AICN COMICS REVIEWS: SANDMAN OVERTURE! DAREDEVIL! THE RATTLER! & More!
(Click title to go directly to the review)
Advance Review: SANDMAN OVERTURE #2
HARBINGER: BLEEDING MONK #0
SUPERMAN UNCHAINED #6
Indie Jones Presents THE RATTLER VOL.1
Advance Review: In stores today!
SANDMAN OVERTURE #2Writer: Neil Gaiman
Artist: JH Williams III
Publisher: DC Vertigo
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
All right, let’s shoot the white melting elephant in the corner first: this book was hella delayed. I’m sure the industry line will be it was on a quarterly schedule, but sorry, that doesn’t satiate the ADD world of comics. If it’s a floppy, it better drop monthly.
However, if the glorious Escher intricacy doesn’t beg enough forgiveness, I think the Eisner-style home Williams crafted on the first splash page will quell a bit of your fanman ire. If those two things don’t work, you don’t know how difficult art is to create, especially well thought-out and paced art with a million Easter eggs of intricacy hidden throughout the book’s panels. NO ONE is dialing this in. If it takes 3 months for this uber quality, I’ll reset my expectations.
Now for the story. First, a mea culpa to Gaiman and all of you true Sandfanatics out there. The gathering of Sandmen from across the universe is merely metaphorical so wee humans can ride with this mystical being. From Sandfaun to Sandrobot to Sandcat, they are all the same Sandman, just in a multitude of forms. Is he talking to himself, then? You betcha, sorta…but one would expect the embodiment of dreams to be a few standard deviations off center, so all of you who caught this continuity gaffe deserve the wettest of dreams for keeping the faith.
Basically, this issue drives forward the great mystery of how a facet of Dream could be negated from existence. The answer, as in any ecosystem, is of course a higher power. After some dandying about again in the way back past, in a lovely interlude with a homeless woman who remembers when Dream was entrapped so many years ago in SANDMAN #1, we go back to the void in space where the Sandmen…man gathered last issue.
Only this time there is an alpha among them, and it’s not our Sandman. Well, it is our Sandman, but the earliest incarnation--the one that guided the dreams of Gods. Next metaphysical jump and we are presented with the embodiment of Glory (and please help me here, fans, if I miss details or past references, as I am still making my way through the first series). This very British version of Teddy Roosevelt tells of a star that has gone mad and shaken the foundations of reality out of their ever-watching complacency.
Next jump, Sandman is off to meet God. Well, his father, who I assume is God. Again, if someone knows better, please share your knowledge with the group. Or, better yet, don’t. New readers, as well as those of us who have dabbled with the sincerest intent to one day go deeper, will enjoy the unveiling of abstracts come to form by Gaiman’s pragmatic insanity. The man is still able to surprise while at the same time inducing you to smack yourself on the forehead for missing the most obvious embodiments of everything. Of course Glory would be a British stuffed shirt. Yeah, Death would these days be goth versus monk.
Gorgeous art and an amazing universe to return to (or step into for the first time). Yes, delays are troubling, but in a time when all books are destined for trade no one will remember drop dates, but everyone will remember a story so elevated Williams had to create new panel schemes simply to make SANDMAN OVERTURE palatable for our myopic views of the universe.
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.
DAREDEVIL #1Writer: Mark Waid
Artists: Chris Samnee
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man
Welcome to a brand new era of Daredevil--which is exactly like the last era of Daredevil! Only difference being Mark Waid has moved old hornhead to San Francisco after burning his legal bridges in New York (coming out as DD). Makes me wonder what Waid would have done differently if Marvel didn't demand a new #1 issue.
To his credit, as a superior comic book writer Waid fits this move to San Francisco perfectly into the story he's been telling in the last series while managing to make this issue a great jumping on place for new readers. He also makes San Francisco matter, aside from just having Samnee draw different city landmarks. Both as a blind man and as a superhero, Daredevil has to get used to his new surroundings. Another cool thing about this issue (which is becoming a Mark Waid trademark with Daredevil) is how Waid manages to have a one-shot issue also be the tip of the iceberg to the next big story arc. Apparently Waid has no idea how to write a simple, boring set-up issue.
