Comics

AICN COMICS REVIEWS: SCARLET SPIDER! BATMAN INC! KILL SHAKESPEARE! 12 REASONS TO DIE! & MORE!

Published at: Sept. 4, 2013, 8:29 a.m. CST by ambush bug

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

Advance Review: 12 REASONS TO DIE #3
JUSTICE LEAGUE #23
SCARLET SPIDER #21
AMERICAN VAMPIRE ANTHOLOGY #1
KILL SHAKESPEARE: THE TIDE OF BLOOD #5
UNCANNY AVENGERS #11
BATMAN INC. SPECIAL #1
THOR: GOD OF THUNDER #12
CATWOMAN #23


Advance Review: In stores today!

12 REASONS TO DIE #3

Creators: GhostFace Killah & Adrian Younge
Story: Adrian Younge, Ce Garcia, Matthew Rosenberg
Writers: Matthew Rosenberg & Patrick Kindlon
Art: Tyler Crook, Toby Cypress, Breno Tamura, Gus Storms, and David Murdoch
Publisher: Black Mask Studios
Reviewer: Ambush Bug

If you’re the type of person who likes linear storytelling spoon fed to you, 12 REASONS TO DIE might not be the comic you want to check out. 12 REASONS TO DIE is one of those books that assumes you’ve read a million and one of those types of book and might be looking for something a little more intellectually stimulating in terms of story. The story mapped out in this book is expansive, across decades, involving various characters of various types. It’s a gangster story. And a revenge tale. And a quest. And a horror yarn. It’s all of those types of tales all wrapped up in one little package.

Oh yeah, it’s also one hell of a read.

The story follows a man named Anthony Starks, a streetwise thug who wants to be a made man with the twelve families that rule the mob. Unfortunately for Starks, he’s got a couple of problems. One of which is that he is a black man trying to get made in an Italian mob family. So let’s say the guy has his priorities as well as his sensibilities a bit out of whack. Knowing what I know about the mob (i.e. watching a ton of Scorcese and Coppola films), it’s pretty tough to get made if you’re not part of the family. I also know it’s pretty tough to be made if you’re African American since the mob aren’t the most forward of thinking in terms of race relations as evidenced in this issue. So having these two hurdles in front of him, you’ve got to respect this Starks character for dreaming big. Still he’s jumping through hurdles and putting up with a lot in hopes of attaining some kind of power in these first issues, but something tells me that this story is going to end badly for Starks (maybe it’s the glimpses in the future tales which take part in the second halves of these issues where Starks is a ghost).

While the first halves of 12 REASONS TO DIE are more straight forward narrative, the second half reads more like an anthology, utilizing multiple artists to skip ahead to the future and shift the focus on a man collecting 12 antique records. In each case, whenever he gets close to one of these records, horrific things begin to happen. Though these interactions are brief, they all seem to have a creepy and sadistic vibe that creeps up the spine and gives it a good tingle. The use of different artists adds to the unpredictability here, not giving you a lot of time to get comfortable with the art chance before switching to another. By doing so, the reader is constantly put on edge while reading, adding to the tension.

This story isn’t just a bunch of random shit happening willy-nilly. It crafted meticulously and smartly and really seems to be leading somewhere good. While I can fill in the gaps to piece together what I think is going to happen to Starks, I can’t wait to actually see it. 12 REASONS TO DIE is not an easy read, but it’s an entertaining one. Possibly better read in trade, but I’m enjoying it and following it pretty well by the single issue. The linking of music with horror and gangster genres is pretty seamless and the choices in artists prove that this is a book put together as stylistically well as it is written.

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.


JUSTICE LEAGUE #23

Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Ivan Reis
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man


It's the end of the Trinity War! Which, wasn't much of an ending or a war, really--not much of a Trinity, either. Although it did feature three Justice Leagues (but the plot wasn't about them), and there was the Trinity of Sin (but again, the plot wasn't about them), then as Madame Xanadu described it, 'Trinity' was for the evil number three (huh?), à la Earth-3 (uh, the #3 does not a trinity make). I bring this up to illustrate how poorly constructed this mini-series was--even the title doesn't make sense.

