Comics

AICN COMICS REVIEWS: ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN! SWEET TOOTH! GODZILLA! THINK TANK! & MORE!

Published at: Jan. 9, 2013, 9:09 a.m. CST by ambush bug

The Pull List
(Click title to go directly to the review)

Advance Review: SWEET TOOTH #40 (last issue)
THINK TANK V1
NEW AVENGERS #1
Indie Jones presents ANOMALY V1
BATMAN INC. #6
THINK TANK MILITARY DOSSIER V1
GODZILLA: THE HALF-CENTURY WAR #4
Indie Jones presents ADVENTURES OF THE 19XX V1
ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #19


Advance Review: In stores today!

SWEET TOOTH #40 (last issue)

Writer & Artist: Jeff Lemire
Publisher: DC Vertigo Reviewer: Optimous Douche


Just finished reading @JeffLemire’s SWEET TOOTH – Prophetic, Poignant, Beautiful Saturday, January 5, 2013 via Twitter

The first thing you learn in corporate communications is that the simplest messages are often the best. I’m glad for my gag order from DC, because to discuss a book before the embargo date I must use the simplest of phrases for my adoration to avoid spoilers. My generic Tweet perfectly summarizes the entire SWEET TOOTH series (all right, maybe “prophetic” had to wait until this issue).

I will spoil a great deal in this review; you will know the exact secrets and mysteries about Gus, the eponymous SWEET TOOTH. How the plague was created, what it took to uncover the mystery of the animal/human hybrids that appeared with the plague, the final fate of Gus’ savior Jepperd, and last but certainly not least, the future of Gus and all life on earth. At no time, though, should you think you know SWEET TOOTH simply because you know the final outcome. SWEET TOOTH is an experience, not a destination.

I‘m sad the journey is over, but elated by the fact more and more writers are realizing endings are essential to an impactful story. I write this review a few hours after learning one of my dearest friends took his life last night. Sadly, my appreciation for him today is a thousand fold over what it was yesterday. But that’s the tragic irony of life; we only truly appreciate things when they have completely slipped from our grasp. SWEET TOOTH is finite, but the memory and detail of each precious page will live infinitely longer than even the most grandiose of storylines in the ever eternal spandex set.

You could get everything you need to know about SWEET TOOTH from this final issue. I wouldn’t recommend it, but you can. I honestly haven’t seen this expertise in concise plot consolidation since the opening pages of ALL STAR SUPERMAN. Even though this story starts many years ahead from where we left off in issue 39, introducing us to the sons of Gus, Lemire masterfully ties the two time periods together to whisk us back to the small cabin in the woods where we first learned of the plague and met the literally doe eyed and antlered Gus and his stalwart protector Jepperd.

Seemingly as quickly as the book progressed over the past four years of its existence, Lemire brings us to the now, where we meet a grown Gus, the monosyllabic beaver-boy (now man) Bobby, and Gus’ two sons, one of which foreshadows Gus’ life mate with his piggy little nose. When the group is attacked by a band of normal-looking humans, Lemire leads us to believe that the hybrids are still on the run even so many years later.

But in a twist of irony…fate…whatever you want to call it, we learn that humanity’s time on earth is truly over, all that’s left are the last few elderly who were born before or survived the plague. Lemire’s allusion to the hybrids being the next dominant sentient species on earth has come to full fruition. As we discovered a few issues ago, though, deep in the bowels of the science station in Alaska where Gus was “born”, this isn’t the first time hybrids have roamed the land, nor will they be the last. Yet this time they have knowledge of the past society’s mistakes and can now rectify them.

Step one in this correction is shunning all technology. Again bringing the series full-circle, we end up back in the woods where Gus’ once-lone cabin is now a thriving city that’s more akin to an Ewok village than an urban blight. Here stands the new Garden of Eden and the parallel of this biblical beginning is played to the fullest extent by Lemire without ever being heavy-handed. The only human amongst them is the once quasi-prophetic Dr. Singh, who finally accepted few things are divine. He is now the healer to the first society. However, another human still fondly remembered is Jepperd. Each year his life and untimely death are honored by the inhabitants of this new society in a hybrid festival akin to Christmas meeting Thanksgiving, or as shopping malls call it, October.

