AICN COMICS Reviews: AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE! BATMAN! MEMORY COLLECTORS! BUCK ROGERS! & More!
(Click title to go directly to the review)
Advance Review: INSIDE MAD HC
AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE #1
TRIPLE HELIX #1
Advance Review: JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #8
LETTER 44 #1
BUCK ROGERS #2
MEMORY COLLECTORS #1
Advance Review: PROTECTORS INC #1
On sale Oct. 29th – for download now probably!
INSIDE MAD HardcoverWriters: Lots of them in the loosest sense of the word
Artists: Much better than the writers
Publisher: 3 drunk chipmunks and Time Home Entertainment
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
INSIDE MAD is the best book MAD has produced sine the last time MAD produced a book. For anyone else who agrees that celebrities don’t get enough exposure in today’s society, INSIDE MAD is the deep well of celebrity self-gratification that one just can’t get from TV or the Internet. It’s like a 100 plus pages of gleeful anecdotal masturbation, but glossier. It’s all in here, folks, printed on new age paper with space age binding – every celebrity who has ever accidentally used the toilet at the MAD office (or, in the case of Judd Apatow, pissed on the side of the building) telling us their favorite MAD moments (except Apatow, probably because he’s illiterate--his intro was recorded on one of those plastic records that used to come in Tiger Beat. After listening I even found myself pining for the musical genius of the David Cassidy).
Since the actual MAD team fester in cartoon obscurity and most Americans can’t identify anyone unless they’ve seen them on TV, I’ll skip the 100 or so pages where the MAD team recount their favorite moments of the book. Also, let’s just gloss over the painstaking cutting and pasting of old material done by the editors to accompany each hazy reflection of long repressed memories. Most people today cut to feel; MAD still relies on good old emotional versus physical flagellation.
So what do the celebutantes have to say about how MAD changed their lives? Let’s break it down.
Judd Apatow starts the fun with a nod to MAD shaping his childhood and a deep lament that the magazine never parodied his movies. That problem is quickly fixed with two pages of brand new content starring everyone from the Apatow universe. What was most amazing about these three pages is they were able to be produced without Leslie Mann or the moppet-like Apatettes.
Roseanne Barr helps keep the heavy hasidic front load on the book. She recounts her time as a self-loathing Jew from the Midwest, where she and her father would propagate the stereotype of cheapness by perusing and never buying a copy of the book--that is, until they perpetually ruined every copy on the shelf and the proprietor chased them out by threatening to serve them vegetables.
Todd McFarlane, creator of SPAWN and one of the four horseman of the comic apocalypse, discusses how MAD artist Mort Drucker served as his muse in younger years. If you need to see proof of this pudding, I highly recommend finding your local comic shop and then looking down at the boxes marked “$1 OBO.”
Whoopi Goldberg wrote a few nice words. Ted Danson covered himself in feces to pay tribute.
Dane Cook tells how MAD anthropomorphized into a creature that resembled his drunk uncle and then proceeded to attack him. Once I figure out what the hell Dane is talking about I’ll let the rest of you know.
Ken Burns writes a sentence. This is probably for the best, since PBS isn’t real television. We don’t need any damn commies messing up the well-oiled machine that is American capitalism.
John Stamos recounts how shitty he helped make 80s television, how MAD helped propagate the garbage that was FULL HOUSE, and he then cackles like a mad scientist over how our pain allowed him to bang the hottest women on the planet.
Tony Hawk rides skateboards. I think this is a page he inserted before the comp hit my doorstep.
Ice-T gives a wonderful dissertation on the differences between Southern and Northern iced tea.
Slash the famed Guns n’ Roses guitarist has the most unique entry in the book. It scared me. I would say more, but I don’t want to wet myself again in my office.
Penn Jillette, the mouthpiece of Penn & Teller, has a stroke in the first part of his write-up discussing a detective story from the 1930′s. He eventually recovers, though, and brings it all home back to MAD’s Bill Gaines. If you buy a copy of this book, you can get a 10 minute visit from Teller, who will make sad faces while you read.
Jeff Probst of SURVIVOR fame recommends eating his write-up for nourishment in front of millions of viewers. I am still suffering from acid reflux, probably because I could only get my wife and dog to watch me after donning a loin cloth and not showering for a week.
Pendleton Ward, the man who is ensuring the next generation will drop copious amounts of acid in their eyeballs like those young rabble-rousers in LOOPER, doesn’t write anything. His page is just a pull-out fake beard and complimentary dose.
Harry Hamlin…no, I’m serious--Harry Hamlin…look, stop laughing, the man is a cultural treasure. OK, Harry Hamlin talks about how MAD helped mold his life and get his son into Princeton – not the university, just the town. His son is a huge fan of PJ’s Pancake house on Nassau Street. For all the younger readers out there in their 30′s, Hamlin was responsible for resurrecting Susan Dey’;s career in the 80′s. Susan Day was on “The Partridge Family”. “The Partridge Family” was a show in the 1970s about a family that sang on a bus. Why were they on a bus? OK, this is getting too difficult to explain, just read Harry’s write-up and read the LA LAW spoof afterwards. Oh, I should mention Harry is responsible for body dysmorphia in millions of Gen Xers because our lips didn’t protrude past our chin.
