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AICN COMICS Reviews: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY! AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE! AQUAMAN! ROBOTECH/VOLTRON! STARLIGHT!

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

Advance Review: THE COMPLETE ACCIDENT MAN
UNCANNY AVENGERS #17
AQUAMAN #28
Advance Review: AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE #4
NEW WARRIORS #1
NEVERLAND: AGE OF DARKNESS #1
T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS # 6
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #12
Advance Review: STARLIGHT #1
ROBOTECH/VOLTRON # 2
FANTASTIC FOUR #1
Advance Review: BATMAN/SUPERMAN ANNUAL #1


Advance Review: In stores March 12th!

THE COMPLETE ACCIDENT MAN

Writers: Pat Mills & Tony Skinner
Artists: Martin Edmond, Duke Mighton and John Erasmus
Publisher: Titan Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche


A book as big and bodacious in size as it is in moral reprehensibility and utter disregard for life, happiness or anything good in this world.

I’m not saying ACCIDENT MAN isn’t a good book; it’s a great compilation of previously published stories all bound in glorious hardcover. However, this story of a hit man with a unique panache for making his marks look like they did themselves in through unfortunate circumstance is not a feel good read. You will not walk out on a street and hug a stranger when you’re finished. If anything, after reading hitman Mike Fallon’s story, you’ll simply want to weep over the true futility of life.

ACCIDENT MAN is very British in the sense that cynicism runs deep in these pages. I’ve always attributed a quiet calm to the British after countless hours of BBC watching and thousands of comics read. The same lack of excitement seems to transcend from tying ones to show to watching their grandmother get punched in the face and then molested by squirrels. I don’t know if it has to do with not wanting to open their mouths too wide because of the whole teeth thing, or the fact their manifest destiny could be traversed on one tank of gas. Whatever the reason may be, I like to warn my US audience that British territory lies ahead because it is so tonally different than our perpetual stars and stripes bravado for even the most mundane activities.

The fact that everything isn’t epic in ACCIDENT MAN is what makes the book really work. It displays the brazen, but lives in the shadows of subtlety. Before each of Mike’s marks bites the big one, Mills and Skinner ensure that we as readers could perform the same crimes with the same flawless execution. Need to hang a 145-pound man? You will learn the right tensile strength of the rope. Want to kill an animal nut? You need to do more than just feed him to the crocs for it to truly look like an accident. As Mike offs more folks through the intricate planning of seemingly mundane events gone awry, you will learn the chemical compounds and physics behind how it happens. Want to exact revenge on your ex-wife’s murderer? Ok, that’s not as simple.

This is where the book shows heart, or as much as a guy like Mike can muster. While a bunch of meticulously planned murders and Mike’s hedonistic spending of spoils were engaging, every book needs at least another layer down. Also, every hero needs a tragic flaw to at least address, if not overcome, in his or her journey. While 99.9999% of Mike’s hits are about the money, he does a few freebies to exact revenge on the murderers of his one-time girlfriend and now dead lesbian eco-terrorist. This love for Jill, and an enduring love of animals, are the attributes that make Mike human as opposed to just the jocular idea of the hard-driven male presented in the book’s first few pages.

This new compilation won’t hit stores until March 11, and I really suggest you skip the Bit Torrent of old material. For one, Titan has packaged the story the way the writers intended, as opposed to the circumstances of indie comic publishing dictating the presentation. Also, there’s a nice chunk of bonus features that explain why Fallon looks like a Jersey Shore bro in the first book who finally becomes James Bond by the time you reach the end of the fourth story. Finally, the Howard Chaykin bonus art is beautiful. On most superhero books, Chaykin’s bawdy drawings rub me the wrong way – simply distractingly cheesecakey for the medium and story in many cases (according to this puritanical American). Here, though, the garters and nip slips work. When dealing with a man who lives on pure testosterone without an ounce of feminine influence in his life, whorey girls are always the order of the day.

THE COMPLETE ACCIDENT MAN is my second Mills book, and I keep coming back because I have found a kindred spirit in my belief that humanity’s collective soul is a glass most certainly half empty. However, Mills never lowers himself to curmudgeon to shake his fist. The world sucks, and Mills’ characters are the perfect unapologetic tour guides to Hell’s waiting room.

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.


