AICN COMICS REVIEWS: JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA! UNCANNY X-MEN! HELLRAISER: THE DARK WATCH! STAR WARS! & MORE!
(Click title to go directly to the review)
Advance Review: JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #1
Indie Jones presents SWERVE VOL.1
WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN #25
Advance Review: HELLRAISER: THE DARK WATCH #1
Advance Review: NUMBER CRUNCHER #1
THE HIGH WAYS #2
Indie Jones: DEAD SPACE: LIBERATION VOL.1
UNCANNY X-MEN #1
Advance Review: CHRONOS COMMANDOS #1
STAR WARS #2
Indie Jones presents: BABBLE VOL.1
Advance Review: VIBE #1
Advance Review: In stores this week!
JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #1Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: David Finch
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
Purpose: I’ve asked one thing from the Justice League since waaaaayyyyy back in the post FINAL CRISIS days: have a purpose for bringing together a League. Back then the blunders were egregious, with the Holy Trinity picking heroes like baseball cards (and this is not hyperbole) to bring together a League, because, you know…there’s always been a Justice League.
Then came the New 52 and with it the promise of salvation. Not only were we getting a JUSTICE LEAGUE, but also a return of the bwahahaha JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL, a new JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK to handle magic threats, and finally oversight for all heroes in the form of STORMWATCH.
I’ve made my thoughts well known on these titles, but here’s a synopsis. Johns should not create with Lee. Before anyone throws goddamn sales numbers at me I will remind you that the fourth Batman movie was a box office success. People are sheep and marketing easily leads the masses. I know firsthand: I’m in marketing and my soul is one step above lawyers on Satan’s most wanted. When we peeked past the marketing, though, the first two arcs of JUSTICE LEAGUE were wafer thin. I have my theories on why, and it basically equates to the fact that Johns is indie film and Lee is big budget and never the tween shall meet. Johns is not your splash page writer and Lee is not a cramped panel artist. Disagree if you like, but I haven’t heard a better theory yet. JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL was less bwahahaha and more just plain awwww, hence why it’s no longer with us. STORMWATCH, don’t even get me started. It has been a mess since day one choking on its own hubris. These folks were supposed to be the ones who watch the WATCHMEN, but since they can’t get shit straight in their own house all we’ve gotten are a bunch of slap fights between Apollo & Midnighter and some kind of shadow council…or shadow puppetry…I’m not sure. I like JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK, but part of that adoration lies in the detractors’ claims it doesn’t feel like it’s part of the universe. Fair enough, but at least it’s original. JUSTICE LEAGUE redeemed itself with "Throne of Atlantis", and I believe wholeheartedly that JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA will rectify the missteps of the team books that have come before.
Not only does JUSTICE LEAGUE AMERICA have a purpose, but that purpose is steeped in actual continuity. Its purpose is also right in line with the marketing hype and a stark reflection of the current 99%ers’ feelings towards the 1% who pull our collective marionette strings. You want to know “Who watches the WATCHMEN”, or in this case the JUSTICE LEAGUE? Then you need look no further than JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA.
While this is a straight-up introductory tale, Johns does a great job of keeping the book moving without it being a Mickey Mouse roll call. He also builds off the history of the New 52 without making it required reading. Basically, there’s a pervasive fear in the government, and leading the rabblerousing is our own favorite queen of conspiracy theories, Amanda Waller. Uncle Sam fears the Justice League’s allegiance to the planet at large, and the US of A wants a way to ensure countermeasures should the Justice League side with someone other than the Stars & Stripes.
Now, since Waller has her hands full with other skullduggery in the DCU, she turns to the old League liaison Steve Trevor to corral and manage this new group. This leads us to a part of the book that confused me, but still left me enthralled. We’ve always known Waller will manipulate people to get her way, but she takes it to new heights in this book and I can’t tell if her concerns were genuine or simply pushing Steve’s buttons.
The kiss between Superman and Wonder Woman that made a thousand Lois Lane fans spontaneously combust apparently wasn’t only viewed by readers. American satellites caught this precious moment as well, and got the think tanks pontificating on the damage these two could cause. We’re not just talking the shockwaves from bumping uglies, but also what could happen if these two could and would actually procreate. Again, Waller is a manipulative little gal, so did she mention this to get Steve to sign on, or was it a genuine concern? Maybe a little of both, but it does push Steve over the edge to go recruit his addition to the team, Catwoman.
