know very few who are ambivalent to Supes like, say, Green Arrow: no real take-it-or leavers.
SUPERMAN EARTH ONE (SE1) VOL. 2 won’t entice the haters. While it’s a great retelling of Superman’s first encounter with the energy siphoning villain Parasite and a teaser into a very famous villain for Volume 3, make no mistake, despite this being EARTH ONE, this is Superman through and through.
I would say Volume 2 is far more Superman than even Volume 1, and waaaayyyyy more traditional Superman than anything happening in the New 52. Clark, Lois, Jimmy and the city of Metropolis are truer to their origins than any other offerings on the shelves, especially if you are a Gen Xer who still adheres to a post-Crisis model of what Superman should be.
I was adamant when Volume One came out that anyone who wanted to get into comics for the first time should look no further than EARTH ONE. Despite this prophecy coming before a time when the New 52 was even a glimmer in the eyes of Didio, Johns and Lee, my stance remains the same. From a continuity perspective, EARTH ONE is as pure as Clark’s virginity (which gets tested nicely in Vol. 2) and as simple as it can get. Volume 1 presented us a world untouched by the fantastic--no other heroes and no advances in science beyond our own gave true feelings of fear when Superman was attacked on Earth and came to the rescue for the first time. It was palpable, akin to all of the fears and uncertainty we felt on 9/11. EARTH ONE has the affordability of not having to support other lines of business like toys, cartoons and other ancillaries that are DC branded, but have little to do with comics. It doesn’t have to carry the lives of all the ancillary characters that cropped up in the DC universe over the years. When a world can create a character like Cyborg and people have already donned masks as the Justice League is just forming, ones’ willing suspension of disbelief has to be nonexistent for the world to feel anything like our own.
I’m also a big believer in the graphic novel format of this book. We have entered the age of instant gratification, making trades and graphic novels THE comic source for all but the true stalwarts of the hobby. Also, every book is written for trade distribution these days anyways, leaving the monthlies sorely lacking in full story potential, especially as page counts continue to dwindle each year. With EARTH ONE, you get a full Freytag as opposed to partial lines on the story pyramid. I’m not faulting monthlies; I still buy them. But I also live in a major metropolitan area, making a jaunt to the comic shop a 5 minute affair, people in the hinterlands of America or other countries are not so lucky and as such live and die by the trade. It’s more complete, more portable and can easily be carried by global distributors as opposed to the anemic reach of, say, Diamond.
The biggest gripe amongst Superman purists from the first volume was the introduction of a race that destroyed Krypton as opposed to the planet naturally devouring itself or their star going supernova. Personally, I liked this approach. I don’t feel a damn thing was lost from the standpoint of Superman feeling alone in the universe, and I liked the potential for a new nemesis with a Kryptonian bloodlust on the same power scale as the Man of Steel. It took what could have been a by the book origin and gave it a new twist for tomorrow. Volume 2 has no such twists. There is a new element which I’ll get to in a second, but for the most part this new installment stays on par with all the things we expect from Superman, but told with the humanizing voice that has made JMS a staple in comics for decades.
Vol. 2 is about relationships. The relationships between Clark and his life as Superman; the game of cat and mouse between Lois and Clark; his kinship with Jimmy Olsen; and last but certainly not least, his relationship with a world that so desperately needs a miracle like Big Blue.
I’m going to utter a verboten word in Superman circles: grounded. While the phrase brings back a reminiscence of the less than spectacular Superman story that occurred before the New 52, the spirit of what those stories should have been should not be forgotten. I think those stories failed for one overarching reason--basically, the rest of the DC universe. Superman seemed like kind of a dick, forsaking the rest of the cataclysmic shenanigans occurring throughout the universe in favor of a hippy beatnik soul searching trip across the US. It was a literal representation of a spiritual journey that could only work outside of continuity.
In SE1 Vol. 2 JMS was able to start fresh, without the noise coming from other titles and other events in the DC Universe - and it all feels very grounded. Take Parasite, for instance, the big baddie of Volume 2. In main DC continuity, I’m sure he once had an origin, but fuck if I can remember what it ever was. JMS humanizes this creature’s thirst for power by giving him an emotional base for his transformation and lust for more energy. Basically, he wants power to compensate for a childhood of abuse, where he and his sister were powerless children against an abusive upbringing. If you weren’t an abused kid you won’t get this wanton lust for control and the need to never feel inferior, but you can’t deny this textbook response that most children of abuse follow.
Another area that feels very grounded is the relationship between Lois and Clark. Here is where things are akin to the days before the two were married, a time when Lois knows something is not quite right with this kid from Kansas, but just can’t figure out what it is. What made the new approach unique isn’t the ham-fisted “oh here’s a disaster, where oh where is Clark.” Instead JMS takes a true journalistic approach, having Lois delve into Clark’s past. What she covers is an exceptional person (mainly Superman’s PR mouthpiece) living a very unexceptional life until he came to Metropolis. Of course, this was Clark not trying to show his Superness at the behest of Pa Kent, but this less than exceptional life is a red flag in light of his newfound success at the Daily Planet.
Last, but far from least, is the very grounded approach JMS took towards Clark’s relationship with the citizens of Metropolis--namely a junkie that occupies his front stoop and a hot to trot neighbor that has set her pheromones in old CK’s direction. Both characters show just how powerless he is at times to thwart the problems of the real world where everything can’t be solved with a punch or heat vision. This was also a time to address Clark’s inability to have relations with earth women, taking the old birds and bees conversation in a whole new direction when the bee has a stinger that could destroy the flower. JMS captures the awkwardness of this conversation in a flashback with Pa Kent and further explores the notion when Clark is powered down from tussling with the Parasite.