UNCANNY AVENGERS #17

Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: Steve McNiven
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Mighty Mouth


Epic: it is a word that I try to avoid whenever I’m giving a description. I have no aversion to the word in general; it’s the misuse of the word that puts a run in my stockings. Dinners aren’t epic. Getting out of work half an hour early on Friday--while very cool, it’s just not epic. With that said, UNCANNY AVENGERS #17 may have just closed out a run that I may dare to call epic; and with a title like “Ragnarok Now”, it damn well should be.

Rick Remender and company have taken the Avengers unity squad to some dark places before, but nothing like this. Over the past few issues things have certainly gone from bad to worse. Most of this team of Avengers has already fallen to the Apocalypse twins, leaving only Cap, Thor and the Wasp to oppose these destructive doubles. If the Avengers should fail, every living thing on earth is going bye-bye. Fear not: this is the Avengers were talking about--they’ll pull together and find a way to save us all, right? WRONG!

If one recalls, this story kicked off with UNCANNY AVENGERS #5 and took about seven issues to really find its rhythm; that’s because a masterpiece takes time to cook. Remender cunningly disguised an event-style storyline into the pages of a standard title format. The lesson here is: good things come to those who wait. Unfortunately, this clever subterfuge may be detracting from the book’s overall impact. I mean, there is some major shit going down in these pages. Beloved popular characters are dying left and right,yet these characters are still adventuring and doing fine in their respective titles. This leads me to believe a deus ex machina solution can’t be far behind.

This issue moves quickly and is very action-heavy, as a good climax should be. Still, the narrative manages to travel to some very interesting places and presents a challenging commentary on the human condition, all wrapped up in artwork so outstanding it virtually leaps off the page. If UNCANNY AVENGERS #17 has any shortcomings, it would be that Issues #15 & #16 were so impressive they make for a ridiculously tough act to follow. Be that as it may, the sums are parts of the whole, and with a run that has been so entertaining, that’s a good problem to have.


AQUAMAN #28

Writer: Jeff Parker
Artists: Paul Pelletier
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man


It's issues like this one that make me think I've been reading comics too long. I feel I can see the hand of the writer too much. Like Aquaman's confrontation with the secret government group operating an undersea lab. The same lab that unleashed the monster that killed a few hundred people in the last two issues. So, does Aquaman bring them in for criminal negligence, evict them (from his kingdom,) for building labs and screwing with the sealife without proper permits or consent? Or when they threaten to blow up an Atlantean submarine does he remind them that that would be considered an act of war against Atlantis? Nope--these are all problems to be solved later, so best to let sleeping dogs lie, and Parker's gotta stretch this plot out. The bulk of the book, though, is Aquaman going to his high school reunion, at which we are treated to just about every cliché of people dealing with someone they grew up with who is now famous except the drunk who wants to sleep with him--odd.

I also can't help feel that Pelletier's art is slipping, too. Where in previous issues I felt he was really trying to raise his game in an effort to match original penciler Ivan Reis, this issue is more his standard look, which by no means isn't primetime, but it's not going to put Pelletier on the A-list either. To be clear, I'm not talking about the lack of action scenes in this issue. I’m talking about layouts and figure work that do more to entertain readers than just illustrate the story.

I suppose it didn't help my attitude towards this issue when Parker pulled out my biggest Aquaman pet peeve as well (again): him failing to control sealife. Once again the uniqueness of a character is overruled by the need for fisticuffs. Well, one weak issue does not a run make, so I'm curious where Parker will take us next time--hopefully back to the promises set up in his first issue.

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


Advance Review: In stores today!

AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE #4

Writer: Roberto Aquirre-Sacasa
Artist: Francesco Francavilla
Publisher: Archie Comics
Reviewer: BottleImp


It’s a funny thing. I don’t like ARCHIE comics. Never have, not even as a kid. Archie, Jughead and the rest of the Riverdale gang just seemed so…tame, especially compared to what was going on over in the pages of BATMAN or SPIDER-MAN. And I also don’t particularly care for zombie comics. I mean, I can’t say that I like the zombie genre in general, whatever the medium, but comics featuring the shambling dead fit firmly in that category. But a strange thing happens when you put the boring ol’ Archie cast in the midst of your standard zombie apocalypse: the union becomes one hell of an entertaining read.

