Comics

AICN COMICS Reviews: ALL-NEW INVADERS! SERENITY! ELFQUEST! JLA ADVENTURES: TRAPPED IN TIME DVD! DEADLY CLASS! & More!

Published at: Jan. 29, 2014, 8:54 a.m. CST by ambush bug

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

Advance Review: SERENITY: LEAVES ON THE WIND #1
ALL-NEW INVADERS #1
JLA ADVENTURES: TRAPPED IN TIME Original Animated Movie DVD
ALL-NEW X-MEN #22
Indie Jones presents DEAD HORSE: THE BALLAD OF THE TWO-HEADED DOG #1
WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN #40
ELFQUEST: THE FINAL QUEST #1
ALL-NEW X-FACTOR #2
DEADLY CLASS #1
CAPTAIN AMERICA #15
Advance Review: WORLD’S FINEST ANNUAL #1
ORIGIN II #2


Advance Review: In stores today!

SERENITY: LEAVES ON THE WIND #1

Writer: Zack Whedon
Artist: Georges Jeanty
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche


I’ve been a right true browncoat since the Firefly class ship Serenity first started its rebel mission in the dusty corners of space inside our televisions (back before second screen was a thang). I marveled at Fox’s cluctfuckery of scheduling where the Hollywood suits unwisely aired the second episode instead of the 2-hour first episode. After all, who actually wants an introduction to a new universe? Just throw us in after the relationships have been established. Thanks, Fux. I then joined the letter-writing campaign to resurrect the crew on the silver screen. Finally, I have been as true as the north star in book-touring my way through all of the wonderful incarnations of Firefly that continued in comics form from our good friends at Dark Horse.

I won’t lie; some have been better than others, but one thing they all shared in common was their way-back look at the crew. SERENITY BETTER DAYS gave us a slew of side missions that occurred within TV canon when the camera wasn’t pointed at the crew. Then came the Shepard Book…well…book, A SHEPARD’S TALE that explored how Serenity’s resident chaplain found God or whatever the hell the equivalent is in the future at the bottom of a bowl of soup. This was an extra shiny treat for me, because I had the opportunity to interview Book’s real-life persona, Ron Glass, who had a good say into Book’s back-story on set.

SERENITY: LEAVES ON THE WIND is the shiniest entry to the comic continuance thus far. Foibles of old have been rectified, and finally I feel as though the breath I’ve been holding since Wash was impaled by a runaway log flume cart has been released.

First, a note on the art. BETTER DAYS creeped me the hell out. The overly lifelike visages of Reynolds looking cocky, Zoe looking indignant, Wash looking stoned and River catatonic were just too harsh of a juxtaposition on the more cartoonish bodies. Yes, I fault artists sometimes for being too good at their craft. Jeanty has the right blend of reverence for the actor’s true form, while remembering we don’t need to hand these out as a mug shot later. Jeanty also does a bang-up job capturing the unique essence of the spacecraft in this universe; those Alliance city ships must be a real wang ba dan de biao zi to wrap one’s head around.

As for the story…again, I feel complete as a fan. Endings are hard, and they become even harder without any real sense of closure. In the movie “Serenity”, lives were lost and the faith of the universe was shattered with the futuristic Vine the crew released into the stratosphere about the Alliance creating the Reavers. The only waft of the outcome was the all-too-brief appearance of a very pregnant first mate Zoe at the end of the not funny enough one-shot that focused on Wash (sorry, but when a book is penned by Patton Oswalt and it’s about the funniest bastard on the ship, I expect a stain on the seat by the time I’m done reading).

LEAVES ON THE WIND was perfectly subdued. You really can’t escalate from where the movie left off; to do so would merely set this team up for an epic implosion. Some might argue that the absence of Book, Wash and now Jayne (don’t worry, he’s not dead--simply a freelancer now) has already diminished the staying power of the dynamic, but I disagree because the vacuum created by those forces finally collapsed the chasms of pride, arrogance and fear that had kept other crew members apart. Reynolds and Inara, have finally abolished the “will they, won’t they”, and even though they are on the run from the Alliance, desperate for a respite of fresh air, they find renewed strength in one another’s embrace. Likewise for Simon and Kaylee; though their love is far more playful and far less jaded, both seem to be better people for coming together. Even bat-shit River has now found an emotional tether outside of Simon. Her connection is now with Serenity as she takes over the seat once occupied by Wash.

There are some other big moments in the book, but you’ll just have to read it for those. While I found them entertaining, it truly was the quieter moments between the characters as well as the first chinks being exposed in the Alliance armor that I found most alluring. I’m also going to applaud Whedon: this is one of the first books where I didn’t feel an aping of Joss. Past titles were too much of the jokey cadence; this all felt genuine.