Spoilers, people, it's all spoilers. Now, just like the AGE OF ULTRON, both these mini-series were poorly written. However, I think Johns has more geek cool stuff in this series, all being revealed in the final issue. First, the return of the Crime Syndicate--they have yet to do anything, but hell ya! Then learning how Evil Alfred sidelined Superman--awesome, Atom's triple cross--awesome, Cyborg getting ripped a part--awesome. Seriously, there is a ton of good stuff in this final issue; it's a shame it wasn't spread around the full six issues.

Now here's the biggest problem with this mini-series: It lacked drama. For reasons I have yet to understand, Geoff Johns often likes to write stories without revealing the plot until the last issue. This means there are no established consequences to the story (i.e. we have to do x to prevent y). With no consequences there's no drama, no drama = bad story. To further illustrate my point, Johns said in an interview “The whole idea and genesis of Superman taking out Doctor Light in the way he did was all about the villains' first attack on the Justice Leagues...if Superman kills somebody, then their faith in their greatest hero is cracked, and the Justice League and all those heroes around them are going to lose a little faith.” This was a really great idea, BUT if you don't tell the readers this was an attack on Superman by the villains, there's no consequences to the action. Instead of “Oh crap the bad guys are going to take over the world now because Superman and the League are messed up!” You get “huh, I wonder why Superman did that?”

Also, all this plot-hiding, as I call it, creates holes in the story. Since the writer is seemingly more focused on how not to reveal the plot than the plot itself, it often doesn't make sense at the end. Let's now go through the plot of the TRINITY WAR, or as best I can figure is out. It seems Evil Alfred wanted to get his hands on the Pandora's Box so he could release the Crime Syndicate. To this end he got Atomica to join the JLA so they would plant her in the JL (huh?). He then (or someone working for him) stole Batman's kryptonite and gave most of it to Despero--big fat fail (maybe a red herring?). Next he kidnapped Madame Xanadu to prevent her from telling anyone what he was up to (fine). Now it gets really weird: somehow he gets Pandora to show Superman the box. Then he infects Superman with the rest of the kryptonite (killing Dr. Light); this causes Wonder Woman to blame Pandora and hunt her down. At this point he claims victory (huh?). But then he sets up Dr. Psycho as a patsy...so the Justice League won't chase down Pandora (huh?), then knowing once the Justice Leagues had the box it would teleport to him and he could finally get his hands on it (wait, what?). There may have also been a point about the box being easier to open since so many heroes touched it, but it's not mentioned in the story. In the end I wish Johns just told me the story rather than have me sit here and guess at it.

Lastly, I want to look at this from the perspective of New 52. This was the major event DC promised at the start of the New 52, and the importance of the Trinity of Sin. With the big reveal being just more super-villains from another Earth, I don't think that was much of a pay off--especially for new readers who don't know the CS. I also don't think there was much of a payoff for the Trinity of Sin--just like when the X-FILES ended and you realized Chris Carter and the writers were making it up as they went along: no big theory to tie it all together. So, was the whole zeitgest moment of the New 52 just to reintroduce the Crime Syndicate? Really?

The TRINITY WAR was like listening to a senile relative tell some incoherent story just so you could get a dollar that the end of it. I am very happy the Crime Syndicate is back, Ivan Reis’ artwork was amazing, and I'm looking forward to FOREVER EVIL now. But I think I'll skip the next big Geoff Johns event.

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


SCARLET SPIDER #21

Writers: Chris Yost and Erik Burnham
Artists: Carlo Barberi and David Baldeon
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: The Kid Marvel

When the original Scarlet Spider was created, I was but a wee lad in my youth who could not read, so comics were not an option. A few years later after the original Scarlet Spider release, when I was about ten, I made the transition from just watching comics television shows such as THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, X-MEN, THE BATMAN ANIMATED SERIES, and so on to actually reading the comics. That would put us to about five years after “The Clone Saga” and the whole Ben Reilly fiasco which, from my understanding, most comic aficionados of the time nerd rage hardcore at the whole thing. However, I was young, impressionable, and thought the Scarlet Spider suit was super bad @$$ and thought a story with two Spider-Men was awesome. I mean, more is usually better than one, right? I can even remember sitting in a few of my classes and drawing the original Scarlet suit on a ton of different occasions instead of paying attention to my esteemed public school education officials.

