Comics

AICN COMICS Reviews APOCALYPSE AL! MIGHTY AVENGERS! HERO ENVY! HARLEY QUINN! DOC SAVAGE! Plus Holiday Comic Booky Gift Tips!

Published at: Dec. 18, 2013, 2:49 a.m. CST by ambush bug

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

Advance Review: THE ADVENTURES OF APOCALYPSE AL #1
JUSTICE LEAGUE #25
Indie Jones: DAVE SOFTWARE ENGINEER #1
MIGHTY AVENGERS #4
Advance Review: HARLEY QUINN #1
HERO ENVY Webisodes
THUNDERBOLTS #19
Indie Jones: DUNGEON FUN #1
DOC SAVAGE #1
THE DC COMICS GUIDE TO CREATING COMICS: INSIDE THE ART OF VISUAL STORYTELLING Paperback
Douche’s Holiday Gift Guide!


Advance Review: In stores in February!

THE ADVENTURES OF APOCALYPSE AL #1

Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Artist: Sid Kotian
Publisher: Image Comics/Joe’s Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche


As much as I love JMS’ writing, there’s something else that compels me to play a megaphone heralding his work: candor. Joe is one of the last strongholds of no bullshit; he tells it like it is even when it comes to his own foibles. Our steady stream of bitching about delays (THE TWELVE), boredom (SUPERMAN walking) and continuity cataclysm (totem SPIDERMAN) are all subjects Joe will gladly bend your ear on for hours and never place scapegoat shields in front of him. It’s important to understand this fact when reading APOCALYPSE AL, because Joe is once again taking a no bullshit approach to correcting a common comic book clusterfuck – retailer ordering.

Not to belabor the point, but I think a bit of context is in order. Retailers must order books months ahead of time from a little book called Previews in most cases. Previews offers not a morsel of actual information about books; each title is articulated with 50 words of pure public relations pabulum. To leave retailers and ultimately readers further in the dark, publishers place gag orders on folks like yours truly so we can’t open the kimono on pieces until release date in stores. A few publishers—OK, one, Titan Comics--has broken this model by at least giving reviewers open speaking rights about books when they are about to come out in Previews. And you know what? It’s worked. They’ve gone from 0 to some big sellers in a short time through this open information sharing. Now, Joe’s Comics is taking the same approach, but expanding it several thousandfold. Not only has Joe thrown reviewers worldwide an issue of APOCALYPSE AL, but retailers will also be getting a copy this Wednesday BEFORE they have to submit their February Previews order. Everybody loves free shit; I predict the simple good will of this gesture alone will help Joe’s Comics move more copies than any of the other #1’s from the imprint released this year.

All right, I’ll get off my soapbox; let’s talk about the actual book. When last we left Joe’s Comics I had reviewed my NYCC copy of PROTECTORS INC. Not a bad book, but parts and purpose left me scratching my head. Again, I say “not a bad book”, but that’s a relative statement. Other Joe’s imprints like TEN GRAND and SIDEKICKS are spectacular books, so PROTECTORS had a very high benchmark to live up to. Even though I only went through a B&W version of APOCALYPSE AL, I’m putting it up on the spectacular shelf.

I’ll skip the PR blurb, because when you read it you’ll have a hard time discerning between APOCALYPSE AL and TEN GRAND. Both deal with the mystical and things that go bump in the night. Annnd…right there is where we end the comparisons. Superficially, Al is a woman (aka Allison) where our hero of TEN GRAND is a dude. Dig a little deeper: Al is a late twenty-something serving an ancient family legacy to keep the world safe from demons. Joe, the hero of TEN GRAND, is serving the world to meet his own ends of salvation for him and his deceased ladylove--plus Joe is a dude in his late thirties/early forties. Anyone with enough time on this earth knows the difference of mindset a twenty-year age gap brings, even if we’re too fucking stupid to realize it when it comes to second marriages. Salty versus sweet would be the culinary description between the two protagonists.

There’s also a geographical shift between APOCALYPSE AL and TEN GRAND. TEN GRAND is all New York, a dark and gritty land suffocated by grittier people who bathe in a brutal honesty with one another and life itself. AL is all L.A., baby; the demons have all the permanence of a back-lot set and are as equally three dimensional. Al is fully realized, but she’s leagues of happy happy joy joy above Joe. There’s something about constantly being exposed to the sun that makes people infinitely happier and far more optimistic about life, even though Al mainly deals with and in death.

Quirky side characters make for better main players. It’s for this reason I beg for character parts versus leading man roles in my annual trip back to the footlights of community theater. Bit parts have the best lines and are often remembered long after the main characters fade into the memory ether. Al has a whole host of these friends that help her on her way to uncovering the absconding of an apocalyptic set of keys that will tarnish Tinsel Town and eventually the rest of the world (kind of like the Kardashians have already). A dead LAPD cop feeds Al intel, and is the voicebox for the shadow organization that has been feeding her father and his father before him jobs against the paranormal. She has a homeless seer with no filter on his prognosticating, so Al gets ten times more mundane information than actual leads or clues.

