Comics

AICN COMICS REVIEWS: BATMAN! CABLE & X-FORCE! HELLBOY IN HELL! ASSASSINS CREED! & MORE!

Published at: Dec. 12, 2012, 8:38 a.m. CST

The Pull List
(Click title to go directly to the review)
Advance Review: AVENGERS ARENA #1
HELLBOY: IN HELL #1
Indie Jones presents KOZMIK #2
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #699
Advance Review: BATMAN #15
HAWKEYE #4-5
Advance Review: BATMAN & ROBIN #15
IRON MAN #3
Indie Jones presents AFTERLIFE INC. V1: DYING TO TELL & V2: NEAR LIFE
ASSASSIN’S CREED V1-3
Advance Review: CABLE & X-FORCE #1
CHEAP SHOTS!


Advance Review: In stores today!

AVENGERS ARENA #1

Writer: Dennis Hopeless
Art: Kev Walker
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Ambush Bug


Up until recently, I thought AVENGERS ACADEMY was a pretty decent read. Christos Gage seemed determined to get me to care about these troubled youngsters and, after an extended stint of the book, he actually did. With AVENGERS ACADEMY ending, it looks as if this book is taking its place by using a couple of its main stars as the central characters of this series called AVENGERS ARENA. It’s pretty obvious from the BATTLE ROYALE motif on the cover what the premise is of this book, but I’ll delve into it anyway; A group of young super powered individuals are gathered together to face off in a death match where only one will survive.

Who is behind all of this?

Who lives?

And more importantly, who dies?

Well, I’m going to leave that to you guys to find out, but I will say that, though it might have been projected as to who this first issue is focused on, the story of the one who dies in this cast is a well written one. With comfortable dialog that doesn’t pander and try to be hip, but feels natural, Dennis Hopeless has crafted a predictable, but well done first issue. Someone had to die to make a point and someone does. I’m not too happy about who it turned out to be, but hey, this is Marvel, if the fans bitch long enough he/she will be back.

One thing is for certain, Kev Walker is quickly becoming my favorite artist at Marvel. His art is pretty straight forward here, but so solid in both his redesign of a classic villain who takes center stage here and in panel construction as he keeps things angular, interesting, and violent throughout. When he was on THUNDERBOLTS, Walker seemed to need a break between issues to catch up. Here’s hoping he continues to be on schedule because his art makes this book.

I’m a sucker for CONTEST OF CHAMPIONS style stories. Hell, that miniseries of old is what made me a Marvel Zombie. That and the fact that this series seems to be promising to rub out some of the more annoying younger generation heroes in Marvel will have me checking out the second issue of this series for sure.

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.


HELLBOY: IN HELL #1

Story and Art by Mike Mignola
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Reviewer: Mighty Mouth


You know the old adage: absence makes the heart grow fonder. Well, for a while now Hellboy has been AWOL, and dammit I missed that big red monkey. So you can imagine my delight as I perused my local comic shop to find a new issue of HELLBOY with this week’s new comics.

Hellboy last appeared in a three issue story called “The Fury” which ran June - August of 2011. The long and the short of it entailed Hellboy battling some giants, falling in love and learning that he’s a descendent of King Arthur. Then he fought with a dragon and died. The back cover of the final issue teased a caption: coming in 2012 – Hellboy - in Hell. Now after close to a year and half, the wait is over. Hellboy has returned in the pages of HELLBOY: IN HELL #1.

HELLBOY: IN HELL #1 also marks H.B.’s creator Mike Mignola’s return to artistic duties. Although he kept up on the writing, Mignola hasn't produced the art for a Hellboy comic since the now classic “Conqueror Worm” story. Like a good PB and J sandwich, Mignola’s art and Hellboy are a combination that makes for a tasty treat.

Although Mignola’s artistic style can appear overly simplified, when it comes to constructing panels containing bizarre mythic creatures and gothic environments, he can be pretty tough to beat. Add to that colorist Dave Stewart's wise choice of a low-key color palette that compliments the line art and you get some very stylized eye-candy.

If you have followed Hellboy’s previous exploits, the story unfolds exactly the way you would expect from a Hellboy comic. It’s very unusual and abstract in its approach, yet at once so very intriguing. Evidently Hellboy’s got himself a Guardian warlock who wishes to help usher Hellboy back to the land of the living, but be warned there will be a cost. Add a familiar face from the past that relentlessly pursues Hellboy about the abyss. Now throw in a metaphor adapted straight out of Dickens, and there you have it. Yep, that’s a Hellboy comic and that’s the sort of untraditional storytelling that I've missed so much.

So, after all this time, was it worth the wait? Oh hell yes. HELLBOY: IN HELL #1 is a wonderful book crowded with symbolism, mythology and in unconventional humor. I’m anxiously anticipating another helping. Or, to put it in the spirit of another Dickens classic: please sir, I want some more.


KOZMIK #2

Writer: Scott Kinney
Art: Christian Colbert
Publisher: Arcana Studios
Reviewer: Masked Man


Now dear readers, don’t run to your local comic shop; instead, surf on over to Comicology to download my latest Indie Jones adventure.

First off, there are all ages stories and there are kids’ stories. One isn’t better than the other, but they are different. Bugs Bunny, “Mary Poppins” (movie), “Avatar the Last Air Bender”--those are all ages stories. “Spy Kids” and “Marvel Superhero Squad” are kids’ stories. This doesn’t mean adults can enjoy a kids’ story; goodness knows I do all the time, but they’re NOT the same thing (despite what a marketing department wants you to believe).

