Comics

AICN COMICS Reviews: AQUAMAN! SEX CRIMINALS! HELLO KITTY! FLESH & BLOOD! WARLORD OF MARS! & More!

Published at: Nov. 27, 2013, 2:38 a.m. CST

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

Advance Review: AQUAMAN #25
HELLO KITTY: HERE WE GO! OGN
Indie Jones presents THE LIVE LADY OF DOWN TOWN
SEX CRIMINALS #3
Indie Jones presents FLESH & BLOOD #3
HARLEY QUINN #0
Indie Jones presents ICONES DOS QUADRHINOS
WARLORD OF MARS #29
Indie Jones presents GRIMM: AUNT MARIE’S BOOK OF LORE
THE WAKE #5


Advance Review: In stores today!

AQUAMAN #25

Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Paul Pelletier
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche


“I’m going to make a prediction, and even if my crystal ball has more clouds than clarity this is a belief I hold to the core of my being: Geoff Johns will one day helm the DC comic line as Editor-in-Chief (if he so chooses).” Optimous Douche, February 2010

I didn’t fully understand the implications of this prediction when I made it that cold February morn. I figured if my words became true, it would be in the contextual model of business as usual. Once Johns had some more salt and pepper on his temples, he would take the top spot from Didio and, like Dan, occasionally write a few books.

I of course got wrong the instilling of a holy trinity in control, the folding of the comic line under the main WB banner, the Hollywooding of the comic line which will come to full fruition once the NY offices close, and of course Johns’ true control title of Chief Creative Officer.

What reality has wrought is AQUAMAN #25: basically the end of Geoff scribing monthly books, presumably to give the other media channels in the WB a fighting chance against the miraculous Marvel movie machine. Honestly, with the casting away of GREEN LANTERN and there being no real Justice Society except on EARTH 2 the only thing left pouring out of Geoff’s keyboard is JUSTICE LEAGUE.

It’s been a great run, but good-byes are always sad, this one even more so for the reasons I just mentioned. It’s one thing when a writer leaves a title; it’s another thing altogether when a beloved writer is absconded from the bullpen to be locked away in the executive ivory tower.

Out of all the New 52 offerings, I’ve found AQUAMAN to be the most intriguing. I never personally cared about the character outside of small snippets by seminal writers. Johns kept me engaged, though, for 25 issues. Not all DC titles had the same consistent staying power being printed or making it into my longbox.

It was touch and go at first: I dug the perpetual fish out of water jokes because I’ve made plenty and I find suffering at someone else’s expense sort of hilarious. After a few issues, though, I got in line with the purists – the waaa waaaa Charlie Brown walk off can’t work forever for a hero. It’s one more joke, not a symphony. What kept me in the game, though, was the true heart Geoff was bringing to the title with Mera being Arthur’s continued champion in the face of ridicule. Any man who has found a good partner knows how much their smile can brighten even the gloomiest of days.

Also, it was great watching the king shun the ocean for life as a landlubber until destiny had a different idea. “Just when I’m out, they pull me back in”, lamented Michael Corleone, and I think it resonates here as well. Great men simply can’t escape being great.

The return to the sea was just as engaging: the perceived betrayal by Vulko, the actual betrayal by the men who helped Arthur acclimate to life on land, THRONE OF ATLANTIS that wiped out half the Eastern seaboard and resuscitated the JUSTICE LEAGUE’s anemic storyline, and this final battle with the Dead King made this reporter consistently care about the DC life aquatic for the first time in 25 years of comic collecting.

Johns gives us a satisfying conclusion to the Dead King saga. Some of it was expected, like Arthur regaining the throne, Vulko being absolved of wrongdoing because of his fierce devotion to Arthur’s line, and finally Arthur and Mera living happily ever after. Some events were surprising, like the little black guys from the trench being one of the seven sunken kingdoms of Atlantis and fighting by Arthur’s side once he flashes a little bit of scepter; also, the king of Xebel showing up looking for a fight to launch the next arc. Some of it was WTF inducing, like Orm now shacking up with a woman he helped during FOREVER EVIL. I always thought Orm hated us land-dwellers, but I’ll admit I could have missed something in the deluge of event books.