I think (hope) I’ve said enough to entreat retailers into stocking the shelves with the next Joe’s Comics creation. If not, let me say that JMS has given us a strong yet still feminine protagonist. She is as equally cavalier as serious, and is just as conscious of her style as her character. As a man married to a shoe connoisseur, I’ll give JMS uncanny accuracy as Allison gets lost in a dream where she’s a temp forever stuck in sensible footwear. Kotian does a great job with expressions in this book. JMS deals on many emotional planes when he writes, so getting the facial structure to deliver snark coupled with sincerity is no small feat, especially when some of the faces are half rotted or from a nether realm.

I’m saddened by the fact this is only going to be a four issue miniseries. Apparently this book was in line with some special partnership for MTV Geek. Don’t know, don’t care – I barely knew MTV Geek existed before it went away. I’m really pissed because there could be a great intertwining between this book and TEN GRAND; the yin and yang of demon hunting would give a nice waft of cohesion in drawing the Joe’s Comics universe together.

Sorry; I’m not an editor, just a reviewer. BUY THIS BOOK. You’ll love Al instantly, and will be totally on board with the ultimate antagonist that appears in the final panel.

Optimous Douche has successfully blackmailed BottleImp to draw purty pictures for his graphic novel AVERAGE JOE coming out in 2013 from COM.X. When not on Ain’t It Cool, Optimous can be found talking comics and marketing on robpatey.com and just marketing on MaaS360.com.


JUSTICE LEAGUE #25

Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Doug Mahnke
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man


So as FOREVER EVIL shows us Lex Luthor's struggle to take down the Crime Syndicate, JUSTICE LEAGUE is showcasing each member of the Syndicate. This month it's Owlman's turn, with Doug Mahnke doing a really good job as fill-in art, giving fan-fav Ivan Reis time to work on the grand finale, I suspect.

Since this is pretty much an origin issue (as was last issue with Ultraman), it's going to be all spoilers here. Geoff Johns is clearly enjoying himself here, coming up with these twisted origins of the C.S. And who wouldn't enjoy creating evil mirrored versions of the Justice League? Here Johns is running with the ball, giving us a Thomas Wayne who is still rich, but a bad, weak-kneed doctor. Martha Wayne is a vain witch, and Bruce is a spoiled brat, leaving us with Thomas Wayne Jr. (who may or may not exist on Earth 1), a cold-hearted killer searching for, or at least trying to build, the prefect family. Then of course there's Alfred, fiercely loyal to Junior--so much so he helps him kill off the rest of the family so Junior (and supposedly he) can take all the money. It's all pretty clever and entertaining stuff.

Johns also takes time to develop Owlman's role in this crossover event, as Owlman reveals to Nightwing (our Nightwing, captive of the Crime Syndicate) that he wants to take down the rest of the Syndicate and wants Nightwing to help. Nightwing agrees. Sidebar: I'm so glad to see Johns take this route with Nightwing. Years back you may remember at the start of the INFINITE CRISIS, in a similar situation, Blue Beetle said no and was killed. Now Ted Kord was a smart guy, and I'm pretty sure he would have just lied (as Nightwing did) and waited for a moment to double-cross the bad guys (Maxwell Lord). So I'm glad to see Johns going back to this scenario, and doing it right. This, of course, sets up some very interesting things to come--just how badly fractured is the Syndicate? I certainly hope with all this origin telling, Johns gets around to telling us the origin of the Crime Syndicate as well.

Now since this is an opinion piece, here is my opinion of Johns' Owlman origin, viewing this from the standpoint that the Crime Syndicate isn't another Injustice Gang but an evil version of the Justice League. Right off the bat, I think Johns is overthinking the C.S. I'm not so sure developing Thomas Wayne and Martha Wayne as he did improves in the basic concept that they are just criminals on Earth 3, having them gunned down by the police because they killed Joe Chill (the Mayor of Gotham or something). This then causes orphaned Bruce Wayne to start his war on justice. Johns, of course, is trying to create well-rounded, interesting, and relatable characters, but I think this is a mistake. The more rounded and unique the Crime Syndicate becomes, the less they work as a mirror for the League. We know the League can defeat anyone--Kryptonians, Amazons, Atlanteans, Green Lanterns--but how would they fare against themselves? That's the main hook of the C.S. Also, I'm unclear on some of the character motivations; hopefully Johns will address them. One: why is Alfred so damn loyal to Thomas Wayne Jr. even as a child (could he actually be Thomas' father?). Two: why is the Grid the Crime Syndicate's b!tch? Could he be an agent of Darkseid out to get the Syndicate? Three: Seriously, I'm going there--was Owlman banging Earth 3 Dick Grayson? In Johns' desire to make the C.S. evil and all that, I'll be disappointed if he doesn't have the balls to go there.

