(Click title to go directly to the review)
Advance Review: BEFORE WATCHMEN: DOLLAR BILL #1
X-O MANOWAR #9
SUPERBOY ANNUAL #1
YOUNG AVENGERS #1
UNCANNY X-FORCE #1
BEFORE WATCHMEN: MINUTEMEN #6
UNCANNY AVENGERS #3
Advance Review: BATMAN & ROBIN ANNUAL #1
Advance Review: In stores today!
BEFORE WATCHMEN: DOLLAR BILL #1Writer: Len Wein
Art: Steve Rude
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Ambush Bug
Most definitely the most unnecessary of installments in the BEFORE WATCHMEN series, DOLLAR BILL does have some of the old school charm that both pays homage to the types of stories Alan Moore was trying to tell, captures the cynicism that was apparent throughout the original WATCHMEN series, and also ends up being pretty durn entertaining to boot.
You can debate all day whether or not any of the BEFORE WATCHMEN series are necessary and personally, I’m tired of doing so, but even I know that taking a tertiary character who was more of a joke in the first WATCHMEN series and expanding on the character for an entire issue is a bit much. Still, Len Wein does a good job fleshing out and actually making me root for the character known as Dollar Bill, aka Bill Brady, shattered football star and poster boy for the National Bank.
One of the things Wein does well in this issue is highlight that The Minutemen, while well intentioned, were really kind of a joke, and that as with most of the heroes in Moore’s story, they were really part of the problem rather than the solution. As the powerless Dollar Bill is inducted into The Minutemen simply because he is a popular commercial figure, it brings the theme home that most of these heroes were hollow-hearted children playing dress up, cowering in the shadows when real action comes about and all about soaking in the glory that happened to fall into their laps from a country at a time when heroes were desperately needed. But Wein doesn’t paint Bill Brady in that light. Here he is a genuine soul, goodhearted and well-intentioned. Through Bill’s eyes, we see his own doubts and fears from getting into the costume to meeting The Minutemen to seeing them for what they are and finally to strive to be better. Through this cynical haze, Bill becomes somewhat of an icon to look up to, even by The Minutemen themselves. He maybe the only one of The Minutemen who deserves those types of accolades.
The comic itself is a sort of throwback, looking and reading as if it were dug up from the eighties or maybe even the seventies with loads of captions and panels on each page, less interested in telling a gorgeous looking story and more intent on telling a thick read. Nevertheless, Steve Rude is able to get in some nice looking panels of old school cool depicting Dollar Bill dashing his way through faux and real bad guys.
While I was not very impressed with Darwyn Cooke’s MINUTEMEN mini, I did find this little snippet into the lives of one of them to be more telling and more entertaining than all six issues of that mini. Wein gets the tone right while still somehow coming off as downright inspirational by the end. One other thing of note is that there are an awfully lot of derogatory remarks about homosexual culture in this issue (I counted three) which, while indicative of the way things were seen at the time, still made for some uncomfortable reading.
Those of you who hate old school comics which were heavy on exposition and less interested in the splash page will most likely poo poo BEFORE WATCHMEN: DOLLAR BILL. And, of course, those of you who hate the fact that BEFORE WATCHMEN exists will not be convinced otherwise with this one either. But if you’re looking for a tale that really does match the tone of the original WATCHMEN series, I feel DOLLAR BILL is about as close as you’re going to get.
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over eleven years & AICN HORROR for two. He has written comics such as VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS THE TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, THE DEATHSPORT GAMES, & NANNY & HANK (soon to be available on iTunes and soon to be made into a feature film from Uptown 6 Films). He has co-written FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND’s first ever comic book LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF (to be released in 2013 as a 100-pg original graphic novel). Mark wrote the critically acclaimed GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK last year from Zenescope Entertainment & look for his exciting arc on GRIMM FAIRY TALES #76-81 released August-December 2012. Mark will be writing GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK: LAST OF THE SPECIES to be released in February-June 2013. Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitter @Mark_L_Miller.
X-O MANOWAR #9Writer: Robert Venditti
Artist: Trevor Hairsine
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
I’m biased. I love Valiant. Their pragmatic approach to superheroics gives the stories real world weight the Big Two could never achieve at this point without flushing all that has come before. Because of this adoration, I can use my rapier wit to justify any issue being a great jumping on point, even if my objective side knows there are other issues better suited to new readers.