That said, here is KOZMIK, another in a long line of successors to ASTROBOY, a small boy superhero (ok, Astroboy (Might Atom) was a robot--you know what I mean!). Like PRINCE PLANET or EON KID, young Zak Tyler gets superpowers and becomes involved in protecting life, limb, and property. In this issue Zak is discovering more about the alien battle suit he has received, as we learn more about him. The battle suit, with its bio brain is very akin to (DC’s) Jaime Reyes’ Blue Beetle suit. It has the ability to create different types of weapons at the drop of a dime. The gag about making things bigger is pretty funny. Writer Kinney does a good job of blending the plot with the introduction scenes of his parents and friends. The plot involves your typical space tyrant – something out of BUZZ LIGHTYEAR OF SPACE COMMAND or PIGS IN SPACE--crushing a planet cute little Jim Henson-like creatures. These alien creatures have created the battle suit to protect themselves, but in the usual fashion the suit falls into the hands of typical Earth boy Zak Tyler. Of course, Zak has now become the target of the bad guy. The United States military notices the alien battle fleet parked outside the planet and they get involved, too.

As I mentioned, writer Scott Kinney does a good job of balancing this all and tells a solid story. The target audience is definitely kids, as the action is fast and comedy is over the top. Zak is a fairly typical sassy hero kid, but he’s nowhere near as annoying as the current ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN cartoon. His little fashion show as he looks for a superhero outfit is really nice.Artist Christian Colbert’s work fits perfect with the story. It’s well designed and cartoony looking. Everything looks really good here, except for perhaps Zak’s mom. For whatever reason, Colbert doesn’t draw her as confidently as the other characters in the book. Colbert’s storytelling, though, is pretty spot on. He and Kinney work well together in this issue.

So while I have no idea why the comic is called KOZMIK, it’s a really good kids’ book of action and humor. I score it a 3 out of 4.


AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #699

Writer: Dan Slott
Artists: Humberto Ramos (pencils)/Victor Olazaba (inks)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Professor Challenger


OCTOPUS’S JOHNSON by Frank “Gringo” Saxxon
(To the tune of OCTOPUS’S GARDEN by Ringo Starr)

I'd like to play
inside Aunt May.
Put my Octopus's Johnson into her.

She'd let me in,
That wrinkly skin.
Put my Octopus's Johnson into her.

She's skinny, small & built to ple-ease!
Got tits that sag down to her knees!

I'd like to play
inside Aunt May.
Put my Octopus's Johnson into her.


Before the internet broke in half over whether STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS features Khan or Gary Mitchell and...

Before the internet broke in half over whether Gail Simone quit or got fired from BATGIRL and...

Before John Byrne attempted a Soviet-style stealth retro-edit of his official forum to remove his back-and-forth with SPIDER-MAN writer Dan Slott....

The internet broke in half for about half-a-day over a single notorious panel in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #699. I plead guilty as charged for joining in the fun for awhile, although I have a strong desire to pass the buck a little and put a little bit of blame on Rich Johnston and a lot of blame on Dan Slott for creating the entire InterWebz hoo-haw themselves. I blame Rich for clouding my perception of the panel with his sensationalist headline causing me to thumb through the issue and wrongly pre-judge the panel out of context. I blame Dan Slott for being patently immature as a professional writer and deliberately choosing to create a between-the-panel moment that he admits “could” be interpreted rather luridly by dirty-minded little fanboys even though his actual intent as a writer was nothing more lurid than Peter experiencing the sensation of a shared romantic kiss between Doc Ock and Peter’s elderly Aunt May, the kiss being “improper” because it was occurring before the ceremony. An editor actually, y’know, editing the book would have told the writer to clarify it or remove the joke. But that would require actual...editing...I know, I know, that’s silly talk in these modern enlighten comic book days. I know.

So, yeah, I apologize to Dan Slott for jumping on the bandwagon of those callinghim seriously disturbed for insinuating Peter Parker incestuously experiencing thememory of a pre-wedding sex romp between Ock and May. But I still cry foul on Dan Slott for allowing that interpretation to take place at all. The fact that he has gone onto public forums and “winked” and “smilied” it all away is the height of immaturity and unprofessional behavior this side of the Tony Harris and Rob Liefeld types who will just go on a public rant incoherently and take a “to Hell with you” attitude when called on it.

I appreciate that Slott wanted to go for a humorous moment in an otherwise serious story, but the fact that he tittered to himself about how some people might misinterpret it just really is not the behavior I would expect of a grown man, and he should be ashamed of himself for having the mindset of a lame Andy Samberg character on SNL.

So, now you’re probably thinking “How about the comic itself as a whole, Prof – what did you think of that?”

Well, I will tell you, once again I really enjoyed the comic itself – once I actually read it rather than thumb through it. I’m not a fan of the artwork, particularly. We didn’t really get to see much in the way of Spider-Man himself because, whereas last issue was all about Spidey with Ock’s mind, this one was all about Ock with Spidey’s mind. Ock looks like hell and Ramos’ interpretation of his wrinkled body looks more like some diseased alien than an old guy dying. I’m not sure why he is supposed to look like that. But then again, all the characters were ugly like that, even when they showed Peter Parker’s actual face in his memory looking up from the iron lung at what should be his own body.