I’ll admit now, I fear for the future. Books seem to lose some staying power when other writers are plopped into Johns’ plotlines. Johns lays down so many different tangents crafted by his unique voice, it’s akin to other writers trying to pick up after Claremont left X-MEN. Writing a title and marrying it are two different experiences; the prior produces a few trades while the latter inexorably changes the character and the universe for years to come. Anyone trying to pick up after Johns walks away is left with the latter, after he has mined the grandeur dry, leaving only fragments of mediocrity for follow-up. I might be wrong this time. Make that, I hope I’m wrong this time. I’m not done with AQUAMAN, even if Geoff is. I thank Geoff for his time and service, and I truly wish him his heart’s desire moving forward. I would caution, though, to never fully abandon the rocket boosters that helped him leave orbit.

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.


HELLO KITTY: HERE WE GO! OGN

Cartoonists: Jacob Chabot, Jorge Monlongo, and Susie Ghahremani
Publisher: Viz Media
Reviewer: Masked Man


So do you know a Hello Kitty lover? For me, that would be my wife. With all my toys and her toys, our house can look like a toy store some days! Now, while I'm not some kind of 'brony', I do appreciate good work. Even super cute work. Now Hello Kitty, herself, is kind of an oddity because she was created to merely sell stationery supplies. She's not from a movie, cartoon or comic. She just sells stuff and does it better than anyone else--not backed up by a big movie studio! And while she has just gotten bigger and bigger since 1974, with video games, cartoon shows and even a theme park (Sanrio Puroland in Japan), she never really had a comic book (not even during Marvel's Star line!) until now.

Ok, this is more a mini graphic novel filled with short stories than what we've come to call comic books. Still, in a wider sense of the word, I maintain this is a comic book--Hello Kitty's first--and it's about as perfect as it can be! The main writer/artist is Jacob Chabot, who had his own comic book, THE MIGHTY SKULLBOY ARMY. His stories are all super cute and super good looking. He has a great ability for drawing Hello Kitty and her friends, making them look on model and giving them a great deal of life. He has Kitty discover an underground city of rock people, lets her imagination run wild while reading different books, go on a camera safari, plus a brilliant two page spread that tells a clever story. I'm glad to see he will be in the next issue as well.

Jorge Monlongo's stories have a more indie comic book feel to them. While still being Hello Kitty cute, it has a touch of indie cool. He also has the most ambitious story, with Hello Kitty working for the British secret service. He also has a story of how Hello Kitty can be so perfect it can be maddening to other characters. Lastly, Susie Ghahremani, who does some one-pagers, has no desire to draw Hello Kitty on model. Her work is very modern and indie-looking, but it's still fun and cute stuff. Her last page, entitled “Bear Attack”, is perhaps the cutest of all the stories.

It seems like whenever I see comic books like this, they are either drawn by inferior artists or written by writers who lack imagination. Thankfully, this is not the case with HELLO KITTY: HERE WE GO! This will easily charm the pants off any Hello Kitty lover you know (figuratively, people, figuratively) and will even amuse anyone who appreciates work of this nature. Keeping that in mind, in the Masked Man's scale of CRAP, POOR, FAIR, GOOD, and GREAT, HELLO KITTY: HERE WE GO! is Great.

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


THE LIVE LADY OF DOWN TOWN

By Robert N. Lee
Published by Awesomedome.com
Reviewer: Joseph Wallace

Imagine my delight when I was given some new pre-release historic fiction that happened to center around Delia Derbyshire, the electronic composer who created the unmistakable DOCTOR WHO theme. All the sci-fi goodness in THE LIVE LADY OF DOWN TOWN had me in pleasure overload with the way it perfectly coincided with the “Day (or in the case of my house week) of the Doctor” celebration!

If you are going to seek this short story out (it’s a steal for $.99 here), I recommend doing a little reading on Delia Derbyshire to get all of the references and intrigues to this alternate take on her life. In real life, Delia Derbyshire was an extremely talented woman who had to fight to get her foot in the door of BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop. Once she made it to BBC’s playground of electronic recording equipment, Delia was able to pioneer a lot of techniques in electronic music and helped drive the medium forward.

Robert N. Lee takes his fictional Delia down the “rave” roads that she helped to pave the way for, only in his world it’s all happening in 1967 in an England filled with robots (bet you didn’t see that one coming). I enjoyed that this was a sci fi story in the way it was dressed, but that at its core, it’s a story that feels very true to the life and legacy of Delia Derbyshire. Beyond Delia and robots there is some good stuff exploring two young girls and their experience with rave culture (but we will get to that later).

