(Click title to go directly to the review)
Advance Review: CONSTANTINE #1
AGE OF ULTRON #2
Advance Review: HARBINGER#10
BATMAN AND ROBIN #18
Indie Jones presents EEEK #8
THOR: GOD OF THUNDER #6
Advance Review: SHADOWMAN #5
BATMAN & ROBIN #18/BATMAN #18
Advance Review: FIVE GHOSTS #1
THOR: GOD OF THUNDER #6
Advance Review: JUSTICE LEAGUE #18
Advance Review: In stores today!
CONSTANTINE #1Writers: Jeff Lemire & Ray Fawkes
Artist: Renato Guedes
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
I hold no reverence for what was. I apologetically say that early Vertigo escaped my interests for bigger guns and lesser feet elsewhere. I’m just now finally imbibing the goodness that is SANDMAN. With that, I can only offer you a new look at CONSTANTINE, a view that was born of the New 52 Big Bang. However, I entreat the TalkBack Legion and my fellow reviewers to offer a fair and balanced report on how this book compares to its hellblazing ancestor.
CONSTANTINE is the exact mellowing the DC magic scene has been looking for. It has quieted the cacophony of noise that came from the “all team – all the time” approach of the magic scene since the god particle imploded back on August 11.
Now as I said, I’m reading SANDMAN right now, and as all of you V purists know, Constantine made his fair share of appearances in those pages. So I’m not a complete Hellblazer virgin, and I can say with certainty that Lemire & Fawkes’ JC is a ripe ol’ bastard on par with the Vertigo universe. Is it sanitized? Of course--don’t be stupid. But when in one issue a man can take on a new partner and then serve up that partner as a sacrificial scapegoat by the end, I’d say we’re dealing with a definitive sociopathic distancing from traditional heroic mores.
We’re only one issue in, but CONSTANTINE is the anti-hero infusion DC has needed since God sneezed after FLASHPOINT. I also see parody brewing with this Death of the Partner story, given the recent hubbub about Robin. Intentional or not, I like the idea of letting Constantine flippantly wipe his arse with golden calves and other current events.
The reason Constantine serves up his young magical protege is simple: power. Constantine is on the hunt for a compass that can divine the location of any magical artifact one’s heart desires. Our sacrificial lamb, Chris, is consumed with magic to the point it controls him versus him controlling it. This is a bad combination on a good day, a fatal combination when the Cult of the Cold Flame is also on the trail for the pieces of the mystical compass.
The Cult of the Cold Flame is comprised of such old universe magical favorites like Zatara and Mister E., to a name a few. Is Zatara alive in the New 52? Hardly, and as you’ll learn with other dead characters like Sargon the Sorcerer, their more comely offspring have taken over where the parents left off.
When cornered, Constantine makes a hasty exit to flee on to issue 2 leaving Chris bound by Lady Sargon’s magical ties. Some may say this is not very heroic, but personally I think it makes for a richer character when they understand the grays of the world and not just the black and white. Also, Chris was making the hunt for the compass pieces just too damn easy, it would be nice to see Constantine perform some mystical sleuthing work in the future.
I’ve loved DC attempts at magic to date, but as we’ve seen by sales numbers the rest of the world does not agree with me. I’m pretty sure both JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK and SWORD OF SORCERY have been toe tagged at this point, which would mean a completely dry mystical well without CONSTANTINE to satiate.
Dry, cavalier, lewd and flip are what I expect from CONSTANTINE; Lemire and Fawkes more than delivered on this character experience. Wild, outrageous and divining the mystical from the mundane are what I expect from a book about magic, and again the boys are up to task. Gorgeous locales and sensible representations so our small minds can understand magic are what I expect from an artist dealing with magic, and Guedes does not ever disappoint.
They say the third time is the charm, so let’s hope this holds true for the less than charmed world of DC magic to date. They have a strong winner with CONSTANTINE and my advice is to let him have some breathing room to build this universe unfettered from storylines that don’t need him yet. Please integrate him into the DCU, but do not yet make him integral.
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.
