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AICN COMICS Reviews: THE AUTEUR! MOON KNIGHT! LIBERATOR: SALVATION OF THE INNOCENTS! TUROK: DINOSAUR HUNTER!

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

Advance Review: OVERRUN #1
MOON KNIGHT #1
FOREVER EVIL #6
THE AUTEUR #1
TUROK #2
A VOICE IN THE DARK #4
LADY RAWHIDE #4
Advance Review: LIBERATOR/EARTH CRISIS: SALVATION OF THE INNOCENTS #1


Advance Review: Can be found at this weekend’s London Comic Con!

OVERRUN #1

(London Super Comic Con Edition)
Writers: Andi Ewington & Matt Woodley
Artist: Paul Green
Publisher: Could be You
Reviewer: Optimous Douche


Anthropomorphizing is a solid staple for comic books. It gives writers a freedom and flexibility to exponentially increase their character head count of human intrigue beyond the bipedal. Traditionally this trick is used with animals, or I guess teapots if we’re talking Disney, but what about all the geeks of the world who shun the physical and find solace in solely interfacing with the bits and bytes of this modern age?

Well, there’s Tron and the Matrix. At least, that was my first thought when Ewington first slid some of OVERRUN’s artwork my way in mid-2013. What I slowly began to realize, though, as I interacted with the spoiler site and finally got my hands on the first 24 pages of this what will ultimately be a 114 page opus, was that computers have grown up – along with our understanding and comfort with them.

The characters of OVERRUN morph data to our current understanding. The denizens of “the city,” which is basically your or my computer, aren’t as nebulous as the simplistic bits and bytes that ran the OS in Tron, nor as heady as the intricate destiny engines of code that compiled the Matrix (If you understood that shit in parts II & III, drop me a line--I would love to pick your brain). OVERRUN’s files consist of and embody those files that we interact with daily: .xls and .doc walk the city with their suits and briefcases, .MP3 rangse from hipsters to hip-hop stars, spam files in various states of undress and hawking V1agra and the worst of the worst the infected files.

The overarching story is, of course, one of corruption in the literal and metaphorical senses. The CPU is as dirty as the day is long, and he is ensuring lower levels of his processor – the dirty parts – are going to be wiped from his pristine version of the city.

But as we all know, sometimes those older archaic files are the ones that bring the most joy. Here is where the book imbues a ton of heart, as we get a brief meet and greet with the characters who live in the dirty subroutine slums of the city. They are short on currency (KBs), but their friendship sustains them, along with piling together some funny for a few drinks at the Scroll Bar. Ewington and Woodley drop quite a few other of these computer puns into the book. I’ll admit some are groan-worthy in their punny design, but quite a few others are damn clever in their physical representation.

The art of OVERRUN is jaw-droppingly stunning. I never heard of Paul Green, but I’m sure I will many many times in the near future. He’s hyper-stylized to be sure, but that’s not a bad thing as long as an artist remembers real body poses as opposed to a cacophony of pinup art action in every panel. The sheer amount of detail put into each page must have taken Green months upon months to conceive and design.

My only real complaint with the book is in the lettering. The bubbles are a sharp neon green and the text is white--not the best choice for the mildly color blind or the middle aged. I could handle it if it was just one character, but instead it is a convention for any dialog. Perhaps in later issues, if the team is married to a color wheel bubble, each character gets one in tonality with their personality. Or...you know...white on black isn't a bad choice, either.

I could easily see OVERRUN fitting in like a snug 3.5 floppy at a company like Top Cow from an art perspective. The story isn’t sultry or horror enough unless the Big Moo’s brand wanted to diversify. Other contenders for pick-up would be the likes of Boom or, hell, even Image, since they have no theme other than great stories. For now, though, copies can only be obtained at the upcoming London Super Comic Con. With OVERRUN and the wonderful 45 penned by Ewington a few years ago, I have a feeling these limited copies across the pond will become collector issues as the marks of the early years in a storied career.