I confess that I’m a relatively new “Who” fan, but I was fortunate enough to know a little about the life of Delia Derbyshire before delving into the sci fi world Robert N. Lee has weaved for her. I tend to like stories that play with historic people and events because I enjoy all the background the history can provide beyond what is just found in the text (like this story’s great references to Brian Jones, The Million Volt Electric Light Rave and the Unit Delta Plus studio that Delia was involved in).

When I spoke to Lee about the story he said he wanted to keep his portrayal accurate to Delia, but only to a point. Lee said “I made choices that fit her having an entirely different life than the one she had--for instance, she hated synthesizers and the increasing automation of the looping and beat matching and so on...that kind of isolated her very quickly from a field she'd help create, and led to her increasing solitude after the early seventies.” His Delia is clearly very fictionalized and goes the DJ route, and this choice blends easily with the over-the-top robot-populated London Lee has set her in. Lee’s 1967 world feels foreign and familiar, rustic but futuristic; its’ like a half-formed history lesson taught by an asylum patient, but in a good way. Lee fashions a mixed bag of genres and themes that manage to stay true to themselves beneath all their blended together madness.

The other side to this story is Melissa and Debbie’s raving London adventure (see, I told you I was getting back to this). My complaint here is that as a reader I wanted to delve more into the strange English world Melissa and Debbie were exploring, but it felt like I was only getting to scratch the surface. When I was given a chance to correspond with the author of LIVE LADY, he explained that his approach to alternate history is usually to “intentionally leave those details out or refer to them only obliquely.” Although I was frustrated with some of the unexplored areas of the world in the story, I felt at its core Melissa and Debbie’s story is one that is taken out of time and could exist anywhere, which I think is the point Robert is able to convey by not entirely flushing out their surroundings. Even something like rave music, which in the past has been seen as edgy and unconventional, speaks to its audience on a very primal level that really is more felt than understood, just like good ideas. Without giving much of Melissa and Debbie’s story away, they manage to keep Delia’s narrative informed and give it more of a dimension while also taking drugs and reflecting on sex. While this stuff was entertaining, I felt more compelled by Delia’s story and the madcap world Lee had constructed. I don’t mean to hate on this section of the story because it is well done and fits in well with the rave theme, but personally I preferred some of the story’s other elements.

Good fiction is comprised of layers. If I am going to read something I want it to follow me around after I put it down and give me some concepts to mentally pick and prod at. Robert N. Lee handles this really well with his 1960s alternate history yarns, and amazingly enough, never seems to lose sight of the main story he is trying to tell. His collection currently has three shorts released, and every one of them offers something unique and different. As a comic book fan I am a born sucker when it comes to anthologies that feature strong and graphic ideas. By the looks of what is out so far, Lee has a lot to say and a very interesting way of saying it. Buy the ticket, take the ride. I mean, why not? It has giant robots and subtle DOCTOR WHO references--what the hell else do you want?!?!


SEX CRIMINALS #3

Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Chip Zdarsky
Publisher: Image Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche


For the first time in three years, I am ashamed to be an Apple user. While I love my iMac, Mac Air, iPad, Apple TV and the iTunes experience (the inception point for the Apple device switch from Windows), I am beyond livid on the Good Taste Gestapo’s choice to omit SEX CRIMINALS from the purchase lineup.

Sure, if one just looked at the title, you would expect a tour of the pedo bear picnic, or the secret diary of Rapey McRaperson. Thank goodness Fraction and Zdarsky put pictures, words and other details inside this book like a plot that has nothing to do with our traditional definition of sex crimes after the cover.

If someone on the modern-day Warren commission decided to take a look inside in the book what they would find is one of the most honest and touching explorations of human sexuality slathered with the trappings of great sci fi, mystery and adventure. SEX CRIMINALS is an honest and engaging delight that can titillate traditional comic fans while bringing in a slew of new readers (i.e. women) if people simply get past the puritanical prickly sensation we get from the association of the words sex and criminal.

