AICN COMICS REVIEWS: BATMAN ETERNAL! SHOTGUN WEDDING! REAL HEROES! OCCUPY COMICS! Plus a review of CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER!
(Click title to go directly to the review)
Advance Review: BATMAN ETERNAL #1
CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER Film Review
REAL HEROES #1
ACTION COMICS #30
OCCUPY COMICS TRADE PAPERBACK
Advance Review: SHOTGUN WEDDING #1-4
ROBYN HOOD: LEGEND #2
BAD BLOOD #4
THE GREEN HORNET #11
Advance Review: SALLY OF THE WASTELAND #1
Advance Review: In stores today!
BATMAN ETERNAL #1Writer: James T Tynion IV, Scott Snyder, Tim Seeley, Ray Fawkes, John Layman
Art: Jason Fabok
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
This is the GODDAMN BATMAN!, even though that glorious Bat is but a small glimmer in the title’s eye. This is really the story of Gotham, her dark pulse of night, electric sex of allure and the denizens both good and bad that make this fictional city feel more alive than most real locations on the map.
There has been much mystery surrounding this title, and I don’t think any of the pre-press hit the mark exactly. When I interviewed Scott at last year’s New York Comic Con, it felt like BATMAN ETERNAL was going to be a throwback to GCPD--basically a Bat book sans the Bat. Then, there was the recent prelude to ETERNAL when “Zero Year” took a break for one month in BATMAN proper. In that story we saw a Batman in a near future. Well, it looks like it was actually THE Batman, as ETERNAL opens with a man who is clearly Bruce Wayne being crucified upon the Batsignal as Gotham burns in the background. But that’s just page 1, folks.
Page 2 introduces a new character, a young cop from Detroit named Jason Bard. Bard has been handpicked by Gordon to help clean up the city. One can see why Gordon is smitten: both hail from the same town, both are gingers and neither lets a hot head prevail. Yes, Bard is basically a baby Gordon with a better haircut and less nicotine on his breath. A true Gen X colliding with a millenial. But before Bard and his chubby welcome wagon, Detective Bullock, can settle in at the station, the two are whisked away to give Gordon an assist against Professor Pyg.
From here the book is non-stop action--some of the best action I have seen in a Batbook, or any DC book, as of late. As Batman chases down Pyg, Gordon goes after one of his henchmen into the subway tunnels. Whether drug-induced or a sign of old age, Gordon takes a shot at the perp and in the process ends up clipping a subway control line. This misfire sends a car careening out of control and turning Gotham’s underground into a tomb for any passengers aboard the car. That’s manslaughter, folks, and thanks to a game of GCPD baptism by fire, guess what new arrival gets to read Gotham’s top cop his Miranda rights?
It’s been fascinating to watch Snyder’s career grow from writer to universe shepherd, with first Tynion under his wing and now folks like Fawkes and Layman joining the ETERNAL weekly publishing schedule. I love Scott’s writing, but he has a definitive style that is more educational than action-oriented, more feeling than punch if you will. If ETERNAL #1 is any indicator, this story will deliver Scott’s reverence for building mythology, but will move at a faster and more intense clip than any Snyder story before.
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.
Film Review: SPOILERS!
CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER Motion PictureDirected by Anthony & Joe Russo
Written by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely (screenplay), Ed Brubaker (story & concept), Jack Kirby & Joe Simon (based on the comic created by)
Reviewed by Matt Adler
I saw CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER twice this weekend, and I have to say, I loved it so much that I feel compelled to share my thoughts on it with you all. Here are just some of the things I loved about it:
1. Crossbones - Bottom line, I was just thrilled that this character I grew up with as created by the legendary Mark Gruenwald (who gets his due in the credits) made it onto the big screen, and was a badass antagonist for Captain America even without enhancements. He's not QUITE how I would have imagined him from the comics-- I always thought of Crossbones as having the personality of Andrew Dice Clay and the physique of Chuck Zito. Still, there's time for Hydra to beef him up as they rehabilitate him from his current burned-to-a-crisp state.
2. Batroc - ZEE LEAPAIR! They didn't have to use Batroc. But the fact that they did, and made him both consistent with the savate-trained mercenary from the comics while avoiding dissolving the audience into fits of laughter by any attempt to literally translate a Kirby costume into live action, wins the Russos major cred from me.
3. Garry Shandling - Sure, he was amusing, just as he was in the IRON MAN films. But maybe I'm alone in this-- I got a major chill up my spine when he gives Agent Sitwell a friendly embrace and whispers in his ear, "Hail Hydra." Brrr. Who knew Garry Shandling could be that scary?