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.


MOON KNIGHT #1

Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: Declan Shalvey
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee


Since we are not too far removed from having held our yearly @$$ie Awards, I feel that it’s en vogue to hand out a couple more. That’s why I’m handing out a brand new award, the “Most Warren Ellis Comic (Written by Warren Ellis)” Award, to this debut issue for a brand new volume of MOON KNIGHT. Depending on your perspective on Warren Ellis’ writing and, admittedly, what Warren Ellis do we get in the output (meaning that even as a big fan of the man’s writing overall, I have found some of his work very derivative of itself at times) this could be a good/great thing or a bad/travesty of the times kind of thing, especially if you’re prone to exaggeration. The words between the parentheses there gave it away, but when Warren Ellis is on his game I am very much a fan, to the point where I have to say his style has influenced my persona over the years beyond the point a grown man should probably admit. There’s just a style in his scripts that are so energetic it very much falls in that oft imitated, never duplicated category because the allure to want to be what they are is intoxicating, but it takes a unique creative mind to pull it off. This happens to the point where sometimes it feels like even the man himself is trying too hard to pull you into that tone. Fortunately, MOON KNIGHT hits all the right targets, literally and figuratively.

Fandom aside, upon hearing about this writer/character pairing I was immediately intrigued because, let’s face it, MOON KNIGHT has kind of become one fucked up mental case of a character, especially in recent years and creative runs. Marc Spector and his multiple personalities have been around for decades, but his bloodlust and then his schizophrenia evolving into imaginary figments have been seeing heavy pushes the past couple runs. Take those terms of “bloodlust” and “schizophrenia’ and combine them with “Warren Ellis” and I get a little too excited, even acknowledging it could all go horribly wrong. A fully automated stretch limousine and an all white three-piece suit and mask later and I could tell everything was right with the world.

It’s the stride that really got me, both in how White Suit Moonie (Mr. Knight, as he’s called by some peace officers) and Ellis’ script both sauntered in so assuredly so quickly this issue. Ellis pushes him right into a crime scene that he is respectfully greeted at and that is absolutely horrifying at the same time. Horrifying in multiple regards, those being the state of the victim at said scene, horrifying to most of the officers around the scene who are more than familiar with Mr. Knight’s exploits, and somewhat horrifying from a reader’s standpoint knowing Moonie’s mental state and realizing something is amiss here and wondering what it could be. But the show must go on, and it’s some of the material I love to watch Ellis work with as Mr. Knight dissects the murder and hunts the offender. Obviously, Warren Ellis’ claims to fame are the big and bold science fiction or future think stories – the PLANETARYs and TRANSMETROPOLITANs of his career – but goddamn do I miss the FELLs it also contained. In that vein, this murder mystery somewhat hit the spot even if it was not so much a mystery since MK finds the guy and slickly undoes him with just a little badass fanfare and in a handful of pages.

All of this culminates in the psychological state of Marc Spector these days, which is really the main event even though I was fully entertained by the current Moon Knight incarnation holding the left trigger and going into “Detective Mode.” Essentially, the low down isn’t so much that Spector has multiple personalities but that his brain has created personas to deal with aspects of Khonshu – his resurrector and power granter – that inhabit his brain space. And I think it works. It’s a smooth explanation within the character’s mythos and that builds on top of what has been established. Given Ellis’ nature to not really give any of the fucks with property characters like this, we could have had a complete baby with the bathwater scenario. Instead, we kept the baby and made it an aspect of possession, not schizophrenia, and then added another figment of it in a dapper white suit. Schizophrenic baby in a white suit: that’s where I am in my descriptive skills.

