AICN COMICS REVIEWS: SAVAGE WOLVERINE! JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA! KING CONAN! LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN! SIX-GUN GORILLA! & MORE!
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ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #1
WARLORD OF MARS #25
Indie Jones presents MONSTER ON THE HILL OGN
JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #4
Indie Jones presents ZOE OUT OF TIME #1
KING CONAN: HOUR OF THE DRAGON #1
SAVAGE WOLVERINE #5
Indie Jones presents SIX-GUN GORILLA #1
BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT ANNUAL #1
Opinions Are Like @$$Holes: THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN
ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #1Writers: Jeff Parker, Jeff Lemire, Justin Jordan
Artists: Chris Samnee, Jeff Lemire, Riley Rossmo
Published by: DC Comics
Reviewed by: BottleImp
THE RED UNDERPANTS ARE BACK! THE RED UNDERPANTS ARE BACK! Okay, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system…
Looks like DC isn’t wholly hedging its bets on the New 52 Superman, as this premiere issue of ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN features a trio of short stories celebrating varied aspects of the Man of Steel’s long publication history. Aside from my obvious delight at seeing Superman sporting his iconic undies-clad look in all three of these segments, I also appreciate the fact that in two cases the creators in this issue are not necessarily those whose work usually lends itself to superheroics.
The exception is the leadoff story, “Violent Minds”, written by Jeff Parker with art by Chris Samnee. Samnee’s slick and simplified drawing style and knack for depicting dynamic action gives this comic the feel of a Bruce Timm cartoon. Parker’s story delivers the same slam-bang cartoon pacing, though the subject matter of using junkies as test subjects for power-granting drugs is a bit grimmer than the average Saturday morning cartoon. Only one nitpicky complaint on my part: Lex Luthor blithely discussing his machinations from a limousine not thirty feet away from Superman, conveniently ignoring the Last Son of Krypton’s vaunted super-hearing. Minutia aside, a really fun story.
Jeff Lemire, not one whose artwork I would ever think to apply to Superman, pays tribute to the iconic hero in “Fortress,” showing a pair of kids role-playing Superman and his various enemies. This idea has become somewhat of a cliché, especially in other anthology comics such as this one, but Lemire’s story is still appealing. The writer and artist clearly shows his own childhood memories of the Man of Steel in the versions of the villains drawn here—Jenner’s “Super Powers” toyline is front and center with the silver skeletal incarnation of Brainiac and the George Perez-designed armored Luthor.
This issue wraps up with “Bizarro’s Worst Day,” written by Justin Jordan and drawn by Riley Rossmo. Frankly, I’ve never been a Bizarro fan—he seems like such a one-trick pony—but Jordan gives Superman a nice little solution to the problem of his backwards-speaking doppelganger that actually puts Bizarro to good use.
Though I’m generally a fan of comic book anthologies and the stories in this particular issue are all entertaining, my one concern is that an ongoing series comprised of such bite-sized tales could quickly become repetitive. I would love to see ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN take a cue from the old LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT series, where writers and artists could craft standalone, continuity-light stories for the title character that could range from single issue to three or four-part short arcs. A blend of these types of stories and the ones found in this issue would make for a really fantastic anthology for comics’ most iconic hero.
In any case, did I mention that I really like that the red undies are back?
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.
WARLORD OF MARS #25Writer: Arvid Nelson
Artist: Everton Sousa
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Reviewer: Masked Man
Dynamite's adaption of WARLORD OF MARS comes to a thrilling conclusion--mind you, the comic book series will continue. Despite its faults, the final issue was a great read, helped mightily by the new artist Everton Sousa.
For those of you not keeping up with Dynamite's John Carter series, here's the skinny. Dynamite has been adapting Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom (Mars) novels starring John Carter in the comic book WARLORD OF MARS. So far they have adapted the first three, starting with PRINCESS OF MARS, GODS OF MARS and now WARLORD OF MARS. The first adaption was seven issues long, and is quite good; GODS OF MARS is rather cramped at six issues and WARLORD OF MARS finishes at only five issues, though I feel Nelson did a better job of pacing in WARLORD OF MARS than he did in GODS OF MARS. For those of you counting, there have also been seven filler issues to make up the full 25 issues so far.
The WARLORD OF MARS story arc has been a mad chase across Mars, as the high priest Matai Shang kidnapped Dejah Thoris (John's wife). In GODS OF MARS John Carter had exposed the White Martian priests as frauds, and the Black Martian goddess Issus as well. So looking to reclaim their power and get revenge on Carter, they kidnap Dejah and drag her to the North Pole. There they meet up with the lost race of Yellow Martians. Salensus Oll, the Yellow Martian tyrant, of course has plans of his own, and becomes the new villain of the story.