4. The political themes - This is something I think is essential to Captain America. He's not fighting for a geographic area or any particular regime or institution. He's fighting for an idea that he believes his country is founded on-- freedom. When those he is working with run contrary to those values, even Nick Fury, he is willing to stand up to them and, if necessary, fight them. The flipside of this are Hydra's ideals, as espoused by Alexander Pierce (excellently portrayed by Robert Redford, who gives the material every bit of the respect it deserves) and Arnim Zola-- people cannot be trusted with freedom, and the way to make a perfect world is through total control, which requires the ability to eliminate not only threats but anyone who could potentially ever be a threat. Before you laugh at that as a comic book caricature of a villain, consider that there have been and still are people in positions of power who believe pretty damn close to that.
5. The Fury car chase - I know the Marvel folks have said a Nick Fury movie isn't on the books, but damn, I could watch Sam Jackson fight off assassins in his custom-made superspy vehicle for another two hours, easy. Definitely one of the most gripping sequences of the film.
6. The Falcon - The Falcon was the big question mark I had going into the film-- would they stray too far from his roots in an attempt to make him "realistic"? I mean, I really wanted his wings to be red. Sue me. Well, they walked that tightrope and, in my humble opinion, kept their balance. Yes, the wings are more mechanical-looking, but it works; the Falcon swoops, he soars, he spins, he dives. He's basically a one-man fighter jet. And even though he now has a military background, they give a nod to his social work roots by having him lead a PTSD group at the VA hospital. One request for the next outing: give him a small drone shaped like a falcon that he can deploy for reconnaissance missions. He can call it Redwing.
7. Arnim Zola - What a brilliant use of this character. Having him kidnapped/recruited by the fledgling SHIELD, and then masterminding its infiltration and corruption. Creating the Winter Soldier, and then disturbingly tying him into the Iron Man mythos. And putting his brain on tape reels! There's even a nod to his comics incarnation, where his "eye" looks like an old security camera. I really hope he survives in some form.
8. What the movie means for Agents of SHIELD - There's clearly close coordination here, as the March 31st episode of Agents of SHIELD featured Agent Sitwell going off to the Lemurian Star, and strong hints that all is not right within the SHIELD organization. Personally, I can't wait to see the fallout from the events of the film in this week's episode-- unlike “Thor: The Dark World”, there is no way for this movie not to have a status-quo changing impact on the series. If you're one of those who was turned off by the first few episodes, I highly recommend jumping back on; the show has gotten a lot better, both in terms of plotting and character development.
9. Meaty after-credits scenes - Baron Strucker, Loki's sceptre, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch (if they're not mutants, what are they?), and later, Bucky coming to terms with his past. Lots of times after-credits scenes are not much more than a one-off joke, but this was worth sticking through to the very end.
10. Did I have any nitpicks with the film? Very tough to find any, and it's not an exaggeration to say this may be the best Marvel movie yet. If pressed, I can only come up with stuff I wanted more of: I wish there was more Sharon Carter, more exploration of Cap and Bucky's history, and more exploration of what Bucky went through after his resurrection. Still, a film as jam-packed as this really couldn't have fit all that in, and if the rumors that Sebastian Stan may eventually take over the Cap role prove true, then we'll likely get that exploration of Bucky and the Winter Soldier's history in films to come.
Matt Adler is a writer/journalist, currently writing for AICN among other outlets. He’s been reading comics for 20 years, writing about them for 7, and spends way, way, too much time thinking about them, which means he really has no choice but to figure out how to make a living out of them. He welcomes all feedback.
REAL HEROES #1Writer & Penciler: Bryan Hitch
Inker: Paul Neary
Publisher: Image Comics
I’m just going to start off by saying that this review is going to throw out a major spoiler. I’ll even say it a little louder: SPOILERS! So if you’re the type of comic book reader who likes to go in totally fresh, you can go ahead and skip right to the end. But if you’d rather learn a little more about REAL HEROES and what is contained within the pages of its premiere issue, then read on.
The first page of Bryan Hitch’s new series is certainly a change from the average superhero fare one would expect from the book’s cover. We see the morning of September 11th, 2001, as the World Trade Center towers belch out black smoke as the South Tower collapses. We see the stunned reaction of a family watching the news coverage (so familiar to those of us who were glued to the television sets that morning), a mother and son’s shock turning to grief as we learn that the boy’s father, a NYC firefighter, has been lost in the devastation. Like I said, definitely not the norm for the standard superhero funnybook…which makes the abrupt page-turning transition to the double-page splash of a spandex-clad superman duking it out with an über-vascular behemoth all the more jarring. Now we’re smack-dab in the middle of what looks like a scene from the blockbuster “Avengers” movie, complete with surrogates for Marvel’s cinematic supergroup. Instead of Thor we have the equally blond (though decidedly less hairy) Olympian; Hawkeye has been replaced by the elfin (and female) Longbow; Captain America is now The Patriot—-you get the idea. Along with other comic book tropes (a woman who can control her size, a speedster, a wheelchair-bound man who fights with the aid of his ultra high-tech armor), these superheroes battle impossible odds against an alien invasion, complete with dialogue so cliché that this really could be your boilerplate Hollywood comic book movie…
…and in fact it is. Turns out, the reader has been “watching” the premiere of “The Olympians 2” alongside the actors who play the aforementioned roles. The comic shifts focus to the people behind the costumes and makeup, and we get to see the slightly less-than-heroic personalities at play. It’s only when the premiere gala gets interrupted by a very real, very destructive killer space robot that the crux of the plot is revealed (once again: SPOILERS!).