There are some nice developments that are leading towards a new variation on the Sinister Six (somehow including this desiccated walking barely alive Ock-corpse). I dunno what happened to The Scorpion in the intervening years since I used to read SPIDER-MAN comics, but I do not like the visual heaviness and complication to the armor. I much prefer the simplicity of the original design. I hugely enjoyed Parker’s internal monologue throughout the comic, especially his thoughts on The Trapster/Paste-Pot Pete. There is an appearance by The Lizard that played out an intriguing development that I suspect is a plot development to pick up on in the next year. The inclusion of a Morbius throw-away moment also makes me think he is a candidate for an upcoming storyline as well.

Slott, proving that he can do it when he wants to, provides a very solid and clear explanation of the mechanism by which Ock pulled off this brain switcheroo and justifiable self-anger by Parker for letting it happen. I would say that the events of the last few years would justify his being a bit distracted, so hopefully he won’t be too hard on himself about it.

The shared experience with Ock of swapping spit and tongue with the old lady who raised him is surely punishment enough for him.

Now, on to #700 and I’m sure the internet will break in half once again for a few hours.

Viva la Geekstrati!

Prof. Challenger is Texas artist and writer, Keith Howell. You can read his stuff here and over at profchallenger.com. You can also get in on the ground floor of his new endeavor, "Everything I Ever Needed to Know I Learned from Comic Books" here.


Advance Review: In stores today!

BATMAN #15

Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Greg Capullo/Jock
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche


The nature of Batman and the Joker’s relationship has changed with the sensibilities of the time. As we readers get deeper in touch with our feelings and have more free time to lament the human existence, so to have our heroes and their foils sought deeper introspection.

The Golden Age, when men were men and our enemies were eminently clear, showed few emotional tethers between Bats and Joker. During the days of WWII, good was good and evil was evil — period. And, of course, good always triumphed. Flash forward to the Silver Age and you see the sanitized =Fifties bleed copious campiness into the title and little insight into either man--simply a goofy game of cat and mouse rife with ludicrous gadgetry and even more ridiculous crimes of grandeur. Go Bronze and we start to see a few chinks in each characters’ emotional armor, albeit the zaniness carryover of the Silver Age still forbade either from too deep an introspection. The 70s was the Me Generation and we began to see that essence in the pages of Batman. We began to know who the men were behind the masks and mayhem. The Dark Age propelled us into the ID of both characters as opposite sides of the same coin. Who made who was the question that plagued my mind leaving Tim Burton’s BATMAN, and can one really exist without the other was my walkaway from Frank Miller’s THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS.

Now we have Scott Snyder, the modern man in an age where self-discovery isn’t a luxury, it’s a requirement for societal success. In a time when the term “bromance” can easily cross the lips of guys who are straight as an arrow, is it any wonder that the transformation of Batman and Joker’s relationship is one of an obsessive affection? Love, ladies and gentlemen, is the new emotional bedrock between Batman and the Joker, and the penance for that love being unrequited is DEATH OF THE FAMILY.

BATMAN #15 bleeds motivation for the Strap-On Jokers’ need to squelch all things Bat. In essence, Joker wants to be part of the Bat family: he wants to be that crazy cousin at Thanksgiving who someone has to go bail out of jail for drunk driving when they go to get more stuffing from the store. Joker needs to be chased by the Bat like the earth needs the sun and Lindsay Lohan needs to smell the inside of jail cells.

Now, even though I’ve said words like bromance and strap-on, let’s please not get puerile with the often associated act of love. This is an obsessive love based on an unhinged desire, not the higher state of intimacy and becoming one in flesh. Spirit perhaps, but that’s it.

This issue also successfully divided the family, and we are left wondering whether it was of the Joker’s device or merely a side effect to the Joker’s grand plan. It’s a cool little mind-fuck later reveal that more serial books should remember to use. I won’t ruin the details on how the Bat Family splits, but I will say it involves Bruce being odd man out for living in a state of delusional deniability regarding the Joker’s prowess and wiles.

The back-up story continues to delight, mainly because of Jock’s eerie-ass way of seeing the world of The Joker. Even the point of view in the panels gives pause for creepiness. The backstories have been trips down memory lane to moments before the crossover started and how The Joker set all the main story’s plans in motion. I have to admit this one didn’t give me the same ick factor as the Harley episodes, but seeing the first signs of The Riddler in the Bat-Verse as more arrogant than maniacal gave me great hope for future Bat tales.

Everyone who keeps saying “Robin’s going to die. Robin’s going to die.”, please kindly shut the fuck up. That’s a hack move neither Snyder nor DC can afford right now. If after reading BATMAN 15 you still believe this inane theory, I suggest you take a class in understanding subtlety. It’s not Robin that’s going to die, or Barbara, Dick, or Jason. BATMAN 15 clearly shows that death does not have to be a physical state of being, emotional death or untethering can sometimes be the most painful end of all because you must continue living afterwards.

P.S. When is that freaking face going to rot? I’m not a sciencey guy, but I always thought faces needed more nourishment than leather and dental floss to avoid becoming necrotic.

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.


HAWKEYE #4 - #5

Writer: Matt Fraction
Art: Javier Pulido
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Henry Higgins is My Homeboy


The Tape.

Right before the Marvel NOW! imprint began, two new solo series starring two of the biggest team books’ resident “badass” members started: Matt Fraction’s HAWKEYE and GAMBIT by James Asmus. Unlike GAMBIT, a relatively solid title that doesn’t do much new with the character, Fraction’s HAWKEYE is one of the best new titles of the year. Deftly mixing great character writing, thrilling action, and wonderful humour, HAWKEYE has become one of the best Marvel titles being released now. The first multipart story, spanning all of two issues (a welcome change of pace from the more recent tradition of 5-6 issues), manages to twist and turn a hundred interesting places.