Just in case the purpose was unclear, after we see vignettes of each character as Waller and Steve discuss their place on the team, the issue ends with a direct match on who in the JLA will take down who in the Justice League. Some are clear jumps – Baz against Hal, Martian Manhunter against Superman and Catwoman against Batman. The match-up of Vibe against Flash makes sense, but it makes even more sense if you read VIBE #1 this week. But there are a couple I match-ups I question, like Hawkman against Aquaman and Katana against Wonder Woman. In one case they could escape each other by going to their natural habitats, and in the other case I think simple sword wielding does not make equal class balancing in a fight.
Finch and Johns go together perfectly, and even in the heavy talky scenes between Waller and Trevor, the panels were visually engaging.
So, what about Green Arrow, who is so prominently displayed on the cover? Well that, dear reader, is a mystery that comes with the price of admission. His fate lies squarely in the plot that wil drive this first arc forward.
I’d like to walk away with a suggestion for DC. Your team books are finally starting to come together, but your work is far from done. With the creation of JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA, I now have even less of a reason to read STORMWATCH, which is a shame because they are characters I once loved Pre-52. At some point you need to either shit-can STORMWATCH as the failed experiment it was or actually commit to its place in the DC Universe. Most fans will deride what I’m about to say, but I think the only salvation lies in a crossover amongst the LEAGUE books and STORMWATCH. “We’re the JUSTICE LEAGUE, we’re in charge!” “Fuck you, we’re the JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA and we’re in charge, bitches!!” “Fuck all y’all, we’re STORMWATCH and we’ve been in charge since Jesus was in diapers!!!” I know crossovers are a verboten phrase, but when well-planned and crafted they can once again be as epic as they were initially intended to be.
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.
SWERVE VOL.1Writer: Jon Judy
Artist: Dexter Wee
Publisher: Arcana Studios
Reviewer: The Dean
Being a comics and wrestling fan, I was surprised I hadn’t come across Jon Judy and Dexter Wee’s SWERVE until TNA’s Christopher Daniels recommended it in our Q&A a few months back. Wrestling is a big part of SWERVE, of course, but this one isn’t just for wrestling fans, as it’s more the backdrop for the story than the subject of it. This could easily be made into another corrupt cop or mafia drama, but thankfully Judy took the more obscure path, making the story feel much fresher and more original than other, similar tales.
SWERVE is the story of Eric Layton, an ex-football star who turns to pro wrestling to make a quick buck and fund the medical care needed for his ailing mother. He soon learns that those bucks don’t come quite so quickly for the new talent, and he turns to the seedier underbelly of his promotion, acting as the muscle for his weasel of a promoter, Tony Frank. Set in the world of a 1970s Texas wrestling territory, Eric’s journey into the darkness behind the curtain is a exciting look at the overwhelming power of desperation and the effects of repressed goodness in a world where it has no place.
In its first issue, Judy builds the world of SWERVE around Layton as efficiently as I’ve seen in recent memory, laying sound groundwork in minimal time. Sympathy comes easy for Layton and the others caught up in this world, and while the plot is certainly interesting enough, I found myself more invested in the progression of each of the book’s characters. My personal favorite met a very quick demise, brutally depicted by Wee, but Layton’s descent throughout the story feels far more dangerous due to the disastrous lives of those around him, and all hope seems very much lost toward the climactic shootout in the “Sportsatorium.”
It’s references like the “Sportsatorium” (homage to the legendary Dallas Sportatorium which housed National Wrestling Alliance events for years) that make this a real treat if you are someone who’s up on your wrestling history/lingo. Ultimately it was my investment in the characters’ lives that left me wanting more, but I really got a big kick out of things like Layton struggling to think of a good finisher, or the vocab lesson at the start of every issue. I’ll stress again that this is not at all a comic made only for wrestling fans, and if you loved comics like CRIMINAL or SCALPED this is probably right up your alley, but if you’ve spent any part of your life entranced by the spectacle of professional wrestling, you’ll just appreciate SWERVE that much more.
WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN #25Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Ramon Perez
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Mad Mercutio
I have been a fan of this comic since its inception. I was really impressed with number one when it came out a couple of years ago. I liked the whole school concept, and it made for some fun and funny stories. I haven’t picked up every issue due to budget issues, but the ones I have picked up have been pretty enjoyable. One thing that hooked me in was Chris Bachalo’s artwork. The artist that took over wasn’t as interesting, but had a kind of Art Adams look to it, which was fine by me. I picked this one up, but alas, no Chris Bachalo and no Nick Bradshaw. I picked this one up for one main reason.
The Savage Land.
I love the Savage Land. The Savage Land was the backdrop for my very first X-Men comic and I know that the X-Men have quite a past with it. I was not disappointed.
While the art was no Bachalo nor a Nick Bradshaw, it held its own. I almost felt like it got more interesting as the story progressed. Pretty standard comic panel layout, but Perez has a look that suits the Savage Land well. For one thing, he can draw dinosaurs--obviously a must for a story with this particular setting. Flipping back through it as I write this review, I saw more than a few panels that reminded me a little of Mike Allred. It’s a solid style. I’ll probably pick up the next one and might even look forward to the art.
Onward to the story: it appears Wolverine’s brother is back. His future self visits his current self. The older Dog (Wolverine’s brother’s name) tells the current Dog to head to the Savage Land as a way to prove his worth. Offward he goes. This little sub plot is set against the main plot of the issue, which involves Wolverine taking the troubled kids to the Savage Land as a kind of test of mettle.
First and foremost on that list is the student Quire. Not too hard to see the similarities between this Quire kid and the old school Wolverine. You know what I’m talking about: lack of respect for authority, arrogance, and a belief that he doesn’t need the school at all, but actually it’s the only thing from preventing him from being some kind of psycho.
Wolverine’s having a change of heart about his current lesson plan when his brother makes his second appearance for this issue in the form of an ambush. We end the issue with a classic last panel set up of a close up of Dog looking menacing. Obviously, the stage is set for the next issue.
It’s interesting. It has it humorous moments (“I threw up in my eyes!”). The whole package works pretty well. I’ll probably pick up the next one to see how the whole brother thing resolves itself. I’m not really following any of the X-titles right now except for this one. To me, this is nice change of pace for the X-universe; it’s lighter, funnier, and we get a chance to see Wolverine in a more mature role. If you have room in your pull folder for an x-title, I recommend this one.
Advance Review: In stores today!
HELLRAISER: THE DARK WATCH #1Writer: Clive Barker & Brandon Seifert
Art: Tom Garcia
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Reviewer: Ambush Bug
Continuing with the continuation of the mythology of the last HELLRAISER series from BOOM! where Elliot Spencer loses his power as archangel of hell and master torturer Pinhead and passes that power on to Kirsty Cotton, survivor of the original HELLRAISER film making her the new leader of the Cenobites, HELLRAISER: THE DARK WATCH may be a bit ominous to dive into if all you know is the movies (though who really wants to remember the movies after the first sequel). But despite the back story, this book starts with a fresh perspective, making all of that easy to digest as a new Pinhead is introduced. Those familiar with Clive Barker’s works will recognize the name Harry D’Amor. Yep, the occult detective from Barker’s THE LAST ILLUSION (aka LORD OF ILLUSIONS), THE GREAT & SECRET SHOW, EVERVILLE, & Barker’s new book THE SCARLET GOSPELS makes an appearance as a brand new noggin’ nailed Cenobite. And that’s going to be enough for Barker fans to want to check this first issue out.
As the Female Cenobite gives a new sinner a tour of hell, we are brought up to speed with all of this back story in a pretty simplistic fashion, all the while, we are treated to quite a few demonic visuals which are rendered pretty nicely by Tom Garcia. I especially like Harry D’Amor’s Pinhead design which incorporates a detective’s magnifying glass as a monocle embedded into his face. I also loved the skinned horse he rides through hell on. All of these wicked little images look like they were designed by Barker, which makes this all the more interesting to read.
Surviving girl Tiffany from HELLRAISER II is in this issue too and seems to be leading a group to track down and destroy all of the puzzle boxes in the world. I love the way the team of Brandon (WITCH DOCTOR) Seifert and Clive Barker have let these characters evolve rather than just use the same characters from the films. It’s fun to know Barker still has a hand in this property and it makes me want to keep reading.
