Comics

AICN COMICS REVIEWS: AGE OF ULTRON! CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT! WONDER WOMAN! ART OF WORLD WAR Z! X-FILES! & MORE!

Published at: June 26, 2013, 1:52 a.m. CST

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

Advance Review: THE FIRST KINGDOM #1
AGE OF ULTRON #10
X-FILES: SEASON 10 #1
WONDER WOMAN #21
Indie Jones presents A CHILD IS BORN OGN
WORLD WAR Z: THE ART OF THE FILM
SIX-GUN GORILLA #1
NEW AVENGERS #7
HARBINGER #13
CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT #0
Indie Jones presents NEVERMINDS #1-3
FANTASTIC FOUR #9
Opinions Are Like @$$Holes: @$$IE Leaks by Stone’s Throw


Advance Review!

THE FIRST KINGDOM #1

Writer & Artist: Jack Katz
Publisher: Titan Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche


I’ve always been a modern guy, choosing to imbibe the now versus wallowing in nostalgia. Though I have my chestnuts, I only bring them out in the most severe droughts of intriguing new content to imbibe. This lust for new experience, though, has foolishly blinded to me to the experiences of the past. In comics, I have shunned the Golden and Silver Ages because of their stark contrast to the Dark Age that weaned me off of Richie Rich. Basically, I allowed my prejudice from a few hokey experiences to foolishly blind me to the treasure troves of yore like THE FIRST KINGDOM. To be fair, though, Jack Katz’s opus isn’t your traditional Silver/Bronze Age fare from a Golden Age artist – it’s frankly a book for the ages about the ages yet to come.

I don’t recount my preferences for self-assurance or aggrandizing; I simply know I am not alone in my distaste of all things that occurred before WATCHMEN. It’s a discussion I have had countless times in the store with my fellow contemporaries. I’m sorry, guys (and one lone occasional gal)--we were wrong. There’s some gold in them thar Golden Age hills; you simply need to be a patient miner. And THE FIRST KINGDOM does require patience, with its hefty page count, lushly detailed imagery and narrative heavy text: this is not a book, it’s an experience.

Borrowing from such toga-clad titles as The Iliad and The Odyssey, Katz tells a tale of men and immortals and how we are all slaves to a predetermined destiny. The hero’s quest isn’t a choice; it simply just is. Once you accept this, you will accept the protagonist Darkenmoor’s rise to King and the subsequent generations that will usher the next age of humanity to the stars.

The apocalypse that ushers in the birth of The First Kingdom resonates as true today as it did during the book’s first appearance in 1974. While we’re all not as afraid of Da Bomb as were back in that more innocent age, let’s be honest in the fact we should be. Terrorism is simply a comforting bosom that has made us forget that a stockpile of destruction sits under us that can still obliterate the Earth 1000 times over. Katz presented these scenes from POV’s that keep this book I won’t say from ever being dated, but certainly not yet. A plane cockpit instead of the whole bird and mushroom clouds billowing to eternity are our demise, and I say let it come already. THE FIRST KINGDOM is way more interesting than our greatest threat being a trade imbalance with China.

The lands of The First Kingdom are vast, and thanks to the irradiation of the Earth the monsters are more grandiose than even the ol’ toga wearers I mentioned earlier could conjure. Every threat our hero Darkenmoor (or Adam, if you prefer) faces is an epic-sized incarnation of today’s wildlife.

As mortals evolve once again from hunter-gatherers to societal beings, they catch the attention of the Gods. Because Katz believes as I do, Gods were so much more interesting when they interacted with mortals compared to today’s distant high Father. And here is our second story: the problem-plagued Gods who know more than mortals, but still remain a far cry from omnipotent. Honestly, THE FIRST KINGDOM made me fully understand why we developed monotheism; we needed to think someone knew what the hell was going on in this universe.

There’s so much I can say about this book as it spans generation after generation, as its heroes are confronted with every challenge ever used in literature and as I realized “all this has happened before and it will happen again,” but all my words will do is make me look like a sycophant. You simply can’t believe how dense this book is until you read it. Sadl,y I also know this denseness will also turn off some modern day comic readers. Modern readers are not used to anatomical correctness, backgrounds that can be viewed for hours and still not see all the details, and prose that must be carefully considered. I know I struggled a bit consuming 200 pages that would be 1000 in today’s creations.

This book is black and white, but it doesn’t need the parlor trick of color to capture the imagination. It does it just fine and never lets go. Outside the story, Titan was kind enough to thrown in a great bounty of extras so you don’t forget there were great names before Moore and even Lee. Old Q&A’s, interviews and photographs make you remember a time when hair was copious and sleeveless shirts were dress up duds for cons. THE FIRST KINGDOM is a reminder of a time when comics stood on their own merit, before they had to feed a multifaceted synergy of product lines from movies to branded underwear, a times when books themselves could be events simply because they were, not because we were told so with a secondary title on the cover.