Writer Aquirre-Sacasa and artist Francavilla continue to breathe life into both the horror and teenage soap opera components of AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE. I have to attribute a huge part of their success to the artwork; Francavilla’s drawing—though simplistic in its own fashion—lends a refined graphic sensibility to the normally cartoony Archie and his cronies, bridging the gap between the classic look of the ARCHIE comics and a more “realistic” comic book style. His bold use of color further elevates this comic above the standard ARCHIE fare; Francavilla’s almost monochromatic color design gives the pages sophistication and further enhances the horrific elements.

That’s not to say that the script is a slouch—Aquirre-Sacasa adds dimensionality to a cast of characters that has been relatively one-dimensional and stagnant since the 1940s. He even manages to pull at the ol’ heartstrings in this issue, giving the reader a flashback sequence showing a young Archie Andrews and his loyal dog Vegas…a flashback, of course, that culminates in a scene set in the present-day that will be familiar (and horrifying) to anyone versed in horror movie clichés. I’m also impressed with Aquirre-Sacasa’s ability to juggle the large cast of characters and give the reader enough information to be able to follow along, even if said reader (like yours truly) isn’t totally familiar with the Archie-verse. For example, there’s a brief interlude in this issue featuring Jason and Cher Blossom, a pair of aristocratic twins whose relationship seems a touch “Flowers In The Attic,” if you catch my drift. Now, I had never encountered these characters before this AFTERLIFE series. But in a concise three pages, I know everything about them that I need to—their history, their personalities and even hints of what their path might be in upcoming issues. Now that’s some good character writing; readers don’t need a full biography of the comic’s cast up front when a writer such as Aquirre-Sacasa is adept at introducing pertinent information within the storyline.

Though I do hold out some reservation regarding the longevity of this series—how long can we drag out the zombie-fication process of Riverdale before it becomes repetitive?—AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE so far is a really fun comic. And maybe the creative team has already answered that question; this month’s cliffhanger seems to suggest that the ambulatory deceased may be something more than a mindless horde of flesh-eaters. In any case, this series is certain to please fans of ARCHIE comics, zombie comics…and even those readers who can’t stand ‘em.

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.


NEW WARRIORS #1

Writer: Christopher Yost
Artist: Marcus To
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: The Kid Marvel


Going into this issue, the only reason I had any interest in picking it up was because of Scarlet Spider and Nova. I’m still pretty irritated that Marvel canceled SCARLET SPIDER because it was an awesome book with a lot of unused potential. So the fact Kaine was getting a second chance in panel time, I was going to pick up this issue no matter what and follow the series. The same can sort of be said for Nova; while not being canceled or anything, I just like what’s going on in the Nova comic and it became another pre-sale, plus in checking the book out and showing support for characters I like.

In NEW WARRIORS #1 of Marvel NOW, it starts off almost like every other first issue of a superhero team story: pretty general and predictable story elements. Everyone is doing their own thing and some larger evil makes their presence known, causing these generally solo heroes to team up and defeat said evil. However, some of these stories’ team up pieces were already starting to be put into action in NOVA #7 when Speedball and Justice recruited Nova onto the team as basically a reserve member before NEW WARRIORS #1 even launched. In this issue, there still really isn’t even a team--just every member on the cover (Speedball, Justice, Scarlet Spider, Hummingbird, Sun Girl, Nova, Haechi, and Watersnake) all fighting a similar enemy in The Evolutionaries.

NEW WARRIORS #1 honestly has very little story involved in the issue--basically just short introductions with Scarlet Spider and Hummingbird being the most interesting parts, bias aside, and probably about a third of the book’s story time. There really isn’t anything introduced to make you care about any of the other characters at all; even Nova got minimal panel time. The book really just focused on trying to introduce story elements, just not in the most effective way.

Marcus To’s artwork is pretty solid, but fairly generic in a sense. To did a great job of making crisp designs and details, utilizing good colors and visuals, but it doesn’t necessarily stand out. In certain series the art has a distinct taste for the book or fit. For example, when you think of a particular book, whatever it is, you have a visual in your mind that becomes distinct and almost branded for the title--you go yeah, that’s a Batman book, or that’s a Spiderman book from whatever artist comes to mind. The art in NEW WARRIORS, while good, doesn’t seem to create its niche as NEW WARRIORS artwork.