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.


ALL-NEW INVADERS #1

Writer: James Robinson
Penciler: Steve Pugh
Published by: Marvel Comics
Reviewed by: BottleImp


It seems like every couple of years or so someone decides to dust off the Invaders—Marvel’s own answer to DC’s Justice Society, All-Star Squadron and the rest of the Distinguished Competition’s Golden Age pantheon—and give the quartet of Captain America, Bucky, Namor and the Human Torch another go ‘round. The question I have this time is the same question I have every time The Invaders are given a revamp: is there anything interesting about them?

Frankly, I’m not so sure that there is. I mean, Captain America has been tackled from every angle by countless writers over the years, and Bucky has gotten so much exposure recently that this long-dead sidekick has become a new mainstay in Marvel’s present-day continuity. The Sub-Mariner has the most potential to spark interest, but his appearance in this issue is limited to a single cliffhanger panel. James Robinson has chosen to focus the reader’s attention on “synthetic man” Jim Hammond, the original Human Torch. But the “artificial man living in a human world” pathos has been done sooooooo many times before that I can’t summon much interest in the Torch, either. So what’s there to talk about?

Well, James Robinson has dropped the reader in the middle of a mystery, with the alien race of the Kree searching for the story’s McGuffin, which in this case is pieces of a device called the Gods’ Whisper. What it does is still unknown; what is more interesting to me is a forgotten memory of World War II that the Kree cause to be unraveled in the Torch’s mind. In this scene the Torch fights with Namor and Bucky, but not Captain America—in his place is a man in pseudo-Revolutionary War garb dubbed “Major Liberty.” Is this a true memory? Some sort of alternate timeline? Whatever the truth behind this memory, it’s a much more intriguing facet of the mystery than the buried treasure of the mysterious weapon.

On a more positive note, I like Steve Pugh’s art for this comic. Pugh works in a clean style that hearkens back to the “classic” drawings of Buscema, Byrne and Romita, and even evokes a bit of that Golden Age charm. I do feel compelled to point out the one page that made me laugh—a splash of Cap and Bucky (or Winter Soldier, as he’s dubbed at present) where Pugh was going for an epic, forced perspective shot of the pair looking up from ground level. Unfortunately his proportions and perspective don’t quite match, so either Captain America must be about twelve feet tall or Winter Soldier is built like a six year old. Sorry, Steve!

As you might have gathered from my tone, I wasn’t wowed by this first issue. Let’s face it: when you have characters that are either inherently uninteresting or done to death, you need something special to make their comic worth reading. The question is: will Robinson and Pugh make their mystery McGuffin a puzzle worth coming back for?

When released from his bottle, the Imp transforms into Stephen Andrade, an artist/illustrator/pirate monkey painter from New England. He's currently hard at work interpreting fellow @$$Hole Optimous Douche's brainwaves and transforming them into pretty pictures on AVERAGE JOE, an original graphic novel to be published by Com.x. You can see some of his artwork here.


JLA ADVENTURES: TRAPPED IN TIME Original Animated Movie DVD (2014)

Director: Giancarlo Volpe
Writer: Michael Ryan
Studio: Warner Bros. DC Animation
Reviewer: Masked Man


While most of the comic book animation world is all excited about JUSTICE LEAGUE: WAR (bringing the Nu52 to animation), Warner Bros' Sam Register thought the public would enjoy a kinder, gentler Justice League as well, so he tapped Giancarlo Volpe, a director on AVATAR: THE LAST AIR BENDER and STAR WARS: CLONE WARS (a produce of the GREEN LANTERN series, too) to make JLA ADVENTURES: TRAPPED IN TIME.

Being a big fan of fun animation, and not just the more mature work, I thought I'd give it a try, though I was nervous. The last time Warner Bros. did this was SUPERMAN: BRAINIAC ATTACKS which, let's face it, was pretty awful. Another thing that worried me was the cover art, I haven't seen a Superman that ugly since SUPERMAN VS THE ELITE. Still, how bad could it be, I asked? Not bad at all, as it turns out. Now, let me qualify that this was designed to be a kid-friendly movie, not something for anyone only interested in mature themes. With that in mind, JLA ADVENTURES: TRAPPED IN TIME delivers a good time.

