Happy New Year, from your old pal Ambush Bug! Between the @$$holes celebrating the holidays and the big companies using this time for a break themselves, this wasn’t the biggest week in comics. But still, of course, we found something to gab on about. Enjoy!
(Click title to go directly to the review)
Advance Review: DEAD BOY DETECTIVES #1
YOUNG AVENGERS #14
FOREVER EVIL #4
Indie Jones: DOING TIME OGN
BATMAN & TWO-FACE #26
UNCANNY AVENGERS #15
Advance Review: In stores this week!
DEAD BOY DETECTIVES #1Writer: Toby Litt
Artist: Mark Buckingham
Publisher: DC Vertigo
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
I’ve found myself in a circular lament recently. My dalliances with SANDMAN have been a backwards affair of half regret and half I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have still yet to make it all the way through the original series, currently slowly and deliberately making my way through issue 21 as of this writing. I have however traversed many of SANDMAN’S spinoffs – OVERTURE, LUCIFER, DEATH, LITTLE ENDLESS and now DEAD BOY DETECTIVES. I wish I was more world aware when I was younger, so I could have traversed everything chronologically as it came out of Gaiman’s glorious brain pan, but I’m glad I waited because the years under my belt allow me to fully appreciate all of the levels in this masterpiece universe.
Even if you’re like me and have yet to make it all the way through SANDMAN, chances are you have met the Dead boy Detectives in one of the many anthologies Vertigo has churned out for Holidays in recent years. These vignettes helped whet the appetite for this book, but none captured the true essence of these toe-tagged Hardy Boys with such concise conservation of words as page one, panel one of their own book.
“The young lady had swooned away and was now deeply unconscious.”
“The babe was out cold.”
Without reading SANDMAN, before you even know why these two ghosts are hovering above the body of a young woman in burglar’s garb in the back of an ambulance – before anything – you know who these two characters are in spirit (pardon the pun) and practicality.
Of course as the issue goes on we learn that the young woman is the daughter of performance artists, whose latest stint of pretention to steal Van Gough’s “Sunflowers’ has placed their offspring on the cusp of death.
We also learn that the Dead Boys love to unravel a good mystery, but Charles especially can never turn away from a damsel in distress. This is why the Dead Boys stay by the young woman’s side even after they rescue the painting. Because in her dream state between life and death, she caught a whiff of these two spirits detectives, and the whisper of their demise.
The Dead Boys met their untimely fates in different eras, but both of their mortal coils were shuffled loose at St. Hilarion’s academy. We’ve seen this academy before in the GHOSTS Halloween anthology Vertigo put out, but never caught the true gist of the atrocities committed there all under the sadistic hand of an immortal headmaster.
This seems like a lot for one book, but nothing ever felt heavy nor did the story ever slow down. Exposition and character introductions moved as effortlessly as Dead Boy Detectives across the air.
Part of this grace is Litt’s spot on dialog and pacing, but we can’t forget Buckingham’s ability to pluck a writer’s brain pan with High Definition clarity. Buck is less dreamy than in FABLES and using a far more simplistic style to tell this tale. Much less lines, but no loss of clarity – wispy yet never dewy.
Someone recently posed the question on Facebook, what comic would you give a kid these days to get them hooked on the medium? I know the flash bang of books like JUSTICE LEAGUE tickle the same parts of the child mind as primary colors, but for as many hyper babies are out there, you can’t negate the Wednesday Adams of the world. Some kids are ready to explore the icky side of life (like death), and DEAD BOY DETECTIVES delivers this message without lowering itself to the base and banal nature of life’s true atrocities.
Now, I had back to SANDMAN to meet the DEAD BOYS for the first time.
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.