The cast is whisked away to a ravaged parallel world in which the alien menace that threatens the Earth in the cinemas actually exists, just as the super-team The Olympians once existed…but now those “real heroes” are gone, and it’s up to a group of actors who play those characters to step up and save both this world and their own. And here’s where I’m torn about this series.
The plot conceit has been done many times before, most obviously in the excellent “Galaxy Quest” film (which I think of as one of the best “Star Trek” movies that just happened to not be called “Star Trek”), but the idea of poor schlubs having to pretend they’re brave heroes has popped up in everything from “The Inspector General” to “A Bug’s Life.” Frankly, it’s been pretty played out by now. So once the reader has come to the end of this issue and seen this big twist-that’s-not-really-much-of-a-twist-anymore, the question that remains is: where are Hitch and Company going to go with this take on the idea?
On the plus side, the artwork is all that you’d expect from a comic with Bryan Hitch’s name on the cover. Hitch has proven himself one of the masters of the “realistic” comic book style, and this book showcases his talents for dynamic figure drawing and page composition. His characters also retain enough individuality—both in facial features and personalities—to be easily differentiated between by the reader, a task that can sometimes prove difficult when handled by a less skilled artist who might be overly reliant on the brightly-colored costumes to provide the only visual character. In regards to the visuals, I have nothing but praise…but pretty pictures can only carry a by-the-numbers story so far before the reader will grow tired of style over substance.
I’m willing to give REAL HEROES a little more time to reveal more of its plot and characters before I commit to any final judgment. In the past other works have elevated themselves above their cliché-ridden beginnings to bring something exciting and new to their mediums; I’m hoping that Hitch’s REAL HEROES can attain that same level and keep from being just another slight variation on an overused trope.
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.
ACTION COMICS #30Writer: Greg Pak
Artists: Aaron Kuder, Jed Dougherty, Karl Kerschel
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man
I don't think there is any character more maligned by the New 52, in many fans’ eyes, than Superman, sporting the look and the attitude of a CW TV show, not to mention the train wreck reboot crafted Grant Morrison. A few months back our very own Optimous Douche heaped praise on the new creative team for ACTION COMICS (Pak and Kuder), so I thought I'd take a look myself.
Now that's I've read a few issues, I'm inclined to agree with Optimous: ACTION COMICS has become a breath of fresh air amidst the 'trying too hard to be cool' New 52. In the current storyline, Superman has discovered a subterranean world--or rather, Lana Lang has, and Superman has come to bail everyone out as usual. But before Superman ever really gets the chance to settle things, people who think they know better start making things worse, then blame Superman for allowing the situation to even happen. Superman has finally snapped and is headed to Tower Control, the headquarters of these pseudo-governmental ghost soldier types, to put an end to their interference. So this specific issue is the big showdown between Tower Control and Supes (or at least the first big battle). The themes Pak is playing with are very much the same as the ones Scott Snyder is using in SUPERMAN UNCHAINED (does Superman do enough, and does he cause more harm than good?). The main difference between the two is Pak handles it with more simplicity and less hyped-up action. This is also how Pak is handling Superman in general, too. His Superman is a more thoughtful Superman than I've seen in years. He's not the kind of Superman who'd rip up a city in a brawl, either--he even makes a point to say that's not how his father raised him.
Unfortunately, in this issue the other star of the team, Aaron Kuder, only draws a few pages. At Aaron's best and worst he is a Frank Quitely clone. I also think he's a little unseasoned. Some of his anatomic details need a little more developing to match the competencies of the rest of his work, which is at a very high level, though for the most part Aaron's work is a treat, so it's a bit disappointing that he wasn't here for the full issue. In his place is Jed Dougherty, who unfortunately fits the bill as a fill in artist. He's good, easily prime time, but his work is kind of boring and has no pizzazz beyond telling the story, which is kind of odd, because if you've seen his freaky muscle women pin-ups, you can see he's loaded with pizzazz. He just needs to find a way to interject some of that into his more normal comic book work.
Getting back to ACTION COMICS itself, another good thing about it is Pak and Kuder seem to work well together. Both have a fresh breezy attitude to them. While Superman still has a good deal of action, clever uses of his powers and how other try to combat those powers, it doesn't appear overly complex or heavy-handed. If anyone has walked away from the Man of Steel since the start of the New 52, this may bring you back. It doesn't feel like Pak is trying to make Superman cool or hip; he's just writing Superman, who is as entertaining as he's always been.