In this climatic issue, John Carter's Red Martian army friends finally catch up with him and a full on slug-fest with the Yellow Martians ensues. As you might expect, Salensus Oll meets his end, but Nelson deviates from the book in a very surprising and satisfying way. I did not see this coming, so I won't spoil it, but it's pretty damn cool. Villain turned victim Phaidor, the White Martian princess, has a surprising conclusion to her story as well. This time Burroughs gets the credit, but Nelson and Sousa pulled it off really well. These two events really make this issue stand out, making it one of the best issues of Dynamite's run.
Another thing that makes it one of the best issues is Everton Sousa's art. As most of you know Dynamite is very hit and miss with their artists (partly because they don't hire inkers). Well Sousa is a big hit. His figure work is great and fits well with typical comic action adventure. Is he prime-time ready? Yeah, I think so. His work reminds me of Claudio Castellini, though not as crazy, though I wasn't too impressed with the final splash pages. The drawings are nice, but the layouts are weak. Like why aren't John and Dejah kissing on the final page? Instead they are just almost kissing--go fig. But seriously, Sousa is prime-time where the last two main artists were not.
As per usual, the next issues will feature an original story by Arvid Nelson. Afterward, I assume he will jump into the last true John Carter book by Burroughs, SWORDS OF MARS. In case you’re curious, there are ten real Barsoom novels, of which only four feature John Carter as the hero.
So while story did have moments of “and then, and then, and then” at times (I blame cramming the novel into just five issues), it was still a solid read, and the final issue makes it well worth a look. So Nelson (and Burroughs) help keep WARLORD OF MARS a really good adventure comic book, now just a few issues away from being the longest running John Carter comic book ever. WARLORD OF MARS scores a 3 out of 4.
Learn more about the Masked Man and feel free check out his comic books CINDY LI: THREE OF A KIND and CAPAIN ROCKET at www.Toonocity.com
Advance Review: In stores July 2013!
MONSTER ON THE HILL OGNWriter/Artist: Rob Harrell
Publisher: Top Shelf Productions
Reviewer: The Dean
There are certain books that I remember from my childhood that still fill me with happy memories and a general sense of warmth and comfort when I see them today. Though Rob Harrell’s MONSTER ON THE HILL won’t be out until July, my brain desperately wants to store the memory of it alongside those stories from years ago. It’s a true all ages tale, by which I mean that it’s more than just charming to the parents who will read it with their kids (though there’s no doubt it will charm the heck out of you). I feel like “all ages” usually suggests it’s for kids, but this one is simply a great story that shouldn’t be missed, regardless of any intended audience, from a cartoonist whose name I’ll be looking out for from now on.
In MONSTER ON THE HILL, it’s 1867, and the people of Stoker-on-Avon are unsatisfied with their lazy, melancholic local monster, Rayburn. In a world where a town is only as good as the monster that terrorizes it, this simply won’t do. So to address their problem of not having a monster problem, a Freud-like doctor and a young paperboy out of NEWSIES set out to turn Rayburn into the kind of horrible monster a town can really be proud of. The role of town monster is twofold, however, and while Rayburn is off rediscovering his appetite for destruction (feel free to read Rayburn as a metaphor for Axl Rose as I did), he leaves Stoker-on-Avon unguarded and subject to a very real attack from The Murk - an all too real terror that doesn’t quite get the entertainment value of monstering.
This is a tough review for me to write, because while I hesitate to call anything perfect, I’m having a really hard time thinking of anything I didn’t like or that didn’t work. In 183 pages, Harrell displays a real mastery of storytelling as he quickly introduces and endears us to characters that all play an invaluable role in shaping the overall narrative. Even someone as minor as Kongor, an intern to all-star monster Tentaculor who only gets a couple of panels, fleshes out the world and concepts of MONSTER ON THE HILL in a way that deepens the overall experience. Similarly, quick descriptions and exchanges between characters help define them without any exhausting exposition or dialogue, keeping the tone of the story nice and light. All we need to know about The Murk, for example, is that he’s made of grave dirt and hair, cleverly used against him in the final battle, and that he’s not a morning person.
MONSTER ON THE HILL is just a pleasant to look at as it is to read, fortunately, and Harrell’s abilities as a cartoonist keep the story moving along sprightly on both ends – we may not have a problem reading about a journey through grassy hills if the writing is clever enough, but nobody wants to look at grass and sky for nearly two hundred pages. Scenes change quickly, lending to the story’s excellent overall pacing, but it also keeps the art interesting since monsters of this size can’t do much that isn’t outside. From the bustling towns and cavernous cave dwellings to the monster designs that are adorably cool looking, every panel here is imbued with a vibrancy that just makes the story that much more lovable.
