AICN COMICS REVIEWS: STORMWATCH! Vaughan’s PRIVATE EYE! JUNGLE BOOK! ZOMBIE OUTLAW! & MORE!
(Click title to go directly to the review)
Advance Review: STORMWATCH #19
THE GREEN HORNET #1
Indie Jones presents SWORDPLAY Webcomic
Advance Review: DETECTIVE COMICS #19
FANTASTIC FOUR #5 AU
Indie Jones presents THE PRIVATE EYE #1
Advance Review: KILLOGY #4
POWERS BUREAU #3
Indie Jones presents ZOMBIE OUTLAW #2
Advance Review: JUNGLE BOOK: LAST OF THE SPECIES #2
Raiders of the Long Box presents X-MEN ARCHIVES FEATURING CAPTAIN BRITAIN #1-7
Advance Review: In stores today!
STORMWATCH #19Writer: Jim Starlin
Artist: Yvel Guichet
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
A few weeks ago I threw some pretty strong blows at STORMWATCH, but it wasn’t just me being salty; my words came from a true love of the stories and characters that had once made up THE AUTHORITY.
However, I wasn’t just filled with vitriol; I also offered what I felt were some pretty simple course corrections considering a reboot was already underway under the authority of Mr. Starlin. My advice wasn’t genius in design, merely a reminder of what made this team once work. Sadly, none of my advice was truly imbibed in this aptly titled “Reset” issue (not that I truly expected it to be), and I fear we’ve traded one grab-bag of convoluted storytelling for another. Time may ultimately prove me wrong since this issue really is just a kick-off roll call, but I’m already afraid this roster is too large and the characters that take over the chairs too vanilla to be the baddest motherfuckers to strap on spandex.
OK, try to stay with me. The Shadow Lords, a trio of metal suited…well, Lords…decide to reset time at the Big Bang. Adam One, the old STORMWATCH leader and DC’s Benjamin Button, is wiped from existence (no one tell DEMON KNIGHTS this, please). Thank God he wasn’t a butterfly, because stepping on him only changed the fate of STORMWATCH (no one tell DEMON KNIGHTS, please – do you get that I’m a little miffed about this kontinuity kerfuffle?).
What we get from this new beginning is a rebirth of the infamous Bleed, the space between space; a resurgence of the greatest vessel to ever traverse The Bleed, except this time it has no sentience; and the appearance of some new members with a minor fresh start for others.
Storm King is still the mouthpiece for the Shadow Lords, as he has been for the past 18 issues, while the tactical charge of the team now falls to…uhmmm…some dude with a helmet on. Apparently it’s vital to the Shadow Lords’ mission that this man only known as Storm Control remains a mystery for now, so he’s helmet dude as far as I’m concerned.
Other returns include Angie Spica, The Engineer, who has been unhooked from HQ to now be a chaser. What’s she chasing? An African San man who’s a drug addict and will have some value to STORMWATCH. History tells us that drug addicts are usually Doctors when it comes to STORMWATCH, but I’m not counting on anything yet.
Apollo & Midnighter are back, and here’s a change I can totally get behind. We meet them as Apollo is charging up with a nap on the sun deck of the new ship. Midnighter wakes Apollo with a kiss on the forehead. That’s it. With this one brief moment you know they are a couple and this universal reset has done away with the Ross & Rachel will they/won’t they element that was failing before.
Now for the new additions. Welcome The Weird, an alien that inhabited a corpse and can change density from translucent as a jellyfish to as dense as diamond. Next up is the energy blaster Hellstrike, from STORMWATCH of yore. I’m simply meh on this one as well as his STORMWATCH in training buddy The Force. There’s also an endomorphic thing that lives in a puddle of goo that scans transmissions and acts as intelligence HQ. And last, but certainly not least, we meet Jenny Soul, a maudlin little sad sack who has telepathy and burgeoning telekinesis. No idea what to make of her yet, but replacing with a telepath someone who was the embodiment of the age they live in like Ms. Sparks and Ms. Quantum feels a little milquetoast by comparison.
The issue ends with this rag tag bunch getting their first assignment on a faraway planet. Someone or some group is using temporal and psychic forces that may or may not be a threat to Earth. Who that individual or group is or is not is not clear, although we do meet a certain white skinned bastich who chomps cigars and rides a cosmic motorcycle.
STORMWATCH couldn’t have been in more of a mess than it was before. It just couldn’t. However, I’m not seeing this reset as a fix either. I’ve read a ton of Starlin books in my life, and there’s just something missing here. It feels like there is an editorial stubbornness to keep shoe-horning in the WildStorm STORMWATCH mythos and characters in this book, which only serves ego in my opinion. At this point everyone remembers and wants what THE AUTHORITY delivered. Also, no one is letting this book have time to grow organically. Roll call, roll call, we all fall down has been the cadence until now, and this reset is starting off with the same pattern. I like the idea of the team going intergalactic, but that opens up a whole slew of new questions about the DC Universe, like who’s really in charge of the galaxy, the Shadow Lords or The Guardians (or New Guardians)?
Would it be the worst thing in the world to have STORMWATCH be the police of the multiverse? Am I too simple in my thinking? You could make them an all-knowing entity without them ever messing up any continuity in the New 52. Again, what am I missing with this book? The answers seem so simple there must be some invisible thread the public is not privy to.
Not a bad start, but if things don’t improve this gets one arc and one arc only to win my affection, not 18 issues like last time.
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.