I say now, though, without bullshit, pretense, or bias – X-O MANOWAR 9 is a GREAT jumping on point for all of you who have turned deaf ears to the hundreds of reviewers heralding the angelic wings flying Valiant to the top of the indie comic world.
X-O MANOWAR is one of the Valiant titles that changed the least since Valiant 1.0. This isn’t laziness; it’s a testament to a good idea always being a good idea. Barbarian warriors, time travel based on real theories of relativity, subversive aliens manipulating our destiny, and a living piece of armor that thinks as well as destroys is a formula that simply requires little rejigging. There have been a few deck chairs moved around, but this wasn’t a Titanic reshuffling. Every minor change subtly caters to modern sensibilities, preys upon modern fears and necessarily speaks to modern aesthetics. As much as I love the likes of Barry Windsor-Smith, his brand of creepy simply won’t get the kids too excited about a comic.
Now, I will say some of these subtle changes were necessary simply because of the loss of certain licenses from the 1.0 days. There are no dalliances with Solar or Turok, like X-O had in his beginning adventures of yore, but quite frankly I don’t miss them.
Aric of Dacia’s bloodlust is stronger, fueled by his abduction by the spider-like aliens, The Vine, and all they took from him – his people , his wife, his time – hell, his entire life. The Vine are also changed; they are far more subversive in this new Valiant. Where in that time gone by their plans for taking over the Earth were blatant to reflect our real-world fears of the entire earth blowing up in an exchange of nukes, this time they reflect our modern fear of terror – that new horrid truth that our enemies are hiding in plain sight in front of us, willing to slit our throats over blowing up our cities. Even the turncoat Vine Alexander, who befriends Aric, is different. Before he was very much an opportunist, a reflection of the 80s desire for wealth and material goods. This new turncoat cares more about his adopted world and its people, and like many ex-pats feels a deeper kinship to his adopted land then where he sends his tax-man tithing.
“Prelude to Planet Death” will give you all of this insight, plus a somehow miraculous barrage of action amidst the exposition. When the X-O armor bonded with Aric so many months ago, it sent The Vine into apoplectic fits. The clerics that heralded the divinity of the armor see Aric as a Jesus rather than a simple slave gone uppity. The militants merely see the greatest threat they have ever faced. Imagine if Clinton had to deal with Timothy McVeigh being armed with a hydrogen bomb instead of a van of nitro glyceride. Aric’s escape, finding earth allies like Alexander and Ninjak, and remembering back when the Romans and not aliens were his mortal enemies filled subsequent issues as The Vine figured out an attack plan. Well, the plan is now in place as the clerics have been sent back to their home world and all of the Vine’s military might is pointed at Aric and Earth.
I can’t herald the virtues of Valiant enough. It’s kicking in the teeth of comic sameness and over-engineered clustfuckery plaguing other continuity-heavy companies. Unfettered access to a fully realized universe is a beautiful and rare thing in comics these days. Please come and keep me company – you won’t be disappointed.
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.
SUPERBOY ANNUAL #1Writer: Tom DeFalco
Artists: Yvel Guichet, Jonas Trindade, Iban Coello, Rob Lean, Tom Derenick, & Julius Gopez
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: The Dean
Well this was a bit of a weird one, and not just because of the interdimensional sojourn. What was most odd was that SUPERBOY ANNUAL #1 combines several unlikable elements to somehow create and overall enjoyable reading experience. Tom DeFalco and the various artists contributing to this issue do a good enough job with the concept of this one, which seems tailor-made for an annual, and it fits perfectly into the regular continuity of the series; it just slows things down enough to expand on an interesting plot point that may have been only a few pages in your standard issue. So yes, overall, it does an okay job. But the mixed bag of artistic styles doesn’t work all that well here, and while we get a decent sense of who Superboy is in this issue, he doesn’t come off all that likeable, and that goes double for his grownup counterpart.
