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AICN COMICS Reviews: FOREVER EVIL! DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU! THE AUTEUR! AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE! THE WALKING DEAD! & More!

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

Advance Review: FOREVER EVIL #7
DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU #1
THE WALKING DEAD #127
Indie Jones presents THE MOSES MILITIA #1
THE AUTEUR #3
Advance Review: PATHFINDER: CITY OF SECRETS #1
AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE #1-5
Indie Jones presents CELEBRATED SUMMER Original Graphic Novel
PRINCESS UGG #1
Advance Review: JUSTICE LEAGUE #30
Raiders of the Long Box: COSMIC POWERS #5


Advance Review: In stores today!

FOREVER EVIL #7

Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: David Finch
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche


All right, let’s first kill the white emu in the room (the white emu being the Earth 3 colloquialism for a glaring sore point): FOREVER EVIL has finally finished its long sojourn to completion. I don’t come here today to bury FOREVER EVIL for its foibles, but rather to praise it for its universe-changing repercussions. Because despite the delays, the fact the rest of the universe has appeared to move on to cleanup, and the fact the fallout seemed nominal, the conclusion to issue 7 shows we ain’t seen nothing yet.

Let’s start with the hail Mary that saved the world, because it wasn’t lobbed by any of the traditional heroes we expected. Keeping in line with the villains overcoming all, Lex Luthor is our man of the hour. How, you might ask? Well, on two fronts, and it all has to do with his Earth 3 counterpart. For months we have seen a figure bound and hooded by the Crime Syndicate--their ultimate weapon, if you will. In actuality, though, it was their ultimate Pandora’s Box: the one man who is stronger than Ultraman, smarter than Owlman, more combustible than Deathstorm and the holder of the key to Superwoman’s heart. Alex Luthor is Mazahs, but instead of embodying the powers of the Gods like Shazam, he siphons his mojo by consuming the power of others when he utters his magic words.

Once Alex is released, the darkened house of cards created by the Syndicate follows in short order. Mazahs helps to take down his own through his greed and lust for power and gives the other heroes (and villains) the window of opportunity to cull the rest.

On the other battlefront, Batman and his merry band are able to free the heavy hitters from inside Firestorm’s brain prison. The only one still down for the count is Superman, from the sliver of Kryptonite in his brain, but that’s easily rectified through a quick surgery performed once again by hero Luthor.

By my count that is now two home runs for Luthor and a lot of swings and misses by the Justice League. The rest of the world agrees, especially after Lex hits the news circuit full-throttle with as many parts humility as bravado.

NONE of this matters though; FOREVER EVIL is truly a trumpet for things to come. The real dangers lie in the energy band that looks like the space rift from “Star Trek Generations” a few issues ago. FOREVER EVIL gives us insight into the origin of this band, and it’s as bad as bad gets. Actually, it’s universe-ending bad, assuming CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS still holds water in the New 52. That’s right, kids--the Anti-Monitor is back to gobbling up realities and he has set his hungry hungry hippo sights on Earth Prime now that he’s had his way with Earth 3. There are quite a few other repercussions, specifically around the reveal of a certain Robin’s identity being leaked to the world at large. But that’s for my JUSTICE LEAGUE 30 review.

The annals of history I fear will quickly turn into the anals of history because of FOREVER EVIL’S delays, but publishing schedules good or bad don’t negate the quality of an individual title. Johns and Finch told an action-packed, original story, and for that both deserve a rest before this book’s MUTIVERSITY set-up kicks in full throttle.

When not talking comics, Optimous Douche is the head of marketing for Work Zone, Project Management so powerful it could straighten out the New 52. To read Optimous other marketing, comic stuff and advice columns head to robpatey.com.


DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU #1

Writer: Mike Benson
Artist: Tan Eng Huat
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man


Like any proper nerd, I'm a fan of the martial arts genre. Spending the bulk of my life as a DC fan means I'm well versed in RICHARD DRAGON: KUNG-FU FIGHT, but not so much with Marvel's THE HANDS OF SHANG-CHI, MASTER OF KUNG FU. But now that Marvel has decided to give Shang-Chi his own title again, I thought I'd check it out, though why they decided to titled it DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU (which was an anthology and reprint series) instead of THE HANDS OF SHANG-CHI, MASTER OF KUNG FU is unknown to me.

With this first issue, I'm not too sure what I've stumbled into here. My kneejerk reaction is that it's a very uninspired piece of fiction, in that the plot is such a typical kung fu adventure story that it was writing itself. But I'll hold off on that negative thought for a moment as I consider maybe Benson is writing pastiche. To get into spoilers, this issue is loaded with clichés: ninja assassins have killed Shang Chi's old friend/lover, and he's out for revenge (or justice, as he keeps telling himself (and us)). He tells his friends he must do this alone. Then there's the typical movie Asian funeral. The ancient sword gift. Everyone in Chinatown is a martial arts assassin. And another old friend, who is now a big government type, tells him to stay out of government business but is secretly going to use him. Plus we got exploding helicopters, bodies ripped apart and hollow teeth full of cyanide. Surely a seasoned writer like Benson isn't writing this straight, right?