Overall the issue wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great, either, for a number one or for introducing a team. Kaine and Aracely (Scarlet Spider and Hummingbird) shined as the best characters, which I think can just be attributed to the fact they are interesting characters and, as of now, stand out leaps and bounds from the other members. After only one book, I already see those two being the only reason people read the book. Yost needs to bring something special to the others because other than Nova, I give zero $hit$ about the other team members and wasn’t given a reason to. This leads me to another negative: Nova needs more story time. This was a first issue, so it’s not a huge deal, but he definitely needs more exposure in the next issue. I think Yost was trying to do a lot to set up for future issues, so you kind of get lost in some of the madness without a real hook to grab your interest, which I hope comes in the future. Hope is still definitely not lost for NEW WARRIORS right now, but something needs to happen to create the story’s niche and uniqueness to make it interesting, because at this point only three of the eight members are doing that.


NEVERLAND: AGE OF DARKNESS #1

Writer: Dan Wickline
Artist: Luca Claretti
Publisher: Zenescope Entertainment
Reviewer: Lyzard


I’ll be upfront and say that I haven’t read the previous Grimm Fairy Tales set in Neverland. But I have covered various portions of the franchise as a whole, and Zenescope tends to make it easy for new readers to jump on in, unlike some other publishers (Marvel *cough* DC *cough, cough*). As I was saying, as long as you’ve had some previous experience with the Grimm Fairy Tale world presented by Zenescope, NEVERLAND: AGE OF DARKNESS #1 requires little in the way of backstory.

What the book’s prologue does tell us is that Nathan Cross saved Wendy’s nephews from evil Pan (a trope I can’t stand) and they now live happily ever after…I kid. No, Cross is so busy as a Realm Knight saving others from supernatural dangers in our own world that his life with Wendy has yet to coalesce into a fairy tale ending.

Actually, most of this information is delivered within the issue, so kudos to writer Wickline there. So apparently a portal between here and Neverland keeps on popping up in New York, and though Nathan Cross got rid of Pan, now there’s this Dark Queen to worry about. Cross has been called in to jump through the portal and find out what the evil horde has been transporting across into our own world. Needless to say, Wendy does not approve.

Let’s focus on that last bit for a second. Wendy chews Cross out for still playing the hero, putting his life at risk when he’s got a family to think about now. But what I most loved about this issue was when she brought up Cross’ combat companions. We all know that Zenescope doesn’t draw the most feminist covers, this book included. So it was great to have Wendy criticize how ridiculous some of these warrior women’s outfits are; even better to have Cross realize later on that Wendy probably has a point. Of course, that doesn’t stop the comic from still including agent Scotlynn Burke in half the amount of protective gear the rest of her heavily armed unit has when they go to face a horde that has killed dozens of previous agents. I mean, even though Cross doesn’t sport a fancy safety mask and helmet, at least he’s wearing long sleeves.

I think it is the comic’s self-reflexive nature that takes it from face-palming ridiculous to chuckling ridiculous. I’m surprised the Realm Knights have protected us for so long due to their inefficiency presented in this comic. The soldiers are slow to react, leaving the suited men safe at HQ rolling their eyes. I hardly know if the same audience that reads Zenescope comics watches anime, but if you have seen “Space Dandy”, Hibocorp essentially seems to be run by a bunch of Dr. Gels and their Beas. In other words, incompetent white collars whose inadequacies trickle on down the chain.

None of this is bad. I mean, if the group was good at its job we’d have no story and Wendy would finally get time with Cross. But the short glimpse of the villains we do get reveals that these are no egotistical, will be brought down by hubris antagonists. If Nathan Cross has got any chance of saving the day yet again, he’s gonna get the sh*t kicked out of him first.

As for the artwork, I can’t believe I’m saying this but the women are actually more proportional and realistically drawn than the men…man. Nathan Cross is about the size of The Thing, except with some sort of roguish charm that allows all the ladies to overlook the fact that his upper body looks like it’s going to explode at any moment. Yeah, all the girls are fit and may have some sort of implants, but it is nice to see ridiculousness drawn for the other sex as well. Other than that, artist Luca Claretti and colorist Renato Guerra did their jobs well. I don’t have much else to say, because their work was on point and blended perfectly in with the rest of the book’s elements (paneling, dialogue, etc.)