So this one isn’t out until July as I mentioned, but you can certainly pre-order it now, and as you can probably tell, I highly recommend you do so. The art is great, the jokes are funny, and the story is as much fun as anything you’d get from Pixar or DreamWorks, but without the overly sad moments that leave you a blubbering mess. MONSTER ON THE HILL is easily one of my favorite reads of 2013 thus far, and whether you’re young, old, or somewhere in between, this is one of those stories that you can’t help but smile through, knowing you’ll be revisiting it time and time again.
JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #4Writers: Geoff Johns (main), Matt Kindt (backup)
Art: Brett Booth (main), Guinaldo (backup pencils), Paul Fernandez & Walden Wong (backup inks)
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Chris Massari
If you haven’t already begun reading THE NEW 52’s revamp of JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA, I highly recommend doing so. For those readers who have not yet picked up JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #4, tread lightly because this review is full of spoilers.
The book begins with Catwoman’s exploration of the Secret Society’s headquarters after her capture in issue three. The book then switches to the rest of the JLA tracking down Catwoman’s location in a modified Boeing military transport nicknamed “The Invisible Jet” by Colonel Trevor. After a short time of exploration, Catwoman stumbles into a still living Professor Ivo before she is recaptured by a few other Secret Society members. While Catwoman is re-captured, the other JLA members have broken in the SS’s mansion looking for their captured teammate, but they stumble into a battle with one of Professor Ivo’s creatures, The Shaggy Man. After Catwoman’s re-capture and reluctance to cooperate during her interrogation she is shot dead, ending the JLA’s portion of the book.
Once you finish issue four, you’re left with a “what the hell just happened” feeling. As anyone with basic comic knowledge knows, characters die all the time, but there is always some sort of loophole involved. Everything from magic, time rifts, clones, you name it and death loopholes are found, no matter how ridiculous. As a reader I’m intrigued for two reasons: either writer Geoff Johns just killed off Catwoman early on in the JLA series for real or she’ll still be alive through some crazy plot device. However, cliffhangers and leaving readers guessing, clamoring for the next issue has become a running theme for the series so far. Before being shot, Catwoman did threaten if she was killed, Batman would hunt down her murderers, which could finally mean a faceoff or a meeting of the two JUSTICE LEAGUE teams. This is only if Catwoman is actually dead, which is always up in the air with comics. However, until book five it’ll have to be seen how Geoff Johns plays this storyline out. Besides Catwoman’s possible death, JLA finally announces Green Arrow’s official membership. For readers it was already acknowledged that Green Arrow was a member, but now it’s official. The Martian Manhunter portion at the end of JLA #4 was also very interesting, giving a different take into the back story of J’onn J’onzz in THE NEW 52.
JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA’s artwork is also on point. The JLA character design by penciller Brett Booth has been spectacular. Booth’s more realistic and sharper drawn characters work perfectly with the personalities and style of the current JLA team. This style, combined with the darker color shades utilized by colorist Andrew Dalhouse, creates amazing-looking art and a vibrant darkness to the series.
Besides the running storyline, in only four issues the JLA series has done three very important things:
1. JLA has created its own unique identity and set itself apart from the Justice League.
2. Has an excellent array of different characters and personalities with the JLA team.
3. Every issue is a great read from front to back, flowing beautifully between dialogue and action.
The JLA series is definitely one of DC’s better running series right now because of these three things I mentioned. JLA is arguably better than the regular JUSTICE LEAGUE series, and one of the better comic series in general, in my opinion of course. I really like how Johns has been writing the story and really, really like Booth’s artwork! This is one of those series I feel is worth checking out for any comic fan.
The Martian Manhunter portion at the end of JLA #4 was also very interesting, giving a different take into the back story of J’onn J’onzz in THE NEW 52. The story reveals that Martian Manhunter did not originally have a weakness to fire and something happened to him after the destruction of his people. We also find out that while J’onn was on a rite of passage as the next leader of the Martians, something happened in which the psychic force field protecting Mars from the Sun broke, killing his people.
I like the direction of this Martian Manhunter back story “Trial By Fire” because it gives better reason to the colder and more manhunter like Martian Manhunter of THE NEW 52. The story definitely seems to back the new direction of this character. “Trial By Fire”’s artwork is also pretty good, with enough detail but not too much. The art gives the picture of a memory rather than a current event, which is exactly what the story aims to do.
DEADPOOL #10Writers: Brian Poshen & Gerry Duggan
Art: Mike Hawthorne
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Henry Higgins is My Homeboy
For some reason, “The Blandtastic Four” is just one of my favourite things ever.
Since taking over DEADPOOL a while ago, Pohsen and Duggan have created a consistently entertaining take on the character. Now Deadpool has an opportunity to bounce off another revamped character in the form of the Doctor Octopus-controlled Spider-Man. It proves a fruitful area for the writing crew, as they give Deadpool a fun little romp against some pitiful villains and a wonderfully mean-spirited Spider-Man.