I didn’t know what to make of issue 1. Here I was, reading about a young woman describing the sexual awakening of her even younger self. Young men hold the female species at arm’s length because we find them to be so very different from us. Society doesn’t help in this regard, teaching women repression while teaching men reckless abandon with our naughty bits. Fraction dispels the rumor that female desire doesn’t exist, but does regale the truism that women are far more reserved when it comes to discussing the most holy of holes. I laughed as our protagonist Suzy fumbled through first crushes, first touches and first blushes. I was then flabbergasted when Fraction made the climax of these explorations her super power. When Suzy cums, the rest of the world stops. There was a movie back in 1980 starring Pam Dawber and Robert Hays called “The Girl, The Gold Watch & Everything,” where Hays stops time to do bawdy nonsense like Scott Baio did in “Zapped.” SEX CRIMINALS is the reality of this power, but also packs in true and not just insipid humor. As Suzy tries to learn about sex from friends, and thinks her experience is normal, we realize just how alone she actually is in the world. That’s when the laughter stops and the heart of this title kicks into full gear.

Then Suzy met Jon, a man suffering from the same “affliction.” Issue 2 explored Jon’s experience with this wonderful gift. Here is where we see how men and women process puberty differently. Suzy was amazed by this time-stopped world, imbibing the color and sound, simply content to just be inside in her rapture of what she dubbed The Quiet. Jon called it Cumworld and used it as an excuse to get his hands on as much porn as possible at the local smut shop.

The story is not told in the same linear fashion as my synopsis. All of the exploration and our two protagonists falling in love only happens after a scene in the present, when the two enter a bank bathroom, get their freak on, and then decide to make Cumworld their personal ATM. Issue 3 reveals, though, that these two are Robin Hoods, not robber barons. They are trying to get together enough scratch to save the library Suzy works at. Jon is also using this as an excuse for a little comeuppance against this institution that has made his workday a living hell for so many years.

Issue 3 reveals more about Suzy and Jon’s relationship while unveiling the impetus for the plan we’ve been watching in action for the past two issues. The big reveal, though, is that Cumworld is not Blue Lagoon; there are others on the island that are more organized, brutal and really pissed off that Cumworld has multiple denizens.

I guess if I was a complete moron who believed society is comprised of other morons who need to be told what to do I could rationalize Apple’s decision not to carry this book. After all, if you just look at the title and read the first page of issue #1 this is pretty salacious stuff. Sure, SEX CRIMINALS is not as salacious as the thousands of movies that simulate fucking available on iTunes, not as salacious as the millions of pages of porn one can access from their Safari browser, and not as salacious as the Blu-Ray cum bonanza one can upload to iCloud, but it still pretty risqué for a comic. Oh wait, I’m sorry – I forgot about books like CROSSED or anything written by Alan Moore ever that can be easily accessed via Apple digital. Never mind--Apple is simply kowtowing to public frenzy versus making an informed decision.

As a staunch libertarian I find all censorship deplorable, but as a man entering my parenting years I understand how digital items can be easily accessed by children. I ask Apple, though, to focus on areas where kids are actually playing in the digital playground. As I watch my godson look for Minecraft videos and receive a plethora of suggested Minecum videos, I wonder if we should be looking at other places in the Wild West of the World Wide Web that kids are actually inhabiting, instead of places primarily occupied by the middle-aged. Look to places where smut is free with no gatekeepers versus areas that require purchase passwords, and parents should be policing to begin with. I ask them to look, truly look, before they leap with the banhammer ready to strike.


FLESH AND BLOOD # 3

Written by: Robert Tinnell
Flesh and Blood, Part Three
Illustrated by: Neil Vokes
Operation Satan
Illustrated by: Bob Hall
Baron Frankenstein, Part Two
Illustrated by: Adrian Salmon
Publisher: Monsterverse
Reviewer: superhero


It’s been a little while since I’ve penned a review for AICN Comics. I’ve been gone a while, putzing around in my own little corner of the internet. Truth to tell, I’d pretty much given up on reading weekly/monthly pamphlets and made the full-fledged transition to trade paperback warrior, so I didn’t think I had much to contribute to the hallowed halls of weekly comic book reviews. But when Ambush Bug himself contacted me directly and asked me if I’d like to write up the latest issue of FLESH AND BLOOD, what could I say? I’d loved the previous editions and had the chance to interview Robert Tinnell and Neil Vokes about a year ago (you can read that interview here and listen to it here), so Bug knew FLESH AND BLOOD was a series I was already partial to, and quite honestly, when the @$$ signal goes up…I really had no choice but to spring into action!

