AICN COMICS REVIEWS: JMS’ SIDEKICK! Fialkov’s THE BUNKER! Lemire’s TRILLIUM! WEIRD TALES MAGAZINE! & MORE!
(Click title to go directly to the review)
Advance Review: SIDEKICK #1
TOM STRONG AND THE PLANET OF PERIL #1
ANGEL & FAITH #24
THE FLASH ANNUAL #2
WHAT IF? AVX #4
ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #3
Advance Review: THE BUNKER #1-2
THE WAKE #3
SUPERMAN ANNUAL #2
WEIRD TALES Magazine #361
ANIMAL MAN ANNUAL #2
Advance Review: TRILLIUM #1
Advance Review: In stores this week!
SIDEKICK #1Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Artist: Tom Mandrake
Publisher: Image Comics/Joe’s Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
As a child of the 80s, I imagined a time when THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS would one day move from “What If” to actual continuity. A day when a Robin, any Robin, would actually don the cowl and take on his own little grunger, gother, emo or hipster as an assistant in short pants. As we all know, this is a pipe dream--as soon as characters become too long in tooth a mystical reset button is pushed that forces fountain of youth elixir down the throats of all our heroes. With the exception of Nightwing, it’s virtually impossible for sidekicks to graduate to full-blown heroes.
Not in the Joe’s Comics world, though. If you’re looking for a love letter to those that live in the shadow of heroes, look elsewhere. By Straczynski’s own admission in the letter that closes this inaugural issue, he has little love or respect for the mighty tykes put on sentry duty. In short, JMS has never bought the bullshit that kids are competent and disciplined enough to take on the mighty task of saving lives.
Quite honestly, incompetent is the best way to describe a sidekick’s value sans their hero counterparts. JMS has a definitive dark take on heroes. Not as dark as Ennis, but there’s little sunshine and rainbow unicorn droppings when JMS takes on capes outside of already established brands. Fly-Boy of Sol City is one such fallen angel.
The book starts with optimism to help herald the true nature of a heroics. Sadly, this golden age tarnishes quickly when the Fly-Boy’s mentor, the Red Cowl, is assassinated during a parade of all places. Actually, it happens before that. To keep the exposition moving JMS jumps time periods more often than Marty McFly. An opening of heroics in way back when, followed by a present-day extorted blow job for Fly-Boy from a hooker who is more Julia Childs than Julia Roberts. Back to remember when and we see the Red Cowl, Fly-Boy’s mentor, take a slug to the chest during an honorary parade; back to the present and Fly-Boy is drinking himself into a stupor.
Apparently the Red Cowl didn’t leave his affairs in order, and superheroing is a much bigger drain on corporate coffers than Batman ever let on. I’ve always hated the concept of Batman Inc., but then I never considered the tax shelters it apparently provides. Also, being a superhero is a less coveted job than being President. No one, and I mean no one, wants to step into Red Cowl’s shoes. No other playboy millionaires, not even guerilla heroes like Rorschach. No one wants the gig, and sadly our friend Fly-Boy sprouts one pube too many to be taken seriously as a Sidekick anymore.
The metaphor is apparent: Fly-Boy is the comic equivalent of so many child stars who ride the wave of cuteness only to grow up with the face of Fred Savage instead of Danica McKellar. These reflections of real life slathered in the fantastic always make for the best books, and are becoming the running theme for Joe’s Comics.
The book ends with a surprise I refuse to ruin; it will obliterate the aesthetic distance you need to enjoy the pages prior. I will say, though, that Fly-Boy’s suffering has been needless.
With only the second offering from Joe’s Comics, we can’t claim Skybound a success yet; however, I can applaud JMS’ commitment to variety over Kirkman’s. Kirkman has been a slow bleed over the years with spin-offs more than original books. JMS is creating universes instead of suns within one contained spiral. Read SIDEKICK for the story, to revel in Mandrake’s pretty pretty pictures, and to get in on the ground floor of Image’s true next big thing. TV and movies make or break comic value, people, and JMS Studios’ are the only #1’s from Image that have the clout to get there quickly.