AGE OF ULTRON #2Writers: Brian Michael Bendis Artist: Bryan Hitch
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man
Another week, another AGE OF ULTRON issue from Marvel, and it really appears as if this is going to be one of Bendis’ trademark decompression stories. The plot barely moves forward, as this issue is still setting building. I assume Marvel is trying to counterbalance this by having issues come out quickly; not a bad idea. Looking at this issue also makes me think that Bendis has been watching a lot of THE WALKING DEAD--there are just so many shots of empty destroyed landscapes, all very well drawn by Hitch. We do get confirmation that this is a worldwide affair and not just New York. We also get the notion that Ultron may be interested in superheroes. Whether or not this goes beyond the simple fact that he just wants them all dead remains to be seen--but it is the only real interesting angle so far.
Speaking of the superheroes, I would be remiss if I didn't mention Spider-Man. In the first issue I was unsettled by the lack information of what happened to him. Here Bendis explains a bit more of what happened to the poor guy, but my overall feelings remain the same, because it's not really about how Spider-man was captured; despite the fact that I made fun of the concept of Owl and Hammerhead capturing him, a good writer could come up with a way, so shame on me. What's important, as always, is how the story is being told. The story is not about how Spider-Man was captured; it's about how the superheroes are going to save the world from Ultron (at least I'm assuming that). So dragging out details about Spider-Man's capture doesn't add anything to the story, except create a false sense mystery that will have no payoff. Now, if Spider-Man's capture is very important to the overall plot, then we need to know that before he's rescued, because then those scenes would have more impact than “oh, Spider-Man was captured and now he's free.”
One pet peeve of mine: I love to bitch about is comic book creators who think they are making a movie. Lucky me--this comic allows me to do that. Stuff like taking four panels to reveal a figure is Moon Knight. You see, in a movie a slow zoom can reveal things in an interesting way. In a comic book, a slow zoom is four panels next to each that allows the reader to know the reveal before the so-called ‘zoom' is complete (not too interesting). Reveals in comic books work best by the turn of a page (surprise--it's Moon Knight!). Then there's the whole business of Black Widow going to the safehouse while avoiding Ultron robots. Lots of cinematic-looking panels that don't make much sense without any timing or music to tie it together. You can have cinematic panels in a comic book, that's cool--but you can't have cinematic storytelling because it's not cinema--deaf ears, I know.
Aside from some storytelling issues (mentioned above), I'm still impressed with Hitch's artwork here (and you should be too). If only the story was as well-rendered as his panels. Because let's be honest: at this point, are you more curious about how the heroes will defeat Ultron, or how this story will fit into the current Marvel Universe when it's over?
Learn more about the Masked Man and feel free check out his comic book CINDY LI: THREE OF A KIND at www.Toonocity.com
Advance Review: In stores today!
HARBINGER #10Writer: Joshua Dysart
Art: Matt Clark
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Reviewer: Ambush Bug
There are those who wrote HARBINGER off because the comic opened with the star of the book, the psychically powered Pete Sancheck, used his powers to get the girl of his dreams to sleep with him. While I am not arguing that this act was wrong, I knew that writer Joshua Dysart and the team at Valiant would not just move past this act without addressing it in the serious manner with which the act deserves. Pete is a troubled individual at the beginning of this series, alone, desperate, addicted to pain medication and downers which dampen his increasing psychic abilities. None of this is an excuse for his actions, but at least it shows that the guy was not in a good place when he did this dubious act.
And deal with it, this book did with Pete’s forced squeeze, the nerdly hot and powerless Kris, has become one of the coolest characters in the series. Not only did she have it out with Peter, but she also came back as a character that is stronger than most of the other powered beings in this book. So if you ditched this book because the first issue left a bad taste in your mouth, you missed out on a resolution that doesn’t forgive the act, but it moves both characters forward in a very realistic fashion. Staying away from this book is like watching a movie, seeing some kind of dastardly deed in the first fifteen minutes, leaving then somehow blaming the film for not following up on it. This is a story that took its time to resolve this issue and in the ten issues of this series, I think it did so nicely.
