Comics

AICN COMICS REVIEWS: BATMAN INC! PUNISHER WAR ZONE! LOST VEGAS! UNCANNY SKULLKICKERS! & MORE!

Published at: March 6, 2013, 9:15 a.m. CST

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

Advance Review: LOST VEGAS #1
UNCANNY AVENGERS #4
THE RED TEN #2
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #0.1
Advance Review: THE DEEP V1 & V2
PUNISHER WAR ZONE #5
Advance Review: SUPERMAN #17
EHMM THEORY V1
UNCANNY SKULLKICKERS #1
BATMAN INC #8


Advance Review: In stores today!

LOST VEGAS #1

Writer: Jim McCann
Artist: Jan Lee
Publisher: Image Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche


Leave it to humanity to take any great technological leap forward and transform it to meet our most base desires. In LOST VEGAS, a time after sometime tomorrow, we see a universe of fantastic aliens, intergalactic travel and other flights of fancy no one reading this will ever probably see in their lifetime. We’ve also found a way to take all of our self-destructive behavior to the next level as well. In the future you’re no longer trying to mark cards and falsify currency against some no-neck cretin who didn’t get enough breast milk from mommy; that cretin now has the strength of ten men and testicles nowhere near where you would expect them to be (that was “Star Trek”, not McCann, just to be clear).

Roland is one such scammer, a man who can read the cards, the table, and even the expressions of aliens who smile when angry – how’s that for an unreadable tell? After one too many bad reads Roland finds himself serving off his scam spree aboard the beautiful starship LOST VEGAS. Here, he and a host of other aliens pay back the house by placating the desires of any whale to walk through the door. Indentured servitude? Yup, but like I said for all of our progress we still remain the same. And that apparently goes for every sentient lifeform the galaxy has to offer.

Despite differing genomes, the galaxy is a pretty small place when it comes to finding joy. Sex, drugs and of course gambling seems to be how every species gets their kumba ya yas, and like Las Vegas, LOST VEGAS is the place of the future to make this all happen – for the right price, that is.

One part THE FIFTH ELEMENT and one part OCEAN'S ELEVEN, the book makes short work of exposition to get Roland’s servitude cemented. Of course, this is all so we can get to the main story of Roland’s plan to rob the house. In LOST VEGAS, though, this is more a scam for freedom than simply trying to get a night in the high roller’s suite.

The space scoundrel has become a trope at this point, but McCann keeps the story moving so you never focus on the eerie similarities Roland has to Paul Newman and Han Solo. Roland’s Chewie is a telepathic blob named Ink who keeps Roland’s gal Friday and his tech wizard in constant communique as we see the dry run for Roland’s plan to start gleefully leaving LOST VEGAS.

Lee has a way with the pencil, but I was most impressed by her page layouts. Things start standard before she begins shattering borders to chronicle the dry-run escape. One complaint, and I’m not even sure I can call it that since it’s probably by design: the book is always inside closed quarters, leaving a blind side when it comes to the scope of the future. I’ve read everything sci fi in my life from the complete works of Asimov to Heinlein to Clarke. The thing that always entranced me was the magnitude of the vessels we will one day command compared to, say, a Honda Civic. I didn’t get that scope in this issue. Again, I think this is by design, though, and will pay off as the ultimate expression of Roland’s freedom.

One other nit, and it doesn’t just go to LOST VEGAS, is Image’s recent “just the tip” foray into new properties. I agree that the days of characters who live for years and never age is slowly drawing to a close, but I also think there’s more breathing room for stories than just four issues. We should have learned as a community by now the difference between drawn out and not drawn out enough. I think I would have gotten the scope I wanted if the team had more than 4 issues to climb and descend Freytag’s pyramid. Again, this is merely a nit in a very imaginative take into tomorrow’s solar system of sin.

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.


UNCANNY AVENGERS #4

Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: John Cassaday
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man


So Remender's first big story arc in the UNCANNY AVENGERS comes to a close--kinda. Kinda, because I don't really feel like that was a complete story, and nor does Remender as he teased us with the three months later pages. So overall this story seems to be more or less nothing more than the Red Skull's first salvo against the Avengers, or rather the good ole US of A. Which is ok, I guess, but I'm not really looking forward to any filler content before we continue with the Red Skull on Prof X's brain, even though the Red Skull's master plan appeared to be nothing more than a riot in downtown New York, and Ed Brubaker just frick'n did this in CAPTAIN AMERICA (before the Marvel Now!) as Hydra Queen and Bravo's master plan. Now I guess it's just me, but aside from random chaos I don't see how an artificially produced riot can be anyone's master plan, let alone anyone as smart as the Red Skull, but there you are.