Fast forward almost twenty years and Ben Reilly is back in SCARLET SPIDER 21. Well, sort of, so let me explain: in SCARLET SPIDER 20, Kaine’s original facial scar has returned, making Kaine believe he is once again dying. This sends him on a rampage by digging up painful memories and demons that he thought to have buried away. While Kaine is trying to clear his head and figure out what’s happening to him, he is attacked by none other than the original Scarlet Spider and Peter Parker Clone, Ben Reilly. The two go back and forth fighting on the rooftops of Houston while Kaine’s allies and friends are all mysteriously being taken out in other panels. While Kaine is fighting who he thinks is Ben, both Spider-Man (or Spider-Ock) and the Jackal show up, pressuring Kaine in different ways. Kaine now realizes that things are not as they seem and that he has been poisoned, revealing another surprise from his past to be the true culprit.

I’ve really enjoyed the new SCARLET SPIDER run and the revamped character of Kaine. The series has had very little complaints from me other than the inconsistency of storylines, being either hot or cold. This time it seems to be staying hot, rather than the up and down rollercoaster ride I’ve felt the series has been plagued by so far. I think the addition of Erik Burnham as a writer, with Chris Yost who has been writing SCARLET SPIDER since the beginning, will help bring some consistency to storyline. Not that Yost has been bad; I’ve like most of the stories from the series, it’s just the hot and cold rollercoaster ride of inconsistency that’s been killing me.

For the artwork, while the artists have changed a lot, the art itself has never looked bad. Even with such a variety of artists, the artwork has never been less than quality. In the issue, Carlo Barberi and David Baldeon hold the title of book artists and do an excellent job. Also with the help of Pallot and Olazaba on inks, with Chris Sotomayor on colors; the overall art team did an excellent job on this issue. Some of the color and the way they contrast between dark and light on the pages are amazing. The art team does an excellent job of blending the brighter suit colors of the two different Scarlet Spiders with the dark environment. Kudos and high fives to the art team for this issue, because the page when the two Spiders meet was beautiful.

Overall, SCARLET SPIDER has been and still is one of my favorite MARVEL NOW series out. Is it the best? No. Is it the worst? No. I find it to be one of the better than average titles out there and one I hope it grows bigger as time goes on. I’d really like to see the Scarlet Spider world and rogue’s gallery increase to add depth to the series. There is plenty of potential with Kaine as a character, and a lot of potential with the SCARLET SPIDER title in general--potential that I hope will get used in the future of the series and the Marvel Universe.


AMERICAN VAMPIRE ANTHOLOGY #1

Writer(s): Scott Snyder and Lots o’ People
Artist(s): Rafael Albuquerque and almost as many people
Publisher: DC/Vertigo
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee


Comic book anthologies are a tough nut for me to crack because I’ve always had a weird time identifying just what exactly I want out of them. So, right off the bat I feel bad putting my stamp on this particular one because I have a built in bias, I guess? Unfortunately, when someone like myself is out of pocket for a couple of weeks because he finally decided to take some time off from his life-and-time sucking day job but is such a stupid asshole workaholic that he has to work eight days up to and after his weekend off to justify it and cannot get to his local comic dealer for a fix, you take whatever hit you can get your hands upon. That leads us to this fattie of a book, a format that I’m preternaturally iffy on not because it’s an anthology, but because it is a Vertigo anthology and those have been the primary beneficiary of my apathy toward these kinds of books over the past couple of years. The talent involved has never been in question, but the quality has wildly varied in each, and oddly enough I’ve always felt because the stories run at polar ends of either wildly abstract or uneventfully typical of the theme involved (since Vertigo anthologies always work with some concept in mind). While I’ve enjoyed my share of anthology books – especially even the themed tomes such as FLIGHT or 24SEVEN or so on – these thicker than normal floppies from the most creative imprint the comic book industry has ever seen have inexplicably fallen flat. And with the AMERICAN VAMPIRE version here I can say that it doesn’t quite continue that tradition of landing with a thud, but does forward the trend of being less than riveting/inspiring work.