For those not in the know, FLESH AND BLOOD is Monsterverse Entertainment’s comic book love letter to the classic era of Hammer Studios horror movies. The best way to explain the comic would be a sort of “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” or “Crisis of Infinite Earths”-style gathering of Hammer horror movie characters. If you’ve ever wanted to know what it might have been like if the characters from the classic horror novels Dracula and Frankenstein had met and then were spun through a Hammer Studios blender, then FLESH AND BLOOD is the book for you.

This third issue of FLESH AND BLOOD picks up very much where the last one left off. Professor Abraham Van Helsing and Jonathan and Mina Harker are living together in a more-than-awkward living arrangement. This cohabitation has found Van Helsing and Mrs. Harker involved together in a relationship that is more than platonic. Meanwhile, Jonathan Harker has succumbed to an obsession with creatures of the night and Doctor Victor Frankenstein is still up to his no-good brain-transplanting antics. As it turns out, Professor Van Helsing isn't the only character from Victorian-era horror novels that Doc Frankenstein has been corresponding with. It is this correspondence with other nefarious scientific minds that sets events in motion and things go from complicated to all-out crazy as Frankenstein attempts to toy with the forces of nature just one more time.

Taking their cue from the Hammer Horror classic Dr. Jekyll, Sister Hyde, Tinnell and Vokes engage in a compelling tale of science gone wrong. I have to say, this issue of FLESH AND BLOOD has been my favorite by far as it really just goes balls to the wall in embracing the salacious nature of some of the mid-to-late Hammer releases. The first two issues very much embodied the spirit of the early Hammer films, which were a bit more restrained in their sexual and violent content. While I can't accuse the early issues of F & B of being tame, I can say that in this collection the creators are ready to let their freak flags fly. This edition of FLESH AND Blood is the closest you'll get to the violent and titillating era of Hammer films in the pages of a comic book. Fortunately, Tinnell and Vokes are able to avoid the drop in production values that the Hammer movies of that era suffered from.

Neil Vokes does a fantastic job on the art chores here. His style is, as I stated in a previous review, cartoony, but that does not keep it from making a powerful impact. Vokes is definitely playing his A game in this book as he maximizes his technique to deliver a horrifying story to full effect. He has a great talent for setting the mood of a scene and bringing the story elements together to deliver a purposeful punch. His work embraces the nature of the source material, making moments successfully twist between frighteningly terrifying in one moment to dangerously sensual the next.

Tinnell is no slouch, either. Anyone who has ever loved a Hammer horror movie will immediately recognize how well Mr. Tinnell has captured the essence of those films with his writing. The characterizations are dead on, and the story’s sense of pacing is perfect. Tinnel knows what made those fantastic movies work and uses the formula to maximum effect here. There’s a big part of me that wishes Tinnel would just get on with it already and start producing modern-day horror films with a classic Hammer feel. His sense for the Hammer aesthetic is that strong in the pages of this graphic novel.

FLESH AND BLOOD issue #3 also contains some smaller back up-features which round out the package. The continuing OPERATION SATAN is a masterfully illustrated piece, but it had been so long since the last installment that I couldn’t really enjoy this part of it all that much. I feel that OPERATION SATAN is of such good quality that it should be a book on its own. Following that is a stylish and somewhat crudely illustrated take on the Frankenstein origin that rounds out the origins of everyone’s favorite monster maker. Despite its somewhat simple visuals, it’s still a fun read and possibly made more impactful due to its simplicity. The final pages of F & B are rounded out by a very informative and well researched article by Michael H. Price about the history of horror comics in the United States. Top all of this off with an introduction written by horror effects mastermind Tom Savini, and this edition of FLESH AND BLOOD is one that all fans of horror and horror comics will find to be a must have for their collection. This is a horror comic that I can’t recommend highly enough.

Discovered as a babe in an abandoned comic book storage box and bitten by a radioactive comic fan when he was a teenager, superhero is actually not-so mild mannered sometime designer & cartoonist, Kristian Horn of Los Angeles, California. Some of his work can be seen at www.kristianhorn.com and check out his blog at www.parttimefanboy.com. You can check also out his webcomics at www.babybadass.com and thediplomatics.com, which is currently in development.