The Onion AV Club called this book an exercise in soap opera writing; if I were JMS I would take that as a compliment, even though it wasn’t meant to be. I counted page upon page of action that has never occurred on Days of Our Lives, but I guess the reviewer missed those moments that encompass over half of the book. As for the quieter moments, this comment comes across as downright stupid and obtuse. Soap operas examine the human condition through the hyperbolic lens of truncated time. When two humans are interacting with one another under intense drama, of course it will sound like a soap opera, since you know soap operas try to emulate real life in less than 45 minutes. Comics are soap operas with a sci fi bent, plain and simple, and JMS is the master in my opinion of making comic moments feel as real as possible.
As for tomorrow, JMS is already busy on Volume 3 as I uncovered in my interview with the boys a few weeks ago. We get a taste of the next villain at the end of Volume 2, and I’m sure these scant pages will be the most talked about amongst fans. It’s Lex Luthor, kids, but not a Lex you would ever imagine. Instead of one we get two, in the form of Mr. & Mrs. Luthor. When the government needs to find a way to control Superman should he ever go off the rails, they turn to this wedded think-tank to do the job. We don’t get a huge taste of their relationship, but it’s safe to say they will be on very different ends of the ideological spectrum on what the final solution should be.
If you hate SUPERMAN, move right along. Everything that makes him the person he is will be found on EARTH ONE, but coated with modern sensibilities. If you love SUPERMAN like I do and have found recent offerings lacking as I have, SUPERMAN EARTH ONE is your salvation to an unfettered story that focuses on the Man of Steel instead of the universe that doesn’t know what to do with him.
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.
A+X #1Writers: Dan Slott/Jeph Loeb
Art: Ron Garney (pencils), Wil Quintana (colors)/Dan Keown (pencils), Frank D’armata (colors)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Henry Higgins is My Homeboy
Following the events of AVENGERS VS X-MEN, there’s a new sense of camaraderie to be found in the Marvel Universe. For one of the first times in recent memory, all of the heroes are united under a single banner of optimism and hope (SIEGE may have brought together all the Avengers, but now the X-Men and the Fantastic Four are sorta there too). There’s no pre-reg/anti-reg resentment, no more shooting Hulks into space or thinking your husband may be a Skrull. To help celebrate this new status quo, Marvel has essentially given the old Marvel “Two-In-One” series another lease on life, specifically teaming up members of the X-Men with Avengers for quick short stories. It’s an extremely fun idea, a chance to see characters bouncing off one another where before, the dreaded “Disassembled/Dark Reign/Fear Itself/All The Heroes Hate Each Other” mindset of the company prevented this. I for one can’t wait to see X-23 permanently leave her angsty and loner tendencies after a team up with Squirrel Girl. The inaugural issue features two broad stories, and while they may not be the best example of superhero story telling, they are brief, succinct, and, most importantly, fun.
Writing: (4/5) Slott’s Cable/Captain America team up is the stronger of the pair, having a certain pulpy feel to it. It’s everything you would want from a WW2 Captain America story, up to and including a Nazi Sentinel, with the added benefit of future soldier Cable just showing up to shoot robots. Slott has a solid grasp on both Cap (the ideal soldier, relying on stealth and skill) and Cable (the ideal soldier of the future, who, as I said before, is really only here to shoot Nazi robots). Slott has the two play off each other well, forming a quick, mutual respect between them. Meanwhile, Bucky gets less to do but each of his tiny moments are incredibly entertaining. There’s no big important story arc or deeper meaning to the story, beyond reading about three heroes fighting Nazis robots. It’s just fun.
Loeb pits Wolverine and Hulk together against…well, Hulk and Wolverine. The story bounces back and forth from genuinely amusing and exciting (I love that Wolverine and Hulk almost come to blows over who gets that last piece of cake. They’re in Avengers Tower, they could pretty much call any baker in the city and say “Hey, we need a cake for the Avengers”, and four minutes later they’d show up with ten cakes for each person who’s saved New York and is living in that building. But no. It’s the principal of the thing), to needlessly convoluted. Two time travel plots may be a little too much, and most of the credibility for this future is diminished when you introduce President Red Hulk. Because, I really don’t want to read that story. I don’t know if anyone besides Jeph Loeb wants to read that story. But Loeb has a good sense of the characters, and the action, while brief, is tight.
Art: (3/5) The art for both stories, while certainly not lacking, isn’t anything remarkable. Garney is clearly having fun with the construction of the Sentinel, and the two page spread is particularly well drawn and beautifully coloured. There really aren’t problems with it, but it is incredibly familiar. It looks like most Marvel comics you’ve seen in recent years. Solid work, just nothing spectacular.
Keown is much the same way. His art is much more pin up style, featuring less constricting panels and having a generally wider scene. But all of those shots just blend together after a while. Actually, I prefer the few smaller moments, such as Wolverine eying the cake and Hulk just not believing Wolverine is about to eat his cake. It’s my favourite single panel of the week, if not more. Much like Garney, Kewown does a good job; just not much to make it stand out.