Optimous Douche has successfully blackmailed BottleImp to draw purty pictures for his graphic novel AVERAGE JOE coming out in 2013 from COM.X. When not on Ain’t It Cool, Optimous can be found talking comics and marketing on robpatey.com and just marketing on MaaS360.com.


AGE OF ULTRON #10

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: A bunch; ain’t nobody got time for that
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Mighty Mouth


I have seen the future, and it is… Meh!

If you picked up an issue of Previews or paid a visit to Marvel.com, you may remember the following synopsis for AGE OF ULTRON #10:

The biggest secret in comics will be revealed to you! An ending so confidential…even the artists of this book don’t know what lies on the final pages…! A surprise so big that comic book legend Joe Quesada himself returns to the pages of Marvel Comics to draw a sequence that people will be talking about for years.

What a bunch of malarkey.

I’d like to say I found at least a few nuggets of awesomeness throughout issue #10 of the major crossover event that is AOU, but that would be a bold-faced lie. Not since DC’s FINAL CRISIS have I come away from a major event story feeling more disenchanted. Truthfully, it wasn’t just the final issue of AOU that left me cold; I found each issue wanting and full of missed opportunities.

I guess my biggest problem with this big finale is that nothing about it feels big, or even final for that matter. What it does feel like is more of a 10 issue teaser of yet more things to come.

So it goes like this: the bulk of this story focuses on events that took place previously in AVENGERS #12.1 with the Avengers rescuing one of their own from a cluster of smarty-pants villains known as the Intelligencia. Just when the bad guys are on the ropes, a Space Knight is assimilated into a new Ultron and he begins battling our heroes. Meanwhile, Hank Pym receives a message from himself with instructions on how to stop his mechanical creation and keep the age of Ultron from coming to pass. With Hank’s help, the good guys triumph and Ultron is destroyed and all seems right in the world again.

Sue Richards and Wolverine (two characters that the story’s focus has been on) breathe sighs of relief and part ways. A moment later a disturbance is felt by numerous characters across multiple dimensions. Past and present pool as characters from alternate universes such as the Ultimates and 2099 experience a collision with characters of Marvel 616. Time itself seems to shatter and then miraculously repair itself in an instant. The big brains of the Avengers Tony, Hank and Henry study the phenomenon and surmise “We broke the space-time continuum”.

So after nine issues of apocalyptic outlooks and time travel shenanigans, the big event is over and our heroes are left pondering how these tears in the fabric of time could impact other universes. The rest of the book is basically three epilogues that allude to three upcoming plots in other Marvel books. Honestly, what the fuck?! The big event that is so shocking and provocative is nothing more than an introduction of more things to come? Did Marvel just pull a Crisis? I thought that was DC’s shtick. Well, it doesn’t really surprise me--the big two rip each other off so much I can’t even keep track of it.

I have a sort of love/hate relationship with Bendis’ writing. There are times when his decompressed storytelling can really be a positive thing. Unfortunately, this isn’t one of those times. AGE OF ULTRON #10 does an amazing job of taking what little (and I mean little) momentum issues1-9 created and flushing it down the drain. I mean, I wouldn’t say the story is completely inconsequential; it’s just that we have to wait until the next big thing to see the significance. That in this reviewer’s opinion is not the way to tell a 10 part big event-like story. If this is the ending the folks at Marvel were going for, it could have been handled in a 3-4 issue format and worked just as well.

About the only thing enjoyable with this issue are the various artistic takes on the story, but even that morsel is a bit questionable. I’m not sure why this issue needed 7 or 8 artists, especially given the fact that several of the pages were already produced before. Still, I am fond of many of the artists who worked on this book, so it was kind of agreeable to witness this collaboration, if not necessary. Speaking of artists, the final pages consist of a double-page spread by Joey (the man you love to hate) Quesada featuring the first appearance of an angelic character plucked from Todd McFarlane’s Spawn universe and dropped into the Marvel U. Big fat freaking deal.

I don’t typically give my comic reviews a rating. And yet, if I were going to give AGE OF ULTRON a rating it wouldn’t be thumbs up or thumbs down--it would most likely be the middle finger.

C’mon, guys--you can do better than this.


THE X-FILES: SEASON 10 #1

Writers: Joe Harris with Chris Carter
Artist: Michael Walsh
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Reviewer: Masked Man


Let's face it: you can't keep a good sci-fi concept down. From Star Trek to Doctor Who to Battlestar Galactica, fans will always want more. Recently, with so many canceled TV series getting new 'seasons' in comic books, it's no surprise that the 90s sci-fi giant X-FILES is getting the same treatment. There have been other X-FILES comic books before, including their original run in the 90s, which lasted 41 issues. More recently there was a crossover with 30 DAYS OF NIGHT. But what makes this run important and gives it the 'Season 10' subtitle is that for the first time series creator Chris Carter is helping out with the stories (not counting the episode adaptations from the original comics).