If you didn’t give this series a chance, you also missed out on some absolutely amazing stories in the past few issues as Pete escapes from the Harbinger Foundation after realizing that Toyo Harada is up to no good. He doesn’t leave before he swipes a list of potential Harbingers (the Valiant U’s closest thing to mutants) and Pete sets out to recruit his own army to take on Harada’s corporation. Though his team is as odd as they come, in the past five issues, it’s been a blast seeing them all comes together.
The three Harbingers Pete have found; the high flying geek girl Zeppelin, air headed pyrotechnic hottie Flamingo, and the Hulked-up Jersey Shore wannabe Torque, are odd and fascinating all at once. Dysart has given this group so much personality; one can’t help but root for this team of Davids to beat the Goliath conglomerate that is Toyo Harada. It’s been a fun ride, and the formation of this team of Renegades has been a really fantastic “gettin’ the band together” style stories.
Dark times are ahead for this team as the Valiant crossover event “The Harbinger Wars” ties HARBINGER with BLOODSHOT and a HARBINGER WARS miniseries (it looks like it’ll also reintroduce H.A.R.D. CORPS, one of my personal favorites of the old Valiant series), and though this tenth issue basically wraps up the formation of Peter’s team, it does work as a stand alone because of all of the amazing action and the inclusion of an extremely detailed intro page on the inside cover (a quality of all Valiant books, making every issue a good jumping on point).
With fantastic art by the always good Matthew Clark, this action filled issue is full of character and intrigue and sets the stage for what looks to be something pretty cool in THE HARBINGER WARS. If you’re looking for teen action filled with character, dire consequences, and complex issues (basically what you used to find in old TEEN TITANS and UNCANNY X-MEN books), then HARBINGER is something you will be pleased with.
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over 12 years & AICN HORROR for 3. He has written comics such as VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS THE TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, THE DEATHSPORT GAMES, & NANNY & HANK (soon to be made into a feature film from Uptown 6 Films). He has co-written FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND’s 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 from Zenescope Entertainment & GRIMM FAIRY TALES #76-81. Look for GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK: LAST OF THE SPECIES available in February-July 2013 and the new UNLEASHED crossover miniseries GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS WEREWOLVES: THE HUNGER #1-3 available in May-July 2013! Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitter @Mark_L_Miller.
BATMAN AND ROBIN #18Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Art: Pat Gleason
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Henry Higgins is My Homeboy
I’m Not Crying! I Just Have An Allergy To Emotion!
So, I don’t think I need any spoiler warnings for this comic. Two days before the previous issue of BATMAN INC. was released, we were all treated to headlines straight up proclaiming ROBIN IS DEAD!!!1!! So, we all know what happened, let’s move on. Tomasi and crew had their work cut out for them, having to address the death of one of the title characters without really going into detail over what happened. And they don’t. Instead they look at Bruce, finally having a night to himself, coming to terms with his misery.
Tomasi produced a silent script, an ultimately good direction for this one and done story. It helps emphasize the quiet sadness Bruce is going through. There are no proclamations of “DAMIEN!!!!!!!”, no cursing the sky while cradling his corpse. This is Bruce, once again confronted with the death of his family. Damien was a Wayne, through and through, and Bruce is mourning that. Alfred openly cries in front of a portrait of the family, Damien partly removed. Bruce instead just takes the painting down. He looks around the Batcave, but is haunted by memories. He decides to deal with his pain just as he’s always dealt with it: by being Batman and being awesome. But it’s not enough, and he descends into rage and, eventually, earth-shattering grief. The art, full of emotion and remorse, really sells the effect. As Bruce collapses and desperately hugs Damien’s costume, the reader can feel him shaking and can smell his tears. It’s wonderful work, effortlessly conveying all the terrible emotions Bruce is going through.