The setup and plot are very much like a CHALLENGE OF THE SUPERFRIENDS episode. You have the League--Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman & Robin, Aquaman, Flash and Cyborg--and the Legion of Doom--Lex Luthor, Gorilla Grodd, Solomon Grundy, Bizarro, Cheetah, Captain Cold, Black Manta and Toyman. Through some time travel shenanigans, Lex Luthor gains control over the Time Trapper (a Legion of Super-Heroes villain), and attempts to prevent Kal-El from ever becoming Superman. Hip to what is going on, Legion of Super-Heroes members (teenagers here) Dawnstar and Karate Kid chase after Lex Luthor. What follows are some pretty decent slug-fests between the Legion and the League (all the violence we wished was in the CHALLENGE OF THE SUPERFRIENDS).

Quality-wise, I'd say it's just above a typical WB TV show, but not as good as their high end DVD movies. You can see where they have cut some corners in the layouts for cost. All the designs look pretty good--more natural-looking than the freaky cover, though I wasn't a fan of Wonder Woman's overly Greek warrior outfit or Aquaman's bizarre sleeveless look (I'm also curious why Batman had the blue shorts, but Superman didn't have the red shorts). The story is well thought out, with all the time paradoxes handled intelligently--or at least as well as can be expected in a piece of fiction. The comic book guy in me was glad to see that Dawnstar and Karate Kid were not junior members of the Justice League (though if you look close, some Superfriends junior members do appear). I'll never understand why executives think kids only want to see kid heroes--as a kid I hated Robin; he was just in Batman's way. The movie does have some dopey humor in it, that's the only time I felt they were dumbing the script down. The humor does work every now and then, though.

One thing I would have liked to have seen in this movie (being a more kid oriented affair--I don't think it's a straight up kids movie) is more imagination, creativity and fun, like in BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD. But viewing it as an update of the SUPERFRIENDS, with some teenage guest-stars from the future, JLA ADVENTURES: TRAPPED IN TIME scores a GOOD on the Masked Man's scale of crap, poor, fair, good and great

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


ALL-NEW X-MEN #22

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Stuart Immonen
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Mighty Mouth


The Trial of Jean Grey Begins!

You have to feel for the ALL-NEW X-MEN. Ever since the original X-Men were plucked from the past, these naive young mutants have traversed some serious shit! As if learning what your future holds and being stuck in the present wasn't enough, the team now faces consequences for actions they haven't even committed yet--talk about a mind-?#@*&%.

Recently these younger versions of Cyclops, Beast, Marvel Girl, Angel and Iceman left Wolverine’s School and took refuge at Cyclops's (present version) School. Tensions flare as Scott and Jean deal with their new-found knowledge of future events. What these poor kids need is a distraction. Something to take their mind off their problems, like, say, a surprise attack and kidnapping (maybe not ideal, but it works). More interestingly, the attack comes not from foes but allies—namely, the alien race known as the Shi’ar. The encounter not only leaves the group puzzled, they also find themselves missing a certain red-headed telepath. Luckily, the Guardians of the Galaxy are here to help. Better late than never, guys...

First issues in a storyline are pretty much a set-up for things to come. They don’t need to be overly complex; they just need a decent hook. Writer Brian Michael Bendis gets it. For the most part this issue is pretty unassuming, yet a pleasurable little read nonetheless. Some witty moments include Warren’s discomfort as he’s caught between a half-verbal/half-telepathic spat between Scott and Jeanine, Hank going all “A Beautiful Mind” on a blackboard, and Iceman, well, he’s got some music to catch up on. The rest of the issue is pretty much action-packed as Jean’s abduction serves as the inciting incident for the rest of the story to come.

Whenever I pick up an issue with the name “Immonen” slapped on the cover, I know I’m going to be treated to a visual feast. To put it bluntly, this mofo can draw! I’m pretty jazzed about the group’s updated outfits. I’ve always been a fan of the more uniformed look for the team as opposed to overly expressive superhero costumes. I dunno--it just feels more pragmatic, if you ask me.

ALL NEW X-MEN #22 kicks off the first in a six-part story arc that teams the X-Men with the Guardians of the Galaxy. It reads a little fast, but sometimes a quickie is really all you’re after.


Indie Jones Presents!

DEADHORSE: THE BALLAD OF THE TWO HEADED DOG #1

Writer: Eric Grissom
Artist: Phil Sloan
Publisher: Frankenstein's Daughter
Reviewer: Lyzard


I keep on flipping back and forth between two pages. The image is simple. In one panel you’ve got a guy wearing a dog mask. Odd, but not unexpected for this comic. A few frames later the mouth of that mask is opened and it appears to be less costume and more real dog. Flip to the next page and zoom in on just the mouth, closed tight. A rubber mask should not emote so well. Is it weird that I focus on such a detail? Do you find it strange or disturbing? Well, that just about describes DEADHORSE.