This collection goes wrong in the same way as all those other Vertigo works I’m citing: they focus on the theme a little too much and turn out product that is too much in line with what you’d see from that particular genre. What I mean is, the point of AMERICAN VAMPIRE, besides just being a kickass book about vampires of course, is how it is positively soaked in Americana as well as blood and gore. And it is that focused approach to some of these stories – not all, as there are some really quality tales in here – not as enthralling as they could be if they happened to just tell good vampire stories in the AV universe with that hit of Americana. Some of these do that to great effect, really. There’s a story by Jason Aaron in here that tackles the era of America’s colonization and the conflicts arising between new arrivals to the continent and its native owners, because that is what Aaron is wont to do sometimes with his writing. But it also inserts a little nudge to the AV mythology with some background of settlers really being vampires and how they preyed on everyone in the land while also establishing a foothold/breeding ground for their kind. It works because there’s that hit of American history with the appropriate morality tale within whilst also going with some adding to AV lore. Meanwhile, there’s a slavery era tale in this issue that absolutely beats the reader in the face with “these people are all backwards!” dialogue that eventually leads to people being eaten. That’s another repeating theme, not unexpectedly of course but also kind of tediously; a lot of these stories are just a handful of pages of “here’s a short story about people being eaten.” Sometimes they happen to have a little bit more oomph and morality to them, but for the majority of this one-off, it’s mostly dinnertime.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Well, okay, most of the actual stories in this volume are basically about good people dying so it kind of is, but from a quality standpoint there are good stories in here; they just don’t really combine to carry the eight dollar price tag. There’s the aforementioned Aaron story that rolls Americana into some world-building into some ultraviolence. The real standouts of this collection are the Becky Cloonan and Gail Simone tales, as they do everything the Aaron story did but with some established characters from the main book to add some extra mythos. Ms. Cloonan takes on the book’s original Hollywood roots and tells an amusing story of Skinner Sweet and his foray into the moving pictures by preying upon a filming crew in the 1920’s. And the best story in this endeavor is the wonderful Ms. Gail taking us on an origin story for good old Hattie Hargrove and her horrible “casting couch” experience while trying to become the next big starlet that goes from harrowing to her to horrifying for her violator once she vamps out down the road. It’s a great cut of the time period, interesting background for a big player in the AMERICAN VAMPIRE continuity, and is just a damn good read given its arc and execution.

I really didn’t want to sound as down as I did on this book in the opener, but given my experiences with these anthologies figured honesty was the best policy. Plus, these things are a mixed bag to begin with. Despite the successes of some of my personal favorite anthologies that I mentioned before it’s just the nature of these things to just tow the “average” line once added up because of an imbalance not even in talent but what that talent envisions for the project and how it all compiles. And in this case there was a couple great tales, some okay ones, and some ones that really did nothing for the theme of the AMERICAN VAMPIRE mythos or just as an AV tale. If you’re hurting for an AMERICAN VAMPIRE fix given its extended hiatus, the great and good stories in place here are probably worth that price tag on the wait for more proper material. Otherwise we just have what you have to prepare for when throwing down hard earned greens on one of these compilations: something that could have ended up much worse that it did but did not reach the levels that it could have.

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.


KILL SHAKESPEARE: THE TIDE OF BLOOD #5

Writers: Anthony del Col & Conor McCreery
Artist: Andy Belanger
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Reviewer: Lyzard


A conundrum with reviewing a series in progress, unlike covering a film or a novel, is you don’t know the endgame. The reviewer is commonly put into the position of guessing what the writer and artist have in store for them and, in all honesty, prefers to be wrong and rather outwitted by the creators. For instance, I tired of Romeo during the original run of KILL SHAKESPEARE. I abhorred his inclusion and the great deal of focus THE TIDE OF BLOOD gave him. All my reviews just had to feature my berating of the character. Now I am left biting my tongue. Well played, del Col & McCreery—well played.

