Comics

AICN COMICS REVIEWS: THE MIGHTY AVENGERS! THE LIVING CORPSE! THE SHADOW/GREEN HORNET! BATMAN! & MORE!

Published at: Aug. 21, 2013, 12:46 a.m. CST by ambush bug

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

Advance Review: THE MIGHTY AVENGERS #1
THE LIVING CORPSE OMNIBUS V1
JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #7
Indie Jones presents MONSTROSITY V1
T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS #1
INFINITY #1
SAGA #13
BATMAN #23
Indie Jones presents STRANGER #5/OF STONE OGN
THE SHADOW/GREEN HORNET: DARK NIGHTS #2
DEADPOOL #14
GHOSTED #2
Advance Review: JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK #23


Advance Review: In stores today!

THE MIGHTY AVENGERS #1

Writer: Al Ewing
Art: Greg Land (pencils), Jay Leisten (inks)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Ambush Bug


Being more of an Avengers fan than an X-Fan, I’m always up for trying something new when it comes to a new Avengers title, and boy have I had my share of new Avengers titles. Now, with the recent Marvel Now soft reboot of their line of comics, there haven’t been too many Avengers books released. Still, in order to pry my shekels from my clammy hands, there’s got to be a premise to a new Avengers book that I find both intriguing and worthy of existing in an already cluttered market. Now, I’m not sure about how well it fits in with all of the rest of the books, but the new first issue of THE MIGHTY AVENGERS was a pretty worthwhile read.

I’m not familiar with the work of Al Ewing, though I see he’s had some experience writing for Britain’s 2000AD comics, so I can’t speak to whether or not the guy has done anything prior that makes me feel good or bad about his assignment of writer to this new series. The opener issue is a decently written one, sort of by the book as it feels like a “getting’ the gang together issue” as Luke Cage shows up with a new Heroes For Hire group to battle a menace (not really a huge menace, as The Plunderer and Blue Streak don’t really feel like the type of challenge that would be much work for the team) only to find themselves at odds with the Superior Spidey-Ock who calls them out for charging for their services. As Cage mentions, this is an argument he’s had before with folks who don’t take to this more mercenary form of heroism, but in the end, Cage’s stubbornness forces him to change the name of his group to the Mighty Avengers just to spite a villain.

This move is one of the few things that doesn’t feel by the book in this issue, as the rest of it serves as simply a means to introduce characters to new readers. I certainly like the line-up, and that alone is going to be what makes me come back for issue 2. The inclusion of Monica Rambeau, the former Captain Marvel, former Photon, former Ellis Next Waver, now called Spectrum, is one of those characters I hold near and dear since one of my first issues of THE AVENGERS introduced the character to the Marvel U. It’s revealed in the afterword that Monica is one of Ewing’s favorites, so with this in mind, I think it might make for an interesting book since it will focus on a character in much need of the spotlight.

The other aspect of having a mystery person slipping into the shoes of what looks to be another Ronin is another story element used to death, and while I’m somewhat intrigued to find out who it is, I can’t find myself caring much about it. The dynamic between Cage and his new sidekick Power Man is fun, as is the riffing with Spidey-Ock; it just feels like not a lot of anything original was really tossed in here. All of the relationships, developments, and character play is from runs of previous writers, which on one hand is great that there’s that continuity, but it also feels like little new is brought to the table.

Still, I have to support this book for Monica Rambeau’s appearance alone, and though historically these ethnic-based team books rarely sell well, I like rooting for the underdog. This team serving as the street level-based team of Avengers distinguishes it enough from the cosmic storylines we are seeing in Hickman’s run, and had it been a couple years between Bendis’ street level Avengers, I think I’d be more excited about this. As is, it just feels like Cage is full of shit walking away from the Avengers and coming back the way he does. Though THE MIGHTY AVENGERS didn’t blow me away, it does have some characters I wouldn’t mind following, guaranteeing a second issue purchase for me before I decide whether or not it’s worth it to have a street level A-team around so soon after Bendis’ extended run on the book.

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.


THE LIVING CORPSE OMNIBUS VOL. 1

Writers & Artists: Ken Haeser & Buzz Hasson
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Reviewer: Optimous Douche


THE LIVING CORPSE is an utterly ridiculous deconstruction of the holistic horror spectrum, and I say this with the utmost respect and congratulations.

I know…I know…we’re all ready to decry not another (insert monster here) book! But until the final death knell of the public zeitgeist with spooky rears its head in the form of a movie starring all four horsemen of the genre apocalypse (Pauly Shore, Brendan Frasier, Lindsay Lohan and Casper Van Dien) we should find any rays of sunshine we can. It’s OK to think this way; this was my inner dialog when Haeser and Hasson bludgeoned with me with this meaty omnibus at Wizard World Philly this year. I hemmed, they hawed and we eventually came to a consensus of “at least check it out, you douche!”