Best Moment: Nazi Sentinel would normally be enough to recommend this issue, but then Hulk had to go and give Wolverine his “Are you fucking kidding?” look. It’s great.>br?>br?Worst Moment: President Red Hulk. Please don’t be a long-running thing.
Overall: (4/5) This issue gives me hope for the series, a bright, brief, and fun time watching superheroes do superhero stuff. It’s not that deep, but it’s not trying to be, nor should it be. The purpose of this title is to see heroes team up and beat the bad guys. That’s it: have fun.
And next issue teases a Kitty Pryde/Iron Man team up. And that’s going to be awesome.
JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK ANNUAL #1Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Mikel Janin
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewed by Humphrey Lee
After a brief hiatus from the world of comic books in my high school years for a pursuit arguably more geeky – Magic cards, the ultimate panty-dropper – it was a discovery of the Vertigo line that really brought me into the fold. The adult material was a nice change compared to the comic material I was reading (fucking Clone Saga) before that forced me out of comics toward a different hobby, but it was also nice seeing this mature content as it crossed over a bit into a proper universe. Now, given, a lot of that happened a good decade before I was actually reading this material – I’m old, but not that old – but it felt right that in a world where sparkly clean guys and gals in gitchy costumes fought not so clean guys in the same there, was some dark and seamy shit going on behind the scenes. Now the world of mainstream comics has matured almost to the point of that material from twenty-five years ago that I fell in love with ten years ago (sans the f-bombs and boobies) and I feel it’s become one of DC’s strongest offerings now, under the pen of Jeff Lemire.
With a solid arc’s worth of building, Lemire and artist Mikel Janin (who has been a consistent positive since day one on this book) have created just the right atmosphere for such a title. It’s paid proper homage to Vertigo mainstays by incorporating characters like Timothy Hunter and Black Orchid into the mix, as well some fan favorite relics such as the Houses of Mystery and Secrets and now the Books of Magic. It’s not as down-and-dirty as you’d traditionally get from some of these players – Johnny Constantine isn’t putting any razors to his wrists to win the day – but it hums along with the right amount of con jobs, slight of hand, and primordial forces being hurled about.
What I think I’m enjoying the most out of this book, though, is the handling of these characters, even in this PG-13 environment. The old mainstays are pretty much perfectly handled: Tim Hunter is the apprehensive heir apparent, Zatanna the tough on the outside, sentimental on the inside magic-hurler, and Constantine is Constantine. Honestly, when Peter Milligan is done with his pretty solid run on Constantine’s true home in HELLBLAZER, I’m not sure there’s anyone except maybe a Jason Aaron I’d rather see take on the book besides Lemire. And I enjoy what the new additions of Frankenstein and Amethyst could bring to the book, from Frank’s stoic badassery to Amethyst’s relative innocence compared to the lot she finds herself thrown in with. There’s a nice dynamic to this book, more now than when it started that I attest a lot to the characters being added and including those Vertigo relics I mentioned before. The only real drawback I possibly see is that maybe this book is now getting a bit crowded, but that’s definitely a “wait-and-see.”
If there’s anything I can say that DC’s New 52 initiative has going for it, it’s that books like this and ANIMAL MAN and SWAMP THING have a place again that is legitimately theirs. The books are playing an important role in the universe, or at least winding their way around the continuity, but do not seem to be at the whims of the master universe. Lemire can take these characters, even feel free to rework Constantine’s background with this Nick Necro chap, and put them in a battle just as important in the old “staring down the end of the world” vernacular as what the JLA does but with that “only we can handle this” flair they enjoy given the forces at hand. This only becomes richer given the twist ending and the implication of what the Books really are, and to which I queue up that “slow-clap” gif for Mr. Lemire for pulling that out. I would say that it’s what little fanboy in me that exists that I find myself enthusiastic for the way Lemire and Janin are developing this book, but considering I dropped this title by issue four before coming since it was not working for me in the first place, I’m just going to have to assume it’s also because it happens to be pretty damn good as well. Cheers…
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.
HAPPY! #2Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Darick Robertson
Publisher: Image Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
It’s a rare occurrence in comics when concept AND execution can be considered flawless. Grant Morrison is the modern master of concept, but there are times when his big comic brain confounds us lesser plebeians from an execution standpoint, especially when he resurrects forgotten lore when working for the big houses.
Fear not: HAPPY is no FINAL CRISIS. The clarity with which he delivers this tale of an ex-cop turned mafia hitman who is haunted by a child’s “imaginary” friend is as clear and concise as a story can get, while the juxtaposed interchange between the bawdy as fuck Nick and the “imaginary” winged donkey Happy is a dialog delight. If you find humor in the schadenfreude of childhood disillusionment, read on; HAPPY is for you.
Issue one was a slight exercise in confusion, since three quarters of the book was anything but Happy. The book initially read like a Garth Ennis tale as we learned of Nick’s work for the mafia and the ultimate setup that would put him on the run. It also felt like a Garth Ennis book because Ennis and artist Robertson became fused as one in the minds of the comic community throughout the course of THE BOYS. While Robertson is in full swing in both issue one and two with his panache for making the ugly side of life even uglier, issue 2 leaves no room for doubt that Morrison is definitively in the dialog driver’s seat on HAPPY.