The annual picks up immediately after the events up SUPERBOY #16, where Superboy, desperate to save Superman and prove he has a mind of his own, jumps into the strange alien portal that grabbed the Man of Steel while they and others battled to save Earth. Clone and original are now seemingly imprisoned in a dangerous dimension with two ne’er-do-wells who refer to the place as the “fields forlorn.” These intergalactic murderers hope to use the Super duo to free themselves of the strange prison so that they can continue on their merry, murdering way after they witness the two successfully climb the dreaded Bunk Bed Mountain. Seriously, I’ve fallen for that in almost every DC issue this month. What really grabs their attention is Superboy’s ability to connect via his telekinesis to some consciousness inside the dimension, which he sees as his and Superman’s ticket out of there.
It’s a neat story that does manage to showcase Superboy’s growth in character as well as his difference in abilities and personality from Superman pretty well, but unfortunately, those moments made to endear us to him just fall flat. The quips aren’t all that funny, and his attempt to connect with the consciousness inside the dimension was uncomfortably seductive, draining any chance of creating an emotional impact from that scene. Superman’s character is fumbled a bit here, too, as he’s shown as somewhat of an egotistical prick who contradicts himself – he tells Superboy to “keep an open mind” and says “life comes in a wide variety of forms,” yet it blows him away later that the consciousness in this dimension could be female, and he dismisses any idea Superboy has as if he were the Jesse Pinkman to his Walter White. It should be all too easy to side with Superboy here, but he’s busy reminding us that he’s a clone and a “living weapon” that someone else usually points and fires. You know, in case you missed it when he said those exact same things in the last couple of issues.
The art is the usual mixed bag that any issue with too many artists is, with no clear standout, but at least it’s always an easy way to compare different artists’ approaches to characters and scenes, which winds up being a fun exercise in discernment, I think. It’s interesting to see the different takes on Superman’s new suit (or Superboy’s suit for now, who it seems to fit better anyway), and the slight variations in the shield, but ultimately, it’s a distraction, and most of the work seems miscommunicated or rushed (Supergirl’s ‘S’ is backwards in one scene, which I prefer to believe is in reference to her alliance with H’el, who’s ‘S’ is also backwards, instead of the really stupid mistake that it probably is).
At the very least there’s a glimmer of hope here, and with “H’el on Earth” ending before SUPERBOY #18 this March, fans may start to see some of the development and world-building from DeFalco that the series has lacked thus far, but it’s probably not worth crossing over from the main Superman titles until then. Despite the many complaints, I didn’t hate the issue, and actually had fun with it for the most part, but it’s definitely not something I’d recommend to…well, anyone. I was excited to see the team up aspect of the issue, and had hoped it would be a great way to explore one of the more interesting dynamics in the Superman family, but SUPERBOY ANNUAL #1 wound up being just a well-intentioned missed opportunity.
YOUNG AVENGERS #1Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Jamie McKelvie (w/ Mike Norton)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewed by Humphrey Lee
The thing about this gig is that it’s rare I really think about the material I produce once I put it out in the air. Way I figure it, the job is to (hopefully) put together some well though- out analysis of whatever I decide to cover, give you kind folks a solid idea what the book is about, and kind of sway people toward or away from it depending on my experiences but to give enough information that anyone who reads this can make up their own bloody minds whether to purchase it (and maybe crack a joke or two). Sometimes, though, I cannot help but feel that in there have been a handful of these things I’ve done over the years where I REALLY nailed it, that I really sold (or buried) the fuck out of that book (to those I’ve sold and/or buried the fuck out of your book, you’re welcome/I’m sorry). One of those books I think I absolutely nailed was the TPB of the first work of Gillen and McKelvie’s I was ever exposed to, PHONOGRAM, and I have to say I think a lot of the work was done by the material and how it really spoke to me and made me want to put words out over the internet about what was in its pages. Needless to say, I’ve been very much up on these gents and what they have done together and separately since that work and have been hoping to see the two together again on another project, PHONOGRAM or not (but seriously, more PHONOGRAM). A YOUNG AVENGERS project was not exactly what I had expected, but it makes perfect sense--a sense that’s now even sharper now that this first issue has arrived.