Just going with the flow, this was a pretty sweet issue. Watching the Scarlet Witch and Thor go toe to toe was better than any fight in the whole AVSX storyline. It showed off what a bad@$$ Wanda is and that if you drop a semi-truck on Thor, you're not going to do much more than piss him off. The Red Skull using his new powers to 'plead' his case to Captain America was very nice as well. Sure it was monologuing, but I enjoy listening to a villain explain their point of view. Giving them the chance to say “look, I'm not the bad guy here, I'm trying to fix the world.”, it just makes their character more believable and the story more interesting if they can get the heroes to doubt their position, even if for a moment. The whole Rogue and Havoc bit was frick'n awesome as well, but seriously, the reveal should have been on the other page--I'd guess Remender was hip to that, but could make it work. The aftermath was really good as well, with Scarlet Witch and Rouge still on uneasy ground. And lastly, how can you not love Wolverine's comment on whether or not Thor can blame himself for being controlled by the Red Skull? Good stuff, Maynard.

John Cassaday's art was extra good this issue too, maybe because it was so action-packed. He did cheat nearly every background with a photostat of a random building, but unlike some artists he kept most of it well in the background so it came off more like a backdrop than a really ugly drawing. Plus his foreground characters look good enough to keep your mind off the photostats (again, if you like his work you should really check out Kevin Maguire). Every punch and bloodied face was well drawn.

So what about the three months later pages? I'm down with 'em, much more than any of the teasing DC has done in the past few years in the back of their books. I'm very curious how the hell Xavier is on his feet and how bad things are going to get with the 'Red' Onslaught.

THOR: GOD OF THUNDER is still easily my favorite Marvel Now! book, but damn if UNCANNY AVENGERS isn't fighting hard for that top spot. I've always been more of an Avengers man--not that I hate the X-Men or anything; it's just that there are too damn many of them, and they are nearly always whining: “I have superpowers, my life sucks!” But I really enjoy the angle of this book as well. The X-Men have saved the world how many times now? It's about time the general populace stopped fearing them.

So have you read the Masked Man's comic book CINDY LI: THREE OF A KIND at www.Toonocity.com? Why the hell not, it's free!


THE RED TEN #2

Writer: Tyler James
Art: Cesar Feliciano (pencils), Vic Moya (inks), Guillermo Ucha (colors)
Publisher: Comix Tribe
Reviewer: BottleImp


Independent comics—especially indie superhero books—can be a funny thing. Sometimes the freedom from the editorial restraints of major publications leads to ideas that are innovative, daring and grab hold of the reader’s interest in a way that established comics fail to do. On the other hand, sometimes the reader is confronted with a quality of work that can only be called, at best, amateurish. And there are those occasions when the reader discovers both of these qualities intertwined on the same pages. Such is the case with the indie superhero murder mystery THE RED TEN.

Following in a tradition that goes back at least as far as Mark Gruenwald’s SQUADRON SUPREME, Tyler James has created his own version of DC’s Justice League to play with. His super-team, dubbed The Alliance, boasts a roster of heroes that are clear surrogates for the JLA. Instead of Superman, we have Justice. Wonder Woman becomes Bellona. Ditto for Green Lantern and Orion, the Atom and Magnitude, and so on and so forth. But instead of pitting his ersatz Leaguers against the Legion of Doom, James has dropped them into the plot of an Agatha Christie novel. Literally.

If you’ve never read “And Then There Were None,” also known as its original title “Ten Little Indians,” you’re missing out on one of the greatest murder mysteries ever written. The plot is thus: ten people are invited to a gathering on a small island and, one by one, are killed in ways that parallel the ways the ten little Indian boys are knocked off in the nursery rhyme of the same name. After asserting that no one else is hiding on the island, the guests deduce that the murderer is, in fact, one of them. But who?

That’s the premise of THE RED TEN—only instead of a proper English party, the superpowered heroes have come to the island to find the one who killed one of their own members. The first issue of the series opened with the murder of Red, a female stand-in for the Dark Knight, and her former sidekick Crimson (who is basically Robin/Nightwi… oh, you get it by now) joining his mentor’s teammates to bring Red’s killer to justice. As with the Christie novel, the group makes their way to a mysterious island. And like the novel, there’s even a nursery rhyme (of sorts) giving the clues as to what fates will befall the heroes. By the end of issue #1, the robotic Androika becomes the first to succumb to the unknown killer’s machinations, with the rest of The Alliance no closer to realizing what’s going to happen. They obviously aren’t Agatha Christie fans.