Well thank you for your tenacity, gents, because I simply couldn’t have had a better time if all four horsemen of the entertainment apocalypse were reading the book naked to me in my mancave.

The key to THE LIVING CORPSE’S success is that it never shies away from what we are all thinking. Our protagonist, aptly named Corpsie, is just as weary of the horrors of this world as all of us are. Whether he’s fighting a wendigo, werewolves or even the fucking Jersey Devil (sorry, I grew up in Jersey – I have issues with field trips to the bitch-ass Pine Barrens and withered witch uteruses) it’s always with tongue firmly implanted in cheek – not too hard, though, or it will poke through.

Corpsie is able to jump across monster movie types because his curse, aside from sentience, is the ability to use graveyards as a mass transit system. From locale to locale he goes, assisting residents of New Orleans against voodoo, young lovers getting busy in the Garden State and even Frankenstein’s monster who has now become a doctor himself.

He retains his composure through sustenance--in this case, brains. There’s no mindless shuffling, though. He gets a steady diet of the gray matter through friends like his gal Friday, a lovely emo chick who happens to also work at a morgue, and from others because…well, he’s really a nice guy despite his rotting exterior.

See, along with Corpsie’s sentience comes that persnickety thing called a conscience. Also, he’s able to remember his life prior to his present state. Sadly, his son now works for a branch of the FBI specifically focused on the paranormal, so he has that to contend with, but at least he knows his son is exacting vengeance for the honor of his slain mother and sister versus just being a dick.

The style of THE LIVING CORPSE’S art is squarely in the Saturday morning cartoon vein, but I couldn’t imagine the book any other way. There’s some gruesome shit that goes down as Corpsie kills turn coat injuns, mad scientists and werewolves and anything too realistic would diminish the essential comedy elements that make this book truly different from the rest of the horror deluge drowning comic shelves each week.

If you decide to try this title, you can’t find a better way to go than this Omnibus. Sequenced from original floppy delivery, the first six issues, half issues and the annual all flow into one seamless continuity. It would have been interesting to see answers come later, but having all the information up front does not diminish the experience in the least. Plus, it’s cheaper!

If you want a break from the same horrors of horror, THE LIVING CORPSE awaits your meaty eye sockets.

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.


JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #7

Writers: Geoff Johns & Jeff Lemire
Art: Doug Mahnke
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee


I am so out of the pillar books of the DCU these days that I honestly had no clue this event that had been alluded to so long ago was on us until it was finally on the shelves in front of me.

And, like most of these things, we’re four parts in and I’m wondering what’s the point of it all. It is almost the quintessential “we’re doing this because we need an event” type story, between how the crossover thus far has been inserting so many tropes we’ve come to be accustomed to in these types of tales. There’s a traitor! There’s a misunderstanding that sets it all off! One of the biggest villains of the universe may need to be a mistrusted ally!

It doesn’t read badly in the traditional sense that it paces itself well and is giving the right amount of screen time to each of these plot points, I guess, but other than to be designed to shake things up for the sake of things being shook up into new titles for us to buy in October I’m just not seeing what sort of organic storytelling could have brought this about.

There’s been some solid action and challenging of character traits and fantastic art on the plus side, but I don’t think it cancels out the big negative of what it’s building up and the clichés it’s doing it on are just not interesting.

It’s become almost a cynical approach to comic book marketing that every year or two some big status quo disruptor needs to happen to keep interest up, and even more disconcerting it seems that it has also been decided the step to that quo can also be by the numbers because the end game of new books in the line outweighs a heartless march to get there. The day this corporate architecture of world-building dies off is the day sixty percent of the marketplace becomes wildly more relevant than it currently thinks itself to be.

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.


MONSTROSITY VOLUME 1

Editors: Phil McClorey and Brian Evinou
Writers: Various
Artist: Various
Publisher: Alterna Comics
Reviewer: The Kid Marvel


This will be review number two for the comic anthology of MONSTROSITY. Last week I was only able to review nine of the stories from MONSTROSITY; however, I was able to read the book in its 200 page entirety and be able to give a complete review now. I won’t focus on all twenty stories, just because that’s a lot of writing and I’m sure most of you will get massively bored after 900 words--then the ADD kicks in, completely losing you from the review. Also, reviewing 11 other stories just doesn’t fit into my allotted word limi., I’ll just focus on a few I found interesting and stick out in different ways.

The first story I’d like to talk about is “War Stories of the Occult”, written by Phil McClorey with art by Adam Christopher. WSOTO was an excellent story and had some amazing artwork. The story follows some American GIs searching the mountains for Nazis involved in occult technology, which turns out to be an ancient alien ship. The soldiers have to battle their way through the mountains caverns in order to stop the Nazis from gaining control of this ultimate weapon. I really enjoyed the lead-up to the ending and the ending itself; the story in general was very well written. Adam Christopher also did a great job with the art from detail to shading and action sequences. WSOTO was an excellent story start to end.