Out of the gate this title gives you a bit of that vibe that their previous titanic team-up oozed, and that is a large quantity of energy and, well, “hipness.” Immediately we’re put in a bedroom in outer space cohabitated by Kate “The Female Hawkeye” Bishop and Noh “I Once Carved The Word ‘Fuck’ Into a City” Varr after a night of getting horizontal together. They catch up on where they know each other from, Noh-Varr gets groovy to some 60’s jams, and then they kick the shit out of some Skrulls that decided today was the day to ambush them. That’s just the first five pages and really is the best way to describe a lot of the tone this book is probably going to exude going forward, at least when it goes into superhero action time. As with that other work of Gillen and McKelvie showed in the past, there are going to be some emotional hooks coming through here and there are definitely some depths to be plumbed given some of the characters in this group.
The biggest dramatic hook that this book is going to reel in – and does in this issue – is the relationship between Hulkling and Wiccan. In the back of the book, Gillen says “YOUNG AVENGERS in its first incarnation was about being sixteen. This YOUNG AVENGERS is about being eighteen.” Essentially, this is going to be a book about characters who we were introduced to as they were as they were growing up and now, as far as the world is concerned, they are supposed to be more or less grown ups. Being two openly gay teens that are entering that adult world, one of which is orphaned – a plot point that comes into play hugely in the last third of this book – is definitely rife with its harrowing and joyful moments as we watch these young men develop further in their superhero careers and their relationship. I expect this to be a big topic going forward, not because it’s a contentious subject but because it’s a subject I think this crew knows they can handle properly. Besides, if you’re going to have a book about young adults such as this, love and the joy and awkwardness and so on it brings, even if it’s framed in the superhero genre, is going to be a enormous matter to address.
The rest of the book is about delivering some attitude and humor in the form of the Young Avengers’ newest additions, Miss America and Loki, which I feel may be the most brilliant move this team could have made given what they bring to the book. MA’s no-holds-barred style is going to be something to watch as it rubs against the flippancy and angst the others bring and Loki, well, Loki is Loki. The other form of brilliance this book brings is the art. I’m legitimately not sure where McKelvie ends and Norton begins here, but no matter how you slice it/them this book is gorgeous and lush (with a big credit to the flair Matthew Wilson brings to the table with his color palette). With the way all these folks handled this book, I’m not sure which is the bigger superteam at work here.
I know that was all a lot of gushing, but obviously I already thought a good bit about those involved going into this debut and I think everything came out rather smashingly. Admittedly, I think it’s fair to say that the big conflict that arises at the end, with Wiccan pulling Hulkling’s recently deceased mother out from another dimension and having her turn out to be a pretty evil bitch version of her, is kind of abrupt and that maybe we did hit the high end of the melodrama thermostat when the two boys were having their moment. If those are the only real two nits that I can pick out of this book, I feel that is worth putting this first issue in the “killing it” bin. And while I doubt I did much killing here (mainly because I’m a self-deprecating bastard) I do hope I laid out those aspects I mentioned in the intro well enough to have not wasted your time reading this and maybe convinced some of you on that fence to BUY THIS BOOK! for it assuredly is worth at least a one-time $2.99 investment to see if any of what was talked about these past thousand words was worth typing. 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.
MASKS #3Writers: Chris Roberson
Artist: Dennis Calero
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Reviewer: Masked Man
I don’t know about you, but I’m a sucker for crossovers. I buy nearly all of them, even though more than half of them aren’t very good. So I was very much looking forward to Dynamite’s latest big crossover series MASKS. The first issue was a great start. Of course, Alex Ross’ painted interior work really helped, but even storywise it was a great start. Now that we’ve reached the third issue things aren’t quite as rosy.
Obviously, the biggest problem to hit this series after the first issue is the art. Even without Alex Ross anymore, you’d think Dynamite would have a better looking book than this. I’m a little familiar with Calero’s work, and given enough time he can create some amazing covers and prints. His interior art, though, always comes off as sloppy. I also get the sense that these two past issues were rush jobs, which I can’t understand: how could Dynamite get into a deadline crunch over something they have been clearly planning for a long time? While Alex was painting issue number one, I’d bet a typical comic book artist could have fully rendered two issues--both of which would look better than this single issue. Now it’s true, I’m not a fan of the realistically/photo-y/ink style that Calero uses, mainly because it’s very hard to do right and very easy to make it look sloppy and shoddy. As I said, give Calero time and he can create nice things; rush him and you get things like the panel on page 20. Heck, every page of the book looks sloppy and shoddy. On page two not only does it look like he traced a photograph, but he left it in as the background color! I’d even bet every single background is photograph tracing, or worse a photograph filtered in Photoshop to make it resemble an inked drawing. And although he does have some nice figure work here and there, most of his figures look like quick study sketches and not final drawings, all of which leads me to believe Dynamite only gave him a weekend to draw and color the whole thing. Yes, Calero did the coloring too, and it looks about as shoddy as the drawing. Seriously, what the hell, Dynamite? This was supposed to be your flagship comic, and it looks like a train wreck.