To get into some spoilers of this issue, Daredevil is called upon to rescue a little girl from kidnappers. Waid of course puts a twist on this, and nothing is as easy as it would seem. This showcases Daredevil's greatest superpower: his quick creative thinking and knowledge-packed brain. Daredevil's new business partner and ex-girlfriend, Kirsten McDuffie, has a bigger role to play here as well. She acts as a low-rent Oracle to Daredevil as he gets used to the new city. While I like McDuffie (gotta love how she abuses the blind guy), I've never been a fan of the 'support van characters' in superhero stories. Too much like cop or spy stuff, which can work very well, but with established concepts like DD it just rubs me wrong. Now, you Daredevil fans may be asking yourself “what about Matt Murdock's other business partner, Foggy Nelson”? I'll try not to spoil that by saying Foggy is asking the same question. It should be fun to see how it plays out.
Waid's partner in crime, Chris Samnee, has again turned in a great-looking issue. Being a number one issue, Samnee seems to have taken more care illustrating Daredevil's world. I'll give some love to the colorist Javier Rodriguez as well, making all of Samnee's figures, backgrounds and storytelling just come together as a complete package. While one could argue it's not Ivan Reis amazing, it's still a harmonious, solid-looking book.
There's no risk of sounding like a broken record, because we critics just are as we say over and over again that Waid and Samnee's DAREDEVIL is a classic run. While there's no Apocalypse or Ragnarok, this rather low-key superhero adventure is always clever and just damn interesting to read. If I was hard pressed to find a fault, I guess it may be Murdock himself. As clever as he is, he's still just a bit boring as the stoic hero, minus the Batman drama. But this has been a problem since day one with DD. I imagine some fun subplots with McDuffie could make Matt Murdock a more likeable character. Either way, if you like superhero comics you should be reading DAREDEVIL, period.
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
HARBINGER: BLEEDING MONK #0Writer: Joshua Dysart
Artists: Mico Suayan, Stephen Segovia, Khari Evans & Lewis Larosa
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
Sitting has never been so damn interesting. This is actually a zero issue that can be appreciated as much by non-Valiant fans as those of us who bleed red from a circle on our chest. BLEEDING MONK #0 is just a good comic that honestly sits apart from its HARBINGER super script. THE GOAT, ARCHER – all zeroes where you had to be vested in the main title to understand them. BLEEDING MONK, though, appropriately transcends continuity to illuminate some very cool prospects for eternal truth and transcendence as it still serves to illuminate one of Valiant 2.0’s greatest mysteries.
Since the first time Toyo Harada opened his toy chest and we saw this beautiful bald bastard sitting there bleeding, new readers and old gave a collective “we’re not in DC or Marvel anymore.” Of course, fanboys being fanboys, we couldn’t be content with just being surprised. No, instead we instantly try to do the writer’s job for them. From this gaping chest wound oracle to Valiant fans, like this guy writing, immediately began to pull at clues from Valiant 1.0 in hopes to solve some part of this mystery. New fans have basically just been asking old fans the same question they ask about every Valiant character being introduced: “Do you remember this?”
The most popular theory amongst those of us who rocked out to Vanilla Ice in High School was that this character was tied somehow to Japan’s champion of the future, Rai. I personally prayed this theory was false simply because I liked how Bloodshot’s plasma was handed down through generations to become less science and more mythology. Since Valiant is already rocking the latter and is about to add the prior to their lineup, I have perhaps blindly ignored the similarities the Monk also bears in the chest sieve department. Even I must admit that Valiant hasn’t let me down, and I’m sure if they do work him into Rai or Bloodshot’s mythology it will be done with the utmost cleverness and unexpectedness.
This isn’t that issue, though. This is truly a tale of the Monk’s origin, presented thankfully in a very non-linear fashion. We start in the 1700’s, in the mountains of Asia, where our fair Monk friend ain’t bleeding yet, but does already bear his prune-like wrinkles. As he tends this first true school for Psiots, we see that Toyo Harada and his activation conglomerate is really just another page in history instead of a whole new book. We also find out why the Monk bleeds in this scene or, to speak more specifically, how. When troops of the King attack the school for fear of its power, the Monk is lanced with an ancient spearhead and we see how the waterworks that are still flowing 300 years later were divined.
This is not the first time the Monk has seen this artifact. For that we have to go back to go back to the days just before the birth of Christ, where a young philosopher (basically a monk that doesn’t ever shut the fuck up) is assisting Alexander the Great’s manifest destiny--that is, until he gets sidetracked by a naked aborigine-looking dude who basically activates the Monk’s ability to unravel the entire motherfucking Cosmos. The Monk’s power is essentially the wisdom of God, but with the wonderful class balance of -7 relating to normal humans from that point forward.
I’m truncating much of what made this book good, the heavy conversations about existing and not existing, about understanding that time is just a construct not a constraint and a million other of the world’s most awesome fortune cookies. But I can’t do them justice, so I won’t try.