Full of little references to past relationships and jokes, Poshen and Duggan write a fun (Deadpool broke Batroc’s leg!) and engrossing issue. Deadpool under their hands is a consistently funny yet strangely intelligent antihero. An entire sequence with Blandtastic Four is entertaining as all hell, with pretty much everyone you’d want to see get beat up get beat up. It’s full of little allusions to various little parts of the Marvel universe.
Hawthorne’s art manages to fulfill everything you want from a Deadpool and Ockman team-up (in terms of those two bouncing around fighting various villains) while also having a personal flair. The flow of movement is well constructed, blending frame into frame. And somehow, the art crew is able to give a fully masked man a great set of visual emotions, Wade showing off a good number of entertaining little reactions to various little problems. The paneling is consistently creative and memorable, and it all helps that the issue is memorable. And credit to where credit’s due, the quick cutaway to Hell is an extremely simple panel that somehow proves to be incredibly impressive.
It’s a short review, because there’s not terribly much to say about this title that hasn’t been said before. It’s been a wonderful take on the character, creative and engrossing throughout, with every art team able to communicate the story well. It’s been a wonderful series, and I just hope the crew teams up Deadpool with other characters in the title so we can see their version of Wade mess around with everyone else.
ZOE: OUT OF TIME #1Writers: Alexander Lagos & J. Michaelski
Artist: Derlis Santacruz
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
Alexander Lagos is one of the best names you’ve never heard of in comics. I was introduced to Alexander and his brother a few years ago when their SONS OF LIBERTY became the first graphic novel ever published by Random House. Over the course of two books, the boys delivered a historical fiction piece about two slaves who were imbued with super powers and served as the guiding force during the war for independence from England. While the story was rife with real-world characters, the narrative was always way more fun than a history book. It was the perfect way to get kids to imbibe boring historical facts through a tense and emotional narrative.
With Alexander’s latest project, ZOE: OUT OF TIME, he leaves the way back past to focus on two new time periods – the early 90s and the far flung futuristic year of 2050. ZOE is as far from SONS OF LIBERTY as one can get from a story perspective as well; there are no real world personalities, nor noble fights. ZOE is simply the frivolity and fancy of youth taken to sci fi hyperbole.
What struck me most about this book was the authenticity with which Alexander and co-writer J. Michaski wove the authenticity of the relationship between Zoe and her scientist father. I’m getting ahead of myself, though, as I so often do. The book opens in the early 90s, where the lead singer for an upcoming garage band plows his record label owner’s stolen car into a train. Flash forward 50 years and the one album cut by this crew has reached a legendary status, much like the group Sublime. Zoe, like girls of today, crushes so hard on these forgotten relics she foregoes sound judgment for fandom and gets caught trying to steal some real memorabilia. Not being OJ Simpson, her crime is merely a misdemeanor and leads directly to the interchange I was heralding a minute ago. Zoe’s father is distant, even more so after the death of Zoe’s mother a few years prior. Despite being the man who can see and now travel through time thanks to some fakey comic science about light, he still tries to balance the pressures of life while still giving his daughter a modicum of attention. I don’t mean to harp on it, but the interchange between the two was truly beautiful. The father who understands a rambunctious spirit but must still be a father, and the daughter who merely wants to spread her wings, but still be Daddy’s little girl. Even though we can now travel through time, we still haven’t found a cure for puberty.
If handed you a time-travel device, where would you go? It’s a question I often ask myself and the answer changes as I grow older. If you handed me one in 1986 I would have gone back to watch Stan Lee create Spider-Man. Ask me the same question today, and I would be smack dab in the mid-90s dumping money into Apple. Youth is about frivolity, and despite the fact Lagos is a grown man, he didn’t forget this fact when creating Zoe.
The book ends with Zoe visiting an abandoned warehouse--the same warehouse where Rebel Lions once played at an event called a rave. Smart girl to know that fourth dimensional movement doesn’t equate to three dimensional travel. In what was a stroke of genius by Lagos or artist Santacruz, she ends her fall through the timestream as a sacrificial crowd surfer, a practice that I’m sure has been abolished by the litigious society of 2050.
Speaking of Santacruz and all production quality, this entire book is on par with and supersedes many mainstream titles. The paper quality is high gloss and each panel pops off the page in detail and appropriateness of tonality. Plus, the guys are selling this inaugural issue for the low price of $2.00 digitally in Amazon.
I don’t know where Zoe is going from a plot perspective. I imagine she will try to stop the lead singer’s fateful plunge into Amtrak’s finest. Even if she doesn’t, though, a tale of a teen out of time is one of my favorites, especially when it looks like it will lampoon one of the favorite moments in my life – the birth of grunge. I look back today at my Prince Valiant hair and baggy flannel and want to kick my own ass – I can only imagine what my grandkids will say about it. Thanks to Zoe, though, I don’t have to imagine too hard.
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.