David Lynch explores how MAD was like family and Alfred E. Neuman was like a brother. The page then stabs you in the face while a midget talks backwards.
Matthew Weiner is responsible for introducing a whole new generation to misogyny and the belief that alcoholism is OK as long as you make a lot of money. MAD influenced this. White men everywhere thank you both.
John Slattery…wait a minute, he’s on MAD MEN--I smell a conspiracy. If the next page has Christina Hendricks on it, I’m going to go drink a scotch and slap a secretary’s ass. Oh, John writes a very nice homage about the pride he felt in sending in a magazine subscription.
George Lopez is our second to last entry, merely because it would have been racist to put him all the way at the back of the bus…I mean book. George draws a compelling comparison between Hispanics and Spy vs. Spy – basically, they all enjoy gardening and busing tables.
Paul Feig is poetically the last entry, since he’s been following behind Judd Apatow since the late 90′s. It only makes sense he’s given the page that no reader in America will ever get to, much like his name in the credits of any Apatow production.
*Serious Pants On* Honestly, the celebrity is not what makes this book. It’s the 61 years that MAD has been lampooning our fucked up culture; it’s the stories behind those cultural lampoons told by men who have created a cultural icon that’s entranced three generations. The fact this gorgeous tome is only $30 astounds me. I’ve paid more for coffee table books of penguins and got nowhere near the laughter, enjoyment and only half the masturbatory inspiration that I received from INSIDE MAD. If you’re a human being you will want this book.*Serious Pants Off*
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.
BATMAN #24Writer: Scott Snyder
Art: Greg Capullo
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Joseph Wallace
Scott Snyder has finally wrapped his “Zero Year” storyline that he started in BATMAN #0 oh so long ago. I have been an avid supporter of Snyder’s Batman run even though I was late to jump on the bandwagon. I’m keen on the way Snyder delves into Gotham as a character and explores the dark city down to its very structure; really great stuff. Snyder has also mastered (more or less) a first-rate characterization of Batman that has for the most part been, with exception of most of “Zero Year”, a hyper-perfectionist that is resourceful and calculating. In “Zero Year” Snyder has explored the character’s more inexperienced and brash times; unfortunately, it has not been handled with the same craftsmanship of Snyder’s earlier work.
Scott Snyder has peppered this storyline with recognizable characters and themes from some of the most popular storylines of Batman’s early career. In this issue we have appearances of Commissioner Loeb (Capullo produces a great version harkening back to BATMAN: YEAR ONE), Batman with a a gun (like Golden Age Batman, but this one shoots bean bags at Gordon instead of bullets at vampires), Burton Esq. Ace Chemicals (yes, I know Ace is in the comics, but the design is similar to the movie), and even the cover of Detective Comics #27. It’s fun to see Snyder play with elements from so many different Batman interpretations, but I wish he crafted a more original story out of them.
One of my biggest complaints with this issue is that it has Bruce Wayne giving one of the most drawn out, and boring, speeches of his career. This scene dragged on too long to me and it signified nothing. With this comic’s $6.99 price tag I was critical of the economy of the writing and I felt, all in all, it could have been much more taut. The size and quality of the comic does give it the feel of a tent-pole movie release, and inside it delivers a lot of blockbuster action spectacle; however, I felt at times it used too much exposition (especially between Batman and Red Hood One/Joker?/who cares villain).
One of the things I liked most about Snyder’s “Court of Owls” storyline was that the villains were new to me and that kept them intriguing and unnerving. My problem with what Snyder has been doing with this title after “Court of Owls” is that the villains are beginning to feel a little too familiar and redundant. Yes, Joker is scary, but he can also be extremely overdone when we continually get him rehashing his “anarchy is good” speech along with his love/hate relationship with Batman. Snyder’s Joker feels like he was built from ribs taken from Ed Brubaker’s Joker out of BATMAN: THE MAN WHO LAUGHED, Alan Moore’s seminal interpretation from THE KILLING JOKE, and Frank Miller’s lovey-dovey-murdery Joker from The Dark Knight Returns. I like that he built on the mythos, but I felt like he built a bridge to nowhere and did not manage to enrich the character or surprise this reader.
One of my favorite things Snyder does with the Batman of this story is to capture him in a feral state by the end as he relentlessly pursues Red Hood One and takes his ass down (literally). Here, Batman reminded me a little of Popeye Doyle at the ending of THE FRENCH CONNECTION. He attacks Red Hood One with no plan and puts them both in danger. I liked this because it felt very unlike Batman since it’s an emotional move made by a man who, in that moment, won’t stop. That to me is what I was hoping to see more of in this storyline: a Batman with an edge and not just an inexperienced and arrogant Bruce Wayne.