P.S.: +2 creativity and marketing attributes for the QR code-driven audio plays of the books that Joe keeps Easter Egging inside his #1’s.
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.
TOM STRONG AND THE PLANET OF PERIL #1Writer: Peter Hogan
Artist: Chris Sprouse
Publisher: DC Vertigo
Reviewer: Masked Man
After about a two year hiatus, Alan Moore's riff on Doc Savage has returned, again drawn by his co-creator Chris Sprouse. Being a fan of good old fashioned action/adventure, Tom Strong was one of my favorites of the ABC Comics line. Not as slick or heady as the other comics, so it's kinda surprising to see the 'classic' square jawed, true blue action hero still getting into print.
Just like any good comic book series, TOM STRONG AND THE PLANET OF PERIL picks up our characters where we pretty much left them off (from TOM STRONG AND THE ROBOTS OF DOOM), so these miniseries aren't just one-offs--they actually build on the stories and characters from previous issues. Tom Strong's daughter Tesla has married her firelord/salamander boyfriend Val Var Garm, and is very pregnant, and in the vein of “what if Superman and Lois Lane had a baby?”, problems occur. To help out, Tom contacts his old villain recently turned friend Dr. Permafrost. Then, continuing with bringing up the past, the next stop on Tom Strong's daughter rescue mission: Terra Obscura, which is an alternate Earth (in the vein of Pre-Crisis DC) with their own Tom Strong, named Tom Strange. Building on and using previous storylines is great, something comic books can do much better than most entertainment outlets, but even as a somewhat regular reader, I do wish editors Ben Abernathy and Kristy Quinn would jump in every now and then with scorecards of people and events.
Peter Hogan, probably Tom Strong's number two writer, handles the writing duties again. He does a fine job picking up this story in the middle of the action and setting up the plot without this feeling like a set-up issue. As with the last miniseries, ROBOTS OF DOOM, there is usually too much going on to waste time on the slow burn set-up issue so many writers use today. Hogan knows he doesn't have music or video editing to create building tense with establishing shots. He jumps right to the point of each scene. Everything flows really well here, as Hogan does a good job with all the different characters and all their different relationships, another thing comic books can do really well when the writer isn't forcing characters through plot hoops.
On some level, though, the main draw is Chris Sprouse. In a field where artists often just try to put their own spin on the current 'hot look', Sprouse remains true to his own creative voice. There is pretty much no one out there who looks like Sprouse: always clean, exciting, interesting to look at with great storytelling. His characters are always picture perfect, from close-ups to far shoots. It’s always a treat to see his work, especially on a character like Tom Strong, who he helped bring to life (heck, I often have trouble accepting anyone else drawing him).
So with crazy good times ahead for us, this is sure to please any Tom Strong fan. If you're not a fan yet, this would be a good time to get your feet wet. Even though I praised this first issue for growing out of the previous runs, that was mostly the icing on the cake. The main event is still the start of another adventure in the life of Tom Strong, who appears to be on a rescue mission before a rescue mission in TOM STRONG AND THE PLANET OF PERIL, which is definitely one to check out.
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
ANGEL & FAITH #24Writer: Christos Gage
Art: Rebekah Isaacs
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee
For, say, ever since it existed I’ve felt that the Angel side of Whedon’s Buffyverse has been the stronger half of the creation. What it comes down to, quite honestly, is that the show and now the comic (far and away the superior product to the Buffy side yet again) have had the stronger characters with less of the soap opera aspect.
Sure, the air is still thick with drama in this book, but the emphasis, such as with this issue, is on the heroics. Angel still broods and regrets his past, but his focus more on the singular aspect of resurrecting Giles instead of just weeping over all Angelus has wrought has let this material keep one foot in the redemption with the other planted firmly in hacking and slashing. Plus it has become a story more of Faith’s redemption, a storyline I always felt got short shrift during the television days of this material. And the hacking and slashing is at a premium here, as the book winds down and Angel and his crew try and stop Whistler, Pearl, and Nash from transforming the world with unstable magic in a world that has none.