All is not, peace, love and American Indian principles though. There are factions of the hybrid community who find Gus’ pacifist ways and empathy towards the remaining humans unsettling, and we learn in a heartbreaking moment that their leader is Jepperd’s son, Buddy.

I’m not going to say how this conflict is resolved because ultimately it doesn’t matter. This is not the story of a future society. This was the story of a little boy who looked like a deer, but had more humanity than the race he was sent to replace. This issue was about his days as a young man, a father, a wise elder and lastly and ever so endearingly a friend.

Years ago I was ready to shun SWEET TOOTH. The name seemed ludicrous, the descriptions about a deer-boy from my fellow reviewers never hit the mark on what the story was truly about, and honestly I didn’t know anyone whose opinion I trusted who was reading the book. In a fortuitous turn of events, we were given an interview opportunity with Mr. Lemire and I was the only guy available in the @$$hole clubhouse to get the job done. Sometimes happenstance is a much better guide in life than our conscious decisions. If I followed my gut I would have missed one of the most emotionally impactful series…make that stories…ever.

Optimous Douche has successfully blackmailed BottleImp to draw purty pictures for his graphic novel AVERAGE JOE coming out in 2013 from COM.X. When not on Ain’t It Cool, Optimous can be found talking comics and marketing on robpatey.com and just marketing on MaaS360.com.


THINK TANK V.1

Written by Matt Hawkins
Art by Rahsan Ekedal
Published by Top Cow / Image Comics
Reviewer: Russ Sheath


THINK TANK VOL 1 from Top Cow hit shelves recently and has created quite the buzz. The story of David Loren, a genius who works for the military creating the latest ways for the US to tackle its enemies, THINK TANK tells the story of what happens when David decides to cut the strings of his military task masters as he becomes conflicted over the technology he is creating and how it is being used.

The first thing that you notice about THINK TANK is that it is a black and white series. That should far from put you off as THINK TANK joins THE WALKING DEAD in proving that a modern comic can maintain both high concept and production value without having to rely on all the whistles and flutes of digital coloring and eye watering special effects. Indeed the interesting thing about Think Tank and Walking Dead alike is that it is difficult to imagine color applied to the books now they are established, the B&W aesthetic brings an atmosphere to the ‘human’ story that runs throughout both titles that would somehow be missing were the titles to be colored.

The black and white graphics emphasize an underlying simplicity to THINK TANK that is subtly intertwined with the setting of future tech development. Writer Matt Hawkins hits upon this when protagonist David compares himself to Oskar Schindler, emphasizing a simple human story amid the high concept as we discover that David isn’t a particularly likable character from the outset. Arrogant and something of a jerk with a snarky sarcasm and air of superiority, David wields his intelligence over those not as smart as him as he uses his smarts to antagonize his military superiors.

When the nightmare-plagued scientist determines that its time to part ways with the Think Tank as he struggles with the consequences of creating weapons that maim and kill people, David knows that the military won’t take his departure laying down. As Loren begins to discover his conscience we in turn discover that while we may not like him from the outset we can certainly empathize with him. Loren and Manish, David’s put upon long term friend and co-genius, plot their way out from the clutches of DARPA, the defense organization responsible for next generation technology, an organization that will go to any lengths to ensure that the greatest technical minds remain in service to the government at any length. Of course, there's a pretty girl to be rescued along the way, which may have proven cliche were it not for the our suddenly seeing a side to David that isn't selfish and as we, date I say it, grow to like him.

THINK TANK is something of a pet project for series writer Matt Hawkins who has, in more than one interview, confessed his own passion for science and technology, occasionally saying there is a little of himself in Loren. This passion that gives life to this project is evident in every page of the story telling as Hawkins takes every opportunity to infuse the story with near future tech whether visually or in Loren’s own story of developing new technology that kills...all in the name of a safer world. The effort that Hawkins has gone to research the next generation of tech is impressive as we ask ourselves what price do the men and women who serve our nation pay so that we may sleep soundly at night?