THE GREEN HORNET #1Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Daniel Indro
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Reviewer: Masked Man
So master superhero scribe Mark Waid has decided to share some of his awesomeness with Dynamite; I'm sure they're giddy about it. Now, I haven't read everything Dynamite has done with the Green Hornet; just Kevin Smith's movie script run (surprising how much of it was mirrored in the Seth Rogen's film). But it does seem despite all the different series and writers (with control to do whatever they want) Dynamite is managing to keep everything in (roughly) the same continuity. Matt Wagner did the Green Hornet I's origin, Mark Waid is writing his continuing adventures, Kevin Smith wrote Green Hornet II's origin, Phil Hester and Ande Parks did his continuing adventures and Brett Matthews created Green Hornet III. I'm sure it's not quite as seamless as that, but it's pretty cool that things do line up.
With this first issue Mark Waid takes us back to the good old days of the Green Hornet. Back to the 1940's when men were men, women were women, and gangsters ruled the streets. And without getting boring, Waid whips us through the basic origin and set-up of the Green Hornet, making this a great book to jump on with. It's also pretty much a self-contained book, a quick story to show you what type of series this will be. So while it's not an Eisner winning issue, it is a better than average set-up issue.
One of the most interesting things about this first issue, which I assume will continue throughout the series, is the newspaper angle. For newbies, Britt Reid (aka The Green Hornet) runs a big newspaper (The Daily Sentinel), and Waid plays the comic like an old movie about newspapers: steward institutions of high morals, with hard working gumshoed reporters. This is a good angle, since it's one of the things that makes the Green Hornet unique. The other unique angle of the Green Hornet is how he disguises himself as a gangster. Waid spends some time explaining how this works, but I'd really like to see a story that digs deep into this as I have a hard time believing the criminal underworld wound accept the Green Hornet as one of their own--especially when anyone who deals with him goes to jail or, as in this issue, gets an incriminating photograph of them in the Sentinel, taken by Kato no less! I feel the crooks could smell a rat pretty quickly with the Green Hornet, so I hope Waid has plans to really play in that sandbox.
Artist Daniel Indro, formerly on FLASH GORDON: ZEITGEIST, does a fine job on the book. Unlike his work on FLASH GORDON: ZEITGEIST, which was muddied up with grayed pencil lines and over-saturated colors, there is much better looking art here. As always I like to whine about how I prefer a cleaner and slicker looking art in my comic books--guys like Darwyn Cooke, Ivan Reis, Tim Sale or Frank Quitely, rather than Indro's scratchy looking stuff. But just like Aaron Campbell on THE SHADOW, Indro’s stuff is really well drawn and fits well in Dynamite's pulp fiction world. I often complain about cinematic art in comic books, so you might think I wouldn't like all the 'fish eye lens' stuff Indro does here. Well, I have a big issue with cinematic storytelling techniques in comics, as opposed to panels drawn as if they were shot with a special camera lens. True, it's unnecessary, but if an artist can make it look good and not hinder the story, as Indro does here, then it's find by me.
So Mark Waid is off and running on THE GREEN HORNET, and it seems to be everything we hoped it would be, within the constraints of a first issue. As a side note I find it interesting that where DC Comics has dumped all their heroes from the 1940's, Dynamite has embraced them and is doing quite well with them.
Learn more about the Masked Man and feel free check out his comic book CINDY LI: THREE OF A KIND at www.Toonocity.com
SWORDPLAY WebcomicWriter: Jeff Prezenkowski
Publisher: Available on Nook, Kindle, and Apple iBooks
Reviewer: The Dean
There’s something inherently romantic about a sword fight. Even just the sounds of battle are enough to rouse our inner knight-errant as we pine for simpler times when being a drunk was charming, smelling terrible was expected, and everything was settled by the blade! SWORDPLAY, from Jeff Prezenkowski, Saint, and Lauren Nooby, confirmed two things for me about the world we live in today: 1.) that life truly would be better if we still all carried swords, and 2.) that we need more imaginative one-shots like this.
SWORDPLAY is the story of a young businessman by the name of Ryan who’s on a bit of a winning streak lately in a world where everything, everything, is settled by sword fight. So, being on this winning streak and enjoying the blissful ignorance of a brazen ego, Ryan decides it’s finally time to ask out the cute girl at work. Her decision, of course, will be determined by sword fight. SWORDPLAY is the type of creative effort that inspires original thinking and forces you to revisit those ideas in your head you once though absurd, or unpublishable, because you couldn’t figure out how to make a six to twelve issue arc out of it. The writing is clever, the characters are genuine, and the concept is outlandish, but without going overboard or relying too heavily on itself.
Living up to its name, SWORDPLAY features a lot of action, which is handled well by Saint despite almost all of the panels keeping the view relatively close up. The tried and true motion lines of the arm and blade moving through the air are put to good use here, making an otherwise static pose-off come alive in dynamic contest that always looks deliberately chaotic and fun. There’s a vibrant skyline shot here, a dramatic silhouetted charge there, but for the most part this one lets the characters drive the story through facial expressions (the irritated looks from Sandy to Ryan’s advances make for some really funny moments), and apt character designs that accentuate the personalities we’re getting from Prezenkowski’s writing.
SWORDPLAY is a blast, and as much as I’d like more, so much of what’s great here is that the gag ends before it gets old. In just 19 pages, Prezenkowski, Saint, and Nooby created one of my favorite reads of the week, and it’s little comics like these that make me appreciate just how cool it is to be a comic fan these days with so many ways to get your story out there. You can check out SWORDPLAY on Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks, and Nook now, and look for it to hit ComiXology soon!
THUNDERBOLTS #7Writer: Daniel Way
Artist: Phil Noto
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Mighty Mouth
The Thunderbolts embark on a new mission, and after their last one, there is a lot of tension building amongst this motley crew. It seems that General Ross’s elusive manipulations are rubbing the team the wrong way. So what could be a better way to get answers than a good old fashioned mutiny on (or make that under) the high seas? Except…the Red Hulk doesn’t take well to insubordination. Then there’s the lust triangle between the Punisher, Elektra and Deadpool serving to complicate things further.