YOUNG AVENGERS #14Writer: Kieron Gillen Art: Jamie McKelvie and Matthew Wilson, Emma Vieceli and Lee Loughridge, Christian Ward, Annie Wu and Jordie Bellaire
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Henry Higgins is My Homeboy
You know, I was actually a little disappointed by the finale of the main arc last month. I thought it tidied everything up too fast, and didn't give us the time to really let the moment (save wonderful scene between Billy and Teddy) sit in.
I mean, don't get me wrong, still a marvelous comic. Just because Gillen gave up some space to the art team to keep letting them explode my mind is not a bad thing. This series has been incredible, from start to finish. I'm just happy that we switch back to the best aspect of the book - the characters.
Centered on a post end-of-the-world-thing party, the book sees a rotating cast of artists beautifully capture particular moments of the party. It's an unambiguously "Young Avengers" moment, with attention paid to the music, the excitement, and the energy of a huge party. Each little scene is well constructed and communicated, and it's overall another great issue of an amazing book.
FOREVER EVIL #4Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: David Finch
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man
DC's big crossover event keeps rolling along, and despite as rather slow narrative Johns and Finch are still delivering a good superhero, or rather super villain mash-up.
Now for my money, I still find this series is moving a little too slow. It's an improvement over the TRINITY WAR, where Johns has at least not waited to the final issue to explain motivations of the characters. But while we know the Crime Syndicate's agenda is to take over the world and defend it against whatever destroyed their world (of course the smart money is on Darkseid), they still haven't really done anything yet. They just seem to fly around acting bad. With the main character of the series, Lex Luthor, we haven't seen him do much on his quest to defeat the Crime Syndicate, except bump into other members of the Legion of Doom (Ok, Black Adam wasn't a member- but if Hanna-Barbera had the rights, he would have been). People often complain about the first issue of a series being a set-up issue. You know, one where the plot doesn't move, and all the time is spent on introducing the characters and establishing their relationships with each other. Well the sad fact is, Johns has been pretty much doing this for four issues now.
Thankfully when Johns does take time out to advance the plot, it's been some pretty cool stuff- spoiler time peeps- Owlman trying to team-up with Nightwing to take over the Syndicate, Superwoman getting closer to Ultraman to protect their (or is it) baby from Owlman, the ticking time bomb that seems to be Grid (well that happened more in JUSTICE LEAGUE), and of course who doesn't enjoy watching Batman and Lex Luthor do their thing as the smartest guys in the room. Even though we all know everything little box Batman has set-up to take care of his fellow Justice League members will not work on the Crime Syndicate- though he does know Atomica, so it would be pretty cool if he actually had something to shut her down.
Artwork wise, Finch does seem to be excelling at 'ugly' every now and then. Ultraman and Power Ring can really contort into ugly lumps of clay every so often, but for the most part it's a solid looking book. His storytelling is well done, and as always he draws some pretty cool looking comic book characters and action.
Another good thing about this issue is some real action finally took place (yes, I got more spoilers here) seeing Power Ring run into Batman, Lex Luthor and crew. I assume this will put Lex and company on the Syndicate's radar and things will continue to get more interesting (though considering who's probably been sitting around with a bag over his head, you'd think the Syndicate would have been looking for Luthor day one). Speaking of Power Ring, I don't quite get the concept of making him a 'fraidy cat'. By this logic, all the Crime Syndicate members would be 'fraidy cats'. Overall, the Syndicate in general hasn't done anything to make me feel they are a match for the Justice League. Johns has spent so much time showing off their weakness, it's a wonder they were ever much of a threat on their own world (which I guess is why Darkseid blew it up- supposedly). I mean think about it, who defeat the Leagues? The Outsider. Who conquered the world? The Grid.
Well despite my misgivings, I'm still enjoying this ride. If Johns can nail the ending, I'll have no problem saying this is one of DC's best crossovers.
DOING TIME OGNWriter: Brady Sullivan
Artist: Amilton Santos
Publisher: Back Row Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
Great concept – 5 outlaws and a patsy being bandied about the time stream with no clue where or when they are headed next. To enjoy DOING TIME though, one needs to forget everything about the Butterfly effect or to speak more succinctly, one needs to buy into the concept that changing one thing in the past will only change one thing in the future.