Back to the issue itself, the worst thing about it is it's not really necessary to read (I assume Owlman's desire to undermine the Syndicate will be covered in FOREVER EVIL as well). Only if you have an interest in the Crime Syndicate themselves, as I do, should you pick up this title. Quality-wise, it's on par with the rest of the FOREVER EVIL event, which has been much better than its build up, TRINITY WAR.

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


DAVID: SOFTWARE ENGINEER #1

Writer: Richard Pulfer
Artist: Dan Henderson
Publisher: Paris Gamble - Lifestyle Learning Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche


Even though we all live behind pseudonyms of anonymity so we feel protected as we fling vitriol at comics, everyone reading this comic review column has another life. We’re parents, professionals, educators and protectors. DAVID SOFTWARE ENGINEER was developed by one such individual who, while enjoying the fantastical feats of caped crusaders, is also a person behind the fanboy, a person who recognizes that comics can transcend beyond fiction to deliver practical messages of good to better society. DAVID SOFTWARE ENGINEER is exactly what the name implies: it’s the story of a young man who is fostered by friends and family alike to pursue a career in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

I made the same realization about the power of comics five years ago. However, I’m a corporate whore who has developed my comics to pad the pockets of rich white dudes. Despite my profession as marketing slut, I still want to promote good in the world with the remaining hours in each day. The US and other predominantly white countries have fallen so far behind the STEM curve it makes Neil deGrasse Tyson create a new YouTube video annually about our collective downfall. Paris Gamble, the author of DAVID SOFTWARE ENGINEER, has heeded these words and done something about it. For this reason, I shun my comps and other pleas for caped reviews because it’s really important for books like this to get noticed. Kids love to have their parables for life flow through a story instead of a chastising and wagging finger from their elders. DAVID SOFTWARE ENGINEER isn’t perfect, but its important message far outweighs its few foibles.

David doesn’t want to be a software engineer; in fact, when we meet him a few months before senior year graduation from high school he doesn’t want to be much of anything. He’s not lazy, he’s just amazingly directionless. His mother and father aren’t much help. They’re not bad parents; they just don’t know how to motivate David to find a direction in life.

Fortunately, David finds inspiration from his peer math tutor, Carlie. While she becomes frustrated at his lack of ability to remember algebraic formulas, she does notice his panache for programming his scientific calculator to play tic-tac-toe and other rudimentary games. She’s also smitten with David, so he not only got a prom date, but someone who genuinely cares about his life. She’s that type of girl we all hope to eventually find, but usually don’t until college after both sexes have matured a bit (at least that’s how it worked for me. “Rob, you’ve been carrying 6 credits for two years so you could stay in college to act in plays and bang freshmen?” slinks away to buy an engagement ring and finish credits). Carlie is important beyond her STEM sell to David; the bits with the prom, crush and eventually marriage help the book feel more like a real story than some preachy PSA. These moments were genuine and, quite frankly, beautiful as we see David and Carlie’s path every few years after high school until they end up working for the same company and finally become man and wife. I was actually quite amazed how deftly Pulfer slowed down and accelerated time in this piece to hit the high moments of David’s life and the overall benefits of the career message. Perfect pacing is what the kids call it, I believe.

There are a few moments that aren’t perfect. I caught a few typos, which are really possessive faux pas; one editorial pass would catch them (obviously). The art is rudimentary, but never transcends to amateurish.

Even with my nits I applaud this book. We need more of this material, where it’s focused on passion towards a cause instead of a blatant cash grab. It’s clear this is a labor of love, and I encourage those of you with who are educators to give this book a chance in your classrooms. I also encourage the creators to get crackin’ on a female protagonist tout suite so we can hopefully correct the gender imbalance in STEM careers.


THE MIGHTY AVENGERS #4

Writer: Al Ewing
Art: Greg Land
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Ambush Bug


So a while back I gave a mediocre review of MIGHTY AVENGERS #1 complaining about the book being both unnecessary in a marketplace already teeming with AVENGERS books and the fact that it hadn’t been that long ago that we had a street level/down-to-earth (read between the lines--urban, or even further between the lines--non-white) team when Bendis helmed the series. One of the complaints I had was that segregating off this team from the AVENGERS proper is more insulting than not having the non-white Avengers interspersed into the teams we already have. Why not have Monica Rambeau, who will always be Captain Marvel to me and is now called Photon, lead one of the Avengers teams with multicultural teammates (black, white, brown, blue, green, other) working together? That, to me, strikes me as something profound rather than a bunch of same-colored characters being cordoned off to one team. But I don’t want to digress too much…