The key in transcending this title from an exercise in simple ultraviolence and debauchery is the eponymous Happy. Robertson and Morrison combine to make this blue winged donkey an adorably goofy street smart sensation. Happy’s main goal in this book is to get Nick to help Happy’s owner, who has been absconded by a disheveled and disgusting Santa Claus. When Happy first appeared in issue one, Nick’s initial reaction was that he had a stroke or Happy was the result of a tumor growing on his frontal lobe. But issue 2 cements the fact that Happy is no mere conjuration of childhood fantasy or brain deformity as he helps Nick escape a mafia run hospital, his former partner on the NYPD, and serves as an earpiece of fortune during a poker game, feeding Nick the cards of the other players.
There are moments that simply made me laugh out loud in this book, and it really was the result of art and words working together in pitch perfect harmony. When Nick is using Happy to give him the goods during the poker game, the goofy as shit look on Happy’s face while he spews his street savvy words made the grin on my face grow with each panel to Joker proportions by the end.
HAPPY, simply put, is sugar-coated creepiness. It’s a tale, ultimately, of innocence lost, found, and then lost again. Every time Nick stops believing in Happy, the little ass disappears until Nick once again believes. It’s a very nice nod to and mockery of the Tinkerbell game, where kids were told to clap their hands so the little bitch lights up again.
Morrison also leverages a countdown as the sage-like Happy knows exactly when his master will meet her untimely demise at the hands of Santa Flaws. If the dialog and art don’t compel you to turn the page, this convention of so many hours left until the end of a young life definitely will. I don’t foresee a happy ending here (not the Asian massage variety--I have no doubt we’ll get there), but I don’t care. The mystery of whether Nick will save the little girl or redeem his soul combined with the moment-by-moment delights of this book will keep me more than happy until the very end.
Advance Review: In stores today!
SHADOWMAN #1Writer: Justin Jordan
Art: Patrick Zircher
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Reviewer: Ambush Bug
I’m pretty familiar with the old Valiant SHADOWMAN series. I remember it having one foot firmly cemented in ground level, street grittiness and the other stuck in the horror genre. But honestly, it’s been so long that those details are pretty much the only things I remember aside from Jack Boniface’s skill at playing the saxophone (an instrument I play). But since the sax was such a big part of THE NIGHT MAN (Malibu’s old character and former basic cable TV show, not the IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY molestation song), I can understand why they would nix the sax in this version.
What we do get is a successful mash-up of superhero and horror genres, which is something that really hasn’t been done well since the 70’s at Marvel (don’t get me started on “Midnight Sons”, which was just scary looking monsters in tights fighting each other). In SHADOWMAN there is equal parts horror and hero front and present, with a few nice character moments as well to get us in the know of this new version of Jack Boniface. Some nice bits of angst, a few acts of heroism, and a troubled soul seems to be the tip of the iceberg from this creative team of Justin Jordan and Patrick Zircher. Jordan keeps things popping with a fall of the last Shadowman moment at the beginning and a rise of the next by the final page and doesn’t forget that this is a story about a dark hero.
At the same time, Zircher provides us with some damn creepy visuals, especially the Cronenbergian nightmare that is Mr. Twist, who is made up of mismatched, skinless body parts and lots of teeth. I also really dug this updated version of Darque, a major baddie from the old Valiant U. Zircher’s art is clean in some places, resembling a Luke Ross, while in other spots (the darker ones) he seems to channel a bit of Tom Mandrake in tone. All around this is a good looking book with enough of it drenched in horror to satisfy this ghoulish reader’s taste for the macabre.
To top it all off, this is an everyday guy who is imbued with the Shadowman power, no gibberish spouting Dr. Strange, so it makes the character infinitely more relatable. SHADOWMAN is another feather in the cap of Valiant. It’s a dark and gritty feather, but an achievement all the same.
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.
AQUAMAN #13Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Ivan Reis
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Mighty Mouth
If you have been following DC’s New 52 line, you may have noticed a disconcerting trend. It seems that numerous titles are constantly being turned over to new creative teams, or worse, many have collapsed into cancellation. AQUAMAN is one of the few books that continue to endure unaffected by this tendency.
Much of the credit for this achievement goes to the books writer Geoff Johns. When Johns is good, he is exceptional, and this is the case with Johns’ take on Aquaman. Johns has completely revitalized Aquaman with a new attitude and direction, without sacrificing any essential elements of his character (Superman’s writer could sooo benefit from this approach.) Johns merges various storytelling techniques, seamlessly producing a tale that is engaging and keeps you coming back for more.
AQUAMAN #13 has it all: heart, attention-grabbing drama and fantastic action sequences. This issue completes the story of Arthur’s past affiliation with the others and finally brings Aquaman and Black Manta into direct conflict. The addition of a yet unknown puppet master adds a touch of intrigue to the tale to make for one incredibly satisfying conclusion.
Issue #13 of AQUAMAN features the always outstanding artwork of Ivan Reis. Truthfully, it was Reis’ art that first drew me to the book. His artwork perfectly complements the writing and is equally impressive. It’s difficult to find a weak panel in a book when Reis is on the job. Instead you have to settle for panels and splash pages that are amongst some of the highest quality in the industry today.
If anyone had told me a year ago that AQUAMAN was going to be my favorite of the New 52 books, I would have scoffed and accused them of being off their meds. Now, after 13 brilliant issues under the direction of this magnificent creative team, I can say without a doubt that AQUAMAN has become my favorite title of DC’s New 52.
If you haven’t been, you really should be reading AQUAMAN. It’s not just another fish story.
