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AICN COMICS REVIEWS: WATCHMEN! THE BOUNCE! SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN! THRUD THE BARBARIAN! DAVID BOWIE THE HOBO SLAYER! & MORE!

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

Advance Review: WATCHMEN DELUXE EDITION HARDCOVER GN
OCCUPY COMICS #1
DAREDEVIL #26
Indie Jones presents AMELIA COLE AND THE HIDDEN WAR Vol.1
THE UNWRITTEN #49
Advance Review: X-MEN #1
THE BOUNCE #1
Advance Review: THRUD THE BARBARIAN #1
JUSTICE LEAGUE #20
Indie Jones presents STRANGE ATTRACTORS HARDCOVER GN
SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #10
Advance Review: THE WAKE #1
GREEN LANTERN #20
KILL SHAKESPEARE: THE TIDE OF BLOOD #4
Indie Jones Presents DAVID BOWIE THE HOBO SLAYER Webseries
SCARLET SPIDER #17
HALF PAST DANGER #1
Advance Review: DEATH SENTENCE #1


Advance Review: In stores June 4th!

WATCHMEN DELUXE EDITION HARDCOVER GRAPHIC NOVEL

Writer: Alan Moore
Artist: Dave Gibbons
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche


Whether you should buy this latest rerelease of WATCHMEN really depends on your level of fandom for the source material. WATCHMEN was my very first foray into DC. This book along with DARK KNIGHT RETURNS and CRISIS are tinted with the same Technicolor prism from those years as my first kiss and first writing award – they are a physical tether to an emotional state long forgotten. I learned quickly the value of WATCHMEN both as a game-changer for comics as well as monetarily when I went to my first comic show. There in front of me, this book I paid little more than a dollar for a few weeks prior was now being hocked by balding men with moobs and cheap cologne for 500% more than cover price. I immediately went home, slipped issue 1 into mylar and never opened it again – likewise with issue 2-12 – one read and then into protection. It wasn’t until the TPB came out that I once again traversed this tale – a ritual I would then continue every year after.

My TPB’s of both WATCHMEN and DARK KNIGHT RETURNS twenty years later look like they belonged to a retarded bear. The binding is split, the covers tattered (if there at all) and each page has an indelible moment of carelessness from the story of my life (I even found a dime bag in one of them from back when my long boxes served as the last place my parents would look for anything – little tip, let sleeping weed lie). WATCHMEN not only defied convention, it defined my comic existence. So it is a hearty “hells yes” I give to this deluxe edition for the simple virtue of posterity. The added materials at the end are simply a wonderful, wonderful bonus.

And it’s with these bonuses that I would say there’s value for new readers as well with WATCHMEN DELUXE EDITION. Let me clarify: there’s value to new readers who truly love the history of comics. I understand that these cherub-faced readers have grown in a time when the darkening of the heroic soul is a norm as opposed to exception. I understand they won’t get the cultural resonance of Richard Nixon still in office, the cold war taken to hyperbole or the WOW factor of seeing the psychological damage of being a hero. However, to traverse the bonus material of the WATCHMEN DELUXE EDITION will set anyone straight on how much care and deliberation went into making this a game-changer for the entire industry.

So what is the bonus material I’ve teed up with probably too much exposition? It’s basically the stuff that Millenials will no doubt scoff at in this age of open exposure via Twitter and need for inside content to fill the blog machine for SEM purposes. Back in the day, though, the time before the internet consumed our lives, there were very few venues to peer into the minds of creators. In the time before every facet of the creation process had an indelible digital record, this material was unattainable--and therefore priceless today.

A letter from Gibbons on the thought process behind the then ground-breaking covers. You can see what a grand-master Gibbons was simply by the nominal changes from rough pencils to finished production.
The methodology behind the meticulous patterns of the panel layouts.
The notes that built this slight alternative to actual history on how the world should be changed to fit.
The notes on each character and how the pastiche would be different, the undercurrent of sadness that would result from characters like The Atom or The Question being real people.
A hand written note from Neil Gaiman simply agog at what he had just witnessed in rough cut form.

There’s more…plenty more covers, sketches and insight. Hell, there’s even a page outlying the methodology behind the lettering.

WATCHMEN was a cultural touchstone. Whether it ushered in the Dark Age or was simply a byproduct doesn’t really matter in hindsight; after all, the world changed no matter if this was chicken or egg. What I appreciated was the careful time and deliberation that went into this piece. A painstaking carefulness for every facet that seems lost in today’s churn and burn to beat the competition on quantity versus quality. WATCHMEN: THE DELUXE EDITION is a harkening back to a heyday we probably won’t see again, at least not in the form in once took. If you’ve never read WATCHMEN, this is an indelible and cost-effective way to do so. If you love WATCHMEN and comics like I do, this is probably the deepest dive one can take.

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.


OCCUPY COMICS #1

Contributors: 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 Studios
Reviewer: MajinFu


Almost two and a half years since its inception, Occupy Wall Street now has its own comic to continue the practice of social influence. Kickstarter-funded, published by a relatively new independent comics press, and created by a wide array of creators from to Alan Moore to Amanda Palmer, OCCUPY COMICS is intended to perpetuate the dialogue initiated on Wall Street by the 99%.

While Occupy Wall Street had a brief window of exposure from the media two years ago, abuse of power has been around since people have accompanied words with pictures, as ably exhibited in OCCUPY COMICS #1. “Exploitation: Our Noble Tradition” by Douglas Rushkoff and Dean Haspiel is simply composed of four panels, labeled “Ancient Egypt,” “The Renaissance,” “The Industrial Age,” and “The Digital Age.” Each time period is accompanied with advances in graphic storytelling and visual design. Whether it was Egyptian hieroglyphics or the advance from physical press to the internet, visual storytelling has always been a means of communicating repression. The simple premise really drives home the legacy of oppression around the globe.

People have been engaging in civil disobedience as long as they’ve been civilized, but since history is almost always written by the victor, you hardly hear all of the details. “Homestead” by Joshua Fialkov and Joesph Infurnari addresses this point. The tragedy detailed in rough but expressive illustration depicts strikers as martyrs calling them “soldiers for the American Dream.”

But what is the American dream, if not integration into an institution? Or maybe it’s just about having the ability to freely pursue a happy life. “That Which is Most Needed” is J.M. DeMatteis’ personal assessment of the public’s reaction to Occupy Wall Street, urging readers towards kindness while subtly portraying himself as one of the 99%. The piece is less political as much as it gradually becomes personal, the underlying message that we are all people who would like to be understood, or at least respected. It’s a nice sentiment, aptly illustrated by Mike Cavallaro, and ironically debated in later pages of this very issue.