The story picks up with all our major heroes in dire straits. Hamlet and Othello are tied up. Romeo has lost his mind and William is at the mercy of Prospero and Lady Mac. This essentially leaves their rescue in the hands of the B-team, though I’d rather view them as the underestimated cavalry. Can Juliet save her current beau from her crazy ex? What deus ex machina twist will Shakespeare pull off this time?

There are plenty of twists and turns in this episode, but I’ll keep this a spoiler-free review. I will say, though, that the battle of wits between Prospero and his creator has a solution dependent less on an over-used plot device and focused more on originality.

Along with Romeo’s characterization, I harped on the point of KILL SHAKESPEARE’s struggle to combine fidelity and originality, especially in regards to dialogue, nearly every review. In the end, THE TIDE OF BLOOD is at its best when del Col and McCreery let Shakespeare’s characters play in a sandbox of their own creation. As for the dialogue, this time it worked best to rely on the Bard since his fifth act writings tend to be quite memorable. Better late than never for the series to coalesce.

No issue of KILL SHAKESPEARE would be complete without one of Andy Belanger’s two-page spreads, a visual technique that shows the power of the page versus the screen. The artwork has probably been the most consistent positive of this miniseries and even an improvement from the original run. Another artistic shout out to Simon Davis for one of the most epic covers in the entire series.

But what might be my favorite aspect of the issue, in fact seen throughout the entirety of THE TIDE OF BLOOD, is the girl power. Not because of some feminist agenda or some reactionary position to the perceived marginalization of women in comics, but from a purely artistic standpoint it is nice to see something original and having the women flounce the men isn’t mainstream. Juliet was a highlight of the first KILL SHAKESPEARE and to me, the best developed followed closely behind by Lady Mac.

So there you have it. All my whining and complaining for the past few months have been for naught. McCreery, del Col, and Belanger had a plan all along that resolved any issues I brought up earlier, leaving me the ass. A lesson to all those new to comics: as you can’t judge a book by its cover, you can’t judge a series on only a few issues.

Lyzard is Lyz Reblin, a graduate student at the University of Texas pursuing a master's degree in Media Studies...which is just a fancy way of saying she plays a lot video games, watches far too many horror films, and then tries to pass it all off as "research."


UNCANNY AVENGERS #11

Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: Daniel Acuna
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: The Dean


Never in my life have I read more than one AVENGERS series at a time, but I’ve really been enjoying AVENGERS, NEW AVENGERS, and UNCANNY AVENGERS from their Marvel NOW! starts. With Jonathan Hickman’s build to INFINITY occupying the pages of his titles, Rick Remender’s devoted his UCANNY AVENGERS to exploring the complicated human/mutant conflict and its ever-elusive resolution. Well, this issue offers up what will no doubt be a divisive solution to Marvel’s favorite social issue, while also delivering what is probably the most character-driven installment of the series to date.

The concept of UNCANNY AVENGERS has always been simple enough – humans (of the super variety) and mutants working together to show that the world can peacefully be cohabitated by both. I worried that the series was beginning to lose sight of this basic but effective concept as Uriel and Eimin were becoming a prominent focal point of the story, but UNCANNY AVANGERS #11 pulls everything together (with plenty of tantalizing loose ends, of course) in its final pages - the Apocalypse Twins’ powerful speech to the mutants of the world and the option for peace that they offer is Remender at his “Dark Angel Saga” best.

But what use is a big supervillain speech if you’re not emotionally invested in the heroes, right? The rest of this issue is spent making sure we do care, as we get a handful of deep, character-building scenes that really nail the hopeless tone needed to make Uriel and Eimin’s words so impactful. The Four Horsemen of Death (minus Banshee’s avatar, for some reason) each pack an emotional punch, but the scene between Wolverine and Daken in particular is an uppercut from hell that makes me really wish Remender could get a long run on a solo Wolverine book someday soon. Thor and Sentry’s scene is probably the weakest here, partly because I’m just not much of a Sentry fan, but probably more so because it has such a strong act to follow from Wolverine and Daken. It’s a perfectly functional pacing element, however, and Sentry’s words are cryptic and intriguing (am I missing something with the White Hot Room reference, Sentry/Phoenix fans?) as they lead into the issue’s end.