Story number two that I’ll review is “Princess Patty”, written by Fred Kennedy and art by Gibson Quarter. “Princess Patty” happens to be chronologically after WSOTO. It was a story that I really didn’t like at first, with the ending just bringing more philosophical questioning than anything else. “Princess Patty” tells a story about a girl named Princess Patty, who works at a grocery store and is heavily alluded to be mentally retarded. The entire time Patty is being ridiculed by people and even loses her job because of inabilities. It turns out, however, she is an alien princess observing humankind’s capacities for acceptance and kindness. Our species of course fails the test, and she orders her armada to obliterate us, which in retrospect is pretty contradictory if you think about it. If you’re judging humans’ kindness and they fail, why would you annihilate them instead of rehabilitation or something? I mean, how “kind” is species-wide genocide (insert various historical related jokes)? Anyway, I found the story interesting because of the surprise of who Patty was and the contradictory ending. I also thought the artwork was average, nothing standing out for positive or negative.

The third story I’ll be using for this book review is entitled “The Bounty Hunter” with story by Fred Kennedy and art by Max Haig. The short story has no dialogue and is completely awesome and badass. Max Haig’s art is phenomenally beautiful. The artwork is so detailed, so superb, there is no need for dialogue. Kennedy’s story is simple and to the point, about a female bounty hunter battling a dragon-like monster. The story is worth talking about simply for the amazing art.

Another cool story was “It Came From Within”, from A.G Pasqualla with art by Dan Simon. “It Came From Within” is an apocalyptic-style story, about a giant dragon creature emerging from a dormant volcano and destroying the world. The dragon doesn’t seem to have any weakness, growing stronger and stronger the more we try and attack it, eventually forcing humans to migrate to space and nuke the planet. The ending of ICFW makes the entire story so much better, I won’t spoil it for any future readers. Simon’s artwork was not the most detailed, but a shade-heavy cartoon style that definitely works with the story.

The last and fifth story that I will be reviewing from MONSTROSITY is “Kronk the Neanderthal in: Of Men and Monsters”. The story and letters are done by Phil McClorey, art by Marvin Law, and grey tones by Jason Copland. Kronk follows Kronk, who is a Neanderthal for hire, completing jobs for the highest bidders. His current mission is to kill a former wife of a rich man, who’s stolen his money and become a witch feeding sheepherders to her monster son. Things are not as clear-cut from the witch’s perspective on the reasons why she left her husband, making both characters villains in their own rights. However, she’s been feeding her cannibal son with innocent people, and Kronk has a job to complete. The story has some great action scenes and some excellent art by Law. Kronk battling the monster son was the highlight of the entire story, with some awesome hard-hitting action and violence between the two giants.

So for my full read of MONSTROSITY, I still have a very positive review of the book and the stories within the book. A lot of the stories had an ongoing theme of surprise endings and story twists. Some surprise endings were great and enhanced the story. However, some were “M. Night”-like surprises that seemed annoying or weak, taking away from it. Overall, MONSTROSITY had a majority of good solid titles, very few average ones, and even less crappy ones. I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes monster or sci-fi related tales. MONSTROSITY is filled with geeky nods to other related stories famous and obscure, with plenty of TV tropes to keep a story nerd busy for days. Once again, for those interested, the book is a comic anthology featuring 20 original stories using ‘monsters’ as the overarching theme. MONSTROSITY is located on page 241 of the August preview of Alterna Comics Inc for 14.99.


T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS #1

Writer: Phil Hester
Artist: Andrea DiVito
Published by: IDW Publishing
Reviewed by: BottleImp


Well, here we go again. Once more the reboot machine is taking a whack at the superhero/secret agent mash up of the 1960s created by Wally Wood and Len Brown. I still have the bad taste of DC’s recent attempt to relaunch T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS lingering in my mouth as I write this. The ironic thing is that DC’s version of the Agents came out of the gate strong, giving enough nods to the past to pacify older fans while making the series (initially) accessible to new readers. But quicker than Lightning in his speed-suit, that series denigrated into incomprehensible muddle and poorly-paced serialization. When DC quietly swept the comic under the rug, I doubt anyone was upset. Now the superpowered spies have landed over at IDW with a new continuity, courtesy of a new creative team of Phil Hester and Andrea DiVito. The question is: will this revamp of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS be the one that sticks?

The answer is: a resounding…maybe?