Here’s the thing: this isn’t so much an homage to Christie’s book as it is a full-blown swiping of the plot, but damned if James doesn’t pull it off! Part of the reason it works is that the writer makes no apologies or excuses; the afterword of the premiere issue is James freely admitting the source material for his plot. He has the balls to admit lifting the structure—nursery rhyme and all—from Christie, and the miraculous thing is that there’s enough novelty in transposing the storyline to the spandex set that the mixture of the two genres has a feeling of freshness rather than plagiarism. Another point in the comic’s favor is that James seems to know that readers need more than familiar powers to empathize with his surrogate superheroes, and so he’s added layers of backstory and motivations to flesh out what might have been paper-thin cutouts. This issue opens with tragedy in the formative years of the young girl who would grow up to be Red—an event which certainly offers parallels to Bruce Wayne’s childhood, but is tweaked with just enough mystery to remain intriguing rather than overly familiar. Later in the issue James delves into the psyche of Throttle, the group’s speedster, in a sequence that brings new meaning to the term “runner’s high.” All this serves to give The Alliance a little distance from their major corporation antecedents, giving the heroes of THE RED TEN more personality for the reader to respond to.

But while the writing escapes what could well have become as a creative death-trap, the artwork suffers from the independent comic affliction I mentioned earlier. Cesar Feliciano certainly demonstrates an exuberance in his drawings, and his pacing and page compositions are good, if sometimes a little muddled. Where the major trouble lies is in Feliciano’s ability to render anatomy and perspective—two integral components of comic book art. He has the idea of how perspective should work, and in most cases manages to fudge it well enough so that it doesn’t become too distracting, but there are certain panels where Feliciano’s inexperience jumps out at the reader. One such case occurs during the flashback scene when the adolescent Red is drawn in a way that would make her at least six feet tall if the rules of linear perspective were applied. As for the anatomy…let’s just say that it’s fairly obvious that Feliciano learned to draw from looking at comics. That’s fine for a starting point—some of my own earliest drawings were inspired by the heroes of my favorite comics—but somewhere down the line one needs to look at a real human being to see how those bulbous muscles might actually work. I’d like to see Feliciano do some of this research and give his slightly balloonish muscle-men the nuances of the natural human form. Watch out, Cesar—you’re on a slippery slope that leads down to Rob Liefeldland.

Coloring also becomes a major factor in reviewing this comic. Guillermo Ucha’s palette is good in terms of the range of colors he uses, but every color on every page is just too damn saturated. The chroma level is so super-high that the end result is artwork that feels blown out and overexposed, with darks that all but eclipse the black ink and tones that are unnaturally vibrant. Now, I’m going to be fair and say that this might be a printing or software issue that’s making the color so heavy-handed, but there’s that old chestnut about a poor farmer blaming his tools. Instead of enhancing the line art, the coloring knocks it down a peg; a better handling of color duties would help the visuals immeasurably.

At the end of it all, however, the story is so intriguing that the sloppy visual aspect of this comic isn’t enough to NOT make me want to find out what comes next. Tyler James has put enough of a spin on a classic story to make THE RED TEN an exciting read. I’m hoping that as the series progresses, the artistic team will step up to the challenge of delivering a higher level of quality to complement what could very well be a truly memorable series.

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.


GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #0.1

Writer: Brain Michael Bendis
Artist: Steve McNiven
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Mad Mercutio


I don’t much care for space comics. I’m more of a street-level hero type guy. But when I heard that Marvel was putting out a GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY comic to (I suppose) drum up interest in the forthcoming movie, I decided to give it a chance. I wasn’t that thrilled about the concept of a movie, but still, when Marvel attaches names like Bendis and McNiven to a title, I get a little interested.

Let’s talk about Steve McNiven. The dude can draw. I’m always amazed by his pencil work. It looks like pretty simple line work, but the detail he gives a scene is just amazing. He did not disappoint in this issue, either. The book started out with the same large-scale space opera that the Nova book had. Not surprising, since I’m sure these books will be hooked up in the near future. One thing I’ve always loved about McNiven’s artwork is that it is so precise. He conveyed a beautiful young woman in Star-Lord’s mom, but was just as easily able to convey a pretty older woman when the story jumped ahead ten years. I love McNiven’s art, but I wonder how long he will be on the book. I always feel like the high profile artists leave books pretty quickly.

I do have to say one minor thing about the art. The cover is very striking. I dig the whole overlapping and juxtaposition of the characters in the sky. As a whole, the cover works very well. As a whole, Star-Lord’s face work well. But for some reason, my eyes were drawn to his oddly-rendered lips. A little strange, but I guess I’m nitpicking.

Bendis does a good job with the writing for the issue, as well. It’s a nice combination of the seriousness of J’son and the quirky “I can’t believe this is happening” dialogue of Star-Lord’s mom. The story itself is interesting. As a 0.1 issue, it is obviously a prequel story. Usually those can leave me feeling like I could have just saved my money and waited for the number one to hit, but I actually enjoyed the story. I’m not saying it was groundbreaking or mile a minute excitement, but it was definitely worth reading. We get the angsty back story of Star-Lord (as a side note, apparently Chris Pratt has been cast in this role in the upcoming movie), plus a guest spot by Tony Stark at the end. It’s a nice set up to what I’m speculating will be a pretty action oriented space drama type thing. I’m definitely looking forward to number one.