HARLEY QUINN #0

Writers: Jimmy Palmiotti & Amanda Connor
Art: A bunch of people
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee


Ladies and gentlemen, we stand here on the precipice of Harley Quinn – cosplay darling of the comics world – becoming the DC answer to Deadpool, darling of the world of people who absolutely go bananas for Fourth Wall breaking (and I mean none of these things in a derogatory way).

Or at least all of this is what I’m gleaning from this “jam session” issue of a really pretty nice assortment of artists and the ongoing’s proper writing tandem of Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti. And I am completely on board with this because, unlike many a thing that seems to be happening at DC these days, this direction really seems to be the only way things play out. The simple fact of the matter is that sometimes a baddie who has a psychotic side ends up being more endearing than evil and has a certain style and charisma about them that makes them a fan favorite as an anti-hero rather than a super-villain. And then it dawns on someone that this character could be a solid selling title due to this wave of popularity and, well, here we are.

This is a good place, though, at least from what this #0 experience showed me, as it really feels that Conner and Palmiotti are very much in on this interpretation. The humor is very self-referential and over-the-top, with just the proper amount of inside baseball commentary on the book itself and those involved in the project and in the DC bullpen. Obviously, aspects of this initiation will have to be toned down, but as far as the psychotic aloofness of Harleen Quinzel that will probably be carrying the majority weight of the book, I think the tone and energy are pretty well executed here. I figure you throw in the occasional revelatory and morose moment about this once-brilliant mind seeing through the looking glass of what she used to be before the Joker and the other Arkham regulars broke her down, and I think you’ve got that enjoyable recipe for that mayhem-based funny book with heart that the Merc With a Mouth has cut a niche for himself with the past decade and a half locked down.

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.


ICONES DOS QUADRHINOS (COMIC BOOK ICONS)

Writers: Everyone
Artists: Everyone
Publisher: Ivan Freitas Da Costa
Reviewer: Optimous Douche


Fortune always seems to find me. I tackled Artist’s Alley at New York Comic Con 13 as I attack every project: simply start at the beginning and diligently work my way to the end, not missing one booth along the way. Many reporters cherry-pick, as indicated by the plethora of press badges surveying the big board of creator assignments by booth number. For me, there are just too many damn names to remember in comics, and if you don’t hit every booth, fortune will pass you by because you cared more about your endeavor to get more clicks on your site versus caring about covering comics.

First booth, all the way to the right I saw Ivan Reis. I’ve loved his stuff on GREEN LANTERN, so I figured I snap a quick pick.

A lot of other people had the same intention. Abhorring lines, I was ready to walk away until once again fortune decided to take over. Standing next to Ivan was an assuming man named Ivan Da Costa--also Brazilian like Reis, and also thankfully a man possessing much better skills at English than I have in Portuguese.

However, I still didn’t get the gist of the book he was trying to give me. Something about a gallery and something about a lot of different artists contributing. I also shouldn’t just call it a book. I get a lot of books bequeathed to me in hopes of review; I get very few coffee table-sized behemoths. It was gorgeous in size and production stock. But I still didn’t quite understand how special this piece was.

I got back to my hotel room and decided to soak my feet for an hour or so before hitting the after-con parties. As I was feeling the effects of middle age ease out of my feet into the warm water, I studied Comic Book Icons’ spartan but haunting cover of famous comic eyes entreating me to look further. Mickey Mouse, Sandman, Betty Boop, Dr. Doom…was Da Costa Mafioso able to scribe the greatest story ever told in comics? But then I noticed, none were done in their traditional style.

I opened up the hard stock cover and skipped right over the intros, as I often do. No sentimental forwards will dare to sully my journey through a tale. And I was presented with a full page spread of Aquaman as I had never seen him rendered before. I said out loud as I often do since being an only child has made it a lifelong verbal tick, “That’s cool--looks like BATMAN BEYOND.” Looking at the page next to the pretty picture I saw a description of who Aquaman is, Thony Silas’ picture explaining why he loves the character and Thony’s bio confirming my BATMAN BEYOND suspicions. Written in both English and Portuguese, the pages continued.

Superman by Jeff Lemire, Calvin and Hobbes by Eddy Barrow, Swamp Thing by Phil Hester, Sgt. Rock by Darwyn Cooke, The Shadow by Sean Murphey, Thor by Mike McKone.