Writing: (5/5)
Fraction, who has more than proven his skill writing in the Marvel universe, is taking on a slightly smaller character than before. With his tenure on IRON MAN having so recently wrapped, it must be a relief to work on a slightly less A-list character. Other writers might see this as an opportunity to relax somewhat, but Fraction instead efficiently gets across who Clint Barton is and what he does and why he does it. He’s not an Avenger because he’s a god of thunder or irradiated with gamma radiation, just that he’s a good guy with a great set of skills. Even if this is your first issue reading this title, you know everything you need to know about Hawkeye within pages. The same applies to Kate Bishop, newly instated sidekick to Clint. If you saw Kate in YOUNG AVENGERS, you probably already like her. If you’ve never read her before, she’s still an enjoyable character, a realistic sidekick who’s still more than competent enough to warrant her role in the book. The back and forth between the two is engrossing, and you can see a level of love/hate in their relationship. Kate looks up to Clint, but is skeptical of many of his attributes. It all comes to a head when news of a tape leaks from S.H.I.E.L.D.: a very specific tape, one that shows Clint assassinating a high threat terrorist under orders from S.H.I.E.L.D. and the President. Soon enough, Clint is on a plane to Madripoor with the (wonderfully thought of) S.H.I.E.L.D. limitless black credit card, to purchase the tape back from a high stakes criminal auction. Without revealing too much, Hawkeye and Kate end up having to deal with crooks, airport security, ninjas, Madame Masque, and all sorts of other undesirable villains. Suffice to say, Fraction is stellar on this title, consistently funny and exciting.

Art: (5/5) Holy FUCK Pulido is a great artist. The small moments stand out with understated emotion, conveying sheer pages’ dialogue worth of emotion in a single panel. The big moments look remarkable, full of believable movement and swift action. His characters all stand out extremely well, each being clearly them. There’s never an odd looking character or movement. His control over tiny character moments are juxtaposed against wide art shots. It’s simply beautiful comic art. Complimented with Hollingsworth’s terrific colour work, HAWKEYE consistently looks beautiful.

Best Moment: Hawkeye’s escape from the ninjas in the opening pages of the fifth issue is remarkable.

Worst Moment: Nothing wrong really.

Overall: One of the, to be frank, coolest comics being released right now.


Advance Review: In stores today!

BATMAN & ROBIN #15

Writer: Pete Tomasi
Artist: Patrick Gleason
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche


So good and gory I almost threw up in my mouth. Gleason gets the creep award in this week’s “DEATH OF THE FAMILY” offering through the unraveling of a young boy and the most grotesque puppetry since the recent news about Elmo.

This is Damian’s story all the way, and takes place a very close heartbeat away from the moments of BATMAN #15 when the family turns against one another. You can read one book without the other, but some of Damian’s motivation and inner dialog will be lost.

In three distinct acts, Tomasi gives us one of the best portrayals of Damian to date.

Confined to monitor duty, in usual fashion Damian gives a resounding “F this noise” and begins the hunt for Pennyworth. Great moments abound as Damian and Titus, the Batdog, begin their sleuthing for clues. A boy and his dog story are Americana at its finest. Titus is Damian’s Robin and the interchange between them is exactly what you would expect from a ten year old. Damian truly believes Titus understands him, and it as endearing as it is sad when set against the atrocities in the rest of the issue.

In Act II Damian’s clues lead to Alfred’s whereabouts at the hyena cage in the Gotham Zoo. “I hate the zoo” are the only words Damian mutters throughout his battle with the Joker’s venom-carrying hounds, and with that Tomasi unpeels another layer of the Damian mystique: the boy who hates being a boy.

Of course, The Joker finally gets some alone time with Damian after an inventive knock-out and here is where I truly almost lost my lunch. You know that face The Joker has strapped on and probably should have rotted off by now? Well, it’s finally starting to show some of the gummy elasticity of necrotic wear. The Joker molds, stretches and contorts the face in a macabre puppet show as he unhinges Damian in a game of verbal cat and mouse. Especially creepy was the complete inversion of the face where the Joker’s beady pupils are in the mouth. This is also the part where Damian shines as the true son of Bruce Wayne. When he makes a solemn vow to kill The Joker, you can see and hear honest-to-God fear from The Joker towards this new Robin. He is more than a sidekick; he is a true successor to the throne of the Bat. Given the newfound revelation of the Joker’s adoration for Batman, you can imagine how far off the edge this sends the putty-faced price of crime.

Steely calm, petulant annoyance, and snippets of an innocence not completely lost are the essence of Damian. Tomasi hit every chord in this issue with pitch perfect execution. This is more than worthy of the DEATH OF THE FAMILY die-cut cover; it is an essential entry.


IRON MAN #3

Writer: Kieron Gillen
Art: Greg Land

Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man


Was it just me, or did it seem like Marvel pumped out three issues of IRON MAN in a month? Probably just me, but Marvel does enjoy increasing their print run--I wonder how that affects subscriptions. I see Marvel states a subscription is 12 issues--not one year. Interesting.