All in all it makes this book head and shoulders the more entertaining book between it and BUFFY, and the one that I will be keeping my eye out for the return of when the Season 10 roll out comes around.
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.
THE FLASH ANNUAL #2Writers: Brian Buccellato and Nicole Dubuc
Artists: Sami Basri and Cully Hamner
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: The Dean
The Flash is one of those characters that I like a lot, but just haven’t read that much of apart from Geoff Johns’ run and some of Mark Waid’s (not counting any team stuff like JLA or crossovers/events like FLASHPOINT, etc.). My weekly stack has been a little too tall for quite a while now, and THE FLASH was dropped early in Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato’s take on Barry Allen solely to save the $2.99. However, after some recent drops and the announcement of DC and The CW moving ahead on a new Flash TV series, I figured now was as good a time as any to see what’s been going on in Central City lately.
I’ve jumped right into the middle of THE FLASH with issue #22, and so far so good, but this week I’ll be focusing on the quick Flash fix I got from picking up THE FLASH ANNUAL #2, if for no other reason than I like annuals because they provide a much needed respite from main story, but they can also operate as a great gateway for newcomers to familiarize themselves with a character, or key, overarching plot points in the series. With THE FLASH ANNUAL #2, we get two self-contained stories that draw from both the fun and deeper elements that have made The Flash such an enduring character, neither requiring any previous knowledge. Well, you should probably know that he runs really fast...
Brian Buccellato claims sole writing responsibilities with Sami Basri on pencils for the annual’s first tale, “The Quick and the Green”, a story that teams The Flash up with Green Lantern Hal Jordan. Years ago, Hal made a promise to some alien nogoodniks from Arena World that both he and The Flash would represent the House of Verus in a “Hunger Games”-style battle royale in order to spare the Earth children they’d kidnapped to raise as warriors. Skip to present day, where the aliens have returned to collect their two superhero warriors, and Hal kinda sorta forgot to tell Barry about the whole thing.
There’s nothing too spectacular about the story itself, but it’s really just a platform to showcase the relationship between Barry and Hal here, which Buccellato writes incredibly well. For this lighthearted adventure, it all hinges on how well the jokes work, and there are some very funny moments in this issue that lend to a sense of real chemistry between the two characters. Once or twice Hal’s brash, headfirst brand of superherhoing comes across as the more dominant or admirable one for a comic that doesn’t say GREEN LANTERN on the cover, but otherwise it’s a pretty respectable treatment of the two that should more than satisfy fans of either.
“Details,” THE FLASH ANNUAL #2’s second story by Nicole Dubuc with Cully Hamner drawing, is a deeper look into the ways in which The Flash impacts the lives of everyone in Central City, which also happens to be a nice little morality lesson in how even the smallest gestures can have an enormous impact. Most of the story is a narrative from Barry telling us just that, but there’s a quick standoff between The Flash and a man whose misfortunes he blames on the speedster that’s quickly resolved so that Barry can finish lecturing us. How much you like this story will probably depend on how many of this type you’ve read, so while there wasn’t particularly anything wrong with it, it just didn’t do enough to really stand out or resonate beyond its final panel.
The same can be said about Hamner’s art, which isn’t terrible, but it definitely looks a little rushed here compared to some of his other work, which I tend to like a lot. It’s serves the story well, but some of the posturing and facial expressions look a bit generic, and for some reason The Flash only gets three faces here: open mouth smile, determined, or about to sneeze. Basri, with Stellar Labs on the other hand, made “The Quick and the Green”, a much more dynamic experience that elevated an already great script, and created one of the more visually memorable stories of the week for me.
So this annual goes one for two, but that one is a really fun story that fans of The Flash or Green Lantern should enjoy. If it’s a more regular Flash commitment you’re looking for, you can probably skip the annual and spend the money catching up from THE FLASH #20 on, though fans of classic one and done superhero adventures could do a lot worse than THE FLASH ANNUAL #2.