The story opens with a prison. Unlike most cell blocks, the inmates aren’t caged behind bars. Instead, each has a shackle tied to their DNA and the DNA of another inmate. With some teleportation magic, if a prisoner tries to escape they are immediately transported back to whence they came. Our patsy protagonist is a scientific genius who figures out how to subvert the system, the caveat is he needs the muscle and the other tethered DNA to make the great escape with him.
So our genius, along with his two cell mates, find that their wristbands are tethered to the inmates of the prison’s sister wing. All of this is discovered and disclosed within the first twenty of the book’s seventy-eight pages. Along with introducing us to a warden who is a right old bastard and has a heavy panache for monologues.
I found myself slightly overwhelmed by the set-up, but respite was right around the corner. Once our genius, his two psycho cell mates, and the three ladies made it outside the prison walls the sights that greeted them transcended DOING TIME into pure Sci-Fi. The question isn’t where this prison was located, but rather when. Essentially, in the day after tomorrow prisoners are sent where they can cause absolutely no harm – the beginning of time. Well, again as long as you believe the creation of a maximum security prison atop flora and fauna that could have been our great great great great great great etc…grandparents won’t cause harm.
Now on the lamb, our inmates need to not only avoid the guards, but also an assortment of dinosaurs and other Jurassic threats. Here again, I think the creative team needed a little more science applied to the book. Everything I’ve ever read indicates that the atmosphere during this time period would have suffocated our delicate lungs. Also, simply stepping on a blade of grass could negate the invention of the computer in the future. And what about that asteroid that destroyed the dinosaurs, wouldn’t that shockwave knock down the prison? Anyway, so our genius, serial killer, white supremacist, black widow, murderer and pyromaniac not only squash grass, but also transport a dino to their next stop on this journey – civil war America.
At this point, I shut off what I think I know about science, butterfly effects, string theories, hell even silly string, because it was starting to drive me crazy. Once I killed that gray matter, I could enjoy the strangers in a strange land theme the book was going for. A white supremacist during the civil war makes for some great dialog, as does that supremacist staying behind when the rest of the team jumps to ancient Rome. Basically, each jump lands the team in their ideal place in history.
Now, you might be asking, “why these specific points in history?” Well, that’s because the prison is more than a prison – it’s actually a scheme to control the financial climate of the future. Step 1, kill a bunch of dinosaurs en masse so you can build an oil well on top of the deposit 2 million (or 2,000 depending on your beliefs) years later. Except, fossil fuels didn’t just come from dead dinosaurs right? That’s rhetorical, I didn’t even need to know this, when the warden is thwarted at the end of the book the good guys tell him how stupid his plan is. Even a company that pisses away money like Facebook, would have a better use for time travel if it was an actual thing.
Despite the logical inconsistencies there’s a lot of good in this book. The art is fantastic, especially Santos’ scenery work. The inmates’ personalities and dialog is spot on. There’s a great game of cat and mouse between the genius and the black widow, as long as some nice twists at the end that came from the tampering during the books’ travels.
My suggestion to the team moving forward is to avoid over engineering. A simple book about a bunch of psychos travelling thorough time would have been just fine. All of the stuff about the corporate scheme and even the prison were unnecessary. They would have been interesting themes to play with, if again the team had a few extra hundred pages to play the concepts out to their truest and fullest.
BATMAN & TWO-FACE #26Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Art: Patrick Gleson
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Henry Higgins is My Homeboy
So, I think Tomasi writes a wonderful Bruce Wayne.
And an exceptional Alfred.
They're both wry and honest, quick to judge but forever willing to help. Tomasi gives both characters this lively energy, this innate strength that they completely carry a fairly lackluster story. There are elements of this story, most prevalent when Bruce is around, that the book stoves to do something with itself - Bruce genuinely wants to help a former friend, but she's an unrepentant mob higher-up (and under target by Two-Face), meaning it isn't the easiest.