One final note: this issue also helped kick off the next big Superman crossover, DOOMED. Now, I would love that to mean Dr. Doom, but being DC we get Doomsday, who is really just a plot device, like Kryptonite. Now on the one hand, it will be nice if DC takes the time to explain the 'Death of Superman’ event in the New 52 (were BloodWynd and Maxima still involved?). On the other hand, I'm worried that this event could screw up everything good Pak has been doing here. Either way, Doomsday is on the loose again, and apparently he's not what he used to be (but considering this is the New 52, I don't know what that means).
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
OCCUPY COMICS Trade PaperbackWriters: Many
Artists: The Same
Publisher: Black Mask Studios
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
I won’t disparage any movement. If people try to make a difference I will support them. Occupy has left me very confused, though, and sad for our generation. Sitting in objection isn’t a bad thing. Peaceful resistance is preferable, but it still begs the question, “peaceful resistance to what, and to what end?” This isn’t my soapbox, so I won’t belabor my feelings. It’s important to understand my confusion on the movement itself, because I can’t help but let it taint my review.
With stories by Alan Moore and, well, pretty much everyone in comics, these 150-plus pages are as disjointed in intent as the movement itself. It’s a railing against life today, which is fine. But as I’ve learned in business over the years, sometimes a slew of smaller bites will help you devour a problem much faster than taking a big bite and working up enough saliva to swallow it all down. Hate the economy, hate the wars, hate big business, but pick one at a time to change. Trying to change them all at once is like trying to empty the ocean with a Dixie cup.
As a reader, though, the disjointed intent of the pieces is fascinating. I’m ok with this in literature, because the consequences are much thinner than people quitting their jobs and disrupting the American collective consciousness with non-stop media coverage. The disjointed form makes this an easy read for a dude with ADHD; the stories are digestible small bites and in some cases simply some glorious artwork. I don’t hate Occupy; I simply don’t think it changed a goddamned thing.
OK, enough preaching. Let’s see what our favorite comics creators truly hate about the world today.
Citizen Journalist (by Ales Kot): A very good read about the life of a blogger in the middle of the shit. Grabbing rogue wifi signals and indicting The Man through clever trickery of camera subterfuge, this is much more an examination of new media and the democratization of information than Occupy.
Homestead (by Joshua Fialkov & Joseph Infurnari): Set around the labor rights movements of the late 19th century, the art in this was spectacular, with an old timey sepia feel. Fialkov writes some damn pretty words, but here’s another piece that shows the ineffectiveness of Occupy. Blood was shed to gain rights; power had to wrestled from the hands of the fat cats, not simply asked for.
Exploitation: Our Noble Tradition (by Douglas Rushkoff & Dean Haspiel) I’m a big fan of Rushkoff’s work and life. His biblical comics were amazing as he broke page boundaries and story boundaries. I also loved his book ADD, which postulated that the current rush of affective disorders are features, not bugs, in the human condition. Also, Rushkoff is at the forefront of teaching kids the logic and the code behind the games we play. He’s basically a dude making a difference in the world. Notice: none of those activities involved sitting in a park or a slew of ethereal goals. This is a short piece, only 4 or 5 panels, which highlights how those in power have raped the lower class since the beginning of time. It’s a really well written and drawn way to essentially describe the human condition.
David Lloyd: Awesome charcoal of Guy Fawkes going against the famed Wall Street bull.
Occupy (by Mark L. Miller): Beautiful art set in the high seas. A salty captain compares the Donkey and Elephant to a great storm that has cast an even greater and darker pall. It’s a fine message that our two-party system sucks ass; sadly, it doesn’t answer that quintessential question of how we quell the squall.
The One Percent Solution (by Mark Sable & Megan Hutchison) Great piece about making choices in the days of the Dot Com boom. Mark could have been the 1% at a trading firm, but chose comics. I, too, had the opportunity to join the Boiler Room stock rape trade floor, but chose marketing. We both won because we followed our hearts instead of our wallets. It was dumb luck, to be sure, but I’m also sure there is a small moral here.
Untitled (by Amanda Palmer & David Mack) Amanda stars as her own protagonist in this piece as she shares some spirits with a 60s revolutionary. It speaks of how jaded we are as a generation and how in the 60s they took action for change in places like Kent State, the violence of the Civil Rights movement and draft dodgers against Vietnam. It also discusses the jaded nature of post-boomers and how the system is such an entangled mess that all we can do is take on everything. I’m not sure if this piece really helps or hurts the movement. Mack’s art is really delightful, though, as he abandons all traditional panel boundaries to make Amanda’s conversation feel almost like a dream.