Advance Review: Available in April!

THE DEEP VOL. 1: HERE BE DRAGONS & Vol.2 THE VANISHING ISLAND

Writer: Tom Taylor
Artist: James Brouwer
Publisher: Gestalt Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche


Shamefully, I didn’t know the name Tom Taylor until a month ago when I reviewed my random “let’s give it a shot” book of the week INJUSTICE: GODS AMONG US. It not only was a damn good rare expansion of a video game plot, it was also a great Elseworlds tale in a time when alternate reality is a verboten term in the halls of DC with the exception of EARTH 2. What made this book truly special, though, was the authenticity of voice and relationships that Taylor naturally has for character interactions. Lois Lane fans shouldn’t be reading any other book right now, to be frank - irregardless of the fact she shuffles loose her mortal coil in issue 1. In one issue Taylor perfectly embodied and decimated the devotion between comics’ first couple.

But when Taylor reached out about reviewing his underwater tale, THE DEEP, currently optioned for television…well, I had a few reservations. I don’t really dig the sea. It’s murky and I can’t let go of 90s borefests like Roy Scheider’s SEAQUEST DSV and THE ABYSS. Also, it’s an “all ages book,” a term that often denotes great for kids, tolerated by parents.

Thankfully, all of my preconceptions were wrong. There is so much joy, life, family authenticity, exploration and adventure in the THE DEEP, you might wish it came with time travel shipping so you could share it with the writers of SEAQUEST and possibly Jonathan Brandis.

From page one of the first volume, HERE BE DRAGONS, you realize Taylor understands the core fundamentals of the comic craft – before you enter the fantastic and fanciful you must first ground the reader in what they understand. In this case it’s the simple family dynamic between overly imaginative tween brother Ant and forever annoyed teen sister Fontaine. What made this scene of Ant trying to train his goldfish Jeffrey and Fontaine’s disdain for the activity spectacular was that it could have taken place anywhere – a bedroom in White Plains, NY or a living room in Tokyo. It was authentic, and that’s why I cared as a human being. Why I cared as a comic collector is because this scene takes place in Sebastian’s favorite place – unda da sea aboard Ant and Fontaine’s underwater vessel the Arronox.

Ant and Fontaine are far from alone; rounding out the Arronox crew are dad Will and mom Kaiko. I found this multicultural representation far more 21st century than the traditional waspish representations that permeate American TV. I hold no delusions: my blonde hair and blue eyes will soon be a forgotten relic in the human genome. Good thing, too, since it’s one step away from the sunlight combustion trait of albinism.

The Nektons are more than marine biologists. While science and the search for truth sit at the core of their existence, these Aquanauts are as much scientists as Indiana Jones was; the search for relics is as equally alluring as the lab analysis.

In volume one, HERE BE DRAGONS, the Nektons are called to the coast of Greenland to hunt down a strange monster that arises from the ocean depths every time there is a shift in the earth’s tectonic plates. Of course, what they ultimately find isn’t a dragon, but rather a creature from our paleolithic past. Again, though, the joy found in THE DEEP is only found partly in the ultimate answers.

Taylor is also clearly dedicated to the long-time longevity of the series. While each volume consists of a Scooby Doo-like mystery for the family to unearth, there’s an even bigger story which comes to light at the end of Volume 1. A strange figure named Nereus appears, who tells young Ant that this uncovering of underwater dragons is step one in the most elusive of Nekton mysteries--the search for Atlantis.

Volume 2, THE VANISHING ISLAND, keeps the same frantic pace for adventure and same family resolve as Volume . The sage Nereus is now a full-fledged member of the crew (much to Fontaine’s disdain, but what doesn’t Fontaine disdain?) as the family goes off to uncover the mystery of an island off the coast of Brazil that has decided to start moving. What I loved best about this and Volume 1 is that the hero of each adventure comes from the most unlikely of characters. I won’t spoil the mystery, but players of the recent World of Warcraft expansion Mists of Panderia will get it about halfway through.

I probably shouldn’t say this out loud, but I pay forward most of my comps. In part this is a selfish endeavor to ensure the medium I love continues to thrive. In cases like THE DEEP, though, I consider it beyond even my propensity for cruelty to keep this cloistered in an old man’s closet as opposed to putting in front of a young imaginative mind. Story aside, THE DEEP should go right to an elementary school library for Brouwer’s artwork. Kids will want to read THE DEEP on first glance, thanks to the Pied Piper allure of Brouwer’s pencils. This guy’s YOUNG JUSTICE-like visuals will immediately resonate with the wee ones, as already exhibited with his amazing work in BATMAN BEYOND. I’ll admit he’s the only one who works in this new age cartoony style remembering that emotional subtlety is far more impactful than over the top expressions like agog and angry. I offer Brouwer only one critique: while I know the depths of the ocean are supposed to be dark, please give a little more illumination to your two page spreads. There were times I was busting out a flashlight to see the detail on the full or two page spreads that closed out each chapter.

