AICN COMICS REVIEWS: OCCUPY COMICS! IRON MAN! BABBLE! BATTLESTAR GALACTICA! WEREWOLVES: THE HUNGER! & MORE! Plus the CAPTAIN AMERICA Movie 1990!
(Click title to go directly to the review)
Advance Review: OCCUPY COMICS #1
WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN #29
Indie Jones presents BABBLE OGN
IRON MAN #10
Indie Jones presents TABATHA #2
CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE MOTION PICTURE (1990)
Indie Jones presents SILVER #1
Indie Jones presents MYTH #1-2
BATTLESTAR GALACTICA #1
Advance Review: GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS WEREWOLVES: THE HUNGER #1
Advance Review: In stores today!
OCCUPY COMICS #1Contributors: Alan Moore, Art Spiegelman, David Lloyd, J.M. DeMatteis, Joshua Hale Fialkov, Ben Templesmith, Mike Allred, Joshua Dysart, Kelly Bruce, Ales Kot, Matt Pizzolo, Charlie Adlard, Joseph Infurnari, Molly Crabapple, Mike Cavallaro, Douglas Rushkoff, Dean Haspiel, Tyler Crook, Jeromy Cox, Guy Denning, Ronald Wimberly, Allen Gladfelter, Matt Bors, Ayhan Hayrula
Publisher: Black Mask
Reviewer: Ambush Bug
Full disclosure, I am a contributor to the second issue of this comic book series, so take this endorsement as you will. I will say that when I first approached this project, I was a bit leery, what with the way many have portrayed the Occupy Movement in the media. That said, I had an opportunity to talk about my own stance on politics (something I had never done before) with my contribution in the second issue, so I leapt at the opportunity to do so. Aside from actually appearing as a character in the last story written by writer/editor Matt Pizzolo since I accompanied him to the Occupy rally in New York two years ago when this anthology was nothing but a twinkle in Matt’s eye, I really had nothing to do with this issue and I feel it’s not bending ethics too much to talk about it a bit in this column on the day of it’s release wide into comic shops.
Say what you will about the Occupy Movement, but it is one of those subjects that sparks debate and I’m sure that there will be those ready to pounce in the Talkbacks with the mere mention of the movement, but I urge folks to check out this anthology. In it creators such as Josh Fialkov, J.M. Dematteis, Ben Templesmith, tell intriguing stories and provide interesting commentaries about the movement from widely different angles. You’ll also find gorgeous pin ups by Art Spiegelman, David Lloyd, and Mike Allred providing iconic imagery affiliated with the movement. Plus you get to crack open the twisted brainpan of Alan Moore and see what the Occupy Movement means to him in parts one and two of an essay solely dedicated to the history of protests, something he knows quite a bit about, it seems.
Message wise, the book offers up quite a bit of variety in terms of issues it addresses, but all of them promote the need for expression in a world where few have ears to listen. It puts into words the many unhappy people out there, calling for change in a world that promises much and delivers very little. The talking points the hard right and left want to lob at the Movement to shut it up such as the Movement’s lack of focus or propensity for violent protests are addressed as well with talented words, vivid pictures, and most importantly level heads. This book is an important one and I feel honored to be a part of it.
Thanks for listening to me rant a bit. So a more unbiased and detailed review of the book is coming next week, I promise. But I just wanted to take a second of your time to urge you to pick up this book and give it a look. Reading through this first issue was fascinating to me to see the variety of creative minds and how they talking about specific issues with a passion I rarely see in comics these days. If anything, this book will give you something to talk about other than who’s pulling whose cape this week. Maybe looking through the book on the shelves, you might see something you relate to or stimulates your in thinking a new way. You’ll never know unless you crack it open and really see what this book is all about.
On with the reviews.
WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN #29Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Ramon Perez
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Henry Higgins is My Homeboy
I mean it. I love the hints, but no one would ever actually say “Sabertooth’s Secret Plans!”, because we’re in the future and you know what those plans were because you’re referring to them as a solved problem. Stop it. It sounds awesome in your head, and stupid in your mouth.
Few franchises (excluding ones where time travel is a regular form of travel) obsess over the future quite like the X-Men. It’s an understandable theme to focus on. So much of the series is dependent on those feelings of youth and rebellion that brought teens into X-Men in the first place, so the temptation to see where those things lead is strong. “Days of Future Past” to “Here Comes Tomorrow” to whatever, it’s always fun to toy with the future. But a lot of these stories end up feeling unnecessary. The best, like “Here Comes Tomorrow” or “Days of Future Past”, play some role in the overarching story, but other times it ends up needlessly complicating the comics continuity or just being plain attempts at fanservice.
Much like Hickman’s recent look into the fates of the Fantastic Four, Wolverine and The X-Men’s trip to the future feels, unlike other alternative futures or possible timelines, somewhat more real. The setting is still familiar, if slightly polished and shiny; while the characters have aged and the world has clearly evolved, it’s still clearly X-Men. There are missions and children in the halls and angst and Wolverine. It just feels like part of an eventual end, which while difficult to manage in serial stories like the X-Men (I’m sure this future will be retconned away at some point), succeeds here. It reflects the X-Men as a whole, but it also bolsters the story Aaron is telling right now.