Greg Capullo captures everything with incredible flair in this issue, but nothing about the artwork really leapt off the page for me. This is a fun comic, but it falls short of the promise that Snyder made to the reader that he was telling a story about Batman’s early career that is unlike what we have seen before. Nothing really happens in “Zero Year” that does not happen in Batman’s normal annual adventures. In the end, it is another origin story for a very old warhorse character who, in my opinion, works best in this day and age when he is moving forward, and not just a jigsaw of puzzle pieces from his past. I love the Batman mythos, and I would never have dissuaded a writer from drawing from that teeming well, but the story has to be more than just the sum of its parts, and Snyder, to me, falls a little short of the awesomeness this comic could have achieved.
AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE #1Writer: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Artist: Francesco Francavilla
Publisher: Archie Comics
I’ve gotta give credit to the folks over at Archie for expanding the scope of their flagship characters over the past few years. Sure, you can still read the high school adventures of the red-haired and freckled Archie Andrews and his eternally teenaged pals. But if you crave a slightly more mature storyline you can also pick up LIFE WITH ARCHIE, wherein you can take a peek at the young adult life of the Riverdale gang. And if your tastes run somewhat darker—after all, it IS almost Halloween—you can open the pages of the delightfully dark and gruesome AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE, the first issue of which hit the stands this past week.
Archie’s pal Jughead learns the hard way that it’s never a good idea to raise the dead—even when the cadaver in question is your loyal (and somewhat disturbingly named) canine companion Hot Dog. When his dog is killed by a hit-and-run driver, Jughead goes to the only one who can help him restore his beloved pet to life: Sabrina the Teenage Witch (didja forget that long before she was a Nickelodeon mainstay, Sabrina was published by Archie? Me too!). Of course, since this a horror comic and all, Hot Dog’s reanimated form is a little…bitey. What follows is a grisly and blackly funny preamble to an inevitable explosion of Z-word terror.
The writing and art meld together perfectly, giving Archie and his schoolmates just enough of a darker edge to sell the horror aspect of this comic while keeping the dialogue snappy enough to keep a sense of ghoulish fun. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s script is peppered with nods to classic horror flicks ranging from the iconic “They’re coming to get you, Barbara!” scene from “Night Of The Living Dead” to having one of Sabrina’s aunts repeating the haunting intonation from “Pet Sematary:” “Sometimes dead is better.” Francesco Francavilla drapes Riverdale and its denizens with gritty shadows and moody colors, lending a more realistic appearance to Archie, Jughead and the rest while retaining their more cartoonish renditions’ dynamic energy. Francavilla also packs the pages with horror homages; at the high school Halloween dance the costumes include Freddy Krueger, the Bride of Frankenstein and raven-haired Veronica doing her best Vampirella impersonation.
Gruesome horror and tongue-in-cheek humor make this premiere issue of AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE a worthy successor to that granddaddy of horror comics, EC’s TALES FROM THE CRYPT, and a must-read for the Halloween season.
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.
LIBERATOR #4Writer: Matt Miner
Art: Javier Sanchez Aranda
Publisher: Black Mask Studios
Reviewer: Ambush Bug
Having been a fan of this book from its first issue, I’m kind of sad to see this miniseries wrap up. That said, there is a promise of more to come at the end, so while this story might be over, the adventures of the Liberator seem to be destined to continue.
Writer Matt Miner plays out his passion for the liberation and salvation of abused and tortured animals in every page of this book. In these past four issues of LIBERATOR he’s taken us on a hero’s journey as Damon, a young man, searches for purpose, makes all kinds of stupid mistakes, and ends forever changed by the path he’s taken. Like many comics, Miner seems to be living out a personal dream in this tale of heroism, but this story has much more of a realistic tone to it as the protagonists (Damon and the more experienced Jeannette) fight against the mistreatment of animals used for testing, sport, or other personal gain.
This final issue ends like a sledgehammer to the gut as some revelations are made in regards to Damon’s motivation that make his extreme behavior all make sense. It’s an ending that didn’t come out of the blue, but wasn’t obvious as well. And while in less capable hands, the outcome might have been seen as clichéd, Miner plots it all out fantastically, wrapping up this arc and seeding the story for future ones.
It’s also been great seeing Javier Sanchez Aranda’s artwork evolve through this series. While the first two issues were good, Aranda’s consistency and handling of anatomy and movement improved immensely, especially in the last issue. I’m looking forward to seeing Aranda’s work continue to evolve in future projects.
LIBERATOR is a comic with a cause, but it’s a worthwhile one and handled in a manner that entertains first and teaches second. As this series wraps, you might have some difficulty finding the first few issues (though I believe they are available at the Black Mask site), but I’m sure a trade is on its way. Here’s hoping for more LIBERATOR comics in the future. This first miniseries was a winner.