Pieces like “Clever” by Ben Templesmith go in the opposite direction, dehumanizing the 1% as devious manipulators of high finance, while “Casino Nation” offers a list of names accountable for the national debt and unjustified redistribution of wealth. I haven’t seen Joshua Dysart’s name in a comic since the end of his Ugandan-set UNKNOWN SOLDIER all those years ago (nearly 4 years before all that “STOP KONY” nonsense) but it’s nice seeing him continue down the road of actual activism via education in comics. Speaking of activism, “Citizen Journalist” is perhaps one of the anthology’s strongest short stories, depicting a young woman driven to relay the truth. Knowledge is power!

However, unless you count autobiographies like Harvey Pekar’s graphic memoirs or the journalism of Joe Sacco, non-fiction scarcely seems to be very prevalent in the comics industry. Maybe that’s what makes “Buster Brown at the Barricades, parts 1&2” such a good read. Essays in comics are nothing new, but the topic Moore covers (comics as “counter-culture”) along with a nice array of illustrations from some of comics’ more obscure history essentially makes this the book’s anchor, and essential reading for any comics history enthusiasts.

From there, OCCUPY COMICS editor Matt Pizzolo and illustrator Ayhan Hayrula take this journalistic approach to the next level by targeting news anchors of the mainstream media as part of the 1%, which seemed obvious since the first week of the OWS when most television news networks weren’t even covering the proceedings. Still, this piece entitled “Channel 1%” does a much better job of acknowledging the humanity of these people than some of the other comics.

While my last review praised the work’s singular vision, comics will continue to thrive on a collaborative level, especially in addressing a broad topic like Occupy Wall Street. Comics as an institution will always benefit from a wealth of unique perspectives and respective styles. This issue’s cartoons by Matt Bors played as much an essential role in depicting the wider spectrum of reactions to Occupy Wall Street as Ronald Wimberly’s abstract “Occupy Shadows.” The pinups in this issue are also a nice bonus, from Molly Crabapple’s optimistic propaganda banner to David Lloyd’s V battling the Wall Street Bull…very nice. Art Spiegelman and Guy Denning’s illustrations were also remarkably assertive without saying much. The lack of cohesion between pieces gives this comic more texture and adds to the reality of differing opinions. Like the protestors that occupied Wall Street, not everyone agrees on why they’re there, and it’s refreshing to see this acknowledged so neatly, as you still get this intangible sense of camaraderie while reading the book.

All these pieces are combined with the express purpose of maintaining the ongoing dialog that began with Occupy Wall Street, discussions about the game we collectively refer to as life and its ongoing dichotomy with our global economy. Matt Pizzolo called OWS an “art-inspired movement” in one interview, so it makes sense that this movement would continue in the form of art. Proceeds from the book are not donated to charity (since Kickstarter isn’t allowed to raise funds for charities) but ALL of the book’s creators have vowed to donate all proceeds to the OWS Movement. So if you support Occupy Wall Street or like the idea behind the movement, this is a good way to sustain their cause. Regardless of where you stand on the distribution of wealth ratio, OCCUPY COMICS prospers from a rich array of perspectives concerning economic disparity and social unrest and that at least deserves a look.


DAREDEVIL #26

Writer: Mark Waid
Art: Chris Samnee
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Mad Mercutio


Just so you know, this is a very spoilerific review. So someone has been tormenting Matt Murdock/Daredevil for quite a while now. Someone has sent assassins and played mind games with the Man Without Fear for quite a while now, and it is in this issue that we finally see who it is.

There really shouldn’t be much of a surprise who it would end up being. Batman has his Joker. Superman has his Lex Luthor. Spider-Man has his…his…Marvel writers and editors (ohhhhhhhh, snap! Just kidding). And Daredevil has his Bullseye. In this book you will find a creative way to present this old villain. Bullseye, from wounds (death?) that he received during “Shadowland” is basically immobile. He has to have a special apparatus to communicate, but he is still tormenting the Man Without Fear from the sidelines and really appears to be doing a great job of it. I’ve always thought of him as a great foil for Daredevil, but I never really envisioned him as a master planner. It seems to me that Mark Waid has tried for a little character development here. Bullseye’s main resources are gone, so he has to depend on his mind. Pretty ingenious. Some of it felt a little cheesy and forced, such as Foggy telling Matt to fight or the idea of the “Bullseye” graphic organizer that led to the big villain reveal, but it was good cheese. Mark Waid has been writing this series from the get go, and I’ll keep buying it as long as he is writing it.

Since the series began over two years ago, the art has remained consistently great. Full and rich coloring really makes the pages pop out at you. I don’t know if Waid requested this type of art or if it is an editorial decision, but the pairing of this kind of pop art with a character like Daredevil really makes the book feel different than all the doom and gloom of the previous series. There is not a month that this book comes out that I can’t find a favorite panel or page of comic art.

By the way, I may be totally crazy, but isn’t Daredevil running on clothes that spell out “Daredevil?” What a creative subtle little twist to the cover. The fact that it almost looks like some kind of Captain Planet shirt making the first D is just icing on the cake. The Captain Planet shirt is probably just a coincidence, but the Daredevil laundry took some extra thought. You’ve got to appreciate that.


AMELIA COLE AND THE HIDDEN WAR Vol.1

Writer: Adam P. Knave and D.J. Kirkbride
Illustrator: Nick Brokenshire
Publisher: Monkeybrain Comics
Reviewer: Mr. Pasty


Fans of AMELIA COLE AND THE UNKNOWN WORLD will be pleased to know their favorite twenty-something mage is back with what writer Adam P. Knave calls her “eight-foot trash golem” named Lemmy. Known as the “protector,” together, they are charged with keeping the city's peace. And what would a mage be without a cool wand? Amelia happens to have a wrench, which I suppose can qualify for a wand, and I'm not lost on the fact that a publisher named Monkeybrain has a monkey wrench as its leading weapon. But then again, that's the kind of comic you're getting yourself into when you jump into HIDDEN WAR. It probably helps to have first read THE UNKNOWN WORLD, but in a previous interview Knave insists it's not required (but does issue a disclaimer right out of the gate). I went in cold to gauge the learning curve, then circled back to the first volume, and I don't think the story suffers much without familiarizing yourself. What does suffer is the charm.

AMELIA is a fun, quirky character and there's a nice balance in the narrative as it switches back and forth between the former protector, who is now part of an army that fights all kinds of dastardly creatures. Unfortunately, I didn't really care much about what was going on because the little complexities of the protagonists, previously fleshed out in UNKNOWN WORLD, were lost on me. The big action sequence in this issue featured a giant dog versus a comparably giant Lemmy, who went all Apache Chief thanks to an assist from the magic wrench. Following the ordeal, Amelia gets read the riot act from her boss for leveling half the city, just like every other loose cannon cop story, but it has a certain endearing quality to it. Artist Nick Brokenshire does a nice job of matching the tone with his light-hearted pencils, equally complemented by Ruiz Moreno's colors.