The point I was trying to make was that I gave this book a middling review, but stuck with it because I felt that writer Al Ewing had a fantastic hold on the characters and the cast was an interesting mix of personalities. Four issues in and I’m completely sold with Ewing’s expert handling of the differing personalities on the team. Seeing Ewing distinguish Luke Cage from the Falcon as most importantly different characters and least importantly token African American characters is awesome. Seeing the new Power Man trip all over himself in inexperience but somehow always saving the day is fantastic. Seeing the overburdened Blue Marvel come out of retirement in order to assume his role as one of the big guns is amazing, and I think he’s probably my favorite character in the series…besides Monica Rambeau, that is, who continues to be one of the greatest unused icons at Marvel right now. Add in some great character bits from the Superior Spider-Man who is in danger of acting too douchey to maintain his disguise in Peter Parker’s skin and a little mystery as to who that really is under the mask of the Spider-Hero/now as of this issue the new Ronin, and you’ve got some great characters here doing some fun superheroing. Ewing seems to be old school Marvel and, in a day and age of writers who seem to have not picked up a comic book before the year 2000, it’s refreshing to see someone come in and knock the story out of the park using a modern writing style mixed with old school cool that brought me into the Marvel Universe in the first place.

That said, despite the spot-on handling of character in this series, MIGHTY AVENGERS seems to be having a little difficulty coming into its own what with all of the editorially mandated crossovers with whatever big event that’s been going on. The first three issues were direct tie-ins with INFINITY, and this one has themes of INHUMANITY as well as the INFINITY aftermath running rampant through it. I can’t wait until the events take a backseat and we can just enjoy this team and let it evolve. With Greg Land delivering some very strong work, this is most assuredly my favorite AVENGERS team due to the offbeat cast, the fun handling of character, and the old school charm every page exudes.

So while I might have taken issue with this series at first, I’m glad I stuck with it. MIGHTY AVENGERS is one of those books that most likely will not be the first book you reach for on the shelves, but you should. It’s the type of Marvel comic Marvel Comics doesn’t make enough of these days.

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.


Advance Review: In stores today!

HARLEY QUINN #1

Writer: Amanda Conner & Jimmy Palmiotti
Artist: Chad Hardin
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche


Sometimes you have to get to the end of an arc to make sense of the beginning. Sometimes you only have to go ahead one issue, like with HARLEY QUINN. Much of the comics world shook its head in confusion at the conundrum that was the fourth wall-breaking 0 issue. It was a lambasting of not only DC Comics but the entire industry, as Harley’s fantasies of grandeur were handed off from artist to artist.

While the fourth wall has been reconstructed in Issue #1, we are still living in Harley’s fantasies. Not literally; the real world and continuity keep moving forward, but it’s all presented through Harley’s twisted lens. The violence is copious, but it’s also downright cute. With each kill and step forward the silliness grows, as does the desire to see what mundane madness will come next.

I didn’t like this issue at first, and I put that distaste squarely on my own need for conformity to other comic norms. As Harley travels to Coney Island, New York, to claim her spoils presented by a bald benefactor at the end of Issue #0, I shook my head at the caricature nature of it all. A Harley (bike) overflowing with Quinn’s crap to such bulbous proportions it looked like a Singapore moped mobile home. Defiance of the laws of physics coupled with her talking Beaver hood ornament made me think that once again we were having an issue that was another brick in the shattered fourth wall. When Harley arrived, though, and was presented with her new building, its carnie tenants, and the balance sheet to maintain this new life I realized that this crazy train was a delivery of how Harley views the mundane. Once in that mindset the issue goes from palatable to a yummy parfait.

The rest of the issue, plot-wise, truly is the first episode of FELICITY. She gets a thorough tour of her building and an explanation on fiscal responsibility from the gun-toting midget crushing on her. To help make ends meet we see a resurgence of Dr. Harleen Quinn as a therapist at the local nut house and, wait for it…Harley the roller derby team member at night. It’s absurd, but this is when the title truly won me over. If this is going to be a schizophrenic sitcom, then go balls deep. I can’t wait for the future issues when these professions collide--or she actually gets caught killing at one job or the other.

I also can’t wait for the issue when the lens gets turned and the sugar coating of this violence and absurdity gets licked off. Palmiotti’s pencils are beautiful--almost too beautiful for how wretched Harley and her new home would actually be in real life. Coney Island hasn’t looked this good since the 1930s. A chick with bleached skin painting on flesh tones would never be so cheesecakey cute, and death by decapitation is never whimsical.

For now though, I will gladly just live in Harley’s delusions.