Buster Brown at the Barricades (by Alan Moore): This is the one that will make most people pay the price of admission. Sad, really, because as much as it talks about comics, it’s not a comic. It’s an essay. I like Moore’s verbose word salad in prose forms, so I found it an interesting read. Those who find him to be troublesome outside of word balloons will find this essay equally troubling. You are damn fools, though; this is a glorious examination of words and imagery coming together since damn near the beginning of publishing to reflect and lambast societal woes and injustices.
I will now end my time with Occupy; there are some other great stories and pin-up art inside, but sadly I don’t know if this book helps or hurts the movement. If anything, it solidifies the fact that Gen X and our successors are simply too lazy and too afraid to make the hard choices for change. It’s also an examination of how we have yet to hit a breaking point. The rich and the powerful will never simply give what is theirs, because in all of recorded history they never have. Sadly, if Occupy wanted to affect change they would have had to stand up and storm the bastille. But why get your hands bloody when you can get one million tweets by simply getting your ass dirty? The internet is not reality, folks--it’s simply a way to keep us all appeased until the next big hunk of shit hits the fan. Again, I don’t hate Occupy; I simply don’t get it beyond being a short burst of public relations.
Advance Review: First issue available now, rest of the series available soon!
SHOTGUN WEDDING #1-4 (miniseries review)Writer: William Harms
Art: Edward Pun
Publisher: Top Cow/Image Comics
Reviewer: Ambush Bug
I don’t know a woman out there who doesn’t have a personal fantasy about their wedding. I guess it is the equivalent of the geek fantasy of going to see a STAR WARS film on the first day of release or the opening day of Comic Con or something like that. For some reason, no matter what the inclination or type of woman you talk to, their wedding is something they’ve given a lot of thought to, mapping out how perfect it should be down to the very last detail in an overly anal and precise way. Now imagine if you are a female assassin for hire getting married, and things get kind of dangerous. Now imagine if that female assassin for hire is jilted at the altar, and you can imagine how dangerous that situation can be. That’s the inciting action of SHOTGUN WEDDING, as Chloe is ditched on her wedding day by her fiancé/assassin for hire partner Mike. Needless to say she was pissed, and four years later, as Mike is getting ready to get married to his new fiancé Denise, Chloe has chosen to enact a vicious and bloody revenge.
Playing out more like a movie than a comic book one and done per issue, SHOTGUN WEDDING’s strength lies in its strong premise. While some women may disagree, there is a stereotype that women become Bridezillas on their wedding day, and stereotypes exist because there are a lot of people who actually act that way. Here writer Harms plays with that stereotype by setting up a situation that maps out a collision course between the jilted bride and her former fiancé. Adding bombs and bullets to the mix only makes it more interesting.
The first issue of this series is out now, and I had a chance to check out the rest of it before it’s published. While the story plays out in each issue as expected, leading up to a fantastically choreographed and tensely paced wedding day massacre in issue three, after the massacre Harms throws enough curve balls to keep me guessing through the entire story. There were parts that reminded me a bit of KILL BILL Volume 2, especially the scene where Chloe and her team of thugs approach the wedding, but it wasn’t so on the nose that it was annoying.
The art by Edward Pun is stellar and electric in a Carmine Infantino sort of way. Scenes play out vividly, especially the aforementioned wedding day buildup and execution, as well as the flashbacks showing how well Chloe and Mike work together as a team of guns for hire.
I could easily see SHOTGUN WEDDING being snapped up for a film, as it does integrate a concept that has a crossover appeal for both men and women, playing with stereotypes that are both true and fun. Harms and Pun integrate action into every issue, never letting the reader have time to catch their breath. This series flies by at a rapid pace, especially the massacre in issue three and the buildup to it in issue two. SHOTGUN is a fantastic action-centric series for those of you who may have fears surrounding marriage, as well as confirmation for the commitment-phobic. It’ll also satisfy the action nut in all of us.
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over 12 years & AICN HORROR for 3. He has written comics such as VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS THE TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, THE DEATHSPORT GAMES, & NANNY & HANK (soon to be made into a feature film from Uptown 6 Films). He has co-written FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND’s LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF (to be released in 2013 as a 100-pg original graphic novel). Mark wrote the critically acclaimed GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK from Zenescope Entertainment & GRIMM FAIRY TALES #76-81. Look for GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK: LAST OF THE SPECIES available in February-July 2013 and the new UNLEASHED crossover miniseries GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS WEREWOLVES: THE HUNGER #1-3 available in May-July 2013! Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitter @Mark_L_Miller.
ROBYN HOOD: LEGEND #2Writer: Pat Shand
Artist: Larry Watts
Publisher: Zenescope Entertainment
It is difficult to come into a comic like ROBYN HOOD: LEGEND #2 knowing what to expect. I mean, they’ve already turned Hood into a girl, the Sheriff of Nottingham into a literal monster, and have Sherwood Forest overrun by orcs. Then, somehow when crossing between realms, the series takes another turn towards the unexpected--not in the sense of a logistical twist or an unexpected character arc, but in tone.