So as you would expect, the comic picks up with Fox Mulder and Dana Scully where the last movie left off (minus the boat ride), the two of them living together under assumed names. As they try to move on with their lives, they get a visitor from the past. They learn someone has hacked the FBI data base and may have gotten their hands on Fox and Dana's personal files. Long time viewers may be happy to know this gets Dana to worry about her, uh, big family secret. So what makes this an X-File (something I thought was missing in the last movie)? Nothing--but a group of hooded people with glowing blue eyes up to no good makes it an X-File.

Storywise, this is all pretty good; nothing jumps out as great yet, but page 17 got me to jump out of my seat pretty damn good, as it will any big X-File fan. To be fair, any first issue of a five issue arc is probably not going to be amazing, especially with an X-Files, which are usually slow moody mysteries. Harris does pepper in some humor and action to keep it lively, though. The characters are well portrayed (though I'm not sure I buy the magic trick), and it is a solid enough issue to keep me reading. The big hope, of course, is Chris Carter's involvement. Will this series actually move Fox and Dana's lives forward, or just keep the status quo until Chris gets a new movie? I feel that's the true test to these 'season' comic books. If a new TV series or movie comes out, do these stories count as much as the old movies and TV series do? And by golly, would I love to see another X-Files movie!

Now, the art in any comic book based on a live action film or TV show always faces stiff criticism: Does it look like the actors? Nearly all of the time, the answer is no. It seems that any artist who could do this doesn't want to work in comics. I've always thought if you can't get them to look like the actors, you should stylize the art. This way fans can believe that is how the actors would look, if they were in that stylized world. Michael Walsh, for better or worse, just goes for it the best he can. There are several panels where they do look like David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, and there are several panels where they don't. Walsh’s style is very minimalist, so when he misses he misses. Still, his storytelling is nice, and it fits the tone of the X-Files. Less impressive is the coloring--it's serviceable but rather flat. I can only guess they were trying to match Walsh's simplistic art style, though I'd rather see something deeper in tone for these macabre tales.

Viewing this comic not as an X-Files fan, it's decent. Viewing it as an X-Files fan? Pretty darn interesting, mostly because of Chris Carter’s involvement. I'm very curious to see where Chris and company will take us here.

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


WONDER WOMAN #21

Writer: Brian Azzarello
Art: Cliff Chiang
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Henry Higgins is My Homeboy


My apathy for DC as of late has been trudging along, mindlessly reading reviews and summaries and even occasional issues, and the most entertaining aspect is usually getting to close the comic. There are a few highlights here and there, but for the most part, there’s just nothing to draw me into the universe.

Unless the comic is called WONDER WOMAN, in which case OH MY GOD. If you’re not reading Azzarello’s take on the character, then you owe it to yourself, your friends, and the world to read it. The current issue spends most of its time showing off the First Born, a new and incredibly intriguing villain, as he runs into Wonder Woman and her merry band of gods for the first time.

What follows is a tense battle, a thrilling chase through not only city streets but space and time itself, and finally a grand introduction to a character who, if I’m not mistaken, has yet to appear in the New 52.

It’s a wonderful issue in a near flawless series.


A CHILD IS BORN OGN

Writers: Matthew, Luke & God
Artist: Billy Tucci
Publisher: Apostle Arts
Reviewer: Optimous Douche


I’m rolling out my coverage of Wizard World Philadelphia 2013 a little differently this year. I’ve learned through hit reports of past con coverage there’s little interest in a drunken middle-aged man’s recounting of the proceedings. I’m not a starfucker, nor do I buy a lot of collectibles – I’m going for the comics, damn it. Since the Big 2 have been nonexistent entities the past few years, indie comics are what consumes a third of the cavernous Philadelphia Convention floor space, and that is what I choose to cover.

I also didn’t force myself on anyone this year. In the past I would introduce myself as Optimous from Ain’t It Cool. If people hadn’t heard of the site I would try to impress upon them the importance of coverage at the very least from a search engine optimization perspective. This year, if they didn’t hear or didn’t care about coverage, I congratulated them on their project and moved along. Billy Tucci was not one of those guys.

Most know Tucci from his work on SHI or WITCHBLADE, along with quite a few projects for the Big 2. Most however, have no clue where Billy’s true passion lies. A few years ago Billy became a founding partner of Apostle Arts to help transform the way too text heavy (my words) Bible into graphic novel format. Yes, illustrated versions of The Bible have been around forever, but this is the first time I know of where dialog has been introduced to take it away from a completely narrative-based experience. A CHILD IS BORN is also a damn sight exceptionally more gorgeous than those other hackneyed takes on “illustrations.” Tucci carefully and beautifully crafts from first star sighting to the beginnings of Jesus’ missing years. From stable to Pyramid, each image is insanely detailed—lush, if you will.