Fans of the original films will want to check out this new series. HELLRAISER: THE DARK WATCH may not be the HELLRAISER exactly from the movies, but all the characters are present. Unlike the films which basically began repeating the same story over and over, this series dares to continue the story and take it in new and different depths. And for that, this Barker fan is hooked.
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.
BATMAN # 17Writer: Scott Snyder
Art: Greg Capulo
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Henry Higgins is My Homeboy
Credit where credit is due – Snyder had a number of good ideas regarding this storyline, “Death Of The Family”. The twist on Batman’s “royal court”, an effectively scary Joker, Batman punching a horse then becoming friends with it…all solid work. Unfortunately, it couldn’t last.
The conclusion to the aforementioned storyline, BATMAN #17, feels incredibly rushed. The increasingly extravagant reveals (each one feeling less like honest story beats and more like Snyder trying to constantly one-up himself) never really pay off. The long-awaited confrontation between this form of the Joker and Batman is lackluster, and by the end of the story everything is hunky-dory for all parties involved. Perhaps the Batclan is annoyed with Bruce, but it doesn’t much matter.
Little moments of style, such as Joker having a Bat shaped ax or the consistently solid art by Greg Capullo, can’t change the sad truth about this story – what began as an incredibly engaging Joker story eventually devolved into merely an enjoyable, if ultimately disappointing, Batman arc.
Still, the little moments make the book worth at least one read through, and it’s certainly more entertaining than “Court Of Owls”.
Advance Review: In Previews now!
NUMBER CRUNCHER #1Writer: Simon Spurrier
Artist: PJ Holden
Publisaher: Titan Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
Math has proven the gateway for exponential jumps in our evolution towards…well, I don’t personally know what the hell we’re evolving towards, but NUMBER CRUNCHER has a few theories I find far more plausible than anything I was taught in Sunday school or at my friends’ bar and bat mitzvahs.
Imagine if you will instead of Pearly Gates and pineapples shoved up Hitler’s ass, the afterlife is far more akin to Albert Brook’s rendition in DEFENDING YOUR LIFE. Now remove the Neil Simon banter and imagine Stephen Hawking was in the writing…I mean dictation chair. Confused? Sorry, but NUMBER CRUNCHER plays on such meta levels this is the best comprehension my teeny man brain can articulate.
I’m not saying the book is all heady; we are very grounded by our protagonist, a limey thug named Agent #494 who shuffled off his mortal coil long ago. The long ago part is merely for our benefit; time doesn’t make a lick of difference once we are no longer carbon based, but I found an explanation necessary for my narrow linear mind. NUMBER CRUNCHER takes place today, yesterday and tomorrow. More on that in a second (pardon the pun).
Before we get to our other story focal point we should talk God. God is also numbers based; he’s a mealy-mouthed accountant that is appropriately called the Divine Calculator (GC). He’s also an emotionless son-of-a-bitch who enjoys fudging the numbers and exacting special clauses on the fate of souls with the glee of a child at Christmas. See, to call him God is a misnomer. In Spurrier’s version of the afterlife God also embodies the traits of his son Lucifer. Again, though, it’s all about universal efficiency – evil is merely a denominator in the grand equation towards the infinity of illuminating the divine number.
To show the Grand Calculator’s aloofness towards intangibles like emotion, the GC gives Agent #494 an assignment to turn the screw on a mathematician “who is fundamentally indivisible” from his soul mate. I’m talking love, in case I lost you. This mathematician in his dying moments figures out we’re all just part of the Matrix and ends up at the GC’s doorstep with a deal to reinvent the idea of reincarnation: reincarnation with memories of what happened before in an attempt to reunite himself with the love he left behind in 1969. This strikes a chord with #494 since he too sold his soul for love – and got his denominator divided in the process.
Ripped from the pages of 2000 A.D., this compilation will soon be in full color. My preview copy had only started the process. I’ll tell you, though, if I were the gang at Titan I would be careful. The half-colored version I saw was rather intriguing with its SIN CITY-style accents for scenes on Earth while “heaven” is a firmly black and white, yes/no, 1’s and 0’s environment. I also really dig Holden’s panel work; the afterlife is pure chaos in design despite its nobler orderly aspirations.
I won’t claim to fully understand NUMBER CRUNCHER, but I can say with the utmost statistical certainty I’m intrigued to read more this summer.