Even the cover comes back into play, showing the reality behind Bruce’s fantasies of days gone by. Robin is always just outside of Batman’s vision, always there in the corner of his eye. Laughing, drinking water, adoring his life with his father. And whenever Bruce turns to his son, he’s just reminded that he’s gone. He’s so used to Damien’s presence that it constantly surprises him that he’s not there. It’s a very real, very painful sequence, and one that gets Bruce’s pain across more effectively then most superhero memorial issues. This isn’t necessarily a Batman story; it’s a story about a man who’s lost his son, and the pain and frustration he’s going through.
And then Batman takes out his frustration by driving the Batmobile through shit at top speed, making it all explode before he goes and beats up countless criminals.
The artwork shifts back and forth between effectively moody and painfully real. There’s a wonderful three page sequence where Batman is just going all out on the streets of Gotham before cutting to Gotham P.D., where he’s turned on the Batsignal (to get Gordon’s attention, a nice touch) to alert them to the fifty or so criminals he’s left on the roof. But that’s not the best part of the art in the entire issue, losing that title to the final page. Heartbreaking and relativity quiet, it sells all of Bruce’s pain so simply, and so well.
BATMAN AND ROBIN is not a regular comic for me to read. It has nothing to do with the writing or the art or even the book itself. It’s mostly because I’ve lost a good deal of interest in DC over the last few months. It’s sad to say, but I’m hard pressed to think of a title that wasn’t written by Grant Morrison or Brian Azzarello that DC is doing now that I remotely care about. Even the bigger DC stuff barely registers with me ("Death In The Family" being the biggest thing I’ve enjoyed from them, but even that I wasn’t totally won over by). But this issue has sparked some interest in me; if for nothing else, the book’s creators so effectively portray real human emotion in a fictional character, while also having Batman do awesome Batman things.
EEEK! #8Writers: Jason Fischer, Jason Paulos, Daren White
Artist: Jason Paulos
Publisher: Asylum Press
Reviewer: The Dean
I think I’ll be keeping an eye out for Asylum Press from now on. It’s strange how limited your choices can seem week to week, but if you’re willing to dig a little there’s almost no end to the number of publishers and creators out there putting out some really interesting stuff. Superheroes might seem like the clear majority in comics, but there are plenty of twisted minds out there flooding our funnies with monsters, murderers, and all sorts of spectral miscreants. Can’t decide what type of horrific thing you’re in the mood for? Well, then EEEK! is probably just the thing to sate those malicious voices in your head (or encourage them, for all you Werthams out there).
EEEK! is a compilation of tales in the classic EC style that combines morbid humor with a genuine wickedness to make a quick, enjoyable read that seems to understand its place in the world of horror comics better than most. I’ve tried a lot of these horror collections in recent years, and most have been disappointing in how safe or uninspired they seem. EEEK! is far from the most vulgar or the goriest comic I’ve read, which may disappoint some, but the fun of this series is in exploring the oddities of its characters and stories. You might see the twists coming early on, but that doesn’t make getting there any less fun, and if the stories don’t keep you reading, the art from Jason Paulos certainly will.
Paulos, along with Jason Fischer and Daren White, share the writing duties between the three tales in EEEK! #8, starting with what I felt was the best of the three in “Body Farm,” about a forensic scientist who loves his work studying decomposing bodies a little too much. “Incident at Slumber Camp” is your typical slasher mystery with a satisfying twist, and “The 12:05 Train to Hades” is a tale of ghostly comeuppance for ne’er-do-wells in the London Underground. Paulos’ Pencils (a great name for an art store should he ever open one) are easily the star of each, however, and reminiscent of Bernie Wrightson, who is honored in the town name of “Wrightsonville” in “Incident at Slumber Camp.” Yes, I think he’s that good. It’s just distinct enough to not be an imitation, but the detail in some of the corpses and faces, and the lighting effects from flashlights or car headlights, are nothing short of stunning.