Up to now I’ve been a fan of Zenescope’s concepts more than their execution. NEVERLAND: AGE OF DARKNESS #1 is the first time I felt that the premise was brought to justice by the writing and artwork--a complete package and fun read.

Lyzard is actually Lyz Reblin, a senior screenwriting major with an English minor at Chapman University. Along with writing for AICN, she has been published twice on the subject of vampire films.


T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS # 6

Writer: Phil Hester
Artists: Roger Robinson
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Reviewer: Masked Man


T.H.U.N.D.E.R AGENTS under Phil Hester has been a good comic book, yet I feel like there is more to this concept than what he's been building. To compare it to another series by IDW book, TRIPLE HELIX by John Byrne, both have decent characters, good action, rolling plotlines--things that make up a good superhero comic. But the different was the special sauce angle. With TRIPLE HELIX it was that it was a pastiche--a superhero comic book about superhero comic books, loaded with crazy crap and melodrama for no real reason. Byrne was building a superhero comic book in which you could sit back and enjoy all the craziness of a superhero comic book. Hester is just building a standard superhero comic book.

Artist Roger Robinson is doing an equally good job. He can definitely draw cool-looking stuff, like the Cthulhu monster and the heroes themselves. He has a good sense of drawing action as well.

Now, with the current storyline, Hester is jumping into the history of the team, introducing the inventor of most of their super gadgets, Prof. Jennings, who seems to be a problem now, plus tackling the god towers and what they mean to Iron Maiden and Agent Kane--all fairly interesting (with crazy robot dinosaurs to boot), but really not much different than any Marvel or DC superhero book. So I think for T.H.U.N.D.E.R AGENTS to really become a special series, it needs to showcase the thing that makes it special, which is not the super gadgets: the whole secret, government-sanctioned part of the superhero team. As it is, it's just another decent superhero book, which probably won't make it past issue 20.


GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #12

Writer: Brian M. Bendis
Art: Sara Pichelli and Stuart Immonen
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Henry Higgins is My Homeboy


Previously, In This Crossover…

I like Bendis, more than most people do. I like GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (for all its flaws). I really like NEW X-MAN. And I like this story line. I do. It's an unexpected crossover, but issues like #12 are what make me hold back. It's not a bad comic, by any means. But it is a filler comic. It is a comic that you could skip. It adds nothing substantial to the story. And when you're the fourth part in a six part crossover, that's a problem.

It really comes down to the Bendis condundrum. He writes comics, especially Marvel comics, with a set-in-stone six issue arc. The books may feed into one another to form a greater narrative (see: DAREDEVIL) but each story can stand on its own as a trade you find at the bookstore. And that means that sometimes, Bendis will stretch ideas past the point of effectiveness just to meet the issue count (see: “House Of M”, “Secret Invasion”, most of AVENGERS). That's what happens here. This is an issue of people talking.

Look.

I am a fan of people talking. Just the other week, I was talking about how much I loved an issue of WOLVERINE & THE X-MEN that centered on Cyclops and Wolverine talking. But it's not just because Jason Aaron is great at character work and dialogue (he is), it's because something changed between the beginning and end of the issue. Their opinions on the other changed, their opinion of themselves, the world around them… there's forward momentum. Bendis is good at it too, but not here. Last week, Jean was in denial and Scott was shocked. Now, Jean is in denial and Scott is shocked. A hug from X-23 does not count as character development. Well, I mean, it does for her, but that's another beast. Cyclops doesn't change. The only thing that comes close is Jean might not be as stubborn as she has been for the rest of the story. And that was in a panel! Before that, we've had talking and talking and talking and TALKING. With no real ends to a means, it's mostly people (Gladiator) stating their motivations, being challenged, and then ignoring them, or banter that should have been two panels being stretched out to a full page.

I get the impulse to give Pichelli and Immonen as much art space as possible. They (and Justin Ponsor on colour) are remarkable as usual (if not their best), but I'd rather see them draw active rather than passive, even if they can instill great acting in the characters like Jean being furious or X-23 sauntering down the hall.

And speaking of X-23…I actually really like her in this. It's a new dimension to the character, it's a good response to what happened to her Avengers Arena (where she did the stuff X-23 usually does), and it's changing her. I like the character work as a whole! Bendis writes people well. It's his strength. But GAHHHH we did not need another issue of set up for an uncomplicated story. And it angers me because I like this story, and want it to continue.