Would I recommend AMELIA? Well, if you're not interested in doing your homework, then probably not. However, if anything I described above sounds appealing to you, or perhaps a younger comic book reader you know, then it's actually an entertaining book. Knave previously made references to HARRY POTTER and I think it's a fair comparison, but a bit lighter and with a little more spunk.

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.


THE UNWRITTEN #49

Writer: Mike Carey
Artist: Peter Gross
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee


I’ve long said while doing this reviewing gig that usually it’s the best and most consistent comics that always get the coverage shaft because, well, they’re really good and consistently so. That’s why, every once in a while, it’s necessary to remember to remind everyone that said book is still fantastic, if for no other reason than to stand in solidarity saying “fuck yeah it is!” but also to remind the uninitiated that they’re still sadly, horribly uninitiated. Just shy of a milestone 50th issue (well, technically there’s more than that due to the point-five issues, but anyway) and Mike Carey and Peter Gross really unloaded with this issue, both as a culmination of what they have done so far with THE UNWRITTEN and as a warning shot that we’re probably winding up for the finale. And if there was ever an issue to really promote what the essence of this title is, it was this one.

What makes this issue really just hit the right spot is how it – to live up to my Native American name of “States the Obvious” – is very much a Carey and Gross joint. Never mind the elements of extreme fantastical that are what makes this book tick, but a lot of the human element shines through in this issue even as things get highly metaphorical. The animosity Tom Taylor and Lizzie Hexam feel toward Tom’s father and how he manipulated/molded them into what they are – and ditto for foul-mouthed Pauly the Rabbit – absolutely permeates through the panels in this issue. There are more daddy issues in THE UNWRITTEN than in any strip club in the world, but it’s a great, personable grounding plot point for such a fantastical tale. That animosity is just one of the big roils of emotion running wild in this issue, and it really makes for a magnetic story partly because of how all of it envelops the reader.

The central aspect of this story’s fantasy elements is still largely in play, of course, and I really love how everything has melded at this point. I think it’s a great turn how evil personate in the form of Pullman really has taken on the form of evil personate, as he’s become the Devil of the Leviathan. I think it’s a great turn of events that Tom and Lizzie’s relationship has turned into the tale of Orpheus to free the gang and send Tommy further on his journey to fix the worlds. And I think it’s great that such a bastard character like Pauly keeps getting written into the middle of all these big situations that should be beyond him, because you want to hate him for being a letch but you want to love him for his foul-mouthed, don’t give a shit attitude. It’s all about balance with this story, or really any of these Mike Carey epics; there might be some absolutely larger than life and fantasy overarching plot but he never forgets to humanize everything with emotions such as love, loyalty, hostility just as there’s always a smattering of humor about, even if it is rather raucous.

Sadly, the other downside to the consistency of a book of this quality is that you tend to not only take it for granted on a month to month basis, but eventually it has to come to an end, and that is always a creeping revelation. This definitely feels like that last corner has been turned, even if we are going to spend some time crossing over with pretty much the only two books Vertigo has going right now (another turned corner that is depressing to contemplate). It’s a great foot to put forward to start that last journey leg, though. It can only bring some lightness to the downer note this book leaves on as Tom and Lizzie get separated just as quickly as they came back together. Plus we’re getting a Vertigo crossover!! How cool is that? It’s just another inspired little spark of ingenuity from a creative team that has brought no end of them for over a decade now between this book and the classic that was their LUCIFER run as well. Love all those little electro bolts and THE UNWRITTEN for all they’re worth while they’re still here, because we may not know how they end, just that they do. I’m sure it’ll be spectacular, as always. 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 this week!

X-MEN #1

Writer: Brian Wood
Art: Olivier Coipel
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Ambush Bug


Simply put; I’m not the target demographic for this comic.

It’s not a bad comic. It’s got some decent action and the characters, both familiar and unfamiliar, are capably characterized. The art is OK and the cover is pretty. Plus it focuses on some sassy, sexy ladies, which is always pretty cool to read. But the thing is, as much as I try with every new X-Book, I’m just not a mutant kind of guy any more.

There are days when I ask myself why I’m not a mutant guy anymore. Some might say that as I’ve grown older, the metaphor of puberty which is reflected in the mutant’s struggle to deal with the emergence and mastery of some kind of mutant power just doesn’t seem as fresh a concept anymore. That once I got hair on my chest and nethers, the transformation simply ceased to be all that interesting. And maybe that’s the case here. Maybe, but I don’t think that’s it. Looking at some of the other comics I love, I understand that I still love a good story of change. All stories are about change; that rite of passage—that evolution. You have your hero, a change occurs, the hero deals with that change. It’s as basic a story can get.

No, I think the main thing that made me give up my mutant reading ways was that I read the X-Men at a time when the stories mattered. When you picked up a number one X-comic and it felt like you were reading this character’s story and that this story was THE story that mattered, not the twentieth time this character has showed up this month. One look at the last page of this book, listing the fourteen other X-Books out there starring these exact same characters in one formation or another made any spark I had reading this issue fizzle to nil.

Sure, this issue stars some of my favorite female X-Men. Storm is front and center in the panels, though there’s little she does in this issue save for flap her Mohawk in the breeze. Rogue spouts a line stating that because of a male mutant’s power, she will be able to catch up to a speeding train (a particularly un-feminist statement coming from a comic which is supposed to be a Grrrl power team book). Jubilee is given the most to do, finding a baby and trying to bring it to the mansion for sanctuary but still, the character lacks the pluck and vigor I remember from when she first used to team up with Wolverine. Psylocke stands like a stump. Some redhead who is not identified in this issue and I can only assume is one version of Rachel Summers acts tough and all psychic sitting behind a desk, but maybe since this was a first issue, we can at least have her name mentioned. And I’m sorry but when Kitty Pryde (arguably the most relatable X-Man) spouts “OMG!” she becomes anything but in my book.

Maybe my old man shorts, black socks, and sandals combo is showing here. Maybe this is what all of you cool kids have been clamoring for, yet another X-MEN book to pile right next to the fourteen other X-Books you get every month simply because Marvel doesn’t put out fifteen. I don’t know. I just feel like the concept of the X-Men is completed lost. Sure there are the rare gems. People say Bendis is parting the seas off of Muir Island and turning water into Shi’ar Soda with his BACK TO THE FUTURE riff. And making Wolverine into Howard Hesseman from HEAD OF THE CLASS (another reference which will most likely date me) in WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN is getting all of the clamor and then some. But I won’t know because since as long as I remember the X-Books have been spread as thin as Charles Xavier’s hairline and yet another one, this time focusing on the lovely ladies of X, just isn’t the thing that’ll bring me back into the School For Gifted Youngsters.