I could go on about how disappointed I am in the art, but instead I’ll move over to the story, because I can live with weak art if the story is good. Luckily, Roberson is still managing to keep this yarn rolling along quite well. The Shadow, Green Hornet and the Spider have all split up (in Gardner Fox fashion) to learn more about the Justice Party that has legally taken over the state of New York. Meanwhile the Black Bat and Zorro continue their hero’s journey as Miss Fury, the Green Lama and Black Terror just continue to bust heads. We also get more of a look at how the Justice Party is turning the state of New York into a Nazi Germany. To nit pick, I wish Roberson would discover the invention of text boxes. Introducing settings and characters keeps down confusion and increases impact. You know, not one of the main characters’ names were mention in the whole issue--not one! Overall the story is good, as Roberson is managing to give time to each character (whoever they may be) as they tackle the Justice Party.
I do worry about the series, though, because just like Dynamite’s last giant crossover PROJECT SUPERPOWERS there are too many damn characters. If they keep introducing new heroes (and that is what they are doing--putting the Green Lama and the Spider into a comic isn’t same as putting all of the Teen Titans and Justice League in one) it gets harder to follow them, or move the plot forward, because too much time is wasted on newer introductions. The drain on the plot can already be felt here as it has barely moved in three issues. If this continues much longer, I’ll be force to drop it as I did PROJECT SUPERPOWERS. To help combat this, Dynamite should have created some crossover one-shots giving action packed rundowns on who these heroes are. It would’ve been a win-win: tell readers why the Spider is cool (not everyone is reading his series), how he’s going to be used in MASKS and sell more comics--I’d buy ‘em.
So MASKS is walking on thin ice here. Hopefully characters introductions will stop and the art will improve and the story will kick into high gear, the way it started in issue number one.
Learn more about the Masked Man and feel free to critic his own comicbook endeavors at www.Toonocity.com
UNCANNY X-FORCE #1Writer: Sam Humphries
Artist: Ron Garney
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
Let’s make sure I cover all the bases. Sweet, baby, toddler, tween, teen, young adult, adult and resurrected American Mormon Jesus — this was a GREAT book.
I cried like a little girl when Remender’s run on this title ended. His swan song letter was more painful than the deluge of break-up letters I received in my youth. Over the course of 30-some issues the man transformed initial audience skepticism about a wetworks X-team into audience adoration. He delivered trans-dimensional travels, time bending heartache, laughter, love, and resurrections for some of our favorite and second string muties. Not only was it a wonderful insular title that used tongue-in-cheek banter to soften their morose missions, each mission irrevocably and in my opinion for the better changed the X-Universe and the characters therein.
Well, that was then and this is now – Marvel NOW! to be exact, and I’m happy to report UNCANNY X-FORCE remains just as weird, bawdy and surprising as every single past issue. Some members like Psylocke and Fantomex remain, but we also now get fringe additions like Spiral and Puck, as well as old staples like Storm and the original bearer of the “M” concentration camp tatt, Bishop.
This issue begins a heartbeat after where old X-FORCE left off, once again showing Marvel’s prowess to start anew without bitch-slapping the old timers’ commitment to the Marvel U. Betsy “Psylocke” Braddock is the chief protagonist of this series. After losing her soul to the X-FORCE of old and her heart to the lobotomized Angel and rapscallion Fantomex, she took her big bag of aggression to the Jean Grey School for a change of pace. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work out. Fortunately, though, we get to see the douchetastic Quentin Quire get held up at psionic knife point, and we get to see Wolverine deliver headmaster hardness as he tells Betsy to find a different vocation than teaching. Garney’s visuals here were beautiful as this whole series of events is encapsulated in B&W pages with just a tinge of Betsy’s purple to accent each moment SIN CITY style.