So to catch you up on the first part of the series, since TWO HEADED DOG just jumps right on in there, William Pike finds this mysterious key of his dad’s, which leads him on a journey to a mysterious abandoned Alaskan town whilst he is on the run from mysterious enemies that form a web of conspiracy reaching to some of the highest levels of the federal government. It isn’t that I lack a thesaurus; it’s just that mysterious is the best word to describe these characters and their backstories.

But this time ‘round, DEADHORSE gives you little time to mull over the whos, whats, and whys in this Alaskan adventure; it is too busy throwing in new twists and turns. Honestly, I cannot think of any major question that was answered after the initial run ended, and the answers that are given now are to questions I hadn’t even considered asking.

Issue #1 is stronger than nearly the entirety that preceded it. The best way to put it would be that DEADHORSE has matured. Grissom has found the proper balance between scenes of humor and those of horror, not only grasping a better hold on such tonal shifts but also not having them affect the pacing of the storyline.

Even the characters themselves have grown, despite the fact that the storyline picks up moments after it left off. Somehow they have come into their own and are finally realizing their own potential.

Then you’ve got Sloan and his crazy, cartoonish, yet creepy characters. He won me over with the henchman, Sasquatch, but it is now the hellhound honcho that’s grabbed my attention…and maybe turned me into a cat person.

The print copy, which you can pre-order here won’t be released till March, which gives you plenty of time to check out the previous books, DEAD BIRDS.

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


WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN #40

Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Pepe Larraz
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Henry Higgins is My Homeboy


Okay, this'll be my last review of this book until it ends--I promise.

Because CHRIST do I talk about this book a lot. To you guys, to my friends…my girlfriend has sworn to leave me if I try and explain the Hellfire Academy to her again. I don't care. This book is incredible, and if you've never read it before, you need to do yourself a favour and pick up the whole series. But if you don't have the time/money/anything for that, at least grab this issue. It features a scene that…I just, Marvel, I've been waiting for this. How did you know what was in my dreams, what my soul yearned for in the darkest nights…

We get Wolverine and Cyclops talking.

Now, that sounds boring. It does help that right beforehand they destroyed a literal fuck ton of Sentinels. But here's the thing;:I didn't like SCHISM, the book. It was inconsistent, rushed, and unfocused. I loved SCHISM, the effect. Seeing the X-Men creed be debated and analyzed by people who then go and punch robots is really entertaining for me, and it's been personified by Cyclops and Wolverine leading their opposing camps--two men with wildly different histories and ideals, who also don't really like each other, who also respect the FUCK out of each other. These are two men who, on some fundamental level, understand one another and have the ability to be perfectly honest with each other. And to see them get drunk and just talk to each other…it's marvelous character work, and Aaron deserves every accolade he's ever gotten for this book. And it doesn't end with a nice bow on top or the two hugging or the two fighting, but with two men who have known each other for a long time and still disagree heavily parting on good terms.

Oh, and the main story is about the students uniting and making undercover SHIELD agents go through hell while they watch and quip.

The art is (as it always is) wonderful, with some great color work. It's stylized and clear and preeeeeeetty, and it perfectly translates the writing.

Seriously, this is one of the best books Marvel's been putting out in ages, and I don't think I've ever read a bad issue of it--and this may be among the best, even if a lot of is just two beat up old white guys talking.


ELFQUEST: THE FINAL QUEST #1

Writers: Wendy and Richard Pini
Artist: Wendy Pini
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Reviewer: Corey Michael Dalton


I've been a fan of ELFQUEST since I was 11 years old and found a nearly complete set of the original magazine-sized issues in a seedy underground comic shop in Bloomington, Indiana (seriously--the comic shop was actually beneath the street in a basement.) Wendy Pini's detailed black-and-white art, the life-and-death struggle of the Wolfriders, the seemingly hundreds of unique and beautifully designed characters, the evil of Winnowill, the brutality of the battles, the barely contained sensuality of the elves—all of those things pulled me into the comic and kept me hooked. For a kid my age, there was actually something subversive about the comic that made me keep it well away from the prying eyes of my parents (I didn't think they'd approve of the orgies.) I continued reading ELFQUEST through its next several miniseries and even kept up with a few of the various ELFQUEST titles that the Pinis oversaw (but didn't actually produce) in the 90s. Some of those were great, some not so great.