We saw Jean in prison last time. We saw the Guardians/Starjammers meet the X-Men last time. We saw all of this before. I wanted the next issue of the story, not a retread of stuff from the last part.


Advance Review: In stores today!

STARLIGHT # 1

Writer - Mark Millar
Artist - Goran Parlov
Publisher - Image Comics
Reviewer - Russ Sheath


There’s a lot to love about STARLIGHT, the new series from writer Mark Millar and artist Goran Parlov. Heralded as UNFORGIVEN meets Buzz Lightyear, STARLIGHT is the story of Duke McQueen, an aged space adventurer in the style of the pulp sci fi heroes of the 30s and 40s. Millar’s work frequently explores the personal impact of the hero’s deeds and STARLIGHT is no different, this time transposing KICK ASS’ ‘what would happen if a teenage boy decided to become a real life super hero’ with ‘what would happen if a retired space adventurer was called back into action, one last time’.

As with several of Millar’s works, STARLIGHT deconstructs the genre and asks ‘what if Buck Rogers had one day returned to Earth?’. Would people believe the amazing adventures he claimed to have? Would he be ridiculed? How would saving the galaxy impact him?

As always, Millar plays with the archetype; the sci fi world he creates is instantly familiar as he paints a canvas with a splash of Alex Raymond, a drop of Edgar Rice Burroughs and a smidgeon of Eastwood for good measure.

Millar, clearly a fan of THE UNFORGIVEN (Check out his Wolverine book OLD MAN LOGAN if you need further proof), presents us with a likeable protagonist in Duke McQueen who, having returned to Earth, is ridiculed in the media for his outlandish tales of intergalactic derring-do. With the remains of his family caught up in their own lives, Duke recalls his glory days as saviour of the universe, a contrast to his life of grocery shopping, housework and general drudgery.

To say more would venture into spoiler territory, although, really, issue 1 is all about setting up the character of Duke McQueen and there’s not a huge amount to spoil. This first issue focuses almost entirely on establishing Duke’s life back on Earth and realising him as a decent, honourable man who even in the aftermath of victory stills dreams of his sweetheart and his life back on Earth.

Parlov is an interesting choice as artist for this book, as you might be forgiven for expecting to see a photorealistic artist, the likes of Bryan Hitch or dare I say Travis Charest taking on pencilling duties. Most notable for his contributions to Marvel’s THE PUNISHER and his work with writer Garth Ennis on FURY MAX, I’m glad to note that Parlov’s style lends itself incredibly well to the story, having a simplistic, in places European ‘animated’ style that really suits a universe of lantern-jawed heroics and rocket ships of yesteryear. In fact (listen up Hollywood) STARLIGHT would lend itself wonderfully well to an animated feature almost as much as it would a live action one.

With the movie rights already in the hands of Fox and the uber-producer behind the X-MEN movies, Simon Kinberg, I’m sure it won’t be long before STARLIGHT gains some big screen live action momentum too. I, for one, will be picking up the on-going issues as STARLIGHT shows that Millar is able to balance the shock n’ gore stylings of KICK ASS with more measured storytelling the likes of which we’ve seen in JUPITER’S LEGACY and now in STARLIGHT. Of course, it’s all trademark Millar, and his ability to move between genres is what keeps his storytelling fresh, with STARLIGHT proving no exception.

Check out Mark Millar talking about STARLIGHT to AICN here.

You can follow Russ Sheath's blog Russwords here and @russellsheath on Twitter here.


ROBOTECH/VOLTRON # 2

Writer: Tommy Yune with Bill Spangler
Artists: Elemer Damaso and Digital Art Chefs Team (no idea what that means)
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Reviewer: Masked Man


If you are a fan of ROBOTECH and VOLTRON, as I am, you were probably wondering how the heck these two concepts can work together. How can this make any sense?!? Well, two issues into this five issue series Yune doesn't really seem to have a good answer. He's set up a kind of shared history, but as we watch events unfold in the past and the present or future, things are barely coming together.

On the plus side, like most of the works Tommy Yune has been a part of (I frick'n loved his SPEED RACER books for WildStorm--I wish he drew more), this is a good-looking book. Easily Dynamite's best Voltron book. So if you just want to see your favorite characters jumping around, Elemer Damaso delivers quite well.