THE HIGH WAYS #2Writers: John Byrne
Artist: John Byrne
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Reviewer: Masked Man
Since I was just talking about the second issue of STAR WARS, I thought I'd talk about some brand new sci-fi with John Byrne's second issue of THE HIGH WAYS. In the 'old' days, I was always a fan of John Byrne's work--especially his DC work. His reworking of Superman is arguably his finest work. Over the years, while I've still respected the hell out of his drawing skills, I've not been much of a fan of his finishing work, looking like it was inked with a twig. His work on THE HIGH WAYS seems to be getting back to his more polished ways. It's still a little rough, but this is by far my favorite John Byrne art in a long while.
Storywise, Byrne is putting together a sci-fi adventure that reminds me of the old tv show SPACE 1999, especially in the setting, as it's not that far in the future. We’ve got spaceships and space stations, but warp speed, transporters, and replicators are still a ways off. Everything has a utilitarian look to it and the main spaceship, the Carol Ann, seems to have been designed by the same guy who designed the Eagle from SPACE 1999. One interesting thing about the series so far is the attention to scientific detail. With the newbie space trucker Eddie (aka Sprout), the other characters all get the chance to explain how life in outer space is. This is something I always consider as real sci-fi: When writers take time to explain the science and how things work in this future or alien world. I'm more of an adventure guy, so I usually don't care too much about how they fuel up their ships. If you like this kind of detail, then this book is for you.
This issue picks up right where the last one left off: Sprout seeing a guy walking around the surface of Europa without a space suit. When he and Jones go out to check…well, the fishing trip is the highlight of the book. It certainly got me to jump, and again the use of science fact is a lot of fun here. Things get even weirder when Megan turns up on the Carol Ann and her ride shows up! Byrne is doing a really good job writing a somewhat creepy space mystery here. We got the secrets of the scientific base on Europa, alien life forms walking around, and other out of the ordinary things for our space truckers to deal with.
So if you're a hardcore sci-fi lover, you should totally be picking this up. If you're a more moderate sci-fi folk like myself, you should be able to dig it too, as John Byrne is definitely showing off what a talent he is here.
Learn more about the Masked Man and feel free to critic his own comicbook endeavors at www.Toonocity.com
DEAD SPACE: LIBERATION VOL.1Writer: Ian Edington
Illustrator: Christopher Shy
Publisher: Titan Books
Reviewer: Mr. Pasty
At first, I thought Titan Books was hooking me up, but now I’m starting to get the impression that it’s just trolling me. After all, your beloved pasty-face doesn’t know jack shit about the DEAD SPACE video game, which Google tells me is a survival horror third-person shooter set aboard a space ship with monsters and an assortment of otherworldly peril. I call trolling because they also sent me the ASSASSIN’S CREED graphic novel and, well, I never played that game either. In fact, I don’t even own a PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 because I’m too busy playing with my big-meloned doppelganger on Wii. But any game they bother to convert to a graphic novel has to be good, right? Right.
Fortunately, Titan also sent me DEAD SPACE, a collection of all six of the original comics, as well as its prequel, EXTRACTION. In addition, I also got my milky white hands on SALVAGE, the follow-up DEAD SPACE graphic novel. That gave me a chance to familiarize myself with the DEAD SPACE universe and not have to go into LIBERATION blind. That was a definite plus, because there isn’t a tremendous amount of exposition here. You either know what the heck you’re looking at or you don’t. Speaking of, I thought the illustrations by Christopher Shy were kinda cool at first, but then I felt a bit of a disconnect later on. Shy employs that smudgy, photorealistic art with no hard lines and dark overtones. Almost like a dream (or in this case nightmare) on paper. Hey, I get it: it’s called DEAD SPACE for a reason, but writer Ian Edington doesn’t use thought or voice bubbles for his characters, so you have a page of doom and gloom scored with white text strategically placed throughout to indicate a conversation or incoming transmission. From what I’ve read, the success of the video game has a lot to do with its ability to immerse the player in the DEAD SPACE universe, and I didn’t feel that here. I can’t say the writing or artwork is substandard, per se, but the presentation didn’t draw me in like I had hoped. I did appreciate the mood and atmosphere, but it was almost like watching a horror movie on mute, trying to feel the chills and thrills by reading the subtitles.