WHAT IF? AVX #4Writer: Jimmy Palimotti
Artists: Jorge Molina & Gerardo Sandoval
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Mighty Mouth
The key thing to keep in mind when reading a WHAT IF? comic is that you are reading a WHAT IF? comic.
A successful WHAT IF? yarn should always include two crucial elements. First, there should be at least one moment that makes the reader declare an expletive out loud (awkward when others are about). Secondly, the story should end with a curiosity factor of where the story could possibly go from here. That being said, WHAT IF? AVX #4 delivers the goods.
In the original Avengers Vs. X-Men story, the Phoenix Force was eventually passed to Cyclops, who found it overwhelming. After a shitload of destruction, the Avengers and X-Men finally managed to exorcise the Phoenix entity and, as a parting gift, the mutant race was born anew. Issue #4 of WHAT IF? AVX holds nothing back by revealing what would happen if the Phoenix power was passed to a more malevolent being, namely Magneto.
With all-out war ensuing, Magneto becomes drunk with power. Some popular characters are put out to pasture and things don’t look so great for the Avengers or the X-Men. Wearing his intentions on his sleeve, Erik makes it clear that the human race is about to become extinct. Luckily, the timely intervention of Professor X gives the Hulk and Wolverine the seconds needed to make their move and put an end to this mess. The result is an amalgamation of apocalypse and creation at once.
After taking in the whole series, something funny dawned on me. I was verbal in other reviews about how the original AVX story was too overstretched. Yet with WHAT IF? AVX, I think the story could have benefitted by having one or possibly even two more issues. With two more issue to work, with Palmiotti could have taken this miniseries from pretty cool to full on awesomeness.
At their core, WHAT IF? books are supposed to be just plain old fun. If you treat them as such, you will most likely enjoy the ride. Venturing into the realms of WHAT IF? expecting something deep and metaphysical would just be an exercise in irrationality. WHAT IF? books are kind of the popcorn flicks of the comic industry.
So make for the popcorn and enjoy.
ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #3Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist: Stephen Segovia
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man
There often seems to be two camps when it comes to Superman. One loves the fact that he is the most powerful, fastest and smartest being in all creation. These are the people arguing online about how Superman could figure out a way to beat the living crap out of the Living Tribunal and everyone in Kandor City with one hand tied behind his back (because, ya know, he promised an eight year old boy he'd only use one hand). The other camp finds this fact the very reason they hate all things Superman and will never read one of his comics or watch one of his movies. And, as usual, I find myself in the middle.
This comic book is for the first camp. Spoilers big time ahead! For you see, in this one issue, Superman defeats Darkseid, saves a bunch of New Gods, fixes Green Lantern Laria's problem before she has a chance to say explain it, lobotomizes a giant space worm, solves a planet's geo-political problems (but first he teaches himself their language), puts an end to a world war before they even know it happened, rescues a random police officer back on Earth, saves Lois Lane from Lex Luthor (though unsure how he even knew she was in danger) while she is completely oblivious of being saved, travels who knows how many millions of light years--all in the span of one hour--then has the audacity to say, he can't do everything?! Seriously, Kindt, what did Superman fail to do in this story that would make him think that? He even had time for his slow walk with Lois, his dream--so he didn't even have to sacrifice anything.
This comic is the perfect example of why so many writers and fans hate Superman--what's the point? On the plus side I enjoyed Segovia's art, and I thought Kindt did a great job pulling off the trick of two stories on one page (Supes saving the universe and Lois talking to Lex). But seriously, if Superman can do all that in an hour, why the f—k(!) is Lex Luthor still causing trouble? Anyone?
Advance Review: First chapter available this week downloaded for $1.99!!
THE BUNKER Chapters 1-2Writer: Joshua Hale Fialkov
Art: Joe Infurnari
Publisher: Self-published and through Comixology
Reviewer: Ambush Bug
If you had the chance to talk to yourself in the past, what would you tell yourself to do? That’s the question Josh Fialkov asks in this dark and interesting twist on time travel. A group of kids find a bunker as they are about to bury a time capsule themselves. Inside are notes to themselves telling them important details that may lead to the end of the world. Now the group must deal with this knowledge with no way of communicating with their future selves at all for questions or answers.