BEDLAM #1Writer: Nick Spencer
Art: Riley Rossmo (pencils/inks), Jean-Paul Csuka (colors)
Publisher: Image Comics
Is it just me, or does it seem that nearly every new comic that hits the stands these days is a thinly-veiled version of a classic superhero archetype? It’s like there’s this whole generation of writers who really want to write their own definitive Superman, or Batman, or Spiderman story, but they’ve never had the opportunity to do so—so they make up their own costumed characters to act in these off-limits heroes’ stead. There’s some precedence for success (WATCHMEN, anyone?), but the criteria includes making enough alterations to the archetypes to set them apart from the original characters in the reader’s mind. BEDLAM tackles the classic hero and nemesis pair of the Batman and the Joker for its storyline. Writer Nick Spencer’s Joker is the psychotic mass-murdering Madder Red, while his Dark Knight is the blandly-named vigilante The First. And while this initial issue is not entirely successful in disentangling itself from the obvious source material, there are a few things that BEDLAM does effectively.
The strongest thing this comic has going for it is the artwork. Riley Rossmo works in a style that I’d label as hard-edged realism; his figures and backgrounds are naturalistic in their proportions, but drawn with a slightly scratchy roughness that gives the pages a gritty energy that complements Spencer’s story of violence and insanity. And I love the design for Madder Red—a twisted version of a monastic costume with a blank-eyed, pointy-fanged skull for a face. Jean-Paul Csuka’s muted color palette adds to the overall oppressive tone of this issue. Particularly effective is the way Csuka colors the scenes set in current time in drab, earthy tones with the occasional splash of primary red, while the flashback scenes and glimpses inside Madder Red’s psyche are rendered in a graphic and stark red, white and black combination.
That’s not to say that the visuals are the only positive aspect of BEDLAM—in writing Madder Red (an obvious Joker stand-in) and his plainclothes alter ego, Spencer makes his villainous protagonist a character who actually seems to suffer from mental illness. Let’s face it, no matter how many times it’s been drilled into comic readers’ heads that the Batman’s arch-foe is insane, more often than not the Clown Prince of Crime is written as a very particular brand of lunatic who comes across more viciously evil than mentally disturbed. The fact that Madder Red is most definitely disturbed (as evidenced by his self-medication, bizarre internal conversations with a doctor who bears more than a passing resemblance to Jack Nicholson, and his willingness to be shot in the leg by street gangs) is a bright note that sets BEDLAM slightly apart from its obvious inspiration.
The problem thus far is that this one bright note doesn’t do enough to make BEDLAM into its own entity. The obvious Batman and Joker parallels extend to the point that there are scenes within this first issue that seem lifted directly from Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” film. The moral quandary riddle that Madder Red sets before the police when captured echoes the “bombs on the ships” gag that Heath Ledger’s Joker gave Gotham City. Likewise, the exchange between Madder Red and the police in the interrogation room (ending in a huge explosion) feels too close to the similar interrogation room scene in the film (which also ends in a huge explosion).
To be fair, this is only the first issue of the series, and the premise of an insane homicidal supervillain deliberately attempting to do good rather than evil has promise. Hopefully with future issues Spencer will distance his characters from their inspirational source to better explore his theme of pitting free will against predetermined nature. Otherwise, BEDLAM will have the very real danger of slipping from a variation on an archetype to becoming yet another in a long, sad line of poor man’s Batman fan fiction.
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.
FLASH V1 HCWriters: Francis Manapul, Brian Buccellato
Artist: Francis Manapul
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
“Hi, my name is Rob Patey and I am trapped in amber.” I’m not proud of this statement, and were there a real support group for being a comic curmudgeon I would sign-up today!
Like most Gen Xers my FLASH loyalties have always been firmly embedded in the alliterated joy that is Wally West. However, I remember a generation ago when I would listen to the comic collectors who are now collecting Medicaid lamenting the loss of some bow-tie wearing square named Barry Allen. To me, BA was just some cannon fodder in my first Superhero comic off the spinner rack called CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS. Move on I thought to myself…anyone named Barry is doomed for the history books.
Time is a bitch, my dearest Wally is gone and we don’t have any fucking flying cars. And instead of a new FLASH, Barry was able to once again be an agent of resetting existence and at the same time get a cosmic Botox of rejuvenation for himself and all the ladies in his life. New 52 took my Wally, conjured my childhood memories of middle-age losers bemoaning the state of comics, and brought back the Wally Cleaver of characters sans new sensibilities because he was trapped in the cosmic amber of the speed force.
It was with this righteous indignation that I read the first part of FLASH VOLUME 1 over a year ago. With such bile clouding my eyes, this book never stood a chance. I was a victim of remember when and no matter how cool the overarching story was, no matter how pretty Mr. Manapul’s panels moved with seeming FLASH like grace across the page, and no matter how cool Barry’s new power of moving thoughts courtesy of the Speedforce to give him a Midnighter like clairvoyance all were…I…would…not…relent.
Pride and an unwillingness to change basically made me an epic fail as a reviewer. With all the DC coverage I do this scarlet blind spot is unforgiveable. FLASH is a damn exciting book that’ll singe your fingers it moves so fast. All of this is thanks to the plot and Manapaul’s prowess for intelligent and dynamic panel placement.