Let’s look at what the series has going in its favor thus far. It’s got a writer with a better-than-average track record (though part of me wishes that Hester was also providing the visuals—I always liked his angular drawing style) who is making sure that this premiere issue gives the reader enough information about the Agents so that newbies won’t be left scratching their heads. Hester touches on the main players in the agency and their respective abilities, along with the core concept of the original series that these special powers may prove fatal to their bearers. He also introduces a new member to the team, so that this character can become the reader’s proxy in becoming familiarized with the series’ universe. T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS also has a better-than-average artist in DiVito, whose work I used to enjoy when it graced the pages of X-FACTOR over at Marvel. DiVito works in a pleasantly uncluttered style that combines modern conventions of page composition and panel design with the action and anatomy of the classic superhero comic book. So words and pictures, all in all, no problems yet. Then why do I feel like this latest reboot will fail just as surely as the last one did?

I think the problem lies in the fact that though this premiere issue is decent enough in terms of storytelling, it never reaches that higher, sought-after status of AWESOME! or SO COOL! or YOU”VE GOTTA READ THIS COMIC I SWEAR TO GOD I SHAT MYSELF! that the best of the medium inspires in the comic-consuming masses. This issue conveys a workmanlike sensation rather than any sort of passionate response, resulting in this very review damning the series with faint praise. And I think I might know the reason for this reaction.

As with its previous DC incarnation, the bylines for T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS includes the slightly mystic credit: “T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS Project Initiated by Michael Uslan.” That name familiar? It should be—Uslan is a comic book fan, teacher, writer and (here’s the kicker) a major Hollywood producer who’s most known for his work on filmed versions of comic book characters. He’s most closely tied to the Batman franchise (going way back to Burton’s 1989 flick all the way through to Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy), but has credit on films such as “Catwoman” and “The Spirit,” as well as the “Swamp Thing” television series of the 1990s. The fact that Uslan is credited as the driving force behind BOTH of these T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS reboots makes me think that the creation of exciting, passionate comic book storytelling isn’t what this series is all about. It makes me think that Wood and Brown’s concept is being forcibly resuscitated against its will in order to provide Uslan with a pitch-ready product for him to snowball into a new and profitable comic book franchise.

If I’m right about all this, then it’s no wonder that T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS fails to resonate with me as a comic book reader. If this series is nothing more than advertising for some future product that may well never exist, then of course there’s no passion involved! Hester, DiVito and Co. aren’t telling a story that they’re excited to tell; they’re merely punching the clock and doing their time at the office. And with the modern comic book marketplace floundering and newer, younger readers more scarce than a body that can handle the pain of the Thunderbelt, just punching the clock isn’t going to work for long.

Editorializing aside, it all comes down to this: the first issue of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS is good. It’s not great, but it’s all right. The question is: will readers really want to pay four bucks a pop for a comic that’s just “all right?”

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.


INFINITY #1

Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Jim Cheung
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man


With nowhere near as much teasing as TRINITY WAR, Marvel's newest mega marketing event has launched. I should mention I'm not one following Hickman's AVENGERS. I hung around for five issues, got bored and left (UNCANNY AVENGERS has been more my speed), but I'm still fairly excited for this series because one, I'm an idiot and will usually give any crossover event a try; two, Hickman is a well-respected writer; and three, anything involving Thanos is usually pretty good. Though right off the bat this story does something that is a classic recipe for disaster, telling two stories at the same time, hopefully these two stories will soon merge instead of them competing for your interest, making the overall experience unsatisfying.

For better or worse, this first issue is a set-up issue, which is a little weird, because while I haven’t been reading THE AVENGERS or all the prologue issues, it seems as if Hickman has been setting up this series for a long while now. So I'm surprised it needed another 45 pages of set up (not counting the nine title pages). Yes, I said 45 pages. This a big comic, and what bothers me more than it being a set-up issue is that Hickman takes too long to make his story points (i.e. Character A is a badass, now let me show you ten pages the prove that point--oui). Mind you, it's nowhere near as asinine as AGE OF ULTRON (which had pages and pages of pointless action and talking), and it is possible that some of these specific actions may play into the story more than just as set-up, but I doubt it. As we move forward hopefully Hickman will get a little tighter with his prose.

Ok, spoiler time: let's talk about what was going down in this issue. The main story is that the Builders (universal class evolution enforcers) are headed to our side of the galaxy. The Avengers decide it best to go out and face them before they get to Earth. They also plan to join an alliance of alien races (Kree, Shi'ar, etc.) as they face off against the Builders, though it is odd that in this supposed new era of X-Men and Avengers cooperation, only Sunspot and Cannonball are on deck to help. I mean, I thought this was suppose to be important--where are the heavy hitters? Oh well.

The second story is, now that The Avengers have left the planet, Thanos has decided now is the time to kick Earth's @$$. I figure at some point Thanos will get wrapped up in the Builder's plot as well (or things will just be weird). For now he's just interested in some secret Blackbolt has about...Infinity, I guess. This secret and the first page of the issue are the mystery of the story. In all, the main function of this issue is to set up the fact that both the Builders and Thanos are unimaginably powerful and $h!t is going to hit the fan good in the next five issues. Gotcha--I'm on board.