The LIBERATION story is a compelling one if you like horror and science fiction. That’s also assuming you’ve already played the game and picked this book up because you just can’t get enough of the DEAD SPACE universe. I know what that’s like, having amassed a pile of STREET FIGHTER and MORTAL KOMBAT comics, which were mostly a bust. With that in mind, I’m confident DEAD SPACE fans will be delighted with LIBERATION, but for the casual comic book reader looking to check out something new, this one might read like nothing but dead space.
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.
UNCANNY X-MEN #1>Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Chris Bachalo
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Henry Higgins is My Homeboy
I haven’t been enjoying ALL NEW X-MEN terribly much. Young Hank McCoy being suddenly an expert on whatever plot-related disease his future self has, the lack of attention on most of the cast, and OH GOOD GOD I hate the redesign for Beast.
If there’s one real saving grace, it’s whenever Bendis switches focus over to Cyclops and his renegade band of X-Men. The new mutants they’ve found are interesting, the team’s powers being wonky is an interesting device, and, saying this as a fan of Cyclops, I reeeeeeeeeeeeeeally like this direction for the character.
UNCANNY X-MEN’s relaunch (beyond featuring art by Chris Bachalo, someone I’m always a fan of) is, right from the beginning, one of the most interesting of the MARVEL NOW titles.
The premise is interesting, the art wonderful, Bendis resists the urge (like with much of work on the Avengers books) to make everyone the quippy one (thus giving characters some implicit differences), and the ending is extremely engaging.
Alright. I’m on board for this.
Advance Review: In Previews now!
CHRONOS COMMANDOS #1Writer & Artist: Stuart Jennett
Publisher: Titan Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
What happens when A SOUND OF THUNDER meets INGLORIOUS BASTERDS? CHRONOS COMMANDOS is what! While I hate trite slug-lines like that, sadly that is what helps sell books, and I will gladly prostitute my own convictions to help get good comics into peoples’ hands.
The first thing you need to know is that this book is a visual feast. Opening in a time when dinosaurs reigned supreme, the initial pages are lusher than JURASSIC PARK. It’s an Alex Ross-like painting style that thwarts the often heard saying “paint doesn’t move like pencils.” This fucker is kinetic, as exhibited when the WWII-style time sphere first drops out of the sky on top of a T-Rex (or Velociraptor – I don’t know, I missed the whole dinosaur craze – let’s leave it at Big Ass Leeeeezard).
“WWII time sphere?” I know--it threw me at first, too, but that’s the great thing about CHRONOS COMMANDOS: every page bitch slaps you with a brand new surprise. Stay with me…what if instead of the world’s greatest minds spending the 40’s working on the bomb, they instead focused on temporal mechanics? So instead of world domination Hitler set his sights on the domination of all things in all times.
It’s a great concept that never gets mired in Hickmanesque explanations of how. Not that I mind those things, but I know many who get turned off by pseudo-science babble. Instead, everybody--and I mean everybody, including a scientist with a resemblance to ole’ Albert Einstein--is packing heat and kicking ass. I was truly surprised at how much action and depth Jennett was able to achieve; in modern comics it always seems to be a case of one or the other on a per issue basis.
The protagonist has a name, but I walked away simply calling him Sarge. Grizzled, but caring for the fucktards he commands, I had some genuine LOL moments at the authenticity of dialog they shared while traipsing across pre-human Earth. Good ol’ Nazi slander works whether in the 1940’s or the land before time. There was also genuine heart when we see the other one competent troop member end up as dino food.
The Nazis also gave me some genuine guffaws. Their whole purpose for this particular mission was simply to shoot a propaganda film heralding their superiority of the time stream. PR wins wars, and midget dictators seem to know this better than anyone else.
I’ll read pretty much any sci-fi slant on historical events, and I do give leeway to bad execution sometimes for the sake of a cool concept. CHRONOS COMMANDOS, though, is not one of those cases. If anything I put this on par with masters of “What If” history like Harry Turtledove.
CHRONOS COMMANDOS can be found in this month’s Previews for retailers, and you can expect to put it in your hot little hands this summer.