THINK TANK is a hugely refreshing read as I, like many others, seek an alternative to super hero crossovers and quite simply, something a bit different. You know you are getting a quality book worthy of your $$$ when you buy a Top Cow title and THINK TANK is a well written, intelligent book with great visuals from Rahsan Ekedal that is quite simply a fun comics experience. With the movie rights recently sold and with VOLUME 2 and the tie-in THINK TANK MILITARY DOSSIER just around the corner I’m sure we will be seeing much more of David Loren in the future.

To check out issue 1 of Think Tank entirely free, just follow this link.

You can follow Russ Sheath's blog Russwords here and on Twitter here.


NEW AVENGERS #1

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Steve Epting
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee


Without reservation I hold Hickman in the highest echelons of the comic book writing world. I think so much of the man’s writing talents that I came into both his AVENGERS titles with high hopes despite not having been onboard with these titles for a few years. Most of it boils down to two of the larger qualms I’ve had with the bigger profile Marvel and DC books the better part of that time period: they usually cost more than the other books on the shelves (and while being completely solid books usually don’t have that extra “oomph” I desire to justify the extra cost) and they have a terrible tendency to be the books that build up the almost annual events we get in these universes that I care not one whit about. Sadly, there’s no promise that the latter of these two trends will not continue; even though Hickman does not exactly strike me as the type to want to write such stories since the happenings in his runs have enough of that event level feel to them, what the company wants the company probably gets. But, speaking to the idea of a book earning that extra dollar off sheer quality in a marketplace filled with plenty of great titles for a dollar less, these AVENGERS books are doing that in spades.

Right off the bat I enjoy the somewhat contradictory approach to opening this run of NEW AVENGERS as Hickman and his cohorts did AVENGERS a few weeks earlier. The overall tones are somewhat similar; they are very forceful, very “we mean business” as shit goes down right from the start. The contrast between this and regular AVENGERS is in the narrative, as AVENGERS went very level toned, essentially from that drawn back storyteller around a campfire place as it dictated events as much as we visually watched them unfold. NEW AVENGERS instead gets personal and does it pretty quick. After reminding us about the Illuminati – which immediately got my fanboy gander because, holy fuck, Hickman covering the Illuminati angle – it brings us to some Wakandan youths that are about to get in way over their heads. It’s a good grounding, for what it is considering the stakes these books look to be playing for are going to be cloud level even during calmer times, but nonetheless seeing these rambunctious youths just hoping to do some exploring get put in mortal peril when “holy fuck, weirdly dressed bastards from another dimension!” show up is a nice way to set up a group we are meant to disdain.

The downside to this, though, is that I did not really get that much of a super-menacing vibe from this particular group of bastards. Obviously they’re evil, especially as they free-wheelingly gun down the youngins, but as much of a badass as I know Black Panther to be, he deals with them with relative ease. If anything, compared to Ex Nihilo and his group of demigods and the throw down we know they are capable of laying we see in AVENGERS, the group of extra-dimensional militants we see here do not have as much of a punch, though of course this becomes a case of “In Hickman We Trust” and the greater scope of what their actions in this book mean will hopefully come back on the level we expect. Especially once the tension that is Black Panther, in all his tumultuous angst toward the Illuminati, gears up for a butting of heads with them as the book winds down.

What it all boils down to is that when it comes to titles like this, just as with his FANTASTIC FOUR and SHIELD runs, Hickman knows how to do grandiose. He understands the essence of these characters, the symbols they are and the stakes they play for and knows their actions and adventures need to be big and bold but he also does exactly what is necessary to humanize them. And, it also helps that he’s had some facking amazing artistic help in these endeavors. Steve Epting’s contribution to the attitude and style this type of book commands is top notch. And, honestly, I feel remiss if I don’t mention how goddamn gloriously lush Frank D’Armata’s coloring job, as always, makes the line work become. As with AVENGERS I have a strong, positive feeling about what this creative crew is going to realize with this title, and I believe they’ll be somewhat different enough from a narrative angle that they’ll stand well on their own merits. No matter how you slice it, we’re in for something special, something that shows why this property has become the “World’s Finest” staple as far as the public at large, comic readers or no, has come to know them to exist.