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.
TRIPLE HELIX #1Writer: John Byrne
Artist: John Byrne
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Reviewer: Masked Man
John Byrne kicks off his newest original miniseries with IDW. After some sci fi miniseries, TRIPLE HELIX returns Byrne back to what we know him best for: superheroes.
First, I gotta say--how nice is it to just knock out a miniseries about whatever the hell you want and get someone to publish it for ya? Life as a living comic book legend, I guess. And I'm not complaining, mind you; while I don't love everything Byrne has ever made (or said), I'm always willing to see what he's up to.
So the creator of NEXT MEN has a new set of superheroes to play with, and this is no set-up issue. There's no origins story, teaming meeting or look at the heroes out of their costumes. Byrne starts right in the middle of the action and never leaves it. Showcasing two superhero teams: Triple Helix (of course) with Cataclysm (energy projection guy), Javelin (flying, javelin throwing woman), Apex (monkey-man), Dart (teenage speedster), and Pylon (big metal skin guy); and Trio with One (Paper), Two (Scissors), and Three (Rock) (heh, I remember playing the rpg CHAMPIONS in college and creating villains based on rock, paper, and scissors too). Both teams are in a pitched battle with a new bone-faced super villain, but more might be going on as one hero has suffered an unexplained transformation, causing confusion and more conflict. We also get the typical reporters running around getting into trouble as well. And when things finally settle down, more chaos explodes on the final page. As to what it's all about? No answers in this issue. It’s just comic book superhero goodness, which leads me to believe Byrne might be trying something sly here.
Now with only one issue in hand, I could be totally wrong, but this smells like a pastiche, meaning that TRIPLE HELIX isn't so much a superhero comic book as it is a comic book about a superhero comicbook, and more of a throwback to how superhero comic books used to be--jumping from adventure to adventure, with even bigger and grander villains and the typical hero banter and drama. Even the cover is a riff from Byrne's old OFFICIAL HANDBOOK OF THE MARVEL UNIVERSE covers. If this is what Byrne is doing, it's pretty damn clever, so I hope so. Without that angle, as of the first issue, it's just a fun little superhero book. Though for one of the best superhero pastiche comics, I can't recommend enough THE MIGHTY MAGNOR by Sergio Aragones and Mark Evanier. It makes fun of superheroes and is a great superhero story all at the same time.
Ok, what about the important stuff like Byrne's art? Well, like the past two miniseries, Byrne's stuff is looking better than it has in years. Robo Grannie, the skull-faced bad guy--all good-looking stuff. But part of me can't help but feel he's being a little lazy, especially with this series. I mean, Byrne can draw good superhero pages in his sleep! So I feel like he's just not pushing himself, like he was in the 80s and 90s, as if good has become good enough for him. Let me be clear, I'm not insulting the man's work, his good is better than a lot of guys’ best! I’m merely commenting on what I see as the evolution of the artist's work, which may or may not be true. Either way, Byrne's art is getting closer to the good old days, and I do hope he continues to work hard.
So as a fun book or an interesting pastiche, TRIPLE HELIX has got my attention. I think I'll hang around awhile and see how it goes.
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
Advance Review: In stores today!
JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #8Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist: Doug Mahnke
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
FOREVER EVIL has been a slow burn. The proper title is coming out with the regularity of my grandfather’s bowel movements and VILLAINS MONTH kept the story in neutral even longer. Even FOREVER EVIL issue 2 was about posturing versus acceleration of the plot. I’m enjoying the story; I simply want it to move forward.
Wish granted: JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA 8 finally reveals the fate of JUSTICE LEAGUE (and a few of those bastards in the JLA wetworks) after they were skullfucked by Pandora’s box.
I assumed the crew was going to land smack dab on Earth 3. Wrong. It seems the gang was transported to a prison that is contoured and adapts to their greatest psychological fears. Only Matian Manhunter and Stargirl seem to be keeping their wits about them.
The issue starts with the two lying in a field of grass. They are greeted by one half of Firestorm, the smart half, which is no longer so erudite. Stargirl is left as a psychic anchor to their starting point, while MM and Ronny traverse down the rabbit hole to find out what this strange land is all about (they actually go down a hatch, but you get the idea).
First stop is a TRUMAN SHOW-like area where Wonder Woman battles legions of other warrior ladies to protect Steve Trevor. Hmmm…between this insight into her greatest fear and the developments in SUPERMAN/WONDER WOMAN 1, I really wonder how much longer before Supes and Wondie fall into the arms of their fragile Pre-52 loves.
Next stop is Billy Batson kicking the crap out of a town Grand Theft Auto style. Shazam tears it down and the prison rebuilds everything. It’s a real size Lego Land and Billy is its king.