It’s a dialogue- and narrative-heavy issue, with big, emotive beats pushing the story along, so this issue’s light on action aside from Sentry and Thor, but Daniel Acuna still gets to shine here as both an artist who can draw cool things (common), and an artist who can really tell a good story (less common). In one scene it’s almost as if Wolverine doesn’t want to defend himself from Daken’s attack, adding another layer to their scene that makes it all the more heartbreaking, though I could easily be reading too much into it. Really, it’s probably the Thor and Sentry battle that wins out for this issue, giving us a really dynamic shot of Thor charging hammer first at Sentry, and Sentry ripping apart his own face. I know I just lauded Acuna for his storytelling abilities as an artist, but come on, face-ripping trumps all. It’s why POLTERGEIST is so great!

Overall, UNCANNY AVENGERS #11 is a dense issue that requires a lot of previous knowledge going in, but if you’ve been a devoted X-reader since around “House of M” or so, an issue like this makes it all feel like it’s been worth our time. I sincerely hope we get to see the other X-Men and Avengers titles deal with the events of this issue in a meaningful way, as it would help to give the UNCANNY AVENGERS series a real significance within the 616 that I feel it’s lacked so far with the other titles devoted to other, seemingly more important things. So long as Remender remains on the title, though, I’m confident this will at least continue to be one of the best X-Men and Avengers options on the stands.


BATMAN INC. SPECIAL #1

Writers: Chris Burnham, Dan Didio, Joe Keatinge, Nathan Fairbairn, Mark Raicht
Artists: Chris Burnham, Emanuel Simeoni, John Leon, John Stanisci, Ethan Van Sciver
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche


I came for the Bat-Cow, but felt something because of stories like “Walks on Girders” and “Happy Sunshine Pony Organ Harvesting.”

I never got BATMAN INC. The LLCing of Wayne officially funding Batman always felt akin to Clark Kent doing ads for Pearl Vision. We give much aesthetic distance leeway to these comic books of ours, abandoning our willing suspension of disbelief pretty readily against some heavy cases of obvious bullshit. Batman and Wayne have always shared the same stature and appeared at the same time Wayne came back from gallivanting across the globe. I never questioned the dual identity, though. However, BATMAN INC. was simply opening the kimono too far.

Fortunately, in execution this concept of Batman’s financial backer was never discussed much outside of DETECTIVE. Pre-52 we were really just treated to a bunch of Batman-like characters across the globe. Post-52 this concept was abandoned completely until the book’s bitter end in the final fight against Leviathan. All that was BATMAN INC.’s inception was washed away for a simple BATMAN & ROBIN Part Deux each month.

BATMAN INC. SPECIAL brings us back to the well of nationalism so creators can say goodbye to these characters that never quite took flight. Even Bat-Cow seems to only have a fervent fan in yours truly. These stories are all good for their own reasons and well worth reading. Anything earth shattering? No. Are they fun or feeling? Yes!

I’m going to review them in order of quality, not chronology.

Moon Over Wayne Manor: Bat-Cow hit the scene just as Mrs. Douche and I were switching over to pescetarianism (i.e. only fish and veggies). It struck home when Damian, covered in cow entrails and bad guy tendons, declared “As of now I’m a vegetarian and this is Bat-Cow.” Bat-Cow also served as a symbol of Damian grasping for a childhood he never quite had. Bat-Cow and Bat-Cat also served as a softening point between Damian and Pennyworth, or “the help.” By the end of Damian’s life the two were friends, and our four-legged friends were instrumental in getting there. My point is Bat-Cow is a symbol more than a cow thwarting crime. However, it was funny as shit to watch Bat-Cow accidentally thwart a crime. Simply doing what cows do--basically standing--Bat-Cow throws the plans of some would-be bank robbers off the road and into the woods. Funny and charming, Sciver and Didio make you feel without saying a word.