For the last few years, Wolverine has been going through a reversal of Cyclops in terms of motivation. Cyclops was the lantern jawed hero who fought for truth, justice, and his X-Men, but various events forced to assume control of the mutant race and in turn become much more pragmatic, jaded, and dangerous (falling more in line with Magneto). Wolverine has mirrored this, slowly recognizing the impact of his decisions and the mark he’s leaving on the world. WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN has been partly (because somehow this book is able to juggle fourteen plus characters and plots with ease) about the growth of Wolverine from a killer to a teacher, and it’s a perfect continuation of that for his future to not be some utopian school the size of a city. Instead, it feels like the Jean Grey School. Wolverine did not end up failing; the beast didn’t win out over the man. Wolverine wins. Well, maybe not completely if his shame when he discovers Idie’s Bible is to be gone by, but there’s something peaceful about his future life. The school is a success, and it still feels like part of the Marvel Universe. Credit to Jason Aaron for writing a tantalizing look into, while not perfect future, a future that’s believable and fun.
The comic is primarily focused on Wolverine, but still advances some lingering plot and character beats, pushing Idie, Quire, a mysterious character (who you should figure out within seconds) and even Eye-Boy…er, Eye-Man. Aaron’s script is tightly controlled and sometimes leans a little towards the prophetic problem (just like everyone else I love the little hints from the future for insanely awesome-sounding stuff like “The Apocalypse Crusade” and “The Church Of Cyttorak”, but it can sometimes make dialogue feel very wooden), but still loose enough to cover all its bases and never feel rushed.
Also, congratulations to Marvel for continually putting wonderful artists on this title. Whenever the art duties change hands I get a little worried, because “SO AND SO WAS PERFECT FOR THIS BOOK!!!!11!1!!”. And then I read the next issue and am blown away. And then a new artist comes on and the circle of life continues. Perez and Martin came on for the Dog story and GOOD GOD. They make the future look marvelous, clean and bright with just enough rust around the edges. The school feels like a school, Logan’s office feels real, and the characters move with this incredible energy. It’s just as wonderful as all the previous artists, and I mean that as a truly sincere compliment.
Aaron has been on this title for almost thirty issues now, and not once has it lost a single ounce of momentum or energy or straight goofy strange superhero comic book FUN that’s been missing from the X-Men for so long. And this issue gives the whole story a sweet conclusion, or at least middle ground. At this point I’m just hoping Aaron writes this title until we get to that future naturally.
BABBLE OGNWriter: Lee Robson
Art: Brian Coyle
Reviewer: Ambush Bug
Being an appreciator of all things horror as well as comics, I couldn’t help but see the connection between BABBLE and the excellent zombie film PONTY POOL upon first reading. I’m sure the two were made completely separate from one another and it is a clear indication that while PONTY POOL will forever be an amazing horror film, in its own right, BABBLE is a truly amazing comic.
The story follows Carrie, a young impressionable scientist whose life is turned upside down when Alan, her college professor (who she had a brief affair with while a student) returns to her life with an offer to work with him. Crossed messages are tossed everywhere, becoming foreshadowing to the troubles that lay ahead as Carrie joins Alan’s science team in uncovering the truth behind the myth of the Tower of Babel where God stretches his index finger and makes the many different languages of the world. The team is working on a universal translator and are on the brink of something great when their lead scientist kills himself, leaving an opening for Carrie to fill. As Carrie gets closer to solving the problems her predecessor was unable to do, she is also distracted with thoughts of rekindling the romance she felt she missed out on with Alan the first time around.
It all seems melodramatic, but in the reading it’s anything but as writer Lee Robson has a casual flow to his words. There’s a lot of them on any given page to sift through and usually when I see a page full of dialog and little action, I sigh heavily. Here, though, Robson is able to make the intelligent conversations feel real and it didn’t bother me at all to see so much text in the pages depicting the past in this story.
Then there are the present day scenes which are wordless as some form of word plague has spread making all who hear it babbling lunatics bent on murder and all kinds of stuff you regularly see in CROSSED. Though it never gets as graphic as Avatar’s prize gem of a comic, the threat is there through the eyes of Carrie as she avoids succumbing to the plague by wearing earphones and beating the hell out of the babblers who try to accost her.
The art is equally stellar as Brian Coyle switches styles between past and present day, fooling us in the past with cool blues bathing coherent and strong linework, while adopting a more fluid and shaded, sepia toned style for the present pages depicting the end of the world. The pages flow together seamlessly both by some creative visual transitions and some great word transitions from the writer. This is definitely a winning collaboration between word and image that I’ ve rarely seen so well done.
BABBLE is a fantastic thrill ride of a graphic novel, filled with great moments of character, high emotion, and action that’ll make you jump. The book was recently nominated for the Russ Manning Promising Newcomer Award to be announced at this year’s SDCC and it is definitely well deserved. Find out more about BABBLE here!
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 October 2013 as a 100-pg original graphic novel through Hermes Press). 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.
IRON MAN #10Writer: Kieron Gillen
Art: Dale Eaglesham
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Mad Mercutio
To me this current storyline is a shining example of what a creative team can do for a book or even just a story arc. There is nothing revolutionary in this current storyline; it is just that the art and story have really clicked and turned into a fine Iron Man tale.