KING CONAN: HOUR OF THE DRAGON #1Writer: Timothy Truman
Art: Tomas Giorello
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Reviewer: Mad Mercutio
I’ve been a big fan of the Conan character for a long time. The character has definitely had his ups and downs. The original stories by Robert E. Howard were great pulpy reads. The movies have been hit and miss, and there’s even a new one on the horizon with Arnold settling back into the role as an older King Conan. That, I believe, is why this story has again seen the light of day, this time in comic form. This will apparently be two six issue miniseries retelling the original Howard yarn where King Conan looks back on his past.
I was excited at this prospect, especially since the creative team has an excellent track record with the character. I read several issues of the older two series and loved them. The new ongoing series tells stories about a young Conan, and to me they do not capture the flavor of the character. Now to be honest, I have not bought an issue. However, I keep leafing through them at my local comic shop hoping that one of them will strike a chord, but apparently, it’s not meant to be. The art left me cold. I felt like it was Conan Light or an angsty Conan instead of an up and coming barbarian.
But this series…oh yes. This newest miniseries is Conan. First let’s look at Tomas Giorello’s art. It is perfect for Conan the way Esad Ribic is perfect for Thor. The art is dense and carefully crafted and captures the look of the character and setting flawlessly. It has a rugged appearance to it that suits the book. I love John Buscema’s art of the book from the seventies and eighties, and this art to me just feels like the next step in the evolution of that old look. I see a lot of similarities between Buscema’s and Giorello’s art, but enough technique has changed to make it feel fresh and exciting. Simply put, Tomas Giorello’s Conan is a perfect Conan. I would love to see a crossover of Thor and Conan with either Giorello or Ribic doing the art. Of course, the planet might not be able to take that much sheer damn manliness.
The writing is as entertaining as the art. I like the little classic story device of old King Conan flashing back to tell a tale of his younger self, I like the use of wizards and sorcery and swords, and I love the ending where Conan is facing down a horde of riders after experiencing a bout of paralysis from an evil resurrected sorcerer puts the ol’ bad hoodoo on him. It all just works very well together to give us a great Conan story. I’ll definitely be picking the rest of this series up. If you’ve ever been interested in the character, I suggest you do as well. It is great pulpy goodness served up like only Truman and Giorello can.
SAVAGE WOLVERINE #5Writer: Frank Cho
Artist: Frank Cho
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man
Well, sadly this is Frank Cho's last issue of SAVAGE WOLVERINE, a series seemingly created for him. Another fan fav artist, Joe Madureira, will take over next issue, with Zeb Wells writing. But for this issue, Frank just has a ball with it, as he did the previous ones, partly because Frank stays as far away from status quo writing as he can. I mean, come on, he killed Shanna in issue #3! And this issue has to go down as one of the Hulk's worst days.
Although the series was slow to start, with issue #1 being mostly set up, it soon became clear Frank was putting together just a fun romp of a comic book, filled with witty dialogue and outrageous happenings. Wolverine and Shanna are stuck in the Savage Land (where dinosaurs live) because of a big sleeping dark god (shades of Cthulhu for sure). Not really knowing it is a big dark god, they plan to wake him up. Amadeus Cho and the natives know better, try to stop them, and chaos ensues. Soon the Hulk appears, and can anyone really stop the Hulk and Wolverine from fighting each other, which will wake up the dark god? Chaos ensues.
This is just fun. Sure Shanna gets killed, but trust me, the book is just fun. How many times do you get to see the Hulk butt naked and his head being bitten by a giant ape, all in the same book, all drawn by Frank frick'n Cho? Oh and I'm pretty sure the Hulk gets killed at some point too. Well, it's all in good fun, and they'll all laugh about it later, or at least until the sleeping dark god's story continues.
The one bad thing about this comic is the unfinished and unexplained of the story. Aside from Shanna, we have no idea how any of them got to the Savage Land, and the whole thing ends with a giant set-up to something along the lines of DC's OUR WORLDS AT WAR (that was a very loaded thing to say, Marvel fans). Wolverine declares “Screw you guys, I'm going home” and the end. So was this the planned ending, or did Frank get pulled away with something else? I don't know, but I assume someone, if not Frank, will address all this, hopefully soon and hopefully not in a Bendis 'because'. While I definitely want to know what the heck was going on and what is going to happen next, I can accept it for now because the ride was so much fun.
Artwork wise this was another masterpiece by Cho. Monsters, babes (ok just one), tough guys, more monsters, epic throw downs and Amadeus Cho's reactions--“Jeez. How strong is she? … Remind me never to piss her off.” Wolverine got a good line in there too--“Damn.” But as you'd expect, everything looks great and is well put together. And just to explain my word usage, because it hardly needs saying, Frank Cho's art isn't just prime-time, it's beyond prime-time!
So while there is still a lot missing to tie this story up with a big bow, it looked great and was a hell of a lot of fun. Frank Cho's opener to SAVAGE WOLVERINE scores a high 3 out of 4.