Happy Sunshine Pony Organ Harvest: In theory I should hate everything about this tale of Japanese Batman Jiro and his pocket-sized Robin, Canary: the art is way too anime, the dialogue way too Sailor Moon and the story takes some utterly ridiculous turns. But damn it if it wasn’t all fun. I’ll say what made it work for me was the utterly disgusting case the two find themselves on. Someone is selling black market organs out of vending machines, so the Jap Bats go off to find the harvester. The villain is a whole bucket of nasty with a clear coating skin so he can look at organs all day long. It was ridiculous and fun, an unapologetic good-bye to characters whose few brief appearances were just as campy.

Squire Good Knight: I’ve never been a fan of tropes, so Knight & Squire were never going to sit well with me. Fortunately for this story, Knight shuffled loose his mortal coil during the end of the Leviathan siege, leaving us now with a lonely and despondent Squire, and it made for some great comic booking. Sure she had some other snaggletooth friends to bust her out of this slump, but this really was a reflection of loss and moving on.

Walks on Girders: This was a nod to the injun Batmans that really provided some of the best of the internationalized BATMAN INC. stories. This was another case of quiet reflection as reservation Batman gets some face time with an elder whose father and father before him were high-rise welders. The crux of the story is fear, but I kept having issues not seeing a lone Indian crying on the side of the road.

Spanish Batmen: This was a hot mess, don’t care. The art was pretty, but the story was a mangle of confusion since we haven’t seen these characters for so long. Nice try, but not up to snuff, guys.

I’ll miss BATMAN INC. solely for the loss of the belief in something bigger than ourselves that heroes can prevail on a global scale. The book is left with an open-ended possibility for a future, but were I DC I would let other countries rest for now and focus on alternate dimensions instead.

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.


THOR: GOD OF THUNDER #12

Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Nic Klein
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man


The God Butcher story has finally come to an end, and it was pretty damn awesome (seriously it was, go get it--now! I'll wait). So now Aaron decides to give us a time out story as all three Thors (past, present, future) get back to their lives.

I'm going to start right off with my complaint. I think Aaron confused Thor with Superman a little bit here. I've never really seen Thor act this way, or care this much about ordinary life before. It all seems a bit out of character to me. This is not to say I think Thor is a jerk or that I didn't like the issue. This issue easily ranks up there with the kind of good work Mark Waid is doing on DAREDEVIL.

Even though this is a bit of a time out issue, don't underestimate it. Aaron does set up two sub-plots, one with Jane Foster and two with supposedly a new girl in Thor's life, Rosalind Solomon. She's a doctor too (PhD); I guess Thor like brainy women. Not to give too much away, but Jane has similar troubles to Foggy Nelson, Daredevil's good friend (another Waid parallel). But what makes this issue so good is to see how Thors interact with everyday people in their everyday lives. This theme is played out with the past and future Thor as well. Although Aaron shows them as different people, given their ages, he also shows how they are the same as well. This also ties nicely to the God Butcher story. Gor questioned the need of gods, and Thor, consciously or not, tries to make his existence more than just dragon-slaying. As if it wasn't evident in the God Butcher, Jason Aaron can craft a story full of drama and action, and still manage to define Thor as a unique and interesting character. This issue is all about letting that character shine.

Regular artist Esad Ribic has taken the issue off, which always causes worry. A good issue can always be derailed by a sub-par artist (just look at Dynamite's MASKS). Thankfully, Nic Klein was up to the task. While he's no Ribic, I did find his work more palatable than last fill-in artist Butch Guice (sorry, Guice). No colorist or inker is listed, so I assume Klein handled it all himself. Again, a fine job, especially with the colors, each of the wide-ranging locations has been beautifully rendered environments. And his Thor, is always picture-perfect as the powerful figure he is.

THOR: GOD OF THUNDER continues to be one of the big wins of Marvel Now. If Jason Aaron can make even a filler issue this entertaining, then there's no doubt in my mind that this is going down as a classic run. So you better hop on board now, before you miss the train and have to buy the trades years from now to catch up with all the cool kids.