But now, finally, the husband-and-wife team returns to their creation to tell what they (and new publisher Dark Horse) are calling THE FINAL QUEST. To say I was excited to dive into this first issue of the miniseries would be an understatement. By the time I got to the end, though, my enthusiasm was a bit dampened. Don't get me wrong, it was great to see all my old friends again (and drawn by Wendy, no less), but the debut issue lacks a strong narrative hook--something to really make me care about what's happening. And if an old-time ELFQUEST fan like me was less than enthused by this first issue, I can only imagine what a newbie would think.

The plot of this issue is fairly simple. Cutter and some of his fellow old-school Wolfriders are feeling a bit antsy. Ever since he and the other elves found their ancestral home, the Palace, which magically caters to their every need, skills like hunting and fighting are no longer quite as necessary or appreciated, so Cutter leads a big ol’ hunt to let the "still wild" elves blow off some steam by killing a deer and eating raw venison. Mmmm…bloody. Meanwhile, in another part of the World of Two Moons, Cutter's daughter, Ember, serves as chief to her own group of Wolfriders. While in the midst of some over-the-top, melodramatic love scene with another elf named Teir, Ember is alerted to the fact that a human warlord is marching towards her tribe's encampment with destruction on his mind. As the humans get closer, Teir impulsively throws himself into battle—possibly because Ember doesn't want to have a baby with him?—forcing the rest of the tribe into the fight as well.

So what's good? Well, the art, for starters. Wendy has lost none of her skills over the years; on the contrary, she's honed her abilities, learning new tricks along the way. Her manga-meets-cartoon style may be less revolutionary than it was back in 1978, but it's still a breath of fresh air compared to most American comic art. Personally, I always prefer her art in black and white, but the colors here by Sony Strait are not bad. They're certainly better than the colors that Wendy herself has done in the last few ELFQUEST specials.

Part of the problem with this first issue is that there's no real sense of danger. Cutter and his tribe seem to be battling only ennui, which is less than compelling, while Ember and her group are facing a human dude called Angrif Djun, which sounds more like the noise an old man makes when he sneezes than someone who would be a legitimate threat to a band of magical elves. Let's face it: the humans have always made weak antagonists in ELFQUEST. Villains like Winnowill or Two-Edge are much more interesting and subtly nuanced while also bringing a real sense of danger for our heroes. Another problem I had was the sheer number of characters introduced. Even I was unfamiliar with several minor (Sust, Pool, Khorbasi) and one major (Lehrigen) character in the issue. I would imagine someone just dipping his/her toe in the ELFQUEST pool would have trouble knowing their Moonshades from their Krims, let alone knowing which characters were meant to be important and which were just background filler.

I will definitely be sticking with this title throughout the entire miniseries. I trust the Pinis enough to assume that this first issue was simply a slow introduction to the series and that things will pick up soon. I hope that people who are trying ELFQUEST for the first time will do the same—but, based on just this issue, I could understand why they might not. Even if that hypothetical new reader didn't care for this issue, though, I hope he/she will be willing to pick up Dark Horse's first collection of the original ELFQUEST series when that is released and give the title a second look.

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


ALL NEW X-FACTOR #2

Writer: Peter David
Artist: Carmine Di Giandomenico
Published by: Marvel Comics
Reviewed by: BottleImp


Two issues in to Peter David’s (mostly) all-new X-Factor lineup, and I gotta say, I’m not feeling it yet. Maybe part of the problem is that I was such a fan of the previous incarnation of this mutant team…am I just not enjoying X-Factor’s latest gig as corporate-sponsored superheroes due to my strong connection with what has gone before? Mmm…I don’t think that’s entirely the problem. So far, the issue at hand (and in this particular issue IN hand) is a matter of a writer not playing to his strengths.

David’s greatest gift as a writer, in my opinion, is his ability to develop characters that seem to have life beyond the two-dimensional page. He takes the throwaway detritus of comic book culture—characters like Multiple Man, Shatterstar or even current X-Factor leader Polaris—and imbues them with faceted personalities, emotions, unique worldviews…in a word, personality. And the way he accomplishes this is through making these characters interact. Not just your typical superhero interaction (with the emphasis on ACTION)—I love the way that David’s characters will argue, bicker or merely converse with one another. His flair for dialogue is truly what brings the characters to life. But it’s this essential component that seems to be missing thus far in the new X-FACTOR.

The emphasis of this issue is on the action, with character interaction kept to a minimum. Instead of back-and-forth dialogue, we are given information in the form of interior monologue (thought by Gambit, who seems to have replaced Jamie Madrox as David’s new narrator for the series). And while this does give information to the reader, the monologue is not nearly as interesting or snappy as a dialogue would have been.