Time travel stories usually make my brain itch, but Fialkov keeps this one low to the ground and real. We don’t get into heady concepts about rupturing the space/time continuum or anything like that. This is just a bunch of kids who happen upon knowledge dropped onto them from their future selves and how that knowledge burdens them.
The cool thing about THE BUNKER is that it treats things in a patient and realistic way (given the one fantastic circumstance about a message from the future). The first two chapters focus on the kids coming to terms with this knowledge and even whether they believe it or not. These scenes are played out with a patient hand, showing character through each kid’s reaction to the notes. Some of the notes are very personal, in order to prove that the note writer is who he or she claims to be. Such is the case for one of the kids who is the focus of the second chapter. Fialkov’s dark description of an event only the writer and the reader would know (because they are the same person—you follow me?) are the stuff of nightmares and make for an extremely compelling read.
Everything is told with moody ambiance and scratchy character designs from Joe Infurnari. The artist does a fantastic job distinguishing these characters from one another, which is not always easy when you don’t have colorful costumes to rely on. Here, the artist varies body shape and size to distinguish each, making it easy to follow.
All in all, THE BUNKER is shaping up to be one hell of a suspenseful read. The chapters are being released on its website and through Comixology upon completetion, with the first two chapters available now. Anyone who followed the unfolding story of Fialkov’s amazing TUMOR which was released by the chapter a few years ago knows that with indie work like this, that’s where Fialkov shines. Through some fantastic imagery from Infurnari, Fialkov’s return to suspense is the stuff spines like mine long to tingle for. Highly recommended.
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over 12 years & AICN HORROR for 3. He has written comics such as VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS THE TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, THE DEATHSPORT GAMES, & NANNY & HANK (soon to be made into a feature film from Uptown 6 Films). He has co-written FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND’s LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF (to be released in 2013 as a 100-pg original graphic novel). Mark wrote the critically acclaimed GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK from Zenescope Entertainment & GRIMM FAIRY TALES #76-81. Look for GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK: LAST OF THE SPECIES available in February-July 2013 and the new UNLEASHED crossover miniseries GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS WEREWOLVES: THE HUNGER #1-3 available in May-July 2013! Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitter @Mark_L_Miller.
THE WAKE #3Writer: Scott Snyder
Art: Sean Murphy
Publisher: DC Vertigo
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee
Three issues into THE WAKE – a tale of evolutionary alt-history by the highly talented creative team of Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy – and it is simultaneously a book I find highly intriguing and yet which stumbles over itself quite a bit.
I actually love the horror bits of this tale, particularly the well-executed claustrophobia these horror-under-the-sea stories bring, and I like how Snyder is spinning this story of a sea species that may be our missing link and weaving it with some real, hard science and unexplained phenomena, such as the Lonely Whale. And in this specific issue of “holy fuck, it’s murdering us all” I find the escape and decimation of the crew at the hands of the merman they were tasked with figuring the origins of properly horrifying.
That said, THE WAKE also suffers from a shit ton of exposition overlaid on top of these events, which kills a little bit of the momentum here and there as things are going pear-shaped, and which has also been the culprit of eating time that could have been spent on getting familiar with the characters more. A lot of death occurs in this issue, and some good one-liners and last moments are had as these victims go down fighting, but it’s all by characters that three issues in I have so little attachment to that I could not tell you any of their names without looking. And it’s that attachment that I really look to have in a story that’s more on the horror side of things like this issue, because I want these inevitable deaths to impact just a little bit emotionally.
Overall this has left THE WAKE, for me, to be a book that tickles my synapses the right way between atmosphere, the conceptual bits storywise, and visually because of Murphy’s gorgeous art (which aids the other two points quite a bit) but does not really invest me in any sort of heart of the book. It’s a book that has done wonders for turning on the theorizing and logical parts of my mind but, currently at least, has yet to engage the emotional side.