Robyn and her band of merry mismatches are under siege the moment they cross realms, only to be saved by yet another frenemy. Though the immediate threat of becoming an orc’s dinner has subsided, it becomes very clear that the group’s largest threat is itself, and not the Sheriff of Nottingham, who seems absolutely giddy over the return of his Robyn.
I hadn’t read the prior runs of ROBYN HOOD, so this was my first encounter with the dreaded Nottingham, and writer Pat Shand did not disappoint in giving the Sherriff real character. I prefer my villains loquacious, even if their monologues eventually lead to their demise. Toss in a dash of sass and a bit of wit, and you’ve got entertainment. Maybe I missed something in the previous issues concerning the Sheriff’s backstory, but one aspect of him that makes him so appealing is his incongruous nature. Lord Gisbourne, no matter how much Will Scarlett gets on his nerves, would never call the scoundrel a dickhead, nor say bro. But the Sheriff, on the other hand, almost seems to fit more in a Saturday morning cartoon, or let us say a riff on a Saturday morning cartoon show, like “Venture Bros.”, as he is still rather dangerous while being funny.
Humor. An element present in the last issue, but not prominent. This time ‘round, a good portion of the book plays out like a Shakespearean comedy of errors. You’ve got highbrow and lowbrow jokes mixed together effectively. The premises of most Zenescope GRIMM’S FAIRY TALES renditions are rather ridiculous themselves, so it seems only natural that a playful nature, upping the level of humor, would work so well. The story is dramatic and the tension is taut between the characters, leaving plenty of room for more light-hearted moments.
BAD BLOOD #4Writer: Jonathan Maberry
Artist: Tyler Crook
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Reviewer: Mighty Mouth
Maberry and Crook are taking back the night with BAD BLOOD.
Vampires and zombies have experienced a big resurgence over the last few years. Unlike the zombies that remain pretty traditional, vamps have undergone a heavy-handed reimagining. Movies like “Twilight” and shows like “Vampire Diaries” have mischaracterized vampires into angst-ridden individuals more interested in finding love than getting their nightly fill of blood. Fortuitously, there are still some who dare to depict vampires in a more traditional sense while planting their own stamp on the genre. Jonathan Maberry does this exceedingly well.
I do love me a good double entendre. BAD BLOOD is a contemporary miniseries about vampires’ resurgence in modern times. Key fundamentals like vampires and vampire hunters are present, for sure. However, pollutants such as disease and drugs have rendered much of the populace unsafe for feeding. In other words, if the vamps don’t figure something out pronto, they may starve to death.
Trick is a young man stricken with cancer who learns the hard way vampires do indeed exist. After befriending a heroin-using goth chick, Lolly, and another run-in with the Hominus Nocturna, Trick and Lolly soon find themselves on the vamps’ most wanted list. Only with the intervention of an enigmatic vampire hunter, Jonas Vale, are they able to escape. Believing that these kids’ ailments may be the best new weapon in his crusade against vampires, Jonas begins training Trick and Lolly in the art of slaying suck-heads.
Tyler Crook’s art on this book is simplistic yet effective originality. His storytelling flows easily, and his characters are incredibly expressive. I am really enjoying how you can actually observe Trick and Lolly’s transformation from sad victims to empowered personalities with each issue.
In issue #4 of BAD BLOOD the vamps’ desperation to discern the modern world reaches a critical point. I love the sense of bewilderment amongst the vamps concerning contaminated blood. Are humans doing this as a form of protection, or is mankind simply being mankind, polluting everything including itself? Under Jonas’ tutelage, Trick and Lolly have become capable vampire hunters. As a byproduct, their newfound purpose in life helps them to overcome their personal afflictions. Will this new-found strength save them, or ultimately lead to their demise? Let’s just say the last page sets up the final issue in a very perilous way.
So if you have a thirst for more malevolent vampires as opposed to twinkly ones, you could do a helluva lot worse than checking out BAD BLOOD. Mr. Maberry effectively substantiates that you can create an original vampire tale without utterly destroying the source material.
MAGNETO #2Writer: Cullen Bunn
Art: Gabriel Hernandez Walta
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Henry Higgins is My Homeboy
Do you wish The Punisher had actual superpowers?
Because it's essentially the premise for the new MAGNETO title. And I'm not saying it's a bad thing.
When he's a protagonist, Magneto has to walk a very difficult tightrope to remain likable, similar to the inherent challenge of The Punisher. These are men who, like it or not, straight-up murder their way through their problems.