Though if it is a pastiche, I find one element missing: fun. To compare, a few months back John Byrne was writing a superhero comic book called TRIPLE HELIX, which was just ridiculous (in action, not tone). Each character had crazy inner drama and villains would just rain down explosions, just as soon as the last villain was defeated. It was clearly a pastiche, because there was no real attempt to ground any of the action. So it wasn't a comic book about superheroes, it was a comic book about comic books about superheroes. With DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU, Benson never really pushes the action into the absurd of a pastiche. There's no over the top monologue, and no overwhelming sense of cool, which I would expect in a martial arts pastiche. So I'm not quite sure which it is, straight action or pastiche; either way, Benson needs to step up his game. If it's a pastiche, then he needs to really go for it. If it's a straight action piece, then he really has to rethink his plot. Martial arts books are typically a hard sell, and with a rinse and repeat plot, it probably won't survive the year.

Artwise, Dave Johnson's cover is the best thing about this book. Interior artist Tan Eng Huat is a guy I haven't been able to figure out yet. I first saw his work on DOOM PATROL back in 2001. There his work was very inventive, appealing and well thought out. Next I saw him draw the ugliest JLA comics I ever saw with Denny O' Neil's “Extinction”. It was the exact oppose of what you'd want in superhero comic. Here on DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU, I don't see too much improvement. His figure work is more appealing (but still not up to the level of his DOOM PATROL). I believe he's trying to capture fast, frantic action, but is forgetting to fully develop environments or figures. It all appears to be a bit a of a hack job. For the most part his storytelling is really good, but sometimes, like on page 15, his underdeveloped drawings made it hard for me to understand what was going on.

So without being able to get a grip on the writing or the art, it's a big ask to get me to buy the next issue. Which is a shame, because again, Dave Johnson turns in another great looking cover.









THE WALKING DEAD #127

Writer: Robert Kirkman
Artist: Charlie Adlard
Publisher: Image Comics
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee


There comes a time when a man has to defy all nature and gender programming and be sensible. In my case, though – because I’m not much of a man – the main sense of sensibility I’ve shown in recent years is taking comics I was buying both monthly and in their nicer, sturdier and more bookcaseable hardcover versions and culling this to just purchasing the latter. This sudden whirlwind of “you don’t have to buy these things twice, jackass” inspiration really whooshed its way into my WALKING DEAD purchasing around issue #100, when all of this Negan business started and I had a sinking feeling the book was going to sink into some gratuity for a bit and which I did not necessarily feel like reading in twenty page increments each month. I always assumed/hoped there would be a payoff point to the oncoming war outside of “Rick takes care of another depraved asshole with an army”, and now here we are, and I think the gang has been pulled through it in a shockingly well-developed manner.

Now, I can’t speak much to the journey here as I’m still waiting for the vast bulk of it to show up in those hard-spine editions, but it looked to my loiter-filled glances at my LCS to be both some of the typical and uninspired ultraviolence-filled action bits we have tended to have in the past decade with this book and some pretty sadistically devious twists and turns in between the battles. There were bullets and tainted daggers and tigers, oh my. Months after the smoke cleared, though, we finally see that glimmer that the world of the arisen dead can not only move on to bigger and brighter things but, more importantly, so can this comic book.

Obviously, it won’t work out that way, at least not for long, unless Kirkman and company have plans to secretly wrap this shit up suddenly as a big “Surprise!” and with a happy ending that is as too good to be true as a Sofia Vergara sex tape leak. This issue has what I originally fell in love with this book because of a decade ago. I personally have no obsession with or love for the zombie genre, but I do like a well-told and feasible story involving a fallen society, and I like this foothold the cast and crew of this title have with their christened “Kingdom.” Organized foraging, metal forging, agriculture enclosed in tall walls, and on and on. I’ve wanted to see a story such as this get to such a burgeoning regrowth as this for a long, long time but it’s not exactly like a lot of these stories are both serialized and as long-running as THE WALKING DEAD is now to fully develop these progressions.