So if you need a monthly horror fix, you can do a lot worse than EEEK! Jason Paulos is an artist to know, and the stories here are reminiscent of the genre’s classics, but the real gem here might be Asylum Press itself, because what the hell is HAIRBUTT THE HIPPO and why have I never heard of it before? I don’t know, but I’m gonna go find out…
THOR: GOD OF THUNDER #6Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Butch Guice
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Mad Mercutio
I went into this issue with mixed expectations. I was looking forward to learning about Gorr’s origins, but the thought of reading a comic in this new Thor series without Esad Ribic doing the art was a little disheartening to say the least. I consider every panel in the first five issues of this series a work of art. I read it both print and digitally, and being able to zoom in and do the panel by panel to appreciate the detail in Ribic’s work is honestly one of the highlights of my comic reading experience these days. I have to say, though, Butch Guice did a good job for issue six. It helped that it is kind of a one-off. It was the origin of Gorr, and Thor doesn’t even make an appearance. The art was good, but after Esad Ribic’s art, it was not considered great. That’s really unfair, but it is kind of hard to not make that judgment. In truth, if Guice had started this series, I would not have thought of the art as subpar.
The writing for this issue fell in line with the rest of the greatness that is this series. This particular issue, as previously mentioned, did not even feature Thor, but it still had those great gravity-laden moments that make you appreciate the comic art form. Most notable for me was the glimpse we got of Volstagg the Voluminous looking not too voluminous. He was in rough shape, but he was still a proud Asgardian. He also had quite the question for Gorr that stopped him in his tracks. It was an interesting twist to the story through which Volstagg was the vehicle. Not the kind of depth we are used to from this character, but still handled excellently by Aaron.
Gorr’s backstory was interesting, but I will admit that it was not one that readers couldn’t have predicted. Basically, it revolved around vengeance, but it was still an engaging and entertaining story that Jason Aaron has constructed for us. We get back to the hammer swinging next month, but each and every issue of this run has been engrossing. It reminds me of Mark Waid’s DAREDEVIL run right now. The stories feel like they matter and are interesting to see unfold.
It is pretty obvious that I love this series so far. To me, this is a perfect characterization of Thor, but with that comes a mix of humor and drama that I feel like has been missing since Thor first came back from the dead in Straczynski’s series. This is what a Thor comic should feel like. It is well written, beautifully illustrated, and feels epic in scope without the normal tagline of “Nothing will ever be the same!!” Thor is a larger-than-life character and he deserves larger-than-life stories, and this title delivers.
Advance Review: In stores next week!
SHADOWMAN #5Writer: Justin Jordan
Artist: Patrick Zircher
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
I’m pretty much a gushing fantween when it comes to Valiant. I’ve expressed borderline adulation for the universe that once was, and 2.0 titles like ARCHER & ARMSTRONG, X-O and HARBINGER. However, SHADOWMAN has remained off my radar for a few reasons.
One, this wasn’t one of my faves from yore. SHADOWMAN was part of a second wave of characters that never integrated as well as the originals. By the time he hit the scene the industry was already starting to choke on its own hubris, making for huge scalebacks in cross-pollination – a Valiant staple. Note I said cross-pollination here, and not crossover. Big difference. Pollination enhances, instead of necessitating the read of every title, and it’s a practice that is starting to arise in Valiant 2.0 between HARBINGER and BLOODSHOT. If you haven’t read Valiant, trust me here, please. Pollination is different than a crossover and Valiant is simply one of the best.
There I go adulating again…sorry.
My other bugaboo about SHADOWMAN back in the day was an unrealized potential for magic. Basically, SHADOWMAN is the fighter of evil mystical forces (get the name now?), and the concept of those forces were simply never universally integrated in old Valiant. You could read the book and nothing mattered. Made for a tough read when everything else melded together so successfully.
Finally, I didn’t quite get the book back then. SHADOWMAN was a “middle-aged” jazz musician by trade and a defender of New Orleans by night--two themes that have little resonance to a 16 year old kid from Jersey circa 1992.
But that was then, so what’s my excuse for ignoring the past four issues of the new SHADOWMAN? Jack Boniface is still the title character, but at least he’s now sporting a younger visage. Voodoo and dark magic are still the order of the day, and naturally the book is set in the epicenter for such things, The Big Easy. Basically my reasons for non-review are one part confusion and one part I was simply distracted by the other doings in Valiant.