FLASH is a great read. Barry is still boring as shit, but this is a great book and I would say the ladies of his life, Iris West and Patty Spivot, serve as able crutches to the impediment that is Barry’s lack of personality. I get it, it’s part of the point and playful juxtaposition that such a yawn of a human being can transform into such an exciting superhero – and don’t get me wrong the moments when he’s FLASH are epically heroic throughout every issue in this trade, but Barry in his personal life makes me want to put a gun in my mouth so time will end. I really don’t care about children so I shouldn’t worry about them, but I would be hard pressed to find a kid that can relate to Barry like I did as a child to an adult Wally West. Wally had a playfulness that made him one of those cool adults. Barry is your uncle who drinks Scotch, smokes a pipe and wants to know your serious thoughts on politics during the holidays. He’s young again, but he seems really old in context of today’s sensibilities.
While I can’t help my exercise in Barry bashing, I really did like this first half year of FLASH. It was chalk full of nerdy Sci—Fakery that tweaks the nethers for those of us who consume as much STAR TREK as we do comics. Barry’s first nemesis in the new 52 was the multiplying menace Mob Rule. There’s a nice little back-story between he and Barry, that while doing nothing to make Barry interesting, does build empathy for this new villain, leaving you glad that there’s promise for more stories tomorrow. This is also when we’re introduced to Barry’s new ability to see the future by fueling his mind with the Speed Force, there’s a wonderful moment of hubris when it backfires on him too. The second arc with the Rogue’s gallery and Captain Cold is a wonderful exercise of restraint since Barry has to stay below 80% power to keep from pulling things out of the time stream and plunking them at random around the Gem Cities. Finally there’s a LOL nod to the Cosmic Treadmill courtesy of Barry and his pal/power discoverer and explainer Dr. Elias. Barry was funny once…once.
The first arc also focuses on setting up the love triangle between Patty, Barry and Iris. It’s jarring at first for old FLASH fans, but the interplay between the three as Iris looks to write a smear piece on the scarlet speedster was fun and really the only time Barry stated to show the inkling of a personality. From a characterization standpoint these ladies seal the show and it’s intriguing to watch whether history will ultimately repeat itself and Barry dumps Patty to marry Iris.
VOLUME 1 leaves things cliff—hanging with fan favorite Gorilla Grodd. Since all of this is happening in the far past, let me know in the Talkbacks or email machine whether this was any good. And when I say good I want it to be FLASHPOINT One-Shot Grodd good.
Final analysis; Hate Barry, but damn it my comic reading simply isn’t complete without FLASH staples in the mix and JUSTICE LEAGUE just ain’t cutting it. Give Barry a chance, he makes a great Flash even though the man is about as dynamic as Steven Wright on cough syrup.
Advance Review: In stores today!
HELLRAISER: THE ROAD BELOW #1Writer: Brandon Seifert
Art: Haemi Jang
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Reviewer: Ambush Bug
Fans of the HELLRAISER films have to be pretty forgiving. So many shitty sequels were spawned from one amazing film, but still there are die hard fans of the first (and maybe the second) film. Disregarding all of the sequels save the first was a good idea in going into BOOM!’s latest endeavor into Barker’s version of hell and for the most part, the new series has been a winner with some old school HELLRAISER thrills and some new developments that make for some interesting twists on the story. As was established in the second film, the Cenobites were once human—twisted humans, but once human nevertheless. That means that anyone could become a Cenobite given the right conditions…even the final girl from the first film. That’s where this miniseries starts; with Kirsty Cotton, the final girl from the first film taking up the role as lead Cenobite. Her ascension (or decent) into becoming a Cenobite was documented in the main HELLRAISER series. This mini serves to show us Kirsty’s first job being called by someone who opens the decorative box, which is the cornerstone of the entire Hellraiser mythos.
Writer Brandon Siefert knocked my socks off with WITCH DOCTOR last year and again shows much promise as an up and coming name in horror here. The set up is a winner with Kirsty being called to earth and finding herself being forced to help in a supernatural war between two rival families akin to the Hatfields and the McCoys. Though many of the subsequent films chose to introduce the new Cenobite of the month and forgot things about conflict and plot, this series seems to be more interested in exploring the character of Kirsty and how she is growing accustomed to her new role as Pinhead (with the other male Pinhead we have grown to associate to this property de-pinned and sent to Earth for a second chance at living a human life, which is depicted in the HELLRAISER ongoing, I believe). Though I found Kirsty’s casual manner of speaking somewhat out of character for a Cenobite which usually speaks in ominous, riddle-speak, I attribute Kirsty’s common dialog to be due to her newbie status as a demon to some/angel to others.
Artist Haemi Jang is an interesting choice as artist here. His jagged and stringy figures might be somewhat off putting to those used to Marvel or DC style comics, but I can see why the artist was chosen for this series as it resembles Clive Barker’s ink drawings a lot with scratchy forms and misshapen body imagery. The artist tells the story clearly despite the fact that most of the characters look like walking nightmares.
All in all, if you’ve been missing those sights Pinhead promised to show you in the first HELLRAISER in the lame sequels, BOOM!’s treatment of the property has been strong since the first issue and Seifert’s THE ROAD BELOW does a great job of giving Kirsty her first job as a Cenobite.
The New 52 has been rolling for a year now at DC Comics, and with it a brand new Wonder Woman. Now, maybe a brand new Wonder Woman isn’t that new, but a completely rebooted one is, and it hasn’t happened since post-CRISIS ON THE INFINITE EARTHS. So as we have previously looked at the reboots of the Justice League and Superman, now let’s check out the first 12 issues of WONDER WOMAN: Post-Crisis/New 52.