Being a staunch agnostic, one would think Billy and I would have come to blows on the showroom floor. However, neither of us is pushy in our beliefs. When I asked Billy why this book, he quite simply said “because I wanted to”, and that was really the most pure and simple answer I could ask for. Just because I view the Bible as stories that were needed to keep society in line instead of a divine voice put on paper does not mean I, nor anyone, should fault Billy and a few billion for thinking otherwise…and visa versa. It’s amazing, though, that when a project comes from the heart it doesn’t matter if your ideological lines diverge, the respect of the comic medium and the power of stories will transcend all. Plus, Billy chronicles the hows and whys behind tackling this tale in the back of the book. There’s also a fun little piece in Bible Code vein about the Star of the North’s astrological significance.

For anyone that doesn’t know the story, spoiler alert: Jesus is the Son of God. There’s Wise Men that deliver him awesome gifts, Joseph marries Mary instead of stoning her, and everyone lives happily ever…waaaa…well, not so…OK, this is uncomfortable. We all know Jesus’ ultimate fate, but what we forget is that he really had 99 problems from the get go.

Billy had books to sell and fans to greet, so I didn’t want to take up too much of his time. However, I am curious whether his graphic telling of the Bible will continue. I’ve read the whole Bible, as well as parts of the Koran and even the Book of Mormon. I can’t help it. I like the stories. Plus, I feel those that don’t try to see the other side end up seeing nothing at all. If you just take out the archaic hygiene lessons about only using shellfish to pelt adulteresses what you are left with are good rules to live by told with soap opera levels of drama. Basically, Billy, you have at least one person who would buy a series.

Believe, don’t believe, whatever. You should still know The Bible if for no other reason than not looking like a jackass when you try to claim something as original and it was written four millennia ago. Oh, and it’s the entire foundation of our culture…just saying. If you’ve been averse to traversing the tales from long ago because of the copious thees, thous and I ams, give A CHILD IS BORN a shot. Also give Billy a shout out to keep this easy imbibing of the Bible going.


WORLD WAR Z: THE ART OF THE FILM

Screenplay: Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard, & Damon Lindelof
Based ever so loosely on the novel by Max Brooks
Illustrator: Seth Engstrom
Photography: Kim Fredrickson
Storyboards: Robbie Consing CKS
Publisher: Titan Books
Reviewer: Ambush Bug


Say what you will about the movie and I will soon in an upcoming AICN HORROR column, but Titan Books has put together one hell of an art book focusing on WORLD WAR Z. The mammoth at the box office this previous week did have a ton of very cool visuals and this book highlights it all with storyboards, photos, and illustrations.

But that’s not all you get in this book. What I wasn’t expecting was a full script matching up with all of the imagery. Being the script nerd that I am, I loved reading along and remembering the differences and similarities between the story on the page and what played out in the actual movie. Given the controversial way this film came about, I would have loved to have seen the different incarnations of the script collected, but what we get here is pretty much the final shooting script, though there are some differences with the way the book and the film end.

A fan of the old STAR WARS painted storyboards, I couldn’t help but be bowled over by the stunning visuals of storyboard artist Robbie Consing CKS. His paintings capture the essence of the scenes as I remember them, highlighting the spectacle of the film.

The book is also filled with quotes from people behind the film talking about all of the work in making this a different style and kind of zombie film all together. Whether they succeeded is debatable, but the hard work behind the scenes is documented well here.

So sure, I understand the ire tossed toward this film and have some ire of my own in my pitching arm, but aside from all of that, WORLD WAR Z: THE ART OF THE FILM is a top notch documentation of it all. Now if they would have done it to Max Brooks’ actual book, it would have been a dream come true…

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.


SIX-GUN GORILLA #1

Writer: Simon Spurrier
Artist: Jeff Stokey
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee


When I first saw this book solicited I believe the first thing to run through my mind was “MONKEY!!!!” (Which really should be about 24 font sizes bigger but I don’t want to mess with the formatting, y’know?) This then prompted me to wonder: Are monkeys still even a thing? Are those wonderful, poop-throwing relatives of ours just another one of those geek collective consciousness things that gets put to the wayside as the new genre du jour cycles through? I mean, zombies are still a thing and probably way overdue to rotate out and have ninjas step back in, right? But then the other day I was playing “The Last of Us” and there were some monkeys (Game spoiler--you see some monkeys) and I yelled “MONKEYS!!!” at the TV like a kid at the zoo. Or, to be honest, like I do whenever I go to the zoo because I am an idiot and perpetually six years old. But maybe, just maybe, monkeys will always be a cultural touchstone. Also, zoos are horrible establishments that crush the spirits of beautiful animals and should be abolished for the sake of the creatures therein. Now on to this comic book…

SIX-GUN GORILLA goes the anticipative route with its open. The cover may be rife with a monkey wielding pistols, but the first half of the book is all world building, and definitely for a setting I did not expect to encounter in this book. What we’re introduced to is not quite the Steampunk Western I figured was to come from a six-shooting monkey book but a world that, while dusty and Westerny, is actually a future colony where forces are dying for control of the globe and for entertainment back home on Earth as their fighting and deaths are broadcast to the masses. While this admittedly threw me off a bit – I saw MONKEY! on the cover and expected plenty of monkey inside the contents it is wrapped around – I liked what I got. Really, what I thought worked well is the tone, which was pretty comically demented and what I figured a book by Si Spurrier featuring a gun-slinging gorilla to be like. I just did not expect the almost snarky gallows humor up front and in the context of people volunteering to die on a dustball planet with deals in place to put money in the hands of their loved ones for their sacrifices. Because, y’know, monkey.