The star power overwhelmed me. My hour quickly slid away, as I was at first star-struck and then awestruck by the slew of names that I have never heard of, but whose interpretations of icons and raw energy crackled off the page. Popeye, Betty Boop, Sandman, Death of The Endless, Wolverine…each page turn brought forth another character I’ve always had to go to a different book to look at, thanks to lawyers and the corporatization of this medium.

Then I said, “Wait a minute--how the hell did this book get put together? This is like copyright chum in the water for the sharks of Cheatum and Soo.” The forward…

So, apparently every year Ivan Da Costa holds an art show in Brazil. He gets creators from around the world to contribute. For the 2013 show, he decided to put all the pictures inside this treasure trove.

The pictures, the anecdotes and the sheer adoration of seeing our creators celebrate their fandom make this book a gorgeous historical artifact of this period in comic history.

After a quick web search I found out this book is seeking Kickstarter funding. Since my Portuguese sucks, I think it still has a fair amount of time left to completely blow away it’s already doubled goal. There are very few of these projects I believe in, but those I do I will review. I have never endorsed one, though, or asked readers to contribute. Do yourself a favor and give to COMIC BOOK ICONS. I have held the finished product, and you would be lucky to do the same.


WARLORD OF MARS #29

Writer: Arvid Nelson
Artist: Rafael Lanhellas
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Reviewer: Masked Man


With all the hopes and dreams of a Barsoom movie franchise gone up in smoke with the box office bust of JOHN CARTER, Dynamite is still quietly producing new works with the character. Well, maybe not too quietly, as they are not paying Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. and the two have been slugging it out for nearly a year now in court. As of issue #28, Dynamite has even started stating that the series isn't authorized by ERB, Inc.

Now of course the knee jerk reaction is to damn Dynamite for this, but the truth is, lots of stories and characters fall into public domain, and public domain means public domain. If you or anyone wants to do something with John Carter, you can! While I'm sure there is some bricking going on, I don't believe Dynamite is looking to screw anyone over here (like, say, how DC and Marvel screwed over nearly all their iconic creators). Of course, I'd like to see Dynamite and ERB, Inc. work together on this, but I'm also waiting for ERB, Inc. to allow someone to release Filmation's Tarzan show on DVD, but here we are.

As for the comic book itself, Arvid Nelson is now one issue away from wrapping up his first big solo arc, “Savages of Mars”. The previous ones were adaptations of ERB’s original novels. Our man John Carter and his trusted buddy Tars Tarkas (the Green Martian) have traveled back to the lands of the Yellow Martians. There they hope to discover why the Yellow Martians are causing so much trouble in the League of Barsoom and if there is any connection to the rise in Green Martian aggression. After a few issues of cloak and dagger, the truth comes out, and--spoiler time--it seems the Yellow Martian leader, Talu, isn't quite the friend John thought he was. With John's help Talu became the Jeddak (ruler) of the Yellow Martians, but he has bigger plans as well. Where things get interesting is, we learn the Green Martians were actually bio-engineered by Yellow Martians ages ago. The Yellow Martians have learned to take psychic control over Green Martians and hope to use them as an army against the other races of Mars. I believe this slant on the Green Martians comes from ERB's books, but Nelson is developing it much more and giving it purpose.

The overall quality of the book has been what I've come to expect from this series--a good adventure tale with some good art work. And, as usual, Dynamite can't seem to nail down a single artist for the single story arc. They have managed to find artists of about equal quality and style, so the books do read well together. Lanhellas (his second issue) does well with the muscle men, monsters and babes that make up these tales. His work survives not being inked, as well--another staple of Dynamite's comics. Just like ERB, Nelson's stories are plot first, characters second. While I feel the book could be stronger with better characterizations, the action is high enough to keep you from getting bored.

Legal issues aside, I'm still enjoying the hard work by Avid Nelson and Rafael Lanhellas as they keep John Carter alive in the comic shop.


GRIMM: AUNT MARIE’S BOOK OF LORE

Publisher: Titan Books
Reviewer: Optimous Douche


My life is comprised of guilty pleasures--those things that tickle my cerebellum even though my higher sensibilities scream this might be wrong. GRIMM is one such guilty pleasure. It’s not the same sci fi salivating I used to have for “X-Files” on Friday nights, but it still satiates my need for the fantastic on television.