Further we go to our next stop, where The Flash is sitting in a tenement jittering more than members of a methadone clinic. He talks of his day where he did…well, anything and everything including reading all of the Warren Commission files (and a few docs that didn’t make it in). Superman’s stop was a bit of a non-event and frankly confused me.
Finally Simon Baz, the newest Green Lantern, is sequestered in an area where everyone cries “terrorist” whenever he flies by. It all ends with Stargirl finding a way out. Unfortunately, her out places her smack dab in the center of a post-Crime Syndicate Washington, D.C.
This was a good issue for no other reason than the insight it gives us into the mind of the Justice League, which has been sorely lacking elsewhere. It’s also fun to explore the IDs of our favorite heroes along with their darkest fears.
Where are they? Who knows? Where are they going? Again, outside of Stargirl I can’t guess. But that’s part of the fun of comics. If I wanted everything at once I would trade wait.
Kindt, along with all of his Valiant to DC crossovers, is a breath of fresh air on the book with his character insight. I’m interested to see what he could pull off without the crossover crutch. Mahnke as always shines, especially in the Flash scenes where the Scarlet Speedster vibrates more than something from my Mom’s nightstand that takes 4 D batteries.
This was a true moving forward and a coming home for at least one grossly underutilized member of the team. Get this book--it’s an essential of the FOREVER EVIL story.
LETTER 44 #1Writer: Charles Soule
Artist: Alberto Jimenez Alburquerque
Publisher: Oni Press
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee
Like many of you reading this, I would imagine, I am a pretty big consumer of media that resides in that weird world outside of comic books. And given my predisposition to installment-based storytelling due to a couple decades worth of comic book digestion (Fuck! I think I just admitted to myself I’m getting old), I lean towards TV programming as my second fix, especially when pilot season rolls around as it recently has and there are all sorts of new wares to sample. One of the shows I gravitated toward after watching an extended preview online, and that may as well have been the pilots’ ‘Cliff Notes’, was “The Blacklist,” because sometimes I like a fluffy piece of “baddie of the week” and because James Spader on TV is usually an awesome thing. And I liked it, despite being super “piloty” – which is my way of saying that, by fuck, did it go out of its way for forty-four minutes to smack you in the face with the premise and tone – because sometimes I actually like that introductory info dump. As much as I like to work for things over the course of my media binging, sometimes I prefer to just know up front where we stand, get loaded into a setting and get overdosed with the characters enough to get familiar with them so I can see how I like where their motivations go or if the story can throw me some fastballs with them. Also, James Spader is charismatic as ever. His character doesn’t explode on the screen like Alan Shore did, but he still chews that scenery.
Now, hopefully, unless I’m really as bad at this job as I sometimes fear I am, you’ve ascertained that my “The Blacklist” ramblings correlate to this debut issue of LETTER 44 from Oni Press and human bottle rocket Charles Soule. Moving forward with that parallel I was drawing, LETTER 44’s first issue, I personally feel, is in that realm of “piloty.” The bulk of this issue really is a “coffee and bran muffin” level infodump to get things rolling. Immediately and lengthily we are introduced to Stephen Blades, the about to be inaugurated 44th President of the United States, and a completely game-changing letter left to him from his predecessor letting him know that humanity is not alone in the universe and that plans have been put into motion to put humankind in a position to confront the situation. This measure can be summed up as a three-year voyage of several spacefarers of various walks launched to force an encounter with the “aliens” in question, as what kicked this whole ordeal off was an impossible vessel found chilling smack dab between Jupiter and Mars several years before Blades took office. So, basically, the poor bastard is handed the biggest potential FUBAR in the history of mankind before his first day on the job. It’s the worst case of “I’m not even supposed to be here today!!” possible, really.
Playing out that synopsis really is the bulk of this introductory issue but, as I alluded to earlier, I find that a completely valid way to handle such occasions as it’s a good way to play “catch up” before the race has really even begun. This method gives us a large amount of insight into the kind of man that Stephen Blades is, being an energetic, fresh-faced fighter type that seems to have some dread setting in taking the big chair job in general, let alone this development. But we also see that Blades is a man who copes, is personable, has a job that he’s got to do and dammit he’s going to do it, etc. If anything comes of this, we’ve got a handle on our “leading man,” which may shift for all I know as the rest of the storyline does. And by this I mean that LETTER 44 #1 with the large, expository amount of world-building it achieves in this first issue, is still dealing with a lot of vagueness when it comes to the target of its plot--that floating piece of non-Earthen metal just past the red planet. In that regard we are given interaction with the ship’s crew, but not a terrible lot of insight into their personalities and what kind of experiences they have been having as they barrel toward the object. We know that they’ve become a very tight-knit group to the point where two of them have even been knocking zero gravity boots and the ship commander has a space baby on the way. There’s a lot of characters here to potentially flesh out more than the couple of pages we get with them, and that’s on top of the god knows what the fuck they are about to encounter, the (possibly) poor bastards.