The artwork of this issue by Jim Cheung is fitting of this epic superhero tale. He has a really nice clean style, and a great sense of superhero story design. Everything looks pretty great, from the Avengers to the Space Knights to the techie badguys and Thanos himself. Inker Mark Morales (and his army of assistants) with colorist Justin Ponsor have really put together a good-looking book here. My one complaint (because I always have a frick'n complaint) is some of the costumes. This Iron Man mask and suit are butt ugly, Captain America is overly clunky looking, Hawkeye has no costume, and when in Ms. Marvel (Captain Marvel III) going to lose that frick'n mullet??

So despite the first issue being too long, everything looks really good with INFINITY. I'm curious who the Dreadlords are, what's Blackbolt's big secret and I hoping Hickman has a good solution for handing the Builders. If this does turn out to be Marvel's CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS (as rumors suggest) I just hope Ms. Marvel (Captain Marvel III) gets a frick'n makeover in the new reality.

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


SAGA #13

Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples
Publisher: Image Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche


After a too-long hiatus, I am pleased to say Vaughan’s galaxy far far away has not moved past us. Also, BKV has masterfully found a way to get new readers up to speed on space baby Hazel and her supporting cast of parents, bounty hunters, lying cats and princely robots without boring those of us who have been riding the great space tree since issue 1.

For those of you who think I just had a stroke and I’m merely combining words, then you have yet to meet the world of SAGA - you have my deepest sympathy. To get you up to speed I’ll simply say BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (skin jobs, not toasters). Like BSG, SAGA is set in space, but the focal point is the human experience. Yes, the “humans” in this case have webbed feet, goat horns and wings, but the sentient experience of emotional servitude remains the same. This is a universe where war is eternal, love is constantly challenged and life hangs on the precipice of suicidal extinction with each passing day.

For the uninitiated, SAGA is a look back. The narration comes to us courtesy of Hazel, a space baby recollecting her first few years out of the womb and what it was like to be the first lovechild between the battle-embroiled planet of Landfall and the denizens of its largest moon, Wreath. We don’t know what started this war, we don’t know why it continues, merely there is a hatred between these two neighbors so enduring, they decided to move the war away from home simply so it could continue without the destruction of either race. Other characters that round out the cast are The Will, a bounty hunter sent looking for the couple by the Landfall’s current ruler Prince Robot IV. Accompanying The Will is his stalwart friend Lying Cat, Slave Girl who was rescued from…well…slavery off the planet Sextillion, and Gwendolyn, another Wreath citizen and badass in her own right. On the side of Hazel is her ghostly nanny (a character very reminiscent of Molly from RUNAWAYS minus legs), her lovelorn parents and her paternal grandmother.

Some (namely my cohorts on the Spoiler Alert Podcast) have been decrying a slowdown of the action this issue. I say it’s not a slowdown--merely a respite. Vaughan has kept this story moving with battles and death since issue 1. When I interviewed Vaughan at the start of this series he said point blank he was taking a different approach from his usual finite numbering in books like EX MACHINA and Y: THE LAST MAN:

“OPTIMOUS DOUCHE (OD): Part of the allure to your ideas is that books have a definitive end; since baby Hazel is narrating the story from some time in the future, will we see her reach adulthood?

BRIAN K VAUGHAN (BV): If we're lucky?

OD: Have you set a definitive number of issues for the series?

BV: My hope is that this will be the longest, best series I've ever been a part of, so my new goal is to go exactly one issue longer than wherever THE WALKING DEAD ends. I know Kirkman already has a hundred-issue head start, but I'm confident I can outlive the bastard, especially with his hard-partying Hollywood lifestyle.”

So I say nay to a slowing and call this issue a much-needed breather, which for any book that hopes to go on for ten years needs from time to time so the true action doesn’t become white noise.

The moving forward in this issue is more emotional than bombastic: The Will and Gwendolyn begin to profess their love for one another (sort of) and we see the seeds of a nuclear (if not dysfunctional) family forming when you add in Slave Girl (who gets a name this issue, BTW). Hazel and her tree-travelling family follow Mom’s half-baked idea to find the man who wrote the Harlequin Romance novel that brought her parents together (still trying to figure out the logic on this one – I’m sure Vaughan has a plan, though). And we get introduced to two new characters that provide stories for the intergalactic version of TMZ.

Despite how far this book has come, I’ll still call it a safe zone for any newbies that can’t scrounge up the scratch to buy the two trades that got us here. That’s the thing about Vaughan: he writes on such a humanistic level, you can relate to any page of the book without prior context.