I feel like a book such as IRON MAN needs solid art. Books like X-MEN, SPIDER-MAN or DAREDEVIL can get away with that kind of abstract, quirky art. I like that kind of art, too. The weird abstract look can fit the tone of a book like SPIDER-MAN or DAREDEVIL well. However, I guess you can chalk this up to Bob Layton, but I love the art in an Iron Man book best when it has a solid foundation to the structure. Dale Eaglesham fits this book very well. I guess it has to do with the tech aspect of Iron Man. We find smooth clean lines appealing in our technology, so maybe it applies to Iron Man stories as well. I’ve always loved Eaglesham’s art, and this comic is a shining example of why.
I’m guessing this storyline is expected by Marvel to be a big draw. There have been a lot of ads to spread the awareness and a whole lot of variant covers to promote this story. I was curious because I figured they would pull out the big guns to coincide with the film, thusly roping in as many new readers as possible. I have to say…they did. This is a fun freakin’ story. Most of this story was told in flashback since we are bearing witness to Tony’s dad having to get help for his pregnant wife. Usually not my type of story. If it is an Iron Man tale, I want Tony front and center. However, Kieron Gillen has really sold me on this storyline. I’m totally invested. So far, it has some great moments, whether it be (spoilers) Tony getting double crossed by a huge robotic assassin, or Tony’s dad looking all suave and sophisticated as he assembles his own version of OCEAN’S 11. It all works and it works well. I’m stoked to be reading an Iron Man storyline that I can get invested in. I’ve enjoyed the character for years, and even though I may not have been the biggest fan of the last movie, no one can argue that Robert Downey, Jr portraying Tony Stark won’t get people interested in the character.
I’m also enjoying the space armor. It seems weird that the armor changes so much these days when in the Bronze Age, he had the same basic suit for years. I guess it makes sense that he is constantly updating his armor and look. I only wish he would have fat boots. I know my friend and I are in the minority here, but I sure did enjoy the armored “bell bottom” look his armor had during the second Armor Wars. We need that look back!!
TABATHA #2Writer: Neil Gibson
Artist: Caspar Wijingaard
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
The best way I can describe Neil Gibson is the product of Wes Craven prison-taking Rod Serling. Neil crafts story with “twists” that are morose, despondent and a stark reminder the ultimate goal of the universe is cold entropy. TABATHA is Gibson’s first foray I know of into an ongoing serial, and he has successfully blended his TWISTED DARK vignettes of soul draining surprises into beat moments on every page in this tale of dumb as fuck robbers in suburban Los Angeles.
TABATHA plays on a couple levels of the human spirit. Greed, lust, love and charity all collide, but none are delivered as expected. For greed we have our four unlucky protagonists of Luke the mailman, who cases empty houses so he and his cohorts can rob them blind. Unfortunately they hit a snafu when they break into the house of a retired SFX guru who is lusting to transfer the title’s eponymous sex doll TABATHA into a real woman. Luke gets caught in the first issue break-in and is now being held hostage by a mad man.
It sounds convoluted, but Gibson keeps it from being cumbersome through naturalistically letting the characters’ motives and personalities shine above the premise. It’s a much-appreciated and oftentimes hilarious juxtaposition to lighten the gore and depravity of the villain. There’s a brotherly love that comes across effortlessly as Luke’s brother Fin tries to once again save his baby brother from the clutches of Dr. Fuckenstein. Fin’s partner Baily and her brother Ty are ancillary, but their addition adds a level of sympathy since the gang is doing most of their dirty deeds to pay for an operation to save their mother. Plus they give Ty someone to interact with as he formulates his rescue plan for Luke.
Much of Gibson’s talent comes across in the dialog. Part of me wants to type it all out to entreat readers into giving this guy a shot, but I know that’s an egregious crossing of spoiler boundaries. Suffice to say, when you have lines discussing the defiling of a sex doll for laughs, the earnest belief that a real woman’s brain will animate a sex doll or vice versa, the slow dismemberment of limbs and trying to score a gun in East LA through legitimate channels hilarity will ensue if your soul is steeped in darkness.
I was half and half on Caspar the friendly artist’s work. On one hand his cartoony style was more than sufficiently creepy in close-ups, but this wasn’t carried through in the wide angles. Ugly, cute, ugly, cute made for a somewhat disjointed experience at times. I know I just basically applauded this cadence in the writing so I guess I’m a hypocrite, but I expect more evenness from artists. If he made every background like the gun shop where Ty tries to legitimately get a piece to save Luke I would not be writing this paragraph.
Gibson is a rising talent; go to his Facebook page and you can see the likes of Frank Miller, Samuel Jackson, and a bunch of other Comic Brits enjoying his “Twilight Zone”-like anthologies TWISTED DARK. If you find yuck-yucks in dismemberment and love the Monty Pythonesque malaise towards life’s atrocities look no further than TABATHA.
Movie review: New this week from the Shout Factory!
CAPTAIN AMERICA (1990)Director: Alan Pyun
Writers: Stephen Tolkin, Lawrence Block
Starring: Matt Salinger, Scott Paulin, Ronny Cox, Ned Beatty, Darrin McGavin, Michael Nouri, Kim Gillingham, Melinda Dillon, Bill Mumy, Francesca Neri, Carla Cassola
Reviewer: Ambush Bug
OK, let’s just get this out of the way and say, “Yes, this is a stinker of a movie.”
Now that we’ve done that, let me tell you why you should go ahead and make it a mission to seek out this new BluRay treatment of CAPTAIN AMERICA 1990. Sometimes films are so bad they are unwatchable. Now, being a huge Captain America fan, I can’t say I liked this film when I first saw it, but going back to it, I found that the movie isn’t completely unwatchable.