That “what” is obviously going to be huge for this book as it sets forward on its own voyage. Following up on that “The Blacklist” reference from before, when that pilot was done I had received more or less what I expected between Spader’s character, the “procedural” aspect of the shows baddie-a-week architecture, and then some insidious overarching plot it initiated in its final act that I could tell would play out behind some energetic “comfort food” weekly stories. Well, with LETTER 44 we similarly have a load of scene dressing and a pretty intimate look at the biggest character in the book, but, after that, I’d be lying if I said I had a fucking clue what we can come to expect once those astronauts make contact. And thank the comic book gods for that, because otherwise where is the excitement? That arena of giving you just enough information to begin to puzzle things out and then ramping events either above and beyond what you could imagine or in a completely opposite direction seems to be where Soule makes his sport, as he’s shown so far with his book 27 at Image and as he’s done since he took the reins on SWAMP THING. I have absolutely no idea what the crew of The Clarke is going to be exposed to and what they’ll do to it or have done to them. It could be something spectacular for the crew and humanity and raise all types of philosophical questions, or it could be something that needs to be killed dead with fire. Either way, given the track record Mr. Soule has set for himself the past couple of years, the capability of his penciling partner, Mr. Alburquerque, and the intrigue of the subject matter in this opener, LETTER 44 has all the makings of another fantastic voyage from Oni Press.
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.
BUCK ROGERS #2Writer: Howard Chaykin
Artist: Howard Chaykin
Publisher: Hermes Press
Reviewer: Masked Man
I wrote recently that you can't keep a good sci fi concept down (reviewing the original BATTLESTAR GALATICA comic book) and to further the point, here comes more Buck Rogers. Seems that Dynamite has walked away from the property (not too surprising considering its lackluster update) and Hermes Press (yeah, I've never heard of them either) has picked it up, with comic legend Howard Chaykin (creator of AMERICAN FLAGG) as the driving force.
Well, I assume you are probably like me--your biggest exposure to Buck Rogers was the 1980s TV series by Glen Larson. Despite its 80s cheesiness, I still think it's a fun show and I wish there were still sci fi TV shows like it. If it doesn't have spaceships and laser pistols, it's just not sci fi to me. Well, you might be surprised that the original short story ARMAGEDDON 2419 AD, and the following comic strip, BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25TH CENTURY AD (check it out here), had very little in common with the TV show. This is not a bad thing, since in some ways Buck Roger was inventing popular sci fi, so it's not surprising that a lot of its concepts are odd and silly by today’s standpoint. Still, I always thought it would be neat if someone tried to get a little closer to the original concept, and that's just what Howard Chaykin is doing here. Despite some modern touches and a more structured world (because he's not building it as he goes) this is pretty much the original Buck Rogers story.
To quickly bring you up to speed, in the 25th century, the United States of America is gone, long conquered by the Chinese, known as the Han. Under the Han's boot, American civilization has become a group of warring gangs or city-states, and they have kept the American technology level back a few centuries. Our man Buck, who fell asleep inside a cave in the 1930's, has been awoken by Wilma Deering and joins the Wyoming Eagle Gang. The WEG fights other gangs run by classic Buck Rogers villains like Killer Kane, Black Barney and Ardala for resources like food and supplies. Being the classic good guy, Buck hopes to unite the American gangs against the Han, though Wilma thinks this is just a pipe dream.
The setting is all very rural, which it was, but in 2013 I'd like a setting more akin to the 80's TV show. Accepting that, Chaykin is doing a really good job here. The action moves fast, while Buck and Wilma bicker about the state of the 'nation'. The one odd spot is the whole race-war issue, which was in the original stories. Where Americans have accepted men, women, black and white as equals, Asians are second class citizens, or slaves. Then somehow 1930s man Buck Rogers doesn't agree with the racism and even talks the WEG into recruiting some Asian Americans to act as spies against the Han (nice plotline there, though). Heck, it was in the 1930s when this race-war story was actually written! To his credit, Chaykin is giving reasons to Buck's thinking, but I feel he should have just left the racism out or just really ran with it, where Buck is as racist as the next guy in the 1930s.
Artwork-wise I always find Chaykin a mixed bag. One the one hand he has a really nice storytelling style and nice figure work. On the other, he always seems to employ cheap effects that I expect to see in non-professional work (i.e. clipart wood tone or other background elements). And did that girl on page nine have black eyes or what? To me, the more he stays away from those gimmicks, the better his work looks, which can be really good.
So HP's BUCK ROGERS is a very interesting look at this old hero. I look forward to seeing how Howard Chaykin develops it all.