CATWOMAN #23

Co-Plotter and Scripter: Ann Nocenti
Co-Plotter and Breakdowns: Scott McDaniel
Artist: Rafa Sandoval
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Corey Michael Dalton


I haven't sampled an issue of CATWOMAN since DC launched its New 52 almost two years ago. The first several covers of the series and the initial writer left me to assume that the title would not be to my taste. Issue 23 is getting quite a bit of coverage on comic book websites, though, thanks to the debut of a reinvented villainess from the old DCU, so I thought this might make a good time to check in with everyone's favorite feline-themed antiheroine. (Sorry, Black Cat fans!) What I found was a fairly generic comic with a middle-of-the-road script and some pretty OK art.

As the issue opens, Catwoman is escorting a flaming princess named Tinderbox from her underground city of Charneltown through a series of seemingly endless staircases to meet with a group called "the Warhogs" so Tinderbox can marry their leader, thereby making peace between the two tribes. Oh, and they're both riding horses. And herding goats that they intend to give the Warhogs as a dowry. The strangeness of the setting and situation reminded me a bit of something from Alan Moore's TOM STRONG (Val Var Garm's fire people) or Grant Morrison's SEVEN SOLDIERS (the underground civilization of Klarion the Witch Boy). Unfortunately, nothing particularly interesting or unusual happens beyond the initial set-up. The plot becomes very by-the-numbers very quickly. Tinderbox is whiny and stupidly jealous, the Warhogs are blindly aggressive, the leader of the Warhogs (who is, naturally, called simply Warhog) has a not-so-secret plan to create a biotoxin to unleash on Gotham City, blah, blah, blah. I haven't read any Ann Nocenti-written comic since her work on DAREDEVIL in the late '80s, and I can't say this issue has me clamoring for more. It's not terrible, just completely generic. Oh, and did I mention there's a mysterious black cat that follows Catwoman around for much of the issue? You'd think someone called Catwoman would like having a sidekitty, but Selina says she doesn't trust this particular cat for some reason…

Overall, the art was nice. The panel layout was uncluttered and easy to follow with a few pages (such as the opening one) attempting a bit of the ol’ J.H. Williams III magic. I also liked the streamlined design of the title character. She looked much less porny than the earlier covers I'd seen (such as the first issue's infamous "pearls spilled across the boobs" image). In fact, her costume seemed almost functional and was zipped all the way up! The designs for the supporting characters were lacking, however. The Warhogs looked like a seventh-grader's idea of stereotypical badasses complete with facial tattoos, bandanas, goatees, and lots of tank tops. These guys just screamed "bland," so I had trouble keeping them apart in my head or caring about any of them. And their base, called "the Bunker," wasn't any better. It was just a big room with some turbines in the middle. Still, the art did show flashes of goodness. At its best, it reminded me just a bit of Travis Charest's work on WILDCATS, which I mean as high praise. That sense of style only came through a couple of times, but the influence was definitely there. I'm assuming we have Rafa Sandoval to thank for those moments rather than Scott McDaniel's breakdowns, but it's hard to tell.

So what about the much-ballyhooed return of the Joker's Daughter? Well, it happened. Remember that black cat I mentioned? At the end of the issue it climbs into the arms of a lady who looks like she just got back from shopping at Hot Topic. She IS wearing the Joker's actual face, though, which will make her the envy of all her friends. I'm not entirely sure how or why she fits into the plot of this comic. She says she wants to rule Gotham's underground, I guess to get gems or something. I dunno. Seems like a rather generic aim for someone who calls herself the Joker's Daughter. Maybe she really wants Warhog's biotoxin? It wasn't clear to me. I guess it doesn't really matter anyway, because DC's just hoping we're going to want to know who's behind the Joker's flayed mug. Some people think she'll turn out to be Harper Row; others think a new version of Duella Dent. Some even think Stephanie Brown. Me, I can't say that this issue gave me much reason to care. I'll probably just wait and find out her identity from Wikipedia in a few months.

Corey Michael Dalton has written and/or edited trade books, magazine articles, short stories, novels, comics, plays, review, websites, blogs, and more. You name it, he's probably written it. Except religious scriptures. He hasn't gotten around to those just yet.


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

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