All in all a good outing, even though there were no giant space nuts, Staples continues to shine on art with a resurgence of the spider-lady The Stalk and some beautiful shots of Landfall’s surface (which was wildly reminiscent of the Hall of Justice on Super Friends).

We haven’t gotten a lot of answers yet on where this series is headed, but I don’t care. This is a journey, not a destination. This is a generational play, not a brief moment in time. This will book will ultimately affect millions, not just the few. This is a SAGA in every sense of the word.


BATMAN #23

Writer: Scott Snyder
Art: Greg Capulo
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee


Have you ever had that sigh coming out of you reading a comic book that you have enjoyed, that you even currently enjoy, but now start to realize your enjoyment of the book, and thereby probably the book itself, are in coast mode?

I think I let one of those out while reading this issue. Even though Snyder and Capullo’s “Earth Shattering!” tales in BATMAN so far have not really ended with consequences that have been just that, they’ve been well executed, tension-filled jaunts that have been highly enjoyable nonetheless. But now I think we are at an impasse where it feels more like the plan is to keep visiting old haunts – the Joker, the grieving Batman, and now the Origin Story – than to try and put their own mark on the Batman universe like they did with the “Court of Owls” material.

It’s still solidly written, it’s still well drawn, it still has good energy and is toying with the makeup of the man who is The Bat and his city, but it still feels more lockstep in line instead of beating its own path.

The back-up tales thus far have been highly amusing, though. I appreciate the eccentricities they’ve shown as they’ve depicted a young Bruce Wayne that’s more brash and headstrong, one-upping his mentors through sheer force of will. I guess that could go for the main “Zero Year” story itself, but these quicker cuts carry more quirk and eccentricity to them that gives it more a uniqueness that the main story does not contain.

Overall it’s still a solid package of Batman exploits, but it’s just not the same level it was even a year ago.


STRANGER #5/OF STONE OGN

Writer: D.A. Bishop
Art: D.A. Bishop
Publisher: www.renerd.com
Reviewer: The Writing Rambler


A little over a year ago I reviewed a book called STRANGER. As far as a recap goes, it’s a zombie book, plain and simple. The outbreak is happening and all hell has broken loose. It's a simple enough premise that those of us who enjoy a good undead story have seen used over and over again. What made STRANGER special to me, though, were two things. The first was that www.renerd.comthis comic is released free online. Usually, every week or two a new page would be unveiled and though in today's culture of immediate gratification asking someone to wait a week or more for one page of content seems insane, there is just something that works with this story that makes the process enjoyable despite the wait. The second and more important reason was being able to watch the creative process on this book happen right before your eyes. Writer/Artist D.A. Bishop would usually provide some info about the page that was most recently released. There would be his thoughts on the page, him sharing the struggles he may have had--pretty much a commentary to go along with his story.

With those thoughts in mind, I was happy to check out the newest issue of STRANGER. What I found in this fifth issue was what I had hoped--more growth from independent creator D.A. Bishop. This issue’s story, while taking place in the same world as the other four issues, follows a new character's experience through the landscape of the zombie apocalypse. The last few issues have done this nicely as well, as Bishop strays away from the temptation to follow a similar format to “The Walking Dead” and other popular zombie stories, where we watch a group struggle to survive, and instead he crafts personal individual stories that just happen to coexist in his universe. It's a fun read as we follow this issue's protagonist, who's been bitten at the beginning of the issue, and what exactly he chooses to do with the time he has left.

As far as the artwork in the story, Bishop chooses to illustrate the issue solely in black and white, unlike some of the others where he has also incorporated greys to add some depth to his work. He actually mentioned in his commentaries how he was trying out the strictly black and white color scheme for this online issue but in the print version he would add in the grey colors as well, and as I checked out the print version he followed through on his promise and I think the story is better off for it. It's this progress of his work and ability to change and grow as a creator that really brings his stories to life.

Not to be content with just traversing his own zombie universe, Bishop also has released his newest work, OF STONE. The story follows one Stone Warrior (think of an ogre made of stone) named Gan as he heads out on his annual hunt for vicious beasts called Vraithunde (think demonic-looking wolf made of shadows). The story shines in the depth of Gan's character as you follow him through his hunt. Bishop creates a character he can really sink his teeth into as a writer with Gan. He deals with serious introspection as he goes off alone in his hunt, and the way the writer incorporates heavy issues like the loss of a child gives this stone creature a level of humanity that any reader can relate to. On the artwork side, OF STONE shows Bishop's growth once again as this book gives him the opportunity to create a feeling of an epic wilderness for Gan to travel through. So far it’s just this first issue that is out, but I'm hoping much like STRANGER we get to see more of Gan's journey develop in the near future.

I highly recommend you check out both STRANGER & OF STONE if you have the chance, and if you happen to be at Fan Expo Canada, D.A. Bishop himself will be at the artists’ alley with copies of both books this Thursday 8/22.