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.


ANOMALY V1

Writer: Skip Brittenham and Brian Haberlin
Illustrator: Brian Haberlin and Geirrod Van Dyke
Publisher: Anomaly Publishing
Reviewer: Mr. Pasty


When I heard the gang behind ANOMALY was sending me a “big” graphic novel, I was expecting something big. I know what a big hardcover book looks like, having amassed 15 volumes of Charlie Brown ‘Cyclopedias over the years. But ANOMALY isn’t just big, it’s friggin’ enormous, in a grotesquely awesome way. I’m a large man (not Optimous Douche large, but still pretty big) and it spans the tip of my elbow to the base of my pinky. You’ll probably need both hands and the entire couch to read this thing comfortably. And did I mention it’s 370 pages long? You’re not reading this in one sitting unless you cancel those plans you had for picking up chicks at the church’s chicken and waffle dinner. All kidding aside, this could prove to be an all-dayer. To top it off, it comes with an “ultimate augmented reality” app that allows readers to scan over ANOMALY with their mobile device and watch 3-D models come to life on the pages. Yeah, it’s kinda gimmicky, but it’s done well, so I didn’t mind. In fact, it was actually a fun way to go back and experience ANOMALY in a new way, kind of like watching a DVD with commentary or something to that effect.

That’s assuming you want to give it a second go-round. Personally, I really enjoyed the story. The material isn’t anything you haven’t already experienced in different formats, but the universal themes are enough to appeal to everyone and who doesn’t love a good science fiction story? This is your standard fare about greedy corporations and depleted resources and one man’s quest to right the world’s wrongs and blah blah blah. ANOMALY is a good graphic novel, even without the special effects, but let’s face it, that’s why it’s getting noticed and rightly so. The word “groundbreaking” has been thrown around regarding ANOMALY but I’d probably be more inclined to call it unique, sort of an amalgamation of several different technologies. Like ARCHEOLOGISTS OF SHADOWS, this is the kind of artwork that you can just stare at for hours on end and the widescreen format of the gigantic pages really brings out its beauty. You’d be hard-pressed to find artwork in any graphic novel that stacks up next to ANOMALY and this isn’t one of those books you hide when company comes over. Hell no, you leave it on the coffee table right where all your friends can see it and ask about it. That’s when you whip out the iPhone and run it over the pages as your pals “ooh” and “ahh” at the neat little tricks it does.

The list price is a staggering $75.00 but you can get it online at most retailers for around $40. And it comes with endorsements from Harrison Ford, Ridley Scott and Todd McFarlane! For that price, this one’s a no-brainer. Not because a bunch of celebrity endorsers said so, rather because I said so! Hey, it’s my review. And it’s not outrageous to suggest that you’re likely to unwittingly purchase 10 shitty books over the next year at $4 a pop, so think of it as a way to guarantee you get your money’s worth. Heck, even if you bought 10 awesome books for that money, it’s still worth buying ANOMALY. Not only do you get to read and enjoy it, you get to show it off to all your friends. Try doing that with your girlfriend’s TWILIGHT books.

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.


BATMAN INC. #6

Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Chris Burnham
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche


“You know what, Jason Todd? I helped kill you 25 years ago. I was one of the legions who dialed 1-900-KILL-TOD and felt my parents’ wrath when the bill came so my voice could be heard. I felt a modicum of guilt for the decision and then felt the weight of that guilt subside with your return. All of my remorse went away when you found a good comic book and true direction in RED HOOD. However, after BATMAN INCORPORATED 6, I take it all back. I’m glad you died and I’m pissed you got to bang Starfire, because anyone who messes with Bat-Cow will feel the wrath of Damian Wayne and Optimous Douche.”

OK, that feels better.

I chided VOL 1. Of BATMAN INCORPORATED. While I dug the idea of a bunch of Batmen running around and once I got past the Knight & Squire issues I felt the execution was top notch, I just could not get past Bruce Wayne’s public declaration of financing Batman. I felt it was akin to giving Clark Kent contacts and still expecting us to buy his ruse. Essentially, it opened the kimono WAY TOO far for comfort (and stretched the believability that comic denizens are really that obtuse).