MEMORY COLLECTORS #1Writer: Menton3
Publisher: IDW Publishing/44Flood
Reviewer: Ambush Bug
Those of you who have read a review of mine before of the artist known as Menton3 will already know I’m going to fawn all over the artwork of this book as I do with all of Menton’s artwork. The artist’s painterly style exudes a subtlety that many will feel is breathtaking. I know I sure feel that way when looking at his fantastic panels and layouts. The thing is, most of the time, the stuff going on in those panels are the stuff of the most ebon nightmares: twisted forms, dark corners, ambiguous anatomy, and all kinds of skeletal delights. As a fan of all things horror, there simply isn’t an artist out there right now that can compete with Menton in terms of imagery bizzare but beautiful.
Who’d have known he can paint him some gorgeous women as well?
Well, I knew. Having seen Menton’s studio, the walls of his workspace are littered with portraits of beautiful ladies. So when I found out that his next project focused on a trio of fetish models who protect humanity from soulless monsters, I knew the comics world was in for a treat as Menton’s ladies are as beautiful as his monsters are pants-shittingly frightening. There isn’t a page in this issue that doesn’t twist convention and blend the appealing with the appalling seamlessly.
Now, Menton’s work has mainly been straight-up horror having worked on projects such as SILENT HILL, MONOCYTE, and TRANSFUSION. Here, though only slightly, Menton delves into superheroes for the first time. Though the characters in the book would most likely gut you before they’d let you call them superheroines, they are saving the world from monsters. Like goth and realistic Powerpuff Girls, these three edgy beauties band together and use their feminine wits (and some choice cutlery) to kill soulless monsters known as Memory Collectors. And in some amazingly rendered and choreographed scenes, these girls kick all kinds of glute sideways and back again.
I also loved the smart writing going on here, also by Menton. There’s a really clever self-referential nod which sort of breaks the fourth wall by having these three female warriors fight their dark foes at comicons because both Memory Collectors and the heroines can walk around in their gear without being noticed (I’d also suggest goth clubs, which I often attend and are the site for some freaky accessories as well). There’s even a nod to the creator himself as the warrior women three say they hired a comic book writer/artist to make comics of them so that they blend into the conventions more. It’s the little details like these that made me smile while reading this book.
Wildly imaginative and brain-expandingly creative, MEMORY COLLECTORS does not look like any comic you are used to seeing, which makes it all the more fantastic. Those of you who love the artform of comic booking need to check out one of comics’ true modern artistic innovators in MEMORY COLLECTORS.
BATMAN #24Writer: Scott Snyder
Art: Greg Capullo
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: The Kid Marvel
I know that BATMAN ZERO YEAR has brought a lot of mixed feelings from readers, some especially noticeable ones in the Ain’t It Cool News comment section. Old school fans of Batman are sick of the all the Batman origin stories, some fans just don’t care for another origin story, and some are especially annoyed that DC or Snyder are tying Batman’s origin so directly to the Joker’s. While, on the other side of the fence, fans give it five stars across the board, love Snyder’s take on the Dark Knight’s origins, and are basically in love with “Zero Year” in the same way a teenage girl is in love with “Twilight”. I personally may not be on the “Twilight” level of tween obsession with “Zero Year”, but Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have done a freaking phenomenal job with it.
BATMAN ZERO YEAR begins with the first look at Snyder’s Batcave, then switches to Batman taking on the Red Hood Gang. Snyder writes Bruce as a slightly more mouthy Batman than is usually done. While he’s not on a Spider-Man or Deadpool level of sarcasm, Bruce definitely talks more trash than the usual silent, fear-inducing Bat. After defeating a few of the Red Hood Gang and stringing them up to a billboard as a giant massive human-shaped bat symbol, ZERO YEAR 24 continues on to reveal the Red Hood Gang’s latest plans for Gotham City. Bruce Wayne is sporting a weird buzz cut, which I’m assuming or hoping is because of the fire he was caught in because it looks stupid, confronts his uncle looking for some way to track the Red Hood Gang and finally put a stop to them. Snyder then returns us to the beginnings of the Batcave, which is really nothing more than a hole in the ground at this point, where Alfred and Bruce are planning their attack against the Hoods. Bruce decides to reveal himself as still living to the media and reveal the Red Hood Gang’s plan to poison Gotham. This creates a huge media storm, which Commissioner Loeb sees as nothing more than a distraction and annoyance, so he sends Officer Gordon to deal with it. After revealing the Red Hood’s plan right outside of the A.C.E. chemical facility where they are preparing their attack, Bruce’s ballsy move obviously pisses them off and so the Hoods shoot off a few rockets in the direction of Bruce with all the innocent citizens caught in the crossfire. During the chaos the Hoods kidnap Bruce, who has apparently set this entire scenario up for the sole purpose of connecting Batman’s rescue of a dummy Bruce Wayne in order to hide his secret identity. I’ll leave off there, so I don’t spoil it for those who have not read BATMAN ZERO YEAR 24, just know it’s definitely worth the extra couple dollars for this issue.