This is a true calm before the storm layover that this book has made its staple, and I am genuinely intrigued to see what conventions Kirkman and Adlard expand upon and twist and the Kingdom chugs along and with what collapse points they have set up to be pushed over. I think the cancer in their midst that is Negan is too obvious, and I still wonder if it makes any functional sense in this world as it has been written thus far. Yes, it does make sense for a character like Rick, who has vied for paragon status ever since he fully accepted his role as leader and tapped enough into his dark side to achieve these things to make an example by sparing Negan rather than brutalizing him on the battlefield, but still, at this point you think these characters with what they have gone through would just know fucking better by now. Could it be the new recruits that bring it all down as Rick tries to assimilate as many people as they can into this society to strengthen it faster? Or could it just be good old mass waves of zombies, the poor titular characters who actually aren’t until it’s convenient for them to shake things up? No one knows the answers but the folks who bring this book together, but I feel this point of the book’s development has as open a future to push toward as it ever has during its tenure, even if it had to go through a two year plus stretch of sadistic rehash to get here.

And as always, probably the most significant portion of this book’s development is wrapped around its characters’ evolution. Rick has fully absorbed his duties, Andrea is cutting back on her survivor’s guilt, Carl is growing up as well-adjusted as you’d expect a one-eyed kid in a world full of zombies but with a dad such as his could grow. Everyone is getting his or her little moments, which of course raises the alarm that there’s a little too many warm bodies around to even have these little bits of significance. Personally – and again, browser guy who catches up once a year here – I don’t even bother to remember most of these newbies until their first year. Until then they’re nothing but a (to quote the great Dr. Kelso) “large pair of scrubs to me”, and it feels to me we’re building to the next big culling. In the meantime, I’m as interested as I have been in a while to see what Rick and his community build (and Kirkman his post-apocalyptic vision through them) before it either comes tumbling down around them or, as has become catchy to say in our geek community, they now live long enough to see themselves become the villains. Not a bad place full of possibility to be for the little zombie book that could (shamble).

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, The MySpaces, 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.


THE MOSES MILITIA #1

Writer: James Babbo
Artist: Bill Wylie
Publisher: Middle Pillar Reviewer: Optimous Douche


I’m one of those weird gentiles; I’ve spent more time with Judaism than the Christian double whammy of Catholicism and Presbyterianism practiced by my parents. My friends in school called me the goy toy, and I went to way more bar and bat mitzvahs than confirmations growing up. While not one of the twelve tribes (though I did direct them once in Joseph’s Bitch Ass Colored Jacket), I don’t take any guff or dial-ins when leveraging Judaism in comics. I wanted to check out MOSES MILITIA to ensure there was no one out there propagating bullshit stereotypes. I loved MOSES MILITIA because it not only avoided stereotypes; the authenticity of this book is batamt.

Set in the thick of WWII, THE MOSES MILITIA takes us to the land of Casablanca mystique, Morocco, only this time there is no Bogie or Bacall, but there are a plethora of Nazis. In this reality Hitler’s henchmen are comprised of magic wielders creating undead Middle Easterners and an even bigger monster akin to the sarlacc in RETURN OF THE JEDI.

But who are The Moses Militia? Well, we spend a lot of time getting to know them as they make their long sojourn across the Atlantic from the US. Their powers are definitively original, and none of them are so powerful that any scuffles will ever be easy or contrived. First there’s the leader, “Moses” Kurtzman, so named because of his magical walking stick that can generate an impenetrable force field. Second we have “Volcano” Shapiro, whose fiery powers are only slightly less combustible than his bravado and arrogance. Next up is the lone lady “Delilah” Levine; her beauty and her mind control powers are in a tight race for her most dangerous asset. Lastly is the newest member of the team, the 16 year old Jackie Divine. Jackie comes from a lineage of Craftsmen, or golem creators. Jackie’s on board, well, because it was OK to endanger children in the early 20th century, and because his Grandfather has become too elderly for battle, while Jackie’s father has already shuffled loose his mortal coil.

Babbo wisely chooses Jackie to be our POV in meeting the rest of the team. Smart move, since we have a lot of questions and so does Jackie. Putting anyone else in the driver’s seat of discovery would have felt forced and contrived.

After the introductory flight the team spends the rest of the night getting ready and meeting contacts amidst the Casablanca nightlife. It was during these scenes where writer and artist deserve the most credit. Not only did they make a night on the town more interesting than an X-Men softball game at the personal level, but they were also able to throw in a few harrowing moments as well so we could get a small taste of our heroes’ powers.

One last note before I go sit shiva again this weekend for Damian Wayne: the art is SPECTACULAR, which isn’t surprising because somehow Babbo was able to coerce Marvel and DC vets like Wylie on pencils and Mark McKenna on inking to join the squad.

MOSES MILITIA is not just a book that presents an often overlooked group in comics (c’mon, all we’ve ever really had is Kitty Pride), but it’s also a joy of comic book and glimpse into history.