SIX-GUN GORILLA: LONG DAYS OF VENGEANCE #1Writer: Brian Christgau
Art: Adrian Sibar
Publisher: Self Published
Reviewer: Ambush Bug
There are certain things that all I have to do is see it and I’m immediately interested. Put a gorilla on the cover in a cowboy hat and brandishing six guns toward the reader and you better believe this is something I’m game to read.
The concept alone of SIX-GUN GORILLA is a striking image that screams both comic book fun and coolness. The thought of a mammoth silverback in a hat and poncho getting ready to draw down on a scallywag in a high noon showdown (a scene which happens in the opening moments of this issue) is just plain cool. But a cool concept and a cool story are two different things. Does the story of SIX-GUN GORILLA match up to the mammoth proportions of the idea?
Yer darn tootin’ does.
Brian Christgau does a fantastic job of introducing us to this cool concept, then back pedaling a bit to tell us how this giant gorilla comes into possession of these gun slinging skills. The issue bobs through three timelines: the Old West present, a few years before as our gorilla is taught the art of gun play in a circus, and a few years before that as an Alan Quartermain type blows away some gorillas for his prize collection only to find a baby gorilla in the womb of one of his kills. The links between these three timelines are pretty easy to put together, though how the gorilla gets away from the circus and into the Old West isn’t told in this first issue. Christgau does a great job of telling this nonlinear story, never confusing things or making things overly complex just to be overly complex. This is a very well done origin tale, by the end of the issue leaving me with many questions that will most definitely make me want to come back for more. In fact, my biggest criticism to this book is that I wanted to first issue to go on longer!
The art by Adrian Sibar is equally amazing. Cartoonish by only a pinch, the story does a great job of walking that line of being too fantastical, yet has just enough realism to make you understand that this is a story with heft and emotion. The scenes with the gorilla himself with smoking guns are downright iconic, and while it isn’t hard to make an image of a gorilla with firearms cool, Sibar’s panels do so over and over again. The other panels, be they set in a great and grand circus or the tumbleweed laden prarie, are damn fine too.
All in all, this is a dynamic first issue and I can’t wait to check out the rest of this series. Mixing comics’ love of all things gorilla with classic Western elements is a stroke of genius that will have more than one person slapping their heads exclaiming, “Why didn’t I think of that?!?!” In fact, in a DANTE'S PEAK/VOLCANO or ARMAGEDDON/DEEP IMPACT turn of events, BOOM! actually has another comic coming out called SIX-GUN GORILLA. I haven't seen that issue, but it's going to have to work pretty darn hard to top this indie powerhouse of a book. This is a fantastic start to what I hope is a great series.
SIX-GUN GORILLA will be available very, very soon (maybe even as soon as later today) from it’s website 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.
X-MEN #1Writer: Brian Wood
Art: Olivier Coipel
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Simply put; I am the target demographic for this comic. I was a fan of the X-Men cartoon show as a kid, where Jubilee, Rogue and Storm were my three favorite characters. I’ve seen the movies, been reading the comics off and on ever since I could read, and always appreciate a moment for the female members of the X-Men to shine. Joss Whedon and John Cassaday’s ASTONISHING X-MEN helped get me back into comics(centered brilliantly around the relationship between Kitty Pryde and Emma Frost), while Peter David’s X-FACTOR kept me there. However in recent years my interest has waned significantly. This book seemed like an opportunity to jump back in.
Marvel is marketing this as a first issue with Storm standing front and center, flanked by her X-sisters around a Sentinel’s head. Rachel Grey is apparent from the cover as well, if only because I’ve read the first few arcs of UNCANNY X-FORCE back when Rick Remender and Jerome Opena were on the book. So right away it’s obvious that this book is relying on readers having at least a passing knowledge of the X-men. It’s a fast-paced book and once things get going, it hardly slows down to explain things to the reader, which is both a good and a bad thing.
To get really in-depth I’ll have to discuss the plot, so SPOILERS AHEAD.
The story goes like this: Jubilee is reduced to a plot device, inexplicably bringing a baby to the X-Mansion because, “uh it’s an orphan and I’m being confronted with maternal instincts?” or something like that. She’s being tailed by some sort of hyper-evolved bacteria calling himself “John Sublime.” Okay, so I know I said earlier my knowledge of the X-universe was pretty good but I honestly had to wiki this dude. Has he ever actually been in any memorable stories?
Storm breaks up a scuffle at the Jean Grey School only to immediately leave with Rogue and help bust Jubilee out of her baby jam and save her from the stalker, BUT by the time they arrive on the train he’s already greeting Rachel and Psylocke at the mansion, so what was the point? Anyway, the baby starts wrecking shit and Rogue has to prevent a head-on collision with another train by ripping several cars off the tracks. Hurray property damage!