VOL. 2, though, has completely shifted gears. Instead of Bruce travelling the world recruiting, all of his Batmen have come back to the aerie in Gotham to battle Leviathan and their seductive mistress, Talia Al Ghul. Without the public declarations, trite cultural tropes, and Batman especially acting like an Amway salesman to get people on board, BATMAN INCORPORATED took on a persona I could get behind with the fullest of support.

The series also introduced Bat-Cow, probably my favorite character of the NEW 52. I have no bovine fetish; what I adore is what Bat-Cow symbolizes in my favorite Robin to date, Damian Wayne. Raised by assassins, spoiled beyond belief, and smarter than the average bear, Damian the little prick is easy to portray. And before you give me a petulant “ttt,” think about it. I’m right. For issue upon issue people wanted to beat this kid as he sassed off to Dick Grayson while Batman was on his sojourn through time. Since the return, though, Robin the scared and (as this issue reveals) truly unwanted little boy has never been explored. Morrison rectified this with Bat-Cow. In the adoption of this doe eyed creature we see the sad and all too often plight of only children befriending and anthropomorphizing animals for friendship. And it doesn’t hurt that the adoption took place in perfect juxtaposition with his killer side in BATMAN INCORPORATED 1.

Another reason I’m fully enamored with this volume, and this particular issue, is that Talia gets the best of all the worldly Bats and it’s up to the OB (original bats) to save their foreign asses. Squire, my least favorite of the international crew, is hanging on the precipice of death at the end. I give a big Bally Ho to any writer that’s willing to off cockney stereotypes; with Morrison leaving DC I would pay him personally to rewrite My Fair Lady with Eliza turning to prostitution and heavy drug use at the end.

It wasn’t all shits and giggles for me this issue, though. First there’s Jerk-Off Jason who takes a direct stab at Bat-Cow in the Bat-Cave as the four Robins monitor Batman’s progress towards Talia in her abandoned warehouse maze of doom. Then there was a further blow to the fragile Robin ego. Hands down, Burnham draws my favorite version of Damian, making him look like a true little boy with a chip on his shoulder. What we hadn’t seen before in Robin, though, was pain. In the past any emotional scars were firmly scabbed over with attitude. With Morrison’s words and Bunham’s art, my heart broke a little when she said the only reason for Damian was to have spare parts for Ra’s. It’s an epic blow to the little scamp that Talia then pours lemon juice on in the form of an epic cliff-hanger of danger to Damian or all of Gotham. I’m not going to say what it is, but the Judgment Scales on the cover will give you a clue and it’s a perfect swan song before Morrison he says sayonara to DC for a while.

I’ll buy anything with Bat-Cow and receive a modicum of enjoyment from it, but in the hands of Master Morrison every Bat-moment is kobe instead of ground chuck including BATMAN INCORPORATED 6.

Oh, and fuck you once again, Jason.


THINK TANK MILITARY DOSSIER V1

Writer: Matt Hawkins
Art: Rahsan Ekedal
Publisher: Top Cow / Image Comics
Reviewer: Russ Sheath


If you haven’t been following THINK TANK then you have been missing out on a treat. The story of a military scientist who develops a conscience when he is plagued by the horrors inflicted upon the world by his creations, Think Tank is a witty, intelligent and well written book from the masters of high concept, Top Cow. This week see’s the release of THINK TANK MILITARY DOSSIER, an interesting and informative delve into the science and characters that makes Top Cow’s surprise hit tick!

Back in the early days of Image ‘sourcebooks’ were quite the rage, essentially providing background fluff including profiles and pin ups relating to characters appearing in popular comics at the time. THINK TANK MILITARY DOSSIER takes this idea a step further and allows writer Matt Hawkins to indulge his passion for technology and science that is explored in the series while taking the reader along for the ride.