The premise of the series finds Magneto trying to find a mysterious party that's forcibly turning people into Sentinels, but that's really just window dressing. This book is much more concerned with the overarching plot, and is much more invested in the inner workings of Magneto. The issue does fall back into common territory, exploring a young Magneto surviving in the Holocaust. It's not bad per se, but it's something we've seen done before, and done better. It's when the book leaves that behind and takes Magneto to a small tent community that things get interesting.
Magneto looks at the starving families and the desperate eyes and is reminded of surviving in the ghettos. And, yes, it reads like a cut scene from MAGNETO: TESTAMENT (which is a wonderful book--go read it). But it leads into a "They're not the monster, I am" moment that still manages to feel fresh despite how many times we've seen Magneto do it before. It's short, effective, and BRUTAL at moments. Walta and Bellaire manage to make each moment of brutality strong, with background colors alternating between the darkness of night and then a sudden flash of red during grisly attacks.
What's shocking is that the best part of the book kinda doesn't involve Magneto himself at all. Following Magneto is a small batch of SHIELD agents, who interview the witnesses to the spectacle. I'm a sucker for these kinds of scenes, whether it be Magneto or The Punisher or Wolverine or Batman or whatever character is being described as a force of nature. But the art beautifully compliments the scene, giving this nameless woman a real sense of character and humanity that's been thrown into shock by seeing Magneto. And then his fans show up. It really lends the series a connection to the real world, a world that doesn't see Magneto and think about his past in WWII or that time he died but then it turned out to be Xorn. They see "a tornado that enjoyed what it was doing". It paints the later scenes differently and adds a dimension to Magneto--one he's unwittingly cultivating.
The book, while it may lack a certain degree of originality, strives to be well written, beautifully constructed, and genuinely engaging. Don't come for the plot, come for the Holocaust survivor who attacks evil soldiers with nails.
THE GREEN HORNET #11Writer: Mark Waid
Artists: Ronilson Freire
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Reviewer: Masked Man
In an interview, Mark Waid mentioned the focus of this series was hubris--out of control self-confidence—specifically in how the Green Hornet, thinking he can do no wrong, actually ends up destroying more than he saves. Which is kinda funny, because I felt this series maybe becoming victim to Waid's own hubris. He's created a world for the Green Hornet that is so complex and with so many moving parts, none of which seem to be getting resolved, that simple things like the focus of the plot are getting lost. But things may be changing.
Waid has finally pulled out a rabbit that makes his point very clearly, and very interestingly as well, with Lt. Dugan, and the comic book has become much better for it. In a nutshell Lt. Dugan was a good cop, but a run-in with the criminal the Green Hornet has made him question his own morality and the morality of the world. Now, Dugan isn't putting on a red overcoat and calling himself the Red Hornet or anything like that, but the man has been devolving right in front of the Hornet’s eyes. Let's just say there have been a lot of 'holy shit' moments, and particularly in this issue. This really drives home Waid's goal: how far is the Green Hornet willing to go for his war on crime, and can he live with all the unintended consequences (quick aside for those who don't know: unlike say Batman, the Green Hornet pretends to be a crime boss to take down crime from in the inside)?
Earlier in the series Waid had a great moment when a friend of the Green Hornet shot himself because of the actions of the Green Hornet. Unfortunately, Waid let that slip away, but now he seems to be back on track, because the rest of the book is crooked politicians, Nazi saboteurs, corrupt businessmen, good and bad mobsters--all happening at the same time! I know I can't keep up with it all. So while this has never been a bad comic book, it really has been hard to follow, and moves like Lt. Dugan are a great step in fixing that.
Artwork wise, Ronilson Freire does a really nice job with this issue (and the series as well). Freire is a bit of an Ivan Reis clone. All his figures are really appealing, because they look a lot like Reis’ figures. What he lacks is Reis' sense of design and layout, a common thing when artists copy. Reis has spent years figuring out how to make his style work, and Freire is just giving a Reis-like sheen to his work. But make no mistake, Freire does manage to make a good-looking book, though he does needs more variety in how he draws people. Nearly every character looks the same: square-jawed and non-descriptive. Add to that Marcio Menyz's subdued coloring, where they all have brown hair and wear brown coats, and I have a tough time telling who is who. It's a real shame, because it is a very nice-looking book, but it hurts the storytelling, which should be part of the job.
I confess I was really close to dropping THE GREEN HORNET. While there is still room for improvement, Waid has really taken this book up a notch and if he can keep it up, THE GREEN HORNET will finally become a must-read book.
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."
STARLIGHT #2Writer: Mark Millar
Artist: Goran Parlov
Publisher: Image Comics
Reviewer: Joseph Wallace
If you are familiar with the works of Mark Millar you probably already know that he is great at coming up with concepts that twist familiar tales that populate comic shelves. He is great at looking deep within the mythology of existing concepts and finding places to take them that make them fresh and new. STARLIGHT is another exercise for Millar in taking a old tried and true concept (the American space adventurer: Flash Gordon, John Carter..) and mixing it with his contemporary flair and sensibilities, which are extremely unique in their own right. STARLIGHT is a comic about getting older and getting the chance to revisit the larger then life worlds of your past; at least thus far.