I won’t lie. Initially I intentionally skipped the first story arc featuring this new line up of Thunderbolts. It’s not that I have anything against the characters; I’m rather fond of Elektra, Deadpool, the Punisher, Red Hulk and Venom. Truthfully, it was the artwork that chased me away like a piece of Kryptonite to a Kryptonian. Now I’m sure there are plenty of Steve Dillion fans out there, but in my eyes he is Rob Liefeld 2.0. I just don’t get it; Dillion seems to break all the rules of comic book storytelling, and not in a good way. His panels are too uninteresting form me. The lack of exciting viewpoints and perspective in his panels just leaves me cold. I could say more, but since he is now off the book I digress (sorry Steve--I enjoyed your work on PREACHER years ago, but what happened?!)
Enter new T-Bolts artist Phil Noto. Noto brings some much-needed energy to this book. His attention to detail, fully rendered backgrounds and panel design makes for a superior visual experience. The coloring provided by Guru eFX adds icing to this cake. The book’s previous coloring was way to spic ‘n span for the violence-prone individuals who make up this team. When I saw this changing of the guard, I realized this was the right break for me to give these THUNDERBOLTS a chance.
Daniel Way’s take on this group of heart-breakers and life-takers works well enough. The book is entertaining, with much of the fun derived from the interactions between the team members themselves. The dysfunctional dynamics of this group reminded me some of the classic JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL stories I enjoyed so much. Bringing together Marvel’s most lethal miscreants as a covert team may look good on paper. But considering the volatile nature of these characters, can it be long before they are at war with one another?
When I take a chance on a new book, I have some requirements to be met if I’m going to continue on. First, the issue must arouse my curiosity. Secondly, I have to enjoy the writer’s take on the characters. Lastly, the art has to be of an acceptable standard. THUNDERBOLTS #7 met all of my expectation and then some, so it looks like I’m on board for the next few issues to see how it all plays out.
With a spiffy new artist and an amusing primer, THUNDERBOLTS #7 serves as a superb jumping on point and appears to be taking the new team to bigger and better things.
Advance Review: In stores today!
DETECTIVE COMICS #19Writers: John Layman & James Tynion IV
Artists: Jason Fabok, Andy Clarke, Mikel Janin, Henrik Jonsson, Jason Masters
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
DETECTIVE continues to be the ugly step-child of the Bat-Family, never receiving the same fanfare as its venerable Bat-Brethren, and I’ll tell you it baffles me.
I know I’m part of the problem. I’ve only dipped into DETECTIVE when it’s considered a seminal issue, like this 80 page spectacular, or it stands as “required” reading for large Bat-crossovers. Required was in quotes because while I loved the issue with the “Death of the Family” die-cut cover, it was really a story about the Penguin with one panel of the Joker’s torso.
That seems to be DETECTIVE’S bag: a dark spotlight cast upon the villainy of Gotham. It’s refreshing, fun and fantastic to take a break from the melodrama that has become the Bat-family and just imbibe some good old nefarious wrong-doing told from the perspective of the beasts that go bump in the night.
Five stories await you in this issue. I miss this kind of storytelling to the depths of my dark soul. For anyone who laments the move to trade pacing that seems to suffocate this industry, you too will enjoy the beginnings, middles and ends found inside. The best part is that Layman was able to make all 4 of his stories mesh together more seamlessly than Lindsey Lohan, vodka and a Bentley. All 4 stories view the same event from a slightly skewed angle, giving you a complete picture of a night when Gotham was terrorized, rather than saved, by Bats.
The 900 – I’ve never been a big Man-Bat fan, but Layman has changed all that with this book. For the first time, he’s no longer a silly contrivance of fangs and wings; instead, Layman humanized this character to the nth degree and made him an honest-to-God hero. I don’t know if this is Kirk Langstrom’s first appearance in the New 52, but it certainly could be, as Layman handles the Man-Bat serum exposition and ultimate outbreak masterfully in a very tiny page count.
Basically, the 900 is a block in Gotham where Langstrom’s serum to initially help the deaf outbreaks and infects the whole city. Batman does some sleuthing, and there are some great moments where the Bat-Family tells him to eat guano when he reaches out for help. Across the board, Layman integrates this to current happenings in other Bat-books for true fans, but never belabors things so much that you felt like you missed out if you haven’t read the other books. Here is where you find out why Talia had Man-Bats in BATMAN INC.
Birth of a Family takes off moments after Langstrom flies away into the night after identifying patient zero in the last adventure. We are then whisked backwards in time as his wife recounts their first meeting, how she fell in love with the man trying to give the deaf bat-ears, and the ultimate horrific side effects of Kirk’s good intentions. Not one content to let her betrothed suffer, this vignette closes with the possible birth of Woman-Bat.
War Council – This story of Bane training an army to invade Gotham was good, but didn’t make a lick of sense thematically with the rest of the book. If Bane has been a presence in DETECTIVE up until now, then fine--I guess it works. If not, the inclusion of this story leaves me baffled other than to get people to read TALON.
Mr. Combustible – OK, back to the good stuff. When I dipped in during “Death of the Family” I was treated to a wonderful double-cross of the Penguin by one of his underlings, and thus bore witness to the rise of Emperor Penguin. Little Penguin was used by The Joker and then incarcerated, and there he hath remained until now. Starting with the night the 900 block broke out, we see cheesy 60’s throwback Mr. Combustible, a villain who looks eerily like Mr. Peanut except his head was cobbled together by Thomas Edison. With cane, top hat and light bulb head, Mr. Combustible takes full advantage of the Man-Bat terror across Gotham to do a little five-finger discount shopping. Even though this moved briskly, it never felt rushed. After giving his tithing to Emperor Penguin, Mr. C then goes to help his true master waddle out of the coop. DETECTIVE 20 should bring forward a Penguin slap fight more brutal than being forced to watch a HAPPY FEET marathon.