THE BOUNCE #1

Writer: Joe Casey
Artist: David Messina
Publisher: Image Comics
Reviewer: BottleImp


Well, I’ll say this for THE BOUNCE—it’s not every superhero comic that opens with a splash page of its titular hero taking a bong hit.

With this introduction Joe Casey and David Messina throw the reader right into the middle of a roiling stew of characters and ideas. This is most definitely not the run-of-the-mill spandex & cape kind of comic, nor, thankfully, is it the latest in the seemingly endless parade of variations on established comic book icons. Yes, there are costumed heroes and villains beating the crap out of each other. And yes, there is a harried law enforcement official whose duty is to curb this new costumed vigilantism. But Casey weaves his superhero universe with threads that bring new color to the tired tropes. THE BOUNCE is given a definite sci-fi spin with the appearance of a Stargate-like machine designed to open up doorways to other realms of reality. Likewise, the altering of one’s reality through chemical means appears to be a major crux of this series, bridging the gap between superheroics and speculative fiction from the “New Wave” SF all the way back to Aldous Huxley.

It’s a lot for a reader to be immersed in right at the start of a new series, but that’s what gives THE BOUNCE its hook. In a publication landscape built upon decades and decades of continuity, the faintest glimmer of new ideas is always welcome, and I’m more than happy to accept some (hopefully) temporary confusion in lieu of boring familiarity. The real test will be seeing if Casey can maintain this sense of newness as he reveals more of his new universe.

The artwork is a great complement to the writing. Messina’s style combines the best of comic book “realism”—think Tony Harris, but a little less angular—with a sleek superhero style that manages to marry the multiple elements of the storyline into a cohesive, believable whole. It looks like the next issue will feature the superheroic element a little more prominently; I’m interested to see how Messina’s style will work with that.

There’s only one drawback I can see with this series so far: the hero’s name is The Bounce, and the one villain we’ve seen so far is called The Crunch. If that’s the best Casey can do, then we’ve truly hit the bottom of the comic book character name department.

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.


Advance Review: In stores September!

THRUD THE BARBARIAN #1

Writer & Artist: Carl Critchlow
Publisher: Titan Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche


I hate all things CONAN. Comics, movies, it doesn’t matter; there’s never been one ounce of the mythos I’ve ever found intriguing. The only Conan I like has red hair and a heaping case of enabling self-deprecation. It turns out, though, I don’t hate barbarians. Especially when that barbarian makes satirical deep scathing cuts into the tropes that have often bored me. THRUD THE BARBARIAN is a complete tongue and cheek farce that never once takes itself seriously. There’s no morality, no search for redemption and the only quest is to see how many heads need to get chopped off to gain access to a deep brew grog.

I honestly thought I would grow weary during this 142 page homage to might and magic, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Whoever wrote the rule that things are funnier in threes has never read THRUD (or seen an episode of FAMILY GUY). Each time there’s an overly complex situation where one thinks guile and cunning are in order – THWAP – off goes the head of the troublemaker trying to make things more complicated than they need to be.

Middle Earth is the staging ground for adventure—well, at least a reasonable representation of Middle Earth, that is. Through the book’s five chapters THRUD traverses the highest snowy peaks to the bowels of fiery volcanoes and all points in between. This change of locale is important, since THRUD’s modus operandi of hit hard and drink beer remains forever steadfast and unwavering. Equally important to the change of locale is how Critchlow infused story elements from the days of barbarians all the way through the Knights of the Round Table – there’s also a little gnomish-like steampunk going on to ensure coverage of all geek bases. In each tale there is always someone in trouble, a villain that needs to be vanquished and copious amounts of heads ripped off to solve the problem. Don’t get me wrong, though--each head that is ripped off is done so in a delightful and amusing manner. One may be a sorcerer, the other a king, but in all cases things always work out in the end – well, at least for THRUD.

Critchlow has a unique artistic style that can best be described as scratch-fantasy. Every panel is detailed, but it’s also ugly and visceral. There’s a cartoony element to THRUD that never transcends to cute or heavily juxtaposed to the carnage. It’s all very very hard to explain, but once you see it you’ll decry how perfect it is in tonality! This collected edition also comes with some fun bonus material. If you’re going to collect a book you better damn well have extras – thank you for respecting that, Titan. While THRUD is the antidote for the brooding barbarian, I think fans of the uhhhh…barbarian…genre will delight in seeing their fandom through hyperbole. I know I’m always first in line to pick up anything that flambees my favorite genre of sci fi. Give THRUD a chance – even if you’re a barbarian hater as a comic fan, you will appreciate what Critchlow has accomplished.


JUSTICE LEAGUE #20

Writer: Geoff Johns
Artists: Zander Cannon, Gene Ha, Andres Guinaldo and Joe Prado
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man


The Justice League gang presents “Despero's Revenge!”- more like Despero's short-lived revenge (more on that later). Actually, the important thing about this issue is, it moves us closer to the Trinity War. This is done by revealing The Atom is actually a spy for the Justice League America. Despite not going on a single mission with the JL, apparently she knows more about them than Steve Trevor (go fig). We also get more of Batman’s contingency plans. It seems the shadowy secret society of supervillains was behind stealing the kryptonite. Now, why this all plays a part in the Trinity War is still a mystery.

Less than two months to go, and what do we really know about it? Who are the good guys, who are the bad guys? What's the story, or at least the point of the story? No idea; in all it feels like another case of Geoff Johns playing hide the plot. Whenever Johns is working on a big event, he likes to wait until the second to the last issue to actually explain what the story is. I suppose I shouldn't complain, because clearly it works. Nothing sells comics like an ill-defined plot. Ok, to be fair, it hasn't started yet, but the MAN OF STEEL movie isn't out either but at least we have an idea of who the bad guy is and what he wants--two things we don't know about the Trinity War.

The two things we do know: the government is setting up plans to take down the Justice League and villains are using Batman's contingency plans against the League. Two concepts seemingly handled better elsewhere: Bruce Timm and company's JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED (the cartoon), Project Cadmus; And Mark Waid's JLA “Tower of Babel”. I apologize for having read something before the New 52. Still, it does make me curious. We know it will sell like hotcakes, but why? Just to watch JL, JLD and JLA fight each other, regardless of the reasons why?

Ok, let's talk about Despero, the big villain of this issue. I'll confess I'm a big Despero fan. To me, he's to the Justice League what Dr. Doom is to the Fantastic Four, or Joker to Batman. He's their #1 villain. Back in 2002, Johns and David Goyer wrote an awesome graphic novel with Despero, JLA/JSA: VIRTUE AND VICE. His next Despero story wasn't as impressive. It was in JLA #119. After an awesome build up, Despero is defeated by a single word from Zatanna--no big deal. This issue, Despero is again showing what a tough guy he is, only to be defeated by the Martian Manhunter snapping his fingers. Nothing says kick @$$ drama like an easily defeated villain. So yeah, Despero's revenge? No big deal.