STARLIGHT #2 picks up right where issues #1 left off. We have Duke McQueen meeting a space-boy named, Krish Moor, who has landed in his yard in a vintage space ship. Moor has come looking for Duke because Tantalus (the planet Duke saved in his youth) is in trouble. Moor convinces Duke that he must return in order to save Tantalus from a warrior race named the Broteans. The Broteans, we come to find out, have take Tantalus over and filled the baddie vacuum left from when Duke overthrew Typhon and his regime on his last visit decades ago. As we saw from last issue Duke’s life is not doing so hot at the moment and he decides to take up arms again for Krish and Tantalus.
Although this issue does not really barrel the plot along I enjoyed what it is setting up. Millar does not seem to be rushing this story and I like that thus far STARLIGHT as a series is taking time to develop its characters and not rushing into action for actions sake. It feels like a storyline that can kind of go anywhere at this point since we have only slightly scratched the surface of Tantalus in the last few issues.
So far the art work of STARLIGHT has been a impressive effort from Goran Parlov. I was unfamiliar with Parlov starting this comic and at first thought his style looked a little like Tim Sale’s earlier work but less detailed and more cartoony. Don’t get me wrong, Parlov gives the book a very appealing visual style and I think that in the issues to come we should see some really standout stuff from him. Issue #1 and #2 of STARLIGHT have been visually tied down by slightly mundane earth stuff but in the issues to come it is looking like Parlov is going to get a chance to really explore some imaginative stuff and do some world building.
At a two issue glance STARLIGHT appears to be another exercise for Millar in reinventing the popular tropes of the comic book medium. I tend to have a love/hate relationship with Millar’s work: I love so much about what he sets up in his books but he sometimes loses me on their execution. So far STARLIGHT has me very interested and Millar seems to be softening the edges of his usual hard boiled writing style (which I think he can afford to get away from since his ideas are far more inclusive then his tendency to shock. I’m curious to see how this change up plays out for Millar so for the foreseeable future I will be riding the rocket ship of this series, and if your fan of new takes on old sci-fi, you should strap in too.
Advance Review: In stores in August!
SALLY OF THE WASTELAND #1Writer: Victor Grishler
Artist: Tazzio Bettin
Publisher: Titan Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
I was ready to lambast SALLY on the first read. This post-apocalyptic tale about life 82 years after the apocalypse was packed with action, but also a heavy amount of kitsch and cheesecake.
When I took a step back, though, I realized what SALLY and her group of roughnecks scouring the Louisiana bayous was trying to achieve – basically, kitsch and cheesecake. While not my particular brand of comic, I know my taste is not the only one that drives the comics medium. Also, if the 70s grindhouse movies taught us anything, there is a definite marketability to loose women with even looser tongues and big horkin guns (a euphemism--and not). If anything, SALLY OF THE WASTELAND is a tribute to the ultimate women’s liberation, where the fairer sex becomes the formidable one while the men become the beefcakes in distress.
SALLY starts many miles north of New Orleans. America is basically an irradiated wasteland. We don’t know how the apocalypse came about, merely that it left behind a nation of tattered people and wildlife that is large and thirsting for blood. Sally is a peacekeeper--well, when she’s not trying to get a piece of the local saloon off the cherub-faced innocent helper boy.
First enters Captain Sam, a large lout with a mutant catfish that needs putting down before it can be served as dinner for 47. After some back and forth where Sally shows that women rule the day, another mysterious stranger enters. This woman, Kat, was part of an Oklahoma cleanup crew that scours the land for old tech. What this she finds, though, is tech that works--basically a holographic iPad 12 that is still transmitting a signal. Now, here’s the rub: that signal is transmitting from New Orleans, a land that is now only spoken of in hushed tones. Confused? Well, you’re supposed to be, because the journey ahead will reveal just how dangerous the destination truly is.
Once Kat, Sally and Captain Sam come to an accord the crew set sail down the Ol’ Miss for untold treasure and most certain danger. Crawfish as big as cows, river pirates and of course Sam’s big libido plague the mission from the outset, leaving the crew stranded almost as quickly as they heave hoed from shore. The only thing that will keep the stragglers safe is Kat’s endurance for the quest and Sally’s desire to keep her fair-haired boytoy safe. We can only hope this is salvation enough, as a band of river pirates spots the buxom castaways as the issue closes.
SALLY OF THE WASTELAND will not change the world of comics, but it doesn’t ever give the delusion it wants to. It is, however, pure visceral fun if you like women with big libidos, with even bigger guns, fighting even bigger crustaceans.
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G
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