I love Jordan as a writer; his creator-owned book, LUTHER STRODE, is exceptional. SHADOWMAN, though, has suffered from too frantic of a pace trying to squeeze in exposition, and hasn’t had enough time to let the antagonists and protagonists breathe into fully realized characters – until now.
Even demons need a personality, as do sidekicks. Jack’s counterparts, who like him work at the Museum for the Dark Arts, have played their roles of Hermione and Dumbedore well, but haven’t lived much beyond that. Likewise, the demons he’s faced were all self-proclaimed harbingers of the true big baddy who finally reveals himself this issue – Master Darque. It’s all seemed very much like a waiting game – until now.
In case you haven’t caught on to my subtle build-up yet, BUY SHADOWMAN NOW! Issue 5 reveals all and does so in the most action-packed and downright fucking weirdest way yet. Want to know the history of the Shadowman and his fight against evil? It’s here. Want to see Jack’s realization that being a hero comes with foregoing the life he once knew? You get it here inside a blood soaked diner. Want to meet the creepiest place and motherfucker in comics? Guess where you’ll find it.
In a place beyond our world and the true world of the damned, Master Darque has been unleashed. He’s so evil that even the denizens of the dark limbo zone crumble to dust before him. His goal is to resurrect a voodoo King who’s operating from limbo at about 2% power. How we find all of this out is another treat. I’m a sucker for a monkey in a hat, and one that smokes and talks wise is even more endearing - this is Master Darque’s companion, and I want as much monkey as I want Darque.
Number 5 marks Jordan and SHADOWMAN both hitting their respective strides. If Valiant finds a way to weave in these N’Orleans happenings into the larger universe they have another fine piece of fabric for their rich tapestry of a universe. Get Darque – Get SHADOWMAN #5.
P.S. Try to score the all black “Smell the Glove” homage cover. You can then show it to non-comic fans and tell them to relax their eyes like the “magic” images from the 90s. In ten minutes they will either think all comic collectors are crazy, learning disabled or the person will have an aneurysm. Either way, it’s extra entertainment value.
BATMAN AND ROBIN #18Writer: Peter Tomasi
Artist: Patrick Gleason
BATMAN #18Writer: Scott Snyder
Art: Andy Kubert
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee
BATMAN & ROBIN #18 - After one of the most definitive moments in “Picking Up My Toys and Going Home” history that was BATMAN INCORPORATED #8, we are now in mourning for another fallen Robin. And as with the character of Damien Wayne in life, in his death Peter Tomasi is still writing the best stories with the character even though we are no longer “with” him. In this case, that form of “best” is in the wisdom of letting Pat Gleason go above and beyond the call of duty with his pencils; pencils which channel the anger and frustration and sorrow that Batman and (in a smaller glimpse) Alfred are feeling now that Damien has gone. No words (mostly), no intricate little tales on loss and acceptance and whatnot, just pure emotion and great direction for it. It’s a shame we will not be getting any more Damien tales from this creative crew, but if there’s a couple more goodbyes on this scale left in them, I guess that’s some consolation considering the circumstances. Now, if only I could say the same for…
BATMAN #18 - Much as I have sung this books’ praises since, well, pretty much since day one, I think this is the kind of “tribute” issue I was dreading once I found out about Damien’s fate. The reason BATMAN & ROBIN this month was so effective was that it let the actions and expression speak for themselves; we did not need some commentary on how the Batman has been acting and seeing him at his snarling worst to know he was going to take the loss hard, but here it is. Twenty-eight pages of tech-misfit Harper trying to bring back the wayward Bat, making it her mission to be a beacon of hope to him or whatever (and also possibly getting set up to be a new Robin, because that is always a thing) was more of a drag than it was an introspective moment. What this event did not call for was the rather drawn out melodrama that was created by Harper’s overview of the situation and describing the “pain I know all too well” and the ferocity of his actions. And then, y’know, there’s some weird mutant dog things that showed up for a few pages to lead into Harper’s donning some gear to push the “new Robin” theory a bit further. If anything, I will admit to this issue giving some more background and personality to this character that shows her value if Snyder continues to use her during his time on the book. As it related to the current goings on in the Bat universe though, it really was not the best means of mourning to pursue.