SUPERMAN ANNUAL #2Writer: Scott Lobdell
Artist: Dan Jurgens
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
Lobdell continues to be the best thing to happen to Superman in the New 52. Morrison did a fine job on the first arc of ACTION, but derailed quickly when the book flash forwarded to current day and Clark became a fireman or some shit. SUPERMAN proper? A train wreck before Lobdell, plain and simple. Snyder is doing well with UNCHAINED, but my doors aren’t blown off, and frankly, with only two issues down it’s too hard to herald true success or failure. Lobdell, though, has a track record down and in my very subjective opinion he gets the character, and more importantly the world and supporting cast of Superman. SUPERMAN ANNUAL 2 is not only another great Lobdell creation; I would say this is one of the most important Supes books since Clark chucked away his outside underoos and went Nehru jacket with his collar because, plainly and simply, it ain’t about Clark.
Since the inception of the New 52 Lois Lane has either been a shrew wallpaper plot device that’s easily forgotten, or just…well…downright cunty. I hate the word, but it is the concise embodiment of the condescending, catty and just downright mean woman that Superman was once married to, for God’s sake. I know DC is playing the line that Wonder Woman is the new heir apparent to Kryptonian litter bearing, but do we all think that is honestly going to happen? Clark still carries a torch for Lois, and shows a super uneasiness when placed in a triangulation of his two raven haired ladies, and let’s face it--Lois’ Hera complex will only truly ever let her love Superman. But with the way Lois has been until she was placed in Lobdell’s hands, I shuddered at the prospect of old meanie pants ever getting her heart’s desire.
Lois Lane should be hard, but never harsh. Lobdell has found the vulnerabilities Lois or any character needs to be truly accessible. He gave her a mentorship role towards Clark, despite her completely dejecting the idea that he is a damn dirty blogger, but he also has well shown her own self-loathing towards the role she took as media mogul versus purveyor of truth.
In this issue specifically, we also see compassion for the first time from Miss L. Since Brainiac put Metropolis in a bottle, Lois has suffered from a bit of PTSD that she veils behind her inquisitive reporter gal nature. I’m getting ahead of myself, though; the issue actually opens with Lois Lane dead.
That’s right--Lois’ narration is a reflection of those last moments of life, which I guess didn’t really start until Superman came and changed the world. It’s interesting to revisit mini Metropolis again, but this time see it through the eyes of the captives--more specifically, twenty who were imbued with Brainiac’s genetic code and thus his 12th level intelligence. Why they are transformed should be told by the book, but what we learn about Brainiac relates to a L.E.G.I.O.N. that is a far cry from the New 52’s version.
Of course, humans can’t possess 12th level intelligence--our bodies reject it. All we can handle is copious amounts of high fructose syrup and reality television. The issue opens with one imbued big-head spilling the beans to Lois about what happened when Metropolis was trapped in a bottle. The rest of the issue sees Lois trying to ferret out the rest using her reporter supah-powers. Some did good, some did nothing and others used it for blatant opportunism – all, though, will have their heads go splat in the end.
Another aspect of SUPERMAN ANNUAL #2 that raised my fangeezer antennae was that this annual has consequence. Very often Annuals serve as one-off affairs, never derailing or propelling the events of a book. This Annual, though, will continue the stories of the Brainiac people as well as Lois’ ultimate fate in Superman books moving forward. This means it will be the first time I bought an issue of ACTION since Morrison left the title.
Obviously I’m a Superman kind of guy, but I’m also a realist. As much as I heralded the first issues of Superman’s adventures in the New 52, the luster slowly wore off. I love Jurgens as a penciler (e.g. this issue), but as a writer he left me wanting. DC tried this combo approach with a lot of books, and I appreciate everyone breaking out of their traditional wheelhouse once in awhile. However, we live in the age of specialization, not Swiss Army Knives. If you walked away from SUPERMAN before, come back and use this is as your jumping on point. The deck chairs have finally been rearranged in the right positions.