Artwork-wise, this issue is a crazy quilt. As you can tell by the credits, too many cooks in the kitchen. There might be a nice panel or two, but it doesn't really do more than make the whole comic seem messy.

So three issues after the really good “Throne of Atlantis” storyline, and JUSTICE LEAGUE is back to being mismanaged and uninteresting. I'm still trying to figure out how The Atom was spying on Element Girl when she was buying hamburgers, when last issue Atom was hanging out with Firestorm getting attacked by Despero. I assume she wasn't, but with the text boxes it's hard to tell. Mismanaged.

The SHAZAM back-up was decent enough. The finer details of Black Adam's origin are revealed in a rather obvious switcheroo, and I'm curious why if you want to hit someone with your car you honk at them first, letting them know.

Learn more about the Masked Man and feel free check out his comic book CINDY LI: THREE OF A KIND at www.Toonocity.com


STRANGE ATTRACTORS HARDCOVER GRAPHIC NOVEL

Writer: Charles Soule
Art: Greg Scott
Publisher: Archaia Entertainment
Reviewer: Ambush Bug


I was a fan of the FOX show TOUCH where Kiefer Sutherland’s little kid was able to see patterns and formulas in everyday occurrences. There are some similarities between that now cancelled show and STRANGE ATTRACTORS, a new hardcover graphic novel from Archaia and SWAMP THING writer Charles Soule. My interview with Soule about this book is coming soon. At the time of the interview, I didn’t know anything about the book, but the more Soule passionately talked about this book being a love letter to his home city of New York, the more I wanted to check it out.

After reading the book, I understand a little bit why Soule was so passionate about this book which might be a hard sell at first for those who like their action stars clad head to toe in a unitard. But if you’re interested in theories of connectivity, conspiracy, and the search for some kind of sense in the chaos that is life (and who isn’t), STRANGE ATTRACTORS might be a book that will surprise you.

First off, this is a gorgeous read. Archaia always puts out the best looking graphic novels and this is yet another one. The cover, designed by artist Greg Scott, is simple, and my only criticism of this book is that it doesn’t really stand out as an eye catcher for the amazing story inside. The story is a fascinating one though. Heller doesn’t see the connections at first, but as he decides to put himself under the tutelage of the aged Dr. Brownfeld, and as he is developing his doctoral thesis, he starts to see the city in a whole new way. Soule riffs on THE KARATE KID as Brownfeld instructs Heller along giving him menial and bizarre acts like spilling a gallon of paint on a certain section of sidewalk or placing ice cream comes in a specific area in the park. But soon Heller sees a method to Brownfeld’s madness. These so called random actions have purpose and as a ripple in a pond eventually affects the rock at the other side, so do these seemingly small actions. Heller finds out that the city is on a cycle and close to the brink of chaos that it can’t return from and once he has this knowledge, the quest to prevent that destruction becomes all important.

But aside from the theoretical mumbo-jimbo-jambo-jumbo, Soule shines here with his comfortable dialog and likable characters. This story practically plays out itself in front of you, making the pages of this massive read whiz by as the conversations feel natural and easy to consume. Soule’s words are only strengthened by Scott’s imagery which is rock solid throughout, yet sketchy in intentional places to make you feel as if the whole thing could crumble in seconds. These panels are especially evident in the panels with Brownfeld, whose age is reflected in those jagged lineworks.

In a pre-9-11 world, this story would have been an interesting story about an eccentric man and a fun exploration of theories some of which I only barely understand. But since this is post-9-11, one can’t help but read this story as a cautionary fable asking theoretical questions about what could be done to stop a disaster. This isn’t about conspiracies as to whether the government at the time knew about the attacks. It’s more of a philosophical look at what we all do in our day to day lives and how we all contribute to the world around us. It’s about pulling our head out of a computer or TV long enough to notice the world in need around us and making a concerted effort to make the world around us a better place. And that’s a concept I can surely get behind.

STRANGE ATTRACTORS is one of those hardcover graphic novels which one might look right past on the shelf. It’s not a flashy book. Nor is it the type of title that’s going to hypnotize the spandex set to check it out. What it is—is a subtle read, something that sneaks up on you and resonates like the small ripples created in the minor actions in the story that end up either saving lives or toppling skyscrapers. I give STRANGE ATTRACTORS my highest recommendation. It’s a compelling and fascinating dissection of a theory that may or may not exist and an entertaining story about a man who is trying to make sense of it all as the world crumbles around him.

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.


SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #10

Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Ryan Stegman
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Mighty Mouth


After eradicating any lingering traces of Peter Parker, Octavius is now totally free to do what he will with his new life as Spider-Man.

Slott starts the ball rolling with some spectacular action as Spider-Otto interferes with a gang war between the Owl and White Dragon before getting to the real meat of this issue: the subplots. It seems one of Spider-Man’s major mischief-makers is preparing some serious waves for the wall-crawler, and what better place to start than with his supporting cast? Then there is the issue of Otto no longer being able to access the Parker persona. Let’s just say that those who are near and dear to Peter are already taking notice of his more erratic than usual behavior.

This issue gives readers just the slightest of nuggets as to where Slott may be ultimately taking his tale. Admittedly, I had my doubts after closing the final pages of AMAZING #700. Nevertheless, it was only a few issues in to SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN that I felt I understood Slott’s motivations for telling this tale, and I can’t wait to see how it all unfolds. Mark my words: Slott is weaving a tale that will go down in comic history.

SUPERIOR’s regular artist Ryan Stegman delivers more of the same brilliant art that blends impeccably with Slott’s scribing. There appears to be a rotation of artists who lent their skills to this title over the past ten issues, but I must say it’s Stegman’s talent that I look forward to the most. Not only is his storytelling clean and consistent, his ability to render Peter in a way that feels familiar yet dissimilar at once gives the character just the right touch for such a story as this.

SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #10 in some ways kicks off a brand new day for Otto Octavius. It functions equally well as jumping on point for new readers while continuing the story in a modified direction for the series regulars. This issue sets the wheels in motion for the next major story arc, but it’s the developments and subtle changes in direction that make this issue worth the read. How long will Otto be able to keep up his façade, now that Peter’s memories and temperament are no longer at his disposal?

Ock’s victory in the pages of SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #9 (which pissed off a lot of fans) may just be the thing that comes back to bite him in the ass. It’s funny: you’d think a genius doctor (even an evil one) would be able to deduce the meaning of the old cliché--you can’t have your cake and eat it too.


Advance Review: In stores this week!