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


THE SHADOW/GREEN HORNET DARK NIGHTS #2

Writer: Michael Uslan
Artist: Keith Burns
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Reviewer: Masked Man


The 'Boy who loved Batman' has his second issue of The Shadow and Green Hornet crossover out. And the most welcome news is Dynamite has a much more superior comic book artist, in Keith Burns, working on this series than their last team-up in MASKS, which all but ruined the series. Overall Dynamite has been having a good deal of success with these old pulp heroes and it shows in this issue. Makes me wonder if Doc Savage is on their radar? Just think, Dynamite could have their own FIRST WAVE, or LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN.

Getting back to this series, I'm fairly impressed so far. Uslan is definitely having fun comparing and contrasting the styles of each hero and their cohorts. His Shadow comes across as more driven and earnest than the Green Hornet, who is more of a regular guy doing a job. Not that GH comes off looking weak or anything, but Lamont Cranston is clearly more on a crusade than Britt Reid is. Their female sidekicks, Margo Lane and Lenore Case, have been given some shared history for extra fun as well--maybe a little too much fun, given page 13. But so far the match-up between the characters has been good fun, which is half the point of these team-ups, I feel.

The villain of this piece is Shiwan Khan (you may remember him from the big “The Shadow” movie from 1994). As always he's looking to take over the world, this time hooking up with the Nazis. For special sauce we have Tesla and a mysterious power source known as the girasol. I can't tell you how happy I am that it's not the atom bomb again (so frick'n over used in these period pieces). In order to help the Nazis win the war, Shiwan has come to America to destroy our auto industry before it can get to pumping out tanks. To this end Shiwan recruits the biggest, baddest American mobster: the Green Hornet! Uslan has really hit on a clever angle here. I hope it's not just a gimmick, because I'd love to see the Green Hornet cut down Shiwan at the knees from the inside while he's fighting The Shadow. That promise has me excited.

Keith Burns continues as the artist, and I hope he can finish the series. He has a very graphic and interesting style that I enjoy. While no Oliver Coipel or Ivan Reis, mind you, he's still quite strong in his own right. His storytelling does seem to get overly clever at times, as I've had to stare at pages too long (pulling me out of the story) trying to figure out what happened. But his pages are always interesting to look at and his artistic skill backs up his style quite nicely. His attention to details of the time period are better than most as well.

Lastly, just like how Kevin Smith can't talk 10 minutes without making a cock joke, it was fun to see Uslan throw in a Batman reference here as well (maybe Bob Kane was hack). Heck, I even think the title itself is a salute to his favorite hero as well. Two issues in and it's pretty safe bet that Dynamite has a winner here with THE SHADOW/GREEN HORNET: DARK NIGHTS. I'm looking forward to seeing these crime-fighting legends work together and use their unique M.O.s to take down Shiwan in an inventive fashion, as Uslan seems to be setting up. So Alex Ross's cover is not the only reason to pick up this book.


DEADPOOL #14

Writer: Brian Posehn & Gerry Duggan
Artist: Scott Koblish
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: The Kid Marvel


For the entire run of Posehn and Duggan’s DEADPOOL, I can honestly say there has not been a single issue I have not liked. The comedic duo has created some extremely entertaining books. The majority of the Posehn/Duggan DEADPOOLs have made me LOL in the literal sense on a consistent basis. When I’m actually laughing out loud from reading written material, it’s quite an accomplishment because it’s something uncommon, but Posehn and Duggan seem to have found the right formula in doing so. I have however noticed not everyone shares this view about the current DEADPOOL NOW series. The negative opinions seem to mostly entail readers disliking the toilet humor, finding it either corny or overused. For those of us that love a good poop joke, DEADPOOL 14 was another hit for the writing duo.

In issue 14, the villain from last month’s parody of 70’s style comics The White Man has returned with vengeance, finally reanimating himself after being trapped as a stone statue for 40 years. After The White Man releases himself from his stone prison, he then looks to takek his revenge on the Heroes for Hire and the Merc With The Mouth. The White Man takes hold of some hostages in order to get the attention of Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and Deadpool, with The White Man still believing that the three are a super team and Deadpool is the leader. The story then proceeds in usual Deadpool-related fashion with insanity, ridiculousness, and overall pointlessness.