HERO ENVY Webisodes

Writer: Keith Gleason
Art: Johm Cimillo (breakdowns), Jorge Pacheo, Rob Osborne, Tom Rebello
Publisher: Reckless Sidekick Production
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee


I believe it goes without saying that the name of the game we play here is subjectivity. We @$$holes have to put on the critical hat, of course, but occasionally the time arises where we – or at least it’s happened to myself on several occasions – find ourselves with a book with which we don’t have an affinity toward the material, regardless of whether the material is “good” or “bad.” This leads to what I like to call the “it’s not you it’s me” format, which sounds just like the cheap way out that awkward conversation I imagine a lot of you reading this have had and, admittedly, it is somewhat. Sometimes it’s just the truth, though, especially when it comes to a comedy book like HERO ENVY, which to me felt equal parts amusing and endearing, flat, and full of moments that really did not do much for me either but I feel there’s an audience that probably enjoys such material way more than myself. You want subjectivity, well, there it is.

Much as I’m a pretty hardcore geek about things - as my inflated credit card debt to fill all these shelves around me with stuff I really don’t need will attest - I’m not really the biggest on nerd humor, which is where the bulk of HERO ENVY makes its home. Oh, I grew up on Kevin Smith films and the like and enjoy seeing all this material I absorbed over the decades be the subject matter of a comic or TV show or what have you as much as the next geek, especially if they are a big tongue-in-cheek play on beloved material like the Archie and Jughead material in “Chasing Amy” or some other such gag. Gags I can do, but a constant barrage of these referential jokes and an entire plot dedicated to them gets tiring after a bit. I already live in the geek lifestyle; being emerged in a piece of media dedicated completely to it causes my eyes to glaze over after enough has saturated my brain. It’s why I had my fun with the aforementioned Kevin Smith stuff in my college years or enjoyed a, say, “Paul” that came out last year. Meanwhile, the main thing that got me interested in a movie like “Fanboys” was the promise of Kristen Bell in a Slave Leia costume, which is about the only thing I remember about that particular movie. I was willing to give it a shot because I’m always willing to throw a little time and/or money at something that’s heavily in the community, but it doesn’t always mean I walk away a huge fan, even if it surrounds me in nostalgia. HERO ENVY is a big old blanket of warm geek nostalgia that a lot of people are going to find comforting, but I’m the kind of jerk that barely wears a jacket even in ten degree Pittsburgh weather, if you get where I’m going here.

And that’s where we kind of come full circle on this book. Finally getting to the plot, this is about the adventures of four geeky homeboys – J.D., Wally, Orson, and Dekker - who end up wrapped up in some extravagant adventure involving cosmic forces, the possible end of geekiness in the universe, and having to pick up some super-powerful items that just happen to have taken geek totem form for our heroes to hunt down. And that’s all well and good, honestly. I get it. The book is to be a sendup of and an homage to what we all grew up with, and what brings us to the comic book shop each and every week to share and converse about, and the plot is just there to serve these things up on a platter. I don’t particularly care what the storytelling device in a comedic piece of entertainment is as long as the comedic part holds true. And there are genuine moments of good gagging in praise of and in a sending-up fashion some of these things we all discuss and debate weekly, and there are some genuinely flat jokes or unnecessary pop-culture references, and then there’s space in between. If we’re going to judge a comedy book on what it’s mostly aiming to do – be funny – this one happened to miss more than hit for me. I’m just admittedly a guy some of this stuff was predetermined to not hit with.

Exemplifying what I’m getting at, the events of this book are kicked off by a cosmic being (i.e. a Watcher parody from the Marvel Universe) called “U-Toob” (ugh) who is a “Pointer” and is only allowed to point at the galactic threat (okay, pretty clever), and that is the butt of many a ginormous head joke that are also equal parts witty and groany. There’s also a sequence where the guys are looking for the power objects at a comic book convention (of course) and one of them finds themselves in an outrageous circumstance where he has to enter a costume contest to land one of these relics and finds himself in the aforementioned Slave Leia get up, which is a gag that for me does nothing but to someone may get a chuckle. Meanwhile he wins the contest because he was the only one not dressed as The Joker, which I personally think is fantastic. And that’s just the cycle of it. For every moment I enjoyed that was a nice poke gag at the industry, like a sequence at the convention that is a panel where Joe Quesada is pitching mashups of Disney and Marvel products. There’s just another moment that’s entire effect hinges on being “nerd awkward” (like fat guy in a Slave Leia costume) or a punch line that is basically name-dropping a pop culture icon we as geeks all know to loathe. Again, depending on how much you enjoy that nerd awkward stuff, your mileage with HERO ENVY may vary.