Ok, back to the comic book itself: we’ve reached the halfway point of Kieron Gillen’s first story arc, “Believe”. The Extremis techno-virus has gotten into bad guys’ hands, and it’s up to Iron Man to seek and destroy them all. Again, is it just me, or is that an oh so common Iron Man plot? Seems like once a year or so Iron Man has to go seek and destroy some technology that has gotten into the wrong hands. Last issue a utopian building nut job got Extremis and this time, a Colombian drug lord has it. In both cases, since Iron Man does make a habit of seeking and destroying people who get their hands on technology he doesn’t want them to have, they have hired Iron Man villains to protect themselves. And in both cases, Tony Stark showcases a different Iron Man suit, or rather the same suit with modular capabilities. Tony Stark can now instantly build a specific suit based on what he wants it to do. The old fashioned way was to just have a few specifically designed suits sitting in the garage waiting for the right moment.

Kieron Gillen is becoming a curious writer to me. I wasn’t very fond of his run on THOR. Lots of good ideas, but it all came across as rather boring to me. His work on JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY, on the other hand, was brilliant. Always clever, always entertaining. So I wasn’t sure how Iron Man was going to turn out. Now three issues in and I’m starting to get a little bored. As I mentioned, the plot has a real “been there done that” feel to it, and this issue is nearly one big cliché. You see the drug lord has a daughter who he loves, and if I say one more word about it you can all but write the story yourself. Gillen does seem to know this, so he held off the reveal as long as he could. But even with the angle of how it ties into the original purpose of Extremis, and Tony getting to be preachy about it, I still felt like hitting the snooze bar. Then there are the supervillains for this issue. Gillen reveals them in a nice dramatic way, as they state they are ready for action and that they have a history with Ironman. Now, I’m no huge Iron Man fan. I’ve read him through the years, and watched all the cartoon shows and movies, so I had no idea who any of these people were. You see, Gillen doesn’t name them until the fight starts. Turns out I do know them, I just didn’t recognize them. So any sense of, “Oh wow, so and so got an upgrade, I can’t wait to see ‘em in action.” was gone. And for Iron Man vets, they strike out pretty easily--heck, I think the police could have handled them, since Iron Man pretty much used a police tactic to defeat them. Oh, and there’s a grilled cheese sandwich bit, but I’ll just skip that.

Greg Land is knocking out his usual art: very pretty, cool looking, stiff and lifeless. In a lot of ways his work reminds me of the old Boris Vallejo vs. Frank Frazetta debate--as in whom do you like more. Land is very much Vallejo: yeah his stuff looks great, but it looks like a bunch of cardboard cut outs. The coloring by Guru eFX unfortunately really helps re-enforce this. It’s frick’n beautiful, spot on, but it makes everything so perfect it’s like a Stepford wife: a little creepy and wrong. If Land could find a way to loosen up, and breath more life into his characters, his work would become more universally loved.

To wrap up, Iron Man has a lot of good things in it, but the overall package is just lacking. It’s like the best paint by numbers painting you’ve ever seen.


AFTERLIFE INC. V1: DYING TO TELL & V2: NEAR LIFE

Writer: Jon Lock
Art: Ash Jackson, Jack Tempest, Del Borovic, Will Tempest, Roy Huteson Stewart, Jerry Gaylord (V1), Ash Jackson, Jack Tempest, Sean McSorley, Grant Perkins, Jack Davies, Jade Sarson, Mark Pearce, Warwick Fraser-Coombe, Will Tempest, Nadine Ashworth (V2)
Publisher: JonLock.com
Reviewer: Ambush Bug


Jon Lock, not the LOST character, but the guy who writes the extremely creative series AFTERLIFE INC. recently achieved his Kickstarter goal to make a third Graphic Novel in this series. And I’m glad he did achieve that goal, because these two graphic novels were a hell of a lot of fun to read and filled not only with fun ideas, but extremely creative ways of telling stories. In these two novels, Lock proves himself to be very talented in telling a myriad of tales in different styles such as noir, action, fairy tale image & text, existential tangentialism, historical revisionism, and just straight up fun storytelling.

AFTERLIFE INC focuses on Jack Fortune a hustler with a good eye for business and opportunity just happens to die at the right time—that is when the afterlife loses its management. Fortune leaps at the opportunity to take over, turning the afterlife into a business. Now Fortune and his hand picked staff of angels, archangels, and deities from all sorts of realms work hard to make dreams of the afterlife come true. It’s an expansive premise, but one that holds a sort of FANTASY ISLAND like promise that leaves the stories open for tons of tales.

And these two volumes do just that as everything from an ALICE IN WONDERLAND style trip through the rabbit hole to conversations with both Sherlock Holmes and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle happen as if it were an every day occurrence. Lock bends and twists his storytelling technique to match the tone of each of the central figures of his stories, be they new arrivals to the afterlife or eternally working members of Fortune’s board. All of them fun and exciting stories.

To top it all off, Lock is able to wrangle a ton of talented artists to help differentiate the tales from one another and set the right tonal mood for the story. Be it Roy Huteson Stewart’s noir tale or Ash Jackson’s child-like tale of whimsy, Lock shows that he knows how to match art and tone for the best dramatic effect.

I look forward to see where Lock and his talented cadre of artists go next. These two volumes are massive tomes, clocking in at 110 pages a volume, but the stories read quick and it’s well worth checking out for someone looking more something from the more indie side of comics.