The last aspect of MOON KNIGHT to talk about is Declan Shalvey’s artwork which, darling, where have you been all my life? My only exposure to his work outside of this title was the DEADPOOL arc he did last year (and some internet stalking/searching shows there isn’t a huge body overall), and that was as raw as this is refined. It’s a style that is perfectly paired for what Ellis’ script is obviously going for: determined and menacing with a slap of mischievousness. Right now that’s the best way to boil this down, methinks; it’s a debut full of tone and atmospherics to pull you toward a plot development that promises to hold onto you tightly until the next time. Ellis and Shalvey could have spent a couple more issues just going on the adventures of this new, Smooth Operator version of Marvel’s Bleached Batman and I’d have ponied up the money to watch that occur; the rest is a bonus. And, hell, we haven’t even seen Frenchie yet. Just as MK himself says, he likes to wear white so they’ll see him coming. You’re not going to want to miss this version of him. Cheers…

Humphrey Lee has been an avid comic book reader going on fifteen years now and a contributor to Ain't It Cool comics for quite a few as well. In fact, reading comics is about all he does in his free time and where all the money from his day job wages goes to - funding his comic book habit so he can talk about them to you, our loyal readers (lucky you). He's a bit of a social networking whore, so you can find him all over the Interwebs on sites like Twitter, Facebookand a blog where he also mostly talks about comics with his free time because he hasn't the slightest semblance of a life. Sad but true, and he gladly encourages you to add, read, and comment as you will.


FOREVER EVIL #6

Writer: Geoff Johns
Artists: David Finch
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man


So we've reached the penultimate issue of FOREVER EVIL, the series DC has been building up to since the start of the New 52. Who knew DC had such high hopes for a story that focused on Lex Luthor becoming a hero (and, guessing from the advertisements, becoming a member of the Justice League). I suppose that is a story worth rebooting the entire DC line for (well, that and 52 number #1 issues that sold like hotcakes).

So after four issues of Luthor putting together his team, either by choice or by chance, he's finally attacks the Crime Syndicate. Meanwhile, the Crime Syndicate has been...well, they really haven’t done a damn thing, aside from hold a meet and greet, break Black Adam's jaw and kill a few Doom Patrol members (just as they were introduced into in the New 52), though as for the writing itself, this issue is pretty good. The main plot finally moved forward in a meaningful way, the Batman/Lex Luthor team-up is playing out well, and the new villain reveal was pretty cool. Spoiler time folks: as we older schoolers figured, the Crime Syndicate's prisoner is Alexander Luthor, but Johns has added a new wrinkle--he is also Earth 3's Shazam!, or rather Mazahs! But then, following Grant Morrison's lead (as opposed to Marv Wolfman's), the 'heroes' on Earth 3 are just as twisted/evil as the villains. This is also one of David Finch's stronger issues. Figures all look pretty great, and as always his action is awesome and his storytelling is good as well. You really can't complain about the issue itself. The series as a whole? That's another matter.

First off, there are too many concepts that pop up and never go anywhere, like the Doom Patrol. “Hey, we're the Doom Patrol! Ok we're all dead”. And with the last issue we were teased that the big bad that destroyed Earth 3 has found Earth 1, but it's barely mentioned in this issue and almost dismissed. It's almost like Johns is starting to copy Marvel's wonderboy Brian Michael Bendis by making sure no story ever really ends. Big event (series) is no longer exclamation points of high concept and story climax, but merely glimpses behind the curtain comic book universe architecture. And clearly this is what we want as fans, because we always make them best sellers.

Second off, I'm rather disappointed in the Crime Syndicate themselves (cover your eyes--spoiler time), as the big deaths in the comics has been Crime Syndicate members. Sinestro killed Power Ring, Captain Cold helped with the killing of Johnny Quick (Atomica is probably dead too there), so I can only guess Luthor with have a hand in killing Ultraman. Without Cheetah, Joker and Hyena around to kill their archrivals from Earth, I suppose the other members will survive (though I would be surprised if they all get killed). So much for the world of evil's greatest 'champions.’