THE AUTEUR #3

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


Just the other day, before I opened up the newest issue of THE AUTEUR, I had a thought. Nathan Rex isn’t sexist enough. I mean, the comic has gone to graphic lengths in its portrayal of violence, but hasn’t pushed the boundaries sexually to the same degree…until now.

I should have guessed it was coming. The cover features Rex bursting out of some girl’s cleavage. Open the book to reveal a multitude of breasts. The third issue is titled “Unprecedented Realism”, and while artist James Callahan has thus far used a much more cartoonish style, he understands that sometimes the most realistic look can indeed be more shocking than excess.

So Rex is on the search for the perfect rack…I mean, actress to star in his horror flick. But if Nathan thought that finding the perfect girl was the hard part, he has forgotten all about Darwin, the homicidal maniac Rex hired as an on-set consultant.

The first half of THE AUTEUR #3 isn’t nearly outrageous as the LSD-laced dreams appearing in past issues. Spears and Callahan save all their distastefulness and chaos for the end. I can actually point out the very panel in which THE AUTEUR takes the curve towards crazy town, but as I do not wish to spoil what is one of the most intense sequences of events yet, I’ll just say that a little member makes a surprising appearance. Once Spears and Callahan have put it all out there, holding back is no longer an option.

At this point it’d be redundant for me to go on and on about how Callahan and colorist Luigi Anderson have been able to capture the essence of wackiness onto the page so vividly or that Spears blends the ridiculous and grandeur so perfectly in his writing.

If at this point you haven’t started reading THE AUTEUR I can only assume that you pride yourself on your sanity and do not wish to blemish your soul. But what’s the fun in that?

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."


Advance Review: In stores today!

PATHFINDER: CITY OF SECRETS #1

Writer: Jim Zub
Artist: Leandro Oliveira
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Reviewer: Masked Man


I'm a bit of an old school D&D player, haven't played much else than the original AD&D rules, so I have no real knowledge of that which is Pathfinder. But that shouldn't stop me or you from enjoying a good fantasy adventure comic book. So here I am with Dynamite's second swing at a PATHFINDER series (or mini, rather), CITY OF SECRETS.

Jim Zub ( the man behind SKULL KICKERS) is back to pen this miniseries, using all the characters he used in the first one. And for better or worse, this first issue is a set-up issue. If you haven't already been reading about these characters, I'd say there's little to get you excited about them here (unless you dig veiled lesbian affairs). You shouldn't worry about spoilers here, because there really isn't anything to spoil. You see, our six main characters, Seoni (magic-user), Ezren (magic-user), Harsk (dwarf), Valeros (fighter), Merisiel (elf) and Kyra (cleric), sail into a new town, Magnimar, and settle in. Each character seems reasonably fleshed out (as they should be, being already established in the previous series) as they each pursue their benign tasks in the city. But as you might expect, danger comes a-calling on the last page. It's all rather standard and all rather dull (again, unless you already love these folks).

The most enjoyable thing about this issue is Oliveira's art. While it's just pencil work, colorist Ross Campbell knows how to handle it and make it look like finished work. Oliveira really knows how to draw attractive figures, men as well as the many females in the book. His work has a videogame-like style to it, but not quite FINAL FANTASY or Capcom-ish. And though he can draw good detailed backgrounds of a medieval town, he knows his strength is in figures. Therefore his layouts tend to focus on them, but he has enough story sense to not let that hurt his storytelling. The one thing I'd like to see him work on in the future is his acting. While his figures look great, they are all rather wooden (like Boris Vallejo--pretty but no life). If he could get some expression in his figure and faces, like say Kevin Maguire, then his work will become amazing!

So while this first issue does little to interest me, it does have some very talented people working on it. So this could be a book to keep your eye on, or something that reads better in trade paperback form, because as I mentioned earlier, it's just a set-up issue.


AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE #1-5

Writer: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Artist: Francesco Francavilla
Publisher: Archie Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche


4 years ago I interviewed BATMAN Exec Producer Mike Uslan. In addition to his weighty jobs with the BATMAN movies, Mike was scribing ARCHIE: THE MARRIED LIFE.

During the course of our conversation we digressed into a discussion on the comic industry at large. At one point in the conversation we broached the subject of continuity and how all the publishing houses had grown beyond one cohesive universe. Fangeezers lament this fact constantly because of the drastic difference this presented in how we have always read comic books. But when you take a step back, Mike’s words of “different universes for different readers” makes a lot of sense from the standpoint of broadening readership. How many people read just BATMAN BEYOND because of their love of the cartoon?

Archie has taken a similar mode in recent years, first with the MARRIED LIFE and now with the zenith of this diversification idea in AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE. Yes, this is a zombie story, but it is a damn well crafted zombie story. In addition, despite the gruesome nature of the tale, Roberto has found a way to still keep the essence of the Riverdale gang while at the same time giving them a feeling of being utterly modern and far more adult than past encounters. They are still staples of American teenage tropes, but the authenticity of the situation and time are never hampered by a need to present an idyllic 1950’s style teenage experience.