This is a fast moving story with a spunky baby thrown in, but I couldn’t help but wonder who was looking after the students back at the school. Which of the thirteen other X-books am I supposed to read to get the rest of that story? Anyway, they make it back to the X-mansion and the baby is revealed as a threat that-- erm, turns into a grown woman or maybe just sets John Sublime’s female counterpart free? The book’s not totally clear on that last bit, but maybe the next issue will clarify things.
This comic honestly baffled me, so much so I decided to share it with my close associate Mama Tuna, who after finishing stated, “It was okay… This doesn’t feel like the beginning of the story.” Mama Tuna isn’t a huge comics nut like myself but she reads some stuff, and she had a crush on Gambit as a wee baby tuna, yet she still could hardly muster any interest in this book. I also shared the book with a cousin who after finishing asked, “So is the baby on their side?” to which I was unable to respond, because I honestly don’t have a clue at the moment.
Besides issues of clarity in the storytelling, X-MEN #1 also feels incredibly contrived, from the weak plot of this first issue to the fact that all the male X-Men are nowhere to be found, except Hank McCoy attending to business as usual in his lab. Having a book featuring the X-Women is a great idea, and it’s especially nice seeing Storm in a leadership role (fits her like a glove, or that skintight outfit she’s wearing throughout this issue), but what makes an all-female team-up so special that it merits re-numbering series? Maybe this is more an editorial quip, but the cover portends new beginnings while the interior clearly relays a tale in medias res. Sure, it’s probably just part of this whole Marvel NOW! (ugh) promotion but portraying a series as ready for new readers without actually catering to said new readers is bad voodoo. The only character who gets any kind of explanation is Jubilee and that’s because she spends the rest of the book doing nothing but hauling a hellraising baby into a vulnerable institution for children. No sparkly powers, nothing.
This book has some strengths. The aforementioned train sequence is pretty neat despite how the conflict is resolved in such a dumb way, showcasing the qualities of various team members without ever slowing the pace. Kitty slipping through the train cars and Rogue preparing to save the day from the roof of the train are perfect character moments, aptly illustrated by Olivier Coipel. Speaking of the art, Olivier Coipel’s pencils are quite nice, exhibiting some especially expressive face work via the train’s passengers. Still, many of the backgrounds are sparse, as if layered in a fog that’s not actually there. The whole thing has a somewhat rushed quality, even if it suits the book’ frenetic pace.
This is by no means a bad comic. It’s just not very interesting, or easy to follow, and Kitty Pryde repeatedly saying “OMG” when she’s supposed to be a grown-ass woman is just mildly annoying. The worst thing this book has going for it is the potential seems to outweigh the execution. Maybe future issues will clear things up and let the X-Men be more than clueless mannequins, but I’m not willing to shell another dime to find out t this point. Sign me up for an X-Ladies book any day, just make sure when you do that you care enough to make it viable.
BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT ANNUAL #1Writer: Greg Hurwitz
Artist: Szymon Kudranski
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
I’m sure this book missed a lot of Bat fans, and it’s a damn shame; Hurwitz created an excellent spooky moment of much needed frivolity for BATMAN. THE DARK KNIGHT book doesn’t get a lot of love with BATMAN proper stealing continuity with “Court of Owls” and “Death of the Family,” and other big events occurring in BATMAN & ROBIN and BATMAN INC. I know I’m guilty. This issue would have passed me by as well if it wasn’t for another reviewer giving it vast praise, and I concur: this was a much needed breath of fresh air, even if its Halloween theme is mildly ill timed. Now is the time of citrus, not gourds.
The premise is simple, even mildly Scooby Doo: basically the Mad Hatter, Penguin and Scarecrow all spend the night in Arkham. Even why they are there is a mishap of Saturday cartoon proportions, since each received a letter from the other basically saying “we need to talk.” Now, execution both in art and word is what makes this transcend from kiddie fare to borderline horror. Kudranski is like a clean-lined Frazer Irving; he’s a dark watercolory kind of guy that gives detail to shadow. Hurwitz wins a transcendence award for making the trio their own worst enemies and their undoing a result of their own paranoia. Essentially, the three realize quickly this was a ruse by Batman, but all are thrown off their game since we don’t see Brucie Boy until the last pages.
And as for Bruce’s part in this—well, it was simply sending the notes. He had an almost precognition that they would undo one another, and he’s kind of a smug dick about it when Alfred wakes him up from his first night’s slumber in a long while. That was a compliment, by the way--Bruce has been through the emotional ringer and this was a much needed reprieve from his unhinged behavior in every other book. Hey, I’m the first to insist on continuity, and Hurwitz delivered; he simply let the villains do the heavy canon lifting.
Great read and art all self-contained, exactly as an Annual should be.