THE WAKE #1

Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Sean Murphy
Publisher: DC Vertigo
Reviewer: Optimous Douche


I’m not a mermaid, I’m a Mer-Man!” – ZOOLANDER

I apologize now for donkey punching the spoiler of THE WAKE while you weren’t looking, but there are those who prefer immediate gratification and I felt a long heady piece in me when I conjured my original first paragraph. At the center of THE WAKE is sentient life from the sea. Now, that’s the surface - the sea foam that slathers the book. The joy in THE WAKE is deeper than the fathoms traversed to meet the humanity’s first alien life form. That is, if it’s actually an “alien.” More on that in a second.

I guess I’m obliged to say this is a great book, but anyone who has read Snyder’s pantheon of titles and books like Murphy’s PUNK ROCK JESUS will know that even if the concept is lackluster it will still be a great book with these two on it. Honestly, both of these guys would have to have a stroke and eat a bag-o-roofies to conjure crap, and even then there would still be a few panels of genius. But THE WAKE is a cool concept that goes beyond a Mer-Man and is simply another sterling example of Snyder’s versatility. While he has a leaning towards horror, his ability to mute it for all age books like BATMAN and then ratchet things back up to adult level in books like AMERICAN VAMPIRE and now THE WAKE makes every book a surprise. Some writers can be good, but they are trapped by their own tone. Snyder’s only constraint is a lust for research; he lets the characters set the tone. THE WAKE is the perfect culmination of these two tenets and as a result provides a different experience than any other Snyder book.

It helps that THE WAKE isn’t straight horror. It’s a meld of horror, mystery, sci fi and post-apocalyptic goodness – almost an amalgam of the entire Vertigo brand rolled into one. The main characters of THE WAKE are going to leave you scratching your head, especially the contestant behind door #3. But I think that’s kind of the point. Though each lives in their own time period--the present, 200 years from now and one hundred thousand years ago – each is intertwined after only a few pages. Snyder also unfolds THE WAKE in a non-linear fashion, making each clue about the Mer-Man’s existence relate back to pages you just read, and has a far-reaching scope that affects the entire world from years before and for years to come.

We open in the future, where a wind rider glides across a flooded city. She has a pet dolphin that was assimilated by the Borg that’s helping her look for…something. We then move to the brunt of the story in present day, where we meet our other heroine, Lee Archer, a woman who cares more about studying whale song than spending time with her son. Archer is contracted (read as involuntarily drafter) by the NSA to join a team that consists of a mythologist, a man of mystery and her former boss at NOAA to meet our Mer-Man…sing it with me now…unda da sea. Character 3, our head scratcher, is a caveman from a hundred thousand years ago who scribbles on a cave wall and then gouges out his eyes with a piece of tech way more than advanced than anything we would have a hundred thousand years from now. Confused? It’s OK, I’m not Snyder and his characterization does a hell of a lot of grounding to make these high level concepts grounded and relatable.

Murphy crushes it on pencils; his ability to create such unique faces and shapes given how “scratchy” his lines are is simply amazing. It’s not easy to convey water, especially so many shots under the waterline, but he does it and does it well. There’s also terrific use of scope in this book: from the broad open waters to the confines of submarines, there’s a juxtaposition that makes the scary moments even scarier.

About six years ago I predicted that Geoff Johns would be placed in an editorial position at DC. Actually, it was more of a request, but we’ll call it a prediction. I’m now making the same soothsaying statement about Snyder: THE WAKE proves to me that Vertigo’s next Karen Berger is sitting in the DC office already. He simply needs to spend a little less time with capes. Get THE WAKE and show Vertigo we still love her, because she damn well deserves it.


GREEN LANTERN #20

Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: Doug Mahnke
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: The Writing Rambler


Though some time was wasted getting there, we have reached the finale of a near decade-long run for Geoff Johns as writer of GREEN LANTERN. This 20th issue of the current incarnation of the flagship series says goodbye to the writer/current DC Entertainment CCO, and while there are some moments that we’ve seen done before, in the end Johns reminds us just how much as a fan we should appreciate what he has done with GREEN LANTERN. Despite the hefty “double sized” price tag of $7.99, GREEN LANTERN 20 is a fitting end to his run on the book and leaves the series with a well-crafted goal to head towards in the years to come.

The story opens in the future, assuring us from the start that the Green Lantern Corps will continue on into a new generation and grow beyond our current favorites of Hal, John, Guy and Kyle. We see a newly christened Lantern asking to hear the tale of Hal Jordan, and after a short recap of the stories that have encompassed John’s career we’re taken back into our current story of The Wrath of the First Lantern. For me, this is where it could have all derailed and for several pages I thought it did. There’s not much to the overall finale of the First Lantern story that we haven’t seen already. In many ways, as fans of Green Lantern, we have been spoiled with these huge, blockbuster movie-style endings to events where every color Corps shows up and all hell breaks loose before the threat is resolved in one grand fashion or another. It’s a ton of fun, but at this point it’s nothing we don’t expect, so it is hard to be blown away when this is the resolution we get. As the main story ends we do get a very cool moment that I was not expecting where Sinestro channels his inner Ozymandias, and some good exchanges between Sinestro and Hal that perfectly sum up their relationship. As the First Lantern story ends, we’re left with the sense that the Green Lantern universe is in working order and ready to be taken over by new writer Robert Venditti and artist Billy Tan.

With everything ending in typical Johns event fashion, the reader is definitely left with the feeling of ”That’s it?” Luckily, Johns clearly knew this and gives us a 10 page epilogue detailing the future of all of the current mainstays in the Green Lantern universe. These 10 pages are what I was waiting for. They are simple enough, but as a fan they made you happy to be able to actually see “how it all ends”. What works here is Johns gives a true finale to his work on GREEN LANTERN but leaves plenty of room for new writers and artists to create in the world he has left behind.

Speaking of artists, it would be a crime to not give Doug Mahnke his proper credit for this series’ success as well. Since 2009 Mahnke has provided the visuals for this series and has brought to life Johns’ ideas in ways that have truly brought the stories to epic levels. All of those blockbuster movie-style endings I mentioned would not have been possible without Mahnke’s impressive work. Through his beautiful artwork he has given these characters personality, strength and emotion and his work will truly be missed on this series.

Not everyone likes what Johns brought to GREEN LANTERN throughout his tenure with the book, but it’s hard to not look back and stand in awe of how much depth he has added to GREEN LANTERN in this time. Johns resurrected this series with REBIRTH, and over the span of almost 10 years brought GREEN LANTERN to levels of respect and popularity that were only ever reserved for Superman and Batman in the DCU. Go to any comic book convention or show, and if the sheer amount of different color Lantern Corps shirts you see in a crowd (a fact Johns himself mentions in his goodbye on the last page of the issue) at any time doesn’t convey to you the type of impact Johns has had on the comic book world then you’re probably just refusing to acknowledge how great his achievements have been. Not everything he has done has been great; I didn’t particularly care for “Brightest Day” and even this last storyline seemed dragged out despite my enjoyment of this final issue. These issues aside, Johns’ run on GREEN LANTERN must be remembered for what it brought as a whole to the character, and for that he will continue to have my respect.