Director Alan Pyun is definitely an interesting choice for helming this one. He had directed THE SWORD AND THE SORCERER and just released Van Damme’s CYBORG, so though he wasn’t Spielberg, he was somewhat of a name at the time. Later Pyun would direct Andrew Dice Clay’s BRAINSMASHER: A LOVE STORY. So there’s that…
From the Behind the Scenes featurette (the only extra on the BluRay, sadly), Pyun seemed to be battling against a low budget, so while that limits any director, I’ve seen much better films filmed for less. Still, Pyun gives some decent scenes of low fi schlock action. The story itself juts past things like Cap fighting Nazis and has him take that fated rocket ride into an iceberg on his very first mission, but the first confrontation between the pizza-faced Red Skull and Cap is the stuff of low budget action legend with all sorts of amateur chop-sockery going on.
Interesting that director Albert Pyun originally wanted NFL athlete Howie Long as Steve Rogers before the role was given to Matt Salinger. Actually, I like that casting choice much better than Salinger, but then again, they could have cast Daniel Day Lewis in the role and it wouldn’t have mattered. Matt Salinger wasn’t horrible in the role and the fact that this film isn’t great shouldn’t be lumped on his shoulders. He is earnest enough, despite the fact that physically he isn’t convincing with the Cap costume on. He offers up some earnest moments of melodrama throughout, amplified by violas letting you know its melodrama time. Speaking of music, the soundtrack is wickedly bad and sappy from the golden pipes of Southside Johnny singing songs like “Home of the Brave” and “Written in the Wind” all of which sounds like bad covers of Bruce Springsteen songs.
The writers of this film definitely weren’t of the strongest stock with Stephen Tolkin (uncredited writer of MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE) & Lawrence Block (writer of Tobe Hooper’s THE FUNHOUSE) putting words in the mouths of the characters. As it is described in the Behind the Scenes featurette, they battled with the studios to make a film about Steve Rogers, but the studios wanted Captain America. In the comics, the two are the same unlike few other comic book characters and their alter egos. Here, some of that is conveyed in the film, but for the most part, the shoddy costuming, less that great acting, and pretty basic filming don’t make it seem like this was a well written film. Who knows what was lost in translation, but this film feels more like a Saturday morning cartoon literally brought to life rather than material taken seriously as it is today.
Case in point, they can say the film was trying to highlight the man behind the shield but that’s no excuse for Cap using the same sort of mental trickery not once but twice in the script with Cap faking sickness in a car only to get the driver out so he can Cap-Jack that shit, leaving the driver in the dust. One of the left for dead drivers was Ned Beatty left all alone in the woods and we all know that bad things happen when you leave Ned Beatty in the woods.
And no matter what the script intended, one can’t help but get a ooky feeling when Cap quickly forms a relationship with his long lost sweetie Bernie’s young daughter not long after her death. Who cares if it’s played by the same actress (the Laura Palmer-esque Kim Gillingham), it’s still creepy as a van in at the edge of a schoolyard when Cap snuggles up to Bernie’s daughter.
The script also results in one cliché after another, connecting Cap with the Skull as they have gone through the same process as one another. And let’s not question the fact that Cap ultimately only beats the Skull because he hasn’t aged a day while the Red Skull has become an old man, in fear that we will burst the already paper thin bubble disbelief. And how about that ending with a bomb with a ridiculously slow timer straight out of Austin Powers?
And speaking of Austin Powers, why does the Red Skull sound so much like Goldmember? Scott Paulin might as well be nibbling his pinky finger throughout the film in true Dr. Evil mustache-twirlirific fashion. Paulin chews the scenery decently but plays nothing but the cliché. The bad costuming doesn’t help. The Red Skull’s head prosthetic looks like something I saw in a Pro-Life video once; a totally uncomfortable look for the evil villain, made even worse in the latter half by slapping flesh tone on it and slicked back hair.
Cap’s costume is equally bad with the now famous fake ears and a facemask that looks as if he’s wearing a tight blue condom stretched across his puss. The rest of the costume is bright and accurate, but Salinger’s physique wasn’t Cap-worthy and the padding didn’t help much, making him look like he was wearing a bulky sweater under the spandex.
Plus this film isn’t a real Marvel adaptation since there’s no Stan Lee cameo. But we do get one from LOST IN SPACE’s Bill Mumy…which is…I guess…something, right?
So after all of this negative criticism, why am I giving this film my recommendation?
Because of all of the stuff I describe in the previous paragraphs of course. This is the type of film you watch before you watch the new version of CAPTAIN AMERICA to appreciate it more. It’s the film you watch laughing with friends at the mulleted hitmen bodyguards getting bonked with Cap’s shield and the way Bernie’s daughter goes apeshit on Cap for going into the women’s restroom and the way the Red Skull perches his piano on top of a castle dangerously close to a steep cliff (because, you know…acoustics!) and yes, we can all admit, Cap looks a bit downsy in that mask. If anything the film serves as a time capsule throwback to an age where Hollywood didn’t take comic book movies very seriously and can also be seen as a message letting us know how films about our comic book heroes could be in hands other than the folks bringing them to life today.
For all of that, I urge you to check out this stinker of a film. It’s a must for the true Cap fan completist and I can honestly say I had a hell of a good time watching this bad movie.