Get THE DEEP for yourself; no matter what age you are, you’ll dig it. Then, pay THE DEEP forward so we can ensure the next generation keeps churning out comics when we’ll actually have time to read them (i.e. retirement).

THE DEEP Drops in the US April 2013, and if you want copies in your store grab them off DIAMOND with these intuitive codes:
FEB131046 THE DEEP GN VOL 01 HERE BE DRAGONS
FEB131047 THE DEEP GN VOL 02 VANISHING ISLAND


PUNISHER WAR ZONE #5

Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Carmine Di Giandomenicho
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: The Dean


Somehow I managed to remain completely oblivious to the fact that this series was drawing to a close, so the farewell from Rucka in the letters column came as a bit of a surprise to me. Looking back, I suppose the signs were there: no Marvel NOW! tag, Peter Parker’s still swingin’ around for some reason, and well, once the Avengers decide they’re going to bring you down, I guess that’s pretty much it. Most surprising to me is how cleanly this team managed to end their run despite having the curtain drawn on them a little sooner than expected: it’s not great, and it isn’t the ending the rest of the run deserved, but PUNISHER WAR ZONE #5 delivers an exciting and open enough ending that leaves Castle down, but not out, and hope that a new PUNISHER title might not be too far off.

This issue picks up with Iron Man, embarrassed by and more than a little ticked at Frank, tracking him down to what will be The Punisher’s last stand…for now. No more tete-a-tetes as Castle exchanges fisticuffs with an Avenger – this is The Avengers assembling to bring down The Punisher, and the ensuing war between the two leaves both sides looking strong, but with no real winner, as Cap explains. I loved the final exchange between the Punisher and Captain America, as Frank’s last words to him almost force you to dig deep into the character, but I was a little disappointed in how he was brought down. Those words between the two military men would have been much more powerful, I feel, if Cap were the one to ultimately take him down. The finish here is relatively lackluster, too, but after a five on one match against Earth’s Mightiest, I suppose it’s at least a credible one that shows Frank fighting until he no longer could.

What was more difficult to read here was how incompetent Iron Man comes across. I’m all for seeing The Punisher give Iron Man a run for his money, but there had to be a better way to do it than this. If Tony Stark wasn’t one of Marvel’s most brilliant heroes who designed and created the armor Frank hijacks, this would be much easier to swallow, but to steal, use, and then booby trap Stark’s own Iron Man armor against him? That seems like something even Dr. Doom might lose sleep over trying to figure out, let alone Frank Castle. Granted it made for an entertaining read to see Stark’s reaction to the whole situation, but it was just too hard for me to accept such a scenario in the end.

As far as the art is concerned, I wish we had the chance to see Carmine Di Giandomenicho and Rucka work together more on the series, but his work never matched that of Chechetto’s and Rucka’s earlier issues. The transition to Di Giandomenicho was fairly seamless in style and tone, and both artists had a similar take on The Punisher that played a huge role in making this run as memorable as it is, but there’s a sense of atmosphere that Chechetto seemed to bring that’s been lacking ever since he left. Despite that, the action is well done, and the emotion in that scene between Frank and Cap is portrayed excellently, so this is still a good looking issue overall.

PUNISHER WAR ZONE #5 probably isn’t the ending any fan of this run was hoping for, but on its own, WAR ZONE was a pretty fun Punisher story. There’s plenty from this run still to explore, and many ends are left loose, but until we hear more from Marvel regarding a solo PUNISHER series (perhaps a Punishette?), this final chapter from Rucka and Co. will do nicely.


Advance Review: In stores today!

SUPERMAN #17

Writer: Scott Lobdell
Artist: Kenneth Rockafort
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche


H’el wins, earth is decimated powering his time travel device back to Krypton, and starting next month we will all get #1 issues of the New New 52 including: Legion of Rao, Green L’elantern and Trognorman (the closest Kryptonian species to a bat). Happy?

We all know SUPERMAN will save the day, and frankly I’m tired of this debate. As much as I enjoyed The Dark Age of comics and love a good destruction, frankly, the shock value is gone. These losses on the moral scale have also been watered down by what I know will be an inevitable ret-con if a writer goes too far from a character’s base. Plus, there are still some times that I like to know the good guys will win in the end – it’s a comfort and solace. It’s not about will they win, it boils down to how. Fine, if you need to be surprised on the outcome of all stories, then I think it’s plainly clear by now in-continuity SUPERMAN, especially this new inception, just isn’t for you.

Now, for all the other Pollyannas still with me, H’EL ON EARTH has provided not only the best SUPERMAN story to date, but also the best SUPERGIRL, SUPERBOY and second best JUSTICE LEAGUE story as well.