WEIRD TALES Magazine #361Writers: Various
Reviewer: Ambush Bug
It’s been a while since I picked up one of these horror/sci fi/fantasy fiction magazines, and I don’t know why I don’t do it more often--most likely because there aren’t many around anymore still kicking. WEIRD TALES was one of the first to combine authors of all shapes, sizes, and sorts of fame or lack thereof. First published in 1923, the book focused mainly on stories other magazines were too scared to put out, publishing the likes of H.P. Lovecraft, Ray Bradbury, Robert E. Howard, and Tennessee Williams, among scores of others. While the magazine, which often featured all sorts of prose, poetry, pictures, and paintings, was seen as a major inspiration to many of today’s most famous writers, the magazine was discontinued in 1954, and while attempts to revive the book occurred in the 60’s and 70’s, it wasn’t until recently with issue #360 that those behind the book committed to bringing out the magazine with new content on a regular schedule. Issue #361 hit the stands a week ago, and though it took me a while (since I’m so used to readin’ them thar funny books!), I read through this latest issue and upon finishing, I couldn’t wait for the next issue.
The thing that makes WEIRD TALES stand out is that its mission is to publish stories that you can’t find anywhere else. They are stories that defy explanation. They aren’t one trick stories which can be described in an elevator pitch; they are well thought out weirdisms. In short, the kind of stuff I love to read. I grow tired of the same old variations on stories following the same narratives with interchangeable characters. In each of the submissions I dove into, none of them were conventional and all of them were so much fun to read.
Let’s go through some of my favorites in this issue, which focused mainly on fairy tales:
Tanith Lee brings us Magpied, a twist on the old Pied Piper motif about a town overrun with deviant children and the desperate acts the parents partake in to see them stopped. I was blown away by this original take on the old story, which combined CHILDREN OF THE CORN with the old fairy tale.
Andrew J. Wilson offers up an awesome poem called Merciless, which focuses on Flash Gordon’s main nemesis that is just plain odd and altogether cool in both subject and delivery.
The story of how the lightning bug came to be is beautifully described by Nicole Cushing in a story called I Am Moonflower. It’s a simple tale, but that’s what makes it feel so timeless and authentic.
Morgan Llywelyn’s Blind Alley talks about fairy folks’ intentions to wipe out the human race after giving them way to many chances in a clever little waking dream in first person.
Caitlin Campbell writes a story of angel and air travel which felt like reading pure uncut creative genius in both idea and execution in The Miracles of LaGuardia Airport (Delta Terminal)
Jane Yolen tells a story of ritual and being qualified to do the job of the rabbi in a short but poignant tale called Enough.
Dick Baldwin writes a story that sent chills straight down my spine called The Lute Player and The Mask.
And Alex Shvartsman tells a tale of a very angry gnome in A Gnomish Gift.
This issue also features interviews about personal thoughts on the importance of the fairy tale by Ramsey Campbell, Jessica Amanda Salmonson, Elizabeth Bear, and Orrin Grey, plus there’s an amazing talk with sculptor/artist Tessa Farmer who takes taxidermied animals and adds epic fairy battles on top and around them that is truly a sight to see and a testament to how fairies is a subject matter with endless creative potential.
All in all, this issue of WEIRD TALES is an absolute winner. I can’t wait to check out the next issue, which focuses on tales of the undead. With gorgeous imagery and prose you can sink right into, if you’re a lover of all things surreal and wonky, you should do yourself a service and check out WEIRD TALES MAGAZINE.
ANIMAL MAN ANNUAL #2Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Travel Foreman
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee
What has really made Buddy Baker, Animal Man, such a special character since the Grant Morrison renaissance, I feel, has been the familial relationship that he and the writers since have crafted.
Between the warm, loving, and genuine presentation of this family unit and the perpetual undercard nature of the character (both in sales and DC Universal status) it was only a matter of time before tragedy struck; that’s just how it works in comics. The effects of the untimely death of Buddy’s son Cliff has weighed greatly over this comic for several issues now, and this particular one is really just another dagger in the heart of the readership as they watch Buddy grieve. It’s the flashback nature of it that really does it this time, as it hearkens back to a simpler period where they were just a dysfunctional family with another addition on the way, instead of the unit that has been dodging death every since this book came to be post-FLASHPOINT.