Lastly, I feel this is not the story I signed up to read. After the build-up in the TRINITY WAR, I was under the impression that FOREVER EVIL was going to be a real battle of the ages between the Crime Syndicate and the Justice League. Instead we got a story about Lex Luthor becoming a hero (and apparently he's even schooling Batman). To be fair, DC was clear that Luthor was going to be a big part of the story, so I don't think they pulled a bait and switch here, but if I had known that he was 'the' story, becoming a hero and all, I don't think I would be reading it.

So with one issue left, I'm not so curious about how the world will be saved, but by how much Johns is going tell us about everything going on, which seems to be the more important part of the story--how it grows the DCU.

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


THE AUTEUR #1

Writer: Rick Spears
Artist: James Callahan
Publisher: Oni Press
Reviewer: Lyzard


There’s something about reading this comic while staring up at the (for once) clear LA sky, shaded by palm trees, that just adds to the otherworldly nature of Hollywood. Now I’m not saying in the five years I spent living in La La Land that I actually witnessed events as depicted in THE AUTEUR, but you’d hear of such things through the grapevine, and sometimes in Tinseltown gossip was more reliable than “news.” This comic and LA have a lot in common outside of them both not being meant for “the weak and immature.” They are ridiculous, over-stylized, and frenetic.

Nathan T. Rex is a fallen star in Hollywood. In a town where your worth is measured by your latest hit, Rex’s career is about dead as the animal he’s named after. Desperate to produce a hit flick, Rex goes to extreme lengths to find inspiration. With a wacky tacky idea in hand, Rex will have to lay it all on the line to bring his film to the screen, no matter what the director or studio head has to say.

While there is a consistent outrageousness throughout the comic, its grasp on reality alters. Obviously there are the LSD-like dreams of Rex, expected to be unhinged. However, there are other sequences of the book that seem to be balancing themselves between this acid world and Rex’s pathetic life. The scene of Rex seeking advice from the wheelchair-bound, ex-big game hunter Zaul are otherworldly and ridiculous compared to Rex on set, which is just plain ridiculous. This may less be an error in tonal shift and a creative decision, but between psychedelic dreams and an already crazy LA, a third form of chaos just seems to be going overboard.

But that’s kind of the point of this book. How far can we go? How grotesque can we make this? How much sex and drugs can we jam in? However, never once does the art or story feel exploitive, like the grindhouse genre. Sure, some may be turned off by Rex’s treatment of women, but those are more likely the immature folks who can’t separate sarcasm and satire from sexism. We aren’t supposed to like Rex. We are supposed to like watching him flail around, running from his bosses and towards his elusive dream of success.

While writer Rick Spears has got the wit down, capturing the absurd egos of various degrees from the over-compensating executives to the overrun directors, it is artist James Callahan and colorist Luigi Anderson who catch the readers’ attention first. Even outside of Rex’s head, everything is exaggerated and cartoonish to some extent. Callahan also has a sense of movement and, especially, depth that is hard to achieve so vividly in the 2-D format.

THE AUTEUR isn’t for everyone, if I haven’t made that clear already. But it is for anyone who wants their comics to be more than tights and capes. Who want a bit of gonzo in their lives. Who find that excess in small doses just doesn’t satisfy them.

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."


TUROK: DINOSAUR HUNTER #2

Writer: Greg Pak
Artist: Mirko Colak with Cory Smith
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Reviewer: MajinFu


I want to like this comic so much more, but my level of joy has yet to match my (perhaps unfair) expectations. The premise alone is enough to make me want to recommend this book, even if its execution seems a little dull. I mean, this is a story about pre-genocide Native Americans dealing with actual, living DINOSAURS. How hard is it to make that into a compelling story?

The last pages of issue number one end with the reveal that not only does this iteration of the story involve dinosaurs (of course), but they have been ferried inexplicably into the New World by “Crusaders.” Yes, you read that right--those guys who would otherwise be fighting a jihad in Jerusalem or watching everybody they know die by plague instead find themselves invading the American frontier, prehistoric beasts in tow.

Just go with it.