ASSASSIN’S CREED V.1-3

Writer: Eric Corbeyran
Illustrator: Djilalli Defali
Publisher: Titan Books
Reviewer: Mr. Pasty


I have sort of a love/hate relationship with Titan Books. They love to send me advance previews, and I usually hate them. The mere thought of that WWE HEROES experiment makes me want to light my longbox on fire rather than dig them out and dispose of them properly--and by properly I mean take a dump on them and send them to a cave in Afghanistan as part of the war on terror. But I digress. Its latest offering is ASSASSIN’S CREED, a three-volume set based on the wildly popular video game of the same name. It is with great embarrassment that I admit to have never played it and even more regrettable to confess I don’t even own a PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360. Somewhere in a crowded mall in North Wales, Pennsylvania, employees at GameStop weep. My kid asked me “Hey, what’s that ASSASSIN’S CREED thing all about?” To which I replied, like a sixth grader trying to fake his way through a book report, “It’s about this uh, assassin, and he has this uh, creed…”

When all was said and done, I was kind of glad I went in blind, because it allowed to me to critique it as a graphic novel and nothing else. Part of the difficulty in reviewing a property that has already established its success in another medium is trying to rate it based on its own merits and not how it compares to the existing material. I had the opportunity with ASSASSIN’S CREED and I’m happy to report that as a graphic novel, it’s terrific. Fans of the franchise will recognize the trials and tribulations of Desmond Miles, an assassin who is captured by an evil corporation and forced to travel through time to embark on dangerous missions that, quite frankly, give writer Eric Corbeyran the keys to daddy’s Cadillac because time travel gives you an infinite timeline to work with. My research tells me he’s faithful to the original ASSASSIN’S CREED narrative while also introducing elements unfamiliar to the existing fan base. Of course, none of that really matters if the book is a steaming pile of hot garbage, but Corbeyran and illustrator Djilalli Defali seem to be treating it more like a personal project and less like a licensed property for which they paint by numbers.

Would I recommend these books to fellow noobs? Absolutely. I didn’t know dick about Desmond or his adventures and I was able to jump right in, so based on my limited comprehension, I would say that makes it a shoe-in for the general populace. The only requirement is that you be a fan of sharp writing and cinematic artwork. I don’t think that’s asking too much in the current climate and based on what some of the other publishing houses are cranking out these days, you sure as hell could do a lot worse. I say check this one out. The price tag might be a little on the steep side, but hell, it’s no more expensive than some of the magazines in Barnes and Noble and at least with ASSASSIN’S CREED, you get a nice shiny hardcover.

Web heads who can’t get enough of Mr. Pasty’s word vomit are encouraged to watch him operate as Nostradumbass over at MMaMania.com here. Love, hate and Mafia Wars requests should be directed here.


Advance Review: In stores today!

CABLE & X-FORCE #1

Writer: Dennis Hopeless
Artist: Salvador Larroca
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche


As with all my reviews I try to push aside my personal proclivities and focus on the execution of the title versus whether “would I buy this?” I also try to think about the money strapped collector who simply can’t afford every book on the shelf, and this mantra has never been more prevalent in the new cross-pollinated Marvel Now world of X-MEN & AVENGER co-mingling.

I have always been on the side of X versus A, even before Marvel asked us to pick sides earlier this year. Mutants are my thing, and as such I love a world where more mutie titles stuff the shelves. I don’t even mind those damn AVENGERS getting all up in my X-titles; in fact, I outright welcome then in their own UNCANNY book, especially when Havok gets to call the shots in all mutie affairs, which is exactly how CABLE & X-FORCE opens.

Hopeless opens this book right with five of the new X-FORCEians standing amongst a sea of bodies. Cable, Colossus, Domino and Dr. Nemesis stand toe-to-toe with the Uncanny Avengers before a gunshot escape, and we are whisked away to the famed “a few days earlier” to unravel the events that led us to this point. It was great to see an underdog escape the Avengers, and I give huge props to Hopeless for having Alex acknowledge and try to use their loose familial ties to persuade Cable to come peacefully.

Personally, I’ve really missed Cable. I know he has his detractors, but when he’s not a mutant messiah or raising a mutant messiah in the future, he is the Bruce Willis of comics. A man who must always take the hard road forward since he knows the easy path often leads to mutant demise. Also, like his father (before the Phoenix-induced breakdown) he’s a natural leader.

This is truly a back to roots book, with Cable and this new team living inside an abandoned ship in the middle of the desert. Hopeless spends a fair amount of time reuniting Hope and Cable after Cable’s perceived death and Hope’s reigniting of the mutie gene across the globe. Hell hath no fury like a daughter scorned, and with Hope’s exile into the boredom of a human foster family and Cable’s lack of contact since his return scorn abounds on many pages.

Being an exposition tale, and with Hopeless’ backwards story approach, there are many puzzle pieces that have yet to fit together (or perhaps I simply have a gap in memory). The only clear membership on the team is Dr. Nemesis, who Cable hijacks at gunpoint to help him with the side effects of losing the techno-organic virus. Forge’s presence is still an unknown. Domino, well she goes together with Cable more naturally than Honey Boo Boo with illiteracy. Colossus is still a delta as his only appearance is on the first few pages; we still have no idea how this member of the Phoenix Five actually joins the new team.

I’m OK with questions for now, but this better be a short arc because a cool line-up only gets you so far. Purpose is a necessity; if you don’t believe me, simply look at the rapid dwindling love for JUSTICE LEAGUE.

I would be remiss not to mention Mr. Larroca’s contribution to this title. Any monkey with a pen can emulate characters that have been around for a generation; it takes a true artist, though, to make a static image move and Larocca is a wizard in this regard of Daily Prophet proportions. Hope’s tantrum, Domino’s escape act, in every instance blurring is used to make the panel whiz by.