Through a Blue Lens – I’m a big fan of stories that present heroes through the everyman’s eyes. Blue gives us the story of a GCPD cop who was transformed into a Man-Bat and then saved by Langstrom’s “Colossus” great sacrifice (not a typo--you’ll get it when you read it). This is basically a morality tale on the value of vigilantes, but I’ll take old debates when they are this well humanized. The brothers and sister in arms gather around to regale the night of Bats, Batman’s breaking of the cop’s wing…I mean arm now, and to share a few snuck-past-the-nurses beers and laughs. Layman does a great job not injecting his own morality into his writing; the side that seems right will be judged solely by you.
The art in this thing sings across the board, with each using the light and dark perfectly with the tonality of their given stories. There are also boatloads of fantastic pinups that get better as the book progresses, my favorite pinup being the three-way between Damian, Bruce and Talia.
I’m done shunning DETECTIVE. Epic stories be damned, ret-cons don’t matter, sometimes I just want a good story. DETECTIVE goes one better to deliver a GREAT story.
FANTATIC FOUR #5 AUWriter: Matt Fraction
Art: Andre Arawo
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Henry Higgins is My Homeboy
So, yeah, okay. I mean, it’s going to be reversed. If you don’t believe that, you’ve never read a superhero comic before. But AGE OF ULTRON, so far, has been incredibly cool to read. It’s a different crossover, where the regular heroes are either at wits’ end or dead, forcing Moon Knight and Invisible Woman to the forefront. And the best thing about it has been the commitment to a dystopia Marvel. This is Marvel right after the world ends. Bendis and Hitch have done a good job of selling it in the main title, but HOLY SHIT, FANTASTIC FOUR just sold how horrible things are. HOLY SHIT. You get to read, in twenty two pages, how an entire set of characters and plots and settings just DIE. Coupled with consistently impressive art by Andre Arawo, FANTASTIC FOUR just did an even more impressive job selling this new terrible status quo then the main title has.
Any tie-in for this title was going to make a point about this being the end of the world, but Fraction makes it hurt. Medusa’s corpse is found, just in time for the team to sprint to the safe room. Maybe the children survived there, leading the reader to expect to find piles of child corpses. Instead, to Reed’s horror, they never even had time to get to the safe room. It’s a terribly harsh reality, and it gives the reader pause. And that’s always difficult to do in a crossover event where terrible things happen to innocent people. Fraction gives each member of the team a fitting death, a glorious last charge for the team; Johnny dies with a smile on his face, Ben is tricked by his rage for Dr. Doom, Reed stays behind to save Sue…it all makes sense as real deaths for these characters. And as such, it’s painful.
Reed’s final speech to his children (all communicated in white board because “How does a father say goodbye to his children?”) is one of the most effective speeches I’ve ever read in a superhero comic. It sums up everything you need to know about Reed – his sheer belief in science and what’s real, and how he sees a way to use that for good -- and it’s beautiful. And it’s all communicated as a math equation. Because Reed is Reed. It’s wonderful. The artwork constantly helps the story, with a bright colour palate betraying the horrific events taking place within.
It’s a very well constructed, well thought out, and VERY effective tie-in that does more to sell this world and this story than any event book has in recent memory.
THE PRIVATE EYE #1Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Marcos Martin
Publisher: Panel Syndicate
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee
For a few years now I’ve been waiting for an item like this – an “honor system” piece of digital comic booking – to come along to shake up the digital comics marketplace. It had to happen because for those few years the digital marketplace has essentially been meandering about as a place you can go to get (mostly) the same comics that come out physically on shelves, for no real discount, and with the only real big “revolution” being that around a year and a half ago you could buy them the same day as the “floppies” hit. Oh goody. The prices for digital – at least on the new end – are the same as for print; the “same” meaning probably overpriced as the standard has started shifting to $3.99 for 20 pages of material, sometimes with a voucher for a digital copy as well as “value added” like the DVD/Blu-Ray world has adopted. Just like the physical comic book market probably needs a pricing kick in the pants, the digital world especially does if you’re trying to tell your customers it’s a “good deal” to get a similar product but without it actually being able to be held in your hands (and also now having no collectible/resale value) and all while the publishers and distributors get a greater cut because, well, they don’t have to bother printing a thing anymore. Two of the most renowned creators in the comic book business coming out with a digital product that has a “recommended” price of $.99 might just be that swift kick in the backside this business needs.
Now, that’s not to say I’m going to be talking about this book based off the variable price (which, for disclosure, I decided to drop two dollars on since I trust the creators enough that if they tell me a buck is nice they’ve earned me doubling that amount). This comic book is truly fantastic, and it’s not because it’s a fraction of the cost of other books on the stands/digital marketplace; it’s fantastic because it is fantastic. All this positing, though, goes more in line with the idea that if these two talented creators can create such a good comic, distribute it for a minimal charge of a buck a pop, and have it be a success, then what’s to say we’re not going to be seeing more of this from the, say, Ed Brubakers and Jason Aarons and Matt Fractions of the business? Warren Ellis has essentially been here with FREAKANGELS (different style of distribution, but a reworking of the system nonetheless); if names like he and BKV and Marcos Martin are leading the way, who else will follow?