In any good zombie story there is always a patient zero, the outbreak monkey if you will. In this instance, it’s actually Jughead’s four-legged friend Hot Dog. Another original twist: this zombie infestation is not the result of science based fiction, but rather mystical dabbling of the dark arts. Basically, after Hot Dog is creamed by a car (which we later find out was driven by Reggie Mantle), Jughead carries the pooch to Sabrina and her aunties for some mystical healing. Sadly, the only thing that can save Hot Dog is a resurrection. As we all learned from “Pet Sematary”, undead animals are assholes. NEVER resurrect something that was already 99% feral to begin with, because they are guaranteed to no longer sit for treats.

I won’t do a blow-by-blow of the entire series to date, because the plot beats are secondary to the beautiful highlights of humanity Roberto delivers through his characterization. The authenticity of each moving piece is the true wonder to behold. The Archie universe never felt more alive as it prepares to shuffle loose its mortal coil.

The easiest translation is Jughead: sure he’s always had a big appetite, but never one for brains. Betty and Veronica still bicker, but the stakes are so much higher when Archie truly becomes the last man on earth. The Blossom twins, from the rival town over, not going there…let’s just say these “flowers” are now blossoming in the “attic.” Even Mr. Lodge, whose power and influence never seemed to stretch beyond Riverdale’s idyllic hills, has gained the business acumen, connectivity and tenacity of Donald Trump. At one point he is even able to get POTUS on the horn for a distress call. Even ancillary characters, like a group of backdrop nerds, debate the virtues of horror movies with such authenticity and ribbing I felt like I was reading the TalkBacks on Ain’t It Cool.

Riverdale not only burns in AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE, it also arises from the ashes of our childhood to herald this comic universe as a serious entry into our adult lives. From art to tonality, the book never shies from its mission to be a serious piece of comic booking. Is it for kids? Hellllllll no! But is this a mature thriller that I would call in the vein of, but far better than, a CW show. Hellllls yes! Look for the book with number in the coffin.


CELEBRATED SUMMER ORIGINAL GRAPHIC NOVEL

Writer: Charles Forsman
Artist: Charles Forsman
Publisher: Fantagraphics Books
Reviewer: 66


Charles Forsman is the man behind Oily Comics, which is responsible for giving a platform to challenging and original comic authors and artists. He has authored, illustrated and published many serialized zines, including THE END OF THE FUCKING WORLD (TEOTFW). CELEBRATED SUMMER is his first novel.

CELEBRATED SUMMER utilizes a ghostly sparse and elegantly assured aesthetic. The narrative is rife with silent disaffection, loneliness, anxious humor, irony, fear and disembodied alienation. Its characters, seething in paralysis, stumble along a cyclic path. The author’s voice is a distant echo, a monotone drawl with a deadpan matter-of-fact tone. The book is a faceted mirror: a non-dual correlation. It emerges by exercising a silent meditative cyclical tension.

The deftly intelligent cover’s apparent simplicity is at the service of its richness.

The colors of the landscape’s forms are nervously scribbled marks rupturing a homogeneous flat ground. The novel’s two characters are densely hatched silhouettes. In their dark dense forms, the figures rebelliously sever themselves from the landscape. The title is at the top of the image in white, written by a nervous and jittery hand, almost rubbed-out, in what appears to be an attempt at erasing itself. The author’s name is written in a bright red, a color found nowhere else on the cover; it disappears then returns, desiring both anonymity and recognition.

The word celebrated is synonymous with famed, fabled, honored, noted…antonymous with nameless, obscure and unsung.

The title CELEBRATED SUMMER, on the surface, suggests the novel’s characters’ experience will be a notable one. However, Its stock, canned vernacular connotes a deftly farcical irony.

In the United States, summer is a space between spring classes and the coming fall semester. Popular culture, its films in particular, conditions students to expect summer to free them from institutional structures. This expectation both defines and ruptures what it is to be “free.”

Wolf and Mike drop acid. That is the beginning of their cyclical path. They may desire to have a celebrated, “notable” event, but their fearful, aimless disaffection leaves them lonely, confused and “unsung."

Mike, leading the way as usual, walks down a path in the woods, with Wolf lumbering behind. Mike asks Wolf “How does it feel to be done with school?” Wolf answers, “I don’t know. I mean…I kinda don’t feel anything.” Mike turns his head “It must feel pretty rad though? Right?” Wolf answers “I guess. It just sort of ended, man. Like…what was it for? I think I finished a long time ago…in my head. Does that make sense?” Mike answers, with his head hanging low, “Yeah. I get what you mean.” His body language reveals that he cannot relate to what Wolf is expressing. Wolf trips and falls while they are walking. Mike belittles him and doesn’t help Wolf get up; instead he walks on insisting he will meet him at the top of the hill.