I can understand why older comic readers may be annoyed with yet another origin story of Batman. You have years of the annoying bad comic clichés of stories that have simply been created for the sole purpose of money, that DC and Marvel have committed numerous times over the years. I understand and sympathize with that; however, I don’t have nearly enough time in comics to become the cynical angry comic reader, so for me Zero Year is the equivalent of other reader’s Year One. This is for several reasons. One, we all know DC wanted it this way and two, because of my age. That said, I still think Scott Snyder’s Zero Year is one of the best stories I’ve read lately. Snyder throws in multiple references to previous Batman stories while still weaving together his own take and creation, which makes an excellent mix of new and old. I do stand with some who feel the Joker element is a little forced. I know Red Hood One has never been directly referenced as being the Joker, but anyone with a functioning brain knows Snyder has heavily alluded to him being the future Clown Prince. I’m also not necessarily fond of Bruce basically needing to become Batman because of the Red Hoods, particularly future Joker, so I have mixed feelings about the Joker more or less creating Batman, rather than the other way around. Mixed feelings aside, I liked how Bruce grew from vigilante to hero; character development is always key to making a good story. I also loved the dynamic between Bruce and Alfred developing as Zero Year went on--once again, good character development. Another plus is Snyder making the greener Batman a slight trash talker; I can see Batman becoming colder and his demeanor more serious as he endures more and more tragedies with his career. Once again, for the third time, character development.
As for BATMAN ZERO YEAR’s art, Greg Capullo did an excellent job. Capullo makes Zero Year similar to Frank Miller’s Year One in detail and style, but still makes it his own. I also really liked the first Bat costume, having a very “I’m new to this hero thing” feel to the design with purple gloves and very basic gadgets. The various nods to different eras of iconic Batman pictures was also a pretty sweet. Capullo’s talent was definitely shown through this book; he is a great artist.
I’ve always been impressed with Snyder as a writer and Zero Year ranks as one of my favorite, showing how talented he is. If you didn’t read enough of this before, Snyder pushes his characters over the plot, making for good story. I’m personally very excited for Snyder’s future work on BATMAN ETERNAL and his future work with BATMAN, especially with how he develops his take on the origin stories of Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, Barbra Gordon, and the other Bat family allies as Snyder continues to create the New 52 BATMAN world.
Advance Review: In stores in November!
PROTECTORS INC #1Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Artist: Gordon Purcell
Publisher: Image/Joe's Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
PROTECTORS INC. at the high level is Joe’s Comics’ answer to the JUSTICE LEAGUE. Naturally, though, it has the JMS flourish of cynicism and truth powering the masks. There’s nothing idealistic here. Just like SIDEKICK and TEN GRAND, PROTECTORS INC. takes the traditional superhero tropes and indicts the bullshit black and white moralities that tend to permeate the capes and spandex set.
I received my copy of PROTECTORS INC. during New York Comic Con last weekend. Actually, everyone who decided to attend JMS’ panel on writing and, well, anything that came into Joe’s head received a copy as well. Joe didn’t do a hell of a lot plugging of the book; in fact he did a very cursory overview of the entire Joe’s Comics line. That’s a compliment, not a slight. Between advice and frivolity he made the panel about us and our questions. He left the panel by giving all of us a copy to let us go off and draw our own conclusions.
Now, I’ve interviewed Joe about six times over the years. The man is a bastion of candor and honesty. As a fellow Jersey boy, I can’t handle pretense either. If you’re going to say something, just fucking say it. So here it goes. I’m confused. There are many streams feeding into the tributary of the story about people disappearing amidst strange lightning storms and the first superhero, The Patriot.
In the world of PROTECTORS INC., capes arrived on the front lines of WWII in 1944. After kicking some kraut ass The Patriot comes home and the next seventy years see the rise of 50 other powered individuals like the beautiful Angel, the machismo-endowed Huntsman and a host of others. They don’t get a lot of play in the book, merely serving as exposition fodder for our narrator detective lamenting his very laissez-faire feelings towards the whole lot. In this world there are no caped bad guys, everyone with a power is good (or at least we’re supposed to believe they are) and the heroes serve more as celebrities in the skies than thwarting any real danger. Joe is definitely sending a message here about the corporatization of American ideals (like Times Square), but it might be too early for that. I think we needed a few less characters and a little more why we should care about these fifty fuckbags filling the skies.
I’m not an overly obtuse person, so I think part of my confusion stems from Purcell’s artwork. There’s a CIA agent in the beginning of the book, looks like a middle-aged blonde white guy. His human cargo disappears by lightning. That’s the last we see of the guy. Now, he may very well be The Patriot who simply disappeared ten years ago, but I’m not sure. Next is our detective who looks a lot like The Patriot both in and out of garb and the CIA dude (again, assuming they aren’t the same person).
Despite my grimacing on the overarching plot, the book is rife with Joe’s natural dialog and flair for humor. This means I’m definitely in for the first arc. I have a feeling that will give enough time to crystalize why I should care about these incorporated protectors.
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G
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