As for THE PRIVATE EYE itself, I’ll just come out first off and say this comic looks absolutely stunning, and second it is a hell of an interesting world. It takes a little while to get to what this world is (and maybe a little too much exposition, my only real quibble with this opening issue), but where we are is a future where now everyone has almost paranoid induced levels of privacy after an incident where the internet is “cracked” and everyone’s privacy is exposed to the world: personal information, photos, web searches, every little gory detail. And because of this, it’s a world where Patrick Immelman – our lead – can hire himself as a “Private Notary” because really he is paparazzi; he’s a man who will camp out and go through no end of danger and harassment as long as he gets the picture snapshot he’s hired to obtain. In a world where the vast majority is trying to hide who they really are behind masks and holographics, someone who can fish out these profiles is a dangerous person indeed. Just like in your traditional “P.I.” stories, eventually this private eye comes by a case with a seamy side, as well as by the end of this issue a dead body and unkind foreshadowing of Immelman getting in over his head.
What really makes this issue work – obvious, given the talent involved - is the execution. It’s the pacing and how it relates to the world building, from the way the opening of this starts with Immelman getting found out taking some candid shots of a lady hiding her identity in a body suit to his presenting his findings to his client and it beginning to flesh out this society of secrecy, and then really solidifying the messed up world he makes his living in when his latest, soon to be deceased client walks through his door and tells her story. It’s a society where everyone basically hides themselves except for those who do the finding--guys like Immelman and the “Fourth Estate” Pressmen that chase him away from the opening scene. The only hiccup in this layering that BKV and Martin go through (as I alluded to last paragraph) is a scene where Immelman talks down his (apparently somewhat senile) grandfather, who is mad at his old cell phone and the wifi for not working. Basically, this is more the infodump to put that last piece into place and give us the picture of this future that came from a worldwide scathing everyone took when the networks were hacked and everyone was exposed to each other. But all is quickly forgiven when afterwards we get our first fatality and the grim realization that this is also a pretty hardcore noir excitingly sets in.
Excitement is honestly the minimalist of terms that could be thrown at this comic book. Gorgeous, fascinating, and vibrant can be added to all of the others descriptors I’ve used throughout this review as well. It just works on several levels, from being a great take on the classic P.I. tale to being an intriguing post-internet take on our current social media-driven culture, and also being somewhat of a weird commentary on the power of the press and how in this case it’s to call people out on who they are, but in a literal sense of identity, not taking a person to task for their actions and words like the world of journalism has found itself lacking in the present day, even though we are all more or less laid out for the world to see in our online, interconnected worlds. And, getting back to the conceit I laid out in the opening paragraph, it works as an experiment in comic book distribution and I’m really curious to see where the success (or possible shortfall) of this book takes the digital marketplace and how it influences buying habits. For example, personally, I know I’m onboard for all subsequent issues of this series, but I am way more of a physical consumer than digital and am hoping for a nice hardcover print of all this material once it is finished. How this is going to affect my issue to issue purchasing methods I don’t know, but it’s an interesting predicament to have and I think has implications for future projects such as this. And if the implication is for more awesome ass comics like THE PRIVATE EYE here, then I think the digital marketplace is finally due for that takeover thing I’ve always heard was coming but did not really believe until now. Cheers…
Humphrey Lee has been an avid comic book reader going on fifteen years now and a contributor to Ain't It Cool comics for quite a few as well. In fact, reading comics is about all he does in his free time and where all the money from his day job wages goes to - funding his comic book habit so he can talk about them to you, our loyal readers (lucky you). He's a bit of a social networking whore, so you can find him all over the Interwebs on sites like Twitter, The MySpaces, Facebookand a blog where he also mostly talks about comics with his free time because he hasn't the slightest semblance of a life. Sad but true, and he gladly encourages you to add, read, and comment as you will.
Advance Review: In stores 4/24/13!
KILLOGY #4Writer: Alan Robert
Art: Alan Robert
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Reviewer: Ambush Bug
Playing out like a potty-mouthed version of the TWILIGHT ZONE is KILLOGY which is unique in both premise and execution. Writer/artist (and Life of Agony bassist) Alan Robert has already impressed me with horror classics like WIRE HANGERS and CRAWL TO ME. In his third miniseries, Robert takes a different approach both narratively and artistically.
The story is a ROSHOMON style tale focusing on three sides to a story that turns out to be interconnected. Most comic creators will tell you they have actors in mind when they are writing their stories. It helps visualize the action going on if you base them on real life people. Robert takes this a step further and has already cast KILLOGY with real life actors and draws them as such in the story. The Ramones’ Marky Ramone, THE SOPRANOS Frank Vincent, and HEROES Brea Grant play three people arrested on the same night and trapped in a jail cell during a zombie apocalypse. So while the living dead reach for them through the bars, each of them tell the story as to how they get there. In the last issue, they were able to piece together that they all play a part in a much bigger story. This final issue wraps things up in a narratively satisfying way, plus it offers up some nice scenes of gore and grue.
Art-wise, Robert is trying something new. With WIRE HANGERS and CRAAWL TO ME, Robert used quite a bit of computer graphics and renderings to tell his tale. It made for a unique Dave McKean sort of read. Here, Robert is obviously using photo-referencing, but doing so in a much more dynamic fashion than the photo-refs one might find from Greg Land or Alex Maleev. Robert shows a great sense of style and dynamism in the way he places his panels. Robert also seems to be homaging Richard Corben with his pointalism renderings of the undead. This is some good looking horror in these pages!
If you’re looking for a horror tale that excels in originality in the story and art department, you should look no further than KILLOGY. The trade will be dropping soon, I’m sure, if you can’t find the issues right now. But either in trade or single issue form, Robert is a voice in comic book horror worth paying attention to. Highly recommended.
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.
POWERS BUREAU #3Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Michael Avon Oeming
Publisher: Marvel Icon
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
I’m fighting the flu this week, so I’m rocking my cranky pajama pants full throttle, except this time my vitriol is not going to be spewed at creators--instead I’m aiming it directly at my side of the battle lines, my fellow fangeezers in arms.