I know in a universe three arc deeps this might not be the grandest compliment, but one has to start somewhere. And if we collectively provide our approval, DC then gets a barometer on how to please us moving forward.

Time travel, a villain trying to achieve good through nefarious means, and an honest-to-God voice for Superman and his Supelings are all gifts bestowed upon us in the SUPERMAN titles’ first crossover. I know crossovers are more dreaded than a Kriss Kross reunion tour, but when well executed they can carry the scope and magnitude originally intended. The whole DC crew played this one right. H’EL ON EARTH didn’t force me to buy all the books because of story skimping per issue, but it made me want to read them all. It rewarded me with cohesion from my primary title (SUPERMAN), through expertly shifting the POV of similar events.

I’m always leery of things, except this series. SUPERMAN proper was in such a sad state of affairs the only place to go was up. Despite the “controversy” with RED HOOD & THE OUTLAWS, I’ve loved the book since day one, so I had zero reservations about LobRocsters ability to, if not save SUPERMAN, at least redeem the title.

Moment after moment LobRocster succeeded. Clark Kent actually now has a personality. SUPERMAN with H’El as a nemesis finally gained a focus from the mutant of the week phenomenon. And we finally got the hell out of the politics of the newsroom. A little of that is fine, but issue after issue had grown quite tedious and wearisome.

At first I did feel the series was a little too narrative-heavy, until I realized different does not mean bad – just different. It’s not for everyone, but as the series went on I found myself more entrenched in the thought bubbles as the external danger continued to build. Patience is a virtue more comic collectors need to remember. Rocafort does no wrong, in my opinion: original panel layouts, unique takes on character visages and the ability to keep heavy narration moving all keep me looking for chinks in the armor to no avail.

So Superman does save the day, ultimately, with help from Supergirl, Superboy and the Justice League. And in the process, everyone (except maybe the Justice League) learned something to carry forward into further arcs. Superman learned there are still mysteries of his origin to uncover (some of the flashbacks to Jor and Lar were among my favorite moments). We got insight into the fact Superman has the deadliest weapons cache in the galaxy sitting inside the Fortress of Solitude. We learned the Justice League can actually behave like a big kid superhero team sans bickering. We saw Superboy uncover his own merit and potential outside of his cobbled genome. And we finally saw an emotional tether grow between Superman and his “big” cousin once she uncovers H’El’s lie about the true after effects of his little experiment. The fact that she delivers the final Judas kiss was appropriate, fantastic and actually set a nice little tear in the space-time continuum for future H’El fodder.

Honestly, the only thing that confused me was the introduction of this Oracle character – I mean, where are the wheels and the glasses? Oh, different Oracle you say--you mean the guy that looks like Nimrod from the X-Men and has the same soul charter as THE WATCHER? OK, that explains it then. Seriously, what was the point? Someone please enlighten me.

Great story, arc, art and editorial execution. This wasn’t just what a crossover should be, it’s the embodiment of true serialized entertainment.


EHMM THEORY Vol.1

Writer: Brockton McKinney
Illustrator: Larkin Ford
Publisher: Action Lab Comics
Reviewer: Mr. Pasty


Don’t judge a book by its cover? Bullshit! EHMM THEORY has a cover adorned with a young man holding a tattered baseball bat, standing in a pool of blood next to a frisky little feline who is smiling and licking its paws. I said to myself, “Gee self, I’ll bet there’s a zombie on the other side of this cover”, and voila, enter a zombie midget (who looks like Doink the Clown) getting his brains splattered in a dark cemetery. It’s almost as if writer Brockton McKinney called my cell phone and asked me what I wanted to see in a comic, because I was only a couple of panels in and already feeling like he knew me intimately. If that sounds creepy, well, I’m a creepy person. It’s probably why I fell in love with a book that depicts St. Peter a cigar-smoking peddler of afterlife adventures. Bonus points for the “Miami Vic”e-ish white suit.

Anyway, my first reaction to this comic was “WTF is an EHMM?” No, it’s not Essentials of Hazardous Materials Management, a popular course among environmental professionals, it’s the last name of Gabriel Ehmm, who I assume is named after that dude from The Gospel of Luke. I’m no bible banger, but I understand he was a pretty big deal back then, just as our Gabe is a big deal in the fight against carnival zombies. It helps that his girlfriend blew his head off (no, the other one), forcing their adopted cat to starve to death. The good news is, Gabe is innocent of any wrongdoing and has been chosen by the holier-than-thous to travel back (with re-animated kitty) to help sort out a certain undead mess while meeting all kinds of interesting folks along the way. Is it a groundbreaking premise? No, but who gives a shit? This book is fun to read, and that’s kind of why I got into comics in the first place.