A ‘New Scientist’ for beginners, the DOSSIER offers background profiles on the series main characters interlaced with the books trademark sardonic wit together with an introductory strip by the series creators. The most fascinating and ‘must buy’ aspect of the book, however, is a ‘science class’ introduction to the technology discussed in the series by way of an interview with a fictional DARPA employee. Informative and providing bucket loads of information about the real world organization and tech that is central in the book, this really shows you what is possible with the ‘sourcebook’ format.

You’d be mistaken if you dismissed this as a simple fluff sourcebook. THINK TANK MILITARY DOSSIER is a great way to add depth to the mythos of the series and will have you googling techno related subjects until the wee hours of the morning as the scientist in all of us is awakened. Whether a fan of the ongoing series or looking for a jumping on point, the DOSSIER doesn’t disappoint.

Check out a free preview of the THINK TANK MILITARY DOSSIER here.


GODZILLA: THE HALF-CENTURY WAR #4

Writers: James Stokoe
Artist: James Stokoe
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Reviewer: Masked Man


First off, I don’t think there’s a more art-jammed-packed comic on the stands today than James Stokoe’s Godzilla book--the guy gives George Perez a run for his money. Godzilla is the perfect type of book to show off his talents, too: massively detailed city spreads, tons of destruction, heavy military tech, and hyper detailed giant monsters. His style is clearly based on Japanese manga, but his dedication to detail gives it his own distinctive look. If you’re a fan of the King of Monsters, you’d be out of your mind not to buy this comic book.

Storywise, Stokoe is accomplishing two things here: One, he’s telling an everyman’s experience of living with the fantastic, akin to Kurt Busiek’s MARVELS or Alex Ross’s KINGDOM COME--Ota Murakami, a Japanese soldier turned Anti-Megalosaurus Force member, has been fighting Godzilla for (you guessed it) 50 years. Two, he’s creating a single uniforme history of Godzilla, taking most of the elements from the movies and putting them together in a smoothly evolving timeline. The first issue covered Godzilla’s first appearance in the 1950’s, and with each following issue we jump to a different decade where Godzilla is just as invincible and Ota is just getting older. In issue #4, Godzilla is finally starting to be viewed as somewhat of a hero, as many of the movies made him out to be. Since each issue takes place in a different decade, they are pretty much stand alone issues, as Godzilla goes up against one of his major foes. Issue #4 has Mechagodzilla and SpaceGodzilla. To tie issues together, Stokoe uses Ota’s personal experiences, and the progression of how the human race has tried to deal with Godzilla since killing him doesn’t seem to be an option. I remember laughing once when I saw the “Godzilla Prediction Network” in a Godzilla movie. Well, Stokoe has actually worked that angle into the story. He’s also created a villain beyond Godzilla himself: Dr. Deverich. Deverich has sought to weaponize Godzilla and the other megalosauruses with a device that can attract them. Unfortunately, it works a little too well in this issue, and looks to set-up the ‘ending with a bang’ next issue.

Now, I’m a passing fan of Godzilla; I’ve only seen a few of his movies and never really had any toys or t-shirts. I do, however, remember watching Hanna-Barbera’s crappy GODZILLA cartoon as kid. It’s on Netflix now and I think everyone should at least experience it once. Seriously, it’s pretty stunning. That said, I can’t tell you any hardcore Godzilla history that’s being screwed up in this mini-series. But as a passing fan I can tell you I’m enjoying this series, which is a rare thing for me these days. It seems the bulk of comics these past few years have been so uninspiring. So trust me when I say, this is not the case for Stokoe’s work here. Originally, when the series started, I was worried it would become just a bullet point history of Godzilla’s career--what DC UNIVERSE: LEGACIES had devolved into. Well no worries as because Stokoe’s narrative has improved with each issue. Like any good story, it builds on what has happened before. This will make for a great trade.

With one more issue to go, you might not want to miss out on this fast paced, breezy yet introspective story. It could have only been made better if Stokoe had expanded the story more, because GODZILLA: THE HALF-CENTURY WAR has been a great Godzilla book and I wish there was more of it.