That’s just how humor books are going to be, though; it’s all way too subjective and this is going to be way more in the ballpark of some people than it was for myself, and there’s probably going to be people who don’t even like the laughs I pulled, either. If anything I got more than a few solid chuckles out of my reading of this and saw quite a few more that would be present for someone whose sensibilities to the bombardment of nerd humor were very much in tune with it. I rolled my eyes a lot as well, though, so that has to be marks against; it’s just how it is. I also really did enjoy the character interaction. There’s a quote from Chris Giarusso on the back referencing the guys in the book being like geeks you know, and that does feel very true and somewhat surreal given some of the encounters I have had at my LCS, just like the rest of us. Plus it was nice to see a muscle nerd represented for, as a somewhat bulked up geek, I feel my kind is sorely underrepresented in the community (not unexpected, though, considering we’re still about as common as unicorns, it seems). I am a big proponent of the art style, too. I think it properly encapsulates the cartoonishness of the humor in a grown-up, slackerfied aesthetic. It’s probably what the previously name-dropped Chris Giarusso’s style would be if he catered it completely to the Kevin Smith crowd and think it’s a great fit that will please the full spectrum of geek perusers of this comic.

So that’s it, I guess. I laughed, I didn’t laugh so much, and I may have laughed some more if my outer adult didn’t occasionally smother my inner child with a pillow and let myself be more nostalgic. And sometimes it just wasn’t funny despite thinking it was. Hate to say it, but they can’t all be winners. I personally think the current Posehn/Duggan DEADPOOL run is goddamned hilarious, but each issue is filled with a couple groaners as well. You take the good, you take the bad and there you have a nostalgic way of me wrapping up this review. Sometimes I pull the pillow away and let that inner child breathe a bit. Cheers…

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, 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.


THUNDERBOLTS #19

Writer: Charles Soule
Art: Gabriel Hernandez Walta
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Henry Higgins is My Homeboy


Can We Talk About The Big-Headed Red Elephant In The Room?

So, I don't give a flying fuck about the Hulk's rogues gallery. I like the Hulk himself well enough, but I'm hard pressed to find any actual enthusiasm for his regular enemies, chief among them The Leader. He never seemed to pose a real, credible threat to Hulk, at least in the comics I've read featuring him. My most vivid memory of the character comes from a mid-90s comic where he tried to switch bodies with Hulk (again) and failed (again). Giving the Hulk a villain who's as smart as Hulk is strong is a wonderfully simple idea, but I just can't remember it ever living up to its concept. He just never appealed to me at all.

Now, I'm not saying that THUNDERBOLTS #19 completely changes the character, or redeems him, or anything like that. What I AM saying is that for the first time ever I consider him a credible threat, and I'm sure people who can even remotely stand him are going to love this issue.

See, almost nothing actually HAPPENS in this issue. After an (incredibly fun) tie-in with Infinity, the cast is confined to the back of a van en route to their next mission. As the group sits around, the recently resurrected but idiotic Leader asks for a lighter, under the pretense of focusing himself. But the inner monologue reveals he's worked out a strategy with which he can murder five of the most dangerous people on Earth with it. Leader reveals that even with half his brain he's still easily the smartest person in the van, and that his wounded child act has been just that - an act. Soule spends the issue exploring The Leader's logic and problem-solving (the problem in question being the Thunderbolts) while giving him just enough bravado, juuuuust enough confidence so as to tear it down and humanize a red guy with a big head who usually picks fights with Hulks. It's wonderfully written and well-constructed, and is easily the best version of the character I can think of.

The art is, likewise, well-constructed and engaging. There aren't any big moments to distract away (partly because I find I like Walta best when he avoids those big set pieces) from what is essentially an issue long monologue, but he fills it with nice little art beats to help sell it. From the very good expression work to the sense of scale to Leader's imagining of the team (which cracks me up more every time I see it). His work is reminiscent of Romita Jr., which I trust you all understand is one of the better compliments I can give a comic book artist. Little tricks are utilized throughout, with Guru providing a relatively unique way to convey the superhero staple of "DAMAGING GAMMA RADIATION" and not make it look ridiculous. The colors throughout are wonderfully done.

It's a well-constructed comic that plays off the previous eighteen issues while also still being an engaging read on its own, and to its credit, I didn't hate The Leader during it. I mean, I still don't like him, and think he's a waste of potential and his big red head is ungodly stupid, but…well, I was able to sit down and read a comic ABOUT him and still find it incredibly entertaining.

So, well done.


DUNGEON FUN #1

Writer: Colin Bell
Art: Neil Slorance
Publisher: DoGooder Comics
Reviewer: Ambush Bug


Though ADVENTURE TIME is not really my bag, I understand the appeal the stories have with those young and old alike. DUNGEON FUN may not be exactly the same as ADVENTURE TIME in terms of quality of story and laughs, but it does have that appeal that LOONY TUNES and FLINTSTONES reruns had for me as a kid. It’s the type of crazy fun that both adults and kids can enjoy.