BLOODSHOT #11Writer: Duane Swierczynski
Artist: Barry Kitson
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
I’ve sung the praises of Valiant so many times now I’m waiting for the “house that Shooter built” to send me custom kneepads with a big red V embroidered on the front. I’ll be the first to admit I have a pulled punch approach at times because I love comics so. And I’ll also admit I can be viewed as sycophantic if you’ve never read one of my scathing reviews. I can’t stress enough though: I’m not pandering with Valiant. In the course of one short year they have resurrected from the ashes of the 90s like a phoenix with two nacelles strapped to its ass for a warp 9 ascent to greatness.
Valiant is a salvation from the convoluted and inconsequential continuity at the big houses. To be fair, they don’t have as much history to carry, but even at an individual issue level Valiant is trumping the best efforts of other publishers. They are adult without being bawdy, dialog is genuine instead of camp and the universe is carefully orchestrated by meticulous editors instead of a bunch of guys looking for individual title glory. Case in point: the big yet contained crossover HARBINGER WARS, which is now serving as the undercurrent for the titles BLOODSHOT and HARBINGER.
BLOODSHOT 11 is the perfect encapsulation of how a crossover should be managed. It is the space between the raindrops of HARBINGER WARS. It’s a focal point without being required reading; it adds new information, but not so much that those on limited budgets would be punished if they aren’t reading the rest of the series. Quite simply, it cares about a good story first and serving the event second.
If you’ve never read BLOODSHOT or Valiant before, I’m amazed you’ve read this far into the review. For all of you Valiant Virgins, here’s the skinny on the story without getting too spoilery. Harbingers are Valiant’s answer to mutants, these next generation humans started when we nuked Japan and irradiated the Omega level Toyo Harada. Today new harbingers are cropping up all over the globe; HARBINGER WARS is the power play to see who will control them.
The two main puppetmasters are of course corporations, a sad but accurate reflection of the age we live in. In one corner is the aforementioned Toyo Harada’s Harbinger Foundation, a multinational conglomerate that rose to power in the 20th century thanks in no small part to Harada’s Xavier-like mental capabilities. In the other corner is Project Rising Spirit (PRS), an organization more clandestine than Harada and infinitely less virtuous. Harada is the villain you love to hate; he leaves room for sympathy in the fact that he does bad things towards a possible good end. PRS is basically Blackwater, a government contractor that will do anything for any government if the price is right.
Bloodshot is the PRS weapon of choice: a man with nanotech in his blood and a host of constructed memories meant to control him. And as we find out in this issue, he’s more than a rogue harbinger hunter; he’s also PRS’ final fail-safe to stop Harada.
HARBINGER WARS unfolded a deep history between Harada and PRS, and it’s not a good one. Apparently back in the 60’s these two warring entities were once friends…or at the very least in co-opitition. Now, though, as the race to see who can collect the most Harbinger kiddies continues to accelerate, each organization seeks to put the other permanently in the red.
As the confrontation between Harada and PRS escalates over in HARBINGER WARS, BLOODSHOT 11 takes the time to expand on the protocols PRS embedded in their albino killing machine to take down the most powerful man on the planet. What was only a few pages becomes a full 22 as we shift from Harada’s POV to the little boy living in BLOODSHOT. No, this isn’t a set-up for a Michael Jackson joke.
The original BLOODSHOT in Valiant universe 1.0 always left me unfulfilled. His blood of heroes was more back-story for the future samurai Rai versus being an engaging character himself. He still had nanotech coursing through his veins, but that is where the similarities ended. For Valiant 2.0 they made one small move that made a huge difference in the story: sentient nanotech. That’s right; this blood talks and takes on the form of a small little boy, with a larger than life arrogance. For each Harada protocol released during the battle, the creators take us inside Bloodshot to see just how much this is fucking with his mind: an EMP blast, a purging of the nanotech akin to two-girls-one-cup and finally a head explosion that leaves you wondering whether Bloodshot’s regeneration can truly handle anything. This would be as good a time as any to give Kitson his kudos on switching between extreme gore and the sterile operating room of Bloodshot’s mind.
The Eisner award nominees were just released a few weeks ago and a stark trend is forming. While Valiant didn’t make the list, their indie counterparts dwarf the modicum of accolades bestowed upon the Big 2. This is a sign of our storytelling times. I consider Valiant and Image to be some of my top reads right now. Valiant satiates my thirst for an interwoven universe, where I turn to Image to deliver cool quick-hit concepts. Not three years ago I was being satisfied on both fronts by DC and Vertigo. The ability to dethrone a giant in the hearts of readers is probably the best compliment I can give Valiant and, of course, Bloodshot.
While not on the Eisner list this year, Valiant is poised to be a strong contender in ‘14.
SILVER #1Writer: Stephan Franck
Artist: Stephan Franck
Publisher: Dark Planet
The quote “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” is attributed to the writer Charles Caleb Colton. Since then the adage has played both the role of a compliment and a snide quip, an honest observation of admiration or a sarcastic denouncement of another’s work. It has become the go-to defense for those accused of plagiarism, a term just as overused.
When we are first introduced to James Finnigan, the protagonist of SILVER, it is in the guise of another. The book itself puts on a mask, too. In the third panel, the name Harker is used and the Draculian in me takes notice. When Finnigan reveals himself as the infamous thief, I think I have solved the mystery of what type of comic this will be. As bullets fly by Finnigan’s head, titles go through mine: THE PHANTOM, B.P.R.D., BATMAN.