POWERS has been plagued by delays in the past, there’s no denying it. Instead of accepting the facts, though, we as a community revel in beating on Bendis harder than a papier-mâché donkey full of beer, weed and porn. Is it that hard to buy a fucking trade? Is it the end of the world to simply put the books aside and read them in a full run when the arc is done at the end of 18 months? These are rhetorical questions; the answer is simply no it’s not.
Look, if it was a book like SPIDER-MAN or AVENGERS I would probably join the fray. Those books have a corporate backing and structure to support them. Bendis draws a salary to deliver those books on time, and he always has. POWERS, though, is a labor of love. Indie comics do well, but not that well. Even after the TV debacle, Bendis stays married to this series and for the first time in many many years he hasn’t missed one frakkin’ month yet.
That’s right--Walker & Pilgrim’s move to the federal government has been delivered with the cyclical accuracy of a tribal menstruation circle. The book, as always, is also stellar in design and delivery. What amazes me beyond all of these fantastical feats, though, is that the characters have moved in more than just jobs but emotionally as well.
2000 – that was the first time we were introduced to the world where super-powers are policed and dampened by that strange green light. Granted, the book didn’t really take off until its move to Icon in 2004, but still…that’s almost ten years of staccato continued storytelling. In a world where series seem as disposable as edible underwear, most never cresting the ten issue mark, this alone is a feat to be heralded, not chided.
Then Bendis took it a step further by layering in eons of history as we learned Walker was an immortal amnesiac and Pilgrim was far more complex than just her gruff mouth and chain smoking. These two characters have truly grown over the years, and along with them the world they inhabit.
There have been down times, and no I don’t mean the monkey fucking arc since I actually liked it--what I mean are the times when the series lampooned more than it originated. When I say “down,” I don’t mean bad. I can’t think of one bad issue of POWERS. IT’s merely I was less enthralled with the issues that focused more on the case than the detectives.
A lot of folks were expecting the move to the FPB to be a “jumping the shark” moment. To that I say poppycock…or go choke on a syphilitic barbed cock (remember: cranky pants). First off, no one read a goddamn issue when they began their shitty soothsaying. Second, they weren’t judging the merit of the work; they were simply lamenting what they thought would be the inevitable delays.
Well, here we are three months in. Walker and Pilgrim are still trying to gain acceptance from the Federal snobs, they are still hot on the trail of the power impregnator and there’s another little surprise (literally) cooking in the oven. This is continuity, folks, this is building and surprising from what came before. No cheap parlor tricks of death to move time forward; simply the human existence reflected through the lens of a world greater than our own.
Speaking of the world, it has moved forward as well. When POWERS was first released, it was a book about witch hunts. Now it seems the world accepts the inevitability of us all ending up literal dust in the wind. It’s an indictment of our own government’s incompetence melded together with our own fears that our great days of exponential growth are slowly drawing to a close.
Like any book, different people will get different things from it. I tend to read too much into things. Many writers have read my reviews and said “holy shit, I never thought of it that way!” But that’s a sign of good writing; the message should never be forced, merely a subtle and soft layer invisibly weaving through the larger events.
Whether you view POWERS as a crime drama, a soap opera, a heroes’ journey, or simply titter at their potty mouths is your choice and your choice alone; just know that if you look hard enough you will see more. If you’ve never read POWERS, you can actually jump in on this issue, though I do recommend reading the trades to get the full impact of event. Finally, if you threw up your hands in frustration at POWERS’ delays, be well aware that Bendis knows your grievances. He has even gone so far as to address this problem in the now-infamous letters columns. This alone should tell folks that Bendis isn’t out to “get us” with the delays. Who runs a goddamn letter column anymore? Creators who care about the fans and are appreciative of the readership – that’s who!
ZOMBIE OUTLAW #2Writer: Brian J. Apodaca
Illustrator: Benny Jordan
Publisher: Reunion Comics
Reviewer: Mr. Pasty
Welp, now that AMC's WALKING DEAD has officially wrapped season three, expect hordes of fans faithful to the undead genre to be looking for fresh blood anywhere they can get it. Hopefully they don't suffer a headshot by accidentally stumbling into Brad Pitt's upcoming WORLD WAR Z movie, especially when options like ZOMBIE OUTLAW #2 are available. I put issue numero uno under the microscope right here at AICN just over two years ago, and when I didn't hear any breathing in its bloody aftermath, I thought this franchise was dead and buried. Silly little reviewer! You can't keep a good (dead) man down, as evidenced by Brian J. Apodaca's return to the halls of Irvine State University, where magic hats, big breasted sorority sisters and hulking jocks rules the stereotypical roost. It's like REVENGE OF THE NERDS – only Ogre is a giant flesh-eating monster and Booger eats human remains instead of his own, well, you get the idea.
But is it any good? Well, that depends on your taste in zombie books. I know all the cool kids are into the dark, gritty world of the undead, so trying to convert them to the campy, cartoony style of ZOMBIE OUTLAW could prove difficult. Whereas Robert Kirkman is the Morrissey of zombie narratives, all brooding and depressed, Brian J. Apodaca is the David Lee Roth, jumping around and showboating in every panel. But does that make Benny Jordan the Eddie Van Halen – or Stevie Vai? That's for you to decide, but either way, he wins, because the bottom line is, he's a talented performer. I found his illustrations in issue one to be effective, but simplistic. They had a certain amount of boyish charm, but lacked any real depth or scope, almost like an early draft or storyboard-in-progress. If that sounds like it's criticism, it's not; I just didn't realize what he was capable of until I saw Benny Jordan version 2.0, who undergoes a rebirth not unlike that of the ZOMBIE OUTLAW himself, going in a competent fella and coming out a raging ass-kicker. It's really a startling transformation and shows a polished maturity in his work. What a difference two years can make!