The book has some minor pacing issues, but it's really just when Tomasi plays to his strengths. His quieter scenes have real weight and charm to them, but they're interrupted by a dry Two-Face. He's playing the role of "angry gangster", and despite whatever pretty frames and one-page shots Gleason and Kalisz pull off, it can't stop the overall story feeling very familiar, very quickly.
A technically good comic with some signs of heart, held down by a bland story it feels like we've seen before.
UNCANNY AVENGERS #15Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: Steve McNiven
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man
First off, can you believe we are on issue #12 of this story!? Seriously, 12 issues in and Rick isn't done yet. I can't even think of the last time I read a 12 issue story arc.
Now while sure, Remender has the slow pacing of nearly every comic book writer these days, decompression is not what's causing this story to be so long. It's because he has spent the whole year writing a giant opus of mutant / human relations, using Avengers heroes and villains and X-Men heroes and villains. Let me break it down for you, if you've been too afraid to jump into this behemoth- spoilers ahead: It all started with Kang thinking he could conquer and control the world more easily if there were no mutants. So he kidnaps Apocalypse's twin babies and raises them in the future, showing them humans and mutants will never get along. When they are of age, the twins return to the present to take care of business. Unfortunately, as always Kang did too good of a job, and the twins, Eimin and Uriel go off on their own plan. Which starts with consolidating Apocalypse's organization and killing a Celestial, with a weapon Thor foolishly gave them access to. Next they started consolidating the world’s mutants and former mutant (those 'cured' by the Scarlet Witch back in HOUSE OF M). Realizing the Avengers, who have now teamed with the X-Men (ala the UNCANNY AVENGERS), will try and stop them, they resurrect the bodies of two mutants (Banshee and Daken) and two humans (Sentry and Grim Reaper), characters killed by our heroes, to be their horsemen. The Horsemen basically keep the heroes busy, while preying on their guilt- which prevents the team from really unifying against the twins. Finally they reveal their master plan, which is to relocate all the mutants to another planet. In order to do this they ask the Scarlet Witch to cast a mega spell, powered by Wonder Man. Of course, the Scarlet Witch plans to double cross them, but of course they were ready for it and she ends up doing what they really wanted anyway- sealing all the world's mutants in an ark. As this goes down the real holy sh!t, spoiler time people, moment happens as Rogue, Scarlet Witch and Wonder Man all get killed (we got bodies and everything). And now we finally learn how badly Kang screwed up, you see by killing a Celestial, Exitar, the Executioner of the Celestial has now come to Earth for vengeance. This will take the form of killing every living thing on the planet- except the mutants who are all safe in their ark. So with most of the Uncanny Avenger dead or sealed up in the ark (to quote Bender from FUTURAMA), “We're boned.” You can now see what a busy boy Remender has been this past year.
To his credit, Remender has kept this story arc loaded with very cool moments- almost everything with Thor, all the deaths, and all the friction between the Avengers and the X-men (Remender is tackling the issues I wish were covered in the whole AvsX thing!). The artwork has been superior every step of the way as well. FYI- Steve McNiven is the 5th artist on the scene (with two issues now), and I think it's some of his best superhero work ever.
What's bad about the story? Do I even have to say it- it's over 12 frick'n issues long! So even though it's a good story, just so damn thick. Three issues back I was getting a little lost on just what everyone was doing. Thankfully these past few issues have gotten the story more focused on the main plot again. Especially in this issue, as it reveals the Apocalypse Twins' true master plan, which brings more context to previous issues. Not that this was a case of 'hide the plot'. It's just that the Twins' sucker punch is finally landing.
I sure look forward to this story wrapping up, in more ways than one! I can't wait to see what Remender has up his sleeve, and I'm a little tired of waiting for it.
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G
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