In years to come, THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN series may well come to be seen as Alan Moore’s best work. When it came out I wrote an obnoxious gag review of the antepenultimate installment, CENTURY: 1969, calling Moore on his hypocrisy or at least inconsistency in criticising Marvel and DC for making their characters ever more dark and sordid, while seemingly devoting his own career to coming up with new ways to show Allan Quatermain and Whilhemina Murray, of KING SOLOMON'S MINES and DRACULA, or Alice of ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND, Wendy from PETER PAN and Dorothy from THE WIZARD OF OZ for that matter, copulating.
That review, while admittedly I still find amusing, ignored the point that the sordidness of 1969 actually had a point to it. The first two LEAGUE volumes were rip-roaring good action in the Victorian mode with some scarily good character writing (favorite moments: Moriarty clinging desperately onto the Cavorite as it soars away from him, carrying him off to doom in the sky; Mr. Hyde valiantly fighting against his animal nature to conquer his lust for Mina, only to find the Invisible Man, a clever but soulless human, has raped her; he then giving into his animalism in the name of justice to torture him to a slow and painful death; the Invisible Man’s bloody remains becoming visible upon Hyde at the precise moment he passes away hours later). They also seemed to capture something of the essence of the authors whose work inspired Moore and his illustrator Kevin O’Neill: H. G. Wells, for example (THE INVISIBLE MAN, THE FIRST MEN IN THE MOON, THE WAR OF THE WORLDS, THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU), was an atheist and socialist who put forward utopian schemes for man’s perfectibility but at the same time was a champion shagger who was less than enlightened in his own attitudes towards women.
The heroism, nobility and carnality of the first two LEAGUE volumes begins to disintegrate a little in the follow-up proper, CENTURY: 1910 (skipping over the eclectic BLACK DOSSIER, which took in the territory of George Orwell’s 1984, James Bond, THE THIRD MAN, The 39 Steps and John Le Carre’s THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD). The Victorian values, while still present in ghost fashion (Allan and Mina, having gained eternal youth, are still around in changed form), start to become slightly effete. The additions to the League are less grand and operatic than the noble savages Hyde and Nemo and the Iago-like Invisible Man, more refined and aesthetic: Raffles, the gentleman thief; Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, who transforms back and forth between male and female.
By 1969, they have disintegrated completely, allowing the Antichrist to be hatched. We see Allan and Mina in drug orgies, engaging in promiscuous sex, and finally losing their wits completely. 2009 shows 21st-century London a little too close to home as a full-on dystopia, in contrast to the slightly ridiculous aberration of the ‘Big Brother’ of THE BLACK DOSSIER. Britain is ruled by a pill-popping depressive of a Prime Minister (again, a little too close to home to the real Britain of a few years ago) who is defended on TV by a wondrously foul-mouthed Scot, Malcolm Tucker, from the BBC’s political satire THE THICK OF IT (adapted into a movie as IN THE LOOP and eventually reaching the US in toned-down form as VEEP starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus). What is also being shown is the disintegration of shared experiences of fiction. Almost everyone can recognize the heroes and anti-heroes of the Victorian League and its villains (Dr. Moriarty and Fu Manchu). Our entertainment now is fractured and dispersed, much the same as our moral values, which have fallen a long way, for good or ill, from the fairly solid public consensus of the Victorian era. Orlando’s prized possession, the Sword of Excalibur, is hidden away; Allan and Mina have disappeared.
Moore is working with and bringing to its summation an idea he has been playing around with for a long while, back at least to 1963 and through to PROMETHEA. It is expressed here in the concept of the ‘the Blazing World’, the realm of the imagination thought into being by writers, poets and artists, and presided over by Shakespeare’s Prospero, the Duke of Milan, who alone among Shakespeare’s heroes seems to realize that he is a character taking part in a play. This is an insight that is also granted to Hamlet and Richard II, both also deposed rulers who eventually renounce worldly power. Moore is bringing to fruition, perhaps a little literally, the philosophy Shakespeare seems to be working towards in these plays, expressed in Richard II’s speech on artistic creation: “My brain I’ll prove the female to my soul, my soul the father, and these two beget a generation of still-breeding thoughts”.
Moore’s “still-breeding thoughts” are the characters of 19th and 20th century (and beyond) fiction, whom he works into a vast tapestry of creation. He is not afraid to embrace serious religious and philosophical themes. The deus ex machina at the end of 2009 that defeats the incarnate Antichrist is Mary Poppins as the Blazing World’s very own Virgin Mary. The most annoying thing about heroic fiction, and especially how it is often treated in comic books and by Hollywood, can be its oppressive attitude to the spectator, forcing him or her into one view of events and shutting off the intellect. Moore’s work in the latest LEAGUE is the exact opposite. The plots are beautifully simple but also lock together as intricately as a crossword puzzle. They never talk down to the reader. Above all, they are extraordinary fun to read.
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G
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