As for Apodaca, he's just as good as he was the last time he tackled “Books, boobs and brains,” driving college broskis Will Simers and his resident adviser Matt Naismith deeper into the world of Edward Dransby and how the legend of his magic hat (not the beer) came to be. There's more pop culture references than you can shake a dead stick at – but not so many that it becomes a distraction. I think, overall, that's this book's biggest strength. Not only does it deliver an entertaining zombie tale with sizzling visuals, it does a nice job of striking a balance between camp and cool. I still don't know where ZOMBIE OUTLAW is headed after the bell rings, as the ensuing plague is still a work in progress, but I know I'll be staying after class to find out. Now, if only I could get my hands on a ZOMBIE OUTLAW varsity jacket...
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.
AQUAMAN #18Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Paul Pelletier
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man
It often seems if anyone is enjoying a DC superhero comic book these days, they have to apologize for its flaws. “Yeah, I know, but it's still pretty good and I like the character.” That is, except for Batman--and Aquaman. It's sometimes hard to figure out why some things work and other things don't, especially when the same creative people are involved. My general mantra has been “let the character be the character”. If a writer or editor tries to 'fix' a character or make them 'more today', well then they are almost always doomed to fail. Poor Denny O' Neil's WONDER WOMAN is probably the best example of this. Looking at most of DC's New 52 superhero line up, it seems to be about making these characters 'better than what they were' (i.e. fixing them). But with Aquaman and Batman, it's been more about letting the characters be who they are and making no apologies for it. Aquaman talks to fish. If you think that's lame, then that's clearly your problem.
I bring this up because here we are post THRONE OF ATLANTIS crossover and JUSTICE LEAGUE is back to a being a mixed bag (at best), while Aquaman continues to be a great comic book--and both are written by Geoff Johns! Going back to my mantra, I can't help feel Johns is trying to fix or improve the Justice League, with Cyborg, the grid, boom tubes, infighting, Superman/Wonder Woman romance, etc. It's like Johns is more interested in telling us about this new Justice League, as opposed to telling stories of the Justice League. Meanwhile here in AQUAMAN, he's just telling stories of Aquaman. Is it really any wonder that AQUAMAN--at least according to the 'Tomato Rating' (if there was one for comic books)--is much better than the JUSTICE LEAGUE? Not that DC really cares, I assume, since just like a Twilight movie, JUSTICE LEAGUE is still pulling in lots of cash despite its 'Tomato Rating'.
That said, superhero fans, how can you not be buying this book? Yes, Ivan Reis has left us, but Paul Pelletier knew he had big shoes to fill and he's been hitting this book hard. It still has moments of what I consider shoddy comic book work where things get flattened out with choppy line work, failing to properly define forms, though I'm starting to think that may be the inker instead of Pelletier. Overall, AQUAMAN is still a really nice looking book--this from a guy who predicted Pelletier wasn't up to the task.
Again, coming off the heels of THRONE OF ATLANTIS, Johns is using that as a good jumping off point for the new storylines, kind of like how he did with SINESTRO CORPS WAR for GREEN LANTERN, but here things aren't quite as predictable as blue rangers, red rangers, yellow rangers, black rangers, white rangers! Aquaman, King again, is now trying to deal with the mess his brother (still soon to be named Ocean Master) and Vulko made. Not everyone in Atlantis is glad he's back--you know Murk is going to cause trouble soon. Johns reintroduces XXXXXXX (spoiler!) as Aquaman's step-sister. The Scavenger returns (one of my fav villains) selling off stolen Atlantian tech. And on top of it all, a really creepy guy has crawled up from the bottom of the Earth looking to kick holy @$$, and has Mera in his sights. This seems like the return of an old storyline Johns started back in BRIGHTEST DAY, which is finally coming back around in the New 52.
So I say again, just let Aquaman be Aquaman. Don't try making him cool with magic hands and beards; we’d much rather watch him kick @$$ with his finny friends.
Advance Review: In stores this week!
GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK: LAST OF THE SPECIES #2Writer: Mark L. Miller (main story), Rob Patey III/Mark L. Miller (backup story)
Art: Jorge Mercado & Jason Johnson (main story), Bruce Mapa (backup story) Publisher: Zenescope Entertainment
Well, that peace was short lived. The Isle of Kipling has erupted into war yet again, thanks to the only creatures on this planet that seem capable of a perpetuating cycle of mass destruction: humans. Thanks to the quartet of homo sapiens, the rivers now run red with blood, and unjustly none of it is theirs. While the brutal battle between tiger and elephant leaves corpses everywhere, monkey boy Dewan and Shere Kahn’s “kid” Bomani argue over who gets to take down Mowglii, which neither of them will since Mowglii is MIA since Akili failed to save the wolf-child from taking a dip into the raging waters below last issue.
Any lighthearted nature remaining from THE JUNGLE BOOK: LAST OF THE SPECIES #1 is dampened by the brutality of this book. Though there are moments without carnage, they are bittersweet when one realizes that there are gonna be a ton of orphans by the time this series is over. Bagheera was right in the first series to say that the arrival of these humans was an omen, but for the one war they ended an even greater one they seem to have started.
My annoyance with Mowglii, Dewan, and Bomani is not entirely negative. Being able to have such a strong emotion is dependent on a connection to the story. So maybe I’m not cheering for the main characters, but at least I empathize and root for the supporting cast.
But just when I think that (most of) the humans are the vilest creatures on the island, I read Miller and Robert Patey III’s second installment of TIME IN THE SUN. This short story is a flashback surrounding the demise of Baloo’s long-lost bear tribe. I struggled to find the words that described the imagery before me. It wasn’t gory necessarily, though bloody indeed. Gross just didn’t have a strong enough connotation. Grotesque: that’s it. Seeing a cute, cuddly cub wearing a necklace made out of meerkat heads (not skulls, HEADS!) is a grotesque image that artist Renato Mapa Jr. burned into my brain.