“A con job is a juggling act. Getting the balls in the air is one thing. The real trick is keeping them there long enough.”
Writing is the exact opposite. The real trick is to keep the audience there long enough for you to get all the balls in the air. As this is a twelve issue series, Franck has plenty of time to delve into his mystery, but little time to capture his audience.
“Sooner or later, the spell is broken…and all the balls-in-the-air begin to fall.”
It is all too easy now to write off new titles as knock-offs of this, that, or the other. Which brings me back to Colton’s quote. I do not think that Franck is imitating the works of Mignola or Falk, to steal another maxim; he is just trying to stand on the shoulders of giants. Homage, emulate, impersonate. All these words do is get in the way of a reader becoming spell-bound by a new trick based on a similar conceit.
You can think of all the pulp tropes and noir standards lifted from the works of others as pieces to a puzzle. What Franck does is use them to create a new picture, built upon standards we know and love and therefore despise and deride anything that even attempts to imitate it.
SILVER is about a thief who knows all the rules to the game and, when playing them, wins. Franck knows his customers, what they expect, and he gives it to them in spades. You’ve got the snappy narration, turning boring exposition into humorous elucidation. There is clever angling, clearly a carryover from Franck’s experience in animation. His film background does also seep into the panels, as they seem readily fit to be storyboards. I usually hate making that comparison, but in this case it’s a compliment. The panels and the drawings inside them flow like a good storyboard should. Storyboards are meant to allow the reader to envision the in-betweens, the movement yet to be filmed/animated. SILVER is highly kinetic, action-packed, and filled with still motion.
James Finnigan is just a thief, not a misunderstood anti-hero…or so he says. “All is exactly as it seems.” But SILVER quickly turned out to be more than what it seemed, so I suspect our dashing ne’er-do-well will be altering his status to reluctant hero rather quickly as well.
Lyzard is Lyz Reblin, a graduate student at the University of Texas pursuing a master's degree in Media Studies...which is just a fancy way of saying she plays a lot video games, watches far too many horror films, and then tries to pass it all off as "research."
NOVA #4Writer: Jeph Loeb
Artist: Ed McGuinness
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man
OK, first off I gotta say who wrote this “PREVIOUSLY...” on page two? It's just awful. I understand they are trying to write it for little kids, but seriously it comes off like an adult trying to sound like a little kid. The first line kills me: “We met SAM ALEXANDER, a small town kid from a small town in Arizona.” Repetition can be very funny, but not in this case; here it's just odd. Like the rest of it…ok onto the important stuff...
This issue has me torn. On one hand I really liked the story and the intention of it all. On the other hand, I thought the execution of the story was very clumsy. Our new Nova, Sam Alexander (still no sign of Rich Rider, though Peter Quill is just fine these days--go fig) has a run in with the big bad of the story, a Chitauri armada. Seems they have gotten their hands on Galactus' most famous weapon and are looking to use it on the Earth. Through a healthy dose of naivete and spunk, Sam manages to pull off an amazing victory, even after having a run-in with someone from his father's past (when Sam's father was a Nova), who claims to have killed his father. The victory is short lived (surprise), as it sets up the cliffhanger for the next issue. Not bad; lots of good stuff in there. For the most part I'm really enjoying what Loeb and McGuinness are putting down here.
However, in telling this story, stuff just doesn't gel and lots of things come off awkward, like the awful 'Previously...' page. When Sam has his confrontation with the man who killed his dad, the dialogue comes off as unnatural, even though Loeb is trying to write Sam with 'kid speak'- something he did well in previous issues. In this issue it's clumsy and doesn't seem like the characters are actually listening to each other. It's more like they are reading the script. The whole scene, which is the bulk of the book, just doesn't satisfy the emotion or the excitement it should have had. The issue also doesn't explain things like Gamora and Rocket Raccoon’s absence, nor how Titus is faster than the Chitauri armada. Granted, this can easily be explained later, but based on other lackluster stories I've read by Loeb, he does have a nasty habit of blowing off details (I assume because he feels it will interfere with the pacing of the story, which he usually wants to be breakneck). The fact that Loeb is leaving the book because he's too busy working on Marvel cartoons makes me wonder if he just doesn't have the time to really polish this story.
McGuinness has let me down a little with this issue too. Mind you, I am a big fan of his style; when he's on he's easily one of the top five artists in the field. When he's not, it's because of his bad habits--mainly shortcuts in depicting the action, and this book is loaded with 'em. Instead of drawing a character moving, he'll draw a line or two to indicate the action occurred. Like on his big two page spread (Nova goes from pose to pose with just a tiny doohickey to link the poses), or how Nova turns his head with an odd eye leak on page three. It just saps the panels of impact and sometimes clarity. He also adds needless panel elements like the frame on page ten. They add nothing and look odd. His biggest whiff this issue is on page 25, where apparently Sam's mother just teleported out of a room. She's talking to Sam in one panel and next she just gone, no reason. I suppose this bothers me more with McGuinness than other artists because he's just so much better than most artists!
So while I fear a giant 'I pulled this out of my @$$' ending to this first story arc (only one issue left), overall Jeph and Ed have been putting together a good book here. I just hope they can hand it off in good shape.