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.
Advance Review: In stores today!
FIVE GHOSTS #1Writer: Frank J. Barbiere
Art: Chris Mooneyham
Publisher: Atlas Incognita/Image Comics
Reviewer: Ambush Bug
Here’s an awesome indie gem called FIVE GHOSTS. Frank Barbiere has created a winner of a first issue introducing us mid-adventure to Fabian Gray, a man haunted by ghosts—five of them, to be exact. Though they most likely are not named for copyright reasons, the unnamed ghosts look a whole lot like Sherlock Holmes, Dracula, Merlin the Magician, Robin Hood, and…a samurai, which I don’t know the name of. Sue me--I’m not up on my samurai literature.
These five literary characters can be harnessed in times of need. Gray needs some skills at thievery, channel Robin Hood. If magic is the only way out of a predicament, channel Merlin. But Barbiere is smart enough to plum the backlash of having these five characters in his soul by incorporating their weaknesses, too. In this first issue, Gray falls victim to a bloodlust he attempts to control, but can’t. I’m sure future issues will focus on the faults of the other ghosts which make them such timeless characters in the first place.
The issue does a fantastic job of introducing Fabian Gray, the world he lives in, the people he fights for, and the rules of the story. With Sebastian, his trusted best friend, Fabian Gray sets out to cure his ailing sister as well as deal with the ghosts that haunt him. The series opens many possibilities and questions. How did Gray become possessed by these spirits? Did he fall asleep on a few books in the library and absorb them into his mind via osmosis? Why these five literary characters? Are others possessed by other characters from favorite stories? Who knows? I don’t, but I wanna!
Chris Mooneyham provides the art, and it is absolutely stellar. With just enough detail to suggest movement and emotion, but not too much, his art brings to life Gray’s abilities and hauntings extremely well. Think Klaus Jansen with a better gift for natural human form and movement, or Howard Chaykin with less attention to blocky design, but the same sparcity of line that makes it all feel clean and non-cluttered, and you’ll have a good idea of what Mooneyham’s work looks like.
I’ve seen a lot of indie books come and go, but FIVE GHOSTS is quality through and through. I can’t wait for the second issue, as issue one is filled with action and the imagination that makes reading comics so much fun to read in the first place.
THOR: GOD OF THUNDER #6Writers: Jason Aaron
Artist: Butch Guice
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man
Despite the fact that I have been loving this book, I was all prepared not to like this issue. Why? Because we knew going in that it was going to be the secret origin of the villain, Gorr. Secret origin stories are rarely interesting (I think box office receipts prove that), especially with characters with such clear cut motives like Gorr.
If you guessed that Gorr's origin was the reverse of THE STORY OF JOB (which isn't very hard to guess at all), you'd be right. Gorr grew up with a crap life and the gods were no damn help, so he hates gods. You can see why I wasn't really looking forward to this issue. Luckily, Aaron seems to have known this, and while writing it all down in convincing way, he does it in a very short period of time, too. He doesn't drag it out for six issues—heck, he doesn't even drag it out for one whole issue! He knows we got it. So he moves on to illustrating what a frick'n bastard this guy is. Which makes me beg for the day when Thor will finally punch his face in. Nice job, Aaron--you told his cliché origin and still knocked out a great issue.
Although I do feel more could be said about Gorr's powers. I like how he got them, but I'm not quite sold that that is enough to own everyone like he does. I assume there is more to it than that.
The fill-in artist, yes sadly there was a fill-in artist this month, it's a thankless task to be sure, was (Jackson) Butch Guice. Not exactly an artist I'd line up to meet at a convention- Sorry Butch- but I would never say Guice is a bad artist. I just wouldn't call him a superior one, either. His work does break the vibe of this book, but it’s decent enough work. I did really like the attitude he puts into Gorr's son at the end of the book. The colorist Ive Svorcina, though, I think is who really makes the art in this book good. It's not quite painterly, which really wouldn't work with Guice's work, but it isn't quite standard comic books color either. Svorcina finds a nice way to color Guice’s pages, with Tom Palmer's rough inks to make the overall package work.