The story takes place in a fantastical land opening with a knight approaching a pair of bridge trolls. Immediately the knight is stopped mid-threat by the trolls who take offense to being called what they are rather than by their real names. Sure this isn’t laugh out loud knee-slappery, but it is indicative of the clever sense of humor at play here.

The rest of the story takes place in the moat below the knight, in a land called DeepMoat. Plagued by stuff falling from the castle above, a once-dropped princess vows to give the litterbugs living above a piece of her mind with the sword of the knight from earlier who lost his weapon when he was unable to pass through the castle’s metal detector with it on his person. Armed with the mystical cutlery, the princess fights a giant monster and sets forth on a journey to deliver a stern what-for to the disrespectful trolls above.

Drawn in a manner that some might see as a direct knock off of ADVENTURE TIME, DUNGEON FUN was just that. The story skews a bit young, but had enough little moments of adult nods and winks to entertain me. Fans of ADVENTURE TIME looking for more kooky fun with mystical characters set in far-off lands should definitely seek out DUNGEON FUN.


DOC SAVAGE #1

Writer: Chris Roberson
Artist: Bilquis Evely
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Reviewer: Masked Man


With all their success with pulp and pulp-like heroes from The Green Hornet to John Carter, Dynamite has finally pulled out the king of pulp heroes: Doc Savage, the Man of Bronze! Considering DC's failed attempts at the character over the years, I'm very curious to see how Dynamite handles the character--will it be another Shadow or another Buck Rogers?

Now, I'm in no way an expert on the Man of Bronze--I've only read a few of the comics (I've probably read more Tom Strong!). But with most classic characters, I have a healthy respect for him and will use this series to get to know him better (as I did with John Carter at Dynamite, which I've enjoyed). If you know nothing about Doc Savage, in a nutshell he's basically the prefect man. Raised in seclusion, he has become capable of near-superhuman feats because he can focus all his attention and energy to any given task, allowing him to succeed, be this learning a new language, kicking down a steel door, or curing cancer. As the superhero before there were superheroes, Doc Savage also has the belief that all life is precious and will defend the villain as well as a victim.

This first issue by Roberson acts as a good stand-alone adventure. Taking place in the 1930s, it introduces Doc and his motley crew to us. So it's not a set-up issue, as the villain is caught in the final pages. So far Chris Roberson is a writer I have yet to figure out (if anyone is really capable of that). I felt his MASKS miniseries was well done, though the end was a bit lackluster. His first story arc on the SHADOW had a great concept and villain, but it didn't go far enough. So here he is again for Dynamite, and I'm curious if he will establish himself as the superior writer that I think he may be or will he just be undercooked. This issue was handled very well and drops hints that it is actually part of a bigger story (which is kind of a no duh with the state of comics these days). One interesting hint is that Doc Savage may still be alive and kicking today, which I guess we can accept, being that he is Doc Savage after all--but what about the rest of his crew, Monk, Ham, Johnny, Long John and Renny? How can these guys be alive and kicking some 60 years past their prime? Actually, Doc Savage's crew was always one thing that bugged me about Doc's concept--just too many side characters that I can't keep straight. Each of them is unique, tough and a genius in their own right, but they are still just five guys in suits. Like, who really cares about a quarterback’s offensive line (aside from the quarterback, that is)? Two to three characters, fine--but five!? That's five ways to keep Doc Savage off camera, and although Roberson handles all of them really well in this first issue, it just seems like a recipe for boredom down the road. Still, it hasn't stopped Doc from being the most famous pulp fiction hero.

Bilquis Evely is a near-perfect artist for the Dynamite system: one artist who finishes his own work with no inker (he's inking himself, I assume). Oftentimes Dynamite's artwork comes off as unfinished, with wispy pencil lines. Evely goes the extra mile to make sure his work can stand alone--good for him. While he has a little clumsiness with his figures and panels at times, his overall work is very strong. Figures are all unique and interesting looking, backgrounds are nicely detailed (especially since this is a period piece), and the storytelling works well. He is clearly prime time, and with a few more issues under his belt, he could easily iron out the clumsiness.

Topped with an awesome Alex Ross cover, Dynamite's Doc Savage is a really good start. I look forward to seeing how Roberson and Evely develop the series.


THE DC COMICS GUIDE TO CREATING COMICS: INSIDE THE ART OF VISUAL STORYTELLING Paperback

Writer: Carl Potts
Foreword: Jim Lee
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Ambush Bug


For those interested in breaking into comics or just those curious as to how they make those wondrous funny books, THE DC COMICS GUIDE TO CREATING COMICS is a perfect gift for anyone in the comics field.