I thought the retro issue of last month’s DEADPOOL was amazing, with this month’s issue 14 transitioning from 13 beautifully. The biggest plus of the Posehn and Duggan DEADPOOL has been the comedy. The actually storylines have been hit or miss, but the actually writing has always been on point, even if the stories themselves have felt stretched at certain times. I mean the underlying jokes just from the character of The White Man have been freaking hilarious. First, Iron Fist, Luke Cage, and Deadpool don’t remember this character at all, so that’s a plus. Two, there’s a running joke with the ridiculousness of the villain The White Man’s name. An example of this is an interaction between Cage and DP, where Luke is telling DP that The White Man wants us. Deadpool response is “The White Man? Nice to see you still have a chip on your shoulder.” I’m kind of an a-hole so jokes like these I find hilarious, and this issue is filled with humor tailored for a-holes from the biggest a-hole of all, Deadpool. And finally, the third biggest comedic presence is Deadpool and Iron Fist’s pupils, who are all children. Simply put, Deadpool is not someone you want watching your children.

I also really like the art of DEADPOOL. It is nicely detailed and the bright colors are perfect for the character. The artwork captures some great facial reactions throughout the book, which is needed for these issues because they focus more on writing and wordplay rather than action. Artist Scott Koblish also does a great job of keeping Deadpool as a dirty degenerate. Koblish also portrays the damage Deadpool receives beautifully. He creates the most awkward and painful looking injuries that work great with DP’s healing factor.

Overall, I’ve loved Duggan and Posehn’s work on DEADPOOL. Even though some of the stories themselves may lack, the writing itself has always been quality. I love the comedy in the books and the art has been awesome. I personally hope the duo continue doing work on DEADPOOL for a long time to come, although I do hope the stories become less hit or miss with a more consistent numbers of hits.


GHOSTED #2

Writer: Joshua Williamson
Art: Goran Sudzuka
Publisher: Image Comics
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee


Occasionally, I like to follow up reviews of debut issues I cover here and have a middle of the road opinion on so I can say which fork that book decided to travel down.

My issue with the debut of GHOSTED was that despite its having a solid premise of devilish thief/rogue broken out of jail to capture a ghost, and my highly enjoying the dialogue and tone the second half of it lost me with a rounding up the crew segment that was way too quickly cut and did not invest me much in the gang because of its abruptness.

This issue alleviated some of that trepidation by invoking those high spots of the first issue and transposing it onto most of the heist team in the way they act and interact now that the job has kicked off. Background-wise, they are still pretty empty vessels. They have pasts you can kind of insinuate by what it is they do and the occasional nods from Williamson’s writing, but that’s about all we get.

Fortunately, that same writing with its quick-wittedness gives them panel to panel bits that endear them to we the audience, even if they somewhat remain ciphers. I’m starting to get over the idea of being invested in this book beyond it just being an energetic and amusing caper flick with a nice twist on the object of the heist, but sometimes those adjectives and others synonymous with them are all you need out of a book.


Advance Review: In stores today!

JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK #23

Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Mikel Janin
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche


Deadlines loom at work and at Ain’t It Cool, so this is going to be a short update on Trinity War this week.

Let’s start with the last page and work our way backwards. WITHOUT a doubt the big bad nemesis manipulating Earth’s heroes and the ethereal trinity is none other than Alfred Pennyworth. Popular pundits predict this is an Earth 3 Alfred, head of the infamous Pre-52 Crime Syndicate. I can say with certainty now it’s either him or Peter Sellers struck blind of good fashion sense.

This reveal happens below a Greek ruin, where the ever-elusive Xanadu has been in her roller-disco…different Xanadu, sorry…confined by Peter Sellers. She’s discovered by Zatanna and Constantine, the only two to escape a raucous pummelfest in the subterranean layers of A.R.G.U.S.

This pummelfest between the conjoined members of Justice League Dark, Justice League and Justice League America happens as everyone tries to get their hands on Pandora’s box…I mean skull. You’ll remember in the last installment Wonder Woman was the keeper of the corrupting evil. This issue, everyone gets skull-fucked. We get a Black Shzam when Billy gets corrupted by the third eye of evil, then Aquaman wants a piece—hell, even Hawkman finally does something in the New 52.

The only thing that confused me about this scene (which is a heavy brunt of the book) is why no one tried to leave once they had the box. Instead everyone fights in a 12x12 space. Ah well, who am I to judge Earth’s greatest heroes? While I don’t agree with the execution, Lemire has a lot of fun using Zatanna’s backwards speak to control the situation. “Wings of lead” was probably my favorite spell that felled the mighty Hawkman’s advances.

Over at the House of Mystery, Deadman is the one to deduce where Xanadu is being held captive and of course Constantine abuses his knowledge of magic to get a step ahead of Bats and the rest.

It’s also worth mentioning that Waller is finally confronted about her double-dealing doings. How does she respond? Well, she lies through her teeth of course, solidifying her place as the most ambiguous hero in the world next to Lex Luthor (not a typo – Lex ain’t all bad if you listen to his rationale some time).

All in all, another fine chapter in this tightly contained event. We all know this is buildup to the already seemingly out-of-control cover cacophony of Villains Month, but since we’re not Xanadu we can ignore the future and simply enjoy what is this week.


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

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