Mike is an ellipsis with a question mark at both ends. He has a need to be in control, always belittling Wolf. Why does he need to exert this power? What does Mike desire for his future? Mike’s past is never revealed. He only discusses superficialities…he is always hiding; he is never really present.

Taking control again, Mike decides to drive to the beach. Along the way they stop at a gas station and Wolf heads to the bathroom. Wolf is unable to take a piss and becomes alienated from his body. His thought-bubble contains an image of his bladder. He walks to the sink and stares intensely at his reflection in the mirror. While examining himself as if he were a stranger, his alienation turns into a realization. Thinking to himself “Picture this: every synapse in your brain firing at once. Information is continuous, unbroken, cyclical. A brief moment of wonder and horror that won’t let go. There you are. There you are. There you are.”

Back in the car, Wolf asks “You got grandparents, Mike?” Mike answers, “I don’t know, man. Who cares?” Arriving at the beach, on the boardwalk, Wolf decides to play a video game (much like the classic Breakout). While playing the game, his lysergic-induced state takes over. His intense gaze watches the game’s right-angled forms swell into a singular thick white circle on a black ground. The rings billow, growing larger then smaller, adding more rings then subtracting them, rippling into an amorphous circular form. These encircled amorphous shapes become angular, forming a sunburst-like image. This form expands until we are left with a white screen. A black dot slowly emerges from this total whiteness, until we return to a singular white ring on a black ground. On the facing page is a black ring on a white ground.

Wolf lives in his grandmother’s garage. She takes him out shopping for shoes, checking to see if his toes are in the proper place.

Ending the story, Wolf is sitting on a park bench staring off thinking “I do still lie awake at night. Strangled with nostalgia”. He turns his hand, palm up, touching the rain. Tilting his head up, to watch it. “How can those days be so far away? Carelessly passed. So focused on the future.” Wolf mourns in nostalgic paralysis. He pulls his densely rendered black hood over his head protecting himself from the rain and it’s passing present. “I can never be there again. I cannot be saved.” We now see him as a child in his raincoat: “I’d give anything to not be scared.” 66 takes up space, is verbose, and prone to tangential thinking. I am a New Yorker who recently defected to a more rural town; both missing the city, and relieved to be rid of it. My allergies have returned, am able to take a shower without the hot water running out because someone on my block flushed their toilet. I purchased my first car, yet miss the subway--even its putrid odor in the summer’s thick humidity. Now able to see the stars while sitting in the backyard, I experience silence (which at first was suffocating). I have been reading comics for as far back as I can remember. I discovered Charles Forsman’s work at my favorite comic shop. I read TEOTFW first and have been an admirer of his work ever since.


PRINCESS UGG #1

Writer & Artist: Ted Naifeh
Publisher: Oni Press
Reviewer: BottleImp


Over the last century the many and varied tales of the Brothers Grimm have been slowly supplanted by that mighty titan of animation, storytelling and relentless merchandising, the Walt Disney company. And so the “Disney Princess” has become synonymous with the term “fairy tale,” for better or for worse. Recently there’s been the conscious effort in animated films to break with this particular trope, starting with Dreamworks’ “Shrek”, continuing with Pixar’s “Brave” and culminating in Disney’s own megablockbuster “Frozen.” Now, I still don’t understand why “Frozen” became the unstoppable juggernaut it is, but one positive aspect of the film (and done even better in “Brave”, in my opinion) is the reimagining of the standard Disney princess into an unconventional heroine, unable or unwilling to compromise to fit the “damsel in distress” mold. Writer and artist Ted Naifeh adds yet another name to the roster of unconventional heroines with Princess Ülga—or, as she no doubt will soon be called, PRINCESS UGG.

This first issue has several good things going for it. As I’ve said, Ülga is an unconventional princess, though she fits neatly in the steadily expanding pantheon of fiction’s warrior women (thanks, GAME OF THRONES!). A princess of the warrior people of the cold mountain kingdom of Grimmeria, Ülga looks like a shorter, spunkier Conan the Barbarian (or a little like a female version of Bobby the Barbarian from the old DUNGEONS & DUNGEONS cartoon—remember him?) and has the fighting skills to match. Plus she rides a wooly mammoth, so that’s pretty cool. Held by the promise she made to her mother, the warrior queen Friörika, Ülga journeys down the mountain to the kingdom of Atraesca so that she may learn the ways of being a princess—at least, a princess in the proper, Disneyfied manner. Having seen Ülga’s rough-and-tumble life juxtaposed against the pampered existence of the types of princesses who attend their royal schooling in Atraesca, this setup certainly shows the promise of some good old-fashioned ODD COUPLE hijinks.