WONDER WOMAN always seems to have a tough time in sales, so DC is always looking for something new to do with her. Mind you, she did survive the superhero bust of the 1950’s, though she lost her sister title SENSATION COMICS. And aside from her creators (Charles Moulton and Harry G. Peter) her most famous run was the ill-fated new WONDER WOMAN by Dennis O’Neil and Mike Sekowski. I think that speaks volumes, when the most remembered run of a character is a failed one! It seemed DC wanted to modernize Wonder Woman and make her more relevant back in 1968, so they took away her powers, all the mythological aspects of the character and taught her kung-fu. DC let it run four years (!) before they admitted their mistake and returned her to her star-spangled self, though as bizarre as all that was, it wasn’t a reboot, just a weird moment in the heroine’s life. In 1987 it was going to be a hard reboot as they killed her first (in the final battle with the Anti-Monitor in CRISIS ON THE INFINITE EARTHS #12)! A rare event in any reboot!
Before the New 52, Wonder Woman’s comic was restarted during DC’s One Year Later event in 2006. The major change there was Wonder Woman started using the secret identity of Diana Prince again (which hadn’t been used since the Crisis). Again, that didn’t get the sales DC wanted, so they tried another odd ‘in-continuity reboot’ of Wonder Woman. This time J. Michael Straczynski and Don Kramer depowered her and changed her costume- although they left out the kung-fu and kept the mythology this time. Alas, this didn’t get the sales DC wanted either, so in 2011 it was time for another hard reboot.
Who did DC turn to for these prestigious reboots? In 1987, George Perez was Wonder Woman’s white knight, and aside from John Byrne who was doing Superman or Frank Miller who was kinda doing Batman, you couldn’t find a bigger, more beloved name in comics at the time. Perez made his mark drawing THE AVENGERS, then JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA, and then blew minds on the NEW TEEN TITANS with writer Marv Wolfman. George Perez also drew the mammoth crossover series CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS, so he drew her death and her recreation. What was going to be extra interesting on Wondy ’87 was that Perez was going to write it as well--a first for the famous artist. Writers Greg Potter and Len Wein would help out in his first year, though. Now in 2011, the job fell to Brian Azzarello, a well respected writer in the comic industry. Azzarello made his first splash creating 100 BULLETS with artist Eduardo Risso for DC’s Vertigo line. He also wrote popular graphic novels like JOKER and LEX LUTHOR. For the art, DC picked Cliff Chiang, who had worked on smaller projects, but this is to be his biggest assignment yet.
So how did Wonder Woman’s world change under these men? Well before the Crisis, Wonder Woman was an immortal Amazon from Paradise Island. Since the time of ancient Greece, the Amazons lived in seclusion and developed into a technologically and morally superior race (although they did enjoy a good spanking every now and then, it seems). One of their technological achievements was Wonder Woman’s invisible plane/jet. In Wondy ’87, Perez decided to tone down the advancements of the Amazons, basically keeping them in a time bubble since ancient Greece. The days of invisible jets and purple healing rays were over. Even Paradise Island was renamed Themyscira: The utopian society was replaced with a Greek epic adventure (along the lines of Ray Harryhausen movies), and super-villains and criminals were replaced with monsters and gods. The reasons for even being Wonder Woman changed, too. Originally, Wonder Woman had been sent away from Paradise Island to fight Nazis. Now she no longer lived in the 1940’s and left Themyscira to prevent Ares the god of war from destroying the world. In Wondy ’11 we have yet to learn why Wonder Woman left, whatever the name of the Island is now. Azzarello has yet to name the island, as Themyscira is now the name of the Amazon’s city on the island. Wonder Woman still faces gods and monsters, but the tone has changed from epic adventure to a more macabre drama. The Amazons are no longer immortal and their city has a typical Bronze Age look as opposed to a grand idyllic one, and the gods themselves are no longer perfect looking people in togas, but reimagined as supernatural creatures. So Azzarello continues the push away from the original utopian society.
Probably the biggest change to Wondy ’87 was her power level. Although Wonder Woman was always considered second to Superman, they were now much closer than ever. Her physical strength was said to come from the Earth goddess Gaia, making her far superior to her fellow Amazon sisters (the battle for the Wonder Woman mantle now seems unfair). Wonder Woman could also now fly. Just like the writers of the 1940’s who were tired of Superman being just able to jump around, Perez was tired of Wonder Woman being able to glide on winds, and just gave her the ability to fly. And while she lost her once powerful mental abilities, which help her to control her devices, Perez gave her some new weapons, such as battles axes, swords and spears. Wondy ’87 was no longer above killing, either, assuming it was a monster in the heat of battle. Meanwhile, Wondy ’11 was depowered. Wonder Woman is now back to being physically equal to her fellow Amazon sisters, and has lost the ability to fly. Her famous lasso may have lost its truth-telling ability as well. The god Hephaestus, the lasso’s creator, commented that the lasso merely disguised Wonder Woman’s own intimidation skills. Azzarello also returned a rarely seen ‘ability’ of Wonder Woman: a berserker rage that increases her strength if her bracelets are removed. It’s unclear if this is true for all the Amazons, like in Pre-Crisis days.