I won’t say CABLE & X-FORCE is for everyone. If you are only a casual mutie observer with enough room in your wallet for just one X-Book, that book should be ALL NEW X-MEN. If you’re a mutie zealot like yours truly, though, this branching of mutant wetworks is exactly what the Dr. Nemesis ordered.


AVENGERS #1
Marvel Comics


I have to admit that I came into this with big, big hopes for a Jonathan Hickman AVENGERS run given my fandom of his work, but this first issue was not quite what I expected to happen, though mainly in tone. I expected some pretty (ugh, I hate this term) “epic” events to go down – and this definitely has the shapings of some really upper-level storytelling and explosive action – but I did not expect the wordplay driving this opening shot to go for that feeling with its very methodical and somewhat loaded narrative. Unexpected, but it worked, as this issue really did feel very bold and went pretty well into overdrive on the “shit happening” scale. My only worry is if that tone continues, because I’ve seen it before in a Hickman book (I’m looking at you S.H.I.E.L.D.!!), it can be very disconnecting, and I know the Hickmeister’s character development and wordplay are a joy to behold when he mellows it out a bit, as seen in his FANTASTIC FOUR run. As debut issues go, though, between the unique approach to the storytelling and the absolutely sublime Jerome Opena art to join it, this was definitely one of the more memorable openers I’ve read this year and we really were not lacking for fantastic number ones these past dozen months. -
Humphrey Lee


BLACKACRE #1
Image Comics


As much as I love to use this website to sit back and break down some new number ones that I’ve been anticipating, I have to admit that this debut by BLACKACRE left me feeling like it was something worth drawing attention too but not really critiquing, as I feel this book needs more room to breathe. Essentially, I want to say here that I really appreciate the effort the opening goes through to present almost a thesis on our current, underlying pop culture obsession with the apocalypse in its many forms: zombie, religious, economic, etc. It’s a really intriguing setup point to use to give us the future world BLACKACRE lives in. From that point on, though, it kind of stumbles as it moves forward. Now, by “stumbles” I mean it makes this great intro and then spends the other two-thirds of the book casually introducing some characters, giving a little context to their actions, and then putting forth a “seek and return” mission for our assumed protagonist, Hull. It’s not enough to kill my enthusiasm for the book going forward, but considering how big and bold it opens and then gets somewhat traditional toward the end it let me down just a bit. Still, this is a book I’m eager to see how it develops, especially if we see more of the themes played with in the first few pages of this issue. And if/when this happens I plan to dedicate more words to what is hopefully another breakout for Image. - Humphrey Lee


HAWKEYE #5
Marvel Comics


Sometimes (re: most times) with this Cheap Shot space I like to go ahead and revisit books I just did a could months ago to either reiterate what I said about them before or let you wonderful readers know if my opinions had shifted. So, yeah, this book is still fucking awesome. That’s really all I’m here to say. Even without David Aja’s visual tour de force this issue, Javier Pulido is more than bringing the goods to what is easily the most energetic and bombastic book not only from Marvel, but possibly on the shelves in general. The action is fantastic, Hawkeye’s attitude is awesome in its almost altruistic lackadaisicalness, and his interaction with Kate is still a little creepy but - god help me - on the endearing side. With no exaggeration I say that if it weren’t for the perpetual home run machine that is Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ SAGA, this would pretty much be a shoe-in for “Best Ongoing” in a month when the @$$ crew and I write up our year-end column. The quality of both is so top notch, though, that acclaim may as well come with the archery metaphor of one arrow splitting the other right in the heart of the bullseye--that’s how on target are these books. - Humphrey Lee



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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  • Dec. 12, 2012, 9:04 a.m. CST

    DOOM Is FIRST!

    by V. von Doom

    And the mastermind behind AVENGERS ARENA? The Scourge Of The Underworld! DOOM will be amazed if this actually was the case ...

  • Dec. 12, 2012, 9:26 a.m. CST

    Would love to read the unedited Slott/Byrne War

    by Antimaster

    before it got whitewashed. Only the first few replies are still floating out in cyberspace now . . .

  • Dec. 12, 2012, 9:59 a.m. CST

    antimaster

    by Icarus2004

    I think you can find most of it here: http://www.bleedingcool.com/forums/front-page-comic-news/65057-fanboy-rampage-john-byrne-vs-dan-slott.html

  • Dec. 12, 2012, 10:08 a.m. CST

    So did Doc Ock bang Aunt May or what?

    by rev_skarekroe

    That's all I care about?

  • Dec. 12, 2012, 10:13 a.m. CST

    All Depends on How Your Mind Works Rev

    by optimous_douche

    Some will see a kiss Some will see Aunt May's ankles pinned to her ears slightly off panel right and left. Some will see below panel and off to the side a variety of tentacles entering her various orifices

  • Dec. 12, 2012, 10:14 a.m. CST

    Joker loves Batman? How...1986...

    by OutsideChance

    Really, that's what passes for innovative now? Stuff that Miller did way back in DKR? Well, that and stuff Hannibal Lector did at about the same time.

  • She's like 85 years old. Unless you believe Mark Millar, Aunt May kissing right before getting hitched is the naughtiest thing she's ever done (but it's still enough to freak Peter Parker out).