How they have come to possess such creatures remains a mystery. Their leader’s motivation for the journey is essentially “Gold! What else?”, and presumably bringing a bunch of dinosaurs along for the trip was to help carry all the treasure back to Europe. Oh, and for some reason the Crusaders’ leader also brought his daughter Marion along, who immediately takes a liking to one of the natives and they spend a couple of pages trying on dresses before Turok shows up with his friend Andar to pick a fight. Arrows are shot, traps laid, people die. I try to turn my brain off and just have fun with it, but…

The entire affair lacks any more than the plainest characterizations, from the gold-lusting lord to his smelly daughter. Turok has the most going for him, what with the orphan outcast rage and astute perception: noticing the pale-skinned invaders have managed to entrap the reptilian giants, but hardly tamed them. This is clearly building up to a scene where Turok rides a Tyrannosaurus Rex while picking off poor saps with his bow and arrow, or at least that’s what I hopefully have to look forward to in the next issue of this meandering slow-burn. Yeah, if the next issue at least includes Turok riding a gigantic lizard-ostrich like Mario riding a Yoshi then maybe this will all be worth it. It’s not like this is a bad book. The colors, for one, in this book are pretty. TUROK has finely detailed art to lend some narrative flow, but the story teeters precariously between sheer camp and a more grounded approach, prompting me to hope for a tip into one side or the other.

Then again, maybe the creative direction of this book is just fine and it’s simply not for me. It is certainly possible you could pick up this same issue and enjoy it a great deal more than I did. Perhaps the story is merely taking its time getting to the good parts and all this belly-aching is a case of lazy criticism. I am giving this one more issue to decide!


A VOICE IN THE DARK #4

Writer and Artist: Larime Taylor
Publisher: Top Cow/Image Comics
Reviewer: BottleImp


A few weeks ago I was doing my (now) usual weekly aimless wandering around the floor of my local comic book shop. Y’see, most of the titles that I purchased on a regular basis had either been cancelled or come to an end, and I was left looking at the stands to find something that might spark my interest…something different from the vast majority of superhero titles that crowded the racks. Then the shop’s manager dropped the first issue of A VOICE IN THE DARK into my hands. “I think you’ll like this,” he said. “Read it, let me know what you think—if you don’t like it, go ahead and return it.” Intrigued, I took him up on the offer, though I wasn’t quite sold from the initial thumb-through of the comic. The artwork (black and white with grayscale tones) was decent but simplistic, and the pull quote on the front cover was slightly off-putting: “It’s like ‘Strangers In Paradise’ meets ‘Dexter’”—this, from STRANGERS IN PARADISE creator Terry Moore, seemed more self-important than praising, and does anyone else here remember how crappily “Dexter” ended? In short, I was skeptical of the manager’s appraisal of my taste in reading material.

But take a bow, you magnificent comic-hawking bastard, because you were right—A VOICE IN THE DARK sucked me right in with that first issue, and is still sucking strong (in a good way) here on issue number four.

The series centers on and is told from the perspective of Zooey Aarons, a young, socially awkward college freshman who also happens to be a serial killer. Well, maybe not quite a serial killer as of yet; Zooey has only killed one person so far, though she has no illusions about what she really is. Zooey’s fantasies of murder (shocking at first, but also blackly funny as the series progresses), her one-woman conversations with her inner self and her hidden sociopathic tendencies all point to the fact that she will, inevitably, kill again—it’s just a matter of when and who.

This would make for excessively dark reading were it not for Larime Taylor’s ability to make Zooey a very relatable sociopath. After all, who of us wouldn’t want to stab someone who thinks that victims of bullying get what they deserve due to the way they look, or throttle somebody for laughing in their face, or jab a pencil in the eye of an annoyingly perky roommate? Sure, it’s not what we’re supposed to do, but I’d wager that these sorts of thoughts cross most peoples’ minds from time to time; the only difference is that Zooey is able to cross that line and actually commit these acts.