All of these pages of mixed comical and yet sad deaths are just the lead up to the plot device that will be driving the next few issues and, yes, some hot monkey with giant revolvers action. Essentially it’s a lot of “here are some players” combined with lots of shooting and some clever and terrifying planetary effects like a blisterquake that shakes the ground and forces lovely impaling shards of rock up from it into fleshy people. What ends up happening, basically, is that one of those volunteers – a former librarian and a loser we only know as Blue-3425 – finds himself with a piece of… something that will have some broad implications given how some people at Bluetech (i.e. big, assumably evil corporation responsible for all the broadcasting and contracts) and a faction of war deserters react to his possession of this item. And then the gorilla blows a LOT of heads off and throws a horse on someone to squishify them.

As much as I ended up enjoying the setup, I have to highly promote the Jeff Stokey art that brought it to life, which may be what really tickled my fancy the most. It is that perfect amalgamation of scratchy yet highly detailed line work and cartoonish expressionism. It and the coloring really bring this vibrancy to the environment it takes place in, as well as really driving home that while there is this terrible warring going on, this book is not exactly living on the serious side of the tracks. It moves from panel to panel well, I really enjoy the designs and, most importantly, the monkey looks badass. The story was interesting enough, but the artwork is what really sold me on coming back.

I’m very happy to say I enjoyed this book on a level besides, eh, you know what it is by now. The setting may be one of those cases where it’s not necessarily original, but it’s definitely unique given the kind of obstacles and monsters Spurrier and Stokey inhabit it with. The humor has that bit of slightly grim tang to it while also being very flippant, especially in the HOLY FUCK THAT GUY’S HEAD EXPLODED! moments. I guess if there’s any real weakness I found in this comic it’s that I’m kind of tired of the “everything that is evil in the future exists because we crave reality TV” type plots, but it’s mostly in the background as chaos reigns in this premiere issue. Everything in here all looks gorgeous; we covered that. And then there is the thing with the stuff. Monkey with guns. There’s a half dozen panels of time spent with the creature that is the titular character, and the book is still a highly enjoyable debut. If that’s the case, between some more hot ape action and depending where the creative team moves the reality show plot (or, more apt, decides to keep it in the background and let the Western bits do the walking as they are far and away the appeal of the book) we could have some really special material coming, and I’m planning on being there for it as when it arrives. In the meantime I will be spending my time monitoring the Internets to see if this is the beginning of yet another trend shift, or if SIX-GUN GORILLA – and monkeys in general – are the one true nerd culture outlier…eh, that’s a lie. Sounds too much like work. I’ll just be watching more “Scrubs” until it’s time to crank out another thousand words for your (hopeful) enjoyment. 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.


NEW AVENGERS #7

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Mike Deodato
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Chris Massari


The title of NEW AVENGERS seems to be the only similarity to have carried over since the MARVEL NOW revamp of the series. Everything from the characters to the overall style--nothing seems to be the same. Hickman’s NEW AVENGERS of the MARVEL NOW universe has taken a darker tone when dealing with deeper moral dilemmas and issues, showing very little resemblance to the previous NEW AVENGERS series. While it may lack some of the action, characters, lighter tone, and overall idea of the original NEW AVENGERS of the pre-MARVEL NOW series, this NEW AVENGERS has been on point in every aspect.

So far in NEW AVENGERS, Captain America has been dropped from the Illuminati. The Illuminati is a group a powerful heroes behind the scenes, helping to keep the world in order. Not the Illuminati you find in triangles and Jay Z videos, for those not familiar with the Marvel version. Captain America felt the group had more options than destroying another universe in order to save their own. The rest of the Illuminati felt differently and in Survivor-like fashion voted Cap off the island. With the death of Charles Xavier this now leaves the group to only Tony Stark, Reed Richards, Beast, Black Panther, Black Bolt, Dr. Strange, and Namor. So with the various geniuses and overall super minds of the team, the Illuminati go to work dealing with the impending universe collusions or incursions with the help of Black Swan. The Illuminati and Black Swan then basically blew up another universe to keep it from colliding with their own. During this time period, the New Avengers (or really the New Illuminati) face off against one of Galactus’s heralds, Terrax, capturing him. They also had to stop one of the universe incursions in Latveria, which Doctor Doom got wind of after the fact, leading into the current issue of NEW AVENGERS number seven.