McKinney’s narrative is straightforward and simple. That’s not to suggest it’s inferior to comparable books, but I appreciate the fact that it’s not bogged down with needless exposition or long-winded posturing from his protagonist. The same can be said for illustrator Larkin Fox, who in addition to having a name that sounds like a badass jet-fighter pilot complements McKinney with matter-of-fact visuals and a flexible brush. I don’t know if some of his zombies were purposely meant to resemble GARBAGE PAIL KIDS, but he earned a few chuckles from me either way. There’s so much to like about EHMM THEORY, aside from it being a prime example of why Action Lab Comics is at the top of my “must read” list. This book doesn’t try to be anything other than what it is: Fun, easy to read and crafted for fans who love comics. My only complaint is that they’ve yet to send me issue number two.

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 SKULLKICKERS #1

Writer: Jim Zub
Artist: Edwin Huang
Publisher: Image Comics
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee


As the phrase “distance makes the heart grow fonder” implies, I’m open to admitting that the hiatus SKULLKICKERS took the past few months (one would think this due to a shopping trip for a Thesaurus gone horribly wrong) really had me amped up for this garishly title “relaunch.” Truth be told, I was getting a little, I don’t want to say tired of some of the more standard gags that have become the calling card of the book, but the luster was wearing off a bit to throw that turn of phrase into this pot as well. But what I realized in that time off was that those gags (and the tone and the pacing and the etc) were part of this books’ swagger. And swagger - as Old Spice hired Bruce Campbell to tell us once upon a time - goes a long, long way.

The attitude I’m talking about with this title is kind of this giddy, “There it is and there it went!” brand of humor and storytelling where it just spitballs gag after gag after gag and whatever works works and what does not does not. The vast majority of these come down to the odd sound effect bit (which, I admit, if there’s anything that comes time and time again in this book that doesn’t work until it eventually does, it’s this device) or an awkward flashback or some degenerate action to round things out, and the success rate on these is still rather high. This is a book that goes for chuckles rather than big belly laughs and it is still doing this admirably with this new series and its “rebranding,” which in-and-of itself rather epitomizes the sense of humor and attitude I’m talking about, honestly. And while it’s not exactly a “Bold New Direction!” because of the whole “shit happens in comics” nature of the medium, there is a pretty big development ongoing that I give the creative crew a lot of props for toying with and joking about the way they did; that being the watery demise of Shorty.

What really works about this issue is Zub and Huang’s nonchalant attitude toward the death of one of its titular characters. Shorty’s dead, this is a comic book (a humor-based one at that), anything fucking goes, let’s dedicate the bottom quarter of each page to showing him doing his impersonation of an anchor. It’s an absolutely wonderful running joke throughout the issue because of how aware it is that between it being a comic book and with all the mystical mumbo-jumbo we’ve seen in this series thus far, who knows what may happen to the little guy as he prunes beneath the waves. A zombie turtle may roll up and nibble on him a bit on the second to last panel and then BAM! Guess who’s back in time for the cliffhanger? But instead we get some undersea life trolling his corpse while Baldy and his new, unwitting partner, Kusia, go about getting on together and against what the land they’ve crashed on has in the way of potentially murdering/eating them.

So, really, the adjective is not the only new thing about SKULLKICKERS given half of this dynamic duo is currently being replaced due to untimely death (just like that other Dynamic teaming, SNAP!) but the essence of it is still the same. This is a book about swashbuckling action and chicanery and rapid fire, geek-aesthetic humor and it’s still all of that in spades. Honestly, this book resembles what a, say, quality DEADPOOL book does with its willing to “break” the confines of the comic page or maybe even a SCOTT PILGRIM with the way it rattles off bit after bit and owns up to the awkward absurdity of what it just did immediately and then does it again. Either way though, SKULLKICKERS really is its own thing and plays by its own set of rules, whether it’s poking fun at some corporate marketing or just jabbing at the expectations of the more invested comic book reader. And while I’m surprisingly fine with the change to the current status quo from a character composition standpoint, I’m basically in this state of acceptance because either way the humor, the action, and the absurdity of it all is still intact and ready to crack wise like it cracks brain helmets. As long as those aspects of SKULLKICKERS continue to be fresh and play off of the industry at large and off of itself as it gets longer in the tooth, I’ll be along for the ride no matter what the adjective.

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.


BATMAN INC. #8

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


BATMAN INC. is beyond a praise worthy book, but I’ll be damned if I can figure out what to say. Simple platitudes like “great story and art” have become givens at this point – Morrison’s and Burnham’s respective prowess is well known. Also, my other reviewer’s trick of riding the spoiler wagon had its wheels thrown off a few days before the book launched – Robin dies again, in case you lived under a stalagmite the past few weeks.

This final BATMAN INC. arc, which I will call issue 8 the climax of, has been Shakespearean in delivery (even if the following isn’t): a family blood cursed and curdled, by a mother of maniacal means. A father seeking intimacy with a son he’s barely seen. On friendship’s throne true love doth lie, before the final sword bids a young life good-bye.