As a huge fan of the comic FABLES, I jumped with glee when both ONCE UPON A TIME and GRIMM hit the tube. Granted, I was a little miffed that both seemed to rake Mr. Willingham over the coals in the process, but such is the world of public domain properties and the sharks that swim in those waters.

While my infatuation with ONCE waned fairly quickly, I loved Grimm’s crime element infused into this world of mystical monsters and ghoulish Grimm fairy tales. I also loved the idea of a police force to handle these magical miscreants and the fact that the latest protector was a real cop in Seattle. It truly has been a fairy tale for boys.

Now in its third season, “Grimm” is looking to cash in on some cross-medium sales goodness. I was less than enamored with Dynamite’s recent ongoing series. It fell out of line with the TV show in a matter of seconds, and unlike other TV to comic translations it tried to carry continuity forward – a dangerous gamble when not in sync with a still on the air program. Now, we have GRIMM: AUNT MARIE’S BOOK OF LORE, a much better way to bring the “Grimm” mythos to print.

I won’t even try to entreat people who aren’t fans of the show. This book simply isn’t for you. But for anyone who knows that our Grimm Nick battles Wesens, not fables, and can tell the difference between a Blutbad and a werewolf, AUNT MARIE’S BOOK OF LORE is a wonderful slice of TV history.

Bound in high gloss stock and glossier pages, this version of Marie’s faithful hand guide to the baddies of the world is an almost exact replica of the book bestowed to Nick when he took over the family business and the trailer. It would be great if this book sold well enough for Titan to do a true replica, complete with worn leathery cover and parchment paper on the inside. For now, though, this is a damn fine cost-effective facsimile.

Where this book differs from its original is all in service to the reader. It still looks like the ravings of lunatics, with sketches of the monsters and half-Germanic and half-English descriptions. Things, though, like a table of contents and screencaps from the show break the 4th wall, but help tweak your fan sensibilities in shorter order than flipping through page by page. You’ll end up flipping through one page at a time eventually, but there’s something to be said for first pass easy access.

The ultra-geeky will notice some omissions of Wesens and the addition of a few we haven’t seen yet on the show. Yes, I could get assed up over this, but it wasn’t readily apparent until I did some deep digging. When you have to scour for flaws, especially in a book that’s about 100 pages deep, consider yourself blessed by the Gods of Geekdom.

Again, AUNT MARIE’S BOOK OF LORE is for GRIMM fans and few others. And GRIMM fandom does exist, as exhibited by the cacophony of cosplayers I caught sporting Hexenbeast and Blutbad outfits at New York Comic Con. You can try to hand it off to the casual fairytale fan, but they will look at you with the same perplexed expression I gave to the television series when it first aired. Hook your friends on the show this holiday with the DVD and then add AUNT MARIE’S BOOK OF LORE as a stellar stocking stuffer.


THE WAKE #5

Writer: Scott Snyder
Art: Sean Murphy
Publisher: DC Vertigo
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee


As this comic book transitions into its next act, I have to give it credit for two primary things: it did some goddamn legwork with its mythology, and it really escalated the stakes.

I’ve had some admitted problems with the story as it’s been presented thus far, with some heavy exposition and the really jerky story pace that accompanies such wordy interludes, but the culmination of it all does leave me excited here. The now bloody and body count-ridden underwater expedition for answers to the merman creature’s origins have escalated to Atlantis-level revelations. We’ve got human evolution linked into the sinking of Babylon, and even the “Lonely Whale” is in play. And, as much as this issue finally brings all the wordy theorizing together in a way that ramps up the tension instead of cutting the action, the terror and conflict with our murderous and gilled ancestors really gets frenzied this issue as well to round out the package.

Yeah, maybe there’s just a little too much talky between the characters as murderous, underwater beings are trying to kill the last remnants of the crew before moving onto mass quantities of land-dwellers, but seeing as how well everything the series thus far has been building to finally clicks it’s pretty forgivable. And now we are smack dab in the middle of one of those rare stories where humanity loses, and now we’re going to be smack dab in the post-apocalypse. I am very much looking forward to what our soggy descendents have in store for them after seeing this all play out the way it did.

Kudos to all involved.


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

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