In Issue seven, NEW AVENGERS jumps ahead one month, beginning their THRONES arc and shifting from a sci fi story to a more political approach. Also with the THRONES arc, this brings NEW AVENGERS to the present of the MARVEL NOW timeline. Stark is in space with the Guardians of the Galaxy and Reed Richards is traveling the multiverse with the Fantastic Four. Beast has his new mutation, while Dr. Strange is traveling spatial planes. Black Bolt is currently dealing with his brother Maximus, who may have been the catalyst of the original incursions and some other Inhuman related issues. Finally, the last two members of the Illuminati, Black Panther and Namor, are still dealing with the aftermath of A VS X. The tensions between their two respective nations of Wakanda and Atlantis have basically come to a boiling point. Issue seven is all about the two nations handling political matters and the impending war between Wakanda and Atlantis, with T’Challa and Namor at the center of it all, not to mention the possibility of some Wakandans working against their queen Shuri.

I have to say writer Jonathan Hickman has done an amazing job with NEW AVENGERS. Some may not like the lack of action. However, if you enjoy a good story and good writing, then Hickman’s work speaks for itself. Hickman has done a good job with the character interactions of multiple, big personalities, dealing with more complex dilemmas rather than the usual clear cut, beat up the bad guy storylines.

The artwork of the NEW AVENGERS series has also been excellent. Issue seven sees a changing of the helm from Steve Epting to new artist Mike Deodato. Epting had a good way of creating a realism of the characters’ art, while capturing the mystery of the Illuminati group. With the change to Deodato, I still get that same feeling and believe the style works fluidly with the tone and writing of NEW AVENGERS. Deodato’s art emphasizes human emotions, adding to the book’s panels to create for a better reading experience.

Overall, I can’t say I have any complaints about the NEW AVENGERS series. The stories have been in depth and Hickman’s done a beautiful job tackling these deeper story elements. Deodato doesn’t disappoint in the art department, even with the shift to his work from Epting’s. The only thing I can really add to this review is if you don’t like lack of action or a lot of thinking, then you may get bored with NEW AVENGERS. But for those of us that do, Hickman’s NEW AVENGERS is a must read.


HARBINGER #13

Writer: Joshua Dysart
Artist: Khari Evans
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Reviewer: Optimous Douche


Here’s where I become a bit of a Hypocrite Douche for a second. I’ve railed for years against covers not having a goddamn thing to do with the interior material. However, I’m giving Valiant a pass because these 16-bit video game homages stroke my nostalgia nads like no other. No, the material doesn’t take place in the late 80s or early 90s and no on plays video games. If I have to craft a loose defense, Harbingerdoes fight Toyo Harada, so in that sense the cover delivers on the material inside, but again I know that I’m reaching. I guess what I have a problem with is traditional covers that are all pose and no posse, wherein a splash page of ridiculous poses transplants original thought welcoming a reader. I know I’m old, but I found all of Valiant’s 16-bit month delightful and this was simply the icing on the HARBINGER WARS cake of goodness.

So what happened inside the book? Basically a plan gone very, very wrong. This is the elongated seconds of HARBINGER WARS issue 3 where Pete Stancheck and the rest of his renegades completely garbazzled stopping Bloodshot and his fellow Project Rising Spirit refugees from reaching the casino compound in now-deserted Las Vegas.

The entire mini event that’s run through BLOODSHOT, HARBINGER and HARBINGER WARS has rolled this way, and quite frankly I wouldn’t have it any differently. This is crossover in the truest form, and clearly indicative of tight reins being pulled from an editorial standpoint. Not once has there been a gaffe, a misstep or anyone dialing it in as we see all too often when the Big 2 decide to blow our doors off. What’s also been great about this series as a whole is how much richness and much-needed backstory this has added to the entire universe. We see what caused the bad blood behind Harada and PRS in some very groovy flashbacks to 1969. We’ve seen early forays into superhuman development with the power downloading H.A.R.D. Corps and finally we’ve learned more about the children of this universe and their inescapable fate as pawns to the world’s power brokers.

This issue specifically was all hilarity as a plan that seemed unstoppable falls flat on its face from the get-go. Using a model (not built to scale of course), Pete masterfully crafts a way to actually sue everyone’s powers to stop Bloodshot and crew. Zephyr the early warning, Torque the tank to stop the armored Humvees from barreling forward, Flamingo to toast the insides—hell, even Kris gets to use her non-powered tactical acumen to guide this eventual folly from inside their penthouse sanctuary.

What’s been the best part in all of this has been our position as readers. We know that both Bloodshot and the Harbinger gang are fighting on the same side; the only problem is that no one has been able to talk to one another yet to realize it. I’ve also been enchanted with the calling out of Pete’s crew’s ridiculous idea to wear the costume of their enemy. That bad choice comes to full fruition this issue.

As we reach the story’s climax, I’m most intrigued to see the aftermath. Will we see a joining of the PRS kids with Pete’s crew? Will Bloodshot join them, give the kids up completely and continue the search for his lost identity? What about PRS and Harada--will we see the olive branch extended and a conglomerate formed, or is this merely the initial whispers of a much bigger war ahead?

I don’t have the answers and I don’t want them. The Valiant universe is more than a read, it’s the unfolding of a new epic mythology that knows the best part of comics comes from a symbiotic relationship of story instead of a forced parasitic appearance.


CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT #0

Written by: Joshua Williamson
Art by: Victor Ibáñez and Pere Pérez
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Reviewer: BottleImp


Ah, comic book superheroes of the so-called “Golden Age.” What is it about these colorful characters of the 1940s and ‘50s that constantly draw creators and readers alike back to revisit their adventures? Maybe it’s the age we live in—the constantly-connected and plugged-n fast-paced world of the 21st Century—that makes us nostalgic for a time we never knew, a time when the world seemed simpler and Good and Evil were clearly delineated. Maybe it’s a simpler matter of still being able to respond with childlike delight to the brightly-colored costumes and blatantly unironic monikers of these early heroes. Or, to take a more cynical view, maybe the fact that the majority of characters from the Golden Age have lapsed into public domain is what has kept comic book writers coming back to drink from that particular spring. Whatever the reason, I plant myself firmly in the same camp, and that’s what made me pick up the zero issue of this new CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT series.

Joshua Williamson is quite literally bringing this classic character into the 21st century with this comic. Captain Midnight, originally published by Fawcett Comics (home of C.C. Beck’s Captain Marvel) and based on a popular radio drama, was super-intellect Jim Albright. Albright designed advanced weapons and a specialized suit that allowed him to glide through the air, and as Captain Midnight he and his Secret Squadron worked to foil the Nazi menace at home and overseas. With this issue #0 (originally serialized in the pages of DARK HORSE COMICS PRESENTS) Williamson has the Captain rocket from the past into the present day, courtesy of the mysterious Bermuda Triangle. From there it’s a mix of intrigue and action, as the U.S. military tries to discover the secret behind Captain Midnight’s last mission—the one that sent him into the future—and nicely sets up the premise for the upcoming CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT ongoing series.

As I said above, I’m a sucker for all things Golden Age, so I came into this comic ready to enjoy it. Frankly, any time you’ve got a Nazi as your antagonist, that’s a solid point in my book. I also like the fact that Williamson’s protagonist doesn’t go through the tired old “man out of time” trope that’s been the standard since Stan and Jack brought Captain America back in the 1960s. The brooding hero in a world not his own has become somewhat of a cliché, handled well in some cases (such as Marvel’s THE TWELVE) and not so well in others (Dynamite’s PROJECT SUPERPOWERS). So it’s refreshing to see Captain Midnight realize that he’s been thrown into the future, assess the situation—-and immediately go into action.

Both Victor Ibáñez and Pere Pérez handle the artistic chores nicely, though I find Ibáñez’s slightly more textural artwork more appealing than Pérez’s slicker style. Neither artist will apparently be working on the ongoing series, but the preview pages at the end of the issue (drawn by Fernando Dagnino) look pretty snazzy.

This comic serves as a decent introduction to the Captain Midnight character, giving the reader everything he or she would need to know before delving deeper into the mystery of how and why Midnight traveled through time. Certainly it’s piqued my interest—-an interest which, admittedly, needed little prodding due to my Golden Age infatuation—-and I’ll be looking forward to the upcoming ongoing series. The real test of the new CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT will be to see if Williamson and his team will be able to make the comic and its classic characters interesting enough to keep reading after said infatuation inevitably fades.

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.


NEVERMINDS #1-3

Writer: Rich Bernatovech
Illustrator: Jamie Fay
Publisher: Drumfish Productions
Reviewer: Mr. Pasty


I was kind of hoping this series would suck, so I could end my review with “I was going to recommend this book, but NEVERMINDS.” Unfortunately for my limited wit--but fortunately for the gang at Drumfish--this happens to be a pretty exciting entry into the “Babes Save The World” genre. I'm not sure what else to call it. NEVERMINDS is centered around three leading ladies with extraordinary abilities. Alanis Munroe is a telepath, Nina Hartley is a teleporter and Samanya is a pyroclast. Together, they form a “secret, superhuman organization that offers security and investigation for a fee.” Essentially, they are a bunch of hot-looking mercenaries who can use their superpowers to fight crime and beat up evildoers.

And look ridiculously hot in the process.

The Neverminds are drawn with big boobs and tight asses, and you can't argue that it's not an integral part of this story, or they wouldn't be drawn that way. It's not a complaint, mind you, merely an observation. NEVERMINDS is designed to appeal to that part of the male brain that pursues good-looking babes across the bar, or in this case, the universe. Is it a coincidence that the hottest member of the group, Nina Hartley, is named after a famous porn star? Maybe, maybe not. I can say the attention to their details does not detract from the rest of the book, nor does it serve as an excuse to string together scantily-clad pin ups at inopportune moments.

Story first, T&A second.

One of the first things you will notice is how bright and bold Jamie Fay's illustrations are, leaping off the page with excitement and fervor. It wouldn't mean jack shit if Rich Bernatovech wasn't keeping pace with his narrative, but I'm happy to report his script is seamless and surprisingly nuanced compared to competing books in this genre. Despite the colorful appearance and inviting visuals, there is a fair amount of adult content here, including a bloody knife in a woman's belly and some suggestive innuendo. I wouldn't call it gratuitous, but it might be unsettling for younger readers who may be enamored with the vibrant palette. At the end of the day, it's an enjoyable comic book and a nice break from the hordes of zombies and overly-dramatic superhero fare. And those boobs…don't forget the boobs. Three thumbs up!