Along with the personal darkness that Zooey faces (and no, I’m not going to use that stupid “dark passenger” crap that “Dexter” beat into the ground, thank you very much), she also must contend with the fact that she isn’t the only serial killer on campus. In fact, as this issue opens the reader has learned that the small college town of Cutter’s Circle has something of a reputation for serial murders, meaning that not only must Zooey contend with her own homicidal instincts, but those of a faceless killer who targets rich female students. She’s not in so much danger, being hardly one of the glitterati of the college crowd, but that aforementioned perky roommate Krista…?

Taylor balances the more mundane horrors of college life—roommates, lectures, frat parties (shudder!)—with the grisly crime drama in a way that feels satisfying to the reader on both levels. And I don’t know that I’d call her a role model, but for those looking for more well-written women in today’s comic books, Zooey is certainly an interesting, fully realized personality rather than a bimbo in tights and a cape. Even her roommates, whose characterization is slighter, come across as closer to flesh-and-blood people than merely lines on pages. And speaking of the artwork…

Y’know how I originally dismissed the comic’s visuals as being too minimalist? Well, as I learned from the afterword in issue #1, Larime Taylor was born with arthrogryposis, a birth defect that stunted the development of his limbs and left him with little use of his arms or legs. How, then, does he draw A VOICE IN THE DARK? By drawing on an electronic Wacom tablet…WITH THE PEN HELD IN HIS MOUTH. Jesus, to have that much control—not to mention dedication to your work—to craft a comic in this fashion? I’m astounded by the man’s talent and the amount of nuance Taylor puts into his figures, sparse backgrounds be damned.

But you don’t need to know how the comic book is made (though it’s pretty damn interesting) to appreciate the story told on its pages. I’m going to pass along the same recommendation that my comic shop manager gave to me: read A VOICE IN THE DARK. I think you’re gonna like it.

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.


LADY RAWHIDE #4

Writer: Eric Trautmann
Artists: Milton Estevam and Rey Villegas
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Reviewer: Masked Man


I don't know about you, but I've never read this female knock-off of Zorro before (in the sense that Red Sonja is a knock-off of Conan-there's a team-up for ya, Dynamite. Toss in some of that time traveling stuff from MISS FURY and you'll have all of your top females in one series). But since I do enjoy high adventure and, as any boy, shapely women (so long as the publishers aren't just pandering for sales), I've been meaning to check out an issue, and here we are.

Being a kind of 'good girl’ art book, I'll talk about the art first. Both Estevam and Villegas do a fine job with the female form, and do well with the rest of the book as well. I found Villegas' inking (or maybe just finishing) style to be a bit more interesting-looking than Estevam. Villegas has more texture and weight, where Estevam is light. Both give a fair attention to details and with similar styles, while the switch is notable, it doesn't detract from the story itself. I could go into how every woman appears to have implants and/or wonder bras, but given the nature of the book that would be like complaining everyone is too buff in abarbarian comic. With that in mind, I did appreciate that t&a wasn't jammed into my face in each panel, like the old 'bad girl' comics of the 90's. It's totally fine to have sexy women in a comic book (or movie, etc.) but when the focus of the book becomes the sexy women, and not a story, that's when it's on the fast track to being trashy. One side note, though: was there supposed to be a gunshot sound effect on page 10? Because without it, things seem a little messed up.

Likewise, Trautmann (as he should) writes LADY RAWHIDE as just a western, and not some kind of titillation book. Getting into the meat of the issue, Lady Rawhide's vigilantism has spawned a copycat group of women called the Sisters of the White Rose. Of course, as usual these copycat groups have gone too far in the hero's eyes, and now they are in conflict with each other as well as with the true villain of the piece. Now, usually I side with the heroes, but in this case I see myself siding with the Sisters of the White Rose. In these few pages the villain has proven himself to be irredeemable, and the Sisters have the support of the townspeople, so why not just kill him? This isn't Gotham City, in modern day USA, where Batman is trying to improve the system as well as protect the innocent. This is the Wild West, and while sure you shouldn't just shoot a man for snoring too loud (anyone get that?), it's not like there's a real system of checks and balances here. When dealing with a corrupt government or robber barons, if you’ve got public approval, why not break a few eggs? Makes me curious if Trautmann will actually tread into that gray zone, or if he'll just take the easy way out and have the hero be right and the copycats be wrong.