UNCANNY X-FORCE isn’t a team with Wolverine doling out missions like Scott once did. Wolverine basically tells Betsy to see the world for her own benefit, and merely suggests a good place to start finding herself once again. This new coming together is more a random happenstance of events than a cohesive gathering of abilities. That may sound like a bad idea, but once Betsy runs into Storm, then Puck, and then Spiral inside a club where a little mutant girl is doling out mind-ecstasy one Wi-Fi tab at a time, you realize how passé the mission structure truly was for these true rebels.
This book delivers the funny” in droves; there wasn’t a page of this book that didn’t make me laugh out loud. I find midgets hilarious to begin with, but horny midgets are pure comedic gold. Humphries has Puck deliver on my expectations one bawdy comment at a time.
Actually, I take back my last statement; there were two pages where I didn’t laugh. One was the appearance of Bishop as he travels back from tomorrow. This just confused me since we get no indication how he’s going to be thrown into the team mix. But this is a serial, so mystery is simply part of the equation. The other part, while I didn’t laugh, my sick twisted side absolutely loved. We’ll all remember that Fantomex was discovered to be three beings at the end of UNCANNY X-FORCE Vol. 1, and each of the three were finally given their own meat-skin to wear. Evil F, Regular F and Lady F appeared and then the series promptly ended. Well, while not teamed yet with the rest of the gang, Regular F and Lady F are back to thieving and, in an amazing last page surprise, tongue tangling after every successful score. How will they fit into the big plot? Don’t know yet and don’t care. Any book that takes masturbation to such literal levels is my Huckleberry even if the purpose isn’t clear.
I’m an X-whore. I give a lot of leeway to X-titles simply because I love the universe and the progression of the characters. Now that we are balls deep into Marvel NOW!, though, I can see where my loyalties will lie moving forward and where non-X-philes should look if they just want a taste of X-Goodness. X-fans should read it all because the synergy of plots and characters between titles right now is flawless. Non X-Fans, or X-Dalliances should be had in the following order:
ALL NEW X-MEN (The original 5 coming to today has been creepy, heartwarming and welcoming to anyone who has ever read an X-title whether a NOW or not.)
UNCANNY X-FORCE (This is actually a great book for people who traditionally don’t like the X-MEN. Again, they ain’t a team and they are marching to the beat of a whole new drum.)
WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN (The initial guffaws that turned off serious readers have lightened, and each character, whether teacher or student, have found their own voice and interesting way of contributing to one another’s lives and life at the Jean Grey School.)
UNCANNY AVENGERS (Red Skull lobotomized Xavier and absorbed his brain – nuff said)
DEADPOOL (At least for this arc he’s fighting resurrected dead Presidents who feel we can’t manage the country right – political and juvenile FTW.)
CABLE & X-FORCE (Don’t know their purpose, so I bailed after issue one.)
X-MEN LEGACY (David fighting his personalities is like meeting a bunch of heroes you don’t know or care about – pass)
If you’ve been out of the X-fold, come back because it is NOW truly different.
BEFORE WATCHMEN: MINUTEMEN #6Writer & Artist: Darwyn Cooke
Publisher: DC Comics
Well…it wasn’t horrible.
Damning with faint praise, to be sure, but that’s about all the goodwill I can summon up for the conclusion of Darwyn Cooke’s contribution to the creative bankruptcy that was DC’s BEFORE WATCHMEN line.
Look, I know the point has been belabored endlessly—and I freely admit my guilt in being one of those who kept on coming back to the argument—but the BEFORE WATCHMEN project was a terrible idea. Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ seminal work was never meant to be expanded upon in this way; WATCHMEN is as intricately constructed as a Swiss timepiece (or Dr. Manhattan’s Martian palace, for that matter). Take away or change any detail and the story would fall apart. Try to add extraneous elements and, at best, they add nothing of value to the narrative. At worst, they call attention to how superfluous and unnecessary they really are.