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.


FANTASTIC FOUR #9

Writer: Matt Fraction
Art: Mark Bagley
Publisher: Marvel Comcis
Reviewer: Henry Higgins is My Homeboy


I really want to like this issue.

It has all the elements of a solid “one and done” Fantastic Four adventure; exploring the relationship between two members of the family and their respective failings, the regrets of youth haunting the present, and a room literally full of Dr. Dooms.

I should love this issue. But it never really connects. Fraction and Bagley are both strong in this issue, but it ultimately feels hollow, and for the life of me I can’t figure out exactly why. I don’t care for the little revisions it makes to continuity (apart from a small moment of pettiness from Reed Richards, which speaks volumes to his character), nor the general motivation of the tale. The moral of the story doesn’t feel exemplified, but instead laid out with big lights going around it.

This was the issue of FANTASTIC FOUR I was most excited by, and it’s also the first issue that I was truly disappointed by.


<center@$$IE-LEAKS: THE UNEXPURGATED TRUTH!

By Stones Throw


I don’t know about you, but my reaction to the Snowbum revelations so far has been “If MI6, Rupert Murdoch, the Chinese mafia, Julian Assange and the President of the United States want to read my @$$Hole reviews then let ‘em!!”

I didn’t realize the full story until I heard a knock at my apartment door. It was hacking mastermind Julian Assange. He had fled the Ecuadorean embassy in London and, like me, come to Beijing. For what he needed to say he had to be in a strongly capitalist country independent within its own borders.

The sound of computer keys tapping in the apartment above him awakened nostalgic pangs. He finally had to disburden himself of the horrible secret he had been carrying for the past three years. He dropped the huge bundle of papers on my desk. “Burn these as soon as ya read ‘em, mate,” he said in his broad Aussie twang.

What follows is only safe for the hardest eyes. What follows could only be published on a website like AICN. No one else would touch it. It was too explosive.

What follows could only be called: @$$IE-LEAKS.

From: MM To: JQ 16 Feb., 2006
Hey, Joe. I was watching THE INCREDIBLES and had this brilliant idea for a story where the government passes a Superhuman Registration Act like in WATCHMEN and Iron Man fights Captain America because Iron Man has always been a government stooge, right? Don’t know what would happen after that, though. Yours, Mark.

From: JQ To: MM 17 Feb., 2006
Sounds awesome, bro!!

From: MM To: JQ 11 Nov., 2006
Hey, Joe. Steve says he’s gonna be another six months with the art for the last issue. He got stuck on the page where Iron Man lasers an ‘@’ sign on Captain America’s head and says “Do you think that @ stands for @$$Hole?” Sorry. Mark.

From: JQ To: MM 12 Nov., 2006
No worries, bro!!

From: JF To: JQ 3 Jan., 2007
Dear Mr. Quesada, Mr. Favreau wants to thank you for sending the IRON MAN comics to his office. However, Mr. Favreau wants to let you know that Mr. Downey, Jr. will be playing Tony Stark as a reckless playboy billionaire genius and less as…whatever the comics were. Mr. Favreau wants to thank you for your continued support. Yours sincerely, Office of Jon Favreau.

From: DD To: GM 5 Sept., 2008
Hey, Grant--loved your FINAL CRISIS script, great script, man. Only thing is, none of us are really sure what’s happening…Could you call me to sort this out? Thanks, Dan.

From: DD To: GM 8 Jun., 2009
Grant. Grant. Come in, Grant. Your last script had only vowels. The artists don’t know what to draw and we’re two months behind deadline. Could you call me ASAP, please?

From: DD To: GM 1 Jul., 2009>br? Grant. I’m flying to Scotland to work this out. I’ve never been there before, so could you meet me at the airport, please, Grant?

From: BB To: JQ 15 Sept., 2009
do u think pedo porker shuld loose his secrit identite agen

From: BB To: JQ 15 Sept., 2009
i ment perker

From: BB To: JQ 15 Sept., 2009
i men parka

From: AM To: KON 13 Jul., 2009
Wotcher Kevin. The schoolboy on page two comes from number 27 (vol. 3) of WHIZZER & CHIPS, fourteenth page and eighth panel. I’ll send you the stills from PERFORMANCE if you need to reference Mick Jagger’s todger. Speak to you soon, pal. Alan.


Some scary shit, huh? Barring arrests for sexual misconduct or deportation, the second instalment of @$$IE-LEAKS: WHAT YOU DIDN’T WANT TO READ will be appearing on a server near you shortly. Keep bugging.


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

Remember, if you have a comic book you’d like one of the @$$holes to take a look at, click on your favorite reviewer’s link and drop us an email.


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