While much of the contents of this book have been covered in the many other “How to” books both from DC and their competitors, Carl Potts puts everything in a simple, no nonsense way letting folks know what to do and, more importantly, what not to do when setting out to make a comic book.

As a reviewer, I found this book helpful in expanding my understanding of this medium as well as understanding the decisions made by DC Comics and, more broadly, comics as a whole. If I were to look for a way to grow my vocabulary in the ways of critiquing comics, this is the perfect book to cite.

As a blossoming comic book writer, I also found this book to be helpful in cementing what I already understood in terms of writing scripts, refreshing what I already knew in terms of panel to panel transitions, and describing what I want to see in a particular panel and using the proper terminology to describe it. The book also delved into the rights and wrongs of using images and the myriad ways to use these images.

The foreword by Jim Lee offers up an interesting perspective on both DC Comics, Carl Potts as a master educator in this subject, and a humble look at the creator and what he’s learned through the years. No matter if you’re a wizened comics creator or a freshly born newb into the field, THE DC COMICS GUIDE TO CREATING COMICS is a must for under the tree occupancy this year.

You can order a copy for yourself or the comic book lover in your life here!


Optimous Douche’s Christmas Comic Buying Guide!
Sure, there’s plenty of crap you can buy for the holidays, but the following items have been tested and vetted by the elves in Optimous’ gift lab. Some would call this unlawful child labor, but I make it magical by letting the kids wear pointy ears and sing at low volumes.

For the ignoramus who keeps ignoring Valiant: HARBINGER & X-O MANOWAR Deluxe Hardcovers. For anyone who keeps saying they don’t have the time or the mental energy to get into Valiant, the Big V just made it really really easy for you. These hardcovers are not only gloriously oversized versions of the first year and a half for both titles, they are a value at $40. You’re saving money on the 14 issues inside and you get a boatload of bonus materials from alternate artwork to scripts to those wonderful QR code promo posters that talked to you via your smartphone. 9 out of 10 @$$holes agree that Valiant is one of the best things to happen to comics in recent years; join the party with these VIP passes.

For the comic historian (or assholes who can’t let go of the fact the New 52 is here to stay): SUPERMAN & LOIS LANE: 75 Years Hardcovers. Two books recounting the storied histories of Lois & Clark. The presentation is oversized beauty organized in the best possible way: by epoch. These two characters are more than the reigning king and queen of DC over the years; their story is a reflection of America. Yes, the usual suspects of greatest hits are here: first appearances back in the late 30’s, Clark’s revelation to Lois about his secret identity, ALL STAR SUPERMAN and the controversial ACTION #900…but each book summarizes these issues through chapter breaks of evolution instead of a straight chronological recount. Through Lois’ book we see the strengthening and liberation of women through the 20th century, and with Superman it is all about the globalization of a man that eventually needed to stand for more than truth, justice and the American way if he was to survive in today’s culture. If you don’t want to get all meta, simply grab these for the comics groupie who simply prefers to dabble rather than collect every issue every month. It’s 300 plus pages in each title you will be thanked for profusely.

For the FABLES Fanatics: FABLES ENCYCLOPEDIA The complete A-Z of the FABLES universe with facts about their “historical” mundy counterparts and anecdotes from WillBuck about this wild ten plus year ride that is about to draw to a close. If you want more convincing, click here for my full review.

For ANYONE who professes to love comics: ICONES DOS QUDRINHOS. Contributors to this book include Jeff Lemire, Darwyn Cooke, Edie Barrows, Sean Murphy and 96 other top talents taking their swing at recreating their favorite comic book icons. The extension of a not-for-profit art festival held in Brazil, this oversized collection gives a history of each character being honored and what they mean to each creator. I stumbled on to this book by chance--I really am a lucky bastard. Here’s a full review for some more info.

For the narcoleptic lover in your life: SANDMAN ANNOTATED EDITION II. My dalliances with SANDMAN have been strange indeed. I shunned the book when it was released, then I fell in love with Mike Carey’s LUCIFER. This is like loving “The Ropers” and hating “Three’s Company”. Fortune dropped this liner note-laden tome on my doorstep earlier this year. It’s a glorious 20 pound homage to what some consider the best run of Gaiman’s nightmares come to life. Two problems, though: it collects issues #21-39 and is sadly presented in black and white. The completist in me filled in the gaps up to issue #21 with other trades, and then I took two passes of the material in this book. Once just absorbing the story, the second pass consisted of reading each liner note to understand how infinitely versed Gaiman is in all facets of human art and existence. I wouldn’t recommend this for a first pass read. I would DEFINITELY recommend it as a new and innovative way to revisit the material.


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

Remember, if you have a comic book you’d like one of the @$$holes to take a look at, click on your favorite reviewer’s link and drop us an email.


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