STAR WARS #2Writer: Brian Wood
Artist: Carlos D'Anda
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man
It's kind of a shame that Dark Horse is kicking off a cool little Star Wars book like this now, because it seem inevitable that it will all come to an end too soon (with Disney/Marvel now owning Star Wars), though just like Marvel Comics' original STAR WARS series, this series takes place moments after “A New Hope”, in case you couldn't tell by by Alex Ross' awesome covers. For me, this is my favorite time period of the Star Wars Universe; in fact, it's all about the movies to me. Yes, I even enjoyed all the prequels. Although they are extremely flawed, I certainly don't feel like George Lucas 'raped my childhood' or anything like that. As for the video games, novels, tv shows and other comic books, I never cared too much about it all. So with this series getting back to the 'basic' Star Wars and great Alex Ross covers I thought I'd give it a try--let Dark Horse milk a little money out of me before the show is over.
The first thing that stands out to me about this series is effort. Both Brian Wood and Carlos D'Anda seem to be working very hard to capture every little thing about the first movie. Wood is giving all the major characters some good 'screen time' and is trying to get everyone to talk like they did in the movies. I say “trying” because I don't feel they are talking like Han and Leia as much as they a mimicking Han and Leia. It's a slight difference that I hope he can smooth out. D'Anda is also working hard, creating vista shots like the movies, filling panels with tons of detail to make everything look as perfect as possible. It's definitely a good looking comic. He's not getting the likeness of the actors too much, but that doesn't really bother me. I also feel his storytelling isn't quite all there yet, either. It's not bad, but he has room to improve there. So while I appreciate all the hard work here, it feels more like a pastiche than a direct continuation of the Star Wars Universe.
So what is going on? Well with Alderaan all blown up (real good), the rebels are looking for a new base. Unfortunately, the Empire seem to be predicting their every search move, so Leia has hand-picked a team of off the grid pilots to find a new base and the Imperial spy. The group consists of Wedge, Luke and a host of new characters. Han Solo, meanwhile, is off acting like a black market agent for the rebellion, making his way to Coruscant with Boba Fett on his tail. And then there's Lord Vader, who has had his command taken away from him. See what happens when you are the only one to walk away from the destruction of the Death Star? Overall, nothing too interesting is really happening yet. On some level Woods is walking dangerously close to too much infrastructural content, the kind of stuff that made “Phantom Menace” a bit boring. So while set-up is important, two issues of it is a bit much, especially when Leia is introducing the new pilots and giving out personal details that I don't think any commander would announce to the rest of the team. Oh and least I forget--black X-Wings! Nothing says Star Wars special ops like black X-Wings.
So while I dig the concept and hard work being put into this book, it has a ways to go before I'll start looking forward to future issues.
BABBLE VOL.1Writer: Lee Robinson
Artist: Brian Coyle
Review: Mighty Mouth
I don’t often stray from comics containing spandex-clad do-gooders. But when I do, I hope for an engaging story. Right from the start BABBLE was able to meet my expectations in many respects.
BABBLE is not your conventional comic by any means. There is a complete and total lack of superheroes, villains, zombies and women so voluptuous they can barely fit in the panels. However, what BABBLE does have is story loaded with originality and suspense.
Enter Carrie Harnoll, a young woman living in the UK whose life has become a textbook illustration in ordinariness. A chance meeting with an old flame reignites forgotten feelings and presents Carrie with an opportunity for a new beginning in America. Carrie jumps at the chance to escape her ho-hum existence and takes the job. Now at an Ivy League University, she is the newest member of a research team determined to revive the lost language of Babel. The plot thickens as Carrie learns that the previous specialist on this project, Professor Cartwright, committed suicide. As the team works feverishly to crack the code, they soon learn that some mysteries are better left forgotten.
Writer Lee Robinson has crafted an excellent little page-turner that is immense on originality with good characterization. Robinson displays a firm grasp of suspense storytelling with a slow boil that lures the reader into each chapter. As for this tale’s conclusion…well, I don’t want to spoil it, but let’s just say it is rather Shakespearian in the way it is both satisfying and disconcerting at once.
Artistically speaking, BABBLE is a little rough around the edges. That’s not to say that the art is dreadful; it just lacks in some areas. Most of the panels are laid out in a pretty basic fashion with no use of different angles or varied perspective. The characters themselves look decent for the most part, but there are the occasional confusing panels that require a double take to differentiate who is who. One thing I thought worked particularly well is the way Coyle used different color pallettes to distinguish from flashback sequences and present day. It was a nice touch and made it simple to understand what took place in the past.