As for the story, well, I'm not even sure when this story is suppose to take place in either show's timeline. I can't really give you a synopsis of the story, either, as there has yet to be one real common thread to the story. So far it's just been a collect of scenes setting up characters and rewriting each show’s history. Heck, we haven't even seen a villain to the story either. Hopefully Yune has a master plan behind this madness aside from just making a weird footnote in their Wikipedia entries.


FANTASTIC FOUR #1

Writer: James Robinson
Artist: Leonard Kirk
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee


I don’t know when and why exactly, but sometime in the past decade or so I kind of decided that the Fantastic Four are the most important property out there in the world of mainstream comics. Well, back that up--not necessarily important, but it is more a feeling that the FF set kind of a standard for what a superhero comic – especially a team-based one – should be. It all comes down to that basic premise of how, possibly more than any entertainment medium, comic books can do anything as they are essentially limited only by the creativity of those involved. And if there’s anything I feel that a good Fantastic Four run pushes it’s that sense of awe and exploration. Comic books (especially those in the superhero genre) by their very nature are about the extraordinary and slamming it into the world of the ordinary, but the FF, they go looking for that extraordinary every day, sliding their everyday family life into some of the biggest mysteries the universe has to explore. That’s why I highly value a quality run on this title, as it just feels that over the past fifty-plus years of its existence it has set the standard as being the book for the dreamers and adventurers. Basically it’s the Carl Sagan/Neil deGrasse Tyson of mainstream comics.

All of that above is why my interest moved from wary into intrigued and back to wary in the span of reading this all-new number one. I’m not naïve, and while the FF is always adventuring they are foremost a family that does not always mean this title will be lighthearted affair. Hell, in the past two runs on the book we’ve had the death of a major character and then we got to watch for a year and a half while the foursome had their powers and molecular structure degrade. And now immediately into this fresh start we’ve got an extremely dark and foreboding journal entry from Sue Storm running down the roster and talking about a “broken Reed” and an imprisoned Ben Grimm, and all in the confines of a story arc titled “The Fall of the Fantastic Four.” We’ve skipped “A New Hope” and gone immediately into “Empire.”

Despite this, I only say I’m wary of the start of this Robinson/Kirk era because while those two preceding runs had their downer moments they still found some light. Jonathan Hickman brought to us the Future Foundation and a bunch of juvenile, super-genius shenanigans for levity, and then Matt Fraction came in on top of that with more shenanigans and a Mike Allred-powered gitchy attitude. The lightening of the mood here comes a bit old-fashionedly: a multi-page throwdown with King of the Lizards and Purple Pants, Fin Fang Foom. Ben and Johnny throw some quips, Ben gets miffy with Reed, we get some Clobberin’ Time and everyone goes home to a milder form of drama. But at least we see some of that traditional action and playfulness that usually keeps this title and its characters on the jovial side of things.

Now, I say all of this out of preference, obviously. If you like your First Family more on the dramatic side than swashbuckling around in space, time, and other dimensions, then this is right up your alley from the get-go. I happen to prefer some balance and lean more toward watching the team good-humoredly bicker and growl at each other but then beat some extraterrestrial ass while some threat slowly creeps in from the edges. Preference aside, I think most would feel like this issue was a little overbearing, with a doom and gloom that is going to do a little more than creep into the foursome’s lives. I like the overall execution of the book with the FFF fight and there’s a nice, heartwarming moment between Ben and his on-again-off-again girlfriend Alicia. Johnny even signs a dumb contract with a promoter, because he’s Johnny. There are plenty of moments to make me feel that Robinson knows the heart of this book; he’s just damn sure going to put it through some fits of arrest first.

Want to know something I’m not wary about? Leonard Kirk’s art, that’s what. While Robinson’s script may be a little weighty, Kirk’s art is footloose and fancy-free. It crackles with energy like a teenager on a Nos binge. The Foom fight alone is worth the price of admission with how he handles the foursome bouncing around and doing what they each bring to the table in such a battle, and I can’t wait to see more of these. And the line work on the dour bits is exceedingly expressive to really drive home the emotional outpouring Robinson wants us all to embrace. This creative tandem works as well together as the quartet they are directing ever has in their fifty-year history. I foresee some really great material coming from their collaboration, I just feel that “shit be gettin’ real” a little quickly. Shit got pretty real pretty quick on a little book called STARMAN once upon a time as well. If that’s the kind of rope-a-dope we’re going with here, where our leads are going to take a lot of lumps up front to make the joys that come later that much more meaningful, then I look forward to eating my three paragraphs of apprehension. Bring it to me on a silver platter, gentlemen.