The juxtaposition of where things were with the happy and relatively carefree Baker family before the whole “Rotworld” saga and now with the ruin the family is currently split over and wrestling with really drives home where Lemire and those on this end of the DCU – the last bastion of quality writing for the publisher line besides Vertigo – have taken things the past couple of years.
And it’s why that side of the line still holds up: because it’s one of the few places where the stories being put forth feel like they mean anything.
Advance Review: In stores this week!
TRILLIUM #1Writer: Jeff Lemire
Art: Jeff Lemire
Publisher: DC Vertigo
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
Jeff Lemire is once again Le Awesome in the first episode of his 8 part series TRILLIUM. While I’ve enjoyed his in-continuity work on books like JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK, his true genius is served when working on his creator-owned properties.
Also, his stories are best served by his sketchy art style. I laugh as I write this because it was that style that once made me at first shun his last series, SWEET TOOTH. Honestly, it wasn’t until an interview op with Lemire came to us that I bothered to read the series right after the first trade came out. All right, maybe it was also the fact I wasn’t able to accept a borderline diabetic deer boy could be interesting. I was wrong. I actually think I pissed Jeff off a little with my close to the mark guesstimates on where the series was headed, but I couldn’t help myself. Gus, the soulful harbinger of man’s doom, sucked me in, and I cared so much for all the characters I was aching to know what would come next. This is a testament to Lemire’s ability to capture the human existence on page at the same time he delivers us to a world so unlike our own. Few accomplish this, focusing instead on the spectacle of something different. Lemire remembers that spectacle is only spectacular if our protagonist guide thinks so as well.
TRILLIUM is another tidy encapsulation of Lemire’s trademarks of the human condition colliding with WTF scenarios. This time he leaves behind Mother Gaia…sorta…to show us the last bastion of humanity amongst the stars. 4,000 humans remain…sorta…see, there are two series happening here. The flip book nature promised in Previews is different than the past portrait-to-landscape shift Lemire did on SWEET TOOTH. No, TRILLIUM can be read front-to-back or back-to-front.
I started (purely by accident) with the Scientist part of the story. The year is 2797 and, as I mentioned, humanity is in its last breaths of existence. We are at war as we often are, except this time the enemy is not ourselves or some damn dirty Cylons. We are being chased down and eradicated by a sentient virus. The only thing to cure this virus is a plant called Trillium. Unfortunately, we can’t synthesize the plant and the greatest natural source is protected by a bunch of aliens who we don’t understand. We tried to understand them. and as usual we fucked it up royally. Nika our scientist is a lovely young lady trying to repair that damage with a translation program. On one of her scheduled visits with the aliens, her contact is nowhere to be found so she enters the compound to find a shit ton of Trillium and an old Incan temple. That’s right--halfway across the galaxy sits one of Earth’s or at least man’s, oldest artifacts. When Nika is compelled by the aliens to climb the temple, she is in a dense jungle where she runs into The Soldier.
Flip the book…
William’s story is far more action oriented. He is a soldier suffering from a heavy case of PTSD from his time during the trench warfare of WWI. With the war behind him and the Roaring Twenties just getting started (I’m assuming England roared during this time as well), he’s a man looking for purpose. When at an exhibit surprisingly enough filled with Incan artifacts, he believes he found his new mission in life, so it’s off to the jungles to look for a temple that is a verboten and dark place.
Have you made the connection yet? Of course, William’s tale ends at the same place as Nika’s, with the two staring at one another.
This is sci fi at its finest, an amalgam of everything we love – time travel, space, alien races and of course the most important element of how humans process these stirring events.
Lemire has another winner on his hands if for nothing other than how all of these events will play out. The fact that I already feel something for these characters is the proverbial icing on this delicious cake. I’m already lamenting the fact this series is 1/8 over. I appreciate finite stories more than the endless characters these days, but on the same token I’m greedy and when I hold a winner in my hands I never want it to go away.
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G
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