And speaking of giving information to the reader, whatever happened to using number one issues and new series to pull in new readers? I’m not exactly a newcomer to the world of Marvel mutantdom, but even I was scratching my head at some of the characters and past plot points dropped into this storyline. I mean, Reaper? Fatale? Abyss? I can vaguely recall one of these three Z-list mutants, but I don’t know what person delving into the X-universe for the first time would make of it all. Jeez, it makes me miss the days when you’d see a little editor’s footnote filling the reader in on what the hell the characters were talking about and just what the hell back issue the reader could look up if he wanted to see for himself.

Aside from the script, I remain ambivalent on the art. Though I like Carmine Di Giandomenico’s drawing style, his page design can sometimes wind up feeling cluttered. There are a few panels here that are a little too busy, and the action becomes slightly confusing. Still, the overall look of the book is strong; my major issue is with the script, something I never thought I’d say in regard to a Peter David book.

I usually give comics more time before deciding whether or not to drop them, but at $3.99 a pop it’s becoming harder and harder to keep paying for books that I’m not really enjoying. Still, I’m going to hang on at least ‘til #3 if for no other reason than giving one of my favorite comic book writers another chance to play to his strengths.


DEADLY CLASS #1

Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: Wes Craig
Publisher: Image Comics
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee


Time to put your retro hats on, boys and girls, and I’m not just saying that because we’re going back to 1987 in this DEADLY CLASS debut. We’re going back to a time when Mr. Rick Remender, currently one of the key players sitting at the Round Table of the Marvel Bullpen, let his “fuck it” flag fly. Not that he currently doesn’t, of course, as we’ve seen with what he has done for a handful of years with his Marvel runs and the body counts they compile, but it has felt like ages since the man who wrote about material such as Vampirates in SEA OF RED or the motherfucking Rapture in STRANGE GIRL firmly hoisted up his own banner. And now he’s back to emblazoning his own personal signature across the Image lineup with books like BLACK SCIENCE and now this little ditty, which feels the most like the Rick Remender I was first introduced to almost a decade ago.

DEADLY CLASS is one of those books that carries a ferocity to go with some overbearing melancholy to a bittersweet balance of the two. Like I said before, it’s 1987 and Marcus is one poor bastard: living on the street, haunted by the almost comically horrific death of his parents as they are smashed in front of him by a schizophrenic bridge jumper. It’s almost sadistic in how extreme it goes to show how fucked Marcus’ life has been and to the extent this book is probably going to push, but if you’re in this game to see Rick Remender let loose, he’s letting you know his tie is definitely slacked down to at least the second button. But there’s some nuance around it all to let you know it’s not going to be a vainglorious shockfest; there’s plenty of sad violin shots of Marcus in his tattered clothes on the street being dismissed by passersby, having his kicks almost jacked by a bum even worse than he that he pities enough to let him keep them, and there’s even his own teased suicide attempt. All of this properly pushes the book and Marcus to where they need to be for when the script flips on the book and his life within.

When that bundle of directorial text does capsize, things do get slightly familiar. Frantic, fantastically choreographic, and action-packed but familiar in that awakening moment we get a solid bit in comics and movies. It’s that down the rabbit hole moment where Marcus’ life goes from dingy and shit into men in suits chasing after him and some highly skilled rebels standing between him and certain death and cutting it down in a super-stylized manner. It’s kinetic, it pops, it showcases Wes Craig’s abilities fantastically--but we’ve still been here before. And same with the moment where Marcus is offered a chance to be in some sort of super secret society of young assassins and, despite all that he just witnessed, walks the hell away from it all. But, of course, he comes back because of a girl that convinces him to in a page and a half. If I sound dismissive of this part of the book, it’s because I kind of am. It’s really the only downside to this book in how it feels pretty typical and rushed for a solid four pages down the stretch, but given its familiar nature, at that point that’s probably a good thing. The sooner we take that red pill the quicker Remender and Craig can take us on the emotional and excellent adventure the first two acts of this debut were.

What we have here is a more or less classic Remender story of someone falling down enough and being put in a surreal enough world to decide to watch it burn. It looks to be as nihilistic as a lot of those earlier works – the SEA OF REDs and FEAR AGENTs of the medium – but I see a lot more nudges at sympathy toward at the least our lead, if not a couple of his new classmates, than maybe the younger, less cuddly version of the “dicktits” originator would have given us up front. Meanwhile, Wes Craig draws the fuck out of this book while Lee Loughridge color-fucks it. They absolutely pack the atmosphere here, and drive the tone through the rollercoaster that is the drab beginning full of grays and Marcus’ grim expressiveness all the way through the night-lighting, explosive fervor that is the action-packed second half. All three of these gentlemen are rockstarring it and putting on a class of their own. Grab your backpacks, everyone--you’re going to want to be in your seats before the bell on this one.