Lastly, I want to talk briefly about the religious themes in this book- mostly because I enjoy them. As always I feel we (the reviewer) must explain where we are is coming from. So to bore you, I'm a religious person, but not a dogma person. I go to church, but I feel each religion is only one view of the overall truth. Kind of like the old story of blind people feeling one part of an elephant--they are all correct in thinking what it is and yet wrong at the same time. So with that in mind I really enjoy the questions Gorr brings up, like whether or not we need a god or gods. On one hand Gorr is tackling a very real world question: is belief and/or faith in 'god' bad? Thor himself said in the first issue, “what kind of god would I be if I didn't answer prayers?” An interesting question in Thor's world, and in ours where the existent of god(s) is still up for debate. In this issue, I like how Volstagg (oh, poor Volstagg and his worm poop) questioned, what it is that makes a god? Gorr doesn't consider himself a 'god', but it's hard to say he's not. Heck, his main goal is to save 'mankind', which isn't unlike most 'real world gods'. Then there's the whole “I've become what I hate” routine, all of which just adds into my enjoyment of this comic and still makes it my favorite Marvel Now book.
Advance Review: In stores this week!
JUSTICE LEAGUE #18Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: Jesus Saiz and Gary Frank
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
Why hello, JSA--I missed you.
Like a conductor stuck playing VFW gigs, Johns steps back into commanding a full orchestra of heroes in this latest installment of JUSTICE LEAGUE. The last time our maestro had this many action figures to play with was in Pre-52 JSA. Fear not, though--the gremlin-like expansion of that team will not be plaguing JL, because after some fun and genuinely funny commotion, only three contestants will remain on "Who Wants To Live On A Space Station?"
With ranks dwindling by the epic event, Cyborg's clarion call across the DC Universe at the bleakest moment of “Thrones” is finally answered. A new section of the internet he invented called The Grid can pinpoint the location of every hero on Earth at a moment's notice. Zatana, Firestorm and Black Canary are the first to be asked by the stalkerish Web 9.0 " What are you wearing?" It was also at this moment the drool cup on Batman's cowl swung into activation. Hey, anyone remember that bug Bats planted on Superman's back when he and Wonder Woman were playing grab-ass in Kansas? No? Ok, guess it wasn't important. Moving on.
The invitees who are touched by a Cyborg to try out for the JL are a motley and strange crew. Perhaps The Grid only has a plug-in for Bing. Aside from the aforementioned three the likes of Blue Devil, Black Lightning, Goldrush, Nightwing, Element Woman, Vixen and a Metalmen andrette named Platinum are invited to sit at the table.
Madness ensues as we learn the New 52 Will Magnus is more ineffective than Talia Al Ghul's 12 Steps to Raising a Happy Child.
As Magnus' failed experiment, Platinum, tarnishes everyone's faces, the recruits get to show their stuff in true and surprising problem-solving style, though. A most welcome change from bash ‘em up escapes. After all, all life is sacred, even when it's broken and created by an ineffective simpering scientist. On that: I was seriously surprised by these Magnus moments, and also Barry's channeling of Wally West. One I can live with the change, but Barry: no cute quips, please, even if you are being molested by a Goldfinger harem escapee.
The three that make the final cut are Firestorm (making Superfriends fans everywhere rejoice), the uninvited stowaway Lady Atom (I find her endearing already) and Element Woman (more kooky than a tenured college professor).
Once the party has ended and the moon bounce returned, our new Justice League is faced with its first threat from some very l33t hackzors.
I’ll allow the League this one issue respite, and even the ensuing next few issues of training wheels as the team works the kinks out. Learn from Atlantis, though: BIG events because a BIG team deserves them.
Saiz did an excellent job, but he forgot to look at the cover and ensure Cyborg properly raged his way through recruitment instead of being calm and cordial like he was.
Shazam...I love you; please become your own book already. It's so good and goes by so quickly I refuse to even review it. Sorry.
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G
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