Learn more about the Masked Man and feel free check out his comic book CINDY LI: THREE OF A KIND at www.Toonocity.com
MYTH #1 & 2Writer: Mike Loniewski
Artist: Dan Lauer
Publisher: Alterna Comics
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee
Let’s all be honest with ourselves here for a second: to some degree we all got into comic books and continue to read comic books out of wish fulfillment. Hell, I openly admit that half the time I’m reading a mainstream superhero comic these days it’s out of the misguided hope I get from reading about people that have extraordinary power use it for good instead of, say, crashing the economy on the backs of loans they knew were terrible from the get go, as a real world example. Just like that, we all know there were times we were living vicariously through our comics (or maybe our Saturday morning cartoons) when we were younger. It may not have been superheroes - and in reference to MYTH here I’m nodding heavily at Bill Watterson’s CALVIN AND HOBBES strip – but we all had something we either used to feel bigger than we were and/or to escape our parents (and the tyrannical chores they thrust upon us) for the afternoon. That sense of substituting fantasy for reality and embracing the whimsical, that is the feeling I grasped when reading these first two issues of MYTH.
It is really hard not to get that childlike “adults suck, I want to go outside!!!!” vibe from MYTH. Right off the bat we are treated to our lead character, Sam, running off from the deplorable, Oliver Twisted grip of Mrs. Morrison, your standard “evil, cranky old broad” running the orphanage Sam calls home. This is essentially the bulk of the first issue, with some illusions to a greater story, but the gist is “Sam runs away, runs into some astounding shit that only a childlike innocence can roll with, and has adventures.” And it works because it invokes that childlike innocence, from Sam’s befriending of a mute mountain of a man as his protector to his desire to cape up and go play superhero with his new pal to his shrugging off of some supernatural items – like the giant goddamn tree that attacks him when he escapes the orphanage – like only a young one with a hyperactive imagination would go about these things. Whimsical really is the way to put it, from the way Sam reacts to all these things around him to how the art simplifies yet energizes and accentuates what is going in that “cartoony” style that is not terribly non-resembling of the almighty CALVIN AND HOBBES that I invoked once already. MYTH works in what it does because it understands what it is and is trying to do with its storytelling.
And it’s this “lower your head and plow forward” approach that keeps the momentum up in the second issue. Sam pushing his Brute Squad buddy forward with the superhero hijinks and playing a good old game of baseball but, wisely, some elements of a greater story are coming forward. The first issue gives us just a taste with the Ent on steroids, some runes Sam leans against, and your token “foreboding old guy” at the end. The second issue introduces us to some more characters that have, for lack of a better vernacular, “seen some shit” and are expressing it to Sam who, surprise, will be a new player in a story that has happened before and is coming around again. Don’t take that “surprise” as sarcasm, though admittedly if there is one knock on this book so far is that it’s a little “been there”, but as acknowledgement that MYTH is telling that story we always latched onto as a kid, when we wanted to not be talked down to by adults and be treated on the same level but we also probably had to occasionally realize we had a long way to go before we were as adult as we thought we were. And it is doing a very admirable job of it.
So that’s the selling point of MYTH if I’m to nutshell it: It’ll make you feel like a kid again, in all the right ways. The writing tackles all the big adventures everyone pretended to go on, complete with bed sheet capes and slingshot action. The art definitely throws back to the basic but expressive styles we got in our Sunday funnies, and the overall story is building like we grown up kids want our stories to now that we’ve done all that silly growing up and want things like “plot development” and “story threads.” They seem a little typical for now, but at least it’s good world-building and settles down to a pace that may be going a little too fast for its own good but complements the breeziness of the action bits Sam and his Giant get into. Breezy but good is another nutshell but also fitting, and if you’re feeling the mindset I’ve described this story having for four paragraphs now, worth the two bucks this book will run you on Comixology, where it makes its home. And I would also be remiss if I didn’t point out that if this is just in the realm of tickle-your-fancy-land that buying the first issue sends some proceeds to Child Help. Obviously by now I’m recommending the book on quality alone, but some good causing never hurt either. Your inner child will be doubly happy you did so, even if he is disappointed that you never really did grow up to be the next Nolan Ryan or whatever he expected. Give the little guy something: buy yourself some MYTH. 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.
BATTLESTAR GALACTICA #1Writers: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Artist: Cezar Razek
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Reviewer: Masked Man
Well, last week I took STAR WARS off my pull list, so I thought I'd replace it with another sci fi of my youth: BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. Nostalgia warning: I grew up on a Cul de sac and at night me and the neighbor kids would 'launch' out of our parent's garages on our bigwheels staring up at the night sky imagining they were Colonial Vipers! I never got into the new show (I'm still stuck at episode 6 in Netflix). I remember Edward James Olmos mentioning when the new show was just about to come out that it was going to be very different from the original, and that if you were a big fan of the original you should probably just steer clear of the new show. So I did. Anyway, Dynamite, much like myself, doesn't believe in a bad licensing property so they got the famous DNA writers to take a whack at the original BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (or is it BAT-TLESTAR GALACTICA, to steal a joke?). First we are treated to another awesome cover by Alex Ross (funny that he did the early STAR WARS covers for Dark Horse too--he's the J.J. Abrams of sci-fi covers!). Inside DNA try their damndest to not make this a set-up issue, so not much info is given to the characters, but the setting is reasonably explained. It jumps quickly to a Cyclon attack, and soon the hook of the story is revealed, then bam--cliff hanger time! Pretty well put together, if perhaps a little too crammed. I usually appreciate comic book pages having no more than five panels, so they can breathe, but in this issue a patented 'George Perez' nine to ten panel page would have been nice. And while I'm glad to see DNA use text boxes, I encourage them to use them to link scenes together as well. Helps prevent all the choppy transitions.