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.


CAPTAIN AMERICA #15

Writer: Rick Remender
Art: Carlos Pacheco
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Henry Higgins is My Homeboy


The “Zola World” arc was really cool--just go re-read that…

You know, I was really liking CAPTAIN AMERICA. The “Zola” arc was INSANE and unexpected and, to be perfectly frank, epic. Steve Rogers went on a full-blown adventure for the first time in a while, and while I loved Brubaker's introspective run on the character, it's nice to see him return to his action/adventure roots. It was a good story. The current arc is not.

New villain Iron Nail (apart from having an antiqued appearance and cliché motivations) isn't a particularly imposing villain, especially following Zola and the depths of his depravity. He's a typical Chinese commie baddie for the Aryan supersoldier to cold clock, which is the sorta thing we've seen him do a lot. It's not a revolutionary story, and feels more like a retread than anything unique. Even Remender's approach to Nuke feels tired. The contrast between the two supersoldiers is interesting, and it presents a darker shade to Cap's mission and metaphor, but it's been done before and done better. The contrast is prevalent in DAREDEVIL: BORN AGAIN (the book that introduced Nuke), and the message is better COMMUNICATED there too. And it doesn't bog down the reader with pages of exposition or bland characters, like Redshirt, Agent Of SHIELD (seriously, the second this woman opens her mouth, it's clear she's not making it out) and Falcon-Who's-Easily-Knocked-Out, perhaps my least favourite version of a character I don't care about.

The biggest problem is that, save for the last page reveal, there's nothing new here. Even Cap's speech to Nuke about how much easier it is for them to be soldiers and not return to real life feels strained. Nothing in the book has the raw authenticity of “Zola World”, a story where monster clones were ordered around by a man living inside a television. The book doesn't feel like the exciting adventures that Remender promised us. It's more akin to a bad Cap story, with shaky politics and lazy writing.

Credit where credit is due, Remender writes a wonderful Steve Rogers, and (usually) his character concepts are remarkable. The new supersoldier revealed on the final page is straight up bonkers, and I'll readily admit I'm excited to see Cap get into it with him. And the art - while occasionally shaky in the smaller character beats - does have a strong sense of consistency and movement. I just wish the actually book was better, because, Remender, please. I've read “Zola World” five times now. Please go back to throwing Cap through a bizarre ringer. No more Fu Manchu villains.


Advance Review: In stores today!

WORLD’S FINEST ANNUAL #1

Writer: Paul Levitz
Artist: Diogenes Neves
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche


I’m a self-professed alternate reality whore, and frankly I’m tired of defending my position against the naysayers who think all skin in the game is lost when dealing with those that operate on a different vibrational frequency. Alternate realties have mattered in the New 52 and have directly affected main continuity as much as any other event.

DC has been doing this Earth-2 thing right. It’s a stark juxtaposition to the New 52, showing a gleaming and glowing world that could be where hope prevails over the extremely dark pall that shrouds Earth Prime. The story has never been slow or dragging and remains unfettered from any crossover shenanigans. It started as a haven to bring back the Justice Society, but has slowly grown into a new and much better world than the one we live in or ones we have dreamt of living in. When Darkseid attacked this world they lost their heroes and had to rebuild. But before the holy trinity and others shuffled loose their mortal coils, they changed this world in every way, shape, and form. From politics to solving a plethora of societal woes, the heroes made the entire world better instead of just their social cliques or simply one city. I belabor the Earth 2 point because if you don’t know or understand it, most of the beauty of WORLD’S FINEST will be lost on you, especially this annual.

Huntress and Power Girl have always been exiled off-worlders. In the New 52, though, their existence is not a happy one. Earth Prime sucks in comparison to Earth 2; the heroes they grew up admiring and loving are now their age and a true mirror darkly of the father and cousin that once kept them safe. After 20 issues watching both Kara and Helena try to find a way home, it was a pleasure to see Levitz use this annual to take a peek at happier times before these hottie heroes were sucked away by a boomtube on the fritz.

Yes, before they were Huntress and Power Girl, they were Robin and Super Girl, also the best of friends. This friendship was a byproduct of the heartfelt bond between Earth 2’s Bats and Supes. Instead of being the embittered enemies we so often see there is a genuine kinship between these two (if you want to see more on this front, I highly recommend the first arc of Pak’s BATMAN/SUPERMAN book). The events that shaped Earth 2 allowed both of these men to have lives away from the cowls and capes. Bats and Cats were finally able to copulate, and Superman was able to hold on to Lois and build an actual life together. Even Wonder Woman has a child, which is a nice segue into the plot. It’s basically the two ladies against the daughter of Wonder Woman, Fury. Fury is working for Darkseid, softening Earth 2 for its inevitable invasion.