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.


Advance Review: In stores today!

BATMAN/SUPERMAN ANNUAL #1

Writer: Greg Pak
Art: Jae Lee & Ed Benes
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche


“Douche, what’s with your love of WORLD’S FINEST and EARTH 2?” This question has plagued me since I did my first reviews of these titles as part of DC’s second wave of 52 titles. I have had a hard time answering this question outside the usual platitudes of great story and great art. It honestly took reading the first arc of BATMAN/SUPERMAN to crystalize an answer that could make sense beyond raw emotion. Essentially, EARTH 2 or the ghostly spirit of this place is the DC heroes we remember before FLASHPOINT. To speak more succinctly, under Pak’s hand, the EARTH 2 Batman and Superman embody the best and brightest of times for the heroes when they were at their frenemy best. Also, they were wizened and tempered by age, exhibiting none of the petulance that the new breed has exhibited. It was like a trip home to a world so much more fantastic than our own, a world that embodied the reality of God’s walking among us from political structure to technology. EARTH 2, frankly, feels real. This revelation makes defining WORLD’S FINEST easy: both Power Girl and Huntress serve as conduits for old fans to absorb the New 52, both good and bad.

When BATMAN/SUPERMAN #1 launched and catapulted the new Supes and Bats in time and space to Earth 2 prior to the Darkseid invasion, it was a bittersweet and comedic tale. Our current crew seeing what their lives could be like in a mirror lightly and the elder Earth 2 heroes seeing just how dark and maudlin the multiverse can be was masterfully orchestrated under Pak’s hand. He simply gets what makes these characters tick and also what ticks them off about one another. Dialog to plot, everything was crisp and quite frankly sported some of the most beautiful renderings I had even seen under Lee’s hands. He is the master of subtlety, never consuming the frame with noise – merely the essential elements. He also is able to convey character emotion using the same patient strokes--beautiful in form and function.

The second arc wasn’t as great. Lee was gone, with a more traditional artist in place, and the arc focused more on the plot of Mongul’s War World invading our video game realm versus keeping a laser focus on the stark chasm between Batman and Superman.

For a time I was crestfallen, believing that Pak’s magic required a sojourn to another place to shine. BATMAN/SUPERMAN ANNUAL #1 shows that I should have faith and allowances that a book will ebb and flow between good and fucking awesome.

I guess it helps that this issue brings back in some Earth 2 elements in the forms of Huntress and Power Girl, but I also don’t want to diminish Pak’s ability to craft a great bickering yarn. Despite this focusing on the New 52 Superman and Batman, Pak is still able to exhibit a soul in these relatively new heroes. There is a respect and reverence in this book between the two that hasn’t come across in other New 52 titles (especially JUSTICE LEAGUE). I don’t want to say Pak has matured the characters; he merely has taken the time to slow down the action and focus on what drives repels the two into their respective hemispheres.

I apologize for taking so long to get to the plot of this title, but that simply was not where the magic lies. It’s a fairly straightforward beat ‘em up as Mongul’s son parks War World above Earth, threatening to blow the planet to smithereens unless Supes and Bats gather up teams to fight for the honor of War World leadership and exact some vengeance for locking up Mongul in the Phantom Zone. The only thing that wasn’t straightforward were the relationship dynamics between Batman, Red Hood, Batgirl, Superman, Power Girl, Supergirl and Steel. One truly feels that these characters now have a history, albeit a short one, but it is a continuity payoff for living within the New 52.

Quite simply, this was the book I wanted way back in September 2011 when the New 52 launched. I looked at the topic myopically and without profit in mind, but I truly wanted to see fifty less books when the universe rebooted and I wanted all ancillary characters to be blown away with their Silver Age contrivances and trappings and let new heroes rise organically through story. A stupid dream, but Pak was able to at least bring whispers of that dream to life while Lee renders scenescapes that live beyond any of our dreams.


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

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