I’m also generally a fan of Naifeh’s artwork here. His cartoony style evokes the sense of that classic animation style without blatantly aping it, and his figures have a nice sense of energy that adds a vibrancy to the panels. On the minus side, there are a few instances where background elements and figures are sketchy at best, and not up to the same level of polish as other pages where Naifeh clearly took more care in rendering. I’m also a little split on the character designs. Though I do appreciate her overall look, I’m a little confused as to what age Ülga is supposed to be. The first impression I got was that she was supposed to be around 13-15 years old (Ülga’s proportions and height seem to indicate someone on the younger side), but there are a couple of nearly-nude panels of Ülga wherein it’s obvious that she’s past her training bra days. I understand the gray area here, seeing as how it’s similar to that weird age that the majority of the Disney princesses seem to reside in, but the more mature body is a strange fit with Ülga’s very childlike face and head-to-body ratio. Warren Wucinich’s coloring is a good fit for the linework; his watercolor-like touch gives just the right amount of tonality to the line art without detracting from the quasi-animation feel.

The only other admittedly minor quibble I have is with Ülga’s dialogue. Much like the so-called Vikings in the animated film HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, Princess Ülga’s people seem to live in a Northland that’s a hodgepodge of Norse, Irish and Scottish, and this mixture is represented far too heavily in the word balloons. Though adding some colloquial or ethnic pronunciations in characters’ dialogue does add to the reader’s overall mental (and auditory) image of said characters, when overused it becomes more distracting than engaging. Naifeh had me on his side until Ülga called her mom not “Mother,” but “Mither.” I would have been okay with “Mum,” but “Mither?” I think a slight toning down of the Irishey-Scottish inflections could be beneficial to keep Ülga from collapsing under the cumbersome weight of her own word balloons.

In general, PRINCESS UGG looks like it’s going to be a pretty fun series with a generous helping of action balanced by a strong sense of whimsy. The best part is that this book also seems perfect for younger readers, like those girls who might be looking for strong female role models like the ones in that inexplicably, insanely popular icy and snowy movie that just won’t go away. Try putting a copy of PRINCESS UGG in their hands instead of popping in the DVD, and give them and yourselves the double treat of an entertaining new heroine along with a break from that damn Adele Dazeem song.

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.


Advance Review: In stores today!

JUSTICE LEAGUE #30

Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Ivan Reis
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche


Taking place a heartbeat after the close of FOREVER EVIL (hint hint: read FE 7 first), for the first time in New 52 forever, JUSTICE LEAGUE truly feels like it wants to be part of the overall DC Universe.

There are story threads here that begin with the repercussions of FOREVER EVIL, but cascade into a multitude of different corners in DC including a new direction for Batman and the resurrection of a certain blue bug who has nothing to do with alien tech and all to do with the bwahahaha.

Riding high off of his newfound celebrity, Lex Luthor is truly the DC golden child this month. He stopped the Crime Syndicate, built the JLA a new watchtower and performed a gesture so magnanimous that I must admit ir had the waft of a double-cross to come, but was still poetically heartfelt in its delivery.

On the Superman front, Luthor concedes his takeover of Kord Industries to the son of the man the man he was essentially going to liquidate back when the FOREVER EVIL war drums beat in the distance. This is the one where I feel that no matter how eloquent Lex’s conciliations to Ted may be, he is sure to screw the young man over in years to come. I don’t care, whatever gives me back my Beetle and possibly a team up with Booster Gold, I’m in.

On the Batman front, now that Lex (and the rest of the world) know the identity of Dick Grayson, sussing out that Bruce Wayne is Batman doesn’t exactly take a genius intellect. However, it does take a bit of confidence in one’s intelligence to essentially walk up to Wayne Manor and declare this to the Bat himself.

The Watchtower reveal is the most intriguing. No, not the fact that Lex had a Watchtower in geosynchronous orbit with the JLA’s now fallen home; it’s more the fact that Lex had the chutzpah to demand membership into the league in lieu of rent. Even more shocking is that some of the League actually agrees with the big bald one. And I have to agree, Lex’s reasoning is pretty sound for membership.

Is Lex still “evil?” I would say yes; however, he is wearing the color of gray instead of straight black. When that coat will turn a darker hue remains to be seen, but if I were a betting man I see this characterization being a central plot point up to the release of MULTIVERSITY. Johns and Reis have hit their longest home run yet with this issue; I’m predicting the start of a more personal JUSTICE LEAGUE.