The biggest change to Wondy ’11 is her origin. While Azzarello hasn’t mentioned where the original Amazons have come from, he did say where Wonder Woman came from. Turns out the story of her being born from clay was a cover story meant to protect her, because Hippolyta, the queen of the Amazons, had relations with the god Zeus and that’s is how she was really born. Zeus’s wife Hera is well known for taking it out on the women Zeus fools around with and the resulting children, so Hippolyta lied about Wonder Woman’s birth. Perez tinkered with Wonder Woman’s birth as well, saying that she (and all the Amazons) came from the souls of women throughout history who were killed by men, reborn. While all the Amazons sprang from the ocean, Wonder Woman sprang from beach sand clay.
Another big change in Wondy ’11 was how the Amazons procreate. While in Wondy ’87, they didn’t, Wondy ’11’s Amazons lured in men to mate with, then disposed of them, in a nod to supposed true Amazonian cultures. They would then sell off any male offspring to Hephaestus, and keep the females to continue their society, so Wonder Woman was no longer the only child on the Island. And while George Perez turned Queen Hippolyta from a blond into a brunette, Azzarello changed her back into a blond. Perez also introduced the Amazons as being multi-racial, something Azzarello is continuing.
As you would expect, in both cases Wonder Woman’s supporting cast has changed. In Wondy ’87, Wonder Woman’s longtime love interest Steve Trevor was now aged and no longer a love interest. In fact, he would become involved with and eventually marry his aid Etta Candy, who in Pre-Crisis time was Wonder Woman’s best friend. In Wondy ’11, both Steve and Etta have yet to appear (although Steve has appeared in JUSTICE LEAGUE as a former boyfriend). The strangest addition to Wondy ’87 was Diane Trevor, Steve’s mother (albeit in ghost form). In order to explain the American angle of Wonder Woman, Perez had Steve’s mother crash on Themyscira back in World War II and influence the Amazons. She also supplied them with the handgun for their famous bullets and bracelets game. Julia Kapatelis and her daughter Vanessa were also new cast members. They acted as Wonder Woman’s guides in so called ‘man’s world’. WW would get a publicist, too, Myndi Mayer, since she was now a good will ambassador to ‘man’s world’ as well. And while most of the Greek gods acted as advisors and adversaries, Hermes would interact with her more than the others. In Wondy ’11, Hermes would become even more of a supporting cast member--as long as their goals aligned, which seemed to stop in issue #12. Issues #12 also added Hera, who had become mortal, as a supporting cast member. Another mother and child team would join Wondy ’11 as well, in the form of Zola and her unborn child, said to be another one of Zeus’ fathering. Then there’s Lennox, a mysterious immortal, who’s apparently made out of stone. In both Wondy ’87 and Wondy ’11 the original character of Diana Prince is not used. Back in the 1940’s, Wonder Woman assumed the identity of Diana Prince, who was a real person, to be able to live in America with a secret identity. Both Perez and Azzarello have dropped the secret identity angle.
So what was the plot in these first 12 issues? In Wondy ’87, we got the full treatment of Wonder Woman’s origin and her first adventures as Wonder Woman. She would battle Ares and his minions in a six issue long opening story arc. A six issue story arc may be common today, but such a long storyline was rare in those days. Perez spent a great deal of time explaining who this new Wonder Woman was and what her role in the world was. In fact, issues #7 and #8 were solely focused on his world building and pretty much nothing else. Wonder Woman would then face a new Cheetah, who was no longer a woman in a catsuit but more of a were-cat with supernatural powers. WW would then dive head long into “The Challenge of the Gods”, facing down legions of demons in the Doorway of Doom because she turned down a date with Zeus. In Wondy ’11, we start five years into Wonder Woman’s career as Wonder Woman. With Zeus gone missing, Wonder Woman was chosen by Hermes to help protect Zola and her unborn child, from Hera. In doing so, she would learn of her true demi-god status and become involved in all of the gods’ squabbles as they accept her into the family--all except Hera, who turns the Amazons into snakes and Hippolyta into stone. Wonder Woman would come into conflict with just about every Greek god as they deal with Zeus’ absence and Zola’s unborn child. Oddly enough, the only god not picking a fight with Wonder Woman is Ares. In the New 52, Ares is now one of Wonder Woman’s childhood mentors (but that happens in issue #0 and I shouldn’t be talking about it).
One final note: in 70 years of comic books, Wonder Woman has only been on the cover twice using a handgun: Wondy ’87 #12 and Wondy ’11 #8 (Mike Sekowsky did have the depowered Wonder Woman use a machine gun in 1970’s #189 and John Byrne had her using laser guns in 1996’s issue #141)—how’s that for weird?
The reception of Wondy ’87 was probably the biggest success of Wonder Woman since her creation. Fans loved the first class attention (and talent) the character was getting and the new Greek mythology angle. George Perez’s Wonder Woman run is still considered by many to be the best run of the character. Perez would go on to write 62 issues and draw the first 24 issues. Afterwards, he would continue to be known as the main Wonder Woman artist doing work on annuals and Who’s Who entries. With so many misfires and restarts since Perez left Wonder Woman, it’s hard to believe Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang can equal its staying legacy. Still, Wondy ’11 has been met with much critical success and improved sales. The change in theme is welcome to most readers--except long time Wonder Woman fans. As of now Azzarello has written 14 issues of WONDER WOMAN and Cliff Chiang has drawn nine of them, and all signs seem to point to them not leaving any time soon.
I hope you enjoyed this look at Wonder Woman reboots then and now; come back next week as I hope to wrap up this Post-Crisis/New 52 comparison with a look at just about everyone else, from Batman to the Legion of Super-Heroes!
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G
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