At least Cooke’s take on The Minutemen doesn’t fall into the latter trap… for the most part. In earlier issues some of his characterizations, especially in dealing with characters featured prominently in the original graphic novel, came across as false, or at least inconsistent. Sally Jupiter avenging the murdered Silhouette, The Comedian’s compassion for innocent villagers caught in the crossfire of war—these didn’t ring true for me, and shouldn’t for anyone who’s read WATCHMEN. With this final issue Cooke’s version of The Minutemen feels more in tune with Moore’s characters; the scene where The Comedian is not-so-subtly threatening Hollis Mason is the one case where MINUTEMEN blurs that line between itself and the source material. And even more gratifying is the fact that the mystery of Hooded Justice remains a mystery. Thankfully, Cooke chose to keep the masked vigilante’s secret identity just that and resisted the temptation to saddle some ungainly backstory onto the character. Sure, Hooded Justice is a relatively insignificant thread of the entire WATCHMEN tapestry, but I’m still happy that Cooke decided to leave that thread alone. Ironically, it is this fact that Cooke honored and respected (for the most part) the original comic that makes MINUTEMEN the flat reading experience that it is—because when you know what ultimately is going to happen, there isn’t much that can surprise you.
By far the best aspect of the series is Cooke’s art—his blend of retro style and simplified dynamism gives these colorful Golden Age-era heroes a visual excitement that makes the action leap off the page, even as Cooke for the most part conforms to Gibbons’ strict nine-panel grid page design. But sensational as it is, the artwork only serves to further distance MINUTEMEN from its roots by taking Gibbons’ carefully crafted, lived-in, real-world environment and trading it for the more outlandish and stylized world of the average superhero comic.
So yes: at the end, it wasn’t horrible. Let’s face it, it’s not the easiest thing in the world to have to live up to one of the best graphic novels ever written. I just wish that instead of working on this book, Cooke had spent his time using his talents to craft an original comic. Maybe then we would have gotten something a little more interesting than “not bad.” Maybe even something great. Maybe a comic that would have had the chance to proudly stand shoulder-to-shoulder beside WATCHMEN in the ranks of the medium’s finest, rather than one that scavenged for Gibbons and Moore’s leftovers.
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.
UNCANNY AVENGERS #3Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: John Cassaday
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Review by: Mighty Mouth
Red Skull brings the hate to the Big Apple!
There are several powerful weapons about the Marvel Universe. Items such as the Scorpio Key to the Cosmic Cube have caused a variety of destructive problems. However, the Red Skull has harnessed something even more terrifying and damaging: mankind.
In case you missed out on the first couple of issues, it goes like this; after the whole Avengers vs. X-Men war, Captain America has brought about a new team that consists of both Avengers and members of the mutant community in an effort to improve human and mutant relations. The Red Skull has recently resurfaced and set his sights on eliminating mutants in an effort to cleanse humanity. With the brain of the recently deceased Charles Xavier under the Skull’s command, the mutants’ days may indeed be numbered.
When you want to manipulate the masses, there is simply no substitute for a little fear and hatred. The Red Skull understands this all too well. Everyday citizens transformed into an angry mob by these unrestrained emotions are more harrowing than any comic book villain could ever hope to be.
The Avengers themselves are being influenced by the Red Skull’s mind warping. With his indomitable will, Captain America is able to resist the Skull’s manipulation for the most part, though some of his actions are unquestionably impacted by the Skull’s influence. Observing a hate-filled horde attacking innocent mutant bystanders makes Wolverine mad enough. When he discovers how the Skull has desecrated his former mentor, he goes absolutely bat-shit! Rick Remender’s management of these circumstances works incredibly well. He presents these characters as being human first and superheroes secondly; it really increases the sense of despondency throughout the story.
What can I say about the artwork crafted by John Cassady? How about I like it--I like it a lot (in best Jim Carrey voice). I particularly enjoyed some of his more show-boaty panels, like when the Thor first arrives on the scene; it’s one of those Ooooh shit moments. There is also something about the way Red Skull is rendered; he just looks so ludicrous and yet still creepy as all hell.
It may only be three issues in thus far, but UNCANNY AVENGERS is really hitting the spot for me. I highly recommend you give it a whirl. Well, what are you waiting for? Go get it!
Advance Review: In stores this week!
BATMAN & ROBIN ANNUAL #1Writer: Peter Tomasi
Artist: Ardian Syaf
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
Here’s a novel idea: “Let’s make comics fun again.” Don’t get me wrong, I love the facial puppetry and emotional turmoil embedded in "Death of the Family". My Gen X cynical sensibilities are also all about the deconstruction of the superhero mythos. I like my comics dark, but even I sometimes require a brief respite from doom and gloom to renew my faith that the world is not just an exercise towards entropy and that life is something to revel in, not just get through.