There is no real violence in this story; just the brutal aftermath. Badur’s tribe makes even the late Shere Khan look like a peace-loving hippie when compared to their caves full of half-eaten elephant, meerkat, and tiger corpses. Showing Baloo’s past was meant to have us understand why being the last of his species was such a burden. I think having the image of a little bear cub wearing its kills like jewelry is more of a burden than losing a blood-lustful family.
So we’ve got two stories about two different massacres. One is sad and one is just downright disturbing. One portrays the horror of this jungle conflict; the other just gives us horror. Where LAST OF THE SPECIES has characters I love and love to hate, TIME IN THE SUN mainly features just those I hate. I think the difference between these two is less about the quality of the writing and artistic work, but more about restraint. Where TIME IN THE SUN bombards the reader with its portrayal of carnage, LAST OF THE SPECIES steps away from the violence, breaking up the darker tone and providing more opportunities to connect to the characters.
Lyzard is actually Lyz Reblin, a senior screenwriting major with an English minor at Chapman University. Along with writing for AICN, she has been published twice on the subject of vampire films.
Every comic shop has them… battered long boxes jam-packed with dog-eared titles ranging from forgotten heroes of the 1970s to multiple copies of chromium-covered “collector’s item” comics from the Big Bust of the 1990s. But if you are patient, and dig deep enough, you just may find something special…
X-MEN ARCHIVES FEATURING CAPTAIN BRITAIN #1-7, 1995Writers: Dave Thorpe and Alan Moore
Artist: Alan Davis
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Before WATCHMEN, before SWAMP THING and V FOR VENDETTA, even before MIRACLEMAN, legendary comic book writer Alan Moore honed his emerging skills on a series of 5-page (and later 8-page) stories for Marvel Comics’ United Kingdom division, centering on the appropriately-named Captain Britain. These Marvel UK stories were nestled in between black-and-white reprints of Marvel’s American comics under the titles of MARVEL SUPER-HEROES and THE DAREDEVILS. Previously scripted by Dave Thorpe, the strips were drawn by then-newcomer Alan Davis, who of course went on to become a comic book superstar himself. With the melding of Moore’s words and Davis’ artwork, what might have been a throwaway footnote to the Marvel Universe instead blossomed into a piece of rich storytelling that influenced writers for years to follow. In the mid 1990s, when the X-Men and everything even closely related to the X-Men were riding the crest of their popularity, Marvel reprinted these UK comics as a limited series under the banner of X-MEN ARCHIVES.
The plot is fairly standard comic book stuff: Captain Britain is thrown into alternate universes, killed, reborn, devolved into an ape, battles reality-bending mutants, sentient super-computers and unstoppable killer robots. Indeed, the first few chapters of this story arc as penned by Thorpe could probably be dropped into any other superhero’s book with very little adjustment. It is only when Moore comes onto the book that this story of the superhuman champion of England is elevated from the traditional comic book plot and becomes something more special. Essentially a one-note strongman at the start, Captain Britain’s character evolves as Moore develops the character’s psychology, playing with notions of the Captain’s guilt over the deaths of his parents. Also, befitting his name, Captain Britain is made much more a symbol of England under Moore’s guidance, rather than the bland Superman/Captain America type of hero he was previously. These developments, along with Alan Davis’ radical redesign of the Captain Britain costume, would have a lasting impact on the character.
But the real fun in reading this series is seeing the early work of two comic book masters. At this young point in his career Alan Moore still favored a lush writing style, utilizing a third-person omniscient narrator to add weight and color to the story rather than using the thought balloon captions that were the norm for this period. It’s the same style that he later used to great effect on MIRACLEMAN, SWAMP THING and V FOR VENDETTA, before switching up his technique and writing the more visually descriptive and text-light comics such as WATCHMEN and LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN. Readers familiar with Moore’s later work will also be able to see seeds of ideas planted here that would blossom full-grown in other comics. The poetic way in which he describes a battle between two godlike super beings presages similar passages in MIRACLEMAN. One chapter of the series, set in a dystopian England where super humans have been outlawed, finds two such individuals running from the law and trading stories about the resistance led by Captain Britain; it’s a sequence that would later be echoed in the fascist England of V FOR VENDETTA. Even the much later postmodern work of LOEG can be traced back to this series; Moore folds some of the UK’s own original comic book characters into one of the alternate Earths that Captain Britain fights to save (in an especially fun bit of foreshadowing, Marvelman—which Moore was developing for WARRIOR at the time—makes a cameo as “Miracleman”). And as with LOEG, Moore dips into classic literature for his cast, introducing the alternate-Earth 744’s “Captain Airstrip,” whose doublespeak dialogue clearly marks his world as that from George Orwell’s “1984.”
Just as interesting is seeing Alan Davis’ growth as an artist and visual storyteller, apparent even in the relatively short span of time that this series was originally published. His early pages are cluttered—in the introduction to the first issue of ARCHIVES Davis admits that his first chapter needed to be cut and reassembled because he had neglected to leave space for the word balloons—and some of his facial expressions and anatomical proportions are just plain wonky. But through it all Davis’ flair for drawing dynamic figures shines through even his more amateurish pages, and by the close of this story arc his strong style begins to emerge. The true “Alan Davis Style” wouldn’t come to fruition until later, but these early strips showcase his ability to create bold page compositions and a sense of fluid motion in depicting action.
These Marvel UK comics were also later collected in trade paperback and hardcover. They’re out of print now, but a search on eBay and amazon.com shows that there are still plenty of copies available on the secondary market. And if you luck out like I did, you can dig through the multiple copies of the “collector’s item” X-MEN #1 in your local comic shop’s bargain box and find a REAL collector’s item in this X-MEN ARCHIVES series: an entertaining look at the fledgling work of two of the medium’s best.
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.
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