BABBLE is a welcome deviation from routine comics, a unique thriller from cover to cover. So take a break from superheroes, zombies and fairy tales that look they were made with the skin-mag audience as their target and give BABBLE a try--it’ll render you speechless.
Advance Review: In stores today!
VIBE #1Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Pete Woods
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
VIBE is an important book. Not just because this interdimensional conduit will be the go-to FLASH buster in the newly formed JUSTICE LEAGUE AMERICA, aka the real JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK (when you think about their mission). It’s also not because it puts Johns back in his wheelhouse of humanizing his heroes by focusing on the family dynamics that make all of really tick. I’d say VIBE is most influential in showing us the panels we missed from JUSTICE LEAGUE 2…I mean…5…fuck, you know what I mean…years ago. I’ll also say that Johns dropped a few possible Easter eggs in here that could make Vibe the herald of the long-promised opening of the Multiverse. Yes, the last point is utter conjecture on my part, but a girl can dream, can’t she?
Vibe, known for most of this issue as Carlos Ramone, is hired as the Flash buster for Amanda Waller’s new Justice League buster Justice League America. Forgive me--I meant to say “appropriate detainment measure in the event Flash requires persuasive assistance in future choices.” It’s the least interesting part about Carlos, and it happens at the end of the book, although I will say it’s nice to see the naïve view of a team that’s essentially being founded out of cowardice towards change. For the real doings, go see my review of JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA.
Now, what I liked best was the book’s second virtue – family and genuine every day slices of life before our teeth get kicked in by the fantastic. It’s amazing how pivotal Detroit has become to the New 52, but I’ll allow this geographic narcissism since my first book is coming out soon and it’s set my home town, Philly. First rule of writing: write what you know. Personally I would rather see authenticity through experience than some of the trite clichés writers use about towns they haven’t been to (WE DO MORE THAN EAT CHEESESTEAKS). So once we’re intimate with the location we meet the Brothers Ramone. Good for DC on racial diversity, and good for Johns for never turning to stereotypes. Between these guys, Baz and Billy, though, I will say we’re having a run on of impoverished characters…but I’ve seen specials on Detroit, so this just might be closer to reality than I care to admit. Anyway, the Brothers Ramone were at ground zero when Darkseid attacked 2…I mean 5…I mean 7…dammit…years ago. Carlos, his jocular older brother, who will be the salvation of the family by getting into college, and his younger gadfly brother who just wants to play soccer and mooch are all the first victims of parademon bloodlust. Li’l bro hides, big bro dies and Carlos is forever changed by being caught in the wake horizon of a Boom Tube. 5 years later, Carlos is trying to save more money when not phasing out of space time. It was pretty funny watching him work in an appliance store given his affliction for not showing up clearly on camera. These little moments made me care much more about Carlos’ fate when he unleashes his full Vibe awakening on the parademon that killed his brother.
Speaking of little moments: what Johns did in four pages in this issue, I didn’t once feel in the first 12 issues of JUSTICE LEAGUE. This was what we needed to see more of; less posturing and big attacks. I actually would have given JUSTICE LEAGUE leagues of leeway had it a sister book like this being published in tandem at the same time. But since other books were in the here and now, I mean then and when, all we got were the broad strokes. VIBE shows us just how much pain Darkseid wrought upon this world. I also would recommend EARTH 2 if you want to see another close intimate portrayal of the Darkseid invasion. It’s a pivotal moment that I always felt deserved more…justice.
Now again, this is mere conjecture on my part, but again I am going to conject. I could have sworn when the A.R.G.U.S. agent was explaining Carlos’ powers to him he said he exists between dimensions. I could also have sworn he said that Boom Tubes are interdimensional gateways. I think when he isn’t Flash busting it would be fun to see him traveling the 52 worlds. I don’t read Previews because playing out these scenarios is an important part of the hobby for me. As I understand things, Morrison won’t be doing DC books shortly, and short of getting Warren Ellis on board, it would be nice to see what Johns and VIBE can do with the most controversial revelation from FINAL CRISIS.
To say I dig VIBE is an understatement. I’ll admit I don’t love his costume, but Woods supported Johns’ pacing in spades, to the point it sometimes felt like individual panels were moving. Johns is the type of writer that works best on pages with more panels, plain and simple. Woods just says show me where to draw.
Read KATANA and VIBE before you read JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA. No matter what the covers say, trust me.
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G
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