Chide the New 52 all you want; in some cases it’s deserved. What is undeniable, though, is the clarity and focus The New 52 brought to BATMAN INC. I have hated this series’ mantra since its inception. Pre-New 52, I enjoyed the title in execution alone. The idea of Bruce Wayne publically funding Batman is the equivalent to Clark Kent becoming a spokesperson for Pearle Vision. DO NOT call attention to the white elephant in the room, guys – ever. Perhaps someone woke up to this fact, or maybe they read my constant barrage of articles against this path; either way, post-52 this became more about Robin and less about Batman “it’s a small world.”

BATMAN INC. has served as a wonderful compliment to Tomasi’s work in BATMAN & ROBIN. B&R focused on Damian’s redemption from little psycho killer to real boy, while BATMAN INC. would push Damian two steps back for every one step forward on his journey to redemption. I’ve always likes Damian’s arrogance, but BATMAN INC. made us all actually see beyond the “TT” to uncover the Wayne heart of gold that is tarnished each generation by tragedy.

Despite the epic event in this issue, this is only the climax to Morrison’s DC swan song. Even though Damian has had his final wonderful moments, especially his closing exchange with Dick Grayson, we still have four more issues to see the impact of this event, and no clone impalement on a sword can thwart a publishing schedule. I will continue this journey, but with a heavy heart. Morrison has always had a reverence for comics history, and BATMAN INC. is no exception. He knew even back when conceiving this character he was going to kill him. In doing so he has successfully placated and instigated modern day comics fervor in one fell swoop. We all want lasting consequences in comics except, when it’s a golden calf. As sad as I am to see Damian go, and as crestfallen as I am to also lose Titus and Bat-Cow in this equation, Morrison and DC played this hand quite well. Could another Damian be grown tomorrow? Yes. Should there be? Fuck no!

Burnham made me once again fall in love with the visage of Damian, something I hadn’t experienced since Frank Quitely’s rendering. Burnham is, dare I say, a Quitely light, cascading only slightly into realism before it gets too real and thus ugly.

Now thankfully, it wasn’t just all of us who caught wind of Damian’s death. When he picked up USA Today last Monday and learned of his demise he called together a press conference to discuss his impending fate.

Damian Wayne, the 4th Robin, Apologizes for Forgetting to Die During “Death of the Family”

Gotham City, uhhh NY (we think) – On the steps of Wayne Industries’ headquarters in downtown Gotham today, Damian Wayne, the heir to Wayne Enterprises and sometime superhero (all the time brat), expressed his moderate sorrow for forgetting to die during the Joker’s recent slaughter spree some in the press dubbed "Death of the Family".

“Tt,” Wayne said as he took the podium. He continued, “I’m not sure exactly why I’m lowering myself by justifying my existence to the troglodytes of Gotham City, but Father’s PR people said it would engender good will from the street. Tt.” At this point Wayne Industries’ director of PR, Harold Allnut, rushed the microphone and whispered in the petulant young man’s ear.

Wayne continued, “Apparently I was supposed to let Pennyworth or the street urchin, Jason Todd, shiv me in the Batcave as Father danced with the devil in the pale moonlight. However, Titus needed to go out for a walk and Bat-Cow required a thorough brushing. Honestly if we could get better help than a waifish octogenarian, I would feel far more comfortable shuffling loose this mortal coil.”

“My plan right now is to allow my Mother to be my undoing sometime tomorrow afternoon”, Wayne said with surprisingly little fear or remorse.

Surprisingly, Gotham’s favorite son and father of Damian, Bruce Wayne, was not present as his son announced his impending doom. Reporter Vicki Vale, however, was somehow able to issue this statement by Wayne from an undisclosed location: “Look, his (Damian) mother and I had an affair like twenty years ago. I can’t help it the Al Ghul family has a gestation period longer than a prehistoric elephant.” Wayne brazenly continued, “I’ve had fun with the kid, but I’ve had fun with every small boy I’ve brought in my house and if Gotham is lacking in hope, it ain’t lacking in small young boys for me to live with and put in mortal danger.”

Wayne shocked the world a few years ago after returning from a sojourn to a methadone clinic in Arizona when he announced that he was Gotham’s famous caped crusader Batman. Even though the announcement was merely meant to announce Wayne’s funding of the Batman, since the audience wasn’t occupied solely by Helen Keller, most put two and two together. This led to a wide depression across Gotham City for our collective mass stupidity and blindness over the years.

The conference concluded with the same little fanfare that began the event--“That is all. Thank you, I guess, for your time. Tt!”

With this death of Damian Wayne, Gotham is left to wonder whether the Wayne legacy can prevail given it’s clear that God has a bigger vendetta against their survival than the Kennedy clan.


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

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