The book ends where the story of Harbinger began, with Toyo Harada hearing The Monk’s call, opening the tomb, and seizing his destiny to control the 20th century. As for how the Monk got from a temple with a lance in his chest to a subterranean layer, read the book.
P.S. If you’re worried about the four artists on the book, don’t be. Thye all switch off as the book moves forwards and backwards through time, so the shift is welcome, not intrusive.
THUNDERBOLTS #23Writer: Charles Soule
Artist: Kim Jacinto
Publisher: Marvel Comics
THUNDERBOLTS has been a very hit or miss series, so much so it just hasn’t been worth my time to consistently shell out cash for. I’ve dropped off here and there in my reading from the beginning and couldn’t stand the story when Daniel Way was writing THUNDERBOLTS, plus Steve Dillon’s art wasn’t doing it for me either. However, the last arc with the team in Hell was pretty solid and had some great moments.
THUNDERBOLTS #23 picks up after the team’s mission in Hell involving Mephisto, with Deadpool winning the option of choosing the next mission. Wade is beginning to go off on a rant about kidnapping Ryan Reynolds before he’s interrupted by Flash Thompson, who wants to call the next mission and expresses his desire to leave the team. Deadpool doesn’t seem to have much of a problem with it, allowing Flash to take control. Flash explains he wants to let the Venom symbiote take him over completely and the Thunderbolts need to take him out, thus beginning Thunderbolts versus Venom.
The book’s positives are Deadpool and the art, with the negatives being some of the plot points, Flash’s final exit and the hit or miss writing.
When Flash first proposes his idea, Deadpool channels his inner Batman and explains he has contingency plans for the entire Thunderbolts team and he wants to try one out. You’d assume this could either be the one time Deadpool is being serious or Wade is doing his usual spiel. It turns out Deadpool’s contingency plan for Venom is drawing Spider-Man lines on his costume as a decoy and trying to lure Venom into a Wile E. Coyote style trap, which in retrospect I guess I shouldn’t have expected anything less.
Kim Jacinto’s artwork is great for the book too. It has a really nice darker tone, utilizing the book’s red theme within the panels while also adding plenty of excellent shading and use of black. The human faces like Elektra and Punisher had some less appealing moments but Venom, Deadpool, Ghost Rider and Red Hulk were much better visually. Jacinto also did a great job with the fight scenes within the book.
As for the negatives of the book, THUNDERBOLTS #23 was like a lot of the other THUNDERBOLTS books in Marvel NOW: very hit or miss. There are moments when I have high hopes as the book is succeeding in all the ways a comic should, but other moments where I wonder if the book keeps consistent readers.
For example, Red Leader uses Wikipedia to figure out Venom’s weakness. I just can’t do a super-genius with access to an enormous amount of computer grids using Wikipedia; it’s just a cheap comedic plot device for a character that isn’t meant to be funny. Another point is when Ghost Rider confronts Venom and uses penance to try and defeat him, but Venom’s sin are “too much” for Ghost Rider to handle. Seriously? All the super-evil, demonic and crazy hell creatures Ghost Rider has defeated and Venom’s sins are too much? Venom may not be a saint, or even close to one, but he is far from the worst, so how are his sins too heavy that Ghost Rider couldn’t handle it? If it was someone like Carnage, Red Skull, or Mr. Sinister’s level of sin, I could maybe accept it, but not Venom. My final problem was with Flash’s exit, which just felt kind of weak. It was just like “ok guys, you beat me, good talk” and end of the book. I just felt it lacked any substance.
I think THUNDERBOLTS could be a good series if the writing quality stayed consistent, but the problem is it’s obviously not. There are a great assortment of character personalities to work with in character dynamics, plus plenty of personal mythos in character history to adapt the series into something of quality and a really good book; it’s just not being utilized. I’d give the book a three out of five if I did a star system for reviews. It was just so average, with minimal highlights. Check it out if you’d like, but you could spend your three bucks on a better book, or like a bag of candy or something.
SUPERMAN UNCHAINED #6Writer: Scott Snyder
Artists: Jim Lee
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man
This is it, baby--showdown time! After five issues of Ascension (an evil high tech terrorist group), the US military, and the Wraith (strange visitor from another planet with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men) screwing with Superman, the big blue necksnapper finally punches back! And boy, is it anticlimactic!