Learn more about the Masked Man and feel free to critic his own comicbook endeavors at www.Toonocity.com


THE ADVENTURES OF THE 19XX V.1: THE RISE OF THE BLACK FAUN

Writer & Artist: Paul Roman Martinez
Publisher: Kickstarter
Reviewer: Optimous Douche


The 19XX is the most imaginative, accurate and beautiful book you’ve never ever heard of. While I have a deep an undying love of the oxymoron called historical fiction, all comic fans who appreciate a well-crafted and meaty (140+ pages) tale of the Great Generation during their heyday will find something to love in 19XX.

This is the opposite side of the LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN coin. Where Moore took known literary figures and placed them in fantastical situations, 19XX crafts characters that are new and places them right inside the actual events (with comic flourish, of course) leading up to WWII. It also skips the copious amounts of fucking and deconstruction that are Moore staples for entertainment, making 19XX family entertainment at its finest.

I think Martinez actually had a much tougher job than Moore. He didn’t rely on the crutch of having other writers create his characters’ back stories. Each member of the 19XX is original, yet instantly familiar if you’ve ever seen a Saturday serial that our Grandparents relied on for depression era entertainment. The 19XX is essentially the MEN IN BLACK minus the aliens. They are a secret organization of fantastic individuals that handle problems the world is just not ready to believe. Aboard a zeppelin-style airship, the 19XX traverses the world quelling the unrest caused by werewolves, voodoo queens and a new entity called The Black Faun, a clandestine organization looking to help Germany create an uber world power.

Told through the narrative of the 19XX’s newest recruit, the kid, we get our introductions to the 19XX through his eyes of discovery. As he first traverses the 19XX’s airship base, The Carpathian, we get brief but appropriate introductions to the team: first the Captain, a man visually akin to the captain of the Titanic, but far more skilled. Penn Clement, the man of 1,000 gadgets and resident jokester. Fay Wells, an Amelia Earhart-type flying ace (again with better skills), who plays a game of flirtatious cat & mouse with Penn. Diablo, the XO, a man who is always ready for adventure with a square jaw and strong fist. Zora Hounan, botanist and mystic and last but not least, Marjorie, the Captain’s daughter. Now, these are the main members of the 19XX, but as the story unfolds they get help from such famous figures as Harry Houdini, who makes a posthumous appearance in the 1930’s thanks to a device lent to the 19XX by Nikolas Tesla, William Moffett, an early proponent of airship potential, and Black Herman, the first African-American celebrity of magic.

Now, of course no tale would be complete without villains, and once again Martinez borrows from the old but also innovates in the process. As precursors to the Nazis, the Black Faun have their own mixed bag of the fantastical on their side: a voodoo woman made of mist, a mechanical/human pre-Nazi, technomancy drones crafted from the fusion of magic and science, and a Baron that is strangely akin to Ra’s Al Ghul’s recipe for immortality.

In a race against time, the 19XX and the Black Faun traverse America to be the first to snatch artifacts that could unleash the end of mankind. The Black Faun thinks the artifacts will unleash the Aryan race. The 19XX have no idea what the artifacts will unleash, but they have it on good authority from soothsayers it will harken the next great war. It’s during these travels where Martinez not only exhibits his talent, but also his meticulous style of comic craftsmanship. Not only is EVERY panel laden with a background, but everything (hear me EVERYTHING) is historically accurate. Architecture, machinery design, and even fashion are spot on with the time period of the early 30’s.

Most of my followers know I try to avoid Kickstarters, but 19XX is different for a few reasons. One, the book exists already and sold out almost instantly. Plus it was nominated for some impressive awards when first released. If you have a Kickstarter and haven’t even created a book yet, don’t ask me to promote it. Two, Martinez upgraded the book from the last printing and created a voluminous compendium to complement it. Three, Martinez is dedicated to turning this into a series of six books. I don’t know how he’ll find the time with the insane amount of detail and sheer volume of the books, but book II is almost ready to go and established as a reward if you contribute enough. Four, it’s fucking awesome, and I would be doing the comic medium a grave disservice if I kept its goodness to myself.