COSMIC POWERS #5

Release Date: May 17, 1994
Writer: Ron Marz
Artist: Tom Grindberg
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man


These days the Marvel Cosmic is all about the Guardians of the Galaxy, with a movie and everything! But we all know the real force behind Marvel Cosmic: Thanos! Ever since Jim Starlin created him back in the 1973, he's been the driving force of Marvel's non-superhero, non-mutant world. So now let's time-travel back (oh say) 20 years ago and see what Thanos was up to in COSMIC POWERS #5.

As we near the mid-way point of 1994, after Los Angeles had survived the Northridge Earth quake, Nancy Kerrigan had gotten her leg clubbed, Spielberg won seven Oscars for SCHINDLER'S LIST, Kurt Cobain was laid to rest, STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION was coming to an end and Turner Classic Movies just became a cable channel, Marvel decided they needed another Thanos comic, as they were still riding high on the house of Infinity that Jim Starlin built. In this so-called dark era of comic books when Superman had long hair, Batman was trying to become Batman again, and publishers like Image, Valiant and Defiant were trying to horn in on DC and Marvel's action, Marvel Comics' editor-in-chief, Tom DeFalco, got Ron Marz to expand his SILVER SURFER comic run with a miniseries about Thanos and his continuing quest for power and knowledge.

Today we probably remember Marz more for his DC work and his run on GREEN LANTERN with GL Kyle Rayner. One of his most recent runs was the short-lived VOODOO for DC's New 52. But in 1994, Ron Marz was writing a successful run of SILVER SURFER with Ron Lim. So in COSMIC POWERS, Marz hoped to showcase many of his SILVER SURFER characters by having them mix it up with Thanos! Marz's main badboy, the uber-powerful Tyrant, was now in Thanos’ sights. And as the evil titan moved in for the kill, he ran into a lot of other cosmic characters (many created by Marz), pretty much one per issue. Issue five, as you can tell by the cover, was the current herald of Galactus: Morg.

To start off with, Marz gives us a little history on Morg (though seriously, 'Morg'? Come on, Ron, you can do better than that). You, see we learn more about Morg as he has been captured by Tyrant, who is trying to get him to betray Galactus. Morg, however, only gives loyalty to power and he doesn't believe Tyrant is the big G's match. Meanwhile Thanos, with his partner for the moment Terrax (a former herald of Galactus), explains to Ganymede (who he kidnapped last issue) that he wants all she knows about Tyrant so he can defeat him. Despite being kidnapped, Ganymede wants in on taking Tyrant down (her sworn duty). In another meanwhile, Ganymede's wannabe boyfriend, Jack of Hearts, teamed up with Legacy to rescue her from Thanos. As the 47 page issue comes to a climax, everyone winds up on Tyrant's world, ready for the ultimate showdown, although the sides are not really clearly drawn, which is what one would expect from a Thanos story.

The interesting thing about this issue is, nearly all the characters are mirrors of each other. They all have this sense of manifest destiny. Thanos will do whatever it takes to get what he wants, Ganymede will do whatever it takes to get what she wants, and the same with the rest of them (except perhaps Legacy). They pretty much all suffer from hubris, and Marz does a great job drawing it out of them. He also expertly balances this with some major cosmic @$$-kicking. But then, the best part of this book is the setup for the final smack down between Thanos and Tyrant (to be in the final issue).

Just like the past issues we are treated to a new artist (ok, Ron Lim did two), Tom Grindberg. Usually this is not a good thing, but for the most part I've been enjoying the change in artists, as we spotlight a new cosmic character each month. Just as few months ago, Grindberg was turning some of the ugliest comic book work I've seen on WARLOCK AND THE INFINITY WATCH. Originally, Grindberg was a Neal Adams clone (check out BATMAN: BRIDE OF THE DEMON), though I’ve got no idea what he was smoking on WARLOCK AND THE INFINITY WATCH. Here his work is back to an acceptable level, and though I can still see the Neal Adams influence here and there, it also has a very Image look to it. While Grindberg didin't design Tyrant, Morg or Ganymede, he renders them with full-on overdrawn, overly detailed, oversexed Image gusto! He even has some tilt the comic book sideways double splash pages. Now while I'm not much of a fan of the Image style, I can accept it, and overall Grindberg does a nice job with this issue. The real weakness in the art of this issue is the coloring. Just not enough contrast as a dark gray Tyrant stands in dark gray rooms. Being a Ron Lim fan, I won't say this is the best looking COSMIC POWER issue, but it's pretty damn good.

With just one more issue to go, COSMIC POWER is really delivering on its promise: a ballz-out Thanos book, proving the character can survive without Jim Starlin (who was still working on WARLOCK AND THE INFINITY WATCH), especially with a talent like Marz, who has a good grip on the character. Surely the last issue of COSMIC POWERS is not to be missed.


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

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