  • Dec. 12, 2012, 10:28 a.m. CST

    So, Dan Slott says, "ONLY a kiss is foreshadowed", but then admits to...

    by buggerbugger

    ...purposefully constructing the scene "to ALLOW readers to reach the worst possible outcome [in] their OWN minds" because he "wanted to leave the moment up to EVERYONE'S imagination and NOT put limits on it"? In other words, Slott **deliberately** wanted some readers of ASM to feel like dirty fucking perverts due to their being "tricked" by the storyteller into imagining the worst thing they could between panels? Nice guy. Makes me glad I dumped ASM with that SHIT NEW DAY retconning bollocks. Okay, I'm going to imagine that Aunt May gives Peter the experience of an incestuous gummy blowjob between panels, because Dan Slott allowed me to. Anything else would be putting limits on it.

  • Dec. 12, 2012, 10:33 a.m. CST

    So 1986???

    by optimous_douche

    I don't think love was ever really courted before. Obsession yes, but I don't think Joker has ever even expressed the ability to love before this. I suppose in the end it's somewhat subjective for the past relationship, but now it is blatant.

  • Dec. 12, 2012, 11:39 a.m. CST

    Joker loves Batman?

    by Tom

    That sounds like someone grasping for straws to find something new to say about the Batman vs Joker concept. I had no idea Batman had become so boring. I suppose the next step is to make them childhood friends, and who the Waynes adopted him for a time before they die.

  • Dec. 12, 2012, 12:22 p.m. CST

    BATMAN since the New 52 has been amazing

    by Frat Boy

    Great stuff from Snyder and Capullo.

  • Dec. 12, 2012, 1:08 p.m. CST

    Damien does die-- when Talia kills him in Batman Inc. #8

    by Laserhead

    Turns out Damien wasn't Bruce and Talia's child. He was a clone of Bruce Wayne, and in her endgame Talia presses a button and Damien melts in front of his "father".

  • Dec. 12, 2012, 1:33 p.m. CST

    Yes, so 1986!!

    by Righteous Brother

    Well he does refer to Batman as 'Darling' at one point in TDKR anyway.

  • Dec. 12, 2012, 1:47 p.m. CST

    My Boss Calls Me Darling - Doesn't Love Me

    by optimous_douche

    I saw Joker as more sexually ambiguous than in love in TDKR. meh, open to interpretation.

  • Dec. 12, 2012, 2:01 p.m. CST

    Maybe I'm just a big ol' pervert, but...

    by The Garbage Man

    I really don't get the controversy over The Aunt May Moment. The facts are these: 1. Peter and Octavius have switched bodies and now have complete access to each others' memories. 2. May and Otto were engaged to be married many years ago. This is established continuity. 3. Peter is experiencing Otto's memories in flashes. 4. These are all adults. 5. Adults have sex, particularly when they love each other enough to get engaged. I understand not wanting to see Aunt May that way, but be realistic. How many people wait for marriage the first time around, let alone the second? Bottom line, it's a joke rooted in continuity and one you would have to expect to at least be referenced given the premise. I especially don't understand Ambush Bug's rant in the podcast given that it's exactly the kind of joke he, or at least one of the other @$$holes, might make. And don't tell me it's more than a joke because it's in the book itself, the sex is only implied and not even strongly at that.

  • Dec. 12, 2012, 2:14 p.m. CST

    Dear Cable, how do I hate thee? Let me count the ways...

    by Homer Sexual

    You are from the future, and I hate time travel. You have no apparent connection to your alleged future parents. You represent everything wrong with the 90's. You have a ridiculous look, and all you are is a look. You are exaggerated, even by comic standards. Ultimate Badass. Huge guns. Metal arm. You are not the Bruce Willis of comics. I happily go see Bruce Willis movies. I would not see any movie with Schwarzenegger, but he has fans. I would never read any book you are in, but you have your fans.

  • It would not surprise me in the least.

  • Dec. 13, 2012, 2:14 p.m. CST

    I'm worried that Hawkeye is being ignored . . .

    by Olsen Twins_Fan

    sort of like the Fraction/Aja Iron Fist run, which was similarly amazing and ended too soon. Hawkeye is by far my favorite title right now (and I love Saga). Aja is drawing some truly original stuff - tons of cool panel arrangements with the occasional jaw dropping splash page. And the Pulido fill-in on art was great! My only exposure to Pulido was a couple of fill-in issues of the Incredible Hulk like 14 years ago (right after P. David's initial run ended there were about 8 totally shit issues before they started to re-number). And the art in those was terrible. He has picked up some serious skills in the last 14 years.

  • Dec. 13, 2012, 2:16 p.m. CST

    It's comic nerds, the garbage man

    by rev_skarekroe

    Comic nerds have weird views on sexuality. Anyone else remember several years ago when Johnny Storm referred to The Thing's "lizard" (or lack thereof) and the comic nerd community went apeshit? And I still say Doc Ock and Aunt May didn't get farther than first base anyway. I mean, it's not like Alan Moore wrote the book or something.

  • Dec. 13, 2012, 3:49 p.m. CST

    this hickman thing

    by foree forehead

    all i've heard is greatness about the FF stuff but i'm 2.5 TPBs into his run and it seems all a bit run-of-the-mill. the family/reed trying-to-fix-everything bits are often very good but not to the level of hyperbolic praise i've seen on here/elsewhere. it's now getting a bit star wars with all the different cities and 'alien' races converging for a forthcoming war. and his supposed high concepts are relatively mundane compared to e.g. g. morrison. does it get better?

  • Dec. 13, 2012, 11:05 p.m. CST

    No, it doesn't

    by Joenathan

    Stop reading it right now. It's not for you.

  • Dec. 14, 2012, 7:02 a.m. CST

    thanks

    by foree forehead

    i'll finish the one with doom on the cover and read this old pile of sandmans a friend gave me instead. shame.