BATMAN & ROBIN ANNUAL 1 has no dissent amongst the bat-clan. There are no heady moments of distrust towards Bruce, nor silver platters dripping with blood. Whether this is canon or not (and I do have questions in light of "Death of the Family"), I don’t really care. Because when a comic takes my favorite Robin and infuses it with a little John Hughes HOME ALONE action, the result is soul-lifting comic gold.
Damian Wayne won me over day one. His petulance, emotional baggage and haughty attitude made him a damaged youth you couldn’t help but love. When he came on the scene, Daddy was finding his way back home from his seeming one way ticket to nowhere at the end of FINAL CRISIS. Damian became Dick’s problem, and for a year or so Damian tested Dick’s patience and decisions at every turn. Any character becomes dull without growth. Snyder did a bang up job in DETECTIVE by making the wall of aggression between the two Robins slowly erode and form some semblance of respect and, dare I say, love. The dynamic between the two was so delicious, I’m on record in quite a few reviews requesting DC never bring Bruce back. Dick and Alfred couldn’t rear the young lad all the way, though; Damian’s arrogance would only truly allow for Bruce to guide and instruct him, especially since Bruce wasn’t a living being, merely a specter of myth and legend as told by Talia and…well…the world.
When Bruce did come back, I was worried that he would put the young lad’s head through plate glass after one well misplaced “tt” of annoyance. Especially since the moments before the DC Reboot, Morrison had portrayed Batman at his darkest. It looked as though Father would shun his responsibilities in favor of a life in the literal and emotional shadows. Damian would have no hope of ever going beyond his surly and homicidal ways.
The New 52 changed everything, though, and one of the greatest changes was a Bruce Wayne ready to be Batman and a father. Wisely, writers didn’t have Damian just jump in Bruce’s lap and snuggle. Their maturation process together has been long and slow as each learns their role in a new family dynamic. Bruce has worked diligently to wipe away the killing machine to make Damian a true purveyor of justice and an actual 10 year old boy — very akin to the life of Dick Grayson in the Silver Age: Robin by night, normal kid by day.
BATMAN & ROBIN ANNUAL 1 is the perfect culmination of this father/son evolution. Of course, a kid that runs around fighting crime will never be “normal.” But between Bruce’s love and patience, additions of four legged bat-friends Titus the dog and Bat-Cow (oh sweet sweet Bat-Cow), and a fair amount of work on Alfred’s part, Damian has now become what I will grandfatherly call a feisty little scamp. His ability to go from fierce to adorable in one mere panel makes him simply one of the most unique and endearing characters in comics, especially to fangeezers like me who stand on the precipice of procreation.
So anyway: Home Alone. In a clever turn of selfish altruism, Damian concocts a scheme to get Alfred and Bruce out of the country - and it actually works. Once Bruce and Alfred are following clues across Europe with Damian green-screening himself one step ahead of them updates, we finally get to meet Bat-Boy, Bat-Brat…oh hell with it…Bat-Mite!
The new Cute Crusader starts to hits the streets of Gotham in pursuit of a gas-eating monster and his ultimate master. Honestly, this isn’t what stuck with me. What I remember are the moments of Titus as acting Alfred confidant. Damian’s pint-sized frame harnessing the horsepower of the Bat-Mobile. The sheer joy in seeing a young man unfettered from the constant lessons that come with any father and son engaging in anything.
Bruce’s story also pulls at the heartstrings when we discover Damian’s mystery is a step-by-step journey chronicling the courtship of his grandparents. Alfred’s no slouch here, either, as he abandons the chase in pursuit of a little thespian time with some ol’ mates at The New Globe.
Morrison may have spawned this relationship, but Tomasi is the right writer for now. Morrison is a master at hooking fans with his trippy ideas, but eventually his weirdness overshadows his characters. Tomasi knows humanity, not trips above it. This isn’t a judgment on either man, just a fact. Also, Syaf does an amazing job with this book, particularly Titus and the European locales. Both were equally majestic. This story deserved nothing less.
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G
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