Ok, I suppose this could be because the series has been shortened in length, but if you ever wanted to see deus ex machina in action, read this issue. Here come the spoilers: you see, Ascension has managed to launch every nuclear missile on the planet. Luckily, just like every Superman villain, there's some weird trail leading to their hideout that Superman can see with his super-vision. Getting there, he discovers their magic techno crystal (just like Kryptonian tech crystals). Waving it around, he manages to stop all 919 missiles in the blink of as eye. Thank god for magic crystals, huh? Next Wraith decides the US military should have that crystal (because he's their tool). Superman says no way, and it's on! Luckily Batman managed to create some Wraith kryptonite, so there really isn't a fight. You know, for a book that has been loaded with rather complex and highly detailed concepts, all this 'poof--problem solved' is rather unsatisfying.
As a side note, I’m curious what happened to Lex Luthor and Jimmy Olsen's hand, since we haven't seen either of them in two issues. And while I'm at it, was there any more to the flashback story of the crazy old guy shooting young Clark Kent? You know, that story within a story that has yet to really go anywhere from last issue?
Turning my attention to Jim Lee's art, that is the bright spot of this issue. While I do find some of his hatching kind of pointless (as well as most of the lines on Superman's costume), he can still draw a great looking superhero book, as he does here. The figures all look great, the backgrounds are nicely detailed, the storytelling is good and the what there is in action looks more exciting than what actually happens--though for you Jim Lee haters out there, I don't understand why Superman's Fortress of Solitude looks like a giant spiky ball of yarn.
Now, the bulk of this series has been character building; sure there has been action, but the focus has been more on who Superman is and what makes him tick, showing how he's different than the military or the Wraith, even though their goals are pretty much the same. So you would think that when this all comes to a head in this issue, it would be the strongest of the series, but it turns out it is the weakest. Not only does it leave you with a 'that's it?' feeling, it also makes Superman a bit too capable. Next issue Superman gets to go toe-to-toe with the US military. Now, even before Supes took apart Ascension and Wraith without much trouble I wouldn't have figured they stood much of a chance; after it, I assume Superman will just push a button in his Fortress and be done with them. Yawn.
Part of me thinks Scott Snyder is making this story more complex than it has to be, especially considering the payoff. So much time is spent explaining the complex nature of everything going on that these solutions just seem out of place. There's still time to take the conclusion to the next level--or maybe there's not, and poof--series over.
Indie Jones presents!
THE RATTLER VOL.1Writer: Jason McNamara
Artist: Greg Hinkle
Publisher: self-published/Kickstarter starting tomorrow!
I try to stay away from reviewing a comic in cinematic terms, not just because of some academic medium-specificity viewpoint, but I also think it is that cinematic critical lens that has resulted in the flood of bad comic book adaptations. But I don’t necessarily see mainstream Hollywood tacking a whack at THE RATTLER any time soon, not because of a lack of quality but because of its unflinching nature.
THE RATTLER is the tragic tale of Stephen Thorn, a true crime writer that witnessed his wife’s kidnapping ten years ago. Now he is a victim’s rights crusader that still holds on to the dream that somewhere his wife is still alive. While visiting his dying father, Thorn finds a clue on how to track down his missing wife. The catch: it’ll be a bloody road to get there.
THE RATTLER isn’t paced like a typical graphic novel. The structure is not one with inherent chapter or act breaks; the story just keeps grinding forward with little chance for respite. About halfway through, when the grisly nature of the book overwhelmingly begins to take over, it also becomes clear that this ride will only get more gruesome, and moral shades of grey become irrelevant.
None of that being a detraction to the book. In fact, even at ninety five pages, I raced through THE RATTLER faster than books half its length, probably because the graphic novel has some rubbernecking sensibility. You know things are only going to get worse, that getting an attachment to any character is only setting yourself up for disappointment, yet you can’t get to their inevitably bloody conclusion fast enough.
Blood is the only color featured in THE RATTLER, that whole highlighting trope that everyone then refers back to SIN CITY for inspiration. The difference here is instead of a pure black and white palette, we get the filmed version of Miller’s work with a heavy dependence on shades of gray, aesthetically and morally. Those comics that are more based on the dichotomy of black and white have a tendency of hiding or missing details, Frank Miller’s work being a clear example of such. But THE RATTLER likes to put everything in your face and the blood just appears wetter and stickier when splattered onto gray skin.
And though I’d like to avoid any more filmic comparisons, even the project’s own Kickstarter page uses movie references to describe the book. “In the vein of John Carpenter and Dario Argento” they say. The cover would fit well alongside “Suspiria”, and I could even see THE RATTLER as a Carpenter flick from his early period in the 70s and early 80s. The page will go live Thursday the 27th , and if my review hasn’t made the grim nature of THE RATTLER obvious, the pledge titles will.
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."
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G
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