Overall, I think you could do far worse than read LADY RAWHIDE if you’re a fan of westerns and good girl art. It seems that Trautmann and Estevam are capable of delivering both equally well. Whether or not they have the ability to go beyond decent fare, though, remains to be seen.


Advance Review: In stores this week!

LIBERATOR/EARTH CRISIS: SALVATION OF INNOCENTS #1

Writer: Matt Miner & Earth Crisis
Art: Javier Sanchez Aranda
Publisher: Black Mask Studios
Reviewer: Ambush Bug


This new series focusing on Matt Miner’s animal rights-fighting hero focuses more on how being the Liberator is more about the concept rather than the person behind the mask. In doing so, it deepens the mythos of this comic and immediately makes it more expansive in scope.

The story focuses on a young woman, Sarah, who takes a job as a custodian at an animal testing lab. She sees this gig as just a job, and in this economy, it’s understandable that one must nudge our morals aside in order to make rent. After attaining the job rather easily, Sarah witnesses some pretty horrific things behind closed doors and, having done so, is starting to see things more from the perspective of the protesters out in front of the building calling for the experiments to stop. Doing a bit of research, Sarah sees footage of a Liberator (one of two of the characters focused on in the first series) rescuing animals from a similar facility. Inspired by the cause, Sarah sets out to be her own Liberator.

Miner is using typical superhero tropes to form an origin story spawned by a sense to do right, rather than a few bullets for some parents or a spaceship from Krypton. In many ways, this is one of those “World Without a…” stories where people see that if there is no Batman or Punisher, listen to the calling and respond with action. In that manner, it’s inspiring to see a book like this sensitively map out a problem and then make real the imaginings of being a hero--and isn’t that what comic books are all about? Hero fantasies played out in four colors on the page?

Now, Miner isn’t above making the bad look really bad here and the good look exemplary. A lot of that has to do with the artist, as he makes the CEO darkly shadowed and evil in every panel he’s in. Same goes for a doctor working at the facility and a protester who immediately starts chastising Sarah for working at the facility. But while those extreme characters exist, Miner also peppers in some less extreme characters, like a janitor who has worked at the facility a long time who does not approve of the things going on but turns a blind eye to it. Then there’s the protester who chooses to talk to Sarah, rather than scream into her face and call her a murderer. It’s nice to see these less extreme characters here, as without them this would be one of those pulpit books that preach in your face. Miner seems to have enough insight to know that’s not the most effective way to communicate a message.

Instead, the focus is on Sarah the character conflicted and uninformed, but curious enough to look into what she can do. Now, I’m hoping Miner isn’t trying to incite folks to don masks and break into medical facilities, but as I said before, comics are where we can live out these fantasies safely. But what LIBERATOR/EARTH CRISIS: SALVATION OF INNOCENTS #1 does well is illustrate an important problem in animal testing and advocate for animal rights, wrapping it in a smartly constructed story which makes it all the more entertaining.

Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over 13 years & AICN HORROR for 4. Mark’s written THE TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, DEATHSPORT GAMES, NANNY & HANK (soon to be an Uptown 6 Films feature film), Zenescope’s GRIMM FAIRY TALES Vol.13, UNLEASHED: WEREWOLVES, and the critically acclaimed THE JUNGLE BOOK and its follow up THE JUNGLE BOOK: LAST OF THE SPECIES. FAMOUS MONSTERS’ LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF (co-written with Martin Fisher) will be available soon in trade. Mark wrote/provided art for a chapter in Black Mask Studios’ OCCUPY COMICS. Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitters @Mark_L_Miller.


Editing, compiling, imaging, coding, logos & cat-wrangling by Ambush Bug
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