Spoiler time: the big hook of the story is 'temporal weapons' (i.e. weapons that will blast your butt out of time and space!). This is the hallmark of DNA's writing: big cool ideas (though I must confess I often find their execution rather dull). Many characters in the story like to remind us that those weapons were banned for a reason--even Commander Adama, after he sanctioned them. I don't think you can really argue the 'con' side anymore when you signed the 'pro' side into law. This of course is set up as the 'they were banned for a reason' reason happens. The result is a decent enough cliff hanger--not totally cool or completely lame, just decent enough.
Cezar Razek, who drew Dynamite's GALACTICA 1980, remains up to the task of drawing Glen Larson's brain child. His work reminds me of Jeff Moy, a LEGION OF SUPERHEROES artist who made a big splash on the book before it became a revolving door of wtf reboots. His work is clean and well put together, though I feel he has yet to make that last break through, removing all awkwardness of a rookie artist. His likenesses of the actors aren't much to write about, but I can live with that. His Photoshop-cloned starships bug me more. Now, this can work if all the ships are relatively the same size, but if you push them too far back in the background they will all look wispy and overly detailed. Colorist Vinicius Townsend doesn't help matters with his use of outer space photographs as backgrounds. As usual they don't mesh with the drawings, and everything looks like a cheap green screen effect on a bad TV show.
Despite my complaints, the book holds together well and I’m curious to see where DNA takes it. Fans of the original series like myself should totally give BATTLESTAR GALACTICA a try. General sci fi fans might want to wait a moment to see if the book becomes more than just a decent Battlestar book.
Advance review: In stores today!
GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS WEREWOLVES: THE HUNGER #1Writer: Mark L. Miller
Art: Elmer Cantada
Publisher: Zenescope Entertainment
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
Brand…you would never guess how many man-hours, salaries and meetings are connected to this intangible that somehow defines every facet of the tangible world. It should be a fundamental code of DNA that exists without ever being seen, but drives all that is seen. Comic companies try valiantly to live up to this concept, but consumer tastes often force sacrificing brand in favor of kowtowing for cash.
Zenescope is one of those companies that never falters on this fundamental. Love or hate their cheesecake horror resurrections of famous fairy tales, their commitment to their core brand and audience remains as steadfast and unwavering as their characters’ lady bits while jogging.
I offer this marketing 101 lesson so you understand that WEREWOLVES will be best enjoyed if you understand and enjoy the Zenescope brand and the rich history that brand serves. This is not to say the story is bathed in cheesecake; actually there’s almost none with the exception of a vet strangely dressed like she serves Dr. Evil. However, the story is steeped in horror as we witness the collision of Zenescope’s four worlds and their shared prison called the Shadowlands. The werewolves are just one such horror that has been unleashed on our unsuspecting world in this aptly named Unleashed event.
My description of the UNLEASHED parts of this story will mean little to non-Zenescope fans, and they buy all their books anyway so I’ll skip it. What I will focus on is Miller’s cinematic beats of comic book paneling that deliver humanistic moments to capture readers who can’t spout off Zenescope’s four realms by rote.
A drunk, a madwoman, lustful teenagers and a tracker with a vengeance are our narrators through this expository “origin” story. The tracker is Roman Asher, a grizzled iron-clad warrior seeking to lay waste to just one of the werewolves to land in this small wooded town. In Asher we see the human drive of obsession and the need for redemption. The drunk is ancillary, but his teenage daughter he can’t connect to is integral to the story’s forward momentum. He also provides Miller with room to play with his favorite comedic beats of surprise. The lustful teenager is the drunk’s daughter, and quite frankly the most intriguing character of the whole story. I say lustful, but she’s really just a teenager exploring boundaries; her friends, though, are dirty whores getting all their kumbayayas by campfire. As any horror fan will know, this is where the kids meet the werewolf and subsequently become infected. Our last character, the madwoman, is introduced as the town vet; her strange miniskirt Dr. Evil outfit and sociopathic tendencies quickly make you realize she’s going to have something to do with this werewolf infection about to unleashed on the earth. I liked and appropriately loathed each player, a testament to caring for and enjoying Miller’s dialog.
Cantada’s art is…serviceable. There are some up close panels and gory moments that are good. But then there are some panels, the more real moments, that seemed rushed. Honestly, I would have forgiven a little cheese if it meant it was served with Zenesccope’s usual attention to detail. The moments that tried to infuse a little ha-cha-cha like with our dear doctor simply came across as trying too hard. I’ll also warn the inker to either go Marvel black with blood or red, not both.
UNLEASHED, along with the recent Oz announcement, will keep Zenescope fans swimming in expansion beyond the Grimm world, but I entreat non-Zen fans to give Miller a chance. Lycanthropy and horror are two subjects Miller has studied in depth and spread copiously across the internet over the years. WEREWOLVES is a culmination of that knowledge peppered as much as Miller could with his own humor and honesty.
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G
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