It’s not the plot that got me, though; while it gives me hope for the next story arc in EARTH 2, what truly made me verklempt was the way Levitz captured the characters in this issue. In the now they are confident young women. Here, both are on shaky legs. Kara has essentially been raised like a veal calf, and Helena is ready to help her break loose from her cage. Fury’s appearance is really just a convenient excuse to let both girls show the elder generation they are ready to strike out on their own. It was also entertaining to see an older Bats and Supes monitoring and watching the whole affair realizing their little girls aren’t so little anymore.

I’m not a New 52 hater; I refuse to fight time or any battles of futility. I know there are a tooooonnnn of you out there. After two years of a solid run, I can finally say the Earth 2 canon might be for you. The heroes are more seasoned, there’s a definite 80s Morning in America vibe to the world and the Huntress/PG combo has been one of the most enjoyable relationships for me in this New 52 world. Their tether only serves to fuel the dangers in their adventures when one falls into peril . Levitz did a an amazing job in this issue giving that friendship its first spark.


ORIGIN II #2

Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Adam Kubert
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: The Kid Marvel


My favorite Wolverine stories usually involve three key points:

1. Logan is solo, not a team leader, off on his own.
2. The stories involve Logan in a foreign place, somewhere away from his general home.
3. Logan is up against stacked odds whether trapped, overwhelmed by enemies, getting the sh** kicked out of him, etc.

ORIGIN II fulfills all the general basic requirements I like in a Wolverine story and thus far has not disappointed. The story seems simple, yet is entertaining and generally very good, with pages filled with amazing artwork and scenery. The first issue of ORIGIN II was excellent and captured a huge part of Wolverine’s essence as a lost individual, as an individual seeking a pack, always losing that pack, and ultimately ending up lost again.

In Issue 2 of ORIGIN II, the trappers or hunters who tagged the polar bear Wolverine killed in his mindless rage are now searching for the culprit (Logan killed the bear after it slaughtered the wolf pack he was living with). This bear also belonged to a man named Essex. This sets up a key intro: for those who are unaware, Essex the charismatic high maintenance gentleman, will eventually become Mr. Sinister. Enter Creed, best known as Sabertooth, who is employed under Essex as a tracker--specifically to find the mystery creature that slaughtered his bear. Essex already seems to know the culprit is some kind of mutant, which I did think was a little odd. After gathering his team of men, which I wasn’t sure if they were supposed to all be hunters or just some kind of hired hands, Creed leads Essex’s men in search of Wolverine, with that being my stopping point keeping this review spoiler-free.

Overall, I felt the second issue of ORIGIN II kept the ball rolling pretty nicely for the miniseries. While it including a lot more dialogue than the first issue, which relied on the silent artwork and narration, it was none the less still a good issue--just not as impactful because of the shift. Honestly, I don’t there is really much we need added to Wolverine’s origins--I mean, what else is there to say?--but from pure story-based entertainment it’s very good. The settings and character actions give you the sense of the time, adding good dynamics to the rest of the story. I’m also interested to see how the female Clara at the beginning of the book plays into the story, too; for some reason I feel like she’ll find the human in the animal of Wolverine, the usual story telling trope at work here I’m assuming.

Besides a pretty solid story, Kubert’s artwork shines and could be a huge selling point for those who could care less about the story. But let me not forget Frank Martin’s excellent work on colors to add to these visually superb pieces. Kubert’s drawings between scenery, action scenes, and style work perfectly for the way ORIGIN II is set and flows with the story tone. Kubert really sets up some great scenes and visuals for ORIGIN II; those alone will keep me interested for the rest of the series and are perfect for a Wolverine story.

While I don’t think there is much if anything new to add to Wolverine’s origins, ORIGIN II is nonetheless a fun story and issue two was an above average book, flowing along nicely. I’m interested to see how Gillen plays out the rest of ORIGIN II, with both Essex or Mr. Sinister and Sabertooth. Obviously, Creed is always crucial and integral in Logan’s story as a character, but I am curious to see how Mr. Sinister is involved and develops in the background, or his involvement in Wolverine’s origins. This is a series I would highly recommend to purchase or at least read; it started off strong and continued strong in the second book, which I’ll assume the rest of the series will be just as entertaining and strong.


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

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