You can follow The Writing Rambler on his blog here and follow on Twitter @Writing_Rambler !


KILL SHAKESPEARE: THE TIDE OF BLOOD #4

Writers: Conor McCreery, Anthony Del Col
Artist: Andy Belanger
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Reviewer: Lyzard


If I may borrow a line from good ol’ Tybalt, “Romeo, the hate I bear thee can afford no better term than this: thou art a villain!” While Hamlet’s brain is preoccupied being Prospero’s stress ball (trust me, it makes sense when you see one of Belanger’s most epic, disturbing, and creative drawings) and Juliet is lost in the wild, Romeo has become the most likely candidate for hero of the day--except for the fact that Lady Mac has twisted his mind (figuratively, not epically like Prospero to Hamlet’s) so much so that the Montague has begun to reflect Tybalt’s accusation.

Amidst the plotline I grew weary of from issue #1, we at least still have villains of true terror and a heroine that has fared much better than our heroes. Both these storylines feature what is lacking with Romeo: tension. I am not in suspense about whether or not he will come to his senses. Either way, I hope he gets slapped in the end. But I do care about what happens to our courageous Capulet, and I do want to see how Prospero, Miranda, and Lady Macbeth’s heinous plot fairs.

For all the whining that passes Romeo’s lips, McCreery and Del Col have brought back the wit that I so loved from the first run of KILL SHAKESPEARE. The dialogue of both series has skirted the line between the Bard’s tongue and knock-off Elizabethan. As of recent, the issues have leaned too far towards fidelity, at the cost of pacing and clarity. In “Lovers and Madmen,” the duo has strayed yet again from the line--this time in the opposite direction, this time effectively. Will truly becomes the jester he falsely portrayed in the third issue. For example, the writers have re-worked an idiom created by Shakespeare and (like much of his wording) still popular today, into their own wry humor. “I have always gone wild for a good goose chase” is the type of wordplay that exhibits a third option: faithful and yet original.

The second issue of KILL SHAKESPEARE: THE TIDE OF BLOOD featured Andy Belanger’s mirroring of Dave Gibbon’s WATCHMEN style. An impressive feat, but now in the fourth issue Belanger brings the same quality of work on his own terms. While the first run featured bold linework and a traditional action comic book style, TIDE OF BLOOD is rough and abstract. The twisted magic of the island is reflected in the distinctive drawings.

Just as Belanger’s work has taken on a life of its own, so has KILL SHAKESPEARE. No longer is it a series wrestling with in-jokes for the theatrically inclined and accessibility for those that read the Spark Notes instead. The creators have taken risks, some paying off more than others, but all seeming to coalesce as we approach the finale. So for KILL SHAKESPEARE: THE TIDE OF BLOOD #5, will readers say “parting is such sweet sorrow” or “O horrible, O horrible, most horrible!”?

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."


DAVID BOWIE: THE HOBO SLAYER Webcomic

Writer: Henry Barrett
Art: Henry Barrett
Publisher: Self Published
Reviewer: Ambush Bug


Henry Barrett had a table next to mine this year for Free Comic Book Day at my local comic book shoppe AlleyKat Comics in Andersonville, North Chicago, IL. When I heard the title of his webseries he was promoting, I couldn’t help but laugh. DAVID BOWIE: THE HOBO SLAYER was one of those titles that doesn’t really roll off the tongue, but it does tickle the funny bone as it comes out. Barrett was giving away free copies of his webseries, printed out in pamphlets and handing them to curious passers by. I couldn’t help but be impressed both at the writer/artist’s tenacity to reach out and get his comic seen and by the fact that this creator is only fifteen years old. After leafing through the pages, I revealed that I wrote for AICN and would love to feature his comic as a part of my Indie Jones section which highlights talent just shy of the mainstream.

Now it isn’t that Barrett is fifteen that amazed me, but the fact that he both knew who David Bowie was and more importantly, has the attention span and gumption to make his own comic at that age is what impressed the hell out of me. Barrett shows not only a great sense of humor, but some fun comic timing with his humor in these panels. DAVID BOWIE: THE HOBO SLAYER is just what the title tells you, a story about Daivd Bowie who explains that in his dimension, hobos are evil. He makes it clear to let us know that hobos in our world are ok most of the time, but on his world, they are in need of slaying.

This comic also stars Mark Twain whose secret identity happens to be Santa Claus (betcha didn’t know that!) and who serves as David Bowie’s arch nemesis by kidnapping bathing suit clad presidents and jaunting through the time stream. We are also introduced to the Jewper Heroes, Jewish celebrities who fight for good against those who don’t accept Hanukkah. There are also talking animals and monsters in every panel.

The thing that impressed me most by clicking through Barrett’s blog which features the ongoing adventures of David Bowie was how much Barrett’s style develops in such a short time. I also noticed that the artist has a good deal of skill with consistency, something I am awful at and the main reason I stopped even trying to be a comic book artist.

Now, those who are used to clean lines and processed storytelling stamped and packaged by committee and bereft of most creativity will probably snug your nose at Barrett’s renderings, but if you’re like me and like to try new things, you might want to click over to Barrett’s website for some irreverent fun and soak in all of the creative goodness that is DAVID BOWIE: THE HOBO SLAYER! I want to encourage Barrett to continue working on this, developing his skill at storytelling and craft as it was a lot of fun watching his creation interact wit fun characters and of course, slay hobos.


SCARLET SPIDER #17

Writer: Chris Yost
Art: Carlo Barberi
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Chris Massari


SCARLET SPIDER has been a series that I’ve personally had high hopes for since its release last year. With the opening tag line of “All of the Power, None of the Responsibility” and Kaine being one of Peter Parker’s violent clones, it seemed like an interesting way to take Spiderman in a darker direction. This was, however, before Dan Slott’s SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN release and his writing the Peter Parker, now Otto Octavius, Spider-Man in the very same way I thought Scarlet Spider would have been written. I feel because of the direction SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN has taken, a very good character in Kaine has been neglected by Marvel at certain points of time in the SCARLET SPIDER series. In the 17 issues of the Scarlet Spider, the series has seen very interesting story lines and some very lackluster ones too. The high points include a very awesome team up with Kaine and Venom versus an escaped Carnage. However, Scarlet Spider also sees very low points, with Kaine teaming up with Houston’s version of The Avengers or Kaine fighting werewolves. The character of Kaine has, however, been able to jump out of Spider-Man’s shadow during the book’s series, showcasing his more brutal version of justice and a distinction in his different Spider-Man abilities.