Now, I only got to read a PDF of the book, but I would LOVE to see the hardcover bound edition in beautiful wide screen layout. Plus, there’s just something about cloth covers that feel…special. If you contribute a paltry $35, you can make my wish your reality. It’s a small sum to pay for a 140 page book of this quality, and you get a whole slew of extras 19XX paraphernalia to kickstart your fandom for one of comics’ best new talents.


ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #19

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Sara Pichelli
Publisher: Ultimate Marvel Comics
Reviewer: The Dean


Venom is back! He’s knocking things over, blowin’ stuff up – typical clumsy Venom stuff. But for the most part, this issue serves as a pretty good breather issue between events as Spider-Miles returns home from his first big play date with the pros in Wyoming. So far Bendis had done a great job building an almost entirely new cast of characters around Miles, making the whole “learning the ropes” thing more fresh and enjoyable than it could have otherwise been. It might not be the most action packed issue out there right now, but ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #19 serves as a nice sort of roll call for new readers that let them know who’s who and why they matter in Miles’ life, before Venom comes in and ruins everything like the jerk he is.

The issue opens with your typical swingin’ and thinkin’ intro (like most good Spider-Man stories do), as Miles describes just how difficult swinging around a city on webs can be when you’re first starting out. Soon enough, he runs out of web fluid, and embarrasses himself in front of a smartphone-ready crowd as he crashes onto a light post beneath him. Not being quite the scientist Peter was, running out of web fluid is a much bigger problem for Miles, and he and Ganke set out to decipher the formula left to him with a not-so-basic chemistry set Ganke purchased while Miles was away. Meanwhile, J. Jonah Jameson and Robbie are questioned by a detective on the death of Betty Brant (last issue), Miles’ dad struggles with press after his mowing down a few Hydra hostiles brings him unwanted attention, and Venom walks away from a building as it explodes.

We’ll learn more about this hulk of a Venom in time, I’m sure, but it’s really all about Miles and friends in this issue. After all the death of Peter and biracial Spider-Man hoopla died down, it was nice to discover that there was a real heart beating beneath the shock value, and Bendis hasn’t really let up yet. It’s a great issue to jump in on, but it’s a nice retrospective for regulars, too – JJJ’s come a long way since the early Parker days, and his reflections on the old Spider-Man while being questioned in the death of Betty Brant made for a pretty touching scene. I’m also loving Ganke’s character more and more through his friendship with Miles, reinforced here in a selfless act from Ganke that perfectly exhibits his amiable qualities as well his young, Lego-loving age. I was pretty sure I was going to find Ganke annoying for a long time, but he’s proven to be a great foil to the adult world around him, and is a fun way to remind the audience that he and Miles are still just young kids plunged into a larger, more dangerous world.

Sara Pichelli’s another big part of the youthful exuberance that imbues ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN’s pages since she’s joined, and she shines yet again here. Mile’s posture and body language alone tell you everything you need to know about him, and with Bendis’ writing behind it, the essence of the Parker Spider-Man has lived on, making this an impressively seamless transition. Having said that, I’ve got two complaints with some of the character designs from this team so far: 1.) I hate when Venom is drawn like The Maxx went trick-or-treating as The Violator and got pelted with symbiote-filled water balloons on his way home. I get why some people might think it’s a cool look, but it’s just too much for my liking. 2.) J. Jonah’s face looks inconsistently stupid, and his hair makes him look like he’s in a white Kid’N Play cover band. Other than that, I really do love Pichelli’s work on this series so far, and would be more than happy to have her for the long haul here.

It’s an interesting time to be a Spider-Man fan to say the least, but to me, ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN has been providing the most classic Spider-Man feel on the stands for 19 issues now. All around, this has been one of the best superhero reads of the week for me every time it’s out, and Bendis has done an admirable job building a new hero and cast of characters within the Spider-Man mythos for the Ultimate line, but still keeping that whimsical charm and sense of humor that fans expect in any of the wall-crawlers many titles over the years. So if you’ve yet to give Miles a shot in the role of webslinger, now seems like as good a time as any to come aboard as we all patiently await the inevitable return of Peter Parker.


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

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