In Issue 17, it looks like the Scarlet Spider will be back on its roller coaster ride upward in what could be the beginning of a very badass story line involving Wolverine and the X-Men. Kaine has been called upon by the Assassin’s Guild to complete a contract to kill someone, which he had previously failed to complete. With the threat of the Assassin’s Guild harming his new life and family, Kaine accepts with very little choice. The individual the Guild has chosen is none other than Wolverine himself. This sets up a battle between the Scarlet Spider and the X-Men for the last quarter of issue 17. The book ends with Kaine stabbing Logan through the heart with his poison stinger, believing Wolverine to be dead and threatening the rest of the X-Men with “Who’s next?”.

Overall, I was very happy with the direction the Scarlet Spider is now taking. The last couple of issues have been agonizing and fairly boring reads, with the series having no real direction of its own. With the start of the storyline entitled “Wrath”, Scarlet Spider is back to distinguishing itself from the other Spider-Man related stories. Kaine is finally facing someone who can match his vicious fighting style. Without Kaine being able to kill or subdue his opponent because of Wolverine’s healing factor, it should create an exciting battle.

The book’s artwork from Carlo Barberi was nothing but quality, too. Combined with the vibrant and detailed coloring from Walden Wong, the art duo really delivered in this issue. Issue 17’s colors moved along nicely with the book’s changing tones and environments to really make the book’s read more in depth. The new suit was also a welcome addition to the issue. Kaine’s new stealth suit was very Tron-like in design and style, with simple black and glowing red coloring. However, as much as I like the new suit, I’m hoping it’s not a permanent change because I really like Kaine’s regular Scarlet Spider costume.

After reading this issue, I have high hopes once again for the series and hope it doesn’t teeter off like it has in the past. While SCARLET SPIDER has only had a short run in terms of issues, the series has a habit of extreme lows and extreme highs in its 17 issue run thus far. I’ll continue to be positive and continue to welcome the Scarlet Spider, holding strong that the series will break out into becoming one of Marvel’s top series.


HALF PAST DANGER #1

Writer: Stephen Mooney
Artist: Stephen Mooney
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Reviewer: Masked Man


As if the world didn't need another World War II dinosaur story! Oh, who am I kidding. Just as we can't get enough superhero stories, there can't be enough World War II dinosaur stories, either. Stephen Mooney, an artist mostly known for drawing ANGEL comics (as in BUFFY), convinced IDW he should be telling the newest one.

Mooney gets a lot of things right in this book. Unfortunately, this first issue is more pastiche than story. You got your tough, flawed, loner-ish hero (Humphrey Bogart or Harrison Ford type), during a run in with dinosaurs that gets everyone killed but him, a typical bar fight with a Steve Rogers and Bruce Lee type, the sexy and tough British spy chick, and a secret Nazi base. It's all just a little too paint by numbers, to start. Hopefully Mooney will develop his own voice and/or the characters will become more interesting as it continues.

Now even though the plot is paint by numbers, it is well done paint by numbers. The two main scenes, the army on a Pacific Island and the New York City bar, are well executed. And while those are pretty much the only scenes (i.e. the pacing is kinda slow), they are both enjoyable. Viewing this as a first issue, you can expect a certain degree of set-up and slow pacing. But again, this isn't a boring issue as each scene is showcased with a big action sequence. This is high adventure, and Mooney delivers well on it.

The art style is very much in the vein of what has come before: guys like Mark Schultz, Dave Stevens, Jim Silke, and even Adam Hughes. I don't think Mooney is quite up to their caliber, but he's not quite far off either. His figures are mostly strong and appealing. The action is clear and interesting, and his storytelling and background are all really nice. You can see from the cover what he's capable of. He just needs to be more consistent, at that level, to join the ranks of those other gentlemen.

So Mooney has a solid first issue here. With any luck, and hard work on his end, I'll be telling you HALF PAST DANGER is a must-buy book soon.


Advance Review: Coming out in October 2013!

DEATH SENTENCE #1

Writer: Monty Nero
Artist: Mike Dowling
Publisher: Titan Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche


1986: a 7th grade Optimous Douche awaits his parents picking him up from school to start a week-long suspension. The infraction was the insensitivity of youth answering the simple question “What does AIDS stand for?” In the days before memes, the conjuring of creative quips like Anally Injected Death Sentence were heralded in the locker room, and to utter them out loud was a right of kings. However, the king quickly became a jester when my parents introduced to me a real live person suffering from AIDS.

DEATH SENTENCE brought this way-back moment surging forward as I traversed the lives of 3 very different individuals all carrying the G-Plus virus (not to be confused with Google + social media plague). It’s a virus that kills with the same expedience and ferocity of AIDS in the early 80s and is sexually or needle induced, but takes the comic book twist of imbuing the infected with fantastic powers as they stare down the jagged precipice of certain death. For six months, the time from infection to the final shuffling loose of the mortal coil, the infected can do anything from take flight, become irresistible to the opposite sex or quite simply char anything and everything within a 20 foot radius.

DEATH SENTENCE carefully balances the line between revelry and remorse with three very different viewpoints on the final countdown. One character is just a scared twenty-something whose powers don’t manifest until the end of the issue. Her battle throughout this issue is to say goodbye to the confines of life like work while seeking some form of solace for the end. Miss Fett’s story is worthy simply for the way she tells off here misogynistic boss; her emotional struggles are the icing on the cake.

Another character is a down and out musician. Here Nero not only indicts death, but also the current commercialization of music. When this drug- and angst-fueled rocker contracts G-Plus, the record label hopes beyond hope his powers are music-based. A hilarious shit-storm music session coupled with an impromptu flight out of a window, however, prove we can’t choose the way any of us die or what our final legacy will be.

The final character is a strange one: an artist who I believe has been G-Plused with the ability to bed any woman of his choosing. There’s a great scene with a nun and a crucifix that every reformed catholic will revel in with delight.

How these three characters collide, or if they collide, remain open issues at the end. We know Miss Fett will be a strong focal point of issue 2, though, as her power wipes out a room of people and subsequently awakens the sleeping giant of a covert agency to handle the problem at the close of issue 1. As for how our scumbag celebrities fare is anyone’s guess.

Dowling is the perfect stylist for this book. He gives the world a muted pallor with harsh lines very akin to the work Gaydos offered in the book ALIAS. There’s a lot of ugliness in DEATH SENTENCE, and Dowling heightens this desperation of the soul with every single panel POV.

TITAN has exploded this year as a true idea house, giving old Image a real run for its money. Between books like DEATH SENTENCE and NUMBERCRUNCHER they are showing a commitment to the infinite possibilities provided by comics along with an unwavering commitment to true hutzpah in tonality and delivery.


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

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